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At This Hour

European Union Plans to Lift Travel Restrictions on Americans; Unprecedented Dry Conditions Gripping Western U.S.; National Parks Overcrowded by Pandemic-Weary Travelers. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 18, 2021 - 11:30   ET


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Somehow ended up in a concrete canal.


Because of how random all of this is, police described this as frightening but also just senseless.


SGT. BRANDON SHEFFERT, PEORIA, ARIZONA POLICE: We don't know the nexus. We don't know what the motive was. We don't have an idea of what this person was thinking when he went out and did this. Obviously, we want to figure that out because there's a lot of scared people, a lot of people who this affected.


LAH: A suspect was taken into custody, a firefighter, who heard the description of the white SUV that the police were looking for found it, saw it, called it in, and then police were able to take the suspect into custody peacefully. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Kyung Lah, thank you so much for that reporting.

Coming up for us, Americans could soon be allowed to travel to Europe once again and regardless of vaccination status. Our next guest says that's a mistake.



BOLDUAN: Welcome back, everybody. When international travel shut down due to the pandemic last year, it was a major moment for the world. Well, this morning, the European Union is now recommending lifting travel restrictions for Americans regardless of their vaccination status. It also comes as 65 percent of adult Americans have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Joining me now for this and more the CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, she's the former health commissioner of the city of Baltimore. Dr. Wen, you say that this decision, this recommendation by the E.U., is a mistake. Why?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's a lost opportunity, especially considering how much these countries in Europe have gone through. Many of them have had substantial surges, loss of life, major shutdowns before. I mean, I really understand why they want tourism to come back, I just think that they could have put a vaccination requirement, or at the very least say that testing is quarantine is required, but you can be waived from that if you have proof of vaccination.

And I hope that there should also be a warning to individuals here in the U.S. and other places that if you are unvaccinated, you are a risk. You are at risk yourself and you are a risk to others. And so, ideally, those who are unvaccinated should not be traveling.

BOLDUAN: Another aspect of all of this is there's a new study out of the U.K. that suggests that COVID could actually lead to long-term loss of brain tissue. This U.K. study examined brain imaging before and after a coronavirus infection and it looked specifically at the potential effect on the nervous system. It saw destruction of tissue in regions of the brain associated with smell. Obviously, this is far above my understanding, my ability and capacity to understand. Can you explain to me what you think of this and what you think it means?

WEN: Yes. This is a very well-done study, although we should mention that it's a pre-print, so it has not been accepted in a peer-reviewed journal yet. However, it appears to have rigorous methodology and what it found is actually something very sobering, which is that for individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 infection, there seems to be long-term damage to their brain, that there is long-term loss of brain cells in certain parts.

And I think what's the most concerning is that it really doesn't matter if the individual was mildly symptomatic or if they were hospitalized. Even people who had mild illness that were never hospitalized seem to have this long-term effect as well.

And I think this matters so much in these conversations because we hear people talking about, well, with these vaccines, we don't know what the long-term consequences are. Well, first of all, there's no reason to think that vaccines will have any long-term consequence, but there is a very real long-term consequence of getting COVID-19. And so I hope that those who are unvaccinated should really think about these long-term effects.

In my patients, I'm also seeing individuals who have chronic fatigue, who have headaches and dizziness and palpitations many months after their illness. They still may not be able to taste or smell. Some of them have lost their hair. And I think these are the long-term consequences that we really have to consider as the effects of COVID- 19.

BOLDUAN: Yes, really underscoring that you do not want to get this virus. You do not want to see these long-term effects, short-term or long-term.

I also want to ask you though about these reports of heart inflammation among teens and some young adults who have received a COVID vaccine. The CDC says that these are rare cases, but they are looking into it. But it is -- as you well know, Dr. Wen, it is going to have some parents second-guessing giving their kids a shot. What do you say about this?

WEN: I think the investigation by the CDC is very important, although based on what we know so far, these are very rare cases. And in addition, they are mild. To our knowledge, no one has died from this heart inflammation. It tends to be transitory, so it lasts for a period of time but then it goes away, and people generally fully recover.

And, again, one has to weigh the potential risk of this myocarditis, the inflammation of the heart muscle, versus the myocarditis that could occur and so many other effects that could occur from getting COVID-19.


And so, again, I'm the parent of two young kids. I want for the studies to be done for young children, but for older kids, for kids 12 and older who are eligible to receive the vaccine, if I had a child in this age range, I would absolutely get them vaccinated today.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Wen, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

So another aspect of the pandemic, the debate over returning to the office. Almost every industry is facing this question now, how and when to bring all of their employees back safely. One industry though seems to have it settled, at least for now, Wall Street. Firms like Goldman Sachs are asking employees to come back this week, expecting them all back by the fall, and they are not alone. Listen to Morgan Stanley's CEO.


JAMES GORMAN, CEO, MORGAN STANLEY (voice over): If you can go to a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office. And we want you in the office.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now for more is CNN's Matt Egan. Matt, I've been wondering this, as I've been seeing more and more from Wall Street, from the big banks, why are Wall Street leaders -- why is Wall Street kind of on the leading edge of this?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Yes, Kate, it's a great question. I mean, clearly some of the bosses on Wall Street are ready to turn the page on this era of virtual work. And in talking to employees and executives and others who follow the industry, I think there's three themes that come across here. One is culture. I mean, there is a long history on Wall Street of learning by doing and apprenticeship, and Zoom calls and slack messages are no substitute for that on-the-ground training and camaraderie you get in the office. Two, Wall Street is hyper competitive. And no one wants to lose out on a deal because of a bad Wi-Fi connection, particularly when your rivals are already going back to the office.

And the other big thing is cyber and legal risks. These companies are more vulnerable around cyber when you have a lot of people working from home and these wave of ransomware attacks has made everyone on high alert around cybersecurity right now.

BOLDUAN: And you mentioned culture. If part of this is about culture, I'm wondering what you're hearing from those who work in the industry, kind of at various levels, has the pandemic brought about a culture shift at all, do you think?

EGAN: Well, Kate, I mean, clearly, there is a divide here. I think that managers generally are more eager to get their teams back in the office, lower level workers are not in as much of a rush, particularly parents. I talked to one father of three young children and he said he was caught off guard by the fact that they had to go back to work last month, and he said it's really challenging, especially if you don't have child care in place.

And, Kate, I think the risk here is that if Wall Street pushes too hard here, it's going to turn some people off and they may decide they want to work somewhere else. Silicon Valley, you can make a lot of money working there, a lot of people, a lot of the best and brightest minds are attracted to go there, and they have been more flexible around this back to the office topic.

BOLDUAN: Matt, thanks for your reporting. Good to see you.

EGAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, a record heat wave on top of an already historic drought is devastating the west. What you're looking at right now, that's Lake Mead. We're going to take you there live next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BOLDUAN: Right now, the west is drying up. Huge portions of the west are facing an unrelenting drought, the worst the region has seen in at least 20 years. Add to that now record heat.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live at Lake Mead at the Hoover Dam with more on this. Stephanie, what are you seeing?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First of all, I can tell you that what we can see out here are little dots of islands that we should not be seeing, because if you went back to when Lake Mead was full in the early '80s, that would have been completely covered. Since then, we've lost 143 feet by the Hoover Dam and in that space you could put the Statue of Liberty without the base. But still just think about how tall the Statue of Liberty is out there in the harbor, that is how much water has dropped. And 90 percent of the water that is in the Colorado River that makes its way into Lake Mead and through the Hoover Dam comes from the snowpack in the Colorado Rockies.

I went up there to see that for this story and I can tell you that the snowpack is basically gone. And part of the issue here -- a huge part of the issue here is that heat is starting to pick up earlier in the year and so that is melting the snowpack and that is leading to drought.

So climate experts say the climate change is playing into this because we are seeing these hot, hot temperatures, which are leading to drought, and that drought is leading to more hot, hot temperatures. I can tell you for this week that we have been out here traveling around the west. It has been over 110 degrees almost every single day, punishing heat. And that is really difficult for the farmers and the ranchers, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That is bananas. That is crazy, crazy levels of temperatures. That's really remarkable. Thanks for doing it, Stephanie. I'm so sorry, my friend, but you look great. You're weathering the weather so well.

ELAM: Thank you. You can't tell. You can't tell all the patting down I just did before I came on T.V..

BOLDUAN: We call it glistening, as we like to say, glowing. Good to see you. Thank you so much. Unbelievable.

Coming up next, thousands of American families are headed to national parks this summer. Why if you are headed there you should be prepared to wait to get in, possibly hours. Just look at those pictures.


But, first, homelessness, which was on the rise before the pandemic, is surging now across the country. Los Angeles has a homeless population that tops 65,000. And while many may look the other way, this week's CNN Hero has planted herself squarely in the epicenter of L.A.'s homelessness, Skid Row. She brings care and hope to the unseen whose pain and loss she understands personally. Meet Shirley Raines.


SHIRLEY RAINES, CNN HERO: It is just being seen, being touched, being cared for.

You want a face mask?

It plants a little bit of self-esteem in them so they feel like, okay, maybe no one knows I'm homeless because I have a fresh cut.

Good to see you. Happy Saturday, king. I address them as kings and queens, because that is who they are. We want to make them feel beautiful.

What you want? Hair -- haircut, hair? Okay.

When they say they're broken, I am too. They're like, how did you get fixed? I'm not. I take Prozac 20 milligrams every day. What heck? I ain't fixed child. I ain't fixed at all. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you things will be better now but what I am going to do is feed you while you're out here. What I am going to do is do your hair. What I am going to do is give you a hug. What I am going to do is encourage you and speak life into you. And that's what I can do.

That was Mickey on the mic, you guys, give her hand. Give her a hand. Give her a hand.


BOLDUAN: She's great. You can see more of Shirley's story, and you can nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero, go to



BOLDUAN: We're going to show you some pictures, take a look at this. A year after the world shut down, which also meant travel was impossible, Americans are back out there, and national parks from coast to coast are feeling it, classic family vacation spots, like Yellowstone, now seeing lines that you'd normally see at Disney World. Some parks have been forced to shut their gates before 9:00 A.M. because they've already reached capacity.

Joining me from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is Jenny Anzelmo- Sarles, she's a spokesperson for the National Parks Service. It's great to -- wow, you're selling it right now. The view behind you is just gorgeous, ranger. I mean, thanks for coming on.

I've been reading that some parks are see 30, even 50 percent increases in visitors from 2019. What's going on? What are you hearing from people?

JENNY ANZELMO-SARLES, CHIEF SPOKESPERSON, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: That's right. Anecdotally, we're certainly seeing an increase from even 2019, which was one of our busiest years across the national parks system. Yellowstone visitation was up 50 percent over Memorial Day weekend from 2019. But we're really seeing this in the most popular destination national parks, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Teton, Acadia, Shenandoah. There are over 400 parks across the country where you can go and find a little bit of peace and quiet. But people should plan ahead, come early, check out our website and follow along so you have the best visit possible.

BOLDUAN: A little peace and quiet, sure, but maybe a little less with all the people that are joining them. When you see these pictures, and I know you've seen them, even though you probably don't have a monitor there, the pictures we're showing folks were all from Yellowstone. I mean, what has been your reaction? I mean, does it make you happy or does it make you nervous?

ANZELMO-SARLES: We're so excited to welcome Americans back to their national parks as more people are vaccinated and traveling this summer. But we want people to plan ahead most importantly so they have a place to stay.

Many of the most popular destination national parks, the big ones you think of, the campgrounds and the hotels are either fully booked or nearly fully booked through Labor Day. Campground reservations across the national park system are up 73 percent from prior years, so important to have a place to stay before you hop in your car.

BOLDUAN: Yes, for sure. I mean, there have been reports of -- because of this kind of flood of folks wanting to go to the parks of damage to the parks, graffiti, human waste appearing in places where people are camping where they should not, people parking illegally, damaging some of the parks and doing so. How big of a problem is this becoming as you're getting so many more people coming in?

ANZELMO-SARLES: That's right, and it's a real challenge, and that's why it's so important to plan ahead. We're seeing some damage in high- used areas, and things that come along with high visitation, and lots of people in condensed areas of parks. So it is a challenge. We ask visitors to take care of the place, leave no trace, make sure that you're leaving it in good shape for your friends and family that come behind you.

BOLDUAN: We know that the park service has had budget cuts in recent years. What is the strain that now this kind of flood of folks coming in is putting on staff? I mean, do you have all the people, all the resources that you need to handle this?

ANZELMO-SARLES: It's always a challenge. I think we can always appreciate having more rangers to help visitors and take care of these places. The president's budget request for fiscal year '22 asks for $3.5 billion for national parks that will help us modernize our infrastructure, invest in conservation and enhance opportunities for visitors and address some of these challenges.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Well, ranger, you have a job I would love to have, especially on a beautiful day like this, that I'm looking at in Grand Teton National Park. So, thank you for coming on. It's a beautiful day out there. I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Now get outside but after you watch the rest of the show.


Thanks so much for joining us, you guys. I'm Kate Bolduan. I hope you had a good week. See you next week. John King picks up from here.