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Cancer Survivor Makes History in Triathlon; Medical Groups: Mandate Vaccines for Health Care Workers; Arkansas GOP Governor Defends Ban on Mask Mandate; Capitol Riot Committee Calls its First Witness Tomorrow; Today: Mask Mandate Returns to St. Louis. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired July 26, 2021 - 12:00   ET




KEVIN MCDOWELL, FINISHED 6TH IN MEN'S TRIATHLON: It was a more than a return after because I came back instead I'm going to get back right away to sport and be fine. I can beat cancer.

And I can take on anything - walked away from the sport but people on my back corner said just pull it on one more time and go because I almost made Rio but missed it so it was actually special to make it here and then also to have a performance like today.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: What a Rock Star. Coy, you're rock star as well. Thank you for being there. Thank you for that update. I really appreciate it. Thanks for being here everybody. "Inside Politics" starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. The United States is in another COVID spiral 50,000 plus new cases per day right now and this breaking morning development. The New York City Mayor says all city workers need to be vaccinated or face weekly COVID tests.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): This is about our recovery. This is about what we need to do to bring back New York City.


KING: Plus, the Capitol Riots Committee starts its work tomorrow as the feud between the House Speaker and the Republican leader gets more public and yet, more pointed. And it is infrastructure week again still no deal despite the President's pledge to get one by today. Republicans just rejected the Democratic offer that was aimed at closing the big divides.

We begin the hour though with this COVID surge and big new debates coast-to-coast about how to handle rising case counts, Masks debates yes are back. Vaccine mandates another big flashpoint today. Just this morning, the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio put the entire city workforce on notice get vaccinated by September 13th or be required to get weekly COVID tests.


BLASIO: This means everybody. This means obviously everyone who works in our schools, our educators and staffs staff, it means the NYPD the FDNY it means all city agencies it means people who work in offices and people work on the front line, everyone, because September is when the rubber hits the road. And this is when we have to make the difference.


KING: Let's get straight to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz he's in New York City Shimon big deal?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It's a significant move here by the mayor. You know, it also could potentially mean that many of the private industries, many of the offices here across New York City may start to force their own employees to get vaccinated before they come to work.

The mayor is urging some of those businesses to do the same thing. This is certainly a significant move by the mayor, when so many are trying to figure out how to put pressure on folks to get vaccinated. And as you said, this applies to teachers.

It applies to police officers to firefighters, EMF technicians, people who interact on a daily basis with people all across the city. So that is why this is so significant. What's going to happen is that the mayor says that he wants this done sometime around the schools reopening which are around September 13th.

So they want teachers vaccinated by that as students start returning. But nonetheless, of course, many people across the country are going to be looking at this for sure, and trying to see if they could do the same across their cities and their states as we see a significant move here by the mayor to start forcing folks here who work for the city, which applies to about 340,000 workers across the city, John.

KING: 340,000 workers it's a big number. And you're right Shimon, the mayor planting a flag here not only for the city, but for a growing national debate Shimon Prokupecz grateful for the breaking news. And New York is just one big stage right now for the big vaccine mandate debate.

Major medical groups today saying it is critical, critical in their view to require vaccines for healthcare workers, including those in nursing homes and other long term care facilities. More than 50 health organizations joined together in this call for vaccine requirement including the American Medical Association. Let's get to our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, Elizabeth explain the significance here. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, as you said, this is the AMA and more than 50 other organizations coming together organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and others saying look, this should be required vaccinations should be required of healthcare workers that strong language and you'd be surprised there are actually many health care workers who are not getting vaccinated.

When I talk to folks I know in hospitals, they say usually it's not the doctors who are refusing, but other health care workers. So let's take a look at the language that they actually use. They say we stand with the growing number of experts in institutions that support the requirement.

Note that word for universal vaccination of healthcare workers; this is especially necessary to protect those who are vulnerable, including unvaccinated children and the immune-compromised. It's again, this is so fundamental.

Can you imagine as a patient, you go into the hospital and the nurse who is supposed to be taking care of you who is supposed to be helping you to get better from say, a broken leg or whatever you're in there for and instead the nurse gives you COVID?

I mean, this is so basic, it's kind of sad that this statement actually had to be made, but unfortunately it did. It will be interesting to see if health care institutions were sparred by making these requirements John.


KING: Another fascinating piece of another wrinkle if you will in the public health colliding with COVID politics Elizabeth Cohen grateful for the important reporting there. Let's bring in now to share her expertise and her insights Dr. Seema Yasmin, she's the Former CDC Disease Detective, also the Author of "Viral BS: Medical Myths and Why We Fall for Them?"

Dr. Yasmin grateful for your time, especially on this day, the New York City Mayor says to 300,000 plus people get vaccinated if you want to come to work for the city, or you're going to have to have weekly COVID tests. You just heard Elizabeth Cohen, all these medical organizations that don't always agree on things saying healthcare workers must be vaccinated for the safety of the patient. Where are we going in the vaccine mandate debate?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, FORMER CDC DISEASE DETECTIVE: John, I look at this historically, this isn't a new debate. I've reported on that healthcare organizations trying to mandate flu vaccines for healthcare workers, some of the most vocal opponents of mandatory vaccinations in the past have been nurses unions.

So we need to be really clear about this. Health care workers don't differ that much from the general population. There are many who work in health care who we need to continue working in health care, we don't want to disenfranchise them, who don't want to be told exactly what they need to get vaccinated with and when.

I would absolutely love it if every single healthcare worker was vaccinated; I've had to deal with epidemics of vaccine preventable diseases in hospitals, outbreaks caused by healthcare workers who were not vaccinated. The reality is that mandates can backfire. It can become so political so heated, and you just don't get that good will, I'm not buying.

I want to see vaccines happen across the board for the public, for health care workers, because people are choosing to get vaccinated because they understand the personal benefits. And that is a civic duty. We need to be so mindful about where this can go when we are mandating and kind of forcing people to get something done.

KING: I think the flip side would be playing devil's advocate that yes, vaccine preventable disease. You mentioned you want people to voluntarily get vaccinated. The issue is Dr. Yasmin, at the moment, they are not. I just want to show you here the U.S. vaccination trend.

We're just shy of 50 percent right now 49 percent. But if you look back on March 1st, when they were just starting 8 percent, then it jumps to 17. And it jumps to 31. It jumps to 41. It jumps to 47 but then essentially a flat line just tiny progress in the last several weeks.

That is why officials are frustrated, and then you get this. You look at the trends right now on Sunday weekend, case counts tend to be a little low. On Sunday, 52,000 cases one year ago, that was about the apex of the summer surge 66,000 cases then so you're starting to see this go up.

And here's what I - do we have a national question here, a regional question, is my question in the sense that if you look at the light green here, this is vaccination rate by states percent of people fully vaccinated. 40 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Arkansas, 39 in Tennessee, remember right here, Missouri, across the southeast, because then you look at the case map right now, where are cases going up?

See the darkness that's in the same area dark is bad for cases, light is bad for vaccines, the overlap is indisputable Dr. Yasmin, in places where the vaccine rollout is lagging. The case count is climbing.

DR. YASMIN: Yes. But - to be careful looking at those numbers in a really broad sense, John, because when I've had to do epidemic investigations of vaccine preventable diseases, sometimes they're in an area that broadly has really high vaccine coverage, it looks good.

All you need is one small pocket of low vaccination coverage to see to these clusters to cause these bigger outbreaks. So in some cases, you're looking at neighboring states, sometimes one state is a red state, one state is blue, they have quite different vaccine coverage levels, both experiencing significant outbreaks.

And so we keep - we need to keep driving this message, whether we're talking about vaccine mandates, potentially, whether we're talking about masking, the whole drive here has to be to get this number of Americans who is vaccinated, fully vaccinated to way higher than what it is right now 49 percent.

And I share those frustrations of the officials. You know, back in April, we were doling out 3.3 million COVID shots each day, we're down to half a million now. So the messaging really has to be crystal clear has to be consistent about vaccines.

And unfortunately, with so much variation in masking mandates across the country, for example, it's actually ceding more confusion among the public. You've got people who are vaccinated who feel like the mask mandates are punitive to them.

They're being punished, even though they did the right thing. And then you've got masked mandates kind of signaling to those who are not vaccinated that maybe I don't need to get vaccinated. If you're telling me even if I get the vaccine, I still have to wear a mask. So we keep failing on the communication here. We need to be crystal clear. We need to be consistent.

KING: Well, so help me through this. I want you to listen here. This is the Governor of Arkansas who is trying in his state to get people vaccinated. He says no on the question of mask mandates in part because he says to your point people A, this can be confusing and B, one challenge at a time, listen?


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): I really think it's important not to have the current debate about masks wearing but to have the current emphasis on getting a vaccine if you're not vaccinated, you should wear a mask and that is the guideline that we have in place.


HUTCHINSON: But we don't have a mandate because that was held back from the legislature.


KING: So that is the Governor of Arkansas. I just want to show our viewers Dr. Yasmin, this is Arkansas 36 percent of the population fully vaccinated well below the national average. And then you just bring up the case map right now you look at the cases in the United States, there is Arkansas, and just glowing, glowing is one of those that has the highest case count right now.

The governor says don't get me involved in a mask mandate debate right now because I need to get people vaccinated. Is he right or is it sorry? It's complicated. You got to do it all at once.

DR. YASMIN: Well, let's look at what happened in Los Angeles County, John; because they implemented their mass mandate about a week ago, it did seed confusion. It did cause divisions, you have people like I said, who thought it was punitive to them, others who are like that to wear a mask anyway, maybe I should - just shouldn't bother getting vaccinated.

Then you had businesses saying hold on, if you're implementing a mask mandate, does this mean that we're headed towards more restrictions and more shutdowns? And then you had law enforcement saying, well, we don't know if we have any of our limited resources that could be spent in forcing a mask mandate.

And I have to say, as someone who worked at the CDC, but then also worked at a state health department, and a county health department, I understand the need for there to be discretion on a local level. But look, this is confusing people that local mask mandates in St. Louis as of today in Los Angeles County as of last week, they are in contradiction with what the CDC is saying about masks not being necessary for vaccinated people.

So I come back to this point that you can do on a local level, what you need to do that's right for your municipality for your state. But be careful about the messaging because at a time when we are losing trust in the public and the public is losing trust in the scientific establishment, we're ceding more confusion.

And we're signaling that we're saying very different things from the federal to the local level, and the public is not understanding what it needs to do and who it needs to trust.

KING: I hope we can clear that part of it up especially on the trust issue, Dr. Yasmin grateful for your expertise and insights today.

DR. YASMIN: Thank you.

KING: We will talk again. Up next for us, the clash over who gets to be part of that January 6 investigation is bringing tensions between the Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the surface but you never know it the two of them making nice earlier in the Rose Garden just moments ago.



KING: Fireworks this morning as the January 6 Investigative Select Committee begins its work. Tomorrow is day one of witness testimony today; you might say a prickly response from Republican Congressman Liz Cheney, about her Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy's dig that any Republicans who serve on this committee are "Pelosi Republicans".


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): And we have important work to do. And I think that's pretty childish.


KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Manu Raju, Lisa Larer of "The New York Times", Joshua Jamerson at "The Wall Street Journal", and NPR's Asma Khalid. Pretty childish, Liz Cheney says she does not get along with her Republican family leader, Kevin McCarthy, but she also understands what he's doing. The Leader Kevin McCarthy has made a conscious effort to just essentially - just try to discredit this from the beginning that if you're Cheney or Adam Kinzinger, you're not one of us. It's a partisan enterprise.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And he's changed his messaging. I asked him last week at a press conference. What's wrong with having Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger as part of an investigation, there are two members of your conference that could give some level of bipartisanship to this he sidestepped that question there.

So clearly, he's come up with a new message going forward, because you're getting a lot of criticism from his rank and file. Some want to take steps to punish them, remove them from their committee assignments going forward.

But you're right, John, from the beginning, Kevin McCarthy has tried to scuttle this he tried to scuttle an outside investigation. He made the case of Senate Republicans to block an outside commission when the Select Committee moved forward. He lobbied his colleagues to vote against it, only the two voted for it. Were the ones who are now on the committee?

And now he pulled back the five picks after Pelosi rejected two of his so going forward, this investigation is going to happen. He needs to figure out his messaging to try to undercut it. And that's what he's saying.

KING: Which is why you see on the flip side, Democrats understanding Republicans are coming after them saying this is a Pelosi partisan enterprise. Day one will be four police officers to Capitol police officers to D.C. police officers who risked their lives protecting lawmakers and protecting the building during the insurrection.

Here's one of the Democratic members Adam Schiff explaining why that he believes that is critical on day one. That's where we begin.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We would like the public to be able to see and understand what it was like to be on the frontlines that day and how much these brave officers risked their lives to save ours. They were beaten with flagpoles. They were beaten with fire extinguishers. They were sprayed with bear spray, just the torment they went through how much they felt in fear of their lives.


KING: That's the challenge for the Democrats, is it not to just try to say this is a fact finding mission. It's not about anybody's party label, and try to prove it out of the box on day one.

JOSHUA JAMERSON, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Exactly. And just because the Republicans will try to paint this as partisan a good swath of the American people might not accept what comes out. That doesn't mean there won't be new information.

That doesn't mean that there's a visceral reaction that Democrats can't get from people who will be watching this. There are ongoing investigations by the FBI. Those things are happening behind to a great extent closed doors, this is going to be in public for everybody.

KING: If - can Democrats capture attention for it as part of it, I guess between - your part of it is the silo of the American media right now. You watch what you believe for many people and play a - Pelosi - Speaker Pelosi. Let's hear in her own words. She wants people to tune into this no matter your politics because she says Democrats will ignore the noise and prove a point.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I'm not concerned about a threat from the Freedom Caucus, my confidence is high, we have to, again, ignore the antics of those who would do not want to find the truth, we will find the truth, that truth will be had the confidence of the American people, because it will be done patriotically and not in a partisan way.


ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I mean there's a political opportunity, right, though, those Democrats also see in presenting this information ahead of the midterms to folks. So I think as much as you hear from Republicans describing this as "Sham investigation".

Democrats do see this as a political win - a political I shouldn't say win, but political opportunity for them. Because there are, you know, other concerns that Republicans keep trying to poke them with, whether it's immigration or rising costs and inflation, and this is something that they see as a possible, you know, way to show look, Republicans were irresponsible, don't elect them out of the 2020 midterms again.

KING: Right. They want power back in 2022. And it was their president who was at that big rally and the like, but if you listen to the Republicans, this is one of the Republicans that Speaker Pelosi vetoed from the committee which led to the boycott. He says the Nancy Pelosi is just got one goal in mind, and that is discrediting Trump and Republicans.


REP. JIM BANKS (R-IN): She's already pre-determined a narrative about Donald Trump about Republicans. She doesn't want to talk about what happened at the Capitol - that day to make sure that something like that never happens again, anyone that she asked to be on this committee from this point moving forward, will be stuck to her narrative to her point of view, there won't be another side.


KING: Actually, the back part of that just simply not true. Not true in the sense that to your point, the Republicans turned down a better deal. They could have had a bipartisan commission with equal representation. They turned it down.

So now they have this Speaker Pelosi says I'm not letting the flame throwers on. So you have Cheney and Kinzinger. We don't know the answer. He's trying to say this is already done. We don't know the answer. To your point, bring in new information. There's going to be new video tomorrow, we are told as well. The Republicans are trying to essentially write the last chapter before we have the first hearing.

LISA LARER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And it's possible, you know, members of Congress, like McCarthy, like Jim Jordan may be asked to testify themselves in terms of their involvement with this whole attack on the Capitol.

And part of what's going to be happening, this committee because of the way it's set up is that you're going to have this testimony presented that we all expect to be fairly evocative, very moving a really striking reminder of the violence of that day, from these very credible police officers.

And there won't be Republicans really to mount an aggressive defense of Former President Trump, and of you know, other Republicans in the House. So that leaves Republicans in a pretty perilous political position, they are trapped between a former president who they need to rally their troops for the 2020 midterms, at least that's how it seems right now.

And Democrats who are eager to push this investigation in this politically damaging investigation as close into those midterms as they can, and it just leaves Kevin McCarthy in a really difficult sort of political spot, and he has to navigate pretty tough waters. And he's doing it without any line of defense on this committee.

KING: So they will try as you have learned some sort of counter programming, if you will, to try to - don't look there. Look over here. The question is, if the Democrats do their job, and Cheney and Kinzinger do their jobs as the Republicans on the committee, that that day should overwhelm any sideshow.

RAJU: Yes, it is going to be a sideshow because look, the Republicans are the minority in the House. They don't have subpoena power. They can have shown-hearings, if they want, oftentimes, minorities, Democrats or Republicans, they'll have shown-hearings to try to draw attention to what they want to focus on.

Those show hearings typically don't get much attention. The reason why the majority is the majority they have - they will wheel subpoenas and they can actually drive an investigation. So that is really going to be the show here. And that's one reason why the Republicans didn't want to have an

investigation because it will draw a lot of headlines and attention but the Democrats are going to proceed cautiously. I don't think you should expect a subpoena immediately for Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy. It's going to be a slow, methodical investigation, but it will go into the election.

KING: Fascinating moment begins with the gavel drops tomorrow. Up next for us, back to COVID and live to Florida the new epicenter of the summer COVID surge. We check in on a busy ER nurse who says some newly hospitalized COVID patients aren't get this pleading for a vaccine shot.



KING: --close look now at the summer COVID surge and its fall out. In a moment we'll go to Florida which is right now the new epicenter of new infections. First though, to Missouri and the return of the mask debate starting today masks are required in St. Louis city and St. Louis County if you are visiting indoor public spaces or using public transportation, regardless of your vaccination status that runs through mid-September.

The numbers are simply startling. Missouri's daily average of new cases has more than tripled in the last month. Only 41 percent of its residents are fully vaccinated. That is the public health argument for bringing back masking. But there are some very loud objections.


ERIC SCHMITT, MISSOURI ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is really anti science if you ask me it's going to discourage people actually be best vaccinated it's going to have the opposite effect. Because to have this sort of masked mandate for people who've already been vaccinated for kids when the science tells me this is not an issue is ridiculous.


KING: CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live on the ground as this plays out today in St. Louis Suzanne what's the latest?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I had an opportunity to talk to one of the councilmen, Tim Fitch who's really of like mind with the Attorney General he says three to one his constituents are against mask mandates and to--