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Michigan Reports Third Surge As Cases Accelerate Statewide; Police Chief Says, Officer Involved In One Shooting Wore Body Camera, Did Not Have It Activated; Minneapolis On Edge Ahead Of Fired Police Officer's Trial; Dems Vow To Fight Georgia Law Restricting Voting Access; Interview With Mayor Todd Gloria (D) Of San Diego; State Of Emergency Declared In Nashville After Deadly Flooding. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 28, 2021 - 18:00   ET




PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I am Pamela brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday.

And we begin tonight with disturbing news out of Michigan. The head of the state's health department says Michigan is experiencing a third surge in coronavirus cases, and it seems to be affecting younger people at a greater rate, specifically ages 10 to 19.

Now, officials say people are gathering more and going out more, and outbreaks are being seen at schools and prisons.

There is also word tonight that the Biden administration is working to develop system for people to prove that they have been vaccinated, more on that ahead.

But CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro joins me now. So, Evan, Michigan may be seeing another surge. Is the rest of the country likely to follow?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, the short answer to that question, according to experts, is, yes, it is very likely that could happen. The fact is there are new signs every day that Americans are doing things that are comfortable and just aren't that safe in this ongoing pandemic. Experts are begging them to stay focused.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Please, take this moment very seriously.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice over): Top officials warning Americans to keep focused on the pandemic despite the polls of warmer weather and encouraging vaccine news. Reservations on home rental sites, Vrbo and Airbnb, are skyrocketing according to those companies, signaling the desire among Americans to get out of the house, but travel and gathering for holidays, like Easter and Passover, are not a good idea, experts say.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Whenever we see surges in travel, be that around the holidays, or around certain situations like we did over the Christmas and New Year's holiday, and other types of holidays, you get a congregation of people. Those are kind of things that invariably increase the risk of getting infected.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Cases are starting to rise again in some states, including Michigan. The Department of Health tells CNN they are now experiencing a third coronavirus surge.

While more than a quarter of Americans have received their first dose of a vaccine, only around 15 percent are fully vaccinated. But most states continue to expand eligibility guidelines, Louisiana among the states expanding vaccine eligibility to all adults over age 16 on Monday. Still, this moment has all the ingredients for a new national surge, experts say, but Americans can prevent it.

WALENSKY: I know people are tired and we are asking for people to hang on a little while longer in terms of the masks and the mitigation strategies so that we can get a majority of the people vaccinated.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO (on camera): So, on that Michigan news, Pam, the good news is officials there are making the vaccine to everyone over the age of 16 starting on April 5th, and they are urging people in that state to sign up now for those appointments so they can get those shots in their arms as quickly as possible.

That's the best way Michigan officials say they can sort of get this new surge under control and the best way officials say across the entire country, we can all prevent another surge from happening. Get the shots as soon as you can get them. Pam?

BROWN: And that just sums up this race we're seeing between the variants and getting those shots. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much.

And tonight on CNN, the men and women who love this country through the coronavirus pandemic for the past year, like you have never heard them before. They open up to our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and what they have to say is frankly stunning. Here is a preview.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, I think the conversations on what you are going to hear tonight is going to be tough but also fair, and it's very much going to be the spirit of lessons learned, like what are we going to learn about the future here, how can we be better prepared for the future.


But there was also a lot that was happening behind the scenes. And these doctors, I think, in some ways, wanted to talk about. We saw what was happening publicly, but what was happening behind the scenes. For example, Pamela, there was an interview that Dr. Birx did on State of the Union. And she talked about that interview but also what happened in the aftermath.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I knew I was being watched. Everybody inside was waiting for me to make a misstep so that they could, I guess, remove me from the task force.

It is extraordinarily widespread, the CNN report in August that got horrible pushback.

Everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus.

That was a very difficult time because everybody in the White House was upset with that interview and the clarity that I brought about the epidemic.

GUPTA: I can tell just by reading your face that was a really tough time. What happened?

BIRX: I got called by the president.

GUPTA: What does he say?

BIRX: Well, I think you've heard other conversations people have posted with the president. I would say it was even more direct than what people have heard. It was very uncomfortable, very direct, very difficult to hear.

GUPTA: Were you threatened?

BIRX: I would say it was a very uncomfortable conversation.


GUPTA: Pamela, I have to tell you, I think Dr. Birx was probably the most introspective out of all the doctors that we interviewed, very reflective, I think aware, self-aware about the damage to her reputation, her own mistakes, things like that, and her hopes for the future.

So, again, the spirit of the entire documentary was, okay, we saw what happened. Now we are getting an unvarnished look at it, what does that mean for the future? Hopefully, you will get a chance to watch. It's tonight at 9:00 P.M.

BORNW: And to just reiterate that, the CNN special report, COVID War, the Pandemic Doctors Speak Out, airs tonight at 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

And joining me now, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean at the Brown University School of Health. Dr. Jha, good to see you, as always. I want to start off with getting your reaction to Sanjay's reporting and Dr. Birx's uncomfortable call with former President Trump. How much do you think the response was complicated by the former president's approach in this country?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, Pamela, thank you for having me on.

I spoke to Dr. Birx many times during those times. And what you've catch in that glimpse is, in fact, the pressure she was under by the president and constantly trying to decide between speaking the truth to him and telling him what he wanted to hear, and that was a constant challenge, I think, for a lot of the leaders in the White House.

So it was a very difficult time, obviously. We did not have a president that wanted to get the data and the facts straight and I think that really made the response much more difficult.

BROWN: Right. And not just talking to him, but to the public, being honest with the public, providing clarity to the public. And just to hear from her the reaction in the White House because she painted an accurate picture, even though it was pretty alarming, frankly.

I want to go to Michigan now. Top health officials there say that the state is in another surge. Do other states need to worry especially with another holiday Easter weekend approaching? What is going on here?

JHA: Yes, this is basically what we were all saying was going to happen around the second half of March, for a couple of months. We've been saying that B117, that variant from the U.K., will become dominant in the U.S. around this -- and it is now dominant. And it is far more contagious, spreading far more efficiently.

And while we are doing a good job on vaccinations, many states have opened up too much, people are a little too relaxed, get gathering indoors without basic precautions, and that's what's leading to a lot of these infections.

We're weeks away from a point where we can begin to do these things a bit more safely, but I think states have just moved too fast.

BROWN: And one detail that stood out to me, Michigan said that cases are increasing the most among the younger populations, specifically the 10 to 19-year-old age group. What does that tell you?

JHA: Yes, we have seen that here in Massachusetts. We have seen that elsewhere as well. Obviously, the good news part of this is that people over 65, a large proportion of them have been vaccinated and are protected. That's one of the reasons we have not seen a huge spike in hospitalizations.

A lot of the spread is happening among younger people, 10 to 19, but also 20 to 29. That's the group that is moving around, kind of relaxed and getting infected. And I think that's what's driving a lot of the infections right now. [18:10:02]

BROWN: I want to ask you about the idea of a vaccine passport, because a senior Biden official has told CNN they are considering some kind of a way for people to prove they have been vaccinated, a vaccine passport, some other document. Do you think that's something we need to do?

JHA: I think it's inevitable. I think you're going to see lots of private companies doing this if the government doesn't end up doing it. A lot of private companies I've been speaking to say that they want to know for sure who is walking in their door, whether they are vaccinated or not. You're going to see airlines do this. You're certainly going to see foreign governments do this.

So if the U.S. government ends up playing a role and doing this in a way that is authentic and secure, that would probably be a good thing. But I think it's going to become a reality in many places.

BROWN: All right. Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you so much, as always.

JHA: Thank you.

BROWN: And we have a lot going on during the next three hours. I'm going to talk to two-time Oscar Winner Sean Penn. His non-profit is working with communities across the country to help get the coronavirus vaccine into peoples' arms.

Plus, I will talk to the former acting director of ICE in the Trump administration as migrants continue to arrive at the southern border.

And we're at the Suez Canal, billions of dollars worth cargo just sitting there while a container ship blocks the path. How soon can traffic start moving again?

And all eyes will be on the city of Minneapolis tomorrow as former police officer Derek Chauvin goes on trial for the murder of George Floyd. We'll have a preview.

Plus, deadly flooding in Nashville as rising waters trap dozens of people. The mayor just declared a state of emergency. We'll have the latest.



BROWN: Four people are still in a hospital in Virginia Beach, Virginia, today, recovering after a number of separate deadly shootings there. One of them involved a police officer who, according to the police chief, did not turn on his body camera even though he was wearing one.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Virginia Beach right now. So, Brian, a lot of questions still don't have answers about what happened there Friday night. Bring us up-to-date. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Pamela. Almost 48 hours since those shootings, a lot of key questions still unanswered. The biggest question tonight remains, was Donovan Lynch, the young 25-year-old black man, who was killed by a police officer, was he armed or was he not armed at the time of that confrontation.

Police chief has said that there was a firearm found in the vicinity of that shooting. That's all that police are saying. We've been pressing them for answers for the last 48 hours to give us anything more on that situation. They have not been able to provide more information.

Another key question unanswered, why was the police officer's body camera not activated at the time? Police have still not answered that. As of last night, they said they had not even spoken to that police officer. We've been pressing them today on whether that situation has changed, whether that officer has hired an attorney or not. Again, not getting any answers tonight.

What I can tell you just a short time, I spoke with an attorney for the family of Donovan Lynch. The attorney did not want to go on camera. The family does not want to go on camera at this time. But the attorney did say that the Virginia Beach Police have reached out to the family. That's all that he would say about that. He would not characterize that any further.

But he described Donovan Lynch as a, quote, standup guy, someone who was liked by all, that the family is in shock and mourning, that they, quote, need to exhale right now. They may be speaking to the media in the coming days. And he confirmed the statement by Donovan Lynch's father, Wayne Lynch, the father saying, quote, a father's dream son, intelligent, handsome, a scholar, an athlete, an entrepreneur and loved by all he came in contact with, Rest in peace, Don.

Again, so many pieces to this puzzle not yet put together, Pamela. I can tell you -- I could show you how chaotic that situation was. On Friday night, the shooting erupted just over my right shoulder in that parking lot over there.

That's where eight victims were hit, at least four of them remaining in the hospital this afternoon. Donovan Lynch was shot and killed in that block of 20th Street right there and a third person, Deshayla Harris, who we're told was a star on the reality show, The Bad Girls Club, she was shot about a block away from here on 19th Street.

Police still also trying to put together, Pamela, whether these incidents are connected, again, not getting that information tonight. We are still pressing them for answers.

BROWN: Oh, I know you will continue to do that. Brian Todd live for us in Virginia Beach, thank you so much.

And joining me now is CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey. He has led police departments in D.C. and Philadelphia and he served as co-Chair on President Obama's task force on 21st Century Policing. Welcome to you, Chief Ramsey. First off, let's talk about what we just heard from Brian that the body cam was not turned on for one of these officers. In this day and age, is there any reasonable explanation for that?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, there's no excuse for it. The officer didn't turn it on for whatever reason. If it was a malfunction in the camera itself, that's a different story. But I am sure the chief will deal with that, because, clearly, if you are wearing a body camera, if you don't turn on it, what good is it. And this would have been vital in terms of trying to determine exactly what took place at the time of the shooting.

BROWN: How can a community have trust that wrongs weren't committed by officers if routinely body cams are not activated?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, it does make it difficult. There's no question about that. I don't know if it's routine that they don't do it. I know for a fact that they are working on technology and not police departments but these companies that make these devices, Exxon being one, that would automatically turn it on the minute you get out of the car, for example. Some of those things just aren't in place yet.

So there's work that needs to be done in terms of the technology, so it's not a question of an officer hitting a button that in the middle of a high-stress situation you could simply forget to do.


But I am not going to make any excuses for him, he should have had it on.

BROWN: All right. This past week, you told The Washington Post that there should be a higher standard for police. How would those higher standards apply to what happened Friday night in Virginia Beach?

RAMSEY: Well, I don't know specifically how it would apply. When I had made that comment, I was talking about educational standards, I was talking about policies, training and the like in terms of standards for police officers, that I do think there needs to be national standards put in place for police.

I don't know if it would have made a difference on what happened on Friday night simply because we are talking now about turning a camera on and off. Now, I don't know about the policies in Virginia Beach, the majority of the departments that have cameras have strict policies regarding the activation of the body-worn camera, and I am sure the chief will deal with that.

BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, Chief Ramsey, we appreciate you coming on the show and sharing your expertise with us.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

BROWN: And in Minneapolis, security is tight right now as the city braces for opening statements tomorrow morning in the televised murder trial of fired Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Video of George Floyd's death under the officer's knee sparked protests nationwide and calls for police reform.

CNN's Omar Jimenez reports from Minneapolis.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The eyes of a movement, one that sparked protests worldwide in the name of George Floyd shift to a courtroom in Minneapolis --


JIMENEZ: -- now to opening statements in the trial of Derek Chauvin. The former Minneapolis Police officer has pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces, second degree unintentional murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder in the death of George Floyd.

Outside the courtroom, emotions will be running high. There have already been multiple protests throughout the city.

CHIEF MEDARIA ARRADONDO, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: They have done so peacefully and they've assembled and gathered peacefully. We will continue to expect more demonstrations.

JIMENEZ: But the destruction that happened in May 2020 in the aftermath of Floyd's death is still fresh on the minds of city officials and it's why the building that houses the courtroom has virtually become a fortress due to increased security measures, but the major is saying there's more to come.

MAYOR JACOB FREY, MINNEAPOLIS: Residents should be expecting a gradual increase in law enforcement and National Guard presence as we progress through the trial.

JIMENEZ: The first step in this trial --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does that make you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm okay with that.

JIMENEZ: -- was getting through jury selection, which lasted exactly two weeks --

CAHILL: You will serve on our jury.

JIMENEZ: -- resulting in 15 jurors, 14 of which will be part of the trial.

CAHILL: This 15th juror was to make sure that we're going to have 14 people show up on Monday.

JIMENEZ: Their identities remain unknown for now. Attorneys for the Floyd family are pleased the trial can now proceed, and wrote this is not a hard case, George Floyd had more witnesses to his death than any person ever, and it will be witnesses who now come to the stand called by prosecutors for the state and the defense for Derek Chauvin. Among what we know will be talked about, a portion of a 2019 George Floyd arrest, for which he was never charged but one more he ended up being sent to the hospital instead of jail. An interaction with police, defense attorneys for Chauvin argued, was similar to May 2020. The paramedic from that day in 2019 is also expected to testify.

CAHILL: The whole point here is we have medical evidence on what happens when Mr. Floyd is faced with virtually the same situation, confrontation with police at gunpoint followed by a rapid ingestion of some drugs.

RICHARD FRASE, CRIMINAL LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Our system of justice is a bit on trial. Can we give Mr. Chauvin a fair trial, because that's essential? Can we give the state a fair chance to find him guilty under the law and the evidence?

JIMENEZ: The trial is expected to last up to four weeks, all the while, a city, a family, a movement watches anxiously over what criminal accountability looks like in the death of George Floyd.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And later tonight, there will be a vigil with the family of George Floyd, a reminder of what many feel is at stake with this trial. And despite all of the attention and all of the pressures that have come with this, at this point, the only thing that matters is what happens within the walls of that courtroom, specifically in regards to George Floyd's cause of death and Derek Chauvin's intent, and all of these charges will be considered tried separately, so Chauvin could get convicted on all of them, some of them or none of them.

But, of course, it's a process that begins with opening statements once court gets back in session tomorrow morning at 10:00 A.M. Eastern time. Pamela?

BROWN: All right. Omar Jimenez live for us from Minneapolis, thanks so much, Omar.

Well, under pressure to take a stand, big Georgia-based companies, like Coke and Delta, are weighing in on the state's new controversial voting law.


When we come back, I will speak to Bishop Reginald Jackson who leads hundreds of AME churches in Georgia.



SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Well, you know, it's Palm Sunday and Jesus confronts the powers, and we all have a decision to make.

There was a governor that he confronts in that moment named Pilot, and the governor has a decision to make and I think all of us have a decision to make. Are we going to stand on the side of truth and righteousness and justice? Are we going to stand up on the right side of history?


This is a defining moment in the American nation and all of us have a role to play.


BROWN: So that's Senator and Reverend Raphael Warnock of Georgia this morning invoking a biblical story to describe Republican Governor Brian Kemp's signing of an election law that changed voting rights in his state.

Senator Warnock's message comes as black church leaders in Georgia are calling for a boycott of the state's major exported, Coca-Cola, until the company takes a public stand against the new law. Well, Coke released a statement today, saying in part, "We believe voting is a foundational right in America and access should be broad-based and inclusive. We will continue to identify opportunities for engagement and strive for improvements aimed at promoting and protecting the right to vote in our home state and elsewhere."

Well, critics of the law say the restrictions are based on former President Trump's big lie of voter fraud and that they target voters who helped flip Georgia blue, and apparently flipped out Republicans in the process.

Joining me now is Bishop Reginald Jackson, one of the church leaders leading this charge against Georgia companies and he oversees more than 500 AME churches in the state.

Reverend, great to have you on the show with us. I first want to get your reaction to that new Coca-Cola statement. Was that a sufficient response in your view?

BISHOP REGINALD T. JACKSON, 6TH DISTRICT PRESIDING PRELATE, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Absolutely not. June 3rd last year, the CEO and chairman of Coca-Cola stated companies like ours can do better. We must stand with Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements. Companies like ours can do better. Well, they have not done better.

This bill, which is expressly the result of a lie and which seeks to suppress black and brown votes, turn us back to a time of Jim Crow, is racist, and for Coca-Cola and Delta and other major corporations to remain silent, did not speak well to those corporations. Silence speaks of complicity, and that's what we think they are.

BROWN: So, I mean, we know they're not silent because they've released these statements. I mean, Coke released a statement, Delta released -- and I have the Delta one in front of me saying, "Delta believes that full and equal access to voting is a fundamental right for all citizens." It goes on to say, "The legislation signed this week improved

considerably during a legislative and expands weekend voting, codifies Sunday voting, and protects the voters' to cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason."

So basically you're hearing from some of these companies that, look, this could have been worse. The Republicans decided not to include limits on early voting, on Sundays, also known as Souls to the Polls, and that there are some parts of this bill that included -- you know, or expanded early voting on the weekend. So what do you say to that?

JACKSON: Well, first of all, again, they may have said something, but what they said was worthless. Let's look at what they've actually, I guess, are praising. For example, they reduced how many days before an election you can vote by absentee ballot. And even though you say they had kept Souls to the Polls and that kind of thing, they actually left that up to the counties and if you look at the time that they've approved in this bill is less time than it was during the last November election.

And in addition to that, if you talk about the drop boxes, before, if you got off work at 6:00, you could go to the place and drop your absentee ballot in the ballot box. Not now, because those ballot boxes have been moved inside and when that business closes those ballot boxes are locked. In addition to that, in Fulton County, for example, last year in the June primary, we had people waiting five to six hours in line to vote, and now you are saying it's against the law to give them water or a snack?

And they say this bill is improved? In addition to that, when you talk about people having to have a driver's license and more, you have more than 200,000 Georgians, primarily senior citizens, who do not have a driver's license. This makes it harder for them to vote. And the bottom line is, Pam, and let's be very clear, if Republicans had won this election, none of these bills would have been introduced.

The same Republican-controlled legislature is the one who approved these bills some years ago. When they worked for them, they were fine. When they started working for us, all of a sudden they needed to be changed.

BROWN: Right --

JACKSON: And all of this is based on the former liar-in-chief, saying that if he loses it's only because the election was rigged.

BROWN: Well, and it's interesting, because Brian Kemp, the governor, had said previously in 2018 when he oversaw the election that they had rules in the books to make sure elections weren't stolen. But I do want to get your response quickly to --



JACKSON: You want to go back to the former Governor Brian Kemp when he was a Republican nominee and the secretary of state, he dropped over half a million people from the voter rules, primarily people of color. That's why he's governor today, so he's not a credible witness.

BROWN: OK. I want to get your response, though, Governor Kemp aside, on what we're hearing from some other Republicans. You have the secretary of state there who, you know, arguably risked his political career coming out after the elections saying that it was safe, sound, secure, honest, transparent and so forth.

He has come out to say this bill is not voter suppression. Republican Senator Pat Toomey looked at several aspects of the law today and said voter suppression in this case is a false narrative. Listen to what he said.


SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R-PA): You look at the Georgia law, there's no voter suppression. Sunday voting is still allowed. There's an expansion of in-person voting. There's no requirement that you have a reason for a mail-in ballot. All you need is some verification of ID and so does every Department of Transportation in America in order to drive, so does every airline if you're going to get on a plane.

So this has been a false narrative entirely, Chuck, and I'm afraid it's all about trying to get rid of the filibuster. We're not going to be cowed by being called a racist over a policy that has nothing to do with race.


BROWN: So that's a big argument from Republicans that if you go vote in person you have to have an ID, why shouldn't you have that for this mail-in ballots. What's your response to Senator Toomey there?

JACKSON: My response to Senator Toomey is this, is or is not this legislation based on a lie? They have claimed that these bills are put in because people don't have trust and confidence in the election system. The reason they don't have confidence and trust is because they have been saying even prior to the voting that the election was rigged. You keep saying something long enough, people will believe it.

But let me ask you this, name evidence where there was fraud? Let me show me the court cases which have been accepted because they had merit. There's no evidence, there's no court case, there's nothing to say that this election lacked integrity and honesty. So all of this is nothing more than the continuation of the big lie. And again, I guess Senator Toomey is retiring now so he doesn't have much to lose. But everybody else is still scared of the Don, and so therefore they go along to get along.

BROWN: All right, Bishop Jackson, thank you so much.

JACKSON: You're welcome.

BROWN: The Biden administration needs help to house the rising number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, and one of those places offering space is San Diego's Convention Space.

Coming up, I'll speak to the city's mayor, Todd Gloria.



BROWN: Well, as more and more unaccompanied child migrants make their way to the U.S.-Mexico border, the city of San Diego is now providing a temporary home for some of them. Hundreds of children, most of them girls between the ages of 13 and 17 arriving at the San Diego Convention Center there.

The shelter expects to reach full capacity of about 1500 next week, so this gets the girls out of Customs and Border Protection facilities, the ones where the conditions are more jail like and into Health and Human Services care.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria joins me now to discuss this.

Mayor, great to see you. Walk us through how this came to be? Did you voluntary to offer the convention center? Did the state or federal government approach you about it?

MAYOR TODD GLORIA (D), SAN DIEGO: It's good to be with you, Pamela. The federal government contacted us eight days ago asking if we would provide a safe place for these young children, and the city and county of San Diego collectively said yes, we will house these children who are without their parents, who are vulnerable and need a safe, warm and secure place to be.

We have a convention center that's owned by the people of this city and we're making it available to our partners in the federal government to house as you said nearly 1500 children.

BROWN: So once they've gotten settled, what is the timeline and the goal for reuniting them with family or a long-term facility?

GLORIA: Well, the partners at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have shared with us they anticipate the average child to stay here between 30 and 35 days. That's enough time to identify their family, connect them whether they're here or somewhere else, with their family or with a sponsor.

And so we welcomed the first of the 500 or so last night. We expect, as you mentioned, get to about 1500 by the end of the week, and we expect to have these children here with us through the middle of the summer.

BROWN: You told the "San Diego Union Tribune" the convention center has a book a business for August but this crisis is expected to worsen through the summer. Do you have a backup plan in case there's a need for additional capacity into August?

GLORIA: Well, what has been shared by the federal government is that they are working to establish more bed capacity throughout the United States. Basically, resurrecting what has been torn down by the previous federal administration, and so we're in an emergency posture. This is a humanitarian mission, while our federal partners can stand up that redundant system that is more durable and capable of dealing with this on more regular basis.

Right now, we're just focusing on children, making sure they're safe. We welcomed them last night, gave them a hot meal and a shower. We're going to start classes here tomorrow. We're going to do our very best to do right by these kids between now and the middle of July, welcoming tourism and conventions back to San Diego by sometime in August.

BROWN: All right, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, thank you for coming on the show.

GLORIA: Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: And as the government -- as the government struggles to keep up with the flow of migrants reaching the border, Republicans have seized on the chance to blame Biden for the surge.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): This is inhumane, it is wrong and it is the direct consequence of policy decisions by the Biden administration to stop building the wall, to return to catch and release, and to end the stay-in-Mexico policy.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): We need to help them by putting good policies in place, and getting away from these failed policies that have been implemented by the Biden administration and that are leading to this crisis on our border.

SEN. RON JOHNSONS (R-WI): Call it the Biden arrow, showing illegal immigrants how to come into the country.

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): I know why President Biden doesn't want the media to be here because we do have an open border.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): He needs to apologize, President Biden, to the Border Patrol agents and their families for putting them through this. We're being overwhelmed at the border. It's not a crisis, it's a complete loss of sovereignty down there.


BROWN: So this is a humanitarian crisis. It was a crisis under Trump, too. For the record, in 2019 there were record numbers at the border, and the overall surge we're seeing now is not new. Beginning last April when Trump was still president, the number of migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexican border has increased every single month.

So was Biden to blame seven months before he won the election? Was he to blame in the two months after he won but wasn't in office? Of course not. Were migrants held in bad conditions under Trump? Yes.

I saw that firsthand. Is the acceleration of unaccompanied kids arriving at the border since Biden's inauguration related to Biden's policy changes? Well, anecdotally some parents have told the media that yes, they are sending their kids over because of Biden.

But you can't blame it all on someone who has only been in office in two months. And when it comes to this issue, Democrats are guilty of a double standard as well. Throughout the Trump years they rightly hammered Trump's family separation policy. And they also called out the Trump administration detaining children in deplorable conditions.

We're just starting to get a glimpse of those conditions this time due to the overcrowding. It is arguably worse as we see in these pictures, these images, but Democrats aren't taking Biden to task the same way. In fact, they are still pointing the finger at Trump.


SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): We have a situation at the border and that is a result of four years of failed policies, inhumane policies and a systematic dismantling of the asylum system by Donald Trump.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): This president inherited a mess from Donald Trump when it comes to immigration. He's trying to fix it in a humane way and my hope is that Congress will provide the resources to restart some of these programs in Central America that provides less incentive for people to flee and come to the United States.

RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We were left with inadequate resources down there, with a system that had been shrunk due to COVID, and now we are trying to stand up the resources we need to make sure that these children are treated in a humane and appropriate way.


BROWN: So for the record we checked and there were more than 13,000 HHS beds at the beginning of Biden's term. Well, compare that to almost 7,000 HHS beds under Trump in the fall of 2017 when there was a higher rate of unaccompanied kids arriving at the border than in January of this year. So that raises the question, what exactly was torn down that has relevance for the processing and caring for these kids there as we heard there?

As thousands of families make that dangerous journey to the border, it appears both parties are engaging in political gamesmanship and photo- ops instead of just focusing on rolling up their sleeves and working to solve this crisis together.

Well, first responders rescued more than 100 people in Nashville after intense rainfall triggered deadly and destructive flooding. Our Martin Savidge is standing by with the very latest. That's next.


[18:53:15] BROWN: Moments ago, the mayor of Nashville declared a state of emergency as deadly flooding in the area continues. So far the flood waters have left at least four people dead and dozens more needing rescue.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Nashville, so, Martin, what are you seeing there?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, the good news is the water has for the most part receded. The bad news is the destruction that they've left behind is significant. We should point out this was not a city-wide disaster. It was mainly focused on South Nashville. But still if you were in the way of the water when it came roaring in early this morning, you will never forget it.

This apartment complex as you can see was heavily damaged. Residents here say that a little after midnight they began hearing the intense rain, then they got the flood warnings on their telephones, then the fire alarms went off in the building. When people looked out to see what was burning, they realized the apartments were now surrounded, they were islands, and it was raging water all around them and then they heard the screams of the neighbors trapped in the basement units.

(INAUDIBLE) will never forget it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We heard somebody screaming repeatedly. My husband and I and a couple of friends of ours, were, you know, trying to tell them, we called 911. We're trying to get you out. And she was just hysterical. The husband of one of the ladies that was trapped downstairs finally came home and he had to bust in the door inwards to get her out and it was already up to her chest level in her apartment.


SAVIDGE: The horror, Pamela, was that the water pressure had prevented people from getting out of the basement apartments but then the debris and the water began smashing the windows and now water was flooding in. Amazingly, nobody was killed. The fire department did show up. But they realized it was safer if people just stayed in the upper familiars than tried to get them out with the water that was raging all around.


Scenes like that repeated over and over and over again in Nashville. It's been a very difficult year. A tornado, a bombing and of course the pandemic, and now the flooding. So, Pamela, once again, neighbors and friends are pitching in to help them pick up.

BROWN: Yes, I mean, it's a quadruple whammy you just laid out there.

Martin Savidge, thank you for bringing us the latest.

And when we come back, throughout the pandemic actor and activist Sean Penn mobilized mass testing sites and now his team is pivoting to vaccines. I'll speak to him live next hour. Stay with us.