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White House Considering New Plan, Withhold Funding to Increase Vaccinations; U.S Adds 943,000 Jobs in July, Unemployment Falls to 5.4 Percent; Companies Wrestle with Employee Vaccine Mandates. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired August 6, 2021 - 13:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Maybe you'll remember this moment seven years ago when President Obama walked into the briefing, yes, dressed in tan, comparing fashion notes there on a Friday, having a little fun.

[13:00:10]

Thanks for joining us on Inside Politics today. I hope you have a fun weekend. Please stay safe. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello and happy Friday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Get vaccinated or lose funding? The White House now considering a new strategy with one goal in mind, more vaccinations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: America can beat the delta variant just as we beat the original COVID-19. We can do this. So wear a mask when recommended, get vaccinated today, all of that will save lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Those words, as the CDC warns America's future right now rests on the unvaccinated. What they decide today will decide everyone's tomorrow. Officials say if vaccination rates don't go up, the crisis can only get worse, possibly a lot worse with hundreds of thousands of new cases daily. And that will mean many more avoidable hospitalizations, more avoidable deaths and new variants.

Now, hospitals are already at breaking points. Children's hospitals also seeing spikes in cases, yet right now, more than 90 million eligible Americans have not been vaccinated, 90 million. And the solution to protect them and all of us is available and waiting.

As for the vaccinated, there is news today on boosters. We'll get to all of that.

Let's begin with CNN's Phil Mattingly at the White House for us. And, Phil, we are reporting today the White House is considering a plan to withhold funding. The president didn't outright say it this morning, but he did hint more action is coming. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. And I think this is -- Ana, this is such a clear window into just the level of concern inside the White House, inside the administration, about the surge that really can grip the entire country at this point in time.

Now, we are told, according to sources familiar with the conversations, that there are early stage discussions about whether or not they can utilize some of the federal government's powers as it pertains to regulations or funding to basically leverage certain entities, most notably long-term care facilities, to force vaccinations, to encourage vaccinations, to stick to some of the carrots we've seen in the approaches.

And what this is, it's not a final decision but it just underscores how the administration is trying to figure out any way possible to ramp up vaccinations. It has been a clear message of theirs for the better part of the last several months, but right now, it is just so clear that more needs to be done, more needs to be done and fast. It's something the president alluded to. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I put in place new incentives and requirements to encourage vaccinations.

There will be more to come in the days ahead. And once again, I want to thank the local leaders in the private sector, leaders who are imposing vaccine requirements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And to contextualize what president was saying there, Ana, the most interesting part of the day is the president got a blow out jobs number, right, 940,000-plus jobs added in June, and there was no spiking of the football during his remarks just a short while ago. He made very clear there is a long road to go.

And while you've seen over the course of the last ten days or so a sharp shift in the administration's posture in terms of really focusing on the delta variant and also trying to find any mechanism they can to increase vaccinations, you've seen some results of that. Vaccinations ticking up across the country, hitting rates they haven't hit in more than two months. Just today, the administration announcing 50 percent of all U.S. citizens are now fully vaccinated.

So there has been some progress, but the tone and the approach on the policy side of things you're seeing from the administration underscores, one, there's a long road to go, and, two, this is a very, very serious moment, one that I think a lot of Americans thought wouldn't be facing again based on what we'd seen over the course of the last several months, Ana.

CABRERA: No victory laps today. Phil Mattingly, thank you.

We are hearing from COVID victims urging people to get vaccinated. Today right here on CNN, we heard a heart-wrenching plea from an unvaccinated father now fighting for his life. His message, don't make the same mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRAVIS CAMPBELL, REGRETS NOT GETTING VACCINATED: This delta variant hit so fast and so aggressive and it attacks diabetes and arthritis ten times faster. There's more people unvaccinated than they are vaccinated.

And we've got to have value of life. We've got to be able to trust our doctors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: God bless that man.

Let's bring in CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen now. Future control or more chaos, it all depends, Elizabeth, on vaccination rates.

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What is the CDC saying?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What the CDC is saying, unfortunately, Ana, is that this is going to get worse before it gets better. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, saying that there's been an exponential rise, that was her term, exponential rise, in some southern states. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: If we work together, unify as a country, vaccinate everyone who is interested and unvaccinated and put our masks on to prevent disease, we could really control this in a matter of weeks. However, our models show if we don't do so, we could be up to several hundred thousands of cases a day, similar to our surge in early January.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Ana, if we think of this as like a race, we are so close to finishing this up. It isn't like it was last winter or at the end of last year when there were no vaccines and you could mask and social distance, but those are the only things we can do. Now, because of vaccination, we are close if just more people would roll up their sleeves, we wouldn't be going through, we wouldn't be dragging the economy down, people would be able to live their lives if only people would roll up their sleeves, as that man in the video was begging.

CABRERA: Yes. And one of the things that we've heard from some people who have chosen not to get vaccinated is I already had COVID. I don't need a shot. And yet we know that it's still recommended. But you have some new information for those people who have been infected with COVID-19. What are you learning?

COHEN: Yes. There's been about 120 million Americans who have already had COVID. And I know, I personally have heard from many said, why would I get a vaccination, I've already had COVID. My body's immune system took care of this for me. Well, let me tell you this new study is very compelling that your body's immune system may not be completely protecting you.

So, the CDC, this was released minutes ago, hundreds of people in Kentucky, hundreds of people in Kentucky who had already had COVID-19, so all these people had already had COVID-19, some of them were vaccinated and some of them weren't. The ones not vaccinated, they were twice as likely to get COVID-19 again. So, obviously, their immune systems were not completely taking care of it, like we do with anything else, medicines are here to help us. This vaccine, take this medicine so that you will not get sick again.

CABRERA: Such an important information. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you. Happy Friday. It's good to see you.

With us now is Dr. Jayne Morgan, Executive Director of the Piedmont Health Care COVID Task Force in Atlanta.

Doctor, in states with the highest case rates, people are now getting vaccinated at a pace not seen since April, states like Louisiana, Missouri and Arkansas. They all have seen more than 50,000 people in just the last six days get a shot. Now, that might not sound like a lot but average daily doses have more than doubled in those states since the start of July.

If this trend continues, how long will it take, do you think, to turn the corner on this latest COVID surge?

DR. JAYNE MORGAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PIEDMONT HEALTH CARE COVID TASK FORCE: Hi, Ana, and thank you for having me today. That's such an excellent question. One thing we have to remember with these vaccinations, whether you receive the two dose, messenger RNA vaccines or the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it takes several weeks to reach full immunity.

So we are still very much in the middle of this crisis, even people who are being vaccinated now and will be vaccinated tomorrow and continue to be vaccinated, we still will have this hill to climb because we have to be able to reach full immunity before we can begin to talk about that herd immunity that begins to protect all of us, including our unvaccinated children.

So I'm afraid that I have to say that we're still in this for the long haul.

CABRERA: Yes, and we're at 50 percent now of full vaccinated -- fully vaccinated population and we know herd immunity is somewhere in the realm of 80, 85, maybe even 90 percent because of the delta variant, as what we've been told.

In Texas, there's going to be a concert this weekend and we've learned attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. Last year, you'll recall when cases spiked, things were shut down, they were canceled. Now, it's to prove you're vaccinated. Will this strategy work, do you think, to stop the spread and keep events safe?

MORGAN: And certainly this strategy should help to contain the virus and to create safe environments where people can begin to socialize and reclaim our previous lives. And so the point is containment. We are trying not to continue to propagate or allow this virus to continue to move forward and so these are the measures in place and we certainly think that those measures will be helpful as we continue this race of humans versus virus.

CABRERA: Mask mandates in school have become contentious. Some leaders are arguing masks can actually be harmful to kids. Is there any sliver of truth to that?

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What are the facts?

MORGAN: Yes. I think the facts are that this virus is harmful and this virus is going to be a risk, not only to children but to their parents. And it is really incumbent on all adults to protect children by becoming vaccinated and creating this zone of protection around them.

Masks are simply a tool but we have these vaccinations. By the way, the vaccinations are not miracles. I've heard people describe them as miracles. These vaccinations are the result of hard, diligent, dedicated scientists who have worked almost 20 years to bring these vaccines to us. This is the conscientiousness and discipline of science on full display.

And so the best way to protect our children is for all the adults surrounding them to get vaccinated, such that our children are then protected.

CABRERA: And just to be clear, though, masks are not dangerous for children, correct?

MORGAN: Yes. Masks are not dangerous. Simply, you know, we have something that's covering the nose and mouth and people are able to breathe. And so as far as danger, these are not dangerous things to add to, you know, any part of our attire. And, certainly, I think people can feel comfortable if they're concerned with masks suffocating children or something to that degree, that simply is not plausible.

CABRERA: Just a myth. Okay. I want to ask you quickly about boosters. The FDA, the CDC, we've learned, are planning to present a booster shot strategy sometime in September. Germany, France, Israel and the U.K. are already moving forward with third doses. If these other countries feel that they have enough information now to move forward, is the U.S. being too conservative? Should America be taking action now? MORGAN: Yes, I think I agree with the direction that America is going in and that we are still really trying to get first doses into people. If we could get first doses into people and get the majority of our population to that immune state, we could certainly begin to stem the tide.

I think boosters, when you talk about boosters, we certainly have to think about the immunocompromised, people who have cancer, chemotherapeutic agents, transplant patients, organ transplant patients. What we don't know is that even though these patients may receive the full dose of the vaccine, we really don't know if they reach full immunity because their immune systems are suppressed. And those particular patients might benefit, especially from a third dose at this point.

CABRERA: And to that point, I just want to read you this tweet from Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who is a frequent guest on CNN. He writes, I gave a kidney transplant patient with no COVID antibodies a prescription for a booster dose and three pharmacies refused to give him the shot. CDC needs to move forward with boosters for our immunocompromised patients who are still vulnerable.

I mean, don't the immunocompromised deserve some clarity on this given there's been so much information about do we or don't we need boosters?

MORGAN: Absolutely. And I love Dr. Jonathan Reiner. I trained with him and I trained under him at George Washington University. I absolutely agree with that. I think the CDC is currently meeting to try to provide some clarity on that very issue. The entire medical and scientific community has a question about these immunocompromised.

And we know that some of the trials are going on, Moderna and others, specifically looking at this particular population, the organ transplant population, with regards to what type of immunity they mount once they have received both doses of the vaccine. And so we're looking for the guidance to come forward because those questions are being asked.

CABRERA: Dr. Jayne Morgan, I really appreciate your taking the time. Thank you for being with us on this Friday and offering your expertise. Thank you for all you do.

Some good news in the July jobs report today but who is getting hired and where? We'll take a closer look.

Also ahead, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo facing new legal challenges today. A live report just ahead, stay with us. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.

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CABRERA: Encouraging economic news today. The U.S. added 943,000 new jobs in July. This is the biggest single monthly gain since August of last year. Now, the leisure and hospitality sector was the biggest winner as pandemic weary Americans got back to summer travel and entertainment. Also the unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent. That's the lowest level of the COVID era.

Now, President Biden touted these new numbers today, but he also cautioned about the uncertainty ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Now, while our economy is far from complete, and while we will have ups and downs along the way as we continue to battle the delta surge of COVID, what is indisputable now is this, the Biden plan is working, the Biden plan produces results and the Biden plan is moving the country forward. We're now the first administration in history to add jobs every single month on our first six months in office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's get some perspective. I want to bring in CNN Global Economic Analyst Rana Foroohar. And, Rana, this is the strongest jobs report since last August, so a whole year. What stands out most to you?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Well, there's just no bad news here. This is a great jobs report. I mean, as you said earlier, we're seeing the lowest unemployment rate since the pandemic hit.

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You're actually seeing the strongest economic growth in 40 years.

And what I really like about this jobs report is it's not just hiring in the service sector. You do have those restaurant jobs, those leisure jobs coming back, because, of course, we're in the middle of summer, but you're also seeing really high-quality jobs in manufacturing, in health care and education. So this is really great news.

CABRERA: So, how big of a threat now is this delta variant to the growing economy?

FOROOHAR: It's one of two big threats. And I think that folks are going to be watching the next labor market really carefully because this one is reflecting a lot of what happened before delta hit. So that is definitely a big threat.

The other major threat is whether or not the Fed is going to stop tapering -- sorry, start tapering their bond-buying program, which could affect the markets, if the markets go down, do you start it see people feeling a little more insecure about the future.

Those are the two threats on the horizon. But, for now, smooth sailing through summer.

CABRERA: Companies are starting to mandate vaccines. The latest just today, United Airlines announcing it will require all employees to get vaccinated. How difficult is it, do you think, for these big companies, corporations, even small businesses to make this decision?

FOROOHAR: You know, I think it has been very difficult. There's a strong vein in this country, unlike some other countries, to really not force people to do this. But I think more and more, you're starting to hear voices from the labor markets, from unions, from company heads, from teachers, saying, look, please do this. We've got all of this good news and we can keep the good news going if people get vaccinated.

CABRERA: And that's what's going to help keep those businesses open, I imagine. Rana Foroohar, it's good to see you. Thank you as always. I really appreciate your analysis.

Now, the delta variant is only adding to the avalanche of challenges facing companies across the country. And while some issued have these zero tolerance vaccine mandates, other business owners say it's more complicated for them. And our next guest says he's tried just about everything to convince his workers to get the vaccine and now faces some really tough choices.

John Bonizio is joining us now -- Bonizio, I should say. He is the owner of Metro Optics Eyewear here in New York. John, thanks for being with us.

First, I want our viewers to know the great lengths you've gone to try to get your employees vaccinated. You even offered a schedule to help schedule appointments early on when it was hard to find availability and that was just the beginning of the efforts you've put out there. What else have you done?

JOHN BONIZIO, OWNER, METRO OPTICS NEW YORK: Well, thank you very much for having me on today. I think this is a much more serious conversation than most people realize at this point.

I've actually been working on this since the beginning of the year when they opened up vaccinations to optometrists and their staff, and half of our employees were vaccinated before the end of January. After that, there were a number of holdouts, and so we did several things. I provided bonuses to people who stepped up and decided to get the vaccination early on, but the most important thing I think that we did was we educated our staff about what the vaccine is all about, how it's made, why it's not a danger.

Still, I have employees who have some serious questions, though some of those questions, most of those questions are coming from child- bearing age women who -- one woman just had a baby at the beginning of the year and she's breastfeeding. She does not want to have a vaccination at this point because she's breastfeeding. Other women want to have bigger families. They want to conceive children. They don't know what this vaccination is going to create for them.

So, I understand that. I mean, people are not just my employees, we're all kind of like family here. We're a small business. And I believe that it shouldn't be on me to have to mandate this of my employees. I actually take offense to that because this is not something that you or me or Pasquale and the pizza shop should be mandating to workers who are just trying to feed their families.

So I'm not really very happy about the way the government is handling this whole thing. And at the same time, it's just -- it becomes a question of what is the mindset of the people who work for me. And what is the mindset of my patients that are coming here.

There was an article today in the New York Times front page about our company and what we've gone through.

CABRERA: I know. And that's why I do want to just jump in for just a moment though, John, to try to peel back a little bit more on what you've already stated. Because you said, you know, you gave us a little bit of a sense of who isn't getting vaccinated.

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How many at this point have refused to get vaccinated?

BONIZIO: It's only about six, which is 10 percent of my workforce.

CABRERA: And, again, you've given bonuses, you've tried to educate them to dispel some of the myths that are out there. I know you helped, you know, arrange carpools for people to get vaccinated to make it easy for and then you've also given the alternative of getting weekly tests instead of the vaccine, for those who have dug in their heels.

But beyond these worries about whether the vaccine will affect fertility, which, by the way, there is nothing to suggest that, and there are more and more -- there's more and more information. And we've asked a doctor about this, that that is a myth. There is nothing that pregnant women should worry about. In fact, it's more advantageous for them to get the vaccine because they're at higher risks of having serious effects if they get COVID and other complications related to their pregnancy.

But I know you're hearing conspiracy theories as well, from what I understand. Can you talk a little bit more about what you're being told about why people are worried about getting vaccinated?

BONIZIO: You hear everything running the gamut from Bill Gates is putting microchips in it so that they can track you. I mean, there're a lot of ridiculous things. I've heard people talk about movies that they've seen or things that they've read on the internet. Social media has been like the absolute worst part of this entire thing.

But it happens on both sides. So, it's not just the people who don't want to be vaccinated. There's also the people who are vaccinated who resent the people that don't want to be vaccinated. And now that it's becoming more and more of a call for the them versus us type of thing and that's what really frightens me, is that this entire scenario is going to play out something similar to, you know, 1939 Germany, okay?

But this country does not need any more divisiveness between the right and the left, vaccinated, the unvaccinated. It's really a bad thing. And people who are unvaccinated, you know, they really don't get why people are angry with them and they're digging in their heels and they're saying, well, I don't care why they are angry at me I'm not doing it, okay?

And in this country, this is something that, particularly in the last year, when people say, I'm not doing something, you know, we are enabling their right to free speech and to enable -- this is a matter of public health. It's not a matter of your opinion.

CABRERA: Right. And so you obviously care about your employees. You talk about it being very much like a family in your business. And so you hear people saying things that just aren't true but yet don't want to be told what to do. So, how do you handle it when you hear these conspiracy theories that are holding them back? What do you say?

BONIZIO: Well, I mean, you know, first of all, I have a logical conversation with them. You know, I don't know where you got that from, okay, but, you know, that's absolutely not true, okay? And then even if you talk about the number of breakthrough vaccinations for people who are vaccinated, people have a tendency to jump on to, well, even if you got vaccinated, you can still get it. Look at all those people in Massachusetts that got vaccinated and they all got COVID. You know, where are you hearing this from?

And, you know, they'll actually pull up stuff on their phone from websites that give out information that's erroneous, okay?

CABRERA: Right.

BONIZIO: And this is the kind of information that's being pushed out there and people are believing that more than they're believing what the CDC is saying or the government is saying, what the president is saying, because they don't trust the CDC, they don't trust the president. There's a lot of reasons for that, a lot of reasons for that.

CABRERA: So, John, if these people don't get vaccinated, ultimately, what are you planning to do? Will they still be able to keep their jobs?

BONIZIO: I'm still trying to figure that out, okay? Fortunately, I only have to think about six people. I just hired three people this week and all three of them have to come in with proof of vaccination on the day that they start, otherwise they're not starting. So I'm not adding to that problem.

I have six people here, okay? As I said before, one of them is breastfeeding. I'm not going to fire a person who is breastfeeding and tell her she can't feed her family, okay? That's not right, okay? And I shouldn't be the one that has to make these difficult decisions while politicians sit behind desks and talk about, well, this what we're going to do, because they're trying to thread the needle.

And I understand why they're doing that. They don't want to shut anything down again and I completely agree with that, okay? And it's a difficult situation. But you brought up something before about the science says that it's not going to affect the ability of a woman to conceive or a woman who is breastfeeding.

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