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Biden Says Tomorrow Will Meet Goal of 100 Million Vaccines; Biden Says Should Have Enough Vaccines for All by End of May; U.S. Cities on Alert as Anti-Asian American Attacks Escalate; Sheriff Says, "Bad Day" Comment Was Not Intended as Disrespect; Third Cuomo Accuser Meets with Investigators. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 18, 2021 - 15:30   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These steps put us on track to have enough vaccine -- enough vaccine supply for every adult American by the end of May -- months, months earlier than anyone expected.

And we stood up or supplied more than 600 community vaccination sites that are administering hundreds of thousands of shots per day.

We launched the Federal Pharmacy Program, which has allowed millions of Americans to get a shot at one of one thousand -- or, excuse me, one of 14,000 local pharmacies in this country, the same way they get their flu shot.

And for folks who aren't near a pharmacy or mass vaccination center, we've supplied more than 500 mobile clinics, like pop-up sites or vans, meeting people where they are -- meeting people where they are.

We've developed nearly -- we've deployed nearly 6,000 federal personnel, including FEMA, active-duty military, and Department of Health and Human Services to support vaccinations and serve as vaccinators -- putting the needle in people's arms.

We're also supplying vaccines to community health centers to reach those who have been the hardest hit -- the hardest hit -- and suffered the most, especially black, Latino, Native American, and rural communities. This is really important. Because we believe that speed and efficiency must be matched with fairness and equity.

Now, when President Harris and I took a virtual tour of a vaccination center in Arizona not long ago, one of the nurses on that -- on that tour, injecting people, giving vaccinations, said that each shot was like administering a dose of hope. A dose of hope. That's how she phrased it.

Behind these 100 million shots are millions of lives changed when people receive that dose of hope: Grandparents can hug their grandchildren again. Frontline workers who can show up at their jobs without the same fear they used to have. Teachers with the confidence to head back into the classroom.

These milestones are significant accomplishments, but we have much more to do. Much more to do. And the American Rescue Plan will help us do it.

In addition to the cash payments it provides to you and your families, it also provides the funds to add vaccinators, to supply more community vaccination -- support more community vaccination centers and increase testing.

It will help us accelerate nationwide efforts to reopen our schools safely. And as I told the nation last week, I've directed all states, tribes, and territories to make all adults eligible to be vaccinated no later than May the 1st. I'm glad to see that several states are already taking that step to make more and more Americans eligible, even before May 1st.

Tomorrow, we will hit 100 million doses our administration has administered. But I've always said, that's just the floor. We will not stop until we beat this pandemic. Next week, I will announce our next goal to put shots in arms.

This is a time for optimism, but it's not a time for relaxation. I need all Americans -- I need all of you to do your part: Wash your hands, stay socially distanced, keep masking up as recommended by the CDC, and get vaccinated when it's your turn. Now is not the time to let down our guard.

In the last week, we've seen increases in the number of cases in several states. Scientists have made clear that things may get worse as new variants of this virus spread. Getting vaccinated is the best thing we can do to fight back against these variants.

While millions of people are vaccinated, we need millions more to be vaccinated. And, again, I need you to get vaccinated when it come -- when it's your turn, when you're able to do that. I need your help.


I need you to help -- not just the country, but your family, your friends, your neighbors. Get them vaccinated as well.

If we keep our guard up, stick together, and stick with the science, we can look forward to a Fourth of July that feels a bit more normal, with small groups able to gather for cookouts in backyards, and when we'll be -- where we begin to declare our independence on Independence Day from the virus.

Look, together -- together we're going to come through this stronger, with renewed faith in each other, in our government that fulfills its most important function, protecting the American people.

Let me be clear again, wearing this mask, in the meantime. Making sure you wash your hands. Making sure you socially distance and listen to the CDC. We've got to reach the point where we have herd immunity -- meaning where we have a vast majority of the American people have been vaccinated before we can stop wearing these.

So, please, please, don't let what's happening -- you see happening in Europe and you see on television. Keep the faith. Keep wearing the mask, keep washing your hands, and keep socially distanced. We're going to beat this. We're way ahead of schedule, but we've got a long way to go.

So I just wanted to bring you up to date. And I thank you very much. And may God bless America, and may God protect our troops.

Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, Vladimir Putin wants to open talks, would you agree to that?

BALDWIN: All right, you see the headline on your screen tomorrow, which is day 58 of the Biden administration, they will meet the goal of 100 million vaccines.

Listen, obviously understandable a victory lap on the numbers and how, you know, ahead of the game they are, really, as he says in beating this thing, but he also reminded all of us -- I jotted this down -- it is time for optimism but not a time of relaxation.

Let's talk about all of this with CNN political analyst, Laura Barron- Lopez, White House correspondent for "Politico" and also with us, primary care physician Dr. Saju Mathew.

Dr. Mathew, I want to start with you. You know obviously, some notable progress here, right, but still 17 states are seeing a rise in cases. Can enough Americans get vaccinated to prevent this fourth surge, this spring surge?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST: Yes, listen, Brooke, I was just really excited to hear President Biden's speech. As a physician in the trenches seeing COVID patients, to know that my president and the White House has all the eyes focused on really beating this pandemic, is absolutely something that is very exciting for me. So I want to look at the glass half full.

Yes, we have to be careful about these variants. We know that this virus mutates, that's what the RNA virus does, but we are lucky in this country to have three safe and effective vaccines, all Americans must get vaccinated.

I worry about the people that are hesitant. I worry about the people that have this whole concept of vaccine faith. Hey, my parents got vaccinated, I'm young, I probably don't need to get vaccinated. So overall Brooke, I am optimistic, (INAUDIBLE) if 85 percent of Americans vaccinated.

BALDWIN: To your point about vaccine hesitancy, and Laura, I'm sure you noted this as I did, toward the end when the president was saying to Americans -- many of whom have been vaccinated -- hey, talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, say, you know, we need your help, get everybody vaccinated, and that is a challenge. Because when you look at the new number out, 47 percent of Trump supporters -- this is according to this new NPR-Maris poll -- they don't want the vaccine.

And I just want to read the one quote I read in this AP article today from this one Trump supporter, American saying --

I just don't believe we need vaccinations. I don't think it's the way God intended us -- for us to be. The majority of my friends and the people I associated with, the people that we go to church, we don't wear the masks, we don't get the shots, I don't know why so terrified of this. It is nothing worse than the flu.

Laura, how does President Biden change their minds?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, he said that he thinks one of the fastest way to change those voter's minds, those people who are Republicans, is by priests, by their local churches, by their local doctors actually telling them you need to get vaccinated. Because the administration believes that they are going to trust those local leaders far more than they're going to trust the government officials here in Washington.

And part of that is because Republicans have repeatedly said that Biden is an illegitimate president and they've told their voters that repeatedly, and so these voters do not trust the Democratically elected leaders that we have right now in D.C.


Again, one thing I also want to point out that he mentioned, Brooke, is that he wasn't hiding the ball on the fact that it could get worse before it gets better. He was trying to tell the public that these new variants, and scientists are saying that these new variants could make it worse, even though they're trying to rollout as many vaccines as possible. And so that what he's trying to tell people to continue to wear a mask and continue to stay socially distanced.

BALDWIN: Dr. Mathews, do have any thoughts on these new variants and how bad it could be.

MATHEWS: Right, I mean, I agree with Ms. Lopez. I mean again, variants are always a very sort of suspicious part of this whole pandemic in the sense, we don't know if the variants will be so lethal enough to actually cause people to be hospitalized and people to eventually die.

If you look at our cases, yes, the death rates and the hospitalizations have gone down considerably, and I think a good component or reason for that is about 100 million people already have natural immunity to COVID and we have another 100 million, over 100 million shots in arms. So really the only way that we can kill these variants is to get people vaccinated.

And every week, Brooke, as a primary care physician I am very active on social media with my patients, you have to be able to address their concerns. The two biggest concerns for really minority groups and white Republicans are this vaccine was developed so quickly -- which by the way, Brooke, it's not true, 30 years of research went into the mRNA. And the second thing is, what are the long-term side effects? Now that we don't know. But I will tell you one thing, I would rather be treated for a side effect of the COVID vaccine than to be treated for the COVID infection.

BALDWIN: Let me follow-up with you, Dr. Mathew, on the point that 47 percent of Republican Trump supporters, you know, are not into getting this vaccine, and I was reading from Dr. Ashish Jha over at Brown was making a point that, you know, it's wonderful while, you know, the supply is coming in fast and furious, but ultimately when people are, you know, when the registration slows down, that could mean that 60 to 65 percent vaccinated, we could be stuck there.

You know, he said, quote, we are going to continue to see significant outbreaks still if that's the case if people are still refusing to get this vaccine.

How can doctors or politicians prevent that?

MATHEW: I think the most important is by actually talking about it. I think that we actually need to have, you know, large areas where almost like a town hall meeting -- we can do that virtually -- where we talk to people.

A lot of patients are somewhat embarrassed sometimes to talk to their doctor, thinking my, oh, doctor is going to think I am anti-, you know, vaccine individual, which a lot of times, Brooke, is not true, people just have a lot of questions.

And I still think it was a missed opportunity initially that President Trump did not use his powerful base of 80, 100 million people to actually show the fact that he and the former first lady got vaccinated. He did come back and talk about it and I was happy to hear that. But I still think at the grassroots, the priests, physicians, we have to ask patients and not judge them. And I think we can get there. I really think we can get to 85 percent of people in this country that get vaccinated.

BALDWIN: I had a reverend on with me, Reverend Salguero from Orlando, you know, preaches to a predominantly Hispanic congregation. Obviously, they've been hugely hit by COVID and he was just saying to me on TV all these myths and things people that believe might happen to them if they get this vaccine.

And to both of your point, and Biden has called for this on local parishioners, rabbis, you know, to just preach to these folks, and just dispel any of these myths that continue to pervade these communities.

Laura and Dr. Mathew, thank you both so very much. Good to see you both.

MATHEWS: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Even before the shooting spree in the Atlanta area, so many people around this country have been confronting racism in their own communities. How the violence of this past year has changed the way Asians, Asian-Americans live their lives.



BALDWIN: Breaking developments out of Atlanta where the police deputy chief just moments ago said that nothing is off the table when it comes to this investigation, and potential hate crime charges in the fatal spa shootings that left eight people dead. Almost all women, six of them Asian women. He also said that the department does not currently have a position on whether this was a hate crime. The suspect says it was not.

Here's what we do know. Asian-Americans across this country are frightened and furious, and rightfully so. A new study shows anti- Asian hate crimes are up nearly 150 percent since the onset of this pandemic.

And joining me now, Cam Ashling, Chair of the Georgia Advancing Progress PAC.

And Cam, I was reading about you. You know, you've been in Georgia helping flip a highly contested House seat, and so as a result, you've really come into contact and become pretty tight with the Asian- American community around Atlanta. In the wake of what has happened there this week, how you have reacted, how have your friends reacted?


CAM ASHLING, CHAIR, GEORGIA ADVANCING PROGRESS PAC: You know, first, I also want to say that, you know, we also flipped the state blue for Biden, because the Asian-American vote was the margin of victory for Biden.

BALDWIN: There you go.

ASHLING: The success of the momentum that we've had to run this Senate runoff and be successful there too.

You know, in light of the tragedy, it's been extremely painful for the community. We are shocked. A bunch of us are crying. We have to get together and kind of, you know, grieve together last night. And we continue to feel the sorrow for the family and the victims and of course, the entire country is also mourning with us. So we appreciate the national and international support for Atlanta and the AAPI community here.

BALDWIN: You talk about grieving together, you know, we have had conversations -- I've had conversations on this show about how these anti-Asian attacks are underreported because many members within the community understandably fear that they will not be listened to. Do you, Cam, share that same frustration?

ASHLING: You know, the Asian American community has historically been underrepresented in many ways. And we get ignored and we get discounted. And this is true why we're experiencing this tragedy as well. That, you know, people are saying, oh. it's not a hate crime. You know, if you're going to kill a bunch of Asian women and you plan to go and kill some more Asian women, it's a hate crime against Asian women. It doesn't matter if it's because he also had an addiction.

You know, so we would like to see that type of support from the community and from law enforcement to reinforce what this is and not to sweep it under the rug as something else.

BALDWIN: Listen, I hear you loud and clear.

ASHLING: Yes, that hurts the community, that hurts the community. Now that we're grieving about it and to have it said that, oh, it's not a hate crime is like another punch in the face after you've been shot.

BALDWIN: We were listening to the deputy chief in the Atlanta Police Department saying to your point, you know, we are not done, in terms of figuring out what the motive is here. I just want to be clear on that.

But also to your point about law enforcement, also in a joint investigation is the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department there in Georgia. And the spokesperson -- I'm sure you've seen this. You know, during yesterday's press conference said, the day of the shootings were, quote, a really bad day for the shooter. And is rightfully getting criticized for that. So now we're learning that the Sheriff spokesperson, you know, allegedly posted this photo of a racist anti- Asian COVID-19 shirt on Facebook.

I have a reaction now from the Cherokee County Sherriff, I'm going to read you, Cam, this statement and I want you to respond. Here's the quote from the Sheriff.

Comments made by Cherokee County Office Captain Jay Baker have become the subject of much debate and anger. In as much as his words were taken or construed as insensitive or inappropriate, they were not intended disrespect any of the victims, the gravity of this tragedy or express empathy or sympathy with the suspect.

Cam, your response to that?

ASHLING: We don't accept that. You know, we don't accept that. We don't accept that because this is a professional law enforcement officer, and he should know better. And it's the same thing we've seen before where the victims get blamed and the predators, you know, get scotch off in order like made excuses for.

Oh, you know, he had a bad day, so he went and shot and killed like eight people and then a bunch of them happened to be Asian women. So we're going to, you know, give him sympathy. No. You know, people when they respond without thinking, they say what they feel and what they think. When they start analyzing everything then you know that it's not as authentic.

BALDWIN: Cam Ashling, chair of the Georgia Advancing Progress PAC, come back any time. Thank you so much.

ASHLING: Thank you.

BALDWIN: We have new developments in the Governor Andrew Cuomo crisis as another one of his accusers sits down with investigators, next.



BALDWIN: A third former staffer accusing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of inappropriate conduct is meeting with investigators today. Ana Liss tells CNN that she will talk to the Attorney General's office over Zoom.

Dan Merica is live in Albany, New York. And so Dan, what do you know about the interviews with -- that investigators are now conducting?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, we know that Ana Liss was scheduled to sit down with the New York Attorney General office today. She is the third accuser, Cuomo accuser to meet with that office, which is a pretty impressive feat for an investigation that really just got started up, you know, a few days ago.

So we know that they're moving pretty quickly. And we that these are pretty expansive interviews as well. Previous accusers have said that they met with the office for four hours, they handed over 120 documents. So these are pretty comprehensive interviews as well.

But everyone here in Albany, assembly members, Democrats in the know think this process is going to measure in weeks, possibly even months and not days. So even though they're moving quickly, this could be a long process.

What we are also learning is how Governor Cuomo plans to combat these allegations. And that's really a two-fold strategy. First, he's not answering many questions about the allegations. He was asked multiple times yesterday about allegations and said he would not answer them because of the ongoing investigations.

And the other part of the strategy is to largely distract from the allegations. He's doing things that are very popular in New York. He did an event today with famous Mets and Yankees players.

Yesterday he went to a historically black church in Harlem to get his own COVID vaccination. And on Monday he visited a mass vaccination site. So at the same time that these investigators are looking into the allegations, Brooke, Cuomo is largely trying to keep the focus elsewhere.

BALDWIN: Yes, looks like with everything he has going on, he's just trying to continue on business as usual. Dan Merica in rainy Albany, Dan, thank you very much.

I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Let's go to Washington, D.C. THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.