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Victoria, Australia Enacts New Lockdown Measures; Kurds Displaced And Helpless Since U.S. Forces Abandoned Them; Retired Nurse Answers Call To Help During Outbreak; CDC Forecast 19,000 Americans to Die of COVID-19 in Three Weeks; Tropical Storm Isaias Nearing Florida and Heading Towards the Carolinas; Thousands Evacuate in Southern California Wildfire; Microsoft in Talks to Purchase TikTok; New Role for Anthony Tata in Pentagon; White House and Lawmakers Resume Stimulus Talks; Victoria, Australia Declares State of Disaster. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST: Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Ahead here on "CNN Newsroom," flames are ripping through parts of southern California this hour. Officials say wildfires out of control, not contained at all. I will speak with a first responder.

And as if coronavirus wasn't bad enough, the entire U.S. east coast is preparing for a storm that could turn into a hurricane. And this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was sitting there, watching the TV and I just thought, I could help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: We'll hear from two nurses who ran toward danger to keep Americans safe.

Ominous warnings from a top member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. She says the U.S. has reached a new phase of the pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I want to be very clear, what we're seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread. It's into the rural as equal urban areas. And to everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus. And that's why we keep saying no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BRUNHUBER: Now, while the number of infections in 27 states has

plateaued, the overall figures are still very high. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects another 19,000 deaths in just the next three weeks.

Now, we can often get overwhelmed by statistics, but listen to this. Covid-19 has killed about 1,000 Americans every day for almost a week. Florida and California in red remain the most dangerous hotspots. They're seeing a sharp, and steady rise in new infections. And we could see a fresh spike in Florida in the coming day.

Testing sites closed due to Tropical Storm Isaias are slated to reopen. President Trump, meanwhile, who has long downplayed the severity of the pandemic spends the day playing another round of maskless golf and that was his 284th visit to one of his golf clubs since taking office.

The president has taken much rosier terms to describe the state of the pandemic than his top experts. Jeremy Diamond shows us the mixed messages.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, in recent days, we have watched as President Trump has continued to downplay the severity of the coronavirus, falsely claiming time and again that the rising cases that we are seeing in the U.S. is due to an increase in testing.

And the president also continuing to hawk hydroxychloroquine, that drug that has been proved in multiple studies to be an ineffective treatment for coronavirus.

But the message that we are hearing from the public health experts within this very same administration is very, very different including the message that we heard on Sunday from Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator.

She made it clear that this epidemic in the United States currently is extremely widespread, making clear that it's happening not just in the urban areas where we saw the early days of this pandemic, but also in rural communities.

And she gave a message specifically to those rural communities, encouraging them to practice those mitigation efforts. Listen to her warning about the seriousness of the situation in the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIRX: We are in a new phase and that's why I really wanted to make it clear to the American people. It's why we started putting our governor reports directly to the health officials and the governors and every single state because we could see that each thing had to be tailored.

[02:05:01]

This epidemic right now is different and it's wide, it's more widespread and it's both rural and urban. (END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: Now, Dr. Birx did say that she is seeing something that is "a bit reassuring" and that is the notion that it appears that cases in the west and the south maybe beginning to plateau or even decline saying that it seems that those mitigation efforts that have been put in place in some of those states are working.

But she is also making clear that the states that are beginning to see even slight increases in their test positivity rate for example, need to immediately begin to slow down their reopening plans and implement those mitigation efforts. Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

BRUNHUBER: Hurricane watches are being issued for parts of the Carolinas as Tropical Storm Isaias is projected to make landfall there in the coming days. Alerts have been issued all up and down the eastern seaboard in advance of the storms move northward and Isaias is pilling on problems to coronavirus stricken Florida.

It's bringing heavy wind, rain and rough tides to the state's Atlantic coast. Meteorologist say by the time the storm makes landfall, it could re-strengthen and become a hurricane again. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with more. You've been watching this, what's the latest?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hey, Kim, coming in here, the latest update at the 2:00 a.m. from the National Hurricane Center talking about this being potentially a Category 1 hurricane within the next 24 hours.

And of course, when you look at a storm system of this magnitude, it sits about 65 miles or so just off the coast of Cape Canaveral. It certainly has a potential to strengthen because the Gulf Stream, just north of this particular region.

And we'll watch this because the steering environment here, we've got a jet stream that is wanting to force the system off towards the east in an area of high pressure that is nudging it back towards the west. And put this together here of course, the system will parallel the coastline.

We think the best bet for landfall would be sometime around 24 hours from right now to the early morning hours of Tuesday there into areas around Myrtle Beach or eventually on to parts of southern North Carolina. That would come in either as a strong tropical storm or a weak hurricane.

And really the impacts, not going to be much different here. We know the storm surge threat is going to be significant and the strong winds on the immediate coast of course could cause some coastal beach erosion as well.

And you'll notice by Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, this parks just off the coast of say Long Island, even around New York City. It could still be a tropical storm, so we'll watch this carefully. And then beyond that, we see this lose its tropical characteristics as it moves into the Canadian maritime.

But the storm surge threat is always the biggest threat to look at these storms, and you've got to keep in mind, Monday is the astronomical high tide when it comes to a full moon being in place.

So we factor in a two to four-foot storm surge into say Edisto Beach on to Charleston on top of it being the astronomical high tide into the evening hours of Monday into this region, Charleston, right at 9:00 p.m., could be about a six and a quarter feet.

While in Wilmington, about 5 feet at 10:30 p.m. So, you tack on two to four feet on top of that flooding, almost certainly going to take place there in historic downtown Charleston this time tomorrow when the storm system closes in on land.

And again, the heaviest rainfall also forecasted via across this region could see as much as two to four inches come down before things improve. And when you factor in the heavy rainfall, the gusty winds that could be upwards of 70 miles per hour, of course, brings trees down.

And we know power outages, the forecast for that remains widespread potentially into the Delmarva, much of the state of New Jersey, into areas even including New York City.

So, Ken, if we get power outages across this region with the strong winds whether it be tomorrow night or into Tuesday night, this could be a big story here because of course, the pandemic slows any sort of restoration of power across these areas. We'll watch this carefully moving forward.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. As you say, so many calamities converging there. Thanks so much Pedram.

And on the other side of the U.S. where the pandemic is also raging, they are dealing with a wildfire. More than 7,000 people have been driven from their homes in southern California due to this. The U.S. Forest Service says the so-called apple fire has scorched more than 20,000 acres or 8,000 hectares.

So far, no injuries are reported and at least one home and two other buildings have been destroyed by the fire. California has the nation's highest number of COVID-19 cases and the evacuation centers are requiring masks and social distancing.

So for more on this, let's bring in Lisa Cox. She is the fire information officer for the San Bernardino National Forest. Thank you so much for taking the time in a very busy time there to join us. I understand that earlier you weren't exactly able to tell how big it is, but you know it's big, you know it's spreading and fairly fast. What is the latest?

LISA COX, FIRE INFORMATION OFFICER, SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST: Yes. So, the fire has made significant growth today. We so know that it grew, we just need to do an overnight flight tonight to get an infrared image on where exactly the fire has gone today. But it mostly grew in the northern and southeasterly portions or flanks of the fire.

[02:10:03]

BRUNHUBER: All right. So, you know, as a reporter who used to be based in Los Angeles, I've covered plenty of fires in that region. I know how tough the terrain makes it. How big a factor is it in this fire?

COX: Yes. So, we have about five factors all kind of coming together here on this fire. So, the number one being, as you just referred to is the terrain. We've got extremely steep, rugged terrain. We have many different drainages that are all kind of intersecting together.

And that creates these funneling effects of different wind patterns and creates more erratic fire behavior. And with that, we have very thick brush including this really flammable ecosystem called chaparral that likes to burn. And it hasn't burned here in a long time. We don't have a lot of fire history in the area.

BRUNHUBER: Now, with the pictures we are seeing there, we are seeing this very strong smoke columns from the fire. Quite spectacular. You can actually see them through much of southern California. How much harder does it make to fight the fire?

COX: Yes. So, yesterday was a prime example of what happens when fire makes its own weather. And we saw a little bit more of that today, but it was really evident yesterday because of that pyrocumulus cloud that appeared above the fire at several thousand feet, tens of thousands feet.

It could actually be seen from Chinatown in Los Angeles. So, when that happens, it's when all of those factors come together. Fuel slow alignment, wind, low humidity, high temperatures, and gusty winds. They all come together.

And once the fire gets ahead on that, with that thick, thick chaparral brush, it makes its own weather system and it actually creates this updraft of smoke, ash, and flame and it creates this huge cloud and has a downdraft that actually spreads out in all 360 directions around the fire and creates additional issues like spotting across the fire lane.

BRUNHUBER: Speaking of additional issues, you know, fighting a fire is hard enough, let alone during a pandemic. How does COVID affect the firefighting efforts and also the residents who may have to evacuate and take shelter?

COX: Yes. So, worldwide pandemic, that's a whole another layer of challenges firefighters and residents already dealing with. But so far, we've had no injuries on the fire and that's great news. And so far, I could say we're doing pretty well and fairing pretty well and with all the protective measures that we are taking, things are going great.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Well, good luck out there. Thank you so much for joining us. Lisa Cox from the San Bernardino National Forest. We appreciate your time.

COX: No problem. Thank you for having me.

BRUNHUBER: All right. Well, President Trump puts a failed defense department pick in a new role. So we'll find out what Democrats in the U.S. Congress have to say about it.

And Microsoft says it is still in talks to buy TikTok, but it is not clear whether that will ease President Trump security concerns. Coming up, after the break.

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[02:15:00]

BRUNHUBER: Microsoft says it is still discussing a possible purchase of TikTok. That follows President Trump's threat Friday to ban the popular video app from operating in the U.S. TikTok is owned by a Chinese start-up.

Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated the administration's security concerns about TikTtok and other Chinese software companies. Pompeo wouldn't say whether a Microsoft purchase would ease those misgivings.

Eleni Giokos is in Johannesburg, South Africa to analyze this. First off, let's back up a bit, I mean, does the signal that the Trump administration maybe backing off its threat to ban TikTok?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, look, this is going to be a big game changer and a big move for Microsoft, and of course, for Trump administration. You've got to keep in mind that President Trump had floated the idea of banning TikTok in the past. Then, on Friday, saying that he is willing to activate executive orders to do so.

And then we heard that Microsoft is currently in a position talks with TikTok, looking to purchase its U.S., Canadian, Australian, as well as operations in New Zealand.

Now, we don't know whether this would actually change the Trump administration's view, but what we do know is the banning of TikTok in the U.S. while Microsoft is having position talks with TikTok, certainly could derail discussions.

In the meanwhile, we know Microsoft wants to have some kind of speedy resolution to this. They're talking about the 15th of September. That is an interesting move. It's all about national security here. A U.S.- based company, like a giant like Microsoft wanting to buy a Chinese- owned company could of course move the needle here.

And remember, that a Chinese-owned company would have to acquiesce to any request by the Chinese government to hand over data. That's where the national security issue comes in.

Now, ByteDance, which is of course the parent company of TikTok, came out with a statement over the weekend and saying that, "It's committed to becoming a global company. And in this process, we are faced with all kinds of complex and unimaginable difficulties, including a tense international political environments. We still it here to the vision of globalization and continue to increase investment in markets around the world, including China, to create value for users around the world."

Also important to note, that the TikTok CEO is a former Disney executive. ByteDance wanted to show that it has nothing to hide, that it's playing open cards here. But remember, that this isn't a problem only endemic to the United States wanting to ban TikTok.

Its biggest market is China, of course, is an important market, but then it was India and India banned TikTok. Australia has cited concerns about national security, so too has South Korea. So, it will be an interesting one to look at because around two billion people have downloaded the application -- in the U.S., 172 million people.

BRUNHUBER: Wow. All right, well listen to it. We'll follow this story with great interest. Thank you so much Eleni Giokos in Joburg. Appreciate it.

The Trump administration is placing a controversial Pentagon pick into another similar role even after his nomination failed.

[02:19:56]

Retired General Anthony Tata was President Trump's choice for a top defense post, but his nomination hearing on Thursday was canceled amid bipartisan opposition. CNN's Ryan Browne explains.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata has been put into a senior policy post at the Pentagon despite his nomination for another post collapsing last week under Senate scrutiny.

Now, Tata had made controversial comments unearthed by CNN's KFILE team on a wide range of issues, accusing a former CIA director of plotting to kill President Trump, calling President Obama a terrorist leader, and making comments that many viewed as Islamophobic.

Now, Tata has been working as a senior adviser at the Pentagon since April, the details of that role have not been revealed. The Pentagon has declined to offer any details about what he is actually been doing, but he will now be placed into a position that is normally Senate confirmed.

Now, he is on a temporary technically acting basis, but the move has been slammed by Democrats on Capitol Hill, with the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Service Committee saying that the efforts to skirt their confirmation process were destabilizing and an insult to U.S. troops and the American people. Ryan Browne, CNN, Washington.

BRUNHUBER: U.S. lawmakers and White House officials will resume negotiations in the coming hours trying to agree on another stimulus plan. Now, key sticking point is the extension of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit that expired last week. Republicans see it as a disincentive for some Americans to go back to

work and they want to cut it to $200 a week. And they want states to move towards benefits based on a percentage of a workers wages.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI, U.S. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The fact is, they put on the floor, the end of this week, in the Senate, $200. So when you say, well, you end up doing the $600, they have no support for that in their party. We are unified in our support for the $600. They are in disarray.

STEVE MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Mark Meadows and I will be back there every day until we reach an agreement. We understand there is a need to compromise, but on the other hand, there is also a big need to get kids into school, get people back to jobs, and keep the economy open, and keep people safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRUNHUBER: Now, for many Americans, that $600 weekly bonus benefit was vital. It helped pay the rent and with some eviction moratoriums ending, they worry that could end up putting them out on the streets. Paul Vercammen has one family's story.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tension on the streets of Los Angeles this weekend. Economic worry. People wondering how they are going to make ends meet. The $600 supplemental paycheck from the federal government, gone.

And looming on the horizon, how to pay rent or make up for rent, that has not been paid. There is a moratorium on evictions in the city of Los Angeles, but in the state, some other of eviction moratoriums may go away soon.

We talked to Alvarez family who haven't been able to pay rent in three months and they are greatly concerned about what's going to happen down the road when someone comes to collect that rent check.

MARCOS ALVAREZ, LOS ANGELES RESIDENT: We need real help like to cancel the rent because its --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPOKEN IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

ALVAREZ: Because we live with the pressure that we can't pay the rent. And as soon as this is over, I know they want us to like re-pay the months that we didn't pay. And how are we supposed to do that when we could barely make for the month we're living in.

VERCAMMEN: But also at play here, landlords, many of them in southern California relying on rental income to make their living. And one community activist said that this is all such a double edged sword.

CARLOS MARROQUIN, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: What we need to do is we need to not only explore, but we need to act boldly, to be able to put in programs in place that will not only protect the renters, but also the landlords. We understand that.

Most of the renters that I speak with, if not all of them, you know, they want to pay their rents. But if that's not happening, you know, again, the landlords will also suffer especially the mom and pop landlords, and that worries me a lot.

VERCAMMEN: And there are a number of bills working their way through legislators that could give relief to both landlords, as well as renters. Stay tuned on that. California reckoning with both the COVID- 19 pandemic, and it's very serious consequences on health, as well as all of these economic woes. Reporting from Los Angeles, I'm Paul Vercammen, now back to you.

BRUNHUBER: Melbourne, Australia is under a very strict curfew right now. So, we'll ask a local mayor about efforts to contain the latest coronavirus outbreak.

And they are the heroes of the pandemic. Nurses who run toward danger as they battle the deadly virus. We will have some of their stories, coming up later.

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[02:25:00]

BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to you, our viewers, here in the United States, and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber and this is "CNN Newsroom." The government in Melbourne, Australia is now ordering all nonessential businesses to close under strict new lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus.

The Victoria State Premier says all businesses forced to shut down will be eligible for a $5,000 dollar grant. A state of disaster was declared in Victoria Sunday after the state reported almost 700 new cases of the virus.

Other restrictions included a new overnight curfew in Melbourne and the end of pretty much all recreational activity. CNN's Anna Coren is live for us in Hong Kong. So, Anna, how did it come to this, another lockdown?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The strictest lockdowns of its kind in Australian history. Certainly, in Australian peacetime. You have to remember, Kim, that Victorians, Melbournians in particular, 5 million of them, have been under lockdown for the last four weeks, stage three restrictions.

Well, as of last night, they are now under stage four restrictions. That means, there is a curfew in place from 8:00 p.m. through until 5:00 a.m. for the next six weeks. Only one person from each household can go out for one hour a day to get groceries within five kilometers from where they live.

Schools have been shut. Childcare has been shut. And businesses, nonessential businesses, have been shut. The Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, is currently addressing the

media and he made that announcement that nonessential businesses will be shut for the next six weeks.

[02:30:00]

He said that there will be substantial pain, but this is what needs to happen to get this crisis under control.

You asked him how this all began, this second stage, second wave in Victoria. Well, it all began when security guards who were manning a government hotel quarantine facility interacted with guests who had traveled from overseas, Australians returning to Australia, and obviously they weren't COVID positive.

So this is how it has been really spread like wildfire through the City of Melbourne which of course is the capital of Victoria, Australia's second-largest city, and as I said home to five million people. Well, for the next six weeks, they are going to be stuck at home for those who can work from home. They will -- only essential workers are allowed to go to work. But the Prime Minister said, they have no other option, that they need to impose these harsh strict measures to bring those numbers down.

We have to remember that the number of deaths which have been just escalating every single day, the majority of them, Kim, are in aged care facilities.

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: All right, thank you so much, Anna Coren, in Hong Kong. So, let's bring in Bernadene Voss. She's the mayor of Port Phillip close to downtown Melbourne. Thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

So, Victoria's premier said this new lockdown was necessary because otherwise stage three restrictions would need to last for six months. Your city has beaches, lots of restaurants, entertainment venues, which is harder on your community, a hopefully shorter hard lockdown or a longer, slightly less onerous one?

BERNADENE VOSS, MAYOR, PORT PHILLIP, AUSTRALIA: Hi, Kim, and it's great to be with you on your program. In my opinion, this section is really necessary but it is difficult. It is the harshest and the strictest we've ever experienced. And as of last night, we went into stage four lockdown, so only one hour outside exercise per day. And as a -- as a municipality, I'm really worried for many in our community.

BRUNHUBER: Well, I mean, it must just be utterly demoralizing to be going through all this again. You know, here in the us some people have floated the idea of reimposing another, you know, strict lockdown like you're doing there, but I think there'll be a full-scale revolt, you know. People there must be fed up. Do you expect more resistance this time? And how do you as mayor, you know, convince your residents this is necessary?

VOSS: Well, for me, it's all about respecting those that have putting themselves out there in the -- in harm's way and looking after those people with COVID-19, and we need to make sure that we do the right thing for them. But also, what we need to do as a municipality is ramp up the support that we need to offer many in our community such as delivering food, through our community groups.

Food, the basics for our -- the essentials for our communities, what's most on my mind at the moment. But I am looking a little forward after we're going through this very difficult time about with the psychological issues that are going to come out of it that I'm already seeing as well as needing financial counseling. So there are some things there that really need to be looked at.

BRUNHUBER: But one of those things is, you know, childcare as well. You know, obviously no schools, childcare severely restricted. You know, this is a huge piece of this lockdown that will hit people really hard. How are you dealing with that?

VOSS: That's right, so all schools are now back to remote learning again, and so that's as of Thursday this week. I think most people would find that OK, but those with younger children, and those with children in the final years I think will find that extremely difficult. But childcare is the latest casualty that hasn't been imposed before. So only those essential workers, those in the healthcare industry, for example, can have their children at childcare, everyone else has to have them at home, which also then impacts those people that need to work.

So it is very difficult, but as I said earlier, is really necessary. We need to kick this COVID down the road, and it's not to come back. So it's really with a heavy heart that we say we have to protect our most vulnerable, our community, and make sure that we do this once and we do this well.

BRUNHUBER: But, you know, if the stage three restrictions, you know, clearly didn't work, are you confident these new ones will?

VOSS: Well, in stage three, there were many that were flouting their restrictions. For example, our skate parks, you know, are well-loved. And we had them fenced and there were still kids -- not only kids, people in their 30s for example, jumping the fence and continuing to use them even though they were restricted use.

So there were many things that were still occurring, people getting too close to each other families, reunions, weddings, that sort of thing. So, they're now all off the table. And hopefully, people stay at home and do the right thing. People will continue to flout the rules, but hopefully -- you know, nothing is foolproof, but I do think that the more we limit people's ability to do these things, the more successful it will be.

[02:35:36]

BRUNHUBER: You know, this was just announced. You say people were -- have flouted the rules before. I know it's early, but is there any evidence that people are adhering to the rules or you're already seeing people sort of, you know, ignore some of this? VOSS: To be frank, I haven't been outside my home today, but what I have seen on social media and what people have told me, and I get a lot of people telling me things, what's going on, there are still that are flouting the rules, but mostly it's around getting access to supermarkets. Too many people are still going into the supermarkets trying to buy things in bulk. But I think that will ease.

You know, my street, at the front of my house, has been totally quiet. There's been cats and things sitting in the middle of the road. So that just tells you, that's not normal. So it's only day one and we have six weeks to go. And I'm sure that the COVID will, you know, decrease.

BRUNHUBER: All right, well, we wish you all the best of luck over there. Thank you so much for spending the time talking to us. We appreciate it.

VOSS: Thank you, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: That's Bernadene Voss, the mayor of Port Phillip near Melbourne. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he's reimposing Coronavirus restrictions in some areas starting Tuesday. The country now has more than 100,000 confirmed cases. The new restrictions will cover the capital city of Manila and nearby provinces. Anyone under 21, 16 over, or those with health risks have to stay home. The only exceptions are for buying essentials and going to work. More than 2,000 people in the Philippines have died from the virus.

Now, turning to Brazil, the Coronavirus death toll there is quickly approaching 100,000 people, but the president there is still downplaying the severity of the pandemic. Look at this. On Sunday, he was seen riding his motorcycle in public without a mask. He did wear one during an exchange with reporters, although he later removed it. His defiant stance comes even after his wife and two ministers tested positive for the virus last week.

On their own and abandoned by their ally, coming up, a look at how the Kurds on the Turkish-Syrian border a fairing since the Americans left and Turkish forces moved in. Stay with us.

[02:40:00]

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BRUNHUBER: Nine months ago, U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly abandoned Kurdish allies on the U.S. -- of the U.S. on the Turkish- Syrian border. Now, without U.S. support the Kurds are largely left to fend for themselves against Turkish forces. CNN's Arwa Damon has a powerful piece updating the situation there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You see that smoke? That's from our fields, Amir Nisan says, resigned and sorrowful. It's hardly the first time that Turkey has locked strikes and the Kurdish semi-autonomous region of northern Iraq, targeting the Kurdish separatist group the PKK strongholds in the harsh mountain terrain.

Amir lived in a small village nearby, fleeing with his family in the middle of the night. His elderly mother shows us how she used to shake with fear. For decades, the Turkish state has been war with the PKK, designated a terrorist organization not just by Turkey but also the E.U. and the United States. This is the largest bear and ground offensive since the 1990s. Turkey says it's just trying to protect its borders and stop the Kurdish PKK fighters from moving into Syria.

In October of last year, Turkey invaded neighboring northern Syria, going after a related Kurdish group called the YPG, a sister organization to the PKK. What makes this situation so thorny is that the Kurdish force Turkey attack in Syria makes up the bulk of the fighting forces partnering with the U.S. in the battles against ISIS.

The Americans abandon their Kurdish allies withdrawing from key positions. The Turks swept in. Tens of thousands of civilians fled. Today, Turkey still occupies the border region, carrying out joint patrols with the Russians and the Americans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the presence of different forces comes the complication of the need to deal with each one of them separately, which each of them also has its own interest, its own goal.

DAMON: When it comes to the U.S., it's all about ISIS. They frequently tout their partnership fighting ISIS with the Kurdish YPG as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I want to describe how we are partnering with the SDF, the current threat from ISIS, and let you know of some other areas, some other topics where we are collaborating to help the people of this region.

DAMON: And yet when the Kurds need big brother America, or for that matter, anyone to step in and help them, all remain on the sidelines. In northern Iraq, Amir's beloved farmlands are charred, destroyed. His children miss running around outside and the cool breeze here.

Blame is shared, he says. Our government can't do anything in the face of Turkey or the PKK. Countries need to get involved. It can't go on like this.

But it will, as it always has. The Kurds have a proverb that arose from their history of betrayal and abandonment. No friend, but the mountains they say. Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRUNHUBER: We'll be right back.

[02:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRUNHUBER: What an amazing sight. This was the scene Sunday is SpaceX's crew Dragon Spacecraft safely splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico. Two NASA astronauts emerged from the craft providing the first ever man commercial flight, the International Space Station a success. SpaceX is planning more missions like this in what's being hailed as a new era in spaceflight.

Well, we all know doctors and nurses are the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic especially those who are answering the call to help in COVID- 19 hotspots as the U.S. struggles with a deadly virus. Tara Buzzelli is a retired nurse who volunteered to lend a helping hand. Mike Galanos has her story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TARA BUZZELLI, NURSE: I was sitting there watching the T.V. and I just thought I could help. I feel like this is my 9/11.

MIKE GALANOS, HLN ANCHOR: That's how Tara Buzzelli felt as she wants to COVID pandemic tighten its grip on the nation back in March. Then this retired nurse heard New York's governor pleading for help.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-CA): We need more nurses and doctors. And as I said, we're going back to the retired nurses and doctors.

GALANOS: Buzzelli retired from nursing 14 years ago, but says at that moment, she felt an urgent sense of duty to answer.

BUZZELLI: I'm always the one that wants to run the opposite way everyone's running. I just instinctively wants to go and I think nurses are that way.

GALANOS: Tara then told her husband what had been stirring inside of her.

MATT BUZZELLI, HUSBAND OF TARA BUZZELLI: My first reaction was I was proud of her. She probably didn't see herself that way, but when you talk about like my parents or my brothers or the kids, they all know she was meant to go and dive into something like this.

[02:50:06]

GALANOS: So Tara signed up. And 10 days later she got the call from New York. But Tara hesitated and said, no.

ASHLEY BUZZELLI, DAUGHTER OF TARA: I was like, oh, no. She did not just say no.

GALANOS: That's Tara's eldest, Ashley. She was back home from the Air Force Academy at the time.

A. BUZZELLI: And I'm like, do it mom. Do it. She's like, I don't know. I'm nervous. I'm scared that I can't do it. Like, I might fail. I cannot believe she said I'm scared to fail, like, this woman right here.

GALANOS: The 21-year-old told her mom that when things got tough in basic training, it was Tara that pushed her. Now, it was Ashley's turn that cheer on mom. T. BUZZELLI: I just kind of said a quick prayer and I thought OK, I have to say yes.

GALANOS: Soon she found herself in the heart of a pandemic warzone.

T. BUZZELLI: So you could already see the loneliness in the patients. No visitors. They couldn't walking the halls. They were kind of stuck to these rooms.

GALANOS: Buzzelli says it was grueling work, logging 15 or more hour shifts for the next four weeks.

T. BUZZELLI: The anxiety was more than I've ever had in my life, but what was going to happen?

GALANOS: Did you ever say, what am I doing here?

T. BUZZELLI: Every day. Every morning just like, please let today be OK, but extremely thankful for the opportunity. I would never change it.

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BRUNHUBER: Amelia Stansberry is a nurse who has answered the call not once, but twice. She joins me now from Miami, Florida. Thank you very much for being with us. The first obvious question is why on earth would you choose to leave your family and place yourself in harm's way twice?

AMELIA STANSBERRY, NURSE: So it was not something I would have ever considered doing on my own, but I just kept hearing this small voice in the back of my head that said go, go, go, you're needed. You're not doing anything where you are. Just go help where needed. And it was just something I couldn't and ignore so I went.

BRUNHUBER: All right, so you first went to New York, now in Florida. Can you give us a sense of what it's like to be on the ward, in the ER, in the two successive global epicenters of the pandemic?

STANSBERRY: Yes, so it's not something I've ever experienced before. It is definitely in crisis mode, everything both in New York and here in Miami now. People are so sick. And you know, some people don't believe that is really as bad as it is, but I'm here to tell you that it's bad. Please stay home if you don't have to be out.

BRUNHUBER: I mean, compare the two. You were in New York where it was just absolutely horrific, and then now. I mean, you know, what was the situation like then and what is it like now?

STANSBERRY: So in New York, it was more toward the beginning and we didn't know anything about this disease. And still months later, we don't really know a whole lot about it. A lot of it is just trying different things. So things that I've seen used in New York we're using here in Miami. And at this point, we're just kind of hoping for some kind of success with these patients. BRUNHUBER: Do you feel more hopeful now than when you were in New York

because you have, you know, better ways to treat patients or do you feel more discouraged now because you might have expected this to end by now and it just keeps going and going?

STANSBERRY: I will tell you, Kim, I completely expected it to end by now. I expected to be home with my family. I brought close to New York to go out and tour the city because I had never been before and unfortunately I just didn't get to go out and see anything because this pandemic is still going on. And I don't think anybody could have predicted that it was going to be going on this far into the season, this far past the typical cold and flu season.

BRUNHUBER: The toll on healthcare workers like yourself is obviously huge. You know, we hear about the conditions in some hospitals, nurses forced to reuse PPE, having to work, you know, insane hours with no relief. For you, what was the lowest point?

STANSBERRY: I will say that we have had been very fortunate that we have had staffing. People like myself and people from all over the country have been leaving their families and coming to these hotspots. So it is giving the relief that I think a lot of these hospitals need so that the nurses are able to work normal hours, and the ones who live in these places to be home with their families.

The lowest point for me is honestly seeing patients who get better. They recover from this. They're getting ready to be transferred home. And people don't realize this is a vascular disease. They'll have a stroke. And for me, that's been the hardest thing to deal with is people get better, and then they have a stroke, and that's it.

BRUNHUBER: You know, I mean, I have to say on the on the weekends when I come into work and every time, I'm shocked by all the club goers. I see gathering together and tight spaces. We hear stories all the time like, you know, this weekend, dozens of people attending a party at a bar in Hollywood, no masks, no social distancing. How mad does that make you when you -- when you've sacrificed so much to help and you see people just not caring?

[02:55:14]

STANSBERRY: Right. So I believe that is one of the more frustrating things. Like I said, people just don't believe that this is a real thing. People don't believe that it is as serious as it is. And I know that it is hard to understand something that you don't see firsthand. A lot of these people, I don't blame them because if you don't see something you don't experience, the human mind just can't understand how bad it is. We can tell people all day long, but until they have family or friends, you know, heaven forbid, that they actually do know someone who gets it. But I think the just how, what it's going to take for people to understand how bad that is.

BRUNHUBER: Last question. You've, you know, seen the devastation firsthand of this disease. And you know, if the worst were to happen, if you were to get sick, and God forbid, pass away as many healthcare workers have, would it have been worth it? STANSBERRY: It would. I actually came here fully prepared to know that I may not come home from this. And it was something that my husband and my daughter were both prepared for. But they knew that this was something I had to do. I couldn't just sit by when this is my calling in life, just sit by while all of the other nurses were drowning with work. My family knew that this was something I had to do.

BRUNHUBER: Well, bless your efforts and please do stay safe out there. Thank you so much for talking to us. Amelia Stansberry, a nurse working on the frontlines, volunteered to go into the heart of the battle against Coronavirus. Thank you very much for joining us.

STANSBERRY: Stay home, everybody. Stay safe.

BRUNHUBER: What a great message. And thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. The news continues with my colleague Rosemary Church waiting in the wings right over here. Stay with us.

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