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New Day Saturday

New COVID Cases Increasing in all 50 States Amid Vaccination Lag; Federal Judge Blocks New DACA Applications, Rules Program Illegal; Bipartisan Infrastructure Talks Teetering on the Edge After Schumer Schedules Procedural Vote Next Week; GOP Leader McCarthy Visits Trump with January 6 Committee Looming; L.A. County Reinstating Indoor Mask Mandate Amid COVID-19 Surge. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired July 17, 2021 - 06:00   ET




WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Will Ripley in Tokyo, Japan and this is CNN.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm Boris Sanchez.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Amara Walker in for Christi Paul. For the first time in months, COVID cases are on the rise in all 50 states. Now the White House is turning up the heat against the vaccine misinformation machine.

SANCHEZ: Plus, in the hot seat, embattled New York governor Andrew Cuomo getting ready to face questions from investigators over allegations of sexual harassment.

WALKER: And a brazen kidnapping attempt, a five-year-old boy snatched off the street in broad daylight. We will show you that terrifying video.

SANCHEZ: Plus, wildfires raging out west, no relief in sight and now firefighters are being pushed to the limit.

We are so glad that you woke up with us this Saturday, July 17th. Thank you so much for joining us. Amara, always great to be with you.

WALKER: It is always great to be with you as well. Thank you so much, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course. We begin this morning with a dangerous deja vu -- the debate over mask and vaccine mandates picking up again as lagging vaccination rates threaten the progress the United States has made in the fight to eradicate coronavirus.

WALKER: The data is as frustrating as it is concerning. The White House calling this new phase of the COVID crisis a pandemic of the unvaccinated. For the first time since January, cases are rising in all 50 states and the outlook is much worse in the parts of the country struggling to get resident's life-saving vaccines.

This weekend, an indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status for people in Los Angeles County, California will take effect and the number of places recommending everyone to mask up is growing.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Meantime, the White House is putting the blame on social media companies, saying that anti-science messages spreading on platforms like Facebook are costing lives.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're killing people. I mean, they're really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated and that -- and they're -- and they're killing people.


WALKER: CNN's Natasha Chen is following this from Birmingham, Alabama, one of the states lagging in vaccinations and also seeing cases spike. Natasha, the unvaccinated, many of them are young. Are they the ones who are populating the hospitals there right now?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara, that is definitely a concern here in Birmingham. That's why we're at A.H. Parker High School where there's going to be a pop-up vaccine clinic today. So the school district is partnering with medical agencies, hoping to get the word out there. I talked to health agencies both here in Alabama and South Carolina yesterday. They tell me that they are deeply concerned at the trends they are seeing right now.


DR. CATHERINE O'NEAL, CHIEF MEDICAL OFC., OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: It's coming for us. It's a beast. That's what we're seeing in the hospital. That's why we're nervous.

CHEN (Voice over): The warning comes from a Louisiana doctor who is a voice among many raising the alarm about what is now again a growing number of COVID cases in the U.S.. The number of cases are on the rise in all 50 states.

VOICE OF DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: The bottom line is we are dealing with a formidable variant in the Delta variant, as reflected by the data and the extreme vulnerability of people who are not vaccinated which will account for infections, hospitalizations and ultimately deaths. And so the message, loud and clear, that we need to reiterate is that these vaccines continue the strong protection against SARS-CoV-2, including the Delta variant.

CHEN (Voice over): Not only are cases up, but hospitalizations are also on the rise. One state surging? Florida. The White House's COVID response coordinator, Jeff, resigns on Friday.

JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Just four states accounted for more than 40 percent of all cases in the past week, with one in 5 of all cases occurring in Florida alone. CHEN (Voice over): This also comes as Florida is telling companies and cruise lines they can't mandate passengers show proof of vaccination status. Norwegian is suing Florida over it and the nation's rise in cases comes as the war over masks is again heating up. In California, the indoor mask mandate returns to Los Angeles County. Health officials in the San Francisco Bay Area today follow suit, recommending the 7 million people who live there mask up whether they're vaccinated or not.

And in Nevada, the state's most populous county, Clark County, home to Las Vegas, is also recommending both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear a mask when they're indoors.


This as experts warn it's the unvaccinated that are accounting for most new cases.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: There is a clear message that is coming through. This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

ZIENTS: Unvaccinated Americans are not protected against serious illness, hospitalization and death and we're seeing it in the data. Unvaccinated Americans account for virtually all recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and death.


CHEN: I talked to the assistant state health officer here in Alabama yesterday. She is battling what so many other officials are across the country -- misinformation. She told me she's having to dispel myths right and left and really is asking people, if you see something online about the vaccine, please consider what source that is coming from before you share it. Amara and Boris, back to you.

WALKER: Yes. We can all take a part in debunking a lot of these ...

CHEN: Yes.

WALKER: ... myths that are out there. Natasha Chen, thank you so much. Live for us there in Birmingham, Alabama. All right. Joining us now is CNN contributor Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, an epidemiologist and former city health director for Detroit. Good morning to you, Dr. El-Sayed. Let's talk about the mandating of masks which we're going to see, in Los Angeles County, go into effect around midnight tonight.

First off, do you think it's a good idea? We got -- we do want to mention, the sheriff there says he's not going to enforce it, claiming it's not backed by science and that it contradicts CDC guidelines. So if we get back into this masking debate all over again, does it risk eroding trust amid the push to get people protected with the vaccine?

OK. It looks like, Dr. El-Sayed, we lost your audio. So we'll try to get back to you on that and fix the bugs. So we'll leave it there, Dr. Abdul Sayed. Apologies for that. Boris? SANCHEZ: That's unfortunate. Well, there is more uncertainty this morning for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children. A federal judge has ruled that DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, is illegal. CNN's Evan Perez has more.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the Obama-era program that allows some undocumented immigrants to remain in this country is illegal and he blocked the government from accepting new applicants. Hundreds of thousands of people who came to the United States as children are protected from deportation under a program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The ruling from Judge Andrew Hanen doesn't immediately cancel the program for the so-called Dreamers who are already participating in it, though it once again leaves them in devastating legal limbo. Hanen is an appointee of President George W. Bush and he ruled that Congress didn't authorize the Homeland Security Department to create DACA, but Hanen also wrote that it wouldn't be fair to immediately end a program that so many people rely on.

The Justice Department is widely expected to appeal the ruling, which could send it back to the Supreme Court which previously blocked the Trump administration's attempts to end the program. The High Court didn't rule on whether the program was legal. Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.

SANCHEZ: Evan, thanks so much for that reporting. Coming up, New York governor Andrew Cuomo facing some tough questions today by the state attorney general. We have details on why today's questioning could signal the investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him might be coming to an end.

WALKER: Plus, a brazen attempted kidnapping of a five-year-old in Queens, New York. Look at that. The whole thing caught on video.




WALKER: There are signs that one of the investigations into New York governor Andrew Cuomo could be coming to an end. The office of state attorney general Letitia James is expected to question Cuomo today about sexual harassment allegations against him. The accusations came to light earlier this year when one former staff member said the governor asked her questions about her sex life late last year and another said he kissed her in his office in 2018.

All right. Joining me now to discuss all this is CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson and Errol Louis, a CNN political commentator and political anchor for "Spectrum News." So, Joey, to you. I mean, the fact that members of the attorney general's office are talking to Cuomo today, what does that tell you about where this inquiry stands right now?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: An awful lot. Good morning to you, Amara, and good morning, Errol. You know, it certainly indicates that they have done significant work. Why? Because before you interview really the principal subject of an investigation, you want to have all your ducks in a row. Investigators, in going into that interview, have significant information with respect to allegations, who those allegations come from, when they occurred, where they occurred, under what circumstances they occurred.

We don't only have to presume, right? That investigators have that information, but I think it's a good presumption to believe that they have other documentation, any e-mails, any other records, text messages, anything else, if any, that might exist in addition to that that they've questioned people not only who are alleging the governor did this to them, right? But they are questioning people who may have some knowledge of that.

So it certainly tells you that they're deep into the investigation because before you get to the person at hand, you want to have all that information ready so you can conduct a significant interview. So that is what I believe the status is at this time, Amara.

WALKER: And, Joey, if it's decided that there is something to the allegations against the governor, what would be the next step?


JACKSON: You know, so it depends and when I say that, it depends on a number of things. Let's remember that during this interview, he has an obligation to tell the truth. That's significant too, right? Because now you're not only looking at allegations, but often, as we know, right? The cover-up could be worse than the actual crime. Now, I say that, you know, figuratively speaking. I'm not suggesting he would cover anything up. I'm not suggesting there's anything criminal. We don't know.

And so to your question, he has to go in during this interview, he has to be completely candid, he has to presume that they have every bit of information and he has to tell his side of the story and that side of the story has to be accurate and so I think where we go from here, we know there's a report that'll be prepared.

That report will be prepared for the public, for the legislature who's considering proceeding, but what, if any, steps are taken would depend upon what, if any, fruit that this really investigation bears and so let's see what the substance of it is and if there's substantively something that is amiss for the governor, then I think it could spell trouble for him, right? In some court of law, whether that be civil, criminal or otherwise.

WALKER: And, Errol, to you. Just politically speaking, it seems that Cuomo, the governor, has been able to weather this pretty well. Does what's happening today change any of that?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Potentially, Amara. The governor has been in a very odd kind of limbo for the last few months. The public opinion polls, the most recent one, shows that a little over 60 percent of New Yorkers want him to either resign or not run for reelection. His reelection would be happening next year.

At the same time, about the same percentage, around 60 percent, think he's doing a pretty good job and so he's been kind of going about the business of being governor with this cloud hanging over his head. The expectation is that this inquiry as well as a separate inquiry into a possible impeachment proceeding against him, that this will come out and this will, I guess, make the difference.

This will tip the scales one way or the other. The public will be able to send a clear signal as to whether or not they want this governor to run for reelection, but as of right now, he's raising money hand over fist. He's got over $17 million in his campaign account and is expected to run for a fourth term unless the public says otherwise and whatever comes out of this report will have a lot to do with what the public or how the public feels and signals its content or discontent with Governor Cuomo.

WALKER: Yes. So it could be quite consequential and, Errol, on top of the attorney general's inquiry, the state assembly has its own investigation underway. Can you tell us where that stands?

LOUIS: Well, yes. That has been moving at a much slower pace. When all of these accusations came out, the assembly convened and took both the potential sexual harassment allegations as well as some questions about how the counting of pandemic deaths was handled. There are some new questions that have been raised about how and why the governor used or may have used state workers to try and produce a book that he handsomely profited from personally.

All of that stuff is moving at a snail's pace and the general expectation is that the assembly is going to wait for the attorney general to produce her findings first and then maybe pick up the pace just a little bit, but all of these inquiries, again, have just been this cloud hanging over the administration. In some ways, we're fortunate that the governor has decided to tough it out because otherwise, state government at the top could be grinding to a halt, but ...

WALKER: Right.

LOUIS: ... the governor does his press conferences, he does press appearances. People who have called for him to step down, Amara, stand side by side with him at press conferences and praise his leadership in certain aspects. We're in a very strange place right now.

WALKER: Yes. Interesting to see that it's been business as usual as this cloud has continued to hang over him and his administration. Errol Lewis and Joey Jackson, appreciate the conversation this morning. Thanks so much.

LOUIS: Thank you.

JACKSON: Thanks, Amara. SANCHEZ: The battle to end Britney Spears' 13-year conservatorship is heating up after the pop star was granted a request to hire her own attorney. Speaking to the court on Wednesday, Spears said she wanted her father to be charged with conservatorship abuse and called her situation cruelty. CNN's Chloe Melas has more on this.


CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER (Voice over): A groundbreaking moment for Britney Spears. For the first time in her 13-year conservatorship, the singer is able to hire her own attorney. Now representing Spears is former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart who addressed cheering fans outside the Los Angeles courthouse.

MATHEW ROSENGART, BRITNEY SPEARS' ATTORNEY: We feel that today was a big step in the interest of justice not only in terms of Britney Spears, but in terms of this conservatorship shining a light on what's happened here and larger issues nationally in terms of conservatorships and how they operate.


MELAS (Voice over): The decision by Judge Brenda Penny comes after the resignation of Spears' court appointed lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham, earlier this month. Exactly three weeks after Spears' bombshell testimony, she addressed a packed courtroom virtually. Spears spoke for about 20 minutes during the nearly two-hour long hearing, sobbing at times, saying that she wanted to charge her father with conservatorship abuse and telling the court she has serious abandonment issues.

The singer's father, Jamie Spears, has been the co-conservator of her estimated $60 million estate since 2008. He did not respond to CNN's request for comment. The Grammy Award winning artist also calling the conservatorship "f***ing cruelty" and in reference to her conservatives saying, quote, "I thought they were trying to kill me."

ROSENGART: Pursuant to Britney Spears' instructions we will be moving promptly and aggressively for his removal. The question remains why is he involved? He should step down voluntarily as that is in the best interest of Britney Spears.

MELAS (Voice over): Aside from Spears' father and mother, Lynne Spears, attending the hearing virtually, Spears' conservator of her person, Jodi Montgomery, said via her attorney that she plans to stay on overseeing the pop star's medical issues. Britney Spears ending her testimony by saying, quote, "If this is not abuse, I don't know what is. I want Jodi's help to get back into the real world."


MELAS: Following Britney Spears' court hearing and emotional testimony, she took to social media to thank her fans for their support and to say that she is so excited to be working with her new attorney, Mathew Rosengart. The next hearing in this conservatorship battle is scheduled for September 29th. Chloe Melas, CNN, Los Angeles. WALKER: And now to this horrifying story. A 24-year-old man has been arrested and charged in New York after attempting to kidnap a five- year-old on Thursday. The whole thing was caught on video and we do want to note this may be very difficult to watch, but we do want to say the young boy was not injured and that is according to police.

So the video shows a man getting out of his car and quickly running, grabbing the boy off the sidewalk, later identified by his mother as Jacob. That is apparently the boy's name. The child's mother, Dolores Diaz Lopez, can be seen running to the car, struggling with someone inside, eventually pulling her son out of the car window. Authorities are still looking for the second suspect involved in the attempted kidnapping. It is just so shocking to see this happen in broad daylight on the streets in New York.

A man known as the Hollywood Ripper has been sentenced to death for the murders of two women and the attempted murder of another. Michael Gargiulo was convicted of the 2005 stabbing death of Maria Bruno and the 2001 killing of fashion designer Ashley Ellerin who was stabbed 47 times hours before a planned date with

actor Ashton Kutcher. Michelle Murphy survived a 2008 attack. Now he still has to stand trial in Illinois for the killing of an 18-year-old girl.

SANCHEZ: Pivoting to news out of D.C. now, the clock is ticking. Chuck Schumer wanting a procedural vote in four days on a huge infrastructure plan. Can he get his Democratic colleagues on board with President Biden? Details and a live report from Capitol Hill next.




SANCHEZ: We are 28 minutes past the hour. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is facing a deadline to get his Democratic colleagues on board with a deal to pass President Biden's infrastructure plan. A vote is scheduled for next Wednesday on the bipartisan deal, though it's still not finalized, and a number of Democrats appear to be growing uneasy about the size and scale of the plan.

Let's head out to Capitol Hill and CNN's Daniella Diaz who is live for us. Daniella, some progressives are calling this a victory, some moderate Democrats not quite as vocal in their enthusiasm.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: That's exactly right, Boris, but, look, there are really two different things going on here when it comes to these negotiations on Capitol Hill. You know, on one hand, you have this bipartisan infrastructure proposal that key negotiators have been working on for months and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set a deadline for this to have a test vote for next Wednesday, which really angered a lot of Republicans on this issue who say that this is not ready for a test vote. You know, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, one of the key negotiators for this bipartisan infrastructure proposal, he said that it would be a, quote, "dereliction of duty" if Republicans -- excuse me -- if the Senate votes on this next week.

So on one hand, you have, you know, this bipartisan infrastructure proposal angering Republicans with this deadline Schumer set. On the other hand, you have this budget resolution that Democrats plan to pass using budget reconciliation. It's $3.5 trillion filled with Democratic priorities of this administration on infrastructure.


But, look, moderates are not behind this yet, moderates namely like Senator Joe Manchin, a name we bring up over and over again, he has not signed on to this $3.5 trillion package, and he is one of the key swing votes needed for this package to pass. So, bottom line here is Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer putting the clock, the clock is ticking on this issue, and it's unclear right now whether senators will meet the deadline for both of these packages. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes, the specific portions about climate and adjusting the American economy to deal with climate change, that is concerning senators like Joe Manchin. Daniella Diaz, thank you so much for that. CNN political commentator Errol Louis joins us now to discuss. Errol, glad that you're back with us this morning, always great to see you. On infrastructure, what do you think of Schumer's strategy here, setting this tight time line, trying to pressure lawmakers into a deal?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Great to be with you, Boris. Look, what I see happening is that Chuck Schumer is using one of the main powers that he holds as majority leader, which is the power to control the pace of legislation and to use speed to his advantage rather than let Republicans play things out, raise a million objections and run the clock out. What he wants to do is get them on the record, push things forward, push his $3.5 trillion plan, his budget reconciliation through and get things in motion before it all sort of falls apart.

He said early on that he wanted to get this, as well as a voting rights bill, by the way. He's pushing for an early vote on some version of the Voting Rights Act as well. He wants to do all of that before the August break so that they can rack up some achievements on the Democratic side, let their members go home and test out, see how it's playing back home in their home states and try and get some wins both for the Democrats and for the White House before the end of the year, before we go into the re-election of 2022 next year.

SANCHEZ: Yes, so much time has gone by in the blink of an eye that next year is already the beginning of another campaign. I want to talk about Iowa last night. Former Vice President Mike Pence was there, he brought up the insurrection during a speech. He sort of tucked it away into a moment where he was talking about the tough year that we've had. Listen to this.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, the truth is, the truth is if we -- we've been through a lot in the last year. I mean, the global pandemic, civil unrest, a divisive election, a tragic day in our nation's Capitol, and now a new administration intent on transforming America into a European-style secular welfare state.


SANCHEZ: He sort of sped through it. A lot of praise for the way that Mike Pence handled that day and Trump's overall attempts to overturn the election, but he's shy about talking about January 6th openly. Is it just that he doesn't want to get booed again during one of these speeches?

LOUIS: Well, he's politically in a very difficult position. He was there, his life was being threatened. There were -- there were a marauding mob -- there was a marauding mob marching through the halls of Congress saying "hang Mike Pence", and yet, he still wants to remain loyal to the president who would turn on him. He wants to somehow attract -- or believes that he can attract the support of people like that mob who were chanting "hang Mike Pence", he wants power very badly. And he's trying to figure out a way to do it by trying to appease everyone.

It's almost comical to watch from the outside because in some ways it's kind of sad. This is somebody who clearly is not a Trump Republican in the sense that he put in a whole lot of years of loyal service, and in the end the president turned on him and so did the mob. Now he wants the former president and the mob to support him and somehow find his way into the White House. It seems like a very far stretch, and I think we can expect more strange speeches like the one we saw yesterday.

SANCHEZ: So Republican leader Kevin McCarthy visited with former President Trump again this week, this time at Bedminster. Here is what he told "Fox News" about what they discussed.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): These were some of the actual discussions I had with President Trump, talking about the border, talking about our success in the last election, talking about our first six months in fundraising. And we've talked about you a little bit, too, Sean, and that was all good.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: OK, you didn't talk -- well, I don't mean -- I don't want to know that part. We'll see.


SANCHEZ: So, McCarthy also talked fundraising with Trump, and we have new CNN reporting that shows, quote, "McCarthy and the house GOP's campaign arm both recently posted record-breaking fundraising hauls and that, quote, "plenty of Republican lawmakers have been padding their war chests by using Trump's name and image in their fundraising appeals." Yet, this week, we also learned that between April and June, all 10 house Republicans that voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection on January 6th raised more money than their primary opponents.


Errol, what does that tell you about the direction the Republican Party should be heading, if they want a more prosperous future?

LOUIS: Well, I think all of them are playing the odds, because we know, Boris, that the party in power in the White House, their party tends to lose seats in the house. And given the razor-thin margin by which Democrats currently control the house, Republicans have every reason to believe that they have a good shot at taking the majority. And so, everything that they do, every last thing that they do is going to be focused on trying to win that goal.

And even if you listen carefully to the phrase when he says we talked about our successes in the election. Well, look, they lost the White House and they lost the Senate. What successes is he talking about? Well, he's parroting the Trump line. He's parroting the big lie that somehow they won the White House, but the system didn't recognize it. So, we're going to hear a lot more of that because it's what gets the base excited, it's what helps them raise all of that money that you're alluding to. And it's what will help them try and win back the majority.

So, it's all based on a very strange misreading, a deliberate misreading of what actually happened. But this is Kevin McCarthy's path to getting the speaker's gavel and I think we're going to hear him do that over and over again.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and notably, he also said this week that the 2020 election was legitimate and that Joe Biden is president by legitimate means. So, a bit of coded double speak there. Errol Louis --

LOUIS: Yes --

SANCHEZ: Thank you so much as always.

LOUIS: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course. So, as you just heard from Errol, this is going to be a huge week for the White House's agenda, for the push toward infrastructure. You're going to hear directly from the president about it, right here on CNN. Be sure to tune in for an exclusive CNN presidential town hall, President Joe Biden joining Don Lemon live, Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. only on CNN.

WALKER: All right, so this time tomorrow, an indoor mask mandate will be back in effect in Los Angeles County, California. This, as communities across the U.S. grapple with how to stop a new surge in COVID-19 cases and fight the misinformation that's keeping millions from getting the life-saving shots. Back with us is CNN contributor Dr. Abdul El-Sayed; an epidemiologist and former city health director for Detroit. Dr. El-Sayed, good to see you again. Our audio is going to work this time. So, just want to first get your reaction to the re- imposing of mask mandates in L.A. County. Do you think it's a good idea?

ABDUL EL-SAYED, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Yes, it's really sad, Amara, is that we're back in this position where we're talking about mask mandates again because enough people are not taking a safe and effective vaccine which has made this COVID surge a truly preventable phenomenon. And if folks don't take vaccines, the next best means of preventing COVID-19 transmission is to wear a mask. And what I think L.A. County is recognizing is the fact that the CDC took -- not allowing people who are unvaccinated -- excuse me, allowing people who are vaccinated to not wear masks that there was going to be some sort of vaccine verification in place that failed.

And we're watching as people who are unvaccinated are free riding and therefore, Delta, which is far more transmissible than the garden- variety COVID that we got used to, is now spreading among people. And this is the next step in trying to bring down case transmission.

WALKER: So, do you think that these are cases, in point, that the CDC should have not lifted the mask restrictions or they had done so prematurely? Because so many health officials raised concerns that, look, we can't rely on this honor system. It's going to, you know, contribute to another surge?

EL-SAYED: Yes, I think, unfortunately, that is the case. We're watching as unvaccinated people who, of course, the root of their choice not to be vaccinated is the same as the root of the choice not to wear a mask, and that is in denial of the science and denial of any form of expertise that, unfortunately, at this point, tends to align quite nicely with a political viewpoint of the former president of the United States, who was downplaying the pandemic for political cause. And so, unfortunately, without vaccine verification in place, there were going to be a lot of people who were going to say, look, I wasn't going to wear mask in the first place.

Now, you're telling vaccinated people that they don't have to wear a mask and you don't know if I'm vaccinated or not, so I guess I won't.

WALKER: You know, sadly, there's just so much misinformation out there, and we know that millennials and Gen-zers love to get a lot of their news or facts on social media. And you know, a U.S. Census Bureau survey finds that nearly half of the people who said they will definitely or probably not get a COVID-19 vaccine, and they were saying it's because they mistrust the vaccines. They don't trust the government.


That's why they are not getting vaccinated. And so again, misinformation being a big piece of that. The White House pushing social media companies to crack down. But we're also seeing it pushed by hosts on "Fox News". Also in Florida, Dr. El-Sayed, which accounted for one in five cases in the U.S. this weekend, the governor's campaign is pushing merchandize like this, take a look, "don't Fauci my Florida", your reaction to that and how dangerous. I mean, as a former public official, how do you combat this kind of misinformation and campaigning like that?

EL-SAYED: Well, I think look, the focus on the social media companies where a lot of this has taken root is an important focus. And unfortunately, at this point, it's a bit too little, a bit too late. We've had this pandemic now that's taken 600,000 lives with us for nearly 17 months. But watching the way that politicians are playing their own people, cynically, telling them that the words that Dr. Fauci has uttered from the very beginning of this pandemic, focused on saving those very lives that somehow those words are wrong. And that these people would be better off choosing not to be vaccinated. It is absurd.

At this point, though, I'll say this. I think one of our instincts, right, for folks who are vaccinated and folks who believe the science is to yell at this. And I just don't think that's going to work. I think a lot of this is driven by an anxiety cycle. People are afraid. And I think when you see people afraid, the most important thing you can do is soothe the fear, but come with the science. And I think we've got to do a bit more of soothing the fear and coming with the science to be able to take on this misinformation.

WALKER: That's a very good point. It's really sad that, you know, we are in an age where science is being politicized and scientists, like Fauci, are being vilified. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, we appreciate your time this morning, thanks so much.

EL-SAYED: Thank you for having me, I'm glad you could hear me this time.

WALKER: Absolutely. Thanks.

SANCHEZ: So, we have been tracking some severe weather in Europe. Parts of that continent devastated by flooding not seen in generations. Rescue workers rushing to find survivors, hundreds though remain missing. We're going to take you to the region as soon as we get back from a quick break. Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: Historic flooding in western Europe has killed at least 150 people with hundreds more still missing this morning.

WALKER: Authorities have evacuated thousands in Germany as flash flooding and rising waters are expected to last until tomorrow night. Many parts of the country hadn't seen this much rainfall in a 100 years and were prepared -- were unprepared, I should say, for the catastrophic flooding. Let's go now to CNN's Sam Kiley in Germany. Sam, it's obviously not over yet. What's the latest there on the ground?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara, I'm in Erftstadt in northern Germany, quite close to the border with the Netherlands. And behind me, just the other side of this bridge, which bear in mind, just 24 hours, 48 hours ago, rather, the level of the water was up to the bonnet of that police van behind me.

And that is several tens of meters above the height it should be. And what happened in this town miraculously, although 133 people have been killed across Germany and many hundreds are missing, a whole parts of the town, whole houses were washed away by this gigantic amount of flash flooding, largely, it's believed because it was able to eat into the fundamental structures underpinning the town through a quarry.

Now, of course, firefighters, policemen, the military are coming in because -- and I'll just pause briefly because of the overwhelming noise coming there from the sirens. But technicians are moving in because there's concern now that the whole of this village has been undermined. The whole understructures of the village, the sewer system and so has been overwhelmed by water, and there's a concern that the whole thing could collapse into the ground. And whilst we're hearing this, there is simultaneous warnings coming from Holland that the levels of water, particularly on the Meuse River, are building up there, too. Boris, Amara?

WALKER: The pictures are just devastating. Appreciate your reporting Sam Kiley. Thanks so much. Well, wildfires in the western U.S. are intensifying. The largest fire burning is scorching more than a 1,000 acres every single hour. Details and why incoming rain can be both a good thing and a bad thing.



WALKER: Well, wildfires burning in the west have consumed more than 1 million acres in 12 states across the west.

SANCHEZ: Yes, this heat wave has been devastating. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, Oregon has lost the most land to the wildfires. The Bootleg Fire alone has burned more than 225,000 acres since early July.

WALKER: CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar joining us live with more and an update on the fire situation. I mean, look, we know that wildfires are just part of the ecosystem of California, but or out west, period. But what's not really natural is just how bad the fire seasons have become out there.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's the prolonged nature of it. They just can't seem to catch a break out here. We just don't get the systems in to bring some rain, to bring some relief to a lot of these areas. Not just nature in general, but even the firefighters trying to fight these blazes. Again, the Bootleg Fire alone in Oregon, only 22 percent contained right now. Over 270,000 acres burned.


But that's just one of 70 large active wildfires across the country. But look, a vast majority of those are west of the plains, where we've been dealing with incredible drought conditions, 95 percent of what is deemed the western U.S. is in some level of drought, whether it's moderate drought to severe drought. It doesn't matter. Unfortunately, conditions today are not going to help. You've got dry thunderstorms, meaning the rain evaporates before it hits the surface, but you can still get the lightning, which can trigger new fires.

Elevated fire risks also in effect not only today, but notice tomorrow, that begins to expand as the wind-gusts are also expected to kick up. And then look again, this is kind of one of those pyrocumulus clouds, you can see from the fires, and look at this, Amara and Boris, you can really see how far that smoke spreads. So, this isn't just a problem for the west, but also other areas of the U.S. as well.

SANCHEZ: Allison Chinchar, we appreciate you watching all of that. Thanks so much -- hey, stay with CNN, we're going to be right back.