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CNN NEWSROOM

Unvaccinated Father of Five Dies After Getting COVID on Vacation; Texas Facing Another Surge of COVID Cases and Hospitalization; Couples Separated by Travel Restrictions Create Online Movement; Heroes Give Vulnerable Populations Access to Vaccine. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 30, 2021 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: A family holiday turned into a COVID tragedy for an unvaccinated father of five. Michael Freedy went on vacation to San Diego with his fiancee and their kids. But when he went to the hospital with what he thought was a severe sunburn, he was instead diagnosed with COVID, and he died just days later. His fiancee is heartbroken.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JESSICA DUPREEZ, FINANCE DIED OF COVID: He was only 39. Our babies now don't have a dad. You can't say I'm young and it won't affect me, because it will. But I was able to call him before they took him in, and he was sad on the phone, and I was able to hear him. And I was like, please keep fighting, don't give up. He said, I'm trying to fight, he's like, they're going to intubate me and put me under.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA (on camera): She says that he realized too late that not getting a vaccine was a mistake.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DUPREEZ: That was one of the last text messages that he sent to me, was that he wished he would have, because even if it stopped a little bit of the symptoms, it could have stopped and it's progressing so fastly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: It's just heartbreaking. Their youngest child is just 17 months old.

Meanwhile, in Texas, more than 5,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID. That number last week was 3,500 in Dallas County alone, hospitalizations are up 100 percent over the past two weeks. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Dallas. So, Ed, despite those disturbing

numbers increasing, Governor Gregg Abbott says no mask mandates. What else is he saying?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is like Deja Vu all over again. Once again seeing the back and forth between state officials here in Texas, all led by Republicans, pushing back on Democratic big city leaders, who are looking for the ability to put in place mandates, as they see this resurgence of the coronavirus here in Texas. Just under 44 percent of the overall state population here is fully vaccinated. So, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done on the vaccination front.

[15:35:00]

And Alisyn, if you look at the trend lines here, just in the last month and a half or so, everything is spiking dramatically. It's like going straight up. Hospitalizations, in some areas around Texas, you're starting to see areas that don't have ICU bed space or they're under ten available ICU beds.

And the number of cases also spiking dramatically in just the last month. And despite all of this, the governor says -- well, you can listen to it for yourself. And this is his approach to handling this latest surge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Everyone watching the show, everyone in the State of Texas, as well as the United States, they know exactly what the standards are, what practices they want to adopt to help protect themselves. And so, there's no more time for government mandates. This is time for individual responsibility, period.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Individual responsibility is the line that the governor has been repeating over and over again. That does not come as welcome news to many big city leaders across the state here, saying that they're simply asking for the ability, especially in schools, with schools just a few weeks away from starting, to be able to issue more mandates in terms of mask wearing and that sort of thing.

But really the push right now, Alisyn, as it is across the state, is getting people vaccinated. They say that the pace -- health officials here say that the pace of vaccinations has dramatically slowed down. And every vaccination they're getting requires a great deal of labor intensiveness, just to get one person vaccinated -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I mean that way, individual responsibility doesn't seem to be working in Texas. Ed Lavandera, thank you for the reporting.

So, coming up, they helped the U.S. in Afghanistan, and now these helpers are touching down on American soil. Their stories, next.

But first, a quick programming note. An all-new episode of "Jerusalem." Find out how the battles between Christians and Muslims changed the city forever. Watch "Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury" Sunday at 10:00 p.m. on CNN.

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[15:40:00]

CAMEROTA: The first group of Afghan translators and helpers arrived in Ft. Lee, Virginia, earlier today, as part of the Biden administration's special visa program. They're among the thousands whom the White House is working to relocate, thanks to their years of service to U.S. forces.

CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now. So, Kylie, great to see these arrivals, but do we know how many are still left behind and still in danger?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this is a small sliver of the larger number of Afghan interpreters who have applied for these special immigrant visas to the United States. We saw about 200 of them and their families on buses today, heading into Ft. Lee, which is right behind me here in Virginia. They're going to go through some additional screenings here to get their medical clearance. That's essentially the final thing that these folks need to do before they can then be relocated here in the United States.

Now, the other folks, many of them are in their earlier stages of their process to get these visas. There are about 20,000 who have applied in total. About half of those are in the early stages. The scary thing is it normally takes the United States a couple of years to process these visas. And the State Department has tried to surge resources to put into this, to get some of these Afghans out more quickly.

But we still don't know just exactly how many of them the Biden administration will be able to relocate before the complete U.S. troop withdrawal is complete, in just over a month from now. And a lot of these interpreters are facing direct threats from the Taliban right now -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Kylie Atwood, thank you very much for the latest on that important story.

All right, coming up, they met, fell in love, and got engaged. But now, because of COVID restrictions, this couple cannot see each other. And they're not alone. The story of love in the time of COVID. That's next.

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[15:45:00]

CAMEROTA: Love is not tourism. That's the mantra for a growing online movement fueled by U.S. and U.K. couples who have been kept apart because of the pandemic. They want their governments to fast track their visa applications so they can be reunited. Joining us now are Kyle Wicks and Catriona Hards. Kyle is in Little

Rock, Arkansas, and his fiancee, Catriona is in England. Great to see both of you. Thank so much for telling us your personal story. So, Catriona, let me start with you, you got engaged basically a year ago, August of 2020. And back then, when you got engaged, when did you think you were going to be able to start your life together? What was your plan?

CATRIONA HARDS, SEPARATED FROM FIANCEE DUE TO COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS: Well, we had started to talk about getting engaged much sooner than that, actually, in December of 2019. And we talked about it, and we thought, OK, fine, so we'll get started or get cracking on the visa process. It might take us about a year, that's fine. By the end of 2020 we'll be together, and life will be good, and so on.

And then yes, in August of 2020, we were able to reunite, so that's when we had the real proposal, I got the ring, and even then, I still had this hope that like hopefully, by the end of the year we'll manage to be able to be together and so on. And now, who knows. It might even by the end of this year.

CAMEROTA: Kyle, how frustrating is this?

KYLE WICKS, SEPARATED FROM FIANCEE DUE TO COVID RESTRICTIONS: Insanely, to put it mildly. It's just exceptionally frustrating, with everything going on, that you know we're still seeing no movement.

[15:50:00]

And even when, you know, we hear things like the embassy is processing visas and the State Department says that your K-1 visas are a tier 2 priority, to hear, you know, those are nice words on the website, but it doesn't change the fact that no movement has been seen.

CAMEROTA: So, Katrina, I mean, basically, your future is in limbo?

HARDS: Yes, my life is pretty much on hold. I mean, I am very fortunate I can live with my family, and I can be close to all my friends. But the issue is, is that I can't move on, I can't take a job that I want to do. I can't go to grad school until this is all finished. And that's really, really hard. And I mean the longer that I spend around my family, the longer I want to stay here, you know.

It already was hard enough to imagine leaving them and leaving my job, leaving my friends and so on. But it's getting so much harder the longer that I spend here surrounded by them. You know?

CAMEROTA: Kyle, that has to be hard to hear.

WICKS: Yes, I mean, sure, of course. But I mean it's also understandable. I mean you develop you know attachments where you are, and it does make it hard to leave for sure. I mean I'm no stranger to living abroad and you know developing friendships and relationships in those places and then having to say, you know, I have to go back now.

CAMEROTA: So, Kyle, what's the plan? I mean what have they told you? When will you be out of this limbo?

WICKS: There's been no communication whatsoever. Whatever is happening at the State Department, as far as we understand, nothing's happening. Because there is no plan, they have issued no plan for how they're going to clear the backlog at the embassy. It's just radio silence.

CAMEROTA: Man, your patience is really being tested. I mean, wow, this is you know newlyweds have some tests of their relationship or, you know, even before you're newlyweds, but this is a really tough one. And so, there is this hashtag of the online movement #loveisnottourism. Catriona, what does that all mean?

HARDS: Well, whilst we understand that these are such difficult and unprecedented times. And of course, I totally respect you know some forms of travel bans being put in place. And I understand it, and you know we've always done our best to follow them. I'm not a regular tourist, I'm not trying to go on holiday. I'm not trying to just go off on a happy time, go to Disneyland and do all those fun American things and go to In-N-Out you know.

I'm trying to go and live my life and start my career, start my family, buy a house. You know, so, that's what it means to me is that you know we're in love, we're trying to actively love each other. We're trying to actively be together, and yet something is standing in our way that is totally out of our control. And it just doesn't seem fair sometimes.

CAMEROTA: I understand, no, it doesn't. And so, Catriona, I mean how long are you willing to wait?

HARDS: Oh, well, I'll wait. I mean we talk about this all the time, and I say, oh, there is this fun opportunity like, oh, imagine if I went and did something else, of course I'm going to wait you know.

At the end of the day people like Kyle don't come around every day. And, in fact, it's taken me long enough to find him in the first place. So, what else can I do, you know? I just got to get by and deal with it one way or another.

CAMEROTA: Kyle, you're a lucky man.

WICKS: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: Well, guys, we're thinking of you. This sounds really tough, and you're really being challenged, but we'll follow your story and pray that you can be reunited soon. So, Catriona Hards, Kyle Wicks, thank you both very much, and we'll be right back.

HARDS: Thank you so much.

WICKS: Thank you.

HARDS: Thank you very much.

[15:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: The push to vaccinate as many Americans as possible against COVID-19 is strong but making sure everyone has access is not easy. Now, two CNN heroes are going the extra mile to make sure more people get these life-saving measures. And CNN's Anderson Cooper has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (voice over): In Pittsburgh, this Dr. Jim Whithers brings medical care and now vaccines to those experiencing homelessness.

DR. JIM WHITHERS, BRINGS MEDICAL CARE TO HOMELESS (voice over): Can I take a listen?

WHITHERS: We really have to go to where someone is and cut down those barriers.

WHITHERS: If I had a lollipop, I'd give it to you.

WHITHERS: When you provide something that can save a life and the lives of people that they come in contact with, it's a really unique and powerful feeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anthony, I just want to say hi.

COOPER (voice over): In Philadelphia Dr. Wendy Ross's low stress sensory friendly vaccination clinic for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities like autism is a game changer.

DR. WENDY ROSS, OFFERS A LOW STRESS VACCINATION CLINIC: There's less waiting online, and we provide tools like fidgets. All of our vaccinators are educated to be sensitive and have strategies for vaccinating this population.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE CHILD: Awesome, awesome!

ROSS: Getting the vaccine to this population absolutely is saving lives. I just feel that everyone matters and has value and that everyone should be included.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: To watch the full story and nominate someone you know to be a CNN Hero, go to CNNheroes.com. Thanks so much for watching today, and "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.

END