Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

WH Launching War On Vaccine Disinformation As Vaccinations Plummet; Republicans, Right-Wing Media Peddle Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric; Interview With State Rep. Celia Israel (D-TX); Schumer And Senate Dems Introduce Draft Bill To Decriminalize Pot; Interview With Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ); Britney Spears Breaks Down In Tears During Hearing On Her Conservatorship; 911 Calls Released From Night Of Deadly Condo Collapse. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Dave, thank you very much as usual for joining us. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Erin Burnett starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, fighting back against lies. The White House shifting strategy and cracking down on disinformation about the COVID vaccines as the CDC projects a spike in hospitalizations for the first time since April.

Plus, Texas Democrats who fled the state to stop a controversial voting rights law on Capitol Hill today, one of them postponing her wedding so she could be in Washington. She's OUTFRONT.

And Democrats taking a major step tonight toward legalizing pot at the federal level. Senator Cory Booker who introduced the draft bill is my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, cracking down. The White House tonight fighting back in a big way against deadly disinformation about COVID vaccines, much of it coming from Republican lawmakers and right-wing media. Sources telling CNN the administration is taking on a new more aggressive strategy as the CDC today for the first time since late April is projecting that COVID hospitalizations are expected to spike.

Now, in Los Angeles County, every COVID patient hospitalized right now is unvaccinated. Across the country, more than 99 percent of all COVID-19 deaths right now are among the unvaccinated. And yet the number of people getting vaccinated has plunged. Why? Well, in large part it is because of messages like this.


REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): I'm not vaccinated and until there's some science ...

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I just made my own personal decision that I'm not getting vaccinated.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Now, I'm talking to doctors who have, since day one, being concerned about vaccinating people who've already had COVID, because you die not of COVID, you die of the immune system overreaction to COVID.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Don't come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchie. You leave us the hell alone.

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): Now they're starting to talk about going door-to-door to be able to take vaccines to the people. Think about what those mechanisms can be used for. They can think of door-to-door and take your guns. They can again go door-to-door and take your Bible.


BURNETT: OK. It's not just skepticism and fearmongering for lawmakers, of course, right-wing media reaches millions of Americans.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The idea that you would force people to take medicine they don't want or need, is there a precedent for that in our lifetime? I honestly think it's the greatest scandal of my lifetime by far.

ROB SCHMITT, NEWSMAX HOST: I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally kind of going against nature. Like I mean if there's some disease out there, maybe there's just an ebb and flow to life where something supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: There's nothing more anti-Democratic, anti-freedom than pushing an experimental drug on Americans against their will.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS HOST: Hello to door-to-door vaccine pushers.

WILL CAIN, FOX NEWS HOST: Fight to control you, to lord over you, that's just begun.


BURNETT: It's stunning. All of those people are smart enough to know that what they're saying is complete bullshit and that's the problem. They should be ashamed. But those lies are having an impact. Listen to what our Donie O'Sullivan heard from some Trump supporters over just the past few weeks.


HEATHER SIMPSON: The vaccine goes into our child, she'll just die. That's all there is to it.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: You thought if your daughter took the vaccine, she might die. SIMPSON: That she would die, not might just like would.

O'SULLIVAN: Do you know any people who got sick or died from the virus?

ZACH BARRETT, CPAC ATTENDEE: I know three people who got it and died. But you know what? I know people who got cancer and died too, so ...

O'SULLIVAN: You know three people who died from coronavirus and you won't get the vaccine?

BARRETT: No. Like I said, I don't need the vaccine.


BURNETT: And sadly, the debate over the vaccine, which should just be basic science so we could save lives now mirrors 2020 election results in so many cases. Just look at Vermont where Biden won with 66 percent of the vote, 66 percent of the State's population is now fully vaccinated. In Tennessee 61 percent voted for Trump and the percentage not vaccinated, 62 percent.

And that could explain why Tennessee is seeing a spike right now when it comes to cases. In fact, they've more than tripled from a month ago.

But it isn't easy. The White House is fighting a war over disinformation, telling people that the single best thing they can do is get the vaccine which is true. They're also confronting the realities of a dangerous variant that is causing legitimate confusion.

The Acting FDA Commissioner today saying, "We don't think boosters are needed at the current time." That isn't what Pfizer says. Pfizer warns that immunity from its vaccine could be waning and they want the FDA to authorize booster shots that could be needed as soon as six months of the second dose. Here's the head of Pfizer's vaccine research and development overnight.


KATHRIN JANSEN, HEAD OF VACCINE RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT AT PFIZER: The booster situation is not about making money. The booster situation is that we find ourselves in a terrible situation.


BURNETT: She went on to say the virus is mutating in the unvaccinated. So in other words, the whole reason this is a terrible situation is because of people not getting vaccinated and the people responsible for telling them not to do so.


She says the outcome will be a 'disaster without boosters'. U.S. government, scientists and Pfizer are not currently sending the same message on the boosters. But what Pfizer is saying is now playing out in Mississippi with a State Health Officer is also sounding an alarm. According to Dr. Thomas Dobbs, fully vaccinated Mississippians now account for 12 percent of COVID hospitalizations.

Two weeks ago, that number was 5 percent. Again, it's a really low vaccinated state, variant has time to go around, lot of virus out there, more people get sick and die. Dobbs claiming that 7 percent of all deaths were among vaccinated Mississippians.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT live outside the White House. And Jeff, you've been talking to your sources there. What more are you learning about what the White House plans to do to combat all the disinformation of which I just played some brief clips from both elected representatives and members of the right-wing media?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORREPONDENT: Erin, and that's only a small sample of it quite frankly. The White House has been watching all of this very carefully and they are deciding to begin engaging much more forcefully. That is going to begin tomorrow here in a pretty dramatic way.

The Surgeon General of the United States, we are told, Dr. Vivek Murthy will be presenting a study here at the White House essentially calling all this disinformation and misinformation a public health crisis. So they are going to really be pointing out the ways in which this is simply a matter of life and death, specifically calling out social media platforms, specifically calling out elected officials and others who have been peddling in this misinformation.

Now, the White House has been a little reluctant to weigh in, because they are trying to actually get people to get vaccinated. So they do not want to politicize this further. But now they do believe they have to push back against this disinformation campaign. Also, though, they're going to ask for help from average citizens and businesses as well to push back against this disinformation campaign.

But Erin, it's an open question if any of this will work, because of course so many people are just getting their information from one channel. They're only talking about one side, a non-realistic side of this vaccine, but it kicks in gear tomorrow, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff. And I want to go now to Dr. Francis Collins. He is the Director of the National Institutes of Health, the NIH, in the in the thick of this.

So it's good to have you back, Doctor. Let's just start on this whole issue of the disinformation that's out there of which, as Jeff pointed out, I played an incredibly tiny selection of it. It is overwhelming in some corners, if you choose to surround yourself with it. Should the administration have pushed back sooner and harder against this disinformation?

It sounds like Dr. Collins does not hear me, so let's see if we can - we'll try to get him back here while they work on that.

FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Lost you for a second. BURNETT: He's back. Dr. Collins, do you hear me now? I'm so sorry. Do

you have me?

COLLINS: Yes, I do.

BURNETT: OK. I don't know if you heard my question, but I was saying should the administration have taken on this disinformation sooner and more aggressively?

COLLINS: This is a tough one, Erin, because I think maybe I'll speak particularly now as a non-political person, a scientist, a doctor. You don't want to go in sort of into the teeth of a nasty argument, because that may not compel too many people to accept your perspective if they're already resistant to the idea of vaccination. So I think we've tried pretty hard not to take that on.

But when you consider the harms that are now being done, the way in which this is not just a matter of people expressing opinions that might be wrong, this is life and death, I think the White House has come to the conclusion that something more has to be done. We have to take this on frontally and not simply shrug it off as if, well, people will eventually come around to the right perspective.

We're losing time here. The Delta variant is spreading, people are dying. We can't actually just wait for things to get more rational.

BURNETT: And as part of this, obviously, we know the only solution is vaccination and if you had everybody vaccinated, the variant wouldn't have room to spread, and adapt, and mutate and then do the things that it will do in a partially vaccinated population. So the unvaccinated issue is causing the issue that Pfizer says it sees and they're now saying that boosters will be needed within six months to a year after the second shot.

The FDA and CDC after Pfizer said that said a booster wasn't necessary. So let me just ask you where this stands and I understand you're looking at the data trying to get to the bottom of the science here. I know there was a meeting between Pfizer and the top health officials of the United States. You were there.

Did Pfizer convince you or do you think they're wrong here?

COLLINS: Oh, Erin, it was very much a meeting to look at the scientific data.


Some of it from Israel, which has had the Pfizer vaccine a little longer than any other nation at a higher level so you can begin to see how it's working.

Some of it was from a trial where they've started to give people a third dose to see what really happens and it's encouraging they get a really vigorous immune response. But there was nothing there that would change the view of myself or the FDA or the CDC that we need boosters imminently and I think Pfizer was a bit apologetic that they might have jumped the gun a bit on that.

But I think all of us expect that at some point boosters may well be needed. It's just not necessary right now. The vaccines we've got right now, the Moderna, the Pfizer, the J&J are very effective at protecting against this Delta variant, which is the one that we're worried about, because it's now spreading so rapidly through the country.

BURNETT: So as of now is there any plan for the FDA or the CDC guidance to change regarding a third shot or a booster for anyone?

COLLINS: There is some consideration. I wouldn't call it a booster. I would say for people who have immune deficiencies who did not get a full response to the original pair of doses from Moderna or Pfizer or the one dose from J&J, maybe an additional dose might help those people who have, for instance, organ transplants or cancer patients on chemotherapy that's being looked at. I wouldn't call that a booster, though. I would just say that's trying to get the primary immunization up to the level it needs to be that's under consideration.

BURNETT: So let me ask you here about - and look, the numbers change and people report the numbers as they have them. But this gets to the point about vaccines and boosters. So Dr. Fauci recently said government data shows 99.2 percent of COVID deaths in June, were among unvaccinated people, which obviously just proved the vaccine works.

But as the vaccine deals with the variant, in some instances there's questions as to whether that may erode a bit. Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs tweeted the other day. I want to read his tweet to you, Doctor. He said, "Pretty much all cases in Mississippi or Delta variant right now. Vast majority of cases, hospitalizations, deaths, unvaccinated. Seven percent of deaths in vaccinated worrisome. We are allowing too much circulating Delta to reach our most vulnerable."

He's saying 7 percent of the deaths were in vaccinated people which, of course, is troubling. Do you know anything about that or do you think this number, this 99.2 percent that Fauci suggested will be eroding as Delta surges?

COLLINS: I don't believe so, not from Delta, because the vaccines do work there. I don't understand the data from Mississippi and I'd really like to understand what was the nature where those individuals who actually necessarily died of COVID or of something else, so that ought to be looked at.

All of the other data that we've seen says 99 plus percent of people in the hospital with COVID right now are unvaccinated people. You quoted that result from Los Angeles.


COLLINS: A thousand people in the hospital. All of them unvaccinated. I hope people will hear this right now listening to this.

BURNETT: Yes. COLLINS: If you were on the fence about whether vaccination was going

to help you, listen to those numbers. Unvaccinated people going into hospital and dying, vaccinated people essentially not. So why are we waiting, folks? Let's roll up our sleeves if we haven't already done so.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. And I hope people will hear that. Thank you so much, Doctor. I appreciate your time.

COLLINS: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Mitch McConnell mocking President Biden for saying new voting laws are the biggest test of our democracy since the Civil War. A Texas House Democrat who fled her state to stop one of those voting bills responds next. Why she even postponed her wedding to go to Washington?

Plus, a major push tonight towards legalizing marijuana at the federal level. But does the President truly believe in the idea? Sen. Cory Booker who introduced the draft bill today is my guest.

And chilling new 911 calls from the night of the catastrophic condo collapse.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole building collapsed.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get the f**k out of here.




BURNETT: Tonight, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell mocking President Biden for saying controversial Republican voting laws are 'the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War'.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): What utter nonsense. It would be laugh out loud funny if it wasn't so completely and totally irresponsible. Voter ID protections are supported by majorities of white Americans, black Americans and Hispanic Americans. But President Biden calls these things 'a 21st century Jim Crow assault'. One big lie after another.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: OUTFRONT now Democratic State Representative Celia Israel of

Texas. One of the lawmakers who fled Texas for Washington even though she was supposed to get married tomorrow. But instead she's in Washington to try to stop the vote on the controversial Republican elections bill.

So Representative Israel, thanks very much for being with me.


BURNETT: So Leader McConnell, you hear him, mocks President Biden says it's nonsense to equate voter ID provisions to Jim Crow. You are fighting a bill that does have new voter ID requirements for absentee voters. What's your reaction to McConnell?

ISRAEL: I've been on the Elections Committee in the Texas legislature for four years, I would suggest the Senator needs to read the bill. It criminalizes precinct workers. We all know those are the retirees who do the work of running the elections. Criminalizes them for not following procedure. It tells people that work in a Houston refinery or at a plant in Samsung, we're not going to adjust our early vote times to give you some overnight times when you're working three shifts.

Counties tried to do something creative, especially during a pandemic and the legislature for no good reason has clamped down on that government creativity to help people vote. We should be helping people vote. Why are we doing this? There's no coincidence that 11 million Texans voted. It was a record turnout for us. We need to do much better, but that was their response.

BURNETT: So you and your colleagues met today, I know, Representative, with Democratic senators.


BURNETT: You're trying to get them to pass federal voting rights legislation.


The reality is, of course, as we all know they simply do not have the numbers to do that right now. Did they say anything that made you think that that could change, that they could actually pass a national voting rights bill?

ISRAEL: We're very pragmatic in Texas, Erin. We do not know the ways of Washington. So our message was we love our Tex-Mex food in Texas. If you can't get the combination plate, at least give us the rice and beans. Let's see what we can get done. Something like online voter registration, eliminating or lowering those criminal standards for just retirees who are trying to work at poll.

There's a bunch of good things in there in which there is support. Let's not hold back on moving forward at this historic time, state after state is going to be doing redistricting maps later this year. It's really important that we make sure that we correct this now, we can't wait.

The Texas legislature and the Texas Democrats in particular, we're sacrificing our a lot personally, financially in order to come to Washington, D.C. and we're going to meet with everybody that we can to tell our story.

BURNETT: And so when you talk about what you're sacrificing, you are sacrificing a lot.


BURNETT: You were going to marry your partner of 26 years on the State House floor. You had waited to get married until same sex marriage was legal in Texas. And you waited, you waited a long time. I know that this date means so much to you in so many ways but waiting 26 years and now you have to put it on hold. Why was it so important to you to make the sacrifice to join your colleagues in Washington?

ISRAEL: Well, I'm an (inaudible) Democrat. I love the State so much and things are really, really getting bad in Texas. And we felt like it was important for us to put everything on a shelf. Let's leave. Let's break quorum. Let's go to D.C. and tell our story because Texas continues to drive to the bottom.

I know my Republican friends are not happy with us right now, but we'll hug it out when we get back home. But for now, it was important for all of us to tell our kids and our loved ones, I'll see you as soon as I can get back to Texas. We love this state and that's why we're in D.C. We don't run away from a fight. We're taking the fight back to D.C.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you so very much. I appreciate your time, Representative.

ISRAEL: Erin, my friends are having a party tonight. That was supposed to be my bachelorette party. I'll say hi to my friends and my partner, Celinda, back in Austin, Texas. I love you all.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I hope that they are celebrating and, of course, that you'll be able to celebrate the real wedding very soon.

ISRAEL: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you so much.

ISRAEL: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Democrats making a major push tonight to decriminalize marijuana. But Obama's former Senior Drug Policy Adviser says this is not a good idea. Why? Well, he's next.

And breaking news, a Judge just granting Britney Spears request to hire her own attorney as the popstar breaks down telling a Judge she wants to press charges against her father.


BURNETT: Tonight, Democrats making a big move toward legalizing marijuana at the federal level. The Senate Majority Leader introducing a draft bill saying it is long overdue.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): This is monumental, because at long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. I will use my clout as majority leader to make this a priority.


BURNETT: Recent polling shows use on marijuana have dramatically shifted as some states have already begun legalizing the drug at the state level. So now here's the numbers, nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults saying marijuana should be legalized, which is up 20 percent just since 2011. It's a huge change in perception.

OUTFRONT now Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey who introduced this new draft bill with the majority leader today. Sen. Booker, this is a topic you feel strongly about, you've done a lot on over the years. Why is this so important to pass right now?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): Well, first of all, this is a monumental day never before has a majority leader of either party endorsed the bill. When I started this effort when I came to the Senate, it was a very lonely day. But not only have opinions shifted, what's important about this bill is to not look at it as a marijuana bill, but as a restorative justice bill. We have last 2019 more marijuana arrests, most of them for possession than all violent crime arrests combined.

And so we're still seeing a stunning amount of people being arrested in this country. If you have a criminal conviction for doing things that half of the last four presidents have done, your life is destroyed. You can't get a job. You can't get a business license. You can't get a loan from the bank.

So to have a nation right now where thousands of people, many of them who need it as their medicine who are suffering criminal convictions, who are being disproportionately incarcerated for this because of the color of their skin, all of these things make this a social justice issue, a criminal justice issue and a restorative justice issue.

BURNETT: Now, on this point, President Biden does support decriminalizing marijuana, but his views on the drug overall are generally more conservative than that of many Democrats. Here's what he said last week after the U.S. track and field star, Sha'Carri Richardson, was suspended for marijuana use.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The rules are the rules and everybody knows what the rules were going in. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Do you know if the President personally supports the legislation?

BOOKER: Well, I've had a lot of chances on the campaign trail to talk to the President Biden about this. The reality is states are going to have to abide by the federal laws. Right now states are moving to legalize, because it's put on a schedule of one drug and because it's illegal on the federal level, they are not in compliance with the federal law.

So what President Biden wants on the federal level, yes, let's decriminalize it on the federal level so that states that are moving in this direction can do what they want to do. But dear god, in a nation where we have presidential candidates, Senate candidates, congressional candidates, many people in this body openly admitted they've done marijuana and they, as privileged people can, enjoy no consequence.

When black Americans are almost four times more likely to be incarcerated for marijuana even though there's no difference in usage, we have a law that is unjust.


And so, things like this incredible Olympic athlete who had her career destroy over unjust laws in the United States is a shame. And prohibition has caused real problems in this nation.

And, look, at a time that we want police resources focused on violent crimes, on theft, larceny to have them so tied up and prosecuting a war disproportionately against vulnerable people of that -- again, that legislators themselves have done, this is hypocrisy at its highest extent. It makes no sense.

And justice delayed is justice denied. That's why we're moving this now.

BURNETT: So I want to ask you another question while I have you, another big issue that you've been working on, Senator, and that is police reform where you've been negotiating with Republican Senator Tim Scott for months on a policing bill.

He tells CNN, quote, I don't think we can do this after this month if we are not finished.

It's Bastille Day, you're half way done. You've got two weeks.

He's given you until the end of the month. Is that an ultimatum? Do you think you guys can do this by then or could this fail?

BOOKER: Look, if you told me that we would have gotten the FOP, the Fraternal Order of Police, by far, by tens of thousands, the big biggest union in the state, to come forward and partner with me in a real efforts at reform, to get the International Association of Chiefs of Police, another of the most reputable law enforcement organizations, to support some compromise bill -- we've come so far on this, to have it fall apart in the final moments is unacceptable.

So, Senator Scott and I have been working diligently on this. We both have shared publicly our own personal stories. This is the first time in American history three black men serving in the Senate at the same time.

And I tell you, we both know that there needs to be more transparency. There needs to be more accountability. There needs to be a different set of standards in this country.

That's what I'm insisting upon and I'm not putting any artificial deadlines. There's too much at stake here. I'm going to work as hard as I can to get this done until people tell me they can't.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Booker, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

BOOKER: Erin, as always, it's great to be on. Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. And as Senator Booker introduces the draft bill to decriminalize marijuana, critics worry about the unintended consequences of this legislation.

OUTFRONT now is Kevin Sabet. He's a former senior drug promise policy adviser for the Obama administration and author of "Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn't Want You to Know".

Kevin, you and I have talked about this issue at length over the past few years. And you just heard Senator Booker laying out his plan. And it looks like this is going to move forward. Why do you disagree and worry about this?

KEVIN SABET, AUTHOR OF "SMOKESCREEN: WHAT THE MARIJUANA INDUSTRY DOESN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW": Well, I don't think it's going to actually go anywhere, Erin. It's good to see you. Thanks for having me.

We have every major medical association, President Biden, at least half a dozen Democrats and all the Republicans who are not in favor of this. Listen, we need to understand that decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization. So I'm all in favor of decriminalizing personal use, you know, possession, but that's a very different and then opening up an industry where frankly guys that look like me end up making the money. From big tobacco, those big industries that do not have public health in mind at all.

And you know, today's pot is very different. It's not Woodstock weed. It's much stronger than it used to be.

So, there's the good reason why the scientific community is pretty united in opposing this.

BURNETT: So, okay, so let me ask you this, because you raise an interesting point. And there is a criminal justice aspect of this, which is -- which is crucial and core, as you point out and there are other aspects as well.


BURNETT: Some of them raised by Democrats. Jon Tester says legalization was cause more problems than it solves. Manchin, right now, we're not there. Jeanne Shaheen, I don't support legalizing marijuana. The research suggests this is a way that more people get the drugs, that's the gateway drug argument.

SABET: That's right.

BURNETT: But yet, you have people who don't, wouldn't want their workers doing this, or their designate doing this.


BURNETT: They certainly wouldn't want their inflame pilot doing this while on the job. They don't want their teenagers doing this, let's just be honest.

SABET: Right.

BURNETT: And when you asked them, overall, do they support the policy? The number of Americans who approve legalizing marijuana has surged nearly 20 points just in the past decade. What's happening?

SABET: Well, I think there is a big misinformation campaign by an industry that relies on addiction for profit. They rely on this misinformation to make money. This is about money. This isn't about anything else.

If it was about social justice, we'd be only talking about decriminalization. I'm all in favor of let's expunge records. Let's not throw someone in prison. Let's not give someone a record and arrest them.

But by legalizing it, we're opening up the door to a lot more problems. And again, they have a lot of money, they change public opinion.

I also think that the American people often mix up the issue, also, of decriminalization and legalization. So when you ask them, I'm not sure they're envisioning what bills like Senator Booker and Senator Schumer's bill would do, which would, you know, because 99 percent potent dabs, these gummy bears, the ice creams, the candies, the sodas.

I'm not sure people quite understand even what they're agreeing to when they answered these surveys.


BURNETT: Hmm, that's an interesting point.

All right, well thank you so much, Kevin. I appreciate your time.

SABET: Thanks for having me, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And next, his wife says he was a healthy 46-year- old with no underlying conditions. But he died of COVID last month. He had put off getting the vaccine, and now his wife has a message for everyone.

And breaking news, Britney Spears is step closer to taking control offer on life. She tells the judge tonight that she is, quote, extremely scared of her father.


BURNETT: Tonight, he just didn't stand a chance against COVID. That's how one woman describes what happened to her husband, Rob Tersteeg, who's healthy, 46 years old, no underlying conditions. He died in June after battling the coronavirus for weeks.

And now, his family wants people to know this. They want to talk about it. That Rob wasn't vaccinated, and he ended up regretting that decision.

OUTFRONT now, Amy Tersteeg, Rob's wife.

And, Amy, I'm so sorry. I just -- I'm so sorry for your loss, and at this point, you think feeling it's over, and your moving past it, and to be dealt this is horrible to imagine, so painful.

I know that you went through the rollercoaster in the ICU. He seemed to be getting better, then took a turn.

How suddenly did you lose world, Rob?

AMY TERSTEEG, LOST UNVACCINATED HUSBAND TO COVID: It felt like he was with me one day and gone the next. It was very quick on the 29th, that we thought it was a good day and the 30th he was intubated. It was really quick.

BURNETT: And I know that you are choosing to speak out to try to save other lives and, you know, I just so admire your courage in doing that. I know you and Rob had talked about getting the vaccine and he wasn't ready when it became available. He just wasn't ready yet at that time. How come?

TERSTEEG: I think Rob thought that he was invincible. I think that a lot of men think that if nothing else has taken them down, that nothing can and because of my role at the hospital, I know that he would have -- he never said I'm never going to get vaccinated. It just wasn't over the right time. And I did never push him.

BURNETT: I know you've said family members and friends have learned about, you know, he is dying and this experience. What are you hearing from them?

TERSTEEG: So we've been really fortunate. Rob's wish was to stare his story at the time he talked to our infectious disease specialist at Trinity. He hadn't expected that he'd be sharing his story with everyone and the turnaround that he made. So I'm trying to honor that wish by sharing his story.

And I have had an overwhelming response from family and friends and a lot of people that I don't know at all, reaching out to say that they read or heard Rob's story and that they've chosen to get vaccinated now.

BURNETT: Well, I'm so sorry for you and for your children. It's just so sad and, you know, to lose -- to lose their father. I know that -- I know that Rob did want to share his story. Know that when he did get stay sick, he told you he was going to get vaccinated as soon as he could when you got better. And then he did talk to you about your children and getting them vaccinated too.

Can you tell me anything about those conversations?

TERSTEEG: So on the day that I brought him into the doctor, he was just struggling to catch his breath. So we decided to just go into the ER and when he got to the ER, his oxygen rate was in the very low seventies. And so, they immediately put him on and oxygen cannula. And that wasn't bringing it up his numbers.

So they put on an oxygen mask. And Rob looked at me and said, get the kids vaccinated right away. I don't want to ever see them like this. Rob wasn't to back down on his opinions about things and I don't think I ever heard him change his mind about anything, so for him to ask me to do that, I just knew how scared he was of the kids going through something like this. And so, the kids got their first shot the next day.

BURNETT: Well, Amy, I'm so sorry. I hope that in telling something so raw and painful and personal, that there will be others who will do the same. I know there will be, and I thank you.

TERSTEEG: Thank you for the opportunity to share this story.

BURNETT: And next, we have breaking news on Britney Spears' conservatorship. That is coming up right after this. We'll be right back.



BURNETT: A judge just moment ago telling Britney Spears her quest to hire her own attorney has been granted. The pop star breaking down in tears, telling the judge that she is -- what she's been through is, quote, F-ing cruelty, and she is, quote, extremely scared of her father and that she would like to bring formal charges against him over his role in her conservatorship.

Stephanie Elam is live OUTFRONT -- I'm sorry, outside the courtroom in Los Angeles.

And, Stephanie, some major developments at this hour on this?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Britney getting many of the things she wanted but one thing is very clear as we heard Britney Spears's in court once again, she's very angry at her father so much so she wants charges brought against him.


ELAM (voice-over): Britney Spears is one step closer to potentially taking back control of her life. Judge Brenda Penny granted the singer's requested to choose her own lawyer. Wasting no time, former federal prosecutor Matthew Rosengart was in court on behalf of Spears.

MATTHEW ROSENGART, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: We feel that today was a big step in the interest of justice.

ELAM: Judge Penny accepted the resignations of both Samuel Ingham, Spears' court appointed lawyer since 2008, and Bessemer Trust, a wealth management firm and the court-appointed co-conservator of her estimated $60 million estate.

Calling into court, Spears was emotional, sobbing as she spoke for about 20 minutes, saying she wants to get her father Jamie Spears removed from the arrangement and charged with conservatorship abuse, saying, quote: If this isn't abuse, I don't know what is.


She added, I thought they were trying to kill me.

Her new lawyer echoing some of her sentiments.

ROSENGART: Pursuant to Britney Spears' instructions, we will be moving promptly and aggressively for his removal. The question remains, why is he involved? He should step down voluntarily as that is in the best interest of Britney Spears.

ELAM: The last time Spears spoke in court about three weeks ago, she railed against the conservatorship, calling it abusive, demoralizing, and embarrassing.

She also claims she was forced to perform, take medication, including birth control and get therapy.


ELAM: Her fans have intensify their calls to free Britney from what they deem a toxic situation, gathering outside the courthouse as news spread of Spears' victory. Before the hearing, Spears gained some key support, too. Her mother Lynne Spears said in court filings that Britney is able to care for herself and isn't a much different place than when the conservatorship began in 2008.

That's when multiple health and psychiatric issues landed Spears in the hospital that January. Her father maintains he's acted in the best interest of his daughter.

But critics of the arrangement argue that if Britney can work, then she can also handle her own affairs. BRITNEY SPEARS, POP SINGER: What's up, Vegas!

ELAM: And in recent years, she's kept busy, releasing several albums, headlining her Las Vegas residency, and serving as a reality competition judge. All while under the conservatorship and has her mother's petition states earning, quote, literally hundreds of millions of dollars as an international celebrity.

As for Jodi Montgomery, the temporary conservator of Spears person Britney said she wants Montgomery to help her transition into the real world.


ELAM: And Spears also said that she is not willing to be evaluated again to get her father removed from this conservatorship. She said in court today, quote, I am not perfect. But I am not crazy -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Stephanie, thank you very much.

And next, terrifying new 911 calls from the night of the deadly condo collapse.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the death toll after that condo collapse in Surfside, Florida, rising to 97 tonight. And it comes as we have just obtained 911 calls from the terrifying moments after the building came down.



OPERATOR: Hello, Miami-Dade?

OPERATOR: Yeah, hold on. I'm trying to track them.

CALLER: We got to get out!

OPERATOR: He's mapping at 88th Street and Collins Avenue.

CALLER: Hurry up! Hurry up! (INAUDIBLE)

OPERATOR: He's reporting a collapse in the garage.

CALLER: 877 Collins Avenue.

OPERATOR: A bridge collapsed?

CALLER: No, a building. Building.

OPERATOR: A building collapsed?

OPERATOR: You need to speak with the operator.

PERSON 1: The whole building collapsed.

PERSON 2: Where?


PERSON 2: Oh my God!

PERSON 1: Let's get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of here.

PERSON 2: Oh my God!


BURNETT: And the tragedy has been a wake up call for other condo owners. Experts calling aging condos around the country a ticking time bomb.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the wake of the catastrophe on the Florida coast, a shockwave is rattling through condo communities nationwide. Inspection plans, delayed repairs, and rapidly aging condo buildings are drawing intense scrutiny, with one industry analyst calling the situation a ticking time bomb.

EVAN MCKENZIE, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO: All these old condo buildings, all of them are facing the need for major repairs, all of them.

FOREMAN: The problem? With up to 30 million Americans living in condos, a company that helps owners associations determine whether they have set aside enough money to easily pay for necessary repairs found only 30 percent do. 40 percent would struggle to meet unexpected repair bills, and at the bottom 30 percent are in a very weak position financially, potentially unable to cover even critical refurbishments.

ROBERT NORDLUND, CEO, ASSOCIATION RESERVES: They are facing large bills for infrastructure maintenance. And those bills are only going to get the larger the longer and longer they wait.

FOREMAN: That happened at Champlain Towers South. In 2018, engineers called for $9 million in repairs. Little was done, less than three years later, the price tag was 15 million, which meant each owner of a one bedroom unit would have to pay more than $80,000 additional dollars over 15 years, a hard sell in any market.

MCKENZIE: Nobody wants their assessments increased today to pay for a roof that someone else is going to enjoy in 5 years.


FOREMAN: It wasn't always this way. Condo sales boomed in the '70s and '80s as buyers were drawn to living in attractive locations with minimal maintenance. The buildings were shiny and new.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sunlit breakfast rooms. Extra large windows.

FOREMAN: But now, amateur condo boards, limited government oversight, and the sheer passage of time have experts convinced some of those buildings may be on the brink. And they are deeply worried about what comes next, despite all the best intentions.

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: We're going to make sure that it doesn't ever, ever happen again.


FOREMAN (on camera): We still don't know precisely what caused this latest catastrophe, but experts say we do know this. What was a golden age for condos in this country has turned into an old age for many of them, and yeah, these problems can be addressed, but only if condo associations and local governments get serious about it and stay serious about it and fix the problems, Erin, or we could be right back in this kind of catastrophe again.

BURNETT: It's awful. And that means money. And it means money now.

FOREMAN: Yeah, absolutely.

BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Tom. I appreciate.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us. Of course, you can watch OUTFRONT anytime. You just go to CNN Go.

Anderson starts now.