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Food and Fuel Shortages Worsen Widespread Famine in Yemen; U.N. Condemns Violence against Myanmar Protesters; U.K. Variant Has Higher Death Rate; Brazil's Daily Death Toll Tops 2,000 for the First Time; U.K. Society of Editors Chief Resigns over Racism Row; One-Year Anniversary of COVID-19 Declared a Pandemic. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired March 11, 2021 - 02:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hundreds of thousands of children at risk of dying from starvation in Yemen. A CNN investigation reveals the reasons behind a country wide famine.

Then, how Russia and China used their leverage in the U.N. Security Council to try to protect Myanmar's general from condemnation.

Also, a year since an outbreak officially became a pandemic, where do we stand now?

What will the year ahead look like?

That's all coming up this hour. Hello, everyone, I'm John Vause, this is CNN NEWSROOM.


VAUSE: Right now in Yemen, 400,000 children are facing death by starvation. The innocent victims of a six-year-long proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A brutal conflict which the head of the U.N. food agency calls a disgrace on humanity.

The White House recently announced an end to providing intelligence and logistical assistance for the Saudi-led coalition and its military offensive on Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

The U.S. has supported the kingdom since the beginning of this war under President Obama and escalated dramatically under president Trump.

A CNN investigation has documented not just the extent of this humanitarian crisis but also the reasons for it. For more than two months, the Saudi-backed coalition has blockaded Yemen's biggest port, which is under Houthi control.

Tankers carrying fuel needed for generators as well as distancing food, medicine and other supplies, have been unable to dock and, at this moment, 14 tankers are scheduled to make port and unload. But all of them being held off the Saudi coast, according to a vessel tracking app.

Under international, law a maritime blockade which causes severe humanitarian distress is illegal. CNN's Nima Elbagir takes us directly into Houthi territory in northern Yemen. Some of the images you will see are tough to watch and some of the details you will hear are difficult to listen to.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The derelict coastline of the north of Yemen, rusting hulks tell a story of war, blockade and devastation.

For years now, the Houthi controlled north has been increasingly isolated from the outside world. We secondly traveled through the night by boat after our previous reporting here led the government to deny us entry.

On the road to Hodeidah port, we get a sense of the humanitarian disaster kept from the outside world. Along the roadside, hundreds of stalled food supply trucks with no fuel to move in a country in the grip of hunger, their cargo stands spoiling in the hot sun.

The port of Hodeidah is the supply gateway for the rest of the country. It should be bustling with activity but today it is eerily empty. A result of the U.S.-backed Saudi blockade, the last tanker to dock here was in December.

In the ongoing silence, it dawns on us: we are about to witness the terrible impact of this blockade. Desperate patients and family members trying to get the attention of the chairman of Hodeidah's hospital. If he signs these papers, they get some financial relief for their treatments and medicines. He doesn't get far before he is stopped again and again.

Since the Yemen war started six years, families have been in financial freefall. The fuel blockade has sped that descent into oblivion. This is the main hospital for Hodeidah province and we're surrounded by doctors and nurses rushed off their feet.

ELBAGIR: Is this a normal day?

Is it this busy all the time?

This is not a busy day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is a normal day.


ELBAGIR (voice-over): Dr. Khaled wants to show us some of his critical patients in the therapeutic feeding center. A 10 year old girl whose growth has been so stunted by starvation, she can no longer speak. ELBAGIR: Dr. Khaled says every hour of every day, they are receiving

more and more cases of severe malnutrition that are this advanced, because the parents can't afford to feed their children. They also can't afford to bring them to the hospital for treatment.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): The U.N. says, pockets of Yemen are in famine like conditions. But it says Hodeidah is not considered one of them because it doesn't meet the metrics to declare famine. But the doctor thinks the reality on the ground has outpaced the U.N.'s projections.

The Saudi field blockade is biting. Malnutrition numbers are spiking.


ELBAGIR (voice-over): And at the same time, this busy hospital is running out of the vital fuel that keeps its generators running, which means that babies like Melian (ph), who doctors say at 2 months weighs the same as a newborn, would die.

Yemen has been devastated by civil war, which has pitted the Iranian backed Ansar Allah, known as Houthis, against the internationally recognized government. And a U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition, where in Houthi territory some of whose officials have been designated as terrorists by the U.S., for targeting neighboring Saudi Arabia.

We've been granted a rare interview with a leading Houthi official. We must meet in an undisclosed location, because, his aides say, of the threat of assassination. We ask him to respond to allegations they are escalating this war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Not true at all, that this is continuing, it has not stopped.

ELBAGIR: Do you trust America to take forward negotiations to bring peace here in Yemen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Trust must come about decisions. So far we have not seen any concrete decisions being made.

ELBAGIR: You've spoken about being subjected as a nation to international terror, but three of the leaders within the ansaladin movement are designated by the U.S. as terrorists. One of your key slogans talks about death to America.

How do you see this as pushing forward the negotiation and the possibility for peace in the future?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When we say death to America, they effectively kill us with their bombs, rockets and blockades. They provide logistics and intelligence support and their actual participation in the battle.

So who is bigger and greater?

The ones who are killing us or the ones who say death to them? ELBAGIR (voice-over): The Biden administration has announced it has withdrawn support for the Saudi offensive. But it comes after 6 long years of war and for the children dying of hunger it's still hasn't brought peace any quicker. Peace and help can't come soon enough.

ELBAGIR: Over half the hospitals in this district are threatened with shutters (ph). This is one of the many urgent support, urgent help.

Can you imagine what it would do to this community if this facility was shut down?

Look at the chaos that there is already here and that's while it's functioning.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): For years, now the U.N. has been warning that famine is coming to Yemen. Doctors across Yemen's north, tell us famine has arrived.

Another hospital witnessing wave after wave of children in the red zone, severe malnourishment, impoverished mothers, desperate to keep their children alive, are forced to make harrowing choices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Just to get to the hospital, I stopped eating and drinking, not even water, just to get him treated.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): These doctors are keeping track of the numbers spiking beyond what they ever imagined.

ELBAGIR: The doctor saying, in 2020, this ,population 23 percent of the children under 5, were severely malnourished. In 2021, they think that the number is going to go over 30 percent. There is no doubt in his mind, he says, that they, here in Hodeidah, are in famine.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Nearly 3 years ago, the U.N. condemned the use of starvation as a method of warfare, demanding access to supplies that are necessary for food preparation, including water and fuel, be kept intact. Here and in other conflicts, that clearly hasn't happened.

What's more, the world has stopped caring. The U.N. needs almost $4 billion to stanch this crisis. They received less than half that from donors. Numbers don't lie. But numbers also don't reflect the full tragedy.

This young boy, 10 months and struggling to breathe, he came into the hospital 6 days ago, he keeps losing weight even with the critical care he's receiving. Hours after we left, the child died. One more child in Yemen that represents so much more pain.

The doctors here are desperate for the world to see and to help -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Hodeidah, Yemen.


VAUSE: CNN has reached out to Saudi Arabia for comment but we haven't heard back.

Amnesty International has accused Myanmar's military of using battleground tactics in its increasingly violent crackdown on coup protesters. The evidence, they say, comes from more than 50 videos of confrontations between security forces and unarmed protesters, which, according to the U.N., have led to at least 67 people dead.

and Amnesty says some of those killings amount to extrajudicial executions. The U.N. Security Council has condemned the escalating violence against protesters but it stopped short of denouncing the coup or threatening future action because of opposition from Russia and China.

CNN's senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is on call with more on the protest.

It's notable the rural young protesters who've grown up knowing, getting a taste of democratic freedoms, if you'd like.


VAUSE: They are the ones on the front lines.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They are out there, they haven't lived under the hardest years of military dictatorship in decades and generations past. They are very much online, sharing images on the internet and they're on the front lines.

The U.N. says 67 people have been killed in recent weeks and we took a look at one of these victims.


WATSON (voice-over): She called herself Angel, only 19 years old, Angel -- real name Ma Kyal Sin, was a small but fierce presence of protest against the military coup that swept Myanmar's elected government from power on February 1st.

She challenged the security forces but Angel's defiance came to a sudden end when she was shot dead during a protest in the city of Mandalay on March 3rd.

The young woman in the "Everything will be OK" T-shirt became a symbol of Myanmar's deadly fight for democracy. Before the coup, Angel behaved like many other teenagers, making TikTok videos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): She liked to live freely. She was a good hearted girl.

WATSON (voice-over): Angel's friend, Ming Ta Bu (ph), hides his face for safety.

You can see him here, ducking for cover by her side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): She was ready to risk her life way before that day.

WATSON (voice-over): Several days earlier, Angel posted this message on Facebook offering to donate her blood and organs to anyone who might need them. Using activist videos and eyewitness accounts, CNN reconstructed Angel's final moments around noon on March 3rd as demonstrators faced off against security forces.

Angel cheered on the protesters, chanting, "We won't run."

Around 12:30, activist videos show Angel and the other protesters retreating amid the sound of gunshots. This was the moment, activists say, she was hit.

They raced her on a motorcycle to a makeshift clinic when this doctor, who doesn't want to be identified, pronounced her dead on arrival.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The primary cause of death was a brain injury caused by a gunshot wound.

WATSON (voice-over): The doctor gave us the x-ray, showing the bullet that killed Angel. Scores of people attended her funeral but, only hours later, Myanmar police dug up Angel's body to conduct an autopsy, they said.

The next morning, bystanders found shovels, a bloody glove and razors, which police apparently left behind at the grave. Police claim the bullet that killed Angel is different from the kind of riot control bullets their officers used. Police insist they used minimum force to disperse the protesters on March 3rd.

It's unknown who fired the bullet that killed Angel. But an activist video shows a soldier. firing what appears to be an assault rifle at the protesters. This was filmed moments after Angel's shooting on the same street where she was fatally wounded.

The United Nations estimates scores of people have been killed in Myanmar in recent works. A top U.N. official lays the blame squarely on the security forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we're seeing orders that police and military soldiers shoot people down in cold blood.

WATSON (voice-over): Supporters have rebuilt Angel's desecrated grave. Friends are now calling her a martyr for democracy.


WATSON: John, I have reported on a lot of clashes and violence around the world. In the case of Myanmar, up until now, the Myanmar military regime has not categorically denied that the security forces are involved in the deaths of these 67 individuals.

In the case of Angel, they've suggest that the police weren't firing the weapons that killed her but they've said nothing about the army soldiers who were working alongside the police, clearly firing weapons alongside them. We've seen army soldiers are out in other cities as well, working alongside the police.


WATSON: Amnesty International is now accusing them of being involved in some of this deadly violence.

The military has said, quote, "If protesters commit violent acts, protests -- protesters are shot, to be cracked down upon," while then going on to say, "the council will softly solve the problem."

So we're getting some mixed messages from the military junta that swept to power on February 1st and a lot of damning evidence as well as some very undiplomatic language coming from the United Nations, directly accusing the security forces of this growing death toll.

VAUSE: Thank you, Ivan Watson in Hong Kong.

Brazil's COVID crisis is getting worse and, when we come back, for a second day, the pandemic death toll has hit record highs and the public health care system is facing imminent collapse, unable to cope with the surging number of new infections.

Also ahead, the latest fallout from Prince Harry and Meghan's big interview. The relations that are sending shockwaves still across the U.K.




VAUSE: It's official; we have been living with the coronavirus pandemic for a year now. Staying at home, socially distancing, buying way too much stuff on Amazon and we're all still trying to figure out the best way to get out of this crisis, it seems.

Parts of Europe are again seeing a rise in new cases, even as vaccines are being administered. The rollout has been bumpy so far, with the U.K. and the E.U. at odds over vaccine supplies.

On Wednesdays the E.U. backed down after accusing the U.K. of imposing a ban on vaccine exports from the country. All this comes as a new study has found that the virus variant first found in the U.K. appears to be much more deadly than earlier strains. CNN's Cyril Vanier is live from London.

Let's start with this new strain. Not only is it apparently more deadly, by 64 percent, but it is also more contagious.

It is a double whammy it seems.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely and this study unfortunately validates the fears of all those who thought, feared that this new variant, first identified here in the U.K., would turn out to be more deadly. We have known, for a while, that there has been academic consensus on

the fact that it is more transmissible, more contagious, it spreads faster, it is just better at locking into human bodies.

We now know -- and I don't want to be dramatic -- but it is also better at destroying them to the tune of 64 percent. This peer reviewed study, published in the British medical journal, did was analyze the data from 100,000 patients who tested positive for COVID between the months of October and January.

It followed those people through to February. That is a robust sample size. And of the group that got the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K.


VANIER: That variant was associated with a 64 percent higher risk of death than the group that had contracted the previously circulating variants. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that that would be specific to a U.K. population.

So that is likely going to carry over and that increased lethality, to all the places where that variant has circulated, which is many, many countries by now. John.

We know that the variant first identified in the U.K. is now the majority strain in countries like France and Germany, for instance.

VAUSE: On top of the situation in the U.K., this is a government that has been criticized for a slow response, for an unorganized response to the virus and then when they do spend money, 37 billion pounds of it, on this tracking system, it seems to come up short.

Is this still alive?

Is this something which the government has yet to properly address?

VANIER: The government has addressed it and they addressed it by saying, however bad this situation has been in the U.K. over the past year, it would've been much worse without this government program.

Look, you can imagine that it was annoying, to say the least, crushing for some, to find out that this program the government has hinged its strategy on called Track and Trace, which involves mass testing of the population and

also involves contact tracing to break chains of contamination, this program that cost $50 billion and is the cornerstone of the government program is yet to show any effect on limiting the spread of COVID.

And that is not according to some independent body that might be critical of the government, that is according to a government committee, the Public Accounts Committee, which is wondering why $50 billion were spent on a program that, according to its own review, has not worked. VAUSE: To come out and just say, well, yes it did without any kind

of backup seems like a bit of a copout. But maybe they will give us more. Cyril Vanier, thank you, live in London. Appreciate it.

Brazil's deadly pandemic death toll has topped 2,000 for the first time, the virus continues to spread almost unchecked and, with that, hospital admissions are also rising. ICU wards at 80 percent, are at 80 percent capacity in 22 of 26 Brazilian states, occupancy exceeds 98 percent in three states, with another completely maxed. Out

CNN's Matt Rivers gives us a closer look at the ongoing crisis in Brazil.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you look at so many countries around the world that are looking at signs of hope during their pandemics, especially major countries like the United States, where they are administering a large number of vaccines just about every day, the same cannot be said about the country of Brazil, the country with the second most coronavirus related deaths, it was on Wednesday that health officials in that country announced that a new daily record for coronavirus related deaths had been set, nearly 2,300 deaths recorded on Wednesday.

And that number actually topped the previous record, which had just been set on Tuesday of this week. There is no real signs, at least at this point, that the pandemic in that country is going to get much better anytime soon, especially when you look at what is happening inside hospitals across the country and specifically inside intensive care units.

The occupancy rates inside intensive care units in 22 of Brazil's 26 states, as well as its federal district, those occupancy rates are at least at 80 percent or higher. There are 3 states where those occupancy rate are at 98 percent or higher.

The government says it wants to open up several thousand ICU beds at some point soon. Those beds are desperately needed in a country that is in the arguably worst days of the pandemic so far -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


VAUSE: There is growing concern about these new variants which are spreading around the world, as mentioned there is a variant first detected in the U.K., which has been found to be more deadly than we first thought. Then there's the B.1.526, aka the New York variant, which preliminary data shows is a more infectious variant coupled with that variant now first identified in the U.K., which accounts for 51 percent of all cases in New York City at present.

Finally the P.1, which comes from Brazil, that is spreading rapidly across Brazil with fears it could spread around the world. Earlier I asked Dr. Peter Hotez, professor at Baylor College of Medicine, which strain is the biggest risk. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Certainly in Latin America right now, I'm extremely concerned about the Brazil variant but, in the United States right now, it looks like the B.1.1.7 variant is gaining ascendancy rapidly.

Now we're seeing in states like Florida, California and Georgia maybe up to half the variants are the B.1.1.7 variant from the U.K.

So just like in southern England, when we first heard about this in September and how it became dominant, worrying across England and, by December, we're seeing the same thing in the United States, so I'm anticipating now a steeper rise in the number of cases in there.


HOTEZ: And then again, in the African continent, which, overall, has done better than many would have expected across 2020, I'm worried that is going to come to an end as the B.1.351 variant from South Africa goes into Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and that could be of even greater catastrophic proportions than anything we have seen so far.

VAUSE: Amidst all this, developing a vaccine in record time was one of the highlights of 2020, it was an incredible achievement. The downside is, it just wasn't really a system put in place to distribute that around the world, so every country for themselves.

That brings some long term implications.

HOTEZ: Yes, and that happened for a few reasons. First of all, the global policymakers, working with the companies, relied very heavily on innovation -- and as a scientist, I'm all for innovation. But when you have a brand-new technology, when you're first out of the starting gate, it is very difficult to scale that up rapidly and produce a lot of doses.

And sometimes, you have to use unusual storage conditions. And we saw with the mRNA vaccines that deep freezer requirement for the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. We were able to work around this in the United States and in Europe.

But for the low and middle income countries, we are suddenly now facing a potentially very dire situation, where we don't have vaccines for Africa and Latin America, given the fact that we went so heavy on the new and innovative technologies.

There was not enough balance to bring in the old-fashioned, durable, sturdy, simpler vaccines. And that is really -- worries me as well, especially for African and Latin America. So we're trying to fill that gap right now.

VAUSE: Just as we wrap up here, is there one reason out there that you cling to, that gives you optimism and hope for the future, one factor about all of this that we've learned about ourselves, about the virus?

HOTEZ: Yes the one factor that really does give me hope is that this COVID-19 virus, the SARS-CoV-2, ultimately is a relatively soft target. We showed over the last decade, if you induce high levels of virus neutralizing antibody in the spike protein, you will get protection and there's lots of ways to do that.


VAUSE: Our thanks to Dr. Peter Hotez for that interview.

Still to come, a year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Oh, how life has changed since last March, learning to live with the coronavirus, when we come back.

Also the latest fallout from Prince Harry and Meghan's bombshell interview with Oprah. A live report from Windsor.





VAUSE: One of the biggest revelations from the Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, had to do with her mental health. Meghan said she had suicidal thoughts while pregnant and asked for support from the palace but none was offered.

It's a surprise claim given that Prince Harry and William, along with Duchess Kate, have been leading their own mental health initiatives. For now, though, they've all kept their silence. Here's CNN's Richard Quest with his take on why.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, they're not going to say anything outright, I don't believe, certainly not in the short term. That's not the way they do it.

They will be pointing out it's not a reality program, it's not Big Brother, it's not the Kardashians, you don't live out your life on television. That is how they will be seeing it, hence the statement by the queen and hence the fact they will be looking at it internally.

But there is no question, Erin, that this is exceptionally embarrassing. Besides everything else, besides the dreadfulness of the situation, it's incredibly embarrassing. All it requires now, as I said before, is somebody, next time they are doing something for mental health, charities or foundations, to shout at them, oy, what about your own sister-in-law? And your own house?

I mean, whatever they say, bearing in mind what Meghan has said, that calls were made, cries for help were given, she was ignored. Harry even said to them, this will not end well. And then it ends up like this. So I think that I don't expect them to come out and do a mea culpa, which may be satisfying for the TV audience but that's not the way they work.


VAUSE: Thank you, Richard Quest.

Plus CNN learning details now about a former complaint Meghan filed to broadcaster ITV over Piers Morgan and his insensitive comments about her mental health. The now former host of ITV's "Good Morning, Britain" said on Monday he doubted Meghan's claims that she had suicidal thoughts while pregnant.

Morgan left the program on Tuesday, says he still doesn't believe her. Let's go live to Anna Stewart, standing by on the reaction to all of this.

A few things happening with relation to the relationship with Queen Elizabeth and Harry and Meghan and maybe some talk about a phone call or some kind of communication between all of them in the coming days.

What do we know about that and also is this beyond the point of reconciliation, I guess, between Harry and William?

There's talk that William in particular is outraged.

ANNA STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting. We wake up this morning, the statement has come out over a day ago. And it's all really quiet in terms of what we are hearing from the palace and what we are hearing from the Sussex team as well.

The statement clearly try to draw a line on the whole issues issued in public the queen says straight from the top. And they really said that while they recognize the issues and recollections may vary, there was that loaded line in it as well but essentially they are going to take this privately.

And a royal source told us that really this is a family issue that should be dealt with privately and they suggested that Harry and Meghan actually should've raised these concerns privately in a conversation with the royal family.

Now I suspect the Sussexes would argue they have tried to do that on a number of occasions but felt that they weren't really being heard. What is so interesting is while the palace wants this to be a private issue, this has sparked such an international debate, both about mental health and racism, it's galvanized a nation into confronting some issues that I think in Britain particularly people find very uncomfortable talking about.

Piers Morgan was clearly underestimated just how seriously people would take claims of mental health. He repeatedly said that he just didn't believe Meghan. She just didn't believe that she felt suicidal and after 41,000 complaints to the media regulator and after a complaint from the Duchess herself, he had to resign. VAUSE: Yes, and what a moment it was. But also the situation, about

the media in Britain, taking good look at diversity and racism within the media. And it's also brought up by Meghan.

STEWART: Yes, because there were two really key issues really from the interview, weren't there?

The issue within the royal family and the issue with the press. The two are inextricably linked, according to Prince Harry. But with the U.K. media, there is the issue that Harry said they are bigoted, Meghan expressed lots of dismay, really, about the racism she felt she was being portrayed with within the U.K. media.

An association that represents U.K. media, Society of Editors, put out a statement after the interview on Monday, saying simply that the U.K. media is not bigoted. Now they said the interview was an attack on the press and lots of people simply didn't agree with that stance.

They tried to walk it back on Wednesday after 250 journalists of color complained about the stand. It wasn't enough and the executive director has now resigned. So two big resignations on two different issues.

The nation is having these debates and it is having some impact but as you said in your first question, in terms of the palace and what they do, I'm not sure we are going to hear much more from them -- John.


VAUSE: Never complain, never explain, Anna Stewart life for us in Windsor, where it is not raining, a miracle.

If you would like more news of the British royal family, please visit our website. We have a weekly newsletter. Signup at

It started as an outbreak in China and then exploded around the world. A look back at one year of a pandemic that we will never forget. When we return.

Also meet the grandmother who received a special prescription to hug her granddaughter.




VAUSE: U.S. President Joe Biden set to sign a nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law later this week. It seemed it may be an attempt to return to something close to normal. A year since the World Health Organization classified COVID-19 as a global pandemic and a working COVID vaccine back then seemed like a dream.

It's been since developed and distributed. Tom Foreman looks at how things have changed since last March. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The NBA season calls a timeout after a player for the Utah Jazz tests positive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Quite frankly, everybody was shocked.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Actors Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, developed chills, aches and are diagnosed.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Everyone was wondering when we were going to see somebody famous.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The World Health Organization declares a pandemic. And on March 11, 2020, COVID-19, widely dismissed by the president as a minor threat from distant China...

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear.

FOREMAN (voice-over): -- it comes crashing home.

TRUMP: To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Overnight travel screams to a near halt. Millions of workers are told to stay away from the office and start grappling with Zoom calls. And their kids' schools are shutting down, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was thinking this could be our last time going to school here.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Panic buying strips many grocery stores of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, necessities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The only things you've got left is like salami. You know, I can't afford to eat salami every day.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Food lines sprout up shockingly miles long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just kind of all getting together and figuring out how we can help the best way.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Confusion reigns. People are told to wash their groceries and don't bother. Wear a mask and maybe not. The trouble will last a couple weeks but then again.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: The worst is, yes, ahead for us. It is how we respond to that challenge that's going to determine what the ultimate endpoint is going to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is how difficult is this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a war zone. It's a medical war zone. FOREMAN (voice-over): In hospitals, the worst times come fast, through too many patients, too few supplies.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Doctors and nurses pushed beyond exhaustion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today has been crazy.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And more bodies than morgues can handle. Many families must say farewell by telephone.

DR. UMESH GIDWANI, MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL: One patient expired. It's very hard to lose a patient that you've been fighting for.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Before that crucial day in March, 782 cases and 28 COVID fatalities had been recorded nationwide. By month's end, it's more than 192,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths, including minister Ronnie Hampton in Louisiana, who was diagnosed and dies a day later.

RONNIE HAMPTON, MINISTER, COVID-19 VICTIM: I want you to know that my faith has never wavered.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Now the number of fatalities in the U.S. is well over a half million, famous, influential and regular folks.

FOREMAN: That's about one American dying every minute since March 11th one year ago.


VAUSE: Thanks to Tom Foreman for that. Report

According to Johns Hopkins University, more 118 million people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19. Some have recovered, over 2.6 million them have died. U.S. leads the world by far for the most infections, followed by India, Brazil, rounding out the top 3.

So many people will relate to this, a grandmother, a grandchild and the first hug in almost a year.


VAUSE (voice-over): New grandma Evelyn Shaw is a widow who lives alone, whose granddaughter asked a doctor for a prescription for that hug. We first saw this moment yesterday, now hear from Evelyn and what it all meant.

EVELYN SHAW, HUG RECIPIENT: Well, the hug was -- my daughter and granddaughter came to my apartment to give me a little gift they said and the gift was the prescription from the doctor.

And when I read it and it said, "You are allowed to hug your granddaughter" -- here it is - "You are allowed to hug your granddaughter," I -- something happened to me. Because my granddaughter had completed her COVID protocol. But I was not going to let her in. I was definitely not going to let her into my apartment, even though I had completed my -- my COVID -- my vaccines.

Because I was stuck. I was stuck -- I was stuck in -- in COVID-land. And having this prescription from my doctor gave me the courage to let her in.

And there we were standing in my apartment just hugging and hugging and crying and crying for the first time in a year, which was an out- of-body experience.

It was blissful. It was wonderful. And it was something that I'm going to remember for the rest my life.


VAUSE: Well, a hug still to come.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause, stay with us. "WORLD SPORT" is next after a short break.