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New Day Saturday

Power Returning Across State, Water Crisis, Food Shortages Persist; Millions Impacted By Water Disruptions Due To Frozen Pipes; Biden & FEMA Pledge More Aid As Tx Struggles To Recover From Freeze. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 20, 2021 - 08:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The worst of the Texas freeze is over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been here for about 30 years and I've never seen anything like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When people lose power, there are heartbreaking consequences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we know just how badly this weather is delaying vaccinations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a backlog of about 6 million doses due to the weather.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The delays coming just as so many states across the country were starting to close the gap.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We continue to see a five week decline in COVID cases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Biden preparing to take a crack at his next legislative battle.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a reasonable path to citizenship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the President's more moderate politics on display on other issues.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I say can we do this? Send a note to President Biden, because the answer is we could do it right now.


ANNOUNCER: This is New Day Weekend with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Live, look at the White House there. President Biden has said he will sign that major disaster declaration for the people of Texas where this morning more than 79,000 people are still without power. But electricity has been restored to millions of homes.

That brutal winter storm knocked out power for days. Temperatures are still being felt below freezing in several parts of the state.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: More than 14 million Texans either don't have running water or have to boil the water that they do have. Officials say it could be days before the water - water issues are resolved and the storm damaged several homes, shut down coronavirus vaccination sites and killed more than two dozen people.

Now we do have some good news for you. Temperatures are expected to go up in the coming days here. CNN's Natasha Chen is in Houston right now. And Natasha, I know the state's primary power company says the energy emergency, that itself is over.

What are you seeing there this morning?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that may be over. But now there's a water crisis. And that's why we're at a food bank where there's going to be distributions today. We've seen many bottled water distributions scheduled throughout the weekend throughout Houston. And I'm sure in other places because you've got more than 1300 water systems affecting 62 percent of Texas counties right now as far as the water situation goes.

And the Austin Mayor told CNN that he doesn't know the extent of the damage there. You've got 5000 people as of last night in Houston calling the city about burst pipes. There are people coming up to us, showing us images of burst pipes in their apartments flooding their homes. And some of these people really have nowhere to go.

So that is the immediate crisis. Of course, at the same time, you've got people questioning why this crisis was as bad as it was as far as the power outages went. That is all being directed at ERCOT, a state agency that manages the flow of power for about 90 percent of the state.

We asked the Houston Mayor yesterday about that. And this unique Texas situation where energy is deregulated. That means people can choose their retail provider. There's cheap power but that comes with some interesting situations when it comes to a weather event like this.


MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D-TX), HOUSTON: When the demand was high, you had limited capacity and you drove up the costs for the generators. So it was more geared towards the market and not geared to meet the needs of the customers. That is what my bill was intended to address. And the legislature chose not to do it. So the fault is not just with ERCOT. ERCOT is an agent agency of the state.

The fault goes to Governor, Lieutenant Governor, speakers, state representatives and state senators. ERCOT should not be the scapegoat for a lack of leadership and being responsive to the needs of the people of this state.


CHEN: Yes, so Mayor Turner there was talking about a bill that he proposed back in 2011. The whole idea, though, is that there needs to be more oversight is his point and a lot of other people are looking at how that might be able to be done. The governor on his part has urged state lawmakers at this point to mandate at least weatherization so you have a reliable system here of checking and making sure that all the equipment is weatherized for a storm like this.

BLACKWELL: Natasha Chen there at a food bank in Houston, thank you.

PAUL: So FEMA says it's on the ground in Texas. They're ready to help people with 1000s of meals and blankets and liters of water. This as President Biden is vowing support from the federal government.

BLACKWELL: CNNs Priscilla Alvarez is following this from DC. So what's the latest on how the White House is getting help to Texas?


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: So President Biden met with the Acting Administrator of FEMA yesterday to talk about exactly that. Biden told the administrator that he is going to mobilize other federal agencies to assist in Texas as well as provide additional resources. But one of the key actions that Biden is going to take is to sign a major disaster declaration that was a request from Texas for additional support.

Now, what that declaration does is unlock more resources that FEMA can provide. For example, FEMA can help with repairing permanent infrastructure. And as well as providing individual assistance, such as supplementing people's insurance, helping them cover costs, like the repair on their homes.

So all of this is what we're expecting in the coming days, we expect that major disaster declaration soon. And Biden also says that he plans to travel to Texas next week. Now plans for that will be announced next week, depending on whether it would be a burden on the state. But all of these actions coming very quickly from the White House to assist Texas.

PAUL: This is Priscilla Alvarez, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: So this week, there was a lot of blame going around, finger pointing across Texas as this winter weather crisis hurts so many people. But our next guest says that those officials may be to blame themselves. He wrote that, "painfully learned this week, small government sounds good right up until the power goes out and the faucets run dry. In Texas the buck doesn't stop here. It just gets on a plane to Mexico."

Joining me now is John Bridges, Executive Editor of the Austin American Statesman. John, good morning to you. So the governor first said that ERCOT was to blame and then said, No, I'm accepting it. And then others said that we need more regulation. And the ERCOT CEO said that, you know, we stopped the greater catastrophe. Do you know this morning, so many days in, who is responsible?

JOHN BRIDGES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN: No, I think there are a lot of people responsible. And it was - it was good to see the governor finally say that, that he accepted responsibility on Thursday, I think it was but then he turned right around and blamed ERCOT like you said, but you know, I wrote that Texas is - Texas government is broken. And it quite literally is broken.

We broke the power grid this week. And like you're reporting there, half the state is without water or has some kind of water problems? And you know, Texas leaders were warned a decade ago, just like you were reporting there, like Mayor Turner was saying that our power system had serious vulnerabilities in winter.

And yet, they obviously did not address those problems. And when the blackouts did begin, our leaders were missing for the first day or so there. And when they did communicate, they, like we say, shifted blame to others and gave us non-serious answers. And sometimes outright falsehoods about you know, blaming windmills and the Green New Deal.

All these things aimed at scoring political points in their next election instead of what Texans really needed to hear this week.

BLACKWELL: you know, when you talk about communication, I want you to listen to this exchange. This is last night. I believe this is like day six of the crisis. This is Wolf Blitzer and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Have the two of you connected, the governor and the mayor of the largest city in Texas?

TURNER: I have not spoken to him, Wolf but I have had several conversations with the Biden Administration. Several of them. We've - so we've, you know, I've had those conversations. But I've not had an opportunity to speak with the governor.


BLACKWELL: How is that possible? What is the political environment there in Texas, where the governor so many days into this still has not spoken or at that point had not spoken with the Mayor of Houston?

BRIDGES: Yes, I don't I don't know whether, you know, he has spoken with the Mayor of Austin or Dallas or other places either. Obviously, take Mayor Turner on his word there. But yes, the dynamic is that the state government and the Governor Greg Abbott, are quite often at odds with the large cities in the state, which tend to be more Democratic - leaning and more liberal.

And so you know, we saw this back with the coronavirus and masks requirements and those kind of things, where the state would come in and really hamper the local officials ability to, you know, do their job or do what they think is needed on the ground. And so it's not too surprising that there would be that same kind of tension even as in something as horrible as this and you would, you would hope everybody could put that aside and just do the job that needs to be done.

BLACKWELL: Yes. I want you to also listen to Senator Ted Cruz Of course. He took that trip to Cancun. This is what he says he took away from the reaction to that trip.



SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): We're at a very divided place in our country where people are screaming vitriol and hate. And you know what I think that is a sad sign of where we are. I don't do that to other people. You don't see me screaming at people, I disagree with that they need to resign. And one of the things I'm most dismayed about how the last 24 hours is played out, is this whole thing has dominated the airwaves instead of focusing on let's solve the problems.

Listen, Texans want the power back on, they want the water back on, they want the problem solved.


BLACKWELL: OK, two things here. He has shouted at Democrats to resign. And this wouldn't be a distraction if he hadn't gotten on the plane to go to a resort. Is he any more vulnerable politically than he was a week ago?

BRIDGES: I think he's lucky that he won reelection two years ago and has four years left on that term. Maybe - maybe he can make up for it in those four years. I think a lot of Texans are just very angry. And after, after my piece published yesterday, I heard from a ton of them who, you know, thanked me for giving voice to their frustrations that they've, you know, felt the same thing for a long time, that we've had too many officials who really are more interested in dismantling government than actually running one.

And it's hard work to want to run one.

BLACKWELL: Yes, let me finish with the last line of your piece. You wrote, let's remember these frozen, powerless, waterless nights on Election Day. Memories are short, though, there are a lot of voters who are single issue, whether it's guns, whether it's the issue of life or abortion. Do you think that that what happened over the last week is enough to realign politics in Texas, or at least parts of it?

BRIDGES: That might be a stretch to say realign. You know, I do hope that it causes people to hold their leaders more accountable. And that's what we try to do and at the newspaper and journalism across Texas. You know, when it comes to election time, I hope people remember and elect more serious people to political office.

You know, Ted Cruz is a serious guy, Greg Abbott is too but we have - we have a few who are holding statewide office who really are not just very serious people, and we need people who, you know, really put the interests of the people first and are less interested in, you know, appearing on Fox news to make their political points, which is what we saw happen this week.

And yes, I hope, I hope people will remember and, you know, we at the newspaper are going to continue to, you know, work to hold them accountable to report you know, what happened, why it happened and, and who's responsible for it.

BLACKWELL: John bridges, Executive Editor at the Austin American Statesman, thank you so much for speaking with me this morning. I'm going to tweet out what you wrote. I think people should read that. Thanks so much.

BRIDGES: Thank you. Have a good day.


PAUL: So that severe weather has disrupted coronavirus vaccine shipments across the country as well. What the White House is doing this weekend to get those vaccines out to states and get vaccine sites back up and running.

BLACKWELL: Plus New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is doubling down and defending his administration's claiming - against rather claims that they underreported nursing home COVID deaths.




PAUL: 17 minutes past the hour this morning. Extreme weather in parts of the country is causing some major delays in vaccine distribution nationwide.

BLACKWELL: The Biden Administration is working to catch up after announcing a backlog of about 6 million vaccine doses. A senior White House COVID-19 advisor Andy Slavitt told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that help is on the way and soon.


ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE: Starting tomorrow, Saturday, we're going to be shipping more doses than states have ever received before because we're going to be shipping this week's doses and next week's doses.

We know this means for all the governors and all the states that have said we want more vaccines, that they're going to have to be ready. They're going to have to make more appointments. They're going to have to extend their hours and we're really hoping everybody pulls together.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: With us now is CNN's Athena Jones. Athena, the numbers are

going in the right direction. New cases daily, hospitalizations, deaths, all dropping across the country.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. That is right. It is good news. I mean, there is no doubt that the COVID picture here in the U.S. continues to improve. In fact, we're seeing the steepest decline in new cases since the pandemic began, down almost 30 percent week over week and that's good for many reasons.

One reason it's good is that it's good for the reopening of schools.


JONES: Encouraging news from the Centers for Disease Control Friday at a White House coronavirus taskforce briefing.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CDC: We continue to see a five-week decline in COVID cases with cases decreasing 69 percent in the seven- day average since hitting a peak on January 11.

JONES: Hospitalizations have also declined 56 percent since January, and deaths have declined modestly to an average of about 2700 a day. Those improving numbers mean that schools can reopen at any stage of community spread according to the CDC director.

WALENSKY: Our numbers are coming down I would actually invite schools to lean in and to look at what is needed so that in the roadmap to try and get more and more children back to school.

JONES: During the briefing Dr. Anthony Fauci said vaccine safety data for higher school aged children will likely be released later this year and children younger than that, early next year. But while COVID- 19 infection numbers appear to be easing President Joe Biden said he could not be sure when a majority of Americans would have access to the vaccine.


BIDEN: Look what's happening with the weather now, for example, it's slowing up the distribution right now.

JONES: Vaccine shipping delays continue to cause headaches across the United States with severe winter weather hindering distribution efforts. Though officials remain confident those delays will ease within a matter of days.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): The weather is certainly the here and now reason why it isn't a straight line. But I'm confident that this will straighten itself out in a matter of days. This - the biggest reason is a lack of supply.

JONES: That lack of supply is driving questions about whether second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should be delayed in favor of giving more Americans a first dose after a new Israeli study indicates high levels of protection after just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Fauci said he had not changed his mind about the need for two doses, saying it is too risky, given the data about the vaccines.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE: I'm with Tony, I'm with Dr. Fauci in the sense that we know that two doses both give high levels of consistent neutralizing antibody and durability of protection. I haven't seen sufficient data yet to go just to that single dose route.

JONES: So while we're hearing good news about vaccine effectiveness at a place like right here, the Javits Center, one of several mass vaccination sites, in and around New York City, the issue is, of course, supply. This is what we hear over and over again, lack of supply, slots for appointments here, go as - they're snapped up as soon as they're made available.

And so you have officials here in New York and across the country really hoping that Andy Slavitt, the COVID advisor for the White House is right when he says all those backlogs, millions of doses will be delivered this week. Next week. Victor, Christi.


PAUL: Athena Jones, appreciate it so much. Thank you. Dr. Megan Ranney, Emergency Physician at Brown University with us now, Dr. Ranney, so good to see you. So let's - I want to ask you about this study in Israel that shows, you know, after two weeks of just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, people are 85 percent protected.

Do you see an option where one dose may be better? And to expand out at least one dose for other people?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Yes, let's be clear on what this Israeli study really shows. It is really exciting in two ways. The first is it confirms what we already knew, from the trials that were presented to the FDA, showing that after the first dose, you do get some degree of immunity.

The second even more exciting thing about this study is that it shows not just that you're protected from severe infection, but you're also protected from any infection, which makes this vaccine truly the magic bullet, we've all been looking for to reopen the country.

It means that if you're vaccinated, you're really unlikely to catch it and pass the disease on to someone who hasn't been vaccinated. What this study does not show in any way shape or form is that you can avoid or delay the second dose. It does not show that. It shows the first dose works.

But the second dose is likely what we need to get that higher vaccine immunity that we've all been talking about for the past couple of weeks. We know that the vaccines are better than getting infected at protecting you from the new variants and protecting you from a second infection.

There's no data here to support delaying or avoiding a second dose.

PAUL: So speak to the people in Texas right now who because of what's been happening with the weather have not been able to get their second shot. They may be very concerned at the moment, what would you say to them.

RANNEY: So first, my heart goes out to them not just about the vaccines, but about the general public health emergency that they're living under. They're having lack of water, lack of heat, risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. I've heard stories from ER docs that are my friends there about people showing up at their hospital unable to get dialysis, insulin, oxygen.

It is a tragedy on so many levels, now delaying the dose of the vaccine for a few days or maybe even for a week, that's within the realm of what the CDC is already recommending and what the data supports. That's very different from having a universal policy across the United States that you can delay a second dose.

PAUL: Let's listen to a Dr. Anthony Fauci in terms of the timeline that they've been giving over the last few months regarding the vaccines and when life might get back to normal.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: By the time we get to April, that will be what I would call for, you know, for better wording open season, namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated. That timeline will probably be prolonged maybe into mid to late May and early June.

They'll be available in July. It may take an additional couple of months actually, maybe towards the end of the summer to get everybody vaccinated.


PAUL: We know it's a fluid situation. So we know that modifications are necessary. But this may cause a lot of confusion for people. What do you attribute the postponement of the vaccinations to specifically?

RANNEY: I think it's due to two things. The first is, is that when the Biden-Harris administration took over, they really had no idea how much vaccine was actually in the system. And the second part is, is that we continue to face logistical snafus.

You know, I think I'm telling my own family that by the end of the summer, we should be largely back to normal and most of us who want to vaccine should have gotten it. I'll be honest, I'm planning a trip with my parents for their 50th anniversary for August. I think that's a timeline we can count on.

Earlier than that would be a blessing, but not something that we can really hang our hat on at this point. PAUL: Well 50 years, congratulations to them first of all. I also want

to ask about the good news, we've been seeing the declining numbers and hospitalizations and deaths and cases. But how do the variants that we're watching so closely play in what happens next?

RANNEY: So this is the huge unknown is what is the effect of this variants on whether or not we are going to have a fourth surge? Many of us in public health are kind of waiting and being cautious. This is why we're telling people to not stop masking, not stop avoiding endorse social gatherings quite yet, because we don't really know what's going to happen with this variant.

And we saw what happened last winter, when we didn't take COVID seriously enough, we don't want to make that same mistake again. The end is so close with the vaccines getting on arms. Now we may be wrong. The new variant might not be all that horrible, but there's just not enough data and it's not worth the risk at this point.

PAUL: Dr. Megan Ranney, we appreciate everything you do. Thank you so much for your expertise.

BLACKWELL: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is defending how his administration handled data on nursing home deaths. Lawmakers in his state are pushing a bill to strip him of some of the power was given to him during the pandemic. Tomorrow night on CNN, you can see how Abraham Lincoln's debates with Stephen Douglas over the expansion of slavery propelled him onto a national stage and helped to pave the way to his presidency.

CNNs Original Series 'Lincoln: Divided we stand' continues Sunday night at 10 Eastern.




BLACKWELL: Outrage is growing over allegations that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration covered up the true number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. He's blaming in part misinformation. And yesterday he proposed new Nursing Home Reform legislation, that he says must be in the state budget.

He's also doubling down on defending his administration. He said that he should have been more aggressive in calling out reporters and politicians, he claimed lied about nursing home scandals. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn and the FBI are now scrutinizing the data on those COVID-19 deaths. And even some fellow Democrats are joining calls for full investigation.

Let's discuss now with CNN political commentator, Errol Louis. He is the political anchor at Spectrum News and the host of the You Decide podcast. Errol, good morning to you. I want to start here with the governor explaining this misinformation element. Let's start with that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: I did not aggressively enough, we did not aggressively enough take on the misinformation that caused people pain and it caused pain for grieving families. And that's what I regret. I'm not going to make that mistake again.

If you're lying to the people of the state of New York, I'm going to call it out.


BLACKWELL: Errol, State Attorney General's report would suggest that it's the misrepresentation of the administration that is the problem here. Is this the full breadth of what he says that that he or his administration did wrong?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not - not really. I mean, what he always leaves out Victor is the context and the context is important. The context is this, at the start of the pandemic, New York had about 53,000 hospital beds. There were credible projections included from Columbia University that suggested we might need 140,000 hospital beds.

And so it was in the context of that emergency at the start of the pandemic, when it wasn't clear what was going on, that the administration adopted this policy of saying, when you're discharged from a hospital, you've got to free up that bed. And if you have to go back to a nursing home, that's where you've got to go.

And it was a decision that at the time made sense, but it was quickly proved, you know, we knew within a month or two that we weren't going to need 140,000 beds, I think we topped out around 20,000 hospitalized at any one time. So with that as the backdrop, that policy of sending COVID-19 you know, people have tested positive who had been sick back in the nursing homes where there are vulnerable and frail elderly and there's some suggestion now, there's some evidence that it led to excess deaths in those nursing homes.

Somebody's got to be blamed and that person is the governor. And you know, he compounded the problem by hiding the information. All of this that we're piecing together after the fact could have been known a lot sooner. He's now in no position to claim that others are misrepresenting information because he hid a lot of data from the public, Victor.

BLACKWELL: So Republicans in the New York General Assembly are now calling for the creation of his impeachment commission to determine if the governor committed crimes. Is there enough Democratic support for that and we'll talk about the emergency powers later, but is there enough Democratic support for that in Albany for that to come to fruition?

LOUIS: Not even remotely. New York doesn't have a recall provision the way states like California do. When it comes to impeachment, it requires the involvement of the chief judge of the state who was appointed by Cuomo, the lieutenant governor who was picked by Cuomo, the Senate Majority.


It's just not going to happen. We haven't impeached a governor in New York since 1913. It's not going to happen this time.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk now about the revoking those emergency powers that were given to the governor. There are Democrats in the State Senate who are on board with that. Do we know if there's enough Democratic support in the other chamber?

LOUIS: Well, we're going to start to see, as soon as next week, there are going to be some early votes on whether or not to revoke those, those emergency powers. They were set to expire at the end of April. Anyhow. So we're not talking about a great deal of time.

The governor has issued over 200 emergency orders, it was a way to simply move faster on things like closing schools, limiting the number of people who could go to restaurants and live venues and so forth.

Whether or not that that changes in the next few weeks is not going to drastically change the trajectory of the state response to COVID but it is a way for the legislature to express its anger at the governor for not having kept them fully informed about what was going on with nursing homes in particular.

BLACKWELL: Quickly, let's talk about the people. I mean even after the AG's report came out about the reporting of nursing home deaths, public approval of the governor's handling of the Pandemic was at 61 percent. When it comes to making details of the nursing home deaths public specifically, only 39 percent believe that he's done a good job that we know polls are lagging indicators.

We've learned more from Assemblyman Kim about an alleged threat over the phone. Is public support deteriorating, is it holding?

LOUIS: I'd be very surprised if the public support dipped substantially. Governor Cuomo was seen as having confidently handled this emergency with this important exception that when it comes to nursing homes, and especially release of the data related to nursing home, the situation, they were far, far less than perfect.

And I think even the administration itself would acknowledge that. What really matters though Victor is next year is an election year. And to the extent that Governor Cuomo wants to seek an unprecedented fourth term as governor, what will matter is not so much whether people like his performance, but whether or not a credible challenger emerges, who can turn the dissatisfaction that you're seeing now into a credible political threat a year from now.

And of course, that all remains to be seen.

BLACKWELL: There's a lot to watch in this upcoming week in Albany and what lawmakers there decide to do moving forward with about the governor. Errol Louis, thanks so much.

LOUIS: Thank you.


PAUL: So after the so called seven minutes of terror, NASA's Mars Rover Perseverance sticks a landing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Touchdown confirmed. Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars ready to begin seeking the signs of past life.

PAUL: New images we're getting from the red planet for you next.




BLACKWELL: NASA's Perseverance rover, his friends call him Percy is already sending back pictures of what it looks like to land on Mars. The rover's landing system snapped a selfie as it touchdown after a nearly 300 million mile journey.

PAUL: I mean, the pictures are incredible. Perseverance is going to spend the next two years searching Mars for signs of ancient life I believe 3.9 billion years ago, is what they are trying to navigate there and see what they can come up with.

Here with us, Janet Ivey, she's president of Explore Mars that advocates for sending astronauts to the red planet. Janet, thank you so much for being with us. I understand, Perseverance is the most sophisticated of the five rovers. As I understand it, that has been to Mars. It's got 23 cameras. How will the capability of Perseverance change what we've seen before now?

JANET IVEY, PRESIDENT, EXPLORE MARS: Well, thank you, Christi and Victor for having me on. We have had one exciting week on Mars. But this Perseverance really is a show of technical engineering genius. There are so many instruments that have been improved upon that the technology wasn't fully developed when Curiosity was deployed.

And so what we're getting from these first black and white images. Imagine this guys, these first pictures and this first selfie are black and white images that were taken with the hazard cameras with their lenses still on. So it takes a while to unpack the rover after it safely lands.

But once that mask cam Z is fully deployed and up, and that'll be done here in the next several days, I think the vistas for Mars are just going to be astounding. So we are cheering their entire team on. It's been an impressive collaboration from NASA and all its partners. And to think all of this, it was launched and landed safely and successfully all during a pandemic.

BLACKWELL: Yes. What's the significance if you could explain the significance of the basin where Perseverance is exploring? IVEY: Yes, so it's like the targeted Jezero Crater and it's this

ancient River Delta. And scientists and astrobiologists are particularly interested in this particular region because, think of all of that is where it's most likely to have like sedimentary, you know, evidence of life.


And so again, that is why Perseverance is going, it's going to cache these samples, it's going to store those away. The Mars rover following in 2026, will grab a hold of those along with a European Space Agency partner. And by 2031, we will hopefully have Mars samples back here on earth to really look at them up close and personal.

So going to the Jezero Basin, that is the place where we know water existed 3.5 billion years ago, and there's every hope that we might find microscopic life there.

PAUL: I'm still amazed - Yes, yes, it's amazing, you know, that it happened 3.5 billion years ago, as you were saying that the water that was there. The eruption of emotion at NASA, when it was announced, it just made you smile, I think it just see everybody, not just happy, but I think there must have been a sense of relief.

Help us understand what that moment was for all of the people, the talent and the people that have been working behind the scenes to make this happen.

IVEY: I think it's important to remember that there have been scientists, engineers, researchers working for years on this project. And so again, Mars is 11 light minutes away from Earth. So by the time they got the signal that it's like it had entered the, you know, the actual atmosphere and was careening toward the surface, Mars, the rover had already landed.

So there's this moment of terror, where you get the message that yes, everything's deploying, there's all of that descent, and landing and entry are happening. And all you can do is wait. And because he's like, you know, in your head that it's there. But now we have to wait to get confirmation that it has landed safely.

And so, again, to see, engineers erupt in joy, I think it's exactly what we've needed. After a year of 2020 and everything that our world has been through to celebrate, to see that celebration, again, is just again, the celebration of engineering feats by normal people choosing to dream the impossible and accomplishing great things. It's just amazing.

BLACKWELL: It is amazing to see those pictures back from Percy, we know we've got the Chinese have a rover that's in orbit earlier this month. The Emiratis have their Hope rover in orbit expected to land there in a few months as well. A bit of a space race there at Mars and around Mars.

Janet Ivey, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We could feel your excitement. You really brought this home for us. So thank you so much for sharing it with us.

IVEY: Thank you Christi and Victor and everybody. You know space is for everybody. Seeing - seeing how Probe and T1 won and Perseverance, it's like ours is having a party right now.

BLACKWELL: It is indeed. Janet Ivey, thank so much. We'll be right back.

IVEY: Thank you. Bye bye.




PAUL: There's another aspect to COVID that you may not be talking about. This virus has created a whole new level of horror for people living in abusive situations.


KATIE RAY-JONES, CEO, NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE: We're hearing stories of how survivors maybe lost their job due to the pandemic and their perpetrator, abusive partner is threatening to kick them out of the home or is withholding finances from them.

We've also heard stories of the partner having COVID but not telling the survivor in the home and then the survivor and the children in the home getting sick and then refusing to get the medical treatment.


PAUL: That's Katie Ray-Jones with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and she says since the beginning of the outbreak 23,000 people have called the hotline indicating specifically that COVID is being used to isolate and create fear in them.


RAY-JONES: A woman had called us who was living in a community where her work was open, her employer was asking her to report to work and her partner indicated that he did not want her to leave the house and her partner pulled out a firearm and threatened her with the firearm to prevent her from leaving the home.

I think of the women who've called who've had injuries but were afraid to go to the hospital in fear of COVID. So we've had women who slept in their cars in the hospital parking lot in case the injuries got to the point where they needed emergency care.

We've had to do safety planning with a woman who was strangled by her partner and was afraid to go to the hospital. So she had a family member calling her every five minutes to make sure she could still speak in case there was swelling.


PAUL: Katie made a point of reminding us a couple of things. First of all, because of the dangers of getting someone sick with the virus, survivors don't have the outlets to leave to be with parents or other people.

Also the children who are now home 24/7 are witnessing the abuse at alarming levels and survivors really fear for the safety of their children. And lastly, victims and survivors are courageous. They're using strength every day to take care of the people they love in these situations.

But the hotline's most urgent need to help them be safe is to get support to the local shelters and resources that partner with the hotline so if you know someone or you are someone who needs help, you can call 1-800-799-SAFE and you can also chat online with someone at the and we hope that you are safe.

BLACKWELL: All valuable information. Join us again in an hour.


PAUL: Yes, Smerconish is up next with you.


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: The truth about Rush. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. I didn't know Rush Limbaugh personally; I was in his company just once. But he had an enormous impact on my profession and our nation.