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Haiti Devastated By Major Earthquake; Some States Running Out Of ICU Beds As COVID Cases Surge; More Children Sick From Infections Of Delta Variant; Taliban Taking Large Amount Of Territory In Afghanistan As U.S. Troops Deployed To Evacuate U.S. Embassy In Kabul; Two Afghanistan War Veterans Interviewed On Their Experiences On Tour In Afghanistan And Recent Taliban Military Successes; President Biden Meets With Vice President Harris And Advisers To Devise Strategy For Evacuation Of American Personnel From Kabul, Afghanistan. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired August 14, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Beyond droughts, there's worker shortages, including the agriculture sector. Transportation costs are going up because of elevated oil prices and a shortage of truck drivers. Demand is also rising as restaurants reopen.
But clearly, extreme weather, much of it caused by the climate crisis, is not helping. One three-decade veteran of the commodities industry, he told me he's never seen anything like this where weather reduced the supply of so many different crops all at the same time. He described it as a climate catastrophe.
Fred, this shows yet another reason that extreme weather is having an impact on everyday Americans. And unfortunately, climate scientists fear it's only going to get worse from here.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
This breaking news, Haitian officials say at least 29 people are dead after a major earthquake hit the island this morning. The quake's epicenter was far enough from the capital city of Port-au-Prince that the country may avoid the kind of devastation that we saw from an earthquake that hit the area in 2010. But the nation still feeling aftershocks now, and the damage is significant.
This is new video just into CNN that shows the extent of some of the damage. You can see part of the building there reduced to rubble. Haiti's prime minister declaring a month-long state of emergency. This disaster coming as two named storms are baring down in the area.
Patrick Oppmann is with us now from Havana. Patrick, are we learning anything more about the damage and lives impacted?
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It will probably take hours if not days to really get a better idea of the scope, the magnitude of this disaster. Areas that have been hit by the earthquake are simply not accessible from the capital of Port-au-Prince. That will make getting aid to those areas very, very difficult.
The prime minister -- the new prime minister of Haiti, we should add -- has said that he will be traveling there as soon as he can. He will be bringing aid with him. He will be trying to get to some of these cutoff areas. There are eight groups on the ground already in Haiti that will be trying to help, as well, of course, more aid is expected to be necessary as they go forward.
The images really just tell the story, though. You see enormous buildings completely pancaked, that have fallen to the ground with people inside, people still being pulled from the rubble. Many people being treated in the open air because it's just not safe to put them back inside buildings, buildings that could collapse if aftershocks continue as they are expected to do so.
And then of course, you have a tropical storm, tropical storm Grace that is expected to impact Haiti in the coming days, and that will just make an even more complicated situation even more dangerous. So as always seems to be the case, Haiti just has too much to deal with than its government and its people can handle, so the government has asked for help. They're expected to receive help, but it probably will not come soon enough for so many Haitians.
WHITFIELD: Terrible. Patrick Oppmann, thank you so much.
Mercy Corps is among the aid groups working on the island right now, and their Haiti director Cara Buck joining me from Port-au-Prince. Cara, so glad you could be with us. So how is your team responding to this earthquake, and how are you all doing?
CARA BUCK, HAITI DIRECTOR, MERCY CORPS: Sure. Thanks for having me. The epicenter is a bit more rural, a lot of poverty and hunger. And it's a location that we have a team of 19 on the ground. So we're trying to assess the gravity of the situation. Phone connectivity and Internet has been very difficult this morning, very challenging.
We're getting information coming in around reports of collapsed buildings. As mentioned, along with the tsunami warning, everyone is just really worried about their families, and we're trying to ensure the safety and security of our team and communities we work with.
WHITFIELD: So you said you have about 19 team members on the ground in the area that was hit, and communication is spotty. Have you already heard from them? Do you have any idea of what they have been assessing, where the immediate needs are, how people are doing?
BUCK: Absolutely. So we have, as mentioned, kind of confirmed the safety of our team on the ground, which is about 19. And they are doing an initial assessment, so going out to the communities to get kind of that firsthand view of what the situation is. We're anticipating the needs to be around essentials, right, making sure people have the basics -- water, electricity, food for the time being.
But we're still, we're still trying to assess and receive more information about what's happening currently.
WHITFIELD: You're in Port-au-Prince. You're roughly, what, a little over 100 miles away from where this earthquake hit. Did you feel anything where you are at all?
BUCK: Absolutely. So I was actually jolted out of bed. I was reading in bed, and it was strong, definitely strong enough for me to feel it. I stood up, and it was essentially like the building was on water. So I was able to feel it. The team certainly was able to feel it, and certainly the team which bore the brunt of it. So yes, absolutely.
WHITFIELD: And then there's the ongoing political crisis in that country. Not long after the assassination of the president, you've got the new prime minister who is soon to be making the rounds to assess the damage. How, in your view, is this country going to be equipped to answering to this latest natural disaster?
BUCK: It's a difficult situation, right, and over the past three months we've seen a bit of everything. The presidential assassination, as you mentioned, in addition to COVID, right, the Delta variant in Haiti as well is on the rise. So the ability to assess and address the situation is increasingly challenging, both for teams like mine on the ground as well as the politicians in government. It just keeps escalating and piling on.
WHITFIELD: President Biden has authorized immediate aid to Haiti. What kind of resources are going to be most needed?
BUCK: As I mentioned, we're still assessing the situation and gathering information, but certainly, in situations like these, in addition to the current food insecurity in the area, we're looking at basic needs, covering those basic needs of individuals and communities. So we're looking at water, electricity, any health provisions or supporting people that may have been injured in the event is absolutely our top priority.
WHITFIELD: Cara Buck of Mercy Corps, thank you so much and all the best to you and your teams in assisting all who were needing great help right there in Haiti.
BUCK: Thank you so much.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, right here in the U.S., a different kind of crisis. The Delta variant is surging and pushing hospitals near their breaking points. We'll discuss straight ahead.
Plus, the Taliban seizes control of more than a dozen critical capitals in Afghanistan. I'll talk with two U.S. veterans of the war in Afghanistan straight ahead.
WHITFIELD: The coronavirus pandemic taking a terrible turn. The Delta variant is spiraling out of control, pushing the U.S. health care system in hard hit cities to the brink. In an unimaginable deja vu momvent, some hospitals are being forced to build overflow facilities just as they did at the height of the pandemic last year.
Take a look at these images shot a year apart. They're almost identical, beds lining makeshift medical facilities, ICUs overflowing, and doctors and nurses 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 in another major development, the CDC is now recommending that some immune-compromised people get a third dose of the vaccine.
Joining me right now to discuss is Dr. Jayne Morgan, the executive director of the Piedmont Healthcare COVID Task Force. Dr. Morgan, always good to see you. So the approved third dose that is for certain patients who are likely to have had poor immune response to a full course of either Pfizer's or Moderna's vaccine, but new data from the CDC shows more than a million people received unauthorized extra doses of COVID-19 vaccine before this FDA decision. So what do people need to understand about this new decision?
DR. JAYNE MORGAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PIEDMONT HEALTHCARE COVID TASK FORCE: So thanks for having me today, Fred. One of the things we have to think about is that this is really the next dose for these patients, not necessarily a booster dose. This is the next dose.
So the second dose for Johnson & Johnson, a third dose of Moderna and Pfizer, and that is because there are certain groups of people who were not able to mount the full immune response that the rest of us did with the vaccine. So even though they received either the single dose of Johnson & Johnson or the two doses of Moderna and Pfizer, they really didn't reach that high level of efficacy.
And so it's been determined that they need an additional dose such that they can reach the same level of protection as the rest of us. There are about 1 million people who have gone out, as we know from the CDC now, and gotten an additional dose. What we would say to that is certainly there's no data to support that. We're not looking towards that. We do see that countries, Germany and Israel, are moving in that direction. What we'd like to see here in the United States is that people move forward with getting the first dose as we continue to try to reach that herd immunity.
WHITFIELD: So Georgia is now one of five states that have fewer than 10 percent of ICU beds available according to the most recent data from the health department. The Piedmont Healthcare System has several hospitals in the state. So what do your hospitals look like right now?
MORGAN: This is really critical. And one of the things that we have to understand -- such a great question, Fred -- is that so many times these hospitals are going on to diversion. What does "diversion" mean? That means people who are not suffering from COVID but are having heart attacks or strokes or car accidents, it's harder to get that critical emergency care, including your children.
[14:15:07] If something were to happen, a choking incident, a fall, it's difficult, more difficult to get care at hospitals that are now being overrun, including the ICUs, with COVID patients. So it's not just COVID patients and vaccinated and unvaccinated that are impacted. It's the entire society if our hospitals are at a critical juncture, because we're not even able to take care of the non-COVID emergencies.
WHITFIELD: So let's talk about schools in Georgia. The Gwinnett County public school system has recorded nearly 700 positive cases among students and staff since school started just a little over a week ago. So officials have attributed most of the cases to community spread and say they have not had any outbreaks in the schools, but the district does require masks.
So then there's the Cobb County school district, which does not have a mask mandate and has reported over 550 active cases in its schools over the last week. And the governor of Georgia has been outspoken against masks. So what are your thoughts and concerns when you look at the current scenario, and school is only in progress in some cases, just a few days, if not a week?
MORGAN: Yes, absolutely. I think that the science and the research is clear that masks do protect us from viruses, not only the COVID virus, but it protects us from other viruses as well. Flu, we've seen a very, very mild flu season. And so we want to continue to think about these masks as part of our uniform, something easy to take on, easy to take off. We have now a plethora of ongoing research and studies and documents that are showing us that masks do not put children at risk. The single study out of JAMA Pediatrics that refuted that has since been debunked and retracted by the --
WHITFIELD: That really is a response -- that's a response, too -- sorry to interrupt -- to parents in school district meetings recently in Tennessee who said the masks keep my children from getting adequate oxygen, and they need oxygen to grow.
MORGAN: Yes. And that may have been an outreach from that particular study, which, again, I want to emphasize, that study not only was debunked, but it was retracted by the "Journal of the American Medical Association." So that is now misinformation. That is not correct.
And so what we know is that masks do protect the nose and the mouth from any aerosolized or respiratory droplets, which is how this particular virus spreads and continues to invade our bodies. We serve as the host of this virus, and every time it invades our bodies, including those of our children, it replicates.
And every time it replicates, it has the opportunity to mutate and learn and become stronger and smarter. And this is how we continue to get these variants that are increasingly becoming difficult for us to manage as we are now in this fourth surge, and we certainly want to be concerned about what other variants there might be coming.
WHITFIELD: So in your view, what more can be done or said to get more people on board with, if not masking in schools, but vaccinating amongst those who are eligible? MORGAN: I'm often asked that. When we have people say I never get
vaccines, I'm not vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, and look at me, I'm so healthy. The reason that you're healthy is because as long as you and others remain a small slice of the greater American population, then you benefit from that herd immunity, you benefit from living in a society where by and large the majority of the people are immunized so there's not an opportunity for the virus to penetrate.
It's not that you've reached a certain level of nirvana or some type of physical superiority or you have a certain cocktail of vitamins that you're taking. No. You don't take vaccines and remain healthy because I'm taking my vaccine, and you live in my community. So you actually are dependent on me for your health.
And so we have to think about that with this COVID vaccine as well. You determining not to take the vaccine certainly impacts others, and it also makes you dependent on others for your health.
WHITFIELD: All great points. Dr. Jayne Morgan, thank you so much, good to see you. Stay well.
MORGAN: Thanks, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, I'll talk with two U.S. veterans of the war in Afghanistan and the Taliban is now on the verge of a complete takeover of that country.
WHITFIELD: The Taliban today continuing its surge across Afghanistan, seizing control of more provincial capitals. The militant group now controls 21 of the country's 34 capitals, territory that has been grabbed in just a matter of weeks. A Pentagon spokesman telling CNN they were surprised by how quickly the Taliban was able to advance.
(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 the air force, Jim. In fact, they're flying more airstrikes than we are on a daily basis.
But you can't -- 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: And 3,000 U.S. troops are arriving this weekend in the capital of Kabul, and they are there to help the U.S. embassy as it begins to draw down personnel.
Meanwhile, the CNN team on the ground in Afghanistan gets a chilling look at a former U.S. base there, now the home of Taliban fighters. This exclusive report from CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is what remains of the U.S. presence in much of Afghanistan, the hollowed-out skeletons of sprawling military bases now under the control of the Taliban. Once there were hundreds of U.S. and NATO troops in Andar in Ghazni Province. The last Americans left a couple of years ago, but their memories still lurk, ghostlike.
It's just so strange to see this, you know?
The Taliban granted access to CNN along with award-winning Afghan filmmaker Najibullah Quraishi, keen to show off the spoils of war.
So we're just arriving at another U.S. base, and already, I can see a large number of military vehicles over there.
According to the Taliban, Afghan forces here surrendered three weeks ago when their food ran out, leaving weapons and ammunition and more.
When the Americans were here, were you and your men attacking this base a lot?
MUHAMMED ARIF MUSTAFA, TALIBAN COMMANDER (through translator): Yes, many times we attacked this base when America was here. We did operations. We were using IEDs. The Americans had their helicopters, weapons, and tanks on the ground. We Mujahideen resisted very well.
WARD: Now they roam through what's left of the tactical operation center. Anything of value will be stripped down and sold.
Walking through what's left of these American bases, you have to ask yourself, what was it all for?
America's great experience with nation-building now vanished into dust.
MUSTAFA: It's our belief that one day Mujahideen will have victory, and Islamic law will come not to just Afghanistan, but all over the world. We are not in a hurry. We believe it will come one day. Jihad will not end until the last day.
WARD: It's a chilling admission from a group that claims it wants peace despite continuing a bloody offensive. Since the U.S. began its withdrawal in May, the militants have advanced across the country at an alarming rate, on the back of American pick-up trucks. On the Ghazni highway, we passed base after base, all flying the
militant's flag. At the end, our bizarre it's a similar sight, the days of underground insurgency are over, and the Taliban is poised to reestablish the very emirate America once came to destroy.
The Taliban governor Mawlavey Kamil insists the group has changed since then.
MAWLAVEY KAMIL, TALIBAN GOVERNOR, ANDAR DISTRICT (through translator): The difference between that Taliban and this Taliban is that the Taliban of 2001 were new, and now this Taliban is experienced, disciplined. Our activities are going well. We are obeying our leaders.
WARD: A lot of people are concerned that if the Taliban takes power again, women's rights will move backwards. How can you guarantee women's rights will be protected?
KAMIL: We assure this to people all over the world, especially the people of Afghanistan. Islam has given rights to everyone equally. Women have their own rights. How much Islam has given rights to women, we will give them that much.
WARD: That is clearly open for interpretation. Next to the mosque, we find a classroom of young girls. But their teacher says they will only receive religious education and will not attend regular school.
At night, I am separated from my male colleagues and sleep in the woman's part of the house with the children.
I've been talking to some of the women in this room, and I promised that I wouldn't show any of their faces, but it's interesting because the Taliban talks a lot about how it's changed and girls can go to school now. But I asked if any of these girls would be going to school, and I was told, absolutely not. Girls don't go to school. And when I said why don't girls go to school? They said Taliban says it's bad.
WARD: Here, what the Taliban says goes. This is now what Afghanistan's future looks like, far from what the U.S. once envisioned and what so many Afghans dreamed of as the Taliban pushes on towards an all but certain victory.
Clarissa Ward, CNN, Ghazni province, Afghanistan.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WHITFIELD: And reaction from some veterans who served in Afghanistan has been strong. U.S. General Robert Abrams, an active duty four-star general, tweeted out that it is gut-wrenching to watch what is happening and said "Progress made, but in the end not sustained. Heartbreaking."
With me right now, Tom Amenta and Dan Blakely. They have co-authored a book called "The Twenty Year War" and that will be released on 9/11. It's a photo-journal dedicated to veterans of the global war against terrorism, and they both served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, including tours in Afghanistan. Good to see both of you.
DAN BLAKELY, CO-AUTHOR, "THE TWENTY YEAR WAR": Thank you very much for having us.
WHITFIELD: And Dan, you hosted a podcast called "Never Left Behind" dedicated to sharing the stories of veterans. I want to play a quick clip from an episode.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that there's a lot of threads of shared experience, that there's a lot of the reasons that people chose to serve, there's a lot of similarity across five or six major buckets, if you will. There's a lot of threads of similarity on how they transition, whether it was positive or negative. But everyone's journey really is, God, it's true, but it was crazy. They really were their own unique thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Dan, that idea of a shared experience that everyone goes through who serves, so is there a sense that this is heartbreaking, just as the general tweeted? Is that kind of the shared response or assessment?
BLAKELY: Well, let me be very clear. I can't speak for the entire veteran community, and somebody who authored this book and had 71 unique stories in the book, "The Twenty Year War," you can't quantify everybody at once. But what I will say is the comments that I've been getting from the veteran community has been utter heartbreak in what's happening in Afghanistan, feeling like they left something behind or that they had something left to finish.
But ultimately, every veteran has a different experience and how they process it is very different. And they need to speak up and have their voice be heard in how they want to process what's happening in Afghanistan right now.
WHITFIELD: And then what about for you, then? What are your thoughts and feelings? Do you go as far as saying to yourself, what did we do this for, as a result of now seeing the Taliban taking over? What are your thoughts?
BLAKELY: Yes. You would like to say, I wish I could go back and change things, and things would be so much different if I could have a little bit more say or a little bit more action on the ground or whatever the case may be. But ultimately, when I look back at my experience, it's not about what's happening today. It's what I did while I was there.
And ultimately, I provided security and safety for a lot of people, a lot of the Afghani population that they didn't have prior to the last 20 years. So I'm proud of what we did while we were there, just what's happening today, it's just kind of heart wrenching to look at. WHITFIELD: Tom, how about for you? What goes through your mind,
particularly when you see those images that we just saw in Clarissa Ward's piece of the Taliban walking through what was once an American base, reclaiming that space?
TOM AMENTA, CO-AUTHOR, "THE TWENTY YEAR WAR": It breaks my heart, and Dan, as he is, is much more levelheaded than I am by nature. And I'm sort of the fiery Italian of the group, and I'm just so angry. I don't understand the why now of it. I don't understand the methodology for it. And most importantly, and the answer that I would really like to hear from this administration is why the inconsistent policy.
Where two or three weeks ago, he's meeting with the president of Iraq and saying we're going to leave by the end of the year, except for some advisers and some intelligence sharing capability. So the two wars that are prominently featured in our book "The Twenty Year War," the two major battle spaces are being treated completely differently.
In one of them, we are going to make sure we don't just walk out and there is some stability. And the other one, I'm watching American bases taking over, reports of them being killed and murdered and war atrocities committed all over the place. In some of these reports, were major, prominent organizations.
And these are conspiracy theories. And I don't understand it. And that's the thing that I think makes me even angrier is there's been no real reason other than it's time. We've been doing this for 20 years.
WHITFIELD: So Tom, while you are expressing your frustration with the inconsistencies of policies, which is how you put it, do you also agree with or see what the Pentagon is saying when it says it's perplexed about what appears to be either a lack of will or lack of leadership in Afghanistan, and that, too, is to blame?
AMENTA: I remember something that I saw General, retired, Tony Thomas says where he said something to the effect of I'm frustrated because I'm concerned that we care more than they do. And I think that that's a really fair question to ask. I think that the other side of that, and the thing that I'm wrestling with is I can't imagine how demoralized I would be if I was back on the ground the way that I've been a soldier all my life, and all the support and the people, all of our allies seeing they were there for me, and suddenly hearing, yes, by the way, guys, bye.
Just drop of the hat, see you, leaving, as some of those reports said about us leaving Bagram Airfield and casing the colors in the middle of the night, and not explaining to our Afghani allies that we were leaving. That's such a demoralizing thing for morality.
And at some point, self-preservation is going to kick in. These men and these women are not going to leave Afghanistan. That's one of the things I think that so many people are missing. They're going to have to try and live in this new reality. And are you going to try to keep a low profile so you can continue to live and continue to breathe? I think that that's a pretty fair point and a pretty fair question,
given the absolute abandonment, at least from what I'm seeing, what I'm watching is happening right now. And I hear that frustration through a lot of veterans, too, is it's not that we want to continue to be there forever. No one does. I haven't heard a vet that says, oh, great, let's keep staying in Afghanistan. But it's the why? Why now? Why this way, and why are we abandoning these people?
WHITFIELD: And then, Dan, what are your concerns or worries about the Afghan allies that Tom was talking about? We heard our Kim Dozier earlier, who has covered the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq extensively, and says that many of the Afghan military that essentially abandoned ship wasn't necessarily because of their lack of will, but because the Taliban was far more influential and they had to look at it in terms of if I say I stick with this military that was trained by the U.S., I'm going to die, versus if I walk away from the military that the U.S. helped us establish, and if I walk away, the Taliban is going to allow me and my family to live. And that's the kind of choice that they were left to make.
BLAKELY: Yes, I couldn't imagine having to make that choice. That's got to be incredibly difficult to hear that, whether it's through your county or your province officials or the tribes that you're a part of. And I know the people that I fought along with had to deal with that day-to-day. There was always a risk that they were taking every day that they decided to volunteer and fight against the Taliban.
And this is just one more instance where it's really up to them at this point because of our policy, our active policy is up to them. Either they're going to put down their weapons and conform to what the Taliban says, or they're going to decide to fight back. And I really hope that they decide to try and stick with some of the American influenced ideals that we tried to instill there and give more freedom to the people of Afghanistan.
WHITFIELD: And then Dan, quickly, next. Is there any way at this juncture to find a fix?
BLAKELY: I would like to say it was an easy black or white fix, and there was going to be something that we could easily do as a policy or as an idea and instill it in the people. But ultimately it is going to be -- it has to come from the international community. It has to come in a combined effort, and we need to get back with our NATO allies and come with a plan of how we're going to act or enact in that space, and either we're going to be dealing with a humanitarian crisis in trying to help the Afghani people that way, or we're going to have to go back and have a military presence to really push back the Taliban.
WHITFIELD: We'll leave it there. Gentlemen, Dan Blakely, Tom Amenta, thank you so much. Thanks for your service, and thanks for bringing your point of view to what's happening right now. We look forward to your photo journal as well on September 11th. Appreciate it.
BLAKELY: Thank you.
AMENTA: Thank you so much for having us. WHITFIELD: We're back in a moment.
WHITFIELD: Infrastructure, the Delta variant overwhelming hospitals across the country, the imminent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, and now Haiti in desperate need of humanitarian aid. For President Biden, the month of August is already turning into a series of challenges that he will need to manage. CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House for us. So Arlette, President Biden is in Camp David this weekend, but what is he facing right now and when he returns to the White House?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the challenges are certainly piling up on President Biden's plate, and this is a working weekend for the president in Camp David. Perhaps top of mind for him is the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. And to that end, we are told that the president received a briefing this morning on that situation in Afghanistan.
You can actually see in this photo released by the White House, he had a secure video conference with Vice President Harris, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, also his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other officials to talk about the drawdown of embassy personnel in Afghanistan.
The president has already ordered 3,000 military members to go in to help with that drawdown and evacuation. And they're also talking about the processing of those special immigrant visas for so many, countless thousands of Afghans who helped the United States during this 20-year war.
Now, through all of this, the president has remained steadfast in his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in the coming weeks. In addition to the situation in Afghanistan, the White House is also confronting this new challenge as there was an earthquake in Haiti earlier this morning. The president and vice president were also briefed on that as well, and the administrator of USAID, Samantha Power, said that experts are already on the ground in Haiti to assess the situation and what support the United States can give.
On top of these foreign and international issues, there is also a host of issues facing the president back here at home. Perhaps one of the most important is that ongoing fight against the Delta variant which we are seeing take hold across the country. You've seen the White House really pushing back on many Republican governors for making decisions that fly in the face of public health.
Just yesterday, President Biden also held a phone call with some school administrators who have been pushing back on bans in their states against mask mandates. The president also is keeping close tabs on the future of his infrastructure proposal as they will need to keep Democrats all in line over in the House. And then there's the issue of immigration as even the Homeland
Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said that there are serious challenges when it comes to border crossings. All of these things are really stacking up for the president to confront when he returns back to Washington, but his team insists that he is constantly working even while away.
WHITFIELD: All right, Arlette Saenz, thank you so much at the White House while, of course, President Biden is at Camp David.
We're back in a moment.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. A former "Saturday Night Live" cast member, Horatio Sanz, is accused of assaulting a teenager nearly two decades ago. The unnamed accuser is suing the comedian, NBC Universal, and SNL Studios. The woman says she had sexually explicit conversations with Sanz online, and in May of 2002 when she was just 17 years old, the accuser says the comedian kissed and groped her after several parties. An attorney for Sanz denies the claims and calls them, quote, "categorically false."
Meantime, New York lawmakers have announced that they will halt their impeachment investigation into outgoing Governor Andrew Cuomo. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the state's constitution does not allow the legislature to impeach an official who is no longer in office. Many of Cuomo's critics had called on the assembly to continue its impeachment process even after the three-term governor stepped down. Cuomo told "New York" magazine in an interview published last night that he believes he would win an impeachment trial but didn't want to embarrass lawmakers or the state.
Still ahead, the latest on our breaking news out of Haiti where a massive earthquake has struck near Port-au-Prince. We have new pictures on how bad the damage may be.
But first, Native Americans have the highest rate of youth suicide in the U.S. In today's episode of "The Human Factor" Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces us to a woman who is telling her story in hopes of saving lives.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Carol Seppilu was 16 years old when she decided she didn't want to live anymore.
CAROL SEPPILU, SUICIDE PREVENTION ADVOCATE: I had a pretty tough childhood. When you're a teenager, you don't know how to deal with it.
GUPTA: She found her father's hunting rifle, and after a night of drinking, pulled the trigger. The gun slipped, her life spared. But the injury destroyed her nasal passages.
SEPPILU: And I remember praying, dear God, I don't want to die anymore.
GUPTA: Ten years of reconstructive surgeries took a toll on her mental health.
SEPPILU: I have a severe wound on my face. I was in bed 20 hours a day.
GUPTA: Then one day something changed in her.
SEPPILU: I told myself to go for a two-mile run. How hard could it be?
GUPTA: She could only run a couple of blocks, and then she walked the rest of the way. She did that every day for a year, each time, running a little further. That was seven years ago. Today, she's an ultra- marathoner.
SEPPILU: I love being out there for hours.
GUPTA: Her longest race, 100 miles.
SEPPILU: I just tell myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
GUPTA: Carol's mission is to stop anyone who thinks life is not worth living. She speaks in schools and does runs for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.
SEPPILU: There are beautiful and perfect moments waiting to be reached.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
WHITFIELD: Wow, "incredible" is not even a big enough word for her. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The CNN Newsroom continues with Jim Acosta in a moment.