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The Situation Room

New COVID-19 Cases Up 300 Percent Compared Last Year's Labor Day; The Biden Administration Scrambling With The Pandemic, Afghanistan, And Weather Catastrophe; Hurricane Ida's After-effects In New York And Louisiana; At Least 50 Deaths Blamed On Catastrophic Storm In Northeast; Biden Approves Major Disaster Declaration For Part Of NY, NJ; Death Toll From Nursing Home Evacuation Rises To 7; Around 500,000 Still Without Power In Louisiana; Affidavit: Ex-Marine Sharpshooter Said He Killed A Baby And Three Others Because "God" Told Him To. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 17:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: What a horrific story. Randi, thank you. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. I'm Erica Hill in for Jake Tapper on this special edition of THE LEAD. Our coverage continues right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now, new warnings that Labor Day crowds may make the COVID-19 surge even worse this fall as more children go back to school. And there's new confusion about vaccine booster shots.

Also tonight, we're getting new information about Americans being evacuated from Afghanistan by land instead of by air. This as a key Republican congressman is claiming the Taliban are blocking U.S. citizens from flying out of the country.

And disturbing video captures a failed attempt to rescue a couple and their 2-year-old child from a flooded basement in New York. We have new reporting this hour on the pain and suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta and this is a "SITUATION ROOM" special report.

The U.S. is marking a second Labor Day marred by the coronavirus pandemic. And tonight the country is much worse off than it was a year ago with the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases up 300 percent from Labor Day 2020, despite a surplus of vaccines.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has the latest. Elizabeth, it's hard to believe this. We are still hitting just new highs it seems almost every day in this COVID pandemic in this Labor Day marker. Where do we stand right now? How bad is it?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, where we stand right now is that things are really much even worse than they were a year ago. Let's take a look at this graph. This is on the far right you'll see Labor Day. That's where we are right now. That's the level that we're at right now.

And then look all the way to the left. That's Labor Day where we were a year ago. We have three times as many cases as we did compared to a year ago. Now let's take a look at the next graph. On the right that's where we are now. And then look to the left and you'll see a peak of where we were in December and January. We're below that but not all that far below that. And we remember the horror of what it was like last winter.

And finally, here's a map of the United States. In these eight states, you can see most of them in the southeast. They have more than 90 percent of their adult ICU beds full. They are almost full. That means they can't take other cases that come in. And that's where we are unfortunately on this Labor Day. Jim?

ACOSTA: And Elizabeth, booster shots could be authorized as soon as two weeks from now. How soon will people want to get them? I'm assuming right away.

COHEN: It really depends on when you got your first -- your first -- that set of first two shots. If you got them just, you know, last month and the month before, then no, you shouldn't be getting booster shots now. And Israel, they're waiting five months between the second shot and the booster. It's unclear what the U.S. is going to do. But let's take a listen to why they're recommending boosters. Let's take a listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What we're observing now not only here in the United States but in other countries including Israel and the U.K. that the durability of the protection tends to wane, particularly in the context of the delta variant. The good news, as I mentioned a moment ago, is that the boosters really jack up the response very, very high and we hope that that response would be durable.


COHEN: Now, there's been so much back and forth about when people will be able to get boost -- when people will get boosters. At first it was thought September 20th really possibly for everyone. It doesn't quite look that way. But if you're not going to get it the week of the 20th, you could get it very soon thereafter.

Let's take a look at the particulars. Dr. Fauci says that Pfizer looks like they are ready to go for the week of September 20th. That is of course pending approval by the FDA and the CDC. Moderna might be behind that by a week or two, and Dr. Fauci also says we could update it in a couple of weeks about mixing and matching. Maybe your first two doses were Moderna. Your third dose will be Pfizer and vice versa. But again, all of this has to be reviewed by the FDA committee of advisers as well as by the CDC. Jim? ACOSTA: Yes. It sounds like after the holiday is over here in the

U.S., we're going to be getting new guidance on all of this. All right. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for that. Let's get more on all of this with Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He's also a member of the FDA vaccine's advisory committee.

Dr. Offit, thanks so much for being with us. I want to revisit that graph showing the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. It's up a staggering 300 percent since Labor Day one year ago.


It's just hard to believe that. Many Americans certainly expected we would be in a better position by now. I guess in your view, why has that happened?

PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER: It's remarkable. I mean, last year one year ago we didn't have a vaccine, we had a fully susceptible population. This year more than half the country's been vaccinated. Probably 100 million people have been naturally infected which should protect against serious illness. Nonetheless, our numbers are worse than last year. I think there's two reasons.

I think one is the delta variant is far more contagious. And second is, you know, our behavior is not as careful this year as we were last year. I mean, think about it. Remember the -- sort of the biker's rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, last year was all the news.

Now, you know, we have, you know, full packed stadiums and, you know, we have birthday parties and weddings. And we're going back to life as normal and so we're not as careful. I think those two things, our behavior and the delta variant account for this.

ACOSTA: And Dr. Fauci told me the Pfizer booster will likely be ready by September 20th, while Moderna boosters may be delayed. Who should get a booster dose once this rollout is underway? Is it everybody or are we going to be parsing this out a bit?

OFFIT: I think people should be reassured. They've gotten two doses of an mRNA vaccine. They are highly protected against serious illness. All the data presented by the CDC, all the data published by the CDC shows you're in the 90 percent range for protection against serious illness. So people who have gotten two doses should not consider them as highly vulnerable.

Dr. Fauci is right. There has been an erosion to some extent in neutralizing antibodies and associated with that, an increase say in asymptomatic infection or mildly symptomatic infection, even moderately asymptomatic infection, where protection against severe disease is excellent and it's mediated by something different than neutralizing antibodies.

It's mediated by immunological memory which tends to be long lived. Also, we do not have a three-dose recommendation for the general population yet in this country. That has to go through the FDA and then it has to go through the CDC. And what we may find is it's not going to be for the general population initially. It may be for a subset that we consider most likely to be at risk.

ACOSTA: And if someone received the Moderna vaccine for their first two shots, can they safely at this point, do you think, get a Pfizer booster dose? I asked Dr. Fauci about this. He said that the verdict is not in yet. They're analyzing this right now. We should get that data soon.

OFFIT: Right. So you should always wait for data. But I do think this sort of constant talk about boosters is missing the main point and although -- and if we put in place to some extent a third dose booster recommendation in this country that may have some effect on this pandemic.

But if you're going to have a real effect on this pandemic, you're going to have to figure out a way to vaccinate the 60, 70, 80 million people who are unvaccinated. I mean, you are -- you have a 25 to 30- fold greater risk of being hospitalized or dying if you're unvaccinated than vaccinated. It's the vaccinate -- unvaccinated that is spreading the virus in this country that's infecting others.

And we -- that should be what we take on and we should talk about it every minute of every hour of every day because we are never going to get on top of this pandemic until we do that.

ACOSTA: It's so true when you look at the maps. I mean, the unvaccinated parts of this country are where we are seeing cases go off the charts. And Dr. Offit, Israel began giving booster shots in August and is going to advise the FDA on the efficacy of that program at a September 17th briefing.

How helpful will that information be, do you think, to the U.S. and the booster plans here? It sounds like the Israelis have some very useable important data to offer.

OFFIT: Right. Well, the way that they approached the vaccine was a little different than the way we did. I mean, the way they approached the vaccine was to initially vaccinate those who were elderly. So, those were the ones then who had a longer period of time from their second dose of vaccine.

We didn't do it exactly that way. We vaccinated healthcare workers. I know they're lot of people who were healthy and young. So we'll see the degree to which the Israeli data in any sense informs what we're doing in this country, but it may not be an exact comparison.

ACOSTA: And Dr. Fauci suggests protecting children from the coronavirus by surrounding them with vaccinated people. How much longer will children under the age of 12 have to remain unvaccinated? We can't wait forever, I hope.

OFFIT: No, it's really frustrating, especially with children back in school now, with the delta variant and especially in communities where the spread is high. The only chance these children have is masking and a vaccine. I would like to think that we'll have submitted to the FDA, you know,

data by no later than the end of September, hopefully by, say, November we can have a vaccine, but it's really -- I'm guessing in the way all of us are guessing, I mean, we certainly need a vaccine for children.

But, remember, only about 40 percent of children between 12 and 15 years of age are vaccinated, even though we have a vaccine. So having a vaccine isn't good enough. You actually have to vaccinate once you have it.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. All right, that is so important. All right, Dr. Paul Offit, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Happy Labor Day.

OFFIT: You too.


ACOSTA: And coming up, the first overland evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan. We're learning new details of how they got out. This is a "Situation Room" special report.


ACOSTA: A critical month ahead for President Biden as he faces fallout from the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal, the resurging COVID pandemic, and weather disasters stretching from the south to the northeast. CNN's senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly has the latest. Phil, the president and his administration are being put to the test right now. No question about it.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. For President Biden and his top advisers, this certainly wasn't the summer they envisioned. Definitely not the summer they expected. But it is a summer that has left the president and his team facing increased pressure under increased fire as they enter the most important stretch of their first year in office.



MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, President Biden set to return to Washington at the start of a critical month. His administration facing a series of major crises.

From natural disasters and a foreign policy crisis to a resurgent pandemic and critical hurdles to his sweeping legislative agenda, a president facing the ultimate test.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken landing Monday in Doha.

RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We believe it's around a hundred.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): As the U.S. grapples with more than a hundred American citizens on the ground in Afghanistan.

KLAIN: We are going to find ways to get them, the ones that want to leave, to get them out of Afghanistan.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The U.S. facilitating the departure of four Americans through an overland route, according to a senior State Department official. But with reports of some Americans stuck at an airport ready to depart, concerns on Capitol Hill about what happens next.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): They're not allowed to leave. We know the reason why is because the Taliban want something in exchange.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): A persistent headache for a president facing a tangible dip in approval over the last several weeks. Numbers on the economy and handling of the pandemic dropping alongside. A driving factor, the dramatic surge in COVID cases. Average daily cases up more than a thousand percent compared to the level on July 4th.

FAUCI: The first thing we have to do, we can't be having 150,000 new infections per day. That's pandemic numbers. That's the first thing, we've got to crack that one right away.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): White House officials saying Biden plans to lay out more aggressive steps in response in the days ahead, keenly aware of the direct correlation to a robust economic recovery that is now showing signs of slowing in the latest jobs report.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know people were looking and I was hoping for a higher number.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): The U.S. adding 235,000 jobs in August, a major drop-off from the more than 1 million in July, driven in large part by hospitality, services and retail industries sharply affected by the pandemic.

BIDEN: There's no question the delta variant is why today's job report isn't stronger.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): All as millions face the loss of pandemic emergency unemployment benefits.

KLAIN: We have more unfilled jobs in this country than at any time on the record of measuring unfilled jobs. So we think the jobs are there and we think the states have the resources they need to move people from unemployment to employment.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Jim, along with the public ramp-up on the coronavirus, expect the White House to focus intently on their legislative agenda. Behind the scenes over the course of the last several weeks even as the chaos in Afghanistan played out, the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been working feverishly to craft the details of the president's $3.5 trillion expansion of the social safety net. The president has long felt, according to officials, that his agenda,

his legislative agenda is the critical piece of success in his first year. That needs to get across the finish line in the next few weeks, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. And CNN's Phil Mattingly, thanks very much for that. Stand by. We want to bring in CNN's senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt and CNN military analyst and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Retired General Wesley Clark.

Alex, let me go to you first. While Secretary Blinken is trying to reassure allies, you've been monitoring this evacuation effort that is continuing, does the Biden administration think it can replicate this departure by land border that you reported on earlier today? That is a pretty fascinating new development.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, they certainly hope so. I mean, certainly as long as international flights are not allowed in or out, which is the case right now. And what we're hearing today, Jim, from the State Department I think really serves two purposes, and that's to show that they are still working very hard to get Americans out of Afghanistan.

Even if it's as few as four when there are still, as Phil has reported, around 100 Americans still trying to get out. But the other purpose is they don't want to jeopardize, you know, these land routes, these escape routes for the way these people are evacuating so they're not really offering up too many details.

We know that these four Americans went to a neighboring country. We know that they were met on the other side by U.S. embassy personnel from that country, and that they were in good condition. But perhaps more critically, Jim, we're told that the Taliban was aware of this evacuation and did not impede it.

That assurance that the Taliban has given that they will allow foreign nationals out is absolutely critical. So much of the ability for these Americans and Afghan nationals at risk to get out will hinge on what the Taliban does. Jim?

ACOSTA: Yes. If they start standing in the way of that, there will be huge friction. General Clark, let me turn to you. Despite this, there are reports that the Taliban are blocking planes from evacuating and we're already hearing reports of Taliban murders and crackdowns on women protesting. What is the U.S. up against right now? What do you think the administration should be thinking about considering in the days ahead?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well there is two issues, Jim. Number one is what's the capability of a Taliban leadership to control their own followers?


And we don't know that. We think it's not that good because they've put out a sort of ideology. But we know they are split into factions, into tribes, into regions. Some are not the same ethnic group. So we know there's going to be pushes and pulls in that. So they may not have the capability to follow through on any promise they make.

And then the question is, will they make such a promise and will they make it in such a way that it's not a hostage situation? If they want to have normal relations with the rest of the world, they've got to let the Americans leave, they've got to let their own people leave and they can accept humanitarian aid and so forth. If they don't, then it's a different ball game.

Now, I would think that Secretary Blinken's going over there to have a direct discussion through the Qatari's good offices with whoever from that Taliban office remains in Qatar. And when he does that, then he's going to have to make that assessment and recommendation to the White House.

This is the touchiest issue going forward because really there's probably 300,000 or 400,000, maybe a million Afghans who do want to leave, not just the ones who work for us but ones who work for NGOs, ones who've been western educated, doctors, other people who just don't trust the Taliban. It's a real brain-drain potential for Afghanistan, but it's important in terms of human rights to allow these people to have a choice to leave.

ACOSTA: And, Phil, President Biden is facing serious scrutiny on Afghanistan ahead of the 9/11 anniversary with the delta variant raging at home, road blocks for his legislative agenda potentially. How does the White House plan to turn the page and tackle these multiple crises after Labor Day?

MATTINGLY: Well, Jim, I don't think White House officials think Afghanistan is going away any time soon. The potential for something to go sideways is very real, very tangible every single day. But when you talk to White House officials they make clear, they want the focus to be on domestic issues. And core number one in those issues is the coronavirus pandemic.

They understand both from a public health perspective, but also from an economic perspective their success, not just on their first year in office, but really in the first term in office, is directly tied to their success in handling and managing the coronavirus. It's what they thought was the most successful element leading into this summer and the numbers seem to back that up, both on the polling side of things but also on the case counts, on the deaths, on the hospitalizations.

Obviously that has shifted with the delta variant. And I think what you're going to see from White House officials is not some ignorance to Afghanistan. They will still be very aware of what's going on, but a very clear public focus on handling the coronavirus pandemic, and then obviously the legislative agenda as well.

They think the domestic issues are what people care most about. That was underscored to some degree by the president's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan all together.

ACOSTA: Yes, general, I mean, the White House wants to turn to domestic issues, but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley, he's predicting potential civil war. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is already saying the U.S. will need to go back into Afghanistan. Do you think those two voices are getting a bit hasty here? What do you think?

CLARK: Well, I think we're going to have to continue to maintain a focus on Afghanistan to some extent because we haven't followed through on the commitments we made. But, as President Biden said, we've got major challengers in China and Russia.

And in particular, one of the things we didn't hear much about this past week was President Zelensky of Ukraine and his visit to Washington. How did it go? What does it mean? What's Putin planning to do? Putin still has those forces prepared to lurch into Ukraine some time before the snows fall to set up the water supply and take part of Ukraine connecting to Crimea. He could do this.

China, of course, is watching anxiously, working with Russia in this, both cheering when the United States has a setback and then trying to deal with their own domestic problems and the issues they face including Afghanistan.

ACOSTA: Yes. As we know all too well, general, presidents don't get to choose their agendas every day of the week. Often they're chosen for them. All right, Phil Mattingly, Alex Marquardt, General Wesley Clark, thanks so much to you gentlemen. Happy Labor Day. We appreciate it.

And up next, police release new video of a desperate attempt to save a family from their flooded basement apartment as the northeast was inundated by floods from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

And new details, grizzly details of a Marine veteran who allegedly went on a murderous rampage randomly killing a family in their home. This is a "SITUATION ROOM" special report.



ACOSTA: From Louisiana to New York, hundreds of thousands of people are still suffering tonight in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. We'll go live to Louisiana in just a moment. But first, CNN national correspondent Athena Jones has the latest on the situation in the northeast. One of the hardest-hit areas is the borough of Queens, New York.

Athena, how are things doing up there? What are you learning about a family that drowned during this storm? It's just one of so many of these just awful cases that we're hearing about.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jim. So many heartbreaking stories. And you're right, this is one of the hardest-hit areas both in terms of damage and loss of life. And here's the main reason. Look, this is how high the water reached. This is the water line. It is above my head. So you can imagine the kind of damage and dangerousness it offers to

not only ground floor apartments but also basement apartments. Many of the deaths here in Queens were people who drowned in their basement apartment. The NYPD releasing a video of its attempted rescue of the couple with their 2-year-old.

Unfortunately, that attempt was unsuccessful. All three were later found dead. And all tolled (ph) across the northeast 50 -- at least 50 people lost their lives.


And there are millions of dollars in damages here in New York alone, at least $50 million in damages according to the Governor. They expect that number to go up. But you can see here in this neighborhood, people are drying out their cars, people are cleaning out their ground floor apartments, bringing out clothing to hang up, getting rid of appliances that are damaged, cabinetry.

ACOSTA: This is the kind of damage we saw that the New York officials like Bill de Blasio, the FEMA administrator and also Senator Chuck Schumer, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saw when they came to tour this area today. Tomorrow, Joe Biden -- President Biden is planning to come both to Queens and New Jersey. He's already signed disaster relief for both states.

And Athena, it looks like people behind you, they're just pulling stuff out of their homes and drying them out, washing them out, that sort of thing. It's just, uh, just devastating to look at.

JONES: It really is. I mean, it's a mess, and there's trying to salvage what they -- whatever they can, but certainly a lot of it won't be able to be salvaged. And this is going to be a clean-up effort that goes on for some time. But with this federal disaster relief, individuals and businesses will be able to apply for all kinds of assistance to help them with repairs, and putting their lives back together after this. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much.

Now to Louisiana, we're about half a million people are still without power, a week after the storm facing sweltering heat on top of water and fuel shortages. CNN's Adrianne Broaddus is in New Orleans for us. Adrianne, the storm has gone but these conditions are still dangerous out there.

ADRIANNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Jim, and families with little access to food, water, and other resources are trying to survive in this heat. This cooling station is one of eight across the city providing those resources for those in need.


BROADDUS (voice-over): Just under half a million power outages across Louisiana eight days after Hurricane Ida slammed the city and many not expected to have power restored for weeks. MATTHEW JEWELL, ST. CHARLES PARISH PRESIDENT: Over 2,500 electrical poles have snapped and fallen in our parish. There are still polls on streets and there are some folks don't have the ability to access or get out of their street or have access to first responders coming to the streets.

BROADDUS (voice-over): And official at power giant Entergy, Louisiana saying they've never seen anything this large. Entergy, New Orleans adding that Hurricane Ida caused more damage to their distribution system than Hurricanes Katrina, Delta and Zeta combined.

DONIELLE EAST-MITTER, LAPLACE RESIDENT WITHOUT POWER: The stance is bad communication, we have spotty communication. Sometimes we can't even get through, our insurance companies can't get through to us because we have no power at all. And we probably going to be out of power for a long time.

BROADDUS (voice-over): On Sunday, another death related to the hurricane confirmed, raising the death toll in the state to 13. State officials say seven deaths relate to nursing home residents who had been evacuated to a temporary shelter ahead of the hurricane. The shelter received more than 800 residents from seven nursing facilities as power and sanitary conditions were failing, according to officials. Five of those deaths are being classified as storm-related.

New Orleans also evacuated 10 senior living apartment buildings over poor conditions.

MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D), NEW ORLEANS: What we found was unacceptable. And accountability will be across the board. But right now, we will remain focused on improving the conditions of the facilities that we closed in order to bring our seniors back. We do not want to bring them back in those conditions that they left.

BROADDUS (voice-over): Whether still a major challenge for the region, on Monday, a heat advisory was announced for the New Orleans metro area. With the heat index expected to be between 100 and 105 degrees.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: Please take advantage of cooling shelters if you can, run your generators if you have them, but do it safely. And make sure you continue to check on your neighbours especially those who are elderly or have special needs.


BROADDUS: And along with that heat advisory, more of what the city doesn't need is on the right -- on the way and that's rain. At least two to three inches could fall already triggering a flash flood warning. Jim?

ACOSTA: Don't like the sound of that. All right, we hope for the best down there in New Orleans. Adrianne, thanks so much for keeping on top of that. We appreciate it.

Let's get more on the crisis in Louisiana with Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng. Cynthia, my goodness, our hearts go out to you guys down there. Just an unbelievable situation. You've described the lack of power paired with a fuel shortage as a double whammy. How is this combination making recovery difficult for people in your parish and how are the frustration levels right now? It's got to be reaching their boiling point.


CYNTHIA LEE SHENG, JEFFERSON PARISH PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, our electrical department Entergy is working hard at restoring it. I know a lot of people are out of town want to come back. Unfortunately, we, you know, it was raining today. And of course, when you just can't get out to the streets and it's pouring down rain, and that's just going to delay things as you would expect. Very, very difficult.

I just got back from travelling to Lafayette, which is outside of our levee protection system. This is a community that had very, very high water. It's just heart-breaking. You know, some of the hardest things I've had to deal with is looking people in the face who just have lost everything. And just -- there's a quiet desperation about them. I mean, it's almost like there's no words.

You can't even console them by saying, well, at least you're physically healthy. It's almost like I feel guilty even saying that, and I have no words for these people. So, getting out and meeting people that just have lost everything. But we're strong people, we will rebuild. But it's just going to take some time and building the systems back together.

As we go every day, our water system, our sewer system improve. But again, we're having difficulties. Unfortunately, we had another death that happened last night. Someone got hit, because there's no electricity and the street was dark, and I think it was a hit and run. Just terrible, terrible that our post storm deaths are greater than what would the one death we lost during the storm.

ACOSTA: Yes, this has been a slow motion crisis. It's just been getting worse and worse by the day. And can you give us an update on the conditions in Grand Isle, specifically have workers, rescue workers, recovery worker has been able to access that area because we know Grand Isle just got obliterated.

LEE SHENG: Absolutely. So, we have a military person helping us, assigned to us Lieutenant Colonel David Anderson is going with my Westbank Fire Chief Bryan Adams, they actually left today to get a team on the ground. They're trying to find lodging. They're trying to find a place to essentially camp on the island to be there and start the recovery.

So, I know they were really excited to get down there. They've been strategizing, but they will not stay down there. I will head down there soon to look at it. I've seen it by the air. But to just start strategizing and see how to bring it back.

Of course you need first response first, you know, so we need to make sure that there's fire protection, and there's police protection out there. And we will rebuild. If you ever met anybody from Grand Isle, here's no doubt that that community will come back even better. I hope you get to meet our Mayor down there, Mayor David Camardelle. They're the best of what Louisiana has.

We will rebuild, but they just were -- they were just at ground zero for where this was. And it's amazing that we didn't lose lives on Grand Isle. That is the miracle of it all. If you look at the devastation, and you look at houses that aren't even there anymore, and the fact that we didn't lose a life down there is just a miracle. Somebody upstairs was pulling for us for the island of Grand Isle.

ACOSTA: Yes. Cynthia, I've been to Grant Isle, it is a great community and wonderful people down there. But you're right, they are tough. And we hope the best -- hope for the best for everybody in your parish. My goodness, they've been through so much.

All right Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng, thanks for joining us and good luck to you as you rebuild. We appreciate it.

LEE SHENG: Thank you. Thank you so much.

ACOSTA: All right. And just ahead, a family filled at random in their own home allegedly by a former marine said he'd be suffering from PTSD. Are there warning signs that were missed?



ACOSTA: We're learning schilling new details tonight about the killing of a Florida family who the local sheriff says was gunned down in their own home by what he calls a madman -- quote, a madman with a lot of guns. CNN's Nick Valencia is working the story for us. Nick, new details tonight about this accused killer, a former marine sharpshooter, is that right?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And prior to this shooting, the sheriff described Brian Riley, 33 years old as a war hero. He's now being described as a madman whose fiance told police was suffering from PTSD and she'd actually grown increasingly worried about his mental health state about a week before the shooting. We have to warn you, some of the details that you're about here are disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sheriff says these people were begging for their lives, why did you shoot them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why, why did you this?

VALENCIA (voice-over): His eyes closed then hands cuffed behind his back, 33-year-old Brian Riley ignored questions from reporters as he was led into the back of a police car on his way to jail. The Polk County sheriff says that the former marine confessed to shooting several people at this Lakeland, Florida home. But they still don't know why. Four people were killed, including a 33-year-old woman and her three-month-old.

SHERIFF GRADY JUDD, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA: We had a madman with a lot of guns that shot and killed innocent people.

VALENCIA (voice-over): When sheriff's deputies arrived at the horrific scene early Sunday, they saw a truck on fire and they say they encountered Riley in front of the home outfitted in camouflage and body armour. The suspect then quickly retreated inside before police say they heard a woman screen followed by gunshots and the whimper of a baby.

Bullet holes and broken glass showed the aftermath of the shootout with law enforcement. Riley eventually surrendered after being shot at least once.

JUDD: We're not dealing with a traditional criminal here, but what we're dealing with is someone who obviously had mental health issues, at least this last week, had PTSD. And whether or not we follow that back to the military, we don't know.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Riley spent four years as an active duty marine, designated sharpshooter who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spent another three years as a marine reservists.


According to Polk County Sheriff's Office, Riley's fiance told police the combat veteran's PTSD had become noticeably worse this last week. She said he was acting erratically and according to an affidavit, had recently come home after working as a security guard at a church to say he believed he could speak directly to God. Adding to the disturbing details, police say Riley confessed that he shot the infant because I'm a sick guy.

A self-described survivalist, police say Riley admitted to being high on meth during the killings. At this stage of the investigation, police say there is no known connection between the victims and the suspect.

JUDD: If he'd given us the opportunity, we just shot him up a lot. But he didn't because he was a coward.


VALENCIA: Riley was in court earlier today for his first court appearance where a judge denied his bond. He's currently being held on four counts of first degree murder. And Jim, police are really just trying to figure out if there's a connection at all between the suspect and these family members. Initially, they say, he arrived at the home sometime on Saturday evening. Police recalled he fled the scene nine hours later, he came back, and again this is 45 minutes from his home, He came back to carry out that shooting spree. Police want to know why. Jim?

ACOSTA: Such a horrible story. What a tragedy. All right, CNN's Nick Valencia, thanks so much. We appreciate it. VALENCIA: You bet.

ACOSTA: Coming up, COVID cases in the U. S. have 300 percent from last Labor Day as the U.S. suffers another pandemic surge. Plus, a warning from the FBI and the Homeland Security Department as the country approaches the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.



ACOSTA: The new CNN film "LFG" premieres tonight at 9:00 chronicling the battle by female athletes on and off the field to get the equal pay and respect they deserve. CNN's Carolyn Manno has a preview.


BILLIE JEAN KING, TENNIS LEGEND: As a girl growing up, I was always taught to be so grateful for the crumbs and women are taught that.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORT (voice-over): When it comes to gender equity and sports, images like those from the weight rooms at this year's NCAA tournament underscore a heavy truth for female athletes.

MEGHAN DUGGAN, FORMER PRO-HOCKEY PLAYER AND OLYMPIAN: Women professional and national team ice hockey players have to battle and fight every single day. The resources that the National Hockey League players have access to are unbelievable. And, you know, they've earned them but so have the women.

MANNO (voice-over): The U.S. women's national teams in both Hockey and Soccer have fought for increases in wages and equitable treatment, arguing the value they bring to global events like the Olympics and World Championships isn't being compensated fairly. In 2017, members of the U.S. Hockey team reached a landmark four-year deal with USA Hockey after threatening a boycott. This past April, the soccer team reached a partial settlement with U.S. Soccer on better working conditions. The team is still appealing the dismissal of an equal pay lawsuit filed against the federation in 2020.

The USSF provided a statement in August saying U.S. Soccer is committed to equal pay and is proud to support these pieces of legislation which seek to ensure that all national governing bodies offer equal opportunity, including investment, promotional support, working conditions and compensation for their athletes, staff and other senior officials.

ALEX MORGAN, PRO-SOCCER PLAYER AND USWNT FORWARD: We will continue to fight. We did file an appeal. And as many people know that takes many, many months. So we're in the thick of it right now. And we're really optimistic for the outcome, but we know that we have to be patient along the way.

MANNO (voice-over): In professional leagues, women's average salaries are making small scale gains over time. The leagues were established later than the ones belonging to their male counterparts. But the pay gap remains alarmingly wide.

MUFFET MCGRAW, FORMER NOTRE DAME WOMEN'S BASKETBALL COACH: If you look at the WNBA, now trying to get the same salary as the NBA. They just want a little bit more. They want to be able to live without having to go to Europe and play. They want to have a salary that will accommodate them for the entire year. I don't think that's too much to ask.

CANDACE PARKER, WNBA STAR: You know, I realized that the WNBA is 25 years down (ph). The NBA has been around for 75 years. I understand that just because LeBron makes $90 million. It doesn't make me that way. But it's the perception of what women's athletes are in the sense that they cannot sell. And that goes with marketing.

MANNO (on-camera): The athletes and executives that I spoke with point towards corporate investment as an area that can have a tangible effect on closing the pay gap. And we're seeing a little bit of that.

Last week, Michelob ULTRA invested $100 million in marketing women's sports over the next five years, and AIG set a new benchmark in the LPGA at the AIG Women's Open. Their payout is now set at 5.8 million. That's the largest in the sports history.

Lucrative opportunity at the U.S. Open here as well, and of course, this event set at a venue bearing the name of one of the titans of gender equity.

CATHY ENGLEBERT, WNBA COMMISSIONER: We're so thankful for athletes like Billie Jean King who have stepped up, have used her voice and continued to use it over decades.

PARKER: Now I'm looking in this generation and I'm seeing now my daughter is going to have far more doors open for her. So it's our responsibility to continue to push this forward.

KING: We're only going to be happy with the cake, the icing and the cherry on top. We deserve it, and we're going to go for it. No more being happy with the crumbs.

Carolyn Manno, CNN, New York.


ACOSTA: And be sure to watch the all new CNN film "LFG" premiering tonight at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.

Coming up, the COVID crisis worsening in the U.S. with about 1,600 Americans dying every day in cases of 300 percent. Miracle (ph).



ACOSTA: Happening now, many Americans are ignoring health experts' warnings against holiday weekend travel as COVID-19 cases are up 300 percent from last Labor Day. Adding the anxiety, Dr. Anthony Fauci tells me Moderna vaccine booster shots may be delayed.

Also tonight, as the nation braces for the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this week, Homeland Security is closely monitoring extremists activity, fearing terrorist may exploit the moment. And a new window into the desperation in the northeast disaster zone ahead of President Biden's visit.