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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

CDC Document: Delta Is As Contagious As Chicken Pox; Biden Backs Citizenship Pathway For Millions Of DACA Immigrants; First Group Of Afghan Interpreters Arrives In U.S. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired July 30, 2021 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good Friday morning, everybody. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's 30 minutes past the hour here in New York. Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

OK, so just how contagious is the Delta variant?


DR. ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIR, DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE, UCSF SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: We can't pussyfoot around with this thing. We have to get more people vaccinated. We have to go back to more universal masking than what we have or else this thing is going to spread like wildfire.


JARRETT: A leaked CDC document says the variant causes more serious illness in unvaccinated people than the original strain and is generally much more contagious, spreading as easily as chicken pox. On average, every person infected with Delta spreads it to eight or nine others.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The patience of businesses and the patience of a lot of other people running thin because the fact is if you had high vaccination rates we wouldn't be in this spot right now.


ROMANS: President Biden says millions of federal employees and contractors will have to be vaccinated against COVID or wear a mask and face frequent testing. The White House hopes the order will serve as a model for local governments and private employers.

JARRETT: Several people were hurt after a tornado touched down in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The high winds tore apart a car dealership, ripping the roof and walls off the building and shattering windows.

ROMANS: Ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick charged with sexually assaulting a teenager nearly 50 years ago. He is the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to face sex abuse charges. The 91-year- old was defrocked by the Vatican in 2019.

JARRETT: Take this, climate change deniers. Researchers say rising Arctic temperatures are melting Greenland's ice sheet so rapidly that the ice melt from just a single day this week would be enough to cover the entire state of Florida in two inches of water.

ROMANS: A pair of hikers rescued after nine days lost in the Wyoming wilderness. The man and woman ran out of food and ran out of water. They were suffering from dehydration in the sweltering heat. They are, though, expected to be OK.

JARRETT: President Biden meets today with western governors about the region's devastating wildfire. So far this year, fires have burned an area equal to the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. The fires are being fueled by record heat and drought.

ROMANS: Blockbuster trades sending stars in two sports from Washington to Los Angeles. The world champion Dodgers acquiring pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner from the Nationals in the NBA. The Lakers traded for all-star point guard Russell Westbrook, pairing him with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

JARRETT: All right, let's dig in on COVID now. School is right around the corner for millions of American kids. Some are already back in class. Everyone had hoped this year would be different, of course, but COVID is hanging over classrooms again.

An Atlanta charter school is already putting more than 100 students back in remote learning after an outbreak.

ROMANS: "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" reports two students and two employees test positive in the very first week of classes. The head of the school tells the local website Decaturish it hopes to work with families to increase vaccination rates.


DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We were at three million doses a day a couple of months ago. If we'd stayed on that pace we'd probably be at least 80 percent population immunity from vaccination, which would -- which would mean we wouldn't have had to have these discussions about things like booster dosing and masking because it would have all been obviated.

I just feel like we've let our children down by not keeping up the vaccination rates we had a couple of months ago.


JARRETT: Of course, children under 12 aren't even eligible for a vaccination yet. Some cities and local school systems have moved to put their own mask

mandates in place. But in a number of Republican-led states, officials have blocked those requirements, including Texas.


OVIDIA MOLINA, PRESIDENT, TEXAS STATE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION: We are back to the same place we were when we were in the springtime. There's a lot of anxiety and a lot of fear. We are asking the governor to do the right thing and change his mind. And cases are going up and our students and our educators are going to be put at a risk that they don't need to be put in.

If I have a student that their family wants them to wear a mask and they want to wear a mask but they're seeing other kids not wearing a mask, the peer pressure of fitting in is going to overtake the safety of it. Governor Abbott can stop that right now.


ROMANS: Yes, I'm really worried about that -- that fear of fitting in. A lot of parents are sending their kids to school with masks and they're worried that other kids won't be and it's going to be a problem.

At least three of Michigan's biggest health systems now mandating vaccine for employees. Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health joining the Henry Ford Health System where top doctors are trying to dispel these unfounded myths about the vaccines.


DR. DENNIS CUNNINGHAM, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF INFECTION CONTROL, HENRY FORD HEALTH SYSTEM: The most common myth is that the vaccine was created too quickly and it's only safe once it gets full FDA approval.


The technology is not new. It's been around for quite a while. mRNA technology has been used to treat certain cancers for the past 10 years.


JARRETT: President Biden trying to debunk those myths yesterday point-by-point as well.

And with all the talk of booster shots, health officials from several states are saying not so fast. They say their priority is getting first vaccine doses into arms before giving any boosters. The U.S. Surgeon General says a decision on whether boosters are needed could by -- could come by the end of the summer.

ROMANS: Yesterday, Israel starting rolling out a third dose of vaccines to people over 60 years ago, making it one of the first countries to do that. Note that the U.S. has followed Israel's lead on vaccination policy since last year.

JARRETT: New proof how dangerous vaccine avoidance is this morning. A CNN analysis shows COVID-19 hospitalizations -- get this -- three times higher in states where under half of the residents have been vaccinated. Louisiana is stubbornly stuck at just under 37 percent.

CNN's Miguel Marquez traveled there and has this report.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine, Laura -- look, the numbers in Louisiana are enormous. They are breaking records in all sorts of ways for the pandemic for all the wrong reasons.

Not only are the case numbers up across the state in very big numbers, that is translating to real problems for individual hospitals and entire networks.

Ochsner, for instance, which is the largest network of hospitals across the Bayou State -- they've seen a 700 percent increase in the number of positive cases that they've treated in the last month. Seven hundred percent in a month. A lot of this occurring after the Fourth of July holiday.

We went to the largest hospital -- the largest single hospital in the state in Baton Rouge, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. They are seeing a record number of patients right now. They haven't seen this many admitted patients in the entire pandemic.

DR. CATHERINE O'NEAL, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: There's nowhere safe. If you're interacting in this community you should be vaccinated and you should have a mask on because we are inundated with COVID.

MARQUEZ (on camera): So there is a little bright spot in all of this. The number of people getting vaccinated in Louisiana, for instance, and Arkansas and Missouri and these sort of hotspots -- those numbers are starting to tick up -- not enormously but they are starting to tick up.

Health officials say that while there are some people who are just never going to get vaccinated under any circumstances, there is a pretty big mass of people out there that are persuadable. So if you know them and you love them, keep working on them.

And just where we are on this current wave, it's not very clear. Some hospitals are just dealing with the day-to-day. Other hospitals in the region have crunched the numbers and they say it's late September before they think that they'll see the top of this current curve and this current wave of infections. And, of course, then you're just in time for the autumn, just in time for winter, and another possible wave all over again -- Christine, Laura.


ROMANS: All right, Miguel. Thank you so much for that.

So, vaccinations one of the reasons this economy has managed to crawl out of the COVID hole. GDP back to its pre-pandemic size, growing at a rate of 6 1/2 percent in the second quarter -- the fastest growth since last fall.

You can see those two red bars there. That's where the pandemic caused the economy to post its worst GDP drop in history last year -- a crash. But it has been roaring back to life since then.

Stocks close to record highs Wednesday. The Dow and the S&P touched all-time highs during the day. It fell short of setting records by the close.

Tech earnings have been amazing in the second quarter. You know, even Boeing and Ford made money, shaking off disrupted travel and chip shortages.

The risk now is the Delta variant. It's why so many companies are requiring their workers to be vaccinated or face onerous testing and quarantine protocols or lose their job.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden getting serious about a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants as part of Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget plan.


REPORTER: How did your meeting on DACA go?

BIDEN: It went very well. What I think we -- I think we should include in the reconciliation bill the immigration proposal. My staff is putting out a message right now.


JARRETT: The DACA program shields undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. A federal judge in Texas recently found the program unlawful but it's been in litigation for years, frankly.

CNN's Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill for us. Daniella, good morning to you.

President Biden seems to be trying to tie immigration to economic relief. Can he pull it off?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, it all depends on one person and whether that person approves that it can be included in this legislation, and that is Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough.

She, of course, is the person, if you remember, that ruled that the $15.00 minimum wage increase could not be included in a previous budget reconciliation bill that was passed earlier this year -- the COVID-19 stimulus package. [05:40:03]

She, ultimately, decides whether this immigration reform proposal can be included in this budget reconciliation bill.

Another thing to remember, of course, is this bill can be passed by a simple majority in the Senate, which is why Democrats want to include this in this legislation. They don't need any Republican support for this to pass.

And this is the $3.5 trillion package that is filled with, quote, "human infrastructure" proposals, of course -- paid and family medical leave, extending the child tax credit, funding to combat climate change. All of those proposals that are a priority for this Biden administration.

But look, these lawmakers made their case to the president. Having the president behind them is huge for them to be able to argue why they should be included in this proposal to the Senate parliamentarian -- excuse me. She will listen to their arguments about whether immigration reform has budgetary effects.

And they felt very positive coming out of this meeting. Take a listen to what one senator -- Democratic senator in leadership said coming out of this meeting, Sen. Dick Durbin.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): We have not had a serious immigration reform bill in America in 36 years. You have to go back to the Reagan presidency. We have an opportunity now to move forward to have a good immigration reform for the future of this country in the reconciliation bill in the United States Senate.

The president understands it and he was a senator for many years. He knows the challenges we face. He's with us and he made it clear to us, unequivocally clear, that he stands with our efforts to make sure that all immigrants (ph) are receiving justice in America and opportunity in America through immigration and have their chance with this (INAUDIBLE).

So we're going to do everything we can to get (INAUDIBLE) Senate members to make this a reality (INAUDIBLE).


DIAZ: There is a lot riding on this for it to be included in this budget reconciliation bill. Several Democrats in the House have even gone as far as to say they won't support this budget reconciliation bill if it's not -- if immigration reform is not included in the final proposal.

And look, the slim majorities of Democrats in the House and the Senate make this very tight for a vote and leaders really need every Democrat behind this -- Laura, Christine.

JARRETT: All right, we'll see if they can all get on board. Daniella, thanks so much -- appreciate it.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: An urgent escape. Moments ago, the first group of interpreters who helped Americans in Afghanistan arrived in the U.S. Thousands more wait in Afghanistan in increasing fear of the Taliban.

CNN's Kylie Atwood spoke with some of these interpreters and their fear is palpable.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I don't go out of Afghanistan, I am counting down my end of life.

NAVEED MUSTAFA, INTERPRETER WHO WORKED WITH U.S. AND U.K. FORCES: Absolutely, we need to get out of the country. They are looking after us.

RAMISH, INTERPRETER: Our future will be dark. They're going to cut our heads, too.


ROMANS: Kylie Atwood is live for us in Fort Lee, Virginia. And, Kylie, some of those interpreters are heading your way any moment. How many are we expecting?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. This is the first group of Afghan interpreters who've applied for visas here to the United States who are going to be arriving here in Fort Lee today. About 200 of them and their families are coming here.

And President Biden said in a statement this morning that this is an important milestone as the U.S. works to fulfill their promise to these interpreters who worked shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. troops and U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan.

Now, this is part of a broader effort that the United States is undertaking. There are some 20,000 interpreters who've applied for these special immigrant visas. So these 200 folks who are coming here today, they're just one small group in that.

And the reason that many of them leave Afghanistan is because of the threat posed by the Taliban. Some of them facing death threats. Some of them have been killed in recent days because of their work alongside U.S. troops.

And now, some of them are coming here, as I said. There are two other locations that they're going to. They're going to be going to U.S. facilities abroad and also third countries as they wait for their visas to be processed. The group coming here has gone through the majority of their visa

application process already. The thing that they need are medical screenings so that they can have the medical clearance that they need. That's the final stage in this visa application process. Then they'll be relocated here to the United States.

The other thing to note is that these Afghan interpreters were offered to get vaccines in Afghanistan. They're going to be given the opportunity to get them again here today. COVID-19 making this already complicated challenge even more complicated -- Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely. All right, Kylie. Keep us posted as those first -- the first batch of those -- of those interpreters comes through. Thank you.

JARRETT: All right. The coronavirus Delta variant raging now across parts of Asia. Thailand warns no matter how many beds are added it will not be enough for the current outbreak. More than 40,000 people are on lockdown in Beijing. And for three straight days this week, a record number of new COVID cases reported in Tokyo, making Japan a sitting duck as it hosts the Olympics.

CNN's Blake Essig is live in Tokyo. Blake, obviously, this is all going on with the Olympics happening. Is there a sense of urgency about this right now in Japan?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes -- you know, Laura, and absolutely not ideal right now. A fifth wave of infection continues to swell in an unprecedented speed across the country.

As a result, just within the past hour, Japan's prime minister has declared a state of emergency for Osaka and several prefectures near the capital and extended the current state of emergency order in Tokyo until the end of August. All of this in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.


Now, over the past several days, the infection rate across Japan has soared. Record-high daily totals have been recorded nationwide right here in Tokyo and inside the Olympic bubble. Although Olympic-related cases remain relatively low, a public health expert tells CNN that the Olympic bubble has already burst and that the more transmission that takes place outside in the general population, the more opportunity for people within the bubble to get infected.

Now, according to the National Institute of Infectious Disease, the Delta variant is responsible for about 70 percent of cases reported locally. It's worth noting that Tokyo's most recent state of emergency order has been in place for about two weeks and it has done little to nothing to reduce the number of cases. Japan's medical association fears that if the surge of infection continues the medical system will collapse, Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Blake Essig. Thank you for staying on top of this for us. ROMANS: A potentially dangerous situation at the International Space Station. The Space Station lost control for an hour after a newly- docked Russian module misfired its thrusters.


KATHY LUEDERS, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR FOR NASA'S HUMAN EXPLORATION, OPERATIONS MISSION DIRECTORATE: It was a pretty exciting hour. But because of the team's preparedness, the crew was ready, the contingency operations performed, and we were able to return to a stable and safe configuration.

Spaceflight is hard, and when we bring on new capabilities there can be glitches, which is why we prepare and train for these contingencies.


ROMANS: She calls it a pretty exciting hour -- terrifying, actually. Communications between ground and the seven astronauts were lost for 11 minutes.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Good morning, Christine and Laura.

U.S. and Russian officials say the seven crew members about the space station were never in any danger. But the thruster malfunction happened several hours after the recently launched Nauka module docked with the ISS on Thursday after a long eight-day space flight to get there.

NASA says the module's thruster started firing inadvertently and unexpectedly, moving the station 45 degrees out of altitude for several minutes during the incident. Communications were apparently lost with the space station, but NASA says recovery operations have corrected the situation and the ISS is again in, quote, "good shape."

The 20-ton Russian Nauka module, which has upgraded laboratory and living areas, was meant to have been launched back in 2007, but delays and budget cuts to the Russian space program saw it delayed until just last week.

Back to you, Christine and Laura.


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

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Looking at markets around the world -- hey, guys, this is the last trading day of the month. You can see losses around the world. Here on Wall Street, stock index futures are also leaning lower. It was an up day for stocks, though, Thursday on the good news in the U.S. economy that it grew rapidly in the second quarter and is now back to pre-pandemic size.

The Dow up 153 points, just short of a record high. The S&P 500 also missed a record close. The Nasdaq finished slightly higher.


Scene from Marvel Entertainment's "Black Widow."


ROMANS: One of Marvel's biggest stars is going back to where it all started -- her contract -- and is suing Disney. Scarlett Johansson alleging it breached her contract by releasing "Black Widow" on Disney+. The lawsuit claims the star agreed her salary for the film would be based largely on the film's box office haul.

Disney pushed back hard to this lawsuit, saying it had no merit and, quote, " especially said and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Disney added releasing the film on Disney+ allowed the actress to earn more money on top of the $20 million she has received so far. The film has made roughly $318 million worldwide since its release.

JARRETT: Finally this morning, a powerful pairing. Melinda Gates and MacKenzie Scott are joining forces to give $40 million to organizations that promote the advancement of women. The two billionaires who recently split from their billionaire husbands, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos -- well, they have made supporting gender equity a centerpiece of their charitable efforts.

The four contest winners were selected as part of the Equality Can't Wait challenge, a funding competition hosted by Gates with the goal of expanding women's power and influence in the United States.

Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall for their conversations?

ROMANS: You know, it's so fascinating. MacKenzie Scott has -- the kinds of charities she has picked to use her money -- put her money behind --


ROMANS: -- will really change the world. I mean, she has picked some remarkable things that are really going to be game-changers. Both of these women have done so much to try to find answers to the equity problem --


ROMANS: -- and it's exciting to see how that -- JARRETT: Yes.

ROMANS: -- will bear fruit.

Thanks for joining us, everybody. I'm Christine Romans.

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



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Friday, July 30th, and we do have breaking news this morning.

The war has changed. That is the chilling takeaway from an alarming new internal CDC document that states that the Delta variant likely causes more severe disease than the earlier strains of COVID. And it's just as infectious as chicken pox.

The CDC slide presentation obtained by "The Washington Post" and confirmed by CNN confirms the variant spreads faster and easier than SARS, Ebola, the flu, the common cold. The document also contains unpublished data that says vaccinated people may spread the virus as easily as unvaccinated people when breakthrough infections occur.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: This is the data behind CDC officials making their latest controversial decision on masks. The full data will be published today.