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Expert Witness: Floyd Died from Low Oxygen Level; Biden Announces Limited Gun Restrictions Following Mass Shootings; U.K. Health Secy.: All Three Approved Vaccines are Safe; EU Vaccine Chief: Herd Immunity is Possible by July; Dr. Fauci: U.S. is on the Brink of Another Case Surge; Attorney: Matt Gaetz Associate Likely to Strike Plea Deal; St. Vincent on Red Alert as Volcano Eruption Imminent. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 9, 2021 - 04:00   ET



PAULA NEWTON, CNN ANCHOR: On the stand, a renowned medical expert says George Floyd died from low oxygen levels, refuting key defense arguments in the case. We will have the details.

Plus, President Joe Biden issues a plea for action to a divided Congress to tackle an epidemic of mass shootings.

And thousands are evacuated from the Caribbean Island of St. Vincent as officials say a volcanic eruption may be imminent.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, I want to welcome all of our viewers in the United States, Canada and around the world, I'm Paula Newton and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

So we start with the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The main witness on Thursday, Dr. Martin Tobin, a renowned expert in pulmonary critical care. Now he testified George Floyd died from a lack of oxygen after being placed on the street on his stomach with handcuffs, a knee on his neck and a knee on his back. Dr. Tobin saying even a person without medical conditions would have died. Our CNN's Sara Sidner reports.


DR. MARTIN TOBIN, PULMONOLOGIST: That's the moment the life goes out of his body. I do.

SIDNER (voice-over): Today, the prosecutor's expert medical witness did not hold back.

TOBIN: Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen. And this caused damage to his brain that we see, and it also caused a PEA arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop.

SIDNER (voice-over): The world-renowned expert on breathing and lungs, Dr. Martin Tobin, pointed to the officers' actions, saying George Floyd died because the officers created a scenario in which Floyd's lungs were put into a vise-like grip.

TOBIN: It was almost to the effect as if a surgeon had gone in and removed the lung, not quite, but along those lines.

SIDNER (voice-over): Dr. Tobin said four things caused Floyd to stop breathing, including Floyd's position on the concrete, allowing no room for his lungs to expand.

JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: You mentioned several reasons for Mr. Floyd's low oxygen. You mentioned, one, handcuffs and the street, right?

TOBIN: Correct.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned knee on the neck?


BLACKWELL: Prone position?


BLACKWELL: And then the knee on the back, arm and side. Were those the four?

TOBIN: Yes, these are the four.

SIDNER (voice-over): The doctor also testified about whether drugs were the culprit that killed George Floyd, as former officer Derek Chauvin's attorney had suggested. To that Dr. Tobin said Floyd had not taken a proper breath for nine minutes and 50 seconds when paramedics finally got a breathing tube in him. And by that point carbon dioxide in Floyd's body had lethal levels.

BLACKWELL: What's the punchline?

TOBIN: The significance of all that is, it's a second reason why you know fentanyl is not causing the depression of his respiration, solely explained by what you expect to happen in somebody who doesn't have any ventilation given to him for nine minutes and 50 seconds.

SIDNER (voice-over): On cross examination, Chauvin's attorney pushed Dr. Tobin on two main issues, the potential effect of drugs on Floyd's body and his breathing and his heart disease.

ERIC NELSON, ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: That's going to affect blood flow in a person, right? It's going to make the body work a little harder to get the blood through the body.

TOBIN: No, not really. It's not going to do that.

NELSON: How does that affect a person's respiratory?

TOBIN: You would expect that he would be complaining of chest pain and you would expect that he would be demonstrating a very rapid respiratory rate. We don't see either. SIDNER (voice-over): The last witness of the day also a doctor, backed up Dr. Tobin's testimony that drugs did not cause Floyd's death.

DR. WILLIAM SMOCK, POLICE SURGEON: When we watch those videos and we go through them, what is his respiration? He's breathing. He's talking. He's not snoring. He is saying, please, please, get off of me. I want to breathe. I can't breathe. That is not a fentanyl overdose. That is somebody begging to breathe.

SIDNER (voice-over): Sara Sidner, CNN, Minneapolis.



NEWTON: So many are now saying that that doctor you heard there, the lung and critical care specialist, delivered really the most powerful testimony so far. Our senior legal analyst Laura Coats is one of them. Listen to her.


LAURA COATS, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This was by far the most compelling testimony we've heard in this entire trial and I'm including the very emotional testimony from the first week from nine- year-olds up to somebody over a half a century older, from police captain, the lieutenants, the sergeants, all of those people.

Nobody expects this pulmonologist. If you didn't know what a pulmonologist was before today you know what it is now. Because he gave instruction in a compelling, persuasive way. He is a volunteer. He's not a paid expert. He has no essential, you know, skin in the game here. But what he did was actually illuminate an issue about the respiratory system, show the way that George Floyd had been reduced to trying to desperately gasp for air, using his finger, his knuckles, his shoulder, trying to elevate his own body, talking about even new dimensions we hadn't contemplated yet.


NEWTON: Now of note here, reports from inside the courtroom say many jurors were actually touching the bones in their necks during that key testimony.

Now, President Joe Biden is saying enough to gun violence in the United States. On Thursday he demanded lawmakers take action while unveiling a series of gun control measures he's taking. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has details.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So folks, this is just the start. We've got a lot of work to do.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden taking his first executive actions on guns since entering office.

BIDEN: Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it's an international embarrassment.

COLLINS (voice-over): Following back-to-back shootings in Georgia and Colorado, Biden announced the Justice Department will pursue new rules to address gun violence.

BIDEN: I want to see these kits treated as firearms under the Gun Control Act.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden is seeking to curb the proliferation of so-called ghost guns that can be made at home without traceable serial numbers while also proposing regulating stabilizing braces that make pistols more accurate. He's also asking the Justice Department to publish model red flag laws and nominating a new director for the federal agency that enforcers existing gun laws.

But the actions are modest compared to what Biden proposed on the campaign trail. he pressured Congress to be more aggressive.

BIDEN: They've offered many thoughts and prayers, members of Congress. Enough prayers. Time for some action.

COLLINS (voice-over): House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called Biden's moves an attempt to trample our constitutional Second Amendment rights, which Biden refuted.

BIDEN: Nothing I'm about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president stopped short of sending his own gun legislation to Congress as he urges lawmakers to focus on his infrastructure plan.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes there's a path fourth to get this American Jobs Plan passed with bipartisan support.

COLLINS (voice-over): In a new op-ed Manchin cautions that creates a precedent for partisan legislation that changes the direction of our nation every time there's a change in political control.

COLLINS: And when asked about Senator Manchin's op-ed the White House says there are multiple lines in it that President Biden agrees with, but when asked if he agrees with specifically Manchin saying they should not be using this reconciliation fast track process to get legislation through without Republican support. The White House said they would leave the mechanics of how these bills get passed up to leaders on Capitol Hill.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


NEWTON: Health authorities in the United Kingdom are urging the public not to avoid the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Now they say all three of Britain's approved vaccines are safe. That's after British officials confirmed the potential but rare link to blood clots. Salma Abdelaziz explains.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: British health officials are now rushing to reassure the public after it was confirmed that there is a potential link between very rare cases of blood clotting and the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine. The U.K. health secretary saying this shows that the regulatory bodies, the checks and balances behind the vaccine, are working because they were able to detect very rare incidences, four out of a million. That is the likelihood of these very rare cases of blood clots occurring.

However, it is of course causing confusion, concern and global repercussions with several countries taking steps to limit the use of this vaccine in certain age groups.

Let's start with Australia, who say they are now going to have to recalibrate their vaccine rollout to give this vaccine to only those over 50 years old. Italy as well now saying they are going to provide preferential treatment for the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine to over 60s.


Spain saying it's going to pivot its plan giving this vaccine to only those older than 60 years old. And in Belgium, it is now paused for anyone 55 years old and under.

That's a few of the countries taking steps, recalibrating, recalculating their risk/benefit analysis when it comes to certain age groups. The likelihood that this very rare occurrence, very rare blood clots could happen versus how likely it is for someone to get COVID to get hospitalized. Bu the fear is that as -- there is mixed messaging, there is mixed concerns, this could increase vaccine hesitancy, lower vaccine uptake and potentially prolong the pandemic.

Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


NEWTON: Meantime, the EU's vaccine chief says the region could achieve herd immunity from the coronavirus by mid-July. Meaning 70 percent of the population should be vaccinated by then. Now right now most of Europe, as you know, is really 4 percent to 16 percent range and far from being fully vaccinated. The big push to speed things up comes after the World Health Organization says the EU's vaccine rollout had been unacceptably slow.


THIERRY BRETON, EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER FOR THE INTERNAL MARKET: We have now 53 factories working seven days a week, 24/24. And yes, I could tell you today that we will deliver the number of doses which will be necessary to achieve 70 percent of the adult population being vaccinated by mid-July. In other words, it will be now in the hands of member states to make sure that in every single country of the EU the vaccination campaign will accelerate.


NEWTON: So a call to action there pretty much for the member states of the EU. Melissa Bell is watching it all for us from Paris. Good morning, Melissa. You know that statement on herd immunity in Europe seems at once hopeful and really yet unrealistic given the challenges. I mean, what is the plan to try to make this happen in the individual countries?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been this concerted fortunate, first of all, at EU level, Paula, to get more vaccines produced within the European Union given all the difficulties that the EU found those first few crucial months in terms of deliveries of vaccines that might have been coming from elsewhere.

So 53 factories now producing those vaccines that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency so that they can be more quickly delivered here in Europe. But as we just heard from Thierry Breton, it is -- there are two steps to this process in Europe. And that's really one of the threads over the last few months that explains why things have been so much slower here and more complicated than elsewhere.

The European Union is in control of procurement for a start and then the distribution of the vaccines to the member states. Then it is up to the member states to make sure that injections are actually getting into arms. So Thierry Breton really saying there, that look, it may have been faltering to begin with, the EU will get up to speed on where it needs to be in terms of getting the doses in the member states, then it's up to them.

So what we've seen the last few days ramped up efforts in countries like Italy, Germany and France to do that, to take the vaccines that they have and to ensure that they're getting them into veins faster than they were with pretty interesting creative solutions being found in Venice. They have clustered into a giant vaccination center on the outskirts of Paris.

The result is that there has been an improvement with France setting a fresh record only yesterday, Paula, more than 400,000 injections given in a single day. In Germany, a record set this week as well, more than 600,000 injections given in a single day. So really member states there trying to make sure that they're getting better at getting to the people that actually need the vaccines -- Paula.

NEWTON: Yes, and those names -- those numbers you gave out are crucial because it will get them closer to the 3 or 4 million a day that they will actually need if they want to do this by the summer. Melissa, thanks so much, appreciate it.

Now India has broken its record for daily confirmed coronavirus infections. The ministry of health reported Friday almost 132,000 new cases. Now that means the country has crossed 13 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. The current spread is as rapid as the peak during India's first wave in September.

Now, not helping matters is a vaccine shortage. The health minister says several states have complained they're running low with some districts in Mumbai even suspending vaccinations entirely.

So the coronavirus vaccine rollout in the United States does look promising, but experts say it does still have to go much faster. While they are especially worried about children who play sports.



NEWTON: So about a quarter of all adults in the United States are now fully vaccinated -- that's according to the CDC -- and that's about 20 percent of the total population. But health experts are warning of a potential surge because there's still a long way to go until the U.S. hits herd immunity. The focus is now on younger adults who have not been vaccinated as well as children. CNN's Alexandra Field reports on what experts have to say.


DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I actually think that we're in the middle of a fourth surge right now.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): About a third of Americans have received at least one shot that health officials warn we need to move faster, much faster.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: We're just not going to be able to get enough people vaccinated quickly enough to keep the rest of the country from experiencing much of what we're seeing in the upper Midwest and Northeast.

FIELD (voice-over): Alarming surges and new infections even as vaccines reach so many of the most vulnerable. Nearly 77 of people over 65 have received at least one shot. But COVID-19 is taking its toll on younger people, not just spring breakers, also school children.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Clusters of cases in daycare as well as school sports, particularly team sports, which people engage in close contact without masks. I think that is what is explaining these surges of cases in young individuals.

FIELD (voice-over): More than 75,000 new cases reported Wednesday. Hospitalizations are up in 18 states since last week, and climbing higher, particularly among younger people.


But new research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows an overall declining death rate among hospitalized COVID-19 patients is likely not due to their age, but due to better treatments. Giving hope perhaps to the families of the sick, while so many others are coping with loss.

GLORIA SALAZAR, SALAZAR FUNERAL HOMES AND CREMATORY: As if the emotional part of it wasn't enough, to shell out that much money is just incredibly tough.

FIELD (voice-over): That part will get better. On Monday, FEMA will start providing up to $9,000 per funeral for COVID deaths.

FIELD: All 50 states are working to make anyone age 16 and up eligible for vaccinations by the April 19th deadline. In the meantime, the Biden administration is saying that any seniors who have not been vaccinated should go do that right now. To encourage more older people to get vaccinated, the city of New York is opening up additional walk up sites for senior citizens, anyone who accompanies them can get a shot as well.

In New York, Alexandra Field, CNN.


NEWTON: U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz could soon be facing additional legal pressure. An attorney for Gaetz's friend Joel Greenberg a key figure in an ongoing prostitution and sex trafficking investigation, says he's likely to strike a plea deal with prosecutors. CNN's Ryan Nobles explains what Greenberg's involvement could mean for the Congressman.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz, the news out of Florida today was not good.

FRITZ SCHELLER, ATTORNEY FOR JOEL GREENBERG: I'm sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.

NOBLES (voice-over): Joel Greenberg, the former tax collector in Seminole County, and political and personal ally of Gaetz, plans to strike a plea deal. It could mean Greenberg is ready to share damaging information about his relationship with the congressman. But the FBI continues to investigate Gaetz as part of a broader investigation into possible prostitution and sex trafficking crimes, including allegations that Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl.

Gates and Greenberg are close associates. The two were both once rising Republican stars in Florida, posing for photos in front of the White House, and with Trump ally Roger Stone.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): If Joel were to run for Seminole County, I think he becomes the next congressman for the 7th district.

NOBLES (voice-over): Greenberg is facing 33 charges of wire fraud, creating fake IDs, stalking a political opponent and sex trafficking. The fact that he's ready to cut a deal with prosecutors could lead directly back to Gaetz, who has denied ever having sex with a 17-year- old as an adult, and that he ever paid for sex. But his association with Greenberg is what led to the FBI's investigation in to Gaetz's conduct. "The New York Times" reported that investigators believe Greenberg recruited women online, who he paid for sex and that Gaetz had sex with them, too. Their close relationship was well known in Florida political circles.

Florida state Representative Anna Eskamani said this voice mail the pair left her was, quote, cringe worthy.

JOEL GREENBERG, FORMER SEMINOLE COUNTY TAX COLLECTOR: My dear Anna, this is your favorite tax collector. I'm up in Panhandle with your favorite U.S. Congressman, Mr. Gaetz.

GAETZ: Hi, Anna.

GREENBERG: And we were just chatting about you and talking about your lovely qualities.

GAETZ: We think you're the future of the Democratic Party in Florida.

NOBLES (voice-over): Greenberg's attorney making it clear his client could be a big help to the FBI.

SCHELLER: He's uniquely situated. So --

NOBLES (voice-over): Investigators are also examining Gaetz's travel schedule, specifically a trip to the Bahamas. Sources say the probe is looking into the possibility that women were paid to travel for sex with Gaetz and others.

Gaetz declined comment to CNN on the trip, but a spokeswoman told CBS that, quote, Representative Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with an underage girl. What began with headlines about sex trafficking has now turned into a general fishing exercise about vacations and consensual relationships with adults.

NOBLES: And more signs that Congressman Gaetz is not making any plans to resign, a statement today from his Congressional office attributed to the eight female members of his staff in that statement. These women saying that they support the Congressman, that he's done nothing but treat them professionally and they do not believe the accusations against him. Still remains an open question as to whether or not Gaetz will be here next week when the Congress reconvenes. I asked his office that question specifically today, and they did not answer.

Ryan Nobles, CNN on Capitol Hill.


NEWTON: Now the Caribbean island of St. Vincent is on red alert as emergency officials warn a volcanic eruption is imminent. Now these are the latest images from the regions seismic research center. Have a look for yourself. Emergency officials say the volcano's dome was heightened significantly in the past day and all indications are that molten lava is pushing towards the surface. Patrick Oppmann has more from Havana. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Resident of the island of the St. Vincent's were forced to evacuate their homes after being warned of, quote, an imminent volcano explosion.


The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines declared a disaster alert after eruptive activity was observed at La Soufriere Volcano. Clouds of steam were seen coming from the volcano following several strong tremors that were felt on the island on Thursday.

Scientists said that kind of seismic activity that was recorded usually is associated with the movement of magma near the surface. Evacuation orders were in place in about a dozen districts on the island and cruise ships were reportedly being used to ferry people out of harm's way.

Officials said there could be very little warning before a possible eruption, and that people would need to finalize their evacuation plans immediately.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


NEWTON: For more on that we will bring in meteorologist Derek Van Dam. Really good to see you. We just heard from Patrick and I'm curious about this. You know, he's talking being these tremors, right, and I'm wondering officials say it's imminent, it's likely. How are officials sure about that given, you know, the activity of those tremors right now?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, the tremors, Paula, are creating the seismic activity that's longer duration than a usual earthquake in and around the volcano. So this is given an indication to volcanologists, to scientists that magma is trying to surface to the top of this volcano, even the dome of the volcano has started to actually increase in height. So that is a telltale sign that this volcano is set and primed and ready to erupt.

What you're looking here is the Caribbean ocean, this is the Windward Islands and St. Vincent Island has one lone active volcano. It's on the north side of the island -- and that's important because of what I'm about to explain to you. What has occurred here within the past 24 hours is what is called an effusive eruption. That means that the lava has steadily flowed out from the volcano's crater.

But what they're concerned about -- volcanologists and scientists -- is that there could be more of an explosive eruption sending volcanic ash and magma into the upper levels of the atmosphere being dispersed in a larger area around it. And that is why they need to get people off of this island as quickly as possible because of the signs that they have seen. Here's a little bit of the recent images before the sunset yesterday,

the venting that has occurred, this is an incredible image from These are all passenger vessels, but notice the vessels edging closer towards the St. Vincent region and Grenadines. These are actually cruise liners that are aiding in the evacuation process, trying to take the thousands of people that are on the island currently right now.

Now authorities have identified some areas on the island that are safer than others. If they are not able to evacuate, the Windward Islands -- the windward side of these islands, I should say. That would be the eastern facing sides of the islands will be a, quote/unquote, safer location. Because the winds -- the predominant winds across this area -- will take if there was a volcanic eruption, an eminent volcanic eruption it would take that volcanic ash and push it away from the island. Kingston is an area in the southern portion of the island that they have identified as a relatively safe location if you cannot actually evacuate.

So that's what the volcano looked like earlier this morning, of course, we will be monitoring this story very close -- Paula.

NEWTON: I know you will be Derek. It's good to see you and thanks so much for putting the danger that they're facing on -- they're having right now into sharp focus. Really appreciate it.

Now U.S. Senator Joe Manchin is speaking about his relationship with President Biden and the control he has over the president's agenda in a very divided Senate. His exclusive interview with CNN ahead.