Return to Transcripts main page


CDC Data Show Rarity Of Breakthrough Cases; Delta Variant Now In 132 Countries; Georgia County Offers Swag For Vaccinations; Israel Rolls Out Vaccine Boosters; Tokyo 2020 Olympics; Japan Records Highest Daily Increase Of New COVID-19 Cases; Some Afghan Translators Safe On U.S. Soil. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired August 1, 2021 - 02:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

Coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, a COVID reality check in the form of new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The jaw-dropping stats on just how important vaccines are in protecting your life.

Plus, Japan's Olympics chief insists the games are not to blame for the spike in COVID cases in his country.

And American gymnast Simone Biles withdraws from another Olympic event. But there's still one more chance to see her compete on the big stage.


HOLMES: The World Health Organization says the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 is now found in at least 132 countries worldwide and threatening to overwhelm many healthcare systems.

Hospitalizations across the U.S. have tripled in the last month, a sure sign of a deepening crisis. Even vaccinated Americans are now being urged to wear face masks in public, again, especially where transmission rates are high.

And you can see there, where they're high; it's shown in red. And Florida, again, emerging as a hot spot. Over the past week, the state reporting a 50 percent increase in new COVID cases.

We're also learning more about fully vaccinated people, who then become infected. According to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, these so-called breakthrough infections are exceedingly rare.

Out of more than 160 million Americans vaccinated so far, the CDC says about 6,200 of them contracted COVID and needed hospitalization. That, clearly, is a minuscule amount. It's 0.004 percent. Now in California, where more than half of residents are fully

vaccinated, the Delta variant fueling an alarming rise in hospitalizations. And one ICU doctor says almost every COVID patient at his hospital is unvaccinated. CNN's Paul Vercammen with more.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The COVID-19 numbers still trending up in California. More than 10,000 new cases, at last count. And more than 4,000 hospitalizations.

Now that includes mid-sized hospitals, such as this one behind me, Providence, in Tarzana. The director of the intensive care unit telling me that almost everyone in his unit has been unvaccinated.

He strongly advises everyone to get vaccinated. What he says is, when there has been a case of someone who had the vaccine and still got COVID, he does not like the term "breakthrough."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For 20 years, I have taken care of patients that develop influenza after they've been vaccinated. We don't call those breakthrough cases. I would call them expected cases.

And for the past five, six months when the vaccine's been available, my conversation with my patients has always been that, yes, you could still get the infection but the vaccine protects you in terms of developing severe COVID.

The vaccine prevents the hospitalization and the death. It's kind of, you know, a seatbelt doesn't protect you from getting into a car accident. It protects you from dying or, you know, becoming severely disabled from a car accident.


VERCAMMEN: And the director of the ICU emphasizes, there is nothing patriotic, in his words, about not getting the vaccine or wearing a mask indoors. In fact, he said, just recently, a 49-year-old woman who was being treated for COVID-19 with oxygen just up and left the hospital, saying the virus is fake.

He says that's no way to stop the pandemic -- reporting from Tarzana, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.


HOLMES: Now as the effort to boost vaccinations grows more urgent, some communities are using incentives to encourage people.

In Georgia, where less than half of residents are fully vaccinated, one metro Atlanta county handing out $50 gift cards during a vaccination drive on Saturday. And it seemed to work. More than 200 people received a shot during the event. And many said they showed up because of the money. One county leader telling CNN's Natasha Chen, the cost is worth it, if it means saving lives.



MICHAEL THURMOND, CEO, DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA: It's a low-cost way to save lives.

What is the value of a human life?

And I can tell you this, Natasha. It's a heck of a lot more than $50. So far, we've invested, just overall, about $10,000. It's not a lot of money. We've been given $50 debit cards. The president suggested $100. Now his bank account is bigger than mine.

Mr. President, you want to help us out?

We'll be more than delighted to do it.


HOLMES: Now when the COVID pandemic hit, millions of Americans, suddenly, couldn't make ends meet and became at risk of losing their homes. Well, the federal government stepped in and ordered a moratorium on evictions.

But in the past few hours, that moratorium expired. Now those millions of American renters could soon be forced out of their homes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blaming the Republican Party in a tweet on Saturday, calling their failure to pass an extension of the legislation, quote, "pure cruelty."

While it is true that the GOP blocked an extension on Friday, Democrats didn't have the votes in their own caucus to pass the bill, either. And with House members now gone on recess, there is little chance an extension will be passed anytime soon.


The global battle to end the COVID-19 pandemic is facing even more challenges, meanwhile. In China, health officials say hundreds of new cases connected to the airport have now been identified and have spread to 10 provinces since the outbreak was reported nearly two weeks ago.

Officials say the cluster was caused by the Delta variant. The city has closed all of its tourist sites. It's disinfecting the airport and performing mass testing on its 9 million residents.

In France, more than 200,000 people nationwide protested against a mandatory coronavirus health pass for entry into a wide array of public venues. It's the third weekend of demonstrations, as COVID cases continue to rise across France. And the south Indian state of Kerala, well, it goes into lockdown this

weekend. The state reporting more than 22,000 new cases a day for three consecutive days last week.

Now despite the current COVID vaccines being very effective against variants, experts fear that might not always be the case.

New analysis by a group of British scientists indicates that, eventually, a COVID variant could evade current vaccines. And while the analysis is not peer reviewed, it is still alarming.

Scientists write that it is unlikely that the virus will be eradicated and that it's almost certain a variant eventually will emerge that leads to current vaccine failure.


HOLMES: Professor Andrew Pekosz is a virologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He joins me from Baltimore.

Thanks for doing so, Professor. This is a fascinating issue. Delta is dominating the variant discussion at the moment.

What makes it so worrying and what makes a variant dangerous or more dangerous than the previous iteration?

DR. ANDREW PEKOSZ, VIROLOGIST, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: When we look at the sequence of this virus, it has some important mutations that we think are going to affect the way the virus interacts with cells.

Looks like it's going to bind more tightly to cells. It has some mutations that might allow it to escape from some immunity, that's induced by vaccination. It also looks like it is a protein that works faster than other variants, what may be again more efficient at getting into cells.

So all that stuff on paper makes us think about this virus as something important. But then on top of that, we have the epidemiological data -- the numbers of cases, the spread of the virus, the numbers of hospitalized patients, particularly in unvaccinated people -- that really is the proof that this virus is doing something different from previous variants.

HOLMES: Right, interesting. And of course, we've seen several variants -- some of concern, some not as worrying. There's a lot of talk at the moment about the Lambda variant, which the WHO saying is a variant of interest in

nearly 30 countries now.

Are you concerned about that?

And are there other emerging variants that are worrying?

PEKOSZ: There are a lot of variants that are out there. It's important to note that we expect viruses, particularly viruses like the coronavirus, to mutate. So every time a virus mutates, it essentially is a variant.

What we are looking for are those signs that the variant viruses are behaving better than the previous ones and, again, we can do that by looking at the sequences or by following the viruses. There are several that are floating around right now that could be of worry.

Lambda is one of them.


PEKOSZ: The B.1.621 virus, that has not been given a Greek name yet, is yet another one that has been entering in the United States causing some cases. But really right now, Delta is the focus of almost everybody that I know of.

HOLMES: In the broader picture, what do you make of the analysis that came out today by British academics, not peer reviewed but published by the U.K. government's scientific advisory group?

It says that they believe it is, in their words, almost certain that a variant will emerge that will, quote, "lead to current vaccine failure."

Do you worry about that?

PEKOSZ: I think we, as virologists, always worry about that. It's incredibly difficult to predict when or how that will happen. I think it's very clear though that SARS-CoV-2 is really going to be a disease that we are going to be dealing with from now on.

We won't be able to eradicate this disease. It's spread too far. It's too efficient an infecting humans. So eventually we're going to have to treat this disease kind of like we treat measles, mumps, influenza. We will have vaccines. We will eventually develop strong antivirals. And we will find ways to minimize the impact of this virus on human health. But will never be able to get rid of it.

HOLMES: Hopefully it can become, and I think you said this as well, sort of like a flu shot every year. Hopefully that will be the case. And the other thing I was going to ask you, how frustrating is it for you as a virologist to know that there is a way out of this with the vaccines?

And yet so many people have not gotten one and may never get one.

PEKOSZ: It really is incredibly frustrating, because, in all sincerity and all honesty, based on the facts, we've got vaccines against COVID- 19 that have proven to be safe, that have proven to be efficacious.

And for some reason, for not being able to really get to the level of vaccination in this country and in many places around the globe, that would really help us knock down this virus to a level that would make it really something that we can control easily.

It is a multifaceted problem. I understand that. But at the end of the day the simple message is, these vaccines work. These vaccines are safe. And we could be in a very different place right now if we moved the vaccination rate up to 75-80 percent of the population in the U.S.

HOLMES: And real quick, the world as well, the whole lesson is that variants thrive where there is spread and widespread spread. And we are not even seeing Africa, I don't think they're at 2 percent of vaccination level.

How worried are you about the slow pace of vaccinating the world, where other variants can come?

PEKOSZ: This is an incredibly important point. Viruses mutate at a set rate, a couple of mutations every time it replicates in a person. If you allow these viruses to replicate unchecked, you're just going to increase the likelihood that a mutation is going to emerge.

And then a mutation can occur anywhere in the world. We've seen that with the Alpha variant. We've seen that with the Delta variant. These mutations occur anywhere and they can spread globally because of transport.

We have to think about this pandemic at a global level and utilize these vaccines everywhere, because the next variant could emerge anywhere in the world. And as we've seen before, it can spread relatively quickly around the globe.

HOLMES: Professor Andrew Pekosz, thank you so much. We really appreciate your insights and your expertise on this.

PEKOSZ: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.


HOLMES: Israel is kicking off what its prime minister calls a pioneering move when it comes to COVID vaccinations. The nation rolling out booster shots for some of its residents, who are over 60 and are already fully vaccinated.

Few countries have started offering booster shots yet. And Israel's rollout might affect decision makers in other nations. Hadas Gold joins me now from Jerusalem with more on that.

I know the president was first in line for a booster the other day.

How -- how is it going to work?

And what are Israelis saying about the whole notion of boosters?

HADAS GOLD, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So Michael, as of right now, any Israeli over the age of 60 who received their second dose of that vaccine, more than five months ago, is, at this moment, eligible for that third booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine.

Prime minister Naftali Bennett made the announcement to the country last week, saying that they made this decision based on the evidence. They say data shows that the vaccine efficacy may be waning over time.

Especially, when you consider this population, which is already more vulnerable to coronavirus, finished their two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. For many of them here in Israel, the early part of the year.


GOLD: So now, they will be eligible for that third booster shot. Now in speaking with the Israelis, just a handful of them, there isn't that sort of mad rush that we saw, especially at the end of last year, at the beginning of this year, for people in Israel to get the vaccine.

But many, many are planning to do so. And actually, the overall vaccine uptake for this population, according to the Israeli health ministry, is quite high, something like 88 percent of people in the 60-69 age range have received both doses of the vaccine. So there is an expectation here that a lot of them will go out and get the vaccine.

And Israeli media is actually, already, reporting that, just for today tens of thousands of vaccine appointments have, already, been made. And according to Israeli media, there is a goal that something, like, 1.5 million of these doses will be administered just within the first 10 days.

And as you noted, Israeli president Isaac Herzog was the first one to get this shot. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sarah, also received their doses on Friday as well, all part of this effort to get this population out there, to get this booster shot. Michael.

HOLMES: And -- and Hadas, what are the chances rising case numbers in Israel could lead to more restrictions?

I mean, even lockdowns?

GOLD: Well, there have been rising case numbers, for several days now. There have been more than 2,000 positive cases, per day. And for the first time, today, more than 200 people are listed as in critical condition in hospital.

But the prime minister said, specifically, that part of the reason of this third booster shot campaign is trying to prevent the lockdowns, to try to keep the economy and the education system open because, as of right now, things are relatively open within Israel, itself. Restaurants are open. Gyms are open. Hotels are open.

But there is the worry that, if these cases continue to rise and if these vaccinations are not taken up, that it could lead to another lockdown. But that is something the prime minister has specifically said they are trying to avoid.

HOLMES: Hadas, thanks. Hadas Gold there in Jerusalem for us.

And we shall take a quick break here on the program. When we come back, day nine of the Tokyo Olympics. Japan recording more new coronavirus cases than ever. We'll talk about what's behind the jump.

Also, U.S. gymnastics star Simone Biles, considering her next steps in the Olympics. And she's made one decision. We'll have it, when we come back.





HOLMES: It is day nine of the Tokyo Olympics. And we're learning that Simone Biles will be sitting out another event. U.S. Gymnastics say that she's withdrawn from the floor exercise final, on Monday and is considering whether or not to compete in the beam event.

Meanwhile, in today's competitions, tennis is wrapping up and we will be seeing plenty of athletic field events.

And all of this coming, though, as Japan is seeing a spike in coronavirus cases. On Saturday, the country recording more than 12,000 new infections. That is the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began. Joining me, now, Blake Essig is in Tokyo. And "CNN's SPORT's" Andy Scholes is here in Atlanta.

Let's go to you, Andy. Bring us up to date on Simone Biles. There is one event left but we don't know what she is going to do.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORT CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Michael. After she decided not to do the individual all around and then she opted out of the vault and the bars, Biles has now pulled out of the floor exercise final, as well due to mental health.

Now Biles says she's been dealing with a case of the twisties which is a word gymnasts use to describe a mental block they can't shake, which causes them to get lost in the air while doing moves they've done thousands and thousands of times.

Now USA Gymnastics made the announcement on Twitter, saying, Simone has withdrawn from the event final for floor and will make a decision on beam later this week. Either way, we're all behind you, Simone.

Biles came into the Tokyo games as the face for Team USA with the hopes of winning six gold medals. The only event left for her, now, would be that beam final on Tuesday. And, Michael, if the timeline stays the same, we should find out whether or not she is going to compete in that sometime tomorrow.



HOLMES: Let's turn now to Blake Essig in Tokyo, where he's been throughout.

I wanted to ask you about the COVID-19 case surge there. I mean, positivity rates approaching 20 percent. Must be hugely concerning. BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, Michael, here in Tokyo and

across Japan, cases are increasing and spreading faster than ever before. To put that into perspective, just this past week, Japan recorded a record high case count nationwide, three times. And here in Tokyo, a new benchmark was set, four times.

Now cases have been rising inside the Olympic bubble. Cases have remained relatively low. And earlier today, Tokyo 2020 officials made it a point to come out and say that the Olympics is not behind the recent surge in cases, denying that the games have created a flow of people.

Now sure, no fans are in the stands. But as you walk the streets of Tokyo and attend various Olympic events, it's clear that that's not exactly true. Now this is what it looked like on the streets lining the triathlon mixed relay on Saturday.

Thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder, lining the route to catch a glimpse of some Olympic action. Of course, they are not supposed to be there.

Outside the national stadium, hundreds of people are constantly streaming in and out just for the chance to take a picture next to the Olympic rings. For many, this is as close as they are going to get to the Olympics.

And despite the state of emergency, some people are willing to risk it just for the chance to have that Olympic moment. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I have been watching the Olympic competitions on TV from home because the events in Tokyo can't have spectators.

But I really wanted to get a feel for the Olympic spirit. So I came here. My friends were, also, posting photos on Instagram of themselves by the Olympic rings. So I wanted to take some, too.


ESSIG: Now, Michael, clearly, you know, health and safety remains a concern. And that's not going to change.

But I was at the BMX freestyle event today and even though the stands were empty, hundreds of meters away, hundreds of fans were lining this bridge just for the chance to catch a glimpse of the action taking place.

I imagine they only saw a sliver. But again, just puts into perspective what people are willing to do to see and experience these Olympic Games.

HOLMES: Yes. And -- and -- and you and I email a lot before the shows to get a sense of what you are up to.

And I kept saying to you, are you going to go see an event?

Are you going to see event?

You're like, no, no, no; no chance. You finally got to a stadium. You saw a couple of things.

My question for you is, what was it like to be there in these huge stadiums, with virtually no spectators, a few but not many?

ESSIG: Yes, you know, Michael, look. You and I have, both, covered the Olympics in the past and experienced that Olympic atmosphere firsthand. It really is special. I think you can agree with that.

But this time around, it was completely different, honestly. Experiencing these Olympic Games has been surreal, especially having the chance to actually go to some events. Now I went and watched some track and field the other night and it's held in the national stadium, 68,000 people.

But there were only several hundred people scattered around inside the stadium. We sat in the front row, dead center, nobody around us. We had the best seats in the house that money cannot buy, given the fact that no spectators are allowed. And it's something that I will, truly, never forget.

But that being said, it was, also, hard to overlook the empty seats. They played music almost the entire time, to help mask the silence. Occasionally, when it did stop, you were left with the sense, the reality, that things are very different. This is not the typical Olympic experience.

You know, nobody wanted this, absolutely surreal. I'm glad I was able to experience it. Hope that, if I ever do cover the Olympics again, that it's different next time, given, you know, some fans in the stands, to feel that buzz and excitement that, typically, accompanies the event.

HOLMES: Yes. Yes. I have covered a couple and I have never seen what you saw.


HOLMES: So a unique experience for you. Yes, Blake, good to see you. I'm glad you did get into to see something so that's good. Blake Essig there, in Tokyo. Appreciate it.

Now Australia has avoided more protests against COVID lockdowns in Sydney, at least for now. Next up, a police show of force dissuades demonstrators from hitting the streets. We'll be right back.



(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers here, in the United States and all

around the world. Appreciate your company. I'm Michael Holmes. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Now the World Health Organization says the Delta variant has now spread to at least 132 countries and, because of it, many places are bringing back lockdowns, of some measure, and other restrictions. CNN's Phil Black with our report.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Delta variant: three words repeated in almost every language in almost every country in the world. More than 1.5 years after the novel coronavirus was first detected in China, there's an alarming new outbreak in the country, spreading rapidly.

China's returning to its strict methods of containment, mass testing and locking down infected areas to try to extinguish the latest outbreak. This restrictive approach has been successful in China.

But in other places around the world, rumblings over coronavirus measures are spilling out into the streets, like in France, which is instituting mandatory vaccinations for health workers and health passes to enter bars and restaurants.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm sick of the killing freedom measures of this government. And for me, the health pass is one measure too many.

BLACK (voice-over): There have been similar protests across Europe, a bitter divide in the United States over getting vaccinated and growing resentment in parts of Australia over lockdowns.

But despite recent protests, the Australian government says restrictions will continue where required. Brisbane is the latest city, along with other areas in the state of Queensland, to undergo a snap lockdown. Some people are stocking up before staying home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very important, unfortunately, in this sort of situation but I guess, you know, we don't want to end up like New South Wales, so hit hard, fast now and hoping we don't see that happen here.

BLACK (voice-over): Emphasizing that vaccines are the best way out, the World Health Organization warns, the world is at risk of losing its hard-won gains against the virus, a backsliding that is evident in countries that were once relatively successful in curbing COVID-19.

Thailand and Malaysia are experiencing surges of disease and, on Saturday, reported record high daily infection numbers.

India was slowly recovering from being a previous epicenter of the virus. It's now imposing new lockdowns in some states, where cases are once again rising. And experts warn another wave could hit soon if vaccinations don't pick up pace.

The highly transmissible Delta variant has changed the world's understanding of the pandemic, leaving countries scrambling to adapt to this far more formidable version of the virus -- Phil Black, CNN, Essex, England.


HOLMES: And CNN's Steven Jiang is in China, following a COVID outbreak connected to the airport.

What's the latest on the numbers and the level of concern?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER, BEIJING BUREAU: Well, Michael, the latest number was on Saturday. The government recorded 78 new locally transmitted cases. This obviously pales in comparison to what we are seeing in many parts of the world.

But here in China, they hadn't seen this level of infection for months. And this spread of this cluster is really showing no sign of abating, with new cases being reported throughout the day and now impacting people from all walks of life, not just the airport staff originally but also airline crews and also tourists and doctors and nurses.

So that's why we are seeing the government doing not only the usual playbook of multiple rounds of mass testing and extensive tracing but also, increasingly, local authorities have reimposed more draconian measures we hadn't seen for a long time.

Here in Beijing, they have locked down more than 40,000 residents for just two confirmed cases. And by all accounts, around the country, we are now having millions of residents, again, confined to their homes, as the government has designated more than 80 so-called high- and medium-risk areas.

Now all of this, of course, is happening in the middle of the peak summer travel season as well. So we are starting to see many very popular tourist attractions and airports being shut down, with local officials now warning -- or at least advising local residents not to leave town.

All of this, potentially, translating into billions of dollars of lost revenues and presenting the central leadership here with that dilemma, again, which is, how to strike a balance between containing this virus and growing the economy?

And so far, we are not seeing any sign that they are going to change their current approach, which is zero tolerance towards locally transmitted cases. So, Michael, do expect to see more lockdowns and a sharp drop in domestic travel here -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Steven, thanks. Steven Jiang there in Beijing for us.

Quick break here on the program. When we come back, the first group of Afghan translators are now safely on American soil. But thousands, tens of thousands, wait in fear, pleading to get out of the country.

Is there a lack of urgency by the U.S.?

Many say yes. We'll discuss, after the break.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

The Taliban making even more territorial gains across Afghanistan, as the U.S. troop withdrawal nears completion. Let me show you here a map.

In red, have a look at that huge swaths of land the insurgent group now, reportedly, control. The speed at which the Taliban have expanded is causing concerns that the capital, Kabul, could eventually fall.

The Pentagon says around 95 percent of American forces have, already, left the country. Meanwhile, the first group of Afghan interpreters that worked alongside U.S. troops, are now on American soil. Only around 200 Afghans, made up of special immigrant visa applicants and their families, arrived at Fort Lee, Virginia, on Friday.

Now, this initial group is part of 700 Afghan interpreters set to arrive in the U.S. in the coming weeks. But that number is just a fraction of the roughly 20,000 Afghan nationals, plus their families, who are in the special immigrant visa pipeline.

That's around 80,000 people in all. Only about half of those are in -- and about half of those are in the very beginning stages of the process.


HOLMES: Matt Zeller is a Truman National Security Project fellow, also serving in the U.S. Army and deployed to Afghanistan. He is the founder of No One Left Behind, a nonprofit, dedicated to helping these interpreters navigate the U.S. visa process and set up their new lives here in the U.S.

Matt, good to see you once again, on this issue. We have been talking about this, literally, for, years, you and I. Some translators and their families have arrived. And that's great.

But how frustrating is it that it has taken this long and, more importantly, that there are literally tens of thousands of others, who have not been processed and are still under threat?

MATT ZELLER, FOUNDER, NO ONE LEFT BEHIND: Michael, I am glad that the war has ended, it probably should have ended a long time ago. But how we end it is now what matters most. Thus far, we've been ending it in shame. We left our largest airfield with our longest wartime partner ever.

And how did we leave it?

We left in the middle of the night, turning off the power without telling them. And, we also, most fundamentally, left every single one of these wartime allies behind. We just took our troops home.

We, merely, weeks ago, had all of the people and personnel and equipment in place to save them. But we didn't use it. That is what is so tragic about all of this.

Look, I am beyond thankful the president and his team have finally taken it seriously and are doing their best to save as many people as they can and that they began this pipeline. But I fear it may be too little too late.

HOLMES: I was just about to ask you that, given what we've seen in terms of the frustrating lack of urgency and, frankly, disgraceful slow walk of bureaucracy.


HOLMES: Given the increasing Taliban control of the country, do you, realistically, think that many of those 80,000 or so other translators and family members, will, actually, get out?

ZELLER: That is my biggest fear. So the Association of Wartime Allies polled the interpreter population and what they learned is about half of them live outside of Kabul. It is about 44,000 people, is what we learned.

They are in places like Helmand like, Lashkar Gah, which, as we are speaking, may be falling to the Taliban. There is an ongoing battle, as we, talk right now. They are in places like Kandahar, Herat or, again, ongoing battles at the periphery of some places inside of the cities. I don't know how those people get to Kabul.

Thus far, they can't make the travel themselves. The Taliban controls the roads. There aren't commercial air flights, and the Afghan army is a little busy, losing to the Taliban. So unless we go and get them, I don't see how they make it to the one airfield we decided is the only place with which they can get to safety.

HOLMES: It is incredible. This, has really, been a failure of planning and of government.

How much of a kick in the guts is it to Americans, who served with these people?

Who, such as yourself, literally had their lives saved by translators?

ZELLER: These guys stood shoulder, to shoulder, men and women. They stood shoulder to shoulder with us in the most arduous and difficult of circumstances. They did it over and over again. I was fortunate. When I was over, when my tour of duty was done, I

went home. They went on to the next unit, the next mission over and over again. We made a promise, we looked them in the eye, people like me looked these people in the eye and we said, we will be there for you in your moment of need.

And now we are failing to keep that. It is the most brutal of betrayals. It feels like we have forsaken an oath.

HOLMES: It is gut-wrenching, I know. And for you very personally.

Really quick, let's try to end on the positive note, some of these guys are here, let's see how many more get out.

Is there a system set up so that those who do get out have a smooth entry into American society?

We are looking at some of those arrivals.

Is there a system to welcome them in and settle them?

ZELLER: That is the one thing that there is in place. We do have what is called, a refugee resettlement program. And these guys fall into their own special category of it. So the people who are currently in Fort Lee, are going through their final paperwork checks, medical processing that they need to do and then they will be admitted in the United States and given green cards.

At that point, the charity that has been assigned to their case is called Catholic Charities. and what they will do is help them figure out which of one of 20 cities they can pick in the United States, that they can go to, that have an affiliated Catholic Charities in those cities.

From there they will be assigned a place to live, that is already rented for them. Rent is paid for 90 days, for their first 3 months covered. And they will be provided with modest furnishings and some job assistance and placement.

Really, what they will need, is the American people to step up for them. That is where organizations like No One Left Behind have come in very well. The folks at the Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America, IAVA, have been fundamental in helping resettle these guys.

They're many other organizations in the country that are nonprofits and volunteer organizations that, really, step up and try to help them the way that they helped us, it's a sort of reverse role now.

HOLMES: I hope they have a smooth entry. I know you and others will be working to make that happen. I share your anger that this has started so late and that it is inevitable that thousands of these people will not get out and may well die because of the slow walk.


ZELLER: We have a podcast. It's called Wartime Allies. That's the hardest part about doing it. When we tape their interviews, when we talk to them over there live, sometimes it feels like we're last testaments. And it's just -- it's hard. It's gut wrenching.

HOLMES: And it is a disgrace. Keep up the fight, Matt. We will be there with you and keep following this. Matt Zeller. Thank you so much.

ZELLER: Thank you so much.


HOLMES: And we'll be right back.





HOLMES: Now of course, many people wanted Japan to cancel the Olympics. But now that they're underway, the country's Olympians are lifting people's spirits with a bit of a gold rush going on, a record 17 gold medals. But a silver medal in surfing is also pretty special. "CNN SPORT's" Coy Wire sat down with its newly minted owner, Kanoa Igarashi.


COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you see stuff like this --


WIRE: -- how does this make you feel?

IGARASHI: Oh, wow.

(Speaking Japanese)



WIRE: You know, you're in --


IGARASHI: Speechless.

WIRE: -- many ways, the face of these games. You're at the airport, I saw your Insta story, you're on the bags at the gift shop.

What kind of added weight did that bring.

And how did you manage it during these games? IGARASHI: You have a whole country that's image depending -- not depending but I mean, expecting a medal. Obviously the pressure of wanting to do good for my parents and to be able to show the medal, being able to celebrate something after so much hype around it for so long, it would be the biggest nightmare if I, you know, if I came out of the Olympic Village with nothing in my hands.

I mean, it sounds so selfish but this is my life and I have a lot of passion for this. So being able to walk out with a medal and being able to walk out not just with a medal but being able to represent the people that are close to me, I felt like it was a mission accomplished.

WIRE: Japan is absolutely crushing it at these games.


WIRE: And you know this has been a very difficult time for the people of this beautiful place.

How does sport impact the society?


IGARASHI: Well, to be honest, I really didn't realize the impact sport has on a country until this week.

You know, from the opening ceremony to just social media and just seeing how much a sport can bring together not just the country but the whole world. I mean, seriously, I had a special moment just by myself in the Olympic Village the other day, just walking around.

And everyone just, you know -- everyone's so friendly. And so many different sports come up and countries.

Hey, what do you do?

How are you going?

How's training?

How do you on your event?

And then, hey, let's go have a coffee, let's go have lunch.

And sport just unifies and just brings everyone together. And like you said, in a time like this, with the pandemic that everyone's gone through, it isn't easy for anyone. And to celebrate sport and to bring everyone together through the sport, you know, given that close to each other (INAUDIBLE), we did this.

We've overcome one of the biggest challenges that we've ever gone through, not just as an athlete but as a human. You know, that's why I think this Olympic tradition has been so special. That's why I feel like, especially in Japan, the Japanese athletes are, in a way, we're kind of in the front line. We're the first people in the ceremony, just leading the other

countries, saying, hey, let's do this and let's represent our sports, let's represent our country, let's represent the world. And I think that was a really strong message that has happened and is going on in this Olympics.


HOLMES: Yes, great performance. That was "CNN SPORT's" Coy Wire and the Japanese silver medalist surfer Kanoa Igarashi.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @HolmesCNN. Robyn Curnow with more news in just a moment.