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Some Information Released About Victims Of Shooting Spree At Asian Massage Parlors In Atlanta Area; President Biden And Vice President Harris Remark On Recent Rise In Violence Against Asian- Americans In U.S.; Interview With Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA); CDC Releases New Guidance Reducing Social Distancing Requirement In Schools; As Number Of Immigrants Increase, Biden Administration Attempting To Find Sites To Accommodate Children Crossing The U.S.- Mexico Border Alone; FBI Releases New Graphic Video Of Capitol Hill Siege; Americans Tell Their Stories Of Losing Loved Ones To COVID-19. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired March 20, 2021 - 10:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: I want to wish you a good morning. We are grateful to have you with us on this Saturday, March 20th. I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Boris Sanchez in for Victor Blackwell. So glad you could join us. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PAUL: Glad to have you, Boris.

So we're talking this morning about the fear and the frustration felt by Asian-Americans today. We're learning more about the victims of Tuesday's spa shootings in the Atlanta area.

SANCHEZ: Their loved ones are sharing details so that their stories don't get lost in what will likely be a long and painful investigation. Xiaojie Tan was the owner of Young's Asian Massage. She was remembered as loving and unselfish. Delaina Yaun was a recently married mother of two kids, including an eigh-month-old daughter.

"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" is reporting that Yong Ae Yue was excited to be working at a spa again after she had been laid off because of the pandemic. And Hyun Jung Grant leaves behind two kids. They're now the only members of their family still in the United States.

PAUL: In all, eight people died, and we want to make sure that you see them here on your screen. Six of them were Asian women. The church attended by the suspect released a statement yesterday condemning the killings in, quote, the strongest possible terms, adding, quote, no blame can be placed upon the victims.

CNN's Natasha Chen is in Atlanta this morning. What are you learning, Natasha, not just about the investigation, but about these victims? NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Boris, it is a

very difficult time for these eight families, as you can imagine, and some of them have a very difficult time talking about this. People are grieving in different ways. And they're also processing why this might have happened.

And, of course, that's what a lot of the community is responding to, is the investigation and whether this is going to be considered a hate crime by authorities. That's the type of conversation that we're having with people who have walked up to these two spa locations here in Atlanta and the third one up in Cherokee County.

They're coming by with flowers and candles and having conversations with us about the fact that this is in a much larger context of what's been happening with the Asian-American community for at least, especially the past year, but of course far longer. Here is one person talking to us about how she looks at this crime in that context.


HELEN PARK TRUONG, ATLANTA RESIDENT: To say that it was one person and not really question the system around it that continued to contribute to it, to pin and scapegoat Asian-Americans as the target and continue that discourse, I think that's what we could be doing better.


CHEN: And the Atlanta Police Department has said that they are investigating all angles of this, that nothing is off the table. And, of course, we have heard from certain Asian-American leaders, as well as even the mayor of Atlanta saying that she hopes that the hate crime would be considered.

Now, the South Korean government has also released a statement now because they have identified that four of the victims are of Korean decent, one of them a South Korean citizens who has become a U.S. permanent resident, the other three believed to be Americans of Korean descent.

Here is part of their statement. They say that they are offering "deepest condolences to the bereaved family members" and that "The Korean government will work closely with the U.S. government, the Congress, major private organizations, and the Korean American Association."

Another part of their statement actually talked about supporting the U.S. in our efforts to combat hatred and violence. So this is recognized around the world as a problem that is larger than this one occurrence of shootings on Tuesday. This is being looked at in the greater context of things.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and it's a struggle that you, yourself, Natasha, have felt when you've been reporting in the field, and that's been well- documented. We appreciate you sharing your insight with us, Natasha Chen from Atlanta. President Joe Biden was in Atlanta yesterday meeting with community

leaders and condemning the skyrocketing hate crimes against Asian- Americans, noting an uptick in anti-Asian violence since the pandemic began.

PAUL: CNN's Jasmine Wright is with us now. Jasmine, we know that the president is taking on a role that he's familiar with, consoler in chief, as some call him, especially at times like these. What did he share with the people in Atlanta?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christi, you really saw President Biden using his remarks to reflect that rise in violence against Asian-Americans in this country.


As you said, he used his compassion and his empathy, but he also said some calls to action, really in his strongest remarks on the issue yet.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Too many Asian- Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake. They've been attacked, blamed, scapegoated, and harassed.

They've been verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, killed. Documented incidents of hate against Asian-Americans have seen a skyrocketing spike over the last year, let alone the ones that happen and never get reported.


WRIGHT: Now Christi, President Biden stopped short of labeling Tuesday's shootings as a hate crime. As we heard from Natasha just a moment ago, this is something that the AAPI community wants to see him do, but of course federal authorities are not designating it as such. So President Biden hasn't taken that step. But what we just heard from him was a nod to those folks who want to see him come out stronger. But, of course, he didn't go that far.

And then from Vice President Harris we heard some remarks, but she really tracked the trajectory of racism and discrimination in this country, really saying that it now has hit a flashpoint. And of course, Vice President Harris is the first vice president of South Asian dissent.


KAMALA HARRIS, (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Racism is real in America, and it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been. Sexism, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WRIGHT: So in their meeting with the AAPI leaders before this, one attendee said President Biden mentioned President Trump, former President Trump, and his contributions to where this country is right now with anti-Asian hate. But the question is, what comes next? And we know that President Biden has called on Congress to pass the COVID-19 hate crime acts that would allow federal authorities to investigate coronavirus-related hate crimes quicker. Christi, Boris?

PAUL: Jasmine Wright, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

So these shootings in Atlanta aren't isolated events. We are in the middle of the nationwide rise in anti-Asian violence, as we've been talking about here, partly spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism says reports of anti-Asian crime have more than doubled during the pandemic, and lawmakers at the local and federal level have been calling out these incidents for months now. Many are calling for Congress to back the No Hate Act. It would, among other things, improve reporting of hate crime data.

My next guest is a Congressman Mark Takano of California. He's vice chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus which supports the No Hate Act. Congressman, thank you for being with us. How hopeful are you that this act will actually become a real piece of legislation?

REP. MARK TAKANO, (D-CA), VICE CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN CAUCUS: I'm very hopeful, especially with last night's strong, strong endorsement from President Biden himself that he called upon Congress to pass the COVID-19 hate crime bill.

PAUL: Talk to us about what you felt, what you thought when you heard about what happened in Atlanta.

TAKANO: I was just heartsick when I found out about it, and regardless of what we will eventually find out about the motives of the assailant, these murders of Asian women occur in the context of rising anti-Asian harassment and assaults and murders. And so I was concerned, regardless of how -- what the actual motivations are of the assailant, it has served to really bring this issue to the surface in a very, very significant way.

PAUL: We know that words matter, verbiage matters here. A spokesman for Cherokee County, which is the first place where the first shooting took place in Atlanta, he was removed from the case due to some comments that he made. How persuasive, do you think, are the words from law enforcement in a situation like what we saw in Atlanta, to set the tone for what happens next?


TAKANO: Well, knowing more about that spokesman's background and the fact that he was displaying t-shirts that had China spelled C-h-y, hyphen, n-a, and reaffirm confirming the rhetoric that was being espoused by former President Trump, rhetoric like "China virus," "Wuhan virus," or the most offensive to me is "kung flu," that we had a leader, a captain in that police force feeling OK to publicly do things like that without realizing that he has a responsibility to make everyone in the community feel secure, and that law enforcement is going to be -- is going to move forward protecting everyone.

And so his statements came across to many in the Asian-American community as minimizing what the assailant had done. Look, I am open to the notion that this young man was primarily concerned with his own salvation and saw women, all women, as temptations, in this case temptations that needed to be eliminated, and that he was struggling with an attempt to gain control over himself.

But at the very least, women were dehumanized, and Asian women were also dehumanized. But, certainly, this police captain's authority, his own personal authority, his moral authority, was compromised by previous displays, I think, of bias.

PAUL: You just said -- so you said that -- you're showing some understanding. You say that you have an understanding that the suspect in this case, the shooter, had his own demons that he was dealing with. Does that mean to you that the hate being charged, or the hate crime, is absolutely still necessary, though, in this case? And what is the symbolism as Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms mentioned yesterday, the symbolism of at least charging him with a hate crime could be significant as well?

TAKANO: Look, hate crime statutes are very difficult to invoke. They rely on evidence that there was a racial animus on the part of the accused. And they're very difficult to write, and they're very difficult for prosecutors to use.

And to any casual observer, the notion that these were Asian businesses, that six out of the eight who were killed, six of the eight women who were killed, were Asian, would seem prima facia evidence that this was a crime directed, in part, against Asian-ness. But legally, technically, it's very difficult to actually make these things stand up in court, given how the statutes are written.

So I can understand the difficulty and the carefulness, the difficulty of the Justice Department and the local prosecution. At the same time, I think they're showing tremendous leadership, the president, the vice president, who is a former attorney general, they're showing tremendous leadership to show that they care about the Asian-American community, they care about Asian lives, and that -- I believe that they are showing that they understand how important leadership is.

I actually think the most important thing that comes out of this is leadership. The tone that's set by our top officials, the tone that's set by the kinds of stories that come out of Hollywood. I've seen tremendous progress, even during this pandemic, on that front in terms of how Asians are portrayed in movies and media, the narratives about them, the break with the kinds of stereotypical ways in which Asian women are fetishized, and how often they're seen as submissive.


All of these things, we don't know how they played upon the mindset of this young man. It's going to take a lot more time to sus these things out. But I go back to the importance of leadership and how the absence of leadership during the pandemic in terms of recognizing the duty of government to quell or to counteract what would naturally bubble up in a society as people are confined, as they're dealing with home isolation, the anger and resentment, and to do everything possible to prevent that from being focused on a particular ethnicity or a particular race, quite to the contrary. No concerted effort to actually stop that from happening. The opposite happened.

PAUL: Sure.

TAKANO: You had a president that stoked those feelings for political gain, and we're dealing with the aftermath of that. And -- go ahead.

PAUL: I'm sorry, Congressman Mark Takano, we've run out of time. But I wanted to make sure that you got all of your thoughts in and were able to convey them to us. Thank you so much for taking the time for us. Congressman Mark Takano there.

TAKANO: I appreciate it. Thank you.

PAUL: Of course.

SANCHEZ: Still ahead, the CDC making it official, cutting the recommended distancing for kids in schools from six feet to three. It could be a major boost to reopening classrooms, but is it safe?

PAUL: And listen to this. The Tokyo Olympics are going to look a lot different this year. The big change that was just announced.



SANCHEZ: A potential game-changer for kids in classrooms. The CDC cutting physical distancing guidelines from six feet to three feet for in-person learning. Those new guidelines are giving many people hope that a return to normal is getting closer.

PAUL: Just yesterday the TSA screened more than 1.4 million people at U.S. airports. That's setting a pandemic-era record for a second day in a row now. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro has more.


EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Big news for schools Friday. New guidance from the CDC halving the distance most students need to be spaced in the classroom.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: Layered mitigation strategies, including strict use of masks among students and a distance of at least three feet between students, were common factors among the schools in these studies that demonstrated decreased transmission from COVID-19.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The new guidance heralded by local government leaders, who say the updated rules mean more kids in school. MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, (D) NEW YORK CITY: It is going to really help us

to reach more kids.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: It's not just throwing open the doors, however.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Are they going to still ensure that you have good enough ventilation in those places? That's going to continue to be a priority. Obviously, masking is going to continue to be a priority. All those things. So yes, great news, I think it's going to open the door for a lot of schools to be able to reopen, but don't forget the basics still -- masks, ventilation, all that.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Optimism mixed in vigilance, as the Biden administration announced a major achievement this week -- 100 million vaccine doses administered in 58 days.

JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have nearly doubled the amount of vaccine doses that we distribute to states, tribes, and territories each week.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: States across the country are making the vaccine more available, and with that, some are lifting restrictions. In Kentucky this weekend, bars can serve until midnight and close at 1:00 a.m. at 60 percent capacity. On Monday, Massachusetts reopens stadiums at 12 percent capacity and raises limits on public gatherings. Signs that Americans are feeling more secure are everywhere, especially at the airport. The TSA screened more than 1 million passenger percent day for the last eight straight days. That's a record for the year. But it doesn't mean the pandemic is anywhere near over. Dr. Fauci warning the variant first discovered in the U.K. is spreading in America, and people still need to take the basic measures to protect themselves.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible with a vaccine that we know works against this variant. And, finally, to implement the public health measures that we talk about all the time.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, Boris, if there's a through-line this weekend, it's that there's good news all around us, in the schools, in the airports, in the vaccine centers like the one behind me. But in order for the news to stay good, everyone needs to stay vigilant, keep the masks on, and do what they need to do to keep this virus from spreading. Boris?

SANCHEZ: Well said. Evan McMorris-Santoro reporting from New York, thanks so much.

CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen is here with us now to share her insight and expertise. Dr. Wen, good morning, always a pleasure to see and to have you on the show. First, let's start with the CDC relaxing recommendations for social

distancing from six feet to three feet in schools. This guidance is relying heavily on schools using other measures, like universal masking and contact tracing, and with kids, it's often difficult to enforce rules all the time. But a lot of that behavior, obviously, is modelled at home. So how would you as a parent explain this to your kids, how they should behave in school?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is important, Boris, that we get our children back for full in-person instruction, and so in general I think the CDC guidelines are definitely the step in the right direction, because, at this point, we shouldn't be thinking about is something safe or unsafe. Nothing is going to be zero risk, but rather we should be looking at is something essential. And I think getting our kids back for in-person instruction is really essential.


Parents can certainly help their kids. They can practice masking at home, can explain the importance of masking and trying to keep that physical distancing. I also think that parents should do their best to get vaccinated when it's their turn, because that also helps to protect the children and everybody around them.

And I also think that in the meantime, these schools should do even more. Now that distancing is going to be removed as a requirement, the six-foot distancing, there should be other things put into place, including improved ventilation, including regular testing and other measures that will help to keep the students and school staff safe.

SANCHEZ: I wanted to ask you about a troubling number we found in a new survey that discovered that almost half of health care workers have yet to receive a dose of any COVID-19 vaccine. This is a Kaiser Permanente poll. People trust their doctor, their personal doctor, many times more than they trust us on TV or folks in government. So what message does it send if this high a number of health care workers are not actually getting the vaccine?

WEN: Yes, I think you're right, that people trust the individuals who are counseling them on a regular basis, and so that's their doctor, their pharmacist, the nurse, the people that they know in their community who have that trust. And so I do think it's important for us to try to increase vaccine confidence among clinicians.

I think a lot of that, though, will come with time. We've seen the level of hesitancy, in particular among nurses and home health aides, the hesitancy level has decreased as more of their peers and colleagues have gotten vaccinated. And so I think we shouldn't put vaccine hesitancy into one bucket but actually really address people's concerns where they are.

SANCHEZ: Very quickly, I want to take a look at the big picture. New cases nationwide dropping significantly, but they do appear to be starting to plateau. When you look at these trends, where things stand right now, are you concerned about a possible third spike? WEN: I think we're on the cusp of that additional surge right now.

Some of that surge is going to be blunted by the fact that many more people are vaccinated, and in fact every day we're getting between 2 million and 3 million vaccines in arms, which is fantastic. But we also have more contagious variants that are quickly becoming dominant.

And so I think we're going to see the impact pretty soon. I don't think our hospitalizations and deaths will rise as much as before because we have so many of our most vulnerable already vaccinated. But I do expect to see an increase in the level of infection, and I just hope people will hear us out and hang in there, because it would be so tragic to have something happen now when we are so close to the end of being able to return to normalcy.

SANCHEZ: Yes, as Dr. Fauci put it, it's going to be a race between the vaccines and the variants. We have to leave the conversation there. Dr. Leana Wen, thanks so much for joining us.

WEN: Thank you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Christi?

PAUL: So the world's athletes are going to be competing in the Tokyo Summer Olympics without the cheers of international fans now. CNN's Selina Wang is live in Tokyo for us. What happened here? What are Olympic organizers saying?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, we're just months away from the Summer Olympics, and the organizers say that, considering the pandemic situation, considering the current travel restrictions in place, it's just not going to be possible to have international fans gather here in Japan. This is a historic decision, but it was one that was expected.

We know it's going to still be extremely difficult to bring together more than 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries. We also know these games are going to look like no other in history. We know that athletes are going to have to be socially distanced. They're going to have to only go to designated places. It's not going to be the normal international joyful party that it always is. It's not going to be that same celebratory atmosphere.

Athletes are also asked to avoid giving each other handshakes, hugging, or even high-fiving. And I've spoken to several Olympic athletes here in Japan and they say that all of this uncertainty, all these restrictions are extremely stressful. I spoke to sport climber Akiyo Noguchi.

She told me that she derives tremendous power from having a huge crowd in the stands, and that it is going to be difficult to create that motivation and emergency without a massive crowd. But at this point we still don't know how many fans from here in Japan are going to be able to attend, if any at all. Christi?

PAUL: Christi. Good point. You wonder what it might do to the performance because they can't feed off of it. Selina Wang, we appreciate it. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Up next, the growing crisis at the border. New details on the Biden administration's plan to control the entry of migrants coming into the United States.



PAUL: The Biden administration is facing this growing surge at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Border Patrol sector chief in Texas's Rio Grande Valley tells CNN more than 2,000 migrants were apprehended there just on Thursday.

SANCHEZ: We've also learned this morning that the Biden administration is moving on from a Trump-era policy and expanding where migrants who were forced to stay in Mexico can be processed in order to enter the country.

PAUL: CNN's Priscilla Alvarez has been covering the crisis for us. She is with us now live from Dallas. Priscilla, you've been telling some really riveting stories from there about the surge. What's the latest on how the administration is able to handle this?


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: The administration is trying to find sites where they can begin to accommodate children who are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border alone. I'm here in Dallas where the Convention Center behind me is being used to house more than 2,000 migrant minors, again, children who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border alone, to start to alleviate the overcrowding in Border Patrol facilities.

This is a challenge the administration has been facing for weeks now as the number of children in Border Patrol custody, meaning almost jail-like facilities, continues to climb. So intake sites like the one behind me being set up just to accommodate the sheer number of kids coming, Christi.

SANCHEZ: And Priscilla, you have new reporting on the administration preparing to expand the phased entry of migrants who were forced by a Trump-era policy to stay in Mexico. Help us understand this move.

ALVAREZ: So in the first weeks of Biden taking office, he really went into this effort of pulling back the Trump administration's policy that forced migrants who were seeking asylum to wait in Mexico until their court date in the U.S. So this effort started last month in three locations along the border, and the administration is working with international organizations to start to allow the gradual entry of migrants who had been waiting, in some cases two years, in Mexico to make their case of asylum here in the United States.

So the administration announcing just last night that they are now going to expand that to two more ports in Hidalgo, Texas, and Laredo, Texas, again, with the assistance of international organizations. They will register virtually to see if they're eligible, and then they'll be tested for COVID before coming to the United States.

So all of this happening simultaneously as the administration also faces the other challenge on the border, but this effort in particular, targeting those migrants who had cases that were working their way through the court system but had been forced to stay in Mexico under Trump.

SANCHEZ: Priscilla Alvarez reporting from Dallas, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Priscilla.

We have got some disturbing new video that's from the FBI that we can share with you now. This is from the January 6th insurrection, and it shows rioters violently attacking officers. Here's the thing -- authorities say they need your help to track down the suspects here.



PAUL: It's 40 minutes past the hour right now, and four senior members of the Proud Boys, a rightwing group, have been indicted on charges related to the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

SANCHEZ: These new indictments come as the FBI releases new graphic video of that siege. CNN's Marshall Cohen joins us now. And Marshall, the FBI has made hundreds of arrests since January 6th, though federal agents say that there are still many more suspects out there still at large.

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Boris, more than 320 people have been charged in the riot, including dozens who allegedly attacked police officers. But even as the FBI stacks up those impressive numbers, their work isn't done, and they are once again asking for the public to help out.

Look at these videos. They're disturbing. They released 10 new clips showing some really graphic moments. You can see rioters trying to tear away an officer's helmet, throwing punches. Some rioters used tree branches and metal poles as weapons. One man deployed a chemical spray from up above on the balcony down onto a group of police officers.

These, these are the people that the FBI wants to bring to justice. They've already dealt with the low-hanging fruit, the people that were easy to arrest. And now they want to track down the most violent suspects. As you guys might recall, about 140 police officers were injured, and these are some of the people who may have been responsible. Christi and Boris?

PAUL: So, Marshall, I know federal officials have called white supremacists the greatest terror threat to the country, and they're cracking down on some of the extremist groups themselves. Do we know which groups, and exactly what they're doing to do so?

COHEN: It's been getting deeper and deeper, this crackdown. There's a new conspiracy indictment against the Proud Boys, a rightwing organization. We learned about this yesterday. It's giving us a glimpse into how they prepared for January 6th. They raised money for tactical gear, high-tech radios.

The even used encrypted apps to communicate. So the indictment yesterday had four people in it, but so far five senior members -- you can see them on the screen -- five senior members of the Proud Boys have been charged. These are guys who ran the local chapters, organizing events. So far about 20 people with ties to the Proud Boys have been arrested.

There's also the Oath Keepers. We're keeping a close eye on them, far right militia group, anti-government, very violent, involved in the Capitol riot. We've obtained images of some of those members from December with Roger Stone. Some are facing criminal charges. They're now being seen in new images providing security with Roger Stone, the close Trump ally, and also with him at a book signing event in what looks like a replica Oval Office.

Now, look, Roger Stone denies knowing of any plans to storm the Capitol on January 6th, but you can see it in the pictures, every week I feel like we keep seeing more and more photos. His ties to this militant organization just keep on growing.

PAUL: Marshall Cohen, we're so grateful you're on it. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Over the last year, the pandemic has changed life as we know it. Up next, we go beyond the numbers and reflect on the human cost of COVID.



SANCHEZ: It's nearly impossible to fully comprehend the emotional toll the pandemic has had on the United States.

PAUL: I know, Boris, you've been watching our colleague, CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez. He's been filing just these reports that get to that, right? And he's actually hosting a new CNN special report. It's called "The Human Cost of COVID." It is tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern. Take a look.


ANDREW MARSH, FATHER DIED OF COVID-19: He went in on a Monday, regular COVID unit, ICU on like Thursday, intubated on Saturday. He was in the hospital for a couple weeks before I ever got to see him. Things weren't looking good, so I asked the doctor, like, hey, look, what are the chances that I can see my dad one time? I will sign a waiver, and I'll do whatever I have to do. And she actually, surprisingly, got me permission.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So your 69-year-old father, a guy you looked up to, what do you see when you walk into his room?


MARSH: I see a shell of my father. Just the amount of things that were keeping him alive was -- I've just never seen anything like that.

MARQUEZ: Do you think he recognized you, your voice?

MARSH: I hope so. I think so and I hope so. I talked to him like he did.

MARQUEZ: What did you say?

MARSH: If he was in there, I know that he was thinking about his to-do list. And so I told him all the things that I did standing in the gap for him, the bills that were paid, the payroll at the church that had been done, the mortgage at the church, I took care of that. My mom was well taken care of. I told him, you keep fighting. Don't worry about all the things that you normally would do, I've got it.


SANCHEZ: Miguel Marquez joins us now. Miguel, you've done incredible work. It's been more than a year now since the pandemic basically shut everything down. And a lot of folks at home, understandably, have some degree of COVID fatigue. Having spoken to so many people who have lost loved ones, people who have lost their own battles with COVID, what's your message to those who say that they just want to move on?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, sadly, one epidemiologist we spoke to, Boris, put it this way. He thought that it could be worse. This could be a much more deadly virus, and it could spread a lot more easily. And in some ways, this was a warning. And he also suspects, because the world is so interconnected and that we fly everywhere and there are so many more people inhabiting the planet, that we will see more pandemics ahead.

So for as horrible as this past year was, and I mean we are a PTSD nation, PTSD world right now, for as bad as it was, it could be worse. And this hour tries to get at sort of everything that America went through, that suffocating sadness of those who lost loved ones, over a half-million people dead.

It is impossible to put that into any sort of perspective, millions upon millions that got COVID. But it wasn't just the sadness. It was the fear of getting it. It was the anger around it and the conspiracies that came out of it. So all of that we try to get into this one place, and in one down, Dalton, Georgia, that was emblematic of everything going on in the country and the world.

PAUL: Your coverage, I think, was so pivotal because you got us into the E.R. And unless we were there, we didn't understand what was happening. How did that leave you, Miguel? What did that leave you with?

MARQUEZ: Look, it is rare in the world of a reporter to be able to report on something and be an observer and also be part of it, because I was -- and all of us were susceptible to COVID-19 as well. So there was that piece of it.

But as you remember, this all really took off in the early spring last year, and these were beautiful spring days. Cities were empty. Everybody was staying home. You would never know anything was happening until you walked into those emergency rooms and into those hospitals and you saw the horror of what they were dealing with in there. Person after person expiring, person after person struggling to breathe, people being intubated everywhere.

And doctors, all these brilliant, smart doctors and researchers that we look to and we have such confidence in, had no clue what they were dealing with. They understood some parts of it, but they didn't understand the whole. What happened in China and in Italy, and suddenly it was in New York, and then it was everywhere else. And even in places like Dalton, Georgia, it just -- it eviscerated the town in some ways, and so many people lost their lives. And it was such an anger-inducing era for so many.

So getting at all of that is sort of what we tried to do. I've got to say, Michelle (ph) Roscha (ph), who put this thing together and helped put this together, my heart goes out to her because she really did a lot of work in getting these people to chat with us and finding this town and putting this together. So it took a heck of a big team for a hell of a bad year.

SANCHEZ: Quickly, Miguel, you've told so many stories. What's one that stands out to you?

MARQUEZ: Well, in this special, from the people I've spoken to over the year, the guy in Phoenix who lost several members of his family and his business and everything just collapsed, certainly, was one that I told throughout the year. But this story, that Andrew Marsh who you hear from, it was impossible to really listen to and to talk to him. I was in puddles of tears, he was in tears, the photographers who were there were in tears, the producers. It was really, really difficult to chat with him and to hear their story.

SANCHEZ: It may be difficult, but it's so crucial to listen to and to experience the pain --

MARQUEZ: Utterly necessary.

SANCHEZ: -- that so many have felt.


"The Human Cost of COVID" airs tonight, 9:00 eastern here on CNN. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much for your work and for the special.

PAUL: Miguel, you informed us in ways that we needed to be informed for the last year, and of course, we continue to watch you because we know you continue to bring us things we need to know. Thank you. Thank you for all you did. And we're so glad that you're OK.

And thank you to all of you to spent some time with us here in the morning. We hope that you can go make good memories today. SANCHEZ: Always a pleasure to spend time with you, Christi. There's

still much more ahead in the next hour of the CNN NEWSROOM. Fredricka Whitfield is up next.