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CDC Director Walensky's Statement; The Latest COVID Numbers in Thailand; COVID Delta Variant is Driving up Infection Rates Across Southeast Asia; U.S. Women Athletes Are Taking the Olympics by Storm. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired August 6, 2021 - 00:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Tonight one of the nation's top health officials said it bluntly, our latest COVID surge could be over within a matter of weeks or we could soon be right back to the very worst days of the entire pandemic.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: If we work together, unify as a country, vaccinated 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 that if we don't do so we could be up to several hundred thousand cases a day, similar to our surge in early January.


COOPER: And certainly we all remember that, and now she's saying it could go either way. That's the kind of world she sees if more people don't.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Well the race is underway across the world to vaccinate as many people as possible against COVID-19 before the Delta variant overwhelms health systems. It is a tall order because new cases are already skyrocketing, and vaccines, of course, are not available to everyone. Far from it.

In the U.S., the daily average of new cases had grown to more than 97,000. It hasn't been that high since February. And it's happening just as American children head back to school. The Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the Delta surge could be knocked down quickly if everyone took it seriously.


WALENSKY: What we're seeing in our projections demonstrates two different extremes. 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 that if we don't do so we could be up to several hundred thousand cases a day, similar to our surge in early January.


HOLMES: U.S. health officials say they have seen a significant uptick in Americans getting vaccinated, though, in recent days. Some good news, but Delta is creating a dire situation everywhere, especially across Asia. China struggling to contain new outbreaks there, and Australia's facing new lockdowns and restrictions.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me from Hong Kong. Steven Jiang standing by in Beijing. Kristie, let's begin with you where Australia really kept the lid on COVID early on, but cases growing, restrictions, too, and public dissent.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Michael, lock downs are in force in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. These are the there biggest cities in Australia. Over 60 percent of the total population in Australia are now being forced to stay at home. The state of Victoria has just entered its sixth lockdown since the start of the pandemic, and that has triggered some really angry anti-lockdown demonstrations and rallies in the state capital of Melbourne, but the worst affected city is Sydney.

In fact, earlier today Sydney and New South Wales reported 291 new cases of the coronavirus. That is the highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic, so what happened? Australia used to be a pandemic success story. How did it come to this?

Well earlier just now I spoke to the Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, Dr. Catherine Bennett, and she spoke to us from lockdown in Melbourne. Take a listen.


CATHERINE BENNETT, CHAIR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, DEAKIN UNIVERSITY: The methods we use so successfully to keep returning to keep COVID zero in Australia while we were trying to roll out our vaccine program have now been defeated by this variant. It just moves too quickly for that normal test, trace, isolate approach to actually be effective.

Even with the lockdowns in place, like in Sydney, we're still just seeing the case numbers roll on because we can't completely get ahead of the virus to close those outbreaks down.


LU STOUT: Now disease experts blame two factors behind the surge of Delta that is sweeping across Australia right now. Number one, the highly-contagious nature of the Delta variant.


In fact, Dr. Catherine Bennett, she described it as being slippery, having this quality to be able to quickly evade and go past once proven pandemic protocols, and number two, just the slow pace of vaccination. So far in Australia, about 21 percent of the total population above the age of 16 have been inoculated. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has been under fire for the slow pace of vaccination, and he blames the delay on changing medical advice in regards to the locally-produced AstraZeneca vaccine as well as supply constraints over the Pfizer vaccines. Back to you, Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Our Kristie Lu Stout there. Thanks so much. Let's turn now to Steven Jiang standing by in Beijing for us, and how's Beijing dealing with a climbing case count there given what's been a zero-tolerance approach to cases? Any chance of lockdowns there like we saw in Wuhan?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well Michael, after city-wide lockdowns already happening but not in major metropolises in Wuhan just yet. We are seeing local authorities in smaller cities, for example the central city of Zhangjiajie imposed city-wide lockdowns on their entire population, but of course smaller is a relative term. Zhangjiajie's population's actually 1.5 million people.

But even in a city like Wuhan authorities have said - have said they are locking some 104 residential complexes after they ordered that city-wide testing of 11 million residents when fewer than 10 cases were reported.

So the reality is millions of Chinese people are again being confined to their homes, really a reflection how seriously concerned the leadership is about the continuous spread of this cluster of Delta variant cases. The latest figure we got from the government was 101 new locally-transmitted cases recorded on Thursday. Still a small number compared to what we are seeing in many other parts of the world, but of course here they hadn't seen this level of infection for months.

That's why in addition to all the travel restrictions in the middle of the summer peak travel season we've also heard educational authorities, for example, warn that the start of the new school year could be delayed in high or medium-risk areas, and now there are some 200 central locations around the country. So all of this really a reflection of the enormous costs associated with that zero tolerance policy, but there is little indication they are going to change course, Michael, because from their perspective this policy has worked well for them so far both politically and economically. Michael --

HOLMES: All right, Steven. Thanks. I want to go back to Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. You know, we touched on Australia there. Obviously a great concern there. What about the broader region southeast Asia?

LU STOUT: Yes, we're keeping a very close eye on the situation in Thailand where new numbers out today. Thailand reporting a record number of deaths from COVID-19. 191 new deaths as well as over 21,000 new cases of the virus. As we've been reporting all along, the healthcare system there under severe strain. The country has resorted to converting cargo warehouses into COVID-19 field hospitals, you know, turning disused train cars into COVID 19 isolation wards. We're also monitoring the situation in the Philippines where the

capital of Manila has just entered yet another two-week lockdown. And right before it entered lockdown there were reports of and scenes that were circulating on social media of chaos. People rushing to vaccination centers. You could see images of people jostling to get in the front of the line. Police coming in to try to enforce social distancing.

You know, just chaos and concern and more lockdowns as the Delta variant spreads across the region from southeast Asia to Australia and to China as well. Back to you, Michael.

HOLMES: All right. Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong, Steven Jiang in Beijing, our thanks. All right, big news from the sports world. The Spanish football giant, Barcelona saying Lionel Messi is leaving the club. The team released a statement blaming financial and structural obstacles. The Argentine striker made his debut in 2004 and has won 10 La Liga and four Champions League titles with the Catalan club.

Let's bring in CNN World Sport Anchor, Patrick Snell. Listen, if he's not going to my donkey (ph), I'm kidding. Huge news. Huge news.


PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT ANCHOR: It really is, Michael, especially as given that earlier this summer it appeared they'd struck this five-year deal on lower wages and that he was going to stay there. A reminder to our viewers, well why he had become a free agent on July the 1 it's fascinating as to what this is going to - where is he going to end up if anywhere? Might he even stay there? That's another theory doing the rounds at this hour.

But look, let's just reset for everyone. Following Thursday's announcement that the Argentine won't be standing at Spanish footy giants Barcelona, here's what we've got coming up later on today. We are expecting, Michael, to be hearing from the club president, Joan Laporta, who's got a press conference scheduled. The Catalan's are leading this all (ph) went off on Thursday.


The Catalans coming out with a statement. The 34-year-old, currently a free agent as they said, will be leaving despite both parties. Here's what I meant, Michael, by what I mentioned earlier. They had reached an agreement according to the club on a new contract. This due to - and these words again - financial and structure obstacles. That's what Barcelona were at pains to emphasize on Thursday.

The South American, of course, widely regarded as one of the sport's all time greats. No question about that. He seemly agreed that five- year deal I mentioned on reduced wages, and the wages are key here because under our legal rules the club had to reduce it's overall wage bill before he and, indeed, other new players could be bought in.

So in his 17 seasons with the club he has amassed, well, a whopping tally. The best part of 700 goals, 672 for the Catalan Giants. He's won 35 trophies, including 10 La Liga crowns, four Champions Leagues. He's won the prestigious Balloon d'Or six times. Need I go on? That is more than any other player in history.

Let's get to the Barce statement, then, which reads in part, "As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at F.C. Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled. F.C. Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandizement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life."

Watch this space, Michael, because we are following it very closely. I suspect there is a lot more to come.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. I bet you're right. Topman (ph).


SNELL: OK, you have your way, yes.

HOLMES: You knew I'd say that. You knew I'd say that. Let's head back to the Olympics, Pat, where another teenager atop the podium.

SNELL: Extraordinary stuff, isn't it? Those teenage exploits just keep on coming at these Summer Games. One of the latest, Spain's Alberto Gines Lopez clinching the first ever gold medal. This was in the climbing and a really gripping men's final it was, too. It went right down to the wire.

Remember, the sport making its Olympic debut, another one of these sports making its Olympic debut this year, and what a moment for the 18-year-old who took gold ahead of the USA's Nathaniel Coleman, a huge test of endurance. And the team came through it very impressively, indeed.

These Summer Games you know one (ph) to savor for Canada's Damian Warner who's become his country's first ever Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, setting a new Games record score to 9,018 points. The 31-year-old breaking Ashton Eaton's marks set at the Rio Games in 2016. Warner's gold medalist, Canada's first decathlon medal since Dave Steen. That was back in 1988, and he's now the oldest Olympic champ ever in the men's decathlon.

And Poland's Dawid Tomala has won gold in the men's 50 kilometer race walk and is crossing the line in 3 hours, 50 minutes, and 8 second in what could actually well be the last time this event is actually held at the Olympics. The German competitor, Jonathan Hilbert, taking silver, while Evan Dunfee of Canada earning the bronze. The race having to be moved to Sapporo in the hope of avoiding soaring temperatures in Tokyo, but reportedly by race's end the temperatures were pretty high there as well.

Great effort from Spain's Jesus Angel Garcia in that race. The 51- year-old finishing 35th in his eighth Olympics having made a Summer Games debut in 1992. Quite an achievement for the 51-year-old. You know, so much talk has been of the teens, Michael, at these Games, but that is very impressive, indeed. Back to you.

HOLMES: 51, yes. Not bad at all. Nearly as old as me. Patrick Snell, appreciate it. Thanks my friend.

SNELL: Can I do a quick little plug of WORLD SPORT as well --


HOLMES: Of course. Go. It's all yours.

SNELL: -- coming up in about 30 minutes? There you go. We've got plenty more on the Olympics and, of course, all things Messi, Michael.

HOLMES: I'll be watching 30 minutes from now. Thanks, Patrick. Patrick Snell there. Now the International Olympic Committee, meanwhile, has revoked the accreditations of two Belarusian coaches part of its investigation into why a Belarusian Olympian had to beg for political asylum. The IOC says her coaches have been asked to leave the Olympic Village but they will get a chance to be heard.

The sprinter, Kristina Timanovskaya, fled to Poland this week with a humanitarian visa saying she feared being arrested back home. She had publically criticized her team bosses who then tried to send her back to Belarus against her wishes.

CNN's Blake Essig is live for us in Tokyo this hour. Six days since Timanovskaya was told to pack her things and go home now. The IOC sending the coaches involved packing.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Michael, look. You know, today the International Olympic Committee announced in a tweet that it has removed and cancelled the accreditations of the two Belarusian coaches based on the roles that they played in the alleged forcible removal of Kristina Timanovskaya from the Olympic Village.


Now last Sunday the sprinter was supposed to be preparing to make her Olympic debut in the women's 200 meter sprint. Instead, the 24-year- old posted a video to social media pleading for help as she said she was removed from competition, given one hour to pack her things, and ordered to fly back to Minsk immediately.

Now this all happened after she criticized her coaches a few days earlier on social media for being included on a list to run an event which she hadn't prepared for. Now while at the airport the sprinter asked Japanese police for protection and has since flown to Poland after being offered a humanitarian visa fearing that if she returned to Belarus she would likely be arrested. Here's what she had to say after arriving in Poland.


KRISTINIA TIMANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN ATHLETE (THROUGH TRNASLATOR): My parents looking at all this concluded that upon my return home I'd either face the psychiatric unit or prison. We know that such situations do happen in our country. That's why my grandmother called me and told me, please, do not come back to Belarus. It's not safe for you here. I think it would be safer for you if you seek some sort of political asylum and either stay in Tokyo or travel somewhere in Europe but not to Belarus.


ESSIG: And according to a statement released by the Belarus Olympic Committee, Timanovskaya was removed from competition due to her emotional and psychological state. It's a claim that the sprinter denies. IOC officials say that the disciplinary commission has been set up to look into the circumstances around this incident. Officials say that while the coaches from Belarus will have the opportunity to be heard they have been asked to leave the Olympic Village immediately, Michael, and have since done so.

HOLMES: All right. Blake, thanks so much. Blake Essig there in Tokyo. We'll take a quick break here on the program. When we come back, Iran has a new president. We'll look at what it could mean for the countries ties in the region and abroad.

Also a wildfire reignites in Greece as unrelenting heat fuels flames across southern Europe. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: In southern Europe, the European Union is sending additional firefighting resources to several countries battling devastating wildfires. Italy facing three times as many large summer fires compared to a typical season and dozens of fires are ripping through Greece. Just north of Athens some 340 firefighters battling a blazes that rekindled on Thursday. The Greek Prime Minister warning the nation is facing an extremely critical situation, cautioning difficult conditions lie ahead.

Journalist Elinda Labropoulou has more from Athens.


ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: It's been an incredibly difficult last few days in Greece with over 200 fires breaking out.


The country's experiencing a massive heat wave, an extended heat wave that has seen temperature - slathering temperatures of 47 degrees Celsius, which is just high of record temperatures not just for Greece but for the entire of Europe.

The fires that broke out have been in all parts of the country, but there's been a main fire - major fire just outside Athens in the northern suburbs that has burned dozens of homes. Now we understand that this fire has rekindled and a new evacuation is underway in parts of Greece or Athens. Another fire on the island of Evia has also led to evacuations there. It's an island popular with both tourists and locals. And there's a large fire burning just outside the archeological site of Ancient Olympia, the home of the ancient Olympics. Tremendous effort is underway there to ensure that the flames do not reach the archeological space.

We understand that this heat wave is expected to last until the end of the week. As a result, breathing has become very difficult in Athens with the fires, with the air particles being dangerous and authorities asking people to keep their windows shut. People have gone also - dozens of people have gone to hospital with respiratory problems as a result of this.

And now authorities are just urging people to be very careful in the days ahead. Elinda Labropoulou, CNN, Athens, Greece.


HOLMES: And let's bring in meteorologist, Derek Van Dam, for the very latest. Obviously still a pretty dire situation there in Greece.

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Take a look at Athens right now. I mean, this is just incredible to see the acropolis completely shrouded in smoke and haze from the wildfires that are burning in the northern suburbs of the Greek capital.

Just in the past 24 hours 118 new fires have started across the entire country of Greece. That's incredible, and we've done the tallies. We have gone over 50 percent of the entire hectares that were burned in all of last year just to date now for this particular year. I mean, that's incredible. 6,000 hectares burned so far. That, of course, is on the backdrop of record-breaking heat. We're talking temperatures running 9, 10, even 11 degrees Celsius above where they should be from Greece, into parts of Italy, as well as Turkey.

And earlier this week - we have to mention this again - I mean, we were knocking on the doorstep of the hottest temperature ever recorded across the European continent in Greece. So 47.1 degrees. 48 was the all-time record high set back in the 70s.

Now we do have a brief reprieve. I mean, brief over the next 24 hours for places like Athens into Turkey, but the heat is going to return into early parts of next week. On top of that we have gusty wind conditions across southeast Europe and drought conditions continuing. In fact, you can see the drought watches, alerts, and warnings in place from Bosnia into the coastal areas of Greece as well as portions of western turkey where a lot of the wildfires are ongoing as well at the moment.

Temperatures here, look at that, on the rise for Athens right through early parts of next week after a brief dip tomorrow. Mike, back to you.

HOLMES: Well all right. Derek Van Dam, appreciate it. Thanks so much. Now Ebrahim Raisi has been sworn in as Iran's new president, cementing the Islamic Republic's hard line leadership. Inauguration of the ultra-conservative former chief justice comes at a crucial time for the nation. Iran, of course, in the midst of negotiations on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal as it's economy suffers under U.S. sanctions. Raisi on Thursday calling for lifting those sanctions and said he will support diplomatic efforts to make that happen.

Now to CNN's Fred Pleitgen explains from Tehran Raisi also wants to try some new approaches.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Iran's new President, Ebrahim Raisi, certainly gave a very confident and a very bold speech during his inauguration here in Tehran, and there were several factors to that. One of them certainly was Iran's economy where it does seems as though Iran could be embarking in a new direction than the one that we saw from the Hassan Rouhani administration, which will rely less on trying to mend ties with western nations, European nations, and the United States and less on trying to make sanctions relief happen and more on trade here in the region.

Raisi kept talking about trying to establish better ties with countries in the region, specifically Iran's neighbors, but also countries in Africa, for instance as well. Now Raisi did say that there is going to continue to be a very bold foreign policy on the part of Iran, and he said he believes that is a good thing for the region.

EBRAHIM RAISI, INCOMING IRANIAN PRESIDENT: The Islamic Republic's power in the region creates security. Our regional capabilities support stability and peace in various nations.


And it will only be used to fight hegemonic powers. The nuclear program of the Islamic Republic is completely peaceful.

PLEITGEN: But of course despite all of the sanctions relief is something that is still very important to the Iranians and certainly something that would be quite necessary to jumpstart the economy.

One of the things that Raisi also said is that he would support negotiations to try to get rid of those sanctions, and of course one the things that that seems to indicate is that the Iranians and this new administration is going to support negotiations to try and jumpstart the Iran nuclear agreement. So far it seems as though those negotiations are at an impasse. The Iranians say they want to revive a deal. They want to bring the U.S. back, and they certainly want to come into compliance again, but Raisi has also said he doesn't want to do that at any cost. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Tehran.


HOLMES: Many pregnant women have avoided COVID vaccines. Worried about possible effects on their unborn children, but there is new guidance in the U.K. and advice from a woman who contracted COVID while pregnant.


CHRISTINE COFFMANN, CONTRACTED CORONAVIRUS WHILE PREGNANT: I just really want my story to be an invite if you're thinking about getting the vaccine, get it.




HOLMES: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. Welcome back. Now the Delta variant driving up infection rates across the southeast Asia with some countries suffering their worst outbreaks of the pandemic. Many of them which had successfully contained the virus last year are now grappling with shortages of oxygen, hospital beds, and equipment, and they're also re-imposing lockdowns.

That is the situation in Vietnam which has seen a sharp increase in new infections. Since April more than 85 percent of Vietnam's infections throughout the entire pandemic were reported in just the last month. Less than 1 percent of people there fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Indonesia expanding already full cemeteries after overtaking India as Asia COVID epicenter. Indonesia has been recording more than 50,000 cases a day and it is actually feared the situation is much worse because not enough people are getting testing.

Dr. Abhishek Rimal is the Asia Pacific Emergency Health Coordinator for the Red Cross and Red Crescent. He joins me now from Kuala Lumpur, and thanks for doing so.


So the region in many cases managed to contain outbreak last year but now struggling with overwhelmed health services and a lack of lots of things. What changed? What went wrong with this new wave?

DR. ABHISHEK RIMAL, ASIA PACIFIC EMERGENCY HEALTH COORDINATOR, IFRC: Thank you for having me in the call. Like you have said, like Asia Pacific have really done very well with the first wave of COVID-19, but in the second wave what we have seen, which is regarded as the worst what we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, it is quite clear like the Delta variant, which is now fueling the current pandemic, is one of the major driver for this huge number of surge of COVID-19 across the region.

On top of that we are now in the 20th month of COVID-19 pandemic, and this pandemic fatigue is slowly creeping in to the people's mind. They're really sick and tired of all these regulations and want to go back to the normal life, and what we have also seen in doing so they are lower down their guards, their protection against the COVID-19, which really allowed the virus to spread more fast. And on top of that lack of mass vaccination across the region, this can be attributed to the major surge.

HOLMES: I was about to ask you that. Vietnam has fully vaccinated less one percent of its population. Thailand around 5 percent. The Philippines 7.2 percent. Indonesia, the epicenter as we've said, 7.6 percent. That's according to Our World in Data. What is the state of and outlook for vaccine supply and distribution across the region?

RIMAL: At this point of time now what you have said like the vaccine - like vaccine rollout has been quite limited across (inaudible). In the last one month we have seen slight speeding up of the vaccination across the region but it is far below the optimal level.

We are very excited to see like the announcement coming from the richer countries (ph) that millions of doses of vaccines are coming to Asia Pacific, but these need to come in action as soon as possible, and we must ensure like these doses reach the arms of the beneficiary as soon as possible. The lack of supply of COVID-19 vaccines is really hindering the mass vaccination campaign to be rolled out across Asia.

HOLMES: And I know there's a lot of concern about the Chinese Sinovac vaccine and its efficacy, and a lot of southeast Asia nations are using that one. I wanted to ask you how much of an issue is it that in many countries in the region people live day-to-day, don't they? If they don't work they don't eat, which of course makes isolating pretty difficult.

RIMAL: But in terms of efficacy of the viral - of the vaccine with the rise of the Delta variant this was one of the concerns for some of already approved vaccine, but what there is (ph) the strong evidence that is clearly suggesting all the vaccine that has been approved by WHO, which also include Sinopharm and Sinovac, they're very effective in preventing the serial disease, the hospitalization, and deaths.

So what we are encouraging everyone to go and get vaccination if the vaccine is available in their country. And in terms of these rising cases, isolation, et cetera, definitely what we have been seeing that is has disproportionately affected people who are more reliant on the informal economy. People are losing their jobs. (inaudible) is all time low, and poor family are even suffering more.

HOLMES: Right. We've only got a minute left, but I wanted to ask you this. We have seen several wealthy nations, new ones every day, turning to boosters, third shots, but you know, it's been discussed many times potentially vaccine defeating variants develop in an environment where there is rampant spread. What are you concerns about wealth nations using third doses when other nations have none or few?

RIMAL: Mike, unequal distribution of this vaccine is threatening us all. The longer we allow this virus to stay in the community it will mutate and more dangerous strain will begin, and it can really reverse the - all the development that has been done in the richer countries.

Even WHO is emphasizing that there is limited evidence of the efficacies of the booster dose. What is important like we also come together to ensure all the country get the first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. More and more people are vaccinated in low and low-middle income countries so that no one is left behind. We all must agree no one is safe until everyone is safe.

HOLMES: Exactly. That is the lesson. Dr. Abhishek Rimal in Kuala Lumpur, really appreciate your time. Thank you.

RIMAL: Thank you very much.


HOLMES: Now there are new calls for pregnant women to get vaccinated. A large number have avoided the vaccine, fearing what could happen to their unborn child, but British health officials say the Delta variant puts these women even more at risk than ever. Salma Abdelaziz explains.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready? So that tummy has got to come in.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pregnancy in a time of pandemic comes with a big question, whether or not to get vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Staying up at night and researching. It became it's like an obsession.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being told one minute not to have it, the next minute to have it, it was a little bit confusing.

ABDELAZIZ: Guidance keeps changing. British officials first advise expectant mothers against vaccination, but since July strongly urge it. In the U.S. the CDC does not directly recommend it for pregnant people but say they are eligible. While two leading (inaudible) groups say expectant mothers should be immunized.

Unable to find clear answers, Christine Coffman in Maryland decided not to get vaccinated.

COFFMAN: I was definitely worried about it being so new and us not having a lot of research on it.

ABDELAZIZ: One week before her due date she tested positive for COVID-19.

COFFMAN: At that time I thought that I as going to die. It was terrifying knowing that I had this infection coursing through my body.

ABDELAZIZ: As mom and baby got sicker, doctors performed and emergency c-section.

COFFMAN: They took her to the NICU and I didn't see my baby for two days because I had COVID.

ABDELAZIZ: Both are now back home happy and healthy. Hello!

COFFMAN: Hi! I just really want my story to be an invite if you're thinking about getting the vaccine, get it.

ABDELAZIZ: 98 percent of expectant mothers admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in England since May were unvaccinated.

MARIAN KNIGHT, PROFESSOR OF MATERNAL AND CHILD POPULATION HEALTH: The balance is very much in favor of the benefits of vaccination versus the risks of the infection.

ABDELAZIZ: Initial vaccine trials did not include pregnant women, but experts point to the nearly 200,000 pregnant people now safely vaccinated across the U.S. and U.K. Back in the part, we asked if the real world evidence is enough?

Raise you hand if you've gotten the vaccine?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me there's not enough data there personally form what I've researched to make me feel comfortable getting it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just felt more comfortable and safer knowing that I had some protection than no protection at all.

ABDELAZIZ: A majority of pregnant people in the U.S. and the U.K. remain unvaccinated with many still waiting for answers. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


HOLMES: Well you could almost call the Tokyo Games the women's Olympics in many ways at least as far as Team USA is concerned. A breakdown of the medals easily (ph) athletes have won for their nation, that's coming up when we come back.



HOLMES: Welcome back. U.S. women athletes are taking the Olympics by storm. They've won medal after medal, many of them gold, and just moments ago in fact the U.S. beach volleyball duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman added to the team's total defeating the Australian duo who took silver. CNN's Selina Wang with more on that.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Women are leading the way for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics. Nevin Harrison bringing home the first gold medal in Olympic history in the women's 200 meter canoe sprint. Swimming star, Katie Ledecky, earning two of them this year including a historic victory in the inaugural 1,500 meter freestyle race.

KATIE LEDECKY, U.S. OLYMPIC SWIMMER, HOLDS 10 MEDALS: It's an amazing feeling to be bringing home two golds and two silvers here and to have competed in my third Olympics. It's something I never would have imagined.

WANG: The women of U.S. swimming standing on the podium for a total of 18 medals, including Lydia Jacoby, the 17-year-old Alaskan becoming an unexpected champion in the 100 meter breast stroke. And in track and field, Sydney McLaughlin breaking her own world record, speeding into first place in the 400 meter hurdles just ahead of teammate, Delilah Muhammad.

SYDNEY MCLAUGHLIN, U.S. OLYMPIC 400M HURDLES GOLD MEDALIST: I just want to set a good example, be the best that I can be, and encourage people as well to be the best that they can be.

WANG: Valarie Allman winning the gold at women's discus with a throw of 68.98 meters. And at 19-years-old, Athing Mu is now the second- youngest Olympic 800 meter champion. Women have earned 11 event medals for team USA in track and field in the Games so far.

Tamyra Mensah-Stock becoming the first black woman to win Olympic wrestling gold. Team USA women's three-on-three basketball team earning the top spot in the inaugural tournament at the Games, and in surfing, Carissa Moore riding the waves to become the first Olympic surfing champion.

CARISSA MOORE, U.S. OLYMPIC SURFING GOLD MEDALIST: It means so much especially coming from Hawaii. Surfing is our sport, and it means a lot to bring it home not only for Hawaii but for the United States of America, to surf for something bigger than myself.

WANG: Women's gymnastics winning six medals in the Games, including a team silver. Sunisa Lee is taking back a full set before she starts college this fall with the gold in the individual all around competition.

SUNISA LEE, U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST, HOLDS 3 MEDALS: This medal definitely means a lot to me because there was a point in time where I wanted to quit, and I just didn't think I would ever get here including injuries and stuff. So there are definitely a lot of emotions.

WANG: Simone Biles withdrawing from the women's team final and four individual events due to mental health concerns and a bad case of the twisties. The star gymnast returning to compete in the balance beam and ultimately walking away with the bronze medal.

SIMONE BILES, U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST, HOLDS 7 MEDALS: I'm pretty happy. I wasn't expecting to medal. I just came out here and just tried to do a good beam set. Just to have one more opportunity to compete at the Olympics meant the world to me.

WANG: Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


HOLMES: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Don't go anywhere. WORLD SPORT with Patrick Snell after the break. I'll see you in about 15 minutes.