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Democrats Work To Push Relief Bill Through Senate; Senator Draws Scrutiny For Voting Down Minimum Wage; Pope Meets With Iraqi Leaders; Detroit Mayor Backtracks After First Declining J&J Vaccine; E.U. Pressuring Vaccine Makers To Honor Delivery Contracts; Chicago Hospital Home Vaccinates High-Risk Seniors; Vaccine Disparity Among Minorities; Chile Aims For Herd Immunity By End Of June; U.N. Security Council Split On Response To Myanmar Coup, Violence; Perseverance Rover Takes First Drive On Mars. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired March 06, 2021 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): No rest for the weary: Senate Democrats refuse to let Republicans call it a night, demanding a so- called vote-a-rama on the COVID relief bill amendments.
And a historic moment in Christian Muslim relations as the pope meets Iraq's grand ayatollah.
And later, the vaccine hits the road. CNN rides down with a mobile vaccination team getting shots in the most vulnerable arms.
Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM.
BRUNHUBER: The U.S. Senate is in session this hour, powering through amendment after amendment as they grapple with the relief bill. The process called a vote-a-rama got started only after Democrats compromised with each other to end an epic roll call vote.
It will likely last for some time since Republicans have drafted more than 100 amendments. They say the bill is too expensive but Democrats say it is the only way forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Senate Democrats are completely united in our belief about how important this entire bill is for our fellow Americans, for getting the vaccine to our people, for reopening our schools, for keeping American workers, families and businesses afloat and for putting our country on the road to a strong recovery.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: They're dead set on ramming through an ideological spending spree, packed with non-COVID related policies. But only 9 percent addresses the fight against the virus itself. We are already on track to bounce back from this crisis. That is not because of this bill. It is because of our work last year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: Ryan Nobles was on Capitol Hill during those marathon negotiations between Democrats on Friday. And he has more on that and the rest of the day's developments.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Senate is inching closer to passing that COVID relief package that will deliver some $1.9 trillion worth of aid to Americans from coast to coast.
But it hasn't been an easy process. The Senate Republicans putting up roadblocks along the way, including throwing a potential alternative to the unemployment insurance extension that was put in the bill originally by the House.
Democrats had already changed the plan, going from $400 a week to $300 a week but extending it out until the end of September but also including a tax credit of up to $10,000 for individuals that received this unemployment insurance benefit.
Now Republicans thought that was too much and they offered up a plan that would end the unemployment benefit in July. And that piqued the interest of West Virginia senator Joe Manchin.
So for several hours on Friday, the two sides hammered out an alternative plan because Manchin was considering supporting the Republican version, which would have been dead on arrival when this bill went back to the House of Representatives.
They settled on a plan that would be $300 a check; it would expire on September 6th, there would still be that tax credit but it will only be eligible to people who make less than $150,000 a year.
That then kicked in the process known as vote-a-rama, which is a necessary part of a process when you have a bill passed through reconciliation, which means it only needs 51 votes to pass.
This is the opportunity for any senator to offer up an amendment to the bill that needs to be voted up or down before it can get out of the Senate. That process has continued throughout Friday night into Saturday morning.
We're not exactly sure when it will all wrap up. But at the end of all this, we expect Democrats will have the votes they need to pass this legislation. It will go back to the House before the House passes it and then it goes to President Biden for his signature. Still could be some wrinkles along the way before we get to that point.
But Democrats crossed a big hurdle by getting Manchin's support for that unemployment insurance. We're not exactly sure how long this process will last but Democrats are hoping they have this bill passed and on the president's desk by March 14th -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.
BRUNHUBER: Now one Democratic senator was the subject of much debate on social media.
BRUNHUBER: Not just for her vote but for how she delivered it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER (voice-over): This is Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, literally voting thumbs down on an amendment putting a minimum wage provision back into the relief bill.
The gesture was reminiscent of the moment in 2017 when late Arizona senator John McCain's thumbs down ended efforts to kill Obamacare. But Sinema angered many. CNN's Abby Phillip offered some perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm not sure it's entirely fair to assume that she was being flippant by doing that. I mean, if you know Senator Sinema, she's a colorful personality, so that's kind of how she operates.
But beyond that, look, the moderate Democrats are making a calculation that they can engage on this issue down the road separately and perhaps for a lower degree, a lower level, less than $15 and so they don't want to deal with this in the COVID bill.
And I kind of take them at their word on that. I think it's not just of moderate Democratic position. There are a lot of moderate Republicans who are willing to do that, so that's certainly the case. I get that progressives, however, feel like this is the train that is moving out of the station.
It should be in it right now and that is why you're going to see a lot of anger directed at Sinema and Manchin and those others, the six other Democrats, who voted against this amendment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: As senators debate on Capitol Hill, President Joe Biden is still working to drum up support for his plan. He says Friday's jobs report shows exactly why the legislation is necessary. Jeremy Diamond has that.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: As the Senate began debate on this coronavirus relief bill, President Biden continued to make the case on Friday for the urgent need to pass this nearly $2 trillion package. President Biden making that case despite the fact that we saw a much
more positive jobs report released on Friday; 379,000 jobs gained over the previous month.
That was exceeding expectations. But the president insisting that this relief is not only still needed but that really it is meant to ensure that the economy doesn't take one step forward and another step back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today's jobs report shows that the American rescue plan is urgently needed in our view. Our economy still has 9.5 million fewer jobs than it had this time last year. And that rate would take two years to get us back on track.
Some of last month job growth is a result of the December relief package. But without a rescue plan, these gains are going to slow. We can't afford one step forward and two steps backwards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And the White House points out that if the economy continued to add jobs at the same rate, it would take until April 2023 to reach pre-pandemic economic levels.
I asked the White House press secretary on Friday how many years would be shaved off that timeline. And she said the White House believes that they could reach pre-pandemic economic levels one year sooner with this $1.9 trillion package -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.
BRUNHUBER: A former State Department appointee under the Trump administration is being charged in connection to the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Investigators say that Federico Klein was seen in videos like this one during the attack. He is accused of fighting against a police line and using a riot shield to wedge open a door.
So far about 300 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the siege.
Well, "here, we seem to have returned home," those were the words of Pope Francis as he stood on the ancient plains of Ur, Iraq, moments ago, the place where it is believed Abraham was born. Right now Pope Francis is wrapping up an interfaith meeting before heading to Baghdad.
It has been a very busy day for the pope, his second in the country. He met hours ago with a revered Shia cleric, Ali al-Sistani in Najaf. Ben Wedeman is in Baghdad.
A momentous day for people of many faiths.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And this first event of Pope Francis scheduled today was hugely significant. He is meeting with one of the leading authorities of Shia Islam. Keep in mind that, back in 2019, he signed a document of fraternity with the grand imam.
WEDEMAN: So he is really trying to make sure that he is covering all his bases in his efforts to build bridges of fraternity and dialogue with Islam.
And after the meeting, a statement was put out on behalf of the grand ayatollah, who, bolstering the other important message of Pope Francis, that the Christians of Iraq should stay here. The grand ayatollah said that Christians should live in peace and security with full constitutional rights.
And it is important to remember that, during the war with ISIS, many of the Christians who fled those areas that ISIS seized, took refuge in Najaf and were provided with shelter and means of sustenance by the Shia there.
And so this meeting is important. And equally so, this event that he attended in Ur with representatives of all the many religious sects in Iraq. Keep in mind, that Iraq, particularly the northern part of the country, has a huge number of various different religions and sects, some dating back to before the birth of Christ.
And we know that, once he is done with all those events in the southern part of the country, he is coming back to Baghdad to hold a church service. And, of course, tomorrow, he is heading to the north, where he will, among other things, pray in a church that was destroyed by ISIS when it occupied the city.
BRUNHUBER: So obviously there is great symbolism to this visit.
But is there any sense that it might have some tangible or longer lasting effects after he leaves?
Or is that too much to hope for at this point?
WEDEMAN: It is difficult to say. But the fact that he was able to visit, that he announced this trip back in December, the step by step of his schedule in Iraq was made public.
And that it is such a high-profile visit to many Iraqis, it says things are changing. Keep in mind, for instance, that President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and President Trump, every time they came to Iraq, it was a tightly guarded secret.
They spent most of their time meeting with U.S. and coalition forces, very brief, low profile visits. And then they were gone.
The pope is really doing a state visit, the likes of which Iraq has not seen for years. So whether you are a Christian or a Muslim or Yazidi or whatever, this trip really does represent a dramatic change from what Iraq was say 15 years ago. Whether it will have long term consequences, that is very difficult to
say. But certainly the tone of the visit and the coverage in the Iraqi media and the comments people are making are almost universally positive, indicating that there is hope that this trip will indeed have a lasting impact.
BRUNHUBER: Great points there. Thank you so much, Ben Wedeman in Baghdad.
Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, how long before the U.S. could begin to get back to some sense of normalcy?
A recent CNN analysis may give us a clue.
BRUNHUBER: A new CNN analysis found the U.S. could reach herd immunity to COVID-19 through late summer just through vaccinations alone. At the current pace of 2 million doses per day, factoring in all three approved vaccines, 70 percent of the U.S. could be fully vaccinated by the end of July.
But as Nick Watt explains, vaccine hesitancy is still a big issue.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The city of Detroit just declined a shipment of Johnson and Johnson's single shot vaccine.
MAYOR MIKE DUGGAN (D-MI), DETROIT: Moderna and Pfizer are the best. And I am going to do everything I can to make sure that residents of the city of Detroit get the best.
ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR ADVISER, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM: We've been in constant dialogue with Mayor Duggan, who said in fact that was not what he said.
WATT (voice-over): Well, it is what he said. Maybe he misspoke. Either way, it's wrong. All three vaccines are:
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: Extraordinarily effective in preventing severe disease and we don't compare one to the other. The only way that you can effectively do that is by having head-to-head comparisons in a clinical trial, which was not done.
WATT (voice-over): More than 10 percent of American adults are now fully vaccinated, but still no CDC guidance on how they should behave.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: These are complex issues and the science is rapidly evolving. We are making sure and taking the time to get this right. And we will be releasing this guidance soon.
WATT (voice-over): Meantime, vaccine optimism is fueling the rollback of restrictions. Today, Michigan upped indoor dining capacity, no more mask mandate in Mississippi.
WALENSKY: I know the idea of relaxing mask wearing and getting back to everyday activities is appealing. But we're not there yet. And we have been -- we have seen this movie before.
WATT (voice-over): Today, the governor of Texas doubling down on his controversial decision to end the mask mandate and open businesses.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): We are in a situation where it is safe to open up 100 percent. And every Texan here and every Texan across the state, they have learned for the past year, the same strategies to use.
WATT: Also today, more data published showing mask mandates do reduce COVID-19 case counts and deaths. And when restaurants reopen in person, cases and deaths do go up.
SLAVITT: Wear a mask now so we can get to a place where you don't have to.
WATT (voice-over): Case counts were heading there but plateaued about 10 days ago; could be fatigue, complacency and/or those more contagious variants kicking in.
WATT: So when might the U.S. reach the holy grail of herd immunity?
CNN analysis shows that if the vaccine rollout continues as it is, throw in the Johnson & Johnson, 70 percent of the American population could be fully vaccinated by the end of July.
Throw in those people that have already been infected and you could have herd immunity sometime in June. But models, projections, hopes don't always pan out -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.
BRUNHUBER: Europe has a message for coronavirus vaccine makers: deliver the doses you promised. This comes after Italy decided to block the export of a quarter million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia.
Meanwhile, officials in Germany say 40 percent of the new cases there are the variant first identified in the U.K. It is more contagious and German health experts fear that it will become the dominant strain.
And some good news for Britain, where the reproduction number has fallen below 1, which indicates the epidemic is shrinking. Health secretary Matt Hancock gave an upbeat appraisal.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MATT HANCOCK, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: We're on course to hit our target of offering a first dose to everyone who is over 50 or part of an at-risk group by the 15th of April and all adults by the end of July.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: So for more on all this, let's bring in Nina dos Santos, joining us from London.
We'll get to the U.K. in a moment but, in Europe, the rollout seems to be getting more fractious by the day.
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: That's right. It certainly is. This is all about vaccination versus variant. And when it comes to the vaccine front, there is acute embarrassment across the European Union over how botched this effort has been.
And it has pitted the private sector that is developing and delivering these vaccines against member states; in particular, one of the three vaccines that is approved by the European Medicines Agency, the one made by AstraZeneca, that is the one that is currently drawing the focus of the ire of the E.U.
In particular, as you said, Italy. An Italian minister made the decision of curtailing the shipments, the first time the new rule has been used to try to safeguard some of the vaccines made on E.U. territory.
She said effectively AstraZeneca has only delivered 14 percent of its contractual commitments and, as such, we need these vaccines more than other people and we'll prevent them from being exported from our territory.
AstraZeneca's response has been that the E.U. negotiated late and it put less money on the table comparatively. It negotiated hardly at a time when others say they needed as much as they could and also they needed to be sensitive to the fact that scaling up production for hundreds of millions of citizens is a huge block of people here would have taken time and had some challenges.
The reality is that AstraZeneca is not the only one of the three vaccines that are approved that is facing shortfalls in its production as demand comes online in large numbers.
We saw BioNTech and Pfizer, the first one to be approved by the U.K. and E.U., having to curtail some of its shipments because it had to change its manufacturing procedures to up scale manufacturing.
Also Moderna has issues as well. So it is not just AstraZeneca. And I should point out that there are concerns by some member states that they need to stake out on their own and make parallel deals with other countries or extra deals with some of these suppliers.
Germany made an extra deal for extra doses. Denmark made their own deal. And Hungary has decided to start inoculating its people with Sputnik V. So all of this shows a splintering of the so-called joint vaccination effort.
BRUNHUBER: So from the mess in the E.U., on the opposite end of the spectrum, a growing success story in the U.K. And now they seem to be reaping the benefits.
DOS SANTOS: Yes, that's right. Have a look at some of the figures, as of yesterday, U.K. had inoculated 20 million of its citizens, it is managing to get vaccines out into the community with this mass vaccination effort.
And also it is rather controversially decided to spread out the timeframe between the doses to make sure more people were covered early and then they could get their second dose later rather than focusing on getting people two doses.
They have vaccinated 32 percent of its citizens. And the real test as you said with the R number coming down is not just the vaccinations, it is the fact that the country has been locked down for quite some time and children will be going back to school on Monday. So that will be the real test.
BRUNHUBER: Nina dos Santos, thank you so much.
Up next, taking the vaccine to the patient rather than the other way around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARMEN FLORES-RANCE, MALTILDE FLORES' DAUGHTER: To have somebody come to the house, especially when you have a Latina 92-year-old beautiful mother that has dementia.
BRUNHUBER (voice-over): CNN rides along on a vaccine field trip to one of the pharmacy deserts. Stay with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Welcome back to all of you watching us in the United States, Canada and around the world.
A Chicago hospital is bringing coronavirus vaccines to those who need them most, right in their own homes.
BRUNHUBER: Rush University Medical Center is going directly to people 65 and older. Adrienne Broaddus rode along.
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jackie Blumenberg just got vaccinated in her own home. Now it is her mother's turn. Jackie and her mom, 90-year-old Hattie, are getting the COVID vaccine thanks to a mobile program from Rush University Medical Center.
They have limited transportation and Hattie can only get out of the house if someone carries her.
HATTIE BLUMENBERG, IN-HOME VACCINE RECIPIENT: It is a blessing and it is great. I hope everybody that can't get it that, they do well.
BROADDUS (voice-over): A few miles away --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell her she's just going to feel a little pinch.
BROADDUS (voice-over): -- a vaccination team is at the Flores home. They are also among 120 people in the program targeting those hardest hit by COVID; 71 people have received the vaccine.
FLORES-RANCE: This is like a blessing to have somebody come to the house, especially when you have a Latina 92-year-old beautiful mother that has dementia and cannot do nothing for herself.
BROADDUS (voice-over): But there is a problem: not everyone who needs the shot gets it. And it falls along racial lines. The Kaiser Family Foundation tracks vaccination rates in 27 states by race and ethnicity.
According to their data, the overall vaccination rate among white people is about three times higher than the rate for Latinos and it's twice as high as the rate for Blacks. The challenge in Chicago and cities all over the country is many of the most vulnerable residents are going unvaccinated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The structural racism that underlies all the structures in our city, we know that there is special racism in the health care sector as well.
BROADDUS (voice-over): In this case, many on Chicago's West Side live in a pharmacy desert and can't get themselves to a vaccine. The effect is clear in the numbers. As of mid-February in Illinois, Latinos make up 26 percent of COVID cases but only 9 percent of vaccinations.
In Maryland, Blacks make up 33 percent of cases but only 16 percent of vaccinations.
And in California, the numbers are staggering. Latinos account for 55 percent of COVID cases but only 18 percent of vaccinations. It is a problem President Biden says he is trying to fix.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is, if you're 70 years old, you don't have a vehicle and you live in a tough neighborhood, meaning it's a high concentration of COVID, you're not likely to be able to walk five miles to go get a vaccine. BROADDUS (voice-over): The president's COVID package include funding for mobile vaccinations, which have begun in states like Texas, California and Massachusetts. Texas is starting a door to door program.
Jackie and her mom say this program may have saved them not only from the virus but from an unequal system that nearly left them behind.
JACKIE BLUMENBERG, HATTIE'S DAUGHTER: There's nobody above no one. Every nationality and race the same way. We the same. We die the same.
BROADDUS: And taking the vaccine from this clinic to people's homes is labor intensive. When we traveled with the Rush team, there was a moment of panic; someone who was supposed to receive the vaccine had a scheduling conflict.
So the team had two choices: find someone on its backup list or toss the extra dose. Thankfully, they were able to find someone that day -- Adrienne Broaddus, CNN, Chicago.
BRUNHUBER: So we just heard about the vaccination problems in California. But its blueprint for a safer economy program is trying to change that by targeting the hardest hit areas with the vaccine.
Officials want to reserve 40 percent of vaccine doses for underserved communities. The state has a four-level color-coded system signifying levels of transmission and those levels establish the guidelines for COVID restrictions. Officials will now tie vaccination rates to those tiers.
BRUNHUBER: Sonja Diaz is the founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative and she's also a civil rights attorney.
Thank you so much for joining us. So despite how hard minority communities have been hit by COVID, people living in the wealthiest parts of California have been getting double the vaccine doses than people in the poorest parts have been getting.
Do you know what is behind this disparity?
SONJA DIAZ, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, UCLA LATINO POLICY & POLITICS INITIATIVE: I think there's a number of things. We have health systems that really do not ensure that people that are disadvantaged are able to survive this pandemic. We've seen that with the infection rates and mortality and now we're seeing that with vaccines.
One of the reasons is that there is a lack of digital access to really be able to get these appointments. And there is also a protocol in place that disadvantage minority communities because of age. Latinos in the U.S., their median age is 30.
[05:35:00] DIAZ: For white Americans, it is 58. So when you privilege older people in California, that will leave out so many individuals who unfortunately are dying at rates higher than their share of the population.
BRUNHUBER: This new policy to reserve a certain percentage for minority communities, there is an ethical, moral reason for doing this.
But if you were to look at this dispassionately, if you were an AI machine that is designing a strategy to bring down the COVID numbers and reopen as soon as possible, these minority communities are the ones that you would need to get at, to both stop the community spread, you know, to lessen the risk for everyone and to get the state back open and working.
DIAZ: That's right. So for two reasons. First, there are people that are hardest hit. Los Angeles is the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States and arguably in North America.
A lot of this has to do with the fact that we are putting our workers at great risk. And these workers live in crowded conditions with multigenerational families. They also don't have the same access to health care coverage and transportation and jobs that permit them to work at home.
So they have to leave the house every single day and that puts them at risk and we've seen for Latinos, in particular, 55 percent of all of Californians who have been infected are Latino. Yet Latinos only make up 39 percent of the state population and are fairly young.
The second reason this makes a lot of sense in terms of really targeting these working class communities is that these workers are in their most productive years. So the capacity of California to not only reopen but to solidify its standing as the world's fifth largest economy is dependent on having a healthy workforce, which right now is in great peril.
BRUNHUBER: But then a program like this, we've already seen problems in L.A. People in wealthier communities using access codes to get vaccine appointments that were meant for lower income neighborhoods.
How are they planning to get around all the cheating?
DIAZ: Well, I think that that is really interesting. As you said that, I couldn't help but be reminded of a lot of public policy debates that preceded vaccine access. College admissions, the ban on affirmative action, the idea that celebrities and very wealthy people were cheating the system.
That will continue to happen. And so what the government can do, is they won't have the same advantage. By ensuring that when people sign up, they have to put their zip code with their home address or that there is a targeted place, it is not just citing vaccine stations in low income neighborhoods but making sure that those dosages are plentiful to the people who live in those zip codes and are actually going into people's arms.
And that is where these additional investments at community health centers or paying for people to help them get an appointment online because it is pretty arduous to go online and figure some of these systems out, even for those of us that speak English and have college degrees.
BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much for joining us.
DIAZ: Thank you.
BRUNHUBER: The president of Chile hopes the country will achieve herd immunity before the end of June. He spoke to CNN about the fast-paced vaccine rollout and why he believes it has been so successful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN PINERA, PRESIDENT OF CHILE: The process of our vaccination is first of all voluntary and is absolutely free. We have faced very little opposition because we put together a very strong information campaign to convince people that it was necessary, useful, safe and efficient to get vaccinated.
But basically one of the key aspects that has made our case successful, first of all that we started to negotiate for the vaccine very early, April, May. And at that time, we were able to sign contracts or reach agreements that can guarantee us that we will have 36 million doses of the vaccine.
Second, because our health, our immunization program is a very sound and solid one. Chile has always had a sound public health system. And therefore we have vaccines and we have the capacity to distribute them all over the country.
So that is why -- yesterday we vaccinated more than 300,000 people in one day. And that is why we are really pushing this process because we want to vaccinate our population as soon as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: The coronavirus pandemic has been especially devastating in Brazil, with one person dying nearly every minute. And intensive care units are reaching their limit and several are on the brink of collapse. Shasta Darlington has more.
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hospitals bursting at the seams. Medical staff pushed to the brink. With each minute that passes, one person dies of coronavirus in Brazil as new infections soar to record levels. GOV. JOAO DORIA, SAO PAULO: The health system in Brazil is on the
verge of collapse. ICU beds are missing. There is no national coordination to combat the pandemic in Brazil.
DARLINGTON (voice-over): In an interview with CNN, the governor of Sao Paulo painted a grim picture after Wednesday saw more coronavirus deaths than any other day of the pandemic. He puts Brazil's largest state on lockdown in what he calls phase red. It is a move the country's president is fiercely against.
"Stop this fussing and whining," Jair Bolsonaro told Brazilians Thursday .
"How long will you keep crying?" he said, criticizing coronavirus restrictions.
Last week he threatened to cut off emergency aid to states that resort to lockdown measures, as their hospitals, meanwhile, begin to buckle. More than a third of states are reporting ICU beds at 90 percent capacity or above.
It comes as a second wave of infections surges across Brazil, which the country's health minister largely blames on a coronavirus variant first discovered in the northern Brazilian city of Manaus, which has now spread across the world.
But it also comes after large gatherings and parties during Carnival festivities last month.
GONZALO VECINA NETO, SAO PAULO UNIVERSITY (through translator): Yes, we are going through the worst scenario of the pandemic since its start. You just have to the look at the trend of the average number of deaths. This could have been avoided and the most important factor is gatherings.
DARLINGTON (voice-over): So far, Brazil's attempts to roll out COVID vaccinations have been patchy at best. After repeated delays and political infighting, many are finding it nearly impossible to get inoculated.
LUCIANA, SAO PAULO RESIDENT (through translator): There are lines. On Saturday, the line was 8 hours long.
WALDIRIS, SAO PAULO RESIDENT (through translator): Everyone is afraid. The vaccination needs to be faster. It's taking too long.
DARLINGTON (voice-over): Less than 4 percent of the population has been vaccinated with only 1 percent receiving the necessary two doses to get fully immunized. The health minister says 138 million more doses can be expected by May, months away, as many continue to die each day in Brazil's coronavirus pandemic -- Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BRUNHUBER: Straight ahead, pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar are pleading for international help as the military's deadly crackdown against them escalates.
BRUNHUBER: The U.S. ambassador to Myanmar has spoken with the nation's deputy military chief. According to state media, they discussed efforts to hold future negotiations on an array of issues.
This as pro-democracy demonstrators are clashing with security forces. Police and military units were seen firing rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades into crowds. Dozens have been killed since the February coup and many are begging for international support.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SASA, MYANMAR PARLIAMENT ENVOY TO THE U.N.: This illegal military regime has declared the war on the people of Myanmar. So no one is safe. So number one, we need the safe thing. That means the international community have the responsibility to protect when the state fail to protect its own people. So we are asking the international community to look at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: As protesters wait for an international response, they are showing no signs of backing down. Will Ripley has been following the latest developments from Hong Kong.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The pictures we are seeing coming out of Myanmar right now demonstrate an extraordinary act of bravery on the part of hundreds, if not thousands, who, despite increasingly deadly wave of brutality by the military dictatorship, continue going out into the streets, continue to peacefully protest, to demand democracy, to demand the results of the election back in November that were a landslide for the National League for Democracy be honored by the brutal dictatorship, which only got a handful of votes for their proxy parties and decided it was because of widespread election fraud, a claim that is unfounded.
At least 55 people have been killed since February 1st in these peaceful protests. And we do need to underscore that these are peaceful. The military has claimed some of these people are rioters who are armed. Using one example recently, citing two people who may have had smoke grenades on them.
Well, the soldiers are using live ammunition on those people. And more than half of those who have been killed are young people under the age of 25, 17 of them under 20.
These were people who came of age after 2011, after the military gave up 50 years of a brutal dictatorship that crushed any dissenting voices. These people grew up in a time when Myanmar was starting to experiment with democracy, to allow for greater democratic reforms, to hold elections. Even though the military still kept its hand in the levers of power, preserved high-level positions for itself.
But after that humiliating landslide defeat in November, that simply wasn't enough. Human rights groups say, for the military leaders, dismissing those claims of election fraud and saying it's all about power and all about money.
And now, as people continue to stand up to this, there is mounting evidence that the shoot to kill mentality is happening more and more, with at least 38 people killed on Wednesday alone, bodies seen in pools of blood lying in the street. Amnesty International calling it textbook brutality -- Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.
BRUNHUBER: And stay with us, we'll be right back.
BRUNHUBER: NASA's Perseverance rover is officially on duty. Earlier this week, it took its first test drive on Mars. It only went less than 2 dozen feet but it did make an impressive 150 degree turn and sent back its first images, including the one that you are seeing now.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So here you're seeing the actual images from the rover that we got back on this activity, which was super cool.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what we can see in this image from the first high resolution panorama from (INAUDIBLE) are distant deposits of the (INAUDIBLE) delta in the background. And these rocks look notably different in that that you can actually resolve layering within the rocks you see in this outcrop.
These resistant layered rocks were likely deposited by rivers flowing into the ancient lake (INAUDIBLE).
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BRUNHUBER: And NASA announced it has named the landing site the Octavia E. Butler Landing, in honor of the late science fiction author. They say the sky is the limit but a Japanese fashion mogul isn't
stopping there. The billionaire is planning a trip around the moon and he is willing to pay to have some company. CNN's Selina Wang explains.
SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is looking for eight members of the public to join him on a six-day trip around the moon, slated to take off in 2023 on SpaceX's Starship rocket. Anyone can apply from now until March 14th. And the trip will be free.
The billionaire made his fortune by starting the online ecommerce fashion company, Zozotown. He says he's paying for the entirety of the trip. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that this trip could venture further than any human has gone from Earth, perhaps even the Apollo missions.
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ELON MUSK, TESLA CEO: It will be the first private space flight, first commercial space flight, with humans, beyond Earth orbit. So this has never occurred before and, in fact, we are going to go past the moon.
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WANG (voice-over): Maezawa made headlines back in 2018 when SpaceX announced that he would be their first private customer for a trip around the moon.
At the time, he said he would invite artists to come with him. Then he said he was searching for his, quote, "life partner" to come on the trip with him. And now he is opening it to the general public.
He says the two main criteria they are looking for are, one, that the participant should be seeking to push the envelope in their field of work by going to space and, two, that they should support their fellow crew members during this trip.
The Starship, which is SpaceX's next generation reusable spacecraft, is what will be used for this trip. Anyone applying will need a healthy appetite for risk because the SpaceX Starship rocket is still in early stages of development. Only early prototypes have been tested so far and recent test flights have ended in explosion.
But Elon Musk says he is confident that a safe rocket will be ready by 2023.
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MUSK: I am highly confident that we will have reached orbit many times with Starship before 2023 and that it will be safe enough for human transport by 2023.
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WANG: In a video Maezawa said he is a little scared but he is more curious -- Selina Wang, CNN, Tokyo.
BRUNHUBER: And that wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. For international viewers, "RECONNECT SOUTH KOREA" is next, for those of you in the U.S. and Canada, "NEW DAY" is just ahead.