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New Day Saturday

No Signs Of Further Evacuations From Battered Steel Plant; South Korea "Strongly Condemns" North Korea's Ballistic Missile; Inmate And Corrections Officer's Getaway Car Found; No Researchers: Pills Account For More Than 54 percent Of All U.S. Abortions; WH: 100 Million Could Be Infected In Fall/Winter COVID-19 Wave. Aired 8-9am ET

Aired May 07, 2022 - 08:00   ET



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: So great to be with you, Christi.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you here as always.

MARQUARDT: There -- thank you. While there is hope for evacuation efforts that could resume this morning for trapped civilians who are in those underground bunkers in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol in Ukraine, that's comes amid heightened tensions than that because Russia could formally soon declare war on Ukraine.

PAUL: And there's a new twist in the manhunt for an escaped Alabama convict and the corrections officer who allegedly helped him get away. We're learning more about the relationship between the two now.

MARQUARDT: The White House is also sounding the alarm warning of a new wave of coronavirus infections this fall. What officials say they need to combat a potential surge?

PAUL: And an explosion ripped through a Havana hotel killing and injuring dozens of people. What we know about that explosion and word that there may be survivors trapped under the rubble.

Well, we hope that Saturday May 7th so far has been good to you. I know it's early but we are grateful you're waking up with us. You too Alex.

MARQUARDT: It is so great to be back with you Christi. Thank you again for having me.

PAUL: Always.

MARQUARDT: Now we are going to begin with those stalled efforts to free more civilians from that battered steel plant that has come under attack by Russian forces in southeastern Ukraine in the city of Mariupol.

PAUL: Right. Evacuations were supposed to resume today, after 50 civilians were freed from the plan in Mariupol yesterday. So far, there are no signs that process has restarted. We know at least 100 civilians, including a number of children, by the way, are still trapped in underground bunkers.

MARQUARDT: Ukrainians -- Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of using blockades as a form of torture, he says, because people are being starved. Zelenskyy says that organizations are not being allowed to get into Mariupol to get the people there badly needed food, water and countless other supplies.

PAUL: And President Biden's announced additional security aid for Ukraine. The president says the U.S. is providing $150 million worth of equipment including artillery and radar.

MARQUARDT: We want to go take you live to Ukraine right now. CNN correspondent Scott McLean joins us now from Lviv. Scott, we are watching Mariupol very closely, is there any indication that something could happen today in terms of getting those civilians out of that plant?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Alex, sometimes no news is good news. And hopefully this is one of those times and they're the reason that people are optimistic is because Ukrainian officials during these evacuation missions have tried to say as little as possible, they don't want to do anything to potentially jeopardize the success of the operation. Yesterday was proof that sometimes good things happen after no news when the Russians announced late in the day that 50 people including some children had successfully been taken out from underneath of that plant. The Ukrainian soon announced the same thing, those 50 people each announced that had been evacuated, it appears were the same 50 people and they were taken east actually of Mariupol toward the Russian border, toward a village in Ukrainian held territory to a reception center or a filtration center where they stayed the night. The hope was that they would move again today in the direction of Zaporizhzhia. But even that process could take a long time.

Now, there are still very likely some 100 or so civilians still trapped including children underneath of that steel plant. The hope from the Ukrainian officials was that those evacuations would resume today. It is a time-consuming process though, of course, because we're talking about four square mile a site with many underground cavities. People aren't all just staying in the same one. And so you have to go through and collect all of those people.

The strategy to take people east when most people will opt to go west toward Ukrainian held territory is an odd one. But Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister says that it is all part of Russia's PR tactics.


EMINE DZHAPAROVA, UKRAINE'S FIRST DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: They say oh, you create an army there. They are committing propaganda saying to poor people, that Ukrainian army is being shelling the city and then they open up their territory, the Russian territory for evacuation, but indeed and in fact, it's called forcible deportation when they bring thousands of Ukrainians via Russian territory is thus depicting themselves as saviors.


MCLEAN: Now, even if all of the civilians were to get out today, that still leaves in it an extremely difficult situation for the soldiers who are left inside there, that could be hundreds of them or more. It is unlikely they will be able to fight their way out to safety. They say that they will not leave under any circumstances without a gun in their hand. Many of them are wounded. The President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he is working on diplomatic options to try to get them out including working with some influential countries in those negotiations, Alex.


PAUL: All right, Scott McLean, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right. For more on everything that's going on in Ukraine, we're going to turn to Washington Post columnist Max Boot. He's a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Max, thank you so much for being with us this morning. I want to talk a bit about all the reporting about intelligence and the intelligence sharing from the U.S. to Ukraine, we know that they've been providing Ukraine with intelligence. But now there's a question of how specific that is, particularly when it comes to this question of killing Russian generals, a number of Russian generals have been killed. But the U.S. is claiming that they are not providing specific targeting information when it comes to those generals or the sinking of that flagship, the Moskva. What do you make of this line that the Biden administration is trying to walk in terms of the exact nature of the intelligence that they're sharing?

MAX BOOT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, obviously, the Biden administration is trying to help the Ukrainians in every way they can, without risking an escalation into a wider war with Russia. And that's, that's the line that they're walking in. So that's why they have been clarifying that no, they're not putting a target on the heads of Russian generals, but they are providing the Ukrainians with information on Russian headquarters, which obviously can be used to target the people inside, including generals or, you know, in the case of the Moskva, the Russian warship that was sunk by the Ukrainians. They're saying that they provided intelligence on the ship, but it was, you know, the Ukrainians who independently did their targeting and I suspect that's probably the case.

The interesting thing, of course, is that the administration, and people in the intelligence community are not averse to leaking information about the U.S. intelligence contribution to these Ukrainian military achievements. And that's caused some controversy, with some people suggesting that, you know, this is too provocative to Russia, to talk about the U.S. contribution. But I don't think that the administration is overly perturbed by this, I think this is a form of deterrence for Russia to let them know that we have their number to let them know how much we're doing, in the case of helping Ukraine, and also to deter them from further Russia, from further escalation in the future, because they are basically telegraphing the kind of capabilities that we have, and that we are contributing to the Ukrainian war effort.

MARQUARDT: But we have seen some frustration, I'm thinking, in particular of press secretary, John Kirby at the Pentagon over these leaks. Do you think that that is because there could be significant Russian retaliation if there is a perception that U.S. intelligence is helping with these significant victories on the battlefield for Ukraine?

BOOT: I wouldn't be overly paranoid about it, I don't think the administration is overly paranoid if they were paranoid. They would be -- they would not be providing all of this intelligence, and they would not be providing all this weaponry, all of which has been used to kill Russians. But remember Russians who are illegally inside Ukraine who are committing a war of aggression against Ukraine committing atrocities in Ukraine, so legally and morally, Ukraine is 100 percent in the right. And obviously, we don't want to, you know, we don't want to poke the Russian bear too much, because it is still a country that has 6,000 nuclear weapons. But I don't think that anybody is being paralyzed by fear of Russia going nuclear because Putin is not suicidal.

And so far, he's actually been fairly cautious in the use of force, there is no suggestion that he's about to attack a NATO country. And the reason he's not going to do that is I think he understands that he would suffer, you know, terrible retribution from NATO that his armed forces are incapable of defeating the Ukrainians. How are they going to fare against NATO military?

So I think, you know, we should certainly be cognizant of not trying to escalate the war too much, which is why President Biden has said that we're not going to impose a no fly-zone or have U.S. military personnel in direct combat with the Russians. But I think anything short of that is fair game.

MARQUARDT: Can we look ahead to Monday, its Victory Day, we're going to see that big parade across, across Red Square. President Putin will be giving as he does every year a big speech. Do you believe that he will announce some kind of victory? And is there a potential for him to announce some kind of escalation as well to change his terminology from this special operation that he's been calling it to actually formally declaring war against Ukraine?

BOOT: I don't know what to expect exactly. I mean, I think we're getting conflicting reports on that. Certainly, I do expect that he will declare victory even though there are not a lot of actual Russian victories to be had, because it doesn't cost him anything you say that we're winning, I'm sure he will say that. Whether he will declare war on Ukraine and declare a total mobilization, I just don't know because that would be a significant upping of the ante. But it would not deliver any kind of added military capabilities in the short term, because Russia does not have a lot of reserves on standby.

[08:10:19] This is not a country that has, you know, a National Guard and Reserve ready to throw into battle the way that the United States does, it would take them a long time, to mobilize and to train reservists who don't receive any regular training, who don't have units to fall into who don't have equipment set aside for them. This was going to be -- this would be a very lengthy process. And it would raise the stakes, not just for Ukraine, but for Putin, because it would really bring the cost of the war home to Russia. And if Russia is not able to make greater military progress than they're doing now, after having mobilized, after having, you know, called upon conscripts and really brought the war home for Russian households, I think that would really cause discontent in crumbling and could potentially undermine the basis of the Putin regime.

So, you know, I just don't know if he's going to take that gamble or not.

MARQUARDT: You wrote this week in The Washington Post about some of the ripple effects that we could see from Ukraine's success against Russia. You write, if Russia fails in Ukraine, it will send a welcome message about the perils of mounting wars of aggression in an age of defensive dominance that should resonate all the way to Beijing. Given how hard Russia is finding it to invade a neighboring state. Imagine how much more difficult it will be for China to mount an amphibious assault across the Taiwan Strait.

Max, it would be much harder for Taiwan's friends to supply it during a war against China, then Ukraine's supplying it and its war against Russia. But do you think that what we're seeing now is giving President Xi some kind of pause?

BOOT: I think it certainly should, because the West is not rolling over. The Ukrainians are not rolling over, they're actually fighting back very effectively. And what I highlighted in that article, is the impact of largely defensive weaponry, in particular missiles, sensors and drones, which have had a devastating impact on Russian tanks, and even on Russian warships. You know, some of those same systems, many of those same systems are in Taiwan, and we should certainly provide Taiwan with more of those to deter any kind of Russian attack.

So, you know, what I argued in that in article, citing a retired Marine colonel named (INAUDIBLE), is that the defense that really has the upper hand in warfare right now, at least at a tactical level, where these sensors and missiles, which are relatively low cost can destroy very expensive major weapon systems, from tanks to warships. And, you know, that's those are the, you know, especially warships and aircraft, those are the kinds of systems that China would need to invade Taiwan, which would be a very difficult military operation.

So, you know, if Taiwan is well-equipped with the sensors, drones and missiles, they can impose a massive cost on any Chinese invasion. But as you suggest, you know, because Taiwan is an island, it would be much harder to resupply Taiwan and a conflict than is the case with Ukraine, which has a land border with NATO. And so, that makes it imperative to get all this equipment into Taiwan right now, before a Chinese invasion. MARQUARDT: And more of those systems are on their way to Ukraine as we speak, Max Boot, I appreciate the conversation this morning.

BOOT: Thanks for having me.


PAUL: So this morning, South Korean authorities are strongly condemning North Korea for firing a suspected short range ballistic missile likely launched from a submarine into the waters off the coast, the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.

Want to go to CNN senior international correspondent Will Ripley, he has been watching this very closely. He's in Taipei for us.

Will, good to see you this morning. The sheer number just this year, this is the 14th projectile North Korea has fired this year. And there's a difference between this and what we've seen in the past six months. Talk to us about that.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know that number Christi 14 is noteworthy because it's more than all of 2020 and 2021 combined, but this launch is different because it is believed to have been fired from a submarine into the waters off the Korean Peninsula. Now this missile was fired purportedly around 2:07 p.m. local time. It's 1:07a.m. Eastern. And it comes just days after another North Korean presumed ballistic missile test, although interestingly, North Korea didn't report that test on Wednesday. We haven't seen any mention of it in that state media and we're not exactly sure why. But we do know as you said that this month marks the country's 14th missile launch this year.

And submarine launched ballistic missiles are in some ways even more dangerous than intercontinental ballistic missiles like the one that North Korea launched back in March because SLBM as they're called a submarine essentially can sneak up to enemy shores whether it be South Korea or U.S. forces or station or Japan or U.S. has a major military presence, and they can fire this missile and it travels at a very low altitude. We're talking about this particular missile never reaching an altitude higher than 40 miles and yet it traveled almost 400 miles. That means it could literally fly in under the radar and be all but impossible for existing weapons systems to shoot down if there was even enough advanced warning to deploy those systems.


So that's why this kind of technology is concerning. Even though we should point out North Korean submarines are pretty noisy. They're an older diesel technology. They're not like the U.S. silent nuclear submarine fleet. But still, the fact that North Korea is perfecting and demonstrating this technology is certainly concerning for the South Koreans and the Americans and the Japanese and much of the world. But particularly in this region, South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened his National Security Council where they strongly condemned this launch. They pointed out it's in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. President Moon, Christi has just three days left in his presidential term, the new South Korean president takes over on May 10th. He tried so hard over the last five years of his term to make peace with the North Koreans. And here he is in the final days of his presidency with a barrage of missile tests and intelligence from the United States and Japan that a nuclear test North Korea's seventh nuclear tests could happen as soon as this month.

PAUL: It is. Will Ripley, we appreciate the update so much thank you.

MARQUARDT: And coming up, new clues in the Alabama manhunt for escaped inmate and corrections officer. Will tell you what authorities have found and whether they're any closer tracking the twosome down.

Plus, right now --

PAUL: Plus, right now.

MARQUARDT: -- crews are searching for survivors after a deadly explosion rocked a hotel in Cuba, now officials are revealing what may have caused that blast.



MARQUARDT: Officials have made a key discovery in the search for a missing corrections officer and an inmate who are faced -- who is facing murder charges. Authorities announced that they located the car that they previously believed that Vicky White and Casey White were not related were traveling in.

PAUL: (INAUDIBLE) in a Tennessee tow lot for about a week. It's a roughly two-hour drive north from where the two disappeared at a county jail in Florence, Alabama.

CNN's Nadia Romero has more on escaped inmate Casey White's violent past.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Casey White is scheduled to stand trial for capital murder charges related to the 2015 death of Connie Ridgeway this summer. But last Friday he escaped forcing Ridgeway's family including her son Austin Williams through a rollercoaster of emotions.

AUSTIN WILLIAMS, CONNIE RIDGEWAY'S SON: My feelings have been coming all over the place just adrenaline and stress and just you know not sleeping really well.

ROMERO (voice-over): White's violent criminal history dates back to at least 2010. Court documents allege he beat his brother in the face and head with an axe sledgehammer handle, landing him in prison in 2012. He was released nearly four years later. And in October 2015, Connie Ridgeway was murdered in her apartment and Lauderdale County, Alabama. Police questioned White at the time but did not charge him and just months later. In December, White went on a crime spree that included a home invasion, carjacking and a police chase. He was indicted on 15 counts in March 2016 and later convicted on seven of those charges including attempted murder and robbery. He was sent to prison with his first possibility of parole in 2061, but in 2020 Lauderdale County District Attorney says White admitted to killing Connie Ridgeway. He was then brought to Lauderdale County Detention Center to be arraigned on murder charges and October 2020. White pleaded not guilty.

And that's where he is believed to have met and started his relationship with Corrections Officer White. While there deputies discovered White was allegedly planning an escape that included taking a hostage, he was sent back to prison.

RICK SINGLETON, SHERIFF, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: He was -- he immediately returned back to the Department of Corrections that he was brought back to our facility. And on February 25th of this year, we do know and have confirmed that they were in touch via phone during that two-year period while he was in prison and she was still working here.

ROMERO (voice-over): White was placed in the most restrictive custody level, housed in a single cell, were strained and accompanied by armed guards at all times. Sheriff Singleton says, White was brought back to the Lauderdale County Detention Center in February where Officer White worked ahead of the trial for the Ridgeway murder. Inmates have come forward with new information about the two of them.

SINGLETON: (INAUDIBLE) he was getting special treatment. He was getting privileges, getting extra food on his tray that Vicky White was saying that he got another might for getting.

ROMERO (voice-over): Austin Williams says there should have been extra eyes on Casey White and anyone who was associating with him. Now, he's worried more people could be hurt by White while he's on the run.

WILLIAMS: I mean, really no one's safe who's in contact with him. I mean he could snap at any moment. You can just snap at anything. And that's it.


ROMERO: Now we've reached out to Casey White's attorneys multiple times over the past week and we've yet to hear response. Friday, Alabama governor Kay Ivey adding an additional $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture and arrest of Casey White and Vicky white. That brings their joint total for reward up to $25,000.

Christi, Alex.

PAUL: Thank you so much.

Criminologist and attorney, Casey Jordan, with me now.

Casey, it is good to see you again, sadly talking about this case, though, but I want to jump off that that point. But there are as I understand it, some protective actions that have been taken for potential targets of his. Is it likely that he would go to a place that he knows to try -- to go after somebody he did not get before?

CASEY JORDAN, CRIMONOLOGIST: I don't think he would be that foolish. I mean, a lot of planning went into this escape. It was not impulsive. It appears that that Casey and Vicky had been planning this for years, she was calling him in prison which was corresponding with him. The plan was very well executed because it's a week later and we don't know where they are.


So I don't think you would mess up his escape by going after anybody at this point. My feeling is that they are now experiencing a little bit of guarded elation that they may have gotten away with it. I think they are getting as far away from Alabama as possible. And right now, you know, they're never going to actually be able to relax, always sleep with one eye open, always look over your shoulder, never really certain if the police are closing in. The last thing he's going to want to do is do anything high risk that would bring attention to him that might get him caught, too much planning went into getting out.

PAUL: So, now that they have the car that they believe, now that authorities have the card that they believe was their getaway car, that car was kind of the first and last real piece of evidence that they have to find them now. I mean, obviously other than the physicality of the suspects in their pictures, but in terms of which direction did they go? And are they alone? And then how long can they hide? I mean, all of that has to be figured out. Are tips from the public the key here?

JORDAN: They really are. I mean, let's hope that law enforcement has a lot more information than they're sharing with us. But I believe that sharing that information with the public is how they're going to get caught. I mean, again, it's been a week. And yes, we have tips pouring in from all over the country. And that makes it more challenging than difficult because they all have to be considered. And all of these sightings have to be checked out.

Remember, Vicky White has spent her career in the correctional system. She knows how law enforcement works. She knows how investigations work. She's not a stupid woman, to the extent that that she knows how police are going to be looking for them. So assuming that they're still out there, they're going to have changed cars. I think they probably left the country. But it's going to be very important for people not just to look for Casey White, who is 6'9, he's going to stick out like a sore thumb. You can't miss somebody that's tall. But consider the Casey White may have changed her appearance probably changed her color to dark brown or black. And it occurs to me in talking with other law enforcement as you might want to look for a woman pushing a man in a wheelchair because you can't tell how tall somebody is when they're sitting down.

So, we need to consider different scenarios of what they could look like right now where they could be so that everyone is on the lookout for this couple.

PAUL: OK, two questions here for you. One is Vicky White was described as an exemplary employee. She had respect of her colleagues, she had an unblemished record. I think you're uniquely equipped to try to profile Vicky White. First of all, what do you make of her? And secondly, Alabama, you know, Governor Kay Ivey has said they pose a major threat to the public. Do you think he throws -- he poses a threat to her?

JORDAN: Yes, let's just deal with what everybody's thinking is very unlikely that she's still alive or less likely as time goes on. Quite simply, she is a very smart woman in terms of intellectually being able to plan this escape, and yet incredibly naive. She no doubt thinks she is in love with this man. Its called hybristophili, the so- called Bad Boy Syndrome happens mostly with women attracted to criminal men. And no doubt she thinks she is in love with him and that they're going to be walking on the beach like in Shawshank Redemption, you know, down the line.

So, you've got to consider that she brings no value added to this man who we've established is a violent criminal. Everyone who knows him talks about how dangerous that he is. And once he is out and has a car and has her money, maybe $100,000 in cash that she had with her, there is really no incentive for him to keep her alive because she creates a liability to him getting caught.

So obviously, we hope that she is recovered alive, and that we get her side of the story. But as time goes on, I would argue that it's far less likely that she is alive unless there is some angle she has on him where he needs her more than she needs him.

PAUL: Wow. Casey Jordan, so appreciate your expertise and taking the time for us this morning. And good to see you again. Thank you so much.

JORDAN: Great to be here. Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, it's going to be the next fight and the Roe vs. Wade saga. Ahead how manufacturers planned to go up against states that are already looking to ban access to so-called abortion pills by mail.



PAUL: Thirty-three minutes past the hour right now. Welcome back.

So with the Supreme Court seemingly poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, analysts say the next frontier in this fight will be the availability of so-called abortion pills and the distribution of that by mail. There are some states already pushing back on it.

MARQUARDT: Yes, that's right. On Friday, the governor of Tennessee signed a bill criminalizing mail-in abortion pills that are sent by anyone besides a qualified physician.

As CNN's Tom Foreman reports, suppliers of these medications say that they intend to continue sending these pills to the U.S. no matter what.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For those intent on ending abortions in parts of the United States, the biggest barrier may now not be politics but pills which researcher say are effective, available and now used for more than half of all abortions.


SUE SWAYZE LIEBEL, STATE POLICY DIRECTOR, SUSAN B. ANTHONY LIST: Abortion activists have been quietly building a whole new business model to target young woman on their phones to click, get information and receive abortion drug by mail.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The Food and Drug Administration approved mail order supplies of the so-called abortion pills with a prescription this past December for women in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Advocates insist it is less invasive, more discreet, and just as safe as surgical abortion.

JENNIFER VILLAVICENCIO, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF OBSTETRICIANS & GYNECOLOGISTS: And oftentimes people choose this for various reasons. They want to be able to manage their abortion in their own home, with their family and you know, around a surround that they're comfortable with.

REBECCA GOMPERTS, WOMEN ON WAVES: We have seen an incredible increase of demand of requests of help. People are really, really scared of what's going to happen.

FOREMAN (voice-over): That's why some abortion rights supporters such as Women On Waves based in the Netherlands, say they are already facilitating shipments of the drugs to women in far flung corners of the U.S. And they're promising to step up the effort no matter where those women are, or what state laws say.

GOMPERTS: What I'm doing is legal under the laws where I work from, and I actually I have a medical oath to do this. I am a doctor. My oath is that I help people that are in need. And that is what I am doing.

FOREMAN (on-camera): In many states where lawmakers are trying to stamp out abortion rights. The simple truth is they have written a lot of special lines in their laws to keep outside providers of these pills from accessing their population. But abortion rights defenders say it's only five little pills, and they believe there is a way to get them to the women they see in need.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


MARQUARDT: Our thanks Tom Foreman.

As we're seeing now wave after wave of pandemic precautions are being lifted, but the White House is warning that the U.S. could soon see a wave of COVID-19 infections this coming fall and into the winter.

PAUL: Yes, listen, this number. Health officials say as many as 100 million people could become infected. And that'd be ignites their calls to Congress to provide more pandemic funding.

CNN's Jasmine Wright, live in Wilmington for us. Jasmine, good to see you this morning. Talk to us about this warning.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, it's a significant warning, Christi. And it comes as the administration has repeatedly called on Congress to give them more money so that they can continue to respond to the pandemic as cases rise in this country, but also as administration is trying to shift to that return to normal way of life.

So a senior administration official tells CNN that the U.S. could potentially see 100 million COVID infections this fall and winter. And now this is based on a range of outside models that those inside the administration really track closely and is based on the underlying assumption that there will be no extra mitigation factors and that includes no additional funding from Congress to for the administration to respond to this pandemic.

Now, in an ABC interview recently, White House COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha, he didn't talk about these numbers specifically, but he talked about a potential surge in the fall that could be fueled by some of these sub variants.

Take a listen.


ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: With waning immunity with Omicron as contagious as it is in each new version, becoming more contagious, I think it stands to reason that we may very well get a large surge of infections. That's what a lot of outside experts are saying.

And so right now, we are doing everything we can to prepare for that to make sure Americans are protected and ready if that surge were to come.


WRIGHT: So that preparedness, includes the White House asking Congress to pass a COVID funding package was about $10 billion. That amount 10 billion is down from that 22 billion that they initially asked for. Now, White House and Congress they negotiated that $10 billion, and it was expected to pass in April, but lawmakers left Congress in April without passing and so now this is another time where the White House is renewing their calls, trying to get that funding to respond to the pandemic.

Christi, Alex.

PAUL: Jasmine Wright. We appreciate it. Thank you. So, we're learning at least 25 people are dead after that massive explosion whipped through a Havana hotel. We have the latest on where officials believe there might still be survivals.



PAUL: We're going to show you what's happening in Cuba this morning. Emergency crews are combing through rubble for survivors, after at least 25 people were killed, dozens more had been hospitalized. This was because of this powerful explosion that happened yesterday at a luxury hotel in Havana.

MARQUARDT: Cuba officials are saying that they believe a gas leak caused the blast. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is live in the Cuban capital of Havana.

Patrick, this is absolutely tragic. What else have you learned about this blast?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the death toll continues to rise, it's now 25 and overnight one survivor was pulled miraculously from the rubble. We're not hearing any sounds of heavy equipment now, because the searchers are --


PAUL: I'm so sorry. It sounds like we lost Patrick's audio there. Those are some of the pictures that we're getting in and as you heard he said overnight, they did pull one person from the rubble alive. So, that -- those are the pictures that we're getting right now. Thank you, Patrick. If you can hear us. We're sorry that we lost your audio. We'll try to get that back for you in just a bit.

CNN's Pete Muntean is talking about this right, Alex? The airlines across the nation slashing thousands of flights.

MARQUARDT: Yes, they're slashing the slides because of schedules that are being cut down in part because of a shortage of commercial pilots.

PAUL: Yes. So let's go to CNN's Pete Muntean, he has a look at the argument airlines are making to hire new pilots with less experience.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Alex, just this week, airlines argued this should change. It's called the 1500-hour rule. That's how much experience new airline pilots must have. But airlines call it a hurdle that is keeping people out of the industry. But those who fought for it in the first place say it cannot change now.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): The airline's latest push to curb flight cancellations caused by a shortage of pilots can not happen. Say John and Marilyn Kaunser. MARILYN KAUSNER, LOST DAUGHTER IN PLANE CRASH: This was her younger years, with all her kitties.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Their daughter Ellie was on board Colgan Air flight 3407, the night of February 12, 2009 when it plunged into a buffalo neighborhood. Ellie was among 45 passengers and four crew who were killed.

JOHN KAUSNER, LOST DAUGHTER IN PLANE CRASH: I didn't get an opportunity to walk my daughter down the aisle.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): After the crash, the Cowsners fought to mandate more pilot experience. New airline pilots once required to have 250 flying hours now need 1500 hours. But some airline executives say that requirement is contributing to the shortage.

JONATHAN ORNSTEIN, CEO, MESA AIRLINES: This is not a safety issue. And I think it's important that some of the politicians start to act and take this up because if they don't, they're putting the industry in jeopardy.

J. KAUSNER: I just flabbergasted that someone could say this work perfectly, perfectly. For 13 years we haven't had a plane crash. And but we'd like to change it.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): A change in regulations would be felt most at smaller regional airlines contracted by major carriers to operate short routes. They make up 40 percent of all flights in the United States.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): Regional Airline Association President Faye Malarkey Black support substituting some flight time for classroom time.

BLACK: You should not be talking about rollback or repeal but add and replace and enhance so that we can open up training pathways to people who have not had access.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): This week and executive from JetBlue said pilots from other countries operate safely despite looser regulations. Earlier this year I asked United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby whether the rule should change.

SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: I will wait into the debate on what the number of hours is.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): NTSB investigators found the pilots of flight 3407 did not properly recognize an aerodynamic stall. Ellie Kausner's family says that was due to a lack of experience something they insist regulators never forget.

J. KAUSNER: We put rules and regulations in place that have prevented plane crashes largely. And I -- that's the legacy is, let's not lower our safety standards. That's our legacy.


MUNTEAN: Work is just starting on a new FAA reauthorization bill and flight 3407 families fear that a change will get slipped in this crash was the last major downing of a commercial airliner in the United States, a total of 50 people were killed. That includes one person on the ground. Christi, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Our thanks to Pete Muntean for that important story,

Now across the South, thousands are still in the dark this morning after storms ripped through the region. Where the rain is moving to? That's coming up next.



PAUL: Well, if you're waking up with power, be grateful because there are thousands of people that don't have it, thanks to some heavy rain and winds that hit the South.

MARQUARDT: Yes, that's right. Let's bring in CNN's Allison Chinchar. Allison, there's a lot going on out there. What do you see?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We've still got some showers and thunderstorms to contend with today across the Mid-Atlantic and then also areas of South Florida looking at the potential for some strong to severe thunderstorms and a secondary system making its way into the central U.S. bringing the potential for damaging winds and hail.

Here's what's left of that original system. So yes, still expect some rain showers, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore, much of New Jersey and Maryland as well. The southern side of that same storm, that's what's bringing showers and thunderstorms to Miami, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale. And then the secondary system, the bulk of that really develops in the latter half of the day, especially this afternoon and into the evening hours.

In the southern tier, the focus here is really going to beat the heat, 120 cities have the potential to break record high temperatures starting today and could last all the way through Wednesday, San Antonio, for example, about 20 degrees above their average, high looking at 105. Stay hydrated out there this weekend.

MARQUARDT: Triple digit temperatures already. Unbelievable. All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

We hope that you'll join us again in just an hour's time until then "SMERCONISH" is coming up next.

PAUL: Absolutely. And we hope you make good memories today. But first CNN Original Series "NOMAD WITH CARLTON MCCOY" continues with Carlton's first trip to South Korea. Here's a preview for you.


CARLTON MCCOY, CNN HOST (on-camera): So what's famous (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is (INAUDIBLE) market. It is one of the oldest market in Korea. Started with different types of clothing, textile, a lot of wholesalers started the markets and naturally grew out to be a lot of food stalls.

MCCOY (on-camera): This is incredible. I think we're going to eat good. What's that a home wrecker over there? Yes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh that's sundae, I'm getting it.

MCCOY (on-camera): What's this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sundae is a blood sausage.

MCCOY (on-camera): I love (INAUDIBLE).


MCCOY (on-camera): Can we get some booze?


MCCOY (on-camera): Oh OK.


MCCOY (on-camera): All right, I'm ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old are you?

MCCOY (on-camera): I'm ready to go. How old am I?


MCCOY (on-camera): Thirty seven.


MCCOY (on-camera): Is that how much -- how do you decide how much you eat and drink?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. In Korea, the first conversation start with how old are you?

MCCOY (on-camera): What?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because Korea has a very strict social hierarchy. You have to respect the elders. So.

MCCOY (on-camera): How do you?


MCCOY (on-camera): OK, so I can't just expect you. Now you're OK.


PAUL: You can catch an all new episode of "NOMAD WITH CARLTON MCCOY." Its tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

We'll see you in an hour.