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Over A Quarter of Americans Now Have At Least One COVID Shot; Deadly Tornadoes Tear Across Alabama And Georgia; Trump Says Insurrection Was Zero Threat to Capitol. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 26, 2021 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The U.S. continues hitting new benchmarks for vaccinations. One in four Americans now has at least one shot, but with that progress comes a new challenge. Try not to get complacent with cases rising once again. Here is CNN's Erica Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): First come, first served at this North Carolina pharmacy.

JAMES SIMMONS, VACCINATED: I'm trying to stay as healthy as I can.

HILL (voice over): James Simmons, one of the millions of Americans rolling up their sleeves for a COVID vaccine. As of Friday morning, more than a quarter of the U.S. population has at least one shot. At least 37 states will make the vaccine available to anyone 16 and older.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every state should do that. Open it up.

HILL (voice over): Just two states, Arkansas and New York, have yet to say whether they'll do the same by May 1st, but the clock is ticking. Average new cases rising in 20 states over the past week.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We have seen cases and hospital admissions move from historic declines to stagnations, increases. And we know from prior surges that if we don't control things now, there is a real potential for the epidemic curve to soar again.

HILL (voice over): And yet from North Carolina to Arizona, more restrictions are easing. Indoor capacity is up, mask mandates out. Though not everyone is on board.

MAYOR KATE GALLEGO, (D) PHOENIX: I am looking forward to the day when we can safely take off masks, but that day is not in March of 2021.

HILL (voice over): For now, the science says masks are still needed, even for the fully vaccinated. And soon science could tell us even more, thanks to a new clinical trial of some 12,000 college students. DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND

INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We hope that within the next five or so months, we'll be able to answer the very important question about whether vaccinated people get infected asymptomatically. And if they do, do they transmit the infection to others?

HILL (voice over): Separately, Duke University just said it will make the J&J vaccine available to all students while Rutgers will require vaccinations for its students before they return to campus in September.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Rutgers is the first maybe, but it's certainly not going to be the last.

HILL (voice over): Pfizer, which just started trials in 5 to 11-year- olds says its vaccine could be ready for 12 to 15-year-olds this fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think adding the school age population based on recommendations from the FDA and the CDC could go a long way in helping us reach herd protection.

HILL (voice over): A goal that's getting closer one shot at a time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (on camera): Brooke, you mentioned those records. The U.S. now averaging more than 2.6 million shots a day according to the latest CDC data. And according to some new analysis from researchers at Duke University, there could be enough COVID-19 doses for 70 percent of the world's population by the end of the year, which is a major milestone. Important to point out, though, that does not mean all of those shots will necessarily be in arms in that time frame.

BALDWIN: Feels like we're getting there. We're getting there. Erica Hill, thank you so much for the update there.

Want to take you down south next. Deadly storms across the south. At least six people are dead. The destruction is massive and there could be another round on the way. We'll talk to a survivor next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:35:00]

BALDWIN: A series of tornadoes swept across the southeast last night, leaving a trail of debris. Look at this. And at least six people dead. Georgia and Alabama saw the worst of the damage. This is the scene. This is Noonan, Georgia. Today where emergency crews have been going door to door since morning.

Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is on the scene. He's in Birmingham, Alabama, another hard-hit area. And Derek, just tell me who you've been talking to and what you're seeing there?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Brooke. We've witnessed severe damage in the Eagle Points community, that's a suburb of Birmingham. The damage here is supportive of an EF-2 tornado. Get this, winds of at least 111 miles an hour.

Just look what that did to this resident's home behind us. Just completely tearing the roof off of the top of the house. We have spoken to the residents who live here. They bunkered down within an interior shelter. Put helmets on top of their head to provide any protection they could. And then the skies opened up because the roof fell and they could see right into the clouds and the wind, leaving them exposed to the elements.

We saw homes completely ripped off of their foundation. It has been a very difficult day for the residents of this particular area. There has been a lot of human resilience and a lot of incredible moments coming out of this, including the number of volunteers that have pitched up to help bring in the basic necessities to get these individuals and these residents back on their feet. Water, food, most importantly chain saws.

[15:40:05]

One glimmer of hope and a bit of symbolism for people out there as we approach the Easter season, you've got to see this. This is Dina Cook. She is the owner of the home that had the roof taken off behind me. She came across this cross and this purple scarf. And tell me how you found this and what it symbolizes for you.

DINA COOK, STORM SURVIVOR: This morning we got here. We stayed at my sister's, and I discovered -- first thing I thought of was the cross. We got here, and I'm Catholic. In our church, Passion, the week of the Passion, this is a sign of mourning for our church and for Jesus days, 40 days in Lent in the desert.

And we cover up the crucifix and our church has Jesus on the cross. And the week of Holy Week, all of Jesus -- the crosses are covered, the Blessed Mother, the statues, everything are covered in this purple as a sign of mourning.

So, it was covered just like they do it in church. I just get so many chills thinking about it was covered but this morning, Derek and I was telling the story, and I had to fix it. This is the way it's draped during Lent.

And then Saturday, which is the Easter Vigil of the end of Passion week, we take this cross -- the cross will be here, but we put a white cloth because that would symbolize Jesus was wrapped up in the white cloth and he rose from the dead.

But the main thing about Lent is this challenges and it's things we're going through like this. We went to my son's wedding last week. We were worried about tornadoes last week and here we come home, and we have a tornado, but this God was wrapped around us in this storm.

VAN DAM: So the hardships that we've experienced here. The tornado crumbled her home behind her but left this cross completely untouched. Is it safe to say, Dina, that you may have lost your roof, but you haven't lost your faith? COOK: No, I haven't lost my faith. We haven't lost our lives. My dog,

he's OK. My sister, everybody's OK. Nobody got killed. That's the main thing. And God was responsible for that.

VAN DAM: We are so thankful for that and thankful for Dina. Brooke, back to you.

BALDWIN: Derek, thank you. Please, just squeeze Dina for us and her family. I'm glad she's OK, her family and she has her faith to help her get through a really, really tough time with her home, as you showed us. Thank you both very much.

Defending the indefensible. Former President Donald Trump says those involved in the deadly insurrection posed zero threat. Why false claims like that are so dangerous to our democracy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:45:00]

BALDWIN: Five deaths, more than 100 injuries inflicted on Capitol Police officers in a violent insurrection led by domestic terrorists that shook this country to its core. That is what happened on January 6th, not this. A blatant lie told by the former president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was zero threat. Look, they went in. They shouldn't have done it. Some of them went in, and they are hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know. They had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in and then they walked in and they walked out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: A great relationship. Some officers were crushed by the mob of Trump supporters. Others were attacked with bear spray including Officer Brian Sicknick who lost his life that day.

Charlie Dent is a CNN political analyst and former Republican Congressman for Pennsylvania and Charlie, you know this, I know this, you know this, like this is a just flat-out lie that protects domestic terrorists.

So my question is this. Let's just skip to this. Why is every Republican lawmaker not coming out immediately to correct this?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Brooke, they need to because that statement by the former president requires a suspension of disbelief. It was an assault on truth and fact. I mean, kissing and hugging the police, Yes, with hockey sticks and pipes --

BALDWIN: Exactly.

DENT: -- and fire extinguishers and bear spray. Every one of those people entered the Capitol unlawfully, many violently, and to suggest that this was somehow just, you know, a sight-seeing visit is just -- is such an outrage, and I think it needs to be universally condemned by every member of Congress and every person who witnessed it.

BALDWIN: Yet -- yet the majority of your party in Washington continues to align themselves with Donald Trump despite the fact that he managed to lose the House, the Senate and the White House. Why?

DENT: Yes, well most know better. And look, we know that the Mitch McConnell, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Ben Sasse and others are pushing back. They want a clean break from Donald Trump.

BALDWIN: OK. You can name like on one hand or two. But, but --

DENT: Yes.

BALDWIN: -- most of the others are totally supporting him, why?

DENT: Far too many -- it's fear. I mean, many -- many are fearful. Now, many of them know better, too. I think many of them would prefer that he go away, but it's all about fear of the primary.

They know that Donald Trump can make their lives miserable in a primary, and that's what their political calculation must be. It's not because they like him. It's because they are simply afraid of what he can do to rile the base against them. This isn't helping the (INAUDIBLE) up.

[15:50:03]

BALDWIN: To that point, you know, we're already seeing the effect of retirements and some Republicans who fear a tough race, right, or can't quite stomach it anymore? You talk about a fear of a primary. How big of an impact do you think Trump would have on the 2022 mid- terms?

DENT: Well the best thing is for Republicans would be for Donald Trump just to stay down in Mar-a-Lago and keep his mouth shut. That would be the best thing for Republicans in the mid-term. Because Republicans want this mid-term to be a referendum on Joe Biden and the Democrats. And by historical standards they should do well if it's referendum on the Democrats.

But if Donald Trump turns this into a choice, well, then, the calculation completely changes so I would think most Republicans want him to go away no one more than Mitch McConnell who fears a 2010 reprise where we had, you know, these wacky candidates who were nominated during the tea party wave worried about the same thing with the Trump wave. They will nominate unelectable candidates and then Mitch McConnell will remain as minority leader. So believe me, they are paying close attention.

BALDWIN: Charlie Dent, Congressman thank you so much.

DENT: Thank you, Brooke. BALDWIN: Still ahead here on CNN, the Suez Canal chaos. Look at these

pictures and the latest attempt to free this ship. Why one expert is telling CNN it's based more on hope than reality.

But, first, I want to introduce you to this week's CNN Hero. Over the past several months hundreds of schoolchildren in Northern Nigeria have been kidnapped, caught in the middle of this decade-long insurgency, and their teachers now have to worry about protecting their students just as much as educating them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZANNAH MUSTAPHA, NIGERIAN EDUCATOR: These are children who do not even know what's their second name. What's their tribe, their religion?

Children who are not even having this war. They are confused and in a helpless state. You need to give them courage. You have to give them hope.

Morning, morning, morning.

We are in a community where every segment of the society is being ravaged.

Good morning.

CHILDREN: Good morning.

MUSTAPHA: What keeps me going is the resilience of these children. Whenever I see their faces, it gives me hope. It keeps my dream alive.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Those smiles. You can read more about his story. You can nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero. Go to CNNheroes.com.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:55:00]

BALDWIN: Experts say it could take days, maybe even weeks to free this massive container ship blocking Egypt's Suez Canal. And if it does take weeks the Atlanta Fed tells CNN that could temporarily cause temporary price spikes. The ship has been stuck there since Tuesday blocking one of the world' biggest commercial waterways.

And Ben Wedeman, our senior international correspondent is there in Cairo. Ben, how are officials planning to get this ship out of the way?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's lots of talk about what they can do and what they are doing. At the moment, the focus is on dredging around this ship.

They have a goal of 20,000 cubic meters to remove, and they are going to bring in two big tugboats tomorrow, and they say they are hoping to actually float the ship.

The owner of this ship, the Ever Given says they hope it will float tomorrow. But CNN spoke with one dredging expert in the Netherlands who said this: The idea that the ship will be free Saturday is a subject of hope, not realism.

And the expectation among the experts is that this could take days, perhaps even weeks. And we're already seeing the knock-on effect this is having on global trade. Keeping in mind that under normal circumstances every hour $400 million of goods normally passes through the Suez Canal. Now nothing is passing.

We've already seen that the cost of shipping oil since Tuesday has risen by around 47 percent. We're hearing that for instance the IKEA, the furniture and household goods company, has already had some of its shipments stuck there, and already, for instance, the Ever Greet which is the sister ship of the Ever Given, their captain has decided not to go or wait to go through the Suez Canal.

They are going all the way around Africa. That's about six extra days, 6,000 extra kilometers, and that's going to have a huge knock-on effect if this blockage continues, and it looks like it's going to -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: It's crazy. It is crazy. This one stuck ship having global ramifications. Ben Wedeman, we will stay in close contact with you. Thank you, sir, in Cairo,

And before we go just a quick programming note, please, join Anderson Cooper, Amara Walker, Victor Blackwell, Ana Cabrera for a look at a disturbing trend, violent acts against people of color. Afraid, fear in America as communities of color. Tune in tonight 9:00 o'clock Eastern. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.

END