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CNN: Biden Considers Withholding Federal Funds To Spur Vaccines; W.H. Launches Effort To Get More Eligible Children Vaccinated; CDC Director: Fully-Vaccinated Who Get Breakthrough Infection Can Pass It On; Texas Education Agency Releases Controversial New Guidance For Schools On Handling Positive COVID Cases; United Airlines Mandates COVID-19 Vaccine For All Employees; Senate Back Tomorrow For Key Vote On $1T Infrastructure Deal; About 31,000 People Under Evacuation Orders Due To Dixie Fire; W.V. Gov. Launches Program To Measure Antibody Levels Among Vaccinated. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired August 6, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: That is, you know, that is very important to note. Very important to note.

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And remember to catch an all new episode of the CNN original series, "The History of Sitcom" Sunday night at nine.

Have a great weekend. CNN's coverage continues right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow has the week off.

We begin this hour with breaking news. The U.S. added a blockbuster, 943,000 jobs in July. Absolutely crushing the estimates. What does that mean for the economy? Let's begin right there with CNN Business Anchor Julia Chatterley.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR, FIRST MOVE: Good morning, Jim.

Make no mistake. This was a strong jobs report, the U.S. economy adding back 943,000 jobs in the month of July. Not the only good news today though, too. We also saw positive revisions to the prior two months, adding back around 100,000 extra jobs that we weren't expecting. All of this is good news. Where did they come from? Well, as you'd expect, the tourism, the leisure sector gave us back 380,000 jobs. We know restaurants, bars, hotels have been trying to add people back, forced to pay more wages. We saw that playing into these numbers in July.

Also the education sector, 220,000 jobs extra added back in the education sector. We know this has been a challenge all through the year as many students have remained being educated at home. Also the seasonal effects here where you normally see jobs lost in the education sector this month. Clearly not the case for the month of July.

What does that give us net? An unemployment rate that's significantly lower, now standing at 5.4 percent. That's down from 5.9 percent.

This is the good news, but of course, there's always caveats. We are still down 5.7 million jobs since the pandemic began.

This is still a pandemic puzzle as far as the labor market is concerned. And I'm not sure we're going to get clarity between now and the end of September. Why? Well, there's a few things.

We've got to see our kids go back to school, back or bring a further near 2 million people back into the labor force. We've also got half of U.S. states that are still paying up those top up benefits. That of course will end in September, too. And for those that think that's keeping people on the sidelines, that question perhaps will be answered in those months, too.

And of course, Jim, the big wildcard here, what happens with the Delta variant? And what impact does that have on hiring and the U.S. economy? All big questions, but for now, at least, it's a recovering economy. It's still a pandemic economy, and there are still puzzles in the labor market. And those still need answering.

Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Well, ramping up the pressure now, CNN has learning that the Biden administration is considering new much more aggressive ways to increase the rate of vaccinations in the U.S. A senior administration official says that one of the latest strategies the administration is exploring is to withhold federal front -- funds from institutions such as nursing homes, unless their staff, their employees are vaccinated.

Key point to note, the discussions are in the early stages right now. It is unclear how far the administration will decide to go.

And as schools begin to reopen, the White House has just announced a new push to get more children who are eligible today vaccinated. We're going to have more on that in just a moment.

And hours after vaccine maker Moderna announced that its COVID vaccine will likely need a third booster shot before the winter, the director of the CDC says it is now working with the FDA to develop a vaccine booster plan. That expected next month. Lots of plans in the works.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now.

First, let's begin with the Biden administration discussing the possibility of pressuring institutions to increase vaccinations by withholding fundings but particularly nursing homes, which of course were a crucial front in the pandemic early on.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim, the issue with nursing homes have been that employees, the people taking care of these frail elderly people, many of them don't want to get vaccinated. So, the federal government supplies funding to all sorts of places. I mean, they don't completely 100 percent fund these places, but nursing homes received some degree of federal funding, so to hospitals, so to school, sort of many private organizations.

And so, the question that's being considered by the federal government, what sources are telling my colleagues here at CNN is that they're thinking, hmm, in what ways can we kind of pull the levers that we have, because we do this funding in what ways can we influence people to get vaccinated. This kind of technique has been used, you know, over the years in many different situations. It would be an interesting one if they used it now.

[09:05:12]

So it wouldn't be mandating things, it would be saying and the source didn't say this, I'm just putting it out there. For example, you could see a scenario where they tell a nursing home, you know what, we give you money for x, y, and z, you take Medicaid patients, that of course, is federal funding. You know, you need to get your employees vaccinated, this money could be at stake.

SCIUTTO: Notable, OK, we'll see if they go there.

COHEN: Right.

SCIUTTO: You have another push by the White House to get more children currently eligible, of course, 12 and up vaccinated as schools begin, what steps are they taking? How do they plan to tackle this?

COHEN: Great, so let's talk about these steps. I'm going to preface it by saying that I think a lot of people would say, yes, this is kind of math. There's really not much here.

So let's take a look and I'll tell you why I think that some folks would say that. It's things like encouraging doctors to talk about that to introduce to ask for vaccination at sports physicals. Because of course, a lot of kids need to do those both in high school, college and elsewhere.

Encourage Parent Teacher Associations to host events with pediatricians, community events, so the pediatricians can educate the community about this life saving vaccine. And additional resources for pop up vaccine clinics. All well and good.

Will that make a difference? Maybe not. Maybe they need to go to what we were just talking about before, money, and possibly some form of mandate, of encouraging mandates.

SCIUTTO: So many efforts being made. We just hope folks at home, if you haven't been vaccinated, look at the science, it's safe. Make the decisions yourself.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: We are also hearing just a gut wrenching plea from a father today for everyone to get vaccinated. He and his oldest daughter are both positive for COVID after deciding not to get the shot. She's doing OK. But he just spoke to CNN from a hospital bed. He feels like any moment could be his last.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRAVIS CAMPBELL, HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID AFTER NOT GETTING VACCINATED: Children are your greatest accomplishments in life. I'm so blessed and thankful to be surrounded by children.

I pray that many other fathers and single moms and single dads, so your grandparents, always evaluate your situation, get vaccinated for others as well.

I'm so sorry that I made the mistake of being able to not get vaccinated. Vaccinations are so important. And I could do better as a parent, as a human. And I hope to God, everybody else can do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: So convincing. He says he made a mistake to be negligent.

Joining me now to discuss, Dr. Carlos del Rio. He's Executive Associate Dean of Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System.

Dr. Del Rio, always good to have you back.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOC. DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: Good to see you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: You know, you have to sigh when you see commentary like that, right? Because for all the science, all the data, all the many 10s of millions of people have been safely vaccinated and have their lives protected and had them kept out of the hospital because of it.

It still doesn't break through, sadly, often until a moment like that. And I wonder what's working to break through this bubble of vaccine hesitancy. In your view, in your experience?

DEL RIO: Well, Jim, there's not one thing that is working. But the one thing that is working right now is actually the Delta surge. As you heard from that felt heart wrenching testimony, I think we're finally seeing people say, look, I made a mistake, and they're calling their families or letting others know, they're getting vaccinated.

And it's not, it's not too late, but it is late because, you know, you got to get your first dose, you have to get your second dose, and then you have to get wait two weeks. So people that get vaccinated today, realistically are not going to be protected by the vaccine until six weeks from today.

So the right time to get vaccinated was, you know, two months ago.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

DEL RIO: You can still do it today. But you need to realize that you're still at risk for the next six to eight weeks. And that's going to be really tough because Delta's being, you know, spreading throughout our communities, very heavily. And if you're not vaccinated or you're partially vaccinated, you're very likely to get infected.

SCIUTTO: OK. I want to talk about the vaccinated now. It's clear, if you haven't been vaccinated, you're taking a risk for yourself and your family. Listen to that patient we just saw.

So let's talk about the folks who've gotten the shot. The question now, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky was speaking about this to CNN earlier today, is that now the data shows that even if like you and I have been vaccinated, you can get a break through infection.

And by the way, to be clear, the data is clear that, you know, the vaccine still keeps you largely out of the hospital and keeps you alive. But you can get infected and you can pass this on. Help us understand the data here because the vaccinated are still much less likely to spread it, but they can spread it. Walk us through that.

[09:10:07]

DEL RIO: Yes. Yes, that's exactly the case, Jim. I think, you know, the risks are not equal. And even though, yes, you can get infected and you can transmit to others if you're vaccinated, your likelihood of doing that is about eight to nine times lower than if you're unvaccinated. So you're really decreasing your risk significantly. I mean, you're increasing your risk almost tenfold by being vaccinated.

So, equally, if I'm vaccinated, and some person is unvaccinated and we go into a room where somebody is infected, the unvaccinated person has about eight to nine times higher possibility of getting infected than the vaccinated individual.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

DEL RIO: And then, once both are infected, let's suppose both were infected, still the possibility of them transmitting to others is also significantly lower. So --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

DEL RIO: -- I think we need to put things in perspective. The vaccines may not be perfect, but they significantly decrease your risk of acquiring the infection and transmitting it to others.

SCIUTTO: That data, I just want to repeat it for folks, if they miss it there. Yes, there are breakthrough infections for the vaccinated, but the data is clear vaccine very protective against hospitalizations and death. That's key.

And also, you're still 1/8 as likely, if you're vaccinated, to then pass it on. That's a pretty significant statistical difference.

OK. In the midst of all that data, you still have stupidity, because I can't think of a more accurate word in terms of some of the guidance that's going out. I want to show you what Texas schools are doing now with cases of students who test positive.

This from the Texas Education Agency, schools don't have to inform parents of a positive case in school. Schools don't have to conduct contact tracing. If schools do contact trace, parents can still choose to send their child to school if they are close contact of an infected student.

I look at that, that is the polar opposite of the public health guidance. Tell me as a doctor, what your reaction is to seeing that. And by the way, we're talking about children.

DEL RIO: Well, Jim, what has happened is that public health is no longer being followed in many places. And when you don't follow the principles of public health, you should not expect good results.

And I think here, the problem is why expect things to be better if you're not doing the right thing. And that has to be, you know, what we tend to remind people.

I understand this is very difficult time. I understand that people are tired of this pandemic. I am tired, too. But at the same time, I'm also tired of seeing people infected and I'm tired of seeing people in the hospital, and I'm tired of seeing people die.

More than 600,000 Americans have died from this infection. I mean, that is a number that should be in our heads every day when we think about this kind of decisions.

I would tell those legislators, I will tell those school boards, you know, when making those decisions, think about your kids. Think about your family. Think about what's best for your family and then make a decision.

SCIUTTO: Listen to that father there, right, saying, you know, don't make the mistake I did.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, thanks so much.

Well, multiple companies are now delaying employees return to the office because of the surging Delta variant. Amazon has announced workers will go back to the office in 2022. Wells Fargo, BlackRock also bumping back their returns for at least another month.

CNN's Matt Egan joins me now live from New York, United Airlines.

We learned today, join a list of companies that are requiring employees to get vaccinated. You know, it's a patchwork response here, but tell us what you're seeing from a number of companies today.

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, Jim, this is a big one. United Airlines saying that all of its approximately 80,000 employees must get vaccinated, that makes United the first major U.S. airline to do so. And United cited a sense of urgency to protect its employees, their family members, and customers.

United set a late October deadline for employees to prove their vaccination status, though that could actually move earlier if vaccine -- if some of the vaccines get federal approval. It is worth noting that United is not considering a similar move for customers saying that is a step that would be left up to the government.

SCIUTTO: Matt Egan, good to have you on, thanks so much, this morning.

Next, we're live on Capitol Hill as a key vote on infrastructure, I heard this before, but now it's set for tomorrow. Hear why Republicans may still attempt to block it.

Plus, parts of California now look like a ghost town in the wake of a devastating fire. And it's still raging this morning.

Plus, a CNN exclusive. We got an inside look at U.S. space force, how its guardians, as they're known, are protecting the nation's satellites, critical infrastructure from attacks. It's a hostile environment today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN RAYMOND, CHIEF OF SPACE OPERATIONS: Today, there's no rules in space. It's the Wild, Wild West.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:19:22]

SCIUTTO: Well, we have reached the end of infrastructure week, but still no final agreement on the $1 trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill. Now, a key procedural vote is scheduled for tomorrow.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox has been covering this. I'm sure eating a lot of takeout over the last several days as they tried to reach agreement here.

I mean, listen, this kind of stuff happens all the time on the Hill. I'm just curious, are these last minute delays potentially fatal to this or they really just gumming up the works before they reach a final vote? LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think most Republicans and Democrats that I'm talking to up here on Capitol Hill, Jim, feel like it's inevitable that this bill will eventually pass but it may take additional time. And one of the reasons for that is that in the U.S. Senate you can always speed things up if there's agreement, but if one single senator objects to that agreement, it can really drag this process out.

[09:20:13]

So look, it is going to be an infrastructure weekend up here on Capitol Hill, they're going to have this key procedural vote tomorrow, then they'll have additional hours that they have to burn, then another key procedural vote, additional hours they have to burn. That could take you into early next week.

Now, it's possible, as always, that Republicans yield back that time, and this whole process moves along a lot more smoothly than it did last night. One of the holdups yesterday was the fact that they did not have agreement on which amendments to bring to the floor. Without it, that process becomes too lengthy and unwieldly to handle.

So I think that one of the questions up here is just going to be how long are people willing to drag this out? When are people ready to wrap this up and start their recess? And that's really a question we just don't have the answer for yet, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

I'm going to sell t shirts up on the Hill. That's a infrastructure decade at some point until that vote is through. We'll see how they do.

Lauren Fox, thanks so much. We know you'll bring us the latest.

Coming up next this hour, we're going to take you to California where a dangerous wildfire that nearly wiped out an entire town. Has officials offering a stark warning to residents in the area. You are in imminent danger. Your lives in danger, you must leave. We're going to be live on the ground.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:25:55]

SCIUTTO: Of the 100 large wildfires burning right now in the U.S., you heard that right, 100, the Dixie fire in California is one of the most dangerous. It is expected to become the fifth largest in the state's history today. Feels like they're breaking records every other day.

In just under 12 hours, it scorched an area, the size of Washington, D.C., that is a pace of more than 24 city blocks per minute. Imagine the scale.

This devastating video shows the damage to the historic town of Greenville, which was destroyed by the flames. Four people there remain unaccounted for.

Local officials are pleading with residents still in the area to evacuate.

CNN's Josh Campbell, he joins me now from Chico, California.

Josh, firefighters in Greenville, are they making progress? I just don't understand how they keep a handle on something so big.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a Herculean task for sure, Jim. Behind me here, it's still daybreak out here on the West Coast, but there are over 5000 firefighters beyond this haze of smoke that are trying to contain this fire, trying to make progress.

We did learn as far as the city of Greenville, we get an update there on the number of people that are missing, authorities said originally there were 10. That number has now been cut down to four, but still four people unaccounted for.

After authorities did their modeling, they sent word out to this area, a mandatory evacuation that they said people still remain behind and they were searching for them at this hour.

It's important to note, Jim, this is what we continue to hear from authorities that whenever they send out these evacuation orders, this is based on rigorous modeling from the California State wildfire agency, they're trying to predict where it's going. They're trying to ensure that people get out of the way. Sadly, as we're hearing in Greenville, not everyone is eating (ph) that warning, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question then, you wonder why. I mean, you really wonder why.

So, what are officials saying about where this goes next, prospects for the coming days? I mean, the conditions out there are, you know, right for this, sadly.

J. CAMPBELL Absolutely. And this has largely been a wind driven event. Here's what we know right now. It's over 360,000 acres that are currently burning.

Official say that over the last two days, 80,000 acres were scores. That's because they say the wind has continued to shift three times in two days, really making it difficult for them to get a handle on this. Again, over 5,000 personnel that are here.

Official did say that starting today, over the course of the next 48 hours, they could see a break, and that is because they are expecting winds to die down not as severe as they have been over the past week. But again, as we've seen, and as authorities continue to warn residents in this area, that could change at any time.

They want people to listen to experts. They're doing their best to try to bring this under control. But of course, they could see flare ups at any time. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Josh Campbell, stay safe, you and your team they're. Good to have you on the ground.

Well, this week, West Virginia Governor, Jim Justice, launched the nation's first statewide study to measure COVID-19 antibody levels among vaccinated people. And the states' COVID czar is now warning the state is at a critical moment in its fight against the pandemic.

He joins me now, Dr. Clay Marsh. He's also the Vice President and Executive Dean for Health Sciences at West Virginia University.

Good to have you on Dr. Marsh. Thanks so much for joining us, because we know you got a lot on your plate there. Tell us why this particular moment is so crucial for your state.

DR. CLAY MARSH, WEST VIRGINIA'S CORONAVIRUS CZAR: Well, Jim, as we have seen across the world and across the United States, the newest variant of COVID-19, the Delta variant is now spreading in West Virginia. We have seen an increase from about 10 percent of the total number of COVID cases a month ago to now 91 percent of the COVID cases.

Being the Delta variant, we've seen a four-fold increase in our hospitalizations over the last month. And we've seen a new 2,000 cases of COVID-19 suspected or proven in the last week. So, we are heating up and it is super important for our people to choose to be vaccinated right now.

SCIUTTO: OK. Virginia ranks currently 44th in the U.S. in percentage of the total population. West Virginia, rather, a total population that's fully vaccinated, 39 point.