Return to Transcripts main page

New Day Saturday

Hurricane Ida Whips Cuba, Spins Towards U.S. Gulf Coast; U.S. Conducts Airstrike Against ISIS-K Planner; U.S. Racing to Evacuate Americans and Afghan Allies by Tuesday; Biden: Afghanistan Evacuation is "Dangerous" but "Worthy" Mission; Florida Judge Rules Against Governor DeSantis' Ban on Mask Mandates; U.K. Study Finds Delta Variant Doubles COVID Hospitalization Risk. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired August 28, 2021 - 06:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We're so grateful to have you. I'm Christi Paul.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Phil Mattingly in for Boris Sanchez. Tracking Ida, the category one storm is expected to rapidly strengthen today as it closes in on the Louisiana coast. Mandatory evacuations already underway. The latest on the track and potential impacts coming up.

PAUL: And breaking news for you out of Afghanistan. Overnight, the U.S. retaliates against ISIS-K for that suicide attack that killed 13 U.S. service members. What we're learning now about that air strike and the evacuations that are going on.

MATTINGLY: Plus, Delta's danger, troubling new details on just how contagious the now dominant variant is as one state reports its highest coronavirus case count since the pandemic began.

PAUL: And renewed fears of political violence on Capitol Hill ahead of a right-wing rally that is set for next month. The security measures that could soon be headed back to the Capitol Complex.

It is Saturday, August 28th. Again, thank you so much for waking up with us. Good morning, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Good morning, Christi.

PAUL: Good to see you.

MATTINGLY: No shortage of news. Thanks for having me this morning.

PAUL: I know. I mean, God bless you because we have so much to talk about today. First of all, let's talk about the state of emergency along the Gulf Coast. The U.S. gearing up for what looks to be a monster storm heading toward the coastal U.S. and the direct eye is on Louisiana. Hurricane Ida has already entered the Gulf's warm waters, and we mean warm. It's a category one storm at the moment. MATTINGLY: But it could spin into a dangerous category four just before it makes landfall tomorrow and that's important. Sixteen years to the day that Hurricane Katrina terrorized Louisiana. This is what Hurricane Ida looked like when it struck Cuba on Friday, the storm smashing into the island twice before moving north. In New Orleans, people have been told to seek shelter, but for areas inside the city's flood protection system, the mayor says it's too late to issue mandatory evacuation orders.


MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D-LA), NEW ORLEANS: Time is not on our side. The city cannot issue a mandatory evacuation because we don't have the time.


MATTINGLY: That's an ominous message. FEMA has already sent more than 2,000 employees to the Gulf. CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar is tracking the storm and, Allison, this seems to be rapidly progressing. Is this going to be a major event?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I would say so, yes, because when you talk about things that we normally see where a storm weakens, you know, normally when it crosses over land like it did Cuba, you anticipate seeing the storm weaken a little bit. This one did the exact opposite. We saw it strengthen as it moved across Cuba. Now it's moving into the Gulf of Mexico. Very warm waters here, very low shear environment, so there's really not much in the way of preventing this storm from intensifying further.

Sustained winds right now are at 80 miles per hour, gusting up to 100. You have your hurricane warnings here in red, tropical storm warnings in blue already along the Gulf Coast there. The storm is anticipated to get up to category two strength today, category three strength, making it a major hurricane, by tonight and category four just before it makes landfall, which is not good news, not what the folks in Louisiana want to hear.

Part of the reason for that is, again, the incredibly warm waters. Now, you're not just talking bathwater here. This is more like hot tub water. So, it's ideal for a storm moving through in terms of the fuel that it needs to intensify and strengthen.

Storm surge is going to be one of the biggest components with this storm along the coast, 10 to 15 feet in this pink area. The area off to the east of that in purple, 7 to 11 feet. That does include the city of Biloxi. On the western side, about 6 to 9 feet, but even areas like Cameron, Louisiana, which is very far away from the center of this storm, still 2 to 4 feet of storm surge in that area.

The outer bands will begin later on today. So, you're already going to start to see some thunderstorms, some gusty winds beginning to pick up not just in Louisiana, but also several other Gulf Coast states including Alabama, Mississippi and portions of Florida. Rainfall is going to be the most widespread concern because all of this heavy rain goes very far inland, even Memphis, Nashville, those cities likely to get several inches of rain from this storm, but obviously the heaviest rainfall will be closer to the coast where a foot of rain is not out of the question with this particular storm.

One other thing to note, the incredibly strong winds, again, even farther inland up towards Alexandria and Jackson, 60 mile per hour winds, Phil and Christi, are very possible and that is plenty in order to bring trees and power lines down.

PAUL: Yes. It's sounding scarier by the hour. Allison Chinchar, we really appreciate it. Thank you so much. Coming up in our next hour, by the way, we're talking live to a councilman in Lafourche Parish.


That's where mandatory evacuations are set to begin this morning. He says he's not going anywhere. We'll talk to him.

MATTINGLY: Now to our other rapidly escalating story, this one in Afghanistan where the U.S. has carried out an airstrike against a suspected terrorist. The military says the strike targeted an ISIS-K planner in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. A spokesman for the U.S. Central Command says, quote, "Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties."

PAUL: The strike came a day after President Biden had vowed to hunt down those responsible for the terrorist attack outside the airport in Kabul that killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 others. ISIS-K is claiming responsibility for that attack. Now President Biden's national security team warning another attack in Kabul is likely. The terror threat comes as the U.S. is scrambling to evacuate Americans and Afghans ahead of a Tuesday deadline.

MATTINGLY: And our correspondents are covering this story from every single angle. Nick Paton Walsh is in Doha and Arlette Saenz is at the White House. Arlette, first to you. What do we know about the airstrike and obviously what is the president doing today in a situation that is so fluid at this moment?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It really is incredibly fluid, and President Biden will be meeting with his national security team this morning to receive the latest updates on the situation in Afghanistan. As for that airstrike, it is simply President Biden making good on that promise to retaliate for that terror attack outside the Kabul airport which killed at least 13 U.S. service members and dozens more Afghans.

We have very few details about what this airstrike entailed. Around 9:30 last night, those first reports of that airstrike came in with Central Command saying that it was an over-the-horizon strike against an ISIS-K planner. It also was an unmanned strike, suggesting that it was done by drone and the over-the-horizon point suggests it was done from out of the country, but really this is just the latest step from the president as he is trying to identify and find those perpetrators of the attack and hold them responsible. And this all comes as there is a very precarious situation that the administration is currently handling. They have -- the president has been warned that another terror attack may be likely, and they have boosted at the airport. They're using maximum force protection to try to prevent and identify any possible threats that could be occurring at the Kabul airport and elsewhere.

And the administration is also still trying to evacuate the remaining Americans and as many Afghan allies as possible. Yesterday, the State Department said that they were in touch with about 500 Americans who wanted to leave the country and they are working with them to ensure that that will happen. The military, also in the coming days, will need to focus on dismantling their operations at the Kabul airport and elsewhere as that August 31st deadline is quickly approaching.

But the administration, really right now, is trying to not only evacuate those Americans, not only go through with that military drawdown, but also to prevent and identify any future threats that could happen in these waning days as they have warned that this could be the most dangerous part of the mission yet.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And I think that's such a key point. Every day -- not just every day. Every hour right now seems more dangerous than the last when you talk to administration officials. Arlette Saenz keep us posted. This is going be a busy day. Thank you very much. The U.S. is racing to get American citizens and Afghan allies out of the country by that Tuesday, August 31st deadline, even as officials warn another terror attack is likely.

PAUL: Nick Paton Walsh is live for us from Doha right now. Nick, talk to us about what we know regarding the updated evacuations and is there a strong sense of the likelihood of this terror threat?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes. I mean, obviously the terror threat is clearly deeply troubling U.S. officials at the moment, and it appears as though some of the crowd, certainly as we saw from satellite images yesterday, have diminished in significant numbers around that airport, which possibly is a reflection of the heightened security obviously. If you're U.S. Marines on that airport perimeter, you're going to be staying inside the blast walls that mart its exterior.

As far as we know, the evacuation operation is continuing today. It's hard to tell precisely how many numbers. We've seen from -- sort of open source in our live shot of the airport, it appears about five planes may have come in, five may be inbound at this time is a rough numbers but continuing to move along. The last numbers that we heard from the State Department -- sorry -- from the White House suggested that 4,200 taken off between the 3:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. of Friday.


That is a significant reduction from the tens of thousands we'd been seeing over the past days and fits with what I have from a source familiar with the situation at the airport, that it appears the evacuation was, of yesterday, beginning to wind down. How many more people can they get, though, into the airport is a key question obviously. The gate's closed on the exterior. The capacity for the escorted missions that are being done to get people with Taliban approval through into the inside of the airport exceptionally fraught given this current ISIS threat, but the clock clearly ticking.

There was going to come a point where the operation would switch from evacuation to the military withdrawal. We understand from a source familiar with the situation and a senior U.S. official that a significant number of the U.S. diplomats on the airport will be leaving this weekend and that will, of course, taper down the capacity for them to process new arrivals.

But the White House, the Department of Defense clear they will evacuate until the last moment that they can, but that window increasingly small, particularly because of security, but simply also, too, this looming 31st of August deadline. I am sure they will not want to be leaving their departure up until the last minute. Back to you.

MATTINGLY: Yes. So many layers of complexity, so little time. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you very much. We're also learning the names of some of those service members killed in that suicide attack in Kabul on Thursday, among them, 20-year-old Marine Rylee McCollum from Wyoming. He was on his first deployment when evacuations began. His sister says he was manning a checkpoint when the explosion happened.

In a statement to CNN, has family writes, "Rylee was an amazing man with a passion for the Marines. He was a son, a brother, a husband and a father with a baby due in just three weeks. He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots. He was determined to be an infantry and this was his first deployment."

Now, it goes on to say, "Rylee will always be a hero not just for the ultimate sacrifice he made for our country, but for the way he impacted every life around him for the better."

PAUL: Also take a look at U.S. Marine Corporal Daegan Page, Nebraska, 23 years old. His family says in a statement to CNN, "Daegan will always be remembered for his tough outer shell and giant heart. Our hearts are broken, but we're thankful for the friends and family who are surrounding us during this time. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the other Marine and Navy families whose loved ones died alongside Daegan."

MATTINGLY: Also U.S. Navy corpsman Maxton Soviak was also among those killed in the blast. He leaves behind 12 brothers and sisters. His family writes, "Maxton was an awesome young man that was well liked in the community, as evidenced by the outpouring of condolences from teachers, coaches, employers, family and friends. Maxton was always proud of being part of a state champion wrestling team and a state playoff final four football team two years in a row, but he was most proud to be a Navy corpsman, a 'Devil Doc' for Marines."

PAUL: Retired Air Force colonel and CNN military analyst Cedric Leighton with us now. Colonel Leighton, thank you for being with us. Before we get into the logistics of this, if you could sit down with these families, what would you tell them? Because this is -- this is really hard.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It sure is, Christi, and good morning and to those families, you know, now they join the ranks of the gold star families that have, you know, graced us with their children and helped us achieve really major things in both Afghanistan and Iraq and really throughout the world. I would say that their service was a noble cause and they can be very proud of their children, they can be very proud of the things that they have done for the United States and, in this case, for the Afghan people.

They are just tremendous heroes and we have to thank them for not only their service, but their sacrifice and their heroism and I will tell -- I would tell those families that this is unfortunately one of the grave costs that we can get into when -- we have to pay when we go into countries like Afghanistan, but what they did was noble and was true and it was the best of America.

PAUL: And it's such important work, what they were doing. So when that terror attack happened outside the airport or at the airport, I want to get your take on the reaction to that from the U.S., this drone strike that happened overnight. It could have eliminated the ISIS-K planner. You call this strike remarkable. Talk to us about -- you know, it was expeditious certainly. When will we know the true effectiveness of it?

LEIGHTON: We may never know, Christi, but I call it remarkable because it is an example of how far we have come in the last 20 years ago and really in the last 30 years when it comes to this kind of technology, these kinds of capabilities.


So this is a realization of what President Biden calls the over-the- horizon strategy and what that strategy involves is not only stand-off weapons, but also what amounts to stand-off intelligence sources. So it's the meshing of the weapon system with the intelligence to provide real-time, accurate targeting of these kinds of entities.

ISIS-K, this supposed planner, this person was clearly on our radar for a long time and even if he specifically was not involved in the airport attack, he was still a key part of ISIS-K and it sends a message absolutely to ISIS-K and its -- and its affiliates.

PAUL: Is there a gauge of how potent ISIS-K is? And talk to us about, you know, Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K and the Taliban. I mean, these are not groups that are friendly with each other.

LEIGHTON: That's correct. The Taliban of course we know because of our involvement with them. They were in charge of Afghanistan before 9/11, but now of course they're back in charge, at least nominally, in Afghanistan after the events of the last few weeks. They do not get along with ISIS-K at all, but they have a much better relationship with Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda was, as you -- as everyone knows, hosted by the Taliban in the years really before 9/11.

So the Al-Qaeda relationship with the Taliban is fairly strong. There's a lot of even intermarriage between the different people that work in both of these organizations. So there are strong connections there. That is not the case with ISIS-K. Al-Qaeda does not get along with ISIS-K either. There are certainly elements where, at times, they do work together, but generally speaking they see each other as rivals.

PAUL: I want to ask you real quickly before I let you go, the State Department says they're in direct contact with about 500 Americans in Afghanistan who are trying to get out right now. First of all, how accurate do you think that number is? Could it be higher? And, secondly, lay bare for us, would you please, Colonel, the reality for those people who are still in Afghanistan and may still be four days from now after this deadline.

LEIGHTON: Yes. That's going to be a really tough situation. Many of the Americans are dual nationals in Afghanistan right now. As far as the numbers are concerned, I'm not so sure that they are completely accurate. The State Department seems to have some trouble providing us with accurate figures and it's, you know, clearly difficult to do because a lot of people don't register with the U.S. Embassy.

They will have a difficult situation coming up next in the next few days because the consular services of the United States will not be available to them. They'll have to, in essence, get special provisions to leave the country. It's not clear that there'll be commercial air traffic into and out of Kabul. So if they're going to leave, they should make every effort to leave now. If they're going to stay, well, then they're going to be in for the long haul.

PAUL: Colonel Cedric Leighton, we so appreciate your insight and your perspective. Thank you for taking time for us this morning, sir.

LEIGHTON: You bet. Absolutely, Christi. Thanks so much for having me.

PAUL: Absolutely. So what, if any, will be the political fallout for President Biden over the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan? We're going to talk about that next.

MATTINGLY: Plus, masks are now mandatory for students and staff at all New York state schools and a ruling in Florida affects who can decide on mask mandates. All that still to come.




MATTINGLY: This is shaping up to be one of the most challenging weeks of Joe Biden's presidency. I think we can frankly say it is the most challenging week. Thirteen U.S. service members were killed in a deadly attack in Afghanistan, the very thing the president warned about for his rationale for sticking with that August 31st withdrawal deadline. His national security team right now warning another attack in Kabul is likely in the coming days.

Joining me now to discuss is CNN political commentator Errol Louis. He's also a political anchor for "Spectrum News" and the host of the "You Decide" podcast. Errol, thanks for joining me. Look, nobody wants to talk about politics in these situations, but they play a huge role in policy decisions and how people are positioning themselves. It's just a fact. It's a reality.

You know, when you see something like last night, the president taking action, delivering on that promise he made to hunt down and make the perpetrators of the attack pay, does that do anything to tamp down some of the criticism from both parties the president's been facing over the course of the last 10 or 11 days?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning, Phil. I think the criticism was going to come anyway for exactly the reason that you hint at which is that for some people, this was never about policy or patriotism, it was always about politics and only about politics.

And so you have, especially on the Republican side, I think those who want to claim a majority in next year's election are dusting off their talking points and calling for the president to resign and for the secretary of state to be impeached and for the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to resign and on and on and on. Truly irresponsible statements at this moment.

I think on the other hand, for the administration, they do bear some accountability and the president has said as much. He's going to be roundly criticized. I think he knew that going into this and by simply trying to provide steady leadership, by striking back, as he promised that he would, and also keeping the promise to get U.S. forces out of there by the deadline that his predecessor set, I think he is -- he is trying to sort of put in front of people a model of leadership that we should hope would at least resonate.


Perhaps it wins politically, perhaps it doesn't, but we do want leaders that mean what they say and say what they mean, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And, look, there's recognition, and obviously the president's clear about this, inside the White House that withdrawal is popular with the American people. The fatigue, the almost apathy to some degree, is very real and I think that's been their overarching purpose obviously through all this.

You hinted at something that I think has been really interesting kind of as a side bar the last 10 or 11 days and I've been talking to Republicans on Capitol Hill and Adam Kinzinger, Republican, very critical of his party right now, but completely on the opposite side of where President Biden is on this issue, had kind of an interesting view on things. Take a listen.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R) ILLINOIS: We can be angry at what Joe Biden has done. I am, right? I'm also angry at the set-up that has been put here by Donald Trump. I do believe some people on his national security team should resign. That's up to them and it's up to him, but, no, I mean, look, we impeach presidents for high crimes and misdemeanors. This is a very bad decision. Other presidents have made bad decisions, but I'm not going to call on the president to resign for this nor to be impeached.


MATTINGLY: Now, Congressman Kinzinger may not be calling for the president to resign, but multiple Republican senators have, many of his House colleagues have called for impeachment. The Republicans are really split right now kind of on how to channel what, to some degree, is a merited rage or outrage. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's refrained from calling resignation or impeachment, something many of the members have done, but McCarthy's not usually somebody who holds back when it comes to President Biden.

What are the dynamics you see right now as Republicans try and navigate this moment?

LOUIS: Yes. I think, look, the tactical question of when to call for accountability, when to call for something as drastic as impeachment or resignation, it really makes no sense at this point to go straight to those kind of issues and I think this is what Kevin McCarthy has been trying to hold members of his conference back from.

You know, the reality is that, you know, those young men that we showed just a few minutes ago who have not been buried, who have not been properly mourned in their home towns, it is -- it is, in some ways, so offensive, almost obscene to go straight to political talking points while we're still in the middle of this crisis. We're still -- we've still got American lives on the line, we've still got sacrifices yet to be determined and yet to be made.

What Kevin McCarthy has been telling some of his members is like, look, hold off, let's at least be decent about this, let's figure out what has happened first, let's make sure we have a safe withdrawal as best we can, you know, we support the administration in that effort, you know, and then there'll be time for accountability. There'll be plenty of time for all of that, but, you know, some folks can't be held back and it sort of betrays the fact that they are more interested in politics than in the safety of American troops.

MATTINGLY: Well, and there's also the reality that Republicans may be in the majority in one or both chambers in less than two years, right? And if they want investigations and subpoena power, they may have that in short order and investigations are coming. I don't think there's any question about that. We talk about the politics.

One last thing before I let you go. You know, the surveys have been very clear, polling has been very clear over the course of the last 10 or 11 days, the president has taken a hit in his approval ratings. I want to share one "CBS" poll right now. Only 25 percent approve of Afghanistan specifically right now. You know, when you talk to White House officials, they've been very clear. They think domestic policy is what's going to win the day at the end. The president's overall performance is going to win the day at the end. How much do you think this moment matters in the overall kind of political arc of the president's term?

LOUIS: Well, yet to be determined, Phil. You know, if there's -- if there's another bombing, if there's another atrocity, if there's another loss of life, frankly, grievous loss of life in the next few days, it could make things look even worse. It could be a real tragedy, but, you know, look, the reality is the last president on this failed war, this longest war in American history, the guy who was going to lower the flag was always going to get a disproportionate share of the blame.

I think President Biden knew that when he made the decision to honor the deadline and not just kick the can down the road the way his three predecessors had.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And he certainly hasn't wavered in that decision. That has been very clear. Errol Louis, we appreciate you as always, my friend. Thanks for your time.

LOUIS: Thanks, Phil.

PAUL: So Hurricane Ida, look at that monster in the Gulf right now. It is heading straight for Louisiana. What you need to know. If you're going to a shelter in the midst of this pandemic, two very dicey issues, right? We'll talk about it next.



MATTINGLY: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates in schools was struck down on Friday after a judge ruled that DeSantis lacked the constitutional authority for that blanket mandatory ban.

PAUL: Now, the new ruling is expected to go into effect early next week when a written order is issued. And it comes as Florida reports a record high number of new COVID cases. The state's weekly COVID report, 151,000 new infections just this week. That's the most in any seven-day period since this pandemic began. Here's CNN's Polo Sandoval.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the U.S. still falling well short of the 70 percent vaccination rate experts say is needed to achieve herd immunity, troubling new information about the Delta variant. A study out of the U.K. finds that, the now dominant Delta strain is not only more contagion, but also more dangerous, doubling the risk of hospitalizations compared to the once common Alpha variant. That's bad news for many Americans only 52 percent of whom are fully vaccinated against COVID. And the White House is urging people to get the shot. [06:35:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're an American who is not yet vaccinated, or if you're an employer who has yet to adopt vaccination requirements, we have a very simple message. Get off the sideline, step up and do your part.

SANDOVAL: But as the government pushes Americans to do more to stay safe, the debate over masks rages on. The New York State Department of Health will now require students, faculty and staff at all public and private schools in the state to wear masks while inside school buildings. And judges in Texas and Florida are pushing back against bans on mask mandates that were implemented by Republican governors in those states, ruling that school districts are allowed to require students to mask-up.

In Alabama, where counties are mixed on mask mandates, at least 5,500 school aged children tested positive for COVID during the week ending on August 21st. Cases and deaths are on the rise in that state with double-digit deaths reported every day for the past three weeks. Alabama's state health officer says the situation is dire and people need to take this seriously.

SCOTT HARRIS, ALABAMA STATE HEALTH OFFICER: We are really in a crisis situation. We've said that over and over for several weeks. We need people to understand that you yourself, if you're hearing these words, you're the person who can make the difference. You need to be responsible for your behavior, and you need to do what it takes to not continue this situation.

SANDOVAL: Meanwhile, the mystery over what started COVID in the first place remains unsolved. A 90-day investigation by the U.S. Intelligence community concluded that the virus could have come from a laboratory leak or jump from an animal to human naturally. Polo Sandoval, CNN, Tallahassee, Florida.


PAUL: Dr. Saju Mathew; public health specialist and primary care physician with us now. Saju, it's good to see you, talk to us, if you would, please, about what you're seeing in your office. I understand you've seen a lot of breakthrough cases?

SAJU MATTHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: Yes, good morning, Christi. It's really sad to report that the number of cases, breakthrough cases, are going up. These are people who are fully vaccinated that are still testing positive for COVID-19. Either they have symptoms or they found out that somebody in the house tested positive, and they get a test and find out that they are COVID positive as well. Now, the good news, though, is that most of my patients are recovering at home. They tend to have mild symptoms.

But I think what this really suggests, Christi, is that the vaccine is definitely waning. Otherwise, 30, 40-year-old healthy people fully vaccinated should not be getting breakthrough infections. And of course, as we talk about so much on air, the Delta variant is very contagious. You're twice as likely to be hospitalized as the reporter just mentioned in that recent study, and we're seeing hospitalizations skyrocket also in children as well.

PAUL: Well, and for kids who have had COVID and are now going back to school, are those kids protected now and for how long? If they say -- haven't -- if they are kids that are too young to have gotten the vaccine.

MATTHEW: So, for kids who are vaccinated, of course, they are protected. I still think, though, that even if you're fully vaccinated just as we just talked about with breakthrough infections, masking is going to be key in schools. There was just a report about a teacher who was reading aloud to her kids unmasked, that spread the infection to half the students in her class. If you're unvaccinated below the age of 12, it's even more important that these social mitigation guidelines are practiced, distancing as much as you can, masking and making sure that people around you are vaccinated. I say this all the time, your vaccine works best, Christi, when people around you are also vaccinated.

PAUL: Yes, I know that you believe there's approval by the end of the year for vaccines for kids 12 and under. Do you have any specific concerns about a vaccine for kids of this nature, that are that young?

MATTHEW: Not at all. You know, I think we have enough data, I'm just as frustrated, so are so many physicians, especially pediatricians. My aunt is a pediatrician, and she says, Christi, out of 40 patients that she's seeing a day, about 20 are turning positive.


MATTHEW: I mean, we have to vaccinate our kids. Now, the big issue here is, as we get into the younger age group, 4, 5 years of age, you know, kids -- young kids are not necessarily mini adults. We have to find the exact dose that will be right so that we don't cause a hyper immune system or an over activity activation of the vaccine. So, I think what's key right now is for the FDA to look at the data when it's submitted to them.


And we need to make sure that all kids are vaccinated ASAP.

PAUL: OK, and real quickly before I let you go, we only have a couple of seconds left, but we're watching obviously, Hurricane Ida. This thing is going to be a beast. People are going to shelters in the middle of a pandemic. What is the best thing you could tell them right now?

MATTHEW: I think the best thing is to go ahead and prepare ahead of time. If you're going to shelter, making sure that you take your mask. I think the mask is going to be key, Christi. We have to up our mask mandate. People should not be wearing cloth masks anymore. KN-95 and N-95 masks are readily available.

PAUL: OK, good to know, Dr. Saju Matthew, we appreciate you waking up every Saturday morning for us so early, thank you.

MATTHEW: Thank you, Christi.

MATTINGLY: And still ahead, it is the biggest question in the world. How did the pandemic start? Well, we still don't have an answer. But a new U.S. Intelligence report into the origins of COVID-19 gives us some indications of some elements. We're going to dig into it, coming up next.



MATTINGLY: The U.S. Intelligence community says it has not reached a conclusion about the origin of the COVID-19 virus. That is according to that 90-day review which resulted in a report that was given to President Biden this week.

PAUL: Yes, the report, basically, this is what it said. It left open a possibility that the virus was leaked from a lab in Wuhan. But it also says it's possible the virus passed from animals to humans. CNN's David Culver is live in Beijing. David, good to have you. China called the report a fabrication. They said it's not scientifically credible. What do we know about the validity of this report?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Christi and Phil, they go on to say that this is the political maneuvering and manipulation all by the U.S. Look, it's not surprising that they're pushing back, they've been doing this for several months now, and they've got this relentless propaganda campaign that's underway in which they are putting out their own narrative, trying to make sure that what sticks ultimately is deflection of blame and sowing of doubt. And it is seeming to prove successful in some cases. They're even suggested that it should be the U.S. that is investigated. They point to Fort Detrick.

Now, there's no evidence of a lab leak there. Nonetheless, it's something that you're going to hear more and more about from Beijing as they are telling the W.H.O. to investigate the United States. Let's take a step back though, we look at this 90-day report. I think there's a lot of hope to think, well, maybe this will bring that smoking gun, maybe it will bring that one piece of evidence that will tell us how this virus started. Not the case. We're still where we were 90 days ago. I think the one thing that stands out to me from this unclassified portion which I should point out, was about a page, and then a third of a second page, and not even a full two pages.

Is that, they do not believe that this was engineered in a lab. That doesn't rule out of course that a lab worker got sick and then carried it out, or the natural origins theory that it was from an animal to humans. Now, with Beijing pushing back more and more, and suggesting that this is not on them, it doesn't ultimately, though, exonerate them. I want you to listen to what one expert had to say as to why they're not going to be excused in all of this after this inconclusive report.


any conspiracy theories about labs in Wuhan, the fact that China will not allow a second W.H.O. investigation to find out how the virus likely jumped from animals to humans is problematic.


CULVER: All right, and that's exactly what this report also hit on, that China's lack of transparency and their unwillingness to open up the book so to speak when it comes to the lab and certain epidemiological studies that were being done. And all of that is being withheld still. So, the U.S. doesn't have access to it nor do international scientists.

Here's what Beijing is saying through their Chinese embassy in the U.S. I'm going to read you a portion of what was a very lengthy response, longer than the unclassified report I should point out. They say, quote, "since the outbreak of COVID-19, China has taken an open, transparent and responsible attitude. We have released information, we shared the genome sequencing of the virus and carried out international cooperation to fight the disease. All done at the earliest possible time."

Not entirely true. We have covered this extensively, Christi and Phil, we know that they covered up, that there was mishandling, there was silencing of whistleblowers, and now they are telling the W.H.O. they cannot come back for a phase 2 of this investigation. Not exactly, the cooperative behavior that one might hope for.

MATTINGLY: David Culver, always on top of the story, thank you very much my friend.

PAUL: Thank you, David. So, there are fears of a repeat of the Capitol insurrection. There are security concerns rising right now ahead of a rally by people who support those arrested, some convicted already in the January 6th attack on the Capitol.



MATTINGLY: Capitol Hill security concerns are growing again ahead of a right-wing rally planned for next month. The event is a show of support for a jailed insurrectionist charged in the January 6th riot.

PAUL: CNN's Melanie Zanona has more.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, the Capitol is always a target, but there are heightened security concerns right now among both law makers and law enforcement officials ahead of two key dates next month. One is a rally planned for the campus grounds being organized by a former Trump campaign staffer in support of the jailed January 6th rioters, and the other is the 20th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks. Now, security preparations are underway for that September 18th rally, there are serious talks of reinstalling that temporary fencing around the capital.


The MPD is going to be fully activated that week, and the Capitol police received a memo warning that this group tend to attract far right extremists, so there could be unrest and violence. Now, the same memo also said that similar past events haven't turned violent. And so far, only 300 people have told the event organizers that they plan to attend, not to mention it's taking place on a Saturday during recess. So far, few people will be around that day. Still, these fresh fears come as Capitol Hill is still reeling from January 6th as well as a recent bomb scare that had the community on edge, even though it ended without incident.

Just take a listen to what this Congresswoman Madeleine Dean told me in an interview this week. She said, quote, "you don't get an insurrection on January 6th and all threats of violence go away. In fact, the fears that future planning will produce other violent acts. I'm most concerned for my staff and I also worry for the Capitol police. They are strained, they have been heroic and they saved all of our lives at great peril to themselves." So, while, no one wants to be overly alarmist here, everyone is on edge and preparing for every single, possible scenario because nobody wants a repeat of January 6th. Melanie Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.


PAUL: Thank you so much. So, mass shootings, gun violence, the NRA's role in U.S. law. What's the cost of the war on gun control? Be sure to watch "THE PRICE OF FREEDOM" tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. We'll be right back.