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55 Million Americans Breathing Unhealthy Air Due To Canada Wildfires; NYC Mayor: Stay Indoors To Avoid Toxic Wildfires Smoke; Pope Francis Out Of Surgery To Repair Hernia; Federal Prosecutors Using Second Grand Jury In Florida To Hear Testimony In Trump Investigation. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 07, 2023 - 14:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Jennifer Gray, thanks so much, as always, for walking us through it.

We're going to keep talking about it because this doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

I want to go to CNN health reporter, Meg Tirrell.

When we look at the figures here, U.S. cities, New York, Canadian cities like Toronto, are now at the worst, right, up there with cities such as New Delhi in India.

Which are known for years to have some of the most unhealthy air due to pollution, in that case, but this is due to forest fires, but some of the same effects as forest fires.

If I'm living in New York and got kids there, what precautions should I be taking right now?

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, doctors are telling us that kids are among the most vulnerable groups to these effects from the wildfire smoke.

So kids, the elderly, pregnant people, and people with lung or heart disease are the ones who are particularly vulnerable to the health effects that we could see here.

Although they note that really anybody depending on the dose and the individual really could be at risk of getting some health impacts from this. Both in the near term and potentially, you know even in the long term. Things like developing asthma, COPD, things like that.

We heard from the American Lung Association a tip, and it almost sounds ridiculous when you look at what it looks like in New York now. They note, quote, "If you can see or smell smoke, know that you're being exposed."

That's a tip-off. Try to stay inside as much as possible. If you have to be outside, experts say that the high-quality masks that we learned about during Covid, like the N-95s, KN-95s, those can really help protect you.

Of course, they are not recommended for kids. So that is something that's a problem. Keeping kids inside is what doctors are telling me is quite important.

Also within the home, experts recommend using HEPA air cleaners. So those portable air purifiers with the HEPA filter can be helpful for keeping your home safe. As well as keeping windows closed, running the air conditioning -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: And particularly, a place I remember where you sleep, right, you're in one place for a long period of time. To have a HEPA filter there if this persists could be helpful.

Explain to us why N-95 masks, even in these circumstances, not recommended for kids?

TIRRELL: Well, N-95 masks, typically they're not designed for children. So they won't give you that fit --

SCIUTTO: The size --

TIRRELL: -- that kids -- yes. We went through this with Covid. They don't have the N-95 masks made for children. That is still a problem.

SCIUTTO: So as parents, should they consider other masks, cloth masks, or even surgical masks for children at least as a second-best measure?

TIRRELL: Yes, I was talking with Lindsay Marr, an expert on this issue at Virginia Tech. She was saying really any of those masks will help.

It is the respirators, KN-95s, that will help more. The higher the quality the better protection you'll get. She did say surgical masks or cloth masks will provide some protection here.

SCIUTTO: We're showing some live pictures there, Meg, as you were speaking of New York's Times Square. And you can see, even with all the lights, just how much smoke there is, just how much smoke there is.

Meg Tirrell, thank you so much for staying with us.

We're going to continue to follow this story as the smoke from Canada drifts down making American cities -- goodness -- look almost like the surface of Mars.

We'll have much more on this story next, including a live report from Times Square.




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We want to get back to our breaking news. More than 55 million people are under air quality alerts right now.

Smoke from ongoing Canadian wildfires in Nova Scotia is drifting into the United States and blanketing major U.S. cities. If you look at the skyline in New York, looks like Mars. An orange haze blanketing New York City.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live for us in Times Square.

Miguel, just looking behind you, you can see the smoke in the air. It's got to be tough to breathe out there.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not terrible to breathe out here. I've been in many cities around the world that were hit by wildfires like this. To see it in New York is different.

We're at Times Square where many of those 55 million people seem to be right now.

I want to show you that's the world-famous ball that drops on New Year's Eve. That's sort of the sense that you get in New York City. You can't see more than maybe, I don't know, 10, 15 blocks down the city.

Let me show you sort of what it looks -- we're at 46th Street, and if you look down the east side, you can see how dark it is heading out toward Brooklyn and that area.

You can see this gentleman here getting into a cab. There's a lot more people wearing masks out here. Lots of people taking pictures. Not of the buildings and all of the billboards in Times Square, but of the sky itself and how it's just utterly bizarre.

It does seem to be lightening up a little bit. There was a period where it was just that really dark orange. And it's a cool day, well. A little windy, so it feels -- to be quite honest, it feels like the beginning of an apocalypse.

But at Times Square, a happy apocalypse because everybody is enjoying the day and getting on with it. Lots of people just sort of concerned about their own ability -- their own health, their kids' health, elderly people.

Airports here also, LaGuardia and Newark at least, report something of their flights may be affected. You might want to check that if you are headed to the airport today.

But just a really bizarre day to see this in New York City.

Also bizarre to realize that we are hundreds of miles away from these fires. If you're in Los Angeles or San Francisco, usually you're 20, 30 miles from the fires, then it hits the city and makes sense.

We're hundreds of miles away from these fires, and this is the effect in a place like New York City and even farther south.

[14:40:02] Back to you.

SANCHEZ: Yes. The smoke is being felt in a widespread area, including here in D.C. I looked outside of my apartment this morning, and you could see a similar haze that you're seeing in New York.

Miguel, you described it as a happy apocalypse. I'm wondering if you've heard from folks in Times Square how they're coping with it.

MARQUEZ: Well, I can show you that some of the people, there's a lot of tourists here. Some of the folks have masks. Thankfully many people have their masks left over from Covid.

So there's a lot of people wearing masks. Not as many as you might think, but there are people wearing masks. Most people are coping just fine. It's just another thing, another thing to experience in New York City.

I think New Yorkers, if they are elderly, if they have underlying health conditions, if they have lung issues, those are the sort of people that really are going to have to stay indoors, keep the window closed, and try to keep as much of the smoke out of their lungs as possible -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Miguel, please stand by.

Because we want to pivot now to CNN's Maria Santana in West New York, New Jersey.

Maria, what are you seeing where you are? It actually looks much worse than Miguel's shot of Times Square behind you. There's an orange haze.

MARIA SANTANA, CNN ESPANOL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, this is right across the river from midtown Manhattan. Normally, on a beautiful day, you can see the Manhattan skyline, the iconic skyscrapers.

But today, we can't see anything. There's a thick plume of smoke right here.

And in the last few minutes, it's actually gotten better. Just before this was this thick density of smoke that was spreading throughout all these neighborhoods.

There was an orange haze. It got very dark, then the winds picked up, and it seemed it moved smoke out of this area. It's getting a little better.

This actually does look like the apocalypse on this side of the river because this area is very popular, very populated. A lot of people on a nice day come out here to take photos, to take photos in front of the New York City skyline.

There is almost no one here right now. Everyone that we have seen at this point has been wearing a mask. There were some construction workers doing some work right here by

this area. They left as soon as that big plume of smoke came by in the area. It got very dark and very eerie. It was almost like being in a movie. The scenes that we are seeing.

I have lived in this area, New York, New Jersey area, practically all my life, and I have never, ever experienced anything like this.

I have a mask on. Very hard to breathe. You can smell that burnt wood, that burnt wood smell that gets deep in the lungs.

So the recommendation from the authorities is stay inside, especially if you have some health conditions, lung issues, asthma, heart problems. And also limit activities outdoors.

A lot of schools here in New Jersey, just as in New York City, they have canceled all outdoor activities for today -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes. Maria, it does look cinematic behind you. And you can make out the shapes of buildings in the skyline, even though you can't totally see them.

I want to give our viewers a perspective of some of the cities that are impacted most by the air quality here as we look at Times Square. I believe we have a graphic showing some of the cities around the world that have some of the worst air quality you see.

Delhi, India, and New York City right now is the second worst city in the world with bad air quality and pollution. And obviously, Toronto, Canada. Also in the northeast, downwind from where these fires are.

Maria Santana, thank you so much for that report. Please stand by. We're going to keep tracking this story.

Stay with CNN NEWS CENTRAL. Major breaking news as smoke plumes cover the northeastern United States.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Extra prayers coming in today for Pope Francis. The leader of more than a billion Catholics worldwide just underwent abdominal surgery in a Rome hospital to repair a hernia.

The health problem adding to the list of ailments that the 86-year-old pontiff has suffered, from his stomach to his lungs to his eyes.

CNN's Jim Bittermann is in Rome with the story.

Jim, how long was the pope in surgery? And do we know how the procedure went?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounds like it went pretty well. He was under the surgeon's knife for about three hours. And afterwards, the surgeon, Dr. Sergio Alfieri, briefed the press

about it.

Here's what he said.


DR. SERGIO ALFIERI, SURGEON: The surgery operation and the general anesthesia were well tolerated by the pope. Now he's awakened. He's fine. And he's already at work.


BITTERMANN: Already at work. Well, maybe a little suspect. But in any case, he did come through it OK.

What happens next, however, is going to be the most critical thing for the pope because he basically has to have a long, drawn-out recovery period. He won't be able to eat any solid foods for a while until the surgery heals.

The Vatican is saying that could be as much as 10 days or two weeks. They've basically canceled all the pope's activities up to the 18th of June.

And we're wondering about what happens after that because the pope was scheduled to take some rigorous travel trips to places like Portugal with the World Youth Days, which is a demanding schedule. Later on to Mongolia. We're not sure how that's going to play out.


But the recovery period has begun now, and at least the operation was successful -- Brianna?

KEILAR: And so he does have this travel scheduled. We'll see whether that goes forward as planned.

You know, after that, when it comes to his health, are there any more expectations that he may have to deal with some more things?

BITTERMANN: Well, not at the moment. But the fact is that he's 86 years old. He is in fragile condition. As you mentioned in the lead- in, the fact is that he has been twice now operated for abdominal surgeries.

And he's also been operated on for cataracts, and he was in hospital just a few months ago for bronchitis.

He only has part of -- like 1.5 lungs because part of one of the lung has been removed from his childhood. He had bronchitis, pneumonia back then, and they had to remove part of his lung.

The pope is in -- not exactly great shape. He's 86 years old. It is a question about how much he can -- just going forward can maintain this kind of schedule. But at the moment, they're saying he's fine. And we'll see what

happens next.

Popes, you know, stay in office for a long time. And sometimes die in office. In fact, most times die in office -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes. Jim, thank you for the very latest. We do wish him well as he is recovering here.

Jim Bittermann, live for us in Rome.


SCIUTTO: Well, a former spokesman for Donald Trump testified today in front of a federal grand jury in Miami. A second grand jury meeting there in addition to the one here in Washington, D.C., convened by the special counsel, Jack Smith.

Taylor Budowich now runs a super PAC backing Trump. He declined to answer reporters' questions as he arrived at the court earlier today. Budowich testified for little less than an hour.

CNN senior crime and justice reporter, Katelyn Polantz, is outside of Miami.

Katelyn, the significance of his testimony but also the significance of his testimony in front of another grand jury, in addition to the one here, now one in Miami.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, Jim. So Taylor Budowich is one of the people who was around Donald Trump at a moment in time where Trump wanted to announce publicly that everything he had in his possession after he left the White House was being turned back over to the National Archives.

And that is not the statement that was ultimately put out by Donald Trump in February of 2022.

Because people like Taylor Budowich, the witness before the grand jury testifying today in Miami, people like Taylor Budowich had expressed to Donald Trump that perhaps he shouldn't make a statement by that.

And perhaps he should be consulting with his attorneys. That was not the statement that went out at that time.

It's very likely one of those episodes that prosecutors are interested in and receiving testimony on.

But we don't know the full extent of what that testimony entailed today in the secret proceeding here because the grand jury is confidential.

We haven't gotten much indication from Taylor himself. He did say publicly on social media that, "I fulfilled a legal obligation to testify in front of a federal grand jury, and I answered every question honestly." But there are so many questions still about this investigation,

including how close an indictment could be in this case or a charging decision by the Justice Department.

And how many witnesses there still could be after Taylor's appearance today -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: Someone made the comparison today that trying to judge where the investigation stands is like trying to judge an umpire's ball and strike calls from the cheap seats. There's a lot we just don't know.

Let me ask you this because there had been some reading that the grand jury here in D.C. was close to finishing its work as an indicator that the special counsel was close to a decision here.

Does the fact that there is another grand jury in Miami hearing from new witnesses lessen that sense that we're close to a decision here?

POLANTZ: You know, it's really hard to predict. Although, at this point in time, we do know that there were many, many pieces of movement that happened in the federal court in Washington.

And at the Justice Department with Donald Trump's lawyers just meeting with top Justice Department career officials, as well as the special counsel himself earlier in the week.

Then, on top of that, you have a grand jury in Washington, D.C., that made extraordinary progress getting answers to questions that they had, including of people that normally would never become witnesses in an investigation like this.

Like Donald Trump's defense attorney, Evan Corcoran, who was being compelled to share information. Others compelled to answer questions when they initially refused.


So that grand jury made quite a bit of progress, was at work for quite a long time, a full year, if even more than that potentially.

And now we're seeing this pickup of activity in the Southern District of Florida, in Miami. It's totally unclear exactly what this means for the case.

But of course, Mar-a-Lago is located in this particular area that the federal court covers in Palm Beach. It's always plausible that there could be reasons that they are here that we just haven't exactly nailed down yet -- Jim?

SCIUTTO: Including the possibility of having charges there in addition to here in D.C.

Katelyn Polantz, in Miami, Thanks so much.

Boris? SANCHEZ: We are following breaking news this afternoon. These are live

images from New York City. Across the northeast, millions are under air quality alerts. Instead of a skyline full of buildings, it looks like something out of a science fiction movie.

We have more on the breaking news when we come back.