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At This Hour

Tropical Storm Elsa Making Landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast; Haiti's President Assassinated, Sparks Fears of Turmoil; Biden Meets with Officials on Combating Ransomware Attacks; CDC: Delta Variant Now Makes Up More Than Half of U.S. Cases; McCarthy Finalizing GOP Members for Insurrection Probe Panel. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 07, 2021 - 11:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Boris Sanchez, in for Kate Bolduan. Thanks for joining us.

Here's what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Nearing landfall. Tropical storm Elsa pounding Florida with heavy rain. Right now, thousands are without power as the storm now takes aim at the entire east coast.

Plus, growing threat. The delta variant now makes up half of all new coronavirus cases. Why health officials are growing more concerned about the unvaccinated.

And Olympic dreams dashed. America's fastest female sprinter will not be going to the Tokyo Games. The track star reacting to the news ahead.

We begin with breaking news this morning. Tropical storm Elsa nearing landfall along Florida's Gulf Coast. Millions of people facing torrential rain, life-threatening storm surge, strong winds and even the possibility of tornadoes.

Tropical storm Elsa will affect almost the entire Eastern Coast of the United States. The National Hurricane Center just issued a new advisory. CNN has a team tracking it all.

So, let's begin our coverage with CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. He has the latest forecast.

Chad, what's new in this forecast that strikes your eye?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Boris, the latest is that making landfall right now, Taylor County, Florida, very close to Steinhatchee, which would be north of Horseshoe Beach, certainly north of Cedar Key. But it's really getting bigger at this hour, at least convection-wise, not wind speed-wise, because now, over land, or over kind of a swampy area there in Taylor County. We're not going to see more increase in speed circulating around the storm itself. Still going to be a 65-mile-per-hour storm.

What we are still seeing, tremendous amounts of rain on the tail end here near Ft. Myers and very heavy rainfall about to come onshore across parts of northern Florida. Moving into Georgia, moving into South Carolina and even into North Carolina. The biggest winds I've seen so far, in the 50, 60-mile-per-hour-gust range, but we're going to still see that storm come on land. And then it actually makes landfall and moves to the west of Savannah and west of Charleston, west of Myrtle Beach and on up toward Hampton roads and then offshore again likely in the Northeast.

Some spots, though, ten inches of rainfall with flood warnings going on right now. More rainfall with this along the track.

Let me take you hour-by-hour. This is what it looks like right now. It's going to move on up to Jacksonville. Really the closest approach to Jacksonville, a couple hours. That's where the winds will be the strongest. And then on up towards Savannah, winds strongest later tonight.

Moving you ahead to 6:00 a.m., Myrtle, Charleston, all the way up to Myrtle inlet, seeing onshore flow and a lot of surge. It could be two to three feet of surge along the east coast because of the wind direction. That's where we are right now, the storm coming onshore right at this hour -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Chad Myers, thanks for that update.

We're going to be speaking to the mayor of Jacksonville in just a few moments.

But, first, let's get a look at things on the ground where thousands are without power right now as Tropical Storm Elsa pounds the Sunshine State.

Let's get over to CNN's Randi Kaye who's live in Clearwater Beach.

Randi, what are you seeing there?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris, let me first tell you what's happening in the Keys just south of here. There was a boat that capsized and the search is on for nine missing people, about 23 miles off of Key West.

We're some getting information from the Coast Guard there that they've done the survivor debriefs, talking to the people they rescued. They have been able to rescue 13 people. And we're told that there are seven men and two women who are still missing. So, they're still looking for those. That's the situation there.

But take a look at the situation here. Things have certainly improved considering what we were dealing with yesterday. We had heavy, heavy rain and wind yesterday. I know we have video to show you. It came in about 2:00 a.m. to this area here in Clearwater Beach. This is Clearwater harbor where we are. And the rain and the winds were pounding. We had 50 to 70-mile-per-

hour winds, lots of rain, about four to six inches. There were tornado warnings. There were some minor power outages.

Clearwater Police say nothing too bad, but they were ready to go. They had the Humvees reedy. The National Guard had the Humvees and they were ready for search and rescue as well.

The real concern is this storm came into this area about the same time that high tide was hitting, about 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. So there was this convergence of the two of those things. And that really put this area at risk for storm surge and a lot of water in the streets.

But so far, some trees down on cars, some minor power outages. Many here are very happy that it wasn't much worse -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Glad to hear that the damage wasn't very extensive, Randi.

What are you hearing about power outages? We understand there are thousands across the state, most likely in the Keys, as you noted.


They got hit pretty hard, right?

KAYE: Yeah. The power outages are extensive. Thousands without power, we understand, from the National Guard they have teams on standby with generators and also that the governor has held -- he had about 6,000 utility workers on standby to try to resolve the issue as well. So, hopefully, it will get fixed up soon -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Appreciate that report from Clearwater. Randi Kaye, thank you so much.

Joining us to discuss the storm is Lenny Curry, the mayor of Jacksonville, Florida.

Mayor Curry, thanks for spending time with us this morning.

What are you most concerned about this morning as we're watching the storm make landfall.

MAYOR LENNY CURRY (R), JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: The possibility of flooding. We're fortunate in that since we went to bed last night and woke up this morning, it moved slightly west of us which is -- which is good news.

But we've had significant rain over the past week. We've had issues of flooding even last week. So, there's a possibility that that could happen because it's not a hurricane with a direct hit, we don't want people to get overconfident, be out in their cars and potentially driving into flooding.

You can have downed power lines with wind. There's a whole lot of possibilities that can happen in these storms. We've dealt with many of these over the last few years. SANCHEZ: Yeah, Mayor, I'm from Florida, and I've dealt with countless

storms. I know folks down there, a lot of times it's hard to get some people moving if it's not a category 4 or 5 storm.

What's your message to folks who might be hesitant right now to prep in front of the storm?

CURRY: Well, the first message is, we do have a weather event that's going to happen, not as significant, it looks like, as we thought. But we could have power outages. We could have flooding. Surf that people shouldn't be in out at our beaches. I understand there might be people out at the beaches now.

The other message is, this is an opportunity to remind ourselves early in the season that you need to know you're evacuation zone. You need to have your hurricane kits, your storm kits prepared. If you don't have it ready, if you don't know your zone, get ready. This is the beginning of the season and we've been through this before.

We've been -- I've called for evacuations and our help lines getting calls where is my zone, where is my zone. This is the time to know your zone.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, it's a great idea and I'm glad that you point out that this storm is earlier than usual in the season. I know public schools are closed. Any other closures that are being ordered ahead of the storm?

CURRY: Yeah, all public schools, summer programs, learning and camps are closed. We closed -- today, we closed all city summer programs for youth. We did not close city facilities given where we were last night and where we were today.

So we just want people to be smart. Again, don't drive into flooded water, don't touch a downed power line, don't run a generator indoors with the doors closed. So, a whole lot of things we want people to be smart and careful about.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. Sometimes, it's easier said than done. So, I'm glad we have you on to spread that message.

Mayor Lenny Curry of Jacksonville, Florida -- thank you so much, sir.

We are following some breaking news out of Haiti today where officials say that President Jovenel Moise was assassinated overnight by unidentified attackers at his private residence. The president's wife also shot in the back in the attack.

The White House released a statement condemning the heinous act and pledging support for Haiti.

Listen to what President Biden said just a short time ago before leaving the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need a lot more information, but it's just very worrisome about the state of Haiti. We need a lot more information.


SANCHEZ: President Moise was a controversial figure at home and abroad. His critics say he overstayed his term as president. Moise oversaw a period of intense violence in the capital of Port-au-Prince. And the president's assassination is sparking fears of escalating turmoil in the improvised island nation. We're going to continue to follow developments out of Haiti and bring you updates as we get them.

Meantime, President Biden wrapping up a meeting a few moments ago with key leaders in his administration on their efforts to counter ransomware attacks. The White House has yet to identify who carried out the most recent attack on a software vendor believed to be the largest cyberattack of its kind ever. The group thought to be responsible operates out of Russia. President Biden has warned there will be retaliation if the Kremlin was involved.

Let's get out to the White House and CNN's Jeremy Diamond.

Jeremy, what are you learning about the meeting this morning?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Boris, we do know that President Biden just finished that meeting with top intelligence and national security officials. He was meeting in the Situation Room with the officials from the State Department, the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, as well as the intelligence community.

And that wide range of officials tells you everything you need to know about this cybersecurity and this ransomware problem, but it does touch so many facets of every day life and requires a whole-of- government response.


Now, we do know that the White House and other agencies have been working to finalize this all-encompassing cybersecurity strategy to come these ransomware attacks, specifically, looking at what kind of government authorities they could use to prevent these attacks and respond to them once they do happen, and ways in which they can encourage and incentivize private companies which hold so much of this country's critical infrastructure, to harden their own defenses against cybersecurity.

But one of the big questions here is also what President Biden will do as relates to Russia. While the U.S. government has not yet attributed this attack to anybody, it is believed to have been carried out by one of these criminal gangs that is operating inside of Russia. The president three weeks ago when he met with President Putin, made clear that there would be consequences for Russia, even if it's criminal organizations operating within the country not controlled by the state. So that remains to be seen. Whether the president will react in some

way, he was asked moments ago what his message is to Putin, and he said, I will deliver it to him -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: And we will stay tuned for that.

Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much for the update.

The delta variant is now the most dominant strain in the United States. We'll show you where coronavirus is spreading most and what you should know next.

And you're looking at live pictures from New York City where health care heroes will be honored with a parade for pulling us through the worst of the pandemic. We'll take you there live in just a few moments.



SANCHEZ: We are 16 minutes past the hour.

And we have some alarming developments on the pandemic to share with you. The CDC says the highly contagious delta variant makes up more than half of all new coronavirus infections in the United States. The sharp increase underscores the growing threat the variant poses, especially in states in the south where vaccination rates are sluggish and new case rates are high.

Joining us now to discuss the fight to eradicate COVID-19, Dr. Ashish Jha. He's the dean at Brown University's School of Public Health.

Dr. Jha, always great to have you on.

The data shows the COVID-19 case rate and the prevalence of the delta variant is highest in Missouri and lowest in Vermont. And this tracks with vaccine data that shows wide deployment in Vermont and not so much in Missouri. You say the data is clear and these vaccines needful full approval. How would that make a difference? Help us understand.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY'S SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yeah, absolutely, Boris. First of all, thanks for having me on.

And, yes, the delta variant is a real challenge for our country, and the reason I think full approval from the FDA is both warranted and would be helpful is as follows. First of all, we have data on hundreds of millions of people who have gotten these vaccines. So, there's no question whether we have enough data for full authorization or full approval. We clearly do. More than we usually do for most drugs and vaccines.

I think there are still people still on the fence who are hesitant because they want to see that full approval from the FDA. I think it will help them. I think there are a lot of businesses that want to mandate vaccines but want to see the full approval from the FDA. I think it will help them.

So, I think it will help a lot of people get off the fence and get vaccinated. And that, I think, will help save lives.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, the military, schools and other institutions as well.

I'm curious as we see the spikes in cases in specific pockets of the country, there's not just a concern about the delta variant, but variants beyond that one. These are breeding grounds for the next variant, right?

JHA: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, there's the delta, there are other variants that are coming up. At this point in the pandemic, I think we all just want this to end. We want the pandemic to end, we want this behind us. There's only one way to do that, bring infections under control and getting people vaccinated.

You're absolutely right, when we have large outbreaks, they become breeding grounds for more variants.

SANCHEZ: We're also seeing disparities playing out from vaccine deployment to lowered life expectancy. I want to show this. A CNN analysis showing white people vaccinated in proportion to their population percentage, but black people and Latinos have not. And in life expectancy, COVID-19 lowering the average for Latinos three times more than for white people. These are the people most at risk for the disease already.

How do you explain these trends, and then how do we reverse them?

JHA: Yeah. So, first of all, it's deeply troubling. We know the pandemic has not affected all of us equally. It has disproportionately impacted communities of color. And we've known that for over a year now.


JHA: And the idea was to try to make sure we did better on vaccines and we haven't done as well as we needed to. I think there are a couple reasons for that.

One, there's a lot of misinformation targeted towards these communities. It's really stunning to me that a lot of the misinformation have decided to specifically target Latino communities, African-American communities. That is an issue. I think there's still real issues of access to these vaccines. They may be widely available, but for a lot of people who have three jobs, are working -- have very unreliable hours, not easy to get time off.


There's a lot of things we've got to be doing right now helping communities and helping people get vaccinated who want to but have not been able to yet.

SANCHEZ: Doctor, I also want to ask you about the lasting effects of COVID. There's a new study from JAMA that used wearable devices to track and quantify how symptoms follow COVID symptoms months after they're infected. What does it mean that heart rates among patients are not returning to normal even months after they're infected?

JHA: Yeah, this is a really important study and comes on top of a whole bunch of other studies that have come out in the last couple months that show that for a proportion of people who have been infected and recovered, they have really substantial ongoing health challenges for weeks and months later.

Two points on this. One is I think all the folks who say the only thing that matters is death and most people recover, that is clearly not the case. There are lots of people who suffer long-term consequences. And second, we've got to do a lot of work to sort out how do we help people who are suffering from long COVID get better.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, if you needed another reason to get vaccinated, there it is, long-term effects because of COVID.

Dr. Ashish Jha, we have to leave the conversation there. As always, we appreciate your insight.

JHA: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

So Republican leaders have decided to play ball. Which Republicans might join the committee to investigate January 6th?

We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: Developing this morning, CNN has learned that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is finalizing the list of Republicans he plans to appoint to the select committee investigating the capitol insurrection.

CNN's Melanie Zanona broke the story and she joins us now with the details.

Melanie, your reporting indicated that there was internal debate that McCarthy at one point considered boycotting this committee. Now it seems he's going to nominate Republicans.


The thinking here is that Republicans want a chance to be able to play defense for Trump, they want to appoint Republicans on that committee so they can be in these hearings, pushing back on Democrats, potentially writing their own minority report and trying to shape the counter narrative. Now, the question is, who does Kevin McCarthy appoint? He's currently in the process of doing that right now. I'm told he

wants to appoint a mix of Trump allies who can mount a vigorous defense of the former president, but also more pragmatic and moderate members who could have sway with Middle America. And the reason is because Speaker Nancy Pelosi really upped the ante when she appointed Republican Liz Cheney to her side of the committee.

Now, among the names of potential candidates are Jim Jordan, who played a critical role defending Trump during his first impeachment, Elise Stefanik and Mike Johnson, who are both members of the GOP leadership, who also were big defenders of Trump during the first impeachment, and Brad Wenstrup who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and also importantly voted to certify the election results.

But the challenge for McCarthy is a lot of members in the Republican conference want nothing to do with this politically fraught assignment. So, it's not just about finding the right people for the committee, it's also finding people who want to do it.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, Melanie. Also notable, no Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz on that list, even though they put themselves put for potential nominations.

Melanie Zanona from Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

ZANONA: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: As lawmakers move to investigate the insurrection, newly unsealed court records reveal the FBI infiltrated a bible study group in Virginia that had members discussing surveilling the U.S. Capitol and their desire to secede from the United States.

Investigators also following one member who is testing homemade bombs.

CNN law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild is live in Washington with the disturbing details.

And Whitney, this tracks your reporting from earlier this week that officials are concerned about more violence like we saw on January 6th.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: This is something federal officials have been warning about really since just after January 6, which is that these instincts, these interests in extremism and anti-government sentiment will continue following January 6th. This is one prime example of that.

The FBI infiltrated this group that on its surface was a, quote, bible study group. In some meetings the FBI went to, there was some talk of the bible. However, most of the talk was about secession from the United States, weapons, military style training.

This group, this loosely affiliated militia group was interested in seceding from the United States. Some of the details are, again, an uncovered agent connecting to one of the people named in this case, which is a man named Fi Duong. He's now facing several charges for his role into the Capitol insurrection, going inside the Capitol is one of those charges.

The FBI says that throughout the course of the investigation, they learned that, again, he had interest in seceding from the United States, that he had this stash of weapons at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, Boris, that included an AK-47. At one meeting with the FBI -- excuse me, in which the FBI infiltrated -- again, this is all undercover FBI work. At one meeting they found there were 50 jars basically full of materials.