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New Day

1,500 Americans Are Dying Every Day from Coronavirus; Hundreds of Thousands Still Without Power a Week after Ida; Secretary Blinken Says, U.S. Engaged with Taliban on Evacuations. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 07:00   ET



CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: So, here we go, Larry in the Atlantic, likely not going to make any kind of landfall for the U.S., but big waves, could be five to ten-footers, making landfall, crashing on land, making some damage to the beaches. Likely going up toward, I would say, maybe St. John's, in toward Newfoundland. Other than that though, storm system in the Gulf of Mexico, will likely make rain for the gulf coast where they don't it need it. But they could use clouds.

Look at the heat index across parts of Louisiana today, hundreds of thousands without power and the heat index of around 95 degrees. Now, it isn't above normal from New York, and also not above normal for New Orleans, but temperatures here are hot enough that people are suffering without power.

New Day continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar alongside Jim Sciutto, who's in for John Berman this morning on this New Day.

And there's a troubling rise in coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. What Dr. Fauci says is the key to finally getting out of this pandemic.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEW DAY: Well, the rush to take an unproven COVID treatment led to more disinformation. A media fact check just ahead.

KEILAR: A Republican congressman who tried to travel to Afghanistan and has accused of threatening ambassador staff says the Biden administration is now falsely claiming credit for getting an American family to safely. He'll join us live.

SCIUTTO: Costars of The Wire, remembering actor Michael K. Williams after his sudden death in New Yrok.

KEILAR: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, it is Tuesday, September 7th, and COVID cases are spiking at an alarming rate right now. Nearly 18 months to the day after a pandemic was officially declared. There are signs that we may have hit a plateau, at least for now. There are cases that are slightly down from their peak last week, still, though, far from the all time high back in January, and the same true for hospitalizations. They have dropped back below 100,000. Sadly, the number of deaths is still rising rapidly, averaging more than 1,500 a day.

SCIUTTO: Note this, the vast majority of patients in the hospital are unvaccinated. Simply put, these hospitalizations and deaths are entirely preventable. In the last hour, Dr. Anthony Fauci told us the way out of this pandemic is clear, and that is universal masking and vaccines. He also made it clear that vaccine boosters are coming soon as COVID deaths surge.

CNN's Tom Foreman is here with a closer look at those numbers. What are they telling us, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, they're saying exactly what you pointed out there. This is the result of people not getting vaccinated, not wearing masks when we need it. I wear a mask when I walk up here, the minute I finish, I'll put a mask right back on.

And look at what's happening ICUs around the country right now. More than 94 percent is the dark red down in here, more than 70 percent is all of the other red. Well, ICUs are designed to not have a lot of empty beds if they can avoid it, but they do not want to be in a situation like this because it makes it hard for them to handle anything else, and that's because of COVID.

Look at the COVID bed utilization, over 50 percent is the dark red states down here, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and up here in Idaho. Idaho has got some pretty bad numbers for vaccination right now, and these states have been lagging behind all along. A lot of people just insisting, no, no, no, I don't want to do that, well, this is the price they're paying. When they say it's over 50 percent, it may be a little over 50 percent, in some cases, it may be a lot over 50 percent. And you really see that when you start looking at the issue of actual open beds in the country. Florida down here, 468, Louisiana, 197, Georgia, 87, Mississippi, 71, Arkansas, 58, Texas, 443, Idaho, 4, Oregon 50.

Out of all of these states, Florida and Oregon right now have the highest partial or full vaccination rates. These states right down here continue to lag. They're having a hard time, particularly if you look at Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, not reporting right now, bad numbers there, Idaho, bad numbers up there.

Important to look at the overall picture here too though, this is all they have available. If you get sick in that state, if you have a heart problem, if you have an automobile accident, these are your only choices if you happen to be near one of these hospitals. And if you add all of these up, you get somewhere around 1,300, 1,400 hospital beds for all of these states, but more than the states, that's 1,300, 1,400 hospital beds, we're somewhere around 75 million people.

This is the problem of COVID and why it affects all of us.


The virus is affecting the people right now who have not been vaccinated. Some people have been vaccinated, but, overwhelmingly, people who have not been vaccinated, they're the ones going into the hospitals. But they're overwhelming, their swamping of the hospitals is affecting everyone out here and putting everybody at risk for everything that might take you to a hospital.

SCIUTTO: It just belies the idea of the vaccine issues about yourself. It's about your family. It's about your community.

FOREMAN: It's not usual because you're making a choice for everybody out there. It's like saying you can follow the speed limit but I don't want to.

SCIUTTO: Or you can text and drive, right, meanwhile, it endangers yourself and others. Thank you, Tom Foreman, good to go through the numbers.

KEILAR: Dr. Anthony Fauci emphasizing the science behind vaccine boosters to maintain protection against COVID-19. Here's what he said last hour if in an interview with Jim here on New Day.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It isn't as if two doses of a vaccine are failing, it's that the proper regimen will very likely, as we look back on it months from now, will be that three doses is really what you should be getting of an mRNA. That might be two doses for a J&J.

But for the mRNA, we know from studies that are already ongoing in Israel now that when the degree of protection against infection and even severe disease goes down to a certain precarious level, when you give the person that third boost, you dramatically increase their level of protection, even more so than before the boost. It goes up to and beyond the level of protection.

So I mean, I believe strongly that, ultimately, we are going to see that as the proper regimen, three doses of an mRNA.


KEILAR: All right. Let's talk about this now with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, what did you think about what you heard there from Dr. Fauci?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's -- and I'm glad he's phrasing it that way. It's an important message. And, obviously, he's Dr. Fauci, he's sort of, you know, relying on decades of judgment when it comes to something like this as well. I think one of the things here is that we were told all along, look, at some point, we might need boosters. Why would we need boosters, if we see the vaccines aren't working as well.

Let me show you. We can pull up the graphic to show you some of what Dr. Fauci was talking about, how well the vaccines do work. You can see it's hard to make out, but the top lines that are pretty flat, those are younger age groups, and you can see there's no drop off in terms of overall effectiveness. Where you do see the drop off is for people who are older, typically 75 years or older. So then we thought, well, boosters will probably be necessary for certain segments of the population, such as people who are older, based on that graphic.

But what we're now hearing from Dr. Fauci and from lots of others is that, look, boosters are always going to be part of the equation. For most vaccines, you get a booster. Some vaccines have three or even four shots long-term. I think the only thing that's been a little bit confusing for people is if that was likely the plan all along, that probably should have been conveyed. I think a lot of people do interpret this as some sort of indication that the vaccines are failing in some part. You can see from the graphics, for the vast majority of people, they're working just fine.

So this is being predictive, saying, hey, in the future, based on what we're seeing in Israel and other places, there's enough of a concern, let's just go ahead and be proactive here.

At the same time, hospitals are all filling up because of unvaccinated people. We're making half of the country really, really all protected and the other half of the country remains unprotected at all.

SCIUTTO: Well, notable to me too that he said that that third dose doesn't just help you tread water, it gives you greater protection, which I thought was notable. We also discussed, and I'm curious what you think about this, the idea that at the end of the day, COVID-19 is not going away entirely, that it will become what's known as endemic as opposed to a pandemic or an outbreak that we live with, as one of many diseases and infections. And I wonder if you believe that's where it's going and how soon, I suppose, is the next question.

GUPTA: Yes. Well, look, you know, I have had so many conversations with scientists all the time. I was doing it all weekend. And, invariable, the conversation goes to this, are we in this endemic phase. And many scientists believe we are probably there in a sense that this virus is here to stay. Dr. Redfield even said in the spring of last year, he said this is likely to become an endemic virus just because it is so contagious.

Let me show you something I think may make the point. Flu, we talk about flu all the time. Let's look at what flu does in any particular year. You can get an idea that in any given year, it could cause up to 45 million hospitalizations, and a few hundred thousand hospitalizations and, you know, up to 60,000 deaths, in any year. We're talking about flu. Some of the flu viruses that are from the 1918 flu pandemic, the great, great, great descendants of some of those strains still circulate today, clearly an endemic virus.


The tough part of all of this, I think, at some point, is going to be a conversation where we as a society, certainly, we as a country say, what are we willing to accept? What are we willing to accept? Are we willing to accept numbers like that, like flu? Are we willing to accept higher? Are we willing to accept lower once we actually sort of really sit back and think about it? We know it's within our power to bring those numbers dramatically down with vaccines and masks and stuff like that.

But at some point, as a country, we need to say, you know what, we're willing to accept tens of thousands of people dying every year because of this, like we do with flu. Less than half the country gets a flu shot every year, despite the fact that we have numbers like that. So, that's going to be, I think, the most difficult part of the conversation.

KEILAR: It's so hard to hear you say that because it's not -- you're saying, what are we willing to accept, what do we have to accept is such a smaller, smaller number. I wonder, you know, watching over the weekend, if you were watching college football, you know, maybe for a moment, it seemed like things were kind of normal. You saw these packed college stadiums. But then, very quickly, it was kind of disorienting, because, I mean, look at these pictures that we're seeing in the age of COVID.

Yes, look, these are outside, Sanjay, but I wonder what you think about these close quarters.

GUPTA: I mean, it worries me. I mean, it just does. And I love college football, as you know, Brianna, as much as anyone else, but it worries me. I mean, I think some of these, I have been talking to chief medical officers at some of these universities. Many of the universities have vaccine policies in place. But that doesn't cover everyone who's there because people come from all over for these games. So, it's concerning, it's also very hard to trace ultimately, to contact trace and say how many cases were a result of a game like that.

We're in the middle of a pandemic. We have a contagious virus circulating. It is so contagious that people who sort of got away with it over the last year are no longer getting away with it. They're getting infected and they're surprised by it. I think that will certainly happen at big crowded events like that.

Outside, much better than inside. How much better? Some would say 18- fold better. But you're in close quarters and you're sitting next to each other for a long period of time. So, if that person next to you does have COVID, is unmasked, even if you're vaccinated, there's a good chance you're getting exposed and potentially infected. If you have unvaccinated people at home or in your community, that's how it happens. This should not sound magical or surprising to anybody at this point.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, you can't even make out the people. It's just like arms and team colors. They're just a chunk of block there. Sanjay, thank you so much, great to see you this morning.

GUPTA: You too. Thank you.

KEILAR: In a few hours, President Biden is heading to the northeast. He's going to be witnessing the after math of the devastation of Hurricane Ida as the death toll still continues to rise.

Plus, new comments this morning from the secretary of state on efforts to get Americans out of Afghanistan.

SCIUTTO: And the sudden tragic death of Emmy-nominated actor Michael K. Williams. Two of his costars from The Wire, they're going to share their memories.



SCIUTTO: President Biden is heading to New York and New Jersey this morning to tour the devastation from Ida. The president has already approved disaster declarations ahead of his visit. At least 52 people in the northeast were killed by the storm, many drowning in their cars, in their homes.

Shimon Prokupecz, he is in hard-hit Queens, where most of the damage in New York took place. He's there this morning.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim. Most of the deaths taking place here in Queens, people drowning in their homes and basements of their homes. The mayor was here yesterday with other city officials here out in Queens visiting, touring some of the devastation. You can see some of the damage, some of the people still trying to dry out, clean up their homes in the neighborhood. They were not happy. Some of the residents not happy with the city's response, feeling that the city should have done more, that the government should have done more to protect them.

The president coming to this area here today. He will no doubt hear some of those complaints from some of the residents. One of the issues, of course, is infrastructure, and what is it that the government can do to try and help some of these neighborhoods, which are now going to be seeing unprecedented flooding. They're also talking about climate change, and what effect that has on what's happening across places like this, which usually don't see this kind of flooding. This is not a coastal area. These are inner city areas that should not see that kind of flooding. So, no doubt when the president visits today, he will hear that from residents. He's expected to be in Queens this afternoon.

He will also be in New Jersey in the early part of the afternoon, and then travel here to Queens where he will meet with residents and first responders. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes. What infrastructure is necessary to change lives in the next storm? We'll see.


Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.

KEILAR: Power crews are making progress in Louisiana, but hundreds of thousands of customers will spend another day still without electricity. The federal government helping people with damaged homes and businesses, but black business owners want to make sure that they get a fair shake in this recovery. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is in New Orleans this morning with this story.


ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Troy Henry hadn't seen these pictures in years, images of his family home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

TROY HENRY, NEW ORLEANS ENTREPRENEUR: See the mold on the floor?

BROADDUS: They're reminders of how his life changed.

HENRY: I could have given up. I wanted to give up after Katrina.

They're going to be a distant memory, mean word but I --

BROADDUS: The engineer turned entrepreneur owns eight gas stations and this radio station, the baseline of black cultural life in New Orleans. He owns other businesses, including an aviation company.

Henry understands the challenges of running a business.

HENRY: Get some diesel to put in the generator.

BROADDUS: And how to pick up after a setback.

Katrina destroyed his father's pharmacy. They rebuilt it in four locations. Henry hopes the government provides resources for black businesses struggling to keep their doors open following Ida and make sure they get contracts to rebuild.

HENRY: The experience that we got from Katrina was that the black business owners didn't get a chance to participate nearly equitably enough in the recovery. And so that's something that I'm very concerned about that African-American businesses not just be the subcontract of a subcontractor who gets squeezed at the bottom.

BROADDUS: President Biden spoke about the ongoing recovery efforts in the gulf coast as he prepared to travel to the region to survey the damage.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We are here for you. And we're making sure the response and recovery is equitable so that those hit hardest get the resources they need and are not left behind.


BROADDUS: Kelisha Garrett of the Louisiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation has worked with Henry on community projects. She fears Hurricane Ida could be a major setback for black service industry workers, an industry rebounding from COVID.

GARRETT: One of the hardest hit areas, and most often one that is neglected because our gig industry, which we call it, consists of those talented individuals that participate in festivals and they are the life blood of what individuals come to visit and vacation in New Orleans for.

BROADDUS: days after Hurricane Ida slammed New Orleans, this happened.

HENRY: The guys in here protecting the inventory must have fell asleep and the candle fell over, and boom.

BROADDUS: One of the stations he owns burned.

HENRY: This engulfed the back.

BROADDUS: Henry says he expanded his business to help the hurting community. Now, 240 people across the state have a job.

HENRY: This is a transformative project.

BROADDUS: Adding to his portfolio what he says will be the largest gas station in the city.

HENRY: We got a lot of growth plans. We got big. We're committed to New Orleans and the growth of the city.

BROADDUS: And leaving a legacy for future generations.

HENRY: Are you going to run my job?


HENRY: What am I going to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can retire.


BROADDUS (on camera): Indeed, what happens today will impact the future. It's not just black business owners. It's also other small minority business owners. Some we've heard from say it took them three years to rebuild following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And for the last 18 months, they have been struggling because of COVID, and now this.

And I want to underscore one more thing, even if they file claims with their insurance companies, it may be weeks or months before they can access those funds. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, no, it's such a good point. I think that's one of the big challenges that so many people are facing in the aftermath of these storms, what do they get from their insurance companies, and how does that impact them long-term.

Adrienne, great story, thank you so much.

A Republican congressman who tried unsuccessfully to get into Afghanistan says his team that he has been working with, among them some veterans, is responsible for helping evacuate an American family that came out of Afghanistan over land yesterday. We're going to speak live with Congressman Markwayne Mullin about his secret trip, not so secret anymore, and his message to the Biden administration.


BROADDUS: Plus, just dubious information about a horse de-worming medication as well as a debunked story. What is the real story here? We're going to have a CNN fact check ahead.


KEILAR: New this morning, Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that the U.S. is engaging with the Taliban to ensure the evacuation of Americans who want to get out of Afghanistan. Right now, Secretary Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are meeting with five Afghan interpreters before meeting with 50 military and civilians who helped with the evacuations from Kabul after the Afghan government collapsed. And this morning, we have learned that the State Department helped four U.S. citizens leave Afghanistan via an overland route marking the first Americans who have been able to leave the country by land.