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The Lead with Jake Tapper

White House: 70 Percent Of Adults Have Received One COVID Vaccine Dose; White House Again Makes COVID-19 The Focus Of Biden's Schedule; Bipartisan Senate Group Unveils $1T Infrastructure Plan; Millions Could Lose Homes After Freeze On Evictions Expires; Sen. Lindsey Graham Tests Positive For COVID-19; Rep. Kevin McCarthy Under Fire; Sources: Lack Of Info On Havana Syndrome Frustrating U.S. Diplomats; Simone Biles To Compete in Balance Beam Tomorrow. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired August 02, 2021 - 16:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Well, it seems like something is working.

THE LEAD starts right now.

More Americans are taking their shot, and a month later, the White House has hit one of its vaccine goals. But is it too late?

Then, back to school. Today is the first day for many kids. But in some places masks are not on the school supply list. The two counties in one state with two different strategies, ahead.

Plus, finding her balance. Simone Biles has one last shot at a medal. But will she get caught up in the twisties again?


BROWN: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And we begin this hour with the milestone number in our health lead. Seventy percent of adults have now received at least one COVID vaccine dose. That's a goal that President Biden had hoped to reach on July 4th. This milestone happening as the delta COVID variant ravages through the unvaccinated.

We're also learning more than 99 percent of the fully vaccinated aren't getting breakthrough cases of any kind. That's according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

So, the breakdown here is that breakthrough cases are extremely rare if you're vaccinated. As CNN's Lucy Kafanov reports, many city and state health officials are trying to urge precautions without forcing them because it could get much worse before it gets better.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across the nation, more vaccines are going into arms. As of Sunday more than 700,000 doses administered daily for five days straight. The good news, health experts say rising vaccination rates could help avoid winter lockdowns. The bad news, there may be rough weeks ahead.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we're seeing the cases go up.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: We want to avoid lockdowns at all costs. But that means we're going to have to do some other things that won't necessarily be welcomed by people.

KAFANOV: Across the country, mask mandates going into place even for people fully vaccinated. New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio says he's focusing on vaccinations but is following the CDC in issuing an indoor mask recommendation but not mandating them.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We want to strongly recommend that people wear those masks indoors even if vaccinated.

KAFANOV: COVID cases are surging, in large part, due to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant. Half the cases last week were reported in just five states, Florida, Texas, California, Louisiana, and Georgia.

COLLINS: Cases have gone up about fourfold in the last couple of weeks. We're pushing up towards a hundred thousand cases a day now, and particularly so in those hot spots where vaccination rates are still quite low.

KAFANOV: Hospitals in Louisiana and Mississippi overwhelmed. Health officials in Austin, Texas, preparing for the worst.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D), AUSTIN, TEXAS: It's scary what we're seeing right now. We're see geometric climbs in our intensive care units. We're literally beginning to question whether we have the capacity to be able to sustain this.

KAFANOV: A new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that less than 1 percent of fully vaccinated people contracted COVID-19. According to the CDC, less than 0.001 percent of fully vaccinated people experienced a breakthrough case resulting in death.

FAUCI: There are some breakthrough infections among vaccinated. You expect that because no vaccine is 100 percent effective. But in the breakthrough infections, they are mostly mild or without symptoms.


KAFANOV (on camera): And, Pam, this just in. Louisiana's governor has temporarily reinstated a statewide mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people when they are indoors and in public. His office saying this is to help deal with the state's worst surge of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of the growth rate and hospitalizations. The mandate goes into effect on Wednesday -- Pam.

BROWN: Yeah, that's a state with one of the higher unvaccination rates.

Thanks so much, Lucy.

Over at the White House, officials are loading President Biden's schedule with COVID-related events, highlighting a renewed focus on the pandemic.

As CNN's Phil Mattingly reports, today the president met with his coronavirus team as the country meets the vaccination goal Biden hoped to reach nearly a month ago.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden returning to Washington and heading directly to a closed-door meeting with his top COVID advisers.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are not fully out of the woods yet.

MATTINGLY: The resurgent virus dominating Biden's schedule for the first time in weeks, the tacit acknowledgment of the stark new reality confronting the nation.

BIDEN: After months and months of cases going down, we're seeing a spike in COVID cases that are going up.

MATTINGLY: In a White House once again subject to its own indoor mask mandate with renewed urgency in pushing the solution that's been available for months, vaccines.


BIDEN: And you want to know how we put this virus behind us? I'll tell you how. We need to get more people vaccinated.

MATTINGLY: The White House is seeing some positive signs finally hitting its July 4th goal of 70 percent of U.S. adults with at least one dose today. And more positive news, the steady uptick in first doses delivered, hitting the highest seven-day average since the beginning of July.

But it's a White House recalibrating and understanding that despite significant progress, half the country is still unvaccinated. The delta variant is wreaking havoc on their best laid plans, leading Biden to require federal employees to attest to their vaccination status, or face strict testing requirements.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: This is a basic safety measure at a time when we continue to see this very dangerous variant spreading around our country.

MATTINGLY: And pressing businesses around the country to go further and mandate vaccines for employees.

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: We have to say to people, look, there is a consequence if you choose not to get vaccinated. And you can't participate in the public square quite the same way you could otherwise.

MATTINGLY: White House officials increasingly frustrated over the weekend about how details of the delta spread, particularly among the vaccinated, were reported. The data telling a clear story, 99.99 percent of people fully vaccinated have not had a breakthrough case resulting in hospitalization or death.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Pamela, just a short while ago, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki finished her briefing with reporters. And one of the questions that was asked was related to something President Biden said on Friday, saying, in all probability, there would be more guidelines or restrictions for the U.S. to follow based on the surge.

Psaki did not detail what those may be but made very clear of two things that are not on the table, saying very clearly there would be no more full-scale shutdowns like we saw last year, and also that a federal vaccine mandate for the entire country was something the White House is not considering -- Pamela.

BOLDUAN: OK. Phil Mattingly, live for us from the White House, thanks so much.

And joining me now to discuss is CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Great to see you, Sanjay.


BROWN: So, the White House is celebrating this encouraging marker today with the COVID data director tweeting, milestone Monday just in, today we hit 70 percent of the adults with at least one of the doses, adding seven-day average of newly vaccinated highest since July 4th.

So, as we know, the administration is nearly a month late hitting this milestone. But what does reaching this milestone now tell you, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, we're going in a better direction, obviously. You know, it's kind of interesting, Pamela, just interesting traveled back from Japan, there are so many countries around the world that don't have access to these vaccines, and it was disheartening that people weren't taking them despite the widespread availability. But as you just showed in the curve, the fact that the numbers are going up gets us closer to getting more and more people protected here. That should've been something we're able to accomplish earlier but we're getting closer obviously.

BROWN: So, let's talk about this new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation, showing fewer than 1 percent of fully vaccinated people getting breakthrough cases. Is that what you expected, more or less? What do you think? GUPTA: Yeah. This is interesting. So we can show what -- this was in

San Diego County. We can show what was happening there.

Even if you go back and look at the initial trial data, which was on earlier strains of the virus, you know, they said 95 percent protective against serious disease. We didn't know how well it would actually protect someone from actually carrying the virus. So, this data is encouraging if it was a couple of percentage points higher. Even that would not surprise me in terms of vaccinated people carrying this.

The big story is the red line, obviously. I mean, you know, if you're not vaccinated, the idea of you getting infected is, there's a huge gulf in terms of the likelihood of infection between vaccinated and unvaccinated. That shouldn't surprise people. There are people who are vaccinated that are going to develop these infections. It may even be higher than what that white line suggests, but way, way lower than unvaccinated.

BROWN: All right. I mean, that is the key even if you are vaccinated with a breakthrough case, chances are based on the data you're going to stay out of the hospital, you're probably not going to die. I mean, that's the bottom line.

So, we keep hearing from administration officials the only way out of this pandemic is through vaccinations. Is vaccination the only way to get to herd immunity, or is it a combination of infection and vaccination?

GUPTA: Well, I think there's two questions in there. You know, in terms of herd immunity, which is actually having enough people with immunity, yeah, it's going to be a combination of vaccinations and the people who are already infected at some point probably are having -- contributing to that immunity as well.

But in terms of getting us out of this, Pam, the first part of the question you asked, this is an interesting point because I think there's always been two stories here. We obviously want to get people vaccinated. That protects them. That puts us in good position long- term as a country and as a world.


But in -- but the second story is we have to bring down viral transmission. There's just too much virus that's circulating, and the answer to that is masks and the mitigation measures, not forever, but, you know, experts like Abraar Karan have told me if everyone wore high-filtration masks for three to four weeks in this country, we'd probably bring viral transmission down significantly.

So it's really a combination of both those things. Continuing to vaccinate while you continue to be bathed in virus, that's kind of like saying, I'm going to give you antibiotics for your wound, but go ahead and keep soaking your wound in bacteria, but keep taking your antibiotics at the same time. You wouldn't do that. You would clean your wound and make sure you're not exposing it to

dirt. So, that's sort of the thing here. We've got too much virus spreading in this country. That continues to be the fundamental problem.

BROWN: And that actually sort of answers the next question I was going to ask you that, you know, if vaccinated people are spreading the virus, can more variants still develop from that? And I think the answer would be you've got to just keep wearing masks and stay distanced, right?

GUPTA: Right. I mean, what is -- what is causing mutations? It is the amount of virus that is spreading. Yes, it is true there's some data that shows vaccinated people can also be spreading this.

But the fundamental problem is just way too much virus. There's more virus per capita circulating in Florida than there is in the U.K. I mean, we are a viral sort of bed in the United States in many places. So that's obviously a real concern.

So, we've got to bring down viral transmission. Think of that sort of metaphor. You're going to soak your wound in dirty water while giving antibiotics? No. Pull your hand out of the dirty water, give the antibiotics, make sure you bring down the amount of bacteria in that case with the wound is the same thing as bringing down the virus in the country. That's what we have to do.

BROWN: That's such -- I mean, that really puts it in perspective. And it helps us understand the push for mask mandates or push for mask requirements in some parts of the country.

So I want to ask you about this. There's a lot of talk about the third vaccine, both Israel and the U.K. are rolling out this third vaccine dose for people over age 60 and immuno-compromised people. Why isn't the U.S. following suit for those specific groups? Many of those people in those groups were first in line to get vaccinated in January or February. It couldn't hurt, right?

GUPTA: I don't think it could hurt. I mean, you know, there's issues of equity, you want to make sure that you're not robbing Peter to pay Paul in terms of vaccines. But there are doses that are expiring as well on shelves around country.

We can show you the data in terms of what is being seen in Israel and other places in terms of the waning effectiveness. It does seem to wane over time the effectiveness of the vaccines. So, you know, it's still very effective at keeping people from getting seriously ill, hospitalized, or dying. 99.99 percent of people who are vaccinated survive COVID.

So, you know, one in, what, 100,000. So, it's -- they're still very protective. But people who fall into those high-risk groups, my guess is we may hear some recommendation changes for them to potentially get a third shot.

BROWN: Yeah. I was wondering, with my 87-year-old dad, I was wondering, you know, is he still as protected with the vaccination he got many months ago?

All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

BROWN: Well, one in five new COVID cases are in one state, the same state that's also banning mask mandates in schools. We were just talking about it with Sanjay. And we're on the ground in that state, up next.

Plus, camping out on the Capitol steps. Why one congresswoman is sleeping there to take a stand.



BROWN: In our national lead, one in five new coronavirus cases are all coming from one state, Florida. But as some school districts are considering new mask mandates, the state's Republican governor is saying not so fast.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live for us in Fort Lauderdale.

So, Rosa, explain what's happening there in Broward County.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I talked to the mayor and he says that the cases are going up, so are the hospitalizations. One of his biggest worries is that the people who are being hospitalized are younger and younger, in their 20s and 30s and even children.

And when you look at the positivity rate of children here in Florida, children between the ages of 12 and 19 have a positivity rate of 22 percent. Now, recently Broward County public schools passed a mask mandate. Well, they were big footed by Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday when he signed an executive order on masks.

It's important to note that it does not ban mask mandates. What it does do is it directs the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education to draft emergency rules that will give the choice to parents.

Now, Broward County Public Schools says that they're trying to figure out what it means for them. In Miami-Dade County, public schools there, they are worried about funding, the superintendent releasing the statement saying, in light of the release of the executive order, we certainly hope to be able to craft protocols and ensure full funding of our children's education while simultaneously protecting their and their teachers' health and well-being.

And, Pamela, why are they worried about funding? Because in that executive order, it says that if schools don't follow the executive order, then the state can withhold funding. That's why they're worried. They're going through this document trying to figure out how they can keep the teachers and the children safe and follow that executive order -- Pamela. BROWN: All right. Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

And over in Arkansas, more than 160 students and three teachers are in quarantine after just one week back to school. This comes after seven students and three teachers tested positive. And now officials are investigating other possible new cases.

In Georgia, officials say new cases statewide increased more than 200 percent over the last 14-day period.


But their school districts still are wrestling over whether masks should be mandated or not.

Let's go straight to CNN's Natasha Chen live in Atlanta.

Natasha, many kids are going back to school today. What have officials decided to do about masks there?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, Pamela, first day of class here in DeKalb County Public Schools where masks are required for students and staff in all school buildings. But in nearby Cobb County, also one of the large districts in Georgia, masks are optional there.

So, it's very divided, depends on which district you go to. Now, even where masks are required, we saw a charter school last week start class and already have more than a dozen cases sending more than a hundred students into quarantine. Clayton county schools also set to start in-person today with masks, had to start two of their schools virtually because of staff quarantine.

So, it is challenging across the board. We talked to one parent who picked up his 4-year-old daughter from this school today, her very first day of pre-K. And I asked him about the idea of possibly mandating employees in school buildings to get the vaccine.


GEORGE MANSARAY, PARENT: Everything concerns me, to be honest. But now it's like there's not so much we can do. So, for me, I would love for all -- to get vaccinated. But then again, you can't force people to do what they don't want to do. So, mandatory vaccinations would be good, but there's only so much I can do, so much we can do as parents.


CHEN: We talked to another parent who actually works at a local ICU. She sees the worst of it. She's telling me about the hospital filling up with younger people. And as she's sending her 7-year-old son to this school, she says to me if she keeps seeing the trends worsen by November flu season, she might have to consider pulling her son back home for virtual learning. Now, that 7-year-old, he told me that he could keep his mask on all day today he did well with that, though sometimes it was hard to keep it over his nose. His favorite part of the day was recess.

So, Pam, at least that answer from a kid is very normal, pandemic or not.

BROWN: I was going to say that's pretty consistent.

All right. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

Coming up right here on THE LEAD, why Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez is calling her fellow Democrats cowards.



BROWN: And we are back with our politics lead.

It is finally infrastructure week, it really is. After months of delay, finger-pointing and White House meetings, there is a bipartisan infrastructure bill. The finalized text was submitted last night, and today, the Senate is expected to start the next step of the process, expected to pass the entire bill within days.

CNN's Jessica Dean is live on Capitol Hill.

Jessica, are there enough votes on both sides of the aisle to get this deal done?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the sponsors of this bill certainly are hopeful that there are. And it appears that it has very good chances.

It's more about how long this is going to take. So today, for example, they have spent the entire day debating the bill on the floor, but behind the scenes kind of hashing out what amendments they will be taking up. And you need unanimous consent for that. So that's kind of the deal-making that's going on behind the scenes right now. And that's where this process can kind of stretch on for a while.

What we're talking about is an over $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, a peek at what's inside of it, about $73 billion to rebuild the electric grid, $65 billion for broadband Internet, $40 billion for bridges, $39 billion to modernize public transit. So, Pamela, this that hard infrastructure that we've been talking about that would really go all across the country for roads, bridges, things like that.

But right now, Pamela, we're just waiting for this process to continue forward. You'll remember all this weekend we waited for the bill text to get written. And so, we finally have the bill text, now we got to get to the amendments -- Pamela.

BROWN: Always rolling.

All right. And while Democrats are trying to get this infrastructure bill across the finished line, there is this bitter split emerging in the party over the expired eviction moratorium, which has left millions of renters at risk of losing their homes. Tell us about that.

DEAN: Right. So we saw the house go out on recess on Friday. They tried to bring this up for a vote. And they wanted unanimous consent from Republicans, they did not get it, but that is also because the Democrats simply did not have the votes to bring this to the floor.

It would've extended this eviction moratorium for about 11 million people that are now at risk of being evicted. And there's a lot of finger-pointing as to how this ball was dropped.

I talked with Congresswoman Cori Bush over the weekend. She's been sleeping out on the Capitol steps to really prove her point, to call the House back to take this up. She estimates there between 3 to 15 votes short. I think we want to hear from congresswoman Ocasio Cortez over the weekend she kind of touched on this.

Take a listen.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): There were many and there was frankly a handful of conservative Democrats in the House that threatened to get on planes rather than hold this vote. And we have to really just call a spade a spade. We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have a majority.


DEAN: And, Pamela, one thing to keep in mind, $47 billion has already been set aside to deal with all of this for landlords and renters. About 3 billion has distributed.

So, there's also a lot of questions about why that money has not gone out quicker. It's already been put aside and it already exists -- Pamela.


BROWN: Yes, it's really slow-going. And a lot of people in this country need that money.

All right, Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

And turning now to our national lead. We have just learned a third a police officer who helped defend the U.S. Capitol against rioters during the deadly January 6 insurrection has died by suicide.

Officer Gunther Hashida was at the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department for almost 20 years. The department spokesperson said -- quote -- "We are grieving as a department."

We send our condolences to Officer Hashida's family and friends.

And if you or a loved one has contemplated suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text TALK to 741741.

We will be right back.



BROWN: Turning to our politics lead, Democrats are demanding an apology, with one even going as far as to demand the White House (sic) leader's resignation, after Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy was recorded over the weekend saying this:


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I will make this one promise here. When we win the majority, which I know we're going to, you're all invited.



MCCARTHY: But, more importantly, I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel.


MCCARTHY: It will be hard not to hit her with it, but I will bang it down.



BROWN: There, you heard him say it. "It will be hard not to hit her with it."

We have got a panel of ladies today.

Alice, I'm going to start with you on that.

Pelosi's spokesman, Drew Hammill, tweeted this after this came out. He said: "A threat of violence to someone who was a target of a January 6 assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting."

Now, McCarthy's office has not responded to requests for comment on this. I mean, is anything about his comments defensible here?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, this was completely inappropriate thing to say. It was not nice. And he should apologize.

He should not step down. He should not resign. He should certainly apologize.

But, look, we're all in this business long enough. We have all been in private events where people have said things that were inappropriate and should not be said in the public arena. And we need to be certainly much more careful. But with cell phones and people recording everything, you have to be

extremely careful. Look, the day and age of things being in private and staying private are over. And, case in point, the difference is Donald Trump would say and do things in private that he would also say in public.

There's no filter, there's no guardrails, there's no remorse. So, a lot more of this kind of behavior and rhetoric is being put out in a public square. But this, I think, is an isolated situation. They could put it behind them very quickly with a quick apology and let's move on.

This is not about her being a woman. This is just about her being the speaker, and he wants to be the speaker.


We have been seeing their relationship deteriorate. She's the Democratic leader, the speaker. He's the Republican leader. She last week made comments that appeared to be calling him a moron. So, it's like it's getting worse, not better. And it's leading to more acrimony in the House, when they have a lot on their plate to do.

And I just don't see him apologizing. He might -- they might -- his office might try to clean it up a little bit. But apologizing, I don't know.

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), FORMER MAYOR OF BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: He doesn't need to apologize. His supporters will not demand that he apologize.

They are playing to the lowest common denominator in a way that I think is reprehensible. Public or private, we shouldn't be normalizing violence against women, especially someone who has been threatened in the way that Speaker Pelosi has.

And I just think it's funny. These guys have, I don't know, beer muscles. I don't know what was going on at that fund-raiser. But I think it's easy to say things behind someone's back.

I think people forget Nancy Pelosi is from Baltimore. So he can play if he wants, but he wouldn't do that in her face.

BROWN: But also to Alice's point, I mean, there's always a camera. There's always someone with their iPhone. You have got to expect, if you're going to say it in private, it's going to come out publicly.

How much -- and you have sort of hinted at this to, but how much of this worsening relationship between McCarthy and Pelosi -- and you mentioned Pelosi recently called McCarthy a moron. How much of it has really been spurred on by the select committee and everything that happened around that?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's pre-January 6 Pelosi and McCarthy, who really didn't have much of a relationship. It's well-known that Pelosi and former Minority Leader/Speaker John Boehner actually had a really good relationship, when you laid aside the politics.

That wasn't the case. Pelosi and McCarthy never had a relationship. And then it went from pretty much meh to dislike after January 6, particularly after McCarthy's actions after the Capitol -- after the Capitol was attacked, his kind of mealy reaction to it and backtracking from what he said initially, that former President Trump was at fault, to some of the whitewashing that he and his caucus -- or conference, rather, have been a part of.

But it's true that you shouldn't say these things in private. You shouldn't say them in public either. Both Pelosi and McCarthy have had colleagues that were cut down by would-be assassins. They both were there when the Capitol was attacked. They both have had death threats.

Their colleagues have had death threats. It's passed this. Stop it. It's not all right.


BROWN: And it's true.

I mean, I interviewed the sergeant of arms a couple of months ago. And she said that, because of the heightened political rhetoric, there are more threats against lawmakers just in this last -- really since the election.

So there you have it right there. Rhetoric does matter.

And speaking of rhetoric mattering, let's switch gears to how Republicans are now talking about vaccinations. Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham announcing today he has tested positive for coronavirus.

And in this statement -- he tweeted this out -- he said -- he noted -- quote -- "I am very glad I was vaccinated because, without vaccination, I'm certain I would not feel as well as I do now, my symptoms would be far worse."

So how much of an impact could it have to have someone like Lindsey Graham come out and say, look, I'd be a lot worse off if I wasn't vaccinated? How much of an impact would that have on vaccine-hesitant people, you think?

STEWART: I hope it persuades them to go get the vaccine. I don't know what more people need to hear, but go get your vaccine, because it does make incidents of having COVID less severe.

And, look, the numbers are just astronomical for people that are in the hospital that have not been vaccinated. And that should tell the complete story right there. I think what we're having here is a miscommunication problem with this administration between the Biden administration saying one thing and the CDC saying something else.

If we could get all of our elected officials and all of government on the same page and encourage vaccinations, take the politics out of it. This is a health care issue, and encourage people to get the vaccine. And that helps make the -- getting the disease much less and makes the likelihood of you getting it even smaller.

BROWN: What do you think about that? Because you have had to deal with coordination a government level. What do you think about the point that Alice just made?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think the Biden administration and CDC definitely need to get in better alignment.

But with respect to Lindsey Graham, I think he has an excellent opportunity. His team does. I don't know how he's feeling, but his team has an excellent opportunity to speak to those who are vaccine- hesitant. It breaks my heart when I see fathers of -- leaving behind children and their wives saying or their widows saying, we should have gotten a vaccine.

When someone is gone, there is no do-over. And I think we're playing politics like this is a game. And it's not. These are people's lives. And with this vaccine, we have seen, and we're seeing with Lindsey Graham, that you can survive this.


In a lot of ways, the lack of coordination is more so at the state and the local level, particularly in Republican states and Republican-led cities. They're not getting the same message, saying, go get your vaccine, do it today.

BROWN: All right, thank you all so much.

And coming up: fear and frustration among America's top diplomats over a mysterious illness that's causing brain damage.



BROWN: In our world lead, sources tell CNN diplomats feel left in the dark by State Department officials over a concerning lack of information on the threatening rise of Havana syndrome. Havana syndrome causes strange symptoms like vertigo, nausea, headaches, piercing noise, and sometimes permanent brain damage.

Reports of the sudden mystery sickness started in Cuba in 2016. And new cases have just surfaced in Vienna.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the State Department for us.

So, Kylie, do we know how many people have been affected by this?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the last update we got was from CIA Director Bill Burns just last month when he said that there have been be a couple hundred U.S. government officials who had been impacted by these incidents since they started occurring in Cuba in 2016. But the State Department has not told its workforce just how many diplomats, particularly recently, have been impacted by this and where they have been impacted.

And that is one of the key frustrations, because as we have reported on these incidents happening over the last few months, particularly with this cluster of cases happening in Vienna, U.S. diplomats are growing frustrated because they are saying that they don't know this basic information.

And, clearly, there are some constraints on what the State Department can share with regard to people's private medical information, but they have in the past shared some of these basic information about the number of diplomats affected and the locations. And that's what folks at the department are telling me they want more of.

And without this information, State Department officials are doing two things. Some satisfy them are deciding that they don't want to apply for jobs where they have heard there have been these incidents. And there's also a whisper campaign happening at the department as they try and figure out if a post is open because that person was the subject of one of these incidents.

And that's causing, you know, a lot of fear in these hallways. Now, the department has said that they're aware of these frustrations. They're working to share some more information. They want to strike a balance.

They don't want to overhype this problem because it's a huge organization, and there's quite a small number of people in the grand scheme of things who have been impacted. But they do want to share some information. They also say that, you know, their Secretary of State Tony Blinken has not met with any of those impacted. They say that will happen soon. So, we'll wait and see for that -- Pam.

BROWN: Important reporting. Kylie Atwood, thank you so much.

Well, from representing her country to fearing she will be jailed there. An Olympic athlete's race for refuge.



BROWN: Well in, just a few hours, Simone Biles will get her last chance at Olympic competition in Tokyo. Biles will compete in the balance beam final after withdrawing from four competitions last week. She blamed a bad case of the twisties. That's a disorienting mental block where Biles said she couldn't tell the difference between up and down.

Let's go to CNN's Will Ripley in Tokyo.

Will, all the hype is around Biles in this last final. No pressure, right?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pam, you could not have written a more dramatic kind of climax to this most surreal Summer Games, that has seen Simone Biles, along with other big names, like Naomi Osaka kind of fall by the wayside.


You know, the biggest contenders really struggled here in Tokyo. And that was certainly the case with Simone who's had to pull out of event after event, saying that she is suffering from this disconnect between her body and mind which can be really dangerous during aerial maneuvers. But now, she is back in the gym and back on the beam. She is training for the balance beam competition, and she will be competing alongside the gold medalist who stepped in for her, Suni Lee.

So, this is truly a dramatic, exciting turn of events. We're all going to be watching, rooting for Simone, hoping that this will be her chance to take home Olympic gold. They thought she was going to sweep the events. That has not happened.

Another unexpected disappointment for Team USA, women's soccer losing in the semifinals to Canada. Canada, Pamela, that's not who you want to lose to in the semifinals. So, their dream where they were expected to kind of come in and be strong, and it's over.

BROWN: Just like you said, so much has not gone as we would have expected or perhaps had hoped.

All right. Will Ripley in Tokyo, thank you so much.

And in another dramatic twist at the games, an Olympic sprinter is on the run but not on the track. Instead from her native country of Belarus for refusing to return fearing she will be arrested.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh explains how her case started with the track star forced to run a relay and is now a humanitarian rescue mission.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): It was a simple complaint, but no criticism is safe if you come from Belarus. Sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya unleashed criticism of her Olympic team managers for entering her in the 4x400 relay race without her consent, something she'd never competed in before because Belarus didn't have enough runners.

It was a rant that would not only end her Olympic bid but also her life in Belarus. Forty-eight hours after posting the video, she said she was escorted by Belarusian team reps to the airport, her bags packed and ticket home booked for her. She was terrified.

KRISTINA TIMANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN SPRINTER (through translator): I asked the International Olympic Committee for help. I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent. I asked the International Olympic Committee to intervene. WALSH: She said the instant recall had, quote, come from above, a one-

way ticket home to likely repression. She was terrified of returning to Belarus for good reason.

This man, President Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed the last dictator in Europe, friend of Vladimir Putin, has unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent. Allegations of brutality have been constant. CNN reporting on male rape (ph) in police custody, extreme brutality against peaceful protesters. Activists have mysteriously died in police custody.

And last week, a court banned an independent news station as extremist amid a wider assault on the media. The government denies accusations of brutality.

So at the airport, Timanovskaya reached out to Japanese police who held her in safety as news of what she called her forced return spread.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said she had, quote, psychological and emotional issues and was taken off her team, which she denies.

YURI MOISEYEVICH, BELARUSIAN TEAM COACH (through translator): She stood out with her behavior. We know her and we've known her for a long time, there was something strange. Sometimes she would isolate, sometimes she would not want to socialize.

WALSH: She said it was because she criticized the Olympic managers and annoyed this man.

Quickly, democratic Europe came to her aid. Poland offering her a humanitarian visa and perhaps asylum.

MARCIN PRZYDACZ, POLISH DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: Of course she can continue, she's free to pursue her sporting career in Poland. But that would be her decision.

WALSH: She entered the Polish embassy in Tokyo at roughly at the same time her husband fled Belarus into Ukraine, hers, a very public and clumsy sign of how Belarus has treated even the most slightly outspoken critic, so many of whom suffered silently behind bars.

Really ask yourself of a wider geopolitical picture here. The key ally of Belarus is Russia. And many analysts possibly feel that Moscow sees these extraordinary acts by Belarus on the world stage, it seems trying to force Olympic athletes home. You remember, too, the forced downing of a Ryanair jet just a few months ago just to arrest an opposition blogger and think possibly that their alliance with Belarus is simply not worth the embarrassment on the international stage.

There's another argument, too, that says, in fact, to some degree, Russia simply cannot Belarus fall in a westerly direction towards the European Union, and needs that relationship no matter what damage it brings. But it's extraordinary to see exactly how far President Lukashenko is willing to go. Remarkable scenes we've seen out of Tokyo as the repression in his country continues -- Pam. BROWN: Absolutely. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper. You can follow me on Twitter @PamelaBrownCNN or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."