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At This Hour

CDC Vaccine Advisers to Make Recommendation on Pfizer Boosters; U.S Special Envoy for Haiti Resigns over Inhumane Deportations; Teaching Children Life Lessons Through Theater. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 23, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Welcome back. CDC vaccine advisers will be meeting in the next hour to make their recommendation on who will get Pfizer booster shots and how soon they will get them. Last night, the FDA authorized emergency use of Pfizer boosters for people over the age of 65 and those at high risk.

Joining me now is CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Also with us, Dr. Megan Ranney, she's an Emergency Physician and Associate Dean of Public Health at Brown University.

Sanjay, FDA giving the green light for this additional shot for the elderly and those most at risk and most at risk of exposure, especially who and how many people do you think this group will include?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, I think this could be a very large group ultimately if you sort of look at the overall list. As you mentioned, people over the age of 65, that alone is ultimately about 45 million people in the country.


People who are at high risk of developing severe COVID, we're going to hear more about what that means specifically from the CDC, but, you know, people who have type 2 diabetes, people who have cardiac conditions, all these things, if you start to really add that population up, you're talking tens of millions more, maybe up to 100 million.

And also on the list there I think was people who are at risk of frequent exposure as well. So when you think about frequent exposure, the way that they're defining that seemingly -- and, again, we'll hear more from the CDC -- health care workers, they are at high risk of exposure, teachers and daycare staff, grocery workers, people in homeless shelters. So, point being, Kate, it could be a large population of people.

Now, I will just say, timing-wise, where six months ago was end of March. And we looked and saw how many people have actually received Pfizer vaccine by that point because they would be the people who are six months out and it was about 22 million people at that point had received Pfizer vaccine.

Now, not all of them obviously are going to fall into the groups that we just talked about, but that's the sort of numbers of people who may become immediately eligible for this.

BOLDUAN: And, Dr. Ranney, people -- though that is a big group, there are people who were wondering why this wasn't more widely authorized. The Biden administration clearly thought that they wanted it to be and should be, at least at the White House. Top officials had said they wanted to get ahead of the game before there was too much waning of immunity. The FDA said the vaccines were still working to protect against severe disease, especially in younger people. Where do you land on this?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE: So I really think the question here is what's the endgame, what is the goal of vaccines. And our stated goal for COVID-19 vaccine since the beginning has been preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death.

The groups for whom we have evidence that a third dose makes a difference right now is that age 65-plus or maybe age 60-plus. Those are the people who are vaccinated who are very, very occasionally ending up with severe disease or hospitalization.

The rest of us are doing okay. We might get a mild breakthrough infection, but my E.R. is not being filled by vaccinated young people. It's older people and people who have not gotten a vaccine. In fact, we're seeing very few vaccinated people, period, who are even having to come to the E.R.

So, with that in mind, the way the FDA has landed and the way that the CDC is likely to land today is actually taking an even slightly more expansive view of the role boosters than what the actual data backs up.

The last consideration, of course, safety, and I will say that the data right now is that this third dose is safe for all of us for whom it is being approved.

BOLDUAN: Sanjay, looking overall, case numbers are dropping in the last week. And the former FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, said this morning that he thought we were at the end of the last major wave. The way he put it is I think this delta wave may be the last major wave of infection assuming nothing unexpected happens and not another variant, if you will. Do you see that?

GUPTA: I don't know, you know? I mean, it's kind of like, you know, the old Yogi Berra quote, I don't like making predictions, especially about the future. It's one of those things I think that it's just hard to say. This virus has continuously humbled us.

We are going into a season that is typically a season where virus spread more easily. It's cooler and it's drier. We are seeing cases go down. Hospitalizations may be coming down a little bit but have largely plateaued, it seems, and deaths, as we know, are still just unfathomably high overall. If you look at what has happened in other countries, there were some rapid declines of cases and then sort of upticks again.

I think one of the big questions that Dr. Ranney just outlined, I think, is so critically importantly is, what are we going to be looking at specifically? Is it going to be cases? Because that's going to fluctuate a lot and it's so dependent on an inadequate testing system that we still have in this country, or hospitalizations, which seems to be a truer measure. So in places where even cases go up, if hospitalizations are staying down, are we going to look at that as a level of success that's worth sort of striving for?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Good to see you, Sanjay. Thank you very much. Good to see you, Dr. Ranney.

We have breaking news this morning. The U.S. special envoy to Haiti resigned just today over what he calls the inhumane, his word, decision to deport more than a thousand Haitians from the U.S. border amid this border crisis.

Thousands of Haitian migrants are still under that Texas bridge that we have been watching. Nearly a thousand have been processed and released, though, into the United States at the very same time.

Let's get over to CNN's Melissa Bell, who is live in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. And she's spoken -- Melissa, you've spoken to some of the Haitians who have been repatriated, deported back to Haiti. But what else did this U.S. envoy say about his resignation?


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that resignation letter absolutely scathing about the policy of the Biden administration. Of course you mentioned those migrants who have been allowed out of the United States. The unlucky ones are the ones who have already made it back here. Even as we speak, Kate, there are four planes on their way to Haiti with more of those migrants inside.

And I think it's important to look at those words of Dan Foote, as he announced his resignation to Secretary of State Blinken, scathing in his criticism, explaining that he didn't want to be associated with an inhumane and counterproductive policy of deporting thousands of Haitian refugees, also explaining in that letter that the American policy towards Haiti was all together misguided.

And, of course, this speaks not just to the issues of the migration policy but also to what he referred to in the letter, that is American involvement over the years and in particular support of what he described as an unelected and de facto leader in the wake of the Haitian president's assassination, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Melissa, thank you so much for your reporting. I really appreciate it.

Let's get more on this. Joining me right now is Democratic Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. She's the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She met yesterday with top White House officials about this border crisis, their handling of this border crisis. Thank you so much for being here.

To read specifically what this envoy said in his resignation, Congresswoman, he said he will not be associated with the United States' inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees. He says the policy approach is deeply flawed. He's saying he can't be part of this. This is an indictment of President Biden's whole approach to Haiti. What's your reaction to this resignation?

REP. JOYCE BEATTY (D-OH): Well, certainly, we understand the difficulty of the position that the special envoy, Foote, had to deal with. We talked about some of those conditions yesterday with top officials. It is very clear that there are a lot of things that many of us would have liked to have seen happen differently.

We know what the past 48-plus hours demonstrated. You know, seeing cowboys on horses with reins whipping people, children, people -- black individuals like us. So, we spoke directly to that, wanting that to be halted immediately, wanted those individuals to be terminated, wanted to see new legislation. We also talked about section 42 of the public health. There was a long list. We are all weighing in.

The Congressional Black Caucus was very disturbed and we were very clear in our message to the White House officials while I thought they were understanding and listened. We will continue to watch this because it's unacceptable. I mean, what America watched or witnessed was so deplorable and horrific that we have to do more than just say that. We have to just releasing a tweet or on Twitter, and that's why we went to the White House.

BOLDUAN: Well, that's what I wanted to ask.

BEATTY: But that's just the first top.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Because you said that they were understanding and listened, but did you leave anymore reassured that anything is going to change?

BEATTY: Well, we did get some reassurances about the amount of moneys and more dollars being put in. We were very clear in our statements about those who have been deported and that are. We asked for numbers on those who had asked for asylum.

And here's the other thing, many of those individuals who were coming from Central America, South America, Chile, Brazil, have not been in Haiti for more than a decade. So, sending them back there to a location that has been devastated by earthquakes, with the political unrest, with the assassination of their president, the whole issue with the lack of vaccinations, gives us a great pause. And we were very clear in our message to them.

And one of the things, we also told them, if the facts we're reading are not accurate, they must do a better job of getting the information out to the public, letting us know they cannot just be silenced on this. How much money are you going to put into Haiti? What are we going to do for those people who have been deported in relationship to their needs?

BOLDUAN: Yes. .And, I mean, look, you went in with a very strong message. It sounds like you left though still with a lot of questions of what's going to happen. I mean, you met with -- one of the people you met with was the vice president's chief of staff. But Kamala Harris, the vice president, is the point person that the president has tasked with stopping the migration crisis at the southern border.

I want to play what she has said publicly about the current crisis and the images that you mentioned about border agents on horseback confronting migrants.



KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: What I saw depicted of those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were is horrible. And I fully support what is happening right now, which is a thorough investigation into exactly what is going on there. But human beings should never be treated that way, and I'm deeply troubled about it.


BOLDUAN: That is the one time that she has spoken out about the current crisis though. Do you know -- one second, Congresswoman, do you know why she hasn't been more front and center? Is that okay with you?

BEATTY: Well, let me say this about the vice president. The vice president met with the Congressional Black Caucus herself prior to the meeting with her chief of staff. She actually met with us. She had us, all of us, not a special group, she invited us outside and met with us, and she didn't run away from the issue of speaking out, was very clear on her position and encouraged us to also meet with the administration.

And so I give her a lot of credit for the statement she just made but opening her doors to us, asking us to get engaged and to be very clear in our message.

And yesterday was just the first step. We have a meeting shortly with the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, where we are just not going to be silent on this and the more we talk, the more coverage, the more out front, we can't take away those who have been deported but we can make sure that we are on the front linings of asking for more dollars to go in to Haiti, for our officials to weigh in more, for those who are still here, and the children, to make sure that those children are matched up with their sponsors who are here in the United States because they have asked for asylum.

So, yesterday was just the beginning with the administration. We've asked for a full report. I also talked to the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and told him we don't want a long, drawn-out investigation. I'm expecting by the end of this week or Monday when I return to Washington for a full briefing, for the answers from the report, and in the interim, we think those individuals on the horses should be terminated. We want a new policy. We're not against horses on the border. But reins on horses is not for them to be whipping and chasing down people like they're cattle. That is unacceptable. We want new policies. We want an investigation. We want people terminated.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for coming on.

BEATTY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: This week in a special series, Champions for Change, we get to spotlight everyday people making a very big difference. This morning, we want to introduce you to a husband and wife and one very special theater program in New York.

Here's CNN's John Berman.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What does it feel like for you when you're on stage?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you're always nervous at first. But then when you get on stage, it's so exhilarating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I found my passion for performing here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know where I would be without RCT.

BERMAN: What do you want gets to get out of the Riverdale Children's Theatre?

BECKY LILLIE WOODS, CO-FOUNDER, RIVERDALE CHILDREN'S THEATRE: We want them to get a sense of belonging, and we want them to have that self- confidence to go into the world and take what they have learned with us, the kindness, their inclusivity and take it out into their lives.

BERMAN (voice over): Ten years ago, Derek Woods and Becky Lillie Woods created the Riverdale Children's Theatre. And overtime, it's become a second home for hundreds of kids in the Bronx.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are a great influence on me for life skills and performing skills and everything in between.

DEREK WOODS, CO-FOUNDER, RIVERDALE CHILDREN'S THEATRE: I'm born and raised in the Bronx, lived and worked here my whole life, and so a program like this was sorely lacking.

BERMAN: RCT offers everything from college audition prep to full- scale productions, and no child is ever turned away for financial reasons.

But it's not just theater that they are working on, right? They are working on life. They are learning confidence, and they are learning courage, and they are learning trust. They are learning how to trust each other, and it's wonderful to see it all come together.

Everything that's happened the last year, I mean, obviously we have questions about racial justice all around the country. We've had all kinds of anti-Semitic attacks, right, and you have a huge number of Jewish kids here. There have been anti-Asian attacks. How has that all played into this year?

D. WOODS: We have kids, you know, from every walk of life, all ethnic groups, all religious groups, and we find that's really our success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to get away from it all because it's just -- it's so dark to talk about it and to be in a place where I can, you know, where my yamaka and not have to worry about slurs being thrown at me is amazing. I can just be the Jewish kid here. So, it means a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You learn so much about other people's cultures and it just makes you so much more aware about yourself.

BERMAN: I did theater sort of my whole life. My first play was in first grade. I played a donkey, and the last show I did was a drag show my senior year of college.

Now, I was never good enough to do anything when it, but that didn't matter because I just loved it.

D. WOODS: So, I think he needs a little musical theater back into his life. Do you think we can get him into one of our numbers today?



D. WOODS: All right, all right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, use that after you hit your mark to just sing out and have fun with it.





BERMAN: When I was on stage with them, they -- they don't hold back. I mean, they are all in.

B. WOODS: I know. Aren't they awesome? They really are. They are so good to each other. They're so supportive of each other. It's really beautiful.

BERMAN: I mean, I stunk, and they made feel great about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were amazing. You're an honorary RCT member.

BERMAN: I could use a few more rehearsals.


BOLDUAN: Oh, John. You know I love any chance to tease you, but this program is awesome.

BERMAN: It's so wonderful. Look, it lets the kids have a place where they can put themselves out there, put themselves out on the line and know they are not alone when they do did. That's what I love about theater, in general. But the idea that these kids can do it in a community that's so welcoming is just so wonderful.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, at least you were a donkey. I was a snowflake in my first play. So --

BERMAN: But you were the best snowflake. You were the best snowflake.

BOLDUAN: That's what my mom and dad told me. You know it, John. Listen, like, what -- I took away a lot from that. It's just -- it reminds you also that the first programs to get cut are arts programs and just how important they are.

BERMAN: For everyone, for any type of kid, and they were all part of this program, which is what made it so wonderful.

BOLDUAN: You did pretty well. I'm really impressed. Good to see you, buddy. Thank you for putting yourself out there to highlight such an awesome program.

BERMAN: Next time it's duet. You're coming with me.

BOLDUAN: Well, I've been trying to get you to do that for years. So, don't even pretend that -- you know I'm game. Love you, buddy. I'll see you later.

All week long, we get to continue to share these inspirational stories. Be sure to was Champions for Change, one-hour special, Saturday night 8:00 P.M. Eastern.

Inside Politics with John King begins after this quick break.