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At This Hour

Hospitals Overwhelmed with COVID Cases as Delta Variant Surges; CNN: U.S. Intelligence Warns Taliban May Seize Afghan Capital Soon; New York's Next Governor Distances Herself from Cuomo. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 12, 2021 - 11:00   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Breaking point. More and more hospitals getting crushed by coronavirus patients across the South as Americans await news on booster shots.

Presidential address. Joe Biden will speak in minutes. He has a new ask for Congress. We're going to bring you his remarks live.

And Olympic phenom Allyson Felix, the most decorated American track and field athlete of all time, she joins us to talk about her incredible run at the Tokyo Games and what's next.

We begin this hour, though, with states on the brink. Hospitals particularly in the southeast are filling up again. Pushing ICUs to the very limit what they could handle, again.

In Houston over flow tents are up outside of a hospital to handle the surge of COVID patients. Yes, again.



DR. ESMAEIL PORSA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HARRIS HEALTH SYSTEM IN HOUSTON: Let me be clear, we actually had the tents during the last surge. We took them down because the numbers went down, so this is the time that we're just putting it back up again.


BOLDUAN: Again. Clear and painful signs we are now back essentially to spring of 2020 in the fight against COVID. Tents have to be put up again. Nationwide, more than 75,000 people are currently hospitalized with coronavirus. That is back at the same level we were at last summer.

Despite these facts, the same people who are trying to protect us against COVID are now being harassed.

Listen in and watch to this scene in Tennessee outside of a school board meeting where parents spoke in support of masks.


BOLDUAN: This morning there are, though, new developments on vaccine front to bring to you. The FDA is expected to announce as soon as today it will authorize additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine for those immuno-compromised. The CDC has guidance now urging pregnant women to get vaccinated saying it is safe for both mother and baby.

And tomorrow, a CDC advisory team is meeting to discuss what to do about booster shots for the general population. We have reporters on every angle this hour.

Let's begin with CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's live in Texas where hospitals are hitting the highest levels of COVID patients in six months.

Hi, Ed.


Well, hospitalizations well over 10,000 here in Texas. Those are numbers as you mentioned we haven't seen since early February and some of the worst days of the pandemic. But the more troubling part is that there are just under 370 intensive care unit beds available according to the Texas Department of Health dashboard.

So that is a troubling sign. And if you look closer at those numbers there are some regions down to single-digit number of ICU beds available. So, hospitals are forced to scramble, moving patients around wherever they can depending on level of care that me need. And all of this happening as a number of school districts and county officials in the biggest cities in Texas are pushing mask requirements once again in defiance of Governor Greg Abbott's executive orders in recent weeks.

The Republican attorney general and the governor vowing to take these entities to court, to prohibit them from institutes these mask mandates. But there are really ominous warnings coming from health officials in a way that we really haven't heard hospital officials talk, even throughout the worse days of this pandemic, listen to the CEO of the Harris County health district there in Houston who said he is frightened by what is coming and said the state is headed for a medical catastrophe.


PORSA: If this continues, and I have no reason to believe that it will not, there is no way my hospital is going to be able to handle this. There is no way the region is going to be able to handle this. I also see the silver lining, but I am frightened by what is coming.


LAVANDERA: And, Kate, the doctor is urging, despite all of the political fighting going on, between local officials and state officials here in the state, urging people to mask up and socially distance as much as they can -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Ed, thank you. So let's go from Texas to Florida where the situation is also only getting worse. More than 15,000 people are hospitalized with coronavirus, breaking the state's record for the 11th consecutive day. New infections are also surging, hitting a record high for the third time just this week.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Miami for more for us.

Leyla, what's happening there?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, tough to hear that this is continuing to break records. But let's look at the numbers you're talking about, Kate, when it comes to new daily cases, record numbers there, more than 24,700 new cases. And then let's go to hospitalizations where Florida this week, the numbers show the rate of hospitalizations is triple the national rate, looking right now at almost 15,500 hospitalizations.

And it is not just Florida seeing these upticks in the southeast region. Let's go to Mississippi and this is alarming. Take a look at the ICU beds and what is left. You zoom in on Mississippi and you will see it says zero when it comes to ICU.


And this has doctors not only concerned over what is happening now, but as you just heard the doctor that Ed talked about, many concerned about what is to come.


DR. ALAN JONES, COVID-19 CLINICAL RESPONSE LEADER, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER: The number of new positives that we're seeing, the rate of the testing positives, and the rate of hospitalizations based on what we're seeing, if we continue that trajectory, within the next five to seven to ten days, I think we're going to see failure of the hospital system in Mississippi. And hospital are full from Memphis to Gulfport, Manchester to Meridian. Everything is full.


SANTIAGO: And, Kate, we just got off the phone with the Mississippi State Department of health. They have confirmed that they have reached out to the federal government to get more information on the possibility of having the USNS Comfort hospital ship come to help.

BOLDUAN: Again, we are now talking about these hospital ships coming to the rescue in light of what is going on.

Thank you so much, Leyla. Thank you. I really appreciate it.

So in light of all of that, we're seeing more businesses and cities and government agencies moving to require vaccines. Just this morning the Health and Human Services Department announced that it is more than 25,000 health care employees and volunteers must be vaccinated by the end of next month. Los Angeles is also taking steps to require COVID vaccinations at indoor venues including restaurants, gyms and many more places.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live for us in Los Angeles.

Stephanie, what is the latest with this?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, what happened yesterday is that the L.A. City Council voted unanimously to go ahead and have the city attorney draw up an ordinance that would require in indoor public spaces, people have so show proof of one dose of the vaccine. And we're talking about stores, first of all, restaurants and bars, gyms, maybe movie theaters as well as concert venues.

They're looking to do this to encourage other people to get vaccinated. In fact, take a listen to what one city council member had to say about this?


MITCH O'FARRELL, LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Let's give our workers in retail all of the protection we possibly can, because not all of them are going to have the choice to protect themselves from someone who comes in to buy groceries or get a prescription who chooses not to be vaccinated.


ELAM: Now, overall, the vaccination numbers in California are stronger than what we're seeing in other states like Mississippi, which you just heard there. Right now, California is saying that more than 77 percent of people have gotten -- that are eligible have gotten one shot of the vaccine here.

And you look at what California is doing as far as making sure that all of the people who work in schools now have to be vaccinated. That is something new that Governor Newsom announced yesterday. And he said they want compliance by October 15th and if not they have to submit to regular testing.

He also mentioned there are many companies doing this. So it is not weird. Pointing to companies like Google. You have warm and Disney and saying that their employees must be vaccinated and it said this falls just in line, there is a list of some of them that we know saying that employees need to be vaccinated.

All of this, you heard from many of the officials saying that they hope that this gets people to go out and get the vaccination and just to keep many mind, of the people in these who work in school, teachers and bus drivers, that is about 800,000 people in California so it is a wide-ranging group there.

BOLDUAN: It absolutely is. Stephanie, great to see you. Thanks so much for that.

Joining me right now is Dr. Paul Offit. He's a member of the FDA vaccine advisory committee and director of the vaccine education center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

It is great to see you, Dr. Offit.

Let me just start by asking you as we heard from Ed in Texas, Leyla in Texas, and then Stephanie in Los Angeles, just the state of things right now, states out of ICU beds, hospitals putting up tents again to handle overflow patients. People in Tennessee being threatened by board meetings because of their support for masking.

You're entire career has been focused on protecting children and children's health and I just -- how do you feel when you see all of this at this point?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: It is really frustrating. I mean, when you see children now who are now more that are being hospitalized, who are in the ICU and there have been childhood deaths. I mean, it is always tragic. It is certainly was tragic last summer when this was happening.

What makes it more tragic now is there is a way to prevent this. We've let our children down. We have an undervaccinated population and some say it is severely undervaccinated. We have a virus that is clearly more contagious and our behavior is much looser.

I mean, think about where we were last summer and fall when they headed into schools, many schools didn't open last year and of those that didn't open they were good about masking and social distancing and now this civil liberty where it is my civil liberty to catch and transmit a potentially fatal infection.


For children less than 12, the only weapon they have in the fight against this virus is to wear a mask and you have governors, arguing against it. You have parents standing up against it. It doesn't make any sense.

BOLDUAN: It really doesn't. It really does not make any sense.

But to some of the news that we're hearing in efforts to protect more people, the FDA expected to authorize an additional dose of the COVID vaccine for some immunocompromised people in the next 24 hours. Your take on that and is it clear to you who among the group should be getting the additional shot?

OFFIT: Right. So, immune compromise is a broad term. You could be immune compromises because you're getting chemotherapy for cancer or therapy for a solid or a bone marrow transplant or get drugs because you have rheumatoid arthritis or you have multiple sclerosis. So, hopefully, the CDC will make it clear which groups are most likely

to benefit from that third dose. If you haven't responded to the first two doses, it is unlikely that you'll respond to the third dose.

But how we sort of handle the different chemotherapies and in terms of spacing them regarding the vaccine, hopefully, the CDC will make that clear.

BOLDUAN: And when will you know that it is time to start giving booster shots than then to the general population. What do you want to see before we move there?

OFFIT: So, the way I see this is right now we know these vaccines are highly effective at preventing moderate, severe critical disease. Meaning the kind of disease that caused you to seek medical attention or go to the hospital or go to the ICU or to the morgue.

So that is good. You know that roughly 97 percent of people who are hospitalized are unvaccinated. I think if the percentage of people who despite being fully vaccinated, nonetheless start to become hospitalized or go to the ICU and that percentage increases which is to say the immunity is fading in protection against severe disease, that is when we'll need a booster dose but we're not there yet.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. And another step is authorization for kids under the age of 12. Some people are becoming impatient. That is definitely clear. And asking now why that authorization isn't coming faster in their view. I want to play for you what president of the American academy of pediatrics said just yesterday.


DR. LEE BEERS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: I think it is really important to make sure that we are approaching authorization of the COVID vaccine for younger children with the same urgency that we did in adults because it really is a very urgent situation.


BOLDUAN: It seems what she's implying is that the FDA isn't moving with the same urgency for kids as they did for adults. Do you think that is the case, Dr. Offit?

OFFIT: They understand the imperative of trying to get a vaccine for children, especially as we move into late fall and early winter where this virus is going to be more contagious and you're bringing a susceptible vaccination in children less than 12 years old to one place.

But you want to make sure that you have the data that is convincing that the vaccines are safe and effective before you authorize it through an emergency use authorization. But I don't think the FDA is just standing back and taking their time. They realize what is -- how important this is and I think we'll hopefully have a vaccine by no later than late fall. BOLDUAN: I have fingers so crossed on that. Because the surgeon

general, he said -- he told Wolf yesterday, when it comes to approve for kids, he said, if everything goes well, if everything if were to fall in place, he thinks it possible we could have a vaccine before the end of the calendar year for kids under 12.

Can you just lay out for me quickly what needs to go well, what needs to fall into place for this to happen?

OFFIT: Right. So when you look for example the 12 to 17-year-old data, you had a lot of data on 16 to 17 years old. So you use the same dosing interval. Once you go down to six years of age, you know, you have to make sure that you have the right dose. That you're not giving either too much or too little.

So the so-called phase one trials, those trials have to be completed and there are more extensive than for the older adolescent. Then you move forward with studies that appear to be in the 4,000 to 7,000 child range.

And hopefully, we'll get those data sooner rather than later. We need -- remember we did the trials for adults, those trials started in July. We had data in hand by December and I think I would expect it would be the same sort of many months time interval for children, young children as it was for adults. We'll see.

BOLDUAN: And so if the data comes in in the fall, you think -- do you think it is realistic to think in the -- by the end of the calendar year to have approval authorization?


OFFIT: Well, right. So the way it works, the company submits for approval and the FDA turns to the Vaccine Advisory Committee to give us 100-page document, the FDA does. And then we look at roughly 100 -- 120 page document also from the company.

So, we look through the data and make sure that we feel that these vaccines are safe and effective and any question that we try to answer is the question we answer for any vaccine is, would we give this to our own children or our own grandchildren or our own nieces and nephews?

And if the answer is yes, we recommend it be approved. But that approval process can be fairly quick. I mean, once we look at those data, as least with the other vaccines, the FDA then basically took that recommendation within a day or two and also the advisory committee for immunization practice, the CDC then recommended it within days and the vaccines were rolling off the shelves within five days the initial advisory committee approval.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Dr. Offit. Thank you.

OFFIT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Biden will lay out his plan to take on prescription drug prices. Can he convince Congress to act? We're going to bring you his speech live.

Also ahead, the Taliban continues to swarm as it moves toward the nation's capital. New reporting on how soon the U.S. believes Kabul could fall. That's next.



BOLDUAN: Developing this morning, Taliban fighters have just broken through the front lines of the major Afghan city of Kandahar. They haven't captured Kandahar yet, but the terror group has captured ten major cities in Afghanistan in less than a week.

The country's top army chief has been replaced. The pace at which the security situation in the country is crumbling is stunning. U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN that the country's capitol of Kabul could collapse soon as well.

CNN's Barbara Starr is joining us live from the Pentagon now with the very latest.

Barbara, it feels every day is getting worse there and it is only heading in one direction. What are you hearing from the Pentagon?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, many Americans not be familiar with the city of Kandahar in Afghanistan, but it is a mark on wall for U.S. military leadership for the national security leadership in the Biden administration.

Kandahar, a major Taliban strong hold and if the Taliban are in fact taking city of Kandahar, it could change the complexion of what is happening, because so far they have taken several cities but mainly in the outlying area. Kandahar, a major city and a major connector to the capital of Kabul.

What the Taliban appear to be doing is take control of roads and highways. The lines of communication as they call it that would transport goods into the capital. If they could continue to control border crossings and highways and strategic roads they could begin to isolate Kabul and one intelligence assessment said that could begin to happen in the next 30 to 60 days, acknowledging that this are different intelligence assessments, some give it as long as 90 day. But if the Taliban could continue in this effort, they essentially could challenge security and confidence in the capital and that becomes a huge problem.

The bottom line for the Biden administration is going to be sooner than later, can it keep the U.S. embassy open. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, and, Barbara, to that note, we just saw an alert from the U.S. embassy in Kabul again urging Americans to leave Afghanistan immediately. What are you hearing about this?

STARR: Well, and there is good reason for this. What the U.S. wants to do is get the number of Americans in the country down as low as possible, for security reasons. And if there had to be an evacuation, and that has not happened yet, what the U.S. is going to want is to have the minimum number of Americans that they would have to worry about.

For people who have been to Kabul, the geography is you either have to fly in a helicopter, this is well-known, from the embassy compound to the airport, or you have to drive on the roads. Those are the only two ways to get there. And if the security situation is dicey at that time, the U.S. wants to make sure that there is few Americans as possible that they have to worry about getting to the airport.

You can't drive out of Afghanistan to a border very easily. You're going to have to fly out. So it is a constrained environment. They want to have as few Americans there as possible.

BOLDUAN: Barbara, thank you for your reporting on this.

Coming up for us, New York's next governor says she is ready to lead and also ready to clean house. Next, what she said about a possible impeachment still of Andrew Cuomo.



BOLDUAN: New York soon to be first female governor speaking out and very clearly distancing herself from Andrew Cuomo, answering questions for the first time since Cuomo announced he is resigning. Kathy Hochul is not taking a position on a key question for Andrew Cuomo's future, whether or not he should still be impeached.


KATHY HOCHUL, INCOMING NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I know state government well enough to know there is a division of labor and I don't want to get in the way of the process but I also have full faith in the conclusions and the process that are underway right now.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now for more on this CNN correspondent MJ Lee.

MJ, what is -- what is -- how is this looking right now?