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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden: Vaccination Shows You "Care About Your Fellow Americans"; COVID Cases Spiking in Tokyo One Day Before Start of Olympics; Madowo: "My Uncle Died of COVID-19 Before He Could Get a Vaccine". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Julia Chatterley. It is Thursday, July 22nd, and it is 5:00 a.m. in New York.

JARRETT: This morning, for the first time in his presidency, Joe Biden faces a pandemic that is headed in the wrong direction. The delta variant now the dominant strain in the United States and sources tell CNN top White House and federal health officials are now holding preliminary talks about possibly urging vaccinated Americans to go back to wearing masks.

COVID was a major topic at CNN's presidential town hall last night.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is simple basic proposition. If you are vaccinated, you are not going to be hospitalized. You're not going to be in the ICU unit, and you're not going to die. So it is important that we all act like Americans that care about our fellow Americans.

We're not in a position where we think that any virus including the delta virus, which is much more transmissible and more deadly in terms of unvaccinated people, the various shots that people are getting now cover that. You're okay. You're not going to -- you're not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.


CHATTERLEY: So that last part is actually incorrect. A small percentage of vaccinated people are still being infected with COVID, although they are far less likely to die from it. But the need to stop the so-called breakthrough cases is just a reason to keep an eye on the CDC. Now, they are meeting today to review whether booster shots will be needed.

JARRETT: Last night, the president also sounded the alarm on misinformation when it comes to these vaccines. He said the conspiracy theories flourishing in the U.S. are not just dividing the nation, they are hurting America's reputation around the world.


BIDEN: Rest of the world is wondering about us. Those of you who travel abroad, not a joke. Not a joke. You asked -- you know, when I went to the G7, all the major democracies, I walked in and I know a lot of them because of my role in the past.

And I walk in and I said America is back and they go -- I'm serious, heads of state, I give you my word as Biden, said are you really back? I mean, how can -- we believe you Joe, but will the country ever get it together.


JARRETT: Let's bring in "New York Times" White House and national security correspondent David Sanger who is also a CNN analyst.

David, good morning to you.

You heard the president last night, he says America is back, but other world leaders ask him will the country ever get it together. How does he make a convincing case to other world leaders when a non- insubstantial number of Republicans actually think that he wasn't even legitimately elected president, half the country is overwhelmed by all of this misinformation and refusing to get vaccinated, even to save their own lives? Meanwhile, voting rights are slowly being chipped away for future election. How does he sell that case?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It was a hard one. And I was on that trip that the president took through Europe and we were talking to him and to White House aides along the way.

But there are two forms of skepticism that I think he ran into. The first is how do we know that you are not a blip. In other words, they are happy to see Joe Biden, they know him, they understand who he is, but they think that it is possible that when we look back on history, his presidency will be sandwiched between President Trump and someone Trump-like that succeeds him.

But the second issue that comes up exactly the one that he raised, which is they see an American democracy they don't really recognize, they see one in which conspiracy theory takes off, not just that there are conspiracy theories, there always have been, but that big part of the population believes in it, whether that is the election or whether it is about the vaccines. And I think that was at the core of his -- you know, there are two Americas that he did last night -- an unvaccinated America and a vaccinated America. And I think people look at that around the world and they shake their heads as well.

CHATTERLEY: Yeah. And, David, I mean, some leaders, some adversaries of the United States are looking at America and they're using that. And President Biden touched on that yesterday too. He said, look at China's Xi Jinping, Russia's Vladimir Putin, they are banking on a future not of democracy but autocracy. Let me play what he said about that.


BIDEN: I talked to Xi -- Xi Jinping in China who I know well.


We don't agree on a lot of things. He is a bright and really tough guy. He truly believes that the 21st century will be determined by oligarchs.

I have a long meeting with Putin, and I continue -- I know him well. These guys actually are betting -- betting, I'm not joking, on autocracies. Democracy has to stand up and demonstrate that you can get something done.


CHATTERLEY: David, what do you make of the point that he was making there? I mean China in particular has proven that at times particularly with the pandemic control can have a difference and a positive impact.

SANGER: That's exactly right. And, you know, this is a theme that President Biden has struck many times in the first six months of his presidency. And frankly, it has been a bit of a surprise because it's not the way he talked when he was vice president. It is not the way he talked when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Instead, he has described what is essentially the makings of a new Cold War, one in which he is pitting the United States against (AUDIO GAP) and that is a very big difference. He is making the case that we have to prove the democracies can deliver and that all the chaos around the vaccine, around the election conspiracy theories make it hard to convince people that democracy can deliver. I think that he believes this very much in his heart. I'm not sure whether going toe to toe with Russia and China simultaneously is necessarily the best approach, but he may not have a choice right now.

JARRETT: David, you obviously cover national security for "The Times." The attack on the Capitol came up last night. He spent a lot of time on COVID, but this was also a big point. Take a listen to what he said on that.


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


JARRETT: David, how does the president continue to hold on to sort of this hope of bipartisanship, this ideal, and not look out of touch when so many Republicans are pushing all these false narratives about with a was clearly a deadly attack calling it just a normal tourist visit.

SANGER: You know, it is a fascinating time for him to make this case because of course we just went through the drama yesterday of Nancy Pelosi rejecting two of the six Republican nominees to look at what happened on January 6 and the Republicans pulling out.

So, I think when people look at this around the world they think America is in denial about what really went on. I was up on Capitol Hill yesterday talking to a number of members. They tell me that in the private conversations, it is a little bit better than that. That you are hearing a little bit more reality, but you've got a lot of Republicans who fear that they cannot go against the leadership and get away from this narrative that, you know, January 6th wasn't all that big a deal.

And I think that is why they fear this investigation so much because it will dredge up all those examples and will have subpoena power along the way. I don't think this is a breach that is going to be healed anytime soon, certainly not before the 2022 election.

JARRETT: Still unclear to me why they make that political calculation, much less a moral calculation. But we'll save that for another day.

SANGER: Not exactly profiles of courage.

JARRETT: No, not at all.

All right. David Sanger, thank you so much. Appreciate you getting up early for us.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

CHATTERLEY: OK, the economy also a hot topic. Restaurant owners are struggling to find workers as customer demand increases. President Biden addressed the labor shortage too during the town hall.


BIDEN: A lot of people who now -- who worked as waiters and waitresses decided not to do that anymore because there's other opportunities at higher wages, because there's a lot of openings now in jobs. People are looking to make more money and to bargain. So I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while.


CHATTERLEY: Restaurant workers are quitting their jobs at twice the rate of any other sector, the so-called quit rate for the food services sector was 5.7 percent in May. But being retrained for jobs with higher wages isn't the only reason restaurant workers are walking away from the industry. There are of course health and safety concerns. Many are working longer hours because restaurants are short staffed and there are still child care challenges keeping many people especially women at home.

JARRETT: Did you find it interesting how he sort of pushed back against the conventional narrative that people aren't going to work because they are collecting this paycheck and all these benefits even though they are largely expiring very soon?


Did you think that it was surprising how he pushed back?

CHATTERLEY: I think it was good that he acknowledged that people realized that they wanted to have a different job but he also did acknowledge that that may have played into it, and actually, these numbers are rolling off, and obviously we've seen that happening in many states. And so I think he found a good balance on the economy actually.

JARRETT: Yeah, I thought it was interesting, a lot of people point to anecdotal reports, but there isn't actual concrete evidence to prove it, and he clearly he's tapped in that.

CHATTERLEY: Yeah, time to retrain and there is that going on.

JARRETT: Yeah. All right. Still ahead, the Olympics are 24 hours away. We're here, folks. The opening ceremony dealt a second big blow this week. We are live in Tokyo, next.



JARRETT: The Tokyo Olympics officially begin in 24 hours and already linked to 91 cases of coronavirus. But that's not stopping nearly 1,000 VIPs from attending the opening ceremonies.

CNN's Blake Essig is live in Tokyo for us.

Blake, Tokyo just reported the highest increase in new cases since January 15th. Yet the games are going on.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Laura, we are just one day away from the torch being lit and the start of Tokyo 2020 despite a surge of cases in Tokyo and a pandemic that is still raging in many parts of the world. And while the head of the World Health Organization has backed these Olympic games, he has also offered a little perspective saying by the time the Olympic flame is extinguished, more than 100,000 people will perish of COVID-19.

Now, here in the Capitol, even with the state of emergency order in place, cases recorded today reached its fourth highest daily total since the pandemic began. As far as the Olympic-related cases are concerned, that number currently stands at 91, with four new cases confirmed in the Olympic Village, bringing that total up to eight.

It's clear that the Olympic Village bubble has in fact been punctured. Athletes are worried about catching COVID-19 or being considered a close contact with someone who tests positive, essentially ending their dream before it has even started here at these Olympic Games. It is a cruel situation that has already played out for five members of Team USA and 13 athletes from around the rest of the world.

Sadly, there's no question the story will continue to repeat itself in the days and weeks to come, but not before at least one more Olympic scandal. Earlier today, opening and closing ceremony director Kentaro Kobayashi was fired for mocking the holocaust and making anti-Semitic jokes during a comedy routine back in the '90s, assuming the opening ceremony does take place tomorrow night.

One thing that we do know, that Japan will try to put on a show but only 950 dignitaries will be there in person to see it out of 68,000 seat stadium, and that includes First Lady Jill Biden who arrived in Tokyo just about an hour ago -- Laura.

JARRETT: Very different Olympics and very different opening ceremony, that is for sure.

Blake Essig, thank you so much.

CHATTERLEY: Vaccine inequality affecting so much. How the shortage of shots around the world left one CNN correspondent heartbroken and angry after losing a third family member to COVID. That's next.




The vaccination rate in the United States has fallen to its lowest level since January, 48.8 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, that is barely 1 percentage point higher than two weeks ago, while the rest of the world is begging for the shot.

JARRETT: And that includes Kenya, where CNN's Larry Madowo is based.

Larry, you have a pretty powerful new digital piece up on CNN titled "My uncle died of COVID-19 before he could get a vaccine in Kenya and I got mine in a U.S. drugstore. This is what vaccine inequality looks like.

First of all, I'm so sorry for your loss, Larry. I know your grandmother has been on a ventilator for weeks. With the U.S. now reaching the point -- and you lived here, the U.S. now reaching that point where states are actually throwing away vaccines because they have gone unused for too long. We're holding million dollar lotteries. We're offering free beer with shots.

How do you possibly reconcile this type of inequity on such a massive scale, how are you not just infuriated all the time?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura, it is unconscionable, that's plain and simple. And that's not an opinion. That's just a fact, because while the U.S. and most of the western world is entering a post-pandemic life, it is still carnage here. And because western nations are stockpiling and hoarding vaccines, people are dying here in Africa.

And this is no longer just a story that I'm covering on two continents. This is a personal tragedy for my family. My uncle got COVID and died within a couple days. He didn't have a chance to get a vaccine. He was in his 60s. He proper I believe would have had two, three decades left. And we'll just never know.

My grandmother has been on a ventilator for five weeks and counting. And she is 96. How is it possible that we live in a world where anybody over the age of 12 can get a vaccine in the U.S. and people in their 90s in Africa cannot get a vaccine? That is the inequality we talk about, that is the reality that I'm living through right now.

And I've heard from so many other people in Kenya, all across Africa who say they have lost family members, they have lost parents because they didn't get a vaccine in time. Even today as we speak, there is still no vaccine available for most Kenyans. Only 1.1 percent of the population is vaccinated. And I contrast that with my own situation living in Washington, D.C., I got vaccinated back in April because I walked into a CVS and there were plenty of appointments available at Walgreens. The D.C. health department said you can book an appointment. People are getting bribed with doughnuts, with beer, with cash just to get vaccinated.

For many Africans, they're telling me, can they give us the vaccines they don't want? When they see protests in Europe against mandatory vaccinations, they just want those vaccines whenever they can get them, because so many people are dying unnecessarily and maybe those could have been prevented if they didn't have vaccines.

And, Laura, you don't know the agony every time I see a call from home, I'm afraid it is a call to say my grandmother has died and that's something I have to live with.


JARRETT: You know, it's just -- it's such a stark reminder that you are covering this story, we're all covering this story as journalists, obviously, but we're also living the story and you are going through that agony that nobody should have to go through with a disease that is now preventable. And as you said, it is just unconscionable.

Larry, thank you for your piece and thank you for your candor in telling the story. Appreciate it.

All right. While COVID ravages the world, questions about how it all started may go unanswered forever. Why did China effectively shut down the investigation? We have breaking details next.