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At This Hour

New Cases & Hospitalizations Rise Amid Slowing Vaccine Rates; U.S. Stocks Down Sharply on Pandemic Fears; U.S. Gymnast Tests Positive for COVID at Training Camp in Japan; American Academy of Pediatrics: All Students Should Wear Masks; Interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 19, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we're watching at this hour. Growing concern that the unvaccinated are fuelling resurgence of coronavirus, pandemic fears are rattling the stock market this morning. Dr. Fauci joins me live.

Deal on brink. New CNN reporting that the infrastructure deal could collapse. And President Biden is speaking this hour.

Blaming China. The U.S. and allies accusing Beijing of hacking Microsoft. What is the Biden administration going to do about it now?

Thank you so much for being here. We have breaking news on multiple fronts on the pandemic and that where we must begin.

By every measure, coronavirus is going the wrong direction in America. The number of new daily cases is now above 30,000, nearly triple the number we were seeing just one month ago. This is more like April and June of 2020.

Cases are rising in all 50 states, up sharply in 32 states now and the unvaccinated are fuelling this resurgence, the surgeon general says 99.5 percent of coronavirus deaths in the United States right now are among the unvaccinated. Ninety-seven percent of COVID hospitalizations in America are people who are unvaccinated.

These numbers are driving a major sell-off on Wall Street at this moment. All three U.S. stock indices are down sharply on pandemic fears.

And it is not just here, it is also overseas. A member of U.S. Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team has tested positive for COVID in Japan and she and another contact are now in isolation there. Further driving fears of an outbreak in Tokyo with the games and opening ceremonies just days away.

We have it all covered for you and it is a lot today.

Let's begin with Natasha Chen. She's live in Birmingham, Alabama. And, Natasha, you saw firsthand how much demand or how little demand

there is for the vaccine in that state, in that area.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Kate. Yesterday we were at a clinic at a church where 11 people showed up all afternoon. Right now what you're seeing behind me is a line of people going into a city of Birmingham court event, it is a rocket docket, they're here to take care of traffic tickets.

But the city thought it was a good opportunity to offer vaccines, so that is why there is a vaccine clinic set up in hopes that some people might stop in and get their shot. And in talking to the pharmacists who are running this clinic, though, they have been working this line trying to convince people and that is a very difficult task. So far, they've convinced two people. One of them just got his shot and so each one seems like a victory for them.

We're talking about a state where just about 34 percent of people in Alabama are fully vaccinated and among the least vaccinated is the younger age group, under 30. And so some of what you were describing, the hospitalizations mostly being unvaccinated people. That's here in Alabama. More than 500 people have died of COVID-19 since April 1st and 96 percent of them were unvaccinated.

That's why there is such a concerted effort to get people to get those shots. There's even a TikTok contest for the younger folks to spread the word on why they got vaccinated -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Great reporting, Natasha. Thank you for being there. Appreciate it.

I want to get this breaking news, though, as well as we mentioned. U.S. stocks are taking a big hit this morning amid fears that the pandemic is getting worse. These could be Wall Street's biggest declines of the year.

Let me bring in CNN's Matt Egan who has been tracking this all this morning and watching it closely for us now.

Matt, what are you seeing?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, Kate, the Dow is actually on track for its worst day of the Biden era. We haven't seen losses like this since late October. And remember that was long before the successful rollout of vaccines and the reopening of the economy.

As you could see, the Dow down about 750 points, 2.2 percent, the other major markets down 1 percent, and 1.5 percent. Now this is being driven by COVID concerns, particularly the delta variant that you were just talking about. I mean, the worry is that this variant, which has been described as COVID on steroids is going to slow the economic recovery.

Now airline stocks not surprisingly have been hit pretty hard, Jet Blue, American Airlines, Delta, they're all down sharply. Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, they're also tumbling. It's not just these travel stocks, though. Banks, which are very sensitive to swings in the economy, they're down sharply.

I do think we have to tell people not to over react, though, to these drops because despite these losses, the S&P 500 is still up more than 13 percent on the year.


It's up 90 percent from the 2020 lows. The market really was overdue for a sell-off. It can't go straight up forever.

But clearly, COVID concerns are back and as one analyst put it to me just now, she said that the delta variant spike has reminded investors that COVID is not over.

BOLDUAN: That is so interesting. Matt, great reporting. Thank you for that.

Let's go to Tokyo now where a member of the U.S. women's gymnastics team has just tested positive for COVID, four days ahead of the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games. And officials in Tokyo, they're now reporting more than 60 coronavirus cases linked to the Olympics, including some of the athletes as we now know who are already living in the Olympic Village.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta is there on the ground in Tokyo for us.

Sanjay, thank you so much for staying up for us. I really appreciate it.

What are you learning about this gymnast and also what it could mean for the team?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, so this is a -- this is another person who was tested here on the ground and that test came back positive. We're not certain whether or not she had been vaccinated. Vaccines are not mandatory here, Kate, for people within the village. Although most people do get vaccinated, it's not mandatory. So, we don't know that.

We hear that the person is asymptomatic or has mild symptoms but also have close contact with another athlete. So the person that tested positive now in isolation and the person with the close contact now in quarantine and so it goes, Kate. I mean, this is part of the issue here. They're doing very regular testing.

I got tested to be here 96 hours before, 72 hours before and then right where we landed. But these breakthrough infections, these infections that are occurring in vaccinated people, oftentimes with little or no symptoms, we're going to see how frequent they are, really within this Olympic Village. We haven't had a case study like this for sometime so this is interesting to follow and see what happens.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and quite honestly, Sanjay, what are the broader concerns now that we're hearing there are at least 60 cases that are linked to the games and they haven't yet started. GUPTA: Yeah, look, Kate, it is one of these things, I've talked to so

many people about the games for a long time, obviously, they were postponed from 2020, they could not be postponed again, I was told, because of the international sports schedule. So it was either going to happen now or wasn't going to happen, the Olympics.

Eighty percent of people here in Japan, according to some polls, did not want the Olympics to happen here in Japan because only 12 percent of the country is vaccinated. One of the larger concerns, you know, look, for the athletes themselves, the one vaccinated, the vaccine really works well. We know that. It's really good at keeping people from getting seriously ill and hospitalized and dying. But they might more mild on this, how much of an impact will that have on performance and things like that. Do people get -- they're going to be tested every day using saliva tests. Are we going to see more of the breakthrough infections?

So it is cautious, I would say, Kate. It is a very, very different Olympics. You don't have spectators, you know the whole thing is going to feel different but all of the procedures behind the scenes as well is going to make it feel different as well.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Good to see, Sanjay. Thank you so much.

GUPTA: You too.

BOLDUAN: We also have more breaking news just into CNN on this very front about coronavirus. The American Academy of Pediatrics, one of the country's leading authorities on children's health, is now recommending that masks for all students over the age of 12 and staff quite frankly regardless of vaccination status when schools reopen. The academy says that it is making this recommendation because such a large proportion of children and thus the student body remain unvaccinated.

For more on this, joining me right now is Dr. Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Fauci, it's good to see you again. Thank you for being here.

I just want to get your answer to what the American Academy of Pediatrics is now just recommending this morning, universal masking for everyone in schools regardless of vaccination status. What do you think of that?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, I think that is along the same lines as what we've seen with the health authorities in Los Angeles which in the general population has said the same thing, that when you have a degree of viral dynamics in the community, and you have a substantial proportion of the population that is unvaccinated, that you really want to go the extra step, the extra mile to make sure that there is not a lot of transmission even breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals.

And for that reason, you can understand why the American Academy of Pediatrics might want to do that. They just want to be extra safe.

I think, you know, it's important, the CDC recommendations maybe at variance with that.


But in every respect, the CDC always leaves open the flexibility at the part of local agencies, local enterprises, local cities and states to make a judgment call based on the situation on the ground.

So, I think that the American Academy of Pediatrics, you know, they're a thoughtful group. They analyze the situation and if they feel that's the way to go, I think that's a reasonable thing to do.

BOLDUAN: Do you think it opens up for confusion and quite frankly as we've seen over the past months, conflict if the CDC is not in a place of saying everyone needs to mask indoors, if it doesn't match with what we're seeing kind of on the ground?

I totally understand the need for local authority to be able to be flexible for the dynamics on the ground. But there is a lot -- there is growing criticism that unvaccinated people started following what the vaccinated guidelines were for vaccinated people and that is where we really saw this change over and that the CDC should be leading a little harder there.

FAUCI: You know, I mean, that is an understandable criticism. If you look at the fundamental basis upon which CDC recommendations are made, they are invariably made on the clinical studies and data that has been collected and analyzed and a decision is made on the basis of the data.

Notwithstanding that, in the real world, when you see trends occurring before you can even get enough information to get a clinical trial or a clinical condition where you could say based on these data, we're going to make a decision, local authorities understandably say, you know, we don't have all of the data, we don't have the clinical trial data yet, the CDC is trying to collect that and when they do they'll come out with a firm recommendation.

But in the meantime, we want to play it on the side of being more safe. That is an understandable, you know, human reaction to really wanted to be more safe rather than sorry. And I believe that's the reason why they're doing that.

But you're absolutely correct, that does lead to some sort of confusion sometimes when people see an organization making one recommendation, in general, for the whole country and then local groups, local enterprises, local organizations, in order to get that extra step of safety, say something different. And you're right, that does indeed cause a bit of confusion.

BOLDUAN: With the delta variant in general, to what extent do you expect increases of hospitalizations and deaths to follow the rise in cases that we're seeing with the delta variant right now? FAUCI: Well, for the unvaccinated, there is no doubt you're going to see that. I mean, there is no doubt. This is a virus that is now shown us that it has a very strong capability of more efficiently spreading from person-to-person than the previous prototype viruses that we've experienced. And for the unvaccinated, that means not only getting infected, that means some proportion of the people who were infected will get seriously ill, requiring hospitalizations and in some cases unfortunately death.

For the vaccinated individuals, the thing that is held strong, regardless of where the study is, in the United States or in several foreign countries, that the vaccinations that we are using clearly still protect very well to the tune of 90 percent or more against hospitalizations, severe disease, and deaths.

So although you're dealing with a virus, that because of its extreme capability, of spreading from person-to-person, it's causing more infections and including breakthrough infections of vaccinated people, for those who are vaccinated, it's still doing very well against severe disease.

Unfortunately, we can't say the same for unvaccinated people. So in direct answer to your question, we can expect among the unvaccinated hospitalizations and eventually in some situations deaths.

BOLDUAN: And, look, the push to get people vaccinated continues. And there -- now we could see that Canada, while lagging behind the United States early on, is beating America in getting people vaccinated. Seventy-one-point-five percent of their total population is partially vaccinated, compared to America's 56 percent. And fully vaccinated, Canada is beating America as well.

Why is Canada doing better?

FAUCI: Well, Canada is doing better not because we are trying any less than they are trying. It's because in Canada, you don't have that divisiveness of people not wanting to get vaccinated in many respects on the basis of ideology and political persuasion and that's something that we have been saying for sometime now.


I mean, political differences are totally understandable and in a natural part of the process in any country. But when it comes to a public health issue, in which you're in the middle of a deadly pandemic and the common enemy is the virus, it just doesn't make any sense to essentially disregard or don't pay attention to what's obvious, namely that if you look at numbers, they tell you something very important, 99.5 percent of all of the deaths due to COVID-19 in this country are among unvaccinated people, and 0.5 percent are among vaccinated people.

That's a public health issue. That's not political. That's not ideological. It's a public health issue.

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: And for that exact reason, for that exact reason, Dr. Fauci, those -- that one number is honestly all I need to hear. And that is -- that is why I'm really struck with, if that number hasn't convinced the hesitant and the resistant to get a vaccine, I fear that nothing will. And then what then will we be left with if we are just where we are today, which is a significant portion of the population unvaccinated, actually more unvaccinated people than vaccinated?

FAUCI: Well, I still maintain hope that if we can get trusted messengers, that even those people who appear to be recalcitrant now could be persuaded when their family physician, their health care provider, their trusted clergy members in the community, if they can reach out to them, not government officials, but people who are trusted in the community, I think we can sway some proportion of those people.

I believe when the vaccines get fully approved in full licensure, even though it's no doubt that they are highly effective now and very safe, I think that when that official imprimatur occurs, with the full approval, you're going to see more people get vaccinated.

But to your specific question, if we don't get a significant proportion of these recalcitrant people vaccinated, we're going to be seeing a smoldering of this outbreak in our country for a considerable period of time, which is really unfortunate because what everyone wants in this country and elsewhere throughout the world is to be able to crush this outbreak in a sense of getting the level of vaccination so high that the virus has no place to go. I mean, it's just essentially a dead-end and gets block. But you're not going to have that until you get a very substantial proportion of the population vaccinated and we're not there yet.


FAUCI: To your concern, we're not there yet.

BOLDUAN: We sure aren't.

Dr. Fauci, please stick around.

He's been kind enough because we have more questions coming up. More on pandemic, more of the real life and practical questions that everyone is faced with right now. Like, is it safe to travel still?

We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Welcome back.

Coronavirus cases are on rise across the United States and the highly contagious delta variant poses a greater threat.

Breaking this morning, as reported at the top of the show, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending masks for all students over the age of two in school regardless of vaccination status. And we all have questions about the road ahead now and how we're going to be able to beat this virus once and for all.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is back with us.

One question I'm seeing a lot of it about traveling, Dr. Fauci, should people be reconsidering air travel, especially families planning to fly with these children we're talking about right now, too young to be vaccinated?

FAUCI: Well, you know, as the CDC has made it very clear, that the risk of infection when you travel, when you're in travel hubs in the airports and in restaurants and airports and even on the plane, maybe less so on the plane, is that the risk is increased compared to not traveling.

But also, you know that vaccinated people could feel that their risk is dramatically diminished because they are vaccinated. Certainly if you're an unvaccinated person given what's going on right now, I would say that you'd have to be careful, depending upon where you are and to where you want to go that you should be careful because an unvaccinated person is clearly at risk of getting infected and perhaps depending on their status getting a severe outcome. That risk is dramatically diminished if you are vaccinated.

And it is going to be a relative risk evaluation on the part of people depending upon the purpose of the travel is. People will have to make up their mind about the risk/benefit ratio and knowing that, in fact, if you are vaccinated, your level of protection is high. I mean, you hear about the transmissions that are going on, that's true. But a vaccinated person clearly has a high degree of protection particularly against developing severe disease.

So despite what we're hearing about, which is true, about the delta variant being much more capable of spreading from person-to-person, the protection against severe disease by the vaccines still remain very high, within the 90 percent.


BOLDUAN: TSA's mask requirement for air travel, it is set to end on September 13th. Do you think it will be safe to fly without a mask after that?

FAUCI: You know, Kate, I think we're going to have to wait to see what the situation is in September. It is still the middle of July. We have a month and a half to go before then.

You know, things could get considerably better I would hope that as more people get vaccinated, and I hope we continue to have a steady flow of people getting vaccinated, that things do improve considerably. If they go the opposite direction, then I think you need to reconsider those things, particularly since it's a month and a half away. BOLDUAN: Yeah. The former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said this

morning and it caught my attention, that with the delta variant now circulating that we need to start moving away from using cloth masks to more protective masks like N95s for vulnerable people like kids.

Do you agree with that?

FAUCI: You know, Kate, every time someone gets up on television and makes a recommendation, people always say, do I agree with it or not. You know, I mean, that's a possibility if people want to be more safe, clearly the N95s are better. If that is what you feel you want to do, go that extra step, special step for protection to do that.

But I don't want to be making mask policy on TV. I think that's something that we need to get the CDC to opine on. That's the best way to do it. Get the experts on CDC to examine the question and then either make a recommendation or not.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, that's a good point.

Looking at the science, though, how concerned should fully vaccinated people be about potentially infecting the unvaccinated children under the age of 12 that they have in their lives? You've been asked about this and it seems that there isn't enough data yet to make a determination. But in real-time, parents are very confused and worried about this.

FAUCI: Again, Kate, a very good point and when you don't have specific data that clearly answers the question that you asked me, which is true, there is not specific hard data to definitively answer your question, that's when you get the concern and the anxiety.

So the situation is that there will be breakthrough infections of vaccinated people. We know that. We hear about that every day.

Remember, the original clinical trials, the success of them, the 94 percent, 93 percent, 95 percent efficacy was based on the ability of the vaccine to protect you against clinically recognizable disease. The end point was not whether it did sterilizing immunity which means protect you completely against infection. So it's not surprising there are what we're calling breakthrough infections for vaccinated people.

The thing that we know about it, and the thing that we don't know about it is as follows: we know that in certain studies when you compare the level of virus, namely the quantity of virus in the nasal pharynx of a vaccinated person who has a breakthrough infection without symptoms, so they may not know they are infected but they are, the level of virus in their nasal pharynx in studies that have been done thus far are considerably less than the level of virus in the nasal pharynx of a person who is unvaccinated but who gets infected and doesn't have any symptoms and really in some respects may not know they're infected.

So given that, you could make a reasonable assumption that it is much less likely for the vaccinated breakthrough infection asymptomatic person to spread it to someone else, including your children, when you compare that to the unvaccinated person. But what has not been done, and it will happen, I think in probably in the next month or so, we'll have that data, what hasn't been definitively shown is that the risk of transmitting infection paralleling the low level of virus and mainly is the risk much, much, much lower, namely, should you not worry about transmitting it inadvertently to your children or anyone else if you get a breakthrough infection. We just don't know those data yet and we're collecting it.

And when we do, the CDC will make a pronouncement about the risk and what the relative risk is.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Fauci, thank you for that thorough.