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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

L.A. Schools Mandate Vaccinations For Students 12 And Up; President Biden Rolls Out Sweeping New Vaccine Requirements; Justice Department Sues Texas Over Six-Week Abortion Ban. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 10, 2021 - 05:30   ET




LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett. It's about 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

America's second-largest school district now leading the charge with a first-of-its-kind vaccine mandate for kids. All students 12 and older in Los Angeles are required to get COVID shots by the end of the calendar year. The measure was approved unanimously by the school board.


MEGAN REILLEY, DEPUTY DIRECTION, LOS ANGELES UNIFIED BOARD OF EDUCATION: Everything that we have looked at says that we can do this -- we're protecting. Our goal is to keep kids as safe as possible and to preserve the best quality education, which we know is being in school and not online.

We've already put in place an employee mandate, so all of our employees to be vaccinated by October 15th. This way we create the safest possible environment for those that are eligible to be vaccinated to learn. And, frankly, then we create a safer environment for those children zero -- you know, kind of like to 12 years old that can't get vaccinated -- that they're safer being surrounded by adults and others that are vaccinated.


JARRETT: CNN's Nick Watt has more now from Los Angeles.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Laura, this is the second biggest school district in the country -- more than half a million kids, 1,200 schools -- and they have just made a decision that perhaps other districts will follow. All students 12 years and up must be vaccinated.

There's some nuance, of course, but the basic scene is this. By Thanksgiving, all kids are going to have to have had their first shot, and by Christmas, have had their second shot. And if a kid turns 12 years old during school, they have two months in which to get the shot.

Now, the board meeting -- the public comment -- there was, of course, some opposition. Parents saying their rights are being taken away. Parents saying their kids are being experimented on. That the vaccine's not approved -- that it's experimental. It has been approved and it's not experimental.

The vote, just one abstention -- a board member with a financial interest in Pfizer. The board spoke pretty much with one voice. One said you know this is a tough decision but it's the right decision for our community. Another said listen, we need to keep the schools open. And another said I come down on the side of medical science, not political science -- Laura.


JARRETT: Nick Watt, thank you for that.

President Biden showed clear frustration with the unvaccinated during his speech last night, but he also had this to say to those harassing flight attendants over mask requirements on planes.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you break the rules, be prepared to pay. And by the way, show some respect. The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong. It's ugly.


JARRETT: Today, the TSA will double the fines for people who refuse to wear masks to as much as $3,000 for repeat offenders.

So, let's dive deeper into President Biden's new approach to defeating this pandemic. Joining me now is Dr. Chris Pernell. She's a public health physician and fellow at the American College Preventive Medicine. Doctor, good morning to you.

You heard the president's six-point plan. In your mind, does it go far enough?


You know, the first thing that I said is that this plan packs a punch. And I do applaud the president for having a very aggressive and multilayered approach.

We see mandates for federal mandates and/or contractors without an option to test weekly. We see requirements coming from the Department of Labor for businesses with 100 or more employees to require vaccination or have an option to test. We see requirements for head start employees. We see those who work at healthcare facilities that receive Medicaid

and Medicare dollars. They're required to get vaccinated. We needed to see this plan sooner.

I also -- I heard his frustration and I get that frustration. But I also don't want to lose sight of how, at times, politicians and elected officials have been an albatross where they should have been partners.

And finally, the Defense Production Act. We need to fast-track tests. Frankly, I think we can go a step further. We can mail tests to homes, not just make them available at cost at large retailers, and not just sending for free to health centers, but mail tests to homes. Mail masks to homes.

And require those who want to fly domestically to be vaccinated.

JARRETT: It is sort of amazing that 18 months into this we still haven't quite figured out the sort of large-scale testing that we need to do this -- to do this right.


You mentioned vaccinations for air travel. I've been wondering about why they haven't done that. From a legal standpoint, they can. Do you think they should? It sounds like yes.

PERNELL: Yes, I think they should. I've been on a plane, myself, during this pandemic a few times. It's a complying order. I'm not saying that the risk is that much disproportionate to other indoor spaces but it's risky. And so we eliminate that risk. Just require travelers to show proof of vaccination.

JARRETT: Is there anything else that you think that should -- it's sort of low-hanging fruit if you will -- that the Biden administration should be doing? Anything else more besides air travel?

PERNELL: You know, like I said, I appreciate that he came out with a multilayered approach. I think if the administration can continue to message around the importance of not just vaccination, but masking, and the importance of testing, I do think that we can consider mailing tests. Those of us in public health have been saying that, looking at a more equity-centric approach, especially in very vulnerable and hard-hit areas.

Remove any barriers. Make it as convenient to test, make it as convenient to mask, and make it as convenient to vaccinate. We can do all three of those things.

And we can ensure that we have clean air in indoor spaces. We can ensure that governors don't have power unchecked (ph). And I believe I heard him say that look, if you're in a district where a governor is penalizing you for using good public health and rational sense, that the federal government is going to make sure that those dollars aren't compromised. JARRETT: And, Doctor, finally, what about kids? We see L.A. now mandating the vaccine for kids 12 and up. Do you think other school systems should be doing the same thing? We already mandate other vaccines, like measles.

PERNELL: Yes. Look, I'm a part of the American College of Preventive Medicine's "Vaccine Confident" campaign and we've been launching a national dialogue about the importance of routine vaccinations. We know that Americans missed (ph) approximately 26 million doses in 2020. So, of course, I want kids vaccinated.

And I think this was a very bold move by Los Angeles. I'm looking to see if other school districts will follow suit. We have to do what is in the interest of the whole, the interest of the collective. And moves like that, I think give other people positive pressure to say what can I do to make this school the safest so that kids can continue to learn inside of the classroom.

JARRETT: I like that positive pressure. We'll see if it works.

All right, Dr. Chris Pernell, thank you so much. Appreciate you getting up this Friday for me.

PERNELL: Thank you.

JARRETT: All right, to the battle over reproductive freedom now, and the Justice Department suing the state of Texas over its new law banning nearly all abortions. Attorney General Merrick Garland says the law's unprecedented design seeks to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party, should fear. If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedence.


JARRETT: The Justice Department is seeking what's known as a permanent injunction against the state of Texas from enforcing the abortion ban.

We get more now from CNN's Dianne Gallagher in San Antonio for us.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Laura, the Department of Justice is suing the state of Texas over its new law that effectively bans abortion after six weeks, before many people even know that they're pregnant, even in cases of rape and incest.

Now, Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the basis of this lawsuit alleges that the new Texas law is unconstitutional -- that it violates the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause.

Now, look, SB8 -- that new law -- effectively does ban abortion after six weeks in most cases, but the difference is it doesn't allow government officials to enforce it. Instead, it essentially deputizes private citizens to bring civil lawsuits with a penalty of at least $10,000 against any person who assists a patient in getting an abortion that is in violation of that ban.

Now, we've been speaking with abortion providers and activists here on the ground in Texas. In San Antonio, the nation's seventh-largest city, three of the four abortion facilities have stopped providing the procedure altogether because it's too risky at this point, according to the CEO.


Right now, the CEO tells me, along with other advocates who are working with funds and agencies to assist pregnant people here right now, that they are trying to send patients out of state, using funds to either put them on planes or help them drive to states like New Mexico where they can obtain an abortion. Of course, Laura, that is difficult for many people to do in any circumstance, even with financial help.

Those providers say that they are concerned if the courts do not step in that this could end with injury or even death of some patients who attempt to self-manage abortions late in pregnancy.


JARRETT: Dianne Gallagher in San Antonio. Thank you for that report.

Still ahead, overflowing bathrooms and insects crawling everywhere. Up next, new accounts from inside a warehouse where hundreds of nursing home patients had to take shelter from a hurricane.

And a rare Republican stronghold gears up for the recall election in blue-state California. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: By the way, this is the sixth recall effort --




JARRETT: Now to an update on a story we brought you yesterday as disturbing new details emerge about conditions faced by more than 800 nursing home residents evacuated to a Louisiana warehouse as Hurricane Ida was bearing down.

The details come from two lawsuits filed on behalf of the residents, calling the conditions horrific and inhumane. CNN's Ryan Young has more from New Orleans.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Good morning, Laura.

This is one of the locations that so many people are focusing on. There were seven nursing homes that decided to move their patients to a warehouse about 50 miles away from here. Now that there's a civil lawsuit, we have pictures from the inside. Take a look at the mess.

First of all, you have beds that are placed so close together you know they're not following COVID protocols. And on top of that, we know at some point during the storm, water started leaking in from the roof, and a lot of times, patients weren't able to get out of their bed. And they ran out of food at some point, so there were people who were in diabetic need of getting food so they could have some nourishment.

And we also learned that there were porta-potties put into the center and around the facility that were venting that gas throughout the building.

This was torturous conditions and that's why these family members are not only so upset but they're pained by what they've learned about what their family members were going through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't have adequate staff. She said that the bathrooms were overflowing, people couldn't go to the bathroom, and people were using the corners of the warehouse to go to the bathroom.

NURSING HOME RESIDENT EVACUATED TO WAREHOUSE: We were placed on beds that weren't even beds. There was just mattresses on the floor. And there were insects crawling all over the place. There were roaches, spiders, ants crawling all over the place. The heat in there was just not good.

YOUNG (on camera): And, Laura, of course, this was very sad. You had seven people die in this facility during this storm and people are just trying to figure out exactly what happened.

We have learned that the state actually approved this plan. But what they didn't approve is for the number of people to be inside that warehouse -- 850 people on the inside. Now you have family members and state investigators all asking the same question. Let's not forget the owner of the facility had his license revoked.

But there are still so many questions at this point, especially when you look at those conditions and just how terrible they were.


JARRETT: Ryan Young, thank you for that. A lot of questions there for sure.

Well, two major U.S. companies are shelving plans to bring their workers back to the office because of the Delta variant.

American Express told employees it won't fully reopen offices until late January of 2022. The company had planned for a return back on October 11th.

And Microsoft scrapping its October plan to reopen U.S. offices as well. The company hasn't set a new date but pledged to give its workers 30 days' notice.

In four days, voters head to the polls in California to decide whether Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom can keep his job. Newsom presides over a deep blue state but he's facing an uphill battle in one of its reddest counties.

Here is CNN's Lucy Kafanov.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In one of the country's bluest states, Kern County stands out as a rare bastion of red. It may be less than two hours north of Hollywood by car, but the city of Bakersfield is on the other side of the spectrum politically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newsom out, Elder in.

KAFANOV (voice-over): It's where you'll find America's last Woolworth's luncheonette counter, serving up burgers, shakes, and a side of nostalgia.

DENNIS JEFFERS, REGISTERED REPUBLICAN: California was once a really nice place. Governor Newsom says a lot of things but he does all bad things.

KAFANOV (voice-over): When it comes to Gov. Gavin Newsom, some of the diners here have had their fill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's not a change my and wife and I -- we're outta here.

KAFANOV (on camera): Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're leaving the state.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Many Republicans here think their voices aren't heard.

JEFFERS: No, I don't think so.


KAFANOV (voice-over): To some degree, they're right.

NEWSOM: Thank you, California.

KAFANOV (voice-over): In 2018, just 41 percent of Kern County voters went for Newsom -- NEWSOM: The best is yet to come.

KAFANOV (voice-over): -- but he won the state by a landslide.

Now, Republicans are hoping to flip the governor's office, an uphill battle in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one.

BEST: Sometimes I wonder if it's worth voting because my voice may not be heard. Both of us often say like, OK, is our -- is it really going to matter in California? It's always going to be Democrats.


KAFANOV (voice-over): At the Kern County GOP headquarters --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you get that in the mail?

KAFANOV (voice-over): -- they're trying to change that with phones calls --


KAFANOV (voice-over): -- ballot drop-offs --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then for this --

KAFANOV (voice-over): -- and yard signs.

CATHY ABERNATHY, KERN COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY: The outcome is anyone's guess. This is an odd time of year to have an election -- September 14th -- but we've had people pouring in here for the last two weeks.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Kern County GOP member Cathy Abernathy says Republican voters are energized --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have some ballots for me?


KAFANOV (voice-over): -- and she's hoping for a boost from Independents and some Democrats.

ABERNATHY: These extremes produce a switch in parties. And I don't believe all the Democrats in California are of the same philosophy as the Democrats in that state capitol building.

KAFANOV (voice-over): With just a few days left to convince California to change track, Larry Elder is banking on Bakersfield.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Bakersfield, California.


JARRETT: Lucy, thank you for that report. Finally this morning, Tom Brady leads the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers to a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Cowboys in the NFL season opener.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report from Tampa. Andy, how you doing? Having fun out there in Tampa?


Well, good, you know. The NFL is back. And back here in Tampa it was back to normal, I should say. A sellout crowd of more than 65,000 was on hand to watch the Bucs open the season against the Cowboys. No vaccine, no mask required to enter the stadium. And all the Bucs fans are having a blast watching the team unveil their Super Bowl championship signs before kickoff.

And then it was time for 44-year-old Tom Brady to take the field for his 22nd season. In the second quarter, Brady's arm showing no signs of age. He has the perfect 47-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. Bucs would lead 21 to 16 at the half.

Brady, four touchdown passes in the game. Two of them went to Gronk.

The Cowboys, though, would not go quietly in this game. Dak Prescott, in his first game back since that devastating leg injury last season, was fantastic. The touchdown pass here to Amari Cooper. Dak, 403 yards passing and three touchdowns.

The Cowboys actually took the lead in the fourth quarter but they left Brady too much time. He led the Bucs down the field and in the final minute Tampa would make a field goal to win the opener 31 to 29.


TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: We've just got to be on top of things and string together a lot of communication about these critical moments and how to make the important plays when you need to. And I think the important part about the last drive of the game was we executed some really good plays at the right moment, and it was great to see. It's going to give us a lot of confidence.


SCHOLES: All right. For the first time since Serena Williams beat Martina Hingis in 1999, two teenagers are going to face off for the U.S. Open Women's Singles title.

Leylah Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, just continues her Cinderella run, reaching the final after taking down world number two Aryna Sabalenka in three sets. Fernandez, who was unranked coming in, goes into tomorrow's title match with three wins over top-five opponents, including Naomi Osaka.


LEYLAH FERNANDEZ, 2021 U.S. OPEN FINALIST: Impossible is nothing. Like my dad would tell me all the time -- that there's no limit to my potential -- to what I can do.

So every day we've just got to keep working hard. We've got to keep going forward and then, you know, nothing's impossible. There's no limit to what I can do. And I'm just glad that right now everything's going well.


SCHOLES: Yes, and the New York crowd has really gotten behind Fernandez.

She was born in Montreal to a Filipino-Canadian mother and Ecuadorian father. When she was 12, the family moved to Florida to advance her tennis career.

Now, Fernandez is going to face 18-year-old Emma Raducanu in the final, who has an amazing story of her own, making this her second Grand Slam appearance.

The teenager from Britain had to win three matches just to earn a spot in the U.S. Open main draw. She actually had a plane ticket to go home after qualifying. But now, after reeling off nine straight wins, she's the first qualifier in the Open era, man or woman, to reach a Grand Slam final. She's also the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon back in 2004.

And Raducanu hasn't even dropped a set so far at this U.S. Open. She'd be the first to go on to win it not dropping a set since Serena back in 2014. So someone is going to make some pretty good history tomorrow in that women's final -- Laura.

JARRETT: Andy Scholes, thank you so much for that.

And thank you for joining us today. I'm Laura Jarrett. Have a great weekend, everyone. "NEW DAY" is next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Friday, September 10th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

An all-out assault on coronavirus -- what could be a pivotal moment in this pandemic. President Biden announced aggressive new vaccination requirements that could impact as many as 100 million Americans in a sweeping attempt to contain the latest COVID surge. The president's frustration palpable.