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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Hospitals Reach Breaking Point, ICU Beds Scarce in Deep South; W.H.O. Calls for Moratorium on COVID Booster Shots; Tokyo Reports Record Increase in Cases Since Olympics Began; White House Developing Plan to Require Vaccination for Foreign Visitors; U.S. Forest Service Halts "Let It Burn" CA Fire Strategy. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 05, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Thursday, August 5th. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York, thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Amara Walker, in for Christine Romans. And welcome to our viewers in United States and around the world.

A busy morning. We have reports from Nairobi, Tokyo, the White House, Athens, Lithuania and Tehran.

JARRETT: This morning, there is deep trouble in the Deep South. Right now, with the delta variant surging, there are only six available ICU beds in the entire state of Mississippi. And there are barely two dozen in Arkansas, pushing medical personnel to their breaking point.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're down over 200 nurses into positions that we can't fill. We've had people literally walk off the job because they couldn't take it anymore.

REPORTER: Have you had days where you didn't want to come to work?

FEMALE NURSE: Yes, yes, I've had moments where I sit in my car and cry.


JARRETT: A special session of the Arkansas general assembly resumes this morning to consider masking mandates.

Earlier this year, Republican Governor Asa Hutchison approved a statewide ban on mask mandates, a move he now regrets.


GOV. ASA HUTCHISON (R), ARKANSAS: Cases were at a low point. Everything has changed now. Yes, in hindsight, I wish that had not become law.


WALKER: After one week back at school, a COVID outbreak in the Marion School District in Arkansas has put more than 500 students and staff in quarantine. Louisiana is also facing a severe shortage of ICU beds. Louisiana State University will require all students to either get vaccinated or get tested monthly. Doctors are now strongly encouraging adults to get vaccinated to protect children.


DR. TREY DUNBAR, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: It is hard for us as pediatricians to see kids affected by preventable disease. Children aren't like adults. They don't have the choice to get vaccinated. They are -- parents are responsible for those choices.


JARRETT: Los Angeles County will now require vaccination for all of its employees, roughly 110,000 workers. One health expert from the Trump administration is warning new variants will keep popping up if vaccination rates don't pick up.


ADM. BRETT GIROIR (RET), FORMER ASSISSTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: The next variant is just around the corner if we do not get all vaccinated. I beg the American people to understand that to defeat this virus, we have to get everybody's level of immunity up and that is just the way it is.


JARRETT: Meanwhile in Florida, Broward County schools are defying Governor DeSantis and his threat to defund the district by keeping a mask mandate in place and the superintendent of Leon County Schools which covers Tallahassee is pleading for a temporary mask mandate, telling DeSantis he initially assumed the governor's stance but circumstances have changed.

WALKER: Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has announced a mask mandate in schools statewide, just days after hundreds of thousands gathered for the four day Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago's Grant Park. A September festival just south of downtown in Hyde Park has now been canceled. And in a late move yesterday, CVS has stopped offering Johnson & Johnson vaccines at its pharmacies. The one and done vaccine was touted as a game changer but as suffered from poor perceptions about its effectiveness, concerns about rare side effects and production delays.

JARRETT: Vaccine ethics in the spotlight as the World Health Organization calls for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL: I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the delta variant. But we cannot and we should not accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it while the world's most vulnerable people remain unprotected.


JARRETT: There is some research showing COVID vaccine protection does wear off over time, but much of the world still faces supply shortages while in the U.S., no amount of free beer is enough to get everyone vaccinated. And in some places shots have actually expired before they could even be used.

Let's bring in CNN's Larry Madowo in Nairobi Kenya.

Larry, good morning.

You know, you would think of the classic model of supply and demand, and it has been turned on its head right now with all these vaccinations.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, because most of the vaccines available have been produced and consumed by rich countries like the U.S.


And people in the rest of the world don't have enough of them. For instance here in Africa, the delta variants is ravaging to the continent. A World Health Organization official told CNN that deaths were up 89 percent in the last one month. I've been to a vaccination site in Nairobi where people are queuing for hours hoping to get a vaccine, and sometimes they're told, I'm sorry, we're out, try tomorrow, try next week. We might get consignment. And that's a similar story across the continent.

As we've seen from the U.S., this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated while here in Africa, 98 percent of the people are unvaccinated. What the World Health Organization is try doing is convince wealthy countries to go easy on booster shots until 10 percent of the population in every country in the world is vaccinated. Already, most countries in Africa will miss that target and many in the global south will also have a similar deadline which means that as long as people in the global south are not protected, nobody in any part of the world is safe because the virus mutates and new delta variants will appear. And it has no border.

As President Joe Biden said, it will make its way to every corner of the world, because there is a great need here. It is a matter of life and death. People cannot return to their lives until they have that protection.

JARRETT: Yeah, that's what people have to understand. This is -- it's all hand in hand. Everybody has to be protected, so that all of us are protected. Larry, thank you for your reporting.

WALKER: Turning now to Texas where ten people were killed and 20 others taken to hospitals after a van thought to be transported migrants crashed. There were 30 people inside the white van when the driver veered off the road near the town of Encino, striking a utility pole and stop sign. A witness said the van was traveling at a high speed.

Back in March, 13 people were killed when a packed car with migrants was struck by a semi truck in California's Imperial Valley.

JARRETT: Still ahead, for the first time since closing its borders to the world, the White House is planning to allow foreign tourists back into the U.S. There's a catch.



JARRETT: With COVID cases expanding in Japan, officials are considering expanding health restrictions. Doctors believe the Olympics are indirectly related to the surge of cases and they're worried what happens after the athletes go home.

Blake Essig is live in Tokyo for us.

Blake, good morning.


Look, that's always been the concern. Once the Olympics is over and the eyes the world are no longer fixed on Japan, it's the people here that will have to deal with the consequences. In Tokyo, and across Japan, the infection rate is surging at a record-setting pace and doctors say because of the Olympics, it's about to get a whole lot worst.


ESSIG (voice-over): Shunsuke Shirakawa been bringing the funk for more than 20 years. At a normal night at Brown Sugar, the beers are pouring, the bubbles are flowing and there's not an empty seat in the house.

But tonight is not normal. In fact, this bar hasn't had a soul for more than a year.

SHUNSUKE SHIRAKAW, OWNER, BROWN SUGAR (through translator): It was a really hard year and I didn't have work. I didn't know what to do.

ESSIG: That's because each of the first three times the government declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and asked bars and restaurants like Brown Sugar to close early and not serve after 7:00 p.m., Shirakawa complied. SHIRAKAWA: I was listening to what the government was saying. I only

worked for a month this year.

ESSIG: By the fourth time a state of emergency was declared, Shirakawa had enough. He said holding down restaurants and bars and restaurants is confusing.

Since the latest state of emergency was declared last month, cases in Tokyo have skyrocketed. In fact, record high case counts were reported four different times just last week.

But, Dr. Hideaki Oka, an infectious disease specialist said the current surge has been fueled by the delta variant, accounting for 90 percent of confirmed cases in the capital. He said the Olympics are indirectly related to the rise of COVID-19.

DR. HIDEAKI OKA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST (through translator): The government's decision to push ahead with the Olympics doesn't reflect what the people wanted. People are ignoring the states of emergency. The government is requesting the stay-at-home. But in holding the Olympics, they sent out a confusing message.

ESSIG: Inside the Olympic bubble, cases have remained relatively low. In Tokyo 2020, officials say the Olympics is not behind the surge isn't cases, denying that the games have created a flow of people. But as you walk the streets of Tokyo and attend various Olympic events, it's clear that's not completely true.

ANONYMOUS VOXPOP (through translator): There probably won't be another Olympics in Japan in my lifetime so I wanted to come here to the rings to experience the atmosphere.

ESSIG: Despite a ban on spectators in Tokyo, crowds gathered to witness history at the first triathlon mixed relay. At the BMX freestyle event, the bridge hundreds of meters away from the venue was packed with people trying to catch a glimpse of Olympic action.

And every day, a large numbers of people are outside of the Olympic stadium to take a picture of the Olympic rings.

And that, according to Dr. Ueyama, the chairman of the Japan Doctors Union, is a big problem. Unless things change, he said cases could triple here in Tokyo within the next two weeks.

DR. UEYAMA, HEAD OF JAPAN'S DOCTORS UNION (through translator): It's often said there's a time lag one or two weeks between the peak of infection and movement of people. The infection is still going to rise.

ESSIG: A rise in cases with no end in sight. A crisis that will continue to strain the medical system that doctors say is already on the verge of collapse.


ESSIG (on camera): Declaring a state of emergency is the strongest measure that the government here can take to stop the spread of infection.


But medical professionals say the mixed messaging that the government has put out is the reason the order is no longer effective. They call for stronger measures to be taken, including cancelling the Olympics even at this late stage -- Laura.

JARRETT: Blake, thank you so much for that report. Really interesting to see what will happen there after the Olympics.

WALKER: Cancelling the Olympics at this stage -- the cat is out of the bag already.

Well, Democrats in New York have the votes to impeach Governor Andrew Cuomo. How he is handling it all as his legal troubles are mounting.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

The White House is considering a bold move to keep COVID from entering the United States. A vaccine requirement for all foreign visitors.

Phil Mattingly has more from the White House.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura and Amara, for months, there have been questions about when the U.S. would start to ease the significant travel restrictions it has on several countries and areas across the globe as it relates to the pandemic.

Now, we're starting to get a sense of how that process will actually play out. The Biden administration is in the midst of drafting proposals that require vaccination for all foreign travelers who want to enter the United States. It's still in infancy stage moment right now. It's something that's not necessarily imminent. But it's definitely something in play. Something that's being discussed and almost a certainty to at some point be implemented.

It is, again, a key step order easing some of those travel restrictions and what is expected to be, according to White House officials, a phased approach. This isn't going to go away at once. This is going to be implemented all at once. But it underscores a White House before the surge of delta variant cases considered easing those travel restrictions, this would be a step further than doing nothing at all.

In fact, this would be as bold a step as you can take to ensure that foreign travelers do not bring the virus into the United States. Or at least they are vaccinated when they decide to come in. Again, it's still early stage, a phased approach. And something that White House officials have made clear is under consideration. And simple implemented and a key element to the start of easing of those travel restrictions. When that will actually occur? Still to be determined -- guys.


WALKER: Phil Mattingly, thank you.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's political fate crumbling by the day in the wake of a report that found he sexually harassed 13 women. Eighty out of the 150 members of the New York assembly so far have told CNN they would vote to impeach Cuomo. Only 76 votes are needed. "The Washington Post" reports Governor Cuomo remains defiant, holed up with his advisers in the governor's mansion yesterday, seeking a path for political survival.

JARRETT: New York state's Democratic chairman joined the list of onetime Cuomo allies now colleagues for his resignation. He says the party in the state won't be well served by a long protracted removal process.


JAY JACOBS, NEW YORK DEMOCRTIC COMMITTEE CHAIR: I spoke to him at length. And I laid out for him that I thought that, you know, he had a great legacy in New York. And his legacy would be damaged if we went through the process of impeachment which looked like inevitability at this point. People do come back in some fashion. But it all depends how you go out. I said it depends how you turn it around.


JARRETT: Meantime, the governor's legal trouble is mounting. Four different district attorney offices around New York have asked for evidence gathered by the state's AG to discover possible criminal charges. And those criminal charges may actually be misdemeanors, it might not necessarily be a felony, but it's still a far fall for someone who used to be the state attorney general.

WALKER: Absolutely.

Well, we've lost Greenville -- sobering words after the Dixie Fire tears through a town in California. The latest, next.



WALKER: Raging wildfires in the West now prompting officials to rethink their priorities. The U.S. Forest Service says its halting its "let it burn" strategy after officials allowed a small fire to grow out of control in extreme drought conditions.

The Tamarac Fire south of Lake Tahoe went on to burn nearly 70,000 acres in two states, destroying homes and prompting renewed criticism from western lawmakers. JARRETT: The Dixie Fire now the eighth biggest in California history

tore through the town of Greenville, burning homes and businesses to the ground.

Here's a devastated local congressman.


REP. DOUG LAMALFA (R-CA): We lost Greenville tonight, and there's just no words for it. Government hasn't been able to get the job done.

We'll take up the fight even harder. And more so, we've got to win this. We've got to stop this.

Forget the politics. Forget the nonsense. We have to stop making this happen by inattention to what is obvious.


JARRETT: The city of Berkeley urged residents living in the hills to prepare to leave their homes during periods of high wind and extremely low humidity when fires could spread.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack toured a NAPA Valley vineyard to see the hardships they're facing.


TOM DAVIES, PRESIDENT, V. SATTUI: The wildfires and COVID on top of that is like a one-two punch and now throwing in drought.

REP. MIKE THOMPSON (D-CA): It's important that he sees the fires, when you see the areas here that have been burned.


WALKER: Just awful. Water levels at California's second largest reservoir, Lake Oroville, have fallen to their lowest levels on record. This exceptional drought now covers more than 46 percent of California, nearly half.


EARLY START continues right now.


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

WALKER: I'm Amara Walker. It is half past the hour.

Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.