Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Memorial Day Weekend, Many Americans Travelling Abroad and Domestically; Parents Remain Frustrated About Tennessee's Third Grade Retention Law; New York City Still Struggling To Hire Lifeguards As Memorial Day Approaches; Man With Paralysis Walks Naturally After Brain, Spine Implants. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 27, 2023 - 08:00   ET



AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Graduates and the school gave him an honorary Doctorate of Arts. The crowd erupted in laughter when he talked about how he earned that honor.


TOM HANKS, ACTOR, UNITED STATES: Without having done a lick of work, without having spent any time in class, without once walking into that library in order to have anything to do with the graduating class of Harvard, its faculty or its distinguished alumni, I make a damn good living playing someone who did. It's the way of the world kids.


WALKER: All right. So Tom Hanks also received a Harvard Brandon volleyball in reference to his 2000 movie Castaway.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Congratulations, considering all the context he just gave.

WALKER: It's honorary.


WALKER: CNN this morning continues right now.

BLACKWELL: It is a wonderful Saturday morning. I'm glad you're part of it. Good morning and welcome to CNN this morning. I'm Victor Blackwell.

WALKER: What do you do with that honorary degree though? Can you do anything with it? Like if -- can you -- if you have a Ph.D. or a doctorate in the arts, can you actually go and be a professor?

BLACKWELL: No. Some people go around and demand that you call them doctor, with an honorary degree.

WALKER: With an honorary degree.

BLACKWELL: Yes, yes, I know a couple.

WALKER: OK. Well, maybe I need to get an honorary doctorate so you can call me doctor.

BLACKWELL: I go for it when they demand it.

WALKER: I'm Dr. Amara Walker.

BLACKWELL: When they demand.

WALKER: Thank you so much for spending a part of your morning with us, a lot going on this morning. Today, millions of people heading out to their Memorial Day destinations. We're going to tell you what to expect at the airport and what to know before you hit the road. Plus, we'll have the latest on the weather, if you have planning to head to the beach.

BLACKWELL: And a new deadline to hammer out a deal on the debt ceiling as lawmakers race to avoid default. Could an agreement come today? Are there any closer?

WALKER: Plus, he's one of the most controversial politicians in Texas and now he is facing the possibility of impeachment. We'll tell you what he's accused of and why fellow lawmakers want him out.


CELINE DION, SINGER, UNITED STATES: All by myself anymore.


WALKER: We played this at six o'clock. I got the same goosebumps now two hours later. Celine Dion as she cancels her world tour through 2024 because she's battling health issues. A source near her says that she may never be able to tour again and the latest on her condition.

Summer travel season is officially here, and people are wasting no time getting away. The Transportation Security Administration says that it screened about 2.7 million travelers at airports nationwide just yesterday. That's the highest checkpoint count so far this year. In all, AAA expects 42.3 million Americans to travel 50 miles or more from home over the holiday weekend.

WALKER: Among that number, the more than 37 million people expected to hit the roads. The increase in drivers won't translate to higher costs at the pump though. Gas prices are actually much cheaper than a year ago. CNN's Isabel Rosales is live at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Good morning, Isabel as we know Atlanta is known as the world's busiest airport. How busy is it this morning?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amara, Victor, good morning to you. It is busier than ever. I mean, the site is a little overwhelming for people that might be coming here. You can see these passengers just snaked through this main security checkpoint. It kind of looks like Disney World like waiting on a line here. But the good news is that the wait here appears to be about 30 minutes.

However, this is not the end of the line. Take a look right over here. You can see it forking off two separate lines that just continue all the way into the atrium right over there. You mentioned that TSA screened 2.7 million Americans yesterday, their highest volume of the year so far. It was also busy at this airport, Hartsfield Jackson yesterday with a TSA recording their busiest morning ever. That is a -- that is a direct quote right there, 3:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. yesterday. So the same timeframe. They recorded nearly 32,000 passengers going through these security points.

The previous record was February the 4th, 2019. And if that date is familiar. That was the date after the Super Bowl, Super Bowl 53 right here in Atlanta. They had 500 fewer passengers during that timeframe. Still, this is far from over. They're expecting 2 million passengers through the weekend here at this airport. I spoke with some passengers yesterday during that busy rush who experience very different scenarios Take a listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Staffs has been courteous. Everything's been traveling smoothly. It helps us until Friday morning, so, so far it hasn't seemed too crazy little, a nervous about coming back on Monday. I think that one might be a bit worse but it's a domestic flight luckily.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's crazy because we got bad news. The next two flights are booked. Exactly. Hey, if we have to get on top of the playing, we're going to get on top of plane. Hope and prayer, hope and prayer. Hope and prayer. This is what we're on.


ROSALES: And some folks have been worried you know. They have back -- bad memories of last summer, the travel chaos that they experienced, thousands of flights that were disrupted. Well, this weekend experts are saying is really a test for the airlines, the airport, and also the FAA. One of the biggest limitations has been a shortage of air traffic controllers, the agency down about 3,000 controllers so far from their ideal numbers. They say that that will impact traveling this summer, guys.

WALKER: Gosh, that -- that just makes me stressed out watching all those people getting in line, those really long lines. This is why you'll never -- you'll rarely see me travel during a holiday weekend.

BLACKWELL: Yes. I'm not doing that. I did love their T shirt so did you see them?


BLACKWELL: Boozing with my beaches.

WALKER: That's how they got to do it.

BLACKWELL: Yes. It was good. It was good.

WALKER: Isabel Rosales, thank you. And if you're getting on the road, there is some good news. It's going to cost you a little less to get to your destination. CNN's Matt Egan with more.

MATT EGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Victor and Amara. The roads are going to be packed as summer kicks off this weekend. AAA expects that more than 37 million people are going to be hitting the roads. Hopefully not all of them in New Jersey where I'm going to be. Some context around that 37 million figure, that is up by 6 percent from a year ago. But I am here with some good news. And that is despite the rising number of people on the roads, the cost of road trips is actually going down.

Drivers across the country are being greeted by cheaper gas prices than last Memorial Day weekend, a lot cheaper. On average, a gallon of regular gasoline sells for about $1 less than a year ago according to AAA. And the national average is miles away from that record high of 502 a gallon set last June.

GasBuddy says that prices are down in all 50 states, California, Alaska, New York, New Jersey, and Florida are among the states enjoying the biggest price drops. All of this is yet more evidence of cooling inflation, the cost-of-living crisis, you know, it isn't over, but it is getting better. There's two important points here. Gas prices, they were lower in 2021. And, of course, in 2020, when COVID shut the economy down and people weren't really driving.

Also the reasons for the gas price drop, they're not all positive. Some of it is better supply, also better than feared supply out of Russia. But it's also these lingering recession fears that have kept the lid on oil prices and also kept down the price of gasoline. Still, GasBuddy estimates that drivers will spend $1.6 billion less on gasoline compared with last Memorial Day weekend and that is undeniably good news. Victor and Amara.

BLACKWELL: Good news. Thank you, Matt. Here's some not-so-good news. Of course, so many people are going to be heading to the beach this weekend. But the weather may not cooperate in some areas.

WALKER: Yes. You may not be able to booze with some beaches. Seeing that we've all just -- Britley Ritz is at the CNN weather center with more. Hey Britley.

BRITLEY RITZ, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Hey, yes. Not so much booze in here at this beach. This is Myrtle Beach. The rain is hitting the camera so it's coming down. We got that area of low pressure hanging nearby and it's a whopping 58 degrees so it's a cold rain.

Take a look at the satellite. There's that low. You can see the spin with the center and quite a bit of rain moving onshore now, heavy at times, more of a moderate steady rain most of the day and, of course, it's going to last all weekend long. And not only that but an onshore flow bringing in some strong winds, causing some high rip currents in wave heights up to four to eight feet which is why we have areas highlighted in purple all the way down into the Space Coast of Florida. That is a high surf advisory and coastal flooding as well, that water getting pushed up onto -- the onto the shoreline.

And not only coastal flooding but freshwater flooding too as that rain pushes inland. You'll see areas highlighted in orange, about four to six inches of rain within two days' time. So remember, don't drive through flooded roadways, turn around, find a different route. That's the best advice I can give you.

And not only the flooding threat on the coastline but the threat for severe weather across the plains today and tomorrow. Areas highlighted in yellow, a little more vulnerable. So we'll watch that with wind and hail being our bigger concerns, especially this afternoon and into the evening hours once again, as we get that energy, the heat to ramp back up and isolated tornadoes can't be ruled out either.


All right. Let's take you across the Ohio Valley, the northeast, and down into Florida over the next three days time. 70s for most of us, of course, Orlando a little bit warmer with the opportunity for a few showers across New England here in the next few days. Amara, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Britley, not the greatest news. But thanks for watching it for us. Thanks so much. OK, so now the Washington. Whitehouse and GOP negotiators they are working to, of course, reach a debt ceiling deal to avoid a catastrophic default.

WALKER: Yes. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress yesterday that lawmakers have less than nine days to finalize an agreement to fund the government. But major sticking points remain on everything from spending caps to work requirements. CNN's Jasmine Wright has been tracking all of this and she is now live at the Whitehouse.

Jasmine, where do the things stand? How close are they to a deal?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITEHOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Amara, well, optimism is really coming from both sides of the aisle as they signal that a deal could be made and that it could be made soon, really, as negotiators are racing to avoid really an economic catastrophe if the U.S. would default for the first time. Now that update on Friday from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen making it clear that June 5th, not June 1st but June 5th is really the firmest date that she has where the U.S. would be unable to pay its debts, cash on hand really was significant. And it seemed to be basically the motivator needed for these negotiators literally light a fire underneath them to come to some conclusion.

Now when we heard from President Biden last as he was leaving Washington, D.C. for Camp David, that presidential retreat on Friday, he said that he had hoped to hear by midnight last night whether or not a deal was possible. And we heard from sources at Capitol Hill overnight, as negotiators were working that a deal could come as soon as today, possibly even this afternoon. And we know that in these final stages of negotiations, negotiators haven't been trading top lines. But they've actually been trading legislative texts, really trying to speed up the process to really putting a bill together.

Although even if a deal was announced today, it's unclear when any bill or text would be ready for Congress to view it. But still, a reality check here, which is really important, Amara and Victor is that there are still sticking points when it comes to these negotiations, chief among them as of yesterday, were work requirements. Republicans want stronger work requirements on those benefactors of the SNAP Program, food stamps, and Democrats don't.

Now this was President Biden's response yesterday when leaving the Whitehouse when asked what he should do or really how Democrats feel that he shouldn't cave into Republican demand. Take a listen to his answer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Biden, what do you -- what do you tell Democrats who say that they don't want you to bow on the work requirement. What's your position?



RITZ: So there we heard some cheekiness from the President. But realistically, he's optimistic, Republicans are optimistic that something could happen, even possibly this weekend. But the deal will not be done if a deal is announced because we know that there's going to be stiff opposition on both Republican and Democratic side. So it's going to be up to both parties to really whip up an agreement and come forward with it so that the votes are there so that it can make the President's desk before June 5th. That's no short order here in Washington, Victor, Amara.

WALKER: It is not. Jasmine Wright, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

And here with me now to discuss the debt ceiling negotiations is Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Congresswoman, thank you so much for your time. So tell me, Congresswoman, are you confident that there is enough time to get a deal passed before that June 5th deadline?

DEBBIE DINGELL, UNITED STATES CONGRESSWOMAN: I'm not confident about anything. You know, we talked to people who said the deal would be finalized last night. Now it's Saturday. There are some very serious sticking points. I think I am the angriest that we're here, that we're even struggling and worried that we may not be able to pay our bills. It's an unacceptable situation to be in. And quite frankly, none of us can be rubber-stamped so we're in a very, very, very challenging situation.

WALKER: Are there any non-starters for you especially when it comes to work requirements and you know, and -- and food stamps?

DINGELL: Look, I'm -- I have told everybody. I'm not going to tell anybody about how I'm going to vote until I see what they have negotiated and what is in the deal. But I am -- I have so many points that I am concerned about and angry about including the fact that I canceled a trip. I am not at my goddaughter's wedding that I was to officiate. I think we should all be in Washington because I think if we were, there'd be a lot more sense of urgency maybe than there is right now.


But the fact of the matter is, is that no revenue is on the table. Do we need to reduce our spending? Yes. Or do we need to do a better job of balancing our budget? Yes, we do need to do it. But it means everything needs to be on the table.

Republicans have said, we cannot put taxing billionaires on the table. We cannot put -- when Donald Trump passed his tax bill, he had incentives there that encouraged American companies to locate overseas. We should have those things on the table. Kids are hungry in this country. We do not understand what the pandemic has done to so many families.

So I want to see what's going to be in the bill. I want to see what programs are going to be cut. Do I think some things could be cut? Yes. But let's see what they negotiate. Let's see how it's going to impact the people, my district, the 6th District, the working men and women. And I think a lot of members, both parties have a responsibility to do that. And we'll do that.

WALKER: Tell me, Congresswoman, why you decided to stay and I mean cancel, unfortunately officiating your goddaughter's wedding all the way in Italy? Because I mean, right now the negotiations are happening between the Whitehouse and representatives of Kevin McCarthy. What is it that you can do while you're here?

DINGELL: Well, first of all, let me say this, that we had hoped and remember, we were going to have the agreement Thursday night, last night. I had people from the Whitehouse telling me it would be done last night. And, you know, I'm flying commercial coach, and I've had so many canceled planes as everybody has in the last year. Italy's not close and we need to get this deal done.

So I was very concerned if I went to Italy, if something happened, my responsibility, I was elected to be present, to be there. But I also think that one, if members were in Washington this weekend, both parties, that sense what I feel. I'm -- I happen to be in Michigan. I came home last night to do a parade this morning. I'm going back this afternoon.

I am I talking to people. I know, it's been part of the discussions. I'm talking to my other colleagues. We will figure out and analyze what we learned and be talking to other people. That's where we belong. Our job is to do our job. Doing our job for me, is being here as much as I want to be with my family and friends.

WALKER: And I know you mentioned that just how angry you are, especially with some of the proposals and how the Republicans have been handling this. But are you also frustrated with the way the Whitehouse has been handling the talks, I mean, and its communication? Are you getting updated regularly? And you know, what are your concerns regarding, you know, any concessions that Biden may give into especially when it comes to those work requirements you mentioned?

DINGELL: So I'm going to say very clearly. My husband was a great man. For those of you who don't know, he was in the Congress in a very wide season, so. And he always said compromise is not a dirty word and it's not. But compromise doesn't just go on one side. We cannot be cutting a deal for conservatives, far-right conservatives that are never going to vote for this bill.

I think people should be talking to us, telling us about what's on the table. I have -- I have been talking to people at the Whitehouse and they know where my concerns are, and they know where a lot of members' concerns are. And they're talking to a number of us that are talking to a number of people. They're staying in regular touch with our leadership. And I'm sure the Senate though the Senate has not been heard as much from.

So, you know, when you get into these kinds of serious situations, first of all, we shouldn't be in it. We need to do something so that we stop this drama, this Kabuki dance of -- of going down to the warrior on our debt ceiling. What the danger, people do not understand the danger it is putting everyday people across this country.

Last night when I got in, I had a senior come up and start crying with me. She said to me, if I don't get my social security check, I don't know how I'm going to live. Well, I took -- last night, I connected with somebody, we're going to make sure she's going to get that check and give her the assurance right now that if something does happen, our community is going to take care of her. But you don't understand. That's how people are feeling across the country. They're scared and that's wrong.

WALKER: Yes. If there's a default, I mean, we're going to see people -- the most vulnerable people in our society who are going to hurt from this. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, really appreciate your time. We hope and we pray that there is a solution soon. Thank you very much.

BLACKWALL: Coming up, major tension erupting inside Texas between top Republicans in the state. What's behind this very public intraparty fight? Plus health issues force music icon Celine Dion to cancel her world tour through next year. And the speculation from her absence that she could never be on the road for a tour again.



BLACKWELL: In Texas, House lawmakers are expected to vote today on whether to remove Attorney General Ken Paxton from office. Allegations of legal and ethical wrongdoing have dogged Paxton since he became an AG back in 2014.

WALKER: But now the ethics panel from the GOP-controlled state house has filed 20 articles of impeachment against him after investigators on Thursday accused Paxton of numerous criminal acts including bribery and obstruction of justice. CNN's Ed Lavandera takes a closer look at the case against Paxton.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the most controversial politicians in Texas is facing impeachment.


KEN PAXTON, ATTORNEY GENERAL, TEXAS: This shameful process was curated from the start as an act of political retribution.


LAVANDERA: Republican Ken Paxton has been the State's Attorney General since 2014. But a Texas House committee led by fellow Republicans is accusing Paxton of a litany of criminal acts including bribery, obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty, 20 Articles of Impeachment and all filed against him.


The charges brought by the Texas House General Investigating Committee detail alleged violations by the AG and a request for more than $3 million of public money to pay a legal settlement to whistleblowers who worked as top deputies in the AGs office. They revolted against Paxton in 2020. There are also bribery charges with a top campaign donor that involved an alleged affair.

In a statement, Paxton says the allegations are politically motivated and based on "hearsay, and gossip", and also added that corrupted politicians in the Texas House are actively destroying Texas, his position as the most powerful backstop against the Biden agenda in the entire country.


PAXTON: Every politician who supports this deceitful impeachment attempt will then flicked lasting damage on the credibility of the Texas House.


LAVANDERA: Paxton has been under indictment for felony securities violations since taking office. He's also under FBI investigation for his actions connected to the articles of impeachment. Paxton has denied all wrongdoing and Texas voters have reelected him as Attorney General twice. And along the way, he's garnered the support of a major ally.


DONALD TRUMP, FMR. UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: He loves this state and he loves this country Attorney General Ken Paxton.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAVANDERA: And taking a page out of the Trump playbook. Paxton blames the looming impeachment fight on liberal factions in the Texas Republican Party. And one Texas State Representative predicts Paxton will be impeached by the Texas House but is calling on the Texas Senate to refuse to hold an impeachment trial.


STEVE TOTH, TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE: No one has any evidence that he did anything wrong. It's all allegations. It's all allegations. And so yes, this is -- this is just -- this is political retribution. It's all it is. This is a complete sham.


LAVANDERA: If the impeachment passes in the Texas House with a majority vote, it moves on to the Senate where the Attorney General's wife, state senator Angela Paxton, could be among those voting on his potential impeachment.

Ken Paxton is urging friends and supporters to come peacefully rally on his behalf at the Texas Capitol later today when the Texas House votes on those articles of impeachment. And this is significant because it echoes what we heard from Donald Trump on January 6. And we must also point out that Ken Paxton was on that same stage that day with Donald Trump. Victor and Amara

WALKER: Ed Lavandera, thank you very much. Up next parents in Tennessee are expressing serious frustrations over a new law that could hold back more than half of the State's third graders. We're going to talk to one parent who is pulling her kids out of public schools because of that.



WALKER: Let's take a look now at some of the other top stories we are following this hour.


WALKER: Celine Dion says she is canceling her Courage World Tour and will quote likely never perform again. That is according to a source close to the singer. Dion has what's known as stiff person syndrome a rare condition causing body stiffness and muscle spasms.

But Dion posted this on Twitter Friday saying even though it breaks my heart, it's best that we cancel everything until I'm ready to be back on stage. I'm not giving up and I can't wait to see you again.

BLACKWELL: The Pentagon says it's increasing security screenings after a massive leak of classified documents by the member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a review of procedures around the handling of the sensitive and classified material. The Pentagon also says routine screenings of people entering and exiting the Pentagon will increase to make sure classified information is protected.

All right, let's go to Tennessee now where new law is in effect, which requires third grade students to prove proficiency in reading and literacy on a standardized test in order to move on to the fourth grade.

According to a report from Axios, 60 percent did not this year. Statewide data released this week shows only about 40 percent of third graders in Tennessee met or exceeded expectations. And that's the threshold these students must now meet. And third graders who scored below proficiency based on their performance have a few options here including retaking the test, enrolling in summer school and moving on to the fourth grade with a mandatory tutor.

Either way, the new law has left a lot of parents frustrated. We should note that we did invite Governor Bill Lee and state senator of education, John Lundberg to come on the show. We have not heard back.

Joining us now is Dr. Karen Lloyd. She is pulling her kids out of public school putting them in private school over all of this. Dr. Lloyd, thank you for being with me. Before we talk, I just want to put up your daughter's report card. And if you need to get close to the screen, I want you to see this actually, it's probably too small for you to see. Let me tell you what's here.

A whole bunch of A's, some E's for excellent, you have to look hard here to find a B there are a few sprinkled in here. When you heard that because of this test, that there was some possibility that your daughter and not meeting proficiency would have to go to summer school, or have a mandatory tutor and all of those A's for the last year what went through your mind.

DR. KAREN LLOYD, PARENT PULLING HER KIDS OUT OF TENNESSEE PUBLIC SCHOOL: I just there's nobody who is actually educating my child who knows my child who is teaching my child who would ever suggest this. This is something coming from politicians who've never met her.

BLACKWELL: So again, you've decided to pull your children out of public school that was in the early days of getting the news and I understand maybe some time was so emotional and knee jerk but are you going to pull your kids out of public school?


LLOYD: Yes, it's something that we've talked about a lot. And I feel really heartbroken about it because public schools are the only way to really educate our children. I mean, this is something that's essential to having a good society that I want to live in, are well funded, well supported public schools.

My mother was a public school teacher, my husband's mother was a public school teacher, our children had been really well served by Knox County Schools in Tennessee, and it breaks my heart that I felt forced out of it.

BLACKWELL: So listen, we saw the grades, there are a lot of parents like you, you're just the one who's sitting in front of me now. I wonder what do you think that is the point of this test? If you have kids who have grades like your daughters, who is now potentially going to have to some may have to repeat the third grade, others have to get all this tutoring? What's the point of the test?

LLOYD: It's really weird. I mean, I think that like standardized tests have their place that can be really useful as one of the many metrics that we use, you know, tests that we figure out if a kid is doing well or not doing well. But to reduce all of the different aspects of all of the education of these children on one test that was not designed to test literacy. This is being talked about, like it's the kind of literacy test. It's not, that's not what it is. This is just to see where a child is on one aspect.

And suddenly, like, everything about that child's education has now been reduced to this one test. It's ridiculous. And I ask myself, I was like, but why are they doing this? Like, why are they -- what is the point and then I realized the point is to force people like me into private schools, and also to use get political cover for taking money out of our public school system and putting it into private schools that have an ideology, and forcing that ideology on our kids. And that's all I can figure out.


LLOYD: Because that's what they say they do. They want vouchers.

BLACKWELL: You say, this is not about literacy. I've got a sample question here from a practice test, I'm going to put up for people at home. So this is question 33, from the practice tests from the state, which change if any, is needed to correct the underlying text. This is for people at home. The sentence here is next month, Wendy they said, I will go to Australia. So you read through those options. At the end of this conversation, I'll tell you which one is the right one. And you can include this to inform your view of this test that's coming out of Tennessee.

My next question for you, Dr. Lloyd, is what is your daughter's response to this? What is she feel about this about the -- her, I guess how she performed on the test, but also the potential that maybe she'll be leaving public schools.

LLOYD: She's really confused. I mean, it's really, really strange for her to be in an environment where she has amazing teachers. Just -- I can't speak highly enough of the public educators that have educated both of my children.

And so she's an environment where she knows she's succeeding, and she knows that she's continuing to improve. And then at the end of the day, she's supposed to either not go to fourth grade or without the rest of her friends or have to cancel everything she does in the summer and go to summer school. BLACKWELL: All right, Dr. Karen Lloyd, again, there are lots of parents who are a bit frustrated by this test, especially when they see the grades that like your daughter brought home. And let's put up question 33 again, if you were watching that close enough to see here the correct answer here is B. B is the correct answer on this test. Next month, Wendy said, I will go to Australia. Of course this is a punctuation question. Just to sample from the test. Dr. Karen Lloyd, appreciate your thoughts.

WALKER: Still ahead, planning to spend some time by oar in the water this summer where there is one problem you should be aware of a shortage of lifeguards.



WALKER: Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and people from all over the country are flocking to the beach or the pool. Let's take a live look just for fun. Wow look at that, Braden Beach in Florida. This is from Earth cam does that look so relaxing.

One thing that could be missing from many beaches and pools, lifeguards. This is the second year in a row a lifeguard shortage could sink some people's summer plans today. Today, lifeguards will be on duty for the first time this summer along the beaches in New York City but the city says they still need some 1,400 lifeguards for the summer.

Wyatt Werneth with the American Lifeguard Association joining us now. Thank you so much for joining us. First off how many pools parks and beaches are we talking about that could be impacted this year with this lifeguard shortage?

WYATT WERNETH, SPOKESMAN, AMERICAN LIFEGUARD ASSOCIATION: We're happy we're safety month he saved a week and appreciation on Memorial Day. And we have over 309,000 person tools that will be affected by half of those may be closing or reducing their hours.

WALKER: Wow. So talk to us about why we're seeing the shortage and I know you've mentioned that in a lot of it has to do with communities not taking this profession as a lifeguard seriously.

WERNETH: You're correct about that. You know over the years when I started lifeguarding we were excited about Baywatch on TV, where it had helicopters, (INAUDIBLE) who were diving beautiful people you wanted a career like that. And back then there were lifeguards all over the place. And we had to turn away now.


Over the years we've lost that. So I think that there's less interest in lifeguarding now and then the pandemic hit. And people went into different professions. You know, we have restaurants and retail and even influencers. They're not coming back to the beach. So we do not have as many lifeguards and we had in the past, but we don't have the interest.

WALKER: I mean, lifeguarding is a serious job. I mean, this is a job of saving people's lives and to also be able to spot people who may be in distress in the ocean, or in a pool. So obviously, it takes a lot of training.

And so what are you doing, you know, what should be done to I guess, elevate this as a profession, because I know you mentioned aligning this career path of lifeguarding with various fire departments.

WERNETH: You know, there's a trend that's happening, something that I think will help change and that is we have to take lifeguarding serious. It is a profession just like firefighting, police, EMS, but it's not being recognized as that. You have summertime high school and college kids filling those ranks. They're watching your children, You need to really take a good look at that and remodel.

You know, we do have our departments in our town right here that are actually taking charge of the lifeguards. I am the first lifeguard to retire as a firefighter under special risks in the state of Florida. And now we need more of that.

And if we have that, I think that you're going to retain lifeguards, you're going to give the young individuals a career path forward. Because what they do now they come out for a season they have a good time they get some skill set, and they go off to the Police Academy, the fire departments or even the military.

WALKER: And I understand that there was a drowning yesterday and Cocoa Beach. Can you tell me more about that?

WERNETH: Absolutely. It was right over here. As you can see behind me as far as you guys can see back, we don't have any lifeguards. On (INAUDIBLE) lifeguards over 20 something miles behind. The closest one that direction is almost two miles.

Only thing we have that's kind of a stop gap and we have this location devices to help someone. Well, we had a family come to the beach. They were visiting no lifeguards on duty. They were out enjoying the surf, which is very rip current. Right now there's more rip currents than we've had in the last couple of weeks. And they were in the water got caught in a rip current. And thankfully, a couple of locals grabbed this floatation device and got out three of the people and we didn't get one.

So you have to be vigilant swimming in front of a lifeguard. Your chances of drowning in front of lifeguard one 80 million, but we just got to get the lifeguards back on the beach.

WALKER: One and 18 million that is pretty impressive. Well, thank you so much for joining us. Wyatt Werneth. And I know you're also advocating for a pay increase because lifeguarding is not just a summer job. Thank you so much for all that you do and for joining us.

BLACKWELL: This story really is incredible. A Dutch man learns to walk naturally again, more than a decade after he was paralyzed more on the technology behind it, next.



BLACKWELL: New research reveals how a medical device implanted in the brain and spine help one man with paralysis walk again more than a decade after the injury.

WALKER: That's remarkable. CNN's Meg Tirrell has the details on this medical breakthrough.


MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Gert-Jan Oskam was unable to take a single step after a spinal cord injury left him paralyzed more than a decade ago. But now he can stand up and walk even over tough terrain and go upstairs.

Technology is turning Oskam's thoughts into actions. Electrodes implanted over his brain collect signals from the region that controls movements. A computer analyzes them to predict how he wants to move, and then messages electrodes implanted in his spinal cord that allow him to make those movements.

GERT-JAN OSKAM, PATIETN USING BRAIN-SPINE INTERFACE TO WALK: I only have to think about movement, and I can start and stop.

TIRRELL: While electrical stimulation has helped other paralyzed patients walk again, they've had to turn on implants that send a continuous signal to their spinal cord. Oskam success is documented in a new scientific paper in the journal Nature.

He was the first participant in a clinical trial for the technology and researchers are hopeful about future possibilities. He says he can walk about 110 yards depending on the day, a little more than a football field. He can also stand without supporting himself with his hands for a few minutes and is looking forward to gaining even more function. Meg Tirrell, CNN reporting.


BLACKWELL: All right, Meg, thank you. And thank you for watching. Join us again in an hour.

WALKER: Smerconish is up next. We'll see you back here at 10:00 a.m. Eastern but first, in today's staying well we head to Arizona to learn more about one of the fastest growing sports.


AARON WILSON, PHOENIX GRAVEL COLLECTIVE: Rebel biking is a pretty broad concept. It's bikes that are meant to go over a diverse type of terrain. Gravel bikes may have a drop bar, but realistically if it has a wider tire, and it gets you out onto gravel pads, then it qualifies. DR. DON ROWE, CARDIOLOGIST: Gravel cycling is very advantageous to the heart. Gravel is better because you're overcoming resistance, so you have to work harder. So because of the more work you have to put in is more oxygen delivery. It's more of aerobic exercise compared to riding on the pavement.

WILSON: The beautiful thing about a gravel bike is that it is that like perfect blend of off-road durability and on road efficiency. I work with a group called the Gravel Collective that is designed for people that have always thought that cycling looks fun, but just never really felt like they fit the criteria of what that iconic cyclist.


It brings a lot of minorities, LGBTQ, women, kids, I think it just opens the door to having everyone participate in however it is that they want to be present. Gravel cycling is just a way to go and explore the world around you. That kind of youthful enthusiasm that you find when you're on a bike and you're like, zipping down a hill and the winds hit me in the face. I don't have words to like, encompass like, the joy that comes along with that. And I think that most people when they try it, like oh, yes, I get it, like I get it.