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New Day Saturday
Millions in Texas Without Water Following Power Crisis; White House Works to "Surge" Vaccine Shipments After Weather Delays; CDC: Cases Down 69 percent Since January 11 Peak; Democratic Senator Manchin to Oppose Biden Nominee for Budget Director; White House Announces Sweeping Immigration Bill; Naomi Osaka Wins Australia Open for 4th Grand Slam Title. Aired 6-7a ET
Aired February 20, 2021 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Manu Raju on Capitol Hill and this is CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The worst of the Texas freeze is over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): I've been here for about 30 years and I ain't never seen nothing like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): When people lose power, there are heartbreaking consequences.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Now we know just how badly this weather is delaying vaccinations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): We have a backlog of about 6 million doses due to the weather.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The delays coming just as so many states across the country were starting to close the gap.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We continue to see a five-week decline in COVID cases.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): President Biden preparing to take a crack at his next legislative battle.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a reasonable path to citizenship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): But the President's more moderate politics on display on other issues.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): How soon could we do this? Send a note to President Biden because the answer is we do it right now.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND WITH Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Live look at the city of Dallas this morning and you know that they have been dealing with some rough weather across the state of Texas. This morning, millions of people in the state are waking up to below freezing temperatures again after a brutal storm hit the state this week.
Power has been restored to most of the state, but more than 14 million Texans either don't have running water or they have to boil the water that they do have and officials say it could be days before the water issues are resolved.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: It was good to see power on there and all the lights in Dallas because the storm crippled the state's power grid initially. It's shut down coronavirus vaccination sites, it killed more than two dozen people, we now know.
BLACKWELL: There is some good news though. Temperatures are expected to rise in the coming days and melt all of that snow and ice.
PAUL: CNN's Natasha Chen's in Houston with the latest. Natasha, good to see you this morning. We know the state's primary power company says the energy emergency is over, but what more can you tell us about what they're -- what they're waking up to?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi and Victor. ERCOT, that's the state's agency that manages the flow of power for most of the state, announced that the emergency operation was over by yesterday, but really now, as you mentioned, the attention turns to the water crisis because here in Houston, just like many parts of the state, we're under a boil water notice.
There are lots of people who still don't have running water and that's why we're at a food bank where there's going to be a distribution today. We're seeing lots of bottled water distribution events now and, you know, this is a problem for hospitals in the state as well, some going without water for days, one saying that they had to use rainwater to flush their toilets.
Here in Houston, as of last night, there were 5,000 calls or so into the city about burst pipes. So this is going to take quite some time for people to recover and we asked the mayor about this problem, this immediate threat, and he's really concerned about the people who don't have any means to stay somewhere else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D-TX), HOUSTON: Well, if you're already on the margins, you don't have the means to be going into the grocery stores and buying a whole lot of bottled water. You just can't. There are -- there are thousands of water breaks across the city and so if you're in a home and your pipes burst, ceiling come down, damage a lot of your furniture, not in a position to stay where you are, the question is where do you go?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: And this becomes a problem, this water problem, for firefighters as well, including fire crews dealing with a fire at a hotel in Killeen, Texas last night. That's north of Austin and, you know, this hotel fire, a lot of people had to be evacuated out of there, the sprinkler system was compromised because of the freezing pipes. So a lot of this is challenging emergency crews in just the regular work that they have to do, Christi and Victor.
BLACKWELL: It just keeps coming for the folks there in Texas. Natasha Chen, thank you for that reporting.
PAUL: Yes. I mean, at the heart of this is all the people there trying to deal with it. They have their own stories and they're stories that we need to hear. So here are some of those people, what they've experienced in their own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SMITA PANDE, TEXAS RESIDENT: We lost power and we were anticipating getting it back sooner than we did. So we tried to tough it out for the first few days, wearing a lot of layers, just snuggling up and trying to keep ourselves entertained through candlelit board games, but then after that, we did actually go to a friend's house where we all showered and just tried to get our spirits up and just get warm again.
And then after that, our friend actually ended up losing water himself and so we ended up relocating to another friend's house where he graciously took us in. He had power for a short amount of time and then also lost water.
[06:05:00] At which point, we relocated back to our house, all five adults and two dogs, and we started harvesting snow because we had also lost water at that point, harvesting snow for toilet water. Word on the street is that we will be getting water in the next two or three days, but at this point, you know, we can't really -- we can't plan on that. You know, at this point, we're planning on getting water in a week.
SCHUWAN DORSEY, TEXAS RESIDENT: It has been very stressful over these last four days. The power did go off on Monday morning at 6:30. As you stated, I'm afraid to turn mine on, my water, and the water pressure is so low anyway with the other neighbors that you can't even take care of the necessities that you need to do.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You had to sleep in your car for a couple nights during the outage. How'd you ...
DORSEY: That is ...
LEMON: ... is that how you stayed warm?
DORSEY: That is correct. Myself and my two ... LEMON: That's dangerous.
DORSEY: ... dogs. We stayed in the car and every hour on the hour, I would turn the car back on to get the heat and my life alert, I wear bracelet, it was offline because the electricity was off. So I was in danger with my health.
DR. BEN SALDANA, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: I will tell you that five out of six patients that need dialysis three times a week had no place to go this week and we are still struggling with that as centers slowly come up with water. It's become a very difficult proposition for those patients.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think any of us was expecting this and for it to be like this. So it's all about survival right now until it start getting warm.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No water. It's real bad and I have a seven-year- old and it's like -- it's tough.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
PAUL: I know we watched this from where we are obviously, whether you're in your living room, your bed watching this and you feel like you want to do something and you don't know what to do. We're going to help you out here. We have a list of resources on our website if you feel so inclined to help these people in Texas. That's at CNN.com/impact.
BLACKWELL: Now you know that severe weather has disrupted coronavirus vaccine shipments across the country. We'll tell you what the White House is doing this weekend to get those vaccines out to states and get the vaccine sites back up and running.
PAUL: And what a critical week it's going to be the White House's coronavirus relief bill. What does it mean for the status of another round of stimulus checks?
BLACKWELL: And Senator Lindsey Graham is meeting with President Trump this weekend to try to tamp down the very public feud with the GOP. There are concerns that the fighting could hurt Republican efforts to win back seats in the midterm elections.
BLACKWELL: This morning, extreme weather in parts of the country is causing major delays in vaccine distribution across the country. The Biden administration is now trying to catch up and announced a stunning backlog of about 6 million vaccine doses.
PAUL: Senior White House COVID-19 Adviser Andy Slavitt told CNN's Wolf Blitzer last evening, help's on the way and soon. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE: Starting tomorrow, Saturday, we're going to be shipping more doses than states have ever received before because we're going to be shipping this week's doses and next week's doses. We know this means, for all the governors and all the states that have said we want more vaccines, that they're going to have to be ready, they're going to have to make more appointments, they're going to have to extend their hours and we're really hoping everybody pulls together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: With us now is CNN's Athena Jones. Athena, some positive trends here. COVID cases, hospitalizations, deaths all dropping across the country.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. That's exactly right. There's no doubt about it, the COVID picture here in the U.S. is improving. The nation is rapidly approaching the average of 70,000 new cases a day. That sounds high, it is high, but the last time, for perspective, that the country was below that number was late October. So all of this improvement is of course good news for schools.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JONES (voice-over): Encouraging news from the Centers for Disease Control Friday at a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CDC: We continue to see a five-week decline in COVID cases, with cases decreasing 69 percent in the seven- day average since hitting a peak on January 11th.
JONES (voice-over): Hospitalizations have also declined 56 percent since January and deaths have declined modestly to an average of about 2,700 a day. Those improving numbers mean that schools can reopen at any stage of community spread, according to the CDC director.
WALENSKY: So our numbers are coming down. I would actually invite schools to lean in and to look at what is needed so that -- and the road map to try and get more and more children back to school.
JONES (voice-over): During the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci said vaccine safety data for high school-aged children will likely be released later this year and children younger than that, early next year, but while COVID-19 infection numbers appear to be easing, President Joe Biden said he could not be sure when a majority of Americans would have access to the vaccine.
BIDEN: Look what's happening with the weather now, for example. It's slowing up the distribution right now.
JONES (voice-over): Vaccine shipping delays continue to cause headaches across the United States with severe winter weather hindering distribution efforts, though officials remain confident those delays will ease within a matter of days.
GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): The weather is certainly the here-and-now reason why it isn't a straight line, but I'm confident this will straighten itself out in a matter of days. The biggest reason is the lack of supply.
JONES (voice-over): That lack of supply is driving questions about whether second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should be delayed in favor of giving more Americans a first dose after a new Israeli study indicates high levels of protection after just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Dr. Fauci said he had not changed his mind about the need for two doses, saying it is too risky given the data about the vaccines.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE: I'm with Tony. I'm with Dr. Fauci in the sense that we know that two doses both give high levels of consistent neutralizing antibody and durability of protection. I haven't seen sufficient data yet to go just to that single dose route.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
JONES: And a little more on that new research about vaccine effectiveness that you were hearing there at the end. It shows -- this is researched by the Mayo -- the Mayo Clinic and it shows that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are more than 80 percent effective in preventing infection 36 days after receiving a first dose.
Of course, the issue at places like where I am right here outside the Javits Center, a mass vaccination site here in New York, the issue is supply, with all available slots for vaccinations being snapped up within minutes really of becoming available. So that is what we'll be watching for going forward. Victor?
PAUL: All righty. Athena Jones, good to see you this morning. Thank you so much. Dr. Saju Mathew with us now. He's a primary care physician and public health specialist. Saju, it's good to see you. I want to get your thinking on that Israel study that Athena was talking about, that 85 percent people were protected by just one dose. What is your thinking? Is one dose enough?
DR. SAJU MATHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: Yes. Good morning, Christi. I think that this is what I take from that Israeli study, that it's reassuring. It just shows you that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are very effective, but that's about it. I agree with Dr. Fauci. With these variants looming and the fact that the U.K. strain might be the predominant strain in March, Christi, we need to make sure that we offer the most protection.
The vaccine will last longer, and we form more neutralizing antibodies if each person gets two shots and I think we should focus, just as Athena Jones had just mentioned, on the supply, Christi. That's the big problem. If the two pharmaceutical companies, Moderna and Pfizer, will keep up their promise, we should have 600 million vaccines. That's 300 people -- 300 million people vaccinated by July which is very reassuring.
PAUL: The wild card in all of this does seem to be the variants because we're just not sure how quickly they're spreading or where that's going to go. What are you watching specifically when it comes to those variants right now to try to get a gauge of the threat?
MATHEW: Right. So, I think that the most important thing that we need to do is rev up, increase the number of genomic testing that we're doing in the U.S. and we have done that already. I think the last time I spoke to you, Christi, we were like 43, 44 in the world when it comes to genomic sequencing. We've now moved up into the high 30s, which is good.
If we can monitor the specs of (ph) this virus and make sure that we are ahead of the variants. Now, let's not panic. I mean, we know that the RNA virus will mutate. The biggest concern that we all have is if this U.K. strain becomes the predominant strain, we know that it's more contagious, we also know that it's more dangerous and that means many more people can be hospitalized and potentially die.
And lastly, the question remains if this virus mutates to where it evades the vaccine, now that would be a huge problem and I hope that never happens.
PAUL: Right. Everybody I think is hoping for -- hoping for that same thing, but let's talk about those vaccinations. I want to listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci's timeline of -- and how the target for vaccinations for everybody has moved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: By the time we get to April, that will be what I would call, you know, for better wording, open season, namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated. That timeline will probably be prolonged maybe into mid to late May and early June. They'll be available in July. It may take an additional couple of months actually, maybe towards the end of the summer, to get everybody vaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: So there's been, it seems, about a six-month shift. They started in April, we're back now to, you know, end of summer, beginning of fall. Can't blame them. We know that this is a very fluid situation, but, you know, what is driving the postponement we keep seeing?
MATHEW: Well, you know, there are obviously some unexpected delays like the havoc that's happened in Texas with the weather. I think that that is going to absolutely delay 6 million doses that could have been given. So there are a lot of things that we cannot control, Christi, but there are a lot of things that we can control and that is also the Biden administration's putting your feet down and saying, listen, we need the supply consistently, we need to be transparent on the dashboard, we need to know exactly where these vaccines are.
And ultimately, and as I've said this many times before, everybody that gets the first dose, Christi, should be able to come back and get that second dose. So if you really break it down, the biggest issue is consistent supply and also giving the governors exactly a three-week or at least a four-week warning on when they're going to get the doses so they can staff these facilities and get a lot of people vaccinated.
PAUL: All righty. Dr. Saju Mathew, always good to have your expertise here, sir. Thank you.
MATHEW: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: The Democrats' $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill heads to the full House for a vote next week. Hear what that means for the efforts to get checks out to Americans and raise the minimum wage.
PAUL: With humility and ambition, that is how President Biden's special climate envoy, John Kerry, says the U.S. is officially rejoining the Paris Climate Accord.
BLACKWELL: The U.S. was the first and only country to formally pull out of the agreement. That was Former President Trump's orders and the former secretary of state says that the world needs to call climate change the climate crisis now and that this is a critical time for meaningful action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE: So now, three years later, three years wasted sadly, largely because of our president in the United States. Around 2030 is the date in which we have to get the world now on the right path in order to cap the warming at that level of 1.5. So we are absolutely, clearly, without question now inside the decisive decade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Well, President Biden plans to host a climate summit of world leaders on Earth Day. That's April 22nd.
House Democrats officially introduced the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill yesterday. Now the full House will vote on it by the end of next week.
PAUL: Yes. That vote will be a major test of whether President Biden can reach across the aisle and get any Republicans to support the bill. CNN's Daniella Diaz is on Capitol Hill for us. Daniella, good to see you this morning. Walk us through the latest. DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Christi. House Democrats are planning to take a major step forward to push Biden's massive $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. First, it will start in the House Budget Committee with a vote on Monday which will then set up a full chamber vote later in the week.
Once the House passes this, which is what we're expecting, it will go to the Senate where they're planning to pass this using budget reconciliation, which means they only need 51 votes to pass this. So if every Democratic senator signs on, Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to be the tie-breaking vote for this issue.
But look, there's not a lot of Republican support behind this bill. House Republican leaders are already asking their members, urging their members to vote against this bill next week, but that's not stopping Joe Biden. He actually made another pitch yesterday while touring a Michigan Pfizer plant, asking Republicans to sign on, saying he doesn't understand why they don't support this bill. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I'm grateful that the Senate and the House are moving quickly and I'm prepared to hear their ideas how to make the package better and make it cheaper. I'm open to that, but we have to make clear who is helped and who is hurt. My hope is the Republicans in Congress listen to their constituents. According to the polls, there is overwhelming bipartisan support.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAZ: So as you heard there from Biden, he's again making another pitch to Republicans to sign on to this legislation, but the clock is ticking. Look, Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, really wants this bill on Biden's desk by mid-March before millions of Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits, Christi and Victor.
BLACKWELL: Daniella Diaz for us there on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham will meet with Former President Trump this weekend in Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Now, the meeting is happening as Republicans are increasingly concerned about the feud between Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Here with me is Republican strategist and former communications director for the RNC Doug Heye. Doug, it's been a minute. Welcome back to NEW DAY WEEKEND.
DOUGLAS HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. Good morning. It's good to be with you.
BLACKWELL: So how many rounds of golf will Lindsey Graham have to play to get Trump and McConnell to hug it out?
HEYE: I think never enough is the number of rounds of golf it may take, but, you know, we've seen one consistent thing, you know, with Donald Trump over the past four years and that's he's going to do what he wants to do and when he wants to do it and unfortunately for Republicans, so many of them have spent so much effort and so much time, Lindsey Graham being one of them, trying to score points with Donald Trump.
But the reality is you don't score points with Donald Trump, he only takes them away one at a time and when Mitch McConnell speaks out against Donald Trump, he essentially creates an enemy and that's why we've seen him lash out at Senate Republicans or any Republican who dares defy Donald Trump. Whether he's in exile, in control or not, Donald Trump has a temper and we're all going to see it.
BLACKWELL: So we all listened to McConnell's statement after he voted to acquit the president during the -- the former president during the impeachment trial and then we saw that statement as a response from Former President Trump. Do you expect that McConnell will keep up that line of attack, that he will continue to be vocal as the former president takes his place back on the stage?
HEYE: Well, I don't think we'll hear much from the majority leader unless he feels there's a reason to. If you look at his remarks after the impeachment trial -- and I'll tell you, you know, with full disclosure, I used to work for Senator Richard Burr who voted to convict. I'm really proud and happy that he did so.
Senator McConnell's remarks were about putting Donald Trump in the rearview mirror and as long as Trump can keep the speculation going of whether he will or won't run for president in 2024, it's going to be hard to do that. That's the right move, I think, for McConnell, is to try and put Donald Trump behind us so that Republicans can move forward. As long as Trump is able to dominate headlines, whether with a Twitter feed and Twitter account or not, as long as he's able to dominate those headlines, it's hard to do so. But McConnell's instinct is the right one and the only way for Republicans to really move forward.
BLACKWELL: Let's stick through a few other issues here. Moderate Democrat, West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin says that he will not support the nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. Neera Tanden, of course, Democrats have just 50 seats. They need every single one of those. Do you think there's a single Republican who will support Tanden's nomination so that the president will get his nominee?
HEYE: It seems very unlikely that any Republican will. And you know, after four years of Republicans not seeing any tweets from Donald Trump, obviously the tweets that Neera made against a lot of Republicans are an easy excuse for them to not support her. And with losing one Senate Democrat, it doesn't matter which one it is, but Joe Manchin in this case, that makes it hard for the calculus to work for the Obama administration. If they lose one Democrat on anything, it gets very hard to get anything done.
BLACKWELL: So, let me ask you now about this immigration bill that was introduced in Congress yesterday. It -- I guess, top line here is that it would give an eight-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. No major border protection funding there. It will have to get ten Republicans to survive a filibuster.
HEYE: Yes --
BLACKWELL: Chances this is going anywhere?
HEYE: Not very likely. You know, just some quick history. I worked for Congressman Eric Cantor --
BLACKWELL: Yes --
HEYE: Who in his primary very unexpectedly in 2014 lost in part because of the immigration issue. And when he lost his primary, the issue of immigration was done on Capitol Hill. There was no movement on legislation and there wasn't going to be. Again, it's going to be hard to get bipartisan support on anything in Washington these days. But on something like immigration, the Republicans are very careful to really do anything especially if it doesn't have funding for border security.
BLACKWELL: Let's talk about where Republicans are moving on, at least in state legislatures. The voting reforms, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, states that either President Biden won or Democrats are becoming increasingly competitive. Several of them, most of those have Senate races in 2022. If the big lie of 2020 was that there was widespread voter fraud, and that the election was stolen from President Trump, and if that is a lie, then what justifies or what explains all of these efforts to change voting laws in these states?
HEYE: Yes, you know, as a Republican, it's one of the things that dismays me the most is to see just kind of a systematic effort to make it harder to vote. And one of the biggest examples, obviously, is that someday, getting the vote out in Georgia where African-American Georgians have been real turnout machines for Democrats. It was one of the reasons that they picked up those two Senate races. Republicans typically have done very well with mail-in balloting. We used to call it an absentee ballot chase where Republicans would get absentee ballots to voters and would follow up with them to make sure that those votes were done. It's one of the reasons Republicans did so well in a lot of states. But they've walked away from that.
I think it's foolish and ultimately sends a signal to voters that they don't think that they can really win so they've got to limit who can get to the polls. It's not only the wrong thing to do, I think politically, but also morally, the wrong thing to do.
BLACKWELL: Yes, souls to the polls for many years has gotten African- Americans right after church to go right to vote. Last thing here, CPAC coming up next week. Conservative Political Action Conference, currently, the former president is not on the list of speakers, he spoke several times and if not every year of his administration. You think it's best that he stays off the stage?
HEYE: Well, I think it's -- I think it's best for everyone these days, the less we hear from Donald Trump the better it is. The reality is, if he wants to make news, he will make news in whatever venue he can. CPAC is an obvious place for him to go. And whether he is there or not, he is going to be a shadow that hangs over CPAC not just because of what we saw on January 6th, but because every other Republican, prominent Republican who is speaking there wants to run for president. And they have to decide whether or not they're going to ultimately step forward and challenge Donald Trump until he says that he's not running.
BLACKWELL: Doug Heye, always good to have you on, thanks for the insight.
HEYE: Victor, thank you.
BLACKWELL: All right, Christi.
PAUL: So, you've seen the record snowfall in south Texas. The out-of- control wildfires in California, here's the question, is extreme weather the new normal? We'll talk about it.
PAUL: You know, it's been a week of record snow and freezing temperatures. A good chunk of Texas is still dealing with a water crisis caused by the frozen broken pipes.
The historic real storm that hit Texas, though we have to point out, it hit it hard, but it's in other parts of the country as well.
BLACKWELL: So, here's the question, is the extreme weather another sign of the climate crisis? CNN's Allison Chinchar explains how a warming arctic could be leading to more intense Winters farther south.
PHILIP SHELLEY, FORT WORTH, TEXAS RESIDENT WHO LOST POWER: We're just left sitting in a cold, dark room in the middle of the night with a crying baby and, you know, and a pain life, and that's what hurts the most is there's nothing we can really do besides sit and wait.
ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This is America's new reality, and a changing climate from one extreme weather event to the next. Hot and cold. This week's frigid cold conditions were triggered thanks to a phenomenon called the Polar Vortex. The Polar Vortex is simply a low-pressure system that swirls cold air around the polar regions of the globe. But the system can sometimes move off of the north pole, in doing so, it releases cold air much farther south in the form of an arctic outbreak. Record cold arctic air surged into the southern plains and heavy ice and snow came along with it, coating roads, houses, cars and even collapsing a parking garage.
Hundreds of cold temperature records were broken as temperatures plunged below freezing and for some cities below zero for several days. This arctic outbreak was even more amplified due to a sudden shift of hotter air known as Sudden Stratospheric Warming. This weekend, the Polar Vortex and allowed colder air to plunge from the arctic circle into the U.S. Scientists believe climate change is causing these Sudden Stratospheric Warming events to become more common, allowing the Polar Vortex to break down more frequently in episodes like this week to occur more often. Even while the central U.S. is facing record cold, other parts of the nation are seeing record warmth. While areas of Texas set record lows, Florida was setting record highs.
Both extremes were happening simultaneously, and climate change is causing these temperature extremes to happen more frequently. Climate change has been linked to prolonged cold air outbreaks in Winter across the northern hemisphere, as a warming arctic leads to a weaker and more variable jet stream. The result of this arctic warming, more extreme weather events such as record snow along the Gulf Coast, Japan and Europe. Record rainfall from hurricanes and typhoons, and record wildfire seasons in California and Australia.
BLACKWELL: Allison Chinchar is with us now. So, we reported at the top of the show that the temperatures in Texas are expected to rise today. Does that mean that they are in the clear now?
CHINCHAR: Right, so there is light at the end of the tunnel, Victor and Christi. I mean it's been a very cold snowy tunnel, but there is light there, and that will begin later on today. And it comes at a fantastic time because I think so many people are so fed up with all of the extreme cold temperatures because we've had a lot of that, we've had over 6,000 daily cold temperature records broken, 493 of them were monthly records. And you had about 124 that were all-time temperature records for any time of the year in its perspective city. Looking at this, again, you've got hard freeze warnings still in place and regular freeze warnings across multiple states because this morning is still bitter cold.
You still have a lot of places where the temperature is below freezing and well below freezing including Dallas, it's 24 right now, feels like it's 18, Oklahoma City, 15, feels like it's 3. But you are going to finally start to see that rebound once we get to this afternoon. But you'll be able to add about another few record cold temperatures before we get to that point. Here's a look, 48 is the high temperature today expected in Dallas, 61 in Houston, 58 in New Orleans, 41 in Little Rock, even 40 in Oklahoma City. That will allow for things to start to thaw. Now, keep in mind, tonight you're going to have several places, they get back below freezing one more time including Dallas, Oklahoma City and even Little Rock. That will allow for a refreeze on some of the roadways and your sidewalks and driveways.
But the high temperatures will continue to go back up. Dallas getting back into the 60s by Tuesday, Little Rock getting nearly 60 by the same time frame. But again, the main impacts that are going to be, guys, is we are still now going to start see that snow and that ice melt. You're going to start to see icicles fall down from street signs, your roof, things like that. So, please be careful when going out to assess damage or driving on the highways, and also Victor and Christi, as we mentioned, you're also going to have that refreeze once again overnight tonight to see on the roadways and such.
BLACKWELL: All right, Allison Chinchar, thanks for watching it for us.
PAUL: Thanks Allison. So tennis crowns its first Grand Slam champion in the year, we'll tell you what happened.
And tomorrow night, join Stanley Tucci, he's traveling to the city of togas and gladiators in search of the perfect pasta. Experience Rome like never before, in a new CNN original series, "STANLEY TUCCI SEARCHING FOR ITALY", it is tomorrow night, Sunday at 9:00 Eastern.
BLACKWELL: Naomi Osaka has won the Australian Open. This is her fourth Grand Slam title.
PAUL: Yes, Andy Scholes is here, and you know, unless you were up at 3:30 in the morning, you missed it. So, let's get you caught up.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: They'll replay it, so we can all watch it again. And guys, I tell you what? Naomi Osaka, so impressive, she just looks unstoppable right now. She's won 21 matches in a row dating back to last year. And Osaka is now a perfect 4-0 when it comes to competing in a Grand Slam final.
Now, American Jen Brady did give her a match early on in this one, but Osaka as she's done all tournament long, just overpowering Brady with that powerful serve. Osaka would win the match in straight sets, the 23-year-old dropping just one set all tournament long. Only two active women own more slam titles than Osaka, that's Serena Williams with 23, and her sister Venus who has seven. All right, we are less than a month away from March Madness now. And the NCAA tournament announcing yesterday that there will be fans in attendance this year. Fans will be allowed in all 67 games of the men's tournament which is being held entirely in the Indianapolis area. Capacity is going to be capped at 25 percent, that would mean about 17,500 fans for the final four at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Fans will be allowed at the women's tournament starting in the sweet 16 when the games are moved to the Alamodome in San Antonio, capacity for those games is going to be around 5,500. And capacity for both tournaments includes families of players, coaches and not just fans. All right, Spring training under way in Arizona and Florida. Major League Baseball reporting yesterday that 13 people, including nine players have tested positive for COVID when arriving to camp this week. And with opening day just over a month away in cases around the country going down, Dr. Anthony Fauci says he's cautiously optimistic about a more traditional baseball season that includes fans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: As each day goes by, we vaccinate more and more people, that it is conceivable then if that curve keeps going down, and stays down, that we could have a pretty good chance of having a baseball season that's a full season, that you're going to have people in the stands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: All right, finally to the NBA, Timberwolves taking on the Raptors. Number one overall pick Anthony Edwards soaring through the air. Just a vicious dunk over the Raptors Yuta Watanabe. I mean, that's the dunk of the year, I'm not sure it's going to be a b, Christi and Victor, if they made posters still, that would definitely be one. But I'm sure that's going to make its way to a basketball card or something, poor you, is going to have to look at that for a long time.
BLACKWELL: Yes, that was a good one, that was --
PAUL: Yes --
BLACKWELL: A good one.
PAUL: Andy Scholes!
SCHOLES: Yes --
PAUL: Thank you --
BLACKWELL: Thank you, Andy.
SCHOLES: All right.
BLACKWELL: So, after the break, you will meet the oldest person in South Carolina to get the coronavirus vaccine, 111 years old. What she says is the secret to long life.
PAUL: Let me just say this, 111 years old. Yes, I know!
PAUL: I know! South Carolina woman, she's lived through two pandemics now and two world wars.
BLACKWELL: And now, she is one of the oldest people in the world to have received the coronavirus vaccine. CNN's Gary Tuchman has her story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Maria Aulenbacher is the
oldest known person in the state of South Carolina, one of the oldest people in the United States, and on this day, the 111-year-old is getting her second dose of the COVID vaccine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, that's good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be a little --
TUCHMAN: Maria Aulenbacher, now one of the oldest people in the world to get the vaccination. Maria lives with her daughter and son-in-law near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Two of her grandchildren and a great grandson lives nearby. But she was born in Germany and lived there a long time, more than a century to be exact. Incredibly, shortly after her 100th birthday, she moved across the ocean to the United States. Everyone calls her Oma, an affectionate German term for grandma.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oma, it's sunny and beautiful again in South Carolina today, isn't it so nice to live here?
MARIA AULENBACHER, OLDEST KNOWN WOMAN IN SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, it's beautiful.
TUCHMAN: Maria is incredibly optimistic. She loves her family, reading and naps, and has a daily ritual that she's convinced has increased her longevity.
(on camera): Miss Maria, what is the secret to living to 111 years old?
AULENBACHER: Everybody is thinking of mile(ph) -- I drink wine, I drink beer, I eat what I like.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Maria was a little girl during the first World War and the influenza pandemic. And in her 30s during World War II, she became a widow more than 75 years ago. Her daughter and son-in-law say she's had to be strong.
DOUG DICKERSON, MARIA AULENBACHER'S SON-IN-LAW: We look forward to seeing her every morning come out, cheerful, you know, ready to have breakfast, a couple of cups of coffee and take on the day.
TUCHMAN: How important was it to you that your mother get these vaccines?
BIRGIT DICKERSON, MARIA AULENBACHER'S DAUGHTER: Well, we kind of felt like it's a civic duty, everybody has to get this vaccine because if you ever want to get over this, we all have to go and have the vaccine.
TUCHMAN: Maria is well aware she is now a role model.
AULENBACHER: I am very happy to get the shot. B. DICKERSON: I really feel blessed that I can have it for such a long
time. And I hope I have it many more years.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How old do you want to be?
AULENBACHER: Like -- old like Methuselah.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Like Methuselah? Methuselah is a biblical figure who lived to 969 years old. I hope you get there. And I think if anyone can, it would be you.
(voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Travelers Rest, South Carolina.
BLACKWELL: Wine, beer, I eat what I like.