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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Companies Rethink Vaccine Requirements; Biden to Announce Vaccine Requirement for Federal Workers; Dem & GOP Reached Compromise on $1 Trillion Measure; Caeleb Dressel Wins His First Individual Gold Medal. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Get your shot to keep your job. Corporate America leading the way to vaccine requirements for employees.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): We've still got a long ways to go before we get to the finish line. But this was a vitally important first step.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Smiles all around there, a breakthrough on President Biden's infrastructure bill. What is in this plan and will it get final approval from both chambers.

JARRETT: And big night in the pool for Team USA. How one swimmer may be on the way for joining a very exclusive club.

It's Thursday, July 29th. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks for getting an early start with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: Good evening, everybody. I'm Christine Romans. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We have reports this morning from London, Arkansas, Tokyo and Washington, as only early start can.

But we begin with corporate America taking the lead on battling coronavirus, requiring employees get the shot to keep their job as the delta variant surges across the country. Google, Facebook, Netflix, Morgan Stanley and others requiring vaccines for at least some of their employees.

And bring your mask to Disneyland in California and Disneyworld in Florida, whether you are vaccinated or not. Masks will be required there as the delta variant spreads. Executives at some companies now are waiting to mandate vaccines until they win full FDA approval, something many hope will ease hesitancy and will come soon.

Here's billionaire and Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone.


KEN LANGONE, CO-FOUNDER, HOME DEPOT: You get the FDA to say it's final, it's approved, and I can guarantee you all the places I'm involved in, if you don't get vaccinated, you will get fired. You have an obligation to your fellow man to protect him as well as yourself.


ROMANS: The delta variant is also prompting companies to rethink their return to work plans.

Twitter was already requiring employees show proof of vaccination. On Wednesday, Twitter closed its offices on New York and San Francisco and completely paused further reopenings here.

Google is pausing its back to the office plans until at least mid- October. During its earnings plan, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said COVID variants are at risk and used that earnings call to encourage everyone to be vaccinated. I was talking to a human resources executive earlier this week who said that their polling is showing 60 percent to 70 percent of employees want a vaccine mandates.

JARRETT: Because they're vaccinated.

ROMANS: They're vaccinated. They want to go back to work, and they don't want to be working shoulder to shoulder with somebody who's not vaccinated, in part because many have small children who are not vaccinated yet.

JARRETT: And bottom line, this is not about personal freedom. It's not about employers trying to -- have some sort of mandated nanny state. It's about the fact that last year, they were almost brought to their knees. And they want to stay home. And the way to stay open is to have people vaccinated so that we can all work.

ROMANS: They're really worried too about having this two-track workforce of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers, which I don't think is workable here. I think once you get FDA approval, which hopefully is coming soon, we don't know for sure. But when you get FDA approval here, then I think some of these other companies are going to feel like they can say, get the shot.

JARRETT: I don't understand why they're waiting. They don't need FDA approval from a legal standpoint. So, why they're waiting? What if the FDA approval doesn't come for a couple months and more and more people get sick and more and more people die.

ROMANS: I will say it's a notable shifted.


ROMANS: They've been dancing around this from -- managers have been dancing around this for months. And now, there is just a recognition, get the shot. It's safe and effective. We've got to get back to work.

JARRETT: Yeah. Well, and the White House is making big moves, too. President Biden trying to approach those to reach those unvaccinated this morning. In just a few hours, he's expected to announce a vaccine requirement that will apply to millions of federal workers. With half the country still unprotected, the administration is upping the ante to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more from the White House.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Laura and Christine, this is going to be a significant announcement from President Biden, that all federal workers now have to get vaccinated or submit themselves to regular testing and other mitigation measures like wearing a mask, social distancing, potentially, restrictions on their work travel.

And it's all part of this larger effort that you're seeing a more aggressive tone come out of the White House, now that they're becoming increasingly concerned about the delta variant and the surges we're seeing happen nationwide. So, this new requirement is not going to apply to the Pentagon, whether or not that happens at a later time, could depend on full approval of the FDA on these vaccines. But this is going to apply to the civilian federal workers.


And, of course, the White House is expecting pushback on this. That's why they've been navigating the fine points of it over the last several days.

So, we're still waiting to see what the actual fine print on this announcement is going to look like from President Biden today. But we should note this speech is not about the federal workers but also about millions of Americans who still have not gotten the vaccine yet. And that is something that President Biden increasing as of late, a more aggressive tone to those people.

And you're seeing health officials being pretty blunt the reason we're in this dilemma we're in now, where there's a back slide on progress is because half the country has not gotten a shot yet.


ROMANS: All right. Christine, thank you so much for that.

A big bipartisan breakthrough in Washington on infrastructure. After weeks of wrangling, the Senate has voted to take up a roughly trillion dollar roads and bridges bill, advancing a critical part of the president's agenda.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yu may have heard, in Washington, I was just on the phone, looks like we've reached a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure -- a fancy word for bridges, roads, transit system, high-speed Internet. Clean drinking water. I'm working with Democrats and Republicans to get this done while

there's a lot we don't agree on, I believe we should be able to work together on the few things we do agree on. I think it's important.


JARRETT: The Senate vote Wednesday represents a major step forward but some tough hurdles steps remain here.

CNN's Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill for us.

Daniella, good morning.

Seventeen Republican senators voted in favor of advancing this package. It's not done until it's done. But let's start with what's in it. Break it all down for us.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Laura, there's a lot in it. Before I get to that, I really want to emphasize this is a major breakthrough on something that both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have been working on for months. You know, for a while, we didn't even know it was going to come together. So, the surprise yesterday they were able to reach a deal was major news. And, of course, the senators took a victory lap and, of course, the president did as well.

But before -- now, I can talk a little bit about what's in the bill. This legislation will include $73 billion to rebuild the electric grid, $66 billion in passenger and freight rail, $65 billion to expand broadband Internet access, $55 billion for water infrastructure. And, you know, a couple other things including $7.5 billion to create the first federal network of charging stations for electric vehicles.

And, this, of course, creates all of the jobs that President Joe Biden promised he would make during his administration. And the White House announcement was vague about how to pay for this infrastructure package. They said, quote, it would be through a combination of redirecting unspent emergency relief funds, targeted user fees and strengthening tax enforcement.

But, you know, these senators took a victory lap yesterday after this vote to advance debate on this legislation. Take a listen to what they said. They were incredibly happy yesterday.


SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): At a time when Washington seems broken, this group of members behind me came together, along with others, and decided we were going to do something great for our country.

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): But the word in this town and across this country from the naysayers is that bipartisanship is dead. That it doesn't work anymore, and that government is broken. And we are here to say, no, it works.

COLLINS: And I'm very proud of what all of us have done. We've still got a long ways to go before we get to the finish line, but this was a vitally important first step.


DIAZ: As you can hear, they're incredibly happy that they were able to advance this legislation. Now, a debate starts.

So, it's not passed just yet. Debate will start this week, senators can work through the weekend, possibly into next week, to try to pass this legislation, but for now, you know, first big step for this package.

JARRETT: First good step for sure. But there are still some hurdles out there. What are the biggest ones in your mind?

DIAZ: Well, 17 Republicans voted to support advancing this legislation for debate. But it's unclear whether all 17 Republicans are going to support this legislation when it's put up for a vote. That's one hurdle, right? So, they need 60 votes in the Senate for this to pass.

Meanwhile, Democrats are working on a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill filled with Democratic priorities, such as paid family and medical leave, funded to combat climate change, expanding the child tax credit. And they really want to pass this.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi committed she wouldn't put this bipartisan bill on the floor of the House unless she also puts the budget reconciliation bill for a vote on the floor.

But House progressives are upset about this because Kyrsten Sinema came out and said she wouldn't support this large price tag, this $3.5 trillion bill, saying it's too much money for it.


And now, House progressives are saying if she's not going to support this budget reconciliation bill, they're not going to vote for the bipartisan package.

So, we're going to see how it plays out there's a lot of back and forth next couple of weeks on this issue -- Laura.

JARRETT: Daniella, thank you for staying on top of how the sausage gets made in Washington. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. Trying to understand just why so many people won't take a safe and effective vaccine. One nurse tells us a surprising reason for vaccine hesitancy.


ROMANS: Fifteen minutes past the hour.


So much for hot vax summer. The World Health Organization now says the U.S. has recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases over the world in the last seven days, thanks to the delta variant spreading the vaccine rates that -- the delta variant spreading and vaccine race that remains too low.

Vaccine hesitancy or outright vaccine resistance is a real problem in parts of the country and peer pressure doesn't help.

JARRETT: One Missouri doctor says patients are actually asking to be vaccinated privately because they feel pushback from vaccine opponents.


DR. PRISCILLA FRASE, OZARKS HEALTHCARE IN WEST PLAINS, MISSOURI: Even though they were able to make that decision by themselves, they didn't want to have to deal with the peer pressure or the outbursts from other people about them, quote, giving in for everything. They made a decision for themselves and they want it to be for themselves.


JARRETT: Giving in, giving in to protect yourself. The largest health care system in Louisiana has seen a 700 percent increase in COVID patients over the past month. And a 75 percent increase over just the past week.


DR. JEFFREY ELDER, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, EMERGENCY MEDICINE LCMC HEALTH: Everyone is uncomfortable. We are -- our hospitals are full. Our emergency departments are full. We have more people coming in for testing. We have more people being admitted to the hospital.


ROMANS: We keep hearing reports of patients begging for a vaccine as they're being put on a ventilator. In Arkansas, some ICUs are running out of beds and predicting significant outbreaks when the school system opens this year.

CNN's Martin Savidge is on the ground for us in Little Rock.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Good morning, Laura.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Arkansas continue to skyrocket daily. There's two reasons for that, the delta variant and, of course, the state's low vaccination rate which right now sits at about 40 percent of those fully vaccinated. If you want to get a sense of impact of that, and spend some time as we did inside of the Arkansas children's hospital, where right now, they are coping with the greatest number of coronavirus cases they have ever dealt with during the entire pandemic. And, of course, it's all children. And half the cases they have are

inside the pediatric intensive care unit. And at least some of the kids are on ventilators.

Dr. Rick Barr believes there's a direct correlation between the low number of vaccinated adults and the increasing number of sick children they're seeing.

When a child comes in to you, do you question the parents and say have you been vaccinated?


SAVIDGE: And what do you find?

BARR: We find that often they're not vaccinated.

SAVIDGE: And if the child is here, does it change that parent's mind on the vaccine.

BARR: Oh, absolutely. We've seen that on multiple instances where now they wish they'd gotten their child vaccinated. And have actually been some of the best messengers to other parents about please get your kids vaccinated.

SAVIDGEE: A controversy that's brewing here, school starts in 2 1/2 weeks. Back in April, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill that bans mask mandates. Well, now, that coronavirus is burning across the state, school administrators and a lot of parents are worried that those leaders have been basically denied what could be an effective tool to protect children, especially those too young to be vaccinated.

The governors and lawmakers realize they may have a problem on their hands. We could hear more today -- Christine and Laura.


ROMANS: What's happening in Arkansas and Missouri and some of these other states is just a tragedy and it's unfolding before our eyes.

JARRETT: Yes, our thanks to Martin for shedding a light what's happening behind closed-doors in those hospitals.

Still ahead, a new Olympic record has been set. Caeleb Dressel swimming his way to gold. See the emotional moments that brought him to tears.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

The man being called the next Michael Phelps wins his first individual gold medal at the Olympics. Coy Wire is in Tokyo is with this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Top of the morning to you, Laura.

Caeleb Dressel in his second Olympics, you mentioned it, touting him as the next Michael Phelps, that can be a lot of pressure, right?

Well, he had already won three relay golds. Now, he won his first gold on his own with an Olympic record. He won the 100 free from the jump literally.

Look at this start, arm length lead off the blocks, and he'd end up with that same length.

And Caeleb trains like a football trainer, Laura. His trainer told me afterwards that all of that explosive training he did in the garage through the pandemic was on full display. He said his parents are his biggest factor, cheering him out of Florida with his high school sweetheart turned wife Meghan. They and Caeleb overcome with emotional after this win. He was in tears talking about how long and difficult this past year has been.

Congratulations, Caeleb.

All right. Bobby Finke snagged the first ever men's 800 freestyle Olympic gold, new event. During the pandemic, Fink e would jump off a dock at a friend's house and swim between sands bars in Tampa Bay to train. He was in fourth at the final turn by he dug deep to grab that gold.

And the U.S. women, broke the world record in the 4x200 meter relay, but won the silver? China took gold. The three top finishers all outpaced the world record, Katie McLaughlin, Paige Madden, Katie Ledecky getting her third medal of these games. And team captain, Allison Schmitt, now a 10-time Olympic medalist.

Two-time defending world champion pole vaulter Sam Kendricks' Olympics are over after testing positive for COVID just two days before his event was set to start. The U.S. Army reserved first lieutenant won bronze at the Rio Games.


He's been transferred to a hotel and placed in isolation, according to the U.S. OPC.

And the women's gymnastics all around competition will go on tonight without the greatest ever. Simone Biles withdrew herself from the competition for mental health reasons. She tweeted today by writing, quote, the outpouring of love and support have made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments in gymnastics which I never truly believed before.

Now, earlier today, I interviewed five-time Olympic swimmer, seven- time medalist Kirsty Coventry, now an IOC member and chair of the IOCF athletes commission which serves as a link between the athletes and the IOC. She said that Biles is brave.


KIRSTY CONVENTRY, 7-TIME OLYMPIC MEDALIST: It will be incredible positive thing for so many more athletes that may or may not be in that same situation that are going to look to her and she's inspiring athletes. She's allowed for it to just be something that can be accepted by people and I think that look a lot of bravery.


WIRE: Now, Kirsty says the IOC does have resources in place. Athletes have a mental health toolkit, but they realize they need to more for athletes who want help. And perhaps most importantly, insure athletes that they have a safe space to speak out. And she thinks Simone Biles speaking up is a powerful steps towards letting other athletes know what she's doing is okay.

JARRETT: Yeah. What she's doing is okay. And it's a good thing. You know, she said she had the twists that could be dangerous to actually compete when you feel like so upside down like that.

Coy, thank you as always. Have fun out there.

WIRE: You're welcome. Thank you.

ROMANS: All of her amazing accomplishments, this is another one, another one.


ROMANS: All right. Something very unexpected, coronavirus cases in the U.K. appear to be falling dramatically. We'll tell you what is behind that decline.