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Nation Marks 19 Years since Terror Attacks while Battling Pandemic; Biden Visits Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; 100+ Fires Burn More Than 4 Million Acres in West. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar. Welcome to viewers here in the United States and around the world.

The nation is paying tribute today to 2,977 people who were killed 19 years ago on 9/11. We will be taking you to some of the remembrances happening today.

Turning to the pandemic, moments ago, the nation's leading infectious disease expert disagreed with the president who said the U.S. is, quote, rounding the final turn in this crisis. Dr. Anthony Fauci expressing frustration as the nation is continuing to see an average of about 35,000 new cases a day. That is progress from the summer peak of 70,000 but it is still stubbornly high, Fauci explains, as the season will soon change to colder temperatures, forcing people inside.

Also, the flu season is just weeks away.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You don't want to start off already with a baseline that's so high. So the thing that we've all been talking about, I've been stressing this over the last few weeks to a month or more, to try as best as possible to get that level down, so that when you go into a more precarious situation, like the fall and the winter, you won't have a situation where you really are at a disadvantage right from the very beginning.

I am concerned when I see things starting to move indoors and that becomes more compelling when you get into the fall and the winter season when you essentially have to be indoors.


KEILAR: Fauci is also frustrating that during this crisis, which a new forecast says could take as many as 217,000 more lives by early or 217,000 total lives by early next month. He has to waste his time discrediting unfounded claims of medications.


FAUCI: Claims that certain drugs have a great positive effect when there's no scientific evidence whatsoever that they have a positive effect, and yet it gets ingrained and I and my colleagues have to spend a lot of time trying to debunk that.

And when you're in the middle of a pandemic and you're trying hard to address all the appropriate issues, it is truly a waste of time to have to debunk nonsense. But, you know, unfortunately, we have had to do that.


KEILAR: Dr. Fauci also said that it could be near the end of next year, so the end of 2021, before life resembles pre-pandemic norms and a vaccine is readily available.

Let's stay with vaccines now. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has just spoken with the man leading Operation Warp Speed, that government effort to find a coronavirus vaccine. Sanjay, tell us what you learned speaking to Moncef Slaoui.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, this was really interesting because he has been at the center of this. Obviously, there's a lot of political pressure on getting a vaccine done. He says he's been relatively immune to this. But everybody wants to know timetable of this, how quickly might this happen and that's where we started off the discussion.


GUPTA: You have been very careful, as I've seen in your other interviews to steer clear of politics. You have also said that this process will not be interfered with politically. You've also said it's possible but very unlikely that this vaccine will be available before Election Day because that's what the president has said. You said that a few weeks ago. Is that still your position?

MONCEF SLAOUI, CHIEF ADVISER, OPERATION WARP SPEED: If we can make them advanced prior to the Election Day, we will, and if we can make them advanced after the Election Day, we will. It is totally irrelevant.

It is very unlikely that that number happens in October. It's more likely that it happens in November. And it's even more likely that it happens in December.


GUPTA: So, Brianna, he is bullish about this happening by the end of the year. In order for this to happen before Election Day, which he really says is very unlikely, you have two groups of people, one getting the vaccine, one getting the placebo. You have to see a lot of people in the placebo group becoming infected. This may be a little bit of an counterintuitive thing for people to think about but you have to count on these people being infected and these people not in the vaccinated group and show that difference. It just takes time to really show that sometimes.

There was a larger issue that came up, Brianna, and that is that we think about these emergency use authorizations. Typically, it's because somebody is in the hospital, very sick, we've got to try something to make it work. There is no other alternative. Can you really say the same about a vaccine? I mean, you know, what we could do is wear masks and physically distance. We have seen that work around the world. That would be an acceptable alternative.


So I asked him, given that, why the rush around this? Here is what he said.


GUPTA: Why rush this? Why not wait, make sure even for a few months there is no other unusual side effects from a safety standpoint and just encourage people to mask and distance, which we're not seeing in this country still?

SLAOUI: The reality of life here and everywhere else in the countries that had various levels of transmission and control is we are unable to control this pandemic.

I would never accept that a vaccine be introduced like everybody else I'm interacting with, I have to say, that a vaccine that is unsafe be introduced. So I would frankly turn the question the other way around and say what would be my ethical reason to withhold a vaccine that I could have developed faster from being developed faster?


GUPTA: And, Brianna, just the context here, the fastest we have ever really had a vaccine go through the approval process before has been four years. That was the mumps vaccine. Clearly, things are moving faster here. But I think this timeline is what we were really sort of driving at in this discussion today.

KEILAR: Definitely. Sanjay, thank you so much. It is so important, and this is what everyone wants to know. They want to know about the vaccine, when is it going to be widely available? Dr. Gupta, we appreciate it.

I'm going to turn now to CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Celine Gounder to talk with us. She is an epidemiologist, a physician and a medical journalist who once served as New York City's Assistant Commissioner of Health.

Dr. Gounder, you heard Dr. Fauci sounding off today that the nation has not reached the baseline of new cases that it needs to face the flu season and winter season. I mean, it sounds like he is saying, we're expecting this to get worse. So what is the baseline where we are right now and are we running out of time to get where we need to be? DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Our baseline remains much too high. In contrast, Brianna, to many of the European countries that were able to bring transmission down. And now, they are seeing a resurgence with the fall and the colder weather, which we are expecting on top of our higher baseline, but we're starting at a point that's already behind in terms of controlling the virus.

And then layer the flu on top of that, it is really going to be very difficult for those of us who are seeing patients in emergency rooms and hospitals and clinics to differentiate between the two. So you're going to have this huge onslaught of patients with similar symptoms and we're going to have to treat them as if they might have COVID.

KEILAR: And let's look at this aggregate forecast by the CDC that we're seeing, as many as 217,000 deaths from coronavirus by October 3rd. That is less than a month away. What has to happen to not make this total?

GOUNDER: Our best tools right now remain masking, social distancing, try to be outside as much as possible. And, unfortunately, much of the country still has not bought into the measures. If you compare our numbers, we're at about 200,000 deaths right now, even accounting for population size, Canada, we are at twice as many deaths per population as Canada, we're at 100 times as many deaths per population as South Korea. And this is because they took those kinds of measures seriously. They really do work.

KEILAR: Dr. Gounder, thank you so much for joining us.

I do want to take a turn now and let's go to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where former Vice President Joe Biden is there honoring this somber day, 9/11, and those who were lost there in Pennsylvania.

I want to bring in Ryan Nobles. He is traveling with biden. Ryan, what are we expecting today and just tell us about this day, in general, and how the former vice president is paying his respect?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is, of course, a very special day in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Brianna. Of course, this is the site where United Flight 93 crashed on 9/11, the 40 passengers and crew on board taking it upon themselves to overtake the hijackers and crash this plane in a relatively sparse field, preventing an enormous loss of life because it is believed that that plane was headed toward the United States Capitol to inflict even more damage on 9/11.

And what we have seen is both President Trump who was here earlier today deliver remarks during the formal ceremony and now, the former vice president, Joe Biden, coming in, paying his respects.

From what we have seen from Biden's visit here, it is much more low key than what we saw from President Trump. As I said, that was part of the more formal ceremony. The president gave a very unifying speech, spoke for about 12 minutes, met with some victim's families.

[13:10:00] Here, Vice President Biden came in kind of impromptu, just snuck in behind the memorial wall where the names of those who died on that day are honored. He and his wife, Jill Biden, laying a wreath at that memorial wall. And now, the vice president having a very low-key conversation with some of the folks that are here to mourn the loss of those victims. And I do believe there are some of the victims' families there, as well.

So I think, Brianna, it speaks to the importance of this particular memorial on 9/11. Obviously, there's a lot of focus on New York City, there's a lot of focus on the Pentagon. But this particular memorial represents a lot of the broader human sacrifice that we saw on September 11th that this group of people with the knowledge, and President Trump spoke about this in his speech, with the knowledge of what was going on that day, took it upon themselves to prevent this flight from becoming an even bigger tragedy and using it, I think you're seeing both Trump and Biden, using this as a way to kind of bring the country together.

And that is pretty poignant when you take into account that we are in the middle of a very heated presidential campaign, where both of these men have gone after each other in a pretty big way. And you don't hear the talk of unifying the country as much as perhaps many Americans would like to see. We are seeing that here today and you're seeing it from both of these candidates running for president. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes. And that is a special, sacred place behind you that really just speaking to what it is for Americans to come together in crisis and it's amazing to watch today and see both of these candidates there at this space. Ryan, thank you so much for bringing us that report.

Universities and colleges are struggling to contain coronavirus outbreak on campuses, so much so that there are clusters in every state.

Plus, I'll be talking to a school board member in Iowa about the decision to defy the governor's orders and start the school year from home.

And the wildfire crisis in the west is deepening by the hour. We'll have a live report from the devastation in Oregon, coming up.



KEILAR: In the wake of the release of recordings of President Trump talking in February to journalist Bob Woodward about the severity of the coronavirus, as he downplayed it publicly, the president is attempting some damage control. His version of that is lying about lying.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't lie. What I said is we have to be calm. We can't be panicked.

I don't want to jump up and down and start screaming death, death, because that's not what it's about.


KEILAR: No, he was lying because, a reminder, this is what he told Woodward on February 7th.


TRUMP: This is more deadly. This is 5 percent versus 1 percent and less than 1 percent, you know? So this is deadly stuff.


KEILAR: But this is what he was telling the American people at the same time.


TRUMP: This is like a flu.

Of the 15 people, the original 15, as I call them, eight of them have returned to their homes.

We are going down, not up. We're going very substantially down, not up.

And, again, when you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we have done.


KEILAR: Another lie that the president told last night.


TRUMP: People knew it was airborne. This was nothing -- this was no big -- when I say it was airborne, everybody knew it was airborne. This was no big thing.


KEILAR: Dead wrong, we did not know. For months, the World Health Organization confirmed the, quote, emerging evidence of airborne transmission in July, five months after the president's interview with Bob Woodward.

Look around, there's a lot of people who still think they can be indoors without a mask as long as they are six feet apart from someone not in their household and not get sick. But he says he was just trying to keep the calm.

As Trump described it last night, he was being, downright, Churchillian.


TRUMP: America will prevail over the China virus. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. That's it. We're doing very well.

As the British government advised the British people in the face of World War II, keep calm and carry on. That's what I did.


KEILAR: If that sounds out of character for a president whose political messaging might best be summed up as scaring the hell out of people, that's because it is.

Same speech last night just hours after he issued that we had to be calm defense of his lies about coronavirus for the first time, he told a packed crowd of 3,000 mostly non-mask-wearing supporters in Michigan missed about protests and violence.


TRUMP: Joe Biden surrendered your jobs to China and now he wants to surrender our country to the violent left-wing mob, and you're seeing that every night. If Biden wins, China wins. If Biden wins, the mob wins. If Biden wins, the rioters, anarchists, arsonists and flag burners win.


KEILAR: Let's get this straight. He wants Americans to believe that he just had their best interest at heart, that he was looking to keep them calm, because nothing is more calming than tens of thousands of Americans dying when they didn't have to die?

A Columbia University study says if the U.S. had issued social distancing guidelines one week earlier than it was done in mid-March, 36,000 lives could have been saved. And if it had been two weeks earlier, 84 percent of deaths, 82 percent of cases could have been prevented.


At those points in time, the president had known for weeks that the novel coronavirus was extremely contagious. And Trump is doing a very bad job of rewriting history but let's look to the future because we are still in the middle of a pandemic and President Trump will still manage this federal response for at least four more months. So what's he going to do going forward? Is he going to be honest about the challenges ahead?


TRUMP: We're going to get through this and we're right now, I hope, really think we're going to -- we're rounding the final turn. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: No, we are not rounding the final turn. To be exact in this racing metaphor, we are between turns one and two. The IMHE model that the White House uses says, 410,000 Americans will have died of coronavirus by January 1st. And that model has consistently underestimated the death toll.

We are almost at 200,000 Americans dead right now with less than four months to go in the year and we are projected to lose that many more people in just the next few months. It's going to get worse.

Churchill was famously blunt about the challenges of war when he spoke to the British people. So what would Churchill do? He might have highlighted what people could do to save lives, that the same model says, 122,000, of those 20,000 that we were expecting to lose could be saved with near universal mask use. Instead, here is what Trump supporters have picked up from him.


REPORTER: Sir? Why are you not wearing your mask?

RON BEEBEE, ATTENDED TRUMP RALLY: Because' there's no COVID. It's a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America.

REPORTER: Does it worry you guys at all to be in this crowded space with all these people.

DANIEL GUILDER, ATTENDED TRUMP RALLY: I'm not afraid. The good Lord takes care of me. If I die, I die. We got to get this country moving.


KEILAR: These are die hard Trump supporters and they probably would have listened to him if he had just told them the truth.

Iowa's governor ordering students back to school for in-person, but schools in Des Moines are defying that order. A school board member will join me next.



KEILAR: The western edge of the U.S. is turning into a raging inferno. There are deadly wildfires burning in every coastal state. More than a dozen is raging up and down the state of California. Entire towns have been leveled, thousands have been forced to evacuate and the air quality is quickly deteriorating.

The latest to explode overnight is the Bobcat fire, which erupted Sunday in the Angeles National Forest. It's now burning more than 26,000 acres. The cause is unknown, and it is endangering L.A. County's famed the Foothill communities. In the meantime, there is a state of emergency that has been declared in Oregon's largest city of Portland as fires near there are burning out of control. Firefighters are battling a record 900,000 acres of fires in the state.

CNN's Camila Bernal is on the ground in Oregon's Clackamas County. Camila?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna. It is just heartbreaking to see so many people having to leave their homes and not knowing whether they're going to come back to their homes or to essentially ashes.

And I want to show you right now the air quality that you are talking about. We have been driving sort of up and down this road and it's really almost impossible to see five or ten feet in front of you when you get deep into the smoke. The roads are closed and people are supposed to be out of this area but there are many who say they want to be on the lookout and really have an eye out for their homes because they do say that they want to protect their own homes.

And so it is a dangerous situation because authorities are saying that if you're supposed to be out of this area, you really need to be. But there are some people that we have seen that want to stay, want to protect their homes. In total, it's about a 10 percent of the population here in this state who are being told to evacuate their homes. So just let that number sink in, it's about half a million people who have left the homes and don't know when they're going to return.

When we're talking about the size of the fires here, the governor was telling us about 900,000 acres that have burned. And to put it into perspective, that's double the amount of land that normally burns in this state a year. And we are only talking about just this fire. And so when you really look into those numbers, you realize the massive inferno that we're seeing here. And that is why we're seeing the ashes, the thick smoke and the flames that are getting closer and closer to the homes.

Now, we do know that at least three people have been found dead because of this fire here in Oregon but the governor also saying that she likely believes those numbers are going to go up. She says she doesn't want to give an update on the number of people dead or the number of people missing until she has more concrete information as to exactly how many people are missing and how many people may or may not have been found as the search and rescue operations continue.

But the thing to keep in mind is that the flames are still out of control. Up to this point, firefighters had just been trying to save people and property as much as possible.


And so, it's just now that they're beginning to try to get a hold of these flames and to try to work to actually work on containment.