Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

White House: Escalating Attacks By Iran "Issues of Concern"; IOC Removes Two Belarus Coaches From Olympic Village; Vaccine Hesitant Alabama Beginning To See Uptick In Shots. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 06, 2021 - 05:30   ET




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

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Amara Walker, half past the hour. Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

JARRETT: The Biden administration is ramping up the pressure to get more people vaccinated, withholding federal funds from states -- think nursing homes here -- just one of the early ideas being discussed now.

WALKER: Senate leaders failing to reach a deal on quick passage of a bipartisan infrastructure deal. That sets up a key procedural vote tomorrow. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would $256 billion to the deficit. Unclear if that could scare away any senators.

JARRETT: We're expecting some 870,000 jobs added to the economy when the July jobs report is released this morning. Still, uncertainty over COVID has become a wildcard for the labor market, just as it has for the broader economy.


CHIEF JERI WILLIAMS, PHOENIX POLICE DEPARTMENT: Wearing this badge is a privilege, not a right.


WALKER: The Justice Department's civil rights division is launching an investigation into policing in Phoenix, Arizona. The focus is on how the city treats homeless residents. Officials in Phoenix say they welcome the review.

JARRETT: Apple announcing plans to install software on iPhones that detects images of child abuse. It would scan photos on a user's device and iCloud account, then flag concerning images to authorities. Some security experts, though, are raising concerns, saying the technology could be misused, including for surveillance purposes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the town -- hundreds of years. There's no reason for us to lose our town.


WALKER: Red flag warnings from California to Montana with dangerous fire conditions expected today. Gusty winds have fanned the Dixie Fire in California, all but destroying the town of Greenville, consuming homes and businesses within hours.

JARRETT: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announcing a second special session of the legislature to pass new voting restrictions, drawing out the standoff with Democrats who left the state to block the bill. Meantime, national voting rights groups are stepping up pressure on Democrats to pass bills defending voting rights.

WALKER: Fans in D.C. will no longer be allowed to wear Native American headdresses and face paint at Washington football team games. That attire had been tradition for fans of the former Washington Redskins. The team won't have traditional cheerleaders as well. Instead, there will be a co-ed dance team.

JARRETT: All right. One of today's most urgent questions, how do you get hesitant people to finally get COVID vaccinations? Here's what top strategist and pollster Frank Luntz says.


FRANK LUNTZ, STRATEGIST: You've got to keep the politics out of this. And I know that the -- that the temptation, particularly in the people who do the job that you do, is to beat on those who aren't vaccinated. To hold them accountable, responsible for what's happening in this -- in the spread of the virus.

The problem is if you demonize them, if you insult them, they will surely not listen to you and they will not be educated by you. And frankly, they feel pressure rather than educated. And so, we have to use language, and statistics, and facts that will bring them in.


JARRETT: OK, let's do some education right now. The average number of people getting vaccinated for the first time hasn't been this high since mid-June.

WALKER: Yes, but hospitalizations are also high, now over 60,000 Americans -- almost quadrupled in a month.

CNN affiliate KTRK reporting an 11-month-old girl with COVID, from the Houston area, had to be airlifted 150 miles away because of a lack of bed space in pediatric hospitals.


DR. CHRISTINA PROPST, PEDIATRICIAN: The emergency rooms at our major children's hospitals here in Houston, the home of the largest medical center in the world, are extremely crowded. They are filling, if not full.


JARRETT: The surge in the Delta variant now delaying return to the office for many companies. Wells Fargo and BlackRock are both giving it at least another month. Amazon bumped it back to 2022. CNN also pushed its return back by a month and fired three employees who were coming to the office unvaccinated, violating company policy.

WALKER: On Thursday, California became the first state to mandate all healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated. Hawaii, Virginia, and Maryland now joining the list of states with some sort of vaccination mandate for state employees.


GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: Places where we have vulnerable populations that are exposed and we have some workers, most of our state workers have done the right thing and gotten vaccinated. But in some of those places, we want to make sure that those folks that are on the front lines who are -- who have the ability to impact and infect folks -- that they make sure to go ahead and get vaccinated.



JARRETT: Meantime, the FDA could lay out a national strategy for booster shots in just a few weeks. This, despite pleas from the World Health Organization for a booster moratorium in order to get vaccines where they're needed so desperately right now.

Still, many people are in need of their first shots before it's too late. People like Randy Geiger of Tennessee, a one-time COVID denier who says bad information on social media almost killed him.


RANDY GEIGER, SURVIVED COVID AFTER VIRUS DENIAL: Do not listen to Facebook. Do not listen to some of the media outlets and different things because there's so many different things said. Go to your doctor. Listen to what your doctor says. If your doctor tells you to take it, there is a reason for taking it.

One of my little boys said something to me last night. He says I'm ready for my strong daddy to be back.

It is a life-changing process. Be smart. Do not put your family and other people through unnecessary heartache. It's just -- it's not worth it.


WALKER: Wise words there. The South Dakota city of Sturgis will provide free self-test kits

during its huge annual motorcycle rally this weekend. The event was a superspreader last year. Organizers say more than 700,000 people could attend. And they have 500 COVID test kits but they say they could get more if needed.

JARRETT: The White House says escalating attacks from Iran are, quote, "issues of concern." That's putting it mildly. The State Department says Iran is responsible for two recent incidents -- the boarding of a Panama flagship off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and a deadly drone attack on a tanker managed by Israel in the Arabian Sea.

On Thursday, Israel's defense minister warned Iran that Israel is prepared to strike.

CNN has this covered from both countries, starting with Hadas Gold in Jerusalem. Hadas, good morning. What more are you learning?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, we are having some important developments in the last couple of hours here. The Iran-backed group Hezbollah is taking responsibility for 10 -- at least 10 rockets that were fired from Lebanon into northern Israel. The Israeli military saying that most of them were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.

But we do think this is maybe the first time in about two years that Hezbollah -- which, again, is backed by Iran -- is taking responsibility for such rocket attacks. So this is a very serious escalation.

There have been other rocket launches, including earlier this week, but those were largely attributed to Palestinian faction groups. The fact that Hezbollah is getting involved is very important here.

Now, the IDF is saying that it is responding by striking where these rockets were launched from in Lebanon.

Now, yesterday, as you noted, the Israeli defense minister was asked in an interview directly is Israel ready to militarily strike Iran. And he responded with a simple one-word answer, yes.

Now, when he was pressed further on whether there will be military action immediately, he sort of hedged a little bit, saying that Iran is proving to be not just an Israeli problem. He's referring, of course, to the incident on the Mercer ship that killed a British and Romanian crew member. And saying that other countries and Israel need to balance their diplomatic and strategic activity.

Now, this type of rhetoric that Israel is ready to strike Iran immediately is not necessarily new. We heard similar rhetoric from foreign Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But this is, of course, coming at an incredibly sensitive time -- a new president in Iran, a relatively new government here in Israel, of course, the talks on the Iran nuclear deal that may be on hold, and these recent incidents at sea. And, of course, the rocket attacks from earlier this morning from

Lebanon into southern Israel by the Iran-backed grew Hezbollah showing that we are in a very volatile and very sensitive situation at this moment, Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Hadas Gold. Thank you for bringing us up to speed on what is happening there.

WALKER: All right. So let's get the perspective now from Tehran, and that is where CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is standing by. So, Fred, as we heard there from Hadas, there is this new claim of responsibility from Hezbollah. And Britain's foreign secretary --


WALKER: -- saying Iran is at a crossroads in international relations.

What's the perspective from there?

PLEITGEN: Well, the Iranians, obviously, are hearing all the things that are being said there by the Israelis and by the Brits as well -- and, of course, in the U.S.

And the Iranians themselves are issuing some strong warnings for their part. They are saying that if the Israelis did act militarily against Iran that Iran's answer would then be military as well.

In fact, the head of Iran's very powerful Revolution Guard Corps -- he was down in that region where some of those recent maritime incidents have been taking place in the Persian Gulf region and he was inspecting the Iranian troops down there. Of course, Iran does not only have very powerful naval forces down there but also very powerful missile forces and air defense systems. And he came back and he said that those forces were all fully combat-ready.

And that's when this general who is the head of the IRGC -- he said that if there was action from Israel that the answer from Iran would not be diplomatic but would be military.


And, of course, also those comments that were made by the Israeli defense minister -- the Iranians hearing those comments as well. And they reacted to that and they were issuing an angry response to those comments.

I want to just read you what the spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry had to say about it. He said, quote, "In another brazen violation of international law, the Israeli regime now blatantly threatens Iran with military action. Such malign behavior stems from blind Western support. We state this clearly: Any foolish act against Iran will be met with a decisive response. Don't test us," he said.

Now, as Hadas was saying, of course, all this comes as a new administration has taken power here in Iran -- the hardline President Ebrahim Raisi. And one of the first things that he said is that Iran will continue to be very active here in this region, both diplomatically but, of course militarily as well, guys.

WALKER: All right, Frederik Pleitgen. Appreciate your reporting there from Tehran. Thank you.

JARRETT: Now to this. Just a short time ago, the International Olympic Committee taking action against officials from Belarus after a sprinter said they tried to force her onto a plane home in the middle of the Olympic Games.

CNN's Blake Essig is live in Tokyo for us. He's been following this. Blake, who are these guys, and what is the IOC doing about this?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Laura, in a tweet earlier today, the IOC announced it has stripped the accreditations of two Belarusian coaches for their role in the alleged forcible removal of Kristina Timanovskaya from the Olympic Village.

Now, the saga started last Sunday when the sprinter was supposed to be preparing to make her Olympic debut the following day in the women's 200-meter sprint. Instead, the 24-year-old posted a video to social media pleading for help. She said she was removed from competition, given one hour to pack her things, and ordered to fly back to Minsk immediately.

Now, this all happened after she criticized coaches a few days earlier on social media for being included on a list to run an event which she hadn't prepared for.

While at the airport, the sprinter asked the Japanese police for protection and has since been flown to Poland and offered a humanitarian visa. Now, she did that because she fears that if she returns to Belarus she would likely be arrested. She said it was her grandmother who called her and told her not to return because, quote, "it's not safe for us."

Now, the IOC has set up a disciplinary commission to look into the circumstances around the incident. During the investigation, the coaches from Belarus will have the opportunity to tell their side of the story. But in the meantime, the IOC says that the coaches' accreditation has been stripped. They've been removed from the Olympic Village and will now return to Minsk to protect the well-being of the Belarus athletes still in Tokyo -- Laura.

JARRETT: This story is just like an onion. We just keep pulling back more bizarre details by the day. Blake, thank you -- appreciate it.

We'll be right back.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

The state of Alabama has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, but it's beginning to see an uptick in shots. CNN's Miguel Marquez traveled to Birmingham to speak with folks who finally made the decision to roll up their sleeves.




MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joan Chang, mom to 2-year-old Samantha, 19 years married to Joseph Milwood, 33 weeks pregnant with their son -- and last week, she got her first coronavirus vaccine shot.

J. CHANG: It has gotten to the point where no one's wearing masks, OK. And then you're hearing about this variant.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The highly contagious Delta variant now taking hold here. Alabama has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Nearly every county experiencing a high level of community spread. And most worrying, hospitalizations are shooting up statewide at a rapid rate.

JOSEPH MILWOOD, HEALTHCARE WORKER: This virus -- it doesn't know race, it doesn't know gender, age. So it's very -- it's very scary.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Joseph, who works in healthcare and knows too well what COVID-19 can do to the human body, was vaccinated nearly a year ago and says he's been encouraging his wife to get it, too. She's not worried about the vaccine's effect on her unborn son, she just didn't see the point in getting it.

J. CHANG: I've been working in the home since last year -- March -- so I don't really go out. But it got to a point where you turn around, people are getting sick. People I know are getting sick.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): UAB Hospital, the state's largest, was putting thousands of shots into arms daily in the spring. A month ago it dropped to less than 100 a day. Today it's a couple of hundred.

VANESSA DAYS, INJECTION CLINIC SUPERVISOR, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: They're starting to worry about their kids going to school. They're going back into the office and they're going back into the classroom. And so, parents are worried.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): As life gets back to something resembling normal, businesses reopening, masking and social distancing fading.

Twenty-year-old Ellyn Norris says the vaccine gives her the confidence to reengage in the world.

ELLYN NORRIS, RECEIVED FIRST DOSE OF COVID VACCINE: Yes, yes. I just -- I'm ready for everything to be close to back to normal. I don't really think anything will ever be completely normal. I think that will take a while. But I think the more we take our part in doing this, then we can get close to doing that. MARQUEZ (voice-over): Keith Snow says going on vacation is reason enough to get the shot.

KEITH SNOW, RECEIVED FIRST DOSE OF COVID VACCINE: Me and my wife are getting ready to travel so she told me that we were going to need it in order for us to travel. So, yes, I am.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Casey Krzeczkowski, 23, says between her nursing job and the economy opening up it was time to get vaccinated.

CASEY KRZECZKOWSKI, FULLY VACCINATED ALABAMA RESIDENT: COVID's not officially gone. So now that the mask mandate's gone I felt like if I was not going to be wearing my mask anymore I should probably just still just protect myself.

MARQUEZ (on camera): While there is a group of people in Alabama who will not get vaccinated no matter what, there's another group that as the economy opens, as those mask orders and that social distancing fade away, as schools are getting ready to open, there is a great concern about the wider economy and how they are going -- they and their families are going to fare in that wider economy as it reopens, those people are choosing to get vaccinated.


So you are seeing the numbers of vaccinations tick up in Alabama and in other states as well, which is great. But let's hope that a trickle becomes a torrent -- Laura, Amara.


WALKER: You can only hope for that. Miguel Marquez, thank you.

A former custodian in Medford, Oregon has been arrested on suspicion of planning a mass shooting at a high school. Medford police say 24- year-old Kristopher Clay walked into a police lobby in July telling officers he was having homicidal thoughts.

A search of three homes later turned up firearms, ammunition, and handwritten manifestos. Officials claim the high school was just one of his potential targets.

JARRETT: That's pretty scary.

Longtime labor leader Richard Trumka has died. He served as president of the AFL-CIO, the country's most powerful labor organization, since 2009. Trumka was also a close ally of President Biden, who called him a dear friend. Richard Trumka was 72 years old.

WALKER: And the FAA is pleading with airports to crack down on illegal alcohol-to-go sales. The agency says alcohol frequently contributes to the spike of unruly passenger behavior so far this year. Despite more than 3,700 incidents, only about 100 law enforcement cases have been opened because the FAA has no authority to prosecute.

JARRETT: A remarkable find in the Siberian Arctic. A perfectly preserved cave lion cub said to be 28,000 years old -- wow.

WALKER: Unbelievable.

JARRETT: Even its whiskers are intact.

The Siberian Simba is one of two lion cubs fund by hunters in Russia's Far East region. The other is thought to be quite a bit older at 43,000 --


JARRETT: -- years old.

How are the whiskers intact?

WALKER: Yes, and the fur, really, too. I mean, it's so well- preserved.

JARRETT: It's incredible.

WALKER: It is incredible.

American sprinter Allyson Felix has a chance to run into the record book this morning.

JARRETT: Coy Wire has this morning's Bleacher Report from Tokyo. Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Laura and Amara.

You want to know how much of a legend Allyson Felix is? I just spoke to American gold medalist sprint canoer Nevin Harrison. She saw her on an elevator here in Tokyo. She said I couldn't even talk to her. I was too nervous to say hi.

Allyson Felix is making her fifth Olympic appearance here in Tokyo and is hoping to add another medal to her count in the 400-meters in just a few hours from now. She's looking to become the first woman to claim 10 Olympic medals in track and field. She won silver in this event in Rio and is among the contenders once again.

The 35-year-old is already the only female track athlete to win six Olympic golds. But she told me earlier she wants to be remembered for making her mark off the track.


ALLYSON FELIX, 9-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: I really want my legacy to be one of someone who fought for women. I think if you had asked me that question years ago it would have been records on the track or how fast I ran. But now, I think it's really about having some impact on my sport and having had some impact on change for women so that they will have had an easier kind of battle than myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WIRE: The U.S. women's basketball team will play for a seventh- straight gold medal after crushing Serbia and extending their Olympic win streak to 54 games.

Breanna Stewart saying that they came out to have fun. It looked like it. They've won gold at every Olympics dating back to 1996.

Brittney Griner leading the team with 15 points. They'll face either Japan or France in the final.

The A-Team of April Ross and Alix Klineman are bringing beach volleyball gold back to America. They beat Australia in straight sets. Ross had won silver in London, bronze in Rio, and after this match, the 39-year-old caught in a fairytale story to finally win gold.

Klineman told me earlier here in Tokyo that victory is something they visualize before every game, giving themselves that boost of confidence they need to succeed. Clearly, it worked.

All right, finally, his name is Captain America but Team USA's Nathaniel Coleman looked more like Spiderman, putting on a show of strength, speed, and arachnid. Look at this guy go, earning a silver medal in the sport climbing as the event makes its debut here in Tokyo for the Olympics.

The 24-year-old from Utah said he never dared to acknowledge the dream that he could medal at the Olympics. Laura, Amara, he said he started out climbing door frames, cupboards, and his parent's fridge as a kid.


WIRE: Then he graduated to trees and playgrounds. Now he's an Olympic champ. So don't go yelling at your kids next time they're climbing on the floor (ph).

JARRETT: I was going -- I was just going to say that makes me very nervous for my toddler who insists upon climbing onto the countertop every morning.

WALKER: I would say a really cool sport, though. And he really did look like a real-life Spiderman.



All right, Coy. Have a great weekend. Thanks.

WIRE: Thank you.

WALKER: Thank you, Coy.

And thanks so much for being with us. I'm Amara Walker.

JARRETT: Thanks so much for being here this week.

WALKER: Thank you for having me.

JARRETT: What a treat.

WALKER: It's been fun. Thank you, Laura.

JARRETT: And thanks for getting up early.

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


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman on this new day, as hospitals are overrun in several states and many governors across the U.S. are fed up with the unvaccinated.

Plus, in what could be a dramatic escalation, President Biden.