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Major 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Haiti; Haiti To Expect Tropical Storm-Force Winds, Heavy Rains Monday Into Tuesday; DHS: Unprecedented Number Of Migrants Illegally Crossing Border; Florida Reports Record High Number Of New Infections This Week; Rep. Kevin McCarthy Selling T-Shirts Pushing Anti-Mask Mandate Message; Taliban Seizes Another Afghan Provincial Capital. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired August 14, 2021 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

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FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. So, we're following breaking news, a major earthquake hits Haiti this morning and officials say there could be high casualties and widespread damage.

Haitian officials are already confirming fatalities from the 7.2 magnitude quake. But at this point, we don't know the exact death toll. This video, adjust into CNN show some of the damage on the island there, buildings collapsed into rubble streets covered in debris.

The prime minister is heading to some of the country's hardest hit areas now. And this could be a massive test for Haiti's new leader who took office after the shocking assassination of the president last month.

Joining us right now Patrick Oppmann in Havana, Cuba, Allison Chinchar in the CNN Weather Center Patrick, let me go to you first. What are you hearing about the impact of this earthquake?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as each hour passes by, of course, we see new harrowing images, new accounts of dead being pulled from rubble seeing images of people being treated in the open air because of course they're still aftershocks, and many, many buildings have been - have collapsed in the wake of this powerful earthquake.

Haitian Prime Minister Arielle Henry said not only is he going to be traveling to the affected zone notches, really the hardest in areas of peninsula to the Southwest of the Capital Port-au-Prince. But then he is well as calling on the government to put all of the Haitian government's resources into treating the wounded and recovering the dead.

Of course, Haiti is going to need help from outside as they have in previous disasters. And we should just point out that, you know, of course, people know about the 2010 earthquake that so devastated Haiti costs hundreds of thousands of people their lives. But you also had Hurricane Matthew that hit this, this exact area, and caused a widespread devastation just several years ago. And so, this area is recovering not only from the earthquake, but from a hurricane in recent years. It's one of the poorest areas have already impoverished islands.

So really, you can't imagine a worse place for a disaster like this to hit. And then more bad news coming, which is a Tropical Storm Grace is - has formed and could hit Haiti. And of course, when you dump all rain, when you have sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, that is going to make an already life or death situation so much worse.

WHITFIELD: Thank you, Patrick. And Allison I mean, there are two named storms in the region, Fred and Grace, in any way did this kind of storm activity, possibly trigger an earthquake like this?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely not even 1 percent chance. But what we do want to point out is that Grace will have an impact on this area in the form of rain, because they're going to be cleaning up. They're going to be having a recovery process here.

So, here's the focus, that magnitude was a 7.0 and a lot of comparisons being made to the one that happened in 2010 and even though this one was a little bit farther to the west, slightly stronger at a 7.2 likely on the same fault system as the one that happened in 2010. So, there are some similarities there.

One thing to note, when we talked about the population that felt the main quake, you have over about half a million people that had severe shaking. Half a million people that felt very strong and about 4 million that felt moderate shaking.

Again, you can see all the damage videos and photos that have been coming in of the structural damage that has taken place here. And one key thing to note is that a lot of those buildings are now structurally compromised.

So, when you start getting aftershocks, buildings that may not look visibly like they have damage could then sustain damage going down because of these aftershocks. We've already had a 5.2, numerous 4.0 or larger, and we're likely to continue to see more of those as we go through the day in the coming days.

Here's a look at Tropical Storm Grace. Again, you can see that track comb takes it over the Island of Hispaniola, including Haiti in the Dominican Republic. So, they are expected to get gusty winds, they are expected to get rain out of this particular system.

And that's going to hinder not only the recovery efforts, but as people clean up, you're going to have to contend with rain showers. Another thing to note rain coming down it's going to make that soil very wet, very damp.

The concern here is we already have concerns about something called liquefaction, especially on the southwest portion of Haiti, adding additional rain on top of that, because that makes a bigger concern. Liquefaction in general for those that don't understand when the earthquake happens that basically destabilizes the soil right underneath mixing with the groundwater and it basically just liquefies that entire ground underneath it.

[12:05:00]

CHINCHAR: And that's going to be a concern Fred, not only for now but in the coming hours, especially even as you continue to see some of those aftershocks.

WHITFIELD: Gosh, tragedy upon tragedy, just continuing to hit that nation of Haiti. Thank you so much to both of you, Allison Chinchar and Patrick Oppmann. Let's talk more about all of this now with Jacqueline Charles. She's the Caribbean Correspondent for "The Miami Herald". And she was just recently in Haiti, covering the political instability there following the assassination of the president.

Jacqueline, so glad you could be with us on the phone here. So that instability, you know, is one reason that Haiti is not well positioned to handle a natural disaster right now you've got new leadership. Now the prime minister going to some of the hard-hit areas, what do you expect the impact might be in this small seaport town, in addition to the way the government is in a position or not in a position to handle it?

JACQUELINE CHARLES, CARIBBEAN CORRESPONDENT FOR MIAMI HERALD: Well, let me just say that this prime minister is - was one of the frontline people. In fact, he was one of the first responders in the January 12th, 2010 earthquake. So, he has experience he also led the response for cholera.

So, he has experience in terms of, you know, disaster response. But of course, the United Nations, which we've been heavily dependent on, doesn't have the same footprint that it had before, but they are gathering in terms of the humanitarian assistance and trying to assess what the casualties are, how widespread the damage?

This is a region of the country, not just the Southern Peninsula, but also the western part of Haiti that has been cut off from Puerto-au- Prince prints since June 1st, because of armed gang clashes. And so, it's been inaccessible by roadway.

And this is a country that doesn't have access really, to helicopters other than what the United Nations have. So, the logistically, this is a huge challenge. We are hearing reports that hospitals have not only collapsed, but they have now been inundated with people who are injured.

There's an unconfirmed report that a Former Mayor of - was buried underneath the rubble and seeing reports of you know, rest in peace. We are trying to definitively confirm, you know, confirm that, as well as what are we looking at?

In 2010, we have more than 300,000 people who died; we saw a humongous response from the international community led by the United States. It's unclear whether we're going to see that again. This is a rural area, buildings are old, and churches are down.

Haiti is still in the process of rebuilding from 2010. It still hadn't gotten its footing right. So and again, it's you know, the previous person mentioned, we've got tropical storm. And this is an area that's very vulnerable, because of the mountains because of the lack of trees deforestation. So this is all around bad news for this country at this time.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness, your description. I mean, it's just spot on, you can envision all of what you just said. If access was already poor before this hurricane to get to this, I'm sorry, before this earthquake to get to this area. This means that air support might be needed to get any kind of rescue apparatus personnel, can Haiti handle that? Or is it going to have to rely on whether it is U.S. air support or that of other nations?

CHARLES: I mean Haiti is going to have to rely on the assistance from the international community regardless of this. I mean, whether it has to bring people into Puerto-au-Prince, but the reality is I think that we're going to see people having to be treated on site because even in Port-au-Prince, the facility isn't there.

The United States promised a new hospital 10 years ago along with France, and that hospital still has not been built. It's not completed yet. So, the same structural challenges you have in the capital, you have that in these rural sections there.

So, we're probably going to see 10 cities that are going to have to go up, there's still the issue in terms of displacement. How many people are displaced? Where do you put them? What are the lessons learned from 2010, so that we don't repeat some of the same mistakes?

And again, we're already talking about, you know, tens of thousands of people who have been displaced not just from a 2010 earthquake, but also were displaced because of the recent gang violence internally displaced in that country.

So - and we're, you know, before all of this, we're looking at a humanitarian crisis in terms of the number of Haitians who are facing increased hunger this year, and this was before the July 7th assassination of the president.

WHITFIELD: And now compounded yet again on the horizon by these named storms that continue to threaten the area, Jacqueline.

CHARLES: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: It's horrible. And it seems to only be worsening by the minute. Jacqueline. Charles, thank you so much for your expertise in what you have witnessed and what you know of that region appreciate you.

Alright, still ahead, the United States is now the epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic. Five States have fewer than 10 percent of their ICU beds available details on that straight ahead. Plus, an unprecedented surge of migrants now crossing the southern border into the United States we'll go live to the border.

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[12:10:00]

WHITFIELD: The Coronavirus pandemic is taking a terrible turn. The Delta variant is spiraling out of control pushing the U.S. healthcare system in hard hit cities to the brink. In an unimaginable deja vu kind of moment some hospitals are being forced to build overflow facilities just as they did at the height of the pandemic last year.

I mean take a look at these competing images here which really are images that are very similar shot a year apart. They aren't nearly identical. In fact, beds lining makeshift medical facilities ICUs overflowing doctors and nurses being overwhelmed.

The U.S. has become the epicenter of the pandemic driven mostly by a surge in the south where many states are lagging in vaccinations. And another major development the CDC is now recommending that some immune compromised people get a third dose of the vaccine.

And then in Texas, the COVID crisis has become a political flashpoint. On Friday a judge upheld the decision maintaining a temporary restraining order against Governor Greg Abbott's ban on masks mandates.

[12:15:00]

WHITFIELD: All of this as Texas hospitals is overwhelmed with the amount of new COVID patients. Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED LAVENDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On Sunday in the small City of Clifton, Texas 69-year-old Gordon Robinson walked into Goodall-Witcher Hospital sickened by COVID-19. The moment triggered a heart pounding race to save his life for Chief Nursing Officer Joycesarah McCabe and her nursing team.

JOYCESARAH MCCABE, CHIEF NURSING OFFICER, GOODALL-WITCHER HOSPITAL: This patient needed to go from our rural facility into a higher level of care. So, we got on the phone, and we called I put together a notebook. And in this notebook, this is every hospital that that I will begin to call it. So, this is this is our list, and I start making the phone calls. And so, every hospital that you see on here is hospitals that we have called trying to find a bed for patients.

LAVENDERA (voice over): McCabe started dialing number after number 50 different hospitals a day with the same answer no beds available. Calls to hospitals in Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, nothing. Robinson was getting worse by the day she says.

MCCABE: The clock is ticking.

LAVENDERA (voice over): And if you can't find a bed fast enough that has to weigh on you? MCCABE: Tremendously. Yes. Yes.

LAVENDERA (voice over): This is the real-life daily battle for medical teams on the front lines as Texas smashes into a wall of surging COVID-19 cases. Adam Willmann is the CEO of the Clifton Hospital. He says the positive infection rate in his hospital tests has jumped from 4 percent a month ago to 35 percent. And he's struggling to find nurses to handle all the patients. His team is exhausted.

ADAM WILLMANN, CEO, GOODALL-WITCHER HOSPITAL: I do think that we're headed to a very bad situation. And, and it's going pretty rapidly. It has to be exhausting. Once you get behind, go to the nurse's floor and you look at them in the eyes. You can see that it's stressful. You can see it you can feel it.

LAVENDERA (voice over): But this pandemic crisis is once again clouded by the fight over mask wearing and vaccine acceptance. 45 percent of the Texas population is fully vaccinated and almost all of the newest cases are among the unvaccinated. School superintendents and county officials in the biggest cities across Texas are mandating masks despite the governor's orders. Republican state leaders are vowing to fight the mandates in court.

LAVENDERA (on camera): You're 43-years-old we're doing this interview and you still have to wear the oxygen?

ANDRES PEREKALSKI, COVID SURVIVOR: I'm looking myself - this oxygen I'm like, wow, I can't believe I'm like this on my age. Like, wow, this is shocking.

LAVENDERA (voice over): Andre Perekalski was unvaccinated and got sick last month. He spent two weeks in the hospital and felt like he was moments from dying. But the memory he can't erase is the sound of the patient next to him in the COVID-19 ICU.

PEREKALSKI: He was screaming for waters, screaming to the nurses fighting with the nurses. And he was totally positive every night he was screaming, and it was - it was scary to hear like this. I thought I was going to be just like him.

LAVENDERA (voice over): He says that's what it's like being inside a hospital right now. After four days of endless phone calls Joycesarah McCabe finally found an ICU bed for Gordon Robinson. He was now on a ventilator put on a small plane and flown to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

LAVENDERA (on camera): So the moment that you were told, yes, we have this bed in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

MCCABE: Oh, man. I started crying. Yes, I started crying.

LAVENDERA (voice over): Ed Lavandera, CNN Clifton Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Florida, recorded more Coronavirus cases over the last week than any other - and during any other seven-day period since the start of the pandemic and more than half of the states' population is now fully vaccinated according to the latest data from the CDC.

Joining me right now to discuss is Dr. Bernard Ashby a Cardiologist in Miami. Dr. Ashby also is the Florida Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care Group of Medical Professionals dedicated to health care advocacy so good to see you Dr. Ashby. So, describe for me if you can, what are you seeing at the hospitals right now in your area?

DR. BERNARD ASHBY, CARDIOLOGIST: Good morning, Fredericka. So where do I start? The numbers continue to rise. The 7-day averages of deaths are the highest that we've seen in a long time. You know, without the deaths in the past week.

We are at the highest level ever, at any point in a pandemic of hospitalization. So 15,000 hospital beds have been taken by COVID-19 patients, over one in four ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. And in my own hospital, what we're seeing is that we're essentially back into the emergency safe where we're visitation of loved ones.

[12:20:00]

DR. ASHBY: We are currently delaying or canceling elective procedures and we're expanding our ICU capacity. So this is deja vu, where we started.

WHITFIELD: Wow, its deja vu. I mean, you sound exhausted, exhausted and exasperated. I mean, and you have to feel very frustrated, too. So how do you and your fellow medical staff keep yourselves safe? When you're seeing this flood of patients coming in similar to you know, where we are at the height of the pandemic last year?

DR. ASHBY: Well, I appreciate the question. And I would just like to state that, you know, doctors get a lot of the credit, but there's a lot of frontline workers that are also being affected. Our nurses spend a lot of time in thrones with these patients. They're there for hours on end, sometimes to pregnant, actually, respiratory therapists, no one mentioned them, but they're the ones that are involved in intubations.

And a lot of them have died as a result of this pandemic. Our teachers, teachers - they're literally putting their lives at risk working with these children. And so we don't really appreciate all the collateral damage that's being done to not just physicians, but all the frontline health care workers and people in general.

And so yes, we protect ourselves, we're using N95. We're not we're pretty accustomed to using PPE at this point. But at this point, in the pandemic, it's really a shame that we're back here once again. And we're not really taking the mitigation measures that are necessary to prevent the current surge that is happening in our hospitals.

WHITFIELD: So Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, issued two executive orders back in May, taking the power to issue mask mandates away from local authorities, and you are one of more than 800, Florida doctors signing on letter calling on Governor DeSantis to protect children and repeal anti-masks laws. He has not budged yet. So express to me, whether it's frustration, anger, what is it that you and your cohorts are feeling, when there continues to be this resistance to whether it be to encourage people to mask or even vaccinate?

DR. ASBHY: Well you know what? I try to be diplomatic when it comes to, you know, engaging with our leaders. But after weeks of pleading with Governor DeSantis just do a job. I'm pissed off, I'm tired of him. I mean, he's consistently played politics with his pandemic.

He's recently started monoclonal antibody units, to distribute that in the community. He's patting himself on the back.

WHITFIELD: Do you like the idea that he's doing that also?

DR. ASHBY: Well, we've suggested that idea. We've been saying that for weeks, you know, the monoclonal antibody therapy, decreases hospitalizations by 70 percent, and deaths as well. But it has to be given very early on. And this is something that should have been part of a comprehensive strategy.

The government has subsidized much of these therapies from Regeneron and --. And we need to give those at the community level when people first test positive and they're identified as vulnerable. But again, he's touting that as though he's doing something dramatic and impactful when it's just one piece of a very comprehensive strategy.

That should include vaccinations that should include masking that should include other mitigation measures that will actually reconcile with a lot of his issues. But rather than actually being proactive, he's taking a piecemeal approach and thinking that - thinking about this through a political lens, as opposed to a public health emergency.

And he's yet to declare an emergency you know, let me just give you a point. What's crazy is that, you know, he's taken multiple trips out of state during this emergency. Meanwhile, people are dying and hospitalized. And he recently decided to cancel a trip to Arizona because of the tropical storm that's coming.

I mean, he's treating that more of it as an emergency than literally thousands of people who are being harmed and dying from the pandemic related to the COVID-19 disease. And, you know, that to me just shows the blatant politicization that he's taken with the guards has pandemic at the expense of our lives. And you know physician, frontline workers are suffering as a result of this.

WHITFIELD: So there's the Florida leadership that you're speaking of, and then there's national leadership. I mean, the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is now selling this T-Shirt to fundraise slamming what he calls "Moronic Mask Mandates". The U.S. Capitol Physician reinstated masks mandates for the staff there due to the Delta variant spread in the U.S.

[12:25:00] WHITFIELD: What are your concerns about national leadership now saying it's moronic to wear masks, discouraging when we are at this a repeat of a heightened place during this pandemic?

DR. ASBHY: Well, the only thing that's moronic is McCarthy. I mean, you know, if you look up the term clown, you will see him. And the reason why I'm being so disrespectful to him is because he's being disrespectful to the many Americans that are dying suffering from this.

So at this point, I don't care. My mother might recommend me after this interview, but she knows and everyone else knows that what they're doing is reckless. And no matter what political ideology from no matter what demographic from we are all Americans, we understand that we're under a public health emergency, and we need to act accordingly.

The Coronavirus isn't going anywhere. So as long as we maintain this political stance, people will continue to die unnecessarily. And I'm just tired of it. And we just need to hold them accountable.

WHITFIELD: I don't know your mother. But something tells me your mother would be praising you for all that you are doing to continue to try to save as many lives as you can, if not with your medical expertise with however, with at least at a minimum some common sense being imposed. Dr. Bernard Ashby thank you so much appreciate it.

DR. ASHBY: Thank you Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.

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[12:31:18]

WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. In Afghanistan, the Taliban today seizing control of at least one more provincial capital that now makes at least 18 taken and more than half of the country has now fallen into Taliban hands. And you can see just how much of the country has fallen to the militant group in a short period of time. Three thousand U.S. troops are now arriving this weekend to help protect the U.S. Embassy as they prepare to draw down personnel. Staff are also being told to destroy sensitive documents before they go.

CNN White House reporter Natasha Bertrand Joining me now. And Natasha, a full evacuation of the embassy, well, it's not being called for at this point?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Not quite yet Fred, but it's clearly getting down to the wire here. As you said employees at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are being told to destroy sensitive documents. And they're being told to get rid of anything that could be used for propaganda purposes. For example, American flags if the Taliban does overrun that embassy and take over the city of Kabul.

But look, officials that we are speaking to are saying that it's becoming increasingly clear that a full evacuation might be necessary in the near term. They say that Kabul could be surrounded within the next 72 hours to a week. And that is according to intelligence assessments that are changing daily, but that are becoming increasingly dire. And that is one reason why the U.S. Embassy is might be moved to the Kabul airport is in the event of that full evacuation that might be necessary.

WHITFIELD: Wow, yes.

BERTRAND: So that is what we are hearing now from U.S. officials, who are saying that this is probably going to be, probably going to turn out to be a full withdrawal of U.S. personnel from the embassy even if it doesn't necessarily happen immediately.

WHITFIELD: And then what can you tell us about the U.S. negotiating with Qatar, you know, to house thousands of Afghans who have helped the U.S. and now need to escape that country in the Taliban. What can you tell us about that?

BERTRAND: Yes, the U.S. is nearing a deal with Qatar to house as many as 8,000 Afghan applicants for the Special Immigrant Visas. And that's why the U.S. actually sent about thousand employees to Qatar to try to expedite that visa application process. The U.S. has been trying to work with a number of third countries to figure out how to get these Afghans out of the country while they await this processing because of course the situation on the ground is becoming increasingly dire.

WHITFIELD: Incredible. Natasha Bertrand in Washington, thank you so much.

All right, let's talk more about all these dramatic developments. Kim Dozier is a CNN global affairs analyst, a correspondent for Time Magazine and has spent decades as a foreign correspondent so good to see you, Kim. So how does anyone explain the speed with which the Taliban has taken over so much of the country?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Fred, I was just speaking to an Afghan general this morning and asking him, why did so many of your troops just give up? And he said, look, yes, its 300, 300,000 strong, but what you forget is the attrition rate and the casualty rate. So many Afghan soldiers have died. And so many have given up and fled in the face of fighting prior to this latest defensive that it's as if the generals are always working with half or a majority of green troops.

The other thing is the troops didn't have much faith in their leaders. They had more faith in American airpower. And while there are still some limited strikes available from the U.S., it's not the kind of cover they had before. And increasingly, I'm hearing from people in different parts of Afghanistan, who got cut off, called for air support, called for backup and it's not arriving.

Meanwhile, these same troops are hearing that in areas where they fight the Taliban hard and don't give up, everyone gets slaughtered, tortured, but in areas where they give up and agree to some sort of negotiated surrender, those soldiers get to change the civilian clothes, sometimes they have to join the Taliban. But they live to fight another day.

[12:35:14]

WHITFIELD: Wow. So another way in which the Taliban and gets the upper hand. Al; right, so Pentagon spokesperson, you know, said yesterday that he doesn't believe Kabul is in imminent danger. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: What we couldn't predict was the lack of resistance that they were going to get from Afghan forces on the ground. And as you heard the President speak just a couple of days ago, what's really needed is for political and military leadership in Afghanistan, no outcome here has to be inevitable.

They are using Air Force, Jim, in fact, they're flying more airstrikes than we are on a daily basis, but you can't, you know, money can't buy will. Will has to be there. The ability to exert leadership and exude leadership on the field that has to be there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So that really is more elaborating on your point about the, you know, dearth of leadership and why some of these U.S. trained Afghan military troops just said, you know, forget it, because they're not getting the leadership. But Kirby did say earlier in the day that it is perplexing to even the White House, how quickly the country has fallen into Taliban control.

So what is the explanation behind why it happened so quickly, is it -- doesn't have anything to do with these, you know, pronouncements by whether it's the Trump administration, or now the Biden administration that, you know, pulling out U.S. troops is eminent and the Taliban just simply fortified and said, OK, as soon as they start making their way out, we're moving in?

DOZIER: Well, look, the U.S. has had one foot out the door for several years now, arguably, since the Obama administration, and that has made an impression on the Afghan people. They've turned to their leaders and hoped that the leaders would come up with some sort of a negotiated settlement because a lot of people they didn't want Taliban rule. But Ghani and his team are really unpopular.

The news headlines for years have been about corruption and internee sign warfare between the different factions in government. For the Afghan people, it feels like they're being ruled at sometimes by high schoolers. And so they don't have a lot of confidence at the -- in the people at the top and just tired of fighting and dying.

WHITFIELD: So sad. I know you spent a lot of time there. I spent some time there on assignment as well. And, boy, the people there were so hopeful about all that was transpiring in the early part of near 20 years ago. And now to see this kind of collapse, I mean, more than heartbreaking. Kim Dozier, thank you so much.

DOZIER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up an unprecedented number of migrants illegally crossing into the United States, a live report from the border next.

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[12:42:27]

WHITFIELD: All right, right now the U.S. is seeing unprecedented numbers of migrants illegally crossing the southern border. Customs and Border Protection reports more than 212,000 people crossed in July alone. That's up from June to a rate not seen in more than two decades. CNN's Nick Valencia is on the border in Texas with the very latest on this dire situation.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, one of the big concerns of the community here in the Rio Grande Valley is whether or not migrants are bringing COVID-19. It was an issue that was brought up a few weeks ago and one that is now being addressed with the help of Catholic Charities and nonprofit run by Sister Norma here who is a huge voice in the community and helps migrants along with World Central Kitchen that is helping feed the migrants once they cross.

But what you're looking at behind me here is Anzalduas Park and these temporary tents that have been set up for COVID-19 testing. These migrants are isolated and quarantine if they do test positive but right now according to Sister Norma and Catholic Charities, the low -- there is a lower test positivity rate among migrants and the state average. She says right now it's around 12, 13 percent test positivity rate among the migrants. And the numbers are massive.

You can't really get the scope and scale from our camera view. It'd be better if we had a drone, but their flight restrictions here. But about 1,200 to 1,500 migrants are currently in this park waiting for their test results. And as they wait, their camps -- tents set up here with air conditioning. You see right here this line behind me here is for food. Some of them, this is the first meal that they've had in days. And what is really striking to our crew is just how many small children there are here some children, some babies that are still nursing, others in diapers, some without proper clothes on their backs.

And part of the reason is because Customs and Border Protection is allowing children six and under to stay in the United States here according to Sister Norma. So we're seeing a lot of this crowd made up of that group. Another thing that is clear is that this shows no sign of slowing down. This facility, this temporary tent camp, has set up -- was set up about two weeks ago. But the numbers are not stopping as we're seeing now an unprecedented number of people crossing here illegally. Apprehensions are up to two decade high. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Nick Valencia in Mission, Texas, thank you so much for that.

All right coming up, warnings from the Department of Homeland Security that online extremist chatter is reaching levels similar to the days before January's insurrection, the warning next.

[12:44:57]

And a programming note, join CNN for We Love New York City the homecoming concert, this once in a lifetime concert event next Saturday starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern exclusively on CNN.

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WHITFIELD: All right as we near the 20th anniversary of September 11th, Homeland Security officials say they're hearing extremist rhetoric online that is strikingly similar to the buildup before the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol. CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider has details.

[12:50:05]

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Department of Homeland Security issuing a new threat bulletin and it's detailing a diverse set of potential threats. It ranges from domestic terrorism, which could include people participating in grievance based violence, or even actors here in the U.S. motivated by foreign terrorists. And the warning is coming out now because the 20th anniversary of 9/11 is just weeks away. And DHS says that anniversary poses the potential for violence.

Plus, the ongoing pandemic is in flaming anger from people who are against government restrictions and against public health safety measures. So DHS is saying this in the bulletin. The reopening of institutions, including schools, as well as several dates of religious significance over the next few months, could also provide increased targets of opportunity for violence, though, there are currently no credible or imminent threats identified to these locations.

Now, this comes at the same time as our team learned in an exclusive interview with the Homeland Security Intelligence Chief John Cohen, that they're actually seeing online extremist rhetoric that is strikingly similar to what they saw in the build up to the January 6th attack on the Capitol. They're seeing increasing calls for violence, that violence linked to conspiracy theories and false narratives.

And Congressman Bennie Thompson, who chairs the house Homeland Security Committee, he released a statement saying he finds it especially troubling that the terrorism threat now is increasingly based on grievance-based violence and conspiracy theories related to the election and former President Trump and all based on the big lie, which continues to permeate over social media.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks for that report.

Still ahead, new voices are emerging as proponents of democracy, the judges that are presiding over cases against the insurrectionists.

But first this week, CNN Hero is helping widows, Michele Neff Hernandez created an organization called Soaring Spirits after the sudden death of her husband.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would tell the nurse, tell him I love him, I put the phone by him, because they would not let me in. Sometimes I just go sit in the parking lot, just to be close to him. You know, April 13th, they told me he was gone. I needed someone to understand what it was like to be widowed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Initially, you imagine that when someone dies, the worst day is the day they die. And the truth is that living without them is the hard part. But you have to make your way through. Thank you for being here and showing up for each other. We help people live and live through something that many times they did not think that they would survive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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WHITFIELD: For more information visit CNNHeroes.com.

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WHITFIELD: As the congressional investigations into the insurrection grow more partisan and viewpoints on the significance of the Capitol attack grow further apart, federal judges presiding over the cases have become the conscience of democracy. Here CNN's Brian Todd.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our Capitol.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As lawmakers continue to engage in partisan bickering over the Capitol attack.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: We will run our own investigation.

NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: This is deadly serious.

TODD (voice-over): Federal judges handling cases of Capitol riot defendants are filling the void of moral outrage over January 6th, issuing blistering rebukes to those accused of breaching the Capitol quote, you called yourself and everyone else patriots, but that's not patriotism, Judge Amy Berman Jackson recently told defended Karl Dresch, that is the tyranny we rejected on July 4th, she said.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's very common for judges to say what was wrong about the crime, especially with defendants who entered into it seeming to think it was OK. This is especially pungent here, I think for two reasons. First, because the behavior was so terrible in a way that the defendants all seem to be unaware of or denying and second, because the system overall has been so polarized that no one has really stepped up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Questions that we've been asking.

TODD (voice-over): Indeed, instead of stepping up some right wing members of Congress have been spending their time spouting ridiculous false conspiracy theories about the Capitol attack, like one that suggests the FBI orchestrated the assault.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): We really need to know what the FBI knew and when they knew it.

TODD (voice-over): At a hearing for an alleged Capitol rioter this summer, Federal Judge Royce Lamberth said the characterization by some Congress members that January 6th was nothing more than a bunch of tourists walking through the Capitol is quote, utter nonsense. Lamberth describing the attack as a quote, disgrace to our country.

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LITMAN: I think they are pissed away, citizens are pissed and they're speaking partly for themselves and partly for the community.