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NYC Mayor Urges Masks Indoors, Stops Short of Mandate; Total U.S. Population Still Less than 50 Percent Fully Vaccinated; NIH Chief: U.S. does not Need Booster Shots "As of now"; Chuck Schumer Puts Infrastructure Bill on Fast Track; Progressive Anger Pivots to Lapsed Eviction Moratorium. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 02, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Confusion is a big part of our current COVID moment. More Americans are getting vaccinated again, but more Americans are getting sick too. And there's now a nationwide debate over masks and boosters and what comes next?

Plus a high wire test for infrastructure. Chuck Schumer wants to pass the 2700 page bipartisan deal by the end of this week. And the Trump war chest is huge $102 million in the bank paid for by big election lies.

We begin though with breaking news in New York City today and its new plan for the evolving COVID challenge. Mayor Bill de Blasio wants more New Yorkers to mask up when indoors, but he stopped short of a new mandate. Our CNN National Correspondent Jason Carroll starts us off in Manhattan. Jason, walk us through what we know.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, as you know, John, New Yorkers are already required to wear masks in places like subways in schools and hospitals. But given the uptick that the city has seen in transmittable cases, the mayor is now urging New Yorkers to wear masks inside all of public places, regardless of their status.

Now, again, he's urging strongly recommending, but he's not issuing a mask mandate. And the mayor says it's not just about trying to get more people to wear masks, but it's also about trying to get more people to get vaccinated.

I mean, there are pockets of the city in places like Staten Island and Brooklyn that are seeing a low vaccination rates. That's why he's saying going forward anyone who wants to get hired by the city is going to have to prove that they are vaccinated.

The City's Health Commissioner also speaking out about this during the briefing and basically talking about the Delta variant is being the key indicator for why we're seeing the change from the administration?


DR. DAVE CHOKSHI, NYC HEALTH COMMISIONER: Today, I'm making a strong recommendation that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in public indoor settings. This is based on our review of the latest scientific evidence showing that the Delta variant of the Coronavirus can spread even more easily than was previously thought.


CARROLL: So John, given what we've just heard there, given what we've heard from they are given that we've seen an uptick of cases here in the city. The question has been asked, why then not just issue, a mask mandate for indoor settings? And the mayor basically said that he's following the data he's following the science and based on what they're learning so far, the push is really to get more people vaccinated John.

KING: Jason Carroll live for us in New York City. I appreciate it, Jason very much. The Biden White House right now calls this a critical moment in the pandemic and says though, there are some signs of modest progress in dealing with vaccine hesitancy. Let's walk through the new numbers.

Number one, if you look at the trend lines right here, this is just not a good map, you have 49 states trending up 35 of them reporting 50 percent or more new COVID infections this week compared to last think about that? 35 States reporting a 50 percent or more jump in their COVID cases this week, compared to last week.

Two states holding steady, but they have been states that have been taking up cases as well. So the national map does not look very well right now. You look at it this way from a case perspective. A month ago, daily new infections were down to 14,000.

You see where they are now are averaging 80,000 new infections a day. That is up nearly 500 percent from one month ago. You don't need to be a rocket scientist up nearly 500 percent from one month ago when cases go up sadly, hospitalizations go up.

170 percent increase in hospitalizations from one month ago 16,000 people in the hospital now 44,000 people in the hospital. So let's look here. This is the vaccination map challenge in these lighter states down here. Those are the ones lagging the country right now, right?

You see Maine at 64 percent, Vermont at 68 percent 35 and 34 in Alabama, Mississippi; this is where the largest problem is because this is as the president says a pandemic largely of the unvaccinated. At that point let's bring in to share his expertise and his insights Dr. Michael Osterholm. He's an Epidemiologist and Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Osterholm, it's good to see you on this day. I want to start with the confusion of the moment and I'm not saying it's intentional. But you have some places mandating masks indoors. You just heard the New York City Mayor saying I recommend masks indoors.

You have CDC guidelines. You have some Republican Governors saying hell no; we will not allow any mandates. Where are we?


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR OF UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY: Well, first of all, we're in a very unfortunate situation. We've really brought this country to a point of confusion which it really misses the main point that we should be focusing on vaccine, vaccine and vaccine.

You know, I wish we could get rid of the term masking, because in fact, that implies anything you put in front of your face works. And if I could just add a nuance to that, which hopefully doesn't add more confusion is we know today that many of the face cloth coverings that people wear are not very effective in reducing any of the virus movement in or out, either you're breathing out or you're breathing in.

And in fact, if you're in the upper Midwest, right now, anybody who's wearing their face cloth covering can tell you, they can smell all the smoke that we're still getting. We need to talk about better masking. We need to talk about N95 respirators, which would do a lot for both people who are not yet vaccinated or not previously infected protecting them, as well as keeping others who might become infected having been vaccinated from breathing out the virus.

So I think one of the things right now we just got to get a better handle on what does protect people and what doesn't.

KING: One thing the administration says it sees some progress, some modest progress is in vaccinations they've been, you know, essentially trying everything they can influencers, begging people, asking the Republicans to help out in areas where vaccination lags. We're now averaging 663,000 vaccinations a day, new vaccinations day, we're actually 800,000 plus shots administered yesterday, and this is the seven day average.

We go back three weeks ago, it was down to 515,000. And we just want to zoom in right here Mr. Osterholm on the State of Alabama, three weeks ago, Alabama was down to 4.2 - 4000 vaccinations a day, up to 200 percent, from three weeks ago to more than 12.5.

The administration says it does see some modest progress, especially in the states that have been lagging. How important is that? And to what do you attribute it?

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think it's very important every person we get vaccinated in this country, just one less person that's likely to potentially die from this virus. So I think it's a key, key issue. I would add a note, though, of caution, that the people who are getting vaccinated today actually are not going to be protected for at least a few more weeks yet.

That's why you can't delay you need to get vaccinated today so that the vaccine can have an effect and actually build up your immunity. So please don't think that it's just I get vaccinated today. I'm protected from tonight on. And so this is all the more urgency right to get people vaccinated as soon as possible.

KING: And another conversation you see it's a global conversation is on the question of boosters. The Biden Administration says the data does not tell it yet that you need to recommend a third shot that it does not see it, it says if it sees that the data then it will say it's time to get a third shot.

But as you see here in Israel, they're already doing a third shot in Germany. They're doing a third booster, this headline from the UK preparing to do a booster. I watch it listen to Dr. Francis Collins, the Head of the NIH, he says not yet maybe later.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, NIH DIRECTOR: Right now, there is no evidence that we need to go ahead with boosters in the United States. But that's an ongoing debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what's the harm in moving forward? Is it some concern that it's going to create vaccine hesitancy?

DR. COLLINS: I think we just want to do the thing that's going to help people the most and recognize also that there's a worldwide shortage of vaccines and their countries desperate to get access?


KING: Is it that the science says you don't need it yet? Or is it that the science doesn't say you absolutely need it tomorrow, and we're trying to boost global supply so let's just wait a bit?

OSTERHOLM: Well, again, part of the challenge we have right now is we're in what I call corrected science, meaning that every day we're learning new things, we have to apply them to what we have said yesterday, and some people are going to say, wait a minute, that's different than yesterday.

We now have data from countries like Israel that actually were ahead of us and getting people vaccinated in terms of time, meaning that they vaccinated people six, seven and eight months ago, and now are beginning to see the results of what happens after a longer period of time of being vaccinated.

The Israeli data clearly does point that as you get beyond six months that in fact, it's very likely that a booster will be needed. We don't have those data yet here in the United States, because we just don't have enough people yet vaccinated that long to give us the information.

We have to use global data. And I think that it will be a compelling story in the near term that we are going to need boosters, at least for those who are older, people who may have immune compromised conditions. Now that doesn't address the issue, though, which is a very real one.

There are 6.4 billion people in the low and middle income countries of the world. Less than 2 percent of them have had access to any of the vaccine at all. And you know, from a humanitarian standpoint, obviously, we have the luxury of three doses, they don't have a luxury of any doses.

And while you can say it's just humanitarian, it's also strategic. The variants that I'm really concerned about for our future vaccine success in this country are likely going to spin out of that uncontrolled transmission occurring in the low and middle income countries.

So we've got to try to do both. We need a Manhattan Project for manufacturing. We need Marshall Plans to get vaccine delivered throughout the world.


KING: Help me through with your perspective; I just want to come back to the cases here in the United States right now of what you see coming in the weeks ahead as children start to go back to school? And then a couple weeks after that, it'll start to get cooler across the country.

But if you look at where we are month ago, we're at 14,000 new infections had finally pushed the baseline way down there. And now we're back up above averaging 80,000 new infections, while a year ago Mr. Osterholm, were at 62,000 starting to come down from the summer peak and then we went back up into this horrific winter peak. 165 million Americans have been vaccinated since this.

So no one can imagine going that high again, but with children going back to school, what do you see over the next several weeks heading into the fall?

OSTERHOLM: Well, one of the sobering facts is that right now, if Louisiana was a country would have the highest rate of infections in the world. Florida to be number four, if in fact, we're a country. So it gives you an idea of what's happening in those southern states.

And if you take about eight of the states, they account for a large segment of our cases in this country, is this going to be a replay of what we saw last summer, where in fact, it was the southern sunbelt states with some additional states in the West, adding to all the cases, and much of the rest of the country only seeing modest increases in cases?

Or just going to be a variant that's going to spread to all 50 states, and actually play out much as we're seeing in the southern states right now. I don't think that the latter one right now we have evidence to say that this very well could be the hotspot again, the southern sunbelt states, and within a month to six weeks, we can see this surge come down.

The last piece I would just add is that if you look at the history of this pandemic, these surges come up quickly, and they drop quickly in countries all around the world, including the United States, and in many instances that had nothing to do with anything we did.

This is the nature of the virus. So I think is possible we can see that happen here in this country. By early to mid-September case numbers just drop out and, and is basically even in a vaccinated population, as we see.

And note, Florida is the average state right now for a number of people vaccinated and yet look at they've just set a new record today for a number of hospitalizations for any time in the pandemic.

KING: Right, one in five new infections in the country coming out of Florida at the moment. Michael Osterholm grateful for your insights we'll continue--

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

KING: --the challenge in the next few weeks. Thank you, sir. Up next for us, this is a defining week for the Biden agenda. The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is on paper now with the goal of Senate passage this week.



KING: The infrastructure deal we've been talking about for a couple of weeks is now the infrastructure bill and it begins this week on the legislative fast track. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is officially named is 2700 pages long, and it represents weeks of work and several near collapses in the negotiations.

The Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants a final vote by Thursday or Friday. Senate passage would get us to the next stage of a very complicated puzzle. Progressives in the House say any action there on that infrastructure bill must coincide with action on a bigger Democratic spending plan.

This first stage though we should be careful isn't done quite yet. Amendments will be debated for the next few days and a good number of Senate Republicans are trying to derail the bipartisan plan.


SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): There are a number of Americans who see that all is not well, with the way we spend money, the people's money within the federal government the fact that infrastructure is a good thing. And that we need it is a different question from whether we can afford the infrastructure plan in this particular case.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, "POLITICO's" Laura Barron-Lopez Paul Kane of "The Washington Post" NPR's Aisha Rascoe and Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times". Alright, Mr. Paul Kane, the Senate is back in session today. This is amendment week. Chuck Schumer wants to get this done by Thursday or Friday, everything appears today as if that will happen. Is there but?

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Oh, definitely. Thursday or Friday is lightning speed for the U.S. Senate. You saw over the weekend, where they had to write the bill 2702 pages, I think is the final tally. That took you know from Wednesday when they announced the deal until last night, around 7:30, 8 o'clock.

So that's how long it just took to write the bill. They got to go through amendments, it's going to be a while there are parliamentary things like Mike Lee can stretch this out probably into Saturday or Sunday if he really wants to do so. But I think, I think they're on target to get this done by the weekend at some point.

KING: So there are a number of complicated pieces. One thing I want to do is just put up on the screen if you're watching at home; you say what's in this for me what's in this for my community. It's roads, it's just bridges it's money for your airports, it's money for high speed rail or whatever subway, you might have. There's water money here.

Electric Vehicle transformation there is a lot of money for A, to create jobs and B, to help States which have states and localities with dilapidated infrastructure.

One of the interesting things we're learning is the president in the sense that Paul's calling Seung Min Kim reports, you know, even at Camp David over the weekend, he's on the phone, calling not just Democrats, but also calling Republicans. It's different in the sense that he's very different than his predecessor. He's a creature of the Senate, but he is apparently behind the scenes working to try to keep this together.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: He's working to keep it together. And you know, I won't be the first to say this, I'm sure but he's doing the art of the deal, right? There was all this talk during the last administration--

KING: It's going to stinging some quarters.

RASCOE: It's going to sting. But, you know, I mean, there was all this talk in the last administration about whether you would get all these big deals, they never materialize. In this case I mean, you can say that Biden is someone who wants to actually try to make a deal and that's a big deal for this Congress because at this point it's like can't Congress solve the problems that face the country?


RASCOE: And often the answer is no. But in this case, they're trying to make a difference.

KING: But for now, I'm going to call this the - there's a risk that the Senate infrastructure bill could become a participation trophy in the sense that the Senate could pass it. But if the Democrats don't figure out on their family, everything else, what they call a reconciliation bill, a big sweeping spending plan.

Just listen here, you have a moderate in the Senate and a progressive in the House who are not yet on the same page when it comes to OK. Maybe the Senate passes this week. But then other Democrats are saying, where's the rest of it?


SEN.JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): You can't really guarantee anybody you know, and I have not guaranteed anybody on any of these pieces of legislation, we would like to do more. Yes, you can do what you can pay for, and there should be no quid pro quo. You do this, I'll do this.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): If there is not a reconciliation bill in the House and if the Senate does not pass the reconciliation bill, we will uphold our end of the bargain and not pass the bipartisan bill until we get all of these investments in.


JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The two poles of the Democratic Caucus and today's Congress. All right, they're back on CNN. I think that they can find the votes to get 50 for the second bill, which is all they need under the reconciliation rules.

After they trim it some I don't think Manchin and Sinema are going to vote for $3.5 trillion bill so they'll have to come down take a haircut. I think the bigger question is now with the House - I really - that's going to be Pelosi's perhaps biggest test of her career and the speakership is can she find the votes to move both of these bills?

Keep in mind; given the special election that took place in Texas last week, she has a three vote majority now on the House. There are a few members who are going to be uneasy about spending this much money including those who voted against the stimulus bill back in March so not a lot of room to play with her.

KING: But there's - she has issues on both sides. There are moderate centrist from vulnerable districts who say maybe we should that you just use the term given a haircut. A lot of progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez say it's already too small. So can the Democrats - this is Senator Schumer's challenge this week. And then it moves over to Speaker Pelosi, although Schumer still has the reconciliation part, which means it's Biden as the leader of the party, can they figure this out?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Well, I wouldn't typically bet against Nancy Pelosi. I mean, we all know that she's very good at maneuvering her Caucus and getting her Caucus in line. But to Jonathan's point, it is going to be tricky. She is going to have moderates that are going to want her to call them back from recess. It - when the Senate bill passes because they want to vote on it first - they don't they also like mentioned don't want to see it tether to the reconciliation bill.

But Pelosi herself has said that she is committed to not passing it before reconciliation, how she maneuvers or uses the August recess to her advantage is something that we're going to have to keep an eye on?

KING: Well, to that point, a key point one of the ways you make the progressives happy is to show them you're trying on their priorities, maybe that you're not going to get everything you want. You're not going to get as much as you want. But we're trying.

There's a big debate right now about this evictions moratorium which is expiring. The White House says the president can't sign anything. It says it's tested through the Supreme Court that it can't sign a piece of paper. Cori Bush, one of those young progressives essentially camped out on the Capitol steps this weekend to make a point people need help.


REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): It's hurtful. It's hurtful, because that's me. You're saying that my life didn't matter. You're saying that people in your own communities that their lives don't matter if people went on vacation, went on vacation. We don't go on vacation. We need President Biden to go ahead and stroke the pin, you know, get this executive order done.


KING: Is there an answer here, the administration says there's a lot of money in the pipeline call your mayor, call your governor, they can find a way to use existing money that the president has no power to add more?

KANE: That the Supreme Court has pretty much weighed in on this. And it was the CDC that was essentially enforcing this - the moratorium ban. And the Supreme Court basically said no has to be done through legislative action. So I think the administration is saying, hey, if you want to come back in session and actually vote on something pass legislation, then we can do it.

So they're - they're stuck. And the big worry here is whether the progressive anger on this issue that they had weeks to deal with, but didn't does it bleed into the other issues that we've been talking about.

KING: That's the whole pieces. Just go ahead.

RASCOE: And the entire finger pointing though. I mean, that does not help the 7 million families and people who may be out in the streets. Now, if this is something that matters to you, then you can do - then you do the legislation, or you signed - signed to extend it, but trying to point the finger just leaves people out in the cold and that's what Cori Bush is saying.

MARTIN: John, to your point. This is all interlocking and Pelosi knows that if he spends Capitol one place, it bleeds from somewhere else. And I think if she is going to have to move a pared down reconciliation bill in a bipartisan bill written by Sinema and Portman, she may have to try to mollify her progressives by bringing folks back into session on this eviction issue.

KING: Right. It would be fascinated watch. There's so many complicated pieces that you see progress on one front but you got to be careful to make sure the other pieces. I mean interesting couple of weeks. Up next for us live to Florida, the new COVID epicenter. Florida right now seeing a record breaking surge of new infections but the governor is forbidding schools from mandating masks.



KING: One in five new Coronavirus cases happening nationally are happening in Florida. It's the new epicenter of the pandemic averaging - look, there are more than 15,000 new cases a day that's nearly 20 percent of the national total from just one state.

And once again the Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is charting his own COVID course signing an executive order that comes short of banning masks mandates.