tv CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield CNN July 31, 2021 8:00am-9:00am PDT
hi, everyone. thanks so much for joining me today. i'm jessica dean in for fredricka whitfield. we begin this hour with the u.s. entering a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic, as the delta variant spreads like wildfire across the country. now, vaccinations remain the key tool in preventing infections, hospitalization, and death. those vaccinations are clearly on the rise today, even in some of the least vaccinated states. but the vaccination numbers aren't high number yet to prevent the variant from spreading. every state now reporting more
coronavirus cases over the previous week. this as we are learning more about the delta variant. the cdc making what it calls a pivotal discovery, saying a new study shows the variant produces similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected. and that prompted new mask guidelines this week, even for the vaccinated. several major cities have already put new mask mandates in place. today, washington, d.c., joining that growing list. but we begin our coverage in georgia. cases there have exploded in recent days, and health officials say in the last two weeks ago, new cases have risen over 200%. natasha chen is at a vaccination drive in the atlanta area. obviously, there is a big push to get more people vaccinated right now. what are you seeing today? what are you hearing from people who are showing up to get vaccinated? >> reporter: well, jessica, it's clear that incentives actually
work. because this is the largest number of people dekalb county has seen at recent vaccination events in the last month or so. that is partially because people are wanting the debit cards that are being given out. $50 debit cards for each person who gets a shot today. the first person in line that we talked to said he definitely came because of that. just now, they told us they reached 200 people vaccinated since this event started at 8:00 a.m. eastern time. we did also talk to some families who brought their young kids here. of course, you have to be 12 or older to get the vaccine. but school is starting in this area next week. here's one parent who talked about what it's like sending children to school right now as cases keep rising. >> in life, there's going to be ups and downs. sometimes you're going to have to take risks. sometimes you're not. right now, by going back to school, it's a risk. but i also want them to have
their education. i'm scared. i'm not going to tell no lie, i am scared. >> they're going to wear masks. >> but they're going to wear masks. i'm trying to get them as protected as possible. >> reporter: she did also say that that gift card being handed out today is also helpful to cover the costs of school supplies and such. so while the case numbers are rising in georgia here, we're also seeing vaccination rates are picking up, as well. that's the other good news here. the seven-day average of vaccine doses administered is up 85% since three weeks ago. so there is a concerted effort to push that message out there, that that is the best defense we have against this virus, especially as the delta variant keeps spreading, jessica. >> no question about that, natasha. vaccines remain our way out of this. thanks so much for that update from georgia. meanwhile, in chicago, the show is still going on despite rising health concerns. gates will soon open for day
three of the lollapalooza music festival, and organizers are expecting another capacity crowd, just like friday. they've also put in new requirements for festival-goers. omar jimenez is outside grant park in chicago where the festival will begin soon. tell us a little bit about these precautions being put in place. there are so many people in attendance there. >> reporter: yeah, jessica. over the course of these days, we will see hundreds of thousands of people pour through these gates just here to my right. now, some of the mitigation strategies that are in place, as you see people waiting for the gates to open in about an hour or so now. to get in, show proof of a negative covid test in the last 72 hours. or you could show a proof of full vaccination status if you have it. the new addition today is that everyone in indoor spaces within the festival has to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. and that is specifically tied to the rate of spread of covid-19.
we've seen it here in the chicago area, much like places across the country, a rise in cases. now, to give you context, last month, the positivity rate here in chicago was 0.4%. two weeks ago, it was 1%. now, it's a little over 3%. while that doesn't seem high, it's not the direction officials want to see things headed. significantly, we're now over 200 cases a day. the reason that is significant is because that's the threshold mayor lori lightfoot here said she would start to consider reinstating mask mandates. a little bit of deja vu because these decision points were something many of us thought we were past as vaccines spread across the country. nevertheless, we are here. lollapalooza is expected to go ahead at full capacity as it has the past few days. by the end of this four-day stretch, they hope they're remembered for the music and not as a superspreader event. jessica? >> omar jimenez in chicago, thank you for the update.
more on the newly published data from the cdc that reinforces the urgent need to get shots in arms as this delta variant surges across the nation. the research confirming the delta variant spreads much easier than earlier strains. and although the spread is being driven by the unvaccinated, and that is key here, the unvaccinated continue to drive this spread, even people who are vaccinated can be contagious. still, vaccination remains the best tool to defeat the pandemic. masks can also go a long way toward containing the virus, as well. joining me now to discuss all this, dr. mike sagg, infection disease expert, associate dean of global health at the university of alabama birmingham. great to have you. there's a lot of information and, importantly, a lot of nuance here. you really kind of have to sift through all of it. help us do that. translate for us, what do we know now about covid and the delta variant that we didn't
know before? >> well, jessica, i think it's simple in one phrase. delta is different. it's a much more infectious virus. it's a virus that gets to high levels in people who are infected and goes out into the environment, making it more transmissible. it's also quicker in terms of its disease cause. call it viralance, but it's the ability to transfer faster. and -- infection and going into our children's hospital, some of them going into the icu. so that's what's different about delta. it's quite a shock to all of us who feel like we're going through whiplash right now because we were heading out of this. boom, we're right back in it again. >> right. delta is different. in this report, we heard that phrase, viral load. it's something we've talked about. cdc director rochelle walensky
said it is increased risk of cannes mission a-- transmission. people with the vaccine can still transmit the virus. vaccinated people still have a very, very, very low chance of getting infected. this is still an unvaccinated group that is driving the delta variant. but help us understand what that all means in terms of the vaccinate d individual up againt delta versus an unvaccinated individual. >> sure. let's first describe what viral load is. what that means is it's the amount of virus that's been generated inside the nasal pharynx, inside the nose and airway. so when that level is higher, that just naturally means that more is coming out into the world around us. it also means that it is more of a challenge for the body to manage, which is why people get sicker quicker. those who are vaccinated, however, what this new data shows is that, yes, they are
going to spew out, for lack of a better word, virus into the environment around them to roughly the same amount. their immune system, primed by the vaccine, is able to fight off the virus and its ability to cause disease. so you put it together, the virus, delta virus is much more infectious. for those who are unvaccinated, it is more deadly. for those who are vaccinated, they're protected. we all need to get vaccinated. >> mm-hmm. so important. and the new data on this variant is based on an yooutbreak in province town, massachusetts. 74% of those infected had been fully vaccinated. but the takeaway is that only a small number of those people had been hospitalized, and there were no deaths. doctor, does this say that vaccines work? i mean, now they're kind of going back to life there, where they had this outbreak. if they had been unvaccinated, we could have seen a number of deaths, it sounds like. >> there's no question about it.
it goes back to the last comment, where those people who are vaccinated were spreading it to others, but those people who are vaccinated were not getting sick because their immune system was primed. that's kind of the key takeaway. another subtle point here that i think is really poworth pointin out, we should celebrate the cdc. they've been taking a lot of heat for seemingly going in jarringly different directions, but they're doing their job. they follow the data. the data from provincetown told them, wait a minute, we thought it wasn't transmissible from vaccinated people to other vaccinated people. these data are telling us something very different and, appropriately, they've responded. for people kind of on the surface watching this, they go, well, they're pivoting, they're flip-flopping. no, what they're doing is following the data, and they're trying to keep us safe. >> right. i mean, because coronavirus, covid-19 is changing. it is very evident here. the science changes as it
mutates. i want to talk before i let you go about your home state of alabama. it is one of the least vaccinated states in the country. according to the latest data from the cdc, they say it is one of the least vaccinated states. you wrote a piece in the "washington post" saying, quote, this time around, alabama is facing a two-front war. this is inducing a kind of pre-traumatic stress for health care workers. tell me a little bit about that. explain how traumatic this is and how concerned you are about what lies ahead in your state. >> right. so the two-front war analogy was basically, we're fighting the virus with everything we have. but on the other side, we have a lot of activity on social media, spewing hate and disinformation that's making our job a whole lot more difficult. pause the unvaccinated people are locking in on that message and sort of fighting the public health messaging. our governor has gotten behind us. she's telling people to get vaccinated, unlike what we're seeing in florida where governor
desantis is putting mandates off the limits, which is, in my view, irresponsible. because we need all the tools in our toolbox to fight this infection. but as far as a pre-traumatic stress that i'm talking about, all of the health care workers that i work with, including myself, have been through this. i feel like we're servicemen and women going back into our third tour of duty. anyone who served in the military who did that -- that stress and anxiety of, well, let's brace ourselves. we're having to redo how our hospitals operate. we're having to gear up again after taking away all the extra units, the ventilators, et cetera. we're bringing them back because of the lack of vaccination in our area. we're seeing a spike, not a surge, a spike that's going to peak around labor day and could be, based on projections, two to three times higher than what we saw at the worst time in january. so we're kind of concerned about
that. that's an understatement. >> that is understandable. we are grateful to all the doctors and health care workers and nurse out there who are suiting up yet again to take care of people. dr. sagg, thank you for being with us today. we appreciate it. >> thanks, jessica. coming up, the fda is vowing an all-hands-on-deck approach to get the covid vaccines fully approved as soon as possible. how they're doing that. moments ago, the senate gavelled back into session as president biden's infrastructure plan takes center stage. what is preventing lawmakers from making further progress on the bill? later, simone biles withdraws from two finals at the olympics. and swimmer katie ledecky wins another gold. all the highlights from tokyo. this is the sound of an asthma attack... that doesn't happen.
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trying to iron out the details of a infrastructure bill, chuck schumer warned his colleagues they'd be working the weekend. that's precisely what they're doing now, looking to get the infrastructure bill over the finish line. daniela diaz is following it all on capitol hill. where do things stand now? >> reporter: we're in a holding pattern. chuck schumer, senate majority leader, is expected to speak on the senate floor any moment you and update us, anyone tuning in this saturday morning, on what's going on with the bipartisan infrastructure proposal. the biggest issue that is stalling these negotiations, this passage in the senate, is the fact that they have not been able to finalize the text for this legislation just yet. you know, as of yesterday, the text was not finalized, so, as a result, they cannot actually proceed with anything in the senate unless that text is done. so that is what we are waiting for right now. look, senate majority leader
chuck schumer yesterday was incredibly hopeful that once things proceed and that text is done, they will be able to move forward with this. he said that because this is a bipartisan package, they have the votes for this to pass. take a listen while we wait right now for him, at what he said yesterday about this legislation. >> given the bipartisan nature of the bill, the senate should be able to process this legislation rather quickly. we may need the weekend. we may vote on several amendments. but with the cooperation of our republican colleagues, i believe we can finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of days. >> reporter: you know, i want to talk a little bit about what is actually in this trillion dollar package. $550 billion, it will be new federal spending. $73 billion will rebuild the electric grid. $66 billion will be in passenger and freight rail. $65 billion to expand broadband internet access, as well as many
other things that are included in this bill that are a priority for the administration, as well as some of the republicans that worked on this proposal. so right now, you know, bottom line here is we're waiting to see what senate majority leader chuck schumer says about where these proposals stand, where the text stands, whether they finished it yet. after that, we'll see how they proceed with this legislation. jessica? >> yeah, a bit of a guessing game up there, with senators telling us they weren't sure when the legislative text would be done. hopefully it comes soon. daniela diaz on capitol hill, thanks so much. while president biden's infrastructure plan moves forward, another major legislative issue getting sidelined. congress letting the eviction moratorium expire, setting off issues for families across the country. more on that when we come back. this is us talking tax-smart investing, managing risk, and all the ways schwab can help me invest. this is andy reminding me how i can keep my investing costs low
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house of representatives left town friday without extending a federal ban on evictions that was put in place during the pandemic. that means millions of americans will lose protections at midnight tonight. now, it remains unclear why this was left until the last minute. all sides kind of pointing fingers here. some democrats blaming the white house. house speaker nancy pelosi saying she just learned of the need to act in the house. adding it should be the cdc who should extend the moratorium. the white house legal team didn't see that as a viable option. no matter who is responsible, the bottom line here is more than 11 million americans are now at risk of being evicted. last night, democratic congresswoman cori bush slept on the steps of the capitol, telling cnn she wanted to send a
message. >> this is our way of saying, house leadership, reconvene us like we're still here. do something. we can't take vacation right now. >> the expiration could impact those still struggling to get back on their feet. ♪ las vegas looks like a post-pandemic playground these days. woo-hoo. in the cold light of day around the corner at the office in the courthouse -- >> all of us lost our jobs, and it was on the strips. >> reporter: apparently, nearly 12 million americans are now behind on their rent. the federal covid-era eviction ban for now expires midnight saturday. >> you are going to see nationwide on the 1st eviction notices being issued. >> reporter: here in the state of nevada -- >> seven days later, if you don't respond, you're out. >> reporter: congress has approved nearly $47 billion to
help people across the country. >> i didn't know that. and i bet cha a lot of other people didn't know that, as well. >> reporter: she's right. only about $3 billion was actually dished out through the end of june. spreading the word is hard, and bureaucracy gets in the way. now, in nevada -- >> you cannot be evicted until -- >> reporter: -- as soon as you apply for the federal money, you cannot be kicked out while it's in process. that's a state law. >> that's a state law that every state should pass. >> we can't work. we can't pass. >> reporter: a few other states like california will keep some eviction protections in place. >> anyone that has been impacted by this pandemic and cannot pay rent, 100% of that rent will be paid for. >> reporter: there is one group that will benefit when the eviction ban disappears. squeezed landlords. >> we have many, many members that have exhausted all of their
savings. i don't know how long that road will be before we become solid again, but, certainly, on the road to it, depending on whether or not july 31st truly is the end of the moratorium. >> save our homes. >> reporter: but lifting some state level of eviction bans last summer, say researchers, led to more than 10,000 covid deaths. >> if families are forced to go to a shelter or double up, you're risking more exposure. doing it when the delta variant is out of control is a really bad idea. >> reporter: leslie says she was evicted once already, moved in with her mom. now, you and you mom are -- >> getting evicted, as well. >> reporter: nick watt, cnn, las vegas. >> our thanks to nick. let's bring in emily, a research partner with the eviction lab at princeton university, also the chair of the american bar association's task force on eviction
evictions, housing stability, and equity. thanks so much for being with us. do you expect to see eviction notices going out as soon as this expires tonight? >> i do. not only do i expect to see mass evictions across the country and filings, i also expect to see all of those cases that are currently on hold immediately move forward and widespread eviction in all of those cities and states where tenants were being protected from the federal moratorium. the moratorium was the only intervention in place that was preventing that widespread eviction and housing displacement across the country. it was a critical public health, evidence-based measure. because we know that eviction is associa asso associated with increased covid-19 mortality, infection, and transmission that quickly goes across entire communities. we also know that the people who are at the highest risk of eviction right now are living in communities with the lowest rates of vaccination. with the advent of the delta variant spreadin ing across the
country, it is putting communities at a heightened risk of a surge in the middle of the pandemic. >> we know that this eviction moratorium was allowing people pretty much to defer their rent. so some people could be waking up to really big bills, of months of this piling up. what else are you hearing from families, vulnerable people, who may now lose their place to live? >> families are panicked. they don't know where their children are begigoing to sleepe monday night. they don't know how they'll cover the past due rent that they're not likely to pay off in their lifetime. many applied for rental assistance. with $3 billion of the $36 billion paid out, they're on hold. they're pannipannish -- panicke desperate, and in dire straits. they know eviction is on their record for life, pushing you to sub-standard housing, higher crime neighborhoods, to underperforming schools. it really places a toll on your health and well-being, even
taking years off of your life. in addition to the heightened mortality risk due to covid-19. >> and you've said in your research the single biggest predictor of an eviction is the presence of a child. explain that to us, and also help us wrap our heads around, i mean, children have no control over their circumstances. so explain what you found in your research. >> i think that's one of the most concerning aspects of this crisis. that children will largely bear the weight of this. we know that all else being equal, children are three times more likely to be evicted or families with children than another tenant who has the same amount of past due rent. in fact, right now, one in three children are facing food or housing insecurity. we know that they're at heightened risk of eviction as it is. and this is particularly troubling because children are deeply impacted by eviction. it is an incredibly traumatic experience, as they're watching
their toys and their pbooks, clothes, and belongings strewn on the sidewalk, left for trash. and they don't recover from it quickly. it results in lead poisoning and the brain damage it causes, health problems, academic decline at a time when schools are already challenged and learning is difficult. so many more issues even affecting people who are pregnant and children in the womb. it results in pre-term pregnancy and can take years off of their life. having an impact across the life course. >> all right. and i know part of this, and nick got into this in the story we just saw, the other piece of this are these landlords, some of whom are mom and pop kind of small businesses. they're not giant corporations that can take on the losses they've accumulated over time. they rely on the rent they're collecting to support themselves or their own families. what do you say to them, and where is the balance here, do you think? >> interestingly, the eviction
lab research has shown many mom and pops own the property and are renting it out. even if they had a mortgage, the federal government extended mortgage fore bbearance. we know the rental assistance is availability and picking up pace. the message to landlords right now is, truly, the public health largely rests in your hands. because of the link of eviction and the spread of covid-19, it is critical you apply for rental assistance and wait to evict because of the long-term hardship and also the immediate threat to covid-19 surge that this will create. >> emily benfer, thank you for your insight. appreciate it. also at 1:00 p.m. eastern this afternoon, we'll have a live interview with congresswoman cori bush who slept on the steps of the capitol.
in her message to colleagues, how she feels about the moratorium. we'll talk to the congresswoman in a little bit. ahead, the dangers of the delta variant are becoming more clear. why are some republicans mocking coronavirus restrictions? anks, . and for unexpected heartburn... frank is a fan of pepcid. it works in minutes. nexium 24 hour and prilosec otc can take one to four days to fully work. pepcid. strong relief for fans of fast.
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reviewing the data to move past the emergency authorization stage. this is just another move meant to raise confidence in the vaccines, as president biden acknowledges the likely return of covid restrictions. >> mr. president, should americans expect more guidelines coming up, more restrictions? >> in all probability. >> kevin joins us live from the white house. kevin, how is the administration looking at this particular moment in the pandemic? >> reporter: well, they really see it as a turning point, jessica, but it's not the direction the president had hoped to be turning at this point in the summer. he had wanted to be looking ahead to infrastructure, all these items on his agencda. instead, this spike in delta cases is forcing him to look at drastic measures, urgent steps that had been off the table up until this point. things like requiring federal workers to get vaccinated or submit to these stringent mitigation measures, and asking the military to look into
mandating the vaccine for service members. all of these steps coming as the president confronts the spike in cases. he's making clear to businesses, to schools, to local governments, that it may be the only way to get people vaccinated is mandate it. the white house said yesterday, and they're saying again today, that a federal mandate for all americans is not on the table. they don't think that's even possible. clearly, as you heard the president say there, he believes that new guidelines and new recommendations could be coming down the pike as this ramps up over the next month or so. clearly, this is not where the president wanted to be. this is unwelcome news for him and his aides. we're told that he is feeling frustrated about the state of vaccinations in this country. feeling as if he's hit a brick wall. recently, the white house and the white house aides have been heartened to see vaccination rates ticking up. the vaccination rates are up 26% over three weeks ago, but with half the country still unvaccinated, clearly, they know
they have a long way to go, jessica. >> all right. some great insight. kevin liptak, thanks for the reporting at the white house. appreciate it. even as we see more evidence of the danger from the delta variant, many republican officials continue to mock and defy rems recommendations to we masks, get vaccinated. brian todd has that story. >> reporter: florida republican senator marco rubio mocking defense secretary lloyd austin for wearing a mask and a face shield on an official visit overseas. tweeting this. quote, our sec def is vaccinated but hi arrives in the philippines wearing a mask and a face shield. embarrassing covid theater. >> this is akin to making fun of police officers and soldiers who want to wear bulletproof vests and body armor in the line of fight. >> reporter: a defense spokesperson responded to rubio by telling cnn, general austin was abiding by the philippine government's health guidelines. florida republican governor ron desantis is bypassing the cdc's
masking guidelines, signing an executive order leaving it up to parents to decide if their kids should wear masks in schools. >> these kids are in school. they have the masks on. when they go out of school and hang out, do you think they're wearing the masks when they're at each other's homes? of course not. so it is terribly uncomfortable, and it's something that a lot o about. >> reporter: all of this despite the government's push to get more americans to vaccinate and wear masks indoors. >> what these republican leaders are doing is very detrimental to people's health because they are actively discouraging them from doing the very things that will protect their health. >> reporter: meantime, other republican leaders like senate minority leader mitch mcconnell are pushing americans to get vaccinated. mcconnell narrating this radio ad in his home state of kentucky, recalling his own battle with polio. >> every american should take advantage of this miracle and get vaccinated. it's the only way we're going to defeat covid. this is not complicated. >> reporter: alabama's
republican governor kay ivey, whose state has some of the lowest vaccination rates, is blunt about who is responsible for the spikes in covid cases. >> time to start blaming it on unvaccinated folks. not the regular folks. >> reporter: some of the unvaccinated and their loved ones have crushing pain and regret. ball from mississippi and mhis wife didn't get vaccinated initially. alicia has since got the shot, but her husband has been in the hospital for three weeks. >> he means so much to our family. he's the rock of the family. >> reporter: christi carpenter and her family have been hesitant to get the vaccine. coming off her battle with the virus, the hospital employee from alabama is telling journalists what she misses most about her 28-year-old son, kurt, who died of covid. >> you're going to make me cry. just his infectious laugh.
he would laugh from his toes. he was so sweet and loving and just really caring. >> reporter: infectious disease specialist dr. gounder acknowledges americans are burned out from all of this, and the new messaging on masking at least has been confusing for many americans. but she says the public has to understand the messaging will change again as the science keeps changing. she urges patients, as america's top doctors try to get ahead of the delta variant. brian todd, washington. >> thank you. coming up, going for gold. swimmer katie ledecky once again giving americans a reason to cheer. cookies and breyers. that's like getting two desserts! wait... do we have to thank our moms twice?
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simone biles withdrawing from two individual events scheduled for tomorrow, as another american, swimmer katie ledecky, wins her second olympic gold. the current medal count, china with the most gold medals but tied with the u.s. for total medals. selena wang joins us live from tokyo. what do we know about biles' decision to withdraw, selena? >> reporter: we learned she will not be competing in sunday's event finals in vault and uneven bars, but she is still eligible next week in she's going to be evaluated daily to see if she can continue. jessica, on instagram friday said she's still struggling with a mental block gymnasts call the
tw twisties. can't tell up from down. craziest feeling not having an inch of control over her body. she dealt with it before, normally takes two weeks or more to get over it. meanwhile, katie ledecky has won two golds. she has the most individual olympic golds of any female swimmer. take a listen to what she said. >> to win one gold at the past three olympics has been amazing. i never dreamed of making it to one olympics when i first started swimming at six years old. to have the opportunity to go to three now, to win medals, to hear the national anthem play, it is amazing. >> jessica, ledecky confirms she will keep competing, plans to be in paris, 2024. >> amazing. the number of coronavirus cases
rising there in tokyo, what are you learning about that, what kind of impact is that having on games? >> right, jessica. cases continue to surge in tokyo, reaching a record of more than 4,000 cases reported saturday. the prime minister has extended the state of emergency in tokyo and expanded it to other preif he can turs. they're struggling to contain the delta variant, saying cases are growing at unprecedented speed. japan medical association says that if cases continue to climb, the medical system could collapse. officials insist the rise in cases has nothing to do with olympic games, that the bubble has been maintained. right now, we have more than 240 cases in japan linked to the olympic games. whether or not the bubble separation continues is a question in the minds of public health experts. unfortunately, cases are moving the wrong direction in and out of the bubble. >> selena wang in tokyo, thanks
so much. up next, stranded, more than 100 drivers trapped by mud slides. and southwest of alaska, you can reach out and touch spencer glacier. getting there takes planes, trails, kayaks. it is all in this week's adventure "off the beaten path." ♪ everybody is like wow, it is breathtaking. >> spencer glacier in the national forest in south central alaska. once out here, we're away from everything. one of the places that are a hidden gem. makes it a little difficult to get out here, but really worth it. >> can't get here by car, you have to get in the train, make your way out here. it is an exciting combination of being accessible while also
being remote. spencer is although much smaller than used to be, still a large glacier. as it has retreated, it left behind a huge lake. people come up here to hike out to the viewpoint and paddle along the lake. >> you have a two mile paddle across the lake to get to the base of the glacier. you have big, beautiful icebergs choking the lake itself. and you get onto the ice. all the cool features on the glacier. blue ice features, it is a cool glacier. pretty darn special. ♪all by yourself.♪ you look a little lost. i can't find my hotel. oh. oh! ♪
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when you add xfinity mobile. get started today. more than 9 million people are under flash flood watches due to monsoon rains out west. the storm set off a mud slide on a colorado highway, also bringing much needed relief to drought stricken states. meanwhile, in california and oregon, firefighters are battling two huge wildfires that burned an area the size of new york, l.a., and chicago combined. for the latest, let's bring in meteorologist allison chinchar. what are you seeing? >> the question becomes can you have too much of a good thing. a lot of these areas need the rain, maybe not so much in such a short period of time. that's why you have flash flood watches for a half dozen states in the western u.s. here's a look at where the rain is now.
you have influx of moisture in areas of arizona, southern california, pushing into nevada and utah. but we're starting to see it spread to other place. past five to seven days, widespread areas of one to two inch inches for utah, new mexico, colorado, arizona. this is good for arizona. a week ago, 84% of the state was in the highest two levels of drought. a few days ago when the new drought monitor came out, the number was down to 52% because of rain they've been able to get. the problem is it is not the only state in drought. 96% of the western states are in some level of drought. yes, adding rain into the mix is certainly going to be helpful. the reason we started to see a shift of moisture going from the southwest surging into the pacific northwest, they need it there, too, even if not much. most areas are about an inch or so of rain. remember, doesn't take much to be beneficial. even a half inch of rain, that's
it, that's enough to stop spread of the ongoing wildfires. if they're able to get two inches or more, that's enough to extinguish fires. there's plenty of them, not just in washington, but oregon, idaho, montana. 83 active wildfires out there. yes, jessica, they could certainly need any rain at this point would be beneficial for a lot of the areas. >> sure looks like it. allison chinchar, thanks so much. hi, everyone. thanks so much for joining me today. i am jessica dean, in for fredricka whitfield. right now, the u.s. in a race to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus delta variant. cases of the variant now account for 90% of new cases we're seeing. the cdc says the best defense against infection, hospitalization, and death remains the widely available vaccines. silver lining here, vaccines clearly on the rise, even in