PBS NewsHour

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January 11, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode

January 11, 2022 - PBS NewsHour full episode

AIRED: January 11, 2022 | 0:56:21
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

On the "NewsHour" tonight: ballot battle.

The president and the vice president make a new and urgent push for voting rights legislation,

but face an uphill fight in a divided Congress.

Then: The surge continues.

COVID hospitalizations reach a record high, as the White House rushes to ramp up at-home

testing.

And lockdown.

We look at a Chinese city under some of the world's toughest COVID restrictions to examine

the human toll of a zero COVID policy.

All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."

(BREAK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris both traveled to Georgia

today to up the pressure on Congress to pass long-stalled voting rights legislation.

Geoff Bennett begins our coverage.

GEOFF BENNETT: President Joe Biden today with an urgent new call to protect the right to

vote.

JOE BIDEN, President of the United States: To protect our democracy, I support changing

the Senate rules.

GEOFF BENNETT: The president throwing his full support behind a one-time change to the

Senate filibuster to ease passage of voting rights legislation.

JOE BIDEN: I believe the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass

these voting rights bills.

Debate them.

Vote.

Let the majority prevail.

And if that bare minimum is blocked, we have no option but to change Senate rules, including

getting rid of the filibuster for this.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GEOFF BENNETT: But that requires the support of all 50 Democratic senators.

And West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema aren't on board.

And Republicans are nearly unanimous in opposing the bills as government overreach.

SEN.

TED CRUZ (R-TX): It's a power grab to enable a power grab.

GEOFF BENNETT: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Democrats are promoting what

he calls fake outrage and fake hysteria on voting rights ginned up by partisans.

SEN.

MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): If my colleague tries to break the Senate to silence those millions

of Americans, we will make their voices heard in this chamber in ways that are more inconvenient

for the majority and this White House than what anybody has seen in living memory.

GEOFF BENNETT: The White House insists President Biden will work in lockstep with Senate Majority

Leader Chuck Schumer, who promised a vote on voting rights legislation as soon as tomorrow.

Schumer warns that, if Republicans filibuster the effort, he will force another vote by

Martin Luther King Jr.

Day.

SEN.

CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Failure is not an option for the democracy of America.

GEOFF BENNETT: President Biden's choice of Georgia for today's major voting rights speech

is no accident.

It served the cradle of the civil rights movement and home to two of the nation's most prominent

civil rights leaders, Dr. King, whom the president honored today, laying a wreath at his crypt

and with a visit to King's pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the late Congressman John

Lewis, who represented the district where the president delivered his address.

And the state is ground zero for the current challenge.

After President Biden beat former President Trump in Georgia by less than 12,000 votes

in 2020, the state became one of the first to pass more restrictive voting laws.

Supporters point to one measure, an additional day of early voting, as the law increasing

voter access.

But other provisions take aim at mail-in voting, implement stricter voter I.D.

requirements, and limit the use of ballot drop boxes.

Georgia is now one of 19 states that have passed tougher voting laws since the 2020

election.

Taken together, the president has said the laws are the biggest threat to democracy since

the Civil War.

JOE BIDEN: Each one of the members in the Senate is going to be judged by history, on

where they stood before the vote and where they stood after the vote.

There's no escape.

So, let's get back to work.

GEOFF BENNETT: And he says he is bracing for a bruising fight ahead to take action.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the day's other news: The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19

in the U.S. has hit a new record.

There were nearly 146,000 as of today, topping the peak of 142,000 last January.

Also today, Chicago teachers ended a walkout that canceled five days of classes.

They have agreed on new COVID safety measures.

And New Orleans reimposed an indoor mask mandate as it readies for visitors during Mardi Gras

season.

President Biden today defended his response to the pandemic.

He said he is -- quote -- "confident we're on the right track."

His top COVID adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, accused a longtime critic of lying about him

to gin up campaign donations.

At a U.S. Senate hearing, Fauci charged that Republican Rand Paul's attacks are encouraging

potential violence.

DR.

ANTHONY FAUCI, Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden: And, all of a sudden, that kindles

the crazies out there, and I have life -- threats upon my life, harassment of my family, and

my children with obscene phone calls, because people are lying about me.

So, go to Rand Paul Web site, and you see "Fire Dr. Fauci" with a little box that says,

contribute here.

You can do $5, $10, $20, $100.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Fauci cited the arrest of a man in Iowa last month with an assault-style

rifle.

Police have said that he had a hit list with Fauci's name on it.

An arctic wave moved into New England today with subzero temperatures.

Public schools in Boston and elsewhere canceled classes, for fear of students suffering frostbite.

Windchills hit minus-72 on Mount Washington, New Hampshire.

The observatory there posted an image of a fork sticking straight out from a plate of

frozen spaghetti.

The head of the Federal Reserve system says the U.S. economy is recovering strongly, but

that inflation is now a serious threat.

Jerome Powell had his Senate confirmation hearing today for a second term as Fed chair.

He acknowledged the need to act, with price hikes at a 40-year high.

JEROME POWELL, Federal Reserve Chairman: If we have to raise interest rates more over

time, we will.

We will use our tools to get inflation back.

And the main reason is this.

A reason is this, that to get the kind of very strong labor market we want, with high

participation, it's going to take a long expansion.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Fed officials have already indicated that they expect three rate hikes

this year.

Powell's remarks indicate there could be more.

North Korea claimed a successful launch today of a hypersonic missile.

South Korea says the weapon was fired from a province near China, and flew east into

the sea, reaching 10 times the speed of sound.

Around the same time, U.S. aviation officials briefly grounded some flights on the West

Coast.

They gave no explanation.

The United Nations is appealing for a record $5 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan

and neighboring countries.

The world body cites a looming catastrophe for 23 million people.

In response, the U.S. announced $300 million in aid today.

Afghanistan's international funding dried up when the Taliban took over in August.

A Russian-led military alliance will begin withdrawing more than 2,000 troops from Kazakstan.

That comes as violent protests have been quelled and nearly 10,000 Kazakhs detained.

The nation's president made the announcement today in a teleconference with his Parliament.

KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, President of Kazakstan (through translator): The situation in all

regions is stable.

Thereby, the main mission of the peacekeeping forces has been successfully completed.

In two days' time, a phased withdrawal of the contingent will begin.

The withdrawal process will take no more than 10 days.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Kazakh leader also announced new economic measures to narrow the country's

wealth gap.

Back in this country, the U.S. Navy will drain an underground fuel facility that is blamed

for contaminating drinking water around Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

A Navy official confirmed today that the service will comply with a state order.

People had long complained of tap water smelling like fuel and reported getting sick after

using it.

On Wall Street, tech stocks led a market rebound.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 183 points to close at 36252.

The Nasdaq rose 210 points, nearly 1.5 percent.

The S&P 500 added 42.

And the Georgia Bulldogs were basking in the glow today after beating Alabama 33-18 for

the college football playoff championship.

Players celebrated the victory in Indianapolis for Georgia's first football title in 41 years.

All the sweeter, as they lost to Alabama in last month's conference championship game.

Still to come on the "NewsHour": a member of the White House COVID response team discusses

the push for testing; Chicago teachers agree to return to school after a protracted standoff;

we examine the legacy of the Guantanamo Bay prison 20 years after its opening; and much

more.

As we reported earlier, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are stepping

up their push for Democrats to pass federal voting rights legislation.

Geoff Bennett is back now with different views on the significance of their trip to Georgia

today and what lies ahead.

GEOFF BENNETT: Thanks, Judy.

Well, while President Biden was joined by several civil rights leaders today during

his events in Atlanta, some local voting rights advocates chose not to participate.

One of those organizers joins me now, LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter.

It's good to have you with us.

And President Biden did today the thing that you and so many other advocates have been

calling on him to do, which is to inject new urgency into the push for voting rights.

Why did you choose not to attend his speech today?

LATOSHA BROWN, Co-Founder, Black Voters Matter: We didn't attend his speech today not -- we

weren't trying to be combative or antagonistic.

We want his -- we want his agenda to pass.

We want him to actually be successful.

We actually helped put him in office.

But we also wanted to send a message loud and clear that -- the seriousness of this

issue for us, that we wanted to show and send a message that it was no longer time.

We were way past just a speech, that it was going to require action, that we wanted to

make sure that there was a firm commitment to end or carve out the filibuster, and that

there was a firm commitment from the White House to do everything within its power to

pass voting rights legislation.

GEOFF BENNETT: So, what's your reaction to what you heard from the president today?

LATOSHA BROWN: Well, I think it was a promising speech.

I think we are cautiously optimistic.

Many of the things that he said today, I think - - I must commend him in some ways.

One of the things that he said, I think it takes -- it's a measure of a man to be able

to acknowledge and admit when you are wrong.

I think for him to say that he's been silent long enough is essentially -- I'm so glad

and I commend him for being able to speak to that, to give voice to that, because that's

been part of our criticism for the last few months.

He has also has been a staunch defender of the filibuster.

He had said adamantly that he would not support moving the filibuster, that he felt the filibuster

- - and so to see him move his position and recognize the seriousness of this moment and

also to acknowledge the work that's happening on the ground in Georgia, I thought it was

- - I thought it was promising.

GEOFF BENNETT: When it comes to preserving access at the ballot box, so much of that

work falls to people like you and groups like the one that you represent.

Given the ways in which the laws have changed in Georgia, can you out-organize what you

see as voter suppression?

LATOSHA BROWN: Absolutely not.

No one can.

I think that many of the organizers I work with are the best organizers in the country,

possibly best organizers in the world, but there's only so much we can do.

That is part of the reason why we have been diligent.

We have been nonstop working.

We have done everything that we could to really put pressure on the White House, on the Senate,

on the House.

We have gone back and forth to D.C.

We have organized on the ground.

We have protested.

We have been arrested.

My point is that there is no way out of this, other than we have to really make some structural

changes.

And there has to be some federal protection, that we cannot allow people to be punished

because the way they voted or who they voted for.

That is a serious, serious attack on democracy in this nation.

GEOFF BENNETT: There is a palpable frustration I pick up when I speak to grassroots organizers

like yourself.

The political realities in Washington have not really changed an iota, despite the speech

that the president gave today and all of the attention he's trying to focus on voting rights

right now.

If nothing changes between now and Election Day, can Democrats, can the Biden administration,

can they count on support from organizations like yours?

LATOSHA BROWN: Let me say, the work that we're doing is not work that we're supporting because

of -- for a political party.

It's not the work that we're doing because of political candidates.

We are literally fighting for our lives.

When we're supporting of legislation around health care, that's because we need health

care.

When we're supporting legislation around job access, that's because we need jobs, and we

need quality jobs.

The truth of the matter is, we are being attacked right now, that there are barriers that have

been set up.

And I often talk about these three strategies that the Republicans and the right have -- they

have used historically to actually impact the right to vote.

That's, one, creating a culture of fear.

We're seeing that every single day with even the -- with the lies, the information, the

actually attacks on us.

The second thing is to really be able to weaponize the administrative process.

Georgia is a prime example.

What we're seeing right now, in my county, which is Fulton County, which is the largest,

most populous county in the state of Georgia, the state is currently, the Republican Party

have an effort right now to take over the election board here in the county.

And the third thing is to restrict access.

And we have seen that in the closing of polling sites, like we're dealing with in Lincoln

County.

We have seen that when we're talking about access around absentee ballot voting.

There's a bill being proposed right now in the Georgia legislature that would eliminate

drop off boxes.

So we have seen this strategy.

It's like a playbook, that we have seen it over and over again.

What it is going to take to move forward is, we have to recognize that we're in a different

kind of political landscape.

We cannot allow to just think of this and voting rights as, oh, this is just another

bill, just like as a part of another agenda.

We have to see this as a fundamental need to preserve democracy and this nation.

No matter where you are or who you vote for, you should not be punished, there should not

be punitive measures because of the way that you voted.

That is a dangerous, slippery row for us to go down.

GEOFF BENNETT: LaTosha Brown, thanks so much for sharing your perspectives with us.

LATOSHA BROWN: Thank you for having me.

GEOFF BENNETT: And now to one of the Republican officials tasked with implementing Georgia's

new voting law.

Gabriel Sterling is the chief operating officer of the Georgia secretary of state's office.

It's good to have you with us.

And you are one of the few Republican officials who has pushed back against the lies that

former President Donald Trump has been telling about the election that he lost.

President Biden has suggested that those lies have transformed into a potent threat facing

our democracy.

Do you agree with that assessment?

GABRIEL STERLING, Georgia Voting System Implementation Manager: I think lies, when it's done by a

Republican losing candidate or a Democrat losing candidate, undermine overall faith

in elections.

And the reasons we have ballots is so we can avoid bullets.

And if both sides keep on weaponizing election administration the way that they are, then

we're going to have a very serious situation in years to come.

GEOFF BENNETT: President Biden in his remarks today was speaking about Republican election

officials like yourself.

And he said that too many people voting in a democracy is a problem for folks like you,

and so they're putting up obstacles.

How do you react to that?

GABRIEL STERLING: I have said it before.

This kind of hyperbole, whether it's by President Trump or President Biden, is simply dangerous,

and it's wrong.

S.B.202, the Voter Integrity Act, actually extends the number of days people can early-vote.

It makes it easier to request an absentee ballot and for those people to be identified

as being the right person.

The main thing that we want to make sure of is that every legal vote is counted and every

legal voter is the one casting the vote and no illegal votes are being cast.

In every single election, there's going to be illegal votes.

Your job is to minimize them and make election administration as easy as you possibly can.

Many of the things he talked about today simply weren't true.

We didn't have absentee ballot drop boxes authorized by law until this past -- we had

emergency ones for -- from COVID rules we were able to have in the last election.

So, for the first time ever, Georgia law authorized the drop boxes.

The idea it's harder to request absentee ballot is simply not true.

In fact, we now have a way to use voter I.D. to make sure it's a binary system, so we're

no longer having to match signatures, which the Democrats literally sued us last year

to get rid of signature matching.

Now they're trying to sue us for some other ways to identify voters.

We're trying to make it more secure and very - - very easy to vote.

It's extremely easy to vote in my state.

But it's very, very hard to cheat.

And that's the goal of these kinds of laws.

GEOFF BENNETT: But there are elements of the Georgia voting law that turn what had been

an apolitical process into potentially a partisan on, for instance, giving the state oversight

of the state election board.

Why is that appropriate?

GABRIEL STERLING: People have so misunderstood and lied about this law, that it's just becoming

- - I was so frustrated at the beginning of this year .I'm frustrated again now, people

lying about this law.

All it does is lets a state election board go into where there is a failing county, where

people are being abused by their election officials locally.

Take Fulton County, for example, which has always been a problem.

We have thousands of people did not get their absentee ballots during the primary.

And that's wrong.

We can't allow for that.

So there has to be a mechanism of accountability.

In this one, there's a lot of due process.

There has to be an investigation that goes a minimum of 30 days.

One of the claims is that Republicans can put in people to overturn election results.

That's just impossible with the way this law is written.

It's not reality.

There's -- to certify an election, it goes 10 days.

The investigation to be called for us to go at least 30.

This hyperbole and these lies about this, I know it's great politics.

It really is.

For Trump, he thought it was great politics to claim the stolen election.

For Biden and the Democrats, saying voter suppression is great politics, but it undermines

people's faith of both parties in the election administration.

And it's just wrong.

GEOFF BENNETT: But to lots of people, the Georgia voting law is really a solution in

search of a problem.

There was no fraud in the 2020 vote in Georgia to the degree that it would have changed the

outcome.

What there was increased turnout.

And as a result come these stricter voting laws.

Why is that?

Why was the -- sort of the sequence?

GABRIEL STERLING: Well, the claim that these are stricter voting laws is somehow very bizarre

to me, because our office wrote a good 90 percent of this law.

It's really about election administration.

We had a brand-new voting system that was used for the first time in 2020, where we

had a paper-based ballot done off touch screen.

So we knew there was going to be things we were going to learn and things they needed

to change.

We also needed to get a tighter control on the absentee ballot process, because that

is one of the areas that was, for lack of a better word, not as well-regulated as it

needed to be, given the large volume of that.

And it really put lots of stress on our counties.

And one of the things that was very important that we did -- they're claiming we're limiting

the times that you can vote by mail.

The issue was, where people requested a ballot within 10 days of the election, only 52 percent

of those people actually voted, whereas if they requested it nine -- 10 days before that,

92 percent of them voted.

So what we did is, we put an absentee ballot deadline in there.

And that way, the counties can process them.

And then, if you have time, you then can know you're not going to get a ballot and you can

go early-vote or vote on Election Day.

So this is about enfranchising people, not disenfranchising people.

GEOFF BENNETT: Gabriel Sterling, thank you for joining the "NewsHour."

GABRIEL STERLING: Thank you all.

Go, Dogs.

JUDY WOODRUFF: During today's Senate hearing about the pandemic, lawmakers leveled tough

criticisms at the Biden administration, including around the lack of available testing.

The president has announced plans to ramp up the response.

That includes requiring insurers to pay for eight rapid at-home tests per person per month

starting this weekend and making 500 million tests available to ship to those who request

them.

We look at key questions about all this with Dr. Tom Inglesby.

He is a senior adviser to the White House COVID Response Team.

Dr. Inglesby, thank you so much for joining us.

The calls for these tests have been out there for a long time.

How much difference are these steps the White House has announced going to make?

DR.

TOM INGLESBY, Senior Adviser, White House COVID-19 Response Team: Judy, thanks so much

for having me tonight.

Good to be here.

The steps that have been announced this week I think are going to make a major difference

in the availability of over-the-counter tests for Americans.

The insurance plan that you just referenced will come into effect this weekend.

And every family that's covered by private insurance will be able to access tests on

a regular basis for all family members.

And then, as you noted, the second part of this new announcement this week is the presidential

plan to provide 500 million rapid tests to Americans across the country through a simple

Web site.

That will be put in place later in this month.

People will be begin to be able to be ordering later this month, and tests will start to

arrive during January.

So, those different components of the plan will add to the already growing market of

over-the-counter tests in the United States.

If you look back at the summertime, we had 25 million tests available to Americans back

in August, over-the-counter tests, and, in December, we had 300 million tests.

And that number is going to will grow in January, February, March and beyond.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In so many words, though, how are you ramping up the supply of tests, when

we know, for the longest time, there just have not been anywhere near the number of

tests available?

How are you suddenly going to make this happen?

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: Well, the number of the tests has been growing over the course of the fall.

We have had a number of new manufacturers get their authorization from the FDA in October,

November, December.

So, there are new manufacturers.

Even right before the holidays, two major companies just got their authorization, and

they're not even providing tests yet to America, and they will be soon.

There are many more companies that have been seeking authorization of the FDA.

These announcements have increased the interest in companies making these tests.

So we have momentum.

We would like to go faster.

We are going to go faster, and we're going to make more tests available.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And how is it going to work for people who are going to want to access

these tests through the U.S. Postal Service?

Do they go -- they're going to go to a Web site?

I mean, how is that going to work for people?

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: Exactly.

People will be able to go to a Web site, which will be launched relatively soon.

So they will be able to see it before the time when they can start ordering tests.

It'll be a simple, very straightforward Web site, where people will go in and put in their

address, and say they'd like tests, and those tests will come to them.

That will be very straightforward.

So that will be happening relatively soon and...

JUDY WOODRUFF: Relatively soon.

Excuse me.

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Relatively soon, meaning by the next few weeks?

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: Yes, the Web site should be available, should be online by this weekend.

And then, sometime in the days to follow, people will begin to be able to order their

tests.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And then how long to receive them?

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: Tests will begin to arrive during January, and then into February.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I'm asking because I did see reporting today that it may take two months

for these 500 million tests the administration is talking about to reach people.

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: The details of the timing of their arrival are still being worked out with

companies.

The contracts are just closing today and the next couple of days.

So I think some of the details will be announced by this Friday.

But we're going to be getting tests out as quickly as we can, as the manufacturers deliver

them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Inglesby, given that the demand is going to -- still going to be exceeding

the supply, how are you going to decide who gets the tests that are available?

How are you going to prioritize this?

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: So, in this plan to distribute 500 million tests, there are enough tests

for every household in America.

And so there is no need to make a choice between one household or another.

Any household that will want these tests will be able to get these tests.

And so, as orders come in to the Web site, we will distribute those tests accordingly.

And we will not have a problem reaching all Americans.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, in other words, you're not -- there's no plan for prioritization,

that certain people will have access before others?

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: Right.

This Web site will provide access to all Americans at the same time.

It'll be able to handle a very large load of requests.

It's being built to be able to handle very high volume in the earliest days, which is

when we expect there will be a lot of interest and a lot of demand.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, for example, individuals of lower income who may not be able to go

to the drugstore, afford to get them, to pay for them, they will be thrown in the mix with

everybody else?

And everybody will need to have Internet access.

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: So, we are very, very conscious of the equity issues involved in having a

Web site like this.

There will be a phone line available for people to call in their orders for people who don't

have Internet access or have some kind of disability which limits their ability to be

on the Internet.

We also have -- I mean, it is part of a larger program of testing in the United States.

We have a variety of different testing channels that are providing tests for Americans, over-the-counter

tests.

So, for example, the president announced a commitment last month to provide 50 million

over-the-counter tests for free to community health clinics around the country and to rural

health clinics.

And that is already happening.

About nine million tests have already been ordered by clinics around the country.

We will continue to do that.

We will continue to provide free testing in pharmacies, in 10,000 pharmacies around the

country, which are disproportionately located in underserved communities.

So that all -- those programs will continue as is.

But we're adding an additional program here.

We also will be making sure to communicate very broadly and carefully with communities

that are underserved before this program launches.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And with regard to the announcement about insurers are going to be providing -- will

be reimbursing to everyone who has insurance coverage, reimbursing what they pay for tests,

that's not -- that obviously doesn't cover all Americans, and it covers people who have

insurance.

So you're looking at two different buckets of people?

Is that how you see it?

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: Well, in this case, for the insurance program, we have taken a step to

cover everyone who is -- who has private insurance, which is 150 million Americans.

Medicaid providers also have a provision for including over-the-counter tests and providing

them for free.

There are some states where there may need - - we're working through prescription -- whether

someone might need a prescription.

But we're hoping that they will be able to access the tests in the same way as anyone

with private insurance.

And then we also have and have had in place since the beginning of the administration

a program for the uninsured.

So we have a $5 billion program through HRSA to provide coverage of testing for the uninsured.

So, we're going about this in a variety of ways, consistent with the programs that we

have.

But, yes, the insurance program, for now, that is a private insurance program, but we

have other channels for people who are covered in other ways.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Dr. Tom Inglesby, thank you.

I know a lot of people have questions, many questions about how this is going to work.

Thank you very much for joining us.

We appreciate it.

DR.

TOM INGLESBY: Thanks so much for having me.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Today after discovering two cases of Omicron, Chinese authorities locked

down Anyang, 300 miles from Beijing.

It's the third Chinese city in lockdown.

The largest is Xi'An with 13 million people.

That shut down more than two weeks ago, after 120 residents tested positive for Delta weeks

before the Beijing Olympics.

These lockdowns are tests of China's zero COVID policy, which authorities have called

a success.

but critics ask, at what cost?

Nick Schifrin reports.

NICK SCHIFRIN: On the streets of Xi'An, the only signs of life are state-mandated COVID

tests.

As seen on Chinese TV, every resident has to test nearly every day.

Xi'An is suffering the country's largest community outbreak and its longest lockdown in nearly

two years.

At first, residents were desperate.

From their windows they yelled, they don't have enough food, their pleas ignored.

A city official says: "As long as you have one grain of rice, stay home."

Authorities say they have recently made progress delivering groceries.

But shortages remain.

MAN: Really difficult to find food.

It's been difficult to find bottled water.

A lot of my co-workers and friends are down to boiling their water.

NICK SCHIFRIN: One American working in Xi'An spoke anonymously, for fear of reprisal.

He compared his quarantine to solitary confinement.

When you say solitary confinement, what do you mean?

MAN: It means that I can't open the door of my apartment.

The only time I can leave is to go downstairs and get tested for COVID.

That's the only time I can leave.

And I try to go down there when the line is long, so I can stay down there as long as

possible.

NICK SCHIFRIN: What would happen if you tried to go outside not in the context of getting

tested?

MAN: I might be arrested.

I might -- yes, I could be taken to jail, I guess, because this is serious.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Zero COVID can be deadly serious.

Hospitals require negative tests for entry.

This woman was refused care for two hours.

She was eight months pregnant and miscarried.

In another video, a woman says her father had a heart attack and died when he was blocked

from all of the city's hospitals, and tens of thousands forcibly bused to quarantine

centers far from the city center.

And now more cities are under lockdown.

Disinfecting trucks are out in Yuzhou after three residents last week developed asymptomatic

cases.

It's all part of China's zero COVID policy to prevent community transmission.

Beijing says it's worked.

Cases are far lower than in the West, saving thousands of lives.

ZHANG CANYOU, Expert, Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism (through translator): We

need to try to stay ahead of the virus.

We should carry out more strict management in areas with frequent movement of patients

and try to control risks at the community level.

NICK SCHIFRIN: At the national level, the top priority is the Olympics.

As President Xi Jinping saw last week, athletes and spectators will be kept in a closed loop.

Anyone entering the bubble must be vaccinated or face a three-week quarantine.

YANZHONG HUANG, Council on Foreign Relations: They want to make sure there's no major outbreak

in the country, like, period, before the Winter Olympics.

But, in the meantime, they also don't want the zero COVID strategy to fail.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Yanzhong Huang is the Council on Foreign Relations' senior fellow for global

health.

He says China wants its COVID policy success, to prove the Communist Party's success.

YANZHONG HUANG: So that can be very convincing, right, in terms of showing case China superiority,

right, as a successful political system.

NICK SCHIFRIN: But scientists say, what's not superior, state-manufactured Sinovac and

Sinopharm vaccines.

Chinese authorities have voiced concerns their vaccines cannot stop infections, despite an

86 percent vaccination rate.

YANZHONG HUANG: Now, this two-dose regimen is still not very effective in preventing

new infections.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Xi'An's lockdown mirrors Wuhan's two years ago.

The COVID epicenter was a ghost town.

For not wearing a mask, this woman was arrested, and this family dragged out of their home

to be quarantined.

But one doctor was brave enough to speak out.

In December 2019, 34-year-old Dr. Li Wenliang sounded the alarm about a virus spreading

between patients.

On Chinese social media, he wrote: "I decided to inform my classmates and help protect them."

Chinese police later reprimanded him for -- quote - - "spreading rumors."

Exactly two years ago, he contracted COVID.

From his death bed, he wrote: "Today, my nucleic acid test came back positive.

The dust has settled."

He died a few weeks later.

Two years on, hundreds of thousands of Chinese still write online to Dr. Li's ghost, including

from Xi'An.

WOMAN: When I see that, in Xi'An, sick patients are repeatedly turned away from hospitals

and die, I vent my fury again and again, because it is just like seeing Dr. Li Wenliang with

his foreknowledge.

If there is any one lesson we can learn, it should be that we are unable to learn from

our past.

MAN: #Xi'An.

A man was rejected by three hospitals and died.

Who still remembers Dr. Li Wenliang whistling the first whistle?

Nowadays, there is no one who dares to whistle.

XIAO QIANG, Editor in Chief, China Digital Times: People relate to him not only because

he's speaking truth and he paid a price, he was being wronged, and also his courage.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Xiao Qiang is the editor in chief of the California-based China Digital

Times.

He says the anniversary of Dr. Li's reprimand and Xi'An's lockdown reveals the true nature

of an authoritarian state.

XIAO QIANG: A healthy society should have more than one voice, for even have a reasonable

room to have a policy debate about zero COVID policy.

None of this existed, not then and not now.

What's happening in Xi'An reminded them the human cost of those rigid top-down authoritarian

policy can cause for human suffer in Chinese society.

NICK SCHIFRIN: And now Tianjin, a major port city about 80 miles from Beijing, reported

the country's first cases of Omicron.

Omicron has led other countries to abandon zero COVID policies.

But China is sticking to it, and its low infection rate creates a country more vulnerable to

future disease, says Huang.

YANZHONG HUANG: China will continue, right, to be in that lockdown mode, right?

That immunity gap, that will be very dangerous, because even a small opening, right, could

lead to a devastating impact.

It could quickly overwhelm the country's health care system.

It could also, right -- because of the fear and panic associated with the disease, it

could have social, political stability implications.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Which means, even as zero COVID saves lives, it might prove self-defeating.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

JUDY WOODRUFF: With the spread of Omicron exacerbating staffing shortages, returning

to school after winter break has been a significant struggle in many parts of the country.

The overwhelming number of school districts are back in person, but some have gone virtual

for a few weeks.

And, as Stephanie Sy tells us, the biggest battle over whether to return to in person

learning has been playing out in Chicago.

STEPHANIE SY: Judy, students are expected to return to in person classes in Chicago

tomorrow after nearly a week of canceled classes.

The breakdown started last week when the Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU, said teachers would

not return in person without better COVID testing and stronger safety protections for

staff and students.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago public school district said remote teaching was not

an option.

Teachers were locked out from virtual accounts and were not paid.

Parents have been extremely frustrated with both sides.

LAUREN LEHMANN, Parent: My name is Lauren Lehmann.

My son's name is Bryson Mosley (ph).

He is 6 years old, and is in first grade at New Field Elementary.

ALLY WARD, Parent: My name is Ally Ward.

This is my husband, Marcus Ward.

We live on the North Side of Chicago, and we have twin boys who are in the fourth grade

in CPS.

JOSEPH WILLIAMS, Parent: My name is Joseph Williams.

I am a proud father of five children who attend the Chicago Public Schools, and I reside in

the Englewood community.

Last week was very frustrating.

As a parent, we had to watch the news to find out if there was going to be school or not.

And to have to base a family decision looking at the news at night to see what's going to

happen, I don't think that's fair to families at all.

LAUREN LEHMANN: With Bryson having his ADHD and anxiety, it is much better for him to

be in a structured learning environment.

It was, for both of us, kind of a constant stop-start all day Wednesday, Thursday, and

Friday.

And by the end of the week, we were both mentally and emotionally drained.

MARCUS WARD, Parent: They're thinking, like, oh, are we flashing back to where we were

when we went on break for -- we went on spring break and never went back to school?

Is this what's going on again?

ALLY WARD: As parents, we have to adjust to every known variable that's going to happen.

So why doesn't CPS have to do that as well?

I think it's a poor example for parents and for students who are living through this,

certainly, and I think it's hard to know how to explain to your kid what's going on.

JOSEPH WILLIAMS: Parents' voice was not there, and I feel like we should be at the forefront

of these issues.

And there is no reason why parents aren't at the table.

We have folks that are making decisions about our children without us being present.

LAUREN LEHMANN: I don't know how they expect kids to just bounce back mentally, emotionally,

academically from a loss of roughly now four days' worth of education.

It's really hard for them, and we're losing sight of that with the constant bickering

and back-and-forth and passing the buck in between CPS and CTU.

Enough is enough.

MARCUS WARD: My nephew is in L.A. They told the parents about how school would look coming

into the new year before they left for Christmas break: If we need to go remote, this is what

it will look like.

If we need to go hybrid, this is what it will look like.

And it seems like, with our situation, is that we are kind of just -- we're chasing

after answers.

JOSEPH WILLIAMS: We have gone through this now for almost two years, and you didn't think

to already have these type of measures in place?

Other folks around the world is looking at CPS for guidance, and we can't even do it.

We're literally creating things day by day, and these are folks' lives at hand.

LAUREN LEHMANN: I did not think, as the nation's, like, third largest school district, that

we would be going through this much.

I would not have anticipated this, as a parent initially coming into the school district.

So, this is -- it's a bit alarming for me, and it kind of makes me question how much

longer I really do want to keep him in an environment like this, where we could be consistently

going back and forth.

STEPHANIE SY: The agreement that allows students to return to school tomorrow also sets new

guidelines for when they might go back to remote learning.

But the mood remains acrimonious between the mayor and the teachers.

Here's some of what Mayor Lightfoot and the union's vice president, Stacy Davis Gates,

had to say last night.

LORI LIGHTFOOT, Mayor of Chicago, Illinois: Some will ask, who won and who lost?

No one wins when our students are out of the place where they can learn the best and where

they're safest.

There does come a time when enough is enough.

Three work stoppages in three years, of course people are frustrated.

Why couldn't -- why wouldn't they be?

But I'm hopeful that this is the end, at least for this school year.

STACY DAVIS GATES, Vice President, Chicago Teachers Union: You have more testing because

the mayor was shamed into taking the testing from the governor, who, by the way, offered

it months ago.

This mayor is unfit to lead this city, and she is on a one-woman kamikaze mission to

destroy our public schools.

She has not taken good care over the safety of the workers and the students that attend

it.

STEPHANIE SY: And another twist, this afternoon, Mayor Lightfoot announced she tested positive

for COVID.

She says she is working from home while experiencing cold-like symptoms.

For more on all of this, I'm joined by Brandis Friedman of "Chicago Tonight" on WTTW Chicago.

Brandis Friedman, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour" on this busy day for you.

Did anyone benefit from this five-day work stoppage in the end?

Did the agreement reached lead to concrete safety measures that we will see implemented

tomorrow, when students go back?

BRANDIS FRIEDMAN, WTTW Chicago: I think the teachers union will say, to some degree, that

they were to able to move the ball in getting a little bit closer to some of what they wanted.

They felt like the testing was insufficient in Chicago Public Schools.

And so they will say that, since they have finally gotten the district to agree to at

least 10 percent of all students in all schools being tested, that that is something.

It is not what they fully wanted.

And so the union is taking a bit of criticism from some of its members, who don't think

this is the best deal that they could have gotten, especially since they were out of

school, off of work, not getting paid for five -- for five days.

So I think, with regard to testing, they think they have made some progress.

There are some metrics for a school-by-school return to remote learning when it's necessary,

which the district -- the union -- excuse me -- asked for.

The mayor did hold firm on her position that there would be no metric for a district-wide

closure of schools and return to remote learning.

So it seems like everybody -- there were some compromises made on each side.

STEPHANIE SY: Brandis, you said there was some agreement that a positivity rate could

trigger a return to virtual learning school by school.

So does that mean that students and parents could still face more school closures?

BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: If those schools are reaching the metrics, yes, then those schools could

experience a return to remote learning.

I think the metric is about 40 percent of students in isolation or quarantine, and 30

percent of teachers who are out of school - - or in isolation, I should say, and/or if

25 percent of teachers are absent after bringing in substitute teachers.

Then, yes, some schools might experience it.

And I'm wondering if it's going to be in the communities that have already experienced

a lot of disruption because of their high case rates in those communities.

STEPHANIE SY: And some of those same communities may have also experienced the brunt of the

learning loss.

How is that being addressed by the district.

BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: That has yet to be seen.

I think a lot of studies and reports have come out as of late showing that students

have definitely fallen behind.

And no surprise.

Remote learning is hard.

And the teachers union has said remote learning is subpar to in person learning, but in person

learning can be dangerous if the proper mitigation strategies are not in place.

And the argument that the district says we have done X, Y and Z to make it safer, teachers

are saying, that is not the lived experience, the reality on the ground that we are experiencing.

The other thing here is the number of days that have been missed, those five days, it

is up to the district now to decide whether or not those days will be somehow made up

somewhere else in the school year.

And that's five days of learning lost.

STEPHANIE SY: Just to drive home how contagious Omicron is, now the mayor has it, and everybody

that was at that press conference has to be tested for COVID.

Teachers and staff are also falling ill to the variant.

Is that a problem that's been addressed as students go back?

BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: I don't see it anywhere in this agreement that was just discussed,

right?

It's -- I think they're hoping to implement this new testing as soon as possible.

The problem with -- what has been contentious about the testing plan is that the mayor was

firm about not having an opt-out plan.

So we have got an opt-in testing system, where parents have to opt in to the testing.

And so now the teachers union has taken it upon themselves to work with their communities

and students and families to get more students signed up, so that you can at least reach

a large number of students in each school who agree to be tested, so that you're not

testing the same 10 percent every time.

So, as far as folks having been out as of late, the testing that was intended to happen

before schools resumed last week, it didn't go well at all.

There were pictures of tests stacked up outside FedEx boxes, and a lot of them were deemed

invalid.

So, before they show up tomorrow, any testing that has to happen, that has either already

been done or not.

School is happening tomorrow, as far as we know today.

STEPHANIE SY: Hard choices that a lot of school districts around the country are facing.

Brandis Friedman of "Chicago Tonight" on WTTW, thank you so much for joining the "NewsHour."

BRANDIS FRIEDMAN: My pleasure, Stephanie.

Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As of today, the military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been open

for 20 years.

It is an enduring symbol of the American war on terror.

But it's also a symbol for many Americans and worldwide of a grueling, controversial

war and a legacy of torture.

Amna Nawaz looks now at Guantanamo's history and what's to come as it enters its third

decade.

AMNA NAWAZ: That's right, Judy.

On January 11, 2002, the first 20 detainees arrived at Guantanamo Bay's detention facility.

That was four months to the day after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

And, since then, it's held about 780 detainees, and the majority have never been charged;

741 have since been transferred out.

And, today, 39 men remain.

And so too do questions about their future and the future of Guantanamo Bay itself, as

President Biden renews a pledge to close it.

For more on all of this, I'm joined by New York Times reporter Carol Rosenberg.

She is the only reporter covering Guantanamo Bay full-time.

Carol, welcome back to the "NewsHour."

Thanks for being here.

Let me ask you about those 39 men who are still there.

About a dozen or so have been charged, right, the majority of them awaiting trial, including

five men, we should say, for those 9/11 attacks.

But most of the men there, most of them have never been charged.

So how is it that the U.S. is still holding them?

CAROL ROSENBERG, The New York Times: So, you're correct that there's six people there awaiting

death penalty trials, and the majority have not been charged.

A few more have been charged through the years.

It is essentially what is an offshore POW camp in this irregular war on terror.

So they call them law of war prisoners, rather than POWs.

But the concept was not that they were bringing in war criminals.

The concept was, they were removing people from the battlefield.

AMNA NAWAZ: And is it also true we have heard some of these men who haven't been charged

will likely never be charged because of the treatment that they have endured while they

have been in U.S. custody?

CAROL ROSENBERG: Part of the problem in some cases may be that the evidence is so badly

tainted that they can't bring charges against them.

There's no clean evidence.

But, again, these detainees are being held there not as alleged war criminals, but as,

as they call them, law of war detainees.

The intention was never to charge a majority of them.

AMNA NAWAZ: So, we should say a number -- as we pointed out, most of them have been transferred

out.

And critics say, if you want to close the camp, you have got to transfer the remaining

men out, especially if they have never been charged.

So, we know the process is, they make their case before a review board that has members

from six different agencies, including Defense and Justice and so on.

I actually had a chance to sit in on one of those review hearings earlier today for one

man who remains in custody.

I went to a secure room in the Pentagon.

You have a live video link to Guantanamo Bay.

You just reported this week on one detainee, a Somali man who I believe is the first high-value

detainee who's been approved for transfer out of Guantanamo.

Explain to me the significance of that.

How big a deal is that?

CAROL ROSENBERG: So, first of all, he's not one of 18 men.

We had more released decisions, transfer decisions come out today.

But the significance of this man, the Somali man, is that they have never before cleared

someone who came straight to Guantanamo from a CIA black site for transfer to another country.

And there's a number of those former CIA prisoners who are not charged with crimes.

And this suggests that, if the CIA at some point had felt that they couldn't ever be

released, that some of them might be released.

The most -- the best known one who's not charged there, I think, is a man named Abu Zubaydah,

who's had a hearing, never been charged with a crime.

And so there's some expectations that we're going to hear about whether they have decided

he can be relocated to another country.

AMNA NAWAZ: So, Carol, let me walk you through the timeline, for anyone who's been catching

up on how this has been open for 20 years.

When you look back, January of 2009 is when President Obama, in one of his first executive

orders, ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year.

That wasn't able to happen during his presidency.

Congress put up a number of hurdles that kept him from being able to move people out.

January 2017, President Trump takes office, reverses that closure order.

And then, of course, February 2021, President Biden comes into office a month before and

launches a review.

He has committed to closing it.

But, Carol, you follow this more closely than anyone?

Do you see those steps being taken?

Could this facility be closed under President Biden?

CAROL ROSENBERG: So, three presidents out of four have said they wanted to close it.

For President Bush, it was aspirational.

He said, we shouldn't need to do this.

For President Obama, it was intentional, meaning the former constitutional law professor was

offended by the notion of indefinite detention without charge.

President Biden doesn't talk about it that much.

We don't know where he lands on the aspirational vs. intentional spectrum.

He hasn't assigned anyone full-time to this task.

The argument is that, there's so few of them, it can be handled by a number of people in

government.

But the counterargument is, if you want something done, make someone responsible for it, and

they can move government.

So, I think the question is, how badly does he want it?

And I think I have told you this before, Amna.

Closing Guantanamo doesn't mean opening the gates and letting everybody go.

It means moving Guantanamo, picking up a number of detainees and taking them to detention

facilities in the United States for some sort of similar kind of detention.

And, right now, Congress won't have it.

The law says they can't move them here.

AMNA NAWAZ: Carol Rosenberg of The New York Times, who follows the proceedings and the

ups and downs at Guantanamo Bay more closely than anyone else, a facility that remains

open 20 years later to the day.

Carol, thank you so much for your time.

Always good to see you.

CAROL ROSENBERG: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And for more on Guantanamo's legacy, follow us on Instagram.

There, we examine the detention camp's history by the numbers, including a look at how much

it costs to hold each detainee.

And that's the "NewsHour" for tonight.

I'm Judy Woodruff.

Join us online and again here tomorrow evening.

For all of us at the "PBS NewsHour," thank you, please stay safe, and we'll see you soon.

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