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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

White House: Biden 'Continues To Feel Well' After Rebound COVID Case; Ukraine: First Grain Shipment Has Left Port Of Odesa; Greek Beekeepers Fear Fires Could Destroy Vital Pine Trees. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 05:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: So, what else are we hearing from the president's doctor?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN REPORTER: Yes. Well, Dr. Kevin O'Connor is saying that the president is being very careful while isolating at the White House. We know that he is very conscious of getting anybody sick. So, in addition to testing positive still but still feeling well -- no symptoms, as he hasn't had -- since he tested positive the second time, the president is really trying not to spread any of his infection.

Now, a White House official said that President Biden, prior to testing positive on Saturday, had six close contacts that he had in the period between basically Wednesday morning -- that he was released from isolation until Saturday morning when he was basically put back into that isolation. So far, none of them have tested positive.

Remember, Erica, the first time that the president had COVID, the White House identified 17 officials that were close contacts to President Biden and none of them tested positive. But they really tried to do like socially distanced events, really isolating the president while he was released from quarantine, really trying not to spread any further infection in case of that rebound.

Now, of course, the White House, at one point, downplayed the potential for the president to get a rebound positive diagnosis after taking that antiviral Paxlovid treatment, saying that only a small population of those who had taken the treatment had actually gotten that rebound case. But, of course, they increased their testing cadence just in case to see if they would catch it. And, of course, here we are now.

So, the White House says that Sunday was day zero of the president's isolation, which would make today, Monday, day one of the president's second time isolating at the White House where he will continue to work for the week until, of course, testing negative trying to, once again, be released from that isolation -- Erica.

HILL: We'll be waiting for that one.

Jasmine, good to see you this morning. Thank you. Let's bring in now Dr. Amesh Adalja. He's a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. It's good to have you with us this morning.

So, when we look at this, I think it's interesting to note, too, as Jasmine just pointed out, there's increased testing cadence for the president. He's getting tested all the time. But it does seem that we're hearing anecdotally about more and more of these quote-unquote rebound cases of COVID.

Is that an issue with the disease, is it the Paxlovid, or do we not know?


So, there seems to be definitely anecdotal evidence that people who take Paxlovid -- these high-risk individuals -- have these rebound phenomena. But is it because of the drug? Is it because of who is getting the drug? And when you look at the clinical trials, Pfizer says it was not more common versus the placebo.

So, this is something that really needs a lot more investigation to understand what's actually behind it. But the good thing is that people who get this rebound do really well and it's not a reason not to take Paxlovid if you're somebody who qualifies for it.

HILL: Which I think a lot of people are asking, so thank you for answering that question before I even asked it.

There's also -- I've noticed there's been some talk about whether, perhaps, it should be a longer course of treatment. So, it's currently five days -- whether it should be increased to seven or 10 days.

Is there any research that would support that at this point?

ADALJA: None, but this is something that we want people to actually do studies to determine because this rebound is distressing to people. Those people may be contagious. So, if the longer course can prevent that from happening it might be something to do. Although the taste is bad so people may not want to take it that long.

HILL: Yes.

ADALJA: But if it's something that has a clinical benefit then I think we should be trying that. And I think that's what we should be studying.

HILL: Yes. There's a lot of medicines that don't taste great, but they sure work well. So that's the important thing, right?

I also want to talk to you about monkeypox. So, we're talking about it a lot, obviously, here in New York City. Public health emergencies have not been declared. San Francisco is the first major city to do that on Friday, I believe it was. There's also a push for more from the federal government. Why is it so important that this be labeled a public health emergency?

ADALJA: What we've seen through this monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. is that bureaucracy has gotten in the way of doing what's right. We have 120-page documents you have to fill out to give antivirals. Very difficult to get vaccines. Testing was a disaster, just like it was for COVID in the very beginning of this.

And what's happening is we see them talk about constraints that they have but these are all government-induced constraints.

And what we know is that states of emergency streamline that. They get rid of all that bureaucracy and red tape that probably shouldn't be there, to begin with. And that may be the only way to go to actually get the government to be responsive to what the people need.

HILL: What's interesting, too, is we saw the WHO -- I believe it was last Saturday, so more than a week ago -- declare that this was a global health emergency. Some of their messaging has been a little bit more clear as opposed to what we're seeing here in the United States.

How much do you think that bureaucracy is also playing into the confusing messaging?

ADALJA: I just wonder after two successive administrations where the CDC has sort of been compromised in terms of its ability to talk to the general public that there's political considerations that go into their messaging. Things are getting vetted by political appointees rather than actual people who are subject matter experts. And that may be why you see this mixed messaging.

But we definitely need to talk to the public generally about what the risks are and what they aren't. And I think it's kind of sad that this is happening after COVID-19 when we got so much wrong. That this should have been kind of a lay-up -- an easy infectious disease that's not that contagious but which we have a vaccine -- and we're fumbling it.

HILL: And it's a disease that we know a lot about, right? It's not new. It's not a novel coronavirus. Monkeypox has been around, to your point --


ADALJA: Right.

HILL: -- so we know what the treatment is and we know what the symptoms are.

You were talking, too -- I've read in some of the articles you were quoted talking we need a broader vaccine response. Would declaring this a public health emergency, which would then require as I understand it, sharing some of that vaccination status and data more broadly, would that help?

ADALJA: I think it would -- it would help to understand how people are getting infected, who is getting infected, who is getting vaccinated, and where the gaps are in that risk group that aren't getting vaccinated. And I also think we need to think about prioritizing first doses, like they're doing in New York, and even thinking about older smallpox vaccines for people who qualify for them -- who don't have risk factors for side effects.

I think we have to have kind of all stops pulled out to try and stop this because this is something that can be stopped and should be stopped.

HILL: Yes. Doctor, great to have you with us this morning. Thanks for coming in.

ADALJA: Thanks. Thank you.

HILL: Appreciate it.

Well, voters in Kansas will decide this week whether to abolish the constitutional right for a woman to have an abortion. And CNN on the scene after a Ukrainian town is rocked by Russian airstrikes.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: This crater here gives you an idea of just how big the blast was.




HILL: The first shipment of Ukrainian grain has now left the Black Sea port of Odesa. A government official posted video of the ship departing. It's the first shipment to leave Ukraine since Russia invaded in February and it comes just one week after Turkey and the U.S. helped to broker a deal to free up food exports hoping to avert a global health -- global food crisis.

CNN's Nada Bashir is in Istanbul this morning. Nada, good to see you this morning. So, what could this first shipment possibly change?

NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Well look, Erica, this really is quite a significant moment -- a welcomed sign of progress after weeks and weeks of negotiations brokered by the Turkish government and the United Nations with both Russia and Ukraine trying to get those grain exports out of Ukraine's southern Black Sea ports.

And as you said there, the first shipment leaving the Port of Odesa just a little while ago. It will make its way through the Black Sea through a safe corridor carefully identified in order to avoid mines. And that has been outlined by the Joint Coordination Center, as you mentioned, which was officially opened here in Istanbul last Wednesday, bringing together representatives from Russia and Ukraine to work together to oversee the safe passage of these vessels through the Black Sea and then onwards through the Turkish Straits. And this Razoni vessel, which is carrying around 26,000 tons of corn, is expected to travel through the Black Sea and onwards into Turkish territorial waters -- arriving around tomorrow afternoon time, local time, early morning eastern time -- where it is here it will undergo inspection to ensure that it is carrying the agricultural goods permitted under that key framework -- that agreement signed with both Russia and Ukraine -- and crucially, not carrying any weapons.

And once it has undergone that inspection here in Turkey by the Joint Coordination Center framework, it will move onwards to its final destination, which is Tripoli in Lebanon. That will come as hugely welcome news. Lebanon heavily dependent on Ukrainian grain imports, as is much of the Middle East. And over the last few days, we've really seen significant frustration there over the shortage of grain amid a worsening and deepening economic crisis.

But this is, of course, a real test. That 26,000 tons of corn is really only a small fraction of the 20 million tons of grain currently stuck in silos in Ukraine's southern Black Sea ports. So, this is a test to see if this will work. Odesa previously has come under attack. And all eyes will be waiting to see whether this safe passage can really be carried out in practical terms -- Erica.

HILL: Yes, a lot of hopes for that safe passage.

Nada, appreciate it. Thank you.

In Ukraine, a very long night in the southern city of Mykolaiv where residents are struggling now with the aftermath of intense Russian shelling on Sunday. The attack destroyed homes, buildings, and sparked several fires.

CNN's Nic Robertson is on the ground in Mykolaiv with more.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): With dawn, an end to Mykolaiv's heaviest night of shelling so far, but not to the fear it brings.

In the immediate aftermath, fires to be put out. The only fatalities, this residential mansion. Multimillionaire businessman Oleksiy Vadaturskyy and his wife, Raisa, were sheltering in the basement when their home took a direct hit.

Neighbors still in shock.

MAXIM, MYKOLAIV RESIDENT: I don't know what to do. We hate Russia. It's unbelievable that you can, in one moment, just destroy everything.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Maxim has lived here almost 20 years but may be no more.

MAXIM: I just don't want to stay here right now.

ROBERTSON (on camera): This crater here gives you an idea of just how big the blast was. Debris strewn down here, and the windows of the building blown out.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Other buildings around here also hit. Those with military links off limits to our cameras. The mayor concerned Russian sympathizers at work.

MAYOR OLEKSANDR SENKEVYCH, MYKOLAIV: I am sure that they have spies who are going around the city and they say, like, I saw the number of machines and their people -- military people. They send this information and Russia attacks them.

ROBERTSON (on camera): And do you think those saboteurs might have helped in the attacks last night?

SENKEVYCH: I'm sure they helped.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Within hours, life returning to what passes as normal. Pensioners and others in line for drinking water. The city's clean water supply destroyed months ago.


VALANTINA, MYKOLAIV SENIOR RESIDENT: (Speaking foreign language):

ROBERTSON (voice-over): "They hit us, and they hit us hard from 1:00 am until morning," Valantina tells us. "We are scared. We want to leave. But that's how life is for us now."

Where the mansion was hit and residents are richer, another neighborhood of the dead businessman tells me he can't take it anymore -- that he'll leave.

Not clear if high-profile businessman Oleksiy Vadaturskyy was an intended target. President Zelenskyy hailed him a hero. His death and the up-tempo strikes here chilling the city's otherwise resilient mood.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Mykolaiv, Ukraine.


HILL: Russian President Vladimir Putin, meantime, vowing to expand Moscow's naval power, casting the U.S. as its main threat in a speech to commemorate Navy Day. Putin is warning his navy will respond with, quote, "lightning speed" against anyone who undermines Russia's sovereignty.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joining us now live from London. So, part of this was a threat from Putin to use hypersonic cruise missiles. Remind us of the capability of these missiles.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erica. What he was talking about are what's called Zircon missiles. This is a new part of Russia's arsenal which, as you know, it has been gradually building up really since the invasion of Crimea in 2014 and what we saw since then -- the serious deterioration of relations with the West. We know they've used hypersonic missiles in Ukraine. The Kinzhal missiles were used back in March. Those are air-launched missiles. And they were seen as a very -- that was seen as a very serious move, particularly by the U.S.

But the cone missiles, which he announced, will now be coming into service in the coming months. They have been successfully tested over about 1,000 kilometers -- about 600 miles -- according to Russia. And they are launched from ships and submarines. So, this is sort of a growing sophistication that we see in Russia's arsenal.

I think, you know, like, how worried should we be? They're not in service as of yet and it will take another few months. We don't that they're going to be deployed anywhere near Ukraine.

But this was, for certain, Erica, a message not only to the U.S. which, of course, it said was one of its key threats in the maritime space, and also to NATO and expanding NATO on Russia's borders, but it was also a message to the Russian people. This Navy Day celebration, a real chance to sort of stir up patriotism to show off the might of its navy which, by the way, did suffer a major defeat with the sinking of its flagship in the Black Sea earlier on in the conflict -- to show off its capability and to really give the Russian people a sense that it has the edge in the fight here.

HILL: Claire Sebastian with the latest for us. Claire, thank you.

Wildfires have been raging in parts of Greece in recent weeks destroying homes and burning through forests, and also sparking fears that those fires could really impact the country's bee population.

CNN's Eleni Giokos explains.


ELENI GIOKOS, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These honeybees produce delicious pine honey, a traditional and popular treat in Greece and an important export. And these bees require thriving pine forests to do so, but wildfires are wiping out not only the trees but the beehives as well.

Last year, a wildfire in Athens destroyed 250 beehives belonging to this beekeeper. The loss still haunts him.

SIDERIS TSIMINIS, HONEY PRODUCER (through translator): It is a really awful thing to be afraid to enter the forest -- the few forests that exist -- but you are afraid of losing even more of your wealth and ending up with nothing.

GIOKOS (voice-over): Unfortunately, wildfires are burning again this year and they'll becoming more common due to climate change.

CHRISTOS ZEREFOS, CLIMATE EXPERT: The last phenomenon, like the heat waves or like extreme weather, lightning, and other -- and wildfires in the forests of Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean -- we know the costs and the costs are really high. GIOKOS (voice-over): In the last year, Greece has dramatically boosted spending to fight and prepare for wildfires from some $20 million to more than $122 million. Greece is also debuting the European Union's prepositioning projects. Firefighters from other EU member states are stationed in Greece to respond quickly to the fires and to provide much-needed relief to the Greek firefighters.

KOSTAS ZINELIS, FIREFIGHTER (through translator): The extreme weather phenomenon unfortunately put a strain on Greek firefighters. As the working hours in the field increase, they have to be on alert all the time.

GIOKOS (voice-over): And as the firefighters battle the fires, they help preserve the pine forests and the bees. And the bees then help rebuild the forests.


TSIMINIS (through translator): It will take many years for it to go back to the way it was, but it is essential for the bee to be there because it helps the burned forest to be reborn.

GIOKOS (voice-over): Eleni Giokos, CNN.


HILL: Just ahead, we talked about those fires -- fires, floods, climate change really adding to the concerns in California and Kentucky. Plus, remembering one of the all-time greats on and off the court.



HILL: The winner of the $1.3 billion Mega Millions jackpot is not me -- shocker -- but it is still a mystery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's see if I can make you a billionaire tonight. Our first winning number tonight is 67.


HILL: The lottery hasn't heard from the winning ticket holder who made that lucky purchase at a Speedway near Chicago. It is possible the winner has not checked their ticket yet. The winner does have 12 months to claim the money and make lots of new friends.

Trailblazing actress Nichelle Nichols has died.


Clip from Paramount's "Star Trek."


HILL: Generations of fans, of course, knew her as Lt. Uhura from the original "Star Trek" series. Nichols was among the first women of color to play a strong lead role, and she made history during the height of the civil rights movement with the first scripted interracial kiss on national television. She later worked with NASA to help increase diversity in the space program.

Nichelle Nichols was 89 years old.

Also, this morning, basketball fans and so many more remembering Hall of Famer Bill Russell who passed away yesterday at the age of 88.

Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. I was just telling her I remember being at a game at the University of San Francisco once and seeing the cases with all the memorabilia. I mean, he was such a giant both on and off the court.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he was larger than life and that's really the most succinct way to put it, right? A champion on the court, a champion off the court. He cared about so much outside of the world of basketball. And his legacy includes 11 championships. It also includes a Presidential Medal of Freedom. There's so much to his story.

But on the court, nobody won more than Bill Russell. Eleven NBA titles with the Celtics, the last two coming as a player and also as the first Black coach in any American sport. He won a pair of titles in college, like you said, Erica, and also an Olympic gold medal.

He was a champion for social justice and civil rights as well. And in the prime of his career, during the civil rights movement, he was an outspoken role model at a time in our history when that kind of candor on those subjects was not appreciated. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He denounced segregation in Boston public schools. He supported Mohammad Ali in his opposition to the Vietnam war.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 by Barack Obama. The former president saying, "For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but never let it stop him from speaking up for what's right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life."

Magic Johnson said that Russell was his idol. Michael Jordan called him a pioneer.

Bill Russell, 88 years old at the time of his passing.

Elsewhere in sports this morning, a ruling on the punishment for Deshaun Watson's violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy is expected today. The Browns quarterback was accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and/or harassment.

The NFL reportedly pushing an independent arbitrator to suspend him for an entire season. The NFL Players Association says they will not appeal the judge's ruling and they ask the NFL to do the same. The Saudi-backed LIV Golf series finished up at Trump National Golf

Club yesterday. Swedish golfer Henrik Stenson finishing 11 under par, taking home the $4 million prize for three days of work.

The next tournament is scheduled over Labor Day weekend.

Meanwhile, on the PGA Tour, Tony Finau winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The American finishing a tournament record 26 under to get his second win on tour in as many weeks. Finau saying afterwards, "A winner is just a loser who keeps trying, and that's me." And I can relate. I don't know if you guys can.

And a record-setting crowd of almost 90,000 fans in England -- did you see this, Erica -- at the Women's Euro where the home country was crowned champion in dramatic fashion yesterday.

Chloe Kelly, back from a nearly yearlong injury, poking one home here in extra time. The crowd went nuts. The first major women's soccer championship in the country's history. And after handing Germany it's first-ever final loss in the Euros, the celebration certainly did not stop there.

You've got to crash the coaches' press conference when you win it all. That's the scene afterwards. Even the queen -- the queen was praising the team for their success. She said it goes far beyond the trophy that they won. They have certainly set an example that will inspire future generations.

And the party continues this morning. I think it went all night. Celebrations planned in London.

But a really big moment for soccer in England and for girls all around the world who were watching that. It was so exciting.

HILL: Yes, it's fantastic. And I do love the way they crashed the press conference.

MANNO: Got to do it. Got to do it.

HILL: Nice to see you this morning. Thank you so much.

Thanks to all of you for joining us. I'm Erica Hill. "NEW DAY" starts right now.