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NYT: E.U. Set To Let Vaccinated U.S. Tourists Visit This Summer; Video Of 911 Call Released After Unarmed Black Man Shot In Virginia; VP Harris Talks Afghanistan, Guns As 100th Day In Office Nears; Online Happiness Class Gains Huge Following During Pandemic; Oscars Team Hopes To Beat Pandemic-Era Slump For Awards Shows. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 25, 2021 - 18:00   ET




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

And tonight, major news for Americans hoping to head abroad. The New York Times is now reporting that the E.U. will let vaccinated U.S. tourists visit Europe this summer. And we're also learning that millions of Americans, about 8 percent, are skipping out on their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That is according to CDC data.

Now, this warrants this reminder. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines required two doses to be considered fully effective. It is true that one dose gives some level of protection but medical experts say, we just don't know how long that protection will last.

Joining me now, Andy Slavitt, he is the White House Senior adviser for COVID response. Andy, welcome back to the show.


BROWN: So let's start with this breaking news that just coming in. I want to get your reaction, this news from The New York Times that the E.U. is set to let vaccinated U.S. tourists visit this summer more than a year after shutting down nonessential travel, what more can you tell us about this? What's your reaction?

SLAVITT: Well, there's no question that the key to getting back to life that we used to know is vaccination. And so far we have more than half of the adult Americans have done vaccine shots, and that's great. But that also mean that we have near half of the Americans that still have not done that yet.

So I think we're increasingly going to see a world where people who have been vaccinated are going to enjoy a lot of freedoms, they're going to feel like they can take on activities, little risks, they can reunite with families and the cases will continue to be there for the people that have not been vaccinated yet. So whether it's traveling to Europe or whether it's just seeing your family and friends without having to worry, vaccination is the key.

BROWN: Right. Obviously, vaccination is an incentive to do these things, but is there anything more you can tell us about being able to travel to Europe, any of the restrictions traveling to the U.S. and to other countries as well while we are on the subject?

SLAVITT: Well, what the world is basically saying is they are looking at the U.S., they're looking at the success of our vaccination program, they are looking at the reduction in disease. And while they know we are not done yet, they are saying those Americans are safe to come to our country without risk of spreading COVID-19.

Think about that. That's incredible. Just a few months ago we were the nation in the world that was -- one of the most cutoff from travel. That shows what an incredible few months we have had vaccinating Americans. So I think we're going to find more and more things like that, both internationally but also, Pam, in the U.S., I think you are going to see increasing steps over the next few weeks on what vaccinated Americans can do in addition to just travel, because not all of us travel, that are going to be very important.

BROWN: Okay. I want to talk about that, but I also just want to put a button on this. Has the administration heard from any leaders from other countries where currently Americans are restricted from traveling, that those restrictions will be loosened? We are learning about the E.U., anything else?

SLAVITT: Nothing that I am aware of, Pam.

BROWN: Nothing you are aware.

OK. So let's get to what you were just talking about, because vaccinated people are basically trying to figure out, what do I do on sidewalks, if I go out on a walk, I'm just going to go ahead and travel because I am vaccinated, I wearing a mask. And there are CDC guidelines we keep hearing there are going to be updates to that, but can you give us a specific timeline of when we will know more about travel?

You had told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta that the guidance would change once the U.S. has vaccinated 20 to 30 percent of its population.


As of today, we are nearly at 30 percent vaccinated. What can you tell us about this, Andy?

SLAVITT: Well, look, our jobs in the White House is to let the CDC make the decisions based on the data, the science and their judgments, and sometimes that's not always perfect data. And the CDC, I think, has begun the process of being able to define those -- how to list those restrictions up for Americans. There's no question that they plan to do that. I think if you pay attention this week, you will continue to see more and more of those come into play and begin to talk about them. It's not going to be as fast as people were vaccinated want, but, remember, there are also 48 percent of Americans have not been vaccinated yet, and we have to remember those folks. Folks that have not been vaccinated yet still feel very much at risk. So we have to bring the rest of the country along with us.

The most important thing we can do, people that have not been vaccinated, make sure they get vaccinated, help them get there, talk to them about why you did it, because that's going to get it quicker and quicker.

BROWN: So what I hear from you is, this week, we will see more guide ounce on the CDC on travel and been, if you're vaccinated, what you can do outside, correct?

SLAVITT: That's right. I think that's --

BROWN: And can you tell us anything else about what's in that guidance or do you not want to get ahead of it?

SLAVITT: Well, we're going to let the scientists speak for scientists. And the White House -- it's really important, both with the FDA and the CDC, that the public knows that we are not influencing what they say. They say basically what the medical science tells them their best judgment is. And as more Americans get vaccinated, it's only natural that they're going to continue to give us good news on that front.

BROWN: Okay. So we will have to wait to see what the CDC says then.

But you mentioned people not getting vaccinated, what it means for them. We have the new CDC numbers saying millions of skipping their second dose now. How concerned are you about this?

SLAVITT: Well, look, if you have gotten your first dose, it's really important that you get your second dose. I think some people are getting a little bit frightened by some of the talk and, quite frankly, some of the misinformation on sites like Facebook about side effects and things of that nature.

And I think if you talk to most people who have gotten their second shot, the side effects are quite mild and also quite temporary in the vast, vast, vast, vast majority of cases. So, it's very important. You know, 92 percent is not bad but I want that other eight percent to realize one thing, that the longevity of the vaccine is much stronger when you have had two doses.

So you may find yourself with two doses being able to have immunity for quite a long time, but with one dose, we know that's not the case. So it's very important, even though you get some response and you get a second dose and that will give you a long-lasting response.

BROWN: Right, so I see what you are saying. But the bottom line the numbers have gone up to 3 percent to 8 percent not getting that second shot. And we also have the mammoth poll this month showing a stunning 43 percent of Republicans said they will likely never get the vaccine.

Andy, we know that there are already efforts in place to combat this with faith community and sports leaders, but this poll shows that that number is still very high. What else can be done to address this?

SLAVITT: Well, one of the things that we hear loud and clear from people who are on the fence about getting a vaccine is really two things. One is they want to be informed, they don't want to be persuaded. They don't want to be talked into it. They want basically someone to educate them and give them the information.

That's why we have thousands and thousands of people at our community core who are carrying the information locally in communities for people. That's why we encourage people to go and talk to their doctors and ask them.

Once people do their homework, what do they learn? They learn that 140 million people have been vaccinated, and most -- 90 percent-plus of them are immune from these conditions. It's an incredibly effective vaccine, it's been worked on for decades. And when people learn those facts, we find more and more people each month saying, you know what, I think I will get vaccinated.

Also, the other thing, Pam, is that when people know people who have been vaccinated, they are much more likely to get vaccinated themselves. So we've got to make sure that once we get into communities, whether it's with employers or families, that people then know about it and then come afterwards.

So I think we're going to continue to make progress. It might not be as fast as the first 50 percent. I think that it's going to be slower. But I think we're going to continue to get there.

BROWN: Okay. I want to ask you about world events. The White House announced the U.S. is working to send help to India as they deal with this major spike in COVID. Test kits, ventilators, personal protective equipment, they are all part of this relief plan. But what about vaccines beyond funding the vaccine manufacturing in India? Only 1.59 percent of their population is fully vaccinated.


Tens of millions of AstraZeneca vaccines are currently gathering desks (ph) in the U.S. Will the administration release some of them to India and other countries struggling right now?

SLAVITT: So I want to just make sure we are very clear about this. The U.S. is back on the global stage, we're back leading. We are in a position increasingly where we are more and more confident that Americans are going to have the vaccines they need. Once that has been the case, we have always said that we're going to do is then make sure we that turn our attention to making sure we help the world.

We're not only going to be able to fund more vaccines. We have already unilaterally given vaccines to two countries but we're also going to be -- start manufacturing and exporting vaccines. It's going to create jobs here in the U.S.

As for places like India, that are hot spots, our national security team, USAID, our COVID response team, we are in constant communication with them, figuring out their needs. I think you're going to continue to see the announcement you saw today as a major step forward and some of the things we are doing to help India both in the short term and long term. And I think you're going to continue to see more and more things as you pay attention over the course of time.

I'm not going to announce them here --

BROWN: I just -- I was going to say though, I need to press a little bit though, because I heard a lot of talk from you, Andy, broadly, but I want to be really specific. Because we know that in May, the expectation is that there will be more doses than people likely wanting to get the vaccine. So we already know this. You already know what supply we have, right, and what the trajectory is looking like for people needing that supply.

Right now, there is a huge emergency all over India, when you look at the vaccination rate and how they are struggling. So I want to circle back on vaccines. Is there a plan right now to send those AstraZeneca vaccines, some of them to India?

SLAVITT: When we made decisions on what we're going to do with additional vaccines, about exporting them, we will announce them. We're not going to announce anything here. But we are in constant communication, we're evaluating all the options and we will give you a satisfactory answer here. But understand that we've got teams of people working on it.

BROWN: It sounds like it's under discussion at least is what I am hear from you?

SLAVITT: Everything on the table, absolutely.

BROWN: Okay. I tried, Andy. I tried to get it from you, but I do appreciate you coming on the show to give us what information you could give us on this very important topic. Thanks for coming on and you are always welcome back.

SLAVITT: Thank you, Pam.

BROWN: And coming up in a moment, our Dana Bash has a one-on-one interview with Vice President Harris. Find out if she thinks gun control should be Biden administration's next priority.

Then a Yale professor running a happiness clinic online is forced to focus on her own well-being after more than 3 million people sign up. I am really looking forward to this discussion.

And then later tonight, I'm going to introduce you to President Biden's youngest climate crisis adviser, Jerome Foster.

But, first, an African-American man has survived being shot after an officer mistook the phone he was holding for a gun allegedly. Polo Sandoval is up next with a new body cam and 911 audio that has just been released.


BROWN: Well, this hour, there is growing outrage and calls for police accountability after an unarmed black man in Virginia was shot and wounded. Body cam footage and 911 audio show a sheriff deputy shoot 32-year-old Isaiah Brown last week. State police say, that same deputy had given Brown a ride home just an hour earlier, then returned to respond to a domestic incident.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is following the story for us. So, Polo, a family attorney claims the deputy mistook the phone Brown was holding for a gun. What do we know about the investigation so far and what are police saying about that?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, they say that their loved one, Isaiah Brown, was shot and injured by a police officer, or rather by sheriff's deputy, shot multiple times as a result of a failure of communication. And as a result, they certainly want this investigated here.

We're going to play a portion of a 911 call that captured what happened here. They say the 32-year-old, what he had in his hand was actually a phone and not a gun, the same that he was using. So in this body camera video that we're also going to show you in a few moments, you can actually see what took place.

And according to the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office, he was responding -- the deputy was responding to Brown's call of a domestic disturbance. And in 911 call, you can hear Brown having an argument with his brother at one point in the conversation, he even threatens to kill his brother. Brown even is heard asking his brother for a gun, his brother refuses. But then seconds later, Pam, and this is important, he tells the dispatcher that he does not have a gun, that he is not armed as he walks out on the street.

And as you hear the sirens approaching, the dispatcher instructs Brown to hold his hands up and that's where this audio picks up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Isaiah, are you holding your hands up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me your hands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put your hands up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me your hands, now. Show me your hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got a gun to his head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drop the gun now. Stop walking towards me, stop walking towards me. Stop. Stop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just shot him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show me your hands. Show me your hands. Drop the gun. Drop the gun.


SANDOVAL: It's clear things escalated extremely quickly here. Now, even though you hear the officer commanding that he drop a gun, the Virginia State Police confirms first CNN that Brown was, in fact, unarmed at the time of the shooting.

So now we want you to see body cam video, though it's difficult to make out exactly what happened. It basically reinforces what you just heard. A warning to some of our viewers, Pam, the video still may be difficult to watch for some.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got a gun to his head.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drop the gun now and stop walking towards me. Stop walking towards me. Stop. Stop.


SANDOVAL: So, again, because of the angle, it's very difficult to actually make out exactly what happened there, but you can hear the police officer say, quote, he has a gun to his head, suggesting or at least going to that argument that we've heard from the family that they believed that the deputy likely mistook the cordless phone for a weapon gun.

Authorities saying that Brown does remain in serious condition with what they are describing as nonlife-threatening injuries. His attorneys are calling on this Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office to release this audio between their dispatcher and the deputy. As for the deputy, he remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of this investigation, Pam.

BROWN: All right. Polo Sandoval reporting live for us from New York, thanks so much for that.

In the meantime, the family of a black man shot and killed by deputies last week in North Carolina may have a chance to watch body cam footage tomorrow. That is what their attorney tells CNN. Few details have been released in the shooting of 42-year-old Andrew Brown Jr. Wednesday in Elizabeth City.

The sheriff's office says deputies were trying to serve him with an arrest warrant at the time. Seven deputies have been placed on leave. The sheriff says he plans to file a court motion to get the footage released to the public.

And then now, I want to bring in Anthony Barksdale, he is the former Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner and a CNN Law Enforcement Analyst.

In the North Carolina case, Anthony, Andrew Brown's family, local council members, protesters and now the sheriff himself are calling for this body cam video to be released. Why do you think the sheriff might want that video out there?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: We need transparency at this point. We saw what happened in the Daunte Wright shooting. Immediately, it happened on the 11th and by the 12th, the video was out. We have entered a new era with these body cams, and the public is right to want to see the video evidence as fast and as soon as possible.

BROWN: What answers could that body cam footage provide?

BARKSDALE: It can provide a lot of answers. And it can range from what was the victim doing, because, in my view, both Browns are victims. What were they doing, and then what were the officers doing? You are looking at this from a training perspective, a legal perspective and an accountability perspective.

So all of that is very important when you are going to critique, when you are going to figure out if your officers -- you know, your people screwed up, who is getting charged, who needs to be fired, and it also comes into play when it goes to the legal department because I expect both jurisdictions to end up in court and having huge payouts to the victims.

BROWN: Exactly. And we will see how that goes. And I want to talk about another case where there's body cam footage, of course, in Virginia, as Polo just laid out there in this police shooting of Isaiah Brown. You see in the footage there, the deputy is seen getting out of his vehicle, he has heard repeatedly ordering Brown to show his hands and, quote, drop the gun.

But according to a transcript of the 911 call, the dispatcher asked brown whether he has gun, in which he both -- he says both yes and no. What is your initial reaction to this new video and transcript? I mean, what would this mean for the officer, if, in fact, he did think it was a gun but it was actually the phone?

BARKSDALE: Mistakes can happen, but when you are in control of a situation, you have a gun and you are shooting somebody, you have to get it right. Over and over again, we're seeing cops break down at the critical moments, at the most intense moment, their training is breaking down, they are making the wrong decisions.

If you are a distance behind me, then I can get behind the engine of my vehicle, get behind, I can take cover, not concealment and we can try and sort this out. Instead we are engaging too fast. And now since when should show me your hands, and you have no threat in your hand, become a death sentence in the United States?

We are failing at training these officers. And let me say this, you don't just stop at the officer that does this. What were their bosses doing? What were their chiefs doing? Were you looking over training? Were you being sure that your people are going out on the street and they are properly trained? And over and over again we are seeing this failure.

BROWN: Anthony Barksdale, thank you so much.

And when we come back on this Sunday, we ask Kamala Harris if gun control will be the Biden administration's next priority.


Our Dana Bash is next up with that and more from her exclusive one-on- one interview with the vice president.


BROWN: As Vice President Kamala Harris marks her first 100 days in office, CNN chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash sat down with her to discuss with her how her role has taken shape so far, and the significance of always being the last person in the room with the president.

Dana joins me now. Great to see you, Dana. You covered a lot of ground in this exclusive interview, including the president's recent move to end the war in Afghanistan.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, you know, this was one of the things that I was most interested in going into the interview, Pamela, and that is whether or not President Biden made good on his promise and maybe the better word for it is goal to pick a running mate, pick a vice president whom he could rely on to have private advice and be, as you said, the last person in the room before a big decision. So I asked her about that in the context of his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.


BASH: President Biden always said that he wanted you to be the last person in the room particularly for big decisions just as he was for President Obama. He just made a really big decision. Afghanistan.


BASH: Were you the last person in the room?


BASH: And you feel comfortable?

HARRIS: I do. And I'm going to add to that. This is a president that has an extraordinary amount of courage. He is someone who I have seen over and over again make decisions based on what he truly believes, based on his years of doing this work and studying these issues, what he truly believes is the right thing to do. And I'm going to tell you something about him, he is acutely aware that it may not be politically popular or advantageous for him personally.

It's really something to see, and I wish that the American public could see sometimes what I see. Because ultimately, and the decision always rests with him, but I have seen him over and over again make decisions based exactly on what he believes is right, regardless of what may be the political people tone is in his best selfless interests.



BASH: And Pamela, I found that interesting for a lot of reasons. And the biggest is the fact that we know that the president made that decision against the advice of his military advisers. They wanted him to stay in Afghanistan and make the withdrawal conditions based, and he said no.

That's in large part because that's how he has felt since he was vice president, even as a U.S. senator, but it also was interesting because she really gave us a window into their working relationship and the decision-making process that is part of that relationship.

BROWN: Right. And just the fact that she was the last person in the room with him before announcing that huge decision. So illuminating. And you also spoke to her about the issue of gun control and how big of a priority this is for the administration. What did she tell you?

BASH: Well, look, they have a lot on their plate. You know, at the beginning it was and still is COVID relief, economic relief because of the pandemic, and now what the administration is focusing on legislatively as the next priority is infrastructure. But as we sat down there had been a spate of mass shooting -- mass shootings, rather, and those continue, so I asked about gun control as it fits into the administration's priorities.


BASH: There have been at least 50 mass shootings in America in a little over a month. Your administration has made clear that infrastructure is the next big legislative priority. Why not guns? Anthony Fauci told me over the weekend that gun violence is a public health emergency.

HARRIS: Well, I would disagree. We actually, as an administration, have taken action. The president issued executive orders, for example, on ghost guns, and there is only so much however that a president can do through executive action.

This president, Joe Biden, has a long-standing history of speaking very clearly and unambiguously about the need for smart gun safety laws back from the time that he was in the Senate through today.

But I guess that emphasizes the point that both he when he was in the Senate, when I was in the Senate, same thing, we were pushing for legislation. Congress has to act. BASH: Exactly.

HARRIS: Because we have to codify -- that's a fancy word for make permanent, make the law that we agree, we should have background checks. That's just reasonable gun safety laws. We should have an assault weapons ban. Assault weapons have been designed to kill a lot of people quickly. They are weapons of war. And Congress has to act, Dana. I mean, you know, I was recently in Connecticut.


Senators Murphy and Blumenthal and the governor there, so many people, the families of Sandy Hook, you know, I honestly thought, I honestly that when those babies, 26 7-year-old children were slaughtered, I really thought Congress would act. I thought that would be the thing. And it didn't happen.


BROWN: Wow, what an interview. Excellent interview. Dana Bash, thank you so much for sharing it with us.

BASH: Thanks, Pamela.

BROWN: And just a heads up for you this week, President Biden gives his first address to a Joint Session of Congress. Join Dana along with Jake Tapper, Abby Philip, Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer for CNN's special live coverage starting Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m.

And up next, why Republicans, why some Republicans, I should say, are pushing legislation that protects drivers who hit protesters. You did hear that right. "For the Record" is up next.



BROWN: Well, the first weeks of the Biden administration, state Republicans across the country united around an effort to place hurdles in front of the right to vote, a right enshrined in the Constitution, and that was all based on lies about voter fraud.

Now they are coalescing around another project. GOP legislatures are pushing new laws aimed at protesting, another right enshrined in the Constitution, and it's all based on the false narrative that Black Lives Matter protests last year left cities in ruins, that the protesters did that. But first, let's look at the facts, let's analyze this.

This is according to the "Washington Post." This is data that showed from last summer's BLM protests, 96 percent of the protests involved zero property damage and zero police injuries. Police used teargas or chemicals in just 2.5 percent of protests. And the majority of the violence that did take place was directed against BLM protesters.

Again, this is according to the "Washington Post" and data that it had analyzed. But under the guise of anti-rioting and anti-looting, GOP lawmakers in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills this year, according to the "New York Times." The harshest example is in Florida. Here's how Governor Ron DeSantis describes it.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think it's really remarkable. If you look at the breath of this particular piece of legislation. It is the strongest anti-rioting pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country, and there's just nothing even close.


BROWN: So here's what the Florida law actually does. It elevates existing public disorder crimes from misdemeanors to felonies. It makes destroying monuments a felony with a 15-year prison sentence and it adds liability protections that would apply to motorists who drive into protesters.

Let me repeat that. It reduces the punishment for people who run over people, but increases the punishment for people who damage statues. Similar measures granted immunity to drivers who hit protesters are gaining steam in Iowa and in Oklahoma. And in Minnesota, a GOP proposal would bar anyone convicted of a crime at a protest from getting state benefits. And in Indiana, in a lawful assembly conviction will prohibit a person from holding elected office in the state.

So imagine if that law had been around in Georgia, someone like the late Congressman John Lewis who was arrested several times for protesting before he ran for office never even would have been able to start his political career. Yesterday on CNN, Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn reacted to these measures.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): This is about whether or not you are in favor of maintaining this democracy. A democracy that started off as a protest that was called the Boston Tea Party. That was a protest. And that's what led to what this country is today. So when people protest, and you are going to criminalize the First Amendment -- that's what you're doing, to petition for grievances, a First Amendment guarantee, and you've got a state that's going to criminalize pursuant to the First Amendment? This is crazy stuff.


BROWN: So for a party that touts strict constitutionalism and philosophy of limited government, in these instances it does appear that these Republicans involved in this legislation have a loose interpretation of which parts of the Constitution are the important ones and which ones should be stifled by the state.

So ahead on this Sunday, a Yale professor running a happiness clinic online is forced to recalibrate her own well-being after more than three million people sign up. That professor joins me, next. [18:45:00]


BROWN: Happiness. It is something that many people, maybe you, have been searching for as they dealt with isolation, social distancing and their mental health during the pandemic. What started as a popular class at Yale University in 2018 is now a wildly successful online course available to the public titled "The Science of Well-Being."

More than 3.3 million people have already enrolled in the seminar offered by the online platform, Coursera. The lone professor, Laurie Santos, said she toppled the number of people taking the class during the pandemic.

And Professor Santos joins me now. So great to have you on. I can't wait to talk to you about this. Let's first start with the course description. It reads, "In this course you will engage in a series of challenges designed to increase your own happiness and build more productive habits.


"As preparation for these tasks, the professor reveals misconceptions about happiness, annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do, and the research that can help us change."

Tell us more, if you would, about this course and what participants can take away from it.

LAURIE SANTOS, PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: Yes. I think the first thing you learn is that many of the things we think are going to make us happy. They don't really work in the way we think. And that's one of the reasons I think the course is so important. We need to get over our misconceptions about the kinds of things we need to do to be happy. If we know the right things to do, we could spend our time the right ways, on the right things that are really going to improve our well-being.

BROWN: So really quickly to hone in on that, what are the right things to do versus the misconceptions? Very quickly.

SANTOS: Yes. Misconceptions are about money and changing our circumstances. But the research shows what really works is changing our mindset, becoming more present, more grateful, and changing our behaviors, becoming more socially connected, taking time to do nice things for others and even healthy habits like sleep and exercise.

BROWN: Socially connected. That is something that has been difficult as you well know during this pandemic. The enrollment skyrocketed actually during the pandemic. What do you think it was about people being isolated that led them to seek this out in these huge numbers?

SANTOS: Yes. We know that social connection is a necessary feature for high happiness. So, you know, social isolation lockdown, it was exactly the kind of thing that was going to cause a huge hit on our mental health. And so I think people flock to the course to try to get some strategies for how to improve things.

People knew how to fix their physical health. Right? You need to wear a mask and socially distance. But I think people really struggled with simple things they could do to protect their mental health during a tough time.

BROWN: And, also, you know, people, they may not have had the distractions they may have had before, right, and then just being forced to sit at home and sort of reckon with yourself. And I think that was -- that has been a challenge for people. But, really quickly, before we let you go, I want to pull up part of your e-mail auto reply, which shows that you have truly been embodying what you teach in this course.

You say, "Over the past few weeks I have started receiving more than 100 e-mails a day, keeping up with many -- up with that many questions/requests meant that I was hurting my own time affluence and having less time for the important projects I really should be prioritizing. And so I am currently trying my own personal well-being experiment. I am going to try to practice what I preach and reduce the amount of time I usually spend on e-mail."

It sounds like you are really trying here to be a role model for your students. How important is it for people to form these healthy habits in their search for happiness?

SANTOS: Yes. I mean, I think it's so important for me to practice what I preach. You know, otherwise I think all my students would be, like, well, wait, what are you doing, you're answering an email and not socially connecting, not taking time off?

I think again what the research really show is that happiness is about our behaviors. If we choose the right behaviors, take time breaks, promote time affluence, take time for gratitude. We really can improve our well-being.

BROWN: And you've got to set boundaries. That's the bottom line, which is what you did with that auto-reply. How do you measure happiness? How do you know if you're happy?

SANTOS: Yes. We just do it through a simple self-report. These are really well-validated surveys that we can use to assess how people are feeling. And what we're finding in the Coursera class is that from before and after people go up about a whole point on a 10-point happiness scale. So these practices really do work statistically.

BROWN: Wow, Laurie Santos, fascinating look at your class. Thank you so much. And good for you for setting those boundaries and taking time off for yourself as well. But thank you for making time to come on the show. We appreciate it.

SANTOS: Thanks so much for having me.

BROWN: And boom or bust for Hollywood's biggest night? Can the Oscars reverse the waning interest in award shows? Our Stephanie Elam explains, up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BROWN: Well, the pandemic means producers are writing a new script when it comes to tonight's Oscars. Here is Stephanie Elam with a preview.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From struggle.


ELAM: To desperation.


ELAM: The times are felt in this year's Oscar nominees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned about an overreaction from the cops?

ELAM: But so is the silence. Including from viewers whose lack of interest made most award shows this year a bomb.

MATTHEW BELLONI, FORMER EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: If the ratings continue to decline, you're going to see some changes. I think some award shows might go away.

ELAM: The Oscars want to reverse the trend. Gone is the Internet remote access field that hindered showed like the Golden Globes.

BELLONI: It ended up being like a bad version of an office meeting. And the Oscars don't want that.

ELAM: Enter Steven Soderbergh and Stacey Sher. The team ironically behind the film "Contagion." The pandemic will be a big theme, they say. But Soderbergh wants a show unlike any other.

BELLONI: And he has said that he wants the Oscars to feel like a movie. They are going to have shots from behind shoulders of people, moving cameras.

ELAM (on-camera): To pull it off the show is moving to a smaller venue here to L.A.'s iconic Union Station. It's (INAUDIBLE) star in Hollywood films like "Catch Me If You Can" and "The Dark Night Rises."

(Voice-over): And with vaccines out and fewer restrictions, the biggest challenge may not be the pandemic, but the movies themselves.

Absent of any theatrical hits like years past, this year the best films come mostly from streaming platforms.

BELLONI: It's very different than choosing to go to a movie theater, buy your popcorn, sit in a theater and watch a movie. People just become attached to those movies in a way that they don't when they're on streaming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please call me Mank.

ELAM: Mank leads with 10 nominations. But "Nomadland" is the frontrunner for Best Picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, I know what I'm doing.

ELAM: Chadwick Boseman is expected to win a posthumous award for Best Actor. But the pressure to win may just be on the Oscars themselves.

BELLONI: Will they be able to get that audience back when there are movies in theaters? Or is this just accelerating a trend that already existed and those audience members are not coming back?

ELAM: In Hollywood, I'm Stephanie Elam.


BROWN: New tonight, major news for Americans hoping to travel to Europe this summer. We're going to give you the new guidance.

Also ahead, suspected hate crimes. Police are investigating a string of attacks on synagogues in New York.

And new details on a date for a likely meeting between President Biden and his Russian counterpart.

Also, the "Passion of the Christ Star" now pushing crazy QAnon conspiracies.

I'm Pamela Brown in Washington.