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New Day Saturday

New COVID Cases Increasing In All 50 States Amid Vaccination Lag; Biden: Social Media "Killing People" With COVID Misinformation; Hundreds Protest In Miami In Solidarity With Cuba Demonstrations; At Least 157 People Dead, Hundreds Missing In Europe Flooding; Acting P.M. Speaks Out On Haitian President's Assassination; Biden Officials Now Say COVID May Have Escaped From Lab; FAA Tells Airlines Boeing 737 Switches Could Pose Safety Risk; TSA Screened Nearly 2.2 Million Travelers On Friday. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 17, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Two large Fuji or Gala apples, thinly slice them, bake in the oven at 225 degrees for an hour. Then sprinkle cinnamon on top, bake another hour.

For dinner make grilled chicken breasts with only your favorite Italian dressing. Pour on the dressing, let it marinate for an hour or overnight, then hit the grill. Now, to end your day with dessert, mix two ripe bananas and one cup of rolled oats for oatmeal cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes and enjoy.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm Boris Sanchez.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Amara Walker in for Christi Paul.

SANCHEZ: Yes. So we are in a new phase of the COVID crisis. Cases rising in all 50 states, hospitalizations are up and health officials are sounding the alarm.

WALKER: Plus, a shattered economy, food and medicine shortages and government mistrust, protests erupting on the streets of Cuba.

SANCHEZ: And a terrifying kidnapping attempt caught on tape. A five- year-old boy snatched from the street in New York, we'll show you the video.

WALKER: Travel plans put on pause. Americans facing lengthy wait times for passports as the State Department deals with a massive backlog. What you need to know for your vacation plans.

SANCHEZ: It is Saturday July 17th. Thank you so much for waking up with us. Good morning, Amara.

WALKER: Good morning, Boris. My coffee just kicked in. So I'm ready to roll. Good to be with you.

SANCHEZ: My apple juice is nearby. As you all know love some apple juice in the morning. I wish we had better news to start with.

It is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. That's how the CDC is describing the state of the COVID crisis in the United States, as lagging vaccination rates threaten the progress the United States has made in the fight to eradicate coronavirus.

WALKER: For the first time since January cases are rising in all 50 states, and the outlook is much worse than the parts of the country struggling to get people lifesaving vaccines. Nearly half the country is now fully vaccinated and protected from serious sickness and death. Officials say it's people without the shot. Many of them younger, who they're seeing in hospitals suffering from this new surge.

SANCHEZ: And now comes the debate over what to do about it, right. An indoor mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status goes back into effect at midnight in Los Angeles County, California and more communities are at least recommending that everyone get back to masking up.

WALKER: As cases rise, so does the White House's apparent frustration with social media companies. CNN Jasmine Wright is following that angle for us.

Good morning to you, Jasmine. The Biden administration is grappling with this other epidemic, which is misinformation and they're taking aim specifically at certain social media companies.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's exactly right, Amara. President Biden said yesterday that social media companies are killing people by allowing vaccine misinformation to stay for long periods of time on their site. He said that yesterday before he headed out of town at the White House. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're killing people. I mean, it really. Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated and that's - they're killing people.


WRIGHT: So this comes after the administration has spent days really calling out social media companies with a laser focus on Facebook. U.S. officials, including U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in a scathing advisory are accusing companies of allowing this misinformation to sit on their site. And they say that misinformation is directly contributing to lower vaccination rates.

Because, remember, the bottom line is that the White House officials view vaccinations as the key to getting over this pandemic, and so anything stopping that is going to be a problem for them.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called out Facebook specifically after CNN have reported that meetings between the White House and Facebook had become tense, and that officials did not believe that Facebook were taking it seriously. So White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki accused them of allowing these misinformation posts really to stay on their sites for too long, and said clearly they were not doing enough in the moment.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our biggest concern here - and I frankly think it should be your biggest concern - is the number of people who are dying around the country, because they're getting misinformation that is leading them to not take a vaccine. Young people, old people, kids, children, this is all being - a lot of them are being impacted by misinformation.


WRIGHT: Now, Facebook has responded to our own Brian Fung, and they said - they refuted the White House's claims. But this also comes as the White House is battling in real-time this rise of cases, trying to tamp down on it. You just talked about how CDC Director Walensky said it was a pandemic of the unvaccinated.


So trying to really get a hold of these cases before it becomes a big outbreak, because of that delta variant, the White House is sending a team to Nevada - about 100 people - deploying them to really try to bring up those vaccination rates. And in Missouri, they're sending a team to respond to the outbreak. Amara, Boris.

WALKER: Jasmine Wright, appreciate your reporting, as always. Thank you so much for that. Joining us now from Nashville, Tennessee is Dr. William Schaffner, Medical Director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Dr. Schaffner, great to have you this morning.

I don't want to talk politics. Obviously, that's not your field. But I do want to talk about the implications of what's happening in your state, especially with the Tennessee Health Department saying that it's going to stop all vaccine outreach among adolescents. We are seeing how the politicization of vaccines can be harmful. And we know that Tennessee is a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

If a young person is watching right now, who was on the fence in Tennessee about getting a vaccine, what would you say to them?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I would tell them that vaccine is absolutely important. It's Central. Vaccines are safe. They're wonderfully effective. At the moment the virus is circulating among the unvaccinated population.

It is true, young people are less apt to become seriously ill. But when you do, it's 100 percent. And you can contribute to the reduction of the spread of this virus to yourself and others by being vaccinated. It's the single most responsible thing that you can do.

WALKER: Thank you for that. We want to show you the data and a map that shows all 50 states seeing a rise in COVID cases. Should the fully vaccinated, Dr. Schaffner, be worried about this rising cases? Or is this primarily something that the unvaccinated need to be watching?

SCHAFFNER: Well, a couple of things, Amara. The first is that, remember, we said at their best these vaccines are 95 percent effective. We didn't say 100 percent. So, yes, people who are fully vaccinated need to be cautious also.

And the other thing is, living amongst us are many people who are immunocompromised. Even if they're vaccinated, the vaccine probably didn't have the same protective effect in them that it does in us. And so in order to protect the frail among us, the rest of us have to be vaccinated. So yes, we should all be concerned about this.

WALKER: And I know the CDC was warning people on Friday, who are immunocompromised that the COVID-19 vaccine may not have been effective for them or as effective. What is your advice to the immunocompromised who have been vaccinated, but are thinking about a third shot, possibly?

SCHAFFNER: Well, third shots are not yet recommended. So in the meantime, be cautious. Glad you're vaccinated, but avoid large groups. And if you're out in the public, do the belt and suspenders. You're vaccinated, but continue to use your mask, stay away from those large indoor gatherings. Just continue to be cautious, because should you become infected, because you're immunocompromised, you're much more likely to become seriously ill. And we certainly don't want that.

WALKER: We heard from Jasmine Wright reporting at the White House that the Biden Administration is tackling this misinformation head-on and blaming social media for you know, much of the reason why so many people are not getting vaccinated.

The U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who says he lost 10 family members to COVID who weren't vaccinated. He's calling misinformation, especially on social media, a serious threat to public health. Here he is talking to Jake Tapper about what tech companies need to do about that.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: There are a number of steps that companies can take to prevent the spread of this misinformation. Number one, they can identify people who are super spreaders of misinformation and limit the information that they share.

Number two, they can take the data that they have, that tells them us how much misinformation is really spreading, who it's affecting. They can share that publicly and transparently with researchers.


WALKER: So he also talks about the responsibility of individuals, what they need to do when they see wrong information on social media. How do we combat this bad information, and especially where you are in Tennessee where you had the top immunization official being fired this week after she distributed a memo basically supporting minors getting vaccinated without parental consent.


SCHAFFNER: Well, of course, all of us have to try to do what we can to get good information out and try to move it through the clutter of all the malarkey that's out there, all the misinformation.

Actually, locally, the attention devoted to that unfortunate event has actually focused the notion that there are still many children who need to catch up with their immunizations, because during the shutdown, they were kept at home, didn't see their health care provider, now is the time to raise the rates and get all their routine vaccinations back up to those high levels that we keep striving for, as well as vaccinating children 12 and older against COVID. We still have a lot of attention to be devoted to that, lot of work to do.

WALKER: There is a astounding sound bite - an interview that I saw from the Chancellor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Services in Little Rock, Dr. Cam Patterson this week, and he was reporting that patients admitted for COVID over the past month, among them, 20 percent were unvaccinated women who are either pregnant or immediately post-partum.

Here's what Dr. Patterson had to say about how these women have been faring after getting the virus.


DR. CAM PATTERSON, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS FOR MEDICAL SERVICES: We've had several on heart, lung bypass, to get them through COVID-19 infection, we have had to induce labor early. You can lose your baby if you get infected with COVID-19.


WALKER: You can lose your baby if you get infected with COVID-19. What is your advice to pregnant women who don't know whether or not they should get the vaccine.

SCHAFFNER: So here's some good solid information. The vaccine is safe for you during pregnancy. And it's very important, because should a pregnant woman become ill with COVID, she's more likely to have the complications, like older persons. And number two, the baby is more likely to be born prematurely.

So it's very important for women who are pregnant, who are still not vaccinated, please get the vaccine. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists they're devoted to making sure that pregnant women deliver healthy babies. They support COVID vaccination during pregnancy.

WALKER: Thank you for all of your advice. Dr. William Schaffner, appreciate your time.

SCHAFFNER: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: We've been tracking historic antigovernment protests erupting on the streets of Cuba. More and more of those trying to escape Cuba's growing problems now have their sights set on U.S. shores. CNN is live in Havana in just a few moments.

WALKER: Plus, more than 150 people are dead, hundreds more still missing as historic flooding ravages parts of Europe. We're going to go live there for report.



WALKER: As thousands of people in cities across Cuba continue to protest against the country's communist government, authorities in South Florida say nearly 500 people held demonstrations Friday night in Miami's Cuban-American community in a show of solidarity with the island.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the protests were sparked last week over a shortage of food and medicine among the people, amid a worsening COVID outbreak. CNNs Patrick Altman is live in Cuba with the latest.

Patrick, the Cuban government responding by cracking down on protests, blocking the internet and now staging pro-revolutionary protests, right?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Good morning, Boris and Amara. What we're seeing right now, just down the street from the U.S. embassy in Havana is something we really haven't seen in years.

It's a large pro-government demonstration, obviously a show of force a response to those historic protests that we'd seen earlier in the week, and you have a Cuban President there Miguel Diaz-Canel, Raul Castro, who had retired in April. And let me tell you how this works.

The majority of this island works for the government and they are told when and where to be. They are picked up by hundreds of buses, using lots of gasoline, the Cuban government really doesn't have right now, to take in 10s of 1000s of people to be down on the Havana seaside Malecon to, once again, show the force of the government, show support, the government says, for their policies, show that the revolution is stronger than these protests.

It just goes to demonstrate how these protests have rocked Cuba and how they have deeply shaken the leadership here that they would put together this kind of protest where they would call in Raul Castro who has really been out of view for months since retiring. He's clearly a back to show that the new leadership has his support.

Of course, the big question is, this is far away the largest demonstration - pro-government demonstration we've seen since the pandemic. The government says it is complying with all pandemic safety measures. But you know, 10s of 1000s people grouped together, it's just hard to see, as Cuba reaches some of the worst numbers and death rates during the pandemic, how this won't contribute to a spike in cases.

WALKER: Just extraordinary events playing out in Cuba. Patrick Oppmann, thank you.

SANCHEZ: So let's dig deeper on the crisis in Cuba with NYU History Professor, Ada Ferrer. She's also the author of "Cuba: An American History." Professor, great to have you this morning. I'm glad that you could join us.


I want to play some sound for you from a protester that I spoke to in Cuba this week. He's skirting the government's internet blockade. He believes this is going to be a turning point, a new chapter in Cuba's history, because he says the people are no longer afraid of the regime. Here's more of what he shared with me.


JOSE CARLOS MELO, CUBAN PROTESTER: You want to take to prison, I'm already in a prison. I can't walk around the street, my mind cannot think, my mind cannot be free, so I'm already in a prison so it doesn't matter. If we go to the street again, a lot of people are going to die. What do you want me to do? This is the price of freedom.


SANCHEZ: Ada, how do you sort of navigate the two opposing things that we're seeing - the antigovernment demonstrations, followed by what the Cuban government is staging today? Does this feel like the beginning of change in Cuba?

ADA FERRER, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, NYU: Well, hi Boris. Thanks for having me first of all. As a historian, my sense is always that it's too soon to tell how lasting the effect of the protests will be. But it is certainly true that these protests are unprecedented. We haven't seen anything like them in 60 years.

And once that's happened, once that's out there, once people witness it, you can't take it back. Right. So people can now imagine protests against the government in a way that they couldn't before.

SANCHEZ: Yes, an important aspect of this debate is just how much the U.S. embargo has played a role in the crisis in Cuba? The regime blames many of the problems on the island on the embargo. On the other hand, here's Democratic Senator Bob Menendez in a conversation we had.


SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): The only embargo that exists on the Cuban people is the one that regime has against the Cuban people. The regime ultimately, when I want to send $100 to my aunt in Cuba, it takes off 20 percent off the top, and then it converts the balance the other $80 in Cuban pesos, which are a fraction of the value of a U.S. dollar.

Why does the regime do that if it wants to help the Cuban people? Why does the regime shut off the internet? The only time a country shuts off the internet is when they're afraid of the people and their voices? Why does the regime have flush of food and supplies in dollar stores, but don't allow the average Cuban to do it? So, my view is we want to help the Cuban people, but we should not empower the regime.


SANCHEZ: So, Ada, other is the embargo to blame or is it a crutch for the regime to mask their incompetence?

FERRER: It is both those things. For 60 years the government has used - the Cuban government has used the embargo as an excuse for its own failures. That's one of the shortcomings of the embargo, first of all.

Second, two things can be true at once. There is no doubt that the U.S. embargo hurts the Cuban people. That does not mean that the Cuban government also doesn't hurt its own people. Both those things are true. And what we saw in the protests actually was actually a multiplicity of factors, leading to the frustration that drove people out into the streets.

There was - there's a COVID crisis, as you mentioned. Its now one of the top 10 hotspots in the world. There's the tightening of the embargo, which prevents Cuban-Americans in the U.S. from sending money to family members, or to friends. And the way that the Senator described the exchange rate is not quite correct, but we don't need to get into the weeds with that.

But also the Cuban government has pursued economic and political policies that have fed a lot of frustration on the island. It didn't monitor (inaudible) that set prices spiking by just 500 percent. In the political sphere, it's stepped up its campaign of repression and intimidation, especially of young activists who are calling for greater freedom. And the government has refused any kind of negotiation or dialogue about all those things contributed to what we saw on Sunday.

SANCHEZ: Senator Menendez also dismissed the idea of a military option for Cuba at this point. He said that if the regime take steps that threaten U.S. national security, that may change. I'm curious what you would say to some of the protesters, specifically in Miami that have been calling for the use of force.

FERRER: Right. Miami - people in Miami are understandably in pain seeing the suffering of their own family members on the island and they understandably want to figure out ways to help.

That said, an intervention, a military intervention is a terrible idea and I have no doubt about that. As I've written in the book you mentioned, the U.S. has a long complicated history with Cuba. It has staged multiple military interventions over the course of the 20th Century, none of those turned out well.


And in fact, it is U.S. power - historic U.S. power in Cuba that helped Fidel Castro legitimate his revolution not only in front of his own people, but also - initially - but also in the broader world with governments across Asia, Africa, Latin America, et cetera.

So to talk of intervention, whether that talk comes in Miami, or from Washington, is to is to give the upper hand to the government. It turns the protests into a showdown between Cuba and a superpower - the U.S., instead of keeping the focus on the Cuban people who are on the streets. And I think that they are where our attention should be.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And when I spoke to that protester, he told me he did not want the United States to intervene. He said, this is our fight for Cuba.

FERRER: Right.

SANCHEZ: Ada Ferrer, thank you so much for spending time with us this morning. We appreciate your insight.

FERRER: Thanks for having me, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course. And you can watch more of that interview I had with the Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez later this morning at 10:00 am Eastern. He talks about what he is telling the president should be done in Cuba.

WALKER: I'm looking forward to that Boris. Parts of Europe are devastated by flooding not seen in generations. Rescue workers rushing to find survivors as hundreds remain missing. We will have a live report from the region next.



SANCHEZ: We've been tracking some severe weather in Western Europe this morning after catastrophic flooding there has killed more than 150 people, a lot more people missing in Germany and Belgium after catastrophic flooding.

WALKER: That's right. Large scale search and rescue missions are still underway as 1000s remain without power this morning. Officials say many areas hadn't seen this much rainfall in 100 years, and expect the high waters to last until tomorrow night.

Let's go to CNN's Sam Kiley on the ground in Germany. And Sam, the risks and the dangers are not over yet. What are you seeing?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Amara, a quick correction there. I've actually moved from Germany into the Netherlands - into Holland and that's because we've come onto the banks of the Maas River.

The banks used to be a several 100 yards in that direction and now they're at my feet and that is because this river is now at its highest level since 1911, local officials tell us. Already part of Roermond has been evacuated, particularly the area you can see there with that 1970s building behind me, that's known as Hut (ph) that's been evacuated.

And the reason for this is what we've seen in Germany, the Dutch now fear coming their way. And this is what we were told in the last stop we paid in Germany.


MICHAEL KAUTSCH, RESIDENT OF ERFTSTADT: The water was here so high that you couldn't go into smaller cars, they had special cars and went in and tried to get so many people as possible out of that area. The whole night helicopters were coming and even tried to pull out people there.


KILEY: The Dutch authorities are aware that they could well be next as the water flows down - particularly down this Maas River so the town of Venlo downstream they're trying to evacuate some 10,000 people, Boris, Amara.

SANCHEZ: Sam Kiley reporting from the Netherlands. Thanks so much for keeping an eye on that for us.

WALKER: Haiti's acting prime minister is offering his opinion on the assassination of the president.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the funeral for the murdered president is to be held on July 23rd, not in Port-au-Prince, but in another part of the country. CNN's Matt Rivers explains why.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got some updates into the investigation into this assassination in a midday press conference here in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Among those who attended were Acting Prime Minister Claude Joseph, as well as the Chief of Haiti's National Police Force.

It was Joseph, who offered his opinion on what he termed a miscalculation on the part of some of the people involved in this assassination. He said, quote, "The killers thought they could kill the president and forced the rest of the government to flee." And he said, obviously, that hasn't happened. The investigation goes on.

That's where the chief of police of Haiti's National Police Force jumped in. He said that at this point, more than two dozen police officers here on the island are being investigated in one way or another as a result of this assassination.

Among those police officers being investigated, we're told, there are some officers who were actually at the presidential residence the night of the assassination. Also, Haiti's National Police Chief saying that members of the FBI that have come here from the United States to assist in this investigation have had a chance to at least preliminarily question some of the key suspects in this case. We are also told that the funeral for President Jovenel Moise will take place not out here in Port-au-Prince, in another part of the country - on Northern part of the country on the 23rd of this month.


It is expected that the first lady of Haiti who was injured in that assassination of her husband and who has been recovering in a hospital in Miami, it is expected that she will come back to the island to attend that funeral.

Matt Rivers, CNN Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


SANCHEZ: Matt Rivers, thank you so much for that.

WALKER: Senior White House officials are digging deeper into the origin of the deadly coronavirus. Details on why they are now giving more credibility to a theory that the virus could have accidentally leaked from the Chinese lab.

SANCHEZ: But first a quick programming note to share with you. The conflict in Jerusalem has been centuries in the making. A new CNN Original Series takes you back 3,000 years through six epic battles for the most coveted city in the world. "Jerusalem" City of Faith and Fury" premieres tomorrow night at night at 9 - at 10:00 pm Eastern I should say. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first time I went to Jerusalem, I thought it was probably one of the most beautiful places I've been to on Earth. But when I was on the ground, and I started to see the tensions between everyone, I felt as though, this was a city of contradictions. A city that had much history, but a city that also had a lot of sorrow and a lot of pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Jerusalem, besides its religious significance, is the center of national aspiration of two communities - Israelite community and the Palestinian community. And that adds another layer of complexity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's impossible to imagine fixing the present and building a better future for Jerusalem without understanding the many stories of its past.


SANCHEZ: An ambitious and powerful series starting tomorrow at 10:00 pm Eastern right here on CNN.



WALKER: It is a lingering question in the COVID pandemic, where did the virus originate?

SANCHEZ: Yes, a theory that was once dismissed by the Biden Administration as a conspiracy theory is now getting a second look. CNN's Natasha Bertrand has details.


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: We're learning that senior Biden administration officials now believe that the possibility that COVID-19 escaped from a lab is at least as possible as the theory that it originated in the wild naturally from animals.

This is a dramatic shift from just last year, when that theory that it might have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan was treated as a conspiracy theory and unscientific. But the president ordered an intelligence review into the COVID origins back in March. His intelligence community then came back to him in May saying they were still split on the issue, on the question of whether COVID-19 originated in a lab or in the wild.

So he then ordered a redoubled effort into this question. And what we're learning now is that the intelligence community being really on the fence about where this originated, has also led senior Biden Administration officials to take that theory that it escaped from a lab accidentally, very seriously.

Now, it is important to note that this is not necessarily a theory that this was engineered as a bioweapon. This is not gaining credence within the Biden Administration. What they believe is that this could have escaped from a lab as they were conducting research on bats, and therefore it is also somewhat of a natural origin theory.

And but right now, the two theories being treated - very credible, both of them, and the administration emphasizing to us that they are reserving judgment until the intelligence community completes its review in about 40 days.

Natasha Bertrand, CNN.


SANCHEZ: Thanks Natasha. A terrifying experience for a mother and her child to tell you about a brazen attempted kidnapping of a five year old in broad daylight in Queens, New York. The whole thing caught on video. Details just a few moments away.



WALKER: A 24 year old man has been arrested and charged in New York after attempting to kidnap a five year old on Thursday in New York. The whole thing was caught on video. And we do want to note that it may be very difficult to watch, but we do want to say the young boy was not injured according to police. SANCHEZ: Yes. So let's break this down. The video shows a man getting out of his car and then you see him running very quickly toward the sidewalk. He grabs the boy. His mom tries to restrain him. The boy is later identified as Jacob. He throws the boy in the car. You can see the child's mother, Dolores Diaz Lopez, she's running as fast as she can, struggling with somebody inside the corner and eventually pulls her son out of the car window.

WALKER: It's hard to believe your eyes to see that this could happen in broad daylight on the streets. Right? Authorities are still looking for a second suspect involved in that attempted kidnapping.

SANCHEZ: Incredible footage there. So the FAA is ordering inspections on 1000s of Boeing 737s, the world's most popular commercial airliner.

WALKER: Yes official say airlines should immediately inspect switches that control cabin pressure and replace them as needed. CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean has more on this potential safety risk.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: This is what's known as a latent failure, meaning the problems are not immediately obvious to your pilots. And that's a really big issue on such a critical system. These switches control the cabin altitude pressure warning system. In essence, you need that to breathe onboard a commercial airliner like the Boeing 737.

The FAA spells this out pretty plainly. It says, "failure of these switches could result in the cabin altitude warning not activating if the cabin altitude exceeds 10,000 feet, at which point the oxygen levels could become dangerously low."


The FAA found three problems on three airplanes back in September of 2020. But then it says the failure rate increased in May, prompting this inspection order on 2,500 airplanes in the United States. Airlines need to do these inspections as part of routine maintenance within the next 2,000 flight hours, which can rack up pretty quickly on a commercial airliner or within the next 90 days.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.


SANCHEZ: And this just entered CNN. Another pandemic era record for air travel. The TSA saying it has screened nearly 2.2 million people on Friday, but many of us still haven't traveled for over a year, thanks to the pandemic, right.

Some Americans who want to travel now, as countries are slowly reopening to tourists, while some are realizing their passports have expired, but getting a new or renewed passport has become, should I say, a very lengthy process to say the least. The State Department says the pandemic created a backlog of more than a million applications and the current wait time for a new passport is 18 weeks. Pre-pandemic it was about six to eight weeks.

Joining me to talk about what the what in world is going on as David Alwadish. He is the founder of ItsEasy Passport & Visa. You might want to change your name to it's not so easy right now. So thank you so much for joining us this morning.

Tell us about you know what's going on? I got to tell you, I wanted to do this interview because my friend just went through this. I was trying to help her. She decided to travel out of the country and then realize the week before her flight that her son's passport had expired. And she was looking for appointments online through the State Department and there was not one passport agency appointment anywhere in the country. She was willing to fly.

Tell us what's going on. And how bad is this backlog?

DAVID ALWADISH, FOUNDER, ITSEASY PASSPORT & VISA: I think it's unprecedented from what I've seen. I think, for me, I haven't seen this in 40 years. I mean, I haven't seen this since (inaudible). But in all fairness, I haven't seen ever in my lifetime a pandemic.

So I think that the Department of State, in all fairness to them, is really suffering from the aftermath or being involved in this pandemic. I think that they're shorthanded. My gut feeling is that a lot of contract workers that used to do passports when they were maybe laid off during the pandemic, maybe didn't come back. And they're overwhelmed by the sudden rush of passports. And this is affecting everybody trying to get one, because they're very precise in what they do.

And I just do know that nobody moves as many passports during the good times like the Department of State. So in all fairness, I have to say this is just a pandemic thing.

WALKER: Yes. Tell me about your experience. And are you overwhelmed with requests for help, because I'd imagine your agency helps people get passports or passport renewals?

ALWADISH: Yes, on my cell phone, I personally got about 200 to 300 text messages and phone calls yesterday. And short of wanting to blow my brains out, I wanted to handle everybody and I'm still - and I'm probably taking this weekend to try to figure out what people could do to make their flight and try to give them suggestions of where to apply for an appointment and how to get one and so on and so forth.

It is to some degree, while your friend didn't find an appointment, it may be a constant click and refresh, click and refresh, click and refresh. Things do pop up. But again, they're just shorthanded and there's just nothing what they can do.

WALKER: So in terms of advice about what you can do?

ALWADISH: Well, I think you can also - yes, I think that you also going to have to try to think about not looking to go in your local town. I think you're going to have the people flying all over the country. People from Alaska traveling to - Colorado, New York is traveling to New Hampshire or they're driving up - they mean to Buffalo, they're going to New Orleans. They're traveling all over the country to get a passport, not necessarily in their own backyard.

WALKER: Yes, and I know a lot of local Congress, people's offices are being inundated with calls as well regarding asking for help. But we're going to leave it there. David Alwadish. thank you for your time. We'll be right back.

ALWADISH: Thank you so much.



SANCHEZ: We end NEW DAY on a sad note this morning. Rapper and MTV favorite, Biz Markie he passed away yesterday at the age of 57.


BIZ MARKIE, AMERICAN RAPPER: You, you've got what I need/ but you say he's just a friend/ and you say he's just a friend/ oh baby, you--


SANCHEZ: And that was "Just a Friend," a song that vaulted him to the top of the charts in the late 1980s. The off key singing and wacky music videos earned him the nickname, "The Clown Prince of Hip-Hop."

Born Marcel Hall in New York, his career spanned 35 years. After "Just a Friend" he got into voice acting and narration. He was in "Men in Black II". He was a DJ, a radio host. His manager told CNN that friends and family are going to miss his vibrant personality and his constant jokes.

Biz Markie was 57 years old. An entertainer all the way to the end, he will be missed.

WALKER: Rest in peace.