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New Day Saturday

Delta Variant Leading to Infections Even Among the Vaccinated; Delta Variant Fuels 65 Percent Jump in New Infections Across the U.S.; Osaka Lights Cauldron to Officially Kick Off Olympics Games; Texas Democrats Remain in D.C. After Fleeing State to Block Voting Bill; NFL: Outbreaks Among Unvaccinated Players Could Mean Forfeitures; Activists Protest Hungary Law Targeting LGBTQ Community. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 24, 2021 - 08:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kaitlan Collins in for Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Kaitlan. I'm Boris Sanchez. COVID cases are surging across the country largely because of the Delta variant. And as vaccination rates are slowing officials are sending blunt messages to unvaccinated people in the words of one governor, you're letting us down.

COLLINS: And aiming for gold after a year-long delay the Tokyo Olympics are officially underway amid the fanfare. There are still major concerns about COVID though, with another 17 athletes testing positive today.

SANCHEZ: Yes, plus wildfires are raging across parts of the West firefighters driving through walls of flame trying to save homes and smoke from those fires is being felt across the country. It is drifting and blanketing cities all the way along the East Coast.

COLLINS: Yes, I saw some of that this week flying back to D.C. Meanwhile, pandemic penalty the NFL is announcing the teams that experience COVID outbreaks among unvaccinated players could be forced to forfeit games this season.

SANCHEZ: Thank you so much for waking up early with us this Saturday July 24th. We have a special guest for you Kaitlan Collins is here. That alarm went off early Kaitlan. I hope you got some coffee or apple juice as I prefer.

COLLINS: I don't think I've ever had this much coffee by 8 am in my life, but I'm happy to be here.

SANCHEZ: Welcome, welcome. We're glad to have you.

COLLINS: Well, we begin this morning with more evidence that the U.S. is in the middle of a dangerous summer surge of COVID-19 fueled by the spread of the Delta variant and those who refuse to get vaccinated. Case rates are climbing while the rate of people getting fully vaccinated is falling.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the rate of new infections is now four times higher than it was just a month ago. Look at all the red on that map. Infections are rising faster than in the pandemics' first surge in spring of last year. Case rates are rising faster than in the beginning of last year. Vaccinations still not where they need to be.

Only about 250,000 people are being fully vaccinated per day. That is the lowest daily average rate since the end of January.

COLLINS: And in some areas, the Delta variant is leading to significant increases in breakthrough cases, people who are fully vaccinated testing positive for the virus. But the difference between the vaccinated and those who are not is more apparent than ever.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here's the truth. If you're fully vaccinated, you're safer with a higher degree of protection. But if you're not vaccinated, you are not protected. First of all the COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are today among the unvaccinated people.

And I know, I know this gotten a bit politicized, but I hope it's starting to change. It's not about red states or blue states or guys like that holler. It's about life and it's about death.


SANCHEZ: We're going to discuss the White House response and hear from a doctor in just a moment. But first, let's go to CNN's Polo Sandoval, Polo the country in a dangerous position right now wasn't that long ago that we were celebrating a new chapter in the pandemic. And yet it seems like in many ways, we're getting back to where we were a few months ago when the pandemic was at its height.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It almost gets to the point Boris where I'm pulling out my notes from months ago, really, because what we're seeing right now is many of these states are getting hit hard by COVID that Matthew just showed says it all.

Right now, almost every state in the country is seeing a seven day average of new COVID cases that either matches or exceeds what they experienced just last week. And when we hear from doctors over and over again, they repeatedly point two vaccinations as the best way to get ahead of the surge.

But yet fresh CDC data now suggesting that these vaccination efforts at those numbers not only are they well leveling out in some cases and dropping.


SANDOVAL (voice over): If you happen to be among a third of the nation's population living in a community considered to have high COVID transmission, you can blame it on the unvaccinated says Alabama's Republican Governor Kay Ivey.

GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): The new cases and COVID because of unvaccinated folks.

SANDOVAL (voice over): The U.S. now averaging more than 43,000 new COVID cases a day that 65 percent increase over the last week that are colored regions on the map showing the highest concentration of cases.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: You're just watching this fake train coming, that Delta is going to sweep across the south and so many people are going to get infected with this fake narrative out there that if you're young and healthy and take care of yourself, you're not going to get sick.

It's simply not true. And so we're seeing all of these young people become hospitalized, knowing it's preventable. It's just absolutely heartbreaking.

SANDOVAL (voice over): Then there's this about eight months into U.S. vaccination efforts, and still more than half of the nation remains on vaccinated and unprotected. Friday, marked one of the lowest daily vaccination averages since January according to the CDC.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIVISION AT VANDERBELT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: There's spill over into vaccinated people. We could all bring this to a close if everyone who were unvaccinated would just come in, get vaccinated tomorrow, within two weeks to a month COVID would go way, way down.

SANDOVAL (voice over): In Tennessee Phil Valentine, a Conservative Radio Host is hospitalized in serious condition with COVID. After telling his followers they did not need to get vaccinated. And a Friday statement his family wrote, he regrets not being more vehemently pro vaccine, and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he's back on the air.

Helping to curb hospitalizations to City of St. Louis will soon be requiring masks again in indoor public spaces and on public transportation starting Monday. It's the latest community to revert back to safety measures reminiscent of previous COVID surges health experts warning that breakthrough infections among people who are fully vaccinated can and do happen, especially with the Delta variant spreading.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: What the CDC really needs to do is to start giving us the answers to what is the rate of breakthrough infections? Is it one in 1000? Or is it one in 10? Or is it one in two? I mean we really literally don't know what is the rate of breakthrough infections and the likelihood of that breakthrough infection ending up in a chain of transmission to others.

SANDOVAL (voice over): Despite those lingering questions, Dr. Leana Wen emphasizes the vaccines do work at preventing severe illness. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: And a sign that the mask debate is slowly returning. Missouri's Attorney General vowing to actually file a lawsuit to try to prevent that mask mandate that we just mentioned in St. Louis from kicking in. Ultimately, though, what we did hear from the Head of the CDC just yesterday, Kaitlan and Boris is that it should be up to individuals and communities to decide whether or not they want to put those masks back on as those numbers do continue to spread.

But we should mention the CDC guidance itself when it comes to masks that haven't changed, at least not yet.

COLLINS: No, it hasn't Polo but we do know officials are talking about it. Thank you very much for that report. And joining me now is Dr. Catherine O'Neal, the Chief Medical Officer at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Dr. O'Neal we are now hearing top health officials say this is a pandemic among the unvaccinated. A lot of those are young people who don't think that they need it. 76 percent of residents 60 and older are fully vaccinated. Only 22 percent of those 18 to 29 are fully vaccinated, what our health officials do and to try to appeal to young people to get the vaccine?

DR. CATHERINE O'NEAL, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: I think what we're doing Kaitlan is exactly what we're doing this morning talking to you it's reaching out and giving those statistics showing that cases in Louisiana have increased by 200 percent in the outpatient setting.

We know those cases are headed for the hospital. We've seen it over and over in the hospital already today. Our cases have tripled since last week. And 75 percent of those people are under 60. This is a disease of the young like you said it's a disease of the unvaccinated? Absolutely and it's a disease causing our young people to die.

So the more that we message, you have time this is a preventable infection. Hopefully people will start to hear and unfortunately, people will start to hear from their own loved ones because they're in the hospital.

COLLINS: And we know most of those who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. But there is a new concern for people who are fully vaccinated. And those are these breakthrough cases that we're seeing where you are fully vaccinated, but you're still testing positive for Coronavirus. So should people be concerned about these breakthrough cases? And how often are they happening?

DR. O'NEAL: It's hard to tell how many breakthrough cases we've had in the outpatient setting because it's not been a figure that we've tracked up until now. And now that desire to know that is, is we're hearing that everywhere.

What we do see as we see patients and call breakthrough cases and talk to them is that our breakthrough cases for the most part are very mild illnesses. It's turned a horrible deadly disease into a cold, which is a great thing, but how much can they spread the disease and that's what we still don't know.

I'll tell you, Kaitlan, for those of us who are vaccinated. This feels like being in a boat during a hurricane. I have a lot of tools. I can definitely sell through some things, but I can't sail against a huge surge of unvaccinated people spreading COVID right now.

You are going to see some breakthrough cases when so many people are unvaccinated and there's so much viral pressure on the vaccinated. I don't think that this should be shocking. I think that the only way out of it is to vaccinate everybody.


COLLINS: Would it be helpful to have the CDC was doing more to track these breakthrough cases?

DR. O'NEAL: You know, we track a lot of things. I work at the largest hospital in the State of Louisiana; I give a ton of data points to the state and to the CDC each and every morning. The problem with tracking data is that it just takes time; I think that we'll have these figures.

I think they'll have them in a couple of weeks. I'm not disturbed by it. We know what's happening in our community. We're talking about it breakthrough cases happen because we're not vaccinated. And so right now, we probably all need to put our masks on and stem the surge. And by the time we can give you a good breakthrough case, we'll be out of it.

COLLINS: Well, and speaking of putting our masks back on New Orleans as we begin enforcing its masks mandate for indoor areas, is that something you think would be helpful to see in other places across Louisiana, given there are all these conversations about whether or not we need to be doing that even if you are someone who's fully vaccinated?

DR. O'NEAL: We heard our governor say yesterday that he wanted masks to be put back on in state buildings. And I do agree right now again, there's just so much viral pressure on our community, that even people who are going to get COVID and are going to be fine with it and have a small cold, they are now going to be able to contribute to the surge.

And so for now, we need to back up from our neighbor. We need to put our mask on as often as possible. We need to protect our community because there are no more beds in our hospitals. We really need to stem the surge so that we can protect everybody's life.

COLLINS: Well, and with the surge, we are seeing some people who had not yet gotten vaccinated choose to get the shot, including Congressman Steve Scalise, from your state who this week got it. He got his first dose and he made it public. So what do you think about people who maybe they waited a little bit to get the vaccine, but should they be letting people know that? Yes, now they've become so concerned, they did finally get it? DR. O'NEAL: Absolutely, I think the vaccine has been an incredibly difficult decision for a lot of people. It's taken a lot of information. It's taken a lot of facts to bring people to the realization that this is the only way out of the pandemic. And this is really a choice for life.

And so I'm so glad to see Congressman Scalise get his vaccine, but most importantly, to promote that he is for an end to this pandemic and he is for everybody's life. And I think that's, that's the message right now is if you want to make it through this, you've got to be vaccinated.

COLLINS: Dr. Catherine O'Neal thank you for joining us on this Saturday morning.

DR. O'NEAL: Absolutely thank you for having me.

SANCHEZ: Well, after months of not knowing if the Summer Games would go on the Olympic athletes are finally competing and winning medals. We'll take your life to Tokyo next.

COLLINS: The NFL has laid out its COVID policy for the upcoming season. And some players and coaches do not agree with it, saying they are being forced to get vaccinated. We'll discuss more about that debate ahead this hour.



COLLINS: The Tokyo Olympics are officially underway after more than a year of delays sparked by the Coronavirus pandemic. New cases within the Olympic Village are still growing. But the festivities did kick off last night with an opening ceremony as Japanese Tennis Star Naomi Osaka had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron.

No opening ceremony of course would be complete without a sensational firework show last night did not disappoint. Boris, look at that.

SANCHEZ: Yes, certainly eye catching but of course, this year's ceremony starkly different from Olympics past with little fanfare because of the pandemic. Less than 1000 people attended the event, which included First Lady Jill Biden.

CNN has teams all over Japan following the very latest developments from the Olympic Games. Let's start with Blake Essig who is in Oyama City. He's one of the only locations where spectators are actually being allowed at an Olympic event. In this case, it's cycling. Blake, take us in the room. How are fans feeling there, especially as we're watching the number of COVID cases rise?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris and Kaitlan. Despite how unpopular these games remain, because of those health and safety concerns, there is a curiosity. I get the sense that a lot of people are really mixed about supporting the Olympics, given the current circumstances. But at the same time, there's excitement that these games now that they are underway, are clearly our desire. People want to experience the Olympic atmosphere in any way they possibly can. And yesterday, that meant battling crowds to take a picture outside of the National Stadium ahead of the opening ceremony.

And for people today it meant sitting in an auditorium for seven hours to watch the cycling road race on a big screen and experienced that Olympic spirit as a community while they weren't allowed to vocalize their excitement. They did use these wood flappers to create a festival like atmosphere and cheer on competitors.

At the same time that the public viewing was going on outside spectators lined the racecourse and about 10,000 people had tickets to watch the finish in person, with COVID 19 cases surging in Tokyo and rising nationwide public viewings like the one today are incredibly were rare.

Of course, spectators have been banned from 88 percent of Olympic venues and 97 percent of all competitions. While it isn't perfect after being delayed a year and months of uncertainty surrounding whether or not these games would actually happen.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are now underway. And it all started with Tennis Superstar Naomi Osaka in a watershed moment.


JOJI MATSUBARA, SPECTATOR: I think Naomi Osaka was the best choice to be the last torchbearer because she's one of the world's top athletes. She's also mixed race and has faced a lot of challenges and it's amazing she can represent Japan like this. It sends out a great message from here to the world.



ESSIG: And the fact that Naomi Osaka mixed race person was the one to light the Olympic Cauldron is incredibly significant here in Japan. Japan is considered one of the most racially homogenous countries in the world. But the country is slowly shifting its views on identity.

And a moment like what we saw last night shows how the society is adapting to the changing times. Osaka was born in Japan but raised in the United States her mother's Japanese, her father is Haitian locally, Osaka lighting the cauldron has been applauded by Japanese media who said that the choice celebrated diversity in harmony, Boris, Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Blake for us and I will be waiting on you to send us two of those woodcarvers so we can have them back here in the United States. Thank you for that report. Meanwhile, China has wasted no time claiming the first two gold medals of the games but pair of American teams are also off to pretty strong starts. Our Coy Wire is also in Tokyo with more on what's going on to the latest. COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Roll Tide Kaitlan, no offense, your alma mater, Alabama, but the most dominant team on the planet right now might be the USA women's water polo squad. They came out the gay strong here in Tokyo unleashing an offensive flurry of 25 goals setting a new Olympic record.

Maggie Steffens and Stephania Haralabidis has led the way five goals of peace and a 25-4 win over Japan also an Olympic record for margin of victory. The Americans are heavy favorites' to win their third straight Olympic title as they haven't lost a single major tournament since 2013. We asked them what makes this team so good.


ASLEIGH JOHNSON, TEAM USA WATER POLO: Our team is the most dominant team on the planet because we never really take on that title. We always view ourselves as the underdog.

MAGGIE STEFFENS, SCORED 5 GOALS IN WIN VS JAPAN: The past is the past. So a motivator for us is how can we be better in the future? How can we be better now and reminding people that the now is where we're going to be our best?


WIRE: First Lady Jill Biden got to see another red hot American seen the softball squad now 3-0, thanks to their Queen of the pitching circle Cat Osterman, 38-years-old came out of retirement back with a vengeance. She threw six innings of one hit ball pitching the shutout. They have yet to give up a single run here in Tokyo.

2-0 triumph over Mexico, Australia's next tonight at 9 Eastern and tough times make us tougher. 27-year-old American Chase Kalisz just advanced to the 400 individual medley final when he was eight years old Chase was put into a medically induced coma for a week on a ventilator and a feeding tube for eight months as he fought an acute disorder of the nervous system. And he's still fighting. He took silver in this event in Rio, but he's hungry for more.


CHASE KALISZ, TEAM USA SWIMMER: And there are still things that I want to accomplish. Still things that I wanted to do. There are many obstacles that I had to overcome this year, just mentally and physically trying to put myself in the best place possible. A little older than I was last time so things are a little more important to me right now.


WIRE: And good luck to Chase as he chases that gold just one of the many athletes will be profiled in here while we cover these games in Tokyo.

SANCHEZ: Tough times make us tougher. I love that. We'll be watching Chase closely thanks Coy Wire for keeping us updated from Tokyo. So after nearly two weeks in Washington, Texas Democratic lawmakers still have not met with President Biden about a voting rights bill.

Coming up I'll speak with one of them who's not happy about it. Hear what he has to say and what he wants to see happen next.



SANCHEZ: We're 28 minutes past the hour. Democratic lawmakers in Texas recently left the state trying to block a restrictive voting rights bill pushed by Republicans. The group has been meeting with key players in Washington including the vice president and top lawmakers pleading for help to protect voting rights.

The White House has said that passing voting rights legislation is a top priority but in a narrowly divided Congress, the chances of passing a federal voting rights bill remains slim. Joining us now to discuss one of those Texas Democrats, State Representative Richard Raymond Richard, we appreciate having you this morning. Thanks so much for joining us.

You've been in D.C. for almost two weeks, and one lawmaker that you have yet to meet with is President Biden, and you've expressed frustrations about that. I think "The Dallas Morning News" said that in a meeting you said you were "Pissed off" about it. Explain the frustrations that you have with the president. Why do you think he hasn't met with you?

REP. RICHARD RAYMOND (D-TX): Well, first of all, he's not a law maker anymore. He's now the Head of the Executive Branch; he is the President of the United States. But you know, worked on the U.S. Senate for four years before I was elected to the Texas House nearly 30 years ago.

I saw then Senator Joe Biden many, many times express his feelings and be very candid, how he saw things and so I guess I was candid and how I saw things. I think the president should meet with us.


RAYMOND: I think he will. I think he will. But here's the thing Boris, in Texas, Republican lawmakers and the governor and Governor Abbott, Republican Governor have put forth voter intimidation laws that are just the tip of the spear that's being driven through the voting rights of millions of Americans all across this country.

And it used to be Boris, that they would do this in the southern states, Texas and other southern states. We have a history we're called voting rights states.

And the reason we have that is because there's example after example, after example, in the southern states, where they tried to discriminate against minorities when it comes to our voting rights. Now, they're not only doing it in Texas, and across the south, they're doing it all over the country, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Arizona, everywhere. And now, excuse me, like in Texas, the proposals in Texas, not only

aimed at blacks and browns, their proposal would make it even more difficult for people who are disabled and for seniors to vote. So it's very disturbing.

And it should be the number one priority for this administration. And I think that's what we're trying to get across.

SANCHEZ: When was the last time you talked to the White House about this? Have they given you any indication that President Biden intends to sit down with you?

RAYMOND: Well, as you know, the indication that they've given and then that President Biden has given the speech he gave in Philadelphia and other speeches that he's committed to voting rights.

He's committed to making sure that all Americans have access to the polling place, and not that we make it harder for people to vote, but in fact that we make it easier for people to vote.

But I can tell you that, in my view, and I think a lot of people view this is that voting rights is not the number one issue for this administration. Then, if it's not the number one priority, rather, it's not a priority at all, because everything else is second.

You can't make voting rights number three, four or five on your list on your to do list of your president of the United States. And I think President is committed to passing voting rights legislation.

But I think he also needs to think about this that his legacy will be the Voting Rights Act died under the Biden Administration or was saved by the Biden Administration. It's going to be one of one of those two things.

SANCHEZ: So your group has been accused of abandoning your responsibilities to your constituents by walking out on the legislature twice. Governor Greg Abbott is threatening to arrest you, once you return to Texas.

Notably, at least six people in your group have tested positive for Coronavirus after a flight in which it appeared that very few people were wearing masks though they were vaccinated. What would you say to those who argue that this is all a political stunt?

RAYMOND: Well, first of all, I guess when Abraham Lincoln tried it, it was a political stunt. When John Adams tried it, it was a political stunt, when the framers of the constitution the founders of this country, established that a quorum was necessary, they did it for a reason.

And they tried to break it at times for a reason to stop something bad from happening. And that's what we've done. I have done nothing wrong. I won't be arrested.

But let me tell you something in the state of Texas, what Governor Greg Abbott should be doing is arresting those who are responsible for the 700 Texans who froze to death under his watch where the people that he appointed to the public utilities commission that was negligent.

700 people Boris froze to death in the state of Texas this February. That's who Governor Abbott had to go arrest.

SANCHEZ: State Representative Richard Pena Raymond; please keep us up to date. If you do wind up meeting with the President, we would love to hear more about that interaction. Thanks so much for sharing part of your weekend with us.

RAYMOND: Thank you.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, more states of emergency have been declared and additional counties in California and Nevada as dozens of raging wildfires continue to burn across the western U.S. Firefighters have been battling some extreme flames like this emergency crew in Northern California who were surrounded by the fire and just narrowly escaped.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the images are harrowing. CNN's Allison Chinchar is with us in the CNN Weather Center. Alison Walk us through the latest.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, so we're now over 80 in terms of large active fires across the country that spreads out over 13 different states. Now the good news at least for states like Arizona and New Mexico, we're hoping the rain in the forecast today can help firefighters contain some of those fires.

The concern really is for the rest of the states especially places like Montana, Idaho and even Oregon, where they are not expected to see the rain that some of their counterparts in the southwest are overall to date.

The U.S. had about 36,000 total U.S. wildfires total area burned 2.7 million acres. We are ahead of pace from where we were last year and 2020 was an awful year for wildfires.


CHINCHAR: One of the specific fires, the large fires that we've been paying such close attention to is the bootleg fire in Oregon now burning over 400,000 acres. They weren't able to make a little bit of improvement in the containment earlier this week.

The hope is we can keep those winds down to allow those firefighters to continue making good jumps in the containment. One thing to note though is how far the smoke from a lot of those wildfires actually spreads.

Take a look at this Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati dealing with cold orange air quality alerts today, because of the smoke that has been spreading. Take a look at this. This was from last week. This is a typical day in New York.

This is what it looked like on Wednesday, you can barely see past the Empire State Building and not smoke from the wildfires contributing to New York's worst air quality in 15 years.

Now I will say that the air quality has started to improve a little bit this weekend in the northeast compared to where we were this past week. But it's spreading in other locations, especially into the southeast, where we've really started to see those hazy skies and the smoking conditions.

Some places you can not only see it, but smell it. That's how thick it's going to be in some of those places. In addition to that what's also not helping with the fires is the heat. We have new, excessive heat warnings out for some of the western states.

But now we're also starting to see that heat begin to spread east as well. Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, stretching down to some Gulf Coast States, including Texas and Louisiana. Also looking at heat advisories as well as those temperatures are expected to bump up.

Little bit cooler in the southwest as they're having some of those rain showers, but again, still anticipating guys above average temperatures in the northwest for at least the extended period of time.

COLLINS: Yes, Allison, we saw some of those hazy skies flying back from President Biden's Town Hall in Ohio. Thank you so much for that report.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Allison. So CNN's original series "History of the Sitcom" continues this week with an episode that focuses on work families and how they give an insight into the state of the American workplace. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The 70s is kind of a lost generation. And everybody was trying to find themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The economy was in the tank and you start to see the disillusionment of American workers reflected in the workplace Sitcom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Toilet stuffed up again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's no longer a problem. Mr. Beckman, that's a tradition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone's rolling your lights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look at the 12th precinct, it was such a corrupted place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, well, well, the same old Melton part of Kelly. What are you doing here? Like mechanics? You haven't helped him a bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Real cops dealing with funny situations.


SANCHEZ: Don't miss "History of the Sitcom" it airs tomorrow night at 9 pm right here on CNN. We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: We're just two weeks from the start of the NFL preseason and the league is pressuring players to get vaccinated against Coronavirus. The NFL avoided cancellations in 2020. But more than a dozen games had to be postponed some by weeks due to positive tests among players.

Under renewed policy teams are now going to be forced to forfeit games next season. If unvaccinated players cause outbreaks, players will not get paid if the league cannot reschedule the game and the forfeiting team would have to pay the other team's costs for the last game.

Let's talk to someone who can take us inside the game. Torrey Smith, Former NFL Wide Receiver, two-time Super Bowl Champion and the Co- Founder of the nonprofit level 82 Torrey, great to have you this morning, we appreciate your insight.

So the NFL can't force players to get vaccinated. Instead, they're putting this intense pressure on teams by taking aim at their wallets. What do you make of this approach? Do you think it's an overreaction? Or do you think this is likely to work?

TORREY SMITH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: I don't think it's an overreaction at all when you talk about the NFL. First of all, it's a business.

And people are where they want to make their money. And last year they were able to play during a pandemic. They had no answers. They had no clue what was going on. The world didn't know what was going on at that point.

And now they do have an answer with vaccines. So people are choosing to be ignorant and not to get vaccinated. That's fine. What they're saying is there is a price for that if there is an outbreak.

And to be completely honest, I'm not sure how big of a deal that is this season because more than half of the team's, excuse me, over more than half of the teams are 85 percent vaccinated or higher. So guys are vaccinated. We're really just talking about something that's not going to be an issue.

SANCHEZ: Well, I do want to ask you about the message that you're sending to current players. On Twitter, you essentially said that getting vaccinated is their prerogative.

But you also wrote sort of alluding to what you just acknowledged, " Just understand the protocol doesn't care about your feelings when science has been gaining more credibility by the day". I'm curious as someone who's had COVID as someone who's been vaccinated, what you say to players in the huddle like Cole Beasley or DeAndre Hopkins if you're their teammates and they're questioning the science on this.


SMITH: I mean, that's, it's hard to ignore it, if you believe it or you don't, you can't say, hey, I'm going to wait for the facts. Well, we're almost a year and over a year into this thing, and people do know what's going on. Does everyone have all the answers, absolutely not?

But it's been proven that those who are vaccinated do it - does it keep you from getting COVID a second time? No, it doesn't. But it does make sure that if you do get, especially with the Variants that are out there, you are going to be OK, so it's about putting your team in a better situation.

And it's not just about the players. A lot of the people around that building are high risk, a lot of coaches are considered high risk. So it's more so being responsible. And I tell I would tell guys, if I was still in the locker room, you don't have to get it, that's fine.

You're going to have to be isolated; you're not going to be able to be around the team as much. But I think it's more so selfish, considering but people know if it's not a religious reason or your health risk at this point.

SANCHEZ: Yes, so the new policy sort of sets up a two tiered system where teams with an outbreak among vaccinated players wind up getting more leniency than an outbreak among the unvaccinated. I'm curious about how that impacts a locker room where you're trying to build camaraderie and cohesion.

SMITH: Well, in the NFL, they have a thing that says, the best ability is availability. So if you're injured, you hurt your knee, your job, you're out, well, if you don't get vaccinated, you get sick, you're not going to play as well. And in this league, you can't lose your job if you're not on the field.

So that's why I'm worried guys, especially considering what they know are being - are getting vaccinated for health reasons. Listen, I'm healthy. I'm only 32 years old, and COVID tore me up. I've been sick, I've had the flu, I've had all these different things, and nothing ever had me feel the way COVID did.

And I think a lot of guys are recognizing that. But they also want to keep the season going. Because one thing that we didn't mention is that guys aren't going to get paid if a game doesn't play. So guys want their money.

They're going to protect themselves as well and their health and their family's health. And more guys are going to be vaccinated and those that aren't, which is fine. You don't have to you're not forced to do it. And I think it's important that we point that up. SANCHEZ: Yes, let's put up that graphic just to show where things

stand right now fewer than half of teams in the league are 85 percent vaccinated, those 78 percent of all players have had at least one shot.

If you were advising Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL, what else would you like to see him do to promote vaccinations? It looks like unfortunately, we've had some technical difficulties and we lost Torrey Smith there, but we appreciate his time and perspective. Thanks, Torrey.

COLLINS: Yes, it'll be interesting to see how that plays out for us. Meanwhile, Hungary's annual Pride parade is happening today. It's expected to be a celebration, but also a protest of controversial legislation that bans schools from talking about homosexuality or transgender issues. We're live from Budapest next.



COLLINS: A pride march is getting underway in Hungary this hour as the LGBTQ community and activists are pushing back on new legislation by the country's Right Wing government. The measure bans content they claim promotes homosexuality and gender change from being shared with children.

SANCHEZ: Yes, that would effectively prohibit any discussion of LGBTQ themes in schools. Activists actually inflated a giant rainbow balloon outside the Hungarian parliament to protest the law as they now take to the streets today. CNN's Melissa Bell joins us live from Budapest, Melissa set the scene for us what are you seeing?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: While the crowds are just building now Boris and we expect this march to kick off in the next few minutes. They're going to be heading that way there is a counter protest that is planned just on the other side of the Danube.

And over that bridge we expect a small number of counter protesters to meet this march which is the usual colorful celebration of gay pride. But this year, as Kaitlan was saying a moment ago, a protest as well because of the atmosphere in which is taking place.

You mentioned that legislation that passed that came into effect earlier this month. It is the culmination of what has been a month long several month long campaign of demonization essentially of the LGBT community, and so a lot of people coming out to try and show their support.

So far, Viktor Orban in power now for 11 years has used what has been a fairly successful playbook of targeting minorities in order to galvanize his face. We've seen it with migrants; we've seen it with the homeless. We've seen it with transgender people.

This time the question is really - if he isn't trying to take on a minority that is simply not small enough to not cause him - next year's election. So the point is today, the organizers say they expect several tens of thousands of people and what they're hoping for is a real show of support to say look, Hungarian society is not in favor of this referendum.

He's announced it is behind what Brussels has said it's now doing which is taking on Viktor Orban over this very controversial legislation. And the idea today is to say, look, we are Hungarians, we are taxpayers. We are an important part of Hungarian society.

And we will not allow ourselves to be silenced in the name of yet another campaign of hate. And we've been meeting with a bunch of people these last few days, families, corporates who say that this time; they're really standing up against the government against Viktor Orban, populist streak in order to make themselves heard.

And of course, at stake is what comes next year a fairly tight elections for the Hungarian Prime Minister, with all the people gathered here saying that they hope to this time with opposition groups gathering together and again, that big push from the Hungarian society itself saying, this time, we're not behind you and we're not going to let it happen.

So that's really what's at the heart of today with a lot of people saying, we're here for LGBTQ rights, but also for the rights of minorities in general.


COLLINS: And most of all, it looks like a big crowd. They're behind you. We'll stay with you and check in. Thank you very much for that report.

SANCHEZ: Hey, thank you so much for starting your day with us. Kaitlan that was fun, we should do it again sometime, maybe like an hour.

COLLINS: I think I can make that and I'll cancel my plans. We've got "Smerconish" up next before us and I will see you at 10 am Eastern, so don't go anywhere.