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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

COVID Cases Surge in U.S. as Vaccinations Rates Plummet; French Lawmakers Approve Bill Expanding Health Pass Use; 13-Year-Old Wins Women's Street Skateboarding; Opening Ceremony Watched by 70+ Million People in Japan; Partisan Battle Lines Drawn on Committee Makeup. Aired 4:00-4:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London. Just head on CNN NEWSROOM.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's not going to be good. We're going in a wrong direction.


SOARES: Vaccine hesitancies fueling the surge in cases and hospitalizations across the United States. Making it even more urgent to get more Americans to get the shot.

A changing mood in Japan. The Olympics spark optimism despite months of coronavirus restrictions. We are live in Tokyo for you this hour with the latest details.

And China plays the blame game during a diplomatic visit by a top U.S. diplomat.

Happy Monday everyone. Now the United States seeing a sharp rise in new infections as the delta variant spreads and vaccination rates fall. Less than half of all Americans are fully vaccinated as the U.S. reach herd immunity. It's estimated at least 70 percent of the population need COVID vaccines. But vaccine hesitancy as well as misinformation are continuing to chip away at efforts to slow the virus. The majority of U.S. or more than 50 percent increase new COVID infections last week -- represented in the map you're looking at in a sea of dark red. Top health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said the most pressing need right now is to get shots in arms. Take a listen.


FAUCI: If you look historically at the model that has been done over the last 18 months, for the most part, it's been pretty accurate. So, I'm not sure it would be the worst-case scenario but it's not going to be good. We're going in the wrong direction. Since we have 50 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated, that's a problem. Particularly when you have a variant like delta which has this extraordinary characteristic of being able to spread very efficiently and very easily from person to person. And we know we have many, many, many vulnerable people in this country who are unvaccinated.


SOARES: Well experts are also warning that if cases continue to rise, restrictions will likely make a comeback.


DR. JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: More mitigation is coming. Whether it's masking or whether it's closures or whether it's your kids having to return to virtual learning. That is coming. And it's coming because this pandemic is spiraling out of control yet again.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER COMMISSIONER, U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: The masks can still be helpful against this new variant. The physical characteristics of this virus has not changed. The reason it's more transmissible, is that there's more of it. When people get infected, they get more virus. Higher viral level and they exude more virus so they're more contagious.

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ADVISER, WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE: It does mask to wear a mask and I liken it to this. Getting vaccinated is equivalent to carrying a umbrella. It keeps you mostly dry. But it doesn't mean that in a bad storm, you shouldn't also wear a rain jacket if you really want to ensure you stay dry. And so, it does make sense to have layers of protection when you need them.


SOARES: Well, some major U.S. cities are starting to take that advice. St. Louse, Missouri is latest to reimplement mask requirements. Starting today masks are mandatory in all indoor public areas for anyone over the age of 5. The city's health department said the measure is needed because not enough people have yet been vaccinated.

While St. Louis is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles. It made masks mandatory again a little over a week ago -- if you remember. Los Angeles officials are hoping we'll see help revert the surge in hospitalizations there. CNN's Paul Vercammen has more for you.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The delta variant helping to drive up the number of cases in Los Angeles County. The most concerning statistic, hospitalizations. We'll get to the last numbers. That's because over the weekend, sometimes you'll have a lag, and we did see a number of new cases drop. But the hospitalizations jumped above 700 in L.A. County. Hospitalizations for COVID-19. And that is absolutely alarming.

[04:05:00] And so county health officials are saying that people need to wear their masks indoors and get vaccinated. The result of these hospitalizations is we're seeing eight county hospitals such as this, county USC, is seeing more patients. They would have one or two patients in June and now they're seeing 10 to 15 for COVID-19. So, what is driving this?

DR. PAUL HOLTOM, EPIDEMIOLOGIST L.A. COUNTY USC MEDICAL CENTER: As of right now, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. It's just extraordinarily important. That is the people who are vaccinated now seem to have high level of protection. The people we've seen, the numbers that are increasing are among people who have not gotten the vaccine. And more over its changed. We can't say anymore, well it's the old people who are going to die. It's young people now who are coming in very sick.

VERCAMMEN: So, Dr. Holtom saying that this new wave of patients is younger and many of them had excuses such as I just didn't have time to get a shot. He's urging people who've only had one shot in Los Angeles County to get that second shot and that's because they are vulnerable to a breakthrough case of the delta variant if they haven't had both of required shots. Reporting from Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.


SOARES: Thank you very much, Paul.

Well, in southern U.S. new COVID cases and hospitalizations are climbing in Alabama. According to the CDC, the state has the fewest number of fully vaccinated people in the country at 34 percent. The situation in Florida is also troubling. You can see that coronavirus cases are rising at an alarming rate and hospitals are filling up once again, except now patients are younger than before.

Arkansas is also facing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. It has a third lowest vaccination rate in the country. Listen as one Arkansas doctor explains the difficulty of treating extremely ill COVID patients and why he wants more people to get vaccinated.


DR. MICHAEL BOLDING, WASHINGTON REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: I definitely represent thousands of very tired health care workers. I just literally just came from a patient's room in his 20s and it took six people to get him in a prone position on the ventilator and we are seeing 20 and 30-year-olds dying now from a preventable illness and it's heartbreaking. We are seeing, you know, you can't be too healthy for this virus. We are seeing people that cross fit on Tuesday and on a ventilator on Friday. I see someone daily for the last three weeks that is possibly dying, certainly very sick, that asks if they can get their vaccine. And it is heartbreaking to tell them that that time has passed. That was five to six weeks ago to prevent this.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SOARES: Well, elsewhere around the world, cases are surging in some regions while restrictions ease in others. South Africa's president says progress has been made in fighting a third wave of infections and the country will start rolling back restrictions. But it's certainly a much different story of course in Indonesia. There were record daily death tolls on three consecutive days last week. Some restrictions have been extended for another week.

In Brazil, Sao Paulo where COVID is still running rampant, protesters -- you can see there -- demanding the impeachment of President Jair Bolsonaro. Is facing corruption allegations in connection with a purchase of an Indian coronavirus vaccine.

French lawmakers meanwhile have approved a measure requiring a health pass into venues like bars and restaurants and mandatory vaccinations to help workers. President Emmanuel Macron announce requirements earlier this month. Take a listen.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): I want to send out a very strong message here to remind everyone to get vaccinated because it's proven everywhere in the figures all over the world. When you are vaccinated, you're protected. You no longer spread the virus or at least much less. And above all, you no longer get sick or hardly ever. And in the very few cases where you do get sick, you no longer get the serious forms that end up here.


SOARES: In the U.K. considering requiring proof of full vaccination for events with more than 20,000 people. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins us now with the latest. And Salma, how controversial do you expect this to be?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: It's already causing some controversies. Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing some opposition from his own party, the backbench of the Conservative Party speaking out against this in some ways. Concerned that the authorities are taking too many civil liberties by imposing these new rules. If they impose these new rules.

So, what are they looking at? They are in the planning stages of potentially requiring some sort of vaccine passport, some sort of proof of immunization, if you go into a stadium with 20,000 people or more.


The first place where this could be rolled out is during football matches -- English Premier League games that can happen in a few weeks' time.

And it is a continuation of a policy that we've already seen here, Isa. The authorities had announced a few weeks ago that starting in in September, if you want to get into a nightclub, you're going to have to show proof of vaccination.

But why take this next step? Well, there's a few reasons for that. First, you discuss the beginning of your show the rise of the delta variant. That is very concerning to authorities here. And you have to remember the U.K. actually lifted restrictions as infection rates were rising. So, this is one way the authorities are saying you can begin to resume normal life. You can begin to go back to those social events you love, but at the same time we have to be weary of this variant.

The second reason is that the U.K. is by and large following the example of other European countries here. France and Italy just a few days ago as well, they announced that there will be vaccine passports -- some form of vaccine passports rather required under even stricter rules, Isa. You're going to have to show some form of immunization just to go into a restaurant or a bar in Italy and France starting next month.

And, finally, of course, while the authorities have not admitted to this, this does increases vaccination. You can only imagine if you are limited to what you can access. If your civil liberties are limited, you might go out and get that job, Isa. And so, that's why they're pushing. It could be very much step one of what could be an even more expanded program in the future.

SOARES: Yes, and why we saw the numbers of vaccinations, didn't we, rise in France following from that announcement. Salma Abdelaziz there for us, thanks very much, Salma.

Now a lot happening at the Tokyo Olympics today. The summer games are in full swing despite of course the pandemic, and with a tropical storm on the horizon. The quest of course for gold is heating up. This is where the medal count stands at the moment. We'll bring it to you. The United States now has the most gold medals with seven and 14 there -- seven gold medals, a total of 14 medals in total. China has more overall medals though at 15. Expect that to change quickly with 21 medal events in the hours ahead.

Meanwhile COVID cases are rising in Japan. Officials just announced that Dutch tennis player has tested positive for COVID-19 forcing him and his doubles partner to withdraw from the game. Despite this, organizers are now adjusting their mask policy on the Olympic podium allowing athletes to take the masks off.

Japan is also bracing for a tropical storm. As if things weren't bad enough. That's expected to bring rain as well as strong winds this week. Let's get more on this. CNN World Sport Patrick Snell is in Atlanta. Blake Essig joining us live from Tokyo. Let's start with Patrick though who has been following -- I think it's fair to say quite a historic achievement in the skateboarding -- Patrick.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Yes, Isa, it's just incredible. Wow, this is day three of competition, official competition, and another day to savor for Japan. Once again you said it so accurately, this in the skateboarding. Making its Olympic debut at these games. And in the women's competition, in fact, this is quite incredible. All three competitors on the podium teenagers, what you believe. Japan's Momiji Nishiya winning gold in the first women's Street skateboarding event in Olympics history. And at 13 she's one of the youngest gold medal winners in Olympic history.

Brazil's Rayssa Leal winning silver medal. Guess her age, 13, as well. Funa Nakayama winning bronze. She's older. She's 16, would you believe. Nishiya's win giving Japan its sixth gold medal of these games, eight total medals. And on Sunday, Japan's Yuto Horigome winning the first ever Olympic gold medal in skateboarding in the men's competition is rounding out a super couple of days for the host nation. Really incredible to see -- Isa.

SOARES: Fantastic to see. I mean, it makes me feel like an underachiever. I've said it before, and it reminds me yet again. But we are seeing incredible story lines and plenty to talk about this morning when I woke up. And in the aquatics center with one British competitor which I was thrilled to see.

SNELL: It's just great story lines all the way. We had many of them over the weekend carrying on into Monday. Adam Peaty powering his way earlier to victory. This was to win gold in the men's 100 meters, again off the back of his Rio 16 triumph in Brazil. The 26-year-old from England not just the defending champ either, by the way, but also the world record holder in this event. His time 57 seconds, 37 for his first gold at these games. Peaty's third career Olympic medal overall. Why is it so special for the Brits? Well, Peaty now the first British swimmer to successfully defend an Olympic title. And you can just see the full range of emotions he's going through there. Arno Kamminga, by the way, of the Netherlands, silver. The Italian competitor Nicolo Martinenghi in bronze. But a special, special moment there for Adam Peaty.


All right elsewhere, let me set the scene for you. This is a big one ahead of this one this day. U.S. swimming sensation Katie Ledecky, this in the 400-meter freestyle action Monday, looking to try and add as well to her triumph in Rio five years ago at this event. But the world record holder, well up against a formidable rival in shape of Australia's Ariarne Titmus. This is a thrilling contest between these two. But there'd only be one where that goes away of the Aussie in this highly anticipated showdown. Titmus winning gold with a time of 03:56:69 that now the second fastest time ever behind Ledecky's world record 03:56:36. Ledecky, by the way, a five-time gold medalist. She won silver with a time of 03:57:36. That is the fourth fastest time ever. Titmus's win giving Australia its second gold medal of these games and fifth medal overall.

And Isa, before we go, I want you to check this out. It's an incredible story. Norway celebrating a gold medal this Monday in the men's triathlon. But only after a really bizarre false start. Look at this video, it's still confusion abounding. About half the competitors there actually, diving in the water to try and start their swim thinking they were underway. Well, a boat -- yes, you can see it there -- a boat is still blocking many of them on the platform. Surreal scenes there. We did eventually get a win. You can see the emotion of Kristian Blummenfelt, a time of an 01:45:04, a really powerful late surge for him to seal it. Norway's first gold medal of these games. Great Britain's Alex Yee winning silver, Hayden Wilde of New Zealand taking bronze. But look at that. That video there just says it all doesn't it. There's nothing like the emotion of the Olympics, right.

SOARES: Yes, I can't get over the fact that boat was there. Surely someone saw it like we've got this in the way before you start this, right. Thank you very much, do stay with us.

I want to go to Blake Essig in Tokyo. And Blake, as you heard there from Patrick some great story lines coming out of the Olympics of course. Unfortunately, COVID cases, as I mentioned, continue to rise. Give me a sense of the mood and how it's being handled.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, health and safety remains a big concern with infection rates in Tokyo surging and Olympic-related cases continuing to pile up. But despite all of that, since competition began last week, it seems like the made for TV event is generating a lot of interest. IOC officials said nearly 70 million people watched the opening ceremony in Japan. Says that the broadcast services say it was the most-watched event in Japan over the past decade. And so far, 80 percent of Japan's roughly 126 million people have tuned in to watch the games at some point.

And even though the buzz and excitement is a far cry from with a you expect from the city hosting the Olympics. People are trying to experience the games in any way possible. Proof of that, people lined the course to cheer on the triathletes as they competed. Now they weren't supposed to be there, but as you can see that didn't stop a large crowd from gathering just to catch a glimpse of Olympic action.

And even though people were there to cheer on the triathletes today, the vast majority of events are being held without fans and the build up to the games, we heard from athletes who talked about the potential performance anxiety as a result of no fans being in the stands. And we have heard from some athletes so far who have said the experience has been strange.

But Tony Azevedo five-time Olympian U.S. water polo player told me that for those who have a shot to medal, they're going to be dialed in and often block out the crowd noise anyway. So, he said that for those folks, they're going to treat a final just like any other day of practice -- Isa.

Blake Essig for us in Tokyo and Patrick Snell in Atlanta. Thank you. I'll try my son's skateboarding later on today. Thank you very much.

Now a special committee will begin the investigation on the attack on the U.S. Capitol and Republicans aren't happy about their colleagues who will serve on the panel bringing the latest on the partisan battle. Just ahead.

And it is a crucial moment for President Joe Biden's infrastructure package. That's optimism a deal will soon be reached. The key differences remain. We'll explain after short break. You are watching CNN.



SOARES: Now a special U.S. House committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol will hold its first hearing on Tuesday. And partisan lines are clearly being drawn. Two Republicans are on the committee, Adam Kinzinger, a critic of Donald Trump, will serve along with Liz Cheney. The House Republican leader accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of restructuring the committee to satisfy her political objectives. And now there are growing calls within the GOP to have Kinzinger and Cheney removed from the other committees in retribution. CNN's Melanie Zanona Has more for you on what's ahead.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Get ready for an emotional day on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday that is when the January 6th select committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing featuring the testimony of police officers who responded to the Capitol attack that day. Several of the officers were beaten, maced, dragged out into the crowd. One of them was crushed in between doorways. So, we are expecting it to be very powerful and emotional. We are also expecting video clips and body worn camera footage to be played.

One other thing to look out for is the presence of two Republicans on the select committee who are both appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Liz Cheney was already on the initial roster of this committee but after Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leader pulled his picks from the panel, Pelosi announced on Sunday that she would be appointing Adam Kinzinger, in Illinois Republican, to the committee, as well.

Now Republicans are saying this is just another example of how Pelosi is trying to structure the committee around her own political interests, but Pelosi making clear she's not worried about what Republicans have to say. Take a listen to what she had to say on ABC this week.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: The Republicans will say what they will say. Our select committee will seek the truth. It's our patriotic duty to do so. And we do not come into our work worried about what the other side, who has been afraid of this, maybe the Republicans can't handle the truth.


But we have a responsibility to seek it, to find it, and in a way that retains the confidence of the American people.

ZANONA: So that is just an early review of the battles to come here on Capitol Hill as the select committee heats up in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Melanie Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SOARES: Well U.S. House Democrat Bennie Thompson will chair the select committee investigating the Capitol attack with a partisan division over what happened that day. Thompson is not ruling out calling Trump administration officials or even Donald Trump himself to testify.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Let me say nothing is off limits. We'll follow the facts. On the meetings we've had with the members of this committee, they have all said wherever the facts and our investigation lead us, that's where we'll go. So, nothing is sacred. Again, this is our democracy at stake.


SOARES: Senators will soon be back at the negotiating table in the hopes of hashing out a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. Several sources tell CNN talks over the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill are in precarious spot with major issues yet to resolve. Still Senators on both sides of the aisle are expressing hope an agreement could be imminent.


SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): We've got 90 percent of the way there. I'm here this weekend working on legislative language with colleagues and the staff. And I feel good about getting it done this week.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): We're down to the last couple of items and I think you're going to see a bill Monday afternoon.


SOARES: Well, infrastructure isn't the only thing on President Biden's agenda this week. Just ahead, a key U.S. diplomat is in China. And this soaring tensions between the two countries. The warning China had for the United States. Coming up.

Plus, a White House summit could mean changes for the U.S. military in Iraq. What to expect from the Iraqi Prime Minister's visit to Washington. Both of those stories coming back after a very short break.