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Biden to Speak on Vaccination Efforts; DeSantis to Speak about Mask Mandate; Oklahoma Doctor Speaks about COVID in his State; Corporations Requiring Vaccines and Masks; Two More Officers Commit Suicide. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2021 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow is off this week.

Although later than hoped, an important goal has been met, 70 percent of adults in the U.S. now have at least one dose of the vaccine. That is positive news for the country and, by in large, for those Americans who have decided to get the shot.

But, in many parts of the nation, the unvaccinated COVID patients are leaving hospitals and doctors feeling overwhelmed and under siege. They're also pushing some hospitals to the brink. Nowhere is worse right now than in the state of Louisiana.

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DR. CATHERINE O'NEAL, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: When you come inside our walls, it is quite obvious to you that these are the darkest days of this pandemic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: The darkest days of this pandemic. A rise in cases and hospitalizations so severe in Louisiana that the governor just announced he is reinstating the state's indoor mask mandate. That is effective tomorrow. He is one of many local leaders across the country now beginning to change course, turning back toward masks to protect their communities.

Just a few hours from now, President Biden is expected to speak on the administration's efforts to get more Americans vaccinated.

Let's begin with CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House.

Jeremy, some urgency here as the delta variant spreads. I mean the vaccine's widely available and free. How does the president say he's going to get those who are still hesitant or hostile to take the shot?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we're going to hear a couple things from the president later today when he speaks on the state of vaccines here in the United States, as well as around the world. We expect to hear that the president will talk about some of the progress that has been made in the last couple of weeks.

As this delta variant has been surging across the country, you have been seeing those vaccination rates across the country tick up again after being at a plateau for several weeks. That increase is especially being reflected in the states with the highest number of COVID cases right now, especially those states in the south, like Louisiana, like Florida, that are really struggling with this delta variant and surging coronavirus cases.

The president is also going to be talking about some of the efforts that he's seen from the private sector in the last week or so to begin to require vaccinations. And we heard Jeff Zients, the White House's coronavirus coordinator, talk yesterday about the fact that going forward requirements to be vaccinated and mandates, those are the kinds of things that are going to be necessary if indeed the United States is going to see the light of day at the other end of this pandemic.

And so you can expect to hear the president encourage the private sector to continue to take those steps. Already it was the president last week who announced that requirement that federal workers either be vaccinated or provide a negative coronavirus test in order to continue coming to work. That is the kind of model that the White House would like to see the private sector begin to do more and more.

And just lastly, Jim, we will also hear from the president in terms of these foreign donations. And 110 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine that the U.S. has already distributed around the world and hundreds of millions of more doses are soon to follow.

SCIUTTO: That overseas effort, of course, also important because the virus knows no borders. Jeremy Diamond, at the White House, thanks so much.

One of the nation's largest school districts forced into a 180 on masks after threats to withhold money from the governor of Florida. The Broward County School Board voted to mandate masks last week. That, by the way, in line with CDC guidance because they are in a high transmission area for COVID-19. That's the science. That's the medicine.

In response, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed an executive order threatening to cut state funding to schools that do that, that require masks. Appears that threat worked.

CNN's Rosa Flores, she joins us now on the phone from Everglades National Park. On the phone because the governor is set to speak any moment now.

Rosa, what is the district saying about this change? I mean they did seeming the right thing, follow the health guidance here. But, in effect, they had school funding held over their heads. ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): You know, you're

absolutely right. And so many districts around this state are having those exact conversations. They are trying to figure out how to keep their students and their teachers safe, meanwhile complying with this executive order. But they really feel like their hands are tied behind their back.

Now, Jim, Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to have a press conference here at 9:30. Now, normally we would be set up and we -- I would have a live picture for you but Governor DeSantis normally lets the press know with very little time for us to get to these press events.

[09:05:06]

Today it was about two, two and a half hours to get to Everglades National Park. So we scrambled here. We're setting up so that we can ask the governor questions. There's a lot of questions here that we can ask the governor.

When you just think of the number of cases in the United States, one out of five cases in the nation are recorded here in the state of Florida. You think of hospitalizations. You look at the numbers this morning, they are more than 50,000 people hospitalized in the nation and more than 10,000 are right here in the state of Florida. The positivity rate, 18 percent.

And, Jim, you were just talking about children and the beginning of the school year. Well, the positivity rate for children between 12 and 19 is 22 percent. Now, I talked to local officials here and their worry is that their hands are tied behind their backs because of the restriction by Governor Ron DeSantis.

So we're here. This press conference is about to begin at about 9:30. And we're hoping to ask some questions, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Listen, the health rules designed to protect those kids and their families. Let's see how the governor answers those questions.

Rosa Flores there. She'll bring those updates as they happen.

Another state facing real hardship now, students in Oklahoma. They are going back to class next week but this is another state where nearly every county, look how red that is, is seeing high COVID transmission rates.

Joining me now to discuss, Dr. Samuel Ratermann. He's a hospitalist at Integris Grove Hospital in eastern Oklahoma. She's also president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians.

Doctor, very good to have you here.

Just about a week ago you told a local Oklahoma TV station that nothing has changed when it comes to the vast majority of people getting extremely sick and hospitalized. It's people who haven't gotten the vaccine. Is that what you're seeing? Because the numbers are shocking here. And over 99 percent of those being hospitalized are dying around the country are folks who remain unvaccinated.

DR. SAMUEL J. RATERMANN, HOSPITALIST, INTEGRIS GROVE HOSPITAL: Yes, unfortunately, that's true. Nothing really has changed. In fact, I think since the time I made those comments, things have actually gotten a little bit worse. We're seeing increased numbers of people being hospitalized. The majority of these are people who are not vaccinated. Positivity rates around the state are around 20 percent. In my ER, straw poll is over 40 percent as what we're seeing coming through. The average age right now of people getting infected in Oklahoma is about 40 years old. And I'm seeing patients in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s now hospitalized for COVID. People who, if you walked by on the street a week ago you would never think that they would have a chance of being ill. I mean very healthy, young individuals.

SCIUTTO: Is this the worst you have seen it in the state of Oklahoma since the start of this pandemic?

RATERMANN: It's certainly the worse that I'm feeling it, partly because of the younger patients and how sick they're presenting. It's definitely better now that we've got some new treatments available and a little bit of experience under our belt doing this. It's not quite as new of a pandemic as it was a year ago.

But, on the other hand, we're still having the same issues with hospital surges. One of the major hospitals that we refer to, a bigger hospital, in the Tulsa area, per report have had 50 holds in their ER, people with COVID. The report that I received yesterday is that there was no ECMO (COMMERCIAL BREAK) beds yesterday morning anywhere in our state. And that's the machine that we use to oxygenate the blood when somebody can't do it even on a ventilator.

I heard on Sunday that there were no pediatric ICU beds available anywhere in the state. We're getting called constantly, people needing to transfer into us and we're just a small hospital. When we have a bed, I think we have one bed available today, and we're trying to get people out, sometimes they're having to go as far as eight hours away because we can't find beds.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this then because if this is the worst we're seeing there, I mean the difference now is that there is a vaccine, granted a lower than the national rate in terms of vaccinations in the state of Oklahoma. But at least many people are vaccinated. And if you're seeing an outbreak like this now, I mean how disturbing is that to you and what does it tell you about how tough it will be to hold back the delta variant in particular?

RATERMANN: Well, the delta variant is not being held back. That's the problem. I mean it's running rampant. We're looking at, you know, low vaccination rates around 50 percent.

The thing that I'm seeing now, at least in my area over the last couple weeks is, we're seeing an uptick in vaccine rates. And I think what's happened is that pretty much everybody, especially in a small town, knows somebody who's been infected, they know somebody who's been hospitalized. And so now all of a sudden it's hitting home. The question is, how do we get that message out to other people in the United States to be able to do this before they get in a situation that we're in right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes. So, I mean, I was going to ask you about that, what is driving the rise now? It does appear, and we've seen this in other place, the fear, right, and experience. Is it happening fast enough, right? Is that -- is that uptick in vaccinations happening fast enough to make a difference there?

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RATERMANN: Well, not in my area. You remember, if you're going to do a two-shot vaccine, you're going to -- there's several weeks between that and then another two weeks before you're fully vaccinated. So you're talking about six weeks. So I needed these people to be vaccinated months ago, not right now.

However, this is what we've got and this is what we can do. The only way we're going to get this virus to stop spreading is people to engage in social distancing and masking and those normal mitigation efforts that we've talked about and also to get vaccinated. But I think kind of -- it's already out of the barrel. We've got to do what we can now, but I wish it would have been done months ago.

SCIUTTO: Lord. And the politics still, sadly, getting in the way of many of those measures.

Dr. Samuel Ratermann, we know you've got a tough go of it there. We appreciate the work you're doing.

RATERMANN: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Well, some businesses are taking action against the delta variant as it spreads. Just this morning Target said it will now require employees to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. To be clear, these are employees working in stores, not just at the home office, like we saw, for instance, with Walmart. Target is also strongly suggesting that customers do the same.

CNN's business reporter Matt Egan joins me now.

So, Matt, I mean, this -- this is a difference here, right? I mean companies sort of across the spectrum, Walmart in a limited way, at headquarters but not in stores. Here you have Target expanding this more broadly.

How broadly are you seeing companies act like this now on vaccinations?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, Jim, corporate America is clearly stepping up its COVID restrictions around these growing concerns about the delta variant and the risk of other variants. And so what we've heard is that some companies are announcing these new restrictions for employees. New this morning, Tyson Foods, one of the world's largest food

companies, is requiring that its U.S. workforce get vaccinated. This will begin for office workers October 1st and for all other workers November 1st. Health care giant Kaiser Permanente, it's requiring that all physicians and employees get vaccinated by end of September. Target, as you mentioned, is requiring that all employees wear masks in high-risk areas. And Home Depot is requiring that all of its associates and contractors and vendors that they wear masks inside stores, offices, and distribution centers whether or not they're vaccinated.

Now, what's also new here is that some companies are actually imposing new restrictions for customers as well. Equinox and Soulcycle, they are requiring a one-time proof of vaccination for riders and members in -- now this begins in September in New York City. But the company plans to roll that out everywhere. Equinox Executive Chairman Harvey Spevak, he explained his thinking on "NEW DAY" this morning. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARVEY SPEVAK, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN AND MANAGING PARTNER, EQUINOX GROUP: We think now is an important time in reflection with what's going on with COVID to protect our community further. So we think the best way to do that is to require vaccinations of both our members, our riders, and our employees.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

EGAN: And this is not just Equinox, of course. Other companies are requiring New York City customers to be vaccinated. That includes restaurant (INAUDIBLE) company Union Square Hospitality and Morgan Stanley. All Broadway shows are also requiring vaccines for audience members.

Jim, I think all of this shows how badly business leaders want to boost vaccination rates and how much they want to make customers feel safe.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Good for health. It seems they're calculating it's good for business as well.

Matt Egan, thank you.

Still ahead this hour, Simone Biles, she's back and she brought home another Olympic medal, tying the all-time record for U.S. gymnasts. We're going to be live from Tokyo.

Plus, two schools in Georgia forced into a remote start on their first day because so many staff members are in quarantine. We're going to speak to the superintendent of schools there.

And two more officers who fought to protect our democracy on January 6th, there they are, they've now died by suicide. Their fellow officers are responding this morning.

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SCIUTTO: We have some sad news to report this morning. CNN has learned now that two more D.C. Metropolitan Police Officers who responded to the insurrection on January 6th have taken their own lives. Officer Gunther Hashida, he was found in his home last week. Officer Kyle Defreytag was found deceased on July 10th. Those deaths mark four known suicides by officers who responded to the Capitol attack that day.

And CNN's Whitney Wild is here.

Whitney, you've been covering this very closely. It's always a difficult issue, right, because suicide is a very personal thing.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Right.

SCIUTTO: And we can't know from the outside for sure what the direct cause was. But there is a common thread here between these four officers --

WILD: Right.

SCIUTTO: And that is the stress and emotional damage of January 6th.

WILD: Absolutely. And I think what it highlights is that officers, not just in D.C., but all across the country, willingly run into attacks, run into trauma. They do that as part of the job. They take on the burden and that burden is immense.

Let me tell you a little bit about the lives of these officers.

Officer Kyle Defreytag joined the Metropolitan Police Department in 2016. Officer Gunther Hashida joined the Metropolitan Police Department in 2003. He was part of the emergency response team, a division within the special operations division.

[09:20:02]

He was found deceased in his home July 29th. That date is significant because it is two days after his colleagues went to lawmakers to outline their trauma, outline the attack they underwent on January 6th. One of those officers, Officer Harry Dunn, a Capitol Police officer, made an urgent plea for more resources, made an urgent plea to officers to seek help if they need it.

Another one of those officers, Metropolitan Police Department Officer Michael Fanone, knew Hashida personally and said that he was incredibly quiet, incredibly reserved but the most professional officer he ever knew. He was, again, soft-spoken but very positive. He was loved by everyone. There is no one in the law enforcement profession loved by everyone. Most are not loved by some, Fanone said. Hashida was literally that guy, Fanone said.

These deaths are preceded by the -- also the death of Jeffrey Smith, another D.C. police officer, Officer Harry Liebengood, a Capitol Police officer, who took his own life. Those two men took their lives less than a month after the January 6th insurrection.

And, again, we cannot know what led these men to make that decision.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

WILD: However, in this moment, it is that heartbreaking string that threads them together.

SCIUTTO: Understood. And, listen, you look at them. They faced a lot of stress that day. We always encourage, and we're going to repeat these numbers later, if you need help, seek help. And there are lots of ways to do that.

Whitney Wild, thanks so much for covering this story.

Joining me now to talk about this is CNN law enforcement analyst Anthony Barksdale. He's former acting Baltimore Police commissioner.

Good morning. So good to have you here this morning.

I want to play what U.S. Capitol Police Officer Dunn said last week in public testimony because this really gets to a key issue here for officers who face this kind of stress. Have a listen and I want to get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OFFICER HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I want to take this moment to speak to my fellow officers about the emotions they are continuing to experience from the events of January 6th. There's absolutely nothing wrong with seeking professional counseling. What we went through that day was traumatic. And if you are hurting, please take advantage of the counseling services that are available to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: As you know, there can be stigma, right, for officers involved. They might be reluctant to seek help, fear of the consequences. Given your experience, I want to give you a chance to speak to folks who might be listening, might be facing this kind of thing. What's your advice to them?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Jim, my advice is, get help if you need it. And we have to move past saying, oh, I'm not strong enough, I'm not tough enough. It's OK. You're a police officer. You're any -- in any type of law enforcement position, if you need help, get the help.

And I need to speak to the managers, the police executives, the first- line supervisors, it's your duty to be sure that the officers are fit for duty. If you see an officer that seems off, you've got a responsibility. If that means telling that officer, look, this is in your best interest, I need to take you out of the field. I need you to get a mental health evaluation, then do you it. We can't have the officers walking around like this. You can clearly

see that those officers that testified are still suffering and we're not doing a -- we're not doing a solid job with getting officers suicide prevention training. We're not getting them the right treatment. If it means that your officers have to be pulled offline to get help, then you do it.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because, again, as I said, with our -- my colleague Whitney Wild, we don't know from the outside the circumstances of each of these. There is a common thread, though, among these suicides and that is service on that day, that violent day, January 6th.

As an officer yourself who served, can you explain what it might feel for officers to serve on a day like that, face that kind of danger and attack and to hear public figures say it wasn't that big a deal?

BARKSDALE: It's quite disturbing to hear anyone say something like that. You've never -- the ones that are running their mouths, these officers were front line in a domestic act of terrorism. And they survived it. They made it through.

But I can go back two decades and remember being in Baltimore and a block decided that we weren't going to take a prisoner to jail. So we had to deal with an entire block in Baltimore. Look at what these officers dealt with? I can still remember that day. So what are they dealing with right now?

[09:25:02]

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BARKSDALE: We have to take better care of those who try to protect the United States of America. And this isn't cutting it. Some of this language that's being used in disgusting. And that includes some law enforcement who say, oh, they're not real police. Yes, they are. Yes, they are.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BARKSDALE: And they're heroes.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you this because I've heard when there have been suicide issues, mental health issues in other departments, that a fear of some officers is that if they come forward for help, they'll be penalized in some way. That they might have their weapon take away or be forced to do a desk job. I just wonder, in your experience, are there confidential ways, right, to seek help? Are forces providing that path necessary, right, to do this in a way where you think you won't face other consequences, to encourage more people to seek help?

BARKSDALE: Jim, that's part of it that has to be stopped. There can be no shame in it. If they need the help, then get them the help. And if you're a sergeant, a lieutenant, captain, major, whatever rank you are, you better stand up and say, he's getting help and you need to mind your business and do your job. SCIUTTO: Yes.

BARKSDALE: This is on so many levels. And there is -- I got to say it again -- Jim, let me tell you this, I lost -- I've lost three academy classmates to suicide. One hung himself, two others shot themselves. It is real. It happens. And there's no shame in it for what the job -- the job that you're required to do on a daily basis. It can happen. Be able to take care of yourself.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, I hope folks hear your words.

Anthony Barksdale, thanks so much. And we're going to do our part too.

BARKSDALE: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, if you or anyone you know is struggling, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They can really help there. 1- 800-273-8255. 1-800-273-8255. And if you have a chance to share that with other people you know, please do. We're going to do the same.

Well in some happier news this morning, a win that is worth its weight in gold. Simone Biles, who faced so much adversity, well, she overcame it. She won a bronze medal this morning on the balance beam. We're going to be live from Tokyo with reaction.

And we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Futures, they're slightly up this morning. Stocks ended the first August trading session mixed. Investors waiting for more corporate earnings results as they also grapple with concerns about the delta variant. We're on top of all of it.

Please stay with us.

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