Return to Transcripts main page


Biden Administration: Pandemic Has Entered Troubling New Phase Among the Unvaccinated; L.A. County Sheriff Says He Won't Enforce Mask Mandate; D.C. Police Looking For Suspect In Shooting. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Chris Cuomo is off tonight.

We begin with breaking news out of Washington, a shooting in a heavily frequented part of the city, known for its restaurants and nightspots. We need to stress the facts are now just coming in. We expect to learn more, as we go.

This is video CNN's Jim Acosta took on the scene, as people fled. Take a look.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you OK? Are you OK now?



COOPER: CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now.

Jim, you just, I guess, happened to be there? And what did you see? What did you hear?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. I was having dinner at a restaurant that's very popular in D.C., Le Diplomate. People have probably heard of it. It's on 14th Street, in Northwest Washington.

And just a few blocks north of that, at another restaurant called Mexicue, we believe that there was some kind of shooting that occurred here, from what we understand, from talking to D.C. Police, about two people have been shot right now.

I have personally looked at video, Anderson, of one gunshot victim being wheeled out of that restaurant, on a stretcher, with gunshot wounds in the chest.

I personally also witnessed somebody, who was on the ground, being treated by first responders. I'm not sure why that person was being treated. But there was a blood stain, on the car, behind the person, as he was leaning up against the car. We saw that ambulance speed out of the area very quickly.

But Anderson, this is a very popular, very, I think, very well- traveled, pretty dense area, of Northwest Washington D.C. We're constantly seeing people in this area going up and down 14th Street. And it's also pretty close to the White House. I would say we're just five or six blocks from the White House.

Now, as far as this restaurant, where this shooting apparently occurred, that also is a very popular restaurant in this area. And so, to hear gunshots in the area is very unsettling.

I will tell you guys. I was sitting down to eat. I heard about seven or eight gunshots. You could see in the video that I sent in, people fleeing from those gunshots, running away from the gunshots, and up and down 14th Street, people were running away from the area. It was that kind of a situation.

And, as you know, Anderson, this comes on the heels of what we saw happen at Nationals Park, the other night, the baseball stadium, here in Washington D.C., where there are gunshots outside of that baseball park.

And so, just within a few nights of one another, you have two pretty jaw-dropping unsettling situations, in Washington D.C., the nation's capital.

Police have just moved us out of the area of the shooting. They've moved us back a block from the shooting. And it does appear more law enforcement authorities are coming to the scene. More cars are coming into the area. So hopefully, within a little while, we'll have a better sense of what's going on.

But a very popular area, a very well-traveled area, in Washington D.C., shops, restaurants, grocery stores, all kinds of those sorts of things in the area, also big residential area.


ACOSTA: Lots of homes in this area as well.

COOPER: And Jim?

ACOSTA: So, we're lucky that more people weren't shot.

COOPER: Jim, in the video that you showed us, it looked like there were police cars there, when there were still shots going on.

So, do you know the shots we're hearing, do you know, were police involved in this shooting, because it looked it, while the people are running, it looks like there's some - there's flashing lights already?

ACOSTA: Yes. I will tell you, the police got here to the scene very quickly. It seemed they were here within a matter of couple of minutes. And (inaudible) within a couple of minutes, I would say a dozen or so police cars, ambulances, were on the scene of this - of this shooting incident.

But as I was saying, Anderson, in what - even though there may have been a couple of gunshot victims here, we heard a succession of a dozen to 15, I would say, gunshots pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, one after another. And that's what sent people fleeing up and down the 14th Street of Washington D.C.

And I will tell you, as somebody, I grew up in this area, I've worked in this city for a long time, this part of D.C. does not see this kind of crime, this kind of shooting activity.


Obviously, in other parts of D.C., you see that this kind of crime, this kind of shooting activity. That's as equally as important as what we're seeing tonight. But because of the density of the people, walking around in this area, this had the potential to be very serious, Anderson.


ACOSTA: And to have many more casualties in the area.

COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, more to learn, we'll continue to follow the story throughout the hour. Appreciate it. Appreciate you being there.

Now COVID, and what the Director of the CDC calls quote, "Another pivotal moment in this pandemic," that's how Dr. Rochelle Walensky put it today, reflects a new urgency, from the White House, on what's increasingly called, and what it is increasingly calling, the White House, a "Pandemic of the Unvaccinated," as the Delta variant continues to spread at what is certainly an alarming rate.

One administration official telling CNN, "We are seeing the consequences of what we've been warning about for a month. It's serious and it's spreading faster than was anticipated," so is the ripple effect.

Just tonight, Philadelphia's health commissioner issued a strong recommendation for everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear a mask, in public.

Chicago school system announced that quote, "Masks will be worn by all in schools, when classes begin next month."

And this kind of public health recalibration has been happening in spots all across the country in recent days.

Joining us now is Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center, at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Doctor, what do you make of the reporting that the Biden administration is shifting to a more urgent tone, as the Delta variant spreads, and there's this troubling new phase? Should there be new mask guidance?


The Delta variant has a so-called reproducibility or contagiousness index of six to eight, meaning that if I'm infected, I go about my day, everybody I come in contact with is susceptible. I'll affect six to eight people, and then they'll infect six to eight people.

So, this virus is more contagious than influenza virus. It's one of the most contagious respiratory viruses. So, it's changed the game.

It's a shame that we have had now, for a while, enough vaccine, to vaccinate everybody in this country over 12. But we didn't do it. We have only about half the country vaccinated.

We have probably about 100 million people, 35 percent of the population that's neither been vaccinated, nor naturally infected. So, they're fully susceptible, fertile ground for this virus' spreading.

You're right. We're taking a step back, I think, to masking mandates and, hopefully, vaccine mandates.

COOPER: So just, I mean, to be clear, if 80 percent or 90 percent of the country had gotten this vaccine, before the Delta variant really took hold, because the Delta variant is what we saw in India, that quickly came here, and all around the world, it would be a different picture?

OFFIT: That's right. And who have we really let down? I think, in many ways, we've let our children down, because we don't have a vaccine, for children 6- to 12-years of age.

I'm not sure exactly when we'll have it. Hopefully, we'll have it before late fall, or early winter, when this virus will, no doubt, surge. It is a winter virus. And so, now we're talking about what to do in school? Do we mandate vaccines for school? Do we mandate masks for school?

We wouldn't have had to have been here, had we handled this differently. But we haven't. We've just - there's just a critical percentage of this population that simply doesn't want to get vaccinated. It's hard to watch.

COOPER: I'm a broken record now. And again, it's because I've become a parent.

But I think we have not focused on children enough, because early on, everybody said, "Well, look, kids aren't affected by this. It's no problem," so people who have chosen not to get a vaccine, probably don't even think that they are potentially harming children.

But that is exactly - I mean, children cannot choose to get vaccinated. They can't choose not to get vaccinated. They can't get vaccinated. OFFIT: Right. I think when the virus first came into the country, last March, and started killing people, the mantra was "This is a disease of older people." And that's true. 93 percent of the deaths were in people over 55.

And the mantra was, "Children get infected less frequently. And when they're infected, they're infected less severely." That's true. But children can still get infected.

Millions of children have been infected. 400 - more than 400 children have died. Tens of thousands have been hospitalized. Many have had this disease called, multisystem inflammatory disease, at least 4,000, which can have long-term effects.

Children can suffer this disease and be hospitalized and killed by it, therefore it's worthy of prevention. But we don't have a vaccine for children less than 12 years of age yet. And I think we failed our children, and that we refuse to vaccinate a critical percentage of this population.

And you're right. I think about 80 percent to 90 percent would have done it, because as the virus gets more contagious, you need to have a higher percentage of the population immune.

COOPER: As I mentioned, both where you are in Philadelphia, and in Chicago, new mask recommendations have gone out. The CDC has not updated their guidance. So, can you - I mean, certainly, there's a lot of confusion about this. Do you - does the CDC need to correct this?

OFFIT: I think so. I think, in fairness, when you're indoors, as we move forward now, into fall, and winter, when you're indoors, I think you should wear a mask.

I think for children, who go to school, I think, there should be a mask mandate, because it's not fair for the schools or, frankly, for the businesses, to determine who's vaccinated, and who's not.

So, I think everybody should just wear a mask, because when you wear a mask, you really prevent the virus, from entering your nose, and throat, and beginning to reproduce itself. And that's not true.


Even if you're vaccinated, and you don't wear a mask, the virus can still begin to reproduce itself, and cause asymptomatic, or mild disease, which is true, I think, more so with this Delta variant, which is a little more resistant to protection against asymptomatic or mild infection.


OFFIT: Where you could still be contagious.

COOPER: Dr. Paul Offit, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

More now on what sadly remains a political divide, over the vaccine. As you know, quite a few top Republicans in politics, and the media, have changed their tone on getting vaccinated. That's certainly good.

That said listen to what Republican congressman Ronny Jackson said, when pressed by CNN, along with other members of the Republican Doctors Caucus, on whether party members should share their vaccine status, to encourage constituents to get the vaccine.


REP. RONNY JACKSON (R-TX): I think that you, as a press, have responsibility, to ask questions, of the Democrats, as well.

How many of the Democrats are willing to say whether or not they've been vaccinated? And what about the Texas delegation from the - from the Texas House that came here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 100 percent of Democrats have said that they're vaccinated.

JACKSON: Well, they've said that. It's including the six that tested positive. Do we have any evidence of that? I highly doubt that those six people were all vaccinated and tested positive for this virus. So, you guys need to hold their feet to the fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were polling the members of Congress not the Texas state Democrats.

JACKSON: Well, I'm just telling it.


COOPER: So, he was wrong. And they had the facts. And then he tried to change it. And he was wrong again.

That guy is a medical doctor. He's a doctor, who served as the White House physician to the former president. It's remarkable what he's become. He's a politician now!

Joining us now, with more on this, CNN's Ryan Nobles.

Ryan? CNN has asked every single member of Congress, if they had been vaccinated. What have we learned?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes interesting, Ronny Jackson asking us to do the job that we had already done.

You're absolutely right, Anderson. It was a big project by many on our team to ask every single member of congress their vaccine status. Almost every Democrat in the House and Senate, saved for one, told us that they have been vaccinated.

On the Senate side, 92 percent of Republicans, saying that they've received the vaccine, but on the House side, a little under 50 percent refused to tell us, one way or another, whether or not they've received the vaccine. And one member of Congress, Tommy Massie has gone so far as to say he refuses to get the vaccine. So, this is something that is playing out definitively along party lines, where you see some Republicans, even when they encourage others to take the vaccine, unwilling to say if they themselves have taken that step.

COOPER: What reason? I mean, it's pretty clear why they would say this. Yes, obviously, some may just believe that health care decision should remain secret. That's certainly their right.

But if this was popular, among their constituents, in some of these very conservative districts, I'm sure they would be very upfront about the fact that they have gotten vaccinated.

What reasons have some of these Republican members given for either not getting vaccinated or not responding?

NOBLES: Yes, well, you hit the nail right on the head. The overwhelming reason that they give for not disclosing their vaccine status is citing their own privacy rights.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, for instance, of Georgia, repeatedly declares that HIPAA prevents her from telling us whether or not she has been vaccinated, which isn't 100 percent true.

But they just say it's a personal choice, whether or not they want to reveal that. But when you talk, to many of these lawmakers, privately, both Republican and Democrat, they really point to the political repercussions.

In some of these heavily red districts that voted overwhelmingly for the former president, Donald Trump, the vaccines remain unpopular. Not just hesitancy here, there are people that truly believe the vaccine is a big problem.

And, as a result, these Republican politicians don't want to, in any way, shape or form endure the wrath of their constituents, by admitting that they've been vaccinated. There's a good chance that many of them actually have been vaccinated.


NOBLES: But they've chosen not to do so because of their constituents.

And just one example, Anderson, is the House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. He's the second-ranking Republican. He waited until just last week, to get the vaccine, and didn't really have a good explanation as to why.

COOPER: Yes. Ryan Nobles, appreciate it. Thanks.

I'm joined now by Andy Slavitt, President Biden's former Senior Advisor for COVID Response. He's also the Author of "Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response."

Mr. Slavitt, I mean, that is the - that is the thing that is so frustrating about this, is that this was preventable. And that this Delta variant, the toll it's taking, and it's going to take, could have been prevented, had more people been vaccinated.

We just heard about the change in some Republicans, when it comes to their public messaging, about the vaccine, and that's certainly to be applauded. Last night in our Town Hall, President Biden said that some in right-wing media had a quote, "Altar call," when it comes to the vaccines.

Should Republican leadership be doing more, within their own ranks, to help bring people around?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR FOR COVID RESPONSE, AUTHOR, "PREVENTABLE": I think when you play politics, with the vaccine, you're playing with fire, and you're playing with your own constituents' lives. And so, it would make a hell of a lot of sense to do what Sean Hannity did.

And look, there could be people that disagree with me, or with you, or with their Democratic colleagues, on everything else. But if they come out and said, "You know what? Getting vaccinated is sensible," and additionally talking aggressively against the people, and calling out the people, in their party that are making a political habit, they would be wise.


And Republican governors are generally speaking good - good example, Governor Justice in West Virginia, who said, "If you're not vaccinated, you're part of the problem." That is a good example that should be called out, and that should happen more often.

COOPER: According to CDC, 57 percent of those eligible are fully vaccinated in the United States. Now, given those percentages, and the vigor of the Delta variant, what more does the administration need to be doing right now?

SLAVITT: Well, it was great to see in the Town Hall last night that President Biden is not willing to quit, not willing to leave any American behind, and willing to continue to make the case. Now, it's going to take more than him to make the case.

It's going to take getting very aggressive about particularly younger people, people under 25, I think, we, as they return to school, presumably have full FDA approval, we should be - we should be really seriously considering whether schools, workplaces, government agencies, ought to be talking, about saying, "Hey, if you're coming here, you need to be vaccinated. And if you're not, you need to show you've got a negative test every single day." And then, we need to just get better information to people.

And as the FDA makes this final approval, all the people that have been on the fence, and there are some people that are still on the fence, we need to take the case to them and say, "The jury is in. The FDA has done rigorous work. They've taken a long time, a very long time. And now, it's time for you to review this information and make the right decision."

COOPER: I mean it's just unclear. Employers are allowed to decide everybody who works here has to be vaccinated, right?

SLAVITT: Absolutely. And look, if people say they don't want to be vaccinated, which some people might say, I think it's perfectly reasonable to say "That's fine. But we'd like you to show up every morning, an hour before work, and get a negative test, maybe even at your own expense," until the point, where people will say, "You know what? It makes more sense to actually get vaccinated."

So, if you give people that option, I think you're going to see more and more people take the option to get vaccinated.

COOPER: Andy Slavitt, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

Coming up next, the mask mandate in Los Angeles County, the nation's most populated, and the Sheriff who says he will not enforce it. He joins us to talk about why not.

And later, will Democrats decide to go it alone on the President's infrastructure plans? We'll talk to one Democrat senator about it.



COOPER: We told you about new mask recommendations, and mandates, at the top of the hour.

This past weekend, Los Angeles County became the first major county to once again require mask-wearing, for all people indoors, and public spaces. Soon after, our next guest, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he would not enforce the mandate.

Sheriff Villanueva joins us now.

Thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.

The guest in my last block, the Director of the Vaccine Education Center, at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, says everyone should be wearing masks indoors. The CDC has not, as you know, updated their guidance.

But it is a mandate in your county. Why are you saying you won't enforce it?

SHERIFF ALEX VILLANUEVA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CA: Well, one is practical terms. First of all, the physical ability to enforce it is not there. I have a district attorney that does not enforce anything in terms of prosecution.

So exactly what we're doing? We're going to get into conflicts with business owners and people going to go to these places, these different businesses, and we're not going to get involved in that conflict, because, at the end of the day, there is no prosecution that's going to be made of it. So, it becomes pointless.

But on the practical side, I have 40 percent of the kind of residents, who have not vaccinated, and they really don't want to go there.

So, Kaiser Family Foundation, survey they did in January, said there's three elements needed, to get everybody vaccinated.

One is faith that the system - it's safe to get vaccinated, which I think we've covered that.

Number two is that you have encouragement from doctors, families and friends to take the vaccination, which is very good.

But item number three is very, very important. There has to be some perceived benefit to taking the vaccine. If I treat everybody the same, then people are resistant to say, "Why bother, because I'm still being forced to wear the mask." It doesn't make sense from a practical standpoint.

COOPER: You enforce seatbelts, though, right?

VILLANUEVA: We enforce seatbelts only as a result of when we need to, for other traffic reasons. But we don't go out there, pulling everybody over without a seatbelt. That's why we use discretion because obviously we have extremely limited resources to enforce the law.

COOPER: Originally, you issued a statement saying that the mask mandate, which was issued by the Department of Public Health, was not backed by science. Do you think the science is there now?

I understand the practicality argument. That I totally get. You have limited resources. I understand that argument. On the science argument, though, do you think it's wise for people to wear masks indoors?

VILLANUEVA: Unfortunately, I'm going to follow the guidance from the CDC, when they get to that point, they decide to certify.

But L.A. County is notoriously for getting it wrong. From their handling the pandemic, from the very beginning, they've made bad call after bad call.

They used a sledgehammer when a scalpel would have sufficed. They destroyed businesses by the tens of thousands. So, their advice, I always take it with a grain of salt, because it's not - it's not what is needed the moment. We're going to stick to the science.

And actually, this is a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated. So, the best thing we could do is encourage the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. I've been fully vaccinated, since January. My entire family's been vaccinated. I would encourage everybody to get that vaccination.

COOPER: Right.

VILLANUEVA: That should be our goal right now. And we get into these conflicts, we're creating conflicts unnecessarily that does not improve the vaccination rate.

COOPER: Right. I understand that. You're right. It is, as you say, a Pandemic of the Unvaccinated.

Though the unvaccinated include children, and people who are not - adults, who are not vaccinated, have chosen not to get vaccinated, they are a threat to children, are they not?

VILLANUEVA: They can be, very sure. And that's what we have to start looking at other thing - steps we can take.


For example, schools, when you get to high school level, do we want to impose a vaccination requirement? We'll have for other communicable diseases that we've done in the past that we've eradicated.

COOPER: No. But I'm talking about children under 12. As you know, they cannot get vaccinated. So, adults right now, who are not vaccinated--


COOPER: --are a threat to children, who cannot be vaccinated. So, isn't wearing masks indoors, the only way to protect children?

VILLANUEVA: Well, no, that's not the only way. The best way to protect children is get people vaccinated. Let's get - let's cross the finish line.

COOPER: Right. But that's--

VILLANUEVA: And we haven't done that.

COOPER: --that's a finish line, which is half the country hasn't done it yet. And so obviously, that should obviously be the focus.

But in the meantime, the only way to protect children from the unvaccinated adults, who have chosen not to be vaccinated, is for those adults to be wearing masks indoors. Isn't it?

And you can't determine who's been vaccinated, who hasn't, so doesn't everyone have to wear masks indoors? I mean, there's this mandate now.

VILLANUEVA: Well, we have vaccine passports. We have a card issued. Everybody got the vaccine, yes.

COOPER: Right. But you're not checking those.

VILLANUEVA: We can determine who's vaccinated.

COOPER: You're not checking those.

VILLANUEVA: Well, we can start checking them.

COOPER: But you just said you're underfunded.


COOPER: And if you can't enforce a mask mandate--


COOPER: --you can enforce--

VILLANUEVA: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

COOPER: --going around checking people's vaccination certificates?

VILLANUEVA: That is up to each establishment to do that. We're not going to do the job for them.

COOPER: OK. Well, you just said, "We," so?

VILLANUEVA: Just like when you have a--


VILLANUEVA: When you buy booze in a liquor store, and you have to show your ID that's establishment enforces ABC laws for liquor that - do they not?


VILLANUEVA: It's the same principle.

COOPER: So, your officers, do they wear masks indoors?

VILLANUEVA: Yes, they do.

COOPER: Do you know the vaccination rate among your force?

VILLANUEVA: Among my force, our vaccination rate is right around 60 percent.

COOPER: Why not - would you consider making it mandatory?

VILLANUEVA: That is something, and I have to discuss with the unions, some meet and confer issue. And that is something that all of the Coalition of County Unions have to - going to discuss with the Board of Supervisors. And that is a step. We'll have to see.

COOPER: L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, I appreciate what you do. Thank you very much, sir.

VILLANUEVA: You got it.

COOPER: Just weeks, until the August recess, and Congress still can't come to agreement on an infrastructure bill, among many other unresolved items, on its agenda.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, whether it'll get done, next.


COOPER: Coming up, we'll have an update on that shooting in Washington. Jim Acosta was there on the scene nearby.

A lot of major unresolved issues on Capitol Hill as well, as Congress approaches, its annual August recess. There's the composition of the January 6th commission. One question, will another Republican join, after party leadership boycotted the House select committee?

And then, there's the bipartisan infrastructure bill, major issues unresolved. But one of the bipartisan negotiators, Republican senator Susan Collins said her group is close to finalizing an agreement.

And then, questions about whether Democrats can unify for a separate reconciliation bill, plus lingering questions about the filibuster, after President Biden said, during a CNN Town Hall, last night that ending it could result in chaos.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal joins us now.

Thanks for being here, Senator.

I wanted to get your reaction, first of all, to the latest on the investigation to January 6, about to get started, on the House side. Speaker Pelosi reportedly now, considering naming GOP congressman Adam Kinzinger to join the committee.

Would you support that move?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I would support that move and any other move that makes that select committee as bipartisan as possible.

Keep in mind Anderson that Speaker Pelosi wanted to appoint a 9/11- type commission that would be virtually evenly divided, among Republicans and Democrats, non-political members, and as objective and impartial as possible.

The House approved it, by a bipartisan vote. Unfortunately, it was scuttled in the Senate. Only six Republicans voted for it. I think it was a missed opportunity.

So, whether it's Adam Kinzinger, or others, who would be willing to be constructive, unlike Jim Jordan, and Jim Banks, who wanted to weaponize it, for political purposes, and I think the Speaker was right, to, in effect, disqualify them.

COOPER: Liz Cheney, obviously, and Congressman Kinzinger are - have been very vocal, in their criticism of the former president. Not - obviously, they are both Republicans, I would have said, in good- standing, though, clearly with this current Republican Party, they are not in good-standing.

Do you think, comprising committee, exclusively with Democrats, and the few Republicans, who've broken with the former president, I mean, does that undermine its effectiveness, certainly, among the Republicans, out in the country?

BLUMENTHAL: I think its effectiveness will depend on its integrity, and its seeking the truth as vigorously as possible, and then speaking, the truth. I'm encouraged by the selection of the Staff Director, David Buckley, who is a trained, experienced, law enforcement professional, former Inspector General, for the CIA. I think its work product will be the basis for judging it.

And I continue to be haunted Anderson by what I saw and heard on January 6th. It wasn't a protest. It wasn't a demonstration. It was an assault that caused death and injury. We went back to count the vote, many of my colleagues, over shattered glass, and even blood.

We need to get to the bottom. And I think its work product will be what distinguishes it.

COOPER: Looking at the infrastructure, the President is saying, in our CNN Town Hall last night that although the well has been so poisoned, in his words, over the past four years, he still believes a bipartisan deal can happen.

How confident are you of that? And do you see, what's the timeframe? Because Senator Schumer, he says it will hopefully happen before the August recess.

BLUMENTHAL: Anderson, I never say I am confident about anything, when I'm talking about an outcome in the United States Senate.

But I'm more hopeful than ever, in part, because the deadline yesterday, and the vote, even though it was fewer than 60 votes, showed number one, unity among Democrats. And it also showed how serious and resolute we are, about going alone, if we need to do it.


And I think it has spurred those negotiations. I think that the bipartisan group is closer than ever on, for example, pay for this. But I also visited the White House today, on a separate matter, and I was very encouraged by how upbeat members of the White House staff are.

So, I think we have a historic opportunity. I think it has to be a higher number, through budget resolution, the method that we have, reconciliation, 51 votes, higher number for rail, for example, tens of billions more for rail, which affects the Northeast.

But bottom line, I think we have a very, very serious and hopeful prospect of a bipartisan deal, and a very robust and strong resolution, to increase it even further, and take care of those human needs.


BLUMENTHAL: The human infrastructure.

COOPER: The President said last night he didn't want to get, in his words, wrapped up in the filibuster there. It could send Congress into chaos, if it was ended.

You said you wanted to reform the filibuster, to hopefully, one day, abolish it completely. How critical do you think reform is, in helping things like voting rights legislation getting passed?

Because, as you know, there is no GOP support, in the Senate, for voting rights legislation. Democrats don't have the votes to overcome the 60-vote filibuster.

BLUMENTHAL: I held a subcommittee hearing. I chaired the Subcommittee on the Constitution in the Judiciary Committee, which showed overwhelmingly how the tsunami of Republican vote suppression laws, in states around the country, are having an effect. And I am persuaded we need to abolish or radically reform the filibuster.

And just to put it in a little bit of historical perspective. When I first came to the Senate, 10 years ago, one of my very first votes, coincidentally, was to abolish the filibuster. Only 11 other senators voted in that way.

And what I've seen over these past 10 years, is that one by one, my colleagues have ruled out - it's abused and misused. And they come around the same point of view that it has to be radically reformed. It must be reformed to do voting rights, and other critical legislation.

COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next, we're learning more about the shooting, at a Washington D.C. restaurant, a very busy part of town. A live update, next.



COOPER: D.C. Metro Police just put out a tweet on the shooting, in an especially well-traveled neighborhood, known for its nightlife.

Quote "Shooting at the intersection of 14th and Riggs Street, Northwest. Lookout is for a Black male wearing a lime green/yellow hood sweater fleeing in a older black Honda Civic with D.C. Tags last seen eastbound towards S Street, Northwest."

Now, go back to CNN's Jim Acosta, who was just steps away, when it happened. He's been reporting from the scene ever since.

So, do we know what actually happened?

ACOSTA: Anderson, I think we're still trying to get some answers. But I will tell you, I talked to somebody who witnessed, what happened, earlier this evening.

This happened at about 8:20 this evening, here in Northwest Washington, on 14th Street, as you said, a pretty popular area, with a lot of restaurants, bars, clubs, and a big, I think, sizable residential area around it. We're not that far from the White House either.

And at about 8:20 P.M., I heard about 10 or 12 gunshots, at one of the restaurants, in this area. I came up to the scene. And from what we understand, there were shots fired in the vicinity of the Mexicue restaurant, here on 14th Street. That's at 14th and Riggs, that intersection you just mentioned.

And there were at least two gunshot victims that we know of. I saw a video from a witness of one of those gunshot victims, being carried out on a stretcher. That victim was a man, who had two gunshot wounds in the chest.

I talked to a witness, who saw some of this unfold, earlier this evening. This witness said he saw what appeared to be a black Nissan pull up to the scene, a gun barrel coming out of that car, and then shots being fired at what he described as kids, but I think he meant teenagers, and then people went in all directions. People started running in all directions.

I can tell you from the restaurant, where I was having dinner, people got up out of their seats, at their tables, and started running away from the scene. That was happening - that was playing out up and down 14th Street.

So obviously, people were terrified, in this area, trying to flee these gunshots that rang out in what is usually a very safe area of Washington D.C. Yes, there are things like this that happen from time to time, in this part of D.C. But we just don't see this very often in this area, Anderson.

COOPER: Jim Acosta, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Coming up, the story of a frontline nurse, in Arkansas, who has helped COVID patients, and is facing, what she describes as, a torrent of insults and lies, for just doing her job. That's next.



COOPER: As we've been reporting, vaccine hesitancy is obviously a persistent problem in this country. Many states have seen vaccination rates, considerably under 50 percent. One of those states is Arkansas.

And tonight, we want to bring you the story of, not only people who, for whatever reasons, are refusing to get the shot, but a nurse who've spent countless hours, on the front lines, and endures, when she says is a torrent of verbal abuse, for just doing her job. And, as a result, she's actually taking to social media to try to fight back.

CNN's Elle Reeve has her story.


"SUNNY," ARKANSAS NURSE: Get outside. You too, puppies.

It was extremely difficult to watch so many people die, and then have people tell you, on Facebook, or in Walmart, that you're a liar.

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sunny worked on a COVID floor, of a hospital, at the height of the Pandemic.

Being a nurse was hard. But what made it surreal was living in western Arkansas, where many people, even some in her own family, said "COVID was overblown. Just a flu."

"SUNNY": Nurses were really the symbol for this whole pandemic. And almost all of the hate has centralized around us.

Nurses have PTSD. A lot of us are suffering from it from last year. And now, we're having people come in, and look us in the face, and be like "No, I didn't get the vaccine. And now, I'm sick."

REEVE (voice-over): Arkansas has the third lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the country. Just 36 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Like many places with low vaccination rates, it's now seeing a spike in cases.

REEVE (on camera): Are you going to get the vaccine?

MIKE CLARK, ARKANSAS RESIDENT: I have not, and I will not. I'm not a guinea pig. There's not a chance.

REEVE (on camera): You got COVID?

RONNIE ROGERS, BARBER: I did. That's the reason I don't want to get it (ph). But then after I got over with COVID, I had a heart attack after that.

REEVE (on camera): So, why would you not get the vaccine?

ROGERS: Well, it might have been risk (ph).

REEVE (on camera): I see.


CLARK: Oh! That's good. That's better.

You know? I believe that it's a freedom issue. And I've worn a mask probably a maximum of one hour, in the entire whole thing, since this COVID came about, it was so communicable, why am I still standing?

"SUNNY": We had people accuse us of giving their loved ones something else, so that they would die, and we could report it as COVID.


We heard it more than once that we were just fudging the numbers, or we were killing people on purpose, to make COVID look like it was worse than it was, or to make it look real, when it wasn't. For the first majority of the pandemic, we wore the same N95, for like one to two weeks at a time.

REEVE (on camera): Tell me what you think about the term, "Health care heroes?"

"SUNNY": Oh, I think it sucks!

REEVE (on camera): Why?

"SUNNY": So, they dubbed us "Health care heroes." It just it gave the public this really wrong impression that we were sacrificial lambs, and willing to die for them.

We want to help people, you know. I want to save lives. I want people to get better. But not, at the expense of my family's lives either. Then you have the public going, "Well, you signed up for this." No, I didn't.

When I was 17, I enlisted in the Army. I knew that I might die for my country. When I was 22, and went to nursing school, that wasn't on the agenda, you know, like I didn't volunteer to die for everybody.

And even with the vaccine now, it's still a highly politicized thing for no good reason.

REEVE (voice-over): Last year--


"SUNNY": People in my comment section.


REEVE (voice-over): --Sunny started venting on TikTok.


"SUNNY": You're just trying to spread fear.

If that's what it takes to get you to listen to me, sure.


"SUNNY": I had avoided posting about COVID for a long time, because of the negative reactions I got, like it hurts my feelings. But just a couple weeks ago, I had people in my inboxes, threatening to kill me, calling me a murderer, saying I helped kill those people. I get called a "Crisis actor" all the time.

It's my thing now to respond to hate comments with for just $10 into my Venmo account, I'll tell you the truth about COVID-19 and crisis acting, I've made about $100, so.

REEVE (on camera): Wait, really?

"SUNNY": Yes.

REEVE (on camera): Wait, and people like send you $10, and you're like, "Yes, I'm not a crisis actor. That's OK."

"SUNNY": Well, I'm just like, "Crisis acting isn't real, and COVID is real," so like "Surprise!" Said "I'll tell you the truth, not the truth you wanted to hear," but no.

REEVE (voice-over): Sunny says dark jokes bring some relief from a darker reality like that her own health is at risk.

Her fellow nurse, Hazel Bailey got COVID last August, and was on a ventilator for 42 days.

HAZEL BAILEY, FORMER NURSE WHO GOT COVID-19: It's real. COVID's real. I nearly died from it, and will probably have issues from it, for the rest of my life.

I have family that they believe that it's real, but they're not concerned with taking the vaccine. They understand some people get it, and it's not bad. But I got it, and it was bad.

And now, we're seeing this new variant hit, and it's really hitting Arkansas.


BAILEY: I'm sorry, sorry.

REEVE (on camera): Yes.

BAILEY: My sister doesn't have the vaccine.

REEVE (voice-over): Sunny says that recently COVID patients have been telling her they got it at church.

This week, Arkansas had its biggest spike in cases, since February. And it has the worst case rate in the country.

The state is offering vaccination incentives, like free lottery tickets. It hasn't convinced many.

REEVE (on camera): Did anyone you know get COVID?


REEVE (on camera): How old is he?

STARR: Eight.

REEVE (on camera): Wow! So that's like pretty rare for like a young kid.


REEVE (on camera): What was that like? STARR: Ah, he was sick a lot. He's been sick a lot for a while, and he's still sick. So, we want to get him looked at, and see if there is further damage. I don't know. I mean, he's - he got real sick.

REEVE (on camera): Yes.

STARR: Fever, every day, for weeks.

REEVE (on camera): Are you guys going to get the vaccine?


REEVE (on camera): OK.

STARR: No vaccine.

REEVE (on camera): How come?

STARR: I just don't trust the government.

REEVE (on camera): Are you going to get the vaccine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not. Our kids are not going to get it, none of us.

REEVE (on camera): How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean I figure out let's let the world work its natural ways.

REEVE (on camera): OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've taken none of the vaccines ever, so.

REEVE (on camera): Are you able to get like religious exemption at schools for your kids? Is that how?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I mean, we take the stuff, if we have to.

REEVE (on camera): So what do you mean, when you say you don't usually get vaccine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't do the pig, swine flu thing, or whatever that was. We didn't do any of that - any of the before. It's something that I don't - I don't believe in, you know? I mean, I haven't ever.

It seems it only comes about every presidency. And it seems like it's either crowd control or whatever you want to call it. But I want my family to have nothing to do with it. We've always been healthy. And this seems to work better that way.

REEVE (voice-over): Not everyone around here feels this way.

TERRY "COWBOY," ARKANSAS RESIDENT: I think you need to get it, because it's not only helping you. You can hit your whole family, everybody around you. It's better to take a chance on the shot than it is to take a chance

on the COVID. Cowboy up, and go on in there, and get a shot, and come out of there like a grown up, you know?


"SUNNY": Come here! Come here!


"SUNNY": One of my biggest fears is like this new wave of COVID. We're seeing a lot of nurses with compassion fatigue. And I am really scared how that's going to play out, because a lot of the cases that we're seeing are in non-vaccinated individuals.

If I had a patient come in that wasn't vaccinated with COVID, like I have like I'm obviously still going to treat them, to the best of my ability. But I do know some nurses that had to quit, because they just don't have it in them to do that.

A lot of Arkansans would give you the shirt, off their back, to help you out for a stranger like, you know? I think that a lot of people being anti-COVID, and anti-vaccine is just a product of the way that we were raised here. But they're not bad people.


COOPER: And Elle Reeve joins us now.


That was such a great piece. I really appreciate you just talking to folks.

And the thing that really struck me, hearing that mom, who's 8-year- old got COVID, and was sick for, she said, weeks, and still, and they're going to take him to doctor, to see if there's anything to be done, and yet, she would not get vaccinated.

I mean, that's a tough hurdle, if people are that set to not get vaccinated, I'm not sure where we go.

REEVE: Yes, that story stuck with us, and the rest of the crew. We talked about it the whole time. We were in Arkansas.

Last fall, public health experts told us that some of the skepticism about COVID, and the vaccine, would fade away, when people's loved ones started getting sick. But for the people in Arkansas, we talked to, that just wasn't the case.

So, for example, Hazel Bailey, the nurse who was on a vent, after we did the interview with her, we talked to her sister. And her sister said that Hazel coming home alive was the Christmas present that she prayed for, but she also said that she couldn't give an interview, because her thoughts on the vaccine were not fit for television.


Elle Reeve, I really appreciate what you do, really like it. Thank you very much.

REEVE: Oh? Thanks.

COOPER: We'll be right back.