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70 Percent of U.S. Adults Now Have At Least One Vaccine Does; Today, Broward County Public Schools Drop Mask Mandate after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Threatens to Cut Funding; Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City, NY) Speaks About Vaccines and Masks in New York City. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2021 - 10:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

A major health goal for the country reached in the fight against COVID, though a month late. The Biden administration announced that 70 percent of adults in the U.S. now have at least one dose of the vaccine. He is expected to speak a few hours from now on efforts to get more Americans vaccinated, a lot of states well below the national rate.

Important news, as the highly contagious delta variant fueled by the unvaccinated is spreading rapidly in many parts of the country. This is leaving hospitals overwhelmed, doctors and health officials sounding the alarm. Some facilities now completely out of ICU beds and warning the situation is getting worse by the day.

Let's begin with CNN's John Harwood at the White House. John, so some good news reaching that goal, though a month late. I mean, the question really now is how do you get to those folks still refusing to be vaccinated? What do we expect to hear from the president today?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, as you say, it is good news but it is not good enough to slow down that delta variant. Everything this administration wants to accomplish in terms of public health and economically and politically depends on getting this pandemic under control and the administration has really hit a wall in terms of resistance both fueled by politics in some the red states and also concern among some members of other communities in big cities who are reluctant to get vaccinated.

So what we're going to hear from the president today is to talk about efforts to vaccinated the rest of the world, 110 million doses shipped overseas, but also looking to the private sector to help galvanize vaccine requirements or very strong pushes to employees and to customers.

We're expecting to get some news from New York City Mayor de Blasio about requiring proof of vaccination to participate in some activities. The administration last week announced a soft requirement on federal workers, to either get vaccinated or submit to strict testing and social distancing protocols. They're looking into having the U.S. military require it from American soldiers. The V.A., of course, has required it for medical personnel.

So there are a range of efforts underway to try to get around some of this resistance. But that resistance is a big problem. It is fueling anxiety over the eviction moratorium, which has expired over the weekend. As you know, that fuels discord within the Democratic Party. And that is occurring, of course, as the president is trying to move his infrastructure agenda through Congress, keep the party together.

Everything is more difficult, the worst the pandemic is and that is why renewed focus from the president this week.

SCIUTTO: We'll be looking for those words. John Harwood at the White House, thanks very much.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' threat to cut funding to schools that require masks as the delta variant spreads, it has apparently worked. One of the nation's largest school districts, Broward County, has had to reverse course on its mask mandate less a week after the school board voted to approve it.

We should note CDC guidance would suggest Broward County should have a mask mandate. Why? Because it is in an area of high COVID transmission. But on Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order threatening to cut state funding to any school that requires masks.

The governor is speaking right now. We're listening for comments on this topic and we're going to bring those to you as soon as we have them.

Joining me now to discuss all of this and more, Dr. Paul Offit, he's the director of the Vaccine Education Center for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, also a member of the FDA's Vaccine Advisory Committee. Dr. Offit, good to have you back.

I want to begin on the big picture here, to ask you where we stand in this pandemic, because many of us thought that we were through the worst of it. But you've noted that the U.S. is roughly at the same point today in terms of level of deaths daily and new infections as we were last summer when with the big difference was there was no vaccine. I mean, we have half the country fully vaccinated. What does that tell us?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Right, there was no vaccine and we had a fully susceptible population. Now, we have a population where at least half of Americans have received the vaccine and also many have been already nationally affected, which provided some level of immunity.

I think the big difference is are, one, the delta variant. That was not the virus that was circulating last summer. And, two, and I think most importantly, and our behavior has changed. I mean, we are much looser now about how we deal with all this. This but to get to the Ron DeSantis thing, because that really upsets me, what he has done is inexplicable. This is a war against a virus, SARS-Cov-2. You have two weapons in that war, one, and the powerful, you have the vaccine, and, two, for people, for example, who are too young or who have cancer or on chemotherapy or who are yet biological agents for their chronic diseases, masks. Those are the two weapons.

What Ron DeSantis says is let's put those two weapons in our pocket.


I mean, he is basically a friend of the virus. I just absolutely do not understand it.

SCIUTTO: You make the point that polio had no friends. And when there was a vaccine available, the country rolled up their sleeves and got in under control. You note that people in Congress, politicians like a Ron DeSantis, science denialist, some in right-wing media, I mean, as you said there, friends, in effect, of this virus. I want to give you a chance to speak to them.

OFFIT: Right. I mean, so I was a child of the '50s, I certainly grew up with the polio virus. My parents were scared to death to let us go to a public swimming pool over the summer months. But what do we do? I mean, we created the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, so March of Dimes, which was a public or a private fully philanthropic group to which Americans sent their dimes, and millions of dollars worth of dimes. And so we basically -- the American public paid for that research on that vaccine, Jonas Salk's vaccine.

And when that rolled out in 1955, we couldn't wait to get that vaccine. There were none of the forces that were in play now were in play then. It is certainly a much more cynical and a much more litigious, much more conspiracy-laden society that we have now.

But the end result is that the fight is not just against the virus, which was true against polio, the fight is against -- in some ways, against ourselves, the sort of the worst parts of ourselves. And that makes this much, much harder.

SCIUTTO: Yes. My father told stories of his mom not letting him go to pools too because of polio as well.

Given the wide availability of vaccines, available, free, effective, far more than most vaccines we even think about, I mean, this is -- it is a pandemic not just of the unvaccinated but the willfully unvaccinated, right, because they have the option to be. Do you believe there should be more mandates? Is that the answer?

OFFIT: I think it is the only answer at this point. I think we solved the problem of mass distribution and mass administration. I think we've done everything we can do educate. We've done everything we can to and try to reduce misinformation. I think we've had a variety of incentive programs. We've gotten to the point where a critical percentage of Americans have said we don't want to get this vaccine. We're going to allow this virus to continue to spread, continue to mutate, continue to create variants. And if you don't like it, what are you going to do about it.

And I think the answer is that you compel people to vaccinate. And you're seeing that come up from the private sector to their credit, and I'd like to think that's going to happen more and more, and hopefully then more and more people will be compelled to be vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: So, as, of course, we know, you have got to be 12 and up to get the vaccine at this point. There are still studies going on for children younger than that age. And I know you're on the advisory committee so you can't get into specifics here. But for folks at home who have children under the age of 12, can you give us a sense of where that process stands right now and any sense of the timeline going forward. Because we're already seeing a couple of schools, a couple of districts, for instance, in Georgia, having to start remote because of quarantines.

OFFIT: Well, it is hard to know when it is that we're going to have a vaccine available for children less than 12, but we certainly need it. And you would like to think we can get it before we head into late fall and earlier winter because you have a confluence of three dangerous events.

One is the delta variant. Two is winter, which allows for more easy spread of this virus. And, three, and I think most importantly, you're going to have a relatively unvaccinated or undervaccinated group less than 12 and basically an undervaccinated group between 12 and 17, because and only about 30 or 35 percent of people in that age group who can be vaccinated have been vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about this, because we do have other countries that have faced the delta variant before us. And I don't want to over or underestimate their experience and what it tells us. But if you look at a place like the U.K., they had a big jump in infections, hospitalizations from delta variants, which then tailed off. Can we learn anything from that? Is that something that we might be able to expect here as well?

OFFIT: Yes, I think we can, as long as we increase vaccination rates. I mean, the good news about this vaccine is that it protects you against severe critical disease, the kind of disease against the delta variant, the kind of disease that causes you to seek medical care or go to the hospital or go to the ICU or die. So that is good. But, again, it doesn't work if you don't get it.

I'm very optimistic we can get on top of this. But realize one thing, Jim, is that when you try and figure out what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to stop the spread, it depends on two things. One is the contagiousness of the virus and the CDC has now said that this virus has the contagious index of between five and nine, meaning that roughly -- if I'm infected, I'm going to go out in my day and infect roughly seven more people who will then infect seven more people, assuming they're all susceptible.

And even if you assume that the effectiveness of this vaccine is 90 percent, which I think is generous in terms of protection against shedding, even if you use those two issues, you still have to have at least 90 percent of this population vaccinated. And when the Biden administration says, well, 70 percent have received one vaccine, for the mRNA, it is a two-dose vaccine so it doesn't count until you are fully vaccinated, and we have a long way to go to get to 90 percent.


SCIUTTO: We have got to get those numbers off. Dr. Paul Offit, always good to have you on.

OFFIT: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: This just into CNN on the topic we were just discussing. McDonald's now the latest company to require both staff and customers to wear masks crucially in high transmission areas, this regardless of their vaccination status.

Matt Egan, Lead Writer for CNN Business, joins me now. Matt, we're beginning to see something of a pattern here, businesses implementing rules and different stages of the dial in terms of how far they go. But tell us what you're seeing across the board.

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, Jim, we're seeing that these changes to corporate policies are coming in fast and furious. Business leaders are just trying to catch up to these rising COVID numbers. The latest is McDonald's. As you said, McDonald's is now going to require both workers and customers to wear masks in high risk areas. Previously, this was only for people who were not vaccinated. Now, it is for everyone regardless of their vaccination status.

Now, other companies that have announced new rules for employees around COVID include Tyson Foods. Just this morning, that very large food company says that it is imposing a vaccine mandate for its U.S. workforce. That starts for office workers October 1, other workers November 1. Health care giant Kaiser Permanente is requiring all physician and employees to get vaccinated by the end of September.

Target says that employees need to wear mask in high risk areas. Home Depot is also requiring its employees to wear masks inside of stores, distribution center and offices, again, whether they are vaccinated or not.

And what is interesting is that we're all also seeing companies announce changes around the policies for customers. Equinox and SoulCycle, they now say that customers, that members and riders, they have to show proof of vaccination status. That begins in New York City in early September but they plan to roll that out elsewhere.

Morgan Stanley similarly has a new policy in place where people inside of its headquarters in New York City, even clients, need to show proof of vaccination. We've also seen that from Union Square Hospitality, the restaurant and event company, and all Broadway shows also require vaccines for audience members.

Jim, business leaders clearly want to get the vaccination numbers up and they want to make employees and customers more comfortable. SCIUTTO: Yes, Hamilton, I'm not throwing away my shot, right? Matt Egan, thanks very much.

Still to come, CNN has learned that two more police officers who defended the Capitol during the January 6th violent insurrection have died by suicide. How other police officers are responding to the heartbreaking loss, what we all can do.

Plus, a general in Afghanistan says he has never seen so many Al Qaeda fighters joining forces with the Taliban on the frontlines. How the deteriorating security situation there could have global implications.

And the blame game in Washington over the expired evictions moratorium, it is having real life consequences on potentially millions of people. One woman who lost two family members to COVID is demanding that lawmakers step up. She shares her story just ahead.



SCIUTTO: Live now, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing new restrictions for New York in response to COVID. Let's have a listen.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): -- requiring that they get tested or vaccinated obviously with a strong, strong preference for vaccination. And then we said new employees will be required to get vaccinated before they could start work for the city of New York. These kind of actions are making an impact far beyond the boundaries New York City. We're seeing our state and other states like California following suit. We're seeing the federal government following suit.

New York City is starting every time the action, we are setting the pace and we're going to do that again today with today's announcement.

But let me also talk about the private sector. We've seen leaders in the private sector blaze the trail here. I want to thank a great New York entrepreneur, Danny Meyer, for the announcement he made regarding his restaurants. I want to thank Equinox and SoulCycle for the decision they made about vaccine mandates. I want to thank everyone in the Broadway communities for the decision they made related to indoor performances.

So examples right there, dining, fitness, performances, where you see leaders in the private sector already saying clearly vaccinations is the answer. We need these strong, clear mandates.

And we've proven that even with outdoor entertainment, it makes sense, our homecoming concerts are going to be amazing. But if you want to go to one of them, you have to be vaccinated. That is a requirement.

Climbing this ladder is giving us more and more ability to fight back the delta variant by fighting the delta variant, we will continue our recovery and we will ultimately beat COVID.

So today, I announce a new approach which we're calling the key to NYC pass, the key to New York City, when you hear those words, I want you to imagine the notion that because someone is vaccinated, they can do all of the amazing things that are available in this city.


This is a miraculous place literally full of wonders, and if you're vaccinated, all of that is going to open to you. You'll have the key. You can open the door. But if you're unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things.

That is the point we're trying to get across. It is time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary to living a good and full and healthy life.

The key to NYC pass will be a first in the nation approach. It will require vaccination for workers and customers in indoor dining, in indoor fitness facilities, indoor entertainment facilities. This is going to be a requirement. The only way to patronize these establishments indoors will be if you're vaccinated, at least one dose. The same for folks in terms of work, they'll need at least once dose.

This is crucial because we know that this will encourage a lot more vaccinations. We've seen it already. We've seen the impact of the mandate we put in place for city workers already starting to move people to vaccination. We've obviously seen the positive impact of incentives as well.

The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time, we're going to stop the delta variant and the time is now, and that means getting vaccinated right now.

This new policy will be phased in over the coming weeks. So, we've been working with the business community, getting input. We're going to do more over the next few weeks. The final details of the policy will be announced and implemented in the week of August 16th. So over the next couple of weeks, getting more feedback, finalizing the policy, publishing it and beginning to implement it.

We'll then spend most of a month educating people, going out to businesses, receiving calls from businesses, answering questions and concerns, making sure that everyone understands the new approach. And then on September 13th, during that week, we'll begin inspections and enforcement.

So, we want to give businesses, big and small, a chance to get acclimated. We want to make adjustments based on their input, but this will move forward starting in the week of August 16th and full enforcement the week of September 13th, which is very pertinent because that is the first full week after Labor Day when we really expect a lot more activity in this city.

Now, I'll tell you, we know those conversations with the business community are crucial. We've had a lot of them already. What we're hearing from so many folks in the business community is they understand this time but they need government to lead. That is going to help them to do what they need to do.

Not everyone is going to agree with this. I understand that. But for so many people, this is going to be the life-saving act that we're putting a mandate in place that is going to guarantee a much higher level of vaccination in this city and that is the key to protecting people and the key to our recovery. That is why it is the key to NYC, the key to NYC pass opens a lot of doors and we need it.

We'll be issuing a mayoral executive order and a health commissioner's order. Those are the legal tools necessary to implement this approach. And we know that this is what is going to turn the tide. And we also know that people are going to get a really clear message, if you want to participate in our society fully, you have got to get vaccinated. You've got to get vaccinated. It is time.

All the answers, all of the information is out there, you've seen over 160 million Americans get vaccinated safely. You've seen it make the difference. The only reason we're having the recovery is vaccination. So it is time. And this is going to send that message clearly.

And the key to NYC, this is an easy approach because to confirm vaccination, all you need is your vaccination card or the NYC COVID Safe app or the Excelsior app from the state. Any of those will do. So it's simple, just show it and you're in.

Everyone, this summer already has been amazing in the city and a lot more to come. This approach is going to make clear, you want to enjoy everything great in this summer of New York City, go get vaccinated. It will do for you so many things. It will make your life better, it will make all of our lives better.

I want you to hear from folks who have been working so hard on the response to COVID and who care so deeply. I want you to hear what they think of this new, clear, strong approach, the key to NYC Pass. First of all, the former acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, he was also a senior adviser to the Biden White House COVID Response Team. He is a powerful voice for expanding access to health care in this country, and I really want to thank him for joining him. My pleasure to introduce Andy Slavitt.


ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM: Good morning, good afternoon. Thank you for having me join this, Mayor.

SCIUTTO: All right. You've been listening to Mayor Bill de Blasio there announcing a new and I think what you can call innovative measure to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The introduction of a key to NYC Pass, in effect, proof of vaccination, which if folks get that -- it is not requiring vaccines, but if folks get that, they would then have access to many public events, such as Broadway, sporting events, et cetera.

Athena Jones has been following this story. This, Athena, is an interesting approach here, right, because we've been discussing mandates. Here is, in effect, I guess you can call it a carrot, right, to folks to get vaccinated and then give them access to a broad range of public events.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is been a couple of weeks now we've been seeing an increasing number of mandates, whether it is from private businesses or from cities. This is going way further than anything we've seen so far.

The city is calling this the first in the nation vaccine requirement for workers and customers. And it isn't just to go to Broadway, it's to go -- to do any indoor dining, so to eat inside at a restaurant, to go to theaters, to go to entertainment and performances and, of course, for gyms.

The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, who you'll remember just yesterday stopped short of re-implementing a mask mandate. He has instead kept his focus on increasing vaccinations. He believes that a mandate or a health pass like this one, something that we've seen in France and also in Italy, which has done a great job of boosting the number of people signing up to get their first vaccine shots, Bill de Blasio is hoping that in implementing this pass system will help encourage more New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

You just heard him say there kind of a motto, if you want to enjoy New York City this summer, go get vaccinated. They want to make it more -- give people a reward for doing something that is in the public health.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and the contrast, right? So, you're seeing this in New York and you're seeing other states, such as Florida, ban mandates, such as mandate for masks for students in schools. Athena Jones, thanks so much for covering for us.

Ahead this hour, Simone Biles, she came back winning bronze in her return to the Olympics, quite a moment to watch. We're going to be live in Tokyo, next.