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Families Turn To "Pod Learning" Over Traditional Or Online Class; Rescues, Evacuations Underway As At Least 22 Fires Burn Across CA; Deal On A Sweeping COVID Response Stimulus Bill Remains Unlikely. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Tuesday after Labor Day, the first day of school for millions of American children and take it from this parent of a fourth grader, it can be kind of stressful. Many parents are turning to something called pod learning to fill in the gap between in person classes and learning online.

Now, definitions of a pod can vary among families. But the common theme is for families to group their children together in pods so they can learn together or play together. Jennifer and Jeffrey Henry are trying this with their son Jackson. They started a pod with three families. They join us now from Texas. It's great to see you. I really appreciate your time to walk through this. I have a fourth grader, he started this morning. He's got everything he needs, and I'm still nervous. Tell us about your pod. How you define pod and why you thought it was so important for your son.

JENNIFER HENRY, STARTED POD LEARNING GROUP: So well, first of all, we just want to say thank you for having us. It's an honor to be here and for our families.

KING: The honor is mine.

JENNIFER HENRY: Thank you. We just wanted to make sure that our families were getting a well-rounded experience for our children. We see this as an opportunity to build back better and to improve the things that we have always wanted to see present in children's education. And so this was our opportunity to do that not only for our children but collectively with a family group, and that's what we're calling our pod.


KING: And so your focus more if I read previous interviews and some of the research right, more on the social activities that our children have all lost, right, in the isolation, not so much sitting down with these other families for the nuts and bolts of learning, but maybe bring them together for some tutoring, but more importantly, bring them together so they can be kids, which has been stripped away from so many. JENNIFER HENRY: Yes. We find this to be the safest way for our children to maintain the socialization that is so important for their neural development at this stage. And it is just turning out to be even more beautiful than we even expected because we're able to not only support their socialization, but to enrich the education that they're getting in their virtual platforms.

KING: Jeffrey, what's the most interesting question your son has asked you about this time of transition and testing?

JEFFREY HENRY, STARTED POD LEARNING GROUP: Well, with respect to schooling, one of his biggest concerns has been consistency and friends. Consistency in, he's not as much concerned with his learning as he is in his social experience. And he's more worried, you know, he's asked questions like, are we going to be home forever? Are we going to be quarantining forever? You know, so it's, I wouldn't say that's a difficult question, but we're constantly retooling and discussing and trying to figure out the ways to make it best for him. I add, you know, especially in the racial environment that we're in, those questions get more and more difficult every day.


KING: To that point, number one, send me an e-mail with your answers because I get asked the same questions and I'm never sure what the right answer is because it's a hard environment. You want them to be confident, you want them to be upbeat, but they also, they're aware of what's going on around them so you can't deny it.

When you talk about the racial situation we're in, I assume one of the challenges is when your child is home more, they're just exposed to more kids, young kids are supposed to everything now anyway, because they have the iPads and they have their phones and access to technology. I certainly didn't have when I was younger. But what has happened, like at this time where you're trying to deal with a pandemic, keep your family safe, but if your turn on the news, and you've got young children, especially young black children, at this time of this racial reckoning, how do you handle that?

JENNIFER HENRY: Well, we focus on creating a deliberate environment for our children, and so do all the families that we know. And so because of that, we structure what they're exposed to very deliberately. And we prepare them to understand where they come from, who they belong to, who they have in their village, and to recognize the strengths that are already inside of them so that they're not rattled by things that are temporary, and more focused on the more permanent things like who they are.

JEFFREY HENRY: Yes. And I would say that, you know, bringing our community to them has been key. So, you know, the Howard University Alumni Network we were a part of, especially down here in Dallas, had brought a lot, you know, although we're not able to go see to like face to face, we do a lot virtually. And then again with our pod, we're able to keep the, sorry, I'm freezing. We're able to keep the social aspect going. And that's super key for us. It's really important. Yes. KING: Jennifer and Jeffrey Henry, I really appreciate your time, best of luck. Best of luck even touches this goes for it. I'm grateful for your time and your insights and photograph behind you as well. It's a beautiful family. We appreciate learning from you as we go through this experience.

JENNIFER HENRY: Yes. We appreciate it.

JEFFREY HENRY: Thank you. We appreciate it.

KING: No, thank you. I appreciate it very much.


When we come back wildfires raging in California they just keep growing live in the Sierra National Forest, next.


KING: Evacuations are underway right now as firefighters struggle to contain fast moving wildfires across California. So far, pictures are horrible, 2 million acres, more than 2 million acres have been scorched, the Creek Fire one of at least 22 wildfires burning across the state, officials calling it an unprecedented disaster.

CNN's Dan Simon, live for us now in Fresno County. Dan, what's the latest?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, John. The fire is absolutely devastating these small mountain communities in the national forest where I am. And you can see behind me, this is brand new devastation. You can see this gas station right here, over here, was a general store every now and again. You hear a bit of a pop because they sold some ammunition.

Let's give you a look at what it looks like across the street. You can see just this chart landscape all of these trees, the fire coming in late last night about 145,000 acres have been charred with this fire. And we're talking about zero percent containment. My photographer, Jim Casto and I, we just took a little bit of a drive in one of these residential areas and pretty much everything is gone.

When it's all said and done, John, the devastation toll in terms of the property loss, it'll be smaller given, you know, the relative size in terms of the other fires that we've covered. Not a whole lot of people live in this area. But it you do live here, of course, that doesn't matter. This is an utterly devastating fire. We should also point out, John, that evacuations took place last night, another three dozen or so people were rescued by military helicopter.

These were people who were enjoying the Labor Day weekend where, you know, camping near the lake and they'd simply got caught, there was no way out. And so some military helicopters came in, got those people to safety. John?

KING: Dan Simon for us on the ground. Dan, stay safe, you and your crew continue the fantastic reporting. It's critical at this moment. Dan, thanks so much.


Coming up for us, some global headlines including a claim out of Germany that coronavirus vaccine could be ready for approval by next month. But there are many questions.


KING: Tour de France being hit by multiple positive coronavirus cases. The director of that legendary bike race and members of several teams all tested positive. So far though, the riders who are being kept in a bubble have tested negative as they had now into the 10th stage of the race, some more international headlines now from our correspondents around the globe.



FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in Germany, the pharma company BioNTech, which is currently partnering with Pfizer says that the two companies vaccine candidate could be ready for approval by the middle of October.

Now, in an exclusive interview with Sahin, the company CEO, were shock, he said, there are still some unknowns that could push that back to the end of October or possibly to the early stages of November. But they believe that their vaccine candidate which is called BNT162 is both going to be effective and is also going to be safe.

Now the company says if everything goes according to plan, they want to try and produce 100 million doses of that vaccine by the end of 2020 and 1.3 billion in 2021.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Hong Kong, the city is falling short of its goal to test its entire population of more than 7 million people for COVID-19. This is one of the few places outside of mainland China to offer testing for the entire population. It's free. And unlike China, it's voluntary.

And a lot of people have been staying away. Some have cited privacy concerns. Because Chinese experts helped set up the testing centers and are also overseeing some of the testing sites, people are fearful that their information could somehow end up in the mainland. That may be one reason. Another reason is that people actually have to queue up for the testing, which violate some of Hong Kong's own social distancing guidelines.

Now 1.2 million people have been tested so far. And there are just a few days left. The city had initially said they needed to test 5 million to effectively find hidden cases in the city. So far out of those more than 1 million tests, they have found 16 cases of COVID-19. And the city says as the numbers continue to go down, they will continue to ease social distancing measures, including allowing some video game parlors and other businesses that have been closed to reopen later this week.

Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In China, President Xi Jinping awarded medals to four people for their contributions during the pandemic, among them, China's top respiratory disease expert, Zhong Nanshan. At the ceremony, she said China acted in a quote, open, transparent, and responsible manner in his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Now this is after China has been repeatedly criticized for downplaying even covering up the severity of the virus at the start of the pandemic, and for ignoring evidence that has spread from person to person until it was too late.

Now China has denied those claims. She said that China reported information on the virus at the earliest time possible to the World Health Organization and relevant countries. He added that quote China has helped save the lives of thousands of people around the world with practical actions. But she speech comes as more than 890,000 people around the world have died from COVID-19.

U.S. President Donald Trump has frequently blame China for the global pandemic, labeling it as, quote, the worst attack we've ever had on our country. The pandemic first emerged in Wuhan and China was the first country to impose strict measures to control the spread. Now is the first major economy to reopen with Xi sing at the ceremony that China is leading the world and economic recovery.

Selina Wang, CNN, Hong Kong.



KING: Sill ahead, Congress back to work this week, but still big partisan differences and internal Republican differences about a potential COVID stimulus package.


KING: Congress is back to work this week. And the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he hopes to make progress on a new smaller coronavirus stimulus package. But there are problems. McConnell is having a hard time getting Republicans, fellow Republicans to sign on. And then there are Democrats who view that Republican proposal as way too little.

CNN's Lauren Fox live up on Capitol Hill with the latest. Will they stop talking at each other and maybe talk to each other?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, it's not likely right now, John. What we do know is that Republicans in the Senate are expected to unveil their own slimmed down proposal at some point today, it'll be about $500 billion will include more money for the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as more money for unemployed Americans and more money to get kids back to school.

But Democrats already saying that it is not near enough, here's the statement from both the House Speaker and the top Democrat Chuck Schumer saying, quote, Republicans appear dead set on another bill which doesn't come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere. If anyone doubts McConnell's true intent is anything but political, just look at the bill. The proposal is laden with poison pills Republicans knew Democrats would never support.

That, of course, coming from top Democrats. And we expect that there is going to continue to be division. We don't expect any movement this week other than Republicans potentially voting on their own proposal. But remember, this is just about politics. Republicans when they were home, we're hearing from constituents who wanted them to do something when it came to the stimulus bill. Democrats have passed their own proposal in the House. Now of course, we expect that Senate Republicans will try to do that later this week. John?

KING: Talk, talk, and talk. We'll see if it gets beyond that, any actual compromise. Lauren Fox appreciate the live reporting appreciate you spending some time with us today too. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow.


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