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At This Hour

CDC Defends Cutting Isolate Time as U.S. Cases Hit Record High; Miami-Dade County Opens 24/7 Testing Sites; Former Senate Leader Harry Reid Dies; Legendary NFL Great John Madden Dies. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 29, 2021 - 11:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, everyone. I'm Amara Walker in for Kate Bolduan. Here is what we're watching.

Shattering records: the U.S. setting a daily high of new COVID cases. Top doctors answer your questions.

Demanding justice: the family of a teen accidentally killed by police speaking out as questions grow about the tactics used by police.

Remembering American legends: longtime senator Harry Reid and NFL great John Madden, tributes are pouring in for these two giants.

And we begin with the United States reaching a grim milestone in the pandemic as the Delta and Omicron variants continue to wreak havoc. The U.S. shattering its record for daily cases. The seven-day average now topping 265,000 cases a day. The prior record was set nearly a year ago.

Public health officials warn these numbers are going to continue to rise. Hospitalizations are also up but not as rapidly. They are about half the all-time high set last winter.

The CDC this morning is defending its decision to cut the recommended time of isolation for asymptomatic patients. Some scientists are accusing the agency of caving to public pressure instead of following the data.

All this as the White House pandemic response team holds a briefing in just moments. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Elizabeth Cohen on the CDC defending changes this week.

You and I were talking 24 hours ago just how confusing the updated guidance is. You also have a lot of criticisms and questions on whether this was based wholly on science or if the economy played a role. And Rochelle Walensky responded to that.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Walensky was on CNN this morning. She said, look, this is based on science and she explained -- basically what she said is, at a certain point, the likelihood of you being contagious is very small. That's why they changed it from 10 days to five days as long as you're

asymptomatic. Or if you have symptoms and you're on the mend, getting better. Let's take a listen.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We know that the most amount of transmission occurs in those one to two days before you develop systems, those two to three days after you develop systems.

If you map that out, those five days account for somewhere between 85 percent to 90 percent of all transmission that occurs. So we wanted to make sure those first five days were spent in isolation. That's when most of it occurs.


COHEN: OK. Let's put in writing what Dr. Walensky just said. What she's saying is 85 percent to 90 percent of transmission occurs in the one to two days before you develop symptoms or the two to three days after you develop symptoms.

So the CDC's thinking is for days six, seven, eight, nine, 10, why are we isolating people if they're asymptomatic or getting better when they're most likely not contagious?

Let's get them back to work, especially if they're doctors or nurses or have other essential jobs -- Amara.

WALKER: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for that.

Communities across the country are taking steps to increase testing and reduce those long lines many of you have experienced for weeks now. It comes as schools reconsider their COVID protocols as they prepare to reopen in the new year. CNN's Leyla Santiago is live at a testing site in Miami with more.

Are you seeing any improvement in the wait time?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing improvement in the wait times. It's the first time I've been able to say that in the last few days. We're at Tropical Park in Miami-Dade. It's one of the busiest sites for testing in South Florida.

This is a site open 24 hours. The wait has been three hours long, pretty standard over the last few days. Just now we checked in again, about 45 minutes. So we've seen a little change in the last hour.

What else has changed over the week?

They've had to open new sites and extend hours at other sites. So they're trying to accommodate by offering these free tests in other locations.

[11:05:00] SANTIAGO: That could be part of the factor here as to why you're seeing the wait time, here, anyway, go down. I did talk to some of the workers that have been working the tent right behind me, where the tests are being administered. They were telling me they still are planning for increased demand in testing into the new year. Listen.


YANETTE SHIPP, COVID-19 TESTING SITE WORKER: It's almost like COVID started all over again. So with the influx of patients that are coming through, a lot of people aren't feeling well. So that's why they're coming to us.

We also understand we have a lot of patients that are concerned; just, oh, I was exposed or I was next to somebody that was exposed. I just want to make sure that I'm OK.


SANTIAGO: Amara, you mentioned schools that will be starting up soon here in the new year. Miami-Dade County superintendent -- so Miami- Dade County, the largest school district in Florida -- tweeting out that they will be reassessing what their protocols will be.

They say they will do right by our children and then went on to say that, by the end of the week they expect to have updated policies to address things like mask wearing, testing, et cetera, how they will move forward, given the rapid spread of Omicron.

WALKER: A lot of parents are in limbo, wondering what they should do once school gets underway. Leyla Santiago, thank you.

Joining me now is Dr. Michael Mina, the chief science officer at eMed, a health care company that provides at-home COVID-19 testing. He's also a former professor of epidemiology at Harvard University.

Dr. Mina, great to have you on. I want to start with the CDC and its defense over its new guidelines that reduce the days that COVID patients need to remain in isolation if they're asymptomatic.

There have been a lot of questions as to why the guidance does not include testing as a requirement at the end of those five days. Let's first listen to what CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on CNN this morning about that.


WALENSKY: We opted not to have the rapid test for isolation because we actually don't know how our rapid tests perform and how well they predict whether you're transmissible during the end of disease. The FDA has not authorized them for that use. We don't know how they perform.

So what we said was well, if you got a rapid test at five days and it was negative, we weren't convinced that you weren't still transmissible. We didn't want to leave a false sense of security. We still wanted you to wear the mask. And if it was positive, we still know the maximum amount of transmission was behind you. We still wanted you to wear a mask.

And given that we were not going to change our recommendations based on the result of that rapid test, we opted not to include it.


WALKER: Dr. Mina, I know you've been a very vocal advocate for rapid testing.

What do you make of Walensky's argument that rapid tests may not be reliable and were never meant to predict how infectious someone is?

DR. MICHAEL MINA, CHIEF SCIENCE OFFICER, EMED: Well, what we've seen is study after study in this pandemic have shown a very high correlation between having an infectious and culturable virus and being positive on a rapid test.

This is a massive swing because, for the vast majority of the pandemic, the argument was the other way around, that the tests couldn't be relied on if they were negative. So now they're saying they can't be relied on if they're positive.

I think we need to take a very science-backed approach. What we can say is, if you're still highly positive on a rapid test, you should consider yourself infectious. I certainly wouldn't want to be sitting next to somebody at work, who I know is bright positive on a rapid test, even though they're at five days.

We know that people do stay positive for longer and infectious for longer than five days.

WALKER: So do you agree with the updated guidance?

Do you think testing needs to be included to help bring down the number of cases?

MINA: I think the guidance to reduce isolation to five days, the principle of it is sound and it's very important that we attempt to reduce isolation as much as possible. Many people don't actually get detected using a PCR test until after they've been infectious. So we need to keep isolation as minimal as possible.

But we also go through all of this effort to find positive and infectious people. And when we do find those individuals, we should make sure to do everything we can to ensure that they do not go on and unintentionally infect their or their family.

That's where just using -- inserting a rapid test into the guidance, to say use a rapid test at day five and, if you're still positive, do not leave isolation. If you're negative, then follow the rest of the guidance, which is wear a mask and you can leave isolation.

WALKER: I want to ask you about the absence of testing.


WALKER: Dr. Fauci said the new guidance has nothing to do with the shortage that we're seeing and those long lines.

Remember, at one point, the CDC recommended bandanas and scarves as a last resort for health care workers, because there was a shortage of masks.

And I'll tell you, from what I heard, a lot of the medical care professionals that I know personally were shocked by that.

Do you think we're seeing the same reasoning here, even though that's being denied?

MINA: Yes, I do. I think, throughout this whole pandemic, we have failed to create policy that includes fast and frequent testing, like rapid testing, because we didn't have the supply.

So we've seen this chicken-and-the-egg issue continue to persist. I do think that the CDC was in a very difficult place here. They see this on this wave of Omicron. They need to get people back to work.

But unfortunately, as a nation, we didn't act months ago and we still haven't done what needed to happen to ensure that everyone could have access to tests. So in fairness to the CDC's decision, they can't create policy that Americans can't follow. We need to get the tests into the U.S. But we can do that. The tests do exist.

WALKER: OK, because you and a group of experts actually presented a plan, right, in October to the White House to ramp up testing, especially rapid testing, as a way to prevent the surge that we're seeing right now. As we know, rapid tests are very hard to come by right now.

Is it too late?

MINA: It's not too late. We can still bring on rapid tests. And President Biden recently did announce 500 million. My hope is that that is the start of a snowball effect, where Americans will see that these tests are useful, that they'll give added sense of an added ability to safely gather.

And we'll just keep seeing increased numbers of tests but ultimately it's probably going to come down more so to private industry and others to bring these tests into the United States, rather than relying fully on a massive government action to bring sufficient numbers into the United States.

WALKER: Dr. Michael Mina, appreciate you joining us. Thank you so much.

Coming up, remembering two Americans giants: longtime senator Harry Reid and legendary coach and broadcaster John Madden. We're going to look back at their lives and careers next.




WALKER: Tributes are pouring in to honor two American legends who died overnight.

Longtime Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid died at the age of 82 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Former President Obama said he never would have been president if not for Harry Reid. Republican leader Mitch McConnell calls Reid a dedicated public servant and a truly one-of-a-kind U.S. senator.

CNN's Dana Bash profiles Harry Reid's incredible life and legacy.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He led Democrats in the Senate for a decade but Harry Reid called one of his proudest accomplishments the impact he had on presidential history, encouraging Barack Obama to run.

HARRY REID, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I did call him into my office and tell him we should take a look at it. And he was stunned that -- he says I was the first one that ever suggested that to him.

REID: When he was reelected, that was one of the most moving phone calls I've ever received because he said, you're the reason I'm here.

BASH: He spearheaded epic legislative battles like ObamaCare with a scrappy style he learned during his impoverished childhood.

Reid was born, shaped and scarred in Searchlight, Nevada. Essentially a truck stop outside Las Vegas. He grew up in a shack with no running water where this trailer now sits. He took us there in 2006.

His mother did laundry for the local brothels. His dad always looking for work as a minor, both drank heavily.

During that 2006 visit to Searchlight, he casually pointed out where his father took his own life at 58 years old.

REID: This house right here, that last room is a bedroom, that's where he killed himself.

BASH: He fought his way out of poverty as a boxer. As a politician, he was never afraid to punch below the belt. He even took on the mob as a young politician in Las Vegas.

BASH: A wide variety of adjectives have been written about you.

REID: Some good, some bad.

BASH: Some good, some bad. Let me just read a few, scrappy, tough, blunt, canny behind the scenes mastermind, ruthless. Are all those fair?

REID: Well, that's what people think, if that's what they think, they're entitled to their opinion.

BASH: As Senate Democratic leader, Reid was a polarizing figure. Republicans argued a lot of congressional gridlock stemmed from his hardball tactics.

REID: Seeing the turning of the tide.

BASH: But he reveled in playing the political bad guy calling then President George W. Bush a loser and a liar well before politicians use those L words.

REID: I don't really care. I don't want to be somebody I'm not. BASH: During the Trump presidency, however, Reid changed his tune about Bush.

REID: In hindsight, I wish every day for a George Bush again. I think that he and I had our differences. But no one ever questioned his patriotism.

There's no question in my mind that George Bush would be Babe Ruth in this league that he's in with Donald Trump. Donald Trump wouldn't make the team.

BASH: In 2012, he used the Senate floor to accuse Mitt Romney of not paying his taxes.


BASH (voice-over): Even though he had no evidence.

REID: He's refused to release his tax returns as we know but approved that he has paid taxes because he hasn't.

No, I don't regret that at all.

BASH: Some people have even called it McCarthy-like.

REID: Well, they call it whatever they want. Romney didn't win, did he?

BASH: Years later, Reid did ask to meet with Romney to make amends.

REID: We shook hands and put stuff behind us.

BASH: Why was it so important for you to tie up that loose end?

REID: I try to do that with everybody.

BASH: Reid also inspired fierce loyalty from many of his longtime aides as well as fellow senators. Not all out of fear but affection. He often told colleagues, he loved them, even in public.

REID: I love you, John Kerry. BASH: He had a storybook romance with wife Landra, his high school sweetheart. The two converted to Mormonism together when they married.

REID: She had a pair of Levi's yesterday and I said, man, she just looks so good.

BASH: That's amazing.

REID: That is true.

BASH: In January 2015, Reid a workout addict who ran numerous marathons had a brutal exercise accident that left him severely bruised and blind in one eye. It cemented his decision to retire.

A few years later, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The effects of chemo made it hard for him to walk. We went to see him in Las Vegas.

REID: That's one of my keepsakes from Donald Trump.

BASH: Never any complaints.

REID: I'm doing fine. I'm busy. I work quite hard.

BASH: Reid was an unlikely political leader in today's media age, soft spoken and gaffe prone. But he played the inside game like no one could.

REID: I didn't make it in life because of my athletic prowess. I didn't make it because of my good looks. I didn't make it because I'm a genius. I made it because I worked hard.

One of the things that I hope that people look back at me and say, if Harry Reid could make it, I can.


WALKER: Now to the death of one of the greatest figures in football. John Madden is being remembered as a legendary coach, Hall of Famer and beloved broadcaster. Madden also gave kids and kids-at-heart the chance to imagine calling their own plays as the namesake of the Madden NFL video game series.

CNN's Coy Wire joining us now with more.

As Roger Goodell said, he was football.

What's the reaction been?

COY WIRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Far spread and full of love, Amara. There was no one like John Madden. His boisterous style brought the game to life. So many layers of generations of fans enjoyed his work.

Not many people under the age of 40 might not remember Madden led the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 1977. His winning percentage of .759, the highest of any head coach in NFL history. He truly soared when he stepped into the TV booth in 1979, he called

11 Super Bowls, earned 16 sports Emmys during his 30 years of broadcasting. He was inducted to the pro football Hall of Fame in 2006.


JOHN MADDEN, FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMER: I have never worked a day in my life. I went from player to coach to a broadcaster. And I am the luckiest guy in the world.

Some of us think maybe we will be immortal, that we'll live forever. But when you really think about it, we're not going to be. But I say this, and this is overwhelming and mind-blowing that, through this bust, with these guys, in that hall, we will be forever.


WIRE: You mentioned NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Amara. Here is what he said.

"Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others. There will never be another John Madden. And we will forever be indebted to him for all that he did to make football and the NFL what it is today."

Now his legacy will live on through that Madden video game. It's sold more than 130 million copies worldwide.

EA Sports calling him a hero, a humble champion, a willing teacher, a forever coach. He was so disciplined and dedicated, expert of the Xs and Os, that he could captivate even football gurus, Amara.

But also the casual fan; on a live broadcast on Thanksgiving Day, he talked about how to properly eat a turducken, a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. And he demonstrated during the game. One- of-a-kind.

WALKER: And a giant in many ways. Coy Wire, thank you.


WALKER: Coming up, demanding justice: the parents of a teenage girl accidentally killed by police are remembering their daughter as a talented student, full of dreams. We speak to the family's attorney next.




WALKER: Developing this morning, a California family is demanding justice after police accidentally shot and killed their 14-year-old daughter. Valentina Orellana-Peralta's mother says her daughter died in her arms as they hid in a store's dressing room when --