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New Day Saturday

27 States Report a Rise in Cases as Delta Variant Spreads; Pfizer: It's Time for a COVID Booster; FDA and CDC Say Not so Fast; Last of Capitol Fencing Coming Down Six Months After Insurrection; Seventy-Nine Confirmed Dead, 61 Unaccounted for As Recovery Mission Continues on Surfside Champlain Condo Collapse; Billionaire Richard Branson Set to Launch into Space Tomorrow. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired July 10, 2021 - 06:00   ET




MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matt Rivers in Port- au-Prince, Haiti and this is CNN.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you and welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez. As the Delta variant causes COVID cases to surge, there's new guidance on how schools should prep to have kids back full time and questions about whether those of us who have been vaccinated may soon need booster shots.

PAUL: Six months after the January insurrection, the fencing around the U.S. Capitol is coming down. Why officials say there are still some pretty serious security concerns.

SANCHEZ: Plus, recovery teams continuing their round-the-clock work at that deadly condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, while there's a new effort to ensure that other buildings are safe.

PAUL: And the countdown's on. Billionaire Richard Branson said to rocket into space this weekend. We look at how this decades-in-the- making mission is going to unfold.

SANCHEZ: It is Saturday, July 10th. We appreciate you waking up early with us. Good morning, Christi. Always great to see you.

PAUL: Good morning to you, Boris. Always so happy to see you. So even when we're talking about this, I'm happy to see you. There is a warning from health officials this morning. The spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 is leading to these mini outbreaks across the country.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Twenty-seven states reporting an uptick in COVID-19 cases over the last week. The Delta variant now the most prevalent strain in the United States, spreading in areas with low vaccination rates. Now there are questions about how long vaccinated Americans will remain protected. Pfizer saying it plans to seek emergency use authorization for a booster shot as soon as next month.

The FDA, though, says that booster shots aren't needed at this time and the CDC is calling on schools to promote vaccinations. Yesterday health, officials issuing guidance, saying in person schooling is a priority this fall.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: Obviously, depending upon the age of the children, some will be vaccinated, some not. Those who are not vaccinated should be wearing masks. The CDC says they'd like to maintain the three-foot distance and if they can't, they're going to work around it, do other things, make sure there's good ventilation. The message is loud and clear -- come the fall, we want the children back in school in person.


SANCHEZ: And it's not just schools. The ongoing effort from states and the federal government to get vaccination numbers up continues.

PAUL: CNN's Polo Sandoval is live in Little Rock, Arkansas and here's why he's there. Arkansas is one of several states where vaccination rates are low and the number of COVID cases are rising. Polo, I had read that on June 7th, Arkansas had roughly 1,500 active cases. They now have more than 5,000. What are you learning about that state?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi. For the last three days here in Arkansas, we have seen over 1,000 new COVID cases. Sharp contrast to what we saw a month ago, but, look, with all this talk of booster shots, there are many states throughout the country, as you just mentioned, close to 27, that are struggling for people to even get their first shot and Arkansas is certainly one of those states here.

As the governor pointed out yesterday, a vaccination rate of only about 32 percent. That is well below what we're seeing across the country right now.


FAUCI: Certainly they need to listen to the CDC and the FDA.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): The nation's top infectious disease expert is saying listen to the CDC and not Pfizer when it comes to needing a vaccine booster. On Friday, this is what Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN about a phone call he received from the head of Pfizer.

FAUCI: The CEO, who's a really good guy, got on the phone with me last night and apologized that they came out with that recommendation. So there is no -- not that apologize about the recommendation, apologize for not letting us know that he was going to do it ahead of time.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): This, after Pfizer announced on Thursday it was applying for emergency FDA authorization for a booster shot to protect against COVID-19, a booster for Americans to get as early as six months after their second dose. Pfizer set off alarms when they released a statement saying that the immunity from its vaccine was waning, citing Israeli Health Ministry data. The company said, quote, "Vaccine efficacy in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease has declined six months post-vaccination."

Hours later, however, the CDC and the FDA said fully vaccinated Americans do not need an additional dose of vaccine at this time. Another expert had this to say to CNN.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CHAIR, TROPICAL PEDIATRICS, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: In the U.K., in Scotland and in Canada, there are now three studies showing over 80 percent protection.


So pretty close to what we've seen and that's the reason why we don't need to be concerned right now about getting the booster.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): This confusion coming as the U.S. is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to the number of COVID cases. According to the CDC, the highly contagious Delta variant makes up more than half of all new infections in the U.S. Much of that rise in the southeastern United States and a small portion of the Midwest. Health experts say the best protection available from getting seriously sick from the Delta variant is still the full dosage of a COVID vaccine and yet about half of the country is still not fully vaccinated.

Also on Friday, the CDC updated its COVID guidance for schools, saying they should remain open in the fall, encouraging them to keep measures meant to mitigate the spread of the virus in place.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: What they're saying is it's really essential for us to get our kids all back in person in school in the fall. To do that, we have to employ these layered mitigation strategies, meaning that we have to look at it as layers and so if you cannot maintain distancing in schools, which many schools can't if they want to bring everybody back, then you have to do indoor masking, you have to improve ventilation, you also have to have weekly testing if you're unvaccinated.


SANDOVAL: Back here in Arkansas, the governor is certainly deeply worried about this rise in numbers, so much so that he's launched a series of town hall-style so-called COVID Conversations and he's also facing the tough reality here, Boris and Christi, that these incentives like lottery tickets, for example, or free fishing and hunting licenses simply is not going to work right now.

Instead, it's actually going out to the community and having those conversations and facing that reality that this Delta variant is being described here as a so-called left-right punch after what was a fairly successful last few months, but now all those numbers are stalling and COVID cases are rising. SANCHEZ: Yes. This is what experts warned about, the two different Americas, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Polo Sandoval from Little Rock, Arkansas. Thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss all things COVID is Dr. Jayne Morgan. She's the executive director of the Piedmont Healthcare COVID Task Force. Dr. Morgan, we appreciate you getting up bright and early for us. Let's start with the conversation about booster shots. Seemingly conflicting messages over the past 48 hours. Pfizer wanting to get emergency use authorization for a third shot. The nation's top health agency saying that a booster isn't necessary right now. Help us understand this apparent disparity.

JAYNE MORGAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PIEDMONT HEALTHCARE COVID TASK FORCE: Yes. Good morning, Boris, and thank you for having me. I think what Pfizer is doing is Pfizer is looking out on the horizon, as any good company will do, and anticipating the needs. We certainly don't want to be in a situation as we were in at the beginning of this pandemic. Remember when we didn't have enough PPE and so Pfizer is looking, as many other companies are looking out, and anticipating what that need will be.

Certainly, our vaccines are holding steady now. There doesn't seem to be a need for that booster, but a business decision is a different corporate decision and I think they're anticipating what that need is to make certain that there is supply available in case we move in that direction.

SANCHEZ: And, Doctor, if the time comes when public health officials say we do need to get a booster, are you anticipating that there's going to be a similar degree of hesitation to what we're seeing now in Arkansas, for example, when a large chunk of that population remains unvaccinated?

MORGAN: Yes. We certainly see about 1,000 counties in the United States now with low vaccination rates. We certainly need to address the questions that people have and many of these questions can be addressed in your primary care physicians' offices or other physicians' offices, but certainly that is a concern, where we are with vaccinated people versus unvaccinated people.

Currently, the unvaccinated are mostly a risk to themselves and to others who are unvaccinated. What we are concerned about with the Delta variant is whether or not the unvaccinated can migrate and begin to become a risk to the vaccinated by allowing more mutations and variants to develop that will evade the immunization status of the rest of us.

SANCHEZ: Yes. So let's pivot to this new CDC guidance. We are just weeks away from a new school year. The CDC putting out updated guidance for educators and students. It prioritizes in-person learning and it includes policies to incentivize getting vaccinated. I'm curious about your overall assessment of these new guidelines. What do you think?

MORGAN: You know, I think it's great and I think we very much understand the mental health of not only our children, but society at large has suffered during this extended pandemic.


One thing that we have to think about is that those children with the mask mandate for schools that are older than 12, how are we going to implement that? How will we determine who's been vaccinated or not? Will they need to present vaccination cards?

For those children who are less than 12, masking will be easy to identify because none of those children will have been vaccinated, but when you get into the age group that's older than 12, that's going to be a little bit murkier and how will you determine who needs to have on a mask and who doesn't and how will that be enforced? And so that still needs to be worked out.

SANCHEZ: Yes. I imagine there likely will be some disparities like we're seeing with vaccination rates with some areas that are policing it effectively and some areas that are more lax and likely have higher case rates. Dr. Jayne Morgan, we have to leave the conversation there. As always, appreciate your insight.

MORGAN: Thank you. I appreciate it.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Coming up, six months after the deadly insurrection on the Capitol, the fencing around Capitol Hill comes down, but is it too soon and is enough being done to protect lawmakers? We'll take you there live.

PAUL: Also, Richard Branson is getting ready for lift-off. We're going to have the latest on his historical space launch. What this means for the future for you for space tourism.




SANCHEZ: Six months later, the fencing put up around the U.S. Capitol following January 6th is starting to come down.

PAUL: Yes. Lawmakers in Congress do not have an agreement yet on proper funding to boost Capitol security, though, around that complex and that's part of the criticism and the problem right now. CNN's Daniella Diaz has more on this. So, Daniella, talk to us about what you're hearing from there.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: Christi, Boris, there are still a lot of concerns on how this campus could be protected if there's no funding, supplemental funding, for Capitol police and they're risking losing their funding by September 30th. The House passed this $1.9 trillion supplemental bill that will fund Capitol police and provide additional funding post-insurrection on January 6th, but it's facing a lot of road blocks in trying to pass through the Senate.

You know, Senate Appropriations Chairman Patrick Leahy is accusing Senate Republicans of holding up this bill for minor concerns, but, look, Senate Republicans say that they actually offered Democrats a counter offer, a more stripped-down version of this supplemental bill for Capitol police, that Democrats rejected earlier this summer. So the bottom line here is the clock is ticking on this and, you know, Capitol police really needs this funding to protect this campus, especially six months after the insurrection.

SANCHEZ: And, Daniella, do you have any idea when this January 6th Select Committee is going to begin the investigation?

DIAZ: Oh, it's beginning very soon, Boris. Look, Chairman Bennie Thompson, he's the House Select Committee Chairman, he said on "MSNBC" yesterday that they're eager to begin and they could start as soon as the next 10 days for a hearing. Take a listen to what he said.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D) MISSISSIPPI: We expect to have a hearing within 10 days to talk to the rank and file of the Capitol police, to talk to the support staff who had to hide in closets and other things and then had to be tasked with cleaning up the mess after the riot occurred.


DIAZ: This hearing that he's talking about would focus on hearing directly from Capitol police officers who were present during the January 6th insurrection and, look, Democrats are eager to get started on this regardless of the fact that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has not yet appointed his set of Republicans to this committee, although we are expecting him to do that. There were some questions whether he would or not. He apparently will. It's just a question of when.

But the bottom line here is Democrats are eager to move forward with this House Select Committee and I should say Democrats and Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who is the one Republican that was appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to this committee. So we're waiting to see how this plays out in the next month, Boris, Christi.

PAUL: Daniella Diaz, always going to see you. Thank you. CNN political commentator Errol Louis, somebody else we're always glad to see, political anchor at "Spectrum News" and host of the "You Decide" podcast. Good morning, Errol.


PAUL: So I want to jump off what she was just talking about with Representative Bennie Thompson there. Who do you anticipate? Have you heard any names thrown out as to who McCarthy might actually likely suggest to be on this committee and what would the intention be at that point?

LOUIS: There is a question of whether he's going to name people like Chip Roy, you know, bomb throwers, obstructionists, people who want to kind of slow down the process, in some ways make a mockery of the entire procedure and continue the policy that appears to be the reelection strategy of the House Republicans, which is to grind government to a halt, including the inquiry into the January 6th insurrection, and see if that can be enough to squeeze out a majority, get back into power.

How they govern from there, of course, is anybody's guess, but chaos and obstruction could, in fact, be the strategy and then there are those who might slow walk it as well. No particular names that I have for you, but the idea would be to have people on the committee who would raise objection after objection and try to prevent the committee from doing its work. Either way, this is not something that House Republicans have said that they're going to cooperate with.

PAUL: Is there a risk for Democrats as they try to go it alone with this?

LOUIS: No. No. This has to be done and, Christi, one thing that we should be clear about is that even if the House gets obstructed by, say, the Republican caucus, there are hundreds of cases making their way through federal courts and we will find out what happened. It may take a little bit longer and it might be case by case as we go through a lot of these prosecutions, but we will find out what happened.


The House Republicans are not going to stop that from happening. They may try to politicize it, they may try to slow the flow of information, but a free news media as well as functioning courts are going to turn up the information. We will get to the bottom of this.

PAUL: So speaking of January 6th and the other -- the other issue that Daniella was speaking about, the security of the -- of Capitol Hill. I mean, there are real concerns from lawmakers about their security as they're taking that down. What are you hearing from lawmakers about the security there, first of all, and, secondly, God forbid if something else did happen there, where would the blame fall at that point?

LOUIS: Yes. Lawmakers that I've spoken to are not overly concerned. They're not fearing another repeat of what happened on January 6th, at least not imminently. I think the intelligence agencies that bear some of the responsibility for this are also going to be on their toes just as a matter of professional pride, if nothing else. They're not going to let themselves get caught out there again. I think we're all on alert to what is being said on social media. I think the news media, which also works in that building, are going to be extra attentive.

So I think the early warning system is still kind of in place. If something should happen, if all of these safeguards should not work, if there's another physical breaching of the Capitol, the fault will clearly lie with those who played games with the funding and who tried to obstruct both the meaning and the reality and an attempt to investigate what happened during that deadly insurrection.

PAUL: So I want to bring up some things that happened this week. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeting this, "Biden pushing a vaccine that is not FDA approved shows COVID is a political tool used to control people. People have a choice, they don't need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can't force people to be part of the human experiment."

A lot of reaction to that, some of which was from Representative Sean Patrick Maloney who said this, "Marjorie Taylor Greene continues to make offensive comparisons to Nazis because she knows there will be no real consequences from Kevin McCarthy or Tom Emmer. McCarthy and Emmer have been nothing but complicit and cowardly in the face of Greene's repeated racism and antisemitism."

There are all kinds of questions about Leader McCarthy's capability to deal with some of the radical members there in the conference. Do you get the sense that, at some point, he's going to have to offer more than words? In his defense, his spokesman did come out at one point and say there's absolutely no place for racism in our discourse or our society, but the fact that there has been no reprimand publicly and that this continues would show that McCarthy, some will say, is not doing his job.

LOUIS: Well, I mean, look, he's doing what he sees as his job, which is to get back into power and it's usually with this smile and a wink that they say, oh, we wish we could do something about the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of our caucus, we wish we could do something about the extremism that fuels Republican politics in many places, but we refuse to do anything about it and that is the sad reality of where Republicans are.

And so Kevin McCarthy is going to try and hold on to this very safe seat, he's going to try and hold on to the extremists, he's going to try and hold on to the people who are going to have to come out in big numbers if he wants to take control of the House and become Speaker of the House and that's clearly what he is doing.

Now, you know, if this very -- if this disgusting tactic should work, he's going to be in a very difficult position because you really can't govern with Marjorie Taylor Greene as part of your caucus. Imagine if she actually chaired a committee, Christi. Imagine if she actually had any real influence. She's not a legislator. She's there just to make these kind of offensive comments and stir up the extremist base of the party.

Once you empower that faction of the party, though, the question is what are you going to do? How do you govern the United States of America that way? And they don't seem to be able to think beyond their next effort to win back the majority. It's an unfortunate collision course. The only people who can stop it, of course, are the voters.

PAUL: Yes. Errol, and the only reason that Marjorie Taylor Greene is not on any committees is because of what she has said. She was pulled off those committees in the past. Errol Louis, always appreciate your expertise. Thank you, sir.

LOUIS: Thanks, Christi.

SANCHEZ: Imagine being told you have only 15 minutes to grab everything you can from your home, clothes, pictures, personal papers, and then you must leave. It happened to residents in Florida not far from Surfside. We'll bring you the latest from that community next.




SANCHEZ: Seventy-nine people have now been confirmed dead following the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida. Sixty-one remain unaccounted for as teams continue searching through a pile of rubble more than two weeks after the tragedy.

PAUL: Yes. It's actually day 17 right now as they continue to be there. A downtown Miami court house has been temporarily shut down as well now due to safety concerns revealed during a building inspection initiated by the condo collapse. CNN's Randi Kaye has more on the search for survivors.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Major progress in the recovery mission at the debris pile of Champlain Towers South and it continues around the clock.

MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: The pile that originally was approximately four or five stories is now almost at ground level.

KAYE (voice-over): At least 13 million pounds of concrete and debris now removed and the mission remains the same -- return loved ones to their families.


KAYE (voice-over): Meanwhile, a new effort is underway at the sister tower just a few blocks away. A detailed inspection of Champlain Tower north, to make sure it won't suffer the same fate. CNN got a close-up look at the process as inspection teams went underground, using X-rays and testing concrete for salt residue.

KILSHEIMER: We also did a scan of the thickness of the slab here, to know how thick the slab is. We're going to be doing that again today with a different device that can go deeper in measuring the thickness of the floor.

KAYE: Just a few miles away in north Miami Beach, residents at Crestview Towers who were hastily evacuated a week ago based on a delinquent recertification report that showed the building to be structurally and electrically unsafe were allowed back in the building with a police escort for just 15 minutes to grab any personal belongings they could carry out by hand.

GUSTAVO MATA, RESIDENT EVACUATED FROM CRESTVIEW TOWERS: They called us yesterday and they told us that we have just 15 minutes today to take some stuff, personal stuff. Just 15 minutes is nothing for us. KAYE: CNN has obtained video from Fiolo Torenzi(ph) showing inside the

parking deck at Champlain Tower south which two engineers told CNN shows corrosion. It was shot in July, 2020. It is not clear if this damage had anything to do with the collapse. Back at the pile at Champlain Towers south where the rescue mission has officially become a recovery mission, the first responders aren't giving up, despite the personal toll it takes on them.

NICHOLE NOTTE, CHIEF, BROWARD SHERIFF FIRE RESCUE: I'm physically digging. But I'm also emotionally digging for more strength to continue.

KAYE: Amid all the sadness, one small piece of good news to come out of Surfside, "WSBN" is reporting rescue workers found Binks the cat alive near the pile. The station says Binks belongs to the Gonzalez family that lived in apartment 904. It reports the mother and daughter are in a hospital and the father is still missing. Binks has been reunited with the family.

(on camera): And now the Broward County medical examiner is sending in teams here because the pace of finding bodies has quickened so much they are going to help on site. Also, we understand that the -- from the fire chief, that they are using schematics and floor plans to try and find more of these victims, they believe that they're in the master bedroom since this collapse did happen at about 1:30 in the morning. So, that's what they're trying to focus on. But they are digging in all areas of the pile and they've made a lot of progress digging in the pile.

They now have reached victims on the second floor and the fifth floor. And they have made their way in some areas deep into the garage. Randi Kaye, CNN, Surfside, Florida.


PAUL: So, Joey Jackson, a CNN legal analyst and defense attorney is with us now. Joey, it's so good to see you, thank you. So, I wanted to talk about some of these lawsuits that are being filed. One accuses the condo association of negligence, a breach of contract for failing to, quote, "exercise reasonable care in performing its management, maintenance and repair of buildings." So, first of all, how strong are the lawsuits? And secondly, what is the defense?

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Christi, good morning to you. I think the lawsuits are very strong, and obviously, it's most unfortunate we have -- we shouldn't have to be in this position, but we are. And here is why? Listen, the bottom line is that any condo association has a primary duty of care to any resident who is living in the building. What does that include? That's not just a statement. That includes ensuring that any building, right, this particular one has structural integrity. How do you do that?

You do that because there is an obligation to continually provide for the maintenance of the particular building, continually have engineers evaluate and certify that it's structurally sound. And if you're on notice of any of those structural defects, certainly you have an obligation to repair them on the one hand, Christi, and on the other hand if you're not aware of them, the question becomes, why are you not? And so I don't know that -- you know, look, this is an opportunity, I would say, right, unfortunately I say that. It's an opportunity for other condo associations to really look at their buildings, ensure that everything is OK, to ensure that the residents in there are going to be OK and to address any structural defects.

And I think that, you know, look they'll have whatever defenses they deem appropriate that they were in keeping with the maintenance, that there were some other underlying issues that they weren't aware of. But at the end of the day, there is a pot of insurance money -- not that money could ever compensate, Christi, but that pot of insurance money, about $48 million will certainly go to address three different things, one, those who have wrongfully died, two, those who are injured, and three, those who suffer any type of property losses that they can't recover.


It's just a tragic set of circumstances and scenario.

PAUL: No doubt. What about potential buyers and other people actually who live there? There are reports that buyers now are asking for engineering reports before they buy a condo, not just in that area but all over, but that they're having a hard time getting that. Is it typical to offer that information when somebody is looking to make a purchase like that? I mean, what is the expectation that real estate will have on the coast there?

JACKSON: So, a couple of things, Christi. Number one is for sure if you're ever in the market of this, right, people don't think about that. And who does, right? You go into a building, you expect it to be safe, you expect it to be secure. So, you're not really looking at that. But I think this being a major wake-up call for any purchasers to say, hey, what is the structural integrity of the residence that I'm buying? Show me the report, show me the documents. Show me what you have done to evaluate and ensure that everything is OK. And so, I think we're going to see moving forward people very concerned about that.

And, yes, they have an obligation, right, those who are owners and developers, et cetera, to ensure that those reports are there, that they're up to date and they're doing each and everything they can. I think in terms of the older building, you're going to see people taking another look, perhaps selling, right, what they have there, but at least at a minimum, ensuring that everything is OK so that they can be safe, their families could be safe and a tragedy like this can be averted moving forward.

PAUL: No doubt. Joey Jackson, we are always grateful to have your perspective. Thank you, sir.

JACKSON: Thank you, Christi.

SANCHEZ: Richard Branson will soon be going where no billionaire has gone before. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD BRANSON, ENGLISH MAGNATE: I hit the roof. I was so excited. So -- and obviously, yes, never been more excited in my life and the wonderful team who are coming up with me are equally so.


SANCHEZ: In about 24 hours from now, he will be suited up, ready to go to the edge of space. A preview of blastoff on a historic trip next.



SANCHEZ: Billionaire Richard Branson could make history tomorrow as the first ever billionaire to travel to space.

PAUL: CNN's Rachel Crane has more.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION & SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The countdown is on. And in just hours, entrepreneur Richard Branson hopes to become the first person to ride a self--funded rocket into sub- orbital space.

BRANSON: Astronaut, zero-zero-one, Richard Branson.

CRANE: A launch nearly two decades in the making.

(on camera): Tell me, how do you feel?

BRANSON: Well, I've managed to avoid getting excited this 17 years since we started building space ships and mother ships and space ports and all these things. And I finally got the call from our chief engineer, saying that every single box had been ticked on the safety aspect, and that I was -- you know, would I like to go to space? And I hit -- I hit the roof. I was so excited.

CRANE (voice-over): The Virgin Galactic rocket-powered space plane is set to take off tomorrow from New Mexico. The mother ship will release the spaceship at around 40,000 feet. The rocket will ignite and take Branson, two pilots and three others on a 2,400-mile per hour ride, more than 50 miles up to touch the inner edge of space as defined by the U.S. military and NASA. The crew will experience a few minutes of weightlessness before gliding back to earth.

BRANSON: When you're up there, the space ship will turn over and these enormous windows, when it's going to be able to float around and look back at earth.

CRANE: If successful, the space baron will edge out fellow billionaire and world's richest man Jeff Bezos who is set to ride his own company's rocket into space in the coming days. The two men have jockeyed for the astronomical bragging rights that come with being first. Branson has insisted that there is no space race with Bezos and that the missions are different.

BRANSON: The kind of experience you're going to get with the two companies are almost as different as chalk and cheese. So, we don't see ourselves as a direct competitor.


CRANE: While Bezos' flight will be after Branson's, his rocket system New Shepherd will go even higher past the Karman line, which is the altitude internationally recognized to be the demarcation in space. His company Blue Origin taking a shot at Branson's trip, tweeting their rocket was quote, "designed to fly above the Karman line, so none of our astronauts have an asterisk next to their name."

LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: If you fly 50 miles or 62 miles, you're in space. I mean, you're not going to notice the difference between those 12 miles. Neither of these vehicles go into orbit by the way, they touch space and then they come right back down.

CRANE: Both space companies have had successful sub-orbital test flights over the past decade. But with space travel comes inherent risk. In 2014, a co-pilot for Virgin Galactic was killed during a test flight of a previous model of their space craft.

MIKE MOSES, PRESIDENT, SPACE MISSIONS & SAFETY, VIRGIN GALACTIC: I like to say that you can do risky things safely if you know the risks you're taking, you know the controls you have in place and verify that they are active. And we do just that. I don't think the risk of this flight is high. It's not zero.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one, zero and lift off!

CRANE: In the ten years since the launch of Atlantis, NASA's final space shuttle mission, the privatization of space flight has quickly expanded. Today, the commercial aerospace company Space X founded by yet another billionaire Elon Musk regularly takes NASA astronauts as it flies into orbit at a fraction of the cost of the space shuttle. So far, NASA has been supportive of the billionaires endeavors especially after the successes of Space X.

BILL NELSON, ADMINISTRATOR, NASA: We are seeing the results of these billionaires that you call them, putting their wealth into the research and development of a space program. We're seeing a lot of advancing of technology which is good for our country. It's good for building American jobs as well.

CRANE: If tomorrow's mission is successful, it could launch yet a new era of space travel and the final frontier could soon open to space tourism. So far, hundreds of people have signed up for future Virgin Galactic flights. Some paying more than $200,000 each. Branson hopes that someday will be soon.

BRANSON: I've had to wait almost a life-time to be able to go into space, and hopefully, we can speed that process up for many others. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a billion-dollar view.


SANCHEZ: Rachel Crane, thanks so much for that report. You're not going to want to miss this blastoff. Be sure to watch CNN's live coverage all morning, we're going to have more on the historic launch. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: A WNBA star is building her game and her community as she prepares for the Olympics.

PAUL: Carolyn Manno has this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT". Good morning Carolyn, what do you know?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you both. You know, it's been a banner year for Jewel Loyd; the two-time WNBA champion is in first place with the Seattle Storm. She's set to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo this Summer as well. But with all that she has accomplished on the court, this week's difference maker is making a big impact off of it as well.


JEWEL LOYD, AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: As an Olympian, it's like the highest honor, right? To know that I'm on this team, to know that I'm a part of history is amazing, not just because it's a basketball dream, but there is other black kids that can look up to me and see someone that looks like them represent their country, which makes it so much deeper than basketball, which is amazing.

The message to the next generation needs so much more because they can be. Something that I always tell people is we all need a (INAUDIBLE) change, it's really on, you know, how you do it, continue to speak for yourself, continue to give yourself grace and love yourself. I mean, I think it all stems from loving yourself and understanding who you are. You know, understand that you have value.

LAYSHIA CLARENDON, WNBA SOCIAL JUSTICE COUNCIL: We are dedicating this season to Breonna Taylor, we will be a voice for the voiceless.

LOYD: The generation of right now, they're not afraid to speak up. And I think that's so important for many reasons, from an athlete's perspective, I think they're understanding the power they have, that they're not just pick up a ball and dribble, right? They're not just -- oh, I'm just here to do my job and go home. You speak up and you stand for what you believe in. We're starting to see a change and the growth of people accepting who they are, their access to things. And honestly, we can have impact on that generation. My passion is to always give back. How can I do that? How do I do that in my own way?

I grew up playing in this gym, it's called the Warehouse. It's a special place for me because that's where I started to believe that I can be more than just a high school basketball player or a college basketball player. Now, my brother and I have taken ownership in it. And it's ours.

Loyd system, aint nothing like it. Hard work, dedication, let's go! It's something that's super special that we could have a change in affecting that community and inspire so many hoopers not just become better basketball players, but to become better people. And it's OK if they come there and they don't become, you know, a D1 athlete or whatever, but they become a better person, that's a win for me.


MANNO: She's one of many important role models in the WNBA guys. And she's also partnered with a digital app called 94 Feet of Game which helps kids work on their fundamentals, it's a coaching app. And you know what, Boris? I think you could pick something up as well. You too, Christi, so maybe, check it out.

SANCHEZ: All right, definitely will, I'm going to download it during the commercial break.


PAUL: Carolyn, thank you.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Carolyn.

PAUL: We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: A brand-new CNN original series premiers tomorrow night, "THE HISTORY OF THE SITCOM" shows how every show is trying at its heart to be a reflection of America's family. Here is CNN's Tom Foreman.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Yes, this is real life. This is really happening.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Though they rarely satirize politics quite like late night. Sitcoms are a measure of our times.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's me, Eddy, only I'm Edie now.


FOREMAN: And in many cases they are fighting for reform.

PAMELA ADLON, CREATOR & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, BETTER THINGS: If you put something in your show that's shocking and radical, the hope is in five years time, it's going to become more normal. FOREMAN: So here are five shows that blazed trails in social justice.

Starting with "All in the Family". In the 1970s, the runaway hit held a mirror up to old dated views and all but demanded change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now I suppose you're going to tell me that the black man has had the same opportunity in this country as you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More, he's had more. I didn't have no million people out there marching and protesting to get me my job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No his uncle got it for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Archie Bunker was saying things that you just don't say on television.

FOREMAN: Number four, "The Cosby Show". The Huxtables were inspirational, funny, wealthy, despite the terrible accusations to come for Bill Cosby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With respect to what's happened of late, it's like hugely disappointing to all of this.