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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

School Officials Defying State Orders Against Mask Mandates; Soon: $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Deal Set for Vote; Ravens QB Lamar Jackson Noncommittal About COVID-19 Vaccine. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 10, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. It is Tuesday, August 10th. It's 5:00 a.m. in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Whitney Wild, in for Laura Jarrett.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

In Florida, enforcing a mask mandate could prompt a pay cut. Governor Ron DeSantis is warning school superintendent and school board members that if they disregard his executive order against mask mandates, the state board of education may move to withhold their salaries. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has also issued an order barring mask mandates in schools, but several superintendents in both states are defying those orders with opt out exceptions in some cases.


ROCKY HANNA, SUPERINTENDENT, LEON COUNTY SCHOOLS: If something happened and things went sideways for us this week and next week as we started school and heaven forbid we lost a child to this virus, I can't simply blame the governor in the state of Florida. I can't. And if there is an out and I didn't take the out, and I didn't do what was best for the children here in Tallahassee, in Mann County, that's on me.

MICHAEL HINOJOSA, SUPERINTENDENT, DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: This is Dallas ISD, and I know my numbers and I'm responsible for this district and I'm responsible for everything that happens. And we can save a few lives and the health of some kids. It's worth whatever trouble I get in.


ROMANS: A CNN analysis finds at least seven states ban mask mandates in schools, Florida isn't highlighted here, but only because the governor's order isn't technically an outright ban.

Nationwide, more than 93,000 new cases of COVID-19 among children were reported last week, a big increase from about 72,000 reported the week before. And doctors are strongly urging students to wear masks whether they are mandated or not. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNA: I think bringing together large numbers of children, congregating them in classrooms with masks being optional or worse yet even forbidden is just a formula for disaster.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: This is a real danger to children. Every parent would do everything to protect our kids. Our kids are unvaccinated and we're sending them back to schools. We need to -- we need to mask them up.


WILD: The debate over classroom mask mandates is growing louder as Florida sees a major COVID surge.

More on from that CNN's Natasha Chen in Orlando.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Whitney, Florida's new case numbers and hospitalization rates are skyrocketing, overwhelming hospitals and straining medical staff.

We spoke to one nurse who brought his son to get vaccinated in Orange County here, who says his job is four times harder than it was earlier in the summer.

NURSE: Resources are low. The mentality that the nurses is strained because of all of these patients are sick. And we want to do our best to take care of them, but it's just a never-ended battle, because there's always more patients to take care of.

CHEN: Orange County utilities share data with us, showing a huge spike in virus concentration in the waste water, particularly in the northwest service region. That's mostly a residential part of the county, indicating serious community spread. That area saw more than a 1,200 percent increase in a nine-week period.

Young people are being hit particularly hard, as the positivity rate among children is higher than the overall state positivity rate. That trend is going in the wrong direction, just as more than half the counties in Florida are bringing students back to the classroom, in- person today.

Now, last week, nearly one in four children between the ages of 12 and 19 tested positive for coronavirus. About one in five kids under 12 are still aren't eligible to get the vaccine tested positive in Florida.

Christine and Whitey, back to you.


ROMANS: All right, Natasha, thank you for that. WILD: All right. Joining us is Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez. She's an assistant professor and primary care pediatrician at Columbia University Irving Medical Centers.

ROMANS: Thanks for coming.

WILD: Yeah, thank you. Joining us so early today.

This is -- I think this has always been the doomsday scenario for parents. Parents have always been petrified that their children would not only get it but get a severe case. So, I think the first question is for masks. I mean, are masks totally necessary to send kids back to school in a healthy way?

DR. EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ, PRIMARY CARE PEDIATRICIAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IRVING MEDICAL CENTER: One hundred percent necessary, and I can't even believe that we're here having this debate. I mean, at this point, we have studies from country after country that have shown us that we can do this safely if we space our kids out, if we mask them up, if we do some testing.

And I just -- I truly can't believe you would think that the goal would be to have everyone back in school, to keep them in school, without the back and forth that we've seen last school year. And yet, here we are, debating a basic measure that is really a no-brainer at this point based on the science.


ROMANS: Well, mitigation and vaccination. We know that data from the CDC suggests 99.9 percent of fully vaccinated people have not had a severe breakthrough case of COVID. So there's this evidence, right, that you want to vaccinate the adults and mask the kids.

It seems like it should be simple.

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: You would think it would be simple. I really just, again, can't believe that we're having this debate. And at this point, if you haven't gotten vaccinated for yours yourself, I think the data is so clear if we create a bubble around kids, who are not yet eligible, right? They don't have a choice. We have a choice. We can look at the data and decide whether this is safe and I hope that people do. Kids don't have that choice that we as adults have.

WILD: Well, here's I -- and just to go back to the numbers, the delta variant, as Christine mentioned, it's increasingly affecting children. Twenty percent of all new cases are found in kids. So, what can you do? I mean, how do you slow the spread?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: You vaccinate the adults. Over and over again, that is what you're going to hear from everyone that you ask. You really have to vaccinate the adults. And unfortunately, this delta variant is spreading among the unvaccinated. You guys have said it many times on your air. This is becoming a pandemic of unvaccinated.

And who are the unvaccinated right now? The kids who don't qualify, who don't have that choice.

And unfortunately, the teenagers whose parents know that they qualify and they're waiting, even though right now, at this point, we have so much data that the vaccine is safe.

ROMANS: What are you telling your patients? I feel like the most important relationship of trust -- and this is a trust issue. People don't trust the government, they don't trust the CDC, they don't trust science, they don't trust science.

So, the most important relationship is you, the doctor and your patient. What are you hearing and telling people?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: I have to tell you, I'm so blessed to be able to do that work. And so blessed to be able to have relationships with families, who come to see me and tell me, but doctor, tell me the truth, which is so concerning that a family would feel like they're being lied to, and that they would come and tell you, but tell me the truth. But regardless, I'm really grateful that they do.

And when they come in and they asked me about it, I tell them, this is safe. This is so safe that I got vaccinated myself being pregnant. So, it's not only that I'm recommending it for your child, but I really put my arm out there for myself and for my baby.

So, this is the time. Enough is enough. We have enough data. It's time now for people to get vaccinated.

ROMANS: The idea of not paying a school administrator or a teacher for requiring masks, that must just gall you.

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: That's just crazy.

ROMANS: Doctor, thank you so much. Hope to see you again, soon. Very soon thank you.

Primary care physician at Columbia.

All right, another concern for parents this year, will their kids have the supplies they need to go back to school, despite concerns about kids going back to school safely and supply chain issues, we've told you about that, the national retail federation expects record spending this year. The group estimates shoppers with K-12 kids will spend an average of $850 per family on school supplies. College spending also expected to hit a record $71 billion.

Retailers are hoping parents will still buy the supplies they didn't have to get last year, while their kids were learning from home. But supply shortages are a problem here. High demand running up against tight inventory and shipping delays. Some items like backpacks and laptops and stationary have been in short supply since July. The DSW Shoe Warehouse told "The Journal", "Wall Street Journal", it still expects a robust back-to-school season with parents hoping their kids will be back in classrooms.

WILD: A lot of people watching hoping that very same thing. On this air, hoping that very same thing.


WILD: Christine and I both.

In a couple of hours, the Senate will vote on the president's massive infrastructure bill, but will it pass? That's next.



ROMANS: In just a few hours, the historic $1.2 billion bipartisan infrastructure package will have its final vote in the Senate. Late last night, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the measure cleared its last hurdle on its way to a vote later this morning.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: This is a very good day. We have come to an agreement. After all the long, hard negotiating, the stops and starts, we're here. And it's a good thing, a very good thing, for America.


ROMANS: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is live on Capitol Hill.

Sunlen, finally there. What's in the final agreement? And we should note -- I mean, for m years, Democrats and Republicans have been saying, there is bipartisanship on infrastructure. It took him a long way to get here.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Christine. And it is notable this is a massive, massive bill and certainly will represent a major victory for the White House after, as you note, months and months of painstaking negotiations up here on Capitol Hill, $550 billion in new federal spending over the next five years. Money for roads, bridges, for rebuilding the electric grid, for expanding broadband, modernizing public transportation systems, among many, many more items.

And the Senate is expected to vote on this, a final vote in the Senate at 11:00 a.m. eastern time today. They do have the vote to pass this through. That is when it heads over to the House, where it faces something of an uncertain fate. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, she is not yet committed to taking up this bill, until the Senate moves forward on that $3.5 billion budget resolution, a whole completely other thing. That is the Democratic-only package, where it includes a wide array of Democratic priorities.

Now, you heard Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last night saying that the Senate will move to that budget resolution immediately after passing infrastructure today. That will likely set off what we call a so-called vote-a-rama where senators will be voting throughout the night offering unlimited amendments.


So a lot of work left to do before they get the items, Christine, over the finish line.

ROMANS: And for the infrastructure bill, the uncertain future in the House is because of the Republicans or progressives? Yeah.

SERFAFY: Progressives certainly are the big problem here as far as Democrats. That is why you have these moderate Democrats who are pushing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to move to this quickly. They certainly don't want this bill to be twisting in the wind after so much work.

ROMANS: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much, from the Hill this morning.

WILD: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she feared the mob rampaging through the Capitol on January 6 would not only kill her. She tells Dana Bash that barricaded in the bathroom of her office this afternoon, she had a flashback to a sexual assault she had endured years earlier.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): I didn't think that I was just going to be killed. I thought other things were going to happen to me as well.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, it sounds like you didn't just think that you would die, you thought you're going to be raped.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yeah, yeah, I thought I was.


WILD: Just a horrifying day.

Ocasio-Cortez says her decision to reveal her earlier rape during an Instagram live video a month after the riot was not planned but that she felt propelled to do it in the moment.

ROMANS: Really terrifying what happened on the hill that day. And so many of our colleagues were in those rooms hiding and wondering what was going to happen. Just awful that that could happen in this country.

All right. Two separate COVID diagnoses, zero vaccinations, why NFL Lamar Jackson is still hesitant to getting his shot.

"Bleacher Report" is next.



ROMANS: All right. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson says he is still unsure about getting the COVID-19 vaccine despite now testing positive twice for the disease.

Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report".

What's -- what's his rationale here?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he says it is a personal decision, Christine. You know, Lamar Jackson is one of the key players on the Raven that is not vaccinated. Jackson actually first tested positive for COVID back in November, missed a game last season because of it.

And he contracted the virus again last month and missed ten days of training camp while recovering. Now the former league MVP is healthy again and back with the team but Jackson says he still is not sold on whether he should get vaccinated.


LAMAR JACKSON, BALTIMORE RAVENS QUARTERBACK: We'll see. Talking to the doctors. We'll see.

I feel it is a personal decision. You know, just going to worry about my family, keep my feelings to my family and myself. Just focusing to getting better right now.

I just got off COVID, so I have to talk to my team doctors, try to see how they feel about it, see how my team feels, keep grinding and we'll go from there.


SCHOLES: Old Miss head coach Lane Kiffin meanwhile says his team has reached 100 percent vaccination among players, coaches and staff members. Kiffin made that number a priority after SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced last month that the conference would not reschedule games due to COVID outbreaks making forfeits a possibility.

And Kiffin says everyone should get the vaccine and says he is ready for any criticism that comes from fans in Mississippi where only 35 percent of people are vaccinated.


LANE KIFFIN, OLE MISS HEAD COACH: I don't want to get into a big argument about what is right and wrong, but I think it's irresponsible not to. So, I know I'll be criticized for that. So this is not a normal job where you can just stay at home and (INAUDIBLE) on Saturday.


SCHOLES: Ole Miss opens its season on Labor Day, September 6, against Louisville in Atlanta.

All right. And baseball after investigating a potential racial slur towards Marlins player, Lewis Brinson, the Rockies now say a fan was actually just yelling at the team's mascot Dinger trying to get a photo. And when speaking with the media yesterday, Brinson said he hears the N-word like many when watching that video, and he was thankful for all the support he received.


LEWIS BRINSON, MIAMI MARLINS OUTFIELDER: I want everybody to know that it does happen to black players, quite often, way too often. It needs to stop. But again, I want to say to that fan that is getting probably a bunch of backlash from it, I am sorry if you did say Dinger, you know, maybe change the mascot's name.


SCHOLES: All right. Meanwhile in Kansas City, we had a wild game between the Yankees and Royals. The Yankees blew leads in the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th innings before finally beating the Royals 8-6 in the 11th. This was the first Major League Baseball game ever that both teams scored in the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th innings.

So, definitely a wild one there, guys. The game lasted nearly five hours. I'm sure Yankees fans are very happy to come out on the right side of that one because it was a long night.

ROMANS: Five hours of baseball -- well, that's not on my list.

WILD: It sounds like a blast.

ROMANS: Thanks so much, Andy. I know -- neither of us I think are baseball fans. Sorry, Andy.

WILD: My husband and his whole family are from Brooklyn. Their whole family is big Yankee fans. So, they're thrilled. So, I'm like, I don't know what any of that --

ROMANS: Five hours of baseball, woo!

WILD: Yeah, I'm glad we weren't there.

All right. Aides for Governor Cuomo are trying to convince him to resign, he says he just needs more time. The details of that next.



ROMANS: All right. Welcome to Tuesday. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

WILD: And I'm Whitney Wild, in for Laura Jarrett.

It is 30 minutes past the hour. Time for our top stories to keep an eye on.

The Pentagon is moving to make vaccines mandatory for all active duty members of the U.S. military. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says that he will seek President Biden's approval to put a plan in action by mid-September or immediately after the FDA approves the Pfizer vaccine.

ROMANS: Oregon's most populous county issuing an indoor mask mandate, regardless of vaccinations.