Return to Transcripts main page
Search Warrant Issued For Deadly Shooting On Alec Baldwin Film Set; CDC Greenlights Boosters For Moderna And J&J COVID Vaccines; Biden "Optimistic" About Reaching Deal On His Agenda; Interview With Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA); Documents Show How Facebook Failed To Halt "Stop The Steal" Movement; Convicted Killer Robert Durst Charged With Murdering Wife In 1982; Pfizer Reports 90 Percent Vaccine Efficacy In Kids Age 5 To 11. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired October 23, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
All right. We begin this hour with new details in the deadly shooting on an Alec Baldwin movie set. Moments before the shooting, an assistant director for the film "Rust" handed Baldwin a prop weapon and yelled "cold gun", indicating that it was safe. That's according to a search warrant by the Santa Fe, New Mexico sheriff's office.
Baldwin then fired the weapon not knowing actual live rounds were inside the gun, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.
CNN correspondent Lucy Kafanov has more from Santa Fe.
LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Actor Alec Baldwin says he's fully cooperating in the investigation into the fatal shooting on the set of the movie "Rust".
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bonanza Creek Ranch. We've had two people accidentally shot.
KAFANOV: Officials say they're still in the initial stages of their investigation into what led to the fatal incident when Baldwin discharged a prop weapon on set.
Director Joel Souza rushed by ambulance to a local hospital with injuries. The film's director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, was pronounced dead after being transported via helicopter to the hospital.
Police continue to interview witnesses and are looking into what type of projectile was fired from a prop gun commonly used on movie sets that aren't without their own risks.
JOSEPH FISHER, PROP MASTER IN MOVIE SETS: Prop weapons do have a dangerous factor to them even though they're a lot safer than using a live firearm on set.
KAFANOV: 42-year-old Hutchins who posted on Instagram from the New Mexico location only days ago lived in Los Angeles with her husband and son and was credited in the production of dozens of film, TV, and video titles.
Baldwin tweeting from the account he shares with his wife, "There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins. I am in touch with her husband offering my support to him and his family."
These tragic accidents on movie sets have happened before. Actor Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was killed in 1993 on the set of the movie "The Crow" when a fragment of a dummy bullet became lodged in a prop gun which fatally wounded Lee in the abdomen.
Shannon Lee posting on her brother's verified Twitter account, "Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on "Rust". No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set, period."
(on camera): We're told that a search warrant has been issued for the Bonanza Creek Ranch where the shooting took place. Sheriffs say they'll be carefully combing the property throughout the weekend. They don't expect to update the public before Monday. This as investigators try to piece together how this tragedy could have taken place.
Lucy Kafanov, CNN -- Santa Fe, New Mexico.
WHITFIELD: All right. New questions today about the safety measures taken on the "Rust" set. The "L.A. Times" reporting that hours before the deadly shooting at least half a dozen camera crew workers walked off the set to protest working conditions including gun safety procedures and other concerns.
In a statement obtained by the entertainment site "Deadline", Rust" movie production said, "The safety" -- I'm quoting now -- "The safety of our cast and crew is a top priority of 'Rust' productions, and everyone associated with the company.
Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down. We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time," end quote.
CNN has reached out to the production company for comment but has not heard back.
Let's talk about more -- let's talk more about all this, rather.
Joining me right now Ben Simmons. He's a firearm instructor for actors and co-founder of "Bear Arms" which provides military support to the film and television industry. So good to see you, Ben.
BEN SIMMONS, FIREARM INSTRUCTOR FOR ACTORS: Hi. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: So we're learning that Baldwin was handed one of three prop guns by the assistant director. Why would there be three different guns, and could that have caused some confusion about which one was most safe to use?
SIMMONS: So in lots of film sets and film productions you'll have different guns effectively playing the same gun in the same way you'd have a stunt guy playing the role of another actor.
SIMMONS: So you could have a completely inert, totally prop gun that can't fire that is just to look correct. You could have a rubber gun so a stuntman can use the same gun to fall over or in a fight sequence. And then you might have a gun that can fire a -- a blank round. So you can produce the kind of effect you want to see on screen such as a flash or a bang or the recoil.
WHITFIELD: So you mentioned there could be rubber guns, you could have a gun that fires blank rounds. If it's a real gun, is it most likely on set that it has been modified in some way to make sure that it either is only capable of using blank rounds or nothing at all?
SIMMONS: Not necessarily, no. Most single-shot firearms don't require any changes to them to fire a blank round. So normally they're exactly the same as they would be, they're unchanged.
When you talk about semiautomatic firearms and sort of modern-day guns, then you have to do certain things to them to make them repeatedly fire so they'll be able to fire the first shot.
But some of them function on a blow-back gas, so you need to tweak some bits to make them work. But otherwise there's very little modification required to fire blank rounds.
WHITFIELD: I see. Well, you know this better than anyone. But the first rule of firearm training to always point the muzzle in a safe direction. So why, in your view, would Baldwin have been pointing the gun in the direction of Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza even if it were a rehearsal or might have been just simply a mistake of the direction which it was handled?
SIMMONS: Well, I can't say much about this particular instance because I don't know the details. And of course, the investigation is still ongoing so it would be wrong of me to state what -- what happened there.
However, it is a general rule of firearm safety to always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Of course on a film set, you may be required to point the gun toward the camera if that is what the shot requires.
WHITFIELD: And that's where your director, you know, could be, right, that's where Halyna --
SIMMONS: Potentially yes.
WHITFIELD: -- or even Joel could be if, say, the gun was pointing right toward the camera.
Some sets I read might have plexiglass so as not to -- you know, so as to further protect a crew member on a set when in fact a gun might be pointed toward a camera. Is that typical, or is that under extenuating circumstances?
SIMMONS: No, you'd always find ways to make it as safe as you can do. If a gun has to point toward the camera, then you might consider doing things such as having the camera locked off and none of the crew near the camera. So that when you're filming and discharging the firearm, that there is nobody in that harm's way except for the camera. So if something does go wrong it's just the camera that would be hit.
There are other ways to do it such as if you were trying to film an actor pointing a gun at another actor, there are various ways to angle the camera and to angle the action so it looks like it's pointing at the actor but it's pointing off to one side.
There are a number of different ways. I've often seen shields used, so if a blast is going toward the camera -- really to protect the camera, you can have a protective shield because even with a blank, lot of debris and burned powder and grit can come out of the end of the gun which can damage a lens.
WHITFIELD: Ben, the "L.A. Times' is reporting that there were safety concerns on the set even before the shooting. The paper says several crew members had already quit over issues including safety protocols like gun inspections, not being strictly followed.
There were other matters, too, that apparently crew members were upset about from their commute to the set after being promised their hotels would be near the set and then it ended up being otherwise.
But as it pertains to safety measures, what is usually the protocol, what usually takes place on a movie set when you do have firearms involved?
SIMMONS: So usually you would try and avoid using a real gun with blank ammunition unless you have to. And you would -- it would be a discussion between those in charge on set, between the director, the actor, the stunt coordinator if there is one, the armorer, he's the person who is providing the gun and responsible for safety.
You'd have a discussion and rehearsal about where the gun would be pointing. And you'd rehearse the actor through it so the actor would be able to, you know, point the gun in the right direction at the time. There would be various checks that the armorer would do to make sure
the gun was clear, to make sure the right ammunition was being used, when a gun is handed from person to person, generally what should happen is the gun should be checked each time.
So those are the kind of safety rules that are normally brought into place on sets.
WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. Well, I know so much of the movie world and beyond are just heartbroken and sickened that this would happen. But I think it also underscores, you know, to the layman about the -- both ordinary and extraordinary risks that are involved in the movie-making industry.
Ben Simmons, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
SIMMONS: Likewise, thank you. Thanks.
WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, new data on COVID vaccines for younger kids. Details on how a rollout could work, straight ahead.
Plus, Walmart recalls thousands of bottles of aromatherapy sprays because of deadly bacteria.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
Ahead of a major FDA meeting Tuesday on COVID shots for younger children, Pfizer has announced that its vaccine is over 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID in children between the ages of 5 and 11. And that could be a decisive piece of data in approving shots for kids and a potentially major turning point in the pandemic.
At the same time, tens of millions of Americans now have access to booster shots. Health experts are encouraging any adult who got a Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago to re-up their vaccine, and not necessarily with the same regimen.
The CDC has ok'd mixing and matching the available vaccines, meaning that the same group of Johnson & Johnson recipients can also choose to take either Moderna or Pfizer booster.
All right. CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen joining me now from Baltimore. Dr. Wen, always good to see you. So what would COVID shots for kids mean for the future of the pandemic? Let's address them first.
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It would mean a lot. It means a lot for families because there are so many parents with younger children who are living with so much caution, essentially as if they're unvaccinated themselves because they don't want to expose their children to unnecessary risks. And so I think it would give peace of mind to millions of families out there.
And also we know that children can become very ill. Children can also become vectors for transmission for other people in their families and in the broader community. And so I'm really looking forward to the FDA meeting this week and to the CDC meeting the following week. Hopefully we will see vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds getting authorized.
WHITFIELD: Yes. That is so applicable to my family. There are so many things that we will not do as a family because two of our kids are under the age of those eligible to be vaccinated. So yes, I could see how this would be a game changer in a lot of households.
So in terms of deadlines and goals, perhaps it's not going to be by Halloween, but when do you think kids will be able to go to their doctors and get these shots?
Well, assuming that the FDA and CDC both give the green light, I would imagine that by the first week of November, so some time after November 3rd, that pediatricians' offices and pharmacies and other places will begin to offer the COVID vaccine for kids in the 5 to 11- year-old range.
Now one thing that parents can do if they're particularly eager right now is to call their pediatrician and ask about the protocol because many pediatrician's offices may already be on the waiting list. They may already protocols in place and procedures in place to start administering the vaccine.
And so once the vaccine is approved assuming that it will, good to check in advance to see what those procedures are.
WHITFIELD: Ok. You're the right person to talk to for a number of reasons. But let's zero in on some booster talk because you recently mixed and matched vaccines yourself, is that right? You originally had the Johnson & Johnson shot and then you chose to get a Pfizer booster.
Are you recommending that for everyone? and talk to me if you will about what you felt physically, if anything, and why you decided to make that decision.
DR. WEN: Of course. So let me back up and say that the decision for people who got the initial Pfizer/Moderna vaccine is very different from the decision for those who initially got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
So for people who initially got Pfizer and Moderna, if you're eligible now to receive a booster, there's no particular reason to switch to something else unless you have a particular, very specific medical circumstance.
For example, you have the severe allergy to Pfizer or Moderna, consider switching to Johnson & Johnson. If you had myocarditis before consider switching to Johnson & Johnson, too. But otherwise there's no reason to switch between Pfizer, Moderna, or to something else.
Very different I'd say in the case of the one-dose J&J vaccine. So I received the one-dose J&J vaccine before we knew about the association between the J&J vaccine and a very rare but extremely serious blood clotting disorder that is particularly prevalent in women between the ages of 18 and 49.
I'm in this category, and so for women in this group, I would strongly advise that you do not get a second dose of the J&J vaccine but instead that you switch to either Pfizer or Moderna. Those two are fairly prevalent.
I chose Pfizer because that's what was available in my local pharmacy. I didn't want to wait until the Moderna booster. But there's no reason why I wouldn't have chosen Moderna, as well.
Now, on the other hand, if you are someone who does not have this risk, you could choose a second dose of the J&J but you could also choose one of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
If you're unsure, talk it over with your medical provider because at this point in the pandemic, we do have plenty of vaccine, we should be able to tailor the booster dose to what's right for you and your medical circumstances.
WHITFIELD: I think there are so many Americans who are still, you know, reeling from even the news of former secretary of state Colin Powell dying as a result of complications to COVID even though he was vaccinated.
WHITFIELD: What is it that you want people to understand about -- and underscore the importance still of getting vaccinated but then there might be vulnerabilities depending on what your health situation is and how they make the correlation of what their concerns are personally to that of a giant who just passed away?
DR. WEN: Yes, it's really important for us to emphasize that the vaccines protect you six times against infection and over 11 times from death. That's really important. That's the reason we get vaccinated is to protect ourselves.
But there's another component, as well, which is to protect other people around us. Someone like General Powell, he was older, he was 84. He also had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, that made him particularly vulnerable to infection. And also he was potentially on treatments that made it such that the vaccine was not so effective for him because he had a suppressed immune system.
This is the reason why we need to get vaccinated to protect those people around us who are particularly vulnerable.
You don't know if the person that you're on the bus with or who is a colleague or who's a friend is immunocompromised. You don't know if maybe they have a child at home who has cancer.
And it's our job to get vaccinated yes to protect ourselves and our loved ones, but also to protect others around us, too. The best thing for all of us to do is to get vaccinated so that we're able to suppress the level of COVID-19 infection in the community.
That is ultimately what's going to lower the risk for everyone and get us out of this pandemic.
WHITFIELD: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much. Your advice is invaluable. Thank you so much.
WHITFIELD: Still ahead, Democrats are stumping hard in Virginia for the governor's race. Why that contest may be the biggest test yet on whether Donald Trump still motivates Democrats to go to the polls.
WHITFIELD: President Biden is working the phones this weekend as Democrats edge closer to a possible deal on his massive social spending plan.
The president gave some insight on the behind-the-scenes talks with moderate and progressive Democrats as well as major sticking points in the negotiations during a town hall this week. Biden told the audience that he is optimistic Democrats will reach an agreement despite the drawn-out talks.
Let me bring in Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger from Virginia. Congresswoman so good to see you.
So before we get into the negotiations on these spending bills, you're in your home state today stumping in this very tight race for Virginia governor and your candidate, Terry McAuliffe. Former President Obama will be on the campaign trail today in Virginia with him.
And Democrats are trying to campaign on an economic agenda that is still in limbo on Capitol Hill. So how do you do that in Virginia which is just a stone's throw away from the nation's capital?
REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): Well, thank you so much for having me on to talk about the exciting race that's happening here in Virginia. I was in Henrico County today. I will be in Culpeper County later today. I'll be by Charlottesville and down into southwest Virginia tomorrow.
I'm so excited not only about Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala and Mark Herring, but also our House of delegates candidates who are all on the ballot this year.
And frankly Virginia is going in the right direction. Virginia is the number-one state for business for the second year in a row. And those are the things I'm talking about when I'm out there talking about what's at stake in this election.
And notably on the economic front, in his first four years as governor, Terry McAuliffe announced more than 1,100 economic development deals. He brought more than $20 billion in new capital to our commonwealth, and unemployment dropped in every single city and county across the commonwealth of Virginia when he was governor.
So the message is clear that I'm bringing. Terry McAuliffe was great for Virginia, he's going to be great for Virginia again. And we need to continue on this path toward progress. We want to be the number one state for business the third year in a row. And we've got our sights set on a variety of other accomplishments that we're working towards and will with him at the helm of the state.
WHITFIELD: Are you also thinking about what's at stake overall for Democrats if McAuliffe doesn't win? I mean, President Biden comfortably beat Trump in Virginia in 2020. And if McAuliffe and the Democrats can't pull out a win in ten days, do you worry that that could be an ominous sign for Democrats like yourself for the 2022 midterms?
SPANBERGER: Well, you know, I'm excited. If -- for anyone who's on the ground in Virginia, you know, people are focused on November 2nd. People are focused on the progress that we have made in the commonwealth and that we will continue to make when we re-elect our fantastic house of delegates members, when we flip a couple of seats and when we ensure that Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala and Mark Herring are elected for the statewide seats.
You know, there's a lot that's happening particularly as we continue this process of getting past COVID.
One of the areas that Terry McAuliffe is so focused is on the education of our children. And he's promised to ensure that we are raising teacher pay across the commonwealth of Virginia.
Notably Virginia ranks 50th for how we pay our teachers compared to the average income of other jobs, and that's just unacceptable. And so this is an important priority of former governor and future governor Terry McAuliffe, and you know, campaigning on real issues and real policies.
Terry's put out more than 20 specific plans of the places, of the priorities that he has for his second term as governor. And I'm just appreciative of the fact that he's been so transparent and so clear with the goals and the plans that he intend to work to realize.
WHITFIELD: And I hear you, you are laser-focused on a McAuliffe win. But is this race also sort of a barometer on what you run on come midterm elections?
SPANBERGER: So what I run on come midterm elections are the things that matter to the people I represent. I represent ten counties throughout central Virginia, a mix of suburban and rural communities.
And on the ground, people are focused on the economy. They're focused on the recovery. They're focused on, you know, the issues that matter to them, the health and safety of their kids, their loved ones, the strength of their small business for the small business owners, their ability to have a good paying job and a family-sustaining job.
And so those are the issues that I've always been focused on, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, ensuring that we are, you know, creating opportunity for our nation's youth, ensuring a strong and competitive economy that creates opportunity for everyone.
And so that's what I -- that's what I hear on the ground. That's what I continue to work on on Capitol Hill and certainly that's why I'm out campaigning so hard for Governor McAuliffe because his priorities, what he's done for the state already, the trajectory that we have been on, the number-one state for business two years in a row, we're going to go for the trifecta with the third year, and he'll -- we'll do that with him as our governor.
WHITFIELD: All right. Lots of energy being put into today and over the next ten days. Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, thanks so much for your time. Appreciate, glad you could be with us today.
SPANBERGER: Thank you so much for having me.
All right. It is a damning picture of Facebook's role in the Capitol insurrection and how the company did not stop the avalanche of "Stop the Steal" -- remember those slogans? We'll look at the Facebook papers next.
WHITFIELD: It might be the most significant evidence yet about the role Facebook played in the deadly Capitol riot January 6th. Internal Facebook documents reviewed by CNN reveal how the social media company fell short in shutting down the so-called Stop the Steal Movement. And days after the insurrection Facebook officials tried to downplay its role in what happened.
CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joining me right now so Donie, what did we learn from these documents?
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Fred.
We are going to be seeing a lot of stories about Facebook this week. A consortium of 17 U.S. news organizations including CNN have obtained tens of thousands of internal Facebook documents, and some revelations are very troubling.
Have a look.
O'SULLIVAN (voice over): On January 6th, Facebook executives condemned the attack on the U.S. Capitol but internally some employees began to push back. Facebook, they suggested, was culpable. One writing an internal Facebook company chat, "All due respect but haven't we had enough time to figure out how to manage discourse without enabling violence? We've been fueling there fire for a long time and we shouldn't be surprised it's now out of control."
Another wrote they were tired of thoughts and prayers from Facebook leadership. There were dozens of Stop the Steal groups active up until yesterday.
And another Facebook employee responded --
Stop the Steal, the conspiracy theory movement that helped fuel the insurrection had been organizing on Facebook for months.
(on camera): How did you guys hear about this event today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Through Facebook.
O'SULLIVAN: Facebook events, Instagram, how have you been promoting this?
SCOTT PRESLER, ORGANIZED STOP THE STEAL EVENT ON FACEBOOK: Yes. Well, I created a Facebook event for yesterday's event. And I posted after the fact that we were again coming today. I will be again making another event in regards to tomorrow.
JOAN DONOVAN, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Facebook provided the fundamental coordinating infrastructure. They were sharing ride-share information. They were sharing resources. They were talking about, you know, what they were going to wear and if they were going to have Trump flags.
O'SULLIVAN: We now know that an internal Facebook report described the company's attempts to crack down on Stop the Steal as piecemeal.
That document leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen who spent her final months at the company photographing thousands of internal documents and company chat logs.
DONOVAN: These documents are vindication that what we've been saying as a field has been true all along and that Facebook knows it and could take action on it and decides not to.
LAWRENCE LESSIG, ADVISER TO FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER FRANCES HAUGEN: For many years people have been talking about the Facebook effect. What Facebook is doing to culture, to society, to politics. But we didn't really know from data from Facebook whether these theories were true.
What Frances has given us is an extraordinary archive of material that helps us see exactly what's going on and what they know is going on.
And it is the biggest and most important contribution to understanding this incredibly important problem that we've ever had.
O'SULLIVAN (voice over): The leaked documents, many just becoming public, were given to a consortium of news organizations including CNN form the basis of a complaint to the SEC where Haugen alleges the company misled investors and the public about its role perpetuating misinformation and violent extremism relating to the 2020 election and January 6th insurrection.
(on camera): Facebook executives like Nick Clegg will say it's unfair to blame Facebook for the insurrection.
DONOVAN: It's a red herring to say people are blaming Facebook for the entire thing. That's not what's happening here. You can't at the same time be Facebook and trying to take responsibility and being very proud of all the organizing work that you've helped Black Lives Matter do or the Occupy movements or Standing Rock, you can't take credit for all of that and then say, oh, that thing called the insurrection, we had nothing to do with that.
O'SULLIVAN (voice over): Another revelation from the documents, an internal memo including details of a Facebook staffer setting up a test account to see what Facebook's algorithms were recommending to users.
(on camera): 2019, a Facebook employee sets up an account designed to look like a 41-year-old conservative mom living in North Carolina, her name is Carol Smith. She likes a few pages, she likes Trump. She likes Fox News.
In a week, she's getting a QAnon recommendation. I saw in there that after three weeks there was actually a recommendation for a page that was the 3 percenters, the militia, self-described militia involved in the insurrection.
LESSIG: No, I mean again, we've suspected this dynamic. What's strike about what Frances has revealed is that we now know that Facebook itself saw this precisely. So these are like potato chips that they feed to somebody who's got a potato chip addiction.
And that is the reality of the platform. It is an addiction engine and it profits the more it can manipulate us to consume what we want to consume most.
O'SULLIVAN: Revelations, Fred, of course, may be of interest to the House Select Committee that is investigating the January 6th insurrection.
Here is what Facebook is saying -- here's what Andy Stone from Facebook tells us. He's the spokesperson. "The notion that the January 6th insurrection would not have happened but for Facebook is absurd.
The former president pushed the narrative that the election was stolen including in person a short distance from the Capitol building that day. The responsibility for the violence that occurred on January 6 lies with those who attacked our Capitol and those who encouraged them.
We have a long track record of effective cooperation with law enforcement including the agencies responsible for addressing threats of domestic terrorism."
And of course, Facebook pointing out that they're not the only social media platform that was used here. Twitter and YouTube was used extensively a lot but we will be hearing more about this in the coming days -- many, many more documents and many more stories to come, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Wow, Donie, that's an extraordinary view, perhaps among the most remarkable points being made is that you can't take credit for the good and at the same time, you know, not defer to take the blame for the bad, that is.
All right. Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much. Appreciate that.
All right. Still ahead, thousands of aromatherapy sprays are being recalled at Walmart because they may contain deadly bacteria.
WHITFIELD: Walmart is issuing a major recall today over a potentially deadly product. 3,900 bottles of the Better Homes and Gardens Essential Oil-Infused Aromatherapy Spray with Gemstones is being taken off Walmart shelves because it could contain a bacteria which the CDC says has already killed two people in the U.S.
Joining us right now, Dr. Peter Hotez. He is the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co- director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital.
Dr. Hotez, always good to see you.
So what is behind there bacteria recall that's taking place?
DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, it's really a fascinating story and a medical mystery, although I think it's about to be solved, Fred.
So it's a disease called melioidosis. It's caused by a bacteria known as Burkholderia pseudomallei. And it's actually a pretty important cause of death, around 90,000 deaths per year predominantly in Southeast Asia, Thailand, Vietnam, it's even in Singapore, northern Australia. and it's a bacterium that lives in the soil.
And during monsoon seasons, it gets kind of -- in the high winds it gets kind of swept up. Sometimes it aerosolizes and people inhale it or rice farmers will get cuts and abrasions in the skin and come into contact with the infected soil and it causes pneumonia, bacterial sepsis, bacteria in the blood.
And the question is what the heck is it doing in Minnesota, Kansas, and Texas, and then Georgia. And so that was a real head-scratcher for a while.
But the Centers for Disease Control has -- did extensive interviews as part of their outbreak investigation. And now they've identified that this particular product which is sold at Walmart by PCR -- preliminary chain reaction, they actually detected the presence of the bacterial genome.
WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh.
DR. HOTEZ: And so that seems to be the answer, that somehow it got contaminated. The product is made in India where there is melioidosis in the western side of the country. And you know, if you notice that when you said there were gemstones in it, sometimes the rocks, maybe if they were not sterilized, were contaminated with the bacteria but they're working out the details.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. I mean what incredible detective work in order to find the origins like this. So you mentioned gemstones could be part of the problem. As soon as you were describing it with the soil component, et cetera, I was thinking my follow-up question was going to be about the herbs or something, herbs grown in the soils of these areas where there could be this bacteria and somehow it got into the bottles that way, is that another way?
DR. HOTEZ: Could be that, as well. And so I think they're looking at all possibilities. And they'll start sorting it out. You know, the first time around they conducted their interviews as part of the outbreak investigation. Nothing came to light.
And I think it was the later -- latter case in Georgia that popped up in July where they finally made the connection, recovered the bottle, and did the preliminary chain reaction back in Atlanta in the labs there. And it was an incredible piece of medical sleuthing.
WHITFIELD: So then, now I'm wondering if you have this product at home and people are being encouraged, you know, obviously not to buy it, store shelves -- you know, it is to come off the store shelves in the Walmarts and other places where it's sold.
But then say you do have it, what do you do with it? I mean how do you dispose of it is also potentially dangerous, right. I mean you can't just toss it out because now somebody who may have picked it up -- trash receptacle, et cetera, they too, could be exposed. What are the recommendations? What do you do with it if you have it? If you have this product?
DR. HOTEZ: Well, they just did the product recall. And I think I'd go back to Walmart and see if they've got instructions. You know, the Centers for Disease Control may actually want to collect the bottles to get a sense of how pervasive this is because it was only that one lucky bottle that they identified the bacterium. So they may want to do additional analysis.
So I think for now until we get more information probably contact Walmart and see what their instructions are.
WHITFIELD: All right. Dr. Peter Hotez, good to see you. Thank you so much. Thank you for the fair warning. This is really, you know, an eye-catching occurrence, and I think everyone is now wondering, you know, is this bacteria or could it potentially be in other products that we were unaware of until now. Thank you so much.
DR. HOTEZ: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Still to come, more legal trouble for billionaire Robert Durst -- the murder charge he's now facing in the death of his former wife who died nearly 40 years ago.
And tonight on CNN, get the latest news from investigators on the Gabby Petito case. CNN SPECIAL REPORT: GABBY PETITO AND THE HUNT FOR JUSTICE". That's tonight at 11:00 only on CNN.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
The cause of death of a couple and their baby daughter who died on a hiking trail has been released. Officials say hyperthermia with possible dehydration from environmental exposure led to the family's tragic deaths. Hyperthermia refers to heat-related conditions from abnormally high body temperature.
They were found on a trail near Yosemite National Park in August. The sheriff noting an empty 85-ounce water bladder was found with the couple. The family's dog was also found dead. Its cause of death still to be determined.
Infamous billionaire Robert Durst has been charged with the murder of his former wife in New York nearly 40 years after her death. Durst was already facing a life sentence for the murder of his best friend who he purportedly killed to stop her from talking to investigators about the first murder.
Jean Casarez has more from New York.
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robert Durst has been charged with second-degree intentional murder in the death of his first wife, Kathie Durst in 1982 in Westchester County, New York. That's a little north of New York City. Kathie Durst at the time was just about to finish medical school. She had her whole life before her and then suddenly was missing.
Durst's family, the billionaire Durst family, they stood by his side at the time. But Robert Durst has spent his whole life trying to evade law enforcement because he was so concerned that he was going to be charged with her murder. Now Kathie's family has never had answers. They have so many questions to this day. Their attorney, Bob Abrams, has released a statement, and it says, "Robert Durst has now been formally charged with the murder of Kathleen McCormick Durst. We are very happy with this development. At this time, however, we will not be making any further comments until the grand jury process is completed."
Robert Durst was just convicted and sentenced in Los Angeles for the murder of his best friend, Susan Berman. Prosecutors alleged that Durst had to murder Berman because she knew the truth about Kathie and that investigators in New York were just about to ask her some very serious questions.
Now CNN did confirm with Durst's lead attorney, Dick DeGuerin shortly after that sentencing on October 14th that Durst had been diagnosed with COVID-19. He told us at that time that Durst was at USC Medical Center.
Jean Casarez, CNN -- New York.
WHITFIELD: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
All right. We begin with a game changer potentially in the fight against COVID. 28 million children, ages 5 to 11 may be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in the United States as soon as the first week of November.
CNN's Nadia Romero joining me right now with more on all this. This is a lot of hopeful news.
NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, and especially for those parents who have been working so hard throughout this entire pandemic to try to keep their kids safe.
Now they could have an answer, a vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine that could become eligible to them if you're ages 5 through 11.
ROMERO: But first things first, Tuesday FDA vaccine advisers, they'll listen to the folks over at Pfizer, they'll hear them out to see if they will recommend an emergency use authorization.