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State of the Union

Interview With Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR); Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; Interview With Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR); Interview With Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired July 25, 2021 - 09:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Avoidable surge. The deadly Delta variant spreads further, with unvaccinated Americans bearing the brunt.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: We have the tools to end this epidemic.

TAPPER: But will enough Americans get the message that the vaccine saves lives? I will speak to Dr. Anthony Fauci and the governor of a state battling one of the lowest vaccination rates, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, next.

And building bridges? As one congressional divide grows deeper, senators are struggling to come together on a much-needed infrastructure plan. Can they reach a deal? Republican Senator Pat Toomey joins me exclusively to discuss in moments.

Plus: monster inferno, wildfires in the West spawning explosive clouds and fire tornadoes and harming air quality from coast to coast.

GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR): It is literally climate change playing out before our eyes.

TAPPER: How much worse could this get? I will speak exclusively to Oregon Governor Kate Brown ahead.


TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, D.C., where the state of our union is sad and confused, as the U.S. suffers through yet another COVID surge, one that did not have to happen.

The highly contagious Delta variant is fueling a rise in coronavirus cases in every state, with cases at their highest level since May, and one clear demographic group causing the spike, those who are not vaccinated.

Only 49 percent of the United States is fully vaccinated. For those eligible for the vaccine, those 12 and older, it's only 57 percent. The most severe outbreaks, not surprisingly, are happening where vaccination rates are the lowest.

Just three states, just three, Florida, Texas and Missouri, accounted for 40 percent of all the new cases this week.

We have heard some heartbreaking stories of intensive care unit patients begging for the vaccine as they're about to go on a ventilator, only to be told by health providers that it's too late.

And for some health care workers, as well as vaccinated people who are digging out their masks again, patience with those who are not vaccinated is running thin.

And now the White House, which just a few weeks ago seemed to be celebrating independence day from COVID, is debating whether to recommend masks for everyone, everyone indoors again, and facing pressure to back vaccine requirements or mandates in some circumstances, as, new this week, the administration is actively exploring how to provide booster shots to vulnerable Americans, whom they increasingly expect will benefit from another dose of the vaccine.

Joining me to discuss all of this and more, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Fauci, thanks for joining us today.

One model by the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub projects that, if the U.S. does not improve the vaccination rate, cases will continue to rise, and the U.S. could see a tripling of the current daily death toll, so up to 850 deaths a day by mid-October, though, in the worst- case scenario in this modeling, that number could climb as high as 4,000 deaths a day, about as bad as it was last winter.

Do you think it's really possible it could get that bad, 4,000 deaths a day?

FAUCI: Well, when they do modeling, Jake, they generally give you the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario.

But somewhere in the middle, if you look historically at the modeling that has been done over the last 18 months, for the most part, it's been pretty accurate. So, I'm not so sure it would be the worst-case scenario, but it's not going to be good.

We're going in the wrong direction. If you look at the inflection of the curve of new cases and, as you said in the run-in to this interview, that it is among the unvaccinated.

And since we have 50 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated, that's a problem, particularly when you have a variant like Delta, which has this extraordinary characteristic of being able to spread very efficiently and very easily from person to person.

And we know we have many, many, many vulnerable people in this country who are unvaccinated. And that's the reason why, as I have said so many times, we have the tools to blunt that and make that model wrong. But if we don't vaccinate people, the model is going to predict that we're going to be in trouble as we continue to get more and more cases.

TAPPER: And almost entirely the victims will be unvaccinated Americans?

FAUCI: Well, yes, Jake. That's the issue. And that's the thing that sometimes gets confusing to people.

If you were vaccinated, the vaccine is highly protective against the Delta variant, particularly against severe disease leading to hospitalization, and sometimes ultimately to death.


So, it really is -- as Dr. Walensky has said many times and I have said, it is really a pandemic among the unvaccinated. So, this is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated, which is the reason why we're out there practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out there and get vaccinated.

And that's the reason why it's very heartening and positive to hear people like Governor Asa Hutchinson and others to go out there in their own state and say, hey, let's get vaccinated, because that's really the solution to this.

TAPPER: About a month ago, we saw President Biden and a number of governors across the country, Democrats and Republicans, saying that the virus was in retreat. In retrospect, that sure seems premature.

FAUCI: Well, it certainly is in retreat among the vaccinated, Jake.

And it gets back to what we have been saying. It's like we have two kinds of America. We have the very vulnerable unvaccinated part, and we have the really relatively protected vaccinated part.

So, if you are vaccinated, you are really in a very different category than someone who is not vaccinated.

TAPPER: A new poll shows that 80 percent, 80 percent of unvaccinated Americans say that they probably will not get the shots or definitely will not get the shots, 80 percent.

A lot of people are getting frustrated with those vaccine holdouts, because the current state of this pandemic is completely preventable.

Here is Republican Alabama Governor Kay Ivey. Take a listen.


GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.

Folks 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 CLIP)

TAPPER: The unvaccinated folks are letting us down, the governor says.

Former White House adviser Andy Slavitt says he thinks President Biden needs to get -- quote -- "very aggressive" in turning the heat up on vaccinated people. Do you agree? And do you share Governor Ivey's anger?

FAUCI: Well, I'm very frustrated.

I generally don't like to get involved in blaming people, because I think that would maybe push them back even more, rather than -- I mean, I can totally understand the governor's frustration. So I don't have any problem with that. She has every right to be frustrated.

But what I would really like to see is more and more of the leaders in those areas that are not vaccinating to get out and speak out and encourage people to get vaccinated. I was very heartened to hear people like Steve Scalise come out and say, hey, we need to get vaccinated. Even Governor DeSantis right now in Florida is saying the same thing.

We have got to get more people who relate well to the individuals who are not getting vaccinated to get out there and encourage them to get vaccinated, as well as the trusted messengers in the community.

We have just got to do better, Jake, because we have the tools to do this. This is an unnecessary predicament we're putting ourselves in.

TAPPER: A new study out of Israel suggests that the Pfizer vaccine's effectiveness can drop as low as 39 percent six months after getting the shots, although this is preliminary data.

CNN's reporting is that the Biden administration now expects at least some vulnerable Americans, some will ultimately need vaccine booster shots. That's a shift from a few weeks ago. What changed?

FAUCI: Well, I think it's a dynamic situation. It's a work in progress. It evolves, like in so many other areas of the pandemic.

You have got to look at the data. And the data that's evolving from Israel and from Pfizer indicates that it looks like there might be some diminution in protection. And when you have that, the most vulnerable people are the ones that you were talking about a moment ago, namely, people who have suppressed immune system, those who are transplant patients, cancer chemotherapy, autoimmune diseases, that are on immunosuppressive regimens.

Those are the kind of individuals that, if there's going to be a third boost, which might likely happened, will be among first the vulnerable. And the ACIP, which met on July 22, they discussed that in some detail, and continue to look at the data that might push us in that direction. TAPPER: Let's talk about the origins of the virus, because you and

Republican Senator Rand Paul exchanged some tough words a few days ago, where each of you accused the other of not telling the truth.

Take a listen to some excerpts of that.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11, where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain of function research in Wuhan?

FAUCI: Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about.


PAUL: And it could have been.

FAUCI: And if anybody is lying here, Senator, it is you.


TAPPER: I want to take a sec to just explain to our viewers what this was about.

For those exploring whether COVID originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology or if it was a natural origin, there are questions as to whether the NIH helped fund at that lab so called gain of function research.

Gain of function, one definition of that is when scientists make a virus deadlier and more contagious in a lab in order to identify potential pathogens and prevent pandemics.

Now, NIH says very clearly that the research the U.S. funded in that lab did not meet that definition.

But either way, Dr. Fauci, I want to ask you, critics say the Wuhan lab experiments were nonetheless risky, whether or not they fit that category. And, obviously, the Chinese government is not a good-faith partner. They're not allowing transparency. They're not allowing a real investigation.

So, as a matter of policy going forward, given that the Chinese government won't allow any real investigation, do you still think the U.S. government should collaborate with labs like Wuhan, especially on research that experts consider risky?

FAUCI: Well, Jake, if you go back to when this research really started, and look at the scientific rationale for it, it was a peer- reviewed proposal that was peer-reviewed and given a very high rating for the importance of why it should be done, to be able to go and do a survey of what was going on among the bat population, because everyone in the world was trying to figure out what the original source of the original SARS-CoV-1 was.

And in that context, the research was done. It was very regulated. It was reviewed. It was given progress reports. It was published in the open literature.


FAUCI: So, I think if you look at the ultimate backed rationale, why that was started, it was almost as if, you didn't pursue that research, you would be negligent...

TAPPER: Right, but...

FAUCI: ... because we were trying to find out how you can prevent this from happening again.

TAPPER: But, going forward -- like, a peer review is looking -- those are doctors and scientists looking at the work of doctors and scientists...

FAUCI: Right.

TAPPER: ... without kind of factoring in the fact that you have an oppressive Chinese government...


TAPPER: ... that won't allow transparency.

Going forward, are you still confident?


FAUCI: Right. Going forward, we are always going to be very, very careful, go through all kinds of review, including the risk/benefit ratio.

So, I would -- I mean, if your question Jake is, looking forward, are we going to be very careful about the research that we do, well, we have always been very careful. And, looking forward, we will continue to be very careful in what we do.

And we are always willing to reexamine the criteria that are used when you do research wherever you do them. But I think doing research in the context of where these things happen is very important.

And SARS-CoV-1 originated in China. And that is the reason. If we were starting to look for bats in Secaucus, New Jersey, or Fairfax County, Virginia, it wouldn't contribute very much...


FAUCI: ... to our understanding of where one SARS-CoV-1 originated.

It originated in China.

TAPPER: We only have a little time left.

I want to ask you. Sources are telling CNN that top health officials are weighing whether to revise mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans. Are you part of those conversations? And, if so, what are you advising?


TAPPER: Do you think masks should be brought back for vaccinated Americans?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, this is under active consideration.

If you're asking, am I part of the discussion, yes, I am part of the discussion. But I think what you are seeing, even though -- as of our conversation at this moment, the CDC still says and recommends that, if you are vaccinated fully, that you do not need to wear a mask indoors.

However, if you look at what's going on locally, in the trenches, in places like L.A. County, the local officials have the discretion, and the CDC agrees with that ability and discretion, capability, to say, you know, you're in a situation where we're having a lot of dynamics of infection, so, even if you are vaccinated, you should wear a mask.

That's a local decision that's not incompatible with the CDC's overall recommendations that give a lot of discretion to the locals. And we're seeing that in L.A. We're seeing it in Chicago. We're seeing that in New Orleans, because the officials there, many of them are saying, even if you're vaccinated, it's prudent to wear a mask indoors.

So, that's a local decision.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate it.

Coming up: They can't even seem to agree on something they agreed to agree on. The Biden agenda set to face another major test, as senators work to save the infrastructure deal.


And with hearings set to begin this week, can the January 6 committee cut through the drama and uncover the truth?

Republican Senator Pat Toomey on all of that next.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill could face another major test tomorrow, after Republican senators sank a key procedural vote on the $1.2 trillion agreement last week. Despite the handshakes and a big moment at the White House a few weeks ago, the bill still is not finished and key sticking points remain.

Joining us now to discuss, the leading Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Pat Toomey from the great Commonwealth Of Pennsylvania.


Senator, thanks for joining us.

Negotiators are working through the weekend to try to resolve these outstanding issues in the bipartisan infrastructure compromise. If this group reaches an agreement by tomorrow, will you vote to begin debate on the legislation, not final passage, but just to invoke cloture and allow debate to proceed?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): Well, it does depend on what's in the -- what's in the bill, Jake.

The reason that the procedural motion was defeated last week is because we were asked to vote on something that truly did not exist. Most senators think it's a good idea for there actually to be some legislation before you vote on that legislation, including voting to proceed to it.

So, I'm totally open to examining it closely. And if it's -- if I -- if I think it's reasonable and fits within the parameters that I think are sensible, then I would vote to go on to the bill.

TAPPER: One of the major sticking points right now is the question of transit funding.

Now, you argue the transit systems have already received billions of extra dollars in pandemic relief fund that is not even spent yet and that more funding is not necessary. There are a growing number of Democrats who are threatening to withhold support of this compromise if the additional funds are removed from it.

If these cuts you want aren't included, will that cost your vote?

TOOMEY: So Jake, first of all, that's a gross mischaracterization of my position. And I know it's been propagated by some of my Democratic colleagues.

Let me give you the facts that are unambiguous.

TAPPER: OK. Please, please, please, please elaborate, OK.

TOOMEY: Right.

So, the federal government, historically, in recent years has given about $13 billion per year to transit. Over the 12 months ending in March, the federal government didn't give just 13. Because of all the supplemental bills we passed, the federal government added another $70 billion, not 17, -- 7-0 -- for a total of about $83 billion. That's more money than the operating budget and the capital budgets

combined of every single transit agency in America. It's so much money, they couldn't possibly spend it. So about half of it is sitting there not spent.

Despite that, we offered our Democratic colleagues a 35 percent increase in the annual run rate of the federal subsidies to transit and tens of billions of additional dollars in this bipartisan agreement on top of all the money that they got. And they're saying that's not enough.

That's where we are, Jake. It's an incredible amount of money, so much that they can't spend what they have now. They have been offered many tens of billions more. And they're saying that's not enough. Nobody's talking about cutting transit.

The question is, how many tens of billions of dollars on top of the huge increase that they have already gotten is sufficient? And that's where there is a little disagreement.

TAPPER: So what is your top-line number? And if it goes above that, are you not willing to vote for the compromise?

TOOMEY: So, let me -- so, first of all, I'm not -- I don't want to negotiate the numbers here. I'm not a negotiator. I have been advising and discussing with the Republican negotiators how they might think about this category.

But I will tell you, a very, very important category for me is how all this is going to get paid for. We just spent $1.9 trillion that had -- there was absolutely no need for. A lot of that money hasn't been spent yet, but it will.

And now we're talking about another $600 billion on top of the ordinary spending. And we know, in a couple of months, the Democrats are going to pass what they call a $3.5 trillion bill, but, really, over 10 years, it's over $5 trillion.

This is completely out of hand. There are people who think this is Monopoly money, but it's not, Jake. And so I'm concerned. I think the way we should pay for this increase in infrastructure spending is by repurposing money we already approved, but hasn't yet gone out the door.

But that's a point of great contention with the Democrats. So it's not, to me, just the top line that matters. It's also how we're funding it.

TAPPER: At a CNN town hall this week, President Biden dismissed concerns of Republicans and some economists that all this increased federal spending is going to cause long-term inflation.

The president argued that the price increases what we're seeing now are a result of the economy picking up again after the pandemic. Do you think he's wrong?

TOOMEY: Well -- well, certainly, he's factually wrong on that last point you just made.

If you look at the price level of -- in our economy today, and compare it not to a year ago, when we had a big decline in prices, but rather to two years ago, before COVID ever hit, before we had the decline and then the recovery, we're running at a 25-year high rate of inflation.


And it's not got a mystery as to why. A big part of the reason is a massive expansion of the money supply. We have expanded the money supply the most since World War II. And the Fed continues to buy $120 billion worth of securities, pumping that money into the economy, despite the fact that we have strong growth.

So there's no question we have serious inflation right now. There is a question about how long it lasts. And I'm just worried that the risk is high that this is going to be with us for a while. And the Fed has put it put itself in a position where it's going to be behind the curve.

You combine that with massively excess spending, and it is a recipe for serious problems. That's one of the things I'm worried about.

TAPPER: You supported the failed effort in the Senate to create a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the Capitol attack.

TOOMEY: Right.

TAPPER: We just saw the effort to investigate this on the House side through a committee blow up after Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy put two of the most prominent election liars, Congressman Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, on the committee.

Speaker Pelosi then vetoed them. McCarthy's now boycotting the entire thing.

Without getting into the back-and-forth about this person and that person, why do you think so few in your party, in the Republican Party, seem to want to take this seriously and get to the bottom of what happened on January 6? I'm obviously not including you in that.

TOOMEY: Well, I think people do want to get to the bottom of it.

Yes, I did support the Senate version of a commission that would have been genuinely and truly bipartisan, both in its composition of members and in staff, which I think is important. This exercise in the House was not meant to be that.

Look, here's the bottom line. Jake. We have a lot of investigations under way now. There are Senate committees that have completed some. There are others still in progress. We have many criminal investigations.

I would favor a truly bipartisan commission. But I think there -- we should be candid about the fact that it is politically to the advantage of Democrats to try to keep this issue in the forefront. James Carville has been very candid about this. He's urged the Democrats, don't let the election be about Joe Biden and his policies in 2022. Make that election about January 6 and Donald Trump.

And so it's very clear that Democrats have an incentive to try to drive a political message here. And a purely partisan commission in the House is probably going to do that.

TAPPER: But what does it say about your party than an investigation into a violent insurrection would reflect poorly upon it?

TOOMEY: No, I think it is -- it is constant reminder about a terrible episode in our history which Donald Trump was at the heart of, rather than looking at the policies of the current president.

I mean, which is more relevant in 2022? I would argue the current president's policies and the damage that he's going to be doing, that's what we should be debating in 2022.

But I'm not sure that's what the Democrats want to be talking about.

TAPPER: Senator Pat Toomey from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, always good to see you, sir.

Thanks for joining us.

TOOMEY: Thanks for having me, Jake.

TAPPER: Some Republican leaders now speaking up about vaccinations, but is it too late to change minds?

The governor of the state with one of the lowest vaccination rates joins me next.



TAPPER: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

With the U.S. at a pivotal moment in the fight against COVID, governors in states with low vaccination rates are tackling the problem differently, some with incentives. Others are shaming the unvaccinated, and some trying to downplay and deny there's a problem at all.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is battling vaccine hesitancy with a listening tour in a state where only 36 percent are fully vaccinated, as Arkansas faces one of the worst case rates in the country.

Governor Hutchinson joins us now.

And, Governor, thanks so much for joining us.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences called the situation in your state -- quote -- "a raging forest fire" -- unquote -- and warned of a coming exponential surge that could be worse than anything you have experienced so far.

Just three weeks ago on this show, you were optimistic that your state would avoid a third wave. What do you think happened?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Well, low vaccination rates.

And you hit it right, Jake, that this is a pivotal moment in our race against the COVID virus. We have school coming up. We have a lot of sports activities that people are expecting and anxious about. And it's important for normalcy.

And what's holding us back is a low vaccination rate. We're doing all that we can. And I made the decision that it's really not what the government can tell you to do, but it is the community and their engagement and citizens talking to other citizens and trusted advisers, whether it's medical community or whether it's employers. Those are key.

That's why I'm having these town hall meetings. It's more than listening. It is really engaging the community. And, so far, we have seen a 40 percent increase in our vaccinations since we started this.

TAPPER: Your daily case count is higher now than it was when you first required masks statewide a year ago.

In April, you signed a law that prohibits local or state officials yourself, including from implementing any new mask mandates. That ban goes into effect this week.

Why have a ban on mask mandates, when you're having difficulty as a state getting control of this pandemic?


HUTCHINSON: Well, that was the will of the General Assembly. I signed it.

At that point, we had very low case rates in Arkansas, and people knew exactly what to do. They were capable of making their decisions. And then we shifted to the emphasis on vaccination. And I really think it's important not to have the current debate about mask-wearing, but to have the current emphasis on getting a vaccine.

And so that's the singular focus we have, even though our guidelines continue to say, if you're not vaccinated, you should wear a mask. And that is the guideline that we have in place. But we don't have a mandate, because that was held back from the legislature. As you pointed out, I signed that.

And as we get ready for school, I think more people will be looking at that guideline as that's appropriate if you're not vaccinated or you're under 12.

TAPPER: I want to play some of the video posted by Washington Regional Medical Center in Arkansas about the rise in serious cases that they're seeing among unvaccinated young people. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MICHAEL BOLDING, ARKANSAS WASHINGTON REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: The regret and remorse on their face, and fear, that look on a patient's face, I promise you, would be more motivating than anything to go ahead and get your vaccine, if you have not already.


TAPPER: Do you think you underestimated how vaccine-hesitant and skeptical the citizens of Arkansas were going to be?

And why is there such reluctance to trust in this miracle science?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I don't know if I underestimated it, but, certainly, the resistance has hardened in certain elements, and is simply false information.

It is myths. As I go into these town hall meetings, someone said: Don't call it a vaccine. Call it a bioweapon. And they talk about mind control.

Well, those are obviously erroneous. Other members of the community correct that.

But what you see in that in that ad, the message from Washington Regional Medical Center is very critical. We are seeing younger adults go into the hospital. And people of Arkansas and across the nation respond to risk. And whenever the risk of the COVID and the hospitalization was low, vaccinations slowed down.

Now you're seeing a high escalation of the vaccines because people are measuring the risk. You're seeing it younger, at a younger age. We have had two adolescents pass away because of COVID. And these are alarm bells for everyone that follows this.

So, our goal, get information out, help them to make the right decision, push the vaccination, and, hopefully, we will be ready for school within the next month.

TAPPER: Your fellow Southern Republican Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama had really voiced some frustration with people refusing to get vaccinated.

She said -- quote -- "It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks for letting us down."

Do you agree with her?

HUTCHINSON: Well, you got to understand that she's expressing her frustration that everyone feels.

But, at the same time, I don't want to get distracted into causing division. Let's pull together. And it's -- people can change your mind. Even though there's a very hardened resistance, it's a small percent. And there's more that come to the town meeting that are trying to get information, that they have put it off or they're hesitant. They're worried about health consequences.

And so that's where you have a community physician that answers the questions, and that is persuadable. And so we're seeing people that were previously resistant or hesitant about it coming in and getting the vaccination.

That should be the focus, and not trying to divide our communities.

TAPPER: But do you worry at all that, by not allowing localities to impose a mask mandate, when this virus continues to rage like a wildfire, as your own experts say, you are actually ceding control of this virus to the unvaccinated, to the people who ask questions about mind control that you just talked about, instead of giving power and control to the people who are taking this seriously, who are getting vaccinated, but don't want to have vulnerable people, like those under 12 or those who have immune system problems, infected by those who are just ignoring the science?


HUTCHINSON: There's two mandates that are possible.

One would be a vaccine mandate. We're not going to do that, because that would even cause a greater reaction of negativity toward the government and that imposition on freedom. Secondly would be a mandate for wearing masks.

It is a conservative principle to allow for local control. That is a fair discussion about it. And that's something we're going to have to continue to weigh, depending upon vaccination rates and how they proceed between now and school.

But that is a legislative prohibition on having a mask mandate even in our schools. And so that will only change if the legislature comes back together and yields to that local control. I think that is something that will be a continued point of discussion between now and the time school starts.

But you have got to worry, Jake, that, one, you're not going to be able to enforce it very well. The schools are in a better position to do it. But then, also, you have got parents who generally worry about the mental health of their child and whether that's the right reaction to it and whether that's going to cause more problems or alleviate it, when there's a low risk for that age group.

And that's something we're continuing to get data on as to whether -- what is the risk for that age group? We need to get everybody else around that young child vaccinated. That's the cocoon, that's the protection that we need to provide them as we go back to school.

TAPPER: I'm praying for the people of Arkansas. Best of luck getting the people of Arkansas vaccinated.

Governor, thanks for joining us today.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Jake. TAPPER: The climate crisis leading to fires so intense that people on

both coasts are breathing in the effects.

Oregon's governor joins me next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

More states of emergency declared, as close to 100 wildfires are burning in the Western United States, and, this weekend, poor conditions in Southern Oregon, where the largest of the wildfires has already burned an area the size of L.A., as our inaction the climate crisis is giving fuel to these meaner and deadlier flames that are becoming, sadly, the norm.

Joining us now, Oregon's Governor Kate Brown.

Governor Brown, thanks for joining us.

The Bootleg Fire has now burned more than 400,000 acres along the Oregon and California border, making it your state's third largest fire since 1900.

What are your biggest concerns right now?

BROWN: Obviously, I'm very concerned that these very high heat temperatures will continue.

I have to say a shout-out to the over 2,000 firefighters that are fighting this horrific fire. We really appreciate their dedication and determination. And my heart certainly goes out to all the Oregonians that have been impacted by this terrible fire.

TAPPER: Are you getting everything you need from the Biden administration?

BROWN: The Biden/Harris administration has stepped up.

They understand that we need a comprehensive, collaborative approach to tackling wildfire. We obviously always continue to need additional financial resources and boots on the ground. But that's something we will have a conversation about post-wildfire season.

It's incredibly important, with climate change, that we get into these forests and start doing the thinning and harvest and prescriptive burning, so that we can create healthier landscapes, landscapes that are more resilient to wildfire.

I'm really, really pleased that I was able to sign legislation this past week that provides the state with more tools, including resources for our communities to be more adaptive to wildfire, additional resources to ensure we have the adequate firefighting tools, and more resources to do the prescriptive and mitigation work that we need to do on the ground.

But, Jake, the harsh reality is that we're going to see more of these wildfires. They're hotter, they're more fierce, and obviously much more challenging to tackle. And they are a sign of the changing climate impacts.

In the last year, Oregon has had four federal emergency declarations, in addition to the pandemic. We had historic wildfires last fall that we are still rebuilding and recovering from. We had terrible ice storms in February. Over a half-a-million people lost power.

And then most recently, as you know, we had the heat dome event.


BROWN: We unfortunately lost over 100 Oregonians.

So, climate change is here, it's real, and it's like a hammer hitting us in the head. And we have to take action.

TAPPER: And do you think enough is being done at the federal level to mitigate these types of crises? I'm not talking necessarily about the long-term approach to climate change that obviously is important.

I'm talking about in the short term, the fact that maybe next year will be even worse in Oregon, the year after that will be even worse than that. Is enough being done?

BROWN: Well, I really appreciate the strong partnership with the Biden/Harris administration.

As an example, we are working with two federal agencies, U.S. Forest Service and BLM, to partner around a group called Good Neighbor Authority. And that provides federal resources, so we can put Oregonians to work on federal lands doing the thinning and the prescriptive burning that we need to reduce the impacts of these wildfire.


It creates healthier landscapes. It puts Oregonians to work. And it's definitely a win-win-win. So, we need more of that type of approach. And I really appreciate the president stepping up and leading the way.

However, this is a $4 billion to $5 billion problem in Oregon. And we're going to need to partner throughout the West to tackle these issues. As you well know, wildfire knows no jurisdictional boundaries.


BROWN: In Oregon, we're going to continue to tackle these issues.

But we are also taking action on climate change. I just signed the most aggressive clean energy bill in the country. And we are continuing to invest in E.V. infrastructure, particularly for our low- income and moderate-income families. TAPPER: I only have about a minute left.

I want to ask you about the pandemic, because vaccination rates in your state have been slowing. You're now averaging more than 400 daily COVID cases, which is double what it was at the beginning of the month.

Are you considering in any way reimplementing statewide restrictions, such as mask mandates or social distancing, in order to try to stop the spread?

BROWN: Here's the good news.

Oregonians have made really smart decisions throughout the pandemic. And, as a result, we have one of the lowest infection rates and one of the lowest mortality rates in the country. We are now moving to a more localized, traditional approach, where local public health will be working with medical experts on the ground.

But this is truly a tale of two pandemics, one of the vaccinated and one of the unvaccinated. So it's critically important that we continue our work with community-based partners, and particularly health care providers, to get the message out.

This is truly a one-on-one, door knocking, phone calling, reaching out to individual Oregonians to encourage them to get the vaccine, to make sure that they get their questions answered, and that they have the information that they need.

TAPPER: All right, Governor Brown, we will be saying a prayer for the people of Oregon when it comes to both the pandemic and those wildfires.

Thanks for joining us.



TAPPER: And that is it for us today. Thank you so much for spending your Sunday with us. The news continues next.