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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Olympic Games Kick Off; U.S. Pediatrics Organization Offers COVID Recommendations for Kids; Historic Space Launch. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The pandemic is getting worse by the minute. Hospitalizations and deaths increasing. Why the data is falling on deaf ears.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR: The Olympic Games kicking off today in the shadow of COVID. What Tokyo is doing to keep athletes safe.

JARRETT: First, it was Richard Branson, now it is Jeff Bezos' turn. T minus a few hours until the billionaire and three others will be launched into space.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHATTERLY: And I'm Julia Chatterley in for Christine Romans. It's Tuesday, it's July 20th, and it's 5:00 a.m. in New York.

JARRETT: OK, folks. It's just three days until the Olympics officially begin, but competition actually starts today. Softball kicks off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern with Australia versus Japan and the U.S. faces Italy at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

As for the rest of the games, they can't come soon enough for the organizers of these events. Tokyo just reported its second highest increase of new cases January 21st.

Blake Essig is live in Tokyo for us.

Blake, another day, another athlete testing positive for COVID. What is the feeling in Tokyo right now?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Laura, as far as athletes are concerned, generally speaking some are worried and for good reason by no fault of their own after a lifetime of preparation, their Olympic dream could be cut short if they catch COVID-19 or are considered a close contact with someone who tests positive.

Now, that fear has been realized by two American athletes already who tested positive for COVID-19 including Katie Lou Samuelson of the 3x3 women's basketball team, and Kara Eaker, an alternate for the women's gymnastics team. While cases continue to surge in the capital, as of today, 71 people involved with these games have tested positive for COVID-19 here in Japan, four have come from inside the Olympic Village.

Now, despite the growing case count, First lady Jill Biden is still planning to travel to Tokyo for the Olympics during her visit. White officials say that she will follow strict safety and health protocols, limit engagement with the public and keep as small of a footprint as possible.

Now, the COVID case count piling up isn't the only issue for organizers while the opening ceremonies are just days away, organizers are left scrambling after a man in charge of composing music for the opening ceremony and closing ceremonies, Keigo Oyamada, resigned after admitting that he bullied children with disabilities as a kid.

Now, while he had recently apologized for his past actions, calls for his resignation on social media only grew louder and Olympic officials say Oyamada's music will not be used and are now considering an alternative option. It's just the latest controversy to impact the games just three days before the opening ceremony.

Now, regarding the opening ceremony, organizers are also still trying to figure out how many people will be participating, but they do say that because of the COVID-19 protocols, the number will be down from previous Olympic Games.

And finally, I'll end on a positive note. After COVID-19 related delay and questions regarding whether the team would be able to participate at all, the Refugee Olympic team has arrived in Tokyo. The team will compete under the Olympic flag and includes athletes from countries like Syria, South Sudan, Eretria, Afghanistan and Iran -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Blake Essig like in Tokyo for us this morning, thanks so much, Blake.

CHATTERLEY: Back home in the United States, we're asking the question, will America have to mask up again? Less than half the population is vaccinated and breakthrough infections among vaccinated people are rising, including a Florida congressman, six Yankee players and members of the U.S. Olympic team.

Here is the surgeon general with Anderson Cooper last night.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: If you are out there and you've got kids at home or you are immuno-compromised and you are thinking should I put my mask on when going to indoor spaces, I would strongly consider that. If you are a locality that is seeing cases rise around you and you are thinking should I put additional mitigation measures in place like masking, I would say yes, you should strongly consider that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JARRETT: Dr. Murthy says it's about protecting children, the youngest, of course, are not yet eligible for vaccinations, and vaccination rates in children to age 12 to 15. Well, they're pretty low so far. But in some school districts, kids will be back in classrooms in just a matter of weeks, and there are actually conflicting state laws about masks in schools.

Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics is weighing in.

Our Jacqueline Howard has the story.


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: It is interesting to see these different state laws especially when the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that all staff and students older than 2 wear masks.


And that's regardless of their vaccination status.

Now, the Academy's recommendation is a stricter position than what CDC recommends. The CDC says that unvaccinated people do not need to wear masks and in some states like Illinois and Michigan, school policies say masks are required only for unvaccinated students.

But in a recent CNN analysis, we've identified at least eight states that have enacted legislation blocking school districts from making mask requirements at all, period.

Now, this list is constantly changing, but those eight states which all have Republican governors include Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont. South Carolina was that first to issue an executive order, preventing schools from requiring masks.

But overall, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that with mask wearing and other prevention per measures in place, COVID-19 transmission is low in schools, plus masks can protect against other respiratory illnesses, too. So it's something to think about.

Back to you.


CHATTERLEY: COVID concerns and the delta variant have investors pretty hard too. Take a look at this -- the Dow falling 725 points for its worst day since late October and its biggest decline of the year. The S&P 500 meanwhile ending the day town over 1.5 percent, the tech heavy Nasdaq down just over 1 percent.

Just bear in mind in terms of the volatility that the Dow plunged more than 1,000 points six times last year. Five of those times were at the start of the pandemic. And broader context key as well. We are still only 3 percent away from

record highs. The Dow is still 11 percent this year, and growth does remain strong even if there are worries that we may have seen the best of it.

Just take a look at futures right now, because we are attempting to take back around a quarter of yesterday's losses. So, some consolidation here from the red across the screen that we saw yesterday.

Investors are concerned that the delta variant could threaten the recovery of companies that would benefit from a reopening economy particularly, those in places like the travel industry -- well, they were the hardest hit. American Airlines, United, Delta, as you can see there, 45 percent lower. Cruise lines too desperate to set sail again also falling in the session.

Cases as we've been discussing, rising across the country, not enough people getting vaccinated. You can throw in rising prices and fears of the Federal Reserve having to raise rates to tame those inflation numbers. And what do you get, Laura? You get volatility.

JARRETT: Interesting to see those airline stocks down so much even though air travel right now is huge. I was in the airport last weekend, the lines were all around -- I mean, just crazy. For 45 minutes, I stood in a security line.

CHATTERLEY: They have recovered a long way, but just taking a bit back now, in case we see an uptick in cases. Concerns about growth going forward.

JARRETT: Yeah, they're looking at the same data we are, right?

CHATTERLEY: Uncertainty.

JARRETT: All right. In a couple hours, the world's richest man on earth will take the ride of a lifetime. And CNN is at the site of the historic launch.




NEIL ARMSTRONG, U.S. ASTRONAUT: It's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.


JARRETT: Fifty-two years later, a different kind of history will be made in space. Today, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will board the first crewed flight of New Shepard, the rocket ship made by his company, Blue Origin. The world's richest man will be joined by his brother Mark and two other passengers who happen to be the youngest and oldest people to ever travel to space. Bezos addressed critics of the mission's costs on Monday, conceding

they may have a point.

CNN's coverage begins with Rachel Crane at the launch site in Van Horn, Texas.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: This flight is a dream come true for Bezos and his fellow crewmates. Bezos also telling me he is incredibly curious to know how the flight is going to change him, saying he knows it's going to change him, he just doesn't know how. That is in reference to what's called the overview effect, 500 people roughly have traveled to space, and they all have spoken of this overview effect, what happens to you when you see the Earth from above without borders and the vulnerability of our planet.

But, you know, a lot of people have been critical of these flights. That is because of the price tag. One person paying $28 million to secure a seat at auction for a New Shepard flight. Now, that seat has been filled by Oliver Daemen, taking place at the auction winner, Blue Origin saying the auction winner has a scheduling conflict.

But, you know, these flights are incredibly expensive, so a lot of people have been critical of that. I had an opportunity to speak to Bezos about it. Take a listen to what he had to say.

There have been a chorus of critics saying that these flights to space, you now, just joy rides for the wealthy, and that you should be spending your time and your money and energy trying to solve problems here on Earth.

So, what do you say to those critics?

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, BLUE ORIGIN: Well, I say that they are largely right. We have to do both. You know, we have -- we have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to look to the future. We've always done that as a species, as a civilization.


We have to do both. And what our job at Blue Origin is to do, and what this space tourism mission is about is having a mission where we can practice so much that we get really good at operational space travel, more like a commercial airliner and less like what you think of as traditional space travel. If we can do that, then we'll be building a road to space for the next generation to do amazing things there, and those amazing things will solve problems here on earth.

CRANE: The reason that Bezos and his team at Blue Origin feel so confident in the safety and security of this capsule is because it has what's called a full envelope escape, meaning that at any point during the journey, if there was an anomaly, the capsule has the ability to jettison itself away from the rocket and get to safety. Now, during the mission briefing, they said that all systems are a go,

so if Mother Nature cooperates, this launch will be taking flight at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Now to my colleague Kristin who's also here at the launch site.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Julia, this is a moment that Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin have been working towards for 21 years, the first time that people are actually riding up into space on one of their own rockets. These four crew members have been training here at launch site one for the last two days and now they're going to be lifting off onboard Blue Origin's New Shepard system, which is essentially a reusable rocket system, very different from what we saw Virgin Galactic and Richard Branson do just nine days ago, because that was a supersonic space plane with pilots on board.

This New Shepard spacecraft is a reusable booster and capsule system meaning that we're going to get to see a rocket launch and a rocket landing and this be that capsule will the four astronauts are will glide down gently back to Earth with the assistance of three big parachutes. And the big difference here, this system that we're going to see today, entirely autonomous and robotic. There is no pilot.

There are also much bigger windows, which is something that the Blue Origin team likes to point out and they will also be going a little bit higher into space, above the internationally recognized boundary of space, the Karman Line. But the journey is going to be a lot shorter. It is only going to be about an 11-minute flight as opposed to Virgin Galactic's 90 minute flight.

Now, big picture here, Blue Origin's vision, their grand vision for this company is to build a cargo route into space, to ultimately move all industry, heavy industry and mining into space to protect planet earth. Obviously that is still a very, very long way away. But Blue Origin believes that the launch today is at least a small step in that direction -- Laura and Julia.


CHATTERLEY: Thanks to Rachel and Kristin there.

Now, it's way more than just space tourism for Jeff Bezos. Another step for Blue Origin getting its technology into the market. "The Wall Street Journal" reports it's working on a rocket engine for United Launch Alliance that works with the Pentagon. The company has always been working on another reusable rocket, the New Glenn, it would carry people and pay loads routinely to orbit.

A successful trip today could also provide traction in emerging space tourism market. Blue Origin is trying to land large government contracts that provide a steady revenue stream. Blue Origin has trailed Elon Musk's SpaceX in that area, outpacing Bezos' company in Pentagon contracts by around 5:1.

As for the New Shepard's launch today, Bezos' space rival Elon Musk tweeted: Best of luck, quote, to the team. The billionaire buddies competitors but also friendly about space.

JARRETT: He's been a good sport.


JARRETT: Kind of.

All right. Still ahead, Fox News hosts regularly rail against vaccines against COVID, but behind the scenes, turns out the company has quietly implemented its own version of the vaccine passport.




Another major ransomware attack and this time it is a law firm with big name clients like Ford, Walgreens and Coca-Cola. The firm Campbell Conroy & O'Neil says it was hit in February and hackers gained access to a firm system containing sensitive personal information like Social Security numbers. It is unclear how much data was stolen and there is no claim of responsibility yet.

JARRETT: Also, the Biden administration is debating internally how or even whether to impose sanctions on China for its misconduct in the cyberspace. On Monday, the White House and international allies accuse China of using criminal hackers to carry out malicious activities around the world.

But the administration has stopped short of penalizing Beijing. It's a stark contrast to how it responded to Russia in its cyberattacks in recent months. Overnight, China called the accusations groundless, politically motivated smears.

CHATTERLEY: Now, while Fox News hosts have been railing against vaccine passport on air, they failed to mention that parent company uses something like it to take protect its own workers. In an email obtained by CNN business, Fox Corporation asked employees in June to self report their vaccination status to receive a, quote, Fox clear pass. Employees who supply vaccinate dates don't have to complete the daily health screenings. It's unclear whether Fox will require vaccinations when it hopes to fully reopen its offices after Labor Day.

JARRETT: You know, it's just so hypocritical as so many who have been vaccinated themselves are the ones that are railing against the vaccines that protect people.

CHATTERLEY: Just be honest.


CHATTERLY: Talk to people and tell the truth and get the vaccine.

[05:25:00] JARRETT: Always good advice.


JARRETT: Well, the future of President Biden's infrastructure bill hanging in the balance now. What the White House plans to do if Senate Republicans try to block it? That's next.


JARRETT: Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHATTERLEY: And I'm Julia Chatterley. It is 30 minutes past the hour.

JARRETT: OK, folks, the warning signs are all here. Coronavirus is making a very real comeback and it is being driven mostly by the delta variant. In the last two weeks alone, average case counts are up nationally by 145.