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Op-Ed: Biden Had "Political Courage" to End Afghanistan War; Parents on Mask Mandate Bans: Sending Our Kids "Into War"; Parents Fearful as COVID-19 Increases in Texas Schools; How COVID-19 Vaccines Hold Up against Delta Variant; Two Weeks from California Recall, Dems on Edge with Newsom in Danger. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 31, 2021 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's the Taliban's decision to decide how the country will be ruled.

And as you said, they've got things to iron out in terms of their own divisions within the Taliban itself and with ISIS-K.

But I think from our perspective -- and General McKenzie alluded to this -- we still have a moral obligation there. There are not only just the few hundred Americans who are left there but there's also over 100,000 if not more Afghan allies that he said we could not get out.

That's why, from many perspectives, this war is not over. We have to fulfill that obligation, we as a community, the United States and NATO, to get those Afghans who aided us, assisted us, who trusted us to safety as well.


AZMAT KHAN, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: There's also a looming humanitarian crisis and an economic crisis. People don't have salaries, they can't have access to the banks. And many organizations are extremely worried that ordinary Afghans are going to have incredible food insecurity and an acute economic crisis in the time to come.

So I actually do think there is a significant degree of leverage that not just the United States but other organizations have with the Taliban in this particular moment. And it's a question of whether or not they're really appropriately engaging with them in an effort to exert that leverage.

GOLODRYGA: If they have the long-term will. We'll be covering this now.

But what happens six, seven months from now? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And we'll see how the U.S. uses the leverage; the White House certainly thinks they have some of that. We'll see if President Biden talks about that future going forward today.

Thank you both for joining us with all of your reporting and your thoughts on this.

Up next, we are going to talk about some governors, who want to ban mask requirements in schools, despite the Delta variant's surge.

So just how effective are masks at stopping the spread for kids?

Dr. Sanjay Gupta will bring the science to you next.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also just this eye-opening look at how much it costs to not get vaccinated, especially if you end up in the hospital.





BERMAN: Some telling new numbers out of Texas this morning, where governor Greg Abbott is fighting to limit the powers of schools and towns to make decisions on masks.

The health department reports that more students tested positive for COVID-19 during one week this month than during any week last school year. Four districts with the most cases do not have any mask requirements. CNN's Rosa Flores talked to some worried parents, who want that to change.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelle Woodard sends her 8-year-old daughter, Cara, to school in Humble, Texas, in a mask and shield.

MICHELLE WOODARD, HUMBLE, TEXAS, PARENT: I'm sending her to a war zone.

FLORES (voice-over): The district doesn't require masks.

WOODARD: I don't understand.

What kind of community behaves this way?

And how can you call yourself a community when you don't care whether or not the people in the community live or die?

FLORES (voice-over): Nearly three weeks into the school year, Humble ISD reports more than 1,500 students and 300 staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Despite the growing numbers, parents dropping off their children at school, not wearing masks.

JAMIE URBINA, HUMBLE, TEXAS, PARENT: It's a personal choice. If you want to do it, do it. If you feel safer doing it, do it by all means.

INGRID CUEVAS, HUMBLE, TEXAS, PARENT: Everybody in my home, we're vaccinated so right now the risk is lower.

FLORES (voice-over): This is Cara, having trouble breathing in February 2020.

WOODARD: It was one of the worst days of my life.

FLORES (voice-over): She was hospitalized, Michelle says, most likely from COVID-19. And while she shared the video with some parents, she says it didn't convince them to mask their children.

WOODARD: This isn't a joke, this isn't politics. This is our kids' health.

FLORES: Raise your hand if your child has asked you about death regarding COVID?

FLORES (voice-over): These moms want a mask mandate at Humble ISD.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love my kid so much. I'm going to do every layer of protection that I can.

FLORES (voice-over): And say their pleas to the district have fallen flat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's going to take more children dying for them to step up and do something. And that's what is really scary and really frustrating.

FLORES (voice-over): We took their concerns to the district.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are continuing to follow the governor's order and masks will remain optional at this time.

FLORES: But you understand why they have that concern, because the district is following a politician versus a medical expert. And all the medical experts say wear masks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we followed the governor's order last year.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): There's no more time for government mandates.

FLORES (voice-over): It might be what governor Greg Abbott wants. But in Harris County, where Humble is located, county judge Lina Hidalgo says current law is the mask mandate she issued, which has been allowed to stand in Texas courts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The most powerful tool we have is parents speaking up, is parents recognizing that the law is on their side.

WOODARD: She's burning up but she's telling me she's cold.

FLORES (voice-over): Cara started feeling sick last week and tested positive for COVID.

WOODARD: Nobody in the school community cares about whether she is safe.


WOODARD: And all of those thoughts, like just kind of culminated and I just like, felt this rage. This was preventable. This did not have to occur.

FLORES (voice-over): Now Cara is in quarantine, a child who did her part and is left paying the consequences, her mother says, of other people's choices -- Rosa Flores, CNN, Houston.


BERMAN: Decisions are out of the kids' hands. Let's remember that.

We want to bring in chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, we talk about masks in schools and there's some new modeling out, which projects what kind of a difference it can make.

What does it say?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so this is based on looking at lots of different studies, observational studies, large studies, like the one out of North Carolina, and a million students.

Let me show you, first of all, if you do nothing at all, just look at how contagious this virus is.

They say at least 75 percent, 75 percent to 90 percent of children, if you didn't have any mitigation measures in place, will be exposed to this virus.

If you do universal masking -- and it's universal, meaning that you have a much larger impact if everyone is doing it as opposed to sporadically doing it -- 24 percent to 50 percent.

So it's not perfect. You layer in testing as well, though, 13 percent to 22 percent exposure as compared to 75 percent to 90 percent. Add in other things like ventilation and you can really start to bring down transmission within schools significantly.

You know, one thing I just want to say, as a parent myself, we talk about this all the time, this has often been presented as a benign disease in children.

It's not. I mean, more children have already died of this than have died in some of the worst flu seasons on record. So three times as many children have died, thousands are in the hospital right now.

And I have to tell you, we still don't know the long-term impact of this virus. We just don't. You hear about kids taking these COVID naps for hours and hours after being diagnosed with COVID. You don't want this. And there are ways to prevent it as these statistics show.

COLLINS: And obviously this is such a frustrating part for parents because they don't have the option to get their kids, who are young, vaccinated right now, as we are waiting to see what determinations the FDA and the CDC makes on that.

But, Sanjay, there's also a new CNN analysis that looked at the cost of treating COVID-19, comparing what it costs to be hospitalized to just getting vaccinated.

And what did that analysis show you?

GUPTA: This is kind of mind-boggling, really, to think about, especially when you look at these numbers. Keep in mind, there are states that are offering Visa gift cards for 150 bucks if you show up as well just to get vaccinated.

But you know, it's free, right, for individuals who go get their vaccine.

What does it actually cost?

We dug into that. Medicare will reimburse about 150 bucks, it's 40 bucks per shot, administrative costs, 35 more dollars if they come to your home to administer it.

On average -- and 98 percent through June and July of COVID patients were unvaccinated -- on average what does it cost, about $22,000 for this hospitalization, 150 times as much as what Medicare reimburses for the shot.

Someone goes on a ventilator, it can be up to 300 times the cost here.

So I mean, in terms of, if you just look at this from a purely financial standpoint, there is no question in anybody's mind, it's free, really; you might even get 150 bucks back in some states to get the shot, compared to tens of thousands of dollars for the hospitalization.

BERMAN: I have never been good at math.

COLLINS: I was just going to say the same thing.

BERMAN: But the math here is extraordinary.

COLLINS: But it's obvious, you get paid in some instances to get vaccinated. That's why it blows my mind, people are paying for vaccine cards; you could get just one for free at your local pharmacy.

BERMAN: Also, you know what?

We all pay for this. When someone has medical bills that are $22,000 or $49,000, it drives premiums up for everybody.

And there's one other thing, you might die if you get COVID and if you get vaccinated you almost definitely won't die from COVID. Add that to the dollars and cents equation. That's an extraordinary number, Sanjay. Appreciate you showing us that.

Look, a little bit more news; the CDC vaccine advisers met to discuss boosters.

What was learned about where things stand?

GUPTA: Let me show you the graphs. We pulled this from the meeting here. And you're looking at this.

One thing I'll tell you, this is not a slam dunk decision within the scientific community. They are very divided. I have spent the weekend, talking to lots of people, who say boosters are absolutely necessary. You've heard people say that. There are other people who say, show me the data.

So here's some of the data and you do see, it's a little bit hard to read, but on the left side of the screen there, you see that there is a waning of protection in terms of people actually being diagnosed with COVID-19 -- pre-Delta on the left and then post-Delta, you see that drop off.

That could be people who just come back with a positive test. It could be people who have some symptoms.


GUPTA: But let me show you the next screen -- and I think this is what really sort of grabbed my attention, grabbed a lot of people's attention, is that, if you look overall at hospitalizations and deaths, the top lines that are flat across the top.

Those are the youngest age groups. There's hardly any dropoff in terms of efficacy, in terms of effectiveness. If you're 75 and older, you see some dropoff there, that's the line going down to the right.

But to about 80 percent versus 95 percent in the beginning, so there's some drop off. And it may make the case that boosters are necessary but for certain segments of the population.

We saw them for immune compromised already. Maybe it's for vulnerable people based on age as well. We'll see. The CDC has got to weigh in on this and formally recommend it. And I know a lot of people have taken this as preordained that boosters are going to happen. But we can tell you, just talking to many of these scientists, it's not a slam dunk. There's still a lot of discussion on this.

BERMAN: All right, Sanjay, I know you're watching this very closely. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who of course has a medical degree, he's good at math.

COLLINS: Much better than -- take his opinion, not ours. BERMAN: Well, no, look, there's a reason we become reporters and one

of them is we're not good at math. I mean --


BERMAN: Sanjay aside, we're not usually good at math.

Louisiana's hospitals are out of space, with nearly half the state's ICU beds filled with COVID patients.

How are doctors there coping with yet another emergency from Hurricane Ida?

COLLINS: And we're also going to talk about the recall election that is rattling California.

Will the Golden State turn red in two weeks?





COLLINS: California Democrats are worried that the Republican pipe dream to recall governor Gavin Newsom may turn into a real Democratic nightmare on Election Day, which is now just two weeks away.

CNN's Harry Enten took a look at the data and he said there is a possibility Newsom will be recalled, as 46 contenders, mostly Republicans, are trying to take his seat. Joining us now is Marisa Lagos, the political correspondent for KQED and cohost of the "Political Breakdown" podcast.

Marisa, give us the lay of the land.

Is Governor Newsom in trouble?

MARISA LAGOS, KQED POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's looking a little better for him than it was a few weeks ago. We had polls out in the summer, showing Democrats disengaged.

Last week there was another poll by Change Research showing a lot more interest and engagement among his base. That's important, Kaitlan, because Democrats out number Republicans 2:1 in California. If they turn out, it's going to be a cake walk for Newsom.

But the question has really been around that motivation. I think there's been a lot of it on the Republican side, people who are angry at Newsom for his lockdowns and other policies.

So at this point, this is what the governor and his team are focusing on. It's not convincing people to come to his side; it's just trying to get out their base. COLLINS: And what are they trying to do to get Democrats to come out?

I think you're right. People probably look at the numbers and see, well, 2:1, he'll be fine. But obviously their concern is they won't come out because of that thinking.

LAGOS: Yes, we were supposed to have a rally with the vice president, who, of course, is from California and the governor last week but that was canceled because of the events in Afghanistan.

I think what we're seeing is a real attempt to engage with on the ground, grassroots groups. We know that's where Democrats have had success, not just here but across the country when it comes to tight races.

I think there's a lot of interest in harnessing the energy we saw in like the Bernie Sanders campaign here in California in the past and really just trying to motivate their base.

I will tell you, I was walking around my neighborhood in San Francisco yesterday and there were some like hand printed-out signs from Democrats saying, please vote. So maybe it's working. Maybe people are getting the message.

COLLINS: Got a lot of printer cartridges firing up at those homes.

Marisa, Larry Elder is also Newsom's highest profile Republican challenger. He is also under police investigation for a 2015 domestic violence accusation and the "L.A. Times" is also reporting he once said he would like to see a Stephen Miller become president.

Of course, Miller is the architect of Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy.

How do California voters feel about Larry Elder?

What do you hear when you're talking to them?

LAGOS: I mean, on the Democratic side, I think people are horrified. They feel like he is sort of like a Trump figure. He -- this is sort of shock jock type conservative radio host who has really made his name over the past 2.5 decades, saying things that are going to anger a lot of the base Democratic voters here.

But what you see in this crowded field of 46 people is that he is the most well known, especially among some of that Republican base. And he has seemed to rise to the top. I think a lot of the other Republican candidates are seen as sort of lackluster, not that interesting to folks.

So I think that, in a race where 50 plus one needs to vote to recall Newsom but only a plurality of whoever gets the vote on the second question could win. He doesn't need millions and millions of people; he needs his base to turn out. And we just haven't seen other candidate, Republican, Democrat or otherwise, get that sort of coalescing that it seems like Larry Elder's fame is getting him. COLLINS: Well, we have two weeks to continue watching this. We'll see

if there are hand printed signs to come. Thank you for joining us this morning.

LAGOS: My pleasure, Kaitlan.

BERMAN: All right. Here's what else to watch today.



BERMAN: -- the U.S., pulling its final troops out of Afghanistan after 20 years.

What does that mean for the remaining Americans in the country?

We will speak live with the Pentagon spokesperson.

And Russia and China taking full advantage of the end of this war. A reality check next.

COLLINS: There is also a stark trend in the antivaccine conservatives, who are dying of COVID-19. We'll discuss that and what it means and whether or not it can spur anyone to get vaccinated.


BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman. Brianna is off. Kaitlan Collins, chief White House correspondent here at NEW DAY.

Great to see you.

COLLINS: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: It's Tuesday, August 31st.

Happy birthday, Mom.

For the first time in two decades there are no U.S. troops in Afghanistan this morning. President Biden will address the nation this afternoon on the end of what has been called America's longest war. The Taliban is now in full control.