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Minneapolis Awaits Chauvin Trial Verdict; Fifty Percent of U.S. Adults Injected with First Dose; U.S. States Russia to Face Consequences if Alexei Navalny Dies; Evacuation Underway as Fire Rages in Cape Town; French President: EU Countries To Offer Special Pass To Vaccinated U.S. Citizens; Macron: Americans To Receive Special Travel Pass; Greece Dropping Quarantine Restrictions For Some Travellers. Aired 2-3a ET
Aired April 19, 2021 - 02:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining me. Ahead on CNN, closing arguments are scheduled to begin just hours from now in the Derek Chauvin trial as peaceful protesters gather ahead of that in Minneapolis.
And growing concerns over Alexei Navalny's health, aides call for rallies across Russia while the west warns Putin.
Plus, out of control, historic buildings destroyed as Cape Town's Table Mountain is ravaged by fire.
In just a few hours from now, closing arguments begin in one of the most closely watched trials in modern U.S. history. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, faces second degree murder and other charges in the death of George Floyd last year.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty. Floyd's death sparked global protests, and officials have been bracing for possible unrest after a verdict comes in. National Guard troops are deployed in downtown Minneapolis where a jury will be sequestered.
The public schools will go to remote learning on Wednesday. Razor wire, and other barriers have now been installed around some police precincts and government buildings. Other U.S. cities are also taking similar steps.
Well, Sara Sidner shows us how some Minneapolis racial justice activists spent the day on Sunday.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At George Floyd Square, the day before the closing arguments in the trial against the former officer accused of murdering him. This place has turned into a place of solidarity between black folks and Asian, folks Latino, folks and white folks. It is also a place to mourn. And I want to give you a look at what this place looks like. This has
been here since the day George Floyd died. Some of the things are new. You now see the name of Daunte Wright here. Dante Wright, killed by a police officer, who now faces manslaughter charges.
George Floyd's image is still, everywhere here, over everything. And people come here to mourn his death, they come here calling for change, they come here like the mother who is speaking now to talk about their children who have been killed. Hers, in a jail, some of the others that sit behind her, their children were killed by police.
And so this is really a place where people come, hoping for change. Begging for change. Demanding change. And, right here, is where George Floyd took his last breath. And you can see the outline, they have made a body outline, but given him wings.
And you can see those candles there, some of those laid by his girlfriend the day before she testified in the Derek Chauvin trial. This is a place of gathering, and sometimes it's a place that explodes in violence. It is a place that is constantly, changing, but it is always here.
People are always here attending to this memorial to try and make sure that the memory is never forgotten on what happened here outside of Cup Foods in Minneapolis. Sara Sidner, CNN, Minneapolis.
CURNOW (on camera): And the CDC is now reporting half of all adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. And a quarter of the population is now fully vaccinated. Nearly 3.5 million doses were administered since Saturday, but despite all of that, cases are surging in some parts of the country, including in Michigan. Here is Polo Sandoval with the latest on that.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Monday is the day when the Biden administration want states across the nation to open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults. But vaccination efforts have slowed. CDC data showing a drop in the number of vaccines administered.
The drop was not unexpected due to allocation issues, but now, distribution of J&J's vaccine is on pause due to concerns about blood clots. The nation's top infectious disease expert is expressing hope that the J&J option will soon return, albeit, with conditions.
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ALLERGY AND INFECTIOS DISEASES: I don't want to be ahead of the CDC and the FDA and the advisory committee. But, I would imagine that what we will see is that it would come back and it would come back in some sort of either warning or restriction. Again, I don't know. I don't want to be ahead of them.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): It's getting easier in some parts of the country to secure a vaccine appointment. Walk-up options are being offered across the country for most including at Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Stadium where you don't need an appointment anymore. [02:05:00]
In Ohio, vaccine supply has outpaced demand in some parts of the state forcing the closure of several drive-through locations. There is, perhaps no greater need to get people vaccinated than in Michigan where the test positivity rate is now over 12 percent.
GRETCHEN WHITMER, GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: Fifteen months into this and people are tired and dropping the protocols.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): COVID-19 patients in the Wolverine State are once again lining some hospital hallways says the state's top health authority. And in Beaumont Health, the Detroit area's largest health care system, frontline health care workers are struggling to keep up with this third surge.
UNKNOWN: Thirteen months is a long time to be dominated by this one disease.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): Dr. Joel Fishbain, noticing this time, COVID patients are younger and many of them extremely sick. He says some of them have admitted to having gathered in large groups.
JOEL FISHBAIN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR FOR INFECTION PREVENTION, BEAUMONT HOSPITAL, GROSSE POINTE: I haven't seen my kids in well over a year, I get, I really do. But, if we don't stay diligent and really continue to follow the general, simple practices that we started last year, we are going to potentially be doing this over and over again.
SANDOVAL (voice-over): A doctor's plea to fellow Michiganders as some continue enjoying aspects of pre-pandemic life. Polo Sandoval, CNN, Detroit.
CURNOW (on camera): The Russian government is under pressure from world leaders to keep jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, alive. Now, the outspoken Kremlin critic is on day 20 of a hunger strike and his allies say he is very close to death. The E.U. is demanding the Kremlin let Navalny see his own doctors, and the U.S. national security adviser says the White House is weighing its options if Navalny were to die.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community. In terms of the specific measures that we would undertake, we are looking at a variety of different cost that we would impose. And I'm not going to telegraph that publicly, at this point, but we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CURNOW (on camera): Russian opposition members are calling for
nationwide rallies to put more pressure on the government. Here is Sam Kiley with the details on that. Sam?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The followers of Alexei Navalny have reached the point of which they are so fearful of their leader's death in a Russian penal colony as a consequence of the novichok poisoning with nerve gases that he suffered back in August and a hunger strike that he is currently undergoing, that they brought forward plans for mass demonstrations across Russia against the Putin regime ahead of actually reaching their target of having had 500,000 signatures on an online position before triggering the demonstrations.
They are now fearful that he could actually die following analysis by doctors who support him, saying that they fear that he could be in imminent danger of renal failure or of heart failure following a spike in the levels of potassium in his bloodstream. This all comes as Moscow prosecutors have been trying to outlaw his organization and designate it in an extremist movement.
Other organizations that fall into that category have more often been associated, for example, with violent Islamic extremism. And if it was so designated, it would make it almost impossible for his followers to campaign in the September elections.
But nonetheless, they are hoping to launch these mass demonstrations, details of which we are unable to broadcast at this stage because there is legislation in this country that means even the media circulating details of such demonstrations could be prosecuted for incitement. Sam Kiley, CNN, Moscow.
CURNOW: Thank you Sam for that. Vladimir Milov is a Russian opposition politician and an adviser to Alexei Navalny. He's also Russian's former deputy energy minister and he joins me now from Lithuania. Sir, thank you for speaking to us. What is the latest on Mr. Navalny's health? Do you have any new information on how he's doing?
VLADIMIR MILOV, ADVISER ALEXEI NAVALNY: Thanks for having me. Unfortunately, the problem is that these are weekdays, Saturday, Sunday, we don't have any access to him. So, only this is Monday morning here in Eastern Europe. So, only today, we hope to get access to Alexei and this is very worrisome because his condition is rapidly deteriorating. So, we have been really concerned about what was happening over the weekend and we actually don't know.
CURNOW: You heard a Biden administration official there saying they did not want to telegraph publicly, how they were pressuring the Russian government or what consequences there would be if Mr. Navalny were to die. Are you supportive of the way the international community is dealing with the fate of Mr. Navalny?
MILOV: We actually welcome the solidarity shown by the international community where the free people of Russia fighting for normalcy and for basic rights. But the reaction I'd say so far has been fairly slow and we really aren't facing the situation where Alexei could die by the minute.
His medical tests that have been publicized late last week were absolutely disastrous and essentially, doctors are saying that he can have a heart attack any minute and that might be very dangerous for his life. So, I think this sort of muted reaction is not really something we expected. We expected more, stronger action all on the part of international leaders regarding that.
CURNOW: Mr. Milov, Navalny, as you say remains on a hunger strike. That of course also risks his own life. Why does he continue to starve himself? What is the message behind this action?
MILOV: Alexei Navalny was always a strong opponent of hunger strikes because this is really something that you got to take until the end or do not start at all. So I think the fact that he announced a hunger strike means that he's really facing some desperate conditions. A denial of basic medical service.
This is actually the reason for a hunger strike because his health was beginning to rapidly deteriorate, but he was denied to see the doctor. And it's important to understand for your viewers that this penal colony where he is being kept does not have a doctor. It only has a paramedic. And his condition is extremely serious, but he is denied basic normal medical service. So, this is why a hunger strike.
CURNOW: What would his death mean? He's clearly serious about this. Politically, what kind of a statement does he know that it might bring and what kind of pressure does that put on Mr. Putin?
MILOV: Listen, we're not there yet and I would prefer not to jump ahead. But, however, I have to say that public perception against Putin is really growing in Russia through a multiple number of reasons. You saw that his approval ratings are at historic lows.
I think this will absolutely spark an outrage because even a lot of really neutral, not politicized people in Russia are watching the situation closely. Everybody understands what this is all about. This is all about Putin making a second attempt to kill his major political opponent.
So I think this will send shockwaves across Russia and it will have definitely political consequences particularly in the wake of upcoming election. We have a parliamentary election in September. This will mean a lot for the political future of our country.
CURNOW: Vladimir Milov, thank you very much for joining us here at CNN.
MILOV: Thank you.
CURNOW: Now Russia has given 20 Czech diplomat until the end of the day to leave the country. The expulsions are retaliation after Prague expelled 18 Russian embassy employees on Saturday, accusing them of belonging to the Russian intelligence services.
Meanwhile, Czech police are searching for two Russian suspects in connection with a blast in 2014 that killed two people. Authorities say, they are the same suspects linked to the 2018 novichok poisonings in Salisbury, England.
Scores of protesters demonstrated as you can see here outside the Russian embassy in Prague on Saturday. They waved European Union flags, they chanted anti-Russian slogans and called on the E.U. to support the Czech Republic.
And still ahead here on CNN, and out-of-control fire is tearing through Cape Town's Table Mountain. Coming up, the battle to control the flames. We are live in Cape Town with that. Plus, how some E.U. countries are loosening their COVID travel restrictions, just ahead of the tourist season.
CURNOW: Firefighters are battling flames threatening Cape Town, South Africa. Officials suspect a fire left by a homeless person made have been partially to blame for the massive blaze in Cape Town at around Table Mountain.
As you can see here, at least two firefighters have been hurt, nine structures destroyed, a historic windmill dating to 1796 was badly damaged as well as heritage buildings at the University of Cape Town.
Well, David McKenzie is in Johannesburg with the latest. David, hi. What more can you tell us and how is the city being threatened here?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Robyn. It's very much an active situation. Very scary scenes developing in the early morning hours around Cape Town City. The wind at around 2:00 a.m. according to officials picked up dramatically southeasterly wind which means the fire was ripped around the mountain towards the city of Cape Town.
There are now firefighters more than 250 of them battling this blaze to try and stop it from getting into those buildings. Many people already, at least one or two neighborhoods near the city have been evacuated. Miraculously, no one has been seriously hurt at this point except for those firefighters.
And the problem is with these winds. Officials say that it will be difficult to get those helicopters out in the morning hours this morning to battle that blaze. The city itself is shrouded in a smog, haze from that fire. And it's the second day now of battling this fire that has really burned a large section of that iconic Table Mountain.
CURNOW: And also some other iconic buildings and structures particularly at the University of Cape Town, the impact on one of the library reading room, I think has also has been felt quite acutely by many people who went to UCT and know it. I think we've got an image of it as well. Explain to us what happened there. MCKENZIE: Well, the fire started in the early morning hours on Sunday
at around 8:45. It was believed to be from a fire that was left by a homeless person, as you described, then rapidly move down the face of the mountain burning through a restaurant. And then to the shock of many current and former students, burning several buildings at the University of Cape Town.
Now, it is incredible that they managed to get all those thousands of students out safely, and that's what people are saying should be the focus.
But at the same time, there are potentially some very important works of history and literature that have been burnt in that library. The good news coming out late last night was that a fire system put down shutters to protect at least part of that library, but this is still an active situation.
And there are some very frightened people in Cape Town this morning who had to flee from their homes and their apartments with just a bag of belongings into shelters in the city. And those firefighters will be battling at least for today, and possibly into tomorrow. Robyn?
CURNOW: Okay, David, thanks so much for bringing us all the latest there. Really appreciate it.
So, I want to go straight now to Cape Town. Alan Winde is the premier of the Western Cape. Alan, hi. Wonderful to see you again. Sorry it's in such sad circumstances. I just want you to give us the latest on what's happening right now. How fast are these fires moving?
ALAN WINDE, PREMIER OF THE WESTERN CAPE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT: Hi, Robyn. Thank you. Yes, the wind came up in the middle of the night and really what we thought we'd had under control by yesterday evening was slated (ph) up during the night, and as you've just heard, it sort of move and started coming towards the city.
We've got -- we've just changed shift now and new firefighters up on the mountain. And yes, it's pretty scary. The Vredehoek area being evacuated at the moment for safety reasons. And yes, the winds are really, really strong and that's what's fueling the fire at the moment.
CURNOW: And with these winds, can the helicopters, can the firefighters actually do their work?
WINDE: So, of course, because of the mountain itself, it does make it much, much more difficult with the helicopters because the wind buffets off the mountains and it does make it quite dangerous, but they are busy trying at the moment.
CURNOW: Are you optimistic that you're going to be able to get this under control or do you feel like Vredehoek is just the beginning of what could be a terrifying day for folks around the city bowl, even? What are you warning for? What are your preparing for here? WINDE: So, really what it is, it is about, I mean, it's not as if we
haven't had fires on the mountain before. Our team's pretty good at dealing with it. So, we actually calling on people to be calm. The teams are getting ahead of it, evacuating areas that are at risk asking people (inaudible).
Yesterday, we were doing exactly the same thing. Nearly 4,000 students were evacuated from UCT. And that's what's amazing about Cape Town, is the people just step up to the plate. So, people have been bringing water and energy bars and eyedrops for the firemen and women up the mountain.
And people have been opening their homes to students. It really has been amazing to see the people who step up and help us. And of course now, we still need to just remain calm, help those people that are evacuating the areas and then just making sure keeping them clear for the emergency vehicles and for the firefighting people to move in and do what they do best.
CURNOW: And how did these fires start? There's been reports that it was potentially a vagrant who -- a homeless person who started it. But also other reports of potentially risks of people deliberately starting these fires in some places. What do you know?
WINDE: Correct. I've actually got details on both, on one, a homeless person started this fire and then also a couple of arrests and people spotted, arsonists, starting the fire. And of course yesterday, the investigation already started. I can't proclaim on it because I haven't got the details as yet, but both of those allegations being investigated at the moment.
CURNOW: Okay. Keep us updated on that. And as you're talking, we've got these images of the iconic UCT library buildings, 200 years old I think is this building. The reading room destroyed. What more do we know about the conditions of many of these historical heritage buildings in Cape Town?
WINDE: So, I think, as you heard earlier, one thing that was really great to hear was that the fire mitigation systems put in place, and so planning and the preparedness was really key because that saved a fair amount of, as you say, this is a 191-year-old university. The buildings on site at UCT just under 100 years old. They were built in 1828.
And of course, as you see the library and a number of other buildings destroyed but really, the real issue is the heritage of many, many of those really valuable library books that have been -- that have gone up in flames.
And then of course, another heritage site across the freeway, the Mostert's Mill, that from 1796, the last really working windmill of that kind of age in our region. So, hopefully we can restore it and get it back up again, but there's lots of damage.
[02:25:03] CURNOW: There's not just a concern about fire, but at least from family members that I have been speaking to this morning in Cape Town, the smoke is particularly bad. Also, the concern that a lot of the flames will jump ahead. How dry and hot and humid are the wind conditions make you concerned about the rest of the day?
WINDE: So that is exactly what it's like here in the city. I mean, in my office we are in right now, you've got this heavy pungent smell of smoke. There is ash sort of blowing all over the place. And there is this smokey haze everywhere.
And that also, you know, drives up the tension. And of course, there has been in the last 12 days (ph) dry and we sort of had rains already earlier this month and the rains haven't come and then the last few days we've had dry, hot weather that really has dried up the sort of flame (ph) bush on the mountain and it hasn't helped at all. And so, you know, we should have had our rains already. It is dry and then of course the wind is just feeling it.
CURNOW: Okay. Well, good luck to all the firefighters who are now there on the front lines on Table Mountain. I'm going to leave you to do your work. You got a busy day ahead of you. Alan Winde there, the premier of the Western Cape. Great to see you again sir, thank you.
WINDE: Thanks, Robyn.
CURNOW: So ahead on CNN, more signs of hope and progress in the battle against the coronavirus. See which countries are lifting some restrictions and opening their borders to visitors.
Plus, a historic flight set for Mars. It's carrying some very special cargo. We'll tell you about the art effect on the Mars helicopter. That too, is coming up.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN Newsroom. It's 29 minutes past the hour. EU countries are working on a special pass to facilitate travel inside the block for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated against COVID or can show that they've tested negative for the virus.
Now the French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to CBS News about the plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT, FRANCE: We will progressively lifts the restrictions at the beginning of May, which means that we will organize in the summer time with our professionals in France, for French European citizens but as well for American citizens, so we are working hard to propose a complete solution, especially for EU citizen who are vaccinated. So with a special pass, I would say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Meanwhile, Greece is dropping quarantine restrictions for some travelers. Starting Monday, visitors from the European Union, the US, UK, Israel, Serbia, and the UAE no longer will be required to self- isolate on arrival as long as they've been vaccinated or test negative.
Well, Melissa Bell is following all of these developments from Paris. Talk us through this plan that Emmanuel Macron was speaking about there.
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Robyn, there is that plan for a digital certificate of vaccine passport, if you'd like for Europe. It's so important because this very important industry here in Europe is worth hundreds of billions of euros every year is essentially been at a standstill because what we've seen over the course of the last year, Robyn.
Our borders spring up where we don't tend to have borders in Europe simply because countries have responded nationally rather than at European level to things like restrictions and trying to protect themselves from travelers from other countries. So getting over those borders is crucial.
The European passports we're hearing a little bit more about since the man in charge says that they should be operational by mid-June. And that, of course will be crucial to the European tourism industry for that crucial summer period. But interesting to hear Emmanuel Macron explaining that that system of certification, a certificate that will allow you to show that you're either immune because you've recently had it or because you've been vaccinated, it will also be extended to the United States, citizens from the United States.
That is how crucial the tourism industry is to Europe. And there is some hope there then that some people, some tourists, those at least who have been vaccinated will be able to come back to cities like Paris again by this summer Robyn.
CURNOW: Yes, that would be wonderful for many people, I think. Also Greece seems to be wanting to open its doors and of planning for their own summer. Talk us through that as well.
BELL: That's right. Since 6 AM, this morning, the changes have become effective if you're coming from the United States, Europe and a handful of other countries. And you can show that you've either been vaccinated or are negative, you simply won't have to quarantine once you get to Greece.
You will however have to follow the restrictions that apply to Greeks themselves. But you will not have to quarantine. Portugal also looking at using these new European vaccine passports to be able to avoid quarantines for their tourists by this summer. So really this sort of move even as European campaigns struggled to get up to the pace that they're hoping to find in terms their vaccination strategies Robyn, real moves to try and unblock at least the crucial tourism industry again, ahead of that crucial summer season. It's been at a standstill essentially since last summer.
CURNOW: Melissa Bell, thank you very much for that update. And then on the other side of the world, New Zealand is now allowing Australians to travel to the country quarantine free. Angus Watson joins us now with more from Melbourne, Angus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGUS WATSON, JOURNALIST: A travel bubble opening between Australia and New Zealand on Monday, with the first of 140 flights planned this week across the Tasman Sea with no passengers having to quarantine on arrival. That offer previously was available to New Zealanders traveling into Australia.
Now New Zealand returns the favor making that one way travel corridor into a two way travel bubble. New Zealand says that will mean billions for its economy with Australian tourist dollars targeted and of course, families split by these border closures for over a year will be reunited again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really important, we're going back to my dad's funeral and we are taking this little guy to meet his family for the first time. So he's just - myself so it's pretty exciting for us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no replacing the human touch and those human relationships. So we're looking forward to getting over to New Zealand, speaking to our people, making sure that their welfare is great, but also that our business continues to prosper.
WATSON: Both countries entering into this agreement tentatively. Each say that they're willing to pop this travel bubble if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 on either side of the Tasman Strait, both countries have had success with that sort of strictness when it comes to COVID-19.
Just around 2500 cases in New Zealand since the pandemic began, and just under 30,000 in Australia. That platform means the countries want to extend these travel bubbles further into the region. New Zealand wants to incorporate Pacific Islanders into its travel bubble.
Australia has earmarked Singapore as a potential country that it could have a travel bubble with but that will also rely on vaccine rollout in Australia and New Zealand, where governments have been criticized for being slow to get vaccines to their people. Angus Watson in Melbourne, Australia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: NASA could be on the verge of making history with a mini helicopter. A look at its latest mission on Mars. That's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK). CURNOW: NASA is only hours away from one of its biggest undertakings
yet. Flying a mini helicopter on Mars. Now it may not seem like much, but if it succeeds, it could change the way we study the red planet. Here's Michael Holmes with the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's the little helicopter with a very big vision. NASA hopes its mini chopper named Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to achieve powered controlled flight on another planet. Ingenuity's first flight is intentionally brief.
HAVARD GRIP, INGENUITY PILOT: Now the flight itself will consist of a takeoff, and then a climb to an altitude of three meters. And then we will hover in place for about 30 seconds and make a turn with the helicopter while we're hovering and then come down and land again.
HOLMES: A short hop that is the culmination of many hits and misses. Ingenuity has so far survived the frigid Martian nights after separating from the Perseverance rover, relying on its solar powered batteries to fire up internal heaters.
But an initial spin test of its rotors delayed or scheduled flight attempt due to problems with a timer. NASA says the helicopter later successfully completed the test spinning its blades at 2400 revolutions per minute, the speed it needs to take off.
Scientists say having a bird's eye view of the terrain could revolutionize the way we study new planets.
LORI GLAZE, NASA PLANETARY SCIENCE DIVISION DIRECTOR: Ingenuity will open new possibilities and will spark questions for the future about what we could accomplish with an aerial Explorer. Could we image areas not visible from space or that a rover couldn't reach?
Could a helicopter scout ahead for rovers and help plot the most efficient course for the best science.
HOLMES: Flying on the Red Planet presented some difficult engineering challenges because of the low gravity of Mars and an atmosphere that is 1 percent the density of Earth. NASA engineers sent along a good luck charm. Attached to Ingenuity is a piece of fabric from the wing of the Wright Brothers' flyer, which carried the first powered controlled flight on Earth. Michael Holmes, CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: So thanks so much for spending part of your day with me. I'm Robyn Curnow. If you're an international viewer, World Sport is next. Enjoy that. If you're joining us from the U.S. or Canada, I'll be right back with much more news after the break.
CURNOW: Great to have you back so Canada is sending more health care workers to Ontario where Coronavirus cases are surging and hospitals are stretched thin. At least one hospital says its ICU is operating at 115 percent capacity and there is concern that doctors could soon be forced to ration care. So here's Paula Newton with that story, Paula.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the pandemic Canada had planned for, but was so hoping to avoid. This Toronto field hospital will open within days as a punishing third wave of the virus now threatens the country's healthcare system.
In the last week alone, hospitalizations and deaths are up by more than a third with a worrying increase in younger, sicker patients needing intensive care. Toronto Dr. Michael Warner says his critical care unit is already over capacity.
DR. MICHAEL WARNER, MEDICAL DIR OF CRITICAL CARE, MICHAEL GARRON HOSPITAL: We will be there we will do our best. But you know I'm trying to save people not to use a checklist to decide if people are going to live or die. But that's where we're at. And that's my biggest fear. And it's - it's I think a lot of healthcare workers are beyond angry. We're just really forlorn that we're in the situation that we find ourselves in.
NEWTON: The crisis is most acute in the province of Ontario, including Toronto, where top public health officials describe the situation as dire. Some patients are now being transferred to hospitals, hundreds of miles away to get the care they need.
And the unthinkable that still hundreds more will need ICUs in the weeks to come.
WARNER: That will break the health care system and virtually assured that we will have to triage patients, we would normally save today to palliation death because we won't have enough staff beds to care for patients that need care for COVID or non-COVID related critical illness.
NEWTON: Some doctors we spoke to here now say the Ontario government acted too late. Even though the City of Toronto has been in some form of lockdown for nearly five months. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has now put in tough new measures, extending
a stay at home order until at least mid-May, closing even outdoor activities restricting travel in and out of the province.
DR. FAHAD RAZAK, ST. MICHAEL'S HOSPITAL, TORONTO: Whatever we put into place though, it's going to take time to have an effect. And right now, the trajectories of COVID rises are really baked in and I think the next two to three weeks for Ontario and for Canada are going to be very, very tough.
NEWTON: Talk to me about the distress in your patients and their families right now. RAZAK: There is clearly a difference in this wave compared to what we
saw in the earlier wave so people are younger, and they're clearly sicker and we're having a hard time getting them stable enough for them to leave hospital.
NEWTON: And Canada has not secured enough doses to vaccinate its way out of the worst of this third wave. This Toronto vaccination clinic was empty for much of the week while patients filled hospitals. Ontario hospital and ICU admissions have now shattered records.
WARNER: We're stuck where we have cases out of control, hospitals completely full, no vaccine supply available and months of difficult public health measures ahead of us.
NEWTON: Despite months of planning this pandemic is sure now to push and yes, punish patients and health care workers in Canada as never before. Paula Newton, CNN, Ottawa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: And as we mentioned a little bit earlier, about 50 percent of adults here in the U.S. have now received at least one dose of the Coronavirus vaccine. The latest numbers from the CDC show that more than 209 million doses have been administered in total, and a quarter of the population is now fully vaccinated.
But there is still a huge chunk of Americans that don't want the vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci says in order for more restrictions to be eased, more people need to be vaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: It is quite frustrating because the fact that one may not want to get vaccinated in this case, a disturbingly large proportion of Republicans only, actually works against where they want to be.
And so it's almost paradoxical that on the one hand, they want to be relieved of the restrictions but on the other hand, they don't want to get vaccinated. It just almost doesn't make any sense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Vaccine hesitancy remains a serious concern across the U.S. and evangelicals are among those most skeptical. Some of that reluctance is being fueled by an influential pastor who is actively discouraging vaccinations. Elle Reeve went to Louisiana to find out why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPELL: They're being anti-mask and anti-vaccine. This anti-government that I'm proud to be anti-government.
ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As more and more Americans are getting vaccinated, resistance remain strong within one group in particular, white evangelicals.
This hesitancy is driven by a distrust in government, misinformation and political identity. This is not a fringe group. A quarter of Americans are evangelical.
SPELL: Give me my rights, sir, what are the rights?
TONY SPELL, PASTOR, LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH: I would rather die free that I had to live on my knees.
REEVE: How's it going on your knees to take a vaccine?
SPELL: Because you're bowing against your convictions.
REEVE: Pentecostal pastor Tony spell has made a national name for himself protesting COVID-19 rules in Baton Rouge. He live streamed himself going under house arrest last spring for refusing to close his church during lockdown. While a survey of evangelical leaders finds most would be open to getting the vaccine, Spell is adamantly against it.
REEVE: If you broke your arm or something, would you go to the doctor?
SPELL: Sure, I'd go to the doctor and get it set and wear a cast?
REEVE: So like at some level you trust some doctor?
SPELL: Yes, we do.
REEVE: So can you just explain where the line.
SPELL: The line is in this vaccine. Number one, the virus has been a scam from the beginning. It's always been politically motivated for mail-in ballots and voter ID. That's what has got a new administration in the White House today.
REEVE: White evangelical Christians are more likely than other religious groups to believe in certain conspiracy theories like that Trump won the 2020 election or in QAnon theories according to a study by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
But conspiracies about the COVID-19 vaccine can affect everyone else because public health experts have told us around 70 percent of the population needs to get the vaccine to reach herd immunity. And 28 percent of white evangelical Christians say they definitely won't get it with another 6 percent saying they'll only get it if forced.
SPELL: You have a 99.6 percent survival rate? Why do you want somebody to contaminate your bloodstream with someone that may or may not hurt you?
SAMUEL PERRY, SOCIOLOGIST OF RELIGION, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA: There is a tendency within - within white Christian nationalism to want to believe these kinds of conspiracies because I think it reinforces this idea of an us versus them. The problem is the people who are feeding that fear, have an incentive to keep stoking that fear because people keep clicking, and people keep listening.
REEVE: Is the appeal of your sermon that the pandemic is scary. The virus is scary. And so you're telling scared people, you don't have to worry about any of that stuff, like come to my church, and God will make sure you don't get this virus.
SPELL: Yes, I promoted that.
REEVE: Are you giving them false hope?
SPELL: That's not false.
REEVE: Why not?
SPELL: What's false, is our lying politicians.
REEVE: Several people told us they started coming here after they saw Spell in the news for keeping his church open and liked his message.
JEFF JACKSON, LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH PARISHIONER: I was worried about not going to church and going back to alcohol and drugs. The aim for this whole shutdown was the church because we're the radical right? We don't believe in gay marriage. We don't believe in abortion, all that.
REEVE: Are you going to get the vaccine?
JACKSON: No, it's detrimental to your health. It starts going into conspiracy theory type stuff, but I do. I believe it's Bill Gates and them trying to kill us.
JACOB MCMORRIS, LIFE TABERNACLE PARISHIONER: I feel like and I know it works medically. But when you put something in you to help you stop from getting it, you know, that just that just doesn't work for me. I've never liked the idea of that.
PATRICIA SEAL, LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH PARISHIONER: Donald Trump. I love him to death. I would vote for him again. But when he was talking about getting the shot, I said, you can have it all you want. I don't want it.
REEVE: Are you going to get the vaccine?
KERRY WILLIAMS, LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH PARISHIONER: Oh I did already.
REEVE: Oh you did?
WILLIAMS: This is my first one. I got to go back and do the second one.
REEVE: Ok, cool.
SPELL: There's a political group today that wants to apologize for being Americans. REEVE: Spell preaches conservative politics, but his congregation is
unusually diverse compared to typical Christian churches, in part because he buses in people from all over town. One reason why I think it's interesting, these two positions you have, the importance of desegregation and your opposition to the vaccine is that many of the people you minister to which is admirable, are poor people of color.
Well, those people tend to be most at risk for COVID. So why not encourage them to take the medicine that will protect them?
SPELL: Not only do I not encourage, I discourage. I don't know anybody in my church, black, brown, El Salvador, Honduran, Mexican who had the virus.
REEVE: Your father said he had the virus.
SPELL: 1000s and 1000s.
REEVE: Your father and mother told me they had the virus.
SPELL: Yes and that's all right. Maybe we had it, and maybe we got it.
REEVE: You also said your grandfather got the vaccine.
SPELL: And I'm opposed to that. I did not promote that. I think he was foolish for taking the backseat.
PERRY: Christian leaders on the right people like Tony Spell have really bought into this idea that if I continue to sow this narrative where people feel victimized and fearful and angry, I can continue to build my audience. I build my own credibility in this group of people that says yes, everybody else is untrustworthy but you.
REEVE: I just don't understand why you can't say like, the church was essential. It's so important for so many people.
SPELL: The church is essentially.
REEVE: But what a miracle that we have these vaccines that would allow people to celebrate more safely.
SPELL: Never will say that. There is no backing up.
REEVE: It just feels like it's you're taking a political position.
SPELL: It's not political at all. I'm not a politician. I'm a prophet.
SPELL: Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
REEVE: Elle Reeve, CNN, Baton Rouge.
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CURNOW: The Caribbean island has once again been rocked by a volcanic eruption of La Soufriere volcano on St. Vincent erupted on Sunday afternoon. Ash covered the streets and homes on the island. 20,000 people have been evacuated so far. Rock legend Mick Jagger tweeted about the situation on the island just hours before the latest eruption saying, "There is a huge humanitarian effort taking place to supply essentials to those evacuated on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent following the continuing eruptions of the La Soufriere volcano."
And a World War II aeroplane made quite a splash in Florida. The pilot was forced to make a water landing when the plane's engine failed during an airshow. He was the only one on board and no one was hurt, but authorities now had to figure out how to get the plane out of the water.
The FAA is investigating that incident. So I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much for joining me. You can follow me on Twitter and on Instagram @RobynCurnowCNN. Another hour of CNN with my colleague Rosemary Church is next.