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Brazil Reaches 2 Million COVID Cases and 77,000 Deaths; President Bolsonaro Dismissing COVID-19 as a Little Flu; Reopening Schools; New Documentary Focuses on John Lewis. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired July 17, 2020 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.

Two million COVID cases and counting in Brazil, coming in second to the United States. A report card on the populist president who failed to take

charge. With award-winning filmmaker, Petra Costa.

Then --


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, say something. Do something.


AMANPOUR: A new documentary for our time. Director Dawn Porter on the legacy of civil rights giant, Congressman John Lewis.

Plus --



severely affected by this virus than adults.


AMANPOUR: The knowns and unknowns upon returning to school. Our Hari Sreenivasan talks to Dr. Sean O'Leary from the Academy of Pediatrics.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.

The United States, Brazil and India are the only countries in the world with more than a million coronavirus cases. And a common thread between

them all? Their populist leaders. Many blame Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, for the country's 2 million cases and nearly 77,000 dead. The

president himself has the virus, and yet he consistently downplays the risk, dismissing it as a little flu. He's also used his veto power to water

down laws that would protect the public, like one making it mandatory to wear a mask in some indoor places.

Since the virus came to Brazil, Bolsonaro has lost two of his health ministers. The current interim one is an army general, raising fears about

the stability of the current democracy. The pandemic has also hit the economy hard, with nearly 8 million people unemployed.

Now, we asked senior Brazilian government officials to join our program tonight, but they have declined. Petra Costa is a Brazilian filmmaker whose

Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Edge of Democracy," warns of a threat to Brazil's democratic institutions even beyond the pandemic. And she's

joining me now from Sao Paolo.

Petra Costa, welcome to the program.

Can I just start by asking you what it feels like to be in the second epicenter? If the United States is the worst off, Brazil is certainly the

second. What does it feel like as you hear the totals and, you know, the case load increasing daily?

PETRA COSTA, "THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY": It feels like being trapped in a nightmare because all of this could have been avoided. Brazil wasn't hit by

the virus until it had been hit already Italy, the United States, we had all the media pressuring the government to take measures, but Bolsonaro

really resisted and has done the most absurd remarks, for example, when questioned about the mounting deaths, he said, I'm not a gravedigger. So,

what? Everyone's destiny is to die.

He has boycotted initiatives from mayors, governors that have tried to stop the pandemic. As you said, he didn't just change one, but two, health

ministers and is putting us all in a state of paralysis as the deaths continue mounting. His indifference only grows.

AMANPOUR: And, Petra, we're watching this horrible video, of course, of the graves going into the coffins going into the ground, and we've seen in,

for instance, the Amazon region, we've seen mass graves in Manaus, the capital there. I mean, obviously, the pictures are telling a very dramatic


I wonder whether you've noticed any change in tone from Bolsonaro, your president, since he himself contracted the disease. He has COVID.

COSTA: He announced that with a smirk on his face and used it as an opportunity to become a poster boy for chloroquine, taking it in the video

and saying that it was working well for him and that he was fine, and using it really to downplay the seriousness of the virus.

And it's also quite strange that months ago in March, he had gone on a trip to the United States, and 20 people from his delegation became

contaminated, and he refused to show his tests at the time. He only did so after the Supreme Court forced him to do so. And now, he volunteered this

information in a moment where he's involved in a huge corruption scandal and where that's in the media, and it seems like a perfect plot to divert


AMANPOUR: And perhaps to get some sympathy. Let me ask you, have his poll numbers suffered? He was elected in a landslide in 2018. Has his popularity

sunk at all or is he still very popular?

COSTA: His popularity diminished even more after the pandemic and after the scandals, but it continues very solid at 30 percent.


AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you, because, look, when the pandemic sort of raised its head, and even before it came to Brazil, your then health

minister and the government took some very early and quite, you know, severe moves. I mean, they banned cruises, the health minister was very

careful about sort of a lockdown before there was a lockdown, so to speak. So, what happened to that early success compared to what's happened now,

which is a total disaster?

COSTA: Well, Bolsonaro fired this health minister after he had said that quarantine was a good thing. And then when the second health minister

refused to recommend chloroquine for COVID patients, Bolsonaro -- he decided himself to quit that second health minister. Bolsonaro then named

an army general and decided to militarize the whole ministry, substituting health specialists by military people, and that has created a tension where

a Supreme Court judge has recently said that Bolsonaro's actions and the fact that the military is still supporting him makes the military could be

collaborating with what he sees as a genocide. That remark is very serious and has created a lot of tension between the powers.

AMANPOUR: It's a very, very serious remark, to talk about genocide in this situation. But, of course, also the Supreme Court has, you know -- I mean,

I guess I wonder -- what I'm trying to ask you is this military general, who is the interim health minister, the number of military, either retired

or active duty, who have been brought into the government and into civilian institutions by this president.

You know, you did a documentary called "The Edge of Democracy" about your country. You probably couldn't have envisioned that when you did it, or the

extent of the infiltration or the representation of the military in your government. Is there a fear beyond the pandemic that, you know, Brazil is

tilting again into a sort of potential undemocratic future?

COSTA: Definitely. When I made the documentary, "The Edge of Democracy," I already feared and felt that Brazil had done a very bad job in terms of its

past. We never punished the military that were responsible for the crimes during the dictatorship. We were very weak in teaching and showing the

population that this was a terrorist state. And that created the possibility of electing a military man who always praised the dictatorship.

And since he is in power, he -- we're already in a military rule in many regards. We have more military men in government now than we had during the

military dictatorship in Brazil. There is more military men in Brazil in power today than there is in Venezuela. And the erosion of democracy and

the destruction of democracy does not happen necessarily through a military coup as it did in the past, but through the weakening of institutions as it

is happening now.

And what we see happening is that whenever Bolsonaro feels weakened or threatened, as he has recently with two investigations, one that has a --

is trying to investigate the possibility that he was elected with a fake news campaign, and the other that is involving his son and a corruption

scandal. As the investigations push Bolsonaro against the wall, he uses the threat of a military coup to protect himself. He's doing to rallies asking

for military intervention, rallies against the Supreme Court and the Congress. His son recently said it's not more a matter of if a military

intervention will happen but when.

AMANPOUR: I mean, that is extraordinary to hear that coming from a source so close to the president. But so, let me ask you this, because, you know,

he's been criticized for being, as you've sort of hinted, at protests where people are calling for the Congress and the Supreme Court to be abolished.

But on the other hand, he has also responded to all of this. He's essentially said -- I think he said a while back, us military men from the

armed forces, and I'm also a military man, hold the true responsibility for democracy in our country. We could never follow absurd orders.


In other words, he's trying to play down the idea that any of the military types around him or even himself could issue, you know, non-civilian orders

and the like. Have people, you know, Democrats in the country, taken any sort of satisfaction or do they feel slightly at ease since Bolsonaro

himself said that they could never be -- I mean, I guess he's saying there never could be a military takeover or military coup or return to a military


COSTA: Well, the thing is that Bolsonaro's strategy of communication is similar -- or copying Trump is always of saying a very absurd remark and

then negating it. He's done that with absolutely everything. So, it's -- people -- I don't know -- I don't think people have been more at ease,

because not only him, but other generals close to him have used this threat of a military coup, saying that if investigations into Bolsonaro come too

close to him, they will not think twice before using that resource.

So, no, I don't think that brings us any ease.

AMANPOUR: Of course, you know, Peru in the '90s, which is not so far away from you, the president there also a right-wing populist, Alberto Fujimori.

He did send tanks and troops to dissolve Congress and the judiciary. So, clearly, you know, the fear of the militarization of government is a real

one in Latin America, which emerged after decades and decades of that sort of situation.

But, I guess, you know, so, Bolsonaro said that thing about, you know, there is no militarization of our government. But on the other hand, from

1999, there has been a clip of him that is making the rounds now. And let's just play it, because it's a very different Bolsonaro from the one who says

there is no threat to our civilian democracy.


JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): And I am sure that at least 90 percent of the population would celebrate and applaud

because it doesn't work. The Congress today is useless. Let's do the coup already. Let's go straight to the dictatorship.


AMANPOUR: That was in 1999 when he was deputy in Rio de Janeiro, a federal deputy there. How is that being sort of received, that now viral video

going around, reminding people?

COSTA: Well, what is uncanny is that was when we reached 30,000 deaths. Bolsonaro in some ways fulfilled his promise. And another remark that he

did within a similar way -- which had similarities to this one was one when he was congressman in 2017 where he was trying to pass a law to make legal

the use of a drug for cancer that like chloroquine has no scientific proof of its use.

And when asked about the drug, he said, if it heals or it doesn't heal, I don't know. I'm a military man. My specialty is to kill, not to heal. So,

it feels like he's using the same logic here.

AMANPOUR: Yes. I mean, you know, you've been repeating statements that, you know, one is even more shocking than the next, I mean, coming from

Bolsonaro's own mouth, coming from the mouth of his family. It's pretty sort of dramatic, and I think we do actually have to point it out, because

we see that democracy is a threat in many parts of the world. And furthermore, that there is a rise of what people call illiberal democracy

and claim illiberal democracy.

So, I think, you know, clearly, the concern about the survivability of democracy is very, very important and relevant right now. But particularly,

I want to ask you, because it's relevant to you and your family. You come from -- I think -- tell me about your family, because you come from,

obviously, a political side that's very against the right and also, your family had experience with the military dictatorships.

COSTA: Yes. My family is divided. Half of my family supported the military coup in the '60s while my parents fought against it and had many friends

killed and tortured by the dictatorship. So, this is very painful for them to see, after a whole lifetime where they felt they had brought or fought

for a democracy to be established in Brazil, to see such a recession into the past and puts them in a situation which is very disheartening.

And what I think is important for people to know is that Bolsonaro's biggest strength is that he's Trump's ally, even though Trump does not

think twice before ridiculing Bolsonaro. That is Bolsonaro's strength. So, the next election of the United States will be crucial in determining also

Brazil's future.


AMANPOUR: So, that's really interesting. Let me just give you sort of a counterfactual question, because a lot has been written about whether he

can politically survive the way he has dealt with the pandemic, as you mentioned, ridiculing it and, you know, watering down masks. I mean, you

know, not to mention the 8 million people unemployed, the plummeting of the economy, the poor people in the favelas who cannot socially distance, I

mean, all the issues that we're seeing. Not to mention, of course, the continued ravaging of the Amazon, the rainforest there, all undercover of

this situation.

But some people are asking, and I wonder if you can comment on this, that if he actually survives COVID himself and does survive it well and doesn't

show any worse symptoms than he's showing right now, could that, in fact, you know, make him sort of the superhero of this moment and vindicate all

that he's said about this, particularly, obviously, to his supporters, but could he actually come out, you know, stronger? Because we know that in

Brazil, pandemics and diseases have actually (INAUDIBLE) to topple and damage previous democratically elected presidents.

COSTA: It's hard to know. I feel the pandemic has hurt his popularity in the middle class. There was an irony where he was against giving aid

initially or wanted to give a very small aid but the Congress pressured, and now, a lot of the parts in Brazil are receiving it, 600 has aid. And

even though this was not thanks to him, his popularity has grown with this. So, it has diminished amongst the middle class and has grown amongst the

working class.

But if he survives COVID well, I think still we will -- it's very likely that Brazil will become number one in the world in terms of cases and

deaths. And people will feel this in their own families and their neighborhoods and I think this will affect the way they see the government.

But one thing that is disheartening is how the virus has really exposed Brazil's inequality with for black people being at much greater risk of

contamination and deaths, thousands of indigenous have been contaminated, and the deregulations that you mentioned in the Amazon have put themselves

at greater risk with minors contaminating indigenous populations.

And he's done all of this supposedly because of the economy, and the economy is only worsening with foreign investors backing out because of

deregulations in the Amazon. And so, there's really not a perspective where I see him coming out as a hero.

AMANPOUR: It's really fascinating to watch, and as you mentioned, the minorities are suffering the most, and that is what we're seeing in the

United States and elsewhere in this pandemic. Petra Costa, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

And as we said, we've reached out to the Brazilian government, but no one was able to speak to us. So, we turn now to a movie that meets this moment

of racial reckoning in the United States. "John Lewis: Good Trouble" has been described as the documentary America needs right now. It highlights

the political career and personal story of the legendary civil rights activist. As a student, Lewis led sit-ins to end segregations in Nashville

and he marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma where he was brutally beaten while peacefully protesting for the right to vote.

Today, the 17-term congressman from Georgia is best known as "Conscience of Congress." In an interview, he told me how his childhood influenced his

struggle. Take a listen.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): My mother, my father, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents, always said to me when I asked them questions about

science, they say, (INAUDIBLE) white men, colored men, white women, colored women, they said, don't get in trouble, don't get in the way. But I was

inspired to get in the way. I was inspired to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble. And I think young people and people not so young have a

moral obligation and a mission and a mandate to get in good trouble.


AMANPOUR: Hence the name of the movie by the acclaimed director, Dawn Porter. As a filmmaker, she has explored civil rights with her serious,

"Bobby Kennedy for President." And she's joining me know from Massachusetts.

Dawn Porter, welcome to the program.

It's great to hear John Lewis, you know, even from those years ago talking about how "Good Trouble" came to be his mantra, and, of course, it's the

name of your documentary. Just tell me a little bit how you came to sort of, you know, internalize that and use that as the name.


DAWN PORTER, DIRECTOR, "JOHN LEWIS; GOOD TROUBLE": You know, that is what the congressman is known for, and I just loved the way that he took that

very familiar phrase and turned it into a rallying cry. You know, and it certainly spoke to one of the things I was trying to accomplish with the

movie, which is to not only hearken back to his earliest days but then to also remind ourselves, remind everyone, that he is still getting in good

trouble. You know, he's been arrested five times since he's been a sitting congressman, and I think it's a necessary reminder that politics is not a

spectator sport, it's a -- we live in a participatory democracy, and that's what John wants to reminds us of.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me just ask you because clearly, you know, he's 80 years old. I said, he's a 17-term congressman. He's not well and he's not

doing a whole lot of interviews, if any, for this program, for this documentary. But he did come out and he was shown around Black Lives Matter

Plaza outside the White House when that was, you know, named -- when the name there was changed. And so, he's been out and about and he's looking at


You know, I said that the commentary really around this documentary is that it's absolutely the documentary for our time. I mean, you didn't obviously

make it knowing that what was happening -- what is happening now was going to be happening. Talk to me about the influence you think this could have


PORTER: You know, I'm so glad that you referenced the fact that he went and he made the trip down to the Black Lives Matter art installation on

black lives matter way, because I think that that says a lot about the congressman's priorities.

You know, when we started making this film -- I come from a political science background, like that's always been my interest, and I was

wondering if I was going to have to make the argument that protests matter, that protests are still a useful tool for our democracy. And so, certainly,

that has changed. I think everyone is convinced of the necessity and the effectiveness of peaceful protest.

But I think the film is also resonating in a different way. You know, we open the film with him saying he's worried for our democracy, and that was

an idea I really wanted to lean into. And, you know, I'm a big fan of Petra Costa's beautiful documentary that you were just speaking with her about.

And I love the idea of people perhaps watching those together and thinking that -- something that we thought was impossible, the loss of our

democratic institutions, the loss of the systems that we rely on.

I don't think people have really focused on the fragility of democracy if we do not safeguard it. And I think that is, as much as anything, what John

Lewis is -- what occupies his mind, what he's concerned about. It's why he campaigned so hard to take back the House. It is not a football game. You

know, this is not just a winners and losers. This is actually -- you know, we see how government impacts people's lives.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And I think you're absolutely right to bring up the parallels between your work, John Lewis' work, Petra Costa's work, because

we are all looking at the strength of democracy around the world right now, and we have seen how these last four years, particularly the pandemic

crisis and the chaotic response, particularly the killing of George Floyd, which again raises that terrible injustice that's in your land and many


And so, let's just play, then. John Lewis's, as you recount, as history records, he's -- putting his life on the line in a peaceful way for

democracy, for the right to vote when he marched in Selma and tried to cross the bridge all those years again. Here's the -- here's a little clip

from your documentary.


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): The Monday out of (INAUDIBLE) Sunday. As we were beaten in Selma, Dr. King came to my hospital beside and said, John, don't


I have been in the hospital from Sunday until about an hour ago. I don't know if I would be able to put to the faith in the march today, but it is

my feeling that people all over this country, but particular, the people right here in Alabama, right here in Selma should continue the march toward




AMANPOUR: So, it's electrifying to watch that archive, but it's also doubly so when you know that those issues are still in play today, all

these years later. I just want to read what he said and get you to respond. In the film he says, I lost all sense of fear then, and when you lose your

fear, you're free. Talk to me about that.

PORTER: You know, I thought about that particular quote quite a bit. When we went home to film with him in Troy, Alabama, he convened a group of his

high school classmates, and they talked about when John Lewis left home and was joining the Civil Rights Movement, how they would crowd around the

radio to listen and see if he was OK.

You know, he lived in the time of Emmett Till. That's how he grew up, where if you're a black boy in particular, looking at a white woman could get you

killed. So, the dangers were real, and I think it's important to stress what an intentional choice he made to put himself on the line. And he made

that choice repeatedly, claiming his full humanity that way. And living without fear, that is the ultimate goal of civil rights, right? It's living

as a person, not as a person under subjugation.

AMANPOUR: Yes, but at great, great risk, of course, and that's what makes it matter and makes it effective. And I want to know -- I want to go back

with you to his family because that's -- he said it to me, he said it to you, you know, his family were worried, his parents were worried. They said

to him, John, don't get into trouble, and he said, you know, I've to get into good trouble, necessary trouble. You talked to members of his family

who survived, his siblings, for the democracy.

Tell us how difficult it was for him to get where he did, even as a young man, you know, knowing that his family were worried and it could have come

back and had terrible repercussions on them.

PORTER: You know, when you see such a tremendous act of bravery, of strategy, you focus on the person, on the individual. So, we focused on the

congressman and his acts. But the very real circumstance is that his family was very, very vulnerable as one of the few black land owners, as a person

with another nine siblings at home. The intimidation was not only focused on the activists, but also on the family members.

And when I interviewed his family, you know, even today, even all these decades later, you'll see in the film, his brother, you know, kind of tears

up, remembers what it was like, that all-consuming worry. And so, I think - - I hope that the film not only celebrates his contributions but also the contributions of his family. Because as afraid as they were, it didn't stop

him, and they, you know, would listen for his safety and support him in his work. It's a source of tremendous pride that he was able to go out and do

the things that he did.

AMANPOUR: And just to double down on what you say, you know, it's such a hallmark of the state, they attack the family, whether it's in the Soviet

Union, whether it's in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes around the world, you know, and that, you know, what makes it doubly courageous for

what young people to go out and do what they have to do for democracy and for freedom.

And I think I was really struck also, because I watched your -- this movie, this one, "Good Trouble," and I watched also the four-part series that you

did for Netflix a couple of years ago called "Bobby Kennedy for President." And, obviously, John Lewis is a connection with Bobby Kennedy too. He was a

campaign aide and he speaks -- you know, he runs through that series as well.

And it's an extraordinary thing to watch right now, to almost -- to see the hope that Bobby Kennedy sort of brought way back in 1968, all the issues

that he talked about, the light that people like John Lewis, Harry Belafonte and Martin Luther King and all the others, you know, sort of

brought to the Kennedys for their fight for civil rights.

It's almost like it's -- it's sort of deja vu all over again all these years later right up to a convention moment and, you know, next

presidential election. Tell me about the linkage as you see it.

PORTER: Yes. You know, first of all, I'm thrilled that you watched that series. That was also a joy to make. Because I was interested in the

question of transformation. I was interested in both these stories.


What prompts a person to act? And you see, with Bobby Kennedy, he is not -- he was not the civil rights hero that we know him as from the beginning. He

had an evolution.

And part of that evolution was his interaction with a very, very young John Lewis. So, Congressman Lewis tells the story that he volunteered for Bobby

Kennedy's presidential campaign. And he had organized a rally in Indianapolis on the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered.

Bobby Kennedy's aides were advising him that it was too dangerous for him to address a black crowd. That's where he was supposed to speak. And a very

young John Lewis said: You must speak to them. You must address their pain, essentially.

Kennedy did. It's well thought of as one of his most famous and elegant and beautiful speeches. It's the only time that he ever addressed in public, in

a campaign speech, the death of his brother.

And so, when I heard that story, I thought, there are so many more stories that John Lewis has to share with us. And in investigating both of these

stories, it really, for me, filled in some of the gaps in my historical understanding.

So, as a documentary person, to first look at the civil rights movement through the eyes of the very privileged and powerful Bobby Kennedy, and

then to turn it around and to look at it through the eyes of the activist has really allowed me to explore both men's careers and in a deeper way.

AMANPOUR: And John Lewis said that he became a crusader for civil rights, Bobby Kennedy.

I just want to go back one Kennedy, to John Kennedy, because, also in your series, the great entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte

plays a big role in describing the Kennedys' evolution, and particularly Bobby Kennedy.

But, remember, in 1960, it was an election time for John Kennedy. And he needed the minority -- he needed the black vote, and it wasn't obvious that

he was going to get the black vote. And Harry Belafonte did a campaign ad for him.

And this is -- this is a clip that I know about and also that you have used in that series. I just want to talk about elections after this.


JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to make it very clear, Harry, that on this question of equality of opportunity for all

Americans, whether it's in the field of civil rights, better minimum wages, better housing, better working conditions, jobs, I stand for these things.

The Democratic Party under Franklin Roosevelt stood for them.

HARRY BELAFONTE, ENTERTAINER: I'm voting for the senator. How about you?


AMANPOUR: So, that's not just an ad. That is because Harry Belafonte and the other major activists, Martin Luther King, everybody, got President

Kennedy to agree to say those things.

Where do you see that moment in today's election? Who is going to be the Harry Belafonte to our Joe Biden or whoever it might be, what they're going

to do and what their commitment might be?

PORTER: I just love that you selected that clip, because the political calculation and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, I think it's kind of

just an exquisite use of political power.

And I think that that's a -- that's a great question. I do think that, with all of the George -- the protests over George Floyd's killing, that there

is a -- there exists a similar opportunity to use this moment.

If any good can come out of such a tragic event, it's the will of the people being expressed publicly this way. And we're are at an inflection

point, where a political leader does have the opportunity to step into that void and say, this is what the people want.

They want this equality. They want to live in better -- a better world. So, I think it's going to be very interesting who the vice president is and who

is guiding and working with Joe Biden, as the presidential nominee.

So I'm very hopeful that that person, as well as the Black Caucus and some of the more outspoken members of Congress -- this is what -- this is the

voice that John Lewis has been in the Congress. And, typically and historically, he would be one of those people pushing.


So, I would probably tend to look to like a Representative Clyburn, an Ayanna Pressley, a Cory Booker, a Maxine Waters. All of these people have a

tremendous amount of influence at this time.

AMANPOUR: So, let me wrap this up now with -- back to John Lewis himself, who played such a huge link between -- you know, between all that and his

life story, is, you would think that he was just a very serious man all the time.

But you said you didn't want to make a statue or a museum piece. And he's got so much humanity.

And one of the fabulous pieces of video is this one that we're going to just play. And I think people will get a kick out of it.




AMANPOUR: He got the moves, and he's happy and he's dancing.

And tell me about that side of John Lewis.

PORTER: He lives a very full life. And one of the great experiences I had in making this film was spending time with him at home and in -- with his -

- in his personal life. He's a great collector of art.

And he loves music, and he loves dancing. And I think it's -- sorry about that -- it's important to show that people are -- even someone as fierce

and ferocious and powerful as John Lewis has a very human, soft side. He lives a very full life.

And I think that this is -- these are some of the examples of that.

AMANPOUR: So, to end, I just want to end by repeating the last words he said in your film.

And he said, "We will redeem the soul of America" And he ended by saying, "I still believe we shall overcome."

So, it's really powerful. The whole sort of series is great.

Thank you so much, Dawn Porter. Really important storytelling, and so relevant right now.

"John Lewis: Good Trouble" is executive produced by CNN Films, AGC Studios and TIME Studios. And it is currently available from Magnolia Pictures.

Now, we have been covering the ongoing political fight over children returning to school this fall amid this pandemic. And now the medical

community is weighing in, with the American Academy of Pediatrics issuing its own guidance.

Dr. Sean O'Leary is vice chair of that organization's Committee of Infectious Diseases.

And here's our Hari Sreenivasan talking to him about what we know and what we don't know about how children are affected and the challenges that --

posed to reopening schools.



Dr. O'Leary, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to ask kind of a relatively simple question here. What is the position of such an important organization of pediatricians when it comes

to school reopenings? Because, in the past 10 or so days, we have kind of heard two different things that have confused certainly a lot of parents.

I just want to look at a couple of these statements here. First was: "The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school

year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school."

And then it was: "Schools in areas with high levels of COVID-19 community spread should not be compelled to reopen against the judgment of local

experts. A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for return to school decisions."

Lots of people are in lots of different places around the country. Some have high rates of COVID infections right now. Some do not. What should we

do, according to pediatricians?


U.S. where we're stuck between two really not very acceptable choices, having kids either at home because of COVID-19, or having them in school in

places where COVID-19 is circulating widely.

The AAP's position really came out of the concept of a lot of the schools and districts were looking for guidance around how to safely reopen

schools, I think we're all on the same page with pediatricians, educators, et cetera, that children learn best in school.

And I don't think that's really ever been in debate. What we were seeing was that, in a number of districts, in May, even, they were already making

the decision to go to online or hybrid models.

And, clearly, those had negative impacts on children in the short period of time that schools were closed in April and May. So, that was where -- that

was sort of the starting point for the guidance.

On the other hand, though, we also need to make sure that everyone is safe. That includes students, teachers and staff. So where -- in places where the

virus is really circulating widely, as we're seeing in a number of the Southern states right now, it may not be safe to open schools to in-person

learning in a meaningful fashion in terms of having every child in school, because, if we're seeing significant outbreaks in the surrounding

community, there's no question we're going to see outbreaks within schools, no matter how many mitigation measures are in place.


SREENIVASAN: It totally makes sense that a one-size-fits-all policy won't work for the entire country, given our diverse geography, our diverse

public health status in the context of this crisis.

How does a school district prepare for having an influx of students come into classrooms? I mean, is it a certain number that they're looking for in

their community, if the infection rate is below X, then let's go ahead and proceed, and, if the infection rates goes above X in a week or two weeks,

then we have to scale back?

When you are working with school districts and pediatricians are advising them, what's the rule of thumb?

O'LEARY: I think the most important thing I could say about that is, we really need to do everything we can locally, and within states, as a

country, to drive infections down right now, if we want to safely reopen schools in the fall, because if the virus is circulating in a month the way

it is right now, which in many cases it probably will be, it's really probably not going to be safe to have a large population of students


On the other hand, if we are in places where the virus has low or very minimal circulation -- and there are various ways that public health

officials measure that -- I think it is going to be safe to have a lot of children in school.

And so that means with plenty of mitigation measures in place, such as cohorting students, limiting the -- or setting the space between the

students, mask wearing for most students, probably certainly the older students, certainly protections for the teachers and the staff, with as

much physical distancing as possible between adults, mask wearing by adults when they're anywhere near other people.

Remember that the adults -- children certainly can get sick with this illness, but the adults are at the highest risk.

SREENIVASAN: So, tell me a little bit about that. What does the science show now about how likely children are to get it, to transmit it?

Because that's really one of the core questions that people have, is, if I send my child back to school, what's the risk that my child gets sick, but

also what's the danger that my sick child poses to perhaps their immunocompromised or older teacher?

O'LEARY: In terms of what we know about kids getting infected, the thing that is fairly clear is that kids are less severely affected with this

virus than adults.

That doesn't mean they don't get sick. That doesn't mean that some don't get very sick. But it's clearly much more severe in adults, particularly

older adults and those with certain medical conditions.

In terms of their risk of getting infected, what also appears to be the case anyway -- and I say this today -- we're learning more every day, and

this may change in the coming days as we learn more -- but what appears to be the case is that children, particularly younger children, are both less

likely to get infected and less likely to spread the infection than adults.

And that does play a role in sort of how we think about having kids within the schools. So, what I mean by that is there's this -- there's all this

controversy around the distance between students. And that was one of the things that we tried to clarify a little in the AAP's guidance.

CDC says six feat, if feasible, within schools between children. In a lot of settings, that's not really feasible. So, when you look at the

incremental gain that you get from six feet, as opposed to five feet or six feet, and the alternative of having a six-foot distance is having children

at home, rather than in school, there are so many downsides to having the kids at home.

I mean, we can go into that, if you would like. But there are many, many downsides there. And so, is the incremental gain of, say, six feet or five

feet or four feet or even three feet, is it worth it, and particularly if you can get the old the older children to wear masks?

There is some evidence that three feet is actually pretty good. Six feet is better, but three feet is pretty good.

SREENIVASAN: Let's talk a little bit about some of the health effects that are not so great if children are stuck at home doing remote learning.

I mean, I think a lot of parents have started to figure some of this out, one, how difficult teaching is at home, how, actually, it's hard to get

education into your children at the same time.


But what are some of the downsides to having children at home, from a health perspective?

O'LEARY: Let's start with a few of the studies that we have already seen come out.

So, some of the things we have seen are that, one, we have seen obesity come -- we have seen obesity increase, even in the short period of time

that kids were at home. We have seen food insecurity issues with kids. We have seen increases in rates of mental health issues, including anxiety,

depression, suicidality.

So, those are a number of things that already are a problem in society. We don't have enough behavioral health support already. With those increasing,

it's just a perfect storm for a really rough time for a generation of children.

Besides that, I really think -- I have been thinking through this all along. How is this going to impact the most vulnerable among our children

and families, right? How is it -- these children who are already at risk, who gain so much from being in school, when they're -- when children living

in poverty at home, where -- there are so many problems with having them in the home when parents are trying to work or the parents have to be at work,

they don't have child care.

I don't even know how that plays out. And I know, certainly, our district here in Denver is trying to consider backup plans for how we can handle

that if schools have to be closed, but it's just -- it's an unfolding tragedy, for sure.

SREENIVASAN: So, Doctor, there seem to be two things kind of playing at the same time.

One is, I can hear whatever the public health experts say, and then there's my perception of fear...


SREENIVASAN: ... which drives a tremendous amount of decision-making.

Until there's something close to a vaccine, there's still a massive hurdle to overcome of just how scared parents are for their children,

understandably so.

O'LEARY: Yes. Yes.

SREENIVASAN: How do doctors deal with that?


So, I mean, I do want to go back to the point that that, in general, children do seem to do better with this virus than adults. I mean, I think

that is fairly well known. I don't think that's going to change. I mean, we already -- we talked about some of the uncertainty around that, but I

really don't think that's -- I will be surprised if it turns out that kids are more severely affected than adults. I think that's probably not going

to happen.

The way I have been thinking about this for my own children, because we will be facing this decision as well about having the kids in school, is

that the -- in a normal year, they are exposed to lots of different respiratory viruses. We see surges in hospitalizations, we do see,

unfortunately, a number of deaths in children from respiratory viruses every year.

And what we saw with the surge in hospitalizations in children with coronavirus was actually probably a little less than what we see in a

typical, say, influenza year, where we have hospitals at capacity, children's hospitals at capacity with kids suffering from influenza.

So, when I think of it in that -- in those terms that, yes, this is something to worry about, it's absolutely something to pay attention to,

for the children themselves, the risks that we accept as a society normally are probably in the ballpark of the risks that we are going to be accepting

for our children with COVID-19.

There was a study that came out several weeks ago that tried to compare the morbidity and mortality of COVID-19 in children to other things we normally

accept in society, including influenza, including trauma, those types of things. And the mortality from COVID-19 -- this was, I believe, done in

Italy -- was actually quite a bit less than those other things that we normally accept, so, knowingly or unknowingly.

So, that that's one of the frameworks I have been trying to think about it as, as a parent. I may be wrong about that. It may turn out, as more

children are infected, we see that it is more severe. But I think that's the best we can do right now.

The other thing that I think we have to keep in mind is that the local public health officials, the state public health officials, the school

officials, they don't want to open schools if it's not going to be safe.

And so -- and everyone is working together, at least where I am, to try and make certain that that happens, so putting all these mitigation measures in


And so if we are at a good place, where the virus is not widely circulating, where there may be some in the community, there may be some

level of risk, but not high risk, yes, I'm going to be comfortable sending my kids to school.

SREENIVASAN: You know, I also want to ask about vaccines.


Right now, we're already in an era where the World Health Organization, that says vaccine hesitancy is one of the biggest problems facing the

planet. And you already have on social media and other places people saying, you know what, when this vaccine comes out, I'm not going to give

it to my kids, I'm not going to take it.

You know a thing or two about vaccines. Tell me why that's not a good idea.

O'LEARY: First of all, I want to mention the importance of making sure kids are up to date on their regular childhood vaccines for the coming


I mean, you, I'm sure, are well aware of all the measles outbreaks that happened around the U.S. in 2018-'19. That -- with our public health

infrastructure stretched as it is right now with COVID-19, trying to handle a measles outbreak or an outbreak of another vaccine-preventable disease

right now would be -- it would make an ongoing disaster even worse.

The second piece I should say about that is, if there's any year that you we're going to get your child and yourself vaccinated for influenza, this

is the year to do it, because it's difficult to distinguish between respiratory illnesses.

In influenza, the symptoms have a lot -- that children get have a lot in common with the symptoms that they get from COVID-19. And so, as much as we

can do to prevent the spread of influenza this year, that's going to be crucial.

Now, regarding a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, yes, I mean, that's a tough question. I think, I will tell you, I have been involved in some of the

early discussions on that and some of the planning around how these are rolled out, et cetera.

And the first consideration among every person that's involved in this, from the people running the trials, the people evaluating the trials, is

safety. And if a vaccine is not deemed to be safe, it's not going to be approved for use.

The other part of that is, of course, we need to work on our messaging. I mean, I have been saying for years that, as scientists and public health

professionals, we need to do a better job communicating the science to the public. It's not all about the facts.

We need to be better able to convey those messages, as opposed to just trying to beat the public over the head with, these are the facts.

SREENIVASAN: Are you concerned about what would have otherwise been routine pediatric care, I mean, the number of visits that children have not

taken to doctors over the past several months?

O'LEARY: Yes, that's a huge problem.

We noticed that right away. I work with a lot of -- I was a primary care pediatrician for a long time, and I work a lot of primary care practices in

my research, and a lot of my friends are in primary care now.

And it was dramatic, the drop in both well child visits and in vaccines. So, I think we have been working here locally in Colorado, I think we have

been working on it nationally as well, to try and get the point across that, yes, you need to go into your pediatrician. The pediatrician's office

is safe.

And you certainly need to get up to date on your vaccines. So, pediatrician's offices have been very creative in the way that they have

made their offices safe spaces. And the fact is that there's very there's - - there's very little transmission within primary care settings of COVID- 19, even when there's virus circulating within the community.

So PPE works. Using face masks works. Physical distancing works. Some clinics have even taken to doing their sick visits outside. So, yes,

absolutely, kids need to be going into their pediatrician.

I think the other part of that that I will say that I think is crucially important for us to think about as a country is that we're all aware of all

the small businesses that are struggling right now to stay open because of the impacts of COVID-19, restaurants, et cetera.

Primary care offices are no different. They are all struggling greatly, and some have even shut their doors already. We really need to support them

from a -- at a federal level to keep the doors open.

There was some funds to help with that in the -- with the CARES Act, but they need more. It's a real problem, because, if -- a lot of these

practices are on the verge of bankruptcy at this point, and I can't even imagine what our health care infrastructure will look like in this country

if we lose our primary care infrastructure.

SREENIVASAN: All right, Dr. Sean O'Leary of the American Academy of Pediatricians, thanks so much for joining us.

O'LEARY: Thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And, finally, for his work helping front-line health care workers, arise, Sir Tom.

Today, the queen comes out of lockdown to award Captain Tom Moore with a knighthood for his extraordinary fund-raising efforts that captured the

hearts of this nation and the world.


You may remember, back in April, the 99-year-old war veteran raised more than $40 million for Britain's NHS. He achieved this incredible feat by

racing to complete 100 laps of his garden on his walker frame before his 100th birthday.

This was during that time that doctors and nurses were battling the peak of the pandemic and were seriously stretched.

He spoke about this honor, though, on his way to meet the queen at Windsor Castle.


CAPT. TOM MOORE (RET.), WORLD WAR II VETERAN: I'm absolutely overwhelmed by that. I mean, it isn't everybody gets the chance to see the queen, is


I think that's going to be absolutely marvelous for me, yes.


AMANPOUR: It's amazing to see this story end this way.

And the personal investiture is the 94-year-old queen's first official face-to-face engagement since she went into lockdown in March.

And, of course, this honor befits Captain Sir Thomas Moore's lifelong service to his country.

And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you for watching, and goodbye from London.