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McAuliffe, Youngkin Make Final Pitch to Voters in Virginia Governor's Race; Alec Baldwin Breaks Silence About Deadly Movie Set Shooting; FDNY Firefighters on Medical Leave in Apparent Protest. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 01, 2021 - 11:30   ET





BOLDUAN: It is the final sprint in the Virginia's governor's race. Democrat Terry McAuliffe, Republican Glenn Youngkin are making their final push to voters today in what has Become a tight race in a state that Joe Biden won by ten points.

Let's go there. CNN's Dan Merica, he's live in Richmond, Virginia for us. Dan, even for folks who live nowhere near Virginia, this is a race people are watching really closely. What are you seeing and hearing today?

DAN MERICA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, the reason that folks all over the country are watching this race is because there are national implications at play here. It's a very tight race and who wins will have a big determinating factor on how the parties feel going into the 2022 midterms.

And you already see or hear both candidates speak about that. Youngkin tries to localize the race, but he also acknowledges that there are national eyes on this contest, while McAuliffe, the Democrat, has tried to stress that this could be a test for Republicans to kind of get back off the map after a loss in 2020.

For Youngkin to win though, he is going to have to defeat a state that has had leftward tilt for the last decade. He needs votes all over the commonwealth. He has spoken about this stumping in the western most regions of the state about how critical some of those rural areas will be to his success. Take a listen to what he said about that over the weekend.


GLENN YOUNGKINS (R), VIRGINIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: While the polls look pretty good, the polls look pretty good, polls do not win elections. Votes do. Votes do. We've got to turn out the vote. And I will tell you the vote in Southwest Virginia counts more than any vote in the entire commonwealth of Virginia.


MERICA: Youngkin, unlike other Republicans, recently has been stressing the need for Republicans to come out and early vote despite concerns around early voting from Trump and others in 2020. You've seen 1.1 million Virginians already cast ballots in this race and you can see behind me, Kate, it's a pretty fired-up, excited crowd here in Richmond waiting on Youngkin's arrival.

BOLDUAN: It's great to see you, Dan. Thank you for being there on the ground.

Joining me right now for more on this is Lisa Lerer, New York Times National Political Correspondent. So, Lisa, what are you watching closely, most closely here in Virginia since, look, no matter what the outcome, the lesson will still be going into the midterms that it's going to be a tough midterm for Democrats?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That's exactly right. Democrats know they're facing what is likely to be a tough election next year. The question is how tough.

So, one thing I'm going to be watching is turnout. Democrats, you know, really mounted historic record-breaking turnouts every year while Trump was in office. The question is whether they can still get their voters out in those kinds of numbers or even anything like short of those numbers that still, you know, a sizable turnout.

And there's a couple of reasons that will really tell us several things. One, how Democrats are responding to the early months of this Biden administration and also whether former President Donald Trump remains the same motivator. Does that really drove Democratic voters to the polls while he was in office, he's out of office? We don't know how they're responding.

BOLDUAN: One of the big issues for this governor's race has been just issues around -- surrounding school, but that -- when I say that, that encapsulates much more than just school for Republican voters. What's going on here?

LERER: So, schools and what Republicans call parental rights have become this catchall issue for a lot of these red-meat Republican base-driving kinds of things, things like rights for transgender students in schools, critical race theory, which is this academic concept that's not being taught in Virginia schools but something that Republicans are very concerned about, things like mask mandates in schools and vaccine requirements.

We know that this parental rights issue is driving Republicans to the polls. It shot up the list of issues that people are concerned about in the race in the past couple of weeks. Education is much higher right after the economy. That's not something you normally see. What we don't know is whether it's swaying independents. The very kind of voters that helped win the state for Joe Biden, it's not clear this is having an impact on them. So, that's one thing we're all going to be watching tomorrow night.

BOLDUAN: We're also seeing on the other side of the screen. It looks like Joe Biden is continuing to take part in events in Glasgow, Scotland. We're going to continue to watch that.

But also, Lisa, while I still have you, talk to me about another governor's race, New Jersey. Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy, he has a comfortable lead from what everyone is seeing. But you still think there are some places to watch for possible lessons here for Democrats looking ahead.

LERER: Totally. Again, this is -- these contests are about Democratic enthusiasm. So, where you want to look at New Jersey is the suburban areas that really changed over in 2018, places where Republican lawmakers lost their seats and were replaced by Democrats. If the numbers are high in those area areas, Democrats are going to be feeling good. If voters in those areas don't turn out either because they don't feel as motivated by the Biden administration or they just don't feel the same sense of urgency, or, frankly, they're just tired of politics and COVID and like the rest of it, like all of us, that's going to make Democrats nervous as they look into the midterms.


BOLDUAN: Yes. And so then there are also a bunch of mayor's races across the country and that people are watching really closely. You have got New York City, of course, where Democrat Eric Adams is expected to win.

But beyond that, let's take Boston and Buffalo, where the clash between progressive and more moderate Democrats that we've seen already playing out within the Democratic Party is also playing out here. What should people know about this?

LERER: Those are two races to watch if you want to get a sense for how Democratic voters are feeling about, you know, the sort of the future of their party. We know in Congress you have the progressive wing and the more moderate wing really going head-to-head for weeks on end about trying to pass these big legislative packages that are really the core of Biden's domestic agenda.

In Buffalo, you have a woman, a Democratic socialist, who won in the primary. She's now basically being challenged to a rematch by the former Democratic mayor, a more moderate candidate who's mounted a write-in campaign. How that plays out will give us a little bit of a taste of the temperature of where voters see their -- Democratic voters see their party right now.

BOLDUAN: Yes. There is a lot to watch for coming up. They're all happening starting tomorrow. Great to see you, Lisa.

And it is election night in America tomorrow. A programming note for all of you, CNN's special live coverage begins at 6:00 P.M. Eastern. Coming up for us still this hour, Alec Baldwin is speaking out after the tragedy on his movie set. We're going to play for you what the actor says about the shooting, next.



BOLDUAN: New this morning, Alec Baldwin is speaking publicly for the first time since the shooting death of a cinematographer on the set of his new film. Now, law enforcement officials in New Mexico, they are still investigating how what was supposed to be a prop gun was loaded with a live round.

CNN's Natasha Chen is joining me now with the very latest on this. Natasha, what is Baldwin saying about the tragedy?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Baldwin on Saturday really was with his family being followed by cameras, pulled over the talk to paparazzi. He was careful not to answer any specific questions about the ongoing investigation but did say that the director of photography who was killed, Halyna Hutchins, was a friend of his.

Now, the Los Angeles Times also had some new reporting yesterday after they did interviews with 14 members of the crew on rust, including 9 who were actually there the day this incident happened. And I want to read you one part of their article that gives a little bit of detail about those final moments before that gun was fired. It said, so, he had said, referring to Alec Baldwin, placing his hand on the Colt .45 revolver in its holster, I guess I'm going to take this out, pull it, and go bang.

Now, we had previously reported that this was a rehearsal and that is what the L.A. Times article explains as well, that Alec Baldwin was practicing a cross draw and that the assistant director, Dave Halls, had handed him a cold gun, or what he thought was a cold gun, and that Director Joel Souza also told investigators that he heard the words cold gun said on the set. Of course, this is extremely devastating to everyone.

And Baldwin in his interaction with paparazzi kind of addressed just how this has affected everyone and how unusual this is in Hollywood history, which, of course, has involved so many shooting scenes like this in so many movies. Here's what he's saying to the cameras.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: We were very, very, you know, well-oiled crew shooting a film together, and then this horrible event happened.

There are incidental accidents on film sets from time to time, but nothing like this. This is a one in a trillion episode. It's a one in a trillion event.


CHEN: One in a trillion event, he says.

Now, the production company behind Rust has said last week that they were not aware of any official complaints about weapon or prop safety and that safety is their top priority, Kate.

BOLDUAN: This is so, so, so tragic. Thank you, Natasha. I really appreciate it.

Also developing right now, you're looking at major travel disruptions for American Airlines passengers. Those travel disruptions continue. The airline canceling another 250 flights today, bringing the total number of canceled flights since Friday to more than 2,000.

The airline is blaming bad weather at two hubs and staffing shortages but also says 1,800 flight attendants are returning from pandemic time off starting today.

And just three weeks ago, you'll remember, Southwest Airlines canceled thousands of flights citing really similar issues, including weather and air traffic control issues.

Coming up for us, thousands of New York City firefighters on medical leave in an apparent protest against the city's vaccine mandate. The impact on emergency response, next.



BOLDUAN: Developing this morning, the New York City Fire Department is facing fears of potential staffing shortages right now amid an apparent protest against the city's vaccine mandate now in effect.

Let's get to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He's joining me now live with more on what's been developing. This has been developing in the last couple of days, Polo, but now the citywide vaccine mandate for municipal employees is in effect. What's going on with the city's massive fire department?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. It's been developing for the last couple of weeks or so here but it really has been developing the last couple hours as the city has really begun to enforce that vaccination mandate that requires all of their employees have at least one COVID-19 vaccine before showing back up to work today.


And now, according to the latest numbers, showing that about 9,000 city employees across the board, that's not just first responders, 9,000 New York City employees have actually been sent home on unpaid leave. So the big question though, how many of those are actually first responders obviously potentially affecting public safety.

The city insists that that is not the case, that they are still able to maintain day-to-day operations but then also quite a disturbing development over the weekend when New York's fire commissioner announced that they have noticed an excessive amount of sick leave being taken, that the fire commissioner said was directly linked to anger about this mandate, so, essentially, an allegation that there are firefighters calling in sick in protest.

Now, the unions that we've heard from denied that allegation, but as we heard from the mayor earlier today, they say that any firefighters that are doing that, they could potentially face consequences.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): We know right now firehouses are open, no firehouse closed, response time is normal with Fire/EMS/NYPD. This mandate was the right thing to do and the proof is in the pudding. We now see it worked.


SANDOVAL: Okay. So, finally, in terms of a potential impact for public safety, here are the very latest vaccination numbers for NYPD and FDNY. 85 percent of the police force in compliance right now. And when it comes to the fire department, it's about 80 percent of the staff at FDNY in compliance.

And the big question though, will that 20 percent that could be sent home on unpaid leave, Kate, will that impede the response time? They say they do have protocols in place to keep that from happening.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for the update, Polo. I appreciate it.

Joining me now for more on this is Dr. Carlos del Rio, Executive Associate Dean at the Emory School of Medicine at Grady Hospital. It's good to see you, Doctor.

So, just your take on kind of what is playing out in New York City today but we've seen in other cities, which is how do you weigh the risk of an understaffed fire department against the risk of first responders who aren't vaccinated?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: Well, this is really complicated, right, and that's what we're seeing. I think that we need to have first responders, we need to have our health care workers, we need to have those that are high risk, they need to be a vaccinated. We have seen too many health care workers, too many first responders die as a consequence of COVID.

I read a statistic the other day. It said more police died last year from COVID than from gunshot wounds. We need to be sure that we get our police and our first responders vaccinated. And if it's going to be done through a mandate, it needs to be done through a mandate. But, again, I would encourage all of them to really think about the risk and get vaccinated. This is not only important for them, it's also important for the community and it's also important for us to be able to end the COVID pandemic.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Following the endorsement -- switching gears really quickly, but still on vaccines, following the endorsement and kind of authorization over the weekend of the Pfizer vaccine for kids as young as five, the CDC's vaccine advisers, they are now meeting tomorrow to consider the very same, this next step in the process. What do you expect them to debate? How soon do you think that we're going to see kids this age getting shots?

DEL RIO: The CDC's advisory committee is going to look at the FDA recommendations. It's going to endorse them or it's going to modify them at whatever level is necessary. I think the issue is obviously to look at the efficacy of the vaccines, the safety of the vaccines and ensure that the safety is there.

As you know, these vaccines are very safe, they are very effective but there obviously is a small but real risk of an inflammation of the heart called myocarditis primarily in young men. And the risk in 18 to 24 year olds is about 24 cases per million vaccinations.

So I think the advisory committee is going to look at that and is going to make a recommendation that will go to CDC Director Dr. Walensky, who will then sign off on that recommendation. And, you know, I think that as soon as Wednesday or Thursday, we may able to vaccinate kids 5 to 11 years old.

BOLDUAN: We just heard from the White House -- just kind of keeping it all in perspective, we heard from the White House just this morning that 80 percent of adults in the U.S. now have one shot of the vaccine and 70 percent are now fully vaccinated. It's just also worth keeping that in perspective of how far everyone has come.

DEL RIO: I couldn't agree with you more. As I said over and over, we did not have a vaccination program in this country for adults. We have never rolled out a vaccine as successfully as we have this one. And I think it's been an effort of many, many people, including public health, health care workers, drug stores, health care systems, and the fact that we are where we are. You can look at it as a glass half empty, glass half full, I'm really excited, I mean, the fact that we've gone this far. And, again, the sooner we get higher and higher, the more protected we'll be against the next wave of COVID.

BOLDUAN: Yes. All of 2020 felt very glass half empty.


Let's try it the other way for the rest of 2021. How about it? It's good to see you.

DEL RIO: I couldn't agree with you more.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Doctor. Thank you so much.

DEL RIO: Take care.