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Large Texas School Districts Defy Governor's Ban on Mask Mandates; U.S. Hospitals Pushed to Brink by Crush of COVID Patients; Interview with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; Twitter Suspends Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for One Week; Dominion Suing Right-Wing Networks over False Election Claims. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That was the superintendent of Austin schools here in Dallas.

The superintendent says he's not putting a timeline on how long the mask requirement will be in place. He says it will be completely directed by how quickly the number of hospitalizations in the situation in this surge improves -- Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Ed Lavandera, Rosa Flores, thank you.

Joining us now is Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at the Texas Children's Hospital and also the dean of the National School of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

And Dr. Sanjay Pattani, emergency room physician and associate chief medical officer of Advent Health in Orlando, Florida.

Dr. Catani, you're in the thick of it. You worked in the E.R. last night. How dire is that availability where you are right now? And how does this compare to any other time during the pandemic?


This surge is a little different from our previous surges that we have encountered. Especially in Orange County, in Orlando.

I think we saw the rate of incidents of hospitalizations for those patients that have COVID, in the words of my mentor, hit us like a freight train.

We were exposed to a big number of hospital cases and a large number of those were actually very sick. So the patients required immediate entry into the critical care arena. So what we have seen is almost a transition from the gradual need for a patient when they become hospitalized to go into the hospital and maybe ascend to a higher level of care, we see more patients coming to the hospital that are very sick requiring our highest level of care in a very time sensitive manner.

That's put us at a very -- unfortunately the eight ball when we required resources of the ICU capacity.

So right now, I would say we have a very large need for critical care beds with critical care resources.

CABRERA: And, Dr. Hotez, I know Texas is also seeing critical bed shortages.

Governor Greg Abbott is asking hospitals to postpone elective surgeries because of the rise in coronavirus cases. He's taking this step, he's urging vaccinations, but he's still not budging on masks.

Can Texas regain control with this plan?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE & CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Right now, Ana, here in Harris County, Houston, we're now setting up a tent city for our hospital. That's how much things are accelerating right now.

This is a fire storm across the south. I think we have to really have a frank discussion about whether we're serious about having our kids and doing in-person classrooms or not.

And right now with this screaming level of transmission, and I do mean screaming, Florida and Louisiana, if they were countries would be some of the highest levels of transmission globally and the other states like Texas and Mississippi are not too far behind.

That's how this is going to continue to evolve. So if you're serious about doing in-person classes in that setting, you have to use every possible tool for the kids, for the teachers and staff.

That means everybody has to be vaccinated. Particularly, for those over the age of 12. So we need to vaccinate all of the adolescents.

Nobody is even talking about vaccination mandates. Remember our vaccination levels among adolescents in the south is 25 percent. It's not like the northeast.

So you have a huge ways to go. We have to have everybody masked. And we have to have all the teachers and staff do the same.

If we don't do that, what's going to happen? We're starting to see it happen. There's going to be COVID outbreaks and things will fold up and we won't have the in in-person classrooms anymore.

We have to have an adult conversation and stop this kind of posturing that's going on right now. CABRERA: Can you talk about what you're seeing? And the patients

you're treating initially when people were coming to the hospital, how many are unvaccinated? And what else can you tell us about what they are like?

PATTANI: Thank you. Let me spread some facts. So currently -- this is really short-term data -- the number of hospitalizations that are COVID positive are upwards of 94 percent unvaccinated.

So that kind of translates to what the tragedy of this surge is arguably one surge that could have been prevented.


Again, to specify, a majority of our patients are unvaccinated patients.

CABRERA: Dr. Hotez, you talk about the children being so vulnerable. And 94,000 pediatric cases were added last week.

We know the American Academy of Pediatrics data shows hospitalizations among young kids is increasing as well.

We know the American Academy of Pediatrics is now pressuring or calling on the FDA to act with more urgency when it comes to emergency use authorization for vaccines 12 and under.

Do you support this call for them to fast track the emergency use authorization for this group or would it be too risky to move faster than it already is?

HOTEZ: I wouldn't use the word fast track because that implies that things are hurried and rushed.

So what I would say is we need to look at the data and if it supports the safety of the vaccines, we need to move forward expeditiously.

I'm concerned about the 5 to 11-year-olds because they are going to be in schools and they are at high risk as well.

I don't know that we need to hold back schools for that, but I think if we get all of the adolescents vaccinated, the 12 to 17-year-olds, we can try to move expeditiously on the 5 to 11-year-olds and you'll do OK.

You'll do better in the north than in the south because the adults are vaccinated. And that has the collateral benefit of protecting kids.

But down here, nobody has any protection and the vulnerability is massive.

CABRERA: Not even the protection of masks in some cases, as we have been reporting on.

Thank you so much, Dr. Hotez.

Dr. Sanjay Pattani, thank you as well.

Thank you both for your time and all you do. I know it's been -- what a battle for you personally in your profession. It's been a challenge.

Thank you.

A big win for President Biden today. Any moment, we will hear from him after the Senate passed a massive infrastructure bill. We'll speak with the secretary coming up next.



CABRERA: After months of haggling and finger point, the Senate just passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. Progressives insist they won't get behind it until the Senate passes their social policy legislation.

And, nonetheless, President Biden seizing this as a victory. He's going to speak on this legislative win in remarks we expect at any moment. As soon as that happens, we'll take that live.

But first, I want to bring in commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo.

Thank you, Madame Secretary, for being with us.

Assuming this gets through the House, how long until Americans feel the infrastructure package?

GINA RAIMONDO, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Very soon. We have many projects ready.

We know that we have to start laying fiber to connect everybody to broadband. So Americans will feel it within a matter of months certainly.

But I will say I don't think we can gloss over the magnitude this accomplishment.

Having been in the thick of it on the president's team, we have heard over and over again this is too hard, Republicans won't vote for it, you won't find the compromise.

Yet the president has led through all of that and delivered us to this point today, which is extraordinary leadership for him and a big step forward for America.

CABRERA: Nineteen Republicans did join Democrats in the Senate to pass this, but it's still facing a battle in the House.

And some progressives, Democrats have threatened to hold this bill hostage if the Senate doesn't pass the reconciliation package.

Here was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just a couple weeks ago.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): If there's not a reconciliation bill in the House and if the Senate does not pass the reconciliation bill, we will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get these investments in.


CABRERA: There's no wiggle room. Are you confident this will get through?

RAIMONDO: I am. More important, the president is. The president has been very clear from the beginning that we're going to move on both of these packages in tandem.

We are not resting our laurels of today's success. We are today and every day working hard on the budget resolution and the reconciliation package.

President Biden has been clear that we need both of these packages.

And it's also very important that we have a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Several presidents have said they would deliver a bipartisan infrastructure package. And only President Biden has actually been able to do that.

And it's enough money to make sure every kid in America has clean water pipes and high-speed broadband.

It's the biggest investment in public transit ever in our nation's history. And we did it by reaching across the aisle, finding compromise and staying at the table long enough to find common ground.


So, yes, I'm confident that we will get that next step down. Quite frankly, we're going to stay at the table until we do. Just like we stayed at the table until we reached today's historic deal.

CABRERA: Let's talk about the bill that we're talking about today. We have all heard the pitch, it will create more jobs. Can you provide specifics on what type of jobs? Are we talking construction, tech and how many?

RAIMONDO: Thank you. We believe this will create millions of jobs over the next five to 10 years.

There will be jobs created immediately, as you say, in construction. By the way, high-wage jobs, many of them union jobs, laying the fiber for the broadband, fixing roads and bridges, doing the work to make our coastal lands more resilient.

But not just those jobs. There will be more technical jobs created in terms of the broadband package. But the very important point is we will be unleashing millions of jobs on top of that.

Think about all the small businesses that now don't have high-speed Internet that will get high-speed Internet. They will be that much more productive and hire that many more people. And on and on.

So it's not just the immediate jobs created. It's the fact that investing in infrastructure makes our economy stronger and will grow faster and create jobs on top of that of all kinds and good-paying family supporting jobs.

CABRERA: But you know the number of job openings, yet millions aren't being filled. So how will the administration ensure people are actually talking all of these jobs?

RAIMONDO: Well, in the president's reconciliation package, there will be enormous investments in job training, apprenticeships, community college, skill development.

Part of the issue now is we have a mismatch in many of the jobs that are available that require digital skills or technical skills. We have to make sure more Americans have those skills.

The other thing truthfully, Americans need to get vaccinated. A lot of people now are afraid to go back to work. They are afraid to go back to work because we don't have COVID behind us.

So the best way to get Americans to take those jobs is to make sure people are vaccinated and feel safe.

And then finally, childcare. Millions of women dropped out of the workforce in COVID. And they have not returned to the workforce. And won't be able to until we have more high-quality affordable childcare.

There's also that provision for childcare tax credit and investments in childcare and home care in the reconciliation package.

So it all goes together.

CABRERA: I hear you.

Thank you so much, Secretary Gina Raimondo, for joining us today.

RAIMONDO: Thank you.

CABRERA: Again, we should be hearing from the president any moment. We'll continue to monitor that and bring it live.

Four strikes and she's still not out. Twitter suspending Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's account again for violating its misleading information policy. When is enough enough?


[13:53:17] CABRERA: Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has again been temporarily suspended from Twitter for spreading COVID misinformation. Last time, it was 12 hours. This time she's banned for a week.

But the tweet in question gets to stay up, albeit, with a label that it may be misleading.

CNN chief media correspondent and host or anchor of "RELIABLE SOURCES," brain Stelter, joins us.

This is not a one, two, three strikes you're out. This is her fourth infraction. Why is she allowed to continue spreading misinformation?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": You got it. There are five strikes on the Twitter platform. She is up to number four with COVID misinformation.

Every time she does it, every time Twitter takes action, they suspend her for a longer period of time. Now she is timed out for a week and eventually will become more severe.

To your question, why is it acceptable at all, it is because Twitter is trying to balance the needs and expectations of its users to find accurate information and not be lied to.

And not see dangerous information with pressure from right wingers like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who say they should have unencumbered access and say whatever they want on the platform.

It is ultimately a private platform. Twitter can do whatever it wants. But every time it takes the action, it invites a backlash from the likes of MTG.

CABRERA: Also on the misinformation account and accountability, Dominion Voting Systems is suing far-right networks over their false claims on the election front. Give us the details.

STELTER: I think the theory here is the only way a company can try to clean up a mess others made with their reputation, the only way to clean it up is through the courts, and that's what Dominion is doing, as is Smartmatic.


This follows Dominion suing FOX. Now they've sued all of the right- wing networks for pushing the Big Lie theory last winter.

Here is part of what Dominion said in a statement:

"OAN and Mike Lindell disregarded the truth and they say they made the conscious decision to manufacture and spread the fantastical lie that Dominion stole the election from Trump."

I think it is notable they're calling out Mike Lindell as well. He is facing lawsuits. And yet he is out there today as we speak holding a big event claiming

he has the proof of election fraud, claiming Trump will get back into office.

We are living in a world that -- where there are a lot of sane people looking at something simply insane happening, pushing the Big Lie nine months at this point.

I think if you are a company like Dominion, the only thing you can do to deal with the insanity is actually go to court. Whether they will win, whether they will prevail with the defamation lawsuits, time will tell.

It might take years to find out. But clearly the companies, they have to be aggressive in defending the truth.

CABRERA: Brian Stelter, good to have you with us. Thank you for being with us on this busy news day on a Tuesday.

I will see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 eastern. In the meantime, don't forget to follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

The news continues next with Victor Blackwell.