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Tropical Storm Sally Threatens Parts of Gulf Coast with Flooding; National Institutes of Health Official States AstraZeneca Should Reveal More Information on Reason for Pausing Coronavirus Vaccine Trials; President Trump Holds Indoor Event in Phoenix, Arizona; Trump Again Hosts Indoor Event with Few Masks or Social Distancing; At Least 36 Dead, Dozens Missing in West Coast Wildfires. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: For a brand new update in just moments.

Then on the west coast, nearly 87 wildfires are burning out of control. Twenty-two people are reported missing in Oregon. The west coast now has four of the world's 10 most polluted cities. Some of that smoke is even reaching parts of the east coast today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Some of the photos there just terrifying.

The U.S. death toll from coronavirus is nearing 195,000. We have new audio out this morning of the president telling Bob Woodward in April that the virus is a killer, a plague, and that even a sneeze made him flee the room. And yet it's what he's doing right now, today, that says it all. Look at this image. This was the president at an indoor event in Phoenix yesterday. The audience in front of him packed in, very few masks being worn. Even those on the stage sat side by side. There is one person who is socially distanced in the room, only one -- the president himself.

So it begs the question -- who is being protected here? One single person only, the president himself. Clearly, he knows the risks, his aides know, whoever set up the chairs knows. The science knows. The science knows about the coronavirus and climate change despite what the president is saying about it.

Let's begin with the threat of hurricane Sally along the Gulf Coast. We just go the 8:00 a.m. fresh advisory, Chad. What does it say, chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Pressure slightly down, John, not significant. But a couple things have been going on in the morning hours here. Even though this storm has been sitting in the same spot and cooling off the water just a little bit, we are now beginning to see what I think is probably the closest thing to an eye that we have seen the entire time. Rain is now all the way along the Gulf Coast, especially the Florida panhandle, into Dauphin, into Mobile, very heavy rainfall. Any time one of these storms rolls on shore, you could get a waterspout or a small tornado. We have seen some of this area now here with the winds gusting on some

of these buoys offshore. There's a Chevron platform out there. Now, it doesn't really count because it's 500 feet in the sky, but just had a wind gust to 90 miles per hour.

It's the potential that an eye can do when you move a storm closer to land. When there is a true eye all the way around, it can also the storm to breathe and get deeper. And some of the hurricane hunters are in it, seeing slightly lower pressures this morning, which is a little bit more disturbing.

Still though coming on shore not tonight, but maybe tomorrow, so almost 24 hours if we do put this onshore, because it's only moving at two miles per hour. And I'm not sure how you even figure out two left or right, up or down, and even the director of the National Hurricane Center is saying it's just wobbling back and forth. It's not doing anything significantly. So it could make a run up toward the north. Maybe Dauphin Island, maybe Mobile, maybe as far left as Biloxi. But what's going to happen no matter where you are across the Gulf Coast is significant rainfall accumulation, 20 inches, and even Ken at the Hurricane Center said maybe some spots could see 30. There's not a place in America or the world that can handle 30 inches of rain in 24 hours and not get some kind of significant flooding. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Chad, thank you very much for keeping an eye on it for us.

So people on the Gulf Coast already feeling the effects of Hurricane Sally. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Gulfport, Mississippi. What it is looking like there, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Well, here in Gulfport, Mississippi, the winds are picking up a little bit more than what we've seen throughout the course of this morning. We are on the beachfront here where you can see the waves have picked up. If you look back this way toward the east about 135 miles or so, that's toward Pensacola, and you can see some of the images there of what the beach is looking like this morning in Pensacola. That's the area where we have seen some of the strongest storm surge so far.

And as Chad was talking about, this hurricane just sitting out there in the Gulf waters, and that's leaving many residents here on the shore waiting to see exactly how all of this is going to unfold. We are on the western edge of this -- presumably where this storm is going to come ashore, and preparations have been under way for several days now as local officials have been urging residents to take all of the precautions they need to take at this point.

This is the marina that is here in Gulfport. Local officials ordered all of the boats and vessels out of that area because of the expected storm surge which could reach as high as 10 feet here along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. So all of these boats were moved about a mile inland. If you hit some of the strip malls and shopping centers there, the parking lots are filled with the boats that were once here on the waters. So all of the these preparations well under way here as the residents along the Gulf Coast simply wait and see where exactly this storm is going to end up, or the brunt of this storm is going to end up.


I think most people around here, John, fully anticipating to see a major weather and rain event for the next few days. John?

BERMAN: All right, Ed Lavandera for us, angry skies behind you, Ed. Please stay safe.

Joining me now is Ken Graham. He's the Director of the National Hurricane Center. Thanks so much for being with us, Director. The 8:00 a.m. advisory just out. What has changed now with this storm?

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: The only change we have is moving northwest, just starting to make that slow turn, but two miles an hour. John that is so slow. And that's the problem that we have when you start moving a system that slow, that just compounds the issues with that storm surge and also all that rain. And actually some of those rain bands to produce tornados as we have a new tornado watch issued for portions of the Florida panhandle over to Alabama.

BERMAN: How much rain and where?

GRAHAM: That slow movement just compounds the issue, so we're looking at portions of the Florida Panhandle over to coastal Alabama and even inland into Alabama. Some of these areas could see large amounts, 10 to 20 inches of rain. Some places could get 30 inches of rain because the movement is just so slow. But not just on the coast. If you follow the track, still moving slow, any one of the areas can get six to 10 inches of rain. Central portions of Alabama, Georgia, even into North Carolina, maybe some areas getting 12 inches of rain. So that's a dangerous situation for many areas with the rainfall.

BERMAN: You talked 20, 30 inches of rain, maybe. Where does it go?

GRAHAM: Yes, that's a problem. So it ponds. It comes down so fast that it starts to pond on spread out. So your rivers and your streams, they become problems. So that's what happens, it can't drain. And you put the storm surge on top of that, and some of those coastal drainage systems, it makes it really tough to drain when your storm surge is there, too. So it just piles up, and that's what becomes so incredibly dangerous.

BERMAN: How does the slow-moving pace of the storm affect the storm surge?

GRAHAM: When you have a slow-moving storm, it's just more time to push the wind. So the storm surge is driven by winds. So if the slower the movement, you have more time to push the water in. So the longer you have to force that water, the higher the values are. And that way Dauphin Island over to Alabama-Florida border there, four to seven foot of storm surge, and Mobile Bay six to nine foot, and even east of there, from the Alabama-Florida border over to the Walton County line there are two to four foot of storm surge. So dangerous situation on your barrier islands with the storm surge, and then the rainfall inland, it all just piles up. It's going to be so much water, just dangerous conditions to be traveling and being on the roads, so just advised not to do that.

BERMAN: So obviously these are the last few minutes, hours, people have to stay safe in that region. How does the consideration change when it is going to be mostly rain event like this, when you're talk about 20 to 30 inches of rain? What do you do differently to stay safe than you would if this were largely a wind event?

GRAHAM: I think one of the biggest things that you have to do, the biggest we can get across, John, is it's not just coastal. So many people think of these tropical systems as a coastal problem, and that is just not the case because you're going to have these tornadoes, these rain bands. Look at these rain bands setting up. And it's going to inland. So if you look at our rainfall forecast once again, not just a coastal problem, but all that rain moving inland. So people even inland, hundreds of miles inland, just realize, keep an eye on that forecast and watch for those warnings from the weather forecast offices, because it could be dangerous, it gets flash flooding well inland.

PAUL: All right, Ken Graham, the Director of the National Hurricane Center, I know we will be speaking to you throughout the day. You have your work cut out for you. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, so publicly President Trump continues to host crowded indoor events, but privately he calls the coronavirus the plague and says he now how dangerous and deadly it is. Why is there such a difference between his public and private stance? That's next.



BERMAN: All right, just hours from now, President Trump will host a diplomatic signing ceremony on the White House South Lawn, a big crowd expected, masks not required. The president held an indoor packed event last night in Phoenix. You can see really few people wearing masks, a lot of them are older and high-risk groups. There's only one person distanced from anybody else in the room, just one. It's the president of the United States, so taking care of himself but not others.

Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Ashish Jha. He's the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. And Sanjay and Dr. Jha, we're going to get to that issue in a moment. But first, Sanjay, there is a little bit of breaking news here. CNN is just reporting that an official inside the NIH is telling CNN that AstraZeneca, which is the pharmaceutical company which paused for a moment its vaccine trial because of an adverse reaction to one patient, the NIH official is saying that AstraZeneca needs to come clean with more information about what went on here, even though these trials have resumed in the U.K. How do you see this? What's going on here?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we have been talking to lots of people about this, both on and off the record. There is concern about what specifically happened with this particular patient. We have known that for some time. But I think there is a concern that there's still a pretty significant lack of transparency here. The company AstraZeneca still not saying exactly what the diagnosis was.

But also oftentimes in these situations you want to share samples from the patient's blood, maybe even any tissue that may have been collected, so that people can have a look at this and see, does this make sense? Was this related to the vaccine? Could it have been totally coincidental? And for whatever reason that information is still not being shared here. So you have this confusing situation where the trial has been un-paused or resumed in parts of the world but not in other parts of the world.

So again, it's showing a lack of one thought, unified thought on how to proceed here. And that's concerning. We already have a concern about trust, this adds to that erosion of trust.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Jha, I want to get to what the president did last night at this rally in Phoenix. It was indoors. I don't get it. Hold your rally outdoors. If you want to flout the state's guidelines of no more than 50 people at a gathering, do it outside.


The idea that now, for two days in a row, in Henderson, Nevada, and now in Phoenix, it's indoors, where the chairs are actually zip-tied together for fire safety regulations, so you can't move your chair six feet away from somebody else. You are tied together.

And he's holding it indoors, and it just -- it makes no sense other than he doesn't care about his supporters' health.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yeah. So, good morning, and thank you for having me on.

It doesn't make sense. And what we know is that the president knows better. I mean, the president has said to Bob Woodward and others the truth about the virus and how it spreads and how deadly it is. So, it remains baffling to me why he's subjecting his own most ardent supporters to this kind of risk when there's so many better alternatives, including as you said, be outside, wear -- get people to wear masks. Those will be much, much safer and much, much better.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, look, we focus, Dr. Jha, on so much what we learned from Bob Woodward over the last eight months, or what we know the president knew over the last eight months from these tapes if he's come clean, but a more pressing issue is what's happening right now and it's happening right before our eyes, where the president is endangering people right before our eyes. He's endangering other people but not himself, which I think is so telling.

JHA: Yeah. So, I think for all of us in the public health community, there are two things we need to do, we need to stay on message about the science and talk about what the science tells us, but I also think we need to use the president's words to share among his supporters. A lot of his supporters I have sympathy for, they have been subject to so much misinformation. And it's really the president's own words that can be clarifying here about what's important as we move forward.

CAMEROTA: OK. Well, here are his own words, Sanjay. Let's -- let's let everyone know how frightened -- well, frightened is wrong -- how concerned the president was about what happened indoors where he was at the White House when someone sneezed. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And, Bob, it's so easily transmissible, you wouldn't even believe it.


TRUMP: I mean, you can -- you can be in the room. I was in the White House a couple of days ago, a meeting of ten people in the Oval Office and a guy sneezed innocently, not horrible, you know, just a sneeze.


TRUMP: The entire room bailed out, including me, by the way.


CAMEROTA: Sanjay, you have talked about the discrepancy about what he knows in private and how he behaves in private and then what he comes out in public with to tell -- to mislead the public.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, so if there's three things here, his words in private, his words in public, and then his overall behavior, right? So the only thing that's sort of the disconnect is his words in public now. What he says publicly is the total disconnect because you're hearing him now. And I hope people pay attention to how the president actually thinks about this, this coronavirus behind closed doors, because he takes it seriously. He does.

I mean, you know, he's worried about this and he has a pretty sophisticated understanding of this virus, far more sophisticated than people realized. I thought maybe he just didn't care, there was -- you know, I'm not going to pay attention to that, that's how he seemed to be treating it, even during press briefings and things like this, but then his actions, I think to your point. He gets tested, he has people around him tested.

He took a medication that wasn't proven, potentially risky, because clearly he was worried about himself, having contracted the virus. He sets apart, as you pointed out, of that rally. So, people around him do everything they can to keep themselves from infecting the president but he's not doing it.

But I think -- you know, we're still in this. You know, we talk about this book like we're talking about the retrospective now of this pandemic, we're not. We're still very much in this. And I think that, hopefully, people pay attention to the fact that the president does this -- you know, he's worried about this, even if his actions in terms of his policies aren't reflecting that. He's worried about this.

You should be as well and you can do simple things to mitigate your risk.

BERMAN: Look, he's worried about it in private. Doesn't matter if he's not doing anything about it in publicly, what he thinks and acts in private, although we now have the recordings of that.

Sanjay, I know one of the most interesting ways to look at the U.S. response is to compare it to other countries and you have got some interesting facts on that this morning.

GUPTA: Yes. Yeah, I mean, take a look here. We have shown this. I think these are fair comparisons, comparing the United States to South Korea and to Italy. And the reason we compare it to South Korea is in part because the patients were confirmed to be diagnosed on the first -- on the same day.

Remember, Italy, we were all worried about Italy. That's the green line,


And we thought, well, we're not going to become Italy. And then just a few weeks after that, we certainly, you know, had that same sort of peak and then started to really continue to plateau for a while and then go up.

Each one of those jagged likes, those peaks and those ebbs and those flows, remember, you know, now in retrospect, we would look at those we're getting better, OK, we're getting worse. We're getting better, we're getting worse.

Every few days, so reactionary, right, but now, overtime, you can really see the trend of what's been happening here, and what continues to happen compared to other countries around the world. I bring it up, because they didn't have anything we didn't have. They still don't have anything that we don't have. And they have been able to bring those numbers significantly down.

We are not through this, by any means. People talk about this in the past tense all the time. We're not through this and despite all of the mistakes that have been made, there are still things we can do going forward here to really bring the rate of infection down in this country.

We have to do it. I mean, these numbers are going to continue to get worse. It's frustrating, I realize, for a lot of people, but we have to do this now.

BERMAN: Dr. Gupta, Dr. Jha, thank you both very much for being with us this morning.

Be sure to watch a special "AC360" tonight, Bob Woodward joins Anderson Cooper live with new unreleased audio from this taped interviews with President Trump. That's 8:00 Eastern, only on CNN. So, as of this morning, more than 3 million acres have burned in

California. Can firefighters bring this raging wildfires under control? The mayor of Sacramento joins us next.



CAMEROTA: At least 36 people have died in the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington state. Nearly a hundred active fires are burning along the West Coast this morning. In California, 3.2 million acres have burned.

Joining us now is Darrell Steinberg. He's the mayor of California's capital, Sacramento.

Mayor, thank you very much for being here.

For those of us who don't live on the West Coast, can you just describe what life has been like in Sacramento over the past week?

MAYOR DARRELL STEINBERG (D), SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA: Well, for Sacramento, Alisyn, it's actually -- we're relatively lucky because the fires are north of us. But for even an urban area like Sacramento, the air quality is terrible. We advise people to not go outdoors, stay inside, not to exercise outdoors because it has been thick and continues to be thick.

But really, the people who are suffering are those who are actually in the midst of the direct fire zone. Obviously, people have died, so many people have lost their homes and we have so many brave firefighters that are working unending hours to try to contain these fires.

The north complex, for example, is now 39 percent contained which is miraculous, but that means there's still 61 percent to go.

And so, we are living through an unprecedented situation here on the West Coast and in California, and we desperately need more national leadership. I hope we talk about a -- a little bit about that this morning.

CAMEROTA: Yeah, well, let's get to that. You know, President Trump visited Sacramento yesterday. Did that help?

STEINBERG: Well, certainly he did what any president should do and what presidents have done for decades on a bipartisan basis. Doesn't matter if it's blue, red or purple, presidents of both parties aid Americans in time of crisis. And so, it was good that he came yesterday.

But it's so much more profound than that as you have been talking about and the country is talking about. Denial is a dangerous thing. And we know the record now around the coronavirus, but climate change is not just another issue. We are living through a climate emergency. There was a time in American history where protecting the environment

was, in fact, a bipartisan and national commitment. Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in the 1970s.

Instead, what you have here is a very dangerous situation not only physically but where you have the nation's leader saying publicly he thinks that it's going to get cooler, in defiance of all of the science. And so, we desperately need national leadership to put the full force of the country behind doing what California frankly is doing. That's the irony of California suffering as we are.

We're actually the nation's leader when it comes to tackling climate change. We have 100 percent renewable energy standard in California where over 30 percent of the way there.


STEINBERG: I know we're -- go ahead.


CAMEROTA: I mean, well, as you point out, you can't do it alone. I mean, even though -- you know, you're ahead of the curve in terms of what you're doing, you can't do it alone, but, of course, as you point out, we have a president who thinks that climate change is a hoax. He has said as much. He said as much yesterday.

Let me just play again for our viewers what he told the California officials in that room.


WADE CROWFOOT, SECRETARY OF THE CALIFORNIA NATURAL RESOURCES AGENCY: If we ignore that science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it's all about vegetation management, we're not going to succeed together protecting Californians.

TRUMP: OK, it will start getting cooler. You just -- you just watch.

CROWFOOT: I wish -- I wish science agrees with you.


TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.


CAMEROTA: He doesn't believe in the science. And so, where do you go from there, Mayor?

STEINBERG: Well, I think the answer is obvious. We're 50 days or so a national election and we desperately need a new president, Joe Biden.