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President Biden Proposes Sweeping, Ambitious Plan for America; Federal Agents Raid Trump Lawyer Giuliani's Home and Office; India's Alarming COVID-19 Surge; Brazilian President Criticizes COVID-19 Inquiry; U.S. States Roll Back COVID-19 Restrictions; Guns in America. Aired 2-2:45a ET

Aired April 29, 2021 - 02:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from here in the United States and all around the world, this is CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, America is on the move again. That was the opening message of President Biden's speech to Congress on his first 100 days, touting his ability to steer the country out of the pandemic.

RUDD: Giuliani's lawyer responds after federal agents raided the former mayor's New York apartment. With that could mean for his former client and Donald Trump.

And India reports yet another record number of daily COVID-19 cases as the country runs low on oxygen, meds, tests and ICU beds.


CHURCH: Good to have you with us.

Joe Biden has big plans for his next 100 days in office. The U.S. President delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress just a few hours ago, touting an ambitious economic plan, costing $4 trillion on top of the nearly $2 trillion already improved for COVID relief.

His new American Families Plan will include money for a host of bread and butter issues like paid family leave, child care, preschool education and free community college. The president calls it an investment in the future that will create millions of jobs and trillions in economic growth.

He's hoping to capitalize on the success of his COVID vaccination efforts and Americans' approval of how he's handled the pandemic.


BIDEN: Inherited a nation, we all did, that was in crisis, the worst pandemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.

Now after just 100 days, I can report to the nation, America is on the move again.


CHURCH: And the president's address has Americans feeling optimistic about the country's direction. CNN spoke to people who watched the speech, which is a more Democratic audience in the country in general, of course; 51 percent said their reaction was very positive; 27 percent were somewhat positive. 22 percent had a negative reaction. More now on the president's address from CNN's Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Declaring that America is on the move again, President Biden delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, making the case that he says peril can be turned into possibility, setbacks can be turned into strength, clearly trying to make the coronavirus pandemic a moment of opportunity to reshape the U.S. government.

In a sweeping address that went more than an hour in length, the president making an argument for reshaping the American economy, focusing specifically on the social safety net, calling for a sweeping variety of programs, like free community college, expanding child care, big infrastructure plans.

It went on and on to the tune of nearly $6 trillion. The question here will be how to pay for all these proposals. That, of course, is raising taxes on the wealthy. The president made clear, slowing down his remarks, speaking clearly and directly, that those making under $400,000 would not see a tax increase. Those making more than that, certainly would.

This was just an opening gambit, if you will, speaking to a much scaled-down audience of lawmakers. Some 200 senators and representatives in the room, nearly more than 1,000 are, of course, this was because of the pandemic precautions.

Clearly, this speech also playing out against the backdrop of history. For the first time in the U.S. history, a woman vice president, the woman Speaker on the House, standing behind President Biden, he made clear that this was long overdue. Certainly, Vice President Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi making history in their own right.


ZELENY: Going forward, the president also used a global call, saying that the U.S. must become more competitive against China. That was his rationale for big infrastructure programs and other sweeping spending measures.

Now going forward on this, wrapping the first 100 days in office, the legislative proposals now are really going to test the rest of his presidency as he heads to his second 100 days and beyond. Clearly, Democrats in the audience liked what they heard. Republicans leaving

the chamber said they thought the president did not try and unify the country here. He did talk so much about spending proposals and also including a litany of gun reform, voting rights and other matters.

There was a global sense of this that he said, in speaking with leaders around the world, he said America's back.

But they have a question, how long will America be back for?

This is a reference to the post Trump era. It was a clear turning of the page from president Trump; the president, Biden, for his part, did not mention his predecessor at all but clearly, making the case he believes now is a moment to turn the page and push for big changes and programs here in the U.S. -- Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: And senator Tim Scott of South Carolina delivered the Republican response. It was sharply critical of President Biden, for what he called empty platitudes instead of true bipartisanship. Instead, he said the former president should get credit for the successful COVID vaccine rollout and improving job numbers.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): The coronavirus is on the run, thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccine. Thanks to our bipartisan work last, year job openings are rebounding.

So why do we feel so divided, anxious?

A nation with so much cause for hope should not feel so heavy laden. Our best feature will not come from Washington's schemes or socialist streams. It will come from you, the American people.


CHURCH: Scott also defended Republican efforts on voting reform, saying the party wants to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. And he raised eyebrows with the claim that America is not a racist country.

Joining me now is Patrick healy. He is the politics editor for "The New York Times."

I appreciate you being with us.


CHURCH: How did President Biden go with his first address for a joint session of Congress in the midst of a pandemic, unveiling a major new policy initiative and marking his first 100 days in office?

What stood out? HEALY: I think Biden has never been known as a really bright (ph) speechmaker but this was a strong address to Congress under extraordinary circumstances. You had a chamber that holds 1,600 people, at this time was holding 200 people.

But he was talking to the American people and really trying to focus particularly on his American jobs plan and trying to humanize it, in the way of Bill Clinton's best speeches, who was known for bringing empathy and specific examples of people into his speeches, making the stakes really relate to Americans.

I think President Biden did that quite a bit tonight in terms of getting very specific about what he would do with his plan, that this is a blue collar plan for Americans whose jobs would by and large go to Americans who didn't have college degrees.

This was a plan for everyone. Part of what he was saying, there for Republican voters, that vote as Democrats.

CHURCH: President Biden told lawmakers Americas on the move again after emerging from the pandemic or starting to, at least and an economic slide but with proposed spending of some $4 trillion on work or students and families and his infrastructure plan, can Joe Biden get this done without causing severe economic side effects?

Even Democrat senator manchin is uncomfortable with that price tag.

HEALY: There are real concerns about the potential for economic reverberations, whether the inflation will get too high or parts of the plan would hit some states like senator manchin's West Virginia.


HEALY: The reality is, President Biden said on the Left and Center, even some on the Right will believe this will have a strong impact on the economy and inflation right now in the United States is not something that's likely to become a great concern.

What is a concern and what the president got into, is the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, the 2 million women who have left the workforce during the pandemic. Basically, people are looking for not just the check coming in the mail but looking for some kind of more permanent work.

CHURCH: Patrick, Republicans criticized Joe Biden, saying he talked of unity, bipartisanship in his inaugural address. They say they haven't seen much evidence of unity or outreach.

Is that a problem of the GOP's own making?

Or is it Biden's fault?

HEALY: The Republicans, like with Obama and Clinton, sort of made clear they are not interested in, at least so far, in doing some serious negotiations. They're not interested in talking about what to do with the tax system that's added to the deficit of America because of the 2017 tax cut that went to wealthy Americans and corporations.

In terms of meeting both sides halfway, the president is reaching out much more than his immediate predecessor did. But so far, he's not finding partners willing to do something now and doing nothing is not an option.

What the president and his team have done that's quite interesting, Rosemary, they are focusing on the fact a lot of these proposals are popular with Republican voters and they are redefining bipartisanship to some extent, not as getting new Republican votes in Congress but having support from Republican voters. That could be a new way of thinking about a bipartisan approach.

CHURCH: In the hours ahead, we'll see how it's been received by Americans, Patrick Healy, thanks so much for joining. I appreciate it.

HEALY: Thanks, Rosemary.

CHURCH: The other big story out of Washington, the U.S. Justice Department green-lighting an extraordinary raid on the office and apartment of Rudy Giuliani, who is former U.S. president Donald Trump's personal attorney.

We are told the federal agency seized cellphones that computers during the Sunrise Operation. This is a major escalation of the two year investigation into Giuliani's dealings in Ukraine. Giuliani has not been charged and has denied all wrongdoing.

But it is highly unusual for prosecutors to execute a search warrant on a lawyer that could theoretically uncover privileged attorney client information. CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid has the details.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I spoke with an attorney for Rudy Giuliani and he described to me what was in this search warrant that was executed on the former mayor. He says in the search warrant, it confirms that this is related to an investigation into possible foreign lobbying violations.

If you are working on behalf of a foreign government, you need to disclose that to the Justice Department.

We learned that Giuliani's electronic devices were seized. We know, pursuant to this warrant, investigators were especially interested in any communications he had with certain individuals, including a man named John solomon (ph), who wrote about Ukraine in the weeks and months leading up to the election.

But this is a significant turning point in this investigation. Looking at whether Giuliani was lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian officials while representing former president Trump and also pushing Ukrainian officials to announce some sort of investigation into the Bidens.

We've also learned, though, he was not the only attorney who once represented former president Trump who received a visit from investigators Wednesday.

We've also learned that victoria tensing, a woman who represented president Trump during his time in office for certain controversies, she also got a visit from investigators and they arrived at her home early Wednesday.

They served a warrant also related to the same New York investigation and we learned they actually took her cell phone. And this is incredibly unusual to execute warrants like this on lawyers.


REID: There are a lot of concerns about potentially obtaining confidential communications. To serve a warrant on a lawyer who represented a former president, never mind two attorneys, highly unusual. And, again at the core of this investigation, our questions about former -- or about foreign lobbying.

And traditionally, that's been a paperwork crime prior to the Trump administration. It was just a matter of making sure you had the appropriate paperwork to disclose who you were lobbying for.

So incredibly significant development in this investigation with somewhat unusual tactics. But this would have had to have been something that would've been approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department, likely by the deputy attorney general of the United States, either the acting deputy attorney general or the newly installed deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco. Absolutely something that would have to go to the top of the Justice Department to execute warrants like these -- Paula reid, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: The U.S. Justice Department says federal prosecutors have indicted three men in the killing of ahmaud arbery. The Black 25-year- old was out for a jog here in the state of Georgia back in February 2020. He was chased down by three men and shot dead. A video of what happened was posted online in May and went viral.

The three white men now face the new hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges as well as state murder charges. Arbery's mother tells CNN that this is one step closer to justice.

Protesters in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, took to the streets Wednesday evening, demanding the release body cam footage showing the deadly police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. Once curfew set in, several arrests were made to disperse the demonstrators, who gathered after a judge denied a request to release the video, showing last week's fatal incident. CNN's Jason Carroll has the latest.


LILLIE BROWN CLARK, ANDREW BROWN JR.'S AUNT: Andy Jr. has been silenced. So his voice now --

(CROSSTALK) CLARK: -- cameras. That's how he will speak to us and that will be his side of the story.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Andrew Brown Jr.'s family say they now have a better account of what happened during his shooting after a judge ruled members of the family can review additional footage from the deputies.

ELISHA VILLARD, ANDREW BROWN JR.'S COUSIN: I guess justice was served. I guess. I mean, I feel good about it, the situation.

CARROLL (voice-over): Wednesday afternoon, superior court judge Jeffrey Foster cited overwhelming interest to the family for his ruling. It requires that the sheriff's department to allow Brown's adult son and one attorney licensed in the state to view footage from five videos, including live body cam footage.

As for the public --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The video can be held from release for a period of no less than 30 days and no more than 45 days.

CARROLL (voice-over): The judge rules the names and faces of the officers will be blurred to protect their identities. The county sheriff told us he wants the public to see the footage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to respect the DA's and the judge's wishes.

car This is the outcome you are hoping for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not totally, no sir.

CARROLL: What would've been the ideal outcome?


CARROLL: Full release, because?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the community, transparency.

CARROLL (voice-over): The sheriff in support of the public seeing the body cam video, after the county district attorney told the court that the body cam footage Brown's car came into contact with law enforcement twice before he says they opened fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The next movement of the car is forward. It's in the direction of law enforcement. It makes contact with law enforcement. It is then and only then you hear shots.

CARROLL (voice-over): They also criticized Brown family attorney of misleading the public with her comments of what she saw on the 22nd clip of body cam footage she saw on Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were designed to prejudice a proceeding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At no time have I given any misrepresentations. I still stand by what I saw.

CARROLL (voice-over): Brown's family says they must see for themselves if his car made contact with any of the deputies.

CLARK: Not buing it.

CARROLL: What do you think the authorities will argue then going forward?

VILLARD: Shoot an unarmed man?



CHURCH: Jason Carroll with that report.

As the number of cremations in India outstrips the official daily death count, a U.S. health institute predicts the actual death toll is likely much higher. We will hear from the director of the institute, that's next.





CHURCH: "Everyone is afraid, every single person," those words from a New Delhi resident, as India grapples with catastrophic surges in COVID-19 deaths and infections. The country has just reported more than 3,600 deaths and almost 380,000 new cases in the past 24 hours, breaking global records for yet another day.

Experts say, the actual numbers are likely much higher, as many are battling the illness and dying in their homes.

In Delhi, officials are begging the government to provide more firewood for cremations and graveyards are running out of space. Patients are sitting outside of hospitals, waiting for a bed. And family members are afraid it may be the last time they see their loved ones alive.

Now there is a scramble to sign up for vaccines as registration opens for all adults. But there are not enough vaccines to give to the estimated 600 million eligible people.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.


Good to be here.

CHURCH: We have seen COVID cases and deaths exploding across India, a tragedy and horror that is revealing insufficient oxygen supplies, even firewood for cremations.

How much worse do you fear this may get, even as medical supplies from other nations arrive?

MURRAY: From what we understand in our modeling of the epidemic in India, we expect the death toll will continue rising, probably reach over 10,000 a day in about a 2- to 3-week period and should peak at around 12,000 to 14,000 deaths a day.

There is a lot of bad times ahead but that also means we think infections, which happen before deaths, of course, are close to peaking probably next week.

CHURCH: Those death toll numbers, of course, are just horrifying and Indian authorities are reporting more than 300,000 COVID cases a day and about 3,000 deaths a day.

Your calculations clearly show those numbers are more likely double that or close to double.

How are you able to figure that out?

And are you saying the Indian government is covering up the real numbers or just doesn't know them?

MURRAY: Well, when we look around the world at COVID deaths, we find that pretty much, in every country, there is some underregistration of actual death tolls from COVID, ranging from really huge underregistration in some countries in central Asia, to capturing about one in three deaths in many low and middle income countries.

It's really the lack of testing that is the reason for the undercount.

CHURCH: Of course, the tragedy here is that the Indian government doesn't appear to grasp the enormity of this pandemic, still allowing political rallies in the country, mitigation efforts are not in place sufficiently, religious festivals have been allowed across the country as well as these political rallies stopping, held as prime minister Modi took a victory lap just a couple of months ago, claiming he had defeated the virus.

How does that mishandling of the health crisis play into your calculations certainly when you're trying to predict where this is going?

MURRAY: Well, we looked very carefully at all the social distancing mandates that each state in India has put in place. Some states have much stronger mandates than others. There are very few, if any, federal government mandates. It's really quite varied across the states. Some states put in pretty

strong mandates about 2 to 3 weeks ago and that's going to help bring infections, help to bring them down.

Other states have not and we expect the infections there to keep rising. I think the key driver here, that is why it's so different in the month of April, is the appearance of these new variants that have increased transmission and meant that people previously infected can get reinfected.

CHURCH: And of course, we did see similar failures, maybe not on this level but right here in the United States last year.

Using that as a model and in other nations, such as the U.K. in Italy, how can India turn this around?

MURRAY: We have a main strategy -- and this is true throughout the pandemic and it remains true in a setting of exponential growth such as in India. The primary strategy is putting in place the social distancing mandates, increasing mask use and getting people to avoid those interactions with each other.

The second strategy is increasing vaccination. That is going to be critical. India is a major producer of AstraZeneca. So getting vaccines into arms is going to be important.

CHURCH: Dr. Christopher Murray, we thank you very much for talking with us.

MURRAY: My pleasure.

CHURCH: Brazil's president is lashing out and criticizing a parliamentary commission investigating the federal government's response to the pandemic. Jair Bolsonaro questioned whether the senate commission would call governors and mayors to testify or whether it will hold an off-season carnival.

The president claims he has provided resources to local officials to fight the outbreak but he has also long downplayed the severity of COVID and resisted lockdown measures despite his country's surging cases.


CHURCH: The British prime minister is now under full investigation over the pricing and remodeling of his Downing Street flat. Boris Johnson insists he would pay for it but his former chief advisor has said the plan was to have Conservative Party donors pick up the tab.

British media put the cost at close to $300,000. The leader of the U.K.'s opposition Labour Party demanded answers in Parliament Wednesday.


KEIR STARMER, U.K. LABOUR LEADER: Either the taxpayer paid the initial invoice or it was the Conservative Party. Or it was a private donor. Or it was the prime minister. So I'm making it easier for the prime minister. It's now multiple choice.


STARMER: There are only four options. It should be easier than fighting the chatty rats, Mr. Speaker. So I ask the prime minister again, who paid the initial invoice, initial invoice, Prime Minister, for the redecoration of the prime minister's flat, the initial invoice?


BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Mr. speaker, I have given him the answer and the answer is I have -- I have covered the cost. And most people will find it absolutely bizarre. Of course there is an electoral commission investigating this and I can tell you, I've been informed of the code of conduct, with ministers -- ministerial code and I -- officials have been kept -- been advising me throughout this whole thing.

But I think people will think it absolutely bizarre that he is focusing on this issue when what people want to know is, what plans the government might have to improve the life of people in this country?

And let me tell, if he talks about housing again, we are helping people -- on the whole, I'd rather not spend taxpayers' money, by the way, like the last Labour government who spent 500,000 pounds of taxpayers' money on the Downing Street. But I'd rather -- in fact, I would -- yes, they did. Yes, they did, totting it up.


CHURCH: The prime minister is also under fire for allegedly saying last year that he would rather see bodies piled high than order another COVID lockdown. He denies making the remark.

Coming, up President Biden's ambitious plan to spend trillions of dollars to boost the economy.


BIDEN: American tax dollars are going to be used to buy American products made in America to create American jobs. That's the way it's supposed to be and it will be in this administration.





(MUSIC PLAYING) CHURCH: On the heels of his successful vaccination distribution program, President Biden is betting Americans will support a bigger government offering more services. He outlined his plan to spend nearly $2 trillion to improve infrastructure, which he said would create good paying jobs.

It's part of what he called the blue collar blueprint to build America. Jobs with good pay was a recurring theme.


BIDEN: By the way, while you're thinking about sending things to my desk, let's raise the minimum wage to $15. We need to ensure greater equity and opportunity for women. And while we're doing this, let's get the Paycheck Fairness Act to my desk as well. Equal pay. It's been much too long. And if you wonder whether it's too long, look behind me.


CHURCH: John Defterios is and Abu Dhabi with more on the president's plans.

Good to see you, John. President Biden has proposed two major spending plans for low and middle income families and infrastructure is closely linked to fighting climate change at the same time?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: It's the strategy of Joe Biden, let's put it that way, Rosemary. It's the dual challenge to create jobs or recreate them after losing 10 million during the pandemic crisis. Also, fight the biggest challenge of the next generation, that is climate change, of course. No doubt about. It

President Biden believes and many would agree that they have not had any major infrastructure projects for better than a half century. Roads, rails, bridges, the national grid for the United States.

For example, the Biden administration wants to take the electric grid and make it net emissions by 2035. That's a 14-year timeline. And in doing so, create as you suggested a blue collar union jobs along the way. It's not cheap, around $2 trillion . If you think about, it is 3 packages he proposes, one has passed on the pandemic.

A total of $6 trillion on top of what Donald Trump did, more than $3 trillion in 2020. It's an enormous sum, he says the time is right. Let's take a listen.


BIDEN: For me, when I think climate change, I think jobs.

The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy-efficient buildings and homes. Electrical workers, IBEW members installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways, so we can own --


BIDEN: -- so we can own the electric car market.

Think about it. There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can't be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing. No reason.


DEFTERIOS: There's a strategy to pay for it, here and that is corporate taxes on America. Companies, of course, Rosemary, going from 21 percent under Donald Trump to 28 percent under Joe Biden. Seems high, not compared to Europe, for example or Asia and not to 35 percent under President Obama. You can hear the narrative here. We can tackle climate change, we can create better jobs for middle income America, if we do it correctly.

And we can challenge China. This is a test for democracies. China is moving ahead, it's autocratic, it makes decisions. He wants America to lead the recovery of democracies and the challenge of populism over the last few years -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: John Defterios, many thanks for that, appreciate it. Some U.S. states are rolling back COVID restrictions as cases fall and vaccinations rise. But experts warn it could be too much too soon.





CHURCH: -- Congress. President Joe Biden said the U.S. has provided Americans over 220 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, more than doubling his goal of 100 million in his first 100 days.

Meantime, cases in the U.S. continue to fall. CNN's Alexandra Field has our report.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: It's even better than what you would've expected.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the real world, the effectiveness of COVID vaccines is surpassing already high expectations set by clinical trials.

FAUCI: That's the reason why you hear all of us in the public health sector essentially pleading with people to get vaccinated.

FIELD (voice-over): Nationwide, the average number of new infections, the lowest it's been in five weeks; the average number of COVID related deaths, the lowest it's been since last summer.

FAUCI: The numbers are coming, down and I believe as they come, down you will see more liberal guidelines.

FIELD (voice-over): It's happening already but not fast enough for many who got their vaccines and want to get back to normal much faster.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: They haven't really gone far enough. They really need to tell Americans that, if you are vaccinated, you are immune.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Why put any restraints on the vaccinated?

ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR ADVISER, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM: Let me roll it up this way. Everything you do is safer if you are vaccinated, everything. Go to a wedding, go to a restaurant, hang out with friends, go to a barbecue, go to work.

Everything you do is much safer if you've been vaccinated. If you haven't been vaccinated, those things are still dangerous.

FIELD (voice-over): Even, so many states lifting mask mandates, almost half the U.S. without, even before the CDC issued new guidance, saying masks aren't necessary outdoors for the vaccinated, except in very large crowds.

Louisiana dropping its mask mandate. Masks will still be a must in places like schools and government buildings.

The governor of Tennessee declaring the end of the COVID-19 health emergency with thousands of new cases there daily and just 25 percent of the state's population fully vaccinated.

In California, Disneyland opening its gates to California residents only for the first time in more than a year during a soft open.


FIELD (voice-over): Los Angeles County is moving to its lowest level for restrictions.

And New York City now planning to lift curfews for restaurants and bars next month.

All this while the White House takes this campaign into overdrive, encouraging more people to get their shots, that as popular voices share opinions at odds with the medical experts' advice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are a healthy person and exercising and you are young, you are eating well, I don't think you need to worry about this.

FAUCI: Then you will pass the infection on to someone else, who might pass it on to someone else, who might really get seriously ill and might die. So you have societal responsibility in your choices, that's where I disagree with Mr. Roban (ph).

FIELD: While the focus remains very much on vaccinations right now, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says they are working on an antiviral pill as a treatment for COVID. He hopes it might be ready for authorization this year -- in New York, Alexandra Field, CNN.


CHURCH: Hospitals across South and Central America are struggling to cope with COVID cases. Matt Rivers reports from Mexico City.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We continue to get reminders that throughout the Western Hemisphere in the Americas, this pandemic is not getting better as fast as many of us hoped it would at this point.

In the last week, of all the COVID deaths worldwide, one in four were recorded in the Americas. Meanwhile, looking throughout Latin America, Pan American Health Organization says infection in about every country in the region are rising, concerning trends in Costa Rica, hospitals filling up in Guatemala and Colombia.

ICU occupancy still a major concern in main cities like Bogota. Meanwhile in Brazil, a new study suggests that 90 percent roughly of new COVID infections in the southeastern state of Sao Paulo are due to the P.1 variant.

That's concerning, of course, because scientists say the P.1 variant is more transmissible than other variants.

Some good news though with Mexico and Russia, announcing that Mexico will begin to start packaging domestically the Russian vaccine. More than 1 million doses of that vaccine have already been given out here in Mexico. That domestic packaging of that vaccine expected to start in the coming weeks -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CHURCH: Still to come, experts in the U.S. are now pushing for gun violence to be treated as a public health crisis.

Could this new approach bring about a solution?

We will have that story next.






BIDEN: And I'll do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence. But it's time for Congress to act as well. These kinds of reasonable reforms have overwhelming support from the American people including many gun owners. The country supports reforms and Congress should act. This shouldn't be a red or blue issue.


CHURCH: U.S. President Joe Biden in his first speech to Congress calling on lawmakers to finally take action against gun violence. He says now is the time for this escalating and deadly epidemic in America to end.

It seems almost every day we report on a shooting death somewhere in America, with the greatest attention going to mass shootings when the death toll is especially horrific. CNN's Erica Hill has been looking into how views on gun violence may be changing and why so many appear to be almost numb to the gun violence.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tragedy on a near daily basis.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Three shootings in Atlanta spas where at least 7 people are killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking overnight, another mass shooting in the U.S.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: At least eight people were killed at a FedEx warehouse near the airport in Indianapolis.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think it's difficult to not be numb. The numbers being so huge, it's almost unimaginable.

HILL (voice-over): Almost unimaginable and yet increasingly predictable.

DAVID HEMENWAY, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The average is at least 20 times the likelihood that someone in the United States will die of a gun death than people in underdeveloped countries.

HILL (voice-over): It's not just mass shooting events, which is only as small fraction of gun related deaths in the U.S. In 2019, more than 60 percent were suicides. And every day, an average of over 300 people are injured by a firearm, according to researchers at Penn and Columbia.

RANNEY: Our gun violence epidemic is a uniquely American problem. The firearm holds a different place in our American mythology and history than it does in any other country. We have to be able to hold up both of those things as true.

HILL (voice-over): Which is why, in a nation that more guns than people, there is a renewed push to put this violence as a public health crisis. The American Medical Association began using the term in 2016 yet recent polling from Quinnipiac finds most Americans don't agree.

HILL: Forty-five percent of people says this is a public health crisis, 41 percent say it's a problem, not a crisis.

What do you make of that?

RANNEY: I think those who say it's not a crisis haven't been touched by it yet.

HILL (voice-over): Dr. Megan Ranney says a public health approach rooted in science, not politics, has proven results.

RANNEY: Back in the '70s, our rate of deaths from car crashes was at the highest ever. We addressed it like a public health crisis. We did research, we re-engineered cars, we educated people. By taking that approach we reduced the number of car crash deaths by more than two thirds.

HILL (voice-over): One hurdle with this public health care crisis, that critical important data.


HILL (voice-over): Federal research funding for firearm related violence nearly dried up in the mid-'90s when the Republican led Congress with backing from the NRA threatened to cut CDC funding if the agency continued to study gun injuries and deaths, accusing them of promoting gun control and effectively halting that public research.

HEMENWAY: The big thing is we don't know what we don't know. There is open carry, is that good or bad?

We know a lot of goods are stolen. What happens to these guns?

We know almost nothing. We know just a little a bit of gun training, does gun training really matter?

HILL (voice-over): What we do know, gun violence has a broad, lasting impact.

RANNEY: No one wants to see themselves, their loved ones or someone in the community get hurt or killed with a gun. When we start with that, then we start to have discussions about making guns safer and how do you make the people behind them safer.

HILL: Dr. Ranney believes reducing gun violence requires bringing both problems, the guns and the people, and she sais gun owners have to be part of this conversation.

Gun violence is a reality here in the United States and addressing it is both complicated and increasingly political. But there is hope that, as the voices change, these discussions can make a difference -- in New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


CHURCH: And I'm Rosemary Church. Thank you so much for your company. CNN NEWSROOM continues with Kim Brunhuber. Have yourself a wonderful day.