Return to Transcripts main page


Taliban Take Control of Another Afghan City; Time For Leaders to mandate Masks; Leaders Fail to Lead; Wildfires a Huge Climate Change Concern; COVID-19 Seen a Spike in Southeast Asia. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 9, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching "CNN Newsroom," and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, the Taliban celebrate another key victory in Afghanistan, and issue a warning to the U.S.

COVID cases hit a six-month high once again, pushing America's hospitals to breaking point.

And ferocious flames, thousands of firefighters struggle to gain the upper hand as California's Dixie Fire grow to the second largest in state history.

LEMON: Good to have you with us.

Well, another city has fallen to the Taliban as the militants warned the U.S. against more intervention in Afghanistan. A local journalist tells CNN, Taleqan is under Taliban control. Meaning, they have taken at least five provincial capitals in just a few days.

U.S. air strikes have ramp up to try to keep the Taliban from entering urban areas. One of those capitals is the key city of Kunduz said to be mostly in Taliban hands. Taliban video which cannot be verified purports to show a government compound in Kunduz after the militants took over.

The U.N. refugee agency says the violence has forced nearly 300,000 Afghans to flee their homes since January. In total, more than three and a half million have been displaced.

And CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has reported from inside Afghanistan for years now. He is tracking these latest moves by the Taliban and he joins us now live from London. Good to see you, Nick. So, what is the latest on the Taliban advances and how do we verify their claims?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well there's quite a lot of evidence to suggest that they have since Friday now taken five provincial capitals. These are the sort of urban hubs. And a lot of the sprawling areas of rural Afghanistan that the government was so focused on trying to hold, that was the bedrock of their strategy.

And as of Friday, we saw the first ones fall around the Iranian border and the most significant of the five as you mentioned is Kunduz. But there does appear to be continued fighting according to some reports as Afghan commandoes try and move back in. We've seen the Taliban take Kunduz in the last six years and being repelled but there seems to be a very different situation on the ground now. And those five provincial capitals while of course they are deeply significant, we are now looking potentially at another key city at threat here.

Ghazni to the southwest of Kabul, a key city on the route to the also imperiled cities in the south of Afghanistan appears to be the subject of a Taliban offensive now as well. Local sources inside of that city talking about the Taliban being inside its center, unclear precisely how this is moving, but obviously that will be of great concern to the Afghan government.

Kunduz falling is a significant blow to their desire to keep a hold on the city centers of key population centers across Afghanistan. If Ghazni were to fall in the days afterwards that would be catastrophic, I fear, and possibly also have a knock on effect to the two key cities in the south, Lashkar Gah, Helmand, and Kandahar city that they're also trying to hold at the moment too.

So, a lot of concern of the Taliban here finding a degree of momentum. I think many are saying that they have been waiting for this moment for quite some time. And the Afghan Security Forces who in the past have benefited from U.S. air power to always push the insurgency back at that particular moment of crisis be it Kunduz or other cities like Lashkar Gah over the past years, are seeing U.S. air power in evidence but less affective.

The Americans are not on the ground, not able to direct precisely where the strikes go. They are flying out of far-reaching air bases so not quite as thorough or persistent as they have been in the past. And we are entering I fear in the next few weeks or months a very dangerous situation for Afghanistan where we can learn two things.

Firstly, quite whether there is the capacity of Afghan Security Forces to hold cities, to hold ground. Kabul doesn't appear under threat at this point but you can foresee a situation down the line where many cities around it fall to the insurgency and it becomes increasingly hard inside of the capital too.


So, we will learn exactly what level of persistence Afghan Security Forces have. And secondly, too, we will slowly begin to learn the nature of the Taliban in ascendance here. A lot of efforts made by them over the past years suggest that they've sort of learned lessons that are more moderate version of them maybe apparent as they forward to power, but there are also very troubling signs that that is simply an allusion. And we are seeing hardline stories from the ground of punishment

emitted out towards those who have been loyal towards a government in the past years. And also, tales of atrocities of revenge as well, an exceptionally key moment right here, Rosemary. An awful 72 hours is now turning into an awful four days in Afghanistan. A lot of key questions being answered as to exactly how long Afghan security forces and where they will be able to hold out. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. The big question of course. Nick Paton Walsh joining us live from London, many thanks.

Well, a sobering dose of reality here in the United States where COVID numbers are skyrocketing erasing months of progress in containing the virus. According to Johns Hopkins University the U.S. is averaging more than 100,000 cases per day, largely driven by the Delta variant and the unvaccinated. And those are the highest numbers in nearly six months.

And while vaccinations have been ticking up recently just over half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. And top disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says it's time for local officials to start requiring vaccinations.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Time has come as we've got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated. If you want to persuade them, that's good. And I believe that some people on their own once it's approved as of full approval --


FAUCI: -- will go ahead and get vaccinated. But for those who do not want I believe mandates at the local level need to be done.


CHURCH (on camera): For more on the heated debate over mandating masks and vaccinations, let's bring in Dr. Keith Neal. He is an infectious disease physician and professor emeritus at the University of Nottingham and joins us now from Derby, England. Thank you for being with us.


CHURCH: So, the world is witnessing this rapid spread of the Delta variant that's driving up infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. And so, we do rely on our leaders to make the right public health decisions to keep us safe. However, Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis is refusing to mandate masks for kids in school, instead leaving it up to parents to decide. And he won't allow COVID testing or contact tracing. What's your reaction to that as an epidemiologist?

NEAL: I think the answer is mask-wearing. What's the great problem? I mean, I think the people who say I can't breathe with a mask and a lot of that is psychological. But those with genuine lung problems they are the least people -- least likely -- least ones to get COVID because it would take away lung function. If wearing a mask lowers your breathing COVID would do it in spades. And you could be in serious problems.

In enclosed areas they're wearing in shops and other places it seems very sensible low and no cost strategy. Wearing of masks outside probably contributes very little particularly as people are moving. And even in a crowded place like a football stadium. And that could be soccer or gridiron. Probably wearing a mask might help but it's not really a big benefit.

CHURCH: Right. Of course, there is a big reason why most of us didn't get sick with anything in 2020 because we were wearing those masks. But I did want to ask you this. Are we now at the point in the U.S. and elsewhere across the globe where we need to consider mandating both masks and vaccines until we get this under control?

NEAL: I think it's actually quite easy to mandate masks in particular circumstances. My criticism of the British government is we got too many exceptions. But that's down for libertarian principles.

I think mandating a vaccine when it actually -- it actually goes a bit further for a number of agents. People have genuine concerns, and also, I do think there is a good argument for saying if you wish to go into certain places then you must be fully vaccinated, such as into pubs, restaurants, nightclubs. That seems very reasonable. I know that the pubs in tis -- in Britain have said they can't do it, but my question to that is then how do they age check people when they buy drinks?


CHURCH: Very good point. And of course, about 50 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and about 70 percent have had at least one shot. But still a third of the population has not been vaccinated. And Dr. Anthony Fauci warns if the vaccination rate does not approve, then we will see more variants, some perhaps will require new vaccines. Do you agree with that? And what do you see as the solution to the low vaccination rates in many parts of the world?

NEAL: I think those different problems in different countries. In part, in low income countries it's quite simply that they haven't gotten any vaccine or supply chain to give it. I think the figure of, I'm presuming the figures for your uptick in the states are for the adult or eligible population rather than the entire population because at the moment nobody is doing children under the age of 12.

I think what we need to do is to get as many people vaccinated as possible because the vaccine stops you getting ill very effectively. But that's not 100 percent benefit. It also prevents you from catching the virus full stop. And also, if you were, you are less likely to spread it. But none of these effects are completely total. So, we haven't achieved herd immunity. I therefore think that you need to produce at the highest level of

vaccine uptake particularly where transmission is most likely to occur. And therefore, to interrupt as much transmission as possible because there is a time that we are seeing in Britain that the cases are falling which is almost certainly a combination of different factors. High vaccine uptake, the schools are closed, nice hot sunny weather but it's not so good this week. All of which people tend to meet outside rather than inside.

CHURCH: Dr. Keith Neal, thank you so much for your time and your advice. We do appreciate it.

NEAL: Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, there is still plenty we don't know about COVID-19 and its variants. Despite their best efforts U.S. health experts shared a lot of conflicting information this past week requiring some damage control.

CNN's Kristen Holmes reports.


KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As the Delta variant rages across the country, Americans are struggling to understand how to best protect themselves and others.

FAUCI: He misspoke.

HOLMES: The top health officials in the Biden administration only adding to the confusion with a series of contradictory messages from masks to mandates. The communication about who should wear a mask causing whiplash.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: You have the opportunity to make the personal choice to add extra layers of protection if you so choose.

HOLMES: Just days after the head of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that masks for the fully vaccinated were an individual choice, a complete 180.

WALENSKY: In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant, and protect others.

HOLMES: Walensky saying new data was the reason for the shift, data not yet seen by the public for days causing speculation and confusion. This week, a comment by the head of the National Institutes of Health left parents scratching their heads.

FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: And home our parents of unvaccinated kids should be thoughtful about this and the recommendation is to wear masks, they are as well. I know that is uncomfortable. I know it seems weird, but it is the best way to protect your kids.

HOLMES: Dr. Collins tweeting a correction but ultimately, Dr. Fauci had to play clean up.

FAUCI: Parents do not need to wear masks in their own home. That is the right answer. Dr. Collins said he misspoke and I give him great credit for admitting it very, very quickly of saying that he misspoke.

HOLMES: Messaging over a vaccine mandate, no clearer. Just one day after the White House COVID-19 response coordinator told CNN the administration was not considering a nationwide vaccine mandate, the CDC director contradicted him.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: Are you for mandating a vaccine on a federal level?

WALENSKY: You know, that's something that I think the administration is looking into.

HOLMES: Remarks leader backtracked in a tweet, reading, to clarify, there will be no nationwide mandate. I was referring to mandates by private institutions and portions of the federal government. There will be no federal mandate. And while booster shots appeared to be off the table just last week.

VIVEK MURTHY, U.S SURGEON GENERAL: I want to be very clear. People do not need to go out and get a booster shot.

JEFF ZIENTS, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE: Right now, they are certain that no Americans need boosters.

HOLMES: It's unclear for how long.

MURTHY: I think it's very possible that we are going to require boosters and it's possible we are going to know that fairly soon.


CHURCH (on camera): And our thanks to CNN's Kristen Holmes for that report.

Well, coming up here on CNN Newsroom, wildfires in Greece have forced thousands of people to flee their homes and there is no guarantee they'll have homes to return to.


Plus, scenes of devastation in northern California as the massive Fixie fire explodes in size. Why the state's governor says climate change is only super charging these disasters.


CHURCH (on camera): In less than an hour, the U.N. is set to deliver its first full update on climate science since 2015. The warnings from the intergovernmental panel on climate change are expected to be dire. With the head of the conference saying, quote, "this is going to be the starkest warning yet that human behavior is alarmingly accelerating global warming."

And this is why COP26 has to be the moment we get this right. We can't afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years this is the moment. And in California, they are living with the impact of the climate crisis right now. The massive Dixie Fire has exploded once again becoming the second largest wildfire in state history.


It's scorched more than 750 square miles so far. That's more than three times the size of Chicago. And right now, the fire is just 21 percent contained. And it is still growing.

CNN's Camila Bernal reports from the town of Paradise.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The smoke is thick and it's unhealthy. If you look here behind me you are supposed to see a canyon. Instead, you are seeing it filled with smoke, that smoke coming south from the Dixie Fire. And it's not only flooding this canyon but also the communities nearby.

The Dixie Fire has been burning for almost a month. And we're seeing it growing but we're not seeing much progress on containment. We are also seeing the number of structures destroyed by this fire increasing. It's now at about 400 structures destroyed by this fire.

Governor Gavin Newsom using this weekend to visit the town and using the visit to talk about climate change.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): The extreme weather conditions, extreme droughts leading to extreme conditions and wildfire challenges the likes of which we've never seen in our history. And as a consequence, we need to acknowledge straight up these are climate induced wildfires. And we have to acknowledge we have the capacity in this country not just the state to solve this.


BERNAL: And Governor Gavin Newsom did point to prevention, talk about things like managing the forest, but made it very clear that more needs to be done. He also thanked the 8,500 men and women who are working to stop this fire.

Camilla Bernal, CNN, Paradise, California.

CHURCH: Wildfires in Greece have been burning out of control for days. On the island of Euboea thousands of people have been forced to evacuate from their homes. Ferries have been on standby to take people to safety. Hundreds of firefighters are battling the flames there. But extreme heat and dry winds are making it difficult. One woman who had to leave her home explains what it's like on the island right now.


MINA, PREGNANT EVACUEE: Terrible. I cannot even explain to you like in the horror movie. You see the horror movie you got afraid then you tell yourself, OK, this is movie. But now, this is not the movie. This is our real life. This is the horror that we live in for the last week. Almost one week. And we don't know if this fire will stop tonight or tomorrow or in five days. And everywhere in Greece it's the same problem. But here we have a big, big problem.


CHURCH (on camera): And earlier, I spoke to journalist Elinda Labropoulou who is just near Euboea Island.


ELINDA LABROPOULOU, JOURNALIST: From this port it is a ferry, it's a short ferry ride across. And this is what we're waiting to do now, to cross now. Because for a long time the ferry services were not regular so we haven't been able to cross. We have, however, been talking to some people on the other side who are waiting to cross to the mainland. They are carrying everything they have in bags. They don't know if their homes have been saved.

We have seen the first maps coming out as well. They show the destruction on the island with this big part in the middle and north that seems to have been completely burned. We are going to have the first assessment starts coming out shortly. More firefighting operations are underway on the island and the Greek prime minister has thanked the 22 countries that have been to Greece's assistance and they're now operating along with the Greek firefighting forces.

From what we understand, now that the big fire in Athens has been completely put all the operations will concentrate on this front. And firefighters have been telling us that they really hope that today is the day that they manage to put this fire out.

Meanwhile, there are some big places in other parts of Greece. There are some big fronts in the Peloponnese and we expect the temperatures to rise today and the winds to remain quite strong, Rosemary.

CHURCH: And what are those people who have evacuated? Where are they going?

LABROPOULOU: Well, they say most of them are going to friends and family. The state has made provisions as well. Some football stadiums and other indoor spaces have now been turned into shelters effectively for people to go and stay until they can return to their homes or different plans are made for them, Rosemary.


CHURCH: And next on CNN Newsroom, surging COVID cases in the Asia Pacific region have led to renewed lockdowns and strict containment measures. We will have a live report from Beijing. And if you want to eat at a restaurant or take a train in France you

will need a health pass. And we will have a live report from Paris about the new rules taking effect today.



CHURCH (on camera): Across the Asia Pacific region the Delta variant of the coronavirus is straining health care systems and putting many people back under lockdown. An uptick in local cases prompted China to impose strict travel restrictions and mass testing in some cities. China reported 125 new infections Monday, most of them locally transmitted.

Vietnam faces at least another week of strict social distancing measures in some areas. Authorities posted a record number of new cases Sunday. Almost 9,700 according to state run news.

And the Philippines posted its highest daily death toll since early April. Manila is now under strict lockdown as new cases sore.

Steven Jiang joins us now live from Beijing. Steven, what is the latest in all this?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Rosemary, as you were mentioning, here in China a lot of local officials are watching one particular number both very closely but also nervously. That is a number of locally transmitted cases. And that number stood at 102 recorded on Sunday. Obviously, still pales in comparison to what we are seeing in many other parts of the world, but in this country, this is considered unacceptable because of the government zero tolerance policy towards such cases.

That's why increasingly we see local officials punished or even sacked whenever a new cluster of locally transmitted emerge cases are in their jurisdiction.


That's also why you see local authorities across China adopt ever more stringent containment measures, even more rounds of mass testing, more extensive contact tracing, as well as increasingly draconian lockdown measures and travel restrictions,


especially in and out of Beijing which also, of course, as you know, is the host city of the upcoming Winter Olympics and that's just six months away from today.

Now, of course, there have been some suggestions from prominent Chinese experts that the government here may want to rethink their approach, maybe learning from other governments to live with the virus. But that notion seems had been thoroughly and cautiously rejected through a series of state media articles with one former health minister lashing out any such suggestion that the Chinese government should take a page from western governments approach because he said they have utterly failed their people in the west.

This health minister, former minister, said the Chinese government should not only stick to its current approach but even strengthen their measures, including border closures and controls. Rosemary?

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And Steven, I was going to ask you just very quickly about the rest of Asia. What is the situation there?

JIANG: It is an increasingly alarming picture, as you mentioned, with many countries reporting record high numbers of daily cases. This, of course, also corresponds to their very low rate of vaccination in many countries. This rate stays at single digit.

And, of course, this means in many places, there already very stretched health care system being pushed to the brink. That is why in places like in Malaysia, we have seen doctors and nurses go on strike last week to protest over the conditions at their hospitals.

This, obviously, is unlikely to change any time soon as many countries continue to face shortage of vaccines. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right, Steven Jiang bringing us the latest from Beijing, many thanks.

I want to turn to Europe now where French cafes, restaurants, and long distance trains are now off limits to those without the controversial health pass. People must be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test or show that they have recovered from COVID in order to get the health pass.

For more on, this let's bring in CNN's Jim Bittermann. He is joining us from a bus station in Paris. Good to see you, Jim. So tell us more about these new rules and how much resistance there is to these.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the fact is, Rosemary, there is not a whole lot of resistance because people are just rejected from boarding these buses. These are long distance buses. If you want to board a bus, if you want to board a plane, a train, you got to show a health pass. This is mine that either in paper-form or on your smart phone or whatever to prove that you've been vaccinated or that you've tested negative.

And so the drivers are inspecting as people aboard the bus. This bus here is going to run just any minute now. The driver told me he's had to turn away a couple of people already this morning. Of course, they get reimbursed for their ticket, but they can't travel. And he finds, even though it's a little bit bothersome to be checking everybody's pass, he said it is reassuring because he has been vaccinated and he is happy to know that everyone else on his bus has been vaccinated, too. So, it works to reassure the people who have contact with strangers like he does and other people here. It applies as well though, Rosemary, you mentioned the cafes, bars, restaurants, they're going to have to start inspecting as well.

Theirs is a little bit different story because a lot of restaurant owners are saying, look, we are policeman here, you know, we should have other people checking these passes, we don't like to get the business of looking at our customers' identifications and vaccination forms and all that sort of thing. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Making living spaces safer. Jim Bittermann, joining us there from Paris, many thanks.

Well, Tokyo puts out the Olympic flame after wrapping up the summer games. Truly one of a kind. We are live in Japan. That is next.




CHURCH (on camera): With an Air Force flyover and the colors of the French flag streaking the sky, Paris celebrated its turn to host the next Summer Olympics in 2024. The traditional handover of the Olympic flag took place on Sunday as the Tokyo Games wrapped up.

Some of France's medal winners from those games joined Sunday's celebration in the French capital. The Paris 2024 Games will mark 100 years since the last time France hosted the Olympics.

This, of course, is coming as Japan wraps up the Summer Games in Tokyo. Athletes from around the world took part in the Olympics despite challenges and a year-long delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The head of the International Olympic Committee said the event was one to remember.


THOMAS BACH, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: I am only sure that nobody who took part in these games will ever forget these Olympic Games. They are unique and they are a great manifestation and a great symbol of hope. For the people across the globe, there is a great manifestation of solidarity which made these games happening. And there is a great manifestation of peace because without solidarity, there is no peace.


CHURCH (on camera): So let's head straight out to Tokyo now where CNN's Blake Essig is standing by. Of course, Blake, you have been there from start to finish. In the initial stages, the Japanese people didn't even want these games. So what is the sense now on the streets as people look and say it is over? What is the sense there?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, Rosemary, I mean, really, it's been a tale of two cities. There have been a lot of people that have obviously not been supporting these games because of the health and safety concerns. But, you know, since the games began, things started to change.

As you can see, even just behind me right now, there are hundreds of people stretched for about 30 or 40 meters waiting to take a picture of with the Olympic rings just to be a part of this Olympic experience even though it is now officially over.

As you mentioned, I've been covering these games throughout this entire time and I was lucky enough to be inside the stadium and witnessed the closing ceremony in person like every event I attended throughout these games. It really was a surreal experience.

To sit inside the 60,000-seat stadium seemingly alone and watched the celebration of sport, the fireworks, the parade of nations, the athletes, was all incredibly strange. It was strange to watch thousands of athletes come out onto the field essentially waiving to a couple hundred of journalists.


ESSIG (on camera): Personally, it was an amazing experience, but it served as a reminder that this was not the Olympics anyone wanted and definitely not the Olympics Games that the people of Japan deserve. It is important to remember the health and safety concerns that led to the unpopularity of Tokyo 2020. In fact, people were still protesting and calling for the games to be cancelled, even while the closing ceremony was underway.

Being said, there was a noticeable shift in the mood once competition got underway, not necessarily in support of the games, but instead, the athletes. Take a listen.


UNKNOWN (through translator): Many people were against holding the Olympics amid the pandemic, but so many athletes have been aiming to make it to the Olympics their whole lives, and I really thought it was good that the games went ahead for them.


ESSIG (on camera): There has also been a desire by a lot of people to experience the games in any way possible. For the past two weeks, we saw people constantly gathering outside of competition venues, along race routes, and as I mentioned, right here outside of national stadium to take a picture with the Olympic rings.

Of course, winning can also help change attitudes and generate excitement. We saw a lot of wonderful moments here during these games, Rosemary. Japan did extremely well at these games, winning 27 gold medals. That is 11 more than Japan had won in any Summer Olympic Games ever before.

CHURCH: Yeah, many magical moments. You did a great job, too. Blake Essig, many thanks for joining us.

And "World Sport" is next for our CNN viewers. And for everyone else, I will be back with more news. Do stick around.





JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, DIRECTOR OF CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION PROGRAM AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: It's so high in Florida that I think that if Florida were another country, we would have to consider banning travel from Florida to the United States.


CHURCH (on camera): A strong warning on Florida's raging coronavirus outbreak there. Hospitalizations are now 13 percent higher than the previous peak last year in Florida. And this is how new COVID cases have shot up in the United States in just the past five weeks.

Hospitalizations are reaching all-time highs in parts of the south, putting some medical staff and ICUs again at their breaking point. Children's hospitals are also getting overwhelmed. Cases spiked 84 percent among children in one week at the end of last month with nearly 72,000 new child cases reported.

As the director of the National Institutes of Health said Sunday, the U.S. has the tools to prevent this, but not enough of us are using them.


FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: We would not be in the place we are right now with this delta surge if we'd been more effective in getting everybody to take advantage of these immunizations. And now, we're paying a terrible price as the cases go up quickly.


CHURCH (on camera): And as of a few hours ago, people in the U.S. who are fully vaccinated now have one more option when it comes to leaving their country. But as Paula Newton reports, it doesn't work both ways.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's official now and despite the rising incidents of coronavirus in the United States, Canada has now reopened its border to fully vaccinated Americans and U.S. residents. That is the first time in more than 16 months and there are family reunions and Americans who haven't seen their Canadian properties in months. They can now cross at the land border.

But what's interesting here is that the Biden administration has not reciprocated. If you are Canadian and you are traveling for nonessential reasons, you can't cross at the land border. Although what is functioned more like a loophole, Canadians have been able to go to the United States by air since the pandemic started.

Canada itself is now dealing with what Canada's top doctor, Theresa Tam, says is the beginning of a fourth wave. But the level of vaccination in Canada is now so high that many public health officials say it is time to safely reopen the border and that begins with fully vaccinated Americans. Fully vaccinated international visitors should be able to enter Canada in September.

Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.


CHURCH (on camera): The U.S. Senate is closer to passing the massive $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. After months of negotiations, the final hurdle to passing the bill was cleared on Sunday when 18 Republican senators joined Democrats to end debate. A final vote is expected on Tuesday.

The bill features $550 billion in new federal spending on roads, bridges and passenger and freight rail, along with funding to expand broadband internet access. And earlier, I spoke with Natasha Lindstaedt about the significance of this for the Biden administration.


NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Well, this is definitely incredibly significant because the U.S. senators have been very much in line with Trump on most things. This is an opportunity for them to break with Trump. And we think that there will be about 20 senators that are willing to do so.

And this is one of the key policies of the Biden administration. He really wants to get this infrastructure bill passed. It is popular, and I think that is also why you have senators breaking rank with Trump and deciding to vote with Biden. They know it is popular. They know it is badly needed. And it's also not going to be paid for by raising taxes.

So, there are a few holdouts that are delaying the process, but overall, this looks like something that will get through because it is overwhelmingly popular.


CHURCH (on camera): And we are following new details in the sexual harassment scandal swirling around New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Another one of his 11 accusers is now speaking publicly about her experience. An assistant to the governor says he gradually escalated his physical contact with her and he took advantage of the power imbalance between them in the workplace.


CHURCH (on camera): Brittany Commisso spoke to "CBS This Morning" and the Albany Times Union newspaper.


BRITTANY COMMISSO, CUOMO ACCUSER: Then they started to be hugs with kisses on the cheek. And then there was at one point a hug, and then when he went to go kiss me on the cheek, he'd quickly turn his head and he kissed me on the lips.

UNKNOWN: What did you say?

COMMISSO: I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything this whole time. People don't understand that this is the governor of the state of New York. There are troopers that are outside of the mansion and there are some mansion staff. Those troopers that are there, they are not there to protect me, they are there to protect him.


CHURCH (on camera): Governor Cuomo denies any wrongdoing. In the meantime, state lawmakers will hear from impeachment investigation members later today.

CNN's Polo Sandoval picks up the story from there.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo facing what will likely be another trying week. On Monday, legislatures on the State Judiciary Committee return to Albany where they're expected to meet with independent investigators to review evidence related to the governor's impeachment probe.

With Governor Cuomo's sexual harassment investigation by lawmakers nearing completion, he has until this Friday to offer evidence in his defense, an opportunity Cuomo's personal lawyer insists was not provided by the New York State A.G. before the release of a scathing report in which several women accused the governor of unwelcome and non-consensual touching, as well as making comments of a suggestive sexual nature. Adding to the governor's troubles is the possibility of criminal charges.

The Albany County Sheriff's Department confirmed its investigating a complaint of behavior from Governor Cuomo that was sexual in nature.

CRAIG APPLE, SHERIFF, ALBANY COUNTY, NEW YORK: I had a female victim come forward, which had to be the hardest thing she has ever done in her life, and make an allegation of criminal conduct against the governor.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Noted in the report only as executive assistant number one, that female victim is speaking publicly for the first time. Together with Albany's Times Union, CBS News previewing their upcoming conversation with Brittany Commisso, one of the governor's current staffers who is coming forward to defend her account without blurring to protect her image.

COMMISSO: The governor needs to be held accountable.

UNKNOWN: And just so I'm clear again, being held accountable to you means seeing the governor charged with a crime.

COMMISSO: What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Rita Glavin, Governor Cuomo's attorney, insists Commisso's claims are untrue. In her Saturday interview with CNN, Glavin did admit the governor may have touched another accuser, a state trooper on the governor's protective detail. The A.G.'s report alleges he ran his fingers down her back while standing behind her in an elevator.

RITA GLAVIN, ATTORNEY FOR GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: One thing I will say about this particular trooper is that I do know that the governor has tremendous respect for her, believe she's been an excellent member of his detail, and to the extent that she believes and felt he did anything that violated her or was inappropriate, he feels very, very badly about that. That I do know and I know he's going to address this.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Exactly when that will be remains unclear. The governor has, however, apologized to a handful of women who he recognized were made to feel uncomfortable because of behavior he insists was well intentioned.

GLAVIN: He does slip at times. He's not perfect, but, yeah, I get it.

UNKNOWN: He does slip. When you say he does slip, what do you mean by that?

GLAVIN: Oh, he said it in his video -- he said it in his video statements, which is that, you know, he does make the mistake. He will say darling. He will say sweetheart. He does ask people questions about their personal lives. He didn't think that that was improper.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Polo Sandoval, CNN, Albany, New York.


CHURCH (on camera): Firefighters are racing to contain the massive Dixie fire in Northern California. It exploded over the weekend, becoming the second largest wildfire in state history. The fire has scorched nearly half a million acres so far. And right now, the fire is just 21 percent contained and still growing.

This was the scene in Plumas County after the fire tore through the area several days ago. It destroyed around three quarters of the buildings in the historic town of Greenville. At least four people are still unaccounted for. The flames are so intense and unpredictable. Officials say it's like nothing they have ever seen before.


CHRIS CARLTON, FOREST SUPERVISOR, PLUMAS NATIONAL FOREST: We're seeing truly frightening fire behavior. We have a lot of veteran firefighters who have served for 20, 30 years and have never seen behavior like this.


CHURCH (on camera): And the Dixie fire is just one of more than 100 wildfires burning across the United States.


CHURCH: For more now, we're joined by meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. Good to see you, Pedram. So what is the latest from all these wildfires and, of course, the conditions ahead?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: My goodness, Rosemary. You know, the conditions here are going to, unfortunately, go downhill just a little bit here in the next couple of days. We are seeing an area of high pressure that is poised to build just offshore.

The National Weather Service is taking this very seriously. They've already prompted excessive heat watches across a large area of the Northwestern United States and it does stretch as far south as the northern Sacramento Valley to Northern California.

And temperatures there could be as hot as 110 degrees here in the next several days. We are going to see these temps rise maybe 5 to 8 degrees as we go from Tuesday into Wednesday as another heat wave here builds. And notice tremendous heat really takes over this particular region. So, it is going to make a little bit more challenging for firefighting efforts.

And even places such as Seattle where we had record heat earlier on in the summer, well guess what, things stabilize for a couple of weeks and we're right back out of the game this week with temps soaring close to 100 degrees where the average for this time of year is right around 79.

So you'll notice not just Seattle, but Portland goes into near record territory. Yet again, in Medford, temperatures are climbing up to almost 110 degrees. And the concern across the state of California, there are currently 19 active fires, but as Rosy noted here, 21 percent containment in a fire that has already destroyed some 600 plus structures.

But notice from the fires, the largest fires in California state history. Rosemary, six of the top seven had happened since August of last year, since August 2020, an incredible run of wildfire activity and the Dixie fire now pushing into second place for the largest in state history.

So, unfortunately, conditions are not going to get better as far as weather is concerned in the next several days. Rosy?

CHURCH: Not good news at all. Pedram Javaheri, bringing us the very latest, many thanks as always.

And thank you for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I'll be back with more news after the short break. Do stay with us.