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At This Hour

Supreme Court Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Large Employers; Manchin, Sinema Deal Big Blow to Biden's Voting Rights Push; L.A. Public School Return to Classroom Despite COVID Surge. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired January 14, 2022 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This intelligence echoes claims made by Ukraine's defense ministry. And it also follows a cyber-attack revealed today on a number of Ukrainian government sites by unknown hackers. Much more to come on that.

Let's turn now to the pandemic. And the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to block President Biden's vaccine or test mandate for large businesses. And a 63 decision, the court ruled against the administration's order mandating vaccines or weekly testing for all employers with more than 100 and -- with more than 100 employees. The decision comes at a critical time in the pandemic in the middle of a nationwide surge with states facing record breaking cases and hospitalizations.

Joining me now for more on this is Democratic governor of Kentucky, Governor Andy Beshear.

Governor, thank you for being here. What is your reaction to this Supreme Court decision? What impact do you think it's going to have on your state?

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Well, when we looked at this issue, it's not just as a state, but also as an employer, state government would have been bound by that decision as well. In the end, we've had ups and downs in this pandemic, we just had to find a way to move forward. With the level of Omicron and the huge demand for testing it would have been a real challenge to put into place, but there's no question. We need to find the right motivations to get more people vaccinated. We are seeing though, a steady increase, it's not nearly what we need. But people do seem to be waking up and seeing the danger that's out there.

BOLDUAN: Because -- you've got an interesting kind of perspective on this Supreme Court fight that happened, Governor, I mean, your Republican attorney general joined in that lawsuit fighting the Biden vaccine requirement. Is there anything you can do now in place of this?

BESHEAR: Well, in certain parts of state government, as an employer, we do have something like this, think about corrections officers given the congregate setting that's there. In our psychiatric hospitals, and in certain nursing homes, we work with our hospitals, to support them and their requirements on vaccinations. And they're certainly the ability every single day to talk to Kentuckians about what's out there. But listen, this thing is rapidly increasing at a rate we've never seen before. Our hospitals are filling up. I've had to call out the National Guard now for the second time to help our hospitals. This is one where we need people to understand they are going to be exposed to this, how protected they are depends on whether they're vaccinated and whether they're boosted.

BOLDUAN: You mentioned the National Guard, the President announced yesterday he's deploying the U.S. military to hospitals in six states, Kentucky is not one of those states. But as you just said, you've been deploying the National Guard to health facilities around the state to help because of what you're facing. Do you think you will need to request the president, send the U.S. military to your state as well?

BESHEAR: We'll see. In the surge from Delta, the federal government did send medical teams to help us out and we are grateful for that. And they sent teams to us because we were one of the hardest hit during that time. Right now, there are states that are hit harder than us. And we understand that this is one nation, really one world dealing with this pandemic.

And so, we fully understand and support those teams being where they're needed the most. We're going to see in the next couple of weeks exactly how awful our hospitals get. And it's a real concern. Because when we don't have any more staff to take care of any more patients, it's that person in a car wreck, who has a heart attack, who has a stroke that may not get the care they need and can't get the bed they need. So pleased to everybody out there, get vaccinated, get boosted. Even if you are somebody that doubts COVID and its seriousness, by doing that, you'll ensure that that person hurt in some different way can get the care they need.

BOLDUAN: It does look like it may get worse before it gets better in your state as this wave washes over the nation for sure. You know, Governor, has been just over a month since the tornadoes ravaged the western part of your state. Over 70 deaths entire neighborhoods flattened. The First Lady, Jill Biden, she's traveling there today to check in on the recovery. And I promised you that we would continue to stay on top of this and I wanted to ask you what is the latest? How is it going?

BESHEAR: Well, we are digging out and we are working to not just repair buildings but to ultimately rebuild lives. The outpouring of love and support has been incredible, and it continues and we're going to need that help. Just cleaning the debris in Mayfield is going to take through the end of April.



BESHEAR: It's because almost the -- almost the entire town is gone and that's not even the rebuilding effort. Right now we still have people in hotels that have been there for 30 days because there's nowhere else for them to go. I mean, when a whole town's destroyed, it's not like you couldn't find other housing nearby. So right now, we're working on two things. Number one, getting all the students back in school and providing wraparound services to these traumatized kids.

And number two, getting medium term housing, non-congregate shelter where we can get these people out of hotels, get them into travel trailers conveniently located where they can work to rebuild their house. And ultimately, we can save these towns. You know, after the death, and after the devastation, we got to make sure that we have jobs in these towns waiting for these people. We got to make sure that there is a reason for people to stay. You know, one of the town's hit was my dad's hometown, the Dawson Springs. It's about 2700 people. We don't do this right. That town may only be half what it used to be, or even less than and we can't let that happen.

BOLDUAN: absolutely. Governor, thank you very much for coming on. Really unbelievable just clearing the debris is going to take until April. I mean you can -- you will believe it when you see the devastation though, but still unbelievable. Thank you very much.

BESHEAR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a major blow to President Biden's push to get voting rights legislation passed, how the president managed to be at odds with Republicans and Democrats now in his fight to get it done. Abby Phillip joins me next.



BOLDUAN: Voting Rights going nowhere. Joe Biden rounding out the week with another setback. Senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema dashing Democrats hopes and making clear yet again, they will not support changing Senate rules to pass the voting rights bills without Republican support, making it a very tough week for President Biden, a series of defeats for the President.

Joining me now, CNN's Senior Political Correspondent, Anchor of Inside Politics Sunday, Abby Phillip. You know, Abby, Axios put it this way today. They put it this way. It's rare for a president to be at odds with Republicans, moderate Democrats and liberal Democrats all at the same time. And that's what -- where Biden is right now. I'm wondering kind of, you know, what he is facing in this moment now?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, this is what happens when you have basically a zero-seat majority in the Senate, it has to be done with a tie breaking vote. And when you have a very, very narrow majority in the House. And on top of that, I mean, this is the President going into a midterm election at a low point in his own approval rating. So, there is so little leverage available to Joe Biden to move anyone even in his own party, that that is why everything seems to be stalled right now.

You know, Kate, we have to remember, though, that this is a President, Joe Biden, who basically campaigned as a transitional figure, he got liberals on board, in part because they believed he was the best option for winning. And now they are facing the reality of a president who is not able to kind of make all of the wish list come true in his first year in office, it's a tough spot.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, I mean, and when it comes to the voting rights bills, I mean, every reporter on Capitol Hill could have told them that the voting rights bills were going nowhere, and nothing had changed, or really, and there was no prospect really, that it would change. But still the White House and the President really threw everything at it this week. Do you have a sense of why?

PHILLIP: You know, President Biden, when he was in Atlanta this past week said, you know, keep hope alive, basically. But I came to the voting rights bill. And I think this is really hoping against hope about something that has been clear for a long time. Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and others in the Senate are not willing to get rid of the filibuster, but the White House is making a calculus that they have got to try. They have to show their base that they are working at it, that they are trying.

The problem is that I think the base actually does not just want effort. They want actual things getting done. And so, it's a bit of a lose, lose situation. But I think perhaps they felt like there was no other option available to them. They couldn't go into this year, you know, presenting voting as a fait accompli as something that was never going to happen. I think they would have had an even more significant revolt on their hands and in the liberal wing of the party.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. And, you know, in response to this, the president's chief of staff is responding kind of this whole take of the President being hit with a series of setbacks, which is from SCOTUS to voting rights, to testing crisis, to inflation rising, to build back better just dead at this point. And what Ron Klain sent out is like here are some other facts about the last 30 days which is unemployment is dropped 3.9% and vaccination rate has topped, has top to 200 million at this point and a record number of all-time record number of Americans are out there with health insurance, thanks to the rescue plan. And I saw that and I thought, yes, there is good news among the bad that's for sure, but does this come back to though if people don't feel that it doesn't matter?


PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean I don't fault Ron Klain for spinning. But that is what this is, is spin. I mean, this has been not a great -- not just week, but several weeks. I mean, the reality of the testing crisis became clear in December, and they are still weeks away from making a dent in that problem. The inflation crisis has been here for quite some time. So, look, good things are happening. But I think the overall sentiment not just among the American public, but even among Democrats in Washington, people who are allies of this administration is that this is a really bad period for the Biden administration. And they need to get a hold of the COVID situation. First and foremost, they may not even be able to do much about inflation at this point. So, it's a challenging period. And I think pretty much everyone I talked to in Washington knows that.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Thank you, Abby. It's going to be great to see you back in the chair on Sunday.

PHILLIP: Thanks, Kate. Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you.

Coming up for us, as the Omicron surge, forces many schools back online, the nation's second largest school district has opened classrooms. The superintendent of Los Angeles schools joins me next.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, more and more schools are returning to online classes in order to combat surge in coronavirus cases. Nearly 3500 schools nationwide have no in-person learning option right now as schools from Philadelphia to Fayetteville, Arkansas, move back to remote learning.

Still in Los Angeles, the nation's second largest public school district is pushing ahead with in-person classes. Students returned on Tuesday, and this morning, the district is reporting roughly 61,000 positive COVID cases among students and staff.

Joining me now for an update on where things are is Megan Reilly, the interim superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District. It's good to have you thank you for being here.

I was looking at the latest from your -- from the district and the positivity rate among students I see was 15 about -- what I see is 15.6%, employees 13.3. And attendance in this first week was an average of about 67%. How do you describe this? Megan, how do you describe this as going?

MEGAN REILLY, INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT, LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: Good morning, Kate. And thanks for having me on the show today. I appreciate the opportunity. We're on day four. And I think we -- everything that we're seeing is not unexpected as far as the numbers. What we knew going in was that schools are the safest environment, because of all the safety protocols that we put in place over the over the past three semesters. So, this is our third semester, working with COVID protocols in place, whether it's the filtration or whether it's the kind of the vaccine mandate, or whether it's actually the testing protocol.

I think that Los Angeles, we have really one of the strongest testing protocols around. So even those positivity rates you just described, you know, today we're seeing lower numbers. It's about 13% for our students, 11% -- just under 12% for our employees. So, having people in school is safer for them. And we think that's what's going to be shown as people return to our campuses.

BOLDUAN: And look, I know a lot of parents are -- I'm appreciating you fighting to keep students in class as much as possible. We're seeing examples in, you know, Minnesota and Indiana, many other places have schools having to pull back already from what they're seeing. For you, what is your measure, at this point that would force you to have to shut a school down temporarily, again?

REILLY: Well, I think we're guided by our local, you know, county, public health and the state and all of the experts. This is really guided by the science. And they'll tell us when we need to shut something down. I think that would be the one avenue. The benefits of in-person learning, you just mentioned it. And we've seen it loud and clear. It's not just about being in-person or online. Really, it's about kids wanting to be around their friends. It's about all those socio-emotional supports, by having counselors and, you know, health counselors and nurses and people around the children that give them supports on every aspect of our lives. It's about food insecurity. So again, not only can we see from the past two semesters, how schools, actually we had three to seven times less positivity than the general public. And we know that to be true that our measures work. So again, I think it's about kids being in the safest place possible, but also safe, not just from COVID, but safe for their well-being.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. You know, Biden administration announced that each month now they're going to distribute 5 million free rapid tests to schools, 5 million free PCRs. And I'm curious, does that change anything for you, you have a robust testing situation already, and considering you have 640,000 kids in your district, and you're trying to test them weekly?

REILLY: Well, I think, you know, again, our positivity rates are lower than overall County, it's a great kind of indicator. There's a different need for PCR tests and rapid tests. And again, we tested every single employee and student before they came on campus. And if anyone had a positive test, we said, please stay at home, test back in a week and come back to campus when you're no longer testing positive. So those numbers you quoted, again, we're a preventative measure before we even started our schools.

I think when we -- once were in school, we have weekly PCR testing for all of our -- for all of our employees and all of our students and when they want to test back into school, we use the rapid antigens. The rapid antigens are really effective for giving greater access and ease so that people can take their own tests at home to see, am I still infectious. And again, there's differences that I know the scientists can go into.


But we at schools need to use it strategically, you know, for it, because there is a limited resource out there. And the Biden administration and the state have been wonderful about basically trying to help schools, but there is a limited supply, and we need to get more tests.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, you can't wait for test to come, you got to figure it out in real time at the very same time. Thank you for being here, Superintended, I really appreciate it. REILLY: Thank you so much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Thank you all so much for being here.

I'm Kate Bolduan. Inside Politics with John King begins after this break.