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New Day Saturday

Senators Pull All-Nighter on Amendment Votes To $1.9 Trillion Rescue Bill; CNN Analysis Found that the U.S. Could Reach Herd Immunity by Summer Through Vaccinations Alone; States Easing Restrictions Despite Warnings, Variants Spreading; Cuomo Accuser Recounts Thinking The Governor Was Grooming Her, Trying To Have Sex With Her; Appeals Court Rules Derek Chauvin Could Face Third-Degree Murder Charge In George Floyd's Death. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 06, 2021 - 08:00   ET



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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to get back out there.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We are making sure and taking the time to get this right.

CHARLOTTE BENNETT, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO ANDREW CUOMO: He is a textbook abuser. I think abusers look for vulnerabilities, previous traumas, the idea that maybe I'm more willing to accept behavior because I have a history of sexual violence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has not disputed what the allegation has been in that case. He has simply tried to characterize it differently.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday morning to you. It is March 6th. I am Victor Blackwell.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Amara Walker in today for Christi Paul. It is a new day on Capitol Hill, and we still don't know when Senators will finish voting on amendments to President Biden's $1.9 trillion rescue bill.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is live. Senators have been working all night and this bill is getting closer to a final vote. They've been going through this amendment process. It's happening now. It's known as vote-a-rama. Almost fell apart, nearly 12-hour delay for this bill. A surprise roadblock was Senator Joe Manchin who faced off with fellow Democrats on enhanced unemployment benefits,

WALKER: But Senator Manchin is back on board after agreeing to a compromise on extending the benefits through September 6th instead of the end of that month. 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.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, my goodness, it's been quite a start - quite a start to this fast track process.


WALKER: CNN, Lauren Fox is up early for us on Capitol Hill. All right, Lauren, any updates on where the voting stands right now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, they are going to keep going for the foreseeable future. I just walked over to the Senate chamber, and I was talking to a couple members coming on and off of the floor.

Look, they're tired. They've been doing this for a while. They were doing this all night long. But they continued to go ahead and keep up with this voting. That's because Republicans want to put Democrats in a tough spot on some key amendments related to abortion issues, immigration, energy, and they feel like they can keep this process dragging on, even though it is likely that the inevitable is just around the corner. And that is the Democrats will move ahead to pass that $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill once Republicans stop offering these amendments.

Now, look, yesterday was a setback for Democrats. And it really revealed in some ways just how delicate Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's majority really is, that's because it's a 50/50 Senate, which means any one Democrat has a lot of sway over this process, and that is what you saw happen yesterday with Senator Joe Manchin.

He was feeling like he was not in the loop in what that final amendment was going to be on the unemployment insurance piece and that really held up this process for nearly 12 hours. There were legitimate questions about whether or not they were going to be able to complete this process at all.

If he would have been willing to continue voting with Republicans and not vote for the Democratic amendment, it potentially could have really taken this bill down. And so I think that's why it was so important that Democratic leadership really worked through this process with Manchin yesterday.

But it shows how much power one Senator can have. And Senator Joe Manchin has been someone who has come out against his caucus on other issues in the past. Remember what happened to Neera Tanden, the White House's former nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

Manchin said he was not supportive of her. They scrambled to try to find Republican votes. They couldn't find any. Eventually that nomination was pulled. This was another example of what can happen if Manchin feels like he is not in the loop on this process. And I think that that is really sort of looming over this entire process today.

BLACKWELL: All right, Lauren Fox thanks so much.

WALKER: All right. Well, could the U.S. reach herd immunity by this summer? A new CNN analysis says that it is possible and through vaccinations alone. Right now, 8.5 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. Experts say those 70 to 85 percent would need shots in order to reach that threshold.


BLACKWELL: So, about 2 million doses are administered per day across the country. Pew Research Center recently surveyed more than 10,000 people. They found that close to 70 percent had been or plan to get vaccinated. Let's go to CNN Evan McMorris-Santoro. Evan, morning to you. Some states are lifting COVID restrictions. And yes, there is good news on vaccinations, but Dr. Anthony Fauci says, it's too soon.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, that's right. I have some disturbing news for Americans this weekend. This country after a couple of months of sort of being on the same page about this pandemic is back to being in disagreement state-by-state over what kind of rules are necessary to keep the country safe.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): The COVID-19 pandemic is still all around us, and still deadly. But this weekend, the question some in America may be asking is, is the danger gone? In Texas, businesses are reopening at full capacity, no more state mask mandate.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Just like you could set the standard for anybody coming into your home. A business owner can set the standard for anybody coming into their business. It's just like no shoes, no shirt, no service, and they can set whatever standard they want to set for anybody who comes in into the business, and that is their right.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): some business owners are nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What he's done is, he's put the burden on the business now. MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Governor Tate Reeves also lifting mask mandates in Mississippi, citing improved numbers, while blasting continued government overreach.

But Governor Jim Justice reiterates his current mask mandate in West Virginia, even as businesses return to 100 percent capacity today.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): If we continue to vaccinate more and more and more, we'll get rid of the mask. But I don't know really what the big rush and if we don't watch out, we can make some mistakes.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): Arizona, a COVID-19 hotspot last summer, has experienced success with mitigation efforts. On Friday, Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order reopening all businesses at full capacity but keeping mask rules in place.

Other states are also loosening restrictions. On Friday, Michigan increased indoor dining capacity, while Connecticut began rolling back caps on retail and restaurant numbers. And while nationwide numbers of new cases are down, public health officials warning that moving too fast to reopen could be dangerous.

A new CDC study shows mask mandates and restricting indoor dining could reduce COVID-19 cases and deaths.

WALENSKY: We would advocate for policies, certainly while we're at this plateau of a high number of cases that would listen to that public health science.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO (voice-over): And Dr. Anthony Fauci telling CNN, the daily new case number is still regularly over 60,000, needs to come down a lot more before stage move to fully reopen.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I would say less than 10,000 and maybe even considerably less than that. We're now up to about 2 million vaccinations per day. That means every day that goes by, every week that goes by you have more and more people protected.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, yes, we've had good news, vaccinations are up, new cases are down. But Victor and Amara, officials are worried that states are moving too fast to try to capitalize on that, and that could be a big problem.

BLACKWELL: All right, Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you. Let's start right there with Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Doctor good morning to you. You are there in Texas and spring break is coming up. Galveston Island, South Padre Island is going to be popping and the governor has now said restaurants open, bars 100 percent. Let's just start here and remind people what the governor said he learned back in June of 2020 when he allowed bars to reopen then and then let's look forward. Here's Governor Greg Abbott. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABBOTT: If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting. And how a bar setting in reality just doesn't work with a pandemic. People go to bars to get close and to drink and to socialize. And that's the kind of thing that stokes the spread of the coronavirus. So, sure, in hindsight, it may have been better to have slowed the opening of the bar setting.


BLACKWELL: Dr. Hotez, there's good news on vaccines. But is that enough to prevent what we saw in the summer in Texas?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR FOR THE CENTER FOR VACCINE, DEVELOPMENT TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, the problem right now is we still don't have this nearly sufficient percentage of the U.S. population vaccinated. We've only about 17 percent of the U.S. population has received even a single dose, so we have a long way to go.

I mean, there is good news that these vaccines are now - we know are not only halting symptomatic illness, but they're also stopping asymptomatic transmission. We learned that from studies in Israel published a couple of weeks ago in The New England Journal of Medicine. And if the other vaccines perform that way, that's going to be really exciting that we potentially can vaccinate our way out of this epidemic. But that's not going to come to later.


Right now, we've got a huge problem looming, this B117 variant coming out of the United Kingdom. It's comprising a high percentage of the virus isolates from Florida where Spring Breakers are headed to in big numbers this month, and here in Texas. So, Houston Health Department is coming up with some scary stuff in terms of the B117 variant found in wastewater. And that means that it's also going to be widely dispersed across Texas.

So, I can't think of two worst states to have it in over spring break when you have all those 20-year-olds coming - coming down to Galveston Island or to Florida. So, I worry this could be not only a super spreader event, but a super, super spreader event, because it's a different virus. It's much more highly transmissible than anything we've seen before.

BLACKWELL: So what's your message to the business owners there who have struggled for the last year and see an opportunity to maybe not get into the black, but at least make up some lost ground and the onus has now been placed on them in many of these communities?

HOTEZ: That's right. And I actually think it's going to hurt business. And the reason I say that now, as many of my friends and colleagues are saying, "Look, I'm not going into that place anymore, because in the past, I've known everyone's wearing a mask, and the business was safe. Now, I'm not so sure. So, I'm not going to walk into that place of business, because there's going to probably be a lot of people without mask now."

So, this is, this is going to create a lot of confusion, and I don't think it's going to go well. So, I hope at least all the business owners can do as hard as they can and force mask. But as we heard in that last segment, it's not fair to the business owner. It puts a lot of pressure on them as well.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned that the U.K. variant and there was a headline that caught my eye from the "New York Times." In a single sample, geneticists discovered a version of the coronavirus first identified in Britain, with a mutation originally reported in South Africa. Single sample, yes. Is this one of those situations, if there's one, there are more? But what's the concern of combining variants and the potential implications?

HOTEZ: Well, we do worry about recombination of viruses. But it may not - it may or not, may not be a case of that. When you look across the country, the B117 variant is becoming by far the dominant one, just like it was in the U.K. And yes, we have the B1351 variant from South Africa, the one from Brazil as well the P1 and several others.

The expectation right now is that based on past performance, the B117 from the U.K. will become dominant. The good news is all of the Operation Warp Speed vaccines work just as well to the U.K. variant as the original strain of the vaccines were developed to.

So that I think we - so in terms of the immediate next few months, if we can get everybody vaccinated, we'll be in good shape. Down the line, we're going to be looking at boosters that target either the South African variant or one related to it.

So don't be surprised even if you've gotten two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, you're recommended to get a third immunization later on in the year or next year, possibly with the vaccine slightly reconfigured to that - to one or more of the variants of concern. Same with the J&J vaccine, don't be surprised if that winds up being a two- dose vaccine, and so on.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we know that Pfizer is researching the efficacy of that third dose and the CEO said that that could increase efficacy 10- 20 fold. We'll see if that actually comes to pass. Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you so much.

HOTEZ: Thanks so much.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, in about 30 minutes from now, we'll be joined by the Executive Director of the Austin Independent Business Alliance. She'll tell us how business owners are reacting to Governor Greg Abbott's move to open the state.

WALKER: Charlotte Bennett one of the women who has accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment is speaking out, calling him a "textbook abuser." Her story, in her own words next. BLACKWELL: Plus, jury selection in the murder trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. This is in the death of George Floyd. It started on Monday. We'll take a look ahead at what you should expect.



BLACKWELL: Newer Governor Andrew Cuomo says that he supports a bill that revokes his expanded emergency executive powers related to the coronavirus pandemic.

WALKER: The State Legislature passed the measure, as we learn new details, from the second woman accusing the New York Democrat of sexual harassment. CNN's Brynn Gingras has more.


BENNETT: He is a textbook abuser.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former staffer of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo telling CBS, the man she saw as a mentor asked her to find him a girlfriend.

BENNETT: When he said he was lonely, I mentioned that his daughters had been around. And he also rejected that and said, "Yes, I love my - I love my daughters, but that's - I want a girlfriend.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Bennett held an executive assistant position in the administration last year. During one interaction with the governor where she was tasked to take dictation, Bennett says, Cuomo told her to turn her recorder off. Then the conversation turned personal.

BENNETT: Without explicitly saying it, he implied to me that I was old enough for him and he was lonely.


GINGRAS (voice-over): The following day, she was called to the governor's office again, and was alone.

BENNETT: I was terrified. I was shaking. I thought any moment something can happen, and I have no power here.

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS ANCHOR: And what happens when you're with the governor?

BENNETT: He asked me a few questions about how to use his iPhone and then sends me back to wait and then finally, he calls me in, and he asks if I found him a girlfriend yet.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Bennett says, Cuomo also seemed fixated on her history as a sexual assault survivor.

BENNETT: I think abusers look for vulnerabilities, previous traumas, the idea that maybe I'm more willing to accept behavior because I have a history of sexual violence.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Cuomo's office didn't respond to CNN's request for comment on the interview, instead pointed us to his apology on Wednesday.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I never knew at the time I was making anyone feel uncomfortable. And I certainly never ever meant to offend anyone.

GINGRAS (voice-over): It's not the only controversy the governor is facing right now. A second, over his administration's reporting of nursing home residents COVID-19 related deaths data last year. "The New York Times" and "Wall Street Journal" citing an internal report from June that purportedly shows Cuomo's top aides deliberately reworked the data in an effort to lower the death toll of these residents.

CUOMO: Nothing was hidden from anyone.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The handling of the information now being looked into by the U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The consequences are going to be determined by the Justice Department. They're probing them for a reason, because you can't lie to everybody.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Cuomo's Chief Counsel tells CNN, "The out of facility data was omitted after DOH could not confirm it had been adequately verified. This did not change the conclusion of the report, which was and is that the March 25 order was not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities." Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


BLACKWELL: Jury selection starts Monday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. He's the officer who kneeled on George Floyd's neck in the minutes before he died. What to expect this week and the arguments we're likely to hear from lawyers. We'll talk about that next.



BLACKWELL: Minnesota's Court of Appeals has ruled that a trial judge must reconsider third degree murder charges against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

WALKER: Now, Chauvin is accused of killing George Floyd, last May, by pressing his knee to Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes. Chauvin is already facing second degree murder and manslaughter charges with jury selection scheduled to begin on Monday. CNN's Omar Jimenez has the latest.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Preparations are underway on a number of fronts when it comes to jury selection for the trial of Derek Chauvin set for March 8th, Chauvin was the officer seen on that now infamous cell phone video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for nearly eight excruciating minutes.

He's been charged with second degree unintentional murder and second- degree manslaughter, both of which he's pleaded not guilty, but the first carries a maximum penalty of up to 40 years in prison if convicted.

Now the high profile nature of this case is likely going to bring protesters and it is why Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey says the city is preparing with painstaking detail for one, they say, anyone who wants to come and protest peacefully, that will be welcomed. And it is why the intersection where some of George Floyd's final moments played out will be closed to vehicular traffic to allow that to be a central point of grieving, as it is served as a makeshift memorial in the past.

And then on the law enforcement side, what happened last May is still very much on the minds of many in law enforcement. It is why Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey says to expect in the coming weeks and months a larger law enforcement presence and it is why up to 2,000 National Guard have been activated to assist in public safety around this trial, not to mention the physical barriers around the courthouse.

And then there's COVID-19 safety protocol within the courtroom itself. It's why Judge Peter Cahill in this only designated one member of the George Floyd family and one member of the Derek Chauvin family to be allowed in the courtroom at a time. Once inside, everyone will have to be wearing masks and six feet apart and follow other pandemic protocols.

Jury selection begins March 8th but opening statements for this trial began March 29th. And many in the Minneapolis community and many across the country will be watching to see if this trial ends in any sort of accountability for Derek Chauvin, what many see as a major step toward justice for George Floyd.


WALKER: All right, Omar Jimenez, thank you. So it's still unclear what effect this new court ruling could have on the trial. Here with me now is Abigail Cerra, who is a member of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission. Good morning to Abigail, thank you so much for joining me.

As we just heard, jury selection is set to begin on Monday. I'm just curious to know how you think jury selection is going to play out, especially in a case like this one. I would imagine you would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't have some kind of an opinion about the way George Floyd died.

ABIGAIL CERRA, MEMBER, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE CONDUCT OVERSIGHT COMMISSION: Yes, that's right. I think jury selection is going to be incredibly challenging. Virtually everyone has seen the video or read news articles about it, at least. And I simply don't know how they will find people who haven't already formed an opinion.


The judge and the attorneys are all going to have to ask questions of each potential juror, can you be fair and impartial? Can you be neutral? And that's going to be hard. It's just going to be a heavy lift.

WALKER: Yes. I'd imagine it's going to be a very lengthy and drawn out process. We were just hearing from our reporter Omar Jimenez, and he was showing us and describing the concrete barriers around the courthouse and the government buildings. And the fact that the governor there has authorized the use of the National Guard while the trials of all the officers involved are ongoing.

And then there was a recent interview in the local paper with one of the county judges saying that the fear of having government overrun is real after January 6th, referring to the insurrection on our Capitol. Do you share that concern?

CERRA: I don't feel that - I don't feel at risk that Minneapolis is going to be overrun. What, what worries me is that, again, law enforcement will overreact to peaceful protests. They'll use the rubber bullets and the chemical irritants, the gas and everything against peaceful protesters, journalists, just groups of people showing up. That's my primary concern.

And then there is again, the risk of more looting, property damage, that kind of thing as well. But there's just so much law enforcement presence. I think it's unlikely to happen on the scale that it happened this summer.

WALKER: And the earliest the trial will start will be, what, three weeks from now, right? And I understand, part of Chauvin's defense will be this this court document I want to show you of training material from the Minneapolis Police Department and that he was trained to use the restraint techniques shown in this document on George Floyd, including the act of kneeling on his neck. You can see the headline there. "OK, they are in handcuffs. Now what?" How strong do you think such a defense would be?

CERRA: Well, it's impossible to say how the jurors will take it. But you'll notice on the same slide that it says to use that kind of restraint, it says to kneel on the neck, but it also says to move the person over into a recovery position and to immediately call EMS to provide medical care. So I don't think it's just an open and shut kind of thing. Like I was trained to do this, and that's the end of the argument type. I think there's some nuance there.

WALKER: What else do you think or will not come out during the trial? I know you were mentioning some alleged behavior of Chauvin in the past.

CERRA: One thing that will come out is a past incident of excessive force, wherein he restrained a woman in exactly the same way he restrained George Floyd. It's called a maximal restraint technique or MRT. And he did kneel on her neck and shift his weight onto her neck. And the Attorney General categorized it is unreasonable under the circumstances and excessive and that that will come in a trial. The judge ruled that that can come in.

WALKER: And just quickly, because I know you talked about the trauma in your community, and I think it's important that we address this. It's been a less than a year since the brutal death of George Floyd. You say that you live less than a mile from where he died. Just quickly, tell us about what it's been like this past year, the trauma your community has faced?

CERRA: Well, many buildings and things were on fire, people had ash in their front yard in my neighborhood. There have been helicopters overhead for the past year. People don't feel safe. It's hard to know what's going to happen and there's just kind of the fear of the unknown.

WALKER: Abigail Cerra, we appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you very much.

CERRA: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: In just a couple of days the mask mandate in Texas goes away and businesses can fully reopen. There is strong reaction on both sides. Some business owners are just uncertain on what to do next. We're on it.



WALKER: The Governors of Mississippi and Texas are facing fierce backlash over controversial decisions to lift coronavirus restrictions. Both states are revoking mask mandates and allowing businesses to fully reopened, despite urgent warnings from the CDC and other experts. Here's what President Biden had to say about state leaders lifting those restrictions too soon.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything's fine, take off your mask. Forget it.


WALKER: In Texas, the rollbacks take effect this Wednesday, some businesses and some business owners are concerned that dropping the mask order will only increase the risk of workers and customers getting COVID.

Governor Greg Abbott's spokesperson, defending his actions by saying this, "We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans. The governor's focus has been and always will be protecting the lives and livelihoods of Texans."


I want to bring in Elizabeth Dixie. Elizabeth Dixie Patrick, Executive Director of the Austin Independent Business Alliance. I really appreciate you joining me. First off, I want to listen to what Governor Abbott specifically said about how businesses should handle this rollback. Here he is.


ABBOTT: This is under - they have their own, basically private property. And just like you can set the standard for anybody coming into your home, a business owner can set the standard for anybody coming into their business. It's just like no shoes, no shirt, no service, and they can set whatever standard they want to set for anybody who comes in - into their business.


WALKER: And you say, Elizabeth, this move places a burden on business owners. How so, what are the concerns?

ELIZABETH DIXIE PATRICK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AUSTIN INDEPENDENT BUSINESS ALLIANCE: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. So here at the Austin Independent Business Alliance, we represent locally owned businesses. And I can tell you that, of all the people we've spoken to in the last few days since this announcement, the overwhelming response among local business owners here is confusion, dismay and frustration.

We did a little survey - quick survey just to see how people were feeling and almost every single respondent to that expressed that they're going to keep the mask and distance requirements that they have right now in place, regardless of any changes at the state level. If the intent of the order was to help businesses, I can say from the owners that we've spoken to, this is a burden and not a gift.

WALKER: Yes, tell me more about that burden, Elizabeth.


WALKER: I mean, are business owner is concerned about having confrontations or these uncomfortable conversations with patrons because this - the mask mandates have been lifted?

PATRICK: Absolutely. So, what the mask mandate did for small business when it was in place was to support them in their mission to stay open safely, to keep customers happy, their employees employed and their incomes and their livelihoods intact. So, it was this added layer of protection against anyone who attempted to cross these, honestly, really reasonable boundaries that were set up.

So where we are now is they're forced to make this choice between knowingly putting their employees and themselves, in a lot of cases, at risk of contracting COVID by adopting this kind of no restrictions policy stemming from the governor's order, or maintaining the health and safety protocols that they've developed, and risking harassment and even attack, in some cases, by individuals who are going to feel emboldened by this move by the governor to their own comfort in front of the safety of their fellow citizens.

WALKER: Yes, it's hard to see - find any evidence that this decision was based on science, right. I mean, the governor has been highly criticized, even by some local leaders for lifting the mask mandate, effective on Wednesday, and also allowing businesses to open at 100 percent capacity.

But I want to show you some numbers, because cases in your state, they rose over the last two weeks, and less than 8 percent of Texans are fully vaccinated. And you also have to threat of variants out there. And, you heard from the governor spokesperson that, he's interested in helping the lives and livelihoods, but do you feel like lives are being put at risk over livelihood?

PATRICK: Absolutely. So regardless of any - we know from medical experts, from public health experts that the moves like the ones that we're talking about here, removing mask mandates and opening up 100 percent, are the things that we do that increase cases, and an increase in cases means an increase in deaths. And that's it, that's just a sad truth of what's happening. So, we have already lost more than 45,000, Texans to COVID and even one more is too many. I just don't see how this move prevents that.

WALKER: So, it sounds like there's a lot of concern, maybe a little bit of panic going into next Wednesday. What are the conversations sounding like and what kind of - kinds of plans are being made ahead of Wednesday when these - when the mandates are being lifted?

PATRICK: There is definitely a lot of additional anxiety - unnecessary anxiety about what we're going to do. We're lucky here in Austin that Austin Public Health and the City of Austin are asking everyone to continue with our vigilance with masking, and distancing and hand washing.

And so the messaging from the city is fantastic, and it's going to support local business owners in that way. We are banding together as a community to share ideas. How do we do de-escalation techniques? Who can we call if something does get really uncomfortable? What are my rights? Like, what can I ask someone to do? And what can I not ask someone to do? So, business owners are pulling together, like they always do, to support each other through this new uncomfortable, period.

WALKER: Well, it's inspiring, and heartening to see you all band together and support each other through this and to find some solutions. Elizabeth Dixie Patrick, best of luck to you. Thank you very much.


PATRICK: Thank you very much. Have a great day.

WALKER: You too. Victor? BLACKWELL: So, this morning, there's a promising sign for the U.S. economy. February, big jump in hiring, more jobs than were expected. Here's CNNs Alison Kosik.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Amara and Victor. The economic recovery is finally gaining steam. Employers added 379,000 jobs in February, and the majority of those jobs came back to a sector that was among the hardest hit.

The leisure and hospitality industry added 355,000 jobs last month, as lockdown restrictions eased, and many restaurants reopened. But the sector still has a deep hole to fill. 3.5 million positions have yet to return. That's 20 percent of that total workforce still sidelined.

Retail and manufacturing saw job additions, while construction jobs fell by 61,000. Weather could have been the problem there, between the storms across the south and the cold weather in the Midwest, holding back some construction projects.

The unemployment rate fell to a pandemic era low of 6.2 percent from 6.3 percent. But many top economists have warned the official rate under reports how many people are actually unemployed. Many people have dropped out of the labor market, meaning they're not counted. So, the actual unemployment rate is likely closer to 10 percent.

And the coronavirus is still keeping many Americans from even finding a new job. For example, 4.2 million Americans who dropped out of the labor force last month said the pandemic prevented them from looking for work.

So Friday's good news is only part of the recovery story. The economy is still down 9.5 million jobs from last year. And while it's great if a number is going down, the reality is millions of workers, more than 18 million, still rely on the government to help them make ends meet. Amara and Victor?


WALKER: Alison Kosik, thank you so much. Coming up. We're taking you to an ice fishing spot on a lake in Minnesota where folks are talking politics.



BLACKWELL: Members of the Senate have been up all night arguing over legislation and you know, in this political climate, it's becoming harder for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground on anything.

WALKER: That's right. But in one Minnesota suburb people agree they're tired of the political division. CNN's Bill Weir has more on how they managed to put some of their concerns on ice. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the end of ice fishing season. The one sport so slow, it demands food, drink, seating and conversation.

WEIR: Are you more optimistic for the future as an American or --?

VALDO CALVERT, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: I'm way more optimistic than I was two years ago.

WEIR (voice-over): But in the conversations on Lake Minnetonka these days, hope is mixed with worry.

CALVERT: I don't see it smooth sailing for Biden. I see it always going to be obstructionism. But it's more call (ph) and I think it's going in the right direction.

CINDY GARIN, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: I'm really happy with our new President, Mr. Biden coming in and he is vaccinated. I don't know how many people now in the first - not even 60 days.

WEIR (voice-over): Well, love for Biden is not hard to find in this blue suburb. Young democrats like Ben, see a lot of promises unkept,

BEN CALVERT, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: They're putting that stimulus check on the back burner. They're putting the minimum wage hike on the back burner. And they're dropping bombs in Syria right now and those bombs are kind of expensive for a dude who owes me $2,000, you know.

WEIR (voice-over): But whether left or right to a person, they all worry about division.

TIM DELANEY, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: There's no common grounds anymore. Right?


DELANEY: And everyone's so angry about it. I think we're just tired.

LEAH BEAMISH, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: I'm all about love. Everybody should be loving each other. There shouldn't be this--


BEAMISH: So, divided. You know, there doesn't need to be that. And it just - I just think it's just really sad.

BEN CALVERT: We all got along. And then now it's like, those guys aren't my friends anymore, because I know what they really think.

WEIR: That's heartbreaking.

BEN CALVERT: Right. You can't hang out with someone who's like, yes, I think it would be a good thing to assassinate the sitting House Majority Leader. WEIR (voice-over): But then over by the smoker, a group that renews hope that barbecue and brotherhood can be stronger than politics.

WEIR: But you guys are different parties or?

DELANEY: Oh, yes.

WEIR: Is that right?

DELANEY: Oh, yes.

WEIR: Well, this is the sign of hope here.

DELANEY: We don't want to go there. We just - we don't want - we're not going to go there.

WEIR (voice-over): But Tim can't help it. He goes there.

DELANEY: What if Trump ran for Congress, right? And he - or House - the House of Reps and he got elected in the House and then we took the House and we took the Senate. And then he sent impeachment to both the President and the Vice President. He will be president for the next two years plus, then he will be reelected for another four. Good idea?

WEIR: That's a new one. I hadn't heard that. So, he would be speaker of the House. Is that what you're saying?

DELANEY: That's right? Yes.



WEIR: All right.

KEVIN BEAMISH, MINNESOTA RESIDENT: It's that dead old - the old story of, you don't talk politics or religion with your friends or your family.

WEIR (voice-over): Oh, yes, the good fences make good neighbors' theory of politics. Well, at least here for now, the arguments are followed by laughter.

DELANEY: It's going to be difficult for me to be here after all that.

WEIR: Oh, no, I'm sorry.

DELANEY: No, it's OK. It's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep the pizza.

DELANEY: Its already.

WEIR: Nobody ruins a barbecue like Bill Weir.

Bill Weir, CNN, Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: First time I heard the Speaker of the House route.


BLACKWELL: And that's a new one. That's a new one.

WALKER: My eyebrows were raised too. But, hey, at least they're talking.


BLACKWELL: Yes. They are talking, that's progress.

WALKER: We'll be back in one hour from now.

BLACKWELL: Before we go, don't forget the new APOLLO 11: Quarantine, it premieres tonight. Here's a look.


PAO: Three swimmers in the water from Swim Two. Swim Two Helo.

PHOTO 1: The flotation collar has been attached.

PAO: The flotation collar is attached now.

PHOTO 1: Recovery 1 has moved into position. Swimmer is in the water.

PAO: The swimmer with the biological isolation garments is Lt. Clancy Hadleburgh of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Lt. Hadleburgh is called the Big Swimmer. He's also wearing a biological isolation garment.

SC: This is Apollo 11. Tell everybody take your sweet time. We're doing just fine in here. It's not as stable as the Hornet, but all right.


BLACKWELL: APOLLO 11: Quarantine premieres tonight at 9:00 right here on CNN.