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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

New D.H.S. Terrorism Bulletin Warns of Potential for Violence Ahead of 9/11 and Surrounding Religious Holidays; Interview with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) Where American Effort in Afghanistan has Turned to Dust; CDC Recommends Third Covid vaccine Dose For Certain Immunocompromised People. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:00]

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Go ahead.

MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: He will be back in office in August.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's coming back.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That he could come back as soon as --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before -- before the middle of August.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So, August 13th to the other dates that were supposed to mark Trump's comeback. There was January 20th, of course, Inauguration Day for Biden, you know, when they said Trump would become sailing in, and there was March 4th, which came and went with nothing.

And here we are, again.

Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.

[20:00:25]

COOPER: Good evening. We begin tonight with Breaking News. A new terrorism bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security, it highlights the potential for violence surrounding the upcoming 20th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. What seems to distinguish it though from similar alerts in the past is that it also draws on domestic factors. Quoting D.H.S.'s Intelligence Chief now quote: "You have to pay attention to that which we're seeing right in front of our face."

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins us now. So, what is he talking about when he says what they're seeing right in front of their face?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, there are a number of concerning factors that have been addressed in this D.H.S. bulletin. The way that they look at these potential terrorists is really in two camps. The first, people who could be radicalized by foreign groups, like al-Qaeda. The second is more domestic inward looking like you mentioned, people who are motivated by grievances, people who are motivated by racial extremism, by an anti-government sentiment.

In that first group, that's where D.H.S. is worried that there could be attacks, violence in the lead up and around the 9/11 anniversary. Of course, this is the 20th anniversary. And so, they are looking at that very closely.

They do note that al-Qaeda for the first time in four years has put out their English language magazine called "Inspire," which of course, is meant to radicalize people to carry out attacks. And then Anderson, in that second group, the more domestic violent extremists. They note that the pandemic has worsened things and that things like mask mandates, COVID restrictions could fuel people to carry out different kinds of attacks.

They also note that there are a number of religious holidays coming up and that those could also be targets. I want to read you part of this D.H.S. bulletin that just came out today. It says: "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."

Now, Anderson, they don't mention this, but of course, there are a number of Jewish holidays that are coming up in the month of September. They do caution though, that there is no specific threat they know about, nothing imminent that they know about -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nothing current. That's good. D.H.S. and the Intelligence Chief, John Cohen, he had his own set of warnings.

MARQUARDT: Yes, he is saying that the chatter that they're seeing in these extremist forums, the rhetoric that they're hearing is similar, if not strikingly similar to what they heard in the lead up to the January 6th insurrection. He spoke exclusively to our colleague Geneva Sands, and he said that they are seeing things online, like take action into your own hands, bring out the gallows.

Anderson, of course, that is not idle chatter. We saw people marching through the Capitol saying "Hang Mike Pence." We saw gallows on the National Mall. And Cohen went on to say that amid all the conspiracy theories, there is one strong thread that runs throughout this, and this is the false belief, the big lie that President Trump actually won the election, that it was stolen from him, and that Cohen says, has helped fuel the potential for violence.

It's not just the things that they're hearing, he says that there really is an uptick in this call for violence. We also heard from Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security earlier today, he said that they are seeing expressions of violent extremism borne of false ideologies, false narratives, and ideologies of hate.

So what they are seeing, they say, is very dangerous and could lead to real world deadly violence -- Anderson. COOPER: Alex Marquardt, appreciate it.

Joining us now Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republican members of the House Select Committee on the 6th of January. Congressman, appreciate you being with us. As someone who is investigating the insurrection in hopes of obviously preventing something this from ever happening again, are you concerned by these reports from D.H.S. and others?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Yes, it's concerning because, you know, on January 5th, we never imagined that January 6th to the level it did would happen even though a lot of us predicted violence up to that day, that's the new floor now.

And so, when you look at online rhetoric, and you look at chatter that's happening, and you look at, you know, maybe a hundred people post insane comments, like "Bring out the gallows," even if it is only two of those out of the hundred are serious, that leads to violence.

I think what the biggest concern is, is all this talk, a lot of times just you know, people trying to sound tough on the internet, but that ends up kind of feeding itself and particularly when people start brainwashing folks with the election was stolen. Look at what all these patriotic people did in the 1700s, this is the same thing. The masked mandate is basically the equivalent of not allowing you to practice your religion, you know, which is 1776, taxation without representation.

[20:05:10]

KINZINGER: Ultimately, that does grow into action, and it's a real concern.

COOPER: The D.H.S. Intelligence Chief is saying that the increased calls for violence are linked to conspiracy theories, false narratives, and the fact that so many people, you know, in the Republican Party, I've got to say, including the former President are still pushing the big lie and these conspiracy theories. You know, the fact there is a former President of the United States still pushing this stuff, it does make it all the more concerning. I mean, it gives it legitimacy it otherwise would not have.

KINZINGER: Yes, it absolutely does, because in the past, when you hear, you know, in the 90s, it was the U.N. black helicopters. And you know, you always have eras of conspiracies, but they were never given oxygen by people in authority.

But when you have somebody in authority then that comes up, and even if they don't directly say, now, obviously, the former President constantly says the election was stolen. But maybe if he doesn't directly, for instance, parrot what QAnon has been saying, there's little kind of winks and nods to it, or there is no disavowing of that, and that ends up when somebody with authority speaks conspiracy, or when somebody with authority speaks that dark part in everybody's heart that we always have to fight against the desire to hate, the desire to divide, it gives permission to let that overtake you. And we can't be surprised when that happens to the large scale, like we saw on January 6th, and like we're concerned about in the future.

COOPER: I really want to talk about Afghanistan, the situation obviously more dire by the day. I mean, for anybody who thought, you know -- I know, you know, the former -- the current President, you know, said in July, well, he didn't think -- I'm paraphrasing that, you know, the whole country was going to fall very quickly. Well, it, it is falling very fast. Kabul is still holding.

As someone who served there with the Air Force. What do you think of what is going on? And what the implications of it are?

KINZINGER: Well, it is entirely foreseeable. It's entirely tragic. I get that, you know, now people are talking about the polls that say, you know, the American people support the exit. Let's keep in mind, the American people supported the exit from Iraq until ISIS rose up, and then the American people strongly supported the intervention against ISIS.

Leadership, especially at this level is about leading particularly on foreign policy issues. I didn't see a lot of Americans on the street demanding the exit from Afghanistan. But of course, if you asked them, they're going to say, yes, we should leave. But we had gotten to a point where a mere 2,500 U.S. troops were stiffening the backbone with air support, logistics support, and all this.

I mean, we have great allies in Europe that are incapable of providing their own air support, for goodness sake. So, that's a minimal thing we can do to stiffen the spine.

This was entirely foreseeable, and beyond, you know, judging the decision to leave, which I think is a disastrous decision, we had nothing in place and have nothing in place for the evacuation of the 30,000 Afghan residents who put their life on the line, were promised a visa if they worked with us as translators and people in those kinds of things and they are stuck in Afghanistan now.

How are you going to evacuate them with all the major supply routes, when all of the areas are controlled by the Taliban now? It is a tragedy, and it's a tragedy that was entirely preventable.

COOPER: We've also seen now already images and we'll see more as more bases are taken over by the Taliban of you know, rows and rows of up- armored Humvees. And, you know, I saw some drones out there that have been now taken, things that were just left behind or left, I guess, for the Afghan National Army. And I don't know if it was because the U.S. pulled out so quickly, or because they thought the Army could hold and they should have this equipment.

But you now have -- I mean, we've seen this play out so many times in the past in different -- over different decades, and it is playing out again. And as you said, it's -- you know, we have seen this before.

KINZINGER: Well, yes, and I think, you know, first off, any of that equipment, we can get a beat on from the air, we should destroy. But keep in mind, we have no observers on the ground at this moment. So it's very hard to know what you're accurately targeting. It's not like in the movies.

But secondarily, again, if you're even U.S. ground forces and you're fighting in a battle, we desire, demand, and need air support and artillery support. We need communications and we need logistics. We need the ability to call for medivac.

We pulled all of that out when we left Afghanistan, and that was the linchpin we were provided. And even the Afghan Air Force, which was becoming more and more capable, they required U.S. contractors to keep these planes flying. The contractors were the first to leave.

And so now, to expect the Afghan Army who had been fighting heroically to this point, I mean, keep in mind, the vast majority of casualties, you know, dozens a week were by the Afghan Army that were fighting, but they didn't need that support. And we basically made the decision, "We're out of here." We surprised the Afghans. We surprised ourselves.

I think it's not entirely unforeseeable to see their will to fight break.

[20:10:10]

COOPER: You know, I talked to Admiral -- to former Ambassador Crocker last night, who at one point was an Ambassador there and obviously has a long career in foreign service. He was saying was something that not just this administration, but the prior administration, basically had direct negotiations with the Taliban and agreed to Taliban demands to not have the Afghan government take part in those negotiations, essentially pushing them to the side delegitimizing them, which Crocker believed caused a huge kind of body blow to support for the government among Afghan National Forces, that it kind of took the wind out of their sails.

I'm wondering if you think there's truth in that or that because I don't understand another explanation for an Army that has more weapons, has more personnel, has had 20 years of training from U.S. forces, and is not fighting?

KINZINGER: Yes, well, first off, keep in mind, Afghan Special Forces are extremely capable, and they are really good. You're kind of rank and file ANA, they are obviously still struggling, but they were fighting again, with logistics support, knowing you have air support, knowing you even have the communications and the Intelligence to know what is attacking you. Is that a Taliban? Maybe it's another ANA thing that thinks you're Taliban.

I mean, the ability to de-conflict that is important. But I think the Ambassador is right.

So, under the prior administration, there was obviously a desperate desire to negotiate with the Taliban. That was mistake number one. If you show that desperation, they're going to take you for everything you're worth. But they didn't want to negotiate directly with the Afghan government, and instead of us pushing that point, we seceded that point and said, that's fine. We're going to do a negotiation with you, in hopes that when we withdraw, you'll negotiate with the government of Afghanistan, of course, the Taliban said, well, that's great. We'll do that. Yes, that's great. And they knew we were desperate to leave.

So I blame -- I blame the prior administration and I blame this administration for this moment we're in. And it's really sad -- and I'm not doing it to just throw political darts. You're going to see a lot of people out there trying to just throw political darts for the next election. I think this is about something bigger, which is America's role in the world, but particularly, America's honor, and what happens in the next conflict when the 30,000 people we just abandoned in Afghanistan that we promised a ticket to the United States, what happens when we have to fight in a different place? Are they going to believe us?

COOPER: In terms of those visas for thousands of Afghans who worked for U.S. forces -- interpreters, drivers, and engineers. Our Alex Marquardt, has some new reporting tonight that the Biden administration is working with Qatar to temporarily house thousands of those Afghans and their families who are fleeing the country as the security situation deteriorates. That's according to a source familiar with ongoing discussions.

I wonder what your reaction is to that, and regardless of what is now happening, it does seem kind of last minute and after the fact. It seems like, this was not -- I mean, this has been an issue going on now for years, and it was an issue in Iraq as well.

KINZINGER: Yes, look, I mean, ever since I've been elected to Congress, I'm in my 11th year now, we were dealing -- I've been dealing with this issue in Iraq and with Afghanistan with these Special Immigrant Visas. You've had a slow bureaucracy, you've had people that are afraid to make -- to sign on that final dotted line, because they're just afraid something is going to happen.

We've been fighting that bureaucratic morass. So, it's not like this is a brand new issue.

And so when the decision was made to withdraw, certainly before that announcement was made, which was made, by the way at the very beginning of the fighting season. If they would have even delayed to the end of the fighting season, you would have bought a lot of distance for the Afghan Military to come to terms with that.

But regardless, that's when they should have been preparing this evacuation plan. So, it's great that the Qatar option is possibly there. You know, the administration needs to continue to lean forward as hard as they can. But there's a lot of Afghans that basically fought with us that are going to die and have died already, because of lack of planning. It's sad.

But you know, again, it's kind of the starfish in the sea thing. Let's save as many as we can, because it makes a difference, but I don't think it's going to lessen the stain on us right now.

COOPER: I do just quickly want to turn for go to the January 6th Select Committee, in terms of the timeline, when do you think you're going to be issuing first request for interviews? Subpoenas? Has the initial list been decided?

KINZINGER: Well, I'll tell you this much, because we don't want to kind of reveal that strategy or tactic we are moving forward with quick speed. We want to make sure we get thorough information. We don't want to drag this out, but we also don't want to rush it unnecessarily. So rest assured, you will see some things happen in the public in the committee. That's great.

But a lot of work is happening currently, kind of below that public sphere. And as that comes out, it'll be pretty obvious, you know, where we're going and what we've been doing.

COOPER: Congressman Kinzinger, appreciate your time. Thank you.

KINZINGER: You bet.

COOPER: Coming up next, given what we've been discussing, exclusive reporting from what was once or once were American bases, but are now been overrun by the Taliban.

And later, what today's decision on third doses of the COVID vaccine really means. We've got two medical experts standing by to answer questions about who will benefit and more importantly, how to get that extra dose if in fact you qualify needing it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break, we spoke at the rapid deterioration in the ground in Afghanistan. Right now, looking to the future perhaps of the country is foretold in places that have already fallen to the Taliban. CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward got exclusive access to military bases where the American presence once was strong, but the Taliban now rules.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): 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 at FOB Andar in Ghazni Province. The last Americans left a couple years ago, but their memories still lurks, ghost like.

WARD (on camera): It's just so strange to see this you know.

[20:20:09]

WARD (voice over): The Taliban granted access to CNN along with award- winning Afghan filmmaker Najibullah Quraishi, keen to show off the spoils of war.

WARD (on camera): So, we're just arriving at another U.S. base. And already I can see a large number of military vehicles over there. WARD (voice over): According to the Taliban, Afghan Forces here

surrendered three weeks ago when their food ran out, leaving weapons and ammunition and more.

WARD (on camera): 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 (voice over): Now they roam through what's left of the tactical operation center. Anything of value will be stripped down and sold.

WARD (on camera): Walking through what's left of these American bases, you have to ask yourself, what was it all for?

WARD (voice over): America's great experiment with nation building now vanished into dust.

MUSTAFA (through translator): 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 (voice over): 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 pickup trucks.

On the Ghazni Highway, we pass base after base all flying the militant's flag.

At the Andar bazaar, it is a similar site. The days of underground insurgency are over and the Taliban is poised to reestablish the very Emirate America once came to destroy.

But 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 has experience, disciplined. Our activities are going well, we are obeying our leaders.

WARD (on camera): A lot of people are concerned that if the Taliban takes power, again, women's rights will move backwards. How can you guarantee that women's rights will be protected?

KAMIL (through translator): 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 (voice over): 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.

WARD (on camera): 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 you know, 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 will 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 (voice over): 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Clarissa, at the beginning of the peace, we saw names on the one wall. What can you tell us about that?

WARD: So, we actually went and found these people, these soldiers who served at FOB Andar and obviously, they were pretty surprised to hear from us and very surprised when they saw and heard about the pictures of these murals now in the hands of the Taliban, their base now in the hands of the Taliban, and one of them told us because we wanted to get their perspective on how it all felt all these years later, all of that sacrifice, all that fighting, soldiers lost.

And one of them said something that really just stuck with me, Anderson, it really resonated. He said, you know when you start out in the military, you think everything you're doing is right and that it's all for a just cause. And he said, but now I look back on it and obviously hindsight is 2020, I see now it was all for nothing. What was the point? What an unbelievable waste.

And that just really stayed with me. And another serviceman I spoke to who didn't serve at this specific base, said something a little bit different, but also pretty striking. He said, you know, a lot of us saw this coming, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing.

[20:25:29]

COOPER: Clarissa Ward, I appreciate it. Thank you. Incredible to see those images.

Up next, what today's decision to allow some people to get a third COVID shot might mean to you or someone you love. Answers from Dr. Sanjay Gupta and vaccine specialist, Dr. Peter Hotez, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: For the first time, some Americans with compromised immune systems will be able to get a third dose of COVID vaccine. The vote by the C.D.C.'s Advisory Panel was unanimous. The revised Emergency Use Authorization is only meant for people with moderate to severe immunosuppression, however, no prescription or doctor's note will be needed. It's strictly on the honor system.

Meantime, ICUs are filling up, mostly with the unvaccinated, but also with immunocompromised patients who have gotten their shots.

Florida today set up another -- set another record with nearly 16,000 patients now hospitalized for COVID and even states that have traditionally done well against the virus are getting hammered by the delta variant with Hawaii and Oregon today both setting records for new cases.

[20:30:00]

I want to talk about everything tonight COVID with medical chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Also, Dr. Peter Hotez, co- director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, and author of Preventing The Next Pandemic Vaccine Diplomacy In The Times Of Anti-Science.

So Sanjay, who's considered moderately or severely immunocompromised and eligible for the third dose?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they put a list out the CDC did on their website of the types of conditions that would sort of fall into this category. And we can show you some of that there. I mean, people who, for example, have received organ transplants, and they're taking medications to prevent rejection of their transplanted organs, people who have recently been through chemotherapy, people who may have autoimmune disease and take medications to tamp down their immune system for that reason. It's an exhaustive list.

But Anderson, as you mentioned, it is a kind of on the honor system, right? There's no prescription that's going to be necessary. You don't have to show up with an antibody test to show that your antibodies are low. In fact, they recommend that you don't do that. So it's going to be more of a, you know, people generally know that they they're immunocompromised, it's a conversation they have with their doctors, and those are the people who are going to be recommended this third shot. Why they did it was as you said, because not only did they have evidence of lower immunity, but they're also getting sick. People who have -- who are vaccinated and immunocompromised were 500 times more likely roughly to end up hospitalized versus the general population who's vaccinated. So it's really a combination of things, Anderson.

COOPER: And Dr. Hotez, I mean, it is the honor system, as Sanjay was saying, people don't have to prove it. So, it sounds like is it just doctors? Or can people go to local pharmacies and just say that they're immunocompromised and get a third dose?

PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, right now, I've heard from a family member and a couple of colleagues who said that they've actually went to the pharmacy today, the pharmacist or even their clinic, until they were not authorized to give the third immunization yet. So that information from the CDC is not translated down to the pharmacy chains. And some of the clinics maybe that'll happen by the weekend or by Monday.

But, you know, I think what we're going to see is, this is the beginning, I don't think it's going to stop patients on immunosuppressive therapy, I think it's going to broaden over time, similar to Israel. We've seen now information from the Mayo Clinic this month that we are seeing a decline in the ability of more of the Pfizer vaccine than Moderna to protect against infection. But the good news is the hospitalizations are still not going up in those vaccinated individuals. And same with Israel, we're seeing down to 50, 40% protection against infection.

The big question is going to be is that just the tip of the spear. And then we'll start seeing hospitalizations among vaccinated individuals as well, later on. And so, I think we'll probably see a gradual broadening of the criteria for those who are going to be eligible for that third immunization.

COOPER: Sanjay, do you see that as well? I mean, Israel, I think has lowered it now to people from people above 60, now to people above 50 and above.

GUPTA: Yes, I think that -- I think that's right. But I think it is a really important discussion, though, you know, are these post vaccination infections going to be the metric by which, you know, people say, hey, look, we need to broaden, you know, and give the more third shots out? Or is it going to be serious illness, hospitalizations?

I don't know the answer. You know, I think it likely there's going to be more people who are going to qualify for these third shots. But I think we have to sort of anticipate, you know, even further down the road, if people are getting vaccinated, they're getting relatively minor symptoms, they're probably not going to be once you get, you know, recommended third shots. But people who do get serious illness, what does that mean, exactly? How serious are we talking about? I think that's going to need to be really clearly defined as, you know, we found that sometimes it can be vague, as we've been reporting on this.

COOPER: And Sanjay, I just want to clarify something. Because I think it's confusing. And I read about it last night in the Atlantic and a very good article. Just to be clear, if you have been vaccinated, fully vaccinated. You -- correct me if I'm wrong against the Delta variant, you are less likely than an unvaccinated person to become infected if you do come in contact with it. And do we know how significantly less likely? And you are also from what I understand less likely to transmit it to somebody else? And -- is that measurable? Do we know how less likely? GUPTA: Yes. So with regard to the first question, you know, there's, there's some real data now on this because, you know, we sort of are waiting for this data, but roughly eight fold less likely to become infected. You know, it can vary, you know, depending on the specific group. So that's across the board.

COOPER: So eight fold, does it I mean, like eight -- eight times less likely?

GUPTA: Less likely to become infected if you've been vaccinated. And what I mean by infected it means that you come back with a positive test. You may not have symptoms you may, but just in general, eight fold less likely.

[20:35:07]

As far as transmissibility, it's really interesting. There was a study saying that you could carry roughly the same amount of virus in your nose, in your mouth if you're vaccinated as unvaccinated. But what's different is that you appear to carry that for a shorter duration of time. So you have a smaller window as Dr. Bernie Graham explained it to me a shorter window by which you could transmit.

So yes, you could still carry a lot of virus, but because of that shorter window, less transmissible overall.

COOPER: Again, I think that's so important, because it really, I mean, at least for me, it helps me visualize and again, reaffirm the idea of vaccines are really important for a whole host of reasons.

Dr. Hotez, as I mentioned, we learned late today that this week, Florida broke their all time high for new cases during the entire pandemic. What does that mean for the rest of the country? And could we surpass the winter surge? I mean, look at the graph is stunning.

HOTEZ: Yes, no, this is starting to look really ominous in the south where I am. I mean, we're now if you look at their rates of transmission in Florida and Louisiana, they're actually probably the highest in the world. We're running neck and neck with Botswana in terms of who has the highest rate of virus transmission. That's how badly things have gotten out of hand. So there's a screaming level of transmission across the southern states right now.

And now we're starting to see this happening among younger age groups. So the median age, and some of the hospitals here in the south, there's only people in their 30s, we're seeing a lot of pediatric admissions, even pediatric ICU admissions. And the scary part for me Anderson is all of this is happening before schools open, schools are just opening now. And I worried that's going to be an accelerant. And the problem is a lot of the executive leaders of the reds -- of these red states, these southern states have not put in place policies to protect the kids. They've not mandated mask, they've not met mandated vaccines.

You know, when you've got the highest levels of transmission in the world. I don't see how it's going to go well, unless we maximize all the tools that we have.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, that graph we just showed is really alarming. Dr. Peter Hotez, Sanjay, thank you. Appreciate it.

More in a moment on the COVID. (INAUDIBLE) in Florida starting with new case numbers plus four deaths associated with one school district now in a battle with the Governor Ron DeSantis over it's mask mandate, a live report. Plus a member of the school board, when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:41:03]

COOPER: So before the break, we were talking about the record hospitalization rate in Florida and a new high in the number of new COVID cases for this week as well, 151,450 new cases. So almost 17,000 more than the previous record, which was just one week ago. Again, it's a record number for the entire pandemic.

But the number that may capture the kind of the terror of what this latest surge is doing to the state comes from Broward County currently and in fight obviously with a Republican Governor Ron DeSantis over its mask mandate for schools. The teachers union there says four people associated with the district including two elementary school teachers and a teacher's assistant have died.

Randi Kaye joins us now from Florida with the latest. So, what more do we know about what's going on with these deaths in Broward County?

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this all took place in a 24-hour span earlier this week, three educators from the Broward County School District as well as a graduate from that district who had close ties to the district. All of this information coming to us from the teachers union president and she says that the three educators who died were not vaccinated. It's unclear if the graduate who died was vaccinated. But we are learning a little bit more about those who died. All of them were women. One was a 48-year-old teacher from Pinewood Elementary. Another was a 49-year-old teacher from Dillard Elementary and a 49-year-old teacher -- teaching assistant from Dillard Elementary as well.

The union president also tells me that two others are hospitalized. One is a teaching assistant who was vaccinated and ended up in the ICU. She was quite sick, but I'm told she's doing better and also another teacher who is hospitalized. Unclear if that teacher was vaccinated or not, Anderson.

COOPER: The four who died were they vaccinated?

KAYE: Well, that's what we're understanding is that the three educators who died were not vaccinated --

COOPER: Not vaccinated.

KAYE: -- and it's unclear if the graduate who died was vaccinated or not. COOPER: Are there others work in that district that have tested positive in this latest surge?

KAYE: Yes, since August 1st, actually, they've had 138 people employees from that school district from Broward who have tested positive but what's really important to note from the union, the teachers union president is that none of the people who died earlier this week got COVID at school. School hadn't reopened yet and they all died before Wednesday. Teachers first went back on Wednesday, students go back on Wednesday of next week, August 18th. So they didn't get it at the school, Anderson.

COOPER: And what's the latest on the mask mandate in place for Broward School District?

KAYE: Well, right now, as you know, the governor here has issued that executive order so there he was banning mask mandates in school but Broward did put a mask mandate in place giving parents the only option they could opt out was through a medical reason or a doctor's note. And now the kids are going to be returning to school and the there's an investigation for non-compliance but they are returning to school next week. There is a mask mandate in place, so you would expect that they would have to wear a mask.

But we're also just learning that there's now an emergency meeting by the State Department of Education on Tuesday next week to decide what to do about Broward County and another county that's also under investigation for non-compliance because they didn't -- they're not following the governor's executive order. Anderson.

COOPER: OK. Randi, appreciate it.

I'm joined now by a member of the Broward County School Board, Sarah Leonardi.

Sarah, thanks so much for joining us. I'm so sorry for the losses that are being experienced in your district and certainly our hearts go out to the families of those who have died.

Students don't return to classes there until next week. What are these deaths due to the level of concern of the community and what happens moving forward?

SARAH LEONARDI, MEMBER, BROWARD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: Yes, thank you for having me. You know, these deaths are certainly a tragedy for our county public schools and for the family and friends of those employees in the graduate.

You know, I think this really emphasizes the need to take safety measures like getting vaccinated and wearing masks indoors at all times when you're in groups of people, so that's, you know, I think what we're really taking home from this.

[20:45:06]

COOPER: I talked to a union representative for teachers, I think it was, it was in Florida. I'm not sure exactly where it was a week or so ago. They're no -- they don't support -- they don't support vaccination, mandatory vaccinations for teachers. Is or I assume there's, there's clearly not mandatory vaccinations for teachers in Broward County. Is that something that the school board or the superintendent could decide to do? Or who has the power to do that?

LEONARDI: Right, I can't speak for the entire board or for the superintendent that certainly something that I'm interested in. And we actually heard from the largest teachers union in the country that NEA today and they support mandatory vaccinations.

COOPER: Oh, they do.

LEONARDI: Yes, and I, you know, I just -- I have to say, I support any avenues that get us out of this pandemic as quickly as possible, and vaccination is one of those avenues.

COOPER: And just in for your county, do you know how that I mean, if, who would decide that is that's when the governor would decide is that something the school board would decide?

LEONARDI: You know, I have to look into that, I think it would be a combination of the school board and the teachers union. But I actually don't even know if the governor would allow us to do that. I don't know the legality of that in the state yet.

COOPER: And the governor signed an executive order banning mask mandates in schools, as most people know now. Which is something the Broward County School Board voted this week to defy, what message do you have for the governor, as the numbers sadly continue to grow?

LEONARDI: You know, he has spent a lot of time mocking masks and vaccines. And I would just hope that leadership at the highest levels of government, like, you know, our governor would start to take this very seriously and take public health measures to keep our students and employees safe and empower local elected officials to do so as well. We are the closest to our constituents. We are the closest to our communities. And we know what's best.

COOPER: You know, people serve on school boards. I mean, it is a thankless task, and it is a difficult task. And so, a, thank you for what you're doing. To do it now, in this era, where people are demonized. And even if there's a disagreement, it's not just a disagreement between people who want the best for kids, it's you, the one side has to demonize the other side and scream at them and threaten them and things like that. So, what is it like to be on a school board in this time?

LEONARDI: It's definitely a journey. But I do want to say that we've received so many phone calls and e-mails from the community thanking us for our bold decision to defy the governor, and to act in the best interest of the safety of our students and employees. And so, while you know, we do have some loud voices on the other side of the issue, we're hearing overwhelmingly from our community that they're thankful for our leadership during this time.

COOPER: Yes. Sarah Leonardi, I appreciate you being with us, and I wish you the best. Thank you.

LEONARDI: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, President Biden's crisis the board have highest number of apprehensions in over two decades with the Secretary of Homeland Security is now saying about it.

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[20:52:31]

COOPER: Afghanistan is not the only crisis for the Biden administration. As you've seen again tonight, there's also the COVID surge and along the U.S.-Mexico border there's a different spike in migrants illegally crossing the border into United States. Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended the highest monthly number of people in two decades.

Details now from CNN's Nick Valencia at the border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND AND SECURITY: We are facing a serious challenge at our southern border. And the challenges of course made more acute and more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A surge in migrant traffic unseen in over two decades. An unprecedented number of migrants are escaping worsening conditions in their home countries braving the summit of the sweltering summer heat. Global temperatures in July, the hottest on record. Last month alone, over 212,000 apprehensions were made along the border during a time of the year when numbers historically drop.

The astronomical numbers were helped by repeat offenders. An estimated 27% of July crossings were made by those who tried and failed to cross in the last year, due to a Trump era policy that allowed authorities to turn migrants away at the border. Please from the Secretary of Homeland Security to migrants not to come to the U.S. warning they will be denied entry or expelled. Not enough to deter those seeking refuge.

MAYORKAS: It is critical that intending migrants understand clearly that they will be turned back if they enter the United States illegally, and do not have a basis for relief under our laws,

VALENCIA (voice-over): Customs and Border Protection also managing an unprecedented wave of unaccompanied children, with almost 19,000 arriving and arrested at the border in July surpassing the previous record set in March when border facilities were overcrowded and flooded with minors who waited on average over 120 hours in Border Patrol custody.

MAYORKAS: Just as we did with the challenge of unaccompanied children, in March of this year. We have a plan. We are executing our plan. And that takes time.

VALENCIA (voice-over): The Biden administration has been careful not to call the border search a crisis. Instead insisting the real problem involves diagnosing and addressing the conditions that migrants are fleeing.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The crisis in Central America the dire circumstances, that many are fleeing from that he -- that that is a situation we need to spend our time, our effort on and we need to address it if we're going to prevent more of an influx of migrants from coming in years to come.

[20:55:06]

VALENCIA (voice-over): But for some who live along the southern border, that is not good enough.

MAYRA FLORES, WIFE OF BORDER PATROL AGENT: Higher more immigration judges, more asylum officers to process these asylum faster.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Nick Valencia joins us now from the border in Mission, Texas. Do we know exactly what's causing the surge and crossings? And I mean, is there any sign of what's to come?

VALENCIA: Yes, there's always multiple push factors when it comes to this ongoing phenomenon here along the border, which is it just seems like a never ending crisis Anderson. And you see behind me, the reality of what's happening here, this large group, one of multiple large groups that we've seen just here in the last hour, and more are coming here, just off camera and the Biden administration says one of those push factors is the deteriorating conditions in the home countries in Central America.

And the anecdotes that we're hearing on the ground seem to back that up. Just a short time ago, I interviewed a pair of young mothers, they had their two small children with them, one of them with a gash on her forehead, the other not wearing shoes, saying that they were running from gang violence in their countries. One was from El Salvador, the other from Guatemala.

But when you talk to the border patrol agents here in the Rio Grande Valley sector, they get more politicized and blame a Democratic administration saying that the Biden administration has taken away the consequences of crossing here illegally. One agent told me that the facilities are even worse condition now than they were at the height of zero tolerance policy. And going forward, this is going to remain an issue.

Title 42 is still in effect, which is a public health emergency declaration that allows the agents to, you know, expel migrants based on this public health crisis, deciding what to do with that will determine just how many more people cross here and the days, weeks and months ahead. Anderson.

COOPER: Nick Valencia, appreciate it. Thanks.

We'll be right back.

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[21:00:52]

COOPER: The news continues. Michael Smerconish was in for Chris Cuomo tonight. Michael?