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At This Hour

Children Now Make Up More than 1 in 4 U.S. COVID Cases; Biden to Outline New Plan to Curb Pandemic; Pelosi Rejects Manchin's Call to "Pause" on $3.5T Spending Bill; Trial of 9/11 Mastermind Resumes at Guantanamo Baby. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 11:00   ET



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

Here is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR:

Growing crisis for children. The number of children infected with the coronavirus is reaching alarming levels. New details on President Biden's plans to combat it, ahead.

Terror on trial. As the country prepares to mark 20 years since the 9/11 attract, the alleged mastermind and several others go on trial.

And a real life spy thriller. Inside the plot to trap Russian war criminals in an international sting operation, and it is all caught on tape.

Thanks so much for being here.

We begin this hour with the alarming surge in the number of children infected with COVID. The American Academy of Pediatrics say children represent more than one in four weekly COVID cases being reported in the United States. That's more than 250,000 cases in children in the last week alone. The largest number of child cases in a week since the pandemic took hold.

And the timing is, of course, scary. Millions of children are back in classrooms now. We've already seen a number of school districts, particularly in the South, experiencing large outbreaks, forcing students, teachers and families to quarantine, and some schools having to head back to remote learning already.

We just learned that 13 school employees in Florida's Miami-Dade County have died from coronavirus in the last few weeks. All of them were unvaccinated. All of this is putting more pressure on President Biden to do something to turn this around. CNN just learned new details about what the president plans to say when he addresses the nation on the pandemic tomorrow.

We'll get to that. But let's begin our coverage with CNN's Elizabeth Cohen on this disturbing surge in cases among children.

Elizabeth, what are the numbers showing? ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you know,

we've talked for many, many months that children aren't as affected by COVID as adults are. That is still true. But this number is really stunning. Data from the American academy of pediatrics showing more than 26.8 percent of cases are among children.

So, more than one in four cases in the U.S. is now a pediatric case. That is a much higher number I think than anyone expected. Let's take a look more closely.

So, if you look at the week of August 26 through September 2nd, there were more than 250,000 new cases among children roughly under age 18. That's a 23 percent increase in just one week. Just one week it jumped 23 percent. That's the highest weekly increase ever.

Now, I know some people will say, does it really matter if kids get COVID? They're almost always fine. Kids get viruses all the time.

Here is the reason it matters, not all viruses kill children. This virus is capable of killing children. It has already killed hundreds of children, and it's already put many, many more in the hospital. The more cases you have, the more kids with COVID, the more hospitalizations among children you're going to have and the more deaths among children.

So, let's take a look, for example at hospitalizations. The same American academy of pediatrics data looking at the week of August 26th found more than 850 new hospitalizations. That's just in 24 states. That's a 12 percent increase in one week.

So children need to be protected. Of course, if they're under 12, they can't get vaccinated. That's why we all need to get vaccinated, to protect them so they won't get very sick and won't spread COVID to their grandparents or other vulnerable adults -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for that.

Nearly 1,500 Americans are dying each day from coronavirus, and vaccination rates are on the decline once again. These are two of the reasons that the White House is turning their focus back here again, announcing President Biden will be delivering what is being described as a major speech tomorrow where he'll announce a new plan to tackle the pandemic and fight back against the delta variant.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is live at the White House for us this hour.

Arlette, what are you learning about what the president is going to be announcing and laying out?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, President Biden is hoping to offer more explanation of the next phase of combating the coronavirus pandemic as the White House is looking to contain the surge of the delta variant. Now, the president is expected to make new announcements on mandates as well as testing. The details of this plan are still being ironed out. The president will be briefed later in the afternoon by his COVID-19 response team, but there is expected to be a particular emphasis on schools and also private sector workplaces.

The White House officials viewing this as an opportunity for the private sector to step up a bit more and help encourage and spur some of those vaccinations. This all comes as the president has seen a drop in his approval rating when it comes to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.


An ABC News/"Washington Post" poll recently released found the president's approval rating on COVID sits at 52 percent. That's a ten- point drop since June. You'll remember back in July the president declared we were nearly free from the coronavirus pandemic. But then we saw more masking and return to workplaces deterred as that delta variant surged.

What the White House is hoping to offer tomorrow to Americans is a clearer picture of the way out of this pandemic as there are so many concerns about this virus impact in the country -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Arlette, thank you so much for that.

Joining me now for more on this is Dr. Peter Hotez, the co-director of the Texas Children Hospital's Center for Vaccine Development.

Dr. Hotez, there's a new study out, and I'm in my emails seeing another study from the CDC getting at something that is really important, about who is most likely to be getting -- suffer from severe symptoms of COVID if they are -- if they have one of these breakthrough cases.

The one study I was looking at out of Yale studied 1,000 hospitalized patients. It shows vaccinated people who get COVID and suffer with severe symptoms, they tend to be older. The CDC with the preprint study last week showing very much the same. They tend to be older.

This Yale study found the median age to be 73. I think the CDC found the median age to be around 73. At least half the people with these severe symptoms have other issues layered on top of it, like obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

This is an important moment to understand how significant this kind of information is right now.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yeah, well, if you look at those demographics, it's the same as those at risk of severe COVID even if they're not vaccinated. I think what's happening is the vaccinations may be showing a greater waning of immunity overtime in those populations. That may be the reason for it.

That's the reason Israel, when they first announced their booster plan to give a third immunization, they focused more on older individuals, I think because they had some of that data. In that sense, it makes sense. But in terms of doing something about this epidemic in the United

States, I think the bigger issue is what's the president going to do to reach those 80 million unvaccinated Americans who are vaccine eligible. So, yes, they've done a good job reaching 170 million, but, you know, this delta variant is so highly transmissible, we have to get to 85 to 90 percent of the whole population vaccinated. We've got to find a way to reach those holdouts.

BOLDUAN: And I want to get more to what you hope to hear from the president in just a second. On this information on breakthrough studies and who is more likely -- if they have a breakthrough case of COVID and who is most likely to suffer severe symptoms in the midst of it, I'm thinking, for anyone who questions still if vaccines aren't worth it since, as I've heard some people say, since people are still getting infected, as we're now seeing with these breakthrough cases, what can they learn from these studies and what we're seeing, in that it's much older people who tend to be suffering from these severe symptoms if they get a breakthrough case?

HOTEZ: Well, I think part of it is the messaging we should be using for these vaccines. We've been talking, Kate, for the last year and a half. I've been saying all along this is going to be a three-dose vaccine, just from the way the vaccines were administered, spacing those first two doses together, three to four weeks apart. We would expect to see a decline in immunity, when you give the primary immunization so close together.

So, we knew a third immunization was in the cards, and it's a matter of how quickly we'll see breakthrough infections and breakthrough hospitalizations. I think we're reaching that point. The hope is, and there's data from Israel to support that, that by giving the third immunization, those older Americans who are getting sick and in the hospital, who are older, who have underlying conditions, we can build up their virus neutralizing antibodies yet again and T cell responses and keep them out of the hospital.

BOLDUAN: Also, what is happening with COVID and kids. One in four new infections are children. 250,000 kids reported infections in the last week. With schools across the country getting into full swing now, what do you think the next couple months is going to look like for children, Dr. Hotez?

HOTEZ: It all depends on whether the executive leaders of those states, the governors put in place the policies needed to get the kids through the school year.


Look, the reason why we've had so many pediatric hospitalizations here in the South is one, of course, the delta variant, but the other is the vaccination rates among the parents are so profoundly low, and among the adolescents so profoundly low.

So, in some cases 20, 25 percent of the adolescents are vaccinated, not much better for the younger parents. And then the third was this refusal, this defiance of any kind of mask mandates. That's what we need to keep kids from protecting each other in the schools.

So it's all up to the leadership of each state to say we really want to have in-person classes and then put the policies in place to make it possible. It means everybody who walks into that school has to have a mask on, maybe the exception of some of the special needs kids. Everybody who walks into the school who is eligible to get vaccinated has to be vaccinated. Otherwise it's not going to work, and we're already seeing that.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, you mentioned what President Biden can do or should do. I think there's also an overarching lingering question, what is the end goal with the pandemic? Is it zero infections? Or is COVID manageable, something more like the seasonal flu? It is dangerous but it is manageable and not stopping all of our lives and the world economy.

Does President Biden, do you think, need to lay that out for the American people? I mean, what do you think the end goal should be?

HOTEZ: I think the end goal is we can still end this epidemic in the United States and the pandemic. But the only way it's going to happen is vaccinate our way through this. The bar is high, Kate.

With a virus that has this kind of reproductive number, over five, maybe as high as eight, it means 80 percent to 90 percent of everybody, not just the adults, has to be vaccinated. It may three mRNA immunizations or two J&J immunizations. It's a high bar. We do it every year for measles.

The question is can we do the same for COVID-19? We've eliminated measles, I think we can eliminate COVID-19 as well. It means another piece to this, and that is vaccinating the planet.

If we leave the African continent completely unvaccinated as it is now, Latin America, Southeast Asia, that's also going to be a problem. We're trying to address that with our vaccine. I hope on Thursday the president makes some important remarks and some commitment about what he's going to do to vaccinate the world's low and middle-income countries.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Hotez, thank you very much.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Speaker Pelosi moving ahead despite calls from a fellow Democratic for a strategic pause on President Biden's massive economic package. The latest from Capitol Hill, next.



BOLDUAN: Developing this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is rejecting the latest demand from fellow Democratic Senator Joe Manchin over the Democrats' massive budget plan. This is all part of the ongoing negotiations over President Biden's economic agenda. Manchin has said publicly he wants to see a strategic pause on the

$3.5 trillion package and those negotiations. Privately, he is saying it should be cut in something like half.

So where are things headed?

CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill with more on this.

So, Lauren, Nancy Pelosi is not budging publicly. Is it even clear, though, what Joe Manchin would cut out, what would remain in this package?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Kate, I think it's still very early. We'll learn a lot more when senators return next week. What Manchin is clearly stating here is that he's uncomfortable with the level of spending that Democrats are looking at. That's why he's telling colleagues, like you said, he would be more comfortable with a proposal in the neighborhood of one or $1.5 trillion.

He also wants this proposal to be paid-for. He's going to be a little flexible. He's telling colleagues, he's going to have conversations with leadership, looking for ways to actually cover the cost of some of this proposal. Obviously deeply engaged with the White House in conversations about what would need to happen in order for him to support the bill.

Here is why it matters. You have a 50/50 Senate where every vote counts. Without Manchin on board, you have a problem. You can't pass this Democratic-only bill through the senate.

Meanwhile, you have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying we're going to stick to our guns here. We had a plan. This is a number we think is the right number. It's still early in the process. She has moderates on the front lines in her own caucus that she's going to have to satisfy.

She also made news this morning talking about another big sticking point. This is the debt ceiling. Democrats need to do something to raise the debt ceiling. They're hoping Republicans will help them. Pelosi said they're not going to include that in the big reconciliation bill. Instead she said Republicans have to get on board to help pass this and get the 60 votes needed in the Senate -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: As Republicans did, how many times when Donald Trump was president? Let's see if everyone sticks true to form on this one.

Thanks, Lauren. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us, two major terror trials, the accused terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks and the Bataclan attacks in Paris, both getting under way today. What is happening in court, that is next.


[11:24:52] BOLDUAN: Terror is on trial in two courtrooms around the world today. Nearly six years after the worst terrorist attack on French soil, the only surviving attacker is now in court and just admitted to being a soldier of the Islamic State.


One hundred and thirty people were killed and hundreds more hurt in this series of coordinated attacks in and around Paris in November of 2015, you will remember.

CNN's Cyril Vanier is live at the courthouse in Paris with more on this for us.

Cyril, what has happened in court today so far?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the trial got under way a few hours ago. One of the big questions going into this was going to be what was going to be the attitude of the sole surviving member of the commandos that carried out those attacks the described in Paris in 2015.

His name, Salah Abdeslam, he drove one of the suicide bombers, wore a suicide vest himself and for a matter of months after the attack bake Europe's most wanted fugitive. What was going to be his attitude going into this? Was he going to reveal anything, cooperate with the court? We're beginning to see some answers.

When he was given his first chance to speak, he said there's only one god but Allah. More importantly, he was asked his profession before the attacks. Quote, this is a direct quote, I gave up my profession to become a fighter for the Islamic State, end quote. He was very, there was no emotion apparent. He was dressed head to toe in black, the colors of the Islamic State group, all of this an indication that Salah Abdeslam, to the extent he's willing to answer the magistrate's questions, it's going to be on his terms -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Cyril, thank you so much for that.

And in another courtroom, 20 years after the 9/11 attacks, five alleged terrorists accused of planning the attacks are in the courtroom in Guantanamo. This includes the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is following all of this very closely. He's joining me now for more.

Alex, what is expected to be happening there today?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, these are pretrial hearings, both yesterday and today and that really drives home the fact that these five men, these alleged plotters, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, their fate still has not been decided now 20 years after 9/11. They were charged back in 2012.

So 11 years after the fact and nine years ago. What we know is that all of these five men are accused of having some level of planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks, that they face a number of different charges including terrorism, hijacking of aircraft, attacking civilians, murder and more. Most of the 2 1/2 hours of the pretrial hearing yesterday was focused on the questioning of the judge, whether the judge should be presiding over this trial.

The courtroom included members of the victims' families as well as journalists. Our colleague Ellie Kaufman was there. They had to sit behind soundproof glass.

And the audio piped in from the proceedings had a delay of 40 seconds so that classified information was not revealed to them, was not revealed to them publicly.

Kate, these proceedings have been plagued by all sorts of issues. This is a military tribunal on a military base. President Obama tried to have this case moved to the United States in 2008 as part of his efforts to shut down Guantanamo Bay. That failed.

So this is really -- this just goes to the point that this trial still has not started 20 years after 9/11.

As we look forward to this anniversary on Saturday, I want to point out one poll about how Americans are feeling about terrorism, how they're feeling about what the country faces. This is a poll from ABC and "the Washington Post" that shows ten years ago, in 2011, almost two-thirds of Americans say the country is safer from terrorism, 64 percent. Now that is down to just under half, 49 percent -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, good to see you, Alex. Thank you so much for following it.

Let's turn now to Kabul, Afghanistan. And in Kabul, the Taliban using whips and sticks to beat him speaking up for their rights. The protesters are speaking up against restrictions imposed by the Taliban's new government. Witnesses also said the Taliban had beaten young people who were just watching the protests.

Let's get more from CNN's Sam Kiley. He's live in Doha, Qatar, with the very latest.

I mean, Sam, despite all their promises of reform and being changed, one of the women protesting says this proved the Taliban has not changed. What more are you learning?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, to reinforce that position, Kate, the other aspect of this is that the Taliban have just appointed their government, a government of unreconstructed hardliners.