Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

CDC Says, COVID Cases Up 10 Percent in Last Week as Delta Variant Spreads; Rescue Efforts Resume, Officials Consider Demolition of Building; Track Star Suspended from Olympic Team after Positive Drug Test. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 02, 2021 - 11:30   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The CDC reports that new coronavirus cases are up 10 percent in just the last week as the highly contagious delta variant is spreading.

Despite the pandemic, record-breaking travel is expected this holiday weekend. AAA estimates that nearly 50 million Americans are expected to travel for the 4th of July. That number approaching the crowds we saw before the pandemic.

CNN Correspondent Stephanie Elam live at Los Angeles International Airport, and I see it is teeming with travelers behind you.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fred, if anyone is thinking, oh, I'm going to go to the airport like old days and just show up an hour before my flight, would you caution them to not do that, and this is why. Take a look at these lines.

Now, I will tell you that this is exacerbated by the fact there was just a suspicious item in Terminal 2 that LAX police just cleared, but you have the aftermath of people trying to get into the terminals, trying to get through TSA checkpoints. What we know is that we're at 65 percent of normal here at LAX, according to the airport.

Sunday was a post-pandemic record of 85,000 people going through security checkpoints, normally there would be 120,000 to 130,000. So they may see new records set either for today or Sunday in this post- pandemic travel record.

And just keep in mind, while you're seeing all of this and you're seeing the mayhem inside the terminal there behind me, this is -- when you look at air travel across the country, according to AAA, 3.5 million people are expected to travel by air but, really, it is going to be on the roads after these people land, because 43.6 million are expected to travel by car.

But for all of the people who are getting away, I'm here to tell you it is very, very packed, very chaotic. Get to the airport early. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Super early. All right, Stephanie Elam -- and fuel up. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much. I appreciate it.


All right, the growing alarm in Los Angeles, as L.A. County reports an 85 percent increase in new cases in just the last week and more cases in a single day since mid-April. The county's health director recommended this week that even vaccinated residents should wear face coverings indoors as a precaution.

Joining me right now is CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. She is an emergency physician and the former Baltimore health commissioner. So good to see you, Dr. Wen.

All right, so you had expressed support for L.A. County returning to masking and public indoor spaces, even if vaccinated, and that was just earlier in the week. And now, what do you make of this surge in cases in L.A.?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm very concerned about the surges in L.A. and in many parts of the country. I mean, I thought that we were going in the right direction. We were seeing weeks and weeks of declining infections, and now we're going in the wrong direction once again. And, of course, with the 4th of July weekend coming and so many traveling, we could see a surge upon a surge coming after this weekend as well.

And so I think the bottom line is this. If you're vaccinated, you are very well protected, especially if you are around other vaccinated individuals. Unvaccinated people are still at very high risk. And if you're in an area of high levels of community transmission, even if you are vaccinated, you may still want to be wearing a mask indoors if you are around a ton of people who are maskless, potentially, and unvaccinated. And that is why I think the L.A. county advice is a good one.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And while there is great relief among people who are vaccinated, now back to some other confusion as it pertained to the whole booster shot. All three of the makers of the three vaccines that are in the U.S. are all now saying that they are effective against the delta variant. So, does that mean we should not be thinking about the booster shots that should come, say, in the fall or somewhere within the one-year span of time that you've had a vaccine?

WEN: The delta variant is very scary in some ways because it is so much more transmissible, more and contagious, and so people who are unvaccinated are much more likely to contract it. But the good news is that if you are vaccinated, and we know it is just not with the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, also with Johnson & Johnson, you are well protected from getting delta variant and, very importantly, from getting severely ill even if you were to contract the illness.

And so I do think it is important for us to keep on doing the studies though, because at some point, boosters may be necessary, at some point, especially for those who are immunocompromised or older, they may need to get a booster. We don't know that yet but I do think the studies are very important. And in the meantime, we need to spread the message that you should get vaccinated because it really works against all of the variants of concern.

WHITFIELD: Your family is like so many across the country. You're vaccinated but your kids are not because they are just not old enough to be eligible yet. My husband, I'm vaccinated, my 16-year-old is as well but my eight-year-olds are not.

So what is the advice now about how we behave? I mean, how do we carry ourselves if some of us in the household are vaccinated and others are not?

WEN: It is really hard because the pandemic is not over for us. And I think a lot of families still want to be cautious because we have unvaccinated people in our households and because we do have a variant that is spreading that is really contagious and could very well affect those unvaccinated.

And so for our family, for example, we'll certainly be happy to socialize outdoors, even go to 4th of July fireworks and other big events outdoors because the risk of transmission is so much lower outdoors than indoors. If we're around other people who are fully vaccinated even indoors, that is also very safe.

But we're still going to be careful with our children. For example, we're not going to take our one-year-old, who is too young to wear a mask, into crowded indoor spaces where other people are not masking. And my husband and I are still taking extra precautions ourselves because even though we know that our risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to our children is very low.

If you add up the risk, if we are going to the gym and going to restaurants and bars all of the time, which we wouldn't really do, but if we were doing that any way, then our risk builds up and that could be a risk that's transferred to our children.

WHITFIELD: Yes, so intuition and common sense still prevail in all of this. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much. Happy 4th weekend.

And this programming note, this July 4th will look very different from the last one. So it is time to celebrate, isn't it? Join Don Lemon, Dana Bash, Victor Blackwell and Ana Cabrera for a star-studded evening of music and fireworks. And you can watch the Fourth in America on July 4th at 7:00 P.M. only on CNN.

All right, up next, officials in South Florida right now are providing an update on the search at the site of the collapsed condo building.


A live report from the scene, next.



WHITFIELD: At this hour, this painstaking search for victims continues in the rubble of the collapsed condo building in Surfside, and we just heard from the mayor they have recovered two additional victims, now bringing the total of those found dead to 20.

The search was paused on Thursday because of concerns the remaining structure could fall. Officials are now considering demolishing what remains, the remains rather of the other building.

Also this morning, a letter from engineers just months before the collapse warning of extensive damage to the concrete around the pool area.

CNN's Brian Todd has more live from the scene. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, we're going to show you just live here what illustrates the concern that rescuers and rescue team officials have been telling us about over the past 24 hours. We're on a balcony overlooking the rubble, overlooking the Champlain Tower South Complex. Our Photojournalist Jose Armijo is going to kind of take you in tight as I point to some things here.

The mayor and the rescue officials have talked about some shifting rubble, some shift in the building and some sensors going off that indicated cracking. Well, there is where you can see what they're talking about. Some of that rubble over here apparently has shifted and that is what caused the pause in operations yesterday. They spoke about a column that was hanging from the building, a large concrete column that was hanging from the building.

I'm going to point to something that what we believe is what they are talking about. I spoke to a structural engineer, Allyn Kilsheimer, a short time ago. He's been hired by the city of Surfside to investigate this. We believe that that column there, that I'm pointing to that Jose is going to train in, we believe that that could be the column that they're talking about. You can see, it seems to be kind of hanging.

And what this structural engineer told me is they're going to be keeping a close eye on that column because if that falls, of course, you could see the rescuers, just to left of it, everybody underneath that could be in some danger.

What they're keeping an eye on is the Tropical Storm Elsa that's moving in this direction and how strong that tropical storm is going to be and what direction that wind is going to come from. Because this engineer, Mr. Kilsheimer, just told me that if this wind comes basically straight into this area, it's going to probably knock a lot of debris off there, it's going to present some real dangers to the rescuers below. You see them right there. Jose can take it pretty tight.

Part of our view is obstructed by this building that is right next to it, but we can see them doing their work there. They're picking rubble up in buckets and they're dumping it into that cart. Allyn Kilsheimer, the engineer, told us that every one of these bucket has a potential clue in it and they've got to go through this.

This is the painstaking nature of the work that they're doing to try to get to anyone who might be in there. They've had a tough time finding voids where people could be.

And, again, look at the rubble to the right on that building that was sheared off. Look at all of the stuff here, and, Jose, if you can just take kind of take them over to the right and show the side of the building where all the rubble is hanging off.

Look at how dangerous that can be especially with a tropical storm coming, Fredricka, and what could just be blown out of there and on to the rescuers below.

Really quickly now, I know I've got to throw back to you, but we can take you in tight on where the pool deck collapsed. Look at that down there. You see the deck to the right of the pool and then you see where it dropped about -- I don't know -- I'm guessing eight feet from here. And that -- they don't know whether that might have triggered this.

And if you see to the right of where that dropped, it dropped again. There is another drop there in the concrete. So that deck collapsed essentially twice. And we can illustrate that for you right here. You could see where it collapsed twice. And our structural engineer told us what they don't know yet is whether those two collapses triggered something in the columns that are a little bit closer to us underneath that might have triggered that collapse.

Again, we are not going to have answers to this for months, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Well, Brian, that is an incredible vantage point and that so clearly kind of defines the problematic areas.

To the searchers there, that you were able to point out, have you noticed from your advantage point whether they have changed or modified the method of their excavation, if you will, given the weather, given how precarious that structure is and just based on progress now a week into this search?

TODD: You know, we can't really notice any change in operations from the naked eye here, and we have not really had a lot of access to this vantage point thus far. We're kind of seeing it for the first time, like you are. So I can't really compare what they've been doing to what they're doing now.

It does seem that they're working pretty methodically, as they have been. Again, and I asked this structural engineer, Allyn Kilsheimer, where I said, look at these guys on the pile, are they safe? He goes, you know, they're not safe. He said it flat out. Look at how close they are. Look at what could come down on them. And he said these are incredible people. Those were his words, not mine.

So, you see what they're doing. They're working methodically. They're working with no -- of course, they're thinking about their own safety, but they're there and they're doing it.


So they're going to keep going until maybe this tropical storm or other things present a danger to them.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, they are dedicated and they are incredible. Brian Todd, thank you so much for bringing that perspective to us there from South Florida. I appreciate it.

All right, coming up, a breakout star of the Olympic trials no longer able to run her signature event at the Olympic Games. We'll tell you why.



WHITFIELD: All right. Developing this morning, U.S. track star Sha'Carri Richardson has been suspended from the Olympic team after testing positive for marijuana.

CNN's Andy Scholes has more.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Well, Fredricka, the U.S. Anti- Doping Agency announcing this morning that sprinter Sha'carri Richardson has been suspended for one month from the Olympic team after testing positive for THC, a chemical compound found in marijuana.

Now, Richardson won the 100-meter dash at the trials in Oregon in impressive fashion. That's where she was drug tested. And the positive drug test means that her first place result was thrown out and she's not going to be able to compete in that race in Tokyo where she was going to be the favorite.

Now, Richardson lost her biological mother right before competing at the trials. And she told the Today's Show this morning she was upset at the time. She used marijuana. And she added that she takes full responsibility for breaking the rules.


SHA'CARRI RICHARDSON, TEAM USA TRACK AND FIELD SPRINTER: I apologize for this, saying that I need to know how to control my emotions during that time. And I would just leave out there that like I tweeted yesterday, I'm human. We're human. I'm not encouraging anybody to do it. I'm not say, don't do it or anything like that. But if you choose to do things and things like that, you should know be aware of the consequences.


SCHOLES: In a statement, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said, the rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels. Hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions despite the costly consequences of this one to her.

Now, the minimum 30-day ban does prevent Richardson from running the 100 meters in Tokyo, but, Fredricka, it could end in time for her to run the 4x100 meter relay later on in the games if she's selected for the team.

WHITFIELD: Right, all pending the USA track and field. All right, Andy Scholes, thank you so much.

All right, Inside Politics with John King is next after this quick break. I'll see you this weekend.