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CNN NEWSROOM

Rate Of Vaccination In U.S. Increases As Delta Variant Spreads; Interview With Mayor Dan Gelber (D) Of Miami Beach; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo May Face Legal Difficulties After Report Detailing Sexual Harassment Allegations Released; CDC Issus Warning To Americans To Not Travel To Popular Tourist Destinations Due To Coronavirus Pandemic; Spirit Airlines Cancels Large Number Of Flights; California Wildfires Affecting Air Quality Of States Across U.S. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired August 7, 2021 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If worse comes to worst, I'll lock us in this bunker. There's a foot thick of concrete and four feet of dirt. We're in a steel bunker, rebar room. This thing is designed for blasts. You ain't getting in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: That's tonight at 9:00 only here on CNN.

I'm Phil Mattingly. CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Jim Acosta.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

We begin with this -- 50 percent of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but in the face of the aggressive Delta variant, that major milestone feels underwhelming, reminding us about how much more is needed in this fight. Half the population is vulnerable and fueling a spike in cases, the scale of which we haven't seen in six months.

The U.S. is now averaging more than 107,000 new COVID cases a day, meaning we're now in the second highest peak of the whole pandemic. As a result, hospitalizations are back up, nearing levels we've seen in previous peaks. The silver lining, last time cases were this high, there were about 14,000 more people in the hospital.

But on the ground, it's no less dire. In Texas, a parent's nightmare played out. Houston's pediatric hospitals were at full capacity, so an 11-month-old had to be air lifted, even though the child had COVID, 150 miles away. In Florida, the country's COVID epicenter is seeing a record high in hospitalizations after COVID cases skyrocketed this week. More than 134,000 COVID infections in Florida, the state's highest for cases recorded over any seven-day period throughout the pandemic.

Despite the deteriorating situation, Governor Ron DeSantis won't budge from blocking school mask mandates, choosing political fights over pandemic preventions. So private companies are stepping in where government leaders won't. Starting Monday, Amazon is requiring all warehouse workers to mask up. And in a big move, United Airlines is requiring vaccines for its employees.

Let's get you right to Florida, Natasha Chen is live in Orlando for us. Natasha, what are you seeing and hearing there? It's getting worse down there.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a real surge in cases in Florida. We are seeing an average of more than 19,000 new cases per day in the past week, and that's higher than any other seven-day period in the entire pandemic. Really concerning for health officials.

Also concerning is the number of hospitalizations. More than 12,000 people in Florida hospitals right now with COVID-19. Children's hospitals are being overwhelmed. Right now, the vaccination rate is at about 49 percent, about 10 million people in Florida fully vaccinated at this point.

We were at a mobile vaccination unit event today. They're just wrapping up. And the good news is that we are seeing whenever there are higher cases the health staff behind me tell me that they also see vaccination rates pick up. And that's true for some of the people we talked to today who came here to get their shots. They said that they are fearful of the Delta variant.

They have seen friends lose their lives over this virus, and so they want to get protected now. Maybe they were waiting before to see potential side effects of the vaccine. They say now is the time because of the spread of the virus that they are witnessing around them.

Now, this becomes very challenging sometimes between local, state, and federal officials, a battle, really, on how to approach this pandemic. And so you see Governor DeSantis doubling down right now despite the case numbers, saying that he does not want to shut businesses down. He wants to leave parents the choice of whether to send their kid to school with a mask. CNN spoke to a health expert at Florida International University about that issue of letting parents decide whether to let their kids go to school with a mask or not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. AILEEN MARTY, DISTINGUISHED UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASES, FLORIDA INTERVIEW UNIVERSITY: Florida has, for decades, since 1984, had phenomenal, excellent vaccine mandates, and Florida has, for decades, done things to protect the health and welfare of children. It is normal for the government to impose certain restrictions on parental behavior.

The temperature of the faucets, protecting swimming pools, not letting your child sit in a hot car. All these things, yes, they alter how women or men can raise their children, but in a way that protects the children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: And we are seeing children, teens 12 to 17 here today, their parents tell us that they came to get them vaccinated because school starts on Tuesday for many of them. They wanted those kids to be as protected as possible.

[14:05:07]

And the issue of masking, of course, is controversial. As far as the Orange County public schools here, they do have a mask mandate, but they have to let parents opt out because of the state policies, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right, Natasha Chen, thanks so much for that.

And the Florida governor's resistance to stricter COVID protocols has also led to a dispute with President Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But if you're not going to help, at least get out of the way.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: If you're coming after the rights after parents in Florida, I'm standing in your way.

BIDEN: Governor who?

DESANTIS: I'm not surprised that Biden doesn't remember me. I guess the question is, what else has he forgotten?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: I want to bring in Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us. You've been very critical of DeSantis and his handling of COVID in your state from almost the beginning of all of this. You said that lately he's been like the pied piper leading everybody off of a cliff. Can I just ask you, based on this back and forth that we're seeing between the governor and the president this week, what do you think is driving the governor's opposition to putting in some new safety measures? Obviously, the situation is changing down there, and getting worse.

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Obviously, it's very worse. Every day, it's a new record. But Governor DeSantis is following a political ideology. He's playing politics right now in the middle of a pandemic. We know in Florida, we have hurricanes. We know how to get everybody together and get everybody on the same page, and it's really important to do that.

But in this moment, Governor DeSantis has done something I think is pretty despicable, which is he's taken this health care crisis and tried to convert it, really, to his own advantage politically. He's divided our community. He's divided our community. So now mask usage, even vaccines, just simply healthy practices have become political statements, and that should never happen, because obviously you want to save people's lives, not put them at risk in order to make a cheap political point.

ACOSTA: And Mayor, the governor has been framing his opposition to mask mandates in schools as preserving parents' freedom to choose what's best for their children. What are you hearing from teachers and families in your community? What do you make of that argument that he's been making?

GELBER: I'm one of those parents. I have a 17-year-old son going to public school. He's vaccinated. I'd like to know that he and his classmates are safe. It's sort of a false claim he's making, because the truth of the matter is we know that the masks help not just the person wearing the mask but, equally important, all the other classmates. So it's not really fair to say I want to give the parent a choice to send child to school to perhaps sicken some other child. We're all in this together.

And by the way, this is an incredible opportunity for Governor DeSantis to lead. At the beginning of this pandemic, people forget, we were one of the first cities to close because we have so many people coming. He was very complementary. He was helpful, frankly. He called and said, I want local governments to make these choices. It's important for them to do that.

And then as soon as it became a political opportunity, he reversed course, and he creates these false choices, like wearing masks is going to close down the economy. That's just not true. Our businesses are asking people to wear masks. Our cruise ships want to require people to be vaccinated because they know it's safer for their patrons and their customers, and it's good for business. So all we want to do is open up safely, and all he wants to do is score political points with a very narrow swath of people who, by the way, are most likely not to be wearing masks and most likely not to get vaccinated.

ACOSTA: Right, he's in favor of local control over issues unless they apply to COVID, I suppose. And you told CNN earlier this week that you are flying blind about access to COVID stats. What does that mean? Is the state hiding this information from local leaders such as yourself?

GELBER: Well, yes. What they did is they took down their dashboard. They started reporting weekly. I am constantly asking for information. It used to be forthcoming, and what I typically do, and a lot of mayors and commissions do, is we give it to our residents. When a resident sees that more people are hospitalized on a certain way or more people are getting infected when they see other kinds of metrics, they act accordingly. Being forewarned is being forearmed.

But he has, I think really just to make a political point, decided that he is going to make fun of this. And by the way, his campaign website literally is making fun of the CDC and Fauci. How can you do that in the middle of a pandemic when you're hoping people will follow the rules that medical experts ask them to? This is really pretty outrageous, and I think there's no question it's increasing our positivity, our hospitalizations, and, obviously, our deaths.

[14:10:00]

ACOSTA: Right, it undermines public confidence in our top scientists when you're making fun of them and bashing them the way he has.

And Mayor, CNN has learned that the Biden administration is weighing the possibility of withholding federal funding to spur vaccinations. Do you think that's a good idea, or is that just going to result in another fight between the White House and the states?

GELBER: Well, making this a political issue, which is what, really, Governor DeSantis has done, puts everybody in a tough spot because whatever you do to improve health becomes a new political issue. Look at the cruise ships. They wanted to mandate vaccines, a pretty obvious healthy mechanism for them, and Governor DeSantis made it illegal for them to do that. They're suing him now.

Imagine, a private company, private company who is trying to protect its patrons, is actually suing the governor. People shouldn't have to sue the governor, we shouldn't have to protect ourselves from our governor. I think the Biden administration should do whatever it can to get people vaccinated.

This entire surge we're seeing now, the hundreds of deaths Florida is experiencing every week, all of that is unforced, all of that is unnecessary. That is truly the horror here is that all of these things we're feeling and we're seeing are unnecessary and could have been avoided if simply political leaders got on the same page they do with almost every other kind of major challenge.

ACOSTA: Well, we're certainly a nation divided when it comes to responded to this pandemic, something we'll be talking about throughout the show for the remainder of the afternoon. Mayor Dan Gelber, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate that, and we'll talk to you soon.

GELBER: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: Take care.

Coming up, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo fires back at the sexual harassment investigation that has put him on the verge of impeachment. The message from his lawyers.

Plus, he's made a name for himself by selling pillows and pushing the big lie. See what happened when CNN investigated Mike Lindell's outlandish conspiracy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you're wrong, isn't that very dangerous?

MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: Yes, but I'm not wrong. I've checked it out. I'm spent millions. You need to trust me and come there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:16:17]

ACOSTA: Lawyers for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pushing back against allegations of sexual harassment, saying the investigation has been one-sided and made to support a predetermined narrative. The New York State Attorney General's report this week found the governor sexually harassed 11 women. One of those women also filed a criminal complaint with the Albany sheriff's office, claiming the governor reached under her blouse and groped her. But lawyers for Governor Cuomo say that is not what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RITA GLAVIN, ATTORNEY FOR GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: She was at the mansion that day for several hours. She wasn't just working with the governor. She was working with other staffers. Emails that she sent while she was at the mansion reflect that she was joking while she was there. She was eating snacks. And she even offered to stay longer at the mansion when her work was done.

The governor deserves to be treated fairly like anybody else in this country accused of something. He is 63 years old. He has spent 40 years in public life. And for him to all of a sudden be accused of a sexual assault of an executive assistant that he really doesn't know doesn't pass muster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Time now for our weekly "Cross Examine" segment with CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig who is also a former federal state prosecutor. Elie, one of our viewers wants to know "What legal consequences could Andrew Cuomo," the governor, "be facing, and what would have to be proven against him for each of those," each of those issues?

ELIE HONIG, SENIOR CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Jim. So the governor is now facing a pile of legal problems. Let's break it down. First of all, there are potential criminal issues here. There is a crime under New York state law for forcible touching, meaning forcibly touching a person without their consent for sexual purposes.

Of the 11 complainants, three of them, including that executive assistant that we just heard the clip about, have made allegations that if true could meet the definition of forcible touching, and we now know that five district attorneys are looking at these complaints. If you're going to bring a criminal charge, you have to be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. That's the highest burden of proof.

Then we have potential civil claims. Any or all of these 11 complainants could sue the governor, they could sue the state of New York for sexual harassment, for retaliation, for a hostile work environment. That's a lower standard. There, all you have to do is prove your case by what's called a preponderance, meaning 50 percent plus one.

And then finally, there's the potential for impeachment. And Jim, there there's no particular legal standard. It's really whatever the state assembly and Senate feels is necessary and appropriate in order to remove the governor from power. So he's got some major legal problems that he'll have to deal with in the weeks and months ahead.

ACOSTA: Certainly. And Elie, another viewer wants to know "If Governor Cuomo does not resign, what is the procedure to impeach and remove a governor under New York state law?" It's different than how it works at the federal level, which might make things interesting here.

HONIG: Yes, there are some important differences. So impeachment would start in the assembly, the lower house of the New York state congress. It takes a majority there to impeach. Interestingly though, there is no high crimes and misdemeanors requirement like we know from the federal system. It's even broader in New York. If the governor is impeached, he loses power, at least temporarily.

Power goes over to the lieutenant governor. Of course, another big difference from the federal system. And then finally, there will be a trial in the New York state Senate. But again, another big difference there, the jury, so to speak there, is not just the senators. It's them, but it's also the seven judges on New York state's highest court, the court of appeals. So it would be like if the U.S. Supreme Court justices came down to sit on the Senate trial. That's, of course, another big difference.

So it will be interesting to see whether Governor Cuomo really forces the entire state government apparatus to go through this process, but if he does, that's how it's going to go, Jim.

[14:20:03]

ACOSTA: That is fascinating.

And another viewer wants to know "If Governor Cuomo fights the allegations against him," what do you think the defenses will be that he'll raise in all of this? We heard from the defense attorney a few moments ago. What do you think?

HONIG: Yes, we got a preview and then some yesterday from the defense team.

First of all, they've raised these political arguments. This is all some effort to get the governor. I'm not buying that. These are all Democrats, essentially. Governor Cuomo was the one who referred the case over to the attorney general in the first place.

Then they have these process arguments that they've not been given access to the transcripts and the background of these interviews. There's some legitimacy to that. They've been given very little beyond the actual report, which all of us have.

And finally, most importantly, there's the credibility arguments, the substantive arguments. And thus far, I find those really unconvincing. Take the example you just played. The fact the executive assistant, one, stayed at the mansion, that she ate snacks, how does that mean that she couldn't also have been sexually assaulted by the governor shortly before that. I think that's a very simplistic argument, not particularly compelling.

And remember, there are 11 complainants here. We've only heard any kind of response really to two of them from the defense team at this point. So they've got a mountain of evidence that they're going to have to deal with here, Jim, and I've not seen anything particularly convincing from them just yet.

ACOSTA: Elie Honig, thanks so much for that.

And make sure to tune in tonight. One of our guests this evening with my colleague, Pamela Brown, will be one of Governor Cuomo's attorneys. That will be later on tonight at 6:00 p.m. eastern.

And coming up, CNN will be speaking with My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell who is pushing a bizarre new conspiracy that China changed votes for Trump to votes for Biden. See what happened when Drew Griffin with CNN called him out on this nonsense. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:26:16]

ACOSTA: He's been one of the most vocal purveyors of the big lie, but now My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell is pushing his most bizarre conspiracy theory yet, claiming that China hacked U.S. voting systems and switched votes for former President Trump to votes for Biden.

As part of a CNN investigation, Drew Griffin spoke to two dozen election officials and cyber experts about those claims, and then went to Minnesota to give Mike Lindell a much needed reality check.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The My Pillow guy.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Mike Lindell, yes, the My Pillow guy is convinced China hacked the election, Donald Trump really won, and Lindell has the absolute proof.

MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: They did it in all the states.

GRIFFIN: And they changed the votes?

LINDELL: Every single state.

GRIFFIN: And you have the proof?

LINDELL: Yes.

GRIFFIN: That will show the actual exchange of votes?

LINDELL: Yep, yes, 100 percent. One-hundred percent.

GRIFFIN: It is, of course, complete nonsense. Despite every piece of so-called evidence Lindell has presented so far -- three videos, a lawsuit, screenshots he sent to CNN, there's still no proof that the election was hacked, and that's according to two dozen cyber experts and election officials contacted by CNN.

[08:05:13]

LINDELL: A hundred percent evidence.

GRIFFIN: When Lindell released his so-called evidence, in videos like this, fact checkers quickly found out it was evidence of nothing. These images are just publicly available voter data, scrolling across the screen, not proof of election hacking. So Lindell changed his story, saying now the real evidence will be revealed at a cyber symposium streamed live with My Pillow discounts available throughout. And as further proof, he sent CNN a preview, six different screenshots.

You sent us this on Friday.

LINDELL: Yes.

GRIFFIN: What is this?

LINDELL: That's just one piece of 1.2 billion lines of data from the election, OK. Within that will be timestamps of when it happened. There will be flips in there.

GRIFFIN: So, we sent this to our own experts. He said that it doesn't show any specific actions of any kind, election related or not, and it's proof of nothing.

LINDELL: OK, so he said that's nothing, huh? Well, he's wrong. Then you didn't hire a cyber expert.

GRIFFIN: We didn't consult just one cyber expert. We consulted nine top election security experts who told us Lindell's screenshots were extremely rudimentary metadata, and completely ridiculous.

We also reached all 15 officials from the 15 counties where Lindell says, without any proof, votes were hacked and switched. Lindell mentions some of the counties in his videos and lists them out in his counter lawsuit against Dominion voting. They are counties that use paper ballots counted by systems not connected to the Internet. Every one of them told CNN there is no evidence they were hacked by anyone.

You identified 15 counties where the votes were switched. We contacted all 15 counties, red and blue, red and blue.

LINDELL: That doesn't matter.

GRIFFIN: And we couldn't find a single person that said this is even possible. They say you are mistaken. They think you're wrong. The bottom line is they have paper ballot backups that prove they were not --

LINDELL: So you guys went and they let you audit there, they let you do a full audit, CNN, you guys did a full audit on 15 counties, huh?

GRIFFIN: We did what Lindell did not do. We went to Delta County, Michigan, to see how the election was carried out. Trump won here nearly two to one.

LINDELL: The state Michigan, entry point, or Delta County --

GRIFFIN: In his videos and his lawsuit, Lindell claims someone in China hacked the election system here and stole away precisely 3,215 Trump votes and turned them into Biden votes.

[14:30:06]

The Republican County Clerk Nancy Przewrocki finds it infallible for one main reason.

NANCY PRZEWROCKI, CLERK, DELTA COUNTY, MICHIGAN: It is never connected to the Internet.

GRIFFIN: Never?

PRZEWROCKI: Never connected to the Internet at all, whatsoever.

GRIFFIN: Not only are they not connected to the Internet, the votes are cast by hand on paper. Voters scan their ballots into this Dominion storage machine where two digital storage cards keep a tally. The paper goes right into this bin under lock and seal.

PRZEWROCKI: And that container is sealed.

GRIFFIN: And just to check that everything went OK, they conduct audits, comparing the paper ballots to the results on the computer. And in 2020 it was an exact match.

PRZEWROCKI: We audited three different pre precincts and they matched exactly.

GRIFFIN: What would you say to somebody who made a documentary that, among many counties, accused your county of being a victim of a Chinese hack that changed the vote counts?

PRZEWROCKI: I would say that didn't happen in Delta County.

GRIFFIN: A Republican-led Michigan State Senate investigation found out it didn't happen anywhere, no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud.

I don't think you really understand how votes are cast, collected, and tabulated in this country.

LINDELL: You know what? I do. But what you don't understand is they can get -- after they're tabulated, they can get hacked after the fact, which they were, because Donald Trump is going to win anyway.

GRIFFIN: But the paper ballots which were cast --

LINDELL: Donald Trump was going to win anyway.

GRIFFIN: But the paper ballots which were cast --

LINDELL: You didn't do an audit to match them up.

GRIFFIN: -- were audited against the machine count.

LINDELL: No, they weren't. No, they weren't.

GRIFFIN: In these counties they were, Mike.

LINDELL: No, they weren't. No, they weren't. Who told you that?

GRIFFIN: The county officials who did that.

LINDELL: Oh, did they tell you that? They're going to have some answering to do.

GRIFFIN: No matter who says there was no widespread fraud in the election, whether it's local election officials, secretaries of state, judges, or even Donald Trump's own attorney general, Mike Lindell's conclusion is the same -- they are all wrong.

All these county officials are lying?

LINDELL: I don't know. They might be misconstrued. We'll see. Misconstrued because they don't realize what happened.

GRIFFIN: Lindell says his information comes from multiple sources, all of them supersecret. He claims he spent millions on the project, and also claims he will give $5 million to anyone who proves him wrong.

Mike, you can make up anything.

LINDELL: No, you can't. No, this is right. No, this is right.

GRIFFIN: You are just going to have a demonstration in a room --

LINDELL: No, no, no, this is where you're wrong. We're giving it to the cyber people that show up. We're going to give them each state. Here's a state, Georgia. They can take it apart.

GRIFFIN: You could possibly be the victim of a scam here.

LINDELL: Then why don't you come to the symposium and make $5 million. Are you worried about me? We should give a hug. You worried about old Mike? God bless you.

GRIFFIN: Here's what we're worried about. We're worried that what you are doing is mistakenly or deliberately destroying the confidence in the legitimate elected president of the United States and fostering what could be real damage to this country.

LINDELL: I never said that about Biden or the Democrats ever. Never.

GRIFFIN: You went through this investigation and this --

LINDELL: No, I am not. You're lying now. You're lying. I said the Democrats warned us. No, you're lying. I said the Democrats already warned us of this. GRIFFIN: You're saying Joseph Biden was illegitimately elected.

LINDELL: I'm saying that China did an attack on our country --

GRIFFIN: And that the wrong person won.

LINDELL: That's right.

GRIFFIN: The people who have watched your video believe what you say.

LINDELL: A hundred percent.

GRIFFIN: If you're wrong. Isn't that very dangerous?

LINDELL: Yes, but I'm not wrong. I've checked it out. I've spent millions. You need to trust me and come there.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ACOSTA: And Drew Griffin joins us now. Drew, that was quite the interview. As we all noticed there, Mike Lindell very defensive during this interview. I'm wondering, what was your biggest unanswered question, your biggest takeaway after sitting down with Lindell?

GRIFFIN: The biggest question remains, Jim, who is feeding him these lines? It's very clear to me Mike Lindell does not understand how we vote in the United States of America, nor does he understand cybersecurity anywhere in the world. So somebody is feeding him this. We have very good reason to believe this is just old conspiracy theorist scammers who have scammed other people and, quite frankly, giving this information to Mike Lindell. We'd like to see where that is coming from and what exactly they are giving to him that makes him say what he is saying.

ACOSTA: And he wouldn't say where he's getting this stuff from?

GRIFFIN: No, he wouldn't.

ACOSTA: And you mentioned in your piece that Lindell is planning to give away My Pillow discounts at this so-called symposium? What does that tell you?

GRIFFIN: His business, we're led to believe, is crumbling. He's been kicked out of all the retail stores, as you know, Jim, and have reported.

[14:35:01]

So he has gone on to all of these random, bizarre podcasts, and got on these podcasts, quite frankly, because revenue splits with them. So he offers these major discounts. A lot of these podcasters will get a cut of that. And so this entire symposium will also contain these kind of massive sales pitches. So while, indeed, he is pushing this conspiracy theory, he is also pushing, very heavily, pillows.

ACOSTA: No question about it. And Drew, Lindell is offering $5 million to anyone who can prove him wrong. Does he have that much money? It sounds like he might have to write a lot of those checks.

GRIFFIN: Yes, I just don't know. Obviously, he's going to try to worm out of this. He doesn't have any kind of specific information about the vote switching. That's just ridiculous, Jim. But he's wording this in such a way where I think he'll try to squiggle out of the fact he's going to write somebody a $5 million check. Although, I must say, in unaired portions of the interview, we really nailed him down on what he's promising in terms of $5 million.

ACOSTA: And I guess you're not going to get a check, Drew. This is the whole problem with conspiracy theorists is that you can argue until the cows come home trying to lay out the facts, and some of these folks just will not change their minds no matter what you put in front of them. But Drew, what a great story, great report, as always. Drew Griffin, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

GRIFFIN: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Great to see you.

Coming up, the CDC warning Americans to not travel to more popular tourist destinations. So what does that mean for your future vacation plans? We'll get advice from The Points Guy, Brian Kelly. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:41:22]

ACOSTA: More popular travel destinations have been added to the CDC's do not travel list. This week, the agency classified 16 more countries as a level four very high COVID risk. And joining me now, Brian Kelly, better known as The Points Guy to all of you.

Brian, this is happening amid a surge in cases because of the Delta variant. What's the best advice you could give people who are planning a trip? When the CDC says do not travel, what does that mean? And what do people do if they don't want to change their plans at the last minute?

BRIAN KELLY, FOUNDER OF THEPOINTSGUY.COM: Well, Jim, it's kind of interesting because the CDC has that level four warning for a lot of countries that actually are handling COVID a lot better than the U.S. When people ask me, should I travel domestically, is that safer?

I was just in Spain and Italy last week, and every museum, everywhere indoors, people wear masks, and you can eat outside. So I would say definitely make your own risk, but if you're vaccinated, if you wear a mask indoors and eat outdoors, you can manage your risk and make the best decision for yourself.

ACOSTA: I suppose there's some places in the U.S., is what you were hinting at, that may be more risky than overseas, I guess.

KELLY: Absolutely. The one key concern for travelers is taking that test. Even if you're vaccinated, you still need to take a test within three days of coming back to the U.S. I do know people who have had those tests delayed. God forbid you test positive abroad. Depending on the country, you maybe need to go into a mandatory hotel quarantine. So I think that risk is really what's keeping most travelers staying domestic this summer.

ACOSTA: Yes. And Spirit Airlines, you know this, just experienced a staggering week of flight cancellations, roughly 2,000 of them. Here's what some of the passengers were telling us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very angry. It's the worst airline that I ever saw in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to get to my destination and never have to deal with Spirit Airlines again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever had an airline experience this bad before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. This is actually the first time in all of my years that I've encountered something like this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And what do we know about what happened? Are things getting back on track for the airline?

KELLY: They're slowly getting back on track. It was nothing short of a full-blown meltdown. What started off as a minor disruption ended up kind of snowballing. And basically, once they started cancelling flights, their flight attendants that needed to be in other parts of the country couldn't get there, and then those flights got cancelled. So it was really chaos.

And what I recommend to people who book on Spirit, even if you're flying next week, check to make sure your flight is still on time. And if you can change your flights, try to book on a more reliable airline. And even when Spirit cancels your flight, you don't have to fly Spirit whenever they can get you back home. They will refund you. It may take a little while, but if you have the ability, cancel the flight, fly another airline if you really actually want to get to where you're going.

ACOSTA: Ouch. And we all saw that wild scene on board the Frontier flight where they used duct tape to restrain a man. This is just unbelievable video. Just shows you how volatile it is on these flights these days. Man was accused of punching and groping flight attendants. As someone who travels as much as you, Brian, have you ever seen anything like this?

KELLY: It's really bad. And I think it's about 4,000 cases since January 1st, and the FAA is not playing around. People, you'll get kicked off the airline for life. We're seeing fines up to $20,000. Certainly, there's a mental health aspect to some of these incidents.

[14:45:01] Behind the scenes, I've talked to the airlines, and sometimes it is mental health. Sometimes it's just jerks who have been drinking all day, airports are crowded, and things just get out of control. People's senses in general are heightened when you get on an airplane and add in a pandemic, and, as we're seeing now, people are simply out of control.

ACOSTA: I was on a flight just the other day and was talking to some flight attendants about this. They deserve a medal for what they've been going through during this pandemic. It's just unbelievable.

And on Monday, the Canadian border will finally reopen to fully vaccinated American travelers, but there could be some big delays for people trying to make the drive. What's going on?

KELLY: Yes. Canada's opening technically. Although, our numbers are now so high in the U.S. that we're starting to trigger, the E.U. just announced today they may be reconsidering allowing Americans in. Same thing with Canada. They're going to be vigilant about checking those vaccines. You still have to get tested.

The U.K. is open, but you still have to get tested on the second day. So there's still lots of hoops to jump through, and there could be lengthy lines at the border because so many people have been separated from their families. So yes, expect delays no matter where you go, but especially internationally.

ACOSTA: And that's why the key in all of this is to be vaccinated. You get vaccinated, if everybody gets vaccinated in this country, we can start traveling again, doing all the fun things that we used to do before this awful pandemic. Brian Kelly, thanks so much for your time. Great stuff as always. Thanks for coming on.

Coming up, we'll take you live to California where a fast-moving wildfire has taken out much of an entire town. Officials are warning those remaining you must leave now.

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ACOSTA: In northern California it's a race against time for firefighters losing ground on the raging Dixie fire. It scorched more than 450,000 acers and decimated a historic mountain town. The blaze, the largest active fire in the nation right now, is only 21 percent contained. Yesterday it was 35 percent contained.

CNN's Camila Bernal is on the ground for us in Chico, California. Camila, this fire has destroyed more than 100 homes. It's California's third largest fire in the state's history. What are you seeing, what are you hearing right now? Is this thing getting under control?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, Jim. And even firefighters with 30, 40 years of experience are saying that they've never seen a fire like this one. They're describing it as a fire with frightening behavior, and that's because it continues to grow, and it is out of control.

Now, the focus for the weekend is to find eight people who are still missing. Authorities say that they were able to locate 16, but they will continue to search over the weekend. Thousands are still under evacuation orders. These are people who are having to deal with the stress and the anxiety of not knowing whether or not their homes will still be there when they return.

We saw what happened in Greenville. It's not just a couple of homes and businesses that were destroyed. It's an entire community that will never be the same again. It's people who are left with that trauma. Already the Dixie fire has actually destroyed about 200 structures. That's the update we got from authorities, and we are told that about 14,000 others are still at risk. Firefighters are doing everything they can to save those homes and they continue to work. But it is still hot, it is still dry, and the smoke is thick.

The smoke could impact firefighting efforts on the ground and in the air. There are some areas where authorities are even telling people do not go outside. That smoke likely lingering on for the next couple of days, and it's impacting, Jim, not just residents in this area but even in states that are nowhere near this fire.

ACOSTA: All right, Camila Bernal, those pictures are just unbelievable to watch. Devastating damage out there. Camila, thanks for covering that for us. We appreciate it.

President Obama named her a champion of change for her quest to clean the air in West Oakland, California, eight years ago. She's made progress, but her fight is far from over. Here is Dr. Sanjay Gupta in today's "The Human Factor."

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DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Margaret Gordon's mission started 30 years ago while working in a West Oakland school. She noticed a shoebox full of inhalers that were prescribed to dozens of students. The mother of three wasn't surprised. She, her son, and two grandchildren had asthma, too. So Gordon began researching the health impacts of pollution.

MARGARET GORDON, CO-DIRECTOR, WEST OAKLAND ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS PROJECT: Every workshop, congress, symposium I attended.

GUPTA: She regularly found black soot inside her West Oakland home.

GORDON: It's in my mucus lining in my throat.

GUPTA: And she began to connect the dots.

GORDON: We have so much pollution. We have three freeways that surround a black community. We have the ships, the trains, and the trucks 24/7.

Thank you very much. GUPTA: She co-founded the West Oakland Environmental Indicators

Project, teaming up with scientists who set up truck traffic studies in air monitoring stations for block-by-block information.

GORDON: So who has been impacted? We could see on a graph that we never had before.

GUPTA: Gordon was appointed to the Ports Commission where she pushed for new truck routes, less truck idling, and electric power for port equipment.

[14:55:00]

GORDON: Since 2008 till now, we have had significant pollution reduction.

GUPTA: She now wants air filtration systems placed in West Oakland homes and a shift away from fossil fuels.

GORDON: We've got to be we live this.

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