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Biden To Hold Bipartisan Meeting On Infrastructure Tomorrow; Michigan Sees COVID-19 Cases Surging; U.S. Vaccinating Nearly Five Times Faster Than Global Average; CBP Reports 71 Percent Spike In Migrants Trying To Cross Border In March; Trump Bashes McConnell In Speech, Claims Election Was Rigged; More Colleges Require Students Be Vaccinated Before Returning; Texas Sees Spike In People Moving From California. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 11, 2021 - 18:00   ET




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

The U.S. set a record yesterday for vaccine doses reported in a single day, 4.6 million topping last Saturday's high. But as vaccinations and optimism rise and precautions go down, a major hot spot has flared up. A surge of cases in Michigan is serving as a stark reminder that the pandemic is still an urgent crisis. The state reported 7,000 new cases yesterday. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has taken residents to take a two-week pause on indoor dining and gatherings, stopping short of a mandate.

This morning, she begged the Biden administration to send more vaccines.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Michigan was the first to heed the Biden administration's call to drop all of the priority groups and make it accessible for everyone. Right now, if you are 16 and up in Michigan, you can get vaccinated. You are eligible to. But we have thousands of partners who are ready to put shots in arms. We just need those vaccines to come into Michigan.


BROWN: Well, the White House has decided not to send more doses to the state, instead, as I reported last night, they will be sending 160 FEMA vaccinators to help with the effort among other resources.

We're going to get you live to Michigan in just a moment, but meantime, the White House is prepping for a busy week ahead, pitching President Biden's infrastructure bill. With Congress back in session tomorrow Biden will waste no time convening a meeting of bipartisan lawmakers to discuss the major package. White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre joins me now. Nice to see you, Karine. Thank you for coming on.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Nice to see you as well, Pamela. Thanks for having me.

BROWN: Let's begin with the coronavirus. Governor Whitmer of Michigan and the lieutenant governor urged the White House to surge vaccines to that state to tamp down the COVID surge they're seeing there. Why isn't the White House doing this?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, Pamela, as you know, and as all of us know, the virus, the pandemic has hit every state very hard and the country as a whole very hard. Tens of thousands of people are sick and people are dying. We have lost more than half a million -- pardon me, more than 500,000 Americans in this country alone.

And so, you know, we have to make sure that we're doing this in an equitable way, in a fair way and the way that we have been doing this is by adult population. And that is the process that we're taking, as we know this is an unpredictable virus, and we still have tens of millions of people to go to get vaccinated.

You mentioned the 4.6 million doses that we did yesterday, which was a historic number, we average at about 3 million a day. We have about 62 million people have been fully vaccinated. And so there is a path forward here.

The president last week announced 150 million doses has been done, but we still have a long way to go and we have to stay vigilant and we call this a war-time approach, a war-time moment that we're in. And so we have to make sure that we are all doing what we need to do, which is wear a mask, wash our hands and socially distant.

The president has talked about the first 100 days of making sure that we are doing that, wearing a mask, and also making sure that you get vaccinated when it's your turn by April 19th. The president has mentioned all adults will be eligible who are 18 and older for a vaccine.

So we just have to stay the course on this one but we want to make sure we are doing it equitably and fair.

BROWN: Okay. So I understand what you are saying there and the vaccination numbers are encouraging across the board. You were saying, look, we can't give special privileges to one state over other states. This is a vaccine that spreads. But the reality is there are some states that are doing better right now, they are doing well when it comes to the vaccination rate and cases, and like New Mexico, like Vermont.

And as this variant in Michigan continues to fester and mutate, and the concern, of course, is it could turn into something worse and so why not take vaccines from the states that are doing better, like what I just mentioned to help squash what is going on in Michigan and the upper Midwest so that new variants don't arise from what is going on? [18:05:17]

JEAN-PIERRE: So we have been in conversation with the governor and her team. As we know, we have a close relationship there. And so we have -- we have offered other ways to be helpful. And as I said, I can't stress this enough, we have to do this in a fair and equitable way.

We are in the middle of this process. And we are still in the middle of it. We still have a lot more people to vaccinate. And so we are offering personnel help. You mentioned the federal help that we are bringing down to Michigan to help with -- to be vaccinators. We are helping with testing as well and also therapeutic means to be helpful in the state.

And so we are close contact. We are continuing to have that conversation. And also, I mean, Pamela, states do these things differently as well. They have other -- they have eligible ways that they are doing -- factors that they are doing in their own state.

So, look, one of the things that we have done differently than what was done previously, as we are in conversation with governors and local electives, and we are trying to make sure that we are continuing those conversations helping in the best way that we can. But, once again, this virus is unpredictable.

We do not know what's going to happen the next week or the following weeks. So we have to continue to push forward, making sure that we are getting as many people as possible vaccinated.

BROWN: So, the former FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, who has been advising Governor Whitmer, said the Biden administration should have been surging vaccines to Michigan weeks ago, it's still not late to do it. And he also said this about responding the regional COVID surges. Let's listen.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: It's been sort of a Hunger Games for vaccines among states so far, and we need to think differently about this pandemic. If you look at all the planning for past pandemics, the flu planning that we have done in the past, even planning for bioterrorism incidents, it always contemplate surging resources into hot spots. They never perceived that there was going to be a confluent national epidemic, but there were going to be localized outbreaks.

That, in fact, is likely what we are going to see going forward. We're not going to see a confluent epidemic but we'll see these hot spots. So we need to get in the habit of trying to surge resources into those hot spots to put out those fires that spread.


BROWN: What do you have to say to what you just heard from him and to critics who say this is similar to Trump's let the states figure it out approach to pandemic resources, which, as we know, largely failed? JEAN-PIERRE: Well, this is not the let states figure it out at all. We have been working very closely with governors and state local officials. That is something that we've been doing on day one as we put forth a comprehensive strategy on how to get our vaccination program out there across the country.

Look, another statistic that I mentioned is 75 percent of people who are 65 and older have been -- have gotten doses, have gotten shots. That is an 8 percent jump from when we started. And that is so critical because, as we know, when we talk about COVID deaths, 80 percent of those COVID deaths have been 65 and older.

So we are doing the work that we need to be doing. We are continuing to talk with governors. We understand what is at stake here. This is a life and death situation. That's what we continue to ask people to do, their part, and get vaccinated when it's your turn. And by April 19th, all adults over the age of 18 will be eligible, but we are talking to governors every day and being as helpful as we can.

As I mentioned, there are other ways of support that we've also been out there when it comes to vaccination sites, when it comes to vaccinators, when it comes to data analysts as well, and so we are going to continue to do that and having those conversations and being helpful, like we have for these past several months that we have been in office.

BROWN: Okay. Well, tomorrow, as you well know, at the White House, it will be a very busy day. President Biden is meeting with lawmakers from both parties to talk infrastructure. Can you tell us who will be at that meeting?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I don't have a list to share with you right at this moment but we will soon. We are working through that right now.

But here is the thing. What the president wants to do is he put forth the American jobs plan. And the idea here is that we want to build back better. He talked about this during the campaign is how we can't go the way we were before. If you think about the pandemic that we are currently in, we can't be in the same place we were even before this pandemic.

So we have to invest in this country. We have to invest in the American people. We have to invest in our children, do something that is once in a generation that we see in this country and the time is now to do this.


And so that is what he did, he put forth his plan. There's a second component of this plan that he's going to also talk about, the American families plan in a couple of weeks.

And here is the thing. He's going to have a conversation with both Democrats and Republicans. He's open to a debate, he's open to hearing their plans and that is what we're going to see this week, their ideas as well. And that is what the president is looking to accomplish this week now that they are back in session. And so we want to move forward on doing the work of the American people.

BROWN: I know you said that you are waiting to get the final list, but can you tell us if Joe Manchin, Senator Manchin, has been invited to the White House for tomorrow's meeting?

JEAN-PIERRE: I can't confirm or say more about who is going -- who's going to be there tomorrow --

BROWN: Because I know on Friday, it was unclear as well. Okay, great.

Let me ask you this, just --

JEAN-PIERRE: And just to let you know, Pamela, we are working closely with his office, and this is -- you know, this is a relationship with Senator Manchin is clearly important to us as well as all of the other members in Congress. So we are working closely with him and have been in touch with his office.

BROWN: And as you know, he has made it clear the corporate tax hike that we see in the current proposal, the 28 percent does not satisfy him. He wants to see it lower. So is the White House willing to do that?

And Republican lawmakers have said they'd be willing to negotiate if the administration keeps its focus on bridges, roads, broad band, that kind of thing, not what they deem to be social programs outside the provisional scope of infrastructure.

So, how much is the White House willing to negotiate on those other issues?

JEAN-PIERRE: So we will have the conversations. Here is the thing, Pamela, when you think about infrastructure. This is the 21st century vision of infrastructure. And it's how do we make lives better, right? And when you think about broadband and you think about how the pandemic has affected young people who are in school and who do not have access to broadband, we have to fix that.

When you think about lead, potential lead that could be in a child's school and you don't know if your child is drinking lead, there's lead in their water, like that's something that we have to make sure that we address. So this is modernizing the system. This is modern day infrastructure. And this is all key and critical, important things.

And if you think about it, Pamela, there was a poll that came out last week. 73 percent of Americans approve of the American jobs plan, and 57 percent in that same poll were Republicans. So when you have Republicans and Democrats and Independents across the country that is supporting a plan, that tells you what you need to know that this infrastructure plan is important to the American people, it's popular, and we should move forward and leave the partisanship aside and move forward and do the work that we are here to do.

BROWN: And we should note, while it does show popularity in the polls, our Harry Enten with CNN also has reporting that polls show back in January that in terms of issues that are most important to Americans, it was COVID, economy and infrastructure was very far down the totem pole. But we can indeed have this discussion and how the infrastructure plan could help the economy.

But before we let you go, I want to ask you about immigration. Because as we have seen, CBP just released these numbers. March was the highest number of migrants encounters at the border in over decade, and a record high number of unaccompanied children.

As all of this is going on, Biden's border coordinator, Roberta Jacobson, is leaving at the end of the month. What is behind that decision? She was just talking about heading to the northern triangle next month. Now, she's out in the midst of these historic border crossings.

JEAN-PIERRE: So let me talk about the numbers first. Look, there are these powerful push factors in this region that has existed for sometime as we know, the violence that folks in the region are dealing with, the economic crisis that folks in the region are dealing with, and we have seen these surges, if you will, before.

And so I think what's compounded, what has added to the -- what has added to this moment is you have the pandemic and you also have these two most recent hurricanes that's really done damage to that region. So, look, we are being very clear.

We have said, please do not take this journey, it is too dangerous, it is too treacherous, and we are also putting in place programs where people could stay home and move forward and apply in a legal way to have -- to have -- to have citizenship or start doing the process of immigration and to come to the United States.

So that is what we are doing. This is a program that was gutted by the last administration. And we are trying to fix a lot of things that have been broken. And so that's -- that's where we are now.

And so when it comes to unaccompanied minors, we have to do what is right and what is the most humane thing to do. We cannot have these children go back to that treacherous journey. So, yes, we are putting them in the process.


We are making sure that we are vetting the relatives and the people that we want to connect them with in a really important way, in a critical way.

We are still expelling adults via Title 42, and families via title 42. That is something that is still happening and occurring. And so this is where we are and we want to make sure we are doing this in a legal way. We want to make sure that we're putting security first and we're doing this in a humanitarian effort.

BROWN: And I just have to follow-up on the question about why the border coordinator would be leaving in the midst of all of this, is what's behind that, and is that going to now be folded into Kamala Harris' portfolio? Can you just help us understand what's going on there?

JEAN-PIERRE: So, Roberta was always going to be here for a short period of time. That was always the conversation that was had. And when this comes to the vice president and her role, her role is going to be doing the diplomatic effort of this, trying to figure out the root causes of what is happening, and that is dealing with and talking to the president of Mexico and the northern triangle.

And so that is what her role is. This is something very similar that then-Vice President Biden had during the Obama/Biden administration. So that is nothing new there. But -- so that is the pathway we are taking.

BROWN: Okay. Well, Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you very much for coming on the show. We appreciate it. We appreciate your time on this Sunday night.

JEAN-PIERRE: Awesome. Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: Coming up, we're going to live to Michigan for a firsthand look at the surge of coronavirus cases there. Polo Sandoval is standing by for us.



BROWN: Well, the COVID-19 vaccine machine in the U.S. is on a roll, moving nearly five times faster than the global average, but the reality is we are still a long way away from herd immunity. Vaccine hesitancy is standing in the way of that. One major hot spot, as we mentioned earlier, is the state of Michigan where there's an alarming surge in new cases.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If ever there was a critical time to double down on coronavirus protective measures in the state of Michigan, it's right now. From COVID-19 positivity rates not seen since the start of the pandemic to hospitalizations growing to some peak levels, it's not getting any better in the Wolverine State.

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: With pandemic fatigue, with the unique challenge here in Michigan of a very sort of anti- coronavirus movement with about half of our population, people don't want to wear masks, don't want to distance, I think getting vaccine shots in arms is our ultimate defense.

SANDOVAL: Repeated calls from Michigan leaders to the Biden administration asking to increase their vaccine allotments have been unsuccessful so far.

LT. GOV. GARLIN GILCHRIST (D-MI): In ever conversation we're having, every level of the federal government, we are asking for more help, for more vaccines. SANDOVAL: Hoping to help curb the rising outbreaks, Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked high school to go remote, youth sports to pause and people skip indoor dining for at least the next two weeks.

WHITMER: Please, redouble your efforts.

SANDOVAL: But these are only recommendations, insist the governor, not the mandated, sweeping shutdowns from a year ago that made her the subject of criticism and even death threats. . WHITMER: What's happening in Michigan today could be what's happening in other states tomorrow. And so it's on all of us to recognize we can squash where we are seeing hot spots, it's in everybody's best interest.

SANDOVAL: Andy Witkowski, a Detroit are special education teacher, wants to see a more aggressive move from the state leaders, perhaps make those requests requirements.

ANDY WITKOWSKI, TEACHER: I think it fell short that she did not mandate it. I think that the reason our numbers have spiked is because we've opened up, schools are back, they had an uptick in sports here.

SANDOVAL: Other Michiganders, like Leah Fairbanks stand behind the governor's approach.

LEAH FAIRBANKS, NURSE: Whitmer is a rock star. She's doing her best. It's a pandemic. When it comes down to it, people are going to take care of themselves, they will take care of each other or they're not.

SANDOVAL: Jordan Ross (ph) is frustrated that his peers are choosing not to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am seeing a lot of students, they know the issues that are going on, but they are still choosing to hang out with friends, and going to like Florida or things like that. So that's kind of concerning to me.

SANDOVAL: The state's chief medical executive says nearly 1,000 COVID outbreaks are being traced in Michigan lead to indoor dining, bars, youth sporting events and K through 12 classes.

DR. JONEIGH KHALDUN, CHIEF MEDICAL EXECUTIVE, STATE OF MICHIGAN: Our public health system is overwhelmed. We are not able to get information on many cases nor are we able to identify their close contacts.

SANDOVAL: There's also the spread of the highly infectious COVID-19 variant, some 2,200 cases identified in Michigan, though experts say there are likely more.


SANDOVAL (voice over): And you heard that doctor here in Michigan, that Michiganders are relatively split when it comes to masking up and adhering to some of these social distancing guidelines. I could tell you, Pam, that we have seen that firsthand already for a couple of weekends in a row, a mix of compliance.

Of course, others we just saying just not to wear that mask. But when you hear from Michigan state officials, they say that that is still the most important thing that people can continue to do as they continue to plead with not only the public but also with the Biden administration to just send them more vaccines.

But as you recently reported, there is at least some help on the way in the form of about 160 FEMA personnel that will assist in administering vaccines that so many people here and, of course, including Michigan state officials, they say that's extremely helpful. But what they really want is a boost in their vaccine allotments.

BROWN: Yes, they sure do, but it sounds like that boost is not going to happen as of now, according to my interview I just did with the deputy press secretary. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

And here to discuss is CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Celine Gounder. She is the former assistant health commissioner of New York City and served on the Biden transition COVID advisory board.


Good to see you as always, Dr. Gounder.

Tell us why should all Americans be paying attention to what is happening in Michigan right now.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Michigan is really the bellwether for what it looks like when the B117 variant, so this is the more infectious, more virulent variant that first emerged out of the U.K., this is what it looks like when it spreads in the United States. So it's causing a surge in cases and it is causing more severe disease, which means that even younger people, people in their 30s, 40s and 50s are getting very sick and being hospitalized from this.

BROWN: So, the bottom line is even if you are not living in Michigan, the concern is that what is happening in Michigan could make it into your state. Why are we seeing this wild surge in Michigan and why right now?

GOUNDER: So, it's unfortunately one of the states that has been hit hardest by this particular variant, the B117 variant. That variant is the dominant variant in the United States now, and Michigan had the unluckiness to be one of the first to see this.

But it's a combination of that variant and people relaxing on mitigation measures before enough people have been vaccinated. They have been traveling. They have not been wearing masks. They have not been social distancing, have been indoor dining. And all of those factors together have driven this surge.

BROWN: How concerned are you in the surge that this will continue to mutate, the virus will mutate into another and create another more dangerous variant than what we are seeing with the U.K. variant? GOUNDER: So, this has been our concern all along, is that when you arrive the virus to spread, it will mutate, you will have more variants emerge.

I do want to address some of the points that were made by the deputy white house press secretary, as well as by the cardiologists, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, in the last hour. I think there's a real important part of this that's being missed, which is the reason that it's too late to send more vaccine supplies to Michigan -- by the way, they have enough supply, that's not the problem.

The reason sending more vaccine won't help here is that it takes about 14 days after you have received two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine before you are immune. It takes 14 to 28 days after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine before you are immune. The incubation period, which is the time from when you are exposed to when you are infected with coronavirus, is four to five days. So there's no way that a surge in vaccination is going to help curb this when the transmission is happening right now.

The hard truth, and I understand the bind that Governor Whitmer is in, the hard truth is that the only thing that will curb transmission right now are measures that take effect immediately, which are things like the masking, and not indoor dining and if you're going to socialize, do it outdoors. And I understand she has received death threats for that kind of advice, but that is the only thing that will work right now.

BROWN: All right, that's interesting. Dr. Celine Gounder, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. We appreciate it.

Well, absence certainly did not make the heart grow fond but apparently it did make the tongue grow sharper. Donald Trump slamming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him an SOB at a GOP event last night. More on that ahead.



BROWN: Well, Donald Trump is once again blasting his own party. The former president went on a long profanity-laced tirade in front of a room full of wealthy donors at Mar-a-Lago last night. He called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a stone-cold loser and a dumb SOB, while insisting once again that the election was stolen from him, which is an outright lie.

Donie O'Sullivan joins me now from Florida, where this was all happening.

Donie, time and again this seems to be the price of admission for keeping Trump around as a fixture in the party. Are Republicans comfortable with that tradeoff?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if they're not comfortable with it, they certainly are not speaking out about it or we're hearing very little from them. Trump really went on a rant last night. Take a look at what he said. He said that Republicans don't fight as hard as Democrats, and about Mitch McConnell, he said, "If that were Chuck Schumer instead of that dumb son of a bitch Mitch McConnell, they would never allow it to happen. They would have fought it."

He also said -- also our colleague Kevin Liptak who is speaking to a source in the room said that that comment was met with applause. Here's also what else the president said. He said Pence failed him for certifying the electoral colleague and refusing to overturn them. He said he made clear that he did not accept the results of the 2020 election as valid. And he also said that everybody should be calling the coronavirus vaccine the Trump-cine, which is quite notable, Pam, because you'll remember when he actually took the vaccine, he wasn't public about it. We only learned about it months after he left office but all of a sudden he seems to be embracing it.

BROWN: And it's interesting that we're now in April and he's repeating these talking points that he was saying back in, you know, November, December, January about the election and the big lie that it was somehow stolen from him. That isn't going away. Is that a concern for Republicans after pushing that narrative that helped lose them the Senate in Georgia, right, and arguably led to the deadly insurrection on January 6th as many critics have said?

SULLIVAN: Absolutely. I mean, I remember being in Georgia in the weeks leading up to the Senate runoffs and Trump supporters there are telling me they weren't sure if they were going to go to vote -- in the Senate runoffs because they have bought into the big lie, they did not believe that elections in Georgia were fair.


And, you know, this really all gets to the big challenge I think for the Republican Party. It is this big lie, this sort of core conspiracy theory that the election was stolen, it's that that enables everything else. It enables so much of the QAnon nonsense. It was used as a justification of course for the January 6th insurrection -- Pam.

BROWN: All right, Donie O'Sullivan, breaking it down for us from Florida. Thanks so much, Donie.

A vaccine passport or vaccine diploma? Many universities are moving toward requiring students to get one before returning to campus. When we come back, I'm going to speak to the president and chancellor of Syracuse University.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



BROWN: More changes to report tonight regarding getting students back in classrooms. New York has adjusted its COVID guidelines for physical distancing in schools, reducing it from six feet to three. And on the university level a growing number of colleges are requiring students be fully vaccinated before they return to in-person classes. In late March Rutgers became the first to require full vaccinations.

At least 15 more schools have made similar announcements since then, with some requiring students plus all campus employees to be vaccinated. Syracuse University is on that list, and the president and chancellor of Syracuse, Kent Syverud, joins me now.

Thank you for coming on the show. The first question out of the gate, why did Syracuse decide to require students to be vaccinated?

KENT SYVERUD, CHANCELLOR AND PRESIDENT, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: It's the safest thing to do for our whole campus community, and you know, high school seniors coming back in the fall, I think what they most want is the full campus experience with competitions and sports, and all the being together with their lots of their friends safely and vaccinations is one of the key ways to make sure we're going to deliver that here at Syracuse.

BROWN: So how do you plan to go about this, enforcing this, to make sure that every student is vaccinated?

SYVERUD: Well, the vast majority of our faculty and the staff have already been vaccinated, and we've already vaccinated well over 4,000 of our students and are vaccinating another 800 in the next 48 hours. And we have a lot of experience with vaccinating all our students for measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis, which is already a requirement here for many years. So we're going to use the methods we've always used, just applying them to COVID-19.

BROWN: So what do you say to students who don't want the vaccine and one of the reasons they don't want it is because it's so new, that those other vaccines that you had just mentioned, they have been around, they have been studied for years and years, whereas that is not the case with the COVID vaccine? What do you say to them and does Syracuse have any plans for those that don't want to get vaccinated?

SYVERUD: Well, of course, we're going to grant religious and medical exemptions for students, faculty and staff, as we do for other types of vaccine that we require. But I tell the students that the Emergency Use Authorization of the FDA is rigorous and evidence-based, and that getting vaccinated given how deadly this vaccine could be and increasingly with the new variant with young people, getting vaccinated is the thing to do for the safety of our entire community in Syracuse.

BROWN: Have you received much pushback since Syracuse University announced that it is requiring all students to be vaccinated? What kind of response have you been getting from the community?

SYVERUD: I have not. Our students, our parents, our faculty and staff are overwhelmingly supportive of this decision, particularly once they understand that there are religious and medical exemptions granted.

BROWN: Are you worried about any legal repercussions, any legal challenges that could come out of this?

SYVERUD: Well, of course there's been legal ramifications for COVID since it all started almost 18 months ago, but all the way along we've been trying to make the right decision here based on the best public health advice, and that has served us well so far. It's enabled us to keep open for in-person instruction all fall and all this semester, and I think we have to make the right decisions and then manage the legal ramifications later on.

BROWN: OK. Syracuse president Kent Syverud, thank you for coming on and walking us through your decision-making process with all of this. We appreciate it.

SYVERUD: Thanks so much, and good luck.

BROWN: Thank you.

Well, the pandemic has many Californians rethinking whether the West Coast really is the best coast. Coming up, the surge of new Texans looking for life without a lockdown and what some call political asylum. That's next.



BROWN: California and Texas, two very different states when it comes to how to deal with the coronavirus, and when it comes to population growth as well. Guess what, Texas saw a boom during the pandemic, but it is a different story in California.

CNN's Elle Reeve explains.



MARIE BAILEY, REAL ESTATE AGENT: Texans think that the Californians moving here is going to turn Texas blue. And if I can tell anybody one thing, there is a red wave coming here.

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So many people are moving to Texas, the real estate market can barely keep up. Somewhat cheaper houses and some say they want a safe space for their politics. After real estate agent Marie Bailey made the move herself in 2016, she created a private Facebook group called Move to Texas from California. With the pandemic she's seen a surge in new members, now more than 33,000.

BAILEY: Politics are a big discussion in our group because you just cannot talk about moving without politics.

REEVE (on camera): So all these things being built, even I guess this plot of land, these are already bought?

BAILEY: Yes. Yes.

REEVE: Like do houses sell in a day? BAILEY: Yes. Houses are selling in hours. I have a lot of people in my

group that would consider themselves as a political refugee. California has taken it very far in a lockdown, and the pandemic opened up people to wanting to move for several reasons. These people are suffering. And their children are suffering. And they come here on their scouting trips, and I literally have people that break down and cry. And they're, like, your parks are open, there's children outside.

REEVE (voice-over): Joshua Dunn joined Bailey's group. He says he moved to Texas in July, and his wife and kids followed.

JOSHUA DUNN, NEW TEXAS RESIDENT: I was getting depressed out there. Everything was shut down in California. I was on looking for jobs. I took the first job they offered. Two weeks later we were rolling out here.

REEVE (on camera): And what was appealing about Texas?

DUNN: More freedoms, less government in our pocket. I never voted Democrat, I always voted Republican. And this is why I'm coming now. I want some land. I want to be left alone. And, honestly, I want to start my gun collection.

REEVE (voice-over): Texas grew by nearly 374,000 residents in 2020. But the pandemic has only fueled the exodus from California where the population was growing at its slowest rate in more than a hundred years as of December. Right now Texas has a lower unemployment rate, while California has a slightly lower death rate from COVID-19. Still, this is part of a trend in which Republicans and Democrats live in places where they encounter few people of the opposite party.

COURTNEY FRISCO (PH), NEW TEXAS RESIDENT: I saw my owner losing her business. I saw like no one cutting people breaks. At the end of the day it's like people need to put food on their table right now.

REEVE: After COVID restrictions closed the salon where Courtney Frisco (PH) worked as a hairstylist, she and her husband quit L.A. They could afford a much bigger house in Texas, and they were sick of businesses being shut down.

FRISCO: We never were afraid of, like, COVID. We actually got COVID like two months ago. My heart goes out to all the people that have, like, lost lives and that, you know, didn't beat it.

REEVE (on camera): OK, wait. Just to play devil's advocate.


REEVE: So you did get COVID, though, once you moved to Texas.


REEVE: Which is a place with less COVID restrictions?

FRISCO: Yes. Yes.

REEVE: Well, what do you think about that?

FRISCO: Back in California, like, we were still being very lax about COVID. But I never got it. And coming here I was still the same way. So I really don't believe that it was anything to do with Texas. It was just kind of like it was my time to get it, I don't know.

REEVE: Are you going to get the vaccine?


REEVE: Why not?

FRISCO: No, absolutely not. No. Me and my husband are like hippies at heart. Like honestly, we're very cautious to what we're putting into our body. Just seeing how strong my body was to fight off COVID was so empowering. I'm not afraid to get it again. Like, I'm just not afraid.

REEVE (voice-over): Being young and healthy puts you at less risk for serious complications. But COVID-19 can have long-term health effects. Clinical trials show vaccines are safe and effective, and recent polling also shows that vaccine resistance is declining as more Americans are safely vaccinated.

The political culture doesn't matter to everyone. Sometimes it's just the policy. In October Caroline Japic moved so her daughters could go to school in person and play league soccer.

CAROLINE JAPIC, NEW TEXAS RESIDENT: My kids love sports and they want to play, and they didn't really know what to do when they couldn't. You know, online learning just, they did it, but sitting in front of a computer for that many hours a day just wasn't healthy for their bodies or mentally.

SYDNEY JAPIC, STUDENT ATHLETE: For me I'm a very in-person learner. And I'm very, like, I need to be there and ask questions and have people around me to help. And so I think that switch was really difficult for me.

C. JAPIC: I mean, I personally feel like it's a year of lost learning for kids that have had to stay on Zoom. It's interesting, California and Texas have two very different views on how to handle this challenge.

REEVE: Japic says they'll stay until at least 2026 when her youngest daughter graduates high school.

BAILEY: The people coming here, it's not stopping.

REEVE (on camera): Even though schools are starting to open up in other places?


REEVE: People are still going forward with the move?

[18:55:02] BAILEY: Right now they are. Could that impact people staying? Absolutely. But there's a lot of people who are politically on the fence. They were like they're not here for our best interests. Whatever trust they had is completely gone.

REEVE: Elle Reeve, CNN, north Texas.


BROWN: A U.S. Army officer is suing two Virginia police officers for excessive force after he was pulled over, pepper-sprayed, pushed to the ground, and handcuffed. Video of the December traffic stop is going viral. That story is up next.