Return to Transcripts main page


Wildfires, Hurricanes Loom As New Trump Pick Is Climate- Skeptic; Nearly Half Of States See Fewer New Cases; World's Largest Vaccine Manufacturer Warns That If COVID-19 Vaccine Needs Two Doses, World Won't Have Enough Until 2024. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 13:00   ET



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

There are three urgent crises right now engulfing the nation, a pandemic out of control, wildfires and a hurricane that is taking aim at the Gulf Coast.

In moments, Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden, will speak about the climate crisis as he and the president square off over science.

The president himself will be in California in the next hour where the state is being ravaged by deadly wildfires. These fires have killed at least 30 people and they are decimating many western states.

And Hurricane Sally, one of five storm systems right now in the Atlantic, is advancing toward Alabama and Mississippi.

And the coronavirus, of course, spreading across college campuses in all 50 states. The new case rate stuck at about 35,000 new infections a day.

But another great challenge facing Americans is fully man-made, and that is President Trump's assault on science, his political appointees altering CDC reports to fall in line with Trump's rhetoric on the pandemic, his incorrect rhetoric.

Trump continuing to put his own supporters at risk by holding indoor rallies and we're now learning from The Washington Post that the president's new choice to help lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is a known skeptic of the climate crisis.

We have much measure on all of this and we begin with the hurricane threat.

The Gulf Coast is once again on edge. It is bracing for yet another powerful storm. Just in the past hour, Tropical Storm Sally strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane and it is expected to grow even stronger before making landfall tomorrow. Mississippi and Alabama's entire coasts are under a hurricane warning. We have meteorologist Jennifer Gray who is tracking Sally in the CNN Severe Weather Center. And tell us about this path. It appears, Jennifer, that it is shifting east.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it's a little bit east. So this storm is expected to make landfall anywhere between, say, Southeast Louisiana and the Alabama coastline.

The biggest thing with this storm though is going to be how long it's going to sit over this coast. It is going to slow down tremendously before making landfall and basically just dump a lot of rain all along the Gulf Coast and now has winds of 90 miles per hour.

This is rapidly strengthening with gusts of 115. Nothing is going to stop this from strengthening more until it makes landfall. So we could see a high-end Category 2 at landfall. West/northwest is the movement at about 7 miles per hour.

So the outer bands already reaching the coastline despite the storm continuing to strengthen and it's going to strengthen more throughout the day today and even into the overnight hours.

Here is the latest track. You can see a Category 2 by tomorrow morning. It actually could become a Category 2 as early as this evening before making landfall anywhere, say, from Southeast Louisiana all the way over to the Alabama coast. Anywhere in the cone could be the potential for landfall.

But look how long it basically sits over this area. Wednesday morning at 7:00, it's still right on the coast before it starts to pick up some more forward speed by the time we get into Thursday.

So that's why we're forecasting one to two feet of rain along portions of the gulf coast. We could see 10 to 20 inches of rain from the Mississippi coastline through the Alabama coastline. So that's a lot of rain.

It's a very different storm from Laura that we had a few weeks ago, where it was the wind and the storm surge. This one, yes, will produce lot of storm surge but it is going to be the rain, is what we're going to be talking about, in days to come. This is going to produce a lot of rain in just a short amount of time.

Here is the storm surge. We still could see more than ten feet of storm surge along the Southeast Louisiana coast, into the Mississippi coast. We could see five to eight feet just to the east of that. So the storm surge will be significant.

Also significant will be the levee system. New Orleans is incredibly vulnerability. The levees will be definitely something to watch, as well as the pumping system. All of these areas in white rely on those levees. And with this much rain and with all of that wind and possibly water coming in from Lake Pontchartrain, the levees will definitely be something we'll be watching over the coming days.

Of course, the wind is also a concern, 74 to 110-mile-per-hour winds, including New Orleans, Grand Isle, Biloxi, areas just to the north of that, including Baton Rouge, could get winds up to 74 miles per hour. And so it is going to be significant with the wind as well.

Here are the current watches and warnings. You can see the hurricane warnings in effect, including New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile, and then in the blue and yellow, those are the tropical storm warnings and watches.

So as this storm already approaching the coastline, we will still see strengthening, Brianna, in the next 12 to 24 hours before its official landfall.


KEILAR: All right. And we know you'll be watching for that, Jennifer. Thank you so much.

Now to those deadly wildfires that are raging out of control on the west coast, the president will soon arrive in California, where he is going to meet with officials about the devastation that we're seeing there. There are nearly 100 fires burning out west, millions of acres have been scorched, mostly in California, which has also seen the highest death toll. 24 people there lost their lives.

Ten people have died in Oregon where fires burned nearly a million acres. Some residents are asked to restrict water use. This as both Oregon and California's governors are blaming climate change for the intensity of the wildfires.

CNN's Martin Savidge is on the ground in Estacada, Oregon, which right outside of Portland. Tell us what's going on there, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. There are fires that are burning in the western part of the state down all the way from the California border up to the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, which is, of course, the big city in the state. Estacada here is one of those small cities on the way to Portland. It's got about 3,000 people and they've been dealing with the Riverside fire here since last week.

This is their fire department here where, in circumstances like this, it becomes a major staging area for all the fire crews that have come in. It's pretty quiet now because all the crews are out on the fire line. The fire has been burning in and around this community.

Fortunately, it has not burned into it. They're trying to make it stay that way. And the conditions are helping somewhat. Temperatures have cooled down, winds have died down significantly. Humidity levels have gone up.

If you take a look at some of the other counties though that have been impacted, say, impacted by the Beachie Creek fire, that's about an hour and a half south of Portland, Oregon, devastation down that way and loss of life. A total of ten lives have been lost so far on this state.

But authorities are warning the public trying to get them ready that this could become a mass casualty incident, as has been described as the fire and rescue crews are able to get back into those communities to figure out who was able to get out and who was not.

A half a million people at one point were under evacuation orders. And so that's like 10 percent of the population. Some people have managed to get back and see what little is left. Here is one woman's reaction.


PATTI CANDELL, MEHAMA, OREGON RESIDENT: It's just, you know, devastating, devastating. And then to think that our neighbors back here, their house is totally untouched, which is crazy.

Lynn (ph), of course, our neighbor there, there's nothing left at her place. But, yes, never in a million years you think something like this would happen. It was just totally surreal.

I don't know how many tears I cried, you know, before all this happened. I don't know whether to cry anymore.


SAVIDGE: And that is, as you said, the Beachy Creek fire. Up here, this is the Riverside fire.

There is some worry that these two fires could merge. They're about a mile apart from another right now. And if they did, it could become some sort of mega fire burning on the outskirts again of Portland.

So you can see the thick smoke that has just shrouded this area and it's just so toxic and acrid and people are breathing this 24 hours a day. So the impact on health is significant. For some people with certain health conditions, it could be fatal. This is considered to be the worst air pollution in the world that is going on right now in and around the Portland area and parts of Oregon. Brianna?

KEILAR: Martin, thank you so much, bringing us that report.

And, actually, Martin, as you were talking a little bit about some of the -- just this visibility that we are seeing, this is -- I mean, behind you, we can hardly see it appears about 100 yards behind you. But just give us context here, because this is what they're reporting up into Washington, up into Canada, down into Northern California, so you have almost the entire west coast there that is shrouded in this. And like you said, it is toxic. So what does that going to mean going forward where people are -- they can hardly go outside.

SAVIDGE: Yes. There's two effects that you have immediately. One is, of course, visibility issues, which is a real problem for the firefighting crews. They need to be able to navigate and see to drive. In darkness, it's almost impossible to see. And in daylight, it doesn't get a whole lot better.

It also takes away one of their great attributes, which is the aviation assets that are used to fight the fire. You can't fly when you can't see. And then there is the other long-term health issue. What is that going to be on a general public? We are talking about potentially millions of people. School is canceled in the Portland area and a number of other areas here in the state. And it was thought that this was going to start clearing out yesterday. That hasn't happened. It hasn't happened today. So it's unclear when it will move out.

Then there's the concern about COVID. If people are breathing this in for long periods of time, it can damage and weaken your lungs. That makes you more susceptible, the experts say, to the coronavirus.

So this whole thing will have a death toll that will continue to climb in ways you may not obviously see.


KEILAR: All right. Martin, thank you so much, in Estacada, Oregon, with that report.

Any moment now, Joe Biden will be speaking from his home state of Delaware. He is expected to address the wildfires and the storm that is impacting the U.S. and highlight his views on why we are seeing such extreme weather events, namely climate change, and what his plan is to combat it. That's a message that is coming in sharp contrast with President Trump's.

President Trump, of course, visiting California today and the president is not pointing to climate change as the problem. Instead, he is denying science and blaming mismanagement for the wildfires. Just listen to what he told a rally in Nevada over the weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Also praying for everyone throughout the west affected by the devastating wildfires. We want really forest management. We want forest management.


KEILAR: CNN's Jessica Dean is following this for us. And, obviously, Jessica, drastically different views on these disasters. What more are we expecting to hear from the former vice president?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. This race entire race between Joe Biden and President Trump has really been a study in extreme contrast and this issue is a prime example of that. We are expecting former Vice President Joe Biden today to talk about the threat that these extreme weather events, like the ones we are seeing, the fires that Martin was just showing us out on the west coast, are posing to Americans and people all across the world.

We're also expecting Vice President Biden to talk about how this is caused by climate change and how climate change must be addressed, what his plan is to do so. And hand in hand with that, he's also talking about his economic plan, which would heavily invest in clean energy and how he believes he can both attack the climate crisis and also create millions of jobs in investing in that clean energy and zero carbon emissions.

I want to read you a statement he put out over the weekend. This is likely more of what we will likely hear today. Here is what he said over the weekend. He said, the science is clear and deadly signs like these are unmistakable. Climate change poses an imminent existential threat to our way of life. President Trump can try to deny that reality but facts are undeniable.

We absolutely must act now to avoid a future defined by an unending barrage of tragedies, like the one American families are enduring across the west today.

So, again, a very different message than the one we have been hearing from President Trump and we're going to hear more from Joe Biden any moment now. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Jessica Dean, thank you for that.

And now to the latest in the pandemic, more than 194,000 American lives lost so far, the country is now averaging about 35,000 new cases a day, but hospitalizations for COVID dropping below 30,000 for the first time since late June.

And then just look at all of the green there, that is nearly half of the states that are trending doing downward, experiencing a drop in these new cases. But the good news, of course, is not expected to last, according to a model that is often cited by the White House.

The Institute of Health Metrics is noting that mask use is down while American's mobility is up. They are predicting more than 200,000 additional American deaths by the first day of 2021.

And the pandemic is here to stay through the winter. The iconic Macy's Day Parade will not be live, not live like we are used to, for certain. Today, the mayor teasing viewers to expect to expect a reinvented parade.

And a just released study from a region hit hard by the pandemic holds promising news for schools after adults and children who showed no outward signs or symptoms were tested at a hospital in Milan, Italy. Researchers discovered that adults were more likely to be asymptomatic carriers.

Let's get details on this now from CNN Health Reporter Jacqueline Howard. Jacqueline?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Brianna, what the researchers did for this study is they took a close look at COVID test results from 83 children and 131 adults. These children and adults were being tested for COVID-19 because they're being admitted to a hospital in Italy for reasons not related to the coronavirus. They showed no signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

Here is what the researchers found. About 1 percent of those children tested positive whereas 9 percent of the adults tested positive. The researchers say, based on that finding, children who are asymptomatic appear to carry the virus less frequently than adults who are asymptomatic.

Now, these are only preliminary findings that suggests reconsidering the role of children who are not showing symptoms as potential spreaders but more research is needed to determine whether similar findings would emerge among a larger group of COVID-19 patients. Brianna?

KEILAR: Jacqueline, thank you so much.

The president says he didn't believe Nevada rules applied to him as his rallygoers tell CNN why they're risking their health.

Plus, CNN obtains another tape of the president talking to Bob Woodward showing how the president appears to not understand that the economy and coronavirus are connected, they are linked.


And the manhunt is under way in the horrific ambush of deputies just sitting in their car. What this video is telling investigators.


KEILAR: We have breaking news. The world's largest vaccine manufacturer is now warning that if the COVID-19 vaccine needs two doses, the world won't have enough until 2024. This is according the Serum Institute of India. They estimate that the world would need about 15 billion doses. Several of the current vaccines in the U.S. have given the volunteers two doses of vaccine during at least one phase of the clinical trials.

Let's bring in Dr. Jorge Rodriguez to talk about all of this.


Okay. This is twice the work, twice the resources that will be needed. What do you think about, and also put into context to we're getting this information from and why that's important, Doctor?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE AND VIRAL SPECIALIST: Well, first of all, it looks like if almost any vaccine that is going to be coming out is going to require two doses, all of the studies are showing that to get an adequate immune response, it is going to require two doses, probably spaced a month apart.

That being said, let's take what they said very -- and dissect it very carefully. They said, for the whole world, for everyone in the whole world to get vaccinated, it may take that much time to create that many doses of vaccine. And that may be very accurate.

I'm not sure who the center is in India but what we need to keep in mind is that it may not require, first and foremost, everyone in the world to get vaccinated, to slow down or even stop this spread. It's estimated that in order for there to be a type of herd immunity, you need to vaccinate 60 percent to 70 percent of the people. So the most important thing is strategy. When the vaccine comes out, who is going to get vaccinated? Well, people that are at highest risk of getting it, people that are at highest risk of contracting it, like health care workers, and people that are highest risk for spreading. And we also then have to look at this as a worldwide problem, what countries, what areas in those countries need to get it.

So I don't think we need to immediately worry about vaccinating the whole world. Smallpox was not eradicated in a day. We need a gradual step plan in order to accomplish the goal of hopefully controlling and hopefully even eradicating coronavirus.

KEILAR: And we've learned, this is significant because this is someone who is intimately involved in the production process, right? So they're raising this concern and that's an important part of this to point out.

RODRIGUEZ: Well, absolutely. So this is someone obviously who knows who is doing the mathematics behind it, which is why we need to be careful in not saying that studies are going too quickly. A lot of the manufacturers that are behind these studies are already manufacturing hundreds of thousands of doses to be ready to go at any minute.

So to think that with any vaccine -- first of all, there's 30- something vaccines in the world that are being studied right now, and it's very likely that what's going to happen is that in multiple areas in multiple countries, the vaccine that's available there is the one that's going to be used if found to be effective.

But, yes, again, again, to think this is a short range fix for this huge problem is not realistic. We are going to be living with coronavirus in one form or another for probably many years.

KEILAR: Wow. In the midst of all of this, what really is this first wave of the coronavirus pandemic that we are in in this country, the president headlined his first indoor rally in nearly three months.

There were thousands of people who were jammed into this event, which was in Henderson, Nevada, last night. There were a few people who were wearing masks but there really weren't many. And, certainly, there was no social distancing. But people aren't worried. Let's listen.


FILOMENA MCGUIGAN, TRUMP RALLY ATTENDEE: This is not a dictatorship. This is a republic. And we have a right to be who we are and take whatever risks we so desire. I could cross the street and get hit by a bus tomorrow. Why do I have to wear a mask that I know, I know without a doubt is not helping?

KYLE HACKETT, TRUMP RALLY ATTENDEE: Because I feel like that's my freedom as an American. If I catch COVID that's -- my apologies -- the consequences of my actions. So I'm willing to take that risk have a good time today.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You're going to have thousands of people together. You're already tightly packed while you're in line. Do you guys feel comfortable with that from a health perspective?

DOUG DURBIN, TRUMP RALLY ATTENDEE: 100 percent because I don't buy into the (BLEEP).

DIANNA JOHNSON, TRUMP RALLY ATTENDEE: I'm not afraid of the health risk for us being health. Also we make smart decisions. We do have people that we know that are higher risk and we will not be visiting them. We'll absolutely make sure that we stay away from them.

JAMES BARBER, TRUMP RALLY ATTENDEE: I'm not a sensationalist. I think people who are forced to wear a mask, they're sensationalists. You're wearing a mask right now because you want to give off the vibe of doing something right. Doing something right is being here, being patriotic, cheering for my country and rooting for my president.

MCGUIGAN: I'm 60 years old. I have beautiful skin tone. I have lungs, I was just singing God Bless America with these ladies back there. There is nothing wrong with my breathing. I can smell a mile away. As a matter of fact, I love your cologne. I don't have any of the symptoms and neither do they.


KEILAR: I wonder, Doctor, listening to that, what -- yes, what do you think?


RODRIGUEZ: I think that there is a sort of an accumulation of ignorance and misplaced bravado with a lot of people. Everybody that spoke somehow related this to patriotism, which means that this virus has sort of been weaponized into us against them and what a shame that is.

Another thing that is absolutely incorrect, if people were saying, hey, this is just me and it is my actions that matter, that's all that matters, I could almost respect that. But it isn't just about them. These people are going to spread it to other people.

And at the end of the day, their rights end where mine begin. They have no right to endanger other people, which is why we have speed limits, which is why we have safety belt laws, which is why we have helmet laws, which is why we don't let people scream fire in a crowded theater, because their rights end where other people's rights begin.

And this is a contagious disease. So to say that it's just about them is not only erroneous, it is dangerous. And for the president to sort of represent the fact that everything is fine when we know he knows that it is not is almost criminal, in my opinion.

KEILAR: Yes. And we now know how soon he knew it was not, right? It's been months and months he has been aware of this.

So let's listen to what he -- what the president told a reporter for the Las Vegas Journal Review about whether he was worried about getting the virus at this rally.


REPORTER: Aren't you concerned about getting COVID though in an enclosed space?

TRUMP: No, I'm not concerned. I'm more concerned about how close you are because --

REPORTER: Sorry about that.

TRUMP: Because, you know why? I'm on a stage and it's very far away. And so I'm not at all concerned.


KEILAR: So she kept her distance, just to be clear. And she was wearing a mask. So we know that she is certainly protecting him because that's how it works. What did you think about what his reaction though was considering this is an enclosed space with a lot of people in it?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, first of all, his response that he's more concerned about her shows that he knows that this is a dangerous, contagious disease. We cannot compare ourselves to the president of the United States, who is being checked at least once a day and everybody around him. He is different than you and I, all right? We don't have that luxury.

So, of course, he's not that scared or at least he doesn't appear to be because he's different, all right? He does not have the fear or the concerns that we do. So I think it's kind of B.S. If he was really not afraid, he wouldn't have asked her to stay a little bit farther away. It's duplicitous, it's dangerous, it's callous, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

KEILAR: Yes. Fears can be allayed by a lot of testing around someone too. So if he has those concerns, he has that entire system around him to protect him.

Dr. Rodriguez, as always, thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Brianna. Have a good day.

KEILAR: You, too.

CNN obtains new audio of the president saying his handling of the pandemic should be considered a success because the stock market is booming. We will have the tape ahead.