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Scientists Continue to Predict Vaccine Arrival After Election Day; Trump Rally Attendees Misinformed on COVID-19 Safety; Interview with Iowa Public School Board Member Rob Barron. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: That is certainly progress from the summer peak of 70,000, but it's still stubbornly high, Fauci explains, as the season will soon change to colder temperatures and then people are just forced inside. Plus, the flu season is just weeks away here.

Dr. Fauci is also repeating his confidence that the vaccine could be ready by the end of the year, but he is adding that getting the vaccine widely distributed and returning to pre-pandemic norms may not happen til the end of next year, so the end of 2021.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I believe that we will have a vaccine that will be available by the end of this year, the beginning of next year. But by the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccinations and you get the majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that's likely not going to happen until the mid- or end of 2021.


KEILAR: The man leading the national charge to find a vaccine, Moncef Slaoui, also points to December as a more likely timeline.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL ANALYST: You have been very careful -- as I see in your other interviews -- to steer clear of politics. You've said that this process will not be interfered with politically. You've also said it's possible but very unlikely that this vaccine will be available before Election Day, because that's what the president has said. You said that a few weeks ago, is that still your position?

MONCEF SLAOUI, CHIEF ADVISOR, OPERATION WARP SPEED: If we can make them advance, prior to the Election Day, we will. And if we can make them advance after the Election Day, we will. It's totally irrelevant.

It's very unlikely that that number happens in October, it's more likely that it happens in November and it's even more likely that it happens in December. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Let's bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to join us.

And you know, Elizabeth, you heard Moncef Slaoui say that the race for a vaccine has nothing, quote, "to do with politics." And I wonder what your thoughts are on that, as we've certainly seen a lot of politicization around it.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, I've actually spoken, Brianna, with people who are involved in the effort to get a vaccine on the market. And I will say that from what they say and from what I'm hearing, that the people directly working on this are feeling like politics is not involved. They are scientists, they are doing what the science says. For example, we've seen the pauses in these AstraZeneca trials, that's slowing things down, that is not speeding things up.

The question becomes, once this gets to the point where a decision needs to be made by FDA officials -- high-ranking FDA officials -- will they cower to the pressure of the president? That's the question, not so much what's happening now, but when it gets to that point, will they do what the president wants, which is clearly to get a vaccine out before Election Day.

KEILAR: And so -- I mean, let's take a look at that. How has the FDA responded previously here in the face of pressure from the president to do certain things?

COHEN: Right, so we do have this history where we look at hydroxychloroquine, which got an Emergency Use Authorization based on basically no data. And so that definitely gives you pause. We look at convalescent plasma, that one's less clear, there are some people who think it did deserve an authorization, but there are certainly some questions as to whether there was pressure to do -- but especially the timing just before the Republicans started their convention.

So there is some legitimate reason to wonder whether high-ranking FDA officials will kowtow to the president even if the science is not on the mark. They say they will let the science rule the day, but there are reasons to question that.

KEILAR: You mentioned the pauses in this vaccine trial. You have some new reporting about this recent development, that one vaccine maker put a pause on their clinical trial because a volunteer came down with an unexplained illness. Can you tell us about that?

COHEN: Yes. So there was definitely -- when this pause came down from AstraZeneca earlier this week, there was definitely messaging that went out from some sources that said, oh, this happens -- this is common, this happens. Don't worry about it.

And I think that it's interesting because when I actually talk to people who run vaccine trials for a living, who have done this for decades and decades, they said, you know what, this really is not so common. They used the word "uncommon," they used the word "unusual." And here's why, Brianna.

When you have a trial of 30,000 people, somebody is going to get sick, somebody is going to get cancer, somebody is going to have a heart attack, probably several people, if not many people. But to get to the point where there's an illness that you're so concerned is associated with the vaccine that that person got, that you pause down the trial? Is unusual.

One doctor I talked to -- who's run many clinical trials -- put it at five to 10 percent, closer to five percent. And it's happened twice. I happened in July, they decided that this person who developed multiple sclerosis, that it was not associated with the vaccine. But there was a pause, and then they let it go.

This pause, they're still trying to figure out, we're told from the head of the NIH, that it was because of, quote, "a spinal cord problem." We don't know any more than that, but that pause is still in effect -- Brianna.


KEILAR: All right, Elizabeth, we know that you will continue to work that story and there should be some answers soon, we hope. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

At the president's rally in Michigan, you can see from the images, most people not wearing masks and not staying far away from each other. People certainly did not seem bothered by that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have one with me, it's my prerogative, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But why not wear one to stay safe?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a hard time understanding people when they talk, so that's why I don't wear it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you could hear me right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, why are you not wearing your mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because there's no COVID. It's a fake pandemic, created to destroy the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the worst pandemic in the world, a little mask? A little mask. This protects you from the world's deadliest and scariest virus that ruined our economy? And we have to wear this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am young, and a lot of people who are here are not young, they're much older. But everyone who is here signed up for that. They understand they're taking a risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you not wearing a mask? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not wearing a mask because I had my

temperature taken already and I'm not sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not worried about all these people in here not wearing masks?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not worried about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't get a little worried with all these people in one spot, not wearing a mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't, I don't have any worries at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't seem worried?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In an outdoor area, we're getting enough wind breeze coming in here, I'm not concerned with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not afraid. The good Lord takes care of me. If I die, I die. We've got to get this country moving.


KEILAR: Let's discuss this with Dr. Roshini Raj who is an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. I mean, Dr. Raj, it's -- I really enjoyed actually hearing from people, and it sort of saddens me as well, hearing them at that rally, one person saying she had her temperature checked so she's not worried. Another said that there was enough breeze.

And it's so important for us to hear -- look, we need to know what people are thinking, right? Because these are the folks who are either putting practices in place or they're not. So just fact-check what you heard there.

ROSHINI RAJ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, NYU LANGONE HEALTH: Yes, I mean, that was pretty startling to me to hear because it seems like there's still so much misinformation out there. And the problem with this virus is, we are very dependent not only on ourselves, but on our neighbors and how careful they're being.

So to fact-check a couple of the statements, you know, just because you don't have a fever and you don't feel sick doesn't mean you don't potentially have coronavirus. You may be an asymptomatic case, the CDC now estimates about 40 percent of people with coronavirus never get symptoms. So that's one thing we have to dispel.

The other thing you know, the fact that when you're in an outdoor space, yes, it's much better than being in an indoor space. But breezes or not, if you're in close proximity with other people -- particularly if they're not wearing masks -- you are again at a risk for contracting the virus.

So I mean, I don't even know what to say about the notion that, you know, this is all a myth and COVID doesn't exist. I will agree with one statement, which is we do have to get things moving. But the best way to get things moving is to control the spread of the virus. And in my opinion, masks are a huge part of that.

KEILAR: OK. And I want to ask you, you know, can you react to that one gentleman who was holding up the mask and laughing about it as a tiny thing that could protect from such a big pandemic. I mean, I think of a bunch of small things that protect from all kinds of diseases, but what do you say to --

RAJ: Absolutely.

KEILAR: -- that guy?

RAJ: Well, if we look at the countries that have been able to get better control of this virus -- and certainly similar viruses in the past -- those are the countries that have made mask-wearing really part of their culture, particularly during a time of illness, many of the Asian countries for example.

So masks absolutely have been proven to reduce the transmission of viruses such as coronavirus, and we have seen that even in our own country.

So they -- it might not seem like a big step, but it certainly is one of the most effective things you can do to protect yourself.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, I think of all kind -- protective googles, condoms, there's all kinds of very small medical devices that are protecting against serious diseases.

I want to turn to this new aggregate forecast by the CDC that says as many as 217,000 deaths from coronavirus could occur by October 3rd. What has to happen for the U.S. not to reach this total?

RAJ: Yes, that's a staggering number because we are at about 186, closer to 190,000 right now. And if the numbers continue to, you know, progress, we may even go up to 400,000 more cases by the end of the year.

What has to happen is continued vigilance in terms of mask-wearing, social distancing. And as we go into the winter months, where people are going to be indoors more, it becomes even more important to really avoid those large social gatherings.


We don't think we're going to have a vaccine unfortunately for at least another month, probably more two, three or four months down the road so these measures are even more important right now. And as we spoke about earlier, you know, Dr. Fauci said, we are at a sort of a plateau at around 36,000, that is a dangerously high plateau. That's not the number we would want to see, going into the colder months.

So unless, you know, we are all more careful and more people are adhering to these guidelines, we are going to see those numbers continue to increase.

KEILAR: All right, Dr. Roshini Raj, thanks for joining us, we really appreciate it.

RAJ: Thank you.

KEILAR: Next, schools in Des Moines, Iowa, defying the governor's order and starting the year with all virtual classes. I'll be speaking to a board member about why they're doing it that way.

Plus, Smithfield Foods, cited for failing to protect its workers from coronavirus.

And as the nation remembers 9/11, we'll discuss what happened to that feeling of solidarity that we felt as a nation, 19 years ago today.



KEILAR: Another jarring statistic, there have been more than 40,000 positive cases of COVID-19 at colleges and universities across all 50 states. For Kindergarten through high school, reopening schools for in-person learning has become a point of contention.

In Des Moines, Iowa, school officials there are defying the governor and a judge's order to resume in-person classes. The suspension of sports and other extracurricular activities is not sitting well with students there.

Rob Barron is a Des Moines public school board member, Rob, thank you so much for being with us. And tell us why you made this decision.

ROB BARRON, BOARD MEMBER, DES MOINES PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Well, first thing I'll tell you is, this wasn't an easy decision. We all want -- on my board, my superintendent, our teaching staff -- we all want to get back to normal, but normal's a tough road to get to these days.

And we looked at the rising positivity rates in Polk County, where we are; we thought about the number of students coming in and out of our buildings, over 30,000 on a daily basis with 5,00 staff; and weighed the factors. And it was our judgment, informed by local conditions, that starting virtually was the right thing for our community.

KEILAR: And look, Rob, we've talked to doctors in your state who say that this is the right decision, you know? They've said that based on what different counties are experiencing, perhaps there could be a tailored approach. But when you're looking at spikes, this is something that school boards should be able to decide with safety on their minds.

Now, that said, your district could lose funding over this. Are you concerned about that?

BARRON: Very concerned, yes. I mean, one of the hammers that the state has put out over us, is requiring us to repeat days at the end of the year. And in this district, one day of instruction's a little over a million dollars a day. So you know, every day that they would hold out that we may have to return, is a significant amount of money for us to afford.

Now, I don't think that we'll necessarily be in that position. You know, our goal overall --


KEILAR: And why not?

BARRON: -- whether the state was involved or not, was to get back to in-person learning. We're just trying to do it in the safest possible way, that doesn't put our staff, our kids and all of their families are further risk.

KEILAR: But when do you see it realistic to even look at some type of maybe more nuanced hybrid model when we're talking about -- look, you guys are experiencing spikes, we're heading into flu season and the numbers really aren't low enough as if you're having kids in class in Iowa, I've been through -- you know, I was a campaign reporter, I've been through an Iowa winter. You can't have kids outside. So what do you do?

BARRON: That's the challenging part. You know, our parents, a lot of parents want their kids back in school, and we understand that. But if we're going to be contributing to further spread of a virus that has really serious short-term implications and -- we think -- long-term implications on the folks that get it, we have to be really cautious about that.

I'm also cognizant that -- you know, I'm a volunteer school board member. I -- the decision I'm making to send folks back, especially staff back, into those buildings is not a decision that -- it's not the walk that I'm going to walk. They are the ones who are going to come back in. And I need to put them in the safest possible place.

It's incredibly challenging, and unfortunately the governor's actions so far have not made it any easier for us to navigate.

KEILAR: What about sports? We mentioned that a lot of students and parents are upset about this, especially when they feel that some sports are safer than others. What do you say to them?

BARRON: I would say that they're right, some sports are safer. There's a difference between cross-country and football. But you know, the question of sports overall is really different than the question of opening up buildings that are serving hundreds or thousands of students, as is the case in my district.

You know, we had been practicing and doing some competitions before the school year started, the state's rules restrict (ph) us from doing that. And you know, it was our take that we -- most of all, we don't want to take opportunities away from our kids. And we're only going to do it when we feel like it is their safety, a matter of their safety.


And our coaches and leaders were running those practices and events as safely as they could, and we're monitoring those. And we went through that -- you know, Des Moines and Iowa have a summer sports season as well, and so we've been down this drill with baseball and softball over the summer. We felt like we could manage this.

KEILAR: All right, Rob, hey, thank you so much for having this conversation with us.

BARRON: Thank you for the opportunity.

KEILAR: Still ahead, the CDC releasing a new study showing people who have tested positive for coronavirus are much more likely to have eaten indoors at a restaurant.

Plus, we are live in Minneapolis where the officers charged in the killing of George Floyd were in court today, and the family's attorney just spoke to reporters.



KEILAR: Ongoing ceremonies today to honor those who died on 9/11, pictures now from Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in an empty field. President Trump, speaking there earlier today. And then a short time ago, presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, arriving to pay their respects.

It has been 19 years since that fateful day, and it may be hard to recall just how bitterly divided America was before those attacks. They came less than a year after the hotly contested election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, an election that had to be settled by the Supreme Court.

But in the days that followed those attacks, Americans pulled together in a way that hadn't been seen in decades. I want to bring in CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, as well as CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

And you know, both of you covered 9/11, and you covered leaders during 9/11 and saw how they responded to it. I want to talk just sort of broadly about, I guess, the toll of 9/11, nearly 3,000 people died, Gloria, in the attacks. And then you have had almost 7,000 U.S. service members who have been killed in the wars that have followed, so you're talking 10,000 Americans, so many.

And then today, you have more than 190,000 Americans who have died since March because of the pandemic, and there isn't -- this isn't something that has brought the country together in mourning. We're more divided than ever.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And you know, when I look back to 9/11, it was this great national traumatic event that we all saw. We saw the smoke coming out from the towers, we saw the planes crash, we saw the aftermath of that. We could watch it unfold, and there was no question that this was an attack on America committed by terrorists. And it united the country against a common enemy, which was, who are

these terrorists and how do we take them down. And you know, I know Dana remembers this, the members of Congress joining together on the steps of the Capitol and singing. I think that it is because it was -- everyone could see it and feel it and hear it.

The pandemic, you cannot see and you cannot feel, and it is not in front of you on television every day, the way -- as much as we talk about it -- the way those pictures were. And there is not a clear enemy here. There is -- you know, it's not the terrorists, it's who is this. And so the country's already polarized, and the reaction to it is polarized. And Donald Trump is reacting one way and Joe Biden is reacting another way, just as they reacted differently to 9/11, by the way.

So I think it's a different environment, different times, and different pictures.

KEILAR: Dana, what do you think?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, I was there on the Capitol grounds, on the plaza in front of the Capitol, when members of the Republican and Democratic Party came together, and it was impromptu, they just started singing. And it is hard to imagine something like that right now.

I was at the Capitol when we were evacuated because there was smoke coming that you could see from the windows from the Pentagon. And I mean, it's just -- it -- Gloria is exactly right, it's not as if people right now aren't -- I mean, so many people, unfortunately, know somebody or at least know somebody who knows somebody who has died from the coronavirus. But it isn't that instant moment of terror and fear, and then that quickly leads to resolve that we feel now.

And look, I mean, George W. Bush, as you said in the intro to the segment, Bri (ph), was a very divisive figure. I mean, I remember driving by the vice president's house many, many times, with people standing there with signs, saying, "Get out of Joe Liebermann's house." I mean, that was happening on the streets.