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Defiant Cuomo Digs In; Italy Braces For New Lockdown; Experts Warn Vaccine Hesitancy May Delay Herd Immunity Goals; Schools Weigh Pandemic Fears With Crushing Toll On Students; Study Shows Attacks On Asian-Americans Rise During Pandemic; Hospitals And ICUs Across Brazil Near Peak Capacity. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 13, 2021 - 19:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Possible damaging wind gust and large hail. Well, help is finally here for millions of Americans in need as the first COVID Relief payments start hitting bank accounts. A defiant Governor Andrew Cuomo digging in even as senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand call him to quit over sexual harassment claims.

Plus alarming news out of Italy tonight where the country is on the brink of another lockdown as new COVID Variants take hold. And a massive outpouring of emotion and anger in London after a police officer is charged with the kidnap and murder of a young woman. I'm Pamela Brown in Washington, welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

You are in the CNN newsroom on this Saturday. Great to have you along with us. And tonight New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is clinging to power in the face of multiple allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted advances. But he is increasingly isolated as many top state democrats call on him to resign after a new accusation in New York Magazine.

In the piece, a former political reporter who covered the Cuomo administration says the governor sexually harassed her in front of colleagues on multiple occasions. She joins the growing list of women coming forward with allegations against Cuomo. But he is denying any wrongdoing and refusing to resign tonight.

CNN, Athena Jones is in Albany, New York. So Athena, what do we know about these new allegations?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Pamela. Well, they're coming from, as you said, a journalist and Jessica Bakeman, who was a former Capitol beat reporter here in Albany having covered the Capitol for several years. She writes in a first person piece in New York, New York magazine about what it was like to cover Governor Cuomo and alleges multiple instances of sexual harassment.

Here's some of what she writes. She says, "Andrew Cuomo's hands had been on my body, on my arms, my shoulders, the small of my back, my waist often enough." She later says, "Cuomo never let me forget, I was a woman." Now Bakeman, in this piece describes her job as being essentially to report on the governor's every move.

And she says that these - these unwanted touches made her feel uncomfortable enough that she didn't even want to go to the holiday party at the Executive Mansion that she writes about in 2014 when she was 25. She says - she describes her interactions with the governor at that party saying he put his other arm around my back his hand on my waist and held me firmly in place and said, "I'm sorry, am I making you uncomfortable? I thought we were going steady."

"I stood there in stunned silence, shocked and humiliated. But of course, that was the point."

So she explains that she felt humiliated because this joke about them going steady took place right in front of her colleagues. She said that she never thought that the governor's actions were about wanting to have sex with her, but more about power, wanting to make her feel powerless.

And she says that it when it comes to women, the women who work for him, he uses touching and sexual innuendo to stoke fear in us. That is the textbook definition of sexual harassment. Now CNN has reached out to Bakeman for comment on these allegations. We've not heard back. We've also reached out to the governor's office for comment on these latest specific allegations. They have not responded.

But the governor did address the allegations overall during his press conference on Friday, listen to what he had to say then.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to canceled culture and the truth. Let the review proceed. I'm not going to resign. I was not elected by the politicians. I was elected by the people. I never harassed anyone. I never assaulted anyone. I never abused anyone.

To the extent you get these people who say well, he took a picture with me and I was uncomfortable. I apologize for that. I have not had a sexual relationship that was inappropriate, period.


JONES: And so the governor continues to say he did nothing wrong. He's not going to resign. Women should have the right to come forward and be heard. But he's urging the public to let the investigations play out, to wait for the facts. Pamela.

BROWN: And Governor Cuomo is now the subject of an impeachment investigation. How could that play out?

JONES: That's right. So first, we're - there's going to be an investigation led by the New York assemblies Judiciary Committee, and then there'd have to be a vote to impeach in the assembly. There are 150 members, it would have to be 76 members voting in favor of impeachment, then if that happens if the governor were to be impeached, then the Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul would be taking over then. And the governor would stand trial in the Senate.

It's similar to what you see down in Washington, but in this case, the jurors would be the senators as well as the judges on the Court of Appeals, so there 63 senators, seven judges on the court of appeals, they would have to be a two-thirds vote to convict the governor.


So that is how the process would play out, many steps to go. Right now, just the investigation part, Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Athena Jones, thanks so much for the latest there in Albany, New York. We're one year into the Coronavirus Pandemic. And it seems our future is just teetering on the razor's edge. On one hand, there is so much encouraging news about vaccines and President Joe Biden is holding out the possibility that July 4 could mark the beginning of the end.

But at the same time, some areas like the entire state of Texas, are casting off mass mandates and reopening bars and restaurants. Listen to what this Houston doctor said about that.


DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER, HOUSTON: There are very few things that you know, people can predict, but I am sure we're going to have a surge. The last two days, I've already started to see a surge in cases. If you come to Texas, you would say hey, the Pandemic disappeared overnight. It is amazing.

You go outside, all the clubs are packed, people not wearing masks. It's very disappointing.


BROWN: And check this, more people boarded airplanes Friday than any other day since the start of the pandemic. And more than 1.3 million people pass through TSA checkpoints, the most since March 15 of 2020 even though the CDC is still urging people to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

And so far more than 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across the country but for many people, vaccine hesitancy is a very real fear and that means a very real concern for the rest of us. CNN's Miguel Marquez has more.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As coronavirus vaccinations pick up steam, some aren't convinced it's safe. Enough of them could make it tougher to get back to pre-Pandemic life.

JENNA PEDONE, NEW HAMPSHIRE RESIDENT, WON'T GET COVID VACCINATION: I think that people should be allowed to choose - to have medical freedom. MARQUEZ: Jenna Pedone, a pharmacist says she takes coronavirus

seriously, isn't opposed to vaccines but thinks getting one for COVID- 19 is a matter of individual choice.

PEDONE: It doesn't matter what Trump did. It doesn't matter what Biden's doing. What matters is do I get the choice to say what's good for me?

MARQUEZ: Nursing assistant and mom of three Seouquia Downs, her youngest only five weeks old says she won't get the coronavirus vaccine because she does not believe the virus is a threat to her.

SEOUQUIA DOWNS, NEW HAMPSHIRE RESIDENT, WON'T GET COVID VACCINATION: I feel like, I would be able to get - if I was to get sick, I'd get natural immunity to it and I would be you know - it wouldn't be as detrimental to me as someone else.

MARQUEZ: Both Downs and Pedone say they support a bill making its way to the New Hampshire state House barring punishment against those who refuse any coronavirus Vaccine.

TIM LANG (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE HOUSE: We introduced House Bill 220, which is Medical Freedom Act.

MARQUEZ: The Granite State one of 10 says the National Council of State Legislature is currently considering legislation allowing citizens to opt out of vaccinations, protect them from being punished for not getting it or prohibit certain institutions from requiring them.

LANG: - that the state should never mandate to the 1.3 million citizens in New Hampshire, some sort of medical intervention they all have to have.

MARQUEZ: Lang expects the bill to pass with bipartisan support after amending it to allow several exceptions like school vaccinations and some law enforcement medical emergencies.

Is there any concern that we will not get to that herd immunity?

LANG: I actually do not think this bill will change the vaccination. We don't have mandatory vaccines right now and people are still getting vaccinated.

MARQUEZ: When it comes to hesitancy about getting the coronavirus vaccine, polls show a higher degree of skepticism among Republicans. In a new CNN poll, 46 percent of Republicans nationwide said they would not try to get the vaccine.

Here in New Hampshire, 45 percent of Republicans said they almost certainly or probably would not get vaccinated.


BROWN: And that was CNN's Miguel Marquez reporting from New Hampshire there. Well overseas this weekend, coronavirus cases are again surging in Italy and the government is responding by locking down half the country. CNN's Delia Gallagher is in Rome this evening, Delia.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pam, Italians are preparing to move back into lockdown starting on Monday half of Italy's 20 regions including cities like Rome, Milan, Venice, will be on full lockdown and the weekend of Easter, normally so busy here will be a national lockdown. Authorities are saying that these measures are necessary because of the rise in transmission rate due to variants.

The variant first identified in the UK, they say is now prevalent in Italy and the variant first identified in Brazil is showing small clusters in Italy. So these measures are being taken to help bring that rate of transmission down. The Prime Minister Mario Draghi spoke to the country yesterday, here's a little bit of what he had to say.



MARIO DRAGHI, ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The memory of what happened last spring is still vivid, and we will do everything possible to prevent it from happening again. On the basis of scientific proof, the government has adopted restrictive measures today that we think are appropriate and proportionate.


GALLAGHER: And Pam, the Prime Minister adding that he wants to expand and accelerate the vaccination program. Italy is currently vaccinating about 170,000 people a day. Prime Minister Mario Draghi saying he intends to triple that. Obviously that would be a key element to help move Italy out of this situation. Pam?

BROWN: All right, Delia, thanks so much for that and lots more coming up this hour including actress and comedian Margaret Cho on the spike of crimes against Asian-Americans. And I'll ask the 2020 Teacher of the Year what it will take to stop the infighting and get kids back into the classroom.

And the next hour Austin Mayor Steve Adler on his public feud with the Texas AG over his city's mask mandate. But first, after losing the White House, Senate Republicans are trying to create a new standard and the right to vote. Use it or lose it. Election Law expert David Becker joins me next to discuss the court battles that could affect your right to vote. Stay with us.




BROWN: Well, the latest flashpoint in the fight over voting is Arizona. Nearly two dozen bills that would restrict voting had been introduced in the state this year. Now some would limit the popular vote by mail system in place since 2007 that accounts for nearly 80 percent of the state's votes. One bill gaining support in the Arizona house would remove people who

skip two consecutive election cycles from the permanent early voting list. You're trying to create a new standard and the right to vote, use it or lose it. Measures like this are being marketed by Republicans as an effort to bolster election security and integrity.

But Arizona Secretary of State challenged that line of thinking yesterday.


KATIE HOOBS, ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: There was no fraud found in our state in the last election. And you know, we do count all legal votes in the state. So this is just solutions in search of a problem that doesn't exist.


BROWN: So she had those a point Republican Governor Doug Ducey made in November when he tweeted, "In Arizona we have some of the strongest election laws in the country. We've got ID at the polls, we review every signature every single one on early ballots by hand unlike other states that use computers, prohibitions on ballot harvesting, bipartisan poll observers, clear deadlines, including no ballots allowed after Election Day. The problems that exist in other states simply don't apply here."

Again, that was from the Arizona governor. So we have to ask this is this about fraud, or better Republican odds? This week, Arizona State Representative John Kavanagh who chairs the government and Elections Committee may have provided that answer telling CNN, listen to this, "Republicans are more concerned about fraud. So we don't mind putting security measures in that won't let everybody vote.

But everybody shouldn't be voting." He adds, "Not everybody wants to vote. And if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they're totally uninformed on the issues. Quantity is important but we have to look at the quality of votes as well."

For the record, the right to vote is not predicated on how informed an American is. There is no quality standard for the type of American who gets to vote. There used to be during a shameful period of American history in the Jim Crow era when literacy tests were used to screen voters.

So when these bills make it to Governor Ducey's desk, he will have to decide whether to sign on to this fraudulent fraud angle by signing them into law or stand by what he and his secretary of state have been saying about Arizona's election security and veto the measures.

We want to make sure you know that we reached out to Ducey's office, but they declined to come on to discuss the issue or comment further. Election expert, law expert David Becker joins me now. He is executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research.

David, you have been on the frontlines looking at everything that has taken place since the election looking at all of these bills that these legislators are trying to pass. But first off before we get to that, what is your big takeaway from 2020 in terms of election integrity and fraud?

DAVID BECKER, ELECTION LAW EXPERT: Yes, thanks so much for having me, Pamela. It's so important to think about what we just saw on that 2020 election cycle. It was undeniably, factually speaking, reality was that this was the most accurate, secure and transparent election we've ever held in American history.

Voter lists were more accurate than ever before, states have been sharing much more data on people who've moved, people who've died to clean up their voter lists than ever before. They have a lot more contact with people by mail, which gives them a lot of feedback as to whether people have moved.

There are more paper ballots, which are auditable than ever before in American history, nearly 95 percent of all Americans voted on auditable paper ballots, including all of the ballots in all of the battleground states, every single battleground state had paper ballots. We saw much more cooperation between the federal government like the Department of Homeland Security and the state election offices and the local election offices and sharing information about potential threats, cyber threats and other things like that.

We saw more pre-election litigation than ever before setting the rules for this election, which both sides knew. Trump's campaign won some of those lawsuits. Biden's campaign won some of those lawsuits but everyone knew what the rules were going into Election Day, which was so important. We saw more post-election litigation than ever before by far.


And this was a little different because not a single court found that there were significant irregularities or fraud, despite over 60 cases being filed. And we did this all in the context of a global pandemic, where nevertheless, we saw more turnout than ever before in American history.

It's really remarkable. Over 20 million more voters than voted in 2016, two-thirds of all eligible voters voting, which is the highest rate, since universal suffrage and women were given the right to vote in the early 20th century. This is actually a triumph of American democracy.

And that's why it's so disappointing to see legislation being considered that might roll back some of the infrastructure that enabled that triumph of American democracy.

BROWN: So given what you just laid out, that this was the most secure election in history, you laid out a number of markers why that is, do you think what these Republican legislators are trying to do is purely political, because what you're saying is that this election was more secure than when Trump won and four years ago, or more than four years ago, and we did not see the legislature is taking the same kind of steps.

So do you see - do you view this as purely political?

BECKER: Yes, I think it probably is largely political. I think it's always a bad idea when partisans, and historically, it hasn't been just Republicans, although it is Republicans right now and it certainly hasn't been equivalent by any means. But when partisans try to game the election rules, so they can enhance their possibility of winning an election in the future, that's really dangerous.

That's bad policy, it usually ends up backfiring on the party that's doing it. But it's particularly troubling when it happens after tremendous success right now. If you look at a state like Georgia, with three recounts of all of the - all of the presidential ballots. Their first election with paper ballots in two decades, tremendously accurate voter lists, automatic voter registration in Georgia. Georgia is being attacked and yet it actually in many ways is a model for the nation.

BROWN: Let me ask you this, though on the flip side of all of this House democrats passed H.R. 1, the 'For the People Act.' And they say it's to counter this Republican wave of legislation aiming to expand federal voting rights and limit gerrymandering. But if Democrats say, if the 2020 election was such a success, so secure, does this legislation undercut that argument?

BECKER: Well, I think there's a lot of good in H.R. 1, and I can understand why Democrats in the people who've supported it do support it. I think what H.R. 1 is trying to do and what is really good policy, whether it's in H.R. 1 or somewhere else, is to take the things that we have seen work in the states.

The states have been the leaders on this, the laboratories of democracy. We have seen states offer extensive early voting and mail voting, that's not only good for voter convenience, it's also good for election security, because it's an early warning system for any potential fraud, or some kind of cyber threat that might interfere with the election process.

We saw about over 60 percent of all ballots being cast early this year, which is another reason we know it was so secure, but things like online voter registration, automatic voter registration, other aspects of the election process like that, that has really been led by the states, in many cases, as many Republican states as it has been Democratic states and trying to enshrine that into law and create a higher floor for all American voters. That's generally a pretty good idea.

BROWN: All right, David Becker, thank you. I hope you will come back on the show as we continue to cover this really important topic. We appreciate it.

BECKER: Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: Well, it's one of the most hotly debated topics in the country right now. When will kids be back in the classroom? The National Teacher of the Year joins me live to discuss that. Up next.




BROWN: Well, it has been one year since millions of students last set foot inside a classroom and ever since we have heard debate after debate about when and how to bring students back to school safely amid the Pandemic. Many Teachers' Unions say they want to be back but they have resisted the return until schools can be proven safe.


BECKY PRINGLE, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: All of them want nothing more than to be in person with their students. That's how they were trained to teach and work with them. And they miss them. They want to be back in person.


BROWN: And as for students, the negative impact on their mental health and education is becoming clearer. CNN Jake Tapper pressed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on what's stopping schools from safely opening right now.


MIGUEL CARDONA, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: I'd like to think that in many places we can do that this spring. I know schools that are functioning all day, every day, five days a week for all students currently. It is a process, this is unprecedented. I mean, you know, we are in the middle of a pandemic. I do feel that they're following the science and I do think that this is hard work. There is no playbook for this in any leadership course.

In a few weeks, before the end of March, we're going to have a national summit on school reopening where we're going to have experts and we're going to have, as you mentioned, districts that have found success doing this. Talking to other districts and sharing their best practices but also sharing the challenges that they had so we can learn from those districts.


BROWN: Well, Tabatha Rosproy joins me live now. She is the National Teacher of the Year for 2020.


Tabatha, great to have you on. Bottom line, first question, would you feel safer turning to in-person teaching right now.

TABATHA ROSPROY, 2020 NATIONAL TEACHER OF THE YEAR: You know, I think that is definitely the hard question and personally, no, without full protection from this vaccine, without knowing that my students and their families are protected. I think there are many teachers like myself who don't feel comfortable being face-to-face in the classroom even when they are being asked to do that right now everyday.

BROWN: So what do you say to those who would push back and say, look, teachers are classified as essential employees, so why can't they go to work like doctors or nurses, grocery story workers, bus drivers even they don't have full immunity?

ROSPROY: You know, I think that all essential workers, including all those groups that you just mentioned should have access and the opportunity to get the vaccine before they are asked to put themselves in harm's way, and I think that is the most important thing that we do to protect both our students and our educators.

BROWN: And this is such a tough issue, I know in so many ways. You know, the Education Secretary said part of the challenge is the fear and concerns about whether or not the schools are safe enough to reopen.

How do you balance what the science says, what the C.D.C. says that you know, you can reopen with these mitigation efforts, even if a teacher isn't fully vaccinated. With the emotional response from these teachers who are just flat out scared for good reason.

ROSPROY: You know, I think our emotional wellbeing is something that is often overlooked in times of crisis, but it's one that -- that is something we end up playing for or dealing with for years to come after any kind of trauma or any kind of change in our lives.

And so often, I think, during disappointment or loss like we are all going through right now, we are looking for someone to blame, and families are looking to blame the school and school is upset with the families.

But I think, we ultimately all want the same thing. We want kids back in school and we have to be able to take care of ourselves physically, but we have to take care of ourselves emotionally first, and right now, if we can't get those safety protocols in place that the C.D.C. has lined out for us, then it is just not safe to be in-person, and I think that is how we tell our teachers we care about you. We tell our students we care about you. We take care of their physical health so we can take care of their mental health.

BROWN: Look, I have all respect for teachers. My sister is a teacher. I know how difficult this is. You talk about the emotional wellbeing of teachers, but there is another side of this and that is the rise in mental health issues among children and adolescents.

There are many studies out there that the closing of schools can set children back for life, not to mention a strain on parents and especially mothers, two million of whom have left the workforce to care for their kids. So in light of that, what is your response? Should teachers still hold out on returning to school given these adverse effects? ROSPROY: I absolutely think that the mental health of students is --

it's my main concern even outside of the pandemic. But what I think that we have to understand is that we can't do this alone.

Schools can't be the scapegoat in this pandemic. What we need is we need communities to work together so that schools can stay open.

We can put a ton of strategies in place in school, most of them don't have the space for six feet of distancing. They don't have proper ventilation, but we can require masks, and we can do our best, but what really matters is that the community is also following guidelines outside of the school walls.

It's in their hands directly that our schools stay open. It's in our hands and the choices that I make outside of and when I am in school and we need each other so that we can care for our emotional needs of our students.

BROWN: So you're talking talk about the community going together. What about whether or not there should be a standard for schools not opened yet to be communicating with schools that have safely opened to learn from them, and also, do you think there should be a summer school requirement?

ROSPROY: I think it's a great idea to learn from each other. I mean, as educators, as human beings, we are each other's best resource, and you know, through stories, it is how we learn from each other.

As for summer school, I think that that should be an option for children who need it. You know, when I'm faced as a Special Education teacher or someone who works with English language learners, I see the barriers in the learning even face-to-face. There are setbacks because it's from behind a mask when they cannot pick up on those social cues and those facial expressions they need to learn.

So, I think it should definitely be an option, but not a requirement.

BROWN: All right, Tabatha Rosproy, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your perspective on this really difficult and challenging issue.

ROSPROY: Thank you.

BROWN: And tomorrow, we want to let you know that a parent on the other side of this issue who is pushing for schools to reopen in her school district will be on the show, so we will talking to her.

Well, another negative impact of the effect of the pandemic has been the sharp rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans across the country. So what needs to be done to stop it? Actress and comedienne, Margaret Cho joins me live to discuss.


[19:39:06] BROWN: A pandemic of hatred seems to be riding shotgun with the

coronavirus. Civil rights groups that keep track of anti-Asian attacks in the U.S. say there has been a steep uptick over the court of the pandemic, both verbal and physical assault. You are seeing this in this video we are showing you right now.

Just this week, we are seeing these reports of alleged hate crimes. In New York, a grandmother was punched and spat in the face. In Washington, a teacher hit with a rock in a sock, breaking her nose, and in California, a 75-year-old man is dead after being knocked to the ground.

One study from California State University found anti-Asian attacks in 16 of the biggest U.S. cities spike nearly 150 percent in 2020, and another found that women are more than twice as likely to get attacked than men.

It has gone so bad that President Biden called out the hate in his address to the nation on Thursday.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Too often, we've turned against one another. A mask, the easiest thing to do to save lives, sometimes it divides us. States pitted against one another, instead of working with each other.

Vicious hate crimes against Asian-Americans who have been attacked, harassed, blamed and scapegoated. At this very important, so many of them, our fellow Americans, they're on the frontlines of this pandemic trying to save lives and still -- still -- they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America.

It's wrong. It's un-American and it must stop.


BROWN: I want to talk about this with Golden Globe, Grammy and Emmy nominated actress and comedienne, Margaret Cho. Margaret, thank you for coming on the show.


BROWN: First off, what is your reaction to President Biden acknowledging the problem in his address to the nation?

CHO: I'm really glad that the President was able to really undo a lot of what the former President was doing with his constant calling coronavirus the Kung Flu and the China virus. You know, this kind of casual racism has deep effects in the way that we are being treated, and so I'm grateful to our President now for his words.

BROWN: It's so troubling to say the least to see how these numbers have risen in the last year. It's also believed that the actual number of incidents is a lot higher because some of the victims don't want to report them. Why do you think that is?

CHO: Well, I think there is it a lot of shame and a kind of stoic belief that if we hang on to this pain and don't share with it other people, that there can be some way of it maybe never happening and I think that throughout history, the Asian community has really had a stigma towards calling for help, asking for mental help.

Any kind of thing that is really making a stand out because of our suffering. It is a form of losing face, which is a kind of an Asian thing that you know, we are always avoiding. But these are old cultural forms that we have to get rid of.

Racism is real and it is happening to us and you should be able to understand that people shouldn't be racist. People should not be racist. We are not at fault here. We didn't cause this mysterious disease, but it is somehow being blamed on us.

BROWN: I mean, it's insane, right? I mean, it is ridiculous that anyone would blame you -- any Asian-American on this. I mean, how do you combat ignorant people like this who think that because the first coronavirus case was in China, that Asians are to blame? Like what do you do to combat that?

CHO: I think it's really just talking about it like we are here, by making our voices heard whether it's through social media or just talking with anybody that we know this this is an outrage, and I think that people know better.

You would think that in this day and era, people would understand that racism is wrong and that you can't blame a race of people for something that affects everyone. It's really a very strange thing. But there is a lot of rage out there, there is a lot of economic instability.

People don't know what to do with their emotions. They don't know what is going on, and so they want to lash out at the other. And this goes on to our invisibility as Asians in American culture.

So, we seem like the other or we are the crazy rich Asians or the Bling Empire, so we are either invisible or unapproachable, and those are both very dangerous dehumanizing ideas.

BROWN: Certainly.

The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate says women are more than twice as likely to be attacked than men -- does that surprise you? What does it tell you about that attackers and what's going on here?

CHO: You know, unfortunately, it doesn't surprise me, and what is really sad is they are attacking the elderly. They are attacking people who cannot physically defend themselves. They are attacking people who just aren't going out and doing whatever they are doing, it's really sad and very ignorant and it's out of fear and ignorance that it is happening.

BROWN: Have you or anyone close to you experienced this kind of discrimination before? And have you noticed a change in the last year?

CHO: The way that I have experienced it really throughout my life especially in the entertainment industry is through invisibility. So the way that we as Asian-Americans currently experience racism is mostly through that, the nonrepresentation of our lives.

And so being confronted with this kind of racism is very shocking to me. Personally, I haven't had an attack. I think anybody would be very scared if they came across me. I'm quite intimidating when I want to be.


CHO: But it's not something that I can really say has -- I mean, it has affected us all as a community, we as Asian-Americans we are just devastated.

BROWN: It should affect every single person in this country. It is a serious issue, and so troubling. Margaret Cho, thank you for coming on to raise awareness about it.

CHO: Thank you.

BROWN: And the search for racial justice is overtaking the streets of Louisville, Kentucky today. Demonstrators marched to mark, it was a year ago today when Breonna Taylor was gunned down in a botched police raid. Taylor's mother tells CNN she still seeks accountability as none of the four officers involved has been charged in Taylor's death.

No knock warrants are now banned in Louisville and the family received a $12 million settlement.

President Biden tweeting today, quote: "As we continue to mourn her, we just press ahead to pass meaningful police reform in Congress. I remain committed to signing a landmark reform bill into law."

Well, coronavirus is taking a heavy toll on Brazil. ICUs across the country are nearly full. Hospitals are running out of oxygen and one of the biggest cities there is almost out of vaccines. We are following it all, stay with us.



BROWN: Imagine this. In the midst of a pandemic that attacks the lungs, running out of supplemental oxygen. Well, that is the situation in one Brazilian state where hospitals only have enough oxygen for 15 more days. There are no local plants capable of producing more. It must all be imported from other parts of the country.

The situation is dire across much of Brazil as an aggressive strain of COVID-19 challenges efforts to contain it.

Brazil's President is telling people to quote, "stop whining" even though ICUs are almost completely full, and experts worry the health system is on the verge of collapse. CNN's Isa Soares explains.


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 failure to contain the virus.

Back in Porto Alegre, Barboza says for 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.


BROWN: Well, President Biden says help has arrived. Some Americans are already getting long awaited relief checks. But will be it enough to help the U.S. outrun the pandemic?

Details ahead.