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President Biden Touting His COVID Relief Package; Italy on Lockdown Amid Rising Cases; Growing Concern Over AstraZeneca Vaccine; Military Declares Martial Law in Myanmar; Syrian Civil War Paralyzes Children's Future; Outrage Grows in the United Kingdom Over Police Response to Everard Vigil; British Airways Wants Fewer Restrictions on Air Travel; Brazilian Hospitals Overwhelmed by COVID Cases; Rockies and Western Plains Hit with Heavy Snow and Blizzard Condition; Falcon 9 Rocket Makes Record Ninth Flight and Landing. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 15, 2021 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (on camera): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, the White House gets ready for ambitious tour, touting the benefits of its new COVID bill. There's more behind, many Italians are waking up to a strict lockdown amid a rise in coronavirus variants, we are live in Rome with details.

And more protests are planned in Myanmar, despite one of the deadliest days of demonstrations since the coup last month.

Thanks for being with us.

U.S. President Joe Biden is kicking off a nationwide messaging blitz to promote his newly past COVID relief package. It starts today with a speech at the White House. And as our John Harwood reports, the president wants people to know there is more to it than the checks arriving in bank accounts.


JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Last week, Congress pass Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, this week President Biden and his team hit the road to promote the legislation. It's already broadly popular in the polls, it won't hurt that those $1,400 per person COVID relief checks have already started hitting American bank accounts over the weekend.

But President Biden wants to make sure people understand other benefits in the bill, including expanded child tax credits, aid to state and local governments, expanded healthcare subsidies, and, also aid to small businesses that didn't qualify for previous rounds. The sales job will include first lady, Joe Biden who will go to New Hampshire and New Jersey, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff who will to Nevada and Colorado.

And the president himself will make remarks at the White House on Monday. Then head to Pennsylvania on Tuesday, in Georgia on Friday. Now Georgia and Pennsylvania of course are two very important swing states in the elections we saw last November, they also have got big Senate races in 2022.

So that's one of the reasons they are being targeted. Underscoring the political impact, to the importance of the bill, there is also a super PAC that has begun airing ads of hailing President Biden's accomplishment on COVID relief with a simple tagline. Joe Biden kept his word.

John Hardwood, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH (on camera): Well, new restrictions are now in effect in most of Italy in an effort to curb a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases. Italians spend one final evening out on Sunday before the start of the strict lockdown. Additionally, there will be a national lockdown over Easter weekend.

And the Netherlands and Ireland are joining a growing list of countries pausing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots in some adults. AstraZeneca says its analysis shows no evidence of an increased risk in vaccine recipients.

CNN's Melissa Bell joins us now from Rome with more on Italy's new restrictions and Cyril Vanier is in London with these growing concerns over AstraZeneca's vaccine. Welcome to you both.

So, Melissa, starting with you. Italians are waking up to these new restrictions as cases rise, and vaccination stall. What is behind that spike in cases? And how tough will this new lockdown be?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a word really, Rosemary, those new variants that have been causing such trouble to these European countries that had basically at the time a second wave managed to get their figures back under control. The British variant in particular now represents more than half of all new cases in Italy. Hence, this new lockdown just over a year after Italy became the center of the European outbreak, you'll remember, back in March, and introduce that lockdown.

One year on, more than 100,000 deaths later, here it is again. Now let me show you maybe if we can, a little map of the country to give you an idea of how this is going to work. Essentially, the country is split in two. You have red zones and then you have the orange zones where the restrictions are slightly less stringent. Not quite as harsh as they are in those red zones.

And the difference essentially, is that in red zones you can't leave your house unless it is to go out to work or for health reasons. Let me show you the Piazza del Popolo behind me, you'll have an idea of what places are in those red zones look like. So, essentially, you're talking about some of those populous zones of Italy, so around Rome, Milan, and Venice.


This is what it looks like. very few people, those heading out to work or for health reasons, that's what you're going to see on the streets. Out in the orange zones what it means is that there will be some nonessential shops open, and you can take -- get take away, for instance, from restaurants and things like that.

But basically, the big thing as we've seen over and over again in these lockdowns, whether or not school children can actually get to school. Basically in the orange zones, it was up to the districts themselves, the regions to make that decision, the result is that from this morning in this new introduction of these harsher restrictions of the 8.3 million Italian school children, seven million will be back at home. And that of course is a massive blow to parents, and a massive blow, Rosemary, to the economy.

CHURCH: Absolutely. Melissa, many thanks to you. Cyril, let's go to you now. And two more countries, Ireland and the Netherlands suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clots. But any proof of a direct link here?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Rosemary, that is a great question, a great way to frame it. That's what everybody wants to know. The short answer is no. There is no proof of causality between adverse health effects, including deaths that were recorded in Europe and the vaccination. OK? And that is at the heart of this question.

It is undeniable that deaths were reported, one in Austria a week ago today, one in Denmark, and one in Italy. Two of those deaths were caused by blood clots, and that is why there is concern that AstraZeneca vaccine from some countries believe or are concerned, rather, that it may cause blood clots and blood coagulation. But there is no proof.

And a majority of European countries at this stage believe that it is safe, and are continuing to vaccinate their people, inoculate their people with this vaccine, AstraZeneca, which has data from people that's vaccinated all around the world, 17 million people, says that all that data is bringing back information that the vaccine is safe and well tolerated.

And the European Medicines Agency also agrees with that saying that as of last Wednesday, five million people, five million cases of people who had been vaccinated with that show no increased events of blood clotting then in the normal population. That's to say, the people who hadn't received the vaccine.

In the case of the Netherlands, which just suspended AstraZeneca vaccinations is really interesting, Rosemary. Because four days ago, they were in the camp of those saying that there is no causality and no reason to pause the vaccine. And they now, four days later have changed their minds.

In lights of new information that they received this weekend, they say coming from Denmark and Norway of new cases of adverse health reactions. So, where these adverse health reactions happening just after the vaccine? Or are they happening because of the vaccine?

There is now more than a third of the European countries that don't have the answer to that question, but have enough concerns and enough doubts that they want to put things on pause pending an investigation by the European Medicines Agency, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. We'll keep an eye on all of this, must be driven by the data of course. Cyril Vanier bringing us the very latest from London. Many thanks.

Joining me now from New Haven, Connecticut, Dr. Saad Omer. He is the director of the Yale Institute for Global Health. Thank you, doctor, for talking with us and for all that you do.


CHURCH: So, Dr. Anthony Fauci says three feet of social distancing in schools may be sufficient to get kids back to in-person learning. And CDC guidance about this, apparently, may come soon. He also says most guidelines will be relaxed by July 4th if cases dropped. Do you share his enthusiasm here --

OMER: Yes.

CHURCH: -- even with all of the variants out there?

OMER: I do share his overall sense of enthusiasm mixed with some caution. So, I think what he seems to be saying is that we still need a lot of efforts to keep children safe at school and the teachers safe at school. For example, this kind of guidance of three feet can come in the context of other CDC guidelines which mean, which imply and which recommend that schools can be open safely once the community transmission goes down, so which is going down in several communities right now.

And on top of that, teachers and school staff are getting vaccinated. So in that context, with masks and other requirements, I think it's reasonable to say that, you know, you can reduce the distance from six feet to three feet, and plus, in the context of, you know, better ventilation, and so on and so forth.

So that applies to easing up on some of the recommended restrictions generally through July. So, I do share that overall sense of cautious optimism.


CHURCH: Right, that is great news. Even with three viable COVID vaccines being administered very quickly across the United States, how worried are you about setbacks? Particularly after seeing images of people partying during spring break, no masks, no social distancing, and still those variants out there?

OMER: Well, so while I am cautiously optimistic, we are not out of the woods. Because these variants of concern should give us caution, because we know that they transmit more effectively, at least some of them than the current type of virus or the previous type of virus. And they are spread fast. Especially the U.K. variant, the so-called B117 variant that was initially identified in the U.K. is spreading really fast.

And so, while we can do more activities than before especially vaccinated individuals can do more to activities than before, and we can focus on opening up schools with a lot of other protections in place, including testing, masks, ventilation, and teacher vaccination.

This is not the time to have large indoor or semi indoor gatherings. Like spring break parties where there are a lot of people there is less than optimal ventilation at least indoors, and it seems that people are not taking other precautions like masks, and so on and so forth.

CHURCH: And why do you think Italy has experienced this setback and needs to go into another lockdown? Is that basically a wakeup call to everyone else?

OMER: Yes, it's a wakeup call to everyone else that we cannot take this for granted that the rates of infection and deaths are coming down. It does not mean that it will be a permanent state if we go back to before. We do think that a -- if there is a future wave, it may not be as drastic as our winter wave, but still, you know, even now, there are 1,500 people dying every day and so we are not, you know, in the clear right now.

And so, therefore, we need to stay vigilant, things will get better, things are getting better. Precautions and recommendations are going in the directions of easing up on some of these restrictions. But I think it's a matter of doing it responsibly and gradually.

CHURCH: It's an important message. Dr. Saad Omer, thank you so much for talking with us. I appreciate it.

OMER: My pleasure.

CHURCH: And still to come on CNN Newsroom, Myanmar's army looks to tighten its brutal grip on power, what we are learning about Sunday's deadly crackdown.

And Syria marks 10 years of a vicious civil war. We will show you what it's like for a generation of children raised in conflict.



CHURCH (on camera): There are reports of Myanmar's junta is expanding martial law over parts of Yangon. It is the latest sign that generals aim to put an end to civilian rule. Security forces killed at least 38 protesters on Sunday, and one of the country's deadliest day since the military coup last month. The United Nations has condemned the bloodshed. More demonstrations against the coup are planned for today. CNN's Paula Hancocks is following developments in the region for us in

Seoul, she joins us now live. So, Paula, after one of the deadliest days since the military coup, we are now seeing martial law expanded in more areas. What is the latest on all of this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, this is six neighborhoods now in Yangon, the most popular city that now have martial law declared in them. They are mostly industrial areas. They are areas where we have seen a number of deaths on Sunday that the largest number of deaths is in one of those areas.

And the reason we believe that martial law has been declared there is there is also some Chinese funded factories in that area. They were some of the damage, some of the burned down, we don't know exactly who carried that out at this point, but China had said to the military leadership according to CGTN that they wanted to make sure that their properties and also their citizens were protected.

So that could well be why we're seeing that in these particular areas. There is no doubt that the security forces are increasing the level of violence, and the level of force that they're using against the protesters. According to one NGO, AAPP, they say that more than 126 people have now been killed since the February 1st coup.

But when we speak to activists on the ground, they say that the number of deaths is likely far higher than that. That is just the ones that can be confirmed at this point. The NGO also saying that well over 2,100 people have either been arrested or charged or sentenced.

So certainly, we are seeing a higher level of brutality by the military forces at this point. And certainly, it has been condemned across the board by the United Nations. We heard from the special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, condemning the, quote, "continuing bloodshed." Also saying that she had personally had heard from contacts in Myanmar accounts of mistreatment of demonstrators, accounts of killings, and also tortures of prisoners over the weekend.

But no matter how much international condemnation there has been and that is certainly increasing, it doesn't seem to be making any difference whatsoever to what is happening on the ground. The military leadership is unaffected by this condemnation at this point and the brutality is continuing. Rosemary?


CHURCH (on camera): All right. Our Paula Hancocks, many thanks for bringing us up to date on the situation in Myanmar.

Well, top U.S. diplomats are about to embark on the first cabinet level overseas trip of the Biden administration. In just a few hours, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will arrive in Tokyo. In a few days, they will head to Seoul.

In a joint op-ed published Sunday in the Washington Post, the two said this trip is a chance for the U.S. to, quote, "recommit to our shared goals, values, and responsibilities." A prominent Yemeni journalist is now free after spending nearly six months in jail. That is according to his lawyer. Adel al-Hasani was being held by a secessionist group in southern Yemen backed by the United Arab Emirates. A U.S. official tells CNN the Biden White House urge the UAE to use its influence to secure his release. Human rights watch says the journalist was arbitrarily detained.

Well, Syria has now been enduring 10 years of civil war, and the International Committee of the Red Cross says hundreds of young Syrians say the war has caused immense economic hardships and a, quote, "profound psychological toll." The U.N. high commissioner for refugees says that more than six million Syrians have been displaced inside of the country since the conflict began. And more than five million have fled Syria.

CNN's Arwa Damon reports from Idlib, Syria.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "What do I do? Use a bucket of water? A blanket? I tried to use my hands like this to put out the flames, I couldn't." Amar son's body was a ball of fire. Sultan was playing on his bike when a rocket blew a fuel canister nearby.

SULTAN, WOUNDED CHILD (on screen text): My belly was on fire. My belly looked like all the flesh came out of it. My belly and my back.

DAMON: An ambulance brought Sultan to Turkey. He and his mother have been there ever since. This is the last photo of Sultan before the air strike.

"No, you are not ugly, you are beautiful," Amar constantly tells him. Sultan has an utterly disarming smile, with eye that fluctuate between sparkling like a 10-year-old should, but at times darkened as his past sets in.

He has these nightmares where he is on fire, his whole body is on fire, even his eyes are on fire, and he wakes up screaming, screaming for his mother to put out the flames.

Sultan is as old as Syria's war itself. A life that carries the emotional and physical scars of a nation. When he was five, his baby brother was killed in a bombing.

AMAR, MOTHER OF WOUNDED CHILD (on screen text): The neighbors removed the glass. They pulled him out. His neck was slit.

DAMON: When Sultan was six, his father died in a strike on the market.

AMAR (on screen text): I saw so many children die in front of me. I couldn't save even one.

DAMON: This is where Sultan was born into an unimaginable violence where he lost so much, a great dusty town of smothered childhood laughter, stolen by war.

Renad's family did not know that mines were daisy chained along the wall of her home. Her grandfather shows us where the first one went off.

She was swinging off the door with her siblings, and then all of a sudden, there is just an explosion from a mine over here. She lost her left leg under the knee.

She has a prosthetic now.

She says her father disappeared a decade ago at the start of Syria's war. She tells us, he was blindfolded and she was thrown to the ground in the forest.

RENAD, SURVIVED MINE EXPLOSION (on screen text): There were people passing by who heard me crying.

DAMON: It's the longest sentence she speaks. Mostly she gives one- word answers or fall silent. Her grandfather says, he feels like she's just gone blank. She doesn't dream of a life without war, because they can't even imagine it.

It's been over one year since we were last here, covering Russia and the Syrian regime's most intense assault on what remained of rebel held territory. There's been a cease-fire in place since then that has been relatively speaking, holding. COVID-19 peaked late last year. Now, ICU beds are mostly empty.

It's all sandbagged underneath here just in case there is more bombing that resumes.

This is a pediatric hospital, one of the few that remains intact. Said is two and a half months old and severely underweight.


They value. They've seen a threefold increase in malnutrition cases in this clinic alone. For a number of reasons.

Years of bombings and displacement, leading to greater poverty. And then, further fueled by COVID-19 border closures and humanitarian aid slowing down. We pass ramshackle camps, with each bombardment more of them blooded the countryside.

A decade for so many, a lifetime of compounded trauma. The past permeates everything. For most, there isn't a month, a week, that goes by that isn't the anniversary of the death of someone they love. Perhaps, all that is left to say are the shreds of innocence of a scared generation.


DAMON (on camera): Rosemary, a few years ago when we would come into Syria, people would crowd around us wanting to know why? Why this was happening to them? Why the world was watching and, seemingly, not caring or trying to do something to change the horrifying dynamics of their lives? Syria taught them, and Syria taught us as journalists reporting on this story, that when bigger geopolitical games are at play, the lives of the innocent are negated.

Now, when we come into Syria people don't even bother asking us those same questions anymore. It's almost as if they have accepted the fact that the world allowed them to be slaughtered. That it didn't matter how many images came out of bodies being pulled from underneath the rubble, how many people disappeared into regime, and other jails, how many people were killed.

The United Nations, Rosemary, stop counting deaths years ago. They stopped at around half a million deaths. What you have right now is an ongoing story of a tragedy. This is not an anniversary of a 10-year long conflict, this is a commemoration of all that has been lost, all those who have been died, and all those who have disappeared.

CHURCH: Yes. It is a tragic nightmare. Arwa Damon, we thank you for your incredible report. Joining us there live from Idlib in Syria. Thank you again.

Well the British government are under pressure to act as outrage grows over how London police handle a vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard. Those details, just ahead.




CHURCH (on camera): British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a special prime task force today in response to the murder of Sarah Everard. Her death has reignited a national debate in Britain on women safety and sexual assault as well as widespread anger towards the metropolitan police for its heavy-handed approach to a vigil over the weekend.

CNN's Scott McLean has the latest.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A day after a public vigil for a woman who was kidnapped and killed while walking home in London. Protesters have once again gathered in central London not just to protest violence against women but also now to protest the police.

London Metropolitan Police are facing pressure now in two ways, first because one of their own serving officers has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of Sarah Everard whose body was found earlier this week. They are also facing criticism because of their heavy- handed tactics in breaking up the vigil on Saturday evening.

The metropolitan police commissioner, though, is defending her officers' actions in breaking up the vigil saying that they had a duty to enforce public health regulations because of the coronavirus. A day later, police have used much more even handed tactics, pleading with people to go home. Still, many people are calling for London's top cop to resign.

UNKNOWN: I think the most sickening thing of the whole thing is in two weeks' time, it will all brush over. They're counting on that. The people that do this are counting on that, just brush over. But no, it's not.

UNKNOWN: I feel she should resign indefinitely because of this issue. She hasn't got the right response for what the majority is asking for. And the police are of service to the society and the people. It's not up to them to disagree. That's why I feel they're asking for it. They need to make way for someone else because there are people who definitely will want to like enforce that accountability and safety in our society and public in general.

MCLEAN: The mayor of London says he is not satisfied with the response that he has gotten from the London Metropolitan Police on why those tactics were used on Saturday night. The British home secretary who is responsible for law enforcement in this country called those scenes upsetting. Both are calling for an investigation.

Scott McLean, CNN, London.


CHURCH (on camera): And here to discuss more is Catherine Mayer. She is the co-founder and president of the Women's Equality Party in the U.K. and joins us live from London. Thank you so much for talking with us.

You're welcome.

CHURCH: So the murder of Sarah Everard has sparked this national outrage, of course, and debate across the U.K. over violence against women. Wet needs to be done to properly respond to this heinous crime?

CATHERINE MAYER, CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, WOMEN'S EQUALITY PARTY: It's a very good question because what you are actually seeing is a very accurate response but one that also is horribly familiar. We have this moment -- this has eliminated the scale of the problem. So, Sarah's murder is appalling and people have rushed also to say how unusual that kind of murder, abduction by a stranger is, comparatively speaking.

But actually, you then have outpouring stories by women explaining just the constant level of both threat and actual harassment and worse, assault and abuse. So, it's very much like the Me Too movement.


MAYER: Like the Me Too movement, it risks not translating into the kind of change that is not only essential but incredibly long overdue. One of the reasons is you are also seeing about the person. So, for example, they are now focused on the police handling of the vigil and calls for the police chief to resign. There are lots and lots of questions about how that went down. Indeed, her position probably may turn out to be untenable.

But it is essentially and almost total failure that led to this. Just for example, you see Sadiq Khan -- he is the mayor of London -- immediately criticizing the chief of police. He is also a police and crime commissioner for London who sets the priorities for the police.

Nowhere is the combatting of violence against women and girls and explicit priority, nowhere is this other support that are needed for women who are the victims of sexual violence. They are not statutory and they should be.

We are calling for, at a national level, this violence against women and girls to be added to the list of so called national threats which would mean that finally it got the kind of resourcing and attention that it has always deserved.

You know, this is -- again, this is -- this is one of these things. It is seen as a problem for women and for women to solve. And yet, violence is overwhelmingly by men. People who seek to minimize it --


MAYER: -- tend to point out that more men get murdered. Well, yes, it's a problem for men, too. Male violence is a problem and it is a solvable problem but only if it gets the attention that it deserves and only if it is understood as a political priority and that this has been the failure of politics until now.

CHURCH: Right. That's a very good point. But I do want to ask you this. You mentioned the vigil. Why did police response so aggressively to those attending this vigil? Arresting and silencing some in attendance there, particularly after a crime that was allegedly committed by one of their own.

MAYER: That is why it was so ill-judged. But everything about the police response has shown you that there is a cultural institution problem with the police which is, of course, then replicated in politics which is why we are where we are.

But, I mean, just for example, it wasn't just the response to that vigil. One of the first things they did after Sarah Everard had already been abducted and killed, and obviously we don't know who did it, there is a suspect who is a serving member of the police, but that was known that the suspect was a serving member of the police and the police deployed what they called reassurance patrols.

Colleagues of that same police officer, going back to the spot from which she had been abducted in order supposedly to make women feel safer. And then they make this terrible mistake, you know, they -- again, this is also a political failure.

There is a police in crime bill that is going through parliament today. It is likely to make protest more difficult. There is not one word about violence against women and girls in the whole of this piece of legislation.

And the police were to extent, you know, the horrible phrase, only following orders, they were -- there was definitely room for interpretation of the judgment that was given in the case of that vigil.

So, I mean, there is a lot further review to look at as to why it went quite so broadly wrong. But you also have a force that is not given the direction it needs and it takes its cues not just from its own leadership but from wider society and from wider politics.

You know, it is just saying like these things are a priority. Look at the care and attention that is paid to enforcing the pandemic laws which, by the way, is spotty. Sometimes they did it and sometimes they don't. In this case, it seemed important.

They need to take this seriously. They have institutional misogyny and racism to deal with. They know that but they don't do enough. That is the same as the institutions that are supposed to look after them, too.

CHURCH: Catherine Mayer, thank you so much for talking with us. Hopefully, more can be done than just trying to silence these women.


CHURCH: Appreciate talking with you.

The U.K. government is set to announce new pandemic travel policies next month. British Airways hopes that there won't be as many rules, so more people can fly.

Plus, COVID cases in Brazil are rising at an alarming rate. And soon, there may not be room to treat all those infected. A look inside the country's troubling health care system just ahead.


CHURCH: British Airways is calling on the U.K. government to allow passengers to travel with fewer restrictions starting in May. The airline says vaccinated people should be allowed to travel with no restrictions and unvaccinated people, too, as long as they have a negative COVID test. The government will reveal its new travel policy in April, but trips out of the country won't happen until at least May 17th.

Let's bring in CNN's John Defterios. He joins us live from Abu Dhabi. Good to see you, John. So how bold a move is this by the new CEO of British Airways to try and establish a single travel policy? What is the ultimate goal by the International Air Transport Association?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN ANCHOR AND EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Good question there, Rosemary, because I think he is trying to be a trendsetter here as home -- of course, one of the largest airports for international rivals at Heathrow, and they are making this call before the formalities, as you suggested, on April 12th by the U.K. government to establish new protocols.

Now, Sean Doyle has been the CEO since October. He is saying that basically, vaccinations hold the key to liberalization of their travel. He went on to say that even a negative PCR result should be able to do the same. There is some sensitivity here for those who haven't been vaccinated to still be allowed to travel.


DEFTERIOS: And the final point he made, which is a good one here, you have to have collaboration when it comes to the health apps that are on the market because eventually have taken a scale and that collaboration to kind of have a major breakthrough.

The International Air Transport Association, IATA, is after trying to get a travel pass launched by the end of the second quarter, if not earlier. That would be the common platform that allows you to load up your PCR results and also have a label if you've been vaccinated.

It's interesting because we have a smaller population here in the UAE but two major apps, one in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi, that do just that, Rosemary. Your PCR results are automatically uploaded and then if you've been vaccinated, there's a label on the board here.

But trying to get that scale here by the end of the second quarter and then have a common protocol to be able to load up a PCR result and then knowing that has been verified by a hospital authority or by local government is the challenge here. But the industry, after having been pounded so badly in 2020, you see them trying to set the narrative here and say let's get moving on this framework as soon as possible.

CHURCH (on camera): Yeah. We will see what happens there. CNN's John Defterios, many thanks.

Brazil's coronavirus outbreak is surging to new and terrifying heights. This past week, the country averaged close to 70,000 new cases a day and it passed India for the second highest total in the world with almost 11 and a half million infections overall. Now, as cases keep rising, more ICUs are approaching capacity.

CNN's Matt Rivers has more.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Pamela Rabipi (ph) can only look at the photos of her grandmother. She says watching the videos is too painful.


RIVERS (voice-over): The world didn't deserve my grandma, she says. She was too good.

Admitted March 3rd with COVID at the small hospital outside Sao Paulo, she died just two days later. The facility is quickly overrun by a new wave of COVID-19.


RIVERS (voice-over): This doctor who works there says, we think about the families that are suffering, and they can't sleep. It is unbelievable.

(On camera): This hospital just doesn't have the facilities to care for those who are really sick. Those patients would usually get transferred somewhere else. Right now, there is nowhere else to go. So instead of getting transferred, they are dying.

(Voice-over): In just five days last week, 12 patients died, waiting for an open bed somewhere else, according to hospital officials. Pamela's grandmother was one of them. She thinks that she would have survived if treated in an ICU. But right now, access to those facilities is nearly impossible.

Albert Einstein Hospital is one of Brazil's best, but here, too, the rooms are full. They are scrambling to build more ICU beds because the patients just keep coming.

FARAH CHRISTINA DE LA CRUZ SCARIN, ALBERT EINSTEIN HOSPITAL: It's the most busy time we have ever been in this last year.

RIVERS (voice-over): We first saw hints of this about six weeks ago, when we reported from Manaus, a city in Brazil's Amazon rainforest. Hospitals there were overwhelmed amidst a new outbreak and the city was forced to build so-called vertical graves.

And from then to now, that chaos has spread nationwide. In 22 of 26 Brazilian states, ICU capacity is at or above 80 percent, government data shows. In Sao Paulo, it is 90 percent and climbing. When you run out of beds, doctors tell us, people die.

UNKNOWN: The coffin is closed, so the family doesn't have the opportunity to say goodbye.

RIVERS (voice-over): The number of such coffins is surging at the Sao Paulo public cemetery. From above, you can see the thousands of newly dug graves.

(On camera): The number of burials, like the one going on behind me, had been staggering recently. Since the pandemic began, the three single days where Sao Paulo has recorded the most coronavirus deaths have come in just the last week.

Experts say the causes of the new surge are myriad. They are more transmissible variant, few vaccines, relaxed lockdowns, and government mismanagement all playing varying roles. But, no matter the cause, these are the effects.

Outside this public hospital, every day between 3-5 pm, family members of COVID patients inside wait to hear their names. They go in to get news on conditions. And, often, it's not good, and then comes the grief and the tears rocked from a pandemic that just won't end. Matt Rivers, CNN, Sao Paulo, Brazil.





CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Millions of Americans are now under winter weather alerts and blizzard warnings. That includes residents of Colorado, a state that has been hit with heavy snow and blizzard conditions. More than 26,000 customers are now without power and more than 2,000 flights into and out of the Denver International Airport have been cancelled.

Joining me now is meteorologist Tyler Mauldin. So Tyler, what is the latest on all of this?

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: So, we have seen historic snowfall totals, Rosemary. As you can see here north, a four feet of snow in portions of Wyoming. Denver International Airport picked up two feet of snow. Is this record-breaking territory? Well, it's close.

In Denver, Colorado, this was a top five snow producer for you, ever, with 24 inches of snow. The largest ever was 45 inches which pales in comparison to the 52 inches up in Wyoming. Cheyenne topped out at 36 inches, which is a record. They saw that within 48 hours.

Now, we're beginning to see that storm system finally, slowly but surely, push out of the region. We still have winter weather alerts stretching from Colorado all the way into Iowa. We actually have blizzard warnings still in effect for southeastern Wyoming (INAUDIBLE) Nebraska.


MAULDIN: We also have an avalanche warning in effect for portions of the Colorado Rockies. So, be aware of that if you are hitting the slopes.

And now our eyes focus up here to the north where we have winter storm warnings in effect across the Midwest because the heavy snow is now pushing into this area. And then we have heavy rain trailing down to the south of it.

This area, portions of Minnesota going to Iowa, on into Chicago, could see nearly a foot of snow before the storm system exits the region. Then down to the south, as I mentioned, more in the way of rainfall. We can see flooding potential across portions of the mid-south. And then across the southeast, we could also see flood potential simply because looking out to the west, there is an area of low pressure coming into California.

That area of low pressure is what playing pinball and pushing that area of low pressure, the historic storm system, out. The problem with that is, as the second storm system comes over, Rosemary, it is going to set up camp across the southeast and that is going to give way to strong and severe thunderstorms at time to mid-week and days of rain across the southeast.

CHURCH (on camera): All right. Many thanks to meteorologist Tyler Mauldin. Appreciate it.

And SpaceX made some history of its own Sunday with its latest rocket launch.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Three, two, one, zero. Ignition. Lift off.

CHURCH (voice-over): Look at that. The Falcon 9 rocket made a successful launch and landing for a record ninth time. It carried another 60 startling satellites into orbit, part of a glowing constellation that could one day bring high-speed internet to the whole planet. Magnificent.


CHURCH (on camera): Thanks so much for joining us. I am Rosemary Church. I will be back with more news in just a moment. Just stick around.