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At This Hour

Moderna: Data Shows Booster Dose Effective Against Omicron Variant; Long Lines At New York Testing Sites Amid Surge In Cases; Dr. Anthony Fauci: We Really Need To Flood The System With Testing; Manchin A "No" On Biden's Build Back Better Plans; GOP Plans Blockade for any Potential Biden SCOTUS Pick. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 20, 2021 - 12:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. It's top of the hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks for sticking with us. We begin this hour with a nation again gripped by the pandemic but now with potent weapons to combat the virus the winter surge that we all feared is here.

The U.S. is now averaging over 130,000 new infections a day that's 10 percent higher than a week ago and up from 70,000 at the beginning of November. The biggest concern remains the unvaccinated the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warning them this morning about the threat that they face right now.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: But there will be a stark difference between the experience of those who are vaccinated and boosted versus those who are unvaccinated. But if you're unvaccinated, I'm worried about you. I'm worried that your risk of being hospitalized or God forbids losing your life to this virus is quite significant.


BOLDUAN: The Surgeon General's warning coming as Moderna today releases new data showing that its booster shot does increase antibodies does seem effective against the Omicron variant. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is joining me now live with more details on this Elizabeth what more are you learning?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, what we're learning is that Moderna did some tests in the lab. And what they found is you said their booster does in fact increase antibodies. It's better than getting two shots.

But it's unclear exactly how much protection that will give you in the real world. So let's take a look at Moderna's results. So what they found is that the current booster the one that you or I or anybody could go out and get right now, which is 50 micrograms. It did boost antibodies, but 100 microgram dose boosted antibodies even higher. The effectiveness of either dose against Omicron in the real world is unclear. But in another question is how durable is it? How long would it last? So does this mean that perhaps people who when they're giving vaccines they had a switch to 100 micrograms, it would be easy to do so there's the original two shots are 100 micrograms - so they could switch.

And the President of Moderna told reporters today that that's something for public health authorities to decide not something for Moderna to decide. So while they figure this out, the bottom line for all of us are get vaccinated and get boosted even if this booster only helps a little bit. You want everything you can to fight Omicron so get vaccinated and get boosted Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely Elizabeth, thank you for that. Also, right now, as we know New York is again the epicenter of the new COVID surge just days before thousands of people are expected to pack Time Square for New Year's Eve, the big New Year's Eve celebration.

Jason Carroll is standing by live in Times Square for us again this hour. Jason, what are city and state officials now saying about where this is all headed?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you follow the science and you follow the numbers, Kate, it's headed in an upwards direction. And that's what's so concerning about this New York City numbers right now more than doubled compared to what they saw in the previous week.

Most of those cases again, are among the unvaccinated. When you look across the city, what you're seeing are a number of people sometimes waiting for hours in line trying to get testing when it comes to trying to go into a drugstore trying to get at home tests, finding that oftentimes they're sold out.

Just a short while ago, New York City's Mayor weighed in on this very issue he was asked about it. And he talked about what the city is trying to do to address to meet the need of all of the people who are trying to get tested.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We are now testing in fact more people than ever 130,000 plus daily in the city sites that - double the number of tests just three weeks ago. That's how fast things are ramping up. This intense effort will keep growing as long as we need it to grow, to address the demand.

And what we're trying to do as much as possible is get those in home test kits in play particularly where we're seeing long lines wherever possible. We're trying to particularly at our city run sites, if there's a long line offer people the alternative of giving them an in home test that they can take home with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CARROLL: The Mayor also saying Kate that the city is going to be opening 23 new test sites. But the critics of the Mayor's say not enough sites, not enough test kits, not enough staff and that the city needs to do more. In terms of Time Square right care where we are lots of questions about what will be happening for now the ball drop is still a go.


CARROLL: The Mayor says and he will make a final decision on that before Christmas, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Jason, thank you for that. Joining me right now is Dr. Michael Mina. He's the Chief Science Officer at EMAD Health Care Company that provides at home COVID testing. He's also a Former Epidemiologist at Harvard University. And also joining us is Dr. Rob Davidson, an Emergency Physician in West Michigan, and Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Health Care.

Dr. Davidson, we're just laying out and Jason was laying out what it looks like in New York right now. Can you describe for me what it's like where you are in Michigan?

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, WEST MICHIGAN EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: But we're going on week six or seven, it's hard to keep track of hospitals being extremely full. Our ICUs are at about 150 percent capacity across all of West Michigan. And I know the state is seeing similar numbers.

And it's just a fact that folks with COVID-19, who are unvaccinated are filling up those spaces. I believe it's about 95 percent of the people in ICU with COVID are unvaccinated people. And COVID patients stay in the hospital for an extremely long period of time. And so even if we see numbers going down, which we're starting to see a bit, our test positive rate is just below 20 percent still extremely high but lower than 30 percent it was a few weeks ago.

We still just can't get those beds open up. And so people without COVID are suffering as well as people with COVID. It's just it's an - it's tough on the system and can't even imagine what Omicron could bring if it comes here as it's coming in other places.

BOLDUAN: Right. It's because what we're looking at is - I was talking about last hours, we're looking at the effects of Delta right now. Not even yet the major surge of Omicron. Dr. Mina everyone in these lines for tests, we've got video of lines going for blocks and blocks and blocks they're having a hard time finding at home tests by.

The Mayor says I think Jason just the Mayor says they're now testing more people than ever per day in New York City doubled the number of tests than just three weeks ago. Why is testing such a problem and challenge still?

DR. MICHAEL MINA, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, EMED: Yes, well, it's a great question, you know, the testing that we have been doing in the United States, we continue to think about testing as a medical device, we continue to regulate it in a very slow, arduous fashion. And that has left the United States far behind our pure nations in terms of getting Americans access to these tests, what we can do is we can start using the rapid tests that are becoming more available.

And I certainly hope that the U.S. federal government in the FDA figures out how to authorize these tests at a quicker pace that we can have enough tests for the U.S. But we can actually create policy around how to use these tests strategically.

So far, testing has largely been just sort of a free for all which has been very problematic, and we can use them with strategy. We can use the tools that we have at our disposal, like the company I now work for, to offer people at home testing that can still give data to public health and that to get - and that can give people peace of mind while they're celebrating with their families these holidays.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Mina, Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked about testing yesterday on State of the Union, I want to play what he said.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTO, NIAID AND CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: There going to be 10,000 centers that are going to be giving out free test. So we're going to be going in the right direction. We do. And I I've said that myself many times, Jake, that we really need to flood the system with testing, we need to have tests available for anyone who wants them.


BOLDUAN: I'm curious, though, is it too late, if you haven't already flooded the system kind of ahead of the storm that's hitting Dr. Mina?

DR. MINA: Well, this is a - this is - that was exactly what I was going to say in response to that. The message from the federal government continues to be we're going to and what I've said throughout this pandemic, is if we wait and see then by the time we're seeing, it's always too late to act.

And unfortunately, we've been slow to get these out to Americans. And I don't think it's too little too late now. But we should absolutely be doing everything we can right now. So that a month from now, we're not still saying we're going to be doing this later.

BOLDUAN: And Dr. Davidson, you're just talking about how jammed the situation? Hospitals are in Michigan where you are and it does seem from Michigan and beyond that everyone knows someone with COVID in this moment, and I think a lot of folks are struggling right now with how they are supposed to interpret. Exactly were - interpret that in this moment.

Dr. Ashish Jha was asked about this and I want to play for you his perspective on kind of how we should view and what our goal shouldn't be in this moment with regard to prevention in COVID? Listen to this.



DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The goal cannot be to avoid infection at all cost that's an unrealistic goal the goal should be prevent deaths and severe illness which vaccines will.


BOLDUAN: How do you? What do you think about that?

DR. DAVIDSON: I think that's exactly right. You know, I think zero COVID that has passed, you know, the idea that we could actually get to zero COVID. And that we could make sure every single person has the ability to never get infected.

But we know, vaccines in boosters, significantly decrease your chance of getting severely sick, they decrease your chance of getting it in the first place, and then passing it on to someone else. So they do work in that way.

But they absolutely keep people out of the hospital for the most part that keep people from dying. And as a two-fold, you know, benefit A, it helps the person, their family, their loved ones, but it helps us it helps the system and the system, you know, we broken multiple times.

We just keep kind of finding new spaces to put people and keep spending more money bringing and travel nurses and respiratory therapists to try to manage the case loads. I don't know how that works, if Omicron is spreading across many places, and you know the resources just aren't there.

You can't move people around that don't exist to the staff, all these hospitals. So I think I think, you know, the vaccines are still the answer long term.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Mina, you've been sounding the alarm early from the beginning of the pandemic. I mean, we've - you've been talking to me about the need for more widespread testing, and how testing is the way out of a pandemic, truly, from the very beginning.

I'm curious when we know what a problem exists. How much of a problem still exists today with regard to testing in a perfect world how often would people be testing per week?

DR. MINA: So in a perfect world, I mean, testing was what was necessary before vaccines, they were a way to continue having society stay open while we were dealing with this pandemic. We are in a different position now.

We're no longer in a place where we are trying to stop every single outbreak from emerging. We want people to use tests to allow them to live their life to be able to not have to quarantine anymore. So instead of a kid quarantine and because somebody in their classroom was it found infected, they can test every morning. And as long as they're negative, they go to school. So I think we're in a phase where we need to change our consideration of the tests as being the public health mitigation tools, to now being the public health action tools for much targeted individuals.

If you are exposed, and you don't want to quarantine and you need to go to work you need to go to school, we need to keep society running through this. And testing is one of the best ways we can do that. The most important thing is use the test as soon before the event or action that you're taking as possible.

If you're going to a nursing home or going to grandma or going to Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner, use a test right before that event hours before not two or three days before and that's one of the most important ways to ensure that you're negative and you're not going to be a risk and spread the virus to others around you and have everyone else joining you do the same and it greatly reduces risk at school work or in family occasions.

BOLDUAN: Doctors, thank you both so much. I really appreciate it. Coming up for us, Senator Manchin surprises the White House and the White House response accusing him of not keeping his word the messy future now for President Biden's party and his build back better bill.



BOLDUAN: I'm kind of speechless that was the reaction from one Democratic senator to the news that fellow Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is declaring he's a no on the build back better bill. Senator Tina Smith adding this, the frustrating thing about this is that it's hard to negotiate with somebody who seems never interested in getting to yes.

Again, that is a Democratic Senator talking about another Democratic Senator and the Democratic President's signature domestic agenda item. Let's go to Capitol Hill right now CNN's Lauren Fox, she's standing by with much more. Lauren, what are you hearing from Senators now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's certainly frustration in not just from fellow Senators, but also fellow House members. Remember, Kate, they already took a vote on the Bill Back Better plan. And there are some moderates, like Abigail Spanberger, who tweeted yesterday; she was frustrated with Manchin's position.

These guys already walked the plank on legislation that largely they support but may be tough in some areas to run for reelection on because of some of the tax provisions. So that is one of the key issues that remain right now. But obviously, we're just looking to see what pieces can be picked up.

And Senator Manchin spoke just a short time ago on West Virginia radio to try to explain his position. And he made it clear, Kate that this wasn't just one or two provisions that he was opposed to but on a macro level. He had deep concerns about passing a bill this large at this time and he said he never really was that close to getting a deal with the White House. Here's what he said.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm not blaming anybody. I knew where they were and I knew what they could and could not do. They just never realized it because they figure surely that God we can move one person shorter we can badger and beat one person up. Surely we can get enough protesters to make that person uncomfortable enough. They'll just say OK, I'll vote for anything just quit.

Well, guess what? I'm from West Virginia. I'm not from where they're from, and they can just beat the living crap out of people and think there'll be submissive period.


FOX: And for a lot of Democrats who are trying to read the tea leaves right now whether or not this is the end of the negotiation or whether or not Manchin might be able to get to yes on something clearly the Senator from West Virginia deeply frustrated with his party and many members of his party deeply frustrated with him.


FOX: Kate, there's plenty of frustration to go around. It seems that this is the end of the year. Thank you so much, Lauren. I really appreciate great reporting. So almost immediately after Senator Manchin declared his opposition to the bill Goldman Sachs cut its economic forecast for 2022 lowering expected GDP growth in the first quarter to 2 percent, down from 3 percent previously, and one thing driving all of this anxiety, inflation.

CNN's Matt Egan here with me now, Matt, first, what should people make of this updated outlook from Goldman Sachs?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER Kate, Goldman Sachs wasted no time here just hours after Joe Manchin really sent shockwaves throughout Washington with his opposition to build back better, Goldman Sachs coming out and setting the "Apparent demise of the president's legislation for why it's dimming its outlook here".

Remember, many on Wall Street expected that some version of build back better would get through Congress eventually. And that is now very much in doubt with Manchin's opposition. And so Goldman Sachs is now calling for, as you mentioned, 2 percent growth in the first quarter for GDP that is down from 3 percent previously.

They've also trim their outlook for the second quarter, and for the third quarter as well. They're not calling for no growth or recession or anything like that. But they do sound a little bit more cautious, a little bit more pessimistic, because build back better, doesn't look like it's in the cars.

Specifically, there's the fact that the beefed up child tax credit that's going away. Remember that this was a provision that was sending hundreds of dollars each month for each kid to parents around the United States. And that is now going away also build back better was calling for more than a half a trillion dollar investments to fight the climate crisis. That's also now a doubt Kate.

And one thing that Joe Manchin has always cited as a concern of his with the spending bill is inflation is impacted every industry this year. Matt, you and I've talked about this throughout the year. But what are you hearing now in terms of just how inflation is expected to play out in the in the next year?

EGAN: Well, Kate how inflation plays out, I think is really one of the biggest questions for 2022. Not just for the economy, but for politics, and also for the personal finances of virtually everyone in the in the United States. Now, we do know that inflation is hot right now. And it's getting hotter.

We've seen price gains accelerate in recent months. But latest month, November, we saw consumer prices up by nearly 7 percent from the year before biggest gains since 1982. We saw record price gains for new cars up, and on tools and hardware and full service meals.

Now, I think the - you know, the good news is that many people do think that inflation will cool off next year. President Biden has said that we might be near or at a peak of the inflation crisis. I think the bad news is that you know we could actually get worse before it gets better.

Goldman Sachs is calling for consumer price gains to accelerate a bit in the coming months to 7 percent. And then they think that it'll eventually cool off, no big wildcard here is Omicron. We're hearing about all of these different cases. What does that do to the worker shortage? What does that do to demand to the supply chain issue?

Kate, I do think we have to take these forecasts with a grain of salt, because very few people thought that inflation would be this hot for this long. And yet here we are.

BOLDUAN: And very few people can predict what Joe Manchin will do next. So there's another wildcard for all of this as we can tell, thank you, Matt, very much. There's also another potential headache for Democrats playing out right now.

Growing concern Republicans are planning to stonewall any potential Supreme Court nominee that Biden may put forward if they Republicans regain control of Congress after the midterms. CNN's SENIOR Reporter, Edward-Isaac Dovere has this new reporting is joining me now. This feels a little bit like deja vu. What are you learning?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, it's deja vu. But it's also Republicans being pretty clear about where the future of this is headed if they take the majority in the Senate? A number of Republicans telling us that they think it's just a simple thing.

If Joe Biden has a Supreme Court vacancy, and he nominate someone that they won't, they won't really move on that person and certainly unlikely to confirm that person. Chuck Grassley, as the Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee, said to me, you know, the rule if the president and the senator have different parties, we don't move on people. Of course, that's not a rule. That's not - that's not the way that things used to work until very recently.

BOLDUAN: Yes, definitely not a rule except if they will it to be true. It's good to see you thank you very much great reporting. Coming up for us, the COVID surge is impacting so many things but it's not stopping holiday travel. A top official with United Airlines joins us next.



BOLDUAN: The holiday travel rush is in full swing despite the new COVID surge and uncertainty with this new Omicron variant. TSA is reporting air travel has nearly double what it was one year ago. CNN's Pete Muntean joining me now with much more on this, Pete what are you hearing how are things looking?