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New Day

Five Clusters Identified in U.S with High Rate of Unvaccinated People; Biden Team Welcomes Saudi Prince Linked to Journalists Murder; Legal Experts Bash Trump's Lawsuit Against Social Media Giants. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 08, 2021 - 07:00   ET




Frazier obviously devastated by this news, asking why police were conducting a high-speed chase in a residential area and writing on Facebook, quote, you took an innocent trying to catch someone else.

This type of loss, really, the vulnerability of black lives when confronted by police, something Darnella said was always her worst fear when she testified in court against Chauvin back in march.


DARNELLA FRAZIER, WITNESSED GEORGE FLOYD'S MURDER (voice over): When I look at George Floyd, I look at -- I look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles because they are all black.

I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them.


JARRETT: Prescient words. Darnella's sister told CNN-affiliate WCCO that her family still isn't exactly sure what happened here but the crash took the life of a very good person. The Minnesota State Patrol is leading an investigation into this crash.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: A lot of pain, a lot of emotion to bear for one young woman.

JARRETT: Yes, at such a young age.

BERMAN: All right. Laura, thank you very much.

New Day continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar alongside John Berman on this New Day.

The race to vaccinate, a new look at the highest risk places in the country where vaccinations are lagging far behind.

BERMAN: Top scientists throwing cold water on the lab leak theory. We'll speak to one of the experts who has studied the evidence.

KEILAR: And a '90s throw back getting a vaccine remix, Juvenile is here live with his new old song.

BERMAN: And the former president's lawsuit targeting big tech, is this really about the First Amendment or just a little frivolous?

KEILAR: A big welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Thursday, July 8th.

And COVID is on the rise again in the decision about whether to get vaccinated or not is becoming a matter of life and death. Last month, 130 people died of COVID in Maryland. And according to Maryland's governor, Larry Hogan, none of them were vaccinated.

It's really the same story all across America, unvaccinated people getting infected, becoming sicker and from coronavirus. This morning, 24 states are experiencing a rise in cases. Many of them have the lowest vaccination rates.

BERMAN: A new analysis by Georgetown University researchers identified five clusters in the U.S. with high rates of unvaccinated people, most of them in the south. These clusters could keep the pandemic alive because they often become breeding grounds for variants that might be able to ultimately outsmart the vaccine.

Let's bring in CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. What's happening here, Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, if you think of the pandemic as kind of like a fire, the fire has been getting better, right? But there is some dry kindling wood in parts of the United States that are just ready to, unfortunately, potentially reignite this all over again. And we do not want to go back, of course, 2020.

Here is the problem. The unvaccinated people in the United States, about a third of the country, they're not evenly distributed. If they were, then the vaccinated among us could kind of protect them. Unfortunately, they're clustered together.

So, researchers at Georgetown University took a look at all the data and what they found was these five significant clusters of undervaccinated folks. You can see, they are mostly in the Southeastern United States going a bit into Southern Missouri. But that's where the clusters are. That's where that dry kindling wood is that could reignite this pandemic and make things difficult for us because it encourages, as you mentioned, these variants. The more it spreads, the more variants arise. The more variants arise, the more we might get a variant that would be resistant to the vaccine.

Let's take a look at the nature of these clusters and what we know about them. When you put these five clusters together, you have about 15 million people. It's largely in the southeast. In these clusters, the vaccination rate is only 28 percent for fully vaccinated. Nationally, it's 48 percent. And what's interesting is that 92 percent of the counties in these clusters have less than 100,000 people. So there are a few bigger cities, such as Amarillo, Texas, or Montgomery, Alabama, but for the most part, these are relatively small counties that when clumped together form these potentially dangerous clusters. John?

BERMAN: Making decisions to put themselves at risk and potentially others as well. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much for that.

COHEN: Thanks.

BERMAN: So, this morning, leading scientists making the strongest case yet for COVID-19 emerging from an animal origin, pushing back in a way against the lab leak theory. The group of 20 experts from around the world write, quote, while the possibility of a lab accident cannot be entirely dismissed and may be near impossible to falsify, the conduit for emergence is highly unlikely relative to the numerous and repeated human animal contacts that occur routinely in the wildlife trade.


I want to bring in Robert Garry, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Tulane Medical School. He's one of the scientists who signed this paper. Doctor, thank you so much for being with us.

So, talk to me about the evidence you looked and how you reached this conclusion.

DR. ROBERT GARRY, VIROLOGIST WHO SIGNED PAPER ARGUING AGAINST LAB LEAK THEORY: So, we looked at the epidemiology of the early cases in Wuhan. And most of those cases were linked to a large market that we now know sold wild animals susceptible to SARS-Cov-2. And some of the other cases were linked to other similar markets in the city of Wuhan. And we found that most of the early cases in the city of Wuhan lived near the large wildlife market and far away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

We also looked at the virus itself and the genetic changes that have occurred as it spread through the human population and now we can say that SARS-Cov-2 was not the result of genetic engineering or so called gain of function research.

BERMAN: So, what have you seen that -- I don't want to use the word discredits -- but what draws you away or what about the lab leak theory you look and say that this doesn't add up?

GARRY: So, there's no scientific evidence that SARS-Cov-2 emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or, in fact, any lab anywhere in the world. There's only the circumstance that there's a large virology lab in the city of Wuhan where the first cases were detected, but there are large virology labs all over the country of China because of the first SARS outbreak that occurred almost 20 years ago.

Now, Wuhan is the largest city in Central China. It's a hub for the wildlife trade and other commerce. So, it's natural that the virus like SARS-Cov-2 would emerge there.

And the other thing is that the lab leak theory cannot account for the fact that most of the early cases were linked to this wildlife trade and that's in perfect parallel to the multiple spillovers of the first SARs from the wildlife trade many years ago.

BERMAN: What about the reporting that there were employees from this Wuhan lab who did go to the hospital with some kind of flu-like symptoms that may -- we don't know for sure -- that may have been linked to COVID?

GARRY: So there was a large surge of influenza in the city of Wuhan in late 2019. It's very likely that those people had just the flu. And, in fact, we do need to look at those cases and the intelligence community needs to figure out what possibly was going on there. But if there were, say, three cases of COVID-19 at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, you would have seen a lot of other cases as well, asymptomatic cases and less severe cases than the reporting that's been going on about those three supposed cases.

BERMAN: And I want to end on this, the Biden administration has asked for an investigation into the possibility of a lab leak theory. Do you think this is a waste of time?

GARRY: It's not a waste of time. We need to put this to rest because it's taking away from other important science that needs to be done. We need to be investigating the animals that carry viruses that can spill over into humans and we don't want another pandemic, perhaps one that's even more catastrophic than the one we just -- that we're still going through to happen again in just a few years.

BERMAN: Professor Robert Garry, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much for joining us.

GARRY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Now, joining us to talk about this a little more, CNN Political Analyst and Washington Post Columnist Josh Rogin. He is the author of Chaos Under Heaven and has extensively covered the investigations into the origin of coronavirus.

And to be clear about what Josh's reporting has suggested, it's that the lab leak theory was dismissed too early and too definitively without compelling evidence, right, Josh? So when you hear Professor Garry talk about the evidence he's looking at, what's your takeaway?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, John. It's very clear that Professor Garry and a bunch of scientists who agree with him have been of the opinion that the natural origin theory is more likely ever since the pandemic emerged last year. This is the position that Professor Garry and his friends established for themselves a year ago. Their position hasn't changed. I didn't hear anything new actually in what Professor Garry said or what they wrote that would add to their -- the strength of their position. And there's another group of scientists out there, including Robert Redfield, the former head of the CDC, and David Baltimore, the former president of Cal Tech, who have the exact opposite opinion. In other words, there's no scientific consensus. You can look at the data, you can look at the virus and virologists come to completely opposite conclusions, which is why, I think, a lot of people like me have always argued that we just need to investigate both theories, investigate the natural origin theory and the lab leak theory.


Of course, we can't do that because the Chinese government won't allow us to investigate the lab leak theory.

I do think it's important to mention a couple of things that I thought that Professor Garry said that were a little misleading. The first cases that were reported in China were not actually linked to any of the markets, according to the Chinese government's own research the time the Chinese CDC disavowed the market theory in May 2020. And there are no actual links to the wildlife trade. There are suggested links. In other words, there are animals in the markets that could have been a link, but there's never been any animal found that had any real link.

So I just think that sort of the presentation that Robert Garry just gave was a little misleading in that regard. But, again, he's of the opinion that it came from the market, which is right next to the lab. I don't know why he said they're far apart. They're really close to each other. A lot of people feel a different way. We just need to get to the bottom of it one way or the other.

BERMAN: The big problem is that there's no way to get to the bottom of it, right, one thing, because China cleaned out the markets so you can't deeply investigate that theory, and the other hand, they're not giving us results from people who worked at the Wuhan lab. So there's just a big block in either direction here.

ROGIN: Well, I think there's a lot more that we can find out. First of all, on the U.S. side, the intelligence that you asked Robert Garry about, there's a lot more of that that the Biden administration could and should release. What we've heard is that those sick researchers did not have the flu. By the way, the Chinese denied that there weren't any sick researchers. But what the U.S. intelligence believes is that they had COVID-like symptoms and they were working on coronaviruses in the secret part of the lab, the part that they didn't tell us about, the part they didn't tell Robert Garry about, right?

So, there's a of U.S. intelligence that should come to light. I think that's what Congress is focused on. And then there has to be more pressure on the Chinese government to play ball and to allow access to the labs to put back up the virus data base that they took offline. It was supposed to be a public data base to make the scientists available, to make the data available. It's an urgent issue of national security and public health.

So we can't throw up our hands and say, well, I guess the Chinese government is not going to cooperate if they use the tools of our national power and influence to pressure them to cooperate because, again, it's an urgent public health issue that's affecting us to this day.

BERMAN: Josh, hang on one second. So, I guess Professor Garry stuck around and has been listening to this, and, Professor, you wanted to respond.

GARRY: Well, sure. I mean, actually the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the place where they do all the live virus culture and, you know, the isolation of coronaviruses is about 20 miles away from the large seafood market. So, that is a fact that you have to put on the table there.

In terms of the three researchers, you know, I don't know if those people exist or not. I do hope that we have firm intelligence on that. I agree that we need to get that piece of information either proven or disproven one way or the other.

ROGIN: Yes. I would just say the Wuhan CDC is literally about 1,000 meters from the one market. The point is that to say it started from the market should be backed by evidence and actual first earliest cases that we know of had no connection to the market. That's what's clear. So, the market theory is really not supported by any evidence.

And as for the U.S. intelligence --

BERMAN: Hang on, Josh, let me ask the professor to respond to that.

GARRY: Well, actually there is a lot of evidence. There's epidemiological evidence, there's genetic evidence that we have that there was, you know, no way that anybody could have put this virus together, cobbled together in the lab from bits and pieces from other viruses. And that's pretty strong scientific evidence that this virus wasn't built at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

ROGIN: Yes. I just need to say that top virologists totally disagree about that. And not being a virologist, I'll leave that to the virologist debate. But the bottom line here is that if you're going to -- you suspect of U.S. intelligence and confident in the Chinese government's statements, well, then you're going to come out with one conclusion. And if you're going to be suspect of the Chinese government's statements and confident in U.S. intelligence, then you're going to come out with a different conclusion.

I think it's very clear that the Chinese government is engaged in a massive cover up focused on the lab. That's why they won't let us into the lab. They're thwarting the lab investigation. And I would ask, Dr. Garry, why not investigate the lab? Shouldn't we investigate the lab even if you think it's unlikely that really the only way to settle this and why even come to a conclusion when we can just honestly state between all of us that we don't know, you don't know, I don't know, John Berman, you don't know.

BERMAN: I certainly don't. ROGIN: And so we have to figure it out. So, it's not really helpful to say, oh, the lab theory is very unlikely because you don't know that. We have to have am actual forensic investigation, not a scientific investigation.

And, by the way, they don't have to have manipulated the virus in order for the lab to be involved. They could have captured the virus, gotten it to the lab. Again, the bats and penguins were not in the market. They were in Yunnan, the bats were 1,000 miles away, so they could have brought in a natural virus to the lab and then it could have leaked. There are a lot ofoptions.

BERMAN: Let's let the professor respond to that. Go ahead, Professor.


GARRY: Well, it is hard to respond to all of that, but there really is no evidence that the virus leaked from the lab. There's more opportunities for the virus to have spilled over from nature, just like it occurred in the first outbreak of SARS almost 20 years ago now.

So, yes, let's look at all the things, let's put some of this information that's out there that is coming from some questionable sources and put that to rest. And I do agree that the Chinese have not been as transparent as they should be about the early cases, the early epidemiology of the outbreak. In particular, they haven't been transparent about wildlife trade and all the animals that were being sold at this market.

So we do need to have some diplomacy work with the Chinese government, try to figure out what went on there exactly so that we don't have another pandemic like we've all been through and that we're still going through. It's not over yet.

BERMAN: All right. Professor Garry, I want to thank you for your time and thanks for sticking around. I'm going to change subjects here with Josh because you also wrote over the last day about something I think a lot of people didn't see happen yesterday, which is that the Biden administration met with the brother of the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, his brother, Khalid, who a lot of people also connect to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. This is a picture of him meeting with different state department -- well, the first picture is him meeting with different state department officials here in the United States. Why did the U.S. take this meeting? Why is the U.S. meeting with someone who some people connect to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi? What does it tell you?

ROGIN: You know, it's a great question. The Biden administration is trying to have its cake and eat it too. They want to say that they're being tough on Saudi Arabia for its atrocious and worsening human rights record. At the same time, they want to do business with Saudi Arabia on the areas of mutual interest, and I get that.

But the way that they decided to do that was by welcoming back the former ambassador, Khalid bin Salman, the brother of Mohammad bin Salman, the guy who the CIA asserts was responsible for the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post Contributing Columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and the allegation by the U.S. Intelligence Services is that his brother, Khalid, lured him into the Istanbul consulate where he was later murdered. Although we can't prove that he knew that he was going to be murdered but at least he thought that it was going to be safe.

So it seems like a weird thing to invite the guy who was connected to the murder back to have a bunch of pictures and give him the red carpet treatment and let him meet with the defense secretary and national security adviser. It sends the signal to the Saudis and to the region and to the human rights community, frankly, that the Biden administration's protestations against Saudi atrocities are just that, just words and not actions in it. It signals a return to business as usual and that spells disaster for people who believe in pressing the Saudi regime to improve on its human rights records and it also, in my opinion, insults the legacy of Jamal Khashoggi and reneges on Biden's promise to deliver justice to Jamal and his family.

BERMAN: Josh Rogin bringing it this morning, on several continents too, thank you very much for being with us. I appreciate it.

ROGIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Brianna.

KEILAR: Now to the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, where it has been two weeks since the disaster. Officials making the grim announcement that the search and rescue effort is now a recovery operation, marking the transition with a moment of silence last night. And this morning, we are remembering some of the victims who tragically lost their lives.

Marcus Guara, whose his wife, Anaely Rodriguez, and their ten and four-year-old daughters Lucea and Emma were laid to rest Tuesday. Friends say they were close and loving family and the two young girls were placed together in the same white casket. It was adorned with pink and purple ribbons.

Gladys and Antonio Lozano first met in Cuba when they were 12 years old and their family would have been planning for their 59th wedding anniversary next month. Instead, their son, Sergio, is preparing for their funeral.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was told they were in bed together. That's the end of the romantic story.


KEILAR: 52-year-old Jay Kleiman lived in Puerto Rico and was visiting Surfside to attend a funeral of one of his childhood friends who died of COVID-19. His friend remembered the kind of person that Jay was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just filled with love and happiness and joy and gratitude before we learned that that really was what life is about.


KEILAR: His mother, Nancy Kress Levin, was also identified as a victim as was his brother, Frank Kleiman, his brother's partner, Anna Ortiz, and her son, 26-year-old Louis Bermudez Jr.

The death toll right now is standing at 54 and there are still 86 people who are unaccounted for.

Let's go now to CNN's Leyla Santiago, who is live for us in Surfside. Just a very sad transition here as we move into this recovery phase.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna. This is a community that is waking up in mourning after a very rough night. Because when officials made that announcement, they're essentially saying they don't believe that anyone could still be alive under the rubble. So when that was announced, we were here and we could see a lot of tears, a lot of hugging, a lot of comforting and prayer here near the memorial site, near the building collapse site.

I had the opportunity to speak to a firefighter with the FEMA USAR team, as he was coming off his 12-hour shift from the pile. And he was adamant, Brianna, that the shift in operation does not mean that there is a change in mission.


CAPTAIN KEN PAGUREK, PENNSYLVANIA TASK FORCE 1: We participated in the moment of silence and the service that was held here. We shut down operations. We all lined up around the pile. And they did their service. But at the end of the day, when their service was done, we went right back to work because this is our job. Our job is to do the best that we can, as quickly as possible, to remove anybody, any victim that's remaining in that building so that we can bring them home to their loved ones and we can go home to ours.

SANTIAGO: What's been the toughest part?

PAGUREK: The lack of survivors.


SANTIAGO: His eyes teared up every single time that we talked about the victims, Brianna.

So what can we expect today here at the collapsed site? Because it is now in recovery mode, we expect to see more heavy machinery come in and that could mean a much faster pace search as these crews try to bring closure to the families.

KEILAR: I think it's so hard to grasp how many people died there and how this even happened. And I think he really spoke to that. Leyla Santiago, thank you so much, live for us in Surfside.

Former President Trump announcing a lawsuit against the social media companies that banned him. Why legal experts say it doesn't stand a chance.

BERMAN: Pageant outbreak, more than a dozen contestants infected at the Ms. Mexico competition despite being warned ahead of time.

KEILAR: And in the '90s, Rapper Juvenile famously told us to back it up, back what up? Well, you know. Well, now he's telling us to vax it up and he is live to talk about his remix.

BERMAN: Back what up?

KEILAR: I don't know. You know.



KEILAR: Former President Trump has filed suit against Twitter, Facebook and Google.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We're demanding an end to the shadow banning, a stop to the silencing and a stop to the blacklisting, banishing and canceling that you know so well. Our case will prove this censorship is unlawful, it's unconstitutional and it's completely un-American.


KEILAR: Now, this legal move comes months after the social media platform's banned or suspended his accounts. And he may not really like this, but is it unconstitutional.

Let's talk about it now with Elliot Williams, he's our CNN Legal Analyst and he's former Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

Okay, Elliot, and just a reminder for people where he's talking about the First Amendment, the First Amendment says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: What was the first word you read there, Brianna?

KEILAR: Congress.

WILLIAMS: Congress. It's not -- yes, it does not say private actors or private tech companies. What the First Amendment does is check on government activity. And you can't say that merely because a tech company works with the government, which is what the president is arguing in his lawsuit, that somehow they become now the government. Companies have every single right to decide who they choose to interact with. You sign terms of service when you sign up for Facebook or Google or Twitter anywhere else entering this building. And if you violate those terms, they can kick you off. That is not a First Amendment issue.

KEILAR: Okay. And so then talk about this other thing because he said, and I'm just going to read part of this, he said he's filing as the lead class representative of a major class action lawsuit against big tech giants. Any issues there?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think this is a really big issue. Because, look, you have to prove a number of things to get in the door on a class action, the first one being what's called commonality, that your claims are similar to the other people who might be members of the class, right?

They have this vague statement that anybody who was damaged and had their account wrongly suspended can be a member of the class. Well, Facebook has got 3 billion people. You mean that every single account that gets kicked off? Well, how are you going to define that? Is it all conservatives, or what's a conservative? Is it all registered Republicans? So, you have this vast class that you can't define. It's almost like you've got to back that class up as your teaser from the last.

But, literally, you have to say who is a party to the suit and they're quite vague about. That would be a basis for the judge to toss out right there.

KEILAR: It's important to note here, independent studies show the conservatives are not targeted when it comes to being scrapped basically for violation of terms. Real quick before I let you go. Could Trump be deposed if he proceeds with this?

WILLIAMS: He can. Look, he's a party to a civil suit and automatically allows the other side to bring you in for deposition to investigate the case. And if they do, sit him down and say, hey, oh, so you're talking about tweets you sent on January 6th? Who were you talking to that morning? Who else did you meet with? Were there threats -- did you overhear any threats and create long on the record everything the president might have said or done in the run-up to it.


KEILAR: Me thinks this might just be a fundraising ploy, which is what we have seen before.

WILLIAMS: Curiously.