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At This Hour

Fauci Hopes to See FDA Approval of Pfizer Vaccine in Next 2 Weeks; COVID Cases Among U.S. Children, Teens Jump 84 Percent in a Week; Gov. Cuomo Defying Calls to Resign After Harassment Findings. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 04, 2021 - 11:00   ET



COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Jim, she is not ruling it out, the 2024 Olympics. And remember, they're just now three years away from these games. We had her to talk about.

She felt scared for the first time in her life, battled her way back and made a big splash here. Felt scared for the first time in her life, battled her way back and made a big splash here. Hopefully, we'll see her back on the stage one more time.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, we have the Winter Olympics in just a few months.

Coy Wire in Tokyo, thanks very much.

And thanks so much to you for joining me. I'm Jim Sciutto.

AT THIS HOUR with my colleague Kate Bolduan starts right now.

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

Here's what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Game-changer. The FDA could grant full approval for the Pfizer vaccine by the end of this month. Is it enough to slow the delta variant wave hitting the nation right now?

On an island. A blockbuster damning report of sexual harassment. New York's governor facing more calls to resign. I'm going to speak to an assembly member who is ready to impeach him right now.

And a full heart. Simone Biles heads home with two medals and a stunning revelation about what all she was dealing with at the Olympic Games.


BOLDUAN: Thanks for being here, everybody. We begin this hour with a new hope COVID vaccinations will soon get a

big boost. Dr. Anthony Fauci telling CNN he hopes the FDA will approve Pfizer's vaccine for full approval within the next couple weeks.

That comment coming after "The New York Times" reported that FDA approval -- full approval is expected by the start of next month. The hope is that final green light will encourage millions of Americans still resisting getting a shot to do just that.

The pace of vaccinations is picking up. Nearly a half million Americans getting their first shot each day. That is the highest it's been since the Fourth of July. This comes at a critical moment.

We know -- we learned today that the delta variant now accounts for 93 percent of all cases of COVID in the United States. So essentially, delta is COVID and COVID is delta at this point. The U.S. is now averaging more than 90,000 new cases per day, the highest in nearly six months.

And one scary new data, new piece of data -- the American Academy of Pediatrics says there's been a substantial increase in cases among children and teenagers. Nearly 72,000 kids were infected with COVID last week. That is an 84 percent increase over the week before.

A lot to get to. Let's start with Dr. Michael Saag. He's the director of infectious disease division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Thank for being here, again, Doctor.

So, Dr. Fauci saying that he hopes the Pfizer vaccine gets that full FDA approval, the gold standard of approval in the next couple weeks. What do you think full approval will do when it comes to people who are still resisting a shot? Do you think that's what's holding people back?

DR. MICHAEL SAAG, DIRECTOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE DIVISION, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: I think it's holding some people back, Kate. It's really something people say (AUDIO GAP) experimental. When it gets full approve, I think that will encourage folks, too. But the uptick is probably due to people looking around and seeing friends and family members going to the hospital, some of them going to ICU.

I can't think of a single person who doesn't at least know one person or family member or friend who hasn't contracted COVID in the last couple weeks. That's how explosive the delta variant is right now in the United States.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and nearly 72,000 kids got COVID last week. I said it earlier, an increase of 84 percent from the week before. That's five times more than the cases at the end of June. How concerned are you about the impact of this variant in kids compared to earlier in the pandemic?

SAAG: I think everybody needs to understand that delta is different. This is not January's COVID virus. This is something brand new. So, we have to take what we thought we knew about COVID and put it aside and look at this delta variant head on.

What it's doing is, number one is it's much more transmissible. Number two, it's causing illness quicker. People are getting sicker if they're not vaccinated. Three, as you just reported, kids, we did not see this with the original COVID strains. We are now seeing it. It is quite alarming. Our ICUs at the children's hospital are starting to get kids with COVID pneumonia, our ERs are filling up.

And COVID pneumonia is not something we saw very much of in children. We're seeing it now.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and as you talk about ICUs and hospital beds filling up, the stress and toll on health care workers as another wave washes through is a big problem. I want to play for you how one nurse out of Tennessee, how she describes it.


KATHRYN IVEY SHERMAN, ICU NURSE: It's worse because it got better for a brief shining moment, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.


And it was getting better. The nurses like me who became nurses during all of this were starting to see what it was like to be a nurse in normal times, and then the numbers started picking back up and the units opened back up and the respirators came back out. It's like thinking you walked out of a war and being told you have to go back in.


BOLDUAN: How do you describe it, Doctor?

SAAG: A brief shining moment like Camelot that's now gone. That's exactly right.

I wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post" that likened, exactly as this nurse said, that the health care workers are feeling they're going back for their third tour of duty into a war zone. This time the case numbers are going to probably be worse. In Alabama, we're predicting by Labor Day, the peak number of cases will be two to three times higher than our worst time in January.

So everybody has got to brace themselves and get ready. I lay this at the feet of unvaccinated folks really generating this. I'm not casting blame. I'm just saying it's causal.

July 4th weekend everyone went out because the Camelot feeling was there, felt like we could get back to normal. Unvaccinated folks represented 65 percent of the population in the Southeast, and the delta variant was lurking, jumped in, sparked a flame. Now that flame is a wildfire.

BOLDUAN: I want to play something. This is a sound bite that came in from the acting mayor of Boston. I want to make sure I have the context of this right. The acting mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, Kim Janey on Tuesday likened requiring proof of a COVID vaccination to slave papers and birtherism. Let me play a sound bite from this mayor.


MAYOR KIM JANEY (D), BOSTON: During slavery, post slavery, as recent as what the immigrant population has to go through here. We heard Trump with the birth certificate nonsense. Here, we want to make sure we're not do anything that would further create a barrier for residents.


BOLDUAN: An additional layer of this is, although she has put out a statement that she is encouraging people to get vaccinations. I'm just wondering what you think that message, coming from a mayor of a major American city.

SAAG: Gosh, I really am having trouble following that completely.

Here is where I would break it down. Politics infused into this epidemic is harmful. It's held us back every step of the way.

It's given a platform more misinformation. And that's what's caused the most amount of damage, in my opinion, is this infusion of politics into public health. We've got to stop that.

What we need to do is keep a simple message. Delta is here. It's bad. It's going to be worse in the next three weeks. What we can do to protect ourselves is get vaccinated. For the time being, mask up again. This virus is much more infectious -- it's being transmitted from a vaccinated person to another vaccinated person.

That was not the case prior to delta. It is the case now. So, when we go indoors, we should wear our masks even if we're vaccinated and try to avoid large crowds if we can.

BOLDUAN: Your clarity on this issue has been something I've definitely appreciated. Thank you so much, Doctor.

SAAG: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's turn now to President Biden who is changing his approach to tackling the pandemic of the unvaccinated at this moment.

He is now taking a much harder edge against Republican governors in some of the hardest hit states like Florida and Texas for continuing to stand in the way of COVID preventive measures, banning mask requirements, banning vaccine requirements. This just as Biden is also again pleading with Americans to get the shot in order to stop the delta variant. Will this strategy work this time?

Joining me is Andy Slavitt. He's former senior adviser to Biden's White House COVID response team.

Andy, thank you for being here. I think Biden's shift yesterday was important. I want to play for everyone just to remind them of what he said to governors.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say to these governors, please help. If you aren't going to help, at least get out of the way of the people trying to do the right thing.

REPORTER: Do you believe that Governor DeSantis and Governor Abbott are personally making decisions that are harming their own citizens?

BIDEN: I believe the results of their decisions are not good for their constituents.


BOLDUAN: It's now less help me help you and more kind of taking them to the mat.

Do you think this is the right approach, Andy?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: Some of us are glad the president is taking this tact. He's doing it for the simple reason. He wants to leave no American behind.


You know, if you live in Florida, he cares about you as much as those in Delaware. And that is an important message to get through.

And, look, Ron DeSantis can choose to get vaccinated or not get vaccinated. If he really believes in local school control, what's the principle he's jumping on to say that they can't require vaccinations, can't require vaccines, can't require proof of vaccinations?

I think he did this, Ron DeSantis, at a time when it seemed like the cost would be low because he thought COVID was over. He's now learned the hard way, and if he had any sense, he'd backtrack.

BOLDUAN: That's quite interesting. That's a really interesting way. When it did come out, things were going in the right direction all across the country. Things are not there now.

A very different response, Andy, from another Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, another state getting hammered by COVID. He said yesterday, quote, in hindsight, I wish that had not become law.

He's talking about a ban -- a law banning local mask mandates in the state that he signed into law earlier this year, and he very clearly said, in hindsight, I wish that had not become law, because of where things are now.

What's the difference between these Republican governors?

SLAVITT: Ii think he's missing a pronoun when he says that had not become law. He signed that into law. Good for him for recognizing the situation he's in, and applause for him for trying to get his state vaccinated.

Very hard for politicians to admit that they were incorrect. The truth is, signing your own -- prohibiting your own ability to govern your state in the case of a public emergency is playing politics and it's not smart.

Look, I think the matters for everybody is, if you're not vaccinated, I think you've seen up close what it feels like and what your neighbors are going through who aren't vaccinated. The largest number of hospitalizations in Louisiana, in Florida, and it's rolling throughout the country. So, if you're not vaccinated, now is a good time to do it.

BOLDUAN: What a lot of what we're talking about now is leadership, and the example of leadership. We learned today that President Obama, who you worked for, he's decided to cancel a big birthday party he had planned for this weekend. It was going to be hundreds of people all outdoors, even with vaccine requirements and testing protocols they apparently had in place. The big thing is canceled and it's scaled down to family and close friends.

Do you think that was the right call?

SLAVITT: I do. Far be it for me to tell President Obama what to do on his birthday. But I alone have had 15 or 20 people in the last week asking me if they should keep their wedding plans, they should keep their meeting plans, that they should keep their travel plans.

As people do look to other public figures, and if you were going to decide what to do with your own wedding or your own event, he's providing a sense of caution, a small gathering is okay, but gathering in large crowds is something he doesn't want to send people the wrong message for.

A lot of people do follow what President Obama does. A lot of people follow what President Trump does. It would be nice to see him set some good examples as well.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Just the long list of choices and leadership we're looking at right now.

Andy, thank you very much.

SLAVITT: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, calls for New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign are loud and getting louder. I'll talk with one state lawmaker who said she's already drafted impeachment papers.

And a big win for the Biden win of the Democratic Party and also for Trump's hold on the Republican Party. The special elections in Ohio that grabbed everyone's attention.


[11:18:27] BOLDUAN: You are looking at protesters outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's offices. It's happening just now.

Cuomo is defying the cascade of voices calling on him to step down, from his own constituents to President Biden, all saying he can no longer serve after the damning report released from our show yesterday, finding that the governor sexually harassed nearly a dozen women over a period of years.

One of his accusers reacting this way to Cuomo's defiant response to the report.


CHARLOTTE BENNETT, GOV. ANDREW CUOMO ACCUSER: It wasn't an apology and he didn't take accountability for his actions. He can't once apologize and then say he didn't do anything wrong. He blamed me and said that I simply misinterpreted what he had said, but his line of questioning was not appropriate.


BOLDUAN: Now, the New York state assembly is ramping up efforts for an impeachment probe. CNN has learned that 43 members indicate they would vote for impeachment, 76 are needed to pull it off.

Joining me is one of the Democratic New York State assembly members calling for Governor Cuomo to resign.

Yuh-Line Niou. Thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

What aspect of the report -- I'd like to foes cuss on the report before we get to impeachment. What aspect of the report bothered you the most?

YUH-LIN NIOU (D), NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMBER: Every page of it bothered me. I read all of it last night.


I mean, what this report says is at least 40 witnesses who swore under oath, under penalty of imprisonment from lying that they witnessed conduct from Governor Cuomo that the attorney general said amounts to a pattern of criminal activity, clear violations of law, and the governor's response has essentially been, this is all rigged. I didn't do anything, fake news.

New York obviously deserves a lot better than that. You just played a clip from the incredible Charlotte Bennett who was talking very directly to the response that he gave where he named her and continued to abuse her and gaslight her on television.

BOLDUAN: I actually did want to get your take on what you thought when you heard and saw, because the images that were run by his team as well were part of this of the governor's recorded video response. What did you think of it?

NIOU: I mean, I said before and I'll say it again, that he was gaslighting New Yorkers now the same way he was gaslighting the women that he abused. He continued to gaslight Charlotte during the video that he played and in his statements.

It took 179 witnesses and a statewide investigation by the attorney general to even get people to hear what folks are saying and have been saying about his abusive and predatory and very toxic work environment.

BOLDUAN: We're showing on the other side of your screen, some of the images that were run by his team during that recorded video of him trying to say he kisses people all the time. He does this to everybody. That was part of his argument.


NIOU: He said it was cultural and generational.

BOLDUAN: I get that you don't believe that at all.

NIOU: I don't think this is a cultural or generational divide, yeah, not at all.

BOLDUAN: You said you have had impeachment articles prepared for a while now. How soon do you think impeachment will begin?

NIOU: I mean, I think it's a process that should have already started, but I think that, you know, this is really up to the call of our speaker. We have to be in session and the session is only called back at the will of the speaker. You know, it's up to our speaker.

And I think that right now, he's saying that the committee, the judiciary committee needs to finish their investigation. They said they're going to do it expeditiously.

So, you know, I'm assuming that they have a meeting on Monday. I'm hoping that that's as quickly as they go. I think we need to go as quickly as possible because we know that every single day that we're not impeach impeaching this governor, every single day that our legislature is not acting, is another day that his staffers are in danger of more abuse and harassment.

BOLDUAN: Are you confident that you will have the numbers to remove him?

NIOU: I'm confident.

BOLDUAN: Our latest count was something like 43 members have indicated. You think it's beyond that?

NIOU: It's much beyond that, yes.

BOLDUAN: Do you have a count of what you think the level of impeachment is? NIOU: I think there's a running tally made up by a couple of young

people who had put together a spreadsheet, but we are technically not allowed to, quote, unquote, take a vote in private. But, I think that, you know, from what I'm hearing, there has been zero numbers not calling for resignation or impeachment.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you coming on.

NIOU: Thank you so much for having me.

BOLDUAN: Millions of children are heading back to classroom for the first time in months, and classrooms are the latest battle in this fight over mask requirements.

We're going to take you live to one Florida county where a group of mothers, you can see there, are taking a stand against face coverings. Even in the midst of a crazy surge as their kids head back to school.



BOLDUAN: Florida's public schools are grappling with a back-to-class balancing act, how to keep students and staff safe from the state's COVID surge and at the same time the avoid retaliation from the governor.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold funding from districts that require masks in class. Florida's second largest school district, Broward County, is hitting pause on its plans because of that threat.

But at least two others are working around the governor's order including Duval County Public Schools.

That's where CNN's Leyla Santiago is now. She's joining me now.

Leyla, what are you hearing there? What's happening?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Kate, we talked to parents who got emotional over the mask issue in schools. There is a very strong divide when it comes to who should be wearing masks in school and who should make that decision.