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At This Hour

Alabama GOP Gov: "It's Time to Start Blaming the Unvaccinated"; Pelosi Considers Adding GOP Rep. Kinzinger to Insurrection Panel; Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is Interviewed About the Infrastructure Talks. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 11:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. I'm Dana Bash, in for Kate Bolduan today.

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

The unvaccinated are to blame. That is what Alabama's Republican governor, clearly exasperated, is saying about people who will not get vaccinated. She said it is time to start blaming them for fuelling the surge in COVID cases.

And let the games begin. A subdued opening ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics. No spectators in the stands for the delayed games.

Also, the NFL is taking action warning teams will be penalized if they have an outbreak among unvaccinated players.

We begin with the troubling surge in cases and hospitalizations among unvaccinated Americans. Alabama's Republican governor is not mincing words about why this is happening.


GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): The new cases and COVID have because of unvaccinated folks. Almost 100 percent of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths are certainly occurring with unvaccinated folks.


BASH: Why is she so frustrated? Look at this number. Look at this percentage. Alabama is the least vaccinated state in America, just 33.9 percent of residents are fully vaccinated there.

More than 50,000 new cases were reported in the U.S. yesterday alone, with the seven-day average well above 40,000. Just for context, that is almost four times what it was last month. Again the vast majority of those cases are among the unvaccinated. Hospitalizations are rising to the highest levels in months and the

situation is growing more dire in the state of Florida, which leads the nation in new coronavirus infections.

That's where CNN's Leyla Santiago is. She's in Miami to be specific, where the governor is under increasing pressure to get the surge under control.

Leyla, what is the governor saying?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, he will probably encourage vaccinations and the science behind it. But in that same tone -- in that same moment will also say do not expect lockdowns, do not expect mask mandates and he continues to bash Dr. Fauci.

Now another thing that he will be quick to say is that this is seasonal. He believes these are the same fluctuations we saw last year.

And when you talk to medical experts, they will say that is not the case. This is not seasonal because what is driving the surge is that very contagious delta variant. So I have spoken to doctors, to nurses, to patients, COVID 19 patients begging people to get vaccinated.

One epidemiologist telling me, we have got to get the government to double down on vaccinations, quit with misinformation on social media, or else there will be a breaking point here in Florida.

Governor DeSantis has been asked multiple time about this, this week. I want to you listen to the latest.


GOV. RON DENSANTIS (R-FL): If anyone is calling for lockdowns, you're not getting that done in Florida.

I have a 3-year-old son. You got people like Fauci saying he should be muzzled and throwing masks on 3-year-old kids. It's totally unacceptable.


SANTIAGO: There is also frustration, Dana, among some mayors who tell me back in may the governor signed an executive order that really limits what they could do when it comes to combating COVID-19, and so many feels like their hands are tied as to what they can do to protect their own citizens.

BASH: Wait, wait, it's interesting. He calls it a muzzle, and a lot of people look at that mask and see a life saver. Thank you so much for that report.

SANTIAGO: And millions of children, speaking of kids, they will return to classrooms in the next few weeks. There is new concern about how schools will be able to keep them safe. A new CNN analysis finds that less than one-third, less than one-third

of children between 12 and 17 years old are fully on track to be vaccinated in the next two weeks.

Let's go to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen with more. So, Elizabeth, what could we expect given the analysis that you and your colleagues have done when school starts?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Dana, there was so much hope back in May when 12 to 15-year-olds were given the green light to get vaccination to have a start of 2021 school year with a majority of students vaccinated. But it just hasn't panned out that way.

Let's take a look at what current news look like for adolescents in the U.S. When you look at ages 12 to 15, only 27 percent of them are vaccinated.


And they've been able to be vaccinated about two months now and the vaccine is plentiful and parents are choosing not to do it. But for ages 16 to 17, they've been allowed to be vaccinated for many months now and they're only at 39 percent.

So that's now. Of course, there is time until the school year starts. It's early August in some parts of country or early September in others. So let's see what our projections look like.

A CNN analysis showing 30 percent when you average all of that out, 30 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 will be fully vaccinated in two weeks when many school systems start. That is not a good number.

Those students need to protect the younger students who are in the school system. They need to protect their younger siblings because they can't be vaccinated, and instead two-thirds of parents have chosen, have opted not to protect their children. Children get sick and die from COVID. At rates higher than the flu, higher than my other viruses, but yet some parents are choosing to put their child's risk of dying. It defies explanation.

BASH: As a parent of a child too young to get vaccinated, I hear you, Elizabeth. And that was incredible and important and eye-opening reporting that you and the medical team did. Thank you so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BASH: And for more on that and additional conversation about coronavirus, let's talk to Aileen Marty. She's a professor from Florida international university.

And with us, CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician at the George Washington University, the former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

Dr. Marty, I want to start with you. Before I do, I want to plug your book, sorry about that. You are the author of life lines a doctor's journey in the fight for public health. Want to be sure to get that in.

First, Dr. Marty, on what Leyla was just reporting and that is major Florida papers have editorials accusing Governor DeSantis of not taking the pandemic seriously enough. We're putting some of those headlines on the screen right now.

You are in Florida. You are a working medical professional there. What is your sense?

DR. AILEEN MARTY, DISTINGUISHED UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASES, FIU: My sense is that there is a lot of frustration among the health care workers that once again facing these enormous rises in hospitalizations. And it is absolutely heart-wrenching when so many of the patients are in their 20s. In fact, the bulk of our cases are people from 20 to 39 years of age with the vast majority being people in their 20s that we have to hospitalize because these young people can't breathe.

BASH: Absolutely horrible.

And, Dr. Wen, we also talked at the beginning of the program about Alabama, the least vaccinated state in the country.

I want to play again for our viewers what the Republican Governor Kay Ivey said about what is going on in her state.


IVEY: These folks are choosing horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.

REPORTER: What is it going to take to get people's shots in arms?

IVEY: I don't know, you tell me. Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it is time for them to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It is the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.


BASH: Pretty strong words from the GOP governor of a ruby red state that the sad reality is it might be politically risky for her to say what we just heard but it showed the dire situation.

Dr. Wen, you are a former public health official. So knowing what you know about how that works and comments of leaders, land or don't land with constituents, what do you think about that?

Dr. Marty, I'll put that to you?

MARTY: Well, the bottom line is that -- needs to be focused on trying to get past this pandemic and that means that regardless of their political leanings, they should absolutely be working towards encouraging vaccination which is our number one defense against these viruses.

BASH: And, Dr. Wen, we lost -- I think you lost my audio for a minute there and want I to go back because you worked as a public health professional in Baltimore. Given what you know about the relationship between leaders and their constituents, will it help in Alabama?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think it does help. And I actually think it is time for us to start using analogies to other public health issues. So for example, let's talk about drunk driving. We say you are not allowed to drive while intoxicated because you have the potential of harming other people. If you want to drink, don't drive. You could drink in your home, but if you're out in public and could potentially harm other people, you shouldn't be drinking.


And we should use that same analogy when it comes to coronavirus. You could choose to stay unvaccinated. But if you're out in the public and interacting with others, potentially infecting our unvaccinated children, immuno-compromised people, and even those who are vaccinated, but still, there could be spill-over and get breakthrough infections, you shouldn't have the right to infection other people with a potentially deadly and extremely contagious disease.

And I think we should look at models like France and Italy where, sure, you could stay unvaccinated if you want, but if you want access to public spaces like restaurants, bars, trains, et cetera, either you show proof of a negative test or you have to be vaccinated. I really hope that our public officials start moving in that direction here.

BASH: Well, it is interesting, there was a headline in "L.A. Times" recently that struck us at the show saying that this new rise in infections is fueled by the enormously selfish unvaccinated people which is really blunt, but it looks like very accurate.

Dr. Marty, let's talk about specifics. You're in Florida. It leads the cases in new cases. What do hospitals look like there?

MARTY: Hospitals are once again at very high levels. We're having to restrict the entry of visitors again and as I said, the vast majority of our cases are young, unvaccinated people. Both in for here in Miami-Dade, where we have the Jackson and the Baptist system, we're again struggling with the high numbers of cases, in the hospital and in the ICUs.

BASH: Before I let you both go, Dr. Wen, I want to ask you about an analysis that Elizabeth Cohen, who is not a doctor, but may as well be, but is reporting that a third of 12 to 17-year-olds, only a third are fully vaccinated. I want to be careful not to give anything that is not a founded piece of data, oxygen, but one flying around the Internet that some could have problems with fertility.

Can you address that as a professional?

MARTY: There's absolutely --

BASH: Go ahead.

MARTY: There is nothing for that assertion.

BASH: OK, and Dr. Wen?

WEN: I think it is important for us to address that. This is something that is around. People are talking about this. We have to address where this rumor came from.

It came from anti-vaccine activists and the idea is that there is a portion of protein that is part of the placenta that may be similar to a protein that is targeted by the vaccine. Except scientifically that is not true at all. There is no evidence to suggest this in any way.

And, in fact, we have so many decades of research on other vaccines and there is no such thing as vaccine side effects that affect your facility years later. So, I think it's important to debunk this myth and it is something that a lot of people are talking about.

BASH: Thank you, both. For all of this --

MARTY: -- there is no better public health measure exists than vaccines.

BASH: Thank you both for all of that. Especially that last part. I hope that parents of those teenagers are watching and listening to the data and the science.

Thank you, Dr. Wen and Dr. Marty.

And up next, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could add another Republican to the panel investigating the insurrection. And what will happen at that committee's first hearing on Tuesday?

Also ahead, the Olympic games are finally underway in Tokyo. The athletes to watch at the Summer Games, that is ahead. Stay with us.



BASH: A second Republican could be added to a House panel investigating the deadly Capitol insurrection. Several sources tell CNN that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering adding GOP Congressman Adam Kinzinger to the Select Committee.

The first hearing is scheduled for this coming Tuesday.

CNN's Manu Raju is live at the Capitol with more.

So, Manu, what are you hearing from your sources about this?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think a decision from what I'm hearing could be made as soon as today. And all signs are pointing that Pelosi will move forward and name Adam Kinzinger to the select committee. Democrats who serve on the committee are supportive of going that route including the Chairman Bennie Thompson who told me yesterday that adding Kinzinger would be a good addition in his view.

This coming after of course, Pelosi naming Liz Cheney, both Cheney and Kinzinger were the only two Republicans to vote to create the select committee but they would be defying their leader Kevin McCarthy who pulled back all five of his picks this week after Pelosi vetoed two of those Republican picks because of her concerns she said that they would undermine the integrity of the investigation.

But Kinzinger has no qualms about angering Kevin McCarthy. He's made clear he's willing to do it. He's indicated that for months and both Kinzinger and Cheney have been the foremost critics of Donald Trump and what happened on January 6.

So the expectation that she was trying -- that Pelosi is looking to add more bipartisan credence to this committee, not just by potentially adding Kinzinger which it looks like she will do, but also adding outside advisers who are Republicans like former Congressman Denver Riggleman who met with key staff yesterday.


Now, Dana, this comes ahead of Tuesday's key hearing, first hearing with capitol police and then the investigation will pick up in the week as head as they look into everything that happened on that day.

BASH: Denver Riggleman who is a former intelligence officer screaming from the rooftops prior to January 6 that there was something dangerous afoot.

Manu, thank you so much for that reporting. Appreciate it.

And joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.

Senator, thank you so much for joining me. First on Manu's reporting, would you want to see Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger on the select committee?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, Dana, I know Congressman Kinzinger and I think he would be a great addition to this committee. It's important that this be a functional and effective and a bipartisan committee.

And Adam Kinzinger is a congressman who showed real courage in demanding that we get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th and along with Congresswoman Cheney, I think they would round out a bipartisan effort to get to the bottom of January 6th. We owe the men and women who serve and defend in the Capitol as members of the Capitol Police no less.

BASH: Let's talk infrastructure. You have been involved in bipartisan talks. There has been optimism about meeting a new deadline which is Monday. But the reality is that there are still several issues to be worked out.

One of them, Senator, as you know, is funding for more mass transit. It is proving to be so complicated and sticky that the lead GOP Senator Rob Portman told my colleague Manu Raju that it may have to be dropped if the bill.

If that happened, would you still support it?

COONS: I would. This is a bold and ambitious infrastructure investment. The $579 billion in new spending across a broadband and roads, rail and airports and sea ports would be a generational investment. This will be the largest investment in infrastructure we've done in our lifetimes, and I think it will create great, high- paying, high-skilled jobs. I think it will make our country more competitively globally.

And I think pulling off this big bipartisan bill would also show President Biden's deep commitment to working across the aisle to deliver real results the American people can see. The kind of things that folks call my office about are more potholes and the speed of Amtrak and whether or not they could take off from the Philadelphia airport on time than it is some of the more abstract issues that we debate in Washington.

This will be a concrete solution that will help make our economy stronger and more successful in the future. And I think there are just a few issues left to iron out.

You're right that transit is one of them, figuring out how we pay for the whole bill has been the other. And the White House has been very engaged in these negotiations. I think by early next week we'll have a final deal and be able to move to the Senate floor with it.

BASH: Well, while we're talking about it real quick, let me follow up on transit issue. You said you would be willing to vote for the package without that in it. Do you think it is going to be dropped? Is that your sense?

COONS: I don't know. There was still a significant gap between Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Toomey of Pennsylvania. That's the chair and the ranking of the relevant committee.

As I left Washington yesterday afternoon, the White House was actively engaged, frankly because we are also going to be moving a large reconciliation bill, there will be a second opportunity for us later in year to invest in transit.

Transit is something we all need across this country but particularly in communities like here in the Philadelphia suburbs where it is how people connect to their employment every day.

BASH: Well, let me ask you about the so-called reconciliation package. The House speaker made clear yesterday that the House won't take up the bipartisan infrastructure bill until you and your colleagues in the Senate pass what is known as reconciliation. It is $3.5 trillion in funding. Is that pressure helpful?

COONS: Well, it is been clear from the majority leader, from Chuck Schumer, for weeks, that before we could leave for the August recess, the Senate is going to have to take up and pass both this bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the budget bill that will begin the process of this reconciliation package.

That will go on for several months more. But I think it is appropriate that we're trying to pass as much as we can of President Biden's bold plan, both for building physical infrastructure and for providing the investments that will reduce costs for working families across our country, costs from things like daycare and child care, the cost of community college and drug prices, but also provide real investment to strengthen our recovery.

I think we can get both of those done. But the next two weeks are critical, Dana. We're going to bear down, negotiate in good faith and move forward with these two bills.


BASH: Before I let you go, just real quick, the FBI wrote a letter recently to you and to Senator Whitehouse acknowledging that more than 4,000 tips they got during the Brett Kavanaugh nomination process that were just transferred over to the White House.

You were a key player in his nomination. You and Jeff Flake, the Republican, you delayed the committee hearing for a week in order to have the FBI do more of an investigation. Do you think at this point looking back, it was a sham?

COONS: Well, Senator Whitehouse and I have been trying for nearly two years to get clear answers from the FBI. The FBI provides the background check process for cabinet officials and for senior judicial nominees and justices.

And I think what the letter did was raised more questions than it answered. The idea there were 4,500 Americans who reached out to this tip-line to provide information and yet no further investigation was done really calls into question that confirmation process.

We need to get for clarity on this about what happened, what should happen, and what will happen for future confirmation processes in order for me to rest more easily for and the public to have more confidence in the Senate.

BASH: Senator Chris Coons from Delaware, thank you so much for your time this morning. Have a good weekend.

COONS: Thank you, Dana. You, too.

BASH: And coming up -- coming up, delayed and different, the Olympic Games are underway in Tokyo. We'll take you there live next.