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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
President Biden Calls Omicron Variant A Cause For Concern, Not A Cause For Panic; 50-Plus Nations Including U.S. Restrict Travel Over Omicron Variant; Boebert And Omar Have Contentious Call As Boebert Faces Backlash For Anti-Muslim Remarks; Rep. Ronny Jackson, A Physician, Says Omicron Variant Will Be Used By Dems To Cheat In The Midterm Election; Tiger Woods Says His Days Of Being A Full-Time Golfer Are Over; Tony Bennett Performs Moving Final Concert With Lady Gaga. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired November 29, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: The January 6th Committee is set to vote Wednesday on whether to recommend the full House before Clarke for charges.
Thanks so much for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan. AC 360 starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. We begin tonight with the very latest and a concern that most people outside the public health community did not have going into the long Holiday weekend, but they certainly do tonight. The newest coronavirus variant, the letter in the Greek alphabet, which we're all learning about now, omicron.
Late today, responding to the potential threat and the word "potential" should be underscored here. There's a lot we don't know, the C.D.C. amped up its advice on vaccine boosters. The old word was that anyone 18 or older may get a booster. The new word from the C.D.C., they've chosen, it should.
In a moment, the CEO of Pfizer joins us to talk boosters, possible new versions of vaccines and a pill the company has been testing to treat COVID.
First CNN's Athena Jones on why this variant has become so troubling so quickly.
ATHENA JONES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the President calling for calm.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This variant is a cause for concern not a cause for panic.
JONES (voice over): As omicron, a new coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa spreads around the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a new wrench that's been thrown into the fight against COVID.
DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: It's certainly not good news.
JONES (voice over): Raising new urgent questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know everything we need to know about this new variant yet.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We don't know yet what the level of severity will be.
JONES (voice over): Omicron has at least 50 mutations including some share with the highly contagious delta variant that drove a deadly summer surge in the United States.
The new variant has become the most dominant strain in South Africa less than two weeks after it was first detected. The strain now confirmed on five continents in more than a dozen countries, including Canada. The U.S. joining the European Union and other countries in restricting travel from certain Southern African nations, a move health experts say may slow down the variant spread, but won't stop it.
FAUCI: When you have a virus that has already gone to multiple countries, inevitably it will be here.
JONES (voice over): U.S. Federal health officials are bracing for omicron to be detected here with the C.D.C. sequencing coronavirus genomes and working closely with state health officials.
But it won't be clear for a few weeks how transmissible omicron is, whether it causes more severe illness, and whether it can evade the immune protection offered by vaccines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reality is we've only known about this virus for just over a week, so we don't really have the kind of data required to answer those questions definitively.
JONES (voice over): Scientists and pharmaceutical companies are working to get those answers.
ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: I don't think that the result will be the vaccines don't protect. I think the results could be, which we don't know yet, but the vaccines protect less.
JONES (voice over): Vaccine makers like Pfizer and Moderna stressing they are ready to respond quickly if changes to their vaccines are needed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think within you know, weeks, maybe two to three months, we would be able to have an omicron-specific vaccine booster available for testing and then for administration.
JONES (voice over): And until more is known about the new variant, Health officials say the best way to protect yourself is for the still unvaccinated to get vaccinated, and for those eligible for booster shots to get them.
COLLINS: We expect that most likely, the current vaccines will be sufficient to provide protection, especially the boosters will give that additional layer of protection.
JONES (voice over): Athena Jones, CNN, New York.
COOPER: You saw Albert Bourla briefly in Athena Jones's report. He is Chief Executive Officer of COVID vaccine and therapy maker, Pfizer. He joins us now.
Mr. Bourla, thanks so much for being with us. How concerned should people who are fully vaccinated right now with the Pfizer regimen be about this new variant?
BOURLA: I think, I'm concerned, but I'm not in panic as the President said. I think we have been preparing for a more that for the last few months, and I think we are now really very well-prepared to win this battle.
COOPER: So just to be clear, and obviously we want to be precise, we don't want to overstate or understate the situation, the danger, how likely is it that the current Pfizer vaccine will provide less protection against the omicron variant? And why would that be?
BOURLA: There's a time that this will happen, and we will know when, let's say two to three weeks and the more time passes, the more data we accumulate, we will see the situation, but as I have said in what you played a little bit earlier, I doubt that the results will be that we can find ourselves that we are not protected at all.
We can find ourselves that we are perfectly fine and we are protected as high as with the delta or what we are having a less protection compared to the delta. But that would be the variable. And in both cases, boosters should reduce dramatically the gap.
COOPER: And at what point? I mean, again, this is all very new, even in South Africa, though, it is now the dominant strain there. You've said that Pfizer has started the development process for a new vaccine tailored to omicron. Can you just explain in -- I mean, I'm the worst science person around. So, can you just explain in layman's terms how that works? And how science -- I mean, how is it that you're already able to be working on a vaccine that scientists are still trying to figure out about in South Africa?
BOURLA: There are a few things that we don't know about the vaccine. But there are a few things that we know for certain, we don't know if it will be more virulent. We don't know if it's going to transmit faster or have higher disease, we don't know it will escape the protection of our vaccines, but we know the sequence of the virus. We have it.
And this is how everything starts, we started at risk producing a vaccine. We start production on Friday, producing based on the sequence, a DNA template that will allow us to make mRNA that eventually we would put into this vaccine.
If a few weeks from now we realize that we don't need a vaccine like that, then we'll put it in the self. We have done it twice, so far. We have built already a better specific tailored vaccine. But we never used it because we are protected very well against beta with the current vaccine, and a delta vaccine, but we never used for the same reason.
So we're doing the same with omicron right now. If indeed we need it, we will not waste any time.
COOPER: So you actually -- so you put resources into developing a vaccine for delta when delta was rising in the thought that it might, if that became the dominant strain, and the current vaccine didn't work, you would have that ready to go. But you didn't use that.
BOURLA: Exactly. And the same with beta. Exactly the same.
COOPER: So Moderna's Chief Medical Officer says his company is also developing an omicron-specific booster that would take two to three months to get into testing and production, you've said Pfizer could do the same a hundred days or less. Is that a window that can be narrowed depending on how the work goes?
BOURLA: I think likely, it would be the window, but because we have measured it twice, almost to the day. This means that around 60 days on the development, we will have clinical production of a vaccine so that you can go and test it to humans, and then within 95 days, we will have the full results of this trial.
And the most important about it is that if eventually we have a vaccine that is needed, and it works, we should be able to transition manufacturing to this new vaccine without losing any single dose, almost any dose from the current capacity.
I'll remind you, Anderson that right now, we are at one billion doses per quarter for -- this is how much we produced this quarter, which means next year, easily four billion doses. I think if we have to go to a new vaccine, we will be able to produce easily four billion doses for the new vaccine.
COOPER: Until everyone around the world has access to vaccines though, we are all -- even if we're -- have full regimens here in the United States, we're still going to be vulnerable to mutations, correct?
BOURLA: Absolutely. And first of all, in a pandemic, you're as protected as your neighbor down the road, but also by the neighbor in a geographic sense. So we need to make sure that everyone is getting enough vaccinations because this is not anymore the problem in Africa, vaccinations is the problem.
COOPER: The distribution. Albert Bourla, I really appreciate your work and your time tonight. Thank you.
BOURLA: Thank you.
COOPER: More on the medical and public health dimensions now, joining us for that CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, author of "World War C: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One." It's Sanjay's latest book. Also Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst, former Baltimore Health Commissioner and author of "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health."
So Sanjay, you just heard from Mr. Bourla, what stands out to you about what Pfizer is doing and about where we're at?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot that we still don't know. I mean, we're seeing -- we're seeing the scientific process unfold real time. Once again, I think there was a couple of things that sort of jumped out. It will be a couple of weeks, at least before they can tell just how well the vaccines protect against this particular variant. That takes time.
Some of that is laboratory studies where they will take this variant, omicron, put it in into a petri-dish with the vaccine and basically see how well the antibodies neutralize the virus.
They're also going to be following real time data in hospitals and tracking cases as they are in South Africa. They're going to be doing that all over the world. But this is just going to take some time.
GUPTA: I think when I hear all these comments from these vaccine makers, I think one of the consensus is that there is probably protection that is still offered, certainly by these vaccines. So, they're still very effective. The booster would make them even more effective because you're generating more antibodies.
But this virus appears to be different and may require a different booster at some point in the future.
COOPER: Dr. Wen, though, I mean, you know, one scientist in South Africa who raised the alarms about this had said that the cases she had seen were mild. Do we know yet how worried we should be? I mean, do we know what -- okay, there's a new variant. And yes, it's got all these attributes that are very concerning. But do we know yet whether the actual -- somebody who gets ill with it is worse off than they are with delta or something else?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We don't, Anderson. There is so much that we don't yet know about omicron. But there are things that we know that make us worried. For example, how transmissible -- it appears to be in South Africa, although we don't know whether that's going to pan out in the rest of the world. We also don't know about immune escape, as Sanjay was just saying, but we don't know this question of is it causing more severe disease? Or is it going to cause really mild illness? We don't know. But I think this is why the U.S. and many other countries are doing
the right thing when it comes to preparing for the worst. We would much rather do that than the reverse. Because for so long, in this pandemic, we've been doing the opposite. We've been waiting for something terrible to hit us.
We were caught off guard with the delta surge. I think it's much better if it turns out to be a false alarm and we did all the preparations and it turned out to not be a big deal. But well, actually, one of the things that it could help with is maybe getting boosters out, for example, can help us to stem the delta surge. So at any case, getting prepared is exactly the right thing for us to do at this point.
COOPER: Sanjay, can you just give us kind of the long view on this? Because, you know, just hearing this, I mean, I think like a lot of people when I heard this news, I just thought, you know, it seems like, you know, relatively speaking things were going in the right direction, now, then this thing comes along. But as we were talking about with Mr. Bourla, unless everybody gets vaccinated around the world or has access to vaccines, I mean, this can just drag on for years and years and years with new mutations occurring.
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, you know, variants are likely to keep occurring as the virus continues to transmit. The more it transmits from person to person, the more mutations may occur. But that doesn't mean they're all going to be potentially problematic mutations either.
There is also this potential tug of war as the South African Health Minister was talking about this morning, as viruses become more transmissible evolve into becoming more contagious, sometimes they lose some of their punch as well. They trade one off for the other, so we may see that.
In terms of what we know, this is, again, unfolding real time. The specimen that was collected that ended up being the first specimen, that was on November 9th. So you know, just three weeks ago or so, and then, you know, it was identified, they have this genomic sequence. We now know it's in 15-plus countries around the world and there is some, you know, 50 mutations on this.
Some of these mutations we've seen before, and they were associated with more transmissibility. Other mutations were associated with a higher chance of escaping the immunity. I don't know if we have a 3D image, we can just show this real quick. If we haven't, you can see the spike protein of this virus, and you can see all these various mutations on it and it gives you an idea of what scientists are trying to deal with in terms of identifying the exact -- that's it -- the spike protein, and these are the mutations with this particular variant.
That's the 3D representation of what they're basically trying to deal with and address -- Anderson.
COOPER: I don't even know what I'm looking at. I mean, I'm such an idiot. I mean, I wish I understood science, because I don't know what -- I mean, that looks -- you know, I don't know.
GUPTA: That's a spike protein, and it's got all these different mutations. Yes, it's a lot there. But the point is that, if you have that many mutations on something, it changes the character of it quite a bit.
Do those mutations add up to something that makes it even worse, or, you know, does it does it end up not mattering as much having all those mutations?
COOPER: I apologize for my ignorance. I'm glad we have two very smart people with us, so we're going to have more with you guys in just a moment. We're going to pick it up after a break. We've got a live report from South Africa as well.
Also tonight, another Republican House member taking it to the next level this afternoon after leveling anti-Muslim slurs at a colleague. The latest on this Congresswoman, Lauren Boebert and what her party leadership will do if anything about it.
COOPER: Well, at the same time as countries, including the U.S. are slamming the door on travel from South Africa, as we wait to assess how dangerous the omicron variant is, one of the early doctors there treating it says the cases she has seen, as I mentioned earlier have been relatively mild.
Now, if that holds true, it's certainly good news. But as we've been discussing, it's really too soon to tell whether that pattern will hold or not over larger case numbers. Sadly, with only about one in four South Africans vaccinated, answers should come sooner there than here. CNN's David McKenzie joins us now from Johannesburg.
So what are doctors in South Africa saying about the symptoms and the rates of transmission that they're seeing from this omicron?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, if you look at the numbers, hospitalizations are doubling and the province I'm sitting in now every seven days, that is a rapid rise. So the expectations is that this variant could be more transmissible. Whether it's more severe, the jury is still out. As you said some doctors are saying they see less severe cases, but the early cluster outbreak of this surge was from a university you know, so that lends itself already to less severe disease.
COOPER: So what do we know about the medical community? I mean, what they expect during this critical two-week period as the world is waiting to see how the various vaccines respond?
MCKENZIE: Well this is the critical period, and earlier this year, we were in a lab where they are trying to do just the same thing with the beta variant, challenging a live virus in the lab to get a sense of it, escapes previous immunity, and crucially, the vaccines.
Now, a bit of good news, though, it's early days, there is expectation from scientists here that it will hold up on some level, the vaccines will hold up, and also the vast majority of patients right now in hospitals in South Africa. For those that are unvaccinated -- Anderson.
COOPER: South Africa, to its credit has been very proactive and forthcoming with its data, which is certainly not the case we saw with China early on in this, what's been the reaction inside the country to the number of other nations around the globe now imposing travel bans? I mean, they cannot be pleased about this.
MCKENZIE: Well, let me put it this way. One side has told me that it's disgusting. Another one said that -- and not only is it unhelpful, it really is pointless at this point.
You know, President Biden said this is to buy time for scientists in the U.S. to kind of gather their thoughts, get people prepared, and maybe that's true in terms of booster shots and vaccines. But scientists here say even though South Africa was very swift in warning the world about the possible dangers of this variant.
The cat is already out of the bag, you're seeing cases crop up everywhere, possible community transmission outside of the Southern Africa region.
So the W.H.O. and others are saying, while it might seem like these are useful measures, it's really more about showing that politicians are doing something rather than actually having a public health impact -- Anderson,
COOPER: David McKenzie, I appreciate you being there in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thank you.
Back with Doctors Gupta and Wen. Dr. Wen, by the way, we should point out has spent time living and working in South Africa. Sanjay, as David was saying, the variant is now dominant in South Africa, even though it was only detected two weeks ago.
When you hear from some doctors there that the symptoms have been mild. What should we take from that? Because I mean, is it possible that if a mild virus is more transmissible? Is that actually a bad thing at all?
I mean, if it gets people, if it's more mild than something else, and people get immunity, or some level of immunity after having it, is that a bad thing?
GUPTA: I think it is, I mean, I don't think that it is a good strategy, because you know, people can still get sick. And you know, as David pointed out, this initial cluster was in college students. What about older people? What about, you know, people who don't have any immunity yet? I think the vaccination rate around there is under 40 percent. So we just -- we don't know. But I think the idea that something is
contagious, and therefore you say, hey, look, let's let it sort of spread and potentially get infection acquired immunity across the population is dangerous. Because when you start to get that in a large population of people, there will be people who get sick. Hospitals start to become overwhelmed.
I want to show you one thing, Anderson, if we have this. I looked at the data specifically in Gauteng Province, and this is the area I think David was talking about. This is -- this is just basic data from their healthcare system, if we have it.
But basically, three weeks ago, compared to now, you do see hospitalization rates are increasing. This is sort of their late spring at this point. So this is probably not flu, weather is getting warmer, hospitalization rates have gone up. So is that related to this? We don't know.
You know that there's usually a lag time between hospitalizations and new cases, but that's the sort of data people are going to be paying attention to, to determine is there evidence that this is actually making people sicker?
COOPER: Dr. Wen, you wrote an op-ed for "The Washington Post" and that President Biden was right to commit to travel restrictions, but that it's not enough. What would be enough, specifically, in your view, because obviously, there is very little known about what this variant really means?
WEN: Right. I mean, travel restrictions are really hard. They cause economic hardships. They are clearly opposed by the countries that are affected by them. And my point here is, travel restrictions can work if they are done the right way in terms of buying us time.
But right now, what President Biden has, is this really porous system that's actually not going to do much good. For example, it is barring people who are not citizens and permanent residents from coming to the U.S. or in these eight Southern African countries, but citizens can still come back and I think that's a good thing. We should have Americans returned to their own country.
But why not also put them up in quarantine hotels? And as many other countries have instituted, why not also retest them and have additional screening protocols if we know that there is a high prevalence of omicron of these areas.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't have travel restrictions, but rather if we're going to go that way anyway, and try to do everything that we can, then we should really do it right or else it is just something that is done for cosmetic and political reasons.
I also think that more can be done in this country as well when it comes to compelling vaccinations.
[20:25:10] WEN: And also, if we're already experiencing a delta surge, and on top
of that, we're worried about omicron, why not also have President Biden asked states, locals, businesses to re implement indoor mask mandates.
COOPER: Sanjay, Dr. Wen, I appreciate it. Thank you.
A reminder, join us on Wednesday night, this time for a Special CNN Town Hall on the new variant, what it means for all of us. We will no doubt have more information by then, perhaps better answers to your questions and concerns. Be sure to tune in with Dr. Fauci and others.
Coming up next tonight, the Congresswoman who appears to be doubling down tonight on defiance instead of simply apologizing for the offensive things she said about a Muslim sitting Member of Congress.
COOPER: Another Republican House members under fire for inflammatory rhetoric, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert today refusing to apologize to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar whom she slurred by suggesting she is a terrorist, a member of what she calls quote, the Jihad squad.
She spoke by phone with Congresswoman Omar today, it apparently did not go well. Congresswoman Omar saying that Boebert doubled down on her rhetoric, so she ended the conversation.
This began when a recent video surfaced online of Congresswoman Boebert suggesting that Congresswoman Omar had been mistaken for a terrorist in another elevator on Capitol Hill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): And I see a Capitol Police Officer running hurriedly to the elevator. I see fret all over his face, and he's reaching (INAUDIBLE) the door shutting like I can't, I can't open it. Look what's happening. I look to my left, and there she is Ilhan Omar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oops.
BOEBERT: They said, well, she doesn't have a backpack, we should be fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Both before and after those remarks, Congresswoman Boebert refers to Congresswoman Omar's members instead of the jihad squad. Friday she put out a semi apologize -- apology to quote, anyone in the Muslim community I offended. This comes just days after Republican Congressman Paul Gosar was censured for posting a death fantasy video featuring a cartoon version of himself killing Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Omar is calling in House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to take action against Congresswoman Boebert. If McCarthy does as he did with Congressman Gosar, which was to avoid saying anything publicly about until asked directly by reporters, it'll be up to Democrats again to weigh disciplinary action.
For more and how this might unfold politically, we're joined by Democratic strategist and known Louisian, James Carville.
So James, you hear these comments? I mean, do you think Democrats should try to do something or is it a waste of time?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No, this Lauren Boebert rap sheet. All right, Paul Gosar is every one of his siblings campaigns against him. These are not quality people. And you should just -- in Kevin McCarthy can't do anything most of the majority approves of the salacious criminal acts that took place on January the 6th. And what Congressman Omar should do is I'm working day and night with President Biden trying to get vaccines distributed, jobs created solving supply chain issues, and let them dwell in their own stupidity. (INAUDIBLE) the people.
COOPER: It just seems like there's an awful lot of folks in Congress who aren't actually doing anything, you know? I mean, I don't, I mean, Boebert is not exactly in the forefront of a lot of legislation. It just seems like there's a lot of people who are just, you know, working on their social media profile and trying to raise money so they can continue, I don't know getting whatever free parking spaces they get by being a member of Congress.
CARVILLE: And that's exactly what I'm suggesting. Don't, don't even try. You can't -- you can't imagine the level, how -- what low life these people go to just talk about things that you trying to do for your district in the country. Don't go there. It's a vignette because the reporters are going to go and they're going to say ask her something and run down the hall and ask somebody else up and they get to go back and forth. And the public just gets turned out by just go away from it.
Paul Gosar or Marjorie Taylor Greene or Boebert, any of these people just let them go and coffee cane do anything. He sees a prettily so much, he's so tired to not just laugh at him, just be amused by. But don't get in a volume, this is not the place you want to be.
COOPER: So, what -- I mean, what happens, the more people get elected like this, who are just mining, you know, their social media profiles, trying to get more Instagram followers and tweets and stuff like that. What happens to not only the Republican Party, but also just our democracy?
CARVILLE: Look, as we've got a problem, we've got a lot of crazy people in this country. And a lot of them vote. And we've got to work really hard. And people like me, the Democrats got the only chance to this country, we got to work hard to try to win as many elections as we can. But this country's always had a lot of crazy people in sync, like now he might have more than normal. But the response to him can be we'll see you're crazy. And we'll raise you another crazy responses. We're not getting in this game. We spread it by doing a hell of a job. You look at these economic numbers, they're staggering.
The CEO of Walmart was bragging about a good job he was doing helping them with the supply chain. Use this as a way to pivot and get out and talk about what things that matter to people (INAUDIBLE) Lauren Boebert (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: You don't think there's a danger in not responding and not trying to censure or it's just -- you just think it's a waste of time?
CARVILLE: No is the danger of getting bogged down in and spending 48 hours on a central resolution. If these are just bad people and they're not going to change their behavior at all. And it doesn't do you any good to engage with them. You can't -- I don't know Congresswoman Omar but she strikes me as is a really good American to kind of well motivated woman. I probably disagree with them on some issues but she's a quality person. You don't need to get into this. Let them swimming down slot, you don't need to be down.
COOPER: You've been critical of the Democratic Party going too far left to woke you said but would you agree that this situation is not that I mean?
CARVILLE: The woke thing is to me is kind of silliness. All right. It's well meaning people with too much education and too much time on the hands. This is crazy this is not, that this is not, this is not some well meaning people trying to change the way that people talk. These are people to approve of sedition. These are people that approve of the criminality you see. These are people that put up violent images on the internet about murdering people. It's not the same thing. To being naive is not anywhere close to being the equivalent of being evil at all.
COOPER: And that's what you believe these people are?
CARVILLE: Well, let's put it this way. They're certainly very tolerant of what I think had happened on January 6, I think is pure evil. When you use storm with the Capitol, you beating up policeman you're trying to stop a constitutionally required procedure in the Congress United States yet that's not good at all. And he shouldn't approve of this. And McCarthy is leading a caucus of people who overwhelmingly don't want to do anything about this who probably at some level even support it. It's just not the same thing. Be and a kind of woke on some college campus and Stallman the capitalist did not comparable acts.
COOPER: James Carville, I always appreciate talking to you. Thank you, James.
CARVILLE: Well, thank you Anderson. You bet.
COOPER: Coming up, next this a different -- this different, because lives are at stake. We're going to revisit this new COVID variant and the Republican Congressman a doctor, now let's -- I mean, this guy again, this is just one of those things just shake your head at. A doctor who calls it a plot to steal the next election, the new variant.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:40:18]
COOPER: Even as we're seeking answers on the latest coronavirus variant to raise alarm bells, the one sadly predictable fact of this pandemic remains. What ought to be a question of public health alone has become politicized. And sadder still is deadly hybrid of disease and politics. It is also mutating. Case in point this tweet from a doctor who once had the rare honor of taking care of the former president. Here's what now Congressman Ronny Jackson posted about Omicron. Here comes the MEV the midterm election variant, exclamation mark. They need a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail in ballots. Democrats will do anything to cheat during an election, but we're not going to let them. That's where we are tonight.
Joining us Andy Slavitt, from Biden White House senior advisor for COVID response and author Preventable The Inside Story Of How Leadership Failures Politics And Selfishness Doomed The U.S. Coronavirus Response.
I've always thought Andy that doctors are just incredibly intelligent, smart people. This guy, he's either an idiot or just incredibly Machiavellian. Because now he's, you know, needs to get elected to hit represent his district supposedly represent them. I don't know exactly what he's doing. But he's just now making just this complete conspiracy theory. He's a doctor. I mean, he supposed to do no harm. He actually is doing harm.
ANDY SLAVITT, FMR BIDEN WH SR. ADVISOR FOR COVID RESPONSE: Yes, I understand. I agree with you. I think it's cynical. And in the word, it's dangerous. You know, he knows that this was not invented, even in the United States, let alone by Democrats in the United States. You know, anyone can see that, it's been watching this, that the scientists have been reporting these very troubling developments in South Africa. We've all been reacting to it real time. But sadly, the reason it's dangerous is because unfortunately, there are people that listen to people like him either, because he's a doctor, because he's a congressman.
And so, he needs to take some responsibility. All of the -- all the bashing of other congressmen aside, you're doing things particularly as a physician, to put people in danger as he's doing is something that is really regrettable.
COOPER: He was slimy as a doctor. I mean, I think most people will remember one of the press conferences he gave when the former president was in the hospital, where he was just lying by omission, avoiding, you know, actually saying factual things to the press -- for some reason, he held a press briefing, and yet he was giving, you know, inaccurate information and certainly inaccurate impression of the President's condition to reporters as a doctor in his role at the White House. And now he's a member of Congress, just I guess he feels even freer to do this kind of thing.
How does the President now, President Biden try to effectively manage concerns about this variant in a non-political way? I mean, do you think supporters of the former president believe anything the administration says at this point?
SLAVITT: We have enough to worry about without getting distracted by this kind of nonsense. An, you know, it's the most dangerous thing is that state legislatures and governors, mostly, almost entirely Republican states have passed 100 laws that prohibit states from enacting common sense, public health measures, like asking people to wear masks when they go inside buildings. Those 100 laws are things that in the light of day in the light of Omicron, people should take down and say, oops, we should not be restricting our ability to save people's lives.
I think President Biden said it well today when he said this is a reason for concern but it's not reason for panic. And it's certainly not reason for politics. So I think he needs to just be very steady. His team is very steady. I spent much of the day talking to them. They've got a plan. They'll execute the plan. We have plenty of tools. All of us have plenty of tools, we should all get boosted that's becoming very clear from the CDC. Everybody should get boosted and then that's how we manage this.
COOPER: Yes. Andy Slavitt, appreciate your time. Thank you.
Coming up next --
COOPER: -- tonight there's breaking news, Tiger Woods speaking for the first time since his car accident about his health and his future in golf. We're joined by the reporter got the exclusive.
COOPER: Breaking news for the first time pro golfer Tiger Woods is speaking out about his health and his future in the sport after his car accident back in February. He broke the internet recently when he posted this video of him hitting golf balls, quote making progress, end quote, he wrote his caption for the video. But in a new interview with Golf Digest, he says his days of being a full time golfer are over. They'll pick up and choose which tournaments he plays in. He also had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIGER WOODS, PRO GOLFER: That a hell of a road and a long one but a sore one. But I make some really positive strides. I've had some really tough, tough days, some really hard, hard week some setbacks, here and there. It's overall everything's progressing nicely, but it just not at my timetable. And the speed I would like to heal that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining us now is former professional golfer Henni Koyack who did that interview. She's now a Golf Digest correspondent. Henni, thanks so much for joining us. Were you surprised when Tiger Woods told you that his career is going to look a lot differently going forward?
HENNI KOYACK, CORRESPONDENT, GOLF DIGEST: No. You know, I think he's been doing an incredible job of managing his rehab in the last nine months. As we just heard him say wasn't on his timetable. I'm sure you would have love for it to be a lot quicker but it's really phenomenal that he is where he is unable to swing a club in just those nine short months.
So, it was brilliant just to be able to hear from him, especially for his fans to be able to see him and see him smile and just know that he's happy and healthy and that he does have a club back in his hand.
COOPER: Did you see how often he wants to compete?
WOODS: I'm doing great --
KOYACK: You know, in our interview today, he quoted Mr. (INAUDIBLE) schedule, which sort of ranges historically time from five to nine times a year, and you would love to be able to play as much as he can and prepare as best he can for when he does appear out on tour. And, you know, I think he's, as he says, to me today that he just is incredibly happy to be where he's at. But it's taken a lot of hard work. And as we're seeing in this video now, for him to he spoke so much so brilliantly about the emotions that he feels just to be able to have a golf club back in his hand and what golf really means to him.
And, you know, I finished the interview feeling like, at times, I wanted to cry from, you know, the emotion that he spoke with and cry from laughter as well with his humor and his mindset on his journey.
COOPER: He also spoke to you in terms of the injuries that he suffered in the motor vehicle crash back in February. Just want to play some of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODS: I was in basically immobilized for call it three to five months, where I couldn't really activate my core, I was just laying there. So I lost all my core strength. And I went bent over obviously everyone knows I've had five back operations. So, bending over and holding a putting position with the right leg trembling, because it's there's still strength in it look like the wind was blowing was no wind. So that was that was a bit of an eye opener.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He said, five back operations. I mean, it's incredible. That he can still I mean, swing. I mean, it's really remarkable. Did he talk about his routine with you? KOYACK: Yes, you know, he spoke a little bit about the journey that he's been on over the last nine months. And, as he said, it really is just phenomenal that he is swinging a club again right now. And I think the thing that stood out for me and stands out for me and my years working for him, and with him is his mindset, and how strong that is and how positive he's able to remain.
He speaks a lot about a lesson he learned from his dad, which was just go meal to meal one step at a time, one day at a time. And eventually, you know, he ends up here, where is that able to swing a club and he said ready into that.
COOPER: Well --
KOYACK: It will never not amaze me his mindset to him. It's so normal to listen to is incredible.
COOPER: Well, it's fascinating interview. Henni Koyack, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
KOYACK: Thank you.
COOPER: Coming up next, a story that's going to make you smile and want to sing forevermore. Tony Bennett's story, Strong's from his farewell concert.
COOPER: So I know it's easy to be depressed by the news the new variant today, so we thought we'd close tonight with a few minutes of music and hope and wonder. Last night you may have seen what's likely to be Tony Bennett's last concert which aired on CBS. He played two amazing nights in New York a few months ago with Lady Gaga. It's amazing because not only was Ben at 95, he also has dementia from Alzheimer's disease. I reported on Tony's last performances for "60 Minutes" a few weeks ago, and was so moved to see how his mind still remembers the things he loves, his wife Susan, his kids and his music.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN CROW, TONY BENNET'S WIFE: Once he saw the audience and you know when he raises his hands, I knew we were alright. Because it became himself. He just turned on. You know, it's like a light switch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): His wife Susan, you just heard, I spent time with them in the weeks before the concert and it's amazing what happens when Tony hears the music that he's performed his whole life. Here's part of my report from CBS' "60 Minutes." Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROW: How are you doing handsome? TONY BENNETT, SINGER: OK.
CROW: You want to look over here at me?
COOPER (voice-over): But when it was time to rehearse something incredible happened. Tony's accompanist Lee Musiker (ph) began playing and suddenly the legendary showman was back.
He had no notes, no cue cards. We were amazed all his old songs were somehow still there. He sang an hour long set from memory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Tony Bennett, remarkable.
The news continues. Let's head over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME." Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: He is a remarkable guy.