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FEMA: 44 of Puerto Rico's 69 Hospitals Are Operational; Vieques Island Virtually Destroyed by Maria; Trump: NFL Owners Afraid of Players. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 28, 2017 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You can't communicate with the hospitals. You hear 20 hospitals and 40 hospitals are up and running and it is chaos. It they are up and running, it's a question of how long are they going to be up and running? They had six hours-worth of fuel. They didn't know for a long time. They didn't know after this fuel runs out. They are starting to run out of water.

It's extraordinary when you go out and not that far outside of San Juan. It's a totally different situation. These patients, many of them haven't been able to make their way to clinics or hospitals. They are stuck in their homes and shelters and the hospital workers are trying to go to them instead to care for them. It's very hard to get an idea of the scope. So many more patients are likely to start coming to these places over the next several days. They are for the first time able to move. They moved from their devastated neighborhoods.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: What if someone needs oxygen or dialysis and there is power at the hospitals and no power in the area. No clean water. What are they doing?

GUPTA: It is so frustrating, Wolf. I'm talking to doctors and nurses and medics who are encountering that exact situation. They have not had water or power or clean water. They have patients on the ground and have no way of treating them. It's frustrating. There are all sorts of different factors. And not enough drivers or gasoline. A woman needed to be moved from the shelter because there was no care. The ambulance shows up, but the ambulance doesn't have enough gas to take her from the shelter to a hospital. It's half efforts. You are getting halfway there, but not completing the job. Not moving the patient who needs the care you are describing from point A to point B. There is a lack of coordination here. What is highly frustrating for the medical professionals in the more remote areas, we hear there is, there's enough medications and supplies and water and fuel on the island, we are not getting to the people who need it most. I don't know that.

I would say 44 hospitals are up and running. That may be the case for a brief period of time. How long will they stay up and running and do you have clean water? They are necessities to make a true statement, it's not there. I have seen it with my own eyes -- Wolf?

BLITZER: That's the statistic that FEMA officials are putting out. You are there on the ground and you are seeing what's going on. You're not only a world-class journalist, you are a neurosurgeon. If someone needs surgery in Puerto Rico, what do they do?

GUPTA: Well, the place we are at now, which should point out, under better circumstances, is one of the largest hospitals in the Caribbean. They do have a team of doctors there, but they have been overwork and they are capable of doing some operations in the operating rooms that are up and functioning. In that case, it's possible they can get an operation in a place like this. There are so many layers before that can happen. Finding where that patient is. Getting transportation. Getting them to the hospital. Having room in the operating room. Having the doctors available. They have been working for over a week nonstop. It is possible, Wolf, but it's not enough. There are probably enough primary carry. They're not in the right places. The specialists, there's not enough to take care of those injuries.

BLITZER: Have you been called on, as you have in other stories you've been covering, whether the war in Iraq or elsewhere, to Haiti, to actually do your other job and be a neurosurgeon?

GUPTA: Well, no. There has been no neurosurgical request as of now. I have been in close touch with the hospital and the disaster management assistance team that is part of HHS. They are seeing patients coming in. And what I will tell you is when we were out in a remote area today, patients who can't get to a more coordinated level of care. That's something we helped do today. It's simple getting people from point A to point B, making sure they can be transport and cared for. I couldn't believe that was happening. We were putting people into our vehicles and bringing them to hospitals, getting medications for them here in a situation like this. There is no coordination. They should be able to get the care where they are. They can't get the transport over here. They can't get medications over there. There's a disconnect. There's no coordination. We're trying to help out, trying to get people from where they are to the care that could help them for certain.

[13:35:31] BLITZER: What they need are thousands of U.S. military personnel, including doctors and nurses, to be on the ground, helping these people in the hours and weeks to come. Hopefully, this General Buchanan, who has been put in charge, a three-star general, can get the job done.

Go ahead, Sanjay.

GUPTA: The term "humanitarian crisis" has been used and I was listening to General Honore talk about this. To me, that means that people right now are at risk of dying. They are at risk of dying. They can be saved with pretty simple interventions, but they are at risk of dying. These are not people injured by the hurricane. These are people who are stuck now in these remote places and can't get out. They are dealing with hypertension and diabetes and chronic illness that typically can be well manage that can turn into a death sentence. Humanitarian crisis meaning that needless deaths can occur. And there is a risk of that. You point about more resources down here is a really, really important one right now at this moment. BLITZER: I know you have to run, Sanjay, but is there any evidence

that any international aid organizations are on the ground, have other countries sent in medical units and others to help out, or is this strictly a U.S. operation?

GUPTA: Mainly, the U.S. operation and the DMAT, Disaster Management Assistance Team. There have been international medical organizations that have come on the ground as well, representing coalitions of different countries, and come here sometimes to address specific problems, like patients who is need dialysis and can't get it because they don't have power, and hygiene and clean water, and all that stuff. You do have, again, Central Medico. It's one of the largest hospitals here. There are good doctors, who have been staffing the hospital for a long time. Not enough specialists and not enough space. That hospitals, that will go dark when it grows dark. There won't be lights on in there. It's unable to function at the level it should.

BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks for everything you are doing, and for being on the scene, as you always are. We will get back to you throughout the day.

We will have a lot more on the breaking news out of Puerto Rico. I will speak live with a young man who just returned from the island. His family is there, stranded. What he saw, his hopes for rebuilding efforts. Much more after this.


[13:41:01] BLITZER: We are back with new and heartbreaking images of the grime extent of Hurricane Maria's wrath. CNN's Bill Weir was one of the first outsiders to reach the small island Vieques in Puerto Rico where food supplies are quickly running out. The island has no power and no way for residents to let anyone know they are even OK.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are out of food. We are running out of food and water.

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the kind of heartbreaking soul- draining scene that is getting played out again and again. As people look at her crying, she gets on a sat phone for the first time. Oh, my god. It crushes your soul to watch this. This is a two-hour line of folks waiting to give proof of life to a wife or husband or father. It's rough.


WEIR: How does that feel? Can I see your eyes? Can you move your sunglasses for me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's tough. We need help. Go back and tell them we need help.

WEIR: That's why I'm here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go back and tell them we need help. Tell the president that everybody needs help here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are OK. We are not going to die, but there is no help. This is the only help. I don't know what else to say. Private citizens have come through for us and no one else has.


BLITZER: Multiply that scene across the island and you begin to appreciate the extent of this catastrophe.

My next guest appreciates it. He's seen the devastation firsthand. Sebastian Negron (ph) just returned here to Washington from the island. Sebastian is with us.

I know your family is OK and you are deeply relieved. You were there during Hurricane Maria. Did you appreciate what was going on? Once it happened, I understand you were like everyone else, totally frightened.

SEBASTIAN NEGRON (ph), FAMILY LIVES IN PUEURTO RICO: Hi, Wolf. As you say, I experienced it firsthand. I first experienced a hurricane in 1998 with George. I don't really remember. I didn't appreciate the extent of what this hurricane would be. The wind and the roar was surreal.

BLITZER: It was terrifying.

NEGRON (ph): It was terrifying. And 180 mile-per-hour winds is truly terrifying. I had not expected something like that.

BLITZER: Did you ever expect the whole island would be devastated, and 3.5 million people would be damaged the way they have been?

NEGRON (ph): I did not. I saw a lot of footage coming from Florida the week before with Irma, but I did not expect Puerto Rico would have it. We've been years with no hurricanes. But Maria went right through the island.

BLITZER: People are watching and their hearts are breaking right now as they see the stories of the individual stories. Multiply by millions and you begin to appreciate the extent of the disaster. I know you are trying to help your fellow Puerto Ricans right now, and what are you trying to do?

NEGRON (ph): It's was time for the news cycle to focus on Puerto Rico. There is a lot of need. As you see in the images, people need help and help is on the way. But there is a lot more that needs to be done. I'm supporting college students, Puerto Rican college students. I go to school on the mainland U.S. with an initiative called Students with Puerto Rico. We are trying to get all of these students in the universities on the mainland to find donations for Puerto Rico. We're doing through a Web site called GoFundMe, There are many initiatives going on. Our funds are go to the overarching effort that Puerto Rico has. It's a combination of public and private efforts under United for Puerto Rico. That's where the funds are going. A lot of artists are supporting. And we want to see Puerto Rico shine again. We're sure it will happen. We just don't know when.

BLITZER: It will take a long time.

NEGRON (ph): Yes.

BLITZER: Sebastian, thank you so much.

NEGRON (ph): Thank you so much.

[13:45:08] BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.

Coming up, there's other news we're are following here in washington, around the country. President Trump not backing away from the NFL national anthem saga. How he is sparking new backlash by now saying that NFL owners are simply afraid of their own players.

And flying high on the taxpayer's dime. The president fumes over Cabinet Secretary Tom Price and his private jet flights.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking at that closely. I am not happy with it. I will tell you, I'm not happy with it.



BLITZER: This just coming in to CNN. A sad announcement from the award-winning actress, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She posted this on Twitter. I'm quoting her. "One in eight women get breast cancer. Today, I'm the one." The 56-year-old actress just won an Emmy for her HBO show "Veep," which will be ending at the end of this season. We will have much more on this story throughout the day. We wish her only the best and a speedy, speedy recovery.

President Trump, meanwhile, says NFL owners are scared to confront players who kneel during the national anthem. The president refuses to let go of the issue almost a week after he set off the current firestorm. He says, "League owners are now in an awkward position."


TRUMP: I have so many friends that are owners. They are in a box. I've spoken to some of them. They said we are in a situation where we have to do something. I think they're afraid of their players if you want to know the truth. I think it's disgraceful. They have to be tough and they have to be smart. The ratings have gone way down. The stadiums are -- I have seen a couple of stadiums over the last few weeks. They are losing -- there are a lot of empty seats. I couldn't even believe it.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, our CNN political analyst, Abby Philipp, the White House reporter for "The Washington Post," and our CNN senior washington correspondent, Brianna Keilar.

The president keeps stirring up this issue. There is a lot of other issues that are clearly much more of a priority. But keeps talking about this. Why?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Because he thinks it works for him. I was talking to a friend of his who has spoken to him within the past week since this occurred. And he said to me, look, the president believes that he speaks for the people who voted for him on this, that they believe that taking a knee isn't appropriate. And he told this friend that I'm saying things that other people will not say, and I'm going to continue doing it. And we all know that he has had some problems with his base. He hasn't gotten health care done. There are questions about the tax reform bill. And he hasn't built his wall, et cetera, et cetera. So while he cuts a deal with the Democrats perhaps on the DREAMers, which may not go over on well, then he can thread the needle a bit and remain popular, speaking for many of his supporters who believe, in fact, that you shouldn't be doing that at football games.

[13:50:30] BLITZER: It's interesting, Abby, that the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Representative Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana, he sent a pretty scathing letter to the president expressing his, quote, "utter disgust with the way the president has handled race relations."

Listen to what Representative Cedric Richmond said on "CNN TONIGHT" with Don Lemon last night.


REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND, (D), LOUISIANA: We are better than this. And we shouldn't let one man, one rich petulant child define this country. And I'm just so sad that we're in this place. I met with the president. I went to his inauguration. I opened my arms and said I'm willing to work with you. However, he has yet to show that he wants to be the president for all of America.


BLITZER: The president insists his criticism of the NFL has absolutely nothing to do with race.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I think that, you know, the president to Gloria's point believes that his job is to speak for the people who voted for him, but that is actually not his job. He is the president of the United States and it is to speak for the entire country, to speak for all Americans whether they voted for him or not. I think that is what you probably heard the congressman trying to express. What is problematic about what he said in the FOX interview is that, whether he's aware of it or not, that language about the owners being afraid of their players really speaks to a long history of kind of the coded fear of black men. Most of the people who knelt up until this weekend were black men, the vast majority, and a majority of players in the NFL are black men as well. So whether he is aware of the subtext or not, I think a lot of people expect him to be a little bit more sensitive to that because, you know, the entire country is under his jurisdiction right now. He's the president of all American, not just the ones who voted for him.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It didn't make sense that he wouldn't understand the subtext. And it didn't stand to reason because I suppose if you ask President Trump is Birtherism about race, he's never conceded that. Is using Confederate monuments as a rallying point for white supremacists, is that about race? No. What about when he tweeted an image using the Star of David about Hillary Clinton that came from an anti-Semitic message board? He said that wasn't about anti-Semitism. So it just doesn't stand to reason that it isn't about race. And I think it's clear that it is when you are talking about this kind of thing. And the effect matters as much as whatever his stated intention is. So the effect of this, if you talk to -- let's say African-American mothers and fathers, the idea of raising the spectra of being afraid of black men, what that means to them. That is their greatest fear, right? That is the whole reason why you have so many people who are upset and proclaiming "Black Lives Matter" because they feel that fear has taken over in a way that is robbing lives and opportunities of a number of Americans.

BORGER: And you have to wonder, the president said he had a couple of conversations with team owners. And you have to wonder if that's what he was hearing from the team owners. We don't know. We don't know what those conversations were. Were they calling him, with a wink and nod, saying we have to do this? Or is this something the president is just saying because he can rationalize his own views that way.

PHILLIP: One of the interesting things about this whole situation is that it's not clear that the president is actually moving the country towards his opinion on this at all. There has been recent polling in the last week showing that more people are supportive of the players now than a year ago --


PHILLIP: -- when this whole thing started. So he may be scoring points with his base, but he is not moving the vast majority of the American populous on this issue.

BLITZER: Brianna, on a different note, three former presidents got together today. Take a look at this picture, we'll put it up on the screen. There you see presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton. They are at what is called the President's Cup, a golf tournament out in New Jersey. They're having a good time. You probably wish you were playing golf with those guys yourself.

KEILAR: That would be quite amazing. But didn't the image just make you think so much about the president's club and how limited it is. Right? How there aren't that many members of it? And yet, Donald Trump himself is so on the outs from this club that he doesn't see eye to eye, he didn't talk to these gentlemen that were there. Very different political stances clearly. Lots of disagreements in their past. And yet, he didn't get along with them.

[13:55:18] BLITZER: It would have been nice if President Trump would have been there, as he likes to play golf himself.

BORGER: He does. I think when he has the crisis in Puerto Rico, I think perhaps the optics of that would not be so good. I think what the president needs to do is get his Department of Defense and the three-star generals they have just appointed to get the things that people need that you've been talking about on this show to Puerto Rico. I think going to play golf would have been a bad call.

BLITZER: Maybe he should invite them over.

BORGER: Or talk to them would be a good idea.

BLITZER: Get advice down the road.


BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

We're only moments away from the White House press briefing. What's sure to be some pretty tough questions about the Trump administration's response to the devastation in Puerto Rico. Is more help on the way? We're standing by.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[13:59:21] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

We have breaking news on this catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Eight days now after Hurricane Maria, millions of Americans are waiting for help. Nearly half of all of Puerto Rico is without drinking water. Most of the island is still without electricity and, in some cases, without food.

Many of the supplies that could be helping those desperate people is right here, stuck in some 10,000 cargo containers just sitting right here on a San Juan shipping dock.

Officials blame Puerto Rico's already weak infrastructure and say there are not enough truckers to get these containers out to people who need them.

CNN has crews dispersed across the island in some of the worst hit areas and where people are trying to get out and where supplies are trying to get in.

So with me right now, Boris Sanchez and Leyla Santiago. Leyla, let me just --