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The Lead with Jake Tapper

CDC: Vaccinated People Can Spread Highly-Contagious Delta Variant; Trump-Backed Candidate Loses In Texas Special Election; Biden Warns Russia Already Interfering In 2022 Midterms; Interview With Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT); Bipartisan Negotiators Reach Awaited Infrastructure Deal; Emotional Pleas From Sick Patients Who Regret Not Getting Vaccine; Simone Biles Withdraws From All-Around Competition To Focus On Mental Well-Being. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 28, 2021 - 17:00   ET




ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Agnes Velasquez has not left her 15-year-old daughter sides since she was placed on a ventilator in a Florida hospital about 10 days ago.

AGNES VELASQUEZ, DAUGHTER HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID: She's in induced coma, and she's also medically paralyzed.

FLORES (voice-over): Her daughter Paulina (ph) was not vaccinated. Agnes was fully vaccinated, and they both got COVID around the same time.

VELASQUEZ: The toughest part for me being -- seeing how she suffer.

FLORES (voice-over): Mother and daughter an example of why the CDC updated its guidance yesterday, recommending fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in substantial and high transmission areas. After new science revealed that vaccinated people can and do spread COVID- 19.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: If you are vaccinated, you could potentially give disease to someone else.

FLORES (voice-over): In Florida, which makes up 20 percent of the nation's COVID cases reported in the last week, Governor Ron DeSantis has maintained an anti-mask stance, especially in schools. Saying through a spokesperson, "Experts have raised legitimate concerns that the risks of masking outweigh the potential benefits for children. Fortunately, the data indicate that COVID is not a serious risk to healthy children."

But there is no evidence that the risk of wearing masks outweigh the benefits. And CDC evidence shows COVID can be a serious risk to children.

WALENSKY: If you look at the mortality rate of COVID, just this past year for children, it's more than twice the mortality rate that we see in influenza in a given year.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Hello, I'm Governor Ron DeSantis. We have a panel here today --

FLORES (voice-over): DeSantis defiant on the facts, holding a private roundtable discussion this week with handpicked out of state experts, parents and students who effectively reinforce his anti-mask ideology. The press was not invited to the event.

And when CNN asked why, his office didn't respond.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you again, Governor.

FLORES (voice-over): So we tracked down the governor at a press conference today, but after the last speaker finished talking, DeSantis walked away.

(on camera): Governor, could you take a question please about COVID?

(voice-over): Not taking questions from the press.

(on camera): We're all wondering why the press was not invited to the roundtable on masks.

(voice-over): Perhaps because reality in his state is not as cut and dry as DeSantis says closed door roundtable made it appear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Masking is a simple risk mitigation that we can and should use.

FLORES (voice-over): With parents and students across the state --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're for freedom, baby. We need the mask to burn.

FLORES (voice-over): On both sides of the issue --

HOPE BRILLHART, FLORIDA STUDENT: The Hillsborough COVID positivity rate is at 18 percent. Do you remember the last time it was that high? Trick question. It never has been.

Requiring mask is the least you can do.

VELASQUEZ: The blue one is what they explained all day for me. It's the exigent.

FLORES (voice-over): Agnes, doesn't know exactly how Paulina got COVID. But she knows she's part of the growing number of unvaccinated people who are getting the deadly disease.

(on camera): What was the last thing that she told you?

VELASQUEZ: She told me that she loved me.

FLORES (voice-over): And she hopes telling her and her daughter's story saves lives.


FLORES: And you just saw Governor Ron DeSantis did not take my question during that press conference. Well, just hours later, he took to Twitter to say that masks are bad policy.

And well, Jake, Twitter is a safe space for politicians who want to say whatever they want without getting questions from reporters. Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Rosa Flores in Florida. Thank you so much.

Somebody else criticizing masks. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, he tweeted, quote, "The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state."

To that, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of McCarthy, quote, "he's such a moron."

Let's talk about this.

Jackie, putting the bad blood between Pelosi and McCarthy aside, what the hell is McCarthy talking about? This is -- liberals don't want -- liberal government officials want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state? What --


TAPPER: -- the hell is that?

KUCINICH: -- as I was in the elevator coming here, I got a fundraising request from Trump and it said, liberals want to put your children in masks forever, or something of that genre. This is political. This is political. They're trying to score --

TAPPER: It's such as political. It's inane. It's a lie.

KUCINICH: Yes, it is. But I think the reason he's saying this is because he knows it's popular on his side. A lot of the people that don't want to wear masks that took their masks off are people who are not vaccinated when Biden had that mission accomplished moment in May. And that is what's created. That's what experts say is creating the problem. And clearly, McCarthy is still catering to that set.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And it also makes clear that even though we saw a few days recently where Republicans started to kind of rally behind the idea of people need to get vaccinated, we saw Steve Scalise, for example, the number two House Republicans talking about the importance of vaccination.


Ultimately, they are going back to basics here and that is what we are seeing with Kevin McCarthy and the continued politicization of this pandemic. Making clear that even as cases are surging, even as this Delta variant is spreading like wildfire, that ultimately they think it's good politics, at least for their base and for their fundraising purposes to continue to politicize this pandemic and raise questions about the kind of scientific advice that the CDC and others are putting out there.

TAPPER: So last year, I saw some liberal commentators criticizing president -- then President Trump for putting too much emphasis on vaccines, and not enough on masking. And you know, I think that that didn't age well. Obviously, the vaccines were very important, Trump gets the credit he deserves for that for Operation Warp Speed, et cetera.

But here we are in a situation where now, a lot of very strong voices in the Republican Party, not all, but a lot of very strong voices in Republican Party are not only anti-mask, they are also, at least not pro vaccine in a way they should be. Forgetting the politics of this for a second, is -- what is motivating these people? I guess you can't forget the politics of it because that's the only thing motivating them.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: Well, I don't know that it's just about politics, I think you have a lot of Americans that at the beginning of this pandemic had a lot of faith in many of our institutions. You know, 80 plus percent of Republicans and Democrats had a favorable view of the CDC at the beginning of this pandemic, those numbers don't look like that these days.

And it's not just Republicans that have lost faith. If you're a progressive, and you're someone who really felt comfortable wearing masks, you may feel a little bit of whiplash that the CDC just a couple of months ago was saying, look, if you're vaccinated you can live a normal life, and are now pivoting on that.

Now, maybe the science has changed. There's new data, that's what the CDC has sort of alluded to. But at this point, you've got trust that has eroded in scientific institutions as a part of our government. And it's not just because conservative politicians and media are telling them so, it's because as this pandemic has gone along, these institutions have gotten worse about communicating clear guidance to people and that whiplash is leading a lot, who a year ago would have said, fine, I'll do what the CDC tells me, to now say, these folks can all go to hell.

KUCINICH: Yes. And to your point, when that initial may take off your masks and as it was made, they completely left out parents and what the heck you're supposed to do if your children could not -- we're not yet old enough to get vaccinated.

TAPPER: Yes, kids under 12. Yes.

KUCINICH: Kids under 12. There was a lot of questions. So the inconsistency, whether or not, they probably don't mean to, I think is causing a lot of confusion out there and eroding faith in the CDC.

TAPPER: And the other thing that's interesting is it's not just MAGA Republicans who are refusing to get vaccinated. It is also large percentages or disproportionate percentages, I should say, the black community disproportionate to proportionate percentages of the Latino community.

I -- you know, I'm not in either of any of those audiences, so I don't see it. But are there public PSAs to try to get all these individuals from all these -- more skeptical communities on board with the vaccine?

DIAMOND: Yes. There has been some of that, the Ad Council has done a lot of work on that front as it relates to the White House. What they have repeatedly stress that they believe is the most effective is to arm these, quote, "trusted messengers" in communities with the information. People that --

KUCINICH: Mitch McConnell is saying it now, isn't he?


KUCINICH: He's running ads.

DIAMOND: McConnell is running ads using his --

ANDERSON: He's been doing it for a long time. He's been very pro- vaccine always because he's got polio.

TAPPER: Yes, from the beginning as a -- I think he's a -- yes, polio survivor.

DIAMOND: Yes, he's using his campaign funds now to do that. But the White House has talked about the importance of having people that folks know already in their communities, the local pastor, the local doctor, or something like that to make that message.

But I will say that it is very clear this week that there is a huge shift inside the White House in terms of the urgency and the need for action. That is why we saw this test case with the mandate for Veterans Affairs health workers mandating them. Tomorrow, we're expecting the President will announce that federal workers will either need to be vaccinated or tested regularly.

And so, they see this Delta variants as a serious threat and they are acting in a dramatic fashion to change course, because for a while we've heard Jen Psaki at the White House podium say we don't think that the federal government should be in the business of mandates. And while that's still true for the broader population, they are dipping their toes now.

And the reason why is they're really hoping to spur on the private sector to follow the lead of what the federal government is going to be doing starting tomorrow, hoping that this can become more widespread. It's really the only way they see to really get those vaccination rates up to herd immunity.

TAPPER: What's the best way do you think as somebody who deals with polling and communication, what is the best way for the government or whomever, the health officials, to combat the misinformation? We saw a few weeks ago there was this effort by the White House to really go after Facebook, not for writing anti-Vax stuff, but for allowing it on their platform.

But Robert Kennedy Jr. doesn't work for Facebook, Robert Kennedy Jr. just posts on Facebook with his anti-vaccine nonsense. What's the best way to go after that?

ANDERSON: The best way to combat misinformation from somebody who has read something online that has made them scared of the vaccine for reasons they shouldn't be is to see that people they know in their own orbit and families have gotten it and have been fine. There's no substitute for personal exposure and experience.

And I think that's going to be particularly valuable having someone in your orbit that you know and trust delivering that message, particularly for, for instance, the black community for the Latino community, where their opposition to the vaccine is not about politics or about identity or making a stand about which side of this battle you're on, but rather about concerns about how much can you trust the medical establishment to give you accurate information.


I think seeing someone that you know and trust to get the vaccine turns out OK, is going to be the best way.

DIAMOND: I will say that there is growing evidence that making it -- making vaccination compulsory actually works. About 16 percent of people right now say that they either want to wait and see for the vaccine or that they would get it if they were required to. And I was recently in France, when President Macron announced this requirement for bars and cafes, it works. I saw it for my own family there who immediately rushed to get vaccinated after he announced that.

TAPPER: And after he passed a new vaccine passport law in France, he said, quote, "What is your liberty worth if you tell me you don't want to get vaccinated? And tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself. I am a victim of your freedom." That's not a message that would go overwhelm the United States probably. But that's --

DIAMOND: It can go over well there either, but people still wouldn't got their shots.

TAPPER: Yes. Lastly, before we go, I do want to touch on this. President Trump endorsed a Republican in -- running for a House race in Texas. But that candidate lost Jake Ellzey beat Trump back Susan Wright, the widow of Representative Ron Wright, who died of coronavirus. We should note.

What do we think about what this says about Trump's power in terms of endorsements? Or is this an anomaly because the Club for Growth talked him into it at the last minute thinking that it convinced him that she was going to win anyway, why not take credit?

KUCINICH: Yes. And the turnout also, I think was only like 39,000 people. It was very low. And Trump only won that district, I believe, by 3 percent in 2020. So this one's a little -- it's a little murkier.

I'll tell you which one I'm watching. I'm watching Ohio 15 next week, the special election for Steve Stivers. Trump endorsed a candidate there. It's a very wide field. I'm curious I -- that, I think, will give us more answers than perhaps this particular.

TAPPER: Do you agree?

ANDERSON: Yes, Donald Trump doesn't have a perfect record when it comes to endorsements. He did not endorse Lauren Boebert, he did not endorse Madison Cawthorn, he endorsed their opponents, and yet those folks won anyways and are now in Congress. So his records not perfect.

The danger for Republican is not, will somebody else in my race get the Trump endorsement? It's, will Trump go after me?

TAPPER: Right.

ANDERSON: There's a downside. Trump can use his megaphone to sink you more than he can use his megaphone to save you.

TAPPER: Interesting.

All right, thanks to, everyone. Really appreciate it.

Later, we're going to have a look at Americans who did not get the vaccine who are now sick and gasping for air and begging for the vaccine. Their message to vaccine skeptics or vaccine procrastinators.

Plus, a spotlight on mental health at the Tokyo Olympics. We're going to talk to an expert about the pressure of the game. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead today, American and Russian officials met today in Switzerland for quote, "professional and substantive" talks about stability between the two nations.

Professional, even as Russia poses an ever growing cyber threat against the U.S. according to the Biden administration, with President Biden saying yesterday that Russia has already started interfering in the next elections in the United States.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's more likely we're going to end up as we end up in a war. A real shooting more with a major power. It's going to be as a consequence of a cyber breach of great consequence. Look what Russia is doing already about the 2022 elections and misinformation. It's a pure violation of our sovereignty.


TAPPER: So, CNN's is Kylie Atwood who covers the State Department for us joins us now live.

Kylie, I mean, you just heard what Biden is saying about the cyberattacks possibly leading to a kinetic war about the Russians interfering in the U.S. election, 2022. So why have this meeting?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the administration is looking at the relationship with Russia in buckets. And the nuclear buildup is one where both Russia and the U.S. see it is in their interest to sit down and talk. And that's frankly, because the other side is doing something that they don't like or they feel intimidated by. And so, there's a reason that they want to sit at the table.

So, on the Russian side, they are building up their military in the Arctic, they also are working on an unmanned torpedo armed by a nuclear reactor, that's something that the U.S. is looking really closely at. We have no way of controlling their efforts on that front. And the U.S. is also developing new nuclear weapons that they've talked about.

So, both sides are seeing what the other is doing, seeing they don't have controls in space. They want to sit down and talk about it.

Now, this first round of conversations didn't really tell us much about what strategic stability is identified as in these talks. Is it just about nuclear arms or is it a little bit more broad? Is it about the space race? Is it about offensive nuclear capabilities when it comes to the nuclear command and control?

As President Biden said, that is clearly an area to watch given Russia's aggressions? So we'll wait to see kind of how this all turns out. The State Department has said they will work on working groups in their next meeting.

TAPPER: All right, Kylie Atwood, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this now live with the Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, good to see you.

Should the U.S. be sitting down with the Russians while the Russians continue to attack the United in the cyber and election interference realms?


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): United States shouldn't have any fear of talking to our adversaries or enemies, we should be engaged in much more substantive and frequent consultations with our friends and allies. But we should be talking to the Russians, we should be talking to the Chinese, we should be talking to the Iranians.

As Kylie mentioned, there are very important lines of cooperation that we have to be engaged in with the Russians. We have complicated nuclear treaties with the Russians that need to be enforced and implemented. We have similar interests when it comes to Iran and the future of their nuclear program. We probably have similar interest in Yemen.

So, listen, we've got to be able to fight them on the ground in which our interests are adverse. But we also have to find lines of communication.

TAPPER: But they're literally attacking us. I mean, critical pipeline operators have reported more than 220 cybersecurity incidents since May. We know Russia's behind lots of the attacks against our infrastructure in the U.S. How concerned are you about the vulnerability of our critical infrastructure?

MURPHY: Well, I'm incredibly concerned. And I may be worried most that the private sector doesn't understand how deeply under threat they are. Right now, we're considering a massive increase in funding to the agencies in Homeland Security that work with the private sector to make sure that we're, you know, picking up these attacks in real time.

We only have a handful of government sensors that are deployed all over the country on critical infrastructure. We need to do better. We still have voluntary standards in place for many critical industries, like the power sector. They're reluctant, the private sector is, to have any enforceable cybersecurity standards. But the consequence of that is to make the entire country incredibly vulnerable.

So, we need more cooperation with the private sector, we need more funding to protect them. And then, we should develop offensive capabilities as well. I mean, we shouldn't be shy about making sure that Russia knows that if they're going to come after us, we can come after them in the same way. That will have a deterrent effect.

TAPPER: Let's turn now, if we could to the big news from Capitol Hill, especially from the Senate side infrastructure. Negotiators say that they have struck a deal. I know this bill is not as big as you and other progressives want it to be. Will that keep you from voting for it, though?

MURPHY: Well, it certainly won't keep me from voting to move to the bill. That's our first vote. And I expect to be able to support it.

There's a couple details that many of us want to get worked out right now. But I believe in this process. Yes, it's a little bit more cumbersome to pass a bipartisan bill and then move forward on a larger bill that's potentially supported only by Democrats. But this is the President's priority. Joe Biden was elected to try to rebuild trust with Republicans, to find areas of agreement when he could and we could, that's what the American people want.

So, well, that means we got to work a little bit harder to pass multiple pieces of legislation, I think it'll be important to be able to get a bill, $500 billion in critical infrastructure funding for roads and bridges, highways that Republicans sign on to as well. That'll be good for the country. TAPPER: In terms of that 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, do you even have 50 votes for that? It doesn't seem like Manchin or Sinema have come on board.

MURPHY: I think we still have to, you know, work out the details of that proposal. Remember, that's spending over 10 years.

And what we're trying to do here is fundamentally tip the balance of economic power in this country away from the billionaires who have been helped by multiple tax breaks from Republicans to regular people, right? We want to give people affordable childcare, we want to put tax breaks in the hands of poor people and middle class families.

Yes, that is expensive, but so was the giant tax break for billionaires passed back in 2017. That was about the same size, and 80 percent of that benefit went to the top 1 percent of Americans. I don't think we have 50 votes yet on that package. But I think there'll be a lot more willingness to get to that compromise once we passed the bipartisan piece.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about Afghanistan, because obviously President Biden has withdrawn almost all U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan, except for a few left behind to guard the embassy and the airport, this wars, the longest war that the United States has ever waged.

You and several colleagues have introduced something called the National Security Powers Act, which would require much more congressional involvement in wars. If this had been law, would the United States have been in Afghanistan for 20 years?

MURPHY: It's a good question. Of course, Afghanistan was, you know, the one fight that was clearly authorized by the 2001 authorization of military force because we were going straight after Al-Qaeda. But very quickly that war became not against Al-Qaeda, but against the Taliban. The American people never authorized war against the Taliban.

I'm not sure most of my constituents supported the fact that we were having already expelled Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan not now taking war against a group that actually didn't have designs to attack the United States. So, yes, if our bill passed which further cracks down on the ability of the executive to fight a war without congressional authorization, it's probable that the Afghanistan war would have ended the minute that Al-Qaeda was sort of, for all intents and purposes, defeated inside that country.


TAPPER: Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it.

MURPHY: Appreciate it.

TAPPER: Coming up next, unvaccinated and regretting it. The message these individuals now have for other unvaccinated Americans.


FRANCISCA: I feel sorry about not getting the vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think you would be here if you had gotten the vaccine?





TAPPER: Back now with more in our health lead with less than 50 percent of the United States fully vaccinated. Coronavirus has been ripping through unvaccinated communities. It's a sad and somewhat familiar scene now.

Since last spring, we at The Lead had been reading about our fellow Americans who did not take COVID seriously enough or who scoff that science and hard too often, we've been reading about these individuals in the obituaries and we don't blame them. We blame the charlatans, and politics, media and elsewhere who have lied to them for fun and profit and power. But we do think it's worth taking a moment to listen to some of their regrets.


LINDA EDWARDS, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: I just thought, if I lived through this, I want to go on a mission to try to help people to see that it is not worth not taking the vaccine.

TAPPER (voice-over): Emotional pleas one after another.

CHRISTY CARPENTER, UNVACCINATED SON DIED OF COVID-19: If it can take a healthy person, you know, and do what that happened to my son and it takes his life, then, why wouldn't you want to take the vaccine.

TAPPER (voice-over): Unvaccinated Americans who got sick and regret their decision, or relatives of unvaccinated Americans who died of COVID-19 now warning others to learn from their lost loved ones' mistakes.

AARON HARTLE, HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19: I didn't think I was going to get it.

TAPPER (voice-over): Nurse Practitioner Aaron Hartle wanted to wait to learn more about the emergency vaccine before getting it.

HARTLE: Never occurred to me that it was a choice between getting vaccinated and getting really sick.

TAPPER (voice-over): Now after a fight for his life, he worries about his patients who decided against to getting the shots.

HARTLE: I worry that my example to them was the wrong example.

TAPPER (voice-over): Currently, 43 percent of all Americans have not been vaccinated, according to the CDC. Some don't believe medical experts. Some hate the news media. Some are worried because the vaccine is so new and nothing is without risk.

34-year-old Stephen Harmon made fun of the vaccine, posted once, he has 99 problems, but a vax ain't one. Harmon died from the virus last week. Or Linda Zuern, whom the Cape Cod Times reported was not vaccinated and protested against a mobile vaccination program in her state. She passed away from severe COVID complications, the Times said, citing Zuern's friends and family.

PHIL VALENTINE, RADIO HOST: As if (ph) I'm doing it.

TAPPER (voice-over): Conservative radio host Phil Valentine not only openly dismissed the vaccine, he gave false advice to his listeners about it, even writing a parody song mocking it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's have the vax man.

TAPPER (voice-over): But there's nothing funny about what happened to Valentine, who nearly died from COVID. His family now says while he, "has never been an anti-vaxxer he regrets not being more vehemently pro-vaccine". His brother tells CNN he's determined to get that new message to his listeners.

MARK VALENTINE, UNVACCINATED BROWTHER BATTLING COVID-19: The very short assessment of this is he got it wrong and he wants to do everything he can to make sure that as many people get vaccinated as can. We want as many people as can hear my voice this morning to put politics aside and go get the vaccine.

TAPPER (voice-over): Valentine may end up being one of the lucky ones. His family says his condition is improving. For other unvaccinated Americans, nurses and doctors say some of them are now begging for a shot when it may be too late.

TAMMY DANIEL, CHIEF NURSING OFFICER, BAPTIST HEALTH: They're getting ready to intubate the patient and I see which means putting them on a ventilator. And they said, if I get the vaccine now, could I not go on the ventilator? So, I mean, they're begging for it.


TAPPER: Joining us now Dr. Chris Pernell, a public health physician and a fellow at the American College of Preventive Medicine. And Doctor, you have a very personal connection to this. You lost your father to coronavirus. We should note this is before a vaccine was available.

You participated in the Moderna vaccine trials to honor his legacy. What goes through your mind because through your heart when you hear these unvaccinated Americans who now regret not getting a shot, their messages to the public? DR. CHRIS PERNELL, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE FELLOW: Thanks, Jake. It's all preventable. It's tragic because it's preventable. Look, I tell people I'm pro-prevention. And I use my story, my family's story. Not only that I lose my beloved father, but I've lost two cousins as well, Jake, to this pandemic and my sister who is a breast cancer survivor is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

I've seen people in my community, Black and African American and Latino populations devastated, populations all across the United States. So my heart goes out to those who are continuing to die or continuing to get very sick when we have powerful tools. This is preventable.

TAPPER: Black Americans, the Black community is among those communities disproportionately not vaccinated. I know some of this has to do with historical discrimination against the Black community, for instance, the Tuskegee experiments. When you talk to members of the Black community, African American community about their skepticism, what do they tell you?


PERELL: You know, what they tell me is they're not sure that the truth is being given to them. They tell me that they're not sure if when these vaccines were created. They were specifically in mind. They're not sure that they can trust. And they base that, Jake, not just on historical injustices, but they base that on practices of it, or experiences of racism in everyday life, on experiences of racism in the American healthcare system.

So what I tell them, I tell them, you don't have to be a statistic. I tell them about the black sciences, the black physicians, the oldest physicians of all stripes and colors who have participated in groundbreaking research.

I told you about my dad, Jake, my dad had chronic HIV infection. My father lived as long as he did before coronavirus took his life because of the advances in science. Black people have benefited from the advances of science. And that's what I focus on.

I don't downplay the truth that I'm not ignorant to the facts of racism and just how pervasive it has been, but we have to listen with empathy. But we also have to listen and speak with intention and deliberate focus to say, this is your way, this is your way to leverage your power and to save your life.

TAPPER: Do you worry that some of the vaccine mandates that are being rolled out will have the opposite effect, they will only harden the views of vaccine skeptics?

PERNELL: I think vaccine mandates are a part of the tools to get more of the American population vaccinated. Look, we're hovering just below 50 percent of the American population being fully vaccinated, about 69 percent of adults having at least one dose. If you look in the Black and Latino communities, that number is about a 9 percent or 15 percent. And not comparable with the percentage of the population that we are.

So mandates are necessary, but they're particularly necessary in certain environments, like healthcare settings. So you see hospitals, hospitals, like the one in my community, hospitals across the United States and professional societies that are getting behind the mandate for vaccination. And I think that is responsible, that's responsible because we require vaccinations for other types of employment or participation.

Look, we require seatbelts, Jake, in order to drive. We require helmets when we bicycle, or while we're on a motorcycle. And so this is not an overreach. This is a part of the prevention design, the prevention system to keep the most people safe.

TAPPER: The former director of the CDC, Tom Frieden, told CNN that he thinks the U.S. could see 200,000 cases a day, returning within the next six weeks, that's close to the worst winter peak the nation saw. How much is that driven by unvaccinated individuals?

PERNELL: There are multiple factors that are at play here, and so, I don't want us to other or to just blame the unvaccinated for why the pandemic continues to surge, although that is a part of the reason. But Delta is also a part of that pot, right? We have the Delta variant which is more transmissible, is twice as times as transmissible as the original string of coronavirus.

And part of the reason that the Delta variant is more transmissible is that we see in infected persons, they can have 1,000 times more viral load. So that's a part of why we see these cases flourishing. There is concern that even vaccinated people could potentially spread although it's a small, small risk.

TAPPER: Yes. And just for any skeptics or procrastinators, watching right now, your best protection against coronavirus is the vaccine, period.

Dr. Chris Pernell, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time. And may the memory of your father and your cousins be a blessing.

PERNELL: Thank you, Jake.

Hundreds believed to have been arrested amid protests in Cuba. What's happening in that so-called justice system? That's next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, a new scary twist in the crackdown in Cuba. The communist regime so-called justice system is putting protesters who took to the streets in recent weeks demanding freedom in prison after a secret brigade of state police hunted them down, including those who simply posted videos on social media. As CNN's Patrick Oppmann reports now from Havana, now their families want the world to know what's happening there.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the largest protests since Fidel Castro's revolution swept Cuba, the Cuban government quickly struck back, carrying out mass arrests. Some protesters were forcibly detained as they chanted "Patria y Vida" or homeland and life. The song that has become the anthem of frustration with the communist state.

One of those arrested was photographer Anyelo Troya, who filmed a part of the music video for Patria y Vida in Havana. Less than two weeks after the protests, Troya was tried, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. His mother says, he told the court he did nothing wrong.

RAISA GONZALEZ, MOTHER OF CONVICTED PROTESTOR (through translation): He said how was this just when I haven't even seen a lawyer and I'm innocent, he says. Immediately, one of the police in civilian clothes came and handcuffed him. I said, my love, be calm, you're not alone.

OPPMANN (voice-over): The Cuban Government refuses to say how many people have been arrested or face trial for taking part in the unprecedented protests. An activist group put the number at almost 700. The government maintains those arrested are detained for attacking police. Like in this video, where protesters pelt cars with rocks. And not just for challenging the rule of the Communist Party, the only political party allowed on the island.

Having different opinions including political on these doesn't count constitute a crime, he says. Thinking differently, questioning what's going on to demonstrate is not a crime. It's a right.


But on the streets of Cuba, elite special forces commandos, known as the black berets, were recently placed on the sanctions list by the Biden administration for alleged acts of repression, prevent further protests from breaking out.

(on-camera): Many of the relatives of the people who arrested would not talk to us on camera. They were too afraid. But some did tell us that their loved ones had done nothing other than peacefully demonstrate, or simply recording upload videos of the historic protests as they took place.

(voice-over): Oded Hernandez (ph) was arrested days after the protests, her relatives say, for posting this video of the demonstrations to Facebook that have now been viewed over 100,000 times. Among the charges she and her husband face is instigation of delinquency. Oded's (ph) cousin spoke to several people who around Oded (ph) during the protests and told us their accounts from his home in Paris.


OPPMANN (voice-over): They weren't violent. They didn't throw rocks at anyone, he says. Then special troops came to get them at their home. The commander unit with many police.

Many of Cuba's top artists have criticized the government crackdown and called for amnesty for nonviolent protesters. Amidst the mass trial, some signs of leniency. As a day after we visited his home, photographer Anyelo Troya was released on house arrest while awaiting appeal.

The government here, though, says it has only just begun to prosecute those who broke the law. As all of Cuba seemingly holds its breath and waits to see what comes next.


OPPMANN: And Jake, in spite of half (ph) because of U.S. combination of Cuba, countries like Russia, Mexico, Nicaragua, sending tons of food, aid that will help avert an economic meltdown here, but probably only for a little while. Jake?

TAPPER: Patrick Oppmann, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Simone Biles stunning decision this week shining a light on a growing issue, few people talk about publicly but we're going to, that's next.



TAPPER: Our sports lead, she is the biggest star of the Olympics, but this is bigger than the game. Simone Biles has now withdrawn from the individual all-around gymnastics competition to focus, she says, on her mental health. USA Gymnastics saying in a statement, her current shows yet again why she is a role model for so many.

Joining us now to discuss, our favorite clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Bonior. Dr. Bonior, thanks for being here. Good to see you again.


TAPPER: Been a long time since in person.


TAPPER: So Simone Biles is a hero to many, maybe now more than ever. What does this mean to see this happen -- hear this happen to people who struggle with their own mental health? This is an Olympic hero, a gold medal winner saying, it's OK to admit that you have these struggles and take a breath, take a -- and walk away?

BONIOR: Yes. Oh, it's tremendous. It's tremendous. And so many people look up to her for good reason. But now I think there's a whole nother layer of bravery that we're seeing. And she is giving voice to something that a lot of people struggle with.

This idea that mental health is derailing me right now, and I need to prioritize taking care of myself, even when it might come at a cost. And I think that's so important for people to see that this is something that can teach us that we're human beings and even elite athletes are human beings. And they're not these superhuman robots that are just expected to perform because we want them to.

TAPPER: Yes. And we should note, it's especially treacherous if you have like a mental health issue if you're a gymnast, because you can -- one wrong turn and you can break your neck. We spoke with Simone Biles' friend and former teammate Aly Raisman yesterday. She says that USA Gymnastics has been an absolute disaster when it comes to making their athletes feel safe.

Beyond the whole Larry Nassar incident, which was obviously hideous, in and of itself, what should the U.S. Olympic Committee do to make sure that athletes have the support they need?

BONIOR: Yes. They have to first have the conversation, right? I think there were a lot of things that were swept under the rug, there was a lot of a culture of achieve at all costs, even if it means hurting yourself physically beyond repair. You know, we saw that maybe with Kerri Strug. Even if it means silencing the fact that we have had horrible things happen to you under our watch, and you might be traumatized.

There has to be a conversation, there has to be a reality check about the staff that they have too that truly make mental health teams accessible to the younger agendas coming up in the system. And to be able to say, this is just as much a part of your development as the doctors and the sports therapists that are going to be helping you with the physical therapy. But the actual mental part is just as important.

TAPPER: There's been no shortage of ignorance and inane commentary about Simone Biles decision, what do you make of that?

BONIOR: Yes. I make it an incredible sense of entitlement that, you know, this woman is meant to perform for me. She's already done amazing things. She's already broken ground in so many ways. She's at the top of her game, and yet she has to keep doing what I want her to do. She has to harm herself physically and mentally, because I want to see her compete.

I mean, what does that say about the people sitting on the couch asking her to do this? What does that say about the way that they've dehumanized her? I think it's really tragic that people have that mentality.

TAPPER: Dr. Andrea Bonior, it's always great to have you and even better to have you here in person. Thanks so much for being here. I hope you and your family are having a great summer.

BONIOR: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Prices skyrocketing for a product you likely use every single day. That story is next.


TAPPER: We're back with the money lead and the continued impacts on the economy from the pandemic. Bad news today if you are looking to upgrade your wheels, a new report out from Goldman Sachs says the low inventory of new cars is only going to get worse in recent weeks.

Automakers have drastically revised their production schedules down as they face computer chip shortages. Goldman Sachs predicts the number of new cars will not return to normal levels until next year 2022. In the meantime, prices will continue to speed upwards, according to Edmans (ph). The average price for a new car is now $41,000.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter at JakeTapper. You can tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage right now, well, it continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, who's right next door in The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.