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At This Hour

Mom Urges Vaccines after Unvaccinated Daughter Dies of COVID; New Study Reveals Disturbing Effects of Virtual Schooling; Simeone Biles to Compete in Balance Beam Final. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired August 02, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Last words to me were, momma, I can't breathe. That is the gut-wrenching account of one mother losing her daughter to coronavirus on the 4th of July.

Erica Thompson, she spent 50 days in the hospital fighting for her life. She was 37 years old. She had a husband and three sons. She was deeply, deeply loved.

Erica was not vaccinated. She did not get the vaccine. She didn't trust it and now her mother says that is the one thing that she thinks could have saved her daughter's life.

Joining me now is Erica's mom, Kimberle Jones. Kimberle, thank you for being here.

I know I said in the commercial break but I'm so sorry. It is been just a month since Erica passed away and you've said that you watched your baby slipping away every day as she fought in the hospital. Talk to us about what your daughter went through.

KIMBERLE JONES, LOST DAUGHTER TO COVID-19: First of all, I just had to say that my daughter was not vaccinated.


And my daughter was in the hospital for exactly 50 days. She went to the hospital thinking that she was having some -- she was asthmatic and thinking that she had some asthma problems going on.

However, I did not ever think that my daughter would not walk out of the hospital. I thought that my daughter was going to just get treated for the virus and that she would be okay. I knew that it would be a long time recovery for her. However, I just did not ever think that my daughter would not be alive today. Today, is actually my first day going back to work. My daughter passed away on July the 4th and I have been out of work since July 2nd. So, today is my first day going back to work and I just wanted to say that it is -- it is a very heart-wrenching day for me.

BOLDUAN: I mean, every day is probably a heart-wrenching thing for you.

I mean, as you mentioned, Kimberle, Erica did not get vaccinated. She didn't want to get vaccinated. Why not?

JONES: My daughter had actually stated, like I hear so many people talking and, you know, in general conversations, Kate, that they don't know, they don't trust the vaccine, they don't believe in it. They think it is something that is maybe made up or my daughter's exact words were that, momma, I don't know what is in their meds. How could they come one a vaccine so soon when we have other ailments that's plaguing our country every day, such as diabetes and cancer. So she just adamantly just said that she doesn't agree with it and that she wasn't going to take it.

BOLDUAN: How is Erica's husband and her three children doing? I understand all three have birthdays coming up.

JONES: Yes, they do. And like I say, this is just an extremely emotional time for the family. My daughter -- they are okay. They're very bright young men with a bright future ahead of them. But, of course, they're deeply missing their mom. And this is going to be their first birthday without their mom. So, it is going to be a tough month. It is going to be a tough month.

BOLDUAN: It is going to be hard. Thank God they have you.

What do you want to make sure that people out there who might be in the same place that Erica was, who are holding out still who may feel the same way that Erica did? This is the reason that you want to speak up. It is not like you're looking for a lot of attention but you have a message for folks who might feel the same way that your daughter did after what she went through. And what is your message to them?

JONES: You don't want this and you can avoid this. And my message would be to people that, you know, that we have to trust the science and the medicine. And if you want to protect yourself or your family, don't be selfish and only think about yourself. This is a mission that I want to say to people. Get vaccinated so you could help the community. If we are going to overcome this virus, we have to get vaccinated, and especially the African-American community.

And then especially, I live in St. Louis, Missouri, where the numbers are steadily increasing and steadily rising. Get vaccinated. Get the vaccine so you could protect yourself, your children, your family, your co-workers and your community. it is a -- it is the most selfless thing that you could do. Please get vaccinated. Just please get vaccinated because you don't want to have to face what I went through for 50 days watching what the coronavirus can do. And I'd just like to also say that, Kate, that for those that think that it is -- you know, you see all of the pictures in the media and on T.V. and stuff and you think it never can happen to you, it can happen to you. It can happen. It happened to me and my family.

Right now I do not have my daughter. It's gone, 37 years old with a bright future, and my daughter fought hard for her life. And to hear someone say, I can't breathe, it is heart-wrenching. My daughter had different procedures and every day it was just an adventure and my job was just so -- they were extremely nice to me and let me go visit my daughter any time I wanted to, day and night or evening or whatever.

But like I said, this is something that, you know, you can avoid. And if we're going to beat this virus, we got to get vaccinated.

BOLDUAN: You don't want this. You don't want this. I hope people hear you and hear your message. I want to end, Kimberle, thank you so much, if we can put a picture of Erica back up just to remember her and her life and her bright future and how she fought to her final moments.


Kimberle Jones, thank you for being here. Thank you for being her mother and speaking out in her absence, Erica Thompson. Thank you.



BOLDUAN: Today is the first day of school for so many children across the country. Teachers, parents, students, look, no one knows what to expect this year, of course, but we are now getting answers to the big question on just how much kids suffered from missing in-person schooling last year during the height of the pandemic.

A new study showing students -- showing that students were, on average, five months behind in math, four months behind in reading by the end of the school year, the impact even worse for black and brown students.

I want to dig deeper into this because the implications are important. Joining me now is Emma Dorn, she's the lead author of this report put out by global consultant firm McKinsey. It is good to see you again, Emma.

I was kind of reflected on our last conversation back in December of what you were just learning from just the spring shutdowns in remote learning and now this. These findings are really disheartening. What are the overall trends that you found?

EMMA DORN, GLOBAL EDUCATION PRACTICE MANAGER, MCKINSEY AND COMPANY: Yes, the findings really are quite sobering. In addition to the overall learning loss that you talked about, five months in math and four months in reading, what we found is that the effects are not equitable. So students who are black and Hispanic have suffered disproportionately. Black students are six months behind in math, where they have would have been absent the pandemic and low income students actually are about seven months behind in math.

And so as we go forward, what I'm really concerned about is that the pandemic has not only cast all students behind where they would have been but it is also widening some of the inequities that the pre- existed the pandemic.

BOLDUAN: Did the setbacks all come from the beginning of the pandemic? Because there has been such a range of what school looked like. And so that is why I'm curious if you found they couldn't make up for what was lost at beginning of the pandemic when everything was shut down. How did it progress over time when students started getting back into class?

DORN: So, the story here is actually a little bit different from math than it is for reading. In math, the initial spring shutdowns caused a really big hit, about three months of unfinished learning. And then as students went back to school, remote and hybrid learning really did improve and a lot of kids did get back to in-person as well. And so we see a additional couple of months of unfinished learning over the 2020 to 2021 school year.

In reading, the story is actually a little bit different, where the losses just piled up over time in a more consistent way, and it was one of the surprises coming out of this report is that students ended the school year almost as far behind in reading as they did in math.

BOLDUAN: That is interesting. And as you mentioned, one of the most important things that you really are seeing is how black and Hispanic children suffer the most, a really disproportionate impact here.

Is there one factor that you saw, one part of the country you can pinpoint, or is this something much tougher, which is just widening already pre-existing inequalities in education?

DORN: I think it is systemic and I think it is really based upon some of the underlying opportunity gaps. The curriculum associates that read the assessment was done by over 1.6 million students in school, which are most of the assessment or results that we looked at covering over 40 states. So this isn't just in one area, it is really across the country.

BOLDUAN: I also saw -- that you mentioned that these might even be underestimates in your view. Why?

DORN: So, when we look at the assessments, students this year had a choice of two places to take the assessments. So, some districts chose to have the assessment in school, in an assessment environment that is similar to previous years and others choose to have the assessment out of school because their students still weren't back.

When we look at the out of school results, we just can't guarantee the fidelity of that assessment environment. It is very different. And so we only looked at the kids who actually managed to get back into school by the spring.

And our concern is that kids who didn't -- weren't able to get back to school at all through the 2020 to 2021 school year may have suffered even more and we won't know until the fall or even later what the impacts have been on those students.

BOLDUAN: Well, I'll be following your next report very closely. It is been eye-opening, disheartening and eye-opening but important. Emma, thank you very much for your work. Thanks for coming on.

DORN: Thank you. Have a good day.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

So, that is the tough news about schools right now on top of lots of other tough news. So let's move to some good, awesome news, a graduation gift that that for many will be completely life-changing.

The historically black college Florida A&M University helping students out in a huge way, paying off fees, tuition, unpaid student account balances. Listen to what they were told at graduation.


LARRY ROBINSON, PRESIDENT, FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY: Some of you, and I know this as a fact, may have thought that some of the balances that cleared out was a mistake, right? I know you thought it because your parents called and said, there was money on the account a week ago, and now it's gone.


That was not a mistake. In fact, you should know that for the last year-and-a-half, this institution has provided more than $16 million in student support and debt relief as part of the Federal Cares Act Initiative.


BOLDUAN: It's awesome. That's the president making the surprise announcement at their commencement ceremony. We got to take the good where we can get it, and that is some good today. Congratulations to everybody.

Still ahead for us, Simone Biles finally gets her shot at a gold medal. The latest on her push to make the podium in Tokyo.

And an Olympic moment that you really want to see, you have to see to believe, why two athletes decided to share a gold medal.


BOLDUAN: A huge announcement this morning from Team USA. Gymnastics super star Simone Biles is going to be going for the gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Biles will compete, she announced, in the balance beam final tomorrow, but it has been a cliff hanger of sorts, really, after she withdrew from four other individual events citing mental health concerns.

CNN's Coy Wire is live for us in Tokyo. So, Coy, what are you hearing about this?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. Roller coaster of a ride following the greatest story of all time, Simone Biles, it wasn't look like we would see her compete here again in Tokyo. Her mentals, as she called them, just weren't right, but now the GOAT is back. USA gymnastics tweeting in part, you will see two USA athletes on the balance beam tomorrow, Suni Lee and Simone Biles.

Monday, Biles was seen heading to the gym to watch the floor exercise final where teammate Jade Carey won gold. Now, the world is waiting.


What will happen when Simone Biles returns for her one last chance to compete in Tokyo?

And stunner in the soccer semifinals, the U.S. women's team's gold medal hopes gone, losing to Canada 1-0. It's the first time since 2001, Kate, that Canada beat the U.S. The Americans without goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher out with an injury sustained in the first half. The U.S. will now play for bronze here in Tokyo against Australia on Thursday.

Now, finally, the Olympic ideals of unity, sportsmanship on full display during a track and field competition. Look at the moment that high jumpers Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar decided to share gold. They decided against the jump off. They were running around the track hugging, years of hard work in this moment shared, the first joint winners, Kate, in Olympic track and field since 1912. Congrats to both.

BOLDUAN: Very cool. Very cool. Coy, thank you.

Inside Politics with John King starts after a quick break.