Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

U.S. Virus Cases Falling Rapidly Despite Lockdowns Easing; Some California Residents Stay Home Despite Threat From Dixie Fire; Olympic Athletes Struggle With Tokyo's Sweltering Heat. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 29, 2021 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans this Thursday morning.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's 31 minutes past the hour here. It's time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

Corporate America taking the lead on protecting its workforce. Google, Facebook, Netflix, Morgan Stanley, Saks, and Lyft all now requiring shots for employees coming back into the office.

President Biden also expected to announce today that all civilian federal workers will need to be vaccinated or tested frequently.

ROMANS: Bipartisanship for bridges. Seventeen Senate Republicans joined Democrats Wednesday to advance a $1 trillion infrastructure bill. The plan now includes money for roads, utilities, rail, broadband, transit, and more. The measure still faces serious obstacles, including in the House.

JARRETT: Severe storms hitting the Midwest overnight with hurricane- force winds and hail. The power is out for about 100,000 customers in Wisconsin. The threat shifts east today, including in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

ROMANS: A Virginia police officer fired after storming the U.S. Capitol has been rearrested and jailed. Investigators say Thomas Robertson recently bought 37 guns on the internet, defying a court order. He also posted online that violence is better than peaceful protest.

JARRETT: Actor Bob Odenkirk is in stable condition after experiencing what his spokesman calls a heart-related incident. He collapsed on the New Mexico set of the hit show "BETTER CALL SAUL" Tuesday.

ROMANS: Mom always said eat your fruits and veggies. It turns out foods that contain flavonoids, like strawberries and peppers, could keep your mind sharper longer. A new study finds people who eat 600 milligrams of flavonoids per day have a 20 percent lower risk of cognitive decline. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZZ TOP, ROCK BAND: Singing "Sharp Dressed Man."


JARRETT: Dusty Hill, the bearded bass player with the blues-rock band ZZ Top, has died. He performed with ZZ Top for over five decades. Dusty Hill was 72.

ROMANS: And American Caeleb Dressel set a new Olympic record, taking home the gold in the 100-meter freestyle. He has a chance to leave the games with seven medals. Only Mark Spitz, Matt Biondi, and Michael Phelps have done that.

JARRETT: Only seven medals -- all right.

Plans to return to the office this fall delayed for many. Masking up now recommended for everyone at school this fall. And any idea of a vaccine passport, the kind being used so much overseas -- well, that's being met with strong GOP opposition here in the U.S.

But families are still learning the hard way the hard price of not getting vaccinated. In Mississippi, Alicia Ball's husband is in the hospital battling this virus.


ALICIA BALL, UNVACCINATED HUSBAND BATTLING COVID IN HOSPITAL: He cannot breathe at all, hardly. He went from working 12 to 16 hours a day because we own our own construction company, to -- he's a very hard worker -- to now he tries to sit on -- he tries to sit on the bed -- side of the bed for three minutes and then he's worn out.

We have really tried to, after this, talk to as many of our friends and families as possible that they should get it. I never really realized how bad it would be. I'm terrified that he might not recover and I'm praying so hard and so, so many people are praying for him that he will recover. It's just really bad right now.


ROMANS: Oh, you just feel for her.

In Florida, Broward County Public Schools have voted to mandate masks after the Miami-Dade School System announced it will reconsider its mask-optional policy.


EARLY START has reporters covering the pandemic coast to coast.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Leyla Santiago in Miami, Florida where the Miami-Dade mayor has now said that she is mandating masks in all county buildings. This comes after CDC guidelines that is encouraging masks to be worn indoors whether you're vaccinated or not.

In the meantime, Miami-Dade School Districts, as well as some others that we checked in across the state, are trying to make sense of how to move forward for the upcoming school year given the new CDC guidelines.

In the meantime, Gov. Ron DeSantis says he is against sort of potential lockdown in the future or mask mandate.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Athena Jones in New York where Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced all patient-facing healthcare workers in state hospitals must get vaccinated with no testing option. Cuomo saying we need dramatic action to get control of the situation. The governor adding all New York State workers will have to be vaccinated or get tested weekly starting September sixth.

He also said he wants the FDA to issue final approval of COVID vaccines so states can have more legal authority to mandate the vaccines.

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Amara Walker in Atlanta.

Duke University will be requiring everyone to wear masks indoors in all of its facilities, regardless of vaccination status, and this mandate will also include visitors to the campus.

Now, in a message to the students, staff, and faculty, the university cited the updated CDC guidance on masks, as well as the increased number of Delta variant cases in the state of North Carolina and in the local community as some of the reasons for this new policy.

Now, the mask mandate goes into effect on Friday. However, it will not apply to on-campus residence halls.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Adrienne Broaddus in Chicago.

And despite the rising number of COVID cases, the Lollapalooza music festival will go on. It's going to look a lot different starting today. When people show up to enter they must have a printed copy of their COVID-19 vaccine card or a negative COVID test within 72 hours. Unvaccinated attendees will be required to wear a mask.

Some are concerned this four-day festival, which attracts about 100,000 people every day, could be a super spreader. The state's top doctor said there's a chance we could see a spike in COVID cases, but she says festival organizers and the city have taken steps to keep people safe.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): I'm Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill where we're learning that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will use some of his reelection funds to air an ad across the state of Kentucky urging people there to get vaccinated. As a polio survivor, McConnell has been very vocal about his support

of the vaccines and has encouraged people over and over again, both in his press conferences here in D.C. and at home in Kentucky, to get vaccinated.


JARRETT: Thanks to all of our correspondents for those updates.

Staying on the vaccines for a second here, a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine strongly boosts protection against the Delta Variant. That's according to new data released by Pfizer showing -- get this -- a five-fold increase in antibodies in people 18 to 55 years old. And in people 65 to 85, the data's even better and it shows antibody levels grow 11-fold after a third shot.

Now, this study has not been peer-reviewed or published but it could be significant news here as the Delta variant makes up over 80 percent of COVID cases in the U.S.

In Israel, health officials are already recommending a third dose of a Pfizer shot for older adults.

But not everybody can run out here and get a third shot --


JARRETT: -- because obviously, the booster's still not approved here.

ROMANS: It's interesting that we're debating boosters and a third shot at the same time we're trying to get people to get the first shot, you know? So this is not a straight line recovery here from coronavirus and the -- and the work we have to do for public perception.


ROMANS: All right, a reality check on the economy. In just a couple of hours, folks, the first reading of second-quarter GDP. Economists predict the American economy grew 8 1/2 percent in the second quarter, up from 6.4 percent in the first. Eight and one-half percent -- that would be the strongest growth since the third quarter of last year when the economy roared back to life after that worst drop on record. Those red bars there was that short, terrible recession.

We are on track for probably the strongest year of economic growth since the Reagan administration -- this bounce back. But make no mistake, the economy isn't back to normal yet and the Delta variant threatening the pace of the recovery. The recovery largely depends on consumers, from how much money they're spending to how much they decide to go back out in public.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, pointing to the incomplete economic picture here.

Fed chief Jerome Powell expressed his concern about future variants. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: These strains -- there's no reason they just can't keep coming and one -- you know, one more powerful than the next. We don't know that but that's certainly a plausible outcome. Now, as vaccinations rise we can, nonetheless, get back to our economic activity.



ROMANS: Vaccines are the key.


Meantime, in the U.K., it is good news. COVID cases are falling despite the Delta variant and restrictions being lifted. Now more Americans could join Britain's party.

CNN's Phil Black live in London with more. Phil, in the past, the U.S. has been a couple of weeks behind the U.K. So how did the U.K. get control of things here? Any advice for the U.S.?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura the short answer at the moment is no one knows for sure. It is something of a mystery.

A week ago when England moved to throw away most pandemic rules -- so- called Freedom Day -- it was described by most as either bold or reckless, and that's because the modeling suggested things were going to get much worse in the short term before they got better.

But since then, this extraordinary thing has happened. Cases have fallen. More than that, they have fallen dramatically and across the United Kingdom.

No one saw this coming. Scientists don't know why precisely, and they are struggling to explain it. We have seen a 36 percent drop in total cases this week compared to the previous week.

There are theories -- things like the summer weather encouraging people to stay outside. Schools being closed for summer, so that environment is not the hotbed of transmission that it was. There is also the theory -- indeed, the suspicion that there are still lots of people being infected but they're simply not following up with tests because they don't want to change their plans and be forced to isolate inside.

The scientists are sure about a couple of things. One, that this is not a herd immunity situation. The vaccines are helping but there's not enough of it out there just yet.

And they are also pretty sure that these figures do not represent any change in transmission as a result of Freedom Day -- the restrictions being lifted. That's going to take a few more weeks to filter through. So what they'll be watching very closely for the next couple of weeks is hospital admissions. If you see a drop there as well, then this drop in infections would appear to be genuine.

Meanwhile, some good news for the British tourism industry. A further loosening of restrictions at the border. E.U., U.S. citizens who are fully vaccinated will no longer have to quarantine when they arrive here unless they're traveling from a so-called red list country -- a designated hotspot. Other than that, they can come in and not have to spend 10 days or so inside.

The travel industry is very excited about this --


BLACK: -- but for the moment, Brits traveling to the U.S. -- well, that's still not an option. The border remains closed, Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Phil Black. Thanks so much -- appreciate it.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: The Dixie Fire still endangering lives and land in California. Firefighters on 12-hour shifts are doing everything they can to slow these flames, yet some residents are refusing to leave their homes despite the danger.

Camila Bernal reports for us from California.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the flames from the Dixie Fire burn out of control --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They picked up some heat signals here a few days ago --

BERNAL (voice-over): -- authorities issue evacuation orders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why they evacuated 147.

BERNAL (voice-over): But while many of the more than 16,000 under these orders have left --


BERNAL (voice-over): -- others, like Jason Ackley, are choosing to stay.

ACKLEY: And we got -- it's free and clear.

BERNAL (voice-over): His wife and son have already evacuated but instead, he and his brother are working on their own fire line.

ACKLEY: We're really trying to take the fuel down so it can't get it -- you know, up into the crown of the trees and stuff.

BERNAL (voice-over): The fire getting within about a quarter-mile of the property.

ACKLEY: It was a big scare but this is everything. This is all we have. This is what we fight for. I mean, if we don't have this where are we going to go?

BERNAL (voice-over): The more than 220,000-acre fire has already destroyed almost 40 structures and over 10,000 others are at risk.


BERNAL (on camera): People here in Indian Falls had enough time to evacuate, but when they come back in a week or two, this is what they're going to find.

If you look at this home here, the only thing left standing is the staircase. Two of the cars were left here in the driveway. Of course, they are completely destroyed. If you look here, it's just a piece of what used to be the rim of this car.

Firefighters telling me they were here until the very end trying to save as many homes as possible but it just became too dangerous.

BERNAL (voice-over): The Dixie Fire is California's largest wildfire this year and the 14th largest in state history. With severe drought conditions continuing across the western U.S., wildfires becoming larger and more frequent.

BAKER: We are seeing that wildland fires in California are growing in size, complexity, and frequency.

BERNAL (voice-over): It's something that Ackley acknowledges. He knows he's putting his life on the line but instead, points to managing the forest and says it's what he will do until the very end.

ACKLEY: When we see them red lights and them guys getting ready to go -- I mean, we'll turn the sprinklers on and we'll make our last-minute prayer and we'll see what we can do. But at that point -- I mean, we're going to stand here together. We've already decided that from day one.

BERNAL (voice-over): Camila Bernal, CNN, Quincy, California.


JARRETT: Camila, thank you for that report.

Well, federal prison officials let disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar avoid paying court-ordered penalties while he spent thousands from his inmate account on himself. After hundreds of accusations, including from star Simone Biles,

Nassar was convicted of sexually abusing girls and women for years.

Now, DOJ wants to force officials to turn over the money in Nassar's prison account to cover a $5,300 penalty. No comment on this from the Bureau of Prisons.


And one big challenge for athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, the weather. Tokyo is experiencing a hot start to the games, compounded by humidity.

CNN's Blake Essig is live in Tokyo. Blake, good morning.


Prior to the pandemic, the big storyline at these Olympic Games was supposed to be the weather. And while COVID-19 remains the focus, the heat is proving to be very problematic for athletes. Temperatures in Tokyo have consistently been in the 90s during the day, but because of the high humidity, I assure you it feels much, much hotter.

As a result of the heat, tennis matches at the Olympics will start later in the day. The decision came after several players, including number-one -- the world's number-one Novak Djokovic spoke out, saying he's never faced conditions like this in his life.

Another player told the judge I can finish the match but if I die, who will take responsibility?

And then there was this -- Paula Badosa. She withdrew from her match and left the court in a wheelchair after suffering a heat stroke.

To help deal with the heat, Olympic organizers are providing athletes with special cooling tents, ice bags, and hoses blowing cool air.

Of course, heat isn't the only thing Olympic organizers and athletes have to worry about. While it's still too early to tell, so far, Olympic-related cases remain relatively low and organizers say that positive cases haven't impacted the medical system.

But today, more than 3,800 cases were reported in Tokyo. That is the highest daily total for the capital ever recorded -- a statement we've made for a third consecutive day now. Medical professionals say that the recent surge could impact those in the Olympic bubble -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Blake. Stay cool out there. Thanks.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this Thursday morning.

Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares are closed, and they closed higher. And Europe has opened on a high note this morning. On Wall Street, stock index futures more mixed looking there. You've got the Nasdaq down slightly but the Dow up a little bit.

It was a mixed close for stocks yesterday. The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged and said the economy is still far from fully recovered. The Dow down 127 points. The Nasdaq managed a slight gain.

Robinhood makes its Wall Street debut today, raising less money in its IPO than it had hoped. But at $32 billion, it is more valuable than Southwest Airlines or Kroger.

The big event today, the first look at second-quarter GDP. Economists predict the economy grew at a pace of 8 1/2 percent. That would be the biggest advance since the third quarter last year -- proof the economy is roaring back to life here and a good sign for the global recovery.

Ford managed to make money in the second quarter despite that ongoing global chip shortage -- a net income of $561 million. The CEO said it's seeing strong demand for several of its new vehicles but said the situation remains fluid regarding the chip shortage.

Tightening supply has caused prices to rise and a shortage of cars. Goldman Sachs doesn't expect inventories of new cars to recover until September, and it will stay below pre-pandemic levels through next year. The bank added new car prices will most likely rise over the next few months.

Americans already face rising grocery prices and they could start paying even more. Extreme weather this summer is disrupting supply chains and raising prices across the country.

California grows 90 percent of the country's canned tomatoes. Tomato farmers struggling to keep up as the drought threatens their crops.

The drought also causing the price of flour, sugar, and pinto beans to rise. Coffee prices are on the rise also as demand soars. Production in Brazil -- that's the world's biggest coffee producer -- also slowed because of record drought.

Wheat has hit its highest price in over eight years because of drought in the northwest and in Canada. And floods in Europe and China are causing more problems for global supply chains, which were already disrupted because of the pandemic. Watch your grocery bills, folks. These prices will likely rise.

JARRETT: All right.

And finally this morning, beloved children's character Arthur is retiring after a 25-year run.




JARRETT: PBS Kids is ending production of the longest-running animated children's series in history. The loveable aardvark taught kindness, empathy, and inclusion to generations of viewers. I think many people will miss him for sure --

ROMANS: That --

JARRETT: -- although my son is much more into Peppa the Pig right now.

ROMANS: Oh, is he?

JARRETT: And I'm in favor of it because I like the British accent.

ROMANS: He'll start speaking with a British accent.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman on this new day.

As the pandemic is worsening for the unvaccinated, vaccine mandates in corporate America are growing by the hour.

Plus, why are cases in the U.K. suddenly plunging after a big wave? The mystery that is baffling health experts.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It's being called the largest federal investment in public transit and bridges ever. Why President Biden is on the verge of a historic feat.

And, Capitol rioter -- a Capitol rioter back behind bars after buying 37 guns online and declaring that violence is better than a peaceful protest.

KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world.