Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

30 Million+ Under Alert as Western Temps Expected to Near 120; Lake Mead's Plunging Water Level Hurting Power Production; Excessive Heat Warnings in Effect in Much of the Western U.S.; CDC Issues New Guidance for Reopening Schools in the Fall; CDC: Schools Should Prioritize In-Person Learning; CDC Updates School Guidance as Fall Semester Nears; TN Lawmakers Threatened to Defund State Health Dept Over Child Vaccine Ad; Suspect Arrested in Triple Murder at Georgia Gold Club; Police: Man Charged with Killing Gene Sillers, 2 Others, Had No Apparent Relationship with Golf Pro; Florida's Python-Hunting Contest Starts Today; 100+ Kids in Foster Care Had Wishes Granted After Online Post; Go to CNNHeroes.com to Learn More or Nominate Your Own Hero; NC Man Facing 40 Charges After His Cobra Escaped into Neighborhood; FL Offering Cash Prizes for Most Pythons Killed During Contest. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 9, 2021 - 15:30:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

BERNAL: First, let's talk about the power here at Lake Mead, we're told that Hoover Dam is generating about 25 percent less electricity. So, it's only operating at about 75 percent.

In terms of water, all you have to do is look here behind me. Take a look at the high-water mark. It looks like a bathtub ring. And officials here are telling me that every single day, they are having to record a new low in water levels. They say that as early as next month they will be declaring a shortage of water. That's what they believe will happen. And as a result of that, people in Las Vegas or in Arizona will likely be getting less water starting next year.

25 million people overall depend on the water here Lake Mead. That's more than the population of Florida. So, it's not just water, it's power. It's also the high fire danger and then, of course, the health aspect in all of this. You mentioned about 200 deaths reported in the Pacific Northwest. This heat wave could be even worse. And while people know how to handle this heat. They have the air-conditioning and the pools, it is still concerning for officials because there are a number of tourists that are expected here this weekend and many of them likely don't know how to handle these temperatures.

Las Vegas could reach its highest temperature ever recorded this weekend. 117 degrees. And so, they are hoping to keep things under control but they are ready for all of the emergencies that they already expecting. Alisyn, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Camila Bernal, it goes on and on for the Pacific Northwest. Thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: All right. Next, the CDC says schools should prioritize in- person learning when they open, in a matter of weeks for some. So, we're going to speak to a school superintendent about the new guidelines and the push to get students vaccinated before classes start.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:35:00]

BLACKWELL: New guidance out today from the CDC prioritizes in-person learning for schools even if all safety measures cannot be met. Because K through 12 schools will have a mix of vaccinate and unvaccinated people. The guidance says that if not everyone is vaccinated, practice physical distancing if possible. And if you're not vaccinated, wear mask indoors.

Also, schools should offer weekly testing for unvaccinated people. Some school districts across the country are opening back up in just a few weeks. Schools are racing to get eligible students vaccinated and clarify some COVID protocols.

Dr. Nakia Towns is the deputy superintend for the Hamilton County School District in Tennessee there where Chattanooga is and school start August 12th.

Dr. Towns, thanks for being with us.

NAKIA TOWNS, DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT, HAMILTON COUNTY, TENNESSEE SCHOOLS: Great. Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: All right. So, let's start here. You've heard some of the recommendations from the CDC. What's your reaction to this guidance?

I am very comfortable with the guidance. When you think about where we were a year ago this time, there was so much uncertainty and so much that was unknown. And we have really navigated a heck of a year over the 2021 school year. And so, our educators and our school leaders who did such yeoman's work to pull off the school year last year, we're really gratified to see the CDC giving us continued guidance.

Here in Chattanooga, we were able to keep school's open 90 percent of time for in-person learning and we did open our doors on time last year on August the 10th. So, we look forward to returning to school on August the 12th.

BLACKWELL: So, let's talk about some specifics now. Tennessee governor ended mask mandates in April. Those did not apply to schools. Who in Hamilton County Schools will still be required to wear a mask?

TOWNS: Well, as of June 1st, we lifted our mask requirement. At this moment, we are mask optional. We are running a summer program, our summer reach program for about 6,000 students. And so, we have been successful this summer with the optional mask wearing with those children and adults who want to wear masks being able to do so, of course. But we have not required masks since June 1st in our district.

BLACKWELL: So, what we know about the vaccinations there in Tennessee is that the state, the county and the age group that we're talking about specifically are far behind the national average. We're going to put up some of the statistics on the screen. When it comes to those 12 to 15, the State Health Department says only 2 percent of children 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated. 16 to 20, just over 4 percent.

So, without masks that are required and those vaccination numbers, what's your degree of confidence that you'll be able to mitigate the spread of, especially the delta variant which is far more transmissible?

TOWNS: Yes. That's a great question. Look, we have done a great job really encouraging our community staff and students with the vaccination. We hosted multiple vaccination events. We hosted nine events at local schools, at community hubs. We vaccinated over 3,500 people. About 67 percent of our teachers are fully vaccinated right now, which honestly is in line with the national average.

So, what we look forward to is making sure that people have information and access to be able to make that private family choice about vaccination. But we feel like since we were able to successfully navigate COVID last year, frankly, 97 percent of our children did not have a positive test event for COVID. So, we know based on our own experience that folks will follow our guidelines around hand washing and sanitation, as well as the practical distancing.

So, we feel that with that number of adults vaccinated and us being able to be above the county average and in line with the national average with our teaching staff, we are looking forward to welcoming kids back to school on August 12th.

[15:40:00]

BLACKWELL: Those are the adults you're talking about as we gave the numbers for the students, 12 and older. Let me ask you, vaccinations are not required. Quickly, are they required for extracurricular activities, cheerleading, football, anything like that?

TOWNS: We do not have any policy that requires the vaccination, the COVID-19 vaccination. What we're doing is encouraging people with our safe pledge, we're arming people with the information like the CDC guidance and making sure that they are aware that, frankly, one of the best protections that we have for children 12 and over and adult is the vaccination. And that's against the delta variant, as you noted.

So, we're going to continue to provide that information and provide access through hosting vaccination events. And so, we know that through those school-based vaccination events, we have administered about 400 doses, and many of those were teenagers that came to our schools to be vaccinated. BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the -- some of these events. A State House Committee voted to consider dissolving and reconstituting the State Health Department. In part because of advertisements geared at vaccinating students. I want you to hear from state rep who proposed that. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SCOTT CEPICKY, (R-TN): When you have advertisements like this with a young girl with a patch on her arm all smiling, we know how impressionable our young people are and wanting to fit in in life. For a department in this state of ours, to make it seem like to be included, to be able do be on the football team or be on the girls' soccer team or to participate in band, that you get this shot so you won't miss any of yours, that's peer pressure applied by the State of Tennessee by your department.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Now, according to local reports, the Health Department has stopped vaccine events and online outreach to teens similar to the things that you're discussing about Hamilton County. What's your reaction to that representative's criticism and the decision of the Health Department to pull back from those things?

TOWNS: Well, first, let me say this. In Hamilton County, we are one of the six large metropolitan areas where we have our own Health Department. So, our local Health Department operates independently of the State Health Department. So, we have been working very closely to monitor what is appropriate for our local context.

And as I have noted, we understand that these are decisions that families have to make. Of course, any children who are under 18 who are getting vaccinated need parental permission. So, we just want to continue to make sure we provide access for those children and families who want to receive the vaccine and provide the appropriate information around the vaccine being one of the best mitigation strategies that we have in hand at this moment.

BLACKWELL: All right. Dr. Nakia Towns, deputy superintendent for the Hamilton County School District there in Tennessee, thank you so much for your time.

TOWNS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK. Victor, next, an arrest has been made in that bizarre triple murder at a Georgia Golf Club. One of the victims, of course, was a golf pro. So, what police have learned about the suspect.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:45:00]

CAMEROTA: An arrest has been made in the bizarre murder of that golf pro on the grounds of a Georgia Country Club. Police have arrested 23- year-old, Bryan Anthony Roden. He's charged with murder, assault and kidnapping.

BLACKWELL: Now, you'll remember two bodies were found at a back of pickup truck, also the body of 46-year-old golf pro, Gene Siller, was found nearby.

CNN's Ryan Young is with us now.

Ryan, any clear connection between the suspect and these victims?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Guys, we have been talking about this story for days. And here's the thing right now. So far, police aren't sharing a motive. So, to answer those specific questions right now, it's just too hard. They have been keeping these really close to the vest.

In fact, when we talk to investigators a few days ago, it's really drips and drabs about this investigation. We do have a new detail that we just learned in the last half hour. Apparently, the two men who were found dead in the back of that truck were gagged and bound. So, really want to hear the details of how we led up to this part of the investigation.

From all eyewitness accounts, apparently that golf pro just walked over to the car to see why that car accident happened, and that's when he was shot. So, you could understand why people in this community were very upset. In fact, listen to the question I asked the chief last night about this investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM COX, CHIEF, COBB COUNTY POLICE: I realize that some members of the community felt some frustration. They felt like they had limited information, and I can respect that feeling. From the perspective that I'm at, I knew we had a mission to come to a successful conclusion of this and provide a form of justice to the Siller Family, and the successful arrest and prosecution was our highest priority. And that's what we were focusing on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:50:00]

YOUNG: Yes, Victor, now -- the one thing that stands out to be really strange, apparently the suspect was arrested for drunk driving just about 12 hours after the shooting. And only just got released a day ago. So, when you think about this, he was in custody. So, right now, we're not sure when police developed him as a suspect. Did they know he was in jail before? He was arrested about 25 miles away from the site of the shooting.

But so many questions. And the first court appearance for the suspect is tonight at 8:00. Hopefully, at that time, police share a little more about the information which led to this. There were several agencies involved in this, including the ATF. So, it's interesting to see how it all transpired. But at this point right now, police aren't sharing a lot of information. Guys. CAMEROTA: Yes. Hopefully, this arrest makes the community feel better.

YOUNG: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: Ryan, thank you very much for that.

All right. Well, Florida has a python problem.

BLACKWELL: I've heard.

CAMEROTA: Next, we're going to speak to a woman who spends her days and nights hunting these huge snakes to try to save the Everglades.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's how we do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: I know I'm just staring at the video. I can't stop looking at it.

All right. Meanwhile, a New Jersey man shared on a Reddit thread that he donated a bicycle to a child in foster care through an organization called "One Simple Wish." That organization was founded by CNN hero, Danielle Gletow. Well, that one Reddit post led people online to fulfill all 120 wishes on the site.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELLE GLETOW, FOUNDER, "ONE SIMPLE WISH": Somehow, it just blew up. There were just thousands of comments of people relating to the foster care experience and then it was just this like one after another of people saying, you know, we should just clear their site. We should grant all of their wishes. And then it just snowballed until they crashed our site.

We got the site back up, they granted more wished. Eventually, they cleared the site of all the wishes. It's definitely given all of us a renewed sense of energy and hope. And it certainly does remind you that there's so much more good in this world than anything else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: What an incredible story. To learn how you can help fulfill those wishes, go to cnnheroes.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:50:00]

CAMEROTA: If snakes make your skin crawl, prepare yourself for this next segment. In North Carolina, a 21-year-old man is facing 40 misdemeanor charges after his zebra cobra got loose, terrifying his neighbors after one of them spotted it in her yard. It was eventually caught.

BLACKWELL: Now, to Louisiana, a Burmese python that got out of its cage at a mall aquarium, so many questions there, was found. Workers believe Cara was -- she used brute force to bend the corner of her tank. She was eventually pulled out of a hole cut into a wall.

CAMEROTA: OK. And now, to Florida, a state sponsored contest begins today to hunt Burmese pythons in the Everglades. The invasive snakes have been wreaking havoc for years, eating native mammals and birds.

BLACKWELL: Joining us is Donna Kalil, one of the snake hunters who will part of the contest. She was one of the first female to become a state licensed sponsored python elimination specialist in Florida. I love Florida.

And first, tell us about these snakes. I mean, just how much trouble they are causing.

DONNA KALIL, STATE-LICENSED TO HUNT PHYTONS IN FLORIDA, PARTICIPATING IN FLORIDA'S PYTHON HUNTING CONTEST: Yes. They have caused a lot of problems here in the State of Florida, in the southern part of Florida. They've eaten pretty much 98 percent of the animals down in Everglades National Park. And they're working their way north. And we're trying to stop them. So, the python challenge is basically set up to educate the public as to how they can help.

CAMEROTA: Donna, how do you catch one of these?

KALIL: By hand. Basically, you go out in the Everglades. I have a vehicle that I drive, the levies, and it roads out there in the Everglades, and close to home too and search for them. And we're basically hunting the hunters. They're out there usually at night. And we go out at night chasing them down. Once we come across them, they're actually moving pretty slow because they're an ambush hunter.

So, they're moving pretty slow. And if you sneak up and grab them by hand, and then the excitement starts, you know, depending on how big that snake is, it's going to give you a run for your money. You're going to have to wrestle it and --

CAMEROTA: That's what I want to know. You wrestle it with your bare hands?

KALIL: Yes. Yes. You make sure it doesn't wrap around your neck or anything else that you don't want strangled because that is what they do. They're not venomous. And they are constrictors.

And just to be clear, you know, if you come across one down here in South Florida, you just look at it, it'll look at you, it'll turn around and go away. These were pets back 40 years ago. And now, the pets -- the ones that we're catching are not pets anymore. They're, what, 12, 13, 14 generations out from being pets.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my.

KALIL: But they're still -- they -- yes. They were brought in by the pet trade and they were pets just like cats and dogs. You know, a lot of people have them. Over a million people have pet snakes. I used to keep them as -- well, actually, I have one now because someone let it go out in the Everglades and I found it. And it's not a Burmese python. It's a ball python. So, they don't --

BLACKWELL: Donna, I really thing the -- the prizes should be bigger for this, $2,500, $1,500, seems like you should be making more money. But we have to wrap up here with the trophy skins, I guess, that are behind you.

KALIL: Yes, yes. That's -- the top one is the first one that I caught. It's a 12-foot python that I caught out in Big Cypress National Park. And the second one is one I caught with my brother on South Florida Water Management Lands as a python contractor. They're both 12 feet. And it's not the biggest I caught, I caught 15.5 as my biggest. But the largest is 18'9" and a quarter inches. You know, so that's -- yes -- that's -- they're monsters. They're monster. We need help. Come down and help us catch them.

BLACKWELL: Donna Kalil, thank you so much for being with us.

"The Lead" starts right now.