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CNN NEWSROOM

Extreme Weather Causes Massive Europe Flooding; Scientists See Climate Change in Recent Weather Events; America Facing "Pandemic of the Unvaccinated"; COVID-19 Vaccines Might Not Protect the Immunocompromised; England to Lift Nearly All COVID-19 Restrictions on Monday; Funeral Set for Slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise; Sea Migration Surges with Dire Conditions in Cuba; Fears for the Future of Afghan Women. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 17, 2021 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, catastrophic deadly floods in Europe leave entire villages underwater. Hundreds of people are missing.

Wildfires tear through the western U.S., made worse by an historic heat wave. We'll take a look at how much climate change is to blame for all of this.

Also --

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DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

HOLMES (voice-over): The U.S. reels from surging COVID cases as the divide between the vaccinated and the vaccine-hesitant grows ever more stark.

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HOLMES: Now we do begin in Western Europe, where large-scale rescue efforts are underway after torrential rains triggered devastating flash floods in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Some rivers are still rising.

The death toll has climbed to at least 125 people, with hundreds of others still unaccounted for. Bridges have been washed out, homes and businesses destroyed, entire villages inundated.

Germany has been hardest hit, with more than 100 people killed and the heaviest rainfall in a century. The country's president warning, the time to battle climate change is now.

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FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, PRESIDENT, GERMANY (through translator): Only if we take up the fight against climate change decisively will we be able to keep extreme weather conditions, such as we are experiencing now, in check.

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HOLMES (voice-over): Take a look at this house in Eastern Belgium, collapsing as floodwaters rush by. You can see people on the roof, waiting to be evacuated. Belgium announcing it will hold a national day of mourning for flood victims on Tuesday.

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HOLMES (voice-over): And in the Netherlands, Dutch officials have just ordered 10,000 residents to evacuate the city of Venlo. That's about 40 kilometers north of where these pictures were taken, as the river there is rising faster than expected.

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HOLMES: Let's bring in journalist Chris Burns, who is on the ground in Verviers in Belgium.

Chris, you've been there on the ground, getting a sense of the breadth of damage and loss of life. Bring us up to date.

CHRIS BURNS, JOURNALIST: Yes, Michael. This is one of the cities that was hard-hit by the Battle of the Bulge during the Second World War. And it once again, as you can see, take a look at this around me.

The wreckage, the violence of that river that is a tributary to the Meuse. You can see the cleanup action going on right now. It is mind- boggling what they're going to have to be digging out here.

Let's pan back over here to the river and you can see there are cars in there. There are all kinds of belongings. It's just everywhere. And at the same time, the rescue is going on.

There are about 20 people still missing in Belgium. The latest figure, according to media reports of dead, is 27. There will be an update later this morning on that. The rescues happening with drones, with helicopters that have been flying overhead, jetskis, with people trying to find people and rescue them off the roofs, in the river.

There are about 250 rescue workers from across Europe and 20 boats from across Europe that are helping in this effort. It's very intense right now. At the same time, people are cut off from electricity and gas and water, so 20,000 people just in Liege province are without power right now and we're told it's going to take days to bring all that back -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, a lot of work to do. Chris Burns in Belgium, appreciate it. Thanks so much.

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HOLMES: Now the western United States being hit by some pretty dramatic weather as well. In the Southwest, monsoon rains brought extreme flash flooding this week and more might occur this weekend.

Experts say the recent historic drought just makes matters worse, making the ground more like pavement than a sponge.

And in Oregon, the largest wildfire the country has seen this year, the Bootleg Fire, has scorched more than 241,000 acres since it started 10 days ago. And it is only 7 percent contained. Officials say communities in the area had to evacuate and crews were forced to pull back from vulnerable areas to regroup due to extreme wildfire behavior.

Now my next guest says that there was writing on the wall and plenty of it about at least some of the extreme weather events we've just reported on. Liz Stephens is an associate professor of climate risks and resilience at the University of Reading in England. She joins me now from Reading.

Thanks for doing so. The floods in Europe, heat waves in the U.S. and Canada last month, Russia, Mexico, New Zealand all with high temps. These once in a century events are now almost annual events.

Is this what the world can expect now going forward?

LIZ STEPHENS, UNIVERSITY OF READING: I think this is something that climate scientists have been warning about for well over a decade now. In Europe, we're talking about extreme summer rainfall and that is exactly the prediction that climate scientists have been making.

I think what we're seeing in the news is the impacts of these events. And I think that's much more worrying for me (ph) because it's not just climate change that's leading to impacts (INAUDIBLE) governments to deal with climate change.

We should not be seeing over 110 deaths in Western Europe as a result of something that was predictable and, indeed, predicted as well.

HOLMES: Yes, literally for decades, as you point out.

What might we see around the world in 10-20 years in terms of impacts?

How might lives be impacted at this rate of change?

STEPHENS: Well, I'd like to be optimistic and think that these kinds of events that we're seeing in the news right now will be, you know, finally a wake-up for governments to take this risk seriously and start investing more heavily in, first of all, reducing emissions and trying to limit the climate change that we've already seen but also accepting that climate change is here.

We're seeing these events far more frequently. So we need to be investing in building resilience in communities and making sure that the hazards, the floods, the wildfires, the heat waves are not having such a large impact on the communities that are vulnerable.

HOLMES: When we watch all this unfold, I mean the climate change naysayers have been saying for some time that scientists have been alarmist all these years. But you know, even some of those scientists are shocked at the pace of change.

Are you surprised at how fast these climate change impacts are coming?

STEPHENS: Not -- not particularly. I don't think -- when you look at these individual events, you just -- you know, as a climate scientist, that that's something that's been predicted for years.

And we're in a global society now. The news reaches us from many parts of the world. We're just seeing these events coming together and building a very broad picture of what the climate looks like and what the risks are for the world.

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HOLMES: The European Union has its so-called Fit for 55 program, aiming to cut carbon emissions by 55 percent by 2030 and net zero by 2050.

But my question is, is that enough?

Are there more immediate, as opposed to longer-term actions that the world can take to mitigate what we are seeing today?

STEPHENS: Well, first of all, there's no silver bullet for climate change. Of course it's not just Europe that needs to reduce its emissions and we need to see those commitments coming through from the global community at COP later this year.

I think anyone would say that the sooner, the faster that we can reduce emissions, the better. But regardless of that, we're already locked into climate change. We're already seeing those impacts. So it's not just about policy that reduces emissions. It's about policy that protects the vulnerable populations as well.

HOLMES: Yes, that was going to be my next question.

Are we at the point where some of the changes we're seeing are irreversible?

And it sounds like the answer to that is, yes, with the best of intentions. A Rubicon has been passed.

I guess the question is, you know, is it time to -- as you say, prevention, ho -- what does that look like? STEPHENS: Well, first of all, I don't -- I wouldn't say that, long term, any of these things are irreversible or completely irreversible. But in the time scales that we're talking about and the time scales that we're planning for at the moment -- and certainly we have to accept that these changes are here.

In terms of climate adaptation, we need to make sure that, first of all, that people are not living in areas of risk and those that are living in areas of risk are prepared for disasters before they strike.

That means helping people understand what to do when there is a flood, when there is a heat wave, when there is a wildfire and also having those early warning systems in place so that people can evacuate beforehand.

I think what we're seeing in these pictures is rescue operations, people being rescued from rooftops, boats needing to go out to rescue people. That is simply unacceptable. People should not be in harm's way in the first place.

There should be timely orders for evacuation that means that people are well out of the way of danger before that extreme event arrives.

HOLMES: Great insight and good advice. Liz Stephens, thanks so much. Appreciate that.

STEPHENS: Thank you.

HOLMES: We'll take a quick break here on the program. When we come back, new daily COVID-19 cases are now up in all 50 states. We'll see why the numbers are heading in the wrong direction.

Also Southeast Asia becoming a new hot spot for the Delta variant. We'll look at why the region has fallen behind in the race to get people vaccinated. We'll be right back.

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HOLMES: COVID-19 cases are now on the rise in every single U.S. state. It's what health experts have been fearing for some time now, with deaths and hospitalizations climbing as well. And in just hours, an indoor mask mandate returns to Los Angeles County in an effort to bring cases back down there. CNN's Erica Hill reports.

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ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Masks, back on in Los Angeles County, where new cases are surging.

DR. MUNTU DAVIS, HEALTH OFFICER, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Everything is on the table. You know, if things continue to get worse. Which is why we're want to take action, now.

HILL (voice-over): Starting Sunday, faces must be covered, indoors, even if you are fully vaccinated. Nationwide, new infections are up 67 percent in the last week, rising in every state and D.C., for the first time, since January.

DR. JENNIFER AVEGNO, DIRECTOR, NEW ORLEANS HEALTH DEPARTMENT: The danger is, as more unvaccinated people get infected and Delta is so contagious, it's -- it's really transmitting, at a speed that I haven't seen, since the very beginning.

HILL (voice-over): Deaths, up 26 percent; hospitalizations, 36 percent in the last seven days. The president placing the blame on Facebook and other social-media platforms for not doing more to stop the spread of misinformation.

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JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people.

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HILL (voice-over): The FDA confirming, Friday, it's prioritizing the review of Pfizer's vaccine, noting it's among the agency's highest priorities. One official telling CNN, full approval could come in the next two months.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: For some people, the FDA approval process may make a difference. But I do think that we have a fair amount of experience, right now. A tremendous amount of experience that tells us, again, the benefits of this vaccine far outweigh any risks.

HILL (voice-over): Vaccinations are down 11 percent, in the last week. Tennessee, one of the states with the lowest-vaccination rates in the country, just 38 percent, saw new cases increase 84 percent, in the last week. Florida accounts for one in five new cases in the country. Some states, now, asking for help.

JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: This week, at the request of the Nevada governor, we are deploying more than 100 people to the state to help enhance vaccine access and support vaccine-outreach efforts.

HILL (voice-over): As the administration beefs up its own outreach.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wear your mask and get your vaccine.

HILL (voice-over): New questions about so-called breakthrough infections in fully-vaccinated Americans.

DR. JASON YAUN, V.P., AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, TENNESSEE: And reality is that no vaccine is 100 percent effective. Fortunately, these breakthrough cases are, generally, asymptomatic cases or mild cases. The vaccines do a tremendous job of protecting against severe infection and death.

HILL (voice-over): A message, Noelle Collier is also sharing after losing her unvaccinated mother.

NOELLE COLLIER, DAUGHTER OF COVID-19 VICTIM: I want people to understand that COVID is not gone. I'm fully vaccinated and I still got COVID. But I recovered. The vaccine is worth it.

HILL: On the heels of L.A. County bringing back indoor-mask mandates over the weekend, New York City's mayor said, on Friday, there is no plans to follow suit here, in New York.

The city's health commissioner telling CNN, they'll continue to follow the data in the coming weeks.

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HILL: But again, no plans to change course, at the moment -- in New York, Erica Hill, CNN.

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HOLMES: The Delta coronavirus variant, of course, is ripping through the world, especially in Southeast Asia. Cases in the region have jumped 41 percent this past week and the vaccination rate is just 9 percent.

Singapore seeing clusters of new infections linked to karaoke bars. Authorities are delaying reopening plans and, starting Monday, they will tighten social distancing restrictions again. Journalist Manisha Tank joins me now live from Singapore.

I mean the numbers are scary. Cases up 41 percent in the region. Caseload in the region has surpassed Latin America and India.

What is the state of things?

MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: Well, Michael, I can only describe it as a patchwork of experience. Let me start with where I am in Singapore. So yes, as you were saying, we've seen a sudden surge in cases picked up in karaoke bars.

What had happened there is there were strict restrictions on nightlife here and many of those establishments switched to being restaurants in order to get a license to continue operating.

But as a result, there were things that went on behind the scenes that resulted in this sudden surge in cases. So the government is encouraging all those people to step forward and get tested.

Testing really is at the heart of Singapore's plan as we move forward but also are vaccinations. By August the 9th, National Day here in Singapore, they want to see at least two-thirds of the population vaccinated with two doses.

It's all the situation there in other countries here in Southeast Asia, Michael. In Indonesia, for example, which is a neighbor, a population of 270 million people, vaccination rate running at just 5.9 percent of the population. It's still very low.

And many in the local press have reported a bit of an anti-vax movement in Southeast Asia which had prevented vaccine rollout from happening but also real problems with bureaucracy.

If we hop on over to the Philippines, where we're now just beginning to get the Delta variant reported, the government is talking about getting that vaccine rollout going, including more than 3 million doses which have just arrived from the United States of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.

So there's so much work to be done here, speaking of which, Malaysia, let me update you on that one because Malaysia, for the first time in a long time, is now running one of the fastest vaccination rates in the world. So they're reporting about 400,000 vaccinations per day, really picking up pace.

But we are still seeing surging case numbers, which are running at more than 10,000 a day, with the deaths coming in at around 110. That was reported in the last 24 hours.

But the data also does show that 96 percent of cases in Malaysia earlier in this week that were reported were mild or asymptomatic, suggesting this vaccine rollout is really working. But like I said, it is a patchwork and there is still a lot of work to be done as more and more countries in this region are hit by the Delta variant -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, exactly. Manisha, thanks, Manisha Tank there in Singapore.

In just a few days, England is set to fully reopen. That means no more mask requirements in shops and most public places and bars and restaurants will be able to pack in more customers.

But there could be a wrench in the plan. On Friday, the U.K. reported more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time in six months. Phil Black joins me now live from Essex in England.

Phil, what's this reopening going to look like?

And is there any suggestion the new case numbers might complicate matters?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, the U.K. government is determined to proceed with this. We are now seeing daily reported case numbers, which haven't been seen here since the dark days of the winter peak, back in January, as you say.

But the remarkable thing is, is that the expectation is that this is going to get higher still. The government has warned that we could be seeing case numbers as high as 100,000 a day in the relatively near future.

This is all because of the Delta variant. Ever since it arrived, this wave has been expected. And yet the government has proceeded with its plans to reopen society in England as of Monday, reopening society in the middle of a growing wave.

This is unprecedented. It is, in many ways, an experiment. It has not been attempted anywhere before. But the government hopes that it could work because of the advanced but incomplete vaccination program.

The protection that comes with that will mean it hopes high case numbers but a relatively smaller number of people falling seriously ill, ending up in hospital, smaller numbers of people dying.

And it believes that the inevitable wave that comes with reopening will be more manageable during the summer months when the hospitals don't face the usual pressures they do for other reasons in autumn and winter. That's the theory. But the truth is there is tremendous uncertainty.

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BLACK: Even the government's own scientific advisers say they don't know how this is going to turn out because, ultimately, it comes down to people's behavior, how they choose to behave. The more cautious they behave, in theory, the more manageable this will be.

But if you see a very quick dramatic return to pre-pandemic-like behavior from big parts of the population, then the modeling suggests you could still see hospital admissions that are as great or greater than England has experienced during earlier waves of the coronavirus.

So, so much at stake and there is also, it has to be noted, tremendous criticism of this plan from scientific voices here and internationally, who believe that this is unethical and reckless and who say, by letting the virus effectively run free, by having such high infection rates, you will inevitably have lots of people falling seriously ill.

You will have more people dying than you would if you attempted to maintain a more serious attempt at mitigating the spread -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, an experiment for sure. Phil Black there in Essex, thanks so much, Phil.

Now some good news for those lucky enough to be in Paris at the moment. The Eiffel Tower has reopened for the first time in almost nine months. It had been shut down because of COVID restrictions, of course, but also renovations.

This was the lengthiest period it's been closed since World War II. But it's not entirely back to normal yet. Visitors will have to prove that they're vaccinated or show a negative COVID test starting next week.

I'm Michael Holmes. For our international viewers, "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGEMAKERS"" is up next. If you're here in North America, I'll be back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.

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HOLMES: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.

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DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: There is a clear message that is coming through. This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

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HOLMES: The CDC director there, saying that communities in the U.S. that have low vaccination rates are seeing outbreaks, while communities that are fully vaccinated are doing pretty well.

California, one of the few states that has vaccinated more than half of its residents, still, cases are climbing there. Los Angeles, the nation's largest county, reinstating a mask mandate on Saturday night for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

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HOLMES: Dr. Anish Mahajan is the CEO and chief medical officer at Harvard UCLA Medical Center. He joins me now from Los Angeles, which is in the news.

How -- how bad is the situation in Los Angeles?

And why has it gotten this bad?

DR. ANISH MAHAJAN, CEO AND CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, HARVARD UCLA MEDICAL CENTER: Well, we are very concerned, here, in L.A. because we are seeing a dramatic increase in the positivity rate of people who are getting tested for COVID.

We're seeing the case rate nearly triple, in 3.5-4 weeks. And we are seeing the expected uptick in hospitalizations.

HOLMES: Given those case numbers and -- and -- and not just in Los Angeles, elsewhere, as well -- in -- in -- in retrospect, do you think mask mandates and other precautions were -- were relaxed too soon?

MAHAJAN: You know, that's a good question. You know, what we all expected was that we would roll out this -- the vaccines. And that everyone, at least up through to herd-immunity levels, which is, as you know, close to 80 percent to 90 percent, would take the vaccine.

And that we would, all, take precautions that are expected of us, until we get the vaccine. But what seems to be happening is that those people in our country, who've chosen not to vaccinate, may, also, be taking -- not taking the precautions of masking and taking risks. And we cannot do that, as we've learned with the Delta variant. The

Delta variant is highly contagious and that's what we're seeing happening.

HOLMES: Yes. The president and the CDC director, actually, said that this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

I mean, is it fair to say that the unvaccinated are, in many ways, at even greater risk since the rolling back of restrictions?

Because others are more relaxed, especially, the vaccinated. And so that puts the unvaccinated at more risk than before, in many ways.

MAHAJAN: Well, it -- it certainly does. And, you know, the other thing to bear in mind is, many people who have vaccinated may have cancer or other immunosuppressive conditions for which the vaccine doesn't work that well. So we have to worry about those individuals.

Of course, children under the age of 12 are not, yet, eligible for vaccination. They are at risk. And, of course, the folks, as you mentioned, who choose not to vaccinate, these are dangerous things that are happening and avoidable things.

We are going to end up seeing additional death and sickness from COVID, simply because people are not taking the vaccine.

HOLMES: I mean, it really is mind blowing, really. I mean, when you have got, like, 95 percent to 99 percent of deaths and severe illness are the unvaccinated. And yet, half the U.S. population isn't vaccinated, yet. Vaccines are being thrown out, here, in the state of Georgia, for example. That just happened for -- for lack of demand.

How frustrating is it to see those facts, know those facts and know that -- that so much of this is entirely preventable?

MAHAJAN: It's so disheartening, as a human race and those of us in healthcare. We know that we have something that works extremely well. And yet, people are hesitant. They're hesitant for a lot of reasons. They're hesitant because they don't trust the healthcare system.

But we know that conversations with trusted people, among people who are unvaccinated, do work in helping them get over that hesitancy. But the other problem we have is a whole lot of misinformation being promulgated by political leaders, being promulgated by others, over social media. That is causing a big concern.

But ultimately, for me, Michael, what bothers me the most is that we can look across the world. We can look at the continent of Africa. We can look at major locations in South America, in Asia, countries that really need the vaccine.

They will not get the vaccine because it's very hard to get. Yet here, in the United States, we have incredible volumes of vaccine for everybody and, still, people are not taking it.

[03:35:00] HOLMES: You mention the politicization and that is infuriating. Also, the atrocious misinformation.

Real quick, how, then, how to reach those people who won't take the vaccine because of the politics, they won't listen to authorities, how then to get to them?

MAHAJAN: Well, we've seen that people -- we've seen it in our hospital in our patients, that if their doctor has a discussion with a patient who is hesitant, that patient has a better chance of agreeing to take the vaccine.

If a family member is, sadly, affected by COVID with serious illness, that family, that may have been hesitant before, then decides they better take the vaccine. So this is going to take a lot of effort. You know, trusted leaders in the community, physicians and nurses, family members.

But we, also, need the social media and we need the larger media to, actually, say what's accurate and scientific, rather than political.

HOLMES: Always -- always good analysis. Thanks so much, Dr. Anish Mahajan, thanks so much.

MAHAJAN: Thank you.

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HOLMES: Now the Tokyo Olympic Village has detected its first case of the coronavirus just six days before the games are set to kick off. The pandemic has been overshadowing, of course, many of the celebrations as cases surge in the Japanese capital. CNN's Blake Essig joins me live this hour from Fukushima.

Cases' worrying speed of growth in the capital, what's the latest there where you are?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Michael, the surge in cases not only in the capital but really all over Japan at this point, even though Fukushima isn't under a state of emergency, cases here are increasing.

And as a result, no fans will be allowed to attend the baseball and softball games scheduled to be played here during the Olympics at the stadium, Zuma stadium, right here behind me.

Back in Tokyo, COVID-19 cases are also surging. Just this past week, the daily case count hit its highest mark in six months. Because of health and safety concerns, these Olympic Games have been and continue to be deeply unpopular with the majority of Japanese people.

The effort by Olympic organizers to cement a positive legacy and create an upbeat tone for these games through pre-Olympic events, like the torch relay, simply hasn't worked. In fact, I spoke with people at an anti-Olympic protest just last night, who told me that it's not too late to cancel these games. They say that, long after the world spotlight has come and gone, it's

the people of Japan that will be left to deal with the consequences.

Despite all that, IOC president Thomas Bach, who is incredibly unpopular here in Japan, says canceling the games is not an option and that the risk of COVID-19 spreading because of the Olympics is zero.

He's holding a press conference later today after his visit to Hiroshima to promote peace. That visit was met by anger from people, who felt that Bach used Hiroshima's image as a tool to increase public support for the Olympics.

So far, 45 people involved with the games have tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Japan, with the first case being reported today from inside the Olympic Village.

Positive cases have come from athletes, coaches, contractors and delegation members from various countries, including Uganda, Serbia, Israel and Nigeria. The member of the Nigerian team has been hospitalized.

While this is the only first case requiring hospitalization, one of the big concerns for medical professionals and the general public is the potential strain on the health care system.

It's important to remember, even though an estimated 80 percent to 85 percent of people living in the Olympic Village are vaccinated and likely wouldn't end up in the hospital if they become infected, still only about 20 percent of Japan's population has been fully vaccinated.

That means a lot of people living here are vulnerable if the Olympics turn into a superspreader event -- Michael.

HOLMES: Blake Essig in Fukushima, thanks so much.

Now the plot to kill Haiti's president may have originated in Florida. Now the FBI has gone to Haiti to find out what connections, if any, the suspects might have with the U.S. We'll have the latest from Port- au-Prince when we come back.

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HOLMES: Welcome back.

The funeral for Haiti's assassinated leader has been set for next Friday. Now we've also learned the FBI is in Haiti and has begun its own investigation. Now that's because some of the main suspects in the plot appear to have connections to Florida. We get more now from CNN's Matt Rivers, who is in Port-au-Prince.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We got some updates into the investigation into this assassination at a midday press conference here in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Among those who attended were acting prime minister Claude Joseph, as well as the chief of Haiti's national police force.

It was Joseph who offered his opinion on what he termed "a miscalculation" on the part of some of the people involved in this assassination.

He said, quote, "The killers thought that they could kill the president and force the rest of the government to flee."

He said, obviously, that hasn't happened and the investigation goes on. That's where the chief of Haiti's national police force jumped in. He said that at this point more than 2 dozen police officers here on the island are being investigated in one way or another as a result of this assassination.

Among those police officers being investigated, we are told there are some officers who were actually at the presidential residence the night of the assassination.

Also, the national police chief is saying that members of the FBI, that have come here from the United States to assist in this investigation, have had a chance to, at least preliminarily, question some suspects in this case.

We are also told that the funeral for president Jovenel Moise will take place not here in Port-au-Prince, in another part of the country, a northern part of the country, on the 23rd of this month.

It is expected that the first lady of Haiti, who was injured in that assassination of her husband and who has been recovering in a hospital in Miami, it is expected that she will come back to the island to attend that funeral -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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HOLMES: Activists in Washington are sending a message to the Cuban government after the island saw its largest anti-government rallies in decades.

On Friday, the words, "Cuba libre" or "Free Cuba," were painted right outside the Cuban embassy. It's still unclear who is behind the move. And now, of course, more and more of those trying to escape Cuba's growing problems have their sights set on U.S. shores. Patrick Oppmann with that from Havana.

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PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mass protests across Cuba and the Communist-run government's heavy-handed crackdown may be creating conditions for a new crisis on the island that consumed land on American shores. [03:45:00]

OPPMANN (voice-over): Cubans, once again, taking to the seas to escape a worsening economic and political situation.

U.S. Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, himself an immigrant from Cuba, issuing this week a stark warning to those thinking of crossing the Florida straits.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Allow me to be clear. If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States.

OPPMANN (voice-over): But that's not stopping many Cubans desperate to leave. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, this year is seeing the highest number of Cuban migrants since 2017.

The journey, often perilous, is driven by despair. After 16 days at sea, these Cubans had to be rescued when their overloaded boat capsized off the coast of Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) they just had a wife, take them out the boat to stop (ph), over.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Not everyone is so lucky. The Coast Guard reporting nearly 20 Cubans died in recent weeks.

Beatriz Jimenez's daughter and two grandchildren were lost at sea in March, along with two others. Beatriz told me her daughter was trying to reunite with her husband in Florida.

BEATRIZ JIMENEZ, FAMILY MISSING AT SEA: (Speaking foreign language).

OPPMANN (voice-over): "My daughter is a good mother," Beatriz says.

"She wouldn't have done this if everything wasn't safe, if everything wasn't OK. She wouldn't have put them through this. Her children are everything to her."

With daily COVID-19 cases more than tripling in the last three weeks and the government struggling to get it under control, Cubans find themselves with nowhere to go. Most air travel to and from the island was suspended during the pandemic. For many, that now means they have one option, the open waters.

OPPMANN: Building a boat or paying smugglers to take you to Florida is expensive. Recently, it's become common to see Cubans posting ads online, offering homes for sale with everything inside. It's a sign people here tell me of Cubans trying to scrape together, whatever money they can to buy their way onto a boat.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Cubans picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard are brought back to the island under an agreement between the two countries.

CNN got rare access to the port where the exchange happens. The day we film there, we found among the migrants returned to Cuba, a woman and her 8-month-old baby. Cuban official say the U.S. has not agreed to hold migration talks in nearly three years.

CARLOS FERNANDEZ DE COSSIO DOMINGUEZ, CUBAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTRY: So the recipe and the conditions are there where an uncontrolled migration through the ocean, something that we want to avoid. Now we believe it is possible to avoid.

OPPMANN (voice-over): But any cooperation seems increasingly unlikely. With Cuba's president blaming the U.S. for this week's island-wide protests and President Biden firing back with --

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Cuba is a, unfortunately, a failed state.

OPPMANN (voice-over): -- failed or not, as Cuba faces increased economic and political upheaval, the time to avoid a new humanitarian crisis may be running out -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Quick break now. When we come back, the U.S. well on its way to pulling out of its longest war but what about those left behind?

When we come back, as the U.S. withdraws and the Taliban advances. We'll take a look at what that means for the future of Afghan women. We'll be right back.

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[03:50:00]

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HOLMES: U.S. intelligence is painting a bleak picture of Afghanistan as the Taliban makes gains while the U.S. military withdraws. Now that is raising alarm, especially for women who have benefited from education and other rights previously denied to them the last time the Taliban ruled the country. CNN's Kylie Atwood reports.

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KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY ANALYST (voice-over): With just weeks away from a full withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban making massive gains across the region, the man most responsible for first sending in U.S. troops back in 2001 is now sounding the alarm about pulling out.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.

ATWOOD (voice-over): A fear shared by many women and girls being left behind.

MAHBOUBA SERJA, AFGHAN WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We are going to lose our voices and we will have no room, no place. ATWOOD (voice-over): A recent intelligence U.S. report finds Afghan women's rights would be at risk after coalition withdrawal and that the Taliban still had a restrictive approach to women's rights and would roll back much of the last two decades' progress if the group regained national power.

HEATHER BARR, INTERIM CO-DIRECTOR, WOMEN'S RIGHTS DIVISION, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The overall picture is deeply alarming for women and girls.

ATWOOD (voice-over): Experts say the Taliban is already quickly restricting women's rights in the regions they have taken over, banning women from leaving home without a male escort, rounding up unmarried girls and widows to force them into marriage, even restricting their access to basic medical care or education, barring girls from attending schools beyond sixth grade.

BARR: The Taliban essentially wants women and girls to be prisoners in their own homes.

ATWOOD (voice-over): More is at risk for the generations of women's rights activists in the country. There are fears they could be assassinated for their advocacy. And experts worry, even the women living normal lives with careers could face deadly consequences.

BARR: They're also killing off women and girls who they see as having stepped out of this kind of world they see as acceptable for women. The message is clear: if you don't obey the restrictions, the consequences can be death.

ATWOOD (voice-over): But some members of the Taliban say they're more evolved on these issues than they were 20 years ago.

SUHAIL SHAHEEN, TALIBAN SPOKESMAN: We are not against the basic rights of women. That is education and their work.

ATWOOD (voice-over): But there is little evidence of that on the ground right now.

BARR: One of the things they're doing very quickly is imposing restrictions on women and girls.

[03:55:00]

BARR: And the restrictions that they are imposing are pretty similar to the types of policies they had in the period before 2001, when they were in control.

ATWOOD: And now, 20 years after the Taliban lost control, there's a generation of women that have only known more freedom and choice. But many now dread the horrors that their mothers endured.

BARR: The war in Afghanistan was sold to U.S. voters using imagery and stories about how the Taliban were mistreating Afghan women. I don't think that you get to disown all responsibility after that level of intervention. (END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: CNN's Kylie Atwood reporting there.

Now Reuters News Agency is mourning the loss of one of its own. Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Danish Siddiqui was killed while on assignment during clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces. He was embedded with Afghan special forces when the fighting erupted. A senior Afghan officer was also killed.

Now Siddiqui had been a photojournalist for Reuters since 2010. You can see these images here he shot just days before he was killed on Friday. In a statement on his killing, Reuters says it is urgently seeking more information and working with authorities in the region.

Thanks for your company, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @HolmesCNN. Do stick around. Kim Brunhuber will be here with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.