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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Confusion Lingers Over CDC Guidance On Testing; Attorney General: Jan 6 Rioters "Must Be Held Accountable"; Soon: Ex-WH Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham Meets With 1/6 Committee; Kids Grapple With Emotional Toll Of Remote To In-Person Learning; Tennis Superstar Novak Djokovic's Visa Revoked By Australian Government. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And then, you know, the rug gets pulled out. But it feels like if we can get through January, things might get better. That's my latest thought.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: We're told the peak is a couple of weeks away and then we'll be on the down side. Let's hope.

CAMEROTA: Let's do that.

All right. THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A pandemic of confusion.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Backlash growing as the CDC updates its isolation guidance causing only more bewilderment again. Why this makes it so much harder for schools and businesses to reopen.

And on the eve of the insurrection anniversary, the January 6th House committee turns its focus to Trump's former press secretary as it waits to hear from former Vice President Mike Pence. A member of the House Select Committee will tell us more.

Plus, no love in Australia for one of tennis' biggest stars. A look at why the unvaxxed superstar may not be welcome Down Under.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start today in the health lead. Americans are left scratching their heads once again after the CDC attempted to clarify its new isolation guidance, again. A week ago, the agency changed the isolation period for asymptomatic COVID positive individuals reducing it from ten days to five, plus five days of wearing a mask. Many in the medical community were, at that point, shocked the CDC did not recommend a negative COVID test as a condition to re-enter the world. So the CDC went back, revised its guidance and now the CDC says take a test if you want to -- which is not really a recommendation or guidance. And only further muddies the waters. Now, to be fair, part of the problem with this latest confusing

guidance by the CDC is that there are currently not enough tests out there. Even though President Biden and his now chief of staff Ron Klain spent much of the 2020 campaign talking about Trump's failures to get testing to where it needed to be, specifically for Trump not invoking the Defense Production Act to force the manufacture of tests. And for Trump being hostile to the very concept of testing because testing revealed the number of cases.

In the summer of 2020, Ron Klain described the Biden plan for tackling COVID as this.


RON KLAIN, SENIOR ADVISER, BIDEN 2020: The Biden plan starts with fixing Trump's testing fiasco. He'd make sure all Americans have access to regular reliable and free testing.


TAPPER: All Americans, regular, reliable, free testing. It's now 2022, and while Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act and testing is at 10 million a day as opposed to the 2020 number of under a million a day, it's also true that Biden has fallen short of making sure that all Americans have access to regular, reliable and free testing. That's not where we are. Not to the level that's needed.

And now as CNN's Alexandra Field reports, local governments and school boards and parents are left to decide what they think is best for their own communities.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Individuals are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they have received their primary series. That definition is not changing.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No plans to change the definition of fully vaccinated. The White House says even as there's new evidence the efficacy of boosters, lowering the chance of death by an additional 90 percent, according to data shared by the CDC. Even as eligible people are encouraged to get boosted.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected.

FIELD: The CDC advisers weighed today whether to recommend boosters for 12 to 15-year-olds. And on the question of how long infected people need to isolate, more confusion today.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Wish the CDC would just come out and say, hey, we don't have enough tests. We really should have enough tests and then test your way out of isolation.

FIELD: Instead, the CDC issuing updated guidance suggesting that people in isolation who have access to a test could test after five days. If positive, then isolate for five more days.

But the CDC says, if you don't test after five days of isolation, then just wear a mask for five more days.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: So if there were an abundant supply of rapid tests, I think we'd be approaching this differently.

FIELD: Amid a critical shortage of tests, new federal test sites are set to open in six states. The half billion free at-home kits promised by the Biden administration delayed.

As new COVID cases now average over a half million daily, and they are climbing fast, 95 percent are estimated by the CDC to be omicron. Up to three times more contagious than delta. And hospitalizations are surpassing the delta peak last September, approaching an all-time high set last January.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, BIDEN CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: The sheer volume of the number of cases that may be a reduced severity, but could still stress our hospital system.


FIELD: Ohio, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia now among the latest states to call up their national guards to help in hospitals.


FIELD (on camera): So, Jake, the White House is saying that this order of a half billion free tests that they're going to send to Americans, they say that order won't affect the supply of the home kits in stores. Now if you can actually find a kit in a store, the price of it could soon be going up. That's because certain retailers like Walmart and Kroger's had deals with the White House to sell those kits at cost. Those deals have now expired -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alexandra Field, thank you so much.

Let's bring in chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, it's difficult to give clear health guidance to the public when the science keeps changing. And we need to acknowledge that. But that is not always the problem here.

The CDC, in this case, is basically saying you don't need test again after testing positive. But they're saying it in a convoluted way.

Just speak with our viewers: what do Americans really need to be thinking about if they test positive, but they're relatively -- they're asymptomatic or have mild symptoms?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I think you have to make a distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated. I mean, if you're vaccinated and test positive, you feel pretty good about your protection against developing severe disease. I think that's really important.

At the same time, we know that if you are vaccinated, you are less like three become infected but you can still become infected. You can still be contagious. And I think that's what's driving a lot of these guidelines that Alexandra was mentioning, you know, staying home for at least five days, seeing if your symptoms revolve, you no longer have a fever, things like that. And then as you mentioned, and I agree with, what's driving the bottom half of these recommendations about testing is that we don't have enough testing, which is why the testing is now made optional and, frankly, minimized.

I mean, nothing changes if you have a negative test there, right? You're still in isolation for five days. I think what's important to remember as well, Jake, is that where did the five days sort of thing come from? I think if you conceptualize this you say, okay, day zero to day 10. What's the likelihood of contagiousness at any given time? What you find is at day five in the middle there you're still about 31 percent of people are still going to be contagious.

So that -- about one-third of people, Jake, still contagious at that point. If they're not being tested and they, you know, still feel like they are able to get out of isolation. That could be a problem. That continues to accelerate the pandemic.

And I also one more thing, Jake, you know, masks, cloth masks still recommended by the CDC with omicron, it is really a different game. And I think if you're going to wear a mask, and you should, you should wear a high filtration mask, N95 or KN95 because that's going to give you your best chance at not continuing to propagate the virus.

TAPPER: Yeah, I have one of these. It's a KN95, and my kids' school just recommended either double masking or KN95 or N95 masks just because they're better and it's odd that the CDC hasn't made that clear.

There are several examples with whether masks or boosters, where the CDC has made them more confusing than necessary. Do you worry that the more the CDC tweaks its guidance, the more they're losing the trust of the American people. I mean, I see people online, I mean, hashtags have whatever value they have, but it's a meme. The CDC recommends such and such and they make fun of the CDC.

And these are not just vaccine skeptics making fun of them. It's basically all of Twitter.

GUPTA: Yeah, you know, it's -- I do worry about this erosion of trust. I will say, I've been doing this long enough where I remember back in 2015, you know, during Ebola, trust in governmental health agencies at that point was around 30 percent. 31st. So it's not unusual in the middle of a health catastrophe for there to be this erosion of trust.

I think the biggest issue, though, is just the transparency. There's not enough tests. You just showed that clip saying that we were going to have enough tests. We were promised at least a half a billion tests by this point. There's not enough tests and it's because of the lack of tests we're getting this convoluted guidance.

That's bad, but I think we should just be honest about the fact there's not enough tests instead of saying the tests really don't have value. You don't really need it. Take it if you want it. I think that's ultimately what leads to the erosion of trust more than anything else. I think it's still salvageable and, you know, and I am optimistic that, you know, we're going to all get through this together, but I think there was many, many opportunities to be very transparent about it, where those opportunities were missed.

TAPPER: Yeah, and look, to be clear, as I noted, Biden has gotten testing to a better place than it was when he and Ron Klain in 2020 were criticizing Trump for it.


But we are not at the point, as Klain promised about the Biden plan that all Americans have access to regular, reliable and free testing. We're not there, period.

GUPTA: No, we're not, and I don't think that it's even been explained that well, the value of testing. Instead, again, it's been minimized but the idea, Jake, people talk about the PCR test, the gold standard test, very sensitive, will find presence of the virus. That's a good test.

The problem is let's say you're totally past your illness, no longer contagious, you can still continue to test positive on the PCR test. The antigen tests, the rapid antigen tests we talk about, in many ways, they're answering the question people are really asking, which is, am I contagious? That's what these tests are really designed to do.

If we had enough of them and I'm going to exaggerate a little bit, but you can imagine yourself testing every day or every couple of days at least in your own home and knowing, like you check the weather report, am I contagious today? Can I go out and be around people or should I stay at home?

That -- it sounds crazy, fantastical even but that was sort of the plan at one point that we'd have 30, 40 million of these tests available for people and we've just never gotten there.

TAPPER: Yeah, and you say the lack of testing is the original sin. But this is a situation we find ourselves in two years into this pandemic. One doctor told CNN, young vaccinated healthy people should not use up tests when more vulnerable people should use them. Take a listen.


DR. BENJAMIN MAZER, CLINICAL FELLOW IN PATHOLOGY, YALE NEW HAVEN HOSPITAL: Given that scenario, relatively healthy people almost entirely vaccinated, it's not the most effective use of testing. It could be helping those out in the community. Nursing homes still struggle with testing. High-risk people who live at home who may want people around them tested and struggle.


TAPPER: I mean, this is a bunch of people -- a bunch of health officials trying to make the best of the situation while also not saying, as you note, the problem is that there has been a failure when it comes to testing. We're not where we need to be when it comes to the supply.

GUPTA: Yeah. What he is describing is triage that is necessary because we have a paucity of these resources. If we had enough testing, we wouldn't be having to make those decisions. You are right. He's right, I think, you know, in the sense that if you don't have enough tests you do want to prioritize the people that are going to benefit from it the most. People who may be qualifying for therapeutics. They need to know whether they have the virus.

But in the meantime, we got to make sure we ramp up enough testing and that they arrive at the time they're most useful. These tests show up in the summer, you know, the numbers are going to be lower at that point. We need them now.

TAPPER: Yeah, it's incredible that we're still dealing with this.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, your new essay about the CDC guidance is going to be out tonight on Can't wait to see it. Thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

The evidence does not lie. A deeper look at how damaging the pandemic has been on kids' mental health.

Plus, one year ago tonight, a suspect planted bombs near the Capitol and yet we still have no idea who that person was. Is the FBI any closer to making any arrests?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.

Moments ago, Attorney General Merrick Garland reassured the public that on the eve of the Capitol attack anniversary, the actions the Justice Department is taking so far in response to the insurrection will not be its last.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERLA: The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators at any level accountable under law whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: CNN's Evan Perez is live for us at the Justice Department.

Evan, Garland's speech comes as he's facing increasing pressure from the left to prosecute more people involved in the events leading up to the attack.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. And I think what you heard there from an attorney is an acknowledgment that he's hearing criticism, that he knows there's impatience with the pace of how this investigation is going. And frankly, the lack of communication we've had from people in this building about what's the overall strategy, especially when it comes to perhaps going after the bigger fish.

Look, what you're not going to hear from him is any discussion of whether the former President Trump and his associates are going to be held accountable for inciting what happened on January 6th. He's just not going to go there, but what you heard from him is that they're going to follow the facts and see what they can find and prosecute anyone that they can bring prosecutions against.

TAPPER: Evan, you spoke to one of the FBI officials in charge of the investigation into the insurrection. What did he have to say?

PEREZ: Well, Jake, you know, one of the unusual things about the crime from -- that happened January 6th was almost nobody was arrested. It's taken a huge herculean effort to arrest those people and for the FBI, one of the big factors, one of the big items is still the person who left bombs at the DNC and RNC, which is near the U.S. Capitol.

I sat down with Steven D'Antuono who is running the investigation for the FBI Washington field office and he talked about, you know, 250 people that they're still looking for for assaults against police officers. Take a listen.


PEREZ: One of the focuses for the FBI has been on the assaults of the police officers that day. Is there a special group of agents focused on that?


STEVEN D'ANTUONO, ASST. DIRECTOR IN CHARGE OF FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: Over 100 police officers were assaulted that day multiple times. Not just once, we're not just talking about one assault, multiple assaults and by multiple people. We're still looking for about 250 people, individuals, that assaulted police officers that day.

PEREZ: How long do you think this will take?

D'ANTUONO: We're speculating, but it's taken a year. We still have a lot to do. Like I said, there's still a lot of video out here, still a lot of people to identify. We're going to be at this as long as it takes until we bring the people to justice.


PEREZ: And, Jake, we have about 725 people who already are facing charges. We are looking at well over 1,000 by the time this is all over.

TAPPER: Evan Perez, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, Donald Trump's former Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham is about to meet with the January 6th committee. We'll ask a committee member what they want to learn from her. That's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, in the next couple of hours, the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack will meet with one of the longest serving members of the Trump administration. Stephanie Grisham served as White House press secretary and communications director and as chief of staff for then First Lady Melania Trump. Grisham was the first Trump administration official to resign as a response to the insurrection.

This is what she told me in October about the former president's thinking on January 6th.


STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I know he was well aware that there was going to be a very large gathering, you know, a Stop the Steal gathering that he was going to be speaking at. I know that his campaign was working directly with some of the people -- some of the vendors who were kind of organizing the campaign. I believe that when he went up there and made those strong statements of, we must be strong, we must go fight, let's walk down to the Capitol, I believe he knew what he was saying, and I believe he, again, like I said, he knows what people are willing to do for him.


TAPPER: Here to discuss, Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar of California. He's on the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack.

Congressman, what questions are you going to have for Stephanie Grisham?

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Well, thanks for having me, Jake. Happy New Year.

I think that it's important to note, I can't talk about any specifics of the interviews that we're going to be having in the coming days and weeks, but what I can tell you is this is someone who is in -- clearly in the president's orbit and very close to he -- very close to him and the first lady and someone who has knowledge about what the president might have been thinking on January 5th and January 6th. Those are important aspects of our investigation and things that we want to get to the bottom of.

TAPPER: Your Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson says that your committee wants to also hear directly from former Vice President Mike Pence. He was in the Capitol with you all that day, not at the White House.

So, what kind of information do you want from him?

AGUILAR: Well, what we've said all along is understanding the pressure campaign that was being put by folks in the White House to other states and to potentially the vice president. Those types of aspects are important to our work. We need to have more clarity, specifically on what was happening. Those 187 minutes on January 6th.

But the time from the election until January 5th and 6th, that's an important timeline as well. And understanding the pressure campaign that the White House was undertaking is important and we feel that there are many individuals who could have information that are helpful to our investigation in that regard.

TAPPER: Can you tell us if the former Vice President Mike Pence plans to voluntarily cooperate with the committee?

AGUILAR: We're interested in hearing from a lot of individuals. So I can't get into specifics, but we are talking to a number of individuals and hope that many more come forward.

Our task, our charge in front of us is to find out everything we can on what happened January 6th, the lead up to that. That's exactly what we plan to do and Chairman Thompson and Vice Chair Cheney have been leading those discussion.

TAPPER: We heard -- Attorney General Merrick Garland this afternoon pledging to bring every single person involved with the Capitol riot to justice. Your fellow Democratic colleague Ruben Gallego of Arizona on the other hand has had some very harsh words about Garland on CNN yesterday.

Take a listen.


REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): I think Merrick Garland has been extremely weak and I think there should be a lot more of the organizers of January 6th that should be arrested by now.


TAPPER: Do you agree? Do you think Attorney General Garland has been weak?

AGUILAR: What I hear from my colleagues is that we need to ensure there's accountability at all levels. And the Department of Justice has a role to play there.

And so, clearly, that's what we're interested in is making sure that we're accountable, we're holding individuals accountable for what happened.

And Congress, we have our role here through the Select Committee. We're going to be finding out what exactly happened and what transpired. But the Department of Justice also needs to have a layer of accountability. That's what I hear from my colleagues, and that's what we expect out of an impartial Department of Justice.

TAPPER: Yeah. But do you think he's been weak, Garland?

AGUILAR: I think what we want to see out of them is to hold people accountable. But sometimes it takes time. We see that, from our perspective within the committee.

And so we're going to be patient and allow the Department of Justice to do what they need to do. But at the end of the day, we want to make sure that they are committed to accountability just like we are here in Congress.


TAPPER: The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said his department is operating at a heightened level of threat because of the anniversary of the insurrection tomorrow. But they're not aware any of credible threats specifically related to the anniversary tomorrow.

Are you at all concerned about potential violence tomorrow?

AGUILAR: I'm not. I haven't seen anything that would -- that would give me that pause from a security posture, but that might be a better question for other members. But my feeling here is that we're going to have a solemn moment here and make sure that we mark the anniversary of January 6th. We do so in a way that is true to what happened, and also reflective. And that we honor those Capitol police officers and individuals who were those last line of defense for democracy that we had here that day.

So those are the important aspects tomorrow. But I don't -- I don't feel any safety issues associated with tomorrow specifically.

TAPPER: There is a provision in the Constitution, the 14th Amendment, that says anybody who has participated in an insurrection against the Constitution needs to be barred from holding office whether House or Senate or the presidency. Is that one of the ways the committee is exploring accountability?

In other words, maybe the committee is not able to find that President Trump or any of the congressmen or senators who also fomented the insurrection or incited it, maybe they didn't break any laws but they did violate the Constitution. And, therefore, the committee might recommend action along those lines, barring individuals from running for office or holding office if the committee concludes that they did commit an insurrection against the Constitution.

AGUILAR: I'm not going to presuppose what a final report could say. We're still in that investigative stage right now. We're still gathering a lot of information.

But I think it's clear from the impeachment proceedings, the twice impeached former president, that that was something that many of us felt is prohibiting him from serving in the future, was something that was a worthy discussion.

But I'm not going to get into the investigative measures or what final report could say that we produce.

TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar, thank you so much. Appreciate it, as always.

AGUILAR: Thanks, Pete.

TAPPER: Tomorrow, join us for a special coverage, live inside the Capitol, with police, lawmakers and political leaders. I'm going to be joined by my colleague Anderson Cooper for "January 6th: One Year Later". That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Middle school is hard enough without a global pandemic. The real-world impact of the pandemic on kids' mental health.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, public school students in Chicago are back to at-home learning after the teachers union in that city voted to remote restart the school year because of COVID concerns, even though health experts have been saying literally for years now that schools should be the very last thing to close, and as long as precautions are taken, schools can be safe places for kids.

Children who, of course, have suffered greatly in terms of emotionally and academically and psychologically, since the pandemic came to the U.S. in March 2020.

As CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reports, kids who are in person are struggling with the whiplash of packed hallways and social interaction and new rules.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like other families, the Kitleys in Chicago were thrilled when last fall their four children could finally go back to school. But halfway through the school year, there have been bumps in the road leaving home, going back to school.

KELLEY KITLEY, MOTHER: That transition back to school has been difficult, mostly for my youngest child who felt this sense of safety and security from the age of 7 until 8 1/2 and then needing to go back to school.

COHEN: So, it sounds like your daughter got used to having the comfort of having mom and dad around all the time.

KITLEY: Absolutely. And then it is expected to go back to school from 0 to 100. There wasn't a gradual transition.

COHEN: Kitley, a therapist herself, sees the tension in her parents.

KITLEY: They are feeling increased anxiety around just how to be and communicate with people and build friendships and being able to feel comfortable in their environment.

COHEN: Have you seen children hit crisis points?

KITLEY: Low self-esteem and low confidence and feeling depressed and as a coping mechanism turning to eating disorder behavior or cutting behavior, and really not being able to manage the intensity of being back in a school environment.

COHEN: Last month, the U.S. surgeon general issued this 50-page advisory outlining how the pandemic has had an unprecedented negative impact on the health of children. One global study finding symptoms of youth depression and anxiety doubled.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I am so concerned about our children because there is an epidemic, if you will, of mental health challenges they've been facing.

COHEN: Kitley says an empowerment group for girls that she started has helped.

Atlanta area counselor Teshia Stovall Dula says when children feel overwhelmed by the transition back to school, she offers them a safe place.

TESHIA STOVALL DULA, 7TH GRADE COUNSELOR, HULL MIDDLE SCHOOL: They'll often come to my office just to get a break from the noise.


And I was very surprised by that, that they needed to come and get a break from the noise.

COHEN: Her advice to parents, remember that if your children seem immature for their age, there's a reason. They missed out on more than a year of development with their peers.

DULA: I mean, my 12-year-old, they still act so young. They're more like elementary school kids.

COHEN: Missing a year to a year and a half of social interaction, for middle school students, that's a lot.

DULA: It was a lot.

COHEN: And be patient with your child as they transition from one way of life to another.

DULA: The world was turned upside down. As adults, we are able to bounce back quicker, usually, faster. But for them, you know, it's going to take a little more time.


COHEN (on camera): And now as children head back to school after the holidays, another factor adding to the anxiety, omicron. Older children understand how very transmissible it is so again, counselors urging patience and conversations with your children about COVID-19 -- Jake.

TAPPER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Dimitri Christakis. He is a pediatrician and the director for child health behavior and development at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Dr. Christakis, a kid who's in seventh grade has not had a steady predictable education since fourth grade. Those are such incredibly formative years.

How concerned are you that thousands of schools have decided to delay or go remote for the first part of this year.

DR. DIMITRI CHRISTAKIS, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CHILD HEALTH, BEHAVIOR AND DEVELOPMENT, SEATTLE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: I'm very concerned. It's really good to be back, but I wish I were back here to talk about something else. You know, we keep facing this same dilemma about whether or not children should go to school.

And we know enough now to know that they can go to school safely. The schools are not a primary source of contagion, particularly when mitigation strategies are followed. And we also know that keeping them out of school has been immensely damaging to their mental health, to the cognitive development and these years are lost. They're not easily recoverable.

And to me, to see that we have sports arenas going on when they can field teams with tens of thousands of fans, bars and restaurants open, to hear mayors and governors and even the president say we're not going to be shutting down because of omicron, but schools are shutting down. Shutting down schools is effectively shutting down society for children. That is their life.

So we shouldn't talk about not shutting down if we're shutting down schools. And schools, as I've said, should be the last thing to close and the first thing to open.

TAPPER: So, Dr. Christakis, let's say that I am a teacher. I have some comorbidities. And I'm, you know, 55, 65 years old. Tell me why I am safe in a school. CHRISTAKIS: Yeah, I'll tell you why. Because we know that I would say

vaccinated -- we now say vaccinated and boosted. I think we should think of three vaccines as being quote, unquote vaccinated. As a pediatrician we give three, four, five doses before we consider someone fully vaccinated.

But as an adult, even with some comorbidities, if you're fully vaccinated and practice mitigation strategies, which adults are perfectly capable of doing, an adult teacher can mask, she can maintain social distance, they can use hand hygiene, and they can work perfectly safely.

We do it in the health care arena all the time. But let me take it a step further. If, in fact, the Chicago teachers are refusing to go back, the students should still be allowed to go back. The teachers can Zoom into the classroom. It's that important from my perspective that children be allowed to interact with each other in a real space.

So, clearly, my preference would be that teachers are present in the classroom but a second choice would be the teachers be virtually present in the classroom and students be authentically present.

TAPPER: So, despite the benefits of kids being in person, there are parents that are worried about the safety of their kid at school, especially given how rapidly the omicron variant spreads. What do you tell a parent who is concerned?

CHRISTAKIS: Yeah, so, you know, the good news is that children over the age of 5 can all be vaccinated now. Get at least two doses and some can get three. And those vaccines from what we know do provide significant protection against omicron, which is what we're seeing right now. And that in spite of the fact that there are a lot of reports that a lot more children are sick with omicron, it's likely reflects the fact that a lot -- a lot more -- it likely reflects the fact that many more children are getting it. It's incredibly contagious.

So, if ten times more children get it, they'll be ten times more children who are very sick from it. But the truth is the risk of children getting very, very sick from omicron remain vanishingly low. It's not a reason to keep children out of school, particularly given that we know they can be safe there. Most of the transmissions that are happening are happening outside of schools.

TAPPER: Yeah, I was really happy to see the head of my kids' school sent out an email a few minutes ago saying that they wanted to demand a higher quality mask for kids.


TAPPER: So now they're being told to wear a kn95 or something like that. The cloth masks are not good enough. Do you think that schools should be doing that, too?

CHRISTAKIS: I agree. I think that cloth masks, for all people, including children, should be kind of a thing of the past. And we should be using surgical masks or KN95s. Surgical masks at a minimum.

If people like the vanity effect of a cloth mask, wear it over their surgical mask. Wearing a KN95 all day, quite frankly for children, can be a bit of a challenge, but it offers more protection. But a surgical mask should be the minimum.

I want to say one more thing about this issue of mental health in children because we also are probably going to start to see sort of if you will (INAUDIBLE) back, right? I mean, these are children who are just starting to get back into school and all of a sudden are being told, oh, no, you're not going back. You're going back to where you were two years ago.

And that can lead to a real sense of hopelessness. I mean, what do they foresee as the end? The truth is we have a long way to go before COVID is an endemic disease that we just treat like influenza. And there are a lot of letters left in the Greek alphabet before we get there.

And if the strategy is always going to be with each new variant, we need to shut down schools. We're going to be doing it for many years to come.

TAPPER: Yeah. Dr. Christakis, always good to have you on. Thank you so much.

We've got some breaking news. Australia is telling one of the world's top tennis players who is not vaccinated, he's not welcome.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we have some breaking news for you in our sports lead now. Just moments ago, the Australian government announced that tennis superstar Novak Djokovic will not be allowed to enter that country amid growing backlash over a vaccine exemption that had been given to Djokovic who is not vaccinated. The decision to grant the exemption prompted widespread anger and skepticism in Australia where residents have endured months of strict COVID lockdowns.

CNN's Phil Black joins us now live.

Phil, it's not the vaccine exemption we should note that's keeping him from entering the country. Tell us more what you're learning about this decision.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Y, that's right, so Djokovic played it coy on the subject of his vaccination status, although he's spoken out about the idea against vaccines. There's a point of speculation about whether he'd travel to Australia to play at Melbourne in the Australian Open. We recently heard the news he'd been granted an exemption to play in the tournament by tournament organizers as an unvaccinated player. We were told that's a fair blind process. Two independent panels of experts assessed his medical application.

They didn't know whose application they were assessing, crucially. And that's why he got that exemption.

But it seems he, his team messed up the separate and very important paperwork that allows him to enter the country as an unvaccinated person. And so that is why he was effectively stopped at the border when he flew in. We understand he was held in a room while his case was assessed. And the result of that review is that the Australian authorities have determined that he has failed to provide the appropriate evidence that should allow him to enter the country at this time under the existing COVID rules.

So what does that mean? Well, it means his visa has been canceled. It's unclear what avenues of appeal he has, whether or not he can challenge this decision in any way.

But it is possible that the world number one tennis player could be put on a plane in the coming hours, perhaps sooner, and sent home. It is an undignified way for this to be resolved, Jake, and we no doubt he won't be happy about it. His father has spoken out saying he was essentially held captive while all of this played out today.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Black, thanks so much.

Almost one year ago, thousands of MAGA terrorists attacked the Capitol. We're going to talk to the head of the Department of Homeland Security about the concerns ahead of the anniversary of that horrible day.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, classes canceled, at least for today. The Chicago teachers union's decision to go with remote could have a devastating effect on many windy city families and children. We're going to talk to a parent worried about the impact on her seventh grade daughter.

Plus, a horrific fire in Philadelphia killing 13 people, including seven children. All inside city-owned public housing with smoke detectors that were not working. We'll go live with how this all happened.

And leading this hour, state of the cases. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland outlining today the latest on the Justice Department's investigation into what happened on January 6th. Just one day before the anniversary of the attack. More than 725 people have been arrested, charged or convicted already. But more than 350 rioters remain on the loose.

As CNN's Ryan Nobles reports for us now, the attorney general is promising to hold every January 6th rioter accountable no matter what it takes.