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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Poll: Parents Strongly Favor Masks in Schools, Divided on Shots; NY Governor Cuomo Announces He Will Resign; Soccer Superstar Lionel Messi Joins Paris Saint-Germain. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 05:00   ET



WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning. It's Wednesday, August 11. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thank you for joining us, for getting such an EARLY START with us. I'm Whitney Wild in for Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Nice to have you here again this morning.

And I'm Christine Romans. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

The debate over masks and vaccine requirements heating up as kids are returning to school. School officials and governors are battling over mandates, especially in states where the delta variant is surging.

New numbers though just into CNN from a Kaiser Family Foundation survey show parents strongly favor masks. Nearly two-thirds want masks required for all unvaccinated students and staff. Parents are more closely divided over mandating shots, 58 percent say they don't want their schools to require vaccination, 42 percent are in favor.

WILD: Public health experts not divided. They say every student who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated and other politicians who are politicizing this very important debate should just stay out of it.


ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE TEAM: Extraordinary to think that we have governors that aren't putting needs of school kids first and this is something that I think every voter and everybody in the country should be very focused on. Let's get our kids vaccinated and for those who aren't or can't be, they should be wearing a mask. This is not a political issue.


WILD: One of the officials who is making it a political issue though is Texas Governor Gregg Abbott. Judges in Dallas and San Antonio blocking Abbott's ban on mask mandates, which means school districts in those counties will be able to impose them.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, the surge overwhelming Texas hospital resources, Governor Abbott on Tuesday sought out of state medical staff to come and help out. And in Florida where Governor DeSantis has prohibited mask mandates, the state has requested hundreds of additional ventilators from the federal government.

Let's bring in Dr. Richard Martinello. He's a pediatric infectious disease specialist and associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine.

WILD: OK. So, our first question is, and this is really the number one topic for parents, Christine and I are both parents, so the big question is, do schools need to require masks, do they need to require vaccines for kids and staff to be able to go back to school and stay healthy?

DR. RICHARD MARTINELLO, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Well, I think that it is a very good idea to require both vaccination for those who can be vaccinated and also masks. These are both interventions that we know are very effective to help prevent people from getting COVID and these are both interventions that we know are incredibly safe for people to have.

And so, really, at this point and in particular with the delta variant now circulating so widely in our communities, I think that it is very important we do require both masks and vaccinations for both students and staff.

ROMANS: Yeah. We've heard it so often, vaccinate the big people and the adolescents who are eligible and mask up everybody, try to have ventilation and social distancing where necessary. I mean, these are things we know that work.

You know, Doctor, in Texas, the governor also sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association, he's asking hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective medical procedures which a delay will not result in a loss of life they say or deterioration with a patient's condition. That's an order to increase hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients.

You know, it occurs to me, can't you argue that, in fact, at this point, the coronavirus is an elective disease, right? I mean, all of these people who are coming in, 99.9 percent of them who are coming into hospitals, this was preventable at this point.

MARTINELLO: Well, I think that's right. So many of our patients that we're seeing both here in Connecticut in our hospitals but also across the United States unfortunately aren't vaccinated. So, this is an elective disease to some extent and unfortunately we're seeing in Texas and other states such as Arkansas where the level of COVID that is circulating in the community that is really straining resources in hospitals and causing the hospitals to require themselves to postpone elective procedures.

And while elective procedures sounds fairly benign, it is important to remember that these procedures include cancer surgery, it includes cancer screening procedures, such as colonoscopies, and we know from our experience in the first wave of COVID that canceling these elective procedures, delaying them for weeks to even months, has real impact on our patients.


And so, unfortunately, with the amount of COVID that's circulating in these areas, it is having a real impact on how we care for patients in hospitals and I think it really is imperative on us to get people vaccinated who aren't vaccinated yet, insure that they feel comfortable receiving vaccination, and insure that know that vaccination is both safe and highly effective.

WILD: All right. You make a good point about the elective procedures that are also necessary for long term health. That is why they exist in the first place is because, you know, you don't like it to a catastrophic situation.

Dr. Martinello, thank you so much. Dr. Martinello of Yale School of Medicine, thank you again.

MARTINELLO: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. Another big bank is telling its workers, get your shot before coming back to the office. Citigroup said employees in New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia must be vaccinated by September 13th. Citi is encouraging but not requiring employees in other places to be vaccinated. Those employees, they will be required to wear masks and they will have to be routinely tested for coronavirus regardless of their vaccination status.

Now, the CEOs of Southwest, American and Delta Air Lines, they will not go as far as requiring employees to be vaccinated, but they are strongly encouraging and incentivizing vaccinations. Last week, United Airlines told its employees to be vaccinated by October 25th and any employee who refused to show proof would be fired. Back in May, Delta announced all new hires must be vaccinated.

WARD: Well, Governor Cuomo is out. His reign as governor coming to an end, although it is not the end -- likely end rather of his legal problems. We'll have more on that coming up next.



WARD: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that he will resign. His political career fell roughly one week after a report commissioned by the state attorney general found Governor Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women.

The 63-year-old three-term Democrat told American he will step aside in a speech that lurched between apology and excuses.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The report said I sexually harassed 11 women. That was the headline people heard and saw, and reacted to. The reaction was outrage. It should have been. However, it was also false. This is not to say that there are not 11

women who I truly offended. There are. And for that, I deeply, deeply apologize.

And I think given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing. And therefore, that's what I'll do.


ROMANS: Cuomo said yesterday he will formally step down and hand the reins to his lieutenant governor in two weeks.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has more from the state capitol in Albany.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Whitney, later today, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul who will soon be the first woman to lead the state of New York will give her first public remarks after that stunning resignation from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo saying he is stepping aside not wanting to be a distraction anymore. The 63-year-old getting choked up at moments as he gave his resignation speaking to New Yorkers, his staff and three daughters.

CUOMO: I have seen the look in their eyes and the expression on their faces. And it hurt. Your dad made mistakes. And he apologized and he learned from it. And that's what life is all about.

GINGRAS: Cuomo also offered an apology to the women who came forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against him, but after his personal attorney laid out the flaws they believe existed in the attorney general's report released last week. That report concluding the governor sexually harassed at least 11 women over seven years.

Response to the resignation from politicians including the president was swift. Many saying he did the right thing and crediting the women for speaking out. Two of the accusers told CNN in a statement, they felt vindicated.

Cuomo's resignation takes effect in 14 days. In the meantime, we're learning state lawmakers have been conferring with attorneys about what options they have with moving forward with this impeachment investigation -- Christine and Whitney.


ROMANS: All right. Brynn, thank you so much for that from Albany.

WILD: All right. Let's bring in a former New York prosecutor, Julia Rendelman, now criminal defense attorney.

So, Julia, the question is what are the legal problems that could still bubble up. I mean, just because he left doesn't mean that this is all over. So, in addition to a possible impeachment which could still happen, there are a list of other problems.

So when you think about it in terms of possible criminal charges, what are you thinking? Is this -- is that real possibility and if so what could the charges be?

JULIA RENDELMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Sure. So it is certainly a real possibility. Keep in mind the A.G.'s report talked about 11 women who made allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of Andrew Cuomo. And most of these allegations were civil in nature. They didn't rise to the level of criminal conduct.

However, there were several including one woman I believe it was the executive assistant, the name is Brittany Commisso, who've actually came forward, made allegations that he grabbed her buttocks and touched her breast. These specific claims, if they are true, they rise to the level of criminal conduct. They rise to the level of what we know in New York law as misdemeanors -- forcible touching, sexual abuse in the third degree.


The question for the district attorney's office is, A, first, they're going to investigate and make sure that there is credibility, no credibility issues regarding this witness or any other because they certainly don't want to move forward with a case unless they are confident that they can make a case that they can win at the end and prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

ROMANS: What about potential civil actions, are they more likely?

RENDELMAN: So, civil actions are much easier to prove. And so -- and most of those cases involve more civil actions, sexual harassment. Civil actions require a preponderance of the evidence, whereas criminal cases require proof beyond a reasonable daughter. So I think you're going to see many civil claims. And, by the way, I don't think it's just going to be the 11 we're talking about. I think that you will find that there's going to be more women that are going to come forward and potentially file claims against him.

And again, you know, I think that we'll be looking at both and I think it's really possible that besides these civil claims, you're going to see some type of criminal action going forward.

ROMANS: All right. Julia Rendelman, former federal prosecutor, thanks for getting up early with us this morning and walking us through that. Thank you.

WILD: All right. In less than two weeks, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will become the 57th governor of New York, the state's first female governor. Her storied and political career suddenly being thrust in the spotlight.

So, here's a little background on her. She won a special election in 2011 for a New York congressional seat that had not gone to a Democrat in 40 years. She lost the seat though after districts were redrawn in 2012. Cuomo asked Hochul to join his gubernatorial ticket as lieutenant governor in 2014.

ROMANS: All right. European soccer star Lionel Messi is bringing his historic career with Barcelona to an end as he officially joins Paris Saint-Germain. All the details in today's "Bleacher Report" next.



ROMANS: All right. The man considered by many to be the greatest soccer play of all-time, Lionel Messi, being introduced as we speak with his new team in Paris. This is the only story that anyone cares about in my household to be honest.

Andy Scholes, my little soccer fans -- you have this morning's "Bleacher Report." Hi, there.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Big day in the Romans household.


SCHOLES: Big day in Paris, Christine. You know, this is the equivalent of Tom Brady leaving the Patriots for the Tampa Bay Bucks.

You know, Messi, he'd been with Barcelona since he was 13 years old, wanted to stay there but financial limitations forced the team to have to let him go. And Paris Saint-Germain, a very rich team, owned by Qatar, immediately signing Messi to a two-year deal that's going to pay him around $40 million, plus a $30 million signing bonus.

These are live pictures right now of Messi's introductory press conference there at the stadium. Messi is going to wear the number 30 for PSG and he arrived in Paris yesterday just to huge fanfare, he had hundreds of fans greeting him at the airport, and then more gathering outside of his hotel.

Messi expected to make his debut for the team by the end of the month.

All right. In the meantime, nine-time NBA all star Russell Westbrook fulfilling his childhood dream by joining his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA's all-time leader in triple doubles called it surreal in his introductory news conference. Westbrook will now look to win his first NBA championship alongside LeBron and Anthony Davis. But the 13-season NBA veteran says he really has nothing left to prove.


RUSSELL WESTBROOK, LOS ANGELES LAKERS GUARD: When I got drafted in the NBA, that was me proving people wrong. When I was able to go to college and get me a degree -- not a degree, I wish I got a degree, but to go to college, UCLA from inner city, that was me proved people wrong. And just to make it out of the hood was proving people wrong. I don't need to do that anymore.


SCHOLES: All right. HBO series "Hard Knocks" is back again this year featuring the Dallas Cowboys. And episode one details Dak Prescott's journey to come back from his injury last year, also featured his birthday and running back Zeke Elliott trying to figure out how to wrap a birthday present for him.


SCHOLES: You can find anything on YouTube.

"Hard Knocks" airs Tuesday night at 10:00 Eastern, leaving up to the season in HBO and HBO Max.

And finally, LSU fans will get a close up look at the school's live tiger mascot like normal this fall. He has been fully vaccinated and vets say the 4-year-old tiger was given his second dose on Friday, hasn't shown any adverse reactions. The school had put up extra barricades around Mike to keep people further away to protect him from COVID. But they're going to remove those later this month.

And, guys, interesting to note that while the tiger got his shots, only about 38 percent of Louisiana's population is fully vaccinated.

ROMANS: Only 38 percent, wow.

WILD: If they don't follow the sigh earnings follow the sports.

ROMANS: Yeah, follow the sports. Sports leadership there.

All right. Thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

WILD: All right. Just in, Senate Democrats have passed their $3.5 trillion budget resolution along party lines.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The Democratic budget will bring a generational transformation to how our economy works for average Americans.


WILD: What it means for the president's expanding social services agenda, and his infrastructure package. That story coming up next.



ROMANS: Good Wednesday morning. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

WILD: I'm Whitney Wild. It is 29 minutes past the hour. All right. Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today. First one up, as schools reopen and officials battle over mandates, a new poll shows nearly two-thirds of parents favor mask requirements in the classroom. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll though found a majority of parents 58 percent oppose vaccine mandates for students.