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One Week of Clashes Between Israelis and Hamas; Two Killed in Bleacher Collapse in a Synagogue in West Bank; Daily Infections in India Dropping; Taiwan Fighting Biggest Outbreak; Remote Shetland Island Now Fully Vaccinated; Airstrikes In Gaza Early Monday Morning; Six Year Old Girl Pulled Alive From Rubble In Gaza Sunday; Anger At Present And Past Overflows At Lebanon Protest. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 17, 2021 - 02:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow. You are watching "CNN Newsroom."

So just ahead, today marks one week of clashes between Israel and Hamas. What we are hearing about one of Israel's latest attacks. Some of the details might shock you.

Plus, a miracle and a tragedy. The story of a 6-year-old survivor pulled from the rubble. And, many Americans are thrilled about the lifting of mask restrictions, but one important group is not. Health care workers on the front lines. We hear from the nurse leading the charge to mask backup.

Good to have you along this hour. So the intense conflict in Israel and Gaza is now in its second week and is the deadliest in years. At last check, the Palestinian Ministry of Health says the death toll in Gaza has climbed to a total of 197. At least 10 people in Israel have died in rocket attacks fired from Gaza according to the Israeli military.

Now, the Israeli military also says at least 3,100 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel over the past week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says over 1,500 targets have been hit in Gaza in recent days. Right now, there appears to be no break in the escalating cycle of violence.

Explosions from Israeli airstrikes, lit the sky over Gaza earlier Monday morning following a Hamas claim that it fired rockets into southern Israel. Israel says it struck nine homes belonging to high- ranking Hamas commanders. Well, Nic Robertson looks back at the past week of deadly fighting. Nick.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: First, Hamas' rockets reaching Jerusalem. Followed by Israel's fast response, pounding Gaza. A week of accelerated warfare later, fear, death, suffering on both sides.

Gazan's toll significantly higher, as it has been in previous such confrontations. Different this time, militants sophisticated heat seeking weapons and Hamas' rockets, more of them reaching farther from Gaza, but a greater intensity than ever before. Cutting deeper into Israel's sense of safety. Also, different sudden open confrontation between Israel's Arab and Jews. Catching Israel by surprise.


DENNIS ROSS, FORMER U.S. ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST: We haven't seen this kind of internal conflict where the real social fabric of the country is being stressed.

ROBERTSON: The West Bank, generational Palestinian anger ignited by Gazan's suffering, resulting in deadly confrontation with Israeli police.

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: If you combine that all together, it is a very different situation than what we've seen in the past.

ROBERTSON: Before the first rocket fired, a perfect storm brewing. Planned Palestinian evictions in Jerusalem, a collective Palestinian pain, raising tensions. Worsened by heavy-handed Israeli police tactics at Islam's third holiest site during Islam's holiest week that Hamas exploited. All against the background of political stagnation and increasing polarization.

MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: In the last 10 years, we've seen a swing in Israel to the right. And that pendulum is still being swinging further to the right. And that has enabled this kind of chauvinistic extremism to gain a greater grip, and that has roiled things with the Palestinians.

ROBERTSON: Both sides now under increasing American pressure to end the conflict.

ROSS: The real question is going to be do the Israelis feel that they have exacted enough of a price on Hamas and is Hamas ready to end this.

ROBERTSON: Saturday night, Hamas signaled they are ready. Unilaterally stopping rocket attacks on Tel Aviv for 2 hours. Netanyahu, whose political prospects to hold on to the premiership rose over the past week, seems less willing. Sunday, the deadliest, day of the week in Gaza.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: We are trying to degrade Hamas terrorist abilities and to degrade their will to do this again. So, it will take some time, I hope it won't take long, but it's not immediate.

ROBERTSON: But with international pressure mounting too, just possible, this Gaza conflict won't go a second week. The problems that caused it, however, have no resolution in sight. Nic Robertson, CNN, Ashdod, Israel.


CURNOW: Well, Hadas Gold is in Ashdod, Israel with the latest. Hadas, hi. Good to see you. So there have been more airstrikes this morning, Israeli military has released footage, I just want to bring it up, of Israeli warplanes hitting a Hamas tunnel shaft which they say was located -- here it is here -- near a kindergarten and a mosque. What else are the IDF saying about this video just into CNN?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORESPONDENT: You know, Robyn, we are at 15 and a half miles from the Gaza strip here in Ashdod and all morning long, we have been hearing jets buzzing us overhead. Occasionally, hearing explosions in the distance. And at one point, we did see a very large black plume of smoke from what maybe the northern end of the Gaza strip.

And as you know, the Israeli military has confirmed that overnight and over the past few hours, they have struck several what they say are Hamas targets and militant targets in Gaza, including the homes of what they say are Hamas commanders where they say they were also storing weapons.

And part of this tunnel system, this has been one of the main targets that the Israeli military has been aiming for in this most recent conflict. It's this what they're calling the Hamas metro. They say it's a series of thousands of kilometers of tunnels underneath all of Gaza, which they say they have -- were used for everything from hiding, to storing weapons, to operation centers.

And over the last few hours, they say they have targeted one of those, which as you noted, the Israeli military says was positioned near a kindergarten and a mosque. Now, this is one of the constant issues that Israel says it has with Hamas. Not only firing rockets, but also that they -- Israeli military says that they use civilians as shields.

And we've seen that as one of the reasons behind taking down some of these buildings in Gaza, including the building that hosted the Associated Press and Al Jazeera offices. The Israeli military said that Hamas was also using that building for military intelligence and that they said that Hamas hides behind civilians.

But we are seeing increasing condemnation around the world over just the horrific death toll and destruction that we are seeing in Gaza as you noted, where at 197 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. More than 55 of them children.

Israel says they've killed 75 -- at least 75 militants in Gaza. In Israel, 10 people have been killed including a child and a soldier in these rocket attacks. I do have to say that in Ashdod, this is the city that according to the Israeli military has received the highest number of red alert sirens indicating incoming rocket attack.

But, since around 9:00 pm last night, we have not heard a siren, which is rather extended period of calm for the city. Now, it doesn't say that we're not going to get one any second now. Whether that is an indication that things are calming down, it's hard to say because we are seeing increased or we are seeing continued military action into Gaza.

But we do know that the international pressure and diplomatic work behind the scenes continues between the U.S., which is sent one of its top Middle East envoys to this region to try and talk to both sides. We know the Egyptians, the Qataris, are all working on this.

But as we heard Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say yesterday, they plan to continue this operation until they feel that their military objectives have been met to try and degrade Hamas as much as possible. But all of this -- while all of this continues, we are continuing to see the suffering and the destruction to civilians on both sides. Robyn?

CURNOW: Thank you very much for that report there in Ashdod, Israel. Hadas Gold, appreciate it.

So the U.S. is calling for a de-escalation of the violence. President Biden spend the weekend on the phone with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He also briefly mention the conflict in a recorded message marking the end of Ramadan. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We also believe Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy. And my administration is going to continue to engage Palestinians and Israelis, and other regional partners to work towards sustained calm.


Meantime, the Biden administration is receiving growing criticism from lawmakers from both parties over his handling of the crisis. Democrat Adam Schiff urged the administration to "push harder to end the fighting."


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (R-CA): And I think we need to do everything possible to bring about a cease-fire. I think the administration needs to push harder on Israel and the Palestinian authority to stop the violence, bring about a cease-fire, end these hostilities.


CURNOW: Also on Sunday, more than 25 democratic and independent senators released a joint statement calling for an immediate cease- fire.

[02:10:03] Meanwhile, a Jewish holiday is being marred by a tragic accident, adding further stress to hospitals and health care workers in the Middle East. Israeli emergency services say at least two people died, more than 100 were injured when a bleacher collapsed at the synagogue in the West Bank. Ben Wedeman was on the scene. Here's his report.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amidst everything that is happening here, another disaster. This one, unrelated to the current crisis in which several dozen people were injured and several killed in a catastrophe in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze'ev.

Hundreds of worshippers commemorating the Jewish holiday of Shavuot were crammed on to bleachers and suddenly, the upper bleachers collapsed. We spoke to one of the first responders who described a scene of pandemonium with the injured piled on top of one another. We also spoke to the head of the regional medical services. This is what he said.


UNKNOWN: We saw the pictures, immediately. We send around 40 or 50 ambulances including intensive care units, with many paramedics and medics. They arrived over here and they treated the patients who were injured. Evacuated people more than 100 people, several type of injured through all the hospital in Jerusalem.


WEDEMAN: And of course, those medical services are under stress due to the current crisis in and around Israel. I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Givat Ze'ev.

CURNOW: Thanks to Ben for that. So coming up on CNN, officials in Taiwan say there is no need to panic and rush out and buy groceries. How the island went from seemingly containing the virus to its worst outbreak of the pandemic yet. We have a live report from Taipei, that to is next.



CURNOW: Welcome back. It is 15 minutes past the hour. India has reported a significant dip in daily COVID cases with numbers below 300,000 for the first time in nearly a month. But with the daily death toll still topping 4,000, the Indian government has announced a plan to contain COVID in rural areas, which is certainly seeing some of these worst surges.

Elsewhere though in Asia, Taiwan is increasing its coronavirus restrictions after a new surge in cases there. All schools will be closed for two weeks starting Tuesday in Taipei and in New Taipei city.

Well, joining me now to discuss all of these, Anna Coren is with us from Hong Kong, Will Ripley is in Taiwan. Will, I'll get you in just a moment. Anna, hi. Can you just give us an update on the situation in India and just how folks are dealing with it over there?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You mentioned the dip in numbers, Robyn, and that generally comes after the weekend. However, this is quite significant as you say, the first time in 25 days that infections have dropped below 300,000. It's in line with some modeling that suggests that India has reached its peak, at least certainly in the cities. We are now seeing a surge in COVID in rural areas.

And we have to remember that two-thirds of Indians live in regional India. The government is finally paying attention to this part of the world. They are saying that community centers, schools, government buildings are going to be used to care for COVID patients, mild cases. And that rural health clinics will be stocked with oxygen and beds, remembering that there was a short supply of both oxygen and beds in the cities, virtually nonexistent in rural areas.

Now, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he finally addressed the people of India last Friday where he talked about the government being on this ware footing and dealing with this invisible enemy. He said focus must now turn to regional areas. Much of the country is in lockdown despite the prime minister refusing to enforce a nationwide ban.

And interestingly, Robyn, in the capital New Delhi, the government has gone and arrested something like 15 people because they put up posters saying Mr. Modi, why did you send all of our children's vaccines overseas? I mean, we've been seeing this after over the past few weeks.

The government reacting to criticism. Trying to silence their critics. But certainly it seems to be the hashtag trending on twitter about, you know, where is the government? Arrest me too because of these overreaction to the present situation in New Delhi, Robyn.

CURNOW: Okay. Thanks for that update there, Anna Coren. Will Ripley, to you there in Taipei. So far, up until now, Taiwan had been doing pretty well. How are people feeling about these new restrictions?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's certainly unsettling, Robyn. Just minutes ago we received the new number of confirmed cases for yesterday, 333. That is a new pandemic record for Taiwan. The majority of the cases being reported here in Taipei and New Taipei City, and that's why both are now shutting down school starting tomorrow for the next two weeks.

Also, suspending operation of some local city councils, all in an effort to try to get people to stay inside, stay away from the kind of large gatherings that are being blamed on this latest spike. Taiwan was one of the first in the world with the onset of the pandemic to shut down. And as a result, they eliminated, virtually eliminated local cases here for many, many months.

And life returned to normal. Up until just a few days ago, people were out at night markets, at restaurants, at nightclubs. They were gathering in large groups with their families, with friends and life felt normal. Little did they know that a new infection had occurred and was being spread precisely because of that lack of social distancing? The complacency that we so often see in places that have enjoyed a relatively normal quality of life.


Taiwan was an extraordinary example of a country that really had gotten the pandemic under control, but now there are in a situation where there is no herd immunity for this island of 23 million people because there had been so few infections and they also have an acute vaccine shortage right now.

The government has almost run out of its vaccine supply. And getting more vaccines in a timely manner is proving to be a challenge in part because of the complicated relationship between the mainland and Taiwan and regional distributors and their loyalties to the mainland. So, you have a shortage of vaccines, a lot of people who are not immune, and as a result we are seeing at least in these early days a lot of compliance here on the streets of Taipei.

Streets that were just full of people just a few days ago, now all but empty, Robyn. People hoping that that will be enough to stop this surge in cases, although government officials have said they expect the case numbers to continue to tick up as more people learn that they have been infected in the coming days. It could be a rough go for a while here.

CURNOW: Okay. Will, it's great to have you there on the ground. Will Ripley, as always, thanks so much.

So, U.S. is in a much different position. Take a look at all the green you see here. Those states are seeing a decrease in the number of new cases in the past week. Only a few states are heading in the wrong direction. Progress against the virus is prompting many places to ease restrictions after the CDC relaxed mask requirements for fully vaccinated Americans.

And much of Britain can now reopen for business. Starting Monday, you could grab a pint at the pub, dine in restaurants indoors, go to the movies and yes, even hug a friend or two, all under the latest lifting of lockdown measures for England, Scotland and Wales.

So, a big reason for the U.K.'s turnaround is the success of its vaccine rollout. According to our world in data, nearly 30 percent of people in the U.K. are fully vaccinated with more than 56 million shots given so far.

And the British vaccine rollout is certainly reaching the most isolated parts of the U.K. as well. On the Shetland Islands located in the far north of Scotland, a break in the spring snow has finally allowed vaccines to get in by plane. Phil Black takes us to Fair Isle as one nurse prepares to vaccinate its entire population in just a few hours. Phil?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea, the weather is often dramatic. Always changing. It rolls over Shetland, a group of British islands around 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland.

In this remote, beautiful place, the landscape feels raw and powerful. These gusty hills are known for their short often feisty ponies. These waters are shared with apex predators. And well into spring, an arctic blast can blanket everything, grounding aircraft and delaying a potentially lifesaving mission.

On the Shetland Islands, the weather governs all, including efforts to roll out the coronavirus vaccines. Eventually, the sky is clear and an operation is launched to protect one of the U.K.'s most isolated communities.

From the region's only hospital, the doses are dispatched to the airfield. And escorted by Nurse Margaret Cooper. Her job is to distribute the vaccine on an extraordinary place. Fair Isle, a tiny wedge of land surrounded by open ocean, steep cliffs, sloping fields, more than a few sheep, and that's it.

People live here. Just 45 people. Soon we see them striding out, converging on the small building used as a medical office. That's where Margaret Cooper gets to work.

UNKNOWN: And you come have a seat.

BLACK (voice-over): A strong mix of jolly warmth --

UNKNOWN: All the better for the (inaudible).

BLACK (voice-over): -- and no nonsense efficiency.

UNKNOWN: Sharp scratch (ph). Sharp scratch (ph). Sharp scratch (ph).

UNKNOWN: That's right.

UNKNOWN: Here we go. Hurt you?

UNKNOWN: No, it's okay.

BLACK (voice-over): And the residents of Fair Isle are grateful.

(On camera): How are you feeling today?

UNKNOWN: The sun is shining. After a week of snow we've had our second vaccine and so yes, pretty good. Pretty good.

BLACK (voice-over): Unlike the rest of the U.K., everyone here is getting vaccinated at the same time regardless of age.

UNKNOWN: Very happy to have had the second jab and very privileged because in spite of my grey hair, I'm not that old.

BLACK (voice-over): For all the obvious reasons, life here is isolating, but especially during the pandemic.


For more than a year, Fair Isle has stayed largely closed off to the world.

(On camera): Even here there is a fear of the virus.

JIMMY STOUT, FAIR ISLE RESIDENT: It's a bigger fear in a certain way because if it did come here it could be devastating. It could spread like wildfire.

BLACK (voice-over): Jimmy Stout has spent most of his 77 years on the island.

STOUT: It's been very quiet. It's been like what that was when I was a child growing up here. There is tourism now and people coming (inaudible) in, but it's been very, very quiet.

BLACK (voice-over): Getting the doses here was challenging, but injecting them into arms only takes a few hours. A small, fragile, remote community with limited medical facilities now has some peace of mind.

UNKNOWN: Hi. How are you?

BLACK (voice-over): Tommy Heidman (ph) is one of the last. He moved here from upstate New York 15 years ago.

(On camera): There are people all over the world who desperately want this vaccine, but here we are on Fair Isle and you've got it.

UNKNOWN: I think it's impressive because I thought Fair Isle would be the last place ever to get the vaccine.

BLACK (voice-over): Britain's vaccine program is a rare pandemic success story, but it's about more than just securing enough doses. It's an achievement built through the organizational power of a national health service combined with relationships, the experience of committed local staff.

UNKNOWN: Jimmy (ph), did you have any side effects after the last one?

BLACK (voice-over): Margaret Cooper says it's the proudest chapter of her 50-year nursing career.

MARGARET COOPER, NURSE, NHS SHETLAND: It's a privilege to be able to be part of the vaccination program and feel that you are contributing.

BLACK (voice-over): A crucial contribution to an unprecedented operation, but saving lives and restoring freedoms, everywhere in the United Kingdom. Phil Black, CNN, on Fair Isle, Shetland.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CURNOW: Thanks to Phil for that beautiful piece. So still to come here at CNN, a solemn commemoration turns to outrage. Demonstrators marking the displacements of hundreds of thousands Palestinians decades ago, are now expressing their anger of what's happening right now.


UNKNOWN: We are seeing protesters throw rocks, sticks, really anything they can get their hands on over this border fence. They've seen Israeli troops on the other side and we've heard what appears to be the sound of gunfire.




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Welcome back to all of our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow, live from Atlanta, it's 30 minutes past the hour. You're of course watching CNN. So it's now in its second week, the conflict in Israel and Gaza that shows no sign of ending.

Israel carried out more airstrikes in Gaza early Monday morning. The Airforce said it struck nine Hamas residences, some of them use to store weapons. The Military says it also hit a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza. The strikes followed a Hamas claim of rockets fired at southern Israel.

Now the innocence of childhood provides no protection against the horrors of this conflict. I want to show you this little girl, she's six, she was pulled from the rubble of her home in Gaza on Sunday, after lying trapped in the ruins for seven hours. She worked alone at the hospital with bruises but no major injuries. Her father was wounded. Here's how he described what happened.


RIYAD ESHKUNTANA, SURVIVOR (through translator): I was under the rubble, I was stuck in a place. My hand was under a pole and my legs under another pole. I was in a bad situation. I heard my son calling daddy daddy. His voice was OK but I couldn't turn to look at him because I was trapped.

And then I started to say, Allah, Allah, Allah.


CURNOW: Now the son this injured father mentioned didn't make it, nor did his mother and three other siblings. Palestinian officials say at least 58 children have been killed in Gaza during the current conflict.

In some places anger, over this current conflict blends with rage that remains from decades ago. That happened in Lebanon on Saturday at a demonstration honoring the Palestinians displaced when the State of Israel was founded. Salma Abdelaziz has that.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On a Lebanese hilltop overlooking Israel, they gathered to mark 73 years since what they call the catastrophe. Some commemorated the occasion with selfies for posterity. Others stood for a moment of quiet reflection. But most chose the traditional chants that have echoed through these valleys for decades.

Soon, small groups of men made their way down to the border fence to take part in another long standing tradition, stone throwing. Soldiers tried to control the youths' anger, but a sole rebel climbed to the top. A day earlier, a Lebanese man had died doing the same from wounds sustained by an Israeli rocket. But with the barrier of fear now broken, demonstrators grew bolder.

We're seeing protesters throw rocks, sticks, really anything they can get their hands on over this border fence. They've seen Israeli troops on the other side, and we've heard what appears to be the sound of gunfire.

We're throwing stones at the Israelis who've occupied our lands, this man tells me. We wish the Lebanese army would let us across. Then a collective effort to scale the nearly 25 foot tall concrete walls began. Those who made it to the top hoisted their flags. Others chose to send a more direct message.

Israel says acts like these threaten its national security. But the mother of one of the men hanging atop the observation tower told me this is their resistance. We are in pain, she tells me, this is happening to Jerusalem and the Arab governments are asleep. Where are their morals?

As perched capacity was maxing out, a tear gas canister landed in the crowds and Lebanese troops could be moved in and disperse the gathering. The day ended as it began with loud promises to march to Jerusalem from a crowd that knows it can do no such thing. Salma Abdelaziz, CNN on the Lebanese-Israeli border.


CURNOW: And coming up next, Bracing for Impact. We're tracking a rare and powerful cyclone that's barreling up India's West Coast. We'll go live to our weather center after the break.



CURNOW: The hills are on fire in portions of Southern California. Take a look at these images. The Los Angeles County Fire Department says this place is scorched more than 1200 acres. About 1000 people have already left their homes. Other residents have been told to stand by for evacuation orders. Conditions in the area are very dry, but arson is suspected in this case.

And a powerful tropical cyclone is hurtling towards western India and growing in strength. It has already claimed at least six lives as it moves north towards the Gujarat peninsula with winds topping 200 kilometers an hour. I want to go straight to our Pedram Javaheri. Pedram, hi, what more can you tell us about this?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Robyn, it's a menacing storm. It's approaching here with winds equivalent to a Category Four hurricane if it were placed in the Atlantic Ocean. And again, the significance of the storm here and really the rarity of it for such a strong storm in this Western periphery of India is also worth noting. In fact, you know two of India's top five most populous cities Mumbai and eventually Ahmedabad here in the path of the storm system's landfall.

Somewhere around Southern Gujarat within the next 18 or so hours and you look at the rainfall announced. The storm has kind of paralleled the coastal region here and produced as much as a half a meter of rainfall, which again in some of these areas, is pretty impressive ahead of the monsoon season that starts in the next several weeks.

Some 85 million people across this Western periphery set to be impacted, whether it be direct or indirect impacts with this particular storm. So we'll follow this carefully here. And we know because of the inlets the base here, the water really can tend to funnel and get into quite a bit of damage across some of these regions where storm surge could be as high as three meters so near the top of one storey buildings there along the coast.

And then we talked about how rare the storm is. You'd have to go back to 1998. The last time we had a storm of a Category Three equivalent system make landfall across the Gujarat state. You'll notice around here, population here about 55,000 people. That's where the storm is expected to make landfall, later on.


It's the overnight hours of Monday into Tuesday morning. Ahmedabad, which believe it or not, had not seen a single drop of rainfall until the last several hours, they could pick up 100 plus millimetres of rainfall going into Tuesday morning. So a lot of flooding going to be seen even well inland as well, Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, thanks so much for that update. We'll check in again with you a little bit later. And the Olympic torch relay is making progress through Japan. It was carried through Southern Japan's prefecture on Sunday and it's on Monday it'll go through Hiroshima, but that will be complicated. Hiroshima is under a Coronavirus, state of emergency so are several other prefectures including Tokyo.

New Coronavirus cases have been spreading rapidly across Japan and anti-Olympic sentiment is also growing. We're expecting actually to see a protest in Tokyo in the coming hours on that. Well, thanks so much for joining us here on CNN. If you're an international viewer, World Sport is next. If you're watching us here in the US or Canada, I'll be right back with more news for you.




CURNOW: Welcome back. So one of America's top health officials is trying to put the public at ease after her agency lifted masking requirements for fully vaccinated people. It was an abrupt change and it also led to a lot of questions. Here's Evan McMorris-Santoro.


EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reopening excitement is palpable. But with the CDC's new guidance out last week that vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks in most situations, there's also confusion. Where is it OK to take off a mask? And how do we know if people taking off their masks are vaccinated?

There's one thing Americans need to know says the CDC.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In terms of the honor system, people have to be honest with themselves. You're protected if you're vaccinated.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: A celebratory moment muddied by continuing vaccine hesitancy. With less than 45 percent of eligible Americans fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, lifting mask mandates comes with caveats. Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday, more clarity would come within the next few weeks about workplaces and other situations.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I would imagine within a period of just a couple of weeks, you're going to start to see significant clarification of some of the actually understandable and reasonable questions that people are asking.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: But in the meantime, states and local governments are left sorting out the new guidance. In Rhode Island, the governor emphasized vaccines are the key to lifting those regulations.

DANIEL MCKEE, RHODE ISLAND GOVERNOR: People who are vaccinated can enjoy the freedom of not wearing a mask inside. And those who are not vaccinated, we're not giving people in the state of Rhode Island a pass in terms of not becoming vaccinated and because it's safe. It saves lives and right now everybody should be getting vaccinated in our state and around the country.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The science around vaccination hasn't changed. Experts say more Americans need to get their shots if the country as a chance at herd immunity. That process is slow. But maybe it'll get a boost with new guidance allowing younger people to get doses.

Those new rules mean all schools should reopen for full time in-person learning this fall, says the leader of the nation's second largest teachers union. But the new rules don't mean America is ready to fully abandon the mask, she says. RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: We can't

have mass shaming. If people want to wear masks for their protection, they should be able to.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.


CURNOW: Now frontline workers who have seen the pandemics devastation firsthand say the CDC's sudden reversal on masks is just too soon. The largest union of registered nurses in the U.S. certainly isn't mincing their words. I want to read you what they have to say. Now is not the time to relax protective measures and we are outraged that the CDC has done just that while we are still in the midst of the deadliest Pandemic in a century.

Jean Ross is a President at the National Nurses United Union. She joins me now from Bloomington, Minnesota. Jean, thank you very much for joining us this hour. Why are nurses outraged at this decision?

JEAN ROSS, REGISTERED NURSE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: Well, we're confused. We were a little stunned to see it. We know that we are not out of the woods yet with this pandemic. So as we've been trying to educate people to do all the mitigating factors together. Masks and washing, distancing, proper ventilation, outside whenever possible. It came as kind of a shock that now, the CDC says if you are vaccinated, you don't have to wear masks.

So people, including our patients, and fellow nurses are saying, you know, we're very, very confused. We finally got people to understand what we want them to do. This looks like a turnabout and it seems a little too soon.

CURNOW: Is this about timing then?

ROSS: I think so. I mean, obviously there is going to come a time when we can all freely go without masks. But right now we're just in the depths of it. We're still seeing over 35,000 cases every day, over 600 deaths. So that might not have rivaled when we were panicking about the number of deaths and cases, but it's nothing to sneeze at.

Still, only 36.7 percent of all of us are fully vaccinated. People are concerned about knowing if the person next to them that isn't wearing a mask is fully vaccinated or is an anti-vaxxer or is afraid of being vaxxed and the quite frankly, don't count on people not lying to them.


CURNOW: So is this about trust then, trusting other Americans to do the right thing.

ROSS: It's - It has been about trust, it's about confusion. It's about people who do what we do. Nurses on the frontline health care workers, other frontline workers, essential workers, it's been hard enough, being the mask police. Now to be the Vaccine Police, they don't want to do it. It's already hard enough. So it's putting an awful lot of stress on workers. And it is putting

stress on just everyday people too. We worked so hard to get them to where they could trust so that they are more and more of them getting the vaccine. And now this kind of puts a chink in the armor.

CURNOW: When you say you were surprised, do you think that you can perhaps have consultations conversation with the CDC? Can you get them to reverse their advice?

ROSS: Well, we're hoping to, we've been in touch. What we did was we liken it to this, you know, as a nurse, if I have let's say you as a patient, and big part of my job is to educate you certainly before you leave the hospital. In doing my assessment, if it looks to me like you are very confused and don't understand what we've just put together for a plan, I would revise it. I would say let's start over.

So that's what we're hoping to CDC will do. And to that end, we've asked people to go to, and they can join on a petition to do the same thing.

CURNOW: Many Americans, particularly those who are vaccinated, say, you know, this is the reward. This is what you get when you are vaccinated. We've gone through a terrible year, America is ahead of the curve now in handing out vaccinations, even to kids over the age of 12. So we want to go to the theater.

We want to go to pool parties, we want to go to summer camp this summer. What do you say to those people who say, listen, I've done my bits, I've got vaccinated, I don't need a mask?

ROSS: Well, I would say you do. I think there's a very freeing feeling. I myself am vaccinated, it was a big relief to me. But that doesn't mean that I'm free and clear. And it certainly doesn't mean that somebody close to me is either. So those kinds of things that we want to do that you mentioned, we can be doing, we can feel a little freer about it.

Certainly, if you're outside, that's a lot better than if you're in an enclosed environment with more ventilation, which unfortunately, with our infrastructure, a lot of our buildings and schools aren't. So those kinds of precautions and all of the factors that we told folks to do to mitigate their risk should still be in place. We are not out of this yet.

CURNOW: And I think at last count, we spoke before you came on air, just over 400 nurses have died of COVID as a direct result of the work that they're doing. Nurse Jean Ross, President, one of the presidents of the National Nurses United, thank you very, very much for joining us and also please, if you can send our thanks and gratitude to all of the nurses that you represent. Thank you for joining us.

ROSS: Will do.

CURNOW: Well one Police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina is reaching out to people over the airwaves. Dianne Gallagher has the story of how he's bridging the gap between law enforcement and the Hispanic community.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officer Claudio Jimenez patrols the streets of Charlotte with one goal in mind, changing the way the community perceive law enforcement.

OFFICER CLAUDIO JIMINEZ, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department: OK.

GALLAGHER: Along the way, he greets familiar faces while also meeting new ones. But for Officer Jimenez the outreach also extends to the airwaves, a tool proving to be even more effective in a pandemic. Officer Jimenez hosts a weekly show targeted towards a quickly growing Hispanic community in Charlotte, discussing topics like crime prevention, road safety and domestic violence.

JIMINEZ: I give out information specific practical, truthful information that comes from the source. I answer questions, I clear out misconceptions that people have.

GALLAGHER: One of those misconceptions he says is people often believing that his police department works with immigration.

JIMINEZ (through translator): I am not ICE, I am a police officer and my mission is to help the community when they are in need.

GALLAGHER: But bridging the gap is paying off.

JIMINEZ: I have received very, very positive feedback from the community. People are very happy that they have a Latino officer who speaks their language.


GALLAGHER: Jimenez, a law enforcement veteran also volunteers at a local food bank feeding hundreds of families in need and putting on toy drives. He's one of 103 Hispanic officers that make up the 1800 members Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. For this Chilean native this job is a dream come true.

JIMINEZ: I had to learn English, I had to do everything that everybody does, and work hard and became a citizen. And then I became a Police officer, which was my dream. So I see the need, and I think I can make a huge difference in my community.

GALLAGHER: Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Atlanta.


CURNOW: Thanks Dianne for that. So India, the Bengal tiger who went missing about a week ago and Texas has made it to an animal sanctuary. The tiger was turned into authorities in Houston. Police say the man last seen with a tiger and his wife were the owners of the big cat, despite what their attorney says.

Now, while they iron that out the Humane Society says the tiger won't have to wear this blinged out collar anymore and India will be able to live like a wild animal again. Well, that wraps this hour of CNN Newsroom. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Robin Curnow. I'm going to hand you over to Rosemary Church in just a minute.