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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Simone Biles to Compete in Balance Beam Final Tomorrow; More Americans Now Getting Vaccinated Against COVID; Dutch Runner Sifan Hassan Falls, But Gets Up to Win 1,500-Meter Heat. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 02, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Vaccinations increasing across the U.S., the message finally ringing loud and clear for many Americans.

AMARA WALKER, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: The Olympic champ is back. Simone Biles making a big return since her case of the twisties. The final event that has her beaming.

JARRETT: Afraid to be jailed and asking Japan for protection. Why one Belarusian Olympian is making a dash for freedom. It's Monday everyone, August 2nd, it's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks for getting in on EARLY START with us, I'm Laura Jarrett.

WALKER: Good morning everyone, I'm Amara Walker in for Christine Romans, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We have reports this morning from Florida, London, Kenya, the White House and Sydney

JARRETT: Amara, so great to have you this week, we're going to have fun. Breaking minutes ago, Simone Biles is coming back everyone. USA Gymnastics just confirmed she will take part in Tuesday's balance beam final. It will be her first Olympic event since July 27th, when she withdrew citing mental health concerns. A tweet from USA Gymnastics says this, "we're so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow, Suni Lee and Simone Biles. I can't wait to watch both." We'll have more coming up on all this from Tokyo in just a few minutes.

To coronavirus now and some positive news that more and more Americans seem to receive the message that vaccines work. As of this morning, the seven-day average of people getting their first shot is about 433,000. That is the highest number in a month. And the real good news here is the jump is in southern states that have been struggling to get shots in arms. Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana have doubled their vaccinations compared to just three weeks ago.

WALKER: And separating fact from fiction about vaccines means looking at the data. And here is what we know. Fewer than four in 100,000 people who have been fully vaccinated have been hospitalized with COVID and fewer than 1 in 100,000 fully-vaccinated people died from COVID. Now, those are incredible numbers and yet too many are losing loved ones who put off their shots until it was too late.


JESSICA DUPREEZ, UNVACCINATED FIANCE DIED FROM COVID-19: If you're on the fence and it's only about side effects and whatever that is, it's totally worth it because I don't have Mike anymore. I don't -- my kids don't have a dad anymore because we hesitated. And I know a lot of people will become crazy and say, well, there's this and there's that. You can die from the vaccine, everybody can have a bad reaction to any vaccine throughout history, but I would take a bad reaction to the vaccine over having to bury my husband. I would take that any day.


JARRETT: And to be clear, a bad reaction is rare, 61 percent of people eligible for a shot in the U.S. have had one now, but half the country remains unprotected. We're talking about those who have chosen not to get vaccinated and, of course, kids under 12 who can't get one yet. That's one reason the head of the NIH supports the growing number of businesses asking customers for proof of vaccination.


FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: As a public health person who wants to see this pandemic end, yes, I think anything we can do to encourage reluctant folks to get vaccinated because they all want to be part of these public events. That's a good thing.


WALKER: "The New York Times" is reporting the White House has been recruiting social media influencers to push back against vaccine misinformation and to encourage teenagers to get vaccinated. Now those influencers include Twitch Streamers, YouTubers, TikTokers, and, of course, most famously Olivia Rodrigo who spoke at the White House last month.

JARRETT: Getting a COVID shot is as important as ever with the Delta variant spreading like wildfire. Nearly 60 percent of the country is now in a high transmission area including nearly all of Florida which is where we find CNN's Randi Kaye with more.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Laura and Amara. We are continuing to see a spike in COVID cases here in the state of Florida. More than 110,000 new cases in the last week or so, and the daily average is hovering at about 15,800 cases every day over the past week or so. And we also have set a new record over the weekend. The highest number of cases in a single day since the pandemic began, 21,683 cases on Saturday over the weekend.


Right now, 19.2 percent of all COVID cases across the country are here in the state of Florida.


NEIL FINKLER, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, ADVENTHEALTH CENTRAL FLORIDA: Right now, well, we don't know when this peak will actually hit its max. We expect the number of people needing acute and critical care for COVID to continue to increase in the upcoming days.


KAYE: And Florida right now is seeing the highest average of cases since January, still only about 49 percent of Floridians are fully vaccinated. So we do have a ways to go. Schools are about to reopen, kids are going back to the classroom, there's a lot of concern about the children. On average, nearly 11,000 new COVID cases among children younger than 12 years old in the last week or so, we know that they're not eligible yet for the vaccine. But that age group is also seeing a positivity rate of 18.1 percent. And as they go back to school, Governor Ron DeSantis has said that they will not be able to mandate masks in the classrooms here.

He has issued an executive order telling the school districts you cannot do that. This is about freedom of choice for parents to decide. He said any district that defies his order could risk losing funding and become ineligible for grants. Back to you.

JARRETT: Randi Kaye, thank you for that. Breaking overnight, the deal is in. A bipartisan group of senators finalized the text of the president's trillion-dollar infrastructure package after hours of last-minute additions and edits to the more than 2,000-page bill. More than half of this, $550 billion is for rebuilding the electric grid, rail improvements, high speed internet access, clean drinking water, mass transit improvements, and the first federal network of electric vehicle charging stations.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): These days it isn't easy to do major bills in the Senate, especially bipartisan ones. So I've tried to prod the negotiators along when they've needed it, and given them the space when they've asked for it. Given how bipartisan the bill is and how much work has already been put into getting the details right, I believe the Senate can quickly process relevant amendments and pass this bill in a matter of days.


WALKER: Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says he wants the infrastructure bill and a budget resolution passed before the August recess. That means building enough Republican support in the evenly divided Senate. Another hurdle. Democrats in the house say they won't even consider infrastructure unless a $3.5 trillion budget bill accompanies it.

JARRETT: Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger says he expects the house committee investigating the Capitol riot to issue a significant number of subpoenas to find out Donald Trump's whereabouts on the day of the insurrection. And Kinzinger also signaled some reluctance to subpoena the former president himself, at least not right away.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): We may not even have to talk to Donald Trump to get the information. There were tons of people around him. There were tons of people involved in the things that led up to January 6th. Obviously, if you talk to the president, the former president, that's going to have a whole new set of kind of like, you know, everything associated with it. So, when I look at that, I'm like maybe, but I know that we're going to get to the information. If he has unique information, that's one thing. But I think there's a lot of people around him that knew some things.


JARRETT: Kinzinger says he expects House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy to be among those who receive subpoenas.

WALKER: Back on the beam. Simone Biles is back in Olympic competition tomorrow. CNN will be live in Tokyo next.



WALKER: Gymnast Simone Biles is set to compete on the balance beam at the Olympics after pulling out midway through the team competition as well as the first three individual event finals. Coy Wire is in Tokyo with this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT", Good morning, Coy!

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you -- good evening from Japan. Huge news. This was the one last chance we had to see the greatest of all time compete here in Tokyo, Amara, Simone Biles, the athlete that everyone wanted to see, now we're going to get that chance! She will compete again. USA Gymnastics tweeting a short time ago quote, "we're so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam finals tomorrow, Suni Lee and Simone Biles. Can't wait to watch you both." Unquote.

Now Biles was seen earlier today heading to the gym to watch teammate Jade Carey compete in the floor exercise. She also cheered on her teammate MyKayla Skinner and Suni Lee, two individual medals yesterday. This is likely the last time we will see Biles in Olympic competition. It will be great to see her out there one last time doing what she does. And Simone -- swimmer Caeleb Dressel is headed back to the United States with some extra weight in his luggage. The 24-year- old won five gold medals here at the Tokyo games, it's going to be seven for his career.

His achievement is legendary. Dressel was one of only three American male swimmers to win at least three individual gold at a single Olympics. Fortunately, he's not as fast on the ground as he is in a pool. I caught up with him just as he was on his way to the airport talking about this success.


it. All the good, all the bad from this past year, past five years, I mean, every training I've been doing since age five is all worth it. I mean, as long as you're learning something, I think it's the most important thing with the sport, any sport or anything in life, really. Good and the bad, it doesn't make it terrible, it doesn't make it worthless unless you don't learn anything.


WIRE: Now, like Dressel, all athletes here in Tokyo have an incredible will and drive to show the world the best of what they can do. A shining example is Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, early on in the final lap of the 1,500-meter qualifier, she bumped into another runner and fell down.


But Hassan got back up on her feet, picked up the pace, making up all the lost ground to win the heat, pulling off one of the most impressive comebacks of the games to keep her medal chances alive. Sifan Hassan is also competing in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter events, and that means she could compete in six races just over 20 miles over eight days span. All right, the Olympic spirit also on display in the men's 800-meter semi-final.

Team USA's Isaiah Jewett positioned to advance to the final when disaster strikes. He's accidentally tripped up by Nijel Amos of Botswana in a great show of sportsmanship, Amara, Laura, the rivals helping one another to their feet. Jewett put his arm around Amos and they finished the race together. Afterwards Jewett said, he did what was right, because quote, "that's what heroes do."

And you've got to see this, high jumpers of Italy and Qatar were headed for a jump off for the gold, both reached 2.37 meters. Instead of a jump off, they asked the official if they could share the gold. He said yes, both men's reaction say it all, priceless. Running around, jumping up and down, an unbelievable moment. They are the first joint winners in Olympic track and field since 1912. This is what the Olympics are all about. No matter where you're from all around the world, no matter what you do, you come together, you lift each other up and celebrate some of these incredible moments.

JARRETT: Very cool, very cool. All right, Coy, thanks so much, I appreciate it. Still ahead, underwater and uninhabitable. Africa's largest city battling major floods and rising sea levels. What experts are warning now.



JARRETT: An Olympic athlete with an urgent plea. Keep me safe. Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya says team officials told her she can no longer compete and are trying to send her back to Minsk against her will. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTINA TIMANOVSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OLYMPIC SPRINTER (through translator): I asked the International Olympic Committee for help. I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent. I ask the International Olympic Committee to intervene.


JARRETT: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is following this story for us from London. Nick, good morning. We have some new information on her whereabouts. Tell us more about this.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Correct. She's been seen going into the Polish Embassy in Tokyo, and the deputy foreign minister of that country said on Twitter recently that he would permit asylum for Timanovskaya in that country. How did we get to this extraordinary scene? So often, politics getting its way into the normal, calm Olympics. But on Friday, Kristina Timanovskaya was quite vocal on Instagram, criticizing directly the Belarusian Olympic squad for essentially telling her she had to compete in a 4x4 relay race that she had no training for.

She's a 100 and 200-meter Sprinter. She said that was because the team had essentially messed up the number of people they had available in their squad. But her outspoken criticism seems, according to her accounts, to have led Belarusian officials from the top, she says, and you have to wonder if Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was involved in this, given how close he is to the Belarusian Olympic Committee. He's called the last dictator in Europe, and charge of an extraordinary crackdown inside Belarus where essentially, you can be put up on charges for extremism just for being an independent journalist.

This particular protest by Timanovskaya seems to have led officials to go to her and say, right, your Olympics are over. You have to go home. She says she was forcibly taken to the airport in the last 24 hours in Tokyo and essentially, it seems, told to get on a flight home. There, she appears to have approached airport or police officials and asked for help. The Belarusian officials say that they, in fact, had determined she had psychological and emotional distress issues and therefore should be taken off the team. I have to tell you here, you know, Belarus is a bad place at the moment particularly if you speak out against the regime there.

Tens of thousands have fled. Thousands are thought to have been jailed or be in jail as I say. We've reported on allegations from anything from male rape by police through to just being an independent journalist and accused of extremism. Extraordinary brutality, much of which backed by the Kremlin, the Belarus' key ally here. All of this though finding itself into the Olympics and the International Olympic Committee under extraordinary pressure here to explain quite where they sit. Here's what their official was trying to explain in yesterday's events.


MASA TAKAYA, SPOKESMAN, TOKYO OLYMPICS: We cannot specify exactly which organization is dealing with the organization, but what I can do is relevant authorities are being in touch with her and she is being in a safe environment. And when we can tell which organization is dealing with her, then we can tell you that. But at this stage, we just cannot specify the name of the organization --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, is it that because you don't know?

TAKAYA: No, of course --

MARK ADAMS, IOC SPOKESPERSON: I think you need to understand there has to be -- I mean, I probably misspoke, but I think there needs to be a little confidentiality involved here. Because certainly, telling you who she's in contact with -- what I can tell you is that she is being looked after and she's safe and secure. If I start to tell you who she's talking to, then I don't think this is --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you told us that she's in the hands of authorities and told us that she's safe. But then you're unable to tell us which authorities and who is keeping her safe. So, it is taking your word that she is in the hands of authorities.

ADAMS: OK, that's fine. You'll have to take my word for it. Thank you.


WALSH: Extraordinary there really, how often we see an Olympic situation. The authorities there have to try and please all of their Olympic Committee members including even there, Belarus.


But at the same time too, now on the public stage, the sort of North Korea-like, frankly, behavior of the Belarusian government, summoning it seems according to the account of Timanovskaya, athletes home because they've been so outspoken. And this athlete, now it seems looking now for asylum or at least initially a visa to Poland first of all -- extraordinary frankly, that the Belarusian government believe they can do this extraordinary too, though we're seeing this on the international stage in a sporting event. Laura?

JARRETT: Yes, certainly, extraordinary situation. Thank you for staying on top of it, Nick.

WALKER: Rent is due and federal eviction protections have ended. What happens next for the millions of Americans scrambling to keep a roof over their heads?