Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Health Officials Race to Expand Vaccine Protection; Tennessee School Board Meeting Erupts with Anti-Mask Protests; Taliban Now Control 10 Provincial Capitals; Fred Weakens to Tropical Depression in the Caribbean; Greek Officials: Evia Fires Coming Under Control; 69 Killed in Algeria, National Mourning Declared; Family Has Change of Heart on Vaccines After Teen's Close Call. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired August 12, 2021 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM --


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We still have recalcitrants in some areas of the country of people who just don't want to get vaccinated. It is almost inexplicable that that is the case.


BRUNHUBER: As surges of the Delta variant overload health systems across the U.S., officials push to get more Americans vaccinated.

Afghan security forces lose another provincial capital to the Taliban putting Kabul at risk of being next.

And inside COVID ICUs, what the youngest victims of the pandemic are saying about their battle with the virus.

Health officials in the U.S. are racing to expand vaccine protection as a surge in COVID cases driven by the Delta variant has patients overwhelming hospitals nationwide. A source says within 48 hours the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize a third vaccine dose for some who are immunocompromised.

And on Friday, vaccine advisors with the CDC are set to discuss, then vote on the need for additional COVID vaccines doses. The push to get more shots in arms is being felt across the country. California's governor says all teachers and school staff must be vaccinated or face weekly testing. As children head back to class the U.S. Surgeon General says it is possible a COVID vaccine could be available for kids under 12 before the end of the year. Listen to this.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The trials are still under way right now for kids under 12. And my hope is that they will come to a conclusion soon. And that we will get that applications from the companies to the FDA. Because I can tell you that they will move fast to evaluate that, to determine again if the vaccine is in fact safe and effective for our kids. If everything were to go well and everything were to fall into place, I think it's possible that we could see a vaccine before the end of the calendar year for kids under 12.


BRUNHUBER: Among those now eligible for a vaccine, the CDC says more than 61 percent of adults are now fully vaccinated. And when it comes to the total population, that number is just over 50 percent. But America's top infectious disease expert explains why that number is still not high enough.


FAUCI: We have the tools within our own armamentarium to fight this virus very effectively. I just cannot imagine why people are not looking at this as let's say we're all in this together. The common enemy is the virus. Let's not the common enemy be arguing with each other and have ideological differences dictate whether or not you're going to get vaccinated or not.

As long as you have, and we do in this country, 93 million people who are eligible for being vaccinated who are not yet getting vaccinated. That allows the virus to circulate regularly and easily and therefore you have the possibility of the emergence of another variant that might actually evade the vaccine that the people who been vaccinated with. So, you're not only impacting potentially your own health by not getting vaccinated, you're becoming part of a potential problem that would lead to the development or the evolution of another variant, that's the problem.


BRUNHUBER: Some hospitals in Texas are so packed with COVID patients that they are using tents to house the overflow. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is sending more than 2,500 medical personnel to help hospitals across the state. And you can see here the surge in new hospital admissions in Texas and these numbers have hospital administrators worried.


DR. ESMAEIL PORSA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HARRIS HEALTH SYSTEM: There is no intervention out there that I am hearing about from the state or anyone else that is going to have an impact on those numbers anytime soon. If this continues, and I have no reason to believe that it will not, there is no way my hospital is going to be able to handle this. There is no way the region is going to be able to handle this.


BRUNHUBER: Despite the growing number of COVID cases, Governor Abbott isn't backing away on his ban on mask mandates. The state is asking a court to block the mandate issued in Dallas County. Several other counties have been granted restraining orders against the governor allowing them to keep their mask requirements for now.


From stubborn politicians to frenzied parents, well, this here was the scene outside a Tennessee school board meeting when anti-mask protestors began berating others in masks. Watch this.


CROWD, CHANTING: No masks required. No masks required. No masks required.

No more masks, no more masks! You are a child abuser! And everybody's taking notes, buddy. Keep that little smug.


BRUNHUBER: The Williamson County board of education passed a temporary mask requirement for elementary schools and anyone on its property. As you can see there, it didn't go well with everyone. Parents on both sides of the issue shared their thoughts, some more passionate than others, even threatening board members and others in attendance. Health care experts were on hand to stress how important the mask requirement was to keep students safe. One parent, also a health care worker, spoke with CNN about what she believes is fanning the flames.


CALITA PERKINS, RESPIRATORY THERAPIST AND PARENT: I think they're afraid of another shutdown. I think that they have been so enclosed with not being normal that the potential of someone controlling their life, they are stressed out, you know. And they are lashing out. And we are simply -- we don't want to wear the masks either. We are simply trying to be an advocate.


BRUNHUBER: Tennessee is just one of many states seeing a rise in hospitalizations, especially across the southeast. And a new CDC forecast says that's likely to continue for the next four weeks. It predicts as many as 40,000 more U.S. deaths by September 4 and another 10,000 to 33,000 more hospitalizations over roughly the same period.

In the past hour, there's word the Taliban have seized a tenth provincial capital in Afghanistan. The strategic city of Ghazni. A local official says the city fell a few hours ago after what he described as long and intense fighting.

Ghazni is about 100 miles south of the capital Kabul and on the road that connects the capital with the large city of Kandahar. U.S. assessments now suggest the militants could surround Kabul in a matter of weeks and capture it within a few months. The militants control of northern areas is triggering alarms because the region is considered essential to the defense of Kabul.

And the human toll is growing. Afghanistan's foreign minister says 6,000 people have been killed since April including 2,000 civilians.

Now despite the deteriorating security, there's no change in the U.S. plan to withdraw its troops by the end of this month. The U.S. special representative to Afghanistan is pushing for a political settlement in talks and the Taliban in Doha, and the Pentagon insists the outcome of this conflict isn't a foregone conclusion.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Clearly from a strategic perspective, the Taliban keep advancing. There's no question about that. But the narrative that in every place, in every way the Afghan forces are simply folding up and walking away is not accurate. I'm not at all -- and nobody should take away from this, this I'm discounting what we're seeing, a deteriorating security situation. We've been nothing but candid about that. But to your exact question, there are places and there are times, including today, where Afghan forces in the field are putting up a fight.


BRUNHUBER: Nick Paton Walsh is in London with the latest. Nick, reports of a tenth provincial capital falling. You've covered the country extensively. Are you surprised by how quickly the Taliban has taken over large swathes of the country?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, I mean, make no mistake at all, I think even some of the worst predictions didn't think that we'd be signing ten provincial capitals falling in under a week. Is it possible, the gentleman you just heard there, Pentagon's spokesperson John Kirby has a point and that there may be places that the Afghan security forces are able to hold. Well, we'll see that.

Certainly, the city of Herat in the west hasn't fallen yet. There's still intense fighting going on for Lashkar Gah and Helmand in the south although it does appear that the insurgents have broken into the police headquarters there. So making ground in some directions.

And in Kandahar to its east, a prison break has released what a prison official called a 1,000 criminals. So, things are not looking good in the south either. But here I am listening in the places where we seem to be seeing the insurgency being held back. It's a very different story in so much else of the country and the fact that Ghazni has fallen today is deeply significant.


Because it is the second major city to fall under Taliban control. It's a place that's vital in terms of connecting the two southern cities I was talking about, to the capital Kabul, and it will add to the narrative that even John Kirby there accepted that simply we're seeing a swift Taliban advance here. Predicting, yes. Comforting because of that, absolutely not. I'm sure

there are a lot of people in Kabul now wondering quite when that capital city of 6 million -- a pretty big place -- may start to feel increased pressure from Taliban moving in around it.

Today some abrupt changes within the ranks of the Afghan military, the chief of staff replaced, and some individuals in charge of special forces promoted. So, yes, clearly, a rethink by parts of the government here. Clearly, they note things are not going in their direction. But they will not be remotely heartened by the background noise of U.S. intelligence assessments that had once thought in their nightmarish scenario that maybe Kabul may be vulnerable in six months. Now that's reduced to as little as potentially 30 days by when Kabul may in fact be encircled.

Noises like that are just bound to speed up the debate as to when and how diplomats at U.S. embassies and other embassies might need to be lessened in number and you may start seeing that develop its own momentum as well with a significant impact to the security situation in the capital too. Because obviously if diplomats start to leave, airport start to look more vulnerable. So, it's an exceptionally bad week, the worst in 20 years, for the war in Afghanistan, for security forces there and it looks like it's going to continue to worsen -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, more dire by the day. Nick Paton Walsh in London, thank you so much.

And last hour I spoke with Ashley Jackson, the author of "Negotiating Survival -- Civilian Insurgent Relations in Afghanistan," and I asked her about the Taliban's momentum.


ASHLEY JACKSON, AUTHOR, "NEGOTIATING SURVIVAL": People seem like they were surprised. They shouldn't have been. The Taliban has been laying the ground work for this for months if not years. And I think that it is surprising that it is coming before the U.S. completes its withdraw, but even U.S. security and intelligence assessments have been telling us this is likely for months.

BRUNHUBER: All right, so we got word today a tenth provincial capital possible falling. The Afghan government, you know, has been trying to minimize the perception of these losses. It's claims it can retake the districts that have fallen to the Taliban. But even if they can, which is not a given considering what we've been seeing so far, the evidence seems to suggest that they can't hold any of the territory they were to recapture. Is that right?

JACKSON: Yes. Just to be clear, when the Taliban swept through these districts last month and the preceding weeks, they captured more than 200 of Afghan's of the 400 districts. The government is not getting those back. Nine, ten cities in the past week or so, they're not getting those back. Now these were -- these are large towns really, honestly. They're the low hanging fruits for the Taliban. But what the Taliban is trying to do is stretch the government,

stretch the Afghan security forces who are really reliant on these special forces that have been shuttling between city and city and trying to hold the lines and reinforce really exhausted Afghan army and troops. But the Taliban strategy is sadly working.


BRUNHUBER (on camera): Went on to suggest it that even if the Taliban could take Kabul, they are not equipped to govern.

Tropical storm Fred has weakened to a tropical depression as it dumps heavy rain on parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but there is a chance Fred could strengthen to a tropical storm again later this week. So, let's bring in meteorologist Pedram Javaheri. So, Pedram, you've been tracking this. What are the chances that it could get worse?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, it's certainly possible. There are some elements that will allow the storm system to flourish potentially as we go in towards early this weekend and then eventually into next weekend. And then there are other elements that'll try to inhibit it and at this point the model consensus is that it will try to inhibit strengthening, which is excellent news. And I'll show you why.

Because if you take a look, it's a system with 35 mile-per-hour winds, not very organized, very much a weakening system as of right now. That's because the past 24 hours it has been battling mountains that are 10,000 feet or 3,000 meters high in around the cross this region. These are mountains that are taller than anything you'll find across 37 of the 50 U.S. states. It kind of speaks again to how rugged of a landscape this is as the system interacts with this region.

Now the elements in place here that allow this storm to strengthen are water temperatures above 82 degrees Fahrenheit, that's the minimum threshold to sustain a tropical system. And I'm here to tell you it is well above that value and in fact, get into the Gulf of Mexico, that's concerning for later in the season, it is bath water warm there, about 93 degrees.


But notice pretty good agreement within the models that the system will want to hug the northern coast of Cuba over the next several days, keep it overwater. That also will play a role in trying to strengthen this and then eventually end up somewhere around the western coast of Florida.

But what happens here is once we get to Sunday and Monday, there is some wind shear or wins above the system will try to break it apart and that is another inhibiting factor for tropical systems. So, we'll watch that carefully. We think the system should remain weak as a result of that. And again, the steering environment is such that it will drive it into that area where wind shear is highest. So, if that is the case, this will try to gradually strengthen 40, 50,

maybe 60 miles per hour. But, Kim, again, with tropical systems, any sort of variation in wind pattern here and steering environment could push it back into the Gulf and if it goes western side of the golf, it is an entirely different story. So, we'll watch that as the weekend progresses.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, that's right, we don't want to see that. We'll keep tracking it. Pedram Javaheri, thank you so much.

Southeastern Europe, North Africa and the Western U.S. are all dealing with brutal heatwaves fueling wildfires. California's Dixie Fire has grown to more than 200,000 hectors or half a million acres. It's already destroyed a 1,000 structures and is threatening 14,000 more.

A man in southern Italy was killed while trying to save his animals from a wildfire. And a town in Sicily unofficially broke Europe's all time heat record on Wednesday with temperatures just shy of 49 degrees Celsius or 120 Fahrenheit.

In Algeria, the death toll from some of the most destructive wildfires in the country's history, has jumped to 69. The president has declared three days of national mourning.

And firefighters on the Greek island of Evia are slowly gaining control over the flames. The Prime Minister is scheduled to hold a news conference next hour.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is standing by live in Istanbul. But we begin with Eleni Giokos in Evia, Greece. Eleni, we see more evacuations, but is the situation finally improving there?

ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so what we're seeing right now is the continuous monitoring of the possibility of rekindling of fires which we had seen over the past day. It's still defined as an active front. You've got planes flying overhead monitoring what is going on in northern Evia.

But I want to show you a building that has been burned down, and in fact many homes in Rovies, in Evia, is have been impacted. Now, I'm going to take you through to what was an English school and you'll see the devastation. And some people lost their homes when they were in the path of the fire, other homes were actually saved.

I want to take you inside just so I can show you the extent and the impact, the intensity, Kim, of the fire. You can see that the whole roof, all the tiles have been decimated and destroyed. This is the experience of so many locals. So, while the fire is now, the big flames, those apocalyptic scenes are largely over, now people are tallying up the economic losses and they are enormous.

We know the government has put measures in place for restoration and also compensation. But for people here, they say we're talking about decades and decades of recovery because they rely on resin from the pine trees that have been destroyed, those industries have been heavily impacted. It takes about 30 to 60 years for a tree to fully mature to create resin. You've got the honey makers. You've got other people with olive plantations that have been destroyed. And now it is about their economic recovery. Remember last year we had the pandemic, this year they were hoping to have tourists, but that also that hope is gone. People have seen 100 percent cancellation in hotels. So, I think right now still despair, still a lot of pain.

BRUNHUBER: Heartbreaking to see the cost of that damage up so close there. Eleni, thanks so much for bringing us that.

Jomana, turning to the deadly fires in Algeria, the catastrophic situation there is so dire they've asked for help from the international community. What's the latest on the fires there?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems, Kim, we are entering a fourth day of the Algerian authorities trying to battle these flames, more than 100 fires they say erupted starting on Monday. They have spread in the northern part of the country impacting 16 provinces. What has made this a really tough battle for them is if you look at these areas, these are mountainous areas, forests, villages, pretty much hard to reach areas for the authorities.

They've had to deploy the military to try and assist in the evacuations and firefighting effort and that is why we have seen that devastating death toll more than 28 service members among those who have lost their lives to these wildfires.

Now what is also making this tougher for them, Kim, is the fact that the country is under a heatwave.


Record temperatures according to state media, 47, 48 degrees Celsius in the fire zone in the shade they say. So, it has been really tough. The government as you mentioned has turned to European allies for assistance and international aid seems to be on the way. They have also hired planes they say from the European Union, the French president announcing that France is deploying a number of firefighting planes.

The government says that it is dispatching experts to the region, they are investigating these fires, but they have been insisting, Kim, that this is the result of arson. Blaming this on criminals saying it is deliberate and premeditated. But as we have been seeing in the Mediterranean region over the past few days and weeks, this seems to be the new normal as a result of climate change. Scientists have been warning that the Mediterranean region has become a wildfire hot spot -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, and we're seeing it all around the world. Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much for that.

Meanwhile in northern Turkey, four people have been killed in flash floods along the Black Sea coast. Heavy rain has caused flooding that has destroyed homes and damaged roads and bridges. Three provinces are impacted, more than 600 people have been rescued and evacuated, some of them plucked from rooftops by helicopter. A family in Missouri learned the hard way that children should get

vaccinated against COVID-19. Up next, an unvaccinated teen has a close call with the virus.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I left it up to her and she decided she didn't want to get vaccinated.




BRUNHUBER: COVID cases in the U.S. among children have been increasing for more than a month now. And the CDC is urging parents to vaccinate the children who qualify for inoculation. Gary Tuchman has a story about one family that decided not to do that and had a change of heart.



GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A children's hospital in Missouri, and sitting on the couch is Angel Baker, a mother who has gone through a horrifying week. Her 14-year-old daughter Marionna tested positive for COVID, got very sick, and was put on oxygen for five days. Angel says her daughter has received excellent treatment here at the Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Might make you cough, but that is what we want. That was a good one. I warned you. Good job though.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marionna and her mother live about 150 miles away in southern Missouri. She started feeling ill at home. It quickly got worse.

ANGEL BAKER, MARIONNA'S MOTHER: I was scared. I was panicking. Monday August 2, I decided to take her to urgent care because she told me she couldn't breathe.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The decision was made for Marionna to be transported by ambulance to this renowned children's hospital. For Marionna , it was like a nightmare.

MARIONNA BAKER: It was really scary.

TUCHMAN: When you saw her struggling to breathe with the oxygen, what was going through your mind?

A. BAKER: Just praying, asking God to bring her back, keep her safe.

TUCHMAN: Were you afraid she wasn't going to make it? A. BAKER: Yes, sir.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The 40-year-old mother says she received the COVID vaccine but says her daughter did not.

TUCHMAN: Why didn't she get vaccinated?

A. BAKER: I don't know. I left it up to her. And she decided she don't want to get vaccinated.

TUCHMAN: I don't mean to make you feel badly because you've gone through so much. My guess is, and I'm making an educated guess, that she wished that you had insisted her get the vaccine.

A. BAKER: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): There are currently there are children as young as 2 years old in the pediatric intensive care unit and the regular patient rooms at this hospital. Of course, children under 12 cannot yet get the vaccine.

TUCHMAN: Last year at this time, doctors here say the typical numbers of children with COVID coming into the emergency room on a daily basis were zero, one or two. Now they say that daily number is usually 11, 12 or 13. Dr. Wail Hayajneh is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital.

DR. WAIL HAYAJNEH, CARDINAL GLENNON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: We are seeing more severe cases. We're seeing more cases in the ICU and seeing more cases that require longer duration of a treatment in the hospital.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dr. Aline Tanios is a surgical unit medical director here.

DR. ALINE TANIOS, CARDINAL GLENNON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: It is agonizing sometimes, especially when you see some of these kids spiraling down before they head to the ICU.

TUCHMAN: How many children who are ill with COVID in this hospital have gotten the vaccine also?


A. BAKER: Ready to go home?

M. BAKER: Yes.

A. BAKER: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marionna has turned the corner and is looking forward to recuperating at home and then being well enough to start her life as a high school freshman. She left us with this message.

M. BAKER: Get a vaccine so you won't have to be in the hospital bed, can't breathe.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And her mother has one too.

A. BAKER: Please parents, get vaccinated and get your kids vaccinated. It's real. Don't let no school, no governor, nothing -- it is real.

TUCHMAN: There are certainly wonderful people who work in this hospital, but it is a sad place to be. And that is why the news I'm about to tell you is very nice. Marionna has been released from the hospital. She's is back home recuperating with her mother by her side. She was supposed to start high school a week from Monday. She won't be able to go to school just yet, but her mother is hoping she is healthy enough to attend school perhaps before the end of September. One more interesting note, Marionna has a 12-year-old sister who also hadn't gotten her vaccine. Her mother Angel was here by Marionna side at this hospital but drove this past Friday more than two hours to their home town in southern Missouri and took her younger daughter to get her vaccination.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in St. Louis, Missouri.


BRUNHUBER: Well, just a couple weeks ago, we brought you the story of Agnes Velasquez and her daughter Paulina who is fighting for life against COVID-19 in a Florida hospital.


AGNES VELASQUEZ, MOTHER OF COVID PATIENT: She's in induced coma and she's also medically paralyzed.