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Insurrection Committee Hearings Set to Begin; COVID Spiking. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 26, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

We're starting with the pandemic and numbers that are going in the wrong, direction cases, hospitalizations, even deaths all spiking up. And the numbers have officials at nearly every level reconsidering mask mandates.

CAMEROTA: The U.S. is averaging more than 50,000 new COVID cases a day. That is a 61 percent increase over last week.

More than 40 percent of the U.S. population is living in a community considered to have high transmission right now. And Florida and Arkansas are the worst. Every single county in both those states is in the high transmission category.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We have 50 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated. That's a problem.

We have the tools to do this. This is an unnecessary predicament we're putting ourselves in.


BLACKWELL: But a sign that the push to get more shots into arms may be working is that the pace of vaccinations is heading up. It's now the highest it's been in two weeks.

CAMEROTA: And just hours ago, New York's mayor announced a new vaccine mandate for all city workers.

So let's go to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz for the detail.

Shimon, what are they?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the mayor is saying, by September 13, some 340,000 city workers are going to have to be vaccinated in order to return to work. And if they're not vaccinated, they're going to have to submit to

weekly tests. This, of course, applies to teachers, firefighters, police officers. Last week, already, the mayor saying that medical staff at city hospitals, the same thing, are going to be required to be vaccinated.

All of this is coming, obviously, as there is just an increase in concern over the fact that many people are not being vaccinated and the spread of the coronavirus.

The other thing, what's also significant in this announcement is that the mayor is hoping that, by doing this, he also puts pressure on business owners, private business owners, to institute the same policy. People across the country and private businesses and even in local governments have been hesitant to do this.

And he's hoping that sort of he's planting the flag here to make sure that perhaps people here in this city at least, for city workers, or perhaps even across the country also start taking this position where they force people to get vaccinated. This is a big concern.

The other big question here, guys, is going to be, how do the unions react to this? Are there going to be any kind of lawsuits against the city to prevent them from forcing folks to get vaccinated? We will see how that plays out. Right now, we haven't heard from the unions about that.

But that's that is certainly something that the city is going to be looking at, but, overall, a significant announcement here from the mayor, in that city workers, 340,000 city workers are going to have to be vaccinated. If not, they're going to have to submit to weekly testing.

BLACKWELL: All right, Shimon Prokupecz for us.

Thank you, Shimon.

Let's bring in CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

Quick reaction to the news out of New York for city workers.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think this is exactly right. I think we should be doing this all across the country, because what the mayor is saying is you have got two choices.

You can get vaccinated. That's the easy choice. Or there's another way to make sure that other people around you at work are safe as well. So you don't have to get vaccinated. You can still go for weekly testing as an opt-out.

I really wish that more businesses would be doing this because, otherwise, it's hard for those of us, for example, who are parents of unvaccinated children, if we're told that we have to come back to work in person and be sitting shoulder to shoulder with other people who are unvaccinated. And we don't know whether they're carrying COVID. That's really

dangerous for us. So this is really about protecting people's health and safety.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Wen, I want to get your take on another suggestion for how to get more people vaccinated. This came from the former Surgeon General Jerome Adams yesterday on CBS. Here's his suggestion.


DR. JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The quickest way to get people vaccinated is through mandates. And we can't have mass mandates -- we won't -- you're hearing this from the military and from other businesses -- until you have full licensure of these vaccines.

So if you want to get a bunch of people vaccinated really quickly, get the vaccines licensed. And then you will see the military make it mandatory, you will see businesses make it mandatory.


CAMEROTA: So what he's saying is that when the FDA gives full approval for these vaccines, that then the military, businesses, federal employees, whatever, then there can be mandates for it.

And so can you just again help explain to us, why isn't there full approval of the vaccines? And is this really just that there needs to be more testing or is it mired in some sort of bureaucracy? Is there any way to fast-track that?


WEN: It is really the latter at this point.

There's a lot of red tape involved in the regulatory process. And, look, I understand, of course, we don't want to shortchange the science. But at this point, these vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people. They are among the most tested therapeutics that are out there in the world.

I really don't understand what the delay is at this point. I think the FDA owes us an explanation of why this is so slow, because it really is holding us up at this point. We have reached a wall. We have hit this wall when it comes to vaccinations. That's causing the latest surge that we're seeing.

We're not able to make a lot more progress unless there are vaccine mandates. So I do agree that having full approval at this point would pave the way for a lot more businesses feeling comfortable from a legal perspective to allow for mandates, although I will say that universities and many businesses have already done something approaching mandates, or at least you can do an opt-out, again, as New York City is doing and many other places are doing, say testing or a vaccine.

And I think that could be a way around the situation until we get full FDA approval.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about these breakthrough cases that make the news because there is so much protection from the vaccines. The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths, those are of the unvaccinated.

But for those of us who are vaccinated, should we start to consider to voluntarily wear masks indoors, regardless of mandate? Should we start to social distance again because of what we're seeing? I see your facial expression.

CAMEROTA: Yes, because, I mean, victor and I have been wondering, for us -- for -- we have done everything right.


CAMEROTA: OK? We're fully vaccinated. Is it time for us to change our behavior?

WEN: Yes, I think it's really unfortunate that the vaccinated people are paying a price for the actions of the unvaccinated, because what we know is that the vaccinated are very safe around one another.

So the two of you, all of us, if we're vaccinated, we're safe around each other. But if we're vaccinated, and we're surrounded by a whole bunch of unvaccinated people, especially in areas with high coronavirus transmission, there's going to be spillover.

And that's what we're seeing, that we're seeing vaccinated people also get infections. Now, they tend to not be severe infections, which points to the effectiveness of the vaccine. But it's possible that, especially with the Delta variant, we could still get ill, we could pass it on to our family members. And so I think it's really important that vaccinated people stop thinking that we're fully protected.

We're very well protected. But as long as there are people around us who are continuing to spread COVID-19, that's actually making us less safe. And I also think that the idea of all of us going back to wearing masks again, a lot of people don't want to hear that. But we should actually not see this as failure of the vaccine.

We should see it as the failure of individuals to make the responsible choice. By people saying, I'm not going to get vaccinated, they're actually choosing to endanger everybody else, and they're prolonging the pandemic.

CAMEROTA: So we're OK right now in New York. That's what I'm getting from this, at the moment.

BLACKWELL: Yes. All right.


CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, Doctor, go ahead.

WEN: I think you're OK around each other. (CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: In our building, everybody is fully vaccinated. Yes.

WEN: That's exactly right.

And that's why these mandates are really helpful for ensuring a safe workplace.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Wen, what about the booster shot for immunocompromised? Is that coming? Are we about to see that?

WEN: I would not be surprised at all if we get guidance about this pretty soon from our federal health officials.

And that's because many clinicians are already recommending to our patients that if they are severely immunocompromised, that they should be getting a third shot. I would also not be surprised if, before it gets cold, before we get the fall and winter respiratory season, if older individuals and those with chronic medical illnesses who got the vaccine earlier on during the vaccine rollout, if a third shot is recommended to.

That hasn't come yet. But I think that I would anticipate that it will.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Wen, let me ask you about schools.

I have got a superintendent in Iowa who's coming up a little later, where Iowa has banned mask mandates for those schools. Most grades are not eligible -- or a lot of kids are not eligible for the vaccine because they're under the age of 12.

What should be the testing regimen for these schools? Should they start with a baseline of every student being tested? Should there be testing every week, every two weeks, month? What do you think?

WEN: Yes, I mean, I think it's too bad that these schools are not requiring masks because they are a really effective layer of protection.

We can think about this as, if you're going to remove the layer of masking, what can you replace it with? Ideally, it's with vaccination, but if that's not possible, twice-weekly testing for every student and teacher that's unvaccinated, I think, can be a replacement for masks, not completely, though.

And so that's why I really hope to have parents in these schools will still consider wearing -- having their child wear masks. But I also think that twice-weekly testing can be a really important addition to help to make school safe.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Wen, thank you. We always appreciate talking to you.


WEN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, now to this.

Conservative radio talk show host Phil Valentine is in the hospital, seriously ill with COVID. And he's changed his position on vaccines months after downplaying the need for them. His family has posted online that Valentine contracted the coronavirus more than a week ago and is now in very serious condition with pneumonia.

They go on to say -- quote -- "Phil regrets not being more vehemently pro-vaccine and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon."

Among some of the false claims that Valentine had pushed, he said this in December -- quote -- "If I decide not to get vaccinated, I'm not putting anyone else's life in danger, except perhaps people who have made the same decision."

Phil's brother Mark Valentine joins me now.

Mark, thank you so much for your time and for being here. We're so sorry that your family is going through this ordeal.

MARK VALENTINE, BROTHER OF PHIL VALENTINE: Well, it's a trying times for sure. And I'm delighted to be here. And I appreciate you having me on.

CAMEROTA: How is Phil doing?

VALENTINE: He is better than he was a few days ago. He's very -- still very deep in the woods. He is not on a ventilator, has not been on a ventilator. And he is breathing with assistance via a high-flow oxygen machine during the day, which is a cannula affair, and at night a BiPap mask to keep his O2 levels up.

And that apparently is the name of the game, to keep his oxygen levels up. And that's what's going on. As recently as yesterday, he was -- I mean, when he's not sleeping, he's fully communicative, talkative, as you might imagine, and yesterday was up looking at his computer and talking normally.

And we took that as a very good sign. It's just -- it's a -- as was described by one of my doctor friends, it's a nonlinear recovery. And so it's ups and downs, and one step forward, two steps back, sometimes the opposite.

But we're very hopeful. It's not time to say he's turned a corner, because he hasn't, but we are hoping and praying that that's going to come so.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

And we know this is not linear. This is a roller coaster. I mean, every person, every family member virtually that we have talked to has described setbacks, good days, and then setbacks. Do you -- because he's communicating with you and you're talking to him, do you know how this experience has changed his thinking on vaccines and getting vaccinated? What has he said?

VALENTINE: Yes, let me clear up one thing.

I'm not able to talk to him directly because of the way that the restrictions are in the area where he is. So I'm having to communicate with him with Susan, his wife, being the translator. So I text her. She talks to him, and then she sends information back. So, to that extent, I am communicating with him.

To answer your question, he -- first of all, Phil has never been an anti-vax person. If you look at -- his thoughts and communications are well-documented. And he has historically said, assess the situation based on your own risk environment, talk to your physician and that sort of thing, and then make up your mind.

But he's never been one to oppose vaccinations in general. But he recognizes now that his not getting the vaccination has probably caused a bunch of other people not to get vaccinated. And that, he regrets. He regrets not being more pro-vaccination and more vehemently advocating that position, as the press release said.



VALENTINE: So, it's been a cathartic event for him.

CAMEROTA: I understand. Understood, as it would be.

And I hear what you're saying that he hasn't ever been an anti-vaxxer. But he has -- I mean, he has at times sounded as if he was mocking vaccines.

Just a couple of examples, he performed a parody version of The Beatles song "Taxman" called "Vaxman." He said, if you're not at high risk of dying from COVID, then you're probably safer not getting the vaccine.

I mean, this was not obviously a pro-vaccine position. And so do you know what -- how he's changed his tune, what he plans to say now? Once he's able to get back on his radio show, do you know what he plans to tell his fans and followers?

VALENTINE: I do. I do. And I intend to tell him that in his stead until he's able to do it, and that is, this is a real threat.

It is a real public health crisis. And it is something that, if he had to do over again, that parody wouldn't have been made, his cavalier attitude wouldn't have been what it was, and he would have gotten vaccinated and encouraged everybody to get vaccinated.

The problem we have got here is, if you look at the data, he was in the group where he is in good health. He understands the medicine. He understands keeping the vitamin D level up and the C and all that kind of stuff. He exercises. He doesn't smoke it. He doesn't drink, so -- not much.


And so he hadn't been in a high-risk situation. And so the statistics said, if you fit in this profile, then your likelihood of being killed by this vaccine is about a half to 1 percent.

And so what we have got going on -- and I was listening to your previous segment -- what we have got is a crisis of confidence in the general public. It has turned into a political -- a polarized political situation, that should not be that way.

And it -- but it has been, because -- and there's blame to go around. We're not -- we're hearing everybody's running around like their hair's on fire, because they should be, but nobody's discussing the fact that we're importing thousands of cases of COVID at the Southern border, and placing them around cities all over the country.


CAMEROTA: And, Mark, I mean -- but, Mark, don't you see that you're politicizing it right now?

I mean, shouldn't the message be, whether or not what -- however you feel about immigration, whether you're Republican or Democrat, shouldn't your message be right now, because your brother has, God willing, come out of the woods, shouldn't it just be, go get vaccinated, it's safe?

VALENTINE: It is. That is my message. And that's what I want to leave you folks with.

What I'm saying is, is that if we want to get people vaccinated, which we do, and we're going to be as vocal about that as anybody, then we need to look at this thing is we're all on the same team, we're all trying to beat this thing.


VALENTINE: And that's exactly the message that I want to take.

I'd like to see politics gone out of this thing.


VALENTINE: I'd like people to (INAUDIBLE) as a public -- as a public health issue.

And I will tell you the defining number for me -- and I got mine, but the defining number for me is this; 97 percent of the people in the hospital with COVID are unvaccinated. That ends the discussion, as far as I'm concerned.

(CROSSTALK) CAMEROTA: It does. That's it. That's all -- I agree with you. That is...

VALENTINE: I'm in total agreement with that.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And then that's the message that you need to get out. One last thing.

VALENTINE: That is the message.


CAMEROTA: Mark, one last thing, before I let you go.

VALENTINE: Yes, ma'am.

CAMEROTA: I just want to ask you, is Phil, your brother, well enough to post a message on his blog today or to tweet something out today?

Because I know that his fans and followers are eager to hear from him about all this, and it could change people's minds.

VALENTINE: You know, that's a good question.

And I will check with the folks that are taking care of him whether he's in condition to do that. His abilities in that area vary from day to day. And so I have volunteered to come out here and try to do what I can.

Let me leave you with this, something that's positive coming out of this thing. We have had dozens and dozens of people who have responded to the different media that we're presently involved with that have said we went and got vaccinated because of this.


VALENTINE: And that is what I want to see happen.

I want to see people, regardless of whatever threat, risk you think you are, go get the daggone shot.


VALENTINE: And don't put people that you love in the position that Susan's in right now, having to be with him 14 hours a day, not knowing if he's going to live or die.

CAMEROTA: Understood.

VALENTINE: I mean, that's not a hard question for me to answer. At least it isn't now.

CAMEROTA: Mark, that's a great message to end on.

We are wishing your family good health, and we certainly will watch what happens with Phil. And we hope that he comes out of this very soon. Thank you very much for your time.

VALENTINE: You bet. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: That almost went in a completely different direction.

CAMEROTA: Well, it was about to.


CAMEROTA: But let's all stay on track with...


CAMEROTA: ... the message that, as he just said, 97 or 98 percent of the people in the hospital are unvaccinated. Let's all just stay on that message.

BLACKWELL: Because it's important. That is the number that separates this pandemic among the unvaccinated from the rest of us.

CAMEROTA: We're also keeping our eyes right now on the White House, where President Biden is set to announce the end of the combat mission in Iraq, as he meets with the country's prime minister.

BLACKWELL: And the feud between House Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is escalating.

The power play over the January 6 commission, we will talk about that next.



CAMEROTA: Right now, the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is meeting to prepare for the first hearing tomorrow, this as the feud between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy intensifies following the speaker's rejection of two of McCarthy's committee picks and replacing one with Republican Adam Kinzinger.


BLACKWELL: Melanie Zanona joins us now from Capitol Hill.

So this is now becoming a childish name-calling event. Kevin McCarthy is now calling Cheney and Kinzinger Pelosi Republicans.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, that's absolutely right. The name-calling is really picking up here. Things are really starting to intensify.

And Republicans are ramping up their attacks not only on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but also on Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, the sole Republicans to serve on that panel. Kevin McCarthy has labeled them as -- quote -- "Pelosi Republicans."

And we're also hearing that members on the far right want to punish them and get them kicked off their committee assignments.

So, look, all of this is coming on the eve of the first hearing for the select committee. But investigators are determined to not let this get in the way of their work. Take a listen to what Adam Kinzinger said when he was asked earlier today.

No sound.

All right, so, Kinzinger earlier today was saying that he was not happy with the childish remarks that Kevin McCarthy was saying earlier today in reference to him and Liz Cheney.

Democrats are also coming to their defense as well. But like I said, they're meeting right now to try to finalize their strategy for tomorrow ahead of this first hearing, which is supposed to feature testimony from the police officers who responded to the attack that day.

They're also going to be playing video clips and body-worn camera footage from the events that day, in an effort to paint a vivid firsthand account of what happened.

So, bottom line, we're expecting a very emotional and powerful day here up on Capitol Hill tomorrow.

BLACKWELL: All right, Melanie Zanona.

We, of course, will have it live. Thank you so much.

Let's bring in now CNN political director David Chalian.

David, let's start with this new moniker coming from the minority leader, and we're going to hear from -- I believe we have both Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger on this new name from the minority leader.


QUESTION: And some Republicans have been saying that the GOP (INAUDIBLE) this committee.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Who is that, Adam and Liz? Aren't they kind of like Pelosi Republicans?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We're about very serious business here. We have important work to do. And I think that's pretty childish.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): If the conference decides or if Kevin decides they want to punish Liz Cheney and I for getting to the bottom and telling the truth, I think that probably says more about them than it does for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: Ana Navarro is joining us in a moment, too.

But, David, let me start with you.

The -- listen, these members have now accepted that if they lose their seats because they are standing up for the truth, so be it. A little name-calling, what is Kevin McCarthy trying to accomplish here?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, he's trying to diminish the seriousness of what this committee is investigating with throwing some snarky language about Pelosi Republicans around.

His goal is to try and muddy the waters as much as possible, so that what the work of this committee is doing is seen purely through a partisan lens, as, of course, Nancy Pelosi is trying to counteract that. She initially added Liz Cheney, now adding Adam Kinzinger.

She's doing everything possible to try and make sure that whatever product this committee ultimately presents to the American people, that it is seen in a bipartisan, authoritative lens. That is not how Kevin McCarthy wants this to be seen.

CAMEROTA: Ana, isn't it interesting that some of the Republicans, the more conservative wing, the so-called Freedom Caucus, want to deny Cheney and Kinzinger, their fellow Republicans, the freedom to investigate what happened January 6? They want them to be penalized. They don't want them to be part of the committee, and they want them to be stripped of their other committee assignments.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, look, I think part of it is self- projection, right?

And so what Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney are doing by standing up for the truth and for facts and for historical accuracy is putting into evidence just how complicit and how cowardice the Republicans are.

And so I think they have to look at themselves in the mirror. And that's really hard to do. And they would rather not be shown as the lily-livered partisans that they are by Kinzinger and Cheney.

And so it's better to distract by trying to punish the two that are speaking their conscience.