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Florida Now The Epicenter Of Latest COVID Surge; Variant Surge, Vaccine Hesitancy Stalling Pandemic Recovery; Bob Costas On U.S. Division Over COVID-19 Vaccinations. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 26, 2021 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The news continues. Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: A moment, Anderson if you think about it, that story is so poignant.


And why? Because it was senseless.

She had no control over it. She had no choice. And now, she's gone. And her family is left to try and figure out why. And we're obsessed with why. "What happened? How could it be stopped? How do we not have it again?"

And then, here you and I are, again, on the precipice, of covering a whole new wave in the pandemic, where it's all about choice, all about our collective ability, to save ourselves from a worse fate.

How do we care so much about one situation, and then have an opposite set of feelings? I know it's complicated. But I hope people can see that. We all care about her, and her family and the others, 98. Probably go well over 100, at the end of it. And we care, and we don't want it to happen again.

And yet, here we are in the pandemic, freely, freely, something that we're calling some perverse sense of freedom, allowing ourselves to get sick. I just--


CUOMO: --I never thought I'd see this.


CUOMO: But Coop, thank you for reminding people, of the right way to remember, and for remembering what matters. Appreciate you, brother.

COOPER: Have a good night, Chris.

CUOMO: I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Listen, man, this is where I am. I couldn't wait to come back from vacation, for one reason. I got to ask you, please don't help make America sick again. We just can't make ourselves sick again.

We're all hearing about it. You and I are no different. You're hearing about people getting sick. And it's almost always the Delta variant.

And we know the big factor. You're hearing it in your own lives, your own circles. If they're vaccinated people, you're kind of like, "Oh, wow! They were vaccinated, and they got sick?" But then what? Symptomatic? Maybe. Couple bad days, right?

What about when they're not vaccinated? It's happening to people I know, people I care about. And it's bad, heavy, long-lasting symptoms, hospitalization, even death, again. This tale of two cities, the vaccinated, and the vacuous, this deep denial, it's making us sick, again. That is the fact, OK?

Now, we have our fate for the future. The story of our collective fate for the fall is being written right now. The City of St. Louis has just reinstated its mask mandate for indoor public places. I don't like that. I don't want to go back to wearing a mask. I never saw it as just like "Ah! No big deal."

It is a big deal. Not as big a deal as being sick. But why? Hospitalizations are rising so fast, they can't handle the capacity. And they won't be the last, as long as so many stay unvaccinated.

Missouri's attorney general has filed suit in an attempt to stop the St. Louis mandate, calling it "Continued government overreach." This is a farce.

Spend the time, helping people understand that there is no patriotism, in enabling a pandemic. This cannot be about feeling. It has to be about fact. There is nothing patriotic about exercising the freedom to ignore reality, if it makes you sick, if it makes people you care about sick.

We're at 50,000 cases a day again, more than four times the rate of a month ago. Why? One reason. The Delta variant exploding, especially among the unvaccinated.

This is not about government overreach, and you being forced. Nobody in the free media wants to see any American being forced to do anything that is arguably bad for them, or not, at their volition.

This is about the freedom to make a bad choice. But people are encouraging you to make a bad choice. Why?

Look, again? I know you say it to me. You say it to me in the street. You say it to me online. "Oh, yes? If a vaccine is so great, why are people, who got it, getting sick?" Because it's not perfect. They told us all along it wasn't perfect. They told us all along that the variant was going to be a problem.

The reason you still get vaccinated, the reason I got vaccinated, even though I heard all of these stories about how lousy I might feel, because of someone who had COVID, and I did, was to protect myself from this severity. How bad it can be? The vaccine blunts the severity, even of the


Look, masks help stop the spread, OK? We know that. But only the vaccine, only the Trump vaccine, and the Trump vaccine alone can keep you from getting very sick, if you catch COVID-19 or a variant.


Why is it that this vaccine is the only thing that Trump has told you about that you don't buy? He says "Take it." But you don't take it.

Now, let's be fair for a second, how we got here. Let's go back.

Do you remember when word first came from Trump, about Operation Warp Speed, and that they were going to vaccine faster than ever, and it was going to be magic, and everything was going to disappear?

Who had doubts? Well, everybody, right? Now, on the Right, they shut up. Why? Because they're in fealty to Trump. They're quiet. They're scared.

Not the Left. The Left had doubts. "I don't know that people are going to want to take it. I don't know that I trust him. I don't know. This is new vaccine. We're going to believe this buffoon and take it?" They had the misgivings.

Why? Trump's a liar. He had lied about so much. He was a proven problem, in the pandemic. He called it a hoax. He lied to us. But then what? Facts replace feelings. The Left had to see that as millions of millions got it, the virus stopped spreading, almost completely.

The media tried its damnedest. Remember, all kinds of potential vaccine issues, remember? None wound up being seen as real factors for side effects, in the data, as far as they've told us.

So, we know it is safe. We're not in the feeling stage anymore. We know it crushes the virus, and even holds up with the variant. And yet, now it is the Right that doesn't want it, even though it comes from Trump. Why not?

How can it be that not even 50 percent of us are fully vaccinated in this country? I couldn't believe it. I literally had to check that. I thought we were closer to 70 percent. But yes, when you include everyone, meaning also the kids, who can't get the vaccine yet, under 12, we're below 50 percent fully vaccinated.

The world is desperate for what we have, complete access to here in this country. And only America, supposedly the greatest, supposedly the greatest, is making herself, sick?

When you look at just the adults, OK, not the kids, we're only at about six in 10, fully vaccinated. Now, unless you have an immunity issue, there is no patriotism in proving you can get sick, and make others sick. Again, doesn't it mean something to you that countries we look to, in Europe, other developed real democracies, are dying to get access to what we have, in abundance? And that there are so many of us who are choosing just not to take it to make some point? What point? When have so many of us, willingly wanted to be weak and force hard times?

Here's a good example of how nuts things are right now. There's this snow leopard, OK? Tested positive, for COVID 19, at the San Diego Zoo. Sad! His name is Ramil. He's 9-years-old.

He hadn't been vaccinated, yet, like some of the other animals, why? It's experimental. They made choices. Maybe his age, I don't know. Why am I telling you this? Because the internet is filled with people feeling bad for the leopard, yet so many are choosing his fate, on purpose.

That's not how he lost his eye, by the way.

But don't be a snow leopard. He didn't have a choice to go get vaccinated. You do.

So, why aren't we getting it? Tricky! Tricky! Why? I don't think it does any help, to shame people. I'm worried for us, for all of us, because if you don't get it, you're going to make other people sick.

My kids' not going to be back in school in the phone. And I'm worried man. My kids did not do well, not being in school. They're not that type of kid, you know?

I have one of the only 15-year-old boys in this country, who wants to redo a year of school. Think about that! And it's not because he's like a hockey player or something like that, and he's looking for another year of eligibility.

This is bad. People in my family have been sick. I was sick. I can't believe that we're going to willingly go this way again, when we have something that it can keep us from it. I just can't believe it. I can't believe it.

And it's not about shaming you. I don't want you to feel forced. And yet there is shame in this. And there are people, basically forcing you to think forgoing the vaccine, is you being free. And that's a false choice.

People like Crenshaw, Paul, Cruz, Ron Johnson, they are punking you. "This is a question of freedom. Don't let the government tell you what to do." So, getting it, or not getting, are equal propositions to them?


Let's test that. How many of them have decided to be free, to get sick? Oh, right! Almost 100 of the Trumpers in Congress won't tell you, nearly half of House Republicans still won't say publicly, whether they've been vaccinated. Now, look, you don't have to get it, OK? But I want to know why you

don't. And I want to know why you would not want other people to get something that you know works, unless you have some kind of clinical understanding that I don't.

Because the idea that it's just about choice and volition, about something that is a difference between whether or not you get sick, and changes your life, and compromises other people, or not, and you have no good reason, to say that it's an equal proposition, then why would you suggest it that way?

So look, here's the good news. We don't need to shame. You know why? You don't have to go bad on one of your own, if you're in the Team Politics game. You don't have to go bad on Trump.

You don't have to go bad on Trumpers, because those who wrongly told you to resist are now changing their tune. Steve Scalise, the Minority Whip, just announced he finally got his first shot, this week, and he's encouraging others to do the same.

Be clear. Some people did not actively disrespect the vaccine and say "Don't take it." But they do sit silently, while others do just that. And that's just as bad when you're in power.

Trump's former press secretary Sarah Sanders, no greater enabler of Trump's lies than she, but now she's pushing the "Trump vaccine." "Take the Trump vaccine."

The Left jumps on her. "Why are you calling it the Trump vaccine?" Hey, easy! I don't care what they call it. Trump did bring it to us. He started Operation Warp Speed. He forced it. He wanted it. He put the money at it. Good! "Trump vaccine! Trump vaccine! Trump vaccine!" Great! Great!

Even Trump is coming closer to pushing the truth, the way he does, lies about the election. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How about the vaccine? I came up with the vaccine. I recommend you take it, but I also believe in your freedoms, a 100 percent.


CUOMO: Now, this is the part I don't get, OK? I still don't understand why he doesn't push this vaccine, like everything, except what I keep being offered up as an answer, which I don't want to accept, just to see him, as a human being, which is, is nothing in it for him.

It doesn't help him for America to do great and get away from the vaccine right now. If it were on his watch, it'd be one thing. But he blew that. I have a hard time accepting that. I don't want to. I don't like to think that way about people.

But this freedom thing, where is the freedom issue? "Don't force me to take it, man!" Who's forcing you? "Well, but there's talk about they're going to force."

Hey, private companies can do what they want. You can't wear, you know, they say "No shirt, no shoes," the vaccine falls into it. You don't have to go in there, and they don't have to want you in there, OK?

Now, but think about why there's talk, about having to make it more and more insistent for people? Because you're making yourself and others sick. This isn't making you get a tattoo! Think about what's happening here. Somebody is suggesting it's OK if you don't want something that they are taking ASAP? So you're leaving that part out.

Trump says "I'm all about your freedoms." Oh, yes? If the "Freedom is so important," did he make the choice of freedom to not take it? He took it ASAP. He had it for his whole family. How come none of them wanted to be "Free?" Remember, any of them talking this, "I'm free to be stupid" that they're selling to you?

Now, another point, "Don't trust Cuomo! Don't trust any of them!" What's my motive? What's my bad motive for wanting you to take the vaccine? Is my last name, "Pfizer?" They're not even part of Operation Warp Speed, by the way.

What? Why? What? Why would I want you to take a vaccine, or not take a vaccine, except for the obvious reason, which is, I don't want you to get sick, OK?

I know people are telling you "Well, Cuomo, you know, he lied. He was never sick." Look? That's a sickness all its own, OK? And it's not the truth. And they know it.

See, that's what bothers me about this. Who cares what they say about me? I don't care about that. I'll be the judge of who I am, and who I am not, and I trust the people around me to know the same.

But I almost wish they were right, because they know they're wrong. They know they're lying. But I didn't want to get sick. I don't still want to have long-haul symptoms. I'm not who I was before. And I hate it.

I don't like hearing from people, who reach out to me, from all over the country, all over the world, with these stories of struggle, and whether I can connect them to somebody, who can help, because they can't do this, they can't do that, and they haven't been able to get this back, and that's - all these new problems, losing their old abilities, losing loved ones, I just don't want you to be one of them.


I don't want any more of it. I don't want to cover this. I don't want this to be the sum total of our collective fate in this country. And I'm telling you, this is where we're headed. This is where we're headed.

Look at these three states right now, as a kind of a test tube for the rest of us. Missouri, Texas, Florida. I don't give a damn if they're red, or blue, or purple, OK? I'm not about Left and Right. We got to be reasonable, OK? The counties with the highest case rates have significantly lower vaccination rates than other areas. You know it's not a coincidence.

Look, I heard the stories too. I had my friends and people wanting to go down to Florida. "It's great in Florida, man! There are no masks! It's like there's no COVID!" 67 counties in Florida now listed as having high levels of community transmission.

"You don't like DeSantis!" I don't know DeSantis. I invite him on the show all the time to make the case for this. I wish him and his family well, like every other human being. And I hope that he does the right thing by his people.

Tell me why cases there have more than tripled in the last two weeks. Why is Florida the epicenter of the pandemic right now? They have got money. They have got means. They have got leadership.

Where is DeSantis on this? Where is he with his "Don't Fauci Florida!" How'd that work out? Why do we keep hearing about the cases in that state from the CDC, and not from him, and other state officials, daily? Why report weekly?

This is the reality. And I don't care about the politics. The only politics here that can matter is what gets us to a better place. And it's got to be about conversations.

I know how you feel. "I don't want to hear from any Trump people. I don't want to have them on. Don't give them a platform to lie." I don't give anybody a platform to lie, all right? We will test people on this show, and we always have, as well or better than any other. That's what we do. And it's never been needed more than now.

But I'm not going to close off conversation. I'm not going to quit on people because of their political stripe. This is about all of us, or it's about none of us. And I hope you get that.

Let's take a break. When we come back, Congressman Byron Donalds. He's a leader in Florida, OK? I want to talk to him about the situation. I want to talk to him about what's keeping us back. Next.








(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: All right, we know what's happening in the country. We know the Delta variant is doing exactly what we were afraid it was going to do, especially if we didn't get vaccinated, which we haven't, in a way that is protecting us. Not enough, not even close. And one of the great test cases for that is Florida. The way Florida goes, most of this country may follow.

Let's bring in Republican Congressman Byron Donalds.

It's good to see you. How's your family?

REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): They're doing great. It's good to see you.

CUOMO: Good. Problems down there with the variant, is there a reason for it, in your mind that is different from the obvious?

DONALDS: Well, look, what we've seen is that the Delta variant is a little bit more contagious than the original strain.

But you have to remember, 85 percent of our senior citizens are fully vaccinated, in Florida. It was a priority of the governor, Governor DeSantis, and of our state government, to make sure that senior citizens had all the access necessary, to get vaccinated. That has occurred at 85 percent clip. It starts to drop off, as you start going into younger ages.

And I think it's also important to understand, Chris, that when you look at different groups that are not getting vaccinated, Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, are getting vaccinated at lower rates--

CUOMO: True.

DONALDS: --than White Americans and Asian Americans. So, I think it's something - it's important to understand that you have a - you have an ethnic component to this, unfortunately.

But you also have to understand that the age component, which is the most important thing, that senior citizens in Florida, by and large, have been vaccinated, and have full access to getting vaccines.

CUOMO: But you know that's not the end of the story. Look, I get why you say it. It's certainly important from a lethality standpoint. Nobody is as vulnerable to die as the elderly. So, good. But you know that's not the full story.

And there is a politicizing of this. Yes, you're right. Certain ethnic minorities don't. Why? You have access. And you also have generations of distrust for different reasons about what's happened, with the government play in their lives before, true or not true.

But I'm talking about something else. The reason has to be, part of the reason that you're seeing what you're seeing in Florida is because of vaccine hesitancy. And an aspect of vaccine hesitancy is politics, especially in your state. "Don't Fauci Florida," we all know that was about. Do you feel responsible for spreading a message, where "I'm not going

to take it, because I don't care what Biden wants. Byron Donalds is not going to take it because he doesn't care what Biden wants."

You think that's a good message for people to hear?

DONALDS: Well, the first thing is my message was never about Joe Biden. My message is about me and my own personal health. I'm 42- years-old. I had COVID already.

CUOMO: "I'm not getting vaccinated because I don't want to."

DONALDS: Hold on, Chris. Let me finish. Let me finish. Don't--

CUOMO: Hold on, no, no, I want to read your words.

DONALDS: I didn't cut - I didn't cut you off.

CUOMO: I want to read your words.

DONALDS: Don't cut me off. I just - well don't cut me on it.

CUOMO: Byron, I - yes, I know. You don't get to cut me off. It's my show.

DONALDS: Go ahead.

CUOMO: But just listen. "It has nothing to do with what Joe Biden wants."

DONALDS: You cut me off. But I'm just going to continue. But go ahead.

CUOMO: "It has nothing to do with what Joe Biden wants."

Funny, I never brought him up, when I was deciding whether or not to get vaccinated. Why did you?

DONALDS: A reporter asked me on a news show. And I said it has nothing to do with what he wants. I chose not to get vaccinated because I chose not to get vaccinated.

I already had COVID-19 once. I'm 42-years-old. I'm in very good health. I actually get check-ups regularly, and do all those things. That's a personal decision for myself.

Members of my family, my wife, my three kids, they've all had COVID. They're not getting vaccinated. They are all healthy. That is a decision they've chosen to make.

CUOMO: You ask your doctor?

DONALDS: The key thing for everybody to understand is this. Hold on. Here's the key thing you need to understand.

If people in the United States are concerned about contracting, and being hospitalized, and dying, of course, from COVID-19, please go get vaccinated. I will never tell you not to get vaccinated.


What I'm saying is I made a decision not to get vaccinated. And it doesn't matter if it's you, or Joe Biden, or anybody else, that's going to stress, or want me to get it, I'm not doing it.

CUOMO: Yes. But you're making it sound--

DONALDS: Because I made that decision.

CUOMO: I know. But that - just because you--

DONALDS: As a free person.

CUOMO: Hold on, hold on, Byron? That doesn't make you just a free person, all right? Freedom isn't just defined as the "Bold and ability to be strong and wrong." It's about doing the right thing, the best thing.

You say, "If people are worried about getting sick, or dying, then they should get vaccinated." What about if people are worried about giving COVID-19, or a variant, to others, which you very well could do? You could be doing it right now, and not know. Doesn't that matter?

DONALDS: But you just said that people, who have actually gotten vaccinated, and may have picked up the variant, that the actual symptoms are very, very mild, if any exists at all.

There was a member of Congress, just came back, he tested positive, and he actually had been vaccinated earlier this year.

CUOMO: Yes. That's why it's not severe.

DONALDS: He's back and he's fine. Talked to him earlier today.

CUOMO: Because he was vaccinated.

DONALDS: But - hold on a second.

CUOMO: Because he was vaccinated, Byron.

DONALDS: But - hold on. Well let me make my point.

CUOMO: You just made my point.

DONALDS: But you're making--

CUOMO: That is the point.

DONALDS: But you make the wrong point.

CUOMO: What is it?

DONALDS: You are making the point that everybody has to get vaccinated, in order to protect - to protect everybody.

What I am saying is, is that if Americans want to get vaccinated, if they want to be protected from COVID-19, whether it's the Delta variant, or the new Lambda variant that's coming through our Southern border, as we speak, if you want to get protected from that, go get the vaccine. I fully promote you doing that.

CUOMO: But if you don't get it, then other people are vulnerable to you.

DONALDS: But at the same time, if there are Americans who don't want to get it--

CUOMO: Listen?

DONALDS: --they shouldn't be forced to do so.

CUOMO: Nobody - but see, that's the thing. It's a false choice. This isn't about "You won't force me."

DONALDS: It's not a false choice.

CUOMO: It is. It is.

DONALDS: That's actually the accurate choice, Chris.

CUOMO: It's not an accurate choice.

DONALDS: It's not false. It's not false at all.

CUOMO: Nobody is forcing anybody. You're trying to push it to where people have to be forced. And you're seeing it as a position of strength and advantage.

DONALDS: Oh, no!

CUOMO: You--

DONALDS: You're the one that's pushing it, not me. I'm not trying to push it.

CUOMO: Well, there's no question that you're not pushing the vaccine.

DONALDS: Am I trying to push it?

CUOMO: Everybody should know that about you, Byron Donald. You are not telling people to get vaccinated. You are not pushing it. You are not saying it's the right choice. You're saying you're not doing it, and your family's not doing it.


CUOMO: And you're leaving out of the equation that you can make other people sick, as if that doesn't matter, OK?

DONALDS: Chris, did you not just hear my answer, 30 seconds ago, where I said, "If you want to be protected from these variants, and the original strain, please go get vaccinated."

CUOMO: What about protect other people?

DONALDS: "I promote you to do that."

I just told you, live, on your own show, that "If you want to get vaccinated America, go do it." But if there are Americans, like myself, who choose not to, please don't berate me for doing that. It is a personal choice, I have made--

CUOMO: It's - see? No.

DONALDS: --with my own health care. I'm allowed to do that.

CUOMO: Here's the thing, Byron.

DONALDS: I'm entitled to do that.

CUOMO: You're absolutely right to do it. You have a right to do it. Two different statements, OK?

Do you have the right? Of course, nobody's debating that except you guys as a false choice.

What I'm saying is, is it right to do it? Have you spoken to a doctor? You're supposed to be a leader. Have you talked to the CDC, and the people, who are in Florida, at the Department of Health, about whether or not they think you made a good choice?

Because if your answer is just then "Well, I don't care what they say. This is me. I'm an American," that is being dumb, as a proxy for being bold. And I don't think it's a good message.


CUOMO: Because remember, it's not just you protecting yourself.

DONALDS: Well let me - let me say this.

CUOMO: It's you protecting me, and other people, from you. That's why you get vaccinated, not just for yourself. Important distinction. Go ahead.

DONALDS: Actually, the way vaccines work are to protect yourself. A vaccine basically gives you a special cocoon, where you actually limit the worst harmful effects of the virus itself, or may not get it all together, depending on your own personal physiology. So that's the way vaccines work.

Now, to me, personally, I did talk to a couple of doctors that I know about it. I told them, "I already had it. And I'm 42. What do you think?" And they said, "Yes, you're fine."

CUOMO: Hell no!

DONALDS: "If that's what you want to do, go ahead and do it." They didn't come and say "No, no, you have to do it, because of

everybody else," because if other people want to be protected, they have access to vaccines. Go get the vaccine. I would never tell anybody not to get vaccinated.

CUOMO: People--

DONALDS: I do totally support it, if that's what somebody chooses to do.

CUOMO: Listen? Byron, I'm with you.

DONALDS: I don't know why this is hard. It's that simple.

CUOMO: Oh, listen? I totally agree with you. It is very simple. I think you're making it hard. Because you're seeing some kind of righteousness in a choice to do something that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But again, that's your right.

What I'm saying is something else. You're wrong about how vaccines work. You're only giving part of the prophylaxis, OK?

The other aspect to why you take the vaccine is it also reduces, not completely, nothing is perfect, and certainly this vaccine is not, but it also reduces your ability, to communicate the virus, and make other people infected. That part matters too.

Listen, brother? I'll tell you the same thing, every time I talk to you. I wish you well, and I respect you as a leader. I hope you don't get sick again. And I hope your family does not as well. I would never want anything else for you. God bless you, your wife and your kids.

I'm just saying the numbers are going up, down in Florida for a reason. They're going up, down there, for a reason. And it's not just because of the randomness of the variant. Otherwise, you guys wouldn't be getting hit worse. That's all.


You're always welcome here. I know I interrupt a little bit. I'm passionate. And I'm scared. I'm worried about this. But Congressman, I respect you coming on the show.

DONALDS: Aye! Of course, anytime! Be safe.

CUOMO: All right, be well and be safe.

So look, you have to have the conversation, OK? You have to have the conversation. He has a right not to get vaccinated. But does that make it right, especially for a leader? That's the discussion.

I don't have animus towards him. It doesn't help anything. I wish him well. And I want his constituents to benefit from good leadership. And I'm going to test it, here on this show. That's it.

So, what are the real obstacles? Here's one that I keep harping on. And people keep telling me it doesn't matter. But I keep hearing it from people all over this country. "If the vaccine is safe, why isn't it approved by the FDA?"

"Oh, they're just dotting the I's, crossing the T's" Tony Fauci meant - Fauci told me. Well, how bad is their handwriting? Why is it taking so long?

Let's ask a former FDA commissioner, under Trump. How important is it to get it approved? How big a deal is that in hesitancy? And what does he make of the conversation I just had? Next.








CUOMO: Freedom of choice, of course. But what about when that choice starts creating freedom from choice, for you, which is that you get sick, because you're not vaccinated, or you make someone you care about, sick?


Let's discuss the realities. Dr. Stephen Hahn, former FDA commissioner, under President Trump.

It's good to have you sir.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you, Chris. Really appreciate the opportunity.

CUOMO: So, rebut the presumption.

"Hey, I talked to a couple of doctors. They said, "You don't want to get it, don't get it." And that's my choice. And that's the end of it."

What do you think of that decision?

HAHN: So, what I think is that we should all be, who are eligible, getting the vaccine, I think we have plenty of data to show that it's safe and effective.

And I think there's a missing point here. Certainly, the data suggests that you could have a breakthrough infection with one of the variants. That's true. But the disease tends to be mild. So, prevent severe disease and hospitalization. And as you've said, multiple times, nothing's perfect. But the key

here is transmissibility. And what we've seen with these variants - what we've seen with them is that there's an increased risk of transmission.

And if we're going to put this behind us, if we're going to get beyond this, if we're no longer going to have mandates about masks, we're going to go see a major league baseball game, and the Super Bowl, et cetera, we have to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

CUOMO: Now, vaccine helps me, also helps me not communicate the virus to others, at the same virulence, the same strength. Yes? You're nodding, yes.

What does it mean that a congressmember from Florida doesn't know that?

He just, he thought we were in a tit for tat, right? And he says, "Oh, that's not how a vaccine works. Vaccine protects you, creates a cocoon." And I had to tell him, "No, it does that. And it mitigates your ability to communicate it to others. It's another reason to get it."

If he doesn't know that, are we doing something wrong with the messaging?

HAHN: Yes, Chris, I think this is something that's relatively - it's discussed relatively uncommonly.

And I think, when you brought that up, and when we see this in the literature, it's very important for us to emphasize. Because, at the end of the day, what we want to do is stop the transmission.

How do we get variants? We get variants, because the virus gets into someone, who is not protected, it undergoes mutation, and then it spreads to a different, you know, additional people.

And so, what we need to have done, in order to prevent the variants, from escaping, and prevent the transmission, is to have more people vaccinated. It really is that straightforward. But we need to continue to communicate that.

I think this is a decision between a patient and a doctor. And we need to make sure that the appropriate education is there.

CUOMO: And I can't believe that there are a lot of doctors are going to tell people "Don't get vaccinated. It's fine. You'll be fine. If you already had COVID, don't worry about it. You don't need it." I haven't heard any doctor tell me that.

And, by the way, I was in no hurry--

HAHN: Yes, I think--

CUOMO: --to get the vaccine because I kept hearing that people like me would had symptoms with a case that you may really feel it when you get it. And I did. But I got it anyway.

My last question for you is this. You're not a politician. But you were a member of an administration.

Without question, it - isn't members of the Trump-loyalist fringe, where they are saying things, where they are basically punking people that getting vaccinated is somehow surrendering your individual right?

"The Left doesn't believe in individual responsibility. They don't believe in individual choice. The government doesn't decide who gets vaccinated. You do. You're not my parents. You're the government." Is that helpful?

HAHN: I think if you look back, on the history of this vaccine, and its development, there has been the insertion of politics, from the beginning. And you actually very well outlined that, in your initial statement. So, we're just seeing that continue now.

It is not helpful to encourage people to avoid vaccination. We must be encouraging them to be vaccinated. The data are clear. The data continue to emerge. The vaccine is effective. And it does appear to be safe.

CUOMO: Now, last thing, and then I got to let you go. Am I right, that if the FDA vaccine - if the FDA were to approve this vaccine, it would make a difference for people?

HAHN: Yes, I think it would. The FDA stamp of approval. The gold standard.

CUOMO: And is that a distinction with a difference? Or do you already know that it's good enough now and it doesn't need approval?

HAHN: Oh, I think the data are with the FDA. They're probably having a give-and-take with the companies about it. And they'll do a great job of looking at those data. We depend upon them to do that thoroughly. And that's what they're doing now. I think it will make a difference.

CUOMO: Dr. Stephen Hahn, appreciate you. Come again.

HAHN: Thanks, Chris. You bet!

CUOMO: Let's look at the numbers. Why is Florida the epicenter of the crisis? The Wizard of Odds, next.








CUOMO: Look, there's a lot that we know now, when it comes to COVID, right? But it's the Delta strain that we really need to focus on, because it's more than was expected. 83 percent of new U.S. cases is the variant, OK?

We know the where. We know the why. OK? And we have to look closer at it. And you have to look at the Southeast, OK? The real question is what are we going to do about it? And that power is within us. You talk about freedom of choice. The freedom of the choice, is to do the right thing, to keep yourselves, safe.

Harry Enten? Let's go through it real fast. States with the most newly - new weekly cases, what do we say?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: So, this is interesting, right? You're talking about the Southeast. We got Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, all with the exception of Florida have been in the bottom half of vaccinations rank, versus the rest of the states.

But look it in the last week. Look at this. Arkansas, second, Louisiana, third, Florida, fifth, Missouri, fourth, Mississippi, ninth. Folks are scared. And when they're scared, all of a sudden, folks who are perhaps hesitant, to get the vaccine have gone out, in much higher numbers, than the rest of nation to go get them.

CUOMO: States with most new weekly cases. So, do we know that these people are going out more now to get vaccinated?

ENTEN: That's exactly what this - what these numbers are showing is that in these states, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, they are making up a larger share of those getting vaccinated than they used to. They're all in the top 10 now. Before, only Florida was even in the top 25.

CUOMO: Go deeper into Florida. Florida has every reason to be successful, right? It's got the money. It's got the means. It's got lots of points of ingress and egress. It's got medical care. What's going on there, and why?


ENTEN: Yes, I mean, look, Coronavirus in Florida, average new daily cases, weekly, look at that, the week average, over 10,000, new hospitalizations, up daily, 358 on the average, deaths, 40 averaging per day, over the last week.

Look at these weekly changes, all way up, deaths up 22 percent, week- over-week, 83 percent of hospitalizations, 61 percent up on cases, why? I think it's a few things.

One, as you point out, the Delta variant, very, very big there. Two, there is a bit of seasonality to this. So, if you can compare the map, from last year, to this year, you do see some similarities. So, I wouldn't dismiss that either.

But there is no doubt, if these states were perhaps better-vaccinated, including Florida, we would expect these numbers to be lower.

CUOMO: The variant, the best data shows that the vaccines work against it as well. How so?

ENTEN: Yes, look, I would be very cautious in understanding that there still is not that much data in on Delta. But the best data that we have was actually from a Houston, Texas study that was taking place, from March 15th to July 3rd.

And what we know is against all the other variants, look at that, of the cases that were coming in, 94 percent were among the non-fully vaccinated. Against Delta, it's not nearly as strong. But look at that. Still 80 percent were among the non-fully vaccinated. Just 20 percent were among the fully vaccinated.

So, if there's one thing that you should take away from this, from all the data that we see is, yes, the vaccines probably don't work as well, against the Delta variant, than against the others, but they still do work. And they especially work, on the severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and death.

So, if there's anyone out there, in the audience, I implore you. Go out there. Get vaccinated, because the vaccines do work even against Delta. You may save your life in doing so.

CUOMO: And remember, something we learned that may not be that obvious, the vaccine keeps you from getting sick, hopefully, nothing is perfect, but it also mitigates or reduces your ability to get somebody else sick. OK? It's you still can, but it reduces the chances. It's another reason to get it.

ENTEN: Yes. I just - just in closing, I would say there are kids who are under the age of 12, right now, who cannot go get those vaccines.

And you could protect their lives. And there are immunocompromised folks, who also, giving them that extra protection that you can't pass it on to them potentially.

Go out there. Get vaccinated, for your community and for yourself as well.

CUOMO: And yes, kids are getting sick, not the way the rest of us are. But it's happening.

Wiz, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: All right, now look, well, why talk about it this way? Why so agitated? I'm worried. And we got to be on the same team. What unites us has to be stronger than what divides us. I don't know that that's true anymore.

But I'm bringing in a better mind to discuss just that, Bob Costas. Not only does he understand what's happening with Team USA, in the Olympics, of course, of course, but as a student, of our society, and what is happening, and why. There's none better. Next.









CUOMO: We are so divided. Remember the old shtick? "How divided are we?"

We're so divided, that taking a vaccine that we know protects your health, protects the health of people around you, is somehow political, a signal of what side you're on. We're not on the same side anymore, are we? Isn't that sad? We're literally making ourselves sick.

So traditionally, this was a great time of year, every few years. Why? The Olympics, national unifier, America, right? How is it now?

Let's bring in Bob Costas. Needs no introduction, but certainly always--


CUOMO: --always a welcome addition.

COSTAS: This is kind of strange for me. This is the first time, since 1984, that I have not been at a Summer Olympics.

On Friday night, I was at Fenway Park, calling a baseball game. Here I am with you, perfectly comfortable with it, because a dozen Olympics is enough.

People ask me, "Do you miss it?" No, I'm very glad I did it. And it was time to step aside. And NBC will be fine without me. But it is kind of odd.

CUOMO: They'll be fine. It's not the same. But, and look, if you know one thing about me, right? You know, if I'm saying it, I mean it.

COSTAS: Oh, I know that. CUOMO: And I'd be happy to say "Yes, they are fine. Let's move on."

COSTAS: I know that.

CUOMO: The idea of what they mean this year, what is your read on what the Olympics mean, and Team USA means?

COSTAS: My sense is that people are still interested in it. It will still win the ratings overall. We'll still win each night. We'll get massive numbers relative to what broadcast TV generally gets now.

But it won't be fair to compare it to the last Summer Olympics, in Rio, or probably the next one in Paris, when who knows what they'll invent, in terms of streaming and whatever. So, you got to cobble together all the various entities, from which NBC is drawing audience, to be fair to them.

But no matter how you do it, it'll be down, because people's habits have changed, during the pandemic, their viewing habits, in general, plus much of what brings them to the Olympics, through no fault of the athletes, through no fault of NBC.

The panorama of it, the pageantry of it, the emotion of it, the energy of fans in the stands, that's missing. And that's not anyone's fault. It's the Pandemic's fault. And if you want to blame the IOC for pushing ahead, and not postponing - postponing it again, you can do that.

CUOMO: I was desperate for something to come out of the Olympics to make us realize that there's something bigger than ourselves, you know?

COSTAS: It could be.

CUOMO: Than these individual petty things.

COSTAS: It's certainly--

CUOMO: It couldn't be our basketball team. That's for sure.

COSTAS: Yes. Well, as Gregg Popovich said, "The world has caught up with us." A lot of the best players in the NBA are not American-born players.

And while everyone reveled in the Dream Team, myself, included, in Barcelona, in '92, David Stern was a visionary. Part of it wasn't just "Hey, we'll put Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson, and all the rest, on the same team. We'll beat everybody by 40 points." It was to further globalize the game.


And the most globalized of our games is the NBA, no question about it. And so, the rest of the world is catching up. We still, if at full strength, we would still be the favorites. But the gap is smaller. And this year, the NBA in effect played a season and a half, because

2020 blended into 2021. They finished in the bubble. They turned right around. A lot of these players are pretty much exhausted.

And instead of the finals, ending in June, they ended in July, butted right up against the Olympics, some of the players arrived like only three days before the games began. They haven't had time to practice together, not an excuse, just an observation.

CUOMO: From Dream Team to Dream Deferred!

Now, you heard the conversation I had with the Florida congressman, who needed to be corrected about how vaccines work.


CUOMO: "Listen? I'm healthy. I had it. I don't need it. That's my choice. I don't care what Biden says. I don't care what the government says."


CUOMO: We hear this refrain again and again. Net effect?

COSTAS: Well, look, we're in an area, that is not a matter of opinion. This is a matter it should not be viewed as liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. This is a matter of facts versus denial of facts, flat-out ignorance.

It would not be possible a generation or so ago, when you didn't have so many places to go, to have whatever you want to believe ratified, or to stumble onto misinformation. There are people online, who are specializing, and making a lot of money, out of dispensing this sort of misinformation.

This is not a matter of opinion. If you won't get vaccinated, unless you are in the tiny, tiny, tiny percentage of those, who have a legitimate reason not to, if you won't get vaccinated, you're wrong. Period!

When people say, "Well, it's my choice," it's your choice to drink. I'm not going to come to your house and tell you not to have a shot. But it's not your choice, or you're going to be held to account for it, to drink and drive.

Even people, who smoke three packs a day, understand they can't smoke on an airplane. They can't smoke in this restaurant.

When your choice butts up against my well-being - play your music as loud as you want, but not in a theater, where we're trying to watch the movie. These are simple concepts that somehow have been politicized here.

CUOMO: Have you ever seen America fall down on a challenge, as it has here? We have made ourselves sick as a function of deep denial. That's all

it was. We had the vaccine. We had the means to make the PPE. We had the means to make the testing. We had a president who said the pandemic was a hoax. His party bought into it.

Have you ever seen the country in this situation?

COSTAS: No. And it's not just a matter of ignorance. It's a kind of defiant ignorance. It's a badge of honor to act this way.

And you made a good point earlier in this hour. The one thing that Trump was undeniably right about, even though he won't shout it from the highest mountaintop, as he should, and demand television time, which all the networks would grant to him, to make a full and coherent statement about it, he does acknowledge that you should get vaccinated. You can call it, as you said, if it helps, the "Trump vaccine."

The one thing for sure, the most important thing that he was right about, is that. For some reason, they're not acting upon that. Meanwhile, they eat up all of his other ridiculous preposterous buffoonish lies.

CUOMO: If he only sold the truth, about the vaccine, the way he does the lie about the election!

Brother Costas?

COSTAS: Right.

CUOMO: Thank you.

COSTAS: There you have it. You've gotten me in trouble again, somewhere, some precinct, or other, I don't know.

CUOMO: The mistake was coming on the show. After that, it's all on me. Be well. Bob Costas, thank you very much.

We'll be right back with the handoff.

Got to change--