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Overwhelmed Hospitals Face ICUs Filling Up, Influx Of Children; Top Vaccine Officials Quit After Biden Administration Pushes Boosters; Hostages Tied To Roofs Of Getaway Cars In Brazen Bank Heist. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 01, 2021 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That story, in your mind, that this is something that Biden should run on for reelection? Should Democrats lean into this?

DAVID ROTHKOPF, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST AND USA TODAY, FORMER SENIOR OFFICIAL, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION, HOST, "DEEP STATE RADIO" PODCAST: I think the president's handling of foreign policy is something they can run on. This is the most experienced president that we've ever had in terms of foreign policy. He's been at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy for 50 years.

We've reestablished relations with our allies. We've reestablished our support for NATO. We've gotten back into the WHO. We've gotten back into the Paris accords. There's a lot more to come in that regard.

Is he going to run on the past two weeks? No, he's not going to run on the past two weeks, and he shouldn't. He's focused on the big picture and that's what we should be focused on. And I think ultimately, that's what voters will focus on.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Some people have said that this incident raises questions about the firmness of the United States' support when it comes to its alliances. And we know some of them were not happy with the way this exit happened. We saw a lot of criticism from some world leaders -- privately, some of the former world leaders as well.

The president is meeting with the Ukrainian president Zelensky today -- his first time at the White House, of course -- someone that everyone now knows his name because of the impeachment investigation of the former president.

Do you think that this would raise questions for Ukraine when it comes to asking for America's support and getting that support, or do you think that they'll be fine regardless of what this Afghanistan exit shows?

ROTHKOPF: Look, I think President Zelensky is going to look at this through the lens of Ukraine. If he gets what he wants -- if he gets the support he wants he is going to be happy. He's certainly going to get a lot more support than he got from the last president. And I think our allies in Europe see this president as far more

committed to NATO, to Article 5 of NATO, which is the article that says we will protect our allies and stand with them.

And I think that's what matters. I think what matters is does the U.S. deliver on these alliances, invest in these alliances, prioritize in these alliances? And this White House is a far cry from the last one in that regard.

BERMAN: Is the United States -- is the world standing of the United States in a better position than it is -- on September first, today, than it was on May first?

ROTHKOPF: I think it absolutely is. I think there's criticism of the exit and I think there will be debate about it, and I think there should be debate about it -- an investigation into it to see how we can do things better. But while we're doing that investigation let's look at the last 20 years. Let's look at the damage that did.

Let's look at violation of sovereignty, Abu Ghraid, Guantanamo, the drone strikes that took out civilians in the past. Our failure to achieve our goals, our failure to invest in the future, and our inability to focus on critical issues like the rise of China and other emerging powers.

BERMAN: David Rothkopf, it's a great discussion. I appreciate you coming on. As I said, you have, I think, sparked a lot of thought and debate -- heated debate. And you've had a lot of incoming on Twitter, to be fair.


BERMAN: So I appreciate you coming on to talk about it.

COLLINS: It happens. The story of my life.

ROTHKOPF: Yes, I'm with you there.

COLLINS: Thanks for joining us this morning.

ROTHKOPF: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Americans heading back to school and the workplace after summer vacations. We're going to catch you up on where the country stands on COVID and the Delta variant.

COLLINS: Plus, a terrifying bank heist during which the criminals tied the hostages to the roof of the getaway cars.



COLLINS: As we head into the fall, many schools and businesses are now reopening despite the coronavirus being just as dangerous or potentially, more dangerous than it was at the start of the pandemic. Hospitals are being pushed to their limits, and five states are nearly out of ICU beds with less than 10 percent availability. The number of children in the hospital is near an all-time high with more kids being admitted to hospitals with coronavirus this month than any other time in the last year.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Atlanta with more on what the current state of COVID-19 is.


Yes -- you know, if we all think back to where were -- where our minds were back in April -- that was when the vaccines were really rolling out -- there was a sense that coming into summer we'd be in a really good place when it came to COVID-19. That all now seems like a total fantasy.

Just this week, Georgia reporting the highest infection rate it has ever seen in the pandemic, and Georgia's not alone.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): Running out of room.

CAROL BURRELL, CEO, NORTHEAST GEORGIA HEALTH SYSTEM: We're looking to add space in hallways in conference rooms, in waiting areas. Our emergency rooms and our urgent care centers are seeing higher volume than they've seen throughout this pandemic.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): With COVID-19 numbers still soaring, states with low vaccination rates are struggling the most. Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Florida, and Arkansas have less than 10 percent of their ICU capacity left, according to HHS data. Idaho's governor, after touring a health facility in Boise, announcing there were only four available ICU beds for the entire state.

In Kentucky, overwhelmed hospitals are short on staff and beds.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: We are living in a reality where some COVID patients that are sick are being treated in their cars when there isn't room for them inside the E.R. or in the hospital.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): In Hawaii and four other states there are fears of oxygen shortages.

In Louisiana, where health resources were already at the breaking point, health officials say Hurricane Ida could be a superspreader event as people sheltered in large numbers.

Oregon has called up 500 National Guard troops to bolster its struggling healthcare systems, with 1,000 more on standby.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, scholars (ph). SAVIDGE (voice-over): And then, there's back-to-school. In the past week, more than 200,000 kids have tested positive for COVID, five times the number from a month before, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In Florida's 15 largest school districts a CNN analysis found close to 22,000 students and 5,000 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the school year.

In Pennsylvania, where school is just starting, the secretary of health says coronavirus cases in children over the past six weeks are up 300 percent, prompting the governor to announce a mask mandate for schools.

But opposition to mask and vaccine mandates are only growing in Republican-led states as the fight against them turns physical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here. Look, right here.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): In Lee County, Florida, deputies had to break up fistfights outside the school district headquarters when a mask mandate was announced for teachers and students.

But there is some good news. Vaccination numbers have been on the rise. A new vaccination poll found the number of Americans who said they are not very likely or at all likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine has dropped from 34 percent in March to 20 percent currently.

Some states also report their COVID numbers are beginning to plateau -- still high, but not rising.

For health officials, September may not offer a light at the end of the tunnel. But right now, they'd settle for just a little less dark.


SAVIDGE: Well, they certainly would.

And we should point out that the director of the CDC is now asking that a holiday weekend approaching -- that about 80 million Americans who are not vaccinated -- he says they shouldn't travel.

And then, there's this. The state that has the highest vaccination rates, Vermont. The state that has the lowest hospitalization rate for COVID-19, Vermont -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: It's almost like they are correlated.

Martin Savidge, thank you very much on that, and please keep us updated on these vaccinations across the U.S.

The Biden administration's decision over when to administer some vaccine booster shots is sparking two leaders from the FDA to resign, potentially. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here with the potential impact of this move at a critical period. BERMAN: Plus, here is a provocative question. Are the standards for

America's game show hosts higher than for members of Congress? Don Lemon joins us live to discuss.



COLLINS: Two of the FDA's top vaccine officials are leaving the agency amid some frustration with the CDC and the administration's announcement on booster shots.

Joining us now with more is our CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


COLLINS: Sanjay, what are you hearing about this recent White House announcement on booster shots and how it's resonating within the FDA?

GUPTA: Well, we're not sure what the departure -- the upcoming departure of these two officials really means, but I think what we've heard from people is that it's a signal of some concern within the FDA that the White House Coronavirus Task Force -- the White House sort of has preordained these boosters, whereas the FDA needs to weigh in on this.

And it's sort of an important point. You know, the FDA -- that is what they do. They regulate these. They evaluate data.

And right now, it seems to many people like this is a done deal. And the FDA and the CDC -- they've got to officially weigh in on this. And I think there's a lot of back and forth on this.

Jeff Zients, who runs the task force, was asked specifically about it, and here's what he said.


JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We have been also been very clear throughout that this is pending FDA conducting an independent evaluation, and CDC's panel of outside experts issuing a booster dose recommendation.


GUPTA: So, Kaitlan, they've always said that. They've always said that we have to listen and hear from the FDA and the CDC. On the other hand, they also put a date on the booster of September 20th. So I think it's confusing and I think that that's what's led to some of the back and forth within these organizations.

BERMAN: Yes. When you put a date on it like that -- even though you're saying well, if the FDA and CDC say it's OK, September 20th you're all going to get the booster shots -- that puts a lot of pressure -- COLLINS: Yes.

BERMAN: -- on the scientists who have to make that decision.

COLLINS: Yes, it raises a lot of questions, too, because now people think oh, I'm getting a booster starting September 20th. And the FDA and CDC have not -- it looks like they are but no one has said the t's are crossed and i's are dotted.

BERMAN: One of the issues that --


BERMAN: Yes, go ahead, Sanjay.

GUPTA: And let me just add as well, the vaccines -- they work really well, as we've talked about for quite some time now. So the idea of what exactly are the boosters going to do -- are they for everybody? Should some people be sort of at the front of the line -- the vulnerable people, for example -- perhaps? So we should get more clarity on this.

But the idea that perhaps this sends a signal that the shots didn't work as well as we thought has been a large concern as well from a communications standpoint.

BERMAN: So, Sanjay, there is word -- one of the things that we've known for a long time is these new variants pop up. And right now in the United States, obviously, we're dealing with the Delta variant. But is there one past Delta we need to be concerned about?

GUPTA: Well, as you can tell, we're going through the Greek alphabet here. So there is another one now, all the way to Mu, and this is -- this is a variant of interest. Think of this almost like a jigsaw puzzle or Lego pieces and they're looking for specific mutations within these virus that could be of concern but right now are just of interest.

So with this particular one, it's been around since January of this year. It had a higher global prevalence at one point but actually decreased.

But it's still relatively high in Colombia and Ecuador, as you can see by the numbers there. Thirty-nine percent of new cases are Mu in Colombia. Thirteen percent are in Ecuador. Here in the United States, just about a fifth of a percent, .2 percent.


So it's of interest right now. It becomes of concern if those mutations actually start translating into faster and faster growth -- even exponential growth.

Remember, for example, in May of this year, Delta was around one -- less than two percent of overall cases and now it's obviously the most dominant variant in the country. So if it starts to take off, it can happen quickly, which is why they

keep an eye on it. And that's what they're doing here.

There's five variants of interest right now that they're keeping an eye on. It's almost like hurricanes out there that they watch. Many of them amount to nothing. But this one they're keeping an eye on.

COLLINS: Right, and one that does actually amount to something is obviously of huge concern. And, Sanjay, a lot of that concern has to do with what we've seen is a five-fold increase in cases among children just in the last month. And obviously, parents are worried about this because they can't get their kids vaccinated yet if they're under 12.

So how worried should parents be about their unvaccinated children going back to school since that is, of course, what's happening here? And we're seeing just how much it's dividing communities about whether or not their kids should even wear a mask in the classroom.

GUPTA: I know, it's staggering -- these debates and these fights that are happening at school board meetings. I mean, it's tough to watch.

Four or five-fold increase over the last month. Schools are starting in most places in the country over the next couple of weeks, so these numbers are likely to go up.

We know that COVID is a lot less deadly in children but 450 to 500 children have died. That's two to three times as many as the worst flu season.

We know kids can transmit it. So a worst-case scenario, an unvaccinated child goes home to unvaccinated parents and this pandemic just continues to go on and on as a result.

And then, also, the long-haul symptoms, which I don't think we talk about enough. But this is not a virus you want. We just don't know what the long-term symptoms are and that's of concern whether you're an adult or a child.

The flip-side of that, guys, is that the modeling shows 75 percent of kids K through 12 will likely be exposed to this virus over the next three months -- 75 percent. There's 50 million kids we're talking about -- 75 percent exposed.

On the other hand, if you put in masks and you put in testing, you can dramatically reduce those numbers. We saw that happen last school year even before vaccines were authorized. You could have school communities that were safer than the surrounding communities by relatively simple mitigation measures. Add ventilation into the mix as well and they can be a relatively safe environment.

So it's concerning, to answer your question directly, but also addressable through things that we already know.

BERMAN: You know, people have the power to make this a lot better or a lot less lethal. Sanjay, as always, thanks so much.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, a near ban on abortions take effect in Texas after the Supreme Court decided not to act. What does this mean for Roe versus Wade? Is this a seismic shift on abortion rights?

COLLINS: Plus, there was a stunning bank heist where heavily-armed criminals in Brazil drove away with the hostages -- you can see them there -- clinging to the roofs of those getaway cars.



COLLINS: There is a truly incredible but mainly terrifying story out of Brazil this morning after a gang of heavily-armed robbers carrying out a series of deadly bank heists with, quote, "human shields" strapped to their getaway cars.

CNN's Rafael Romo reports on the chaos that left three people dead.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (on camera): It sounds like something out of a movie but it happened in reality. And the video CNN has obtained from Brazilian authorities is shocking. It shows innocent civilians strapped to cars. They were tied up by robbers who carried out a series of deadly bank heists using those civilians as human shields.

This happened in the city of Aracatuba, located in Sao Paulo state Brazil. Police say very early Monday morning, the robbers first positioned bombs all over the city to distract officers so that they could rob the banks. The bombs were detonated and tragically, one of them caused serious injury to a man who lost both of his feet in the blast, according to authorities.

Police say that while this was happening, the criminals hit three different banks at the same time, taking multiple people hostage. Then they tied the hostages to the roofs and hoods of 10 cars to be used as human shields.

Altogether, officials say three people died, including two hostages and one suspected robber. There were five other people injured and two suspects were detained by police.

More than 380 police officers were subsequently deployed as part of an operation to catch more than a dozen suspects who remain at large. And classes were suspended at schools around the city for the day.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Mexico City.


COLLINS: I mean, that is terrifying.

BERMAN: It's horrifying.

COLLINS: It looks like a movie --

BERMAN: Right, right.

COLLINS: -- but people actually live there.

BERMAN: Yes. What you hope is that people don't look at this and go oh my, this is -- this is something that could be done in this type of event. It's really, really terrifying to see something like that. It indicates a level of lawlessness, frankly.

COLLINS: Well, and they're so well-choreographed. I was reading about how intricately planned these kind of heists are. And they're becoming more and more commonplace in Brazil, so it's a huge concern.

BERMAN: All right. NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: And good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, September first. I'm John Berman. Brianna is off. CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins with me for hour three this morning.

COLLINS: We're on hour three, still going strong.

BERMAN: All right. This morning, the nation's most restrictive abortion.