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At This Hour

Biden Arrives in New York to Tour Ida Storm Destruction; 5 Louisiana Residents Found Dead in Senior Apartment Complexes; U.S. Reaches Grim Milestone of 40 Million Coronavirus Cases; Soon: Texas Governor to Sign Controversial Election Bill into Law. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 11:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Boris Sanchez, in for Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us.

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Up close. President Biden heading to the Northeast to tour damage from historic floods, as he plans a major address this week on the worsening pandemic.

Plus, voting rights under fire. A controversial election bill becoming law in Texas in just about an hour from now, making it harder to cast a ballot in that state.

And extremist threat. Growing concern from law enforcement about an upcoming rally in D.C. in support of the insurrectionists.

At this hour, President Biden is on his way to New York City. He's expected to land at JFK Airport at any moment. The president will tour the damage from last week's historic flooding in the Northeast that killed at least 52 people in six states. Biden's visit coming just days after he travelled to Louisiana to see destruction there from hurricane Ida.

The president first plans to go to central New Jersey today which was inundated with torrential rain last week, and then he heads to queens where a dozen people died most of them trapped in flooded basements.

Meantime New York City officials plan on going door-to-door to make sure that residents apply for federal relief. President Biden, of course, approving new major disaster declarations for parts of New York and New Jersey to help with the recovery.

Let's go to CNN's John Harwood now. He's live at the White House with a preview of the president's visit.

John, as we anticipate, President Biden will land at any moment. He's also expected to deliver remarks later in the day from Queens.

What are we expect to hear from the president? JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Boris, I think one of

the things that we're going to be looking for is whether he declares, issues a major disaster declaration for more counties than he has so far, six in New Jersey. Governor Phil Murphy thinks the need is greater than that. And Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, was just doing a briefing for the press on Air Force One and indicated the president was open to that as well.

What we expect him to do is to go to Manville, New Jersey, which is the scene of terrible flooding and the loss of life more than 50 people. He will talk to local leaders there, and then he'll go to Queens and he'll issue some remarks. And among the things he's going to do, Boris, is make the case as Jen Psaki just indicated in the briefing for reporters, that this event shows the need for adapting to climate change.

There are more and more frequent extreme weather events in the United States. This is one of them. You can't necessarily tie any individual event to forces of climate change. But when you look at the picture altogether, you could see that the proliferation of these events is making the case for action.

And within his infrastructure plan, the build back better plan, he's a lot of money for what he calls climate resilience, making buildings and infrastructure more adaptable and able to withstand these extreme weather events. So he's going to pair both the message of comfort and relief for residents of New York and New Jersey, with that plug for his domestic agenda, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, an important moment for the White House as we watch Air Force One unloading at JFK airport. Considering that part of the president's reconciliation bill that $3.5 trillion bill attempts to address climate change, something that is sort of debated even among Democrats.

We should point out, more than half of all deaths from last week's catastrophic flooding happened in New Jersey and that's where President Biden is set to start his visit touring one of many hard-hit communities.

Let's get to CNN's Athena Jones. She's live in Manville, New Jersey, where the president is expected in just a couple of hours.

And we see some of the debris behind you right now, Athena. Walk us through what President Biden is going to be touring.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Boris. You're right, the president is landing soon and then he'll be first stopping in nearby Hillsborough Township for a briefing. Then he'll head hear to Manville to tour the damage to see it firsthand.

This is the damage we're talking about. This pile of debris has grown by a third in the hour or so that we've been here. I spoke the homeowner here. The water rose to about eight feet, certainly far above my head, or far above most people's heads. So, you could imagine the damage to this person's basement and first floor and they have to evacuate in the rapidly rising floodwaters last week.

And that's what we saw in a lot of cases here in New Jersey. Those 27 deaths, many of them happened with people who are trapped in their vehicles because of the rising floodwaters. So this is the kind of damage the president is going to come to see firsthand.

We know this is one of the hardest parts -- hardest hit parts of the state and the residents here including the one that I spoke with earlier, saying what they want to hear from the president and the government and the state and federal local officials that they're going to get support, and that support is going to be long lasting, all the way through these clean-up efforts which are going to take quite a while.


Governor Phil Murphy spoke about some of this this morning on NEW DAY. Here's what he had to say.


GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: I think the message has to be number one, as he's been saying. We're going to be with you as you get back on your feet, as long as that journey may take. Both the state government and the federal government will be by your side. And secondly, if ever -- if never before, the argument is overwhelmingly compelling for Congress to act on climate resiliency infrastructure that we need desperately in our state as the most densely populated state in America to prevent more of these storms from happening in the future.


JONES: So there you heard, just like from John Harwood, Governor Phil Murphy is saying a lot of the focus is going to be on improvements to infrastructure.

We know President Biden is expected to meet with families, with first responders and with leaders of the community to hear firsthand what they experienced around here. And one other aspect apart from the infrastructure improvements and investments that the president's agenda trying to push through Congress is the idea of making sure there are better warnings systems in place, so making sure people understand just how dangerous a flash flood is so they could avoid this level of loss of life in the future -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, huge component in the number of fatalities is simply how quickly that flooding escalated and became deadly.

Athena Jones, reporting from Manville, New Jersey, thank you so much.

So, later today, President Biden is going to be visiting Queens where the majority of those who died from last week's flooding in New York City were found.

Joining us now is the Queens Borough president, Donovan Richards. Good morning, sir. We appreciate you spending part of your day with


What do you want President Biden to see during his visit? And if you get the chance to speak with him, what would you tell him?

DONOVAN RICHARDS, QUEENS BOROUGH PRESIDENT: I want him to see the devastation firsthand, the pain that many of our residents are facing right here in Queens County. I want him to see how people's livelihoods were destroyed due to Hurricane Ida. Due to the storm, this flash flooding storm. I also want him to deliver. You know, we need money, we need federal intervention to really upgrade our infrastructure both gray and green infrastructure. And now is the time to get it done.

And another thing I hope that comes out of this is this infrastructure package passing in Congress. I mean, think about this. We're having a debate now about climate change once again and this is nothing new. We saw this during Sandy, we saw it during Katrina. And now is the time for action.

SANCHEZ: Experts have been warning that we'd get to this moment and worse for decades. So, it appears that the time to act is now. I wan to ask you about delivering as you noted, because we're still hearing from residents who days later are still desperate for help.

I want to play a sound bite for you from a woman who visited an Ida recovery center in Queens over the weekend. Here she is.


BARBARA AMARANTINIS, QUEENS RESIDENT IMPACTED BY FLOODING: Thank goodness it is not winter. I have a smell that's worse than garbage on a 99-degree day and I still have to live in my house. Where am I going? Who is helping me?

I'm doing everything alone. I don't know where to go or what to do and I saw something this morning to come here to get assistance. That is all were we told is to call 311.


SANCHEZ: What is your message to residents like her that are frustrated and struggling to get the help that they need.

RICHARDS: Well, one, we're working with both the governor and the mayor's office to get direct intervention. I don't want people to travel to these centers. They should get assistance right in their neighborhood.

We also need FEMA to cut the red tape. And I'm someone who survived Sandy, someone who led my community back when I was a council member in the Rockaways, we need -- we need FEMA to actually ensure that people could fill out these forms, with what they have and in an efficient manner to get check news people's hands right away. I mean, every day is a day of inaction is going to hurt these

residents. So we need to ensure that they're getting the check and the resources and the city is also pumping out these basements, not everybody has money to pump out their basements as well.

SANCHEZ: And I want to ask you about basements, something that you have personal experience with. But first I want to point out President Biden exiting air force one. He's about to board marine one headed for Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, where he'll get a briefing from local officials before he started to tour damage in a couple of hours.

So basements, you've talked about how you grew up in basement apartments. You spent a big part of your life in them. Nearly a dozen Queens residents were killed when their basements became flooding when the remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through.


It's probably not news to you, that a lot of these basement apartments are not up to code.

What can be done to change that now to protect people right away?

RICHARDS: Well, the first thing is when you think about climate change and housing and help, all of these things are intertwined, and safety and we need real affordable housing and that is why the infrastructure bill is so important. We need to ensure people could live in safe dwellings. One of the things I hope that we could look floor is actually legalizing basements but ensuring that there is subsidies to go along with homeowners to achieve this.

So when you think about why people are living in basements, it is one, systemic, right, racism, housing issues, the house of -- the cost of living in New York City is really expensive. A basement apartment provides affordable. So we need to make sure that homeowners have the tools to upgrade basements and make them safer and make sure there are windows, to make sure there's at least two exits in basements as well.

And right now, it is just not possible. Everybody is living on the margins and that is what you see in immigrant and black and brown communities across the city.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, we know that climate change is going to disproportionately affect the poor and people of color. And it doesn't seem like there is an urgency on a national or even global level to address the moment the way that it is needed.

Donovan Richards, we appreciate you sharing your perspective this morning. Thank you.

RICHARDS: Thank you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

We also want to focus on the ongoing recovery in the Gulf Coast and specifically Louisiana. The death toll from Hurricane Ida continuing to rise after five people in New Orleans were found dead at multiple apartment complexes for seniors. Hundreds of thousands of residents in that state are still without power, more than a week after the hurricane.

CNN's Adrianne Broaddus is live in New Orleans for us with more.

Adrienne, it is almost ten days without power and the death toll, as we're learning, is continuing to climb as officials get a clearer look at the devastation. What are you learning about these folks that were found in these apartment complexes?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, indeed the push to restore power is critical. And I want to show you first, we were here overnight and here before sunrise and along this stretch of canal over here, it was all filled with utility crews. They left about an hour ago and that's because they are out in surrounding neighborhoods to restore power.

And if you walk with me, power has been restored in this part of New Orleans. But these businesses are still closed.

And in surrounding neighborhoods, some folks are still using generators to run their homes. That's because at least 400,000 people across the state are without power.

We know at least four people have died due to carbon monoxide poisoning. We've been reporting that throughout the weekend. But we also learned there have been an additional 141 people treated for inhalation of this odorless gas and because it's odorless, it's often called the silent killer. That's why the governor is issuing this warning.

Listen in.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: If you've got a generator that you're using, please make sure that it is at least 20 feet from your residents, it is in a well ventilated area, it is not in a crawl space or a garage, certainly not in the house with you, but really not even under a window or a door or a vent. And this is tasteless, it is odorless and you don't know it is happening until it's too late.

And really sad what happens a lot of time is people turn a generator on in order to get cool enough to go to sleep. A family will go to sleep and sometimes they don't wake up.


BROADDUS: And that's what officials do not want to happen. Those deaths linked to carbon monoxide poisoning could have been prevented -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, sadly, it a circumstance that we frequently after hurricanes. People just not aware of the damage that could do. Thank you so much. Coming up, the United States surpassing another grim milestone in the

pandemic as hospital ICU's reach a breaking point in several states. President Biden now plans to address this, this week.

The latest next.



SANCHEZ: CNN has learned President Biden will announce the next phase of his pandemic response in a speech on Thursday. It comes as the United States surpasses 40 million coronavirus cases today. Notably, hospitalizations from COVID have more than doubled since last Labor Day. ICUs are reaching a breaking point in several states. Alabama and central Texas reporting they are out of intensive care beds.

The U.S. is now averaging nearly 1,500 coronavirus deaths a day and we have to point out that the vast majority of those are preventable.

Joining us now is Dr. Jayne Morgan. She's the executive director of the Piedmont Health Care Task Force in Georgia. It's actually the largest health care system in the state.

Doctor, always to have your expertise on. Thank you for joining us.

I want to ask you about what you're seeing at your hospitals. Georgia is reporting ICU beds now at more than 90 percent capacity.

What does that mean for your staff and your patients? I wonder if doctors are having to make tough choices about who to care for.

DR. JAYNE MORGAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PIEDMONT HEALTHCARE COVID TASK FORCE: Yeah, certainly. Thank you for having me today, Boris.

And piedmont health care here in the state of Georgia is the single largest health care system here. And so, the numbers we see in Georgia certainly are reflective of what we're seeing as well at Piedmont. So there is concern about ICU capacity but there is also concern about our staff capacity. And not just in people being able to show up to work physically, that capacity mentally and emotionally.

Because this particular surge, this fourth surge is the fourth -- is the first surge that we've had that is entirely preventable. That is driven exclusively by behavior. And we're starting to see a lot of fatigue, mental and emotional fatigue and exhaustion in all of these front line health care workers who are exposing themselves and risking themselves every single day to save lives.

SANCHEZ: It's nearly a year and a half of grueling around the clock work. Putting themselves at risk to help others and you're absolutely right it is a different layer now that we have vaccines and it's preventable.

I also want to get your thoughts on President Biden set to speak to the nation on Thursday about the White House's COVID response. What are you hoping to hear from the president?

MORGAN: So, what we're hoping to hear is some direction on these boosters. We would like to see the FDA and the CDC endorse these booster shots and where are we with them. At the six or eight month mark? So we need to have some discretion on that.

I frequently get questions regarding whether or not we could mix and match these vaccines for boosters and that answer is probably yes. We don't have data on that yet, and we're expecting some data to come out in the next two to three weeks. But the fact of the matter is that answer is probably yes. And more specifically, we really want to hear more data absolutely on this Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well. We know a single dose had a 72 percent efficacy against symptomatic infection which is actually more potent than a single dose of Moderna or Pfizer.

And so, that was one of the reasons that they went forward with a single dose regimen as opposed to a two-dose regimen. What we would like to see is that data coming forward. I think we're going to find that the regimen of these vaccines, not boosters, is actually a three dose for Moderna and Pfizer and two-dose for Johnson & Johnson. Similar to our hepatitis vaccines.

SANCHEZ: And, Doctor, we understand that as part of President Biden's speech, he's going to talk about vaccine requirements, what the administration might do and in regard to schools and businesses.

What are your thoughts on what needs to be done from that perspective, to encourage more people to get vaccinated?

MORGAN: So, I think as we move forward with our vaccinations and these mandates and perhaps even we should use a different terminology than mandates. Maybe a dress code or requirement or corporate requirement, but I think mandate is also a word that people push against.

But what we'd like to see is we start so see more and more corporations and entities and organizations and governmental agencies began to say, we need you to have this vaccine in order to work here, to create a safe environment. We're hoping to see that vaccination uptick.

And as we do that, we create a safer and safer environment around our children. Because children's infectivity is not only related to their exposure at school, it's related to the amount of virus in their community as well. And we want to begin to address that community virus that surrounding the children while they're in school.

SANCHEZ: Again, there's no question, the rate of infection among children has been going up. So it's something that urgently needs to be addressed.

Dr. Jayne Morgan, we have to leave the conversation there. Always appreciate hearing from you.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Boris. Of course, coming up, fight to restore abortion rights in Texas is

heating up. We'll tell you what the Justice Department is vowing it will do to protect women seeking an abortion. Details and a live report after a quick break.



SANCHEZ: So, just a few minutes from now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is set to sign a controversial election overhaul bill into law. Supporters are calling it an election integrity bill. But voting rights activists say it is meant to suppress minority voters.

The legislation sparked a debate in the Texas house that you might recall have Democratic lawmakers fleeing state in an effort to deny the Republicans a quorum.

Let's get straight to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's live in Dallas.

Ed, this bill meant to protect election integrity, even though election officials in Texas have said there was no evidence of any widespread fraud in the last election.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, there is and that is why you hear so many critics saying that this is a solution in search of a problem and the number of lawsuits from organizations like the ACLU and the League of United Latin American Citizens --