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COVID-19 Vaccination In U.S. Reaches 13 Percent; AstraZeneca Vaccine Still Suspended In Majority Of European Countries; U.S. Rallies Against Asian-American Violence; DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas Visits Texas Border; Pressure Growing On Myanmar Military As Deaths Climb; High Vaccine Hesitancy In U.S. Among Republicans; Japan Opens Super Nintendo World. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired March 21, 2021 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all you watching here in the United States, Canada and all around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

From New York to Los Angeles, a swell of support for Asian Americans as anti-Asian violence rocks the nation. In cities across the U.S. this weekend, people are gathering in sadness for the victims of a mass killing and frustration at the climate of hate that many blame for it.

What you're seeing there, this is Atlanta, where demonstrators rallied at the state capital and demanded justice for the eight people shot dead this week within and just outside the city. Most of the victims were women of Asian descent.

CNN photojournalist Christine Lien spoke to some Asian-American women to see how they are processing the shooting and anti-Asian activity.


AMANDA PHAM, ATLANTA RESIDENT: Based on what I heard on the news, a 21-year-old man came into different Asian spas, three different ones, and actively was shooting them.

LILY HUFF, ATLANTA RESIDENT: I just think that's devastating, especially since this happened not too far from me and I am also an Asian woman living in Atlanta.

PHAM: This isn't new, it's been happening for -- it's increasingly happened over the past year. Just the start of the whole pandemic.

Even just recently when I worked in the hospital, I was walking by and someone said, "Hey, Ling Ling, come over here."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I was younger I would get comments in middle school about how my eyes look different. PHAM: I'm wearing a mask, I had someone ask, hey, are you going to

give me the virus?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are a lot of comments about physical appearance for Asian women to an extent where it's almost like hypersexualization.

I think people do say these things unfiltered to Asian women because they don't think they will get an adverse reaction.

PHAM: I hope that this experience allows more people to stand up for us and not just Asian Americans but anyone in general, who you feel like is being mistreated, just based on who they are.

Nothing about them, just their skin color, their gender, their ethnicity. So I really hope people are more proactive and really speak up, share and spread awareness through social media, attend the rallies, let everyone know. Because not everyone is on the same page. And I think it's about time we need to be.


BRUNHUBER: Authorities say a Georgia man has confessed to opening fire inside three separate Asian spas. They're still investigating the motive in the killings.

CNN correspondents have been covering the rallies around the U.S. We have two reports for you now. Natasha Chen is in Atlanta. She talked with family members of one of the victims of Tuesday's shooting spree. And Paul Vercammen is in Los Angeles, which has one of the largest Asian communities in the U.S. Many there feel they have a target on their backs.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Four of the eight people killed were here at two different spas in Atlanta. The South Korean foreign ministry identified them as being of Korean descent, one a South Korean citizen who was a U.S. permanent resident. The other three believed to be Americans of Korean descent.

At the third spa location in Cherokee County, one of the victims was Xiaojie Tan. I had an opportunity to sit down with her family and talk about her story. She seemed to build the American dream for herself. She came from China to the U.S. to Florida as a nail technician, worked her way up, moved to Georgia, ended up buying businesses.

She was known as a very hard worker, sometimes working seven days a week, always saving her money and made quite the impression on her customers as being an incredibly friendly person.

I want to share something with you what her daughter said about the experience of Tuesday and waiting to find out the news about her mother. And after you hear from her daughter, Jami, you'll hear from Michael Webb, her ex-husband, talking about how fiercely she defended the legitimacy of her business. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMI WEBB, XIAOJIE TAN'S DAUGHTER: I was just hoping that it wasn't my mom, it's not my mom.


J. WEBB: So I was having this hope that maybe my mom got shot in somewhere else, like maybe on the arms or on somewhere, that it wouldn't be like took her life away.

MICHAEL WEBB, XIAOJIE TAN'S FORMER HUSBAND: She never knows what goes on behind closed doors. She made sure that she trained them. They had meetings every week. They had signage. She didn't allow locks on the doors.

She wanted to know where her employees were, who the client -- who the customers were she used to tell me a lot of times she would throw customers out because they would come in and think that they could -- could have sex.

And she would say, get out my business, you know, and she would throw them out. And so, you know, she was a strong mother hen over that business and the people that worked there, she protected it.


CHEN: I had to ask them how they feel about the designation of these attacks as a hate crime, which so many people have been debating. Michael Webb really wanted to make it clear that he wants to allow the investigators to complete their work, and that he didn't want to comment on that specifically.

But Jami did say that she understands where the Asian American communities' fear and anxiety is coming from. They are sensitive to that, but they wanted to emphasize that they'd rather have the authorities make that call without making a statement on that ahead of time -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.



PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can hear the sounds of a march behind me, the drums. This is Little Tokyo and there are 1.5 million Asian Americans or people of Asian American descent in Los Angeles County.

What leaders have been telling us, whether their roots are in the Philippines, Korea, China or Japan or other countries is, that they have been feeling this target on their backs during this wave of anti- Asian violence.

But they say there's a remedy: the legislative process. One assembly man is looking to pass a bill that would put in place a hotline, where Asians who might be culturally reluctant to report a crime can call the hotline anonymously.

AL MURATSUCHI, CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY MEMBER: One of the biggest problems in fighting hate crimes is that too many of the incidents are not reported. Many of the victims, they may be reluctant to deal with law enforcement. They may choose not to report incidents even when they're victims.

So we want to make it as easy and as safe as possible for people to even be able to report incidents anonymously. I mean, there are many people in the immigrant community, some that are undocumented. And so we want to make it as easy and safe as possible for people to report these incidents of hate crime.

VERCAMMEN: This vigil in Little Tokyo also focused on the treatment of Asian American seniors, particularly Japanese seniors in some retirement homes. There was an inordinate amount of deaths in two of these homes.

They also don't want to see Japanese Americans transferred or lose their place in any of the homes due to eviction. One thing is for certain, though, we're starting to see this community coalesce, this Asian American community in Los Angeles. And that was evident by what happened on the streets of Los Angeles today -- reporting from Little Tokyo, I'm Paul Vercammen. Back to you.


BRUNHUBER: Russell Jeung is the cofounder of Stop AAPI Hate and a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University.

Thank you so much for joining us. I want to start with the report by your organization, found nearly 3,800 incidents of bias over the course of the year during the pandemic through a self-reporting portal. Most of those incidents, I understand, were name-calling. Almost 70 percent of those incidents were against women.

I understand your wife is among them. Tell us what happened and what it says to you about the motives behind many of these incidents.

RUSSELL JEUNG, COFOUNDER, STOP AAPI HATE: Right. Thanks for having me, Kim.

Of the 3,800 cases, women were harassed 2.3 times more than men. People attack those who they think are more vulnerable. So my wife was running on a trail and someone deliberately blocked her path and then coughed in her face.

This is just an incident that's similar to hundreds of cases that we found, actually found so often in the reports that we created a special category for being coughed on and spat upon. It's a really debasing, aberrant behavior.


JEUNG: And people were asking, has the racism increased? We weren't, you know, tracking whether people coughed on each other or spat on each other's face. But because of the pandemic, because of the fear and the anger and because people treat Asians now like objects, as outsiders, they feel free to attack us in such dehumanizing ways.

BRUNHUBER: The scale of the violence, is it increasing, I wonder?

Months before the horrible murders, I think in April, you said in an interview that the dangers of the stigma and vilification -- let me get the quote -- "could have genuine life-or-death consequences."

Do you feel that early warnings like yours about the seriousness of this issue have been ignored?

JEUNG: I think it was ignored. President Trump insisted on using the term "Chinese virus." The Republican Party in this campaign continued to scapegoat and blame China and bash China. And that China bashing opened the way for the bashing of Chinese people and those who look like them.

So there was dire warnings early on. Our worst-case scenario, that people would be so angry and have their anger directed towards Asians, that we would have something like a mass shooting, and our worst fears have been realized.

BRUNHUBER: And you firmly believe that there was a racial animus behind this?

JEUNG: I think race has place in a lot of ways people relate and perceive and target who they wanted to target. This perpetrator could have gone to any massage parlor, yet he chose Asian ones. He could have attacked anybody but he chose to attack Asian women. And that clearly has a racial and gender bias and seems clear.

Women were disproportionately impacted throughout the pandemic and they were disproportionately impacted in this shooting.

BRUNHUBER: I wonder, further complicating things, the ongoing tensions with China itself which we saw play out last week, when the secretary of state met China's top diplomat. More and more Americans list China as America's number one enemy. You've argued that that, in turn, affects how Asian Americans are perceived here.

JEUNG: Right. So American foreign policy in Asia actually translates into Asian American domestic policies, that how the U.S. relates to, say, Japan during World War II impacted Japanese Americans and led to their incarceration.

When the U.S. declared a war on terrorism, that impacted South Asians, Muslims and Arab Americans here in the U.S. So a U.S.-China cold war, a hard stance against China, portraying China as the enemy, makes Chinese in the U.S. the enemy. It's really dangerous for Chinese Americans and Asian Americans.

BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much for joining us, Russell Jeung, we really appreciate it. JEUNG: Thanks, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Monday, CNN brings you a one-hour special. Amara Walker, Victor Blackwell, Ana Cabrera and Anderson Cooper will look at a disturbing trend, violent acts against people of color, also possible solutions to the problem, "Afraid: Fear in America's Communities of Color." It airs Monday at 9:00 pm Eastern, 9 am Tuesday in Hong Kong.

Thousands across Europe saying they have had enough with coronavirus restrictions. But as the region deals with a third virus wave, leaders are having to impose more restrictions, not fewer.

Europe is also counting on the AstraZeneca vaccine but trust is hard to earn and easy to lose, even though experts say the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks.





BRUNHUBER: Parts of the U.S. are now on spring break. But the coronavirus isn't going anywhere. The mayor of Miami Beach has declared a state of emergency and ordered a curfew. He says the crowds in the area are, quote, "more than we can handle."

Health experts in the U.S. are afraid another case surge is in the cards, just like the one happening right now in Europe. But the country's top infectious disease expert is optimistic.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: Vaccines are coming on really well. Between 2 million and 3 million doses per day are going into people. If we can just hang on a bit longer, the more people get vaccinated, the less likelihood there is going to be a surge.


BRUNHUBER: The virus is shutting down Europe, angering thousands of protesters. We're seeing demonstrations against coronavirus measures across Europe, the largest ones in months.

People have gathered in Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, to name a few, sometimes clashing with police. The region is dealing with a third wave of infections so some countries have ordered new restrictions.

In London police have arrested at least 3 dozen people. Some scuffles broke out as they tried to get the crowds to go home. The U.K.'s vaccine rollout, meanwhile, is making great strides. CNN's Phil Black joins me live. We saw those scenes there of people protesting because of those

increased measures, due in part to that third wave in Europe.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kim, there is every sense right now that Europe is about to enter or is entering, already perhaps, deep into another grim phase in this pandemic.

With all the sacrifice and difficulty and loss that goes with that. But there is a different aspect to this, as well, an added frustration because there is a sense, perhaps even knowledge, among people who are impacted by this, that it didn't necessarily have to be this way. The vaccines are out there.


BLACK: But the European countries do not yet have sufficient supply to make a significant difference in driving down transmission in the near term.

Meanwhile, a relatively short distance away geographically, across the English Channel in the U.K., the vaccine program is steaming along. Yesterday the U.K. hit a key milestone; half the adult population has been offered one dose, almost 27 million people.

And the breadth of that rollout is already making a very noticeable difference in the key indicators, hospital admissions, deaths. They have fallen steeply in recent weeks. So on one hand, you have Europe locking down; in some cases, talking about it. In others, here in the U.K., they are talking about going in the other direction.

They say they are on a road map to be pretty much open come June, mid- June, and by the end of July the plan is for every adult to have received at least one dose of a vaccine. So the mood is very different now.

As an indicator of that, I think the most popular question posed to British politicians is, when can Brits take an overseas holiday again?

How soon can that happen?

Meanwhile in Europe, frustrations are growing and there is even talk among E.U. leaders of essentially a vaccine trade war with the U.K. They are so frustrated that E.U.-produced vaccines are flowing into the U.K. But U.K.-produced vaccines are not flowing in the other direction.

So another grim phase for Europe that is, in so many ways, familiar but also feels very different in important ways this time, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Yes, a stark contrast that you draw. Thanks so much, Phil Black in Essex, England. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in Keith Neal in Derby, England, he is professor emeritus of epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham. Thank you for joining us. I want to start with that new wave that's

sweeping Europe. The headlines are generally some version of Europe has missed its chance to stop the third wave of the coronavirus epidemic before it got out of control.

Is that because countries reopened too early?

Here in the U.S. we're shedding restrictions almost daily. Surely there's a lesson there for us.

DR. KEITH NEAL, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF EPIDEMIOLOGY OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM: I think pushing for a little bit longer than we might have wanted to, partly because we had so many cases in the past. But the so-called Kent variant has swept through the country substantially, very effectively, because it seems so much more infectious than the previous strain and possibly slightly more dangerous.

This is the same strain now sweeping through Germany and much of France, although, in France, they've also got the South African strain that has also caused problems in South Africa.

BRUNHUBER: That Kent variant, we know it generally as the U.K. variant. Trying to fight this, obviously, we were hearing from our correspondent about the vaccinations and the continued reluctance by a handful of countries to resume using AstraZeneca.

Do you think that this pausing for further study will reassure people that they're being careful, investigating thoroughly, so on?

Or might it just further erode confidence and doubts and, in the end, possibly cost lives?

NEAL: I think they've made a real mess of it by stopping programs. No one has ever said vaccines are totally safe. We do know that blood clots occur naturally in people. You've only got to look at the risk for women post-pregnancy, anybody who has had an operation, many have worn those white stockings to prevent blood clots forming.

In fact, the rate of blood clots actually in people vaccinated is lower than one might expect in the general population. There are a few issues that the Germans and Norwegians have highlighted but we're talking seven episodes, so even 17 episodes in over 17 million doses of vaccine.

I've seen figures calculated that, in Europe, for every day you don't vaccinate 100,000 people, it's costing you five to 15 lives a day.

BRUNHUBER: Wow. As one writer put it, the adverse effects of COVID-19, which happens in about 1 percent of cases, is death. Obviously the risk is worth the vaccine there.

Do you think this controversy is sapping confidence in the vaccine, even in the U.K., and undermining what's been so far a very successful rollout there? NEAL: I would surprised if it didn't. But we're fortunately not seeing the results. Our big problem has been having to stop doing the under 50s due to a vaccine supply issue. Throughout my 30 to 40-year career we've always had vaccine supply issues with one vaccine or another.


NEAL: Part of the problem with the European vaccine was that they decided to order the vaccine only through factories within the E.U. That must be for political reasons. And it's the factories in Europe that have had problems.

The problems in Britain, which we started setting up three months earlier, have much more time to sort out teething problems. Our shortfall of supply is because of a problem with India. And these supply problems were totally predictable.

BRUNHUBER: I want to switch focus to the classrooms. Here in the U.S., in a renewed push to get kids back into in-person classes, the new CDC guidelines include measures like reducing the distance from six feet to three feet. But many teachers' unions, still wary, skeptical of in- person teaching until all teachers have been vaccinated.

What do you think of that and, more broadly, what are the lessons that we might learn from the U.K., which has had more children in classes for longer than we have here?

NEAL: We've done a lot of work on this. The rate of death among teachers, particularly primary schoolteachers, is way below the national average for people and also for older teachers, is similar to the whole population.

We know young children are not very good at spreading it within the household. So in the classroom, that risk must be less. The other thing, two papers on Thursday night, one was from Scotland, looking at health care workers.

I think that was a Scottish health care worker, which showed that, the more young children under the age of 11 you had at home, the less likely you were to go down with serious COVID, suggesting that other coronaviruses may provide cross-immunity.

And a big study using GP systems in Britain looked at the rate of COVID with people with young children and the rate was 800 per 800,000 if you have no children, 850 if you did have young children in the household.

That's a very small increased risk of the adults getting COVID. And if you think about a house with 4 people has 4 times the greater chance getting COVID than a household with 2 people. So I think there's good evidence that children are not responsible for -- majorly responsible for transmission of COVID.

BRUNHUBER: All that is very reassuring to parents listening to this. That's all the time we have, Keith Neal, we appreciate you coming on. Thanks so much. NEAL: Thank you, goodbye.

BRUNHUBER: President Biden is scrambling to contain a worsening crisis at the southern U.S. border, as waves of migrants try to enter the U.S. Thousands of unaccompanied children have been taken into custody. We'll bring you an update on the crisis next.





BRUNHUBER: Welcome back. I'm Kim Brunhuber, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Biden administration officials say they knew a surge of migrants was coming at the southern U.S. border but never anticipated it would be so many people all at once.

The head of U.S. Homeland Security got a firsthand look at the crisis on Friday. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned the number arriving at the border could reach a 20-year high, and an alarming number are unaccompanied minors.

Documents obtained by CNN show more than 5,000 immigrant children are in custody at the U.S. Border Patrol, that's 500 more kids than just days earlier. Hundreds of them have been in jail-like conditions for over 10 days, much longer than the three days allowed by law.

Now the Biden team still won't call it a crisis and even though the president himself promised transparency when he took office, journalists have been blocked from reporting on conditions inside the detention facilities. We get more on that from CNN's Arlette Saenz from the White House.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to the border, he did so without any reporters on that trip. The Department of Homeland Security cited privacy concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason why the media was not allowed to accompany him on that trip to those border facilities.

But this follows a pattern from the Biden administration as this border crisis has been brewing. So far, reporters have not been allowed into those border processing facilities, where those unaccompanied migrant children are being held.

Many of these facilities not entirely fit to house children for long periods of time, as some of them are now. While Secretary Mayorkas was at the border, he was accompanied by some senators.

One of those senators on the trip, Democrat Chris Murphy, tweeted about the conditions that he saw.

He said, "Just left the border processing facility, hundreds of kids packed into big, open rooms. In a corner, I fought back tears as a 13- year-old girl sobbed uncontrollably, explaining through a translator how terrified she was."

This is certainly one of many scenes that is potentially playing out at these facilities but so far the media has not had access to them to see what is actually happening on the ground.

The White House has vowed that they want to be transparent and are working on ways to make that access possible at the White House. But so far there is no timeline just yet on when reporters will be allowed into those facilities -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: A Dallas convention center is now being used to house unaccompanied migrant children, possibly up to 1,200 of them. Buses started arriving Wednesday, moving children to the temporary shelter to help with overcrowding in Border Patrol facilities.

Books and games are being provided by religious groups and FEMA is providing makeshift beds and other supplies. Thursday, officials say, in all, the U.S. has more than 14,000 migrant children in custody.

There's growing pressure on Myanmar's military as the death toll of the protesters and political opponents goes up. One group says 238 people have been killed in the coup since February 1st. The military denies any wrongdoing. CNN's Paula Hancocks has our report and, we warn you, it does contain graphic video and may be hard to watch.



PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An all too familiar scene in Myanmar these days. The funeral, of yet another killed by increasingly violent security forces. He was a member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, a politician who was supposed to be part of the new democratic Myanmar.

Instead, fiercely critical of the military coup, witnesses say he was taken from his home in Yangon in the middle the night by security forces and was dead within a day.

His family showed us photos of the body, which showed wounds, suffered while in the junta's custody. The wound at the back of the head. On friend says he believes it is clear what happened.

He said, "The wounds he received could only be from intense torture."

The military has not responded to our request for comment.

Just days later, this man was arrested in the early hours of the morning and he too was dead within a day. Footage of his body, showing significant injuries to his abdomen and face. The junta says he fell from a building, onto a steel fence while trying to escape.

His wife says there is no steel fence near their home.

She says, "The soldiers have bayonets on their guns with a serrated edge on one side and a blade on the other. I think that is what was used to kill my husband. His neck is sewn up as well. They cut his neck and stabbed his stomach and killed him brutally and inhumanely."

The U.S. State Department has condemned, quote, "security forces' actions that resulted in the deaths of 2 NLD members."

The U.N. envoy for Myanmar, saying she heard direct accounts of prisoners being tortured. The nighttime arrests, continue, including this NLD member seen here on CCTV footage, being pushed to the back of a military jeep last week.

His family said they've heard nothing since, one of hundreds that have disappeared, hundreds more in hiding.

"I am constantly on the move," he said, "constantly switching places. I too have been to prison for over 10 years. I was tortured, made to sign confessions. I can't be arrested again."

His widow says that she has lost all hope and direction but needs to carry on for their 10-year-old son, and says she is heartbroken but proud of her husband for showing the world how brutal the military can be -- Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


BRUNHUBER: Thousands of people in Australia have been forced to evacuate due to severe flooding.

This house was swept away by floodwaters 300 kilometers north of Sydney. Several dams are at or above capacity. Bill Hogan of 9 News Australia has more on what the state is calling a once in a century event.


BILL HOGAN, 9NEWS AUSTRALIA CORRESPONDENT: We're standing in a suburb called Cornwallis, which, just before 2:00 this morning, was given five hours to evacuate safely with risk of the Hawkesbury River rising. As you can see, it has done that.

If you look at the pace of the water currently going through down towards the Windsor area, carrying with it debris, and on the other side is Freeman's Road, which has been given evacuation notice as well.

Over there, you can see homes are starting to fall underwater. It is quite a volatile situation. As we've been standing here, you can see that the water is rising at such a rapid pace. I was standing on road, now the water is obviously up to my ankles. This is certainly a situation which has posed too much of a risk for people who live in this area. HOGAN (voice-over): This is just one of many suburbs across Sydney,

inundated by over 200 millimeters of rain, now at risk of flooding. Five hours up the north coast of Australia, homes and suburbs of Kinsey and Port Macquarie were washed away and farmlands saturated, forcing people to move possessions to higher ground and flee to nearby evacuation centers.

Sydney's main supply of drinking water was forced to spill after reaching capacity for the first time in years. That continues to flow into the river systems surrounding Sydney and threatening more homes.

This downpour will carry on for at least the next three days as the low pressure system moves along the East Coast of Australia towards the far south coast.

HOGAN: This water level is rising at such a rapid pace that it might be some time, maybe days, before residents will be allowed to return home. There's farmland, lots of areas here that have been left behind, simply to save themselves and they've been taken to evacuation centers further in town toward Winter and Richmond in hope that everything will soon be OK.


BRUNHUBER: College basketball is dealing with a coronavirus outbreak at the year's biggest tournament, despite strict protocols from the NCAA. Next, how the virus disrupted March Madness.





BRUNHUBER: Leaders across the globe are trying to convince as many people as possible to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Here in the U.S., the White House is having to change its messaging because of vaccine hesitancy among Republicans, which has experts concerned.

CNN has learned a new PR campaign could launch as early as next week, focusing on just that. The latest CNN poll found 92 percent of Democrats say they've gotten a dose of the vaccine or plan to get one, while only half of Republicans say the same.

So what's behind this?

Gary Tuchman visited an Oklahoma town that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump and asked the people there why they had doubts about the vaccines.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's breakfast time in Boise City, Oklahoma, and I have this question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN (on camera): Does anybody in this restaurant think it's a good idea to take the vaccine?


TUCHMAN: Raise your hand if you think it's a good idea. Anyone here, it's a good idea to take the vaccine, raise your hand if you think it's a good idea.

Not one person here thinks it's a good idea? Complete quiet.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Boise City is the county seat of sparsely populated Cimarron County, Oklahoma, where 92 percent of the voters chose Donald Trump on Election Day, the highest percentage in a state where all 77 counties went for Trump.


TUCHMAN (on camera): What do you think about the vaccine? Are you going to take the vaccine?


TUCHMAN: Tell me why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I don't trust the government and I don't trust Biden.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Chad (ph) and Misty Hughes (ph) are husband and wife, neither of them plan to get the vaccine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't want to.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Why don't you want to, if you don't mind me asking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because when I take the flu shot, I usually get the flu, so there's no reason to take it.

TUCHMAN: So are you saying you think you'll get COVID by taking the COVID vaccine?


TUCHMAN: Why are you thinking that? The research doesn't show that at all. It shows it keeps people safe.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): These women are sisters and they too are doubters.


TUCHMAN (off camera): Why are you doubtful?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just started rolling them out.

TUCHMAN: Well, yes, but they - I mean, this has been a worldwide effort by great doctors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. They claim that the flu can be cured, but still hundreds of thousands of people die from the flu.

TUCHMAN: Well, yes, a lot of people die from the flu but not nearly as much as COVID. This is a horrible pandemic and this is like an amazing vaccine. These vaccines have come out, they're saving lives.

Do you believe?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I would just agree to disagree on this subject, I guess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just not. I'm not going to take it.

TUCHMAN: What if President Trump came out and was very robust and said take the vaccine. I took it even though I didn't tell anybody about it was kind of done secretly, but I think you should take it. He's said it a little bit but he hasn't been robust about it. If he was robust and said take it, would you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is a liberal New Yorker. Why would we listen to him either?

TUCHMAN: Did you vote for him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the best option.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): No matter where we went, enthusiasm for the vaccine wasn't easy to find, despite this front-page pronouncement.


TUCHMAN (on camera): Yes. So this is the Boise City News, your newspaper and here's an article, COVID vaccines are available in your hospital. They want people to get them. Are you going to get one?


TUCHMAN: How come?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really don't ever get vaccines.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): We did find the boss in the grocery store though who gave us a different answer but with a caveat.


TUCHMAN (off camera): Are you going to take the vaccine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have taken it.

TUCHMAN: And what made you decide to take it?



TUCHMAN: Gary Tuchman, CNN, Boise City, Oklahoma.


BRUNHUBER: Bad news for March Madness, men's basketball tournament, after an outbreak of coronavirus hit the Virginia Commonwealth University team. The tournament organizers, the NCAA, declared VCU's first-round game with the University of Oregon a no-contest.


BRUNHUBER: When we come back, the signs are everywhere, the pandemic pause on normal life might be coming to an end, like in Japan, where they're leveling up at theme parks. We go to Super Nintendo world next. Stay with us.





BRUNHUBER: Roller coasters, carousels and colorful characters come to life. The return of theme parks is one sign that things may be starting to get back to normal. Disneyland has announced plans to reopen next month for the first time in more than a year.

And Japan's Universal Studios has finally opened a long-awaited new attraction, bringing world of Nintendo to life. CNN's Selina Wang reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here we go. Entering Super Nintendo World through the Warp Pipe, follow me.

And here we are, a life sized replica of Nintendo's most popular games. You've got Yoshi's Adventure, Bowser's Castle, Peach's Castle and all the iconic characters.

After nearly a year long delay because of COVID-19, this theme park in Osaka's Universal Studios Japan is finally open to the public. We're getting a sneak peek before the big crowds come in.

But this is how things look during COVID. Your temperature is taken at the entrance. Hand sanitizer is everywhere. Masks are required at all times except for in mask free zones.

Konnichiwa. Konnichiwa.

So I can interact with Mario and Luigi but there are rules against touching. And one of the few places in this whole park where I can take my mask off or in this photo-op area with Mario and Luigi.

And actually on the ground here there are markers to prove that I need to be a certain distance away from them. So I am being socially distant from Mario and Luigi.

Park officials say that this all cost about half a billion dollars to construct and more than six years to develop. Now the gaming industry and Nintendo especially got a big boost during the pandemic, as more people were stuck at home inside, playing Nintendo games, games that become real life in this park.

The whole park is interactive, you can even compete against other people here. And just like in the Mario video games. I've got this power up band on my wrist and I can just punch up on these blocks and I get points in the Mario app on my phone.


WANG: And this is what many fans are most excited about, Koopa's Challenge, a real life Mario Kart race through Bowser's castle.

All right, I'm about to get on a real life Mario Kart ride. I've got to put on the augmented reality headset here, clip it in. All right. Let's go.

The augmented reality headset got a little bit of getting used to, but I was racing through the Mushroom Kingdom, next to Princess Peach, Mario and Luigi. I'm not great at the video game version of Mario Kart. I think I might have fared slightly better in the real life version.

For Nintendo, this is an important step beyond its core business of video games and consoles. It's cashing in on its treasure trove of intellectual property and iconic characters.

Here in this store and in the restaurant, Pinocchio's Cafe, we're here in the Mushroom Kingdom and mushroom themed food is everywhere. It looks like a cartoon food, but it's edible.

WANG (voice-over): She told me, when I saw all this, I got emotional. I've been playing Nintendo game since I was small. It's not exaggerating to say that Mario games raised me. This is all beyond my expectations, she told me. I feel like I'm in the Mario world.

I get worried about COVID when I take off my mask to eat, she said, but the park is taking safety protocols, so I feel safe.

WANG: Japan's borders are still closed so international travelers aren't allowed in this park yet. But there are plans to open Super Nintendo World in Florida, California and Singapore.

WANG (voice-over): Mario's creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, says he wants the whole world to come visit when the pandemic is over -- Selena Wang, CNN, Tokyo.


BRUNHUBER: That's it for now. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a moment with more CNN NEWSROOM. Please stay with us.