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Louisville Settles Lawsuit With Breonna Taylor Family; Western Wildfires; President Trump Continues to Ignore COVID-19 Science; Hurricane Sally Targets Gulf Coast. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 15, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you so much.

Hi there. You are watching CNN on this Tuesday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

Let's get right into the breaking news.

The Gulf Coast is bracing for a direct hit from Hurricane Sally, which is now just hours away from making landfall. This is a Category 1 hurricane, but do not let that fool you. This storm is powerful. It is expected to drop as much as 30 feet of rain in some areas and produce powerful storm surges, dramatically increasing the chances for life- threatening flooding.

And the thing with this one is, it's moving at a very slow pace, meaning the region will be experiencing rain and thus the flooding concerns for a long, long time. So, we have got you covered from all angles.

Let's start with Ed Lavandera live in Mobile, which is right in the storm's path.

So, Ed, what are you seeing right now?


Well, we have been making our way throughout the day from Gulfport, Mississippi, all the way here to Mobile this afternoon. And, right now, the weather conditions, as you can see, not terribly strong in terms of the wind and the intensity of the rainfall, which is a clear indication of just how painfully slow this weather system and this tropical storm and hurricane is moving toward the coastline here in Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida as well.

And that is what is making this a -- feel like a much draw -- a very drawn-out process. For the last several days, we have spoken with residents who say they have been taking all the precautions that they needed to do to get ready for this, what they are expecting to be a heavy rainfall event.

And the storm surge we have seen in some places really starting to show its effects in places like Pensacola and the Alabama coastline here as well. And emergency officials here continue to urge people to be aware of those storm surges, as this storm continues to make its way toward the coastline.

We will begin seeing the effects of this storm strengthen in the hours ahead this afternoon, as it's expected to make landfall tomorrow morning at some point. But, right now, many residents here along the coast, many of whom have not evacuated, many of the residents that I have spoken with over the last few days have said that anything below a Category 2, they feel comfortable riding it out as long as possible here along the coastline.

And -- but people very concerned about what this will do in terms of flooding, not just all along the coast, but in far more inland, where we are, for example, in Mobile, where all of that storm surge water will be pushed inland. And it'll be some of those low-lying areas away from the coastline that could see some of the worst effects of this hurricane -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: No, you have covered so many hurricanes. You know that so many people think, oh, Category 1, we're fine. We're going to ride it out.

But, Jennifer Gray, over to you. Because it's so excruciatingly slow, because of the potential for all the flooding, that's a huge concern, number one. And, number two, what are you seeing as far as the latest track, where it's going to hit?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, this is still on track to hit, say, the Mississippi, Alabama, Florida Panhandle coastline.

But you have it right. The biggest concern with this is not the wind speed. It's going to be the rain. We're talking about a long-duration storm. This is going to be sitting over the same area for, say, 24, 36, 48 hours. And so you could get four to five months of rain just in a matter of two to three days.

And so that's what we're talking about when we talk about flooding. Yes, the storm has 80-mile-per-hour winds. That's bad enough with gusts of 115. But it's moving only at two miles per hour. We can walk faster than this storm is moving. All of this rain that's already hitting the coast, we have already seen four to six inches of rain.

That's only going to pile up, because, tomorrow, at this time, the storm is pretty much going to be in the same location. It's not going to have moved much. Yes, it will most likely have already made landfall by this time tomorrow, but you're still going to see all of this rain just eating up this exact part of the coastline.

And so that's why we're talking about 20 to 30 inches of rain, not to mention the long-duration storm surge. A lot of times, these storms come and go, we hit that storm surge on the high tide, and then it's out of here. This is going to sit here for several high tide cycles.

And so you're still going to get that push of saltwater for several high tides. So it's not only the saltwater moving in. It's the rain coming down. You're going to see rivers rise. We have seen anywhere from, say, 10 to 20 inches of rain already well offshore. By this time tomorrow, expect that bright pink color to be over all of these coastal towns, the Florida Panhandle, Mississippi, Alabama, where we're talking about 20 to 30 inches of rain.

So, here's the track. Still hasn't budged much, but it is going to move inland, finally pick up some forward speed by the time we get into Thursday or so. But the biggest thing with this, Brooke, of course, is going to be the rain, not to mention we are going to expect tornadoes, as we always do with these tropical systems and that storm surge.


But, really, the rain is what we need to drive home with this one.

BALDWIN: No, I jotted down what you led with, four to five months of rain in a matter of days.

Jennifer Gray, we will check back in. Thank you very much.

Want to take now and get the latest on coronavirus today, which now has killed nearly 195,000 Americans. More than 6.5 million people in this country have been infected. And even with those numbers climbing to sobering levels, President Trump continues to deny the science behind the virus, holding events with no social distancing and very few face coverings.

Just this afternoon, at a White House event to mark the normalization of relations between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE, there were hundreds of people gathered with little in the way of social distancing.

And, yesterday, he led a packed indoor roundtable event in Arizona and he was the only person keeping his distance. Everyone else, as you see, was crowded in there together.

Now, remember, these incidents all come after those audio recordings, which we have all listened to, that have been released, which prove that the president knows just how deadly this virus really is. He told Bob Woodward back in April that -- quote -- "It is a killer if it gets."

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House.

And, Kaitlan, you were at that event today at the White House. What was it like?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, we're seeing a series of events, Brooke, over the last several days that shows how the president genuinely does believe what he said this morning, that we have rounded the corner on coronavirus, which is not what his medical experts are saying, because you saw today there were hundreds of people at this event.

There were actually more masks at this event that we have seen and the others in the past, but a lot of that was the foreign delegations, who wanted to adhere to stricter protocols than what the White House was requiring.

And so you saw the foreign delegations were tested, foreign reporters were tested. American reporters were not and the American guests were not required to be tested either before attending this event here today.

And I was out there. We saw several of the top officials who work in this White House and in Washington not following these coronavirus precautions that we have heard so much about. You saw the attorney general, Bill Barr, the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, even a member of the Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Scott Atlas, all not wearing masks while we were there on the South Lawn today.

Though you do see some officials wearing masks, you don't see others. And the only people that we know were tested were the ones who do come into contact with President Trump. You see Vice President Mike Pence right there, Jared Kushner. Of course, those are people who actually meet with the president, but the others, we did not see that.

And we had heard that the Israeli delegation was semi-concerned about this, because, of course, they're about to go into a second lockdown in their country, a three-week lockdown, where, Brooke, they can't even go within 1,500 feet of their house.

And so here they are in Washington, where the rules seem to be much different when it comes to President Trump and his officials.

BALDWIN: It's a striking difference, isn't it?

Kaitlan, thank you.

I want to start where Kaitlan just left off with me now, Dr. Rob Davidson, emergency room physician and executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare.

And, Dr. Davidson, you saw the pictures of the White House from today. Kaitlan pointing out it was really mostly the foreign delegation folks who were the ones wearing the masks and doing the social distancing. We mentioned the event yesterday. What's your reaction to all of this? And just how concerning is it looking at these pictures?

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT MEDICARE: Yes, as we approach a very grim milestone of 200,000 deaths probably sometime this weekend, we now know clearly the president doesn't deny the science. He believes the science. He knows it's this deadly. He knows it's a killer. He knows that if you get it that you could get really sick and potentially die.

And he just seems not to care. He was interviewed by a reporter in Nevada after the large indoor rally and asking about if he was worried about getting COVID-19. He said, well, I'm far away from people. So I'm not worried.

And like you said, today, he is distancing, but they're not requiring testing of other people coming into the event. And they are not distancing. So it just seems like he just doesn't care about those people who are supporting him.

BALDWIN: You know, you and I have spoken about, what about a federal mask mandate?

And so Dr. Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, weighed in on this and said that a nationwide mask mandate -- and I'm quoting him -- probably would not work, he says, because -- quote -- "An authoritative statement to the citizenry often is met with a considerable amount of pushback."

He said, basically, there's too much variation across the country in acceptance of wearing masks. I know the last time you and I spoke about it, you call the resistance to masks baffling.

What's your reaction to Fauci saying this?

DAVIDSON: I mean, I understand where he's coming from, from a practical standpoint.

However, I think, if President Trump emphatically issued a statement, if he wore masks, if he was a cheerleader for mass, if he sold them on his Web site for his reelection, I think he is the one person in this country who could convince the mask deniers in our population that it was something they should do.

BALDWIN: I'm just going to leave that there, because we know what will and will not happen.


Let's see talk about this apparent war on science that we're witnessing, Dr. Davidson, within the administration.

We know that the HHS spokesperson, Michael Caputo, who is this staunch Trump defender, goes on this tirade against the government scientists, career government scientists, and he accused them of sedition, claiming, without evidence, that the CDC has a -- quote -- "resistance unit" against this president.

And, again, I know. I see you shaking your head, where we are -- as you point out, we're about to hit that 200,000 mark this weekend, likely. How damaging is this war on scientists that we're witnessing from top Trump officials? And what are the long-term implications of that?

DAVIDSON: I mean, I think it's incredibly troubling.

I think the fact that he is thinking there are resistors, these are just people following the data, following the science. The president is the one resisting the science. And so his followers, his enablers are going along with him and attacking the people who are just trying to get the data out there.

They're attacking the MMWR. That's the CDC's weekly report on disease surveillance. That's what first brought us the first case series of AIDS in this country, before they even knew what AIDS or HIV was. We depend on that. People in the field depend on it. And when they undermine it, I think it's just kind of taking away a critical piece of how we fight disease in this country.

BALDWIN: Dr. Rob Davidson, thank you. We will speak again.

DAVIDSON: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up: Dozens are dead, dozens are still missing, as wildfires continue to rage in the Western United States. I will speak to a couple who just lost their home.

Plus, the president downplayed the coronavirus in public, while telling Bob Woodward it was deadly and highly contagious. And now nearly 200,000 Americans are dead. We will talk about that with a woman who just lost her husband to COVID-19.

And the city of Louisville, Kentucky, is agreeing to pay the family of Breonna Taylor $12 million to settle this wrongful death lawsuit. But the family says, this is just one small step towards real justice.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And you see all of that on your screen here. There are 87 massive wildfires right now just scorching towns, leveling neighborhoods, and burning through 10 states, 10, in the Western part of the country.

At this time, we know at least 36 people have died and dozens more are missing, as thousands of firefighters work through these treacherous conditions just to try to contain these flames.

Now, the majority of the fires right now are in California. They have torched within 3.2 million acres already and destroyed more than 4,000 structures all across California. Also increasingly concerning, the dangerous thick black smoke blanketing the air it is so bad that today in Portland, Oregon, they topped the list for the worst air quality in the world.

CNN's Martin Savidge joins me now from Estacada, Oregon.

And, Martin, I see that haze and smoke around you. Tell us more what you're seeing there.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Estacada is a small community that is located just outside of Portland, Oregon, about 3,000 people.

It's under a level three evacuation order because of the Riverside Fire, which is literally on the outskirts of town. It's burned to within a quarter-of-a-mile.

But firefighters have been fighting it for almost a week now, and managed to keep it at least from burning inside of the town itself. That has not been the story for many other communities across Oregon. In fact, there are 36 fires that are burning in the state right now, 5,600 firefighters. It's actually up from the 3,000 firefighters they had last week.

But the state says they're stretched to the max and they need more firefighters here. And then, on top of that, it's not just the tens of thousands of people impacted directly by the flames. But then, as you pointed out, it is the smoke. It's covering all of the Pacific Northwest in this area.

Schools in Portland again are closed. People are being told to shelter in place. We're talking millions of people told to stay indoors, because the air around them is considered hazardous to them.

In fact, there have been an increase in the number of people showing up in hospital emergency rooms. And we know we're in a time of COVID- 19. But it's not that. It's people showing up because they have respiratory illness problems.

So, this cloud is starting to spread too, by the way. It's heading into the Midwest and already showing up at the higher levels on the East Coast of the United States. You see that with satellite imagery.

The good news here is that the death toll was reduced by two. That was because two people they thought they had recovered, it turns out, were animal remains. The bad news, they believe that death toll is going to go up significantly.

In fact, for the first time in its history, Oregon has mobilized its first mobile morgue. That's certainly a sign they expect more bad news to come -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: It's awful, awful.

Martin, thank you in Estacada.

Joining me now, a couple who lost nearly everything from the wildfires.

Betty Stevens and Fred Andrews live in Oregon with their young daughter. Their entire home was destroyed in the Alameda Fire, the neighborhood they once knew transformed into this disaster zone.

So, Betty and Fred, thank you both so much. And, of course, my heart goes out to you and your family, and so many families all up and down the West Coast.

How are you both doing, first of all?

BETTY STEVENS, LOST HOME IN WILDFIRE: We're taking it day by day.


BALDWIN: And especially, Betty -- hanging in there.

I was just listening our reporter talking about the smoke and respiratory therapists. How bad is it smoke-wise?

STEVENS: It's pretty bad. I haven't been back to work since we found out our house was burned down, but my assumption would be that this would affect the area pretty significantly as far as patients with COPD, asthma.


BALDWIN: Everything, all of that.

Let's talk about what happened. How much time did you have to evacuate, and where were you the night the fire approached your home?

STEVENS: So, I -- it was kind of strange, actually.

So we spent a little bit of time on the phone trying to get information about whether or not we should be evacuating. And I think that the fire and the winds, a combination of it was so fast approaching that I don't think they feel how fast it was coming in.

By the time it was there, I had already started packing the car. And I heard policemen going through the street, kind of blaring over a megaphone to evacuate.

So, by then, the power was lost. And we got out as quickly as we could. It was probably half-an-hour that we had before we had to evacuate. I went into work that night to help evacuate patients from the hospital.

BALDWIN: Wait a second. You -- so, you -- just fully appreciating you right now, so you went into work when you knew that you were packing up your home and would potentially never go back to it again? Is that what I'm hearing?

STEVENS: Yes. Yes.


ANDREWS: She likes to work off the stress.

BALDWIN: Betty, wow.


STEVENS: It was. It was better than -- it was better than sitting in my friend's home and thinking about what could be happening.

And I was working in the NICU. I was extremely concerned that the fire obviously would come to the hospital and that we'd have the adequate staff to evacuate premature babies, who are dependent on oxygen and things like that.

So it was really important to me to be there and at least be available for people who needed it.

BALDWIN: There are good people out there, and I'm staring at one of them.

Fred, to you. What was it like going back to your neighborhood, where your home stood? I read that it was the first place you owned as a family with your almost 2-year-old daughter. And were you able to salvage anything as you were walking through it?

ANDREWS: Just today, they said that it's 100 percent contained. So we haven't been allowed back.

Betty a few others went there the following morning just to see if it was still there. And it wasn't. It was all burned to the ground. So I haven't been back. I haven't -- Betty took a video. I haven't watched that video, because it's just a little -- it would be a little too painful for me right now.

But, yes, Betty can tell you what she saw when she got there. But I haven't been back yet.


BALDWIN: I don't blame you for not wanting to watch it. It's just so incredibly -- I can't imagine how personal and excruciating that would be.

Betty, there you are walking through what was your home. What was that experience like?

STEVENS: It was ashes. It was rubble. There was a burst pipe just kind of leaking.

The smoke was so thick, your eyes are just kind of stinging. And it's just -- it's strange kind of seeing -- things spatially don't look the same. I mean, you're used to looking at these big homes and beautiful trees. And there was a creek running through our backyard, which had dried up. So nothing was really recognizable.

It didn't feel like my home. It just felt like just pain. It was just very painful seeing that.

BALDWIN: Quickly, I had read that you all were thinking you wanted to leave your town, you wanted to leave the state of Oregon, but then something changed. And you want to stay?



Yes, actually, we had had a pretty serious discussion about leaving initially after finding out, because it just seemed like the last sign that nothing here was working.

We have been living here for about four-and-a-half years. There was an outpouring of love from the community. People have kind of dropped everything to try to help us. My phone is constantly going off with people who care who have been trying to donate clothes, toys for Eleanor, clothes for Eleanor, who's my 2-year-old daughter. It changed our minds. It made us decide that, while Southern Oregon is

still on fire, it's the place that we need to be to help kind of bring it back to the community, pay it forward, and help, help turn everything around.

BALDWIN: I appreciate that you are appreciated. And I may be adding to your phone blowing up after this conversation. But I think that's a good thing.

Betty and Fred, thank you. Bless you. Be well. Be safe. Squeeze Eleanor for me.

And we will be right back.



BALDWIN: Just into CNN: The city of Louisville has reached a $12 million settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Breonna Taylor.

The 26-year-old shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police in March after a no-knock warrant was executed at her apartment.