Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Lou Manzo is Interviewed about the Disaster in New Jersey; U.S. Engages with Taliban to Continue Evacuations; Millions of Kids Return to School; Dr. Lance VanGundy Pleas for Vaccinations. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 06:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening this morning, President Biden will tour the widespread storm damage caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida in parts of New York and New Jersey. The community, Mullica Hill in Harrison Township, New Jersey, is still cleaning up after a catastrophic tornado destroyed dozens of homes. The mayor of Harrison Township, Lou Manzo, will be meeting with President Biden today in a roundtable and he's with us now ahead of that meeting.

Mayor, thank you for being with us.

And just give us a sense, now that the waters have receded, of what your community's dealing with.


Well, the last few days we had made progress. You know, considering the circumstances, we're very pleased with where we are. With more than 140 homes impacted and roughly three dozen complete losses are already down on the ground. Infrastructure impacted. Poles and trees down. The dig out and clean up has got us to the point now, several days in, where roads are passable, power is restored and the clean-up is continuing. But, you know, we're pleased with where we are at this point.

KEILAR: I mean we're seeing the pictures that we saw from last week, and it's -- it's truly devastation from these homes that you mentioned, the ones that are complete losses. The president approved a disaster declaration in six counties in New Jersey, including yours. You're going to be part of this roundtable event with him and I wonder, what are you going to tell him and what do you want to hear from him?

MANZO: Well, first I'm going to thank him, Director Criswell, FEMA Director Criswell, was on the ground with us yesterday after the declaration the president made the evening before. She spent a good hour with us touring some of the most impacted areas. We're very pleased with the quick response at all levels, my county level and certainly at the state and now at the federal level. And what I'm going to tell the president is -- is that we're going to need the federal support going forward.

You know, today's meeting is important for us to talk about tactical issues, but I think it's also important visually and emotionally, for my residents to see that, you know, government at the highest level is paying attention to us.

KEILAR: You know, this seemed like a storm that really caught a lot of people off guard, and in some ends, and in certain areas, that meant death for some residents. I wonder in the case of your residents, did they get the warning in time that they needed to respond appropriately?

MANZO: Yes, well, you know, it's only by the grace of God, when you look at the pictures that you've been showing, that no one in our town died. And there really was no one that even had serious injury. And that truly is miraculous. So we were lucky in that sense.

But the tornado warnings on everybody's devices and cell phones went off as they have been over the last few years as that technology has advanced. But the truth is, and I heard this time and time again, that most people would, you know, have responded by looking at that and saying, oh, OK, well, that's not going to happen because tornadoes don't touch down in New Jersey. It's not a common event. So, therefore, they -- they took it with a grain of salt until it was upon them and then they had just seconds to get into their basement. And those people that survived, all of them, multiple stories, were in their basement when their house came down on top of them, and they were able to get -- walk out.

KEILAR: Yes, look, it is truly a miracle and certainly a cautionary tale for the future about these warnings.

Mayor Manzo, thanks for being with us.

MANZO: Thank you.

KEILAR: Overnight, the Taliban arrests journalists in Kabul as thousands of protesters take to the streets there.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken says the Biden administration is currently negotiating with the Taliban over evacuating U.S. citizens. We will discuss all of the latest developments out of Afghanistan just ahead.




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've upheld that commitment in at least one instance in the last 24 hours with a family that was able to leave through an overland route, and we are not aware of anyone being held on an aircraft or any hostage like situation in Mazar-i-Sharif.


SCIUTTO: That was Secretary of State Antony Blinken, just moments ago, saying the Taliban have assured the U.S. that not just all American citizens but Afghan citizens with valid travel documents will be allowed by the Taliban to leave Mazar-i-Sharif Airport in northern Afghanistan.

This comes after the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said the Taliban was holding citizens in a, quote, hostage situation there.

Joining us now, CNN political and national security analyst, David Sanger. He is a White House and national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

David, good to see you this morning.


SCIUTTO: So the U.S. secretary of state says we have assurances that we will hold the Taliban to, to let people freely leave, not just American citizens but Afghans, perhaps Special Immigrant Visa applicants, et cetera.


Do we have any reason to believe those promises?

SANGER: Not much. We have diminishing leverage here. And, obviously, when the last American troops left, a lot of our leverage left with it.

Now, I think that Mr. Blinker would make the argument that since the Taliban recognized that they now need to run the country, they need to continue the foreign aid. They want recognition. That gives us something to go on.

So far the Taliban have made the case that the people who are getting on those airplanes didn't have the paperwork they needed, and there's no one there to really advocate for them.

SCIUTTO: They could make it up as they go along.

By the way, we should note the Taliban is beating women in front of a university in Kabul today.


SCIUTTO: Just a measure of the way that the Taliban operate.

You have, coming up, probably the first in what will be a series of difficult hearings, testimony for U.S. officials. Antony Blinken on September 14th, about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The administration wants to put Afghanistan behind it.


SCIUTTO: Be hard to do. How are those hearings going to go?

SANGER: It's going to be really tough. He's going to be making the case, look, it was 20 years, we're -- we will have just, at the time that he testified, we'll have just gone through the commemoration of the 9/11 moment --


SANGER: Which is going to be a hard moment for the country, particularly it was going to be hard even before this, and this is going to make it all harder.


SANGER: He's going to make the argument that the United States did the right thing. Staying another two years or five years wouldn't have made a difference. That many on the committee, including many Democrats, are going to say, you may have done the right thing, but you didn't do it in a very smooth way.


SANGER: And I think the hardest part for him is going to be explaining why the United States did not have a plan in place to get all of the translators and others out of the country before the date in which the last American military were scheduled to leave. And they still have not put a really good explanation together for that.

SCIUTTO: It was an unconditional withdrawal, right? You know, had they conditioned it, perhaps, on the safe exit of this -- of these people, it might have been a different story.

Tony Blair, over the weekend, highlighting -- and he's not the first to do this -- about the danger of Afghanistan under the Taliban as a sort of free zone for terror groups, including al Qaeda, ISIS and others. He specifically mentioned concerns about bioterrorism as a new tactic. Well, not entirely new, but renewed threat from groups like this.

Is that -- is that a clear and present danger or is that a theoretical danger?

SANGER: Well, it's a theoretical danger in that bioterrorism is not an easy thing to pull off. And one of the things that we've discovered about terror groups is that because they have a hard time staying in one place, putting together a bio attack, putting together a cyberattack has not been something that's as easy for terrorists as it is for others.

But that said, everything we have seen in the pandemic, everything that you were discussing before with Dr. Fauci, you know, is sort of a guidepost to future terror groups about how effective a bioweapon could be if they could make it work.


SANGER: And this is exactly what we went through in the months after 9/11. The anthrax attacks and all that. We ramped up a considerable capability, but clearly it's not good enough.


Just -- we saw what ISIS-K was capable of doing just a couple of weeks ago, killing 13 U.S. forces, granted in Kabul.

Just briefly, do these groups have the ability today to stage deadly attacks, even just suicide bombings, outside the country? Are they a domestic threat in Afghanistan today or are they also an international threat?

SANGER: Right now they're largely a domestic threat. And ISIS, of course, is quite spread out. But we have seen a lot of cases in the past where you could do isolated attacks on the United States. It's not as easy as it was 20 years ago, but it does make you wonder what we have to be ready for. And I think Biden's point is, that may not just be coming out of Afghanistan. That could come out of a range of places.

SCIUTTO: David Sanger, always good to speak to you. Thank you so much.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

SCIUTTO: Well, a desperate plea from an ER doctor who says he and his staff are drowning in people dying from COVID. He's going to join us next.

KEILAR: Plus, California Governor Gavin Newsom rallying his base one week out from a recall election. Caitlyn Jenner making a final push to replace him. She will join NEW DAY live, ahead.



SCIUTTO: Well, the new school year, as many of you probably know, gets underway this week for millions of students. And it comes as new COVID infections and deaths are surging across the country.

CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard joins us now.

Jacqueline, a number of schools last month, they had outbreaks, even had to pause in-person classes. How far and wide are we seeing that could happen again?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Jim, we do think that we could see it again. And the reason why is because in the past month, things really haven't changed when it comes to the two factors that can influence COVID-19 risk in a school. Factor number one is mitigation measures in place within the school walls. Factor number two, how much community transmission is happening outside of the school. Both of those factors have not changed in the past few weeks.

When it comes to factor number one, some schools are still not enforcing masks or physical distancing. And then when it comes to factor number two, like you see on the map here, there are still high levels of community transmission in nearly all counties across the country. Like you see here, nearly every county is in red, and that's why different infectious disease experts I've talked to and pediatricians I've talked to say that there's still the risk of potential outbreaks this week, compared with last week.


So they're really calling on schools to enforce mitigation measures and they're calling on the community to get vaccination levels up because if we do our part, and if schools do their part, we can open schools safely. We just really have to stay on top of these measures, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, listen, most cases, kids don't mind, right, the kids don't mind. By the way, if you're under 12, they can't be vaccinated yet.

Jacqueline Howard, thanks so much for following it all.

KEILAR: A frustrated emergency room doctor in Iowa turning to Facebook to make an emotional plea for people to get vaccinated as the surge of coronavirus sends many, predominantly the unvaccinated, to his ER, taking up ICU beds that other critically ill patients also desperately need.


DR. LANCE VANGUNDY, EMERGENCY ROOM MEDICAL DIRECTOR, UNITY POINT HEALTH: There's so much misinformation out there. We are drowning in people who are dying with this illness. But I have yet to admit a single person because of a vaccine-related incident.

I don't want to be political. I just need everybody to really know, in over 20 years of doing this, I've never been this busy or this stressed or seen this many sick people.


KEILAR: That doctor joining us now, the ER medical director at Unity Point Health, Dr. Lance VanGundy.

Sir, thank you so much for joining us.

I mean we can see in that -- in that video that you shot there, you had just -- that was after work. I mean, clearly, you're kind of maxed out, as we've heard from so many doctors who are just doing this day in, day out. And I know that it was in particular an experience, a conversation that you had with a patient who is not vaccinated that prompted you to put that message out there. Tell us about it.

DR. LANCE VANGUNDY, EMERGENCY ROOM MEDICAL DIRECTOR, UNITY POINT HEALTH: You know, so I had managed a stiff shift. At the end of that shift, a high risk couple came in. and by high risk I mean they have high risks that would make them go on and have a high likelihood of getting very sick with COVID. And she was positive and he had already tested positive. And I just engaged them in a conversation, trying to understand why they chose not to be vaccinated. And the spouse muttered that he thought it would cost money, which I knew wasn't true since the vaccines are free. And his wife, the patient, indicated that she just was afraid of the side effects that she had read on social media. And I think I -- just looked like an opportunity to me that was missed, and probably doctors have -- other than Dr. Fauci, waited too long to say something. And so I felt like I needed to.

KEILAR: What's it like hearing those kinds of things and seeing patients who are entirely or almost entirely unvaccinated in your ER?

VANGUNDY: It's -- it's sad and sometimes demoralizing. I'm not judging patients for making that decision. I really want to empathize, try to understand why they're afraid of the treatment because what they really need to be afraid of is the virus. And so I'm trying to be their cheerleader and educate and empower them to kind of, you know, be part of the proactive solution here. And it's hard. And you just have to take every -- every patient one at a time. But I -- I don't -- I don't think anger gets us anywhere and all that does is make patients more afraid to ask questions and engage in thoughtful conversations. So I just try and empathize with them.

KEILAR: You're sort of on the rise there in Iowa. The past few weeks, case counts have been up nearly 50 percent. Hospitalizations are also on the rise.

What are you facing in your state?

VANGUNDY: You know, our biggest difficulty regionally is just finding access to critical beds. And it's not just for COVID patients.


VANGUNDY: You know, we are still seeing the same mix of heart attack, stroke, and, you know, trauma. It's when we need to find critical access for critical care and ICUs, those beds are saturated. I haven't called yet today. I'm on the way into work in a little bit and I'll find out, you know, what our status is. But yesterday the regions that we refer to were still full in terms of having no ICU beds.

KEILAR: Yes, look, we've talked to people who need those beds for other things, and normally would be able to get them. But because of so many unvaccinated people filling them up, they're just -- they're not available. And you definitely know the reality of that.

Dr. Lance VanGundy, thank you.

VANGUNDY: Thank you. KEILAR: He is jealous, and not afraid to admit it. Why Russia's space

chief is so enamored of two American billionaires. We have a CNN exclusive ahead.


SCIUTTO: Plus, the stunning moment when a three-year-old boy is found alive after spending three days on his own in the Australian Bush. It's a great story.


SCIUTTO: Severe weather in store for the Great Lakes today.

Meteorologist Chad Myers joins us now.

Chad, good morning.


It really looks like a wind damage effect for Chicago, Detroit, and all of up north in Michigan. This is going to be a very windy day today. Storms could be 40 or 50 miles per hour with certainly some severe weather over 65 miles per hour.

This weather is brought to you by Servpro, making fire and water damage like it never even happened.

So let's take a look at the radar. This is what the radar should look like throughout the day. Moving you ahead to about rush hour. Chicago, that's when you're going to get the worst weather. Later on tonight, probably around 9:00, that's Detroit.

A lot of these trees are sitting in very saturated ground. And some of these trees are going to come down and so will power lines.

And look at this, this is tomorrow night. This is New York City. This is New Jersey. This is the area that got hit so hard by all of that water. A 50 miles per hour wind. It's going to bring down more trees and more power.


So, here we go, Larry in the Atlantic. Likely not going to make any kind of landfall for the U.S. but big waves.