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At This Hour

Fetterman, Oz Spar in Fiery PA Debate; Hochul, Zeldin in NY Gubernatorial Debate; Surge of RSV, Flu and COVID-19 Worries U.S. Health Officials; President Biden Announces New Actions to Provide Families with More Breathing Room. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 26, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The race that could decide the balance of power in Congress and the debate that may have helped voters decide.

Plus the nation's pediatric hospitals stretched to capacity. Dr. Anthony Fauci is joining us on the triple threat of flu, COVID and RSV.

And trapped underground for over 30 hours. One of the people rescued tells CNN about their wild ordeal. This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.

And thank you for being here.

Candidates in two key races took to the stage.

And so what did voters take away from the debates?

In Pennsylvania, John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz faced off, sparring over abortion, inflation and fracking. And it was also voters' best chance to see how Fetterman performed as he continues to recover from a stroke six months ago.

And in New York, Governor Hochul went head to head with her challenger, Lee Zeldin, and that fight largely centering on crime during the heated debate. Let's get started in Pennsylvania, Jessica Dean is there.

So they came, they debated and what did voters get to see?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what did voters see?

Because they will ultimately make the decision here. They are the ones that get to make the decision. So we saw John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz coming together for their first and only debate.

And we certainly saw effects Fetterman's stroke recovery on display. He said I'm going to mush words together and he did. He seemed to get lost in his sentences. So we did see that. But there were also issues discussed. And Fetterman's campaign is

zeroing in on Oz's answer on abortion. Asked if he would support a federal law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks, here is what he said.


MEHMET OZ (R-PA), U.S. SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't want the federal government involved with that at all. I want women, doctors, local political leaders leading the democracy that has always our nation to thrive to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.

I'm not going to support federal rules that block the ability of states to do what they wish to do. The abortion decision should be left up to states. I've been clear on my desire as a physician not to interfere with how states decide.


DEAN: And he said that he wants this to be between a woman, her doctor and local politicians. That's where the Fetterman campaign has always zeroed in. They want to tie him to the gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, who supported a fetal heartbeat bill.

As for the Oz campaign, they believed Oz was successful as painting Fetterman as out of touch and extreme. He had said in years past that he did not support fracking. And now says that he does support fracking. Listen to that.


JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I do support fracking. And I don't -- I don't -- I support fracking and I stand -- and I do support fracking.


DEAN: Again the issue Oz campaign really zeroing on in. And you can see the effects of the stroke. He's said that he made a lot of progress but he still, you can see it when he is talking for sure. And again, it is up to the voters to decide what they make of that and how heavily that will or won't weigh their decision.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thank you, Jessica.

And so now let's go to New York, where the first female governor of a deep blue state is facing a real fight from her Republican challenger. You could sense the stakes were high. Athena Jones has more.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As everyone expected, we saw congressman Lee Zeldin attack Governor Hochul.


JONES: Accusing her of not doing enough to keep New Yorkers safe. And we know crime and public safety are at the top of voters' minds. And that is why he has shown up at subways and bodegas. Hochul tried to push back, talking about gun control.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): There is no crime fighting plan if it doesn't include guns, illegal guns. And you refuse to talk about how we can do so much more. You didn't even show up for votes in Washington when a bipartisan group of enlightened citizens voted for an assault weapon ban.

LEE ZELDIN (R-NY), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Unfortunately she believes that the only crimes are committed are crimes with guns. Yet people are being afraid of being pushed in front of oncoming subway cars, they're being stabbed, beaten to death on the street with hammers.


JONES: So both talking about the main issues. Hochul said she passed her own gun safety legislation, slammed Zeldin for not supporting common sense gun control measures like federal and state background checks.

He's right, too, though; people are not just being hurt by guns here in New York state. And so it is a really a matter of perception. And it is not clear that either candidate was able to score enough political points to change the dynamics of the race. No big gaffes.

BOLDUAN: And another great opportunity for voters to get a better sense of the candidates. Great to see that. Athena, thank you so much.

And so Election Day is less than two weeks from now but millions of Americans have already voted. In Georgia alone, over 1 million people have voted. Eva McKend is lie in Atlanta.

What are voters telling you?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: As we've been speaking to voters, asking what is their top issue, some say the future of reproductive rights. And another woman told us she's concerned about the radical right.

Those responses maybe all too surprising. We're in Fulton County, a heavily Democratic area. But more generally, another woman told us that she was concerned about a potential long line on Election Day.

And somebody said that, I could break my leg on November 8. I don't want to leave it to chance. More than 1 million have voted early. In 2019, it was about 590,000. So a 70 percent increase.

Brad Raffensperger argues that this illustrates that Georgia is among the best states to participate in the process. But his Democrat opponent says essentially Republicans should not get credit for Democrats here being able to out-organize voter suppression. Back to you. BOLDUAN: And joining me now is David Chalian and Errol Louis.

David, and let's start in Pennsylvania, the fight in Pennsylvania. And you have noted that in looking at the trajectory and the momentum is probably the best word of the race that Mehmet Oz had momentum.

Did you see anything in the debate that would halt that?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And just to be clear, not just what I've noted but what Democrats and Republicans working on the race have noted to me in conversations, that Mehmet Oz has been consolidating more of the Republican supporters.

And people expected the race to be a close race. I think it was clear from what Fetterman himself said last night as to what one of the biggest takeaways is, the elephant in the room, watching somebody who's in the midst of a recovery from a near fatal stroke, debating for a U.S. Senate seat.

That is not something that we usually see. We don't usually see somebody running for office in recovery of a stroke. And so there is no doubt that his halting performance was on full display for voters to assess how that impacts their decision-making last night.

You know, I think as Jessica noted, there were some key policy battles between these guys that I think each one will have to answer for today. At the time, Fetterman, on his fracking flip-flop and Oz clearly already under the attack about his answer about abortion.


CHALIAN: Saying that local political leaders should join doctors and women in the decision making process.

BOLDUAN: The Fetterman campaign is putting out an ad just from that one line, trying to capitalize on it.

Errol, voters, at least in part, in the Pennsylvania debate, say that they would want to and did tune in to see how Fetterman would fare from the stroke. And Chris Coons compared to Donald Trump's in 2016. Let me play what he said.


SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): When I watched the 2016 presidential debates, I thought it was obvious that Donald Trump wasn't going to win. His answers were halting and he didn't understand the issues and he was combative and aggressive. But millions of Americans voted for him because they liked his attitude.

They liked his authenticity.


BOLDUAN: He is clearly trying to make the point that he wants voters to pick up that kind of authenticity. What do you think?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As I watched the debate, it really started to be a matter of kind of marking him on a bit of a curve. Once you get used to someone's verbal stumbles, we do it with the president every day, you try to get past that and listen for the substance.

And I think that there is something of that that goes in. It was clear to me that there are very different approaches to policy in Pennsylvania and national policy. I think it came through.

Any of us who have relatives, friend, co-workers who have a stent in their heart or have recovered from a stroke or use glasses or hearing aids, it is not that unusual to see someone in recovery trying to keep up and fight against different kind of physical challenges.

It did not come across as any kind of a psychological problem. I thought of it more like this is some guy who just broke his foot or had a stent in his heart or is a little bit winded or had an asthma attack.


BOLDUAN: But not often seen on a political debate stage of course.


LOUIS: And we don't demand that our politicians be perfect physical specimens.

But on the fracking gaffe, I don't think that had anything to with his health. We've all seen politicians who said something in 2018 and said something different this year.

BOLDUAN: And, of course, in New York, going in, crime was expected to be the central issue.

What was the big takeaway?

LOUIS: It is that there are two different visions or versions of what is happening. Everybody knows that there is a problem. But there are some who think that you can't flood a city with weapons, which is what we've seen, New York Police Department has seized over 6,000 weapons this year alone.

If you flood a city with guns, there is going to be problems. I think that is one approach to it.

The other approach is that we have to halt our use of bail reform, we have to lower the age of criminal responsibility and treat 16-year olds like adults, put more cops on the streets. Two different versions of reality and they didn't necessarily argue that much about it.

The governor was saying if we don't deal with the guns, we're never going to get our hands on this. Zeldin was saying we need to change the way we prosecute people.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Errol, and congratulations for the successful debate.

David Chalian, thank you.


So pediatric hospitals are filling up fast amid this nationwide surge of respiratory virus infections among kids.

How much worse will it get before parents get relief?

Dr. Anthony Fauci will join us next.





BOLDUAN: Hospitals across the country are grappling with surges in flu, COVID and RSV among children. And HHS is reporting that about three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds and closer to 80 percent of pediatric ICU beds are currently in use.

Jacqueline Howard is live in Atlanta for us.

What are you seeing?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH CORRESPONDENT: Here at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, they have seen a surge in patients. But just last week, 75 percent of their respiratory admissions were due to RSV. And this week it is due to flu.

So they have seen a shift from RSV to flu. But overall, they are seeing an influx of patients, leading to them having two to three times their regular patient volume. And I spoke with infectious disease physician Dr. Andi Shane. And she said that it could be a predictor of what is to come in the northeast region of the country. Have a listen.



DR. ANDI SHANE, CHILDREN'S HEALTHCARE OF ATLANTA: So oftentimes, especially with RSV, when it starts in the Southeast and then moves upwards in the U.S., and so what we do probably predict will happen is that some of the northern states will start to see more children with influenza after they see more children with RSV.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOWARD: And here in the Southeast, Georgia is one of the states across the country seeing high levels of respiratory activity right now. We should have a map of those states. And this is something that the health officials are watching closely, especially as we head into winter.

BOLDUAN: And joining me for more on this, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Biden.

Dr. Fauci, thanks for being here.

Do you have any sense of when this will peak since it is hitting early?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: Yes, when you see something peaking early, at least initiating early, it likely will peak sooner than usually.

RSV is fundamentally a late fall/early mid winter infection. It usually peaks then. And then sort of tapers off into the spring. We're seeing RSV early and hard right now. As you showed on the clip, it is really putting stress on the pediatric hospital beds, including ICU beds.

But as you mentioned, we're also seeing the conflation of influenza. The Australians usually precede us in severity and they had a bad flu season. So we hope that we don't get it. But if history proves true, we should get a bad flu season.

And we still have COVID. So it's really an unfortunate situation as we get into the colder months to be dealing with three infections. And all the more reason to get people to get their updated COVID shot as well as their flu shot, to at least hit two of the three threats that we certainly will be seeing over the winter.

BOLDUAN: And the latest numbers that just came out from HHS today are that 75 percent of pediatric hospital beds and 78 percent of pediatric ICU beds are currently in use nationwide. And we've heard hospitals being crushed and overwhelmed in some parts.

When you look at this triple threat, are you concerned about hospital capacity for kids?

FAUCI: In some respects, I am. I hope that we don't stress it to the point of really being overwhelmed. I don't think that that is the case. We have good capabilities in this country but this early in the season, there is not a lot of wiggle room.

So that is what concerns us. It's not happened to us before; hopefully it won't happen now but there is a threat of that occurring.

BOLDUAN: New studies suggest that the updated, bivalent COVID boosters work about as well as the original boosters but no better, which, of course, people had hoped that they would be more protective if you will. When they compared the immune responses of people, they looked about

the same.

Is that disappointing news?

FAUCI: Right. Well, if that is the case, it is not that disappointing because they both work very well. And I might comment that those studies came from very good institutions and investigators.

But they're not peer reviewed and those numbers in those studies were small. What I'm looking forward to is the full data, within the next couple of weeks at the latest, from the FDA, who will get the totality of the data that was submitted to them by the companies that did the study.

So I think that the jury is still out. Still, very good reason to still get your updated booster shot.

BOLDUAN: That's right. And it had me thinking about just how, especially with influenza vaccine.


BOLDUAN: You have to plan ahead and kind of guess how the virus will mutate.

Do you think that the light flu season that happened during the pandemic and during isolation, do you think that it made preparing for a regular flu season more difficult to land on the right vaccine?

FAUCI: Well, I'm not sure that is the case. What I am concerned about is because of fatigue of COVID-19, people are pulling back on masking and pulling back on the constraints of crowded indoor settings.

You have sort of like the viruses that have been avoiding a full surge now have the opportunity to surge. And that is what we're concerned about, which may be the reason that we're seeing this big degree of new cases of RSV in children.

Because remember, children were rather protected and now we're trying to get back to normal. It's a good thing but there are negative consequences of that when you have exposure to respiratory illnesses, particularly with the children in school.

BOLDUAN: And a great point. Thank you, Dr. Fauci, for coming on.

FAUCI: Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: And let's go to the White House. President Biden is speaking on new efforts that the administration says they are trying to put in place to tackle junk fees. Let's listen in.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- director Chopra shared this morning that his team has gone further, developing rules and guidance that would take credit card late fees and other banking fees that cost Americans $24 billion a year, take them on.

And we're just getting started.

There are tens of billions of dollars in other junk fees across the economy. I've directed my administration to reduce or eliminate them. Last week, the Federal Trade Commission started work on a rule to crack down on unfair and deceptive fees across all industries, fees that were never disclosed, never disclosed.

And there was no way to avoid the fee, like processing fees for concert tickets or like resort fees. When you think you're paying one price to book a hotel, you only find out after you're checking out that there's a resort fee you never heard about that is added to your bill.

And the Department of Transportation going after unfair airline fees. Last summer if your flight was canceled or delayed, Last summer, if your flight was canceled or delayed, only one top airline guaranteed that you could rebook for free, even because they're the ones who cancelled, not you; you didn't fail to show up.

They cancelled.

When Secretary Buttigieg called them out on this, about 10 airlines - now 10 airlines rebook for free. They don't charge the fee. That's progress.

The Department of Transportation is working on rules that would require airlines and travel sites to disclose fees up front, fees like things, if you want to sit next to your young child.

Well, guess what?

Or your - check your baggage or change your ticket. You're going to be surprised. They're going to charge you for that without telling you. Your ticket is going to cost a heck of a lot more.

And that's not the Federal Communications Commission, they're working on a rule that would make the same thing for fees that internet companies charge, requiring them to show those costs up front.

I'm not saying they can't charge it, but they got to let you know they're going to charge it. You can make a decision.

Some airlines, if you want six more inches between you and the seat in front, you pay more money. But you don't know it until you purchase your ticket.

Look, folks, these are junk fees. They're unfair and they hit marginalized Americans the hardest, especially low-income folks and people of color. They benefit big corporations, not consumers, not working families. And that changes now.

You know, we've been working on this for a while. I know it's been a tough few years. But from day one, my administration has been laser- focused on easing the burden facing working-class families and giving them, as my dad would say again, just a little breathing room.

And because of the steps we've taken, the United States is in a stronger position today than any other country in the world economically. Jobs are up. People are back to work. American manufacturers are roaring back.

As a matter of fact, I'm going to be heading up to Syracuse, New York, in that area, where our U.S. company, Micron, is going to be investing $100 billion. I think I go day after tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Manufacturing computer chips will put tens of thousands of Americans to work.

Working hard to tame inflation with policies to bring down the cost of gasoline, home energy bills and prescription drugs. In the meantime, we've been delivering concrete savings for working families and seniors.

We've made, for example, hearing aids more affordable and available over the counter at prices -- at places like Walgreens and Walmart.