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Millions Left Scrambling After Pandemic Unemployment Benefits End; 3 New Fires Ignite in California as Caldor Slows; 230 Plus Medical Journals Say Climate Crisis Is Greatest Health Threat; Schools See Differing Outcomes Based on COVID Safety Measures. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Millions of Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits today. Millions more will lose that additional $300 federal weekly boost. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh spoke on "New Day" about what's next.


MARTY WALSH, LABOR SECRETARY: I think that we're living in a pandemic, I think there's a lot of factors here. I think the $300 didn't have as much of an impact as everyone said it did and keep people out of work. We'll see as we move forward. But those states that ended enhanced benefits did not see any gains at all of people going back to work.


CAMEROTA: CNN business correspondent, Alison Kosik again. So, Alison, this is a big day, every significant for all those millions of families.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It really is. This is impacting 11 million Americans, total 8 million Americans will lose all their unemployment benefits today, but the reality is this wasn't intended to last forever.

$800 billion later it did what it was intended to do. This assistance, it was intended to prop up households and prop up the economy. And give a lifeline to desperate households and Americas who, you know, at the height of the pandemic couldn't pay their bills and were going through this great uncertainly about their economic futures.

Well, today has come, now ends the benefits despite the fact that millions of Americans continue to struggle and the pandemic continues as well.

But is begs the question will we see a flood of Americans rush back into the labor force and start looking for work? Well, the answer is not cut and dry. In fact, it was pretty political and controversial. At one-point critics of this assistance were saying we don't think that people are going back to work because of this free money from the government, but data from the Labor Department showed different.


They showed that states that kept their benefits and states that cut their benefits didn't really have any difference in job growth. So, what's happening here? This maybe sheds the light on what is really happening, is that many people can't just jump back into the jobs that they had before the pandemic for a variety of reasons.

For one, their jobs may not exist, they may have moved away so they can't work in their old job. They may be retraining and trying to get a higher paying job. They may be having childcare issues. That's what we're seeing for women and why women continue to be on the sidelines.

And then there's the health reasons. The delta variant continues so there's concern among many workers that they could still get sick.

So even with 10.1 million job openings, there are a lot of reasons beside the fact that people were getting the assistance why they may not be returning to the workforce so quickly.

CAMEROTA: It's complicated. Thank for you laying that out. And I get we'll see starting tomorrow what changes.


CAMEROTA: All right, thanks so much, Alison.

KOSIK: Sure.

CAMEROTA: OK, if you think the coronavirus is the biggest threat to global public health, you are wrong. We'll tell you what health experts say it is. More on that ahead.



CAMEROTA: Three new wildfires in California, as the huge Caldor fire finally starts to slow. One of those new fires started Sunday afternoon near Auburn. And it grew to about 250 acres by dusk.

The Caldor fire has consumed or than 216,000 acres, it's now 44 percent contained, and some evacuation orders are being eased.

But from catastrophic fires to flooding from hurricane Ida, it's all part of the climate crisis that's prompting more than 230 leading medical journals to issue a joint statement to world leaders calling for urgent action.

The editors of the journals warn quote: Rises above 1.5 Celsius increase the chance of reaching tipping points in natural systems that could lock the world into an acutely unstable state. They add: We as editors of health journals, call for governments and

other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course.

That call for governments to act is being echoed in a new CNN opinion piece written by CNN contributor and MIT science journalism fellow John Sutter.

In his op-ed, he says, quote: Stop blaming yourself for the climate crisis. Sutter warns, quote: The narrative must shift from one of individual responsibility, if I turn off this lightbulb, I'm saving the planet -- to one of the governmental and corporate accountability.

And John Sutter joins me now. John, thanks so much for being here. I read your op-ed with such interest, and I found it strangely freeing, to be honest. Because I've been recycling and composting my heart out. I have bought an electric car. My family and I have cut out virtually all red meat, and yet still these climate catastrophes keep happen somehow.

And so, your point is that we can do as much as we can individually. But that's not really the root of the problem. What is the root of the problem?

JOHN SUTTER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'll just first say that I think that it's good that you're doing those things, I do a lot of those things too. And I think it's important because those small personal acts do connect us to this massive uber-global crisis.

But I also think that there's been this false narrative that's been pushed really by the fossil fuel industry to blame individual people, to make us feel guilty for our choices when the truth is that there are, like, big global systems especially the energy system that underlie and produce the climate crisis, right.

It's not -- unless I have a lot of money to afford to buy a bunch of solar panels to put on my house, I may not have depending on where I live a lot of agency or choice in where my electricity comes from, right.

There are -- it's sort of national-international scale policy decisions that need to be made to sort of shove the world out of the fossil fuel era as fast as possible and reach, you know, like a carbon neutrality to sort of make the world safer.

And we aren't going to get there will individual actions alone. And I think that there's been a concerted effort by fossil fuel companies over the decades to try to make us feel bad for that and make it feel like this should be placed on your shoulders instead of on the shoulders of those big companies and the governments, frankly, of the world that have talked about this issue for decades now but really haven't taken the massive actions that are necessary in order to make the planet safer.

CAMEROTA: I think that's such an interesting perspective and does the flip side of that perspective also hold true, which is it doesn't really matter if my neighbor or the guy at the gym believes in climate change, because climate change doesn't care if he believes in it. And so, I don't have to waste my breath convincing somebody, we should put our energy, instead, into what?

SUTTER: So yes, I think there is this -- climate change has been described just like sort of sinister math problem, right. It's about the atmosphere and how much, you know, heat-trapping gas, how much carbon dioxide we put into it that creates this blanket that makes it warmer and warmer.

I do think that efforts would be better placed, rather than trying to convince a neighbor -- I do think those conversations are important, I'll say that, and I think that they're not happening enough.

In polling, you know, Americans say they hear about climate change in the media. And it's about like a quarter of Americans say they regularly hear about it in the media, and about the same, maybe a third say that they have a conversation about it, even like somewhat frequently.


So, I do think that's a problem, but I think the energy is better placed, pushing for local, state, national and international policy change, right. Like we need regulations that are going to get us out of the fossil fuel era and do that really, really quickly, as quickly as possible.

The science tells us we need to -- the world needs to be carbon neutral by about 2050. So that date may sound like sci fi and far away, but it's really rapidly approaching when you think about this like in an earth time kind of way.

So, I say like have those conversations, but they are not -- your neighbor isn't to blame for the magnitude of this. Money interests that have profited from the pollution of the planet are to blame, and our governments for not acting faster.

CAMEROTA: And so, John, very quickly, what is the one thing that we all can individually that would make the difference?

SUTTER: It's to get involved in the political process and push for things like clean energy standards, you know, sort of getting countries off of fossil fuels, and requiring a shift to cleaner renewables which are safer for public health, and you know, don't heat up the planet.

And contribute to the massive and deadly disasters that we're seeing, carbon taxes, like sort of big macro level changes are I think what is needed in order to make doing the bad thing, polluting expensive and incentivize companies to move away from that into cleaner technologies that in the long term will make this planet safer and continue to be habitable for us.

CAMEROTA: John Sutter, thank you very much. Everybody should check out your op-ed at Thank you. SUTTER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, we're only about a month into the school year. And you can already see how different COVID safety protocols are producing different outcomes in different regions. So, we have much more on that, next.



CAMEROTA: The delta variant has upended the return to in-person learning for millions of students. And school districts across the country are seeing different outcomes based on their different COVID safety measures.

CNN correspondent Evan McMorris-Santoro has more.


JOHN STRYCKER, SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, JACKSON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI: 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, is to keep masking, vaccination, and quarantining voluntary. He collects his own data on COVID in his schools to craft his own policy. He says he's 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 (voice over): Strycker stands by his non-emotional decision to essentially do nothing.

STRYCKER: -- since the beginning of school. And using the data. You know, and so, I feel our kids are safe relative to the other schools with those options.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): School started 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 a COVID infection, a number he says is starting to trend down slightly.

The 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, LOS ANGELES 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 (voice over): 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 school in schools at Duke University says even though it's early in the year, there's 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 (voice over): 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 6 feet apart and you're holding all of your classes outside and all of your lunch outside, then you might be able to get away without masking.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): So Alisyn, we're right in the heart of back-to-school season, right. Like millions of kids started last month, millions of kids are starting this month. And everybody wants to know how to keep classrooms open and keep them safe. And the early results show masks are what you need to do it.

CAMEROTA: Yes, so we do have some data on that. But still administrators are resisting that, why? Because they think that kids can't learn with masks on.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Actually, that superintendent in Jackson County, Mississippi said that exact thing. He said, look, the choice I'm making is between good education, he says masks, kids can't read as well, they can't pay attention to each other as well with masks. That just doesn't really match the data and the problem is the worst part is that if they have a COVID surge, school has to close down entirely, which is obviously the worst kind of education.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely, Evan, thank you very much for all of the reporting.

And "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right after the break.