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Information Emerging About Atlanta Spa Murders; Biden Condemns Bigotry; U.S. Vaccine Eligibility Soon Expanding To All; U.S. Sending Vaccine To Mexico; Rape As A Weapon Of War In Tigray; Cubans Risking It All To Flee By Boat; Current Cuomo Aide Alleges Sexual Harassment; Olympic Athletes Face Mental Challenges. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired March 20, 2021 - 05:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Grief and anger in Georgia where a gunman killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. President Biden visited the state and urged Americans to unite against hate.

Then France resumes using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine but puts new restrictions on it after health agencies say it's safe.

Later, doctors tell CNN rape is being used as a weapon of war in Ethiopia. We have the stories of women caught up in the country's violent conflict.

Live from CNN headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching in Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.


BRUNHUBER: Law enforcement authorities across the Atlanta Metro area in Georgia are pushing forward into the investigation in the deadly shootings this week, as new details emerge about the crime and the eight people who lost their lives.

Surveillance video recorded by a Cherokee County business Tuesday has been provided to CNN and it appears to show the suspect, parking his dark Hyundai in front of the spa where the first shootings occurred.

There is a growing memorial outside of that spa. But local community leaders were able to talk about their fear of rising violence with two high profile visitors, U.S. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Our Jeff Zeleny has that.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Biden and Vice President Harris came to Atlanta on Friday to listen to the voices of Asian American community leaders, who were voicing their concern in the wake of shootings here earlier this week that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent.

The meeting lasted more than an hour. After that, President Biden acknowledged the rise in violence toward Asian Americans over the course of the last year during the pandemic. He had this message for Americans.


BIDEN: Hate and violence often hide in plain sight. It's often been met with silence. That's been all throughout our history. That has to change because our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act.


ZELENY: For about an hour, the president and vice president did meet with Asian American community leaders, including Stephanie Cho, who I caught up with after the meeting. She said former President Donald Trump's name came up again and again for his contributions to the violence during the pandemic.


STEPHANIE CHO, ASIAN AMERICANS ADVANCING JUSTICE: I'd like to see it be beyond this moment and that, as much as the former president called it the China virus, scapegoated Asian Americans and really fueled this racism around Asian Americans, I'd like to see the Biden administration be -- come out just as strongly but in support of Asian Americans.


ZELENY: Cho said she was heartened by President Biden and Vice President Harris coming here to Georgia to shine a light on this violence but she said she will be watching the actions of the White House.

She hopes President Biden speaks out forcefully against this violence in the weeks and months to come. As for the White House, this was intended to be a stop on their Help is Here Tour, promoting the American Rescue Plan.

Clearly, Georgia a central state for the White House; it helped deliver the victory for President Biden and Vice President Harris. But it also sent the Senate majority in Democratic hands, that led to the passage of the American Rescue Plan. The White House continues to promote that in the weeks ahead -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Atlanta.


BRUNHUBER: We are learning more about the suspect in the series of heinous attacks and the lives he admits taking. Our Ryan Young has more plus perspective from local Asian women who say, enough is enough.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Investigators are actively the exact movements and the motive of the suspect who confessed to Tuesday's attack on massage spas in Metro Atlanta.

CNN obtained the arrest warrants for Robert Aaron Long from Cherokee County. He faces 11 felony charges, four counts of murder with malice, one count of criminal attempt to commit murder, one count of aggravated assault with intent to rape, murder or rob and five counts of possession of a firearm during commission of a felony.


YOUNG (voice-over): For victims like Mario Gonzalez who lost his wife during the shooting, the charges do little to fill the hole left in their hearts.

MARIO GONZALEZ, SHOOTING SURVIVOR (through translation): About an hour in, almost at the end, I heard the shots. I didn't see anything. Only, I started to think it was in the room where my wife was. They took the most valuable thing in my life I had because she was taken from me. He left me with only pain, the killer who killed my wife, something needs to be done.

YOUNG: The 9-1-1 calls hampered by difficulty in communication and don't reveal the true desperation of the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it a male or female?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have a gun, but (foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have a gun, you said?

YOUNG: The medical examiner today revealing the names of four victims who were gunned down, Soon Park, 74, Hyun Grant, 51 and Suncha Kim, 69 Yong Yue, 63. Their identities revealed days after the attack because of difficulty notifying next of kin.

Police tell us they are still working to determine the shooters motives.

DEPUTY CHIEF CHARLES HAMPTON, ATLANTA POLICE: And it's just very important to just let you know that we are not done. We're still working very diligently and to ascertain all the facts, so we can have a successful prosecution because that's what's most important now.

YOUNG (voice-over): This afternoon Crabapple Baptist Church, where Robert Long worshipped, released this statement about the suspected shooter, "No blame can be placed upon the victims. These actions are the result of a sinful heart and depraved mind for which Aaron is completely responsible."

As investigators struggle to put the pieces together, there are growing calls in this community and country to protect the memories of the women involved.

To target three Asian businesses and to kill six women who look like me, could be me, could be my mom, could be my sister, could be my aunt and not to call it a hate crime is dehumanizing.

To say that it is unclear what the motivations were is -- it's silencing. It's taking away our story. We keep trying to scapegoat one person and fail to see this is actually part of a larger issue. This was incredibly predictable. It has built up over the course of many years.

YOUNG: There is a growing Asian community outside of Atlanta and a lot of the people that we have talked to over the last few days tell us they are tired of the abuse and they want more stories about what is happening in the community. They hope this sort of turns a light on some of the challenges they face -- reporting in Atlanta, Ryan Young, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Chris Cuomo discussed the issue of hate crimes charged with Atlanta's mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms.


MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-GA), ATLANTA: When you look at the definition of a hate crime, in Georgia, it's not just based on race. It can also be based on sex. And he targeted Asian massage parlors, in his own words, if you are to believe the words of a mass murderer--


BOTTOMS: -- because of some sexual addiction that he had, and he targeted women. So, I think that in and of itself speaks to the definition of a hate crime in Georgia.

But the reality is this, Chris. The stiffer penalties will come along with a murder conviction with murder convictions on several counts. In Georgia, the penalties, as I've read it, for hate crimes are only an additional two years for felonies.

But I do think the symbolism of him being charged with a hate crime is important. And I do hope that's what prosecutors will decide to do.


BRUNHUBER: My colleague, Michael Holmes, spoke earlier with one of the community organizers, who was at Friday's meeting with the president and vice president. Have a listen.


BIANCA JYOTISHI, NATIONAL ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN WOMEN'S FORUM: I am struck by the amount of power that, AAPI, elected officials in the state and our community members hold and the amount of support that we received from President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

They were so graceful enough to clear their schedules and came here to talk about COVID relief and completely pivoted to make space for this enormous tragedy that our people have had to experience this week. MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: I heard letters from the victims' families

were read out loud. That must have been a pretty powerful moment.

JYOTISHI: Yes. I think -- I honestly -- yes, it was a beautiful moment. It was powerful and at the same time it was devastating. It was very much a clear indicator of the pain so many of our community members have felt this week and the fear we've been experiencing.

The entire room was crying. I was crying. It was truly a moment of just recognizing the true -- the amount of heinous that went into this crime.

HOLMES: You know, it's infuriating that it takes something like this, the loss of so many lives, the brutal nature of this, for the issue to go, you know, front and center, although it's been an issue, you know, with friends of mine.


HOLMES: They say they've dealt with it for years.

Is there a sense that a dam in some ways is bursting?

JYOTISHI: I don't know about that, you know?

I think maybe to an extent. Yes, I think that's something I've been grappling with this week in particular. We've had a flood of donations, a flood of social media, things going viral. And it shouldn't have taken the lives of so many people for this to have happened.


JYOTISHI: We've been doing this work for 25 years now as an organization and we've been working at the intersections of race and gender for so long, so we know this has been a problem, even before COVID. We were seeing a lot of anti- Asian violence and hate.

I'm going to apologize. You can probably hear my cat, who's seeking some attention.

But, yes, we've been dealing with this for a long time. I think we've seen a spike since COVID-19 started. But it's nothing new for us.

HOLMES: Yes, my former co-anchor, Amara Walker, is Korean American and she has spoken about this from the heart and has fronted incidents herself of, you know, open racism.

Do you feel that, you know, the door is opening for substantive change?

Or do you fear that, a few weeks from now, it's forgotten?

JYOTISHI: I hope it won't be forgotten. My hope is that this is a moment in time where we have failed our society and that we can do better and be proactive as a collective society and collective unit. We can respond to these crises proactively so we can be more preventive in the future.

I hope people will remember our community members and continue to uplift AAPI voices in this movement.

HOLMES: Sadly, there is a political aspect to this and a change in tone from the previous administration is certainly striking. The rhetoric from the former president, though, as well as many other Republicans, many people feel is at least partly to blame for the rise in xenophobia.

Do you feel it had an impact on what has happened over the last years under that administration?

JYOTISHI: You know, I think calling the COVID-19 virus "the China virus" is certainly not helpful. It's definitely hurtful. I would say that the real issue here, the root issue here is actually white supremacy.

So it's been dividing how communities of color are pitted against each other for so long. It's really the true nature and the true issue here is actually white supremacy, how it's divided our communities, just marginalized people more.

The reason we actually have to exist as an organization is, really, to call out white supremacy and so that -- we have to create a space for people to exist.


BRUNHUBER: That was Bianca Jyotishi, speaking to my colleague, Michael Holmes.

On Monday night, CNN will bring you a special: "Afraid: Fear in America's Communities of Color." Amara Walker, Victor Blackwell, Ana Cabrera and Anderson Cooper will hold the conversation, focused on the shared fear so many Americans are feeling right now. That's Monday at 9 pm Eastern and 9 o'clock Tuesday morning in Hong Kong.

The push to get children back into the classroom is getting a powerful nudge. The new recommendations coming from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that may encourage a faster return to in-person learning.





BRUNHUBER: The Biden administration is doubling its original vaccination goal after administering 100 million doses six weeks ahead of schedule. It's also hoping to get children back into the classroom, a task that may be easier, now that the CDC is relaxing its social distancing recommendations for schools. Alexandria Field has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Schools should be the last place to close and the first place to open.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A big shift today in the plan to put more kids back in the classroom.

WALENSKY: K-12 schools that implement strong, layered prevention strategies can operate safely.

FIELD: The CDC updating guidelines for schools to safely reopen, if everyone is masked, just three feet of space between students, down from six.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The bottom line is that there was never very good evidence for doing it at six feet, not if kids are masked up.

FIELD: It's not clear how quickly schools will implement changes, after the president of one of the largest teachers unions responded by saying they would, quote, "reserve judgment."

The CDC is still recommending six feet of distance between children and adults during higher-risk activities like singing and among older students in communities with high transmission, along with other precautions like open windows and empty rows on school buses.

The push to reopen the majority of schools across the country accelerating as new COVID-19 cases hold steady, the country stuck in an undeniably high average of fewer than 55,000 new cases daily.

Still, Alabama is one of the latest states moving ahead with plans to eliminate a mask mandate.

DR. SCOTT HARRIS, ALABAMA STATE HEALTH OFFICE: The actual legal consideration of making it a mandate or not is not up to me. But we believe that evidence supports their use.

FIELD: Masks are no longer mandated in Texas. Police there say a restaurant manager was stabbed several times after telling a man to put one on.

GARY RATLIFF, LEAGUE CITY, TEXAS, POLICE CHIEF: A suspect ran up behind him, tackled him and stabbed him multiple times.

FIELD: In the Northeast, New York is easing indoor dining capacity limits today.

New Jersey is expanding capacity for restaurants and a slew of other businesses. Connecticut now lifting all capacity restrictions on restaurants and many businesses. As restrictions lift, the pace of vaccinations is rising.

WALENSKY: Today, day 58...


WALENSKY: ... we hit our goal of 100 million vaccinations in arms.

FIELD: President Joe Biden beating by weeks his goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.

But there's a new set of challenges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that we're going to be shifting from a supply issue to a demand issue pretty soon.

FIELD: A new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation and "The Washington Post" shows nearly four in 10 unvaccinated health care workers say they won't get a shot or that they're undecided.


FIELD (voice-over): More states are on track to expand eligibility to all adults in the next few weeks, including Nevada, Illinois, Missouri and Rhode Island.

FIELD: Even with vaccine eligibility expanding and more adults getting shots in arms, Dr. Anthony Fauci is saying reaching herd immunity will likely require vaccinating children as well, and vaccines are not likely to be available for older children until the fall; for younger children, sometime after that -- in Hoboken, New Jersey, I'm Alexandra Field, CNN.


BRUNHUBER: Boris Johnson is standing behind the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine by getting one himself. He received first of two doses on Friday. He posted on Twitter, "Getting the jab is the best thing we can do to get back to the lives we miss so much. Let's get the jab done."

Now despite E.U. and British regulators confirming the AstraZeneca shot is safe, French health authorities are recommending it for people only 55 and older because the rare cases of blood clots that occurred happened in people younger than 55. And the majority were women.

Despite reassurances that the AstraZeneca shot is safe, not everyone in Europe is rushing to get the vaccine. For more on this, Phil Black is joining us from Essex, England.

Several countries still not resuming using AstraZeneca.

Why are they reluctant to accept the results of these medical reviews?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are talking about a small number of countries, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland. These are all countries who decided to maintain the suspension of AstraZeneca.

We are talking about a tiny fraction of cases that have involved blood clotting and excessive bleeding. In terms of the overall number of people, more than 20 million have received the AstraZeneca vaccine across Europe and the U.K.

You're right, despite these reassurances, these countries are not yet satisfied and believe these cases are specific and unusual so they simply want to be cautious and they want more information and more time in order to be sure.

It is a safety first approach, which we have heard from really all of the countries, that at some point over the course of the week, suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, it's about ensuring safety and it's about ensuring openness and honesty with the populations in order to ensure the trust of their vaccination programs. That is the argument in favor.

But there is no doubt there is also an argument against. One that says that, by depriving people of this vaccine, you are, in a sense, exposing them to the greater risk of developing severe COVID-19. And there is the longer term reputational damage to this vaccine in particular and the vaccine program and vaccine programs in general.

The risk that it could perhaps fuel uncertainty among those who are already hesitant to receive a vaccine -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: There comes a time that many countries in Europe now seem to be going through a third wave?

BLACK: Yes. Italy locked down this week and parts of France, big parts of France, including Paris; Poland and Germany is talking about restrictions as what it describes as exponential increase in transmission. A dark and depressing time for these European countries.

And they have been through this before and must now endure it again. That means restrictions on freedoms, it means lost time, it means more grief and death undoubtedly.

People who live in these societies that are closing down again will tell you that it is different this time. It is harder to accept because they know the vaccines are out there, yet they also know they are not be getting them anytime soon, at least not in the numbers to make a difference in driving down transmission.

Europe's vaccine rollout is simply too slow at the moment. They don't have the supply to make a significant difference to the transmission that they are dealing with. For that reason, these governments have the same limited difficult choices to make, shutting down, telling people to stay home.

And for the people who live in these countries, it is the same grinding routine they have had to deal with for more than a year. And at the moment, little reason to hope it is going to end soon.

BRUNHUBER: Very depressing to hear that. CNN correspondent Phil Black in Essex, thank you so much.

The United States will be sending millions of doses of AstraZeneca to its two North American neighbors, 1.5 million shots going to Canada and more than 2.5 million to Mexico. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: This action will allow our neighbors to meet a critical vaccination need in their countries, providing more protection immediately across the North American continent.

The doses we are loaning are not approved for use in the United States and no American will be without a vaccine because of this action.



BRUNHUBER: The agreement with Mexico came up in recent talks between the two countries about the border situation. President Biden has been seeking help from his Mexican counterpart to curb the current surge of migrants but the White House says the discussions about vaccines and border security aren't directly related.

Hardball diplomacy might best describe the past two days of contentious talks between senior U.S. and Chinese officials. Those discussions in Alaska were the first such high-level meeting between China and the new administration, with the sharp and unexpected rhetoric of the opening session, a combative tone and neither side backing down.

Here is how U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken summed up the face- to-face meeting.


TONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There are a number of areas where we are fundamentally at odds, including China's actions in Xinjiang, with regard to Hong Kong and Tibet and increasingly Taiwan, as well as actions that it's taking in cyberspace.

It's no surprise that, when we raised those issues clearly and directly, we got a defensive response. But we were also able to have a very candid conversation over these many hours on an expansive agenda.


BRUNHUBER: Despite the obvious tension, China's top U.S. diplomat is describing the talks as "candid, constructive and beneficial." Here is more from Selina Wang in Tokyo.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. and China ended their first high-level talks in Alaska with no major breakthroughs. But it appears there was a certain degree of posturing in an extraordinary public display, more than an hour of accusations, all playing out in front of TV cameras.

But both sides say there were constructive talks behind closed doors. The U.S. side say they accomplished what they needed to, laying out concerns and priorities. They say they were clear-eyed walking in and walking out.

On the Chinese side, here is what the Chinese diplomat had to say.


JIECHI (through translator): The strategic dialogue this time is candid, constructive and beneficial. Of course, some major differences between the 2 countries. China will safeguard our national sovereignty, security and our interest to develop. China's development is an unstoppable trend.


WANG: These remarks suggest that Beijing is not going to back down. At the start of the meetings, we heard China lash out against the U.S.' accusations that China is undermining the global state. We heard China tell the U.S. to stop meddling in its affairs, calling out the U.S. for its racism at home and its struggling democracy.

Experts say this more combative rhetoric suggests an important shift, a growing view in China that this is China's time. China is rising and the U.S. is in an inevitable decline. This makes cooperation much harder.

There had been hope that, under the Biden administration, the two powers would be able to cooperate on issues like climate change and dealing with the global pandemic. But it remains to be seen how the two sides will compartmentalize the issues as a rift grows in every other area.

China has made it clear, while it wants a reset relationship with the U.S., it will only do so on its own terms -- Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


BRUNHUBER: CNN investigates war crime allegations in Ethiopia. Just ahead, women who have survived unthinkable violence and horror tell us their stories.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

A humanitarian crisis is underway in Ethiopia's Tigray region, the scene of conflict, massacres, flights of refugees and hunger. Now CNN has learned soldiers there are using rape as a weapon of war. CNN's Nima Elbagir spoke with Jake Tapper about who is responsible for the alleged crimes.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They feel like no man in uniform is safe for them. A combination of ethnic Amhara militias from the Amhara ethnic group, allied with the government, soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, soldiers from the Fano Amhara ethnic militia, even here in Hamdayed (ph).

Just a couple of months ago, this was a safe haven. There were so many refugees were able to cross here.

Now they're describing to us a toxic mix of all of those forces, the ethnic militia, the Fano militia, the Eritrean soldiers blocking them from across the river from where we're standing here from coming to safety. Even here in Hamdayed (ph), they feel the shadow, Jake, they feel that fear.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You were able to speak with a doctor who's treating some of the women who have been attacked and even some of the victims.

ELBAGIR: We went to a clinic where Dr. Tedros Tefera, this extraordinary surgeon at home in Tigray, here, he's taken over the running of the clinic. He was examining a young woman who we asked if we could speak with, and we discovered that she had been raped, and she gave us permission to broadcast this, Jake. Take a look at it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He pushed me and he said you Tigrayans have no history, no culture, I can do what I want to you and no one cares.

ELBAGIR: What brought you to the clinic here today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I haven't told anyone, but I've been thinking that I'm pregnant from the rape, so I came to check and I discovered I am.


ELBAGIR: And the doctor says of the cases that are actually reported to him like that young lady, it may be less than ten, but the cases that he suspects based on the injuries they present with, he thinks that just here they could be potentially in the thousands and he believes that this isn't just about ill discipline, as horrible as that is, that this is part of a campaign that's being intentionally waged against the women of Tigray. This is what he told us, Jake.



DR. TEDROS TEFERA, EXAMINED TIGRAY VICTIMS: The women that they've been raped, the things they were saying to them as they were raping them, is that they need to change their identity. To either Amharize them or at least leave Tigrinya status. And they've come there to cleanse them.

ELBAGIR: Cleanse the blood line?

TEFERA: Cleanse the blood line and get them that they are different. Practically this has been a genocide of different phases.

ELBAGIR: And it is that cleansing of the blood line that these women say that they're being told is being done to them. That's what gives this the hallmarks of a genocide, Jake. That's what gives this the hallmarks of an ethnic cleansing, rather than just an unfortunate consequence of war.

And it's not here in Hamdayet, our team have been gathering evidence, our extraordinary team has also been working on gathering evidence from inside Tigray and I have to warn you and our viewers that what we're about to share with you is incredibly, incredibly upsetting, but it is a key piece of evidence in the wielding of rape as a weapon of war.

A doctor from inside Tigray was able to record a video of a procedure being carried out to remove foreign objects that had been inserted into an alleged victim victim's vagina. And we can't show you the video. It's too horrifying. I watched it. It's nauseating and appalling. We can show you these stills. These stills are what the doctors removed from inside this woman that told them she had been held captive by Eritrean soldiers and raped multiple times over a period of times.

You see in those stills, in a bucket those foreign objects nails measuring around 3 inches, rocks, used condoms. This is rape as a weapon of humiliation. It's a weapon of collective punishment, and the fear that it has instilled in the women even here in this safe haven in Hamdayet, Jake, is so awful to witness.

TAPPER: These stories and images that you're bringing to our viewers, it's so important obviously, also so heartbreaking.

We know that President Biden has dispatched his good friend Senator Coons, but beyond that, what else is the U.S. doing to help end this crisis?

ELBAGIR: Well, the U.S. has as Secretary Blinken said at this humanitarian spend. But in practical terms, what the U.S. is not doing, which it should be doing, is ensuring that hear, this safe haven in Hamdayet remains open, and that is not happening.

This is the only safe place for many Tigrayans and the Ethiopian forces, Ethiopian allied forces, Ethiopian government forces, we're told, are blocking that. That's a war crime. Blocking safe passage to fleeing communities would meet the metrics, the guidelines for a war crime, Jake. That's a simple fix. Give more humanitarian spending here to agencies and people like Dr.

Tedros who hasn't been paid for months. He's doing this for free, who are helping the communities here. But pressure the Ethiopians to release, to relieve some of that fear and some of that pain that's just across the border. Let them come here. The Sudanese government has agreed to give them safe haven. Allow them to take up that opportunity while that situation is being resolved, Jake.


BRUNHUBER: That was senior international correspondent Nima Elbagir, speaking to Jake Tapper from the Sudanese-Ethiopian border. Doctors treating these patients say they are seeing patients as young as 8 years old and they are telling the stories of their mothers and their sisters who have survived this. Much more of that important reporting on

Now we want to bring you some breaking news. We just are hearing now a powerful earthquake, magnitude 7, has just shaken Japan's Honshu island and a tsunami is expected to hit near there. No word on possible damages or injuries. We will be back after this short break. You're watching CNN.





BRUNHUBER: Many Cubans are desperately fleeing their homeland and trying to reach the U.S. by boat. For some it's the only way out since they can no longer get a U.S. visa or international flight. CNN's Patrick Oppmann has our exclusive report.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the tiny boat carrying Cuban migrants approaches the coast of Florida, a police helicopter infrared camera captures the moment when things go terribly wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air One, they just had a wave take him out. The boat's flipped over.

OPPMANN (voice-over): All eight people who were aboard this boat for more than 16 days in February survived. The Coast Guard told CNN they're seeing an increasing number of Cubans trying to make the dangerous and illegal journey to the U.S.

Some are stopped on rickety boats, known as rustibos. Some found on deserted islands where the Coast Guard airdropped supplies before rescuing them. Others are not so lucky.

In the town of Cabarai (ph) in Cuba, Beatriz keeps vigil for her daughter and two young grandchildren who are missing after the smuggler's boat they took mysteriously sunk this month. The toys and shoes the children left behind sit neatly in their room. Their mom hoped to reunite with her husband in Florida, Beatriz tells us. "My daughter is a good mother," Beatriz says. "She wouldn't have done

this if everything wasn't safe, if everything wasn't OK. She wouldn't put them through this. Her children are everything to her."

Just down the street, Dayami says her husband, Pepe (ph), was on the same boat, trying to go to the U.S. to better provide for his family. She says she doesn't know what to tell his teenaged daughter.

"She says nothing happened to her father," Dayami says, "that her father has to be alive somewhere. But where?

"We can't take it anymore. We are desperate."

Cuba has been hit hard by the impacts of the coronavirus and increased U.S. sanctions under the Trump administration. Tough economic conditions in the past led to waves of Cubans fleeing the island by boat. It's nearly impossible to leave Cuba legally these days.


OPPMANN (voice-over): COVID and still unexplained health incidents among U.S. diplomats here caused the U.S. to stop issuing visas at the embassy in Havana. A State Department report says, as of November, there were more than 78,000 Cubans on a waiting list for immigrant visas.

OPPMANN: Cubans are unable to receive visas at the U.S. embassy here and the pandemic has shut down most international flights to and from this island. For many Cubans desperate to leave, now the dangerous journey by boat is their only option.

OPPMANN (voice-over): Beatriz prays for a miracle for her daughter and grandchildren.

"That they find them and they don't stop looking," she says, "whatever the news is, that we know what happened, it's more upsetting to not know."

But just days after our interview, Cuban officials announced that the search for the missing boat has ended. And like too many other Cubans, Beatriz's family is now lost at sea -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Cabarai (ph), in Cuba.


BRUNHUBER: We will be right back.





BRUNHUBER: Another woman is alleging sexual harassment by New York governor Andrew Cuomo but this time it's one of his current aides. "The New York Times" broke the story on Friday. CNN's Brynn Gingras has the details.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thirty-three-year-old Alyssa McGrath is the first woman to come forward with allegations of inappropriate conduct by governor Andrew Cuomo, who is actually still working in the governor's administration. She said to "The New York Times" she would often be part of a pool of young aides, who would be summoned to the governor's mansion on the weekends to work.

In one instance, she says she noticed the governor was looking down her shirt and he commented on a necklace she was wearing. She said there were often comments he made toward her that made her unsettled. He would make remarks about her looks, tell her that she was beautiful, say, "ciao, bella."

These are all instances that she say amounted to sexual harassment.


GINGRAS: It's important to note she had no sexual contact with the governor. In one remark, she said to "The New York Times," "He has a way of making you feel very comfortable around him, almost like you're his friend. But then you walk away from the encounter or conversation in your head, going, 'I can't believe I just had that interaction with the governor.'"

The governor's attorney did give a statement to "The New York Times." CNN is trying to get it.

"The governor has greeted men and women with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, forehead or hand. Yes, he has posed for photographs with his arm around them. Yes, he uses Italian phrases, like 'ciao, bella.' None of this is remarkable although it may be old fashioned. He has made clear that he has never made inappropriate advances or inappropriately touched anyone."

Now of course, McGrath is just another woman who has similar stories to a number of women who have come forward with allegations against the governor and the governor has said he never meant to make someone feel uncomfortable and he denies any inappropriate contact or conduct with the allegations that are against him -- Brynn Gingras, CNN, Albany, New York.


BRUNHUBER: More than a year after Brazil confirmed its first case of COVID-19, the country is breaking its daily record of new cases. Hospitals are on the verge of collapse and now the mayor of Rio de Janeiro is closing its famous beaches. Matt Rivers is there.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day, another record, here in Brazil. 90,570 coronavirus cases reported on Friday. That is the highest single day total since this pandemic began.

Health officials also announcing, on Friday, they recorded more than 2,800 coronavirus related deaths. That is the second highest figure since this pandemic began.

Amidst the surge in cases and deaths, we know that states across the country are trying to take it on themselves to put in place more restrictive measures to halt the spread. Here in the city of Rio de Janeiro we know the famous Copacabana beach, right to my right, will actually be closed weekend as part of restrictive measures.

There is also an overnight curfew in place here in Rio and that kind of curfew, also, being instituted and other places around the country.

President Jair Bolsonaro, not happy about that. He wants to keep things opened and he says, only he is allowed to put into place those kinds of curfews. He has filed a lawsuit against some of these restrictive measures in Brazil's federal supreme court.

But we've heard from several states, they will be fighting back against that lawsuit. Several states, banding together, to fight back against this action Bolsonaro has taken in the federal supreme court -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Rio de Janeiro.


BRUNHUBER: The COVID-19-delayed 2020 Olympics are set to begin four months from now in Tokyo but there's still uncertainty surrounding the games and the wait has taken a mental toll on some athletes. Selina Wang is with one Olympic fencer who describes his struggles.


WANG (voice-over): Olympic fencer Ryo Miyake took up a new job last year, delivering food for Uber Eats to make extra cash and stay in shape during the pandemic.

His training stopped for several months after Tokyo announced the postponement of the Olympics. He since resumed practice but the physical and mental challenges remain.

RYO MIYAKE, OLYMPIC FENCER (through translator): It's been very difficult. And after all, the Olympics are like God, an absolute existence for athletes. It's like running a full marathon for four years. Adding another year is like we have to keep on running before reaching the goal.

WANG (voice-over): With the Olympic Games just months away, it is still unclear how Japan plans to hold the games safely. While the Japanese government has vowed the games will go ahead, a poll in January by public broadcaster NHK found that 77 percent of people in Japan think the games should be canceled or further postponed.

MIYAKE (through translator): I think it's quite risky to hold the Olympics at this stage. I think all athletes understand safety is the first priority and I don't think there are any athletes who want to compete in the Olympics, no matter what.


WANG (voice-over): At stake are tens of billions of dollars and Japan's national pride. But for athletes a lifetime of dedication hangs in the balance as does their mental well-being.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've started to see more and more Olympic athletes and aspiring Olympic athletes coming through our support system and having to put themselves through not only the level of training that these athletes are working at, 6 or 7 days a week, but also to stay as mentally hungry, driven, trying to reach their goals that isn't yet actually finalized and fixed at a set date in time.

It's really tough. Eventually that will take its toll on the mental health of these Olympians.

WANG (voice-over): But sport climber Akiyo Noguchi was happy to have an extra year of practice. She was planning to retire after the Tokyo 2020 games when sport climbing was supposed to make its Olympic debut. She has pushed back her retirement by one year in order to make the Olympics the last competition of her career.

WANG: How are you feeling that your first and last Olympics may be a strange one with COVID restrictions?

"Well, I feel very sad," she told me. "I wanted to be in the Olympics because I wanted to show my best performance in front of my family and supporters but this will not be in the form that I've been imagining," she said.

Olympic organizers have yet to decide if international fans or if any fans at all will be allowed to attend. Miyake's wife, Marie, who he met over Zoom during the pandemic, said she has never seen him fence in person.

MARIE MIYAKE, RYO'S WIFE: Physically, I've never been able to be at his matches or see his matches yet. So I've just watched on YouTube his past Olympic match.

WANG: You're hoping you can go to the Olympics then?

M. MIYAKE: I hope so, yes. I hope it's here in person, hopefully.

WANG (voice-over): But for now all Miyake can do is train and wait -- Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.



BRUNHUBER: As we just reported, a powerful magnitude 7 earthquake has just struck Honshu island in Japan. A tsunami advisory has been posted for the island's northeastern coast. We will bring you updates of that story on CNN. That wraps up this hour. I'm Kim Brunhuber. You are watching CNN.