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FDA Panel Backs Boosters For 65 And Older And Those At High Risk; Unvaccinated COVID Patients Overwhelming Hospitals; Police Searching Florida Nature Reserve For Gabby Petito's Fiance; Search Underway For Gabby Petito And Fiance Brian Laundrie. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired September 19, 2021 - 06:00   ET



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

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christi Paul. COVID cases are surging. So, get vaccinated or get fined? The money coming straight out of your paycheck. That's what one Florida mayor is doing and he's with us this morning.

SANCHEZ: Plus, a full court press. President Biden locked in on pushing his agenda through Capitol Hill but can he get enough support from Republicans not to mention consensus from his own party?

PAUL: And the search is intensifying for 22-year-old Gabby Petito. Now law enforcement and the FBI are searching a wilderness reserve to try to track down her fiance.

SANCHEZ: And a history-making mission, an all civilian crew splashing down to Earth. The details on their return after three days in orbit.

PAUL: Welcome to Sunday, September 19th. We are always so grateful to have your company. Good morning, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Good morning, Christi. Always grateful to be with you.

We begin this morning with the battle against COVID and the continuing debate over booster shots. An FDA panel has recommended boosters of the Pfizer vaccine for people 65 and older and those at high risk of severe illness but not for everyone who originally got the Pfizer vaccine as the White House had initially planned.

PAUL: Yes. The most pressing concern is the wave of unvaccinated people filling up hospitals right now and that's leading to tough decisions about rationing care. CNN's Nadia Romero looks at the latest numbers of COVID cases in some key hotspots and what they tell us about what's happening right now.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida- Alabama, a big-time college football showdown Saturday in the heart of SEC country but also big-time COVID-19 country. Florida reported fewer than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases over the past week for the first time since July 16th. But the state also surpassed the grim milestone of 50,000 deaths from the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 96.6 percent of those individuals were unvaccinated. So we encourage you to get out and get vaccinated.

ROMERO: With no masks or vaccine mandates some 80,000 fans packed Florida Stadium to cheer on the Gators and the Crimson Tide raising concerns the game could become a superspreader event.

In Alabama what could be a misleading statistic, ICU bed capacity is going up, meaning more availability in hospitals there but --

DR. KIERSTIN KENNEDY, UAB CHIEF OF HOSPITAL MEDICINE: It is not because these patients are miraculously getting better and going home. It's because they're dying. And that is really alarming for us because, again, this surge is primarily impacting those that are younger. So, this is not what we were expecting.

ROMERO: In the last 60 days about 60 percent of all COVID-19 outbreaks in Georgia happened in K-12 schools.

ANNA ADAMS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, GEORGIA HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION: The vaccinated message from a Georgia Hospital Association standpoint is, you know, we want you to trust the science. If every scientist in the world has been focusing their attention on developing a vaccine and they feel that it's safe and trusted you can trust in that science.

ROMERO: The situation in Georgia is so grim that COVID is even wreaking havoc at the Atlanta zoo, that's right, primates impacted by the pandemic too. Eighteen out of 20 gorillas there have COVID-19 symptoms. Nine of the primates have tested positive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know that there may be differing opinions --

ROMERO: Friday afternoon an FDA advisory committee declined to recommend a Pfizer booster shot for everyone 16 and older and instead advice a third dose of the vaccine be given to people 65 and older and those at high risks. This weekend health experts weighed in on that decision.

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER BIDEN WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: There's really compelling data above 65, maybe above 50, but if what you care about is keeping the schools open, and what you care about is reducing the spread, and what you care about is keeping businesses open, you can really justify dropping that down to a lower age.

ROMERO: Nadia Romero, CNN, Atlanta.


PAUL: Dr. Anand Swaminathan is an emergency medicine physician -- excuse me -- and assistant professor of emergency medicine at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey. Much of the debate right now over these booster shots.

Thank you so much, doctor, for being with us. I know that health care workers are included in this. Do you plan in getting yours?

DR. ANAND SWAMINATHAN, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: I think that we have to really look at which groups are necessary and in high risk exposures. It probably is necessary.

I'm going to look to see exactly what the advice is coming from the FDA, the CDC, and then also if we're going to be required from our hospital. If it's required, yes, I think it's necessary. We are at a high risk of exposure as frontline workers.

PAUL: Is there any part of you that has trepidations about the booster?

SWAMINATHAN: I don't have a lot of trepidations about the booster. I think my major trepidations are not for myself but kind of on the grand scheme of things of where we're putting our attention. We should be really paying much more attention to getting primary vaccination series to as many people as possible instead of so much focus on the booster, because we still know that that primary series is extremely protective for serious disease and death that really should be our focus.


PAUL: So here's the thing. There are a lot of people who don't trust the vaccine because historically they've been mistreated and misled by the medical community on these groups of people, particularly African- Americans. What do you feel is the best way to reach out to them to convince them that this is safe for them?

SWAMINATHAN: Well, I think we have to continue to work on equity, on pushing the education about these vaccines, and reaching out with trusted partners. There are always trusted partners when the community that we have to be working with as health care professionals to make sure that the messages are clear about the safety here and we have to continue to do that.

I think we have been trying to do that throughout the pandemic, but we can do more. We can do more to reach those communities, to work with those communities and to work with their trusted leaders to really spread the information about how these are safe. And, of course, it's not just hesitancy, we have to boost confidence and we have to boost access.

I still have patients coming in who are telling me they have problems with accessing vaccines whether it'd be because they can't get time off from work, whether they don't know where to go, or they're worried about being registered, whether they're worried about if they pay for them. We still have a lot more work that we can do on that front.

PAUL: So, I want to ask you about something that's going on in Cuba that is quite unique. They are now vaccinating kids as young as two years old, and they're doing so this -- what's notable they're doing so with this vaccine that Cuba produced, essentially. They developed with its biotech sector. They didn't negotiate with pharmaceutical giants. It's called Abdala vaccination -- the vaccine. It's 92 percent effective.

Are you -- first of all, are you comfortable with a vaccine that was developed outside the pharmaceutical arena, and two, your thoughts on vaccinating children as young as two?

SWAMINATHAN: Well, I don't have a problem with it being developed outside of our pharmaceutical companies as long as the science that goes into it is good. I haven't seen the data or the science on that particular vaccine to be able to comment specifically on that one.

But am I OK with vaccinating down to two? If you had data showing safety, absolutely. Safety and efficacy are what we need to see and if you have that data then, yes, we should be. And we need to be pushing for getting vaccines to younger and younger kids as schools go back and we try to protect that group, because we know that vaccines are an incredibly important part of protecting all people from COVID-19. And as our kids are being put back into classrooms it becomes even more important. So we really need to have a push there.

PAUL: There are some parents who are concerned about the heart issues, the myocarditis that have been shown to happen in some of the younger adults and teens when it comes to the vaccine. How heavily does that weigh on you and how do you explain to parents the safety versus their, you know, concerns?

SWAMINATHAN: The risk of myocarditis has been shown to be slightly increased in a specific group, especially in those young adolescent males, but it's extremely small. The risk of myocarditis from COVID far outweighs the risk from these vaccines. And when you run the numbers it's more likely that you get hit by lightning than you get myocarditis after getting a vaccine.

These are incredibly safe vaccines. Yes, that myocarditis can develop. Kids who get myocarditis after vaccines, what we've seen, what we've tracked is that they get better pretty quickly. Once you get myocarditis after getting COVID-19 that can be a much longer course.

PAUL: I heard one doctor this morning, last question here for you, talking about how they are watching new dads leave the hospital with their babies but without the mother, because she died because of COVID. There is a real issue of women, a real concern of women who are pregnant, who aren't getting the vaccination. It's understandable that they may be concerned about, obviously, the health of their baby and a brand new vaccine. How would you approach this?

SWAMINATHAN: This is absolutely heartbreaking. I don't know what I would do in that kind of situation. I have three kids. I don't know how I would possibly be able to manage.

We do need to do a better job of informing pregnant women about the safety of these vaccines. We now have ample data showing safety. We know that pregnant women are a hugely increased risk of COVID-19 and getting severe disease. A 10-time increase risk for going to the ICU, 15-time increase risk of death.

So, we really need to be working on the information, getting that information to that group and then, again, partnering with OB-GYNs to get that messaging done. Because for pregnant women the most trusted group are their doctors and their nurses. So we need to work really hard with that group to make sure that pregnant women are getting the right information about vaccines, they're getting vaccinated. And for anyone listening out there if you're pregnant get vaccinated. If you're thinking about getting pregnant get vaccinated.


And, Christi, we kind of come back to the same message over and over again, just get vaccinated.

PAUL: Dr. Anand Swaminathan, we always appreciate your perspective and your expertise. Thank you, sir.


PAUL: We have a quick programming note for you as well. CNN is highlighting Dr. Sanjay Gupta and his talk with scientists about the origin of COVID-19. This is a new CNN Special Report that begins tonight at 8:00 p.m.

SANCHEZ: In the nation's Capitol lawmakers getting back to work tomorrow morning to debate President Biden's economic agenda. So, could this be the week that Democrats finally agree on a plan?

PAUL: And oh, what a landing. Look at that. The SpaceX Crew Dragon makes a triumphant return to Earth last night after the three-day Inspiration 4 mission in space. We're going to learn more about their journey here ahead.



PAUL: Good morning to you at 14 minutes past the hour here. You know, both the House and Senate are back in session this week. Congress is hurdling towards a lot of crucial deadlines to keep President Biden's multitrillion dollar agenda afloat and the government funded, we should point out.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Let's get straight to CNN's congressional reporter Daniella Diaz. Daniella, the most crucial gap for Biden to bridge at this point is really within his own party, right? Do we have any indication that the progressives and the moderates are seeking a path toward consensus?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: I think that all Democrats, Boris, want to move forward with, you know, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion economic bill to expand the social safety net. But the question is, will both sides be pleased with whatever ends up being in this economic bill? That is the question. But there are a lot of deadlines for Democratic leaders this week, this month, that they have to address by the end of the month, you know, starting with the debt limit. You know, Democratic leaders are trying to figure how they're going to handle the debt limit with the full faith and credit of the U.S. government in the balance. So, they're trying to figure out if they're going to add it to a stopgap bill that they have to pass by the end of the month, this short-term continuing resolution that would fund the government to keep it past -- funded past September 30th.

And then we have this, you know, emergency supplemental funding bill for Afghan allies and help that would have funding for recent flood damage across the country. Then they're also going to address the National Defense Authorization Act and the Women's Health Protection Act which is in response to the six-week abortion ban in Texas. This is a law -- or excuse me, a bill that the House wants to pass that would preserve abortion rights in the country. However, there is no likelihood that this would pass at all in the Senate but the House wants to address this.

But then going back to infrastructure, progressives and moderates are debating how to handle this $3.5 trillion economic bill that would expand the nation's social safety net. This is a priority for the Biden administration.

President Joe Biden said that he wants this bill passed and Democratic leaders have to figure out what the price tag is going to be, details on this, because they have to deal with moderates who want to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and progressives who want to see the economic bill passed as soon as possible. So, we're going to keep an eye on how this plays out this week. Boris, Christi.

SANCHEZ: Daniella Diaz from Capitol Hill, appreciate your reporting as always.

Let's dig deeper with "Politico" White House reporter Daniel Lippman. He joins us now to discuss.

Daniel, this trillion dollar infrastructure bill, $3.5 trillion spending bill, getting that across the finish line by next Monday is a tall task to say the least. The White House is project something confidence, though. Have you gotten the sense that there is enough momentum to get it done by that day?

DANIEL LIPPMAN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: I guess they feel that Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema are kind of posturing and playing hard to get and that ultimately they will come around, but we just don't have -- there isn't confidence yet in the White House that this will be passed. And so they are, you know, working overtime to try to convince those moderates that if they -- if this gets tanked, then we could see real damage to Biden's political standing which is already much weaker after the Afghan pullout disaster. And so that's what -- that's their message, saying this would almost ensure that Democrats lose the House and the Senate next year during the mid-terms.

SANCHEZ: And how much sway, Daniel, do you think that the White House has with Senators Manchin and Sinema? Does President Biden have enough that he can bargain with them and offer some, you know, incentives for them to jump on his side?

LIPPMAN: Well, earmarks are back, but I don't think this is Sinema and Manchin holding out for a project -- you know, a bridge in West Virginia or a new hospital in Arizona. I think this is more of an ideological issue where Manchin just does not want to spend the trillions of dollars that most of his colleagues are supportive of.

And so they are -- you know, Democrats are really saying, let's look at what's popular among the American people. Most Americans they want subsidized community college. They support investing in child care -- in expanded child care. They see the impact of climate change with fires and storms that are increasingly affecting the country.

And so you need to address those types of issues. And so I think Democrats are telling -- you know, the White House is telling Manchin that this is a broadly popular package and that we can look at the numbers, but let's not lose sight of the, you know, forest for the trees here.


SANCHEZ: Daniel, I want to pivot to immigration because over the last few days we've seen some very dramatic pictures of the U.S. border with Mexico and thousands of people huddled under a bridge essentially waiting for an opportunity to be processed potentially for asylum. And you reported this week on a staffing shakeup at the Department of Homeland Security. The chief of staff for Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is resigning. CNN reporting that another official that's involved with immigration and border security also leaving the agency.

You know, the White House struggled early on with the surge in immigrants crossing the border. They struggled to label that surge a crisis. But given the images that we're seeing from the border now of these people in squalid conditions, how would you describe the level of urgency among administration officials on this issue?

LIPPMAN: I think administration officials know that the optics are bad, that many Americans are looking at these pictures and that this needs to be addressed. And so they are flying a lot of those, you know, migrants on planes out of the country and they're trying to keep a kind of hold on how many people are coming into the country.

If you look at the numbers in recent months they are historic. And so for a confluence of reasons the Department of Homeland Security is getting slammed with this increased almost demand to go into the U.S. And they're also having to deal with the tens of thousands of Afghans who are being flown here from Afghanistan and from third-country bases where they've been processed. And so I think there is a feeling that it's a very urgent issue and that this undermines the message of the administration that they have a handle on what's going on on our borders.

SANCHEZ: Yes. We will watch and see how they respond. No question, those images are going to be used as fodder by Republicans next year for the midterm elections. Daniel Lippman, we have to leave the conversation there. Always appreciate your time.

PAUL: So the search is intensifying this morning for 22-year-old Gabby Petito. She disappeared during a road trip with her fiance. Well, now investigators are trying to track him down as well.



PAUL: So we want to tell you about this other twist in the disappearance of Gabby Petito. She's the 22-year-old woman who disappeared during a cross country trip with her fiance Brian Laundrie. Well, he is now missing and police say he may be in danger.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Authorities are now searching for Laundrie in a Florida wilderness reserve. Let's go to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He has the latest on this search. Polo, what do we know about the search for both of them at this point?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Boris, searchers are expected to head back out to that reserve in the next hour or so as they continue with their search for Brian Laundrie here. Remember it was just on Thursday when police in North Port, Florida, which is not far from this reserve, that they said that they were confident that they knew exactly where Laundrie was and they hoped to speak to him. But then the next day Laundrie's family reached out to police finally and called them to their home and said the they last saw their son on Tuesday with a backpack saying that he was going to drive to this location and go for a hike, as he's done before only that he never came back.

A reminder, this is no manhunt. This is simply a search for a missing person. Police have been clear over and over again that at this point they don't have any evidence that a crime has been committed. So they are in essence now searching for not one but two missing people, Brian Laundrie and then, of course, Gabby Petito.

That is a search that continues at this hour all the way back to Wyoming, that's where her family believes that she was last seen. But no question, this is certainly adding to the heartbreak and frustrations for the Petito family who had hoped that Laundrie and his family would speak to investigators and make more information available as they try to track down this missing 22-year-old. And then, yesterday, they woke up to news that he was now nowhere to be found.

So, this is certainly just deepening that mystery here and the family of Petito basically holding it together, trying to stay strong as the search for their daughter enters week two. But, again, as for the situation in Florida they searched all day yesterday with about 50 law enforcement officers, canines and drones in a very vast area with thousands of acres of wildlife refuge and they're expected to resume that start -- or at least resume that search again in the next hour or so. Guys, back to you.

PAUL: So, Polo, you said that the Laundrie family has not been helpful -- very helpful up to this point. Is it expected that that might change now that they're looking for their son as well?

SANDOVAL: Well, they're certainly hopeful. What we do know is that when police went to their home on Friday that they did take with them several items, including clothing. Investigators said that was done so that they could use their canines to try to track down his scent at that park or at least at that wildlife refuge.

But what's interesting here is that according to investigators and the Laundrie family, the vehicle that Brian used to drive to that refuge, actually made it back to their family home, so there's a big question here as to whether or not he may still be there. And then this other -- this other interesting point that they mentioned finally, that he may be in danger. Investigators didn't exactly expand on why, only that he is under just tremendous pressure to answer so many questions. But again, he is no suspect at this point. He's simply missing person number two in this investigation.

PAUL: You know, the other question was, what does it mean that he's in danger?


It's all so cryptic it sounds like. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much for breaking it down for us.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, guys.

PAUL: Of course.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Polo.

PAUL: We'll be right back.



PAUL: Well if you are an employee of Broward County in Florida, you could soon pay a price for not getting vaccinated. It's going to come right out of your paycheck, in fact. A $20 insurance fee every two weeks for some employees -- this is according to the Broward County Commission, along with weekly COVID testing.

Now, Broward County has seen more than 340,000 COVID cases since the pandemic began. Last month, they had an overwhelming number of Coronavirus hospitalizations as well. So, let's talk to the mayor of Broward County, Steve Geller, who's with us.

Mr. Mayor, we appreciate you being here. Thank you so much. As I under --


STEVE GELLER, MAYOR, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Thank you for having me, Christi. PAUL: Of course, as I understand it, this is expected to start October

1st. You've said it could begin possibly sooner than that. But you employ about 6800 people there at the county. It's a bold move, a lot of people are saying. What are you hearing from employees there, from county employees?

GELLER: Generally favorable. We don't know exactly how many of our employees are currently vaccinated or unvaccinated because prior to now, they've had no reason to tell us. But you know, you mentioned last month, I don't know if you know, Broward County for most of last month, led the nation -- not the state, the nation in the number of people hospitalized.

We were one, Harris County which is Houston, Texas is two, Miami right next to us was three, and L.A. is number four. That's not per capita. L.A. County is eight million, Broward is two million, but yet we let the nation. We had to do something.

PAUL: And you're giving -- you're giving a $500 incentive. Well, I don't even know if I would call it an incentive. The $500.00 that you want to give, this one-time payment to people who are already vaccinated and can show proof of it or two people who will go get vaccinated or both?

GELLER: Yes, actually, both. That was going today. The only way we can figure out how to do this without older employees who did the responsible thing and promptly got vaccinated without them complaining is to say, we will give $500 to anybody that can provide us that they have been fully vaccinated, not one-shot unless it's J&J. But if they're fully vaccinated, we'll give them $500. This is from federal COVID relief money.


GELLER: That'll be about $3.4 million of all 6800 get vaccinated. It's our hope that they will. But this is kind of a carrot -- I call a carrot and stick approach. But the stick is so small, I'm calling it a carrot and twig approach. If they get vaccinated, they get $500. If not, there will be a health insurance surcharge of $20 per pay period. We pay by weekly so there'll be $520.

So, it's $1,000 swing to get vaccinated. We might have been willing to do more. I think we would have. But understand, this is Florida. Our governor has issued an executive order and the legislature passed a statute saying that local governments cannot work in private businesses, cannot make vaccines mandatory, the so-called vaccine passports, which is I think, poorly named.

But you know, we have to do something. I was in the legislature for 20 years. I respect the legislature. But you know, we probably would have done more but we can't afford the penalties. Broward County is the largest Democratic margin county in the state of Florida. The governor wouldn't punish Miami Dade which is right next to us because of the large number of Cuban Republicans there. But as the largest democratic county in the state, I think he'd be happy to punish Broward. So, we are making very sure we're in compliance with his order. PAUL: I've got -- you answered my question I wanted to ask you. There's a lot of debate about what Governor DeSantis will do on this. I'm wondering if you were prepared. It sounds like you are. Mayor Steve Geller, we appreciate you taking time for us today. Thank you so much and be well.

GELLER: Thank you, Christi. Bye, bye.

SANCHEZ: For nearly two years now, we've been living in a pandemic. But the CDC says there's also an epidemic right now of gun violence. That story after a quick break.



SANCHEZ: This is some really interesting research. A new study suggests that stress from the pandemic may be fueling a rise in mass shootings across the country. According to researchers between April 2020 and July of 2021, there were 343 more mass shootings than they expected over that time period. And their shootings accounted for 217 deaths and nearly 1500 more injuries.

PAUL: Now, just to be clear, mass shootings defined as a shooting in which four or more people are killed or injured not including the shooter. And now, for the first time in decades, the director of the CDC, the nation's top public health agency is speaking out about gun violence in America. Here's CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He shot that guy in his stomach.

COHEN: They leave a toll of death and despair across America. Mass shootings --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The shots just kept coming, so we were going down and when we got down, there was a man that was shot right there.


COHEN: Urban violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have victim over here. He's got a shot wound to the left and gunshot on the chest.

COHEN: Road rage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said, mommy, my tummy hurts. So, she went and she picked him up, and he was bleeding on her.

COHEN: Suicides.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He walked into a gun shop at 11:02, somewhere between three and four that afternoon, he shot himself.

COHEN: While Americans have begged for an end to this violence --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going away.

COHEN: The National Rifle Association is a powerful force in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Semi-automatic firearm technology has been around for 100 years. They're the most popular guns for hunting, target shooting, self-defense.

COHEN: In the 1990s, the NRA convinced Congress to cut all of CDC funding for gun research, a loss equivalent to millions of dollars a year. Fearing further cuts, CDC leaders publicly were all but silent for decades, even as tens of thousands of Americans died from gun violence year after year after year.

But now in a stunning turn, the current director of the CDC is announcing a plan to reduce gun violence sharing it exclusively with CNN.

This is actually a stunning moment that a director of the CDC is even talking about this issue, is even using the word guns. It hasn't happened in years and years.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CDC: Every day, we turn on the news and there are more young people dying. I swore to the president and to this country that I would protect your health. This is clearly one of those moments, one of those issues that is harming America's health.

COHEN: But there's a reason why your predecessors didn't address it.

WALENSKY: Perhaps.

COHEN: We're used to hearing Dr. Michelle Walensky talk about the COVID-19 pandemic.

WALENSKY: Vaccine safety is a top priority.

COHEN: This is her first interview on America's epidemic of gun violence.

One recent weekend in Chicago, we had 74 people shot. That same weekend, a party in Florida, five teenagers shot. That same weekend, a man in New York City in Times Square shot on the back and the list goes on and on week after week after week. Can anything be done about this?

WALENSKY: Something has to be done about this. So, 40,000 firearm- related deaths a year, 120,000 serious firearm-related injuries per year. The scope of the problem is just bigger than then we're even hearing about. And when your heart wrenches every day you turn on the news, you're only hearing the tip of the iceberg.

COHEN: When you wake up on a Monday morning and you hear all the reports of the children who were shot the previous weekend, as CDC director, what does that feel like to you?

WALENSKY: That's heavy. It hurts it. It hurt before I was CDC director. I think any American citizen that turns on the news just can't fathom another one of these mass violence issues.

COHEN: Dr. Walensky's strategy, restart the gun research.

WALENSKY: My job is to understand and evaluate the problem, to understand the scope of the problem, to understand why this happens and what are the things that can make it better. To research that, to scale that up, to evaluate it, and to make sure that we can integrate it into communities, we have a lot of work to do in every single one of those areas because we haven't done a lot of work as a nation in almost any of them.

COHEN: And this time, she wants the CDC to find common ground with gun owners.

WALENSKY: Let's agree, we don't want people to die. Let's just agree there. What can we do to stop people from dying?

COHEN: She wants to allay gun owners fears.

WALENSKY: Generally, the word gun, for those who are worried about research in this area is followed by the word control. And that's not what I want to do here. I'm not here about gun control. I'm here about preventing gun violence and gun death.

COHEN: And she wants to involve gun owners in the CDC research to save lives.

If a gun owner said to you, Dr. Walensky, I'm afraid you want to take away my gun.

WALENSKY: And my answer to that is, come be part of a solution. Come to the table. Join us in the conversation. I don't want you to feel that way, right? I want you to teach me what you have done to make your gun safe. And then I want you to teach everybody else.

COHEN: Dr. Walensky his plan has brought her here to Vermont to help solve this problem. According to a 2015 study, in the United States, an estimated 4.6 million children live with a loaded and unlocked gun. That number has likely increased dramatically since then.

GROUP OF KIDS: I pledge allegiance to the flag.

COHEN: These children in Vermont are learning how to shoot guns and how to store them safely. Dr. Chris Versati, a gun owner and an emergency room physician, teaches this at 4-H community program.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do we keep our guns here at 4-H? How are they stored?

WALENSKY: Can you tell me how (INAUDIBLE) COHEN: By funding this program and studying what they do and repeating

it across the country, Dr. Walensky hopes to prevent accidental gun deaths among children.

WALENSKY: CDC is here -- we're here because today you're our teachers. We want to learn from you.

COHEN: The CDC is also funding this project at gun shops to help put a stop to gun suicides.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a poster that talks about how gun owners can help, different signs to look for.

Dr. Versati knows that Dr. Walensky will get pushback.

When gun owners hear that the federal government, the CDC, wants to reduce gun violence, what did they hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think at the end of the day, they're worried about gun confiscation.

COHEN: Confiscation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Confiscation and barriers to access to purchasing and owning firearms.

COHEN: CNN reached out to the NRA to ask if they were willing to work with Dr. Welensky and they did not respond. But Dr. Walensky stands firm.

Do you worry that even just saying the word guns or even talking about firearms, that you're going to get a whole sector of the United States just really angry?

WALENSKY: Of course. I also worry that if we don't do anything about it, we have a whole sector of the United States that's really angry.

COHEN: How high a priority is this for you?

WALENSKY: This is one of the leading killers of our young people in this country. It's a high priority.

COHEN: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Sandgate, Vermont.


PAUL: And a quick programming note for you here. The all-new CNN film The Price of Freedom examines the NRA's role in shaping American gun policy over the last five decades. You can watch that tonight at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

SANCHEZ: So, over this weekend, just four average people, regular people, took an out of this world trip. How the latest SpaceX mission made history. That story is next. And there's still plenty more ahead on NEW DAY. But first, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the

world. And when offenders are released, they often face a handful of challenges like earning a livable wage. After decades behind bars, Hector Guadalupe is helping others reshape their lives and find freedom through fitness.


HECTOR GUADALUPE, FOUNDER, SECOND U: After surviving prison, you come home thinking you're able to start over. You want to be part of the society, but there's just so many layers of discrimination, boxes you have to get through just to get an opportunity. Society thinks, oh, you should just go get a job and it's not that easy. Once you have a record, nothing is set up for them to win.

And up, one, good, right back under.

At the Second U Foundation, we give formerly incarcerated men and women national certifications in job placements in boutique gyms and corporate health clubs throughout New York City.

You got to be thinking outside the box. You can't give someone a mop and say this is your future. You take minimum wage and deal with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go. You got it.

GUADALUPE: When you provide people with livable wages, they're able to be productive members of society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that belly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, almost there.

GUADALUPE: And that's why we are a Second U. We want to give you your second chance at life.


SANCHEZ: To learn more about Hector and our other heroes, go to We'll be right back.



PAUL: All right, talking about a welcome home. The first-ever all- civilian spaceflight made it back to Earth safely last night, we're happy to report.

SANCHEZ: Thankfully, yes. These are four non-astronauts, space tourists. And they splash down to earth off the coast of Florida after their three-day excursion on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. CNN's Kristin Fisher has more details on a historic mission.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Boris. Well, you could hear the sonic boom here at Cape Canaveral as the SpaceX Inspiration4 crew re-entered the Earth's atmosphere before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Florida.

This was the culmination of a three-day mission to orbit, the first time that a crew made up of entirely amateur astronauts or non- professional government astronauts have ever been to space with just them, no pros on board.

But that was precisely the point. SpaceX and the commander 38-year-old Jared Isaacman trying to prove that you can do this, that they can open up the doors to space travel for everyone. And it all feeds into Elon Musk's ultimate goal of someday colonizing Mars.

And so, we witnessed a successful splashdown of the Crew Dragon Capsule. It was hoisted back up onto a crew capsule recovery ship which will eventually make its way right here to Port Canaveral. But the crew, they got to fly by helicopter all the way to Kennedy Space Center where their families and SpaceX employees were waiting for them, cheering them, and they can finally have a huge moment of celebration a well-deserved moment of celebration after what had to be the adventure of their lives. Christi and Boris?

SANCHEZ: Thanks very much, Kristin Fisher for that report. The next hour of NEW DAY starts right now.