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Biden at CDC as Vaccinations Rise Across Nation: "Science Is Back"; Husband of Atlanta Shooting Victim Was Detained, Didn't Know Wife Killed Until Later; Asian-Americans Detail Heartbreaking Experience with Hate, Animosity; Update on Coronavirus Responses Around the World; The McCarthy Cut: How GOP Leader Is Rewriting His Hole in the Big Lie. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 19, 2021 - 14:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: First off, just what stood out. There's one thing that stood out to me. But I want to know what stood out to you.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, I've been in this sort of command center room many times at the CDC.

That's the place where a lot of the planning and preparations go to deal with things like we are experiencing now, not just the pandemic but Ebola in the past, H1N1 in the past.

A few things stood out. I'd be curious about you, Brianna. But he said science is back. That's one of the things he made a point of saying.

You got the sense he was rallying the troops, in fact, sort of referring the doctors and scientists in that room as the Army, Navy and Marines, really sort of talking about the war metaphor.

He carries the piece of paper in his pocket with the numbers of people who have died from this pandemic. And you know, just -- I think it shows his commitment.

He also made a point of pointing out that -- we talk a lot about the vaccines, which are incredible scientific achievements.

But also the fact that, you know, Merck, typically a competing pharmaceutical company to J&J, is now making that vaccine because of the Defense Production Act.

So getting pharmaceutical companies to work together, which, you know, you need the sort of crack about that typically doesn't happen it's a competitive industry.

But it seemed like a big thank you, frankly, Brianna, to the CDC.

KEILAR: Yes, it does. And he also said something about pandemics being more the norm. Did

you catch that, just this idea that maybe --


KEILAR: Yes. Can you speak about that?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, everyone has sort of talked about this as a once- in-a-century sort of phenomenon because I think the last pandemic of this magnitude was really back in 1918.

But if you start to look at sort of the viral surveillance, the idea that humans are increasingly encroaching on animal habitats and these jumps potentially from animals to humans are occurring more frequently.

Most people in that world, the virus hunters, the people from the Eco Alliance, seem to indicate and telegraph to us that this is likely to happen more frequently.

Hopefully, we can be further ahead of it. You know, find the zoonotic jump very early on so it doesn't turn into a pandemic like this.

But that risk seems higher than before. As the population of the earth expands and encroaches on these animal habitats, it's a real concern -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, it's a very good point. Thank you so much for touching on that.

Sanjay, great to see you. Thanks.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

KEILAR: Ahead, new details on the investigations into the deadly massage parlor shootings in Atlanta. One of the victim's husband says he was detained by authorities and all the while unaware that his wife had been killed.

Plus, former President George W. Bush on camera saying the attack on the capitol made him sick to his stomach. And he is pushing back on the Big Lie, too.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the election stolen or not?





KEILAR: The horrific shootings at three Atlanta-area spas that left eight people dead, including six Asian women, just happened Tuesday.

Investigators are still working to pinpoint exactly what motivated suspect, Robert Aaron Long, who they say claimed responsibility for the attack. Calls are growing for Long to face hate crime charges.

We are still learning more about the victims and the lone survivor of the shootings.

Flora Gonzalez, the wife of Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, spoke to our colleagues at CNN Espanol.

Doctors, she says, told her that a bullet passed through her husband's head and traveled down to his stomach.


FLORA GONZALEZ, WIFE OF SHOOTING SURVIVOR (through translation): The only explanation I got from the doctors is this. He is very, very lucky. He was very lucky. It is a miracle. That's the only thing they told me because they also cannot believe it.

And I think it's a miracle that he is alive. And for that, I'm very thankful to God because I know he will move past this.


KEILAR: CNN's Natasha Chen is covering the story for us in Canton, Georgia, in Cherokee County.

And, Natasha, we learned that a different man, the husband of one of the women killed, was detained right after the shooting. What can you tell us about that?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. We are at the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office in Canton, Georgia, as you said, not far from Acworth, where one of the spa shootings happened.

And we're talking about Delaina Yaun, one of the four victims from this location. She and her husband were there for massages.

And Mario Gonzalez, her husband, spoke to a Spanish-language newspaper and told them right after the incident he was detained by authorities, sitting in the back of a patrol car for some time. It's not clear how long he was detained.

But what he told the Spanish-language newspaper is that they had him in the back of a patrol car until the investigation led them to the suspect and to what happened, until, finally, they gave him news that his wife had died.

He told the newspaper, when they found out he was Delaina's husband, they told him she was dead. But he wanted to know before.

So it sounds like he was really looking for information about what happened to his wife. And that he had wished that that information was given to him sooner. In this interview that he gave, it sounds like he was in a separate

spa room from his wife and had heard the gunshots. He was uninjured. And sort of took cover and got out of the situation safely.

But he was very concerned whether his wife was safe and looking for that information.

So of course, very emotional situation for everyone, for all the families involved.


And we continue to try and reach out to the families and see that they're OK and to learn more about the victim stories -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, and he is -- he, obviously, surviving his wife, as well as their kids, including an 8-month-old.

Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

What is it like to be Asian-American in America right now? CNN asked and Asian-Americans have answered, sharing stories of hate and racism that they have experienced during the pandemic and, in some cases, during their entire lives. And the responses are heartbreaking.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It must have been a month after lockdowns in New York City.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was going to my car with my cart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lady started following us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this guy this big giant suburban almost ran me over. He didn't yield to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She started screaming things directed at me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But all kinds of terrible things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go back to China. You're so dirty.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a period of time where I didn't want to be Asian at all. I wished I was some other race because like -- it's like it's just so -- I feel so sick of being like -- oh, sorry, my gosh -- discriminated against.

And back in school, actually, when I got bullied that, too, like the whole Asian fever, it made me feel gross, like I couldn't be comfortable in my skin.


KEILAR: Joining me now to talk more about this is CNN senior national correspondent, Kyung Lah, who is also a very dear friend of mine.

Kyung, I wanted to have you on to talk about this. Because we've been talking on the phone at times during the past year about some of the things you have experienced. And so I was hoping we could kind of put that out there so people could hear about some of this.

Tell us about some of the personal experiences that you have had, both as you're traveling to do your job and just as you go about your personal life.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, you grew up with me here at CNN.


LAH: We both figured out what it's like to be an adult in the world here.

And I think you have seen it firsthand through my eyes, that when you go to basically anywhere in this country, the assumption that people have about someone who looks like me, who has a name like Kyung, is, first of all, you don't speak English.

It doesn't matter who is surrounding you. That you may not understand everything that they're saying. Any always want to know where I'm from. I'm from CNN, dude, what do you think? And it's -- it is a repeated question.

And the way you're treated is that you're not fully American, that even though I speak English perfectly, I am, indeed, American, the assumption is that somehow you are foreign.

And that -- this doesn't even touch on the way that men try to sexualize you, who don't even know you, who have certain thoughts about you or may say certain things to you.

This isn't even touching on what's sent to me on social media and what's sent to a lot of Asian-American journalists on social media.

All of this is part of daily life. And it has certainly gotten worse in the past year. Because people are frustrated. And they feel like they have a villain in some cases.

And it is extremely difficult to try to constantly have to explain that you are not foreign. I feel like the exact same things that you feel. And we've got to figure out a solution without vilifying people.

But it is. It's the set that you don't matter as much. You simply could not understand what we feel because of the way you look.

KEILAR: Which, I mean, it's painful as your friend to watch you have interactions like that.

Especially this last year, though, I think one of the things I've asked you about is your fears, especially because you do have kids.

And I wonder what your fear has been for yourself and if you've had fears for your kids.

LAH: So the best way to explain -- I think especially if you have grown up in a bilingual, bicultural home.

My parents owned a liquor store in Chicago and this year has felt a lot like being transported back into being a little kid behind their counter, that someone might hurt you, not because of what you have but because of how you look.

And it's a defense that you feel that you want to guard yourself from but you don't know exactly what to do. That's -- that's a deep-seated childhood fear that I've carried this past year.

As far as my kids, it's a tough thing to talk about with your children. And I think any parent of color can, you know, explain this.


We've heard a lot of people talking about the talk you have if you're a black parent, the talk you have with your children.

And in the case of Asian parents, you don't really have a language or a way to explain to your children what it feels like to be foreign in your own home. That how to feel afraid without acting afraid, without living afraid.

There are a good number of Asian-Americans and blended children who live here in California. It is a very diverse community.

In my daughters' school, it's a majority Asian school because it's a language immersion school. And it was a part of the program at school. It was a part of class that day.

KEILAR: Really?

LAH: Because there are so many children who need to have a way to cope with this. And right now, we don't exactly have a language to explain that to our children.

KEILAR: And that is -- you know, that's the sad reality, Kyung.

But I just -- I appreciate you giving us a glimpse into you know -- normally, you report on the news. But I appreciate your sharing your personal story with us today.

Thank you so much.

LAH: You bet. You bet.

KEILAR: Any moment now, the British prime minister is set to get his first COVID shot as the U.K. considers COVID certificates, which are basically permission slips, in order for Britons to attend live events.

Plus, France and Italy begin a fresh round of coronavirus lockdowns as they experience a surge in new infections. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KEILAR: In a CNN exclusive interview, one of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine makers tells CNN that the corporation will leave no stone unturned as it works to ramp up production of its shot.

The cofounder and chief medical officer also says they're encouraged by how their shot is performing against the new COVID variants.

For more coronavirus headlines, let's check in with my CNN colleagues around the world.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jim Bittermann, in France, where, tonight, at midnight, large parts of the country will be under new COVID restrictions.

In the Paris region, where infections and hospitalizations have been increasing sharply, north to the English Channel and in an area around Nice, south, an estimated 20 million people will be affected for the next month.

Nonessential businesses will be closed. And people will have to carry around written justification for being out and about.

More positively, perhaps, the prime minister has signal that the vaccine program is back on track by rolling up his sleeves and taking an AstraZeneca shot this afternoon.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Melissa Bell, in Rome. The rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine has resumed once again here in Italy just a day after the European Medicines Agency rendered their verdict.

Italian authorities want to be able to get to a position where they're giving 500,000 injections a day in order to meet their target of getting 80 percent of the Italian population inoculated by April.

Getting the AstraZeneca rollout up and going again was a crucial part in achieving that aim and made all the more urgent by the COVID-19 figures at the moment here in Italy.

It is day five of a lockdown that concerns more than half of Italian regions and a vast majority of the Italian populations.

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Selena Wang, covering a new study showing that COVID-19 was probably spreading at low rates in China about two months before the first outbreak was noticed in Wuhan.

Researchers reported in the journal, "Science," that it almost certainly was not spreading earlier than that anywhere else around the world. The research also shows COVID-19 did not have to cause a pandemic.

They found that bad luck and the packed conditions of the seafood market in Wuhan gave the virus the edge it needed to explode around the world.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matt Rivers, in Rio de Janeiro. On a day where Brazil recorded its second-highest single- day death toll from the coronavirus, President Jair Bolsonaro managed to make himself the victim.

Bolsonaro said there is a, quote, "war against the president." And questioned how many people in ICUs are dying from COVID-19 versus other illnesses.

Let us be the one to tell you that Brazilian ICUs are collapsing across the country, according to state after state after state, not because of other illnesses but because of COVID-19.

The latest data that we have shows 16 of 26 Brazilian states have ICU occupancy rates of 90 percent or higher.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I'm Cyril Vanier, in London. The U.K. is considering using COVID certificates to facilitate the return of live events, in particular sports. That's according to the culture secretary who was speaking to "Sky News" this morning.

The certificates, he explained, could prove that you've had either a vaccine or a negative COVID test. And that could get more people back into stadiums.

The government is going to road test the system at several high- profile events, including soccer's F.A. cup final in mid-May.


KEILAR: Thank you to my colleagues for those reports.

What the Thursday? Capitol Hill was even more bananas than usual yesterday and not in a good way. Republican Senator Rand Paul again downplaying masks, mocking masks, calling them theater in a heat back and forth with Dr. Anthony Fauci.


One of his colleagues in the House decided it would be a good time to glorify lynching bad guys during a hearing on anti-Asian violence and hate crimes.

And House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, decided to go mano a mano and take a magical trip down alternative history lane.

CNN's Manu Raju asked about his hypocrisy now that Democrats are looking to overturn a close election result out of Iowa.

And if he's so fired up about this, where was he when Trump and some Republicans like himself supported overturning the will of the voters in a legitimate election of Joe Biden?


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I disagree with the premise of your question.

If you challenged Arizona and Pennsylvania, would that have changed and lowered President Biden's numbers below 270?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You supported the Texas lawsuit that would have --


MCCARTHY: No, no, no.


MCCARTHY: You ask me questions every week. I just asked you a question.

If you removed Arizona -- but you weren't removing it, you were just asking the question about it. If Arizona and Pennsylvania were removed in the Electoral College, would President Biden's number lower below 270?

RAJU: No. But Donald Trump said that --


MCCARTHY: OK, the answer is no.


MCCARTHY: So you're asking me the question.


RAJU: You supported his efforts, did you not?

MCCARTHY: I'm answering your question.

Let me answer your question since you asked me. Let me follow through.

So you gave a premise that's not true.

RAJU: Donald Trump tried to overturn the results in Congress and you supported that.

MCCARTHY: Well, now you're saying something that's not true.

So let me answer your question and show you how your premise is not true.

RAJU: The losing candidate did not organize a rally and say, stop the steal, we can overturn the certification of the Electoral College on January 6th.

MCCARTHY: Do you want to talk to Trump or do you want to ask me the question?

RAJU: Did you not support his efforts?

MCCARTHY: Because I'm here right now. And I'm showing where your question doesn't hold merit.

Now, let me show you another answer.

RAJU: But you supported the Texas lawsuit. Do you regret supporting that lawsuit?

MCCARTHY: No. No. No. No, I don't. You know why? Because it's going to --


RAJU: Did you not support Donald Trump's effort to overturn the election in Congress.



KEILAR: So, now McCarthy claims his particular challenges in only two states would not have overturned the election results, so he wasn't actually in favor of overturning the election.

Except --


MCCARTHY: President Trump won this election. So everyone who's listening, do not be quiet. Do not be -- do not be silent about this.

I don't have all the facts but I was just reported that they allowed a little over 300 people to revote and now we're behind.


MCCARTHY: Why would all those people -- yes. I don't have all the facts. Our attorneys are rushing there. But this is what's transforming out across America.

RAJU: Do you believe Joe Biden won the election and president-elect --


KEILAR: Well, McCarthy can't escape, no matter how often he tries to run away from it, is that he was one of the leaders of the Big Lie conference.

This week, America saw two big rewrites. Zach Snyder's "Justice League" and Kevin McCarthy's parade of lame excuses, and both of them are fantasies.

Moments ago, we watched the president and vice president at the CDC as the agency set its new guidance for social distancing in schools.

Next hour, we expect to see him meeting with Asian-American leaders in Atlanta.

Stay with us for CNN's live special coverage.