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Delta Variant of COVID-19 Continues to Spread Across U.S. as Children Return to School; Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D- NY) Criticizes Texas Governor Greg Abbott's Comments Defending Texas Law Restricting Abortion; Democratic Senator Joe Manchin Objects to Spending Levels in $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Bill. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You can see the number of children hospitalized does continue to climb with nearly 2,400 kids in the hospital this morning. We should note that's still a small percentage of those hospitalized. They're now a quarter of new cases, but about 2.5 percent of hospitalizations.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And while hospitalizations nationwide do appear to be leveling off, ignoring the science clearly is coming with a deadly price. One district in Georgia has temporarily moved to virtual learning after three transportation staff members died in the course of just two weeks. In Florida, 13 employees from Miami-Dade public schools have died from COVID since mid-August. Their families telling CNN that all of them were unvaccinated.

Joining us now is chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, this is, I think, really on everyone's mind as we're sending our kids back to school here. More than one in four of these new infections are children. So how concerned are you? How concerned should we be?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the problem is we have just so much viral spread. So even though kids, as you point out, are less likely to get infected, less likely to get hospitalized, when you just increase viral spread in the country by that move, kids are inadvertently get infected. This Delta virus is not as forgiving.

Let me show you something in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, three-and-a-half times more cases, two-and-a-half times more hospitalizations, almost two times more deaths this Labor Day compared to last Labor Day. If you were to ask me last year at this time, shown me these numbers, I would say, oh, I guess we didn't actually get to the vaccine. Truth is we have a vaccine. These numbers should be a lot lower than Labor Day last weekend, but here we are.

And we talk about children's hospitalizations. As you mention, if you go back and you look over the year, you see these dramatic increases overall on the graph of what it looks likes with childhood hospitalizations. Just look at that. This is some of the steepest growth we've seen throughout this pandemic with children.

Right now, if you live in a state with low vaccination rates, your kid is three-and-a-half times more likely to go the E.R. and be admitted to the hospital as compared to if you live in a state with high vaccination rates. We always talk about herd immunity as these numbers. It's a concept. That's the concept. Get a lot of people vaccinated, children are more protected. We're seeing that in states around the country. And we're seeing the opposite where you have low vaccination.

BERMAN: If adults want to keep kids out of the hospital, get vaccinated. It can make a difference. It can save someone else's life.

Sanjay, when I look at the overall hospitalization graph in the U.S., it does seem to have plateaued, and maybe, just maybe, fingers crossed, starting to go down a bit. Hospitalization have been, in many ways, the most reliable way to track trends in terms of COVID. Do you think this will stick? What do you see here?

GUPTA: We've been following this very closely, looking at the growth, the pace of growth, and seeing if you're seeing some contraction in that pace of growth. And yes, I think we are seeing that, especially in many of the states that had the straight-up exponential growth, you're starting to finally see some slowing of that. It's similar to what happened in other countries around the world where you had these significant sense of cases and hospitalizations, and then they start to plateau for a while.

I think the question right now is how long will the plateau be. If you look in places like the U.K., it was a short plateau and then a pretty rapid descent at that point. But we're going into school season, so all of a sudden, you're adding another variable into the mix here that might make it challenging.

I showed you a graph from San Diego County last week. Let me show you a similar graph now comparing the vaccinated to the unvaccinated for the country. Now, you can barely make it out because at the bottom of that graph, flat, is the vaccinated population in the hospital. And the line on top that's going up still is the unvaccinated. So, yes, we're seeing a contraction of overall growth, but this is entirely, almost entirely a story about the unvaccinated.

So what seems to be happening here, to get to the point, is that you're seeing this virus, Delta virus, sort of go through these communities of unvaccinated at a very high speed. People are probably developing a component of natural immunity in a very, very brutal way, overwhelming hospitals, dying at 1,500 per day. But as a result of that, we probably will see some contraction, at least for a period of time.

KEILAR: Those who are vaccinated, of course, are looking forward to, when they need it, getting more protection with the booster, and the White House is moving forward right now with its plan to make those available September 20th.

We heard from Dr. Fauci, that's going to start of course with Pfizer, Sanjay. And Dr. Fauci said he thinks Moderna may only be about two weeks behind, maybe a little less. Who is getting these shots first?

GUPTA: So, I'll add if this all goes through at the beginning of this, because the FDA still has to weigh in on this. The CDC still has to weigh in on this.


It is one of these things where we primarily heard from the White House. We'll see what the FDA says. But if it does happen, it all goes through, it's basically going to be eight months after you got your first shot. So if you break down the country in terms of who got what type of shots, we know the vast majority of people got Pfizer, excuse me, or Moderna. Pfizer being the one that could be authorized for this. And it would be about 5 million people or so by the end of September. And who got the shot first? Well, it was health care workers, and it was people who were vulnerable, people living in long- term care facilities, people who are vulnerable because of age or preexisting condition. They will be first in line. It just sort of follows the calendar.

KEILAR: We'll be tracking that. Sanjay, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Just that message, you want to protect kids? Get vaccinated. So important.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott defending his state's strict new abortion law, and he got some widespread criticism for his answer on why the ban provides no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R) TEXAS: It doesn't require that at all because obviously it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion. So, for one, it doesn't provide that. That said, however, let's make something very clear. Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.


KEILAR: What about the homes of Texas, right? Because most rapes are not stranger rapes. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed Governor Abbott's comments as deeply ignorant.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D-NY): I find Governor Abbott's comments disgusting. And I think there's twofold. One, I don't know if he is familiar with a menstruating person's body. In fact, I do know he's not familiar with a female or a menstruating person's body, because if he did, he would know that you don't have six weeks, is that, quote-unquote, six weeks, and I'm sorry we have to break down biology 101 on national television, but in case no one has informed him before in our life -- in his life, six weeks pregnant means two weeks late for your period. And two weeks late on your period for any person, any person with a menstrual cycle can happen if you're stressed, if your diet changes, or for really no reason at all. So you don't have six weeks.

This idea that we're going to, quote-unquote, end rape when the same type of, frankly, rape culture and the same type of misogynistic culture that informed this abortion law to begin with is also -- those beliefs are held by the governor himself and the Texas state legislature, frankly, there are many people in power, as we know from the Me Too movement, that commit sexual assault, that help their friends cover up these crimes. And some of them even serve in the same state legislatures that are voting on these anti -- these anti-choice bills. It's awful.

And he speaks from such a place of deep ignorance. And it's not just ignorance. It's ignorance that is hurting people across this country.


KEILAR: Dana Bash back with us now to discuss this. Politics aside, Dana, women just looking at that explanation say, yes, that's how it works. We know the math on this. But also, it's worth noting, she told you when you interviewed her before that she was a victim of sexual assault. So she has a very personal connection to understanding what this bill restricts.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And the way that Governor Abbott answered that question was, and this is the whole point of what AOC was talking about, was clearly such -- not just a male answer, but an ignorant male answer because what he is effectively saying and what this law does, much more importantly, is that the victim or survivor of rape still has to carry the scars and the wounds from that if they get pregnant. And the perpetrator, he is saying, well, they can be prosecuted and they will go to jail.

First of all, that's, a, if the person who is the survivor reports it. AOC told me she didn't report hers because she didn't think anybody would believe her, the assault. I don't know how it got -- but she said the assault in particular, she didn't report it.

And then also, you mentioned this in your intro, a lot of times, unfortunately, this happens in a place that is supposed to be a safe zone, somebody's home, somebody's family.


It's the hard truth of what we're talking about here. And you've been pregnant. I've been pregnant. And we know, any woman who has had the blessing of being able to go through that, you don't always know -- in fact, you almost never know for sure that you are pregnant at six weeks. It's just the way, as she described, biology and the anatomy of a woman works.

BERMAN: What's interesting from a political standpoint here is that response shows you how this may play in elections going forward with women, right, who do understand exactly what's going on with your bodies and when. Until that point, there are questions about, if you are opposed to what's going on in Texas, what can actually be done now? And there is some frustration by Democrats, some Democrats, who want the Biden administration to do more now, to step in and try to stop it now. How is that going to play out, Dana?

BASH: They're working on it. I actually interviewed White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain over the weekend. And he insisted that there are lots of creative thinkers trying to figure out ways to at least try to stop it from the Justice Department to HHS to other federal agencies. But the reality -- none of the three of us is a lawyer, but the reality is that without a federal statute, without Congress acting or potentially a Supreme Court ruling, or at least putting a stop to it, which they declined to do last week, there's not much people in Texas -- women in Texas can do right now. Maybe they will come up with something creative. Ron Klain said we have all of our best lawyers on it. But it's hard to see that happening without a statute.

The House is going to move, according to Nancy Pelosi, but the math in the Senate is the same on this issue as it is on all the other bits of the Democratic agenda that are stuck in the U.S. Senate, 50/50.

KEILAR: What's clear is Democrats are going to use this to energize their base, right. They're going to do that. And they are also, the Biden administration, trying to energize voters with his agenda. We've also learned that Senator Joe Manchin might be pouring a little bit of cold water on that because he's telling colleagues that his price tag for the Democrats' reconciliation bill is between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion. That's just a fraction of the proposed figure of this plan. Where does this leave negotiations, Dana?

BASH: They are in limbo. The White House insists that this is the way Joe Manchin works, that he was against the COVID bill that they did. He was against other legislation that the Biden administration pushed, including the infrastructure bill, which actually did pass, the bipartisan infrastructure bill. But they found a way to get him on board.

This is a bit different because this is not just a compromise bill. This is the core of not just the Biden agenda, but the Democratic agenda. Those who went out and voted to get Democrats in the majority in the Senate and in the House and Joe Biden in the White House. There are so many parts of it, whether it comes to what they call human infrastructure, home health care, aid for caregivers, to the green agenda that they have, and so many things in between. So it's not just about the price tag. It's about where are the Democrats going to cut on the policies that they promised their voters they would push.

BERMAN: Is there a number? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the same interview with Anderson basically said, well, if Joe Manchin thinks he's going to get his infrastructure bill without giving us our $3.5 trillion he's crazy. We're not going to vote for what he wants. But do you have a sense that there's a number somewhere that you can get Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Joe Manchin on the same page?

BASH: It's going to be hard. It's going to be really hard. It's not impossible, but it's going to be very hard. And again, because it's not necessarily the number. It's what policies, what proposals is he saying that he wants to cut. He has said that he doesn't necessarily think that adding a program to help caregivers is the greatest idea right now. Is that something that AOC and many other progressives, and even not progressives, just the run of the mill Democrats are going to say, OK, that's OK with us?

They understand the math that is leading to the next election. They have a razor thin majority in the House and the Senate. Talk to Democrat after Democrat, they feel that the clock is ticking, and if they don't do what they were elected to do now, they might not get another chance for a while because the Republicans are very likely at this point to take over the House. That's even what Democrats in the House say privately.

BERMAN: Dana Bash, thank you so much. Great to see you today.

BASH: You, too.


BERMAN: Coming up, is Brazil's president encouraging a January 6-style insurrection in his country? And why was President Trump's former senior adviser detained after visiting the Brazilian leader?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, unfriendly skies again.


KEILAR: What is that guy doing, you want to know? So do we. He was growling at flight attendants while this plane was landing.


BERMAN: This morning, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro under fire for allegedly encouraging a January 6-style insurrection in his country.

On Tuesday, thousands of his supporters attempted to breach the country's Congress and Supreme Court.

Anthony Wells has the latest from Sao Paulo in Brazil -- Anthony.

ANTHONY WELLS, CNN REPORTER: John, how are you? Good to be speaking with you. Yeah, Brazilians took to the streets all over the country, both for and against President Jair Bolsonaro. So major rallies took place in very important state capitals like Rio and Sao Paulo.

So, in the main protest in favor of President Bolsonaro here in the city of Sao Paolo, Bolsonaro said he only sees three alternatives for his future -- the prison, death, or victory in next year's presidential election, adding that prison is simply not an option.


He also said he will not bow down to the Brazilian supreme court, keeping in mind, Alexandre de Moraes, one of the Supreme Court judges is investigating Bolsonaro on a number of fronts, including the alleged illegal financing of pro-government rallies as well as the dissemination of fake news.

So, Bolsonaro urged his supporters to show up at his rallies. This, as his administration's ratings continue to drop due to a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed almost 600,000 Brazilian lives. Now, here in the city of Sao Paulo where we're live from right now, the protests were peaceful, but in Brasilia, the nation's capital, officers had to deploy tear gas to keep protesters from advancing towards Congress.

Now, over 135 -- around 135,000 people showed up at yesterday's protest here in Sao Paolo. Many of whom were cramped up in tight spaces without masks, and Bolsonaro was actually fined for the 7th time here in Sao Paolo for not wearing a mask.

So, on Sunday, September 12, major anti-government rallies are scheduled across the nation and we, of course, will be keeping a very close eye on them.

So back to you, John.

BERMAN: All right. Thank you so much for that, Anthony. We'll check back in with you. Appreciate it.

KEILAR: Former senior adviser to former President Trump, Jason Miller, was briefly detained and questioned by Brazilian authorities Tuesday for allegedly participating in anti-democratic acts after appearing at Brazil's version of CPAC, the Conservative Political Conference.

We have CNN's Michael Warren joining us now.

I mean, just when you think the story can't get any weirder it does. Tell us about this.

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Right. We don't know every detail. But what we do know from Jason Miller, he was in the Brasilia airport leaving the country when he was detained for what he said was three hours. He released a statement to CNN. We'll read that in part here.

We're not accused of any wrongdoing and told only that they wanted to talk. We informed them that we had nothing to say and were eventually released to fly back to the United States. A little cryptic, not answering questions from us about what exactly he was questioned about for those three hours, but he was released, was able to get back on that plane.

Some questions, of course, about what exactly he was doing in Brazil. He was promoting this social media site Gettr that he runs now that he's left the employ of former president Donald Trump. He met with Bolsonaro, the right-wing president. Some questions, though, remain about what exactly was going on. How much of this detainment has to do with the domestic political in Brazil.

KEILAR: And Brazil's president alluded to Miller's detainment. WARREN: That's right. He mentioned an intercepted American, didn't

name Jason Miller by name, but this is clearly another play in this domestic dispute in Brazil. Miller not answering really a lot of questions about what exactly he was talking to Bolsonaro about. But we know that Gettr, his social media site which he's promoting, a conservative alternative to Twitter among many others that are cropping up over the last few months, has a significant part of its customer base in Brazil among Bolsonaro supporters.

That seems to be what he was doing, promoting this here, but, of course, those people are using getter to organize in Brazil and we can see the results of that across the country.

KEILAR: So it sounds like he was pretty busy when he was in Brazil. He was also on Steve Bannon's podcast while he was there. Tell us about what he said.

WARREN: Yeah. So, he was on Steve Bannon's podcast. He's a frequent guest on this podcast. He was talking about supporters of Bolsonaro in social media saying they've been deplatformed, a lot of same language that's been used by conservatives claiming that big tech, technology firms in Silicon Valley have deplatformed conservatives, including former President Trump.

Again, we just have to keep it in context. He's promoting this social media app which Donald Trump, by the way, has not joined since Miller started getter. He's out there trying to play up this app and, of course, he has this big customer base in Brazil.

But certainly echoing a lot of the same language that conservatives, anti-tech conservatives in the United States are talking about really embracing these pro-Bolsonaro supporters.

KEILAR: Michael, thank you so much for that reporting.

Look, we're not to the bottom of this, right? We're not. But we know you'll keep track. Thank you so much.


BERMAN: That ad, Gettr app reminds me of the Bantr dating app on "Ted Lasso".

KEILAR: Right. So, there's sponsors, their shorts.

BERMAN: I get them confused sometimes. I'm sure that's not what Jason Miller is doing in Brazil. To be fair, I don't know what Jason Miller is doing in Brazil.

KEILAR: I know, it's so bizarre. Thank you for saying that. It was sticking in my mind. It was reminding me, too, of Bantr. It's so unclear, right. I think there is a lot to be uncovered about what Jason Miller is doing in some of the trends we're seeing.

BERMAN: We're going to have Roy Kent tomorrow to get his comment.

KEILAR: Love it. Jaime Tartt maybe.

All right. Up next, scare in the air.

All right.


KEILAR: What this man did next once he got back in his seat, it is weird and you want to see it.

BERMAN: And California's recall reelection is days away. We'll speak to the opponent who thinks he can defeat Governor Gavin Newsom.