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New Day Saturday

Southern States Driving Surge Of New Cases, Hospitalizations; Taliban Take Over Former U.S. Bases As They Advance; Kentucky Superintendent Allegedly Threatened Over Mask Mandate; Five States Have Fewer Than 10 Percent Of ICU Beds Available; Florida Reports Record High New COVID Cases This Week; Census Data Reveals An Older, More Diverse U.S. Population. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired August 14, 2021 - 07:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: CNN exclusive we're taking a look inside a former U.S. base that is now controlled by the Taliban.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, here in the United States as the Delta variant pushes hospitals to the brink, officials approving a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine. For people with immune system issues, we'll break down what you need to know.

PAUL: Also, hackers are targeting schools, they're shutting down phones and Wi-Fi connections as millions of students obviously rely on virtual learning, why officials are so concerned that this is going to get worse.

SANCHEZ: And a changing America. What the results of the latest census tell us about the makeup of the country and why that data is going to have major impacts in cities across the United States?

We are thrilled to have you with us this Saturday, 14th, August 14, I should say. Still a little bit early Christi. The coffee hasn't completely kicked in.

PAUL: I give you credit. I don't even drink coffee. So, I'm just you know, you never know what you're going to get from me. Boris, so good to see you. So, we begin this hour with some pretty disturbing numbers, the surge in the U.S. COVID-19 infections are overwhelming hospitals and communities. And the U.S. is now leading the world with the highest rate of new cases so far reporting more than 1.5 million new infections just in August thus far. The cases are primarily in the south. In fact, here's Dr. Peter Hotez.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, GLOBAL HEALTH VACCINOLOGY ADVOCATE: This is starting to look really ominous, in the south where I am. I mean, we're now if you look at their rates of transmission in Florida and Louisiana, they're actually probably the highest in the world. That's how badly things have gotten out of hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Now, the scenes that many hospitals are reminiscent of the

early days of the pandemic and several states like Alabama and Mississippi are quickly running out of hospital beds. One hospital in Mississippi, even putting beds and parking spaces setting up this sort of tent in a parking lot.

PAUL: There's also a new fall out in Afghanistan to tell you about the Taliban is closing in on the country's capital of Kabul and that the Pentagon is sending more than 3,000 troops there to help evacuate Americans who are caught in that unrest.

SANCHEZ: Yes, in a speech this morning, Afghanistan's president saying he's focused on avoiding "further instability, aggression and displacement" of the Taliban are eager to show off the spoils of war. They are making full use of American military equipment they seized from Afghan forces or that withdrawing American troops simply left behind.

PAUL: They granted our Clarissa Ward exclusive access to a former U.S. base that they now hold and it's raising some really disturbing questions about what America achieved in 20 years of conflict there.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what remains of the U.S. presence in much of Afghanistan. The hollowed-out skeletons of sprawling military bases now under the control of the Taliban. Once there were hundreds of U.S. and NATO troops at Faab and are in Ghazni Province. The last Americans left a couple of years ago, but their memories still lurk ghostlike.

It's just so strange to see this, you know.

The Taliban granted access to CNN along with award winning Afghan filmmaker, Najibullah Qureshi, keen to show off the spoils of war. So, we're just arriving at another us base. And already I can see a large number of military vehicles over there.

According to the Taliban, Afghan forces here surrendered three weeks ago when their food ran out, leaving weapons and ammunition and more. When the Americans were here, were you and your men attacking this base a lot?

MUHAMMED ANF MUSTAFA, TALIBAN COMMANDER (through translator): Yes, many times we attack this base when America was here. We did operations. We were using IEDs. The Americans had their helicopters, weapons and tanks on the ground. We, Mujahideen, resisted very well.

WARD: Now, they roam through what's left of the tactical operation center. Anything of value will be stripped down and sold. Walking through what's left of these American bases. You have to ask yourself, what was it all for? America's great experiment with nation building now vanished into dust or the

MUSTAFA: It's our belief that one day Mujahideen will have victory and Islamic law will come not to just Afghanistan. But all over the world. We are not in a hurry. We believe it will come in one day Oh Jihad will not end until the last day.


WARD: It's a chilling admission from a group that claims it wants peace despite continuing a bloody offensive. Since the U.S. began its withdrawal in May, the militants have advanced across the country at an alarming rate on the back of American pickup trucks. On the Ghaznia Highway, we pass base after base, all flying the militants flag at the end are bizarre. It's a similar site. The days of underground insurgency are over. And the Taliban is poised to reestablish the very Emirate America once came to destroy.

The Taliban Governor Molavi. Camille insists the group has changed since then.

MAWLAVEY KAMIL, TALIBAN GOVERNOR: The difference between that Taliban and this Taliban is that the Taliban of 2001 were new. Now, this Taliban is experienced disciplined, our activities are going well, we are obeying our leaders.

WARD: A lot of people are concerned that if the Taliban takes power, again, women's rights will move backwards. How can you guarantee that women's rights will be protected?

KAMIL: We assure this to people all over the world, especially the people of Afghanistan. Islam has given rights to everyone equally. Women have their own rights, how much Islam has given rights to women? We will give them that much.

WARD: That is clearly open for interpretation. Next to the mosque, we find a classroom of young girls, but their teacher says they will only receive religious education and will not attend regular school.

At night, I am separated from my male colleagues and sleep in the woman's part of the house with the children.

I've been talking to some of the women in this room. And I promised that I wouldn't show any of their faces. But it's interesting because you know, the Taliban talks a lot about how it's changed. And girls can go to school now. But I asked if any of these girls would be going to school and I was told, absolutely not. Girls don't go to school.

And when I said why don't girls go to school they said Taliban says it's bad. Here what the Taliban says goes. This is now what Afghanistan's future looks like, far from what the U.S. once envisioned, and what so many Afghans dreamed of as the Taliban pushes on towards an all but certain victory. Clarissa Ward, CNN, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.


PAUL: Goodness, thank you to Clarissa Ward for that. The Biden administration says it couldn't predict the lack of resistance by Afghan forces against the Taliban onslaught. No Pentagon spokesman says Afghanistan has not shown the will to fight. SANCHEZ: Yes, President Biden meantime has deployed 3000 U.S. troops to evacuate Americans from the embassy there. But what does the impending collapse of Afghanistan mean for the Biden presidency? CNN White House reporter Jasmine Wright joins us now live. And Jasmine, what are you hearing from the administration?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris and Christi, President's mind hasn't changed. That is what officials have told my colleagues and over the last few days despite the rapidly deteriorating situation. And now we haven't heard directly from the President on Afghanistan since Tuesday. But the White House has gone through great efforts to inform reporters time and time again that the President is staying abreast of what is happening, the changes of that evacuation or excuse me of that withdrawal of U.S. embassy, staff.

He got briefed yesterday on Friday, and he will be he's expected to be briefed on Friday night. And officials told me that he will be briefed all throughout the weekend while he stays at their presidential retreat at Camp David. But there's no doubt that things have moved a little bit quicker than what some in the intelligence field initially assess. The sources have told my colleagues and, and even take a listen to President Biden on July 8th last month, when he was asked if a telephone takeover was inevitable.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the Taliban takeover of a totally bomb takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, it is not. Because you have the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped, as well as good as any army in the world and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban.

WRIGHT: So, at this point, there look like there would be no changes in the U.S. strategy despite the gains that the Taliban have made. In any case, officials have told my colleagues and I that the President seems for his decision, if anything, the rapid gains have bolstered the President's thinking in ending that U.S. military operation in Afghanistan.

Effectively ending that two decade war and really the current response with those 3000 troops going into a the withdrawal of US embassy staff is all a part of contingency planning. Now, the public polls are with the President on withdraw Americans overly favor, pulling out withdrawing from Afghanistan.

But there is a question Christie about what the impact of President President Biden's legacy will be. If things go worse if the Taliban approaches Kabul and but official said yesterday from the Pentagon that Kabul falling was not an imminent threat, Christi and Boris.


PAUL: All right, Jasmine, right. Thank you so much for the update. We appreciate it. Afghanistan's president meanwhile, says he's working to prevent further destruction of the country. But the Taliban control half of Afghanistan's provincial capitals now, and they are continuing their onslaught this morning.

Lieutenant General Mark Hertling is a CNN Military Analyst and former Commanding General for Europe and the Seventh Army. General, thank you so much for being with us. We so appreciate it. I wanted to get your take on the expediency of the Taliban because this is striking. Did, did you expect it? Did it surprise you?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I Christie, I expected it to be fast. I don't think anybody expected it to go as fast as it went with the increasing momentum of the Taliban forces. This has just been a gobsmacking in terms of the speed and the lightning approach to the takeover of the various provinces in the capital cities of those provinces. What we've seen is an increased momentum by the Taliban.

But also I think you've almost seen a transition from an insurgency where they were floating as, as the old saying goes among the fish in the sea, to almost a conventional fight, where they have established the capability that very few people expected them to establish without any counter from the Afghan government of the Afghan military, that's been the biggest surprise.

PAUL: And that was spoken to, that point was spoken to in Clarice's piece, where the Taliban that she spoke with said this is not the same group that you saw in 2001. They have become more experienced, we're not going to go back to the old Taliban ways, because they're more experienced now. And then we have the president using that number of 300,000 Afghan forces versus 75,000. Taliban forces. Do you think those numbers are still accurate?

HERTLING: I don't think the numbers are accurate for the Afghan National Army right now. That's how many were trained, the 300,000. But truthfully, we have read reports, there has been intelligence on some of those forces fading away, becoming ghost soldiers giving up their arms. Experienced, I experienced a little bit of this in Iraq when ISIS actually took over some of the training bases in the division headquarters of the Iraqi forces that I had partnered with.

And you saw because of a lack of support from the government and make no mistake about it, there has been a lack of millet support to the Afghan military from the Afghan government. Those forces say what why are we fighting? Why are we risking our lives? And that becomes the critical issue. Whenever you have an insurgency that transfers into a takeover of power, which the, which the Taliban has done.

PAUL: We know that we were reporting the 3000 troops that are going into Kabul to help evacuation, evacuating Americans there. You have a unique experience in this because as I understand it, in 2011, you prepared a non-combatant evacuation operation yourself. Based on what we're seeing there in Afghanistan this morning, what do you think is the threat level to this evacuation?

HERTLING: Were, yes, the, the Noncombatant Evacuation Operation or the NEO that I planned and partly executed, luckily, toward the end, we didn't have to execute it fully, because things tamp down a little bit. But whenever you conduct a NEO operation, you have to ensure forces are there as a prudent measure to try and stop any kind of violence. And I think that's what the 3,000 forces went into Kabul International Airport to do, Karzai International Airport.

They are there to ensure security for the continued evacuation of Americans under safe conditions. Now, if things turn hot, if things are heated, those three infantry battalions of about 900 soldiers of peace will ensure that the safety and security of Americans and Afghan citizens are at the paramount. There are other things that are happening behind the scenes and our good friend, John Kirby didn't want to go down this route and claim that this was a kneel operation, but certainly you don't call a NEO until you call the Neil.

In other words, what I'm saying is you never advertise that you're going to conduct that because that will cause all sorts of terror within, within the government. So you prepare for that behind the scenes. And I think that's what some of the US forces are doing both in Kabul and in Doha, as well as in Kuwait with a ready, ready brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division.


PAUL: All right. General Mark Hertling, your expertise and your thoughts are so valuable to us. Thank you for being here and walking us through it.

HERTLING: Thank you, Christi.

PAUL: Absolutely. So, this week, three teachers in the same Florida school district died from COVID, and this happened within 24 hours. All of them were unvaccinated. So, we're taking a closer look at the vaccination debate ahead this hour.

SANCHEZ: Plus, the new census results are in and it shows the U.S. is more diverse than ever before, but how is that going to impact who is in office? We'll discuss next.


PAUL: 20 minutes past the hour right now and a small part of the U.S. population is now eligible for additional doses of a Coronavirus vaccine. Yesterday, the U.S. CDC voted to recommend a third dose for some people, people who suffer from compromised immune systems, such as organ transplant patients or people who are taking immune suppressing medications. But keep in mind these additional doses aren't yet recommended for the general public.


SANCHEZ: And we should point out, the authorization applies to the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. There's still not enough data yet on the Johnson and Johnson shot. So, as the Delta variant surges across the United States, two states Florida, and Louisiana, have the highest rate of new cases per capita in the country.

PAUL: Yet the rise in cases comes as local leaders in Florida push back against Governor DeSantis' mask mandate. CNNs Leila Santiago has more.


LEILA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Christi, Florida reporting more COVID-19 cases in the past week than any other seven day period in this pandemic. New numbers coming in from the Department of Health here in Florida and they show that Florida is reporting 151,000, more than 151,000, new cases over the past week here in Florida. And here in Broward County, the Broward Teachers Union telling us that two teachers as well as a teacher's assistant have died because of COVID-19 complications. All three of them are unvaccinated. As the chairman of the school board points out, the school year here hasn't even started yet.

ROSALIND OSGOOD, CHAIRWOMAN, BROWARD COUNTY, FL SCHOOL BOARD: Let's just be honest, when we started COVID, we had leadership that first didn't even want to acknowledge that it was a real pandemic and that it was deadly. Then all of the false information started to spread to make the vaccine suspects and you know that it was Warp Speed and all these kind of things that put fear and questions in people's mind that they didn't feel comfortable being vaccinated. And now we're paying a deadly consequences for it because people are dying.

SANTIAGO: And in a letter to the State Education Commissioner the superintendent here in Broward County is doubling down saying she plans to move forward with a mask mandate that does not have an opt- out for parents. Something that the governor says is non-compliant with his executive order that essentially prohibits masked mandates, Boris, Christi.


SANCHEZ: Leila, thank you for that report. As more students return to the classroom this week, the debate over how to protect kids from COVID is intensifying across the country. Masked mandates are sparking protests with school officials facing harassment and in some cases, even death threats. One man in Kentucky was charged with terroristic threatening and disorderly conduct after allegedly telling a local Superintendent, "Your effing life is over."

He later admitted to police he had a gun in his car, but he denies that he was making a death threat. Marty Pollio, the superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools is with us to share his story. He was the superintendent that was targeted. Marty, good morning, and thank you for joining us what was going through your mind when that was happening? Why do you think that man was so angry about masks?

MARTY POLLIO, JEFFERSON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT: Good morning, Boris. And thank you for having me on. You know, I think that that was at the point that I realized that how intense this debate had become obviously I've known I've been Superintendent throughout this entire pandemic 18 months of very difficult decisions. And I think people felt that it was we had come to the end of it.

Obviously, rising cases throughout the state of Kentucky in the country changed that as we started to come back to school. So, I think it really signified for me the politicization of, you know, this mask thing and really education as a whole, which unfortunately, it shouldn't be the case, when all we are really wanting to do is ensure safety for students and staff.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and we should point out, you recently were recognized as the Superintendent of the Year in Kentucky, right?

POLLIO: Thank you, Boris. I appreciate it. It was --


POLLIO: It was, it was quite an honor.

SANCHEZ: Yes. So, it's not like people don't recognize good work that you're doing. It just seems like there are a lot of folks that are angry for whatever reason, as you noted, potentially misinformation about this mask issue. And we should also note that just a couple of days ago, the Kentucky Board of Education unanimously approved a mask requirement for everyone in K-through-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, a decision that your governor backs. I'm curious about how the community has responded between parents and students and teachers.

POLLIO: Well, I'll say this, you know, I've been in about. We started school on Wednesday, first of all, so we've been in school for three days now. Very successful three days, been very pleased with what has happened, but I've wanted to make sure that I've been in schools to see firsthand the reaction. So, obviously, it is split between the community and parents, there are many disappointed in the decision. But I think overall, when I get into schools, I see that that teachers and staff clearly are behind this for their safety.

And students, although, you know, I think students in the end would rather not be wearing masks, I find we have very little problem with the students whatsoever, they'd much rather would be in school. And we explain that to them. There's two reasons we are doing this. First and foremost is safety and health of everyone involved.

But second, and I think very important for us to talk about is if we want to keep our kids in school the entire year, our goal is 175 days of school, and we need that, we need each and every day of our kids being in school if we want to do that masking our, our students and our staff ensures or at least greatly increases the likelihood that we will remain in school for the entire school year.


SANCHEZ: Despite the mitigation efforts, as you noted, school started on Wednesday, you had 29 positive cases after the first day: two teachers, 27 students, some 200 people had to be quarantined. What are the latest numbers? And, and are you confident that you can keep these outbreaks under control?

POLLIO: That's about the number we're having per day. And we have been very clear with the community that that we are going to have cases we're going to have to quarantine. We've set up a very effective plan to provide remote instruction for those students who have to quarantine.

But we know this is the reality of our world during the COVID crisis pandemic. So we're going to continue to work that we know there's going to be cases each and every day. But because we're wearing masks, we think it is greatly. We are decreasing the amount of cases without a doubt and definitely the amount of students and staff that have to be quarantined.

SANCHEZ: And I wonder superintendent, if you might have a message for one of Kentucky Senators, Rand Paul, he has refused to wear a mask throughout the pandemic. He recently was suspended from YouTube for making false claims about masks. I think that kind of leadership directly impacts the people that are harassing you because people are believing misinformation. If you had a chance to speak with Senator Paul, what would you say?

POLLIO: Well, once again, I would say it's unfortunate that and I've always said this education. You know, I really have been an educator for, for 27 years. Been in Jefferson County Public Schools for that amount of time. And I have seen grown over the course of time how much politics has come into education, fortunately. And so, you know, I would just say the same thing once again, wearing masks and getting the vaccine saves lives without a doubt.

I'm not going to, you know, mix words about the vaccine. We need staff and students vaccinated those eligible and when we get to under 12 as quickly as possible to get people vaccinated. It saves lives. And then without a doubt, masking keeps us safe and healthy. But as important, we're not quite as important. It keeps us in school and we need our kids in school, if we go without masks, dramatically increases the likelihood that we may be going back to virtual instruction. And our kids need us more than ever right now.

SANCHEZ: Superintendent Marty Pollio, we appreciate you spreading that message and doing the important work that you're doing. Thanks for sharing part of your weekend with us.

POLLIO: Thank you, Boris, I appreciate you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

PAUL: So, A Texas school district wasn't shut down by the coronavirus. It was hackers that held it hostage until they were paid millions of dollars. Up next, why schools are easy targets for cyber attacks?



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): So, students and teachers heading back to school in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic have a new problem. Ransomware attacks. There's an attack on one Texas school district that was so painful, administrators had to pay more than half a million dollars to the hackers just to teach again.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, but the threat is being felt by schools all across the country. CNNs Alex Marquardt has more.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The threat from the hackers was that thousands of teachers' and students' personal information would be released.

Phones, e-mail, and Wi-Fi had all been shut down in this school district near San Antonio, Texas. They felt so much pressure and so vulnerable that this month they announced they'd made the painful decision to pay the ransomware attackers. A payment of over half a million dollars of taxpayer money. The biggest known payment experts say to an unknown hacking group with the hope they wouldn't do anything more.

It's a story becoming all too familiar. In Baltimore County, Maryland, the school buses had stopped. The schools, quiet and empty. Students at home doing classes online. Then --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can now confirm that we were the victim of a ransomware cyberattack.

MARQUARDT: A catastrophic cyberattack by a criminal ransomware group, which locked up the county school system right before last Thanksgiving.

Cindy Sexton, the president of the teachers union, told us the devastating attack could not have come at a worse time.

CINDY SEXTON, PRESIDENT, TEACHERS ASSOCIATION, BALTIMORE COUNTY: It was chaos. They -- it was chaos because we didn't -- nobody knew it was going on, and when we would find out information.

MARQUARDT: Classes were canceled for three days, for 115,000 students at almost 200 schools. Thousands of teachers lost access to their lesson plans. Students' grades were locked up along with records for special needs students.


SEXTON: I wouldn't wish ransomware on anyone. So, anything that we can do just to stop these attacks is really what we really need, because it is devastating to everyone. But as a school system, we have to teach our students.

MARQUARDT: Leading the U.S. government's fight against skyrocketing ransomware attacks is the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency or CISA. Schools are particularly ripe targets, Eric Goldstein says. Because of remote learning, weaker cybersecurity, and an invaluable mission.

ERIC GOLDSTEIN, EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR CYBERSECURITY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Both the fact that schools may have cyber vulnerabilities that need to be fixed. And because of the absolute necessity that schools are up and running, these are significant targets for these criminal groups. MARQUARDT: Classes are now canceled. So, often, there's a new expression, cyber days. Last year, ransomware attacks hit almost 1,700 schools. This year, it's already over 800, in the school year hasn't even started yet when attackers are expected to pounce.

GOLDSTEIN: It is certainly a fact of life that cybersecurity needs to be a focus now for every school district in this country. And certainly, both teachers and parents should be focusing on ensuring that their school district, their institution has taken the right steps to reduce their vulnerability to this kind of an attack.

MARQUARDT: CISA has published resources to prevent and respond to attacks on a new site, In Baltimore County, their systems are still not fully restored. And they've spent over $8 million on recovery.

Cindy Sexton hopes that others will learn from their lesson.

SEXTON: You always hope it's not going to happen to you, and think it's not going to happen to you until it does.


MARQUARDT (on camera): That is the refrain from so many small towns, businesses, and schools that you don't expect a ransomware attack until it actually happens. Hackers see targets of opportunity and they strike the goal of the Biden administration is now to make those harder targets.

But with the school year just getting underway on top of COVID, schools now need to brace themselves for yet another invisible enemy. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

SANCHEZ: Alex, thanks for that report.

The Delta variant of COVID-19 is hitting kids especially hard. After the break, we'll speak with a doctor in Miami about what she's seeing in hospitals there, and ask her if she needs more help from the state's governor.

We're back after a few minutes.




CLAY JENKINS, JUDGE, DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: Dallas, we have zero ICU beds left for children. That means if your child's with a car wreck, if your child has a heart -- congenital heart defect or something needs an ICU bed, or more likely if they have COVID, need an ICU bed, we don't have one. Your child will wait for another child to die.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: That grim message coming out of Dallas this week, similar to what we're seeing and hearing from children's hospitals in several states, with beds filled nearly to capacity.

The U.S. surgeon general told CNN this week that it's possible a vaccine for kids under 12 could be authorized for emergency use before the end of the year. But ultimately, that relief is still far away.

Here to share her experience is Dr. Aileen Marty. She's an infectious disease expert at Florida International University. Dr. Marty, thank you for coming on with us to share your story.

You told CNN last Friday that the situation in children's hospitals in Florida is absolutely devastating. Has anything changed in the last week? Where do you see the numbers trending?

DR. AILEEN MARTY, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: The numbers for all of our hospitals is trending up. We are burning the candle at both ends. And it is a devastating situation. And it was largely avoidable because one of the things that people have to understand that if there's any seasonality to this horrible surge, it's because of our behavior. It's not due to some random events of nature. It is our behavior. And that includes the behavior of having the vaccine and wearing masks and distancing and so forth that's driving these numbers.

So, we have to be very attuned to what we as human beings are doing that's causing these incredible numbers.

SANCHEZ: Yes, I want to ask you about the COVID hospitalization rate in Florida. It's the highest in the country, more than tripled the national average. But notably, the patients are also younger than before, most of them unvaccinated. Why do you think this spike is different than the previous surges?

MARTY: Number one, the percent of unvaccinated among eligible young people ages 12 to 30 is our lowest percent of vaccination. So, that's one of the key reasons that, that age group is being attacked with great fervor. The people who cannot or will not get the vaccine, number one.

Number two, the Delta variant, which is a significant portion, actually the -- it's still the largest portion of the variants that we are detecting in Florida, which is far more aggressive. It gets into cells a lot easier. Moreover, it can travel from one cell, it can fuse cells together, so, that it doesn't have to travel extracellular which is where we have our best antibody defense, which is another incredibly important reason for people to get the vaccine, because the vaccine works best when it's ready to attack before that virus gets into the first cell.


SANCHEZ: Yes. Doctor, I want to expand on something that you alluded to just a moment ago, and play a sound bite from Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis, something he said this week. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): This is going to be with us for a long time. I mean, I hear these politicians say they're going to conquer it and ended. You know, it's not going to be eradicated.


SANCHEZ: So, DeSantis is talking about coronavirus becoming endemic. He also said earlier this week, "This is our COVID season," hitting on the idea that COVID is something that was going to be with us for a long time and would likely become seasonal.

I'm curious to get your response from the governor, this sort of off- hands approach is something he is relied on over and over during the pandemic.

MARTY: Well, it's very -- it's very challenging when you consider that what is the psychological effect of saying that it's seasonal, or what is the psychological effect of saying it's going to be with us?

The psychological effect when you do that is it's defeatist, we can't do anything. But those -- that is completely not true. We know that this virus has to be transmitted from one person to the next. So, the behavior of each person has a tremendous influence on the extent of the pandemic. And you can see that very clearly when you compare state by state in the United States, the numbers of people who are in hospital-based on behavior. Not physical parameters of the season, but human parameters during the season.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it's so important to repeat that message that so much of this surge, mostly all of it is preventable. It's simply people that have not been vaccinated. So, we appreciate you putting out that message.

Dr. Aileen Marty, thank you so much for the time.

MARTY: Pleasure, Boris.

PAUL (voice-over): The results of the 2020 census came out this week. The results may surprise you. We're going to break them down for you. Stay close.



SANCHEZ: So, the U.S. population is growing, it's getting older, and it's becoming more diverse, according to new data gathered by the Census Bureau and released this week.

PAUL (on camera): Yes, CNN's Tom Foreman has some details for us, the numbers and why they're significant.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Look at this whopping number. 331.4 million people in the U.S. That's what the Census Bureau came up with. That's growth, the slowest growth in about a century, they say, but still, it is growth.

And look at the change that we've seen. Yes, in most places in this country, non-Hispanic white people are the majority, or the plurality by a solid margin in many, many places.

But there is a real movement among different groups out there. For example, look at the growth here among Hispanic or Latino communities. That's quite large. So much so that they are now the largest ethnic group in California, and in New Mexico, and making real strides in places like Texas too.

Here is something that was a bit of a surprise. The number of people who say they are some other race or a mixed ethnicity, almost 50 million people said this. That's a big jump.

Some of this is real, some of it is really happening. And some of it is just that the Census Bureau is allowing people to self-identify that way, a little more precisely than in the past. So, let's bump that number up, but still, a trend worth watching.

And all of these trends are being watched. You know why? Because these numbers are how you determine your representation in Congress. And the moment these numbers came out, people in the political parties on both sides started saying, are we going to pick up any new congressional districts like they will in Florida and in Texas? Or are we going to lose some as they are in some other places?

And how do we draw the district lines to maximize the impact of our voters and minimize the impact of the other side's voters? That's where all these dry numbers turn into real political action with real consequences.

PAUL: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

So, ahead in the next hour of NEW DAY. We're going to get you caught up on all the top COVID headlines, including who is now approved to get an additional third dose of the vaccine.

First, though, poke has long been a food favorite in Hawaii, if you've been. And now, poke bowls are popping up on menus around the world. In today's "FOOD AS FUEL", CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard tells us what they are and how to make them even healthier.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER (on camera): A poke bowl typically contains raw fish or tofu drizzled in marinade with the choice of toppings.

HOWARD (voice-over): So, starting with the base, choose quinoa, brown rice, or leafy greens. And when choosing the protein portion of the meal, you'll usually pick between raw tuna, raw salmon, or tofu. All three are healthy options. Both salmon and tuna are lean proteins full of omega-3 fatty acids, and tofu is a good vegetarian option.


Now, when it comes to those toppings, adding kimchi, that's fermented cabbage is a great way to keep your gut healthy. Edamame, which is high in protein is another nutritious add-on.

Tried to avoid fried toppings, creamy dressings, and too much soy sauce. But for the most part, poke bowls contain lots of healthy ingredients that are good for you.

HOWARD: (on camera): One caveat though, tuna may contain mercury and you'll definitely want to avoid raw fish if you're pregnant.



PAUL: Well, good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. We are so glad to see you. I'm Christi Paul.