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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  February 19, 2021 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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♪ captioning sponsored by newshour productions, llc >> woodruff: good evening. i'm judy woodruff. on the newshour tonight: state of emergency. texas continues to struggle in the wake ofhe winter storm as millions remain without drinking water, and power is slowly restored. then, getting the vaccine. public health officials try to re-build trust among indigenous americans, as the covid inoculation campaign accelerates. >> we recognize as native physicians the degree of distrust in our communities. however,e are dying at much higher numbers, so in order to continue to protect our communities, we have to take this vaccine up. >> woodruff: and, it's friday. david brooks and jonathan
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capehart consider republican in-fighting, the legacy of rush limbaugh, and president biden's first month in office. all that and more, on tonight's pbs newshour. >> major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bn, the engine that connects us. >> fidelity wealth management.
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>> consumer cellular. >> johnson & johnson. >> the john s. and james l. knight foundation. fostering informed and engaged communities. more at kf.org. >> and with the ongoing support of these institutions: and friends of the newshour. >> this program was made poible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: t lights are back on in much of texas tonight, but for millions, the water isn't working.
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it is the latest crisis in a grinding week of winter storms that have now claimed at least 70 lives. we turn again to stephanie sy to begin our coverage. >> sy: after long days in the dark, the power has largely been restored in communities across texas that endured bitter cold. >> i don't know when it's going to go off again, if it does go off, i don't know. so, you know, immediately when the lights came on, i hurried up and made a pot of shrimp gumbo and warmed up. >> sy: state grid operators said today their system is finally back to normal operations nearly a week after some four million customers lost power. that number had fallen more than 90% by this evening. but, there was no end in sight for a debilitating water crisis. pipes that burst in the frigid temperatures have led to a shortage. seven million people, a quarter of the state's populatio are
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now having to boil their water before they consume it. >> the temperature in the house was 33 degrees, and now the power's back on so it's warm, but we don't have any water. so we're here to get water. >> sy: houston's delmar stadium hosted a bottled water drive- thru distribution today. >> i'm going to sit here until-- i mean, i have no choice. all the stores in my area are out of water. >> s 24-year old trent helt echoed that experience, speaking to us from arlington, outside dallas. a main pipe burst has cut off water to his residence since monday. >> it's been interesting, to say the least. we haven't been able to shower, and we had to buy multiple packs water to either wash dishes or to bathe with. to flush the toilets, we were scooping the snow up and we were boiling it to melt it down, and that's how we would flush the
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ilets out our house. >> sy: meanwhile, president biden promised major disaster declaration for texas to expedite much-needed resources, and he plans to visit the storm- ravaged state soon. >> if in fact it is concluded that i can do it without creating a burden for the folks on the ground while they are dealing with thicrisis, i plan on going. but i'll know that-- we ll make that decision beginning of next week. >> sy: as calls for accountability grow louder, bill magness, the president of ert, which manages the state's power grid, said today his agency is open to new ideas. >> we're subject to policymakers and leaders, and, you know, how they want us to operate. and if they're seeing that there's something that's really got to change, from looking at the totality of what we did, we'll certainly try to change it or take any other action we're told to do, to manage the issues that they're seeing.
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>> hey-hey, ho-ho! ted cruz has got to go! >> sy: texas senator ted cruz also faced calls for accountability. protesters gathered outside his houston home, after it was revealed he'd flown to cancun as the state was reeling from the storm. he flew back thursday. >> it was obviously a mistake, and in hindsight, i wouldn't have done it. i was trying to be a dad. >> sy: elsewhere across the south, water issues are also plaguing other states that were hit by wintry weather. in mississippi, nearly all of the 161,000 people in the city of jackson were without water today. and in tennessee, the memphis international airport was forced to cancel all its flights because of low water pressure. we head back to texas now, where the water outages are severely impacting operations at hospitals already stressed by the pandemic. joining me now is dr. esmaeil
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porsa, president and c.e.o. of harris health system in the houston area. many of its patients are uninsured and under-served. dr. porsa, thanks for your time. understand one of your hospitals this week was so desperate for waters the fire department had to be called. where they then distributed water directly from a hydrant. what happened and how are things now? >> thank you first of allor having me and i want to start as always with thanking all the health care providers. and nurses and everybody else taking care of our patients at our hospitals. you're correct. a couple of nights ago, around 1:00 in the morning i was notified that the water pressure inside of a water towershat supplies water to the hospital in addition to our hvac system that controls the humidity and the temperature of our hospital was rapidly running out of water. it was a desperate situation.
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i was told that within a few hours if they could not replenish the water to our water tower that we would actually have to evacuate the patients out oft hospital. so i -- out of the hospital. the city was great, to send a fire truck to the hospital. they were able as you mentioned able to connect the fire hydrant using a hose to the water tower and slowly bring the water up. the water hydrant unfortunately, was facing the same issue as the rest of the systems here in houston, texas. the water pressure was extremely low. but it was enough to buy us time, so that during the day we were able to actually purchase several thousands of gallons of water that was delivered tous through trucks to maiain our operations. and as the temperatures rose and as the water pressures improved we were able to actually make, we are holding steady right now, the issue is no longer the
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water. the issue is the people coming to our emergency rooms, ours, in addition to other hospitals in this area, because urgent care clinics are shuttle down. the main issue right now is is our dialysis patients. having historic number of dialysis patients coming to the emergency room seeking treatment. because private dialysis centers have been closed for the entire week. >>sy: so even before this week, hospitals were already dealing with a surge of covid patients in many cases. are you at capacity at this foibt? rough -- point? are you having to turn away any of these dialysis patients coming in or anyone else? >> well, we are at capacity. we have been at capacity. as you mentioned at the beginning of the conversation, we are the safety net hospital for harris county, the largest county and most populace county
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in texas. we have been at capacity for almost the beginning of the panhandle, been at capacity. the situation hasn't done any better. what has happened actually since the start of last week or this week, the patients ready to be discharged can be discharged home because they also lack power and water. so we have our inpatient units getting backed up more than they have been. we have been more than 100% capacity for a few days now. but to your question, why we do not turn anybody away, we have not had to turn anybody away. we have more than 20 or 30 now patients waiting for dialysis treatment in our emergency rooms. unfortunately, we are only able to provide so many services as you may know, dialysis is not a quick thing. it takes at least four hours for each treatment. and we only have so many machines, and to make the matter
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even more dire, is the staffing. our staff are not immune to everything else that went on in the community. so they have the same issue. loss of water, loss of electricity, busted pipes, damaged ceilings. so it's all adding up to become the perfect storm in an already really bad situation. >>sy: well, dr. porsa, we certainly are glad that you have at least the water you need for right now and that the temperatures are warming up. we wish you the best, to you and your staff. dr. esmaeil porsa, president and ceo of the harris health system joining us from near houston. thank you. >> thank you. >> woodruff: in the day's other news, the white house confirmed that the arctic storm has set
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back covid vaccine shipments. extreme conditions delayed delivery of six million doses, and closed vaccination sites in some places. but in a virtual briefing, presidential adviser andy slavitt said he is confident of catching up. >> now as weather conditions improve, we're already working to clear this backlog. 1.4 million doses are already in transit today, and we anticipate that all the backlog doses will be delivered within the next week, with most being delivered within the next several days. cturfaci today inl ent biden $4 billion to help buy vaccines for poor countries. the united states is once again part of the paris climate accord. that became official today, following an executive order by president biden.
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his administration has promised to set a new target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. president trump took the u.s. out of the paris accord last fall. in another break with trump policy, the u.s. has begun allowing in the first of thousands of asylum-seekers from mexico. they had been waiting there for months-- or even years-- while their cases are decided. the policy change affects some 25,000 migrants. initially, a few hundred a day are being processed. president biden appealed to the world's democracies today to tackle new challenges, or risk becoming relics. he addressed the munich security conference via video link, and called for action on economic troubles and the pandemic. he also pledged a new american approach to nato, in his first major global appearance since takingffice. >> i know the past few years have strained and tested our
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transatlantic relationship, but the united states is determined... determined-- to re-engage with europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership. >> woodruff: the president charged that russia is working to undermine nato, and that china is using coercion and economic abuses to gain dominance. the u.s. justice department is alleging a broader conspiracy among the far-right oath-keepers militia in the storming of the u.s. capitol. six more people were indicted today. they allegedly plotted to use military-style tactics in a bid to block congress from certifying president biden's election. the u.s. capitol police force has suspended six officers in the wake of the deadly january 6 capitol attack. today's announcement says they are among 35 officers being investigated for how they responded to the assault by extremist trump supporters.
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social media videos appear to show some officers escorting rioters into the capitol. ride-sharing giant uber has lost a major court fight in britain. the country's supreme court ruled today that uber drivers are, in fact, workers, entitled to minimum wage and benefits, rather than independent contractors. last year, uber deated an attempt in california to treat drivers as full-fledged employees. and on wall street today, stocks barely budged. the dow jones industrial average gained just one point to close at 31,494. the nasdaq rose nine points, and the s&p 500 lost seven points. still to come on the newshour: health officials try to re-build trust of vaccines among indigenous americans. the u.s. military grapples with sexual assault among soldiers.
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david brooks and jonathan capehart on republican divides and president biden's first month in office. plus, much more. >> woodruff: native americans have been among the hardest-hit by covid-19, but, a history of medical mistreatment led some indigenous leaders to brace for challenges in vaccinating their communities. special correspondent fred de sam lazaro reports on those efforts. >> reporter: on a frigid morning in minneapolis, a sign of progress in the fight against covid-19. inside a former dollar tree store, residents waited for doses of the moderna coronavirus vaccine. the effort was run by the native
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american community clinic, which serves thousands of indigenous people in the area. although native lands are predominantly in very remote settings, the majority of native peoples in the united states actually live in cities. this south minneapolis neighborhood has one of the densest urban native populations, and there's a concerted effort to vaccinate the elderly. people like 67-year-old elsie budreau, an enrolled member of the leech lake band of ojibwe. she's spent most of her life going back and forth between minneapolis and the reservation in northern minnesota. until the pandemic hit, that is. >> everybody's kind of keeping to themselves, which is very hard because, in the native community, you-- you share a lot with your family, and that hasn't been able to happen. >> reporter: so, when budreau found out she could get the vaccine, she leapt at the opportunity.
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>> i'm, like everybody else, kind of scared of it, but, i-- my own common sense tells me that it's safe to get it and it's going to help end the pandemic. >> reporter: nationwide, indigenous people have experienced the highest death rate from covid-19, nearly twice the rate of white americans. that's partly because native people have higher incidence of diabetes, heart disease and asthma-- conditions related to poverty, that can exacerbate a coronavirus infection. antony stately is the executive director of the native american community clinic, or "nacc." >> establishing herd immunity, getting 70% to 80% of our population vaccinated, is going to be really, really important many communities are losing their elders. those are the people that hold the knowledge of our culture, in our language, things that are really important to us, that are as important to our health and well-being as is medicine, as is food, as is water and all those other things. >> reporter: stately has tried to spread the word about the
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vaccine on a native american radio show. it's personal for stately, who was hospitalized with covid. >> the first night i got there, i just cried because it sort of hit me like a ton of bricks. i had to say goodbye to my children. i didn't know if i was going to get home. >> reporter: at the end of december, nacc held a small ceremony when it vaccinated its first group of community elders, hoping to "infuse the medicine with good spirit" and protect their people. but for stately, the vaccination push comes with a challenge. >> native people, we have this long history of, you know, not being very treated very the medical establist e resech community. you
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couple of hundred years, of black and brown people being, you know, treated as guinea pigs in science and in medical research specifically. >> reporter: that describes stately's cousin, roxanne flammond, who stopped by for a visit. >> i'm going to phoenix. i'm going to wear two masks and a shield. >> so you don't think you might want to take the vaccine before you go? >> no, no, that's not going to happen. >> reporter: flammond, who's 67 and has underlying health conditions, is concerned about having an allergic reaction to the shot, a side effect seen in a relatively small number of cases with the pfizer and moderna vaccines. >> in the beginning, i had conspiracy theories, you know, and i said, i'm going to wait until everybody, to see what everybody else does. and if they're dropping like flies, i'm not getting i you know, but also the fact that, you know, our-- historically, you know, the government has not really treated our-- our people, you know, fairly. >> that's true. that's true. >> reporter: in the 1970s, the federal indian health service sterilized thousands of indigenous women without their permission, or aer coercing
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them roxanne flammond says she was one of those women.
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