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New Cases of COVID-19 Holding Steady or Falling Across Much of U.S.; U.S. Air Travel Sets Pandemic Record Over Easter Weekend; U.K. Prime Minister to Announce Next Steps in Easing Restrictions; India's Worst-Hit State to Begin Curfews and Weekend Lockdowns; Health Experts Warn Against Quick Return to Normal; Testimony Resumes Monday in Derek Chauvin Murder Trial. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 5, 2021 - 04:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Paula Newton.

Just ahead, cautious optimism as the United States administers millions of vaccines each and every day. Still doctors warn it may not be enough to avoid another COVID surge.

Then the murder trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin enters its second week in just hours. While prosecution witnesses left off, and what to expect from the Defense

And later, a CNN exclusive. Russia's arms in the arctic. Satellite images show how military might is growing as the ice recedes.

So U.S. health authorities are walking a fine line in their public messaging. You know, they want to celebrate vaccination gains, but they also need to emphasize that normal is still a heck of a long way off. New COVID cases are holding steady or falling across much of the country as vaccination numbers rise. But a fourth coronavirus wave looms especially in the upper Midwest driven in part by increased movement. And we're now seeing more movement right across the country.

This -- look at there -- was the scene at Atlanta's airport on easter Sunday amid a record-setting travel weekend during the pandemic. The CDC updated its travel guidance Friday, but it seems not everyone got the message.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The CDC says if you had the vaccine, it's safe to travel but they're asking people not to travel that much if they don't have to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that still factor into the decisions that you make when you think about making travel decisions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I say not too much. Not too much. I mean, we'll be vaccinated. We're scheduled. I guess it will alleviate some worries for us.


NEWTON: Now there are many Americans who are paying attention to those warnings and they're making their return to public life slowly and hopefully safely. And of course, protected by a vaccination. Here is Natasha Chen.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On the second Easter into the pandemic, there are more signs of hope, and a resurrection of life compared to a year ago.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We share the sentiments of Pope Francis who said that getting vaccinated is a moral obligation, one that can save your life and the lives of others.

CHEN (voice-over): The U.S. is now averaging more than 3 million COVID-19 vaccines administered every day, even with the recent discarding of 15 million potential doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A source familiar with the company's vaccine manufacturing process says it's not a major setback and that it can be made up in a few weeks. The federal government has now directed Johnson & Johnson to take over the manufacturing of its vaccine at the Baltimore facility where the contamination occurred.

But even with the strong U.S. vaccine rollout, some places, like Mississippi, are seeing what appears to be widespread vaccine hesitancy.


GOV. TATE REEVES (R-MS): We need to make sure that we educate our people and let them know that this vaccine is safe, that it is -- while it's under an Emergency Use Authorization, it has gone through clinical trials with literally tens of thousands of individuals who have done that, it has been peer-reviewed.

CHEN (voice-over): Mississippi also just relaxed indoor capacity guidelines.

Meanwhile on Saturday, Michigan reported its highest daily case counts since December 7th, and experts warn that things could soon get worse.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: At this time, we really are in a Category 5 hurricane status with regard to the rest of the world. At this point, we will see in the next two weeks the highest number of cases reported globally since the end of pandemic. In terms of the United States, we're just at the beginning of this surge. We haven't even really begun to see it yet.

CHEN (voice-over): The CDC hasn't said whether the B117 variant is the dominant strain in the U.S. even though its own scientists predicted it would be by now. DR. KIZZMEKAI CORBETT, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: These variants are concerning, but this is exactly what the virus is built to do. And the vaccine is eliciting such good immune responses that while there's damper in efficacy probably, it will completely obliterate the response, especially on a pandemic scale.

CHEN (voice-over): 18 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, including George Chernowski, who traveled from Buffalo, New York, to be with family in Marietta, Georgia, for his first in- person socially distanced church service since the pandemic began.

GEORGE CHERNOWSKI, TRAVELED FOR EASTER HOLIDAY: A big step in the right direction. We are headed in the right way.

CHEN: Tim and Joey Minster are vaccinated too.

JOEY MINSTER, VACCINATED, ATTENDED EASTER CHURCH SERVICE: I got to tell you, it is wonderful to be here and it's also wonderful to see people we haven't seen, you know, in almost a year, and we hope to keep connected to them.

CHEN (voice-over): Celebrating the spirit of renewal while acknowledging the challenges that are still here.

FATHER RAY CADRAN, CATHOLIC CHURCH OF ST. ANN: In the coming back, we don't want to lessen the concern for the safety of our people. So we continue to keep our safety protocols. I'm still concerned with the safety of the youngest ones through the most elderly.

CHEN: Father Cadran's messages was echoed in Pope Francis's message at the Vatican. During the Pope's Easter message he offered a prayer for those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic. He also urged the international community to commit to overcoming delays in vaccine distribution and the facilitate the distribution especially to the poorest countries.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.


NEWTON: Now later today British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is said to lay out a road map of sorts to further ease COVID restrictions. We expect to find out more on his plan for what is commonly called vaccine passports. And of course, a timeline to relaunch international travel. Now the government plans to test the program at live events in the coming weeks.

For more on what to expect to hear from Boris Johnson, I'm joined by CNN Salma Abdelaziz lifer is now in London. And of course, right now, I mean, the U.K. is in a great place, right. Salma I checked the numbers from yesterday. Less than 2,300 cases. When you think of at the height of this wave, the U.K. was at 60,000 cases -- new cases per day. It's extraordinary. And yet it does seem like the government wants to try to hold on to these gains. How careful do you think they will they'll be in the coming days and weeks? SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, and when you talk about the

battle that the U.K. faced against coronavirus with that variant that became very prevalent here when it was first identified in the southeast of England. I mean, it was a terrible and ferocious battle. And many people have lost their lives. So there's a great deal of hesitancy, as well, especially when you look at the spikes that are occurring in Europe right now.

You're seeing France, Italy put in more restrictions, while the U.K. now on the other side of the mountain trying to figure out how quickly, how slowly, how you begin to ease up these rules. So you have this road map that's being rolled out so far. The only restriction that's really loosened is now you can meet your family and friends outside in small groups, which if you know anything about England, is very rarely allowed with the rain.

But now we're going to hear more from the government, more plans here. So we're going to have information about foreign travel, holidays resuming. That could happen from May 17th, but again, careful, cautious. There's going to be a traffic light system there. Each destination, each country will be categorized under that traffic light system.

And then the second part of the Prime Minister's announcement today will cover domestically. How do you reopen mass events, big social gatherings, sport events and conferences? Things like that. Well their answer to that is a COVID certification status. It doesn't roll off the tongue, as you've said. But what is essentially is a vaccine passport.

It's going to be a document, either digital or a piece of paper that will have basic facts on it. Have you taken the vaccine? Yes or no. When was your last COVID test? Do you have any natural immunity? And they want to pilot this program with a few events this month across the U.K., including a soccer event at Wembley stadium. There's going to be a comedy night in Liverpool. In the going to see how this is going to play out.


But already opposition to this, Paula. We already have dozens of members of Parliament who signed an open letter saying they're going to oppose this. It is divisive. It is discriminatory. That's what they're saying. So Prime Minister Boris Johnson could face some tough opposition in Parliament in getting these measures out -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, the hard part still isn't over for Britain, that's for sure. Salma Abdelaziz, thanks for the update. We appreciate it.

Now India has reached more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. The highest number since the pandemic began. There were more than 103,000 cases recorded in the last month beating the previous record set last September. Now the alarming figure underlines a worsening situation inside the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting Sunday to review COVID procedures and called for health care infrastructure to be ramped up. We want to go live now to Delhi. Our CNN Vedika Sud is standing by. Of

course, you look at the numbers and have to be alarmed. And yet up until this point, it has actually been shocking that India has done so well. What more plans do they hope to put in place in the coming days to really be able to get a handle on these new spikes?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Good to be with you, Paula. You know, ever since March the numbers have been increasing in India, especially this month, for the first four days, especially over the weekend. Cases in a 24-hour basis was going up over 90,000. So this was expected to reach 100,000 mark. So a lot of medical experts here in India, it's not really alarming given the situation and numbers that were piling up.

They said in the first instance when India had highest COVID-19 numbers on a given day, which was in mid-September, as you pointed out, we were coming out of successive lockdowns. Because of which those numbers were still controlled. But this time there's no such lockdown. There've been partial lockdowns in some places, but there's been no lockdown ahead of the second wave that India is experiencing, hence the numbers perhaps will increase in the coming days.

Like you said, the Prime Minister had a very important meeting Sunday. The focus was on making sure they had enough ventilators, enough oxygen for people, enough public health care centers, enough beds for people. Because last time the public health care system here in India was overburdened. He also did mention the Maharashtra which has seen 57,000 new cases Sunday, which is more than half of the count that we have reported today.

So the worry is that the Hindu state of the country, which is Maharashtra, Mubi, the capital city of that state, and as of now what we do know is that those numbers extremely worrying, there is a partial lockdown put in place through the week. Over the weekend there is going to be a complete lockdown for those people in Maharashtra. But night curfew is on through the week as of now.

Other extreme measures also being put in place. Like malls will be shut down, essential services will only be around. So a lot of measures now put in place in the state of Maharashtra.

Also a quick word on why these cases are really going up. Is because of the Hindu festivals that on across the place, plus five states are undergoing elections so there are a lot of rallies being held by politicians which have been attended by thousands of people and that's another worry here -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, we'll keep an eye on the situation there. Vedika Sud thanks so much for the update. We appreciate it.


NEWTON: CNN medical analyst Dr. Jorge Rodriguez joins me now from Los Angeles. He's an internal medicine and viral specialist.

And you know, it has been said what everyone is hearing is that look, we need to be cautious. And there's even been a sense of foreboding coming from officials. And yet, I have to tell you, just traveling around this country, it is as if America has moved on from this virus. How dangerous is that posture right now?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's very dangerous. And unfortunately, this is what has gotten us into trouble time and time again, when we have jumped the gun, when we stepped outside without any caution in the middle of the hurricane. And this pandemic is far from over unfortunately.

Yes, we had a huge spike earlier this year that has come down dramatically. But it has not come down to the point where we were in April. So we are still at a very dangerous level. And it's a little bit disconcerting that people are just not paying attention to this and the doors are wide open in many areas.

NEWTON: We're starting to talk about passport vaccines, and it seems a bit ridiculous considering we're going to get ahead of ourselves. From everything that you see and how quickly the variants are spreading now. It is as if we will continually be one step behind this virus.

RODRIGUEZ: Well hopefully not, but that certainly is a possibility. In some days it does seem that way. And I think you're right, absolutely. You took the words out of my mouth.


I was going to say that we're almost putting the cart in front of the horse as far as talking about vaccine passports.

But some countries, for example, Israel have started to require people show they've been vaccinated in order to come in. So some people are going to say that this is against their civil liberties, et cetera, eventually this may go to courts. But right now, we just need to stay our ground and see what is happening, what is changing before we start extrapolating into the future of vaccination passports.


NEWTON (on camera): And that was CNN medical analyst Dr. Jorge Rodriguez speaking to me earlier.

Now the murder trial of a former Minneapolis police officer resumes today. After the break, a look at some of last week's compelling and very emotional testimony about the death of George Floyd.


NEWTON: In the coming hours, testimony resumes in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. The former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd. CNN correspondent Sara Sidner gets us up to date on the evidence and the emotional testimony presented so far. And a warning, her report contains disturbing video.



JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTOR: On May 25th of 2020, Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: That Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19- year career. The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The defense and prosecution's dueling arguments in a case the world is watching.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want?

GEORGE FLOYD, KILLED IN POLICE CUSTODY: I can't breathe. Knees on my neck.

SIDNER (voice-over): The first week of testimony in the former officer's murder trial began with jurors seeing the entire bystander video. That was followed by a long line of eyewitnesses.

JENA LEE SCURRY, 911 DISPATCHER: My instincts were telling me that something is wrong.

SIDNER (voice-over): Jena Lee Scurry, a 911 dispatcher called a police supervisor as she watched officers' treatment of George Floyd on a street surveillance camera.

DONALD WILLIAMS, WITNESS: I did call the police on the police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why did you do that?

WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.

SIDNER (voice-over): Donald Williams was watching from the sidewalk. The professionally trained MMA fighter was overcome with emotion as he heard his own call to 911.

WILLIAMS (via telephone): Ya'll murders bro. Ya'll murders Thao. You going to kill yourself. I already know it.

SIDNER (voice-over): Sixty-one-year-old eyewitness Charles McMillian was there too.


FLOYD: I am not trying to win.

SIDNER (voice-over): He says he begged Floyd to comply.

FLOYD: I can't breathe. I can't breathe.


FLOYD: Mama. Mama!

SIDNER (voice-over): McMillian dissolved into sobs when he saw the video from that day.

CHARLES MCMILLIAN, EYEWITNESS: I feel helpless. I don't have a mama either, but I understand him.

SIDNER (voice-over): An off-duty firefighter, an EMT walking by on May 25, 2020, testified she begged officers to let her check Floyd's pulse or check it themselves.

GENEVIEVE HANSON, EYEWITNESS AND FIREFIGHTER: There is a man being killed, and I would have -- had I had access to a call similar to that, I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities. And this human was denied that.

SIDNER (voice-over): Some witnesses' faces were shielded from the public. Only the jury saw them because they were all minors when they witnessed Floyd's death. The teen who took the video that went viral, and her 9-year-old cousin who testified anonymously.

TEENAGE WITNESS: It's been nights, I stayed up apologizing and, and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more.

9-YEAR-OLD WITNESS: I saw the officer put a knee on the neck of George Floyd. I was sad and kind of mad.

SIDNER (voice-over): A former cashier who accused Floyd of paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill testified, too.

CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, CUP FOODS EMPLOYEE: I took it. I knew what it is, and I was planning to just put it on my tab until I second-guessed myself. And as you can see in the video I kept examining it and then I eventually told my manager.

SIDNER (voice-over): Soon after police were called.

MARTIN: George was motionless, limp, and Chauvin seemed very -- he was in a resting state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw you standing there with your hands on your head for a while, correct?

MARTIN: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was going through your mind during that time period?

MARTIN: Disbelief and guilt.

SIDNER (voice-over): None of the bystanders knew George Floyd at the time, only one person who testified this week did. They met at his job years ago when he noticed she was crying.

COURTNEY ROSS, GEORGE FLOYD'S GIRLFRIEND: Floyd had this great deep southern voice, raspy. And he's like, sis, you okay, sis? And I wasn't okay.

SIDNER (voice-over): They dated for nearly three years. She testified that they shared many things, including an addiction to pain killers.

ROSS: Floyd and I both suffered with an opioid addiction. We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction, many times.

SIDNER (voice-over): Chauvin's attorney pounced, pointing out Floyd's drug use. His argument? Floyd didn't die from Chauvin's actions but his own drug use and preexisting medical issues.

NELSON: It was your belief that Mr. Floyd started using again about two weeks prior to his death, correct?

ROSS: I noticed a change in his behavior, yes.


SIDNER (voice-over): The jury also heard from a slew of EMTs and police, both current and former. When EMT Derek Smith arrived on the scene, Chauvin was still on Floyd even though Floyd was unresponsive.

DEREK SMITH, WITNESS: I thought he was dead.

SIDNER (voice-over): But Smith said that he and his partner along with an officer worked to treat Floyd. Two officers criticized their fellow officer's treatment of Mr. Floyd.

STEVE SCHLEICHER, PROSECUTOR: Do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?


SCHLEICHER: What is it?

PLOEGER: When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.

SCHLEICHER: What is your, you know, your view of that use of force during that time period?


SIDNER (voice-over): Lieutenant Richard Zimmermann testified he is the most senior member of the Minneapolis police force. He's been there 35 years, now the head of homicide. Chauvin's attorney intimated that the lieutenant may not be in the best position to judge patrol officer's decisions.

NELSON: You are not out patrolling the streets, making arrests, things of that nature?


NELSON: All right. And it's fair to say then that your experience with the use of force of late has been primarily through training?


SIDNER (voice-over): He shows up on scenes after an incident occurs. Still, with all his years of experience, he did not mince words when asked if the officers used excessive force that day.

ZIMMERMAN: Pulling him down to the ground, facedown, and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger if that's what they felt. And that's what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.

SIDNER: That is, of course, the beginning of the prosecution's case. We have yet to hear from the defense, but in this country, of course, when you are charged with a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Minneapolis.


NEWTON: OK. Just ahead for us on CNN NEWSROOM. The ice in the arctic is melting and Russia's military is taking advantage of it. We'll tell you what they're doing there in a CNN exclusive report.