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CNN NEWSROOM

Florida Reports Record Week of New Covid Infections; Republicans Follow Trumps Dismissal of Virus; France Expands Use of COVID Health pass; Mass Testing, Travel Limits in China after New Cases Reported; Grease Fires "Like a Horror Movie"; Summer Olympic Games Wrap up after Your Long Delay. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired August 9, 2021 - 04:30   ET

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


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DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's so high in Florida that I think that if Florida were another country, we would have to consider banning travel from Florida to the United States. And he needs to -- he needs to understand that he's painted himself into a corner. People are dying in Florida. It's going to get much worse. The hospitals are filling. Children, as well.

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ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Dr. Jonathan Rainer there speaking out against how Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is handling the pandemic. New infections hit a record high last week in Florida averaging more than 19,000 a day. DeSantis doesn't acknowledge the trend. Instead doubling down on a ban against mandatory face masks in schools. But now his own Republican allies are speaking out against him.

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DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: You disagree with Governor DeSantis?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): I do disagree with Governor DeSantis. The local officials should have control here. Whenever politicians mess with public health, usually it doesn't work out well for the public health and ultimately doesn't work out for the politician.

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CHURCH: And as many Florida students return to school, the Florida Department of Health says nearly 25 percent of all COVID tests for the 12- to 19-age group come back positive. While 20 percent of tests for children under 12 years of age return positive.

And staying in Florida, a local church hosted a vaccination clinic after six of its members died from COVID-19 in just two weeks. What did they have in common? They were all unvaccinated. The pastor of Impact Church said four of the deaths were healthy members under the age of 35. He adds there are 15 to 20 more members in the hospital with COVID and around 10 more at home with the virus. The pastor insists no one contracted the virus at church.

Well for quite a few Republicans, the virus is not a public health issue, it is political. One Texas Republican mocked masks and vaccines. Less than a week later, he died of COVID. Tom Foreman reports, he's not the first public figure to downplay the virus only to lose his life to it.

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H. SCOTT APPLEY (R) STATE REPUBLICAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: The number one thing we can do to support our local businesses is get out of their way.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was Texas Republican H. Scott Appley in 2019 before the pandemic came along and he became a raging critic.

(04:35:00)

Praising mask burnings, calling a health official promoting vaccine an absolutely enemy of a free people. And last Friday echoing a claim that vaccines don't really work anyway. But just after posting that, according to a GoFundMe page set up for his family, Appley was admitted to a hospital diagnosed with COVID and by Tuesday he was dead.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The virus they're working hard. Looks like by April, you know, in theory when it gets warmer, you'll actually see it goes away. Oh, that's true.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Plenty of Trumps join Donald Trump's early dismissal of the COVID threat even as he wound up in the hospital from the virus. Among them one-time presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who downplayed masking at one point before he went to a crowded Trump rally unmasked last summer, developed COVID symptoms and died.

But GOP downplaying of the danger did not stop then. Not even close. In Tennessee, conservative radio host Phil Valentine joked about the virus this summer. Then it nearly killed him and left his brother pleading with the public.

MARK VALENTINE, UNVACCINATED BROTHER BATTLING COVID: We want as many people can hear my voice this morning to put the politics aside and go get the vaccine.

FOREMAN (voice-over): In Louisiana Republican Luke Letlow died of COVID in December, weeks before he was to be sworn into Congress. He wanted the vaccine, it wasn't available. Now his wife, elected to fill his seat, can't believe others still won't take it.

REP. JULIA LETLOW (R-LA): I would have given anything. I would have given everything for that shot to be available for us. I mean, looking back now and for someone to turn it away, I just -- it's heartbreaking to me.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Still a recent poll found nearly a third of Republicans insist they'll never take the vaccine. Even as other people like Travis Campbell him who didn't get around to getting the shot is also begging from his hospital bed for everyone to get on board.

TRAVIS CAMPBELL, SICK WITH COVID: Now so please for the love of God if you really want to have a chance don't fall now for all the TV rhetoric and social media, just protect yourself.

FOREMAN: Some Republican leaders are slowly embracing the idea of vaccines but generally they're lukewarm, while remain white hot about the closing mask mandates, social distancing, and any idea that vaccines should be required. Even as their own voters keep getting sick and dying.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

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CHURCH: Powerful report there.

Well elsewhere around the globe, Canada has reopened its border to Americans wanting to visit but only if they are fully vaccinated. That move coming just a few hours ago.

In Australia, the state of New South Wales has extended lockdown measures while the state of Victoria is lifting its lockdown everywhere except Melbourne.

Vietnam is enduring a fourth wave of the virus. It posted a record number of new cases on Sunday. Almost 9,700, according to state-run news.

China reported 125 new infections Monday, most of them locally transmitted. Authorities say there are 14 areas of high risk in the country.

And in France, cafes, restaurants, and long-distance trains are off limits to those without a health pass.

For more on all of this CNN's Steven Jiang is live in Beijing. But first, we go to Jim Bittermann, who is at a bus terminal in Paris. Good to see you, Jim. So how is this health pass working out? And how are people responding to it?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, it's a mixed bag. Basically, some people are up to speed on it and they -- the bus company did a -- we're sitting in a long- distance bus terminal here. The bus company sent out fliers and e- mails ahead of time basically telling people they had to have this and a COVID pass or health pass that shows that you've either been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19.

And it applies to not only buses but also trains and planes and now cafes and bars and restaurants. Everywhere you go these days, you're going to have to have some kind of an evidence of this pass, if you want to participate. I asked the director of this bus terminal, the regional director how

it was how it was burdening his operations and here's what he had to say.

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VINCENT HAYS, BUSINESS DIRECTOR OF FIXBUS: The drivers are not happy to be the police here. Obviously, it's necessary and once again we are supposed to understand in from the passengers you know.

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BITTERMANN (on camera): And I think you know, one of the things that he said was the drivers have to act as policeman and they're not happy about that. But they are happy about the fact that their riding around with people who can prove that they've been vaccinated or tested negative. It actually is kind of reassuring for some of the drivers that we talk to -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Thank you for that, Jim. Steven, I want to go to you now in Beijing. And talk to us about the latest on the situation in China and, of course, across the rest of Asia.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well Rosemary, here in China they recorded 102 new locally transmitted cases on Sunday. This obviously pales in comparison to what we are seeing in many parts of the world. But in this country, this number is considered unacceptable because of the government's zero tolerance approach to locally transmitted cases.

That's why across the country you see local officials being punished or even sacked whenever there's a new cluster of cases emerging in their jurisdiction. That's also why increasingly officials across the country are adopting even more stringent measures and more rounds of mass testing, more extensive contact tracing, and increasing more draconian lockdown measures, and the travel restrictions especially in and out of Beijing. Which of course is going to host the Winter Olympics in just six months.

But across the region though I think a lot of officials have other things than the games to think about because they have reported many governments in the region, especially Southeast Asia reported a record number of daily cases numbers in recent days. And that corresponds to what in many cases very low rate of vaccination in many countries. That number remains a single digit.

And so, this is increasing the case in terms of health care systems and the medical facilities being stretched to a very thin and pushed to the brink in countries like Malaysia. We have seen doctors and nurses go on strike to protest over conditions at hospitals. So very alarming picture across the Southeast Asia as many countries continue to face a shortage of vaccines -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Steven Jiang joining us from Beijing. Many thanks. And coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, wildfires in Greece have forced

thousands of people to flee their homes. We'll have a live report when we return.

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CHURCH: More than 500 people are battling this wildfire in Peru. Officials say the fire has consumed more than a thousand hectares or nearly 2,500 acres since it began on Thursday. Firefighters, volunteers, soldiers, local officials, and even residents are fighting the blaze. A regional governor has requested air support from the national service as well. And there have been no reports of injuries or deaths.

And in Greece, wildfires on the island of Evia have been burning out of control for days now. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes. Some having to take ferries to safety. One woman who left said it's, quote, like a horror movie. Across the country, other wildfires have destroyed dozens of homes and businesses and at least one person has died.

Elinda Labropoulou joins me now live from Evia. Good to see you, Elinda. So, it is of course a desperate situation in some parts of Greece. Particularly there on the island of Evia where you are now. What is the latest on those fires?

ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: The island of Evia is one the biggest blazes at the moment. It's been raging for seven days now. And we have seen maps of for the size of the devastation from above are now visible. And they cover a very large part of the island. There are dozens of places that continue to burn across Greece. The country has experienced just a massive heat wave that have turned it into a tinderbox, it seems. And firefighting operations continue with aid from many countries. The 22 countries working to put out this fire.

We understand from firefighters here that they're hoping to contain this fire by the end of the day. But when you look around you, for example, as we were coming into this port, the port of Evia, which supports a lot of people have used to evacuate. All you could see is this haze, this smoke, and actually, it is still very difficult to breathe, and people continue to evacuate the island in large numbers -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Where are they going?

LABROPOULOU: Well, of them seem to be going to relatives, friends, really, I think, that the government has also put up some shelters and created some space for them in stadiums, in public buildings. Of course, these are just temporary solutions. And some of them, obviously, will soon go back see and assess the damage to their homes.

CHURCH: Yes, and indeed they will. Elinda Labropoulou, joining us live from Evia in Greece, many thanks. Here's another consequence of climate change we're seeing right now.

The worst summer flooding in St. Mark's Square in Venice in more than 25 years. The area was inundated with 100 centimeters or nearly 40 inches of water on Saturday. The head of the Venice Tide Center says it could take days to drain away.

Well, the Summer Olympics in Japan have come to a close. Up next, we will head live to Tokyo for a look back at the games.

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THOMAS BACH, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: I'm only sure that nobody, nobody who part in these games will ever forget these Olympic games. They are unique and they are a great manifestation and a great symbol of hope for the people across the globe. A great manifestation of solidarity, which made these games happening and they are a great manifestation of peace because without solidarity, there is no peace.

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CHURCH: The head of the International Olympic Committee there speaking as Japan wrapped up the summer games in Tokyo. Athletes from around the world took part in the Olympics despite challenges and a yearlong delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, let's head to Tokyo where CNN's Blake Essig is standing by. Great to see you, Blake. So, you have been there from the start to the finish. Take us through some of the highlights and of course, how the people of Japan are now feeling that the games are over.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Rosemary, it's very much been a tale of two cities, and that hasn't changed. The health and safety concerns that lead to the unpopularity of Tokyo 2020 really truly have not gone away. In fact, people were still protesting and calling for the games to be cancelled, even while the closing ceremony was underway last night.

That being said, there was a noticeable shift in the mood once competition got underway. We saw people constantly gathering outside of competition venues alongside race routes and right here outside the national stadium to take pictures with the Olympic rings. I'm going to step out just so you can see that is still the case. There are hundreds of people still lining up. It's been the case all day. And I imagine that will continue to be the case as long as these rings are here.

Of course, winning could help change attitudes and generate excitement. We saw lots of wonderful moment during competition. Japan did extremely well at these games winning 27 gold medals, 11 more than Japan had won at any other Summer Olympic Games ever. Now Tokyo 2020 is officially over, and I will admit kind of sad about

it. Already getting a little bit nostalgic. But for me, getting to cover these games and experience the closing ceremony was, you know, once in a lifetime opportunity. I was one of the few lucky people enough to see it in person. Again, it's something I will never forget.

But throughout the night, I couldn't help but imagine what it would have been like to experience the celebration alongside the people of Japan.

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Like every event I went to throughout these games it was a surreal experience to sit inside the 68,000-seat stadium seemingly alone and watch the celebration of sport. The fire works, the parade of nations, the handover to Paris was strange. It was strange to watch thousands of athletes come out onto the field, essentially waiving to a couple hundred journalists. Personally, it was an amazing experience, but it served as reminder it was not the Olympics anyone wanted and definitely not the Olympic games that the people of Japan deserved -- Rosemary.

Yes, indeed you're right there, and you did a great job. Blake Essig joining us live from Tokyo, many thanks.

With an Air Force fly over and the colors of the French flag striking the sky, Paris celebrated its turn to host the next Summer Olympics in 2024. The traditional handover of the Olympic flag took place Sunday as the Tokyo games wrapped up. Some of France's medal winners from those games joined Sunday celebration in the French capital. The Paris 2024 games will mark 100 years since the last time France hosted the Olympics.

And, finally, this hour Peyton Manning is now an NFL hall of famer. The legendary quarterback headlined this year's class of eight new inductees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Sunday. The 45-year-old was selected in his first year of eligibility. He played on two super bowl-winning teams, the Colts and the Broncos. Well done.

Thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Be sure to connect with me on Twitter @rosemaryCNN. "EARLY START" is up next. You're watching CNN, have yourselves a great day.

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