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Biden Admin Stares Down Multiple Crises on Labor Day Holiday; COVID-19 Cases among Children Soar as Schools Reopen; U.S. Adds Only 235,000 Jobs in August, Far Fewer than Expected. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 07:00   ET



ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: But that won't be true for Moderna most likely.

Let's take a look where we stand right now. So, where we stand right now is that Fauci has said that Pfizer is ready to go for the week of September 20th. However, FDA advisers have not yet set a review date for Moderna. Studies are being done on whether -- and this is interesting -- Moderna recipients, so those people who got Moderna last spring, two doses of Moderna, it may be that they could receive Pfizer for their booster shot. That is possible.

Let's take a listen to what Dr. Fauci had to say.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Pfizer, one of the companies that has the mRNA, has gotten the information and has been examined and things look like that they are ready to go. Moderna might be actually a little bit behind that. And if they are, what you might see is rather than the simultaneous rolling out of the booster promise of both those products you may and be sequential about a week or two.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: So, Elizabeth --

COHEN: So, in other words, what is going on here is that -- I was just going to say that what's going on here is that there is an excellent chance that starting the week of September 20th, that folks who got Pfizer will be able to start getting their boosters, not all at once. It will be in age groups or in groupings. But folks who got Moderna, that is more of a question mark. John?

BERMAN: So, Dr. Anthony Fauci now, they are closely watching the data coming out and is real, because, obviously Israel has been giving booster shots. What do we know from that country?

COHEN: Right. So, Israel has been giving booster shots for weeks now. In fact, anyone ages 12 and older can thousand get a booster shot and that it is happening very commonly. And so they actually have data. It is interesting that the U.S. a much larger country than Israel has less data than this little tiny country in the Middle East.

So, let's take a look at what Israel has found because they have been keeping track of what has happened once they have given boosters. So, what they found in Israel is that they have looked at more than -- more than this number have gotten boosters, but they examined more than a million ages 60-plus who got boosters. After boosters, their relative risk of severe disease went down more than ten times and that is data that the U.S. is really looking at and that is most likely data that will be presented to FDA advisers on September 17th for Pfizer to say, hey, it is time for us to be giving booster shots.

And Israel, John, it is interesting, people are getting booster shots about five months after their second vaccine or more, five months after the second vaccine, that is when they are eligible for booster shots. John?

BERMAN: All right, it bears watching. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

COHEN: Thanks.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Overnight, President Biden approved a disaster declaration for New Jersey from this catastrophic flooding that we saw by remnants of Hurricane Ida last week. At least 50 people have died in the northeast, about half of them in New Jersey.

And joining us now to discuss this in the days ahead is John Bentz. He is the director of Emergency Management for Manville Borough, New Jersey, which is one of the state's hardest hit areas. Sir, thank you so much for being with us to talk about this. Can you first just tell us a little bit about having been such a hard hit area, where things stand with your community?

JOHN BENTZ, DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, MANVILLE BOROUGH, NEW JERSEY: Thank you and good morning. At this point, we're in a cleanup and starting to go into a recovery stage. Our cleanup began on Friday. We do have Somerset County assistance coming in with contractors that we'll be sending in on Tuesday to start cleaning up debris. And at this point public service, electric and gas, are both in town with boots on the ground and they're starting to do restorations house to house to see those houses that may need to have meters, whether gas or electric, whatever houses may have had major flooding in it where the meters could have been under water. So they are starting to do that. Our local inspectors will be going out with them as well to help take care of that and look at different things to see where we are going forward.

KEILAR: And there has been a disaster declaration coming from the White House, of course. And we're going to be seeing President Biden visiting the area tomorrow to really see what is happening there on the ground. What do you want to come out of that trip?

BENTZ: I know that our local elected officials in town -- we've been fighting for years for flood control for our town. So the main thing is to see and to have, you know, money to help us with these people, whether it is different things in regards to elevating houses or things like that.


But, again, our elected officials for years have been trying with this and working with, you know, the government to do that.

And by the president coming here and visiting, we're hoping that he sees what has happened. I mean, we had this in 1999 with Floyd. We had it in 2011 with Irene and now we're here with Ida, and Ida ended up being worse than what Floyd was in 1999.

KEILAR: We heard the president talking about -- when he went to visit Louisiana last week talking about insurance companies and that they weren't paying out what they needed to assist people who had been displaced or who had had their homes damaged by flood. Are you seeing that where you are?

BENTZ: At this point, I have not heard anything at this point in regards to that. Again, our residents are just starting to get back to their homes once the water receded. And they were able to get back in start being on Friday morning. So, I have not myself heard anything but I would hope that, as in the past the insurance companies were able to help out our residents, and we would hope that, you know, they are giving them their fair shot of what they deserve to get back and to help them rebuild and get their lives back together.

This was a storm that originally we were only projected to get three to four inches of rain with possibly locally of five inches Wednesday night into early Thursday morning. We ended up receiving ten inches of rain in three hours. There was no way that people could prepare for this. And that's why we -- it is a disaster right now.

KEILAR: I mean, we're seeing the effects of it. We've been showing pictures there in Manville from Thursday. You said the water really receded on Friday and folks are just getting back to their houses, which are uninhabitable in many cases. Give us -- tell us what they are going home to when they open the door to these homes that were under water.

BENTZ: I mean, in some area -- our hardest hit areas, which is our Lost Valley section, which has been always our hardest hit area, because that borders the Millstone River and then we also where the Reardon (ph) and the Millstone meet at the end of Lost Valley, we have residents coming home, that went home on Friday, even, you know, Thursday, if they were able to get home after some of the water receded, and they are going home to houses that may have had a complete full basement full of water. They had water on their first floor. And we had multiple houses where we had foundation collapse.

I would say at this point we're probably at around 12 to 15 that have had some kind of compromise with the foundation where there is a collapse and our building department has been going around and posting these building. So, it could be anything, like you said, you come home. And the one fortunate thing that I will say about this storm, the only fortunate thing, is we did not lose power the whole time. So, for some of the people that were able to -- if it was able to keep up, you know, some pumps or electric in their house, people that stayed in their house, they had electric the whole time. Other than that, people are coming home to -- they don't know what they are coming home to, actually. They could have a foot of water in their house when they were coming home. They could have five feet of water in their house, up to ten feet of water. They didn't know what to expect.

But as they got home over the weekend, people have been starting already cleaning up. We have around town -- you drive around town, these hardest hit areas, again, the Lost Valley section, the lower end of our north side section, the lower end of our south side section of town, the streets, the curbs are just -- you know, it is just heartbreaking to see this again because I've been here, you know, since Hurricane Floyd, I've been through all of these now. And each time, it gets harder and harder to see this. And that is why we need the help in this town and we're hoping -- you know, I am hoping that when the president sees this, he works with our elected officials and they can help us finally do something to help our town.

KEILAR: Well, we know that you will be awaiting his visit, waiting to see what he says tomorrow, as will we. John, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

BENTZ: You're welcome. Have a good day.

KEILAR: All right. You too, sir. A new school year bringing the same debate over masks in the classroom. See how some school districts are approaching the issue as COVID cases hit new records for children.

BERMAN: And new CNN reporting about the former first lady, Melania Trump, her husband making noises about trying to get back to the White House. But she might have other plans.



BERMAN: School back in session just as more kids are hospitalized with COVID than at any point in the pandemic. So, how do schools keep children safe? CNN Evan McMorris-Santoro with some very different approaches. Evan, what have you learned?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you mentioned, we're right in the middle of school reopening season. Millions went to school last month, millions of kids go to school this month all during the delta variant, all during this surge, and different places are taking different approaches to how to reopen.

And we're starting to get a picture of what works and what doesn't.


JOHN STRYCKER, SUPERINTENDENT, JACKSON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI SCHOOLS: I'm confident in what we're doing. And you know what, we'll meet everything and I can make a change at any moment and I won't have to change if I see it's necessary.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Superintendent John Strycker's COVID-19 plan at schools in Jackson County, Mississippi, masks, vaccines and quarantines are voluntary.


He says he has chosen quality education over pandemic fear.

STRYCKER: We lost a teacher to COVID and it broke our heart. I wept, okay? It's very hard on me. But when I'm making my decisions, I need to do the best I can as a leader to make non-emotional decisions.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: But your non-emotional decision is to do nothing, right? That seems a little weird.

STRYCKER: I'm using the data. And so, you know, I feel that our kids are safe relative to the other schools with those options.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: And there are around 9,000 students in Jackson County School District who started August 5 and the latest complete report from the district shows an astonishing 6.4 percent of students have COVID. Strycker says the latest numbers are trending down, slightly.

Medical director at the Los Angeles Unified School District is running a program with a completely different approach from Jackson County, Mississippi.

DR. SMITA MALHOTRA, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: We have one of the largest testing programs in the nation, where we're testing all student and staff regardless of vaccination status every week.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: All adults inside Los Angeles schools are required to be vaccinated. Everyone is required to wear a mask.

Los Angeles schools have been in session for almost three weeks. Just half of 1 percent of the students and staff tested were positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Daniel Benjamin, a pediatrician leading a team of researchers studying the pandemic in schools at Duke University says even though it is early in the year, there is enough data to strongly suggest what works.

DR. DANIEL BENJAMIN, DUKE UNIVERSITY: If a school district does not have a mandatory masking policy and is not quarantining thousands of people by the second week of school, then that school district is very likely being irresponsible as it relates to quarantine and exposure of people at school.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Benjamin likes vaccine mandates for adults in education, like those in Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Some districts, like Fairfax, Virginia, New York City have taken the extra measure of requiring many student athletes to be vaccinated. Benjamin likes that one too.

Lunchtime is a big worry, Benjamin says. When kids' masks come off, delta is on the menu. Portland public schools will serve meals outdoors as much as possible for elementary school students. Nothing is better than universal masking, Benjamin says.

BENJAMIN: If all of your school activities are outside and people are more than six feet apart and you are holding all of your classes outside and all of your lurch outside, then you might be able to get away without masking.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, John, you can see the size of this challenge. I was Zooming with people all over the country to get this picture. But the answer appears to be masking, universal masking is the best way to keep schools open, which is what everybody wants, to keep kids educated the best way they can. But the politics of that masking is still getting in the way in a lot of places and we're seeing early indications that some schools are already closing because they can't get a handle on delta. John?

BERMAN: These choices have consequences. They just clearly do. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you very much for that.

KEILAR: All right. Let's talk about this now Dr. Allison Messina, Chief of Infectious Diseases at John Hopkins All Children's Hospital. Doctor, thank you so much for being with us to talk about, really, the school year and so many different things that I think students and parents are going to be encountering.

Let's start first with masks and the fact that we're seeing such different practices across schools, across states. What are your concerns right now?

DR. ALLISON MESSINA, CHIEF OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, JOHNS HOPKINS ALL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yes, there're a lot of concerns. Obviously, we do support the mask use of all children in schools and, really, in all public spaces right now if you live in an area of a country where COVID rates are really high.

I'm especially concerned for children who are too young to be vaccinated. The masks are really an important part of keeping us safe.

KEILAR: No, they certainly are. And I want to ask you about 5 to 11- year-olds with vaccines here in just a moment. But, first, on masks, part of the debate, you've seen some parents who seem to think that it is tantamount to child abuse to have children wearing masks all day. And I wonder what you can speak to about those kinds of concerns and whether it is healthy for children to be wearing masks all day.

MESSINA: Yes. So I know that that is a concern that gets raised a lot. But, you know, the data really don't bear that out. Masks have been worn in health care for many hours a day for a long time, even pre-COVID. So those of us in the medical community who are pretty used to wearing masks all day really have never really had any real issues, none have ever really been raised.


And you also have to remember too that lot of children last year wore masks to school all the time. And no serious safety concerns were seen with that practice.

I think there probably are some kids who, for whom wearing a mask might be more difficult. And if that is the type of situation that I think parents find themselves in, the best thing to do, really, is to talk to that child's pediatrician.

KEILAR: So, what are the concerns that you have as we await vaccines for kids 5 to 11?

MESSINA: Well, I think that, obviously, school is the main concern because that is a long chunk of the child's day where they have to be indoors for the most part and around other children. And, you know, if you haven't had the opportunity to be vaccinated yet, especially if you are too young to be vaccinated and it is just not an option, you know, it really does put that child in a difficult situation.

There is not a lot that you can do to protect those children, but I think that masking, social distancing, making sure all of the older children and older people in that child's life are vaccinated. For example, if you have a five-year-old, make sure that everyone else in the house is vaccinated to protect that child.

I think those are some of the things that we can do to ensure a safe year for those children until the time that the vaccines are approved and, hopefully, that will be soon.

KEILAR: And what about testing? I mean, I've heard examples of some schools that are doing universal testing each week, some that are doing a sample, maybe more like 20 percent of the schools, some maybe doing no testing.

MESSINA: You know, I think that testing is certainly a tool that we have to identify people early and so that we can isolate those people if we know them to be positive. And that certainly helps. I think testing on a large scale is very, very difficult to do logistically. So I do have concerns about really the reality of how that gets done. In the districts that can do it, I think that it can provide benefit. But it is a difficult thing to suggest that all school districts do.

KEILAR: Yes. You can see how it would be tough logistically. Dr. Messina, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

The surging delta variant being blamed for a disappointing jobs report, threatening to upend the pandemic recovery. We're going to speak live with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh about the administration's efforts to turn things around.

BERMAN: And CNN goes inside the new Afghanistan, as the Taliban captures the final stronghold of resistance.



BERMAN: On this Labor Day, millions of out-of-work Americans will no longer receive the federal unemployment benefits meant to ease the economic shock of the pandemic. This follows the release of a pretty tough August jobs report which President Biden says illustrates how the delta variant is weighing down the economic recovery.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Too many have not gotten vaccinated. And it is creating a lot of unease in our any and around our kitchen table.

Some wanted to see a larger number today, and so did I. What we're seeing this year is a continued growth month after month.


BERMAN: Joining me now is Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.

7 million people today lose all of their extended enhanced unemployment benefit, additional 3 million lose part of it. How much of a hit do you think will that take? How much will that hurt?

MARTY WALSH, LABOR SECRETARY: Well, I mean, people are still going to have unemployment in some cases. I think that the idea behind the extension was to continue to move our economy forward. Obviously, this ending comes on a few days after a jobs number that was a little under projection. But, certainly, we've added 4.5 million jobs since the beginning of President Biden's administration and we just need to continue to move forward here.

I know that it's a tough time right now. I mean, your previous story on the delta variant, a month ago, we weren't dealing with such high numbers, a month ago, it seemed like our economy was moving in the right direction. We're still going in the right direction but we just need to continue to stay vigilant and get people vaccinated and get people safe moving forward.

The one thing that we were able to do myself and Secretary Yellen is we sent letters to the states, all states, to let them know if they want to extend the benefit themselves, they can do that. They're using American rescue plan money. Not all states, the unemployment numbers are high. Some states, unemployment numbers are very low.

BERMAN: But I don't think any states are doing that at this point. I guess my question is we are where we are with delta this morning and, clearly, the case numbers are high. So, given the situation, what plans does the administration have to perhaps readdress these enhanced extended unemployment benefits? WALSH: Well, I think that the administration will need to focus on the delta variant. I think we need to focus on getting people vaccinated. I don't think that we should be going -- trying to look -- looking backwards. We need to be looking forward. We're seeing that this weekend -- last week and this week, we're supposed to be opening schools. Most schools, all schools are going to be in person, and now we have high rates amongst children. We have areas of where we're going to get people back -- kids back into school.

Parents are going to be allowed the opportunity now to have good, strong child care by having schools open, and that potentially is at risk. We have some work in front of us to push back on this delta variant and we need to make sure people -- I heard the doctor from the children's hospital in the previous segment, you know, masks, you need them and we need to get people vaccinated.


This is not a political issue. I don't know when --