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Rate of Vaccination in U.S. Increases as Delta Variant Spreads; Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Defends Policy of Banning Mask Mandates in Schools; Some Fear Biker Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, May Be Super Spreader Event for Coronavirus; Senate Reportedly Closer to Agreement on Bipartisan Infrastructure Spending Bill. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired August 7, 2021 - 10:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the Newsroom, a major milestone in the fight against the coronavirus. More than half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's exactly what it is going to take to get us out of this pandemic, more Americans stepping up and doing their part to get vaccinated.

PAUL: There are concerns, though, that progress could hit a roadblock. Hundreds of thousands of bikers descending on the tiny town of Sturgis, South Dakota, today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned about COVID this year, the Delta?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you get the vaccine?


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Miracles happen, even here in the Senate.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I was happy to vote to begin moving the Senate toward what ought to be a robust bipartisan floor process.

PAUL: The Senate is once again working through the weekend and moving closer to passing that sweeping infrastructure bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House stands adjourned.

PAUL: Texas Democrats win a momentary victory, blocking passage of a restrictive new GOP-led voting bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a victory for Texas voters, but we know, we understand the fight continues. PAUL: How Republicans are planning to keep up the pressure on

Democrats and get the bills passed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't know if we're going to have enough water to get to the end.

PAUL: Extreme drought is plaguing the west, and it's leading to water restrictions and hardships for farmers.

And the Olympic spirit on full display at the Tokyo Games. Newsroom starts now.


PAUL (on camera): Good morning to you on this Saturday, August 7th. I'm Christi Paul. Hey, Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez. You are live in the CNN Newsroom, and we are grateful to have you.

We start with some numbers that are a bit deflating. The U.S. now averaging more than 107,000 new COVID-19 cases a day. That's a rate that we haven't seen in nearly six months since the country was in the grips of a dangerous winter surge.

PAUL: Not only are infections rising, but deaths are going up. Hospitalizations are going up, as well, because hospitals are overrun with unvaccinated patients as this Delta variant spreads. Now, the virus is moving quickly through unvaccinated communities, particularly in the south where vaccination rates lag behind the rest of the country.

SANCHEZ: Yes, in states with the highest infection rates, people are getting vaccinated at a pace not seen since April. And that's good news, but hospitals are still struggling to keep up with new cases. Florida has the highest number of hospitalizations per capita nationwide, and even children's hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID- 19 patients. Listen.


DR. AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: The numbers of cases in our hospitals in children and our children's hospitals are completely overwhelmed. Our pediatricians, nursing, the staff are exhausted. And the children are suffering, and it is absolutely devastating. We've never seen numbers like this before.


PAUL: CNN's Natasha Chen is with us live from Orlando, Florida, right now. Natasha, it's good to see you this morning. I know that Florida has become really the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. Talk to us about what you're seeing there this morning.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi and Boris, we are at a vaccination clinic that's being set up right now. It'll get going in about an hour. And it's being done in conjunction with local partners in a back-to-school event. So, they're really trying to target a younger demographic here.

You just mentioned how children's hospitals are overwhelmed. Hospitals in general are overwhelmed in Florida. If you look at the seven-day average of new cases, it is a huge tick upwards. In the last seven days, averaging more than 19,000 new cases per day. That's the highest levels in any seven-day period in the entire pandemic for this state.

The good news, though, at the local level, the Orange County health officer says that they're seeing a lot more vaccinations among kids 12 to 17. That's good news entering the new school year for Orange County public schools starting Tuesday. That school district did issue a mask mandate yesterday but had to let parents have the option of opting out. And that is because at the state level, Governor DeSantis has made it clear he wants parents to have the choice. The Florida Board of Education going so far as to let parents who feel like a mask requirement is harassment for their child, allowing them to get a voucher to go to private school. Here's Governor DeSantis doubling down on this strategy of keeping options open and keeping business open.



GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I'm the governor who protects parents in their ability to make the right choices for their kids' education. I'm the governor who protects the jobs and education and businesses in Florida by not letting the federal government lock us down. I'm the governor who answers to the people of Florida, not to bureaucrats in Washington.


CHEN: And just to give you an example of how much more COVID-19 virus activity we're seeing in this area, the county utilities department showed me how they've been testing the wastewater system throughout Orange County. And that's divided into different regions of the county. In one particular county, the northwest region of Orange County, they've actually seen 1,583 percent increase in COVID-19 levels in the wastewater in the past seven weeks. That is a huge jump, and they're saying that that's a residential area. It shows that there is community spread going on, especially with this Delta variant. Christi and Boris?

SANCHEZ: Natasha Chen, thank you so much for that.

Joining us now to discuss COVID and its impact on hospitals is Joseph Chang. He's the chief medical officer at Parkland Health and Hospital Systems in Dallas, Texas. Thank you so much for joining us this morning, Joseph. We really appreciate your time. If you could, please take us inside Parkland Hospital today. In the springtime, your staff was holding celebrations every time one of your COVID wards shut down. There was relief. Things were looking up. Now you say there is frustration and shock because you're overwhelmed once more. JOSEPH CHANG, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, PARKLAND HEALTH AND HOSPITAL

SYSTEM: Yes, absolutely. It's good to be with you this morning. I appreciate you talking to me about it.

Yes, you're exactly right. We had five COVID wards open at the peak of our COVID season, so to speak, in the wintertime, and each one when they closed, we had a celebration. I do not exaggerate when I say that there was cheering in the halls. Then when we got to our low about six weeks ago, we had seven patients in house here with active COVID.

Two weeks ago, we were up to 70. And now today, I'm almost up to 100. I walk around on rounds in the wards, I talk to our frontline health care workers, the cleaners of the rooms, the nurses, the doctors, and it's an overwhelming sense of just being tired, just tired. And really, really sad holding the hands of those individuals who are coming in still with Delta variant and COVID-19 and regretting that they did not get vaccinated.

SANCHEZ: And what do you tell your staffers, those frontline workers, knowing that this is entirely preventable because the vast majority of people that you're treating now just haven't been vaccinated?

CHANG: That's exactly right. The frustration level is sort of at an all-time high. What I do, is I try to just let them know, this is what we're here for, right? We all chose this profession, to relieve suffering. That's what we do, and that's what we have got to continue to do, despite the fact that we all know that this is, as you say, preventable.

SANCHEZ: And Joseph, you've described a very emotional process as you've been treating some of these newer COVID patients. They go through a lot when they first arrive at the hospital. There's confusion, disbelief, regret, and then desperation. I wonder what the toughest conversation has been that you've had with a patient or with loved ones.

CHANG: Yes. That's exactly the thing, right? I've said this before. COVID doesn't care what your situation is. When it gets ahold of you, it gets ahold of you. And that point, the regret is overwhelming. And that's really the hardest conversations that we end up having here. You sit there and you hold the hands of these individuals who know that if they had just gotten the vaccine, they maybe wouldn't be here.

The worst is when we talk to folks who know that they brought it home to their families, and all of them are now sick with COVID. Just a couple weeks ago, we had an entire family here sick and admitted in the hospital with COVID because they, as a family, chose not to get vaccinated, and one individual came home and gave it to all of them.

SANCHEZ: That's terrible. White house officials have said that they are in touch with state leaders in Texas and other states, as well, to provide any necessary support. What specifically would you like to see from the federal government? How can they help your hospital?

CHANG: From our standpoint, it's staffing. It always has been staffing. The issue at this point in time is not so much the COVID numbers themselves are so high. We've actually -- we're at half the level that we were when we were at the peak. However, right now, what we have is a hospital full of all of those, if you can believe it or not, other things that folks come to the hospital and require treatment for.


And so the staffing is a real challenge, nurses, respiratory techs, those kinds of things. As much help as we can get in that arena is really where we're really struggling. And listen, Boris, if you've got nursing friends and you want to send them to us, we would gladly take them at this point.

SANCHEZ: I'm glad we got a chance to get that message out there because it is an all hands-on deck effort, and that includes leaders coming out and encouraging people who have not been vaccinated to get the vaccine because, as you noted, Joseph, this is preventable. Joseph Chang from Dallas, Texas, thank you so much.

CHANG: Absolutely.

PAUL: Now to what health officials say could be a super spreader event in the making. Right now, hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in Sturgis, South Dakota. This is for the annual motorcycle rally. Now, last year, remember, we were talking about this same thing. The event happened despite a summer COVID surge. The CDC then traced more than 600 cases to the Sturgis rally, including a death in Minnesota. Today, there are hundreds of bikes there. There are few masks that are being seen, apparently. One possible but unwelcome visitor, the Delta variant, obviously. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a massive roar that encapsulates our entire valley here.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A defiant roar drowning any fears of the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what, I don't think about it. If it happens, you deal with it. I've never taken any vaccines since I was six, so I'm good.

BROADDUS: Sturgis, a town of about 7,000, is home to the largest motorcycle rally in the world. And once again, despite the rising number of COVID cases, the pandemic won't keep an estimated 700,000 people away.

DANIEL AINSLIE, STURGIS CITY MANAGER: If it were to cancel, that would have a massive ripple effect that would affect a lot of on small businesses owners as well as a lot of individuals.

BROADDUS: About 460,000 people hailing from all corners of the U.S. attended last year's rally. In a recent study, CDC researchers said at least 463 primary cases, including one death, were reported within two weeks of the 10-day tradition, and another 186 were identified as secondary contact. Cases were reported as far as Florida and Maine.

Are y'all concerned about COVID at all?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm vaccinated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My wife stayed home because she has COVID right now, so she stayed home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I already had it.

BROADDUS: Are you concerned about COVID this year, the Delta?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I had it already. I kicked its butt.

DR. SHANKAR KURRA, VICE PRESIDENT, MEDICAL AFFAIRS, MONUMENT HEALTH: I wouldn't be surprised if we have a super spreader event there.

BROADDUS: Dr. Shankar Kurra with monument health fears a rise in cases and hospitalizations starting 10 days from the rally's start.

KURRA: There's no easy way to hold a mass gathering event. So the Sturgis rally, unfortunately, is unstoppable. I think the best way around would be to get more people vaccinated and to hope that everyone would wear a mask, but we don't have mask mandates here.

BROADDUS: Carol and Mike Fellner aren't taking chances. Carol is packing their bags.

CAROL FELLNER, STURGIS RESIDENT: Our choice is to leave. We're still of the age where we can leave. We did not feel we had the choice to leave last year, so we stocked up and stayed home.

BROADDUS: As this couple escapes the constant rumble.

FELLNER: Boom, boom, boom.

BROADDUS: Others see Sturgis as an escape from COVID restrictions. But when everyone leaves again, the Fellners fear COVID will stick around.

MIKE FELLNER, STURGIS RESIDENT: The people who came in for the rally are going to go home. It's not just that it will spread here. It's going to spread far and wide.

C. FELLNER: We do feel like the best solution for us in our stage of life is to leave, not be a part of it.


SANCHEZ: Let's hope we don't see a repeat of what we saw last year. Adrienne Broaddus, thank you so much for that.

Still coming up this hour, small towns in northern California are being burnt to the ground by the Dixie fire. The latest on what now is the largest wildfire burning in the United States.

PAUL: Also, a key part of President Biden's economic agenda may be getting closer to reality here. We're going to have the latest on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that's making its way through the Senate.



PAUL: The Senate is moving closer to passing that sweeping $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. In fact, in just a couple of hours, senators are expected to break the filibuster on this big bill and meet for a key procedural vote.

SANCHEZ: It comes after they failed to reach a deal Thursday night on a quick passage of the bill. CNN's Joe Johns is live on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Joe, bring us up to speed with the latest.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Boris, you know the expectation here is that they're going to pass this thing here sometime after 12:00 noon, 12:00 eastern. Of course, Boris, you also know from covering the White House that an infrastructure bill has been something of the holy grail, a dream that was never realized throughout the entire Trump administration. Now, the former president, by the way, out of office, is opposed to this bill here on Capitol Hill while the current president is pushing it very hard.

And why are they pushing it hard? It is because of deliverables. It's tangible things. It's road repairs, bridges, and so on, even broadband. Also, Joe Biden sees this as an opportunity to bring Washington together and show people how government can work for them. Of course, it's going to take some bipartisan effort. If all 10 Democrats -- all 50 Democrats, I should say, vote for this bill, 10 Republicans are also going to have to come along.


Now, what could stop it? There are always snags, if you will. And one of those snags, of course, is the price tag, a very huge price tag. The Congressional Budget office indicating that almost $260 billion in deficit spending will occur over the next 10 years if this bill finally passes. Today, though, it's the procedural vote, and we'll wait and see what happens. Back to you.

PAUL: Joe Johns, we appreciate the update so much. Thank you.

So Texas Democrats fighting to block a restrictive voting law are declaring victory this morning. The win may not last for long. The Democrats left the state to keep Republicans from passing the bill. The special session of the legislature ended at midnight.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott has called a new special session to begin today, and that creates a dilemma for Democrats. Do they stay away or return to Texas? National correspondent Dianne Gallagher has the details.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The special session that wasn't has come to an end in Austin. State House Democrats successfully blocking, for now, a bill that would add new restrictions to elections.

CHRIS TURNER, (D) CHAIR, TEXAS HOURS DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS: This is a victory for Texas voters. But we know, we understand the fight continues.

GALLAGHER: The battle over voting rights in the lone star state is far from over. Republican Governor Greg Abbott calling a second special session, a 17 item agenda that includes election legislation to kick off Saturday if the Texas House Democrats show up.

TREY MARTIN FISCHER, (D) TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We do not telegraph what our plans are, but do not be fooled. We will have a significant number of members staying here and waiting day by day, engaging day by day, finishing the fight.

GALLAGHER: That fight is one that's played out in states across the nation this year. Democrats trying to stop Republican-controlled legislatures from passing restrictive voting laws. The bills in Texas would ban drive through voting, impose new restrictions on mail-in ballots, and add criminal penalties for sending unsolicited ballot applications, among other changes. Twice this year, Texas Democrats have used the so-called nuclear option of denying quorum, which is required for the House to conduct state business.

FISCHER: Governor has the right to call us back as many times as he wants to. But the governor also knows that we have every tool in our bucket that we intend to use.

GALLAGHER: But Texas Republicans say don't expect them to back off the bills just to get the Democrats to come back.

BRYAN HUGHES, (R) TEXAS STATE SENATOR: Folks ask if we're making concessions for the purpose of negotiation. We're going to pass a good bill. We're not going to pass bad policy just to get people to show up for work.

GALLAGHER: More than 50 Democrats boarded private planes for Washington, D.C., back in mid-July, leaving the state to avoid arrest for missing the session.

TURNER: We left Texas to stop house bill 3, but we came to Washington, D.C., to urge Congress and the administration to take immediate action and pass sweeping voter protection legislation.

GALLAGHER: They've met with the vice president.


GALLAGHER: Testified before congress.

SENFORNIA THOMPSON, (D) TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I left Texas to give my people a right to be able to vote without them being infringed upon.

GALLAGHER: Brokered meetings with U.S. senators and representatives. But Republicans back home have focused on their absence and controversies. Photos from those private planes without a mask in sight posted days before six members from the fully vaccinated caucus tested positive for COVID-19.

TRAVIS CLARDY, (R) TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I think they got intoxicated on their own success and all the publicity they got out of it.

GALLAGHER: Still, Democrats say they aren't ready to back down.

NICOLE COLLIER, (D) TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Now is not the time to throw in the towel. Rather, now is the time to recharge and regroup for what lies ahead.


GALLAGHER: So right now, the question is how many Democrats are willing to sit out the session for another 30 days? They need 51 members need to be absent in order to deny a quorum. And while some have said that they do plan to stay in Washington, others are on their way back to Texas now. Whether they're going to show up at the Capitol, that's a different story. But Republicans have said that they are confident that they'll reach a quorum this session and that they're going to pass this bill into law. Also on their side, Governor Greg Abbott, who can call as many special sessions as he wants. Christi, Boris?

SANCHEZ: Diane Gallagher, thank you so much for that.

Still ahead, more bad news for some travelers expecting to catch a Spirit Airlines flight today. At least 160 of their flights just canceled. More details ahead.



SANCHEZ: Spirit Airlines passengers have had it rough over the last few days, and the headache is far from over. Spirit cancelling 164 flights today so far. The airline says the cancellations should taper off over the next few days. The problem peaked on Thursday when Spirit canceled more than 450 flights. That ultimately led to long lines and frustrated passengers. The airline blames the disruptions on operational issues, like weather and flight crew problems. PAUL: United Airlines joined a growing list of companies that are now

requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees. Now, they're the first major U.S. airline with this mandate. A United executive confirmed passengers still don't have to show proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated employees without a health or religious exception will be terminated by October 25th. Union negotiations are still ongoing, we should point out.

The airline said in a memo to employees, quote, "We have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you're at work, and the facts are crystal clear. Everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated."


SANCHEZ: California's Dixie fire is now the largest blaze currently burning in the United States. It's ripping through small towns and destroying anything in its path, scorching over 400,000 acres. That's 3.5 times as large as Lake Tahoe.

PAUL: And just look at the pictures we're getting in of what's left. Meteorologist Allison Chinchar is in the weather center, CNN Weather Center live. What is the weather doing to fuel this at this point?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, it's not really helping. We just got brand-new numbers in, so now the new numbers are now up to 446,000 acres. But the containment is still at 21 percent. And again, that just goes to show how rapidly this is spreading, and it is really difficult for the firefighters to really keep up with it from continuing to spread.

It's already the third largest fire in California state history, but it is so close to being the second on that list, a list that no one really wants it to be on. Again, the second one is the Mendocino Complex fire, that's only about 459,000. So again, we are getting very close to this particular fire. The Dixie fire maybe perhaps jumping up to number two. Not out of the question at the pace that it's going that they could hit that tomorrow or maybe even Monday.

Here's a look at it again. This is the location of the Dixie fire, but look at this white. This is satellite imagery, but those aren't clouds. That's smoke that you're seeing there, and it's spreading very far out there.

The one thing to note is when we talk about the scope of the fires for California in general, not just the Dixie fire, when you look at where we were a year ago, 260,000 acres, we are more than three times that year-to-date in California. And that's not good news because 2020 was an awful year for fires for California, and being ahead of pace does not bode well for the rest of the season.

One of the things we've noticed with all of that smoke spreading out is it's taking the air quality down rapidly in some of these communities like Reno, Redding, and even around the northern suburbs of Sacramento. You have got very unhealthy and even hazardous levels of that air quality. Basically, what that means is it's not just affecting people with asthma and allergies. It is affecting everyone.

And here's the thing, it is spreading even outside of California. Look at all of these air quality alerts here you see for states like Colorado, Wyoming. And look at the smoke. It's even spreading into areas of the Midwest, the Great Lakes, states that really are nowhere near some of these fires. You're seeing that smoke just being picked up by the jet stream and pushed very far away. So that's even a concern for other states because, again, it's not just a fire or two, Boris and Christi. You're dealing with over 100 large, active fires out there that are impacting not just the states the fires are in, but even states on the other side of the country.

PAUL: That is amazing. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Wildfires are not the only problem facing California right now. Extreme drought and heat forcing a major hydropower plant at Lake Oroville to shut down. At full capacity the plant can power 800,000 homes, but the lake has shrunk to just 24 percent capacity. And 95 percent of the western United States is in some form of drought, and 46 percent of California is in extreme drought, the most since 2015. The Department of Water Resources is urging Californians to preserve as much water as possible in case the dryness persists.

And this week, California's water regulators voted to issue an emergency order that bans thousands of people from diverting water from rivers and streams. The policy will mainly affect farmers who had rights in place, allowing them to divert water for their crops. The plan has to be approved, but it is expected to go into effect on August 16th.

Josh Davy is with us right now, a livestock range and pasture adviser at the University of California, and he also owns and operates a beef cattle ranch. Josh, we appreciate you being with us, thank you so much. I know that this is a personal and professional situation for you right now. They describe it as an unprecedented water restriction. Bring us into your world here. How severely might this affect your ranch?

JOSH DAVY, LIVESTOCK AND NATURAL RESOURCES ADVISER, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA: I was personally able to make it through without having to face the curtailment myself, but many others were not. The effects of this are far reaching. This is a drought of catastrophic form that affects everybody from ranchers in Tehama County to farmers in Firebaugh. And these curtailments lead not only to things that we would normally think of as less food production, or farmers that may be forced to go out of business because economically, we are in the middle of summer.


And this is going to cause crops to fail and farmers to lose land. And the hard part in losing this land that we have is it provides a whole lot of more tangible benefits that society has that we don't put an economic value on, such as carbon sequestration, healthy soils, groundwater recharge and plant recharge and wildlife habitat. And once those things are gone, if farmers are forced to sell and that becomes blacktop, we as a society lose it forever. So it's a multifaceted problem that we have in California as a society.

PAUL: Wow. The California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross calls it a necessity, a necessary step. She says, yes, it is painful, and they recognize that. Is the state offering any sort of guidance or assistance or alternative to these people?

DAVY: At this point, no. No. Farmers are faced to -- and ranchers are faced to deal with this on their own, which is why it is so scary. This absolutely can lead to a shift and change in our ability to produce food, particularly if it keeps going on in the future as well.

PAUL: Is there any indication that it could be reversed? We have got until August 16th at this point.

DAVY: Our difficult probably here is the Mediterranean climate that California has. We won't see rain until fall, so we don't get summer rains that could potentially recharge the reservoirs that we have, that are down to 20 to 30 percent, depending on the reservoir. So we have what we're going to have at this point right now through the rest of the summer.

PAUL: So what is your biggest fear right now? Do these farmers have a Plan B?

DAVY: That's actually the most difficult part with this is these senior water rights, they are the Plan B. We're dealing with drought in many other aspects, particularly in my area, in livestock grazing, in that there is no forage production on dry land range because of the drought. These pre-1914 water rights are the plan that we have, in that that water was built to be secure for us to be able to produce what our livestock requires. So I'm afraid particularly because these breeding animals aren't worth what they are as breeding animals. They're worth coal animal prices because there is nobody to buy them. Everybody is in the same boat with us. And so once bills can't get paid, we lose ranches.

PAUL: I can tell you right now, people are out there going, what's going to happen to these animals? They're asking, what is the answer to that? And to the food chain?

DAVY: That's the really sad part, because we spend our entire lives, every waking minute, trying to keep these animals safe and healthy. And unfortunately, they're going to have to go into the food chain, which is absolutely heartbreaking. And so we'll lose that, and we'll see that impact in the future.

PAUL: Josh Davy, we appreciate you walking us through what's happening. Keep us posted as we watch what is going on there. Josh Davy, again, thank you so much.

DAVY: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Up next, a very smart young lady has a message for you.


ELLIE ZEILER, TIKTOK CREATOR AND INFLUENCER: This is why I got vaccinated and why you should get vaccinated, too.

Reason one, once you're vaccinated, you can go wherever you want. You can go to the beach.


SANCHEZ: TikTok star Ellie Zeiler will tell us why she is part of the White House campaign to get young adults vaccinated. Stay with us. We're back after a quick break.



PAUL: So we know young adults and teenagers aren't immune to COVID. That's why the White House has enlisted celebrities and influencers to get the message out that the vaccine is safe. Seventeen-year-old Ellie Zeiler is part of that campaign. In fact, she actually asked Dr. Anthony Fauci some of the top questions that she gets on social media.


ELLIE ZEILER, TIKTOK CREATOR AND INFLUENCER: Is the actual COVID virus in the vaccine?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: The answer is absolutely not. It is not the virus. It is one particular protein called the spike protein.


PAUL: Ellie with us now. Ellie, it is good to see you. Thank you for being here.


PAUL: Absolutely. So what stuck with you most about your interview with Dr. Fauci. What did you learn that you will not forget?

ZEILER: I think that I just won't forget his passion -- vaccine. I thought that asking him these questions, he seemed very down and very sad that people were thinking this way. And so we were both mutually excited to stop these rumors from being spread.

PAUL: So with that said, what is the number one question about COVID that you get on your social media accounts?

ZEILER: It's not as much -- it's not as many questions as most people would think. It's mostly overall reluctance to getting the vaccine, and most people already having their mind made. A lot of people wanting to wait it out and see the side effects and see how long the down time is, which, personally for me, there was no down time and it was a very easy process.


PAUL: Do they talk about why they're so hesitant?

ZEILER: I think that a lot of people are hesitant just because they've heard and seen a lot of things from social media and the Internet. A lot of teenagers only get their information spread through social media, and so this is all they're seeing about the vaccine.

PAUL: So what conspiracy theories have they brought to you that you've had to debunk?

ZEILER: Yes. I think that I've had to debunk a couple of them. One was if it causes infertility, which it does not. Mr. Fauci helped me figure that out, which it does not. And also, I don't know, I've had people stick metals onto me, which there's no lead, nothing that sticks onto me from the vaccine, as well.

PAUL: They hear that rumor, that it makes you a magnet, essentially. There's something about metals, yes?

ZEILER: Crazy to say out loud, but, yes, that is what they think.

PAUL: And we say that, and they probably stuck coins on something to you because you are vaccinated. What have you been able to tell them about that? Did you have any side effects?

ZEILER: I had absolutely no side effects, knock on wood. But talking to Dr. Fauci, he says there will be no side effects that he knows of yet. I think that it is very interesting to see people's reactions, especially just people in person, when they stick metal to me, they think, oh, wow, what are we doing right now, sitting in a circle, putting metal onto Ellie's arm? So I think that it is more just laughing it off and being like, OK, it's OK. I saw this on TikTok, and we're getting over it.

PAUL: So talk to me about what it felt like when you were contacted by the White House to be part of this information campaign.

ZEILER: Yes, initially, it was just a huge honor. Any chance that I get to spread actual information, important information on my platform, I want to take. Of course, getting contacted by the White House is insane and very surreal, as well.

PAUL: Quickly, how -- do you have a pretty good gauge of how concerned people are, people your age are, about COVID in general?

ZEILER: Yes. Sadly, it's not -- I haven't seen so much of a rush to get vaccinated. I think that a lot of people are coming off of a summer where everything was open, and it's very easy to forget what we just went through in the past year, which is why it is so important for all of us to just urge each other to go get vaccinated so that we don't go back into lockdown.

And so that I feel like being a teenager is such an important time in all of our lives. We've already lost a chunk of that time, and to make sure that we don't lose any more time. And for the help of society and for the help of other people, as well, to go get vaccinated.

PAUL: And you have got, what, is it 10 million, 10 million followers? Am I right?

ZEILER: Yes, crazy to say out loud, but yes, 10 million.

PAUL: Well, thank you for making sure that misinformation is debunked. It's so good to talk with you, Ellie. Take good care of yourself, and thanks for all you're doing.

ZEILER: Thank you so much. Have a good one.

PAUL: You, as well.

ZEILER: So we've seen extraordinary moments of sportsmanship and kindness at the Olympics. We'll share some of them after a quick break. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: While it was far from certain whether the Olympic Games would even happen because of the pandemic, they've proven memorable for reasons beyond COVID and even athletic performance.

PAUL: No doubt. The athletes competing in these games, they have shown the world what it's all about. And it's not always about winning.

CNN's Will Ripley reports on the kindness on display in Tokyo.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The legacy of Tokyo 2020 may not be measured in medals or COVID cases. But acts of kindness, moments of grace, Olympians choosing humility over hubris. American gymnast Simone Biles cheering on her teammates even as she was struggling to compete. American swimmer Annie Lazor hugging her South African competitor, Tatjana Schoenmaker, who broke a world record to win gold.

ANNIE LAZOR, TEAM USA BRONZE MEDALIST, SWIMMING: To have someone next to me break a world record, just as a fan of the sport in general, that's something that's pretty amazing to happen to you.

RIPLEY: Given there were no spectators, and you were in this bubble in the middle of a pandemic, do you think that brought the athletes closer, this experience?

LAZOR: Definitely more of a sense of we're just really happy this is happening, really happy to be here.

RIPLEY: Happiness written on the faces of the first ever Olympic skateboarders.

SKY BROWN, GREAT BRITAIN BRONZE MEDALIST, SKATEBOARDING: We're winning as one big family. I'm probably getting on the podium with two of my favorite people is awesome.

ROB KOEHLER, DIRECTOR GENERAL, GLOBAL ATHLETE: I think we're seeing the camaraderie between athletes now. There is always something good that comes from something bad. And I think this is part of what the pandemic has done has created a better community of athletes that are supporting each other under very difficult conditions in Tokyo. To be supporting each other is huge.

RIPLEY: Support spanning across continents and badminton courts. When Denmark dethroned China to win gold in the men's singles, the players traded shirts as a symbol of respect. These Qatarian and Italian high jumpers, friends and competitors for years, opted out of a jump-off, deciding to share the gold.


GIANMARCO TAMBERI, ITALIAN GOLD MEDALIST, HIGH JUMP: It was just amazing. And sharing with a friend is even more beautiful. Thank you.

RIPLEY: There were high fives and helping hands. After falling during the 800 meter, these runners from the U.S. and Botswana finished the race arm in arm, a legacy of kindness and camaraderie outshining even the Olympic flame.

Will Ripley, CNN, Tokyo.


PAUL: That's awesome. It proves to us that we can all do that. Thank you so much for watching. We hope that you make good memories today.

SANCHEZ: CNN Newsroom is next. We'll see you tomorrow.