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Don Lemon Tonight

President Joe Biden Visited Cincinnati for CNN Town Hall; Voters Weighed In on CNN Biden Town Hall; President Biden on Voting Rights and the Filibuster; Shooting in Downtown D.C. is Under Investigation; Trump Calls Rioters 'Loving' in a Newly Released Audio; COVID-19 Infections Rising in 48 States; School Board Meeting Takes Hours, Gets Heated Over Masks. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Tonight, the White House shifting to an urgent tone in the battle against COVID-19 as a pandemic that appeared to be on the decline only one month ago is now surging all across the country, fueled by the contagious delta variant.

New infections are rising in 48 states. The number of new cases per day is up nearly 60 percent over last week as vaccination rates fall.

The head of the CDC warning the virus has no incentive to let up and that Americans who are not vaccinated should take the delta variant seriously.

Also, tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi considering adding GOP Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a vocal critic of the former president, to the January 6 select committee.

But first, President Biden was making a lot of news in our CNN town hall. I asked him about right-wing attacks that claim he doesn't support police.


LEMON: How do you respond to Republicans who try to paint you and your party as antipolice?



LEMON: What about defunding the police because --

BIDEN: No. I've never, never, never said defunding the police. Look, I don't know any community, particularly the communities that are in the most need and the poorest and the most at risk, that don't want police. They want police, though, to look at them as equals.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: The president also making it clear that he is still against killing the filibuster, even with voting rights on the line.


LEMON: If it's a relic of Jim Crow, it's been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically. Why protect it?

BIDEN: There's no reason to protect it other than you're going to throw the entire Congress into chaos, and nothing will get done.

LEMON: Right.

BIDEN: Nothing at all will get done. And there's a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote.


LEMON: And here is what he said about Republicans trying to pretend the insurrection wasn't a threat.


BIDEN: I don't care if you think I'm Satan reincarnated.


BIDEN: The fact is you can't look at that television and say nothing happened on the 6th. You can't listen to people who say this was a peaceful march.


LEMON: CNN's Jason Carroll sat down with voters in Cincinnati of all different political backgrounds to talk about it.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought the first thing we were going to talk about would be pandemic, but it is crime and January 6.

JULIAN MACK, PROGRESSIVE, VOTED FOR BIDEN: I, for one, was disappointed with his stance with policing and feel like it was a move in the wrong direction. There was a part where it almost sounded like he was saying I want to make policing great again.

CARROLL: What he did say is he said he was not in favor of defunding the police.

MACK: Resources are the greatest indicator of safety in our communities. And I think far too often, we're ending up with resources not in the hands of the people that really need it.

CARROLL: You hear it from those on the left to -- on the far-left to defund the police. So, I want to be clear. Is that something that you are in favor of?

MACK: Yes, I am in favor of defunding the police. I believe that those funds would be much better used in our communities.

PHIL HEIMLICH, REPUBLICAN, VOTED FOR BIDEN: I would respectfully disagree with my friend. I happen to think the reason crime has shot up so much in our cities is because of the attacks on the police and defund the police movement.

But once again, when you look at what Trump did, he was actually encouraging cops to be rough with people they picked up. You remember he said shove their -- you know -- heads in the car.


HEIMLICH: That kind of talk is dangerous. So, I'm just grateful that we have a president now that has some respect for the rule of law.

CARROLL: I see some of you nodding your heads to what Phil was saying.

STEFANIE HAWK, DEMOCRAT, VOTED FOR BIDEN: To be fair with what President Biden said with the increased funding, he did talk a lot about adding psychologists and social workers as co-responders (ph). I think it is a good thing because they can help maybe defuse some of the situations. But he also talked about accountability and holding officers to account when they crossed the line.

NEIL KELLY, MODERATE DEMOCRAT, VOTED FOR BIDEN: I would -- I would add to that, I am not a supporter of defund the police as a tag line, as an end goal. I would say definitely increase accountability.

CAM HARDY, MODERATE DEMOCRAT, VOTED FOR BIDEN: I think that, you know, there's a huge disconnect between officers and the community in which they serve. And, you know, one thing that I remember growing up is seeing an officer walking up and down, you know, our local streets and, you know, he knew more about the neighborhood gossip than most of us because he was engaged and, you know, he was able to defuse things kind of before they started.

HEIMLICH: Let's remember something. When people in my party, the Republican Party, accommodate or refuse to attack or criticize those who attacked the Capitol on January 6, you can't turn around and then talk about being tough on crime. I think it's shameful that so many people in my party are excusing what happened on January 6.

CARROLL: I mean how much are you guys do you think that's something that's still being debated and talked about? There's a lot of misinformation that's out there.

GRACE BEHAM, DEMOCRAT, VOTED FOR BIDEN: I think the hard part about it is some of the misinformation about what happened on January 6 and like partnered with -- I feel like some people are just playing like ignorance is a bliss.

KELLY: There was a woman, who was running for my local city council that was there, not necessarily an insurrectionist, but was there and was in our local news talking about how it was just a nice protest and that -- that they -- that they weren't violent when she was there.

CARROLL: That's just as bad.

KELLY: That's just as bad.

MACK: There's a crisis in this country when it comes to facts and what actually happened.

SARAH MOSER, REPUBLICAN, VOTED FOR BIDEN: So they want us to forget. They want us to forget it happened. They don't want a protest. They don't want to talk about it. They don't want to hold them accountable.

HEIMLICH: There are too many Republicans today that don't have the guts to speak out against the big lie.

CARROLL: Why is that?

HEIMLICH: It's cowardice. I'll tell you why, because we have a system, a lot of it has to do with gerrymandering. Essentially, what is happening with the suppression of the vote that's going on all around the country is what they want to do is they want to choose their voters instead of letting the voters choose them.

MACK: And our democracy is broken. That's one of the things I was so frustrated with Joe Biden when it came to the filibuster conversation. There's this cognitive dissonance that exists where he's faithful that things will turn around.

CARROLL: So what should President Biden do about that?

MACK: I mean we have to get rid of the filibuster so government can function.

MOSER: See, I sense that though from, like, Don, when he questioned him, right, at the town hall, and I was like, Joe knows what he's doing. He's been doing it for 36 years. We have to trust that he has to cater somewhat to the Republicans. He has to cater somewhat to make a middle ground.

And that was the best thing about his message last night, united. If we don't do it together and we keep fighting these extreme rights and lefts, we're never going to get it done. So don't worry about the filibuster part. We got to move past that.

ALLEN WOODS, DEMOCRAT, VOTED FOR BIDEN: History is repeating itself. We're not standing up to change that. And so the question is, how do we -- how does Biden, how does the government collectively come together to say what is the path forward and how do we get there so that we're not going backwards in that process?

CARROLL: So let me ask you something. Are you satisfied with what you've heard so far from this administration in terms of what they want to do about voting rights?

WOODS: I'm not -- no. I think that there is so much more that needs to be done. I think that there is a lot that needs to be -- more needs to be in concrete.

HEIMLICH: Nobody should be surprised, by the way, about these attacks on voting and voter suppression --


HEIMLICH: -- because look what happened when Trump was in office. What did he do? He praised dictators like Erdogan in Turkey and Putin and Duterte in the Philippines. He praised brutal dictators. So, who does he look up to?

KELLY: In my mind, voting rights and I want to say tossing out the filibuster, but amending the filibuster, go hand in hand. If there is a portion of our society that doesn't feel heard and when they go to the ballot box and don't have access to the ballot box, then --

CARRROL: But Neil, the filibuster is off the table. Biden has made it very clear. He is not going to do that.

KELLY: Amending it.

CARROLL: It will create chaos. But you say --

KELLY: I say amending it, making Republicans -- making anybody who wants to filibuster, advocate on the Senate floor for as long as they want to hold that floor, advocate for their position.

MACK: This whole idea of creating chaos, we just had our Capitol under attack. Congress is in chaos already.


HAWK: But what Biden actually said was we need to bring back the talking filibuster. And so you can't just make a phone call from your office and kill a bill. That you have to go to the floor, get up there and show your conviction and explain why you're obstructing progress and why you're trying to keep Americans from voting.

WOODS: Biden is leading us in a path to get to that place where we are moving forward, where we are sitting down and listening to people with differing opinions, because that's what you do when you're an adult.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Absolutely.

WOODS: You have conversations and you don't have to agree on everything, but you figure out the things that make the most sense and you move forward because you're an adult.

MACK: I think we can't continue to compare Joe Biden to possibly the worst president ever, right? I understand it is -- yes, it is absolutely refreshing to not have Trump anymore, but presidencies are short and it takes time for policies to enact and actually manifest and change people's lives.

And we have to get serious about taking white -- dismantling white supremacist from this country by having systemic barriers like the filibuster, which systemically blocked out the voices that frankly put Joe Biden there. Without Black people showing up in large numbers, Joe Biden wouldn't be in this position.

And if we allow these voting rights to be eroded, I guarantee him or whoever runs as the Democratic nominee next time, won't be in this position again. We're dealing with -- he was right about one thing, we're dealing with Jim Crow 2.0 right now. And we're not -- we are not -- I'm disappointed in not seeing the urgency and the gravity to fight back against that. He's just kind of moderate about it.

MOSER: But I loved his passion.

MACK: You know --

MOSER: I loved his passion.

MACK: Yeah.

MOSER: But I'm also -- I'm afraid because -- I mean, we talked about it before we got out here and started talking. You know, we had to pick a person that could beat Trump. We had to get in first, right? But he's done a lot in what you're saying up here, and that we're starting to come together, we're starting to have these conversations. We're acting like mature people again.

I can sit next to him and we can talk and not hate each other, right? You can't just hit reset, you can't just say everything is fixed overnight, you can't be extreme. We have to still cater to the old white guys, right? I get what you're saying and I feel it and I want to do it, too, but how?

MACK: I don't understand how Obama's vice president can't see this bigger picture, that we don't have much time. We may very well lose the next congressional election and be in gridlock. We don't have much time to be able to make transformational, systemic change in people's lives. And it's like, they're not -- Democrats and Republicans are not playing the same game right now.

BEHAM: So, I hear what you're saying, I completely respect it, and I get your frustration. But at the same time, I think there has to be the understanding throughout the whole country that change is -- the kind of change that we're looking for, it doesn't happen overnight. And also some of this change, Biden can't do.

HEIMLICH: I would push back against my friends on the democratic side who are kind of pushing for the liberal left policy that's a priority. I think the greatest danger to this country right now is Trumpism, more so than any policy.

And if they're able to suppress the vote, whatever policy you care about, if they're able to attack our rule of law and we become one of these countries like Turkey and others that have really become right- wing, be really dictatorships, it doesn't matter what you stand for.

So I think all of us, Republicans and Democrats, have to make the decision, we are going to put country ahead of party. (END VIDEO TAPE)

LEMON: Wow. Jason Carroll joins me now. Jason, all these questions are fair. What did you think? That's what I want to know. What did you think?

CARROLL: Well, a couple of things. And you heard part of it there, Don. I was really surprised that the first thing that this group didn't want to talk about was the pandemic. I thought that would be first on their list. But their real feeling is that the president and his administration have a handle on that in terms of how the country is responding and how the country is moving forward.

What they were really concerned about, and you heard a lot of it there, the deep concerns were about the misinformation that is spreading across the United States, the lies that are being told about the election, and the lies that are being told now about what happened on January 6.

They realize that the president acknowledges that the misinformation is out there, but the feeling is really that this president and that this administration doesn't really have a handle on how to combat all the misinformation that's out there.

LEMON: And also they were very animated, though, when it comes to voting rights and -- I found it very fascinating.


LEMON: I think her name is Sarah, Jason, when she said, I can sit next to you --


LEMON: -- and you can sit next to me and we can disagree with each other and not hate each other. What a great place for us to be, because not so long ago, that didn't happen. That could not happen. People were yelling at each other, I hate you.


LEMON: They couldn't have a conversation.

CARROLL: And Sarah is -- describes herself as a conservative. She is a Republican. She is a farmer. And as you say, that's where we are now. I agree with you. I think the group will agree with you, the panel will agree with you.

Their concern is, Don, is where are we going to be two years from now, where are we going to be three years from now, where are we going to be during the next presidential election? It's a real deep concern that they have.

LEMON: Jason, I would love to see more of these on our network and everywhere else because for a long time, we did -- you know --

CARROLL: Me too, me too.

LEMON: -- before Trump, right? What is -- oh, the Trump supporter. What is a Trump supporter like? Then he was elected. Oh, we need to know the Trump voter. Now, he is out office and we are still doing, oh, the Trump voters, what are they thinking? Well, perhaps we should be doing that with the Democrats as well.

Jason, you did a great job. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

CARROLL: You bet. Thanks, Don.

LEMON: So, generations of Americans fought and died for one of the most sacred rights, the right to vote. And now, we have seen that right is under assault all across the country.

Is President Biden protecting the filibuster at the expense of progress on voting rights? We'll talk about that.




LEMON: Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson arrested today for unlawfully demonstrating at a protest for voting rights on Capitol Hill. He says he was protesting against Senate inaction on voting rights legislation and filibuster reform, and tweeted that in the spirit of late Congressman John Lewis, he was getting in good trouble.

Democratic lawmakers increasingly frustrated by Republican obstruction and the threat of the filibuster, something I pressed the president about last night.


LEMON: This is important for people who look like me. My grandmother would sit around when I was a kid, fifth grade, had a fifth grade education.


LEMON: I learned that she couldn't read when I was doing my homework. She would tell me stories about people asking her to count the number of jelly beans in the jar or the soap. So why is protecting the filibuster, is that more important than protecting voting rights, especially for people who fought and died for that?


BIDEN: No, it's not.


BIDEN: I want to see the United States Congress, the United States Senate, pass S-1 and S-4, the John Lewis Act, get it to my desk so I can sign it.


BIDEN: Here's the deal. But I also want to do, I want to make sure we bring along not just all the Democrats, we bring along Republicans who I know better. They know better than this.


LEMON: Joining me now, CNN political commentator Mr. Bakari Sellers. Bakari, good to see you. Good evening.


LEMON: So, quite frankly, you say Joe Biden is wrong on this. Why?

SELLERS: I mean it is no doubt. First, let me just say that you framed the question perfectly. Joe Biden really didn't have an answer. I mean, I think I have a couple of issues with Joe Biden in his policy. One is on marijuana. The other is on voting rights and the filibuster. He's just flat out wrong.

And I think it is okay for those of us who support Joe Biden to be able to be critical and criticize him for not moving this country in the right direction on these issues. The fact is that we must push forward even if we have to do so alone on the issue of voting rights.

If Lyndon Johnson was waiting and playing the same games that Joe Biden is playing today, we would not have the Civil Rights Act. His inaction, the lack of urgency, the talking about John Lewis in one breath but then sitting back and being passive when it comes to getting rid of the filibuster just for this narrow purpose, is just -- it's not what we need when we must have as King called the fierce urgency of now.

I love Joe Biden. I hope he still invites me to the White House Christmas parties. But the fact is he's dead wrong on the issue of the filibuster and voting rights because, as you said, so many people who look like me and you died, so many people spent nights in prisons.

Hell, we're still getting arrested today for this issue of voting rights. And whoever is advising him in the White House is doing a complete disservice to him and all of us who came out and supported him.

LEMON: Bakari, listen, this is not the first time we've had this conversation, but obviously since I questioned the president about it, we should be having it again.

But last time we were on, you remember what David Axelrod said, what would you have him do? He doesn't have the votes. He has to move Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema along and others in his party as well who may not want to get rid of the filibuster. So, what do you say to that?

SELLERS: Yeah, I recalled it, and I wish the LBJ example in my head because, you know, the people were telling him the same thing when it came to this crucial issue of race in this country and how to move this country forward.

I mean, were we going to wait on Bull Connor and (INAUDIBLE)? I mean, were we going to wait on southern segregation to set the time? No. We move forward. The fact is he has a bully pulpit. I love David Axelrod. He's going to be mad at us for bringing him up tonight when he is not here to defend himself.

LEMON: He'll be back.

SELLERS: But he has a bully -- I know he will. He has a bully pulpit. And for him to give a speech in Philadelphia, invoke John Lewis but not mention the people who are impediment to John Lewis's progress?

But we know one thing for certain, Don. This is what people don't talk about. It's the dirty little secret of the Democratic Party. It's not just Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who are standing in the way of this. They're just taking all the bullets.


SELLERS: But it's all of those individuals, all my moderate friends who I love, we're a big tent party, but who also are afraid to stand up. I mean, Jon Tester, I want to see you stand up. I want to see (INAUDIBLE) stand up. I want to see all these individuals stand up and say that this is an issue we will not compromise our values on.

And we know why we're here. We know why we have a majority. It's because of Black voters in this country. They're the reason that we have to fight so hard for them on this issue of voting rights.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, Bakari, I think that you're absolutely right, that you can -- you should be able to criticize the president of the United States without the president calling you the enemy of the people. We are past that. So I know that you have to give it a caveat. But I think the current president is okay with the criticism, whether he agrees with you or not.

I remember those days quite frankly very well, with the Twitter blowing up, the president just has called you the enemy of the people. I'm so glad that is behind us. And I agree with you, we should be able to criticize the country and the president. That's what America is all about.

Thank you, sir. I'll see you soon. I appreciate it.

SELLERS: Thank you, brother.

LEMON: Hey, listen, so, I got to report to you some breaking news tonight. It is out of Washington, D.C. D.C. metropolitan police searching for a suspect right now after a shooting tonight on a busy street in the nation's capital. Police say they're looking for a Black male wearing a lime green and yellow-hooded sweatshirt. He was last seen fleeing the area in a black Honda civic with D.C. license plates. CNN's Jim Acosta was nearby, heard dozens of gunshots near the popular restaurant, Mexicue, on 14th street northwest. Police say that two adult males were shot but they are both conscious and they are breathing. We'll continue to update you on this story.

So the former president calls insurrectionists a -- quote -- "loving crowd." And then over at the propaganda network, Tucker Carlson attacks an officer who defended the Capitol. The right's attempt to rewrite what happened on January 6 and the people who won't let them, that's next.




LEMON: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that she won't let what she calls GOP antics, and I quote there, get in the way of an investigation into the January 6 insurrection after Kevin McCarthy pulled his members when she vetoed two of his picks.

Sources tell CNN that Pelosi is seriously considering naming Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger to the committee. She also met with former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman, did that today to discuss the possibility of serving as an outside adviser or staffer.

Joining me now is Sandra Garza. She is the longtime partner of fallen Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was attacked by rioters outside the Capitol on January 6 and then died a day later. Sandra, thank you. I really appreciate you joining us.


LEMON: So, Capitol Hill police and metropolitan police, including your partner, put their lives on the line to protect lawmakers on January 6. And some of those very people can't even agree to investigate what happened. Why do you think they want to cover this up?

GARZA: Well, you know, plain and simple, they're trying to cover for Donald Trump and they don't want to have everything come out that he did that day and the people that were, you know, on his staff and the people that enabled him. That's it.

It's atrocious, it's repulsive and, you know, it's clearly not backing the blue, as they say that they, you know, do, and it's not loving America as they also claim to do and have done over and over again. It really makes my stomach churn.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, so many Republicans, Sandra, are taking their cues from the former president and just pretending that January 6 wasn't even a threat. Check out this new audio of the former president talking about the insurrection with two Washington Post journalists. This was about four months after the attack.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (voice- over): There was a lot of love. I've heard that from everybody. Many, many people have told me that was a loving crowd. And, uh, you know, it was too bad, it was too bad that, you know, that they did that.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): There were just some --

TRUMP: -- But my statement -- they were ushered in by the police. I mean, in all fairness, the Capitol police were ushering people in. The Capitol police were very friendly. You know, they were hugging and kissing. You don't see that. But there's plenty of tape on that too.


LEMON: I don't know what tape he's talking about. But I've seen this, rioters brutally attacking officers. I know you and Officer Sicknick both voted for Trump. So what goes through your mind when you hear him say there was a lot of love on January 6?

GARZA: Oh, it makes me enraged. You know, anybody who has a brain in their head that saw the footage that day knows that none of those people were there hugging and kissing law enforcement. Officers were being beaten, brutalized.

I've said it before, some of those people, a large percentage of them, actually, were downright sadistic in torturing those officers.


GARZA: You know, specifically Officer Fanone, who has come out. I know he's been on your show many times talking about the atrocities that he had to deal with that day. In addition to, you know, my boyfriend, Brian. You know, he was assaulted that day, as well as the other officers that were with him during that day at different parts of the day. They were also assaulted.

One of the female officers that was by his side in some of the video footage that was released, I believe by The New York Times, that came out, she actually had been brutally assaulted by one of the Trump supporters who took her by the hair, slammed her head into the concrete, and she actually had a severe, severe concussion and is still suffering from that today.

So to hear his remarks is absolutely just -- it makes my skin crawl. You know, I just don't even know what else to say about it other than the man is delusional. It just is very upsetting, very upsetting.

LEMON: You're right. When I heard it, I didn't even hear the context, whatever, I just heard the sound bite, and I said, this person doesn't sound well. I mean, obviously, I knew it was him. It just doesn't sound well.

I want to ask you this before we run out of time, Sandra. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn -- you mentioned Michael Fanone. He is Officer Fanone and has been on the program, so has Harry Dunn. But Harry Dunn is going to be --


LEMON: -- one of the first witnesses to testify next week before the select committee. Tucker Carlson said that he was a police officer that -- he wasn't like your average police officer and really had some pretty derogative things to say about him.

The officer's attorneys have responded to Carlson in a statement saying that Dunn would lay down his life to protect any member of Congress regardless of party. I mean, what did you think of that?

GARZA: When I heard about that, I was very upset. I did see the video clip of Tucker Carlson saying that. I was outraged. I know Officer Dunn personally. He was also a friend of Brian's. He's a good man and he has a backbone of steel just as much as the other officers that fought valiantly that day. He does not deserve to be treated like that.

The officers should be out of this political circus that they're creating. You know, when I was growing up, they always had this golden rule that, you know, children of politicians were -- you know, they were left out of any kind of criticism, ridicule, anything like that. I think the same rules should apply here when it comes to the officers on January 6th. They have been through so much trauma.

And then already, as I mentioned in my article, my opinion article for CNN, the secondary wounding that's going on every day that they go in to work, every day that they turn on the news, you have members of Congress, the majority of Republicans that are saying, oh, it was not a big deal that day, it was a tourist day, and then you have Donald Trump saying, oh, you know, they were hugging and kissing officers. So they're basically having their whole experience not validated for what it was.

And then to have, you know, one of the most popular conservative anchors on his show saying these kinds of things, attacking Officer Dunn, who was a hero that day, as well as all the other officers, it's just absolutely atrocious. It's unacceptable. He needs to correct that, in my opinion. He needs to correct that now.

LEMON: We thought it was so disgusting. We didn't even play it in this program.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it, Sandra. You be well.

GARZA: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. So, 36 percent of people in Louisiana are fully vaccinated. Thirty-six percent. That's it. Only 36 percent. And a doctor in my hometown of Baton Rouge is sounding the alarm.




LEMON: Pay attention, people. This is an important segment we're going to do right now. Tonight, new COVID-19 infections are rising in 48 states. Louisiana is one of the hardest hit states. The Department of Health reporting that over the last three months, 94 percent of all new cases are among people not fully vaccinated. And I want you to listen to what one Louisiana man hospitalized with COVID is saying about getting the vaccine.


UNKNOWN: Before you got sick, if you would have had a chance to get the vaccine and prevent this, would you have taken the vaccine?


UNKNOWN: So you would have gone through this?

UNKNOWN: I would have gone through this, yes, sir. Don't shove it down my throat. That is what local, state, federal administration is trying to do, is shove it down your throat.

UNKNOWN: What are they shoving, the science?

UNKNOWN: No, they're shoving the fact that that's their agenda. Their agenda is to get you vaccinated.



LEMON: Yeah, to save -- the agenda is to get you vaccinated to save more people from dying.

Joining me now is Dr. Catherine O'Neal. She is a chief medical officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. Thank you so much. I'm very familiar with Our Lady of the Lake. My nieces were born there and whatever. We know it and it's a great hospital. Thank you, doctor. I appreciate it.

So, yesterday, coronavirus hospitalizations in Louisiana rose to 844 patients, the highest since mid-February. An additional 3,264 confirmed cases are reported. What is going on in my home state? What are you seeing at your hospital every day?

CATHERINE O'NEAL, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: What we are seeing is, it's just what you described, but the tempo is what has really struck us most. We haven't seen this many people come into the hospital in a stretch of a couple of days since April of 2020. And I will tell you, April of 2020, we thought our hair was on fire.

That's where we are again today. The tempo of new cases in the community and the tempo of hospitalization are scary. Being in the ER is like watching a tidal wave come in.

LEMON: Only about 36 percent of people in Louisiana have been fully vaccinated, the fifth lowest rate in any state. Last night, I spoke with the former -- I spoke with President Biden, excuse me, abut vaccine hesitancy in my own family in Louisiana. What do you say to your patients that are still doubtful whether they are making the right decision to get vaccinated?

O'NEAL: We see these patients every day. You just heard a clip of a person who is very much like a lot of people in Louisiana. We are a proud state. We want to be told the facts and we want to make our own decisions. We don't want to be talked at. We want to be talked to. That's why we're here tonight, right?

It's a team sport. Vaccination is a team sport. We have to think about our community. We have to think about what does this do for the team. I hear the argument a lot that I'm going to be fine. The odds are you probably will, but if you get sick, you affect your team. If you get your team sick, you may kill somebody.

At this point, I think we need to stop talking about what it does for you and we really need to start talking about what does it do for your team, what does it do for your community, because what we're seeing right now is our community is on fire again. I honestly never thought we would be here a year out.

LEMON: You're worried?

O'NEAL: Oh, I'm past worried. Right now, we're just in -- we're in, you know, get up every day and try to save as many lives as you can, try to vaccinate as many people as you can, because we're going to see another surge just like this. We're going to lose a lot of members of our community over the next couple of weeks who just did not have to die.

LEMON: Dr. O'Neal, you and all the front line workers, the health care workers, we thank you so much, and we thank you for coming on and delivering this message, not only to the folks of Baton Rouge but to the country.

O'NEAL: Thank you for having us.

LEMON: Thank you. Absolutely.

O'NEAL: Absolutely.

LEMON: Hours of arguments with some schools opening up in just a few weeks, right? Just weeks. Will more board meetings look like this one in Virginia Beach?


UNKNOWN: You do not co-parent my children.

UNKNOWN: Do your job and take the masks off our kids and stick to education.

UNKNOWN: I have like five more sentences. Why do you keep interrupting?




LEMON: So no matter where you live, it is likely that a controversy over whether kids need to wear masks in school is coming your way. School boards across the country meeting and debating what to do.

The Virginia Beach school board, for example, deciding that masks will be mandatory come September for all 63,000 students in that district, as well as its 4,000 teachers. But that decision coming at the end of a very heated four-hour debate involving parents and community members. Many arguing masks should be optional.

Let' discuss now. CNN's Jean Casarez is here. Jean, good to see you. Wow, what madness is going on around the country when it comes to this.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was just supposed to be a regular school board meeting. Yes, the issue was masks. Should students wear it come September or should they not have to wear masks? And like you said, this is a huge district, 63,000 students and 4,000 teachers. Parents came in droves to this meeting. They were lined up, they were emotional, they were passionate, and they were angry. They do not want their children to have to wear masks come September.


UNKNOWN: Take the masks off our children. We've been told to follow the science from day one. And from day one, science has proven that masks are ineffective and children have never been in a high-risk group.

UNKNOWN: Let me and my wife decides what's best for our children medically, because being a faithful husband, a kick-butt dad, that's really my wheelhouse. Just ask this amazing girl that I'm blessed to call my daughter. And when she answers you --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Twenty seconds.

UNKNOWN: -- you won't have to listen hard, because she isn't and won't be wearing a mask.

UNKNOWN: It made me wonder, are masks political theater? Seriously, I'm mad, and I have a reason to be. Are they? Sure seems that way.

UNKNOWN: Show me why children need to wear masks that don't prevent disease to help them be safe from a disease that they have a 99.99percent survival rate of.


UNKNOWN: You should be ashamed.

UNKNOWN: We, parents, should have the right to choose whether or not our kids are suffocated by these masks all day. Numerous schools across this country have already lifted their mandates.


UNKNOWN: It's time for you to do the same. Enough is enough.

UNKNOWN: What the Virginia Beach City schools can do is say here, today, this is over. This is the last day I can't see my kid's smile coming off of that bus stop. The last day we live in fear based off of politics, not in the best interest of our country.


CASAREZ: And the school board voted against the parents, 4-6, that they will all wear masks come September. They said they relied on the CDC. They relied on the Virginia Health Commission. But here's the thing. In Virginia, the public health directive, it expires this weekend, which did create it to be mandatory to wear masks. And now, Virginia officials are saying it's all up to every single district. They do have strong guidance, though, that elementary students should still wear masks because they're not eligible to get the vaccine.

But, Don, this is not over. There's another meeting in August. And I know what you're wondering. Did anybody, any parent say they wanted masks? Well, according to our affiliate who was there, there was one parent who phoned in saying that they were in favor and in agree with the board that masks should be worn.

LEMON: Jean, and you will be covering it. Thank you very much, Jean. I appreciate it.

CASAREZ: Thanks, don.

LEMON: And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.