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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Olympians Diagnosed with COVID As Cases Climb Across Japan; Heat and Drought Kill Trees Across U.S. Northwest; Major Cities in the U.S. Rocked By Another Weekend of U.S. Gun Violence. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 19, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. We have reports this morning from Japan, Alabama, Germany, Los Angeles, Washington, Hong Kong and London as only CNN can. This is EARLY START, I'm Laura Jarrett.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: And I'm Julia Chatterley in for Christine Romans, it's Monday, July 19th, it is 5:00 a.m. in New York.

JARRETT: So great to have you here extra early, Julia --

CHATTERLEY: Great to be here, got up early --

JARRETT: This whole week. All right, four days and counting to the start of the Tokyo Olympics, and things are anything but smooth. Another top American athlete won't be making the trip. Tennis phenom Coco Gauff now out of the games after testing positive for COVID-19. Two athletes in Tokyo's Olympic Village also testing positive now. In all, at least 58 cases of coronavirus have been found among athletes, officials and contractors there.

CHATTERLEY: As the number of Olympic participants falls, the number of cases in Japan is climbing fast. A big spike shows no signs of slowing ahead of Friday's opening ceremony. CNN's Blake Essig is live in Tokyo, Japan. Blake, what are officials saying this morning?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Laura and Julia, with just a few days to go before the start of the Olympics, it's fair to say that things are not exactly going smoothly. As you guys mentioned, so far 58 people involved with the games have tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Japan. And there's also a growing list of athletes and Olympic-related personnel who have been forced into isolation after being considered close contacts with people who tested positive. Now, despite all that, Olympic officials maintain that they will be able to hold a safe and secure Olympics. Take a listen.


MASA TAKAYA, SPOKESMAN, TOKYO 2020: Our Olympic Village is a safe place to stay. We cannot say there will be no positive cases within the Olympic community given the situation that we have a massive number of people are -- you know, are engaged within this project.


ESSIG: Now, the increase in cases across the board continues to negatively impact public support for the games. And it's likely the reason why top Olympic games sponsor Toyota has decided not to air Olympic-related ads during the games. Now, it's no secret that the Olympics have been and continue to be deeply unpopular with the majority of people in Japan. Many who feel that Olympic organizers are holding this event against the will of the people. And while COVID-19 remains a primary concern for Olympic participants, another big challenge will be dealing with Japan's extreme heat and high humidity.

Now, the rainy season here in Japan has come and gone and temperatures are now in the 90s and will likely get much warmer in the coming weeks. Now, there is some potential good news for athletes, like U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, who said recently that she worried about performance anxieties as a result of competing with no fans in the stands. Now, perhaps to help ease that anxiety, Olympic organizers plan to create a crowd-like atmosphere by allowing fans to virtually attend, record six-second video selfies that will play inside arenas and by using recorded crowd noise from past Olympic games.

And while it's not quite the Olympic atmosphere any of us were hoping for, I suppose it's better than silence. Laura, Julia?

JARRETT: Well, that is certainly putting it mildly. Virtual crowd noise is not at all like fans in the stands. Another sort of piece of this COVID reality, I guess you might say is some news overnight, athletes are complaining about what they're calling anti-sex beds in the Olympic Village. Tell us more.

ESSIG: Yes, Laura, these beds that are being used by athletes inside the Olympic Village are made of recycled materials. In the beginning, a lot of attention lately after some media reports and athlete tweets came out saying that they were anti-sex and would collapse under the weight of more than one person or would break at any sudden movements. That theory was somewhat put to the test and disproved by an Irish gymnast who posted this video on Twitter of him jumping on the bed. Organizers say these beds are not anti-sex and can support up to 440 pounds of weight. These beds will be turned into recycled paper after the games. Laura, Julia?

JARRETT: Oh, my God, "Late Night" is going to have a field day with this. All right, Blake Essig, thank you so much for that, I appreciate your reporting as usual.

CHATTERLEY: Let's move on. There's a reason the CDC director calls this a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Coronavirus vaccines are working like they're supposed to. The Surgeon General says 99.5 percent of virus deaths in the United States right now are among the unvaccinated.


Combating or the misinformation out there about vaccines remains a struggle. Even one Republican governor this weekend said he's had enough.


GOV. SPENCER COX (R-UT): We have these talking heads who have gotten the vaccine and are telling other people not to get the vaccine. That kind of stuff is just -- it's ridiculous. It's dangerous. It's damaging. And it's killing people. And it's literally killing their supporters, and that makes no sense to me.


JARRETT: Alabama is one of the states with the lowest vaccination rates right now. At least, one vaccine clinic over the weekend in Birmingham -- get this, only 11 people showed up there. CNN's Natasha Chen was there and she reports from Fairfield, Alabama.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Julia, new cases of COVID- 19 are increasing in all 50 states and Washington D.C., and most people becoming hospitalized are unvaccinated. Dr. Scott Gottlieb; former commissioner for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said he expects that the majority of people who are susceptible to COVID-19, those who have not gotten vaccinated and who did not previously get infected, will become infected with the Delta variant because it is highly contagious.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: But if 25 percent of the population remains susceptible to the virus in absolute terms, that's still a lot of people. And this virus is so contagious, this variant is so contagious that it's going to infect the majority that most people will either get vaccinated or have been previously infected or they will get this Delta variant. And for most people who get this Delta variant, it's going to be the most serious virus they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital.


CHEN: Health officials in multiple states told me their biggest challenge right now is dispelling myths and misinformation about the vaccine. We met a couple of young women who got their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine here in Alabama where people under 30 are the least vaccinated in the state.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take it from me, I'm 15 years old, go get the vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you see this and you're my age and you're just thinking about getting it, go ahead and get it to just safe -- to just be safe.


CHEN: One of those young women told us she came to get her vaccine to protect other members of her family, including her newborn and her sister who has underlying health conditions and already experienced COVID-19 twice. Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN over the weekend that studies of the vaccine on younger children look good right now, but the final decision on that will be up to the FDA, and that won't likely happen until well into the Winter toward the end of the year. Julia and Laura, back to you.

JARRETT: All right, Natasha Chen, thank you so much for that. Inflation is posing a headache for the White House as the economy reopens. Officials think that it's temporary, but public concern about this is growing. Time for three questions in three minutes. Let's bring in CNN's White House correspondent John Harwood. John, good morning to you. You write in a new piece for CNN that inflation actually surpassed wages and unemployment as the public's top concern about the economy, and that the White House can't actually do much about it. So, what's the plan?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the plan is largely to wait it out and try to do what they can to smooth-out some of the bumps surrounding the reopening of this economy. As the Fed and the White House economists often point out, we've never shut down a massive economy like the United States and then quickly reopened it. And what happens is you've got mismatches between supply and demand and things that went dormant don't always get started up rapidly overnight aggravated by some factors such as the shortage of semiconductors which makes it very difficult to build new cars.

And so car prices have gone way up, prices of building homes is way up. The White House had a meeting on Friday night with representatives of the home building industry as well as labor unions to try to figure out what they can do to smooth-out bottlenecks in the process. They're trying to move goods in and out of American ports faster to ease supply constraints. So all these things are happening, but the average American is seeing prices for gas and for clothing, I mentioned autos goes up, many other goods.

And in the short term, those are right now out-pacing some of the wage inflations. So people may be feeling in their pocketbook that while things overall improving substantially in the economy, unemployment is going down, growth is going to be robust in 2021, there are some strains that people are going to feel.

CHATTERLEY: Yes, and we just have to hope, everybody is just hoping that it moderates as some -- as everyone seems to hope. John, can I ask you about Facebook, it was much talked about over the weekend, they've clearly rebutted President Biden and others inside the White House who claimed it's quote, "killing people with vaccine misinformation." They said the president is scapegoating them effectively for missed vaccine targets. But, you know, as we all know, Facebook spent years now trying to fight misinformation. And I think consensus belief is that they failed. How do you see this playing out? Does it end up in some kind of legislation?


HARWOOD: That could be because you've got a lot of concern for different reasons about big tech, both on the left and on the right. But I think more narrowly on this question of vaccines and vaccine misinformation, you're going to see the White House continue to put pressure on because for the very reason of the story that you opened the show with, about the problems at the Olympics with this rapidly spreading coronavirus and variants that are outpacing some of the efforts to get on top of the situation. Getting more and more and more people vaccinated is an Uber priority for everyone in the world, really, as well as in the United States.

And so, when the United States is sort of gotten all the people who are interested in getting it from the start, they've got to incrementally continue to make progress and get that last 35 percent of the American people get a shot in their arm. And putting pressure on social media companies which spread a lot of whatever they say about the percentage of positive vaccine information on their platforms. There's a lot of negative information, disinformation, and the White House and I think others, public health officials are going to keep putting the pressure on.


JARRETT: So, John, finally, it's a huge week for the president's economic agenda. We say that a lot, but we got these Democratic- imposed deadlines. But you've covered Washington for a long time, now, you know how deadlines go in D.C. You've got the sort of traditional infrastructure bill and then, also, the human side of this, that side of the infrastructure bill. What are you looking for?

HARWOOD: Well, I think this week is going to be very interesting because Chuck Schumer; the Senate Democratic leader has tried to put pressure on the bipartisan process by saying we're going to begin to vote on Wednesday. You saw yesterday with Dana Bash on "STATE OF THE UNION", Rob Portman, the Republican senator from Ohio, one of the members of the bipartisan team saying, nope, we're not going to do tougher IRS enforcement as a way of getting revenue. That was one of the easiest ways of getting serious money without raising anybody's tax rates.

And if they take that off the table, it's going to be more difficult to make that bipartisan deal happen. I think Republicans are pushing back against that Wednesday deadline, Democrats are going to figure out how far they can push and whether it's worth salvaging that process or whether they're going to fold it all together in that one Democrats only process. I think they still want to pursue a bipartisan deal, but it's getting dicier and dicier by the day.

JARRETT: All right, well, we will see whether that is possible. John Harwood this morning, thank you so much, appreciate it. And this little programming note for you, President Biden joins our Don Lemon for an exclusive CNN presidential town hall live Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. only on CNN.

CHATTERLEY: Eighty large wildfires raging in 13 states across the United States burning, more than 1 million acres. The devastating impact next.



CHATTERLEY: Welcome back to EARLY START. Life-threatening wildfires have scorched more than a million acres across the west. There are now more than 80 big wildfires raging across 13 states. The Bootleg Fire in Oregon, one of the largest in recent memory, the extreme heat and droughts taking a devastating toll on trees not least the Christmas trees grown in the Pacific west.

JARRETT: One farm says they lost 100 percent of their seedlings this year hurting their business for years to come.


DANA FURROW, FURROW FARMS: We're sitting here watching trees that we've been growing for six-plus years, every year you trim, you fertilize, you have labor costs into that, and you're watching them all die in one day.


JARRETT: Fire officials say they really need some rain or even snow to help extinguish the Bootleg Fire. CNN's Paul Vercammen has more from Los Angeles.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN REPORTER: Laura, Julia, the biggest madness of all these fires burning right now is that Bootleg Fire in Oregon burning near the California border. It has churned up about 300,000 acres of forest and counting. It has burned down dozens of structures, threatening several thousand homes, air quality a big factor here. The forest service has come out and said that in southern Oregon, eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, anybody with a respiratory issue should be extremely careful because the smoke is hazardous.

Now, down in California, one fire near the Nevada border, the Camrick(ph) Fire, it is also churning up acres and firefighters there, saying they're going to focus on saving people's lives and saving homes. That's where they are putting all of their efforts right now. That fire was started by lightning, and we bring up lightning because to the north of me here in California, there's a red flag warning out in parts of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County, they're expecting a mix of wet and dry lightning. Lightning, of course, has been the culprit in many severe fires that have hit California in recent years. Reporting from Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen, now back to you. Laura, Julia.

CHATTERLEY: A series of shootings over the weekend put the spotlight on rising gun crimes in the nation's capital and major cities across the United States. We'll discuss next.



JARRETT: Welcome back. Some deadly shootings in the nation's capital this weekend putting renewed focus on gun violence in the United States. Officials say a 6-year-old girl was killed and five adults were injured in a drive-by shooting in Washington D.C. on Friday night. Nyiah Courtney was on the sidewalk getting ready to board a bus as shots were fired from a nearby car. Her grandmother telling "WJLA" that Nyiah's mother who tried to shield her daughter from the gunfire is still unconscious recovering in the hospital.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nyiah was an amazing little girl. My granddaughter did nothing to no one to be the one that had to be buried. And I pray that another child don't suffer in the way my granddaughter had to suffer.


JARRETT: There was also a shooting near Nationals Park in southeast D.C., audible gunshots sent fans and players scrambling for safety in the middle of the game on Saturday evening.


You can hear the audio -- look at that. The scare left managers from both the Nationals and the Padres shaken.


DAVE MARTINEZ, MANAGER, WASHINGTON NATIONALS: I love this city. You know, this city is my home. It can get crazy, we all know that. And we all want to feel safe.

JAYCE TINGLER, MANAGER, SAN DIEGO PADRE: I couldn't be any more proud to be a padre. To be -- to be with the men in there and, obviously, they're going out and they're thinking of their loved ones and they're getting their families and then it's just human nature. They're seeing fans and seeing people in panic. They just -- they did the right thing.


CHATTERLEY: And just the last few minutes, we learned of shootings in Gainesville, Florida, injuring five and at a Houston motel injuring four. In Tucson, Arizona a shooting left at least three crime scenes with two people killed. An EMT worker and the suspect in critical condition, and a search is underway for at least two children. In Philadelphia, there are more than 30 shooting victims, including a 1- year-old. And in Chicago, at least 53 people were shot over the weekend.

JARRETT: Yes, speaking of Chicago, you've got the violence but you've also got criminal justice reform. Illinois now the first state in the country to ban police from lying to young people during police interrogations. Governor J.B. Pritzker signing the bill along with three other criminal justice reform measures promoting restorative justice practices. The new laws allow the state's attorney to request resentencing if someone's original sentence, quote, "no longer advances the interest of justice." It also creates a taskforce to study ways to reduce the state's prison population.

CHATTERLEY: OK, some good news, we hope for the nation's drivers. OPEC and its allies reaching a deal. Why the boost in oil supply can help ease the pressure on gas prices -- yes, please.