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L.A. County Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate Amid Surge; NFL Network Anchor Fully Vaccinated in February Gets COVID-19; CDC Director: This is Becoming a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated; Ocasio- Cortez: $3.5 Trillion Budget Proposal a "Progressive Victory"; Republican Candidates Pledge Political Fealty to Trump. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you so much for sharing your Friday with us. Everywhere you live everywhere you go COVID is raising. All 50 states right now report upticks in new infections. The data is clear the United States right now losing the vaccination versus variant race.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unvaccinated Americans account for virtually all recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.


KING: Plus, Kevin McCarthy makes the Trump pilgrimage that despite new details of post-election Trump lies and chaos. McCarthy sees loyalty to Trump as his path to campaign cache and to a Republican takeover of the House.

And Andrew Cuomo goes under oath, a source telling CNN two lawyers will depose the New York Governor tomorrow. It is a key moment in the month's long investigation into alleged lewd and harassing conduct for its women.

We begin today though with the Coronavirus, the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, California now reinstating its mask mandate amid an alarming disturbing rise in New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Starting Saturday night 11:59 pm all residents regardless of vaccination status will again be required to wear masks indoors in public spaces. Let's get straight to CNN's Stephanie Elam she's in Los Angeles for us. It's a troubling development Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very troubling and a lot of people here are pretty bummed about it because those are vaccinated are thinking, hey, I did my part. I got vaccinated, but the problem is we don't have enough people vaccinated here.

And John, it's worth pointing out that every single person who is battling Coronavirus that is in a hospital here according to LA County, every single one of those people was not vaccinated when they were admitted. So think about that.

That means that we know that the science is working. And if you look at when the state reopened, which was June 15th. Since then they're saying there's been a 700 percent increase in new cases. In fact, in LA County for the last seven days, they've announced that there's been 1000 new cases each day, they're also saying take a look at the positivity rate.

If you look at where it was, at June 15th, it was about half a percent yesterday, they reported that it was 3.7 percent. So you see these numbers are going in the wrong direction. They're also very much concerned about the nearly 4 million people who are yet to get vaccinated now of the people who can get vaccinated for the LA County 16 years and older.

They're saying that the people who have received one shot that is nearly 70 percent, but obviously part of the issue here is getting people to get their second shot and also just getting fully vaccinated. And that's the 8.3 million people that are eligible because obviously the children are not yet in that. But clearly John vaccinations work we need people to go ahead and finish out the routines.

KING: The numbers are just remarkable and of course public health officials now making difficult decisions Stephanie Elam grateful for the live reporting from Los Angeles for us. I'm going to bring in Dr. Peter Hotez in just a moment.

But I want to go through some numbers first just to show you what Stephanie is talking about here. If you look at the map, this is Los Angeles County the deeper blue means a deeper problem. Los Angeles County you see some problems elsewhere in California but LA County jumping off.

If you look at the CDC map and you bring it in nationally again, you see the deeper blue here. The darker the shading the higher the case count right now you see the average of new COVID-19 cases. And you see it everywhere. This you find it all over America but very - you don't find it that deep and that blue.

Let me just bring up right now the U.S. trend right here. This is horrific all 50 states, all 50 states right now reporting more new COVID infections today than a week ago. Montana is up just slightly. That's why you see it holding steady. Its case count is up but just slightly.

See the deep red, the deep red 38 states. That means 50 percent or more new infections now compared to a week ago. To be fair, many of these states started for a much lower baseline than back in the horrific winter surge. But this is still a trend line going in a very wrong direction.

At that point let's bring in Dr. Hotez. He's Co-Director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital. Dr. Hotez you just heard Dr. Walensky the CDC Chief say we now have and this map is stunning and sad a pandemic of the unvaccinated?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AT TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yes, this is absolutely right and the pandemic of the partially vaccinated. So the Delta variant is much more aggressive in terms of transmissibility twice the level of transmissibility than the original variant and even 50 percent more than the UK one which was also highly transmissible.

So pretty much what this means, you know, if these trends continue, is anyone who is unvaccinated or possibly even just gotten a single dose of the Pfizer, Moderns vaccine, there's a good likelihood they're going to get infected and that's really concerning, and that's why we're seeing the uptake particularly in the states where vaccination rates are low.

So in the south, that's why you're seeing this very aggressive summer surge, as many of us predicted.


KING: Right. And we've been at this for 14, 15 months now and so when you see the numbers starting to head in the wrong direction, it's deeply troubling. Again, this is a seven day average of new COVID-19 cases. If you go back two weeks ago, we were averaging 13,000 cases a day.

One week ago, it was 16,000 cases. Now it is 26,000 cases. So a doubling over the last two weeks up to 26,000 new infections on average a day and those cases are going up. And you can connect these dots here, right Dr. Hotez?

Two weeks ago, we were averaging 662,000 people getting fully vaccinated. Now we're down 54 percent, from the beginning of July 303,000 people now getting - there's just no dispute right that vaccinations are down and cases are up.

HOTEZ: Yes, and the rise very much associates with the percentage of virus isolates that's the Delta variant. That's why we first saw it in Missouri, because that's where the Delta variant is highest. But now it's clearly going to be the dominant and already is the dominant variant in the United States. And it's going to overwhelm just about everything.

And even in areas like LA County, which is not doing that badly in terms of vaccination rates, its lags a little bit behind the rest of the State of California between 50 and 60 percent, have received a single dose. But you have to add on top of that the crowding and, and that that you have in LA and that's probably a factor as well.

KING: And so there are this all hands on deck effort to try to convince vaccine hesitant Americans, please, please, for your own health, for your neighbor, for your co-worker or for your grandparents, for your children, please roll up your sleeves.

And one of the things you see as vaccine hesitant American say is look, there are people who have been vaccinated who are getting COVID. So why should I get a vaccine? One of them is high profile individual, Rich Eisen NFL Network Host, a great broadcaster who tried to send this message to people yesterday. He says, double vacced, COVID positive, it's possible, folks.

But this is the important part. Rich Eisen says every healthcare professional I've come across in the last few days tells me the two shots of Pfizer I got in February, are what's keeping a 52 year old like me from a far worse experience than the awful one I'm having.

How important is that message to the vaccine hesitant that if you get your vaccine, and you still get COVID it's rare, but it happens. You're not going to get a severe case, you're probably not going to get to the hospital, and you're not going to die.

HOTEZ: Yes, what Rich Eisen said was perfect, right? Because, you know, even if you do have breakthrough COVID, which we'll see some, you're not going to the hospital, you're not losing your life. And that's really, really important.

And when you look at the hospitalizations and deaths, over 99 percent of the deaths are in unvaccinated individuals, over 95 percent of the hospitalizations and that's a key message to bring across. And remember, the other key point is for the young people who think that even if they get COVID and they're unvaccinated, they won't get very sick.

We are seeing a lot of younger people get hospitalized now and we're seeing lots of long COVID, which we know is associated with significant long lasting neurologic complications, brain fog, unipolar depression, and even now some MRI studies showing there could be some brain matter degeneration. So this, we can't stress this enough of how critically important it is to get vaccinated.

KING: What do we know? And I just want to put some numbers up here. As you look at number one, just look at this again, this is just the vaccination trend. If you look when Joe Biden took office, you saw the Biden vaccination roll out from January to April, it goes way up and you watch for May and you see it just dropping right down.

That is a direct connection to the rise in cases when you come back to the trend map right now. But do we know Dr. Hotez? I always talked about where we were, how we horrifically went up in the first surge and then the horrific winter surge doubling in two weeks, 13,000 cases at the beginning of the month, 26,000 cases now because a lot of America is vaccinated. How troubling is that doubling in two weeks? And how high can this go?

HOTEZ: Well, it really depends on where you are, John. So if you go look at the New England states are up and the Mid-Atlantic states that are doing so well, we're almost all of the adults in adolescence are vaccinated, but that has the added benefit of is, is really reducing the overall level of transmission in the community. So that also protects some of the unvaccinated individuals. And the other hand, you look at the other extreme places like Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, where almost none of - no one's vaccinated, except the older Americans. What you're going to see his transmission is going to accelerate and we're going to see lots of adolescents and young people get sick.

And the thing that really worries me is you know, here in the south, sometimes the school year starts pretty early in August. And now we're going to have all those people mixing together in the schools this is going to be tough.

KING: That's a big challenge again for us in the days and weeks ahead. I try to walk through these disturbing numbers and explain them Dr. Hotez grateful for your time today, sir we'll stay in touch as we go through this. Up next for us, back to politics here in D.C. the president predicts all will be fine but his two piece economic agenda right now hitting turbulence.



KING: The Democratic Senate Leader, the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gambled and now perhaps it looks like his big bet might perhaps goes bust. Schumer says he'll call a vote next Wednesday on the bipartisan infrastructure framework. But that calendar crunch could cleaver the bipartisan group who piece together that deal.

There are big fights still over how to pay for it. And at the moment there is no legislative text of that big bill. Republicans this morning are firm no bill, then no promise to vote yes. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights Catherine Lucey of "The Wall Street Journal" Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times" CNN's Ryan Nobles and Seung Min Kim of "The Washington Post".

So is this just one of those oh my God, everything is dead and tomorrow everything will be alive moments. We're going to go through this for a week or so or did Schumer get too far out over his skis?


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that when we're talking about the budget and reconciliation until we see Joe Biden sign both of these bills into law; we should assume that these are always on the edge of blowing up.

You know, my perception of it is that this was Schumer trying to sit in the bipartisan group, you need to move a little bit quickly, because we have a very short amount of time to get a lot done, you know, but my sense is that there's still a lot of will they want to get this done, and there's a path to get it done. They just all have to get on the same page.

KING: Will, but there are Republican forces saying, let's not give Joe Biden a bipartisan victory. And so if you annoy the Republicans still in the room by trying to push them, you run the risk there. These are some of those Republican members, John Thune are members are not likely to vote to proceed to something they haven't seen.

Mitt Romney calls it a dereliction of duty to say we're going to have a vote before we've gotten to read the legislative text. Rob Portman, whose lead negotiator in this says I'm not going to vote yes, if we don't have a product. Is Chuck Schumer essentially saying, you know, work nights work weekend's work, whatever, just put pen to paper and get me the bill, or is this?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right? I mean, he's - on the one hand, he's trying to force this bipartisan group, which had a deal didn't have a deal. Now they're trying to firm up the deal to an actual product. And right now, there are significant problems with that group right now.

Now this - remember, this is the bipartisan deal that President Biden has already touted as a major victory. There are major problems right now with that package, particularly and how it's paid for there is a risk that one of the major pay force could have to drop out of the of the deal.

So there are issues right now. But Schumer is really trying to force things along because he knows that the success of his party's broader package, that $3.5 trillion package that Ryan mentioned, is contingent on this as well, you know, these two packages are separate, but their fates are so intertwined. And Chuck Schumer really wants to make sure that both trains are running on the same track at the same time.

KING: You can understand--

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: --both trains to get to the station. I thought the two GOP Senators yesterday who I think both of which would like to get to a deal, I really picked up some bearishness, that this is going to have I think, I think in part because of what are called the pay force, how you pay for?

I think there's real unease now with the IRS talking about using more money for the IRS to sort of collect taxes. I think that's giving some folks on the GOP side pause. But you know there's a desire if you talk to Republican Senators to get this bill done, not just because they want bridges and roads and tunnels back home, which they do.

I think they also believe some of them tactically, that it would be harder for Democrats to get their larger second bill, if you can get this first bill done, because the first bill will give the moderates the victory that they want to go back home, the moderate Democrats that is, and I think, perhaps take the steam out of the second bill.

KING: So let's look at the two sides of that.

MARTIN: And that's the - the left, which is why the left wants these bills on both tracks.

KING: The left once these bills on both tracks and what is absolutely critical, we're going to have a lot of gloom and doom, this is going to be hard to work out and talk to him to break down then to get back together. We'll see, we'll see to Ryan's point when the president has a pen in his hand, we'll know what made it to the White House.

But encouraging for the White House is this from Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez; one of the progressives who wanted a bigger package is 3.5 trillion. She wanted 6 trillion, but she looks at the bipartisan deal, the 3.5 trillion, she says progress.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): This is an enormous victory. First of all, this bill is absolutely a progressive victory. Because if it wasn't for progressives in the House, we probably would be stuck with that tiny, pathetic, bipartisan bill alone. And that would have been the entirety of our infrastructure spending.


MARTIN: Mark Warner call your office--

KING: But it gets to the urgency of Schumer in that the more people read this and the more you give people time to get unhappy with this provision or have a TV ad launched over their head, the more likely things crumble. So try to get it done while everybody is - everybody's somewhat unhappy, as opposed to--

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: There are so many details in both of them. And as someone said they're all being worked out. Still we haven't seen full text. But the Democratic Reconciliation Bill has a lot of the things in it that have been talked about for a long time.

It has childcare - it's expected anyway, to have childcare, to have provisions for Pre-K for community college, some environmental measures, these are all things that they've been talking about and pushing for in the legislation.

So they can and you saw, you know, Senator Bernie Sanders as well has been, you know, positive about the progress and his conversations with the White House. So you are seeing that on the progressive side. But as everyone is saying, you're trying to keep two very complicated things on a tightrope, right?

KING: And you write about this today in "The Wall Street Journal" that this is sort of the early dividing line of the 2022 campaign, one of the big dividing lines if you're a Democrat, you need to pass these bills so that you can say we cut middle class taxes, we build roads, and we did good things for you.


KING: Because Republicans are already running ads saying oh no, no the big spending socialists are running up inflation and doing this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Burgers, buns, propane, gas this year, your 4th of July is more expensive, because Democrats' harmful economic policies are making everyday goods cost more.


LUCEY: That's right; they ran ads ahead of the fourth targeting Democratic Congress members in vulnerable districts saying inflation is going up. And this is because of Democratic policy.

KING: So they're trying to scare them away for voting for more spending, which the White House and others would argue is absolutely critical so that you can look those people that say, No, no, no, no, we're doing things that help you.

MARTIN: Yes. And I think, look, what I'm curious about are a lot of these moderate House Democrats who are facing tough races next year, who are really eager to vote for a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

They would love the Senate to pass it, and they would love Speaker Pelosi to bring it up in the House, because the alternative for them could be one vote on one bill and that one bill could be a very large reconciliation bill that yes, includes the bridges, the roads, bridges, tunnels, stuff they want, but that also includes a lot more spending and perhaps tax increases. But I think that's what gives them--

LUCEY: But what the White House would point to, I think, is that a lot of the things in the reconciliation bill are - because they're in polling the public, you know, a lot of people are interested.

KING: If Democrats stay behind them and to try to sell them that'll be the - that's why this is that's why the next few weeks and then into the campaign. It's fascinating time. This quick programming note you'll learn more about this issue. President Joe Biden joins our Don Lemon CNN's Don Lemon for an exclusive CNN Town Hall. That's Wednesday night, next Wednesday, July 21st 8 pm only here on CNN.

The damning stories are piling up against Donald Trump, but his iron grip of the Republican Party does not seem to be loosening. Why the Republican House leader sees a path back to power by staying side by side with the former president?



KING: Today we are learning America's top general worried President Trump would order strikes on Iran in his final days in office. Yesterday, that same general's fear that Trump will try to use the military to stay in power was among several eye popping new book accounts of Trump's post-election anger.

But Kevin McCarthy sees Donald Trump as his path to power. And so McCarthy made a trip yesterday to see the former president at his golf club in New Jersey. The House Republican Leader could be a witness in the new insurrection investigation. He spoke to Trump remember that day as the mob attacked the Capitol.

And McCarthy is also still mulling who gets the GOP slots on that Select Committee? But he told Sean Hannity last night January 6th, did not come up.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): These are some of the actual discussions I had with President Trump talking about the border, talking about our success in the last election talking about our first six months in fundraising. And we've talked about you a little bit to Sean and that was all good.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: OK, you didn't - I don't mean if I don't want to know that part. We'll see.


KING: The panel is back with us to discuss. McCarthy thinks it's funny that he allegedly did not discuss January 6th at all with the former president. Let's take him at his word. And we know from Trump's statements, he issues several a day now.

He wants to torpedo that committee. He wants to undermine that committee. If you are a "Leader McCarthy", isn't it your job to go to the president and say, you know whether I like it or not this is going forward. This is what we're going to do.

NOBLES: I mean there are two problems with McCarthy's conversation with Trump. The first is the timing as it relates to his picks for the Select Committee. And the second is that every single day President Trump puts out a statement undermining the results of the 2020 election so for him to be in a room with him and the position that he has appointing people to this committee.

And at the same time being in the same room with someone that continues to push the big lie and not have that conversation is a problem for someone who's in charge of a very big portion of the United States.

KING: But the big lie is it actually is for House Republicans, you might as well call it a recruitment tool. You know, if you want to run a primary, you might as well - in some way endorse or at least not attack the big lie so that Trump stays on your side and we get the House majority back.

The timing for me is just fascinating because these new books are coming out written by fabulous journalists. And every day there's just what you know, for all we know about Trump and all the outrages and all the chaos, and that now today Susan Glasser writing in "The New Yorker" about something that comes up in some of the books as well.

The fears at the Pentagon about Trump's erratic behavior after the election and General Mark Milley, the top American General was worried that president might try to order military strikes on Iran. To the point Susan reports that he told his deputies if you get a call from the president, you're getting these orders call me, call me we were on this fight. If you do this, you're going to have "F-ing" war. The behavior is frightening and yet McCarthy and others say President Trump still our guy.

LUCEY: Kevin McCarthy's moves clearly reflect what he is hearing and what his members are hearing from around the country, which is that the Republican base remains very supportive of the Former President, President Trump. So they are - that is why they are doing this.

And that could work well for them going into the midterms in a lot of parts of the country. But one question I think it does raise is that one of the reasons that Trump struggled last year to President Biden was because he lost support independence and moderate voters in the suburbs. And it's not clear if this strategy is going to work, you know in trying to get any of those voters back if you're trying to retake the House.

MARTIN: It is recurring theme in America politics. They're tied to Trump because their primary voters like Trump and like his politics and don't care about January 6th.