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At This Hour

Pace of Vaccinations Ticks Up as Delta Variant Surges; White House Goal: Have 50 Percent of Vehicles Sold in U.S. Be Electric by 2030; CNN: Majority of NY Lawmakers Say They'd Vote to Impeach Cuomo. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 05, 2021 - 11:00   ET



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

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

A forever pandemic. A month ago, we were close to independence from the pandemic. Today, we are close to 100,000 new daily cases of COVID. The latest on the crisis and hot spot states and answering your questions.

Waiting game. Impeachment or resignation for New York's governor seems to be more of a matter of when than if. New reporting Andrew Cuomo's second in command is preparing to take over.

And there is no replacing Alex Trebek. But after weeks of tryouts, "Jeopardy!" has picked a new host, someone that probably knows the show better than anyone.

Let's begin this morning with the reality that the numbers can be overwhelming. Numbing really. Numbing to the point of not understanding just how bad the coronavirus pandemic is once again.

It is been one month since President Biden said this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we're closer than ever to declaring our independent from a deadly virus.


BOLDUAN: But the reality one month later is alarmingly different. Take a look at these maps. One month ago, this was the level of COVID transmission across the country.

Now, watch the wave of red symbolizing high levels of transmission wash across the states. This is what it looked like two weeks ago and this just one week ago. And here, here we are today. Red washed over the majority of the country.

We are nowhere near breaking away from this virus. We are, in fact, being held hostage by it.

Here is how one front line nurse put it.


KATHRYN IVEY SHERMAN, ICU NURSE: We're a year into this and people still are making the same mistakes over and over again. And it was bad enough the first time around when it was all still new and you could at least give people the excuse of ignorance. But that excuse has long since passed and we're still fighting the same battle.


BOLDUAN: The country is nearing over 100,000 COVID cases per day. Dr. Fauci warns that could double if we don't control this outbreak. There is a critical shortage of ICU beds in COVID hot spots across the south now, pushing hospitals and medical staff to a breaking point, another breaking point.

But make no mistake, the unvaccinated continue to fuel this. But there is some good nice and let's highlight it when we can see it. Vaccines are slowly ticking up. The nation is reporting more than 400,000 shots every day for nearly a week.

Now we have reporter standing by in two hot spots facing the worst of the surge.

Let's start with CNN's Miguel Marquez. He's live in Birmingham, Alabama, the state with the lowest vaccination rate in the country.

Miguel, what are you hearing from people now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there are a lot of people in Alabama who will never, ever get that vaccine. And that is the frustration among many people and that is why you see the red across country. Because there is a way out of this, three different vaccines, many people are refusing to get it.

But now that you have cases up in places like Alabama, way up in places like Alabama, hospitalizations up in Alabama, and that delta variant taking hold of this state and almost every single county they are experiencing high levels of community transmission of the virus, people are getting concerned. And as the economy opens, as the masks come off, as social did schools get ready to go back to in-person session, and parents and young people that want to get back to life are starting to opt for the vaccine.

So in places like Alabama, while it is not huge, the numbers are going higher in the terms of number of people getting vaccinated right now. So that is good news and much of that is being driven by people who as that economy reopens, they just figure better to be safe than sorry, get the vaccine that the delta variant that they've heard is about is too transmissible and they don't want to end up in the hospitable. And more importantly, they don't want to end up -- if they get it and

they pass on it, they don't want to injure somebody even worse.

Back to you.

BOLDUAN: Miguel, thank you.

Let's go to Louisiana now. Health care workers there are being pushed to the edge as the number of COVID patients coming in is surging. The state just reported 2,247 COVID patients in the hospital on Wednesday. The most of any time, any time during the entire pandemic.

That is a statement of where we are.

CNN'S Nadia Romero is live in Baton Rouge.

Nadia, what's latest?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I want to warn you, it is bad, terrible all across the state of Louisiana. Let's talk about one health care system, the largest one in the state. What we're seeing is some 900 people who are hospitalized in this one system.


Out of them, 90 percent are unvaccinated. That is a 73 percent increase in hospitalizations compared to just last week. And when you look at those numbers, we know that it is the delta variant that is spreading so quickly. At one location, they've already had to turn away 300 people in just ten days. Listen to the president of that health system talk about how things are only going to get worse.

WARNER: This is going to keep escalating. We think it will escalate in the next, you know, several weeks. So it is absolutely reaching a critical situation.

ROMERO: So here we are at our lady of the lake hospital. This is the largest stand-alone hospital in the state of Louisiana here in Baton Rouge. They have about 174 people between here and the children's hospital across the street that are hospitalized, so down one patient from yesterday.

But there is no relieve for the staff. They discharge people but admitted another 21 patients in just 24 hours and they're seeing their numbers continue to go up. They've run out of beds. They're running out of room.

And the ICU, people are only getting sicker. Yesterday, 61 people in the ICU, today 67. You look at those numbers and you know they're bad. But it doesn't take a mathematician or a science whiz to figure this out. The states with the highest COVID cases have the lowest vaccination rates -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: It is tragic and it is as simple as that. Nadia, thank you very much. Among the crowded hospital beds, more and more children sick with

COVID. Infections amongst kids jumped 84 percent in one week according to the American academy of pediatrics. We need some perspective on this.

Joining me right now is one doctor who has witnessed this firsthand, Dr. Heather Haq. She's a pediatrician at Texas Children's Hospital.

Doctor, thank you for coming in. You wrote something in "the Washington Post" that has stuck with me and should be striking to so many. Let me just read one sentence for everyone.

I wonder if more people saw what I see at patients' bedsides, would they do more to protect children?

Can you describe for us what the reality is that you see while you are at the bedside of these sick children?

DR. HEATHER HAQ, PEDIATRIC HOSPITALIST, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yeah, Kate. Thank you. And I'm honored to be here today.

So, we have been taking care of sick children throughout the pandemic. There seems to be this notion that children don't get sick from COVID. They do. It is just been dwarfed by the mortality and morbidity among adult populations.

We've been carrying about the children throughout the pandemic. And people don't realize that some of the children that come into the hospital very, very sick were previously healthy at baseline. They have no underlying medical conditions.

And over just the past few weeks, we've seen a substantial increase in cases of COVID coming into our hospital. More and more children, teenagers, even infants being admitted every day. Placing a strain on our hospital that we're ready to meet but it is going to be a very busy season.

BOLDUAN: I've heard the very same about this recent spike that they're seeing and influx of children. I've heard this from doctors in Alabama and in Arkansas and Florida. And I'm sure in many other states of doctors, I just haven't spoken to yet.

Could you tell me what you hear from these kids, what are you hear from the parents, what is the reality that you wish people who aren't taking it seriously still what, is the reality you wish they could see?

HAQ: I wish people could how sick the children are when they come into the hospital and I wish they could hear the conversations that I have with parents of these children who are asking what did I do to cause my child to be the one who is so sick?

And I wish that people would realize that even though the percentage of children who has been affected by COVID compared to adults is small, it is not insignificant. And we're really concerned with the delta variant taking control that we're going to see a substantial increase over the next few weeks with school reopenings being a major catalyst.

BOLDUAN: Let me add one other factor that I think is a really important part of the conversation, as you're also getting hit at the same time by a harsh spike in RSV. This is a common respiratory virus, but it can hamper children. Any parent knows this. But that's a virus that we usually see in the winter. What is happening now?

HAQ: Yeah, Kate, so we've had a very interesting summer in that we've seen a resurgence of this wintertime virus, RSV or respiratory syncytial virus that causes acute illness in infants and toddlers and keeping our hospital really busy.


One thing I want people to know is that during our previous code surges, we were not seeing any circulation of the RSV virus. We had a lot of viruses that usually circulate in the winter that were not in circulation throughout the rest of the pandemic because people were staying home, they were staying masked. Now we're seeing a resurgence of RSV and taking care of lots of sick kids admitted with this lung infection.

And so, now, having to deal with the COVID surge on top of the RSV surge, it's going to keep us really busy.

BOLDUAN: Very, very busy, and so many of these kids cannot get vaccinated. They just -- they need us to protect them. Forget RSV, that is already going to be something that you have to deal with.

Then this on top of it, it is cruel that we're not protecting our kids if we are not protecting our kids.

Thank you, Doctor. Thank you for your work. Thanks for coming in.

HAQ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Also -- also at this hour, big announcement coming from the White House today, trying to push the American auto market toward electric vehicles in a big way. President Biden is going to be setting a new target. He's going to be announcing a new target that half of all vehicles sold in the U.S. be electric and in less than a decade, by 2030.

And Biden is not making this announcement alone. He's going to be joined by three big automakers and a powerful auto union today.

CNN's John Harwood is at White House. He's joining us now with more on this.

John, talk about this executive order. What does it actually do?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what it does is set this goal of getting to 50 percent of new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030.

But other elements of this economic plan lay some dollars and some regulations on table to try to accelerate that. The regulations are increasing fuel emissions standards which had begun to be increased under the Obama administration, Donald Trump rolled them back. The Biden administration is trying to increase them again.

Secondly, in the infrastructure plan, they've laid out billions of dollars for a network of electric vehicle charging stations around the country. That is designed to enhance the market. There are some manufacturing incentives for fuel cell and battery manufacturing. That is the design to accelerate this market and the administration is also using its own purchasing power trying to make the federal vehicle fleet which is pretty substantial make that dominated by electric vehicles over time.

So, there are various ways to push this along. They're going to face political resistance even if they have the auto companies and the unions on board. Because yesterday we saw John Cornyn, senator from Texas, of course, an oil and gas state, saying that electric vehicles were more expensive and that the Biden administration is trying to force people to buy more expensive cars.

Not an easy goal, but this is a fusion of the administration climate change and job goals and international competitiveness with China goals. We'll see if they could make it stick.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, good to see you, John. Thank you.

Coming up for us, how do you keep kids too young to get a coronavirus vaccine safe as they head back to class? In Texas, mask mandates are banned so schools need a plan B. The head of San Antonio's public schools is our guest.

And New York's governor facing louder calls to resign or be impeached. We're going to go live to Albany in a moment with an interview with the committee that could decide Governor Cuomo's fate.



BOLDUAN: It is now 48 hours since the release of that damning report detailing how Andrew Cuomo allegedly sexually harassed 11 women over a period of years while he's been in office. A majority of state lawmakers now tell CNN they would vote in support of impeaching Cuomo if he refuses to resign.

Plus, he now he faces a growing threat of possible criminal charges.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in Albany, New York, with more on this.

And, Polo, it really does sound like state lawmakers are moving quickly. What are you learning?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are. And also worth mentioning is that the places the lieutenant governor in a quite unique position here. Kate, I hope you recall, after the release of the attorney general report, acknowledging that these allegations were quite repulsive and unlawful, the behavior being described if that report. But also basically supporting those who have come forward and calling them quite brave here.

But at same time, the lieutenant governor stopping short and not really offering much more comment there, acknowledging that the fact that she would potentially be the next in line to seat the governor depending on what the final outcome would be here.

But the other significant development that we've seen here obviously is also now some fresh reporting from our colleague Lauren De Valle (ph) showing that a letter has been sent to the governor and his legal representatives informing them that this investigation is essentially near completion and also offering him the opportunity to provide any kind of evidence that he would like to present as he continues to deny these allegations, no later than next Friday. And then in the days after, potentially weeks after, then we'll see some of the findings actually presented to the New York state assembly.

So a little bit about what we could expect is joining us, Phil Steck from the New York state judiciary member.

What is your initial reaction now that we know that we have a better idea of a timeline and what we could expect, when this investigation by the impeachment committee to near an end?


PHIL STECK (D), NY STATE ASSEMBLY JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBER: So, when the governor submits his materials, our attorneys will have to look at that obviously, assuming that he avails himself of that opportunity and then the committee would have to meet and consider what articles of impeachment could be recommended by the committee to the full body.

And the -- I think one of the important things to note here is that assuming that the committee's investigation is very similar to the findings of the attorney general, it would be hard to imagine that sexual harassment would not be a basis for impeaching this governor. There are other allegations of abuse of power, including the governor's book deal which the attorney general continues to investigate, but which are our committee is coming close to concluding its investigation and I think we might be looking at other charges in addition to the sexual harassment.

But I'm hoping and believing that we'll have this wrapped up from the judiciary committee view in early September.

SANDOVAL: You know, there are a lot of questions about a potential outcome here about when or if the governor would actually step down. Ultimately just based on the conversation we had a short while ago, does it seem if that does happen, or if it does leave office, would that be the end of his regular term or perhaps as a result of these impeachment proceedings?

STECK: Well, I think that the governor is an individual who obviously knows how to count votes. And when the speaker of the New York state assembly Carl Heastie, who has been very measured during this impeachment investigation, comes out and said that the governor has lost the confidence of the Democratic assembly majority, that's pretty significant.

So then it goes to trial in the Senate and I don't know why the views of senators who are similar in many ways to the assembly members, why their views would be different and why the governor would believe that he could prevail in the Senate. And if he concludes that he doesn't have the votes, why would he want to go down in that fashion.

SANDOVAL: Phil Steck, thank you so much for your time.

Kate, gain, just a conversation with Mr. Steck gives you a better idea of how much questions and how much is still very much in the air as Governor Cuomo continues to dig his heels in and deny the allegations while the political support crumbles around him. So, a lot of questions about what we could expect in the days ahead and certainly the weeks ahead.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, why would he want to go down in that fashion?

Thank you, Polo. Please thank the assemblyman for us. We really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, as students and staff go back into classrooms, how do school leaders plan to keep COVID out, especially in state where's mask mandates are banned. I'm going to ask a Texas superintendent about his plan next.



BOLDUAN: When it cops to schools, it seems like nothing is more dividing than the debate over masks. By CNN's count, at least eight states have prohibited mask requirements in schools at the state level. That includes Texas where the governor yesterday argued that, quote, everyone already knows what to do.

Yet right now, Texas ranks second among the states adding in the new cases over the last week and follows Florida in the amount of children and adults admitted to the hospital with COVID. It is not great and it is not great in Texas for sure. And public school kids in San Antonio, Texas, head back to class on Monday.

The superintendent of the independent school district, Pedro Martinez, joins us now.

Pedro, thank you so much for coming in. I appreciate it.

You and your school system, you find yourself in something of a particularly tough spot. You can't require students and staff to wear masks in school, and also because of state politics, that you have no fault of your own, you have no money to fund remote learning if things go south and classes start Monday.

So what do you do?


So one of the things that we did, Kate, is we had over 90 percent of the schools open in the last two weeks where we had over 20 percent of our students in person, we targeted students that are mainly remote last year, that significantly struggled and what we did is we had an opt out strategy.

So, in other words, our families were able to opt out of wearing masks and we found, Kate, is that over 98 percent of our families supported us in having mask wearing. And so, we only had about 2 percent that opted out. We're going to have the same strategy this coming Monday.

In addition, we have vaccination clinics across our high schools and we're doing COVID testing in every single school which we did last year as well, we have confidence in our families.

BOLDUAN: Do you know how many of your eligible students are vaccinated at this point, as well as staff?

MARTINEZ: Our staff are almost virtually 100 percent, Kate. We're close to that number.

And with students, that is hard to tell, but that's why we're having vaccination clinics at our high schools and working with our parents and community partners to make sure it is as easy as possible.