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Don Lemon Tonight

CNN Reports Latest News On Uvalde School Shooting; Parents Across U.S. Deal With Stress And Anger; AR-15-Style Rifles Under Renewed Scrutiny After Mass Shootings; Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen Admits She Was Wrong On "Path That Inflation Would Take;" Extreme Weather Puts Strain On U.S. Electrical Grid; COVID Deaths Are Up As Five Omicron Subvariants Circulate In U.S. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired May 31, 2022 - 23:00   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, this discrepancy is coming as we are now starting to see the first of what will be many funerals here in this community. Even as you walk around, it's hard to find people who weren't personally affected by this. Even if not directly, they know someone who was.

So, while we are going to see families mourning and funerals that will continue into tomorrow, this community will be mourning right there with them.


JIMENEZ (voice-over): One week ago, 19 families sent their children to school and they never came home, leaving loved ones only memories as community members, even actor Matthew McConaughey, whose hometown is Uvalde, come to pay their respects. Those close to the 21 killed can't help but think about those last moments as they prepare to lay their own to rest.

The funeral of 10-year-old Maite Rodriguez is among the first. She is remembered by family as sweet, charismatic and loving, as seen in this video with her cousin.

DESTINY ESQUIVEL, COUSIN OF SHOOTING VICTIM MAITE RODRIGUEZ: Her classmates said that she was brave, and she was grabbing all the other student and telling them where to hide before the gunman turned on her. She was so brave and courageous to tell the kids to hide.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): A heartbroken community attending five services today, two funerals and three visitations for four children and one teacher among the 21 killed.

As more details come to life, it's unclear at what point during the shooting this video was taken. The apparent radio call was videotaped by a man who told CNN he heard the dispatch from the radio of the Customs and Border patrol vehicle outside the school.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Are you injured?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I got shot.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Where? Where?

UNKNOWN: A kid got shot?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The radio traffic audio adding new concerns about what law enforcement knew during that hour they were still waiting to enter the classroom and before they killed the gunman.

One off-duty Customs and Border patrol agent ran to the school when he heard about shots fired.

JACOB ALBARADO, BORDER PARTROL AGENT: The kids -- the police were breaking out the windows on the outside and the kids were jumping out through the window.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): Officials say at least two children called 911 multiple times, begging police to come while the gunman was still inside their classroom.

ROLAND GUTIERREZ, MEMBER, TEXAS STATE SENATE: The information is flowing in. Why doesn't DPS have that information, the sheriff's office, the federal guys, the local police? This is a failure at every level.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The Texas Department of Public Safety director says one child told the 911 operator eight or nine students were still alive. Audio from an unconfirmed source revealing at some point law enforcement was aware kids were inside the classroom.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Child is advising he is in the room full of victims.

GUTIERREZ: At what point do people not use some common sense here, listen to 911 calls that are coming in, understand that kids are still alive inside, and know that they have to go in there, do their jobs under the active shooter protocol?

JIMENEZ (voice-over): One teacher who escaped the shooting says she wants the blame to focus on the gunman.

NICOLE OGBURN, TEACHER, ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: And I hate that we have to look for blame to somebody out besides the person that actually did this to us.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): But the families are now left with more questions than answers as they focus on the lives that are lost.

ESQUIVEL: She isn't just another victim. She's a hero that 10 years wasn't enough.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And Omar, I understand that you're getting some new information about the Uvalde school district police chief. What can you tell us about that?

JIMENEZ: Yeah, Don. So, I learned from the mayor's office a little easier this evening that school district police chief, Pete Arredondo, was sworn in as a city council member today.

This is despite the mayor's office initially saying there was not going to be any sort of special city council meeting today where presumably be with Chief Arrendondo sworn in out of respect for the families. But again, we learned, it was earlier today, at some point, Arrendondo made an appearance in person to be sworn in, of course, after being duly elected.

But part of why that is significant is the Texas Department Public Safety says they haven't heard from him in days in response to their request for a follow-up interview in regards to what happened. Of course, the Texas Department of Public Safety says he was the one that made the decision not to initially breach that classroom, Don.

LEMON: Omar, thank you very much. Let's continue on and discuss the story. We're going to bring in now Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald Garza. Commissioner, I appreciate you joining us this evening. Thanks so much.

RONALD GARZA, UVALDE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Thank you. Thank you for having me on your network.

LEMON: So, you just heard Omar's report there. The school district police chief not responding to investigators. I mean, this is a man who decided that officers should not immediately breach the classroom where the shooter was barricaded. Why do you think he isn't cooperating?

GARZA: You know, I have -- I have no idea. I'm kind of like you.


I don't know any details as to why Chief Arredondo is not cooperating.

LEMON: And you are country commissioner. They are not updating -- no one is updating you on this situation?

GARZA: No, I have not been updated as to any details or any breaking news.

LEMON: So, also, you just heard the report that Chief Arredondo was sworn in as a city council member tonight. He is duly elected. Are you comfortable with him taking that on given, you know, what's under investigation now?

GARZA: Well, you know, I -- as a county commissioner, we have no jurisdiction over the city. But as an individual here, a lifelong resident of Uvalde, you know, he was elected by the people of Uvalde and sworn in rightly so. But, you know, the voters and the residents of Uvalde have -- you know, they might not be in agreement with his swearing in but, yes, he did take the oath of office and rightly so.

LEMON: Yeah, and there's nothing that they could do at this point. Listen, I understand, I'm sure the mayor and the folks in the city are under tremendous pressure because he is duly elected, but there are families who have some concerns. So, I understand the hesitation here.


LEMON: So, commercial, first, authority said a teacher propped open a door that a gunman used to get into the school. Now, they're saying that it happened differently. How is your community dealing with all of those conflicting reports? I mean, it must be so difficult for the grieving families who are desperate for some answers right now.

GARZA: Yeah. We all want answers. You know, it has come to my attention that the DOJ is going to come in and they're an independent office, an independent branch. You know, we welcome that. I welcome that. I think there are lots of questions and we need answers, especially the families. We all want to know what exactly took place.

LEMON: Yeah. And people like you, I mean, leaders in the community, you need to know, you need answers because you don't want this to ever happen again. I understand that there is -- I know there's a lot of anger in your community tonight. I visited there. What is the most important question the people of Uvalde need answered?

GARZA: I think -- I think why the decision was made to kind of just stand back, you know, or stand by with calls coming in from the children, you know, why that decision was made -- another thing that comes up, we have such a strong law enforcement presence right now in Uvalde. We have an abundance of DPS officers, border patrol agents. And so, the question that I'm hearing from people, the concerns I'm hearing is, you know, where was all this presence, you know? Why not at the school on the day of the shooting?

LEMON: Yeah. Commissioner, we're told that some of the residents there are now calling for upping the minimum age of -- to purchase guns. Others want to arm teachers. What changes will you be pushing for?

GARZA: You know, I was hesitant at first to kind of not weigh in on these measures, but as one of the leaders of our community, you know, it's incumbent upon me and other leaders to speak up about the minimum age. Why 18? Why can any 18-year-old just go and purchase a semiautomatic weapon?

You know, I decided to speak up, to take a stand on this because I have grandchildren. I have grandchildren at our public schools here. We need to step up for the kids. I mean, they're our most precious resource. This is just one senseless act of violence that attacked our most vulnerable people, and that's our young children and our teachers.

As far as arming the teachers, in my opinion, that wouldn't be a good idea. That would be like militarizing our schools. You know, that would, I think, take away from educators doing their job and teaching our students.

However, I do believe that there should be more security, more cameras, more measures undertaken that would create a safe environment.


LEMON: Commissioner, it's a small community. I mean, you know the gunman's family. Do they have any idea of why he carried out this horrific shooting?

GARZA: You know, I have no idea. I've tried to remain consistent during the interviews that I've had. And the family of the gunman is a good family. I knew the great grandparents, the grandparents, uncles, uncles. You know, they have been a pillar of our community for many years. They value fate, they value church, hard work. But I have no idea on the motive of the gunman.

LEMON: Commissioner Garza, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

GARZA: Thank you. Thank you.

LEMON: So, as we have been discussing, the Uvalde community is dealing with a nightmare that gets even worse as more details of the shooting emerge. And across the country, while parents may not be mourning personal losses, they are dealing with their own agony, living in constant fear that their child's school will be next.

So, I want to bring in now CNN senior political analyst John Avlon and national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. I am so glad both of you are here. Thank you so much.

John, let's start with you. Parents are dealing with this intense stress and anger right now. I know your kids, I know your family, we hang out, we are friends.


LEMON: This -- you said this shatter your world. Talk to me about that. What do you mean?

AVLON: When we confront a school shooting in an elementary school -- we have only done on the scale one other time before while I have been covering this stuff, Sandy Hook. When you have kids, it shatters your world to think of these children being massacred in a place they are supposed to be safest. It shatters your world to think about the loss, the unimaginable loss the parents are suffering.

It just breaks down those walls that are sometimes behind us, so that we built to protect ourselves when we are covering these kinds of stories. And we are just forced to confront not just the evil of the assault but the devastation that doesn't go away. And it calls on us to be more empathetic and think a little bit bigger. But if you think about it deeply, it will get to you and it should.

LEMON: Do you just want to scream when you hear people -- some of these excuses that people come up with about not making any changes or -- what is going -- I know --

AVLON: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, look, what does it take? Every time we confront something in this country, it requires a small amount of moral imagination to say, what if it happened to me or someone I loved? That is what it takes to take these things from obstructions and ideology to this is personal. Love thy neighbor, treating other people as you would like to be treated. That is what these moments calls on us. When people retreat the obstructions, where they hide behind the politics of a gun lobby.

I appreciate the Second Amendment. I appreciate that people deal with guns in different ways. We don't need to have these debates, but we do need to start thinking about the fact that it only happens here.

I was looking, Don, at a CNN study we did a couple years ago, 2018. There were over 250 school shootings in America between 2000 and 2018. There were none in England. Two in France. None in Germany. None in Japan. It only happens here. So, we cannot accept this is normal. It is not normal.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

AVLON: And so, we can't get numb to it.

LEMON: Juliette, you know, perhaps some of the folks who, you know, said, maybe -- I would hope that their intentions are good. Let us put it this way. When they say, we to arm, you know, more people in the schools, perhaps we should harm teachers, they must believe that if they are proposing it? I mean --

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL, PROFESSOR AT HARVARD'S KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Yeah. I see three things happening now to try to, I think, minimize what happened. I mean, I think the first is this focus on the public safety response. I'm more than anyone think it is important as well. It is the world I live in. We have to learn what happened.

These changing stories are disconcerting. The delay is unimaginable, what those kids went through. But it is not the reason why, you know, 19 kids are dead. So, we have to continue to focus on the gunman and the weapons that he had, an 18-year-old.

The second thing they are doing is they are -- what I called on the first night, sanitizing what happened. I may be accused of being a little bit too graphic in my coverage here, but it is very important that we -- you know, basically, these are weapons that if in a grown man, like the two of you, would act as a grenade inside of you, imagine what it is doing with the children, what the families had to go through to identify children because they were unidentifiable.


And we cannot let words like killed or shot actually minimize or sanitize what in fact happened.

The third thing you're seeing happen is -- I think John got to it clearly -- this sense that we can only play defense. Right? The only solution is to arm more parents, get one door -- you know, have more sirens. You can't possibly think that defense is the only way that we are going to protect our children. We wouldn't go on defense in our own daily lives with our children. We go on offense. We do all sorts of things to protect them.

And so, those three things are happening simultaneously. I think it is important that we call them out and that we also realize that we are, for all of our flaws, we are a country that still (INAUDIBLE) agency over these things and begin to realize that we can solve each of these differently than the opponents of gun reform or those who would say that this is normal, this just happens.

LEMON: But isn't the point of this, though, the point of all of this is to stop obviously the killing? Right? Young innocents from dying. But also, to stop the heartbreak of the parents.

I mean, at the top of the 10:00 hour, Juliette, I played the recording that was sent to parents. You know, there is an active shooter in the school, don't come to the school. Who wants to get that phone call? No one wants to get that phone call. Isn't that the point of it, is to stop the suffering?

KAYYEM: Yes. I think through the scenario, we all focus on the public safety aspect of this, which is horrifying and seemingly unjustifiable to say, but we will learn more about what happened.

And I think, okay, so the best-case scenario is a guy walks in with a gun and doesn't kill 19 but kills two. I mean, is that really where we are that our standard of success is 19 didn't die but two did? I think we -- exactly what you said, we just have to change the way that we are talking about this to realize that this is absolutely not only not normal, it is not inevitable --


KAYYEM: -- and we can at least begin to minimize the harm, if we don't fall into the trap that they are setting for us. They are setting this trap.

LEMON: I want to hear as a parent. What are you feeling? What do you think other parents are feeling?

AVLON: Look, it tears you up, but you got to get yourself out of the emotion. I mean, every time you think about the children and the families, it is going to cause you to tear up if you are engaged with your heart, not your head.

But then as a society, we got to have a backbone a bit and say, okay, thoughts and prayers are not enough. This is not inevitable. What can we do? Let's not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Stop coming up with excuses for why we should accept this. How many more times this is have to happen? How many more children need to be buried?

I don't care if it is a red flag law. You know, why should people -- kids -- 18-year-old not be able to buy a beer but buy an AR-15? You know. These -- there are things we can do and there is a plenty of common ground. The polling shows super majority support for a lot of measures. And they would not stop all these issues.

But that is not the point. Let's make some progress. Let us show some good faith. Let us show some empathy for the families who have lost their kids. To make it a bit more difficult to have this. Now, we could start a cultural shift as a result to taking political action. That is not too much to ask, that is how democracy is supposed to work, and it is not working on this issue.

LEMON: Is there a bigger hug, a bigger goodbye in the morning now when you send Jack and Toula Lou off to school?

AVLON: You know, I think, statistically, you can't live in fear. But the night they came home, the next morning when I had to talk with them, to see if they heard anything about it, I went to chapel with my kids and said an extra prayer, looked around at the families who were there and the parents who were clearly shattered by simply the reports of what happened, knowing what we knew then, not even the details now, 75 minutes.

LEMON: Yeah.

AVLON: Yeah, of course, you hug them tighter.

LEMON: Yes. Thank you, guys.


LEMON: Appreciate it.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

LEMON: Coming up, Uvalde, Buffalo, we see the same type of gun over and over. How did the AR-15-sytle semiautomatic rifle become a weapon of choice for recent mass shooters? We are going to discuss that next.




LEMON: So, another mass shooting, another call for answers to America's epidemic of gun violence. Just how many guns are out there in this country? How many? The U.S. has nearly half of all civilian guns in the entire world. More than 393 million.

I mean, you look at mass shootings, over and over again, we see a certain type of weapon. That is the AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles used in massacres like Sandy Hook in 2012, Pulse night club in 2016, Parkland in 2018, and Buffalo and Uvalde just this month.

So, joining me now to discuss is Cameron McWhirter, the staff writer at "The Wall Street Journal" and co-author of the upcoming book, "American Gun." Cameron, perfect person to talk about this. Thank you so much for coming on this evening. I appreciate it.

CAMERON MCWHIRTER, STAFF WRITER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Glad to be here. I am not glad about why I'm here.

LEMON: Yeah. Listen, you can't imagine that list of shootings involving AR-15-styke weapons. What are these guns primarily used for?

MCWHIRTER: Well, they were created in the 1950s to -- for military purpose.


A private company named ArmaLite created them at the request of an American army general to fight the Cold War, to fight insurgents, you know, to have U.S. soldiers and their allies fighting in places in Asia.

It was a perfect gun for that. It was -- the man who created it, Eugene Stoner, created an amazing gun that really efficiently uses the power of each bullet to cycle through. It's a very light weapon. It's very easy to shoot. It's really not a difficult gun to shoot. So, it is perfect for combat.

But unfortunately, as we all know, it's incredibly easy for a young teenage boy who doesn't have a lot of military training to go in and hurt a lot of people really quickly.

LEMON: Yeah. You can't ignore that. You understand what I was saying. So, looking at the Google trends, since 2004, you can see some huge spikes in searches for, you know, "buy AR-15" after the Sandy Hook and Parkland shootings. What is that -- what is happening here? People stocking up on guns after these mass tragedies?


LEMON: Is that what is happening?

MCWHIRTER: That's exactly what's happening. And it was people were predicting that there would be another assault weapons ban. In panic, they would head out and buy more of them.

In fact, you can trace the sales as we do in the book. After each massive -- Sandy Hook is the primary shocking example, but on and on, after these shootings, guns sales would -- AR-15 sales would spike.


MCWHIRTER: Everybody wanted these guns. If they were advocates of gun rights, it became a political --

LEMON: A political act, you say, to buy a gun.


LEMON: How do you think that started?

MCWHIRTER: I think the assault weapons ban of 1994 played a big role in turning that gun into, again, a political totem that people use to signify that they are a gun rights advocate. So, in 1994, just before the ban was passed, government estimates that there were 400,000 of these types of rifles in civilian hands. And today, nobody really knows, but industry estimates are upwards of 20 million. It could be much higher than that.

LEMON: My goodness. Cameron, we will have you back and we will talk much more about this. Cameron McWhirter, the upcoming book is "American Gun." I feel the same way. I'm happy to have you here to discuss it, but under -- I wish it was under better circumstances. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

MCWHIRTER: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. Quote -- "I was wrong." That's what the treasury secretary is saying today about inflation. We've got some major questions for the White House on what they're doing to stop prices from soaring. I'm going to post those questions to a top Biden adviser. That is next.




LEMON: Inflation is President Biden's top economic priority and Americans, too, as they find themselves paying more for everything from gas to groceries.

The president meeting with Fed Chair Jerome Powell and Treasure Secretary Janet Yellin just today and just one day after his op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" outlining his plan.

And just tonight, the treasury secretary admitting to Wolf Blitzer that she was wrong about her inflation outlook.


JANET YELLEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take. As I mentioned, there have been an anticipated and large shocks to the economy that have boosted energy and food prices and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly, that I at the time didn't fully understand.


LEMON: Well, with that said, there is whole lot to talk about with senior adviser to President Biden, Gene Sperling. Gene, thanks for joining us. I appreciate it.


LEMON: So, you saw the secretary there admitting that she made a mistake. I mean, that's tough. And President Biden is now outlining his plan now to fight inflation in an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal." Let the Fed continue doing its job to control inflation, make things more affordable for families, and keep reducing the federal deficit. How is that going to cool down soaring prices?

SPERLING: So, first of all, I think what you really heard the secretary of Treasury say was that there were actually three unanticipated events that took place, Delta-Omicron which led to lockdowns and further supply problems and the unthinkable Russian aggression on Ukraine that has roiled global energy markets and raise gas prices at least $1, $1.30.

What the president said, and I think the important point, is that the strength we've had in this recovery, the record jobs, the historic drop in unemployment, those things cannot go on forever, but they do position us with strength to make the transition to a more stable and balanced economy with lower prices and without having to give up those historic gains that we've made.


And what the president said in this op-ed, and I think he discussed today, was that, first of all, he is going to start with the view that a president should respect the independence of the Federal Reserve. Five presidents since 1960, Don, have sought to berate or bully the Federal Reserve chairman when they were making tough choices to raise rates. He made clear he's not doing that. He is respecting their independence and that he agrees inflation is the number one challenge for families.

LEMON: Okay. Gene, I understand that. Hang on. Let me respond to that. Let me respond that, and I'll let you get your number two in. Because, listen, this is real for Americans. I understand what you said about Secretary Yellen, but she is admitting that she made a mistake.

The virus has been with us for three years now. So, I was thinking there was going to be another strain. I think that should have been something that was anticipated, especially if you have doctors and the CDC telling you that there are going to be new strains. Now, the war, that is a different story.

But this is real for Americans. I don't think that, you know, we should be putting -- or the White House or the advisers to the president should be painting a rosy picture. Did it take too long for the administration to realize how bad it was, the inflation, and how high prices are going? Because now, to focus on -- I'm going to take a month and I'm going to focus on the economy. Shouldn't that have happened sooner?

SPERLING: So, Don, I think this administration has understood from the start that even if this is a global issue, which it is, that it's very little comfort to an American family going -- driving up to the gas pump or going through a grocery line that inflation is also 9% in the U.K. or 8% in other European countries.

And so, this has been a top priority for a long time. What the secretary said was that some of the continuation was unanticipated. As we saw that, we, of course, made adjustments. I think the Federal Reserve is making adjustments, too, as you've heard, to tamp down on inflation.

One of the things, this will go to my second point, Don, one of the things you've seen the president start to emphasize since we've seen the inflation be more sustained is the idea of bringing down the deficit.

Remember, when you're trying to jump start the economy, you increase the deficit, you give it stimulus. When you're trying to dampen inflation, that is when you pull back on deficits.

We're now down $1.5 trillion and the president is proposing very sound corporate tax reform, a minimum tax on the most well-off Americans, so that we can bring down the deficit even further.

And let us remember, during all the things the administration was doing, working with the ports to make sure there were not supply chains that affected the Christmas here, this administration has been extremely focused and, in fact, has been the source of virtually every idea, whether it is releasing the strategic petroleum reserve a million a day for six months or pushing for prescription drug prices to come down or insulin to be capped at $35. All of those things were flat (ph).

An administration that understands that the main tool for bringing down inflation is the monetary policy that the Federal Reserve is in charge of. We are still going to do everything in our power to be the wind at the Federal Reserve's back.

LEMON: Excuse me for coughing there. Again, the administration was saying that they didn't believe inflation was going to be long lasting even after there was Omicron and other strands coming for the virus, new strands coming.

SPERLING: Don, I don't ever think-- I don't think there was ever a time when the administration's projections differed from the overwhelming number of forecasters and central banks and economists all over the world. I don't know anyone -- I really don't know anyone who projected delta, then omicron, then really almost unthinkable Russian aggression to roil gas prices.

So, what you do in an administration when you're governing is you adjust to the circumstances and that is what we've done. So, I think it is unfair to look back to a period before omicron, before delta, before Putin's unthinkable invasion and say, why didn't you have a crystal ball? I think the president was always focused on moving more stable growth.

LEMON: Listen, with all due respect, I don't think that-- I'm saying that I don't people are saying that, too. I understand the war part. But we were in the middle of a global pandemic when it happened. And pandemics are not predictable. And to -- I just don't-- I just don't believe that--


SPERLING: I think that is one of the reasons why-- I think that is one of the reasons why actually you should look at the American Rescue Plan and realize the wisdom of it. We gave states and cities, we gave school districts, and we gave them a couple of years to roll out their funds, precisely so that if there were bumps along the road, we would not see our recovery derail.

I think that the policy, both the strength and lifting everybody up, but also the duration of the American Recovery Act has provided a cushion. And so, I don't think it's right to say that we didn't foresee it. I think the fact that we -- let's not take for granted that we have 3.6% unemployment rate. The Black and Hispanic unemployment is lower today than it was in February 2020 before the pandemic. We had record job growth.

We know, believe me, we know that that does not mean that we have escaped the global phenomenon of inflation. But I think this president has been focused on having the back of working families every single day of his career and certainly every single day of this presidency.

LEMON: Listen, I don't disagree with what you have said. All I'm saying is that I think that the weakest defense is the omicron and the delta variants because we were in the middle of a global pandemic that was unpredictable, pandemics are unpredictable, and the economy was suffering.

That is all I'm asking. Should this have been -- could you have looked at options in case things got worse instead of thinking that things got better? That's all I'm saying. So, I understand your argument. I'll take you at your word. And I do think that the American Rescue Plan that help. So, I agree with that. I thank you for coming on. Thank you, Gene Sperling. I appreciate it.

SPERLING: Thank you, Don. Thank you for having us. I appreciate it.

LEMON: Now, climate change. An extreme hot weather. It may make this the summer of blackouts and electric grid shutdowns. So, why are power companies ready with all the warnings? CNN looks into that, next.




LEMON: A warning tonight that major parts of the U.S. could be facing blackouts this summer due to extreme heat. The nation's electric grid, not built to handle the extreme weather of climate change.

CNN's Rene Marsh gives us a look at who could be affected and where.


RENE MARSH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (VOICE-OVER): As wildfires burn and temperatures rise across the nation, a sobering new report warns the U.S. power system could buckle, triggering energy emergencies this summer. The upper Midwest and Mid-South along Mississippi face the highest risk of blackouts. Texas, the West Coast, and southwest face an increased risk.

ROMANY WEBB, SABIN CENTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE LAW: The electric system is old and so it's not designed to withstand the impacts of climate change.

MARSH (voice-over): Extreme temperatures triggered a surge in demand and that tanks the grid. An early heatwave has already knocked six power plants off line in Texas this month. In Oklahoma, heat also played a role in blackouts.

UNKNOWN: It's like a walk-in freezer.

MARSH (voice-over): And last year, the Texas power grid completely failed for days under a deep freeze. Two hundred and forty-six people died.

YAMI NEWELL, BRONZEVILLE RESIDENT: An energy crisis can become a public health crisis. It can become a full crisis.

MARSH (voice-over): Yami Newell has seen the cascading effects of an unreliable power grid in her hometown of Chicago.

NEWELL: For wealthier family, if they have a power outage and all the food in their refrigerator goes bad, they may be able to go afford, to go back to the store and replenish the coffers. For a family that's operating on more restricted income, they might not be able to go back and refill the coffers.

MARSH (voice-over): In her Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago's south side, solar panels now dot the rooftop of a public housing complex. A short drive from there, a backup battery stores energy from those solar panels as well as natural gas generators, creating what the state energy calls a microgrid.

PAUL PABST, COMMONWEALTH EDISON COMPANY: Without power, we are talking about potential life-threatening situations. So, this microgrid provides that back up to be able to deliver power even when the grid isn't there.

MARSH (voice-over): The project is pending approval, but once it's operating, it can connect and share power with the main power grid. In the event of a blackout, it can disconnect and operate independently, tapping its stored battery energy to power the homes, police station, and hospital in the area for four hours.

We have seen a reluctance on the part of many utilities to pack (ph) the climate change into their planning processes because they say that the science around climate change is too uncertain.

MARSH (voice-over): They're basing analysis for grid reliability and investments on historical averages because planning for extreme projections is more expensive.

WEBB: And so, we are continuing to design and site facilities based on historic weather patterns that we know in the age of climate change a good proxy for future conditions. MARSH (voice-over): As communities work to build a more resilient

grid, Bronzeville is a possible blueprint for creating a backup for when climate wreaks havoc on the grid.

(On camera): Compounding the U.S. power grid supply and demand problem is drought. One U.S. grid regulator tells CNN there has been a 2% loss of hydropower from the nation's dams due to low water levels.


(on camera): Add to that, rapid retirement of coal power plants all while nearly everything from toothbrushes to cars are electrified. Many energy experts telling us, Don, that adding more renewable energy would help increase the nations power supply. Don?


LEMON: Rene Marsh, thank you so much.

COVID deaths are up again. Three quarters of them coming from a particular population. We are going to tell you who and why right after this.



LEMON: It's no longer just the pandemic of the unvaccinated. Breakthrough COVID infections becoming more and more common and vulnerable people are at risk. The CDC is reporting five subvariants of the omicron variant are now circulating and more are coming.

While vaccines have saved millions of lives since that first shot was administered in December of 2020, those folks who first got the shot are likely facing waning immunity. That means seniors. Three-quarters of COVID deaths this year all among seniors. Fully vaccinated still means those first two shots.

But the thing is, two boosters beyond those shots are recommended for seniors at this point by the CDC, and less after this two-thirds of seniors have even gotten one.

People are getting back to normal. Thirteen million people flying this weekend alone to see loved ones, to spend time with each other. And that's necessary. That's part of life. But cases are rising in every single state. As much as we want COVID to be gone, it is not. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Vaccines, boosters save lives.

Thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.