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Biden Deploying 5,000 Troops To Afghanistan As Taliban Advances; At Least 227 People Dead After 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Haiti; Interview With Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R); Baltimore Health Department Using Memes To Promote Vaccinations; Some GOP Governors Refuse Stricter COVID Rules As Cases Surge; McCarthy Fundraising Off Pelosi Insult With "Moron" T-Shirt; Airline Travel Slows As Concern Over Delta Variant Rises. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 14, 2021 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta, in Washington. There is breaking news at this hour.

President Biden says he has authorized the deployment of 5,000 troops to Afghanistan as the Taliban continues its brutal advance. Just today Taliban forces claim they have captured three major cities -- three more major cities bringing the total they now control to 22 of the country's 34 capitals. As of now, only two major cities remain under the government's control, Kabul and Jalalabad.

There's urgency right now at the U.S. embassy in Kabul where thousands of U.S. troops are arriving to help with the departure of embassy staff. Earlier today the White House tweeted this photo of President Biden video-conferencing with his National Security team on developments in Afghanistan.

Our White House correspondent Arlette Saenz and White House reporter Natasha Bertrand join me now.

Arlette, let me go to you first. What else are we hearing from President Biden? I understand he just put out a statement a few moments ago.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, Jim. And really this is the most robust statement or comment that we've heard from President Biden since he was asked about Afghanistan on Tuesday. And in this statement, a paper statement, he announced that he has ordered an additional 5,000 American troops to Afghanistan to help with the drawdown of personnel at the embassy and to also help evacuate those Afghans who helped Americans over the course of that 20-year war.

This is in addition to the 3,000 members of the military that he has already deployed to Afghanistan. And the president also issued a very strong defense of his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the month. I want to read you a bit of what the president said. He said, "When I

came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11, 2019, that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1st, 2021 deadline on U.S. forces.

Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. forces down to a bare minimum of 2500. Therefore, when I became president I faced a choice, follow through on the deal with a brief extension to get our forces and our allied forces out safely or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country's civil conflict."

The president went on to say, "I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan, two Republicans, two Democrats." He added, "I would not and will not pass this war on to a fifth."

So a very robust defense from the president of that decision to remove all troops from Afghanistan by the end of the month. But this all comes as the situation in Afghanistan has been quickly deteriorating much faster than the president and many of his top officials had anticipated. And so now you are seeing him take these stronger steps, sending more people into Afghanistan, to ensure they can draw down the embassy and remove civilians safely.

ACOSTA: Yes, we are escalating the troop level there in Afghanistan as we are trying to withdraw from the country. I mean, that is the situation that the Biden administration is in the middle of right now.

Let me turn to you, Natasha. I think the president is making it very clear there were actions taken before he came into office that put the United States in the position that it's in right now, but he's also pretty adamant about this. And I hear this from officials, I'm sure you are as well, he is not going to pass this war on to another president. He is not going to keep U.S. troops there long-term.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is a very strong statement from President Biden, especially since he's been relatively quiet on this ever since we've seen this really, really rapid advance by the Taliban across the country. The White House has kind of left the talking to the State Department and the Pentagon as this has been ongoing. So really after this call that he had this morning with his National Security team, it seems like they're recognizing that there is a big shift under way, especially when it comes to public opinion.

The public is watching all of this. They're seeing Kabul imminently collapse, being surrounded. And they're questioning, well, what is the strategy here? What is going to happen to all of the Afghans, for example, that helped us over the last two decades? And so I think the overall strategy here, though, is to say we have no choice. This is what the White House has been conveying to reporters over the last couple of weeks.

This was a bad deal struck by the Trump administration. And our only option here was to either increase the troop levels in Afghanistan, which we were not willing to do, or to draw down because ultimately the Taliban was getting a lot stronger and they were going to do this offensive across the nation regardless of whether we stayed or went. And so this seems to be part of their argument here, that some people don't necessarily buy because they say that privately President Biden has been very much on board with this.


It's very, very -- he very much has the conviction that this is something that he has always wanted to do. He's been arguing for it for well over a decade now, from the time he was vice president. So I think that it's kind of a combination of both things. On the one hand he genuinely feels that this is not a war that can be passed on to another president. On the other hand they say that they have this scapegoat really in the Trump administration that, hey, our hands were tied here. We had no choice.

ACOSTA: Right. And he makes mention in this statement of the fact that Trump invited the Taliban to Camp David, the very place where the current president is right now with his National Security team discussing all of this, but the buck stops with President Biden. And now this White House is having to deal with the situation where the Taliban is rapidly taking control of Afghanistan faster than many of them anticipated.

Do you think we'll see more from President Biden? Why has he been so quiet over the last several days and we're just getting this statement now, do you think?

BERTRAND: It's a great question. We've been wondering that as well and there has been some frustration because the Pentagon and the State Department have been left to really answer all of the questions about this. And even though it was ultimately President Biden's decision. So much reporting over the last several months of how Biden's National Security team, the Pentagon, did not necessarily agree that we should be withdrawing all of these troops now, but Biden ultimately made that final decision.

He wanted them all out. And so I think that as we time goes on and we see Kabul becoming more and more isolated, more and more prone to collapse frankly by the Taliban there, the president is going to have to come out and say more about justifying this decision and about how we are going to in particular remove all of the Afghans who helped Americans over the last 20 years safely.

Right now the U.S. is trying to negotiate with third-party countries to try to find somewhere where these Afghans can go while they await their paperwork to be processed but that's going painfully slow and they really don't have a fulsome solution yet about how to get all of these people out.

ACOSTA: And it's so important that we help the people who helped us over the last 20 years. We can't just leave them high and dry. I know that they know that inside the White House, but it's going to make this very complicated, very difficult to pull off over the next few weeks. All right, Natasha Bertrand, Arlette Saenz, over at the White House,

thanks to both of you. Really appreciate the update on this breaking news.

Now to breaking news in Haiti where the death toll from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake has killed at least 227 people. Geology experts in the U.S. predict those casualty figures will go up and that the disaster zone will be very widespread.

And we are now starting to see pictures and videos showing the extent of the damage. You can see the quake was powerful, knocking buildings off of their foundations and sending thousands of people to the hospital -- to various hospitals across Haiti, which are becoming overwhelmed very quickly.

That's not all. The timing could not be worse. A tropical storm is headed for Haiti and that it will hit forecasters say Monday or Tuesday with winds close to hurricane strength and possible flooding. It will hit right in the most critical part of the earthquake search and rescue work. It's important to keep in mind as well that this is happening while the government is still in complete upheaval. It's only been a month since Haiti's president was assassinated.

And I'm joined now by Bill Barnhart, he's geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Bill, we won't have you cover all of the things that are happening to Haiti right now. Let's focus in on this earthquake which appears to be very serious. And we're seeing the magnitude and the depth of just what occurred. What does all of that mean in plain language? Help us sort out what's happening now in Haiti. This looks pretty devastating.

WILLIAM BARNHART, GEOPHYSICIST, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Yes. Thank you. Thank you for having us on. This is an absolutely hugely devastating event not just on its own but because of these other cascading hazards that you mentioned. So around 8:30 this morning local time in Haiti, there was a magnitude 7.2 earthquake. For reference, that's about two times stronger than the magnitude 7 earthquake that struck in 2010 that caused over 200,000 fatalities in Port-au-Prince, the capital and the surrounding regions.

This earthquake, luckily, to some degree, was further away from Port- au-Prince. It was about 80 miles west of Port-au-Prince, and about 50 miles from where that 2010 earthquake happened. However, it's still fairly close to some dense population areas like that have populations of 125,000 or more.

Haiti is a country that's particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits on a plate boundary where earthquakes are common, but also because of the prevalence of the construction types and the recovery from the 2010 earthquake itself. So it's -- I mean it's an immensely devastating event.

ACOSTA: And what about the powerful aftershocks? How long are they expected to continue? I suppose this could continue for days now.


BARNHART: Yes, that's a great question. So since the earthquake this morning, there's been many aftershocks. And that's very common after an earthquake like this.

There's been at least four earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater which when you're close to those, they can cause quite a lot of shaking and can cause further damage. With an earthquake of this magnitude the expectation is that aftershocks will continue for several days to several weeks but that the number of those aftershocks will tail off throughout time.

But certainly, aftershocks are on the horizon and are happening now. And the people in the region there will continue to feel those aftershocks in the coming days and weeks.

ACOSTA: And Haiti, as you know, is still reeling from the 2010 earthquake which devastated the country, killed more than 200,000 people. How is this quake different from that one? Do you think we're going to reach that level of death and destruction?

BARNHART: It's hard to say at this point. The USGS currently is projecting that the number of fatalities will likely exceed 10,000, which is an incredible number, and that the economic losses could be in the range of 7 percent to all the way to 80 percent of Haiti's GDP. As I mentioned, this earthquake was bigger than the one in 2010. But if there's a silver lining in any of this, it's that it was further from the major population center of Port-au-Prince where there's about 1.2 million people.

ACOSTA: Right.

BARNHART: So this certainly would have been felt in Port-au-Prince, but the shaking would not have nearly been as strong as it was in 2010. It's more centered on other population centers that may not have been as heavily impacted by that 2010 earthquake.

ACOSTA: All right, William Barnhart, thank you so much for that information on the devastating situation in Haiti. We're going to continue to follow it. We know you will as well. Thanks so much.

BARNHART: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Up next, the U.S. is still struggling to get a handle on surging COVID cases fueled by the Delta variant. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez joins me live next on the worsening crisis in Florida.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: The coronavirus emergency is far from over in the U.S. The U.S. is near the top among nations with the highest rates of COVID-19 cases. It's driven mostly by a surge in southern states where low vaccination rates, plus disputes over school masking and vaccine mandates, are creating the perfect storm of consequences. The south's hospitalization rate has risen again.

The seven southern states plus Nevada make up more than half of all COVID hospitalizations in the U.S. right now. More than 151,000 new cases reported in Florida over the past week. That's a pandemic record for a seven-day period. And those numbers are causing considerable strain. Brevard County is begging residents to avoid using ambulance services for nonemergency calls as hospitals there and across the state are overwhelmed. And those numbers are costing lives.

Three educators in Broward County died this week from COVID-related complications within the span of about 24 hours, all before the school year begins. And for more on the worsening situation in Florida, I'm joined by the Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

Mayor Suarez, great to have you on. What is the situation like right now in Miami? Do your hospitals have enough ICU beds, enough staffing to deal with this?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FL: Thankfully we do have enough ICU beds but the situation is worsening significantly. We have an increase in new cases, we have an increase in our percent positivity rate, which at the beginning of the vaccine was very, very low, was down to about 4 percent. We're now up to about 14 percent, which still trails the state which is at 18 percent, 19 percent.

But all the different indicators that we look at unfortunately are going in the wrong direction. The good news is that a large portion of the vulnerable in our city, 65 and older, are vaccinated. About 85 percent are fully vaccinated and about 99 percent have received at least one shot. So, you know, that's sort of the silver lining on a worsening daily crisis.

ACOSTA: And how is this crisis right now different from the winter surge you saw in Florida? You were talking about at least the elderly and senior citizen population. They're at least protected or mostly protected at this point. But that doesn't mean there isn't suffering elsewhere.

SUAREZ: I think what it is now, what we've seen in terms of the data, is that this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. So you've seen, you know, 90 percent of those hospitalized unvaccinated. Today I spent the morning with one of my friends who's my age, 40 years old. Unvaccinated. Him and his wife were trying to have a child and decided not to be vaccinated. He got sick, he's in ICU right now.


SUAREZ: No comorbidities, you know, nothing that would indicate that it would worsen to that degree. Not even someone -- you know, someone perfectly healthy. So, you know, and we're also seeing children are increasingly being hospitalized. So I think the issue here is we need to get vaccinated.

We need people to understand that the statistics prove 99 percent of the people that are vaccinated do not suffer serious consequences. And again, 90 percent of the people that are unvaccinated are the ones that are hospitalized right now.

ACOSTA: And perhaps you've seen this, but one of your colleagues, the Miami Beach mayor, Dan Gelber, he wrote a scathing letter to the governor calling on DeSantis -- Ron DeSantis to permit local governments to issue mask mandates.

He wrote, "We need a serious course correction as maintaining the status quo cannot be an option. Early on during the pandemic you publicly supported efforts of local officials," was talking about the governor here. "Including my own, for which I am grateful. But at some point your approach became more influenced by political calculations than health care concerns."

Mayor Suarez, what is your view on this? Are you seeing political considerations on the part of the governor? How do you sort this out?

SUAREZ: Yes, you know, I agree that at the beginning of the pandemic the governor was doing a great job.


He was essentially allowing local governments like ours, Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County, to make their own rules because the cities in Florida are very, very different. You know, in the case of Miami, the city of Miami, we're the densest city in the entire state on a per square mile basis. So I agree with that and I think that is the right approach.

In fact, I remember in one of the visits that the governor came down and had a bipartisan roundtable. He actually emphasized at my request that, you know, Miamians should wear their masks and they should do it because we are mandating it.

You know, all the stats that I've seen from last summer's surge --

ACOSTA: Why do you think he's doing this now, I guess, Mayor, if you don't mind me stepping? If he was that way before, why is he different now?

SUAREZ: No, I -- yes, I wish I could answer that question. I've had conversations with him where I've shown him the data. Right? I've shown him the reduction in cases -- new cases when we had a mask mandate with a fine. Right? We reduced cases by 90 percent. We went from 3500 daily cases to 350 in a two-week period. And I've shared that data with him. And you know, he has to decide what he thinks is best for the state.

But the truth is, all we're asking down here as local officials is that he revert back to the policy he did at the beginning of the pandemic and that he continues to emphasize that -- which, by the way, it's a principal Republicanism that you would allow local governments that are the closest to the people --

ACOSTA: Local control, right. SUAREZ: Local control, exactly.

ACOSTA: Yes. And very quickly, before you go, what's your message to the Haitian community there in Miami? I know that's a big part of your community, in light of what's happening right now in Haiti.

SUAREZ: It's so devastating, Jim. You know, they just are trying to reconcile a president being assassinated and now to have to deal with an earthquake, which is of the magnitude or greater than the one in 2010. And then a looming storm. It's just unbelievable what's happened there.

You know, we have probably the largest Haitian diaspora in the city of Miami. And we have a little Haiti cultural center that we will make available to the Haitian diaspora to see if there's anything that we can do to help them in this horrible time.

ACOSTA: All right, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, thank you so much for your time, we appreciate it. Hope it gets better down there in terms of COVID and everything else. Thanks for your time.

Coming up, how one major U.S. city is using humor to help people smarten up and get vaccinated. That's right, memes are being applied here. And plus, why is the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, selling T-shirts that say "moron" on them? We'll explain next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: The Baltimore City Health Department is rolling out a series of memes they hope will make you laugh and then inspire you to get a vaccine. "Mimosas with the Girls? You Still Aren't Vaxxed, Debra." Here's another, "Salad Doesn't Cure COVID, Connor." And "Green Tea Can't Cure COVID, Trina." Green tea is great on a rainy Sunday afternoon but it is no substitute for getting vaxxed.

If you're wondering why health officials in Baltimore and around the country would have to get that creative to promote a life-saving vaccine, consider this. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that a whopping 58 percent of Republicans said they definitely won't get the vaccine.

Joining me now is former Bush-Cheney chief strategist and author of a new book out this fall called "Revelations on the River," Matthew Dowd, and editor at large for the "Daily Beast," Molly Jong-Fast. Both are so wonderful, we're appreciative that they're with us this afternoon.

Matthew, let me start with you first. Is there anything that will convince those Republicans who are holding out at this point? Those Baltimore City memes are pretty good.

MATTHEW DOWD, CHIEF STRATEGIST, BUSH-CHENEY 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I mean, I think there's a certain percentage left of the American public that I think can still be convinced, but the deep sort of regarded Republicans that are still strongly supporting Donald Trump and everything that they currently stand for, which obviously includes all this anti-science stuff, I don't think there's anything that's going to change their mind.

They have become emotionally and culturally attached to the idea of no masks and no vaccines. And so no rational argument, and I think no comedic argument, will change their mind. So yes, I think it can be successful to a small percentage of hesitant people that aren't deeply Republican, that might move them. But that's a dwindling and dwindling percentage. The one-third or 30 percent or whatever it is, 25 percent that's deeply Republican, I don't think a single rational argument or even something with humor will move them.

ACOSTA: That is depressing. And Molly, you wrote a piece for "The Daily Beast" about Republican governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas, who have been railing against stricter COVID protocols, even as cases surge.

And you say, we'll put this up on screen, "It took a lot of stupid to get Florida and Texas to this dark place, which is why the MAGA propagandists are trying to suggest without much evidence that this is about an unvaccinated wave at the border when it appears to be about unvaccinated Americans in a country with enough vaccine doses to go around, harming their own health and helping spread the virus and helping it continue to mutate in the process."

At what point do voters wake up and say hey, maybe this has more to do with all the anti-public health rhetoric coming from our local officials, Molly?

MOLLY JONG-FAST, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE DAILY BEAST: I don't know. I mean, you have a Republican Party that's running contrary to public health. Right? They're against things like masking and vaccines which are really simple things.


You know, you have the rest of the world dying for a COVID vaccine. You have America literally drowning in vaccine.

And Republicans like, you know, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott are just, you know, kind of trying to poke holes in the vaccine, making mandates against masking. I mean, it's just insane.

And you see -- I mean, you know, if you look at history, the times when government has gone against public health in a pandemic, it never ends well.


Matthew, I want to get your take on this. This is a slightly different topic, but almost in the same vein.

House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, has started selling T-shirts with the word "Moron" on them, fundraising off of the word House Speaker Nancy Pelosi used to describe him because of his opposition to congressional mask mandates.

Matthew, first of all, I don't know why anybody would wear the T-shirt that says "Moron" on it. But I guess there are some folks out there that are trying to own the libs and so they're going to wear a moron T-shirt, I guess?

Help us out here.

MATTHEW DOWD, POLITICAL CONSULTANT & AUTHOR: Well, it's probably the first truthful thing that he's said about anything in the last year. So I give him credit for that.

Maybe imbecile and idiot were taken. And so Moron was the best last word in there.

To me -- they're anti-science, anti-information, anti-truth. It is moronic but it's also malevolent and it's causing the unneeded deaths of thousands of Americans, what the GOP is doing.

One other thing I'll take up on the anti-immigrant thing. All of this is one big pool of just cultural indifference to the common good.

Basically, they have decided that the common good doesn't matter anymore, that that's not something the constitution should have ever put in. It's not something that matters anymore.

Governor DeSantis and Governor Abbott of Texas have caused more unneeded deaths in those two states than any immigrant ever has done.

I'll say that again. Governor DeSantis and Governor Abbott have caused more unneeded death than any immigrant has ever done. That's the problem.

If that's not moronic, I don't know what is.

ACOSTA: Molly, why is that? Why are they going back to this? You talk about any problem in the world and they say it's the border. They go back to the border. They go back to immigration.

Why is that? What's happening there?

JONG-FAST: I think a lot of these Republicans have learned one lesson, and one lesson from Trump only, which is be despicable, right?

Blame -- fundraise off the moron T-shirt, be racist, say that they're coming over the border.

I mean -- and the messaging -- Republicans are really good at messaging. They're really clear.

And even though it's made up, if you say it enough times, people believe it. And remember, they have an entire news network, right, that's just FOX

News, which is basically devoted to their messaging arm. So you see it again and again and again. Republican voters start to

believe it.

And, you know, it's easier for them to take racism and go with that than it is to really address the fact that they themselves are putting their constituents in danger.

ACOSTA: Molly, I have to ask you about this. Rudy Giuliani, I guess, is offering custom videos on cameo. As far as I understand -- and you set me straight on this -- a friend of yours got you one. Is that correct?

JONG-FAST: My producer for my podcast, "The New Abnormal," got me a cameo of Rudy Giuliani for my birthday, in which Rudy then plugs his own podcast for about --


ACOSTA: Let's play it. Let's take a look.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO DONALD TRUMP: You are a big fan of and dedicated to Make America Great Again. It's going to need Make America Great Again, again, because of the direction it's going in right now.

I understand you have a beautiful voice. Congratulations. That's just a gift from God.


ACOSTA: Molly, I don't know what to say. I'm speechless.

JONG-FAST: America's mayor.

ACOSTA: Matthew, what do you think? Are you going to be getting a Rudy cameo any time soon?

DOWD: I certainly hope not. The only Rudy cameo I'd like to see is him behind a jail cell saying --


DOWD: -- I regret everything I ever did.

If he sends me that cameo, I'll be glad I got it.

ACOSTA: All right.

Well, if the former mayor would like to send me a cameo, I'd be happy to take one. I'm just not buying one. I'm not paying for one.

Matthew, Molly Jong-Fast, a great conversation. Thanks so much. Let's have you on again soon.

DOWD: Thank you. ACOSTA: We appreciate it.

DOWD: Thank you.

ACOSTA: Keep those cameos coming, Molly.


Coming up, in a world where all the talk is about teamwork, why are so many athletes punting when it comes to getting the vaccine? Some thoughts ahead.


ACOSTA: You can just look at the state of our politics and the state of the pandemic and see very clearly we haven't exactly been on the same team when it comes to COVID.

That applies to the sports world, too.


KIRK COUSINS, MINNESOTA VIKINGS QUARTERBACK: I think the vaccination decision is a private, very private health matter for me. I'm going to keep it as such.



ACOSTA: In recent weeks, we have seen NFL players punt on questions of getting vaccinated, describing the decision as a personal one, echoing comments made by other vaccine-hesitant Americans.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Kirk Cousins, said he would be willing to wall himself off from his teammates to prevent the virus from spreading.


COUSINS: I'm going to be vigilant about avoiding close contact. I've even thought about, should I just set up literally plexiglass around where I sit so that this could never happen again. I thought about it because I'm going to do whatever it takes.


ACOSTA: Whatever it takes, just not answering the question about getting the shot.

Over in Baltimore, star quarterback, Lamar Jackson, who says he's already tested positive twice for COVID, admitted in recent days he was unsure about the vaccine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LAMAR JACKSON, BALTIMORE RAVENS QUARTERBACK: I feel it's a personal decision. You know, I'm just going to worry about it with my family, keep my feelings to my family and myself.

I'm focused on getting better right now. I can't dwell on that right now, how everybody else feel. Just trying to get back in a great routine.


ACOSTA: Does any of this sound familiar?

Now, it would be really cathartic to go off on multimillionaire athletes acting like spoiled brats. Why attack them? They, too, live in this country.

Too many of us have been subjected to COVID lies and anti-science hatred for over a year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can leave freely, but we will find you and we know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will never be allowed in public again. You will never be allowed -- you'll never be allowed in public again.


ACOSTA: Just the other night, in Tennessee, after a school board meeting, anti-mask extremists were chasing down people advocating for face coverings, yelling, "We know who you are and we will find you."

Down in Georgia, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene brushed off concerns about overflowing hospitals, telling the right-wing Real America Voice people don't live forever.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Everyone needs to get back down to common sense and remember that, you know, we're human. We can't live forever. We are going to catch all kinds of diseases and illnesses and other viruses and we get hurt sometimes.


ACOSTA: Yes, we can't live forever. But that doesn't mean we have to die now. You can get a vaccine and postpone dying. Live now. Die later.

Down in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has backed off of his threat to dock the pay of school officials who put in place mask requirements for students as the Delta variant is surging across the state.

He couldn't get his way so it sounds like he's throwing in the towel.

How can you blame our athletes, when many of our so-called leaders are acting like spoiled brats?

This is the same country that built a baseball diamond in a cornfield in Iowa for the movie "Field of Dreams," a film that still has a hold on so many of us.

The other night, Major League Baseball staged an epic game between the Yankees and the White Sox on that field.

Remember that iconic line from "Field of Dreams," "If you build it, he will come?" If only that were the case with the vaccine.

We built the vaccine in record time. But half of the country did not come. So our hospitals are now COVID killing fields.

It's no wonder we are turning to the sports world for some kind of distraction. Some kind of entertainment. Something to break what has been just an agonizing year and a half.

Thank goodness the NFL and other pro sports leagues are trying to convince athletes to think bigger and trust the science.

Consider Washington Football Team coach, Ron Rivera, who has been urging his players to do their part.

Rivera, you see, is a cancer survivor. He's immunodeficient. It's pretty simple. Riverboat Ron, as he's called, can't take a chance with catching COVID.


RON RIVERA, HEAD COACH, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM: There are a few guys that have dug in so hard so much that they're not going to back down. And that's -- you know, that's the part to me that's concerning.

Because I care about all these guys, I really do, and their families. You do worry that somebody might catch it, go home and pass it on to a family member.


ACOSTA: Now, the good news in Washington -- and that rarely happens when you're talking about football in D.C., trust me, I know, I'm a fan -- is that the players have responded. They're getting their shots.

The team has reportedly achieved an 84 percent vaccination rate. It could be better. But it's better than the rest of us.

Now, this may have something to do with the NFL threatening teams with automatic losses if they have to forfeit a game due to COVID among unvaccinated players. And we should not let the rest of the sports world off the hook. Too

many big-name athletes have been poor role models on the vaccine. It's true.

But are they really the problem here? No. They're just part of it.


Let's face it, some of the fans in the stands believe Trump will be reinstated. But they don't believe in vaccines?

It's time for a reinstatement of sanity. And not just in pro sports. As football season gets under way, is it too much to ask of our athletes to win one for public health?

There's no "I" in team, but there's in "vaccine."

We'll be right back.


ACOSTA: Is the post-lockdown travel boom coming to an end?


CNN's Pete Muntean reports on how the Delta variant is impacting the airlines.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION & TRANSPORTATION CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Long lines persist at airports across the country, but new data shows travelers have new doubts because of the Delta variant.

Tuesday was the slowest day for airline travel since mid-June with the TSA screening a half million fewer people than the pandemic record set only 10 days before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are concerned for good reason.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all over the news and I think it scares people. But as long as I stay six feet away from people and have a mask on, I feel like I'm OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just going to make me more aware of my surroundings and be careful.

MUNTEAN: With infections surging in all 50 states, Southwest Airlines says it has seen an increase in bookings and an increase in passengers cancelling trips, making it difficult for the company to be profitable.

Even top destination, Disney, says its plan to keep reopening theme parks could be changed because of the unpredictable nature of the virus.

BRETT SNYDER, CRANKYFLIER.COM: I think there's no question the Delta variant is having an impact on travel.

MUNTEAN: Airlines are making some changes to convince passengers that flying is safe.

United Airlines is requiring that all 67,000 workers in the U.S. get vaccinated by October 25th or face getting fired.

The move has been matched by Amtrak. But so far, United is the only major airline to institute such a mandate.

SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: I hope it's not a competitive advantage for us, because it's far more important for safety that everyone get vaccinated.

MUNTEAN: The transportation-wide mask mandate remains in place, including inside airports, through at least September 13th.

For now, millions of passengers remain undaunted, still taking off as the virus does too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We considered postponing this, too, but we're going to give it a try.

MUNTEAN (on camera): There's a silver lining for those who are still traveling. Travel management site, Trip Action, says ticket prices have dropped $76 on average since they peaked in June.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Reagan National Airport.


ACOSTA: It's an experience millions of Americans have had. Go to the doctor, get a prescription, take it to the pharmacy and get hit with a big bill.

Some startups are working to change that in this week's "MISSION AHEAD" segment.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION & SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): America has a drug problem. On average, Americans spend about $1,200 a year on prescription drugs, more than any other country.

With Congress stalled on finding a fix, new startups are stepping in with solutions of their own.

DR. ALEX OSHMYANSKY, FOUNDER, MARK CUBAN COST PLUS DRUG COMPANY: I was working with a pulmonologist at one point and his patients needed a drug called Bozentin. And two of his patients had died because they could not afford the drug.

CRANE: Dr. Alex Oshmyansky started the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company after seeing his patients' health suffer when they couldn't afford their medications. With Mark Cuban as a key investor, the company sells low-cost versions

of high-cost generic drugs with two approaches, by making the drugs themselves and cutting out middlemen in the supply chain.

OSHMYANSKY: We went to a pharmaceutical manufacturer and said, why don't we buy this drug from you direct. You'll make more money out of the deal, believe it or not.

CRANE: With no middleman, the company lowered the cost of a drug from $225 a pill to $20.

But even when drug prices drop, many patients can't take advantage because oftentimes drug prices aren't listed anywhere.

DOUG HIRSCH, FOUNDER, GOODRX: I had the experience of taking a prescription into a pharmacy and the pharmacist said it would be $500. I went to a few other pharmacies and found other prices, $250, $400.

CRANE: Doug Hirsch started GoodRX over 10 years ago. He says the company has saved Americans over $30 billion on prescriptions by providing drug price transparency and cost comparison tools.

HIRSCH: GoodRX brings together prices for both prescriptions and other medical services so the consumer knows exactly what they're going to pay. There might be a manufacturer discounting or another drug that does the same thing at a tenth of the price.

CRANE: And that help can have positive health consequences. Nearly 30 percent of patients say they don't take their medicine as prescribed due to cost.

OSHMYANSKY: It's something that happens all the time. I think a lot of people are working on it simultaneously and, hopefully, we can be part of the solution.


CRANE: Rachel Crane, CNN, New York.



ACOSTA: Why does a "fish out of water" story always make for some good TV? The next episode of the CNN original series, "HISTORY OF THE SITCOM," takes a look.


DICK YORK, ACTOR: You're a witch.

ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY, ACTRESS: That's what I've been trying to tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It could be a typical suburban family, except for the fact that her entire family are witches. And they have one adorable little girl.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: The powers are amazing, despite the fact she's a product of a mixed marriage.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to be able to be invisible like her. Hop from one side of the room to the other.


ACOSTA: Be sure to tune in an all-new episode of "HISTORY OF THE SITCOM." It airs tomorrow night at 9:00 right here on CNN.