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The Situation Room
A.L. Gov.: "It's Time To Start Blaming The Unvaccinated"; L.A. County Health Director: About 20 Percent Of New COVID-19 Cases In June Among Fully Vaccinated; Sources: W.H. & Health Officials Discuss Revising Mask Guidance As Delta Variant Rages Among Unvaccinated; Trump Ally Tom Barrack Strikes $250 Million Bail Deal With Prosecutors After They Called Him A "Serious Flight Risk"; Judge Orders Barrack To Wear Location Monitoring Bracelet, Restricts His Travel To Parts Of CA & N.Y.; Olympics Opening Ceremony Kicks Off Games After Tokyo Sees Highest Daily Case Count In 6 Months. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 23, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Tune in Sunday for "State of the Union," Jake Tapper will talk to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Republican Senator Pat Toomey, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown. That's 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern.
You can also catch me every Saturday and Sunday starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Our coverage on CNN continues now.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now, a growing sense of alarm at the White House as the Delta variant preys on unvaccinated Americans and sets back progress against the pandemic.
Also, tonight, the Olympic Games are on and fans are out. We'll have a live report from Tokyo on the opening ceremony under the cloud of a COVID emergency.
And Trump ally and billionaire Tom Barrett strikes a $250 million bail deal that allows him to get out of jail despite being deemed a serious flight risk.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. And you're in the Situation Room.
And let's begin our coverage with more on the alarming rise and COVID cases in the Biden administration's renewed push to get Americans vaccinated. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us with details.
Kaitlan, the President and his team are increasingly concerned by the surging pandemic.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, they're becoming incredibly concerned about this because they are sitting back and watching as this highly contagious Delta variant is fueling these new outbreaks in the United States among the unvaccinated with over half of the country still unvaccinated.
And right now we just got new data from the CDC that shows today was one of the lowest vaccination points since January, when of course that vaccination campaign just got kicked off. And what we are hearing not just here at the White House, but from leaders nationwide is they're growing very concerned about what's to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
COLLINS (voice-over): A new sense of urgency in the White House tonight as the U.S. enters a troubling phase of the pandemic with officials nationwide voicing concern.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We understand the frustration of leaders out there and public voices who are trying to say the right thing. Save people in their communities.
COLLINS (voice-over): More than half the nation remains unvaccinated allowing the highly contagious Delta variant to spread like wildfire.
PSAKI: We're the first to say and we have long said that that's not enough. We need to ensure more people and more communities are vaccinated.
COLLINS (voice-over): President Biden and his top aides are worried the gains they've made are being erased while issuing blunt warnings from the White House podium to the millions who remain unvaccinated.
PSAKI: Other communities where there's 40 percent, 50 percent or otherwise, that's not just a health issue, it's a huge health issue. It's an economic issue.
COLLINS (voice-over): New cases, hospitalizations and deaths are a fraction of what they were before vaccinations. But the numbers are still rising quickly. The U.S. is now averaging 43,000 new cases per day, a 65 percent increase over the last week with cases topping 40,000 for the first time since May and 250 new deaths each day almost entirely among the unvaccinated.
Officials say the current surge from Delta could have been avoided with one health official telling CNN, "We are seeing the consequences of what we've been warning about. It's serious and it's spreading faster than was anticipated."
Booster shots aren't currently recommended by the FDA, but the U.S. government has now purchased an additional 200 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine, just in case.
PSAKI: Here's the bottom line. We've always prepared for every scenario. We don't know if we'll need a booster shot.
COLLINS (voice-over): Republican governors are now outright pleading with their residents to get the shot.
GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): You've got to get vaccinated now. And so, all I would say is this delta thing is coming. GOV. MARK PARSON (R-MO): Unvaccinated Missourians are the primary target of this new COVID-19 strain.
COLLINS (voice-over): Alabama, one of the hardest hit and now the least vaccinated state in the U.S. Only 33.9 percent of residents are fully vaccinated as cases are double what they were a week ago. Alabama's Republican governor says she knows who to blame.
GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): The new cases and COVID of accounts of unvaccinated folks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it going to take to get people to get shots in Arkansas (ph)?
IVEY: I don't know. You tell me. Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COLLINS: Jim, we have not heard words like that from the Alabama governor, my home state, I don't think during this pandemic. And it does show the alarm that some of these leaders, a lot of them Republicans, are feeling in their home states.
But today, the White House Press Secretary was asked about this approach of blaming unvaccinated people outright for what we are seeing happening in the United States with this Delta variant. Jen Psaki said they are not here to place blame. They're just trying to get out accurate info about the vaccines.
ACOSTA: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.
With that, let's get a report from Florida which is leading the nation in New COVID cases. CNN's Leyla Santiago is joining us from Miami with more.
Leyla, what are you seeing there?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're at the CBS where a lot of folks have been coming in just for the first time sometimes for that second shot. They come right in here and this is where they set for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Now, the store manager tells me that they have been quite busy over the last few weeks. Of course, Florida, as you mentioned, Jim, leading the nation when it comes to new COVID cases, the vaccination rate still stands at about 48 percent.
And for the second week in a row, one in five cases according to the White House coming from Florida. So, we asked people coming in today why now? Why did they decide to come in for the vaccine? Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm getting vaccinated because of the dust and the COVID cases have risen a lot lately. So, there has been really worried and schools about to start.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANTIAGO: And the governor of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, says there is no chance that he is going to be considering a lockdown in the future or any sort of math mandate. But I got to tell you, I've spent the week talking to doctors, nurses, even a patient in our hospital bed begging people to get vaccinated and asking the government to double down on vaccinations, quit with the misinformation on social media and do more to help a health system that one epidemiologist said we'll break down soon in Florida if things don't change.
ACOSTA: Yes, and it's so easy to get vaccinated. You can just go to your local drugstore like where you're at right now Leyla Santiago, it is so easy to do. People can just go out right now. If you've not been vaccinated, go out right now and please get that done for everybody's sake.
All right, Leyla Santiago, thanks so much.
Let's bring in the former CDC director of -- in the United States, Dr. Tom Frieden, for more analysis on all of this.
Dr. Frieden, I want to start with your reaction to what we just heard from the Alabama governor, Kay Ivey, who sounded very desperate there and says it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down. That is what the governor of Alabama just said a few moments ago. Is that the message officials should be sending right now. What do you think?
DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: Blame is a really tough word. And really what we're talking about here is we need to protect people. We need to protect especially the unvaccinated.
The vaccines prevent the spread of Delta and they prevent death. They also prevent long haul COVID. The best way not to get long COVID is not to get COVID in the first place. And the best way not to get COVID in the first place is to get vaccinated.
But ramping up vaccination means listening to people, understanding their concerns and addressing their concerns. I am somewhat encouraged that we seem to be seeing an increase in COVID vaccination rates over the past weeks, especially in places having a lot of the resurgence with Delta. Unfortunately, it takes -- there's two doses of the mRNA vaccines plus a couple of weeks to get immune. So the sooner people get vaccinated, the better. And you do need that second dose because Delta does overwhelm a single dose only of the mRNA vaccines.
ACOSTA: That's right, the time to go out is right now because it's going to take time for that full vaccination effect to kick in. One of the big remaining questions about the coronavirus right now is whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus to others. We're hearing this question all the time. With that uncertainty looming, how do we best protect ourselves and our loved ones do you think?
FRIEDEN: No vaccine is 100 percent. These vaccines are astonishingly effective, but they're not perfect. That means with 162 million fully vaccinated people, we're going to see some breakthrough cases. And tragically, some of those will be severe, some may even result in death and some of those may result in the spread of COVID.
That doesn't change the reality, the bottom line. The plain truth is that getting vaccinated is your best way to avoid serious illness and death and your best way to reduce the risk that you'll spread the infection to others who could themselves get seriously ill or die from it.
ACOSTA: And Dr. Frieden, health officials in Los Angeles say about 20 percent of the approximately 4,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in June were among fully vaccinated people. But the CDC is no longer tracking mild breakthrough infections. What do you think about that? Is that problematic?
FRIEDEN: I think we need to learn more in very special studies where everyone is followed so we learn more about all breakthrough infections. And then, we need to study intensively all serious breakthrough infections. Because ultimately, we want to prevent people from getting seriously ill or dying. That's the kind of universal monitoring that we need to be doing.
It does raise the issue of, if you're vaccinated, what can you do? What can't you do? Should you still be worried? Should you wear a mask?
And I think that requires a certain degree of nuance to understand who you are, what you're doing, and where you are. If you're immunosuppressed or living with someone who's immunosuppressed, you need to have extra layers of protection. If you're in an area with explosive spread or increasing spread of the Delta variant, you want to be more careful.
And if you're going to a gym where people are shouting and exercising in a poorly ventilated room, everyone needs to be more careful. So, it's not a question of yes or no, it's a question of degree. And ultimately, we want to make sure that we reduce the spread of Delta, reduce deaths, make sure that we can get our kids back to school learning in the fall. And that means taking action right now, because what we do now will determine what happens in the next month or two.
Get vaccinated. And for people in high risk places, we need to take extra layers of protection to damp down that spread so we can get back our kids to school, going to work and getting back to the lower levels that we were at before. But it's going to take some time. ACOSTA: And Dr. Frieden, I want to show a couple of maps that we've been showing our viewers. It shows the concentration of fully vaccinated people, there you see right there the Northeast, the Midwest of the United States, that's in the dark green, that's where you see a lot of people who have been fully vaccinated here in the United States, those lighter areas are in the south, and West and so on.
And then, we want to show the other map which shows the concentration of these surging COVID cases. They tend to be in areas, look at that right there, in areas where there are lower vaccination rates. And look at all of that bright yellow, that light yellow, I should say, at the top of the screen, in the northeast, the Midwest and out West, where you're just not seeing those COVID cases spiking. That's because people there are largely more vaccinated than other places in the U.S.
As you know, Dr. Frieden, cities like St. Louis and Philadelphia, they're now taking steps to either require or strongly recommend people wearing masks in public. Should the CDC be considering a stronger masking recommendations too? And what do you make of those maps we were just showing our viewers? This correlation between these high vaccination rates and lower spikes, smaller spikes in these COVID cases?
FRIEDEN: Well, Jim, as you point out, there's no doubt about it, vaccines are working. Despite rare breakthrough cases, places with higher vaccination rates are having much lower increases, places with low vaccination rates are having rapid spread of COVID. That's why it's so important that as many people get vaccinated as soon as possible to reduce the spread of Delta, to reduce the risk of death and to enable us to get to the new normal.
In terms of masking, things have changed. Delta variant now we have four times as many cases as we did at the low point. In terms of deaths, we're still having two or 300 deaths today. We've, I'm afraid, gotten hardened to that.
If that continues for a year that will be 100,000 deaths in the next 12 months. That's more people than die from diabetes with a horrific opiate epidemic that we've had. So, we need to do better.
And one of the things we need to look at is masks. If you're immunosuppressed or living with someone immunosuppressed, if you're in an area with explosive spread of Delta, if you're doing something indoors with a lot of other people, wearing a mask is a sensible thing to do.
ACOSTA: And please show respect to those folks who want to continue to wear those masks, if it makes them feel protected and safe, go right ahead and do it and please be respectful to that.
All right, Dr. Tom Frieden, thank you so much for all those great insights.
FRIEDEN: Thank you. ACOSTA: And coming up with the January 6 committee ready to begin its work early next week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is running out of time to fill out the panel with Republican appointments. We'll have a preview right after the break.
ACOSTA: With the January 6 committee set to convene in just a matter of days, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is looking to bolster the panel's bipartisan credentials. Let's get a preview from our Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, up on Capitol Hill.
Manu, time is running out for firming up who's on the committee. I suppose we'll hear something soon.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the expectation have been that Pelosi would name Adam Kinzinger, the Republican from Illinois to this committee potentially by the end of this week or potentially over the weekend, that has not happened yet. And Pelosi, as usual, keeping her cards close to the vest. But the expectation from her members is that she will go that way.
The chairman of the select committee, Bennie Thompson, told me yesterday that he would support moving forward adding Adam Kinzinger in addition to Republican Liz Cheney, who already is one of the eight members whom Pelosi has selected to the panel over the objections of the Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, who pulled all five of his selections from that after Pelosi vetoed two of his picks whom she believed would have undercut the integrity of the investigation.
But nevertheless, they are plowing ahead. They have already hired some key staff and they're plotting the roadmap, starting with a hearing on Tuesday, which for Capitol in D.C. Metro Police will testify about their experiences in defending the Capitol on that day on January 6. Several of them have already spoken out. We'll hear them now under oath before Congress.
And then, from there begins the investigation. The roadmap will be laid out by the committee to look at everything that happened that day, not just what Donald Trump did, and rallying his supporters, but everything around it, the intelligence failures, the breakdown in the Capitol. This is going to be a thorough and deep investigation that could take some time. Subpoenas will likely be issued.
And ultimately this could spill into next year, in election year where Congress is at stake. And Jim, that was one of the big concerns of the Republicans going into all of this concern that this could overshadow their election year message. One reason why they fought this investigation for months. Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. We'll be watching. Manu Raju, thanks so much.
And the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, is joining us now.
Congressman, thanks so much, again, for being with us.
As Manu was saying, all eyes will be on this first select committee hearing on Tuesday. What do you hope that these four officers can share with people who continue to downplay or deny what happened on January 6? I have a feeling that this testimony from these officers is going to be just critical.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: It will be critical, and it will be powerful. And it will be part of a continuing effort to uncover the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in the context of what happened on January 6, which was a violent insurrection and attack on the Capitol, the Congress, the Constitution and the country.
Those officers who are going to testify on Tuesday were on the front lines of defending our democracy. They were battered, they were bruised, they were beaten by thugs, but they held the line. And it's going to be very important to allow them to tell their story in their own way. And I expect that it's going to be a powerful moment for the nation.
ACOSTA: And it sounds like committee members would welcome seeing Congressman Adam Kinzinger being selected by the House Speaker.
What is your sense of that? Do you feel that way? And when do you think we'll hear from the House Speaker? Do you think it's a matter of perhaps later on this evening or over the weekend? Are you getting any sense as to when we might get that information?
JEFFRIES: Far be it from me to get out ahead of our exceptional speaker, Nancy Pelosi. I think she's handled the select committee and the investigation and the effort to put together a bipartisan commission, which of course, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy refused to do. He just couldn't take yes for an answer, even though we effectively allowed for a negotiation to take place with the lead Republican of the Homeland Security Committee, John Katko, and came to a bipartisan agreement, which the Republicans then rejected.
Because basically, Jim, they're not interested in allowing the truth to be presented to the American people. The House Republicans have become the cover of caucus.
Certainly, Liz Cheney has taken a different approach. She's not putting forth the big lie. She's going to defend the rule of law. That's what the Democratic members of the select committee are going to do. And we'll see what happens over the next few days in terms of Pelosi decides to make any additional appointment.
ACOSTA: But just very quickly, and I want to get to something else very important on voting rights. But just very quickly, do you think that there will be another Republican member added to the panel? Is that your understanding?
JEFFRIES: I'm not -- yes, I'm not sure. I haven't been part of those discussions. I know those conversations are taking place led by the Speaker, the Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, as well as the other members of the committee.
ACOSTA: And I do want to ask you about the assault on voting rights in the U.S. President Biden this week reiterated his support for the filibuster, I'm sure you heard that during our CNN Town Hall. How can he call this the fight of his presidency when he won't budge on the filibuster?
JEFFRIES: Well, in my conversations with President Biden about a whole host of issues, he's respecting the fact that the House and the Senate are separate and co-equal branches of government in terms of the legislative branch. And so, you know, it's my expectation that he's going to let the House and the Senate work their will, perhaps weigh in at an appropriate moment.
I respect the fact that the President has concluded that now is not the appropriate moment. But what is clear, and President Biden has illustrated this, that something has to be done to push back against the voter suppression epidemic that has taken place all across the country.
Instead of Republicans reacting to the violent insurrection which threaten our democracy, by leaning into our democracy, they were running away from our democracy and trying to prevent people from being able to vote. That's unacceptable. That shouldn't be a partisan issue. It's an American issue.
And I'm confident at the end of the day that we're going to find a way to get the John Robert Lewis Voting Rights Act passed, as well as H.R. 1/S/1, the For the People Act, in some form passed in the Senate and to President Biden's desk to be signed into law.
ACOSTA: They can't be passed with the filibuster in the way, isn't that right?
JEFFRIES: I'm of the view that you have at least two exceptions right now to the filibuster. One, the reconciliation exception, which Republican used in 2017 to pass the GOP tax scam, where 83 percent of the benefits went to the wealthiest, 1 percent over the period of time that that legislation will take effect.
And, of course, you have the Supreme Court Justice exception to the filibuster, which Mitch McConnell use not once but twice to steal Supreme Court justices from two Democratic presidents. So, I think it seems to me reasonable, Jim, that there could be a voting rights or democracy exception to the filibuster.
ACOSTA: All right, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it as always.
Coming up --
JEFFRIES: Thank you. ACOSTA: Thank you.
And coming up, a closer Trump ally arrested on charges of illegal lobbying is getting out of jail but it will cost a ton of bail money. Details, next.
ACOSTA: We're following new developments in the federal case against Donald Trump's ally, Tom Barrack, who was arrested this week on charges of illegal lobbying. Let's go to CNN's Evan Perez. Barrack is getting out of bail, even though prosecutors called him a serious flight risk. I guess it's good to be a billionaire.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's good to be a billionaire. And look, I mean, this is a guy who probably hasn't flown on a commercial airliner in many, many, many years. A friend of his told me, he probably hasn't stayed in anything but a four seasons in years. And he's been spending time at the federal lockup in Los Angeles, because the federal government said that he was a flight risk.
And so today, the government and his lawyers have struck a deal whereby he's going to get out for $250 million in bond, $5 million paid in cash. He's got a bunch of restrictions on where he can go, his travel, because he has to be in court in Brooklyn, which is where he's facing these charges. And they're serious charges. These charges that he was acting doing foreign lobbying on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, that he lied to the FBI, committed obstruction, he and another associate are both out -- or rather be -- they're expected to be out. I think he was still going through the paperwork at the courthouse.
ACOSTA: And as you know, I've been CNN reporter, I believe you reported that prosecutors had enough evidence to charge Barrack last year. I understand members of Congress are now calling for an investigation into this. Where's that at it?
PEREZ: Yes, there's a letter from Ted Lieu and a couple of members of Congress who are asking the Justice Inspector General to investigate because they want to know whether there was any political influence that was used to prevent these charges from being brought last year. We reported that the then U.S. Attorney Rich Donna (ph), who didn't like the case, the lawyers ended up bringing the case now, just now. And we knew that Bill Barr, the Attorney General at the time, just didn't like these cases under the foreign lobbying laws, and he didn't think they're very much of the law itself.
So, we don't know exactly what the motivations were. But the members of Congress are asking for an investigation to determine whether there was any politics involved.
ACOSTA: I'm sure they are for good reason.
PEREZ: Right. I mean, there's connections, right? I mean --
PEREZ: -- Tom Barrack and Donald Trump go back decades. So --
ACOSTA: Yes. They need to get to the bottom of that. All right, Evan Perez, thank you very much for that.
Let's get the insights of Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson. Joey, a $250 million bail deal, I mean, I'm trying to figure out is this the biggest bail posting of all time it's got to be up there?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. It's up there, Jim. I think putting it in context, though, we have to remember that this is a person whose company earned $1.5 billion with a B, in the last three years, of course, as it related to his work on behalf of, I gather the United Arab Emirates, and all of his associates there. And so that's significant. And so I think what the prosecutors did is they evaluated and said, listen, he is a flight risk, you have a private jet, you have a number of connections within the region, you have Lebanese citizenship, there's a number of ways you can go.
But let's remember that if you don't enter into that deal, you can have a hearing where in a judge could make the determination that there is no condition or combination of conditions, Jim, by which you could be unsure to return to court. And so I think, you know, in this case, you have to hit them where it hurts. That's $5 million in cash, we should hasten to add with the $250 million. And so I gather, prosecutors felt that that was appropriate enough to at least get him to return to court. And I think that's what the deal was predicated upon, Jim.
ACOSTA: And Barrack has to surrender his passport. And we'll have a GPS monitor. Prosecutors were clearly worried about the flight risk here. But I got to wonder if you can buy yourself out of jail and post that kind of bail, could you buy yourself out of the country?
JACKSON: No, you really could. And so, generally speaking, when there's -- so there's a couple of concerns, right, the first thing that prosecutors look for is, a, are you a danger to the community? If there's not any charges were in or any prior history you have that would demonstrate that you represent such a danger to the community, then they pivot to the second point. And that point is whether or not you could be assured to return to court.
Now, generally speaking, we should note that when you have instances where someone's indicted, you negotiate and you negotiate with prosecutors for what's called a bail package. And that bail package if it's accepted by prosecutors and accepted by the defense is entered into. Here when you have someone of such heightened wealth, the concern that I would have certainly as a prosecutor is what you just raised, right, and that is that can't you and don't you have enough money to go anywhere? Apparently they felt that this was appropriate they entered into it and as a result of that, with those conditions including the ankle bracelet, he will be allowed to be free about the cabin until such time that his trial is adjudicated. [17:35:15]
And Joey, you know, I have to wonder because he is a close Trump ally, you know, another Trump ally ensnared in the justice system, could he flipped? Could he cooperate to make life a little easier for himself?
JACKSON: You know, it's a great question, Jim, and that's always the issue. I think prosecutors will certainly be seeking to find what information he has that could be relevant not only to his case, but a lot of other cases and people and pieces of the puzzle so that they can really that as prosecutors move forward and be successful in his prosecution as well as other prosecutions. Let's not forget his age, he was a 74 years old so, you know, he's going to have some incentive to cooperate such that he's not in jail.
ACOSTA: Yes. Evan said he's used to the Four Seasons Hotel, he's not going to want to go to the big house. All right, Joey Jackson, thanks so much.
JACKSON: Always a pleasure.
ACOSTA: Coming up next -- always a pleasure -- the mood in Tokyo as the long delayed Summer Olympic Games finally are underway despite empty stadiums and ongoing pandemic.
ACOSTA: Despite all the doubts and worries about the coronavirus, the Tokyo Olympic Games got underway today. The opening ceremonies had a fair amount of pageantry but the only spectators and the largely empty stadium, VIPs.
CNN's Will Ripley join us live in Tokyo. Will, definitely a different feel for the Olympics opener. What's the mood there?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of those VIPs was the first lady Dr. Jill Biden, and she was waving to the athletes but there was no crowd, nobody else other than, you know, the French President Emmanuel Macron, who was next to her. The opening ceremony, they tried to make it feel normal. They tried to make it feel like any other Olympics. But, of course, we know this is anything bad (ph).
RIPLEY (voice-over): The official opening of the Tokyo Summer Games, a ceremony that tried to look familiar, but felt so different. Hundreds of drones forming a globe over the Olympic Stadium, celebrating one world united in sport, under the shadow of a pandemic. The stadium eerily empty, as flag-bearers proudly represented their countries, cheering them on a handful of visiting dignitaries.
U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, among the athletes, some familiar faces and well-oiled physiques. The Tongan flag-bearer famous from Rio and South Korea. Team USA featuring basketball star and four-time gold medalist Sue Bird and baseball playing speed skating silver medalist Eddy Alvarez.
Outside the ceremony, Japanese protesters calling for the games to be canceled, fearing the Olympics will become a COVID-19 super spreader event. Fears fueled by rising cases in the host city. Daily numbers hitting almost 2,000 this week, a six-month high.
Olympic dreams dashed for more than 20 athletes so far, testing positive or being placed in the COVID-19 protocol, including five members from Team USA, most taking the COVID protocols and lack of fans in stride.
KENDRA HARRISON, TEAM USA TRACK & FIELD: When you're lined up with the best in the world like you're not worried about the stands, you're not worried about the people there. You're just worried about going out there and competing to the best of your ability.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Despite the Olympics first ever spectator band, some are making the most of it. Fans watching the opening ceremony from outside the stadium.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was so moved to my heart. So, yes, that's so special for us.
RIPLEY (voice-over): Closing out the opening ceremony, the reveal of the torchbearer to light the cauldron, four-time Grand Slam women's tennis champion Naomi Osaka, in recent months, facing her own very public mental health challenges. Perhaps, the perfect representative for the 32nd Olympiad overcoming postponement and a pandemic, to showcase the triumph of the Olympic spirit.
RIPLEY: COVID has certainly control the narrative up to this point, Jim, but to see Naomi Osaka, to see those athletes, you know, even though it was an empty stadium, they still were bouncing with excitement, they were capturing the moment on their phones, and that is what I think people are hoping to see from this Olympics. Cases stabilizing and good competition and athletes enjoying themselves, because that's what this is all about. But, of course, the big question remains, can they do it safely given that there is still this major outbreak happening here in Tokyo?
ACOSTA: Yes, it's not perfect, but it does look like progress. All right, Will Ripley, thanks for those stunning images. We appreciate it.
Coming up, a new details about the investigation of those mysterious incidents of U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers sickened with strange debilitating symptoms.
ACOSTA: CNN has learned the CIA's Inspector General is reviewing the agency's handling of the so called Havana syndrome. The mysterious cases of diplomats, intelligence officers, and others sickened with debilitating symptoms.
Let's bring in CNN National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood. What's the latest, Kylie? What are you learning?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Jim, this week, we've learned that these mysterious incidents are continuing and continuing across the globe also in a very condensed way in Vienna with more than two dozen of those who have experienced symptoms there. This comes as the Biden administration is not only trying to figure out who or what is behind this, but also how to figure out how they can support those who are affected in a better way.
ATWOOD (voice-over): Mysterious health incidents known as Havana syndrome, for where U.S. personnel first experienced the strange debilitating symptoms appear to be on the rise, impacting U.S. intelligence officers and diplomats around the globe. And CNN has learned that the CIA Inspector General is carrying out a review into the agency's handling of the officers who have been sickened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And nothing but the truth.
ATWOOD (voice-over): CIA Director Bill Burns said this week that there are a couple 100 cases of these incidents in total, and about 100 of them among intelligence officers.
WILLIAM BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR: I'm certainly persuaded that what our officers and some family members as well as other U.S. government employees have experienced is real and it's serious.
ATWOOD (voice-over): The Biden administration says they still do not know what or who is behind these incidents that they're calling UHIs, unexplained health incidents.
Just this week, the State Department said they're now investigating reports of Havana syndrome experienced by U.S. diplomats in Vienna. Former CIA Intelligence Officer Doug Wise explains why more cases may help probe this mystery.
DOUG WISE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: It's kind of like a serial killer, where it requires further victims to generate evidence and data. It's an unfortunate fact.
ATWOOD (voice-over): At the CIA, someone new is in charge of the investigation, an experienced intelligence officer who led the successful hunt for bin Laden.
BURNS: We're throwing the very best we have at this issue because it is not only a very serious issue for our colleagues as it is for others across the U.S. government, but it's a profound obligation, I think, of any leader to take care of your people, and that's what I'm determined to do. ATWOOD (voice-over): The CIA I.G. review comes after deep frustration among those second about how their concerns were initially handled, saying they had not gotten the medical and institutional support that they needed.
MARC POLYMEROPOULOS, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I had a really hard time initially at the agency because people didn't necessarily -- the medical staff, the senior medical staff didn't necessarily believe me.
ATWOOD (voice-over): But things have changed in the last few months. Burns met with victims, visited Walter Reed where they're getting medical attention, surged agency resources to work on this challenge, and replace some of the officials viewed as hindering the investigation. His intense focus matters to those who have suffered.
WISE: I believe that the victims are now being well served under Burns leadership and the emphasis he's putting on their well being, which has always been the ethos of CIA.
ATWOOD: Now, Jim, back to the idea of who or what is doing this current and former U.S. government officials say they believe that Russia is behind this. But formally, officially, the U.S. government has not identified who is carrying out these mysterious attacks, and that investigation is still well underway.
ACOSTA: All right, and we know you'll stay on top of it. CNN's Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for that report.
And we're also following the horrific wildfires burning across the Western United States. Scientists say climate change is fueling the blazes which will only grow worse in the years to come. Our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir is joining us. Bill, you have a special report on CNN airing tonight at 9:00 Eastern called "Eating Planet Earth: The Future of Your Food", an important topic. You're looking for solutions to the climate crisis and putting them to the test. What did you find? What can you tell us?
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we found all kinds of broken factories of our food system from the factory is only about 60 years of good soil left on the planet because of overuse of pesticides and herbicides and factory farming. We learned that about 2.5 billion tons of food are thrown away each year around the world. And there's innovative ways to kind of connect good fresh food with people who want it.
And we learned that cows, if they were a country, would be third in the world behind the U.S. and China when it comes to planet cooking pollution. And as a result, there are so many market based solutions not government mandates to give up your burgers, but people who are trying to make a better burger without blood, including this trip to a certain impossible test kitchen.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it goes to a classic potty mouth. We're going to show you some meatballs for the beef. And then the pork variety, we're going to do some bowl bands (ph) as well as some pork Milanese.
WEIR (on-camera): Oh, beautiful.
(voice-over): All of this will be made with theme (ph) flavored plants. And in five years, a guy with no experience in food or business took impossible from one restaurant to over 30,000 including Burger King, at Starbucks in 20,000 stores.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go, the moment of truth.
Lots of burgers.
WEIR (on-camera): Oh yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mid fair (ph) to medium.
WEIR (on-camera): Fair (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.
WEIR (on-camera): OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever heard of a burger taste? This is all we do.
WEIR (on-camera): This is all you do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And says the burger. Cheers.
WEIR (on-camera): Wow. That's really good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got to go on for a second.
WEIR (voice-over): And since everything is political these days, don't take my word for it. Yet a load of conservative firebrand and ranch owner Glenn Beck.
GLENN BECK, RANCH OWNER: I would say A is a -- that's meat, is meat, B, is a fake burger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: B is the real burger, A is the impossible burger.
BECK: That is insane.
WEIR: But we also found some companies gym that will make impossible and beyond seem like yesterday's news, a cutting edge like futuristic look into the diet as people try to both save the health of ourselves and our little blue marble and space.
[17:55:06] ACOSTA: Bill, either of (ph) those two they are very tasty. No question about it. All right, Bill Weir, thank you so much, a great live shot there.
Our note to our viewers, be sure to join Bill Weir tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern for a CNN Special Report, "Eating Planet Earth: The future of Your Food". It looks great once again. That's at 9:00 tonight right here on CNN.
Coming up, alarming news in the fight against the coronavirus, the CDC just revealed the daily pace of people becoming fully vaccinated that just hit another low.
ACOSTA: Happening now, the White House strikes a more urgent tone as the rapid spread of the Delta variant sweeps across the country.