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Cuomo Prime Time
Ohio Governor Offering $1 Million Prize In Vaccine Lottery; White House Searches For Way Forward On Infrastructure Plan; Former Gaetz Ally Strikes Plea Deal With Feds. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired May 14, 2021 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They clearly are hoping for some sort of cessation of hostilities. But, at the moment--
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes.
WEDEMAN: --there doesn't seem to be any effort that's gaining traction to bring this fighting to a close.
COOPER: Ben Wedeman, be careful. Thank you for being there.
The news continues. Let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Coop, thank you very much. Have a good weekend.
I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.
So, will the great unmasking, announced by the CDC, get more people to vaccinate? We're going to have to see, especially now as Dr. Fauci made clear today, things are going to be freeing up all over society, on the quick.
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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Things will clarify.
It may take a little time for people to get used to this new guideline. But I think literally, you know, within a week or so, you're going to see people really understanding what it means and getting into - into line with it.
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CUOMO: We are already seeing moves in both directions. At least 18 states have lifted or will be lifting Pandemic mandates
after the CDC's shift. Among them, Minnesota, but Minnesota's Twin Cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, have not lifted their restrictions. So, they're going to remain. Remember, you got state, but you also have local. There'll be some fights.
But remember, why would there be any disconnect? Well, it's about confidence, but also competence. There's no federal mechanism to check vax status. Many states don't have their own mechanism. So enforcement, it's an unknown for states, localities, businesses, and we see that reflected in the uneven responses.
Many big chain retailers Target, Home Depot, Starbucks, leaving policies unchanged.
But huge changes at the largest retailer in the country, Walmart, no longer requiring vaccinated workers and shoppers to wear masks, except in municipalities that require them. Same as Costco, Trader Joe's not requiring their customers to wear masks anymore. The unvaccinated are still being encouraged to, but proof won't be required.
See, it's easy to see who is wearing a mask, right, because either you got it or you don't. But if you don't have one on, how would you ever know if the person is vaccinated? I guess they could tell you. Would you believe them?
So, will all the unvaccinated just ditch their masks now, because no one's going to be able to tell the difference.
Now where I live, I saw a lot fewer masks, even in stores where a mask is still required. All those folks vaccinated seem like well over the half of the percentage that is supposedly fully vaccinated, in New York, where I live.
Did the CDC just make it more or less likely that people will get immunized? Free beer, doughnuts, maybe it's not going to be enough to lure Americans to get a shot, if they don't feel they need it.
But what about a million big ones? That's what Ohio's Governor is banking on, a lottery that his state is about to hold, to speed up the pace of vaccinations. Let's bring him in on a Friday night. Republican Governor Mike DeWine joins us.
Good to see you, Gov.
GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Good to be back, Chris. Good to see you.
CUOMO: So, let's talk about the mode here. Instead of jumping into the negative, let's start with the positive. Why are you doing this? Why do you like it?
DEWINE: Chris, the game now is all about vaccination. We have 42 percent of the people in the state who are vaccinated, started - started. We got 37 percent, who are fully vaccinated, and we're doing pretty well. But we really have to do more. We've got to continue to do this. I mean, every time we get someone
vaccinated, we move them over here, and they can't spread it. They can't get it. They're safe. And what really we have now is, is two countries, where the people who are vaccinated. We have the people who are not vaccinated.
And the people who are not that vaccinated, as you know, we have a variant, and it is more contagious than what we've seen in the past. So, we've got to move as many people over to get them vaccinated as we can.
Fran and I have traveled around. We've been to, I think, 40 different vaccination sites. And what we do is we just talk to people, and try to figure out, "Why are you getting vaccinated? Maybe why did you hold back?"
And here's the conclusion. 42 percent of Ohioans are vaccinated. They wanted it. You got other people over here, who clearly are not ever going to get vaccinated. And that's fine. We have to respect that. And we do respect that.
But you've got the persuadables. You've got people who, for any number of reasons, just haven't got around to it, wasn't a huge priority. But they will do it.
I mean, we've talked to people who, you know, we talked to a guy the other day, excuse me, in Cincinnati, and I said, "Hey, how come you came in?" Said "My son brought me in. Son called me up, said "Hey, come on dad, time to go do it." He said, "I came."
We're allowing walk-ins now, as you know, Chris.
DEWINE: And so, it's getting those people at the margin in. And I think that people are motivated by the - some people at least, are the opportunity to--
DEWINE: --win $1 million. It's better odds than most lotteries are. And we've already started to see. We can't really measure it yet.
DEWINE: But anecdotally, today, we were getting reports from health departments. And they said, "Yes, people are coming in here, and talking about, and they say "That's why I came in."
CUOMO: I don't really care about whether or not this is legal. I know the State A.G. has been looking at it, and who's supposed to run a lottery, what it's supposed to be about. I don't really think that's the issue. So, I'm not going to waste time on that. There's no question that money matters. We saw in some polling from UCLA. "If I give you 25 bucks, are you more likely?" "Yes." "If I give you 50 bucks, you're even more likely?" "Yes." "100 bucks, even more likely?" "Yes." OK, good.
Now, here's the pushback. It's on two levels. One is "Gov.! I got it. Where's my million bucks? Where's my chance? Why are you punishing me, by rewarding people who are too stupid to want to get the vaccine?" What do you say to them?
DEWINE: Everybody gets to play. If you got the vaccine the first day, you're in.
CUOMO: So, everybody's in it.
DEWINE: If you got it the next day, you're in.
CUOMO: It's not just the people who haven't gotten it yet.
DEWINE: No. No, no, everybody who's got the vaccine, up until the time that we do the drawing basically, the first drawing. We're doing five. So, we're doing one in 12 days.
DEWINE: And then every - every week, five separate weeks. So, you got more chances. But everybody who up until that point has been vaccinated, it could be a month ago, two months ago, could have been yesterday. They have a chance.
DEWINE: So, it's fair.
CUOMO: Key - key fact. Key fact. That is a very good.
Now, here's the second pushback. This is federal money. And it's from the CARES Act, Coronavirus relief dollars. You could have used it on something better than a lottery.
You could have used it to help open more schools, because you've seen you've done well with reopening schools, and you've seen what a big difference that makes for families. Why not just put the money in there?
CUOMO: And get - go from 80 percent to 100 percent. And that'll help more than a lottery.
DEWINE: Chris, there's nothing that's going to determine Ohio's future more than how well we do in getting vaccinated and how well we control this virus. We're worried about winter. That's going to really control not only saving lives, but the economy.
And yes, we could have spent it for more advertising on TV. We've done a lot of advertising on TV. We've done a lot of different things. This we have not done.
And we were getting a real slowdown, in the number of people getting vaccinated, went down dramatically, two weeks, three weeks, ago. And we want to kick it up. And I think this is going to do it.
CUOMO: This debate that is raging about why people are having a hard time to get employees, I've been doing a lot of research on it. It depends on region. It depends on industry.
There is a narrative that "Look, here's why. It's because they're doing better than if they were working." You agree with that, and you want to pull some of the aid.
594,000-plus Ohioans will lose money, when the aid ends June 26. The added unemployment benefit reduced hunger in the country by 35 percent, mostly for minorities. Ohio still has 1.5 million hungry people. Is this the right move?
DEWINE: Yes, I think it is, Chris. Let me go back. The original extra dollars were $600, very well needed, very, very much needed. Federal government then came down to $300, very needed. But we're well, well into this. We're coming out of this Pandemic.
And here's what we're seeing in Ohio. Our unemployment is down to where it was at the time that the Pandemic started. We're starting to move forward. But across the state of Ohio, we've got businesses that are only partially open, can't do the things that they have done in the past.
We were at a restaurant - I was at a restaurant.
CUOMO: Nobody can get workers.
DEWINE: Fran and I were having lunch down (ph).
CUOMO: I'm hearing it in New York City.
DEWINE: Yes, yes--
CUOMO: I'm hearing it out on the island where I live.
DEWINE: Yes, they can't--
CUOMO: And every employer - everybody I meet, man or woman, Brown, White, whatever their color, whatever their creed, if they own a business, they say "I can't get anybody to work." I hear you. I'm with you.
But I wonder?
DEWINE: It's not the only reason. It's not the only reason.
CUOMO: It's not the only reason, so?
DEWINE: But I think it is a reason.
CUOMO: Are you doing any selectivity?
DEWINE: It is a reason. It is a reason, though, I think, Chris.
CUOMO: All right, let's say it is.
DEWINE: I think the--
CUOMO: Let's say it is.
DEWINE: --evidence is carried over seem shows it (ph).
CUOMO: Stipulated. Let's say it is a reason for some, but what about not being able to get childcare? What about fears about the workplace safety? Are you doing any kind of thoughtful appraisal of who gets the funding pull than who doesn't?
DEWINE: Well, as far as workplace safety, the main fear, of course, as you know, was getting the virus.
DEWINE: We now have the vaccine. And if people want to go back to work, feel they should go back to work, they can get the vaccine.
We push this out long enough, so they could actually start the vaccine, as soon as we announced it, and they would be able to be well on their way to be getting the immunity, really that they need.
Look, childcare is something we always have to continue to look at. We've worked on in Ohio. We put dollars in it. We kept it going. Does not mean it's perfect. But, at some point, Chris, we have to get back to normal.
And what happens when - we still have regular unemployment in Ohio. We just don't - we're just - in 40-some days, we're just going to say, "OK, federal government, we're not going to take that additional $300 a month - or $300 a week that is coming in."
DEWINE: It's getting us back to normal. This is what we're - what everybody wants. This is what we're trying to do is to get our economy--
CUOMO: Your unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. The national average is 6 percent. You say getting back to normal.
CUOMO: Bernie Sanders put out a tweet, not about you specifically, but the issue, where he said, "Yes, normal for you is workers being underpaid, and that the money they're making with federal money still puts them right around the poverty line. And for you, that's too much." He said, "The problem in America is not that unemployed workers are
receiving an extra $300 a week in emergency benefits during a horrific pandemic. The problem is that too many employers in America are exploiting their workers by paying starvation wages, with no benefits."
What do you think of that?
DEWINE: Well, he's got his opinion. That's fine. But look, here's what - here's what we have to do. And here's what we've been doing. And here's what we're going to continue to do.
I think government has the obligation to do absolutely everything we can to let every American live up to their God-given potential. That is, putting a great focus on education. But that's education written very large.
It doesn't just mean K through 12. It doesn't just mean pre-school. It doesn't mean just college. It means taking workers and allowing them to get industry credentials, taking their step-up, get higher pay, and take their - take their skillsets up. That's how we're going to grow the economy.
We have a program in Ohio that we started after I became governor. It's working exceedingly well. We basically are putting money into it to upscale this, the workers' talents.
But look, Chris, it's an ongoing focus. We're not perfect. No state is perfect. But we think we know the most important thing, and that is make sure the workers have the best skillsets that they can have, so they can get the best jobs that they can.
CUOMO: Governor Mike DeWine, complicated times require solutions and discussion. I appreciate you for participating here. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
DEWINE: Thanks, Chris.
CUOMO: Be well.
Pipeline attack, it's a metaphor. It's a metaphor. Why? Well, on the micro level, it's shaking up gas prices, lead to shortages. But on the macro level, the bigger level, the big picture, we're vulnerable, our infrastructure, especially.
So, what is the Biden Administration doing to beef up cybersecurity? Were they caught sleeping on this?
We have the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, next.
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CUOMO: You are quite literally paying the price for government inaction. A massive crack is shutting down the I-40 Bridge in Memphis. That means stopping hundreds of barges on the Mississippi River, and a 2-hour to 3-hour detour for freight trucks.
Meanwhile, we're still seeing gas shortages across the Southeast. Prices everywhere are the highest they've been since 2014. And we know why. A ransomware hack of the Colonial Pipeline.
The need is obvious. So, can we break the game? Can we move past the players, and get from Left and Right, to reasonable? That's the question for Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg.
Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, good to see you, sir.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Good to be with you.
CUOMO: All right, so let's talk problem, and then we'll talk solution. When it comes to cybersecurity, why wasn't the money for cybersecurity in the bill to start with?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, so to be clear, some of the things that are in the bill include making sure that the grants come in with serious plans for cybersecurity, because that's what it means to be resilient in the 21st Century.
Let's also recognize that the federal government cannot be alone in promoting cybersecurity. Take this situation, where you had a private company experience a cyber-attack with public consequences.
So many of our utilities and other pieces of infrastructure, they're either, owned and operated by local governments, or often by private actors. And so we need a whole-of-society approach, not just a whole- of-government approach, to make sure we're safe and secure.
CUOMO: Secretary, were we caught sleeping on this? In 2020 alone, 24,000 (ph) U.S. ransomware attacks, state, local, governments targeted, health care facilities, schools. Victims paid $350 million in ransom. It's up 300 percent from the year before.
BUTTIGIEG: Look, we as a country, I think have had a big wake-up call.
Don't get me wrong. We've been working on this from day one. The executive order that the President put out this week was the result of work that's been ongoing. And I know I've been hearing from the White House and others in the Administration about our mutual cybersecurity work from the get-go.
But look, let's face it. Clearly, our country needs to be more secure than we have been, especially because the threats are only going to get more and more sophisticated.
CUOMO: On the wake-up call side, the Biden budget proposal for next year, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, CISA, got a 5 percent bump compared to overall 16 percent bump in non-defense spending.
In light of this now, should that change?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, I'll leave that to other parts of the government.
But what I'll say is it's not just about the dollars that go into an agency that stood up, specifically around cybersecurity. It's also got to be part of all the work that all of us are doing. You might not see it, for example, in our Department of Transportation budget.
But when we're thinking about funding, a plan that comes in from a community that wants to, let's say, put in a new light rail line, or add some kind of resource in their ports, you better believe we're going to be wanting to make sure that it's resilient, safe and secure.
And so, it's up to us, and every other department, from Education to Agriculture, as well as CISA, as well as DOD, and Homeland Security, to make sure we're doing our part.
CUOMO: Is it a fair argument, Secretary that the government should be more involved here? I know privatization, very sexy, very appealing, because it seems efficient. And we're going to leave it to the people who know.
But whether it's Texas that operates its own grid, and now you have Colonial, which is a private industry, they don't have the same touch on regulation that other aspects of government-owned industry do.
And is that what we're paying the price for here is that "They weren't up to speed on cyber-hacking, because they don't need to be?"
BUTTIGIEG: Well the problem is, of course, they do need to be. And so, we've got to make sure there are levels of reporting. This is touched in the President's executive order--
CUOMO: They didn't even tell you guys, right away.
BUTTIGIEG: --and levels of accountability.
BUTTIGIEG: Right and--
CUOMO: I mean they didn't even tell you right away. And if you really regulated them, if you control them - I'm not faulting you, because it's the system. I'm saying should the system change?
Should there be more oversight, and not by Congress, should there be more oversight by an agency that knows what it's doing, where you got to tell us, and we're going to know, and you've got to meet requirements, and you've got to spend money, otherwise you don't get the concession?
BUTTIGIEG: I think that kind of oversight is part of what it means to have critical infrastructure in private hands.
Look, we're not going to want the federal government to own and operate every utility, or every pipeline, or every other piece of critical infrastructure in the country. Often, it does make sense for that to be in decentralized local or even private hands.
But when it is, an enormous responsibility comes with that stewardship. And I do think we need to take a real look at a policy level at what's being done.
CUOMO: So today, there's a headline that the President says he's open on infrastructure. He wants to negotiate. He's been having meetings.
What gives you any hope, Mr. Secretary, that Mitch McConnell's quote from nine days ago of "100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration" will change? Do you think there's any chance of Republican votes actually being cast for Democratic-anything?
BUTTIGIEG: I do think there's a chance to do this, because I don't think that this is a uniquely Democratic set of goals or vision.
Look, the American people want infrastructure. The American people want investments in the competitiveness of the future. That's one of the reasons why the Jobs Plan is so popular across the country, and not only with Democrats.
Just yesterday, I was in the Oval Office with the President, the Commerce Secretary, and the V.P., and a bunch of Republican senators, having a good-faith conversation about where we were, where they were, and where to go from here. There's a remarkably strong and good committee work going on that is building a good policy that that's going to be part of this.
So, is it a guarantee? Far from it. Obviously, we're starting out pretty far apart. But I do think there is a good opportunity for a lot of common ground and a lot of alignment because the American people can't wait.
CUOMO: COVID relief was pretty palpably obvious as a need also. They passed it twice under Trump. And then, for all the good-faith meetings, zero Republican votes for anything with Biden's name on it.
Why might this be different?
BUTTIGIEG: Let's say, in my view, the back-and-forth has already been a lot more dynamic. They came to the table with the proposal. The President's put forward his ideas. That back-and-forth is, I'll tell you, it's very real. And it's very focused.
Same thing with what's going on in the committees, both on the House and Senate side. This regular order legislative process has the potential to deliver really good policy for the future. And we've got to give it every shot.
I get politics are what they are. I don't know exactly where this will lead us. But what I know is that this is both good policy and good politics, at least that's how we view it, and we're hoping a good number of Republicans come to view it the same way, if we can scope out at least where the common ground might lie.
CUOMO: Mr. Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, thank you for joining us on PRIME TIME.
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
CUOMO: Will they work for solutions, or they're going to keep playing the game? Got to keep watching!
The indicted former pal of Matt Gaetz formally struck a plea deal today. Today, the deal was filed. So now, the Feds have a deal with the pal. He's going to have to plead guilty to several charges. But what will they get, and will it hurt Matt Gaetz?
A top criminal defense attorney, next.
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CUOMO: All right, as anticipated, the deal for federal cooperation for one of the key figures in Matt Gaetz's political and personal life was filed today.
Joel Greenberg has agreed to plead guilty to six federal charges, including a count of sex trafficking of a child. It's just a fraction of the 33 federal accounts he originally faced. But the big one was the sex trafficking of a minor, and they weren't going to let that go.
How much time does he get? We'll see. And that will be a coefficient of how much help he gave them against other people they value as much or more, on charges that are as serious or more serious. That's how you get a deal.
Greenberg had numerous sugar-daddy relationships, drug-laced meetings, with young women, including a minor. Gaetz is not implicated by name in these papers.
But Greenberg admits that he and others paid a 17-year-old girl for sex and that he introduced her to, quote, "Other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts with" her.
Top legal mind, and a man, who knows the Florida dynamic, that is at play, here, Counselor, Mark O'Mara. Let's be very clear. Mark ain't a part of the dynamic. He just knows about the dynamic.
So, they made a plea deal. And that means that he offered substantial assistance. Am I right in the common reckoning that that means that he helped them go after people they think are as valuable as he or more, on charges that are as serious or more?
MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Absolutely. They do that by way of a proffer, which is basically a confessional.
You go into the U.S. Attorney's Office, with your lawyers. They have their case agency. You sit down. You basically tell them everything you know. If you don't tell them everything, you know, or if you lie to them, the deal's off, you don't get what you go there for, which is to try and minimize your damage.
So we know Greenberg has spoken to them on several occasions, and we know because of the type of deal he's getting. Not phenomenal, he's still going to federal prison, it seems. But he has got to be focusing on other people.
We've always talked about Congressman Gaetz being one of them. But certainly he's going to be giving what we call truly substantial information that's going to lead to other indictments and convictions.
CUOMO: Unless he can tie Congressman Matt Gaetz to sex with an underaged person who was also traveled, trafficked, for that purpose, how bad could the trouble be for Gaetz?
O'MARA: Well, if they don't, let's just say for a moment, as you say, they get away from that, then what else is out there?
There may be some paying for sex. There may be adult sex. There may be some of these other things. We don't know exactly what Greenberg has talked about, certainly, the premier cases, the sex trafficking or the sex with a minor.
But we also know that Greenberg has been involved in an enormous amount of information, from cryptocurrency, to fraud, to stalking, not suggesting anyone else, like Congressmen is involved in that.
But we have to know that since they've been so tight, for so long, that probably the reason why Greenberg is getting his deal is because he does in fact, have very good information about people, at the level of Congressman Gaetz, or others.
CUOMO: How real or how literal is that understanding that they have to have charges that are equal or worse against other people? I can't think of anything worse in the mix than sex with a minor and trafficking them.
O'MARA: I agree, which is why I would think that he has to have some type of evidence of at least that level with somebody, who might be perceived to be above him.
And the other information is we look at this with the context of drug trafficking cases. You always have to have, if you're going to get a deal, in drug trafficking world, you're giving up your source, you're giving up person who is selling more than you. So, it's that context, you have to look at this case in.
Whatever Greenberg is giving them, it's got to be so significant, that they're even willing to talk to somebody, who they otherwise have for a virtual life sentence. And of course, he's reduces exposure, a great deal already with the plea, and it will come down even more based solely upon his substantial assistance.
CUOMO: Now you are aware of the politics, in the legal, and prosecutorial and political communities down there.
Gaetz's spokesperson told "The Washington Post," the first indictment of Greenberg alleges he falsely accused another man of sex with a minor for his own gain. That man was apparently innocent, so is Gaetz.
You think Gaetz has trouble or not?
O'MARA: Well I think he has some trouble, because the U.S. Attorney, and I know Roger Handberg, the lead prosecutor on this, and he does his work, he does it well, doesn't leave very much to chance.
Remember, federal prosecutors have about a 97 percent conviction rate with whatever they do. And by that, I mean, they are not going to rely alone on what Greenberg says. That's the bare bone. They're going to put meat on that bone. That's going to be corroborating witnesses, other forensic evidence, other bank evidence, whatever.
They are not going to walk in there and say to any jury, "Listen and believe Greenberg alone." It is going to have to be filled up with everything else to convince to all people beyond a reasonable doubt of whoever they want to convict, after Greenberg.
CUOMO: There's that old adage when it comes to these kinds of things. "Cherchez la femme," "Find the woman." Now, we know it's going to be the women here, who could have the biggest impact. It'll be easy to find them. It's about whether or not they will talk/cooperate.
Mark O'Mara, thank you very much, Counselor. Be well.
O'MARA: Thank you, Chris. Be well. CUOMO: What do we do about our kids now, in this new CDC situation? They're not fully vaccinated, right? You just got the new authorization, so you got kids, 12-to-18, they can get it. So what do we do with them?
Fauci says nothing has changed for unvaccinated kids, who are not eligible to get the shot. They got to mask up in the classroom this fall. What is that going to mean for parents?
Insight from two doctors, next.
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CUOMO: So, the CDC is trying to make things less confusing with the mask guidelines. But there's at least one group that's still scrambling for answers. And that's us, parents, parents of kids younger than 12. They can't get the vaccine. Should we even prioritize them? One Harvard pediatrician argues "No."
"Many poorer countries have yet to receive a single vaccine shipment. In this context, it is difficult to justify using limited vaccine supplies to immunize young, healthy" kids "at little risk of severe disease" of COVID.
"Whether vaccines will prevent severe disease from variants is still unknown.
The best way to fight the Pandemic is with a global campaign to vaccinate those most at risk of occupational exposure and serious disease."
Dr. Richard Malley wrote that Op-Ed. He's a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases. He joins us with Dr. Leana Wen.
Do we have a quorum here that all three of us believe that kids should be able to go back to school in the fall without masks? Yes? Raise it!
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER, ER PHYSICIAN, PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR, GWU: Ideally without masks, yes.
CUOMO: All right. Raise a hand! Give me something! DR. RICHARD MALLEY, SENIOR PHYSICIAN IN PEDIATRICS, BOSTON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Yes.
CUOMO: You guys - I'm not going to - this isn't a court. I'm not prosecuting.
So, look, that's my concern, OK? Let's just short-circuit this. I'll start with you, Dr. Leana Wen.
Ideally is not good enough. People see that the vaccinated are getting their masks off. Everybody's going to take their masks off now. There're going to be cases. There are going to be variants.
But if we don't hear about people being hospitalized, and dying, and the things stay the same with kids, which is you almost never hear about a bad case, parents will not accept going back to school, and the kids, especially little ones, have to deal with masks or anything unusual.
WEN: Well, right now, I'm worried about a different issue. I think maybe, by the fall, maybe if case loads are low enough, maybe we'll worry about your issue. I'm actually really worried right now that we're increasing the risk for our children.
Because essentially, what the CDC has done is to lift all mask mandates, and social distancing mandates, regardless of whether you're vaccinated. I mean, they say only vaccinated people should be taken off their masks. But we know that that's not how people are going to be.
And I think what's the end result is that vaccinated people are going to be fine. But unvaccinated people are now going to be exposed to all kinds of other unvaccinated people, who are now going around maskless, with no restrictions.
I think it's going to be harder for us to reach herd immunity, because that incentive to get vaccinated is now gone, because if every restriction has gone anyway, what's in it for you?
So, I actually think it's going to be harder for us to get to the point that you want to get to, Chris, which is a low enough level of transmission, in the fall that our children can actually take off their masks. And that's because the CDC guidance was too abrupt, and really skipped a lot of steps that were really unnecessary.
CUOMO: What's your take, Dr. Malley?
MALLEY: Well, I think the CDC is facing a very difficult situation. This has been an absolutely horrific year. And we have to start giving people some hope, some idea that things are getting better.
At the same time, we're also trying to encourage people, who are somewhat reluctant, or hesitant, to be vaccinated, that there is in fact, a reason, a tangible reason, to be vaccinated.
And I think that that is essentially the calculus that they're doing, which is to try to say, let's give something that really shows to the population that has had such a horrible year, with deaths, and all sorts of horrible tragedies, let's give them something tangible.
Let's encourage people to get vaccinated, and hope that Dr. Wen - that what Dr. Wen is worried about, which is that people will essentially try to trick the system, will not happen to the extent that you're worried about. And I think it's a gamble that the CDC is taking.
My take on it would be that this type of approach is much more likely to be successful, as we start seeing the number of cases really plummet with more vaccinations, then I think the concerns that as pediatricians, we have, about kids being exposed, and potentially transmitting to others, really get reduced.
CUOMO: All right, now, on the vaccines, and I'm going to bounce back to Dr. Wen, about your point, you're saying, "Look, the kids don't need the vaccines. Give it to the adults and the high-risk people in other countries. That's going to do more for the global Pandemic than worrying about the kids. They don't really need that layer of protection."
How confident are you of that?
MALLEY: Well, what I would really want the message to be in what Adam Finn and I tried to convey is that at this moment, the priority should not be to vaccinate 2-year-olds, at this moment, Chris. Soon, when we have the virus under better control, in all sorts of parts of the world, then of course, you can start focusing on children.
But the idea that we are going to give vaccines that are in such short supply to kids, whose risk of severe COVID is so small, while the rest of the world is imploding, and you have images of crematoriums in India, and lack of oxygen in Brazil, and other places, I think that really raises a humanitarian question.
The other point I would quickly make is that if you're really interested in protecting children, which we all are, and as a pediatrician, that's what I've dedicated my life to, the best way to protect children is to protect them against collateral damage of COVID, all the psychological, physical and financial complications that COVID has led to in their lives.
And one of the worst things that could happen is to allow some of these variants that you've mentioned, to come back into our country. And some of those variants might in fact over time become resistant to the effective vaccine.
And so, controlling the virus, in other countries, in the elderly, in the immunocompromised, even I would say, in the children, who have risks in our country that would be the best strategy to try to get back to normal.
CUOMO: Dr. Wen? WEN: I think that this is conflating two different things. I definitely agree that global vaccine access is really important for humanitarian and for self-interest reasons.
But you're not going to get there by distributing the doses that were reserved for children in the U.S. I mean, even if we're talking about, every dose, for every child, under the age of 18, of the U.S., you give it, abroad, you'll be vaccinating, less than 1 percent of the world's population.
If we really want to solve the problem of global vaccine equity, we would be building global infrastructure, and helping with manufacturing capacities, lifting export restrictions. There are actual policy things that we can be doing, if that's the problem that we're trying to solve for.
There's a different problem here, too, which is, we still have a Pandemic here. We have children who have been out of school, for a lot of this year, in-person. We have parents, who are not at work. And the best way for our economy to get started to help us here in the U.S. is to get our children vaccinated.
The solution that Dr. Malley is proposing, to me, almost sounds like saying, "We have global poverty as an issue. So we're going to all fast in the U.S. for a month." I mean, that is - it's not the solution to this global problem. And we're not solving for the problem right here in the U.S.
CUOMO: I understand you about the problem the U.S. But it's not a good analogy for Malley, because poverty somewhere else doesn't come back to make you hungry here. But I understand your point and about how much you could help in the first place.
Good points on both sides. We got to figure out a way. You know what we got to do. Have more of these conversations.
Dr. Malley, thank you. Dr. Wen, appreciate it, as always.
And just to be clear, I wanted to celebrate with everybody else, OK? I don't like the way the CDC handled it. I don't like that they were playing cute on the show about it. I think it plays to politics. It plays to the game. And I was worried about this. And I am worried.
I'm going to let you know. I don't see why unvaccinated people are going to want to get vaccinated, when they could take their mask off anyway, and you'll never know, and most places don't track, all right? I said it. I want it to be a big step in the right direction. I don't know how it is. All right.
Now, to the case of the missing tiger, last seen roaming around Houston, how can this cat be this hard to find? Can it really be hanging out in a tree, or is it being hidden somewhere? And if it is being hidden somewhere, shouldn't this guy know where?
We have someone who may know what he knows, next.
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CUOMO: BOLO, Be On the Look-Out, Bengal tiger, last seen in Houston suburb, on Sunday, still missing.
Why do I seem a little flipped? I don't think it's hiding in a tree. Police believe India, the tiger, has evaded their search because he's being moved around by somebody.
Look, there he is, all right? But that is not like from after this started. This is how this started, OK?
So, they believe he's been moved to maybe eight locations in Houston this week. The big cat was last seen strolling outside a suburban home, before being taken in by this man, in the white shirt. Even that's not accurate.
Look, this - he wasn't taken in. This guy is in control of this cat, OK? He wasn't taken in like a stray cat.
Victor Hugo Cuevas is this guy. He would later drive off with the tiger. This off-duty cop, who was there said he told him to stop. And the guy evaded. And another cop showed up, and he still evaded.
Cuevas argues "No, I didn't. I didn't know the guy was a cop. And nobody told me to stop."
He is in Police custody tonight though, why? Because he was out on bond for an unrelated murder charge, stemming from 2017, and the judge just revoked the bond.
It's complicated. Simple question. Where's the cat? Michael Elliott, Cuevas' attorney, joins me now.
Counselor, thank you.
MICHAEL ELLIOTT, ATTORNEY FOR VICTOR HUGO CUEVAS: You're very welcome. Calling you from, Cat Central, here, in Fort Bend County.
CUOMO: Nice to see you. Where's the cat at?
ELLIOTT: Well we're all looking for the cat. I think the cat is hiding in a tree, like you said. CUOMO: No way.
ELLIOTT: I'm not sure. But we're all looking for him very diligently.
CUOMO: Cat's not in a tree. They would have found it.
Why doesn't Cuevas know where the cat is?
ELLIOTT: Well, because Cuevas took it to the owner. And the owner is now running hid, because the whole dadgum world is looking for him, that's why.
CUOMO: Does Cuevas know how to help find the guy?
ELLIOTT: Well, I think Cuevas has some information. I think he could help, yes. And then Cuevas has been trying, very diligently trying.
And right now, we've gotten threats, and all kind of other things, to back off and leave this alone, and close our mouth. I think we're ruffling some feathers. Maybe we're starting to make some traction on this. I'm not sure.
CUOMO: You say Cuevas didn't run. The off-duty cop says he did run. The cop shows up, while he's driving away, and supposedly, according to the off-duty cop, drove over the neighbor's lawn, trying to be evasive.
Why do you believe he wasn't running away with the cat?
ELLIOTT: Well, this is the same cop now that testified today and admitted that he had tampered with evidence so, and the testimony also was that he was drinking at the time, so take it with a grain of salt what he says.
The other testimony was that not one single officer told Cuevas he couldn't leave.
CUOMO: Why did he leave?
ELLIOTT: And they didn't have a legal reason to keep him there anyway. He was scared. He took the cat, tried to save the cat's life.
CUOMO: Wait, hold on a second.
ELLIOTT: And unfortunately--
CUOMO: Why do - why did he think he was saving the cat's life, by driving away with the cat?
ELLIOTT: Because the--
CUOMO: Is the cat wanted for something?
ELLIOTT: Well, no, but the drunk off-duty cop had a gun out there. And he thought he was going to shoot him. That's why. And the mob was coming around, thinking this cat was going to do something bad to somebody. And I don't blame people for being concerned about it.
CUOMO: But he knew that the cat's illegal, right?
ELLIOTT: Well, it's a Class C ordinance, just like playing your music too loud, OK? In Texas, you can have a cat if you--
CUOMO: Holding a Bengal tiger as a private pet is playing your music too loud? Come on, Counselor!
ELLIOTT: Well it's the same - it's the same offense. It's a Class C ordinance violation. And I'm not saying it's a great idea. But it is a status for Texas law.
CUOMO: So you're saying, I'm playing "The Doobie Brothers" too loud for you, one night, and you see it as the same type of egregious act, as me letting a Bengal tiger loose in your yard?
ELLIOTT: They're both Class C ordinance violation, so legally they're the same.
CUOMO: Then why, if it's such a nothing burger, why didn't he just take the cat, control it, and stay put? And if the cops want to take it in, because it's not licensed to whatever it is, you do what the law, says?
ELLIOTT: Well, I mean, I didn't say that he made a great thought process in what he was doing there.
But there was a mob out there. And like I said, I'm not faulting people for being concerned about it. But the cop was out there waving guns around. He was drinking. He was - he was screaming and hollering.
CUOMO: People get nervous, when there's a tiger on the street, Mike, right?
ELLIOTT: Yes, absolutely. I'm not - I'm not faulting, people for being nervous about it. But that's sort of the scenario that happened out there.
And Victor loves this cat. And to be honest with you, he wanted to save the cat and get him out of there. So that's what he did. He didn't know he's going to turn him over, that somebody is going to run hide with him.
CUOMO: All right.
ELLIOTT: I mean that's what happened.
CUOMO: Counselor, Michael Elliott, I appreciate you. Be safe, just in case the cat's in a tree.
ELLIOTT: No - very welcome. Thank you.
CUOMO: We'll be right back. ELLIOTT: All right. Bye-bye.