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FDA Working Toward Full Approval Of The COVID Vaccine; Florida Governor DeSantis Issues Anti-Mask Order Despite Spiking Cases; Parents Lying About Kids' Ages To Get Them Vaccine. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 05, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Tactics will even eventually succeed.

The news continues. Want to hand things over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, thank you.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME, to COVID Command Center.

The government is moving in the direction of getting us ready for booster shots. Here's what we know. The FDA says it could lay out a national strategy for vaccine booster shots sometime early next month.

Are they certain? No. Are they certain we need it? No. Why? Data and they have concerns. But the current data, which they haven't really, adjusted for the Delta variant, still very promising.

Moderna vaccine, 93 percent effective, through six months, after the second dose, Pfizer, 91 percent effective, after the same timeframe. J&J, one-dose vaccine, right, provides at least eight months of immunity. But again, these findings predate the Delta variant.

And we are now told the vaccines don't stop Delta from spreading completely. And, at this rate, because we're not getting vaccinated quickly enough, we may need to extend our fight against the pandemic, which means extending our protection, which means we may need to do something, to enhance our vaccines.

Now, yes, you're hearing me say "May, may, could, what, when, potential," that's the way they speak, OK? They're analyzing data. They don't know things for sure. They are learning in real-time. That does create hesitancy and confusion.

And their messaging is not the greatest. And the biggest reason why, and I hope they're hearing me, you don't go out enough. You need to have these conversations every day or every other day. And you need consistency, in who is giving us the messaging.

You want it to be the President? Fine. You want it to be FDA? Fine. CDC? Fine. Some combination, Fauci, NIH? Fine. But you need to have people out, on message, on a regular basis. And we need it right now, because we are getting worse with cases.

We've crossed the 100,000 mark in cases again. The CDC Director just told CNN cases could soar to several hundred thousand a day, because of too many unvaccinated. How long? We don't know.

The good news is we are making progress on the vaccine front. This we do know. More than 864,000 shots went into arms, in this country, in the last 24 hours, including approximately 585,000 first vaccinations. The White House says this is the highest daily rate, since July 3.

But we need it to be maintained and really enhanced. Why? Because otherwise, it's going to take us until around February, to have everybody vaccinated the way we need. It's too long. We're going to lose too many people. There are going to be too many hospitalized people. School is going to get screwed up. We got to go faster.

Or, we have to marry our vaccination efforts with a really stringent mitigation. That takes us to masks and distancing issues that none of you want to deal with.

Good news again, states with the highest COVID case rates? That's where we're seeing vaccine at the best paces, not seen since April, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma, Mississippi. But again, you got to go faster. And why aren't we going faster?

One of the biggest impediments to progress is seen in new numbers that we're going to go through tonight that show really exactly why. You want to know why the Delta variant is spreading, like it is, and it may not get better anytime soon?

Your answer is not the virus. It's our virus of politics, the divide. We're fighting each other, so we're not fighting the virus. The divide on everything is overwhelmingly, partisan. Vaccine, masks, mandates.

Less than 20 percent of Republicans support businesses mandating vaccinations for their employees, over 80 percent of Democrats do. The farther you go to the right, the more the resistance is.

Now, why are they so resistant? Here's your answer.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): There's no correlation between a mask mandate and reduction in incidence of the disease. And, in fact, it's the opposite. The more mandates we got, the more of the disease we got. I don't think the mask caused the disease. But I don't think the mask helped any.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): My attitude about masking or not wearing a mask, it's a - it's a sideshow. It's a subordinate issue. It's a distraction. The mask unless it's an N95, and worn properly, there's benefit, but

it's only a marginal benefit.


CUOMO: Now, that's GOP senator - all of them are GOP. You don't find Democrats speaking this way. Why? That's good question.

Now, Kennedy is from the Great State of Louisiana. They just set a new record on COVID hospitalizations.


Is he right that masks are not perfect? Of course. Vaccines aren't perfect. Masks aren't perfect. Nothing is perfect. Do we have anything better than masks? Does he have a better idea? No.

And his fellow Republican Rand Paul is also not right. Science shows there is a correlation between mask mandates, and lower rates of COVID, significant decreases in county-level daily case rates, and death rates, according to the CDC.

Here's another false argument.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): As a parent, you know, I would like that choice. I, for, particularly for young kids, many of these kids, by the way, have recovered from COVID. And so, there's really no giant scientific justification to put it on at that - at that point.


CUOMO: Here's the science. The Head of the CDC just said today, that having had COVID does not give most people long-term immunity.

Here's the reality. Florida, Governor DeSantis' state, leads the nation in hospitalized kids. There are 143 kids hospitalized right now in Florida. "143, meh, so what?" Tell their parents. Now, ironically, the governor made those remarks today, at a hospital.

Child COVID cases in America surged 84 percent last week, from the week before. Almost 72,000 kids and teens are infected and counting. Hundreds have died. Others are still experiencing long-haul symptoms.

Now, too many want to debate that, "Yes, but this, and comorbidity, and that, pre-existing condition."

Why would you want to rationalize failure when we have a path to success? Why rationalize illness, when we have a way to better health? Why would leaders, almost always from the Right, say things that are demonstrably false about the science?

Let's take it to a better mind, the former FDA Commissioner under Trump, Dr. Stephen Hahn.

You're not a politician, Doc. I don't have you here to talk politics. But I do want to put you out there rebutting the message.

DeSantis saying, "Yes, you know, kids are good. If they had COVID, they don't need masks." Kennedy "Masks, meh, they really don't make a difference." Rand Paul, "You have mandates? You get people sicker."

None of that is true, or am I wrong?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Chris, we have certain ways that we're pretty sure, based upon the science and data, are going to help us out of this.

One is vaccine, get more people vaccinated. It's safe and effective. The second is mitigation efforts. Wash your hands, social distancing, and yes, masks, when appropriate, in high-risk areas. And the third is testing, if you're sick.

It's pretty straightforward. We've been down this road before. And the same public health measures hold today.

CUOMO: Is it time for the politics to stop?

HAHN: It's been time for the politics to stop, Chris, from day one. We have to ask ourselves the question, "Why did masks become a thing? Why did vaccines become a thing? Why did therapeutics become a thing that became a divide in the country?"

Again, I'm not a politician. But to me, it's all about the science, and the data, and the medicine, and what direction is it pointing us to? So, my recommendation to people is talk to your doctor, find out what the science and data are, and follow that.

CUOMO: Now, when you talk to people, and they say, "Hey, you were in the Trump Administration. You know what they're trying to do, these guys on the Left. They're trying to control us. They're trying to take away our freedoms. They're telling us things, they're exaggerating, and it's not even that bad, Doc. And the vaccine doesn't even really work. And they just want to shut things down, have pandemic forever," what do you say?

HAHN: So, Chris, I was a cancer doctor, as you know. And people came into the office to talk to me, about their situation, with a number of different perspectives. And I never ridiculed. I never made fun. I tried to understand their perspective, and then talk through it, based upon facts and science and data.

And so, that's how I'd respond to say that it's fairly clear to me where the science and data are pointing us. And again, vaccines, mitigation efforts, testing. And I think that's how I would respond to that.

CUOMO: FDA approval of this.

Now, you'll hear people say, "You know, the work has really been done. We already know because of the Emergency Use Authorization that this works, and it's safe and effective. FDA approval is OK. And if you want the comfort, fine. But you don't really need it." I don't buy it. Do you? I think it should have happened a while ago, and I think that 50 percent of people, who are hesitant to get vaccinated, agree with me. Why haven't they gotten it done?

HAHN: So, I also agree that full approval is necessary. It's the gold standard, around the world.

But I also agree that much of the data that came in initially, for the Emergency Use Authorization, has held up. Those are good data, and they're supportive of vaccination now.


But I trust, Chris, that the FDA is putting all of its resources that it can, on this, to analyze the data. Remember, tens of thousands of pages, really important information in there. Dr. Marks, the Head of the Center that is in charge of this approval process said that he's reallocating resources.

So, I'm very confident that the great scientists, biostatisticians, physicians, at FDA, are going to come up with the right answer, and do that soon.

CUOMO: Is it unfair to say this is taking too long?

HAHN: So, Chris, you're talking to the FDA Commissioner, during the beginning of the COVID Pandemic.

CUOMO: I know

HAHN: And so, it was fair.

CUOMO: That's why I'm asking you, Doc.

HAHN: Yes, I know. It's fair to ask, why is it taking so long? I mean, because we're in a public health crisis. And so, I think it's a fair question to ask.

But I also think it's important for us to understand what goes into these decisions, why they're so important, and why FDA is considered the gold standard, around the world.

CUOMO: The CDC wasn't your bailiwick. But you understand the process. They put out a mask guidance change. They put out the data three days later. The Head of the CDC tonight seems satisfied with that. I'm not.

Why wouldn't you put out the data when you are giving us the change of guidance?

HAHN: Yes, it's a really good question. And Chris, one of the things we did at FDA, right before I left, was actually address this issue, because I think transparency around the information basing decisions, really does help the American public and American doctors, providers, et cetera.

So, I'm very much in favor of let's put the data out there, because the data are solid, and they support the decision-making. So, the sooner you can do that, make it explainable to people, repeat it multiple times, just like a doctor would do in the room, with a patient, the better it's going to be.

CUOMO: Two quick things, now and a later.

The now, the CDC Director is talking about vaccines, the booster. "I don't know that we need it. The data is good. But the data doesn't reflect Delta. And Delta is spreading so much faster. And it spreads even if you're vaccinated."

If you don't know, why not just say, "We don't know?" Why say "We're preparing to roll something out. But we don't know when. And we don't have the data. We have to have more data."

Do we need a booster or not? Do we know?

HAHN: No, we don't know. And it's OK to say that.

Chris, the analogy, doctor in the emergency room, doesn't have all the facts, going to make the best decision he can, to save someone's life. When he or she gets more facts, will revise that decision.

People understand that. They want their doctor to do that. It's the same thing here. And we should be upfront about that.

CUOMO: Now, another thing, this is the long-term. Is anybody doing anything, right now, to prepare for the next one?

PPE, the getting production of these things ourselves here, so we're relying on no one else, other vaccines, other treatments that we know may be likely? There was a movie about this, in like 2010 that nailed what we're going through right now.

Are we preparing for the next one? Do you know?

HAHN: Yes, well, we need to. And I'd tell you, that's why I'm so excited about my current role, which is at Flagship Pioneering, with an initiative called Preemptive Medicine and Health Security.

And it's all about how do you identify early? How do you not just be reactive? How do you predict? And how do you protect and maintain and improve health? How are we going to create a health shield to protect against the future and the current?

What if Chris, we could identify what the next variant of concern for COVID, SARS-CoV-2 is? Wouldn't that be great? And then act accordingly.

CUOMO: I mean, I think it'd be - look, I think, everybody always gets upset when taxes are raised, because we don't like where the money's going.

If you told us, "Hey, we want to pick five of these things that we think are the most likely, and we're going to prepare for all five of them. And this is what it's going to cost," people would give money to that. You know what I mean? That's something that's worth it.

I just, if we repeat this again, when we should have known that this one was coming, it really is going to be unforgiveable.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, thank you very much for your work.

HAHN: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: You're getting us ready for the next one, and for explaining what we're doing with this one, I appreciate you.

HAHN: You bet. All right, thank you.

CUOMO: All right, look, I just think straight-talk is a remedy on a little of this. I don't know why in government, and in media, there's so much weakness in saying, "I don't know."

Because what would you rather have? Me, tell you, "I'm not sure. I'll get back to you," or give you an answer, and then it winds up being wrong? Come on! We know which one we'd prefer. Why do we always get the one we don't prefer?

Now, the new numbers, here's what scares me most about the vaccine front? We are fighting each other. And we're not, therefore, fighting against what we have to. And it is making us sick again.

There's mandates, masks, what works and what doesn't. When you see the parting - partisan divide, I'm telling you, you can't exaggerate it.

"Wizard of Odds" break down, next.









CUOMO: The Delta threat is growing. We all know it.

A majority of Americans, 61 percent say the CDC's new guidance on masks is a good thing. Why, because the variant is thriving, and too many people are getting sick, for no good reason.

And increasingly, the reason it's happening is bad reason, political poison. A closer look at that 61 percent shows you the real problem, 91 percent Democrats, 26 percent of Republicans. So, how do we turn this pandemic around, when too many are still anti- vaccine and anti-mask, and too many leaders, on the Right, are feeding it? Do mandates help? Are they even worth it?

Harry Enten joins me now in the COVID Command Center.

The first, partisan divide, yes, or no? Prove it.


HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: My goodness gracious! Partisan divide, it's wider than the Atlantic Ocean!

Look at this, on vaccine mandates, my goodness gracious! We're talking 60-point gaps. And it doesn't, you know, you can ask about it, whether businesses should require employees or restaurants requiring customers.

But you can just see it 60-point gap with Democrats overwhelmingly in favor, Republicans overwhelmingly against, and the partisan divide is becoming bigger on this issue. It's certainly wider than the divide, on whether or not you have a vaccine or not.

And I just am very worried for the state of this country, as we go down the road, as these mandates start getting put into places, like New York, where Republican customers, who knows what might happen, this divide is huge.

CUOMO: What is the issue?

ENTEN: Here's the issue. The issue to me, in all of this, is Republicans and Democrats just see concern about the virus differently, and they see whether or not the vaccines work tremendously differently, right?

Concerned about the outbreak? Again, a majority of Democrats are concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak, 78 percent versus just 41 percent of Republicans.

Are vaccines effective at preventing death? They are. We know that. We've been through these stats, 1,000 times on this show. A majority of Democrats say "Yes," a minority of Republicans say "Yes."

So basically, what you're seeing is sort of concern about the virus, and vaccine effectiveness, are sort of supercharging these thoughts on vaccine mandates, and vaccines overall.

CUOMO: We're not the only ones that are bifurcated here, Left, Right, right? So, we asked you to take a look internationally. They have Left and Right, in a lot of different places. How do we stack up?

ENTEN: Poorly. I mean, look at this. So, this is people in the last election, whether they voted Republican, here in the States, or conservative in Canada, to the great - and Great Britain.

We looked at those folks. And we asked whether or not they have at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose? Look at this. Just 50 percent of Trump voters have at least one dose. In Canada, the people who voted conservative, last election, 69 percent.

Look at that Great Britain number, my god! 94 percent in Great Britain, in fact, what we see is the partisan split, is reversed with conservatives more likely than Labor or Liberal Democrats to get a vaccine dose.

So, when I look at numbers like that, and I look at, right now, the vaccine divide, and the divide on masks, and the divide on vaccine mandates, I say to myself, "It didn't need to be that way." And yet, it is.

And the reason it is, is because you basically have a lot of Republican leaders, out there, a lot of people in the conservative media, who are super-charging this. And I'm hopeful that some of the more reasonable voices will go out there, and say, "The vaccine is safe. The vaccine's effective. You should go out and get that vaccine."

Because we're all Americans, at the end of the day, just like they're all Great Britains over, on the other side of the Atlantic, or they're all Canadians, north of the border. And you can see they're acting as one.

And, right now, we're not acting as one. And the rise in Coronavirus rates is basically the consequence of that.

CUOMO: We're all Americans. But we're not all being reasonable. And listen to it now, and I'll say it a million times, between now and the midterms. The new voting demographic to watch will be the vaccinated. It'll be the majority of the Left, the Right, North, South, Brown, Black, White.

The majority of every measurable demo that you have will be vaccinated. And it will be them being held hostage by the rest of this country. That's going to be the group to speak to. That's going to be the group that makes things happen, and maybe that will get us past this partisan divide.

Harry Enten, "The Wiz," remember what I said. And thank you for what you told us.

ENTEN: Thank you, my friend. And you know what? We just need to get past that divide because again, we're all Americans here.

CUOMO: The vaccine maybe the unifier.


CUOMO: Florida, struggling, record hospitalizations. Why? Several reasons. But messaging does matter.

And the governor there has been baited by President Trump, and he wants to have the fight - President Trump! President Biden. Trump loved him. And, by the way, he's playing from his playbook. And it's working for him with popularity, but not for his state with the pandemic.

So, our next guest is running for Ron DeSantis' job. An interesting question, for former Florida Governor, Charlie Crist, what DeSantis is doing helps his numbers, but it's hurting the state's numbers? How do you thread that needle? Next.









CUOMO: There's no reason to hide the reality. Only problem is that people don't want to believe the reality. Here's us, this is our country, sea of red, new COVID cases every day.

Major state driving the surge? Florida. Adult, kids, hospitalizations higher than in any other state. That state's governor, that's not where he wants the attention. He wants to make this a political fight. He wants it about freedom. He wants to go after the President.

And frankly, President Biden has made it easy for him. Listen.


DESANTIS: Suggests that if you don't do lockdown policies, then you should, quote, "Get out of the way." But let me tell you this. If you're coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I'm standing in your way. I'm not going to let you get away with it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your response Mr. President?



CUOMO: Florida congressman, and former Florida governor, Charlie Crist, joins me now. He's now running for his old job, in hopes of replacing DeSantis.

Welcome back to PRIME TIME.

REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FL): Thank you, Chris. Great to be with you tonight. [21:30:00]

CUOMO: What he's doing has him with good numbers in Florida, your governor. But the case numbers, the hospitalizations, are worse. So, what does that tell you?

CRIST: Well, they are worse. No question about it. And we're number one in the country right now, Chris, as you indicated. And it's appalling and it's heartbreaking.

But we just got some new polling yesterday, independent of us, independent of our campaign that has me up on him by about 2 points, if the election for governor were held today.

So, I think, it's starting to take hold, finally and, people are understanding that what he's doing is wrong. It's dead wrong.

CUOMO: What do you think, in terms of why so many people in this state are anti-vaxx, anti-mask?

CRIST: I don't know. I really can't explain that, except to say that we've all heard so much about misinformation and, in our state, unfortunately, misguided leadership or a lack of leadership, really.

I mean, the governor doesn't talk about the fact that it's a good idea to wear a mask. In fact, just last Friday, Chris, he signed an executive order, banning masks be - in our schools, which open just next week.

About 3 million of our children are going to be going to schools. They're going to be together. And he signs an executive order, trying to stop, even local school districts, from having the authority to do the right thing, and keep kids safe.

As we're brought up, as kids, it's "Safety first! Safety first!" And for this governor, it seems to be "Safety last," and it's awful. It's really awful to see that.

CUOMO: But there has to be a - I mean, look, you want to be governor of the state? You're going to have to figure out the political riddle of it.

And you've got the former president living in the state. He was the biggest backer behind Operation Warp Speed, to make it happen. And he barely ever talks about the vaccine.

His protege, DeSantis - everybody knows the vaccine works. They say it as rarely as possible. Everybody knows masks are our only mitigation measure. And they badmouth them all the time.

There has to be something that resonates. I mean, when you look in your numbers, 49.3 percent of Florida residents are fully vaccinated, somewhere middle of the pack. The rate right now though, of vaccination is one of the best in the country, which is good news.

The problem is within pockets of more conservative counties, Jackson County, 30 percent, Franklin County, 36 percent, these are not - it's not that people are stupid. And the media and others make a mistake, when they say that. They are choosing to believe things, on the basis of politics, about a Pandemic.

How do you beat that?

CRIST: I think you just tell the truth, do what you're doing, frankly, and providing a great service. You have experts on, people that are healthcare professionals, physicians, nurses that really know this firsthand.

I had a Zoom call yesterday, with a panel, parents, students. And one of them was a pediatrician from the University of Miami.

And I asked her point-blank. I said, "Dr. Gwynn, what's the best way to handle this? Our schools are opening next week. What do you feel about masks?"

She said, "Charlie, we have to mask. It's important to do so. It is proven that it protects people."

And we're spiking horribly right now. Florida is exploding. And our governor is playing Russian roulette with the people of Florida. It's appalling to see. And I think he's doing it for political reasons that are beyond his reelect in 2022.

I think it goes to his desire to be the Republican nominee for president in 2024. And he's so focused on that lately, Chris, he's been to Utah. He's been to Texas, to down at the border. I understand that Monday night, he was fundraising up in Michigan. He's been to Pennsylvania.

He's forgetting Florida and my fellow Floridians. And it's sad to say, but that's what's happening here.

CUOMO: So, when it comes to the mask mandate, he says he'll pull funds. What do you think of that idea? "If you have a mandate, after I told you not to, I will pull state funding from you."

CRIST: It's punitive. It's unusual. And it is cruel. And it is wrong. I mean, I don't know what kind of authoritarian leader he's trying to be. But he's not being a man of the people.

He's not doing what a great president once said that we should have a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. He's trying to dictate everything from Mount Tallahassee, our capital--

CUOMO: But he says the exact same thing not about you, but about Biden and the Democrats.

"You don't get to tell us how to live here. This is about freedom. We are the Land of the Free. I'll decide what my kid has on his or her face. I'll decide what I put in my body. You don't tell me. You don't command me. You don't even know what you're talking about half the time, and you're lying the other half." That is what he's providing as political medicine. What is your


CRIST: Yes. Well, we ought to have the freedom to be safe. I mean, everybody wears seatbelts now, you know. And they're in every single car. And it's a requirement. And it's a law. Why? Because it makes us safe.


Having opportunity to have a mask requirement, statewide, for our precious children, to make sure that they're safe, because science tells us it's the right thing to do? That's not being wrong.

That's being right. And it's doing what's right for our children, to protect them. Don't we have a duty to do that? Aren't leaders supposed to do that, you know?

Whether you're talking about seatbelts in a car, or you're talking about masks in a classroom, or when people are out in Florida, and they're indoors, they ought to be wearing a mask, to protect our fellow Floridians.


CRIST: To stop the dying. It's that serious, what we're dealing with.

CUOMO: The analogy is a good one. I would even liken it to drunk driving.

You wear a seatbelt for yourself. Drunk driving, we don't allow you to do it, because you're going to hurt me. You're going to hurt somebody else. You have the freedom to drink and drive. But we make it illegal because of the consequences to others. And masks are the same things. We're seeing it all the time.

Congressman Charlie Crist, we'll be following the race. Thank you for coming on the show to make the case, sir.

CRIST: Great to be with you, sir. Have a good evening.

CUOMO: All right.

And to be clear, I invite Governor DeSantis on, on a regular basis, just so you know, not just out of equal-time considerations, because he's the leader of a state that is right in the middle right now. And it matters.

It's a huge population. It's a diverse population. Every state matters. But Florida is one of our biggest. The governor's welcome here to make the case. The invitation is out there and standing.

Now, the desperation for a vaccine, the long lines, do you remember that? Some parents are now lying about their kids' ages, just to get them a dose. My next guest is a pharmacist. Seeing it in a state, where the

governor is rethinking pandemic strategy, I believe that this next guest will give us a very good window into our reality. Next.









CUOMO: Florida is not the only state, where serious child COVID cases are rising. Arkansas' Health Secretary says between April and July, infections in kids jumped more than 500 percent, hospitalizations, nearly 270 percent.

The timing could not be worse. You got the start of school right around the corner. As some Arkansas parents are so worried about sending their kids to class, especially without mask mandates that they're lying about their kids' ages, to try to get them vaccinated.

Julie Stewart is a pharmacist in Fayetteville, and she says she's had to turn some of these parents away.

Am I exaggerating any of this? What are you seeing?

JULIE STEWART, PHARMACIST: I wouldn't say you're exaggerating. The vast majority of people that we vaccinate are eligible, and they do qualify for the vaccine.

But yes, we do have some parents, who are anxious, about the school year starting, and want to get their child vaccinated, just because of the current situation, with the inability of schools to mandate masks, and this Delta variant that's got a lot of people scared.

CUOMO: Now, do you see any cases of this political poison, where people will come in, and want the vaccine, but say that they don't want their kids wearing masks?

STEWART: Yes, we see - we kind of see it all. We, especially lately, after the initial sort of run, for the vaccine, when everyone was wanting to get vaccinated.

Now, we've got the people that have had some hesitancy, but they've changed their mind, or they, yes, with the mask mandate, they just weren't sure what they wanted to do, so, yes.

CUOMO: Do you think banning of mask mandates fueled parents' desperation?

STEWART: Absolutely. The school district should have the option to do that. And they don't, as of right now.

And parents are scared. They've got children that are starting school, in a week and a half. And many of them are unable to get vaccinated, because of the age limit right now. So, yes, definitely.

CUOMO: You have concerns about vaccinating kids under 12? Why?

STEWART: Sure, yes. I mean, they - 12 is somewhat of an arbitrary age, but they had to start at somewhere. And when you start getting to 11- year-olds, 10-year-olds, they're just - their bodies may not be able to handle the dose that children or, older children and adults take.

The studies that are being done right now, by Pfizer, for example, in the clinical trials, they're actually setting a smaller dose. And so, safety is a concern. All the data is not in yet. So, we don't know all the potential side effects yet. And so, we do really need to wait, until all that data is in, in order to vaccinate this age group.

CUOMO: So, you're somebody, who would like to see FDA approval for this, before you start giving it to the kids. But you did give it to your boys, who are in the age group.


CUOMO: To parents, who are hesitant, because that's the real problem, in your state, the problem--


CUOMO: Your state wouldn't be where it is, if everybody was so desperate for vaccines that they were lying about their kids' ages.


CUOMO: So, what do you say to the parents, who are on the opposite end of the spectrum, which is "I'm not getting vaccinated, and I don't want my kids vaccinated?"

STEWART: Right. I just encourage them to speak to a health professional that they trust, stop watching YouTube, stop listening to videos on social media, just talk to their doctor that they see, on an annual basis, talk to their pediatrician, talk - or the kids' pediatrician, talk to their pharmacist, talk to someone local that they trust.


Listen to the local statistics on what's happening. And that, I think, tells the real story of what's going on, and the safety and the effectiveness of the vaccines.

CUOMO: Now, that said, ending it on a good note, you believe that the Delta variant has scared people straight? And you have a flow of vaccine - people, who want vaccines that you haven't seen before?

STEWART: Definitely. And we, probably about three weeks ago, when our numbers started to climb, in Arkansas, we went from doing 10, 15 walk- in vaccinations a day to closer to 40 or 50 per day. So, we've definitely seen an increase.

I like to ask people when they come in, "Why now? Why are you choosing to do this now?"

And it's - a lot of it is, "I wasn't sure. I wanted to wait and see kind of how things played out. I really wanted to wait for fully FDA approval. But this variant really has me worried that the age of people in the hospital is a lot younger than it was six months ago." And so that just - it's enough to get people in, for sure.

CUOMO: Well, I wish your state well. And Julie Stewart, I wish you well.


CUOMO: I hope you and your family stay healthy. And I appreciate you telling us what's happening in your neck of the woods.

STEWART: Thank you. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

CUOMO: All right, be well.

Boy! The news is hard. The reality is hard, right? It's so easy to lose hope, especially when people are motivating you to hate reality, and hate people, who disagree with you.

And that's why there's so much hunger for hope, and why we have to keep perspective. I know it's not easy. I know it's not easy. And that's why we had the gift of a guest last night, "Nightbirde."


JANE "NIGHTBIRDE" MARCZEWSKI, MUSICAL ARTIST: Don't you want to see what happens, if you don't give up? Like, don't you want to - don't you want to see what happens?


MARCZEWSKI: It's OK. If you're lost, we're all a little lost and it's alright.


CUOMO: That voice! "And it's all right"

Anyway, she has metastatic cancer.



MARCZEWSKI: It's alright. It's alright. It's alright.


CUOMO: Every diagnosis she gets is bad. She doesn't deny the diagnosis. But she will not accept the verdict on her own life. And boy, did she resonate with you!



MARCZEWSKI: I wrote a hundred pages but I burned them all (Yes, I burned them all)


CUOMO: It's not just the beauty of her words and her voice. It's what comes out of her and what it awakens in the rest of us.



MARCZEWSKI: I drove through yellow lights and don't look back at all I don't look back at all.

All day, all night, now I can't hide Said I knew what I wanted but I guess I lied


CUOMO: The breakout star from "America's Got Talent," fighting cancer with the power of positivity, I have an update for you on what you did for her last night. Next.



MARCZEWSKI: It's OK, it's OK, it's OK, it's OK If you're lost--










CUOMO: Now, as you know, we showcase Ameri-CANs, to remind the rest of us about the best of us.

But last night, in fact, not just last night, right up until this very moment, we're also reminded that we, you, me, all of us that we're not just capable of fighting with each other. We can do great things together. And I'll give you the proof of that in a second.

But I want to remind you why. "Nightbirde," and what she brought out on us last night, listen.


MARCZEWSKI: Not denying the pain of today, and not denying the hope of tomorrow.

And when you go through something that is so devastating, makes no sense, there's no - there's no answers, you kind of have the choice, like am I going to become bitter? Or am I not?

You do have a choice, you know? You do get to decide what becomes of you, in a sense. And I've decided, in my - in my most painful moments, to keep my eyes open, because it's easier.

It's easier to close your eyes and to give up and forget it. But there's so much beauty and poetry, to be seen in the world, if you are willing to sign-off on the pain that it takes to stay awake, in the middle of something that hurts so bad. And that's all this is. Anybody can do it.


CUOMO: The words are great. But when the wisdom, if born, of the difficulties that Jane has, that "Nightbirde" has, now you have magic, because the "Can," right that she talks about, the "Can" is universal.

The "Do" is one of the rarest gifts, again, especially when you're not just facing the vagaries of life, and not having everything you want, but when you're facing metastatic cancer that is ravaging your body so thoroughly, you can't even live out your dream in the moment, and you're forced to step away from singing on "America's Got Talent."

But even without that showcase, so many from around the world have been following her journey, on her blog,, and here's why.

"Call me bitter if you want to-that's fair. Count me among the angry, the cynical, the offended, the hardened. But count me also among the friends of God. For I have seen Him in rare form."

Her message, pain and hope, they're not an either/or. It obviously moved you as well. Cancer isn't just hard and painful. It's expensive. And she's doing this on her own. And she has a GoFundMe page, "One Last Push to #SeeJaneWin."

You guys took it from around $250,000 last night to $322,000, and counting, after her appearance on the show. You did that.

God forbid if any of you ever have to deal with something, like a cancer that she has, but we all face our pain. The hope is that we can be reminded that others will be there for us, when we can. And we all hope that we can be as strong as this kid.



MARCZEWSKI: When we're going through stuff like this, where really the pain is too much to bear, sometimes it makes no sense at all, if we can hold on to a dream, for the future, sometimes that's all we need, to get through. And I believe in dreams for all of our lives that originated in the imagination of God.

And just think about, like, don't you want to see what happens, if you don't give up? Like, don't you want to - don't you want to see what happens? And that's what I keep saying to myself. And that's what I say to everyone watching tonight.

Don't you want to see what happens, if you don't give up?


CUOMO: I absolutely want to see what happens, when she doesn't give up. And I will keep following "Nightbirde," and I'll let you know what happens. And God willing, we can have her back on this show, when she's on the other side of her treatment.

But I want to say, thank you so much for stepping up the way you did, for seeing her on this show, and connecting with her cause, and her pain, and doing something for her. I know money is tight for so many. Thank you so much for helping one person deal with something that all of us, God forbid, can avoid.

We'll be right back with the handoff.