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Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) Apologizes for Sexual Misconduct Allegation, Won't Run in 2022; White House Announces Senior Administration Officials will Travel to Mexico and Guatemala; Rallies of Support Following Atlanta-Area Spa Shootings. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 22, 2021 - 11:30   ET


JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: His top adviser on the pandemic.


And that's something that -- trust in the science is something that Joe Biden has made a mantra throughout the early days of his administration.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWSROOM: And the fact that Dr. Fauci is just really just a promoter, I mean, that is like the most asinine thing that, I mean, of all the things, there are so many things that could be said, like oh, my God, he is a ground breaking scientist.

HARWOOD: If anyone was ever a promoter, Kate, it is Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: I mean, I am angry at myself that I'm constantly caught off guard and speechless when Donald Trump comes -- speaks again. Thank you, John. It is good to see you, at least.

Coming up, new allegations of sexual misconduct against another New York elected official, this time against a Republican congressman who very recently was seen as a possible challenger to embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo.



BOLDUAN: Republican Congressman Tom Reed of New York says that he will not seek re-election and not seek any elected office in the future. That is big news because he was a possible challenger to take on New York's Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo next year.

Reed's announcement came after a former lobbyist came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct back in 2017. Reed is apologizing now taking full responsibility for his actions.

Let me bring in our CNN's Lauren Fox for more on this. Lauren, what more is congressman saying now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are really getting every action in this lengthy a statement he released late last night laying out the fact that he is not going to run again in 2022 either for Congress or, like you said, for the race for the governorship.

Now, he also said in this statement that back in 2017, when this incident allegedly occurred, that he was struggling with alcoholism and that he has since worked very hard to move beyond that. But this is very key, and I want to read part of his statement. He said, quote, I hear her voice and I will not dismiss her. In reflection, my personal depiction of this event is irrelevant. Simply put, my behavior caused her pain, showed her disrespect, and was unprofessional. I was wrong. I am sorry. And I take full responsibility.

Now, again, these allegations from Nickolette Davis first reported in The Washington Post on Friday laid out that when she was on a dinner with the congressman, she was seated next to him and he was basically using his hand to try to unhook her bra, was successful in unhooking the bra from the outside of her shirt and he also put his hand, according to her discussion with The Washington Post, on her thigh.

Obviously, Kate, these are very serious allegations that have been raised. Of course, when this all came out on Friday, the congressman said he disputed her remembrance of this event. Now, of course, he's saying he is taking full responsibility. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you very much.

Also just in to CNN, today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments over the death penalty for Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev is one of the brothers, of course, convicted in the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing that killed three people and injured hundreds of others.

Last year, a lower court wiped away his death sentence, citing juror issues, and now, the Supreme Court is going to be taking another look at that, reconsidering that decision and likely to be doing that later this year.

Coming up for us, New York City high schools reopen today for first time in a year just as the CDC issues new guidance on distancing in the classroom. We're going to dive deeper into the science behind this move.



BOLDUAN: Yes, this just in, breaking news into CNN, the White House has just announced that senior administration officials are on their way to Mexico and Guatemala today as the administration is facing more and more pressure to do a better job at managing the migrant surge happening at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Joining me right now is CNN's Jeremy Diamond, who has the details coming in about this. Jeremy, what more are you hearing about this trip?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. Well, as this administration is dealing with this surge of migrants at the southern border, perhaps nearing a peak of two decades in terms of what we've seen at the border over the last 20 years, two senior officials with the National Security Council, the White House's National Security Council, will be headed down to Mexico and Guatemala to meet with officials there to discuss this surge in migrants that we're seeing right now at the southern border.

Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, the administration's coordinator for the southern border, as well as Juan Gonzalez, who is the senior director for the western hemisphere, they're both headed to Mexico today to meet with officials there and then Juan Gonzalez will then head over to Guatemala along with the State Department's new special envoy for the northern triangle to meet with Guatemalan officials, including that country's president.

And what you're seeing here is not only a focus on the immediate surge at the border itself, but really an emphasis on the root causes of that migration, the push factors as they call them. That has been a new focus for the administration, something that the previous administration did very little to address.

This administration putting a much larger focus on the root causes of that migration that is pushing the surge. And so you'll see them discussing these efforts, including the foreign aid that that they're going to try to send to the northern triangle countries, including Guatemala, to try and stem the tide of the migration.



BOLDUAN: It definitely seems this is part of the equation we hear from officials on how to get this -- get past this surge. Thank you, Jeremy.

So we also have major steps today in the nationwide effort to reopen schools. The nation's largest school district in New York City is reopening for in-person learning for high school students for the first time since the pandemic began. New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio, as you see there, he was on-hand to welcome students in the Bronx this morning.

And New York is not alone in making some big steps. The nation's second largest school district in Los Angeles has just announced that its official plan to return to the classroom with a hybrid model. The L.A. Unified School District and Teachers Union coming to an agreement to get the skids back in the classrooms in April. All of this happening after the CDC updated its guidance for physical distancing in the classrooms, reducing the recommended distance from six feet between students down to three.

One of the studies that the CDC highlighted to back up this move is research out of Massachusetts that looked at 251 schools across that state and tracking the data since September.

Joining me now for more on this is one of the co-authors of this important study, Dr. Elissa Schechter-Perkins. She is the vice chair of research for the Department of Emergency Medicine in Boston University School of Medicine.

Doctor, this decision by the CDC has gotten a lot of attention. It could be game-changing for getting more kids back into the classroom. And the CDC really did lean on your research to get there. Can you briefly explain what you found?

DR. ELISSA SCHECHTER-PERKINS, VICE CHAIR OF RESEARCH, DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Absolutely. So we analyzed the infection control plans as well as the number of COVID-19 cases across -- in school districts across Massachusetts. And what we found was that school districts that returns students to school with only three feet of distance between them did not have higher rates of COVID-19 cases among students or staff compared to those that returned to students to school with a full six feet of distance between them.

BOLDUAN: As I said, the CDC, this is why -- did you have more? Go ahead.


BOLDUAN: Okay. I didn't know if you wanted to give more. The CDC leaned and mentioned your work and has mentioned your work. There were other states that they also grabbed and used data from in incoming to their conclusion to reduce the physical distance between students. But there has been some pushback to this move by the CDC, and along with that some push back to your research. I want to play for you an epidemiologist, Michael Osterholm, and also the head of one of the largest teachers unions in the country and what they have said. Listen.


DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: If you know anything about viruses, so the idea that you can prevent a virus like this from being transmitted at three feet, I can probably move the Grand Canyon to Fargo easier than to convince many of us in this area that that is actually real.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: So we have got to read the studies. We have got to see what it really means and I just hope this is not a rush to put in twice as many desks in a place where we're really starting to get things reopened.


BOLDUAN: Dr. Perkins, what they're both getting at is that they think -- they fear is that this is driven by space concerns rather than safety concerns and that the science isn't really behind it. How do you respond? SCHECHTER-PERKINS: So I would urge everybody to understand that our study is really one of many studies that have come out across the United States as well as across the world that have suggested that in the controlled environment of a school setting, you actually do not have increased transmission even when the distance is only three feet between students.

We have seen evidence from Europe. We've seen evidence from Asia. We've now seen evidence across the United States, including Chicago, North Carolina, Utah, that many places have required only three feet of distance between students and in those situations, there are not increased rates of COVID-19 compared to outside of the school setting.

BOLDUAN: One thing I note you raised in your study, and even folks who are skeptical of reducing distance rates, is the other mitigation measures that must be in place for you to go this route. This, I think, is really critical. So what other mitigation methods did your research find were most important in this school setting when we're talking about reducing the distance?

SCHECHTER-PERKINS: Right. So in Massachusetts from July on, there were a bundle of mitigation measures. And we couldn't tease out exactly which of the mitigation measures were essential other than the distancing. But the mitigation measures that we had in place throughout the state were symptom screens for students and staff, mandatory masking that, is absolutely crucial, 100 percent of the districts had mandatory masking for all staff, as well as grades two and up, ventilation measures and hand hygiene.

And so I would really caution anybody from trying to extrapolate our data to less controlled environments where all of those other mitigation measures are not in place.


BOLDUAN: Yes, it is fascinating and it is important. This spacing issue has been a huge impediment for many school districts getting their kids back into the classroom. So thank you for coming on to help us understand a little bit better.

SCHECHTER-PERKINS: Thank you so much for having me.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, I thought -- I thought that I have all I had -- I had all of this time with her, that is what one woman is saying, CNN speaking to the family of one of the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings. We're going to hear from that, next.


BOLDUAN: There are calls for justice and demands to end violence against Asian-Americans, protests across the United States this weekend after that deadly shooting in Atlanta. Eight people died in those shootings at three massage parlors last week. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.

CNN's Natasha Chen has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Xiaojie Tan's family says she was living the American dream. After moving to the U.S., Xiaojie, who friends and clients called Emily, started as a nail technician before working her way up to buy two spas outside of Atlanta. Beloved by her family, customers and neighboring business owners, Tan was killed just two days before her 50th birthday.

JAMI WEBB, MOTHER KILLED IN SPA SHOOTING: I was just planning to get a cake and have a big dinner after work.

CHEN: Her only child, Jami Webb, had plans to meet up with her mom last Sunday but she overslept. She would never have the opportunity to see her mother again.

WEBB: When I thought that I have all this time with her, I mean, just because I missed that Sunday meeting with my mom, I thought we could always meet, like any Sunday, any other day, just like before.


CHEN: Instead, two days later, Webb spent six hours in a hospital waiting room as news of a shooting at Youngs Asian Massage, her mother's business, dominated the headlines.

J. WEBB: I was just hoping that it was not my mom, it was not my mom.

CHEN: Webb says the extended family is still in China and no one has had the heart to tell Webb's grandmother.

J. WEBB: They were celebrating the birthday, and my grandmother was the only one who doesn't know my mom, that she passed away.

CHEN: Tan's ex-husband, Michael Webb, said Tan often worked seven days a week and talked about retiring and traveling the world.

MICHAEL WEBB, XIAOJIE TAN'S EX-HUSBAND: And she'll never get to enjoy that. She just worked to die.

CHEN: The fact that six of the eight victims were Asian women, the fact that these businesses were owned by Asian people is hard to ignore. Jamie Webb says she understands the Asian-American community's overall anxiety over the rise of anti-Asian assaults but this family is not ready to connect that with Tuesday's killings right now.

M. WEBB: I don't think we're trying to say that there's not racial bias in this country. There certainly is. We don't know what motivated this at this point. We just know how we feel and we know what we lost.

CHEN: And in the wake of the tragedy, demonstrators from coast-to- coast --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Asian, and I'm a woman, and if I don't stand up for myself, then no one else will. CHEN: -- thousands of people gathering in solidarity with Asian- Americans. And in Atlanta a church service outside those businesses with a community hoping for change.


CHEN (on camera): One of the pastors at that church service told me that this is an awakening moment for many Asian-Americans, especially those in his congregation. He said that in the past maybe traditionally they were more concerned with just their own survival but now there's this eagerness to participate in social justice issues and really stand with other communities of color. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Natasha, thank you so much.

A programming note for all of you, join my colleagues, Anderson Cooper, Amara Walker, Victor Blackwell and Ana Cabrera for a look at this disturbing trend of violent acts against people of color, and a look for the solutions now. Afraid, Fear in America's Communities of Color, that's tonight at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.

Coming up still for us, dangerous variants spreading across the country, and so much still unknown about them. Now, important new data on a possible fourth vaccine that could soon be authorized in the United States.