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At This Hour

CDC: 99.9 Percent of Vaccinated Haven't Had Deadly Breakthrough Case; White House Focusing Biden's Schedule on COVID Cases; Millions at Risk of Being Evicted after Federal Moratorium Expires; Bipartisan Group Finalizes Text on 2,000+ Page Infrastructure Bill; Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) is Interviewed About the Infrastructure Bill. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired August 02, 2021 - 11:00   ET



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

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Surging as the school year starts. The country faces a spiraling COVID-19 crisis. But there is good news this morning, too, on the one thing that could end the pandemic for good.

The Senate's moment of truth, the bipartisan deal on infrastructure heading closer to a critical vote. But could Democrats in the House now kill this whole thing?

And an incredible comeback. Gymnast Simone Biles ready to return and getting ready to compete once again for gold at the Olympics.

Thank you so much for being here.

We begin this hour with the number that is really the most important number of the day. Not the number of new coronavirus cases. Instead, new CDC data showing that more than 99.99 percent of people who are fully vaccinated have not had a breakthrough case resulting and needing to be in the hospital or in death, evidence that if you're vaccinated, and you get a breakthrough case of COVID, you will be fine.

More than 816,000 doses were administered on Saturday. That's the fifth straight day above 700,000 shots, and the U.S. is now averaging the highest number of doses administered in nearly a month. That is good news.

But where country is right now is not good. The delta variant continues to spread like wildfire across the country, averaging nearly 80,000 new cases per day. The number of people sick enough to need hospital care is also rising, significantly, again almost exclusively among the unvaccinated. And officials are warning the surge is just beginning, particularly in the nation's trouble spots, mostly concentrated in the south.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INTITUTES OF HEALTH: Cases have gone up about four-fold in the last couple of weeks. We're pushing up towards 100,000 cases a day now. And particularly so in those hot spots where vaccination rates are still quite low, maybe 30 percent, that would be Missouri and Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, and those are areas of deep concern.


BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

And another major area of concern, children. Many of them still not eligible to get the vaccine but so many are now heading back to school and at same time, President Biden is clearly making coronavirus a top priority as you could see from the schedule this week.

Let's get started with CNN's Jeremy Diamond who is live at the White House with more.

Jeremy, there is a refocus at the White House right now. What are you hearing there?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, no doubt, Kate. As this delta variant is spreading like wildfire, sending cases in some states to record highs, we are seeing a more concerted effort at the White House to put President Biden's schedule in line with that growing national concern. The president holding several events this week focused on coronavirus pandemic.

Today, he will be meeting with his public health team while the president is regularly updated by that team, it is notable that they put it on the schedule to make very clear that this is something that has the president's full attention. We will then hear from public health officials who briefed the president this afternoon to take questions from reporters.

Later in week we're also seeing the president deliver a speech tomorrow on vaccinations both in the United States as well as abroad because this White House knows that as the coronavirus continues to spread, whether it is here or around the world, more variants of concern are likely to emerge and variants that could potentially render the vaccine less effective.

Of course, for now, we know that vaccine is still effective against the delta variant. We also, Kate, just had a briefing with some senior administration officials who talked about the level of concern inside of the White House and they also talked about what to expect in the weeks ahead.

The big concern as the schools are set to reopen, the concern isn't necessarily widespread at the national level but these officials did say that they are concerned about those states where governors have decided to not allow mask mandates to be put in place. And one senior administration official making very clear there are governors in this country who are willing to put politics ahead of public health -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jeremy, thank you for that reporting.

Let me go now to CNN's Rosa Flores who is live right now in one of the coronavirus hot spots where the focus is, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Rosa, what are you seeing there?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Kate, I talked to the mayor of Broward county and he tells me that the numbers here are terrifying. Not just here in Broward but across the state of Florida. One of the things that are very concerning is the number of hospitalizations. He says that unlike last year, this year they're seeing people who are younger being hospitalized in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

The positivity rate in the state of Florida is 18 percent. Now when you look at the number of children that are getting this virus, that is the concern as the school year begins.

Hear this. The positivity rate of children between the ages of 12 and 19 is 22 percent.


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing an executive order on Friday and I want to be clear because this executive order is vague. It does not outright ban mask mandates. What it does do it is directs the Florida department of health and the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education to draft measures and emergency rules that would give parents a choice.

Now here in Broward County where I am, the school board passed, voted on and passed a mask mandate before Governor DeSantis signed that executive order. Now they're going back to the drawing board trying to figure out how that impacts them.

Masks, a very divisive issue here in the state of Florida and across the country. I sat down with families on both ends of the spectrum. A family that is for masks and a family that is for masks being optional in the classroom.

And I asked them, what it was like for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to big foot their school board in this decision. Take a listen.


MICHAEL AZCARATE, PRO-MASK PARENT: Party of small government, right? It's really disheartening.

FLORES: What was your reaction to that?

CARRIE MELANCHRINO, PARENT AGAINST MASK MANDATE: Relief, and simply for my concern and their well being. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: And, Kate, I spent several hours with the two families ands learned that as Americans we have a lot more things in common than the division of these masks, these parents love their children and want the best for their children and, of course, the best education -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Rosa, thank you so much for putting that in perspective.

Joining me right now is Dr. Aileen Marty. She's professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University.

Doctor, thank you for coming back and being here. My colleague Rosa is describing there the troubling place that Florida is in right now. How do you describe it?

DR. AILEEN MARTY, DISTINGUISHED UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASES, FIU: It's absolutely so tragic. Not only have we have the highest number of cases, we've had the highest number of hospitalizations that we've had since the 23rd of July of last year and we're higher than that. We beat last years records in terms of hospitalizations.

And so many of these young children, our Children's Hospital, Nicholas Hospital, the Joe DiMaggio here nearby are seeing record numbers of cases. So it is impacting our hospital systems both adult and children. And we have to be very, very careful. This is something parents need to take into consideration. Do they want to see their child in hospital?

BOLDUAN: I have to say, I don't want it to be lost on people what you said about hospitalizations. That the state has now broken the record on hospitalizations that there was a high in July of 2020 and now the state is surpassing that. This isn't just people getting a mild case of coronavirus. These are people that are sick enough with coronavirus that they need hospital care.

What does this mean?

MARTY: This is a much more aggressive virus. This delta variant, than what we had last year. It is far more contagious and it is causing serious illness in young people, including children. That is what this means.

BOLDUAN: One number that I mentioned off the top of the show, 99.9 percent of people that are vaccinated fully vaccinated, they do -- if they get a break through COVID case, it does not result in hospitalization or death. They don't need to go to the hospital.

Here is another one for you, Doctor. The Kaiser Family Foundation just put out an analysis saying that less than 1 percent of fully vaccinated people experienced a breakthrough infection.

These are -- this -- I'm going to put this in the category of here is some good news, right? What does this say to you? MARTY: We're seeing a higher percentage of our cases as people who

are vaccine breakthroughs but that could be somewhat artificial. That's what we're seeing here.

Nonetheless, they're absolutely right into terms of hospitalizations. The vaccine is absolutely a humongous guard against hospitalization. Moreover, there is now very clear data showing that the vaccine is much more effective than having had COVID. You know, having had COVID is not as protective as the vaccine from hospitalization.

BOLDUAN: And what then do you think of what Rosa was -- my colleague Rosa was reporting on, the Florida's governor move to essentially block schools from requiring masks, signing on order that gives parents the choice to side whether they want their kids to wear masks in schools. What is that going to do?

MARTY: Parents need to understand that the use of a mask is going to reduce their child's risk of significant disease, including hospitalization. And parents who love their children, and I'm sure parents on every side of the aisle love their children, will do what is going to reduce that risk the most, and that is demand that their child be in a classroom where everyone is wearing a mask.


BOLDUAN: Doctor, thank you for coming on.

Another place being so hard hit right now is Arkansas. Every county is at a high level of community transmission. Look at it, all in the red. That state's average of new cases per day is nearly four times what they were seeing a month ago and now they're also seeing a record number of children, hospitalized with coronavirus at Arkansas children's hospital.

That is why top officials are trying to drive home the point as you just heard Dr. Marty say as well, that the best way to protect children against this virus is for more people who are eligible to get vaccinated now.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: If you're really worried about the kids, well, let's get the people who can be vaccinated at a higher rate. We've got a long way to go in some of those communities to get to the point where people are protected.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is Dr. Rick Barr. He's chief clinical officer at the Arkansas Children's Health System.

Doctor, thank you for being here. I mean, it is one thing for me to list out a bunch of numbers to kind of give the state of things. But you could describe what you are seeing among the children in your care now who are suffering from coronavirus? DR. RICK BARR, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, ARKANSAS CHILDREN'S HEALTH

SYSTEM: Yes, starting a few months ago we saw a definite (AUDIO GAP) viruses effecting children. The previous months of the pandemic we would have zero to maybe three children admitted to the hospital that tested positive for COVID and they were often in for some other reason. They weren't showing symptoms of the COVID infection.

Today, we have 24 children in the hospital, with COVID infections. They're all symptomatic with COVID, and eight of those are in intensive care and five are requiring mechanical ventilation to breathe. So, this is a dramatic change compared to what we had seen previously.

I would comment that half of those children -- I half of the children in the hospital are older than 12, are eligible for vaccines and today, we have not admitted anybody to the hospital that's been fully immunized. So, for children, the vaccine seems to be very protective.

BOLDUAN: That's really important data. That's some really important information, Doctor.

What are you hearing from the parents of these children in the hospital?

BARR: They are very (AUDIO GAP) about vaccines. They didn't realize that kids could get sick with COVID and that has totally changed with the delta variant become the predominant strain. So, I'm encouraging them to get their kids vaccinated. We had one mom that went on local TV to make that plea.

So the parents have been great spokespeople to not make the same decisions that they did in delay getting their kids vaccinated.

BOLDUAN: How worried are you over the next four to six weeks of what it is going to look like with not only what you have in your hospitals now, but with so many kids now heading back to school?

BARR: It concerns us. We usually see a spike in respiratory illnesses when school starts. That just that -- happens naturally. And we're concerned about further increase in the number of kids that contract COVID.

We're highly encouraging parents, school systems, et cetera, to follow the American academy of pediatric recommendations for all kids to wear masks when they go back to school. It's an incredibly important way to decrease transmission of all viruses, particularly (AUDIO GAP) virus.

BOLDUAN: And this is I think something that you could speak to. I mean, it's clear now how important it is for adults to get vaccinated, for themselves and for those around them.

Speak to these parents of children who are also eligible for the vaccine. But they're still holding out. They haven't gotten the shot. There is a myriad of reasons why they -- why they may be holding out.

But what do you say to them this morning considering what you see in your hospital?

BARR: Well, the best way to protect your children is for parents to get vaccinated. And especially for children under 12 who aren't eligible for the vaccine. The most common way that kids get infected is through family members that are infected with the coronavirus.

So it's important that parents get vaccinated, for kids that are older than 12 to get vaccinated. So they could protect all children and the family.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, Dr. Barr, thank you very much for your time.

BARR: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the long awaited bipartisan infrastructure bill, it's finally written. The text is out. It is huge. But even if it does pass in the Senate, is there now problem for it in the house.

Can it survive a vote in the House? We're going to take you live to Capitol Hill next.

And also this, she is going for gold once again. The big announcement for Simone Biles, that's coming up.



BOLDUAN: AT THIS HOUR, uncertainty. The federal ban on evictions expired over the weekend almost 11 months after the CDC put that moratorium in place to keep people from losing their homes in the midst of the pandemic. Well, now, renters are facing an uncertain future and Congress doesn't seem to know what to do about it.

Despite pressure from the House speaker, the House left for the August recess without passing an extension of it.


Over the weekend activists and progressive members of Congress slept on the steps of the Capitol in protest of the moratorium ending.

CNN's Lauren Fox is on the Hill for us this hour. She's joining us now.

Lauren, you spoke with one of the members of Congress who's kind of leading in this protest, Cori Bush.

What did she tell you?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Cori Bush has been out here all weekend on and off and trying to raise awareness that the eviction moratorium expiring is a crisis for millions of Americans. Nancy Pelosi believes it is the White House and the administration's responsibility to take action next. But Cori Bush said she doesn't care who is ultimately responsible, she thinks the house needs to act.

On Friday, Nancy Pelosi tried to ensure that Democrats have the votes necessary in order to pass this but they just never got there. They brought a bill to the floor trying to get unanimous consent but it was blocked. Speaker Pelosi arguing it is Republicans who are blocking this but the reality is, they don't have the Democratic votes.

Here is what Cori Bush said when I asked her what should come next.


REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): We are working to make sure that people know that the House, that the Democratic House is standing up for them. We cannot have the majority and put 7 to 11 million people on the street.

So let's get it down, because the hurt, there will be more hurt on the people on the street than the White House taking an L (ph).


FOX: And Bush also said that was hurtful that so many Democratic colleagues left for the recess.

We should note that even if the House could pass this legislation, the Senate just doesn't have the votes, Kate. And I think that is one of the key obstacles. You're starting to see some Democrats focused on how to get that rental assistance money, about $47 billion out of the door, just a fraction of that has gone to help ease the burden for people who are experiencing homelessness or the potential of being evicted -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, the hold-up on that money has been completely unexplainable as it's been going on and just sitting there.

It's good to see you. Thank you so much.

Also happening on Capitol Hill today, the Senate taking another big step forward on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Late last night, they released text of the bill finalizing an effort that was literally weeks and weeks in the making. But a lot of hurdles still lie ahead.

CNN's Manu Raju is following this. He joins us now.

Manu, the bill is enormous over 2,000 pages. What's in it and what is next?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, 2,702 pages to be exact and that was released late last night and senators are still going through this. They're just getting the first chance to review it. But nevertheless, Democrats are trying to get this through the chamber by the end of the week.

This is a massive proposal that would spend hundreds of billion dollars in a range of areas, whether it's moving to provide money for water systems, broadband, for roads an bridges, for electric vehicles, also to paid for in a lot of ways through redirecting already enacted COVID relief money would not raise taxes that was one thing that the Republicans said that that would not agree to.

But this is a group cut by ten senators who will keep the coalition together to get it out of the Senate. But the question will be, how quickly could they get it out?

A number of senators want to amend key portions of this bill. They need the support of almost 60 senators to do that. It's unlikely that they could change key elements of the bill.

And then the decision time will be for Chuck Schumer, whether he moves to shut down debate or give Republicans more opportunities to change the plan. That is a big decision. It is a big fight in the days ahead as they try to get this done -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Manu, thank you so much.

So let's talk about this a bit more.

Joining me now is Democratic congressman from Oregon, Peter DeFazio. He's the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Congressman, thank you. Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here. Now that you and your staff have the text of the bill, what -- I guess I don't assume or expect anyone to read 2,700 pages while you were sleeping. But do you have a sense of what you think of the bill now that you have the text in hand? Will you be throwing your support behind it?

REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D-OR): I'm a afraid that some of the critical changes that I wanted to see did not get made. I don't know, Won't know until we review the text.

But I set out to bring us into the 21st century with transportation. This to me looks pretty much like a status quo highway-centric bill. We can't -- we can't perpetuate that.

I mean, we have to deal with climate change. Transportation is the largest emitter. My bill deals with it significantly. We have to build resilient to sea level rise, to severe weather events, you know, to earthquakes in the West. I'm not sure there is a strong resiliency title in there.

There also the president wanted to create a new social equity program, because during the highway building mania, we divided a lot of communities, communities of color and the system is aging out.


He pointed out a skyway in Louisiana. It's got to come down.

Well, don't put it back the way it was. Rejoin the community. There's ways to deal with that. I'm not certain those elements are in this bill and I won't know until we get through the 2,700 pages. BOLDUAN: Understandable. Look, last week it caught my attention and I

think a lot of people when it was reported that you call the deal that was struck by the bipartisan group of senators, you called the deal crap.

Do you still think that this bill is that?

DEFAZIO: Well, after I read it, I'll perhaps use a less -- a more decorative term. But I will express my opinion. I feel strongly -- the House who passed the bill, my bill went through a real legislative process. It was -- it passed on the floor of the House twice. Hundreds of amendments were offered in committee twice and on the floor twice.

So this bill was composed through a legislative process. The bill in the Senate was written behind closed doors. And you know, that's -- that's probably not going to be the best product.

And most of the people who wrote the bill are not senior people on the committees of jurisdiction who know a lot about transportation or perhaps a number of them are resistant to the idea that we should deal with climate change.

BOLDUAN: I know that you want at least, if not your bill folded in or somehow incorporated or elements of it under consideration, if that doesn't happen, do you really foresee yourself as the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, someone who has worked on infrastructure and transportation issues for decades, voting against federal investments in America's infrastructure and transportation?

DEFAZIO: I would hope not. But we have to do something by October 1st. That's when the current bill runs out. And, you know, if this is an unacceptable product, then we'll just have to continue to work on it.

I MEAN, I'll give one quick example. As far as I know, the biggest thing on climate in this bill was an $18 billion program for fossil fuel reduction. Sounds great. Except I -- in the earlier version of the text, $9 billion of that could have been transferred into highway construction.

My bill was "fix it first". You don't go out -- and I mean, we build 30,000 miles of highways in our hundred largest cities in the last 24 years, and guess what? We're more congested than ever. We've got to look for alternatives that are more, you know climate friendly and serve the American people better.

BOLDUAN: Well, look, and, Chairman, I think a lot of people understand that. But on the screen right now, we're showing folks the billion dollars and billion dollars, for $110 billion to roads and bridges, $73 billion for power infrastructure, broadband internet, trains, clean water, electric vehicles, all of the above.

This is the classic, don't let the -- don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Is that -- I just don't -- if you really think about voting against something that puts this much money into something you care this much about?

DEFAZIO: Kate, if we're continuing a mid 20th century policies, it would be a disservice to the American people. It would also be a disservice to the planet because we have to deal with fossil fuel pollution and transportation, and --

BOLDUAN: So do you think the House will actually -- will actually pass this bill without changes? Do you think it's possible?

DEFAZIO: The speaker has been adamant first that we have to see the reconciliation bill in the House before we even consider this bill. I'm with her 100 percent on that.

Reconciliation could fix a lot of the problems in this bill. I've had that conversation with the White House. That's possible. So if we see major changes and things that are mitigated by the reconciliation bill, OK, then maybe we could move this.

BOLDUAN: I'll let you get back to reading that 2,700 pages.


BOLDUAN: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for your time.

DEFAZIO: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, this is what she said, I want to live. Those are the words from a Missouri mom recalling her daughter's final moments battling coronavirus after she did not want to get vaccinated. Her mother joins me next with a message.