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Tropical Storm Elsa; Florida Condo Collapse; U.S. Politics; U.S. Gun Violence; U.S. Capitol Siege; War in Afghanistan; Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 4-4:30a ET.

Aired July 7, 2021 - 04:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you with us. While millions of people on the U.S. East Coast are bracing for impact as Tropical Storm Elsa closes in on Florida's Gulf Coast, the storm briefly strengthen to a hurricane Tuesday before losing power, as it approached the coast. Elsa is expected to make landfall in the coming hours in Florida's Big Bend area.

And here's a look at conditions near Tampa where they're still feeling the impact of Elsa's out of bands. Forecasters are especially concerned about the threat of a potentially deadly storm surge, as well as heavy rain, wind and possible tornadoes.

Tyler Mauldin has been tracking this storm and joins us now. So Tyler, talk to us about what all you're saying.

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, so it's a 70-mile per hour storm now, Rosemary. And even though it hasn't made landfall that's just parallel to the coast of Florida. We've seen some big impacts especially along the west coast in the form of heavy rain. We've seen some tornado warnings be issued as well. We still have a tornado watch in effect for portions of the peninsula of Florida.

And you can see that the storms are really getting a punch right now over the peninsula of Florida. We have one tornado warning in effect here for the Ocala area because as in route one right just to the north of Arcadia as well. As these storms come ashore, they're rotating and that can cause them to quickly spin up some brief tornadoes.

We've also seen a lot of rain in the same areas. And some areas have seen six, seven, eight inches of rain here, especially across the west coast of Florida but just north of Port Charlotte going into Venice, in the Sarasota area, we have seen 10 to 11 inches of rainfall estimated on radar, that is certainly enough to cause some flooding.

Then you also add in the fact that the storm is almost coinciding exactly with high tide in the Tampa Bay Clearwater area and areas to the north. Well, that's just adding insult to injury when it comes to the storm surge and causing the storm surges to reach levels. We think it could reach levels of three to five feet.

From here, it makes landfall sometime this morning along the Cedar Key, that's around the big man and then it pushes across Coastal Georgia, up along the Carolinas, the Mid-Atlantic and then later on this week. It's impacted New England as a 50 mile per hour storm.

So because it's taking this track, we do have tropical storm warnings up and also tropical storm watches up for portions of Coastal Georgia and the Carolinas. It's going to carry all of these thunderstorms with it, Rosemary, as it takes this track so we are looking at the potential for more in the way of heavy rain, gusty winds up the East Coast as it takes this journey.

CHURCH: We appreciate you keeping an eye on its track there. Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin joining us.

Well Tropical Storm Elsa has also threatened crews working at the Champlain Towers condo collapse in Surfside.


They've been battling wind and rain as they continue searching through the rubble. We're now getting a closer look at their efforts.

This video from Miami Dade Fire Rescue shows crews digging through the massive debris field left behind after the disaster.

On Tuesday, we also learned that eight more bodies have been recovered from the rubble. That brings the official death toll to 36. With more than 100 still unaccounted for. CNN Leyla Santiago has more from Surfside.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The search and rescue effort growing more urgent as Tropical Storm Elsa looms closer to Florida. The outer bands of wind and rain already being felt and Surfside.

DANIELLA EVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA MAYOR: Despite the rain and the other adverse conditions, we have recovered for additional victims. The number of confirmed deaths is now 36.

SANTIAGO: Teams still working as long as wind gusts remained under 45 miles per hour.

CAVA: They were forced to pause for a little bit about two hours earlier this afternoon because of the lightning, which is mandatory to not work during lightning, and also some gusts of wind that did go above 30 miles per hour with the tropical storm.

SANTIAGO: Rescue teams now have 100 percent access to the building rubble, and a third of the site where they couldn't safely explore prior to Sunday's demolition, expediting the discovery of victims, but no sign of life just yet.

ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY FIRE CHIEF: Unfortunate, we're not seeing anything positive. That continues in that that sense, you know, then the key things we're looking for all throughout in regards to voice space, livable spaces, you know, we're not coming across that. So we're, you know, actively searching as aggressive as we can.

SANTIAGO: Well, the search and rescue effort is still the main focus in Surfside, numerous investigations are happening simultaneously. And new federal partners are arriving in the community to assist in the investigation.

CAVA: The whole world wants to know what happens here. And especially those who are the victims, the survivors, the family members of those who are in the pile, and I'm very confident that especially the federal investigative team will get to the bottom of this and that we'll learn what happened, what could have been prevented, and how to make sure it never happens again.

SANTIAGO (on camera): We've certainly watched this from afar being so close. You can see the twisted metal, the concrete that make up a very tall pile. To put it in perspective, the ocean is on the other side. And you can't even see it from where we are standing right in front. But of course it is what is underneath this pile that is tearing apart this community.

For families, it is knowing that loved ones are somewhere could be somewhere underneath and for the survivors, it's knowing that some of their most cherished belongings will never be seen again. Leyla Santiago, CNN, Surfside Florida.


CHURCH: CNN is projecting that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will win the Democratic primary for New York City Mayor. If he defeats his Republican challenger this November, Adams would become the second black mayor in the city's history. And the first since the late David Dinkins lost reelection in 1993.

Adams thanked his supporters tweeting this. I grew up poor in Brooklyn and Queens. I wore a bulletproof vest to keep my neighbors safe. I served my community as a state senator and Brooklyn Borough president and I'm honored to be the Democratic nominee to be the mayor of the city I've always called home. Thank you, New York.

When New York's rising crime wave was a major issue in the mayoral campaign and now the state's governor has declared an emergency over gun violence.

More than 50 people were shot in the state over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. And New York City has seen a spike in shootings about 38 percent higher in the first six months of this year compared to the same time last year.

Governor Andrew Cuomo says he will sign legislation that allows for civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers, distributors and dealers for how they market and sell firearms. He says the new law will do what Washington refuse to do hold gun manufacturers accountable.

Cuomo says there are more people dying of gun violence and crime than of COVID. And he is calling on the state to confront the problem head on.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): This is a national problem. I get it. But somebody has to step up and somebody has to address it and the place that should step up and address it is the state of New York and we should do it comprehensively and honestly and creative. And that's what today is all about. Because this is the state when it sees an injustice, we don't look the other way. We stand up and we fight it and that's what we're going to do with gun violence.



CHURCH: It has been six months since an angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol hoping to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president. And the government has released more video from that day part of their case against the rioters.

This one shows a man in a Trump hat fighting with police officers. The Justice Department released another clip it says it shows rioters harassing guards as they tried to break into the Senate chamber. Here's what Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Tuesday about the riot.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): That was not a peaceful protest. I've talked to the police officers, hundreds of them were injured, some of them severely injured, and then I hope they all get prosecuted. This is not democracy. That was anarchy. President Trump speech my view didn't cause the riot. It didn't help but it didn't cause it people planted bombs outside of political buildings the night before he even spoke.


CHURCH: Some officers who fought off rioters say not enough is being done to prevent further attacks. More on that later this hour.

Well, the U.S. Central Command says American forces are nearly done with a quote orderly and responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan. But the operation is far from over with many loose ends to tie up. CNN's Oren Liebermann has more now from the Pentagon.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The Defense Department said the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is now more than 90 percent complete, meaning that President Joe Biden's ambition to get us forces out of Afghanistan and end the war on terror in that country is effectively finished at this point.

The vast majority of troops in the country now will remain there as part of the 650 or so troops that will take part in embassy security as well as assisting to secure the airport effectively making sure the diplomatic mission, the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan can continue to function.

Asked why it took two months to withdraw 90 percent and another two months to withdraw the final 10 percent, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that withdrawal is not a linear process, it'll take time and the fewer troops you have left in the country, the more difficult, the more crucial it is to effectively protect them because of the force becoming smaller and smaller. And the emphasis the US military has put on force protection.

But just because this process of withdrawal is nearing its completion, that doesn't mean that there are fundamentally unanswered questions. U.S. contractors who have supported not only the Afghan military, but specifically the Afghan Air Force, where and how do they work over the horizon? Those conversations are ongoing.

As are the conversations about where and how to process some 18,000 Afghan interpreters and their families as they go through the visa application to try to apply and come to the United States. These are difficult questions that the Pentagon as well as the entire Biden administration are trying to answer very quickly, some of them under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans, how to conduct all of this, how to support the Afghan military as it continues in its fight against the Taliban.

Those are still questions that the interagency process in the U.S. is working on. But the Biden administration has made it clear, it views the fight against the Taliban, as one that the Afghan military will carry on us support will largely be in the form of a financial support.

All of this, of course, is happening as the Taliban makes great gains in the countryside of Afghanistan pushing back Afghan military forces a largely force that's becoming rather more demoralized, as the Taliban has picked up districts.

The U.S. has said it retains the authority to assist the Afghan military with airstrikes, but it's unclear how and when and where and if even that authority will be used. Oren Liebermann, CNN in the Pentagon.


CHURCH: As Oren mentioned, Afghanistan central government is scrambling to hold Taliban advances. Nearly half of the country is under Taliban control shown here in black according to the Long War Journal. CNN has not independently confirmed these details.

Meantime, looters have tried to make a profit on what the U.S. left behind picking through scraps at Bagram Airbase. A source says U.S. forces also left a prison with thousands of detainees, including al Qaeda figures and Taliban. That prison is now under Afghan control. But a security official says it's still vulnerable. CNN's Anna Coren has more now from Kabul.


ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): But while this may signal the end of America's war for Afghanistan, it is just another chapter. And embolden Taliban is launching YCL offensives across the country, particularly in the north, where tens of thousands of people have been displaced as they flee the fighting.


COREN (voice-over): Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are at a virtual standstill, and the threat of civil war is looming. For the Afghans, we speak to, they say there is no end in sight to the violence and have little confidence there will ever be peace in this country. Anna Coren, CNN, Kabul.


CHURCH: President Biden is warning about the danger of the Delta variant as he urges all Americans to get a COVID vaccine, hear his message. That's next.

And the British Prime Minister is getting ready to take questions about the lifting of COVID restrictions. We're live in London with that.



JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The bottom line is the virus is on the run. And America is coming back. We're coming back together. This one of the greatest achievements in American history and you the American people made it happen. But our fight against this virus is not over.


CHURCH: The fight against COVID-19 is now being complicated by the Delta variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the highly contagious variant makes up more than half of all new Coronavirus cases in the United States.


That data is leading to growing concerns for states with low vaccination rates where infections are already rising. President Joe Biden is sounding the alarm as he urges all Americans to get vaccinated.


BIDEN: Virtually every COVID-19 hospitalization and death in the United States has been among the unvaccinated. So if you're vaccinated, you're protected. But if you're unvaccinated, you're not. And you're putting yourself more importantly, maybe from your perspective, your family and your friends at risk. So please get vaccinated now.

Or mobilize what I'm calling COVID-19 surge response teams, and they're going to help states that are particular problems, prevent, detect and respond to the spread of the Delta variant among unvaccinated people in communities with low vaccination rates and some states have very low vaccination rates.


CHURCH: And in some of those states shown here in orange, and red, you can see cases are climbing. Top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci says, if there are new surges of infections, they're going to be in those areas where vaccination rates are low, and the Delta variant is spreading.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIR., U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So if ever there was a reason to get vaccinated, this is it. Well, we have more vaccine than we need. I mean, we have vaccines for everyone and anyone who needs it. And there are places in the world where people would do anything to get vaccine. And yet, we have a substantial proportion of people in very specific regions of the country who just do not want to get vaccinated.


CHURCH: I spoke earlier with Dr. Eric Topol about the struggle to get more Americans vaccinated and what might help overcome vaccine hesitancy.


DR. ERIC TOPOL, CARDIOLOGIST: Which it already seems like incentives and lotteries, and it's just not working in what we really need is to get this FDA approval. That's really the only, you know, a singular strategy that would lead to such a large number of Americans both because of the ones who are hesitant waiting for the full approval, also, because it would become a requirement by so many organizations, including health systems, military and employer.

So that's the one thing missing right now, that can make a big difference.

CHURCH: We are seeing an increase in COVID. Cases driven, driven up by the Delta variant in a third of all states where vaccination rates are low. Vaccines save lives. I mean, that is the simple message here, isn't it? But it's not getting through to the 30 percent or so Americans currently refusing to get the shot. Why? What is the barrier here?

TOPOL: Well, I think this barrier, which of course, is some of its political, anti-vaxx and anti-science, some of his just kind of fear this approval issue. But the Delta variant has made this such a pressing issue, because now we have a variant that is so much more of a super spreader. And we know the vaccine works especially well, especially the vaccines here in the U.S. that have remarkable preserved efficacy. So it's really unfortunate because now it's a true emergency.


CHURCH: Our thanks to Dr. Topol. So meanwhile, a new study shows patients who suffered a severe form of the virus are twice as likely to go back to the hospital for a COVID related complication compared to those with milder cases. The study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine finds many of those patients suffered a heart attack, stroke, pneumonia or pulmonary embolism.

Researchers say it should motivate people at high risk for disease to get vaccinated.

Well, South Korea is entering its fourth wave of Coronavirus infections. The health ministry says the capital Seoul reported its highest ever single day increase in new cases on Tuesday. Officials say the country is in a dire situation as the virus is spreading at a very fast rate, particularly the Delta variant and the majority of new cases are being found in younger people.

Well, outrage is mounting in Brazil against President Jair Bolsonaro. He faces an investigation over an allegedly corrupt COVID vaccine deal.

Now this comes as the first case of the Delta variant was detected in the country's most populous cities Sao Paulo. Officials said on Monday there was no evidence of communities spread but officials were investigating.

In Australia Sydney's Coronavirus lockdown is being extended for another week as the city tries to contain the Delta variant.


The New South Wales premier says the goal is to make sure this is the only lockdown they'll need until more people get vaccinated. 27 new local cases were detected in the state on Tuesday. Sydney schools will move to remote learning next week after the winter break.

Well, European powers are taking steps to get life back to normal despite the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant that's been driving up cases.

Germany is now easing restrictions for travelers from a handful of countries, including the UK, and the British Prime Minister is facing questions about his plans to fully reopen England in less than two weeks.

On Tuesday, authorities announced those who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to self-isolate, if they've come into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID. CNN's Scott McLean joins us now live from London. Good to see you, Scott.

So the British Prime Minister faces a lot of questions over relaxing these COVID rules. In just a very short time a couple of weeks Germany's downgrading travel restrictions and all this is making the WHO very concerned. What is the latest on all this?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Rosemary. Yes, July 19 is the date that the British government is planning to lift virtually all restrictions on gatherings and masks and social distancing and things like that, despite the fact that case counts are continuing to surge, thanks largely because of the Delta variant and this country does not have the best track record when it comes to tracking and tracing the virus.

And this is precisely the scenario that the WHO is warning European countries to avoid. But the British government is planning to surge ahead with the reopening despite a case counts, daily case counts being about 25,000 now, and they're predicting that they could get as high as 100,000 per day, which would be about 30 or 40,000 higher than the previous peak, Rosemary.

The government though continues to stress that there is a big difference this time around and that obviously is the vaccination campaign which has seen almost two-thirds of the adult population with both Coronavirus jabs.

If you look at the last time the UK had roughly this number of daily cases, hospitalizations were about 10 times higher. That was in January. The previous time before that was in December, just a few weeks after the country came out of a lockdown. They were about five times higher the hospitalizations every single day.

And so, clearly the vaccinations are working and making a difference.

School kids are largely unvaccinated, though, but they along with adults will not have to self-isolate if they come into contact with a positive case. The Education Secretary also announced that schools will be doing away with staggered start times and keeping kids segregated in bubbles. Here's why.


GAVIN WILLIAMSON, BRITISH EDUCATION SECRETARY: I do not think that is acceptable that children should face greater restrictions over and above those of winder society, especially since they have given up so much to keep older generation safe during this pandemic.


MCLEAN: Now the biggest issue that the opposition Labour Party has with the reopening plans are -- is the plan to scrap the mask mandate altogether even on, you know, cramped (ph) situations like public transit. They argue that it will make it dangerous to take the subway for immunocompromised people per se. The London mayor is also trying to convince the government to reverse that and keep the mask mandate in place. Sadiq Khan told CNN yesterday he is hopeful that a deal can get done by next week, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Scott McLean joining us live from London, many thanks.

The U.S. Justice Department releases more videos of the Capitol riot why six months later police and others say not enough is being done to address the security failures that the insurrection exposed.

A former Afghan translator gets some shocking news from the U.S. government after living in the states for years. He faces deportation over a scrap of bread.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can they say that? Just this -- you should have told me that you don't deserve to live in this great country.