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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Hundreds Of Desperate Afghans Rush For Last Flights From Kabul; Virus Booster Shots To Be Offered To Americans Starting September 20th; Hurricane Grace Targets Mexico, Tropical Storm Henri Aiming At Northeast. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 19, 2021 - 05:30   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have been, perhaps, the most vocal in trying to withhold funding from districts that impose mask mandates.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Two storms to keep an eye on this morning. Hurricane Grace is bearing down on Mexico with hurricane- force winds, storm surge, and up to a foot of rain. And Tropical Storm Henri is close to becoming a hurricane and poses a threat to the northeast.

JARRETT: Sentencing for one of the Capitol rioters abruptly postponed after new video emerges of him fighting with police. Robert Reeder had pleaded guilty to demonstrated -- to demonstrating inside the Capitol but was not accused of violence. Prosecutors had planned to recommend a two-month sentence but will now request the maximum six months when Reeder is sentenced in October.

ROMANS: The EPA is banning the use of a widely used pesticide on food crops that has been linked to cognitive issues in children, including memory loss. Scientists have been calling for restrictions on the pesticide for years but the guidance was ignored by the Trump administration.

JARRETT: A generational change in your wallet. MasterCard is eliminating magnetic stripes on credit and debit cards over the next 10 years. The company says it's part of a push to use more capable and secure alternatives to the old-fashioned swipe.




ROMANS: Look at all those people. Garth Brooks is putting his tour on hold, canceling the next five stops on his tour because of coronavirus just days after performing for 90,000 people in Nebraska. The country superstar says, quote, "I realize we are still in the right and I must do my part."

JARRETT: When a picture says a thousand words. Turning back now to our top story, growing desperation for people

still trying to escape Afghanistan. Crowds of people rushed to the north gate of Kabul airport, scrambling along the walls there. Crowds passing young children forward toward the gate -- anything to spare them a life under the Taliban.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And what's your message to America right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's our message -- we go, we help the American people, so that's their jobs to help now -- right now, here.


ROMANS: Customs and Border Protection sent additional personnel to Qatar to help process people leaving Afghanistan en route to the U.S. As the Taliban retake Afghanistan, much of their political leadership is heading there from Doha.

Sam Kiley live on the ground in Doha, Qatar for us. And Sam, they're trying to organize but now we're hearing about multiple people killed near the airport in Kabul. What can you tell us?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the details are extremely sketchy but our understanding is that up to 12 people have been killed. We're not exactly sure over what timeline because, of course, things are getting more and more chaotic. Reports coming from the ground there outside Kabul international -- Hamid Karzai International Airport is extremely tense.

The Taliban, according to British officials, have been cooperating and allowing people through. But, obviously, Clarissa Ward saw a very different series of events yesterday when she attempted to investigate what was going on there, coming into contact and something of a clash with local elements of the Taliban.

That really is a microcosm of the challenges that the Taliban are going to be facing in the future. Not only are they trying to improve their international public relations effort, but on the ground they've got very violent, very potentially undisciplined elements that they don't have full control of. And that is going to be their major challenge in the future.

But here in Doha, American officials are still liaising with the Taliban and, indeed, with the Qatari emirate in order to bring in large numbers of evacuees from Kabul airport into here -- into Doha -- and then processing them on into the countries where they're supposedly heading -- and mostly, to the United States but not entirely.

This has been a desperate effort that Joe Biden, the U.S. president, has admitted may involve American troops on the ground beyond that August 31st deadline that the Pentagon had already set. ROMANS: All right, Sam Kiley for us in Doha. Thank you so much for that, Sam, and keep us posted if we learn any more about conditions there at the airport in Kabul.

Meantime, conflicting stories from the State Department and the Pentagon about the ability of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies to find their way to the Kabul airport. The Defense Department insists the Taliban is guaranteeing safe passage, but the State Department says it cannot ensure safe travel to the airfield, and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul agrees.

JARRETT: Top U.S. military officials also admit there's a real possibility that some American citizens and potential Afghan refugees could be left behind. U.S. troops have the ability to extract Americans if needed, but not in large numbers.

ROMANS: We're not just talking about numbers here. These are human beings, like this Afghan child sleeping on the floor of a U.S. Air Force military plane. A reminder of the heartbreaking desperation by so many to get out of Afghanistan.


More now from CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine and Laura, for the first time, President Joe Biden saying U.S. troops may stay past the August 31st deadline for withdrawal as part of the evacuation efforts if they're not yet completed.

On Wednesday morning, the Pentagon had said August 31st was still the date it was looking at. And yet, On Wednesday afternoon, neither Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin or Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley made any reference to August 31st or the end of the month, an apparent signal that the Pentagon was ready for the possibility that U.S. troops may need to stay longer as this evacuation continues, but not fast enough -- and that's the key here.

The processing of not only Afghan interpreters and their family members who have helped the U.S. and are trying to get out of the country simply not at the pace it needs to be to pull out everyone the U.S. is looking to withdraw.

Here is Sec. Austin acknowledging the pace needs to pick up.

LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're really working hard to get as many people through as possible. And quite frankly, we're not -- it's obvious we're not close to where we want to be in terms of getting the numbers through. So we're going to work that 24 hours a day, seven days a week and we're going to get everyone that we can possibly evacuate evacuated. And I'll do that as long as we possibly can until the clock runs out or we run out of capability.

LIEBERMANN (on camera): The challenge isn't only at the airport where Afghan civilians have flooded to try to get out of the country. The U.S. Embassy has warned American citizens still in the country that it cannot guarantee safe passage to Kabul's international airport. That's critical and speaks to the security and situation around the entire country because that airport is the only way in or out of the country.

There were some 18 aircraft that left throughout Wednesday carrying some 2,000 people, but that pace isn't high enough. That's only about 110 people per flight on average -- nowhere near the pace it needs to be if the Pentagon hopes to hit its number of 5,000 to 9,000 people a day. And if that number doesn't go up it may draw out the need for U.S. troops on the ground.

And that, of course, is reliant on communication with the Taliban. That communication is constant and ongoing but it clearly hasn't been able to completely stabilize the situation at and around the airport -- Christine and Laura.


JARRETT: Oren, thank you for that.

School boards are trying to keep kids safe where state governments won't. In Florida, the Palm Beach County School Board voting in favor of a mask mandate. It joins Hillsborough, Broward, and Alachua counties in defying Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Many kids remain unvaccinated, of course, but Gov. DeSantis says it should be up to the parents to decide what happens to kids exposed to coronavirus in school.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: But I don't think to say anyone that was in like a hallway or in a classroom -- that they, even if they're healthy, should be sent home. Maybe a parent would want a healthy kid to be quarantined if there is an exposure, but I think that should be the choice of the parent.


ROMANS: OK, kids under 12 still are not vaccinated yet. But for adults, booster shots are going to be offered to Americans beginning September 20th. The CDC director says three separate studies show protection against coronavirus may wane over time.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We need to recognize that if we're starting to see waning immunity and disease that we may soon see starting waning immunity and hospitalizations, especially among those most vulnerable.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Given the ominous signs of the protection diminishing for infection and clinical disease, we want to make sure we're not, all of a sudden, in trouble and then decide we're going to do something about it as opposed to anticipating the problem and doing something about it right now.


JARRETT: It's time for three questions in three minutes. Let's bring in infectious disease specialist Dr. Richard Martinello, associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine. Doctor, good morning to you.

ROMANS: Good morning.

JARRETT: Thank you for joining us.

For weeks, we were told --


JARRETT: For weeks, we were told it is too soon to talk about boosters. We all knew that wasn't true. We all knew they were on their way. Now we find out they're coming this fall.

I want to play for what the president said about this yesterday.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there are some world leaders who say Americans shouldn't get a third shot until other countries got their first shot. I disagree. We can take of America and help the world at the same time.


JARRETT: What's the best argument, in your mind, for starting boosters this fall when so many Americans, both around the world and here at home, are -- haven't yet got their first shot.


JARRETT: What's the best argument?

MARTINELLO: Well, I think the best argument is that we really need to pursue both objectives. We already have vaccine here in the United States available. We know that we have waning immunity in people and that we need to provide this booster shot to provide optimal protection.

But, of course, at the same time, we need to be partnering with the WHO and with other public health authorities in countries around the world to ensure that everybody has that opportunity to get vaccinated.


And, of course, COVID is a global threat and we're not going to be out of this global threat until we protect that global community. And, of course, if we don't do that in a timely manner what we risk is the possibility that we'll see other variants that arise --


MARTINELLO: -- that could be as bad or potentially, even worse than Delta.

ROMANS: Yes, so do both.


ROMANS: Do both and do more faster, essentially, is what we are talking about here.

MARTINELLO: That's right.

ROMANS: You know, this culture war over masks has been just so frustrating and this recent Axios poll shows, actually, 69 percent of Americans support mandatory masking in America's schools. And the five biggest school districts in the state of Florida -- they are defying Gov. Ron DeSantis and his anti-mask stance. The governor in Florida claims there's no definitive study showing that masks stop the spread of COVID in kids.

Help our audience understand why Gov. DeSantis is wrong.

MARTINELLO: Well, there are a number of studies among children showing that masks help to prevent the spread of disease in schools. We know -- we know that in schools where masks are not being used those children are at higher risk for COVID. And certainly, we know that masks are very effective in adults.

And I think one thing that's very important when we do make public health recommendations that we always think about is what the tradeoffs are between the risks and the benefits. We know very well that the risks of masks are essentially nil.

We never see in our pediatrician's office or in our emergency departments children coming in due to complications from masks. However, we do see children coming in sick with COVID, some of them -- and thankfully, not as often as adults -- some of them severely ill and requiring hospitalization, sometimes in the intensive care unit.

Masks are very simple. They're proven to be effective and we know that they're safe. And while choice is always a good thing, we also need leadership -- and we need public health leadership. We need our elected leaders also to help guide us toward what those best decisions are so our parents can make and support those best decisions.

JARRETT: What else can really be done, though, at this point other than masks given that kids can't get vaccinated -- our youngest kids can't get vaccinated? You know, the CDC says the hospitalization rates for children now are higher than they've ever been. Younger adults also at risk.

Are masks really the only tool we have right now to sort of --

ROMANS: For kids.

JARRETT: -- stop this downward spiral for kids? I have to say, having a young child, I feel like he's just a sitting duck.

MARTINELLO: And masks, of course, are not our only tool that we have. And it is really important that in all settings we use all the tools that we have available to us because none of them, including vaccine -- none of them are 100 percent perfect to help protect us against COVID.

And so, in addition to masks, what we focus on are ensuring that there is some distancing between students. Three has become a widely-used standard across our schools. We also try to ensure that ventilation in schools --


MARTINELLO: -- is adequate.

And, of course, one piece that is very important to this also -- another layer of protection that we have -- is that when our kids are sick and when our teachers, our staff are sick, it's critical that they stay home from school. That they get tested to make sure that they don't have COVID. And if they do have COVID, that they stay out long enough that they're no longer contagious when they return to school.

JARRETT: Yes, absolutely. The days of just oh, you'll be fine -- go to school -- suck it up --


JARRETT: -- those days are far from -- those days are over.

ROMANS: Yes, they really are.

All right. Dr. Richard Martinello --


ROMANS: -- thank you so much -- Yale School of Medicine associate professor. Nice to see you again this morning. Thank you, sir.

MARTINELLO: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

The unvaccinated need not apply. There are a record number of job openings in America and you're most likely going to need to be vaccinated to get one. Data from the career site Ladders, Inc. shows job ads requiring the COVID-19 vaccine jumped 5,000 percent since the beginning of this year -- 5,000 percent.

And Americans want mandates. An Axios-IPSOS poll shows the majority of workers support their employer requiring all employees be vaccinated.

A survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found half of Americans say the federal government should recommend employers require their employees to be -- to get the vaccine unless they have a medical exemption.

A growing number of companies are putting vaccine mandates in place to return to the offices. For many, a vaccine mandate is a logical step to avoid quarantines and expensive testing regimes.

And vaccine mandates are moving beyond corporate America. New York City and San Francisco are requiring proof of vaccination for certain indoor activities, including restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues.

We'll be right back.



JARRETT: At this hour, we're watching two developing storms. Hurricane Grace on the very of hitting Mexico, and Tropical Storm Henri is nearing hurricane strength posing a threat to the northeast.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is tracking both systems. OK, Derek, which one poses the greater threat?

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the more immediate threat being Hurricane Grace, but here's a look at Tropical Storm Henri. We'll get to the details of that in just one moment.

We are literally minutes away from a land-falling hurricane across the Yucatan Peninsula. Many of our viewers -- maybe a bend to Cozumel, Cancun. This area is getting rocked hard right now with near- hurricane-force winds. Conditions are going to continue to deteriorate. It's an 80 mile per hour storm. That makes it a category one Atlantic hurricane.

It will move across the rugged area of the Yucatan and then reemerge in the Bay of Campeche, perhaps strengthening once again before another landfall across the Veracruz states over the eastern coastline of Mexico. Landslides mudslides, localized flooding, and the potential for storm surge impacting both of these locations.


Now on to Tropical Storm Henri. This still located south and west of Bermuda. This is a tropical storm at the moment. It has become more disorganized within the past few hours -- good news. But there is a good potential that it will strengthen as it rides along the eastern seaboard of the U.S.

Some of our computer models showing this westward shift in the trend. That is what meteorologists look for. We play close attention to that because it shows us what the future potentially could hold.

And, in fact, the National Hurricane Center has shifted that forecast path -- the official forecast path now to include much of New England. So look out, Boston. Look out, Cape Cod. This is for Sunday into Monday. A potential impact from a tropical system in your future -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Derek. Thanks so much for staying on top of this for us.

VAN DAM: For sure.

ROMANS: All right, that's weather. Let's go to money now and check on CNN Business this morning.

Looking at markets around the world, big moves in Asia after -- and Europe after minutes from the Federal Reserve showed the central bank is starting to think about hitting the brakes on billions of dollars of monthly asset purchases as the economy recovers. Big moves there in London.

Stocks closed -- stock index futures, at this hour in the U.S., also down again. They closed lower Wednesday after -- as the Fed considers pulling back purchases as early as the end of the year. The Dow closed 382 points lower, dipping below 35,000. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also finished lower.

The minutes showed there's no consensus from Fed officials on exactly when tapering would begin. And a reminder. Stocks have essentially doubled since --


ROMANS: -- the low after the -- when the pandemic started --

JARRETT: Wall Street's doing just fine.

ROMANS: -- and are up like 18 percent or something this year for the S&P 500.

JARRETT: OK. You know that feeling when you get called out by your boss? It's a rough day to play for the New York Mets.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Andy, getting called out on Twitter, no less.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes - and Laura, you never want to hear from your boss that you're just not good at your job, and that's what the Mets players are dealing with. They were in first place in the NL East for most of the season but have recently fallen all the way down to third place. And coming in Wednesday, they'd lost five in a row and had the third-worst offense in baseball.

That prompted owner Steve Cohen to tweet, "It's hard to understand how professional hitters can be this unproductive. The best teams have a more disciplined approach."

Now, the Mets were being shut out through eight innings last night but they pulled it together late to beat the Giants six to two in 12 innings.

Shohei Ohtani, meanwhile, continuing one of the most impressive seasons in baseball history. The two-way star crushing his Major League-leading 40th home run of the season last night against the Tigers. He also was pitching. Struck out eight in eight innings to get this eighth win of the season. Ohtani -- he can zero games the rest of the year and he would still likely win the MVP.

All right. The reigning National League MVP, meanwhile, had himself a night. Freddie Freeman becoming just the second player in Braves history to hit for the cycle twice. He hit his 27th homer in the sixth inning to complete the cycle.

Freeman credits his wife's breakfast choice for his career night. He said she gave him a cappuccino and said this is the one that has a lot of hits in it.

All right, it was a rough night for the pitchers in the checks for sticky substances. Umpires found something suspicious in Diamondbacks reliever Caleb Smith's glove when they checked him in the eighth inning. Smith was ejected and his glove sent to New York for further inspection.

White Sox pitcher Lance Lynn, meanwhile -- he was checked as he left the mound at the end of the fourth inning. Lynn, though, didn't stop -- left his hat and glove to be inspected. They needed his belt, too, and Lynn just threw his belt at the umpires. Well, that got him ejected immediately. Lynn said he needed to see the trainer in the dugout and that's why he was in such a hurry.

All right. And finally, Naomi Osaka playing her first WTA event since withdrawing from the French Open in May. She rallied from a set down to beat Coco Gauff in Cincinnati.

And, Osaka -- she broke into tears and briefly left the press conference on Monday when asked about her relationship with the media, and Osaka reflected on that moment yesterday.


NAOMI OSAKA, 4-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: I am wondering if I was scared because, like, sometimes I would see headlines of, like, players losing. And then the headline the next day would be like a collapse. They're like they're not that great anymore.

So then I was thinking me waking up every day -- for me, I should feel like I'm winning. I'm not sure when along the way I started desensitizing that. Like, it started not being, like, an accomplishment for me. So I felt like I was very ungrateful on that fact.


SCHOLES: Yes. And guys, Osaka also said seeing what's happening in Haiti and Afghanistan right now really puts everything into perspective.



JARRETT: Clearly, she's had some time to reflect on things.

ROMANS: Andy, nice to see you. Thanks.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: Thanks, Andy -- appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us on this edition of the Thursday edition of EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: Friday eve.

ROMANS: Friday eve.


JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Thursday, August 19th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

On this new day, we begin with breaking news in the race to evacuate thousands of American citizens and U.S. allies from Afghanistan as the Taliban solidifies its grip on the nation.

Taliban militants said to be intensifying their search for any Afghans who helped U.S. and NATO forces during the war, and they're threatening to capture or kill their families. This is according to a U.N. threat assessment document seen by "The New York Times." CNN is trying to independently obtain this document.

Also breaking just moments ago, Reuters is reporting that at least 12 people have been killed in and near the Kabul airport where mayhem has been seen. Crowds desperately trying to get into the ground of the airport so they can get out of the country. It's the only way out. According to Taliban and NATO sources, the victims were either killed by gunshots or stampedes.

New overnight, the White House tells CNN that 1,800 people were flown out of Kabul -- the airport -- in the last 24 hours on military transports. That's almost twice the number from the day before but it's nowhere close to where they need to be or where the president, himself, suggested the U.S. should be.