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Louisiana Dealing with Power, Fuel Shortages More Than a Week after Ida; U.S Schools See Differing Outcomes Based on COVID Safety Measures; Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) Fights to Keep His Job as Recall Election Nears. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 10:30   ET



NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. I mean, think about it. You could handle it for a day or two. Now, we're going on day eight of not having air-conditioning, not being able to warm up your food, a lot of the food in your fridge, in your freezer has spoiled now. So, these distribution site where they're handing out food and water so important.

We're in LaPlace, Louisiana. This is one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Ida and they've laid out water pallets. So this is the number one need they have for people in the area. They need water just to drink. And so the cars will start coming through about 1,500 a day. And they'll go around this line. You can see there is dog food lined up, other essentials, because people lost everything.

We spoke with a volunteer who talked to us about meeting a family, they have a toddler at the house and a newborn that is coming and they don't have much to show for it.


REBECCA OWENS, CAJUN NAVY VOLUNTEER: Home is a place of safety. Home is a place for a beginning of that child. And there are people now who don't have that, that this person literally had nothing or feels that they have nothing to offer this child that they're bringing home from the hospital, what a devastating and as a parent for me I can't imagine. I absolutely -- so, yes, there are times when they're tearing up, I'm tearing up. And it is okay.


ROMERO: Yes, very, very emotional. And there is the line of cars. They've been out here for two or three hours now waiting for the site to open up so they can get just bare essentials, Poppy. And that is all we are talking about, basic needs to survive.

HARLOW: Right, of course. Nadia, thank you very much for your reporting on the ground, we appreciate it.

Let me bring in the parish president of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, Matthew Jewell. Good morning and thank you for being here amid such difficult circumstances. If I could just begin with your response to the estimate now from the energy provider, which is that folks in your parish will not have their electricity back on, at least 90 percent of them until September 29th.

MATTHEW JEWELL, PRESIDENT, ST. CHARLES PARISH, LOUISIANA: Yes, look, we've been on Entergy to put the resources that we need into St. Charles Parish. Myself, some other elected officials, the sheriff, we have been really telling them that there is such extensive damage in here that we can't just wait for everybody else who has minor damage to be restored. We have to get lineman into our parish now. Over 2,500 electrical poles have snapped and fallen in our parish. There are still poles on streets. And there are some folks who don't have the ability to access or get out of their street or have access to first responders coming to their street.

So, we've really been on Entergy to get more linemen into our parish. We've seen a big increase today in our parish, the amount of linemen working. And just a small glimmer of hope, a small portion of our parish, a couple of streets in the months area did receive power yesterday evening. So, just a small glimmer of home. I hope that that starts to domino very quickly. I'm pushing Entergy to beat that estimate of September 29th for 90 percent restoration. We're going to stay on top of them on that.

HARLOW: Let's hope they can. As I understand it, and correct me if I'm wrong, but you and your parish did not have any deaths directly related to Hurricane Ida, is that correct?

JEWELL: No direct deaths at this point in time. But as we go through the recovery process, I'm sure we -- something may come up. We have seen a lot of folks getting heat stroke and other illnesses from not having access to medicine. That is why we worked real hard this week to get our pharmacies opened up. That's why we've been working with the sheriff's office to make sure to do wellness checks on our elderly population because you just can't sit in this type of heat for extended periods of time.

HARLOW: Right. That is what I was going to say. I mean, no deaths maybe directly from the storm, but if all of the folks, the most vulnerable, the elderly are majority without air-conditioning and their medications, et cetera, until the end of the month, that could be a deadly combination for them.

JEWELL: Yes. Not only that, but also we are seeing more CO2 calls from our fire department for people running generators in or near their homes. So we always remind our residents to keep your generator outside when you're running it and we want everybody to have a carbon monoxide detector in their home. They should run off battery if they're hardwired. But we are seeing a lot of -- we have seen some CO2 deaths in other parishes. So we are trying to warn our parishes and our parish proactive and practice good generator safety.

HARLOW: Students at the schools in your parish just returned about less than a month ago.

[10:35:02] What does this mean for them?

JEWELL: Look, a lot of our schools sustained significant damage. Our school system, our superintendent, Dr. Ken Oertling, is working really hard right now to figure out a plan on how they're going to conduct school. So I know they're going to being out real soon with a plan for our residents and our school children.

HARLOW: Right. Because without power, you can't even do remote schooling if you can't have them in the building. Matthew Jewell, president of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, we wish you luck. Thank you.

JEWELL: Thank you.

HARLOW: Up next, speaking of schools, two schools with two very different approaches to fighting COVID. What the numbers reveal about masking and the part of the school day that has health experts the most worried.



HARLOW: Welcome back. Well, the delta variant has upended the return to in-person learning for millions of students, but school districts across the country are already seeing different outcomes based on their COVID safety measures. In Los Angeles, schools were masking, teacher vaccinations and weekly testing are enforced. Just 0.5 percent, that is half of 1 percent, of students are testing positive for COVID. Compare that to Jackson, Mississippi, a district where masking and vaccination are voluntary, 6.4 percent of students there are testing positive.


JOHN STRYCKER, SUPERINTENDENT, JACKSON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI SCHOOLS: I'm confident in what we're doing. And you know what, we meet every evening. I can make a change at any moment and I will make a change if I see it's necessary.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Superintendent John Strycker's COVID-19 plan at schools in Jackson County, Mississippi, masks, vaccines and quarantines are voluntary. He collects his own data on COVID in his schools to craft his own policy. He says he has chosen quality education over pandemic fear.

STRYCKER: We lost a teacher to COVID and it broke our heart. I wept.

It's very hard on me. But when I'm making my decisions, I need to do the best I can as a leader to make non-emotional decisions.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Strycker stands by his non-emotional decision to essentially do nothing.

STRYCKER: Since the beginning of school, I'm using the data. And so, you know, I feel that our kids are safe relative to the other schools with those options.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Schools started on August 5th in Jackson County. There are around 9,000 students in the district. And Strycker's own data shows an astonishing 6.4 percent of them have reported of COVID infection, a number he says is starting to trend down slightly.

Medical director at the Los Angeles Unified School District is running a program with a completely different approach from Jackson County, Mississippi.

DR. SMITA MALHOTRA, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: We have a robust and one of the largest testing programs in the nation, where we're testing all students and staff regardless of vaccination status every week.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: All adults inside Los Angeles schools are required to be vaccinated. Everyone is required to wear a mask.

Los Angeles schools have been in session for almost three weeks. Just half of 1 percent of the students and staff tested were positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Daniel Benjamin, a pediatrician leading a team of researchers studying the pandemic in schools at Duke University says, even though it is early in the year, there is enough data to strongly suggest what works.

DR. DANIEL BENJAMIN, DUKE UNIVERSITY: If a school district does not have a mandatory masking policy and is not quarantining thousands of people by the second week of school, then that school district is very likely being irresponsible as it relates to quarantine and exposure of people at school.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Benjamin likes vaccine mandates for adults in education, like those in Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Some districts, like Fairfax, Virginia, New York City have taken the extra measure of requiring many student athletes to be vaccinated. Benjamin likes that one too.

Lunchtime is a big worry, Benjamin says. When kids' masks come off, delta is on the menu. Nothing is better than universal masking, Benjamin says.

BENJAMIN: If all of your school activities are outside and people are more than six feet apart and you are holding all of your classes outside and all of your lurch outside, then you might be able to get away without masking.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): So, Poppy, we're right in the middle of school reopening season. Millions of kids went to school this month, million goes to school this month. And these different approaches are having different outcomes. That is the early results that we're seeing. And everyone wants kids to be back in class. Everyone agrees it's the best place for kids to be, the best way for education to get done. But the question is, are masking politics and politics around mitigation going to get in the way of that and maybe stop that from having that in a lot of places?

HARLOW: Yes, with kids who have no power to make these decisions that can make them so much safer. Evan, thank you for the reporting.

Still to come, California's recall race hits the home stretch and Governor Gavin Newsom have getting some high-profile help. Details ahead.



HARLOW: In eight days, California voters will decide if Governor Gavin Newsom will get to keep his job. On Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris will campaign with Newsom, joining the fight to keep a Democrat in California's top office. Newsom is hoping his high profile help will push progressive voters to the polls on September 14th.

Our National Political Reporter Dan Merica is in Los Angeles. Dan, good morning. I know it is a little bit earlier there. Thank you for getting up early with us on a holiday with us on a holiday. But he's had big names. You've got the vice president, you've got Senator Klobuchar and things are looking good for him now?

DAN MERICA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. He's on steadier footing than I think he was a few weeks ago, and, frankly, a lot of voters weren't paying attention.


This is an off-year, off-month race. A lot of more voters are more attuned to having elections in November, possibly an even year. So, this is a tough ask for voters. And I think Democrats here knew that. They knew that it was going to be a tough slog. And a few weeks ago, the polls were showing Newsom in a tough position. But now, a number of recent polls have shown him gaining a little ground. And that is to be expected in many cases because California has a two-to-one registration advantage, Democrats to Republicans.

So, for Newsom, and this is something he admitted yesterday, this is a turnout race. He doesn't have to convince people to come out and support him. This is all about turnout getting people out. So he was at a labor event yesterday. He's going to another event today here in L.A. County. And he's really pushed people just to get on the doors and to send in their ballots because this is a mail-in election.

One way that he is trying to get people out is by invoking the name of former President Donald Trump, someone who lost the state by about 30 points less than a year ago. Take a listen to how he did this and compared his primary Republican opponent, Larry Elder, to the former president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): If we don't vote no on this recall, Larry Elder is the next governor of California. And, by the way, this is not an exaggeration at all. He is to the right of Donald Trump. How is that even possible?


MERICA: So, that serves a couple of purposes for Newsom. By nationalizing this race, by making Trump the boogie man, he kind of avoids some of the stickier issues here California, homelessness, fires drought, climate change. Those issues aren't as national. And if he's comparing Larry Elder to Trump, it certainly brings out people who just less than a year ago came out to vote against Donald Trump.

And as you mentioned, you have a lost Democratic heavy weights also coming to California looking to spur turnout, looking to tap into their supporting bases. I mean, a lot of the folks ran for president. Elizabeth Warren was here on Saturday, Amy Klobuchar was here on Sunday, and Kamala Harris, former California senator, now vice president, is coming this week. So, all of those folks are coming for the same purpose, looking to boost turnout here in California and, hopefully, for Newsom's sake, save his job.

HARLOW: And you'll be there throughout covering it for us. Dan, thank you, as always.

Coming up, a tragedy, a former marine accused of killing four people, including a baby. What he allegedly told police after that shootout.



HARLOW: This morning, an arrest in a horrific shooting that has left four people dead, including a three-month-old baby. That shooting happened early Sunday morning in Lakeland, Florida. Police say the baby was found in their mother's arms.

Our Correspondent Nick Valencia joins us with more. Nick, this is heart-wrenching. What do we know about this family?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is such a disturbing story and even more so disturbing when you get into the details of this. At this point, the sheriff's there in Polk County say there is no known connection between him and the family he's alleged of killing, but Bryan Riley, 33 years old, a former marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was outfitted in body armor and also had camouflage as he carried out his shooting rampage early Sunday morning. Police say he shot and killed a family of four. They range in age from 62 years old to just a three-month-old baby who was shot and killed in their mother's arms.

Once he was inside that home, he barricaded himself inside that home and got into to two separate shootouts with police. Once he was taken into custody, police say he actually tried to take a deputy's handgun and had to be subdued. At this point, according to the Polk County sheriff, there is now clear motive.


SHERIFF GRADY JUDD, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA: We had a mad man with a lot of guns that shot and killed innocent people.


VALENCIA: An 11-year-old survived that shooting, police say, with at least seven bullet holes. And here is where it gets interesting, Bryan Riley gave an interview to police where he confessed to the shooting, saying that voices and, quote, God made him do this. And why he shot that infant, he said, because I'm a sick guy.

Now, his girlfriend had also talked to police saying that Riley was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and within the last week, she had noticed that he had been acting erratically but said he had no history of violence. And at this point, police say that this seems to be a random act and that these were strangers that he targeted. They're trying to figure out why though and hoping that they can get to the bottom of that. Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes. And in the meantime, an absolute tragedy, four dead and a three-month-old. Nick, Thank you for the reporting.

And thanks to talk of you for joining us today. It's good to see you. I'm Poppy Harlow.

Boris Sanchez picks up our coverage right now.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone, I'm Boris Sanchez in for Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us.

Here is what we're watching on this special holiday edition of At This Hour. Crisis after crisis, President Biden's problems piling up, a long list of challenges while trying to move forward on his domestic agenda.

Plus, climate emergency, extreme weather events destroying communities and costing lives.


How can America's mayors prepare for an undeniable reality?