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Idaho Hospital Director Forced to Ration Care; Interview with Terry McAuliffe (D) about Virginia Gubernatorial Race; Interview with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about Mistreatment of Migrants on Southern Border. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 21, 2021 - 07:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We've hit a grim milestone this morning in the United States as ongoing battle against coronavirus. As of today the number of deaths in the U.S. has now surpassed those during the 1918 flu pandemic. We're at more than 675,000 Americans dead.

Idaho is just one state that has seen the reality of the situation firsthand. Daily deaths there are skyrocketing and hospitals are already at their breaking point. State officials activated what's known as crisis standards of care, which means that critical health care in some cases must be rationed based on who is most likely to survive.

Joining me now is Dr. Steven Nemerson, he is chief clinical officer at Saint Alphonsus Health System which is one of the largest health systems there in Idaho and also eastern Oregon.

Doctor, thank you so much for being with us. And I was just wondering if you could give us -- you know, we hear about this concept, this rationing of care, but can you give us a sense of what kind of specific decisions people are prepared to or are actually making there on the ground at your facilities?

DR. STEVEN NEMERSON, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, SAINT ALPHONSUS HEALTH SYSTEM: I can. Good morning, Brianna, and thanks for spending some of your birthday getting accurate information to the public with me.


Currently, across the state, we've activated crisis standards of care. This means that the ability to deliver community standards of care using conventional means has been exhausted. And what that means for my health system and others is that we're expanding our health care teams in ways that we've never done before to make sure that we can serve the most patients possible. And ultimately, as this continues to progress, to save the most lives that are possible.

Currently our strategy is to try and mobilize our caregivers to extend the care teams that we use every day to take care of patients to serve more and more. And we have to make difficult decisions right now to delay or discontinue care that is previously scheduled, putting that aside until we can get back to it. And in the meantime, serving these COVID patients and the ones that

need emergent and urgent care right now. We've not needed to ration care yet. At least as of this morning, throughout the entire state, there has not needed to be a discontinuation of care in order to save another life. But I am concerned that at the current progression we may get to that point.

KEILAR: What does that point look like, where, you know, we're talking sometimes about COVID patients? We're talking about other patients with different kinds of emergent needs. You know, they have emergency needs. Maybe it's not COVID related. What kind of situation -- even just hypothetically -- can you see providers getting to where they're having to make decisions that could determine, perhaps, if someone gets life-saving care or not?

NEMERSON: Well, Brianna, first of all, I don't like to imagine those scenarios, but I will tell you that we're fully prepared for them. Currently, we're taking care of patients in clinical settings that weren't previously open for either the kind of patient that we're putting in these spaces or sometimes they were mothball spaces that we didn't use.

It could be in the near future that we're starting to take care of patients in non-clinical spaces, and some of the health care systems in this state, not my own, are actually taking care of patients in classrooms at the present time. That would continue to be expanded. And we'll do everything we possibly can to avoid the ultimate decision of what you called rationing care. But, basically, apportioning care so that we now are formally delaying the treatments that we're providing.

Ultimately, it could come to the point, but we will do everything we possibly can to avoid this, where we deny care to a patient. I'm guardedly optimistic that we'll be able to avoid that. And the reason that I'm guardedly optimistic is that our contingencies are looking at the predicted surge, and we're hoping that we'll be able to accommodate that by stretching our teams further and further.

But I will lastly tell you that our team members, and this goes to health care providers across the entire state, our team members are tired. They're frustrated. And they're disappointed at what's going on here, but they're committed to making sure that we get through this together.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, you can make -- mothball, un-mothball all the space you want. You only have so many people who can do these jobs, and they are just tapped out. We're hearing that from so many different states including yours.

Doctor, I appreciate you being with us.

NEMERSON: Thank you.

KEILAR: Just in, a new determination revealing who was behind the assassination of the former Russian spy turned Kremlin critic, Alexander Litvinenko. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And a neck-and-neck race for governor of

Virginia that could be a key gauge for Congress heading into the midterm elections.



BERMAN: The race to see who will be the next governor of Virginia going down to the wire. Early voting for November's election is already under way with Republican Glenn Youngkin and Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a virtual dead heat.

Joining us now is Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, and current Democratic candidate.

Governor, thank you so much for being with us. Joe Biden won Virginia by 10 points a year ago. You're right now virtually neck and neck, leading by three according to the latest "Washington Post" poll. Why so close?

TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Always close here, John, because we're off-off. No federal candidates on the ballot. I'll remember you, for 44 straight years, the party that wins the White House, other party wins the governor's mansion. I'm the only one to break it. I won in '13. President Obama won in '12. But, you know, we're going to win this race. I always run like I'm 20 points down. But there's real differences.

You know, my opponent doesn't believe that people should be required to have vaccinations. Cancer nurses should not be required. Students shouldn't have masks on in schools. He wants to ban abortions. He said the number one issue today in Virginia, election integrity. He's been endorsed by Trump three times. And so much of the reason I'm running is because of Donald Trump. And so much of the reason I'm running, jobs and building a world class education.

BERMAN: All right, I want to talk about all of that. Just a point of fact here, Ralph Northam won by a lot last time. It's not always close in Virginia. It's getting less close as time goes by. You talk about vaccine mandates. I am interested because you've also supported vaccine requirements for students 12 and older.

I'm curious, if it receives Emergency Use Authorization by Halloween, which it looks like it might, for 5 to 11-year-olds, would you support vaccine requirements for students of that age?

MCAULIFFE: John, I've always been out front on this. I'll require -- I would like to see everyone vaccinated who is eligible. The FDA says it is approved. It is safe. You're unlikely to die or go into a hospital.


And John, unless we show leadership on this issue, when we get out front of this, this COVID is going to be with us for another couple of years. If we can get everybody vaccinated, that's how I keep my schools open. That's how I continue to build a strong economy. But Glenn Youngkin tells college students that if you don't want to take it, just fill out an exemption for whatever reason. That's not leadership. That's disqualifying.

He has said that when he is governor, masks come off. Well, you know what, I don't want our children K-12 taking masks off. He says Florida is the model. Today in Florida, 175,000 children under quarantine, 30 schools closed, a dozen teachers have died.

BERMAN: If you --

MCAULIFFE: The death --


BERMAN: If you got a vaccine requirement for students 12 and older, and 100 percent of students were vaccinated, would then you support masks coming off in schools?

MCAULIFFE: Here's what I'm going to do, John. I'm going to follow the science. I'm going to follow what the CDC and the science tell me. And if the science tells us that we can take the masks off, I mean, this is what being a governor is about. It's about getting the best information that you possibly can, making the best decision to keep your citizens safe. So if the CDC recommends it, that's what I'm going to do.

BERMAN: And --

MCAULIFFE: But telling children to take their masks off is irresponsible. Telling students not to get vaccinated for whatever reason, fill out an exemption, that's disqualifying. You should not be governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. You can't keep our schools open and our economy strong.

BERMAN: And just so I do understand it, if it does received Emergency Use Authorization, would you support requirements for students as young as 5?



MCAULIFFE: And what I've said, anyone, let's get them vaccinated. What we worry -- all of us worry about, John, is we get these new variants. We have the Mu. What if a variant comes along stronger and more infectious, it's vaccine resistant? If we do not end this, and right now let's be clear, John, if you go to K-12 in Virginia today, you have to take at least 10 different vaccinations. This would be part of what we do to keep our students safe.

BERMAN: Let me ask you --

MCAULIFFE: That's what leadership is.

BERMAN: You brought up the former president of the United States, Donald Trump. He's not in office.


BERMAN: He's not on the ballot in Virginia in a month and a half. What does he matter?

MCAULIFFE: Well, he matters because Glenn Youngkin has brought him into this race. He literally -- his quote, John, so much of the reason I'm running is because of Donald Trump. And he's been endorsed by Trump three times. Now I ran the Biden operation here in Virginia. We did win by 10 points. People do not like Donald Trump. He was a failed president. You look at what he did on the vaccinations.

Hundreds of thousands of people's lives could have been saved. Irresponsible. And we don't want Trump-like, someone who wants to ban abortions. Now you have the Texas case. We do not want that here in Virginia. Someone who says election integrity is the number one issue? You just saw, I mean, these insurrectionists on our Capitol.


MCAULIFFE: We just -- we've got to move past that. That's why so many Republicans, John, have endorsed me. I operate in a bipartisan way. Job creation, building the best education system.

BERMAN: Yes -- just so people understand, Glenn Youngkin, who is your Republican opponent, says he opposes the Texas law, although he would absolutely support other abortion restrictions in Virginia. He has said that. And you say that Donald Trump is unpopular in Virginia. Well, as of this morning, Joe Biden is, too. Joe Biden is under water in Virginia right now, according to the same poll that I just showed you. Why?

MCAULIFFE: First of all, let's not get off this abortion piece so quickly, John. If you watch the clip from the debate, he would not answer the question. Susan Page finally said, well, I guess you're not going to answer it. Let's have no illusions here in Virginia. He got caught on tape saying, I'm going on the offense to ban abortion and defund Planned Parenthood. So let's not have any illusions of what he will do as governor. He will make us like Texas. And I'm telling you businesses will leave our state.

Joe Biden, he was in, he's campaigned. I want to thank him, first of all. Virginia just got $14.3 billion from the American Rescue Plan. And I think he's shown great leadership on the vaccinations. He's trying to keep us safe. And I support him on that. And I really want to thank him for, as I say, $3 billion in education we just got here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. $70 billion for vaccinations. Thank you for that.

BERMAN: Terry McAuliffe, we appreciate you being with us. Look forward to speaking with you again.

MCAULIFFE: Thank, John. Thank you.

BERMAN: Up next, border agents turn aggressive on migrants at the southern border.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you use your women. This is why your country (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Because you use women for this.


BERMAN: An investigation now under way into this disturbing encounter. We're going to ask Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas about it next.

KEILAR: And a doctor in Texas openly challenging the state's new restrictions on abortion. Will it lead to change or cost him big?



KEILAR: The Department of Homeland Security says it's investigating disturbing new video, and images taken at the U.S.-Mexico border that appear to show law enforcement officers on horseback using aggressive tactics to confront migrants.

In video taken by Reuters and Al Jazeera, officers are at the water's edge, they're twirling their reins, their long reins there as migrants are trying to cross. And at one point, an officer's horse nearly charges into a migrant. At another point in time, a child, you can see her there in the blue dress, ducks out of the way of the horse.

That video surfaced the same day that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited Del Rio, Texas, where some 10,000 migrants are under the bridge waiting to be processed by U.S. immigration authorities, and he's with us now to discuss this.

Secretary, thank you so much for being with us this morning. I know that you've seen this video, you're investigating. But is there any reason why border agents would be charging at migrants in such a way that you are seeing children ducking out of the way?


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Good morning, thank you very much for having me. Any mistreatment or abuse of a migrant is unacceptable, is against Border Patrol policy, training and our department's values. Indeed we have directed an investigation, that investigation is under way and it will be conducted swiftly, and the public needs and deserves to know its results.

I also have directed that the Office of Professional Responsibility be on site in Del Rio full time. We will not tolerate any mistreatment of an individual.

KEILAR: So abuse and mistreatment not tolerated. Is that abuse or mistreatment where you see children ducking out of the way, horses charging migrants, reins being used? MAYORKAS: We are very troubled by what we have seen. We are going to

let the investigation unfold very, very quickly, determine the facts and then we will take the action that is appropriate based on those facts. The facts will drive the conduct that we employ to hold anyone accountable for a violation of our policies.

KEILAR: OK. So I hear you saying that a horse charging near a child is not necessarily mistreatment. You're not ready to say that in this investigation proceeds.

MAYORKAS: Oh, that is not at all what I have said. One cannot weaponize a horse to aggressively attack a child. That is unacceptable. That is not what our policies and our training require. Please understand, let me be quite clear, that is not acceptable. We will not tolerate mistreatment. And we will address it with full force based on the facts that we learn.

KEILAR: OK. What did you think when you saw this, when you saw this behavior on the part of the agents? When you saw them yelling at migrants, which, by the way, I would like to play part of what we saw, what we're witnessing on the border.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you use your women? This is why your country (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Because you use women for this. You, no, no, that way.


KEILAR: Secretary, what was your initial reaction when you saw these things?

MAYORKAS: I was horrified by what I saw. I am going to let the investigation run its course. But the pictures that I observed troubled me profoundly. That defies all of the values that we seek to instill in our people, and I will tell you, I saw the values that we do instill in our people in exhibition when I visited under the bridge and saw them work with the American Red Cross, the Department of Health and Human Services, World Central Kitchen, in addressing the needs of a vulnerable population of migrants under the bridge in Del Rio.

That reflects who we are, and any mistreatment or abuse of an individual defies the -- our values and who we are and what we stand for.

KEILAR: Under that bridge in Del Rio, where you were, you have what is, I mean, it's a refugee camp that is under and around the bridge. How quickly can you clear that knowing that there are more migrants coming?

MAYORKAS: So we have moved approximately 4,000, perhaps more 4,000 migrants from under that bridge already. We are moving more migrants very quickly to other processing centers so that we can ensure their security and safety and the security and safety of the community. We are repatriating individuals. We expect to see dramatic change in the next 48 to 96 hours.

KEILAR: OK. And so deportation flights to Haiti have resumed. How many flights a day do you think, how many migrants will be deported under Title 42?

MAYORKAS: So we expect four flights to depart today. We are working very closely with Haiti and other countries to which the migrants are being repatriated. We have an obligation to execute on the Title 42 authority, which is a public health authority in a time of pandemic that is held by the Centers for Disease Control.

KEILAR: As you are looking at these scenes, and you're there, is this a crisis?

MAYORKAS: Let me -- let me share with you quite clearly, it is heartbreaking to see because what we are seeing is vulnerable individuals, having been deceived by smuggling organizations and misinformation, take the perilous journey --