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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Dow Suffers Biggest Drop Of The Year As Delta Variant Fears Hit Wall Street Hard; Election Skeptics Among G.O.P. January Committee Picks; First Capitol Rioter Convicted Of A Felony Received Eight-Month Sentence; Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, Crew Set To Travel Into Space Tomorrow Morning; Number Of COVID Cases Linked To Tokyo Games Rises To 61; Rising NHL Pro Prospect Says He's Gay. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 19, 2021 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: What took so long? Very excited for that game.

Thank you all so much for joining us tonight. I'm Kate Bolduan. Don't forget you can watch "Out Front" anytime, anywhere on CNN Go. Anderson Cooper and "AC360" starts now.

[20:00:13]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening from Launch Site One near Van Horn, Texas where tomorrow morning, Amazon founder and now Executive Chair Jeff Bezos, his brother, Mark; an 82-year-old aviation pioneer, and a teenager -- a very lucky teenager -- will be rocketed into space. We're going to have more on the flight and what it might mean for the future of space exploration and Bezos's company, Blue Origin later in the program tonight.

We begin though with breaking news. Fresh evidence that for all the progress we've made, for all the hardship we've endured, we still have not yet fully come to grips with COVID and what it can do. That is what the virus is telling us. And as you will see, the virus doesn't lie. Certainly not about the threat it still presents to life as we all once knew it.

Late today, the State Department issued a Do Not Travel advisory for Americans thinking about visiting the United Kingdom after the C.D.C. raised its COVID risk assessment of it to the highest possible level. The news came after a punishing day on Wall Street, investor sending the Dow Industrials off a 700-point cliff, frightened at how quickly the delta variant has swept the country and what it might do to the economic recovery.

The realization was sudden, but the evidence has been building for days and weeks because as I said, the virus doesn't lie about what it can do to people who have chosen not to get vaccinated as far too many Americans have.

Cases are up on average 66 percent from last week, 145 percent from two weeks ago. The number of people in hospitals is also rising sharply, especially where the vaccination rate is low. At University of Florida Health in Jacksonville, they have more COVID patients now than at their peak in January. That's how brutal the delta variant has been there -- and cruel. CNN's Leyla Santiago spoke with one woman currently hospitalized.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you tell me what you're experiencing in terms of your symptoms and how you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, before I came in, I felt like I was about to die.

SANTIAGO: What would you tell someone who is not vaccinated right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get vaccinated as soon as possible. As soon as I get out of here, and get well, I'm going to get vaccinated.

SANTIAGO: What has been the worst part about this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Worst part?

SANTIAGO: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not being able to breathe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Let's remember, nobody who was hospitalized, in the hospital, struggling to breathe should be there. Everybody can get the vaccine in this country. It is a great blessing. This should not be happening at all.

The number of people getting the vaccine is now averaging half a million a day. Now, remember what that number was? It was two million or more. Still about half the country need to get a vaccine.

Over the last several days, Canada surpassed the U.S. in the percentage of population vaccinated even after a far, far slower start. They got a slower start than we did, they now have more, a higher percentage of people vaccinated.

One reason there's agreement in Canada, across the political spectrum on the need for it because the virus does not lie about its indifference to political division, except perhaps as an unexpected bonus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I mean, political differences are totally understandable and a natural part of the process in any country. But when it comes to a public health issue, in which you're in the middle of a deadly pandemic, and the common enemy is the virus, it just doesn't make any sense to essentially disregard or don't pay attention to what's obvious.

Ninety-nine-point-five percent of all the deaths due to COVID-19 in this country are among unvaccinated people. And 0.5 percent are among vaccinated people.

That's a public health issue. That's not political. That's not ideological. It's a public health issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Let's just remember, little children cannot get vaccinated. So, if you have chosen not to get vaccinated, you have a potential of threatening little kids throughout this country.

Sadly, though, enter the former President who recently weighed in with a statement, which we're not reading here because it's both ridiculous and irresponsible that directly connects vaccine resistance to doubts about the 2020 election. Virus won't lie about that either. And sadly, soon, we will all know what it thinks.

Joining us now is Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States. Dr. Murthy, thanks so much for being with us. As you probably know, former F.D.A. Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CBS that because the delta variant is so contagious, if you live in an area where there's low vaccination rate and a high infection rate, and you are vulnerable, you should consider wearing N95 masks even if you are vaccinated. Do you agree with that?

[20:05:12]

MURTHY: Well, Anderson, it's certainly the case that this delta variant that we're seeing is the most transmissible version of COVID- 19 we've seen today, and it is absolutely the case that if you are unvaccinated, that you are at great risk right now, and you should take measures if you are unvaccinated, like masking, distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings.

You know, as troubling is this news is, Anderson about this delta variant and it is spreading so quickly in various pockets of the United States, we shouldn't lose sight of the good news here, which is that over the last few months, we have, according to independent research saved millions of people from hospitalization and hundreds of thousands of people from COVID-related deaths because of the vaccination effort.

So, while we are seeing spread, we are not seeing --

COOPER: Sir, I get that, but there's half the country who are vaccinated, and I'm one of them, and I have a small child. And I want to know, do I need to wear a mask? Because a whole bunch of my fellow Americans are choosing not to get vaccinated, and if I get infected, am I going to pass it on to my child? And I haven't been able to get a straight answer on whether or not I'm a danger to my own child, if I get infected. So, should I wear a mask?

MURTHY: So Anderson, I'm glad you asked. And you and I are in the same boat. I have two small children as well. They are three and four. They are too young to get vaccinated. And I'm worried about their health, too. So here's how I'm thinking about it. You know, I know that if you're

fully vaccinated, like you and I are, our risk of both getting sick and transmitting it to our children is low. But if you're in an area where there's a lot of infection, or if you're worried about that risk of transmission, then wearing a mask, especially in indoor settings when you go out is the right thing to do. That's what I do.

Because again, I want to take every possible measure to protect my child, even though the risk is low. You know, given that I live in an area where there's a lot of virus being transmitted, I want to be extra cautious, and so that's what I do and that's what all parents can do, it is take that extra step, and I think look with COVID spreading with this delta variant, it bears being cautious because this is being transmitted at a far higher rate than other versions of COVID-19.

COOPER: Yes, and such an important point. I mean, it's very easy to get this. It is easier to get the delta variant than it is the other forms of COVID-19 as far as I understand.

Just on the children aspect, again, I mean, for anybody who has chosen not to get a vaccine, they are choosing to endanger children who cannot get vaccinated if they come in contact with children, if children come in contact with them. Do we know yet if a child gets -- you know, a young child who can't get vaccinated gets the delta variant?

Are they -- I mean, I've heard in Mississippi, I saw a doctor saying that there were 10 children in the ICU. Are children -- is it still the case that children bounce back quickly from COVID-19? Or do we not know long term with a delta variant?

MURTHY: Well, we are still learning about how kids do with a delta variant. But Anderson, here is what we do know. There is a myth out there that kids are -- young kids in particular are untouched and unaffected by COVID-19. That is not true.

Children, by and large, do much, much better than adults do, and especially older adults, much lower rate of hospitalization and death. But with that said, we've had millions of children who have had COVID. Tens of thousands who have been hospitalized. We've had hundreds who have died from COVID-19. And with this more transmissible variant, we've got to be cautious to protect our kids.

You said it exactly right. Our kids who cannot get vaccinated, they depend on us being vaccinated to protect them from the spread of the virus. We are their shields. And so even if you don't want to do it for yourself, consider getting vaccinated to protect the children in your community. They are depending on us.

COOPER: Dr. Fauci said this past weekend that he thinks vaccines for children under the age of 12 won't be approved until what he said was, quote, "Well into the winter towards the end of this year." Considering what we're seeing now with a delta variant, is that acceptable to you? MURTHY: Well, Anderson, some of this is driven by the trials

themselves. And so when a company completes its clinical trials and submits them to the Food and Drug Administration for evaluation, then the F.D.A. can start its process.

But today, to be clear, there has not been data submitted from a company for kids under 12 for an Emergency Use Authorization or for approval. So, as soon as that comes in, the F.D.A. will evaluate it expeditiously, and I can tell you that the F.D.A. is prioritizing COVID-related decisions. It recognizes we are in the middle of a terrible pandemic.

[20:10:00]

MURTHY: So, hopefully those trials will get done soon. The trials depend on how many people get infected. You have to wait for these cases to develop. You can't rush those. But as soon as the data comes in, I can guarantee you, the F.D.A. will process it quickly.

COOPER: Dr. Walensky has said that if you receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is as everyone knows, is one shot and you want to now get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you should consider participating in a study. How would a person do that? I mean, and shouldn't there be some easier way to get a second type of vaccine? Or would you recommend that people get a second type of vaccine?

MURTHY: It's a common question that people are asking, if they had to change a vaccine, do they need a booster? And that is something that we are trying to look at and study right now. There is not clear data yet that points to the need for a booster if you have changed -- I know some people have spoken with their doctors about getting that additional dose, and certainly people are free to make that decision with their doctor and to get that if that's what they want.

But right now, until we have the data available, Anderson that says immunity is insufficient with one dose and that it is significantly boosted with a second dose, it is difficult to make an official recommendation that everyone who got changed get a booster.

COOPER: Yesterday, I heard you said that 99.5 percent of the people who are dying from COVID right now are unvaccinated? I mean, if that doesn't convince people to get vaccinated, I'm not sure what will if it's not even -- you know, if you don't care about possibly infecting children, just the idea that all the people who are dying, virtually all of them are people who have not been vaccinated.

One of the things I've just taken away from our conversation is because with a couple of things you've said, you know, we don't have all the data yet on that. And I think obviously, you're a man of science and it's good that you are upfront about that.

But to me, what I take away from that is that there's still a lot we don't know. We think we understand this virus. We think it's past us. It seems like there's a lot we don't know and we need to continue to be humble in the face of this, in the face of what we don't know. MURTHY: Well, Anderson, that's exactly right. If you look at the last

year and a half, there have been multiple times where we've been fooled by COVID-19. When cases went down and we thought we were in the clear, and then cases went up again. This is a tricky virus. It has fooled us on more than one occasion.

And I think that means that we've got to be humble about how we approach this, it means that we shouldn't let down our guard until cases not only come down, but stay down. And right now, cases are actually going up. Cases are going up, hospitalizations are going up, and death rates are ticking up.

Again, this is primarily happening among the unvaccinated, but recognizing the delta is new and we are still learning more about it, it bears being cautious. So, if you're out there, and you've got kids at home, or you're immunocompromised, and you're thinking, should I be more cautious and put my mask on when I'm going to indoor spaces? I would strongly consider that.

If your locality is seeing cases rise around you and you're thinking, should I put additional mitigation measures in place like masking? I would say yes, you should strongly consider that because this is not the time to let down our guard.

COOPER: And just finally, what's your message to healthcare workers and many who, you know, are still exhausted from this past year and a half, two years as cases are going in the wrong direction again, what's your message to them?

MURTHY: Anderson, this is heartbreaking and these healthcare workers are my friends, they are my colleagues, they are my family members, both literally and figuratively. And I am heartbroken to see just how hard they are working, how exhausted they are, how many of them are suffering with depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation as a result of the stress that they have endured during this pandemic.

What they are doing, Anderson, is so many of them are pleading with the public to please get vaccinated. But yet, time and time again, when they see those calls go unheeded and they see hospitals filling up again, it's very -- it's disheartening. And not only is it bad for now, Anderson when we need our doctors and nurses and other healthcare workers to take care of those who have COVID. But think about after COVID when we need those same healthcare professionals to be there to take care of all the other conditions and needs that we have as a country.

If they burn out, they drop out of the workforce, it will be bad for them, it will be worse for us. And we'll be worse off as a country. So, so many reasons to get vaccinated for your health, to protect our children, to rescue our health workers from the difficult situation they are in. And the good news is, we are blessed with multiple vaccines that are highly effective and very safe.

COOPER: Dr. Murthy, I really do appreciate your time and your expertise. Thank you very much. MURTHY: Thanks so much, Anderson. Take care.

COOPER: A quick reminder. Join us, Wednesday night, President Joe Biden joins Don Lemon for an exclusive CNN Presidential Town Hall. Again, that's Wednesday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. I'll be on right afterward at nine for analysis of the President's comments.

Next up for us tonight, more breaking news. The long way for Republican members of the Select Committee investigating the insurrection had been named, and how eager some themselves were to actually overturn the election.

And later, with Jeff Bezos and company getting ready for liftoff, we'll talk about tomorrow's launch which is going to happen just right over my shoulder about a mile or two that way. We'll speak with someone else who has recently gone to space to find out what the folks tomorrow can expect.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:19:32]

COOPER: There's more breaking news tonight. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tonight named his picks for the Select Committee on the January 6 attack on the Capitol. No surprise, some of his choices wanted the same outcome, though certainly by different means as the rioters did. They wanted to overturn election results. In fact, they voted to. One even boasted about it.

Troy Nehls tweeting in January, quote, "I'm proudly announcing I will object to the counting of electoral votes in disputed states tomorrow. You sent me to Congress to fight for President Trump and election integrity, and that's exactly what I'm doing."

More now on all this from CNN's Ryan Nobles tonight at the Capitol.

So, Ryan three of the five selections voted against certifying the election. Congressman Jim Jordan actually participated in a so-called Stop the Steal rally two days after the election. I also want to put, just for our viewers, something he said about the results.

[20:20:21]

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I don't know how you can ever convince me that President Trump didn't actually win this thing, based on all the things you see.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COOPER: I mean, isn't that exactly what drove the insurrection?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is a pretty compelling body of evidence that says just that, Anderson, and that is part of what this Select Committee's task is to do. It is to connect those dots to figure out what went wrong here on January 6, and then come up with solutions to prevent it from ever happening in the future. And that's why there was a lot of concern about the picks that Kevin McCarthy was going to make to this panel.

And Jim Jordan's name certainly jumps off the page as someone who has been a consistent and loyal defender of the former President despite his inaccurate rhetoric about the 2020 election and the fact that he continues to peddle those lies.

In fact, listen to what Jordan said, was at the top of his mind about his appointment to this Committee, when we caught up with him this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JORDAN: We know what this is about. This is about going after President Trump. You know, I mean, the Democrats, they don't want to talk about anything else, so they've got to talk about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: So, he is talking about President Trump. He is worried that this is just going to be a committee that only is trying to go after President Trump and nothing else. So, it shows you his mindset going in to this process -- Anderson.

COOPER: Speaker Pelosi has the ability to veto any of these picks. Is there any reason to think she will?

NOBLES: So, that is the open question here tonight, and we talked to three or four different members, the Democratic members of the Select Committee and each one of them said to be clear, these are not the official names yet because Speaker Pelosi has that veto power and her office told me tonight that she is reviewing those picks right now, that she has not officially confirmed that they will be a part of the panel.

But Anderson, it's important to point out that the way that Kevin McCarthy played this, releasing the names to the public first, getting them out there for them to be debated. It would be very difficult for her to veto one of these picks. The Republicans could turn that into a whole political talking point, they could raise money on it, if someone like Jim Jordan is removed from this committee.

So, I'd be very surprised if she takes that step, but it is still an option that she has at her disposal -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ryan Nobles, appreciate it. Thanks. I want go next to CNN's Chief White House correspondent, Kaitlin Collins.

Kaitlin, does the White House have any expectation that you know, that Speaker Pelosi is going to try to eliminate any of these Republicans chosen by Kevin McCarthy?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think it remains to be seen for them as well, given Pelosi, she was saying that she just saw the names tonight, as Ryan was just noting when they were put out by McCarthy's office after he confirmed those names.

And so we've asked the White House before if they thought Republicans could act in good faith on this committee, and they said that the President did believe that they could, but they never said whether or not they believe the Republicans who voted to overturn the results of the election could actually act in good faith on this Committee investigating what happened on January 6.

And of course, as Ryan just noted, that is several names that is on this list of members who did that and not even just that, several of them also remember, signed on to that Texas lawsuit that wanted to invalidate the votes of millions of voters in several states, which of course, it was blocked by the Supreme Court.

But that's kind of the group that the White House is now going to be facing and going to be questioned about on whether or not they believe they're the right people for this job.

And so how Speaker Pelosi can veto these choices if she wants to, it remains to be seen if she will. But so far the White House has been incredibly deferential to House Speaker Pelosi on what this panel is going to look like.

They were, when there was the rumor, of course, that she was going to put a Republican herself on the Committee. There are questions about how this would work with Liz Cheney, and you know, her relationship, obviously with Jim Jordan, which is not a good one.

And so President Biden has said previously he wants this to be an independent investigation. He wants it to be fair. I think the question for the White House if House Speaker Pelosi does not veto these members is going to be whether or not he believes people like Jim Jordan and others who voted to overturn the results of his election can do that.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it, from White House.

More on the Capitol riot. Just ahead, the first rioter found guilty of a felony was sentenced today. Two former officials from the Justice Department join us to discuss what his prison sentence means for the hundreds of others who have been charged.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:28:20]

COOPER: The first person convicted of a felony in the Capitol riots was sentenced today, a decision that could influence the fate of hundreds of other rioters who have been charged. Paul Hodgkins is his name. He pleaded guilty last month to obstructing congressional proceedings, spent about 15 minutes inside the Senate chamber wearing a t-shirt and carrying a flag proclaiming his loyalty to the former President. Prosecutors had wanted an 18-month prison sentence. The Federal Judge

gave him just eight, plus a $2,000.00 fine. The Judge says that Hodgkins cause real damage to the country, but was not involved in any violence and issued a sincere apology.

We want to get perspective now from Andrew McCabe, former F.B.I. Deputy Director and CNN senior law enforcement analyst; and Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor and CNN senior legal analyst.

So Andrew, the fact that the sentence in the case was significantly below the guidelines of one to two years. What does that tell you?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, it's got to be a really concerning sign for prosecutors and agents working the rest of these cases, Anderson, because there is no doubt that this sentence will have an impact on other cases that Judge Moss sentences, but also other cases that other judges review.

I mean, there is a strong desire within the Federal bench to sentence similar defendants to similar punishment. It makes perfect sense.

So this case in some very important ways could set a benchmark that other defendants who are charged with similar conduct could use to kind of expect what sort of sentence they can expect a Judge to give them.

COOPER: Laura, I mean, this particular defendant he said in court, he was remorseful, but then his attorney according to our reporting, made a kind of rambling, 30-minute presentation. He quoted Abraham Lincoln, invoked the Japanese internment during World War II, decried cancel culture, and argued that the rioters who stormed the Capitol weren't quote-unquote, "real terrorists."

How does the Department of Justice deal with that? I mean, do you think it could be a sign of things to come in other cases?

[20:30:17]

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think it is. The idea of throwing together all these different talking points, these hot button issues trying to string along enough statements that will get the have a provocative notion here. But being a provocateur is not going to make the judge actually try to see it the way of your client.

And here, as Andrew talked about, this is a benchmark. Remember what the judge also said that because this person pled guilty early, because this person was nonviolent, and showed some remorse, those were the factors that could distinguish it from other cases in the future. So if you have somebody who was engaged in violent behavior, who has not demonstrated remorse, who is using his attorney as a mouthpiece, that is actually along with what that person is saying, this might actually serve to be a problem for the client.

But yes, the prosecutors have to know now that they're going to have to distinguish between what happened overall, and making everybody a poster child of what happened, and making sure that they what they're actually asking for a -- for particular punishment is about this particular person's conduct.

This judge made it very clear that while the whole issue was a problem, why the entire insurrection jeopardizes democracy, what this particular person did was in line with this particular sentence. So they're going to be very careful about this going forward.

COOPER: Andrew, one of the prosecutors said that the sentence they were seeking one and a half years would, quote, send a loud and clear message to other would be rioters that if and when they're caught, they will be held accountable. People who might be contemplating a sequence of the January 6 will stand down, and there won't be a next time.

Obviously, they did not get the sentence they want. Do you think this will be a deterrent or an encouragement for people to confess early?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, Anderson, I'm not sure that an individual sentence has that much of a deterrent effect on a large, you know, a potential group of people in the future who might consider similar action. I think, as we've already discussed, and Laura pointed out, I think this sentence could have an impact on the decisions that other current defendants make as to whether or not they should plead guilty or try their chances at trial.

But I'm not really convinced that one sentence would turn a future potential mob of rioters away from enacting what they're doing. And the opposite is also true. Right? You could make the same argument that a strong sentence could inspire more people to revolt, to be angry about that and could actually cause problems. So it's, it's a very inexact science to try to determine these what actually deters criminal activity.

COOPER: Laura, I'm wondering just if for those who did actually, you know, are proven to have committed acts of violence against law enforcement personnel, what sort of sentences might they be facing?

COATES: Well, remember, this particular person had a potential of 20 years for obstruction. Right? Now, they were not charged with domestic terrorism, they didn't have that sort of notion, other things like that are more violent crimes. And so, those that actually would be charged with that the prosecutors case, when they would say at sentencing, and this person's action were akin to domestic terrorism, it will have much more weight.

Remember, this judge was not being lenient, because he didn't think anything was wrong with what was happening. But because of the factors involved, now we're talking about actually harming not just the right like, an esoteric discussion about democracy, but actually harming and only the individuals but those who were sworn to protect the capital gave a very much -- a much different calculus for a judge to take into account here.

So I think you're going to have a very, it's going to fly the other direction in terms of the punitive damages, excuse me, the punitive punishment here, as opposed to one that says, look, we want to discourage anyone else who has ideas about maybe going forward, trying to rebel in many ways against our democracy. And it wasn't in a vacuum here, was it? I mean, Andrew knows full well, there is a lot of chatter about possibly having Trump be reinstated. I don't know how but by August.

And so, this was a way for the prosecutors to say, look, I'm going to shut down those notions. If I'm asking for 18 months if somebody who was not violent, 15 minutes, pled early, and in fact was remorseful. What do you think you might have in the future? It was a shot across the bow for future people as well.

COOPER: Laura Coates, Andrew McCabe, appreciate it. Thanks.

Just ahead, what Jeff Bezos and the others on tomorrow's Blue Origin flight can expect minute by minute when they take off and come back down. We're live from launch site one. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:38:29]

COOPER: And welcome back. As I mentioned at the top of the broadcast tomorrow morning, Jeff Bezos and a crew of three others were launched into space for a rocket from here at launch site one in Texas. The actual launch pad is about two or so miles in that direction. Right now, the rocket that they're going to take off on that building you're seeing with a feather on it, that's where the rocket is being stored.

They call that the barn. And the launch site is a little bit farther down -- farther past that. You can't see the actual site from here, but you can certainly will see the rocket going off and obviously we'll have a lot of cameras a lot closer.

The ride is expected to last about 11 minutes. And it really is obviously a big step for future space tourism. But it's a remarkable step in a mission that began more than two decades ago, when Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin. His plans for space -- for Blue Origin in space are much bigger than just space tourism.

Earlier today, Bezos delivered dinner to the press, the media center showed no signs of worry, despite the obvious dangers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you having for breakfast tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, is that your last meal? Are you having steak and eggs?

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, AMAZON: Hey, (INAUDIBLE) last meal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last meal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?

BEZOS: Put it that way. Let's talk about it in a different way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's his brother Mark behind him and also in the cowboy hat. He also is going to be going up with a Bezos tomorrow morning.

Tom Foreman has the details of what's in store for Amazon's founder and his crew.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[20:40:00]

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Blue Origins arid testing ground the 60-foot rocket is slated to take off at 8:00 a.m. Central Time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Command start two, one.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Just as it has already in more than a dozen test flights like the one seen here, a million horsepower blast from the liquid fueled engine will start the journey, the astronauts will be strapped into a ring of futuristic space seats, about a third of the capsule is made of windows and the rocket will steadily rotate, changing the view. Writing will be their only job.

ARIANE CORNELL, DIRECTOR OF ASTRONAUTS & ORBITAL SALES, BLUE ORIGIN: It's an autonomous vehicle. It's been designed so that the customers, the astronauts themselves can experience the flight.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Over the first two minutes their speed will literally rocket to more than 2,000 miles an hour, G-forces will intensify until each person feels as if they weighed three times as much as normal. But that won't last, at two minutes and 45 seconds, the booster engine will fall away. Fifteen seconds later as the capsule arcs toward the highest point in the flight, the passengers will start to feel much lighter, and at four minutes, 62 miles up, they will be unbuckled.

CORNELL: You'll get to experience about three to four minutes of weightlessness. Again, to gaze out of those big beautiful windows, maybe do a couple of somersaults.

BEZOS: I don't know how it's going to change me. But I know it's going to and I'm excited to find out how.

FOREMAN (voice-over): He'll have to find out fast, roughly six minutes into the flight, they will return to their seats and start falling back to Earth, eventually going so fast, they'll break the sound barrier just as they did going up, they won't likely see the booster engine land a couple of miles from the launch pad. And once they are close enough to Earth about nine minutes after taking off, parachutes will deploy just slow their descent to 15 miles an hour, then a retro thrust system will fire just before touchdown.

CORNELL: Really by the time the capsule lands is just at about one or two miles an hour.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FOREMAN: It won't be anything like orbital flight or what truly trained astronauts do. But it should be quite an experience. And at the going rate of two and a half million dollars per minute, it ought to be. Anderson.

COOPER: Tom, thanks very much.

I'm joined now by Sirisha Bandla, an executive at Virgin Galactic who eight days ago flew into space, know something of what's ahead for Bezos and his crews.

Sirisha, thanks so much for being with us. So after having a week to reflect on your experience, what was it like? What does it feel like up there?

SIRISHA BANDLA, VP OF GOVT. AFFAIRS & RESEARCH OPERATIONS, VIRGIN GALACTIC: You know, I've been asked this question so many times, and I still haven't found the right word of it, just it's incredible. The experience really starts with training. So training with your crewmates, and everything from climb, release, boost, which actually was one of my favorite parts. You know, the transition from blue sky to black. And then of course, seeing Earth, the silence of space from apogee was just life changing, and really have a renewed perception of our home planet.

COOPER: You know, people talk about that about sort of a change in perception, Bezos has spoken about that, either astronauts have. Their studies about it, which are shown that usually it's people who have spent more time in space, you know, for days or longer on the space station weeks or months, who sort of change a perspective, just the short time the few minutes you were up there, did you feel some sort of change or new way of kind of thinking about Earth?

BANDLA: Yes, absolutely. I mean, I, you know, my role on this flight was to test the researcher capabilities. So, I was performing tasks, but I had time to take a look out the window. And it's mesmerizing, it's just quite deafening the colors of Earth and you know, beyond that, nothing and it's, you think back that that's literally everything I've known, all the people I know is just encapsulated in what I'm looking at right now and it's just it's mind boggling to be honest, I'm still speechless to a point when I think about that view.

COOPER: Obviously, this flight is different a number aspects that the distance it goes also the fact that it's taking off from Earth in a booster and rocket going up at 2,300 miles an hour at launch different than the Virgin Galactic one. There's, you know, there's been a lot of talk about, you know, billionaires this is the great way to spend money in space.

One of the things that interests me about Blue Origin is not just that it's doing potential for space tourism of bringing paying passengers which would Virgin Galactic is also going to be doing.

They're really hoping and Bezos talks about this and others talk about kind of building an infrastructure for future space exploration and if there's going to be more space exploration there need to actually be a lot more companies like this, which are building the infrastructure for space. How do you see the future of space exploration?

[20:45:10]

BANDLA: Yes, absolutely. I mean, there's a lot of reasons why we go into space. I think the thing -- the item that a lot of people think about is building that future infrastructure for living and working in space. But honestly, a lot of our customers and a lot of our researchers go up on our suborbital vehicles to look down at Earth and to conduct research that is better understanding what's happening on our planet, and how our planets changing.

So, I think there's a lot to space travel both to further our exploration, exploration our knowledge of our universe. But also, a lot of people are going up to look back down. And I think that's just a part that we skip over. Sometimes we're learning more about our planet.

COOPER: Do you wish you'd spent more time? I know you had work to do on the fly? But do you wish you'd spent more time looking out?

BANDLA: Absolutely. I would totally be just a customer on a future spaceflight and just look out the window the entire time. It's just amazing view. A lot of windows to do it from our vehicle Unity. So definitely recommend that for anyone going up, find a window and stick to it.

COOPER: Yes, well good advice for the crew growing up tomorrow. Sirisha Bandla, really, pleasure to talk to you. Congratulations. Thank you.

BANDLA: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Up next with the Olympics opening on Friday, an alternate member of the U.S. women's gymnastics team Kara Eaker has now tested positive for COVID. I'll talk with CNN Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta who's in Tokyo about the pandemic shadow overhanging the games.

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[20:50:44]

COOPER: The Tokyo Olympics are set to begin on Friday and COVID is already affecting some U.S. athletes who now won't be able to compete. An alternate member of the U.S. women's gymnastics team Kara Eaker, tested positive on Sunday according to her father, and Katie Lou Samuelson, a member of the U.S. women's three by three basketball team announced on Instagram she is also tested positive for COVID.

This after rising American tennis star Coco Gauff announced last week she was pulling out because she tested positive. So when all round 11,000 athletes either in Tokyo are scheduled to arrive shortly.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Tokyo. He joins me now. So how much of a problem is the coronavirus already in the run up to the games?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I understand it's affecting every aspect of it, as you might imagine, I mean, you and I've gone to places like natural disasters and wars, and the planes are always empty when you're going there. Right?

It was like that when I flew to Tokyo, I mean, no one's flying here because there's no spectators allowed. So, you know, that the athletes are going to feel the impact of that as well, not having fans in the stands. But then they got to get tested all the time. And, you know, there's this concern, as you point out about breakthrough infections.

So 61 infections in the village, about half roughly, have been from Japanese residents, about half from foreign athletes. And, you know, we haven't really started yet. So those numbers are likely to go up. And then they got to go into this process of quarantining, isolating, tracing all the contacts, all the stuff that we've talked about. So it's really all consuming, Anderson.

COOPER: What do you make of what is -- well, actually, I mean, they've already had all of these cases, and we seem to be learning about new athletes testing positive every day. Is it surprising to you to see this?

GUPTA: It's not surprising. I mean, it's very interesting. I think we're going to learn something here, Anderson about breakthrough infections, we've typically just said they are rare, right. But let me show you what's been going on with testing overall for example, in the United States.

The CDC now says if you've been vaccinated, unless you have symptoms, you don't have to be tested. So as a result, overall testing has come down close to 80%, since the end of last year. So I don't think we have a really good idea of what breakthrough infections are.

Here in the Olympic Village because of the Olympics, they're testing everybody, I got tested in 96 hours, 72 hours, I got tested again, when I landed, I just got tested again, we may get a better idea. I'm not surprised that we're seeing these cases. The question is, you know, are these people going to develop symptoms, the focus has really been on eliminating false negatives. Dr. Brian McCloskey, who's in charge of actually putting all these protocols together, I talked to him. Here's how he described it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN MCCLOSKEY, COVID-19 ADVISER, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: The absolute priority is reducing false negatives, because that puts people at risk, because then people in the village who might be infected, we don't know it. But also from the -- we don't want false positives, because that means an athlete who's been training for seven, eight years, risks and excluded from the game or a test that was in January. So we've been trying to balance those two, but the priority has been to minimize false negatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: So you're not going to get it perfect Anderson in terms of actually finding every single person who is positive at the time, but what the side that they're erring on is making sure that they can really reduce false negatives. What does that mean? You're going to have a lot more positives here. So again, 61, roughly so far, those numbers are going to go up.

COOPER: So, let's talk about what's going on in the U.S. and elsewhere. I mean, I know I understand you were watching the interview I did with Surgeon General Murthy earlier in the program. There are some things I understand that stood out to you.

GUPTA: I think one of the big questions is going to be about masking indoors. Again, you brought up the situation you're vaccinated, should you wear a mask, you know, the idea that if somebody is vaccinated, they are very, very low likelihood of getting sick, that's true, low likelihood of developing a transmissible virus, that's true. We know these things.

I think the Delta variant is definitely changing things. There was a study that came out last week that said the viral load in someone who's carrying the Delta virus is about a thousand fold higher than the viral load in the original strain. So even for people who would typically have low viral load, it might still be transmissible.

The way that I think a lot of people have looked at is saying, sort of look at the weather. So you're in Texas. Right now 40, 42% roughly vaccination rate down there. The cases have been going up significantly over there. You don't know who's vaccinated around you.

I think we're going to start running into a situation and earlier rather than later, as you point out with Dr. Murthy that even if you're vaccinated, if you're in a situation where there's a lot of viral transmission and low vaccination, it may be time to start masking up again. You're seeing that in L.A., the American Academy of Pediatrics is saying that for students for the fall, that may you may, we may see that more widely soon.

[20:55:32]

COOPER: Yes. Yes, I've been wearing my mask indoors while I'm here and, you know, certainly on the plane in airports, and as you have to. Sanjay, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Up next, an announcement from a professional hockey player about his life and his goals.

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COOPER: A rising prospect in the National Hockey League has made an announcement that he's gay, the coming according to The New York Times, the first player with an NHL contract makes such an statement.

[21:00:01]

Luke Prokop wrote on his Twitter feed the quote from a young age I've dreamed of being an NHL player, and I believe that living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams. He signed a three-year entry level contract with the league's Nashville Predators last year. He's been playing for a developmental league, league team in Calgary.

We wish him the best and applaud his courage.

The news continues. Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris.