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At Least 20 Unaccounted for after Japan Mudslide; War in Afghanistan; Immune Response to Combined Vaccines "Clearly Superior"; Health Officials Warn of COVID-19 Surge after July 4th Travel; New Challenges for Surfside Search and Rescue; Canada Heat Wave; State Parks Report Problem from Visitors' Trash and Graffiti. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 3, 2021 - 03:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton and we begin with breaking news out of Japan, where authorities say at least 20 people are unaccounted for now after a mudslide smashed into the city of Ahed Tamimi, southwest of the capital.

We want to bring in CNN's Selina Wang, who is joining us live from Tokyo.

Selina, just extraordinary pictures and I can imagine the rescue mission has started.

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Paula, very devastating videos posted on social media. Officials say firefighters are conducting their search and rescue mission. At least 20 people are missing after this mudslide swept across Atami city in Shizuoka prefecture. This is more than 50 miles southwest of Tokyo.

If you take a look at that video, you can see the destruction of homes, a huge amount of debris, infrastructure being engulfed in this mudslide, shocked people, bystanders, a lot of shock on social media as well. Again, evacuation orders have been issued. The search and rescue mission is underway. No deaths have been reported yet.

The Shizuoka prefectural officials are also asking for support from Japan's self-defense forces. And right now, Paula, we are in the middle of Japan's annual rainy season. It often causes floods and landslides. In fact, in 2018, more than 200 people died from devastating floods.

Right now, Japan's entire Pacific Coast has been hammered by torrential rain, which is what triggered this disaster earlier this morning. According to the national broadcaster, the mudslide occurred around 10:30 am local time.

The prime minister has set up a task force to monitor the impact here. As of 2:00 pm local time here, more than 2,800 households in the city are out of power. Paula, unfortunately, according to local weather officials here, they say to expect more and potentially worse as more rain is expected here -- Paula.

NEWTON: Selina, every time I'm watching this video, I notice larger and larger structures that are really toppling down the hill and more debris. And obviously there has got to be some danger for people who are still on the side of that hill in the sense that it has likely made other buildings unstable.

Do you get a sense they are able to reach this site right now?

WANG: Well, Paula, we've been told by officials that the search and rescue mission is underway. They are expected to get support from the self-defense forces. Evacuation orders have been issued.

Japan is a country that is used to having these sorts of mudslides, landslides. In 2018, it was especially severe. Japan also regularly deals with earthquakes. Their infrastructure is normally well-built to prepare for this.

But as we see from that video, Paula, extremely devastating, just this massive, torrential slide, all that debris, all that infrastructure being sucked in there. We hope that the report of the number of missing people does not increase. Again, we still do not know how many deaths. No reports yet, so we just have to wait and see, Paula.

NEWTON: OK. Selina, I know you will continue to bring us the latest from there. We will bring you more information when we have it. Right now, Japanese rescue workers on their way and they're on the scene, trying to find at least 20 people that remain unaccounted for. Selina Wang in Tokyo, thanks so much.

Top military commanders are warning of a looming civil war in Afghanistan. All U.S. troops finished pulling out of Bagram Air Base on Friday, the most significant move yet in the ongoing withdrawal. Now the sprawling compound was the center of military power during the 20-year conflict.

The White House says the drawdown will be complete by the end of August and President Biden says it will be up to Afghanistan to decide its own future. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more from the White House.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With little fanfare, the U.S. left Afghanistan's largest air base and effectively ended two decades of war.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're on track exactly as to where we expect it to be.

COLLINS (voice-over): Although the official drawdown from Afghanistan isn't over yet, the departure from Bagram Air Base sends a strong signal that U.S. operations are.

COLLINS: What is the latest date that the White House is looking at right now?


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, we currently expect it to be completed by the end of August.

COLLINS (voice-over): The sprawling compound was often visited by U.S. leaders and became the center of military power in Afghanistan after being the first to house U.S. forces following the 2001 invasion. The U.S. is handing the air base over to the Afghan government amid new concerns about what they're leaving behind.

QUESTION: Are you worried that the Afghan government might fall?

I mean, we are hearing that the Taliban was taking more and more districts.

BIDEN: Look, we were in that war for 20 years, 20 years. I think they have the capacity to be able to sustain a government.

COLLINS (voice-over): The top American commander in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller, recently warned that civil war is, quote, "certainly a path that can be visualized."

GEN. AUSTIN SCOTT MILLER, COMMANDER, ABSOLUTE SUPPORT: We're starting to create conditions here that won't look good for Afghanistan in the future if there is a push for a military takeover.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Biden growing frustrated when pressed on what could happen.

QUESTION: A follow on, Afghanistan --

BIDEN: I want to talk about happy things, man. I'm not going to answer more questions on Afghanistan. Look, it's the 4th of July.

COLLINS (voice-over): There are also other major concerns, like what happens to thousands of Afghans, who are now targets of retaliation from the Taliban, after working alongside the U.S. troops. The U.S. is reportedly in talks with three central Asian countries to temporarily house those Afghans while they wait for U.S. visas.

PSAKI: They will be relocated to a location outside of Afghanistan. There are a range of options that will happen before we complete our military drawdown by the end of August.

COLLINS: And during that briefing, Jen Psaki defended the president's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, ultimately saying that, when they were doing this review earlier this year, making the decision about how to move forward, they did not sugarcoat it and they did not base it off of best-case scenarios -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


NEWTON: We go straight to CNN's Nic Robertson, who joins me in London, for analysis on this.

Nic, the speed of this seems to have taken even Biden's own military commanders by surprise. I will say refreshingly they spoke their mind about what they thought might happen.

But is there a sense as to, you know, when the Biden administration -- why the Biden administration wants out now, especially if, as some analysts have indicated, it will, in fact -- could be China that fills the power vacuum there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. I think the military has always had so much more invested in Afghanistan in toil and blood than politicians. We tend to sort of see that as being the same thing as under one roof, one government.

Of course they are. But the military does -- is closer on the ground to what's happening and they have spoken their mind. And it is disturbing.

And what we've heard military commanders say about the level of violence, you know, I'm hearing reflected through Western diplomats, through Afghan officials as well and this real sort of shock, essentially, of the Taliban's speedy offensive that's ricocheting through the government. It's certainly having an impact on the Afghan army.

The Afghan government really thought, at the beginning of all of this in 2001, the United States was there for the long haul. They thought they would be a partner in the same way that South Korea, in the same way that Japan have been for decades and decades and decades with the United States.

And their real concern is now is that, once the troops leave, there will be a sort of a potential diplomatic political vacuum. They want all those NATO nations, they want the United States to remain actively, politically engaged in Afghanistan, because, otherwise, they fear there would be a vacuum.

And one of the countries that they really fear could fill that vacuum -- or say could fill that vacuum -- would be China. And, of course, the United States, at the moment, is engaged in a diplomatic confrontation with China over a multitude of things -- militarization, trade relations, et cetera, et cetera.

So you know, there is a real feeling in Afghanistan that, once the troops go, they're going to be on their own. But there will be others coming and China would be the top of that list.

NEWTON: Yes. Nic, I know you won't say it but I will. You have covered this conflict from the time it started to -- it's not ended now -- but to this withdrawal, I mean, literally two decades of this. I must say it is breathtaking to me, the fact that that whole counterintelligence component and the reason that they went in in the first place, right?

And when you see the rise of ISIS in Iraq after the American pullout, you wonder what the endgame is here. What are you hearing about what is going on on the ground already?

Because it certainly seems that the Taliban is jubilant about the prospect of how, you know, 20 years of U.S. involvement may lead to nothing.


ROBERTSON: Yes. I mean, look, the Taliban were supposed to cut ties with Al Qaeda. They haven't. Al Qaeda still uses parts of Taliban- controlled Afghanistan as a base.

The Taliban would say that these Al Qaeda members are not a threat to the United States. The U.S., we've heard from the State Department, from the White House, that they don't believe that Al Qaeda based in Afghanistan is a threat to the United States.

But that idea, as you say, of losing the intelligence oversight, to have more people on the ground, to have a greater sense of what's happening in Afghanistan, that's -- that's very real.

You know, one of the thoughts about standing up the Afghan army and the support for the Afghan army was you can bring in NATO air support. And that helps keep the Afghan army strong on the ground. And it did. And now that air support's leaving almost entirely. The Afghan army is now surrendering in some places.

They needed that air support. So there was a backbone to standing up the security in Afghanistan. It was NATO's training and its airstrike capacity. But part of that backbone was the intelligence assets that wrapped around everything, you know.

One Western expert put it to me like the tentacles of an octopus, wrapped around and fed in all that vital information about where the threats were and how best to combat them.

By pulling forces out, that is going to be reduced significantly, to the detriment of the Afghan national army and defense and security of Afghanistan. And it's to the detriment of the international community, knowing what potential terrorists in the country might be fomenting.

NEWTON: Yes, and acutely to the detriment of the Afghan people. Nic Robertson, we will continue to rely on your expertise in the region to see what happens next. Appreciate it.

We have much more ahead on CNN. We'll go live to Rome, where COVID worries have driven Italian authorities to make a tough call regarding British football fans. We'll explain after the break.




(MUSIC PLAYING) NEWTON: U.S. airports expect record travel over the weekend with some busier than pre-pandemic levels and health experts are reminding those travelers who aren't vaccinated, make sure you wear that mask.

This comes as the Delta variant is surging in parts of the United States. But with less than half of Americans fully vaccinated, officials are worried all that travel could fuel the spread of the highly transmissible variants.

COVID concerns have led to an unusual move ahead of Saturday's England versus Ukraine Euro 2020 match in Rome. Authorities have canceled tickets belonging to U.K. residents. Health officials fear that British travelers would try to circumvent Italian quarantine requirements.

Meantime, a German study says mixing vaccines can provide strong protection against COVID. Researchers say a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and a dose of an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna, provide, in their words, "a superior immune response." That's important to many countries where vaccines are in short supply.

We are joined by Cyril Vanier in London and Barbie Nadeau in Rome.

Cyril, Canada has been doing this for several weeks, mixing and matching the doses. In fact, early Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received the AstraZeneca vaccine in April.

But guess what?

On Friday he received the Moderna as his second shot. Now this study seems to confirm that that was a good idea, that it offers better protection.

But how will this change potentially the rollout of the vaccine, not just in Germany but in Europe?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's not going to change the rollout massively in the short term because Europe now has enough vaccines to vaccinate its population.

And really the pace of the vaccination rollout is no longer dictated by the number of vaccines -- or the dearth of vaccines, as it has been for several months in the early stages. Now it's just about getting shots in arms. That's why now the vaccination effort is moving pretty quickly in Europe.

So in the short term I don't see it changing the vaccination effort. It could change rollout in other countries that are still struggling to get the right number of doses.

If they have doses of AstraZeneca and they're going to get doses of an mRNA vaccine, they no longer have to wait until they have both doses, right?

The full vaccination schedule for their population, they can move ahead with what they have in their fridges and then, if they get a different vaccine for the second dose, that's going to be fine.

And I think really, Paula, the other takeaway from this news is this is the strongest recommendation we have seen yet in favor of mixing and matching vaccines. I mean, yes; Canada has done it and said that it could happen.

Now Germany is saying that it should happen. Angela Merkel, like Justin Trudeau, has mixed and matched her vaccines. Look, I'm no scientist but what's happening here is we've known since the beginning that these -- the different vaccines operate differently, right?

They work on different platforms. And the AstraZeneca vaccine is what's known as an adenovirus vaccine. The Moderna or Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines and they trigger an immune response in slightly different ways.

There is now a growing body of evidence that, if you mix your vaccines, you have a stronger immune response, probably because your body has been challenged in different ways and is better at responding to the coronavirus.

This, Paula, could be extremely good news because it means we now have -- we're now able to produce better immunity than any of the vaccines can do alone.

NEWTON: Yes, and crucially, in places where they don't have enough vaccine, it's very important.

Barbie, we were talking about Euro 2020 there. It's top of mind but the real competition now seems to be about these vaccines. And I guess Italy just isn't confident enough that what they've done so far on the vaccines can actually outrun this Delta variant.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. That is the concern, especially when you're talking about these massive crowds that are gathering in Rome tonight.


NADEAU: Only 38 percent of the Italian population has had two doses of the vaccine. So much of that is because of the mixed messaging of AstraZeneca early on and the fact that they suspended it for a number of age groups.

Now they're mixing and matching vaccines here quite consistently because a lot of people that got the first AstraZeneca dose no longer qualify under the new requirements.

But there is the concern. Brazil was the epicenter of the pandemic. Early on, so many people died. So much of the economy was destroyed in the lockdowns. When you look at something like the Euro 2020 gatherings, a lot of people who lost so much are concerned that maybe it's just too early to get these huge crowds, these huge gatherings, you know, 13,500 people at the stadium tonight in Rome.

There will be thousands of others gathered in piazzas across the city and in the bars and in the pubs. People are worried it's just too soon to be going back to normal, especially when the population isn't vaccinated to the extent they should be -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, we'll see what happens in the coming days. Cyril Vanier in London and Barbie Nadeau in Rome, thanks to you both.

Now global health officials keep making the case that the best way to combat the pandemic, of course, is to get more people vaccinated. It's becoming more and more urgent that the spread of the Delta variant is now taking hold.

But many people, as you know, remain hesitant and refuse to get their shots. Heidi Larson is director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. She joins me now from Edinburgh, Scotland.

There are obviously people who can't be convinced. You and I both know them.

But those who aren't actually anti-vaccine, just hesitant, please let us know, what works best in your opinion to try and get them to get those shots?

HEIDI LARSON, LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE: Well, it's quite a spectrum of different reasons. But I think the first thing we need to do is understand what their particular issues are, what their concerns are because then we can try to address them.

Sometimes actually they're far more practical than we assume. They just don't know where to get the vaccines or it's -- you know, they need a bit of support to get there. They can't take time off from work.

But then more of the hesitancy tends to come from safety concerns and other related stories they've heard. There are risks with vaccines and that's a challenge for us as a scientific community.

But it's such a minor risk relative to the threat of the virus. And trying to put that in perspective in a way that's somehow relevant to their lives. But I think we do need to listen to what people's concerns are because one of the problems has been we've kind of thrown information at this problem. And that's not what they're looking for.

NEWTON: So is that part of the issue, though, is to validate concerns and then move from there in terms of trying to get them to finally overcome that hesitancy and get the shot?

LARSON: Absolutely. I mean, just being able to express their concerns, be reassured or, you know, if they do have questions, I think we haven't had enough time for those conversations in general with vaccinations but particularly in the context of COVID-19, where, you know, people are fragile. It's been a long 1.5 years.

NEWTON: It definitely has. In terms of the groups that are hesitant, OK, we know young people, for instance -- and it's showing up in the data -- young people have been hesitant and for a variety of reasons. What puzzles me is groups like even health care workers that at times have been hesitant. That's borne out in research here in the United States and elsewhere.


Why are these particular groups so skeptical, groups that you'd think would be clamoring to get a vaccine?

LARSON: Yes. We assume a lot about health care professionals. We do see that this is more of an issue with nurses than doctors. In a number of our studies, when we do ask why, they often just refer to the safety concerns.

Maybe it's because they're more exposed, more on the front lines of the safety research. But actually that should make them more confident in terms of perspective. But we have to remember that these are also, as they say, these are people, too.

They go home to communities, families and other influences outside of their workplace, and they have the same human factors, you can call it, that other people do. So I think that we need to listen to that.

I think what's the challenge, then, is can you require people to have them?

I think in certain cases, it's reasonable to require health workers to get vaccinated or, you know, they either take a furlough -- I mean, they take some leave or they work in a different type of area.


LARSON: This Delta variant is hypercontagious and you really don't want to be -- I think reminding the responsibility to not only protect yourself but protect your patients, protect those around you.

And the word protection, in looking at billions and billions of vaccine conversations around the world, the one word that resonated so positively in vaccine conversations is the word protection, much more than stopping disease, much more than stopping the spread.

Protection really seems to resonate with people in a more empathetic and positive way.


NEWTON: Go ahead.

LARSON: The one thing that we found in all these conversations is that the one thing that people react negatively to is any suggestion of moral responsibility. That really creates kickback.

NEWTON: That's fascinating. So you're saying, really look at the words that are being used. So protection is one thing; the fear factor or obligation or moral stand usually doesn't work.

LARSON: No. It sends a signal of judgment. And I think we don't have a lot of tolerance for judgment right now.

NEWTON: Yes, and that makes sense. And as I was saying, it seems that people want to be validated in their concerns and that's how you get to yes, right?

Because I'm sure --


LARSON: Absolutely.

NEWTON: -- yes, at this point, especially with the Delta variant, many people need to get to yes. Heidi Larson, some really good information in there and I appreciate it. I hope people are listening because, as I said, we all have someone we know who is hesitant about getting the vaccine. Appreciate your time.

LARSON: Thanks very much.

NEWTON: And I am Paula Newton. For our international viewers, "AFRICAN VOICES" is next. For everyone else, the news continues, including with the breaking news out of Japan about that landslide. Stay with us.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

NEWTON: And I want to welcome back our viewers here in the United States and Canada. I'm Paula Newton. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

We have breaking news this hour from Japan, where authorities say at least 20 people are unaccounted for after a massive mudslide suddenly crashed into the city of Ahed Tamimi, southwest of Tokyo. It happened just a few hours ago.

The country's Pacific Coast has been hammered recently by torrential rains. Officials had set up a task force to monitor the impact. According to Tepco officials, more than 2,800 households in the city are out of power and you can certainly see why, looking at those devastating pictures of the landslide coming down the road there.



NEWTON: We have several major developments to tell you about in the devastating collapse of the condo building in Surfside, Florida. An emergency order was issued on Friday to tear down the remaining structure of Champlain Towers South over fears it may fall down. Now that demolition is expected within weeks. At least 22 deaths have

been confirmed in the rubble, with 126 others still missing. An attorney for Miami-Dade County says the damaged building is unstable and poses a danger to search and rescue crews below.

And now there are concerns about bad weather on the horizon. We get the latest now from CNN's Brian Todd in Surfside.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Miami-Dade County mayor announced she signed an emergency order authorizing demolition of the building.

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D-FL), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: This was not a decision we made lightly and I know especially how difficult this is for the families who escaped the building and who have lost their homes and their belongings.

The building poses a threat to public health and safety and bringing it down as quickly as possible is critical to protect our community.

TODD (voice-over): While the timeline has not been set yet, two more victims were recovered and Thursday night, a heartbreaking discovery, the 7-year-old daughter of a Miami City firefighter found in the rubble. The father was not part of that rescue but he was called over by his fellow rescuers when his daughter's remains were found.


CAVA: 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.

TODD (voice-over): New information showing the Champlain South condo board knew of severe concrete deterioration months before the collapse. In an October 2020 letter, an engineering firm hired by the building highlighted the pool structure as a problem area.

They stated, "Full restoration repair work could not be performed in part because it could destabilize the surrounding concrete and because the pool was to remain in service."

Meanwhile, the very similar high-rise on the next block is getting further inspection.

MAYOR CHARLES BURKETT (I-FL), SURFSIDE: Our building official, in conjunction with our experts, are now getting ready to X-ray columns and do a deep dive, a forensic study, into the structure.


TODD (voice-over): Structural engineer Allyn Kilsheimer says it's not clear if the standing structure of the Champlain South Tower is in imminent danger of collapse or if there is a risk of heavy slabs or other debris falling. Still the possibility of that and the fact that some of the rubble has shifted is worrisome.

QUESTION: Should it be demolished?

KILSHEIMER: The bottom line is we -- you know, there is the emotional issue and then there's the structural issue, right? OK. Most probably, this portion of the building that you see the debris hanging from, that portion of the building, most probably, should be taken down.

TODD (voice-over): Kilsheimer has been hired by the town of Surfside to investigate this collapse and assess the safety of other nearby buildings. A key safety concern: a large column and a big concrete slab that are hanging from the open decimated facade.

KILSHEIMER: You know, the hanging debris is kind of unstable.

TODD (voice-over): Another big worry, Elsa, the storm that may be a hurricane when it approaches this area and may hit this area.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): This area could see tropical form (sic) -- tropical storm force winds.

KILSHEIMER: The first thing I'd worry about, even if it's 40-mile-an- hour winds, is debris getting blown off of this building.

TODD: Allyn Kilsheimer says it won't be until after they can account for as many people as possible in that rubble. Then, after they demolish the rest of the existing tower right here.

Then, after he and other experts can physically get into the rubble and painstakingly examine all of it, only until after all of that, he says, can we begin to find out the cause of this collapse.

All of that could take months, Kilsheimer says, and he is asking all of us to be patient -- Brian Todd, CNN, Surfside, Florida.


NEWTON: Now in the wake of the collapse, nearby areas have been reviewing the safety of their own high-rise condos. Officials in North Miami Beach are calling for the immediate evacuation and closure of one building that has already been deemed unsafe. CNN's Rosa Flores has the details.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The city of North Miami Beach asking all of the residents of the building that you see behind me to evacuate. Officials say that the building is structurally and electrically not safe.

Now here's the backstory: this building was built in 1972. It has more than 150 units and, according to the city, this building had not filed its 40-year recertification. Well, after what happened in Surfside and the collapse there, they say that they've asked all the buildings to resubmit their paperwork. Well, today, according to the city, the building submitted this

report, which is dated January 11th. On the front page, on the first page, it says that the building is considered structurally and electrically not safe. That's why city officials say that they acted very swiftly.

From talking to some of the residents here, I can tell you that they say that they showed up to their homes -- some of them were out and about -- and they found police officers in the building, asking people, urging people to grab what they could from their homes and to exit the building immediately.

They were given two to three hours to pack up and leave. And, of course, right now, it's hurricane season. There is a hurricane in the Atlantic. And so all of these people are homeless right now.

The city says that they're asking the Red Cross to help out. They also have a few community centers that are stepping up to help some of these people get housed. From talking to some of these residents, they tell me they will be staying with family. Others will be going to hotels.

Some of them are angry because they say that the building should have told them sooner, when this report was first issued back in January. Others say that, given what happened in Surfside, they're counting their blessings.


FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN, North Miami Beach, Florida.


NEWTON: The Delta variant is now in all 50 states and spreading rapidly. And in states such as Arkansas, where many people remain unvaccinated, the threat is alarming health officials. We'll talk to residents there about why they haven't gotten their shots.

Plus a record-breaking heat wave, hundreds of sudden deaths and raging wildfires. We'll talk to an expert about Canada's extreme summer.




NEWTON: The governor of Arkansas says almost every COVID death in his state since January has been among people who haven't been vaccinated.

The new dangerous Delta variant, now spreading in all 50 states, is preying on communities with the lowest vaccination rates. As CNN's Miguel Marquez reports, some in Arkansas are now reconsidering their decision not to get the shots.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Born six weeks premature.

MARQUEZ: Oh, my goodness.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): His mom, 28-year-old Victoria, she's otherwise healthy and works as an ICU nurse. She says she didn't want to get vaccinated, then got COVID- 19.

V. WILLIS: Once I got it, it obviously took a turn for the worst and ended up in the ER. Then I ended up in the ICU and I ended up delivering him in the ICU.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Despite CDC assurances that pregnant women after consultation with their doctors are safe to get vaccinated, despite ample evidence that the virus is a danger for pregnant mothers and possibly their children. Neither Victoria nor her husband Donovan who have three kids chose to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

D. WILLIS: I know that I should get vaccinated, I've always known that. But I guess it's one of them irrational things of you hear everybody -- you know, this is Arkansas, everybody around here have their belief systems.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): The state of Arkansas now in its third surge of COVID-19 infections, say health officials. It has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Only about 34 percent of all Arkansans are fully vaccinated.

DR. JENNIFER DILLAHA, ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: We are seeing widespread COVID-19 in our state. And it's hitting the rural areas that were not previously hit in earlier surges.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Those growing cases in rural areas clear on this map from Johns Hopkins University, the bigger the circle, the bigger the outbreak. The highly transmissible Delta variant now spreading through the state.

DR. CAM PATTERSON, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS FOR MEDICAL SCIENCES: We're seeing over 85 percent now of samples that are the Delta variant. And keep in mind, we only had our first Delta variant identified May 1st here in the state.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Little Rock's University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Hospital reopened its COVID-19 unit this week and is planning to expand it in the weeks ahead.

PATTERSON: There's no doubt in my mind that our patients now are sicker, they're coming in more acutely ill. They're requiring more intensive care to manage their infections. It's a different monster than it was a year ago.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): COVID-19 and its new variants still very much a threat.

V. WILLIS: If I would have known, then I would have definitely got it while I was pregnant to keep from having to deliver him at 33 weeks.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The Willises hope to take Lincoln home in the next couple of weeks. They also plan to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

MARQUEZ: Look, it's as simple as this. Since the end of January, 99 percent of the people who have died in the state of Arkansas from COVID-19 were not vaccinated. Officials here now concerned about July 4th and that Delta variant really taking hold in the state, creating lots of needless sickness and death ahead -- Miguel Marquez, CNN, Little Rock.


NEWTON: Some U.S. national parks are having to turn people away because too many are trying to get in. Now that 4th of July weekend has officially started, it might get even worse. We'll take you to one of America's most popular parks to find out why so many are so eager to get outdoors.





NEWTON: A record-breaking heat wave is sweeping right across Canada. Experts blame it for a sudden jump in deaths in the past week. British Columbia reported more than 700 sudden deaths in that period and that's three times more than normal.

Dozens of wildfires are burning, especially in the bone-dry Western Provinces. The minister of national defense says a forward operating base is being positioned in Edmonton, Alberta, to provide support.

This as officials from the tiny town of Lytton say they are looking for missing residents after most of the community burned to the ground earlier in the week. Now it happened after the town posted the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada at 121 degrees Fahrenheit or 49 degrees Celsius.

Now earlier I spoke with David Phillips. He's a senior climatologist at Environment Canada. And I asked him about the sense of the magnitude of what we're seeing in this extreme weather, particularly in British Columbia. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID PHILLIPS, SENIOR CLIMATOLOGIST, ENVIRONMENT CANADA: This is scary. It's life-threatening. It's like an out-of-world experience for us. I mean, you know we are the second coldest country in the world, the snowiest country in the world.

People think that winter begins in Canada and it's the land of polar vortex and wind chill and frostbite.

And to have these temperatures, which are just absolutely a head- shaker, I've been in the business 50 years. I've never seen anything like this and neither has anybody in Canada. I mean, this broke records that stood for 83 years. But, Paula, it just didn't break the record, it smashed it.


NEWTON: Yes, extraordinary times. That was senior climatologist at Environment Canada, David Phillips.

Now the U.S. travel organization AAA expects 43 million people on the roads this 4th of July weekend. And one of the most popular destinations this year, national parks. But in many cases, the attractions can't keep up with that summer surge, as CNN's Lucy Kafanov reports from Arches National Park.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In this majestic corner of southeastern Utah lies a 76,000-acre wonderland, boasting some of the world's most extraordinary rock formations, carved by water and wind over millions of years.

Arches National Park is a tourist magnet. These days, only a lucky few make it in, the influx of visitors forcing the park to temporarily shut its gates almost daily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 7:30, we rolled in and we just made it by a couple minutes. The park was closed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Showed up early this morning. It was pretty disappointing we can't get in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my only vacation.

QUESTION: How does that make you feel?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 2021 will be our busiest year on record.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The crowds mean added challenges.

ANGIE RICHMAN, RANGER, ARCHES NATIONAL PARK: We are seeing a lot of first-time visitors, people who have never camped before. We see a lot of dogs on trails, drones in the park. We see a lot more trash in the park. And we do see graffiti. KAFANOV (voice-over): That hasn't fazed families taking their first

post-pandemic vacation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just feels good to be out doing stuff again.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Many are seeking out new thrills on nearby public lands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is a really vertical wall.

KAFANOV (voice-over): This is obviously a popular activity.


KAFANOV (voice-over): Moab Cowboy Off-Road Adventures owner Kent Green says business is booming.

KAFANOV: So people who can't get in to Arches can do something like this instead.

GREEN: They can take a tour or go rent a jeep or rent a side by side to come out on their own.

KAFANOV (voice-over): That's if they have the stomach for it.

KAFANOV: Oh, my God.


KAFANOV (voice-over): But Green is concerned about visitors who aren't informed or, worse, ignore the rules.

GREEN: We need to be able to enjoy our public lands as long as we use it with respect. Because you want to leave it like you found it. You know, you want to be like you're the first person to be there.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Moab is bursting at the seams and it's not just because of tourists. The draw of the great outdoors has lured remote workers and second home buyers, sending housing and rental prices soaring.

RACHEL MOODY, MOAB REAL ESTATE AGENT: We have had a lot of people have left the community based on not being able to afford here.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Businesses are desperate for staff. The local McDonald's offering 18 bucks an hour, more than double the state's minimum wage. The crisis means agencies responsible for managing public lands can't hire enough workers to deal with the crowds.

KAFANOV: Is this a problem that's limited to Arches National Park?

RICHMAN: Absolutely not. This is something that especially the big national parks are struggling with across -- across the country.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The future of America's wild spaces hanging in the balance.

RICHMAN: There will be a point where the experience here is just not enjoyable and people won't want to come.

KAFANOV: No longer America's wild space potentially?

RICHMAN: Potentially, yes.

KAFANOV (voice-over): These iconic landscapes are America's national treasures; in the words of conservationist John Muir, "the fountains of life."

KAFANOV: This is a bucket list destination for people from all across the globe. You can see the crowds gathering here, the Arches. But it's not just this national park. The National Park Service says it is expecting the busiest summer yet -- Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Arches National Park in Utah.


NEWTON: You can certainly see why it's so busy. Stunning places.

I'm Paula Newton. Thanks for your company. Kim Brunhuber picks things up from here with more CNN NEWSROOM. He'll be with you in just a moment.