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74-Year-Old New Orleans Man Dies from Heat Amid Outages; Recovery Efforts Underway in Northeast U.S.; Taliban Say Panjshir Taken, But Resistance Forces Deny Claim; GOP Rep. Claims Taliban Not Letting U.S. Citizens Fly Out; White House Waiting for Booster Approval to Announce Date; Kentucky Governor Calls State's COVID Surge Dire. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: 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, hundreds of thousands of people are still without power one week after hurricane Ida came ashore. Now a heatwave could add misery to cleanup efforts.

Competing claims over who controls the last anti-Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan. We will have details in a live report from Kabul.

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

Thanks for joining us. Well, the death toll in Louisiana is still climbing a week after hurricane Ida slammed ashore. Health authorities say the latest victim is a 74-year-old man who died from the heat without offering any other details. Now that brings the tally of storm-related deaths in Louisiana to 13. Nearly 600,000 customers across the state are still without power and facing another day of scorching temperatures. Here is Governor John Bel Edwards stern warning.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): Heat is a major factor right now. That's especially true in areas without power because you can't go in and cool off with air conditioning, you typically can't go in and get a cold drink of water and that sort of thing. So please take advantage of cooling shelters if you can. Run your generators if you have them but do it safely. And make sure that you continue to check on your neighbors especially those who are elderly or have special needs.


CHURCH: Louisiana residents are also navigating a mine field of other challenges including shortages of gasoline, food and water. Recovery efforts are still under way in the Northeastern U.S. where remnants of Ida left a trail of devastation. CNN's Polo Sandoval is in New York following the pace of recovery in one of the hardest hit areas.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're in one of those Queens neighborhoods that was hit particularly hard by last week's flash flooding. There are multiple residents here in Queens that have told me that they are certainly hoping that the federal government will come through with some kind of financial assistance package that would help them rebuild or in some cases simply repair what they lost during that flash flooding.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul actually called on the Biden administration to expedite the kind of financial assistance not just for local governments but also for New Yorkers as well. Those who have been struggling to rebuild. In fact, over the weekend she actually toured some of these neighborhoods and saw firsthand what many of those neighbors are having to deal with now. The governor signing this new disaster declaration with the president's approval. It would potentially lead the way to some kind of individual assistance. But some of these folks would be able to replace some of what they lost.

We did spend some time hearing from some of these folks who said that they are worried that this help may not come. This is Barbara Amarantinis turned to a local center here where the city is offering some support, but she says that is still not enough, she needs more.

BARBARA AMARANTINIS, QUEENS RESIDENT: I came out here because I thought that I could get assistance. My hot water heater is shot, you can't get a plumber. My boiler also gone. And all we've been told with everyone that is here today is call 311 and file a complaint, which I did and was closed out. I don't know what to do. We need financial assistance. We need to get back on our feet.

SANDOVAL: Also, over the weekend, the NYPD also releasing some very dramatic video that was actually taken on Wednesday during the height of the storm, and in did you can see officers desperately trying to reach an area that had been submerged under water, this was one of those basement/cellar apartments that the city is taking a closer look at. In this particular case first responders having to pull back until they could actually pump the water out of that living space. So unfortunately, once they got in there, they recovered three bodies, that of a 2-year-old toddler and his parents.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: And from a heatwave in the South to another hurricane in the Atlantic, meteorologist Tyler Mauldin is here to get us updated on the week's forecast. And Tyler, more relentless extreme weather conditions. What all are you seeing?


TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The dangerous heat again across the Southeast. Specifically in southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi, extreme heat is the deadliest of all-weather hazards. And as the governor of Louisiana said just moments ago, here on air, well, the fact that we have so many people without power just adds to the dire situation here because they can't escape the heat.

So, if you are going to be outside and cleaning up, which many of you will be, make sure that you don't overexert yourself because with the heat and humidity combined together, we're looking at heat index values getting up to about 100 degrees. In New Orleans this afternoon, that heat index is going to get up to 97. Gulfport could get up to 95. And that is the case across much of this area. So again, extreme dangerous heat in the areas that were impacted so terribly by Ida and remain without power.

In New Orleans, your temperature is actually going to be below average once we get to mid-week, but that heat index value, that's what really causes you to overheat. Well, it's going to be in the mid-90s even later on this week.

And then we have excessive heat out west too in Nevada, Arizona and much of California as well. And then we have dry conditions across the northern Rockies, and you combine some triple digit heat possibly in some areas out West, well, that leads to a fire potential. And this is on top of the dozens of fires that we have ongoing out here. We have 73 large wildfires out here spanning 12 different states. It scorched nearly 3 million acres. So unfortunately, we are looking at yet more fire conditions out there across the northern Rockies.

Oh, yes, and we're in the peak of hurricane season almost. The peak of hurricane season is on September 10th. So, we have a lot to talk about here. Here are the two tropical systems that we're watching right now, but one is a budding tropical system. It's this area coming off of Central America, it's going to move to the Northeast. The state of Florida needs to keep a close eye on it. The National Hurricane Center is giving it a 30 percent chance of developing. And will receive a name, it would receive the name Mindy.

And then we have Larry. Larry right here is in the open waters of the Atlantic, the third major hurricane of the season. As you can see, it's going to stay to the east of Bermuda and it's going to stay well to the east of us. So, we're not going to feel direct impacts here in the U.S., however, we are going to see some large swells and dangerous rip currents come rolling down the East Coast beaches later on this week. So be mindful of that if you are heading to the beaches later on this week. Especially between Wednesday and Sunday.

It is the peak of hurricane season, Rosemary, and pretty much the Atlantic basin is fair game for development this time of the year.

CHURCH: All right, Tyler Mauldin, thank you so much for keeping an eye on all of that. So much going on, appreciate it.

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

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

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

Journalist Ben Farmer is in Kabul and joins us now with the latest. So Ben, what more are you learning about these conflicting reports of who's actually in control of northern Afghanistan after some fierce fighting there. And of course, word of the Taliban flag flying over the governor's house there in that region?

BEN FARMER, JOURNALIST (via phone): Yes, the Taliban have just within the last few minutes held a press conference where they say that they have completed the conquest of Panjshir Province. They said it is now totally in their hands and as you say that is the last part of the country that was not in their hands and they now have everything.


They said that they've attempted to negotiate with the resistance forces in there, but the negotiations fell down and they completed a military conquest. They say that there will be no discrimination nor reprisals against the people of Panjshir valley but they said it was unacceptable for them that anyone could hold out against their rule.

The resistance forces strongly deny that they have been defeated. They say that they still control parts of the valley. They control what they call strategic points. And they control some of the side valleys. But we do know from independent sources that they were in severe difficulties and the Taliban had penetrated a long way in. And in fact, overnight the resistance forces called for a ceasefire and for negotiations.

CHURCH: And Ben, as you were speaking with us, we were looking at that video that shows the Taliban flag being raised over the governor's office there in Panjshir. So, talk to us too about the other issue, because we are hearing that the airport in Kabul has reopened and domestic flights have resumed. What is the latest on that and of course, word that aid supplies are coming in.

FARMER: Well, this is a significant development because the airport really is a lifeline to other parts of the country and to the outside world. So domestic services have resumed to some of the country's largest cities, that is Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. The airport is safe for aid flights and that's crucial in a country that is facing a severe humanitarian crisis. In recent months before the Taliban take over, the country's battled

droughts, the conflict, COVID, and great poverty. There are millions of people who are in need of aid. So, the resumption of aid flights is a significant development.

But we still do not have international commercial flights. And the reason for that is that there is no working radar. And that means that there is no international flights that can land. There are lots of people waiting for that to happen because there are a lot of people who still want to leave. They were not able to get out in the airlift. We do not know yet when that radar will be fixed, and when flights might resume.

CHURCH: All right, journalist Ben Farmer staying on top of all of those developments joining us on the phone there from Kabul. Appreciate that.

Well, nearly a week after President Joe Biden declared the end to America's longest war, there are concerns about just how many Americans are still trying to leave Afghanistan. Now one Republican lawmaker claims the Taliban are preventing some U.S. citizens from flying out. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux has the details from Washington.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alarmist language, a dire warning from a top Republican Congressman Michael McCaul. He is the top Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee saying that American citizens are on the ground being held by the Taliban, and that they are not able to get on these flights, that they are in a desperate situation. Saying he is getting this information from classified briefings and he is describing it as something that is similar to a near hostage situation.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): We had six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif airport -- six airplanes with American citizens on them as I speak also with these interpreters and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now. State has cleared these flights and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport.

MALVEAUX: Because of the specific nature of McCaul's claims, CNN has reached out to various government agencies and entities to help amplify, clarify or even confirm what he is saying here. And while the State Department says it cannot confirm the details, the specifics of this situation.

They put out a statement here saying: We understand the concern that many people are feeling as they try to facilitate further charter and other passage out of Afghanistan. However, we don't have personnel on the ground. We don't have air assets in the country. We don't control the air space whether over Afghanistan or elsewhere in the region. Given these constraints, we also do not have a reliable means to confirm the basic details of charter flights, including who may be organizing them, the number of U.S. citizens and other priority groups on board. CNN has reached out to Ascend, that is a nonprofit group like many of

these groups that are trying to get American citizens out of Kabul, out of the airport. They say that yes, there are some that are being held there, and that the Taliban is not allowing for the planes to leave. A spokesperson from the State Department however reiterating that they will hold the Taliban accountable to the commitment that they made that American citizens as well as allies will be able to leave the country freely but of course all right now is very uncertain.

Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, at the Capitol.



CHURCH: And coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, the proposed rollout for U.S. COVID boosters is fast approaching and the nation's top infectious disease doctor says the delta variant is driving the push to get shots into arms.


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



CHURCH: The rollout date for the White House COVID booster plan is just a couple weeks away. One big factor in the push to get extra doses into arms is the spread of the delta variant. The U.S. is averaging more than 150,000 new cases daily and COVID hospitalizations are pushing health care systems to their limits. Unvaccinated Americans are largely driving that surge, only about 53 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. And experts say the delta variant could also be a factor in waning immunity from vaccines.



FAUCI: Remember we made it a two-dose regimen. We were dealing with an emergent situation. We needed to get those vaccines out because they were lifesaving. And in fact, they have been lifesaving. What we're 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: The rollout of any booster of course is subject to regulatory approval, so a large group of fully vaccinated Americans may have to wait a little longer before they roll up their sleeves for a third shot. CNN's Arlette Saenz explains why.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House insists no COVID-19 booster shots will be administered without the approval of the FDA and the CDC. Even as the Biden administration has been targeting a September 20th time frame for rolling out those shots. That plan may now need to be limited as officials are saying they don't have enough data relating to the Moderna vaccine.

Approval for the Pfizer vaccine for that third booster shot does appear to be in progress and proceeding as planned. But it's Moderna that may need to take a few more weeks to receive approval. But White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain insisted that this is all guided by the science even as he now would not put a time frame for when those booster shots would go out. Take a listen.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Did he get ahead of the science by setting up specific dates for boosters before all the data was in?

RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: No, Dana, I think what we said was that we would be ready as of the 20th which is the projection that we were given from the senior science team as to when the FDA would clear the boosters. I want to be clear, no one is going to get boosters until the FDA says that they are approved, until the CDC advisory committee makes a recommendation.

BASH: How will you make that decision? Will you 100 percent follow the science?

KLAIN: 100 percent.

SAENZ: While Pfizer may be ready for the September 20th time frame, the Moderna shot may take a few weeks later. And officials have also said they are still studying whether you could possibly mix and match these booster shot vaccines. So, someone who had initially received Moderna might be able to receive Pfizer as their booster shot. But those studies are still a few weeks away from being completed.

This all comes as there's a real sense of urgency with the Biden administration as other variants of COVID are taking hold as well as a high transmission case rate throughout the country. President Biden is also expected to speak about his COVID-19 response a little bit later in the week as they are trying to get a handle of not just on containing the virus but also getting the booster shots out to Americans.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, traveling with the president in Wilmington, Delaware.


CHURCH: Surging cases are overwhelming hospitals in the state of Kentucky. More than 10,000 new cases have been reported in just the past two days. The governor is asking the legislature to extend a state of emergency and is taking a series of drastic measures. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Well, our situation is dire. We are setting case records, we have a record number of Kentuckians in the hospital battling COVID, in the ICU battling for their lives. We have a record number of families that are praying for their loved one who is on a ventilator and needing that assistance to breathe.

I sent the National Guard to our hardest hit hospitals, we brought in FEMA who have sent some strike teams and now we've deployed nursing students all over Kentucky.


CHURCH: And here in Georgia, ICU beds are at 95 percent capacity as the delta variant drives a surge in cases. According to U.S. Health and Human Services, Georgia now has its highest number of hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. Local officials report the state has now surpassed 20,000 total deaths.

Well, the latest federal data shows nearly one in every three ICU beds in the U.S. is occupied by a COVID patient. Earlier I spoke with epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant and I asked him what the rise in cases tell him about what we can expect as the school year progresses.


DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, FOUNDER AND CEO, PANDEFENSE ADVISORY: Last year when they were doing virtual schooling, they weren't being exposed to the disease. And now we have a whole group of elementary schoolchildren who can't get vaccinated, they are too young to be vaccinated, and in some cases, not only are they not getting vaccinated, they are not being masked and they are not being tested and I don't think that we're doing enough to protect our kids.

It's one thing to say that we have to open the schools. I wish we would say that by saying we have to open our schools safely. I think that's the thing that I'm most concerned about.


And if we find that this 160,000 cases per day becomes the base, and it shoots up, then we're in for another wave, we're in for another -- another tough fall and winter.

CHURCH: And then of course flu gets in the mix there as well, which complicates everything. And Dr. Anthony Fauci says dramatic data coming from Israeli studies support 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 very 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. And I don't think these 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 tradeoff, but we need to become the greatest exporter of vaccine and I hope vaccine manufacturing facilities.


CHURCH (on camera): The World Health Organization last month called global vaccine inequity disgraceful according to our world in data, less than 2 percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

Well, daily COVID cases fell in Israel over the weekend. On Saturday, the country reported its lowest daily case count in three weeks. It comes about 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 expects 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.

And Mexico is still battling its latest COVID surge with cases averaging just over 13,000 a day. That is high but down significantly from a couple of weeks ago.

Well, Guinea's military makes its move and changes the political future of the west African nation. A look at the implications for the region just ahead.

Plus, chaotic scenes unfolding in southern Mexico as young children are caught up in a clash between authorities and a group of migrants headed for the United States.