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Delta Variant Surges in Nearly Every U.S. State; Florida Accounts for Nearly 1 in 5 New Cases in U.S.; Vaccination Rates Increase Across U.S.; U.K. Preparing to Offer Booster Vaccines from September; Bipartisan Group of Senators Unveil Legislative Text; U.S. Democrats Push for Eviction Moratorium Extension; Day 10 of the Olympics Underway; Belarusian Sprinter Request Political Asylum; Fires Force Sea Evacuation on Turkey's Southwest Coast. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 2, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. Just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.

America's daily vaccination rates are going up. The delta variant surge among the unvaccinated could be a reason why.

An Olympic athlete is requesting political asylum. She says she fears persecution if she returns home to Belarus.

And later, we're live in Jerusalem where a top Israeli court will rule on Palestinian eviction case.

Good to have you with us. Well health experts and officials across the U.S. are raising the alarm. The COVID surge is getting worse. Take a look, the delta variant is driving an increase in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from the previous week. Every state is reporting more new infections compared to the previous week. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the country has made enough progress that he doesn't foresee any new lockdowns, but there's still a long way to go.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't think we're going to see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to not allow us to get to the situation we were in last winter. But things are going to get worse.


CHURCH: Concerns about the rapidly spreading delta variant appear to be driving a rise in vaccinations across the United States. Vaccination rates have been going up for three weeks now and the average daily rate is the highest it's been in almost a month. Right now, nearly half the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. But more than 65 million more Americans would need to get the vaccine before the U.S. reaches the threshold for herd immunity.

We're also learning more about fully vaccinated people who later end up infected. Data from the CDC shows hospitalizations and deaths from so-called breakthrough infections are incredibly rare. About 1 in 25,000 for hospitalizations and deaths are even less common. Florida has become a new epicenter of the surge with test positivity rates soaring. The state accounts for nearly 1 in 5 of all new cases in the entire country. Hospitals are starting to fill up and the influx of COVID patients could also affect others who need care. CNN's Randi Kaye is in Florida and takes a look at the numbers behind the crisis.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the past week or so we've seen more than 110,000 new cases here in the state of Florida of COVID. The daily average is about 15,800. And over the weekend, we set a record for the most new cases in a single day since the pandemic began with 21,683 new cases on Saturday. And if you look at how Florida is contributing to the number of cases around the country, 19.2 percent of all new COVID cases reported in the U.S. are right here in Florida. Mainly south Florida.

Also, we are experiencing similar numbers to what we saw back in January, really at the height of the pandemic. Florida also still just about 49 percent of the population here is fully vaccinated. So still a ways to go. There's also a lot of concern about schools reopening and what's happening to children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. If you look at the numbers there, cases among that age group under 12 nearly 11,000 children in the last week or so testing positive under 12 years old for COVID. The positivity rate for that age group now is 18.1 percent. The statewide positivity rate is 18.2 percent.

And the governor here says that you cannot mandate masks in the classroom when the students return. He has issued an executive order saying that you cannot do that. He wants it to be up to the parents. He wants the parents to have the choice whether or not they want to mask their children. He said any district who defies his executive order could risk losing funding, could possibly become ineligible for grants. So, the governor pushing hard to avoid any mask mandates and keep the statewide open.


I'm Randi Kaye, reporting in Riviera Beach, Florida. Back to you.


CHURCH: Thanks for that report.

America's top infectious disease expert is crediting some Republican politicians, including Florida's governor for encouraging people to get a COVID vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci says that along with awareness of how contagious the delta variant has helped boost vaccinations. Earlier I spoke with a Dr. Megan Ranney about the increase in shots.


DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE: I do think that Republican politicians speaking up in favor of vaccines is starting to make a difference. I also think sadly that the delta variant itself is making a difference. As folks see that they are once again at risk by not getting a vaccine, it takes away some of the hesitancy or some of the barriers that may have kept people from showing up.

CHURCH: And doctor, you did mention earlier that there were a variety of reasons. There's conspiracy theories, there's Republicans not necessarily getting behind these shots -- that's starting to change. There's some groups in the community that are resistant to these shots. What tends to be your message. When people come into the hospital and say to you, I'm not sure if I should get this. What do you say to them that changes their mind?

RANNEY: So, the first and biggest thing, is that I listen. I listen to why they're afraid of getting the shot, but why they haven't gotten it yet. I then try to counter act whatever the reason is. If it is frank misinformation, I share with them facts. I share websites from trusted resources. I share information packets and sit, and I talk, and I answer their questions. Sometimes the reasons are not actual misinformation but it's barriers like I'm afraid I won't feel good the next day or I didn't have transportation. And there to, listening and providing resources makes a difference.

I think the biggest thing here is it's very easy to say that this is all about politics. And yes, there's a percentage of people who are aren't getting vaccinated because simply because of politics. But for a lot of folks, it's just that fear and that toxic stew on social media. And the best thing we can do is be respectful and to listen.


CHURCH (on camera): And that was Dr. Megan Ranney speaking with me just a short time ago.

Well, while there is still an urgent push to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, some already looking ahead to possible booster shots. A former head of the FDA was asked if data on breakthrough infections made the case for vaccine booster more urgent.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Look, I certainly think so for the elderly and vulnerable population. One of the pieces of data that was in that CDC data set, they look at an outbreak in nursing homes and they found that the vaccines that study and this outbreak were 61 percent effective at preventing infection. They were still 85 percent effective at preventing severe disease. So, the initial premise is still intact with their preventing people from getting very sick.


CHURCH: Well, the concern over waning vaccine immunity is prompting Israeli officials to offer booster shots to people over 60 who've already been fully vaccinated. The campaign kicked off with the President Isaac Herzog becoming the first person to get a third shot on Friday. The Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he's hoping the stepped-up vaccination efforts will help Israel avoid further lockdowns.

Well, the U.K. is already planning for a booster in the coming weeks. Health officials are preparing to offer a third shot beginning in September to the most vulnerable. And for more on that, we want to bring in CNN's Salma Abdelaziz who joins us live from London. Good to see you, Salma. So, what is the latest on this COVID booster shot set for next month and, of course, travel opening up today.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Rosemary. So, this is something the British authorities have been working on for months. And now we have a hard deadline from September. The most vulnerable will be getting a booster shot. This will potentially be available to millions of people. And it's really meant to create another layer of protection for the most vulnerable, for the population at large through the winter months. Because there is concern, of course, that the winter months could be a time period in which we see yet another spike in COVID-19 cases.

So, why booster shots? Why now? Why was the two shots or the one shot not enough? Well, Rosemary, it all comes down to fear of future variants. There was a paper published by a group of British scientists. This is the group that advises the government on its COVID-19 policy. This was a paper put online on Friday. It is not peer reviewed. It is theoretical. But what it does is it lays out scenarios in which the virus is able to evade our current vaccines. And the paper says it is very unlikely that that will happen eventually at some point. That the virus will mutate and change and evade our current vaccines.

It also goes through the scenario that the vaccine -- that the virus, rather, becomes something like the common cold. It's not as dangerous.


That's unlikely to happen in the short term. Bottom line here, Rosemary, these scientists are saying this is a virus we're going to have to live for a long time and this is a virus that could change and mutate and potentially evade our current vaccines.

How do we handle that? What are the recommendations? First, of course, is the booster shot. That's already happening here in September. Other countries, as well, as you showed in the United States. Israel looking at booster shots as well to protect through the coming months and next years. But of course, the second issue is to try to prevent these variants from combining. Recombination of variants is what the paper goes through.

So, populations of unvaccinated people become the breeding ground really for these variants to develop and grow. That's why so important to continue to have travel restrictions in place, Rosemary. So yes, today the British government is opening up for EU and U.S. travelers. You can arrive in this country and not have to quarantine if you show that you are fully vaccinated. And that's the bottom-line, Rosemary, here. Continue to boost vaccinations. Continue to give benefits to those who are vaccinated and continue to prepare for the possibility of future variants.

CHURCH: Always good to hear some positive news. Salma Abdelaziz joining us live from London, many thanks.

Well, lawmakers in Washington are moving one step closer to finalizing an infrastructure bill. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators unveiled the legislative text of the bill on Sunday after months of pain staking negotiations. The deal includes $550 billion in new federal investments in America's infrastructure over five years. This includes money for roads, bridges, and other major projects. Majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, touted the deal on the Senate floor. Take a listen.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: These days it isn't easy to do major bills in the Senate, especially bipartisan ones. So, I've tried to prod the negotiators along when they've needed it and given them the space when they've asked for it. In the end, the bipartisan group of Senators have produced a Bill that will dedicate substantial resources to repair, maintain, and upgrade our nation's physical infrastructure.


CHURCH: But t5he deal drew criticism from many Republicans for making investments in areas not traditionally considered infrastructure such as care giving and work force training. Balanced against the infrastructure victory, is the failure to extend the pandemic eviction moratorium. The federal freeze on evictions expired Saturday and Democrats are pushing for an extension. They also focused on billions of dollars in housing assistance that has not redistributed. Listen to what two of them told CNN's Jake Tapper.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I think that in some states, governors and state administrations might be slow walking this process to get it out. In other states, the administrative burden of setting it up. But there are states and municipalities that have been getting it right. And we're at a point where, frankly, those state governments need to get it together. But we cannot kick people out of their homes when our end of the bargain has not been pull filled. Out of the $46 billion that has been allocated, only $3 billion has gone out to help renters.

REP. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): The money is already there, as you said. Why didn't it go out the door? I can't tell you -- but to put blame on anybody right now. Let's fix that and make sure we're able to use the money for the purpose it was appropriated for. But also, the economy has come back strong. Everybody can get a vaccination. I hope they have. But still yet they're trying to get your feet back under them again from a real tough year. We understand all that. So, we should be compassionate, we should help. And if that money is there, we should use it for its extended purpose.


CHURCH: Meantime, millions of Americans could become homeless soon because of unpaid rent. Joe Johns has more on the frustration over the eviction moratorium.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: White House officials say they do have a strategy to deal with the issue of the eviction moratorium, but it's coming off as slow in the execution. For millions of Americans who are behind on their rent. What is going full speed ahead is the blame game up on Capitol Hill after the White House waited until the last moment to send a request for enactment of a moratorium to Congress.

Democrats on The Hill blame Republicans saying they can't get the votes. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on CNN on Sunday, you can't in good faith blame the Republicans when Democrats are in control of Congress.

So now the whole effort has turned to money that's already been in the pipeline. Earlier this year, Congress passed tens of billions of dollars to help out with housing. A lot of that still in the pipeline. They weren't able to get it out. Partly because of bureaucracy. Partly because the states were slow to act. On the Sunday shows, some of the top administration officials talked about that.


BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, the real issue here is how to get money out to renters, who through no fault of their own are behind on their rent, and to help landlords keep those renters in their home, which is a win-win.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: We need to continue getting this emergency assistance out to people so that they can stay in their homes.

JOHNS: So, why doesn't the administration just extend the moratorium on its own? That's a risky idea because the Supreme Court has already sent word that Congress has to weigh in before its extended again.

Joe Johns, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: She was supposed run for her country at the Olympics. Instead, she may be running to escape. What we are learning about a Belarusian athlete's asylum request. That's coming up.

Whilst destructive wildfires brought on by climate change are putting thousands of people at risk around the world, as firefighters in the U.S. and Turkey fight to push back the flames. We're back in just a moment.



CHURCH: It's day ten of the Tokyo Olympics. We're just over the halfway mark. China leads the gold medal count with 24 but the U.S. has the most medals overall. And there are still tons more up for grabs and most importantly we have seen some spectacular turn arounds and break out moments like this one. Dutch runner Sifan Hassan with one lap to go in the 1.500-meter heat falls when the runner in front of her trips. But Hassan was able to quickly get back up and start running and ended up finishing first. She will be going for her first gold medal tonight in the women's 5,000-meter final. Well done there.

And CNN World Sport's Patrick Snell is following all the latest from the Olympics. He joins us now live. Great to see you, Patrick. And I know you have the very latest from this Monday. But let's start with an amazing weekend for Italian sport.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, thank you so much, Rosemary. Yes, you've just given us a great example of just the kind of inspiring and amazing stories we've been seeing at these Olympics. And over the weekend, the summer of Italian sport just got a lot better. You know, we have the country's national football team winning the Euros with that final in England. Now they say they can say they have officially the fastest man in the world. Lamont Marcell Jacobs shocking the field by winning the 100-meters, incredible achievement for a man who is -- this is incredible, amazing -- he was competing, Rosemary, in long jump until he switched some three years ago. The first European now to win the prestigious events since Linford Christie at the '92 games. And he celebrated in the arms of his compatriot Gianmarco Tamberi there, who just gold in the high jump.

And it's that men's high jump actually that we also discover a really heartwarming moment that's caught the imagination of so many. There were actually two winners at this event, would you believe. And not just Tamberi, and the Qatari jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim as well. They went against each other for two hours and both have made their best jump of the competition at 2 meters 37. They were offered a jump off. But no, what happened next in a wonderful moment of sportsmanship. They asked for two golds, splitting the prize making history in the process. The first joint winners in Olympic athletics since 1912.


MUTAZ ESSA BARSHIM, SHARED OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST (QATAR): You know, once we finished with that 2.39 jump, he looks at me, I look at him. We understood there was no need to go. That's it. It wasn't even a question.

GIANMARCO TAMBERI, SHARED OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST (ITALY): I would never ever share a gold medal with anybody else then that's because -- we were the only two athletes there that passed through the worst jumper can pass through. And I know what it is to be back. He knows what I did to be back. And you can't believe the emotion, the dream of a gold medal to somebody who sacrificed his entire life for this. And it was just amazing and sharing with a friend is even more beautiful.

BARSHIM: Thank you.

TAMBERI: We go celebrate!


SNELL (on camera): Olympic values, indeed. Well earlier this Monday Puerto Rico Jasmine Camacho-Quinn celebrating a truly golden moment. This after winning the women's 100-meter hurdles. Time of 12.37 seconds. Camacho-Quinn claiming Puerto Rico's first medal of these games, and second ever Olympic track and field as well. The United States Kendra Harrison silver and Jamaica's Megan Tapper sealing the bronze.

And quickly I do want to get to this historic moment for Greek sport, Rosemary. As Miltiadis Tentoglou winning the men's long jump gold with a jump of 8.4.1 meters. Cuba's Juan Miguel Echevarria also jumping that distance, but Tentoglou winning it on a tiebreaker due to a longer second-best jump. This is Greece's first ever medal in the men's long jump. So, a bit of special history for them.

CHURCH: So many incredible moments. In Patrick, of course, it seems the games can't quite divorce themselves from global politics. What more can you tell us about the Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya asking for asylum?

SNELL: Yes, Rosemary, this is one we're following very closely, indeed. And it's fast evolving, as well I can tell you. Here's what we know. The 24-year-old forced to withdraw from these Olympics by Belarusian authorities. This was on Sunday. She says they told her to pack her bags. Then they took her to the airport to put her on a plane to Minsk. She reached out to Japanese police and asked for political asylum saying she's afraid she'll be jailed in Belarus. Here was her message to the International Olympic Committee. Take a listen.


KRYSTSINA TSIMANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OLYMPIC ATHLETE (through translator): I asked the International Olympic Committee for help. I was put under pressure, and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my content. I asked the International Olympic Committee to intervene.


SNELL (on camera): Japan's government, meantime, saying they are, quote, confirming her intention to request asylum. The IOC saying, they're determining the next steps. They're letting out some details but won't reveal everything.



MARK ADAMS, IOC SPOKESMAN: Well, I can tell you is that she is being looked after and she's safe and secure. If I start to tell you who she's talking to then I don't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you told us she's in the hands of authorities and you told us that she's safe. But then you weren't able to tell us which authorities and who is keeping her safe. So, we're just taking your word that she's in the hands of authorities.

ADAMS: OK that's fine. You'll have to take my word for it. Thank you.


SNELL (on camera): As mentioned at the top, Rosemary, this story is fast developing. We are staying across it for you and we'll keep you updated right through this day and beyond.

CHURCH: We most definitely shall. Patrick Snell, many thanks for keeping us updated on all of this, appreciate it.

Well, at least eight people are dead from the wildfires burning along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. More than 1,100 people had to be evaluated for the second day in a row on Sunday from Bodrum, a popular tourist spot. Most of the evacuations were done by boat to keep roads open for emergency vehicles.

Meantime, in the U.S. at least 91 large wildfires are burning across the country. Together they have destroyed almost 2 million acres around 800,000 hectares. The biggest one Oregon's Bootleg Fire has been burning for nearly a month.

So, let's bring in meteorologist Tyler Mauldin for more on this. And Tyler, you know, that fire we mentioned might not be contained until October, which would be extraordinary. So, bring us up to date on that and of course, this wildfire in Turkey.

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, and you mentioned that we have 91 large wildfires ongoing across the Western U.S. that spans across 13 states. And we're still relatively early until wildfire season. But we're well ahead of schedule, and we're on track for yet another record-breaking season.

As you can see, though, there is a little bit of relief to come. Some rain, some showers popping up from the southwest all the way up the northern Rockies. Some of the areas that need it most, because we're in a terrible drought here. That plus the heat. That's why we have this wildfire season. The near record-breaking wildfire season already ongoing.

But here is the thing, when you have a lot of rain falling over burn scars, you can see flooding. So, we have flash flood watches out for nearly a million people from New Mexico all the way to Montana. Because it only takes half an inch or less in just one hour to cause flash flooding, especially when you have an area like that.

Now switching gears here and going to Turkey, this is what the scene has been looking like in Turkey. These are the fires that cause thousands to evacuate. But it's not just in Turkey, it's also in Greece, too. Because they too are dealing with excessive heat in just a terrible drought in the Mediterranean and the Balkan Peninsula.

Since July 28th, we've had 112 fires crop up. But the good news is that fire crews have been able to get containment on the majority of those fires. 107 of those fires are now contained. So, only five are ongoing. What we're dealing with here is kind of like what we were just dealing with in the Pacific Northwest and the United States. Here recently we have a heat dome right over the Balkan Peninsula, Rosemary, and that heat is combining with the drought to lead those wildfires here in the Mediterranean.

All right, many thanks to our Tyler Mauldin bringing us up to date on all of that, appreciate it.

And still to come, China is implementing new measures as a COVID-19 outbreak linked to Nanjing's airport has now spread to at least 26 cities.

Plus, American students face another school year during the pandemic. How a cluster of cases is causing more than a hundred to quarantine in Georgia. Back in just a moment.