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Biden Infrastructure Plan; Atlanta Shooting Investigation; Another COVID Surge Ahead? Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 22, 2021 - 14:00   ET



MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But they are looking to make that move currently. It's not confirmed. And none of this is an official statement.

But they want to show that they are doing something. And, as a source told us, Brianna, they are listening and they are learning, and they want to get this right.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, we will certainly be watching.

Max Foster, thank you so much for that report.

Hello. It's the top of the hour. I'm Brianna Keilar.

And the CDC director is warning there could be another avoidable surge of COVID cases just as the nation takes a giant step closer to adding a fourth vaccine to its arsenal against the pandemic. AstraZeneca released its phase three trial data for the U.S. today, saying its vaccine candidate had 100 percent efficacy against severe COVID and hospitalization, and it was 79 percent effective against symptomatic COVID.

And the latest figures show the three vaccines already approved for emergency use in the U.S. are getting into the arms of more Americans. Each day of this past week, more than three million vaccinations were administered. Nearly one in four Americans have received at least one dose, and 13 percent of the country is fully inoculated.

Today, though, a grave tone from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, pleading with Americans to keep their masks on, to keep social distancing, as nearly 10 million people have traveled through the airports just in the past week.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: As I have stated before, the continued relaxation of prevention measures while cases are still high and while concerning variants are spreading rapidly throughout the United States, is a serious threat to the progress we have made as a nation.

I am worried that, if we don't take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge.


KEILAR: CNN's Kristen Holmes is with us now on this to talk more about the AstraZeneca vaccine trial that's here in the U.S..

Kristen, there was a lot of concern about blood clots with this vaccine, particularly when it came to women younger than 55. What do the trial results show?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the data shows that the vaccine was well-received in this phase three trial and that there was no indication of safety concern, something that the White House was stressing today.

Remember, back in -- just earlier in the last couple of weeks, we have seen multiple European countries pause the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout because of these reports of blood clots. Now this data is showing that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about in terms of safety.

Take a listen to what Dr. Fauci said today.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: During this trial here, there was no indication at all. The FDA is going to very, very carefully go over all of these data. There will be an application for EUA, and I can tell you, you can rest assured that the FDA will put a great deal of scrutiny in every aspect of these data.


HOLMES: And, Brianna, Dr. Fauci there is really reiterating much of things that we have heard from one after another of these health officials, who continue to say that there is going to be a lot of questions because of these reports, that there are going to be some issues there.

Now, one other thing I want to point out here is that this marks the beginning of the process for that emergency use authorization. We heard from the president of AstraZeneca earlier today saying that they are hoping to file for that EUA at the beginning of April, and that they have 30 million doses that are ready to go out as soon as they are, if they are approved, so something to keep an eye on there.

That's all happening at a time we're really starting to see a ramp-up in that production. We're expecting to have by the end of the month 20 million more doses of Johnson & Johnson. We did hear, though, from the White House during this past briefing that they weren't going to commit to that number, even though, of course, we have heard them commit to that number before.

But we are still expecting a significant ramp up and all of these vaccines, so some potentially really good information here.

KEILAR: Indeed. Kristen, thank you so much.

Breaking today, research shows as many as a third of people who recover from coronavirus are dealing with long-lasting symptoms.

I want to bring in CNN's Jacqueline Howard on this.

What else, Jacqueline, are we learning from this study?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Yes, Brianna, this is a study that really helps describe the body of research that we have on the lingering symptoms and complications that are sometimes seen with COVID-19.

And the data do suggest, like you said, a third of hospitalized COVID- 19 patients do tend to see these lingering symptoms. Now, here's how this new study described what it's calling post-acute COVID-19. Acute COVID-19 is what we typically think about when we think of the disease.

Symptoms last for about four weeks. You recover, you move on, and you're fine. But with post-acute COVID-19, that describes lingering symptoms that go beyond four weeks.


And this is often seen in hospitalized patients. And here's a list of the symptoms that this new research is telling us is sometimes common with post-acute COVID-19. You have fatigue, muscular weakness, joint pain, shortness of breath, cough. Some patients might require oxygen, for instance.

And we have seen mental health impacts, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, also interesting, hair loss. So, again, this is just a summary, a description of what we have learned about post-acute COVID- 19.

And, Brianna, we just passed the one-year anniversary of this pandemic being declared, and we're still learning more about the disease. We're still learning more about these long-term symptoms and complications. So, this study, I imagine, is kind of the first of several others that we might see coming up in the coming weeks and months as we learn more about what post-acute COVID-19 really leads to in patients -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, a third, a third, that is a lot. That is millions of Seattle.


KEILAR: Thank you so much for that, Jacqueline. We appreciate it.

Travel is right now at levels not seen since before the pandemic.

In Miami, the city is extending its emergency 8:00 p.m. curfew, and it's closing some major roadways, as huge crowds flood in for spring break. Miami Beach police are taking aggressive measures, you can see here, firing pepper balls into crowds of mostly maskless partiers, arresting as well at least a dozen people late Saturday.

The mayor of Miami Beach telling CNN the emergency curfew could be in place for several weeks.


DAN GELBER (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Very few places are open right now. And so we're getting a surge of people, cheap airfare, discount rooms not helping. And the result is that there's too many people.

And too many of the people coming feel like it's time to act out in ways that are just not consistent with appropriate conduct.


KEILAR: In Columbia, South Carolina, hundreds of college students packed the downtown area for an annual St. Patrick's Day celebration. The city's fire chief attempted to enforce the city's mask mandate, but didn't have much luck.


FRANK MARTIN, PARTY-GOER: Personally, I have been vaccinated and get tests. I know a lot of USC students get tests, but there's no way to really know.

QUESTION: Does it makes you nervous that a lot of people are in this small amount of space without masks on?

AUBREY JENKINS, COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, FIRE CHIEF: Well, it makes you bear nervous, because you're right on the edge of getting this COVID-19 under control.


KEILAR: Joining me now is Dr. Roshini Raj, who is associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health.

How concerned are you when you see these pictures of maskless spring break crowds? Is this something that really could lead potentially to a surge?

DR. ROSHINI RAJ, NYU LANGONE HEALTH: It definitely could, Brianna.

And what I just heard made perfect sense. We are on the cusp of finally gaining control of this terrible virus. We have been told that, by May 1, anyone who can get a vaccine will be eligible and will be able to get it.

So we're only talking about a couple more months here where we need to be extremely careful. And this is not the time to let down our guard. And I understand that so many people are absolutely fed up with these precautions and wearing the mask.

But this is the time to continue, because we can very possibly see another surge. In many parts of the country, we're not seeing a decline; we're seeing a plateau. And that's probably due to two reasons. One is the variants that we're seeing in different parts of the country. And number two is a loosening of the restrictions and opening up, which means more people could potentially get infected.

So, it is very concerning. And, again, I'm sort of imploring people to really hold on for this final stretch, because there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. We will get back to more of a normal routine and a normal life.

But we do need to be careful for a little bit longer.

KEILAR: I want to talk to you as well about the AstraZeneca vaccine.

And there's a major concern about it, or that it -- was about the AstraZeneca vaccine -- was a potential for blood clots, it actually triggered a pause of the vaccine in many European countries.

The trial results here in the U.S. say that it's safe. That's what we're hearing from officials here. How do you reconcile that with researchers in Europe, some -- in some countries there wondering if it actually triggered specifically an autoimmune response that might have particularly affected women more than men under 55, as opposed to older folks?

How do you reconcile people who are going to say, OK, that's great that this trial result in the U.S. says good things, but what about what we heard coming from Europe?

RAJ: Well, even in Europe, this week, the sort of most serious, highest regulator in terms of health and monitoring in Europe did say that believed it was safe and should continue.


And many countries have reinstated the AstraZeneca vaccine. But, yes, there were some people who expressed concern. And when you deal with a vaccine, especially a new vaccine, you really aren't going to know all of the potential side effects until, unfortunately, it's rolled out and millions of people receive it.

So, this is something that we are going to have to continue watching. In the U.S., it may be a case that we don't actually use the AstraZeneca vaccine at all or very much just because of timing. It looks like we're going to have enough doses of the other vaccines.

But in terms of giving sort of comfort to the rest of the world that is certainly going to use it, I think the U.S. trial actually gives a lot of reassurance. Is it 100 percent? Do we know all the answers today? No, unfortunately, we don't.

But you always have to -- in anything in medicine, you weigh the risks and the benefits. And, again, the benefit of some vaccine is probably going to outweigh the risk of a potential issue that a large study today in the U.S. was reported not to be there.

KEILAR: And, obviously, this is a vaccine that can be stored in the refrigerator, like at that temperature, for six months.

That's a big difference than, say, the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. Is there a way to be sure that, even when there are health issues that some people who've had the vaccine have had, is there a way to definitely, at least over time, say that was something that, yes, it happened, but it wasn't because of the vaccine, or perhaps it was because of the vaccine?

How do researchers separate that out?

RAJ: Great question.

So, it's really up to statistics and numbers. And when you take a population and you see certain bad events happen, you calculate, well, given what we know about how often blood clots, for example, occur in this age group, was this an unusual number of blood clots, or was this what we would expect for anyone even if they didn't get a vaccine?

And they do modeling to see if it's something significantly different or not. Thus far, both in Europe and in the U.S., they did not see anything significantly different, even though we heard about relatively young people getting blood clots, and it sounded very, obviously,upsetting.

According to the science right now, it's not being proven to be caused by the vaccine. Whether that changes in the future, it's -- I can't say 100 percent sure that it's not going to change, but at least the data we have right now looks like it is safe.

KEILAR: Yes. I think it's so important to look into this and weigh people with information as they might have concerns.

Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Appreciate it, Dr. Raj. Great to see you.

RAJ: Great to see you.

KEILAR: Next, I will speak to a man who was inside one of the spas that was targeted in the deadly shooting rampage near Atlanta. He believes that his massage therapist saved his life.

Plus: Senior Biden administration officials are on their way to the border right now, as the number of children in custody soars past 10,000. Details on what is being done to increase capacity.

And former President Trump endorses a candidate trying to unseat Georgia's Republican secretary of state, while publicly lashing out at the man who refused to go along with his election lies. Is this the start of a nasty GOP primary season?



KEILAR: The shooting spree across the Atlanta area last week that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, could be the first test for the hate crime law that was passed in Georgia last year.

CNN's Evan Perez is covering this for us.

Evan, race and gender here are both categories for what constitutes a hate crime under this Georgia state law. What is the holdup, then, with prosecutors?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is something, Brianna, that they're still working on at this time.

It's -- there are eight murder charges that he is facing at this point, the suspect in this -- in these horrific shootings. But, as you pointed out, this is a new law that Georgia legislators put on the books just last year, and this would be the first use of that.

And what's interesting is that, as you pointed out, the fact that race and gender are specifically mentioned in the Georgia law. And people there, the prosecutors believe that they have the wherewithal to use that in this case, in contrast to the way the Justice Department seems to be approaching it.

At this point, they're not ruling anything out. But there has been some balking at the idea of bringing a federal hate crime charge or even opening a civil rights investigation in this case so far. And that's partly because of the way the federal law works, where essentially you have to say, but for these factors, this crime would not have occurred.

In this case, what the suspect has said, Brianna, is that this was not racially motivated at this point. He said that he was motivated by sexual addiction. Again, this is an investigation that is still ongoing. And we may yet see federal charges in this case.

But we should note he's got eight murder counts in Georgia, which could bring the death penalty. And the hate crime statutes really only add an enhancement. And so if you're already -- let's say he is found guilty -- he's admitted to these, according to the police -- then the hate crime is just an additional thing to describe these crimes.

KEILAR: All right, Evan, thank you so much for taking us through that.

Eight people died. The shooter killed eight people in these spa shootings. Six of them are of Asian descent. And protesters across the country are taking to the streets. They're calling for an end to discrimination and violence against Asian Americans.

Marcus Lyon is a survivor of that deadly shooting spree. He was inside one of the spas where four people were killed.

Marcus, I am -- I'm so sorry for what you have gone through. How are you doing?


MARCUS LYON, ATLANTA SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I'm doing OK for now. I still think about it every day, especially waking up in the morning

time. I definitely still think about it. You know, I hear the gunshots sometimes in my head. I replay events in my head over and over. It's just -- but now I feel like I'm OK. Everybody thinks I should seek counseling or something like that. But, as of right now, I kind of feel OK.

But I really -- I really don't know how -- what to even say, to be honest with you, about that. I feel like I'm OK.

KEILAR: You feel like you're OK.

But you're -- things are replaying for you. Things are staying in your mind, right?

LYON: Yes.

KEILAR: So, you're sort of re experiencing things day to day.

LYON: Yes.

KEILAR: Can you tell us a little bit about you know what it is to you? You said the gunshot. Tell us about that day. Tell us what happened.

LYON: Well, I wasn't even there not even like two minutes.

As soon as I came in, the girls greeted me, telling me to come in the room. I laid down. I guess, like a minute later, the woman came back inside their, gave -- start rubbing on my neck, probably gave me like two rubs on my neck, and then, all of a sudden, I just heard that first gunshot go off.

And I just. We both stood up and looked around and then heard that other gunshot. She was by the door. That's when I jumped behind the bed. And then, once she opened up that door, I heard that third gunshot. And she actually dropped. And I'm pretty sure she got shot in her head, right?

And I wasn't even no longer than two feet away from her. I see blood coming out of her -- out of her head. I constantly heard more gunshots after that. And from there, I heard a ringing bell on their door.

I'm guessing the suspect ran out -- out the spa. And then, from there, that's when I kind of felt safe to get up. I heard some commotion, talking. Then, once I heard that, I got up, ran back outside to grab my firearm, and walked -- and ran back inside, the people telling me to call the police, call the police and stuff.

And I proceeded to go ahead and call the police.

KEILAR: You had a weapon in your car.

LYON: Yes.

KEILAR: But you didn't think you would obviously need it inside of a spa.

And I have heard that you feel that your masseuse ultimately saved your life.

LYON: Yes, because I feel like, if she wouldn't have been right there in front of the door, I feel like he probably would have just came inside there or he would have just...

KEILAR: Marcus, I think -- did you mute? Did you mute us, Marcus?

I think we're having a problem with our connection with Marcus. So, we're going to try to reestablish that and see if we can get him back. We have obviously a number of things that we want to ask Marcus about.

CNN is going to be taking an in-depth look at the disturbing trend of violence against people of color tonight. Join Anderson Cooper, Amara Walker, Victor Blackwell, and Ana Cabrera as they discuss possible solutions.

The special is called "Afraid," and it begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Next, CNN takes you inside a crowded Border Patrol tent in Texas where migrant children are being held. I will speak to an immigration lawyer about what's being done to help them.

And just into CNN, the White House has just laid out a jobs and infrastructure plan with a $3 trillion price tag. We will talk about what's in it.



KEILAR: I'm back now with Marcus Lyon, who is a survivor of the shooting spree at the spas in the Atlanta area. He was inside one of the spas were four people were killed.

Marcus, thanks for coming back. We have sorted out our technical difficulty here.

And you were describing hearing two gunshots and jumping behind a massage table. And, as you did that, the masseuses who had just -- just begun your massage opened the door and was shot and killed.

You describe this horrific scene. And it sounds like -- and I'm wondering if you can add to this -- that this is something that happened very quickly. It sounds like the next thing you described hearing was the bell of the door and knowing that the gunman was gone.

Can you hear me, Marcus?

All right, I think we are having -- we're having some more trouble there with Marcus Lyon.

Marcus, thank you so much. This is just into CNN. White House advisers are expected to present a

roughly $3 trillion jobs and infrastructure proposal to President Biden as soon as this week, according to two people familiar with the plan.

CNN chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny is with us now.

This has not been presented to the president yet, Jeff, but what's in it?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, it has not yet been presented to the president.

But we are told that it could be presented to President Biden as early as this week, and, as you said, a $3 trillion plan broadly focusing on infrastructure, but also including a couple of components.

And our Phil Mattingly is reporting that it is likely to be broken down into two parts. One would be infrastructure and clean energy, and the other would be devised as sort of a catch-all, a care economy, and that's involving child care, involving education.