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Major 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Haiti; Field Hospitals Rebuilt As COVID Patients Overwhelm Hospitals; U.S. Deploying 3,000 Troops To Evacuate Embassy Personnel; DeSantis Doubles Down On Attempts To Override Mask Mandates; Interview With Becky Pringle, President, National Education Association; New Census Data Shows U.S. More Diverse Than Ever; New Companies Fighting Back Against High Drug Prices. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 14, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin this hour with breaking news.
A major earthquake has hit Haiti today, and officials warn the casualties will likely be high and the disaster is widespread. Haitian officials say there are fatalities from this 7.2 magnitude quake already, but at this point we don't know how many.
And you can see some of the damage in these images that we're just receiving -- collapsed buildings, huge piles of rubble. The island nation was already in a state of chaos following the assassination of its president last month. And now this, an earthquake of a similar magnitude which devastated the country in 2010, killing hundreds of thousands of people then.
Patrick Oppmann joining us now from Havana, Cuba. So Patrick, what more are you hearing about the impact, what happened and the calamity?
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're starting to hear from survivors of this earthquake. You're talking about buildings crashing down around them, people having to run for their lives and, of course, the initial reports of fatalities.
It will probably take days or longer to know exactly how many people have lost their lives, but there are reports of bodies in rubble. There are also pictures of people near the epicenter receiving aid.
So there appears to be some sort of organization, people being pulled from the rubble, people being treated, and there are pictures of buildings that are still standing.
So that does appear to be somewhat positive as well, the fact that this quake did not happen in the capital city of Port-au-Prince where the 2010 quake took place and cost hundreds of thousands of lives is also positive.
But it's really for the people who are in this poor southwestern community, these towns that were struck by this earthquake, a terrifying scene. And people obviously don't have all the help they need just yet.
They are still facing tsunami threat, aftershocks. And it could be a long, long time before help is able to reach them.
This is a country that has been hard hit by national disaster, by the assassination of their president in July. And now they are facing a tropical storm approaching in the next several days.
So certainly continuing tragedy for the Haitian people. And they clearly need help right now because people are still being pulled from the rubble. And it may be some time, Fred, before we know exactly how many people have died here, but just a terrifying scene.
WHITFIELD: It sounds terrifying. What do we know about its proximity to Port-au-Prince? I mean the comparisons of this smaller town, but still clearly very populated.
OPPMANN: Absolutely. Tens of thousands of people live in this area. It's a very poor area. I'm told this is a peninsula. It's the southwest of Port-au-Prince.
So that really is the only good news, if there's any good news here, is that the main population center was not hit, as heavily impacted as it was in the 2010 quake.
But of course, for the people who live in these small coastal communities, of course, you have a tsunami threat now. You have -- they're going to continue to have aftershocks.
This is a quake that was felt in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, even eastern Cuba. So it was felt throughout the Caribbean. A very, very powerful quake.
The epicenter though, in this small coastal community in Haiti and it just devastated cathedrals, homes, you know, a lot of these places just don't have the kind of building materials or buildings that are built strong enough to withstand anything like this.
And those buildings we are hearing and seeing came collapsing down on people, obviously costing many people their lives. We just don't know how many yet. It will probably take days before there's any kind of estimate.
And for the injured now, you know, it's a race against time to get them the help they need. Certainly, in the midst of a pandemic, it just makes a complicated situation even only more so for these people who need help and need help now.
WHITFIELD: Yes. Patrick Oppmann, thank you so much from Havana.
And who can forget 2010, the devastation and still people have not recovered from that. And now this is to occur not far from Port-au- Prince.
Thank you so much.
All right. I want to bring in now Allison Chinchar in the weather center. And Allison, I mean, this is multifold, isn't it, because while you're also watching these named storms, Fred and Grace, this is a different natural disaster that you've been watching.
Tell me about the evolution of this 7.2 magnitude quake and what we know about it.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And unfortunately for Haiti, they could end up getting hit with both. And so that's going to be a concern going forward.
CHINCHAR: Yes, the 7.2 quake, depth of just about 10 kilometers or 6 miles. It was a little bit farther west of where the big one that hit in 2010.
Once again, here's a map to show some perspective. Here is Port-au- Prince. This was where the quake in 2010 occurred.
This is the one that happened this morning, a little bit farther west but a little bit stronger. So again, one good thing is that it was farther away from the biggest populated area, but again slightly stronger.
It was also very shallow too, only about 6 miles deep. Really technically anything about 44 miles or less is considered shallow, even though I know 44 miles doesn't really sound shallow. In terms of geologic scale, it is.
One thing to note is the population. Over half a million people felt what's considered very strong shaking. Five million people feeling moderate shaking, not just in Haiti but some of the surrounding countries as well.
You do have what's considering an orange pager (ph) for economic losses. Again, it's very obvious to see that when you see some of the buildings and the damage that has already taken place across this area of Haiti.
One thing to note, these buildings have now become structurally compromised because of the main quake. Any further aftershocks will continue to do additional damage.
So even if you don't have a building that's maybe fallen down, now it could with some of the subsequent aftershocks. We've already had at least one 5.2 or larger. You average about 10 that size with an initial quake at about a 7.2. So you've had 5.2 and several 4s in the mix of this particular quake.
Liquefaction still going to be a big concern. And for those at home maybe wondering, they don't really know what that means. Basically when the earthquake happens, it destabilizes that soil underneath and it mixes in with the groundwater. And basically that ground just becomes liquefied.
One thing to note on top of it, Fred, is the impacts potentially from tropical storm Grace because Haiti at least as of right now is still in the cone to have impacts from this on Monday.
So that could be another factor. Again, talking about rain hindering maybe perhaps some of the recovery efforts.
WHITFIELD: Still so much more ahead potentially.
All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much for that.
All right. Now turning to the coronavirus and the critical situation unfolding in the U.S. as the delta variant spirals out of control. It's an unimaginable deja vu for some hospitals forced to build overflow facilities just as they did at the height of the pandemic last year.
I mean take a look at these side-by-side images shot a year apart -- nearly identical. Beds lining makeshift tents set up in hospital parking lots, ICUs are overflowing, doctors and nurses are overwhelmed. I mean again, just look, last year on one side of your screen and now currently.
In Oregon, the governor is even calling up the National Guard to help handle the influx of patients.
Eight states now make up half of all U.S. hospitalizations. This new surge is being inflamed by the unvaccinated. Children still unable to get the vaccine are now more at risk than ever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: In Dallas we have zero ICU beds left for children. That means if your child is in a car wreck, if your child has a heart -- congenital heart defect or something and needs an ICU bed, or more likely if they have COVID and need an ICU bed, we don't have one. Your child will wait for another child to die --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is in Jackson, Mississippi. The number of cases is on the rise there, Adrienne, and state health officials are very concerned about the death toll.
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, they are. The state reported more than 5,000 new cases on Friday and 31 deaths. And the state health official said they have noticed a trend over the last four days. Folks who are dying have been unvaccinated, at least people in their 20s who were completely healthy prior to being diagnosed with the COVID-19 -- being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Right now we are inside of the Mississippi Coliseum and this is where friends, family and members of law enforcement are preparing to say good-bye to the Heinz County Sheriff Lee Vance. He was 63. And the coroner said he died because of COVID complications.
And this is what health officials and members of the community do not want to see happen. About two miles away from here, a parking garage, the lower level of it, has been transformed into a COVID unit.
Now, we want to be very clear, that parking garage, that space will not treat severely ill patients with COVID but it is for patients who need minimal care. For example, they might need oxygen.
So if you step inside of that area where cars are normally parked, you will see hospital beds. And one doctor warns the state cannot continue at this pace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SHAILESH PATEL, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, METHODIST LEBONHEUR OLIVE BRANCH HOSPITAL: And if we do not change the course that we're headed to, we are headed toward our darkest hours, darkest days.
This surge is going to be much, much worse than what it was -- we're anticipating it unfortunately -- than what it was several months ago.
So if we do not take action now, we're going to be in a lot of trouble. We're not going to have the ability to care for people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROADDUS: The state's governor, Tate Reeves, called this wave four of the pandemic. He made it clear he is still not going to initiate a statewide mask mandate.
But inside of the coliseum, you'll notice behind me it's set up to social distance for those who come to pay their respects, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. Yes, this is incredibly unsettling.
Thank you so much, Adrienne Broaddus. Appreciate that. We'll check back with you.
So with these new COVID cases surging, the CDC is now recommending that some immune-compromised people get a third dose of the vaccine. The new guidance applies to organ transplant recipients, people diagnosed with certain cancers and people on certain immune- suppressing prescription medicines.
Here now to talk about this, CNN medical analyst and author of the new book "Lifelines: a Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health", Dr. Leana Wen.
Doctor, so good to see you. I mean sadly, I feel like you and so many others made a forecast that this just might be the corner we would be turning yet one more time. So talk to me about what you think the prospect is for particularly the immunocompromised for getting a third shot.
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, where we are in the country right now, Fred, is very, very concerning. I mean we're clearly seeing an additional surge that is much sooner than we might have anticipated.
Some of us thought that we might see a surge come the wintertime but now we're having a surge in the summer when this was supposed to be the quiet period. And so, of course that's due to the delta variant.
But so many people are at risk, including those who are unvaccinated and not by choice, like our young kids.
I do think that the CDC made the right decision and the FDA this week as well in allowing for those who are immunocompromised to get the additional dose of the vaccine because we know that these are individuals who did not mount enough of an immune response the first time.
These are also individuals who are particularly susceptible to severe outcomes from COVID-19 and so this will help them become safer. Although we have to emphasize too, that these are individuals who are still at risk and they should still continue to mask in indoor settings and the best way still to protect those who are immunocompromised is for all the rest of us who are eligible to get the vaccine to do so.
WHITFIELD: And so do you believe while right now is a third, you know, dose of booster shot for the immunocompromised -- do you see that on the horizon this will be a necessity really for everyone who's already been vaccinated with the two doses?
DR. WEN: I definitely think that it should be an option for those who already are fully vaccinated to get an additional booster dose at some point.
We have evidence from other countries that immunity does seem to be waning over time. We have other countries like Israel, Germany and others that are allowing for individuals, for example, who are older with chronic medical illnesses to get a booster as well. And so I do see that happening in the U.S.
I also think that at this point people really should be discussing with their doctors about what their actual risk is because, yes, there are people who are severely immunocompromised -- that's very clear. Organ transplant patients, people on chemotherapy.
But there are a lot of other patients who are kind of on the edge in some way. As in we know that you are immunocompromised if you are on dialysis but what if you have chronic renal failure, you're not on dialysis but you have high risk exposure because you're an essential worker?
You should really be talking to your doctor now about whether a booster shot makes sense for you based on your individual medical circumstance.
WHITFIELD: So let me just get something right because you mentioned option. Ok. So while right now it's available and recommended for the immunocompromised, you say it should be an option for everybody else.
How will you be, you know, assessing whether you should go for a third booster shot if it becomes available for everybody? You're saying there still are some candidates who they don't necessarily need to get it and you should act on this as an option? What do you mean?
DR. WEN: Well, there is a category of people as defined by the CDC who look like they should be getting that booster shot now. Those individuals should still talk to their doctors because, for example, somebody on chemotherapy, there might be an optimal time for them to get the booster depending on when they're getting their chemotherapy. So they should talk to their doctor anyway before going to get that booster dose.
Then there are some individuals who may have high-risk exposure who also have chronic medical conditions that make them immunocompromised in some way. May not formally meet the criteria by the CDC, but I think they should talk to their doctors.
DR. WEN: I mean the reason I talk about options is so much of clinical medicine is about the nuance. I don't think that people who are healthy, have no chronic underlying medical conditions should be going out to get a booster dose.
But if you have some underlying medical conditions that may make you immunocompromised in some way, I mean it's a good idea to talk to your doctors.
WHITFIELD: Dr. Leana Wen, always good to see you. Thank you so much for all that information and of course, the added advice. Appreciate it.
DR. WEN: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Still to come in the NEWSROOM, unraveling by the day.
As the situation in Afghanistan becomes more dire, staff at the U.S. embassy there are now being told to destroy sensitive documents.
Plus, the debate over masks and vaccines in schools both boiling over. The president of the nation's largest teachers union joining me live.
WHITFIELD: In Afghanistan, the Taliban today seizing control of at least one more provincial capital. That makes at least 18 taken and more than half of the country's provincial capitals have now fallen into Taliban hands.
The militant group is now closing in on the capital city of Kabul. A Pentagon spokesman telling CNN they were surprised by how quickly the Taliban was able to grab territory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: What we couldn't predict was the lack of resistance that they were going to get from Afghan forces on the ground. And as you heard the president speak just a couple of days ago, what's really needed is for political and military leadership in Afghanistan.
No outcome here has to be inevitable. They are using the Air Force. In fact they're flying more air strikes than we are on a daily basis, but you can't -- you know, money can't buy will. Will has to be there. The ability to exert leadership and exude leadership on the field, that has to be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: 3,000 U.S. troops are arriving this weekend to help protect the U.S. embassy as they prepare to draw down personnel in that country. Staff are also being told to destroy sensitive documents before they go.
CNN diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joining us live now.
So Nic, Afghan President Ghani earlier today gave a brief statement where he said he would work with other leaders to try to stem the Taliban surge. I mean this is a lifeline it sounds like that is being thrown.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. It's a lifeline but there's nothing on the end of it for the Afghan people. I mean he started his speech by saying, look, he understood that Afghans were concerned, you know,. He shared those concerns, said that he was speaking with other members of the government, other political leaders, elders in the country, all politicians and also sort of international partners.
But when you are waiting for that moment of what's at the end of the line? What's he actually going to tell the people? Is he going to tell them the way forward out of this current predicament he said no. He said that they were working to try to find a way to minimize the loss of life and destruction.
So we don't know which way the president of Afghanistan is headed in at the moment. We do know that the Taliban leaders who are there in Doha and Qatar who have been negotiating with Afghan officials in Qatar, who negotiated there with U.S. officials, Zalmay Khalilzad for so long, that the Qatari government there is putting pressure on the Taliban as well to come to some sort of cease-fire and save the bloodshed.
The reality on the ground entirely different. As you say, that 18th provincial capital to fall today, Sharana in Paktika Province in the east of Afghanistan close to the border with Pakistan.
And I kind of guess if you look at today and try to see the significance of that particular gain, then look to the neighboring province of Paktia. The capital of that one, Gardez, barely an hour's drive from the capital. That is under attack right now.
I spoke earlier to a commander in the northern city of Mashori Sharif where the Taliban are attacking that, the last major government- controlled city in the north of the country.
That commander there told me that three times today the Taliban have taken control of the gates, the edge of the city. The government has managed to push them back. So that battle in flux.
The reality on the ground is the Taliban keep taking ground. The more ground they take, they get more weapons and ultimately it's all coming to that pressure on Kabul. Hence the need to destroy those sensitive documents that have been accumulating now across almost two decades in the embassy there in Kabul.
WHITFIELD: Yes. So many caught by surprise by the Taliban's uprising and that it's happening so quickly.
I mean U.S. General Robert Abrams, an active duty four-star general who served in Afghanistan actually tweeted out this, that it was gut- wrenching for him to watch what was happening and said, I'm quoting now, "Progress made but in the end not sustained, heart breaking."
So is that the sentiment that you are hearing from so many others who served in Afghanistan?
ROBERTSON: It's absolutely. I mean we're hearing the same sentiment from the British. It's not just the drawdown of, of course U.S. forces that we've had in Afghanistan, you know, two and a half thousand drawn out over the past few months but 7,000 NATO forces have gone and they are expressing concern themselves about that blood that's been shed, the treasure that's been shed, and what's left on the ground.
I've spoken to Afghan officials about this and they say, look, it's not just the lack of close air support that has sort of taken some of the morale away from the Afghan government forces. They say that the international forces were so closely embedded with those Afghan forces on the ground.
ROBERTSON: The Afghan forces put their faith in that sort of separate chain of command, that separate information structure that would give them guidance and advice about how to, you know, how to prosecute their battles against the Taliban.
But with the removal or reduction of that close air support and removal of the troops, so too those special advisers pulled out and the Afghan forces on the ground not trusting their chain of command all the way back to central government and weakened by it.
WHITFIELD: Wow. So sad.
Nic Robertson, thank you so much.
All right. Still ahead, heated confrontations over masks. It's playing out across the country. Now Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is calling out two governors for refusing to follow the science.
Plus, the nation's largest teachers union now wants school officials to get vaccinated, but what took so long? The president of the National Education Association joining me live.
WHITFIELD: Local leaders in Texas will be allowed to keep mask requirements in place for the time being. That after the state court of appeals issued two separate rulings against Governor Greg Abbott's executive order banning county mask mandates.
The governor had been attempting to overturn lower court decisions blocking the enforcement of his order against mask mandates. Governor Abbott is expected to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.
Meantime, the U.S. Education Department is urging governors to follow the science, sending letters to Texas Governor Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis opposing their efforts to override school mask requirements.
Secretary Miguel Cardona calling their efforts deeply concerning as COVID cases and hospitalizations skyrocket in their respective states.
In fact, the mayor of Miami Beach is now calling on Governor DeSantis to reconsider his order, saying the state's policy is back firing in tragic ways.
CNN's Leyla Santiago has more on what is being felt in south Florida.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Five days before classroom doors are set to open in Broward County, Florida, two teachers and one teaching assistant have died within about 24 hours of each other from COVID-19-related complications. All three of them were unvaccinated.
The county teachers union said --
ROSALIND OSGOOD, CHAIRMAN, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: There are a lot of people that have still not gotten the vaccination and it is becoming a deadly thing for them not to be vaccinated.
SANTIAGO: 138 of about 35,000 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since August 1st, according to the county COVID dashboard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm not the governor (ph), you know. We're living it right here real in Broward County.
SANTIAGO: This at the of a tense week dominated by Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis taking on school districts over mask mandates. The governor threatening to withhold salaries from school board members and superintendents choosing to override his executive order that essentially prohibits mask mandates in schools, although unclear if and how that would happen.
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you're coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I'm standing in your way.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to bully him into wearing your mask?
SANTIAGO: Some school districts fighting back. In Broward, the school board voted this week to keep its mask mandate in place as some parents protested outside the meeting.
OSGOOD: We feel strongly that the lives of our students and staff are invaluable. And we're not willing to play Russian roulette with their lives.
SANTIAGO: CNN looked into how many parents are planning to actually opt out of masks for their kids. Parents of about 4 percent of students opted out in Orange and Palm Beach County Public School Districts. In Duval County, 8 percent. Hillsborough County, approximately 15 percent. Same in Lee County.
In Palm Beach County, where school started this week, father of two, Michael Napoleone, says that he thinks parents should not be able to opt out at all.
MICHAEL NAPOLEONE, FATHER OF PALM BEACH COUNTY STUDENT: Just because you have rights doesn't mean you have no responsibilities. And I think you've got to take the responsible thing and let your kid wear a mask in school.
SEAN SYKES, FATHER OF PALM BEACH COUNTY STUDENT: Let me think.
SANTIAGO: Sean Sykes disagrees.
SYKES: It comes back to personal responsibility. I'm not going to tell anybody what to do but they should support the fact that we may feel differently.
SANTIAGO: Some kids will be going masked and others maskless in the same classrooms as the debate and public health crisis continue.
SANTIAGO (on camera): And the superintendent here in Broward County doubling down, telling the state education commissioner in a letter that she plans to move forward with a mask mandate that has no opt- outs available for parents, something that the governor has said is noncompliant with his executive order.
Leyla Santiago, CNN -- Fort Lauderdale.
WHITFIELD: All right. Joining me now to discuss, Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association. It's the nation's largest union and represents more than three million educators.
So good to see you, Becky.
So what is your reaction, you know, to the deaths of those three Broward County educators just days before the first day of school?
BECKY PRINGLE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: It's good to be with you again, Fredricka.
You know, I have been saying the same thing from the beginning of this pandemic. As a teacher of middle level learners, the wonders of science for over 30 years, I have been very clear.
PRINGLE: Follow the science. Listen to the infectious disease experts and work in collaboration with educators and parents and community members and health care officials to do what's right for our students.
It is unacceptable that we are having a debate about whether to wear masks. It is not about a right. It is about a responsibility. And we know that wearing masks is an important, absolutely important -- necessary strategy to keep our students safe. And we must do everything we possibly can to do just that.
WHITFIELD: So there are the issues of masks and then that of vaccines as well. Your union, the National Education Association, announced support, you know, for vaccine requirements or that teachers submit to regular testing. And this was just this past week.
But why now with schools already in session? I mean it will be six weeks, right, before anyone who's fully vaccinated is protected. Why wasn't that message sent earlier in the summer to encourage teachers who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated before school starts?
PRINGLE: Fredricka, we're following the science. And we know now that the delta variant is more virulent. It is increasing the rates of infections. It is having a greater impact on our youth, our students.
We're seeing children's hospitals being overrun by sick children. As we get more information, we must do better.
This is not new for us to talk about vaccines and how important they are for the school population or everyone to be vaccinated. That makes everyone safer.
We've been calling for that from the very beginning of the vaccinations being available. In fact you know, Fredricka, we encouraged the president to actually make sure that educators had priority in terms of vaccinations and that happened. And then we got to work. And we made sure that our educators had access and availability, ease of getting the vaccination, having more information. And that's why 90 percent of our educators are actually vaccinated already.
WHITFIELD: Well, isn't the case that 90 percent of your members within the union are vaccinated, but that still leaves an awful lot of teachers who are not vaccinated.
Do you feel like instead of allowing this latitude of it being an option, do you feel like it should be a requirement, a requirement that is imposed on all of those leading classrooms, particularly those who are under the age of 12, to be vaccinated?
PRINGLE: So Fredricka, I want to be clear. Everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated. We know that the FDA is perhaps weeks away from that final approval and we believe that that will actually increase rates.
But we know that those people who are working with our students, the only way we can keep them safe is to make sure they're vaccinated. The fact that 90 percent of our members are vaccinated is evidence that they understand how important this mitigation strategy is.
And we are leading on encouraging everyone in the community, all parents, community members, everyone. We know that right now our students under 12 can't get vaccinated. It's our responsibility to keep them safe. Keeping them safe means that everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated.
Of course we have to have accommodations and that's why we called for the regular testing. We know that there are people who cannot be vaccinated and so we have to have those accommodations.
And any kind of requirement, we must work collectively with our educators where there's collective bargaining, we need to employ that strategy so that as a community we will do what's right for our students.
WHITFIELD: And Ms. Pringle, I wonder what your reaction is. How stunned are you to see that there are people who are protesting outside of schools saying "unmask our children". And there are children and parents who are now expressing how uncomfortable that is making them feel as kids go to school?
PRINGLE: You know, Fredricka, I have an eight-year-old grandson. In fact he lived with me during most of the pandemic. He just went back to New York City to go back to in-person learning.
And I can tell you as a grandparent, I want all of his classmates and educators to be masked when he goes back to school. And the reason I want that is because the science is clear that masks protect people from contracting this virus.
PRINGLE: There just is no excuse why we are having a debate about a mitigation strategy we know works. We have to put all of those in place -- the vaccines, the masking, the cleaning, all of that, the distancing, because here's the thing, Fredricka.
We want to start this school year with all of our students back to in- person learning safely and equitably. And we have the resources now in place to do just that. It is irresponsible for politicians to be playing politics with our students and putting them at risk by saying we can't use that mitigation strategy.
WHITFIELD: Ok. And I understand that. You as a science teacher too, it is clear, you know, you are backing the science. But then what is your message to -- they are not politicians in some of these cases, they are just regular people who are protesting these parents themselves, who are holding signs saying "unmask our kids"? And in some cases are actually harassing others because they support masks. What's your message to them?
PRINGLE: You know, Fredricka, we teach our students from the time they step into a classroom that harassing other people is unacceptable. Bullying is unacceptable.
So that should not be happening. But I was listening to those statistics, as we were beginning our conversation. And they are very low of parents who don't want their students to be masked.
That means that the vast majority of parents agree with me, agree with the science, agree with educators that the students and educators should be masked. And so we need to lift their stories up and their voices up because they are in the vast, vast majority.
It is absolutely essential that parents and community members lift up their voices, they talk with each other. It is about our collective responsibility to keep our students safe.
WHITFIELD: Mrs. Pringle, president, Becky Pringle of the NEA, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Be well.
PRINGLE: Thank you, Fredricka. Stay safe.
WHITFIELD: Thank you. And we'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: The American melting pot is getting even more diverse. That's the bottom line from the new U.S. Census. Data from 2020 shows the nation of immigrants is now more diverse and more multi racial than ever before. CNN's Tom Foreman has a closer look at the numbers.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: look at this whopping number -- 331.4 million people in the U.S. That's what the census bureau came up with. That's growth. The slowest growth in about a century, they say, but still it is growth.
And look at the changes we've seen. Yes, in most places in this country, non-Hispanic white people are the majority or the plurality by a solid margin in many, many places.
But there is real movement among different groups out there. For example, look at the growth here among Hispanic or Latino communities. That's quite large. So much so that they are now the largest ethnic group in California and in New Mexico and making real strides in places like Texas too.
Here's something that was a bit of a surprise. The number of people who say they are some other race or a mixed ethnicity, almost 50 million people said this. That's a big jump.
Some of this is real, some of it is really happening, and some of it is just that the census bureau is allowing people to self-identify that way a little more precisely than in the past, so that's bumped that number up. It's still a trend worth watching.
And all of these trends are being watched. You know why? Because these numbers are how you determine your representation in congress. And the moment these numbers came out, people in the political parties on both sides started saying are we going to pick up any new congressional districts, like they will in Florida and in Texas? Or are we going to lose some, as they are in some other places?
And how do we draw the district lines to maximize the impact of our voters and minimize the impact of the other side's voters. That's where all these dry numbers turn into real political action with real consequences.
WHITFIELD: Tom Foreman, thank you so much for that look. And we'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
President Biden is calling on Congress to help reduce the cost of prescription drugs. It's a big problem that some start up companies are beginning to address.
CNN's Rachel Crane has more in this week's episode of "Mission Ahead".
RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: America has a drug problem. On average, Americans spend about $1,200 a year on prescription drugs, more than any other country. With Congress stalled on finding a fix, new startups are stepping in with solutions of their own.
DR. ALEX OSHMYANSKY, MARK CUBAN COST PLUS DRUG COMPANY: I was working with a pulmonologist at one point and his patients needed a drug called (INAUDIBLE), and two of his patients had died because they were not able to afford the drug.
CRANE: Dr. Alex Oshmyansky (ph) started the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company, after seeing his patients' health suffer when they couldn't afford their medications. With Mark Cuban as a key investor, the company sells low-cost versions of high-cost generic drugs with two approaches, by making the drugs themselves and by cutting out middle men in the supply chain.
DR. OSHMYANSKY: We went to a pharmaceutical manufacturer and said why don't we buy this drug from you direct, you'll make more money out of the deal, believe it or not.
CRANE: With no middleman the company lowered the price of Albendazole a drug used to treat hookworm from $225 pill to $20. But even when drug prices drop, many patients can't take advantage because oftentimes drug prices aren't listed anywhere.
DOUG HIRSCH, GOODRX: I have the experience of taking a prescription into a pharmacy, and the pharmacist said it would be $500. I went to a few other pharmacies and I found way different prices -- $250, $400. And I thought there's got to be a better way.
CRANE: Doug Hirsch started GoodRX over 10 years ago and he says the company has saved Americans over $30 billion on prescriptions by providing drug price transparency and cost comparison tools.
HIRSCH: GoodRX basically brings together prices for both prescriptions and for other medical services, so the consumer knows exactly what they're going to pay. There might be a manufacturer discount. There might be another drug that does the same thing that is a tenth of the price.
CRANE: And that help can have positive health consequences. Nearly 30 percent of patients say they don't take their medicine as prescribed due to cost.
OSHMYANSKY: It's something that happens all the time. I think a lot of people are working on it simultaneously and hopefully we can be part of the solution.
CRANE: Rachel Crane, CNN -- New York.