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Erin Burnett Outfront

3 Educators in One FL County Die in 24 Hours Tied to COVID, All Under 50, All Unvaccinated, All Worked With Kids Under 12; Mississippi: 3 Schools Close After COVID Outbreak; Dallas County: No Pediatric ICU Beds; GA School District: 550 Cases; Experts: Up to a Third of COVID Cases Suffer from Long COVID. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 19:00   ET




Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now. Good night.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the Biden administration tonight taking the fight over school mask mandates straight to the two Republican governors in Florida and Texas. This as three teachers in Broward County, Florida are dead from COVID and two others now hospitalized.

Plus, Dr. Fauci says even the vaccinated are in danger of getting the debilitating symptoms of long COVID, question you've all had. So why and why are some more susceptible than others? Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a special report.

And our guest tonight, the Mayor of Topeka tells us about having her gallbladder removed and a pacemaker put in all because of long COVID. She's 45.

And it's August 13th, why the conspiracy theorists were wrong about this date and so many others. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, struggling to keep America's children safe from COVID. Three teachers in the same school district died in the span of 24 hours and two more hospitalized. This is all happening in Broward County, Florida. Right now ground zero for the fight against that State's Governor's attempt to ban mask mandates in schools. The school Board has defied Gov. Ron DeSantis as he continues to threaten to cut funding and salaries. The school Board has kept the mask mandate in place.

And that's really important because all three of the teachers who died were unvaccinated and all of them were set to teach kids who are too young to get vaccinated. Look, as a mother of three children too in school, I'll be blunt and honest about where I stand. It's important to be honest about these things. I think it's wrong for teachers who are unvaccinated and maskless to be teaching unvaccinated children. Thankfully, the kids in Broward County, they weren't scheduled to go

back to school until Wednesday. But teachers started this week and this is a horrible and tragic outcome, because across the country, many kids are already back in school. The White House is so concerned that the Secretary of Education sent a letter tonight to the Governors of Florida and Texas where they're also trying to ban a mask mandate in schools saying the administration is quote deeply concerned.

And there are major reasons for the concern tonight because let me just give you the numbers, the number of children infected with COVID has surged a 675 percent increase in just July to August so far. And as children are going back to school, more than 10,000 of them and staff across 14 states are now quarantined for COVID exposure, according to Washington Post analysis.

At least three schools in Mississippi have temporarily closed already, barely opened, right? Closed after an outbreak of COVID-19 in a suburban Atlanta school district over 550 active COVID cases are being reported this week. In Gwinnett County, Georgia 679 positive cases between students and staff since the start of school on August 4th.

And that's just a small sampling of what we're seeing across this country. Sadly, the number of children hospitalized is skyrocketing too. You get more and more people infected, so the absolute numbers of kids getting sick and dying are going up. It's awful. In Texas where the Governor has tried to ban mask mandates and elementary schools, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins had this to say.


CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY JUDGE: In Dallas, we have zero ICU beds left for children. That means if your child is with a car wreck, if your child has congenital heart defect or something that needs an ICU bed or more likely if they have COVID need an ICU bed, we don't have one. Your child will wait for another child to die.


BURNETT: And children of an Alabama hospital says it's treating a record number of COVID patients. They've got 23 children in there as of Thursday and five on ventilators. And again, just to be really clear here, none of these kids need to have COVID, absolutely none of them. All the adults in their lives should be vaccinated and anyone who can't for some specific medical reason should be masking indoors. I'll speak with one of the top doctors there coming up.

And while all this is happening across this country, there are still lawmakers and citizens trying to stop schools from mandating masks, which of course is the one thing we know right now that can help keep kids too young to be vaccinated from contracting COVID. Protests like these are playing out across the country.


CROWD: My child my choice. My child my choice. My child my choice. My child my choice. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: People screaming at school Board members who are trying to mandate masks. Here's what happened in Broward County when the school Board met recently to decide whether to keep their mask mandate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is time to cast off this symbol of tyranny, this symbol of child abuse. We will not stand for it anymore.


BURNETT: What's amazing is when these vaccines get approved for kids, in a very short time we can get all these kids vaccine and prevent any of them from getting really sick and dying.


But instead, if those sorts of voices start to win, the number of sick and hospitalized and dead children will grow needlessly. As I said, in Broward County, while Gov. DeSantis fights mask mandates, he instead, actually this is important, spend today pushing Regeneron, a COVID treatment that cost $1,500 a pop, $1,500 a pop, he's pushing that instead of the free vaccine.

Regeneron, of course, would not be needed if people had been able to get vaccinated and wear masks and now three educators are now dead. All of them are women, all about the same age, 48 and 49 years old and all of them unvaccinated. This is according to the President of the Broward Teachers Union, Anna Fusco, who will be my guest in just a moment.

Thankfully, children were not back at school yet, but that is not true across so much of this country tonight and that is what is concerning to health officials across the nation. Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT live outside the White House tonight.

So Phil, the Biden administration is not backing down now from this fight against governors who are trying to ban mask mandates while kids are still unvaccinated.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, if anything, it's going to escalate over the coming weeks. When you talk to White House officials, they try and make a distinction. They don't view this as a political attack or an effort to make this a Republican versus Democrat thing. They point to the numbers.

I've had one White House official tell me earlier and pointing to cases, deaths, hospitalizations, overwhelmed hospitals in the State of Florida 'the numbers don't lie'. And so I think that's the primary concern, the public health concern. On the political side of things, the White House doesn't see a lot of downside, they think unmet (ph) not necessarily with Republicans, but mask mandates are popular, vaccinations are popular. And the President's perspective, how the President has operated

throughout the coronavirus crisis since he took office, he has rated very well. So they feel like he has the upside on that front as well. But I think the biggest concern without question is on the public health side of things and you mentioned the key element here, why the shift really occurred just about two weeks ago that lit up this back and forth between the Governor and the President was the concerns about the Delta variant and particularly the concerns about kids going back to school.

There is no question there is visceral concern inside the White House, inside the administration about how political masks will mean for schools where they're trying to reopen across the country, whether it will lead to outbreaks, whether students will have to go back to virtual learning in places throughout the country because of the politics of this moment on mask. That's the primary concern.

And I think one of the interesting elements here is the White House has tried to be very clear that they're not trying to undercut the Governor from a political sense, but they are very clearly trying to backfill to some degree on the policy side of things. You mentioned that letter from Secretary of Education Cardona to Gov. DeSantis. He also sent a letter to Florida superintendents.

And in that letter, he made very clear, one, the White House is deeply supportive of any superintendent that is pursuing a mask mandate despite what the Governor has done. But also this, that if the Governor does, in fact, try and restrict or take away their salaries because of those efforts, they have an alternative. They can backfill that money through COVID relief bills that have been put into place over the course of the last two years, 10s of billions of dollars are available and the White House is making very clear through this letter from the Education Secretary that it is available for superintendents, for teachers, for school Board members and Gov. DeSantis would have no say over it, Erin.

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

OUTFRONT now Anna Fusco, the President of the Broward Teachers Union, as I promised she's here. And look, Anna, I am so glad to have you on in this circumstance. I've know we've talked a few times recently, but I know you knew one of the teachers personally. What did you think when you heard that three educators, three teachers in your county died in a 24-hour span?

ANNA FUSCO, PRESIDENT, BROWARD TEACHERS UNION: Oh, first was extremely sad, wanted to send our condolences to their families, the educators at those school sites, the principals, which I did. It was just shocking that it was all in one day.

BURNETT: I mean, how much does this make you want to continue the fight to keep the mask mandate knowing these teachers in just days could have been in classroom with kids who are not vaccinated?

FUSCO: Honestly, Erin, I've been continuing this fight since the outbreak when we close schools down before last school year in March of 2019 that it was spreading, we saw rapidly we needed to keep pushing to have all types of protocols put in place for the safety and security of our educators and the students that we take care of.

I hear almost daily, somebody in our community, somebody within our union of brothers and sisters, family members that passed away, but hearing a three of our educators in one day and two of our other kids community members that passed away, it was really a really strong blow.


So I'm extremely happy that our school Board and our superintendent are going to enforce the mass mandate. I am thrilled to hear that our President of the United States is backing all the Florida school Boards and superintendents that are going to take that position. It's so important right now that when we don't know who's vaccinated in our schools, whether it's our students or our employees, that we mask up, social distance, keep the hand washing going and intermittently cleaning.

So I heard you say before, that it's important that if we're going to be in front of our students and in front of each other in these classrooms, in our school sites, getting vaccinated is so important. If not, we need to mask up.

BURNETT: So let me ask you a little bit more on that. When you say we don't know who's vaccinated and I understand, there are people who may need specific medical exemptions, of course. But I don't know if you saw this because it happened just before you came on, Anna, but the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the second biggest in this country, today announced they are requiring all people who work in schools, teachers and staff to be fully vaccinated and undergo weekly testing.

But the vaccination part is not, it's not like either or, you have to be vaccinated. I know you've been honest. You were initially hesitant, so you understand where maybe some teachers could be coming from, but now you have teachers who died and kids could be in a classroom, even if someone's masked, the kids have no protection at all. Why not push a full on vaccine mandate?

FUSCO: Well, in the position I'm in, I'm an educator myself an elected union president, putting on that powerful authority I just didn't feel comfortable doing it. But every day when I hear more and more people that are sick that are battling COVID and they're still struggling even on their homes and haven't made it to a hospital, but the ones that get into the hospital and are unfortunate and pass away.

My position is may be shifting. I'm really encouraging and strongly suggesting that everybody gets out get vaccinated. Broward Teachers Union is partnering up with our health department in the school Board next week where we're going to be having a site for vaccines for all employees that haven't had an opportunity. And I'm just hoping that that FDA is going to come up with that approval and possibly my position might change with that one to encourage mandated vaccines. I could tell you right now, even though I'm not taking that position

to say it, if our school Board takes that position, I will not stand in the way.

BURNETT: Well, I think that's a really significant thing to say and I know it comes from a lot of thought. I hope it bolsters you in that move to hear that the teachers union in L.A., again, the second biggest district in the country, fully behind the mandate. They did it together. It was the school Board. It was the union and they all are on the same page.

So Anna, look, I appreciate talking to you. Thank you.

FUSCO: Thank you, Erin. Have a great night.

BURNETT: All right. You too.

And I want to go now to the Co-Director of the University of Alabama and Children's of Alabama Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Dr. David Kimberlin. And Dr. Kimberlin, I mentioned in the introduction to the program tonight that your hospital has a record number of COVID patients. Can you tell me what you're seeing?

DR. DAVID KIMBERLIN, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM, CHILDREN'S OF ALABAMA: We're seeing a lot of children who are very, very sick admitted to our hospital. We have almost twice as many right now as we did at the previous worst part of this pandemic, which was probably in January, early to mid-January of 2021.

These children are coming in fighting for breath, fighting for the ability to basically get through this devastating illness. Many of them are on ventilators, about maybe a quarter or so are either on ventilators or heart lung bypass machines, the ECMO machines that are really taking over all aspects of their bodily functions. And they're struggling to get out of this and through it.

And right now our numbers are not as bad as Dallas' in terms of the ICU beds and so forth. But we are very mindful that with return to school, with so many people not wearing masks indoors, with people not being vaccinated, Alabama has a pretty low vaccination rate, that could change in a very quick period of time.

BURNETT: So tell me about the kids you're seeing. I mean, when you talk about, I mean, it's awful to think about this, the situation that these children are in. Can you tell me about the kids and how worried you are that this could get worse for children?

KIMBERLIN: Well, the children that we're seeing span the age range from very young infants to 17 and 18-year-old adolescence. And so the spectrum is wide and the fear that I have is great that it not only can get worse, but it will get worse.


I mean right now the rate of increase that we have in our cases in our communities across the state, it was really very similar across the southeast. It's meteoric kind of rises here and it's going to continue. And as it continues and more people get infected, wait a week or two, we've seen this movie before. Wait a week or two then more will come to the hospital, then wait a week after that more will die. And it does not have to be this way. We need to double down and mask indoors, get vaccinated and try to get through this.

BURNETT: So that the horrible story of Broward County, I mean, it's just awful. Three elementary school teachers unvaccinated have died from COVID. Teachers were back at school. The kids are joining next week. So the kids weren't yet in the classroom. Thank God, but it's still so tragic.

How important is it to have mask mandates in schools and also I know you heard the Teachers Union speaking that it really moving their towards not standing in the way and possibly ready to fully support a vaccine mandate.

KIMBERLIN: It's critically important that everyone in schools masks, whether you're vaccinated or not, everyone in the school wear a mask. Now I think the most efficient way to do that is to have a mandate, to have a requirement, to a rule that everybody needs to do so.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has come out with that. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have come out and said the same. The Infectious Disease Society of America, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society of America, you can go down the list in terms of scientific organizations that have looked at the data, they see what this virus this, Delta variant of the virus especially can do.

We know that mask work. We've seen it earlier in the pandemic. We know that they can help slow this down and we know that getting vaccines in people's arms can do even better with that over time. We know what to do here and it saddens me that we seem to be fighting about the way we go about doing it.

We all ought to have and I want to believe that we do have our own children's best interests at heart and we've got to do this for them.

BURNETT: Yes. Thank you very much, Dr. Kimberlin. I appreciate your time.

KIMBERLIN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, U.S. troops on their way to Afghanistan at this hour to help evacuate Americans in the country, diplomats in the country as the Taliban takes over all of southern Afghanistan and it is doing so by storm. Why was the White House so caught off guard by what happened, is happening?

Plus, our special report on long COVID tonight. It is real. It is damaging. It is dangerous. And Dr. Fauci tonight warns that even the fully vaccinated are not immune from it. Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes an in depth look tonight.

And less than five hours left until August 13th is over. TRUMP conspiracy theorists still think he'll be reinstated as president on Friday the 13th.



BURNETT: Breaking news, American troops on their way to Afghanistan's Kabul airport to assist with diplomatic evacuations as the security situation there goes from bad to worse. The Taliban now in control of half of Afghanistan's provincial capitals. And, I mean, all of them were seized in just the past week, including the country's second largest city of Kandahar. All of it taking the Biden White House by surprise and leaving Biden's team scrambling. Clarissa Ward is OUTFRONT. She's Kabul tonight.

And Clarissa, thousands more U.S. troops are going to be on the ground there in a matter of hours. I mean, just stating the obvious when they pulled them out. They didn't expect they'd have to be dropping in 3,000 people to evacuate diplomats, right? I mean, it's not good. The Pentagon is struggling to not call this an evacuation, but what is it? Tell me what we're about to see on the ground.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's an evacuation. You can play with semantics, you can call it a withdrawal, you can say it's out of an abundance of caution, you can say the embassy is still open and that the enduring partnership between the U.S. and the Afghan government is very much strong.

But the reality is how it's being seen on the ground here is as an evacuation, a sign that the U.S. is starting to panic and that it needs to get its personnel out of this country as the security situation deteriorates further. So we're going to see roughly 3,000 troops coming in and basically escorting the hundreds, if not more than a thousand American personnel from the U.S. embassy to the airport here in Kabul and onto military flights to get them out of the country.

We don't know exactly how many people are going to be evacuated and we also don't know, Erin, about Afghan people working in that embassy. And, of course, the many Afghan people who have been working closely with the U.S. military and the U.S. diplomatic mission here for many years who are now facing very real threats to their security.

CNN spoke to one man who was so desperate about his situation, his paperwork had hit a stumbling block and seemingly fallen through that he was even threatening to go outside the embassy and set fire to himself as a sort of means of protest. And hopefully he doesn't actually go through with that. But I think it certainly speaks to the desperation many people are feeling here on the ground as the U.S. really starts to pull the ripcord.

BURNETT: So five more provincial capitals seized in the past 24 hours since we spoke last night Eastern Time and the Taliban now controlling territory just about 60 miles from where you are. And again, the Pentagon was taking pains to say, well, it's not actually in Kabul, they're just near Kabul. I mean, you're 60 miles away, they're moving rapidly, how tense is it in Kabul tonight? WARD: Right now in Kabul, I would say it's calm and the situation is

relatively stable, but it's incredibly tense. And I spoke to one official earlier who said to me, do you hear the sound of that silence? It's the sound of people packing, packing to go because there is such desperate uncertainty.

And also, we haven't heard anything from the Afghan government, Erin, which is just stunning. The country is literally collapsing. And yet we have not heard any real leadership coming from President Ashraf Ghani. And I should say from the Taliban side, there is no sign that they are about to sort of slow down this offensive.


We just got back from spending a couple of days with them in Ghazni Province which is entirely under their control now. We sat down with the Taliban Governor for the Andar District and we asked him, "Do you even have any incentive to sit down and negotiate with the Afghan government when you're making all these gains? Do you see a future where there could be a power sharing agreement where there could be peace between the two sides?"

And I have to say, he was not really wanting to answer the question, but he was extremely non-committal. He said that's not clear yet. We'll wait to see what our leaders in Doha decide and whatever they decide, we will do. And so the question now becomes, what will those leaders in Doha decide?

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Clarissa. Of course, those leaders in Doha, I remember the hostage swap carried out by the Obama administration so Taliban has had a big presence in Doha ever since.

I want to bring in Mark Jacobson, he was senior adviser to the defense secretary during the Obama administration. He also served as a Deputy NATO representative in Afghanistan. And Mark, you've been very blunt here. You've described the Biden policy as a 'train wreck'. So what's going through your mind as you see these pictures of the Taliban taking over and you hear about, what, another five provincial capitals in just the past 24 hours being taken over?

MARK JACOBSON, FORMER DEPUTY NATO SENIOR CIVILIAN REPRESENTATIVE TO AFGHANISTAN: I'd like to tell you that there's some hope. My concern is there really three ways this can go. Of course, there's always a chance that the Biden administration sees the light and decides to release all that airpower that they've been speaking about that's available to the Afghan National Security Forces and maybe force a stalemate. That's the least likely situation.

The next possibility is that Afghan leaders, perhaps someone like Hamid Karzai, can broker some sort of ceasefire or deal. I mean, there are still a couple of provinces that are same as business as usual. Nangarhar Province, Laghman Province, I understand from people on the ground, they're doing okay. But again, the most likely option right now is a complete collapse of the Afghan security forces.

BURNETT: I mean, it is pretty incredible. I mean, a lot of policy experts questioned the wisdom of this decision. But Biden, of course, has been sticking by it. And if you look at polls, polls are polls, but the American people do support it. A poll taken by Quinnipiac after Biden announced the withdrawal plan, but obviously before this sort of blitzkrieg by the Taliban showed 62 percent of Americans approved of his decision to pull American troops out.

He seems to be reflecting a country that wants the end of a two decades long military campaign. I mean, he seems to be accurately reflecting voters.

JACOBSON: Well, look, frankly unlike the past two presidents, President Biden has owned his decision, not tried to push it on other people, not tried to say, well, I was backed into a corner. The bottom line is he believes this even though I think he's wrong. I think others feel he's wrong.

But I really don't think a president should be making policy, especially foreign policy, based on the polling and that's for two reasons. One, I am pretty sure that a good chunk of Americans, if not a majority of Americans are going to change their mind and say we should do something. Once they see the horrible pictures that are likely to emanate from Afghanistan over the coming weeks and months.

The second piece is presidents need to lead. And if the President makes a case and say, I know you don't like this, I know this is putting our sons and daughters in harm's way, but we need to be there for these reasons. Then I think that's presidential. That's what American leaders do.

BURNETT: So there's been this allegiance and look when it comes to pulling troops out, this isn't infrequent. But in this case, you've got the Democratic Biden administration with Ron Klain, the Chief of Staff retreating libertarian, the former Congressman Justin Amash.

And former Congressman Amash writes, "The Taliban's rapid gains in Afghanistan underscore the futility of permanent occupation. The United States wasn't able to meaningfully shape circumstances through 20 years of war. We'd have seen the same results had we pulled out 15 years ago or 15 years from now. End the wars."

Now, what do you say to that? I mean, look, it's a really horrible thing to even contemplate, because so many Americans have lost their lives defending what is now capitulating.

JACOBSON: I just don't think that's right. I think what individuals like former Congressman Amash forget is that there have been great strides made in Afghanistan. There was no certainty that once we left, that would be the end game. In fact, I just think back to the Obama administration, what we would have given for the Taliban not just to be at the table with us speaking but for them to be speaking with their Afghan counterparts. That was the goal. And guess what, we got there. They've been at the table with the United States. We have had a lousy deal that the Taliban have violated, but they've also been talking to the Afghans.

[19:30:02] And what underpinned that, what pushed the Taliban to the table was

U.S. airpower. The continued threat of U.S. military strikes. And not only did President Biden say we're going to pull our ground troops out completely and unconditionally, but he also said no air power. And I think that just broke the back of the Afghan military because they knew what that meant for their combat power.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Mark, appreciate your time. Thank you very much and I appreciate your blunt assessment.

JACOBSON: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a special report on long COVID. So who gets it and why? And why you can still get it if you're vaccinated?

And I'm also joined by the mayor of Topeka. A 45-year-old biker and runner, a mother of three about a get a pacemaker after she got her gull bladder removed all because she has long haul COVID.

And homeland security secretary on defense after audio leaked of him saying, quote, we're going to lose if our border is the first line of defense, as a record number of migrants are apprehended at America's southern border.



BURNETT: Tonight, a special OUTFRONT report on long COVID. Up to a third of people that get COVID are suffering for nine months or longer with frightening symptoms, including memory loss, heart damage, breathing problems, debilitating digestive issues, nervous issues.

And Dr. Fauci is now sounding the alarm even for the fully vaccinated.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Certainly, if you get vaccinated and you get a breakthrough infection, you can get long COVID.


BURNETT: All right. So, that's a really crucial thing. It's, in fact, one of the most basic questions I hear from people that are fully vaccinated. The answer sobering and concerning. So, what actually causes long COVID and who is most at risk?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This time last year, Chimere Smith would have thought this was impossible. The 39-year-old middle schoolteacher could barely move after getting COVID-19 in March of 2020.


GUPTA: Now more than a year later, she can walk for up to 15 minutes but continues to experience symptoms.

SMITH: My first symptoms were a sore throat. I was dizzy and I had a slight shortness of breath and quickly over the course of time that grew into vision loss, memory loss, episodes of psychosis, delirium.

GUPTA: Experts think a tenth to one-third who are infected with coronavirus continued to have symptoms six months after first becoming ill.

DR. MICHAEL SAAG, INFECTIOUS DISEASE DOCTOR: The fact that so many people at one time over a course of a year have developed this long haul syndrome, that gives us a chance, an opportunity to study it intensively.

GUPTA: Dr. Michael Saag is an infectious disease doctor at the University of Alabama Birmingham. Like Smith, he also got sick with COVID-19 in March 2020.

How are you feeling? How are you doing?

SAAG: I have fatigue every now and then. The residual deficit is I have hearing loss that returned to some degree but not completely.

GUPTA: Even after flu, I was reading people would have brain fog and different types of symptoms but not as persistent and not as long as we're seeing with long COVID.

SAAG: I think there are persistent symptoms for certain infectious disorders. Lyme disease is perhaps the most well-known. I think the common thread between lime and post COVID and a few other viral illnesses is precisely an immune system that hasn't calmed down yet.

GUPTA: Who develops long COVID and why is unclear. Young or old, very sick or not sick at all. It seems anyone is at risk of long COVID, particularly those unvaccinated as variants like delta become more prominent.

SMITH: A lot of long COVID patients will tell you a lot of our symptoms and trouble don't show up on tests.

GUPTA: It's an additional complication on top of an already complicated relationship of health care for people of color that may be marginalized and stereotyped.

SMITH: There is nothing worse than being told when vision is lost in your left eye, it's a dry eye when meeting the right doctor, I found out it was actually a dense cataract that formed due to the inflammation in my brain.

GUPTA: It pushed Smith to speak out. With the help of patient voices like hers, the National Institute of Health launched an initiative to understand how to treat the range of symptoms of long COVID, symptoms that can impact all parts of the body including the brain.

In fact, a recent study out of the U.K. found people infected with coronavirus lost brain matter, particularly in areas of the brain involved with smell and taste. Now, the results are early and they still need to be peer reviewed. The researchers didn't correlate to function and unable to tell if the changes were symptom of disease or mark of infection.

SAAG: The other thing that we don't know that I think is essential is to understand how much the sly virus is virus itself enters into the brain and which cells.

GUPTA: While 70 percent of people recover by nine months, 30 percent of patients like Smith may not. For her, it's been a long road but there is one thing she wants more than anything else.

SMITH: We're moving so fast and trying to get all the answers at one time. I just hope we're not forgotten because I almost was.


BURNETT: Sanjay, her story is, I mean, incredible. Talk about the cataract and brain swelling, what she has actually endured. Dr. Fauci is now saying even if you're fully vaccinated, it's possible you get long COVID, if you get infected, which sort of fits with what you said in your piece, right? I mean, you can get really sick and get long COVID but you might not get very sick at all and you could still get long COVID.


I mean, what more do we know about the dangers to even those who are vaccinated?

GUPTA: Well, I think there is a couple things that are emerging. I mean, one is that even if you're vaccinated, you don't want to be continuously showered in virus. I mean, like if you had a wound on your hand, you wouldn't want to continuously expose it to bacteria if taking antibiotics and the same could be said here. That's why, you know, masks, at least for a period of time, make a difference for the vaccinated.

But the study I think Dr. Fauci was referring to is a study out of Israel that basically followed 1,500 health care workers tested regularly and they found that there was about 2 percent that developed these post-vaccination infections and about a one-fifth had symptoms that lasted longer than a month, which would make them long COVID.

But, you know, almost all resolved at six weeks so far less likely to get infected, far less likely to have those symptoms be severe and far less likely for the long COVID if it happened to last as long. So it can happen, yes, but being vaccinated is still certainly helping a great deal exponentially so.

BURNETT: Exponentially.

All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

And next, you don't want to miss our next guest. She's had her gall bladder removed and about to have a pacemaker put in because she's a COVID long hauler. The mayor of Topeka will be our guest.

And migrants are flooding into the American southern border in numbers not seen in more than 20 years. Local officials say they have been sounding the alarm. Has the Biden administration been listening?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not sustainable. We have a huge water leak. We had to send a plumber to plug the leak.



BURNETT: We are back with more on our OUTFRONT special report on long COVID.

Tonight, one mayor in Kansas preparing for a second surgery because of long term COVID symptoms. The 45-year-old Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla is a mother of three and she'll have a pacemaker implanted on Monday to fix damage to her heart from COVID. She's been hospitalized three different times including surgery to remove her gall bladder because of digestive problems after getting the virus.


Mayor de la Isla is now OUTFRONT.

And, Mayor, I'm -- gosh, I'm really wishing you the best because this has got to be just mentally -- what you're dealing with and three kids on top of this physical pain that you're going through, can you just tell me what you've been facing through this ordeal and how the symptoms started, how this built?

MAYOR MICHELLE DE LA ISLA (D-KS), TOPEKA: Well, the first symptom I had in January was rather odd. I was taking a shower and I told my friends I thought my gosh, I'm going to go but at least I'm going to go clean. I was washing my hair and I just felt like life was leaving me. It was the weirdest thing.

Little did I know that was my heart. That was the first symptom that I actually had from COVID and ended up in the hospital a week after that. I had all the pneumonia symptoms and all the cough and loss of smell and everything.

Heart was giving me problems. That's the first time we talked about a pacemaker but the doctor and decided since I was in the middle of COVID, maybe now is not the time to talk about it but symptoms I had were typical symptoms for somebody that could potentially use a pacemaker.

Came home and had bad chest pains. Thought it was my heart. It was my gall bladder. Was back in the hospital.

Came back home and started recuperating. When I got my second shot, something magical happened. I started feeling better. I thought I would start working out and moving.

And right along April, things are getting a little bit more complicated. End of April when I was really running again at the regular pace and riding my bike as long as I typically do, I started having much more problems with my heart to the point a few weeks ago, I was running a meeting and had to leave and passed out and ended back up in the hospital.

After seeing a few specialists, we're doing the pacemaker. It's been -- if I wasn't so focused on the gratitude to know I'm alive when so many people have died with this virus, this is a technical fix, I tell you my emotional state would not be as positive as it is but I'll tell you -- I'm pretty frustrated because I'm a go-getter and I'm not used to this pace.

BURNETT: Well, I mean, you say you're a go getter, I want to be clear. You had gotten your first shot, vaccine shot and then you contracted COVID so this was sort of in between the shots when you contracted it.

You were very healthy before COVID, and I know temporarily afterwards, right? Let's be clear, you're young. You're 45 years old. You're an avid biker, avid runner. I can't imagine you ever thought that you would be in this situation, right? There is no way you would have ever fathomed such a thing.

DE LA ISLA: Not at all. Not at all. Especially with knowing people in the community, I've known people that were older that had -- this was the alpha version of COVID that were in the hospital but I did know some younger people that were sick, of course. They had like the runny noses and headaches but they had gotten over it.

So the people that I knew in my circle who were letting me know, hey, I had it these were my symptoms. You think if you get it this is potentially what will happen with you. It certainly took me by surprise.

BURNETT: Right. And of course, you're a mayor. You're a mother of three. What you're doing in the midst of this, I find incredible.

When you talk about being in the hospital three times, nearly two weeks in total, so people understand how incredibly disruptive this has been to your life and frightening, you talked about passing out in the shower, the gall bladder removal, leaving the meeting to rush to the hospital because of the dizziness that you felt and the nausea that you felt.

Can I just ask, when did you realize you didn't just have a bad case of COVID but that you had what now could be called long haul syndrome?

DE LA ISLA: I think early on after I got out of the hospital I was really having issues with fatigue. So, the nurses started preparing me because I was asking them, OK, so when will I be able to start moving like I typically do?

But it wasn't until a few weeks later I got the second vaccine that I started to feel some relief. I thought I was done then and then again, back in end of April when things started getting complicated with my heart, I was like my gosh, this is the same stuff, this is the same stuff. I can't believe it.


DE LA ISLA: So yeah, end of April I think is when -- because I think -- I was still having issues with the heart but again, we just thought everything would get better so we put a monitor in.


DE LA ISLA: And then end of April it was just like -- I was telling my doctor, just watch, this is going to go away and resolve. I'll be fine. I don't need a pacemaker.

And he's like okay, let's put a loop recorder in and monitor your heart and I was just like okay, I'm tired but it's not that bad. I can deal with it.


And then April was just like oh, this is no joke. This is bad --


BURNETT: That you knew. Well, mayor, I'm going to be thinking of you on Monday. I know our viewers will as well. I imagine how stressful and frightening it is for you and your family, but we wish you the best on that pacemaker on Monday and this will truly be the begin of your full recovery. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

DE LA ISLA: Thank you. I hope that people take this story and understand it's not a joke. It's real and please, if you can get vaccinated, please.

BURNETT: Yes, I hope they hear you.

DE LA ISLA: And next, leaked audio of the homeland security secretary calling the border situation, quote, unsustainable as record number of migrants are arrested. It is August 13th and Trump is not the president of the United States. Yet another date that Trump and conspiracy theorists have been obviously totaling making up.



BURNETT: Tonight, the homeland secretary on defense, responding to leaked audio obtained by Fox News of him telling border control agents, quote, we're going to lose if, quote, our borders are the first line of defense.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are not going to lose. We have a plan. We are executing our plan. It takes time. But we will not lose.


BURNETT: All right. More than 210,000 migrants were detained at the U.S. Mexico border last month. That is the highest monthly number in two decades.

Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For several weeks, U.S. Border Patrol officials have released images like these to sound the alarm over the historic numbers of migrants apprehended at the southern border. Border patrol agents in South Texas say they're often finding hundreds of migrants a day.

RAUL ORTIZ, U.S. BORDER PATROL DEPUTY CHIEF: What we're experiencing now with unaccompanied children, family units, migrants from countries that we traditionally don't experience these tremendous flow from or what our border patrol agents are faced with each and every day.

LAVANDERA: For months, the Biden administration has been reluctant to describe this as an immigration crisis. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it apprehended 212,000 migrants in July, the most in two decades.

During a visit to South Texas Thursday, Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged the situation presents a serious challenge and told border patrol agents in a private meeting, the migration situation is unsustainable.


And if the border is the first line of defense, the U.S. will lose.

MAYORKAS: What I communicated to them and they very well understood is the fact that we are not in this alone as the United States government. But we, this is a regional issue. But we also are working together to interdict a regular migration and to attack the smuggling organizations.

LAVANDERA: The Biden administration says it resumed a fast track deportation program of migrants who don't get asylum. They've also begun the controversial practice of deporting some migrants deeper into Mexico to deter them from coming back into the United States. Some local border officials say it's not happening fast enough.

RICHARD CORTEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY JUDGE: This is not sustainable. The best analogy what I can give you, sir, is that we have a huge water leak. We can't send people to mop the water. You have to send the plumber to plug -- to plug the leak. LAVANDERA: Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, a Democrat, says

dramatic action is needed. He's calling for a moratorium on migrants seeking asylum.

CORTEZ: Because what it does, it stops the leak. It gives us time to recover. We have very tired Customs and Border Patrol people. I mean, they're overwhelmed.

LAVANDERA: The border shelters in Texas are overcapacity with the number of migrants and a park in Mission, Texas, has been converted into a quarantine camp for migrants who have tested positive for COVID-19. City officials say there are more than 1,000 people at the park.

Critics of the Biden administration's immigration response are blaming the migrants for spreading the coronavirus. But the Department of Homeland Security says the positivity rate among those migrants here is lower t than the surrounding community.


LAVANDERA: And, Erin, the Biden administration is also been saying that they're trying to recreate and rebuild an immigration system that was left in shambles by the Trump administration. They say they're trying to do this in a more humane way, trying to solve the issues of migration at the root cause back in the Central American countries, where so many people are coming from. But the bottom line is, many people along those local border community say this is an urgent problem that needs solving now.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Ed Lavandera, reporting on the ground.

And next, it's August 13th. It is a big day for pushers of the big election lie. And with four hours to go, Donald Trump is not the United States president as they said he would be today.


BURNETT: Well, it's August 13th, Friday, and Joe Biden is still the president of the United States. QAnon conspiracy theorists pushed this the day Donald Trump would be president again.

Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times", you may remember, reported in June that Trump himself had said he expected to be reinstated by August. And there are others.


MIKE LINDELL, MYPILLOW CEO: Donald Trump will be back in office in August.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's coming back.

REPORTER: He can come back as soon as --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before the middle of August.


BURNET: So add August 13th to the other dates that were supposed to mark Trump's come back. There was January 20th, of course, inauguration day for Biden, you know, when they said Trump would be sailing in. And then there was March 4th which came and went with nothing. And here we are again.

Thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.