On this “Face the Nation” broadcast moderated by Ed O’Keefe:
- Charles Burkett — mayor of Surfside, Florida
- Jeffrey Zients — White House COVID response coordinator
- Dr. Scott Gottlieb — former FDA commissioner
- Governor Spencer Cox — Republican of Utah
- Governor Kate Brown — Democrat of Oregon
- Representative André Carson — Democrat of Indiana
Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”
ED O’KEEFE: I’m Ed O’Keefe in Washington. On this Fourth of July FACE THE NATION, Americans are celebrating their freedom. But is it too soon to declare independence from COVID-19? Across the country America seems to be making up for what was lost on this holiday weekend last year, amid more signs that life is slowly getting back to normal.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: More jobs, better wages, that’s a good combination. Put simply, our economy is on the move, and we have COVID-19 on the run.
ED O’KEEFE: But with the dangerous Delta variant spreading rapidly and vaccine programs stalled, is it time for a new strategy? We’ll talk with the head of President Biden’s COVID response team, Jeffrey Zients, and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb.
Then, we’ll go beyond Washington to check in with two governors facing unique challenges: Oregon’s Kate Brown and Utah’s Spencer Cox.
Rescue efforts at the collapsed condo are on hold again in Surfside, Florida. We’ll tell you why and get the latest on the investigation into what caused the disaster, with Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett.
Plus, yet another massive cyberattack, this time affecting computer servers of hundreds of U.S. companies.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The initial thinking was it was not the Russian government but we’re not sure yet.
ED O’KEEFE: Indiana Congressman Andre Carson sits on the House Intelligence Committee. We’ll ask him about the attack and UFOs. They’re now called unidentified aerial phenomena. Carson tells us why they’re finally being taken very seriously.
It’s all ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION on this Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day to you. I’m Ed O’Keefe, John is off this week. And for a holiday weekend, there is a lot of news for us to get to this morning. We begin with the collapsed building in Surfside, Florida. At least twenty-four are confirmed dead, and there are still one hundred twenty-one unaccounted for. CBS News correspondent Omar Villafranca is in Surfside this morning. Omar, good morning.
OMAR VILLAFRANCA (CBS News Correspondent/@OmarVillafranca): Good morning, Ed. The remaining portion of the Champlain Towers South could come down as early as Monday. Now, on Saturday, rescue crews were replaced by demolition crews here at the site of the collapsed South Florida condos. Officials shifted their focus to bringing down the unstable remainder of the structure ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa. Demolition crews have already started boring holes into the concrete to hold the explosives that they plan to use. Now officials said demolishing the rest of the building could not be avoided with Tropical Storm Elsa looming in the Caribbean, and because it’s forecasted to hit South Florida by Tuesday morning with maximum sustained winds of seventy miles per hour. Now Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday that the building is shifting, and it’s structurally unsound, and the fears that the storm could bring the structure down in the wrong direction.
ED O’KEEFE: Omar, what are the safety risks involved with this demolition? And how could that potentially affect the search and rescue efforts?
OMAR VILLAFRANCA: Well, some families have actually asked if they could go inside the remaining structure and try to just salvage anything from the– keep in mind, when this happened, people just ran out in the clothes that they were wearing, but they can’t. It’s– it’s too unsafe. And we’re also learning that Miami-Dade police are going to end up going to the buildings that are next door, knocking door to door before the implosion to try to get those residents out, of course, for safety reasons. That is the big issue. The mayor of Miami-Dade actually said that when they bring down the building, officials would resume the search on sections of the piles that they have safe access to as soon as they can clear some of the new debris. And the good news on that, they’ll be able to have access to some areas that they didn’t have access to before.
ED O’KEEFE: Omar Villafranca in Surfside, Florida, thank you.
For more on the building collapse and the latest on the demolition plans, we turn now to the mayor of Surfside, Charles Burkett. Mister Mayor, thank you for joining us on this Independence Day. I appreciate that this is a fluid situation. Lots of conflicting information about exactly what may transpire. What is your understanding of how soon this building could be brought down?
CHARLES BURKETT (Mayor of Surfside): As soon as possible. As of this morning or even last night– I’m sorry, as of early this morning, the crews were about eighty percent complete with their preparation to bring the building down. As you know, the– the– the fact that the building is being prepared to be demolished has stopped the work, which is critical. We need to get back to work as soon as possible. We need to get this building taken down and we need to move forward with the rescue of all those people that are still left in the rubble.
ED O’KEEFE: So you’re not ruling out that it could happen today at some point?
CHARLES BURKETT: No, I’m not.
ED O’KEEFE: Okay. So it could happen on the Fourth of July. There’s no concern about the symbolism of that potentially?
CHARLES BURKETT: We haven’t had the luxury of time to even think about that.
ED O’KEEFE: Understood. Completely understood. Can they guarantee, as they prepare to bring this building down, that it won’t disrupt the ongoing rescue effort and– and that debris field that sits there just next to the tower?
CHARLES BURKETT: Well, the intention– well, the intention is is to bring the building down in a westward direction so that the debris pile that exists with victims in it is not affected. You know, the cur– the hurricane is going to turn out to have probably been a blessing in disguise because there’s an area of that mound which we were not able to work in safely. And this– this demolition is going to open up wide the whole area. And we’re going to be able to pour resources onto that pile. Or as the– the fire chief recently said, we have resources that are five deep, and we are going to attack it big time and we are going to try to pull those victims out and reunite them with their families.
ED O’KEEFE: And after eleven days, that is still the mentality that this is a search and rescue, not a recovery effort?
CHARLES BURKETT: It’s absolutely not a recovery effort. I– I constantly am telling people about the BBC documentary, which outlines survivability after a building collapse, where they pulled a lady in Bangladesh out after seventeen days. So we’re not even near that. And, you know, there’s nobody– nobody in charge really talking about stopping this rescue effort. And this rescue effort, as far as I am concerned, will go on until everybody’s pulled out of that debris.
ED O’KEEFE: Understood. As they prepare also to bring down the building whenever that happens is there any concern for those other nearby towers? And are precautions being taken to protect those in the event that this doesn’t go well?
CHARLES BURKETT: Well, you said earlier that the police are going to go door to door. However, those buildings were evacuated the day of the incident. So there are no people living in the building to the south or the north. So that should not be a barrier for us to move forward.
ED O’KEEFE: Good to hear. You’ve been in constant contact with these families who are awaiting word and from– from the people who lived in the building and were able to get out. You know they’ve gone from obviously the shock to grief, anger, some of them acceptance about what’s going on. How are they after these eleven days?
CHARLES BURKETT: Well, this is an emotional hell for them, and it’s something that, you know, I’m focused on dealing with because we have two objectives. One is to pull their relatives out of that rubble, all of them. And number two is to focus on supporting those families. And that’s exactly what we’ve done from the very beginning. They have had anything they need and that starts from the President on down. President Biden did his job. He did what he promised he would do, and we are all very thankful to him. He came to our town. He consoled the victims. He congratulated the rescue workers, and he was extremely presidential. And, again, we are very thankful for that. We’ve had our two senators who have been engaged, like you can’t believe. Marco Rubio calls me. Senator Scott texts me almost every day and asks me what I need. We’ve had our– our– our United States representatives. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been fabulous, as have all our state elected officials. But the governor has been especially engaged. He’s been here almost every day. I know he flies down from North Florida. He talks to us. He tells us what his concerns are. As a matter of fact, I– I owe the governor a debt of gratitude because with his help, we were able to provide information to the mayor of Dade County that she needed in order to, you know, get this demolition going sooner than later. I know that she was getting lots of information, lots of conflicting information. But from the very beginning, the governor and I urged her to knock this building down as soon as possible, because the bottom line is the building’s been a problem since the very beginning. And we need to eliminate all the problems and all the barriers to getting everybody out of there. So once this building’s down, it’s going to be a green light, full speed ahead, maximum effort to pull these victims out and reunite them with their family. Gov– Mayor Cava has been extraordinary. Her leadership ability has been incredible. She’s been decisive.
ED O’KEEFE: Right.
CHARLES BURKETT: She’s been tough and she’s been compassionate. So, listen, we’re firing on all eight cylinders as far as all of the resources, all of the– all of the tactics that are happening. As I’ve said from the beginning we do not have a resource problem. We only have a luck problem. And this storm is the latest bit of challenging circumstances that we’re facing.
ED O’KEEFE: Sure. I want to ask you quickly about one piece of local reporting from the Miami Herald found that the building’s condo association had e-mailed Surfside City officials just three days before the building collapsed, saying that officials were holding up repairs by not responding. What did you or your colleagues in the city government know about this request? And does that signal that this potentially could have been prevented if your colleagues had responded sooner?
CHARLES BURKETT: No. The– the issue is this, this– this– this issue all started in 2018 with a report that detailed significant deficiencies at the building. Three years later the condo association was getting around to organizing the work to be done to address those deficiencies, which had been pointed out three years earlier. Our building official received a– a courtesy request from them, not a permit application, not a– not the details that would allow them to move forward. However, they were looking for guidance on certain issues. Our building official responded– it was just– it was a bad coincidence, just hours before the building collapsed with his answers to their questions. So–
ED O’KEEFE: Right.
CHARLES BURKETT: I wouldn’t say that the building official delayed the work that was going to get done. But I will say that the building official will be commenting on the details of that interaction fully at– at some point in the very near future.
ED O’KEEFE: But we look forward to that. But first, we look forward to the ongoing search and rescue mission. Best of luck to you, to your colleagues, to all those rescuers who have come from all over the country to help. I know we saw a truck from New Jersey roll by a little while ago. Thank you, Mayor Burkett.
Tonight, the President is planning a celebration of our Independence from COVID-19 at the White House. Mark Strassmann reports on America’s birthday and where we are as a country in terms of gaining our freedom from the virus.
MARK STRASSMANN: In much of America this July Fourth seems to celebrate freedom from COVID.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: America is back and the Dodgers are back.
MARK STRASSMANN: What a difference a year makes? Two-thirds of American adults have had at least one shot of the vaccine. That’s shy of President Biden’s goal of seventy percent by July fourth. But it is also close enough. New cases have plunged ninety-five percent from COVID’s peak. Like so many relieved Americans, Washington State is ready to party for the Fourth.
MAN #1: We are open big time in the state of Washington.
MARK STRASSMANN: AAA predicts holiday travelers this weekend will nearly reach pre-pandemic number. In a first airline passengers surpassed the 2019 benchmark last Thursday. America is reopening. Sometimes it seems everyone is hiring. This jobs fair in Atlanta had almost thirty-seven hundred positions to fill.
WOMAN #1: So at this point we would like to make you an offer for the job. Are you willing to accept?
WOMAN #2: Yes.
MARK STRASSMANN: The economy added eight hundred fifty thousand jobs last month. That number would be higher if businesses like this California restaurant could find more busboys and dishwashers.
MAN #2: Busboy and dishwashers, twenty-dollar an hour. I mean twenty-dollar an hour, this is a lot of money and still there is nothing.
MARK STRASSMANN: Scientists worry about the sprawling Delta variant, highly contagious and now present in all fifty states.
GOVERNOR GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-Michigan): If you’ve not gotten the vaccine yet, the virus is still a very real threat to you.
MARK STRASSMANN: This Colorado clinic closed; too little demand. Vaccinations remain polarizing. A tale of two COVID Americas. In twenty states, seventy percent or more of people have had at least one shot, but in ten others that rate is below fifty-five percent. And roughly one thousand counties in America have a rate below thirty percent. On the Fourth, no one wants to think about more struggle, but before the end of this month, the Delta variant could become America’s most dominant.
ED O’KEEFE: Our thanks to Mark Strassmann, reporting from Atlanta.
We turn now to the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients. Good morning and happy Fourth. Jeff, thank you for being with us.
JEFFREY ZIENTS (White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator): Good morning, Ed. And– and happy Fourth.
ED O’KEEFE: Yes. And we’ve come a long way since the last July Fourth. And, you know, a lot of it is a testament to science, but should we really be declaring independence right now from the pandemic?
JEFFREY ZIENTS: With so many people now vaccinated, tens of millions of Americans can now return to life– more– to more normal life, you know, getting together with friends and family, going to restaurants, attending sporting events. Now, to be clear, that’s not true for unvaccinated people. Unvaccinated people are not protected. So we have a lot more work to do across the summer months to reach unvaccinated people, make it easy for people to get their shot and their second shot and to answer people’s questions. And key to answering questions are physicians and other health care professionals. So, increasingly, we have vaccines in doctors’ offices. If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not protected until you are fully vaccinated and until you are fully vaccinated, you need to mask up and follow the public health standards. The– the great news is so many Americans are now fully vaccinated and can return to life as normal, and that is worthy of celebration.
ED O’KEEFE: Well, what specifically are you going to do to get those unvaccinated Americans to actually get a shot? According to the CDC thirty-six percent of those eligible for the vaccine, more than a third of people twelve and over haven’t received even a single dose. What has to be done specifically to get those people to get a shot?
JEFFREY ZIENTS: The good news is across the last several months, we’ve seen an increase in vaccine confidence, more and more people wanting to get a shot. So that’s good news. Now we need to make sure that we meet people where they are, make it really easy to get a shot, meet people at sporting events, at places of worship, deploy mobile units to reach people in their neighborhoods. We also have to be available at a local level to answer people’s questions about the vaccine, about safety and efficacy. So we are ready to answer people’s questions and give them their first shot. We’re going to continue to do this in a fair and equitable way so that we reach all Americans, and we vaccinate as many Americans as possible across the summer months.
ED O’KEEFE: One of the more troubling aspects of this is now the partisanship of getting vacc– vaccinated. A new Washington Post poll out this morning reinforces that. Eighty-six percent of Democrats have received at least one shot of the vaccine, compared to forty-five percent of Republicans. But thirty-eight percent of Republicans, one of the third of the GOP overall, say they will most definitely not get shots against the virus. How do you take the politics out of this?
JEFFREY ZIENTS: Well, I think President Biden has been very, very clear from day one, this is about public health. This is not about politics. And we need to continue to reach people where they are and answer their questions and have trusted messengers at a local level. The good news is, as people see their friends and family and neighbors get vaccinated, more and more people get vaccinated. Also, think about close to ninety percent of seniors now with at least one shot. That’s so important, as I said, because that is the most vulnerable population. And at the same time, clearly, at ninety percent, there are people from all parts of America of political parties and beliefs. So we need to make sure that we continue to build on the progress we’ve made, to build vaccine confidence, to make it even easier for people to get vaccinated.
ED O’KEEFE: At the same time that you’re urging local officials and athletes and doctors to take up this issue and to promote vaccinations across the country, the federal government is now preparing to send in surge response teams to these states that are having outbreaks, especially of the Delta variants, especially the states out West and in the South. Talk to us a little bit about what those surge response teams are, what they’re going to do, and does that potentially either affect or help getting people vaccinated if the federal government is sending in officials?
JEFFREY ZIENTS: Well, we’re working with governors and state and local officials, particularly in those areas where we see increases in cases, and those are generally areas where they have lower vaccination rates. So the federal government stands ready with a whole-of-government effort to work with local officials to increase vaccinations, to provide increased testing and also therapeutics to ensure that people don’t get sick who have contracted the disease. So we’re going to work with our state and local partners, particularly in those areas of the country with lower vaccination rates to make sure we’re doing everything we can to stop the spread of the disease.
ED O’KEEFE: Real quick, if I’m somebody who’s been vaccinated– if there’s someone watching this program who’s been vaccinated and curious, do they need to get a booster shot this fall with their flu vaccine?
JEFFREY ZIENTS: That is a question that’s being studied in clinical studies. We will look– the Biden administration will look to the scientists and to the doctors on advice on boosters. That has not been determined yet. What I can tell you, if boosters are needed, we are ready, as we have been throughout this fight with the pandemic. We have contingency plans. We have supply. So if the decision is made that boosters are needed, we are ready. But that decision has not been made by the science– scientists and the doctors till–
ED O’KEEFE: And you don’t have any sense of when it will be made?
JEFFREY ZIENTS: It will be based on clinical trials that are ongoing, and as soon as the doctors and scientists determine they have the data they need, they’ll make that decision.
ED O’KEEFE: Jeffrey Zients is the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. We thank you for spending part of Independence Day with us.
FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute. Stay with us.
ED O’KEEFE: We go now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, who’s on the board of Pfizer. He joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning, Doctor. Good to see you. Happy Fourth.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.
ED O’KEEFE: As we get started, I wanted to follow up on something Jeff Zients told us there in our conversation, that the science and trials weren’t complete in terms of whether boosters– booster shots will be necessary. That’s not what we’ve been hearing from drug companies and from other medical professionals. In your view, are we going to need boosters this fall?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think some people will have the option of getting boosters. And I think it’s going to be recommended for some people. The trials are ongoing. Jeff is right. Those trials are going to read out in the next couple of months. There is some data right now that does support the fact that when you get a booster, it does broaden your immunity and does deepen your immunity, meaning that you get more antibodies in terms of– from the initial response from the second shot and you get a broader complement of antibodies. You get what we call polyclonal response, which means you’re getting antibodies against more parts of the virus, which does suggest that a booster could give you better immunity against some of these variants. I think where we’re likely to end up with this is that there could be a recommendation for certain people, people who are maybe over the age of sixty-five or sixty, people who are out a certain length of time from receiving their second dose. And I think that that will be the recommendation that ACIP or CDC ultimately settles on, including people who may have pre-existing conditions that put them at higher risk of COVID disease. So the boosters are unlikely to be recommended for everyone. I think they’ll be recommended for people who are at higher risk. And what we’ve seen from the clinical data and the clinical data that we have right now is people who have been naturally infected from COVID looking at the durability of their immunity.
ED O’KEEFE: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: What we see from that data is that the immunity does decline over time. So when you look out seven or eight months from people who have been naturally infected, particularly among older individuals, the immunity does decline over time.
ED O’KEEFE: And when it comes to the Delta variant, which is now raging across many western and southern states, how many more Americans could be affected by that and how soon?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think given how transmissible this variant is it’s likely to infect about eighty-five percent of the population or what– what I mean to say is eighty-five percent of the population is going to end up with some level of immunity to coronavirus. We now have our choice in terms of how we acquire that immunity. You can acquire it through vaccination or you’re going to end up acquiring it through natural infection. I think people who choose to acquire it through natural infection may end up acquiring it more than once. But given how transmissible this is it’s probably going to infect or leave eighty-five percent of the population with immunity before it starts circulating with this level of velocity. We now have about fifty-five percent of the population with at least one dose of– of vaccine in them. So it leaves a lot of people who are going to be vulnerable to this infection. We’ve probably infected about a third of the population. So some complement of the people who have chosen to remain unvaccinated have been previously infected with the virus. But there’s still a lot of vulnerable Americans when you talk about absolute numbers of people.
ED O’KEEFE: All right. Well, we need to take a short break, but we’ll have more questions for Doctor Gottlieb in the next segment. Stay with us.
ED O’KEEFE: If you’re not able to watch the full FACE THE NATION, you can set your DVR. We’re also available on demand through your cable service. Plus, you can watch us through your CBS or Paramount+ app. We’ll be right back.
ED O’KEEFE: Don’t go anywhere. We’ll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. We’ll continue our conversation with former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. And then we’ll check in with two governors, Utah’s Republicans Governor Spencer Cox and Oregon Democrat Kate Brown. Plus, we’ll hear from Indiana Congressman Andre Carson on the new ransomware attack and UFOs. Stay with us.
ED O’KEEFE: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We want to continue our conversation with former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb.
Doctor, the– the White House is holding this big Independence Day event tonight. They’ve been talking broadly about declaring independence from the pandemic, or the idea that Americans will be able to feel a little more normal than they did this time last year. Would it be wise to be declaring independence from the pandemic right now?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I wouldn’t be declaring mission accomplished. I think this is going to be a long fight, but I think we have had a near term victory against the virus in terms of getting immunity into the population through vaccination. And– and virus levels are much lower than they were certainly last summer and they are likely to remain low. I think you’re seeing a decoupling between cases and hospitalizations and deaths because there’s so much immunity in the population, not just through vaccination, but also through prior infection, people who have acquired immunity from prior infection. But this is likely to become an endemic virus. We’re going to have to deal with it. It’s likely to be on par with the second circulating flu this winter. At– at best, it’s going to be on par with the second circulating flu. It could be a little bit worse. And I think we’re going to need to think differently about respiratory pathogens generally in the wintertime and be more vigilant about the spread of diseases like flu and like coronavirus. Flu is fearsome enough. We were far too complacent about it. And given the fact that we’re now going to have the equivalent of a second circulating flu, I don’t think we could be complacent about the risk of respiratory pathogens in the workplace, in schools anymore. So people are going to need to be more vigilant. We’re going to have to do some things differently. That doesn’t mean our lives change, but this is going to be a new normal.
ED O’KEEFE: Well, and about that, because you’ve talked a bit about how we have to start thinking differently. Does this mean, for example, we’re probably going to have to keep a face mask in our pocket at all times or in our bag, especially come the fall in the winter, and that at times a company or a school or the airlines may say, hey, this week or during these few weeks might be best to mask up or just keep your distance? And is that going to become normal?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think the use of masks is going to become more normalized. I think people are going to use them on a voluntary basis and certainly people are at higher risk from COVID, bad COVID outcomes or from influenza. But I think going to work with the sniffles is going to be frowned upon. I think businesses are going to have access to routine testing. I think there might be symptom checks within certain settings. If you have a congregate setting where a lot of people are getting together, they might check symptoms. Feverguns might become more routine, even though, they’re not that helpful. I think you’re going to see a veneer of safety superimposed upon– upon normal life. That doesn’t mean that there’s going to be mask mandates reimposed. I’m not sure that’s necessarily what we should be doing right now, given the substantially reduced overall death and disease we’re seeing from coronavirus, which is likely to continue as long as this virus doesn’t mutate in an untoward way. But I do think we’re going to need to be more vigilant about the spread of respiratory pathogens. I mean think back. It was always looked upon as being something that was somewhat brave if you toughed out a cold. That’s going to be really frowned upon now. You don’t want to be in a social setting where you don’t feel well. You’re going to be asked to stay home. So things are going to be different. I think we’re going to deal differently with the risk of respiratory diseases in the wintertime.
ED O’KEEFE: So, in other words, if you’re that employee who shows up at the office with the cold and says, “No, it’s fine. I’m going to work through it” really, the boss should be telling you, “No. Go home. Rest up and don’t get everybody else sick.”
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: And you might– and you might have a symptom check before you even come to work where they ask you a series of questions. And if you’re a child who shows up at school not feeling well, you’ll be sent home as well, too. So I think societally we’re just going to have a different etiquette around the risk of respiratory pathogens. We can’t afford the morbidity and mortality from flu and coronavirus being twin viruses that circulate at very high levels. Again, we were too complacent about the flu. We let it infect and kill far too many people. I think we’re going to have to think differently. That also means improving air quality in workplaces. We’re going to be looking at things like air flow and filtration in the same way we greened buildings. I think we’re going to make buildings more healthy as well.
ED O’KEEFE: Making his sixty-eighth appearance on FACE THE NATION. You have surpassed Bob Dole and Joe Biden, and you’ve got a ways to go to catch John McCain. But, Doctor Scott Gottlieb, we appreciate you being here.
And we’ll be right back.
ED O’KEEFE: We head west now to the Republican governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, whose state is one of four where the number of Delta variant COVID cases has skyrocketed. Good morning, Governor. Part of why I wanted to chat with you this week is I know you have a unique situation in your state when it comes to infection rates and vaccinations. I want you to talk a little bit about that.
GOVERNOR SPENCER COX (R-Utah/@SpencerJCox): Sure. Well, we’re– we’re certainly seeing the– the Delta variant rise in– in our state, which is concerning. Hospitalizations are– are rising again. The good news is that– that our adult population is getting vaccinated at the same rate as the rest of the country. When you add in the– the federal partners, vaccinations were about sixty-nine percent right now. But we are the youngest state in the nation. And so we have a very large population of young people who weren’t eligible to get vaccinated, those under the age of twelve. And in every state, the younger you are, even amongst the eligible popu– population, the less likely you are to be vaccinated. So we’re working hard to encourage our younger population to get vaccinated. We have eighty-nine percent of those over the age of sixty-five. So we feel really good about that. And our death rates have come down because of that. But, well, we desperately need more.
ED O’KEEFE: And I know there have been reports of outbreaks among children in overnight camps. Utah has a lot of them. And I know you’re eager to get those children vaccinated, as are parents nationwide. How is your state prepared to do that once you get the go ahead to do it?
GOVERNOR SPENCER COX: Yeah. Well, we– we have set up a very robust vaccination network. Our– our clinics are– are spread throughout the state. We’re– we’re also a very rural state. So that– that adds a component that’s difficult as well. But we have mobile vaccine clinics all over the state. It’s never been easier to get a– a vaccine. We’re working with school districts. We did that before for those over the age of twelve, before school was let out to have vaccine clinics available at schools or close to schools, working with pediatricians and– and family practitioners, as well. So we’ll be ready once we get the go ahead. We’re– we’re just waiting for– for the FDA to make that decision.
ED O’KEEFE: And I know in– in several states across the country, they have set up essentially lotteries for people who end up getting a vaccine, and several people have won hefty sums of money for– for showing up after these lotteries began. But your state legislature, as I understand it, has blocked you from offering cash incentives to people for getting vaccinated. Are you being hamstrung by that? Would you like that option?
GOVERNOR SPENCER COX: Well, we’re certainly having those conversations with– with the legislature. They’re– they’re looking closely at what’s working in other states. I– I would like all options on the table, but I– I will say this, I think, you know, not– not dying is– is a great incentive. I– my colleague, Jim Justice, Governor Justice this morning said everybody’s playing a lottery of sorts. It’s if you’re not vaccinated, you’re playing a different kind of lottery. I think he called it the death lottery, something like that. But– but certainly, we’re–we’re hopeful that that reason will rule and– and people will see how effective these vaccines are. Again, ninety-five percent of– of deaths since May have been amongst unvaccinated people in the state. So those are deaths that don’t have to happen, hospitalizations that don’t have to happen. It’s– it’s very simple and very easy to get the vaccine now.
ED O’KEEFE: We brought this up earlier with Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 coordinator. But there’s a new Washington Post poll out this morning that reinforces the unfortunate partisan divide on vaccinations. Overwhelming majorities of Democrats say they’ve been vaccinated, just forty-five percent of Republicans. And thirty-eight percent of Republicans say they’ll definitely not get the vaccine. What do you make of that?
GOVERNOR SPENCER COX: Well, it– it’s troubling, and I– I spoke about this often over the past, I– I mean, not even the past four years but the past eight years, about how unfortunate it is that that politics is becoming religion in our count– country, that– that politics is becoming sport and entertainment in our country, that– that pol– everything is– is political. It’s– it’s a huge mistake. And it’s caused us to make bad decisions during this pandemic and– and in other phases of our life, as well. So– so it’s deeply troubling. We’re– we’re doing a little better amongst Republicans here in the state of Utah when it comes to vaccines versus those numbers that you just shared. And we’ll continue to work with– with everyone in our state to get them vaccinated.
ED O’KEEFE: I want to turn your attention, Governor, to the weather. There have been some incredible maps that have shown drought conditions in your state. You– look at this map, for example, a year ago versus now. A hundred percent of Utah is in drought. Ninety-eight percent of the state is in what can be classified as extreme drought. Sixty-five percent in exceptional drought, the highest intensity. What is the best way to respond to something that’s going to be really difficult to reverse at this point?
GOVERNOR SPENCER COX: Sure. Well, there– there are lots of different responses that– that are necessary. One, we– we have to conserve water better. We have to use less water. And that’s going to happen in lots of different ways. We have water restrictions across the state. I’m also a farmer. We’re– we’re down about seventy percent of our water consumption right now, and that will have economic and– and food stability impacts across our state. So– so we– just every person in our state has to use less water. We’ll do that through restrictions and technology advances as we move forward. That’s number one. Number two, and we talked about this with Western governors just this past week. We– we have to store more water. The– the people that settled these– these arid mountain valleys and– and– and Western states knew that. We’re not doing a great job of that anymore. I’m grateful in– in this bipartisan infrastructure push, there is money for that type of infrastructure. Storing water aboveground and underground as well will make a big difference. We are also the fastest-growing state in the nation, so we have to be prepared for generations to come.
ED O’KEEFE: I know this is personal for you. As you mentioned, you’re a sixth generation, I believe, alfalfa farmer. And so you see–
GOVERNOR SPENCER COX: That’s correct.
ED O’KEEFE: –the effects of this, your family has seen the effects of this, but you are a member of a party that includes many who don’t still believe in climate change. How detrimental is that to the future of the GOP?
GOVERNOR SPENCER COX: Well, we’re working very hard to help people understand the impacts of climate change. You may have noted recently. Representative John Curtis here from the state of Utah was– was helped to form a– a Republican climate caucus at the– at the federal level. So there’s more work being done there, but that– that’s a long term. I mean that’s, as you mentioned earlier, that’s– that– you know that’s– that’s a fifty-year solution.
ED O’KEEFE: Right.
GOVERNOR SPENCER COX: And so we have to do better there. And Utah is doing better. We’re cutting back on– on emissions here in the state of Utah, working with– with our governors across the West to implement. Kate Brown, who you’re going to have on, we’re working on electric car infrastructure across the West. So great things are happening there.
ED O’KEEFE: Yeah.
GOVERNOR SPENCER COX: But we also have to take the short-term impacts and take them very seriously, which President Biden did this week talking about wildfires in the West.
ED O’KEEFE: Yes. Governor Spencer Cox joining us from his home in Fairview, Utah. We appreciate it. Please come back. When you’re here in DC, especially, please come see us.
We want to move next to Oregon, which is starting to subside from record heat, but each day we’re learning more deaths are being linked to it. In Oregon alone at least ninety-five people have died. Democratic Governor Kate Brown joins us from Portland with the latest this morning. And, Governor, climate scientists have long said events like this hot streak you just had are likely to be more frequent, more intense, and last longer in the future. If that’s the case, how should residents in your state and across the Pacific Northwest be preparing for that? For example, if there’s somebody that doesn’t have an air conditioner, should they be going out and getting one right now?
GOVERNOR KATE BROWN (D-Oregon/@OregonGovBrown): Thank you, Ed, for having me this morning, delighted to have an opportunity to appear on the program. We have been working to prepare for climate change in this state for a number of years. What was unprecedented, of course, was the three days of record-breaking heat, and it was horrific to see over ninety Oregonians lose their lives. And we have to continue with our preparedness work. That includes working with our health partners that provide health care to vulnerable Oregonians to make sure that they understand that there are resources available, for example, to buy an air conditioner if they have certain underlying health conditions. We worked really hard with our community partners, our county emergency management departments, to get the message out that the heat was going to be very, very strong. Over last weekend they set up cooling centers, provided water to vulnerable Oregonians. Unfortunately, we still lost too many lives.
ED O’KEEFE: And–
KATE BROWN: Absolutely unacceptable. Following events like this we always do reviews and see what we can do better next time.
ED O’KEEFE: And have you begun that review? You get any sense of what has to be done?
KATE BROWN: Absolutely, we have. There’s no question. I think the concern, Ed, is that this is a harbinger of things to come. We literally have had four emergency declarations in this state at the federal level since April of 2020. In Labor Day last year we had horrific wildfires. They were historic. We lost over a million acres, over four thousand homes and nine lives. And what is really, really clear, that just like we saw during the pandemic, throughout these emergency events our communities of color, our low-income families are disproportionately impacted. And we have to center the voices of Black and brown and indigenous people at the forefront of our work as we do emergency preparedness.
ED O’KEEFE: I know this past week you met with the President virtually along with other Western governors, including Governor Cox, who we just spoke with to discuss the drought and heat waves and these changing climate patterns. What does Washington, what does the federal government need to be doing to help these Western states prepare for this new normal?
KATE BROWN: That’s a really good question, and it was a question the President asked. In short, we need resources and we need boots on the ground. For example, we need financial resources to be able to purchase critical, essential equipment like aircraft to help us fight fire. We need to make sure that we have adequate boots on the ground. Senator Wyden’s done a good job fighting for the state of Oregon to get us financial resources to be able to train our National Guardsmen and women ahead of time so they can support our firefighting efforts. But it also means that agencies like FEMA who do not aid our undocumented families, we need to make sure that that happens. So, for example, of the families that lost homes in southern Oregon last Labor Day fire, several hundred of them were undocumented. FEMA does not provide aid or assistance to these families. It is absolutely unacceptable. These families are so much a part of our communities. They’re the heart and soul of our culture and they are the backbone of our economy. They deserve the assistance and they need it.
ED O’KEEFE: I want to move you to one other issue that is of urgent importance there in Portland, where you are and in many other cities across the country. And that is the surge in gun violence, especially at a time when police agencies across the country are struggling to retain or hire new officers. You’re seeing that issue in Portland. How should police agencies across your state, across the country, deal with the surge in violence at a time when their ranks are depleted?
KATE BROWN: Well, there’s no question that the city of Portland, like many cities across the country, are hurting right now. The level of gun violence is absolutely unacceptable. We are continuing to move forward on legislation at the state level. Every Oregonian has the right to be free from gun violence. In terms of our law enforcement community, we have had in this state and I think across the country a long overdue clarion call for racial justice. And what is really, really true is that our law enforcement system needs a culture change. And that’s the area that I am working on with my team–
ED O’KEEFE: Right.
KATE BROWN: –and with new leadership at the agency that–
ED O’KEEFE: Okay.
KATE BROWN: –trains and oversees the Oregon State Police and law enforcement–
ED O’KEEFE: Governor–
KATE BROWN: –across the entire state.
ED O’KEEFE: –let’s have you back to talk about that again sometime soon. We appreciate the time today. Happy Independence Day to you, Governor Brown of Oregon.
And we’ll be back in a moment.
ED O’KEEFE: In a recently declassified report, U.S. intelligence officials have offered no explanation for dozens of unexplained sightings witnessed by Navy pilots since 2004. Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana chaired a classified briefing on this report and joins us from Washington. Congressman, happy Independence Day to you. I know you can’t share all the details of that classified report. We wish you could. And before we talk about UFOs, I want to ask you about these reports of a new ransomware attack over the weekend that, apparently, has affected at least dozens of American companies. As a member of the Intelligence Committee, have you learned anything more about it?
REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE CARSON (D-Indiana/@RepAndreCarson): Well, these attacks obviously, have always targeted primarily two pillars of our American foundation, the government and U.S. businesses, and we’ve seen this debacle with SolarWind. We’ve seen it with the Colonial Pipeline. We’ve been briefed as a committee. We’re looking into it. The Biden administration has a very serious plan in terms of pushing back on these attackers. And so along with the startup entities and small businesses and the U.S. government, we’re working on encryption. You know we want a system that is– is protected, but we don’t want something that’s so impenetrable we can’t catch criminals–
ED O’KEEFE: Right.
REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE CARSON: –and– and– and human sex traffickers. And so we’re working through this issue regularly.
ED O’KEEFE: Just for the sake of trying to cut to the chase do we know who did it? Was it Russia?
REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE CARSON: I can’t speak to that matter right now.
ED O’KEEFE: Okay, not taking it off the table. Understood. Look, this report that the Pentagon released and that you’re pushing for more conversation about it’s about a nine-page declassified report. And nowhere in this do I see mention of the words outer space, extraterrestrial or alien. Seems they didn’t want to go there. Is that wrong? Should that be ruled out?
REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE CARSON: Well, the report is inconclusive. What we do know is that there are nearly a hundred– and there have been nearly a hundred and fifty sightings. Eighty of those sightings have been detected with some of the best technology the world has ever seen. And we– we– we can’t rule out something that’s otherworldly, but that’s a very small percentage. People want members of the government to say it’s extraterrestrial. We won’t stop there. But certainly it– it poses a technological concern for us and it poses a national security concern for us because we don’t want our adversaries to have, one, a technological advance over us in terms of what they can do with their capabilities. But what is curious is that many of these sightings have occurred around many of our military assets–
ED O’KEEFE: Right.
REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE CARSON: –our naval bases, our military installations.
ED O’KEEFE: Yeah, I mean, you said earlier this week in another interview that it’s your hope that these so-called UAPs aren’t something from another nation who has a strategic and technological advantage and that it’s not from the private sector. I mean if it’s not them, then what is it?
REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE CARSON: Well, I mean, you know, we always have to look at natural phenomena. We have to look at the weather balloons. We have to look at drones. We have to look at aircraft that we may not be able to understand. At least most people may not be under– be able to understand. But if it is otherworldly, we have to take into account our– our– our advancements in terms of our cell phone technology and why aren’t these images being captured? We have to think about the nearly four thousand satellites that are orbiting the Earth right now. Most of those satellites have cameras attached to them. Why hasn’t any of that information been released? And so we still want to make sure that our adversaries don’t have a technological edge on us, but we still can’t rule out that two to six percent that could be something we can’t explain, maybe even otherworldly. So my hope is as the chairman of the subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation that we will have a series of hearings and possibly a public hearing in the very near future.
ED O’KEEFE: When would that be?
REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE CARSON: You know, we– we have a pretty ambitious schedule. Chairman Schiff has a pretty ambitious agenda and my own committee, we’re planning on having a series of hearings, hopefully in Indiana as well, dealing with our white nationalist threat, our internal– threats to our internal security and, hopefully, we will discuss UAPs in the very near future. I can’t give a definitive date right now.
ED O’KEEFE: You’ve talked about sort of dealing with the stigma of the possibility that this is coming from somewhere beyond Earth. In your view, quickly, is there life out there?
REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE CARSON: Look, it would be arrogant to say that there isn’t life out there. Certainly, I believe that there’s something in– in the– in– in the expanse of the universe. Now, the question is is there life in our solar system? Perhaps the moons of some of our planets will give us clues. Maybe there’s microbial life. Maybe there’s life in some of the oceans on the moons. We’ll find out very soon hopefully.
ED O’KEEFE: We– we appreciate this out of this world conversation. Congressman, thank you for spending part of the holiday with us.
REPRESENTATIVE ANDRE CARSON: Welcome.
ED O’KEEFE: And– and we’ll be right back.
ED O’KEEFE: For FACE THE NATION, I’m Ed O’Keefe, in for John Dickerson, who’s in for Margaret Brennan. We appreciate you being here. Enjoy your Fourth of July. Have a great Sunday.