Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Battling COVID Misinformation Key To Ending Pandemic; Biden: Cuba Is A "Failed State, Communism A Failed System"; South Africa Deploys Troops To Stop Deadly Protests. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Polo Sandoval in for Laura Jarrett. About 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

ROMANS: All right, about half of Americans remain unvaccinated, and which half you're in largely depends on where you get your information or misinformation.

New U.S. Census data shows mistrust as the reason for nearly half of those who say they will definitely or probably not be vaccinated.

Children under 12, of course, are not even eligible for a COVID vaccine yet. But the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics is still concerned.


DR. LEE SAVIO BEERS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: I think -- particularly when it comes to vaccines, but not just vaccines -- dangerous misinformation has been spreading online for many, many years. And really, frankly, doing tremendous harm to children's health.


ROMANS: So where does all this mistrust come from? You've seen it in right-wing media, of course, and on social media. The White House now taking aim at that source of misinformation.

SANDOVAL: And it's actually the administration that's outlining what it wants to see from social media platforms. They want to see that they measure and share the impact of misinformation. That they implement more robust enforcement. They want to see faster action against harmful posts. And -- this is also really important -- to promote quality information in their feeds -- the reliable data.

But how, actually, do you get people to -- who have not taken the vaccine to consider it? It's a big question, Christine, all over the country. We want you to hear directly from conservative pollster and also a communications strategist, Frank Luntz, on what he thinks might be a solution.


FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER, COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: Don't shout at those who aren't vaccinated. Don't insult them. Empathize with them and then try to provide them information in a calm, rational way.

Joe Biden should specifically ask Donald Trump publicly to join him in a PSA -- to come to the White House.

He should say Mr. Trump, tell your people right now -- right now that you developed the vaccine -- your administration. You know it's safe. You took it, your wife took it, your kids have taken it. Now it's time for the American people to take it. Now it's time for your people to take it.


ROMANS: Pollster Frank Luntz there.

The U.S. faces the prospect of many old restrictions coming back if this Delta variant surges out of control.

Los Angeles already bringing back its mask mandate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated Angelinos starting tomorrow.

And the director of the CDC says more cities and states could reinstate travel restrictions for unvaccinated visitors.

SANDOVAL: And then, of course, there are the Yankees, who were actually scheduled to begin the second half of the Major League Baseball season yesterday. But a COVID outbreak putting things to at least a temporary pause here. And now like what, Carolyn Manno, about six players are adhering to COVID protocols?


As you both know -- I mean, throughout this pandemic, sports has generally been reflective of what we're going through as a society.

ROMANS: Right.

MANNO: And it's further proof now on the sports side that we're not quite out of the woods here.

According to the team's general manager, six Yankees players testing positive for the virus. That result was enough to force Major League Baseball to call off the team's game against the Red Sox. The postponement allows the Yankees to undergo continued COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. The two teams are scheduled to play tonight at Yankee Stadium.

Earlier this season, eight members of the coaching and travel staff testing positive. A ninth positive test from infielder Gleyber Torres was later determined to be a false positive.

Tonight's scheduled exhibition between the United States men's basketball team and Australia, in Las Vegas, has been canceled out of an abundance of caution. The schedule change comes after Wizards star Bradley Beal was placed into health and safety protocols on Wednesday. Beal is no longer eligible to make the trip to Tokyo. His roster spot will not be filled.

Pistons forward Jerami Grant has also entered those protocols as a precautionary measure.

In order to compete at the games, athletes arriving from outside Japan need two negative COVID-19 tests done on separate days within 96 hours of departure. So, Team USA is scheduled to conclude its pre-Olympic schedule Sunday against Spain before departing for Tokyo on Monday.

WNBA star Liz Cambage has withdrawn from Australia's Olympic women's basketball team citing her mental health. The 29-year-old says she's been having panic attacks, not sleeping, and not eating for the past month. And in a statement on social media, she wrote that the prospect of having no friends, no family, no fans, and no support system outside of the team during the Olympics is honestly terrifying for me, as she put it.

The Australian team scheduled to play the USA later on this afternoon.

South Africa's men's rugby Sevens team is in isolation in Tokyo after a positive COVID case was reported on their inbound flight. None of the players or staffers returned a positive test there.

Australian men's tennis player Alex de Minaur, who was slated to compete in singles and doubles, has tested positive. He will now miss the games.


And women's tennis players Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber have joined the growing list of athletes opting out. Azarenka won a bronze in singles and a gold medal in mixed doubles for Belarus in 2012. She cited challenges with the pandemic as to why she was opting out. Kerber, who is a 2016 silver medalist, tweeted that she simply needed a break for rest and recovery.

But some good news for tennis fans. Novak Djokovic is going to play in the Tokyo Olympics. The Serbian star initially expressing some hesitation about heading into the Olympic bubble without a few key members of his team. But after wins at the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon, he now has a chance to become the first man to win the Golden Slam, which is winning all four majors in a calendar year and a gold medal. Of course, that would include the U.S. Open, scheduled for later this summer.

But only one tennis player has accomplished that feat and that's the great Steffi Graf back in 1998. I don't -- 1988, excuse me.

I don't know if you remember but he was in tears after his early exit in Rio. I mean, Olympic medals mean so much to him. But I think he's also trying to differentiate himself from his contemporaries in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. And this Golden Slam -- this elusive accomplishment would certainly do that.

ROMANS: Wow. It will certainly be --

SANDOVAL: Four majors and a gold medal would be a heck of a way to make up --

ROMANS: All right.

MANNO: It'd be wild.

ROMANS: Nice to see you. Thanks, Carolyn. Have a great, great weekend.

All right, a high-stakes gambit from Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer. He set a key deadline next week to force his caucus to agree on a $3.5 trillion budget package and to pressure a bipartisan group to finalize a separate infrastructure deal.

CNN's Daniella Diaz live on Capitol Hill for us this Friday morning with more. And Daniella, this deadline has big implications for President Biden's agenda, doesn't it?


And Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is really strong-arming lawmakers here to try to reach a deal on both -- this bipartisan infrastructure proposal and this budget resolution that will eventually be a budget reconciliation bill to pass major priorities for Democrats.

You know, on one hand, on this bipartisan infrastructure proposal, you have the negotiators who have not yet been able to figure out how to pay for this deal. That is the biggest question here. And Republicans really expressed their anger to Schumer for forcing them to try to negotiate on this deal quickly when the text hasn't even been written.

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, one of the key negotiators for this deal -- he told CNN that if they vote on this next week, which is when Schumer wants them to vote on this, it would be a, quote, "dereliction of duty" because they have not yet figured out the bill text for this.

And then, on the other hand, you have the -- excuse me, the budget resolution filled with Democratic priorities for infrastructure, including paid family medical leave, funding to combat climate change, and other issues that are priorities for the White House.

And, you know, not every single Democrat is on board for this legislation just yet. And Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer really needs every single Democrat on board with this for it to pass using budget reconciliation, which means they only need all Democratic senators to vote for this -- all 50 of them.

You know, the name we bring up all the time is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the moderate Democratic senator. He told us that he has not yet said he's on board with this infrastructure proposal -- this $3.5 trillion budget resolution -- calling it a, quote, "challenge."

But the bottom line here is the clock is ticking. It is set by Schumer on this, and it's a race to see whether lawmakers can meet this deadline -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Daniella Diaz for us on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Daniella.

Meantime, critical financial aid has begun flowing to low-income families. Payments from the enhanced child tax credit hit bank accounts yesterday. The temporary credit is a guaranteed income for the year.

Eligible parents could get as much as $3,600 for children under six years old, $3,000 for children six through 17. Most parents will get direct deposits from the government but some will see payments in checks or debit cards.

The full credit is available to joint filers making up to $150,000 a year, and heads of households earning $112,500, or a single filer earning $75,000. Payments begin to phase out above that.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has the potential to reduce child poverty in the same way that the Social Security reduced poverty for the elderly.


ROMANS: It's time for three questions in three minutes. Let's bring in CNN senior writer Tami Luhby who has been really digging into all the details of what is potentially a game-changer here for many, many families. How many families, Tami, are we talking about? The hope here is this is transformational for low-income families, reducing child poverty.

TAMI LUHBY, CNN SENIOR WRITER (via Webex by Cisco): Yes. Well, this is a really big deal for low-income families but also for middle-class families and even upper-middle-class families. It's going to put more money in most Americans' pockets.


Still -- so some 39 million households covering 88 percent of children will get the credit automatically. That's more than 60 million children.

But it's a particularly big deal, as you said, for low-income families. In the past, the credit was not fully refundable, so more than 26 million kids were unable to get the full amount because their family's incomes were too low. But this year, because the credit was made fully refundable, they will qualify. And that is a major reason why the enhanced credit could lift nearly

half of children out of poverty. It would be the largest one-year decrease in child poverty in U.S. history.

ROMANS: And certainly the biggest attempt to do that than we have ever seen, certainly in our lifetimes.

You know, tax laws can confuse just about anyone, Tami, but not everyone files taxes. How does that play into all of this?

LUHBY: Well, it is a problem. Many of these very low-income families who would benefit the most are at risk of missing out on the payments and that's because they don't file taxes. They don't earn enough to. And the agency is basing the payments on people with 2020 returns or their 2019 returns, or the folks who used the stimulus check portal to receive their money last year.

So, the Biden administration is really trying to reach out to these families to make sure that they don't miss out. The IRS has launched a non-filer portal tool where parents can provide the necessary information and register to get the advanced credit. And thousands of community groups across the country are trying to spread the word and either help people file their returns or use the portal.

ROMANS: So for those people who are all signed up it's going to hit every 15th of the month through the end of the year and then they get the rest of it in their taxes next spring.

A lot of people wondering if they're going to get a tax surprise next year. There could be some surprises. What should people know?

LUHBY: Well, the monthly payments may sound nice but not everyone will actually want to receive them. These are not the stimulus checks that people received over the last year or so. These are advanced payments on your '21 tax -- on your 2021 taxes. So if you get the money now you may not get as big a refund at tax time as you were hoping for.

Also, it's important to remember that these monthly payments are based on your 2020 or 2019 income. And so, if your income went up or your family circumstances changed, you may end up getting a smaller refund next year or you could possibly even owe taxes.

So these folks may want to opt out of receiving the monthly payments and instead get a lump sum when they do their taxes next year. Or at least they want to update their income and family circumstances at the IRS portal when the -- when it becomes available next year. Sorry -- when it becomes available later this summer.

ROMANS: All right. Yes, check that IRS portal, everybody.

All right, Tami Luhby -- and following Tami's reporting on Thanks, Tami, so much.

We'll be right back.




BIDEN: Cuba is a -- unfortunately, a failed state and repressing their citizens. Communism is a failed system -- universally failed system and I don't see socialism as a very useful substitute, but that's another story.


SANDOVAL: Though the president touching on the topic, President Biden is not rushing to intervene on the growing crisis happening right now in Cuba. The country is seeing its most significant protests in decades just this week against chronic shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties, and the government's handling of a worsening coronavirus outbreak.

Let's now go to Washington and CNN's Jasmine Wright. Jasmine, help us understand a little bit about what the president is actually facing -- some of this pressure to do more on what's happening right now in Cuba.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Polo, because it's clear that establishing a new priority shift towards Cuba is not one of President Biden and his administration's top priorities.

Now, it comes really as officials say that a review of former President Trump's more restrictive policies towards the island is underway currently at the White House. Officials tell CNN it's also as, you know, the president has yet to really fulfill a campaign pledge that he made, promising to reverse President Trump's -- former President Trump's policies and go back to those full diplomatic relationships -- relations first established by former President Obama.

So, of course, now we see kind of this pressure building on President Biden to do something. But as we heard just from that clip earlier it does not seem like something is urgently going to happen.

After he said that and was standing alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he also talked about that his administration was looking for a way -- really, assessing the technological ability to bring internet back to the island. That is something that Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who President Biden was just with in Florida just a few weeks ago looking at that collapsed building, really are pressuring him to do so. It didn't seem like anything urgent was going to come.

Also, we heard him say that -- talk about remittances and say that he would be more susceptible or interested in providing some to the island if only the government -- he had assurances that the government wouldn't take a huge chunk of it.

And he said something similar on vaccines. That he would be interested in providing more vaccines only if he thought that the government would administer them correctly.

So again, it just does not seem that this is top of mind, though there are reviews currently going on. But it is interesting Polo about how these necessarily -- you know, we focus on Russia, we focus on the Middle East, but there are calls for him to do more to shore up democracies right in America's backyard.

SANDOVAL: Yes. The White House calls it a failed system but will the White House fail in addressing what's happening right now in Cuba. That's a big question.


Jasmine Wright, have a good day.

ROMANS: All right.

Ten thousand South African soldiers now deployed to stop the worse violence in that country in years. Police have been overwhelmed by the unrest and the looting now for days. One hundred seventeen deaths reported so far.

David McKenzie is live for us in South Africa. David, this started with the jailing of the former president last week. And you just spoke with the current president and what did he tell you?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he came to this mall in Durban, a coastal city in South Africa which has been racked by very severe looting and violence. People have just, over the last few days, been barricading neighborhoods and stopping and checking people from coming in. And, in fact, torching vehicles in at least several cases that they felt were of the looters.

I asked the president what he felt about the fact that people had to resort to this.


MCKENZIE: Mr. President, ordinary citizens have taken the law into their own hands and they feel let down by the state. Why did it take so long to secure these regions?

CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: Yes, ordinary citizens have felt that they need to defend -- to defend their areas, to defend their assets. And we welcome -- we welcome the fact that ordinary citizens are working together with the security forces, standing up not only to defend their own assets but they're also defending our democracy because they can see that this is an assault on the democratic situation that we have in our country.


MCKENZIE: Well, the president blamed this violence and looting on instigators, hinting that it was planned and that they will go after those perpetrators. It certainly went beyond that, Christine, to just chaos and looting throughout this city -- this province and the commercial hub of the country.

There are now military on the streets. I have to say the situation is calming down but people are just picking up the pieces of this terrible violence and unrest -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, just awful.

All right, David McKenzie. Keep us posted there. Thank you so much -- Polo.

SANDOVAL: Well, Christine, breaking overnight, here in the U.S., a Texas SWAT team commander -- he is dead this morning and four of his fellow officers wounded after an hours-long standoff just outside of Lubbock. The 22-year-old suspect was taken into custody actually just a few hours ago.

According to investigators on the scene, he was seen earlier trying to bait police into some type of confrontation with him. And his neighbors later reported seeing him acting strange and walking around with what appeared to be a large gun in the neighborhood later.

Now, a man did open fire on the responding officers, killing Lubbock County Sheriff's Sgt. Josh Bartlett. He leaves behind a wife and three sons.

ROMANS: All right, Friday morning, 52 minutes past the hour.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this Friday morning.

Looking at markets around the world to end the week, Asian shares closed mixed and Europe has opened narrowly mixed here this morning. On Wall Street, stock index futures up -- not very decisive but leaning a little bit higher here.

They closed mixed on Thursday balancing mostly upbeat economic reports in the U.S. with those lingering concerns about inflation. The Dow closed up 53 points. The Nasdaq and the S&P fell slightly.

Weekly jobless claims fell to the lowest since March of last year.

And U.S. oil prices pulled back for a second day in a row amid reports of a potential deal to break that stalemate at OPEC Plus.

Ultralow interest rates on homes are back. Look at this. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, 2.88 percent. That's really -- these rates are so low. It's the lowest level since mid-February. The 15- year, 2.22.

The housing market has been on fire. You've got these really low mortgage rates but you don't have a lot of homes for sale. Record low inventories and record-high prices frankly driving a lot of buyers out of the market.

Here's Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen's concern on the housing market.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I do worry about affordability and the pressures that higher housing prices will create for families that are first-time homebuyers or have less income.


ROMANS: Lower rates could some buyers back into the market. It also gives homeowners who missed out on low rates earlier this year another chance to refinance.

For the first time in history, a woman has qualified for the Navy's Special Warfare Command crew. Since she will go on to become an operator on one of the Navy's special boat crews conducting covert operations we cannot name her.

The Naval Special Warfare Command includes Navy SEALs and supports maritime special operation forces. Only 35 percent of the people who try out for the crew make it to graduation.

We don't know who you are but congratulations on breaking another one of --

SANDOVAL: It's covert.

ROMANS: It's covert.

All right, thanks for joining us, everybody. Have a great weekend. I'm Christine Romans. And thank you for being here this week.


SANDOVAL: And thanks for having me. Laura Jarrett right back in the chair on Monday. Make it a great weekend. "NEW DAY" is next.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman on this new day.

Baseball players and T.V. stars who are vaccinated say they've been infected with the coronavirus. So what is behind these breakthrough infections?

Plus, brand-new reporting that Pentagon officials feared Donald Trump would strike Iran to hang on to power after he lost the election.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave. Kevin McCarthy kissing the ring or the Latin equivalent at Hotel Bedminster despite revelations of fears that his leader would attempt a coup.

And liberals are livid this morning after Justice Stephen Breyer told CNN he's undecided on a possible retirement from the court. Breyer's former clerk joins us live to respond.