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Nation & World

News Brief: India's Coronavirus Spike, Census Data, N.C. Shooting Probe

NOEL KING, HOST:

For the past five days, India has broken global records for daily COVID infections.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The government confirmed on Monday that almost 353,000 people became infected in the previous 24 hours in India alone. President Biden says the United States will send help. Here's what White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci had to say on ABC's "This Week."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THIS WEEK")

ANTHONY FAUCI: There's discussions about really ramping up what we can do on the ground - oxygen supplies, drugs, tests, PPE - as well as taking a look in the intermediate and long run about how we can get vaccines to these individuals.

KING: NPR's Lauren Frayer is with us now from Mumbai. Hi, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi there.

KING: Those numbers are extraordinary. How bad is it? What are you seeing?

FRAYER: It's really bad. The No. 1 need across India right now is oxygen. Every day, hospitals here are running out of oxygen and dozens, possibly hundreds, possibly even more, people are dying with doctors by their sides in hospitals because of these shortages. And social media is just a flood of pleas for help. People are posting clips online. Families are doing this. Doctors themselves are doing this. I want to share one of them with you. I'm warning you, this is hard to hear. This is Dr. Gautam Singh (ph). He works at a hospital in Delhi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GAUTUM SINGH: We are not getting oxygen anywhere. We have young patients who will die in a matter of two hours. I request you, please send oxygen to us. We need oxygen for our patients.

FRAYER: He recorded that plea yesterday. Actually, today, I just heard that his hospital did get an oxygen shipment late last night. So a close call for those patients. Many others across the country have not been as fortunate.

KING: And it sounds like many of the deaths there could be prevented or could have been prevented if hospitals had what they needed.

FRAYER: Yeah, and that's why this aid from the U.S. and other countries now is just so welcome. But a note about the numbers - India recorded about 2,800 deaths in the past 24 hours. That's people with COVID listed on their death certificate. And statisticians say the real number could be 10 times that. People are unable to get tested. People are dying at home, unable to get any medical care at all. A public park in Delhi today is being converted into a mass cremation ground. They're setting up funeral pyres on the grass where kids normally play cricket. And, you know, I can tell you, I, personally - almost everyone I know has sadly lost someone to COVID in just a matter of weeks.

KING: My goodness. I remember we had you on back in January and February, and you were talking about how the caseloads had dropped and dropped, and it was amazing, and now this surge. Do we know what happened?

FRAYER: Yeah. I mean, people let their guard down, you know, threw those big weddings that they had to postpone last year. Just a week ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was holding political rallies. And Modi has faced a big backlash for holding those rallies at a time where we now know the virus was not gone. In fact, scientists say new variants were lurking. They're scrambling to sequence those now. Meanwhile, less than 2% of Indians are fully vaccinated. You know, this is a country with nearly 1.4 billion people, so immunity, you know, takes time.

KING: And so now the U.S. says it's going to send supplies to India, medical aid. What's been the reaction to that there?

FRAYER: I mean, first of all, appreciation but also some feeling that it's come late. India is the biggest vaccine maker in the world. Earlier this month, its biggest manufacturer sent a plea to President Biden, begging him to lift an export ban on raw materials. Today is April 26. That was 10 days ago. Those were - raw materials are now on their way. But in the past 10 days, a lot of other countries stepped up first to help India.

KING: OK, NPR's Lauren Frayer in Mumbai. Thanks, Lauren.

FRAYER: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: All right. How much political power will your state have in upcoming national elections?

INSKEEP: We find out today once the first results of the 2020 census are disclosed. These numbers determine your state's share of seats in Congress, as well as votes in the Electoral College.

KING: NPR's census correspondent Hansi Lo Wang has been tracking the count, somewhat obsessively even, from the beginning. Good morning, Hansi.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: OK, so what are we going to know today?

WANG: The Census Bureau says at 3 p.m. Eastern Time, there will be a virtual press conference. The acting director of the bureau will announce the first set of census results, which are a very basic set of numbers - population counts for each state and the country - but they do play a very big role in reallocating seats in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College. And we won't see any data breakdowns by race, ethnicity, age or sex or numbers for counties, cities or smaller areas.

KING: When do those come out?

WANG: Those are expected out by August 16. They're part of the second set of results, and that's data needed for redrawing voting districts. And important to note - all of these census results are coming months after later than originally planned.

KING: Yeah, why is that?

WANG: In-person counting for most of the country started late last year. All the lockdown orders because of the pandemic forced the bureau to delay sending out doorknockers to visit those households that didn't fill out a form on their own immediately. And then the Trump administration last July decided to cut short the time left for counting. And that really compounded the mess the bureau was left with, with a lot of duplicate and incomplete responses they needed to sort through, needed that extra time to run quality checks.

KING: So it was part pandemic, part politics. And that leads me to ask you, how accurate are the numbers? Do we know?

WANG: We won't know immediately. We'll know more in the coming months when more detailed data come out from, for example, researchers with the American Statistical Association. They're doing an independent audit, expecting a report in June. And in December, the Census Bureau will start releasing estimates about how many people may have been missed in last year's census, as well as rates of overcounting and undercounting of groups by race and ethnicity. You know, something to keep in mind, no U.S. census has been a perfect count. It's supposed to be a snapshot of the population as of April 1, 2020, and very hard to get the population count completely right. A lot of people were moving around at the very beginning of the pandemic, a lot of confusion about where to get counted because of the pandemic, and right now, there are a lot of worries about historically undercounted groups, including immigrants, people of color, renters, rural residents. They have been undercounted, especially so because of the Trump administration's interference with the schedule, as well as the pandemic. But bureau officials say so far, they haven't found anything to suggest that these numbers are not fit to be used for reallocating House seats.

KING: OK. So we get the first set of census results, and then what happens?

WANG: This is part of a handoff process that ultimately ends with the clerk of the House of Representatives certifying each state's share of new House seats. Some states that have lost seats may end up filing lawsuits challenging how those seats were assigned. And we'll see what happens there. You know, small differences between states can make a big difference of who gets power in Congress. And ultimately, these House assignments are used for the 2022 midterm elections.

KING: High stakes. NPR census correspondent Hansi Lo Wang. Thank you, Hansi, as always.

WANG: You're welcome, Noel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KING: The friends and family of Andrew Brown Jr., a 42-year-old Black man, just want to know what happened to him.

INSKEEP: We can't tell you very much this morning. Officials in North Carolina do say that they were serving search and arrest warrants on Mr. Brown for felony drug charges last week, and a sheriff's deputy shot and killed him. We know very few details, but the police were wearing body cameras. Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten says he wants that footage made public and will file a motion as early as today to get it released.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOMMY WOOTEN: We ask for your patience and your support as we work to do the right thing.

INSKEEP: North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has also issued a statement calling for the swift release of that footage.

KING: WUNC's Laura Pellicer was in Elizabeth City, N.C., this weekend where all this happened. Laura, good morning.

LAURA PELLICER, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: OK, so what do we know at this point?

PELLICER: Well, the Pasquotank Sheriff's Office says deputies were serving drug-related warrants for Andrew Brown Jr. when they shot and killed him last week. And seven deputies have been placed on administrative leave. An eyewitness told reporters that Brown was shot in the back as he tried to drive away from deputies. But we haven't seen any video evidence so far, and very few details have been released by the county sheriff's office. And these events took place the day after the guilty verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. And the shooting has really deeply impacted this community. Elizabeth City is small, about 18,000 residents. It's on the northeastern edge of North Carolina, and slightly over half the population is Black. And Andrew's son, Khalil Ferebee (ph), spoke at a church event on Saturday. Here he is.

KHALIL FEREBEE: With all these killings going on, I never expected this to happen so close to home. He left a close and tight family.

KING: And so how are people and his family and people in Elizabeth City in his community responding to all this?

PELLICER: Well, there have been back-to-back days of protests in Elizabeth City, N.C. And just last night, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools announced they're moving to a full remote schedule for all students and staff through April 30. And that's related to the protests and what's been going on. And city leaders, residents and activists have demanded that the body camera footage be released to the public. On Saturday afternoon, the president of the local NAACP publicly demanded that the sheriff resign and prominent civil rights leader Reverend William Barber, he was also in Elizabeth City on Saturday. And here's what he said.

WILLIAM BARBER: America, here is the issue - a warrant is not a license to kill, even if a suspect supposedly drives away. A warrant does not mean a person is guilty.

KING: And the supposedly drives away is part of the story, which we're waiting to confirm. Notably here, the sheriff says he wants the video released to the public. What needs to be in place for that to happen?

PELLICER: Right. So the sheriff says he will consult with the state bureau of investigation to see if releasing the video would impede that bureau's work. The state bureau of investigation, however, has said they do not decide when and how body camera video is released. And ultimately in North Carolina, the decision is up to a judge. Public body camera footage is not public record in North Carolina. And essentially when the law enforcement agency asks a court to release the footage, that can speed up and facilitate the process. And additionally, I should note that Pasquotank Sheriff's Office has called on the state sheriffs' association to appoint an outside sheriff's office to carry out an investigation of all the individuals who are involved in this incident.

KING: Laura Pellicer of WUNC. Thanks, Laura.

PELLICER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.