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U.S. Hits Record Over Four Million Vaccine Doses Given; Fauci: Danger Of Another Surge; Slow Europe Rollout Prolonging Pandemic; Inside Pfizer's Vaccine Manufacturing Facility; Atlanta Mayor Fears Boycott Over New Voting Law; Most U.S. States Have Introduced Bills Making It Harder To Vote; Jordanian Prince Restricted To Home; U.S.- Mexico Border Crisis; Netherlands Studying Way To Bring Back Live Events. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired April 4, 2021 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Live from CNN World Headquarters here in Atlanta, I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
It doesn't happen often but we're getting good news in the fight against COVID-19. All about the numbers you want to hear coming up.
Also, they're doing what was once unthinkable. Dr. Sanjay Gupta's behind-the-scenes tour of the Pfizer labs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're sitting on a box of dynamite, a powder keg that could easily explode.
HOLMES (voice-over): The latest on the crisis at the border. An inside look at what officials are facing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Welcome, everyone. Easter Sunday once again being celebrated during the coronavirus pandemic but this year is different, with record boosts to vaccinations giving hope that normalcy is at least within reach.
The U.S. on Saturday reporting more than 4 million doses, given a new daily record. That brings the seven-day vaccination average above the 3 million mark for the first time ever. Nearly a third of all Americans have now had at least one vaccine dose.
That progress does not mean the threat is over, however. Cases are headed in the wrong direction in several states and, ahead of the holiday weekend, a record 1.5 million people passed through airports Friday. That's the latest sign of people perhaps abandoning health recommendations.
Evan McMorris-Santoro was in Times Square, where people are once again packing the streets.
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Times Square on a Saturday. And frankly, it looks like Times Square on a Saturday. It's actually pretty crazy. Because not that long ago, this place was pretty desolate, because people were staying inside, they weren't doing things, they weren't coming out.
Now as you can see, people feel like they're safe to come out. We are seeing this crowd has been here all day long. There are a couple reasons for that. One is the weather is very nice, two the, vaccinations are going very well here in New York.
We got a report today 10 millions of doses of the vaccine have been administered in New York since the vaccination program began. According to the governor's office, one in five New Yorkers is now fully vaccinated.
That number will go up pretty soon, because starting on Tuesday, anyone over the age of 16 can sign up to get a vaccine. Obviously, that is good news. But some of these crowds that we're seeing, it's not necessarily recommended yet.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Dr. Anthony Fauci was on CNN earlier today. talking about the vaccine, what it means and what it can mean for the future. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: I can't give you a day or a week but I can tell you, as we get more data showing that it's going to be extremely unlikely that people are going to transmit it, you're going to see recommendations that people are not going to have to wear masks.
They're not there yet but they're getting there. Same thing with the travel, saying that now that you can travel, that you don't have to get tested before and after, except if your destination demands it.
You don't have to get quarantined when you come back from a situation. So more and more you are going to start seeing the advantages of getting vaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So Dr. Fauci saying they're getting a vaccine; signing up the best thing you can do to help keep this virus in check and get back to normal life. We are seeing in New York though other signs of normalcy. I'm down here in Times Square in the theater district, because,
earlier today, two Broadway stars, Savion Glover and Nathan Lane, did a quick event for about 100 people, frontline workers and Broadway people.
Just showing the first time we've seen people inside a Broadway theater since March 12th, 2020, when Broadway closed. It's not open yet and won't be until September but the sign that people could go into a theater, sit down and enjoy that, just a big, big sign in New York that maybe normalcy is around the corner, if people keep getting those vaccines and sticking by the rules.
HOLMES: Evan McMorris-Santoro reporting there for us.
The rising infections some states are seeing makes the eventual return to normal that much difficult, of course.
HOLMES: And Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in on what's at stake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: In a few of the states and, in fact, in several of the states, there is the danger of having a resurgence and another big surge up.
Just yesterday, we had over 60,000 new cases in a day. That's disturbing. That's what happened in Europe. And what is happening in Europe, for the most part, is going through another disturbing surge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Now other parts of the world are seeing worrying spikes in infections and struggling with slow vaccine rollouts. It's a mixed bag in Europe, as you can see, with both upward and downward trends and much of the continent holding steady.
France reporting another increase in COVID-19 ICU patients. The French president pledging more hospital beds to care for them. The country has gone now into its third national lockdown.
Germans clearly frustrated by restrictions and some took to the streets to show it even though Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to people to stay home.
And I want to bring in Dr. Muhammad Munir, a virologist from Lancaster.
Good to see you. The WHO among others sharply criticizing the vaccine rollout in Europe.
What went wrong and what needs to happen now? DR. MUHAMMAD MUNIR, VIROLOGIST, LANCASTER UNIVERSITY: Thank you, Michael, for having me. I think the vaccine, the whole vaccine rollout in Europe has been complicated. If we talk about the contracts, U.K. made the contract where they -- AstraZeneca, we had the whole Europe do the contracting, mid of August, 100 days later.
And the approval process has been pretty delayed, 19 days after they approved it and hesitancy because of the delay in the contracts and also the supply of the vaccine. So there are several logistical, ethical and hesitancy factors that can putting Europe on the back foot.
HOLMES: It's a real conflagrance (sic) of things as well. The WHO's regional director speaking to the WHO said Thursday, across the WHO's Europe region, which is made up of 53 countries, only 10 percent of people had received one dose; only 4 percent were fully vaccinated and barely 60 percent of lower and middle income countries had started.
How does that hamper Europe's ability to get on top of the spread?
MUNIR: This is challenging for Europe in the coming days and primarily one factor that makes me worried about is 10 percent to 15 percent vaccinated, primarily in 80 years old.
But do know 90 percent of the deaths are caused from -- in people that are from 62 to 80 and above. So this means that even if the third wave which is already taking by storm the E.U., most of the impact would have been on that community and wouldn't be significantly different than we've seen in the previous days.
Only in the last week 1.6 million new cases in Europe with 24,000 deaths and that is primarily contributed by the new variant that the U.K. variant which is B.1.1.7 and 97 percent of new infection is caused by the variant. So overall the situation is pretty grim.
HOLMES: And Europe also -- or some countries have an issue with hesitancy, historic vaccine hesitancy.
How does that -- how do you get past that?
How does that hamper efforts to combat the spread and how do you get around it?
MUNIR: I think this is major challenge. Critically when we talk about AstraZeneca vaccine, if we look on to overall vaccine uptake in Europe, that has been enormously successful in the beginning.
As soon as the delay in the vaccine approval in the E.U. started kicking in, that was the time and has since started increasing. And blood clotting concerns -- and that was particularly for AstraZeneca -- and now vaccine hesitancy in Europe is not more than U.S. than equivalent.
Around 60 percent of them do not want it in Ukraine and 40 percent of Germans do not want AstraZeneca vaccine.
MUNIR: So that would be one of the major concerns moving forward because of these concerns around the vaccines.
HOLMES: Wow. They are worrying numbers.
Finally and briefly, how worried are you about the Easter weekend and a lot, even with lockdowns, were reportedly traveling before the lockdowns went into effect?
Are you concerned about that?
MUNIR: Oh, absolutely, Michael. April is a month of celebration, Easter, Passover, Ramadan, all coming in April. And most of the countries would have a high level of movement.
And my worry is we have some people vaccinated, some people are recovered from the infection and have certain immunity and then some population don't have it. And that is a very good mixture for it to mutate, from vaccinated to unvaccinated.
If this happens, we are seeing some of those nasty viruses that could kick in and again could undo other effort.
HOLMES: Right, Dr. Muhammad Munir, thanks for getting up early in the U.K. Appreciate it.
MUNIR: Thanks for having me.
HOLMES: Now the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is a major part of the world's vaccine arsenal. We'll show you on the map the places where it's been administered globally.
Pfizer says it's reached its goal to provide 120 million doses in the U.S. by the end of March and it's aiming to provide the world 2.5 billion doses by the end of this year. Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes us inside the Pfizer factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Here's his report.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One year ago, a process you are watching didn't even exist. And for Mike McDermott, Pfizer's president of global supply, the novel virus meant he needed a novel approach to vaccine manufacturing.
MIKE MCDERMOTT, PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL SUPPLY, PFIZER: This has been an amazing 12 months, nothing like I've ever experienced in my career.
GUPTA (voice-over): Remember, until the end of last year, no vaccine using mRNA technology had ever been authorized. And now, I'm getting an exclusive look here in Kalamazoo, Michigan, at how Pfizer in partisanship with BioNTech has produced million of these vaccines.
MCDERMOTT: Sixty million doses are surrounding us, hugging us right now. Imagine the impact that this room will have just to those who are sitting here today, on U.S. citizens and patients around the world.
GUPTA: That gives me goose bumps.
While Pfizer has more than doubled its output from a month ago, now producing at least 13 million doses a week, it's still not enough for McDermott.
MCDERMOTT: By the middle this year, at 13 million doses, we'll be at 25 million doses in a couple of months.
GUPTA: So, hundred million a month.
MCDERMOTT: A hundred million a month.
GUPTA: And he's doing that by continuing to look for the novel solution, even seemingly simple ones. They found that their suppliers couldn't provide enough dry ices, so they decided to produce their own.
MCDERMOTT: High visibility jackets so we can see each other, hard hat.
GUPTA: It also means that you are now seeing things that President Biden didn't see when he was here just 5 weeks ago in February.
MCDERMOTT: This is our new formulation suite.
GUPTA: Here's part of how the scale up so fast, these pre-fab formulations suites, they're all built in Texas before being brought here.
MCDERMOTT: If we built it wall by wall onsite, it would have taken us a year. Doing it modularly, we can cut that in half.
If you want to get on one side, I'll get on the other.
GUPTA: And yes as I found, it really is as easy as pushing it into place.
MCDERMOTT: Man, that's amazing.
GUPTA: That was pretty smart.
But for McDermott, it really all came down to this key part of the process.
MCDERMOTT: There's never been a commercial scale mRNA vaccine. So everything you see here is custom design.
GUPTA: Remember, what makes up Pfizer's vaccine is basically mRNA housed in a four different lipids, which is really just a fact. This tiny tool, called and impingement jet mixer makes a possible.
Now, this is going to sound too simple, but here goes. On one side, mRNA is pumped in, on the other side lipids. And they are forced together with around 400 pounds of pressure. Outcomes a new livid nanoparticle, which McDermott says is the perfect package to deliver mRNA to yourselves. That's the vaccine.
When you start to really scale it up like, that how confident were you that it is going to work?
MCDERMOTT: So, the first time somebody showed me this impingement jet mixer, I said, you can't be serious. How could you put billions of doses through here? So, my confidence level is actually quite low, not that it could be done. I knew it worked at this scale, but how could you multiply it?
GUPTA: Not only did McDermott cracked that code and is now on his way to producing billions of doses for the world, his life has now come full circle.
MCDERMOTT: As a kid, my dad worked for NASA. He was lucky enough to be in mission control in Houston when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, that amazing moment.
NEIL ARMSTRONG, ASTRONAUT: One giant leap for mankind.
MCDERMOTT: And the day that we shipped the first doses out of the site, it rushed over me like that was -- that was our moon shot.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Kalamazoo, Michigan.
All right, Georgia's leaders are reacting to Major League Baseball's decision to pull the All-Star game.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Major League Baseball caved to fear and lies from liberal activists. It means cancel culture and partisan activists are coming for your business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: When we come back, fallout, scare tactics after the passage of restrictive new voting rules in the state of Georgia. We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Atlanta's mayor is warning that Georgia's economy will keep paying the steep price for the state's restrictive new voting law. Keisha Lance Bottoms is unhappy that Major League Baseball decided to pull its All-Star game out of her city. [01:20:00]
But, she says, that's probably just the beginning of the fallout if the law is not changed or repealed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GA: I can't say that I like it but I certainly understand it. And it is, really, probably, the first of many boycotts of our state to come. And the consequences of this bill are significant.
Just as the legislatures and the governor made the decision -- the legislators and the governor made the decision to go forward with this bill, people are making decisions not to come to our state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Leaders of Atlanta based companies, like Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, have criticized the law, too. U.S. President Joe Biden, calling it Jim Crow in the 21st century. But the Republican governor, who signed the law, says opponents are spreading falsehoods about what it really does.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Georgians and all Americans should know, what this decision means. It means, cancel culture and partisan activists, are coming for your business. Major League Baseball, Coca-Cola and Delta, may be scared of Stacey Abrams, Joe Biden and the Left but I am not. I want to be clear. I will not be backing down from this fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: CNN's Natasha Chen now, with more on governor Kemp's reaction.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Saturday, governor Kemp doubled down on this voting law, saying Major League Baseball caved to cancel culture, bending to the Left. He said President Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams, have been lying to the American people about this law.
I asked whether lies about the 2020 election had anything to do with the urgency and timeline of passing this bill into law.
Is the timing of this based on your belief that there was some fraud in recent elections in Georgia?
KEMP: I've realized, people have all kinds of difference of opinions and beliefs about the 2020 election.
KEMP: But make no mistake, there were issues that happened on the election, like they do in every election. CHEN (voice-over): Kemp also said MLB should have come to him with
specific complaints about the bill and that he would welcome questions about the specifics.
So we did ask him about things like banning mobile voting centers, banning the automatic mailing of absentee ballot applications, specifying the number of dropboxes and location.
He chalked up a lot of that to improved election security. Of course, now you have pro athletes and politicians, like former president Barack Obama, chiming in, saying, they support MLB's decision here.
Whether you support or oppose it, it is local businesses who are really going to hurt from potential lost revenue. Cobb County, where we are located here, estimates that there's more than $100 million potentially lost because of MLB relocating this All-Star game.
MLB has said that it will continue to invest in local organizations in Atlanta as part of All-Star legacy projects as originally planned -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Cobb County, Georgia.
HOLMES: Georgia's new laws have many up in arms but it's far from the only state considering these types of changes. The Brennan Center for Justice is tracking them across the country and finds that 47 states have legislation that would restrict voter access in some way. Texas, Georgia and Arizona lead the number of proposals. CNN's Dianne Gallagher now with details on these bills.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There being 18 ayes and 13 nays, the bills finally passed.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Texas State Senate sent a sweeping election bill over to the House that could change the way that people in the Lone Star State vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so, we want a system where it's easy to vote and hard to cheat. Right?
GALLAGHER (voice-over): Senate Bill seven seems to target voting in the recent Democratic stronghold of Harris County, home to Houston, one of the country's most diverse cities and Democrats say that it will make it harder for people of color to vote.
JUDITH ZAFFIRINI (D-TX), STATE SENATE: Every minority member of the Texas Senate, all nine of us believe that this bill will impact minorities negatively by making it more difficult for African Americans and Mexican Americans to vote, making it easier for them to be harassed by overzealous poll watchers and diminishing the likelihood that election outcomes will represent the preferences of We the People.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): A new tally by the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice finds that 361 bills with provisions that would restrict voting have been introduced in 47 states as of March 24th. That's a 43 percent jump in the number of bills since Brennan released its last report a little over a month ago.
And most of the bills target absentee voting, nearly a quarter seek to impose stricter voter ID requirements.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): A handful of states have already acted, including Georgia, where some are calling for economic consequences in response to the state's new voting law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This boycott is against Coca Cola, Delta Airlines.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): Including pulling the MLB All Star game set for July out of Atlanta. The commissioner says the timing would make that difficult, but President Joe Biden says that if the players want to change location, he supports it.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I would strongly support them doing that. The very people who are victimized the most are the people who are the leaders in these in these various sports. And it's just not right.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): Georgia's business leaders under public pressure are now speaking out.
JAMES QUINCEY, CHAIRMAN & CEO, COCA-COLA: Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal. This legislation is unacceptable.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): The CEO of Delta, the state's largest private employer, blasting the law as based on a lie of 2020 election fraud saying in a memo.
It's evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly black voters to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong.
In response, the Georgia House passed an amendment revoking Delta's jet fuel tax break,
SAM WATSON (R-GA), STATE HOUSE: We're going to start taxing jet fuel after July 1, 2021.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took away the Delta tax exemption as a retaliation.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): But the effort died when the senate failed to take it up. The state's Republican Governor Brian Kemp says the companies are caving to public pressure, claiming these concerns were not raised during conversations with Delta before the bill was signed.
KEMP: I'm not going to be bullied by these people. But I'm also not running a public corporation. I mean, they'll have to answer to their shareholders. There's a lot of people that work for them and that have done business with them that are very upset and I'll let them deal with that.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): Meanwhile, in Michigan, Republicans have introduced nearly 40 bills that could make it harder for people to vote, even raising the possibility of trying to sidestep an all but certain veto from the state's Democratic governor.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): The fact of the matter is, these are this is a solution in search of a problem. And it is unacceptable. And so if and when those bills get to my desk and they're aimed at making it harder for people to vote, they will get vetoed.
GALLAGHER: So how exactly could Michigan Republicans get around a potential veto from Governor Whitmer?
Well, there's this quirk in Michigan law that allows the legislature to enact a measure without the governor's signature if they can obtain 340,000 signatures.
Now Democrats have already warned that if they try and force through restrictive measures, there will be legal challenges.
HOLMES: Dianne Gallagher reporting there.
There is a good chance your state lawmakers are considering changes to make it harder for you to vote. You need to know what they might be. To find out what is going on, log on to cnn.com/politics.
An urgent video message from a Jordanian prince. Find out what's behind the claims by the king's half-brother. We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Welcome back. I'm Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
We are following reports of several arrests in Jordan during a security sweep. Also the former crown prince says in a video statement that he has been put in isolation and his communications are being cut off.
Prince Hamzah bin Hussein is the oldest son of the late King Hussein and he is the half-brother of King Abdullah. He says in the video that he is not part of any conspiracy but that the kingdom has become corrupt. Here is some more of his statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRINCE HAMZAH BIN HUSSEIN, KING ABDULLAH'S HALF-BROTHER: I had a visit from the chief of the general staff of the Jordanian armed forces this morning, in which he informed me that I was not allowed to go out, to communicate with people or to meet with them, because it's in the meetings that I have been present in or on social media relating to visits that I've made, there has been criticism of the government or the king.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is following the story from Istanbul, Turkey.
The world tends to take stability there for granted. This is extraordinary to have a former crown prince under detention.
What do you read behind this?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Michael, it is very, very murky at this point. We really do not know what is going on. Basically reports emerged late on Saturday that there had been some sort of a plot in Jordan, some sort of a security operation and that senior figures, including the former crown prince, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, had been arrested or under house arrest.
And then we got a statement from the chief of the Jordanian military, basically saying that -- denying reports, saying that Prince Hamzah was not arrested but he was basically told to tone it down, that they had asked him not to take part in any activities or movements, as they described, that could be exploited to try to destabilize the country.
And they said this was part of the bigger security operation ongoing, where several high-profile figures in the kingdom, including a junior member of the royal family and a former, very well-known and senior official within King Abdullah's circles had also been detained as part of the sweep and several others.
And they said it is an ongoing investigation and more will be released. Shortly after that we got this stunning video obtained by the BBC from Prince Hamzah, talking about his situation, basically saying that he is essentially under house arrest and told not to leave his home and his communications and security had been cut off and taken away and this is his last form of communication.
His satellite will be cut off. Quite dramatic and shocking for many Jordanians. And also in the region as you mentioned, a country that is one of the more stable in this region.
HOLMES: You know, it's interesting, you know, in his video message, which we should point out notably, it is in English that he is, you know, not a party to any conspiracy but then goes on to pointedly criticize corruption, breakdown in governance, incompetence in the governing structure. He criticized nepotism and misrule in Jordan. And those are fairly extraordinary criticisms.
KARADSHEH: It is absolutely stunning, Michael, to be hearing this from a member of the Jordanian royal family.
KARADSHEH: Whatever disputes they might have behind the scenes we have never seen anything like this. This is truly unprecedented in Jordan.
We have to point out that, yes, it is in English but he also released another one to an Arab network and it also aired last night in Arabic. And it seems to be addressing the Jordanian nation really.
I mean, Michael, you know, the big news internationally here would be the fact that this is a former crown prince talking about his current situation, his apparent house arrest and what is going on in Jordan.
But what he says after that, lashing out at the country's leadership without naming King Abdullah, talking more about the leadership really and the ruling system in Jordan, this is what is stunning for so many Jordanians. Take a listen to one part of that video statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRINCE HAMZAH: I'm not the person responsible for the breakdown in governance, for the corruption and for the incompetence that has been prevalent in our governing structure for the last 15 to 20 years and has been getting worse by the year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARADSHEH: And, you know, perhaps, Michael, this is one of the more diplomatic statements that he makes in that six-plus-minute video statement. He really, really criticized the ruling structure, what has been going on in this country.
And listening to it, coming from someone like Prince Hamzah is stunning. This is what you hear from Jordanians on the streets. So many have voiced about it, the shrinking space for freedom, where basically no one is allowed to in be the presence of others while they criticize the government or the king.
Talking about rampant corruption in the country, the state of public services in the country, where Jordan, at one point, was a leader, and where it stands right now. So this is really something that hits at the grievances of so many Jordanians right now.
This is a country where discontent has been growing over the past few years with the state of the economy and living conditions pretty much in Jordan. And this is something that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, the economic fallout from that. So this is really something that is going to resonate with so many Jordanians right now.
HOLMES: Exactly. How it impacts the street is yet to be scene. Jomana Karadsheh, good to see you.
Coming up, we'll take you to the Rio Grande Valley, where unaccompanied minors are crossing the border. The growing dangers when we come back.
HOLMES: In the scramble to find space for the thousands of unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody, the Pentagon approved the temporary use of Camp Roberts, normally a training site for the Army National Guard.
Right now, the Department of Health and Human Services is sheltering around 13,000 children. The Border Patrol has custody of 5,000 more. And the Biden administration is all over the radio air waves in Latin America, urging people to stay put.
Now Border Patrol agents in South Texas say there has been an increase in smuggling attempts and, with resources being redeployed, the mayor of one local city fears a volatile situation could turn violent. CNN's Rosa Flores with our report.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. federal agencies are very focused on the immigration surge happening right here in the Rio Grande Valley and rightfully so. It is a humanitarian crisis. But that could be feeding straight into the hands of the smugglers.
FLORES (voice-over): In the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, where mostly migrant families and unaccompanied children are turning themselves in to law enforcement, the border is fortified with a wall.
In Laredo, arrests of mostly adults smuggled in tractor trailers are up 120 percent this year compared to last year. Apprehensions at stash houses are up 400 percent during the same time period. And there's no border wall.
MAYOR PETE SAENZ (R-TX), LAREDO: We're sitting on a box of dynamite, a powder keg. It could easily explode.
FLORES (voice-over): Laredo's mayor fears it could all spill over into violence.
SAENZ: President Trump was asking for a physical wall. President Biden now is asking for a virtual wall. But we haven't seen those resources yet.
FLORES (voice-over): We tagged along with U.S. Border Patrol supervisor Ken Kroupa see to the challenges for ourselves. At 2:45 pm, he's on the scene of a dismantled stash house in the middle of a neighborhood.
KEN KROUPA, U.S. BORDER PATROL SUPERVISOR: Some occasions there's multiple locations on a single day.
FLORES (voice-over): One by one, 18 adults from Mexico and Guatemala were apprehended. The smuggler, usually linked to criminal networks or cartels, was not in the house. As the evening settled in, Kroupa is off to another active smuggling case, this one on the highway involving two vehicles.
KROUPA: As you can see over here, this is one of the vehicles.
FLORES (voice-over): Allegedly smuggling at least nine adults from Mexico, El Salvador and honored, four were locked in the back of this SUV without a way out. The others --
KROUPA: As soon as the vehicle stopped the subjects attempted to flee on foot.
FLORES (voice-over): But they didn't get away.
Late into the night, the smuggling activity picked up by the river.
KROUPA: Right now we just had a group of 15 people that just crossed the river. They crossed over in this area and right now they're starting to bank to try to avoid detection.
FLORES (voice-over): As the radio traffic picks up, Kroupa says Border Patrol agents are trying to find and arrest up to 70 migrants.
FLORES: Is this usual?
KROUPA: Yes, ma'am, it's constant traffic.
FLORES (voice-over): Despite the daunting cat and mouse game, some Laredo Border Patrol agents have been relocated to the Rio Grande Valley to help with the humanitarian crisis there.
SAENZ: What does that mean?
It leaves us more vulnerable. It leaves the Laredo sector vulnerable.
FLORES: Do you feed into the cartels by leaving this area with fewer resources?
RAUL ORTIZ, U.S. BORDER PATROL CHIEF: We're not feeding into the cartels' strategy but we do recognize that every decision we make has an impact.
ORTIZ: And so what we're going to try to do is ensure that, as we start to see these threats flare up, that we move and transfer agents into the area to reinforce the already existing workforce.
FLORES: It's unclear when the Laredo Border Patrol resources will return to Laredo to deal with the increase of smuggling there. The Border Patrol chief told me he has seen a 140 percent increase in the number of illegal crossing arrests this year compared to last year. And he says 94 percent of them are single adults who didn't want to get caught -- Rosa Flores, CNN, McAllen, Texas.
HOLMES: Well, border issues are an increasing source of tension in Northern Ireland, too. Police were called out north of Belfast on Saturday night amid simmering anger over parts of the U.K.'s exit agreement with the European Union, which effectively puts a customs border in the Irish Sea. Nic Robertson explains.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): New writing on Northern Ireland's walls is a chill blast from the province's violent past. Anger is rising over Brexit customs checks, known as the Northern Ireland Protocols.
The messages threaten Northern Ireland's Good Friday Peace Agreement, a red line for U.S. President Joe Biden. In pro-British unionists communities where frustrations are strongest, fears of violence are growing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you see a lot of writing on the wall. It's scary. It's scary and I really wouldn't want to go back. I mean, I grew up in the Troubles and I really wouldn't want to go back. Not again.
ROBERTSON (on camera): Murals of gunman on the streets here are nothing new. But this is something else. The name of Ireland's deputy prime minister and his address written on the wall now quickly painted out. That tells you tensions here are rising.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): The lightning rod for discontent is customs checks on trucks like these crossing the Irish Sea from mainland U.K.
Northern Ireland is inside the E.U. single market for goods, different to the rest of the U.K. So goods now require checks. Truckers face costly new delays.
NIGEL MOORE, BUSINESS DIRECTOR, MCBURNEY TRANSPORT: We've had to employ 10 people to do customs clearance to make sure we can do traces, to make sure that all the paperwork is correct.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Everyone is impacted. New soil controls mean plants previously sourced from Mainland U.K. are now easier to get from the E.U.
BETH LUNNEY, OWNER, SAINTFIELD NURSERY CENTRE: I feel we have been let down. Yes, I feel that maybe there wasn't enough investigation as to what the rules were going to be.
ROBERTSON: A shared soil is at the very essence of identity politics here, any erosion of that unfettered bond with mainland U.K. is for some unionists an existential threat.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Tempers are fraying.
SAMMY WILSON, DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY MP: Where somebody is saying to them, tear up the agreement, which breaks up the United Kingdom. Tear up the agreement which breaks up all the promises you've made to the people of Northern Ireland that you would have unfettered access to your biggest market in GB.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Ominously, loyalist paramilitaries, still dangerous in some pro-British communities have withdrawn support from the Good Friday Peace Agreement according to their representatives.
DAVID CAMPBELL, CHAIRMAN, LOYALIST COMMUNITIES COUNCIL: It's very easy for monitors to spiral out of control. But for the COVID restrictions, there would already have been street demonstrations. I have no doubt the ports would have been blockaded.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson and not just from pro-British unionists. He angered the E.U. drawing a lawsuit from them by unilaterally extending the customs changes transition period from three to nine months. It faces trade deal difficulties with the U.S. if Northern Ireland's peace breaks down and has lost the confidence of non- unionist politicians here, too.
CLAIRE HANNA, SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC AND LABOUR PARTY MP: I don't think Boris Johnson truly understands what he's dealing with here. He just thinks it's something that can be managed and kept on a low rolling boil.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Finding compromise will be hard. Johnson's relations with the E.U. are worsening, not for the first time. The United States could find itself brokering Northern Ireland out of trouble -- Nic Robertson, CNN, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
HOLMES: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Well, most people miss special things from their pre-pandemic lives, don't they?
Well, for some it could be dancing at a music festival and the Netherlands is conducting experiments on ways to safely bring back live events. Zain Asher with that story.
ZAIN ASHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A win for Orange. Special night for some fans in the Netherlands back in the stadium again, for a World Cup qualifying match between the Dutch national team and Latvia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very excited. It's a good occasion to dress up again and to be able to share it with so many people, with my friends. We always watch the games together.
ASHER (voice-over): The match is one of several experiments organized by the Dutch government and sports and entertainment groups to research how to safely hold live events.
ASHER (voice-over): Only 5,000 spectators were allowed to attend the match. Each had to test negative before it and get tested afterwards.
Inside the venue, participants were divided into sections. Some told to wear masks and social distance and others given more freedoms. Research is hoping to gain insight into how transmissions occur.
The group leading the study, FieldLab Events, has not yet published any conclusive results but so far says the data looks promising for the return of live events.
ANDREAS VOSS, FIELDLAB EVENTS: The big difference is that people over here have obviously far more contact but they are pretested, whereas at home and with visitors, you have last contact but are with people who are not tested. In the end, what our hypothesis for this research was that the risk you run at home is identical to the risk you run here.
ASHER (voice-over): Other trials have revived more prepandemic fun.
Remember dancing at festivals?
1,500 people did just that at this outdoor concert using the same protocols as the football match.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course I miss this, who didn't right?
ASHER (voice-over): What happens in a party indoors?
That, too, was studied when 1,300 people danced to tunes run by live deejays in Amsterdam's biggest musical.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to let go, we need to socialize, it's very important for people for our mental health.
ASHER (voice-over): The data of these trials is set to help officials decide when to lift COVID restrictions. Although the government extended all COVID restrictions until April 20th.
A Dutch tour company is helping to fill the void, offering a test holiday to Greece for 187 people, to stay on the island of Rhodes at a resort under the conditions they don't leave the location and quarantine when they return. So far, 25,000 people have applied for it. The lucky few will be
chosen by criteria set by the Dutch government. The rest will have to wait like everyone else for the slow return to normal -- Zain Asher, CNN, New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: What better reason to celebrate than to finally be getting vaccinated?
And that lady you saw there was getting her groove back with Mexico's Mucho Libre wrestlers. The famed fighters aren't taking to the ring lately because of the pandemic so they're turning their attention to fighting the pandemic. Here they are, helping the elderly get their shots at a vaccination site in Mexico City.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: I'm Michael Holmes. Thanks for spending part of your day with me. Paula Newton picks things up after this short break.