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Nearly 94,000 Cases of Children With COVID; Judge Seeks Restraining Order on Mask Mandates in Texas; Florida Governor Threatens to Withhold Pay over Mask Mandates; Battle over Masks in Schools Heats Up; Vote on Infrastructure Deal; Biden to Address Infrastructure. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 09:00   ET



CHRISTA SWANGER, LOST HUSBAND TO COVID-19: Anything they asked him to do, he was absolutely, I will do it.

He just -- he was very loving and caring.

JOHN BERMAN, Christa, Noah, may his memory be a blessing.

I know his memory will live on and I know that Noah, again, you would make him so proud.

Thank you both so much for being with us.

C. SWANGER: Thank you.

BERMAN: I'm glad they have each other.


BERMAN: CNN's coverage continues right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: (INAUDIBLE) directly defiling the Republican governors by imposing mask mandates for students and staff as COVID soars.

It comes as Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, is digging in, now threatening to withhold the salaries of school officials who go against his anti-mask order.

Meantime, in Texas, Dallas and Austin Public Schools are now requiring masks despite a ban from Governor Greg Abbott there. Houston's school board is expected to hold its own vote on masks later this week.

And we have reporters in both Texas and Florida. We'll get to those developments in just a minute. But all of this is happening as we're getting troubling new data from the American Academy of Pediatrics this morning which shows a dramatic increase in the number of children testing positive for COVID-19. Nearly 94,000 kids tested positive in the -- in just the past week and cases among kids have been steadily increasing since the beginning of July.

Let's start with that this morning. CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joining us with these numbers.

More infections among kids. What more do we know about that?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Erica, the governor of Florida's decision to really sort of attack people who want children to wear masks is really unfortunate because children do get COVID and they can get very, very sick. The numbers have just skyrocketed. Let's take a closer look at some of the numbers that you just mentioned.

These cases have been increasing steadily since early July. There have been 4.3 million cases of COVID among children during the pandemic. And in this past week alone, 94,000 cases.

Now, this is not a surprise that this is happening because take a look at transmission of COVID-19 in the United States. Those areas in red, they are at the highest level of transmission. Those are among the most populated areas of the United States. So right now 98.2 percent of the U.S. population is living in one of those red areas. So as these numbers increase, the number of cases of children getting COVID increase and some, not the majority, but some, a good number of those children will get very, very sick.

Now let's take a look at the hospital crunch that's being caused by children and adults with COVID in the United States. If you look across the country, one in five ICU beds is occupied by someone with COVID-19. S anyone who questions the impact of COVID-19 in the U.S. and says, ah, it's not a big deal, it's like getting a bad cold. Well, then if that's true, why are one in five ICU beds occupied by someone with COVID-19.

Take a look at the states we have listed here. These are among the states with the lowest vaccinations. Their hospitalizations or more than double of the national average. And Florida also a low vaccination state. Theirs are more than triple the national average.

HILL: Yes. And if anyone's questing just how effective the vaccine is, we have this new CNN analysis, Elizabeth, that shows more than 99.99 percent of those fully vaccinated have not had a breakthrough case that results in hospitalization or death.

COHEN: That's right. So, you know, the famed vaccine researcher, Dr. Paul Offit, who has saved countless lives with his vaccine, he puts it this way, the job of a vaccine is to keep you out of the hospital and out of the morgue. And this vaccine has done that beautifully. And 99.99 percent of fully vaccinated people have not been hospitalized and have not died from COVID-19. Have they maybe gotten a milder case? Yes, that is absolutely possible.

So if you're -- if you're not getting vaccinated, you're making a decision to put yourself at a higher risk of being -- much higher, way higher risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 giving your -- obviously that will be terrible for your family but you're also putting a huge burden on hospitals, on doctors and nurses, the people who are supposed to take care of you. They have to take care of you because you were irresponsible.

HILL: Yes, and they are -- they are at a breaking point. In fact, we'll hear from one nurse who has really -- she has hit that point, a little later this morning.

Elizabeth, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

HILL: Let's turn to Texas now where a Dallas county judge has asked the court for a temporary restraining order to block portions of Governor Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas this morning.

So, Ed, where do we stand this morning?



Well, once again we're seeing that fight between big city leaders who are mostly Democrat here in Texas and the Republican Governor Greg Abbott. And the Democratic county judge here in Dallas County firing off this request for a temporary injunction, as you mentioned, to block portions of the governor's executive orders that were issued here over the last few weeks, which include the banning of mask mandates at government agencies across the state.

Clay Jenkins, who is the county judge here in Dallas, in part in that statement in the request for the injunction says -- acknowledges that the governor does have the ability to -- the authority to decide about mask mandates, but he also goes a step further -- and this is what you're hearing more and more from Democratic officials in these big cities in Texas is, they're questioning whether or not the governor has the authority and the legal ability to push those efforts downstream, down into the local communities. Essentially the county judge here and others are arguing that they have the ability to also manage their own local disasters and they should be able to do and implement these mask mandates as they see -- as they see fit.

And that is what we're also beginning to see here in two prominent school districts, Erica, in Texas, Dallas Independent School District and the Austin Independent School District, ruling yesterday that masks will be required once classes resume here in the next week. And that is a big crossing of the line, if you will.

And we spoke with the superintendent of Dallas Schools yesterday who say that based on the numbers he's seen, he felt this is something he had to do.


MICHAEL HINOJOSA, SUPERINTENDENT, DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: If we don't do anything, it could go as many as 2,000 new cases every day by the end of the month. So I felt it was time to step in, even though I'm going to get in trouble and I need to step in and just have some courage and make a decision I think's in the best interest of the district.


LAVANDERA: Erica, the governor has not responded to the DISD and Austin School District decisions so far, but he did put out a statement yesterday saying that he is calling on hospitals across the state to voluntarily halt elective medical procedures. And it really gives you a sense of the strain that hospitals across the state of Texas are now under. Hospitalizations yesterday crossing the 9,400 point. We hadn't seen those numbers here in Texas since early February.


HILL: Yes, it is -- it is massive. And he went on to day in that statement, he needs -- he need hospitals to do that to free up room for COVID patients.

Ed, thank you, as always.

We're going to have much more from the superintendent for the Dallas Independent School District. He will join us for a live interview in the next hour.

Meantime, in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis raising the stakes in a standoff with the state's school districts. So now he's threatening to withhold paychecks from superintendents and school board members who disregard his executive order and decide to require masks in schools. This comes as Florida is seeing a record high number of kids under the age of 17 hospitalized with COVID.

Leyla Santiago is following all the latest for us from Gainesville, Florida.

Leyla, good morning.


It is the first day of school. And we've seen students coming in, parents even dropping them off and teachers wearing masks to school. The principal telling us they haven't had any major issues. But I spoke with teachers yesterday getting ready and they admit that this sort of back and forth with the governor, the politics of it all, has created a cloud of uncertainty.

So here's the policy for Alachua County, where I am right now. They are requiring students to wear masks at least for the first two weeks of school. And the only way you can get out of that is if your parent sends a doctor's note with the student. And that is where the governor's office is taking issue. I just checked in with them this morning and they believe that requiring a doctor's note does not protect parental choice. The superintendent of Alachua County is asking the governor to just let her do her job in protecting children in school.

Here's what else she had to say.


CARLEE SIMON, SUPERINTENDENT, ALACHUA COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN FLORIDA: The governor should take the conservative step and do everything he can to protest the lives of our community. And that's what I'm doing.

It's concerning because we need to be able to run schools and we need to make sure that people aren't testing positive or needing to quarantine.

I'm right now focusing on education and I would like him to let me do my job.


SANTIAGO: And I also spoke to a school board member who told me that she was willing of take the risk of losing her salary to protect the risk of children from the COVID-19 spread given how many hospitalizations they've seen here.


And they are not alone. Go to Miami. The superintendent there of Miami-Dade released this statement saying, at no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck. A small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue.

And, Erica, as we speak, right now, the Broward County School Board is also meeting to come up with a final decision on how they will move forward with their mask policy.

HILL: We'll be watching for updates out of that meeting.

Leyla Santiago, thank you.

Joining me now, Dr. Carlos de Rio. He's executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Hospital.

Good to have you with us, as always.

You know, we look at the mask battles, Dr. del Rio, and at the center of this, I can't help but thinking, are all of these kids who aren't even eligible for a vaccine in many ways being turned into political pawns.


OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: I don't know, Erica. I mean we are at a point that masks have become such a lightning rod in the political discourse that I cannot believe, you know, governors passing, you know, laws prohibiting school districts to doing what's best to protect the kids. On the one side they're saying we want local control. On the other one, they're removing the local control.

I think right now, with the delta wave, we need to do everything possible to protect those that are not vaccinated. And those that are not vaccinated get protected two ways, by those that are eligible for vaccination getting vaccinated and by wearing a mask.

And I think it's as simple as that. And if we don't do those things, we're putting those who are unvaccinated at risk. And whether those are unvaccinated because they're willingly to be unvaccinated or because they can be vaccinated, such as children under 12, we need to protect them. Our job is to protect people who are not vaccinated.

HILL: When we look at the state of the vaccine, you know, we do hear from people, I'm waiting for full FDA approval. Dr. Fauci speaking out on that this morning. Here's his latest take.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: But there's no doubt that these vaccines are going to get fully approved. So this idea about it's not fully approved is really a false narrative. It really is. I mean you should consider this as good as fully approved and get vaccinated. The idea that I'm waiting for some magical impromatua (ph) to come on it, it's going to happen. Guaranteed it's going to happen.


HILL: So it's going to happen. We're told it could happen fairly soon.

What changes once there is full FDA approval, especially when we look at schools, can you see a scenario where schools would now start mandating the vaccine for those 12 and over, as they do with so many other vaccines?

DEL RIO: Well, let me start by saying that it's easier to mandate a vaccine when it's fully FDA approval but it's not impossible under an EUA. And, in fact, the FDA can modify the EUA to say it's OK to mandate the vaccine even under an EUA.

But, yes, once it's fully approved, I think you'll see mandates come up more than they're already coming and you're going to see probably mandates from many school districts.

You're also -- the other thing that happens once the vaccine has full approval is, number one, the company can actually advertise on television, which they can't do right now. And, number two, they can sell the vaccine. Right now you cannot buy a vaccine. But once this is approved, then you can get the vaccine as Pfizer, CVS or, you know -- I'm sorry, Walgreen's pharmacy by paying for it, just no different than when you do it with a flu vaccine right now.

HILL: And correct me if I'm wrong, but, quickly, doctors also have a little bit more control. They can administer the vaccine. Does that mean a doctor could decide to administer a fully FDA approved vaccine to a child under 12?

DEL RIO: You know, that could happen. I think that would be going outside the approval of the vaccine. And I think that hopefully will not happen. But what could certainly happen is that people will start administering, you know, booster shots and third shots to many people because no body's going to stop you from doing that.

HILL: So when it comes to boosters, you wrote this really interesting op-ed in "The New York Times" where you said you think "booster" is actually the wrong terminology. What we should be focusing on here is getting the right dosage.

Do you think we know yet what the right dosage is giving variants like delta?

DEL RIO: No, we don't because the virus is evolving and that's one of the questions that we all are asking.

But I can tell you, as of now, being in the hospital and seeing patients, the people we see come in are people who are not fully vaccinated or are partially vaccinated. So I tell people over and over, as somebody's who's 62, who was vaccinated in late December, early January, so many months ago, I'm not running out there to get a booster right now. I don't think I need it.

Having said that, I think people that are, for example, immuno compromised, transplant patients, may actually need a third shot. And I think we need to see what the science says and I think we need to see what the FDA says about it.

HILL: Dr. Carlos del Rio, always good to talk to you. Thank you.

DEL RIO: Good talking to you, Erica.

HILL: One of the leading proponents of vaccine misinformation just suspended from Twitter, again. Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene posted a message saying the FDA shouldn't approve the vaccines because, in her mind, there have been too many reports of breakthrough cases.


Well, we should stress, again, the vaccines are 99.99 percent effective at preventing severe infection and keeping people out of the hospital, and, as we heard earlier, out of the morgue. Her tweet has been labeled as misinformation. Twitter says she will be off the platform for a week.

Minutes from now, the Senate will gavel in on Capitol Hill, expected to vote on that long awaited, hard fought infrastructure bill this morning. We're going to take you there live. Plus, hundreds of people living inside a Miami condo building forced to evacuate overnight after that building was just deemed unsafe.

And the first woman to accuse New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment speaking out again saying he's now gaslighting all of the women who came forward.



HILL: Minutes from now the Senate is expected to convene to begin final passage of the massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Now, the measure is expected to pass with bipartisan support. It includes money for roads, rail, air travel, broadband and water infrastructure. But passing the Senate is just the first hurdle.

CNN's Manu Raju joining us now live from Capitol Hill.

So, Manu, when can we expect the bill to pass the Senate and then, of course, the perhaps bigger question is what happens next?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just in a matter of hours this will pass the United States Senate. This comes after months of intense negotiations. But we do expect this to pass in the 11:00 hour. It will have bipartisan support. There were 18 Republican senators who broke ranks to vote to move ahead on this process, to move to this final vote. We expect that number to be about the same on final passage. We expect all 50 Democrats to vote yes. They need just 51 to support this. So they clearly have the votes.

But, you're right, it's unclear the fate of this proposal after it is approved by the Senate because there's a complicated legislative dance that Democratic leaders are trying to perform here in the weeks and months ahead. They -- Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, has said that this bipartisan bill will not pass her chamber unless the Senate moves on a larger $3.5 trillion proposal with all sorts of Democratic priorities on healthcare, on immigration, on climate change, expanding the social safety net. That proposal, she says, needs to pass the Senate first.

They still need to draft that bill. They're beginning that process in the Senate to pass what's known as a budget resolution that would unlock their ability to move on that larger bill. But they need to draft it. They need to get all Democrats in line in the Senate, all 50 Democrats. There are still some who are concerned with -- about the price tag and about the policies and negotiations are yet to be had.

But once that passes the Senate, assuming that it does, then Pelosi indicated -- is indicating she's prepared to move ahead on the bipartisan infrastructure proposal that is about to pass the Senate. So the question is, can she pull this off because moderates in her chamber are demanding an immediate vote on this bipartisan plan. Progressives say that the bipartisan plan does not go far enough. So they're trying to placate both sides of their Democratic caucus. Ultimately, though, the goal is to get this on Biden's desk by September or October. Can they do that? It's still a question.


HILL: Manu Raju with the latest for us.

Manu, thank you.

Well, the president is set to deliver a speech marking the expected passage of this bipartisan bill after months of negotiating. The president eager to take this victory lap, even though, as Manu just pointed out for us, the two-part deal is far from totally finished.

Joining me now, Laura Barron-Lopez, a CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "Politico."

Good to see you this morning.

So we know there's -- there's a lot riding on this. Is the president's speech premature and is there any concern about that in the White House?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president is making the speech because it is a big deal that this is passing the Senate right now. The Senate, evenly split, they needed Republicans on this bill because the president wanted to pass it in a bipartisan fashion. Joe Biden, since his campaign, has been saying that he could get Republicans to work with him in ways that his predecessor, that even his former boss couldn't and that he was going to bring back some of that way that Washington used to work.

And so it's a sizeable win for him that they were able to get this through the Senate after months of negotiations and he's going to continue to promote the fact that it was done with Republicans in this cross aisle deal because the president also really believes that Washington needs to be able to work in a bipartisan way in order for democracy to hold firm. That's something that his White House is going to be making -- an argument that they're going to be making is that promoting this package across the country over the next month, heading into that key timing with the House.

So the president also is going to be arguing towards House Democrats that, look, these provisions are really popular. So that's a message that this White House is going to be sending to some skeptical Democrats.

HILL: So that's the message he's sending because, as you know, as Manu laid out, as you know all too well, there is this division, the Democrats may hold a slim majority in the House, but they are certainly not united in terms of what's in this bill.

I mean who holds more of the cards at this point?

BARRON-LOPEZ: So Speaker Pelosi could very well leverage this August recess. Right now the House isn't in session. And so there is talk that she may just wait and this will not be handled until September. And by waiting, she's able to line them up in a fashion of her choosing.

The White House, throughout this entire process, has left a lot to whether it's Majority Leader Schumer in the Senate, or Speaker Pelosi in the House, because the White House says that they want to let them handle the floor timing, handle that process the way they see fit to make sure that they do have enough Democrats on board.


But the White House is really going to be leaning hard on the House Democrats that either don't really like the (INAUDIBLE), aren't totally on board with reconciliation, turning to that public polling that they say shows that these -- all of these provisions across the two packages, be it the bipartisan bill or the coming spending plan that would only be passed by Democrats, that all of those provisions are popular with the American public. So that's one of their key arguments.

HILL: There's also the reality of, you know, political capital moving forward and the impact of the passage in the Senate, and then ultimately what we see happening in the House, what that does in terms of political capital for the president.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. The president -- I mean these bills are massive. And so when they do finally reach Biden's desk, which the White House is really confident of, despite the fact that there are Democrats that aren't happy with provisions in either of the bills, the White House is very confident that these are ultimately going to pass.

Now, the big question, which I think you're hinting at, Erica, is, is President Biden going to get any other big priorities passed? This is something he was able to get Republicans to work with him on. But so far on voting rights, on police reform, on immigration reform, there's little to no Republican interest in trying to provide extra votes in the Senate, or the votes that are needed in the Senate.

And so, if those aren't able to pass through some process like reconciliation, which they aren't, they most likely aren't even though they're going to try to get some immigration measures in the reconciliation package, a lot of Democrats are concerned that some of their biggest priorities that they promised on the campaign trail are not going to get passed before the 2022 midterms.

HILL: Laura Barron-Lopez, always good to see you. Thank you.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Thank you.

HILL: The woman who first publicly accused Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment is now accusing the New York governor of gaslighting his victims. This as the governor is said to be in a, quote, fighting mood. Even his aides are trying to convince him to resign.

Plus, we are just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Futures flat at this hour. Investors waiting for that vote on the infrastructure bill and on inflation data, which is set to come out this week. Stocks finishing the day mixed. Dow and S&P fell from their record highs. We're going to keep an eye on the market for you.