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McConnell vs. Paul on COVID; Dr. Scott Hadland is Interviewed about Finding COVID Testing for Kids; July Hits Record of Illegal Border Crossings; Russia Trying to Interferes in 2022. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 06:30   ET




For me, the unknown and -- is what's going to happen to the Afghan people. And -- and when he says, no, they probably won't overrun the country, that "probably" contains a terrible truth, which is, if it happens there will be a huge blood-letting, as there was in the '90s when they took over. Human rights for women, women's education, basic issues of human dignity, particularly for women and minority groups in Afghanistan, those things will be completely crippled. It's catastrophic in human terms. And I wish the president, who I admire in other ways, I wish the president had acknowledged how high the stakes are particularly for the Afghans. I think for the U.S. it's probably -- the stakes aren't -- (INAUDIBLE) --

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Sebastian Junger, thank you so much for being with us and giving us your perspective on what is really changing by the hour in Afghanistan. We appreciate it.

JUNGER: My pleasure. Thank you.

KEILAR: A record number of children are now hospitalized in the U.S. with COVID. Why some parents are struggling just to get their kids a test.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And a tale of two Kentucky senators, one promoting vaccines, the other spreading disinformation. What's behind their wildly different strategies, next.



KEILAR: There are two prominent GOP senators, both from the great state of Kentucky, but Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul really couldn't be more different when it comes to dealing with coronavirus that is again ravaging their state and the nation.

Melanie Zanona joining us now with some new reporting on this.



So, Brianna, these two Kentucky Republicans couldn't be more diametrically opposed when it comes to the coronavirus. Mitch McConnell has arguably been one of the most consistent and responsible voices in the GOP when it comes to the pandemic. He's been urging people to get the vaccines. He paid for radio ads to get that message out. Early on he was talking about the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.

And Rand Paul, meanwhile, got suspended from YouTube this week for spreading misinformation about masks. He's publicly sparred with Dr. Anthony Fauci. And he, himself, refused to wear a mask last year, even after he contracted COVID-19.

Now, of course, this is not the first time these two have been at odds. Rand Paul, of course, is the thorn in the side of a lot of colleagues in the Senate, Republican and Democrats alike. But this is different than politics and policy. This is public health. And Rand Paul, even though he says he's not anti-vaccine, his other messaging and behavior is threatening to directly undermine Mitch McConnell's mission to get people in Kentucky and beyond vaccinated and to protect them.

And this is a mission that's deeply personal for Mitch McConnell, a polio survivor. And not to mention, their home state of Kentucky is seeing cases and hospitalizations on the rise.

KEILAR: Yes, I mean, it's clear, McConnell seems much more responsible. He seems responsible and Rand Paul seems irresponsible, quite frankly, when it comes to the way they're dealing with the coronavirus messaging.

What does McConnell think about Rand Paul behind the scenes? Because, you know, he keeps it very much under wraps in public.

ZANONA: He does. And they have a -- somewhat of a roller coaster of a relationship. You know, they don't always see eye to eye. But, look, in this case, I've talked to people familiar with Mitch McConnell's thinking and they say that he believes the best way to deal with people like Rand Paul and others in the party who are either spreading misinformation or just have, you know, really struck an anti-vaccine tone, is to just counteract with pro-vaccine messaging. He doesn't want to take these members head on. He doesn't want to confront them and call them out and pick head-on fights. And so he is just dedicated to continually pushing that message. And as I mentioned before, he even paid for campaign -- with campaign cash for radio ads in his home state of Kentucky to get that message out.

KEILAR: I -- Rand Paul did not, do we know? I'm assuming --

ZANONA: Yes, we are unclear where Rand Paul is.

KEILAR: All right. All right, Melanie Zanona, thank you so much for that report. ZANONA: Thank you.

BERMAN: So with coronavirus cases, the numbers growing, including among children, there is a new concern, testing. So one pediatrician documented the struggle to get his young daughter tested and issued a stark warning, calling testing capacity for the youngest among us inadequate.

Dr. Scott Hadland is chief of adolescent medicine at Mass General Hospital for children and a father of two.

Thanks for joining us.

So, Dr. Hadland, you know, you're a doctor in Boston and you couldn't get your own daughter tested easily? What does that tell you?


Yes, I was shocked to learn how difficult it was to get testing for us. My daughter got sent home from daycare. She had a fever. And then we called our pediatrician. They had no appointments. We tried one testing center. Waited for an hour in a parking lot. Learned that it would take three days for testing results to come back. Finally found another testing center on the other side of town that had limited hours later on in the afternoon. Got testing.

Fortunately, she was COVID negative. But all of this told me that testing is just woefully inadequate right now. It shouldn't have taken me half of a day to find testing for my daughter because when we don't have testing, kids are out of school and adults are out of work.

KEILAR: And that's going to come head on into the school year. You know, I've experienced something similarly just anecdotally talking to a lot of people in Washington, D.C., where I live, that testing is easy and quick for adults but when it comes to kids it is more difficult if they're under three years.

What is the need when you're up against a school year?

HADLAND: Well, that's really critical. You know, we are a year and a half into this pandemic now.


We know the basics. We know what works. We know that kids and people more generally need to be physically distanced, either distanced from one another. We know that they should be wearing masks. But we have also known from the earliest days of this pandemic we need lots of testing and we need that testing to be accessible, ideally free of charge and we need for it to have rapid turnaround so that we can get results quickly.

And now is no more important a time than ever. We are heading back into the school year. Delta variant infections are on the rise. Kids are disproportionately infected by these infections. And so I'm worried that we're not ready for what's to come.

BERMAN: You know, let me just state the obvious, too, we're talking about a population that is not vaccinated and won't be any time soon. Not soon enough, at least, to make any kind of difference to this. So testing would be vital.

What's standing in the way?

HADLAND: Well, you know, I think there's a lot of different barriers here. So, as I experienced, a number of testing centers have really cut back on their hours. So the testing center that we went to -- and, by the way, I'll say, the city of Boston, where we live, has wonderful testing. You know, we have some of the best healthcare in the world. And we were able to get good testing. But the hours that we could go were really quite limited. There were only sort of three-hour windows that you could go to our particular testing center. You know, they don't have testing hours every day. Sometime it's only every other day. Often it's not on weekends. Almost certainly it's not in the evenings or during times when parents can actually take their kids in. So I think just access is one huge issue.

You know, there have been a lot of developments, too, in home rapid antigen testing, which is a fantastic option for many families, but, unfortunately, many of those aren't yet recommended for young children and they have a large out of pocket cost. Each of these tests often cost, you know, $25 typically. And if you need to test multiple family members, those costs really add up. And so we really need for testing to not only be accessible, but ideally free of charge.

BERMAN: Dr. Scott Hadland, from the hub of the universe, we appreciate you being with us this morning.

HADLAND: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Up next, alarming new numbers of migrants crossing the southern border.

KEILAR: And will President Biden's legislative wins fall short among members of his own party in the House?



BERMAN: An unprecedented crisis. That is what the secretary of Homeland Security just called it. July was the busiest month for illegal border crossings in 21 years. In the last month alone, more than 212,000 people crossed the U.S./Mexico border. Most were apprehended.

Ed Lavandera live in Texas.

But, you know, the surge and these attempted crossings, Ed, is just going through the roof at a time when normally they go down because it's so hot.

What's going on?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's troubling. Republicans, you know, have been critical of the Biden administration for months in the way the administration is handling the immigration crisis along the southern border. While the Biden administration has been saying, look, it is trying to rebuild an immigration system dismantled by the Trump administration and trying to rebuild in a more humane way. But these new figures won't help this raging debate.


LAVANDERA (voice over): The number of migrants crossing the southern border has reached a monthly rate unseen in about two decades. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calls the situation unprecedented.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: 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.

LAVANDERA: The spike is unusual at this time of year when border crossings usually decline because of hot weather. In July, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported taking over 212,000 people into custody, including nearly 83,000 traveling in family groups. Nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors were also apprehended at the border. A surge DHS says is partially due to the resurgence of the U.S. economy and the immigration policies of the previous administration.

MAYORKAS: Tragically, former President Trump slashed our international assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, slashed the resources that we were contributing to address the root causes of irregular migration.

LAVANDERA: While changing some immigration policies his predecessor put into place, President Joe Biden has continued using one called Title 42. This public health safety act policy allows border agents to refuse entry to most migrants without the opportunity to apply for asylum. The DHS secretary defended that Thursday, saying the U.S. is also looking into improving how it processes asylum claims.

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.

LAVANDERA: While Republican leaders like Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis falsely blame the surge of new coronavirus cases on undocumented migrants, Mayorkas says this isn't true, despite an increase of positivity rates in the migrant population.

MAYORKAS: The rate of positivity among the migrants is at or lower than the rates in our local border communities. As has been expressed by the medical professionals, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

(END VIDEOTAPE) [06:50:05]

LAVANDERA: And, John, the Biden administration says it's trying to fast track as many deportations for people who don't qualify for asylum. And they've also started deporting people deeper into Mexico on flights in hopes that they won't try to cross again.


BERMAN: Fly them all the way to the southern part of the country.

Ed Lavandera, thank you very much for that report. Stand by.

KEILAR: Let's turn now to CNN immigration reporter Priscilla Alvarez, tracking who is talking all of this.

Priscilla, you know, let's talk about exactly who border officials are encountering here. Many trying to enter the U.S. are families or they're unaccompanied minors.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Brianna, that's right. And it's what makes this so difficult for the administration.

So single adults still make up the majority of apprehensions. And the administration is able to turn many of those away and expel them back into Mexico or to their country of origin.

But what's really important is the families and the unaccompanied children. Those are vulnerable populations that the administration has to address as they come into the U.S. So, the children, nearly 19,000. That is a new record. More than in March when we were talking about overcrowded border facilities.

And then, too, are the families. Some of them with very young children who are either processed into the United States or kicked back into Mexico, a practice that actually has received a lot of criticism from immigrant advocates.

BERMAN: And then, Priscilla, just to be clear about one thing here, a lot of these numbers, when we hear 212,000, and I'm not diminishing that number at all because that's an enormous number and the number of families and kids coming in is also some of the biggest we've ever seen, but a lot of these are people being repeatedly turned away, coming once, getting pushed back, then coming again, back and forth and back and forth. Explain that. Priscilla?

ALVAREZ: So part of that is that 212,000, of that 27 percent are repeat crossers. And Mayorkas addressed that yesterday. Part of the reason is because of that policy that allows border authorities to expel migrants. So some of those migrants will try to cross the U.S./Mexico border again.

So what they're doing to try to address that is to actually send migrants into Mexico to avoid them trying to cross again in the U.S./Mexico border. But, again, this, too, has received criticism because some of these

migrants are actually quite confused when they get on a flight and they are suddenly in Mexico because these are migrants that may be from Central American countries. But, still, this is the practice the administration is taking to try to cut down on those repeat crossers to hopefully cut down on border crossings overall.

KEILAR: All right, Priscilla, Ed, thank you so much to both of you for your reporting.

Breaking overnight, the FDA giving the green light to third doses of COVID vaccine for some Americans. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be here to explain what that means and whether booster shots are coming for all of us.

BERMAN: And new CNN reporting on Russia's efforts to interfere in the next U.S. election.



BERMAN: New intelligence on Russia election interference reveals the scope of efforts -- the efforts are much larger than previously thought. And I'm talking about the current efforts. The Biden administration has received reports indicating that Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. elections are evolving and, in fact, they never stopped.

Natasha Bertrand has this story. She joins us now.

And it's important to note, this comes even after Joe Biden issued his warning to Vladimir Putin.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: And after more than two dozen Russian entities were sanctioned in the spring over their election interference in 2020. So, clearly the Russians have not really gotten the message here.

And President Biden made deliberate mention of the Russian efforts to sew chaos and sow disinformation ahead of the 2022 midterms. A few weeks ago in his remarks to the intelligence community, kind of sending a signal to the Russians that, hey, we know what's going on here. Our intelligence community is closely tracking all of these efforts to, again, interfere in our democratic process.

Now, what we're told is that these intelligence reports that have gone to the Biden administration basically say that Russians -- the Russian strategy is largely the same, right? They want to sew chaos. They want to sew misinformation. They want to create divisions in American society. But what we're also told is that their tactics are evolving because they can't do the same thing they did in 2020 or 2016. They need to kind of up their game. And in doing so, as the Russian intelligence agencies kind of compete with one another to try to one- up each other into how they can interfere best in American politics, they come up with new tactics and new kind of creative ways to interfere.

So, that's what the intelligence community is seeing right now. The Russian efforts never actually stopped but they are evolving and they are growing more aggressive and changing as time goes on.

BERMAN: What evidence, if any, is there that other countries are also trying to interfere, countries like China and Iran?

BERTRAND: Yes, so these countries have not been shown to be targeting the 2022 elections specifically. That's what we're told the intelligence is showing right now. The Russians are very focused on exploiting these political divisions in American society with the aim of bolstering one candidate or another, especially in down ballot races in 2022. And so they're kind of laying the ground work for that, especially around vaccines and masking. That's, obviously, a very politically divisive issue.

But the Chinese and the Iranians are more focused on kind of bigger picture, kind of exploitation of politicians, for example, of bigger picture issues that won't be as insidious as what the Russians are doing. That is what we are told.

And so the tactics are very different here. Kind of what the Russians are doing is more subtle and more covert, whereas what the Chinese do, for example, is more overt. They try to influence public policy and discussions surrounding a certain issue.


BERMAN: Bad, but different, as it were.

Natasha Bertrand, thank you very much for your reporting. Appreciate it.

NEW DAY continues right now.