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California and Nevada Governors Plead for Federal Aid; New Study Warns of Long-Term Impact of COVID; Research Says COVID Is Linked to Cognitive Decline; Texas Teachers Urge Governor to Allow School Mask Mandates; What Parents Can Learn from Gymnast Who Left Olympic Games. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 29, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Dozens of wildfires still ripping through the West, prompting the governors of California and Nevada to ask the Federal government to send more resources.

CNN's Camila Bernal is in Quincy, California. So, what are you seeing on the ground there -- Camila?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey Alisyn, so even though these governors are asking for resources at the moment air support is grounded. The smoke is so thick, visibility is so low that the five helicopters here at this airport they are all grounded.

Normally we would not be able to be here. But since we are, I want to show you what these operations look like. In one of these helicopters, you'd normally have five or seven firefighters. They call themselves the special forces in the fire world and they would get to these areas that are hardest to reach to or areas that you just cannot get to by foot.

The idea or the hope for today is to be able to do water or fire- retardant drops. And this is what they would normally use. This is a bucket that's about 240 gallons. It flies over the lakes. It flies over the rivers. And that's what they're hoping to do today, but at the moment it is just impossible. It's making it very hard for these firefighters.

We talked to one of the managers here at this base. And he talked about how difficult it is to be grounded when you know there's a huge fire just a couple of miles away.


BRANDEN MARTIN, HELI-BASE MANAGER: It's very hit or miss. It could break at a moment's notice. Yesterday it did open up briefly, it wasn't predicted but it did, and we took advantage.


BERNAL (on camera): And this fire is only 23 percent contained. The Dixie Fire has already burned more than 220,000 acres. So, it just keeps growing and it's making things really difficult for the firefighters and, of course, for the many people who live in this area -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Camila Bernal, thank you very much for reporting from the ground for us.

So, a new study warns of the long-term impact of COVID. We have those details next for us.

And in Texas as students get ready to go back to school, teachers are calling on their Republican governor to do more to keep them safe.



CAMEROTA: More troubling news about the possible long-term effects of COVID-19. Research presented at an international Alzheimer's conference says the virus may leave older adults with Alzheimer's-like symptoms such as forgetfulness and brain fog.

CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard has more on what researchers found. What did they say -- Jacqueline?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: It's interesting. Alisyn. I mean we're a year and a half into this pandemic, right, and we're still learning more about this disease. But there are two studies that were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference that are getting attention here.

In one of those studies researchers found that in a group of more than 200 older adults with COVID-19, there were about half of them experienced forgetfulness and then about a quarter experienced additional cognitive problems.

And then in a separate study, Alisyn, researchers found this was among more than 300 COVID-19 patients, about half of them, 158 of them had neurological symptoms.

Now in that first study, Alisyn, researchers found those symptoms of forgetfulness lasted about three to six months. And then in the second study with the 158 patients who had neurological symptoms, researchers found a connection to Alzheimer's disease.

What they found here, they looked at blood plasma samples collected from those patients and in the samples, researchers found elevated levels of certain biomarkers that are typically associated with dementia. One of those biomarkers for instance was the protein tau and in Alzheimer's disease, tau can accumulate and build tau tangles in neurons which is a hallmark of the disease.

Now researchers are quick to say this does not mean COVID-19 causes Alzheimer. This is still early research. It was just presented. It hasn't even published. But researchers are saying that these similarities and a potential association between COVID symptoms and Alzheimer symptoms requires more research. And is you know especially important to take a closer look at what these similarities could mean.

CAMEROTA: Jacqueline Howard, thank you for all that information.

So, in light of the CDC's revised mask guidelines the Texas State Teacher's Association is asking its Republican governor to let administrators require masks in schools. But back in May Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order banning all mask requirements in schools.

Cases are surging statewide. More than 10,000 new infections reported yesterday alone. More than 8,000 of those were tied to the delta variant. Hospitalizations there are up 150 percent since June and only 52 percent of the state is fully vaccinated.


Ovidia Molina is the Texas State Teacher's Association President and after the CDC released its revised guidance, she released a statement saying if Governor Abbott really cares about the health and safety of Texas students, educators and their communities, he will give local school officials and health experts the option of requiring masks in their schools.

Ovidia, thank you very much for joining us now. So, mask mandates, as you know, back in May the governor made them illegal in Texas. So, school starts in three weeks. What does this mean for teachers there?

OVIDIA MOLINA, PRESIDENT, TEXAS STATE TEACHER'S ASSOCIATION: We are back to the same place we were when we were in the springtime. There's a lot of anxiety, a lot of fear. We are asking the governor to do the right thing and change his mind.

And you know, in May things I think we're looking a little bit better. We were hopeful that we were trying to get out of this pandemic, but the reality is that we are not and cases are going up and our students and our educators are going to be put at a risk that they don't need to be put in.

CAMEROTA: Have you heard from the governor for your request?

MOLINA: No, the governor as far as we know is not listening or talking to educators. He has not been doing that for the past year and a half that we've been through this pandemic. And I'm hoping that he truly listens to not just our educators but our parents who are worried about their students and starts to listen to us.

CAMEROTA: So, what does this mean in real world terms? If there is an outbreak, a COVID outbreak of some kind or a cluster of some kind at a school, is there a chance they would have to go back to remote virtual learning?

MOLINA: So, there are a lot of questions in what will happen. One thing for sure is that if school districts can find the money and can offer remote learning, that's available. But it's not going to happen everywhere. Our legislature did not fund remote learning so that's not an option in most of the places. So, if there is a COVID outbreak we can't even say in this building

where we have hundreds of people infected, we need to wear masks. That's how far our hands are tied as far as making sure that our schools are safe.

CAMEROTA: So, in other words, if there is a COVID outbreak at a school, you can't require masks and you don't know if kids would go back to remote learning? You just don't know what would happen basically?

MOLINA: No. We cannot require masks. And we know that especially in our elementary schools, our students are not vaccinated. So, we are trying to ensure that we get our local school districts to have local control -- Texas loves that. And create rules that are going to keep us safe when we need them. Not a mandate for everybody. But if the school sees that there's danger coming, they should be able to react. And our governor is saying no.

CAMEROTA: Here is what Governor Abbott said about this last week. He says kids will not be forced by government or by schools to wear a mask in school. They can be by parental choice wear a mask but there will be no government mandate requiring masks. Does he have a point that this should be up to parents?

MOLINA: If he's really listening to parents, then he should allow school districts to be able to enforce the masks. We have parents with real concerns about their immunocompromised students or family members that will die if they get this disease.

And he's not listening to any of us, not the educators, the parents or the students. And as an educator, for me, if I have a student that their family wants them to wear a mask, they want to wear a mask, but they're seeing other kids not wear a mask, the peer pressure of fitting in is going to overtake the safety of it.

Governor Abbott can stop that right now and allow school districts to create a rule that everybody can follow that doesn't have any questions in the mix and keep everybody safe, but he's refusing to do that.

CAMEROTA: And so, what do you think is going to happen over the next three weeks?

MOLINA: Right now, we have started a campaign to get our parents, our educators, our community to write a letter to the governor, to call the governor to let him know why it is they want the masks available, the rules to be able to be enforced in our school districts.

And we're hoping -- we're very hopeful that he listens to not just our concerns but the science as well. And what we're fearful is that we are going to be in classrooms where we are going to have that student that does get too sick, that does die, and it all could have been prevented.

CAMEROTA: Ovidia Molina, thank you. We appreciate you sharing your grave concerns with us. And of course, we'll be watching what happens in Texas.

MOLINA: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: OK now to the Olympics. One of the greatest gymnasts of all time withdraws at the Olympics to prioritize her mental health. So up next, what parents and kids alike can learn from this experience of Simone Biles.



CAMEROTA: The big win for Team USA, gymnast Suni Lee winning gold in the women's all-around competition. The Minnesota teenager stepping up to fill the void of Simone Biles. Biles cheered for her teammates from the sidelines. She would have been in that same event, but because of mental health issues she pulled out.

And today she tweeted the outpouring of love and support I've received has made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.

CAMEROTA: Our next guest says the Biles episode should serve as a lesson to both parents and children about navigating high pressure situations and the importance of knowing when to walk away.

Dr. John Duffy is a psychologist who specializes in teens, parents and families. He's the author of the new book "Parenting the New Teen in The Age Of Anxiety" and Dr. Duffy joins us now.

Dr. Duffy, I'm so excited to talk to you about this. Because just yesterday, last night, I was having a conversation with my three teenagers about the Simone Biles episode, but I couldn't figure out what the teachable moment was. I mean, I can't figure out what the lesson we're supposed to draw from this is. Are you supposed to stick it out and soldier through things or are you supposed to walk away when you have a mental health challenge? What is the lesson here?

DR. JOHN DUFFY, PSYCHOLOGIST, SPECIALIZES IN TEENS, PARENTS AND FAMILIES: Well, Alisyn, I think you're running into what a lot of us are running into, is we know that there's an important teachable lesson here, but the lesson itself eludes us.

The core of it is that we attend to our own mental and emotional well- being even, maybe especially in high pressure situations, right? And that requires that we check in with ourselves now and again. Oftentimes in high pressure situations whether they be academic or athletic or otherwise we fail to do that. We just focus on the task at hand and then sometimes that emotional element that we haven't been attending to, that gets the best of us.

So, the teachable lesson to my thinking is to get our kids to really check in with themselves. How am I doing? Am I doing, OK? Do I need to tend to my emotional well-being a little more, talk to somebody about it? If we can get our kids to do that, then we can find some balance between the emotional and the physical or the emotional and intellectual and move forward.

CAMEROTA: But Dr. Duffy, I know this might be old school, but aren't we also supposed to teach our kids to power through some emotional challenges and even power through doubt and anxiety that crop up, of course, in high stress situations?

And my best example of this is Suni Lee herself. I mean, what she said about the adversity that she's overcome, she considered quitting, and then yesterday she talked about how grateful she was that she hadn't given in to those impulses. So let me just play this for you.


SUNISA LEE, U.S. GYMNASTICS GOLD MEDALIST: This medal definitely means a lot to me because there was a point in time where I wanted to quit and I just didn't think I would ever get here including injuries and stuff. So, there are definitely a lot of emotions, but I'm super proud of myself for sticking with it and believing in myself.


CAMEROTA: Isn't that interesting? I mean she wanted to quit, she was struggling, but she didn't, and then she wins the gold.

DUFFY: A 100 percent, no, and absolutely, a big part of parenting, a really important thing we want our kids to know is that it's important to have that grit and resilience and tenacity that we've been teaching them their whole life, right? So, you're absolutely right, Alisyn. That this is not something we want to just forego. The lower we bring our bar for our kids, the lower they'll bring their own.

So, we've got to find this balance between encouraging them and pressing them to do their very best while also attending to their emotional well-being. And if they fail to do so, eventually their performance is going to drop regardless. So, it's important to pay attention to both sides of the equation. But we don't want to give up on pressing our kids to excel and to do well. That is not the lesson to be learned here.

DUFFY: I mean, look, I know nothing about the kind of metal it takes for Simone Biles or Suni Lee to be able to achieve what they've achieved. But it sounds like Simone Biles that said she had been neglecting, I guess, her mental health and that particularly this year it caught up with her.

DUFFY: Yes, I think that's right. You know, and I don't know her entire story either, but I can just tell you from practicing, working with young people on a regular basis for decades, that this happens all the time. A lot of young people are very type A, focus on the task at hand and solely the task at hand and ignore their emotional well- being altogether until it's either too late or they end up in the office of somebody like me trying to kind of regroup and work through what went wrong.

[15:55:00] And I think, you know, Simone Biles made a very, very wise choice in recognizing who emotionally, mentally, I don't know if I'm ready to take this step, even if physically I'm 100 percent ready.

CAMEROTA: OK, so in our final 30 seconds, is the lesson for parents push your kids, push your kids, support your kids, but when you see something wrong, be there for them and stop pushing?

DUFFY: That's so beautifully put, yes. Encourage your kids. We all do it, you know, and we're all going to continue to do it. We're cheering for them on the sidelines, but we also want to check in with them very frequently, how are you doing? How is your emotional well-being?


DUFFY: Then we will never regret not doing that.

CAMEROTA: Yes, got it. Dr. John Duffy, thank you very much. Great conversation, I really appreciate it.

DUFFY: Thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: And in just moments, President Biden is set to announce that all Federal workers will be required to get vaccinated against COVID. Jake Tapper has that coverage when THE LEAD starts next.