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New Day Sunday

Rhode Island Becomes Eighth State To Reach Critical Vaccination Milestone; Experts Say COVID Booster Shots Look Increasingly Necessary; Biden To Sell Recovery Plan In Ohio Thursday Ahead Of White House Budget Proposal Friday; NJ State Police Investigating Reports Of A Shooting With "Multiple Victims"; Israel Reopens Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary To Non-Muslims; U.N. Allocates $22.5 Million In Humanitarian Relief For Gaza. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired May 23, 2021 - 07:00   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Hope spacecraft launched by the UAE is orbiting the planet but not designed to land. In addition, NASA's Curiosity rover has been on the ground since 2012, making for a lot of competition in this next frontier.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


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


Listen, there's a lot of confusion as we try to go back to normal after coronavirus, isn't there? Well, our doctor is answering your questions this morning.

Also today, a Georgia congresswoman doubling down as she compares a mask mandate to the Holocaust.

SANCHEZ: Plus, strange symptoms coming from a mysterious weapon. Hear from a former CIA officer who's fighting "Havana Syndrome".

And thousands fleeing across the border in Africa, seeking refuge from an erupting volcano.


SANCHEZ: It is Sunday, May 23rd. Thank you so much for waking up with us. Christi, always great to see you.

PAUL: And you as well, of course, Boris.

So, let's get into these conversations this morning, because as U.S. officials are pushing to get more people vaccinated, there's another state that's reached a critical milestone this morning. According to CDC data, Rhode Island is now the 8th state to have administered at least one vaccine dose to 70 percent of its adult population. This is a prime achievement as the country is really trying to reach herd immunity as you know.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, the news comes amid an unprecedented surge of COVID cases in Southeast Asia. India now surpassing 26-1/2 million cases, with more than 3,000 COVID deaths a day for the past month.

There is some good news, though, a new scientific report shows that two doses of either the Oxford AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccines are, quote, highly effective against the new variant that was first found in India.

PAUL: And to stay protected against these emerging variants, vaccine makers are preparing in case people should need to get booster shots in the future. Health experts aren't sure if and when that may happen. We'll talk more about boosters in a moment.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more on all of this, though.

I know there's no time line on these booster shots, which is a question a lot of people are asking. But what are you hearing?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a big question, Christi, and Boris, for those of us who have been vaccinated. At this point, we do know that the U.S. surgeon general had recently told our Wolf Blitzer that Americans should be prepared to get the booster shot possibly within the next year, as we know the effectiveness of those vaccines lasts at least six months. But in terms of when, Dr. Anthony Fauci said at this point, we just don't know yet.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): Vaccine boosters may be the next phase in the nation's fight to fight COVID-19. Though it's not unclear if they're needed or how long the protection from a COVID-19 vaccine regiment lasts, but researchers and health officials suspect it may wane after a year or more.

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Both the Pfizer and Moderna CEOs have come out and said they believe booster shots are going to be needed within about eight to 12 months from your first dose because of the data that they're seeing. Now, we can only assume that means because of the immunity that they're following from people who are in their clinical trials, but they haven't released that data just yet.

SANDOVAL: The CDC maintains a need for and timing of a possible booster hasn't been established yet. What is widely known is that vaccination rates continue climbing at a slow rate. Daily numbers down nearly 50 percent since its peak last month according to the CDC.

In California, lower demand means residents will notice fewer mass vaccination sites, like the one that operated out of Dodgers Stadium. They'll instead see smaller, pop up locations like this one at Hollywood's Pantages Theater. DR. PAUL SIMON, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, L.A. COUNTY DEPT. OF PUBLIC

HEALTH: That we vaccinated a significant portion of our population. We're left with a residual group that aren't necessarily opposed to vaccination, but they're not quite as motivated to be vaccinated.

SANDOVAL: Here, a shot in the arm will give people a shot to get see the musical "Hamilton", from a chance to get the hottest tickets in towns to the possibility of winning million dollar jackpots, states are all over the country are hoping to make it harder for people to pass on a shot. If you're among the nearly 39 percent of Americans fully vaccinated, this Chicago restaurant owner welcomes you to the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're free to come on this side, go to a bar, stand by. You can actually be pre-pandemic.

SANDOVAL: No social distancing and no plexiglass divided in the vaccinated only section of Sam Sanchez's establishment. The city says it's okay for Chicago businesses to operate with no restrictions so long as customers are vaccinated.


DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: As we keep doing this, I think it's a great thing, and I think, again, the CDC has shown that the science shows if you're vaccinated you're protected.

SANDOVAL: And later tonight, 15,000 people will fill New York's Madison Square Garden to watch in person as the Knicks face off against the Atlantic Hawks. Organizers say it will be the largest indoor events in the United States since the start of the pandemic.


SANDOVAL (on camera): And given the current pandemic era, those are certainly going to be extraordinary images when you see 15,000 people pack into an indoor venue here in New York city later tonight.

Now, we are told by organizers, that about 90 percent of them are expected to be fully vaccinated. Boris, and Christi, as for those that are not fully vaccinated, they'll have to provide a recent negative COVID test, still have to keep wearing the mask and still remain socially distant as they enjoy tonight's game.

SANCHEZ: Polo Sandoval, reporting from New York, thanks so much.

PAUL: You saw Dr. Rob Davidson in that piece. Well, he's with us now. Emergency room physician and executive director of the Committee to Protect Healthcare.

Dr. Rob, good to have you back.

SANCHEZ: Good morning.

PAUL: Good morning to you.

DAVIDSON: Good morning.

PAUL: I want to start this morning by asking you about this news from this new scientific study this morning by Public Health England. It shows two doses of either the Oxford AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccines both quote highly effective against the variant found in India. It's encouraging obviously, because India is dealing with the second wave.

But what are your thoughts on it?

DAVIDSON: I think it's extremely encouraging. I think it's another call to get doses to India, both for humanitarian reasons, because we need to protect everybody on the planet, but also for selfish reasons. You know, the more we let the virus circulate in any population, particularly densely packed populations, this variant is currently something we can protect against.

We don't know what the next one or the next one could do. So, for all of those reasons, we need to get doses there as soon as possible.

SANCHEZ: Now, Doctor, we have viewers sending in questions, and they want to get answers. This is one that I think a lot of people have right now. When will we know when we need a booster shot? What's going to be the indicator of the vaccine's length of protection?

DAVIDSON: Well, they're already doing studies simply on, you know, levels of antibodies, of neutralizing antibodies in the lab. So, that's why those -- the CEOs are saying maybe eight to 12 months. Really it's based on real world data out in the population.

You know, fortunately we have the people who are in the original trials, and those people are a couple of months ahead of us who got up early in December or January, and so they're going to base it on the number of fully vaccinated people who end up getting hospitalized initially. If there are just massive amounts of vaccine around, it may be based on people who get mild disease, but mostly on people who get more severe forms of disease.

The absolute number is not exactly known. Once we get to a critical threshold, they start to recommend it.

PAUL: We had a lot of people asking this next question. If I need a booster shot, does it need to be the same Pfizer vaccine I initially received? Can they veer off into Moderna or J&J, will that work?

DAVIDSON: The answer is probably it doesn't matter. Again, those studies are ongoing. So by the time we need boosters, I think I most recently read in the next few months, we're going to know if that is, in fact, true. But by the time we need boosters, we'll know that for sure.

SANCHEZ: And what about this one? What advice do you have for people on immuno suppressive medication who've already taken the vaccine and those who are scared of taking the vaccine because of concerns with medication interactions with the vaccine? DAVIDSON: The first part is important. If you are immuno-compromised

for any reason, so if it's because you're taking chemotherapy drugs or steroids or if, you know, you have diseases that cause you to be immuno-compromised.

Even if you're fully vaccinated, the current recommendation is just to be as cautious as possible. You know, maintain you exposure without a mask in outdoor settings. If you're indoors, with people who are not fully vaccinated, you should continue to wear a mask.

As far as the second question, you know, people on immuno suppressive drugs, mostly on steroids, drugs like prednisone like people probably have heard of, we know that those folks have somewhat diminished response. We also know they're more at risk for COVID-19, so they should continue to get vaccinated.

If they get periodic injections, I know people who get them in their neck or back every three months or so, they should talk to their provider, try to space those out so they can wait to get their shot until a couple of weeks after their last dose to get the full immune response, you know?

But, overall, it's just exercising caution if you're on them to know that you are still at a little bit higher risk than the rest of us.

PAUL: All right. So this next question is about a specific event that's coming up, so anybody can just insert their own event because I think everybody is thinking when I get together with people. She says we're having a baby shower June 26th, mainly outside.


Originally, only fully vaccinated could attend in person, unvaccinated can attend via video. With the new CDC guidelines, can everyone attend in person, and what about the safety of the kids?

DAVIDSON: Yeah. First off, congratulations to the viewer.

You know, this one, if people are mostly outside, it should be, you know, basically safe. If there are going to be people inside, I would ask unvaccinated people either to stay outside or wear a mask when they're indoors, and honestly, most importantly for the expectant mother, be very cautious.

Make sure that anyone you're around is vaccinated or they're wearing a mask if they're unvaccinated because pregnant women are immuno- compromised, they're more prone to getting infection, and more severe disease.

SANCHEZ: And, Doctor, a quick question for you, this from another viewer after receiving my second dose of Moderna, I was diagnosed with shingles and an allergic reaction. If a third booster is required, will I still be guarded if I don't take it?

And I had a similar question to something brought up previously. Do you think it would be safe to try different brands such as Pfizer and J&J, after having Moderna?

DAVIDSON: So, the first part about shingles, there have been cases of people without immune disease getting shingles or showing signs of shingles, which is basically chickenpox virus which reactivates at some point in life. You know, there's been no definitely association but that is not considered an allergic reaction. They're pretty mild infections for the most part, and that shouldn't preclude it.

If you have a true allergic reaction, typically within four hours, you get hives, trouble breathing, you should not get the same vaccine you got, and it looks like both of the mRNA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, should considered the same. Whether or not a certain type of vaccine is safe is currently not completely known. You should visit with an allergist to determine if any of the components of that vaccine could cross react and would put you at risk.

But not all reactions are allergic reactions. Some people get lightheaded, feel like they might faint. Those are just an immune response, and not an allergic reaction or reason to skip a second dose.

PAUL: All right. Good to know. Dr. Rob Davidson, thank you for all you do and taking time this morning. I know our viewers appreciate it as well.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Doctor.

DAVIDSON: Thanks to both of you. Have a great day.

PAUL: You as well.

SANCHEZ: You, too.

Still ahead, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, yikes, doubling down on comparing the House mask mandates to the Holocaust. One Republican lawmaker calling the comments evil.

PAUL: Also, the clock ticking on some of President Biden's big agenda items, gun reform, infrastructure. What does he stand to lose as more talks stall now?



PAUL: So, President Biden is set to focus on the U.S. economy this week. He's headed to Ohio Thursday to sell his recovery plan and on Friday, the White House is set to release a new budget proposal.

SANCHEZ: Amid all of this, the White House still trying to negotiate with Republicans. They now have cut the size of their infrastructure and jobs package, but the offer is still nearly double, roughly a trillion dollars over what Republicans have been aiming for.

PAUL: CNN's Jasmine Wright is following all of this from the White House. Jasmine, always good to see you this morning. Talk to us about what's


JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christi, President Biden will try to refocus the attention on his domestic priorities. That's after last week was derailed with foreign policy.

For the week ahead, a big week, on Monday, President Biden will visit FEMA headquarters to receive a briefing on the Atlantic hurricane outlook as the season approaches. On Tuesday, Biden will mark the one- year anniversary of George Floyd's death by hosting his family here at the White House.

Thursday, he travels to Cleveland for marks on the economy, and Friday, as we said, the White House unveils their full budget that looks to further his top priorities like racial equity, public education, and climate change and economic growth.

Now, Christi, Tuesday is also the self-imposed deadline. President Biden said he wants to get past this George Floyd police reform bill. Negotiators look like they are going to miss the park because they do not have a deal yet.

Now, one senior official told me that President Biden spoke with one negotiator, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey on Friday, and Booker expressed that while negotiators are not on track to make that deadline, progress is being made.

Also Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked if the White House is losing confidence in negotiators as the deadline looms. Take a listen.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, it's unlikely as they have conveyed as well, we're going to meet the timeline that the president outlined in his speech. But we have confidence in the negotiators, and we have seen them convey publicly that they feel the vibes are good, and they're continuing to make progress.


WRIGHT: So Christi and Boris, the question going into next week, really the unanswered question is what is going to happen with infrastructure? One White House official tells me that the ball is now in Republicans' court after the president and White House gave them that counter proposal that reduced the size of that infrastructure package from $2.25 trillion to $1.7 trillion.

Now, Republicans did not receive that warmly, to be frank. They didn't like it. They said it didn't feel like a serious negotiation, and remember, because Republicans, they haven't agreed on what infrastructure actually is, but also Republicans want to pay about $800 billion. $1.7 trillion is double that.

So, the question is where the two parties that are currently so far apart, where they can really find compromise -- Christi, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Not a whole lot of common ground at this point.

Jasmine Wright, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Jasmine.

Well, evil lunacy is what Congresswoman Liz Cheney calls this comment from Marjorie Taylor Greene, where Greene invokes the Holocaust while going off against a requirement that lawmakers in the House wear masks.



REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second class citizens so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany, and this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.


PAUL: Now, the congresswoman is not apologizing. In fact, she made new comments that are amplifying what she said.


GREENE: So I stand by all of my statements. I said nothing wrong, and I think any rational Jewish person didn't like what happened in Nazi Germany, and any rational Jewish person doesn't like what's happening with overbearing mask mandates, and overbearing vaccine policies.

REPORTER: Do you understand why some would be upset and offended by the comment?

GREENE: Well, do you understand how people feel about being forced to wear masks or being forced to have to take a vaccine or even have to say whether they have taken it or not.


PAUL: CNN political analyst, Julian Zelizer, is with us now. He's a historian and professor at Princeton.

Julian, these are a lot of very brazen words being thrown around. Historically, what does history tell us about the impact of this, particularly on the Republican Party because there are Republican lawmakers who have spoken out about this, and against the words she's using.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's such a horrendous distortion of history, comparing genocide to a public health initiative to stop a pandemic. I'm still surprised that more Republicans have not spoken out against this. It's still a limited number and I think Congresswoman Greene remains a story about a radicalized Republican Party, and Congresswoman Cheney in some ways remains the outlier, as opposed to her. So, these are not the kinds of words we should hear coming from an elected official.

PAUL: I wanted to ask you too about the CNN op-ed that you wrote. And I want to read some of it because it's a really good article. You say politically, when we're talking about President Biden and what he is going to be doing, particularly this week, as we just heard from Jasmine.

President Biden's administration is living on borrowed time, you write, as negotiations with Republicans over the infrastructure package are stalling in predictable fashion, and events overseas are demanding more of the president's attention. The sounding of the ticking political clock keeps getting louder. Democrats could lose their narrow hold or control of the House and Senate in next year's midterm elections.

So, can President Biden learn anything from past administrations, Julian, that would give him guidance on how to move forward. It's certainly not the first time that a president is really at odds with the opposing party?

ZELIZER: No, I think he has to move forcefully, and he has to move quickly. That window will probably close. Midterms go poorly usually for the first midterms of a president.

And second, they already have very difficult conditions, the Democrats. They have narrow majorities, and redistricting is going to make things pretty favorable for the Republicans. I think now as he calculates how much time should he devote to negotiating with Republicans, he needs to limit that time.

Ultimately, if he has to move legislation through a partisan path, rather than a bipartisan path, that's probably his best bet. You know, because as Lyndon Johnson said, once the midterms come, there's going to be one hell of a fight for the next two years. So, this is his moment, and he needs to use it.

PAUL: So, when you say there's a window, how long do you think is that window, do you think?

ZELIZER: Well, Lyndon Johnson, if he was here in the room with us, he would say probably until the fall when the legislators really start turning to the midterms. So, realistically, this summer, early fall, this is a time to get an infrastructure package, and to make a decision if he is going to invest more in this fight over voting rights which will also be important to the midterms because by late fall, early winter next year, politics is going to dominate the consideration of most members.

PAUL: OK. And speaking of that, I want to listen to Senator Marco Rubio when we're talking about the potential January 6th commission, he is explaining here why he will vote no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): So that's what this is about, it's about damaging Republicans. You don't need the subpoena. You just need the requests for subpoena to damage Republicans for blocking it, and to damage that member of Congress, whoever it is, simply because you want to look at them. Why would you want to look at them unless they did something wrong.


That's what this is about. It's about winning the House majority in 2022 and winning elections and keeping this in the headlines.


PAUL: So, what's striking to a lot of people I think is that these are lawmakers who were in the middle of this attack on the Capitol back in January. How did it become so wholly political and move from the event itself to winning elections in 2022 when initially we saw a lot of lawmakers, including Republicans, talking against -- speaking against it?

ZELIZER: The power of partisanship is an awesome thing, and you're seeing it play out right now where you have many Republicans like Senator Rubio who are most concerned about what this might look like or what kind of implications might result from a commission than they are understanding how a violent attack on Congress including themselves happened.

And I think each day goes by, and you see those partisan considerations are much more dominant than concerns about the institution. And that's a story about the commission and it's a story about American governance 2021.

PAUL: Julian Zelizer, we always appreciate you taking the time for us.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

PAUL: Absolutely. We have a reminder for you as well, to check out his new book, "Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich and the Rise of the New Republican Party," from Julian Zelizer there.

SANCHEZ: A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is holding but the devastation of the conflict is still coming into focus with buildings that are unusable and thousands lacking access to water. We'll update you on the situation after a quick break. Stay with us.



PAUL: We are just getting word that police are investigating a shooting with, quote, multiple victims in New Jersey. State police tell CNN the gunfire broke out at a residence in Fairfield Township, Cumberland County. A Camden Hospital says it received six victims from this shooting. Two have been released, four are still being treated. And we're looking to learn more about exactly what happened including the condition of those victims. We'll bring that to you as soon as we have it.

Let's talk about the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, because we are in day three of that now.

Israeli authorities have reopened the holy site that is referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount and as the Noble Sanctuary by Muslims, they have opened it to non-Muslims today. They are fiery words going back and forth between the Israeli government and Hamas, however.

A key Israeli cabinet minister warns if rocket fire from Gaza resumes, Israel would target the leader of Hamas in Gaza personally.

CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson with us from Jerusalem.

Nic, what does all of this say to you at this point?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, what you're seeing on the temple mount noble sanctuary is really reverting back to pre-conditions which is that non-Muslims can visit the site for a few hours a day, five days a week.

This would be tourists. This would be Jews. This would be non-Muslims. Christians able to visit during those hours. The police have said that putting additional police there today because of concerns that there is still tension in the air. They want to make sure there aren't any incidents there.

But this is -- I think you have to take this as an effort to sort of get back to where we were before the current hostilities began. So I think you take that in that context.

What we have heard from the Israeli security cabinet speaking about Hamas leaders, we know during this last conflict that the Israeli authorities, the Israeli defense force tried to target Hamas's political leader, and military leader.

And it was significant that Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas political leader, was out on the streets again. His house had been targeted through the conflict over the past two weeks. So it's very notable that this is being made, if you will, on the record personal. That these leaders, Yahya Sinwar and others, if they do attack Jerusalem or anywhere else with rockets in Israel, then the IDF, the Israeli government is saying that the IDF would target them.

So, this becomes very personal but I think taken in that context, and at the same time today, in Gaza, you have the Egyptian delegation who negotiated the ceasefire meeting with Hamas leaders to make sure that they understand the terms of what has been agreed. So, I think you can look at this as Israel doubling down on what they see those terms as.

PAUL: All right. Nic Robertson in Jerusalem -- stay safe there, Nic. And thank you so much. SANCHEZ: Right now, the United Nations says around a thousand people

remain in emergency shelters in Gaza after their homes were destroyed in recent fighting. The U.N. has allocated more than $22 million in humanitarian aid for those who have been impacted.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has more from Gaza City.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Depending on where you are in Gaza, life seems to be getting back to normal. Here in Gaza City's main square, children play in the evening pool. But just one block away, the extent of the damage from the hostilities becomes clear.

Hundreds of housing units have been destroyed, and Israeli air strikes have pushed the already creaking infrastructure to the brink.

The U.N. says that around 800,000 people now lack access to running water, and that's out of a population of around 2 million people.

The U.N. also says more than 50 schools were damaged, impacting the education of around 600,000 children.


On top of that, 17 hospitals have been damaged including Gaza's only COVID testing center. And then there's unemployment running at almost 50 percent.

Life here after the cease-fire is getting back to normal, but there's nothing normal about life here.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Gaza City.


SANCHEZ: Our thanks to Ben Wedeman for that report.

Still ahead, lawmakers vowing to take action after a mysterious illness sickened more than a hundred U.S. personnel. You'll hear from a former CIA officer who says he was targeted and has had headaches for the last three years.



SANCHEZ: This week, lawmakers in Congress unveiled legislation aimed at giving financial and medical support to the rising number of U.S. personnel suffering from a mysterious illness known as Havana syndrome. More than 130 American diplomats and CIA officers from around the world have been sickened by an unexplained illness over the past five years, according to "The New York Times."

It was first encountered in Havana, hence the name. Victims have reported experiencing sudden vertigo, headaches and head pressure, sometimes accompanied by a piercing directional noise. Until recently, they have been denied medical care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and the National Institutes of Health, and it forced them into a costly search for a diagnosis and relief for their lingering symptoms.

Here with us now is someone who experienced this personally. Marc Polymeropoulos, a long time CIA intelligence officer, who says that he was forced to retire after being struck in 2017 by one of these invisible attacks.

Mark, we'll grateful to have you with us. Thanks so much for spending the time and sharing your story. For folks at home, it's sort of difficult to understand.

So, if you could walk us through what it was like to experience this? How did you first notice that something was off?


So look, I traveled in December of 2017 as part of my duties as a senior officer at CIA. I traveled to Moscow, and I woke up in the middle of the night, it was at a five star hotel but woke up with an incredible case of vertigo. The room was spinning, felt like I was going to be sick, ringing in my ears, tinnitus.

And, look, I've spent a lot of time in the war zones, you know, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. But this was clearly the most terrifying experience of my life.

SANCHEZ: It's interesting because you talk about the ringing in the ear, the general symptoms, though, can come from a number of things. How did you figure out that this was a directed energy attack?

POLYMEROPOULOS: Sure. Well, you know, to be honest, you know, this still is a theory. I think it's a strong one. But, ultimately I knew something had happened to me, and particularly when I got back to the United States and started on this incredible medical journey. I wasn't getting better.

In fact, I was getting worse. By mid 2018, I couldn't drive. I had brain fog. And so, you know, the headaches that continue to this day were prevalent.

So, you know, ultimately, something really bad had happened, and as other colleagues of mine started falling victim and started getting ill with the same symptoms around the world, I think all of us took a step back, and said something really nefarious is happening. And then, you know, kind of further investigations ensued.

SANCHEZ: I'm glad you mentioned what it was like when you got home, Mark, because you've called the way that you were treated after this happened a moral injury. You weren't believed, and some of the victims were turned away when they sought help. How does it feel now that you're getting help, that this is being recognized and that you have a platform to warn the world about what's happening?

POLYMEROPOULOS: And, you know, look, I never thought after, you know, spending 26 years in the shadows, that I would be here talking to you as an advocate for specific type of health care. This is what my journey has turned into and with the new administration here, with the new CIA director, Bill Burns, they have taken a new tact at this. But previously they did not.

And so, there was a pretty significant moral injury, and what that means is not only do I have these physical symptoms that was crippling me but also that I wasn't believed, and if you talk to mental health professionals, you know, that's one of the most damaging things that can occur, and ultimately, I did get treatment and still are at Walter Reed at the national intrepid center of excellence, which is the world, you know, a world renowned TBI, traumatic brain injury program, and, boy, I can't thank the professionals enough. They have saved me and countless others.

SANCHEZ: You may not want to get into this but I'm just curious who do you hold responsible for not taking your story seriously, and not getting you and your colleagues the help you needed?

POLYMEROPOULOS: I think ultimately this is a leadership failure of CIA and the State Department and other agencies because there's just not only myself, there's other officers involved in our diplomatic personnel but ultimately in the previous administration there were senior officials in the medical department and senior officials that frankly didn't believe us. That was damaging.

And so, you know, look, I just want -- I want the agency to take this seriously.


They are now. I want to turn the corner. But, you know, for an organization that I believed in and still do, you know, I still love the organization and believe deeply that CIA is an indispensable institution.

But that really hurt a lot. And I think for a lot of us, that was -- that was, you know, deeply troubling because you make a pact. They ask me as a CIA officer to do a lot of interesting things for the U.S. government. But in return, I get jammed up, you know, medically, I expect them to have my back, and initially, they really did not.

SANCHEZ: Marc Polymeropoulos, we appreciate your service. We appreciate you getting the word out not only to get you and everyone affected helped, but also to draw attention to what could be nefarious activity from foreign actors, targeting people that are risking their lives to defend our country.

So, Marc, thank you again for your time.

POLYMEROPOULOS: Thank you very much. Good to be here.

SANCHEZ: Of course. PAUL: So coming up, we have this video that is just riveting, lava,

look at that, doesn't it look like a sea? But it is lava edging toward a city in eastern Congo, and thousands of people, as you can imagine, are running.

Also, tonight's episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, it's going to be a good one, right, Christi? It explores the wealth gap in the United States. Here's a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a lot of radical success in America is due more to luck than it is to genius. I was lucky I was born a white guy in this country, and anybody that doesn't realize it, being born a white guy in America is fooling only themselves.

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: There's a lot of people who are fooling themselves, then.


BELL: And like a lot of rich people, Steven got richer during the pandemic, thanks to the stock market which soared despite the world collapsing.

During the pandemic, it posted some of its largest gains in history. We have been convinced that the rising stock market is good for the economy but it's not at all, more than 80 percent of all the U.S. stocks are owned by the richest 10 percent of U.S. households, going full Bernie Sanders. And these guys already had a lot of other things going for them, like American taxation system, which also favors the wealthy, have you heard that before?


SANCHEZ: An all-new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" with W. Kamau Bell begins tonight at 10:00 p.m., right here on CNN.

We'll be back after a quick break.

Stay with us.



SANCHEZ: Thousands can now return to their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo after a volcanic eruption forced them to run for their lives and flee yesterday. The lava flows have finally stopped. Many are starting to come back from neighboring Rwanda.

Khaliah Ali, the son of late Muhammad Ali, has made a number of humanitarian visits to Congo in the past and says it's important more now than ever to provide them with the help they direly need right now. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KHALIAH ALI, DAUGHTER OF MUHAMMAD ALI: We're dealing with a community that's so fragile on any given day that anything of this magnitude then thrusts them into a whole other litany of unforeseen problems, and it's very important we take a look at this and we make sure that we're able to issue the proper aid. I want to see the issue of homelessness addressed, the ongoing issue with food insecurity which ever present and clearly not going to be made better by the circumstances.


SANCHEZ: That volcano last erupted in 2022, killing 250 people and displacing thousands more.

PAUL: Wow.

And let's talk about the first heat wave of the season. It begins today and is expected to last all week. The third of the U.S. could get temperatures exceeding 90 degrees and daily heat records are expected to be broken across the Southeast specifically.

Meteorologist Allison Chinchar always gets -- often gets blamed for the weather. I'm sorry for that. You're just the messenger, I know.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Just blame Mother Nature. It's not my fault. It's hers.

PAUL: Yes, yes.

CHINCHAR: Yes. Technically, we're not really in summer just yet, but Mother Nature has other plans, starting a little early for some of these cities. This 90-degree day is a couple of weeks earlier than we normally see it.

The main focus for today is going to be across regions of the Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic, but you'll start to see it bread spread into other areas as we go into the upcoming week. Starting today, look at this, areas that are 10, even 15 degrees above normal. Atlanta possibly having their first 90-degree day today. Washington, D.C. getting up to 92. That's about 15-degrees above their normal high this time of year.

And, again, you see it. It's in the Southeast, a brief reprieve for Monday for the northern cities. The entire southern tier of the U.S. just stays hot for much of the entire upcoming week. You're talking 60 potential record highs starting today, carrying all the way into Wednesday.

So, again, for some of these cities, it's not just one day of record heat, it's going to be multiple days of record heat. Atlanta, looking at 90s, pretty much starting tomorrow, all the way through the upcoming week. Same thing for Charleston, Nashville, Washington, D.C.

You see that little dip on Monday. They have rain in the forecast. But then notice, once you get to Wednesday, you're right back up into the 90s. And we talked about this.

For some of these areas, this is well ahead of schedule. June 3rd is when we should normally be having our first 90-degree day in New York. They're going to get one the next couple of days. Boston also looking to hit 90 over the next couple of days. They don't normally get their first 90-degree day until June 8th.

Even Atlanta -- what you would think of, Christi, we often call it Hotlanta.


But we don't typically don't average our first 90-degree day for several days from now.

PAUL: It's going to be Hotlanta earlier than usual.

Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: COVID has halted or changed graduation ceremonies across the United States for the second year in a row now. And Sacramento State University celebrated their grads in a unique way, with a car- mencement. Graduates arriving via car or limo to receive their diploma and a gift from the university, riding in style there across the stage.

And don't forget tonight, tonight, class of 2021 joined CNN as we come together to celebrate you. Graduation 2021, a CNN special event starts at 7:00 Eastern.

PAUL: Yeah, congratulations to all of them. We hope you make good memories today.

SANCHEZ: Thank you so much for sharing your morning with us.