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New Day Saturday

Cyber Criminals Target Vital Infrastructure and Businesses; FBI Director Sees Parallel Between Cyber Threat And 9/11; WH Pushes Companies To Take Cyber-Attack Threat More Seriously. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired June 05, 2021 - 08:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for joining us this Saturday, June 5. Amara, it's always good to see my friend.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, thank you. I'm feeling good this morning. I almost feel like things are nearly normal. And I just feel optimistic about life today.

SANCHEZ: We're getting there, little by little, we're getting there.

WALKER: Yes, hopefully, hopefully soon. Well, let's turn now to the rising national security threat from faceless cyber criminals targeting key American infrastructure and businesses. The White House is blaming Russian based hackers for an attack this week on JBS, the world's largest meat supplier and last month Colonial Pipeline attack that sent gas prices soaring across the eastern U.S.

SANCHEZ: On Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray compared disruption in vital services to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The issue is expected to dominate talks when President Biden meets with European leaders later this month, especially during his first face to face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

CNN'S Alex Marquardt reports.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Cyber threats against the United States have grown so much, it's like dealing with terrorism after 911. That urgent message from the head of the FBI, Chris Wray, adding his voice to the alarm being sounded by the Biden administration over the growing ransomware attacks here and around the world. There are a lot of parallels, Wray told the Wall Street Journal, the scale of this problem is one that I think the country has to come to terms with.

JOHN HULTQUIST, VICE PRESIDENT, MANDIANT THREAT INTELLIGENCE, FIREEYE: Before long, we are worried that some people will get hurt, especially when we consider all these incidents that are affecting our healthcare.

MARQUARDT: Healthcare schools, and most recently, the Colonial Pipeline and JBS foods, which is the biggest meat producer in the world. Those two recent attacks caused gas shortages and beef plants to shut down.

MICHAEL LEITER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: I think the country does face some really existential risks to its critical infrastructure, its economic well-being, its securing of technology and individuals' privacy.

So I think it's critical that people understand how far reaching this risk really is.

MARQUARDT: The Justice Department announced Thursday it will implement practices used for terrorism cases, telling prosecutors to share more information and coordinate efforts on ransomware attacks, which is when hackers take control of a network and hold it hostage demanding money.

The attacks and the amounts paid have skyrocketed. The Justice Department says ransom payments, often in cryptocurrency last year went up 300 percent. The White House on Thursday released a rare Open Letter, pleading with companies to strengthen their online defenses saying they can't fight the threat alone.

But experts say the government also needs to find a better way to take down the attackers and deter them from even trying.

SHAWN HENRY, PRESIDENT, CROWDSTRIKE: It really requires the government to take additional actions. They've got to work collaboratively with foreign law enforcement agencies to take these people off the field, to use law enforcement efforts, intelligence agency efforts, economic sanctions to disrupt and deter these actors.

MARQUARDT: Most of the recent major attacks have come from Russia. Government hackers in the case of a breach like SolarWinds, and criminal hackers striking the pipeline and food companies. Today's comparison of cyber and ransomware attacks to terrorism and 911 is one that has been made for years, including in 2018 from the country's head of intelligence.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It was in the months prior to September 2001 when, according to them CIA director, George Tenet, the system was blinking red. And here we are two decades, nearly two decades later. And I'm here to say the warning lights are blinking - blinking red again.

Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.


MARQUARDT: Those warning lights are now doing more than just blinking they are on. I'm told this is going to be a significant part of President Biden's upcoming trip to Europe, both at the G7 and then in that one-on-one summit with President Vladimir Putin in Geneva. President Biden will make clear to Russia that they have to take action to crack down on these ransomware groups and tell Putin that they are fundamentally destabilizing to the U.S. - Russia relationship.


Biden has repeatedly said that he wants a stable and predictable relationship with Russia. Boris, Amara.

WALKER: That will be an interesting meeting. Alex Marquardt, thank you. Now Russian President Vladimir Putin is responding to the accusations saying they are hilarious. CNN's Matthew Chance has more.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey Boris and Amara, Vladimir Putin sharply rejecting allegations that Russia is in any way implicated in recent ransomware cyberattacks in the United States describing them as nonsense, ridiculous and just hilarious.

U.S. officials say two recent attacks on a crucial U.S. fuel pipeline and on a major meatpacking company were carried out by cyber criminals based in Russia and has called on the Kremlin to crack down. The suggestion of course is that the Russian authorities are currently allowing the cyber gangs to operate with impunity.

President Putin made these remarks in interview with Russian state television on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, take a listen.


PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): It's just ridiculous to blame Russia for this. I think that the relevant U.S. services should find out who the scammers are. Not Russia for sure. For us to extort money from some company, we are not dealing with some chicken meat or beef. It's just hilarious.


CHANCE: Strong words from the Russian leader. And they come of course less than two weeks before he's scheduled to meet U.S. President Biden in a face-to-face summit in Geneva, Switzerland. Hacking and cyber warfare is just one of the many fraught issues on the agenda. It's also likely to include sanctions, Russia's treatment of Kremlin critics and its military threats against its neighbors.

President Putin says he hopes the meeting will be held in a positive manner, but that he does not expect any breakthrough in Russian American relations. Amara, Boris, back to you.

SANCHEZ: Matthew Chance from London. Thanks so much. Joining us now to dig deeper on the threat of ransomware attacks in the United States is CNN Global Affairs Analyst Kimberly Dozier and Amit Yoran, former National Cybersecurity director with the Department of Homeland Security. Full disclosure, he's currently Chairman and CEO of Tenable which helps organizations assess and reduce their cybersecurity risks. Good morning to you both. We appreciate you joining us. Let's get straight to this quote from FBI Director Christopher Wray to The Wall Street Journal comparing the recent spate of ransomware hacks to the September 11 terrorist attacks. He says, "there is a shared responsibility not just across government

agencies, but across the private sector, and even the average American." Amit, how do you bridge that gap between the private and public sector on this? And specifically with the last part of the quote, what can the average American the folks that are watching right now do to help?

AMIT YORAN, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TENABLE: Well, I think he's absolutely right, in that there are - there is a role to play here for average Americans, for corporations and for the government. The government needs to do more. And I think that's some of the action that you've seen in recent executive orders. And from the Department of Justice and Homeland Security, we need to do a better job of prosecuting criminals but also through retorts, and countermeasures.

Things like sanctions, things like attacking back, things like causing disruption, things like freezing assets, the government has a lot of tools at its disposal, and it needs to create greater deterrence for cyber criminals and for nations that harbor cyber criminals.

The private sector, corporations have probably the largest role to play here, we know that the government is not going to be able to protect us. And corporations need to act responsibly and do the things that they need to do to manage cyber risk better. So they need to better manage their systems, assess for vulnerabilities, patch their systems, test their systems, and they need to protect their users, use multi factor strong authentication, make sure the accounts they use are protected and they don't - they don't have to grade and access and ability to cause disruption.

And there's a role for citizens, better protect yourself, do the things that you would do to protect your privacy and secure your own computers. And if we do those things, the cyber landscape will look radically different.

SANCHEZ: Kimberly, I'm glad that Amit mentioned deterrence. These Russian hackers have been at this for a long time going back to 2007 and havoc that they wreaked on Estonia. What kind of costs can the White House, the Biden administration impose on these hackers to deter them?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL ANALYST: Well, the difficult part is many of these hackers are in denied territory, they're inside Russia or they're in Russia friendly countries that are not exactly going to move quickly to extradite them after they get a DOJ complaint.


The scary thing is that each one of these attacks, though, shows the vulnerability, not just to whoever carried it out, but to enemy actors like the military cyber hackers in North Korea, in China, in Iran. So as Christopher Wray was calling this, possibly the next 911, you can see a situation where they don't just hit a major meat supplier, but major hospital systems, power supply, all at once.

So one of the things that I would also encourage people to do, along with Amit's great cyber recommendations is go to a place like the American Red Cross and think about disaster planning. Because when some of these systems get taken offline, by these hackers in places where we really can't get to them, you've got to be prepared for possibly a few days without electricity, a few days without water, that also adds to the resilience in the country.

If there's a mindset of you know what the Internet of Things means there's a lot of stuff that's exposed and vulnerable. It's great that we're all trying to lock things down now, but that's going to take time, so we should be prepared.

SANCHEZ: Kimberly, you just hit a lot of great points, disaster preparation, health systems being hacked. In fact, just yesterday, the University of Florida health system reported a cyber security incident. We're still working to get more details on exactly what happened.

They, however, reportedly implemented backup procedures that let them continue to serve their patients. So Amit, why is this so difficult for so many companies that don't appear to have adequate backup procedures to keep working?

YORAN: I think backups are an absolute critical part of the equation. And it was in the President's recommendation to corporate leadership to better protect themselves. Number one on the list was better backup. Number two, assess for vulnerabilities and patch your systems.

So there's - the issue is that there's a lot of work to be done and corporate leadership hasn't historically focused on cybersecurity as a fundamental part of business risk. I think the landscape today and over the last several years has radically changed. We rely on technology for critical operations, pipeline, inventory management, for retailers, data for patients in healthcare systems.

So when we rely on technology, we need to consider cyber risk and technology risk as an integral part of our business risk management practices. We need to invest more in protecting our systems, recognizing that they're critical to how we operate.

SANCHEZ: Kimberly, looking back at history, we saw Barack Obama tell Vladimir Putin to cut it out on cyberattacks, we saw Donald Trump grovel in front of the Russian leader. He didn't address this in a meaningful way. President Biden said to meet with Putin in a few weeks, how would you counsel him on how he should handle that meeting?

DOZIER: Well, rhetorically, I think it's probably going to be the OK corral. I think Biden is already has the natural instincts to be tough publicly, each one is going to be trying to land a zinger on the other one that shows to their people back home, that they're strong on Moscow and Washington. The problem is, Biden is going to say, cut it out and Putin's going to say, cut what out show me the proof.

Biden can't because many of the things that prove to them that Russia has at least given a wink and a nod to some of these programs, some of these hacks would reveal U.S. intelligence or allied intelligence assets, would reveal to Moscow what we know and how we know it. So the best thing that could come out of this is that each man says to the other privately, yes, we each have a cyber gun to the other one's head.

So now let's talk business, a sort of Mutual Assured Destruction has been reached. So now that we've proven to each other that we're tough enough, we can move on to the business of actually cooperating, not being friends, but more normal diplomacy. That could be the best outcome.

SANCHEZ: Mutually assured destruction. We're talking about this as if it were a nuclear threat. And so obviously, the implications when you're planning for something like this as if it were a natural disaster, they're huge. We appreciate the expertise both on the diplomatic side and on the technical side. Kimberly Dozier, Amit Yoran, thank you both.

DOZIER: Thank you.

YORAN: Thank you.

WALKER: We are following a developing story out of California where a federal judge has overturned the state's three-decade-old ban on assault weapons. U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruling Friday that the ban violated the second Amendment's right to bear arms and he compared the AR 15 rifle to a Swiss Army Knife as the 'perfect combination of home defense weapon and Homeland Defense weapon.'


Well, California Governor Gavin Newsom called the comparison disgusting slap in the face to those who have lost loved ones to gun violence and a direct threat to public safety. Now California's attorney general has 30 days to appeal the decision and he has signaled that he intends to do so.

Doctors have a message for parents, lead by example, get vaccinated. Make sure your team gets their shots too. How communities are changing their strategies to reach those who are still not vaccinated.


SANCHEZ: As the U.S. pushes to vaccinate more Americans, the FDA plans to meet next week to discuss authorizing coronavirus vaccines for kids aged 11 and younger. The meeting comes as the CDC director urges parents to get their teens vaccinated amid a recent uptick in adolescents being hospitalized with COVID-19.


CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more on this.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Boris, Amara, new data out from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows why adolescents need to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Sometimes people think this is a virus that doesn't really affect young people. But take a look at these numbers. Unfortunately, they show that that's not true. This new CDC data shows

that between January and March of this year 204 adolescents in the United States, that's ages 12 to 17 were hospitalized with COVID-19, 64 of them ended up in the intensive care unit. Now, if we look back from October of last year, until April of this year, adolescents in the U.S. had higher hospitalization rates for COVID-19 than they did for flu for the past several flu seasons.

And of course, even if a teenager gets COVID-19 and feels just fine, they're still capable of spreading the virus to other people. So that's why they need to get vaccinated. And there's a ways to go in that department. Only about 20 percent of people ages 12 to 15 have gotten one shot, even just one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, for 16 and 17 year olds, that number is a bit higher, it's 37 percent. But still a ways to go. Boris, Amara?

WALKER: All right, here with me now is emergency room physician and executive director of the Committee to Protect health care is Dr. Rob Davidson. Good morning to you, Doctor. Thanks for joining us. Let's start with this new CDC report that was released Friday, that shows some teens are getting so ill from COVID that they're being put in the ICU, put on a mechanical ventilator. I'm a parent, this is concerning to me. I mean, how concerned should we be?

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I think we should be concerned, you know, I think we should be getting our kids age 12 and above vaccinated. I have a 14-year-old upstairs who's still kind of lingering from the second shot a couple of days ago, and became real eggy but now we know she'll be protected. And we've been saying this all along.

We had the former president and his so-called advisors telling us kids were immune. But really last year, kids were staying home, kids weren't out and about and so they weren't catching it. They weren't being exposed to the variants. And now we see and around here we've seen as well that kids do get sick, and it's worth protecting your kids.

WALKER: You know, there are parents who don't want to get their children vaccinated because they're not vaccinated. But there are also parents who have gotten fully vaccinated yet they're a little hesitant about vaccinating their little ones, what would you say to them?

DAVIDSON: I would just remind them that this vaccine has been fully tested, it's shown to be safe, it's shown to be highly effective. And again, the most recent reporting tells us kids do in fact, get quite ill. I've seen many kids, you know, dozens of kids actually come in, even after mild symptoms, initially with chronic headaches and some emotional problems.

And you know, the things we don't quite understand about COVID because it's so new, but some of those lingering effects of long COVID syndrome, that affect kids and adults.

WALKER: You know, a lot of us are getting used to this new normal or getting back to normal of not wearing masks in some places. And that that's great news that masks are coming off. But the scary thing is that there are children under 12, who are not eligible yet to get vaccinated.

And you also have the immunocompromised and you know, studies are showing that people who've been taking immunosuppressant drugs like those who just got a new organ or treating conditions like lupus and inflammatory bowel disease, they may not be getting adequate protection, even with a vaccine. What more can you tell us about that?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I think that's all absolutely true. And I think that's why the guidance from the CDC is critical. It's very straightforward. If you've been fully vaccinated, you can go without a mask. If you have not, you should not. Both for your own sake and for the sake of others, like kids under 12, like people who are immunocompromised, and unfortunately, the disinformation and the sort of the anti-mask freedom rallies and all of that over the last year have kind of poisoned our trust in one another. But you know, we can just hope that people will respect the guidance and act accordingly.

WALKER: So you I'm sure are aware of that President Biden has his goal of vaccinating adults with at least one dose by the Fourth of July holiday. Currently, that number stands at 63 percent of adults who received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC director, the former CDC director was telling CNN the other day that we've reached this slog phase of vaccinations basically that the people who want it to get vaccinated have already done so. When you look at the slowing pace of vaccinations, are you optimistic that we will reach this goal that the Biden administration has set for Fourth of July.

DAVIDSON: Listen, all I can do is tell you what's going on the ground. For me. I'm an emergency doctor.


Our emergency department now offers the vaccine. So I'm having these conversations. I've convinced a few people over the past week or so that it's important. And I've had many conversations with people who are frankly, just a little bit concerned, have questions. And so I answered those questions, refer them to their PCP. And then I think that the work has to be done by the primary care doctors, and it's being done.

So yes, I'm hopeful. I'm optimistic.

WALKER: Yes, yes. And I do want to end on an optimistic note that there is a Gallup survey that showed that the mood is shifting and that two-thirds of U.S. adults are saying that their lives are at least somewhat back to normal. And that is a good thing. A lot to look forward to. Dr. Rob Davidson, appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

DAVIDSON: Thank you. Still ahead of Monday could be a key day in negotiations over President Biden's infrastructure plan. Will Democrats and Republicans be able to bridge that $700 billion gap? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


SANCHEZ: We're just half past the hour and this morning we're marveling at this figure $700 billion. That's roughly the gap between what the two parties want to spend on an infrastructure bill right now, President Biden says the latest concession from Senate Republicans, an additional $50 billion is simply not enough.

And with both sides just so far apart, there are signs the President can be ready to pin his hopes on what a bipartisan group of senators can come up with. His economic agenda hangs in the balance and the president argues Congress needs to quote seize on the economic momentum.

We have our reporters at the White House and on Capitol Hill this morning, tracking where the negotiations stand. Let's start at the White House with CNN Jasmine Wright. So, Jasmine, there was a chance for the bipartisan breakthrough President Biden was looking for after meeting with Senator Shelley Moore Capito at the White House this week.

But he rejected her offer. Where do things stand now?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Amara. And listen, it is a critical time right now for President Biden, as you said, the sides are very far apart and how President Biden proceeds could dictate exactly what priorities he is able to pass by midterms, because we know that is going to be a big battle over control of congress.

So as you said President Biden rejected Republicans latest proposal on that infrastructure and jobs plan. It came out to about $950 billion with $300 billion in new spending. That falls far short of what President Biden was looking for. Remember, he wanted $1.4 trillion overall, with $1 trillion in new spending.

So those numbers big, big gap, right? So in yesterday, President Biden spoke to Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican senator who is leading the negotiations for her side of the aisle. And in a statement afterwards, White House press secretary Jen Psaki wrote that the current offer did not meet his objectives to grow the economy, tackle the climate crisis and create new jobs.

He indicated to Senator Capito, that he would continue to engage a number of senators in both parties in the hopes of achieving a more substantial package. They agreed to speak again on Monday. So Monday is going to be a key date. And then on June 9, begins the markup in the House.

Transportation committee have a traditional infrastructure bill, that would be about $500 billion over five years for those traditional things like railroads, bridges, and roads. Now, President Biden on Friday also spoke to the leader of that committee, Congressman DeFazio and in a statement, Psaki said that there are realities of timelines, including the fact that Congressman DeFazio is leaving the markup of key components at the American jobs plan next week.

Key Infrastructure components where there is a big overlap. So again, the question is, will these two sides come together for a deal? And if they don't, then what comes next? Because it is a very, very far bridge to gap. And we may be looking at trying to decide or figure out or wait for rather who pulls out of the negotiations first, because both sides want to appear that they are doing everything that they can to get some sort of bipartisan deal. Amara, Boris?

WALKER: Well, they get something done. Jasmine Wright, thank you for that. Let's turn it over now to Capitol Hill and CNN's Daniela Diaz. Daniela, it's not just the Republicans that Biden is contending with, the President's been vocal about some in his own party.

DANIELA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's exactly right, Amara. Look, Democrats are split, you know, some want to go about along with passing an infrastructure package through the Senate along party lines using budget reconciliation, some of those democrats being Senator Bernie Sanders, but then there's Senator Joe Manchin, who's been incredibly vocal about bipartisanship and working with Republicans and he is eager to work with them first, before trying to pass an infrastructure package along party lines.

You know, Manchin is really devoted to the cooperation and civility in the Senate. And that's not much different than President Joe Biden himself. You know, Biden really made bipartisanship and working with Republicans a landmark of his presidential campaign and now his presidency.

But look, Republicans are not eager to hand over a win to the President. And they're not eager to work on anything that doesn't advance their own agenda for the midterms. But Manchin is still very adamant that right now they need to work with Republicans to pass an infrastructure package before they try to go at this alone.

He says that there's no hurry. Take a listen to what he told our Manu Raju, this week.



SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I know everyone's in a hurry right now. If anyone understands the process, it's President Joe Biden with 36 years of experience or more here. He understands and gets it well. I hope his staff understands that also we're trying to do, we've got to bring our country together, we can't continue to split and go further apart.

We just can't do that. And we've got to work together. And that's, that takes a lot of time and energy.


DIAZ: Right now, Republicans and Democrats are trying to figure out how they can proceed now that the White House has rejected this proposal by senators Shelley Moore Capito on Friday, and now a new bipartisan group is working toward possibly introducing a new infrastructure proposal by next week.

But the bottom line here is Manchin is still adamant that Democrats and Republicans need to work together, and Democrats can't move forward without him. They need his vote to advance any infrastructure proposal through the Senate. So until they have him signed on, they have to listen to him.

WALKER: Yes, he shows a lot of power as we know. Daniela Diaz, thank you very much.

SANCHEZ: An Indian couple living in the United States saw how the coronavirus is devastating small villages in India and decided to take action. After the break, they tell us how they're getting medical supplies to the areas that need it the most.




WALKER: Like so many countries India has been devastated by the coronavirus. Rural areas in particular have had a difficult time getting desperately needed, donated medical supplies. And that is where my next guests come in. Gowri Pujitha Appana and Kartheek Veeravalli live in the Dallas area, but they wanted to do something to help those living in these small villages.

They actually teamed with AIR foundation to send 1000s of oxygen tanks and breathing devices directly to those who need it most. And Gowri and Kartheek who are married are joining me now. Thank you so much. And welcome to the program. Gowri, let's start with you. And I know this is a story that's very personal to the both of you because you both have family in India. Gowri, you've lost family members.

And we saw shocking images of people carrying their own oxygen tanks to the hospital, having family members filling up tanks because hospitals were just, they were out of supplies. Gowri, you were saying you had a family member that needed to find an oxygen tank. Can you tell us about that?

GOWRI PUJITHA APPANA, WORKING TO SEND MEDICAL SUPPLIES, AID TO RURAL INDIA: Yes, sure. So one of our uncle's contracted virus and I'm from a place that is remote in the rural part of India, in a state called Andhra Pradesh. And we had to travel for three hours to get to a hospital in a nearby city. But once we reached there, there was no hospital bed available.

So we spent like eight hours on the road trying to find a hospital bed for my uncle. And it was too late by the time we reached and unfortunately, we lost our uncle.

WALKER: So oh God, I'm so sorry, Gowri. So you were physically there trying to help your uncle who had COVID?

PUJITHA APPANA: Sorry, I was in the U.S. I meant that my family members who were trying to help my uncle took him in a in a car, roaming on the roads trying to find a bed.

WALKER: So just - just simple access to healthcare was not there.

PUJITHA APPANA: That's right. And when did this happen?

WALKER: So this happened in the first wave in August. And what happened during the second wave in April is one of my other uncle's also faced similar situation and I lost another uncle as well.

WALKER: Can you tell us about the situation right now, especially when it comes to your family members? I know India has been hit with several waves of this virus and they're suffering, what's the situation right now, what your family is telling you?

PUJITHA APPANA: So, the cases have come down in many parts of India. But the southern part of India in general is still struggling. And the rural pockets are still struggling because all the aid that has been sent so far is focused on these rural - on these urban areas, and not much aid, not enough aid has reached the rural areas actually.

So the people there are still struggling to find oxygen beds, the people that are still dying because they cannot get oxygen on time.

WALKER: And Kartheek to you just talk to us about how this must make you feel. You also have family there, you're watching your wife suffer, just a great loss in her life. You're in the U.S., family suffering in India, you must feel quite helpless although you are helping as much as you can through this organization.

KARTHEEK VEERAVALLI, WORKING TO SEND MEDICAL SUPPLIES, AID TO RURAL INDIA: Yes, no, definitely. You know, we actually have some WhatsApp groups with family and some extended family. And it's so sad to see like, you know, every - every other day, there was a death in the family, right?

Like, it was really - there was a point where when even I got a call from my parents, I was just hoping it's not bad news, right? like I was so scared to even answer some of these calls just because you don't know what they're going to say like almost everybody I knew my friends, my you know my close friends, everybody who even live in the U.S., everybody was saying that they have a parent or a close family member who was suffering with COVID.


So it was definitely nerve racking at one point.

WALKER: When you talk about how widespread it is, we have several Indian American friends and they all tell me, those who have family back in India, they all say they know - they all have family members who have had COVID or passed from COVID. Can you explain though, especially for these rural areas, Gowri, that you're talking about how difficult it is to control this virus with social distancing.

PUJITHA APPANA: So, the part where it's rural India as most of the people like in the cities cannot work from home. So, the matter is, do you - do you want to continue working because you have you have your livelihood or you stay at home and you die of hunger. So that's the situation with most of the poor people in India.

So if you have that situation, you know imposing very strict lockdowns can - cannot be sustainable for a longer time. So what we are seeing is even though there are lockdowns, like imposed like people are not able to - like the government is not equal to control those social distancing and all the strict measures that have been in place.

WALKER: And we do want to talk about the work that you are doing with the AIR foundation. Tell us more about how you and the foundation are helping those who need oxygen.

VEERAVALLI: Yes, so we partnered with a foundation, right, we started as a smaller group with a close family and friends. But then we realized that there are similar likeminded people who were trying to fight for the same cause. And that's where we partnered with the AIR foundation.

And we have so far raised $350,000 in the last few weeks, and we procured like oxygen cylinders, concentrators, masks and different equipment like that bipap machines, and we send this to rural areas. We partnered directly with the local administrator in these rural areas and that's how we get to know that they're used in the right way and they're reaching the needy, right, in a timely manner.

WALKER: Well, I appreciate both of you joining us and Gowri, my condolences to you. Nobody should have to travel three hours to find the nearest hospital only to be told that there are no beds and so I'm so sorry that you lost your uncle in this way to COVID. Gowri Pujitha Appana and Kartheek Veeravalli, thank you so much.

And by the way, congratulations, I hear you are expecting a baby. So, all the best to you and all the joy and hope in the future for you. Thank you.

VEERAVALLI: Thank you.

WALKER: And if you'd like to learn more about how you can help those impacted by the coronavirus, you can go to

SANCHEZ: Some parts of Texas are completely underwater right now and more heavy dangerous weather is on the way this weekend. We're going to have the latest on what Gulf Coast residents can expect




SANCHEZ: Quick programming note for you, an all-new episode of the 'Story of Late Night' premieres tomorrow on CNN. Here's a sneak peek.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, Trevor Noah struck the people I'm sure as a

gigantic, missed opportunity. You know, very talented guy, but not even an American guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was articles written at the time, they should just cancel the Daily Show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was skeptical of Trevor Noah, like, here goes the franchise, my stock is going to decrease in value.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember having conversation with him. I go, Trevor, Aren't you nervous? And he goes, hey, if this all doesn't work out, I can always fall back on poverty. Isn't that the best response?

TREVOR NOAH: It was a firestorm the likes of which I've never experienced. The most important thing for me was I was never trying to be a clone of Jon Stewart's and I think that's one of the things Jon liked about me.


SANCHEZ: One of the ugly sides of late-night comedy The 'Story of Late Night' airs tomorrow at 9pm right here on CNN. So, the Gulf Coast is expecting a very wet and rainy weekend. Days of heavy rain have already left some parts of Texas completely underwater.

WALKER: CNN's Tyler Mauldin is joining us now. What are you seeing Tyler?

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The rain machine just does not want to end across the deep south and for those of you living in the Ark- La-Tex region, going on into the Lower Mississippi Valley, you can see up to seven inches of rain over the next 48 hours. Then you can see the swirl right here. The rain is already moving into New Orleans, Baton Rouge, all the way up to Shreveport.

At the moment Lake Charles, you're drying out. That's not going to last long. Lake Charles all the way to New Orleans, you're under a flood watch for two to five inches of rain and this flood watch is going to continue throughout today. And on into the evening hours of tomorrow. We could see up to seven inches of rain. You see the areas in orange and red here that indicates those heavier amounts.

I would say the consensus would be about three to four inches. This system does have a history of dropping more than seven inches of rain. We saw that over the last several days in Texas. Baton Rouge, you're already above two inches and again we're going to add to that.

New Orleans, during the month of May you picked up more than a foot. Typically, you would only see about five and a half inches. In late May, Lake Charles picked up 22 inches of rainfall. So, this part of the South is very waterlogged and we're going to add those totals because the system and here's what's going on. The Jets stream is way up here to the north and the jet stream is essentially a river, 1000s of feet up in the air. What happens when you throw a beach ball into the river? [08:55:00]

Well, it flows with the river. So, what's going on here is that low pressure system is cut off from the flow so it's not going anywhere anytime soon. Therefore, we're going to see a lot of rain over the next 48 to 72 hours across the deep south.

SANCHEZ: Tyler Mauldin, thank you so much for breaking that down for us. So, Amara and I will be back here in just about an hour.

WALKER: Smerconish is up next, we'll see you at 10 Eastern.