Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

California Voters Head to Polls to Determine Gov. Newsom's Fate; Family Begs Others to Get Vaccinated After ICUs at 43 Hospitals Were Too Full to Treat Their Loved One; Tragic Stories of Loss Amid Ongoing Battles Over Vaccines; On Full Vaccinations, U.S. Ranks Second-to-Last Among G-7 Nations; Surveillance Camero Footage & Interviews Cast Doubt on Pentagon's Account of Deadly U.S. Drone Strike in Kabul; U.S. Inflation Eases in August, Prices Still Rising. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 13:30   ET



JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They sweep the statewide offices. Because of the fact that this is a heavily blue area, they want to ensure that they have the volume.

That they have as many voters here as possible coming out, casting their ballot, doing it by mail, in order to try to upset some of the potential surges we might see in other parts of the state in those redder areas -- Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: And it's a dynamic race right now. We'll continue to follow the developments.

Thank you, Josh Campbell, Nick Watt.

A reminder, we'll have live coverage, special coverage of this recall election tonight here on CNN beginning at 10:00 Eastern. The polls close there around 11:00 Eastern, 8:00 local time.

All right, 43. A family now begging for people to get vaccinated after trying 43 different hospitals for a heart patient's critical care. But all 43 couldn't take him because they were packed with COVID patients. Now he's dead.



CABRERA: More tragic stories as the nation battles over COVID boosters and vaccine mandates. One family in Alabama now urging people to get vaccinated. Not because they lost their loved one from COVID, because there were no available ICU beds to treat him for the condition he did have.

CNN's Nick Valencia is in Birmingham with their story.

Nick, what happened? NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, hospitals in Alabama point-

blank are in a state of crisis. COVID-19 patients are not only filling up ICU beds but hospitals.

We're now seeing indirect victims of this pandemic. People like 73- year-old Ray Demonia (ph), an antiques dealer, who, earlier this month, was going through a cardiac episode according to his family.

They thought they would be able to take him to his nearby hospital, Coleman Regional Medical Center, and get him the treatment that he needed. But he wasn't able to get that because of a lack of resources.

Over the next 12 hours, that hospital would call 43 hospitals across three states, finally finding an ICU bed for Mr. Demonia (ph), in Meridian, Mississippi, where he was air lifted, but it was too late. He died as a result of those cardiac complications.

And his family, as you mention, in the obituary, imploring people to get vaccinated saying it's the only way for people like their father, like their son not to die.

This is a tragedy playing out across the state of Alabama.

Earlier, I spoke to one of the workers on the frontline, Dr. David Kimberlin, who is part of the hospital system here. A hospital system, he says, that's on the verge of collapse.


DR. DAVID KIMBERLIN, CO-DIRECTOR, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE DIVISION, UAB: Two weeks ago, I got -- late in the evening, I got an emergency email saying that there were 60 runs that were in front of someone calling for an ambulance. Some of those runs, 100 miles away.

Basically, you call and say look, I'm having chest pain or I can't move my right side of my body because I think I'm having a stroke, and they say we'll send you an ambulance in four hours.

You know, that is -- that is a health care system on the verge of collapse.


VALENCIA: It's shocking and almost unbelievable to think that if you call 9-1-1 in Alabama, you're playing a gamble here, according to that doctor that we just heard from.

Demonia's (ph) family, for their part, in his obituary, not only asking people to get vaccinated who are unvaccinated, but really telling people to understand the strain they are creating and they have created in the system by not being vaccinated -- Ana?

CABRERA: Nick Valencia, such a tragedy. Thank you.

In California, five children, including a newborn, are without parents today. Daniel and Davi Mathias (ph), seen here with four of their kids, both died from COVID just weeks apart. Both were unvaccinated.

Davi, a 37-year-old nurse, was seven months pregnant when she was intubated. Her baby girl was born via C-section. But Davi died before she could meet her.

Daniel was treated in the same hospital when he learned of his daughter's birth. He saw pictures of her but died days later, leaving that baby without parents or a name.

A grandmother is now caring for all five kids. She tells CNN the couple was planning to get vaccinated but wanted to learn more about its safety.

And in Colorado, conservative radio host, Pastor Bob Enyart, who swore off COVID vaccines, got COVID and is now dead from complications of the virus.

Last October, Enyart won a lawsuit against the state over its pandemic restrictions on churches.

Enyart is now the fourth conservative talk radio host who has expressed skepticism about the vaccine and now has died from COVID in recent weeks. He was 62 years old.

Joining us now, Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former acting director of the CDC.

Dr. Besser, these stories, they are gut wrenching. They're maddening. Consequences of the unvaccinated. Your reaction to this latest report?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, PRESIDENT & CEO, ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION & FORMER CDC ACTING DIRECTOR: Yes. They are, Ana. You hope that stories like these will move some people.


You know, we are so divided as a nation when it comes to vaccination. There were so many people, the majority of people, clamoring to get vaccinated and were so excited and relieved to be vaccinated.

And then you have millions of people who feel that the vaccines are not for them.

I hope the stories like those you're sharing will move some people to reconsider. And that we create space for people to change their minds.

Because if we demonize people who aren't getting vaccinated, if we make it harder for people to ask the questions that are on their mind, we're not going to get where we need to be, which is with a much higher rate of vaccination than we currently have.

CABRERA: We keep hearing from people on the front livens who are frustrated. They're exhausted.

There's a new analysis estimating the price tag for treating unvaccinated COVID hospital patients just in the last three months is $5.7 billion. Nearly $6 billion there are in three months.

When you hear that, what goes through your mind?

BESSER: Well, you know, that's only the direct medical costs, which is enormous.

That doesn't play in the economic cost of what we're missing because we can't get our economy fully up and running.

It doesn't play into the costs in people's lives. There have been thousands of lives lost that would not have been lost had people been vaccinated.

It doesn't play in the fact that a lot of people have had to put off medical treatment, put off surgery.

People who need to have joints replaced, need to have heart surgery, need to have things done who can't because the health care facilities are so busy taking care of people with COVID. Many people think this is just a question of COVID.

But when you hear the stories like you shared of someone who can't get the needed heart treatment, when you hear stories of children's hospitals that are overflowing with children being treated for COVID, it has to move you. It has to move you to question what you can do.

And what we can all do is roll up our sleeves and get vaccinated to help protect ourselves, our families and our communities.

CABRERA: And now we've been talking about mandates to get more people vaccinated. The U.S. had the biggest initial COVID vaccine rollout in the world. We have millions and millions of doses readily available for free.

And yet, when you look at the developed world, specifically the G-7 nations, the U.S. is ranked second-to-last and will soon be last when it comes to percentage of the population fully vaccinated.

How do you explain that?

BESSER: I think when you look at the rest of the G-7, there's no other country where COVID and the response has been as politicized as it has in the United States. And that's something that is so hard to recover from.

I ran emergency response at CDC for four years. Whenever there was a public health crisis, we would do everything possible to keep it -- the response bipartisan.

Because once you have a polarized nation, you have half the country that is willing to follow your guidance and half that is skeptical, you need to see unity across the nation if you're going to see the impact.

That differential, where we were leading the pack in terms of vaccination and now we're trailing, we are now a country that many other countries do not want our citizens to come as travelers. That is a dramatic change.

And we have it in our power to shift that back and to take over the lead position again.

CABRERA: Dr. Richard Besser, it's always a pleasure talking to you. Thanks so much for the discussion today.

BESSER: Thank you, Ana.


CABRERA: Meantime, CNN is learning more about the deadly U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan that killed a man and nine of his relatives. But two very different stories are emerging about who that man was and what he was doing. The report ahead.



CABRERA: A CNN investigation is now raising more doubts about a U.S. military drone strike on a car in Kabul just hours before U.S. troops left Afghanistan.

The Pentagon says the missile took out an ISIS facilitator when it destroyed a truck originally believed to be carrying explosives bound for the airport.

But now, there's mounting evidence that that drone strike killed an Afghan working for a U.S. aid group, along with nine others, including seven children.

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins us with a closer look.

Alex, two sides to this story. What do we know?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There really are, Ana. And growing doubts about whether this strike in Kabul is actually on an ISIS-K target as claimed by the Pentagon.

This happened two weeks ago. A car was targeted by a Hellfire missile in what Central Command called a righteous strike.

But we've spoken with family and colleagues of the targeted victim, a 43-year-old father of seven, named Zemari Ahmadi. They say he was an aide worker.

In addition to him, nine others were killed, including seven children. Three of those children were toddlers.

CNN had also spoken with two bomb experts and we consulted with them. They have disputed the military's claims that there was a significant secondary explosion after the strike, which the military had said was proof of more explosives in the car.

[13:50:09] All told, CNN has spoken with 30 people for this investigation, which was led by journalists, Sandy Sandu (ph) and Julia Hollingsworth. Three of the people interviewed were colleagues of Ahmadi's, who were with him that day.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the operation, who spoke with CNN, told us the U.S. military never knew who was driving the white Toyota Corolla that Ahmadi was in.

They were following it based on intelligence and chatter that they had been monitoring.

The official said they saw the car leave an ISIS-K safehouse and they followed it for eight hours before launching the strike.

Now, Ana, remember, this came after that horrific suicide bombing at Kabul airport that leftover 170 Afghans dead as well as 13 American servicemembers. The Biden administration had been warning of another imminent attack.

But now, there are significant questions about whether this aid worker, who worked for a U.S.-based NGO for 15 years, was, as the U.S. has claimed, an ISIS-K facilitator with explosives.

Here is what Secretary of State Tony Blinken had to say when asked about the strike on Monday.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: No country on earth, no government takes more effort, takes more precautions to try to ensure that anyone other than the intended terrorist target is struck using a drone or by any other means.

But certainly we know that, in the past, civilians have been hurt and have been killed in these strikes.


MARQUARDT: So Blinken there not ruling anything out.

The Pentagon says it is also carrying out an investigation. That is underway. And the Pentagon is insisting that the strike was based on what it called good intelligence -- Ana?

CABRERA: We know the secretary of defense will be going before lawmakers next month to answer questions around the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Alex Marquardt, thank you for your reporting.

Here is the bad news. You are paying more for just about everything. Semi good news though is those prices are rising at a slower pace. Is now the time to buy a used car? Next.


CABRERA: Just in today, the rate of inflation is finally letting up, but consumer prices are still sky high. Anyone who has been car shopping lately knows that firsthand.

CNN's Matt Egan joins us from a car dealership in Mahwah, New Jersey.

Matt, what do the latest numbers tell us?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Ana, the latest numbers say Americans are still dealing with sticker shock but there are some glimmers of hope here.

Consumer prices went up by 5.3 percent over the last 12 months. That's not normally anything to smile about, but it is actually a deceleration from the 13-year highs we saw in June and July.

Also, we've seen, month-over-month, prices rose by the smallest amount since February. So that's good news.

Let's look at specific items that are getting cheaper in the short term. Airfare fell 9.1 percent between July and August. Car and truck rentals dropped 8.5 percent. And even used car prices declined by 1.5 percent.

When you zoom out, you see a lot of things are more expensive than a year ago.

Look at gasoline. Gas prices up nearly 43 percent over the last 12 months. Eggs up 10 percent. Meat is more than 8 percent more expensive over the last year.

One of the biggest drivers of inflation has been the shortage of computer chips worldwide. It forced G.M. and Ford and other auto factories to shut down production.

We are here at a dealership in New Jersey and the sales manager said, normally, this dealership would have 300 new cars on the lot. Today, they only have 12.


AARON RINGUS, SALES MANAGER, MAHWAH FORD: Yes, we've never seen this. It is definitely a first time for all of us.

But we're being told that hopefully we will see some regular amounts of inventory within the next few months, but there are reports it could be over a year. So we're just taking it month by month right now.


EGAN: Now, the sales manager said they are trying to work with customers. They're extending warranties. They're extending leases for people. They're trying to offer free maintenance. But it can only go so far.

We are still seeing a lack of new cars lift used car prices.

Look at this 2020 Ford Transit. Now, a year ago this car, you could have gotten it for $43,000 after rebates. Right now, it is listed at $48,500, even though it is used and has more than 50,000 miles on it.

Ana, this is the kind of inflation Americans are dealing with as the U.S. economy reopens from the pandemic.

CABRERA: That's crazy. Used cars. And in some cases, used cars are costing more than brand-new ones. It is really wild.

Matt Egan, thank you for your reporting.

That's going to do it for us today. Really appreciate you all joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 Eastern. Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.


The news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.