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New Day Saturday

Senators Pull All-Nighter On $1.9T COVID Rescue Bill Amendment Votes; Democrats Strike Deal With Sen. Manchin Over Jobless Benefits After He Held Up COVID Relief Bill For Hours; States Easing Restrictions Despite Warnings, Variants Spreading. Doctors in Chicago Are Making House Calls To Minority Communities In Order To Vaccinate Vulnerable Patients; More Than 40 States Considering Bills Restricting Voting Rights; Attacks On Asian Americans Soaring During Pandemic. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired March 06, 2021 - 07:00   ET



COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: And just a reminder for all our viewers out there, don't participate in any bracket challenge with Victor Blackwell. That man stays at the top of the leaderboard every year, knows how to pick them, knows how to go dancing.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I am a fantastic guesser.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: I was going to say, what's your secret?

BLACKWELL: Year after year, just guessing.

WALKER: Coy Wire, thank you.

WIRE: Got it.

BLACKWELL: Next hour of NEW DAY, starts now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Senate's vote-a-rama, where senators can offer as many amendments as they want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some Republicans plan to offer a couple dozen amendments each.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This isn't a pandemic rescue package. It's a parade of left-wing pet projects.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their goal is to get in our way and trip us up. It's not going to work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vaccinated Americans are still waiting for the CDC to release its new guidelines which were expected this week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to get back out there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are making sure and taking the time to get this right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pope Francis is in Iraq, hoping to build interfaith relationships and shine the light on the plight of Iraqi Christians.

POPE FRANCIS, SOVEREIGN OF THE VATICAN CITY STATE (through translator): We are gathered in this Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, hallowed by the blood of our brothers and sisters who here paid the ultimate price of their fidelity to the Lord and the Church.


BLACKWELL: You up early, and we're glad you are. Good morning, I'm Victor Blackwell.

WALKER: Yes, good morning, everyone. I'm Amara Walker, in for Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: So, right now, senators are at work on amendments to President Biden's $1.9 trillion rescue bill. You are seeing there, Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. This bill is inching closer to passing in the Senate after an all-night voting marathon.

WALKER: Yes, they process underway right now known as vote-a-rama almost fell apart due to a nearly 12-hour delay. And the surprise roadblock was Democratic Senator Joe Manchin who faced off with fellow Democrats on enhanced unemployment benefits.

Senator Manchin is back on board, though, after agreeing to a compromise on extending the benefits through September 6th. And now, Republicans are running out of options to stall voting, forced to keep going after Democrats refused to stop for the night.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Now, that this agreement has been reached, we are going to power through the rest of the process and get this bill done.

MCCONNELL: Well, my goodness it's been quite a start -- quite a start to this fast track process.


WALKER: CNN's Lauren Fox is up early for us on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, quite a start. Well, what about the end? When does it end?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, I'm talking to a lot of aides and no one has any idea of when the end of this vote-a-rama is going to come and when they're going to finally vote on that $1.9 trillion package.

Look, the sun is up here on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers still in the chamber having a series of these votes. Now, many of these votes are coming from Republicans who are trying to put Democrats in a tough spot on issues related to energy and immigration. What you're going to see over the next several hours is likely those votes are going to keep coming and Democrats are going to have to keep taking them.

I do want to go back to what happened yesterday though because normally, each of these votes takes about 10-15 minutes to get through depending on how many senators are actually present in the chamber.

What you saw yesterday happened though was after they voted on that point of order amendment on the minimum wage, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, that vote was held open for nearly 12 hours, and that is because there was a problem, a problem with Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, a moderate from the state of West Virginia, who informed his leadership he had a problem with what they thought was a deal that had been reached on unemployment insurance benefits.

Those benefits, that agreement, has now finally been reached after several hours of negotiations back and forth between Manchin and his Democratic colleagues.

Manchin talking to some of the Republicans on the other side of the aisle, arguing that he might be willing to vote instead for a Republican amendment. In the end, he voted for both a Republican and a Democratic amendment, but the Democratic one is the one that will superseded and will stick to this bill.

And I think one thing to keep in mind in all of this is just it shows what a delicate majority Chuck Schumer actually has on his hands. He cannot afford to lose a single Democrat.

And that's why Joe Manchin yesterday and that 12-hour negotiation was such a big moment because Democrats are trying to push through this $1.9 trillion package. They were optimistic that they were going to be able to fast-track this after the vote-a-rama. And obviously, things stalled out for a period of time yesterday.

So, again, $1.9 trillion in COVID relief is coming at some point once Democrats get through this vote-a-rama.

WALKER: All right, we will be waiting with you, Lauren. Thank you very much, Lauren Fox. And President Biden is watching from the White House while the Senate debates his COVID-19 relief bill.


BLACKWELL: So, Jasmine Wright is up next. Jasmine is at the White House, negotiations over the size and scope of the bill, exposing fault lines within the party. What are you hearing from the White House about that?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (on camera): Victor, the White House wakes up with just like the rest of America, really watching the progress as Senate democrats work to pass what would be President Biden's first major legislative victory, that $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. The last time that we heard from the White House was in a statement released by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who expressed support for the decision made on those enhanced unemployment benefits.

In part, she wrote, "This agreement allows us to move forward on the urgently needed American Rescue Plan, with $1,400 relief checks, funding we need to finish the vaccine rollout, open our schools, help those suffering from the pandemic, and more."

This is a narrative that we have heard from the White House time and time again as they say that this bill is necessary for President Biden to achieve his number one priority, which is ultimately defeating this coronavirus pandemic.

Over this process, we have seen President Biden really adopt that negotiator-in-chief role, rolling up his sleeves. A White House -- White House officials have said, getting to work, dealing with the behind-the-scenes wheeling, and dealing of the Senate.

So, we know that the White House is closely watching as the Senate works through to pass this.

Now, again, we will wait to see when we hear official word from the White House in terms of when they acknowledge that the vote is still going on. But we know that their eyes are glued to the progress, White House aides are really closely following what happens, likely updating the president as things go along. Victor.

BLACKWELL: Jasmine Wright for us at the White House. Thank you.

Now, to Anita Kumar, Politico's White House correspondent and associate editor. Anita, good morning to you. Let's start here with Senator Joe Manchin, a frustrated Democrats and Republicans yesterday has this outsized influence because of the 50-50 split. Where does -- what is his standing now in his party after what we watched for so many hours yesterday?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND ASSOCIATE EDITOR, POLITICO (on camera): You saw so many Democrats yesterday say how frustrated they were. These are Democrats to moderate Democrats that are generally with him in the Senate, but you also saw a lot of House Democrats that were frustrated and just didn't understand where he was coming from and didn't realize this was going to happen.

You know, there are people who say, look, he's just trying to kind of flex his muscles, show that he's independent. But remember, we've seen his independence. We've seen him derail one of President Biden's picks Neera Tanden, this -- who he wanted for his budget chief. He said he would vote against her and her nomination is not going forward. We've seen him say that he doesn't want the $15 minimum wage that President Biden is supporting.

So, we've seen now over and over again how important one senator is and this particular senator.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the bill passed with a very slim majority in the House. This change on unemployment benefits is this something, or has there been any change that would jeopardize that as they have to come to conference to send it off to the president?

KUMAR: I think in the last day you've seen some House Democrats saying, look, it's inching away from where we can't support this. But I don't think you've seen anyone break with it yet. It depends on what this bill actually looks like.

As it is now, if there's no more significant changes, I think, this is something that when it gets back over to the House that they can support, it's something obviously that we just heard that the White House is supportive of, no matter what happens here, you know, if there's no other significant change, this is a huge legislative victory for the president, six weeks in.

I mean, he got what he wanted here. He's getting checks to Americans. He's getting state and local government funding which Republicans had refused to give last year. You know, he's getting, you know, these unemployment benefits monies for vaccine and schools.

So, even if it doesn't have Republican support, even with this change, this is a major victory for President Biden.

BLACKWELL: So, let's talk about that Republican support and lack of it. Hour after hour overnight amendments being offered by Republicans, being shot down as well. And last night, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, he spoke about what he expects will happen next.

Listen to this and then we'll talk about how realistic it really is. Let's watch.


SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): They may make a strategic decision like they did when the Obama-Biden administration started that they have to vote against it, but this thing is going to be very full of bipartisan priorities. And I think this is going to happen when the Republicans see that they can't through delay or other tactics trip us up, and we're rocking forward to do what we need to do, we're -- and we're determined to do it.


KAINE: I think even more of them are going to want to come to us and say, OK, we see you're determined, please make sure that our priorities get reflected in the next bills that you do.


BLACKWELL: What's that sound like to you?

KUMAR: Well, it does sound like that Senator Kaine is saying that they do want to work together, and that Republicans are going to come to their side. We've seen Republicans steadfast against this though, this is a major, major massive bill, almost $2 trillion. So, I do think that this is going to, you know, leave some people with a bad taste in their mouth. Are they going to be able to work together for all these other huge priorities that are coming: infrastructure and immigration, those particularly have -- those fiscal issues that, that we're going to pretty much end up in the same place, which is Republicans don't want to spend as much money as Democrats.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the minimum wage increase, a bipartisan majority voted down, adding to including it in this bill, prognosis for a stand-alone increase.

And let me give you this tweet. This is from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And control room, if we have it, it's full screen five. "Imagine having the ganas to go home and ask minimum wage workers to support you after going back on your own documented stance to help crush their biggest chance at a wage hike during their longest drought of wage increases since the law's very inception."

What is the prognosis for a stand-alone increase to get through the Senate? Senator Sanders says that they're going to continue to fight. Is that just a statement of position or is it likely that it will happen?

KUMAR: I think Democrats in the White House are very much saying that they want to push this through. We are hearing, and my colleagues reported that the White House is considering after this bill -- this massive bill passes, that they're considering sitting down with Republicans because they are going to need Republican support on this.

We have seen a couple of Democrats saying they don't support this in the Senate. So, you know, to pass something, as we all know, a stand- alone bill will need 60 votes. They're going to have to work this out with Republicans if they want to get it through. But it does have some Democrats, particularly some House Democrats worried that perhaps it will be watered down, it won't be $15 an hour, it will take longer to get to 15 or whatever that number ends up being.

So, there is some concern that it's not going to be what they promised, which is $15 an hour. And I do think that they're going to have to sit down and negotiate because it's very hard to see how this gets through any other way.

BLACKWELL: Do you think there's support for 11, 12 over the next three years?

KUMAR: We have heard for many people, $11 an hour. But remember, this is going against what some House Democrats campaign on, what the president campaigned on.


KUMAR: So, I think they're going to try to get it higher, but they may end up somewhere else.

BLACKWELL: All right. Anita Kumar, always good to have you.

KUMAR: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.

So, as the vaccine roll-on continues, there are a lot of people wondering when the U.S. could beginning to get some sense of normalcy again. A new CNN analysis may give us a clue.

WALKER: Also, anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents amid the COVID-19 pandemic continue to surge. What lawmakers are saying about this disturbing trend?



WALKER: A CNN analysis has found that the U.S. could reach herd immunity by summer through vaccinations alone. 70 to 85 percent of the population would need to be vaccinated in order to reach that threshold. And right now, 8.5 -- 8-1/2 of the population -- percent, I should say, is fully vaccinated.

BLACKWELL: There about 2 million doses administered in the U.S. per day. Pew Research Center recently surveyed more than 10,000 people across the country, they found that almost 70 percent have been or planned to be vaccinated.

WALKER: And despite warnings from public health officials, some states are beginning to ease coronavirus restrictions. Some states are ending mass mandates, while others are allowing businesses to return to full capacity.

Meantime, the CDC director says guidance for people who have been vaccinated will soon be released.

Joining me now to talk about all of this is public health physician Dr. Chris Pernell. Great to see you, Dr. Pernell.


WALKER: First off, I want to ask you about the CDC guidelines for the fully vaccinated that will be coming soon. I don't know when that will happen. But look, I know a lot of us have parents who've already started the vaccination process.

My parents, I'm blessed to say have both been fully vaccinated. And you know, we're curious to know, you know, what do you think we will hear in terms of the CDC guidelines for the fully vaccinated? Will they be discouraged or encouraged when it comes to traveling to go see their grandchildren?

PERNELL: So, what I expect to hear most is that those who are fully vaccinated most likely can do small gatherings inside of their home, right?

So, if you're thinking about a very small circle of people who consist of your social bubble, it will most likely be safe for all of you to gather together. While in public, you're still going to have to use mask, you're still going to have to do physical distancing, you're still going to have to practice safe hand hygiene.

I'm curious about whether or not the CDC begins to lack travel restrictions or even encourage travel restrictions ease.

WALKER: And I'd imagine, these restrictions -- that the concerns about easing these restrictions too soon has a lot to do with the variants, right? That we're seeing, of course, the U.K. variant here in the U.S., but also these homegrown variants that we've been seeing pop up in the northeast New York and in California.


WALKER: How will these variants, you think, complicate the guidance for the fully vaccinated?

PERNELL: So, variants have always been with us. We, in the United States just haven't always done a very robust job at doing the genomic sequencing and this (INAUDIBLE). But now that we are improving those efforts, knowing about variants kind of gives us a leg-up, right, so, we need to outpace the variant.

We know the U.K. variant (INAUDIBLE) in 35 to 45 percent more transmissible. So, the more people we can get vaccinated before that becomes the predominant variant, the better off that we are.

We know that these vaccines do provide immunity against the U.K. strain, although, there may be some other strains where the immunity is abated somewhat.

WALKER: But it's obviously race against time, right? Because we've heard so many public health officials say that they're concerned about a variant fueled surge come late March, April, and May.

And on that note, I want to ask you about the states like Texas and Mississippi. Mississippi which has already ended the mask mandate and allowing now full capacity operations at businesses.

And then you have the Texas governor just yesterday saying -- reiterating in a news conference that his state is, "in a situation where it is safe to open up 100 percent." What do you say to that, Dr. Pernell?

PERNELL: I strongly advise Texans, I strongly advise the American public more broadly to follow the science and follow the science only. Public health does not have to be at odds with our economic recovery. And public health does not have to be at odds with our pent-up sense of cohesion.

But what the science should do is inform us in a very data-driven way. We are not there. We are not there where we can just take off our masks. We are not there where businesses should be at full capacity. That would risk the progress that we are making. That would risk -- possibly achieving herd immunity by the summer. For governors to reverse course, to go back and say, hey, we've made it over the hump, is just premature at a minimum and reckless at its worst.

WALKER: And as a public health physician, I'm curious to know your opinion on how these vaccines should be administered. As you know, in some states, or actually in some particular private pharmacies, you are allowed to choose which vaccine you would like. What do you think about that?

PERNELL: I want people to get vaccinated with whichever vaccine is most available and readily available to them. If there are places where people are being given choices, I don't imagine that's going to be the norm, right? I don't even imagine that's going to be 50 percent of the scenario. I imagine that most people are only going to have one option.

So, what folks locally on the ground need to do and even at the level of state, is to understand what are those block-by-block hyperlocal strategies that gets our most vulnerable and marginalized groups vaccinated. What are we doing to get our homeless population vaccinated? What are we doing to ensure access in the black and brown communities that been devastated by the pandemic? What are we doing to ensure that our seniors can register, that there isn't a digital divide? Those are the types of things that we should be focusing on.

WALKER: You know, I have friends, acquaintances who have asked me, hey, what do you think about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? You know, it doesn't seem as efficacious as the others.

What would you say to those who are concerned about just how good it might be or how effective it might be compared to Pfizer and Moderna?

PERNELL: The numbers that matter are the numbers that speak about how effective each of these vaccines are at preventing severe disease. What is severe disease? Severe disease is hospitalization. Severe disease is a stay in an intensive care unit, and severe disease is death.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is equally effective at preventing death, and it's very effective at preventing severe disease. So, people have three credible options, three safe options, three effective options, and any one of those is going to keep you alive and give you the option to thrive. And that's what we need to get the bulk of Americans across the finish line, and safe.

WALKER: Yes. I'll be grateful to get any vaccine that's available. Dr. Chris Pernell, always a pleasure to have you. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Pernell made some good points there. She always does, but specifically about vaccines for homeless, for seniors.

Well, let's go to Chicago now, where doctors at a hospital are making house calls in order to vaccinate people who can't easily leave their home. They're focusing on the home bound.

Specifically, in the minority communities which have -- as we know, been hit hardest by the pandemic. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has more.



ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jackie Blumenberg just got vaccinated in her own home. Now, it's her mother's turn.


BROADDUS: 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: It is a blessing and it's great. I hope everybody they'll take it that they do well.

BROADDUS: A few miles away --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell her she's just going to feel a little pinch.

BROADDUS: A vaccination team is at the Flores home. They're also among 120 people in the program, targeting those hardest hit by COVID, 71 people have received the vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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 -- hardly nothing for herself.

BROADDUS: 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: There's structural racism that underlies all the structures in our city. We know that there's structural racism in the healthcare sector as well.

BROADDUS: 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 nine 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's a problem President Biden says he's trying to fix.

JOE BIDEN, 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, you're -- is a high concentration of COVID, you're not likely to be able to walk five miles to go get a vaccine.

BROADDUS: The president's COVID package includes 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.

J. BLUMENBERG: There is nobody know above no one. Every nationality or race the same way. We bleed the same, we die the same.


BROADDUS (on camera): 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.

BLACKWELL: Adrienne, thank you for that report.

So, right now there are more than 250 bills that would restrict access to voting moving through state legislatures. That number according to the Brennan Center.

I'll speak with someone who is working to counter all of these pieces of legislation, and we'll talk about some specifically.



BLACKWELL: So, in the wake of the 2020 election that saw record voter turnout, states are aggressively pushing new restrictions on voting. According to the Brennan Center, non-profit that tracks voting laws, 43 states are considering 253 bills that could make it harder to vote.

In Georgia, bills -- there are 22 bills there up for consideration. And a new CNN analysis shows those restrictions would disproportionately affect black voters.

Joining me now to discuss, Kat Calvin, the founder and executive director of Spread the Vote. Kat, good to see you again.


BLACKWELL: So, let me start here in Georgia. House Bill 531, pass the Georgia House this week, would make it a crime to give people water who are waiting in line to vote. In Georgia, in the primary in 2020, close to 90 degrees, people waited for six, eight hours in line. How do groups like yours navigate the practical implications of this flood of legislation and things like what's in HB 531?

CALVIN: You know, it's actually something that our team is having an emergency meeting about, because we just -- last year, for the primary and the fall, offered comfort at the polls, and we had volunteers and staff members giving people water which is just a basic humanitarian thing. It is 90 degrees and people are standing outside.

And now, if we do that again our staff could be arrested? You know, there are so many laws like this are passing. You know, there are -- there's legislation that's been introduced to restrict weekend rides to the polls so that churches can't do souls to the polls.

There are laws that are restricting people from being able to give more than one person rides to the polls. There are just so many really absurd laws, but they make sense if you think about the fact that we saw record turnout in 2020, and there are a lot of people who want to make sure that, that never happens again.


BLACKWELL: Let me ask you one more on Georgia here and get a reaction to something that former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said this week. Watch.


STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER CONGRESSWOMAN OF GEORGIA: Republicans actually tend to use voting by mail more often in the State of Georgia. Since 2005, when Republicans instituted no excuses absentee balloting, it benefited them. And so, the one time they don't win, they don't only -- they not only are taking their ball and going home, they're changing the rules of the game because they don't want anyone else to be able to play.


BLACKWELL: Your group's non-partisan but what are Republicans putting roadblocks in front of their own voters here?

CALVIN: You know, they are. And I think one of the unfortunate things is we are nonpartisan and voting should be nonpartisan and yet right now it's really not. But one of the things that we saw again last year is that 2020 had record turnout and both sides won, right? In different levels.

We had a lot of Republican state legislators who won, a Democratic president won. But Democratic House members lost a lot of seats. And so, it proves exactly Stacey's point that more voter turnout and more mail-in voting actually really benefits both parties but there is a perception that it doesn't. And so, you do see a majority of Republicans who have decided that the new voters are people who aren't going to vote for them, so, they have to do whatever they can to stop them, even if it means that they're also stopping some of their own people from voting. BLACKWELL: You know, back in 2016, you'll remember this when state legislatures were passing bathroom bills and anti-LGBTQ legislation, major corporations were stepping up and putting in some threats that if you do this, the NFL says Georgia could lose the Super Bowl, Disney, Coca-Cola. Big companies stepped in.

We're not seeing that now. There are some voter rights groups that are asking for corporations to put that weight, bring that same energy to the voting rights fight, and it's not happening.

Why do you think they're standing on the sideline, at least as aggressively as they have been in the past? Not as aggressively?

CALVIN: You know, I really think it's because corporations pay attention to what they think people are paying attention to. You know, during an election, every corporation will put social media campaigns and commercials about voting because it's a thing that will make them look like they're, you know, up with times and that they care about what people care about. But if people don't show that they care about voting, then corporations aren't going to show it.

You know, we have two landmark voting right legislation bills in front of Congress right now that would actually put a stop to a lot of these restrictive bills that state legislators are trying to pass.

I think that if people step up, call their -- you know, their members of Congress, call their state legislators, and tweet at and let companies know we care about this and we want this to pass, that corporations will have to pay attention because they only care about social issues as much as they think that it's going to sell their products. So, we have to prove its people that we're only going to buy the products of corporations that care about voting.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and you know what, let's pull that thread a little bit more in the couple of seconds we have left. I mean, corporations, companies, were happy to put up a black square on Instagram over the summer of 2020. Everybody did it. But that's when you had tens of thousands -- hundreds of thousands of people rallying, protesting in the streets. And there is a direct line from the call for changes in policing and an end to systematic -- systemic racism and voting rights. Why aren't we seeing the rallies in the streets? The thousands of people. There are some, but nothing like what we saw over the summer. What's your hypothesis on that?

CALVIN: I think it's because people don't really understand what that direct line is. And because we have a perception in the U.S. that voting is the thing you do, you know, once a year, maybe for a lot of people once every four years. And that, then, after that, voting isn't something that we think about and it doesn't matter.

And what we need people to understand is that if you care about climate, about education, about criminal justice, about anything else, then voting matters, and it's something that we have to fight for every single day, because like you said, there are over 250 bills in 43 states right now trying to make it more difficult for people to vote, which means it will make it more difficult for people to make their voices heard about the issues they care about.

So, we have to stop thinking about voting as a thing we do once a year and it has to be a thing we care about every single day of the year.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kat Calvin, good to have you.

CALVIN: Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Thank you.


WALKER: Reports of anti-Asian violence and other incidents are on the rise in the United States and advocacy groups are demanding action.

Up next, what's behind the crisis, and what can be done to stop it?


WALKER: This morning, an active search for three suspects in San Francisco after surveillance video captures a 67-year-old man, Asian- American man being violently robbed inside a laundromat.

Now, it is the latest in a surge of physical and verbal attacks against Asians since the pandemic began.


WALKER: In New York City, assaults on Asian Americans have jumped 1900 percent in the last year. A warning now, some of the video you're about to see is graphic.


NOEL QUINTANA, ATTACKED ON SUBWAY: He slashed me from cheek to cheek with a box cutter.

WALKER: Noel Quintana was attacked on a packed subway in New York last month at the height of the morning rush hour.

QUINTANA: There's really a lot of blood oozing. So, I was so afraid.

WALKER: Afraid he would die on his way to work after encountering this man identified here by New York police.

Quintana, a Filipino American says the stranger repeatedly kicked his tote bag and when he confronted him about it, the 61-year-old says he was viciously assaulted.

QUINTANA: So, I asked for help but nobody came for help.

WALKER: Quintana believes he may have been targeted because of his race.

QUINTANA: Because of the COVID-19, I think there are more Asians being attacked. WALKER: According to Stop AAPI Hate which tracks these kinds of attacks, there have been nearly 3,000 incidents against Asians reported across all 50 states since March last year. The Asian advocacy group says nearly all of them were unprovoked.

Though rights groups don't know the exact cause of the surge, they say a clear pattern of targeted hate has emerged since the pandemic began.

DENNY KIM, EXPERIENCE HATE CRIME: They told me to go back to China.

WALKER: In Los Angeles, 27-year-old Denny Kim says he was punched in the face by two strangers. The LAPD investigating the case as a hate crime.

On Thursday, police say a 36-year-old Asian man who was stabbed from behind in New York's Chinatown is now in critical condition. Although the NYPD said the suspect will be charged with a hate crime, no such charges have been filed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was driven by hate.

WALKER: In San Francisco, authorities say an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand died after being violently shoved to the ground in January. A 19-year-old man facing murder and elder abuse charges.

ANDREW YANG, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's been heartbreaking and devastating for me and so many Asian Americans.

WALKER: Andrew Yang, New York City Democratic mayoral hopeful, tells CNN that while former President Donald Trump's rhetoric may have fanned the flames of anti-Asian sentiment.


WALKER: Racism against Asians is nothing new.

YANG: Certainly, having the president of the United States saying things like Kung flu and China virus did normalize an association between the pandemic and people of Asian descent.

JASON WANG, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, XI'AN FAMOUS FOODS: Our employees are heavily impacted by this.

WALKER: Jason Wang, CEO of Xi'an Famous Foods says violence against two of his Asian employees on public transit in separate incidents gave him no choice but to cut his business hours at all eight Chinese restaurants.

WANG: One was punched so hard that his glasses broke.

WALKER: Despite the pandemic forcing him to already close six locations. Wang says safety is more important than the bottom line.

WANG: One of the biggest reasons for that is to make sure that our employees feel at least a little bit safer about traveling back home. WALKER: Even with many Asian American celebrities like former NBA star and actress Olivia Munn, speaking out about the hate, and lawmakers raising concerns about this disturbing trend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are totally unprovoked attacks.

WALKER: Some feel crimes against Asians need to be taken more seriously.

CHRIS KWOK, BOARD MEMBER, ASIAN AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK: Government is still figuring out how to properly serve Asian Americans. And so, like even prosecutors have to understand the nature of discrimination against Asian Americans.

QUINTANA: I think that the Asians should speak up and work on solidarity so that the authorities would listen.


WALKER: Now, Noel Quintana, the man who you just saw there whose face was slashed tells me he no longer feels safe riding on public transit. And as a result, his employer has permitted him to work from home since the attacks.

Now, some of the attacks reported to Stop AAPI Hate also include victims being coughed or spat on. And the vast majority of incidents involve Asians being called racial slurs and profanities often times being blatantly blamed for the coronavirus.


WALKER: If you have an Asian friend or a colleague, ask them if they feel safe right now. I'm pretty confident many will tell you they are now, for the first time, thinking twice about their safety when going about their daily routines. That is our new reality.


BLACKWELL: Pope Francis is in Iraq for a four-day tour of the country meant to improve interfaith relations.

WALKER: And earlier today, the pontiff met with one of the most senior leaders in Shia Islam, then the two delivered a message of unity and peace.

CNN's Ben Wedeman with more.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Pope Francis is into his first full day on this historic trip to Iraq.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): He started with a rare private meeting with the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of the leading authorities of Shia Islam.

Afterwards, both men stressed the importance of dialogue and harmony between the two religions. And the top trending topic on Twitter this morning in Arabic in Iraq is hashtag the historic meeting, referring to the encounter between the two men.

WEDEMAN (on camera): The pope went on to another interfaith event, involving representatives of Iraq's many religions and sects in the ruins of the biblical city of Ur, birthplace of Abraham.


Sunday, the focus of the pope will be on expressing solidarity with and support for Iraq's dwindling but ancient Christian community. Back in 2003, it numbered around 1-1/2 million souls. Today, it totals perhaps, just 300,000.

Tomorrow, he'll be traveling to northern Iraq, including Mosul, to pray at a church destroyed by ISIS during its occupation of the city.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Baghdad.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Ben Wedeman.

WALKER: And the next hour of NEW DAY starts after a short break.