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Heat Wave on Both U.S Coasts Shatters All-Time Records; Israeli Rescue Commander Says, More Bodies, Tunnels Discovered Overnight; Surgeon General Says, if You're not Vaccinated, You Are in Trouble. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired June 30, 2021 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Poppy Harlow, so glad you're with us.
Right now, we are waiting to learn more about victims discovered overnight in the rubble of the Surfside condominium collapse after rescue crews tell CNN they did locate more bodies.
The search for survivors is now in its seventh day. 12 people are confirmed dead, 149 others still unaccounted for this morning.
The mother of a local police chief just has been identified as the 12th victim. We will take you to Surfside in a moment.
Also this morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that the nationwide disparity in vaccination rates is threatening to create, in his words, two Americas as the delta variant accounts for one in every COVID vases that are new across the country.
SCIUTTO: Plus, a record heat wave taking its toll now across North America, as smoldering temperatures blanket parts not just to the northwest but also the northeast coast, as well as Canada, records being set across the country and the continent.
Here in the U.S., President Biden will address the record heat and persistent threat of wildfires with governors from western states today.
CNN's Jason Carroll, he joins us now from Philadelphia, as millions of people across the northeast remain under heat alerts. Jason, tell us how it's impacting Philly where you are, and other cities.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, here in Philadelphia, they're under an excessive heat warning. Later today, if you can imagine, with the heat and the humidity, it's going to feel like 100-plus degrees right here where we're standing. They've set up some splash parks like this one. We've already seen some little kids out here trying to escape the heat. The good news at least for the northeast is that relief is on the way.
CARROLL (voice over): It's a race to beat the heat with temperatures rising to dangerous levels for millions on both the east and west coast. Across the border in Canada, temperatures in Vancouver have swelled to over 100 degrees, and the heat wave has turned deadly. More than 230 deaths have been reported in British Columbia since Friday. In Northern California, dry conditions are fueling multiple blazes including the lava fire, the extreme temperatures making conditions even more difficult for at least 400 firefighters battling that blaze.
JIM MACKENSEN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: The biggest concern today is it's wind, very, very windy, very, very hot extreme temperatures.
CARROLL: Boston is expected to hit its third day in the upper 90s today making it challenging for firefighters working to put out a seven-alarm fire just outside the city on Tuesday. In Portland, after three days of triple-digit temperatures, peeking at 116 degrees Monday, the fire rescue department announced fireworks will be banned indefinitely ahead of the holiday weekend.
Heat-related illnesses sending hundreds of people to local emergency rooms and urgent care clinics.
DR. JENNIFER VINES, MULTNOMAH COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER: They are very busy. They have been distributing patients and working to make more room in the hospitals to help with some of the logjams.
CARROLL: And in Seattle, a new record high of 108 degrees Monday, the extreme weather wreaking havoc on Washington's roads, causing some to crack and buckle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's scary. I mean, you never know when you could be the one who falls into a sinkhole.
CARROLL: In New York City, as temperatures hit the high 90s, air- conditioning service crews are working around the clock to install and fix units. Some cities are getting creative to keep residents cool.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay, you can sit on the bus as long as you want.
CARROLL: Philadelphia turning six air-conditioned buses into cooling centers. Across the country, places from libraries to public pools are staying busy as people look for any form of relief.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most important thing is just the knowledge of how to stay cool and then the locations now that COVID is over, how to contact and get to cooling centers.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CARROLL (on camera): So back here in Philadelphia, public pools are going to reopen today, but not nearly the amount that the city wanted. They're going to be opening about 70 percent percent of their public pools. But the reason why they can't open more than that is simply because they don't have enough lifeguards to get out there to man the pools. So they're going to have to open a little less than they wanted to.
But in addition to that, at least in terms of relief for the northeast, that should come as soon as tomorrow when temperatures are expected to cool off. But out west in Medford, Oregon, on Friday, they're expecting temperatures to top 100 degrees. Back to you, guys.
HARLOW: Yet again. Jason Carroll, thank you for all of that reporting.
Let's bring in our Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir. You hear words like unprecedented, I can't believe it's happening. Believe it.
We knew it was coming, and it's here to stay?
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, in short. But if you had asked a climatologist maybe ten years ago what's the world going to look like by 2021, and he had said it's going to be Death Valley temperatures in British Columbia, a nine-month fire season in California, real concerns about construction in South Florida as a result of sea level rise, he would have been the alarmist, right, with those predictions. But those are conservative based on what we're seeing now.
And that's the thing I think we just as humans have a hard time wrapping our heads around. This is not something to weather and get through. This is maybe a new normal in places. And so the world that we grew up in, you didn't need cooling centers in Seattle and you didn't need to worry about ice storms in Texas.
HARLOW: I grew up without air-conditioning in the Midwest.
WEIR: Exactly. But this is -- that Earth is gone now and we really don't know how things work in this new one.
SCIUTTO: I mean, we're living the models, right? I mean, the models predicted all kind of this stuff, heat waves, longer droughts and so on. What can be done now, right? I mean, it's that old question, is it too late to act? Tell us what can be done, and is any of it happening, right?
WEIR: Well, not nearly at the speed it needs to be happening. And it's the big conversation we really need to face soon is how much is spent on mitigation, which is getting us all into electric vehicles, and how much is spent on adaptation, which is cooling centers in Seattle and ice storms in Texas, which is learning to live with this new planet that we've been dealt. And that is a real political fight. And you're seeing some movement on this. There's a conservative climate coalition that just formed even though they all voted against the new methane regulation. But as things go on, the pain will make it harder and harder to ignore.
HARLOW: You know, some people only act when it's going to impact their kids. And we all have young kids here. You have a new baby.
HARLOW: What does this mean for our kids when they become adults if we don't take dramatic steps?
WEIR: It means places in the world that are no longer livable. It means not being able to send your child outside even in winter months if you live near the equator. You know, it means shorter growing season, less food. It means -- you know, these are the knockoff things we don't think about. Heat is the deadliest national occurrence, waves, hurricanes and tornadoes make for splashy, but you can see why heat is deadly. But it also causes an increase in drownings as people seek water to stay cool, right? It's infrastructure, roads buckling, planes not being able to take off.
We've lived the last 14 months with what things are like when the normal goes away, when predictability is taken from our lives. That's what our kids need to brace for, unfortunately.
SCIUTTO: And the military talks openly about conflicts that these kinds of effects create. It was only a few months okay that we had a climate-denying president, right? You saw him outright deny it, so now you have one who does not deny the science of climate change.
President Biden's meeting with governors later today about sort of short-term stuff, how to handle the heat right now.
SCIUTTO: But is there any progress in terms of getting to some of these climate priorities that you're talking about?
WEIR: There is just in terms of ambition and laying out knowledge and shared science and getting back to sort of a baseline you'd expect in the modern world but not nearly where we need to be in terms of legislation. The infrastructure bill, which is supposed to pack a lot of these things in, including resiliency funding for cities in these horrible situations, that's gotten stripped away -- way down right now.
And so the big question is can democracy fix a problem as big as climate change, because it affects every part of our lives. And there are so many different special interests when you think about any one issue. But taken together, this is what happened.
And the other thing I want to -- I was just up in Greenland a couple of weeks ago. We're paying attention to this now because it's happening in Portland and Seattle and British Columbia, populated places. This is happening in the Siberian Arctic all the time with just devastating consequences.
SCIUTTO: I mean, the polar ice cap flew over it. It's disappearing.
WEIR: Yes, it's going away.
SCIUTTO: Bill, thank you so much.
HARLOW: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Thanks for bringing truth even if it spoils your day.
WEIR: Yes, sorry to be the buzz-kill.
HARLOW: Well, you've just been doing it for so long, and I hope more people listen.
WEIR: But the more we talk about it, it's just like therapy, the more we can get into this together, the easier it will be for all of us.
HARLOW: We're glad you're by our side for it. Thank you very much.
SCIUTTO: Now, back to our top story today, the deadly condo collapse in Surfside, Florida. The commander of the Israeli rescue team who's working there along with a whole host of rescuers told CNN this morning that tunnels with big spaces of air between the building's balconies were found in the rubble overnight.
HARLOW: He said he crawled through them himself. Unfortunately, he said no one was found alive in those tunnels. He told our John Berman what is making this rescue effort so hard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. GOLAN VACH, ISRAELI NATIONAL RESCUE UNIT: The gap between the space, the gap between the layers, between the floors, these tunnels that we found right now were almost the first to be big enough to enable people to stay between them.
Most of the collapse is very, very tight. The collapse was major.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Rose Flores is with us on the scene, the latest in the search and rescue operation. Rosa, sadly, a 12th victim was confirmed. The family identified them this morning. What more do we know?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that she is 92 years old. Her name is Hilda Noriega. And her family actually talked to CNN and our friends at CNN in Espanol, and described her as being full of life, full of faith, very vibrant, that she was fiercely independent at 92, and that she was a very loving person.
Now, her family also shared with us that when they rushed to the scene here at the scene of the collapse, there was, of course, a lot of debris that early morning on Thursday. And her family actually found a picture of her. So imagine the chances of that and imagine how emotional it was for this family. I don't know if we have the photo available, but I know we have it. They were actually able to pick up from the debris a picture of their loved one. And now we know that they got the news that Hilda Noriega, 92 years old, died.
Now, we know that the search and rescue continues, this is day number seven, and the search has not ceased. Now, as you mentioned, the commander of the Israeli team telling us this morning that tunnels were found. That, of course, can provide huge hope. We don't want to -- we don't want to give people false hope, but before this, we have -- we had learned from the fire chief that this collapse was so packed that very small gaps had been found. They made a giant trench, and they still only found very, very small gaps. So this is definitely a sign of hope for a lot of people because they will follow those tunnels. We know that that's what they're doing.
Now, here's more about what the Israeli commander had to say about those tunnels that he found. Take a listen.
And I believe we don't have that.
But, Jim and Poppy, in essence, what he was describing was that he was able to crawl through some of these spaces. He was able to -- he was able to see that there were spaces there. And, of course, we'll stay here to follow any new developments. Jim and Poppy?
SCIUTTO: It's an international effort there to try they hope to save lives. Rosa Flores, thank you so much.
Joining us is Florida State Representative Joe Geller, his district includes Surfside. Representative, thank you for taking the time this morning.
These are your people, these are your constituents there, and, sadly, many of them lost their lives. Tell us how the community is coping.
STATE REP. JOSEPH GELLER (D-FL): It's very difficult. I have a friend whose family lived in the building and, thank God, survived. They opened the front door of their apartment after they heard this horrible noise in the middle of the night. They had five feet of hallway and then nothing. They tried going down an emergency stairs, which were blocked. They tried to get to the garage which was -- had water coming in. Finally, they had to be rescued off their balcony by a fire department very quickly.
These are just very, very difficult times for everyone as we just, you know, keep praying that they'll be able to find someone else alive.
HARLOW: Your colleague in the Florida legislature, Democratic State Senator Jason Pizzo, who represents North Miami Beach, said he is planning to file legislation to address four really key things in the wake of this, and that's building requirements, that's re-inspection standards for buildings, the risk of seawater intrusion, and also the financial obligation of condominium associations. I wonder -- you're nodding so I think you support that. My question is do you believe this has the support on both sides of the aisle to make it through the Florida legislature?
GELLER: I certainly hope so. If not now, when? You know, we -- sometimes it takes crisis to get people to act. That was the case a few years ago after the terrible tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High when we actually passed something that addressed the issues of gun violence. Hopefully, this will spur necessary reforms.
We're looking at some things, I'm talking to people. You know, the fact that saltwater intrusion may be part of what happened here. This is definitely frightening. This is a state with a tremendous amount of coastline along the Atlantic and along the gulf. And if this is a problem related to saltwater intrusion maybe to sea level rise, this is something we need to get our arms around (INAUDIBLE).
SCIUTTO: Representative, one of the more alarm things about this story is that there were at least warning signs prior to this. There was an engineering report in 2018. There's a letter that went out to condo owners just a few months ago talking about concrete deterioration and deterioration of the rebar, the metal reinforcement inside the concrete.
I wonder, given those past warnings, was this a failure of government, county, inspectors, or was it a failure of the private condo owners and managers, or is it a shared failure?
GELLER: You know, there's certainly a lot of finger pointing that's going to take place. Some of it may be warranted, some not. I have seen some of those preliminary reports, but we need to do a very thorough investigation.
Some of the things that were warned about may really have had nothing to do with the ultimate collapse that occurred. You know, there's a big difference necessarily between what's happening with your pool deck and what's happening with your foundations.
So, you know, I want to urge a little note of caution in reading what some of those so-called warnings may have been. But certainly on a comprehensive basis, we need a better inspecting system, we need a better protocol. These 40-year inspections may not be often enough when it comes to looking at the foundation.
HARLOW: Yes. I mean, it sounds like they do 40-year recertifications but ten-year inspection, so you wonders if both of those things have to change. Representative Geller, thank you. We're all with you guys on this and thinking about everyone. Thank you so much.
GELLER: We're just praying we can find somebody else alive in that building.
HARLOW: Of course. Us too, of course.
GELLER: People risking their lives to find people. God bless them. Thank you.
HARLOW: Well, still to come, the new delta COVID variant accounts for more than a quarter of COVID cases in the United States. What does that mean for the CDC's mask guidance? Could it change?
And we are in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave and extreme drought that is intensifying wildfires plaguing the western United States. We're live with more on that.
SCIUTTO: Plus, CNN on the ground in Afghanistan. The withdrawal of U.S. troops could be finished there within days, and now military officials warning of a looming civil war.
HARLOW: The CDC this morning says the very contagious delta COVID variant first identified in India now accounts for one in four cases in this country. Top research officials warn this variant is now the most prevalent strain across America. And this morning, the U.S. surgeon general had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: If you are vaccinated and fully vaccinated, means two weeks after your last shot, then there is good evidence that you have a high degree of protection against this virus. But if you are not vaccinated, then you are in trouble. This is, again, a serious threat, and we're seeing it spread among unvaccinated people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: You are in trouble, he says, those not vaccinated.
Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, joins us now.
Dr. Hotez, I wonder nationally, as you see there, about 46 percent of the country fully vaccinated, higher percentage of adults that are at least partially vaccinated at this point, is the country vaccinated enough to hold off a major outbreak of the delta variant?
DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, it all comes down to where you are in the country, and that's the reality. I called it two COVID nations, Dr. Fauci, I think, calls it two Americas. I think it's a similar idea that what we're seeing, for instance, in Vermont and New Hampshire, Maine, where a high percentage of the population is vaccinated, maybe over 80 percent, I think that could withstand this delta variant and transmission will be limited.
But, for instance, now in Southern Missouri, where a small percentage of the population is vaccinated and you have the delta variant is probably the highest rate in the country right now, a lot of people are now going into intensive care units.
So I think what we have to look at for guidance, I think the CDC is trying too hard to make a one-size-fits-all policy recommendation. So I think we have to look at the country by region and look at what I would call force of infection, how much the epidemic is raging and then fine-tune our guidance a bit more.
HARLOW: Can I ask you what does this mean for the unvaccinated not by choice? And what I mean by that is for our children, for example, that are younger than 12 years old, like I just went, you know, to target and bought new masks for my kids for whenever they were going to go to the mall or go inside, somewhere, they're little, three and five. And I know they're not as susceptible but they can get it, and 10-year- olds and 11-year-olds. Does this mean people should be not taking their kids certain places or ensuring masking?
HOTEZ: I would say right now, if your kids are old enough to wear masks, then they should when they're indoors at least until we can get our arms around this delta variant. But, again, a lot of it has to do with where you are. So if you're in the northeast, where transmission is really low, then your kids are a lot safer than in parts of the South Central U.S. right now where the epidemic is really taking off, that one-two punch of the delta variant and low vaccination rates.
And so this requires parents and really anyone to have some situational awareness of what their region looks like, what their state looks like, what their county looks like in terms of vaccination rates and delta variants.
And this is where, I think, the CDC now needs to do a little bit more heavy messaging in the sense of creating that heat map of what I call force of infection, that combination of delta and vaccination rates, to really inform people where they need to take extra cautions.
SCIUTTO: Listen, the science is clear. Where vaccination rates are lower, this is spreading more easily. And as viruses spread, they learn. And they learn how to infect people better and so on.
I want to give you a platform here for a moment, you've done it before, to folks who are still hesitant or resistant to getting a vaccine. Make the case to them to do it, as we have been and our colleagues have been vaccinated.
HOTEZ: Well, thanks for that, Jim. Jim, the case is this. The delta variant is like nothing we've seen before. The B117 variant from the U.K. was more transmissible than the original lineage by about 50 percent. This one, the delta is 50 percent more than that. This is twice as infectious as anything we've seen before.
So if you're not vaccinated or if you're only partially vaccinated, there's a high likelihood you will become infected with this delta variant over the next few weeks or over the summer. Now it's not too late. Now is the time to get vaccinated. And if you're a young adult or adolescent, don't listen to the anti-vaccine nonsense that says if you go to the gym and eat a healthy diet, that's good enough. It's not. It's not the same as virus neutralizing the antibodies from the vaccine.
HARLOW: Dr. Hotez, thank you, we're so grateful, as always.
HOTEZ: Thank you.
HARLOW: Ahead, many families are bracing for impossible news as the search and rescue operations in the condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida, enter their seventh day. One local church is offering as much help as they can. The priest will join us next.