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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Resisting Calls From New York Lawmakers To Resign Due To Accusations Of Sexual Harassment And Nursing Home Coronavirus Deaths Scandal; Immigration And Customs Enforcement Requesting Help To Manage Surge Of Immigrants Along U.S.- Mexico Border; Health Experts Warn Increasing Travel For Spring Break Vacation May Cause Surge In Coronavirus Cases; Events Planned Across U.S. On Anniversary Of Killing Of Breonna Taylor; Dr. Anthony Fauci Expresses Concern Over Possible Mental Health Epidemic In Wake Of Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 13, 2021 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing a firestorm of controversy as a new allegation of inappropriate behavior comes to light. The political pressure for him to resign mounting following a new article in "New York Magazine." In the piece, a former political reporter who covered the Cuomo administration says the governor sexually harassed and embarrassed her in front of colleagues on multiple occasions. Her claims adding to the list of women now coming forward with allegations against Cuomo. But he is flat out denying the allegations.

CNN's Athena Jones is in Albany this afternoon. So Athena, what more do you know about these allegations?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. These latest allegations are coming from Jessica Bakeman. She is a reporter who now works in Miami, but she had been a Capitol beat reporter here in Albany for a number of years. And she wrote this first-person piece for "New York Magazine."

She said that her job was to report on the governor's every move, and that she alleges that he often touched her without her consent, on her arms, on her shoulders, on the small of her back, on her waist. It led her not to even want to go to events like the one she describes in 2014.

When she was 25 years old she went to a holiday party at the executive mansion and says that the governor approached her, took her hand, put his arm around her, put his hand around her waist, and as she describes it, held her firmly in place while gesturing to a photographer that he wanted to have a picture taken.

She says that during this time the governor said to her, "I'm sorry, am I making you uncomfortable? I thought we were going steady." It's a moment that Bakeman subscribed as humiliating, happening in front of her colleagues. She also says that she never felt that the governor's actions were about wanting to have sex with her, but they were about wanting to have power over her, wanting to show that she was powerless, and that they way he used touching and sexual innuendo was to stoke fear in women.

CNN has reached out to Bakeman for comment. We've not heard back. We've also reached out to the governor's office for comment on this specific allegation. He didn't -- they haven't addressed the specific allegation, but he did address these allegations in toto during a telephone news conference on Friday. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: I did not do what has been alleged, period. Look, it's very simple. I never harassed anyone. I never abused anyone. I never assaulted anyone. And I never would, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: So there you have the governor continuing to deny that he's done anything wrong. I should mention that this protest you can hear behind me, they've talked about several issues, but one of them is wanting Cuomo out of office. So just one more sign of the fact that he's losing support not just among members of Congress but among some members of the public as well.

WHITFIELD: So let's talk about what appears to be the growing list of Democrats who are calling on the governor to step down. What can you tell us about that movement?

JONES: Right. These are really the biggest names in politics in New York. We're talking about the majority of the congressional delegation. And not just the majority of the congressional delegation but prominent members of it, folks like House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, who has the House Oversight Committee, Sean Patrick Maloney who heads up the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, so in charge of getting Democrats elected to office, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Also, we heard finally on Friday afternoon in a joint statement from the two senators from New York, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand coming out together to say that the governor should resign. And this is because he's facing multiple allegations.

Even the folks saying he should resign are saying yes, there should be due process, yes, these investigations can continue, but as of right now we feel that the governor has lost the confidence of New Yorkers. The governor, of course, saying that he's not going to resign, politics didn't elect him, the people of New York elected him, so he's going to stay in place. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Athena Jones, thank you so much for that.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling Governor Cuomo decision to lift some quarantine rules reckless. The governor announcing that domestic travelers will no longer have to isolate up entering New York from other states beginning April 1st.

And this comes as air travel hits a new pandemic record here in the U.S. More than 1.3 million people passed through the TSA checkpoints, the highest number since March 15th of 2020. Spring break now in full swing as people pack the beaches in Miami despite the CDC warning that even fully vaccinated people should avoid travel for now.

CNN's Natasha Chen joining me now from Miami Beach, a popular destination of all those air travelers. Natasha, what are you hearing and seeing?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, there are a lot of people descending to this area, not really heeding warnings. We're seeing packed businesses, people not wearing masks on the beach. And we see a lot of boat traffic behind us.

[14:05:02]

This is a sentiment from people that we're hearing about the U.S. maybe turning a corner, more people getting vaccinated. But still, we're talking about more than 50,000 new cases on a given day. So there is still some way to go before we're in the clear.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. hit a new record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in a single day, more than 2.9 million doses on Friday alone. More than one in 10 people in the U.S. are now fully vaccinated according to CDC data. And more doses are coming. But there is still some hesitancy had it when it comes to vaccine, and it's not just minority communities.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): We are seeing vaccine hesitancy really as the pharmacists and I were talking about making south, and a lot of that is dealing with white Republicans, quite honestly.

CHEN: But more options are becoming available to those who do want it. Three COVID-19 vaccines are now going into arms. And AstraZeneca tells CNN its phase three trial results are expected in coming weeks, after which they'll apply for emergency use authorization.

More states are expanding eligible groups for a COVID-19 vaccine as President Biden has directed states to make all adults eligible by May 1st. But for some people, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel isn't enough. Some spring breakers want to enjoy normal life now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I work in a hospital back in St. Louis. So I've been --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're every day in St. Louis, trying to get a little freedom down here, because we heard the rules.

CHEN: More like the lack of them. Florida businesses were allowed to reopen at full capacity in late September, but without the ability to enforce mask wearing with fines.

We're probably one of the few wearing masks walking around.

And now Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber is bracing for what he fears would be a super spreader.

Would it make your life easier if people just didn't come for spring break?

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Yes, that's the easiest thing.

CHEN: For the spring breakers who do come, he hopes they'll vacation responsibly.

GELBER: Listen, I'll be blunt. I know I'm the mayor of a hospitality town. We're trying to survive this. This is not a moment where we're saying this is all great, everything is great. We recognize that there's a pandemic, there's a crush of people who want to come here. There's real public safety issues that we have to address. And we also worry that this community will become a super spreader for other communities.

CHEN: The same concerns echoed by the nation's top infectious disease expert.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know if you're a Cancun guy or a Miami Beach guy, but how concerned are you about spring break?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We want people to have a good time on spring break, but don't put your guard down completely. Just be prudent a bit longer.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CHEN (on camera): One of the challenges is really seeing differences of opinion even among leaders at different levels, different regions, on how to approach all of this. For example, here in Florida, businesses were allowed to reopen at 100 percent capacity starting late September. In comparison, there are other states only now starting to relax some of those restrictions. For example, Los Angeles County starting Monday will start allowing indoor dining at reduced capacity for the first time in nine months, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Natasha Chen, thank you so much for that.

Coming up at 2:30 eastern time, "Coronavirus One Year Later." A panel of experts will be discussing the past the and future of the pandemic, including the medical, emotional, and financial tolls taken.

Right now in Louisville, Kentucky, people are gathering to remember Breonna Taylor, the young black woman who was shot and killed by police in her apartment one year ago today. Earlier this week, Taylor's mother filed Internal Affairs complaints against six Louisville police officers in connection with her daughter's death. Jason Carroll is at the memorial event right now for us out of Louisville. What's happening? JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, the crowd has already heard from a number of speakers. Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor's mother, is here. She's in the crowd. Members of George Floyd's family also here as well. On the stage behind me, civil rights leader Benjamin Crump just wrapped up speaking to the crowd for several minutes.

Also heard from Kenneth Walker. That name may sound familiar. He was Breonna Taylor's boyfriend. You'll remember he was charged with attempted murder for firing at those officers during that botched police raid. Of course, Walker is saying he only fired because he thought someone was breaking in, and the officers never identified themself. The officers saying that they did.

Just this week, Fredricka, as you know, a judge here in Kentucky dropped those attempted charges against Kenneth Walker. Walker taking the stage, saying that the fight for justice must continue.

[14:10:04]

Also out here today are a number of people who wanted to hear from the speakers, to talk about justice. I wanted to introduce you to Olivia Alexander and Jody Zhong. I wanted to get your impressions about what you've heard so far.

OLIVIA ALEXANDER, RALLY PARTICIPANT: Yes, I've been really encouraged about the message of community, most importantly. I don't want our city to be represented in a way negatively by the Breonna Taylor incident. So the community message has been the most important to me.

CARROLL: There's also been a lot of talk about police accountability from a number of the protesters, demonstrators who have been out here so far.

JODY ZHONG, RALLY PARTICIPANT: Yes, I think it's wild that it's been 365 days, and it seems like there's been gradual concessions, but there's still no conviction. There's still no trial that's criminal. And it's kind of, I think, jarring to realize that. We're so far out, and that's not even a thing that can be done on the government level.

CARROLL: I know that there have been some changes here in Louisville, for example banning no-knock warrants. But a lot of folks out here are saying they still want to see more changes. What are some of the concrete changes that you would like to see in terms of police reform?

ALEXANDER: That's a really great question. I think there needs to be a stronger relationship between the police and the community in general. I think that there's not a great relationship between the black community and the police here in Louisville. So it would be really great to see some more initiatives around that, around community building within the black community and LMPD.

CARROLL: When I was speaking to Breonna Taylor's mother, she was saying that the protests and marching will continue. Do you believe that that's true?

ZHONG: Absolutely, they have incredible endurance.

CARROLL: Thank you very much. Thanks very much for joining us.

And Fredricka, early today I did have an opportunity to speak very quickly with Breonna Taylor's mother. And I asked her if she was going to be able to take the stage. She said emotionally, if she could find the strength, that she would take the stage. And I asked her what she would say. She said I'll just try and speak from the heart. We're still waiting to see if that will happen. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: She has had to be incredibly strong. That's really difficult. Jason Carroll, thank you so much for that.

Coming up, heartbreaking scenes from the border, the U.S. border. The Biden administration struggling to keep up with a surge in migrants. CNN talks with families about their difficult journeys to America.

Plus, Dr. Anthony Fauci says he's very concerned the coronavirus pandemic will trigger a mental health pandemic. A psychologist will be joining me live straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:16:35]

WHITFIELD: As massive influx of migrants at the southern border has made the situation so dire, CNN has learned that children detained in an overcrowded government-run tent facility say they haven't been able to shower for days or even contact their parents. Attorneys who spoke with the children say the situation is quickly becoming a humanitarian crisis.

This coming as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, says it needs help to manage the surge of immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. ICE is asking for agency volunteers to help with security for a growing wave of migrant families and unaccompanied children. Deployments could begin as soon as this weekend.

CNN's Rosa Flores takes a closer look at how critical the wave has become.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are the faces of the immigration surge on the U.S.-Mexico border. Maria Mendoza is from El Salvador and hopes to reunite with her family in Maryland. Roxana Rivera is from Honduras and lost everything during a recent hurricane. She says that her dream is to have a house, and that that's why she made the trek to the United States.

Maria and Roxana are among the tens of thousands of migrants who have been encountered by U.S. border authorities in recent weeks. One area alone saw more than 500 migrants enter during an eight-hour period last week, according to a federal source, to expedite processing. Authorities started fingerprinting them under this bridge. Many unaccompanied children and families are bussed to this new

temporary immigration processing center in Donna, Texas. Maria de la Rosa lives across the street and says buses packed with people arrive around the clock, and at night she hears children crying. You're scared?

MARIA DE LA ROSA, LIVES BY DONNA IMMIGRATION FACILITY: Yes.

FLORES: From there, some migrants are dropped off by immigration officials at bus stations like this one in Brownsville.

[10:10:00]

That's where we met Roxana, Maria, and her six-year-old daughter, Kethlen. She says she evaded a snake during her journey to the United States and fell off a raft while crossing the Rio Grande.

Why is there a surge right now, you think?

Both Maria and Roxanne say they learned from news reports in their home countries that the Biden administration is allowing migrant women with children to enter the U.S.

And you believed that that was true?

Which is not entirely true. The Biden administration says it's allowing unaccompanied minors to remain in the U.S. pending immigration cases, and some families are allowed in on a case-by-case basis. That perception could be driving some of the surge, which has more than 3,700 unaccompanied children in Border Patrol custody in jail-like facilities.

Health and Human Services is caring for about 8,800 unaccompanied minors while they're reunited with family, and is even considering using a NASA site to expand bed space. And some nonprofit migrant shelters like Los Posada where Margarita (ph) Hernandez (ph), a migrant from Nicaragua is staying, has seen a spike in the flow of mothers, children, and pregnant women. Cindy (ph) Johnson (ph) has volunteered to help thousands of migrants across the river in Matamoros and collected hundreds of postcards with their story.

This child is saying that they witnessed people dying, people getting beaten.

FLORES: Cindy (ph) says she scanned them and sent them to then- candidate for president Joe Biden.

What was the goal of sending these letters to Biden?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The goal was they wanted them to see their humanity.

FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN, along the U.S.-Mexico border.

(END VIDEO TAPE) WHITFIELD: And overnight we spring forward. But don't store away your snow shovels just yet. Nearly 5.5 million are under a severe snowstorm blizzard and flash flood warnings. Potentially historic weather conditions are expected to move eastward throughout the weekend. Heavy snow in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska is expected to start later on today. And then take a look at what happened in Shallowater, Texas, just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at that!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Too dangerously close there. A tornado watch is in effect for portions of northwest Texas and east central New Mexico until 6:00 p.m. central time. Those storms are expected to shift eastward into Arkansas, Mississippi, and western Tennessee today and into tomorrow.

And talk about a job with a view. These are live pictures outside the international space station where two American astronauts, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins, are in the muddle of a lengthy spacewalk. NASA says the pair will be completing several system upgrades, including the station cooling and communications systems. This is the fifth spacewalk of the year.

Coming up next, coronavirus one year later. Hard to believe. Are we any closer to normalcy? We'll talk about the medical, emotional, and financial impacts of this pandemic, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[14:26:29]

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A year filled with the loss of life and the loss of living for all of us. But in the loss, we saw how much there was to gain in appreciation, respect, and gratitude. Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do. In fact, it may be the most American thing we do. And that's what we've done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Coronavirus one year later, you just heard from President Biden reflecting on a year of heartbreak and disruption, a year that has changed all of our lives forever. So we've lost more than 527,000 Americans from the virus, more than the combined death tolls of World War I and II, Vietnam War, 9/11. For the next 30 minutes we'll look back at the hardships and look forward to the future after this pandemic, and what it means for our health, our lives, our money.

And joining me to talk more, Dr. Megan Ranney, emergency room physician at Brown University, Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson, a psychologist at the University of Michigan's Department of Health, Behavior, and Health and Education, and personal finance columnist for "The Washington Post," Michelle Singletary.

Dr. Anderson and Michelle, please stand by. Dr. Ranney, let me begin with you. The United States is now averaging about 56,000 new cases per day, a drastic drop from our peak in January. You've seen the worst of the pandemic at your hospital. Listen to what you told our John King just last March.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: On the front lines, people are terrified. Listen, I work in an unbelievable hospital system that has been preparing for this pandemic since the first reports came out of Wuhan three months ago. But the truth is we cannot get the masks and other protective gear that we need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So now, present day, give us your perspective. How far have we come? How much further do we have to go?

RANNEY: Listening to myself a year ago gives me chills. I think we all thought that we were going to get that PPE within weeks. And it was months. Even now, almost a year later, and we still in many places across the country lack access to adequate personal protective equipment.

The COVID relief bill that was just passed earlier this week finally includes billions of dollars to create the testing supplies, the personal protective equipment, and the rest of the supplies that all medical providers have been asking for for the past year. And here we are, it's a year later, we're just getting it.

At the same time, Fred, we've come so far. That was a terrifying moment. We knew nothing about the virus. We were all rightly afraid that we were going to get sick. Today most health care workers across the country have been vaccinated. And so we can go to work with a little bit of lightness in our hearts, that we know that we're not going to be coming home and getting ill ourselves or bringing the virus back to our families.

WHITFIELD: It really has been an arduous year for everything, medically, mentally, financially, really for everybody. But as we do zero in on the medical fitness of this country and us as individuals, President Biden says that all Americans will be eligible to get the vaccine by May 1st, and there will be enough supply by May 31st. The president also expects small group celebrations on July 4th. Wouldn't that be something?

[14:30:02]

Do you think this timetable is realistic even when you factor in these more contagious variants out there?

RANNEY: So the timetable is certainly far more optimistic than even I, an inherently optimistic person, had hoped for. I had thought most Americans would have the chance to get vaccinated by July. But the Biden administration and our pharmaceutical manufacturers have really gone above and beyond in increasing the manufacturing capacity. So I do think that timeline is accurate.

And then for the July 4th deadline, it really depends on how many of us line up to get those shots in arms. Having vaccine supply is one thing, actually getting vaccinated is another. And it's that final step that is going to determine whether or not we really can get together for July 4th get-togethers.

WHITFIELD: And sometimes we look at other countries and use it as a barometer. People are vaccinated in Israel and they're using -- people who are vaccinated, rather, in Israel, are using these so-called green passes. It's required for activities like going to the gym, eating at restaurants, going to a live performance.

Masks are also still being worn there. So what is kind of the new normal going to look like potentially in America? Do you see us following suit? You have to carry around something to let people know that you've been vaccinated?

RANNEY: Carrying around a proof of vaccination is certainly not a bad idea. Any of us who have traveled to sub-Saharan Africa or to South Asia know that you have to bring a yellow card with you in order to get into those countries to prove that you've received vaccines against yellow fever and typhoid and things like that.

That said, I don't see a lot of Americans tolerating the idea of needing a vaccine passport in order to do things. I hope instead we're going to have social pressure. I know that I already am getting together with friends, other health care workers who have been fully vaccinated for a safe indoor drink. I think that that kind of social pressure will make a difference. I don't see us having green cards here in the U.S.

And then masks, I hope we'll keep wearing them on public transport or during fall and winter when respiratory viruses are so common. We've seen virtually no flu this year thanks to that masking and physical distancing. But again, knowing where the United States is as a country, I don't see us keeping mask mandates around forever.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And again, the CDC guideline, if you are gathering with people in small groups like you are with some of your medical colleagues, if you all have been vaccinated, you can do so, but if there is somebody involved there in that small gathering that has not been vaccinated, mask-wearing is still being advised. So Dr. Megan Ranney, stand by. We're going to talk more.

Coming up, coping with coronavirus in the best ways to mark this very difficult year. But first, let's pause and remember the thousands of Americans both young and old who we lost in the last year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:37:01]

WHITFIELD: It has been, it's hard to believe, but it's been one year since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, and experts are drawing attention to a new wave of health problems. Dr. Anthony Fauci says he is very concerned about a post coronavirus mental health pandemic. According to the CDC, more than 6 million emergency room visits last year involved mental health, substance abuse, or domestic violence.

Let's bring in now Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson, a psychologist at the University of Michigan's Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. So good to see you.

RIANA ELYSE ANDERSON, PSYCHOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Likewise.

WHITFIELD: Boy, the past year has taken a toll on everybody in some way, shape, or form. Let's zero in on this mental health issue. Many people have suffered human loss, financial losses, trauma all year long. So what is the best way for so many people to process what is now a marker point, a one-year anniversary?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. And I know so many people right now are thinking about what was I doing one year ago? They're bringing up pictures. They're looking at posts. They're thinking about that was before the year that was.

So what we do know is that folks aren't doing particularly well. As you just indicated, Dr. Fauci has named some of the concerns that he sees ss moving forward. And a lot of the studies that have been conducted in the past month really reemphasized that coping along the lines of drinking, or eating, sleeping problems, they are really being impacted.

And so we're thinking about the ways in which people are grieving, that word that we really need to say, grieving not only the loss of human life, as we've indicated, 530,000 people, not just the loss of human life, but of experiences, of things that they hoped and wished for for the year, and they're turning to things that are not promotive of the most healthful policies and practices for them to engage in to cope at this time.

WHITFIELD: That's a good way of putting it, loss of experiences. There really is a grieving process with that as people assess how much they have missed, besides missing loved ones whose lives have been lost here.

So this new CNN national poll finds 77 percent of Americans say the worst of the pandemic is behind us. From a mental health standpoint, what is the best way to view the pandemic now? Is it safe for people to feel like the worst is behind us?

ANDERSON: Fred, there are two things that I feel about that. So one is that I'm incredibly excited that people are feeling hope and optimism. We know that's an exceptionally important part of our mental health, to feel like there's something to look forward to.

So in a time where folks are being vaccinated at incredible rates, at a time where the weather is warming up, at a time where people, as we just heard in the last segment, are gathering together as they're finding themselves vaccinated, we're seeing a brighter horizon, we're seeing hope in the future.

On the other side of that, we also know that sometimes folks, especially Americans, are more optimistic than the data actually tell us we should be.

[14:40:02]

So we know that 75 percent of adults here in America are feeling stress, are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed. And so to know that there are so many stressors and so many things that we need to tend to with our health and also put that optimism over it means that we have to be willing to heal. We have to be really mindful of what we're currently facing and not try to jump too quickly forward without mending and healing where we currently are.

WHITFIELD: And I feel like that optimism, too, is kind of a coping mechanism for a lot of us, right? It just makes you feel better to make yourself be optimistic and hopeful.

ANDERSON: Sure.

WHITFIELD: So this new study, published by the Public Library of Science finds 21 percent of health care workers have symptoms of depression, 22 percent have experienced anxiety, 21.5 percent experience PTSD. So how can we help our friends and family who work on the front lines?

ANDERSON: Absolutely. So anywhere, as you said, from one in five to one in four, so we're talking even higher in some of the surveys that we've looked at, front line providers that are experiencing the challenges. And again, how could they not, right, thinking about how much --

WHITFIELD: Yes, of course.

ANDERSON: Yes, right, how much they're burdened by that. I think what we can do for them, in much the same way we should be doing for each other, is prioritizing mental health. So if we know that something is on the horizon, what we can do today, March 13th of 2021, that we couldn't do a year ago, March 13th of 2020, is say it's on the horizon, we know it's here.

And rather than being reactive and being sluggish, to do something about it. We can say, if there's a mental health problem that's here and on the horizon, we really need to think about what it would take to change some of our insurance policies so that it's not just four sessions, perhaps, for free. Maybe we're talking about eight or 12 sessions that are being provided.

We're building in a culture within our departments, within our hospitals, within our spaces, to say mental health days off are not only just provided but they're encouraged. So en masse we're giving more days, we're thinking about how do we prioritize something without having to go through a number of written responses or things that we need to do for the protocol. How do we just ensure that you're taking that day and that time for yourself? So I would say not only for essential workers is that important, but

we should be doing that in all spaces, like I do with my students, to say, listen, if you need the day, take it. You don't have to talk with me about it. Take it. We all need this time right now.

WHITFIELD: All great advice. Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson, thank you so much.

Stick around, we've got so much more straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:47:10]

WHITFIELD: Stimulus checks are hitting bank accounts across the country this weekend, right now, as President Biden hits the road to tout his nearly $2 trillion relief plan. Ninety percent of families will receive checks of up to $1,400 per person, but so many families are struggling.

I'm joined now by Michelle Singletary, a syndicated personal finance columnist for "The Washington Post." Michelle, always good to see you, because you are always frank, to the point, and help people figure it all out money-wise. So many families are so far behind. When they receive these checks, it's going to be difficult trying to prioritize. What bills should you pay first? So help people try to prioritize. What do they do once they receive this check?

MICHELLE SINGLETARY, SYNDICATED PERSONAL FINANCE COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": We know that studies show that people do, with the checks, exactly what they should do, which is pay their rent and utilities. I like to say you ought to triage your budget.

So just like if you were in an emergency room, they take the most critical patients first. You pay the most critical bills first. That's the roof over your head, food on the table, utilities, your loan to keep your car, those kinds of things. And all those other debts, just put them on pause until you see a better income stream.

WHITFIELD: And this week, you actually wrote about a significant financial help in this bill for parents, for children in America. How do you see it?

SINGLETARY: I think this bill is going to be a tremendous boost for so many parents of children. And it's going to lift a lot of people out of poverty. You've got $1,400, not just for the parents but for every dependent that you're taking care of. So a disabled adult, even your elderly parents.

And so for parents with children, then there's also an increase in the child tax credit, which by July they'll start getting probably monthly payments, which is going to be a tremendous help, as people still try to get work or go back to work.

WHITFIELD: Do you worry at all about how people will manage what could seem like a real windfall, but there are so many necessities in which to address. Are you worried that people won't know really how to manage it after they've met their rent and utilities and all that that you mentioned?

SINGLETARY: I'm very worried. I run a ministry at my church, so I see people, from people making nothing on unemployment, to people making six figures. And lots of people are struggling across that line. And so they're already behind. And while this money is going to be tremendously helpful, people are still behind in their rent or their mortgage or their other debt. And so it's a help, but it's going to be a struggle still for a lot of families.

[14:50:00]

WHITFIELD: This promise of this money, this package, will help cut the child poverty rate in half, that is tremendous. How do you see it realistically chipping away at that?

SINGLETARY: This all goes into all the things that the Biden administration say they want to do, like lifting, increasing the minimum wage. So it's going to be helpful, because normally they get that one lump sum check or payment when they file their taxes. So now they'll get some money every month.

And that will help with something as simple as buying groceries, right? And these families know how to manage their money. They have so little. We will talk about it that somehow they don't know what to do with the money. They do know. And they know that they aren't making a living wage.

So when they get money like this, which is a hand up, not a hand out, that they are going to use it for the things to take care of their family. And that is all they ever want is for us to help make sure that they make a living wage so they can take care of their families.

WHITFIELD: And quickly, so many women are out of the work force as a result of this. How do you see this package helping them?

SINGLETARY: So it will help them manage for their family and give them a little breathing room maybe to take care of their children, and hopefully find time to look for work. I'm very concerned about that already, right, because we need parents and people working to take care of their families.

WHITFIELD: Michelle Singletary, stand by. We have got so much more straight ahead.

Next, the video we all need after a year of social distancing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take off your mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surprise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:56:28]

WHITFIELD: All right, I want to bring back my panel as we wrap up what it is, a year in this pandemic. So for all of you, just quickly, in a line or two, the silver lining. Dr. Anderson?

ANDERSON: This is not time for business as usual. It's time for radical care. And that's what I'm excited about, that it's a new leaf that we can turn. We can stop and really think about what's necessary for the future, rather than chugging along and really not being well. So I'm excited that we're going to emphasis care and wellness moving forward.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Ranney?

RANNEY: I have seen the power, Fred, of voices and minds coming together to do good. Whether it's through the creation of get us PPE or organizations like COVID tracker, I saw folks, volunteers from the community, doctors, nurses, students, coders coming together to create solutions that literally saved lives. And I have just been so impressed by that power and by the hope that it's created. And I hope we don't lose that.

WHITFIELD: Michelle Singletary?

SINGLETARY: I got an email from a reader who didn't need the stimulus money, and that person said that they were going to donate the money. And I see it as hope that we are going to get through this, and this too shall pass.

WHITFIELD: I think for me, this past year the silver lining has to be being in the moment, whether it means really appreciating, further appreciating the time with my kids or my husband, or even on the phone Facetime with loved ones and friends. That has become much more precious too.

Ladies, thank you so much for your time, your advice, holding our hands throughout all of this, and continuing to do so, because, again, it's not over. We're not out of the woods just yet. Thank you again.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks for being with me this weekend. We'll see you again tomorrow. CNN Newsroom continues in a moment.

But first, the tears and screams of joy as vaccinated grandparents reunite with their kids and grandkids.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take off your mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surprise. (LAUGHTER)

EVELYN SHAW, RECEIVED PRESCRIPTION FOR A HUG: 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 it said, you are allowed to hug your granddaughter. I was definitely not going to let her into my apartment, even though had I completed my COVID -- my vaccines. I was stuck in COVID land. And having this prescription from my doctor, gave me the courage to let her in. Just hugging and hugging and crying and crying for the first time in a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Granddad!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, grand dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's up, big boy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I missed you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I missed you too. I love you guys!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I missed you all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)