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COVID-19 Vaccines Less Effective on Immunocompromised; Some Counties in Georgia Not Mandating Masks in Schools; Interview with Mother Whose Son Died from COVID-19 after He Refused to Get Vaccine; New Capitol Police Chief Says Insurrection was not a Love Fest. Aired 8-8:30a ET.

Aired July 26, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is the optional portion of the pandemic. The number of cases has quadrupled in the past month, hospitalizations more than doubled.

Now, there is some hopeful news. Vaccination rates have ticked up slightly in the last week. You can see it right there at the end of that graph, starting to go up a little bit. Maybe the fears are getting people to get the vaccine after the spread of this delta variant.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and that slight uptick is so important because this is almost exclusively a pandemic of the unvaccinated, with more than half of the country right now lagging behind the national vaccination average.

People who go unvaccinated aren't just putting themselves at risk. That is clear. There is a just-released study that finds that vaccinated people who are immunocompromised are much more likely to get breakthrough infections, and they are the ones largely dying compared to others who have been vaccinated.

Let's talk about this now with senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this is really an unfortunate, unfortunate story, and it did not have to happen. It was hoped that if enough of us got vaccinated that we could protect the vulnerable, people who are immunocompromised. The vaccine often doesn't work out so well for them and they are not protected. But it hasn't worked out that way. Vaccination rates are so low that we're not protecting these vulnerable people.

Let me introduce you to one of these vulnerable people. Her name is Kimberly Cooley, and she lives in Mississippi. In the county that Kimberly lives in, she's there with her two six-year-old nephews, that was pre-pandemic. In the county that she lives in only about 37 percent of people are vaccinated, and that means she can't get near her two nephews. Again, that photo is from before the pandemic.

So Kimberly did get vaccinated, and when she did, she posted it on Twitter. And she said, hey, let's all do our part. I'm getting vaccinated. We all need to do our part. But unfortunately, that didn't happen. Vaccination rates are too low to protect people like her. And so she basically has to live a quarantined life again. She's living like it was in the middle of the pandemic last year, hardly ever leaving the house, not getting to see he nephews in person and hug them.

So that brings us to the results of this new study. It finds that people like Kimberly really do have a lot to worry about. This is a study out of Johns Hopkins where more than 18,000 vaccinated transplant patients, vaccinated transplant patients like Kimberly, they looked at them, and 87 ended up hospitalized with COVID-19.

I know that looks like a small fraction, but really that is actually substantial number -- 87 ended up hospitalized with COVID-19 and 14 of them died. That is 485 times higher than the rates you would see with vaccinated people who are not immunocompromised. So the bottom line here is that their rates of getting sick from COVID and dying are quite high, and it's because of unvaccinated people. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, it's terrible. We're hearing that from a doctor. We just heard from one out of Houston where he said 10 to 15 percent of the patients that they're seeing are these immunocompromised folks. The rest are unvaccinated, so we know what that means. If you are immunocompromised, Elizabeth, and the vaccine didn't work, what can you do besides holing up and staying away from people?

COHEN: Can you try to get a third shot, and some people have, but it doesn't always work. There are immunocompromised people who went out and get a third shot, which technically the FDA would say you're not supposed to do, but they go out and do it anyhow, because it is possible. But it doesn't always work.

Other than that, there aren't a whole lot of other things they could do. Regeneron is offering up its antibody cocktail to folks like this, but it's not always so east to get. A lot of doctors don't even know that it's possible, so there aren't a whole lot of options for this group. Kimberly did what she was supposed to do. She got vaccinated. It didn't work. She has no antibodies.

KEILAR: Desperate people going for a third shot because of so many people who won't get one.

COHEN: Exactly. Exactly.

KEILAR: Elizabeth, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

BERMAN: So as millions of U.S. students start heading back to school, a debate over masks is under way and heating up. The guidelines for masking in schools varies by state and there are differing opinions among experts. The CDC has said that vaccinated students do not need to wear a mask inside the classroom, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that everyone over the age of two should still mask up. CNN's Amara Walker has more.


AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Over summer break, six-year-old Audrey Gard rarely left the house without a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you have to wear a mask to school every day.

WALKER: Audrey can't wait for August 4th, the first day of first grade at Peachtree Elementary School.

Are you excited for school to start?



WALKER: Her mother, Sara, feels differently.

SARA GARD, HUMAN RESOURCES PROFESSIONAL: I'm furious. I am irritated that these are the people that I elected.

WALKER: Sara Gard is furious over Gwinnett County public schools policy that only strongly recommends masks on school grounds.

GARD: I worry that she's going into school, come home one day, and say nobody is wearing their masks, and then I'm going to say then I have to pull you out of school.

WALKER: Sara, a Human Resources professional, worries about the fast- spreading, highly contagious Delta variant, now making up 83 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. according to the CDC. The Delta variant was not nearly as widespread when the Gards opted for in- person learning in April after a year of virtual school.

GARD: I want a mask mandate at school because I know my child can't be vaccinated yet.

WALKER: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp's executive order on school masks does not prevent districts from implementing a universal mandate. Gwinnett County public schools, the largest district in the state, says its decision is still fluid just days before school is set to start.

BERNARD WATSON, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY RELATIONS, GWINNETT COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Well, we are constantly reviewing guidance that we get from other local and state health partners as well as the CDC and the Georgia Department of Education.

WALKER: Could the mask policy change between now and the start of school August 4th?

WATSON: Yes. WALKER: In neighboring DeKalb County and the city of Atlanta, the

school districts there taking a stricter stance, requiring masks for everyone.

CHERYL WATKINS-HARRIS, SUPERINTENDENT, DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOLS: This is an issue that superintendents and school leaders are grappling with across the country.

WALKER: In DeKalb, low vaccination rates statewide and the growing number of Delta variant vases were factors in the decision for a universal mask mandate.

WATKINS-HARRIS: Overwhelmingly, I've received positive feedback from families who were so nervous about sending their children back to school.

WALKER: The piecemeal approach over masks in schools is causing confusion across the country. At least eight school states from Arizona to Vermont prohibit school districts from requiring masks. And in many states it's up to the districts, with the largest ones like New York City, L.A., and Chicago requiring masks, while Miami, Houston, and Hillsborough County in Florida are keeping it optional.

DR. SARA BODE, CHAIR-ELECT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS COUNCIL ON SCHOOL HEALTH: Monitoring who is vaccinated, who's not, having some kids wearing masks, some not, that is just fraught with error. And universal masking works. We know it works.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This one, I love it because it has crowns.

WALKER: Uncertainty is all that certain right now for the Gards, who considered at one point entering Audrey into the vaccine trial. But they say they're bracing for the worst case scenario.

GARD: I tell my husband he can no longer work because he needs to run at-home school. Audrey comes home, and then I am our single breadwinner for this family of four.


WALKER (on camera): Gwinnett County public schools tells me that they will be taking mitigation measures, including social distancing. The students, when they are able to, they'll be disinfecting areas pretty frequently, and they do have quarantine protocols in place in case a student or faculty or staff member is indeed infected. But Sara Gard tells me none of these measures to her go far enough.

Also complicating matters is the fact that the governor of Georgia, Governor Kemp, signed an executive order back in May which basically restricts the usage of masks in schools, but it does not go far enough in outright banning them. We should also mention at least nine out of the 20 largest school districts in the country are making masks optional at this point. John and Brianna?

BERMAN: Amara Walker, we thank you very much for this. Obviously it's all exacerbated by the decision millions of Americans have made not to get vaccinated has put us in a worse situation as kids are heading back to school than we need to be in right now, and it's only making matters worse. Thank you, Amara. Brianna?

KEILAR: In Louisiana, coronavirus cases are surging. The state now has the second highest growth rate in cases per capita in the U.S., and hospitalizations are also rising sharply as Louisiana ranks near the bottom when it comes to vaccination rate rates nationally.

Joining me now is Betty Dixon Antoine. Her son died last month from COVID after he decided to not get the vaccine. She ended up organizing a vaccine drive at his memorial to help prevent the same outcome from befalling other family and friends. Betty, thank you so much for being with us. We are so sorry for the loss of your son. I know that he was vulnerable health-wise, and so were you. And so you decided to get the vaccine, but he decided not to. Tell us why.

BETTY DIXON ANTOINE, MOTHER OF MAN WHO DIED AFTER REFUSING COVID-19 VACCINE: Well, Brandon said he had done his research on the vaccine, and it was not enough research going on about the vaccine. So he was not going to get it until he knew for sure that it would work. Brandon had a lot of health issues, and I asked him to take the vaccine, and he told me no. I did, but he did not.


KEILAR: And he came down with COVID. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened there, and when you knew that this was going to be very serious for him?

ANTOINE: Brandon did not go to too many places. He had his food delivered. He had very few friends to come by. So one morning he called me and asked me to come over to help him clean. When I got to his house I said, Brandon, your house is clean.

And he said mom, I just need you to help me with my bed. I'm not feeling well. So I walked out of his bedroom to get the cleaning supplies, and he told me to call 911. And I said call 911? He said I'm not feeling well.

This was unusual because Brandon would go to the hospital two and three times a year because of his health conditions. So when I called 911, they picked him up and took him to the hospital. I walked into the emergency room, and the doctor walked in after I did, and he said, Mr. Haynes, you test positive for the COVID virus. I almost fainted because I know my child's chances of surviving were slim because of his medical issues.

KEILAR: And so at what point -- your worst fears were realized when you found out --


KEILAR: -- that he wasn't doing well. And you decided at that moment that you were going to take action. Can you tell me about that?

ANTOINE: Well, I was staying at the hospital 24/7. The doctors and nurses were telling me to go home, but that was my son. And as a mother, I thought I was protecting him by staying there. So I decided to leave on the Tuesday before he died, because his stats were -- his oxygen level and everything was going up.

I got home, went to bed, got up the next morning with a telephone call from the nurse at the hospital. She asked me, Miss Antoine, are you at the hospital? And I told her no, I was at home. She said, is anyone with you? When she said that, I knew something was wrong. I said no, what's going on? And she said, well, come to the hospital.

So I live in a little town outside of Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, and the traffic is horrible in the morning. And I got on the interstate, and the doctor called. He said Miss Antoine, are you on your way? And I said yes, I am. I said, what's going on? He said just come on. I said, is he dead? And the doctor said come on, Miss Antoine. I said I've always been straight with you, and you've been straight with me. Is he dead? And he said, yes, Miss Antoine, he's dead.

I was so emotional driving down the interstate. When I got to the hospital and went into his room and saw my child, and he was dead, the first thing that came to my mind, I'm going to get his friends and his family to take the vaccine, because I didn't want them to die like Brandon did. I didn't want them to die without taking the vaccine. So I decided that I was going to ask his friend and families to take the vaccine in honor of him.

I have a friend that I've been knowing for 52 years, and she is a retired nurse. So she is administering the vaccine for a hospital out in Baton Rouge. So I asked her to ask her supervisor, would they be able to come to Brandon's memorial? And they said yes. So I set up a clinic there. And we had three people to take the vaccine.

KEILAR: And so what was the hesitance on their part before? Was it similar to Brandon's? And where did he get this idea that there wasn't enough research on the vaccine?

ANTOINE: Brandon was a very bright and brilliant young man. So he had a lot of friends who believed in him and what he said. If Brandon said it, it's correct. And so he was telling his friends not to take the vaccine. And they did not, until Brandon died.

And then they started taking the vaccine after I asked them to. I had someone call me this morning to tell me that they had taken the vaccine, the first shot. So, it's working here. I'm not going to get to the people who are dead against the vaccine. I'm looking at the people who are straddling the fence and need somebody to say take the vaccine, and they fall on the right side of the fence, and that's taking the vaccine.

KEILAR: It is amazing what you are doing in honor of your son. This price that you have paid in this pandemic, it's just too much.


And I wonder, you know, as you are trying to get people -- and you are successfully getting people to take this vaccine, how are you remembering your son? And what are you missing about him that you want people to know?

ANTOINE: I'm missing my daily phone calls from him. I'm missing the "I love you, mom" after the conversation is over with.

I got up yesterday and I looked at his picture, his smiling face and I miss that so much. Some mornings I'm okay, and then some mornings, I start off being sad. But I miss my son, and I don't want any mother or any father to lose their child because they did not take the vaccine.

KEILAR: Betty, thank you so much for coming on and thank you for making a difference. You know, you're going to have these ups and downs on these mornings and it's -- it is something to watch you, try to make sure that other parents don't have those. Thank you so much, Betty Dixon Antoine.

ANTOINE: Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, Nancy Pelosi adds a key Republican to the January 6 committee ahead of tomorrow's hearings, we will ask another lawmaker on the panel what that could mean.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, the new Capitol Police Chief setting the record straight what he is saying in a new CNN interview.

And celebrities divided over COVID vaccines, Sean Penn and Eric Clapton on opposite ends of the issue.



KEILAR: There's a new Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, Tom Manger taking the helm of the embattled department as two of its officers prepare to publicly testify about the violence on January 6.

Manger sat down with CNN on his first day on the job and he took issue with those trying to downplay the insurrection.


J. THOMAS MANGER, CHIEF OF U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I cannot waste my time worrying about how somebody interprets a tape. I know what the men and women of this agency went through. I know, the challenges that they faced, I also know the courage that they displayed that day.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's your view when people say, well, this was tourism or this was a love fest? I mean, we all saw that video of your officers on the receiving end of so much violence. As the leader of the department, what do you think when you hear it characterized that way?

MANGER: Well, I don't agree with it. That's not the way I saw it. But again, everybody's entitled their opinion. And frankly, as the Chief of this Police Department now, I'm in a position to do things to ensure that that wouldn't happen again.


KEILAR: And CNN's Josh Campbell, who conducted that interview is with us now. Really fascinating to hear from this new chief. He is concerned, it sounds like about violence -- from the possible violence from the big lie.

CAMPBELL: That's right. I mean, there's rightly been so much focus on investigating January 6. I mean, in talking to law enforcement officials, I don't think people understand just how concerned they are about additional violence stemming from the big lie from people out there who may be prone to suppose to violence because they feel the election was stolen.

I asked the Chief about the looming threat. Here's what he said.


CAMPBELL: Does that concern you? We may see a repeat of January 6?

MANGER: I'd be a fool to not be concerned about that. I mean, that obviously, the safety and security of the U.S. Capitol, the Congress, the legislative process, those are top priorities, and I'm absolutely concerned about all of those things.

CAMPBELL: We know that there has been chatter on some of these extremist forums looking to August, some of these extremist thinking that that's the month that the former President is going to be reinstated. Have you seen any intelligence in the run up to August or what is possibly planned during August that concerns you?

MANGER: Certainly, we are absolutely laser focused on information like that. We are paying attention to that. We are -- we're not going to show all of our cards and say, okay, well, these are all the things that we know. But I can tell you this, we're going to plan for everything we know.


CAMPBELL: So, it shows you this big lie is not happening in a vacuum. Law enforcement is seriously concerned that they could see additional violence.

KEILAR: It's such an important interview that you did, and I really appreciate watching it and learning what he has to say. But one of the most significant things about it is that he did it on day one of the job. Is this sort of Capitol Police turning over a new leaf of transparency, do you think?

CAMPBELL: It certainly seems that way. I mean, if you go back to January 6, weeks went by without someone from Capitol Police leadership stepping to the microphones and taking our hard questions. And if you think about it, this was an attack on the U.S. Capitol. Of course, the public demanded answers. We didn't get many.

But compare that with the Chief now who is coming out and talking to us, I asked him that very question whether this is a new era of transparency. Take a listen to what he said.


CAMPBELL: This is your first day on the job and you're sitting down with us. Is that a signal of maybe a new culture of openness and transparency here?

MANGER: So if you look at my track record in the two departments where I was Chief, I'm a big believer in sharing with the public what we're doing and how we're doing it when something bad happens, you know, good news -- or bad news doesn't get any better by just you know, sitting on it.

So, I think being responsive to the public, letting them know what we're doing and why we're doing it is important.


CAMPBELL: One other criticism has been we've only heard from a small number of the rank and file officers who were there on January 6. I asked the Chief point blank, whether he will give them the permission and the latitude to speak out and tell their stories. He said, absolutely.

Of course, we know we will hear from four police officers tomorrow as they testify. But again, the officers saying that the stories of those who were on the receiving end of so much of this violence, their stories need to be heard.

KEILAR: Yes, they definitely need to be heard. Josh, thank you so much for sharing that interview with us.

The first hearing of this January 6 committee set for tomorrow. So, what should we be expecting as another Republican is joining the panel? A committee member will be with us live.



BERMAN: Brand new CNN reporting that a growing list of House Republicans want Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to punish Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Congressman Adam Kinzinger for accepting positions from Speaker Pelosi to serve on the January 6 Committee. Committee members are expected to meet this afternoon ahead of the first hearing tomorrow.

Joining us now is one of the members of the select committee, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

The idea that Cheney and Kinzinger could be punished, maybe even lose their other committee assignments for serving on this committee with you, what does that tell you?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, it tells you where Kevin McCarthy is and where the Republican Party is, and that is, they're an anti-truth party. They don't want the facts to come out about January 6.

We really already saw them punish Liz Cheney by stripping her of her leadership position, and not for anything having to do with the Select Committee, but because she refused to carry the President's big lie about the election, and she was willing to speak candidly about January 6 on where she thinks the Republican Party ought to go.

So, the retribution began earlier. It wouldn't surprise me if they did more, but it just shows how hollow that party has been and how much it has been hollowed out by the former President and it is really more of a cult His personality now.

BERMAN: On the subject of retribution, CNN also has some new reporting this morning that one thing that some Republicans are considering or discussing inside McCarthy world is since Speaker Pelosi removed Jim Jordan and Banks from the Select Committee that if they take back power in 2022, they are going to start to do that to Democrats. They're going to remove committee assignments from Democrats that they don't like. What do you think of that?