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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Homes Underwater, Transit Shut Down as Ida Hits Northeast; Biden to Visit Storm-Ravaged Louisiana Tomorrow; Supreme Court Refuses to Block Texas Abortion Ban; Mask Debates Turn Usually Quiet School Board Meetings Into Shouting Matches, Fights Nationwide; CNN Talks to Commander of Last U.S. Flights Out of Kabul. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired September 02, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: First, the bayou, now, the boroughs.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Tornadoes, flash floods, rivers overflowing in Philadelphia, rushing rapids in the New York City subway as the remains of Hurricane Ida paralyzed the Northeast.

The war over abortion rights escalating after the Supreme Court fails to stop a Texas law banning nearly all abortions, and the president tries to step in.

Plus, school board meetings turning into slug fests, setting a stellar example for the children as some parents lose their minds over masks.


BERMAN: Welcome to LEAD. I'm John Berman. Jake Tapper is on assignment.

And we do start with breaking news in the national lead, and what has now become the deadliest part of Hurricane Ida's wrath across the United States.

The death toll keeps climbing. At least 23 people now killed in the last 24 hours in the Northeast. Hundreds more rescued. Scenes like this just aren't supposed to happen. That's floodwaters rushing through a home in Montclair, New Jersey.

In New York, the rain fell so fast it could have filled 50,000 Olympic-sized pools, and this is what happened when all the water pumps and the barrier walls and the sewer lines couldn't keep up. Watch. That's just unreal.

One river near Philadelphia rose so high today it floated awfully close to traffic passion on the bridge above.

And look at this. This is a Minor League Baseball stadium in Bridgewater, New Jersey. The water, at least five rows high.

We want to go live to CNN's Miguel Marquez in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Miguel, this is, I got to say, one of the most trying days so many people around here can remember.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is stunning to see how much water came down so quickly into areas across the Northeast. This is the Raritan River. This is a park along the Raritan River, or it should be a park. It's completely will be inundated. That's the river beyond. It's still 10 to 15 feet above flood level right now. The tide doesn't come in high for another hour and a half or so. There may be even more flooding this, as emergency crews are still getting out there and still trying to find people who are stuck.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): A river of water pours into a New York City subway station, one of many similar scenes there as remnants of Ida leads to historic flooding.

CALLER: Unprecedented is almost an understatement. This is, yeah, the first time ever we've had a flash flood emergency declared.

MARQUEZ: Today, the death toll continues to rise. Among the victims, a 2-year-old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been a biblical storm by every means.

MARQUEZ: In Queens, the New York Police Department commissioner says at least eight people died in their basements of homes inundated with water.

JAMES WEST, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: The road, everywhere I saw coming out of the airport and beyond flooded. Dozens and dozens and dozens of cars marooned, stranded.

MARQUEZ: Across the big apple first responders rescued hundreds from submerged cars, including commuters stuck in stopped subway trains.

JANNO LIEBER, MTA ACTING CHAIR AND CEO: Roughly, somewhere between 15 and 20 trains did get stranded and folks needed to be rescued.

MARQUEZ: Across the Northeast drivers forced to leave their vehicles on roads overcome by floodwaters with active rescue still under way in parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, that's where at least 25 homes were destroyed or badly damaged by a tornado.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Extraordinary, sadly tragic, historic and 24 hours in New Jersey.

Look, on either side of us right now, and the impact of this -- these tornadoes that touched down in this county.

MARQUEZ: In Elizabeth, New Jersey, at least four people drowned in an apartment complex, officials say victims all lived at the garden level. Apartments next to the Elizabeth River, which rose more than eight feet at it peak last night. In Westchester County, some streets remain under water.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): State police and our rescue teams had a rescue over 100 people in Westchester Rockland County alone.

MARQUEZ: New York Governor Kathy Hochul says it's still not clear whether this catastrophic flooding could have been predicted.

HOCHUL: I know I deployed resources yesterday morning, but we did not know that between 8:50 and 9:50 p.m. last night that the heavens would literally open up and bring Niagara Falls level water to the streets of New York. Could that have been anticipated? I want to find out.

MARQUEZ: In Central Park, 5.2 inches of rain fell in just three hours. A 1 in 500 year rainfall event, something officials say is only getting worse because of climate change.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: We are in a whole new world now, and this is a reality we have to face.


MARQUEZ: So, what you are looking at now is the Memorial Parkway or Highway 18 just next to the Raritan River here in New Brunswick. Just right next to Rutgers University here. You can see the Exxon station there is also flooded.

What is most stunning about seeing the level of water here is it hasn't receded since its high point. Again, high tide in about an hour and a half here, maybe it will start to go down then, but there's just so much water dumped into the system so quickly they are having a hard time dealing with it and seeing the number of emergency vehicles either going by or in the air still, pretty stunning as well. John.

BERMAN: I have to say, Miguel, the images are just stung, almost unreal in some places but I know they are real because I had to make my way through it myself this morning. Just crazy. Thank you so much for your reporting.

MARQUEZ: You got it.

BERMAN: I want to bring in George Latimer now. He is the county executive for Westchester County, which is just a few train stops north of Manhattan.

Executive, thank you so much for being with us.

You reported one person died in your county after they left their car and they got caught in the flash flooding, and there was another passenger in that car that's still missing.

Any update on that situation, and could there be others still unaccounted for at this point?

GEORGE LATIMER, COUNTY EXECUTIVE, WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NJ: John, I'm afraid the news is not good. It appears that we have three deaths now that we can attribute to exactly what you described, people that were in high water and got out of their cars and lost their lives. It's almost impossible to imagine you drive on certain streets or roads all the time and you can't imagine that this could possibly happen. We don't know if that's the totality of our death toll, but it's a tragedy, nonetheless, and it came pop us like the snap of the fingers.

BERMAN: You know, I saw it with my own eyes as I made my way in this morning. You noted that that 200 cars at least were stranded overnight. I think I saw 206 them this morning before 6:00. There it is. This is in Westchester, and these cars were actually pointed in the wrong direction. They were heading north in the southbound line of the sawmill, and when you say there are now three people dead who got out of their cars in situations like this, it really is -- it really is sad to learn that new information.

How hard hats it been to remove these cars from the roads to get traffic flowing again, and what kind of a problem has it caused?

LATIMER: We first have to let the waters recede so you can get tow trucks to access the vehicles. Once the tow trucks can get in and in our county and in parts of our state, we would have these parkways built in the 1920s and 1930s. They don't have the interstate highway clearances on bridges nor access so it's hard to get a big vehicle into some of these locations and one by one they have to slowly be taken out to free up the roadway.

The basic problem that we have is the speed with which the water came. Standing water went from zero to something significant in a matter of an hour and people who should know not to drive into standing water thought they could negotiate it and, of course, they couldn't.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting. We heard the Governor Kathy Hochul say she wanted to know if the people were prepared enough or if the government was prepared new. As a resident, I wasn't ready for this. I wasn't expecting this kind of catastrophe.

Do you think that we were prepared?

LATIMER: You know, John, I think organizationally we were. We had our police and emergency services, people at the ready and I think pumps and so for.

I think two things happened, certainly in our area, and maybe to another parts of New York, or maybe in communities. Number one, we had Hurricane Henri come through with less fan fare an wasn't as much of a dramatic effect. So, I think like a boy who cried wolf, it didn't seem like Ida would be that important, since there was so much hype on Henri, and Henri was not as devastating, no loss of life in Westchester on Henri.

And the second thing is Ida landed in New Orleans. What we hear about hurricanes is once it lands it loses its force. New Orleans was terribly affected by it and as it moved up the Mississippi River Valley, I think many residents felt -- well, it will be a rainstorm when it gets here and that's it. More often than not that's how the hurricanes look after they go over land, but Ida still had a significant punch when it hit the New York metropolitan area, and that I think many individuals didn't see it.

BERMAN: What's the biggest challenge facing you tonight?

LATIMER: Well, in drying out, we have to get things as back to normal as we can. We made a lot of progress today. As we go through some of the buildings that are affected by this, we hope we don't find situations, like the one you described in Elizabeth, New Jersey, people living in basement, apartments, that -- you know, wind up being trapped by the water.


So we hope that the total of loss of life stays at where we are today, and we get everybody back to normal by tomorrow.

BERMAN: George Latimer, I appreciate your time, thank you so much for being with us.

LATIMER: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So the expressway is now the river in Philadelphia. The unbelievable flooding and dangerous rescues that are underway right now. That's next. And the backlash over the Texas ban on abortions.

President Biden is now promising to fight it after the Supreme Court failed to stop it, but honestly, what can President Biden really do?


BERMAN: More breaking news in the national lead. These are live pictures from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. This is where the tornadoes touched down and tore through. Again, this was the wind. The problem here was the wind from this storm that has really devastated huge swaths of the Northeast.


So you can see the damage there, and for much of the other parts of the area, the water has been the real issue. Non-stop rescues can as floodwaters swamp the Philadelphia area today, at least 100 people, 100 people rescued so far as cruise and small boats delicately pulled their families -- pulled families from homes all day. The Schuylkill River rose about 16 feet above flood levels. That's taller than two and a half Allen Iversons, nearly three Jake Tappers as long as we're making Philadelphia references.

Joining me now is Pete Muntean live in Philadelphia.

Pete, you've been there all day, and some of the things we've seen behind you have really been stunning. How bad is it? And how long will it take to clean up?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we're really not out of the danger zone here along the Schuylkill River just yet, and we're just now getting an idea of how extreme the cleanup will be here. This is all of the debris and all of the junk, tires, refrigerators,

broken Jet Ski, tree limbs really as far as the eye can see here along the Schuylkill River bumping up against the waterworks here. This is actually a wedding venue, and they have been setting up for a wedding all day.

And as you can see where the water was along that frontage, the concrete wall, just above the little half win dose. That's where the Schuylkill River crested here just shy of 17 feat only this, mo. Right now it's down to about 14 feet. Flood stage here is about 9 feet.

So, the National Weather Service says we will not be off the flood stage along the Schuylkill River until after midnight. The flood warning here in place until 7:00 tomorrow morning.

The Martin Luther King Bridge there is closed. Huge impact here in Pennsylvania. Also, 76 is also a parking lot where it meets with 676, a main interchange in the city. That is flooded because the pumping station that is there is also underwater. Three hundred roads closed in Pennsylvania alone, a huge impact here, and this is going to be a massive cleanup that's going to cost millions, tens of billions if not billions, John.

BERMAN: I can't believe how close that water is to the bridge there, Pete. And the idea that you're at the wedding venue, I'm sure the bride and groom can console themselves this is somehow good luck I suppose?

Listen, tell us more about the water rescues that have been going on all day and are still going on.

MUNTEAN: Well, we know from Governor Tom Wolf's administration that there were 500 calls for water rescues in Montgomery County alone. We heard from the mayor of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, earlier that is up the Schuylkill River other. He said dozens of homes were washed away, there were dozens of water rescues there alone. This goes beyond just Philadelphia. Also Conshohocken, Manayunk.

This has a huge impact here along the Schuylkill River and really statewide, also even downstream from the Schuylkill in Wilmington.

So, there's a lot happening here in the Philadelphia area and beyond.

BERMAN: Pete Muntean in Philadelphia, terrific work. Thank you so much, Pete.

Meantime, the roar of Hurricane Ida replaced by the hum of generators with close to a million people still without power in Louisiana. Now fuel and food are running low.



BERMAN: We're back with breaking news in our national lead. Moments ago, we learned the death toll is now 26 people killed after

the horrific flooding in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. This afternoon, President Biden addressed Hurricane Ida's wrath across the entire Eastern Seaboard, and as he prepares to visit the Gulf Coast tomorrow.

CNN's Phil Mattingly live at the White House for us.

Phil, what was President Biden's message today?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, the president framed it as an around-the-clock effort for the White House but what you've seen from the federal government is real an all hands on deck effort. Obviously, the president and the White House are keenly focused on this issue. Repeated briefings over the course of the last several days, the president traveling to the Gulf Coast tomorrow.

But also, when you look agency by agency, you get a look at the scale, not just of the storm but the efforts of trying to counter the after effects of that storm that have been so visceral over the course of the last several days. The FCC working to trying to get cell phone service restored. The president working with the Department of Energy to ensure gas is available and Department of Transportation as well, tapping Cedric Richmond, one of his top advisors at the White House, a former Louisiana congressman, kind of to lead the efforts from here.

But also a personal touch. The president on the phone repeatedly with governors, with state officials, with local officials saying whatever they need make sure they get the message to the White House and the White House will deliver. The president recognizes in situations like this, pretty much the only thing can help is the federal government, John.

BERMAN: Phil Mattingly, and there is so much need. Thank you so much, Phil.

The desperate situation in Louisiana turning even more grim. Temperatures there are soaring and more than 900,000 customers across the state are still without power. To make matters worse, two-thirds of the gas stations in New Orleans and Baton Rouge are now out of gas.

CNN's Brian Todd is live in Kenner, which is just outside of New Orleans. And, Brian, you've been following power crews all day. Any progress?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is some progress, John, but it's a slow grind of progress and a dangerous one.


Take a look at this. This is Williams Street in Kenner. Look at this. Traffic and pedestrians have to navigate around these downed power lines here. The poles leaning over, those could be active, electrified lines right there. You've got poles down over there and just beyond that we saw half a pole hanging completely suspended by wires. So this is the kind of stuff that people all over southeastern Louisiana are navigating.

We went to a neighborhood of New Orleans east a short time ago and talked to one resident there about what it's like to be without power. Take a listen.


LARRY JACKSON, WITHOUT POWER SINCE IDA HIT: Hey, look, guys, I'll probably make some jambalaya and get my poles straight.

TODD: So, the reason they're here is because you flagged a pickup truck and got these guys.

JACKSON: Absolutely, absolutely.

TODD: What did you say to 'em when you first saw 'em?

JACKSON: When I first saw 'em, I said, you fix my pole, I'll get you some lunch.


TODD: That was a gentleman named Larry Jackson. We cannot real confirm his offer of lunch was the reason the power crew came to his street. They were probably sweeping that neighborhood anyway but it gives you an indication of how desperate people are for power and they are taking measures into their own hands.

Here's another gentleman from the same street who told us what he had to sacrifice basically as he was waiting are to the power to turn on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heated, hot, as you can see the sweat is just pouring. You know, got a little ac in the car and go back inside but for the most part just hot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I threw away maybe like $500 worth of food. Had to go to Mississippi to get ice. Yeah. I had to go to Mississippi to get ice and groceries and gas.


TODD: Going to Mississippi to get ice, groceries and gas. That's kind of what's going on here. A lot of people going through things like that. We do have word from Entergy, Louisiana, that about 137,000 customers have had their power restored. They are working this little by little. They say that at least ten hospitals have had their power restored in eastern Louisiana John. So, again, a slow grind. They are working around the clock. They are getting there, but it is slow and it's not coming fast enough for any of these residents.

BERMAN: Yeah, the progress is welcome but more is needed.

Brian Todd, thank you so much for your reporting. The Supreme Court leaves the strictest abortion ban this the country

in place. What does that mean for the future of abortion rights in the U.S.?



BERMAN: In our politics lead, the strictest abortion ban in the country is not going anywhere, for now. The Supreme Court formally denied a request to freeze a Texas law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy which is before many women even know they are pregnant, sparking a harsh rebuke from President Biden.

To be clear, Roe v. Wade has been upended in Texas, at least for now.

Let's discuss with CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue.

Ariane, this was a 5-4 vote with John Roberts siding with the court's three liberal justices but still not enough. What did the majority say?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right. Well, this majority looked at this law and said, look, we're not going to rule on constitutionality but the abortion clinics behind it haven't shown yet that they have been harmed. Let the law go into effect and let appeals process play out, and that's when the firestorm began. No less starting with Chief Justice John Roberts. No fan of abortion rights, Roberts there, but he sided with the liberals and he said let's figure out the procedural problems and then decide whether the law would go into effect.

But the liberals were less guarded than the chief. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was as mad as I've seen her in an opinion. She really was furious here. She said, a majority of the justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand, taking together the act as a breathtaking act of defiance -- of the Constitution, of the court's precedent and of the rights of women seeking abortion throughout Texas.

So, the liberals there calling out the Texas legislature. They are calling out the -- the majority of the Supreme Court.

But on the ground in Texas, here's the dilemma: how do you appeal a law that bars a procedure that is no longer being carried out? That's their problem. How do they go forward even with the appeal, John?

BERMAN: What's the White House saying about it, Ariane?

DE VOGUE: Right. Well, President Biden did come out, and he issued a very strong statement himself. He said rather than use its supreme authority to ensure justice could be fairly sought, the highest court of our land will allow millions of women in Texas in need of critical reproductive care to suffer while courts sift through procedural complexities. The DOJ also weighed in, so what does this mean for Roe? Well, Roe in Texas right now is a dead left. And frankly this ruling by the Supreme Court is not going to only embolden other states, but it's going to embolden other lower courts. The Supreme Court in a way has spoken here. So, in a way what they done, at least in Texas, is barred most abortions even while Roe is still on the books. So, that's why this is all been so extraordinary.

BERMAN: Extraordinary indeed. Ariane De Vogue, thank you so much for that.

I want to discuss this further.

Hilary Rosen, the conservative majority wrote that while abortion providers raised, quote, serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law, they have not met a burden that would allow the court to black it at this time, basically saying on the technicality, they're going to let it stand for now. Do you believe the "for now" part?


Or do you think this is just the beginning of something that will get much bigger?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think Justice Roberts believes the "for now" part, which is why he came and sided with the liberals on the court.

Look, you know, this is what we expected. I remember so well back in, you know, 2017, when millions of women and their families marched on Washington and on 50 states. You know, January 19th, the day before Donald Trump was inaugurated president.

And everybody said, oh, no, no, you're exaggerating. Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. Lo and behold, three Supreme Court appointments later, this is where we are. So I think we are seeing a -- the harbinger of this to come, and states are going to fly with this across the country. And it's going to affect poor women the most.

BERMAN: S.E. Cupp, it's interesting Hillary said this is what was expected. Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine, an abortion rights supporter apparently didn't expect it. At least that's what she said out loud when Dana Bash questioned her during the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh before he was confirmed to the Supreme Court. She said that Kavanaugh won't overturn Roe versus Wade. Listen.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I do not believe that Brett Kavanaugh will overturn --


COLLINS: He says for a precedent, a long established precedent like Roe to be overturned, it would have to be grievously wrong and deeply inconsistent. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, S.E., you know, as Ariane reported, Roe versus Wade is a dead letter in the state of Texas. So how does Susan Collins explain that?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I think one explanation could be naivety. It could also be wishful thinking but also not being able to imagine the mechanism by which the courts could allow this kind of chaotic, non-ruling ruling to go forward. You know, these are nine smart people. And you think they would hand Texas and Texas women a bit more of stability and a road going forward.

But there are all kinds of problems with this law. I say that as a pro-life person. I'm with the majority of Americans who believe Roe v. Wade is settled law and abortion should be legal, safe and rare. And especially, this law makes abortion essentially illegal, unsafe, and impossible, and I don't think that's good for women.

It also just feels really punitive, John, when you're forcing women to carry the child of the rapist or their brother or their father. That does not seem compassionate.

And then finally the idea that we're going to empower citizens, vigilante citizens to turn in women who have a legally -- had abortions, just feels at almost the worst time, empowering the worst kinds of people.

BERMAN: You know, as we said, the rights that have been afforded by Roe versus Wade since the 1970s do not exist this afternoon in Texas.

CUPP: Yeah.

BERMAN: They just don't.

And, Hilary, President Biden said he's going to pressure Congress to codify the right to abortion into law, but Democrats don't have enough votes in the Senate to make that happen.

How much of this is the consequence of Democrats losing elections?

ROSEN: Well, of course, it's all the consequence of losing elections. In Texas, the Republicans have taken over the Texas legislature for 20 years. And that's -- this is that consequence. And I think we have, despite the fact what S.E. says, a pro-life woman what believes that women ought to be able to make this choice.

There is a politic everywhere, and I think theirs is going to add one more thing to the pressure on Senate Democrats around the filibuster over the next year, because the prospect of losing this fundamental right to make decisions for your own body is just a paramount decision, I think, for women across the country, Republicans and Democrats. So the pressure on Senate Democrats now -- it was voting rights. It was gun rights. It was, you know, day care and budget things, but when you get to this and those are the consequences, I just don't see how the dam doesn't break at some point. CUPP: I also just think, John, quickly, if you believe in the

Constitution and you believe in settled law, whether that's Roe vs. Wade or the Second Amendment, at some point you have to acknowledge, this is the country we live in, so making federal law illegal in some places and punitive and unsafe for people just isn't practical, and it's not responsible.


BERMAN: It's interesting to see how much of an animating force this now becomes, perhaps for the left, where abortion has been more animating for the right over the last several decades.

S.E. Cupp, Hilary Rosen, thank you both very much for this.

CUPP: Sure.

BERMAN: School board members getting death threats and being called demonic entities, all because they want their kids to wear masks. How back to school has become the latest bizarre battleground in the pandemic.



BERMAN: In our health lead, out of control -- while a clear majority of Americans support masks in schools, a vocal, sometimes threatening, sometimes violent minority turning what are normally civil school board meanings into screaming matches and even all-out brawls.

CNN's Tom Foreman looks at how this out of control minority has escalated the issue of masks in schools to the point of violence.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back to school has become a battle cry in the COVID wars everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one is ever going to be allowed in the public again!

FOREMAN: With the school board in Oregon firing the local superintendent amid anger and tears. Officials aren't saying why, but it came shortly after he said schools would comply with this order from the governor.

GOV. KATE BROWN (D), OREGON: Moving forward for the immediate future, masks will be required in all indoor public settings.

FOREMAN: School board meetings coast to coast are erupting.

CROWD: We want freedom!

FOREMAN: Some are already in uproars over critical race theory and transgender rights. DICK BLACK (R), FORMER VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR: I am disgusted by your

bigotry and your depravity.

FOREMAN: But now, the fight is over vaccinations and masks. Never mind that polls show most Americans broadly support the idea of masking in schools, teachers and health officials are being attacked for even trying to enforce such safety measures. In Florida, a man opposed to masking was arrested after he physically clashed with a student. Public meetings there have filled with rage.

"MELISSA", LEE COUNTY, FL PARENT: These are demonic entities in the school boards of America, and all of us Christians will be sticking together to take them all out. All the police officers that kick us out for our First Amendment right will also be going down with them. Do you understand?

FOREMAN: In Pennsylvania, a school board member resigned saying he had received death threats from the warring factions.

While in Wisconsin, three board members stepped down, saying the job of tending to serious school matters was becoming toxic and unable to do.

RICK GROTHAUS, FORMER WISCONSIN SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT: We didn't get to the point of fisticuffs, but was there lots of vitriol and lot of shouting and a lot of disruptive, disrespectful behavior? Yes, that did occur.

FOREMAN: And on it goes from Maine to Michigan, Kansas to California, Arizona to Alaska. Kids are getting an up close lesson in anti-social studies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I already told the schools my children wouldn't be wearing masks.

FOREMAN: Amid wildly different views of what it means to be a good American.


FOREMAN (on camera): Make no mistake about it: There are some protester out there in favor of masks but the headlines show most of these clashes are being driven by, as you know, John, a minority that is saying their sense of freedom matters more than these proven health measures to protect all the public and even to protect their own children -- John.

BERMAN: The kids caught in the middle. Thank you so much, Tom Foreman.

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: All right. CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now.

Sanjay, we did learn some new things about COVID in children today at the White House briefing. What can you tell us? DR. SANJAY GUPTA,CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, the

numbers have gone up significantly. When you look at the number of kids who have been diagnosed with COVID, it's a four fold increase roughly. We can show you just over the past month or so.

Take a look. That's obviously not the direction you want to be going. That's a steep slope. The concern is it will continue to go up. Some projections, 75 percent of K through 12 students could be exposed within the next three months.

Two other things jumped out at me, John. One is that you're starting to see a definitive split in terms of the impact of the vaccinations on kids. Vaccinated, if you are unvaccinated, you are ten times more likely to be hospitalized versus if you are vaccinated. This is for kids 17 and younger.

And also, the case rates -- I just showed you those, but the case rates to put it in more context, they're starting to approximate now adults. We keep saying kids are far less likely to be infected. True. But now, when you look at what's happening, at least for 12 to 17- year-olds, it's getting very similar to the case rate for adults.

BERMAN: So for kids under 12, the vaccine, when it's approved, if it's approved could make a big difference, I should say. It isn't yet. We have new reporting, Sanjay, on why it's taking so much longer for children than it is for adults?

GUPTA: Yeah. I mean, one big thing is the FDA cannot act on this until all the data is submitted, so we're learning it's a bit of a circular thing. The companies, you know, they say, well, here's the data we have.


The FDA says, well, we need more data. Not surprising that it's kids because kids are less likely to get sick, so the bar has to be higher. They want six months of safety data, John, as opposed to adults last year. So, it's just going to take longer.

But when you look at the timeline, you can see it there, the data for Pfizer at least expected in September. We looked at previous data submissions and the time course of how long it took to get to EUA, maybe a couple of weeks after that. It could go that quickly, we'll see. But, you know, sort of predictions are late September, early October, sometime in the fall.

BERMAN: Parents are getting anxious, to say the least.

GUPTA: I know.

BERMAN: Sanjay, we're learning how many people in the U.S. are estimated to have antibodies to COVID-19. That includes vaccines and people who have been infected before. So, what does this say about the chances of reaching, if it's still possible, herd immunity?

GUPTA: Well, let me show you the graph. I find this really interesting. There was a study, I'll tell you, back in May of this year, saying maybe 150 million people, roughly half the country, have been exposed to the virus, 150 million. Now they're saying there's around 20 percent that have detectable antibodies. So, one time, it's closer to 45 percent and now, it's 20 percent, which gives you some idea that natural immunity, which is the line sort of at the bottom line this, is very significant, but those antibodies do seem to wane. About 80 percent of people in the country have antibodies. The majority, again, as you see from that graph are from vaccines.

We don't know, to be just perfectly honest, we don't know exactly what herd immunity means here. For measles, for example, to get the herd immunity, because measles are so contagious, you need well over 90 percent of people having immunity. It may be closer to that here with this virus as well, but one we'll really know is when the cases start to come down again, which they may do over the next several weeks.

BERMAN: Let's hope. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

GUPTA: You got it, thank you.

BERMAN: America's longest war is over. Coming up next, CNN just spoke to the missioner commander of the last flight out of Kabul. What it was like for him, next.



BERMAN: In our world lead, you are watching scenes from the Taliban controlled capital of Afghanistan: relative calm after weeks of chaos in Kabul. A completely different picture in the southern province of Kandahar, where at least one person died at thousands of Afghans desperately rushed the border gate. And in Herat, women led a rare protest against the Taliban. They just want their girls to be able to attend school.

Twenty thousand Afghan refugees are temporarily being housed at military bases in the U.S. and, another 37,000 are at bases in the U.S. and Middle East. Tragically, we learned moments ago an infant on a flight in Germany to Philadelphia died on Wednesday.

CNN's Oren Liebermann has new details from the pilot who flew the final U.S. flight out from Afghanistan.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The approach into and out of Kabul allowed little margin for error. Mountains surround Hamid Karzai airport and the valley is prone to bad weather, thousands of Afghans on the field, thousands more desperately trying to get in.

Nearby, a terror threat from ISIS-K. In this environment, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Pelbath on a mission, the end of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. LT. COL. ALEX PELBATH, AIRBORNE MISSION COMMANDER: Instead of focusing

on the danger you focus on the mission at hand. You focus on individual tasks. You focus on success, and you focus on doing your part of the mission as well as you possibly can.

LIEBERMANN: Pelbath was the commission commander on final flights out of Kabul. He snapped this picture of another C-17 taking on Afghan evacuees.

In the background, the cars and baggage and hangars about to be left behind.

PELBATH: I graduated from Air Force Academy in 2001, and a couple months later, September 11th happened, so my entire career has been spent with the conflict in Afghanistan, and to see it come to an end -- that does make a mark, I think.

LIEBERMANN: Pelbath knew time was precious. Every second on the tarmac was added risks and with the final troops loading up, the danger was its peak.

Major General Chris Donahue, the commander of the 82nd Airborne, was the last soldier to step off Afghan soil, the military says.

Pelbath later snapped this photo of his own flight, and Pelbath gave the order, clam shell, close the cargo doors. Minutes later, flush the force. The order to take off.

PELBATH: I was able to see in front of me, the first aircraft just made their left turn. The second aircraft right behind. The third just lifted off, the fourth on the runway. I had the entire picture of the C-17 force in front of me. For sure, an image I will never forget.

LIEBERMANN: The five C-17s had been on the ground a total of three hours, he says. The end of a 20-year war was his final flight.


LIEBERMANN: Lieutenant Colonel Pelbath says the credit for that final goes not just to him or any other individual, but to all of the 80 or so crew members on those flights that made it happen and made it happen safely -- John.

BERMAN: What a complicated chapter in history. Oren Lieberman, terrific report, thank you so much.

I'm John Berman, in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues right now.