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At This Hour

North Korea Claims it Fired New Long-Range Cruise Missile; CNN Poll Shows More Americans Back Vaccine Mandates at Work, School; Biden to Survey Wildfire Damage and Tout Climate Agenda. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Developing at this hour, North Korea claims that it has test fired a new long-range cruise missile. This is the latest provocation from the reclusive regime, which appears to be escalating an arms race with South Korea.

Let's get over to CNN's Paula Hancock. She's live in Seoul with more on this. Paula, what more are you learning about this test?

PAULA HANCOCK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this is a test that North Korea has claimed took place over the last weekend, saying that they had test fired long-range cruise missiles. Now, that would be the first time that they would have carried out that kind of test fire. We know they've done short-range cruise missiles in the past.

And it appears that according to state run media at least, that they flew about 1,500 kilometers and that it could, in fact, be able to reach Japan. Japan has said it is very concerned about this. We know that the U.S. and South Korea are trying to figure out exactly what was fired.

At this point, it is interesting that it was this kind of a missile. Clearly, it is going to rattle the region and Washington because it is going to increase the capability of North Korea's weapons program. But it is not a ballistic missile. It's not the technology that is banned by the United Nations Security Council resolution. So, technically, they didn't break the rules but they did concern the region. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Paula, thank you very much for that reporting.

Coming up for us, from shouting matches at school board meetings to protests and counter-protests on street corners, given how heated the debate over COVID mandates has become, you might be surprised how much consensus there actually is. The new numbers just into CNN, next.



BOLDUAN: Starting today, the largest public school district in the country is heading back to the classroom. New York City schools reopened today for full in time -- full-time in-person learning since the pandemic began. And for the first time also, all public school employees are being required to be vaccinated with no testing opt-out. A new CNN poll shows that more Americans are growing more supportive of mandates like this.

Joining me now with the numbers is CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten. So, Harry, on support for vaccine requirements, when you look at these numbers, it is not just the numbers right now and today, it is the change over time that does matter. What do you see here?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, climbing higher and higher for support for vaccine mandates on particular issues, right? You mentioned schools. That is one of them. You can see here. What do you see? You see, attend school in-person up 49 percent to 55 percent, attend sports or concert up to 47 percent to 55 percent, work in- person, like we're doing right now, 46 percent to 54 percent, all majority, even shopping in a grocery store, while own a minority of Americans support that, look at the jump since April. It is a 15-point jump. So, most individual actions Americans are supporting mandates and what is clear on all of it is there has been a big rise since April.

BOLDUAN: And take a step back also, Harry, and look more broadly at what people think about mandating vaccinations, in general. What did polls show you?

ENTEN: Yes. What it shows us is much tighter on mandates, in general, and this is what Republicans are really going to will try and fight on, right? You've heard Republican governors saying, we don't want the mandates, and this is probably why. Look at this, vaccine mandates for everyday activities outside the home are acceptable to increase vaccinations, 51 percent, but well within the margin of error of unacceptable infringements of rights on 49 percent.

And look at that partisan split, right? Basically, Democrats and Republicans are mirroring each other with 75 percent Democrats in favor and but 76 Republicans against in a so far a pandemic in which Republicans and Democrats have all said we want to get vaccinated, at least the majority do, when it comes to mandates, we're seeing a much bigger partisan split. And we've seen so far in the response to Joe Biden's remarks last week.

BOLDUAN: And how about just the sense, in general, of how people are feeling in like where they think we are in the pandemic and what precautions people are taking in their daily lives at this point?

ENTEN: Yes. People don't think we're out of the pandemic, right? There are some people that do, but the vast majority do not believe so. Look at this, 86 percent of Americans say the pandemic is not over. You rarely see 86 percent of Americans agree on anything. At least they agree on this, although the other 14 percent, I don't know what they're thinking.

Has the economic recovery started? 64 percent say it hasn't started. And are you still taking extra precautions when you're going outside, right, again, a majority, 64 percent say that they are. So even if there are some differences in how to deal with the pandemic right, when it comes to vaccinations, when it comes to the overall reading of where the pandemic is, the vast majority of Americans at this point are in agreement that it is not over just yet.

BOLDUAN: Yes, agreement that it is still not in a good place. Harry, thanks for bringing us the data. I really appreciate it, as always.

ENTEN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Right now Kentucky has just hit a new and dangerous point for that state, more than 2,500 people in the hospital with COVID. And that is an all-time high for the entire pandemic in that state. Patients in ICU and on ventilators also at the highest number yet.

The governor is deploying hundreds more National Guards troops to help at hospitals across the state that are now nearing a breaking point.


Joining me now for some perspective on this is Dr. Will Melahn. He's the chief medical officer at St. Claire Health Care in Moorhead, Kentucky. Doctor, thanks for being here.

When I spoke with the governor last week, he pointed to your hospital as one that he was concerned about. You've had -- he said, you had to close operating rooms to expand ICU bed space. How do you describe what you are all are up against right now?

DR. WILL MELAHN, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, ST. CLAIRE HEALTH CARE: We're in a historic surge of COVID. We have -- actually, I just got off the phone right now. Our temporary ICU is also full as about a couple of -- well, actually, about since last night. So we're opening a second temporary ICU right now while I'm on the phone with you. We have a record number of patients on ventilators. And we have a record number of patients in respiratory failure, I mean, like not even record. This is -- we've never seen it, so --

BOLDUAN: It seems hard to kind of grasp. I mean, the fact that you're having to open up another temporary ICU, it's -- that is horrible for guys.

MELAHN: Yes. It is not about -- I want to make sure I'm kind of clear about it. It is not so much about the physical space, although that is a big problem. It is our lack of staff. Right now, the only reason we are holding this life boat together is I have a federal disaster medical assistance team here, 14 people who have just been heroes to us and, unfortunately, they're deployment is over on Friday and I'm going to lose 14 health care professionals and I literally have no idea what we're going to do on Friday.

BOLDUAN: But that's -- I mean, it's happening. It is going to happen. I mean, that means you're going to have to, what, turn people away.

MELAHN: No, we will never turn anybody away. We just -- just to kind of level set that for you, we're a rural hospital. We're 50 or 60 miles from any other hospital that has our ability. We won't turn anybody away. We're going to have to -- I don't know what we're going to do. I really don't feel like answering that question right now because it is so disturbing. But we're never going to turn anybody away.

BOLDUAN: I respect that. I totally understand. It is hard to -- I'm guessing it is hard to look even to Friday when you have to survive today. You have got to keep people pushing.

MELAHN: Yes, we -- we are trained health care professionals. There is just not enough of us. I talk with some of my physicians over the weekend and I said, we don't have a crisis of the people we have, we just don't have enough of us. And, you know, something has to give. So, when we have to commit everything, we've closed offices to bring nurses into our office from our offices that don't usually care for patients in here. We have brought in physicians. We've brought this gift, which was this disaster medical assistance team which, unfortunately, has to leave on Friday. But we just keep going. That is our mission. So we deal with the vulnerable and the marginalized.

BOLDUAN: The biggest reason behind these surges, we know, are that people are still not vaccinated. Not enough people are vaccinated. And they're resisting getting vaccinated. The president, for his part last week, said that he is losing patience with people who are still resisting the shot. Do you feel that way, Doctor? Do you blame them?

MELAHN: No. I think it is really important for us to really be focused. We will never be angry at a patient. These patients are afraid. They have been manipulated or told that vaccination is more frightful than COVID-19 and we have to ask why. So, is it because they're more fearful about loss of liberty or loss of freedom, or is it that they think that the vaccine is actually more of a risk than the actual infection, and they hear that. They hear that from experts. They hear that from politicians. They hear that from social media. And we're not here to be angry with them. We're here to help them. When they show and they're sick, we're going to take care of them.

I think if I had to summarize it, you know, there is actually only one enemy and only one thing to be angry about, and that is coronavirus. That's the real enemy. And we're at war with coronavirus. And it is killed 630,000 of us. We can't fight each other. We can't turn ourselves into enemies of each other. Because the only thing that happens when you do that is the real enemy wins.

So, we really need to figure out why they're afraid. I think it is fear and anger and I think that anger comes from fear.


The most angry people are usually the most frightened people and I think our patients here are frightened of a vaccine. I don't have any anger toward them at all.

BOLDUAN: Well, I will say, they are very lucky to have you, Doctor. Thank you very much for coming on. Coming up for us, President Biden on his way out west to see the damage from the wildfires. He's planning to use his visit to push his economic agenda to combat the climate crisis. One of his top climate advisers is our guest, next.



BOLDUAN: Tropical Storm Nicholas is taking aim at the gulf coast today. The storm is expected to make landfall tonight along the Texas coast. A tropical storm warning and hurricane watch are now in effect for most of the Texas coastline.

Forecasters say flooding is the biggest concern right now. Some areas could get as much as 15 to 20 inches of rain. All of this happening as Louisiana, Mississippi and parts of the east coast are still recovering from the last major hit, from Hurricane Ida.

And at this hour, President Biden is on his way out west to survey the damage of other natural disaster being made worse by the climate crisis. He's set to visit the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho and travel to California to take an aerial tour of the wildfire damage there.

California is in the middle of one of the most destructive wildfire seasons in history. The president is expected to point to the cost of these more frequent and devastating weather events to push the importance of passing his economic plan, which includes major investments to battle the climate crisis.

Joining me now for more on this is White House National Climate Adviser and former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

So, the fires out west, flooding in places that never see flooding in the east, the climate crisis has never been more relevant to people's lives, but how do you translate that to real change?

GINA MCCARTHY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL CLIMATE ADVISER: Well, I think that's what the goal of the president is he's traveling both last week to New York and to New Jersey, today, as you mentioned, he's going to Boise, Idaho, to thank the firefighters who are working so hard and to show his support for all of the efforts underway to not just tackle these wildfires but to do it in a way that keeps our firefighters safe, and keeps money coming to those states so we can continue to expand those efforts. And in Sacramento, he's going to go down there because we are talking about thousands of buildings being displaced. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of acres actually being burned. So he's going to point out the challenges that we're facing today that let everybody know that climate is a code red now. We have to take action.

But, Kate, you know, we're not going there just to point at the disaster and, frankly, the president's strong commitment to help states and communities and families who are being hurt, but one of the most important messages is we can do something about it. We have to take action now on climate, and that's what the president's investment strategy is all about. That's what he means when he talks about building back better. That's what he means about resilience in our infrastructure, and how we support this.

So, while it's important to point out the disasters that we're seeing and the connection to the changing climate, it's most important that people have a sense of hope, that we have a way forward. We just need to pull the trigger and work hand in hand with Congress to see these investments getting made so we can make people feel comfortable that they are going to have a shot at keeping safe, being secure and growing jobs in the future as we move forward. That's what this investment strategy is all about.

BOLDUAN: The question about the strategy in part is how to tackle the crisis, and how fast, because that's not yet decided, at least not when you look on Capitol Hill, of course, we have been talking about it already this hour. I want to pay for you what West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said about the massive budget bill as it relates to some of the climate crisis provisions.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): The transition is happening. Now, they're wanting to pay companies to do what they're already doing. It makes no sense to me at all for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they're going to do as the market transitions. We have proven that and we will continue to transition. They're accelerating something that could be very, very vulnerable to the reliability --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So that sounds like a no, you don't support the provisions?

MANCHIN: The provisions at all.


BOLDUAN: He's talking about using tax incentives to push companies towards clean energy. He doesn't like the price tag. He also was making clear he doesn't like the policy, and you need his vote.

MCCARTHY: Yes, and we'll certainly achieve that. I mean, we know that Senator Manchin is pushing hard. He's asking all the right questions. The issue is that we have answers to these questions, and we will work with him because he's a strong partner here. We know we have to get these investments. We are not simply paying utilities to get better. We're assuring, again, a safe and healthy future. We need to accelerate what is already happening big time because we cannot afford to sit back and let nature take its course.


Today, the president's showing how nature will take its course if we don't act and we don't start investing.

So we fully intend to work with the senator, and we are, to conduct analysis so he can see what's happening on the ground now, and we can talk about how much these investments need to accelerate the shift to clean energy, how many jobs can actually grow when you take these actions, how it is time today to make these investments in our future, and our economic future.

You know, Kate, for every dollar that we spend today, you're going to save $6 over time because we won't be investing in the kind of destruction and rebuild that we would otherwise have to do if we build resilient infrastructure from this point forward, if we work with utilities.

BOLDUAN: And not only is this visit today important that the president is making but this is a critical week for all of the conversation that you're talking about now.

MCCARTHY: It sure is.

BOLDUAN: Gina McCarthy, thank you for coming on.

MCCARTHY: All right, Kate. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Inside Politics with John King begins after a break.