Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Source: CDC To Extend Mask Mandate On Planes For Two Weeks; Ukraine Refuses To Back Down Despite Russian Firepower; Biden Admin Ties U.S., Global Inflation To War In Ukraine. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 13, 2022 - 11:30   ET



PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There have been multiple extensions of this mask mandate since then. And this stayed in place, even as many places were getting rid of their mask mandates was to expire on March 18, then a 30-day extension that took us to April 18, that is this coming Monday and now we have this announcement that is coming soon that multiple sources tell us will be extended by another 15 days.

This is the shortest extension of the transportation mask mandate we have seen so far. We will have to see if it is the last extension of the transportation mask mandate, something that airlines have been pleading for, for some time, in fact, after this was extended right around the March 18 deadline, airlines wrote the Biden administration to say get rid of this immediately, come up with a framework to do so, and they say that their workers and the airlines are really on the frontlines of enforcing this.

Remember, the FAA data says that of all of the unruly passenger incidents we have seen this year, about 70 percent of them are over masks. So we will see if the mask mandate sticks by 15 days or if it goes even longer than that, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, absolutely, Pete. Interesting, as you point out the context of this is the shortest extension of this mask mandate so far, let's see exactly what that means. I really appreciate it, Pete for bringing the breaking news. And just before air and just before this decision on the mask mandate was announced, I spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci about the uptick in COVID cases across the country. Listen.


BOLDUAN: Nationally, we know cases are trending upward right now in many states. And with many people testing at home, new case counts, though they could be off. I mean, they could be undercounted. The new White House COVID advisor, Dr. Jha, he actually told CNN this week that while he thinks home testing is great, it does present a problem. Let me play what he said.


DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 CZAR: One of the costs of that is we're not always able to identify how many people are getting infected. This is why it's really important to also look at hospitalizations, right? Because if we're seeing a huge spike in cases -- if we were to see a huge spike in cases, we'd also see that eventually trickle into hospitalizations. We're not seeing that. Hospitalizations right now are at the lowest level since March of 2020, that's good news. So no doubt, home tests mean we missed some cases. But that said, I think we've got other metrics we're tracking as well.


BOLDUAN: So, Dr. Fauci, with that in mind, how do we know how much COVID is out there?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, I believe that there is undercounting, there has to be because all of us know that there are people that each of us knows who have been infected, who've done a home test, who don't feel particularly ill, may be asymptomatic, maybe mildly symptomatic, who don't report it to anyone. So I really do think that there's some degree of undercounting. I don't know exactly to what extent that is occurring. But one of the things that we have to do is there -- well, actually two things, I think that are important to put into this equation.

One, follow the data really, really carefully. There will always be a lag in hospitalizations following an increase, a spike, or a surge, however, big it is, whether it's a blip, whether it's a surge, there will always be a delay in hospitalizations. And that's the reason why we've got to be all over following whether or not we have an increase in hospitalization.

Many of our colleagues in different countries, particularly in the UK, who have seen increases in cases go up dramatically have not seen a substantial increase in hospitalizations that are related to people who are hospitalized because of COVID. There certainly are hospitalizations of people with COVID, but when you talk to their health authorities, they feel that the impact on hospitalizations is really dissociated a bit from what we saw, for example, with Delta, when the cases were much more in line with the hospitalization. So the bottom line, Kate, is we have to just follow it really, really closely.

The other thing that's important is that when you talk about guidelines from the CDC, which are not mandates, they're guidelines about what people should be doing, they're giving guidelines in the broad sense, but it -- oh, it's always up to the individual. And that means an individual as a person, individual locations, cities, such as what the decision to do in Philadelphia that, that ultimate decision is that at the local level.

The local level can be a city, a county, or a person who says even though I'm in a green zone, I want to feel a little bit more protected because I'm either elderly, I'm frail, I have an underlying condition. So people need to understand that the judgment call with broad recommendations of this CDC is still on an individual basis. [11:35:00]

BOLDUAN: And it can also go the other way because there's a new poll out that finds that most Americans, and by most, I mean 90 percent, Dr. Fauci, say COVID is no longer a crisis. Do you agree?

FAUCI: You know it depends on -- you know I don't want to, you know, get semantics with you, Kate, but it depends on what you mean by a crisis. Is this still something we really do need to pay attention to? The answer is overwhelmingly, yes. We still have hospitalizations, we still have cases, and we still have deaths. This is not going to go away completely, Kate, we're not going to eradicate this the way we eradicated smallpox.

And I doubt if we're going to eliminate it, for a number of reasons because it isn't a stable virus the way measles and polio is. We get variants and sublineages and things that change in the durability of protection, be that protection from prior infection or protection from vaccines, is not lifelong, it wanes, we know that.

So, what we need to do is to do as best as we can to get it as low a level as we possibly can, get as many people vaccinated, as many people boosted, and have the availability for those who do get infected to get antibody or anti-viral or easy testing. In that case, it certainly is not the "crisis" that we had when we were getting 900,000 cases a day and the hospitals were being stressed.

But we're not at the level that I would feel comfortable to say forget about it, we can get back to normality, which a lot of people are. There are people right now in the overwhelming majority of the locations in the country that are in green zones who are getting back to normal life. They're not wearing masks indoors, the school is back.

So, there is a degree of normality there. So in that respect, you wouldn't call it a crisis. But you don't want to forget about it because we know what variants can do. Remember, we got fooled with Delta. Remember, we got fooled with Omicron. So we've always got to be alert to the fact that we're dealing with a challenge that is a moving target for us.

BOLDUAN: And it will -- yes --

FAUCI: So again, depends on what you mean by a crisis. Yes.

BOLDUAN: That has a long tail, this crisis -- this crisis, or whatever you want to call it. So you said yesterday something that stuck with me. You said yesterday that you have never had COVID.

FAUCI: Correct.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that it is inevitable that you will, Dr. Fauci? Where's your head on that?

FAUCI: You know, I don't know, Kate. I try my best because of my own situation in life, the fact that I am an older individual, you know, I don't want to be going into any public pronouncement of what any underlying conditions I may or may not have but I'm going to try my best to avoid it. There will always be some COVID in the community.

Like I mentioned, Kate, we're not going to eradicate it and I don't think we're going to eliminate it. So we will be out there and I'm going to have to make risk assessments. I'm vaccinated, I'm doubly boosted, and I'm not careless in what I do. Does that mean I'm not going to get infected? No. I think everyone has some degree of risk. The risk is not zero for anyone unless you lock yourself in a room and not come out and none of us are going to be doing that.

Certainly, I'm not going to be doing that. So I am at some risk, but I think I mitigate the risk as best as I possibly can.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming on. It's good to check out and I appreciate it, Dr. Fauci.

FAUCI: My pleasure. Good to be with you, Kate.


BOLDUAN: All right much far ahead. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: A senior U.S. defense official estimates that Russia still has about 80 percent of the combat power it had before the invasion began. But that was -- that has not overwhelmed the Ukrainians they are fighting. They have defied expectations and predictions from the very start. Ed Lavandera saw that firsthand just in one small farming town in Ukraine.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): One look at these massive craters in the small Ukrainian town of Bashtanka near Mykolaiv, and it's not hard to imagine the horror inflicted by Russian forces bombing this neighborhood. Bashtanka mayor, Olexandr Beregoviy brought us here. He says the Russian plane that dropped the bomb circled over these homes several times before unleashing the explosive attack.

OLEXANDR BEREGOVIY, BASHTANKA MAYOR: Speaking a foreign language.

LAVANDERA: This is a simple peaceful town, he says with just ordinary people, no military. Farming is what we do here to feed the country and the world. There was a 70-year-old man in this house peeling potatoes when this bomb struck, what happened to him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.

LAVANDERA: God decided not to take him away. He tells me the man survived.

VITALIY HOMERSKIK, TOWN MEMBER: Speaking a foreign language.

LAVANDERA: For more than a week in March, this little town of 12,000 people fought off Russians any way it could.

HOMERSKIK: Speaking a foreign language.

LAVANDERA: Town council member Vitaliy Homerskik put out a Facebook plea that if anyone knew how to fire a cannon they should race out to help. A humble force of about 100 people, push the Russians out. More than 170 buildings were damaged. The charred wreckage was left all over town. But the mayor tells the story of one fighter who became an instant legend, a 78-year-old man who was told he was too old to fight.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Instead, he made a Molotov cocktail and threw it at a Russian artillery system blowing it up. We've asked to speak with the man, but we're told by city officials that they're protecting his identity to keep him safe.

LAVANDERA (voiceover): The town might have won the battle but this war never ends. Bashtanka is now a frontline refuge for thousands of Ukrainians hoping to escape. Every day at this church, buses drop off refugees fleeing Russian-occupied areas just a few miles away. Zakruzetska Ruslana says she left the city of Kherson after enduring weeks of bombardment with her two children and nieces.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They break into people's homes every night, drag people out, and bet them up. My neighbors were beaten up. Thank god they're still alive. They're probably doing that to scare people so they're always in fear.

RUSLANA: Speaking a foreign language.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was horrible here. Every day people are going crazy, to be honest. It's intolerable. The children's detention is terrible. We don't know if we'd wake up alive.

LAVANDERA: Escaping alive is a dream as we found closer to the front lines. The nearby village of Yavkyne (PH) has endured weeks of shelling. You can see the munition and the shrapnel. You can see this building over here peppered with holes. As we meet with the village headman, it's clear the fighting isn't over. What was that noise? Yes, they are firing he says. Oleksandr Kovoryga (PH) tells us Russians fired cluster artillery at a group of young people charging their phones in this spot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking a foreign language.

LAVANDERA: They do it on purpose so people will panic, he tells me. We understand that there was a refugee, 17 years old who came here trying to escape when she was killed. Lydia Dominica couldn't escape the Russian strikes, a young woman trying to reach Bashtanka. Her mother says she was studying food production and shared these photos so her daughter cannot be forgotten. Inside Bashtanka's war room, council member Vitaliy Homerskik shows us the calendar where they mark the days of the war. HOMERSKIK: Speaking a foreign language.

LAVANDERA: When the war started, our life was divided. He tells me. There's before and after. We mark every day we survived this battle. Right now, the Russian army is regrouping and is expected to attack again from the East. We are 25 miles away from the front line. How concerned are you that the Russians are going to be able to get back here?

BEREGOVIY: Speaking a foreign language.

LAVANDERA: The mayor says we are not concerned. Our country is good at two things making bread and fighting. If we need to fight we all rise up and fight. If we don't need to fight we grow bread. But right now the town of Bashtanka remains on the front lines giving families like Zakruzetska Ruslana and her daughters, a way to catch a bus and leave the war behind. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Bashtanka, Ukraine.


BOLDUAN: And thank you so much for that. Coming up still, for us, inflation hitting a new 40-year high as President Biden vows to do everything in his power to bring down prices. Details on that next.






BOLDUAN: Now, new this morning, the Biden administration is again linking Putin's war in Ukraine to soaring inflation here in the United States. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is stressing that point moments ago and then addressed it at the Atlantic Council. Listen.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: The ultimate outcome for the global economy, of course, depends on the path of the war future. The future of our international order both for peaceful security and economic prosperity is at stake.


BOLDUAN: Now, remember, inflations jumped to 8.5 percent annually in March, a new 40-year high. Americans are paying more for everything from gas to food to shelter. I mean everything. President Biden, saying in Iowa yesterday, he is "doing everything within his power to bring down prices." Finally, today, remembering the comedian with an instantly recognizable voice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) Clip from Walt Disney Pictures/Buena Vista Pictures


BOLDUAN: That, of course, is the voice of Gilbert Gottfried as the short-fused parrot, Lago, in Disney's Aladdin. His voice was unmistakable and, of course, became iconic. Gottfried's hilariously crude stand-up style was his signature. He died Tuesday after a long illness. His family writing the Gottfried was a wonderful husband, brother, friend, and father of two young children.


BOLDUAN: They are also asking this. Please keep laughing as long as possible, as loud as possible in Gilbert's honor. Gilbert Gottfried was 67 years old. Before we go, a reminder, you can always join me -- also join me every morning on the new CNN Plus show, 5 Things, at 7 a.m. Eastern and always available on demand. Sign up at Thank you so much for joining us, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. CNN's coverage continues with INSIDE POLITICS after the break.