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The Lead with Jake Tapper

U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base After 20 Years; 20 Confirmed Dead, 128 Unaccounted for as Rescue Effort Enters Day 9; CDC Director: Nearly All COVID Deaths in Past 6 Months Were Unvaccinated; TSA Reports Busiest Days at Airports in 16 Months, AAA Expects 43 Million on the Road This Weekend. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 02, 2021 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We have a quick programming note for you as we head into the holiday weekend. Be sure to join us for a star- studded evening of music and fireworks celebrating Independence Day. The fun begins on July 4th at 7:00 p.m., only on CNN.

And THE LEAD starts right now.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: A moment nearly two decades in the making.

"THE LEAD" starts right now. All U.S. troops have now left Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, a signal America's longest war is nearly done as a top commander issues a major warning.

And more than a hundred people still missing in Florida. The remaining building may need to be demolished quickly and rescue workers may soon have to deal with a hurricane.

Plus, have plans to visit a national park this holiday weekend? Well, you are not alone, and you might even get turned away.


BROWN: Welcome to TE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper on this Friday.

And we begin today with our world lead and the clearer sign that America's longest war is coming to an end.

Today, the remaining U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan which served as the heart of U.S. military operations for 20 years handed over control to the Afghan military, a military that is now bracing for the Taliban's continued advance which a top U.S. commander warned could result in a civil war.

We are covering this from Washington to Kabul.

Let's start with CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House where President Biden was visibly frustrated today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: With little fanfare, the U.S. left Afghanistan's largest air base and effectively ended two decades of war.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're on track exactly as to where we expect it to be.

COLLINS: Although the official drawdown from Afghanistan isn't over yet, the departure from Bagram Air Base sends a strong signal that U.S. operations are.

What is the latest date that the White House is looking at right now?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, we currently expect it to be completed by the end of August.

COLLINS: The sprawling compound was often visited by U.S. leaders and became the center of military power in Afghanistan after being the first to house U.S. forces following the 2001 invasion. The U.S. is handing the air base over to the Afghan government amid new concerns about what they're leaving behind.

REPORTER: Are you worried that the Afghan government might fall? I mean, we are hearing that the Taliban was taking more and more districts.

BIDEN: Look, we were in that war for 20 years, 20 years. I think they have the capacity to be able to sustain a government.

COLLINS: The top American commander in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, recently warned that civil war is, quote, certainly a path that can be visualized.

GEN. SCOTT MILLER, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES AFGHANISTAN: We're starting to create conditions here that won't look good for Afghanistan in the future if there is a push for a military takeover.

COLLINS: President Biden growing frustrated when pressed on what could happen.

REPORTER: A follow on Afghanistan --

BIDEN: I want to talk about happy things, man. I'm not going to answer more questions on Afghanistan. Look, it's the Fourth of July.

COLLINS: There are also other major concerns like what happens to thousands of Afghans who are now targets of retaliation from the Taliban after working alongside the U.S. troops. The U.S. is reportedly in talks with three central Asian countries to temporarily house those Afghans while they wait for U.S. visas.

PSAKI: They will be relocated to a location outside of Afghanistan. There are a range of options that will happen before we complete our military drawdown by the end of August.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS (on camera): So, she said there that those Afghans who have applied for those visas will be relocated out of Afghanistan, Pam, by the time that the U.S. troops are out of there, which she said would happen by the end of August. It's still not clear exactly how many. But we should also note that during that briefing Jen Psaki, the press secretary, defended Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan saying that when he conducted that review earlier this year as he was making this decision, they did not sugar-coat it and they did not base it on best-case scenarios.

BROWN: All right. Kaitlan Collins live from the White House for us.

And now, let's go to CNN's Anna Coren. She is on the ground in Kabul, Afghanistan, just one hour's drive south of Bagram Air Base where "Reuters" reports U.S. troops left behind a piece of the World Trade Center they buried 20 years ago.

So, Anna, what are the Afghans there telling you?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: look, there's a great deal of fear and uncertainty following the U.S. and NATO withdrawal of troops from Bagram Air Base. They feel that now is not the time for the U.S. to withdraw because the security situation in the country is so bad. It has been deteriorating now for months. The Taliban launching their offenses across the country, gaining territory, gaining momentum, catching the forces, Afghan security forces off guard.


So, there really is a sense that the country is not stable, it's not strong to stand on its own two feet. But, as we know, President Biden, he wants his troops home, that it's time for Afghanistan to stand up on its own two feet and to fight this war alone.

BROWN: And so what are U.S. service members who serve there saying now?

COREN: Yeah. Look, I have spoken to a few of them. One of them being a member of the U.S. Special Forces who I met here many years ago. And he said it's a bittersweet feeling. It's a feeling of failure after all these years and really victory for the Taliban and for the insurgence. He said there were good intentions obviously going in, but it was poorly managed and a real lack of understanding as to the complexities of this country.

Let me read you some of what he said. He said, after toppling the Taliban, it was never a war we could win militarily. That said, our western hubris set the wrong conditions from the beginning and allowed us to press on without ever really adapting our approach to what we all seem to understand on the ground.

Now he also told me, Pam, that he really is concerned about what the future holds for this country, he believes that there will be atrocities committed here in the coming months and that America's --

BROWN: And we just lost Anna there. Having some technical issues. Anna reporting there from Kabul, Afghanistan.

I want to go to CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.

Oren, you're just learning that even though the U.S. military's almost gone, there's still a chance of military action.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: There are still options and authorities. First, military leaders have made it clear that they retain the authority to carry out counterterrorism operations against Taliban, ISIS K, as well as al Qaeda if they feel that those organizations or others pose a threat to U.S. homeland or the allies. The question about how that authority workers and the process for approval, whether it goes through the local levels or has to go through the White House, that's still being worked out by the Biden administration. But, again, military leaders have made it clear they have the authority to carry out counterterrorism operations.

We have just learned that military leaders will retain the authority to carry out strikes on the Taliban in support of Afghan forces, to try to help them out especially as they're in a very difficult battle, won by many accounts that they're not winning against the Taliban. The U.S. have been carrying out those airstrikes as the withdrawal winds up. Those are ongoing at this point.

But up until recently, the commander of U.S. Central Command a month ago said beyond the withdrawal, that will not happen. We are now learning that they will retain the authorities to carry out those sort of supportive airstrikes to try to help out Afghan security forces. That according to two defense officials. But one official says it's unclear when and how often if that authority will be used.

President Joe Biden made it clear that the fight against the Taliban, the future of the country, its security, that falls on the Afghan military very soon.

BROWN: And is there anything else you can tell us, Oren, about Afghan allies, those allies who helped U.S. service members during the war in Afghanistan, what their fate is?

LIEBERMANN: Well, that's a question big question that's still hanging over the Biden administration. That is where there is a lot of unity in Congress on pushing the administration from Republicans and Democrats demanding answers on what the U.S. plans on doing with 18,000 special immigrant visa applicants and their families. So, potentially, tens of thousands more.

There are other discussions with countries in the region, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, that would each take a number of those. But as I think it's clear, if you have these discussions here and in the White House, there aren't definitive answers to this yet, and time quickly running out here, especially with the withdrawal from Bagram.

BROWN: Yeah, and the threat is growing for them.

All right, Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thank you so much. And coming up on this Friday, a heartbreaking discovery in Surfside,

Florida. A 7-year-old girl found dead in the rubble, and one of the rescue workers on site is her father.

Plus, reports of dysfunction and infighting inside the vice president's office. How the administration is now responding, just ahead.



BROWN: Welcome back. Turning to our national lead now, you are looking at before and after photos of that deadly building collapse in Surfside, Florida. Today officials announced the death toll is growing, 20 people are now confirmed dead, including the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami firefighter, 128 people are still missing at this hour.

Let's go now to CNN's Nick Valencia live at the family reunification site.

So, Nick, what more do we know about that 7-year-old girl?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if it hasn't been made clear enough, Pamela, over the course of these last nine days just how personal of a mission this has been for the search and rescue teams, this story of the 7-year-old underscores that quite literally.

The 7-year-old's body was found by Florida Task Force 2. And we understand that that detail's not just heartbreaking enough, but her father was there working on the debris at the time of this discovery. The fire chief for Miami-Dade said this discovery was uniquely painful for everyone involved.


CHIEF ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE FIRE: Every victim we remove, it's difficult. And last night was even more, you know, when we're removing a fellow firefighter's daughter. And that's just where I want to emphasize the emotion, what we're feeling. You know, as firefighters we do what we do. And it's kind of a calling, we always say that. But it still takes a toll.


VALENCIA: This has been one of the most difficult callings for everyone involved in that mission.


A physical toll, no doubt, and quite literally an emotional one -- Pamela.

BROWN: Just an excruciating experience all around.

Nick Valencia, thanks so much.

VALENCIA: Yeah. You bet.

BROWN: Well, let's turn now to the investigation into how the building collapsed. CNN's Drew Griffin is learning new details about how engineers told the condo association there was extensive damage to the concrete back in 2020.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Right now, the desperate search in surfside continues even as there are questions over whether the rest of the tower needs to come down before it falls.

COMINSKY: That building standing definitely has been a huge obstacle, and the hazards that -- you know, for our men and women that are out there working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That the building will have to go. It's just too much of a risk.

GRIFFIN: It comes as a newly uncovered letter reveals a structural engineering firm warned of more damage than previously discovered at the now collapsed Florida condo building, pointing to a concrete slab near the pool deck. The letter from Morabito Consultants in 2020 provides a nine-page summary of work in the towers as of last year. But states full restoration and repair could not be completed because areas of concrete appeared to penetrate deep into wall/corbel construction and that aggressive excavation of concrete at the severely deteriorated pool corbel could affect the stability of the remaining adjacent concrete constructions.

It's just more evidence of the engineering report initially conducted in 2018 that showed Champlain Towers South was in need of major repairs, repairs that in 2020 were not yet being completed, in part, the letter states, because it would've required access to the inside of the pool, which, according to the document, was to remain in service for the duration of this work. CNN has reached out to Morabito Consultants on the latest development with no response. The firm earlier telling CNN it did its job.

Champlain Towers South board of directors released a statement saying, answers will take time to understand the causes of this tragedy.

In the meantime, the town of Surfside announced the tower's twin building Champlain Towers North will undergo a complete forensic deep dive to calm fears.

MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: And get to the point where we can definitively tell the people that are living there whether or not we think there's an issue or not, which I'm hopeful will give our residents a little more peace of mind.

GRIFFIN: That the Champlain Towers South was facing massive restoration and accelerating deterioration is not in dispute. Just this past April the homeowner board's president wrote to residents, the concrete deterioration is accelerating, and the observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since that initial inspection in 2018.

Homeowners were in the process of being assessed more than $15 million for work when the building fell.


GRIFFIN (on camera): And, Pamela, that 2020 letter also states that the engineering firm found what it called, and this is in quotes here, some curious results when it took core samples of the building's structural slab, didn't elaborate beyond that. So just adding more questions as these families are losing hope and now demanding some answers -- Pamela.

BROWN: They deserve those answers.

All right. Thanks so much, Drew Griffin.

Let's discuss all of this Matthys Levy, an engineer and author of "Why Buildings Fall Down: How Structures Fail." He was also a principal consultant after 9/11.

Thanks so much for joining us.

You just heard drew's report there, reports of water damage and cracks in the cement date back to 2018. Given everything we know, so far, and there is still more to learn, what do you think caused this building to collapse?

MATTHYS LEVY, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Well, certainly we won't know for certain for quite a while until the engineers have had a chance to examine all the debris and to go through the analysis of how the building was designed. But the indication is that in the intersection between the plaza, that's the pool plaza and the building that was serious deterioration of the concrete, perhaps the slab and also of the columns supporting the building itself. Those two things combined would have led to a collapse, local collapse that could bring the whole building down.

BROWN: It seems like there were at least a couple of warning signs there over the years. Officials are now discussing these plans to demolish the remaining units of the building. But given the reality here that there are likely many more bodies in that rubble, what sort of issues do they need to consider?

LEVY: Well, first of all, obviously what they want to do first is make sure they can get all the bodies out and any remains that can be recovered.


Because we need to know who was actually there at the time of the collapse. BROWN: It's just so awful to think about these poor families that are

just waiting, waiting and waiting. The town of Surfside has requested that all buildings over the age of 30 and more than three stories high begin to assess their buildings prior to this 40-year building recertification program. What do you think about that?

LEVY: I think it's a very good idea. I think one of the main problems here is obviously there was a report issued in 2018, the report said there were serious issues concerning the quality of the work and quality of the remaining concrete. And nothing was being done about that until a few months before the actual collapse. It was just too late.

BROWN: I think this has also made a lot of people kind of reassess the buildings they live in when you look at what needs to be done to prevent this moving forward, should all buildings be inspected well before the 40-year mark?

LEVY: One of the things to remember is that all these buildings are along the coast. They're adjacent to saltwater. They're subject to intrusion from saltwater. They're subject to the chlorides that tends to attack the steel within the concrete.

And all those things combined mean you have to be weary and be ready to take action to repair any damage that is caused before it causes a major collapse.

BROWN: All right, Matthys Levy, thank you so much for joining us.

LEVY: You're very welcome.

BROWN: And coming up right here on THE LEAD, speculation over which Republicans Kevin McCarthy might name to the new committee investigating the insurrection, or if McCarthy will select anyone at all.



BROWN: Turning now to the politics lead. A notable appearance at the White House today may just show how much the political climate in Washington has changed.

Check out who showed up in the East Room. You got that right. That's House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Now, granted, he is from California and the World Series champion L.A. Dodgers were in town.

But down Pennsylvania Avenue, we are waiting to see who McCarthy will recommend to the Select Committee to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Let me bring in my panel to discuss all of this.

Great to see you both.

So let's look at what could play out here, Kirsten. As we know, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney is on the panel at the speaker's request. Only one other Republican Adam Kinzinger voted in favor of creating this committee.

Is there any other Republican McCarthy could recommend that wouldn't be vetoed by Pelosi?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I guess, in theory, there are probably people that wouldn't be vetoed. The question is whether or not he even wants to put anybody on this committee. Because it's pretty clear if we just follow the trajectory of this entire debate, that Republicans aren't really interested in -- they're not only interested, they're opposed to investigating this.

So, at this point, I think it's in McCarthy's interest to not give any legitimacy to this investigation. And by appointing people, he will, in a way, give legitimacy to it, versus he could say, well, this is just a partisan, you know, witch hunt or that they like to use basically and just say, you know, don't pay attention to this because this is just the Democrats, and Liz Cheney who's a Democrat now? I don't know.

I mean, it's kind of a hard sell for me, the whole Liz Cheney as not conservative. But this is sort of the game that they're playing.

BROWN: And it's interesting, Ramesh, because I guess you could say the more showboats in the Republican Party, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, they have been jockeying for a role on this. Others see this as a side show. One lawmaker told CNN to any rational member, this is no gift, it's pretty un-fun. The way they designed it, it's going to be a pretty nasty partisan fight. This was a GOP lawmaker.

Do they have a point there, is this just going to be a political fight?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I think that it is crystal clear that McCarthy sees his interest as discrediting this commission. I don't think that means that he boycotts it and doesn't make any nominees. I think what it means is his interest is nominating the most bomb-throwing obstructionist disruptive congressman who relish that kind of partisan combat.

And then you win either way if you're McCarthy, right? Either you get some of those members on this committee where they will be undermining the Democratic mission on it. Or you get to say, look, we tried to nominate people, and Speaker Pelosi was uninterested in having real representation for Republicans and vetoed. And you discredit it that way.

BROWN: And there is this open question about what role Kevin McCarthy will play given the phone call that he had with former President Trump on January 6th.

Bennie Thompson, the committee chairman, told CNN's Manu Raju that he's actually opened the hearing from the former president's. Let's listen.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): I would not resist it if we went there. We'll see where the evidence leads us.


BROWN: So, Kirsten, how do you think this could play out with the former president, with Kevin McCarthy himself?


BROWN: Well, it's hard for me to imagine that they're going to be talking to Donald Trump. I mean, is that what they think? I just, I don't really see that happening.

But I think this has just become so partisan, and that's what's so sad about this, because there was a time not that long ago when this would have just been seen as an attack on the country and it would've been, I think, even if it was a president from one of the parties that most people would've said, look, even if they're somehow tied to this, possibly incited it, then I think that we still need to investigate this, because there are just some things that bring everybody together.

And the way the Republicans really just are openly, like, they're trying to discredit this, trying to have no process that investigates this. It's just so highly problematic that I don't see how this can really ever be taken seriously or ever really get to the bottom of things if you have it just being Democrats or people appointed by Pelosi or as Ramesh is saying they choose people that they're so outlandish that they'll never get approved.

That's just a game that Kevin McCarthy is playing with our democracy and with potentially another attack happening where if you don't get to the bottom of it and find out how it happened, how do you prevent this in the future? I mean, this is serious stuff that has just been reduced to a game.

BROWN: And it is important to point out, Ramesh, as you know, I mean, Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans have said there are all these other investigations. But there is no specific investigation looking at the systemic issues that led to what we saw on January 6th. The FBI investigations focus on individuals and conspiracies and so forth but not at the root issue.

And it was Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans and Mitch McConnell who said they didn't want the bipartisan commission, that had been negotiated by Republicans. So does he lose some of that, you know, weight when he says, well, this select committee is just going to be partisan, because it's partisan because the Republicans wouldn't do the bipartisan committee.

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, and, of course, McCarthy back in January when this was more fresh on people's minds, called for a commission himself to investigate it. He then later flip-flopped, and so much has happened that a lot of us have forgotten the fact that he didn't have any principled objection to a committee in the past.

I do think that it would be useful if the commission were to try to hear from president Trump and maybe try to appeal to him, say, look, make your case. He likes the stage. In the past, that has not worked out in terms of getting him to actually testify in places. But maybe now with his microphone reduced, this will have more appeal to him.

BROWN: Yeah. We'll have to see. Of course, he didn't speak at his impeachment trial, but he was still.

And so, today, White House Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki discussed these reports about Kamala Harris, the vice president. These reports, these growing reports of dysfunction and infighting, let's listen to what she had to say.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I will say that the vice president is an incredibly important partner to the president of the United States. She has a challenging job, a hard job, and she has a great supportive team of people around her. But, other than that I'm not going to have any other comments on those reports.


BROWN: So, sources tell CNN much of this frustration is directed at the VP's chief of staff. Why was it so important, do you think, for the White House to address this, Kirsten?

POWERS: Well, what's going on is this whisper campaign against the vice president and basically trying to discredit her. And it seems to be some of it coming from her staff and some staff in the White House. So I think that the president needed to say something and put his, you know, show that he stands behind her.

I -- this is very frustrating to me personally having been in Washington as long as I have and knowing how not just difficult people can be. I mean, I think the complaint from her staff was they're not getting enough support or something. I mean, people who are out and out abusive, and every person knows that they're abusive, every reporter knows they're abusive. But they're men, and we never have stories about it.

Like, there are people right now that have never been written about. And now there's this fascination with the chief of staff of the vice president? It's like, I don't really understand this. It's like I was even thinking, like, why are we all of a sudden so interested in the vice president's office? Like, this is not something that people usually spend a lot of time about.

And now, these people are attacking her chief of staff who happens to be a black woman in this very senior position who happens to work for a woman of color. And I just find it all really troubling. BROWN: And Simmons (ph) -- oh, go ahead.

PONNURU: I think some of this is glorified gossip, right? How self- actualized a member of the vice president's staff feels working for her is something that I could not possibly care less about and that I think that 99.99 percent of Americans don't and shouldn't care about. But I think what's also going on is some 2024 politics happening early if Biden doesn't run again, is Harris going to be the anointed candidate, or is there going to be a real challenge?

And I think that there are Democrats who don't want her to be the candidate, or at least don't want her to have a free ride to it.


BROWN: All right. So much more to discuss, out of time. But thank you both. I appreciate it. And have a nice holiday weekend.

Well, a more severe and more contagious variant of coronavirus ripping through rural communities. Will it convince more Americans to get vaccinated? That's next.


BROWN: Turning to the health lead now. The CDC director is saying nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the past six months were unvaccinated people. And the new dangerous Delta variant now spreading in all 50 states is preying on communities with the lowest vaccination rates.


As CNN's Miguel Marquez reports, some are now regretting the decision not to get the shot sooner.




MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Born six weeks premature.

Oh my goodness.

His mom 28-year-old Victoria, she's otherwise healthy and works as an ICU nurse. She says she didn't want to get vaccinated, then got COVID- 19.

V. WILLIS: Once I got it, it obviously took a turn for the worst and ended up in the ER. Then I ended up in the ICU and I ended up delivering him in the ICU.

MARQUEZ: Despite CDC assurances that pregnant women after consultation with their doctors are safe to get vaccinated, despite ample evidence that the virus is a danger for pregnant mothers and possibly their children. Neither Victoria nor her husband Donovan who have three kids chose to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

D. WILLIS: I know that I should get vaccinated, I've always known that. But I guess it's one of them irrational things of you hear everybody -- you know, this is Arkansas, everybody around here have their belief systems.

MARQUEZ: The state of Arkansas now in its third surge of COVID-19 infections, say health officials. It has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Only about 34 percent of all Arkansans are fully vaccinated.

DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, MEDICAL DIRECTOR FOR IMMUNIZATIONS: We are seeing widespread COVID-19 in our state. And it's hitting the rural areas that were not previously hit in earlier surges.

MARQUEZ: Those growing cases in rural areas clear on this map from Johns Hopkins University, the bigger the circle, the bigger the outbreak. The highly transmissible Delta variant now spreading through the state.

DR. CAM PATTERSON, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS FOR MEDICAL SCIENCES: We're seeing over 85 percent now of samples that are the delta variant. And keep in mind we only had our first delta variant identified May 1st here in the state.

MARQUEZ: Little Rock's University of Arkansas for medical sciences hospital reopened its COVID-19 unit this week and is planning to expand it in the weeks ahead.

PATTERSON: There's no doubt in my mind that our patients now are sicker, they're coming in more acutely ill. They're requiring more intensive care to manage their infections. It's a different monster than it was a year ago.

MARQUEZ: COVID-19 and its new variants still very much a threat.

V. WILLIS: If I would have known, then I would have definitely got it while I was pregnant to keep from having to deliver him at 33 weeks.

MARQUEZ: The Willises hope to take Lincoln home in the next couple of weeks. They also plan to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Little Rock.


BROWN: Important reporting there from Miguel.

Joining us now is Dr. William Schaffner.

Dr. Schaffner, great to see you.

So, Dr. Fauci has warned that this variant will create two Americas, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Are we seeing that already, in your view?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Oh, I think it's starting, Pamela. There's no doubt about it. You know, of hospitalized patients here at Vanderbilt and across the country, over 90 percent of the people who are hospitalized have not been vaccinated or who are incompletely vaccinated.

That means we are not hardly seeing any vaccinated people in the hospital, a testimony to how well the vaccine is working. But among the unvaccinated, and there are plenty of them in Tennessee, I'm afraid, this delta variant is seeking them out. It's homing in on them and continues to make illness in that population, I'm afraid.

BROWN: What risk do unvaccinated people pose to vaccinated people in these current circumstances, especially as we're about to -- you know, many of us are about to embark on Fourth of July holiday celebrations. They're going to be around kids who aren't vaccinated and so forth.

How much of a danger do they pose?

SCHAFFNER: Well, of course they pose some danger, of course, particularly to vaccinated people who are immuno-compromised. Remember, they can't respond optimally to the vaccine. So, an unvaccinated person could give -- could transmit this virus to such a person and still have that person develop an illness. But mostly they prevent risks to other unvaccinated people.

BROWN: And how much of a concern is it for you as we see these clusters that are developing with the delta variant that a more dangerous variant will emerge, a more transmissible variant will emerge?

SCHAFFNER: Well, the more unvaccinated people are, the more opportunities for the virus to multiply. When it does, it mutates, and it could throw off a variant mutation that is even more serious down the road.


So, unvaccinated people are potential variant factories. And so the way to avoid that, of course, is to get vaccinated.

BROWN: Are you concerned at all, worried about the Fourth of July becoming a super-spreader for some parts of the country?

SCHAFFNER: I think here and there, there are undoubtedly going to be small outbreaks among unvaccinated people that gather together outside. There will also be gatherings inside, and some of them really quite large.

And, in those kinds of circumstances, there could be local outbursts of infection across the country.

BROWN: Okay, Dr. William Schaffner, thank you so much for joining us on this Friday.

SCHAFFNER: Thank you so much.

BROWN: And be sure to tune in for "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sunday. Dana Bash will be joined by White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Congressman James Clyburn, Senator Patty Murray and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. That's 9:00 and 12:00 Eastern Sunday on CNN.

Well, national parks are so popular this year. Some rangers are being forced to tell visitors to take a hike somewhere else. What you need to know, next.



BLITZER: And in the national lead with more COVID restrictions lifted, this could be one of the busiest July 4th travel weekends ever. TSA says for the second time this week, 2.1 million people passed through airport security lines, levels not seen in 16 months. And AAA expects 43 million people on the roads.

One popular destination, national parks. But in many cases the attractions can't keep up with the summer surge as CNN's Lucy Kafanov reports.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this majestic corner of southeastern Utah lies a 76,000-acre wonderland, boasting some of the world's most extraordinary rock formations, carved by water and wind over millions of years.

Arches National Park is a tourist magnet. These days only a lucky few make it in. The influx of visitors forcing the park to temporarily shut its gates almost daily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven-thirty, we rolled in and we just it by a couple minutes. The park was closed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Showed up early this morning, it was pretty disappointing we can't get in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my only vacation.

REPORTER: How does that make you feel?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 2021 will be our busiest year on record.

KAFANOV: The crowds mean added challenges.

ANGIE RICHMAN, RANGER, ARCHES NATIONAL PARK: We are seeing a lot of first-time visitors, people who have never camped before. We see a lot of dogs on trails, drones in the park. We see a lot more trash in the park. And we do see graffiti. KAFANOV: That hasn't fazed families taking their first post-pandemic


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just feels good to be out doing stuff again.

KAFANOV: Many are seeking out new thrills on nearby public lands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a really vertical wall.

KAFANOV: This is obviously a popular activity.


KAFANOV: Moab Cowboy Off-Road Adventures owner Kent Green says business is booming.

So people who can't get in to Arches can do something like this instead.

GREEN: They can take a tour or go rent a jeep, or rent a side by side to come out on their own.

KAFANOV: That's if they have the stomach for it.

But Green is concerned about visitors who aren't informed or, worse, ignore the rules.

GREEN: We need to be able to enjoy our public lands as long as we use it with respect. Because you want to leave it like you found it. You know, you want to be like you're the first person to be there.

KAFANOV: Moab is bursting at the seams, and it's not just because of tourists. The draw of the great outdoors has lured remote workers and second home buyers sending housing and rental prices soaring.

RACHEL MOODY, MOAB REAL ESTATE AGENT: We have had a lot of people have left the community based on not being able to afford here.

KAFANOV: Businesses are desperate for staff. The local McDonald's offering 18 bucks an hour, more than double the state's minimum wage. The crisis means agencies responsible for managing public lands can't hire enough workers to deal with the crowds.

Is this a problem that's limited to Arches National Park?

RICHMAN: Absolutely not. This is something that especially the big national parks are struggling with across -- across the country.

KAFANOV: The future of America's wild spaces hanging in the balance.

RICHMAN: There will be a point where the experience here is just not enjoyable and people won't want to come.

KAFANOV: No longer America's wild space potentially?

RICHMAN: Potentially, yes.

KAFANOV: These iconic landscapes are America's national treasures, in the words of conservationist John Muir, the fountains of life.


KAFANOV (on camera): This is a bucket list destination for people from all across the globe. You can see the crowds gathering here, the Arches. But it's not just this national park. The National Park Service says it is expecting the busiest summer yet.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Arches National Park in Utah.

BROWN: And our thanks to Lucy.

Well, speaking of summer travels, we have some good news in our money lead to share with you. The White House today announcing President Biden is to direct the Transportation Department to change some rules which could result in money back in the pockets of air travelers.

Here's one of the president's top economic advisers explaining what this could mean for you.


BRIAN DEESE, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL MEMBER: These rulemakings will specifically ensure that if passenger pays to check a bag, they should get that fee back if the bag doesn't arrive on time. Also, if the passenger pays for a service like Wi-Fi and it doesn't actually work, that you will get that fee back quickly.


BROWN: So the Transportation Department is also expected to direct airlines to make their fees easier to understand.


Now, the White House did not say when these changes would be made, but it can't come soon enough as summer travel heats up around the country.

And this July 4th, join CNN for a star-studded evening of music and fireworks featuring performances from the Beach Boys with John Stamos to the Back Eyed Peas, Flo Rida and more. It starts at 7:00 p.m., only on CNN.

And the White House will mark what they are calling an independence from coronavirus, even when a key goal is about to be missed. The U.S. surgeon general joins CNN, ahead.