Return to Transcripts main page


Hospitals Across U.S. Running Out of ICU Beds as COVID Cases Surge; Taliban Fighters Break Through Frontline in Kandahar; Parents of 337 Migrant Children Separated at Border Still Not Found. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 12, 2021 - 10:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, multiple states are warning the growing number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is becoming so out of control, frankly. They're either completely out of ICU beds or soon will be.

CNN's Tom Foreman joining us now. So, Tom, just walk us through how dire this situation is?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we're seeing right now, Erica, are the kind of numbers that I have typically seen in natural disasters in a regionalized area in the sense that hospitals are being overwhelmed. Look at the ICU bed utilization by state. Everything that is dark red here, they're more than 90 percent on the use of their ICU beds, all the lighter red ones over 80 percent. So that is a huge load on them.

And look at the impact of COVID. Everything on here that is red, that is where the COVID beds have really added up. If it is dark red, which is everything down here, everything, that is 25 percent and above, maybe 26 percent, maybe 50 percent, maybe 80 or 90 percent. They're just getting hammered by this.

And if the percentages seem confusing, just look at raw numbers in some of these states. In Florida, population 22 million people, something like that, 668 beds available right now, Texas, population about 30 million, 368 beds available, Oklahoma, 79, Arkansas 12, Alabama 112, Louisiana 206, Mississippi 0. That is how badly these people are being overwhelmed in the hospital, trying to deal with all of these folks.

Why does this matter? Because ICUs typically are dealing with people who are having breathing problems, who are having heart problems, who are having traumatic injury, tremendous problems. Those people are now being pushed out by people who wouldn't take a tiny medical step and now are having to take enormous medical steps. Erica?

HILL: And that last line, I think, Tom, really puts it in perspective. Tom Foreman, thank you. FOREMAN: You're welcome.

HILL: In Florida, a state shattering the U.S. pandemic record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, its health department now confirming it did, in fact, request that the Biden administration send hundreds of ventilators to the state in recent days, also saying though this was a proactive measure not due to ventilator shortages.

Now, this comes after Republican Governor Ron DeSantis said he was unaware the state had requested medical supplies from the administration.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Miami for us this morning with the latest. So, this clears up some of the questions, right, Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Part of it, Erica. But the governor's office continues to insist that the executive office still has never had any idea of this request being made. You know who did have some sort of knowledge of it? It was the department of health. And I want you to listen to this statement that they sent in.

They say, the department routinely works with the federal government to ensure adequate resources are available and ready to be distributed at all times as done with this recent request. This is a proactive measure to ensure there are consistent resources available in the state stockpile for deployment.

And this is coming as Florida sees, as the numbers showed this week, triple the rate when it comes to hospitalizations as we're seeing in the national rate. I spoke to U.F. Health in Jacksonville and they're saying that they will be receiving some of these ventilators. Clearly, there is a great demand for it.


And I want to introduce you to a 15-year-old who was admitted into a hospital, was put on a ventilator, listen to what she says.


PAULINA VELASQUEZ, TEEN BATTLING COVID-19: I walked for the first time today, actually. It was my idea. The physical therapist came and we used the walker and we walked around the bed like three times. I was happy.

AGNES VELASQUEZ, MOTHER OF TEEN BATTLING COVID-19: So when the physical therapist came, put her on her feet and just, you know, ask her to walk and she did. And she didn't want so stop. She wanted to walk and walk and there were tears in my eyes.


SANTIAGO: And the good news, Erica, doctors are very optimistic that she will be recovering.

HILL: Yes, but 15 years old, wow. Leyla, thank you. California is taking an unprecedented step, becoming the first state in the country to require all its teachers and school employees either be vaccinated against COVID or undergo weekly testing.

Joining me now, Debra Duardo, she is the superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Good to have you with us.

So, this requirement applies to all staff. When the vaccine has full FDA approval, do you envision having this same requirement for eligible students?

DEBRA DUARDO, SUPERINTENDENT, LOS ANGELES COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION: So we don't know yet. We're following the guidelines of the Department of Public Health. What we know right now is we want to make sure all of our employees, whether you're a teacher, counselor, bus driver, custodian, gets vaccinated. We're doing everything possible to make sure that we could open our schools for in-person instruction and be able to keep them open by protecting everyone from the spread of this virus.

HILL: And what is the early response from staff and from parents?

DUARDO: You know, the great news is that most of our educators -- in fact, we surveyed all 80 of our districts and the majority of our educators have already been vaccinated. They didn't have to wait for a mandate to have that happen. They care about the kids. They care about their own safety. They want to make sure that we're doing everything possible to be safe and to bring our children back to school.

So, the response has been fine. We haven't had a lot of pushback, everybody, pretty much, the majority have been vaccinated.

HILL: Anybody resigning over this?

DUARDO: Not to my knowledge.

HILL: When it comes to remote learning, I was struck by something. We're talking about schools that have already had to return to remote learning in Mississippi, in Indiana, in Georgia, since they went back to school. There are parents that are concerned about that. I would count myself among that group. But you said that some students say they really prefer learning in a virtual environment. You're going to leave it up to the individuals to decide what works best for them. Is this an option you think should be normalized from here on out for parents and students?

DUARDO: Well, I, first of all, want to say that it is normal for parents to be worried to have anxiety. It is been a difficult 18 months for everyone. And we want to make sure that we do give parents that choice. We strongly believe that in-person instruction is the best quality instruction, not only for academics but for the mental health of our children. They've been isolated for a long time. We've seen schools that have been open during this pandemic and have done very well because schools do an amazing job at following all of the regulations and keeping everyone safe. We've surveyed our districts as well, and right now, it looks like5 to 6 percent of families are opting out for what we're calling independent studies. And, you know, I think it should be an option. There are always some children that do better independently, that have some challenges with in-person instruction, whether they're medically fragile children or children who have some type of phobia or experiencing other problems that they just do better with independent studies. So it should be an option and we'll continue to make it an option.

HILL: So we talk a lot about schools. L.A. County, as I know you're aware, now considering proof of vaccination as a requirement to be indoors at a restaurant, at gyms, at stores, entertainment centers, like stadiums or concert venues, movie theaters. I'm curious, if that went into effect, would proof of vaccination then be required at indoor school events? I'm thinking of a band concert or maybe a basketball game.

DUARDO: Yes. I mean, schools are doing everything that they can to make everything safe. Right now, visitors coming on to school campuses are very limited. We're trying to make sure that our priority is keeping everybody safe. So when there are events, should they become -- come up soon, then districts will be looking at checking to see if people are vaccinated or if not showing evidence that they had a recent COVID test that shows they're negative.


HILL: Debra Duardo, good to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

DUARDO: Thank you so much.

HILL: We have breaking news out of Afghanistan, where groups of Taliban fighters have broken through the front line in the major Afghan city of Kandahar. We have details on that firefight with government forces. Stay with us. That is just ahead.



HILL: Breaking news out of Afghanistan now, where there are reports that Taliban fighters have broken through the frontline into the city of Kandahar and are perhaps not unexpectedly wreaking havoc. Officials in groups of about 10 to 15 fighters are sporadically engaging in confrontations with government forces.

Now, this comes after the militant group seized a tenth provincial capital, as well as police headquarters in a major southern city overnight. U.S. intelligence assessments now warn the Afghan capital of Kabul could be cut off collapse in just a month or two.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh joining me from London. So, Nick, this is unraveling at such a rapid pace. What more do we know?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes. I mean, it is hard to keep track of it, isn't it, to some degree. The two key things to know about today are the trouble that Kandahar is now seeing, that is the second biggest city in Afghanistan, kind of a birthplace of the Taliban, really. And as you just said, there appear to be groups of Taliban fighters that are now getting into parts of that city center.

There was also an enormous prison break in that city yesterday, which appeared to have released a thousand criminals. That is going to be causing significant problem for already stretched Afghan security forces there. So, not good news in Kandahar, if it does fall, that would be a seismic moment in the 20-year history of the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan, very much important to watch that.

The second thing is Ghazni, which another major city that has fallen, the second major city to fall of the ten. The other eight are sort of not as significant. Ghazni key on the road down, in fact, to Kandahar, a very important economic hub, been under pressure for a long time.

And the way in which it fell is important too because its governor was arrested by Afghan security forces, essentially on the run after he surrendered his post to the Taliban. And so that tells you about what a lot of the local officials are having to do, it seems, when they're cut off under siege by the insurgency there. They're cutting deals, we've seen in some cases, rather than fighting to the bitter end, possibly an understandable choice if you put yourselves in those positions.

The broader picture here though is that we're pretty much into a week where the Afghanistan we have now is unrecognizable to the one that it was a week ago. A week ago, the cities were still considered places the Taliban couldn't go. Now, they seem to be in pretty much around or in a lot of them.

So, a very fast, reducing (ph) timetable here, those U.S. intelligence warnings about 30 days until Kabul is encircled, I mean, essentially, the U.S. is reduced to a bystander here, repeating the same talking points, and it has done, for the last decade, about how the Afghan army is going to be able to do the job.

You heard President Joe Biden's last comments about the over a trillion dollars spent, 300,000 soldiers, there are simply not 300,000 shoulders doing the fighting right now. The Afghans are overstretched. And what you're seeing is the result of that overstretching city after city under pressure or falling. Erica?

HILL: Yes, as you point, what a difference a week makes. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

Just ahead, CNN learning the parents of more than 300 migrant children separated at the border under the Trump administration still haven't been found. A live report, next.


[10:50:00] HILL: Right now, attorneys are still trying to reach the parents of 337 migrant children who were separated at the U.S./Mexico border under the Trump administration. This according to a new federal court filing, and it comes as immigration advocacy groups are now pleading with the Biden administration to move faster to reunite families.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joining us now. So, Priscilla, with your reporting here, what more do we know?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Erica, we know this has been an incredibly difficult and tedious process for attorneys who are trying to find the parents that were separated from their children under the Trump administration more than three years ago. So, as you mentioned, we know attorneys are still looking for the parents of 337 migrant children.

Now, they have made end roads on a monthly base. We know that they found 31 more parents than they had in their report in June. But they still face extraordinary challenges. Attorneys are embarking on the ground searches in countries of origin, establishing toll free numbers and combing through documents to try to locate these parents.

Now, the Biden administration is assisting, they are trying to also identify and reunify parents. But they've only, according to last night's court filing, reunited 45 children with their parents. Now, of course, that is important for those families who have been separated for many years at this point but it is still a long way road ahead, Erica, as these court documents show.

HILL: Yes, it really is, and heartbreaking when you think about it, more than three years. Priscilla Alvarez, thank you, and thanks for stay on that.

Thanks to all of you for joining us this morning. I'm Erica Hill.

And a quick programming note before I leave you. Join CNN for We Love New York City, the homecoming concert, a once in a lifetime concern event, Saturday, August 21st and you will see it exclusively on CNN.

CNN's coverage continues at the top of the hour with Kate Bolduan after this quick break. Stay with us.



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. Here is what we're watching At This Hour.

Breaking point, more and more hospitals getting crushed by coronavirus patients across the south, as Americans await news on booster shots.

Presidential address, Joe Biden will speak in just minutes. He has a new ask for Congress. We're going to bring you his remarks live.

And Olympic phenom Allyson Felix, the most decorated American track and field athlete of all time, she joins us to talk about her incredible run at the Tokyo Games and what is next.

We do begin this hour though with states on the brink. Hospitals, particularly in the southeast, are filling up again, pushing ICUs to the very limit what they can handle, again. In Houston overflow tents are now up outside of a hospital to handle the surge of COVID patients, yes, again.


DR. ESMAEIL PORSA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HARRIS HEALTH SYSTEM IN HOUSTON: Let me be clear, we actually had the tents during the last surge.