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Don Lemon Tonight

U.S. A.G. Not Mincing Words; People Can See A Dark Horizon Under Trump; One GOP Member Leaves His Party; Children's Future Jeopardized By COVID Arguments; COVID Leaves A Mark On Everyone's Life. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 22:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (on camera): The city also issued an official proclamation recognizing Brooks' milestone birthday.

What an extraordinary life. Thank you for your service. The news continues, let's turn things over now to Don and DON LEMON TONIGHT. Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: We should all be so lucky to live so long and have such a legacy.


LEMON: You know, Anderson, I was watching you earlier, that guy, part of the greatest generation, you were talking to Arthur Kaplan, and I thought it was a fascinating conversation about what is the line between personal responsibility and, you know, following the rules and helping the greater good as Mr. Brooks' generation did. That line -- that line is skewed now.

COOPER: Yes, that talk, you know, we don't talk about citizenship a lot, and being a citizen and what that means and what responsibilities come with that, I think. I think it's something we should try to talk about more

LEMON: Yes. I'll see you tomorrow from the capitol on that very somber day that we'll be sadly marking. Thank you, Anderson, have a good evening. See you tomorrow.

This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. Thank you so much for joining us.

And as I was just talking to Anderson about, We're hours away, just a couple of hours away from the first anniversary of the attack on our nation's capitol. We're marking it not as a celebration. It's just a, it was a terrible day, and I want you to think about what tonight was like just one year ago.

Do you remember what you were doing one year ago, we had no idea, right? Maybe you were watching election coverage of the Georgia special election. Maybe you were doing something else entirely. But you probably weren't aware that the crowds were gathering in Washington, D.C., that the surge of anger and resentment was building, fueled by lies and manipulated by a malignant sore loser into something that we could never have dreamed, never have dreamed possible, more of a nightmare, really.

An attack on the seat of our democracy by a horde of our own fellow citizens. A year ago, tonight, America had no idea what was being planned for the very next day. We were so naive, right. The very next day was one of the darkest days in this nation's history.

That's when those violent riot rioters attacking the seat of our democracy, beating police officers, breaking in to the United States Capitol. Sad, really. Can you believe it? Forcing our elected officials to really run for their lives. Putting up a gallows outside, threatening to hang the Vice President, Mike Pence.


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


LEMON (on camera): You know sometimes it seems like we have looked at these videos every day for the past year. And they definitely deserve to be at the top of the news for the past year and for years to come.

And it's getting to the point where I wonder and frankly, I worry that we have become desensitized to it because that's exactly what they want for us to get tired of it or become desensitized to it so that they can run rough shot over our democracy, that we will move on, meaning the people who are right thinking people and the media, the truth tellers, that we will somehow move on from this de debauchery.

We're really in danger of it turning into another thing that we fight over. Telling the truth in the face of all the gaslighting and the whitewashing is very difficult, and maybe you want to tune it out, maybe, because it is a very ugly truth.

But the truth is that January 6th was as close as we have ever come in modern history to losing our democracy, and that threat is not over. The attorney general today, Merrick Garland vowing to hold the perpetrators responsible no matter who they are.

So far, more than 725 defendants have been arrested and charged for their roles in the January 6th attack, and House select committee investigating the attack is following the trail deeper into the former president's inner circle.

Just in this last 24 hours, releasing texts from Fox propaganda network star Sean Hannity, asking to talk to him and to the former Vice President Mike Pence who had to flee the capitol with rioters just minutes away. And tonight, the one-time White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham speaking to the committee.

We all saw what happened on January 6th, we saw it with our own eyes but the right is still trying to whitewash that history, so let me get this straight. This was not a tourist visit. Those rioters were not peaceful patriots, they were not antifa, they were not Black Lives Matter, they were Trump supporters. And they were trying to overthrow our free and fair election.


You don't have to look far to see the damage done in this country, the damage still being done, the capitol police chief says that the department filled a record number of threats against our elected officials last year. 9,600. Nine thousand six hundred threats that they fielded against our elected officials in Washington.

A year ago, tonight, America had no idea what was being planned for the very next day, and look at what's happened since then. What's happened to us? That's a very good question. What has happened to us?

Look at how many people are under attack every day in a very angry America. I didn't expect to hear this today from the attorney general but the truth is all too obvious.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Police officers who put their lives on the line every day to serve our communities have been targeted with extraordinary levels of violence. Flight crews have been assaulted, journalists have been targeted, school personnel and their families have been threatened.

A member of Congress was threatened in a gruesome voice mail that asked if she had ever seen what a 50-caliber shell does to a human head. These acts and threats of violence are not associated with any one set of partisan or ideological views. But they are permeating so many parts of our national life that they risk becoming normalized and routine if we do not stop them. That is dangerous for people's safety and it is deeply dangerous for our democracy.


LEMON (on camera): I want you to really think about this. Maybe you have, it's been too much. I know a lot of people it's hard to watch the news. It's too much for them to take. They have dialed out. I get it. It's a lot.

We've gone through a lot over the last couple of years, really the last six years, a lot. Think about where we were, though, just one year ago tonight. Where are we going to be one year from now? Or even two years from now?

Let's bring in now CNN senior legal analyst, Preet Bharara, a former U.S. attorney. Preet, good evening to you. How are you doing?


LEMON: Good to see you as well. What has happened to this country to democracy in the year since this insurrection on January 6th and where is this all heading? BHARARA: Well, not good. The assessment is not good. People have been

circulating on social media and other places I think something that's very important, the immediate reactions of a lot of people, Republicans in particular in the wake of January 6th.

Many of them were calling out the violence, calling out how terrible a transgression this was, how undermining of democracy it was.

And then they put their fingers up in the political winds and you have the base that said some of the things that you mentioned earlier. That they were tourists, they were patriots or it was antifa or some other group not affiliated with Donald Trump and his supporters.

And a lot of that has changed. And so, in some ways, you might have predicted on January 6th that the country might have come together to condemn all of the things that happened and work in ways to improve our laws, to improve the security of the capitol, to improve and strengthen democracy.

And I fear not to sound too pessimistic, but the opposite has happened. The people have hardened into their camps and the sentiment of Donald Trump on that very day that was so damming, I think, when he said at some point, I love you to the people who had engaged in all of this criminal activity, 725 defendants and counting, as you said, a lot of people have come around to that point of view, whether they believe it or not.

Some people believe it, and I think have been radicalized by it. But then a lot of important officials including members of the Senate and other powerful officials in the Republican Party don't believe it. They know what happened was wrong, but they go along with it because they think it's electorally helpful to them.

LEMON: And they are using those people in a way, they have coopted them, right, and they have acted upon whatever it is, I don't want to say that their ignorance or it's just their them not being -- them being unaware that they are being used by their own elected officials.

In his speech today, the attorney general Merrick Garland pushed back against the criticism that this is taking too long to get accountability for the attack on the capitol. And our Jeffrey Toobin summed it up, Garland's speech this way, he said, just be patient. I'd say the response is, OK, OK, but what are we going to do about it? So, the question is what are we going to do about it? What are they going to do about it?


BHARARA: So, I think the speech was a good speech overall, and I understand why some people might have a mixed reaction to it. Now bear in mind, the Justice Department has certain norms and traditions that are tested from time to time, but you don't, you know, go in front of the public and give detailed updates about what's going on behind the scenes, and who you're investigating and who the targets are, and who you've interviewed and everything else. They're in a great disadvantage in that regard with respect to, as

compared to the January 6th select committee who whenever they want, they can release texts between Sean Hannity and other folks, they can release excerpts of testimony, they can talk about who's come in, they can talk about who's cooperating and who's not.

So, people have a very, very good sense of what aggressive tactics and approaches are being taken by the 1/6 committee. The Justice Department doesn't have that. What I found very notable was this one paragraph in Merrick Garland's speech where he talks about how the department is completely committed to going after every January 6th perpetrator at any level, whether they were present or otherwise criminally responsible.

And that is to address, I think, a concern that people had that not only were some people not being held accountable, ultimately, but they weren't even being scrutinized. And you know, a little inside baseball, if you're on the public information office's e-mail list like I am and I'm sure your producers are, eight minutes before Merrick Garland gave that address today, we received an e-mail that contained an advance excerpt from the speech.

And often an entire speech is embargoed and e-mailed to press so they can have a chance to digest it or extend an excerpt. And there was only one paragraph that was sent out in that e-mail by the head public information officer, and it was that paragraph about the commitment to hold anyone accountable at any level whether they were present or not, which seems to me in context not to be mere boilerplate, but to try to send a message to everyone without saying it by name, without mentioning Donald Trump or Mark Meadows or other people by name, saying they will not shrink from investigating those people as appropriate.

So, I think as far as that goes, that was important in reassuring. What we don't know is what activity has been going on, what investigation has been going on in the same way that we do with the 1/6 committee.

LEMON: The thing here, Preet, is that usually you deal with the politics of it, right, you've got the midterm elections and everything is sort of in its you know, in its own corner, so to speak, in its own bucket.

But now you have the political and the legal, right, meeting together. And so, the political is actually putting pressure on the legal part of it because when the politics change, if they do, then this investigation changes as well. So that is a huge factor in what's happening here, and quite sad.

BHARARA: Yes, well, I think what Merrick Garland was trying to do is separate those things. You know, anybody who's been in the department for a period of time and understands the proper culture of the place and has taken that oath like I have taken on more than one occasion understand that justice is justice and politics is to be kept separate. That doesn't mean that Merrick Garland doesn't understand we live in a

real world in which the lack of public confidence and faith that the department is doing everything appropriate within the constraints of the law to hold people accountable, that concern persists.

And so, what he was trying to do was tell everyone, you know, sit back, we're prepared to do what is needed to be done, no matter what level folks may be at. We'll follow the facts. We'll follow the law. We'll follow the physical evidence. We'll follow the communications evidence.

But, you know, essentially, he was saying we're not going to be swayed by politics. We understand that there's a concern, that we need to make sure the people have faith and confidence that we're doing the right thing. That we're not afraid of going after powerful folks, but we can't tell you too much about it, and sort of trust us a little bit.

And I understand for people outside the department why that is not that reassuring but I think the words he uttered today were helpful.

LEMON: Let's talk more about the January 6th investigation. Stephanie Grisham seen leaving her meeting with the committee telling reporters tonight that she cooperated fully at the time of the capitol attacks. She was chief of staff to the first lady, Melania Trump and was the first in the Trump administration, the first administration official to resign that day.

The committee is clearly getting to the center of the Trump family and what they did that day. How do you read this?

BHARARA: I think they're focusing on the exact right thing. If one of the focuses of the inquiry is what was in Donald Trump's mind, what was his state of mind, did he intend to incite his supporters to go to the capitol to engage in violence or at a minimum to try to obstruct the counting of votes and certification of votes, then it's important to understand from the people around him, Stephanie Grisham, his daughter, his son, and others, his chief of staff, what his reaction was.


And as the famous 187 minutes or three hours and seven minutes during which Donald Trump didn't do anything, even though as we know now, he was implored to do so based on reporting by his daughter, by Sean Hannity, by members of Congress.

And the fact that he didn't do anything, as, you know, is coming out from these witnesses that you say they're focusing on, the fact that he didn't do anything is consistent with his state of mind earlier in which he would have intended to incite the crowd.

If he was mortified by the violence, if he was mortified by what his supporters were doing, if he didn't want them to do those things and he thought they were misconstruing his exhortations to them in the speech he gave on January 6th, then he would have sprung into action earlier.

So, I think all of that evidence from all of those witnesses who were in around him or people who were themselves in and around the vicinity of the White House, incredibly important to establish Donald Trump's own culpability and that at the end of the day is one of the most important things to do here.

LEMON: Preet, thank you. I appreciate the conversation. Thank you so much.

BHARARA: Thanks so much.

LEMON: So, they were trapped inside capitol when a violent mob attacked, fearing for their lives, but now one year later, the Republican Party is all in on the big lie that fueled the whole thing. What does that mean for the future of our democracy?



LEMON (on camera): In just a few hours, we're going to mark the one year anniversary of the deadly insurrection at the capitol. The White House saying that President Joe Biden will speak about the January 6th assault from the capitol sanctuary hall and will discuss the former president's role in the riot.

Let's bring in now CNN political director David Chalian, and CNN senior political analyst, Kirsten Powers, the author of "Saving Grace"

Good evening to both of you.

David, one year after the worse assault in the capitol and the constitutional process in the modern era and the big lie that fueled the insurrection is now a pillar of the Republican Party, what does that mean for the future of our elections and our democracy, quite frankly?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It means nothing good. I mean, it means our democracy is in pretty serious peril, Don. I don't know that there's another way to see it. I think, you know, you noted the Republican Party, a majority of Republicans in poll after poll after poll tell us they are fully bought in to President Trump's lie about the 2020 election.

And in fact, The Washington Post has reporting tonight that says 163 Republicans, according to The Washington Post tally, are running for statewide elected offices across the country, and these people have expressed and embraced Trump's lie, and they're running for office to have oversight over some portion of the election apparatus in their states.

This is -- this is what it means to have a democracy in peril. I know that a majority of Americans understand that Joe Biden was legitimately elected. But that is meaningless in the face of these attempted efforts to put people into possessions of oversight over elections who have expressed a total embrace of an attempted coup and a totally false narrative about a legitimate election.

LEMON: Kirsten, I just, I want to play this for you, some of what we heard from Republicans, this is shortly after the January 6th attack. And then we'll talk.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on congress.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough.


LEMON (on camera): So, and then fast forward, and McCarthy in a letter to his colleagues this week blaming security failures doesn't even mention Trump, is the effort to whitewash the attack, is that working?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's working with a certain group of people. You know, as David was pointing out, most Americans do understand what happened, but there's a large section of Americans, particularly people who are Republican Trump supporting people who think the election was stolen, and think that they can't trust the electoral process, and they believe in the big lie.

And the fact that you have leaders in the Republican Party, people that you just played them talking who very quickly backed away from the statements that they were making and have -- when it really was their responsibility to be leaders and tell people perhaps doing what Liz Cheney is doing, saying that no one thought this was a legitimate election, and that, you know, we should all believe this.

But you know, they put their fingers in the air and they saw which way the wind was blowing and it was blowing in the direction of Donald Trump. And so, they have, you know, they have bought into this.

And there can be no Donald Trump, there can be no loss of democracy. There can be no authoritarian government without people like that. It doesn't happen just with one person. It happens because Mitch McConnell goes along with it. It happens because Lindsey Graham goes along with it. That's how it happens.

LEMON: David, you know, she mentioned Liz Cheney, and she's part of this New York Times excellent piece. It says, 10 Republicans were voted -- 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after January 6th and the consequences of that vote, Representatives Gonzalez and Kinzinger, they're retiring, Liz Cheney was stripped of her leadership position.

Reps Herrera, Herrera Beutler, Peter Meijer, and Fred Upton have Trump endorse primary challengers, and the others are just trying to stay under the radar. The people who had the courage to stand up to insurrection -- the insurrection have been isolated. Is there no one left for the next time?

CHALIAN: Well, I think one of the great story lines to watch this year are these 10 pro impeachment Republicans.


You noted two have announced that they're not running for election, so the eight that are, especially where they have Trump-backed challengers, let's see. Let's see if Donald Trump's power within the Republican Party can defeat all of those folks. That will solidify a party that is crafted and totally molded in the image of Donald Trump.

But if some of these folks who voted to impeach the president are able to push back that challenge and defeat it and win reelection despite the Trump- backed forces against them, you might start seeing that kind of movement of growth. It shows that as powers, especially in some red places.

But all indications are right now that the Trump side of the party is the one inside primary politics with the activist base juice, and you will see is, it won't be 10 if it were to happen again next time around, you'll see those numbers shrink, people willing to stand up and take on, you know, defend the Constitution over what their party is doing for political purposes.

LEMON: Just got a quick question for you, guys. I don't remember, I know that I was probably preparing for our coverage of certifying the election, but do you remember what you were doing on the night of January 5th, David?


CHALIAN: Yes, I mean, the night of January 5th on this night a year ago, we were covering the Georgia runoff races. Remember, we had those two Georgia Senate races --


LEMON: Right. Ossoff and Warnock.

CHALIAN: -- and we were in full election coverage.

LEMON: Right.

CHALIAN: And I just went back and looked on the morning of the 6th, one of the things I was doing on TV that morning was going through that electoral count act and explaining exactly how things were expected to unfold in the ceremony on the 6th of January. Of course, nothing unfolded the way that it was expected to unfold.

LEMON: Kirsten, do you remember?

POWERS: I don't remember what I was doing the night before, but I just remember the day of.


POWERS: It's seared in my memory, I will never forget it, you know, sitting in front of the television and watching that and just trying to process what I was seeing.

LEMON: Yes, you jogged my memory, David. I remember I was up late covering that election, and then so I wasn't on the air. But glued to the television because I was watching you guys, and I was like what is going on here, like what are those pictures from the capitol. Like, we don't know what's happening, and then all of a sudden, it unfolded into an insurrection and chaos, and we didn't know if it was going to be successful.

CHALIAN: It shook us to our core.

LEMON: We had no idea. It certainly did.


LEMON: Thank you, both.

Out of the GOP, a Colorado representative says that after a year of trying to pivot his party from Trump, he is done. He speaks out here next.



LEMON (on camera): So, we are hours away from the one year anniversary of January 6th and the fealty to the former president is as strong as the day that he left office. The House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy all in calling the January 6th committee a partisan political weapon.

Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz say that they will give the Republican response to President Biden's January 6th speech, as if there's another side to the violent madness, we all saw that day.

One former Colorado state representative has had enough. Tweeting it has been one year since January 6th, 2021. All downhill from there. Election lies, vaccine misinformation making it harder to vote, excusing January 6th thuggery, conspiracy theories galore, I'm tired. I tried, excuse me, I encouraged a reason. I urged a pivot from Trump. I failed. I'm out. Hash tag unaffiliated.

That was Cole Wist, a former Colorado House assistant minority leader and he joins me now. Cole, good evening to you. Very brave of you.


LEMON: I'm so happy you're on. But that's very brave of you, where did you get the guts to do that? WIST: Well, you know, I think I was raised in a family where we rise

up and do the right thing, tell the truth. The Republican Party used to stand for telling the truth, and unfortunately, we've seen that it no longer does that.

I'm not sure how the party of Ronald Reagan, the man who tore down the iron curtain became the party of Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and other folks who simply will not be straight with the American people. So, it was just time for me to make a pivot.


LEMON: I mean, how do you -- you said you don't know how that, but I mean, do you have an idea because it's -- it is -- I think it's shocking to most people. Did you feel that the Republican Party was moving in that direction for some time now, though?

WIST: Well, you know, I guess if you want to blame people that voted for Donald Trump in 2016, you're looking at one who is in that camp. And I was an elected Republican at that time, I did vote for the standard bearer of the party, and I believed, and obviously I think naively so looking back that Donald Trump would change, that he would rise to the occasion, that he would become the leader of our country.

And then sadly, we saw time after time after time where this man did not rise to the occasion and instead divided our country and appealed to the worst of us. And I think I guess the breaking point for me, Don, was Charlottesville, a very sad day in American history.


Just like January 6th when this man failed to lead our country, it failed to unite us, and that's when I began my journey, trying to figure out if there was a home for me in the Republican Party and it resulted in me leaving yesterday.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, as you just said, you voted for Trump in 2016, but then you supported Biden, right, in November of 2020.

WIST: I did.

LEMON: Right.

WIST: I did.

LEMON: So, one month later you cowrote an op-ed in the Denver Post, and this is just part of it that I want to read. You said President Donald Trump's departure will lay bare the deep divisions in the grand old party that have been simmering over the last four years. Will Trump loyalists split off and form their nationalist party or will Trump's influence over the party continue forcing more traditional Republicans to fall in line for fear of facing their own primary nightmare scenarios or will they become independent.

So, what do you think when you look back now at that? Was it a lost opportunity? WIST: I think we had an opportunity to pivot from Trump. January 6th,

and going back and listening in the segment before I came on, the words of Kevin McCarthy, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and others who clearly called out the president that day. That was our opportunity to pivot away from Donald Trump. And we wasted that opportunity.

LEMON: Yes. Listen, I have to say you have to -- you have to respect -- if you're a Republican, you're a Republican. You have to respect that, right. You have conservative values and ideals. You're not going to become a Democrat, you said, you are unaffiliated, and that's why you did hash tag --

WIST: Right.

LEMON: -- hash tag unaffiliated, do you have hope for your former party?

WIST: Well, I still have friends in the party. I have hope for them, but unless this party stands up and starts telling the truth, and unless they stand up to this man who defies our democracy and who is intent on propelling himself forward and sending the country back, unless the party is willing to tell Donald Trump enough, I'm afraid that the GOP is on the road for more losses of folks like me.

You started tonight's show with a question, what has happened to us? What has happened to the Republican Party? How did we get here, and we got here because leaders refused to stand up to this man? Frankly, cowardice and refusal to see who this man truly is has led the Republican Party to be where it is today.

LEMON: Cole Wist, thank you, sir. Be well. Happy New Year to you.

WIST: Thank you, Don. Take care.

LEMON: I appreciate it.

So, breaking tonight. School cancelled for hundreds of thousands of kids in Chicago for a second day in a row, and the Chicago's health commissioner has a bone to pick about that. She's next.


ALLISON ARWADY, COMMISSIONER, CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: If you're vaccinated, your child is vaccinated, this is behaving really like the flu, and we don't close school districts especially for extended periods of time for the flu.




LEMON (on camera): So, here's our breaking news tonight in the battle against COVID-19, with the number of new cases exploding, including record numbers of cases in children tonight, the CDC updating its recommendations on who's eligible for the Pfizer booster shot now, saying children 12 to 15 years old can get the booster, at least five months after they finish the primary vaccine series.

CDC had already recommended that Americans 16 and older get their booster shots.

And more breaking news to tell you about, school will be cancelled again tomorrow for 340,000 public school students in Chicago due to a major battle over COVID-19 between the district and the teachers union.

Union members voting last night to stay out of school buildings and to teach remotely, claiming classrooms are not a safe environment. The district responding by cancelling school today -- cancelling school today. Chicago's mayor saying millions of dollars have been spent on COVID protocols and that students and teachers belong inside classrooms.

Let's discuss now. Dr. Allison Arwady is here. Dr. Allison Arwady is a commissioner of Chicago's Department of Public Health. We're so happy that you're here. Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

ARWADY: Thanks for having me.

LEMON: More than 340,000 kids are going to be out of the classrooms tomorrow. They were out today in your city. I know you're not happy about this.

ARWADY: I'm not. You know, I'm disappointed that this is where we are. I know we are in the middle of a big COVID surge. It's important that we do the things that we know work. But what we've seen over and over again is that with the appropriate protocols in place, schools are not major sources of transmission of COVID.

They don't drive outbreaks, and we've seen Chicago public schools just like our non-public schools in Chicago do a good job of implementing those. So, we know people are worried. We just want to get back.

LEMON: We played it just before the break where you said that we don't shut down schools for the flu, we shouldn't -- they shouldn't be shut down now. Can you give us a reality check on the spread of COVID in schools?

ARWADY: Yes, I can. So, you know, and this is where my team has been looking at this. We looked at how many children in a typical year are hospitalized with the flu in Chicago. It's comparable to what we're seeing with how many children are hospitalized with COVID.

We looked in addition at what's happening to fully vaccinated, especially and boosted adults, that is not who is being hospitalized with COVID or getting seriously ill by and large in the city of Chicago.


And in that setting, we compare that with the data that where we had our public schools out of school earlier in COVID, and we have the largest private school district right here in Chicago in person, the comparison between those for months, the risk of COVID was lower for both kids and staff who were in-person, in school with mitigations.

We know how to do this at this s point, and we just saw such negative consequences, almost 100,000 kids disconnected from learning with the extended remote period, and I'm just worried that not being able to be back in person could just keep going on here. And we've got to at some level learn to live with COVID with the appropriate safety mitigations in place.

LEMON: OK. So let me ask you this because I can hear the folks at home saying this is a novel virus and, you know, people, many people are not vaccinated and it's replicating and it's mutating, and we don't know how dangerous it is, and you know pretty much what's going to happen with the flu, it's been with us for quite a long time. Should -- you don't think it's right to take extra precautions because this is so new?

ARWADY: I absolutely think it's right to take extra precautions. We don't do all the other things that we also have in place for flu, and we should, don't get me wrong, but this is fair, making sure, have literally for Chicago public schools just to give you a sense of this, classroom by classroom, every single week, you can look at the air ventilation that's been invested in to see what's in place.

There are masks, including high quality masks that are in place. There's testing, even while school is not in session, there is testing available in every CPS school this week. There are vaccination clinics available, you know, these pieces are here.

And if I thought that having school was going to lead to unnecessary spread, major outbreaks, major problems, first I would be in support of it. But it's just not what the data suggests.

And again, if I knew Omicron was going to peak tomorrow, this would be easy. But if this is a pattern and we keep on going with it where we just don't see children and fully vaccinated adults often getting sick with COVID, not seriously ill, at some level, we have to do the things that are essential.

For me, schools first to open last to close, and in a city where bars are open, why would schools be closed.


ARWADY: I hope we don't get to a point where we have to do those other things. But that's the difficult conversation.

LEMON: I think everyone can agree, kids should be in school, and also, we need to be, you know, they're the littlest among us, right, we have to take care of them.

ARWADY: Yes, absolutely.

LEMON: Thank you, doctor. Good luck and we'll be checking back with you to see what happens. We'll be following this. Thank you so much.

ARWADY: Thank you. We hope this gets resolved really soon. Thanks a lot.

LEMON: Thank you. Two years into this pandemic, what price have these kids paid while adults made all the decisions. Just talking about that, right, stay with us.



LEMON (on camera): So tomorrow we just talked about it. More than 340,000 public school children in Chicago will not be in class for a second day because of a fight between adults. That as medical experts say it's imperative that America's children get back into the classroom and we have the tools to take -- to keep them safe.

So, I want to bring in now Joe Allen. Joe Allen is the director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard School of Public Health, he is the co-author of the book "Healthy Buildings" and he has been on a lot throughout this pandemic and giving us some great information. So, we have him back. Good evening, Joe.

Children all over this country have had their lives up ended. It resulted in severely stunted education, rise in mental health problems, behavioral problems and more. Heading into year three of this pandemic are we sacrificing the kids to protect the adults many of whom are choosing not to be vaccinated at this point?

JOE ALLEN, AUTHOR, HEALTHY BUILDINGS: Thanks for having me back on, Don. That is absolutely right. We've deprioritized kids at every step of this pandemic. We are coming up on two years of disrupted learning and there is a casualness around closing schools that I just don't understand.

The costs are severe and they're accumulating. This is well- documented. Everything from loss in reading gains and math gains and that's for kids who were in school. Your last caller said -- last guest said 100,000 kids missing. We have millions of kids missing from the school system last year.

We see the impact, immediate impact of school closures on our inability to detect child maltreatment. In New York City in just the first three months of closures in 2020, 8,000 expected cases of child maltreatment were expected to come in. That were -- that didn't happen. They extrapolated out to the country, 300,000 expected cases of abuse and neglect that we're just missing. Schools are first chance to detect this.

We see millions of kids relying on schools for their nutrition and food. We see the impacts on working women in particular in drop outs of the labor force. So, the closing schools have ramifications that are going to last for years if not decades for these kids. And I don't understand. I think we're minimizing this damage and making a gross mistake that we made last year and we should, we have the data in front of us that shows we should have learned our lesson.

LEMON: So, listen. I want to put this up, and this is Arthur Kaplan tell Anderson on his show earlier. And listen. He is speaking completely from the medical part of this.

He said, Anderson, I don't know why we are trying to sail into the Omicron storm and run school. Why don't we just say take off two weeks, take off three weeks, let this peak. It looks like that it may burn out and give some help to the people who are in need.

So, he is basically saying, it's a reasonable time period. And in a couple weeks when this, when the peak is reached and it is going down. So, listen. He is speaking from the medical point of view. But as far as what's happening with kids, I get your point. So, what do you say to people who might think that and to the Chicago teachers union right now who, you know, they're not going to be in classes tomorrow?


ALLEN: Honestly that sounds like a March 2020 solution and we've learned a lot more and we have new tools in our disposal, particularly the vaccine. And we know how to keep kids and adults safe in schools.

And I think that is the reality. Let's talk about the medical, let's talk about the epidemiology here. The risk to kids has stayed low through every single variant and every single wave. Hospitalizations while they are going up are still at one in 100,000. That is low. Thankfully the virus has spared us.

In terms of adults there is a highly effective and safe vaccine available to all adults for 10 months at this point. And boosters are available. If you want to be protected, get vaccinated and boosted. The vaccines are available for kids. Get your child boosted.

On top of that, if that doesn't feel safe enough for you, and these vaccines are working at preventing severe disease and death by all means wear a high efficiency mask. If you are vaccinated and boosted and wearing a high efficiency mask, that is about as low risk as anything you can get in your entire life.

So, I'm really tired of using the 2020 playbook here in 2022 and justifying let's just close schools for two weeks. We saw how that went in March 2020. We are coming up on two years. A kindergarten who started school in 2020 is now in second grade and has not had a normal school year yet.

LEMON: Yes. Right on. Thank you, Joe Allen. I appreciate it.

ALLEN: Thanks for having me, Don.

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