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JAMA: 30 Percent Have Symptoms for Up to Nine Months; Brazils Hospitals Near Capacity as Cases Surge; House Minority Leader Criticizes Biden for Border Response; U.N. Rapporteur: Military's Brutal Crackdown Likely Meets Legal Threshold for Crimes Against Humanity; U.S., India, Australia and Japan to Hold Virtual Meeting; U.S. CDC Released Guidelines for Fully-Vaccinated People; Vaccine Rollout Helps U.K. Seniors See Their Loved Ones. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 12, 2021 - 04:30   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber and you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

A recent study in the medical journal JAMA network opens found 30 percent of people with COVID continue to have symptoms for up to nine months. Which is why many health officials are now turning their attention to the next big, the long-term effects of COVID-19.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We know that 525,000 of our fellow Americans have died. But we also know that tens of millions have been infected and didn't die, thankfully, and recovered. But I want to know what the long-term effects are for a lot of those individuals.

I worry that we are really just seeing the tip of the iceberg when we think about long COVID, that there's going to be a lot of disability, a lot of suffering that is going to be with us for a long time. I hope that that's not true but that's what I worry about and I'd like to understand that better.


BRUNHUBER: In Brazil, the focus is not on long-term illness, it's on the immediate crisis. The ever escalating number of COVID cases that are ravaging the country. The daily coronavirus death toll topped 2,000 again on Thursday. And ICUs across the country are way above capacity, the Health Secretary is saying. CNN's Isa Soares talks to a former patient who described some chilling scenes.


MOISES BARBOZA, PORTO ALEGRE CITY COUNCILOR (translated text): I saw them discussing whether I should be intubated or not. ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shaken and still visibly weak, Moises Barboza, a councilor for the city of Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, tells me he's never smoked or been seriously ill. Still, the 42-year-old ended up spending 10 days inside an intensive care unit after contracting COVID-19. He survived, but the trauma is deep.

BARBOZA (translated text): While I was in the ICU, I lost my father- in-law. He died, and I didn't know. He was admitted, and was still speaking, and four days later, he was buried. And I didn't know.

SOARES (voice-over): Weeks later, Barboza's voice remains course, and as we speak, it's clear he's still breathless. But even if those lingering effects fade, others are forever etched on his mind.

BARBOZA (translated text): I saw three people, unfortunately die in front of me. There was a girl, 39 years of age, intubated, in front of me.

SOARES (voice-over): Barboza's case is one among thousands as ICUs across Brazil reached peak capacity and daily deaths hit new records. Warning signs seemingly not severe enough to change the Brazilian presidents' view of the pandemic.

JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (translated text): We have to face our problems. Enough fussing and whining. How much longer will the crying go on?

SOARES (voice-over): Under Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil has struggled to implement a unified country-wide strategy to deal with COVID-19. Not least because the president has continuously downplayed the virus at every turn, first insisting it was just the sniffles --

BOLSONARO (translated text): A little flu.

SOARES (voice-over): -- and now questioning vaccines as they become available.

BOLSONARO (translated text): If you turn into a crocodile, it's your problem.

SOARES (voice-over): Jeopardizing a vaccination program that continues to progress at a very slow pace. Just a couple of months ago, he was accused of failing to act as the healthcare system in the Amazon state capital of Manaus collapsed. He blamed local health officials. An investigation is underway.

In Manaus, patient after patient literally gasped for air when hospitals run out of oxygen. Now tells me Professor Nicolelis, it's much, much worse.

Dr. MIGUEL NICOLELIS, PROFESSOR, DUKE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: People outside Brazil focus on -- in Manaus. Manaus has been a huge tragedy. Well, I have news for you. We have 20 Manaus right now in Brazil. Twenty capitals in Brazil have reached capacity in ICU beds. SOARES (voice-over): Nicolelis, who is a doctor and a neuroscientist at Duke University in the U.S., and who has been tracking the crisis in Brazil, tells me it's a matter of when not if the Brazilian healthcare system collapses.

NICOLELIS: This is a perfect storm.

SOARES (voice-over): Speaking from Sao Paulo, he tells me Brazil, he says, is an open-air laboratory for the virus to evolve, creating more deadly mutations, a challenges, he says, not just for Brazil but for the world.

NICOLELIS: If you allow this thing to run amok in Brazil, this pandemic, you are certain to get new variants that are going to spread first in the continent here, Latin America and South America, and likely to the U.S. and Europe a little later. In Asia, too.

SOARES (voice-over): So now, he says, the world needs to challenge the Brazilian government over its familiar to contain the virus.


Back in Porto Alegre, Barboza says that to happen the political sabre rattling must come to an end.

BARBOZA (translated text): It's very sad for me, being a part of the political class, to see that. It's not the moment for that. Myself, for example, I would of course trade away my mandate for my father in law's life.

SOARES (voice-over): Isa Soares, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Hong Kong has just reporter its greatest daily number of new coronavirus cases since late January. Health officials there say there were 60 new cases reported on Thursday. Most of them are related to a cluster at a local gym where some 360 people are now under government quarantines. Officials say they'll order fitness center workers to get tested by Sunday.

U.S. border patrol agents say they're encountering large groups of families and children in the Rio Grande Valley. Nearly 140 people were found Thursday near the U.S./Mexico border. It comes as the number of children in health and human services custody have jumped to 8,800. CNN has learned that the Biden administration is considering housing some migrant children in a NASA facility in Mountain View, California. Priscilla Alverez has more.


PRISCILLA ALVEREZ, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: The Biden administration here is tapping federal agencies like NASA to look for space for children. And the reason for that is because the number of children crossing the U.S./Mexico border alone is outpacing shelter availability. Remember over the course of the pandemic many of these shelters, which are overseen by the Health and Human Services Department, were operating under limited capacity to comply with health guidelines. So they're already under strain here. And as more children arrive, they are frantically looking for more shelter space. Again, going back to tapping those federal agencies to look for help.


BRUNHUBER: The White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain spoke to CNN earlier defending the Biden administration's handling of the migrant situation.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: First of all, we aren't separating children from families. These are children who are arriving alone. In the other thing is we're trying to meet this situation with urgency and humanity. We're working hard at the Department of Health and Human Services to get more housing for these children when they arrive. To make sure they're treated in a humane way and to make sure they are ultimately connected with their family members in the United States or other sponsors.

Look, we were left with inadequate resources down there, with a system that had been shrunk due to COVID. And now we're trying to stand up, the resources we need, to make sure that these children are treated in a humane and appropriate way.


BRUNHUBER: But Republicans aren't going along with that. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is putting the blame squarely on the president.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), U.S. HOUSE MINORITY LEADER; We must address this crisis at the border that is spiraling out of control and is entirely caused by the actions of this administration.

MCCARTHY: On Monday I'm going to the border. I'm talking 12 members with me from the committees of jurisdiction, looking for ourselves, working on trying to find a solution. But we know the solution is quite easy. Because this is all caused by Biden's action just in a short time frame.


BRUNHUBER: And Kevin McCarthy also said he requested a meeting with President Biden on the issue of border security but hasn't heard back from the White House.

The first ever quad summit is just hours away. The U.S., Japan, India and Australia have lots of issues to discuss, but overshadowing their agenda, China's growing dominance in the region. We'll have a live report just ahead. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: The U.N. now estimates at least 80 civilians in Myanmar have been killed by riot police so far including a dozen protestors killed on Thursday. In a scathing new U.N. report says the indiscriminate carnage likely meets the legal threshold for crimes against humanity.

Tom Andrews, the special rapporteur on human right in Myanmar, alleges that the ruling juntas lethal crackdown of protests has included murder and other crimes. Myanmar's foreign secretary dismissed the U.N. findings and said authorities have been using the utmost restraints in dealing with violent protests. But the U.N. special rapporteur say the facts on the ground tell a different story.


THOMAS ANDREWS, U.N. SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON MYANMAR: They're attacking people, not at random but in a very systematic basis. These are not combatants that are engaged here, these are innocent people, and it is spread out over a wide geographic area. We've had 37 people killed in 28 different districts around the country. There are over 2,000 that have been arbitrarily detained.

So when you look through the basic criteria for crimes against humanity and you look at the reality of what's going on in Myanmar today, it's a very close fit. Again, it's been adjudicated in a court of law, but I urge that the members of the human rights counsel look at what's going on, look at that definition and make up their own mind.


BRUNHUBER: Just a few hours from now President Biden will meet virtually for the first time with leaders of India, Australia and Japan in a so-called quad summit. The loose association between the four countries has been in existence for years. But now it seen as a possible counterweight to China's growing influence in the Pacific region. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us from Hong Kong. Lots of issues on their plate. What are they expected to discuss? What are the priorities there?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and as you just mentioned, China is kind of looming above everything. And it is interesting. Ahead of the quad summit, due to take place virtually in just a few hours from now, 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. When the Australian Prime Minister was asked whether or not China should be concerned, his answer was this. He said, no, China shouldn't be concerned, because the quad, in his words, is a quote, anchor for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

But traditionally the quad was set up as an alliance to counter China's increasing assertiveness in the region. This year the focus seems to be on non-China topics. The focus will be on climate change, and global warming, on trade, as well as coronavirus vaccine manufacturing and rollout and distribution. But looking at the fact that these four nations involved have very frayed relations with China right now, and their leaders, who are taking part in this regional summit, it's little wonder that China is seeing this as a clear escalation against Beijing.

We've been monitoring state-run reaction in run up to the quad meeting. I want to bring up this from the "Global Times" a state-run tabloid in China. And in this "Global Times" it says, quote, days before the meeting Japan, India, and Australia couldn't help but again hype the so-called China threat. It goes on to say, the quad is not an alliance of like-minded countries as the U.S. claims. The three countries other than the U.S. would probably take a tactic of coordinating with the U.S. in narratives while sticking to their own approaches on China, unquote.


The last point there is interesting. Because it's a point that's been raised by Western analysts about the value of the quad. Will the quad be able to have a unified force to deal with the challenge that China poses, or will it just be another talk shop with four very separate interests involved? Back to you -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, we'll see. And speaking of China, the U.S. wasn't mincing words about China's changes to Hong Kong's electoral system. I guess one of the many reasons that the upcoming diplomatic talks with China with the U.S. there, could be even more awkward.

STOUT: Absolutely. You know, on the day after China effectively paved the way for patriots to run Hong Kong, you know, a very serious condemnation leveled by the U.S. State Department. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Ned Price, called the recent electoral reform plan that was passed in Beijing on Thursday as, quote, a direct attack on Hong Kong's autonomy, freedoms and democratic processes.

Now on Thursday, is expected, China's Parliament or the National People's Congress passing a new electoral reform plan. It effectively degrades democratic representation in the territory and puts in a screening system to screen candidates for patriotism. You know, we know Hong Kong's top leader, Carrie Lam, she hails says it as an improvement on the system. I've talked to senior Chinese leaders. They say it improves the electoral system in Hong Kong. They say it will reinforce and strengthen Hong Kong's standing as a financial hub. But we talked to critics. We talked to pro-democracy activists. They say this is a serious step backwards for democracy in Hong Kong. And just another example of China's tightening grip on the territory -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, appreciate the insights as always. CNN's Kristie Lu stout in Hong Kong.

Families are being reunited in the U.K. We'll show you some of the emotional scenes and explain why they're able to happen now. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: New U.S. CDC guidelines lay out what is and isn't safe for fully vaccinated people, meaning those who have gone two weeks since a single shot dose or since the second dose of a two-dose vaccine. They can visit indoors with low risk unvaccinated people from one household and if they've been exposed, they can skip quarantine and testing if they have no symptoms. But they should still maintain distance and wear masks in public or with high risk unvaccinated people and avoid large or even medium sized gatherings. The CDC's director explained the priorities that motivated the new rules.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We are taking really initial steps as we're following the data to ensure that people can start to do some of the things that they missed once they've been vaccinated. Visiting with loved ones, visiting, you know, other vaccinated people in small, private settings.

Also among the things that have been missed are visiting your loved ones in long-term care facilities. We do know that in long-term care facilities many of the residents now are getting vaccinated. We've protecting the residents and the staff. We haven't let up our masking. We haven't let up our distancing. And we've limited our recommendations in our long-term care facilities to places that have low incidents of disease.


BRUNHUBER: Well thanks in part to an impressive vaccine rollout many seniors in the U.K. are now able to visit in person with loved ones for the first time in a year. And some can again experience the little joys that haven't known for so long, like an afternoon in the park. Here's Phil Black.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From its earliest days, the pandemic has stood like a barricade, blocking David Alexander's sense of duty, and love for his wife.

DAVID ALEXANDER: Hello, my darling.

BLACK (voice-over): Until this moment.

D. ALEXANDER: Hello. Do you know who I am? I'm David. Do you know David? Your husband.


D. ALEXANDER: It's a long time since I've seen you.

BLACK (voice-over): Sheila has dementia. She rarely speaks. So David can't know what this reunion means to her, or what she thought, and felt, through the long stretches where he wasn't allowed to visit. They have shared their lives for more than 55 years. But this is only the second time they've sat together during the pandemic. It is almost 5 months since Sheila last heard David's voice.

D. ALEXANDER: I've got you a few little flowers out of our garden.

BLACK (voice-over): Or felt his touch.

D. ALEXANDER: Even with gloves on, it is better than what they arranged before. So, I guess you have to be thankful for what you've got. You all right, love?

BLACK (voice-over): Emotional reunions, poignant, and joyful. Taking place in nursing, and care homes across England. Because as vaccines roll out, residents are now allowed one designated visitor.

SARA DOLAN: Lovely to see you, darling.


BLACK (voice-over): For Renee Dolan, it's her granddaughter, Sara.

R. DOLAN: It's my first time seeing her in such a long time.

S. DOLAN: I know, but listen, listen, I'm going to come back next week as well.


BLACK (voice-over): After so many months apart, the need for physical contact, and comfort, is overwhelming. But there are still rules. No hugging, or kissing, they can only hold hands. In this moment, that limited gesture is loaded with feeling.

R. DOLAN: Oh, it means everything to me. Everything. I'm going to cry.

S. DOLAN: It's OK, don't worry.

R. DOLAN: Thank you, darling.

S. DOLAN: OK, thank mommy.

ANDREAS CHAPMAN: Hello. How are you?


BLACK (voice-over): Howard Chapman and his daughter, Andreas, say in normal times they don't usually hold hands, but these aren't normal times.

HOWARD CHAPMAN: To us have somebody like this.


H. CHAPMAN: My lovely daughter. What's your name?

(LAUGHTER) A. CHAPMAN: Yeah, which one are you.

BLACK (voice-over): In the Manor Hall Home nursing home --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you excited to go out today, George?

BLACK (voice-over): There is a buzz of anticipation. Some of the residents are leaving the grounds for the first time since last summer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're quick on your feet this morning.

BLACK (voice-over): It is only a small excursion, a drive through the nearby countryside, followed by tea in a park near a local beach.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And now we can explore that big place, can't we?

BLACK (voice-over): its more freedom than George Baulch, thought possible.

BLACK: How are you doing today?

GEORGE BAULCH, RESIDENT OF CARE HOME: Very well. We have been locked up for weeks, and weeks, and weeks. Never thought that we would actually get around again for us. You come here, and you realize how big England is. You've almost forgot how big this place is, really.

BLACK (voice-over): Many of England's elderly were lost to the pandemic. And so many more have been forced to endure heartbreaking confinement. Their restored freedoms are modest, but they allow the possibility of hope. For more time with loved ones.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I love you. Alright. See you next week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alright, darling.

BLACK (voice-over): And more walks by the beach.

Phil Black, CNN, in southern England.


BRUNHUBER: Ah, it's so great to see.

All right. That wraps this hour. Stay tuned for "EARLY START."