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Hurricane Fiona Causing "Catastrophic" Flooding In Puerto Rico As The Territory Remains Without Power; American Held Captive In Afghanistan For More Than 2 Years Is Released In Prisoner Swap; Biden Says The COVID-19 Pandemic "Is Over"; Dems Push DOJ To Probe DeSantis Over Migrants. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 19, 2022 - 13:00   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for joining us. You have been watching CNN special coverage of the Queen's funeral and I want to bring you some of the other big stories we're following today.

Right now hurricane Fiona is crippling Puerto Rico, heavy rain and catastrophic flooding just devastating the island. More than a million people are still without power.

I want to show you this new video just into CNN of rescue crews in the northeastern coast, helping a woman in the floodwaters. Officials says 1,000 people have been rescued so far and more resources are on their way from the U.S. mainland into Puerto Rico and official now saying that some areas have seen record levels of water, more rainfall and rivers even higher than after Hurricane Maria. Jennifer Gray is standing by in the weather center for us. But first let's go live to Puerto Rico and CNN, Leyla Santiago and Leyla you're there on the ground. What are you saying?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we are on the northeastern part of the island. But I just got back from the southern part of the island, which was really hit hard. And I guess the story right now is that there are catastrophic floods, this has already taken an impact. And it is not over yet. I want to show you video and talk to you about what I saw.

This was an area where the National Guard had to rescue people over night. I talked to the mayor she said they have more than 2,000 families that have been impacted by this and they have hundreds in the shelter right now. So I want you to listen to what one person told me when I spoke to him out there.


JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ, BUSINESS OWNER: A lot of people more than Maria lost their houses now lost everything on their houses because the floating that Maria was tough wins. But this one with all the rain, he just destroyed. Everything on the houses. It's unbelievable. It's our town. It's a small town that basically who's going to take to take care of this town. Nobody you know what I'm saying? If we don't take care of it is nobody going to take care of it.


SANTIAGO: The mayor told me when I asked her what do you want people to know she said I want you to know that we need help. But you see, that is part of the problem, Ana. As I mentioned, this isn't over yet. So emergency crews will tell you they cannot safely get into many of the areas that are seeing that flooding, that mudslide, that landslide, the bridges that have collapsed. Emergency crews, according to the governor, have already had to pull out more than 1000 -- is needed while especially on that southern part of the island.

People are saying listen, this is rain that is more widespread and it is worse than hurricane Maria. That by the way, take note of the timing here demolish this island almost five years to the day. Five years ago tomorrow is the anniversary of Hurricane Maria in that timing of experiencing this again, for many of the people on this island is adding to the trauma and anxiety.

Now the other big issue of course the powerful images that were showing you of the flooding and the landslides, the power, the power outages nearly this entire island is without power, 66 percent of water customers according to government website without water.

So once again, they are reliving much of what was lived through after Hurricane Maria and the issue many of it, much of it is that it's not over yet. And so if you think about this historically as I've covered storms here before, another problem that's going to happen now is you're going to start to see the runoff from the mountains also impacting the people that are impacted by the coast by swelling rivers, by mudslides, by landslides and there's still no telling as to when crews will be able to go in and properly respond.

CABRERA: OK, thank you, Leyla Santiago. I'm afraid we keep on losing your audio, Leyla. You're doing such great work. Obviously it's dodgy there with connections because of the infrastructure that you talked about being impacted by the storm. Leyla, we'll continue to do her work.


We'll check back as she continues to gather news from Puerto Rico and Fiona. That's continuing to wreak havoc there. Let's go to Jennifer Gray in our weather center to get a better sense of how long Puerto Rico is going to feel the impact and where Fiona is right now.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Ana, Puerto Rico is positioned in the most unfortunate part of this storm, because we're seeing Fiona drift away from Puerto Rico. It's actually north of the Dominican Republic right now. But where are these outer rain bands of the storm have set up or basically right over Puerto Rico and have been over the last day or so. Now we're seeing rainfall rates at two to three inches an hour. You can see those bands of the rain that's just going from south to north. Some of these areas have already received more than two feet of water and more rain is on the way.

So we do have these flash flood warnings in place near ponds, 27 inches of rain. This is over 24 hour span all of these areas. 22 inches, 19 inches and more rain is to come. We could see an additional four to six inches of rain across Puerto Rico before it is said and done. Not to mention across Dominican Republic, you can see that area shaded in pink, that's about 10 inches of rain.

And as the storm continues to drift away, we will still see the rain throughout the day today in Puerto Rico, it should be a little bit better tomorrow. And then by the time we get to Thursday on a conditions should be much, much better.

CABRERA: 30 inches of rain or nearly 30 inches of rain in just 24 hours in some areas. Unbelievable.

GRAY: Yes.

CABRERA: Thank you so much Jennifer Gray. Let's discuss now with Gloria Amador. She is the president and CEO of Salud Integral en la Montana, a nonprofit health organization of central Puerto Rico. Thank you for taking the time. Tell us about what you're experiencing right now. And do you have power?

GLORIA AMADOR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, SALUD INTEGRAL EN LA MONTANA: No, we will have power. We all our health centers are under power generators since our late Saturday. And then when it was the power outage, everybody's under the need of electricity right now.

CABRERA: What is your biggest concern or challenge right now?

AMADOR: Floorings are the biggest challenges. We have our health centers close or nearby the health downtown CDs in the central area of Puerto Rico. And as we had in Maria, those rivers overflowed. So it did damaged our facilities. We were able to open today. We are starting to identify major damages to our facilities. But there's more to come until rain finishes we won't know really for sure what are the damages.

At least we are providing services in our 24/7 emergency rooms, we have four of them. And people are not coming to the health centers because we know there's no way to pass through the road who are blocked with trees and poles. So it's been very difficult in our region.

CABRERA: So you talked about power outages. We've talked about this record amount of rain, record river levels right now, the flooding that is really devastating much of the area and now you have damage some of your facilities. Do you know how emergency, other emergency facilities hospitals are coping with this? And is the medical care adequate right now to deal with potential injuries and other issues that may come from people trying to get out of this flooding? AMADOR: Well, right now the health system in Puerto Rico is running on it power generators. We know that some areas has already turned to power electricity without having to be on generators, especially on this Medical Center (INAUDIBLE), but still a lot of the hospitals are in the power generators.

As we have -- we placed Maria, the government imposed that we have to power -- two generators or backup generators in case something happens. So we are ready. And we know that we will start seeing patients late tonight or early tomorrow when they have access to the centers or to the hospitals.

CABRERA: Well, we wish you the very, very best. Thank you so much for giving us that update. Gloria Amador, we appreciate you, sending you our well wishes as you go through this challenging time with the hurricane Fiona aftermath.

And turning now to Afghanistan where a US Navy veteran held captive for more than two years is finally free and on his way home. This is Mark Frerichs, he was released by the Taliban and a prisoner swap.


CNN National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood is following this for us. Kylie, what are we learning about this deal?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, what we're learning, Ana, is that this was months of intensive work on behalf of U.S. government officials and a senior administration official said that over the course of that time, it became clear that the key to releasing Mark Frerichs was also releasing Bashir Noorzai. He is an Afghan drug trafficker serving us time in U.S. prison. He had been in U.S. prison for 17 years, and President Biden signed off on granting him clemency back in June.

Now, of course, it took a period of time to actually get the wheels turning to get this deal into action and get Mark released today. And we should know that the senior administration official said there was also an effort to look across government and make sure that releasing Noorzai, , this afghan drug trafficker would not actually change the threat emanating from Afghanistan to any Americans or the drug trade that is happening in the country.

CABRERA: And the family is giving a lot of credit to President Biden, right. What exactly is the family saying?

ATWOOD: Yes, well, Mark's sister said very bluntly that she believes that Mark is alive today because of this deal that President Biden signed off on. There are going to be some critics who said that this Afghan should have remained in prison for his whole sentence. But the family of Mark Frerichs is very clearly saying that they think that this was the right thing to do. We should also know that according to the senior administration official, Mark is in good solid health as of now and President Biden was the one who called his family just hours before this news broke to tell them that Mark was finally after two and a half years detained in Afghanistan on his way home. CABRERA: I'm so happy for his family. Kylie Atwood, thank you for bringing us this news. today. President Biden says the pandemic is over. So why is COVID still one of the leading causes of death here in the US? We'll discuss.

Plus, that remains to be seen. That's another quote from Biden when asked if he'll run for reelection in 2024. What's he waiting for? And former President Trump just returned to Mar-a-Lago for the first time since the FBI searched his property there and he has some complaints about the agents and their footwear.




JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. It's -- but the pandemic is over. If you notice no one's wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it's changing and I think this is a perfect example.


CABRERA: President Biden sure is optimistic. But what do the numbers tell us CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. Elizabeth, lay it out for us.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, the numbers have definitely gotten better. But people are still dying of COVID in large numbers. Let's take a look at the trends. So if you look back at January, look in how many deaths there were in January and it's gone way down till today on the far right hand side. If you look at hospitalizations, people in the hospital with COVID, those numbers have also gone way down.

But as I said people do are still getting COVID and are still getting very sick from COVID. There are 329 deaths per day from COVID currently in the United States, and about 4,000 daily new hospital admissions from COVID.

Now I will say that this is affecting people disproportionately the vast majority, various studies have shown, the vast majority of people who are getting very sick or dying from COVID tend to be over 60 and they tend to be unvaccinated. So if you are vaccinated you are quite well protected. Ana.

CABRERA: A new study also finds Alzheimer's diagnoses are more common in seniors who've had COVID. What can you tell us about this?

COHEN: Yes, this is interesting. This was a huge study of millions and millions of people. I want to be clear, just because people who had COVID were more likely in this study to be the ones who later got Alzheimer's, it doesn't mean COVID causes Alzheimer's. What it means is that this needs to be studied more to see if there may be is a link.

So let's take a look at this study. So this study was over 9 million people, 6 million people rather ages 65 and plus. And when you looked at for every 1,000 people who had COVID, seven of them got Alzheimer's, but when you look at the folks who did not have COVID, only five of them got Alzheimer's. In such instances, such a big group that difference between seven and five. That's a significant difference.

But again, it doesn't mean that COVID causes Alzheimer's. What it means is maybe, maybe the inflammatory process we've seen with COVID. Maybe there's a link to the inflammatory process we see with Alzheimer's, definitely something that needs to be studied more.

CABRERA: Always so much more to learn. Separate topic. Elizabeth, let's talk about this new social media trend that is prompting the FDA to issue a serious warning about kids misusing over the counter drugs including cooking chicken in Nyquil. What should parents know?

COHEN: Did you ever think you would say that phrase on a cooking chicken in Nyquil?

CABRERA: I don't get it. I don't get it.

COHEN: It's apparently all the rage among some kids. It is a terrible idea. When you cook a medicine you are concentrating it. So if you cook chicken in NyQuil, we have no idea how many people are doing it but it's enough that the FDA is worried. When you cook Nyquil, you're concentrating so you take it out of the oven, you're inhaling these concentrations, it could hurt your lungs. If you eat the chicken, you're getting a concentrated version of the medication. You've really changed the medication by cooking it. It is a terrible idea. I am here to say unequivocally do not cook your chicken in Nyquil.


CABRERA: it just sounds disgusting.

COHEN: It's all in that too.

CABRERA: And dangerous, obviously. Thank you, Elizabeth Cohen.

Now to news about your money, more Americans are racking up long term credit card debt, according to a new survey, this is a double whammy. Now, high inflation driving more credit card use than higher interest rates, meaning you have to pay back much more. And so let's bring in CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik with the details. OK, break down the numbers for us.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, as Ana, you summed it up really well, because as Americans are really trying to make a decision of should I pay on my credit card for my medical bills or for groceries, as we see inflation and interest rates move higher? That's a decision and we're finding out from these studies that it turns out Americans are charging more on their credit cards. And not only that, but they're carrying that debt even longer. 60 percent of those are actually carrying that debt for more than a year. 40 percent are carrying it for at least two years. And the problem with this is that we already know that credit cards carry a high interest rate, right? Well, these interest rates are only going higher as the Federal Reserve aggressively raises interest rates, because these credit card companies, they tie their interest rates to what the Fed is doing. And that's raising rates. So that means that that debt is only going to get more expensive.

CABRERA: So how can people then limit the impact of these rising interest rates, especially considering the Fed could continue to raise these interest rates?

KOSIK: And you make a very good point because tomorrow starts the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting. And on Wednesday, it is expected to announce yet another interest rate hike the fifth of the year. We're not used to this. We had zero rate, 0 percent rates for seven years up until this year, because the Federal Reserve is trying to get a handle on that inflation. We expect that the Fed could raise interest rates and other three quarters of a percent or as much as 1 percent.

What does that mean for those carrying those big credit card balances, again, that debt becomes more expensive. So my advice, get a strategy going, there are two tips I have, consider transferring those high balances to a zero rate, balance transfer card or credit card. I know it sounds counterproductive to open up another credit card. But if you get it at 0 percent for a fixed time between 12 to 21 months, and really just try to pay that thing off, that can help you in the end.

Also consider getting a fixed rate personal loan. Oftentimes personal loans come at a lower interest rate than credit card rates. And at least you can pocket that extra cash.

CABRERA: Yes, those are some good short term tips. Does it affect your credit score if you're doing some of this?

KOSIK: I mean, if you open up another credit card and your credit rating is already pretty low, it could but then again, if you're drowning in debt, I'd say go for the zero rate balance transfer card.

CABRERA: OK, thank you Alison Kosik for those tips. The fight over migrants heating up, some officials are now pushing for a federal trafficking investigation into the governors of Texas and Florida after they sent dozens of people to the northeast.



CABRERA: Officials in both Massachusetts and New York are now pushing for legal action as Republican governors send migrants to the northeast. We've been covering these stories as bus after bus arrives in New York City and just days ago and Martha's Vineyard. migrants arrive by plane surprising the locals there. Now Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is claiming credit for sending those migrants to the vacation island but it is clear he intends to capitalize on all this attention.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: The one place in our country where we see virtually no law and order is at the southern border. And this is a crisis now getting a little bit more attention. This is a crisis. It is a crisis. And it's a manufactured crisis because of Biden's failed policies.


CABRERA: You see DeSantis getting that standing ovation at an event in Kansas over the weekend was in Kansas. The Florida governor standing ovation. Let's bring in Gloria Borger now. OK, what is that, that image that reception of DeSantis tell you?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it tells me that immigration is a very salient and very important issue for Republican voters. If you look at recent polls, they routinely say that voters who said they intend to vote Republican in the fall, about half of them say immigration is a key issue for them.

So what DeSantis was doing was a national play. He kind of got the publicity that he wanted. Lots of folks in Florida say that, of course, this could hurt him among some constituencies in Florida, but again, among conservatives, he knows that one of the culture war issues that really resonate for Republicans is immigration.

CABRERA: But is that enough for Republicans to just kind of fuel that base? Because when you look at the other issues on voter's minds, and we're thinking about the impact on midterm elections here. This is an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from September 1. Just a couple of weeks ago that shows four other issues more important to voters than immigration.