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Taliban Claimed Last Province in Afghanistan; Domestic Flights Resume in Afghanistan; Louisiana Dealing with Extreme Heat; U.S. Push for a Booster Shot; Mexico Starts in-Person Learning. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead on CNN Newsroom. Competing claims over the last anti- Taliban Stronghold in Afghanistan. We will have details and a live report from Kabul.

Delta variant hospitalizations and cases are surging. Now America's top infectious disease expert says three vaccine doses may be the best way out.

And celebrations in Guinea after the military takes over in an apparent coup.

Good to have you with us.

Well, the Taliban are now claiming to have taken complete control of the last holdout province in northern Afghanistan. The Panjshir province has been the scene of fierce fighting between Taliban fighters and the resistance forces.

But the Taliban's claim is being denied by the National Resistance Front. A spokesman told CNN resistance forces are still in strategic positions across the valley and are continuing to fight.

Meantime, a vital lifeline for Afghanistan has reopened. The Kabul is now seeing more domestic flights resume and on Sunday aid planes brought in more than 50 tons of medical supplies and food.

So, let's get straight to Kabul where journalist Ben Farmer is standing by. He joins us now. So, Ben, we are getting these mixed reports on where things stand in northern Afghanistan. What are you learning about who has control in that region after some fierce fighting there?

BEN FARMER, JOURNALIST: Well, just in the last few minutes the Taliban have begun a press conference where they have announced that they have completely conquered Panjshir valley. They have asked their fighters to celebrate but not to fire in the air as they have done in the past. And they say that they are now in complete control of Afghanistan.

And he says that's contested by the resistance forces. The resistance forces say that they still control strategic positions in that valley and they also control many of the side valleys that branch off it. But we do know that the resistance forces have been facing great difficulties. Overnight they appealed for a cease-fire and they said that they would begin talks. They still say they haven't been defeated but the Taliban are now saying that they control the entire area.

CHURCH: And Ben, we are also hearing that the airport in Kabul has reopened. And domestic flights have resumed. What is the latest on that? Of course, these aid supplies coming in?

FARMER: Yes, the resumption of flights into the airport is very significant in Afghanistan. The moment flights are going to some of the major provincial cities. They are flying to Kandahar, they are flying Herat, and they are flying to Mazar-i-Sharif.

They are also, the airport is also allowing aid flights, and as you said which is crucial in a country which is facing a terrible humanitarian crisis. It was a crisis that was very severe even before the Taliban takeover after months and months of fighting. And it's getting worse with the dire economic situation.

As yet, though, we do not have international flights which would allow people to leave. There are still many people who fear living under the Taliban and who are desperate to leave. But international flights have not resumed. We understand that's because there is no radar at the moment and that's makes it impossible for its commercial flights to begin again.

CHURCH: All right, journalist Ben Farmer joining us there from Kabul on the phone. Many thanks.

Well, the White House chief of staff says the administration believes there are around 100 Americans still in Afghanistan and says the U.S. will find a way to get them out if they want to leave the country. But one Republican lawmaker claims the Taliban are now preventing some U.S. citizens from flying out.


REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX): We have six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif airport. Six airplanes with Americans on them as I speak. Also, with these interpreters and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now. They -- we have stay as cleared these flights and the Taliban won't let them leave the airport.


CHURCH (on camera): Satellite images from Friday show six planes on the ground at Mazar-i-Sharif airport but CNN has not yet verified if those planes were the same ones referenced by McCaul.

[03:05:10] It has been a week since Hurricane Ida charge ashore in Louisiana and

it's still claiming victims. A 74-year-old man from New Orleans died of heat exhaustion according to the state health department. The tally of storm related deaths in Louisiana is now at 13. Complicating matters power outages are still widespread amid scorching temperatures.

CNN's Nadia Romero has that part of the story from hard-hit Kenner.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hundreds of thousands of people across Louisiana are still without power more than a week after the storm. And no power means no air conditioning and what has become a hot sweltering moment for the state of Louisiana. Especially down here in Kenner where we're right next to New Orleans.

If you take a look behind me, this is what the street looks like in this neighborhood. This power line down, this power pole, another one, another one, and it just keeps going on and on down the street. The neighbors say they felt barricaded inside their homes, trapped inside because of the downed power lines. So, they had to get in their cars and drive across their neighbor's lawns just to get out of the neighborhood.

One woman tells me that there's a bit of a silver lining when it comes to the storm and it regard to her mother.


EMILY ENCALARDE, KENNER RESIDENT WITHOUT POWER: My mother, thank God, well I say thank God but she passed from COVID in March of 2020. So, I'm just thankful that she was not here to witness any of this because she would have been miserable right now. She really would have.

ROMERO: I'm so sorry to hear about your mother. It's one storm after another for your family it seems like.

ENCALARDE: Yes. I mean, but this is -- this is the nature of the beast. If you live here in southeastern Louisiana you can expect this sort of thing to happen on a regular basis. That's the crazy part.


ROMERO: Now the areas power company says that this particular city should have its power back on by September 8th which is Wednesday. But people in the neighborhood are not very hopeful or optimistic that they will meet that deadline.

Nadia Romero, CNN, Kenner, Louisiana.

CHURCH: And in the northeast U.S., Ida's rainfall and flooding left at least 50 people dead. Cleanup and recovery efforts are ongoing. President Joe Biden has issued a disaster declaration for New Jersey that will speed up federal aid.

Meantime, CNN obtained this video from New York's Police Department showing heroism and heartbreak amid the flooding. This as a first responder waiting in chest deep water on Wednesday to investigate reports of people in a flooded basement.

And you can see stuffed animals and toys floating in that murky water. The officers were blocked by locked doors and live electricity. The fire department had to bring in specialized equipment and tragically discovered the bodies of three people who had drowned.

Well, from a heat wave to another hurricane in the Atlantic, meteorologist Tyler Mauldin is here to get us updated on the week's forecast. Good to see you, Tyler. And the extreme weather conditions. They have just been relentless. What are you seeing in the forecast?

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, extreme heat is the deadliest weather hazard of all. And unfortunately, we are seeing extreme heat down here across southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi, the areas that just took Ida directly on to the chin. That's the reason why we always say that the fact that extreme heat is the deadliest weather hazard. That's why we always say make sure you stay inside if you can.

But unfortunately, because of Ida this entire area pretty much is without power. So, you can't really escape the heat. That's what makes this situation a little dire, heat advisories in effect for the area in orange because the heat index could get up to the low 100s.

In New Orleans the heat index on Monday afternoon it's going to get up to 97. It's going to get up to about 95 degrees in Oregon City and Gulfport. There will be in the mid to upper 90s. So do make sure that you find a shade if you can. Relax if you can. Don't over exert yourself in southwestern Louisiana and make sure you stay hydrated.

The heat is not just in the lower Mississippi, though. It's also out west too in portions of California and also in Arizona and Nevada as well, where temperatures are going to just be dangerous in that area as well. We are talking about temperatures in the triple digits.

We also had heat and an ongoing drought across the northern Rockies. You add that together and you've got a red flag warning which means fires could potentially spark in that area. This is in addition to the 73 large active wildfires that we currently have ongoing. That's spanning about a dozen states and it scorched nearly three million acres thus far.


We also have tropics. All right. We are nearing the -- we have tropical initially. We are nearing the peak of hurricane season which is on September 10th. I can tell you, you know, with absolute certainty that Louisiana at the moment doesn't look to be impacted by any tropical systems.

But this little disturbance coming off of Central America looks to track towards the state of Florida and could wrap up into our next named system bringing them some squally weather later on this week. And then we also have Larry. Larry is a fish storm out here. It's a category three hurricane, our third major hurricane of the season. And you can see it looks really healthy in satellite imagery. It stays

to the east of Bermuda. It stays east of Nova Scotia. That doesn't mean that they're not going to feel any impacts. They could. But we here across the East Coast of the U.S. we don't have to worry about it. It's not going to impact us. All it's going to do is bring in large swells and some rip currents.

So, if you are heading to the beach anytime soon over the next seven days, be mindful of that. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks, Tyler Mauldin bringing us up to date on all of that. A lot to keep your mind on there.


CHURCH: Well more than 200 medical journals are calling for urgent action on climate change. They say the climate crisis is already taking a toll on our health with illnesses including heart and lung disease, kidney problems, skin cancer, and pregnancy complications.

They go on to say many governments met the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic with unprecedented funding. The environmental crisis demands a similar emergency response.

Well, huge investment will be needed beyond what's being considered or delivered anywhere in the world.

And coming up on CNN Newsroom, the push to rollout for U.S. COVID boosters is approaching and the nation's top infectious disease doctor says the Delta variant is driving the push to get shots into arms. Back with that and more.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It continues to be profoundly dominant in this country, more than 99 percent.




CHURCH (on camera): The proposed rollout from the White House COVID booster plan is exactly two weeks away. And top U.S. disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci says it's very likely at least part of the plan will roll out on the 20th which at this stage only includes Pfizer. Moderna doses may be delayed as data for that shot is being reviewed.

He also says data on mixing and matching Pfizer and Moderna doses may just be a couple of weeks away. Part of what's driving the push is the rampant spread of the Delta variant. The U.S. is hitting more than 150,000 new cases daily. And COVID hospitalizations are pushing health care systems to the brink. This is largely being driven by unvaccinated Americans as only 53

percent of the population is fully vaccinated. And health care experts say the Delta variant could be a factor in waning immunity among those who are vaccinated.


FAUCI: Remember, we made it a two-dose regiment, we were dealing with an emergent situation. We need to get those vaccines out because they were lifesaving. And in fact, they have been more lifesaving. What we are observing now not only here in the United States but in other countries including Israel and the U.K., that the durability of the protection tends to wane particularly in the context of the Delta variant.


CHURCH (on camera): CNN medical analyst Dr. Larry Brilliant is the founder and CEO of the Pandefense Advisory and he joins me now from Mill Valley in California. He is also an epidemiologist and a philanthropist. Thank you, doctor, for being with us and for all that you do.


CHURCH: So, doctor, the big question that everyone is asking is when will this pandemic end? Vaccinations are available to all Americans and yet some refused to get the shot. Europeans received their vaccines much later, but now they have higher vaccination rates and are reclaiming their lives. When will this end in America if 20 percent or more refused to get vaccinated and wear masks and hospitals are full?

BRILLIANT: My colleagues and I wrote an article in foreign affairs that was titled the forever virus. I lament that title. I hope to God that title is never true and that we are wrong. But it seems like the coronavirus that we're looking at right now has found within itself within its genetic code a methodology for increasing and creating variants. I think that we are going to be in for a long road fighting against them.

I'm very concerned actually about some of the new variants. But I'm mostly concerned about the fact that in the United States we're averaging 160,000 new cases, and it's Labor Day. And last year at Labor Day we only had about a third this number of cases. We are averaging about 2,000 deaths last year and we only had half that many deaths per day.

It seems like with all the new vaccines that we have, we should been able to offset the new Delta variant. But that's not what's happening. We are losing ground a little bit and I'm concerned about that.

CHURCH: Yes. And understandably too, the medical data on the vaccine show zero deaths or hospitalizations for 99.99 percent of fully vaccinated people, and yet some anti-vaxxers are so afraid of taking the COVID vaccine that they are turning instead to a deworming drug designed for horses and counts.

A drug being promoted by some anchors on Fox in an effort to spread disinformation and that's resulting in a spike in overdoses. How is that even allowed to happen? What might the consequences be do you think?


BRILLIANT: I think two separate issues. One it gets confusing when we talk about a third dose and we talk about the fact that these, the mRNA vaccines don't protect as much as they did before about people getting the disease. I think that sounds confusing. It sounds like, well, maybe not the vaccines are not so good.

Let me be clear. The vaccines are great. They are legendary. They are historic. But it is true that they protect us against getting sick which is what they were designed for. And they are showing a waning immunity or an inability to prevent the Delta variant from infecting us.

The people who get the disease if they have gotten to mRNA doses, they're not dying, they're not going on ventilators, they aren't getting very sick. And so the vaccine is doing what it wants but it did provide an opening for people to look at other treatments. And you know, they've come up with some incredible ones from bleach to hydroxychloroquine and to this which is actually a horse dewormer.

CHURCH: And Dr. Anthony Fauci says dramatic data coming from Israeli studies support the case for COVID boosters. You mentioned this third shot. What is your view on when people should be getting that third shot?

BRILLIANT: You know, I'm sorry to hear and feel this kind of conflict between taking the doses that we have and sending them to countries that have had no doses versus vaccinating at home people who need that third dose. I don't think they should be in conflict.

We have a number of senior citizens over 65 who are immunocompromised who perhaps haven't had their dose in eight months. They should certainly get a third dose. But after that I wish we would pause and look at the data and then understand that if we don't vaccinate everyone in the world, we will continue to import new variants.

And it's a trade-off but we need to become the greatest exporter of vaccine and I hope vaccine manufacturing facilities.

CHURCH: Dr. Larry Brilliant, always good to get your analysis. Many thanks as always.

BRILLIANT: Thank you. Nice to see you again.

CHURCH: You, too.

Daily COVID cases fell in Israel over the weekend. On Saturday, the country reported its lowest daily case count in three weeks. It comes after a month after the country began offering a third dose of the vaccine. And Israel's COVID czar says that another round of booster shots could be on the way.

In Australia, authorities in New South Wales said Monday that they expect new infections to peak next week with some parts of Sydney likely hitting 2,000 cases a day. The country is currently battling a third wave of infections that has put more than half of the population under strict lockdown rules.

In neighboring New Zealand, the prime minister announced Monday that COVID restrictions across much of the country will be eased starting this week. But areas around Auckland will remain under strict lockdown rules for now at least as the city battles an outbreak of cases.

Mexico is still battling its latest COVID surge with cases averaging just over 13,000 a day. That's high but down significantly from a couple of weeks ago. But there are concerns the progress could be erased after Mexican children began heading back to school last week. The government promise the return will be safe but many parents are not so sure.

CNN's Rafael Romo reports from Mexico City.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For the first time in 17 months these Mexican students are going back to school in person. Other than blessings and hugs their return is far from normal. Upon arrival, their hands are sanitized. And their temperature checked. Parents seem anxious.

"We are in the middle of a pandemic, the highest peak as far as I know, it was not an easy decision. We hope the school has taken the right measures," this father said. Asked about how she felt going back to school, the seven-year-old could only utter one word. "Excited," she said.

"I'm afraid of getting infected and getting my whole family infected. That's my fear," the student said.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in July that classes would resume at the end of August rain or shine, pandemic or not.

There are no major risks for children or teenagers, the president said. We can have good control and the pandemic should not be an excuse to keep schools closed.

More than 25 million elementary and middle school students were supposed to resume classes in-person in Mexico on August 30th. In the end, less than half showed up.


According to figures from the Mexican government only 45 percent of students showed up on day one, and 52 percent of schools actually managed to open.

ROMO (on camera): Were Mexican school teachers and students and back to school that the country still in the middle of the pandemic?

PABLO CLARK, SENIOR RESEARCHER, MEXICAN INSTITUTE FOR COMPETITIVENESS: Unfortunately, most schools were probably not ready to welcome students back in a safe and efficient manner.

ROMO (voice over): Pablo Clark analyzed Mexico's education system preparedness for reopening and what he found was that some schools didn't meet the minimum requirements for a safe return.

CLARK: When parents go to their schools and actually talk to their teachers and to their principals, they realize that there are no conditions to put in practice the guidelines that are coming from the federal government. They see that there are schools do not have adequate infrastructure. They do not have access to running water.

ROMO: Members of a powerful teachers union blocked the president's access to an event in Chiapas recently as a protest for what they consider a lack of guarantees for the safe return to the classroom. The president's answer?

"I won't be blackmailed."

By the end of May Mexico was one of only 23 countries around the world that still keep its schools closed due to the pandemic.


ROMO (on camera): Many of the parents we talked to here at the capital were still hesitant to allow their children to go back to school because they didn't feel conditions for a safe return were met. But in the end, many decided to still send them back because they were afraid of the long-term academic impact to their children after 17 months away from the classroom.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.

CHURCH: In Guinea's capital celebrations in the streets after an apparent coup. A live report on the political uncertainty just ahead.

And after the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial decision on a Texas anti-abortion law, we will take a look at the future of women's reproductive rights.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hundreds of people in the capital of the West African nation of Guinea celebrated news of an apparent coup Sunday.


UNKNOWN (through translator): The joy is at its maximum, my brother. Look around. It's like that all over the territory. The Guinean people are free.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH (on camera): An adviser to President Alpha Conde confirmed the

president is under arrest. The 83-year-old won a third term in a disputed election last year. He changed the Constitution to allow it which triggered opposition protests.

So, let's turn now to David McKenzie, he joins us live from Johannesburg. Good to see you, David.

So, what more you learning about this coup, and what does it mean for the nation, and of course the region?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the region will certainly be taking notice. This is a dramatic series of events that unfolded, Rosemary, early on Sunday when you had a special forces troops entering the peninsula off of the capital Conakry which houses the presidential palace and other key government buildings.

Witnesses CNN spoke to said that there was small arms and heavy arms fire for several hours. And then you have these extraordinary scenes of the 83-year-old president sitting surrounded by the special forces look somewhat -- looking somewhat dazed. They spirited him away. At this stage he's at an unknown location though they say he is safe.

And it appears that the special forces led by Mamadi Doumbouya have taken control of the country at least at this stage. He appeared surrounded by his fellow coup instigators on state media later in the evening and then played into the unpopularity of the president. Take a listen.


MAMADY DOUMBOUYA, CHIEF OF SPECIAL FORCES & COUP LEADER (through translator): The personalization of politics of political life is over. We will no longer entrust politics to a man, we will entrust it to the people. We come only for that. It is the duty of a soldier to save the country. The only thing that motivates us is that. We are going to put in place a system that does not exist and we must all build this system together.


MCKENZIE (on camera): So, there is deep unpopularity of the president or outgoing president it seems. At this point, he won this disputed election that you mentioned, extended term limits and also, he's being accused of a great deal of allegations of corruption which he denies.

But I think it's too early to tell whether those celebrations on the streets will be sustained. And the coming hours and days will be critical. At this stage we don't know what kind of government they are going to be putting forward. And in the next hour or so, they said they would bring in or invited the leaders of the country and the government and the parliament to come in to discuss the terms of their exit. Rosemary?

CHURCH: So, David, pretty difficult to work out what the likely next steps are then here. MCKENZIE: I think the next steps will be, of course, like any coup

that the military leaders will try and consolidate their power. It's unclear whether there is any division within the military but this was carried out by more highly trained soldiers. The leader of this coup was a former French legionnaire and had been trained in part by the Americans during their special operations training that happen regularly on the continent.

This is also part of the cascade of instability and coup and coup attempts in that region. ECOWAS, the regional body which I think is the key player in the regional reaction to this has condemned this of course, they are saying they should return to constitutionality. But it's unclear what power they have over the domestic politics and power within Guinea.

And currently, the borders are closed, a curfew has been put in relative calm in the capital. But it's unclear where the former president is, how he would be treated and whether they can sustain this grab of power. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. David McKenzie, many thanks for bringing up to date on that.

Well, in the United States, Democratic lawmakers are moving quickly in response to the restrictive abortion law in Texas. The Supreme Court let stand the measure which bans abortions after six weeks even though it violates the Roe versus Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when the House returns from recess it will take up Representative Judy Chu's Women's Health Protection Act. The measure would codify abortion rights protections into federal law.


REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): If WHPA were to pass abortion, access would be protected everywhere regardless of the types of laws that states may pass whose only purpose is to impede abortion like dictating the width of clinic doors or forcing the doctors to have unnecessary admitting privileges in some hospital or requiring an ultrasound.

All those provisions would be prohibited and a woman would have the freedom of choice to make a decision that would impact her future, a choice that should be a private one between her and her doctor.


CHURCH (on camera): Jessica Levinson is a professor of law at Loyola Law School, and joins me now from Los Angeles. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So, when the Texas law banning most abortions went into effect last Wednesday it dealt a double blow to women. No longer could they get an abortion after six weeks when most women don't even know they are pregnant. But additionally, the draconian law would be enforced by other Texans who could also profit by reporting a woman and anyone else helping her get an abortion even a taxi driver. So, a few days later, what is your reaction to this Texas law? And what can women do about it?

LEVINSON: Very little. I mean, my reaction is that this really upends, as you said, not only our abortion jurisprudence, it goes directly against the big case that we know that created a constitutional right for women to obtain access to an abortion, Roe, and against the updated version of Roe. A case called Casey.

There is no way that the Supreme Court case saw an abortion and this Texas law can live together. And as you said, this law or these are my words now, it's just brilliantly written if you want to make it as difficult as possible for any woman to obtain an abortion even before she knew she's pregnant.

It really upends our understanding of who enforces these laws by saying to private citizens, any private citizen, you can sue another private citizen for helping a woman fill out an insurance form, giving a woman alone to pay for an abortion, driving a woman to an abortion clinic. And you will have to pay not only at least $10,000 if that person wins, but also the other person's attorney's fees.

But this is a law that is just strategically brilliant if you want to create as many hurdles as possible for women to obtain an abortion. I just didn't think that the Supreme Court would let it go into effect before they overturn Roe.

CHURCH: Yes, it is a very dark brilliance, isn't it? And then the Supreme Court, as you mentioned, refused to block this Texas abortion law. Let's talk about what that might signal for the landmark decision of Roe versus Wade which gave women the right to choose to have an abortion if that's what they wanted or needed. Could the Supreme Court overturn that or will each Republican state simply follow the Texas abortion law and render Roe versus Wade irrelevant?

LEVINSON: I think both. So, I think what we are seeing in the short term is that other states and we've heard Florida already has plans to pass a law that looks exactly like Texas' law. And frankly why not? If the Supreme Court has said that Texas' law can go into effect, how could it possibly then say no, but there is something different about Florida's law.

So, I think we're going to see that for potentially the next few months. And then as we know, in the next Supreme Court term the court has a big abortion case that's already on its docket. It's out of Mississippi. It's a ban of 15 weeks and after in pregnancy.

A lot of people, myself included, thought that the court was going to wait probably in June 2022 announce now we are overturning Roe, or so hollowing out Roe that it is essentially an empty promise. But the court on its shadow docket didn't even wait. So, I think we are going to see states acting as if Roe doesn't exist and then ultimately the Supreme Court just affirmatively overturning it.

CHURCH: And Jessica, this Texas abortion law makes no exceptions for rape or incest. So, if a father rapes his own daughter, she has to have that baby. Where else in the world would that happen?

LEVINSON: Not in places that you would consider to be developed countries with constitutional democracies and popularly elected representatives.


This is, I think a big wake up call for a lot of people to realize that we should not take cases for granted. That we should not take rights for granted. And look, this is a -- this is a difficult question. Because people on both sides of the debate feel that they are defending life.

And it's different from any other really legal question where we have antidiscrimination laws or freedom of religion or voting rights where you can clearly see the two sides. So, this is such, this is just an intractable question for America.

Unfortunately, I think we know or I would say in my opinion unfortunately, I think we know where the Supreme Court is going and we know where in the short term we're going. The real question long-term legally will be whether or not states and conservative movements will press for the idea of fetal personhood so that no state could allow access to an abortion.

CHURCH: Jessica Levinson, thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

LEVINSON: Thank you.

CHURCH: And still to come on CNN Newsroom, Tokyo bids farewell to the Paralympics, but as the games move on Japan is fighting rising COVID infections. We will go live to Tokyo, that's next.


CHURCH (on camera): Some final images here from the Tokyo Paralympics. The global competition wrapped up on Sunday with a colorful celebration despite the ongoing pandemic. The closing ceremony included singing, dancing, and the parade of nations. It took place in a near empty stadium without spectators due of course to the pandemic.

Japan found some success containing the coronavirus during the Paralympics but the Delta variant still is driving new infections.


And our Blake Essig joins me now from Tokyo. Good to see you, Blake. So, let's start with that closing ceremony. How was it received? And what was the overall assessment of the hosting of the Paralympics? BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, Rosemary, late last

night inside the national stadium right there behind me the closing ceremony was held bringing Tokyo 2020 to an end. As was the case throughout the games, as you mentioned, last night's closing ceremony taking place inside a nearly empty stadium.

And while I was lucky enough to be there, the people who, perhaps deserved to be there the most, the people of Japan unfortunately weren't. And while some people are happy that these games are held, they say they wish the circumstances were different. Take a listen.


UNKNOWN (through translator): I really hope there would have to be a summer game like this again where people can't attend in person due to a pandemic. I think these games would have been even better and safer if there were no to pandemic. But nobody could've seen that coming.


ESSIG (on camera): Like I said, I was one of the lucky people to be inside the 68,000-seat stadium and like every event I attended throughout these games it was an experience that was absolutely surreal. To sit inside a 68,000-seat stadium seemingly all alone and watch the celebration of sport was not only strange but also exciting at the same time, something honestly, Rosemary, that I will never forget.

CHURCH: And Blake, what is the latest on COVID infections and hospitalizations across Japan?

ESSIG: Well, you know, Rosemary, I mean, really, it's kind of a tale of two cities when it comes to COVID-19 here in Tokyo across the country as well as within the Paralympic bubble. You have about, I want to say, roughly 200,000 people currently right now that are at home with COVID-19 unable to get into a hospital because there is simply no room.

You have tens of thousands of people who require hospitalization but can't receive that medical care. And as a result, you have some people dying at home. But at the same time, you -- within the Paralympic bubble because of the COVID-19 countermeasures that were put in place through the Olympic and Paralympic Games cases within the Olympic bubble are remain relatively low.

You know, proof of concept, you know, for potentially future games, the games in Beijing just several months away offering a blueprint as to how they might be able to successfully hold the games assuming that the pandemic continues to be a problem.

CHURCH: All right. Blake Essig joining us live from Tokyo. Many thanks for that. I appreciate it.

Well, a crazy scene unfolded in Sao Paulo on Sunday between football powerhouses Brazil and Argentina. Less than five minutes into the match Brazilian health officials enter the pitch to remove three Argentine players. Brazil says those players plus one who wasn't on the pitch made false statements upon arriving in the country omitting that they had been in the U.K. in the past two weeks.

Under Brazilian rules they have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. FIFA says the match is suspended.

And still ahead here on CNN Newsroom, after leaving the U.S. during the pandemic a Chinese researcher can't get back to complete his studies. Why he says he is a victim of Donald Trump's policies.



CHURCH (on camera): Welcome back, everyone. Well in the U.S., a Trump era ban on visas aimed at Chinese nationals still causing problems for students trying to get back to the United States. The policy targeted people suspected of being spies for the Chinese military. Now those students are warning it may drive a bigger wedge between the two countries.

CNN's David Culver has our report.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Heightened tensions between the U.S. and China striking at a higher education, forcing some Chinese grants and post grants students to hope their studies in the U.S. Their academic futures left in limbo.

DENNIS HU, CHINESE STUDENT: My research was kind of like disruptive.

CULVER: Dennis Hu one of them. He flew to Shanghai in January 2020 along with his friend and lab mate Matthew Jagielski.

UNKNOWN: Kung Hei Fat Choi.

CULVER: Hu aim to renew his visa and introduce Jagielski to his family and the Chinese culture. But while Jagielski, an American return to the U.S. Hu was delayed in going back to their university in Boston. First by the outbreak, several attempts to return failed, then came a new policy under President Trump.

HU: First I think it's a policy based on nationality.


CULVER: Hu is referring to proclamation 10043. In May 2020 Trump blocked Chinese graduate students and post grad researchers that came mostly from a Chinese university with suspected Chinese military ties. The policy singled out those studying in STEM fields or science, technology, engineering, and math framed as part of national security.

ERIC FISH, AUTHOR, CHINA'S MILLENNIALS, THE WANT GENERATION: There certainly is espionage that goes on in U.S. Universities from China. There have been cases in the past where students have been used for espionage purposes. This policy, though, is very sweeping, it's arbitrary.

CULVER: It's estimated there are as many as 5,000 people Chinese students now kept from reentering the U.S. In response to the CNN, the U.S. State Department said in part, that the United States welcomes international students and stated that the policy is intentionally narrowly targeted, affecting less than 2 percent of those applying for the student and exchange visitor visas, stressing that the proclamation is intended to protect both the integrity of the U.S. research enterprise and U.S. national security interest. But some experts fear the policy could worsen U.S.-China relations for generations to come.

FISH: I think when you get to a more fundamental level this has been really alienating to a lot of young Chinese who were most predisposed to be amiable towards the United States in the first place.

CULVER: Students like Hu now desperate to return to the U.S. His research focuses on social media data to assess bias in the public domain.

MATTHEW JAGIELSKI, DENNIS HU'S LAB MATE: I definitely don't get the impression that his research is like a military sensitive thing. I also, you know, don't get the impression that he is a person that is trying to sneak it in or anything.


HU: It just hurt me with those accusations or labeling of being a Chinese spy.

CULVER: It is concerning enough for Chinese officials to raise the issue of student visa restrictions in recent high-level talks with their U.S. counterparts, calling it unfair treatment. But in the U.S., there are American graduate students likewise kept from reentering China.

WALEED KHAN, U.S. STUDENT UNABLE TO GET BACK TO CHINA: And I was essentially meant to graduate this year 2021.

CULVER: Waleed Khan and his brother lived in Shanghai up until the outbreak. The medical student thought it'd be a brief hiatus and then he'd be back to finish his sixth and final year. Instead, the brothers are left waiting in their L.A. home.

KHAN: We want to return, we are proactive, we want to abide by the guidelines but we need guidelines to abide by.

CULVER: China keeping most international students including Americans from returning based on COVID-19 restrictions. But Khan thinks there's more to that.

KHAN: I do believe that having that American passport is making these difficult because of the political conflict between the U.S. and China. I feel like we maybe we're caught in the crossfires. CULVER: Back in China, Hu is part of a group pushing the Biden

administration to revoke the Trump proclamation even trying to raise funds trying to launch a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

HU: I'm trying my best to be positive even the reality might not always be good.

CULVER: David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


CHURCH (on camera): And thank you for joining us this hour. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with more news in just a moment. Do stay with us.