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Trump Claims CDC Chief "Confused"; Venezuelans Fear Quarantine More than COVID-19; Israeli President Apologizes for Second COVID-19 Lockdown; AstraZeneca Vaccine Trial Patient's Neurological Symptoms; Aides: Alexei Navalny Was Poisoned in His Hotel Room; "Historic and Catastrophic Flooding" along U.S. Gulf Coast. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 10:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: When he was talking about a vaccine, Dr. Redfield said he didn't think one would be widely available

to the general public until the middle of 2021.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, confusion in D.C. about where we are at in the new age space race for a vaccine. This hour, the

facts about what is happening around the world.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Then:


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doctors tell us this motel is one of many being used by the Venezuelan government to house suspected

COVID patients in a bid to keep them off Venezuela's crumbling hospitals.

ANDERSON (voice-over): With extremely rare access, we show you how many Venezuelans say they fear the coronavirus quarantine more than death



ANDERSON (voice-over): Plus:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe what I'm seeing out here.

ANDERSON (voice-over): More than half a million people without power after Hurricane Sally barrels into America.


ANDERSON (voice-over): And no messing around. He's back, scoring goals but maybe not the ones he wanted.


ANDERSON: It is 10:00 am in Venezuela. It's 5:00 pm in Israel. 6:00 pm here in Abu Dhabi. I'm Becky Anderson. Welcome to the show.

We want to give you the big picture on what is the greatest test of humanity in generations, our battle against an unrelenting and invisible

foe, the plague of our era. We are right now hurtling toward 30 million recorded cases of coronavirus worldwide. Look at that curve and see where

it is headed.

Now how is that happening?

Well, there is no one spot. It is everywhere. Just hours ago, the WHO warning about the, quote, "very serious" situation in Europe. And it's

clear to see why on this graph. There are more cases now than at the peak in March.

And after March you can see the curve diving down into -- and into the lockdowns. But with the continent re-emerging since July, the curve rockets

back up. That's a dilemma, no matter where we are, clearly.

And I want to show you what is going on in India as well as the numbers there are frightening. There are almost 100,000 people who got infected

just yesterday alone, more than any other country in a single day anywhere ever.

And you can see here, new video just in to us, of people performing religious rituals together. No masks, no real social distancing. The elixir

of our salvation is a vaccine but the path to one seems more complex and contradictory than ever. It's beset with political squabbles and logistical

challenges, not to mention the scientific complications in actually landing one.

Science, not politics, prevails on this show so the very latest for you. The WHO warning we could be two years away from normal life. That is your

big picture for now.

So let's drill down, shall we?

The numbers don't tell the full picture, I'm afraid, everywhere. Unsurprisingly, some governments seem hell-bent on covering up what are

some of the most harrowing and egregious situations in the world.

Take Venezuela, for example. The case numbers look relatively low when you compare them against the region and indeed around the world. The Maduro

regime insists it is under control.

But no one else is buying it. The doctors and nurses tell us that the official line is far from reflecting the full picture. Well, CNN's Isa

Soares has got rare access and is joining us now.

What have you learned about the situation on the ground and how the country is handling it?

SOARES: Becky, that graph that you just showed really puts into comparison, really what is happening in Latin America, that continent.


SOARES: Looking at those official figures, Becky, from the government that really propelled me and made me question those numbers. So I started

calling doctors, nurses, NGOs. For over three months I have been speaking to them. Trying to get a sense of what's happening on the ground.

These are doctors and NGOs who have been dealing with COVID patients day in and day out and they tell me that the figures do not match the reality. In

fact, the situation is far, far worse. Have a look at this report.


SOARES (voice-over): In the once oil rich city of Maracaibo in Venezuela, COVID 19 comes hand in hand with fear and repression. This mother of three

knows this all too well so much so, she is still shaken by her experience.

Like others in the story, she spoke to me on the condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals. She tells me she was quarantined against her

will in this motel after she lost her father to suspected COVID-19 and a rapid antibody test came back inconclusive.

She says inside there was little food or water and personal hygiene, a luxury. Away from family and unable to leave her room, she says she was

held for 23 days despite never testing positive for the virus.

Doctors tell us this motel is one of many being used by the Venezuelan government to house suspected COVID patients. In a bed to keep them off

Venezuela's crumbling hospitals, where the situation is similarly desperate. The main hospital here, one doctor tells me, has only 9 ICU

beds. Six hours of available water a day. Intimate in power and when x-ray machine that hasn't worked for months. Details that even health care

workers are not comfortable sharing because of the climate of fear.

In this video from a hospital in Maracaibo shared on social media. Patients protested the shortage of medical staff. Begging for help. Patients say

this man was left dead, abandoned in his bed for days.

To date, Venezuela has reported some of the lowest COVID-19 numbers in the region, but with testing limited to a small number of government controlled

labs, patients may wait up to 70 days to learn the results. Doctors and NGOs tell us many cases go unreported and some die without even knowing if

they have COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

SOARES: Doctors have been calling for increase testing since the pandemic reach the country. The Venezuelan academy of Physical Mathematical and

Natural Sciences is currently predicting a peak of up to 14,000 daily cases. An early report in May was met with a threat of physical violence by

a government official on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

SOARES: They are not just empty threats. Doctors on the ground tell me authorities here have arrested health care workers who speak out publicly.

They say it's the government's way of maintaining control over the political narrative.

SOARES: Is their pressure also for doctors not to note down who has contracted COVID and who has died from COVID?

Is that that type of pressure?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking foreign language).

SOARES: While doctors work under the government radar and patients stay away from the streets, embattled President Nicholas Maduro tightens his

grip on power under the guise of COVID-19-19.


SOARES: Now Becky, CNN gave the Venezuelan government multiple opportunities to respond, not just to the accusations but also to the

criticism of the conditions that you saw there in those motels and in those hospitals as well.

Thus far, we have received no comment from the Venezuela government. But I want to highlight something that our viewers would have noted and that is

everyone I spoke to in that report there was anonymous -- wanted to be anonymous.

And although a climate of fear and almost grown accustomed to it, would have been surprised is how much has increased with doctors basically saying

that the government is using the pretext of COVID-19 to crack down on those dissenting voices, on those doctors and nurses, whose positions do not

align with theirs when it comes to the government's handling of COVID-19.


SOARES: So incredibly troubling hearing that from doctors and from nurses who earn less than $6 a month and try to work in these incredibly tough


And just to put into perspective also what is happening in Venezuela, it's isolated at the moment. It's a lockdown, it has been for some time. But

important to point out what we have had in the last 24 hours, less than 24 hours, in fact, Becky.

A U.N. fact finding mission has been investigating cases of violations, executions, disappearances in the country for over a year. And what's it

found is an abuse of human rights. I'm going to point to them here.

They said there were egregious violations that amount to crimes against humanity. And at the heart of that, they pointed directly at Nicolas Maduro

for giving those orders, Becky.

ANDERSON: Isa Soares, you have been covering Venezuela extensively and your report is up for an Emmy award, along with 32 other news and

documentaries and including for this show as well. So profound acknowledgments when I think, you know, many of our viewers will agree,

journalism matters, perhaps now more than ever.

So to Isa and to everyone nominated, good luck. Thank you.

Well, in Israel, a remarkable moment and an apology from the president as his nation prepares to go back into a second lockdown, just hours from now.

Let's find out what's -- what Mr. Rivlin had to say. Oren Liebermann joining me from Israel.

This is an unprecedented apology from the president.

And what did he have to say?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unprecedented largely because he seems to be one of the first leaders in the government to have apologized for the

government's failures when it comes to coronavirus. Nobody else really has come out like Israeli president Reuven Rivlin.

And he said, I'm sorry for violating the coronavirus restrictions in the first lockdown at a personal level but also at an official level saying the

country's leaders have failed to contain coronavirus. The timing right before the Jewish New Year, which is normally a celebrity mood, a day of

large family and religious gatherings.

And that simply won't happen as the country heads for a second general lockdown. No doubt Rivlin tried to portray some optimism at the end, some

hope that the country can get out of this. But the mea culpa, I'm sorry for how the past has gone, as he tries to point to a better future.


REUVEN RIVLIN, PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL (through translator): My fellow Israelis, tonight I'm speaking to you on the eve of the state of Israel's

second lockdown. And I ask you to open your heart to me and to what I have to say.

I know that we have not done enough as a leadership to be worthy of your attention. You trusted us and we let you down.

You, the citizens of Israel, deserve a safety net that the country gives you. Decision makers, government ministries, policy implementers must work

for you and only you to save lives, to reduce infection, to rescue the economy.

I understand the feeling that none of these were done satisfactorily. And now today, my fellow Israelis, we're forced to pay the price again. It is a

high price.


LIEBERMANN: Rivlin asked Israelis to obey the restrictions and try to get through this leaning on each other, helping each other with the spirit of

the nation trying to move forward as Israel heads into a new Jewish new year. What makes this more stunning, it's in marked contrast to Benjamin

Netanyahu, who put himself front and center in handling the coronavirus.

And yet when he's asked whose failure is it that the country is headed to the second general lockdown, he said, there are only no failures, only


ANDERSON: Isn't that interesting?

Quite a different narrative from the president.

How are Israelis themselves preparing for that lockdown?

LIEBERMANN: I would say somewhere on the spectrum of frustration to anger to being furious about the restrictions.

They have changed last second and they are still being adjusted and tweaked in some areas and there are plenty of expectations. And that raises fear

amongst some officials and health experts that it's not strict enough to actually contain the coronavirus numbers as they continue to surge.

And this could be a long, drawn out, painful process for the country as it sort of muddles its way through this all right now.

ANDERSON: Oren Liebermann is in Israel for you. You and I have been talking now for weeks, months, about the situation there and about the

perception, the sense that the prime minister has not got this under control.


ANDERSON: Just what are people saying about Benjamin Netanyahu when you speak to them on the streets these days?

LIEBERMANN: There are two entirely different sides here. Almost the whole country was in favor of what happened with the White House ceremony and

Netanyahu making peace with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. That hasn't changed the public trust in the government and in Netanyahu's

handling of coronavirus.

He put himself at the center of this, front and center in trying to handle the coronavirus. He took credit back in April and said that Israel would be

a role model for how to reopen and contain coronavirus. And that couldn't be more inaccurate right now, given the second general lockdown.

And there's a tremendous lack of public trust in the government and in Netanyahu in his ability to move forward. And that is reflected in an

incredible pessimism; some 67 percent, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, about the future of the country right now.

ANDERSON: And quite some criticism about his attendance, as you rightly point out, at what is a deal that many Israelis have applauded, that being

the normalization of relations between the Bahrain and UAE. But the fact he went to Washington at this time during this week, with everything that's

going on, has certainly put him up for some criticism back home.

Oren, always a pleasure. Thank you, indeed.

We want to show you remarkable images here on CNN of what is an incredibly unusual punishment. Indonesian villagers caught without wearing a mask are

now being forced to dig graves for those who died from COVID-19. Officials in East Java hope that that will help everyone do their part to fight the


More than 9,000 people there have died from the virus to date.

OK. Well, let's look at some of the places around the world that we are monitoring for you, where we're seeing cases rise rapidly. Let me take a

look now at the second avenue as it were that we have got details for you on, because right now nobody knows for certain when or even if in some

respects we will see a coronavirus vaccine.

There's a worldwide race to be the first but there is still a long way to go before the finish line. Now the World Health Organization says we could

be two years away from normal life, sort of a post COVID life, if you will.

On Wednesday, the head of the CDC in the States told the U.S. Senate that it could be a year.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I think there will be a vaccine that will initially be available sometime between

November and December but very limited supply and it'll have to be prioritized.

If you ask when will it be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of the vaccine to get back to our regular life,

I think we are probably looking at third -- late second quarter, third quarter, 2021.


ANDERSON: Well, that's the director of the CDC, U.S. president Trump told the reporters that Dr. Redfield was, and I quote him here, confused.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think he made a mistake when he said that. It is incorrect information. I called him and he

didn't tell me that. And I think he got the message may be confused. Maybe it was stated incorrectly.

We're ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced and it could be announced in October, could be announced a little bit after October. But

once we go, we're ready.


ANDERSON: Well, we thought it was important to have a look at the medical qualifications of these two men that you just heard from. You can see Dr.

Redfield's medical degrees the position he's held for his career.

And, as for Mr. Trump, well, his uncle taught at MIT.

Let's bring in someone who does have a medical qualification, Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, can you -- effort -- you know, to support us in cutting through this confusion, if you will.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The confusion about the masks and the vaccines, you know, I think that the bottom line here is that

both are good. We need to be wearing masks and we need to be working towards a vaccine.

When we put them side by side, it really doesn't make any sense. Masks are good. Now as far as when the vaccine will come out, you know, most of the

experts that I'm speaking with, they're more along the lines of what Dr. Redfield said by far, this is not an on-off switch, it's not, oh, we have

approval for the vaccine, get in line, you'll get it right away.

That's not what's going to happen. It's a process to vaccinate huge numbers of people.


ANDERSON: We spoke to AstraZeneca's trial, we have been talking about that for some weeks and we talked about the trial's pause a week or so again. We

are now learning more details about what led to that pause. Explain.

COHEN: Right. There's an internal report that CNN has obtained and it details the illness of one of the participants that led to a pause in the

trials. This document brings up some questions about whether or not the vaccine process trial is transparent.


COHEN (voice-over): CNN has obtained an internal document from vaccine maker AstraZeneca detailing why the pharmaceutical giant paused its

worldwide clinical trials for their COVID-19 vaccine last week.

At first, all we knew was a study participant had a spinal cord problem.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: With an abundance of caution at a time like this, you put a clinical hold. You

investigate carefully to see if anybody else who received that vaccine or any other vaccines might have had a similar finding of a spinal cord


COHEN: But now this internal AstraZeneca document shows more was known about the illness than was said at the time.

After the pause was announced, "The New York Times" reported that a trial participant had been diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare

neurological disorder which can cause muscle weakness and even paralysis.

And STAT News reported that AstraZeneca's CEO said and an investors call that the participant had symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis.

AstraZeneca then called reports of confirmed transverse myelitis incorrect and said there was no final diagnosis.

But AstraZeneca's own internal initial safety report obtained by CNN says the participant had, quote, "experienced confirmed transverse myelitis"

and, quote, "symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis."

The report describes how the participant, a 37-year-old woman in the U.K., was previously healthy. She had two doses of the coronavirus vaccine about

two-and-a-half months apart. Then, on September 2, 13 days after that second dose, while running, she had a trip, not a fall, with a jolt,

according to the report.

The next day, she experienced symptoms, including difficulty walking, pain and weakness in her arms. On September 5, she was hospitalized. And a

neurologist noted that her symptoms were improving.

Citing patient confidentiality, AstraZeneca declined to provide more details about the woman's case. So did the University of Oxford, which is

running the trials in the U.K.

On September 11, AstraZeneca distributed its report to doctors involved with its study. That same day, the University of Oxford updated this online

patient information sheet. The sheet says volunteers in the trial, quote, "developed unexplained neurological symptoms, including changed sensation

or limb weakness." It does not mention transverse myelitis or if that participant's diagnosis changed.

HOTEZ: But we're not being provided any details. So this is creating a lot of confusion.

COHEN: On Saturday, AstraZeneca announced that clinical trials had resumed in the U.K.

Regulators there telling CNN: "We have now reviewed the data provided by the researchers and after seeking independent expert advice from the

Commission For Human Medicines, we agreed with the recommendation of the Data and Safety Monitoring Board that vaccination can restart."

But, in the United States, the clinical trial remains on hold and under review. Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CNN it's just a matter of time before

trials restart in the U.S. and, when they do, investigators will need to be careful and watch out for similar symptoms.

AstraZeneca says it's committed to the safety of trial participants and to the highest standards of conduct in their studies, telling CNN: "The

company will continue to work with health authorities across the world, including the FDA in the U.S. and be guided as to when other clinical

trials can resume."


COHEN: Now a vaccine needs to be safe and effective and also needs to be trusted. So that people will get it. There are concerns about the

transparency of this vaccine, development and testing process and its transparency that breeds trust -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Thank you very much, indeed.

Elizabeth Cohen is on this story for you and we will hear from the World Health Organization next hour as regional health emergencies director, Rick

Brennan, joins us to talk about the state of the pandemic in the Middle East.

Aides say they know how Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned. A live report is ahead.

Also the remnants of Hurricane Sally are still a major threat to the U.S. Southeast. I'm Becky Anderson from our Middle East hub here in United Arab






ANDERSON: This is the image that the world has seen of Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, drinking tea in a Siberian airport shortly before

he collapsed on a domestic flight last month. But that cup may not have been the source of a suspected nerve agent which put him into a medically

induced coma until last week.

(INAUDIBLE) now says there was Novichok on a water bottle in his hotel room and not at the airport as originally thought. I want to get to CNN's

Matthew Chance, who has more from Moscow.

What do we know?


Well, I mean, look in the absence of an investigation that's being held in Russia, there's no investigation. We're pretty much in the dark as to how

it is that Alexei Navalny, Russia's most prominent opposition figure, could have ended up in the state that he ended up in, poisoned by Novichok after

being, you know, writhing in agony on board that plane from Siberia en route back to Moscow.

The speculation was that he was probably poisoned, you know, shortly before he got on the plane. There was a picture that emerged of him, a photograph

in the airport cafe, sipping a cup of tea, speculation that it was then he was poisoned.

But the latest sort of word -- this revelation coming from his, team sheds some light into the darkness, if you like, about what could have happened.

They're saying that the German lab that first identified Novichok did so on a water bottle that they collected from Alexei Navalny's hotel room. It was

a used water bottle and the contents had been drunk.

It doesn't mean that the water itself was contaminated with Novichok but, you know, the fact that it had been used before he went to the airport,

obviously there is an indication that he was poisoned at an earlier point than we previously had understood him to be poisoned at.

The team of Navalny in the area of the city where he was conducting his sort of campaigns and investigations, as soon as they heard that Alexei

Navalny had fallen ill, they suspected poisoning and they went straight up to his hotel room and collected everything they could.

You can see the empty water bottles in the video that they recorded themselves. And they put that stuff into plastic bags and tried to protect

themselves as others as they could with the limited protection equipment they had available.

And they sent it all to Germany when he was medevaced to Berlin, the German capital, where he currently is still. It's there that they found a trace of

Novichok on one of those empty water bottles and a diagnosis or something that was confirmed by the Germans and also by a couple of other labs that

Novichok poisoning was responsible, Becky.

ANDERSON: Matthew Chance in Moscow with the very latest.


ANDERSON: Thank you, Matthew.

Two stories, both sides of the United States linked to our climate emergency. First fires giving part of the country the worst air quality on

Earth. And on the other side of the country, a very different face to our changing climate. Hurricane Sally bringing historic flooding and that led

to an unexpected visitor in one town. All the details are ahead.




ANDERSON: Scorching wildfires and powerful storms, two natural disasters bringing misery to the U.S. West and East, both fueled by our climate

crisis. Flooding, a real concern in the coming hours after Hurricane Sally made landfall. And it's now dumping heavy rain on Georgia and on to the


The storm leaving at least one person dead in Alabama and more than half a million without power in the Southeast. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Gulf

Shores, Alabama.

What's the situation where you are, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Becky. Well, this is a popular tourist destination on the U.S. Gulf Coast and city officials say it will

be at least 10 days before the tourists will be allowed to come back as they try to get systems back in place.

And a lot of what needs to be done is clean-up like this. One -- you know, this is a wall that collapsed off of one of the local souvenir businesses

here in town. Then there's just a great deal of clean-up.

You can tell here some of the trucks that have already come through and scraped away the downed trees and debris that's littering the roadways.

That's one of the things that officials here across Alabama, this corner of Alabama and in Florida as well, really have to find themselves doing as

this storm packed quite a punch.

It came ashore. This is where the eye of Hurricane Sally came ashore about 24 hours ago. And everyone who chose to ride this storm out here and did

not evacuate have been telling us the same thing.

They were surprised by the intensity and the ferociousness of this particular storm and that's probably due in part to the fact that the storm

was so slow moving which is unlike most tropical systems, that it sat and took forever and ever. This is an area that just took a relentless beating

for hours and hours as this storm came ashore.


LAVANDERA: So that probably has a lot to do with the fact that so many people have kind of woken up here today, stunned by what they're seeing.

ANDERSON: Amazing. Ed, thank you for that, Gulf Shores, in Alabama.

Well, the floodwaters from Hurricane Sally brought an unwelcome guest to this home in Gulf Shores.

Can you even imagine looking through your window and seeing an alligator in your front yard?

Just another reason for residents to stay inside.

Well, the climate crisis is wreaking havoc on the U.S. West Coast, where around 18 wildfires are burning. The fires so widespread they're causing

poor air quality from Southern California all the way up to Canada.

Residents in the region experiencing physical reactions such as headaches and burning eyes. The United States government's Air Now smoke map shows

some of the affected areas with the worst air quality in the world. CNN's Martin Savidge is in Oregon, where we are hearing that there may be some

relief in sight.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're right. There is some relief -- I have to explain it a bit.

We're in Lyons, which is a town located an hour and a half south of Portland and this is the area of the Beachie Creek fire that burned through

here last week and only now residents are beginning to get back to see what is left; 470 homes were destroyed by this fire; 800 other buildings were

damaged or destroyed.

Here's one of the homes and you can see what the wildfire does, it absolutely incinerates the house and you can barely make out what the house

looked like and you can see what was the kitchen.

The irony of some of the burns is in the background there's another building. That structure almost looks untouched by the fire. And that's the

way they can burn. It's kind -- sort of a lull that becomes a continuous deconstruction but rather it hops around kind of like a tornado can.

When you walk this way, you can see I'm in the driveway and then the remains of vehicles there.

Four people lost their lives in this particular area. There are 26 other fires like this that are burning. The containment issues, that means

firefighters building a kind of trench around these huge fires, this one is over 200,000 acres.

Not extinguishing the fire, just trying to keep it under control, trying to stop it from spreading. It is still burning. It's just not burning as

fiercely as it was.

And then we get into the weather. OK, the weather going to change. That's going to happen tonight. We're actually under a flash flood warning here.

That's good for the amount of rain but it could bring lightning and wind.

Lightning, of course, can start the fires and wind drives the fires so you have to worry about that. And if you get too heavy of a rain where the

vegetation has been burned then you get landslides. That, too, can be deadly and dangerous.

Then, lastly, the air quality. It has been horrendous. Hazardous is how they describe it. And it's kept millions of people essentially trapped in

their homes.

Well, we're in the middle of a coronavirus. The summertime, it was expected that people would be outdoors; that would help them social distance. Now

for over a week, they have been crowded indoors.

So these wildfires and the death toll associated with them will grow in many ways you don't necessarily see, won't be directly due to the flames

but it will continue to go up, Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes. No, you make a lot of sense, Martin. Thank you for that.

Well, Martin talked about the firefighters and what they are facing and alongside those who have been victims of these fires. We have seen many

images coming of exhausted firefighting crews, superheroes working tirelessly on the front lines with little respite to protect lives and


And one group in Oregon is now using song to push through the exhaustion. Listen to them singing "Take Me Out to The Fire" to the theme of "Take Me

Out to the Ball Game."