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New Analysis Shows Black, Hispanic Americans Underrepresented in COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination; Tropical Storm Nicholas Now a Major Flood Threat to Texas and Louisiana; North Carolina District Refuses to Quarantine Students Despite Exposure to COVID-19. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 09:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, data shared exclusively with CNN show that black and Hispanic Americans are underrepresented when it comes both to COVID-19 testing and to vaccinations. That data also suggests those groups are more likely to become infected, be hospitalized, and die from COVID-19.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now to discuss is emergency medicine physician, Dr. Richina Bicette. She's the medical director for Baylor College of Medicine.

Doctor, good to see you this morning. Good to have you back with us. When we look at this analysis of the data, this exclusive CNN analysis, as we look at it, we have seen from the very beginning black and brown communities in this country have been hit harder, whether it came to early cases, hospitalizations, deaths. We have this new data now as we look at it.

I'm curious, what do you make of this, especially as we are looking at, too, these numbers when it comes to testing and vaccination rates?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: I think it's unfortunate. The communities that are being hit hardest by COVID are also the communities that are the least likely to get the vaccine and protect themselves. The CDC has been publishing this data on their Web site since last year. We know that blacks and Hispanics are almost three times more likely to be hospitalized than white Americans and are about two times more likely to die of COVID than white Americans.

But when you look at vaccination rates, for example in the state of California, 54 percent of residents are Hispanic, yet Hispanics only make up 28 percent of vaccinations. There is a disconnect there that we're not addressing and that we need to fix.

SCIUTTO: So you mentioned hesitancy here. We talk a lot about efforts to reach other groups that are hesitant, often white and in southern states, red states, et cetera. I know efforts have been made to reach the hesitant among blacks and Hispanics, and I'm sure you have faced this in your work day to day. And I wonder, are any of those efforts working? What works, what doesn't? BICETTE: You know, for me, Jim, I think any ability to convert one

person shows that our efforts are working. I shared something on Twitter the other day of how I convinced someone in my own family to get vaccinated that was staunchly against the vaccines. It just takes one person at a time, and we have to double down no matter how exhausted and how burnt out we feel. We have got to continue to let our voices be heard about the data and the facts.

HILL: In terms of that data, you know, another point of data that honestly really took my breath away yesterday, we've been seeing this continuous rise in cases among children. The American Academy of Pediatrics now says COVID cases in kids are up I believe it's 240 percent.


We're seeing that rise. I know we often hear it's not as severe in children, that's true, but they can get sick. They can get hospitalized. Children have died. When you look at that number, what is your message to people who say, it's not that big a deal, maybe my kid should even, you know, get COVID, build up some immunity just like a chickenpox party when I was a kid?

BICETTE: Before we got here, Erica, we predicted that this would happen. Before schools opened, we knew that children congregating and school districts without having mask mandates, children who are not able to get vaccinated was a prime vector to spread disease.

Yes, it's true that children may not get as sick as adults, they are not hospitalized as often, they don't die as often, but it can happen. And one child that is too many for me. Not only that, but if your child comes home with COVID, they may do fine, you may not.

SCIUTTO: OK. So now we have some hope, right, and that is discussions of approval of the vaccine for children under 12, perhaps before Halloween, perhaps by the end of next month. In the simplest terms, particularly as we look forward to sadly the fall and winter season when you have greater transmission of flus and coronaviruses, et cetera, is that soon enough? And what percentage of that age group do you need to get vaccinated to really make a difference?

BICETTE: As many as possible. I don't think October is soon enough. I would wish that we could get the vaccine authorized tomorrow, but I know that's not likely. I do think we have to get as many children vaccinated as possible, especially again because a lot of school districts do not have mask mandates and a lot of states have governors who are fighting against having mask mandates.

We see that in L.A. County they've recently just approved having vaccinations for all children who are going to be coming back to in- person learning and that's going to be what is needed in order to make sure that we can protect the health of our children.

SCIUTTO: And yet politicians going against vaccine mandates as well, even though for, you know, there are a half dozen vaccines that kids have to get already before they show up in the classroom. But anyway, that's where we are.

Dr. Richina Bicette, thanks so much.

BICETTE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Also new this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin is now self-isolating. This after several people in his inner circle in the Kremlin tested positive for COVID-19. It is unknown if any of those people were vaccinated, but the Kremlin said Putin, who they say is vaccinated, has tested negative and is healthy. Always take that statement from the Kremlin, any statement with a grain of salt. It went on to say that Putin's scheduled appointments for the week will be attended virtually.

HILL: Tropical Storm Nicholas is now moving toward Louisiana after hitting Texas as a hurricane. It is expected to dump heavy rain on areas that are still recovering from Hurricane Ida. That forecast is next.



HILL: Nicholas is now a tropical storm after making landfall in Texas as a category 1 hurricane early this morning. It is still a very dangerous storm, though, posing a major flood threat to parts of the Gulf Coast.

SCIUTTO: All right. So take a look at this street flooding in Galveston, Texas, just a few hours ago. Looks like a river. In Houston, emergency officials say dangerously high winds and flash floods could happen as the region is expecting up to 12 inches of rain. I mean, we saw what Ida did with that kind of rain. In the coming days, the storm could impact many areas in Louisiana which is still recovering from Hurricane Ida.

Meteorologist Jennifer Gray, she's in the CNN Weather Center.

Jennifer, so tell us where the storm is now and are we seeing the kind of heavy rainfall we saw with Ida that led to all that deadly flooding?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We are seeing very heavy rain with this storm. This is incredibly lopsided storm. All the rainfall, most of the energy is on the east side. So while the center of the storm is still across southeast Texas, majority of the rain is falling in Louisiana. This made landfall as a category 1 hurricane. Now a tropical storm. Still a major flood threat with the heaviest rain expected in Louisiana.

And you can see what I was just mentioning, there is the center of the storm, and all of the rain, the majority of the rain is all to the east. So winds of 60 miles per hour, gusts of 85. The winds alone will still produce power outages across portions of southeast Texas. Moving to the north, northeast at eight miles per hour. But you can see, incredible amounts of moisture being pulled into Louisiana. The heaviest rain right now across southwest Louisiana, but yes, the hardest-hit areas from Ida will receive decent amounts of rain with this storm.

We had wind gusts of almost 80 miles per hour, Magnolia Beach, Port O'Connor, about 75 mile per hour winds. So definitely hurricane force there. Here are portions of the tornado. Thunderstorm and tornado warnings which we don't see any at the moment, but do plan on tornadoes throughout the afternoon, in addition to heavy rainfall. We will see flood alerts with this as well.

Flash flood warnings for areas right around Beaumont, south of Houston getting flash flood warnings as we speak. We had almost 14 inches of rain in Galveston. Houston picked up almost 7 inches of rain. And do plan on six to 10 inches of rain possible across central Louisiana. South Louisiana could pick up four to six inches of rain. And you can see southeast Louisiana could pick up two to maybe four inches of rain with this storm -- Erica and Jim.


HILL: It is, it is rough. Certainly not what the region needs. Jennifer Gray, thank you.

One of the only school districts in North Carolina not to require masks in its schools, now going a step further, actually refusing to quarantine students and staff after a possible exposure. The president of the teachers federation weighing in on that decision next.


SCIUTTO: While new evidence consistently shows that quarantining can reduce COVID-19 infections and even the risk of death from the virus, that is becoming a tough sell for a number of school districts across the country.


HILL: In North Carolina, the Union County Public Schools District now says it's going to halt contact tracing and quarantining for students and staff who've been exposed to COVID-19 if they're not showing symptoms or test negative. Masks are also optional in the state's sixth largest district.

Joining me now is Randi Weingarten. She's the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Good to have you with us this morning. And Jim and I were talking about this earlier. It sort of boggles the mind. You know, we were thinking back to, you know, with little kids when you get a lice notice for a kid in your class, if your child is the one with lice, they can't go back to school for a while. They almost have to quarantine.

When you look at this latest measure out of North Carolina, are you concerned about the precedent that this may set, Randi, and what this could mean in terms of student, teacher and staff safety? RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Yes.

It's -- I mean, it's worse than magical thinking. It's this denial because of the political lens that COVID exists. And it's frankly we know now, we've reopened schools all across America, yesterday was kind of the last of the big reopening and we've reopened from August 1st to September 13th. We know what works even with the Delta variant and that is layered mitigation, vaccination can keep kids and staff safe and can reopen schools.

But part of the layered mitigation is that when you have an outbreak, you have to quarantine and you have contain.


WEINGARTEN: Delta is a very -- it's very virulent. So what that school district is doing in the Carolinas is just wrong and it's going to be a problem.

SCIUTTO: Yes. OK, I want to talk about mandating vaccines for teachers because your position has evolved over time. You now support it, vaccine mandates for teachers, but what is happening now in the midst of the AFT, the American Federation of Teachers, is that there are negotiations going on with I believe it's 3,000 locals of the union around the country.

My question to you is, should all teachers in all of those locals be mandated to be vaccinated? Is that your position?

WEINGARTEN: So, let me -- you know, it's a little bit more nuanced than that, Jim. But personally, I believe in vaccines. The vast majority of our members do, 90 percent of them voluntarily got vaccinated. I wish that we have that kind of percentage around the country.


WEINGARTEN: What we saw, and this is where you saw a change and I talked to you that week.


WEINGARTEN: When you saw the Delta virus variant being so transmissible and you saw the fact that kids under 12 couldn't get the vaccine, we said we had to work with our employers not oppose them on vaccine requirements.


WEINGARTEN: And what's happening in the biggest three districts is that that's what has happened now. You have to give voice and work out the implementation details which unfortunately New York City didn't do until they had that arbitration.

SCIUTTO: I understand.

WEINGARTEN: But it is happening. SCIUTTO: It's basically about getting to that final 10 percent. As you

know, some are presenting the idea of weekly testing as a safe alternative to vaccination. We already know the Biden administration has abandoned that idea for federal employees. Do you believe that weekly testing is a safe alternative for teachers to vaccination?

WEINGARTEN: Look, I think testing is important as a way of seeing if virus is there. But I'm a big believer in everybody who can get the vaccine, getting the vaccine. But we do have people with real medical exceptions and frankly there is this huge disinformation campaign. So in Connecticut, in New Jersey, in most of New York, in California, they're doing that kind of vaccine requirement and it seems to be working.

HILL: When we talk about requiring vaccines, and I know you're the American Federation of Teachers, but looking at what's happening in the L.A. Unified School District, second largest one in the country, requiring the vaccine for students, how effective do you think that would that be if we saw more of that nationwide, requiring this vaccine in addition to so many others which we know are routinely required by states for students?

WEINGARTEN: Look, Erica, I think that that is going to happen in virtually all districts after the vaccine is -- you know, it not -- after the vaccines are not on emergency use but are fully authorized. I think that there is a hesitancy right now, no pun intended, because we don't yet have a vaccine for kids who are 2 to 12. I'm hopeful that that's going to happen soon. But, you know, vaccines are a way of life.


And in these states where, you know, there is hesitancy or resisting about this one, when we have so many already, I think we have to get through the disinformation and we have to find ways to make sure that the public knows, starting with educators, health care workers and employers all over, that these vaccines are safe and effective. But we have to get through this terrible disinformation, and the confusion that's set up when you've got a governor in Florida who has somebody at a press conference who goes through complete disinformation as the governor is standing right there.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, he shared some disinformation himself about who vaccines protect. He's claimed only yourself but of course it does others.

Randi Weingarten, good to have you back on the show.

WEINGARTEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: In just minutes Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in the hot seat again defending the Biden administration's chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. We're going to be live next.