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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden to Tour NY & NJ Storm Damage Inflicted by Ida; At Least 52 People Dead in Northeast from Ida Flooding; COVID Cases Spiking with Kids Set to Return to Classrooms; Blinken: U.S. Engaging with Taliban on Evacuations. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Tuesday, September 7th, 5:00 a.m. in New York.

Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans. Laura Jarrett is off. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

And this morning, President Biden flies up to New York and New Jersey to survey the damage left by Ida and talk about the federal response. The trip an opportunity, to repair political damage inflicted by the chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan and to steer public focus back to his multitrillion dollar infrastructure and social safety net agenda.

CNN's Jasmine Wright live this morning for us in Washington.

So nice to see you there, Jasmine. What message can we expect to hear from President Biden today?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Biden is pushing full steam ahead on domestic issues. And it is something that he previewed last week in that speech after the withdrawal from Afghanistan where sources told CNN that it amounted to a pivot to his domestic agenda, issues that affect us here at home.

And you're right that the devastating toll that hurricane Ida took on the Northeast as well as the Gulf Coast provides an opportunity for the president to refocus attention on his infrastructure plan, on his $3.5 trillion spending plan, something that he will make the case today that it is necessary for Congress to pass in its entirety because it contains components of climate change, things that will lessen the impact of these extreme weather events.

And for the last few days since the devastating toll on the Gulf Coast and Northeast, his administration has been leaning into the idea of climate change and that this is our new normal, something that FEMA administrator on Sunday, Deanne Criswell, excuse me, said that it was the crisis of our generation. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: I think this is going to be our new normal. We saw intense weather events in 2017. Last year was a record number of hurricanes and record wildfire season. The U.N. had just put out their climate report and they said that this is the climate crisis we're facing and it will only continue to get worse.


WRIGHT: So, today, President Biden flies to New York and New Jersey where he will meet with families, meet with first responders and local officials as well as give remarks all talking about how his agenda is necessary to combat these extreme weather climates, trying to again, Christine, put that focus back on domestic issues as his administration deals with multiple crises -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Jasmine, thanks for following that for us. Nice to see you this morning.

Death toll in the Northeast from Ida has risen to at least 52 people in six states, mostly New York and New Jersey. Storm survivors are urging government officials to help them deal with the damage and better prepare in case another Ida comes their way.

CNN's Athena Jones reports.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York officials and FEMA's administrator toured storm-damaged and hard hit Queens Monday as communities across the region begin to put their lives and homes back together after the devastation wrought by the remnants of hurricanes of Ida.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you drive around Queens, it looks like a bomb went off. Everybody's personal belongings are out on the street. We just need someone to help us out.

CRISWELL: What we saw today was heartbreaking the amount of damage and destruction that these families have experienced.

JONES: State and federal officials say help is on the way with President Biden set to visit New York and New Jersey Tuesday after approving federal disaster relief for five New York counties and six in New Jersey to help families and businesses repair and rebuild.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: We're at least $50 million in damages and we anticipate the numbers to go up. But it did trigger the threshold that we are eligible to apply for major declaration assistance.

JONES: The true extent of the impact is still being realized. Ida claiming the lives of at least 50 people across the region with heartbreaking stories of loss. New York police showing video of their attempt to rescue a Queens couple and their 2-year-old, all three later found dead in their flooded basement apartment. Two other Queens residents died when a wall in their home collapsed in

the flooding. At least four died in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy toured the flood damage, telling reporters he plans to ask the president to provide federal disaster relief to more counties.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: There were 15 other counties in New Jersey and we're in there fighting on behalf of any of those other counties that were impacted.

JONES: State and local officials now focused on how to be better prepared for the next storm by improving infrastructure and putting better warning systems in place to alert people of the danger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have seawalls that need to be raised. We have sewers that were built 100 years -- we really need help from the federal government to get back on our feet and get ready for the future because we can't abandon communities like Mamaroneck, New York.


JONES (on camera): The federal disaster assistance to individuals includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Mayor de Blasio saying the city plans to send teams to go door to door in all storm affected areas to make sure people sign up for federal storm relief benefits.

Athena Jones, CNN, Queens, New York.

ROMANS: All right. Athena, thank you.

To the changing face of American labor, a 40 year sea change to an older and more diverse work force. Forty years ago, teenagers made up 8 percent of all U.S. workers. By 2019, it was just 3 percent and people 65 and older now make up nearly 7 percent of America's workforce. Economists cite generational change, notably the aging of the baby boomer generation who are working longer and living longer.

The country's workforce has also become more diverse, nonwhite workers are now 22 percent of the workforce while Hispanic and Latino workers of any race rose to 18 percent. Women also made significant strides in the labor market over those 40 years. Their share of the workforce had settled in at 47 percent in 2019, but that progress for women in the labor market has been drastically affected by the pandemic, women -- particularly women of color disproportionately affected by job losses in some of the hardest hit sectors like leisure and hospitality.

Women also dropped out of the labor force completely in the years since the pandemic began because of health, child care and education challenges at home. So, we'll see how these demographic trends continue.

All right. Just ahead here on EARLY START, the rise in COVID infections among children just as many students return physically to classrooms, and how a toddler with autism survived three days alone in the wilderness.



ROMANS: New COVID cases are skyrocketing, thanks largely to vaccine resistance and the delta variant. The seven-day average three times higher than one year ago. That spike in cases translating to overcrowded hospitals, especially in states where vaccination is lowest. And it's a rise in infections among children especially troubling as many students return to classrooms.

CNN's Nick Watt has more.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Summer is over. This week in the northeast many schools start back, but ominous signs from the South, Kentucky schools opened already, and already one in five districts have closed at some point due to case counts, quarantines or just lack of staff.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: We have a record number of Kentuckians in the hospital battling COVID, in the ICU battling for their lives.

WATT: And they are overwhelmingly unvaccinated.

South Carolina has among the lowest vaccination rates in the country and the highest infection rate.

DR. HELMUT ALBRECHT, CHAIR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA, PRISMA HEALTH: We'll have another uptick with the universities opening up. We'll have a further uptick with the schools not having masks, on and we'll have Labor Day travel on top of this. So, yes, there will be a further uptick.

WATT: Meantime, more data that vaccine booster shots are now necessary due to the delta variant.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Data from the Israeli studies that there is a rather substantial diminution in protection against infection and unquestionable diminution in the protection against hospitalization.

WATT: With a booster, that protection bounced back and then some. The plan was to start third shots here in two weeks but it might be only Pfizer that rolls out then. Moderna is delayed by a data review.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R), WEST VIRGINIA: We've got people that are well beyond six months 60 and older that need the booster shot and we can't give it to them because we're being held up by, you know, the nation and on the federal level right now.

WATT: More evidence that boosters are needed? Beginning and end of summer comparison. Four times the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 now. Average new daily cases, up over 800 percent.

Back then, we were losing an average of 594 lives a day. Now, 1,561. The difference, fewer mitigation measures and delta.

DR. CHRIS PERNELL, PUBLIC HEALTH PHYSICIAN: We need to rev up our game around getting unvaccinated persons vaccinated.

WATT: Worldwide, officials now watching the Mu variant, not a threat yet, but could partially evade the current vaccines.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The virus will continue to mutate until we have a level of immunity in our communities around this country and around the world.


WATT (on camera): Israel's health chief has been asked to address FDA vaccine advisers here in the U.S. at their meeting next week and present more data on those boosters. But meantime, more than a quarter ever eligible Americans still haven't had their first vaccine shot.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

ROMANS: To Colorado now, a 6-year-old girl fatally injured on an amusement park ride in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The girl was vacationing from Colorado Springs with her family. They were riding the haunted mine drop at the Glenwood Cavern's adventure park on Sunday. The ride plunges 110 feet down inside a mountain.

Officials haven't said exactly what happened to the unidentified girl. The sheriff's department is investigating.

A missing 3-year-old Australian boy with autism has been found alive and well three days after disappearing in the bush in New South Wales.


Little AJ Elfalak was discovered in a creek on his family's property drinking water.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just said AJ and he looked at me and smiled and hugged me so tight and just slept. And he slept straight through the night. He was exhausted. He is amazing. He is doing really well.


ROMANS: How terrifying.

Remarkably, AJ suffered only a few bruises, bites and rashes and was discharged from the hospital yesterday.

All right. Coming up, Louisiana's slow recovery from Hurricane Ida hundreds of thousands still without power this morning. And one of the wildest finishes of the season in Major League Baseball. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ROMANS: All right. Ole Miss wrapping up the college football weekend with a big win over Louisville.

Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.


You know, yesterday was the last Monday night without NFL football for the rest of the year. That is certainly refreshing thing to hear.

In the meantime, Ole Miss and Louisville taking center stage finishing off the football weekend. Lane Kiffin having to watch this game from home after testing positive for COVID. But Ole Miss is 100 percent vaccinated so no players had to miss the game due to contact tracing.

The Rebels dominating, up 26-0 at halftime, they would win 43-24. And Louisville may not have won, but they did have the cutest fan. Look at that dog, watch it get so excited after a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tell you what, dog celebrations are the best celebrations.

All right. To the U.S. Open, Novak Djokovic now one step closer to his first ever calendar grand slam. Djokovic dropped the first set against American Jenson Brooksby yesterday but rallied to win the next three to advance to the quarterfinals. Next up is a match-up with Matteo Berrettini, who lost to Djokovic in the finals at Wimbledon in July.

And with Brooksby eliminated, the drought for American men at grand slam continues. The last American man to win a grand slam was Andy Roddick at the U.S. open 18 years ago.

All right. On the women's side, the British teenager Emma Raducanu lead to compete in a qualifying tournament just to earn a spot in the U.S. open, reaches the quarterfinals. She knocked off the last American woman standing Shelby Rogers in straight sets. After the match, Rogers said that she was bracing for abuse on social media from those who are mad at her for losing after she beat top seed Ash Barty.


SHELBY ROGERS, WORLD NO. 43 TENNIS PLAYER: Obviously, we appreciate the spotlight in those moments. But then you have today and I'm going to have 9 million death threats and whatnot. So it's very much polarizing, one extreme to the other very quickly. I could probably go to my profile now and I'm probably a fat pig and, you know, words that I can't say right now. But it is what it is. You try not to take it to heart and it is unfortunate side of, you know, any sport and what we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHOLES: Yeah, Rogers' comments just a couple days after Sloane Stephens said she received thousands of abusive messages after her third round loss.

All right. Finally, on to baseball, the Red Sox are up 9-8 in the race in the ninth inning yesterday, Austin Meadows hits to center field. And it's going to hit the wall just above Boston's Alex Verdugo's glove. Meadows turns on the jets. He scores the game-tying run on an inside the park home run.

Tampa Bay goes on to win 11-10 in ten innings. Tough loss for the Red Sox.

Rays were down 7-1 after the second inning. And, Christine, before yesterday's game, the Rays were 0-69 all-time when trailing the Red Sox by six or more runs. But you know what they say, that's why you play the game.

ROMANS: That is why you play the game.

And, you know, back to Shelby Rogers, good for her for, you know, pointing out that people are crazy and abusive, right? I mean, it's just so bad. I say it all the time, Andy, but social media has made people meaner and dumber. It really has.

SCHOLES: Just makes you shake your head.

ROMANS: I mean, good for her.


ROMANS: All right. Nice to see you, thanks, Andy.

All right. Next on EARLY START, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken -- Antony Blinken speaking moments ago about evacuations from Afghanistan. We'll have a live report.

And a doctor joins us to talk about sending kids back to school safely during the pandemic.



ROMANS: Good morning. This is EARLY START this Tuesday morning. I'm Christine Romans. Twenty-eight minutes past the hour.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking a short time ago in Qatar on the continuing evacuation from Afghanistan after America's chaotic withdrawal. We're also learning about new land evacuations from Afghanistan.

Sam Kiley live from Doha with the latest developments.

What did the secretary of state say? SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine,

it's very interesting indeed, because he put to rest allegations coming from Republican congressmen and others that the Taliban were involved in some kind of semi-hostage taking their words situation with reference to a group of Americans and others who were stranded in Mazar-i-Sharif, unable to fly out on a number of aircraft that had been chartered for that purpose.

But he put that whole hostage allegation to bed. This is what he said.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've been assured again that all American citizens and Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed to leave and, again, we intend to hold the Taliban to that. They have uphold that commitment in at leas one instance in the last 24 hours with a family that was able to leave in an overland route and we are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or hostage-like situation in Mazar-i-Sharif.