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Trump To Speak At CPAC; J&J Vaccine Rollout Plan; Two Protesters Killed In Myanmar Protest; COVID-19 Exposes Decades Of Neglect In Canada's Care Homes; Pfizer Aims For Vaccine Tests On Children 5 And Older; New Yorkers Rally Against Attacks On Asian Americans; World Far From Reaching Paris Agreement Goals; Table Tennis Champ To Help Fight Climate Change. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired February 28, 2021 - 02:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[02:00:00]

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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM. With the go-ahead from the FDA, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be in arms within days. Why this one is different from the others.

We are closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar. Teams on the ground tell us there have been multiple casualties. We'll have a live report.

And for the first time in weeks, Donald Trump takes center stage. What his supporters want to hear from him.

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HOLMES: The U.S. vaccination effort is about to get a big boost, thanks to the clearance of a third vaccine. Johnson & Johnson now has emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Distribution of some 4 million doses is expected in the hours ahead. Two more steps remain before shots can start going into the arms. The CDC's vaccine committee will meet today to set guidelines on who should get it.

And the agency's director must give the final signoff. The single dose is not the only advantage of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Natasha Chen reports for us on why else this is such a big deal.

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NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A third coronavirus vaccine will likely become available as soon as next week now that the Food and Drug Administration has authorized Johnson & Johnson's single dose vaccine for emergency use.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Significantly, the vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19.

CHEN (voice-over): The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires no complex refrigeration and only one dose. They say they're ready to ship doses as early as Sunday.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Having an additional safe and effective vaccine will help protect more people, faster.

CHEN (voice-over): And more people are eager to get one. A Kaiser Family Foundation report on Friday showing 55 percent of surveyed of adults in the U.S. had either had at least one vaccine dose or is eager to get one.

That's up from early December when only about a third of adults surveyed wanted the vaccine. There's still more demand than supply, especially after last week's winter storm, sweeping through the Midwest and Texas, disrupting the supply chain all over the U.S.

CHEN: Vaccination sites, like this one, outside of Atlanta, saw none of that severe weather but are feeling the effects. This afternoon, they are seeing all the people whose scheduled second dose appointments were canceled last week due to shipment delays, caused by the severe weather.

CHEN (voice-over): More groups of people, like younger adults with underlying health conditions, are becoming eligible for the vaccine in some states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I was, actually, shaking. I thought, oh my gosh, I can go get it. I think I was the youngest one that had been through, so far. So they were all saying, wait, we don't know what to do yet.

CHEN (voice-over): With 7 percent of the country fully vaccinated, the number of cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to stay lower than the holiday peak. This relative progress is threatened by rapidly spreading variants.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: We have variants that are in play. We must address these.

CHEN (voice-over): And the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, in many states. New York nursing homes, reopened with restrictions Friday to some visitors. Tennessee, lifting restrictions on visiting at long term care facilities Sunday. South Carolina, lifting restrictions on mass gatherings starting Monday.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATION DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: I'm worried people are lifting restrictions, saying it's over, when the reality is, we aren't over yet. We're really, right now in a race between variants and vaccines and we have to do everything we can to shut down the virus.

CHEN: More and more groups of people are becoming eligible to get the vaccine, depending on the state. Here in Georgia, in a little more than a week, we will start seeing teachers, for example, joining the group of people eligible for the vaccine -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.

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HOLMES: U.S. President Joe Biden is welcoming the addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. He released a statement, saying in part, quote, "Thanks to the brilliance of our scientists, the resilience of our people and the eagerness of Americans in every community to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting vaccinated, we are moving in the right direction.

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HOLMES: "There is light at the end of the tunnel but we can't let our guard down now or assume victory is inevitable. We must continue to remain vigilant."

Donald Trump will return to the political stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida. We could get a glimpse of the role he may play in the Republican Party moving forward, whether he's setting himself up to run for president again or perhaps to act as some sort of kingmaker.

Either way, his continuing influence on the party is clear. Speaker after speaker took up his favorite theme, looking to appeal to his base.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me tell you who the least popular Republicans are in the party today. There are those few.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's tittering out there, I just want you to know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are very few Republicans, the least popular in our party, the ones who want to erase Donald Trump and Donald Trump supporters from our party. Let me tell you, let me tell you, if that happens, we won't win back the majority in 2022. We definitely won't win back the White House in 2024 if we erase Donald Trump.

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HOLMES: Now Trump's supporters are in high spirits. Red Make America Great Again hats are everywhere along with the other usual pro-Trump paraphernalia. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan spoke to some of the enthusiasts ahead of Trump's big speech.

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DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN TECH CORRESPONDENT: Former president Trump is expected to give his first speech since leaving office here in Florida on Sunday. And 24 hours before that is due to take place, supporters of the former president were gathering here. We spoke to some of them today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O'SULLIVAN: What are you hoping to hear from Trump tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It'll just be good to hear and see him in person out in public again. I think we all need it. The energy that we feed off each other, he feeds off our energy, we feed off his energy.

O'SULLIVAN: But what do you think of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They all need to go every single one of them.

O'SULLIVAN: Who's going to replace him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. But there's got to be people that are behind this movement that are for America for America. This is not even about Trump anymore. This is about saving our country.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: America first agenda has hijacked the Republican Party. We don't want to speak against America go against.

O'SULLIVAN: What do you think of Republicans like Liz Cheney right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a loser.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is a RINO.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a loser. She spoke against the party, we don't want her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.

O'SULLIVAN: What is it that you guys want to hear from Trump tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want to hear from him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to know we're waiting to hear the next step. We're all looking for guidance.

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O'SULLIVAN: As you can hear there, for those conservatives and Trump supporters, the former president is still very much in control of the party and they'll be looking to this speech on Sunday for what happens next. Back to you.

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HOLMES: Joining me now is Tara Setmayer, she's a resident scholar at the University of Virginia Center for Politics and a senior adviser for The Lincoln Project.

Thanks for being with us, Tara. Let's talk CPAC. We've already seen a 6 foot golden statue of Trump being wheeled through the conference. There's already been at the conference a worshiping of if not an idol, the actual Donald Trump.

What do you expect him to tell the faithful?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's going to be a rehash of his Twitter feed for the last few months. He's been unable to express himself through his favorite medium on social media. So this is really his coming out party.

It's going to feel like one long Twitter thread. I just have to say that the country is exhausted. The fact that the Republicans are allowing Donald Trump to continue to be the head of the party after being a twice impeached failed president is just really remarkable. I don't think we've ever seen anything like it.

HOLMES: You took the words out of my mouth. I was just about to say, you have a one term president, lost the House, lost the Senate, lost the White House, lost the popular voice twice, twice impeached.

Why this continued fealty to a man in purely electoral terms has repeatedly lost?

SETMAYER: It's a really strange phenomenon and I think there will be many volumes written about this historically. It resembles a cult. I have been saying this for years, the personality cult that Donald Trump built over the last few years is unlike we've ever seen in politics.

And Republican leaders who know better, the McCarthys, the McConnells, the Lindsey Grahams, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley. These guys, they know that Donald Trump is a menace. However, they continue to pledge their fealty.

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SETMAYER: Because if you look at the polls, the Republican base is still incredibly loyal to Donald Trump, more loyal to Trump than they are to the Republican Party.

They recognize this and when you're an elected official, your single goal is to be reelected or else you lose power. So they are continuing to sell their souls, because they want to stay in power to placate a base that is a cult-like following of Donald Trump.

HOLMES: Now you mentioned the base. It is loud, it is passionate.

But isn't it fair to say that that core Trump base, in a purely numerical sense, is not enough to win elections?

It may swing a Republican primary but is Trumpism big enough to win actual seats?

Especially as a lot of moderate Republicans turn away from the party?

SETMAYER: Well, I think it depends on what's type of seats. If you're talking national elections, the presidency, absolutely not. When you're talking about congressional districts, possibly.

We have already seen some pretty far right wing members get elected, QAnon conspiracy theorists and kooks that have gotten elected, from Marjorie Taylor Greene to Lauren Boebert and some others. So because of gerrymandering in the United States, there are some pretty red districts, where those folks could get elected.

But nationally, no, the Republican Party will be marginalized as a right wing extremist party, which is a shame because it was the party of Lincoln and the party that I worked for and helped get people elected for over 20 years and decided to walk away from after the election when I saw Donald Trump and Republicans enabling him, undermining our free and fair elections.

That is at the heart and soul of our democracy and he attacked that and the Republicans allowed him to do it. Of course, we have the insurrection on January 6 that literally cost lives and Republicans had every opportunity to exit, to off ramp with Donald Trump.

And they still chose fealty to him despite what happened on January 6th, a deadly insurrection on our capital. It's shameful, frankly.

HOLMES: It's clear from what we have already heard, a good sized portion of this party, publicly, even if they don't believe it, is OK with an insurrection and still believes the lie that the election was stolen.

I'm curious, you love your party, it's not the party of Reagan and Lincoln anymore. HAs the extremist right wing in the GOP grown too big for the party to realistically confront and by refusing to confront it, are they normalizing and strengthening that element?

And what is the danger of that?

SETMAYER: Well, the danger of that, I will start with that first, is what we saw January 6th. It is whipping up and fomenting a crowd of people to basically commit a domestic terrorist act, chanting things like, hang the vice president.

We have never seen anything like that. And it's very dangerous, that type of rhetoric. It's what Anne Applebaum, the writer, describes as the seduction of, the seductive lore of authoritarianism.

That's the danger of this because these people are no longer espousing this principles of democracy or liberal democracy. They have become some type of illiberal authoritarianism. That's dangerous. So while the party has decided to go this way, they have completely abandoned all the principles that used to define the Republican Party, which is why I walked away from it.

It's very difficult, negative partisanship is a powerful tool, that's all we've seen for the last decade or so from Republicans. They're not really interested in governing. They're just interested in being a party of no and of extremism and apparently a party of sedition. And that is unsustainable.

HOLMES: Always a pleasure to get you on, Tara, thank you so. Much

SETMAYER: Thank you.

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HOLMES: When we come back on CNN NEWSROOM, police are cracking down more violently on protesters in Myanmar, we'll have the latest coming up.

And we'll look at what vaccine makers are doing to make sure children are not left behind. Why some say kids won't get coronavirus shots until next year.

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HOLMES: Police in Myanmar are cracking down hard on protesters today.

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HOLMES (voice-over): Police are firing tear gas, stun grenades and live fire. Reuters reports at least two protesters have been killed today, one in Yangon and the other in Dawei. The anticoup demonstrations are well into their fourth week. The police response clearly getting more violent. Kristie Lu Stout is joining us from Hong Kong with the latest.

What do we know about what is going on today?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: The brutality is ramping up on this 23rd day of protests. A brutal crackdown is underway as police open fire, using live ammunition on protesters across the country. In Dawei, a town in southern Myanmar, Reuters reports that at least one protester has been shot and killed. In Yangon another protester has been shot and killed today.

Local news reports say five protesters have been shot and wounded in Yangon and we have learned that five student protesters have been arrested.

We have been taking a close eye on social media video and, in it, we see the clips of Myanmar police in full riot gear advancing on groups and scores of anticoup and pro-democracy protesters.

And you can hear the sound of gunfire and that chilling sound of gunshots in the air. All of this taking place after the military dismissed Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations.

The ambassador defied the military, when, on Friday, he gave a impassioned plea to the U.N. General Assembly, asking for immediate international action to reverse the coup. In that plea, he used that three-finger salute that we've seen protesters make throughout these days of protesting, including today.

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STOUT: Tomorrow the ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will appear in court by a video link. She faces two charges, one charge of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and another charge of violating the country's natural disaster management law.

She was ousted in the coup on February 1st. The military alleged without evidence, that an election that Aung San Suu Kyi won in November was fraudulent. Since the coup, for 23 days, we have seen scores of protesters go out on the streets, asking for reversal of the coup, despite the fact that the military and the police have been using truncheons, tear gas, lethal weapons, live ammunition.

They continue to risk their lives in order to restore democracy and release Aung San Suu Kyi and to reverse the results of the February 1 coup.

HOLMES: Quickly, you talk about the protesters and their dedication.

Given the risks, why do they go on and take these risks?

STOUT: They're taking incredible risks when they're facing truncheons, water cannons and rubber bullets and stun grenades. They're taking this risks because they want the restoration of their democracy, the reversal of the coup and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

But they also want to return to the life of the last 10 years when Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, when she became the de facto leader and sanctions were eased in Myanmar and foreign investment poured in, when the internet was introduced to the nation and another generation could come up enjoying the digital modern life.

This is what they want and why they continue to go on the street to ask for it and to get the world's attention to reverse the coup of February the 1st.

HOLMES: Kristie Lu Stout, thank you, there in Hong Kong for us.

Now to a devastating story in Canada, the terrible treatment of seniors only made worse by the pandemic. In some care homes they were basically left to die, starving. It was so bad that the prime minister had to call in troops to help. CNN's Paula Newton met with families who've lost a loved one and want answers.

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PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For days and weeks and even now, COVID-19 has mercilessly killed thousands of Canadian seniors living in long term care homes. At one point, as seen here, even the military was called in to help.

Many families say it was not just the virus, it was gross negligence by the nursing homes and governments that regulate them. NADIA SBAIHI, GRANDDAUGHTER OF NURSING HOME VICTIM: It was quite

shocking to see that that was happening. There were, for several days, people could not get a hold of their loved ones.

NEWTON (voice-over): Nadia Sbaihi's grandfather, Rodrigue Kennell (ph), died of COVID-19 last April at his nursing home, just outside of Montreal.

Dozens of others, dying there as well, as nursing home employees, overwhelmed and understaffed, were on their own because the government banned all visitors, even family, as the virus was spreading.

SBAIHI: I regret those last days. That, to me, is something that we were robbed, particularly in the first wave, where we were not allowed to see our loved ones. And our loved ones died alone.

NEWTON (voice-over): Hilda Slaugherov (ph) did not die of COVID-19. But she did suffer just the same, her family says; 102 years old, living with dementia an in room camera, placed there by her family, painfully documents how she wasted away. Unable to feed herself, too weak to even hold a glass of water and her family says staff was, seemingly, too swamped to notice.

NICOLE JAOUICH, DAUGHTER OF NURSING HOME VICTIM: I was looking to my mother through the camera and she was breathing so heavily and she was -- and she was -- you could see, she was in pain.

NEWTON: How upsetting is it for you to know that your mother, essentially, starved to death?

JAOUICH: It was heartbreaking for me to know that I wasn't there and that, in the last 6 weeks of her life, she starved. Nobody was there to comfort her, to explain to her. That was the most heartbreaking for me. And to think that she really felt abandoned, that's, for sure.

NEWTON (voice-over): Government investigations, some still ongoing, found dramatic staff shortages of residents neglected and without adequate medical attention.

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NEWTON: The situation at so many of these care homes were so grave, Canada called in troops, in the spring of last year, to help with what was becoming a humanitarian disaster.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau calling it a national tragedy.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: In Canada, we shouldn't have soldiers taking care of seniors.

NEWTON (voice-over): Yet, what the soldiers said they found, shocked many. A scathing report, detailing chronically understaffed facilities, with little protective equipment, rotten food and the elderly, bewildered and neglected.

PATRICK MENARD, LAWYER: Multiple people, did not receive even the most basic care, including help to feed themselves or to drink or baths or anything. Many people died as a result of that.

That decision of the government to prevent family caregivers from going in and to not provide for adequate personnel, provide even the most basic care, that decision is completely unforgivable.

NEWTON: Nothing will bring back their loved ones.

But what do they hope will happen now?

MENARD: I think we need to take a very long look at ourselves, collectively and think about the way that we have treated our elderly population, not just during the pandemic but over the past 10, 20, 30 years.

NEWTON (voice-over): And that is the reason that families continue to speak out. Government leaders, across the country, are now vowing to change the way seniors are cared for, acknowledging that this pandemic has laid bare a system that, families say, was inhumane. Nicole says it was what her mother would have wanted of her.

JAOUICH: I held her hand and they were so cold and I was warming her hands and she squeezed my hand 3 times. This was such a moving moment for me. I told her, Mommy, I did not abandon you, I tried my best to be with you.

NEWTON (voice-over): I asked Nadia if it bothered her that her grandfather's last days were not what he deserved.

SBAIHI: It's not about my emotions, that's not why I'm doing this. It's not what this is about. It's to give a voice to those who don't have one. Voices weren't heard.

NEWTON (voice-over): Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.

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HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers around the United States and around the world, I am Michael Holmes, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The CDC is on track recommending a third vaccine for adults in the U.S. But children do not have a single one. Moderna has enrolled enough teens for its vaccine trial and is hoping to start one for younger children soon.

It says that study will focus on children just 6 months old through 11 years old. Pfizer's CEO says his company has plans to test its vaccines in children as young as 5.

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HOLMES: Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu is the principal investigator of the Pfizer vaccine trial, he is a professor at Yale University.

Doctor, a pleasure to have you on. You have worked on the Pfizer vaccine but on Saturday, it was interesting. You tweeted fulsome praise for the Johnson & Johnson authorization and pointed out the positive of the vaccine.

You said works great and prevents hospitalizations and deaths, which is huge.

I guess this is obviously a situation where it's not a competition, they're all important.

DR. ONYEMA OGBUAGU, PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: That is exactly correct. So again, this is just a welcome addition to our arsenal, of really highly effective and, safe vaccines. Due to the demand for these vaccines, both in the United States and globally, every vaccine that's authorized is a welcome addition. Obviously the J&J vaccine has the advantage of being a single dose vaccine, so I could easily see logisticians high-fiving and celebrating how much easier it is to deliver.

It can be stored at fridge temperatures as well. And just the fact that these vaccines prevent severe and critical illness and deaths to such a high degree is really exciting.

HOLMES: They were tested, too, with the South African variant so that was also a plus for it.

I want to ask you about kids; that's something that's been in the news. Pharmaceutical companies are moving forward with a trial enrollment for kids, mainly the 12-17 age group I believe.

But the American Academy of Pediatrics, with 67,000 members, they wrote the Biden administration asking that it use every measure available to increase enrollment of children of all ages, in clinical trials.

Do you support that and why is it important?

OGBUAGU: Absolutely, Michael. There is no achieving herd immunity without vaccinating children. There is at least 22 percent or so of the U.S. population below the age of 18 so that's a critical demographic to include in studies.

I do recognize that children do not having the worst outcomes, such as death from COVID-19, such that they haven't made it made it to the priority groups. But we know that children can become ill, can be vectors of transmission of the virus.

We've actually studied children who have comorbidities, including cancer, lung conditions and could be at higher risk of having COVID-19 complications. It's really important for both their own personal benefit as well as public health benefit.

And including at the end of this pandemic, trying to include children of all ages for the vaccine. It's not uncommon that vaccines are tested first in adults and then de-escalated to children. That is currently progressing.

HOLMES: What would the trials be looking for?

Most children don't have it to the severity of adults.

What would they be looking for in determining whether a COVID vaccine for kids works in the same way?

OGBUAGU: Of course, it would be the two big things, making sure that the vaccine is safe for children and the very careful monitoring of side effects. There's been some talk of using lower doses of the vaccine and children, as we did observe in the adults that older individuals have less side effects have much more robust immune response to the vaccine had higher side effects so there may be some tweaking of the doses to calibrate and optimize the safety and the side effects for children. But also, efficacy and efficacy with regard to its ability to protect against getting sick from the virus but also airing the virus as well as symptomatic disease.

HOLMES: The Academy of Pediatrics letter I mentioned, the current pace of, things, this may not be right, but there may not be a vaccination approved for children under 12 until next year.

What would be the impact of that timeframe, both in terms of schools getting back to normal and the virus spread?

OGBUAGU: There is evidence that if schools take the proper precautions, they can definitely mitigate the risk of transmission within schools. But yes, vaccination will play a critical role in opening schools safely and resume some form of normalcy.

It's hard to be too optimistic for the reopening of schools in the fall because most of the studies are looking at children aged 12 years and above.

[02:35:00]

OGBUAGU: And the studies for younger children, 11 and below, is starting roughly around the summer. So there is a lot of efforts to try and speed up those trials. It appears it will take some time, though.

HOLMES: A great pleasure to speak to you, Doctor, thank you so much, I appreciate your time.

OGBUAGU: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: England is not waiting for these vaccine trials to get children back to school safely. Every household with children old enough to get to school is going to get two rapid tests per person per week. Classrooms are expected to next month. But in one suburb in Ohio, in-person education kicked in a while ago. CNN's Bianna Golodryga shows us what it's like.

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BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (voice-over): It is 9:48 am and time for students at Watkins Memorial High School to get to their next class.

GOLODRYGA (on camera): I have to say, this is surreal for me to be inside of a high school.

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Besides masks and social distancing, it's almost like school before the pandemic hit in Licking County outside of Columbus, Ohio.

MELISSA LADOWITZ, PRINCIPAL, WATKINS MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL: High schoolers typically have a lot more freedom than students in the elementary level, but we knew that we could teach them the new routines and procedures. And that is what it's really all come down to.

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Less freedom, but they're here, in school, in person, five days a week since August. A lower middle class rust belt town where currently 75 percent of the district's 4,500 K-12 students are in school full time.

To get here, overcrowded hallways are now one way. Students go outside to change classes and allow in fresh air. They have implemented some of the CDC's guidelines such as masking, cleaning and contact tracing. But under the guidance of local health officials, they've foregone other recommendations. Most significantly, cutting the recommended six feet of separation in half.

ALISHA SLEEPER, INSTRUCTIONAL COACH IN SOUTHWEST LICKING, OHIO: I'm going to be honest, in the fall, I didn't know what to expect. We were going to be all in. We're going to see what happens. The guidance was six feet and here we are going with three feet. I was scared. And now, over time, I've seen that the spread is not there like we thought it would be.

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): K-12 math coach and vice president of the local teachers union, Alisha Sleeper, is frustrated that her own two children, who attend a nearby district, don't have a full in-person option like her students do in Licking County.

SLEEPER: I would love to see my kids in school because they can -- they can use these mitigation strategies.

GOLODRYGA (on camera): What is your response to many who argue that you're doing this at the expense of teachers and their lives?

SLEEPER: I would ask for teachers to look at the data, to really dive in. GOLODRYGA: Current enrollment at Watkins Middle School is over

capacity, so they've gotten creative with their use of space.

RYAN BROWN, PRINCIPAL, WATKINS MIDDLE SCHOOL: We're currently in our media center. But we've had to use it, multitask. We've turned the back half of it into a classroom. GOLODRYGA (voice-over): The district has been vaccinating teachers since mid- February. So far, more than 70 percent have received their first dose.

LADOWITZ: I don't think that vaccines are required in order to open schools safely.

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): They have seen positive COVID-19 cases in schools. The school district says it has less than a 2 percent positivity infection rate of students and staff. And Superintendent Kasey Perkins was confident in her decision to open her schools and keep them open.

SUPERINTENDENT KASEY PERKINS, SOUTHWEST LICKING, OHIO: We haven't had one case all year that has spread from being in schools.

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Her message to other school districts still hesitant to reopen, call me.

PERKINS: Come take a look. Come, you know, tour our school. See our transition times. Take a look at our classrooms. See our cafeteria. Look what we've done that we've had success with so you can model it for yourself.

GOLODRYGA (voice-over): A message fully endorsed by sophomore D'Mya Brown.

D'MYA BROWN, SOPHOMORE, WATKINS MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL: I am really, really grateful that our district was able to open up and allow us back in the school building because I can't imagine how hard it must be for students who are online to not be able to interact with their peers or get one on one help from their teachers.

They somehow made it work pretty seamlessly.

GOLODRYGA: We should note that the governor of Ohio Mike DeWine is making a strong push that all schools in the state offer some in- person learning beginning by Monday. He's also offering to vaccinate any state teacher.

Other governors in Virginia and Maryland are also making a strong push to reopen schools for some in-person learning by mid-March. And the governor of Massachusetts is urging that elementary schools at least offer some in-person learning by April.

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HOLMES: Now coming up here on the program, hate crimes against Asian Americans sparking real fears but also getting the community's support to push officials to stop it. We'll have the report when we come back.

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HOLMES: Welcome back.

As the pandemic has surged across the U.S., so have vicious attacks against Asian Americans. Many people of Asian descent say they are now afraid for their lives. Some New Yorkers gathered on Saturday to show their support for the Asian American community and to demand justice. CNN's Jean Casarez was there and has our report.

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JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There has been a very large turnout at this rally, which is combating the increase in anti-Asian crime here in New York City. There are many notables here, the attorney general of New York, Letitia James, saying that if there is crime against a nation of America, it is crime and it is against all of us.

Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, also speaking here and mayor Bill de Blasio. The statistics cannot be ignored. The NYPD is saying that, last year in 2020, there were 29 crimes against Asian Americans. In 2019, there were 3.

It was just Thursday night, and we are very close to Chinatown, where the courthouse complexes are but was an Asian man, walking, surveillance video caught it, because surveillance videos is catching a lot of these things now.

He was stabbed in the torso from the rear. He is now in critical condition. The assailant was caught, allegedly three hours later. He is currently in custody. But Friday night, in Brooklyn, there were 4 Asian American males that were all stabbed. One is now deceased , others had severe stab wounds and one had puncture wounds. The people I've talked to here, who live in this community, say they are afraid.

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PEARL SUN, NEW YORK CITY RESIDENT: I walk out the door and I brace myself, I prepare myself.

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SUN: And just I make sure I no longer listen to music when I'm walking around, I no longer listen to podcasts or are distracted in any way. I want to make sure I pay attention to whatever might be happening around me. That is where I am right now.

WILL LEX HAM, NEW YORK CITY RESIDENT: My family members are living in fear or anxiety. A couple nights ago, a man was stabbed in the back, randomly. It's just not a way to live, that -- to walk with our backs against the walls, always in fear.

Something must be done and we're going to look to our elected officials and our government and really society at large to understand and recognize this problem and do something about it.

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CASAREZ: Crimes against Asian Americans are not only rising here in New York City but all across the country. Notably, Chinatown in San Francisco. The New York City Police Department Asian Crime Task Force is saying that this is a priority for them. Crimes in New York are going up in general. But they're saying that their focus ion that task force is to protect the Asian Americans who are the vulnerable -- Jean Casarez, CNN, New York City.

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HOLMES: Coming up, the U.S. President recruited a top athlete to help in the fight against climate change. We'll explain after the break.

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HOLMES: A new United Nations report shows just how far we are from reaching the Paris climate agreement goals. The good news, a majority of nations who signed the agreement have increased their targets to curb emissions.

But the report says that still won't be enough to keep global temperatures from rising by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

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HOLMES: As if being a childhood prodigy wasn't impressive enough, table tennis sensation Anna Hursey is proving you can do it all while fighting climate change on a global scale. She's just 14 years old and, as Christina Macfarlane reports, she's setting an example for all of us.

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CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This used to be how Anna Hursey turned heads, the child prodigy and youngest-ever athlete to compete at the Commonwealth Games at the senior level. But now it's also for this.

BIDEN: We desperately need a unified national response to the climate crisis.

MACFARLANE (voice-over): Last month as President Biden rolled out his climate change plan of action, 3,000 miles away in Wales, 14-year-old Anna Hursey was about to become part of it.

ANNA HURSEY, SPORTS PRODIGY: I was just at home. My parents just got a phone call.

And I was like, what is this about?

They told me. I was very excited.

MACFARLANE (voice-over): She has been asked by the U.S. embassy to join President Biden's mission for climate change following her efforts to help put sport on the path to carbon neutrality.

HURSEY: I feel so proud because President Biden, he clearly cares for people not only for the U.S. But for the world, too. President Biden's new climate change agenda is very bold. He -- to achieve zero emissions in America by 2050 is incredible.

I think some people just don't want to think it's true, that humans are causing this damage and we're responsible for what has happened and what will happen. But I'm carbon neutral. So every month I invest into a project that offsets my carbon, my carbon footprint.

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MACFARLANE (voice-over): This is about her health, too. Hursey has asthma, so air pollution affects her badly.

HURSEY: It definitely affects the level that I can go to, especially for my fitness. When I go to China, it makes it much worse.

MACFARLANE (voice-over): With her Chinese-British dual nationality, China is where she spends a lot of her time for one-on-one coaching.

HURSEY: All they do in China is train, they train seven hours a day, pretty much seven times a week. It was definitely much harder, more intense. It was really hard. And i went in the summer, so it was boiling. And the coaches always asked us to go on a five-mile run. But it was really hard.

MACFARLANE: A five-mile run at 6 years old?

HURSEY: Yes.

MACFARLANE (voice-over): But it has paid off. In 2018, she became the youngest-ever athlete to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Australia at the age of 11. And now she's eyeing an Olympic medal.

HURSEY: I really want to win a medal. And then hopefully the next one. That would mean the world.

MACFARLANE (voice-over): As would changing the world.

HURSEY: Climate change is about caring for your family and friends. Everyone is affected by climate change. And sport can definitely influence change.

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HOLMES: Good for her.

Finally, we want to show you what's known as a firefall. Photographer Carley Weaver (ph) captured breathtaking photos at Yosemite National Park. It may look like dangerous hot lava streaming down the side of a cliff but a firefall is actually a rare phenomenon of lava-like color that occurs when the sunset hits the waterfall just right on a clear evening.

I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. Follow me on Twitter @HolmesCNN. Kim Brunhuber is up next.