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Death Toll From West Coast Wildfires Rises, 4.6 Million Acres Burned; Tropical Storm Sally Expected To Make Landfall Near New Orleans As Hurricane; Israeli Government Approves Three-Week Lockdown Starting Friday. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 05:30   ET




LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly wildfires devastate the West Coast; firefighters desperate for relief from paralyzing smoke. The president heads to California today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yet another climate threat, a major storm gaining strength. Tropical Storm Sally could turn to Hurricane Sally before making landfall near New Orleans.

JARRETT: And, virus -- what virus? The president holds an indoor rally, the latest in a pattern of defying science about the pandemic.

Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: Good morning. Nice to see you this Monday morning, everybody. I'm Christine Romans. It is 32 minutes past the hour.

And the nation is confronted by three serious crises this morning, two of them caused by the climate crisis.

First, those raging wildfires on the West Coast. The death toll overnight rising to 35, 24 of those deaths in California. Many more people are missing at this hour.

Nearly 100 fires have already burned 4.6 million acres. That's roughly the equivalent to Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. The fires are burning mostly in rural and forested areas but major cities along the West Coast, like L.A., and San Francisco, and Seattle -- they are feeling the effects.


GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: Well, it's apocalyptic and it is maddening for the entire West Coast of the United States on fire to have a president to deny that these are not just wildfires, these are climate fires.

GOV. KATE BROWN (D), OREGON: This a wake-up call for all of us that we have got to do everything in our power to tackle climate change. MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES: It's been very clear that years

of drought as we're seeing. Whether it's too much water and too much rain in parts of our country right now or too little, this is climate change.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Mother Nature is physics, biology, and chemistry. She bats last and she bats a thousand. That's the reality we're facing -- this smashmouth reality, this perfect storm. The debate is over around climate change. Just come to the state of California.


JARRETT: That's Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will join fire and emergency officials to brief President Trump today in California. The president has been mostly silent on these fires for weeks. He's never embraced the climate science behind the fires.

Meanwhile, Democratic V.P. nominee Kamala Harris heads back to her home state of California today and will meet with emergency personnel tomorrow.

Smoke from the fires is making the air quality, frankly, unhealthy. It can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, and affect the immune system -- all a bad combination in the middle of a pandemic.

ROMANS: More than 10 percent of Oregon's population is under an evacuation order. Most buildings have been destroyed in the city of Detroit, Oregon, 120 miles southeast of Portland.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all gone, you know, and it's like -- it's not -- it literally looks like a war zone hit it.


ROMANS: And making matters worse here, false claims about the fires. Facebook says it removed thousands of posts that were spreading rumors claiming Antifa had started these fires. Law enforcement say they had to spend valuable time and resources knocking down the rumors instead of fighting the fires.

JARRETT: Now to the Gulf Coast where they are bracing for another crisis -- this time, Tropical Storm Sally. It could be a category two hurricane by the time it makes landfall near New Orleans tomorrow morning.

Hurricane warnings are up from Morgan City, Louisiana to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, including New Orleans. Storm surges of seven to 11 feet are possible.


Again, climate change is a big part of this and if you think it's happening more, it is. Eighteen of the warmest 19 years have occurred since 2001. The warm waters in the Gulf are helping these storms gain their power.

The governors of Louisiana and Mississippi are declaring a state of emergency.

Here's our meteorologist, Pedram Javaheri.



Yes, we're watching Tropical Storm Sally here as it is poised to strengthen within the next 24 hours and unfortunately, also forecast to slow down significantly as it approaches the coast of Louisiana on into, say, Mississippi as well.

So here's what we're looking at moving into this afternoon and this evening, and notice that progression. Monday night, Tuesday morning, potentially even into Wednesday as this thing could meander right along the coast and push eastward towards Alabama. That's the concern because you have significant risk now in place here for flooding, and we're talking about life-threatening flooding because of the amount of rainfall that's forecast to come down from Monday into potentially, Wednesday.

It could be a category one -- a strong category one and maybe even make it to category two. But again, when you see the amount of rainfall this system has forecast, that's the most concerning element of it here where as much as 15 to even 20 inches possible along the coast over the next two to three days before the system is out of here.

Those highs -- how about upper 70s across OKC. Denver, highs back up again -- it's about 90 degrees. And, Salt Lake City aiming for about 92 -- guys.


ROMANS: All right, Pedram. Thank you so much for that.

The president, in his own words, showing an utter disconnect with reality in new audio of his interviews with Bob Woodward.

Remember, last week we learned the president said on tape he knew as early as February the coronavirus was deadly -- deadlier than the most strenuous flus -- and he admits to concealing the true threat from the public.

But then, just last month, he also told Woodward this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.

BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR, "RAGE": Nothing more could have been done. Does he remember what he told me back in February about it's more deadly than the flu? I mean, it almost took my breath away.


JARRETT: Woodward also says that the deputy national security adviser warned the president in January this pandemic could be worse than the Spanish flu. That, of course, killed 657,000 Americans. Coronavirus, so far, has killed 194,000.

Woodward concluded President Trump is not up to the job.

Meantime, with many people anxious for a vaccine, the CEO of Pfizer says there's a good chance the company will know if its vaccine works by the end of October. He says Pfizer refused U.S. taxpayer money to remain independent.


ALBERT BOURLA, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, PFIZER: I wanted to liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy. When you get money from someone that always come with strings. I didn't want to have any of that. I wanted them -- basically, I gave them an open checkbook so that they can worry only about scientific challenges, not anything else.


JARRETT: There are also growing concerns about political interference at the nation's health agencies as a source tells CNN Trump-appointed communications officials at the Department of Health and Human Services -- well, they pushed to change the language within the CDC's weekly science reports so that they wouldn't undermine President Trump's political message.

Meanwhile, hard-hit areas are trying to reopen. Bars in Florida are allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity now. However, a month after reopening schools in the state, Gov. DeSantis still hasn't released the virus data specific to K-12 schools. That's despite data showing a 26 percent overall increase in cases in children.

ROMANS: Ohio State University already canceling spring break 2021 due to coronavirus. The school will instead have two instructional breaks and no classes on February ninth and March 31st.

In New York City, parks department officials are working with NYU to address young people gathering in large groups in Washington Square Park. Twenty students have already been suspended for previous violations of those coronavirus guidelines.

JARRETT: President Trump offering a glaring new example of refusing to put science before politics. He had thousands of people packed into a large indoor rally Sunday night in Nevada, making a mockery of social distancing and defying the state's own ban on local gatherings of 50 or more people.

Now, juxtapose that with this -- empty stadiums across the NFL for week one of football season. The president's last indoor rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma three months ago,

preceded a surge in coronavirus cases there, and multiple campaign staffers and Secret Service agents ended up testing positive for the virus.

Listen to what a former White House medical adviser thinks of these rallies.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Negligent homicide. What else could you call an act that because of its negligence results in the deaths of others? People will die as a consequence of this.



ROMANS: That remark getting an awful lot of attention.

Now, the president did discuss the California wildfires, blaming them on, quote, "forest management."

There's actually a wide range of responsibilities for maintaining forests in this country. All of them are affected, of course, by climate change, which is raising temperatures, intensifying droughts, and making it harder to contain the flames.

JARRETT: President Trump issued a controversial executive order Sunday that he claims lowers drug prices but experts believe it is unlikely to have any immediate impact.

It calls on the health secretary to test out having Medicare pay the same price for prescription drugs as those sold in Europe and other developed nations. Now, other nations typically pay less because their governments often determine the costs -- but that, arguably, runs counter to the Republicans' allegiance to a free market system.

This measure is strongly opposed by drugmakers and has been something of a mystery since the president signed the original order back on July 24th. Back then, he said he would hold a meeting to hear drugmakers' ideas on lowering costs. That never happened.

ROMANS: All right, 41 minutes past the hour.

A merger Monday -- two big deals to start the new week.

Gilead Sciences will buy -- will buy biopharmaceutical company Immunomedics for $21 billion. That deal allows Gilead to look into various cancer treatments and gives it Immunomedics' latest drug for advanced triple-negative breast cancer.

And a computer chip is a deal that could be the most expensive in history in that industry. SoftBank is selling Arm, its chip designing unit, to Nvidia for $40 billion. The move elevates Nvidia's status in the industry. Arm is behind the core chip designs used by the biggest names in tech, including Apple and Qualcomm.

JARRETT: A little-noticed federal court ruling in Florida could have major implications for the upcoming election. The six-to-four ruling by the full 11th Circuit concluded the state can bar those with felony records from voting if they owe court payments.

Now, more than one million people previously convicted had their voting rights restored back in 2018 because of a constitutional amendment in the state. But the Republican-led Legislature -- well, they pushed through a bill to bypass it, making about 77 percent of those with convictions now ineligible to vote because of outstanding financial obligations.

That's enough to potentially tip the election. Remember, President Trump won Florida by fewer than 113,000 votes in 2016.

ROMANS: That's right.

And early absentee voting will not start as planned in the critical swing state of Pennsylvania. Counties were cleared to begin mailing ballots to voters today but a slew of lawsuits has stalled the process and the ballots are not finalized yet. The state's Democratic Party in court fighting to keep the Green Party off the ballot.

President Trump won Pennsylvania by less than one point in 2016.

JARRETT: Well, Election Day could turn out to be election week or even election month come November. A surge in voting-by-mail is expected, of course, because of the pandemic.

And as of Friday, more than 11.8 million ballots have been requested in 12 states. That doesn't include nine states and Washington, D.C. that will automatically send ballots to registered voters, anyway. Another 35 states will allow any voter to request a ballot -- a mail ballot, I should say.

Now here's why this could all take a while. These 28 states in yellow there require mail ballots to be received on or before Election Day to be counted. But in 22 states and Washington, D.C., there in green, ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day but they can be received later. In Ohio, for example, ballots can still be counted even if they're received 10 days after the election.

The green states represent almost 60 percent of the nation's Electoral College votes, so it's nearly impossible to call the race if a lot of votes have not been counted. In other words, we could be in for a very, very long winter, Christine.

ROMANS: And that's OK if we do it safely, right, and we do it safely for people who are trying to vote. And also, in the counting and the states --


ROMANS: -- do their job here. There have been elections before where it has been that quick call -- JARRETT: Yes.

ROMANS: -- election night. And I think the bottom line for voters is plan early.


ROMANS: Plan early and make sure that you sign the ballot exactly right. Sometimes these get thrown out because people forget to sign them. Just plan early.


ROMANS: All right, a quick programming note. Join Joe Biden in a special CNN presidential town hall live from Pennsylvania, with Anderson Cooper moderating. That's Thursday at 8:00 p.m., only on CNN.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

Israel is going into lockdown again. And the country successfully contained the spread of coronavirus in May, but a resurgence over the summer and another spike in the last few weeks has the government scrambling to stop large gatherings for the Jewish holidays that begin Friday night.

Oren Liebermann is live for us in Jerusalem. Oren, nice to see you this morning. So what's the plan from the government?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Israel may very well be the first country in the world to impose a center -- second general lockdown after coronavirus cases surged over the course of the past week and a half or so.

A new record of 4,217 cases on Thursday and that marked three straight days of more than 4,000 cases. The numbers dipped a bit over the weekend. We'll see how they continue at this point.

But with the steady rise in serious cases and the number of patients on ventilators, the government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided there was effectively no option but to impose a second general lockdown.

And this will look much like the first general lockdown back in April. Citizens will be required to stay within about a quarter-mile of their homes. Schools will be closed down, as will restaurants except for takeout and delivery. And then leisure venues and entertainment venues will be closed as well. Gatherings will be limited to 20 people outdoors and 10 people indoors.

This will start on Friday right before the Jewish holidays and will go for a period of three weeks. If the numbers are, at that point, good enough, it will go to a phase two with some eased restrictions, and then a phase three, with Netanyahu warning this is not an easy process.


Worth noting that right after Netanyahu announced that Israel would return to a second general lockdown, he jetted off to Washington for a ceremony at the White House. When he comes back, that lockdown will effectively begin.

When he was asked whose failure is the second general lockdown, he said there are no failures here, only achievements.

JARRETT: It sounds like someone else we know.

Thanks so much, Oren. Nice to see you this morning.

Well, the World Health Organization reporting a record one-day increase in global coronavirus cases -- over 307,000 cases.

CNN has the pandemic covered around the world.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Scott McLean in London where the summer is not quite over but the party definitely is. To try to tamp down a resurgence of the coronavirus, starting today, new rules go into effect across England which limit the maximum number of people allowed at a social gathering, indoors or out, from 30 people under the old rules down to just six.

Last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that the old rules had gotten too complicated and too confusing for people to follow, let alone for police to enforce. So he's promising that these new simplified rules will also come with stricter enforcement.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Melissa Bell in Paris. Here, a new worrying record set on Saturday -- the number of new cases above 10,000.

The French prime minister spoke to the nation on Friday night, saying that the figure he was really worried about was the rise in the number of hospitalizations.

There is no suggestion, though, that France is heading to a second general lockdown, with the French prime minister announcing that on the contrary, he was handing to local authorities now the responsibility of fresh measures to try and contain the latest rises, with Bordeaux (ph) and Marseille (ph) two of the big hotspots at the moment expected to give him today their plans for their measures to help bring the figures back under control.


It's the first day back at school for most regions in Italy. After nearly six months, some eight million students will once again see their classrooms. Great excitement on the part of students. Some concern from teachers for their own health. Over 50 percent of

Italy's teachers are over 50 years old. That places them in a more vulnerable category for the virus.

At this high school in Rome, the principal tells us they will do a rotation system with some students for a week in school and a week online learning from home.

Across the country, school administrators telling us that they have done their best with the safety precautions. They hope the numbers will stay down and it will be a safe and somewhat normal school year for everyone.


ROMANS: All right, thank you to our colleagues for those reports.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this Monday morning. Taking a look at markets around the world, gains in Asian shares. They have now closed. And, Europe has opened mixed.

On Wall Street, futures at this hour are leaning a little bit higher here. News of the TikTok deal with Oracle nudging stock index futures higher.

But with stimulus on hold until possibly after the election and coronavirus altering every aspect of American life, the stock market, last week, faced a reckoning. Stocks fell for the week. It was, after all, the very few tech stocks that accounted for much of the blockbuster summer rally and they all tanked last week. Look at the Nasdaq down four percent. The Nasdaq is now 10 percent below its September two record high.

But the pandemic is making college a little cheaper. This new data from the Labor Department shows college tuition and fees fell 0.7 percent in August. That's the steepest drop since 1978. These are -- this is prices that usually only go up.

More colleges and universities are opting for virtual classes or limiting activities for students on campus. As a result, some institutions have skipped their scheduled tuition increases or have cut costs.

The eighties are making a comeback. Vinyl record sales beat CD sales in the U.S. for the first time since the 1980s, making up $232 million of music sales in the first half of the year. CDs brought in about $130 million.

And, Nintendo is leaning into nostalgia with the re-release of its Game and Watch handheld. It first debuted in 1980 and put Nintendo on the map. The new version is made to look like the original with all of its eighties style and will play three games, including Super Mario Brothers.

JARRETT: Oh, man, I really miss my Game Boy. I've got to find out where that is. ROMANS: I know.

JARRETT: It's probably in the basement somewhere.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. The Switch -- you've got to try the Switch. That's more fun.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people who are forced to wear masks, they're sensationalists. I'm not going to let a government tell me what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is awful. It's in defiance of the science and defiance of public health.

BOURLA: We will know if the product works or not by the end of October.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To see a CEO get out ahead of the science here is something that we should all take with a grain of salt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all gone. It looks like a war zone hit it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some six million acres have burned during this treacherous fire year in Washington, Oregon, and California.

GARCETTI: This is climate change and this is an administration that's put its head in the sand.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, September 14th, 6:00 here in New York. We hope you all had a really nice weekend.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I did -- relaxing. Yours?

BERMAN: Good. It's about to get very serious right now, though.

Negligent homicide. That's what Dr. Jonathan Reiner says President Trump is guilty of this morning -- negligent homicide.

Overnight, the president held a packed rally in Nevada.