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At This Hour

More Than 100-Plus Palestinians Injured in Latest Clashes with Police; Fauci Says, May be Time to be More Liberal on Indoor Mask Mandates; Senators Ask Airlines to Refund $10 Billion in Flight Credits. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 10, 2021 - 11:30   ET


JESSICA HUSEMAN, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, VOTEBEAT: Pieces of paper, you know that 18 pages of instructions on exactly how each of those pieces of paper are going to be treated cannot contained within 18 pages.


They are doing very strange things, like using U.V. lights to find curves and creases in the ballots. They're looking at the feel of the paper. And these folks have absolutely no experience doing any of this. So it's sort of like witchcraft, it's sorcery.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Jessica, in the coming days, this entire operation has to find a new place to even work out of as the space that they're using, we've now learned, is booked up for high school graduations. I mean, what does that mean for the security of these ballots?

HUSEMAN: Totally unclear. They have not released great guidelines for what they're going to do to either move all of these 2.1 million ballots or to store them securely and in that place and then resume counting later.

You know, just for a bit of context and maybe hilarity, there is actually a circus happening in the parking lot outside called crazy times circus. And the ballots are being protected by eight inch -- eight feet tall chain link fencing that has no top. So anyone with the gumption could access these ballots from the circus or otherwise.

And now that there is going to be thousands of teenagers roaming around doing high school graduations, I genuinely don't know how these ballots are going to be sort or secured.

BOLDUAN: And, look, it has reached a level of absurdity but it's also getting really scary on multiple levels. I mean, as someone who covers this so closely, I mean, what do you think of the fact that now yet another secretary of state, the top official in the state in charge of overseeing elections, yet another secretary of state is getting death threats for really doing her job?

HUSEMAN: I mean, it's alarming and it's become a trend in this country that these folks have been subjected to an incredible number of threats. I wrote this last summer, that county election officials were getting death threats on a regular basis. For the last year, every time I talk to a state level elections official, they tell me about some other horrible thing that is happened to them or someone on their staff.

And the political tenor and the way that these people who have always just been very standard bureaucrats have been treated is really beyond the pale. And so I think that -- I think that, you know, this needs to stop or it's going to become a lot worse very quickly.

And I don't think that given the rising tenor of how angry people are about basic aspects of election administration that this is going to end any time soon. I think it will only get worse unless the political parties really proactively try to put a stop to it.

BOLDUAN: And we haven't seen that. And so I think that fear is very real and understandable. Jessica, thank you very much for your reporting. Thank you.

HUSEMAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, dramatic scenes and violence breaking out at one of Jerusalem's holiest sites. Hundreds of Palestinians are injured after another day of violent clashes with police. There is a lot going on as we're speaking. We're going to take you live to Jerusalem next.



BOLDUAN: Violence is breaking out again today in Jerusalem. I'm going to show you video of the scenes from one of the city's holiest sites. Hundreds of Palestinian protesters have been injured so far as the fighting has broken out and been sustained with Israeli police.

Also video showing police firing stun grenades inside a key mosque in the old city. The clashes force Israeli officials to temporarily halt visits by non-Muslims to the holy site, Temple Mount.

CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem. She has been tracking all of this. Hadas, what is the very latest?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, just about 45 minutes ago, we had had some really dramatic moments here. We heard sirens in Jerusalem. That means that there were rockets incoming from Gaza that were the Hamas militant wing took credit for those rockets that were incoming. They say, Hamas, the militant wing, that it was in it direct retaliation for what is happening in Jerusalem today.

Now, what you're seeing behind me is the remnants of what was the Jerusalem day march. This is the day that Israel marks when it took control of the western wall. And, normally, there is a march tens of thousands of Israelis through the old city of Jerusalem.

Now, typically, this march goes through Damascus gate entrance into the old city and through some of the Muslim parts of the old city of Jerusalem. But at the last minute, police decided to reroute the parade and have them go this way, which just behind me and to my right, down the hill is the Jaffa Gate entrance.

But right around 6:00 P.M. is when he we are started hearing those rocket sirens and people started fleeing this area. We saw parents cowering with their children, cover their heads, people up against walls, trying to protect themselves. And after those sirens went off, and we also had red alert sirens all across Israel, which means rockets incoming, after those sirens, police have decided to cancel this march.


And we've been hearing police now make announcements to the crowds here, telling them to please leave the area, to take public transportation or buses and to leave the area, that the event has been canceled.

Kate, this had been some of the most tense moments Jerusalem has seen in several years from what's been happening at the Al-Aqsa compound, clashes in the neighborhood Shake Jira (ph), which has really become the flashpoint in all of this. That is where several Palestinian families, some of who have been living there for generations, are facing eviction. A hearing for their potential eviction was supposed to be today but that has been delayed.

But, really, Kate, some really tense moments in Jerusalem today. And as can you see behind me, these marchers don't seem to be going anywhere any time soon.

BOLDUAN: No, and also just such a critical moment for Israel as it's still struggling to form a new government. I mean, there is a lot going on behind you. Thank you so much, Hadas. I really appreciate the reporting.

There are also now growing security concerns in Afghanistan, as U.S. is in the process of withdrawing all troops from the country. Over the weekend, a car bomb attack at an all-girls school in Kabul killed at least 85 people. Most of them victims were young girls who are leaving school for the day. Nearly 150 other people were injured in the blast.

Let me get over to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. He's been tracking all of this, knows more about what has long plagued Afghanistan, been there many times. Nick, what are you learning about this attack?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, this is one of, frankly, the most disgusting, startling ones I can recall in recent years, possibly in the 20-year history of the American involved in the ongoing war there. And it's just the nature of who is targeted and when that is so sickening. Schoolgirls, young teenagers, below that age leaving school after the end of their shift in the school in West Kabul where they studied, hit by a car bomb, and then after that devastation, people rushed in to help and investigate, the second and third devices went off to increase the toll, a tactic we've seen shockingly in Kabul and across Afghanistan many times before. The death toll initially 25, then rocketing up to this 85 number with 150 injured. Just remember that. I mean, that number is frankly more likely the number of people you can even remember having been to school with, startling, and also hitting not only just girls pursuing their education, the future of Afghanistan, as the U.S. (INAUDIBLE) referred to it in a tweet, but in a particular area of Kabul frequented and lived in (ph) by the Shia minority there.

Now, they're often the target of extremists. The Taliban said they had nothing to do with this attack in their tweet. It's fair to say the insurgency is fractured now with lots of different moderate extremist, hard line wings. But some could have been responsible thing and finger pointed towards ISIS' franchise in Afghanistan. They've attacked the Shia minority before.

But it plays into a key fear, frankly. One of the advances of the U.S. presence and contribution to Afghanistan has been greater rights for women. That is not the only thing that their will jeopardize, but it is the way in which these girls were targeted quite so callously, quite so viciously that has many shocked.

Grave sites during the last 48 hours of burial, there have been parents cursing the Afghan government for not providing adequate security. But make no mistake, the American withdrawal didn't cause this. It simply may be a symptom of the security vacuum that follows. And when Joe Biden made his announcement, it was clear it was an ugly decision with very few benefits to come from it. And it's obviously clear too that ordinary Afghans, specifically these young schoolgirls beginning to see what that security vacuum looks like, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nick, devastating, but thank you so much for your reporting.

Coming up for us, the CDC faces new pressure to relax mask rules for the fully vaccinated. But it's not just the just the CDC. Now thousands of parents in Massachusetts are telling the governor it is time to ease up on masking rules for kids. What they are calling for, what they're asking for and why, that's next.



BOLDUAN: This morning, the progress in the fight against the pandemic in the United States is looking pretty incredible. Yesterday saw the lowest day for deaths since March of 2020. Also yesterday saw the lowest day of cases of COVID-19 since June 2020. And not a single state on the tracking trend map is showing a rise in cases week to week. This is why the CDC is facing more questions about when it will update the mask guidelines, for one thing, for vaccinated people.

Here is how Dr. Anthony Fauci and the top official on Biden's COVID-19 response team talked about this just this weekend.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated. As you get more people vaccinated, the number of cases per day will absolutely go down.

JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I think everyone is tired and wearing a mask is going to be a pain. But we're getting there and the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter and brighter. Let's keep up our guard. Let's follow the CDC guidance and the CDC guidance across time will allow vaccinated people more and more privileges to take off that mask.


BOLDUAN: But are we at that time already? In Massachusetts, thousands of parents signed a letter to the governor there calling on him to immediately ease mask mandates for kids, specifically for outdoor sports, for summer camps outdoors and outdoor recess.

The group argues this, in part, in their letter. There is simply no compelling scientific rationale supporting the additional restrictions on the youngest citizens of our state.


Joining me right now is one of the group's organizers, Beth Humberd. Thank you for being here. Talk to me about this letter, what you're really asking of the governor?

BETH HUMBERD, ORGANIZER, BRING KIDS BACK MA: Sure. Thank you, Kate, for having me on. We're in Massachusetts and to be quite honest, we're really proud of the progress our state has made in terms of being one of the top states for vaccinating adults, reductions in hospitalization and death. And aligning with that, our governor has started to move us forward in progressing through reopening. So we had the outdoor mask mandate lifted largely for adults and many sectors of the economy here are starting to reopen.

And what happened with us parents is we realized, as all of those steps forward are happening, largely, none of them apply to our children. And so as we started to dig more into it, the outdoor mask mandate was lifted but that didn't mean that our children could be unmasked at recess or youth sports.

And so we really are starting to hope that there's more coordination across the multiple different agencies of the governor's office that are responsible for our kids schooling, day care, camps, sports so they can start to benefit from some of the progress we've made in our state.

BOLDUAN: And, Beth, what do you say to folks who say, look, you have to follow the science, that's what the CDC is doing, and right now, so far, they haven't adjusted their guidance when it comes to kids or folks who are unvaccinated, people and masks, specifically? Why not wait for the CDC?

HUMBERD: Well, because, frankly, we've been following what our state is doing, and our state has -- I commend them, for example, for being ahead of the CDC in terms of how we reopened our schools. And so what we're actually noticing is not much to do with the CDC. In fact, we're wondering why our children in our state are being held to stricter rules than adults in our state and why are they being held to stricter rules than children in a lot of our neighboring states that have already removed the outdoor mask mandate for things like youth sports.

And I think it's important to mention, we're not some reckless group of parents. We've largely followed everything that's been asked of us, and we're getting really concerned that it seems like our children are being treated as this separate group when things move forward for adults, when things move forward for different sectors of the economy. For example, I can bring my children and go sit in a really crowded restaurant, yet my child has to stand in the outfield to play baseball with a mask on.

And so in our mind, I'm not an epidemiologist, but looking at the evidence actually suggests that's not following the science by continuing to have children masked outdoors, where we know their transmission is low, and where we've already seen that recognized by the rolling back of the outdoor mask mandate for adults in the state.

BOLDUAN: That's a good point. Have you heard anything back from the governor's office?

HUMBERD: So we actually haven't. We were very pleased, he was asked about it at a press conference, and we thanked that reporter for asking him. He said he had not read it yet and that he would and that he would take into account what we were asking for.

I think our concern, to be honest, is we're not part of, you know, the state's process here, and we just keep feeling like it's a piecemeal approach, that every time we take a step forward, it's a separate process to look at all these different organizations that are running our children's development. And so we hope that they can start to benefit from some of the great progress we've made in this state.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it's a really interesting moment. Beth, thank you very much for coming on. I appreciate it.

HUMBERD: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, millions were forced to delay and cancel trips during the pandemic and now their credits for those flights are set to expire. Lawmakers are now trying to step in.



BOLDUAN: When the pandemic shut down travel, millions of people postponed or canceled vacations and business trips because, of course, none of us knew when we could get back on flights safely again. Now, those flight credits that many people opted for are set to expire. And this is a ton of money that's essentially up for grabs now and Congress might be getting involved. Joining me right now is CNN's Pete Muntean who has this really interesting reporting. Pete, what's going on here?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, it seems like everyone has a story of a trip canceled by the pandemic. And what's so interesting is the new estimate that $10 billion are held by would-be travelers in travel credits from airlines, and now two high profile U.S. senators are telling ten different airlines that they should give cash refunds to you for those credits.

Senator Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal have written these ten airlines to say, quote, Americans need cash in their pockets to pay for food, housing and prescriptions.

Just to put this issue into context for you, he Department of Transportation has received 107,000 consumer complaints since the pandemic began. That is a big uptick. And of that number, 89 percent have been about refunds. The senators say that if airlines don't give refunds, then they should at least make the deadline on using these credits indefinite.

United Airlines and American Airlines have both pushed back their deadlines into 2022, but not all airlines have done that. And consumer advocates, people are actually returning to flying, because they have a deadline on using some of these unused credits.

The TSA numbers of Sunday, just yesterday, 1.71 million people pass through security at America's airports, that is a new record of the pandemic.


That is the third time we have seen a pandemic-era record in the last seven.