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COVID Cases Now Rising in All 50 States; U.S. Intelligence Assessments on Afghanistan Paint Increasingly Bleak Picture of Taliban Advance; At Least 118 Dead after Historic Flooding in Western Europe. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 13:00   ET




Brynn Gingras, I appreciate your reporting very much.

Just a quick programming note, the conflict in Jerusalem, centuries in the making. The CNN new original series takes you back 3,000 years, through six epic battles for the most coveted city in the world, Jerusalem, City of Faith and Fury, Sunday night only here on -- 10:00 here on CNN.

Have a great weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello and Happy Friday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

The head of the CDC sums it up. This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And this map drives it home. We haven't seen it look like this since January. Cases are now rising in all 50 states, even Montana in yellow seeing a 5 percent increase, everywhere else, it's worse.

And vaccinated or not, Los Angeles County, California, is now mandating masks indoors, this as a new study finds hospitalized COVID patients are having long-term effects.

Now, the danger is where shots are not going into arms. That's where we begin in Florida, where cases among unvaccinated and young people are raising alarm. And we have this just in. The White House now saying one in five U.S. cases this week came from Florida.

CNN's Leyla Santiago leads us off.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For Danielle Chen and her three children, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a family affair.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was not bad at all, guys.

SANTIAGO: They all got the shot to protect the newest member of their family, Destiny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a brand new baby, which is in the NICU. And I need to be safe for her.

SANTIAGO: This mobile vaccination clinic run by the University of Miami Health System travels to schools and underserved communities where COVID-19 cases are rising again. And with back to school just weeks away, their efforts are ramping up.

DR. MICHAEL MAURER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR PEDRIATICS, UNIVERSITY OF MIMAMI MILLER SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: It can vary. Some days, we vaccinate over 100 people in a day and other days are little lower numbers.

SANTIAGO: Right now in Florida, the number of new COVID-19 cases have roughly doubled in the last two weeks and only about 47 percent of residents in Florida are fully vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were heading in the right direction. People were getting their vaccines. People were continuing to be careful while they got their vaccines but we jumped the gun. We jumped the gun because people who were unvaccinated were following what the CDC recommended for vaccinated people and mingling and co-mingling.

SANTIAGO: As the officer of governor, Ron DeSantis tells CNN he has ruled out any possibility of a lockdown. Hospitals like Miami Jackson's health system are reporting a surge in unvaccinated and younger patients. The age group with the lowest vaccination rate in the U.S., 12 to 15-year-olds, only a quarter of them fully vaccinated against COVID-19. One of the biggest obstacles to getting people vaccinated according to the U.S. surgeon general --

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The dangers of health misinformation.

MAURER: I didn't realize it until I had patients that were talking about the impact of things like TikTok and Snapchat and how that sort of plays into the perception that adolescents themselves have about getting their COVID-19 vaccine.

SANTIAGO: Shermika Hodge (ph) also brought her son to get vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had his TDAP and anything else if he needed it.

SANTIAGO: But not the COVID-19 vaccine. Hodge wants to wait. She tells us her 26-year-old daughter plans to get the shot soon and Hodge wants to see with her own eyes what side effects her daughter may experience before vaccinating her 12-year-old son or getting the shot herself. Until then, she plans to rely on COVID-19 testing, which does not prevent the infection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have a problem with the vaccine. I don't. Some people do for whatever reason. But I really don't. I just want to wait it out to see how it affects them.

MAURER: It's my job to sort of sway those fears a little bit to say, listen, COVID potentially could have a larger impact than this vaccine ever will.


SANTIAGO: And, Ana, an update on Chen's family, they actually came back later in the day with grandma to get her vaccinated as well today. They report just a few sore arms. That's all they have felt.

We called to several of the big hospitals across Florida, and I got to tell you many of them echoed the same thing. They're all seeing that uptick in cases with a large, the majority, being the unvaccinated.

CABRERA: And in the words of the old Nike slogan, just do it, go get vaccinated. Leyla Santiago, thank you.

The Olympics kicks off now in just a week and COVID cases in Tokyo just hit a six-month high. CNN's Will Ripley is there. Will, how bad is this getting?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're just days away, as you mentioned, from the opening ceremonies, Ana, and there are now dozens of COVID cases related to the Olympic arrivals. Seven Olympic teams so far have been hit by COVID, some athletes out all together, others hospitalized here in Japan.

And there is even an athlete from Uganda who skipped his COVID test after he didn't qualify for the games and is now missing and being searched for here in Japan.

But the far bigger problem are the outbreaks within the Japanese population. More than 1,300 or so positive cases, the highest daily case count since January here in Tokyo, there's a fourth COVID state of emergency. Restaurants are banned from serving alcohol. Spectators are banned from attending the events. And even the medals ceremonies are going to be different, with athletes being presented their medals on a tray and they have to actually put the medal on themselves.


There were two protests, one here in Tokyo, the other in Hiroshima, against the Olympics happening in Japan. Eight in Ten Japanese don't want the games to go ahead, according to recent public opinion polls. But the IOC is moving forward and the first lady of the U.S., Dr. Jill Biden, will be among the foreign dignitaries in attendance at the opening ceremonies one week from today, Ana.

CABRERA: I really appreciate that update. Will Ripley there for us, thank you. Here in New York, tonight's Yankees/Red Sox game looking iffy after six players test positive for COVID. CNN Sports Correspondent Carolyn Manno is here. What can you tell us, Carolyn?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, right now, we know the names of three of the six players who tested positive for the virus, and they are all part of the team's pitching staff, Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Wandy Peralta. And those players were sent to the team's COVID injured list. They were all previously vaccinated.

Last we heard from Yankees' General Manager Brian Cashman, there are three pending rapid tests being confirmed with additional lab work.

Now, Red Sox Manager Alex Cora has expressed some concern that not all of his players are vaccinated, but this is the second outbreak of the season for the Yankees. Major League Baseball and the Players Association relaxed certain health and safety protocols before opening day for clubs who have a vaccination rate of 85 percent or greater and the Yankees are 1 of 23 Major League teams to reach that threshold.

So, a source with knowledge of the situation tells CNN that before those protocols were modified, players were tested at least every other day, and that right now teams are conducting contact tracing for anybody who has tested positive, according to those protocols that are currently in place. So the league ran both PCR in rapid testing each day that players were in Denver for this week's all-star, for example, according to our sources, and they didn't have any positive results.

But fresh off of that momentum on the Major League Baseball is now starting the second half of the season with an outbreak here. So the decision for how to handle Thursday's postponed game still undetermined. The decision to play tonight's regularly scheduled game in the Bronx also rests with the commissioner's office. So, it's currently scheduled for just after 7:00 Eastern and that's where it stands at least for now.

CABRERA: Okay, we'll keep an eye on it. Carolyn Manno, thank you.

The White House says one of the big obstacles right now standing in the way of people getting vaccinated, COVID misinformation. Let's knock down some of the major myths.

Dr. Saju Matthew is with us. He's a primary care physician and public health specialist. Doctor, always good to see you, and I think this is such an important segment today.

Let's go with myth number one and get this party started. I've already had COVID-19, so I don't need to be vaccinated. That is the myth. What does the science tell us?

SAJU MATTHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: Number one, if you've had COVID, it doesn't mean you can't get COVID again from another variant. Number two, we know that the immunity wanes, Ana, over time. The vaccine will give you a much higher antibody level and the vaccine will protect you longer. So if you've had COVID, you can get it again. You must get vaccinated because you get longer protection and higher antibody levels, and it will protect you from the delta strain.

CABRERA: Myth number two, people are dying from the vaccine. Bring us the facts.

MATTHEW: There is no study to show that there's a direct link between somebody getting the COVID vaccine and somebody dying. Remember, unfortunately, people die every day around the world. And just because you got the vaccine a week ago doesn't mean that if you die a week later, that there's a direct cause and effect relationship.

Remember one thing, if you get vaccinated, you get 100 percent protection from severe disease, death and hospitalization. If you don't get vaccinated, guess what, you have 0 percent protection. So, please get vaccinated.

CABRERA: Yes. And more than 60 0,000 Americans have lost their lives to the infection, the past year-and-a-half or so.

Myth number three, we don't know what long-term side effects of the vaccine are. How do you respond?

MATTHEW: We actually do. Most vaccines, 90 percent of the side effects happen two months after you get the vaccine. If you remember with the prior administration, there was a push to get the COVID vaccines out sooner than later. But the FDA put their foot down and said no, we need to wait two months. So if you look at the millions of people who have gotten vaccinated, there have been no severe side effects from the shots. And remember, most people need to understand this, most side effects happen within the first two months.

And one last thing, Ana, to that myth, is I tell everybody I would rather be treated for a side effect of the vaccine than to be treated for the COVID infection.

CABRERA: And we know a lot of younger people are among the unvaccinated right now. And one of the myths that I've heard as well here is that this vaccine might hurt my fertility. Dr. Matthew, what do we know?

MATTHEW: We know for sure that, number one, this vaccine has nothing to do with your DNA.


That is another myth. Is this going to affect the genetics of my body? Number two, it does not affect the placenta. There's this whole myth that there's some type of a protein that the placenta shares with the vaccine. That is not true. And number three, this is the strongest fact is that women who got the vaccine versus women who didn't get the vaccine are getting pregnant at the same rate. So if you're pregnant, get the vaccine. It will protect you and it will protect the baby as well after the baby is born.

CABRERA: And we know that pregnant women who get COVID are at higher risk of having more severe illness or having complications. Dr. Saju Matthew, you are a great voice for us. Thank you for being here, being our expert today.

MATTHEW: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: We have new reporting as U.S. troops leave Afghanistan. CNN is learning the Taliban could soon have a strangle hold on most of the country. More on that.

Plus, months after several women accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, Governor Cuomo will come face-to-face with investigators. We have the details.

And the engineer hired by the town of Surfside to investigate the tragic condo collapse says he is, quote, pissed that he's not getting the access he needs. He joins us live.

Stay with us.



CABRERA: CNN learned that an alarmingly bleak picture is emerging from Afghanistan as U.S. withdraw, aims to end the longest war with the final U.S. troops due to leave by the end of next month. Thousands of Afghan refugees are desperately outrunning the charging Taliban and its rampage of terror and executions.

U.S. intelligence assessments show the nation's security is deteriorating much faster than feared. And the capital of Kabul could also be in danger.

Here's a snapshot of the struggle inside Afghanistan right now. The white is all that remains of government-controlled territory as of last week. Contested areas are in red and the Taliban-controlled areas in black encircling the country.

CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto is in Washington where he has been working his sources. Jim, how dire is the situation on the ground?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, they knew going in, right, with this withdrawal that it was going to be bad. I mean, the intel assessments were clear, you heard that in public testimony from U.S. officials. And we know that President Biden made this decision over the objection of his senior military commanders.

What's new here is that the intel assessment is showing it getting worse even faster than expected. The way it was described to me by a congressional source familiar with the intelligence is that it is accelerating the Taliban advance at an accelerating pace. That's the concern.

A big part of that, right, is that the U.S.-trained Afghan security forces either are not able to repel the Taliban or in many instances, they're giving up, or some units ran out of the country, right? That doesn't mean no units are fighting but they're not putting up a national defense of any sort of credibility, and the Taliban is basically having its way in a large part of the country, and particularly, Ana, at key border crossing points. And that's important for controlling security in the country but also trade. You know, it's going to be a big source of leverage for the Taliban going forward.

CABRERA: The U.S. is keeping its embassy in Kabul open. Has the Taliban onslaught created doubts about that?

SCIUTTO: There is real concern about Kabul going forward, at a minimum, Kabul being surrounded, something of an island, right, of its own. Now, there are significant resources there in terms of Afghan security forces but also the U.S. force design there to protect U.S. diplomatic personnel and also, if need be, evacuate them. There are evacuation plans. The concern is that as the Taliban gains all that territory around the country much more quickly than expected, that not too long, that will be sort of the last sand stand as it were.

Now, it's a big city. Does the Taliban have the military capabilities to take it over? No, at least not immediately, that's the assessment. But, over time, perhaps laying siege to the capital, how long could the current Afghan government resist that, open question.

CABRERA: And, Jim, different topic. The New Yorker has new reporting on Trump's last days in office. It says the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Mark Milley, worried that a lame duck Donald Trump would launch airstrikes on Iran to create a crisis that could help keep him in office. Just how close was the U.S. to another war?

SCIUTTO: In his view, Milley's view at the time, very close, so close that he spoke candidly with other senior leaders in the Trump administration to try to head that off. It's reminiscent to the final days of the Nixon administration, when the then-defense Secretary Schlesinger instructed other aides, don't let Nixon launch the nukes without coming to me first. I mean, in effect, Milley is saying the same, don't let the strikes on Iran. We should stand in the way of this because the consequences could be out of control.

And, by the way, Ana, it's not the first time we have heard of this kind of thing. In reporting from my book a number of months ago, months prior to this, there was a time period when U.S. military officials were concerned that Trump might drag the U.S. into war in Iran with Iran to the point where they did backchannel communications with the Iranians to say, hey, let's not go there, in effect, right?

So what you have is a repeat pattern here of the president's senior military leaders concerned about his decision-making and doing their best to stand in the way.


CABRERA: And, thankfully, it didn't come to that. Jim Sciutto, I really appreciate you staying late on a Friday to join us with all that great reporting.

SCIUTTO: Happy to. CABRERA: Thank you. Thank you.

In Western Europe, the catastrophic flood waters are rising and so is the death toll. At least 118 people are now confirmed dead in Germany and Belgium. Hundreds more are missing as neighboring countries dispatch crews to rescue people by air and by boat. The vast majority of deaths are in Germany. And a short time ago, we learned of a horrifying scene at a disabled care facility.

CNN's Atika Shubert joins us in Frankfurt, Germany. Atika, what can you tell us about that?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I've reached one of the worst affected areas. This Arviler. And this is that district where that disabled care facility was. The flooding happened so quickly that they were not able to evacuate all of the people there, and at least nine people died.

And you can see the destructive force of the flooding behind me. This is what used to be a bridge. It is now completely choked up with trees, debris, furniture from homes that have been picked up and tossed here by the water.

Now, I want to move over here a little bit so you can see as well. You can see the river actually in the distance there still running quite fast. And these are the homes that have been affected. You can see the water just reached right in to living rooms and tossed out dining tables, picked up garden sheds and threw them over.

The amount of destruction here is incredible and it's left quite a few communities here completely stranded without any electricity in some cases or means of communication. So we have been seeing helicopters moving in and out with supplies, military helicopters, emergency personnel, still trying to reach quite a few people.

For a lot of people here in Arviler, this is a recovery operation at this point. It's the second day. They're trying to clean up. And what we have seen is a lot of emergency personnel here with search dogs as well, still looking and, unfortunately, finding bodies. So that death toll, Ana, is likely to go up.

CABRERA: Oh, my goodness. This is just horrible. Thank you for your reporting, for being there for us, to be our eyes and ears, Atika Shubert.

Now, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is facing sexual harassment allegations. And just hours from now, he will face questions from the New York Attorney General's Office.

Stay with us.



CABRERA: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo set to be questioned by members of the state attorney general's office tomorrow, and this is part of the investigation into multiple claims of sexual harassment against him. And this interview is a big sign that this probe could almost be finished.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is in New York for us. Brynn, how is this expected to work?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, what we're learning is that the two investigators who were appointed by the New York Attorney General's

Office will meet with the governor in Albany, and like you said, they're going to talk about these sexual harassment allegations that first came out, if you remember, in February, and what really sparked this probe.

And the first one, of course, coming out from Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo staffer, who wrote in a medium post about being inappropriately kissed by the governor, and then soon after that, we heard about another allegation coming from another former staffer, Charlotte Bennett, who was just in her mid 20s at the time, saying that she felt very uncomfortable with questions that the governor was asking her during a meeting in his executive office.

So, since then, since the probe started, of course, we learned about a number of allegations of misconduct or inappropriateness from the governor from several women. So, all of this will be addressed in this interview with the governor.

It's important to note, Ana, that the investigators have talked to these women already. We've reported that. Sometimes they've talked to them multiple times. And we've also seen reporting the investigators have talked to people close to Cuomo in his inner circle. So, it's certainly -- this is why we're seeing somewhat of a signal that this likely is coming toward the end, because you would assume the last person they need to talk to is the governor himself.

But in regards to the allegations, I want you to, of course, note that he has denied them. He said that he never wanted to make anyone feel uncomfortable, and then also had this sort of head-scratching explanation back in May. take a listen to this.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Harassment is not making someone feel uncomfortable. That is not harassment. If I just made you feel uncomfortable, that is not harassment. That's you feeling uncomfortable.


GINGRAS: So, everything he said on camera likely could be addressed in this meeting with the investigators.

As far as the meeting, I want to mention quickly that his senior adviser, Rich Azzopardi, has said in a statement, quote, we have said repeatedly that the governor doesn't want to comment on this review until he has cooperated. But the continued leaks are more evidence of the transparent political motivation of the attorney general's review.


Of course, that's a dig at the attorney general herself because they're essentially saying they think she's going to run for governor, which is something that's been speculated for quite a bit.