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At This Hour

Biden Marks Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act; Medical Groups Call for Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers; Team USA Picks Up More Medals in Tokyo. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 26, 2021 - 11:30   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank him for being with us as well. And some of the same of folks who fought so hard through his landmark legislation are with us today.

I just got off the phone with one of them, a guy named Tom Harkin. And yesterday -- two days ago, I was on the phone with one who just had his 98th birthday, Bob Dole. But no one worked harder than Tony Quello to get this done, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Others weren't able to join us today but we are instrumental in bringing this to life, dear friends, as I said, like Tom Harkin and Bob dole.

And I also spoke, as I said, Bob is one of the pass on as regards, as did Tom. Tom is up in Wisconsin working on, he said, on ADA, doing something up there and I didn't explain exactly what. There is still more with us that are here in spirit like, Ted Kennedy, Major Owen, the congressman, Major Owen, countless other advocates.

I was enormously proud to be a co-sponsor of the ADA, as Pat Leahy was, as I'm well, if I'm not mistaken, as a member of the United States Senate. And I'm proud to be here today as president alongside so many fearless champions who represent the ongoing legacy of this law from the foundations to its future.

31 years ago, after this passage, many Americans have never lived in a world without the ADA. Generations have grown up not knowing a time before it existed. But many of us could still recall in America where a person with disabilities was denied service and in restaurants and grocery stores and could be, where a person using a wheelchair couldn't ride on a train or take a bus to work or to school, or an employer could refuse to hire you because of a disability, an America that wasn't built for all Americans.

Then we passed the ADA and made a commitment to build a nation for all of us, all of us. And we moved America closer to fulfilling that promise of liberty and justice and maybe most importantly dignity and equality for all. You know, and perhaps most importantly, we did it together. This was a Democratic bill signed by a Republican president, a product of passion and compassion, not partisanship, progress that wasn't a political but personal to millions of families.

I'll never forget the moment the ADA passed. And you may remember, Pat, stand on the floor of the United States Senate and Tom Harkin sought recognition, he rose. And the first time, first time in history that I'm aware of, the United States Senate, he stood up and he signed in a speech to his brother. Tom wasn't just sending a message to millions of deaf and hard of hearing folks, he was speaking to his brother, Frank. It was personal to him.

It was personal to Bob Dole as well, who lost the use of his right arm in a heroic effort during World War II, who laid out in a hospital for almost three years, his injury is listed and they've also lasted an entire lifetime. But like so many Americans, he turned his disability, his apparent limitation into greater purpose and will. He made, he made the rights of disabled Americans a lifelong cause.

And for more than 60 million Americans living with disabilities, the ADA is so much more than a law. It is a source of opportunity, participation, independent living and respect and dignity, the bulwark against discrimination and a path to independence.

And for our nation, the ADA is more than a law as well. It is testament to our character of as a people, character as Americans, it is a triumph of American values. But, of course, this law didn't bring an end to the work we need to do. Today, too many Americans still face barriers to freedom and equality. But thanks to this movement that spans all races, beliefs, backgrounds and generations, we're once against making progress together.

And my first day in office, I was proud to sign an executive order establishing a government-wide commitment to advancing equity, including people with disabilities. And I was proud to appoint the first ever White House Disability Policy Director Kim Knackstedt. Where are you, Kim? Where is Kim? Thank you, Kim.

And I'm ensuring that dignity and rights of disabled Americans are lifted up in every policy we pursue, from continuing to make sure that this administration looks like America, pointing people with disabilities to positions across the government.


And the American rescue plan, we're able to include substantial support for schools, the better serve students with disabilities and expanding access to vaccines for disabled Americans. As part of my build back better plan that was mentioned, we proposed $400 billion to expand access to home and community-based care, helping people with disabilities and older adults live more independently.

And I'm glad that Congress is beginning to move on better care, better jobs act, championed by my buddy, Bobby Casey, Bobby, thank you, which builds on that effort.

This past year the entire nation saw just how vital our caregivers are and how critical home-based care truly is for so many Americans. This legislation will help ensure that caregivers are fairly compensated for their work.

In addition, I've also called on Congress to eliminate the discriminatory subminimum wage provisions that too often keep people with disabilities from getting good jobs with fair wages. Because of additional executive orders I've signed, we are working to remove barriers that hold back disabled Americans from exercising their sacred right to vote. And we're ensuring that the federal government is a model employer when it comes to wages, accommodations and opportunities to advance people with disabilities. That is a firm commitment.

And today, finally, I'm proud to announce a new effort, the first of its kind to help Americans grappling with long-term effects of COVID- 19 that doctors call long COVID. Many Americans who seemingly recover from the virus still face lingering challenges, like breathing problems, brain fog, chronic pain and fatigue. These conditions can sometimes, can sometimes rise to the level of a disability.

So we're bringing agencies together to make sure Americans with long COVID who have a disability have access to the rights and resources that are due under the disability law, which includes accommodations and services in the workplace and school and our health care system so they could live their lives in dignity and get the support they need as they continue to navigate these challenges.

We made important progress but we still have work to do. We have to keep going to ensure that every single American has a chance to contribute their talents and thrive and succeed. And another of today's fearless advocates, some of whom are with us today, are going to accomplish incredible things. People like -- excuse me, like Mr. Tootle (ph). Where are you? Stand up, man. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

You know, I want to thank you for your continued efforts to build an America for everyone. And as I said, you courageous advocates who led the way 31 years ago, a long time before the foundation for progress is strong, though. It is part of the more moral bedrock of our nation and something every Americans should be proud of.

Now it is my honor to sign the proclamation on the 34th anniversary of the ADA. I want to thank you all. My God bless you and all of you dealing with disabilities. You are an inspiration to all of us. I really mean it. You're an absolute inspiration. May God bless you all and may God protect our troops and I'm going to walk over and sign this.

I'm going to invite though Nancy, come on up. Steny, I think we ought to get you up here. You're a big part of it, Tony Cuello. Am I living anybody out? Pat, you were there at the time. Why don't you get your rear end up here.

The leader is taking his camera because Pat would rather use his camera than I think anything else.

Tony, you get right in the back here. You were a big gigantic part of this, all right. Anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act 2021.

So you could see it, Madam Speaker.


I will, but I want to make sure I got all of them. Thank you, everybody, let's keep it going.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: All right. We've been listen in to President Biden marking the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Let me bring in CNN's John Harwood, who has been listening in with us. He is live at the White House for us.

John, I'm not only struck -- not only struck by how it is not only important to mark the anniversary of such a historic piece of legislation and a historic law, but also how the president talked about it when he said, and, importantly, we did it together. It wasn't about passion, not just about passion, it was about passion, compassion, not partisanship. Obviously, there is a lot of threads to what he's facing today on Capitol Hill.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you really saw Joe Biden summoning the spirit of what he considers best about his time in the United States Senate, and that is times when they could work across the aisle. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by a Democratic House and Senate, signed by a Republican president, with major contributions from Republican legislators, like Bob Dole, the Senate Republican leader, of course now retired, 98 years old.

This is Joe Biden at a pivotal point where he's trying to get his infrastructure plan, the smaller bill that he's trying to forge with Democratic and Republican senators across the finish line. It is difficult. You've had Republicans pushing back today on a Democratic offer. Democrats saying Republicans are moving the goalpost. Very hard to do in the modern environment, which is more polarized than it was then.

But even then, you had a lot of partisan passions and on the issue of the Americans with disabilities, like infrastructure, it doesn't fit in the normal partisan frame. They got that done. It was one of highlights of George H.W. Bush's administration and Joe Biden wants to make this bipartisan infrastructure plan one of the highlights of his administration trying to recapture some of that bipartisan magic right now.

BOLDUAN (voice over): I'm sitting here wondering, do you think something like the ADA could be passed today?

HARWOOD (voice over): I do. I think that you get certain categories of action that if they can't readily fall into the partisan pegs that we have become accustomed to, sometimes you can move it along. We saw that on a bill to combat or stand up and compete economically with China earlier this year. It was not something that was highly identified as a Democratic or Republican initiative. They worked together. They got a strong Senate vote. That could happen on disabilities today and we'll see if it could happen on infrastructure. BOLDUAN (voice over): Yes, we will see. Today seems another one of those days. It's great to see you, John, thank you.

HARWOOD: You bet.

BOLDUAN (on camera): Coming up to us, we're going to get answers to a lot of the questions that you have about sending your kids back to school in the midst of this delta variant surge, summer travel and much more. Stay with us.



BOLDUAN: New at this hour, more than 50 major medical care groups signing a joint statement out today calling for mandatory COVID vaccines for all health care and long-term care workers. The statement reading this in part, this is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first.

Another big question today is, really, what to do at home, about schools and summer travel plans as the delta variant is running rampant.

Joining me now to answer some of your questions is Erin Bromage. He's a Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. It is good to see you again, Erin.

I was thinking, let's break these questions into for vaccinated and for unvaccinated, because it is like two different things, two different groups, two different Americas right now. When it comes to schools, I've noticed that one major difference for the start of this year versus last we're is there seems to be near universal agreement that kids need to be in the classrooms if at all possible. For the vaccinated and for those who still aren't or can't be yet, how is the start of school going to be different?

ERIN BROMAGE, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH: Well, thank you for having me on, Kate. The school year should be the same as what it was last August and September when we went back. We knew the ways to get schools back safely. It is taking care of the air, it is filtration, ventilation, making sure the big cohorts of children don't mix together, but it can be done safely.

We've now lowered the risk more by having any teacher that wanted to get a vaccine has now had it. Anyone over the age of 12 now has the opportunity to actually have the vaccine and have that layer of protection coming into school.

So, we're actually starting the year in a better situation than what we were last year.


If we can go back, it doesn't mean we're going back to what it was in 2019, we still do have to put up mitigation steps but schools absolutely should go back. And we just need to focus on the things that make a big difference for safety.

BOLDUAN: What remains the most important aspect, do you think, of safety in school buildings? Has the safety calculation changed?

BROMAGE: No, not really. I mean, even with this new variant, with the delta variant, the mitigation steps that we used to control the first one, the alpha, any of the ones that come into school are the same. Infection is primarily through proximity and shared air. So, if we take care of the indoor air environment, we're lowering the risk of infection.

So, that's the big to this key, is what can we do to the indoor air to limit the buildup of the virus inside that space? And that is certainly proximity, that's masks, but also a big part of this is get windows open, get filtration systems in place. There is no excuses for school districts not to have the resources they need in order to open safely.

BOLDUAN: Then let's talk about travel. How safe is it to travel right now for the vaccinated and the unvaccinated?

BROMAGE: Yes. So we're entering this sort of bit of a different phase with the virus sort of escalating everywhere at the moment. It is different to what it was at this time last year. The delta variant has thrown us a bit of a curveball. But, again, the mitigation things that we've done to keep us infection free have -- we've worked for this one as well, so, car travel, hiking, going to beaches, things like that, they're all fine.

We've seen the flying on an airline is mostly safe. I was flying just yesterday. And American Airlines, they have great policies in place. They were really almost militant about how certain they were that you needed to keep masks up over your nose, those things, it was really good, even the way people boarded and unboarded plane. It was fantastic. It was orderly. So, that looked really safe.

So, again, travel comes down to the interactions you have when you are in the airport or at your destination. Don't share air with other people. Pick the venues you want to be appropriately. And that applies for both vaccinated and unvaccinated.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask then, as you say that, about concerts and kind of those kind of gatherings, because there are a lot of people that are back out there buying tickets for concerts again. And we have video to show our viewers this weekend.

There was one of the biggest outdoor hip-hop festivals called Rolling Loud. It was happening in Florida. And you can see just like a sea of people heading into this venue. Yes, it is outdoors, right, but it is a lot of people together. And as I saw reported, masks and vaccines were not required to attend.

How safe is this, something like that, with the delta variant again running rampant? BROMAGE: Yes. So I will -- a conflict of interest. I was at a rock concert, I was at a band this weekend. So, I saw the Dave Matthews Band concert. And I was there to help them open the show safely. They have a 100 percent vaccinated band, a 100 percent vaccinated crew.

So the actually band itself is very robust. And then we're moving to this stage now where everybody in that audience are adults, they've had choices to make on how they protect themselves through the vaccine or maybe they don't have the same risk profile. So -- and we know that not as many people are getting sick. So, we need to start shifting a little bit about where we think about in regards to cases per day.

This was -- for me, it was an outdoor venue. It actually felt quite comfortable (INAUDIBLE), whereas with the bands, that side of things, it worked perfectly. So, I think it can be done. I think it's just venue-specific.

BOLDUAN: Venue-specific, absolutely. Great to see you, Erin, thank you very much.

BROMAGE: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, Team USA stunned in the swimming pool, an update on star Katie Ledecky, the highs and lows for Team USA so far and the outlook for the American medal count, coming up.



BOLDUAN: An unusual Olympic Games is moving forward with new sports making their debut and American athletes winning more medals.

Let's get straight to Tokyo for the very latest. CNN's Coy Wire is standing by. Coy, how is Team USA doing?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. Another great Kate, Katie Ledecky, the most dominant female swimmer of all time already potentially winning five golds at these games, but she was stunned by Ariarne Titmus in the 400-meter freestyle. And the significance of this moment was summed up by this reaction, Australia's coach looking like he won the gold medal after about 18 coffees. Titmus win the second fastest time ever behind only Ledecky's world record.

I talked to Katie afterwards and she told me, I'm already mentally on to the next race. And I got the sense, Kate, that this was -- lit a fire under her. She still has her best events, the 800 and 1,500-meter freestyles, she's also swimming the 200 free. U.S. currently second behind China in the medal count.

Now, American Kevin McDowell, Illinois native, got cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma ten years ago. And can you believe that he just put off the best American triathlon finish ever at the Olympics, sixth place with a time of over an hour and 45 minutes.

I interviewed Kevin this morning. He said that there were times during chemo where he thought that he was just going to give up on his dreams.


KEVIN MCDOWELL, FINISHED 6TH IN MEN'S TRIATHLON: During the battle of cancer, it was almost -- that was almost the easy part for me.


It was more the return after because I came back and said, I'm going to get back right away to sport and be fine now. I beat cancer, I can take on anything.