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At This Hour

U.S. Economy Grew at 6.5 Percent Rate, Full Recovery from Pandemic; Arkansas Children's Hospitals Say, Record Number of Kids Hospitalized; Sunisa Lee Wins Gold Medal in All-Around Gymnastics. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired July 29, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: We have breaking news in. The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace since last fall. The government announcing the GDP, the broadest measure of goods and services made in the United States grew 6.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter, signaling a recover from the pandemic but this does fall short as economist forecast something north of 8 percent this time around.

Joining me now for more on this Heather Boushey, she's a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Heather, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: So, GDP, it is a big number but short of what economists were thinking. What is your biggest takeaway from this?

BOUSHEY: Well, so here is the thing. A year ago, forecasters were predicting what growth would be this time of the year. And the amount of growth that we've seen in the first half of the year is as much as they were expecting in all of 2021. So that is really good news. It means is that the president's plan of getting shots in arms and the American rescue package, this has been effective. This has led to much stronger growth than we were expecting before the president took office and this is a strong number today. So, I feel really good about where the economy is going right now.

BOLDUAN: Rising inflation continues to hit every American. The consistent message that I've heard from the White House and the administration has been these price hikes are temporary. How long do these spikes have to last before this isn't seen as temporary and thus a much bigger problem?

BOUSHEY: So, here is the thing, Kate, inflation is certainly an important issue and it's one that we talk about all of the time and that we are certainly watching. But at this point, what we're seeing in terms of price gains has to do with our recovery from this historic pandemic. It was much more difficult to turn the economy on than it was to turn it off back in the spring of 2020. And we've done so, we've seen these supply chain hiccups, we've seen these challenges across the economy that had led to some price increases. And so, yes, we are seeing this.

But, of course, last month the largest share price increases was in cars, about 60 percent was in automobiles, and another significant chunk was in pandemic related services. So we think that as we work our way out of this pandemic, as these supply chain hiccups get resolved, that we will see prices come back down to normal.

BOLDUAN: But what I'm trying to get at, because I also asked one of your colleagues a few weeks back, is, essentially, what is your definition of temporary when it comes to inflation right now.

BOUSHEY: Well, you know, everything in the economy hinges on how well we wrap our hands around this pandemic. And so as we are watching what is happening with these variants, with delta and other variants potentially coming down the pipeline, that is the real question.

So can we get everyone vaccinated? Can we get back to normal in terms of our human engagement? These are the questions that are behind what is happening with inflation.

BOLDUAN: But you don't have internally or at least you don't want to say publicly how many months out it starts becoming less of a debate.


BOUSHEY: If I could tell you exactly when every American would get the vaccine and exactly how quickly we will be able to control delta and other variants, then I'd be able to give you a clear answer. But the reality is that the economic crisis was due to the pandemic, and so we need to be -- have patience as we work our way out of that.

BOLDUAN: And this also raises something that I think is really essential right now. A big question I have is how much of a threat is the delta variant to the U.S. economic recovery right now? Is it the biggest threat?

BOUSHEY: I continue to think that the pandemic is the biggest threat facing the economy. You know, again, we have made so much progress. We have been able to get, you know, significant progress on getting shots in arms, getting that vaccine out to the majority of adults. This is really why we have this recovery, alongside the aid and the efforts to keep businesses and family afloat, why we did that.

But, you know, looking forward, you know, the scientists can tell us best what is happening with the pandemic but that is really the crux of what is happening with the economy.

BOLDUAN: Heather, thank you for coming on. I appreciate your time.

BOUSHEY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, health officials are facing backlash now as they try to push to get more people vaccinated. We're going to take you inside a hospital that is now seeing more children critically ill with coronavirus, next.



BOLDUAN: In Arkansas, the pace of vaccinations struggling to stay ahead of the pace of people getting so sick they need hospital care. The state is reporting a record high number of new cases, numbers not seen since last winter. One of the most troubling new trends is the number of children that are now in the hospital.

CNN's Martin Savidge has more.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Vaccine backlash.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no evidence that the COVID --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, and that is been the data. But they --

SAVIDGE: The social media posts shows angry Arkansas residents shouting down a state health expert attempting to refute misinformation about coronavirus vaccines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't need to yell, I'll give you the microphone.

SAVIDGE: Community meetings like these are meant to boost the state's lagging vaccination rate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love it but you keep covering it up.

SAVIDGE: Despite the confrontation, Governor Asa Hutchinson says vaccinations are up.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AK): We've had a 40 percent increase in people getting the doses.

SAVIDGE: That might sound good but it still means only about 40 percent of the state's population is fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 hospitalizations have been rising daily over the past three weeks. The last time the state's ICUs had this many COVID patients was January. But one Little Rock hospital has never had so many COVID 19 patients, Arkansas Children's Hospital.

So, throughout the pandemic, this is the worst you've seen --

DR. RICK BARR, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, ARKANSAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: This is the worst we've seen our kids, yes, absolutely.

SAVIDGE: Half of the hospital's young COVID patients are in the pediatric intensive care unit. At least two are on ventilators.

When a child comes into your unit, do you question the parents and say have you been vaccinated?

BARR: We do ask.

SAVIDGE: And what do you find?

BARR: We find that often they're not vaccinated.

SAVIDGE: And if their child is here, does it change the parents' mind on the vaccine?

BARR: Oh, absolutely. We've seen that multiple instances where they wish they'd now -- they wish they had gotten their child vaccinated.

SAVIDGE: Sick children are a troubling trend. But in Arkansas, COVID 19 is killing far more adults needlessly.

RACHEL ROSSER, NURSE, MOM DIED OF CORONAVIRUS: I'm angry that she didn't get vaccinated. And I personally feel guilty that I didn't try harder.

SAVIDGE: 63-year-old Kim McGinn, her daughter said, loved her life and everyone in it, especially her grandkids.

ROSSER: She worked out five days a week with a personal trainer. She loved to go to concerts. She loved to go out to eat.

SAVIDGE: Then came the fever, the sore throat, the diagnosis, the ICU, the ventilator and the end. This is a photo of that moment.

This is the point where I bring up and say she wasn't vaccinated.

ROSSER: She was not.

SAVIDGE: What reasons did she give?

ROSSER: Not good ones, in my opinion.

SAVIDGE: Her father was also unvaccinated and that is where Rachel drew the line.

ROSSER: I broke down on his front porch one day after going to visit my mom in the ICU and I just told him, I said I'm not doing this again. You need to get vaccinated. I am not doing this again. I'm not going through this again.

SAVIDGE: He did.

As for her mother, all Rachel has left is a phone full of photos and videos, grief and a lot of guilt.

ROSSER: I think I'll always feel like I could have tried harder to convince her.


SAVIDGE (on camera): Rachel is speaking out. She says because she wants those who have not been vaccinated to realize how selfish it is.


Because when they get sick and when they die, all of the heartbreak, all of the hardship falls on the families and they're literally left holding the bag. Her mom didn't have a will.

Getting back to Arkansas Children's Hospital, good news, there were five less children with COVID in the hospital. That is today, the numbers fluctuate. They still are seeing about 50 percent more since the previous week when it comes to children.

It used to be that children were not thought to be a concern for coronavirus but the doctors here say the delta variant has changed all of that. They are getting very sick, half of the children there were age eligible to be vaccinated but their parents didn't make it happen. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Martin, thank you so much for that report. Thank you very much.

And joining me right now for more on this is Dr. Michael Saag, he's the director of the Infectious Disease Division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Doctor, thank you for being here.

As my colleague was just reporting -- I mean, he's reporting from Arkansas, you're in Alabama. But you're facing very similar resistance to vaccines. I mean, just how do you react to that report and how he's now hearing doctors tell him that more children are now getting sick and sicker and filling beds?

DR. MICHAEL SAAG, DIRECTOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE DIVISION, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Well, that story broke my heart. I mean, I'm watching that, I'm seeing people die. We're seeing it here as well. And I can't tell you how frustrating almost to the point of becoming infuriated at the degree of resistance that we're seeing. And I'm having trouble finding a good reason why people are not being vaccinated.

And the scary thing for me right now is we have projections in Alabama that show that by Labor Day, we will be two to three times our peak level of cases in the state by -- that we ever had there from January. And that means our hospitals having to regroup, we have to restart setting up COVID ICUs, we've got to start setting up COVID units. Everything we just undid as we came out of March, April, May, we're now having to reinvent and restart, and it is remarkably frustrating.

BOLDUAN: You've said that this is the most frustrated you've been in your entire professional career and it is understandable. I mean, last week, Alabama's governor, she is very clearly frustrated as well and she got a lot of attention because of how she expressed that and what she said. I want to remind folks of what Governor Kay Ivey said.


GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.

REPORTER: What is it going to take to get people to get shot arms?

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


BOLDUAN: I think we just lost the connection with the doctor, with Dr. Saag. We'll try to re-establish if possible. But, Dr. Michael Saag, thank you very much for your time, sir. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Big news from the Olympic Games. American Suni Lee dazzling in the all-around competition and winning the gold medal for the women's gymnastics team.

CNN's Selina Wang is live in Tokyo with much more. Selena, what an amazing moment.

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, absolutely incredible. Suni Lee is grace under pressure, triumph through adversity. This 18-year-old from Minnesota stepped up when Simone Biles stepped back extending the U.S.'s five-run of all-around Olympic golds, and she has faced so many setbacks leading up to this point.

In 2019, her father, who she's called her best friend, her number one supporter, her inspiration, he was helping cut a tree for a friend and he fell down thus leaving him paralyzed from chest down, a huge emotional challenge for her. In addition to this leading up to the games, she worked through an ankle injury. Also last year, she last her aunt and uncle to COVID-19, incredibly challenging for her.

Take a listen to what she said after her win.


SUNISA LEE, U.S. WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS ALL-AROUND GOLD MEDALIST: The past two years have been crazy with COVID and my family, and everything else. This medal definitely means a lot to me because there was a point in time where I wanted to quit and I just didn't think I would ever get here, including injuries and stuff.

So, there are definitely a lot of emotions, but I'm super proud of myself for sticking with it and believing in myself.


WANG: Kate, this is also a proud moment for the Hmong community. She is the first Hmong-American to be an Olympic gymnast. And even though her family could not be there in person to cheer her on with those nearly empty stadiums, they were at home watching her historic win, absolutely incredible video of their golden reaction for this golden moment, all of them cheering her on after such an emotional time for her family.

And they're in the stands in person, however. Simone Biles was sitting there with the rest of the U.S. team there to support and cheer her on. After Simone Biles stepped back to focus on her mental health, there has been an outpouring of support from the community from elite athletes from the public who commend her for having the courage for speaking up and stepping back to focus on her own well being.


But, Kate, really, today is about Suni Lee, her incredible achievement, her incredible performance, really an inspiration for us all.

BOLDUAN: She really is, and you say it so well, Selina, I mean, she's just grace under pressure, but her personal story, it's just such a perfect American story of just where she's come from, how far she's come. I loved hearing her say that she was so proud of herself that she stuck with it. Because you can imagine how -- last year has been horrific for everyone, and she -- she included. And it's just so awesome to see just an amazing story. Thanks, Selina.

Thank you all for so much being here. Inside Politics with John King starts after a quick break.