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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Vaccination Rates Climbing As Threat From Delta Variant Rises; Tensions Escalate Between Israel And Iran After Drone Attack; U.K. Preparing To Offer COVID-19 Booster Shots Next Month. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 02, 2021 - 05:30   ET




LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Amara Walker. Half past the hour.

JARRETT: All right, it's time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

Vaccination rates are picking up. More than 816,000 went into arms on Saturday. That's the fifth-straight day of over 700,000 and more than half of those shots were first doses. Vaccination rates in Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana have all doubled in the last few weeks.

WALKER: The bipartisan infrastructure bill now has some meat on its bones. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announcing Sunday evening the text is complete. The measure calls for more than half a trillion dollars for rebuilding the electric grid, roads, bridges, and water systems, for passenger and freight rail, expanding broadband access, and charging stations for electric cars.

JARRETT: American gymnast Simone Biles will take part in tomorrow's balance beam final. It will be her first event at the Tokyo Olympics since bowing out of several events last week over mental health concerns.

WALKER: The Biden administration is taking Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to court to block his executive order targeting migrants recently released into the U.S. The DOJ claiming that Abbott's order giving state troopers the authority to reroute or impound cars carrying undocumented migrants jeopardizes the safety of people in federal custody.

JARRETT: Teams are working to clean up an oil spill leaking from a shipwreck off an island in Georgia. The incident happened during the work on the Golden Ray shipwreck, which capsized back in 2019. Georgia beaches near the spill are under a no swimming advisory.

WALKER: Some gold artifacts were stolen from the Sacramento History Museum over the weekend. Officials are not calling it an inside job but they are noting that three separate display cases were broken into.


DELTA PICK MELLO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SACRAMENTO HISTORY MUSEUM: It was clear they knew where they were going and what they wanted to do.


WALKER: It's the first time a break-in like this has happened in the museum's 35-year history.

JARRETT: Zoom has agreed to pay $85 million to settle a lawsuit claiming the company allowed hackers to jump into video calls. The suit also alleges the video platform shared user data with tech companies like Facebook. Zoom did not admit to any wrongdoing but agreed to strengthen its privacy features.


DABABY, RAPPER: Singing "Levitating."


WALKER: Fans hoping to catch DaBaby were out of luck at the Lollapalooza Music Festival in Chicago. The rapper's performance was scrubbed from the lineup Sunday following his homophobic comments about gay men and HIV at a different concert last month. The festival saying it was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love.

JARRETT: COVID vaccinations are finally climbing and not a moment too soon. The CDC reports that 816,000 doses were administered Saturday. That's the fifth straight day of more than 700,000 shots in arms. The increase includes a major jump in people getting their first shots. The CDC says more than 99.99 percent of fully vaccinated people have not been hospitalized or died from COVID.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Maybe I'm trying to look on the bright side of this. What's the silver lining of this is that people are waking up to this and this may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant to say OK, it's time.

I hope that's what's happening. That's what desperately needs to happen if we're going to get this Delta variant put back in its place. Because right now, it's having a pretty big party in the middle of the country.


WALKER: Now, remember, all the unvaccinated people are what allow a virus to mutate and create new variants. And there's growing frustration among vaccinated people toward the unvaccinated as more rules and restrictions are being put back in place due to the rising number of cases.

New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio saying he will give more guidance on indoor mask use today.

More restaurants and bars now require customers to show proof of vaccination, including Musang on Beacon Hill in Seattle.


MELISSA MIRANDA, CHEF-OWNER, MUSANG SEATTLE: The decision is based on the fact that there are a lot of restaurant workers that are actually catching COVID even though they're vaccinated. And I know that there will be some pushback but I feel for myself and for my team and my family that this is the safest thing.


JARRETT: Dr. Anthony Fauci attributes the increase in vaccinations to two possible factors here -- trusted leaders coming out in support of vaccines, and people seeing how much better vaccinated communities are faring against this virus.


WALKER: Millions of renters are now in limbo after Congress let federal eviction protections expire over the weekend. Democrats are increasing pressure on party leadership to extend the eviction ban, with some even sleeping outside the Capitol this weekend. But the Biden administration is shifting its focus to distribute billions of dollars in unspent housing assistance.

JARRETT: Yes. The issue is exposing a major disconnect between the president and his party with each side privately accusing the other of misreading the situation as tenants across the country face potential removal from their homes.

CNN's Joe Johns has more from the White House.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Laura and Amara, White House officials say there is a strategy to deal with the eviction moratorium issue but it's coming off as slow in the execution for millions of Americans who are behind on their rent.

What is going full speed ahead is the blame game up on Capitol Hill after the White House waited until the last moment to send a request for enactment of a moratorium to Congress. Democrats on the Hill blame Republicans. They say they can't get the votes.

However, as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez said on CNN on Sunday, you can't, in good faith, blame Republicans when Democrats are in control of the leadership.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): House leadership had the opportunity to vote to extend the moratorium and there were many -- and there was, frankly, a handful of conservative Democrats in the House that threatened to get on planes rather than hold this vote. And we have to really just call a spade a spade. We cannot, in good faith, blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have the majority.

JOHNS (on camera): Earlier this year, Congress appropriated tens of billions of dollars for housing that has never been distributed, partly because of slow dragging in the states and also because of bureaucratic issues and paperwork.

So why doesn't the administration just go ahead and put in a new moratorium on its own? There's a risk to that because the Supreme Court has already said Congress has to weigh in before the moratorium is extended.

Laura and Amara, back to you.


WALKER: All right. Joe Johns, thank you for that.

Tensions at sea are escalating between Israel and Iran after a deadly drone attack. Two crew members working on a tanker were killed by an armed drone off the coast of Oman. The U.S., U.K., and Israel all blaming Iran.

Nic Robertson joining us now with more. So, Nic, we know the tanker that was attacked is connected to an Israeli billionaire. And the Israeli prime minister says Israel has intelligence that the Iranians were behind this. What more do we know?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, that's the view that's shared here in the U.K. by the foreign office there, saying it's highly likely Iran deliberate and targeted a tank on a ship that was in international waters.

There's a track record that the British foreign office points out about Iran, so far this year. They say that there have been three similar attacks on Israeli-linked shipping vessels in that area since February earlier this year.

We've heard from the State Department as well, saying that they believe Iran was responsible and there will be a response forthcoming. Israel's foreign minister has said that he is pleased that both the United States and the U.K. are taking this issue on. I think we can expect the response -- the forthcoming response to be diplomatic in nature.

But this is coming at a really tense time in relations and changing time in relations between the United States and Iran. You have a new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, being sworn in later this week. He is much more hardline than the previous Iranian president.

And at this time, the White House is trying to negotiate with Iran to get back into those nuclear talks -- the JCPOA talks in Vienna at the moment -- in Austria. The talks, at the moment, are really stalling. They've been going on for months. There's seems to be a breakdown in sort of a free flow of communication. The two sides are not meeting face-to-face.

And the position of this incoming Iranian president is that he's not going to negotiate just for the sake of negotiations. That's what he says. We've heard that also coming from the State Department as well.

The bottom line here is that this is an escalating, tense, diplomatic moment when things were already very difficult.

WALKER: Yes. Nic Robertson, thank you so much for that. We'll be watching for those next steps.

Well, just when you think relations between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill can't get any lower, Democrats are now calling on House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to apologize to Nancy Pelosi after joking he would hit the speaker with a gavel should he become the next speaker.


Here's McCarthy at a fundraiser in Tennessee.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I'll make this one promise here. When we win the majority, which I know we're going to, you're all invited. (INAUDIBLE). I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It'll be hard not to hit her with it but I will bang it down for the American people. Thank you.


JARRETT: Pelosi's chief of staff responded, quote, "A threat of violence to someone who was a target of the January sixth assassination attempt from your fellow Trump supporters is irresponsible and disgusting."

Last week, Pelosi called McCarthy a, quote, "moron" for complaining about mask rules on the House floor.

We'll be right back.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

The United Kingdom is preparing to roll out COVID-19 booster shots next month. The most vulnerable residents will be prioritized ahead of the winter season and the possible emergence of any new variants.

Salma Abdelaziz is live in London with the very latest on this. Salma, we saw Israel launch a similar initiative this weekend. Lots of folks in the U.S. here are very anxious about a third shot for a vaccine. So what sparked this decision in the U.K.? SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, Laura, this is something the government has been working on for months now and we finally have a deadline. Starting September, millions of people potentially could be getting a third booster shot. This is despite the fact that numbers of cases are actually going down in the U.K. right now.

So why a booster jab? Why that? Why not just the two shots that kept us fully vaccinated?

The first reason is vaccine efficacy. There are multiple studies now that show, Laura, that the efficacy of that vaccine wanes over time. And the second issue -- and this is key here in the U.K. -- is the issue of variants. Fear of future variants.

A group of British scientists -- government-backed group -- just a few days ago published a report that says it is very likely that this virus will be able to mutate until it is able to evade our current vaccines. They said that is very possible. And they said it is highly unlikely that the virus will be eradicated.

Bottom line, Laura, we're going to be living with this virus for a long time. This virus will continue to change and it may very well change until it is able to evade our current vaccines.

What's the solution? Booster shots like what you're seeing the government do in September here across the U.K. Booster shots like what we're seeing happening in Israel right now. And potentially, what that means is we're looking at a future -- we're looking at a few years where scientists, advisers, and government officials are going to be recommending more shots in the future -- Laura.

JARRETT: Yes. The data out of Israel is pretty striking to show just how much your immunity starts to wane after about five or six months. So a lot of people who got those shots back last winter, it's coming due.

All right, Salma. Thank you for that -- appreciate it.

WALKER: There is no real price to pay for spreading COVID misinformation in the U.S, but overseas it seems to be a different story. YouTube has suspended Sky News Australia from uploading new content for a week over videos that -- excuse me -- that question the use of masks and lockdowns.

CNN's Angus Watson joining us now from Sydney. So, Angus -- I mean, it is noteworthy that YouTube's punishing a company owned by Rupert Murdoch's media empire, isn't it?

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Absolutely. YouTube taking this extraordinary step of temporarily suspending the account of a major news organization here in Australia -- Sky News Australia -- for allegedly spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19. YouTube says that could be potentially damaging to public health.

Now, the network denies that it's done that. It says that it's never posted misinformation about COVID-19 and went a step further on Monday, putting an editorial on its website accusing YouTube of attacking Sky News Australia's freedom of thought.

Now, Sky News Australia is, as you say, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, an organization which has been accused in the past of spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

Now, the context for this here in Australia, two major cities in lockdown as the Delta variant spreads. Here in Sydney, a lockdown now in its sixth week has failed to bend the curve of COVID-19. And what's making that even worse, Australia's population is dangerously under- vaccinated.

Under 20 percent of the population have had two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. The government says that unless that gets up to 70 percent -- 70 percent of adults having had two shots of COVID-19 and being fully vaccinated, that lockdowns like this will continue, Amara.

WALKER: Thank you so much, Angus Watson, live for us there in Sydney.

JARRETT: All right. The most heavily populated city in Africa underwater. Sea levels in Lagos, Nigeria are rising dramatically due to climate change, leaving cars and houses submerged and an economy in crisis.

CNN's Larry Madowo reports.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Laura, Amara, even in the best of times, Legos is a very difficult city to live in. But now, they have just had, in mid-July, some of the worst flooding in recent years, and that is saying something because this is a city that floods every year between March and November.

Now, Nigeria's head of hydrological agency is predicting some catastrophic flooding in September, which will be the peak of the rainy season.

Now, the heart (ph) of this problem is climate change because of rising seas, and this all comes down to human activity. According to one study led by the Institute for Development Studies, it is because of Legos' inadequate and poorly planned drainage systems and unplanned urban growth.


Why is this happening only in Legos and not in New York City or even here in Lamu in Kenya on the Indian Ocean coast? It is because this is a city that's got 24 million people. I have spent a lot of time reporting in this city and it's a vibrant city with a great spirit. But it's also difficult to navigate and it's overcrowded, and that's all leading to this current crisis.

The warning that Legos may be unlivable by 2100 is serious because not only is it Africa's most populous city, it's also got an economy larger than some African countries. Where will all these people go? And to take that warning into perspective, it also means that the

Victoria Island, which has this affluent neighborhood with some of the most expensive property, will cease to exist. That's what it really means.

And it's a major problem that Nigeria cannot handle alone. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he's open to working with international partners to tackle climate change, including the Biden administration.

But it is truly a dire warning even though it's a global problem where many other low-lying cities around the world could be submerged by 2100, in this city -- in Legos in the heart of West Africa -- this could be really tragic -- Laura, Amara.


WALKER: All right. Thank you so much for that, Larry Madowo.

The legislator -- the legislature, I should say, in New York's Nassau County votes today on a bill that would allow police to sue protesters and seek damages up to $50,000. All first responders in the county would be covered by the measure if they've been harassed, injured, menaced, or assaulted while in uniform or because of their position.

JARRETT: Western states under siege from huge wildfires may be facing a new threat this week. Thunderstorms are heading their way, raising the possibility of flash flooding. Parts of the west have already been inundated by heavy rain and land that's bone dry because of drought and can't absorb as well.

A homeowner lost almost her -- lost her house to the Telegraph Fire in June, and now this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see it in my sleep. I will never feel the same about my home.


JARRETT: Six states in the west now have flash flood watches.

Here's our meteorologist Tyler Mauldin.


TYLER MAULDIN, AMS METEOROLOGIST (on camera): Laura, Amara, we have about a million people under a flood watch for today. You'll notice that these flood watches extend from New Mexico all the way to the Northern Rockies -- the same areas where we have been dealing with fires.

This raises the concern for flash flooding and it only takes about half an inch or less in just one hour to cause some flash flooding. So we have to watch this very carefully today during the heating of the day when temperatures get into the upper 90s, low 100s out west. That's when we'll start to see those showers and thunderstorms really fire up. And these are the monsoon showers and thunderstorms, so they'll really pack a punch.

Elsewhere across the southeast, we're watching the possibility for showers and thunderstorms to fire up during the heating of the day today. Those will also pack a punch and could possibly lead to some flooding.

Temperature-wise we have cooler air coming down from the north across the east, but out west it is really going to bake. Billings, you'll get close to 100 degrees today. Las Vegas, 104.

Back to you.


WALKER: Tyler, thank you.

Disney's "Jungle Cruise" picking up plenty of passengers with the $90 million debut on theaters and streaming.


Scene from Disney's "Jungle Cruise."


WALKER: The film, based on one of Disney's theme park rides, brought in nearly $60 million at the worldwide box office. Another $30 million came via Disney+ where viewers can stream the film for 30 bucks.

JARRETT: Finally this morning, a life-changing graduation at Florida A&M University.


LARRY ROBINSON, PRESIDENT, FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY: Some of you -- and I know this as a fact -- may have thought that some of the balances that cleared up was a mistake, right? I know you thought it because your parents called and said FAMU, there was some money on the account a week ago and now it's gone. That was not a mistake.

In fact, you should know that for the last year and a half, this institution has provided more than $16 million in student support and debt relief as part of the federal CARES Act initiative.


JARRETT: Larry Robinson, the president of the historically black college, made the announcement at the school's commencement. The school is one of several historically black colleges that recently announced plans to pay off students' debt.

Love to see it. It is a life-changing gift for so many.

WALKER: It absolutely must be life-changing, for sure.

Well, thanks for joining us. I'm Amara Walker.

JARRETT: Have a great day, everyone. I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.



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

We are facing a health crisis of the unvaccinated as the Delta variant puts hospitals under siege. New evidence that Americans refusing vaccines may be getting a wake-up call.

Plus, Florida now the worst in the nation as the state breaks its own case record for the entire pandemic.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: One lawyer describes it as the worst crime any president has committed ever. New details this morning on how Donald Trump tried to get his Justice Department to help overturn the election.

And breaking news this morning. A big announcement about Simone Biles and her future at the Olympics after sitting out the last few events.