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New Day Saturday

U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 436,000 With 25.9 Million Cases As Nearly 28 Million Doses Of Vaccine Have Been Administered; New South African Variant Of COVID-19 Found In U.S.; President Biden Leaves Door Open To Passing COVID Relief Bill Without Republican Support; Controversial Members And Looming Impeachment Trial Drive GOP Infighting; Bodycam Video Shows Rioters Viciously Attacking Police During Capitol Hill Insurrection; Manhunt Intensifying For Suspect Who Planted Bombs At DNC And RNC Headquarters The Night Before Capitol Hill Riot. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired January 30, 2021 - 06:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Voice over): Another COVID-19 vaccine could soon be available in the United States. Johnson & Johnson says its vaccine was 66 percent effective overall in a global Phase 3 trial, 72 percent effective in the U.S. and 85 percent effective against severe disease.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Voice over): We are racing against the clock to get shots in arms as new variants of the virus are spreading.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Voice over): House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy planning to meet next week with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Voice over): He has a real opportunity right now to actually live up to the title to point the party in a path where anti- semitism, racism, horrific comments have no place in the halls of Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Voice over): Some Democratic members, increasing numbers are saying they're actually frightened.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Voice over): This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Thank you so much for being with us this morning as the U.S., as we turn to the coronavirus, is getting close to 26 million confirmed cases of COVID and Dr. Anthony Fauci warns that the new variants that we're seeing in several states should be a wake-up call to all of us. He also says that we'll continue to see the virus mutate.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Right now, there are at least 400 cases of that U.K. variant here in the U.S. and at least two people have tested positive for the more contagious South African strain. Now, health officials say these patients have no travel history, which means they likely contracted it through community spread.

BLACKWELL: There could be new vaccines soon. That's good news. Johnson & Johnson will apply for emergency use authorization next week. They say their shot was 66 percent effective in global trials. U.K. trial Novavax says that their vaccine is 89 percent effective.

PAUL: Want to begin with CNN's Polo Sandoval on this note. He's following the latest on the pandemic from New York. Polo, good to see you this morning. So we're talking about nearly 28 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that have been administered. I know Senior White House Adviser Andy Slavitt said that it will be months before everyone who wants a vaccine will actually be able to get one. What is guidance you're hearing?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi. Slavitt also saying that there are two key factors that are limiting vaccine distribution, their supply and then also their ability to actually administer these shots as soon as they produce them. The President also saying this week that it's likely that most, again, most American adults won't have access to the vaccine until possibly late this summer.


SANDOVAL (Voice over): As the World Health Organization marks one year since it declared COVID-19 an international public health emergency, the U.S. is inching closer to having three safe and effective vaccines. Though Johnson & Johnson's candidate has a notably lower efficacy rate than Moderna's and Pfizer's, health experts agree a third option would be a game changer.

AMESH ADALJA, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: I think we got spoiled a little bit with Moderna and Pfizer because of their high efficacy rates, but remember, a couple of months ago, the FDA would approve something at 50 percent. So we're really doing really, really well with all of these vaccines and I do think they are going to be the solution.

SANDOVAL (Voice over): The U.S. also getting closer to reaching 30 million COVID-19 vaccinations administered since the roll-out began last month.

PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: The CDC two days ago said that 3.5 million Americans have received two doses of the vaccine. That's 1 percent of the population. We need to get about to 70 percent really to start having a major impact on this virus and having vaccines like this makes it much easier for us to do that.

SANDOVAL (Voice over): The state of West Virginia already finished administering all second round doses to people in long-term care facilities. Next priority for the Mountain State? All West Virginians over the age of 16. That's a rare success as much of the country still struggles to get first doses to residents in the first eligible groups.

Nearly 23,000 National Guard troops are in 38 states helping accelerate efforts at a rate of at least 51,000 more shots a day and the Pentagon is close to finalizing an agreement with FEMA to provide around 450,000 shots daily.

New York state expecting a 16 percent boost to its weekly allotment of about 25,0000 doses and amid criticism over a slow roll-out, the state of California is revamping its efforts, partly by simplifying vaccine eligibility, an action that came too late for the Jacobo family in L.A..

These five little girls now living with their aunt and uncle after their single mother, 33-year-old Jasmine Jacobo, died due to COVID.

CRYSTAL JACOBO, AUNT: Even though mom's not here, they have a lot of family that love them that will always be here for them.

[06:05:00] If we can make an impact on their life, I think that our mission will be accomplished.

SANDOVAL (Voice over): Amid concern that new COVID-19 variants could add up to 85,000 more deaths in the U.S. by May, the CDC asking if two masks are truly better than one, the agency conducting experiments to determine if double masking can, in fact, block up to 90 percent more respiratory droplets. The CDC's guidance is still the same though -- at least wear a mask.


SANDOVAL: So staying on the issue of masks, late yesterday, the CDC issued an order that's expected to kick in at 11:59 on Monday night that will require us all to actually wear a mask while riding on public transportation. You're talking planes, trains, even ride-share vehicles as well. Again, that's expected to kick in early next week.

Remember, the number of cases of that variant first detected in the U.K. when we were talking, Victor and Christi, a week ago, that was 200 and as you said a little while ago, that number now 400 and climbing.

BLACKWELL: Polo, thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, Polo. So let's talk to Dr. Saju Mathew. He's a public health specialist and primary care physician. Saju, it's so good to see you. I want to ask you about these mutations. There are two cases of the South African variant in South Carolina. Just this morning hearing from Arizona officials there that there are three cases of the U.K. variant there and I'm wondering, first of all, are people who had COVID before, are they vulnerable to re-infection for many of these variants?

SAJU MATHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: Yes. Good morning, Christi. That is the big question. You know, few months into this pandemic, we were pretty much convinced that if you had COVID, the chances of getting re-infected is probably very low. However, if you look at this place in Brazil called Manaus, about 75 percent of people were believed to have COVID back in March and April of last year and now, few months later, three quarters of the same population are now infected by the very contagious Brazilian strain.

So that's definitely worrisome. In the U.S., we were happy, as scientists, to say that, hey, look at the number of millions of cases of Americans that have been infected. We were not really seeing a re- infection rate, but now there is a possibility with the South African strain and these contagious strains, that you could recover from COVID and get re-infected again.

PAUL: The Novavax trial shows it's 90 percent effective against the current strain, but only 60 percent against the South African strain. I guess I'm just wondering is that African strain, is that the one that you're really watching right now?

MATHEW: Yes. The South African strain is the one that we are watching. It's also the strain where we have definitely done some studies in the laboratory and what is also a bit worrisome, Christi, about the South African strain is the fact that these monoclonal antibodies that President Trump received and probably got better with does not seem to work well with the South African strain.

And of course we're also studying to see, we know that these strains are more transmissible, that it's quicker and easier to get the infection, but is it more lethal? That's the other question that we're trying to answer, but the bottom line again is we need to get people vaccinated. If you break the transmission of the virus, then you can definitely cut out these mutations from popping up rapidly.

PAUL: The CDC director has said that, quote, "Every infection should be treated as if it is a variant." What does that mean? Is there a different treatment or a different protocol if you're treating it as a variant as opposed to the COVID that we have known since last March?

MATHEW: Well, just like you said earlier, Christi, that now we have two cases of the South African strain with really no connection between the cases and also no travel history. So what that means is these strains are probably already here in the U.S. and if these strains are more infectious, that means more people can get sick, more people can get hospitalized and more people can die. So we have to be really aggressive in figuring out what the strains are.

We might even have a home grown strain right here in the U.S. and as we talked about last week and on your show, Christi, we're only doing 0.3 percent of genomic testing. So the U.S. really needs to get aggressive so that we watch the virus and make sure we know about these strains before other countries do so we can be aggressive and we can share the data.

PAUL: Yes. Wondering how to gauge that proliferation. I want to ask you real quickly, too, before I let you go about this new report today from the "Journal of American Medicine Pediatrics," this report that babies do get COVID-19 antibodies while they're in the womb while their mother is pregnant with them, meaning that she transferred the antibodies said to the infant.


Does finding that support the idea then that pregnant women should be getting the vaccine?

MATHEW: That's a really good question. I take care of a lot of women that are also pregnant who'll see their OBGYNs and see me for their primary care. I spoke to this lady yesterday who's 43 years old who was trying to get pregnant and her question to say, Dr. Mathew, should I get the vaccine?

Really in the U.S., we are recommending -- there are no studies. A lot of the studies in the trials did not include pregnant women, but this study shows that, listen, if a patient who has had antibodies can transfer, via the placenta, to the -- to the baby, that there's going to be some protection for the unborn fetus and when the baby is born, there's probably going to be some protection against COVID.

Think about the flu shot. We recommend that pregnant women get the flu shot to protect them and protect the baby. So I think it's exciting. However, it's going to be difficult without the FDA approval to recommend that, but it definitely shows that the baby is protected from COVID for at least a few months.

PAUL: That is so interesting. Dr. Saju Mathew, always appreciate your expertise and perspective. Thank you, sir.

MATHEW: Thank you, Christi.

BLACKWELL: President Biden says that a COVID relief package will need to be passed soon even if that means doing it without Republican support. Meeting with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in the Oval Office, the President warned of the cost of inaction.

PAUL: CNN's Jasmine Wright is with us live now. Jasmine, good morning to you. We know the administration says they want a bipartisan bill and it's becoming more clear that that is unlikely. Is the White House signaling how it's going to move forward?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Christi, the public message coming out of the White House going into next week's COVID negotiations is still pass this bill with bipartisan support, but as you said, the push to do that urgently could complicate things. Now, yesterday, Biden was asked about the possibility of this -- of going it alone, of Democrats going by themselves to pass this on a rare budget process and take a listen to what he said here because this would mean that they would need no Republican support.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support passing COVID relief through budget reconciliation? JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I support passing COVID relief with support from Republicans if we can get it, but the COVID relief has to pass. There's no if, and's or but's.


WRIGHT: Now, that answer, no if, and's or but's, was not Biden shutting down that possibility and it is new and notable because this is the administration's first real response acknowledging that there just may not be that bipartisan support that they're looking for. Now, of course we know that Biden is doing the work to reach out to Republicans.

And CNN has also learned that they will ramp up their public campaign, doing more interviews and -- excuse me -- going along with more calls, but again, there is -- there remains an open question of whether or not that is going to be enough and if it is not enough, Biden will have to go alone with Democrats and that will prove to be an early test of their unity, but also of their ability to legislate because they cannot lose a single vote with their slim majority, Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: So speaking about that inability to lose a single vote, what is the vice president's role in all of this?

WRIGHT: Vice President Harris has been active. She has been flexing her power and popularity of the VP's office, doing both a public campaign and a private campaign. Now, publicly, she has been sitting for interviews in states like West Virginia and Arizona, states that are home to those moderates, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, to really push a public pressure campaign to curry their support to come along with this bill.

Now, publicly, we know that she has also been picking up the phone, calling senators and something that one White House official told me was a full court press. Now, this will continue, as will Biden's outreach, will continue into next week, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Jasmine Wright for us there in Washington. Thank you.

PAUL: Thanks, Jasmine. So the GOP, as you know, is really struggling to find its footing in this post-Trump arena. There's intraparty fighting that is spilling out in the open and the party is grappling with how to handle recently unearthed comments by one of its most controversial members.

BLACKWELL: Plus, members of the Proud Boys are now facing conspiracy charges in the Capitol riot. What these new charges mean for the case against them, that's coming up.




PAUL: So Republicans in Congress are pushing Democrats on the issue of unity, but the GOP is dealing with division within their own ranks.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And that infighting is being driven by this debate over how closely to align the future of the party with the former President Trump and the controversial members that have put focus on some fringe elements of the party. CNN's Daniella Diaz is on Capitol Hill.

Daniella, good morning to you and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, he visited President Trump this week at Mar-a-Lago. Also noticeably silent about the drama around Conference Chair Liz Cheney and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. Talk about what's happening with Republicans in the House.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's right, Victor. Look, it's been a chaotic week on Capitol Hill. First, on one hand, you have Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman conservative from Georgia who is a QAnon supporter and liked posts calling for the execution of Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She also called the Parkland and Sandy Hook shootings false flag operation.

Now a lot of Democrats are upset with her comments. They want to see consequences for her actions and they're calling for three different things for next week. This includes censure which will publicly reprimand her, this also includes stripping her of her committee assignments and lastly, Jimmy Gomez is introducing a resolution to expel her from Congress.

[06:20:02] Now, on another hand, you have Matt Gaetz who traveled to Wyoming. He was publicly campaigning against Liz Cheney, the number third -- the number three House Republican. Now, he's upset with her as well as other Republicans are upset with her for voting and supporting Donald Trump's impeachment less than a month ago.

Where is Kevin McCarthy in all of this? He was down in Mar-a-Lago visiting with Donald Trump talking about the midterms. Now, we know that McCarthy is going to meet with Marjorie Taylor Greene next week. He's been noticeably silent on that. That's all we know. We know that he supports Liz Cheney, but has concerns about her vote to support impeachment, but other than that, he's been largely silent, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: So I know that we're about a week away from Donald Trump's second impeachment trial in the Senate of course. So set the stage for us, Daniella, about where things are right now.

DIAZ: Look, here's what we know, Christi. We know that there's a trial date, February 9th, we know that Donald Trump is building his defense team, we know that legal briefs will be filed next week. Now, we kind of got a preview of how the trial was going to play out -- is going to play out on February 9th when Kentucky Senator Rand Paul filed a motion trying to prove that he believes that this trial to convict a former president is unconstitutional.

Now, all but five Republicans supported him. This includes the usual suspects, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski. There's a group of senators we know kind of how they feel. They tend to vote with their conscience. Now, Democrats need at least 17 Republicans to sign on and support impeachment and to convict Donald Trump. It's a steep climb for them heading into the impeachment trial, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All righty. Daniella Diaz, good to see you this morning. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in CNN political commentator Errol Louis, host of the "You Decide" podcast. Errol, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So "The Washington Post" packages it quite nicely this morning in which they describe what the Democrats are building, an emotionally charged case, collecting the cell phone video, the statements from some of the insurrectionists. We've aired some of it. It doesn't seem to be swaying Senate Republicans. Any expectation that it will sway or get close to the number needed for conviction for the trial?

LOUIS: The number may change, Victor, but I'm not sure the emotional appeal, as you describe it, is necessarily going to be what changes their minds. The reality is that many of them were eyewitnesses to what happened. They know what happened, they know that their chamber was taken over by violent extremists, they know that five people died in that attack, they heard the speech that incited that mob attack and that attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

They know all of the relevant facts and it's really just a single count of impeachment anyway. So if they're willing to do what they did and support Rand Paul's frivolous motion to throw the whole thing out as unconstitutional somehow, what, in effect, they'll be doing is telling future politicians that you get one free attack on the -- on the Capitol and that at least this Congress, this Republican conference, is not going to hold you accountable.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about some of the challenges that Minority Leader McCarthy is facing, one of them, what to do about Marjorie Taylor Greene. The president called her the future star of the Republican party and she may just be that because she is getting the focus, she, by her own statement, says she's getting more than $1 million in the last couple of weeks donated.

I remember thinking back to the Steve King era when, after Republicans lost 40 seats, McCarthy went in and had that conversation he's about to have with Greene and then stripped him of his committee assignments, but this time around, Republicans narrowed the gap that -- the majority for the Democrats. Do you expect that she will face the same fate?

LOUIS: Right. This is -- this is the question on the table, Victor. Just as you suggest, ultimately you end up losing a lot politically by embracing this kind of extremism, but individually, there are individual members of Congress who can do quite well for themselves politically and in terms of notoriety. Nobody would have ever heard of Marjorie Taylor Greene if she hadn't won that seat and it's the biggest thing she'll ever do in her life. Trust me.

So she's going to raise as much money and she's going to get as much fame and she's going to try and wield as much influence as possible and consequences be damned. Now, will this help the Republican conference? It certainly won't lead to any constructive law-making. It won't lead to the the party, I think, retaking the majority. That kind of extremism only works in selective pockets of the country.


So the decision to embrace extremism, which ultimately is going to be the legacy of Trumpism, it's going to have very, very mixed results and overall, as we've seen, they went, in just two years, from controlling all three branches of government to controlling none of them. If people can't see that handwriting on the wall, then, you know, yes, perhaps they'll become the Taylor -- the Taylor Greene Republican party and they can spin all kinds of crazy theories and leave the Democrats to govern the country.

BLACKWELL: Do you think this expulsion effort is coming to fruition? Do you think it's going to go anywhere?

LOUIS: Look, I think it's just necessary, Victor. I mean, this is the same question that you asked about before with the impeachment. What do people have to do, you know, to actually take action? When people have been murdered, when the Capitol has been stormed, when the president has tried, in every way that we publicly saw, to overturn an election.

If those kind of attacks on democracy don't draw some kind of a response, then really all is lost for us. The reality is you have to use whatever tools you have. They may not be weak tools, they may not seem like -- they may not seem like powerful tools, they may not seem like they're effective, but you've got to do something and I think that's what the call for expulsion really represents.

You can't do what this person is doing inside the halls of Congress, threatening or, you know, liking, you know, calling for or endorsing the murder of the Speaker of the House. You cannot have that and then just act like it's a form of acceptable political speech. Something has to be done. So for many of us who are watching from the outside, yes, let's have that vote.

BLACKWELL: Last one here and President Biden, in the effort to get this $1.9 trillion COVID rescue bill passed, we now hear him saying I'd like some Republican votes, but we've got to get it done, no if's, and's or but's. Does that foreshadow the end of the bipartisan initiative or was it really possible from the beginning?

LOUIS: Yes. It never really -- look, we're right back to 2009 when we had another -- we had a major economic disaster on our hands and the decision was to play partisan politics. We've had gridlock for a generation now in Congress. Joe Biden's victory didn't make that go away.

If he can peel off just one or two votes and maybe hold it up as a sign of bipartisanship, that would be nice, but the most important thing in the middle of this emergency is to get something done and I think President Biden has signaled that he's very well aware of that and will take action with or without help from the Republicans.

BLACKWELL: You think he'll hold all Democrats? You think Manchin and Sinema are in?

LOUIS: Oh, yes. No question about it. Listen, we're not talking about something that's unpopular.


LOUIS: You know, a lot of folks in these red states who want to stand against actually, you know, helping the American people, they've got long lines outside of their food pantries, they've got people who are busting the unemployment rolls, they've got industries that have been shut down or crippled. Everybody needs the help, everybody knows that we need the help.

Those who want to vote against it for ideological reasons or for narrow political reasons so they don't get challenged by some budget conservative in their -- in their next election, they can play those politics, but most people want something to happen.

BLACKWELL: Errol Louis, thank you.

LOUIS: Thank you.

PAUL: Thanks, Errol. So the FBI is elevating the reward for information about a suspected pipe bomber whose devices were found just before the insurrection of the Capitol.

And listen, tonight at 9:00 P.M. Eastern, we have some place for you to be. Join Anderson Cooper for a look at the origins of the QAnon conspiracy. How did this fringe theory become a movement that now includes members of Congress? The "CNN SPECIAL REPORT: INSIDE THE QANON CONSPIRACY," it airs tonight at 9:00 p.m.



PAUL: Thirty-two minutes past the hour, and listen, we have some disturbing new video from the Capitol insurrection three weeks ago that reveals more of the brutality from that day that we have not seen before. We want to give you a heads-up here, this is violent video and it may be disturbing to watch, but we just don't want you to get caught off guard.




(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: We've been watching videos like this for weeks now, and it

just -- it still shocks. This is body-cam footage that we just watched from Metro D.C. Police, the chaos, the violence as police were being attacked. You could see people beating an officer with a flagpole, American flag still attached. That's after they dragged him down the stairs of the Capitol. Another officer was beaten with his own baton, jumped by rioters who also attacked him with a hockey stick.

PAUL: At least 170 people have been charged in connection to that insurrection so far.

BLACKWELL: The FBI says the pipe bombs found near the Capitol on January 6th were placed there the night before. We've got some surveillance video here, this was obtained by "The Washington Post", and it shows the suspect before the bomb was placed in an alley behind the Republican Party headquarters, that's a block from the Capitol grounds. Now, the FBI says the same person is suspected of placing a second bomb at the Democratic Party headquarters.


PAUL: CNN's Marshall Cohen is with us now. Marshal, good to see you. The FBI we know has increased the reward again for any information about the suspect, I believe it's the third time they've increased it. Does that give the indication that they're kind of hitting a wall here?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, they need help. They're appealing to the American people, trying to up the ante a little bit with the money reward. Look, you just saw the surveillance tape. It's not that easy to make this guy out. He's wearing a gray hoodie, a mask. It's not that easy to even get a clue of who he might be.

The FBI even released the type of Nike shoes he was wearing in hopes of tripping someone's memory and helping somebody figure it out. But this is the serious part of the investigation, guys. The bombs were real. They had real explosive powder, timers rigged to go off. Thank goodness they didn't go off, but these were real bombs and the authorities are looking into whether or not they may have been a diversion.

Something meant to peel the police away from the Capitol, move them a couple of blocks away so that the rioters could get in. It's a startling new development, one of many new developments. And you showed earlier that footage, the horrifying footage, the body-cam footage, for the first time we're seeing what it looked like from the officer's point of view. So many of the rioters uploaded their own footage to social media, this time we're seeing what it looked like from the police line.

As you mentioned, Victor, people were using anything they could get to attack these officers. In this footage, you see someone using a hockey stick. I've seen tape where people used a baseball bat, crutches, at some point, some of the people were just throwing old school punches. It was real hand-to-hand combat there, and guys, that tape, that was two and a half hours after the first breach. This was a long battle. BLACKWELL: And showed up with baseball bats and hockey sticks. Hey,

Marshall, so we know they're still looking for the person who planted the bombs. Tell us about the people that they found. That they've arrested.

COHEN: Well, luckily, they've been getting about a dozen new cases each day for the past three weeks. It's really starting to trickle in. Last night, we learned some new details about an indictment that's been brought against two alleged members of the Proud Boys.

That's the far-right extremist group, many of their members are known for their white supremacist views, anti-Semitic views. These two guys are accused of conspiring with each other, not necessarily planning the attack weeks in advance, but when they got there, the Feds say they worked together to breach the police line, take down police barricades.

One of them is accused of using a police shield to smash a window that then the rioters used to get into the Capitol. So, we're learning new details every day. At this point, I think it's about 175 people that have been charged so far.

BLACKWELL: Wow, Marshall Cohen, thank you for the update.

PAUL: Thank you, Marshall --

COHEN: You bet.

PAUL: So, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer have announced one of the victims of the insurrection, Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick will lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday. Sicknick died after being hit in the head with a fire extinguisher during that violent riot. Now, two Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow the house sergeant at arms to pay for the officer's funeral services.

BLACKWELL: After the break, we're going to take you live to Brazil. That new variant of the coronavirus. At least, one of them is ravaging parts of the country. Hospitals there are under-staffed, under supplied, but overwhelmed with patients.



BLACKWELL: The hospitals are overrun. There's a new variant of the virus that is spreading quickly, out of control. And the dead are adding up so quickly in Brazil that they're having to invent new ways to bury them.

PAUL: Can you imagine? CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Sao Paulo, Brazil. So, Matt, we know that the virus has hit Brazil this last year, particularly hard with a lot of force there. What do we know about the latest outbreak that they're dealing with?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this latest outbreak, I think it's safe to say is worrying everyone across the country. From the people in the northern part of the country in the city of Manaus to epidemiologists to government officials. What we are seeing here, despite all that we have seen here in Brazil over the past year which has had one of the worst outbreaks in the entire world with what is going on right now in this country, frankly it is worse than it has ever been.


RIVERS (voice-over): The tense quiet outside the small hospital in Uberaba(ph), Brazil can change so fast. An ambulance suddenly pulls up in front of the hospital, as a woman inside is given CPR, medics desperately trying to save her. But a hospital source told us she died soon after this video was shot. The woman was the third COVID patient to die here this morning alone.

The overwhelmed hospital is a small example of a massive outbreak here in Brazil's northwest. Its epicenter known as the gateway to the Amazon, the city of Manaus, the city of about 2 million is replete with scenes like this, patients packed into unsanitary hospitals. With a startling lack of ventilators or even just oxygen, recovering is a mirage.

And what's been the city's deadliest month in the pandemic by far, many here are just simply waiting to die. This doctor says we've got 15 patients and there's two beds. It's difficult to say that we choose who lives and who dies, but we do try and save the ones with the best chance to live.


Health officials at all levels have acknowledged shortcomings, and doctors and nurses are clearly doing their best with the little they have. But Manaus has been here before. In April and May last year, the healthcare system collapsed for the first time during the first COVID- 19 wave. Some studies suggested up to 75 percent of Manaus got the virus, thousands of newly dug graves park-marked the city's cemetery, but now even those aren't enough.

(on camera): So that's why the government is quickly building these, so-called vertical graves. They're basically coffin-size section that will stack on top of one other, and they're doing this way because they're running out of space. By the time this project is ultimately done, the government says they will have built 22,000 vertical graves to meet the expected demand.

(voice-over): So many people got sick, the first time, many here simply believe that herd immunity would prevent another round. Despite many warnings from experts that, that might not be true, Brazil's COVID skeptic President Jair Bolsonaro said there would be a second wave. Things opened up, life got back to normal, and then came a new COVID variant, P-1, originating right here in Brazil. A kind of a perfect storm.

SCOTT HENSLEY, VIRAL IMMUNOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: I'm usually not an alarmist about these kinds of things, and I'm concerned about what we're seeing in Brazil right now.

RIVERS: A recent study in Manaus found two-thirds of recent infections are caused by the variant, prompting fears that this variant spreads faster. Back outside the small hospital in Uberaba(ph), we meet Maxileia Silva da Silva, her brother has been inside with COVID for weeks in desperate need of better care, but just doesn't exist here right now. Next to the hospital, a refrigerated container was brought in to store bodies.

MAXILEIA SILVA DA SILVA, BROTHER IN HOSPITAL WITH COVID-19: Take our cry for help to the world, she tells us. Tell them that this system is killing Brazilians. People who can't get into hospitals are dying. Halfway through our interview, though, we had to pause. There was a new suspected COVID patient arriving, crying as he's admitted. Because everybody here knows what can happen once you go inside.


RIVERS: Now, I can't overstate how angry people are in Manaus over the response or the lack thereof of the federal government. And yet, both the country's health minister and its president continue to have the arrogance, frankly, to defend their response.

Despite the fact that more people died in Manaus during the first three weeks of January than in any other complete month throughout this pandemic. And as we go forward into the next month or two, not only are there fears that this variant is spreading rapidly here in Brazil, but we also know it's been detected last week for the first time in the United States.

BLACKWELL: Fifteen patients in two beds. There's a line in that story that you wrote, Matthew, recovery is a mirage, it is striking. Thank you so much for that report.

PAUL: OK, so, back here, we're talking about the Super Bowl because it's still a week away. The festivities are ramping up here, and they say, listen, there's still going to be plenty to do with the precautions that are in place. It's a stark contrast, though, obviously to another major sporting event that's about to happen on the other side of the world.



PAUL: Well, the NFL is ramping up COVID-19 testing as we edge towards Super Bowl LV next Sunday.

BLACKWELL: Coy Wire is with us now. Coy, with all the cases and postponements, it's a pretty significant accomplishment that there will be a Super Bowl this year.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been a long journey to get to this point, good morning, Victor and Christi. And it is now or never for the league which has persevered through multiple major outbreaks and occasionally topsy-turvy schedule to get to this point. A lot of discipline and sacrifice by the teams and players to be able to pull it off.

Now, as of this weekend, players and staff for the Buccaneers and the Chiefs will be tested twice a day for the NFL's COVID protocols which require a 10-day quarantine. Remember, so at this point, any player or staff or no matter who they are, they test positive for the virus, they're not going to be eligible to participate in the Super Bowl next Sunday.

But if the trend continues, that should hopefully not be an issue. The league reported just two new cases in the last week, and none among players. That's down from nine the week prior the number of new cases, steadily declining throughout the playoffs along with a number of teams participating in them.

Now, many traditional events aren't going to happen this year, but the Super Bowl experience fan zone did open yesterday along Tampa's Riverwalk, it's about three-mile stretch, masks are required following an executive order on Thursday by Tampa's mayor regarding any Super Bowl event. Fans can test their agility through obstacle courses. They can run these 40-yard dashes against simulators, they can visit the replica of Tom Brady's locker or even a miniature hall of fame. They can also sign up to meet players at virtual autograph signings.

All right, final prep under way at Raymond James Stadium, 22,000 socially-distanced, pod-seated, mask-wearing fans will be allowed inside to watch this game, a little over 33 percent capacity, but compare that to Tennis' first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open just nine days away, and we're learning just overnight that 30,000 fans will be allowed on the grounds each day for the first week of the event.

This week, thousands of fans, Victor and Christi, none of whom are required to wear masks, cramming in to watch exhibition matches. It's a new experience for a lot of these players in this pandemic world, many of whom haven't played in front of a crowd in a year.


Now, these images, they seem like some other world to many of us with the way things have been this past year, but gatherings like this sporting events across Australia, been happening for months, three months ago, 40,000 fans watched the rugby championship, credit to Australia, some of the strictest protocols out there, people following those protocols, they've controlled the spread of the virus, as of Thursday, there hadn't been any new local COVID infections in nearly two weeks in any of Australia's states or territories.

BLACKWELL: Looks so great. Summertime there in Australia, just looks really good. Thank you, Coy.

WIRE: I can't wait to go to a Beyonce concert with you some day, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Be prepared. It is an event. It is an event.

(LAUGHTER) PAUL: Oh, I kind of --

BLACKWELL: All right --

PAUL: Want to get in on that, too after --


PAUL: Listening to that --

BLACKWELL: Plenty of seats.

PAUL: Yes, that's right.

BLACKWELL: Boston's iconic Fenway Park about to open to a mass vaccination site and will stay that way until baseball season begins. Converting sporting arenas into huge clinics is just one way that cities are trying to get more people vaccinated. We've got the latest on the vaccinations and the variants after the break.