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TSA Reporting Indicates Travel Increases in U.S. for Fourth of July Weekend; White House to Deploy Response Teams to Low Vaccinated Areas as COVID Delta Variant Cases Increase; Police in Standoff with Group of Men in Massachusetts; Death Toll at 22 Confirmed, 126 Still Unaccounted For in Building Collapse in Surfside, Florida. Aired 10- 11a ET

Aired July 3, 2021 - 10:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you on this Saturday, July 3rd. It is so good to have your company. I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Boris Sanchez. It is a great to have your company, Christi. We are live in the CNN Newsroom. And this July 4th weekend, Americans are on the move in record numbers. New travel statistics just in this morning from the TSA show they screened more than 2.19 million people at airports across the country Friday.

PAUL: Yes. So, if you're opting to travel by car, let's say, you can expect a lot of company on the highway, as well. Experts at AAA say they expect the number of people heading on road trips this holiday weekend to be the largest ever. Now, looming over the travel surge, we should point out, look at these lines. Reminders that the pandemic, it's still a big danger for people who are not fully vaccinated. Health officials are warning the delta coronavirus variant could fuel a surge in new infections in parts of the country where vaccination rates are too low.

SANCHEZ: Let's get right to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He's tracking the holiday rush from New York. Polo, those travel numbers we just shared, they rival pre-pandemic numbers, too.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi and Boris, and let's get started with that number along there. In fact, AAA was expecting there to be about a 40 percent increase in Fourth of July travel this year over last, obviously, with the vaccines that are being made available, and that means more confidence is certainly up there.

But considering this number alone that was just released by the Transportation Security Administration a little while ago now showing that we have seen almost 2.2 million people that were actually processed at airport security checkpoints throughout the country just yesterday. And as you pointed out a little while ago, Boris, not only is this a new pandemic record, but it is also higher than what we saw on the day in 2019. So again, that goes to the point that there are certainly more people that are feeling more confident out there. And this is also going to lead to more challenges for airlines.

Obviously, staffing these flights is certainly proving to be quite the challenge. American Airlines decided they will be reducing their flights by about one percent to try to make up for that. Southwest Airlines pleading with flight attendants that if they're able to work over the Fourth of July weekend, that they do so. So there is a staffing issue.

But then there's also the issue of unruly passengers. The FAA has received over 3,000 reports so far this year of unruly passengers. So the result has been that agency released a PSA directly from children asking adults to act their age. We're going to play a little of that, but ultimately what you have are children now, part of this advertisement, or at least this public service announcement, if for adults to actually act their age because of the increase in these kinds of cases.

When it comes to some of the people who are going to be traveling by road, which according to AAA says is going to be a vast majority of Americans, it's certainly not going to be cheap as we are expecting to see one of the highest prices at the pump in about seven years. So that's certainly going to be concerning for some travelers. But in the end, though, Christi and Boris, AAA saying that is certainly not going to impede many Americans who have been couped up for so long. If they didn't do it on Memorial Day, there are many people, as we just saw in the numbers, that plan to do it on the Fourth of July, and really, the rest of the summer, too, as travel is only going to get even busier.

PAUL: Hey, Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, guys.

PAUL: Good to see you.

SANCHEZ: This weekend is also serves as an important marker of where we are with the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly after coming into office, President Biden set a goal of vaccinated 70 percent of adults in the United States by the Fourth of July. It's a goal that the country is not going to meet. Currently, only two-thirds, 66.8 percent of adults, have received the first dose.

PAUL: The concern this morning is the Delta variant, as we said, because COVID cases are rising. The White House is set to deploy response teams to low vaccinated areas to assist however they can. CNN White House reporter Jasmine Wright with us now. Jasmine, first of all, talk to us about what the president has on his schedule today.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christi. The president is about 30 minutes away from his expected departure time, as he heads to Michigan to push the message of just how far this country has gone fighting the COVID pandemic. The president is heading to Traverse City, where he will go there and meet with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Really, he'll visit a cherry farm.

[10:05:00] All to really promote this idea that, look, this is what you can do without fear, being out in public if you are vaccinated. It's a part of the White House's America is Back tour. They're going across the country really. The first lady will be in Maine and New Hampshire. The vice president will be in Nevada, all pushing this idea of, look, the country is coming back to life like we were pre-pandemic.

Now, one thing that is circling us, we all talked about, is this Delta variant. And the White House is trying to grapple with it. So the president yesterday at the White House, he said that he was not concerned that the variant would cause a major outbreak or shut the country down, but he was concerned about those who have not yet been vaccinated.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am concerned that people who have not gotten vaccinated have the capacity to catch the variant and spread the variant to other people who have not been vaccinated. It doesn't hurt. It's accessible. It's free. It's available. And not only -- don't think about yourself. Think about your family. Think about those around you. That's what we should be thinking about today. The Fourth of July this year is different from the Fourth of July last year. It's going to be better next year.


WRIGHT: So it is all that message trying to get more Americans to get those shots into their arms as quickly as they can, as they try to eventually hit that 70 percent goal that they missed by tomorrow. And another thing that they will focus on in Michigan today, the president will focus on, is also highlighting that infrastructure push and the bipartisan framework that they all agreed on. Christi, Boris?

SANCHEZ: And Jasmine, what about tomorrow specifically? Big plans at the White House.

WRIGHT: That's exactly right. And before those big plans, the first lady will be giving remarks in Philly, and then the first family will come back to D.C. where they will have a big bash on the south lawn. It will be the first as President Biden has been in office, holiday Fourth of July barbeque, where they will have thousands of essentially workers and military families all here to celebrate. President Biden will give remarks celebrating the independence from COVID, and also Independence Day.

But it also put the White House on defense as it raises some eyebrows, people asking, OK, should they be having such a large party as the Delta variant makes its way around the country? Of course, this event will be outside, and the White House officials say that they ask people to get a negative test one to three days before the event, and also mask up if they are not vaccinated. The White House says they are very, very confident that this will go off without a hitch. Boris, Christi?

PAUL: Jasmine Wright, good to see you, happy Fourth to you. Thank you so much.

So let's talk about this with CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. Dr. Wen, good morning to you. We're so grateful to have you with us this morning. So we just heard from Jasmine, the White House is preparing to send response teams into these hot spot areas with low vaccinations. At this point, what else could the White House do?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, first, Christi, I think it is a good idea for the White House to be sending these response teams because that's a core tenet of public health, that you should be going to where the need is. And the places that are undergoing these massive surges, they definitely need more resources when it comes to testing, contact tracing, more vaccine supplies, even public education campaigns targeted to these areas.

I actually think that at this point, what will be the most helpful is for there to be more work around vaccine verification. There are lots of private businesses that want to provide a safe environment for their workers and for their customers, something like a proof of vaccination. Not a vaccine passport, which is something that is mandatory, but something that is voluntary, that individuals want to carry around with them to have a safe environment when it comes to having a wedding celebration or going to a gym that they otherwise might not feel comfortable with. I think the White House can be doing a lot more in that regard.

And, actually, I really wish their celebration for Fourth of July mandates vaccines. This is the whole point. They want to show that vaccines are the ticket back to pre-pandemic normal. So why not do that? Why not say, vaccination is required to attend this big event?

PAUL: We can't necessarily, I guess, change the numbers that are out there based on what we're seeing right in this moment. However, I'm wondering if you have any hope that by seeing the numbers rising, that might be a reason that would get people to go get vaccinated if they haven't done so thus far.

WEN: I think it could be a motivator for some people. I definitely see patients still who are asking, well, why should I be getting vaccinated? Is this -- I thought that this pandemic is over or it's not going to affect me anymore.


And I think it really requires all of us reminding people that this pandemic is certainly not over. For people who are unvaccinated, their risk is very high right now because we're dealing with an extremely contagious variant, this Delta variant that's more contagious than any of the other variants that we've seen thus far. It also may cause more severe disease and is more likely to land even previously young and healthy in the hospital. And so I definitely think that we need to keep on reminding people who are unvaccinated that they are at high risk, not just of severe illness and death, but also of having long- term consequences that may result in fatigue, loss of concentration, things that will affect their daily lives and may last for years. PAUL: Yes, those long-term symptoms, long-haul symptoms, they are

real. And you've been with us through this entire pandemic, through the ups and downs and the ebbs and the flows. And I know that scientists in Europe now say by September, they expect to see mass outbreaks of this Delta variant. Based on what you're seeing, and I know I'm asking you to prognosticate, but do you expect that it's possible we could see something similar here in the U.S.?

WEN: In a way, we're already seeing that in the U.S. because we have pockets of the country with low vaccination rates that actually have more than 50 percent of their entire state having the Delta variant. And that's leading to major surges and hospitalizations once again. When we're looking at states like Missouri, where 70 percent of all their new infections are caused by the Delta variant. So I don't think that we're going to have a major national outbreak the way that we did back in the worst of things in December and January, but we're already seeing pockets of outbreaks now.

What I really am concerned about in the fall is the Delta variant is not going to be the last variant that we see. There may be other variants that are even more contagious or that may evade the protection of our vaccines. Right now, the vaccines we have in the U.S. protect very well against the Delta variant. But could there be variants arising in the future that render the vaccines we have less effective? That could certainly happen. And that's even more reason for us to stop the spread of these variants through vaccination.

PAUL: And are those vaccinations, are those companies looking at how they can modify the current vaccinations to try to thwart any other variant?

WEN: They are. And so here are the two things that scientists are monitoring now. First is, do the protection from the vaccines that we have, do they wane over time? Right now, it looks like the vaccines will provide pretty long-lasting immunity, probably even for years, which is great news. The second thing is they're looking to see, are there new mutations that arise over time that make the vaccines less effective? Right now, all the vaccines we have are effective against all the variants that there are. That's fantastic. But in the future, there may be variants that arise that we need a booster shot to target those. And that's something that scientists are working on. But, again, the best way we can stop those new variants from arising is by having enough vaccination to prevent those mutations from occurring in the first place.

PAUL: Dr. Leana Wen, we are grateful that you took some time to be with us this morning. Thank you so much, and happy Fourth.

WEN: Thank you. To you, too.

PAUL: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: We're following some breaking news out of Massachusetts right now. This is a standoff between police in the town of Wakefield and a group of men they say is armed and dangerous. Some residents nearby are being asked to lock their doors and stay in their homes as this goes on. Let's get to CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro. He's been following this. Evan, how did this all start? What's the latest?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Boris, as you mentioned, this is an ongoing situation, but we're hearing from police some of the details leading to this very, very disturbing incident. Police say around 1:30 last night, a police cruiser was driving up and down I-95 patrolling when it saw two vehicles parked on the side of the road with their flashers on. People inside those vehicles trying to refuel each other, is what police say. When the police stopped to talk to those folks, something happened. And some of the individuals ran off and led to this armed standoff. We asked some people in the woods and some in a van, in these vehicles still on I-95. We heard just recently from Massachusetts state police official who told us more about the details of what's going on.


COL. CHRISTOPHER MASON, MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE: They were clad in what I would describe as tactical or military style uniforms, BDUs, tactical vests, body-worn cameras. Some had slung long rifles. Some had side arms, pistols. Some had a combination of both.

We are hopeful we will be able to resolve this peacefully with them. We're committed to a negotiation with them, having a conversation. We're going to utilize time. Time is our ally in this.



MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Now, obviously, it's very early in this process to talk about things like motivation, but early reports from the scene said that these armed people said the laws of the United States didn't apply to them. And police in that press conference said the negotiation with the self-professed leaders of this group is saying, stressing that they're not anti-government.

But right now, obviously the focus is on trying to get this situation resolved. There are still armed people, they're still armed police talking to each other on I-95 in Massachusetts, which, of course, is a huge traffic problem for people trying to travel this holiday weekend, but also, a potentially dangerous situation that we're monitoring very closely that still goes on. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes, a potentially dangerous and bizarre situation unfolding. Evan McMorris Santoro, thanks for following up for us.

Still to come this hour, more heartbreak in the search for victims of that deadly building collapse in Surfside, Florida.

Plus, a plan to demolish what is left of the unstable tower as a storm moves in.

PAUL: Also, she was expected to compete for Olympic gold. Now, U.S. track star Sha'Carri Richardson might have to stay home after testing positive for marijuana. This is a serious debate that's going on right now. We'll talk about it. Stay close. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


PAUL: So, listen, there was this other heartbreaking discovery in the search and rescue efforts of the condo collapse. A seven-year-old daughter of a Miami city firefighter was found in the rubble last night.

SANCHEZ: The father was not part of the rescue, but he was working on the site, and fellow rescuers called him over when his daughter's remains were found.


MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, MIAMI-DADA COUNTY, FLORIDA: It goes without saying that every night since this last Wednesday has been immensely difficult for everybody, and particularly the families that have been impacted. But last night was uniquely different. It was truly different and more difficult for our first responders.


SANCHEZ: The death toll now at 22 confirmed, 126 people still unaccounted for. And there is yet another hurdle for the ongoing search and rescue efforts. The mayor of Miami-Dade County signing an emergency order, authorizing the demolition of the remaining portion of the structure of Champlain Towers South over fears that it may fall down. The mayor of Surfside explained what might happen once the demolition begins.


MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA: The issue with the tower, the remaining tower, is that it creates a dangerous situation for the workers, in that there's debris falling from it. So I imagine if it were to be demolished, the demolition preparation could take place while the crews were working. And during the time the building was actually collapsing, the workers would obviously have to step away. But immediately following the collapse, the workers could reengage.


PAUL: Now, officials are also keeping a close eye on this, hurricane Elsa. There are concerns that the threat of heavy rainfall and strong winds could interrupt the operations, obviously. CNN's Natasha Chen is live this morning in Surfside, Florida. What are you learning about the search and rescue efforts there this morning, Natasha?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Boris, it's still ongoing, even though there's talk of having to potentially pause for that storm as it comes through. The demolition will also not occur until after that storm at the very least.

You can imagine at this point that other residents in other buildings in this area are highly concerned about their own structures, to try to prevent a similar tragedy from happening. And our colleague, Brian Todd, has obtained a letter from a person close to the Champlain Towers East building. And I want to show you this letter that he obtained. It talks about this falling concrete on a pillar that occurred after the collapse of the South Tower. And it discusses shoring up that concrete there and also installing 13 sensors to monitor movement of other columns in the building, to ensure safety.

And I want to read this one part to you. It says, "The board has been assured by seven different engineers that the building is safe and in good shape. However, the board believes out of an abundance of caution that this repair should be done immediately to relieve any doubts anyone might have. The permit to repair the post has been written and with drawings required will be submitted Monday for city approval." So this is just an example of the type of urgency with which these structural engineers and people in other buildings are assessing their own living spaces.

At the same time, back at this site, we are talking about a search and rescue mission that, of course, is facing multiple challenges, including the weather, including the fact the existing remaining parts of the structure look like they could collapse. And that's according to a county lawyer who wrote that in a court filing on Friday. Here is the Miami-Dade fire chief discussing those challenges.


CHIEF ALAN COMINSKY, MIAMI-DADE FIRE RESCUE: It's very difficult, very challenging situation. Our men and women are out there working, doing what they need to do, with this still partial building that is definitely structurally compromised. So, it's just one challenge onto the next. We're doing what we do. We do the best that we can. We're moving forward. Our spirits are positive, but it's difficult. The challenge is definitely just exacerbating the situation.


CHEN: And we're expecting in a few minutes for officials to give another update. Again, 22 confirmed dead at this point, 126 people still unaccounted for. And we are also expecting the governor to give us an update this morning, as well. Christi and Boris?

SANCHEZ: Natasha Chen, thank you so much for that.

The tragic condo collapse in Surfside has prompted inspections of other high-rise condos in the area. And it did not take long to find a dangerous situation at a building in nearby North Miami Beach.


Residents given only two hours to pack up whatever they could and get out after an engineering report deemed the Crestview Towers structurally and electrically unsafe.

PAUL: Officials say they had to tell people to get out right away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The report they submitted us was dated January 11th, but we just received it approximately around 2:00 this afternoon. The report just spoke of spalling concrete. And we know that's the buzzword these days, so when we saw that in the report, we knew we had to act immediately.


PAUL: And a resident of the building says it's unfortunate, but he'd rather be safe than sorry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand. It's the right call, knowing what happened in Surfside. So it's better to be safe than sorry, better to be safe than sorry. Again, it's unfortunate, but it's the right call for the safety of others.


PAUL: We're, of course, on the ground there still, and we will continue to keep you informed today and for the days ahead.

Listen, there was a better-than-expected boost to the economy. The U.S. added an impressive 850,000 jobs in June. We're still millions of jobs shy, though, of where things stood prior to the pandemic. So what's really keeping people on the sidelines? We'll talk about it.



PAUL: The coronavirus pandemic, as you know, decimated the hiring market, but a new jobs report shows some strong signs of recovery. President Biden spoke to reporters yesterday about the positive numbers.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is historic progress, pulling our economy out of the worst crisis in 100 years. The last time the economy grew at this rate was in 1984, and Ronald Reagan was telling us it's morning in America. Well, it's getting close to afternoon here. The sun is coming out.


PAUL: What do the numbers really mean? Here's Christine Romans to break it down for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Christi, a strong month of hiring in a labor market digging out of a deep jobs hole caused by the coronavirus pandemic. And 850,000 jobs were added back in June, the biggest gain since August last year. The unemployment rate ticking up slightly to 5.9 percent. As pandemic restrictions eased, leisure and hospitality showed strong jobs growth of 340,000 jobs added back. Further gains in professional and business services, retail, and manufacturing. We also saw strong gains in education as schools returned to in-person learning at the end of the school year.

These are solid numbers. Vaccinations and re-openings are fueling a roaring post-COVID economy. But the U.S. economy is still down 6.8 million jobs still the start of the pandemic. The hope is that hiring really heats up this fall when more schools reopen and more people get vaccinated.

Boris, Christi?

PAUL: Christine Romans, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Let's dig deeper with a Daniel Zhao. He's a senior economist and lead data scientist at Glassdoor. Daniel, thanks for joining us this holiday weekend. We just heard Christine say that the hope is hiring picks up in the fall. There are plenty of jobs available right now, so why is it so hard for employers to find workers?

DANIEL ZHAO, SENIOR ECONOMIST AND LEAD DATA SCIENTIST, GLASSDOOR: Well, for many workers, the largest factor keeping them out of the workforce right now is still the ongoing pandemic. That creates a lot of health and safety concerns, childcare challenges, and other considerations which make it difficult for workers to be available right now. On top of that, you also have early retirements, a wave which has really removed a set of workers from the labor market. and on top of that, we're also seeing record quits as many workers are actually leaving the jobs that they're currently in now.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And I want to ask you about that. A lot of people have re-evaluated their work situations during the pandemic, how much time they're spending at the office, how often they're commuting. They feel that they can easily find another job if they quit. So lifestyle choices make up a bigger decision in how to work. What advice would you give to folks who are in that position?

ZHAO: Well, I would say that for many workers, there's never been a better time to look for a new job. Right now, the labor market is very tight, even though we are coming out of this crisis. And so as employers raise wages and compensation to try to attract workers, it's often beneficial for job seekers and even current employees to look for a better job now and lock in those higher wages.

SANCHEZ: Yes. How are some employers being forced to be more flexible and maintain good employees? I've seen McDonald's in Utah, for example, paying double the minimum wage. What are you seeing?

ZHAO: Well, we have seen many employers offer these one-time or temporary bonuses, but I think actually the more interesting thing is that many employers have turned to actual permanent increases in wages or even are offering better benefits or more flexibility because, to your point, a lot of this has to do with the fact that workers are not really comfortable with returning to the way that they worked before the pandemic began. So that flexibility, the ability to work from home, that's really an important consideration for many workers today. SANCHEZ: And is there a concern about inflation with higher wages?

ZHAO: Well, it is possible that we will see higher inflation as some of these increase in wages are passed on to consumers.


But for the time being, I think the expectation is that most of these inflationary pressures will be relatively short lived. On the labor shortages side, there might be some continued pressure on employers with continuing labor shortages through the end of the year at least. But I do expect that things will ease as the pandemic abates and the economy starts to reopen more fully.

SANCHEZ: All right, Daniel Zhao, thank you so much for the expertise.

ZHAO: Thanks for having me.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

PAUL: So a star U.S. sprinter is suspended, putting her Olympic future in limbo. The debate over her marijuana violation, that's next.


SANCHEZ: Just weeks after securing a spot to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics, track and field star Sha'Carri Richardson has been suspended from the team after a drug test showed marijuana in her system.


Though she used marijuana in Oregon, where recreational use is legal, it is labeled a performance-enhancing drug by the U.S. anti-doping agency, which sets rules followed by the U.S. Olympic team. The 21- year-old took responsibility for the suspension and explained that she used marijuana as a way to cope with the death of her biological mother, which she learned about from a reporter during an interview. Listen.


SHA'CARRI RICHARDSON, SUSPENDED FROM U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM: I apologize. I need to know how to control my emotions. During that time, and I would just leave it out, like I tweeted and said yesterday, I'm human. We're human.


SANCHEZ: Sha'Carri Richardson has been disqualified from her signature 100 meter race, though it is unclear if she is going to be able to participate in other events or have to miss the games all together.

Our next guest has some experience in these issues, former Pro Bowl running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. Ricky, we are glad to have you. I have to disclose to the audience that there is a conflict of interest. I'm a Dolphins fan. I grew up watching you and cheering the team on. So I am grateful that you are with us.

And for those that are unfamiliar with your story, during your career, you were diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. You used marijuana to alleviate that, and it wound up costing you. You were suspended multiple times by the NFL. You walked away from the game for some time. You were called an addict. You were ridiculed. And yet now the world had changed. Almost half the country has legalized marijuana, and the NFL doesn't punish players the way that it once did. So is it fair, in your eyes, that Sha'Carri is being punished this way?

RICKY WILLIAMS, FORMER NFL PLAYER: The idea of fair, I talk to my kids about this a lot when they say that life is not fair. And I say what does that even mean? So I think the way the world works is we have to fit into these institutions and, often, we have to follow rules that often aren't really helpful to us as individuals. And hopefully as we evolve as humanity, the institutions can kind of evolve with us.

And so I think you have situations like myself. I was suspended and got in a lot of trouble for cannabis back in 2004. And it took over 15 years, but now the NFL has decided that they're no longer going to suspend players for cannabis. And so I think sometimes, pioneers inadvertently sometimes come out and allow us to have these conversations. And I think this is how institutions evolve. And hopefully the IOC and the necessary powers do the right thing and evolve, and take a look at cannabis and say, does this still make sense to suspend people for this?

SANCHEZ: Well, I want to ask you about that, because the World Doping Agency sets the policy for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. And they refer to work by the National Health Institutes for their rules. Here's their logic for banning marijuana as a performance-enhancing substance. They write, quote, "Smoke cannabis can decrease anxiety, fear, depression, and tension. Cannabis smoking reduces, anxiety, allowing athletes to better perform under pressure and to alleviate stress experienced before and during competition." Further, they argue that cannabis has a major role in the "extinction of fear memories. Athletes who experience traumatic events in their sports career could benefit from such an effect." Notably, though, they don't ban prescription anxiety medication, which is designed to do the same thing. So do you think it's time to update these rules?

WILLIAMS: It is. It is. As people really start to educate themselves on the history of cannabis being made illegal, it has a lot of racial undertones and a lot of political undertones. And so now, it's cool in 2020, 2021 to be woke, to wake up and start to make some of these changes. And so I think the timing is perfect for this.

SANCHEZ: Sha'Carri is getting support from all corners of the sports world, something that you certainly did not get back in the day. What's your message to her?

WILLIAMS: It's a very directed message. Me getting in trouble, what it did is it added more meaning and purpose to my career as a football player. And I went from just being an athlete to being an advocate. And I think this is an opportunity for a young athlete to realize, sports is a platform. And I think ultimately, even the best athletes are done in their early 40s. And this is a good wake-up call to think, OK, I'm a sprinter. I'm an athlete. But what else? She has a perfect opportunity with this, with us having this conversation, and so many people in the country, so many people in the world having this conversation. So I think she should be proud of herself. And stay strong, and know that it's going to work itself out.


SANCHEZ: It doesn't sound like you think she should have apologized.

WILLIAMS: I don't. I don't. I understand, and I remember when I came back from my year-long hiatus with the Dolphins, and I had the first press conference. And everyone was telling me that I needed to apologize. And I understood that people were upset at the way everything went down, and I disappointed a lot of people, and so I addressed that. But I didn't feel the need to apologize personally because I was doing what I felt I had to do to take care of myself.

SANCHEZ: I do want to ask you about this. Your work on mental health goes much further than marijuana. You're an advocate for a lot of different paths toward well-being. So how do you think the issue of mental health in sports needs to be addressed? And what kind of resources should be provided?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think that, first and foremost, is it needs to be addressed. And I think one of the ways the NFL Players Association got the NFL to change their rules around cannabis is they took a strong stance and said, this isn't a substance abuse issue. This is a wellness issue. And I think we just need to start changing the way we talk about cannabis, instead of talking about it as a drug of abuse, which it can be, but I think what we're seeing more and more, people are self-medicating. And I think cannabis use is a good way to enter the conversation about being more self-aware and about looking within and working on ourselves.

And so I think part of -- the truth is, most athletes, in order to perform on the field, you have to do something to take care of your mental health. And I think competing at a high level just invites so much more stress into your life. And so I think things like cannabis, like medication, like just general nutrition and sleep are necessary to maintain mental and physical health, especially for athletes. And my thinking is that these gov governing bodies should put the athletes in the best possible position to take as best care of themselves as possible.

SANCHEZ: Ricky, when you think about people like Michael Phelps and Naomi Osaka and others who have elevated the conversation about mental health, not just in sports but in other facets of life, you were before your time. And I don't think you got a fair shake. I think people judged you before they could hear you out. I'm glad that you were here so we could hear you out this morning. Ricky Williams, thanks so much for the time, and happy Fourth.

WILLIAMS: Yes, thanks for having me.

SANCHEZ: Of course. PAUL: So there is some brutal heat going on in the west. Apparently,

there may be a break coming. We'll talk about the weather and what you're going to look at this holiday weekend. Stay close.



PAUL: Listen, if you are in the northern U.S., you don't need me to tell you how hot it is. In the south, though, all of the eyes are on what is now tropical storm Elsa as it tracks toward Florida. CNN's Tyler Mauldin is with us. Nothing that I just said supports anybody going outside this weekend.


TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. All right, good morning, Christi. Good morning that all to have you at home.

Fourth of July weekend is upon us. Overall, the weather is looking fairly tame, but we do have a couple of blemishes on the weather map. Let me take you through those. Number one is this cold front down here across the southeast today that's going to bring some rainfall to northern Florida and the panhandle of Florida. Then we have more in the way of rainfall across New England. And then yes, we continue to see the extreme heat up here across the northern Rockies.

So one could say as we go into Fourth of July that the grills aren't the only thing heating up. It's 102 in Salt Lake City, that is quite warm for this time of year. Near record high for you, 95 in Billings, and 97 degrees in Minneapolis. We are going to see a mixture of sun and clouds here. So despite the heat, it looks nice. So if you minus the heat, the weather actually looks pretty good.

And the weather looks fine in Atlanta on the Fourth of July. But we continue to see those lingering showers across the deep south. Boston, not perfect Fourth of July weather for you. It is going to be pretty cloudy, a little chilly, 67 degrees. Stark contrast to what you were dealing with just the other day, because you did have a high of 100 degrees earlier this week. And yes, you'll contend with the rain.

Now, switching gears here and going down to the Caribbean, the hurricane hunters are currently investigating what is now tropical storm Elsa. They've only found winds of 60 to 70 miles per hour within the system. So that is why it has been downgraded to a 70-mile-per- hour tropical storm. It's still got gusts up to 85, and it is moving to the west-northwest at 29. That is nearly twice as fast as a regular tropical storm would be moving forward, and that is really adding to the demise of, currently, tropical storm Elsa.

And we continue to see this move to the northwest. And as it does so, it'll continue to weaken a little bit. It'll maintain its wind speed of a 70-mile-per-hour storm through eastern Cuba, and then as it impacts -- gets impacted by the mountainous terrain of Cuba, it continues to weaken. And then as you can see, it then reemerges in the Florida strait. And we have to continue watching it all the way into Florida next week.

PAUL: Tyler Mauldin, we appreciate it.

MAULDIN: You got it.

PAUL: Happy Fourth.

MAULDIN: You, too.

PAUL: And thank you so much for being with us. We hope you make good memories today. Fredricka Whitfield is coming up next for your next hour of CNN Newsroom.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but before we go, we want to share a programming note. Do not forget about CNN's star-studded Fourth of July special, an evening of music, fireworks, and we could potentially try to get you food. I don't know how that would work.



But keep in mind, it starts at 7:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: July 4th. America is open. It's time to celebrate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Full on fireworks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With coast to coast performances from Bebe Rexha, Billy Ray Cyrus, Black Eyed Peas, Blues Traveler, Brad Paisley, Chicago, Flo Rida, Foreigner, Neo, Nelly, REO Speedwagon, Sammy Hagar and the Circle, Susanna Hoffs, the Beach Boys, Tasha Cobbs Letter, Trisha Yearwood, and more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Join Don Lemon, Dana Bash, Victor Blackwell, and Ana Cabrera for "The Fourth in America" Live July 4th at 7:00 on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't want to miss it.