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U.S. to Open Canada, Mexico Borders for Vaccinated Visitors; Soon: William Shatner, Crew Lift Off in Historic Space Trip; Low- Income Americans Showing Up with Advanced Cancers due to Delays; Project Finish Line Hopes to Help 1 Million Get Vaccinated. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired October 13, 2021 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, October 13. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.


And we have important breaking news. A huge moment in the pandemic in the United States. After 18 months, long months, for millions of Americans with families in Canada or Mexico, the U.S. will reopen its borders to fully-vaccinated visitors from those countries starting in early November. A ban has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic. And this will be a huge lift. Not just to families but also for tourism and businesses who have customers near the border.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: This announcement coming just weeks after the White House vowed to lift bans on overseas travelers. And as coronavirus numbers continue to trend in a positive direction, obviously down. Thirty-eight states declining or holding steady when it comes to hospitalizations.

Forty-four states are seeing cases flatline or decline.

Priscilla Alvarez joining us now with more on this easing of travel restrictions. This is a big announcement.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is significant, not only for families waiting to be reunited, but for local businesses who rely on cross-border travel and have struggled to stay afloat.

But officials say change is coming, and it's coming in a phased way. So starting in early November, fully vaccinated foreign visitors will be able to cross the border, both Mexico and Canada, for nonessential reasons. That is visiting a friend or family or for tourism.

Then in January of 2022, the vaccination requirement will apply to essential travelers like cross-border trade, which has been able to continue over the course of the pandemic.

Now, the current set of restrictions are set to expire on October 21. But officials say they will remain in effect until early November, which they have not yet disclosed the date of when that will be. But a decision coming soon. It's a welcome change. And it's one that lawmakers applauded Tuesday

evening. New York Representative Brian Higgins put it quite simply. He said, it is a sigh of relief for those border communities.

KEILAR: Yes. Early November, when is that? OK. We're still trying to figure that out right now.

But let's say you're in Canada, you're in Mexico, and you've been vaccinated but with a different vaccine than is considered, say, acceptable or available in the U.S. Then what?

ALVAREZ: This comes up a lot with AstraZeneca. And officials were asked that question. And they said they're waiting for a decision by the CDC.

But they pointed to an earlier decision by the agency that noted that WHO and FDA-authorized and approved vaccines will be accepted for air travel. So they anticipate a similar decision here, but it has not yet come down, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Some questions to be answered. Priscilla, thank you so much for that.

BERMAN: All right. Joining me now is Linette Lopez, a columnist at "Insider." So great to see you.

This is a big deal, again, as we said, for families. And I have friends who are, you know, Canadian, who've got family in Canada they haven't seen in nearly two years. That's one thing.

But for businesses along the border, Eric County, for instance, in New York, Kirsten Gillibrand was saying, this will be a huge life. They've lost tens of millions of dollars. How much of a difference will this make?

LINETTE LOPEZ, COLUMNIST, "INSIDER": It's going to be huge for businesses, but the economy is still wonky, you know. This -- this pandemic was expected to recede in the summer. And then in August, September, it came back with a vengeance. So we're seeing the economy still has a lot of mess, a lot of weirdness to it, especially when it comes to trade.

We're seeing weird supply shortages and odd bumps on the roads from roads, trails, airways from Asia to here in the United States. And so it will be a big deal. But it's still going to be a minute before this economy normalizes.

BERMAN: I mean it more, look, it means customers that can't exist, that couldn't exist over the last 18 months.

LOPEZ: Sure. And it's huge for tourism, which, you know, lagged massively during the pandemic.

BERMAN: You talked about how wonky this economy is.

LOPEZ: Yes. BERMAN: Well, one of the wonkiest things that's happened is in August,

more than four million people quit their jobs --


BERMAN: -- in the United States. Which we've never seen anything like that. This is people not being fire. This is people leaving by choice their jobs. What does it tell you?

LOPEZ: Well, one of the first things it tells me is that we have an issue with caregiving in this country. The splotchiness of the school system in September, I think, prompted a lot of women to stay out of the job market. And also to say, hey, you know, if schools aren't going to be dependable, we need to make sure that we're staying home with our kids and taking care of them. That's one thing it addresses.

The other thing is addresses is that Americans are weird. And that in this moment of uncertainty, instead of clinging to a job that people feel is certain, they're going and trying something new. That might be because there's pressure on wages, and people feel like they can get a better salary if they start a new job.

But it is a testament to the weirdness of the American spirit that we're just like, screw it. Let's just start something new.

BERMAN: I think it's hard for economists or scientists to measure what's going on here, because the pandemic has caused people to make different choices and reevaluate what is important to them. And one of the things you say was, we may not need an economist to understand this. We might need a psychologist.

LOPEZ: A behavioral economist maybe would be able to figure out the irrationality of this moment.

But there are so many weird things in the economy. Like I said, there are supply issues that are making jobs that once were available, that have frozen them. For example, in the automotive industry, where there's a chip shortage. And that has stalled some production in car manufacturing. So that's -- that's made that industry weird.

And there's all different pockets of the economy that are just not the same way they were. People's jobs have changed. And I think that's prompted Americans to rethink how they participate in the workforce.


BERMAN: I know you had a chance. You've had 18 months to figure out what is important to you.


BERMAN: And that's changed for a lot of people. It's family.

LOPEZ: People have made do. They've figured out how to make do with less. They've moved in with family members. Maybe they've moved across the country to get out of cities and to be with their families. It's just an odd time.

BERMAN: Maybe it's not important to you to have a job that isn't fulfilling.

LOPEZ: Maybe it's not.

BERMAN: And that's what we're seeing. And again, it's hard to measure over time. But we have to watch. And it will have an impact, I think, in the coming weeks and months.

Linette, great to see you. Thanks so much.

LOPEZ: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Brianna.

KEILAR: Beam me up, Bezos. You are looking at some live pictures of the launch site in Texas where here, in just a few hours, 90-year-old actor William Shatner, "Star Trek's" O.G. Captain Kirk, will liftoff in an historic trip to the edge of space.

Kristin Fisher is live at the launch site in Van Horn, Texas. You know, this William Shatner element to this launch just makes this, you know, so much more fun. And I know that's part of the whole point of why he's going, Kristin.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: It really is. He is Blue Origin's special guest.

And you know, I don't think Captain Kirk ever had to deal with weather delays when he was commanding the Starship Enterprise on "Star Trek." But the actor, William Shatner, had to deal with two wind delays here at Launch Site 1. This morning, though, all systems go for a 10 a.m. Eastern Time launch.

And the flight profile is going to look very similar to what we saw Jeff Bezos do back in July. This is going to be a quick suborbital trip, up and down, 10 minutes total, roughly about four minutes of weightlessness.

And then they will be landing -- the capsule will land in the desert right behind me just about 10 minutes after.

And so in addition to Shatner, he's going to be joined by Audrey Powers, Blue Origin's vice president of flight and mission operations. Those two, as I mentioned, special guests. They're not paying. But there are two other paying customers, two tech entrepreneurs.

And the four of them have been training together and living together in the nearby Astronaut Village. And Brianna, I had a chance to meet with them and Jeff Bezos last night, the night before launch. And you know, it really has this feel of this remote Texas ranch. It's very rugged. That's kind of the whole idea here.

And William Shatner has spent a lot of time talking about how excited he is but also how terrified he is. And that really is kind of refreshing to hear. You don't -- I don't think I've ever heard an astronaut talk about how scared they are before a launch.

And so this really is emblematic of this new era of space tourism that we are entering into.

In terms of safety, the New Shepard rocket has had 17 successful consecutive launches. But keep in mind, the FAA currently reviewing safety concerns that were brought up by about 20 current and former Blue Origin employees, complaining about a toxic workplace environment where professional dissent is actively stifled.

So Brianna, just a ton of attention on Blue Origin right now, both good and bad. But who can argue, who can be upset with sending the original Captain Kirk into space? I mean, that's something that "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" fans can get behind, right?

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, look, it's no Starship Enterprise, but Captain Kirk is going to take it. Kristin Fisher, thank you so much. There's so much going on today. We're going to be checking back in with you later in the show.

BERMAN: So how is Captain Kirk's first real trip to space playing with some of his most devoted fans? I'm talking about the Trekkies.

CNN's Jason Carroll went deep inside this complicated community and has emerged to talk about it.

Jason, I'm glad to see you're safe here. Tell us what you learned.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Deep inside, that sounds a little scary. It was actually a lot of fun, John. I've been getting a lot of emails from all these fans. They've been really on the edge of their seat, waiting for this to happen. And whether you call them Trekkies or Trekkers. We can agree to disagree on that point.

But one point that everyone can agree on: when Shatner goes up there, he's taking all of his fans with him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Space, the final frontier.

CARROLL (voice-over): William Shatner is now just hours away from his scheduled flight to go boldly where few have gone before.

NICHELLE NICHOLS, ACTRESS: Captain, the Enterprise is up there.

CARROLL: What some may find surprising, there is debate among his most devoted fans.

RICK, "STAR TREK" FAN: I think it's just an amazing opportunity for him. I mean, he's so well-known for being a space captain.

CARROLL: About whether their beloved Captain Kirk should be going on this mission at all.

WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: Maintain orbit. CHANTAL CHAPOTEAU, "STAR TREK" FAN: I'm just a little bit worried. I hope he doesn't get hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I can think of is a 90-year-old in space. Is that healthy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At first glance, it's like, what are you thinking?

CARROLL: Here at New York Comic-Con, it was all the talk among Trekkies waiting in line for autographs.

EDWIN THROWER, "STAR TREK" FAN: If there's one man can -- that can return from the mission, it's Captain Kirk.

LINDA MELCHOR, "STAR TREK" FAN: I'd be afraid to, but he's got more balls than most people in this world.

CARROLL (on camera): Well, that's one way of putting it.

(voice-over): Shatner, who is 90 years old, joked about his age when asked about taking the suborbital flight aboard Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.

SHATNER: I know. I, too, am ravaged by time. I'm falling apart inside. You should see my kidneys.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enterprise is clear for departure.

CARROLL: Despite playing the iconic captain of the Starship Enterprise, Shatner says he never thought he would take this kind of flight in his lifetime.

SHATNER: So sorry to bring you down to Earth, to use a phrase. It was all pretend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All Earth history has been changed.

CARROLL: But it's no longer make believe. Shatner is set to become the oldest person to go into space.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're from outer space?

SHATNER: No. I'm from Iowa. I only work in outer space.

CARROLL: His flight inspired these two to dress like astronauts in his honor.

SEAN SEXTON, "STAR TREK" FAN: I mean, it's exciting, right? Like I said, he's 90 years old, right? It's just -- it's an amazing accomplishment to have.

SHATNER: Once again, we've saved civilization as we know it.

CARROLL: Some of the fiction has become real. The first NASA space shuttle, named Enterprise, now in a New York museum, where some tourists want to see Captain Kirk actually go to space.

CRISTINA MIRANDA, "STAR TREK" FAN: It's almost like a dream come true for some of the fans.

CARROLL: But will the billionaire space race and Shatner's mission --

SHATNER: Should have been a seat belt.

CARROLL: -- inspire regular folks to get a seat on board?

ALLEN NASH, "STAR TREK" FAN: It could definitely inspire a lot more people who have the means to be able to do that.

CARROLL (on camera): Would you do it if asked?

NASH: That's a really tough question.

SHATNER: Where are the tribbles?

CARROLL (voice-over): Despite all the questions, there is admiration and love here for Shatner.

MARIA PRICE, "STAR TREK" FAN: Boldly go. Enjoy yourself. And God bless.

CARROLL: And more than a few well wishes.

RICK: Bill, live long and prosper.


CARROLL: Including one from a fellow "Star Trek" captain.

KATE MULGREW, ACTRESS: You are boldly going where no man, with the possible exception of Jeff Bezos, has gone before. Travel well. Come back. You owe me dinner.

SHATNER: Scotty, we'll need everything you have. Warp speed.

CARROLL: Will do, Captain.


CARROLL: All right, John. And also, talked to some fans about -- we took sort of an informal poll about who they would want to go next up there. It was sort of a tossup between George Takei, the original Sulu, and Patrick Stewart, who played, of course, Jean-Luc Picard on the Enterprise from "The Next Generation."

John, back to you.

BERMAN: Send them both. Jason --

CARROLL: Send them all.

BERMAN: -- thank you so much. Great work. Appreciate it. You know, we should note, there has been a lot of focus on fans of "Star Trek" and not nearly enough on William Shatner's greatest artistic achievement. I'm talking about "T.J. Hooker." We're going to fix that and speak to one of the stars of that show later in the broadcast.

Also, we have new questions this morning about the timeline of Gabby Petito's death. Medical examiners say she was strangled. What we know about where Brian Laundrie was at the time.

KEILAR: And the push to vaccinate. We will go to the Texas border, where one group is persuading skeptics to get the lifesaving shot.

Plus, new details just in to CNN about more cases of the mysterious Havana Syndrome, this time in Colombia, ahead of a visit by the secretary of state.



KEILAR: Doctors sounding the alarm about an uptick in advanced cancers. And some think this could be a consequence of cancer screenings being delayed or canceled in the early days of the pandemic.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard joins us now.

Jacqueline, how concerned are doctors about what they're seeing here?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, doctors I've talked to are very worried about what they're seeing. And some say that this is impacting low-income communities and people of color the most.

Now, of course, more time is needed to collect the data to really confirm that what physicians are observing is actually happening on a national scale.

But I spoke with Dr. Randy Hicks. He's the CEO and co-owner of Regional Medical Imaging in Michigan. And he's been keeping a close eye on the mammograms that they do there to screen for breast cancer.

He says this. Quote, "No doubt about it, we have unfortunately seen some advanced cases this year in the communities that we serve, likely due to women postponing" -- excuse me -- "postponing screening."

And Brianna, just to give a sense of how much of a decline there was in screening last year, one study found that, when you look at the data from April 2020, compared with what's normally seen on average, breast cancer screening was down 87 percent. Cervical cancer screening, down 84 percent. And those declines continue.

They did get a little better. But in June 2020, breast cancer screening down 39 percent, cervical cancer screening down 40 percent. So Brianna, the bottom line here is that doctors say if you're one of

those people who had to cancel an appointment last year or cancel your routine screening, now is the time to get that appointment back on schedule. If there's anything going on with your health, you don't want any more time to go by.

KEILAR: No, you don't. Look, I -- I had concerns when I had my scheduled mammogram. I went in. They are so careful at the hospital, at the doctors' offices about it.


KEILAR: People should not be discouraged. These are essential tests. Jacqueline, thank you so much.

HOWARD: Absolutely.

BERMAN: A new initiative in Texas, working to reach those who are on the fence about getting vaccinated, or just simply don't have access. It's a nonprofit group that says it is focused on helping one million people in some of the hardest to reach communities.

CNN's Miguel Marquez, who has been so many places in this country fighting COVID, joins me now with some positive news.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it is nice to say that there is hope out there for people who are unvaccinated.

Look, this group is not just doing it in Texas. They are looking at several different states right now, trying to get to the people who are most vulnerable and get shots into arms.



MARQUEZ (voice-over): Zeferino Cantu considered getting vaccinated for months. Finally, he's taking the plunge, now more worried about the virus than vaccine side effects.

"The coronavirus is more dangerous," he says, "because it can affect everything, even your mental capacity."

The 63-year-old retired laborer is diabetic, has high blood pressure, and no health insurance. Getting the shot in his arm, not easy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He would always tell me, "I'll be back. I'll come back. I'm not ready."

MARQUEZ (on camera): And this was over how long?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess that I talked to him about three, four months ago.

MARQUEZ (voice-over) A familiar problem here at McAllen's El Milagro clinic, vaccinating those needing it most. HHS estimates about half the unvaccinated are willing to get it, like

55-year-old horse race trainer Juan Manuel Salinas.

"I wanted to see the reaction of other people before I got it," he says. "If they were OK, then I'd do it, too."

He was tough to convince, and his daughter works at the clinic.

BREE SALINAS, FINANCIAL MANAGER, MILAGRO CLINIC: He had all the resources. And I was like, Do you need me to go pick you up? We do it for free for you at the clinic.

He was like, "Yes, I'll go. I'll go." So --

MARQUEZ (on camera): And he never did.

SALINAS: He never did.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Her long effort finally paying off, and hope for more success ahead. El Milagro Clinic is now getting help from Project Finish Line.

JOE AGOADA, FOUNDER, PROJECT FINISH LINE, & CEO, SOSTENTO INC.: What we hope to achieve is to get vaccine access to those that may be on the fence. I call them the unvaccinated but willing.

MARQUEZ: Project Finish Line now working with free and charitable clinics like Milagro in 16 states, providing money for pop-up vaccinations in rural places, like Muniz, Texas. Phone lines for community outreach, even helping organize free rides, provided by Uber.

AGOADA: We hear individuals who take the bus to and from work every day, and they cannot take a day off from work. And so they really need help with, actually, that transportation barrier.

MARQUEZ: He says transportation, translation, and a trusted source of vaccine information are the biggest barriers.

Above all, persistence and lots of patience for those on the front line.

MARISOL RESENDEZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EL MILAGRO CLINIC: It gets to the point that staff thinks that they're sounding like a broken record. They will come along. There's a lot of people that are willing. They just don't have the tools, the information, the resources.


MARQUEZ: So what may seem like incredibly low barriers to you or me to getting vaccinated, for many of the vulnerable out there, they are incredibly tough to navigate. And this group is now working in 16 states. They want to expand more.

They say they've helped to get about 115,000 shots into arms so far. They'd like to get to a million and beyond. We'll need all the help we can get -- John.

BERMAN: Information and patience. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much for that.

KEILAR Politicizing the pandemic can be deadly. On Sunday, Nicole Sperry lost her 10-year-old daughter to COVID. And less than 24 hours later, she was standing at a podium to fight back against misinformation at a Virginia school board meeting.

Just last month, parents denied the existence of the virus, and they called for the removal of the district's mask mandate.


NICOLE SPERRY, LOST 10-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER TO COVID-19: COVID is not over, no matter what people who have been standing up here have said.

I was sitting next to my healthy daughter's death bed. She died five days after showing symptoms.


KEILAR: I mean, the courage and the strength it took for her to go one day after the funeral to give that message to other students and parents in that school district. I just hope that they listen.

BERMAN: Yes. I just think of the pain. I think there are a lot of people, and that mother, God bless her soul, I think feels like she might be shouting into the wind, into this chasm, where she knows what it can do. And it's hard to get people to listen.

KEILAR: You've got to think someone will hear that and take it to heart.

Ahead, the Brooklyn Nets benching one of their star players because of his refusal to get vaccinated. What Kyrie Irving is saying now about his controversial decision.

BERMAN: And the cause of death now determined in the case of Gabby Petito. Why the coroner's timeline is raising new questions about her final days.



KEILAR: There's some new developments in the killing of 22-year-old Gabby Petito. We now know the cause of her death. Here is Teton County coroner Dr. Brent Blue on the Gabby's autopsy findings.


DR. BRENT BLUE, CORONER, TETON COUNTY, WYOMING: We find the cause and manner to be, cause, death by strangulation, and manner is homicide.

This autopsy included a whole-body CAT scan, an examination by forensic pathologists, an examination by a forensic anthropologist, and a toxicology evaluation. Time of death, we are estimating three to four weeks from the time that the body was found.


KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss this, former chief medical examiner of Palm Beach County, Florida, and forensic pathologist Dr. John Marraccini, and criminal defense attorney Sara Azari with us.

Dr. Marraccini, first to you. These autopsy results revealing that the cause of death here was manual strangulation. How does a coroner determine that?

DR. JOHN MARRACCINI, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Well, manual literally means from the hands. So usually, a medical examiner or coroner would have evidence based on what's on the skin. In other words, fingernail marks and so forth.

KEILAR: OK. So that's sort of the indication there. And Sarah, I wonder if for you, learning that, manual strangulation seems to be conclusive there. What does that tell you about the circumstances of Gabby Petito's death?