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Sources say, White House and Health Officials Discuss Revising Mask Guidance as Pandemic Rages Among the Unvaccinated; Pelosi Says, Investigating January 6 is Deadly Serious, Won't Let GOP Antics Get in the Way of Truth; Olympic Opening Ceremony to "Proceed as Planned" Tomorrow Despite More Athletes Testing Positive for COVID-19; NFL Warns of Forfeits, Fines for Outbreaks Among Unvaccinated. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JEFF ZELENY, CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: But I can tell you the White House is focusing far more of its attention and energy on the unvaccinated, trying to use these rising delta variant cases across the country as a warning call for Americans to get vaccinated. The CDC director today called this is most infectious respiratory virus she's ever seen.



ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, President Biden said health experts are exploring whether any revisions should be made to mask guidance for Americans who have been vaccinated as the delta variant fuels a resurgence of COVID cases among the unvaccinated.

BIDEN: What we are doing is we're going to be investigating every aspect of any change that could or might take place. But the vaccines are good against all of the variants that are out there, including the delta variant.


ZELENY: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said no decisions have been made by the CDC or the administration. To recommend that people who have been vaccinated, take new steps to protect themselves from a rising number of breakthrough cases.

PSAKI: It would be more concerning or should be more concerning to all of you and the American people if we were not having those conversations. So, there are certainly conversations about steps we can and should take.

ZELENY: CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the U.S. is at another pivotal point in the pandemic with the delta variant making up 80 percent of new cases in America.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Whether you are vaccinated or not, please know we together are not out of the woods yet.

ZELENY: To be sure, it is affecting Americans in vastly different ways. Florida, Missouri and Texas account of about 40 percent of the spike in cases as the highly infectious variant rages across areas of the country with low vaccination rates, where people are at greater risk for hospitalization and death.

BIDEN: If you are vaccinated, you are safe.

You're not going to be hospitalized. You're not going to be sick. You're going to be probably have no signs that you had it, and you are not going to die.

ZELENY: But with just under 50 percent of the country vaccinated and vaccine hesitancy showing few signs of easing, the White House is redoubling its efforts to persuade people to get a COVID shot, placing a specific emphasis on rural America.

JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We are announcing that we are sending $100 million to rural health clinics to support vaccine education and outreach efforts in these communities where we are generally seeing low vaccine uptake.

ZELENY: With the delta variant showing no signs of slowing, the White House is at a crossroads, trying to spark new interest in vaccinations without alarming those who have been vaccinated for months.

BIDEN: What I say to people who are worried about a new pandemic is get vaccinated.

ZELENY: While CDC guidance has not changed, Dr. Walensky made clear masking was a personal choice for those who have been vaccinated.

WALENSKY: You should certainly be wearing a mask if you are unvaccinated, and you have the opportunity to make the personal choice to add extra layers of protection if you so choose.


ZELENY (on camera): And President Biden confirming himself just a short time ago that there is a 25-member panel which really includes people from across the government, health experts, looking into whether this guidance should be changed.

But, Jim, even so, the White House again focusing its attention on the unvaccinated. This is not a repeat of what we saw a year ago. Hospitalizations and deaths certainly are not even close to that point. This is very much two pandemics, again, the White House trying to use this as an argument, if you will, to urge people to get the vaccine. Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: That's right. This is preventable. You can prevent this from happening to you by getting the vaccine. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

ZELENY: Sure. ACOSTA: Now, let's bring in Dr. Ashish Jha, he is the Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, and Dr. Peter Hotez, co- Director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, both great experts. We are so happy to have you both on the other.

Dr. Jha, let's start with a couple of maps we want to show folks. It is becoming increasingly clear this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Look at these maps, everybody. The darkest green areas that you see right now especially across the northeast and Midwest of the country have the highest vaccination rates, again, the highest vaccination rates. Now on this second map, the lighter yellow sections show where cases are not rising as much.

Dr. Jha, it appears to be as simple as that. If you are vaccinated, you are less likely to catch COVID and you are obviously less -- far less likely to go to the hospital or get seriously ill. Why can't -- why are people not getting that?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes. So, first of all, thanks for having me back. It is as simple as that. The bottom line is if you are vaccinated, you are much less likely to be infected. And, by the way, if you live in a community of fully vaccinated people, you are much less likely to also get infected because protection is not just for you, it is also for people around you, and we all protect each other.

The reason people are struggling with this is because of the massive amounts of misinformation that is being directed at them through platforms like Facebook and others. Basically, people are bombarded every day with bad information, deliberately created to cause confusion and to prevent them from wanting to get vaccinated.


ACOSTA: And, Dr. Hotez, White House COVID-19 Senior Adviser Jeff Zients is pointing to three states that account for 40 percent of all coronavirus cases nationwide, Florida, Missouri and your state of Texas. Is the effect of low vaccination rates playing out right before your eyes?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: Yes, it will over time. And we have got some counties, especially in East Texas, mostly rural counties along the Louisiana border, where only 20 percent of the population is vaccinated. And get this. Only 50 percent of those over 65 are vaccinated.


HOTEZ: So, what this means is, as delta is accelerating, we know what's going to happen. So, in this case, we're still going to see an uptick in deaths as well.

And this is an unforced error. This is a self-inflicted wound because we can prevent all of those hospitalizations and deaths or at least 98, 99 percent of them if we could encourage vaccination. And it's because of this flood of disinformation.

And, yes, the social media sites are disseminators of it but let's remember the origins. The number one origin right now is anti-science aggression coming from the political right despite efforts to make some repairs in the last couple of days.

It's been day after day from the cable news networks on the far right and elected members of Congress deliberately sending out disinformation, saying vaccines are nothing more than a power mechanism for control and they're not safe and holding roundtables on adverse events.

So this was created by the political extremism on the right that actually brought COVID back to the Southern United States. That is the actual reality.

ACOSTA: And I want to show those maps again, if we can, because I think they're just so critically important. If you look at this map right here that shows the higher vaccination rates, that's in dark green, that's in the northeast, that's in the Midwest, parts of the west as well. And then if you look at the next map, you see that -- look at that light yellow. It is just so obvious in the northeast across the Midwest, folks watching at home, that is where the coronavirus cases are not going up as much. It is as simple as that. If you get a shot, look at these maps, you are not going to get sick as much as people in other parts of the country where they are not getting vaccinated.

Dr. Jha, this other big topic that's come up, the White House its discussing whether to ask vaccinated Americans to put their masks back on. What do you think about that discussion?

JHA: Yes. You know, this is thorny. And part of it is that if you are, let's say, in Vermont, in one of those areas with high vaccination, low infection rates, if you are fully vaccinated it is pretty safe for you to be indoors without a mask. If you are in Southwest Missouri right now, I would not -- I'm fully vaccinated obviously. I would not go into an indoor space without wearing a mask.

So, a lot of this is really local based on how many unvaccinated people are around, with the infection numbers around. But I think it's going to be hard to make national policy when vaccine rollout is so region to region.

ACOSTA: And Dr. Hotez, quick thought on every one of them (ph)?

HOTEZ: Yes, that's right. I think what the CDC could do, which would be very helpful, is shape a force of infection map where delta's high vaccination rates are low, that's where these are high-risk areas. And then you can make informed decisions, even if you are vaccinated about whether to put on a mask.

And, you know, the tragedy is we are two COVID nations. And it's very much along a partisan divide and even a north/south divide. And that's how we have to proceed. ACOSTA: All right. Dr. Ashish Jha, Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you for that sober analysis. We appreciate it. We hope people will get vaccinated and listen to the experts, listen to the science. It is right there in front of us.

All right, just ahead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Republican antics won't stop her from moving forward with the January 6th committee. This as former President Donald Trump is captured on newly released audio, guess what, singing the praises of the insurrectionists, if you can believe that.

You're in The Situation Room.



ACOSTA: Tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is firing back at Republicans who are boycotting the January 6th committee after she gave two election deniers the boot.

Our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles has the latest. Ryan, the committee still plans to hold its first hearing next week possibly with a new Republican member. Tell us about that.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Jim. This is the House speaker attempting to find some partisan balance to this select committee after Kevin McCarthy pulled off of his selections yesterday. A source is saying that she is considering offering some former members of Congress from the Republican Party an adviser role to this committee and that considering seriously adding Adam Kinzinger, a big Trump critic, to the panel as well.


NOBLES (voice-over): Tonight, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving forward, considering asking Republican Adam Kinzinger, among others, to serve on a select committee to investigate the events of January 6th.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It is my responsibility as speaker of the House to make sure we get to the truth on this, and we will not let their antics stand in the way of that.

NOBLES: Pelosi blocked two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's picks arguing they would not take the process seriously. McCarthy responded by pulling all of his selections. Today, McCarthy seething at Pelosi's moves.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We predicted it back at the very beginning. This is a sham committee that just politically driven by Speaker Pelosi.

NOBLES: Along with Kinzinger, Pelosi may also reach out to former GOP members asking them to serve in advisory roles to the group, her office meeting with former Virginia Congressman Denver Riggleman. Embattled Wyoming Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who has already been named to the committee said Kinzinger's inclusion would be welcome.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think Adam would be a tremendous addition. And I would be supportive of it and the speaker is going to make the final determination about that.

NOBLES: The committee's work coming into focus as new audio emerges of a seemingly incoherent Donald Trump defending the rioters on that day in a bizarre rant from late March.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a loving crowd too, by the way. There was a lot of love. I've heard that from everybody. Many, many people have told me. That was a loving crowd. And, you know, it was too bad.

NOBLES: The former president talking to Washington Post Reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig for their new book, doubling down on the big lie, which fueled the violence on January 6th.

TRUMP (voice-over): I happen to believe the election was rigged at a level like nothing has ever been rigged before. There is tremendous proof. There is tremendous proof. Statistically, it wasn't even possible that he won.

NOBLES: Trump's insistence on rewriting the history of that day and his refusal to tell the supporters to back down could be a big focus of the committee. In the audio, Trump complains about his former vice president who some rioters were on the hunt for.

TRUMP (voice-over): I always liked Mike. I was very disappointed. And so were a lot of Republicans, very disappointed. Because had he sent them back, had he been Thomas Jefferson, had he sent them back, which took courage, but not a lot of courage.

NOBLES: Trump's rhetoric a big part of why Democratic members have refused to rollout calling him before the committee to testify.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): If people were not involved in the attack or the insurrection or the plot to overthrow the electoral count process, then they don't have anything to worry about. But, I mean, I would hope that any elected official who knows anything about what took place would step forward to tell us.


NOBLES (on camera): And even though the committee is not yet fully formed, they are still plowing ahead with plans to hold their first hearing next Tuesday. They also announced some key senior staff appointments to aid the committee as they move forward. Jim, at this point, we are still not 100 percent sure who all the questioners will be as those Capitol Police officers and local police officers testify in that public hearing on Tuesday. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you so much.

Let's bring in CNN Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip and former Republican Representative Mia Love, she is a CNN Political Commentator.

Mia, let me start with you first. Hearing the former president say it was a, quote, loving crowd on January 6th, I have to tell you, it makes my brain hurt to listen to this all over again. But do you fear that, as time passes, he's actually emboldening more attacks?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, here is what I believe that the president has done. He believes all of the things that he has said. He's literally convinced himself. He's never apologized to anyone for anything. And the fact that you are hearing that his daughter has to go and try and soothe him and get him involved in what was going on, we need to call what it was, what this January 6th attack what it was.

It was one branch of government attack on another branch of government. We saw the video. It wasn't a loving video. It wasn't a loving crowd. Someone lost their life. The Capitol was destroyed. And you can't convince Americans that what they saw didn't actually happen. I don't know how he can convince himself of this.

ACOSTA: Yes. And, Abby, you heard Trump say statistically it wasn't even possible that Biden won. Again, it's almost mind numbing to listen to. Is that the type of rhetoric that makes people afraid of him inciting more violence, just continuing to spread these lies?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it is totally fantasy land stuff. And, ironically, it is statistically not possible that there would be so much widespread fraud in all of these places that he would have actually won this election. But it is just this kind of upside-down world that he is creating for himself and for his supporters that leads them to continue even to this day to have this fervent belief that the election was stolen.

I mean, frankly, Jim, I think things are worse now than they were even in the lead-up to January 6th. It is more engrained in the psyche of Republican voters, all of this nonsense. And, yes, that is why it is dangerous. It is why the threat of the big lie hasn't really gone away. It's only seeped more into the political psyche.


And so many Republicans in Washington now are a part of an effort to kind of cover this all up and paper it over, and that is the dangerous part. When something like this might happen again, we may be even less prepared because people want to be willfully ignorant to the kind of radicalizing that is happening in the Republican base.

ACOSTA: It's a disgrace, and I don't understand why some of these members are still associating themselves with the former president when he is over the cuckoo's nest like he has been with these kinds of comments. Mia, these Trump comments underscores why Democrats want to get to the bottom of what happened. But by pulling Republican members off of this committee, does it make it less likely that Republicans will believe what the committee comes up with or does Nancy Pelosi really have no choice here?

LOVE: I can tell you right now. I've said this before. When you go into -- when members of Congress go into these hearings, they go in with an idea in their minds already, and they're looking for evidence that supports the ideas that they have. And, unfortunately, January 6th commission should not be a political committee. It should not be anything that is politicized.

It really -- this should be something that both sides, both parties come together and say, hey, something happened here, and we are all responsible to get down to the bottom of this because it wasn't just Democrats, it wasn't just Republicans, there were staff members that were in there, the vice president himself was in that. This was an attack on America, the House, that belongs to the American people.

So this shouldn't be something that is politicized. I actually think it was a mistake not to let people -- not to let the picks go in that McCarthy had in order to have at least both sides hear something out. But I have to tell you, I don't think anybody was going into this with a -- with an open mind, and that's unfortunate.

ACOSTA: It's so unfortunate we can't have a bipartisan commission, like a 9/11-style commission. That would have solved all of this to a large extent.

All right, Mia Love, Abby Phillip, thank you so much. We appreciate your time, great insights there.

And why won't President Biden get behind efforts to eliminate the Senate filibusters so something can be done about states attacking voting rights? That's next.



ACOSTA: During last night's CNN town hall, President Biden spoke passionately about his opposition to new voting restrictions being enacted by states across the country. However, he would not commit himself to eliminating the Senate filibuster, which Republicans are using to block any effort to strengthen federal oversight of state voting laws. Listen to this exchange between the president and the town hall's moderator, our very own Don Lemon.


BIDEN: Never before has there been an attempt by state legislatures to take over the ability to determine who won, not count the votes, determine who won.

That's never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been tried before. This is Jim Crow on steroids.

I don't want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster or exceptions to the filibuster or going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: But isn't that the only way we're going to get it done right now?

BIDEN: No, I don't believe that. I think we get it done.

LEMON: If you agree with the former president, he is called -- as you call him, your old boss, that it is a relic of Jim Crow.

BIDEN: It is.

LEMON: If it is a relic of Jim Crow, it's been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically. Why protect it?

BIDEN: There's no reason to protect it other than you're going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done.

LEMON: All right.

BIDEN: Nothing at all will get done. And there is a lot at stake.


ACOSTA: Joining us now with those great questions, Don Lemon, along with the National Urban league CEO and President Marc Morial.

Don, let me ask you -- that was a great exchange. You pushed the president on the fact that it is going to be very hard to make progress on voting right if the filibuster remains intact. And yet, as the old veteran of the Senate, he's not budging, is he?

LEMON: No, he's not budging. It's going to be, quite frankly, tough for him to get almost anything through as long as the filibuster is intact. Listen, I think that he has a point, that he should strive for bipartisanship in some regions, in some areas, but when it comes to voting rights, a fundamental right, which decides how people -- the agency people have, the direction of people's lives in this country, the right that my ancestors fought and died for, I think that he should rethink, quite frankly, and I think many around the country feel that he should rethink his stance on the filibuster. At least there should be some sort of carve-out.

It is not -- this has been used to fight civil rights legislation since even before it was a filibuster. It was 1840, before it was called a filibuster, Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina used it to preserve slavery. 1922, anti-lynching bill was defeated by the filibuster. Southern Democrats did it. 1957, Strom Thurmond (INAUDIBLE) to filibuster with the civil rights acts, and on and on and on, the filibuster has been used to block civil rights legislation. It is time for that to stop. That's it.

ACOSTA: And it's been abused. I mean, it's been abused in recent years to just stop anything from happening. And, Mark, the filibuster has been used from decades, as Don said, to block civil rights legislation. Does it look like to you that that is going to continue to be the case, or do you think the president, at some point, will look at the situation and say, okay, we tried it, something has got to change?


MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT & CEO, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Look, Jim and Don, let's keep in mind that within the last decade, the filibuster has been reformed once by Harry Reid to allow confirmation of lower court judges as well as to allow for the confirmation of presidential appointees to the cabinet and sub cabinet and then Mitch McConnell reformed the filibuster to allow for the confirmation of three Supreme Court justices. Let's -- two Supreme Court justices.

Let's understand fundamentally -- maybe three -- that the filibuster has been reformed and there was not chaos and confusion, and things did not fall apart. I do not believe that we heard the last of this. Our position is that we have to fix and stop and thwart this pandemic and tsunami of new Jim Crow, I call it Jimmy Crow legislation, all across the nation, which would strip away the fundamentals of democracy. And whether it can be done on a bipartisan basis, so be it. If it requires reforming the filibuster, so be it.

And so, I think we are going to continue to push to ensure that by whatever means necessary, peacefully, that the changes in the law at the federal level -- Congress can stop this. They can stop it in its tracks by regulating time, place and manner of elections as well as reinstating, through the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, those provisions that the Supreme Court eliminated or weakened.

So, let's not think that this filibuster is some sort of commandment, constitutional principle handed down by the founding fathers. There are multiple exceptions, and it has been reformed to suit. It was once thought that you could never touch it when it came to Supreme Court nominations and confirmations.

ACOSTA: Yes. The Senate makes its own rules.


ACOSTA: That's how it works.

LEMON: And Jim --

ACOSTA: Go ahead, Don.

LEMON: Jim Acosta, listen, the two of the biggest applause signs that came last night is when he talked about the filibuster, reforming the filibuster and getting rid of it for voting rights and also bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship. The audience, the American people --

ACOSTA: The build that bridge. LEMON: Yes, the build that bridge. The American people are where Marc Morial just spoke about, there were -- what I believe on the filibuster. Sure, I'm sure the filibuster should be used for some things. But when it comes to the fundamental right of voting, that should be a right for everyone, everyone should have equal access, ease, ease, it should be easy for everyone to vote, not harder, biggest applause signs, the American people, that's where they are. They believe that.

So, I do believe Marc is right. I think that the president may have to rethink it, and the folks in the Congress and the Senate, they may have to rethink that as well.

ACOSTA: Quick final thought, Marc?

MORIAL: Well, we are going to continue to activate, energize, educate. Already, there are 30 bills in 18 states that have been passed and there are another 380 bills in 47 states that have been proposed.

This is a tsunami. This is, quote, we are mad because we lost the election, so now we're going to manipulate the process in order to make it more difficult for black people, brown people, poor people, disabled Americans, young Americans to be able to exercise the right to vote.

So, this is a battle, which is just really truly beginning. And in the end, by whatever means, peacefully, I'm going to underscore, it requires, we're going to protect democracy and the right to vote.

ACOSTA: All right, Marc Morial --

LEMON: And there may not -- if people had belief -- I know you have to go, Jim.

ACOSTA: That's okay.

LEMON: But if people had the same sort of feeling about the filibuster a long time ago, we would not have had the 14th and 15th Amendments for citizenship and equal rights.

MORIAL: Or the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act which President Johnson broke the filibuster on two occasions to get those passed, and so more to come.

ACOSTA: It going to require presidential leadership, I think, it's going to take, and that's why everybody is looking to President Biden. Marc Morial, Don Lemon, thank you so much. Great discussion, we'll do it again soon.

Be sure to tune in at 10:00 P.M. Eastern tonight for Don Lemon Tonight. How does he have time to continue hosting a show after last night's performance? It was a great job by Don.

Just ahead, were learning details about the powerful testimony expected next week by a Capitol Police officer about the horrors he witnessed on January 6th. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ACOSTA: This hour, we have new information about a Capitol Police officer's expected testimony before the January 6th committee next week.

Our Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, new details about the testimony that an officer who served on January 6th will deliver when he appears before Congress next week.

Mark Zaid is the attorney for U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell. Here is what Zaid told us Gonell will say to the house select committee investigating the January 6th attack.

MARK ZAID, ATTORNEY FOR OFFICER HARRY DUNN AND SERGEANT AQUILINO GONELL: You know, Sergeant Gonell actually served in Iraq with the U.S. Army, and he will describe what he encountered on January 6th as worse than anything he's ever encountered in his time in Iraq, in a war zone.

TODD: It comes as some officers who risked their lives that day suffered verbal attacks. On his show, Fox News Host Tucker Carlson leveling this broadside at U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who was targeted with racial epithets on January 6th.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Dunn is an angry left-wing political activist whose social media feeds were full of praise, not coincidentally, for Nancy Pelosi.

TODD: Attorney Mark Zaid, who also represents Dunn, responded with a statement saying, Carlson has not served a day in uniform, that the last thing Carlson wants is for the truth to emerge of what happened that day and why.


ZAID: For him to attack him was just too much. We find it, frankly, completely unacceptable.

TODD: Dunn had previously spoken of his experiences on January 6th with CNN's Don Lemon.

HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE OFFICER: We fought against not just people that were -- that hated what we represented but they hated our skin color also.

TODD: In addition, Dunn and Ganell, D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges, who was crushed in this horrific scene, will testify before the house, as will D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone, who was dragged downstairs and almost killed by a mob on January 6th. MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. POLICE OFFICER: I suffered a traumatic brain injury as well as a heart attack after having been tased numerous times at the base of my skull as well as being severely beaten.

TODD: Fanone said, he has also suffered from PTSD. Mark Zaid says his clients are still attacked on social media.

ZAID: A number of messages through platforms that are racist in nature, are hateful, they're more of what you expect from individuals who have no lives of their own and, you know, tweet out messages from their mother's basements attacking loyal law enforcement officers.

TODD: And former Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer told us what other officers who served on January 6th have faced.

TERRANCE GAINER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I have talked to some of the other officers who have received threats, and I know the police department is investigating some of those threats.


TODD (on camera): I asked the attorney, Mark Zaid, if Officer Dunn and the Sergeant Gonell plan to continue serving with the Capitol police. He says Sergeant Gonell is on restricted duty because of physical injuries he suffered on January 6th, and he will need surgery. But he says, absolutely, both of them plan to continue serving. He says Officer Dunn is in fact on patrol right now. Jim?

ACOSTA: CNN's Brian Todd, thanks for that great report.

And now let's bring in a Representative Pramila Jayapal, she's a Democrat from Washington State. She's also a member of the Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

First, your reaction to that report from Brian Todd just a few moments ago, how disturbing is it to see this attempt to undermine Capitol Police officers in light of everything that they have gone through since January 6th? Just unbelievable.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): It is really unbelievable. It is painful. It is dangerous and it is -- really, I don't know what words to use when I hear people attacking the officers who defended us on January 6th in the worst attack on the United States Capitol since the war of 1812. I find that stunning. And yet at the same time, Jim, this is what the Republicans have been doing. They don't want the truth to come out. They want to hide the facts. And they don't want an investigation because they know exactly what did happen, and they don't -- they don't want the American people to know.

ACOSTA: Yes. What happened to back the blue? I thought they backed the blue. I also want to ask you about the rising COVID surge. You unfortunately contracted COVID in the aftermath of the January 6th attack when you were hiding in a secure room with Republicans who refused to wear masks. So what goes through your mind hearing that nearly half of your Republican House colleagues still won't say publically whether they have been vaccinated? And I am curious. It is a question of mine. Do some of them privately tell you that they have been vaccinated even though they won't acknowledge that publicly?

JAYAPAL: No, none of them have told me privately that they have been vaccinated. And it is a travesty because I actually think, Jim, that maybe some of them have been and they're lying to their constituents and not telling their constituents so that they can save lives.

I had COVID. I also went to India, where my parents live, and my parents both got COVID during the surge in India at the beginning of the delta surge. And I have to tell you. The tragedy of making public health a political issue is stunning to me because people are dying. They will continue to die.

And you're right. I was trapped in the gallery that day. And it is very painful to watch the scenes over and over again, but the thing that is most painful is to hear the denials that that happened, to hear the denials that January 6th happened, to hear the denials that COVID is threading even right now, and that people are not getting vaccinated because Republicans are refusing to say that they got vaccinated or to push their constituents to be vaccinated. I don't think you should be able to represent a constituency if you are not willing to tell the truth.

ACOSTA: So much denialism going on. COVID denialism, January 6th denialism, it is very frustrating. All right, Representative Pramila Jayapal thank you so much for your time tonight.


We appreciate it very much.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right.

And coming up, the Olympics at last. But will the games turn into a coronavirus disaster? Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us live from Japan.


ACOSTA: The long-awaited opening ceremonies for Olympic Games are only hours away. But instead of relief after a delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, there are huge doubts about safety because the pandemic hasn't gone away.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Tokyo.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was never going to be easy.


The Olympic Games in the middle of a pandemic, in a city now in a state of emergency. The usual fanfare, muted, making way for concerns over COVID-19.

While it's true that no country in the world was really prepared for this pandemic, Japan fared better than most. They're an island nation. It wasn't hard to get people to isolate. People wore masks without much difficulty.

And they also have hundreds of these, Hokinjos (ph). Think of them like hundreds of CDCs all over the country.

I spoke with the director of one of these Hokinjos, Dr. Itaru Nishizuka.

DR. ITARU NISHIZUKA, DIRECTOR, SUMIDA HEALTH CENTER (through translator): We have been preparing for seven years to prevent risks for the Tokyo Olympics.

GUPTA: According to a poll, about 80 percent of residents here in Japan did not want the Olympics to happen here at this time. What about you? What do you think?

NISHIZUKA: In 1964, the last Tokyo Olympics, because Japan lost the war, the games worked as an opportunity for us to come back. In this Olympics, we have Fukushima.

GUPTA: He's talking about the nuclear disaster triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake that claimed nearly 20,000 lives.

But coronavirus has been a different type of disaster, putting constant pressure on Japan to battle rising infections, and to get vaccines into arms as fast as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The coronavirus cases may rise or fall. So we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.

GUPTA: Cancelling the Olympics at this point seems inconceivable. But there is one thing Dr. Nishizuka does worry about.

NISHIZUKA: I think Japan can be rated as "C" for its measure against COVID-19.

GUPTA: He says while there are 400 ICU beds in Tokyo, only half are available for COVID-19 patient. That, combined with the rising number of cases and hospitalizations, doesn't leave a lot of room for a surge in a city of 14 million.

Is there any criteria by which you would start to become concern?

DR. BRIAN MCCLOSKEY, COVID-19 ADVISER TO THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: Sure. Mostly what we look at is changes in patterns. Say if we started to see infection in people who weren't part of a close contact group, if we started to see a rising number of cases, if we started to see the cases doubling more rapidly than we thought, and particularly if we started to see cases appearing in the local population that seemed to be linked back into the village or vice versa. GUPTA: So far, that hasn't happened.

But for the head of the World Health Organization, the Olympics is a balance -- the physical health of a nation versus the mental health of the world.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: May the message of hope resound, resound from Tokyo, around the world, in every nation, every village, and every heart.


GUPTA (on camera): Friday morning here, Jim, which means the opening ceremonies are tonight. I hope they look great on television.

In person, they're going to be quiet. It's going to be eerie almost. I'll give you a full report on it tomorrow, Jim. Many athletes, I'll tell you, are opting out because of these COVID concerns. So, everything has been affected by COVID here, Jim.

ACOSTA: And we hope they stay safe.

All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, great to see you in Tokyo. Thank you so much.

And coming up next, the NFL announces new penalties for teams with coronavirus outbreaks. And they're a lot tougher than a yellow flag at 15 yards.



ACOSTA: The NFL just announced tough new penalties for coronavirus outbreaks. A league memo obtained by CNN threatened if a COVID-19 outbreak among a team's unvaccinated players or staff forces a game to be postponed, and it can't be rescheduled, that team forfeits and players for both teams won't be paid. You heard that right.

Joining us now is Dr. Myron Rolle. He's a former NFL player.

Dr. Rolle, the NFL's getting tough on this. What do you make of these new penalties the NFL plans to impose?

DR. MYRON ROLLE, NEUROSURGERY RESIDENT AT HARVARD, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Well, thank you for having me, Jim, coming to you from Lusaka, Zambia, doing pediatric brain surgery.

But I've been following along with the NFL and vaccines and some of the regulations they put down. I think it's a good move, I really do. I've been fortunate to talk to a few teams, the Colts, the Rams, the Titans, talking to the Chargers next week about the vaccine being a black man, being a former NFL player, being physician who's cared COVID patients, and I've operated on COVID positive patients.

I remember in our operating room, when a patient was positive and all of us weren't vaccinated in that operating room, how tense and how much angst was involved in that case.

Fast forward a few months later and we're all vaccinated, and we were all able to work through that COVID-19 patient positive seamlessly. So, I tell these NFL players, remove the distraction of thinking that you may get infected, you may infect your family, you may cost your team to forfeit a game and focus on what makes you a great athlete, a great player. That's why putting the main thing, the main thing being an outstanding football player by getting vaccinated because it's safe and it's effective.

ACOSTA: And very quickly, how effective do you think this will be in getting fan's attention? There's fans that might refuse to get vaccinated if they see their team lose a game because of this.

ROLLE: Well, we all want to get back to a state of normalcy, right? So, I think that fans, players, everyone around the NFL community, will galvanize around say if we want to get to a pre-pandemic state and get back to what we love, which is a game of football, we'll get vaccinated, lean into the science, and we'll support our team going forward. That's what we all want right now. It's just to move into a place where we can enjoy the things we love. And football is certainly one of those things.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And, Dr. Myron Rolle, thank you so much for that. We hope everybody gets vaccinated and stay safe. And thanks for the work you're doing over there in Zambia. Wonderful to talk to you tonight. Thanks so much.

And "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now. Have a good night.