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Biden Lays Out Plan to Tackle Outbreak of COVID-19 in U.S.; U.S. Tops 15 Million Cases and 104,000 Hospitalizations; Global Vaccine Rollout Now Underway; Trump Signs Executive Order Prioritizing U.S. for Vaccine; Trump Pressuring Republicans to Help Overturn Results; U.K. Pushes Ahead with Vaccine Rollout. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired December 09, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead. 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days. The details of president-elect Joe Biden's ambitious pandemic plan. Those details revealed as the U.S. hits a new record for hospitalizations and tops 15 million cases.

And President Trump signs a largely symbolic executive order declaring that Americans will receive the jab before the rest of the world even as he faces criticism for reportedly failing to pre-order enough doses.

Good to have you with us. Well, U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has laid out an ambitious plan to tackle America's worsening COVID crisis. With more than 15 million cases now reported across the country, Biden says he will focus on vaccinating the public to try and bring the numbers down. He is promising 100 million doses in the first 100 days of his administration as well as a mask mandate and a strategy to safely return kids to school. CNN's Arlette Saenz has the details.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (voice-over): As COVID-19 rages across the country, president-elected Joe Biden laid out a blueprint for tackling the pandemic in his first 100 days in office.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: But I'm absolutely convinced that, in 100 days, we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better.

SAENZ: The president-elect's goals, developed with the help of Dr. Anthony Fauci, include widespread mask-wearing, getting more kids back in classrooms, and putting 100 million vaccine shots in Americans' arms.

BIDEN: My first 100 days won't end the COVID-19 virus. I can't promise that, but we did not get into this mess quickly, we're not going to get out of it quickly.

SAENZ: From his home base in Delaware, the president-elect unveiled the key members of his health team. The pandemic's impact seen clearly with some joining virtually, including Biden's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Service. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra who would be the first Latino HHS secretary.

XAVIER BECERRA, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY NOMINEE: At HHS tackling pandemics, saving lives, keeping us healthy should be our calling card.

SAENZ: One of the top advisers since the start of the pandemic, Dr. Vivek Murthy set to reprise his role as a surgeon general.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL NOMINEE: While this is a daunting task, we absolutely have as a country what we need to overcome this virus.

SAENZ: And the incoming director of the CDC explaining the team's commitment to serve.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, INCOMING CDC DIRECTOR: Every doctor knows that when a patient is coding, your plans don't matter. You answer the code and when the nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.

SAENZ: Dr. Fauci taking on an expanded role as chief medical advisor to the president.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have got a lot of hard and demanding work to do in the next year. But as we have done during previous crises, I also know we can get through this pandemic together as a nation.

SAENZ: With his health team set, the president-elect is nominating retired Army General Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defense. Who would be the first African-American to lead the Pentagon.

BIDEN: Folks, you're led by one of the truly great generals in the United States military.

SAENZ (on camera): And the president-elect will formally introduce Lloyd Austin as his choice for Defense Secretary at an event here in Wilmington on Wednesday. We are also learning Biden has decided on two other cabinet positions. The president-elect is expected to nominate Tom Vilsack to lead the Department of Agriculture, a position he held for both terms during the Obama administration. And the president- elect has also chosen Ohio Congresswoman Marsha Fudge to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She is the third person of color that is expected to be nominated to a cabinet position this week. Both of those announcements coming later in the week.

Arlette Saenz, CNN, Wilmington, Delaware.


CHURCH: Well, Biden's announcements come as the U.S. sets even more COVID records.


On Tuesday, the country counted more than 104,000 hospitalizations for the first time. For the past three days the U.S. has seen the highest hospitalization numbers since the pandemic began. And over the past week the vast majority of states have also reported higher infection rates. But as CNN's Erica Hill reports, there are hopeful signs a vaccine could soon be on the way.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first coronavirus vaccine in the U.K.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been such an exciting day.

HILL: As the U.S. records its worst numbers yet. More than 15 million confirmed cases. More than 102,000 Americans hospitalized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a limit? Yes, there is a limit.

HILL: 34 states reporting an average positivity rate in the last week above 10 percent. The goal is less than 5 percent. In Pennsylvania it's 36 percent.

DR. RACHEL LEVINE, PENNSYLVANIA SECRETARY OF HEALTH: We're seeing far more new cases now than we saw in the spring and we are seeing record rates of hospitalizations.

HILL: It's not just Pennsylvania. This field hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, accepting patients to help ease the strain. Ohio may soon limit surgeries as the number of COVID patients soars.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Heads of hospitals have told me it's unsustainable at this level.

HILL: Michigan extending its statewide pause. Wyoming adding an indoor mask mandate for the first time and new limits for bars and restaurant. New York City facing new restrictions of its own in a matter of days.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK MAYOR: No one is happy about it. I feel for the small businesses that might be affected and their employees, but this health situation has to be addressed.

HILL: The National Restaurant Association warning, another 10,000 restaurants could close in the next three months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have 40 something employees and they're all essential to the people in their lives.

HILL: So what about that vaccine? An FDA advisory panel will consider Pfizer's, the first to apply nor emergency use authorization on Thursday.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION COMMISSIONER: We do feel that preliminarily that the success criteria have been met.

HILL: States preparing for their initial shipments. Johnson & Johnson currently in phase three trials for its vaccine. Offering this --

DR. PAUL STOFFELS, JOHNSON & JOHNSON CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER: We might have results sooner than expected. But the targets for results in the month January both for safety and efficacy.

HILL: AstraZeneca's data published in "The Lancet," shows average efficacy at 70 percent.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We're going to need four or five different vaccines in order to vaccinate most of the population of the United States.

HILL: While we wait, mask, distance and patience.

(on camera): One other thing to consider, is just who's going to administer the vaccine? Here at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, just behind me, they say they're hitting all the avenues in their words. So the nurses, the pharmacists and those who currently administering the flu vaccine, in addition to pharmacy and nursing interns, medical students and residents. And we're told that in all there are 15,000 high risk employees within the Mount Sinai Hospital system.

In New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


CHURCH: So, let's bring in CNN medical analyst Dr. Jorge Rodriguez in Los Angeles. He is an internal medicine and virus specialist and joins us now. Thank you, doctor, for being with us.


CHURCH: So, day one of the Pfizer rollout went very well in the United Kingdom as the world watch on very eagerly. Here in the U.S., of course the FDA is expected to get authorization for the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday and then 100 million Americans will be vaccinated by the end of February. That is according to Admiral Brett Giroir.

So how achievable is that with Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and maybe AstraZeneca eventually in the mix there?

RODRIGUEZ: I think that's very achievable. I think the one bottleneck is the American public and whether they are going to step up and take the vaccines. Yes, we know that Pfizer does not have as many vaccines as we thought they were going to be bringing up. They still have a very large number, but Moderna is right in their heels, and so are other vaccines.

So, I think it is highly achievable, but like we just saw with the U.K., there are probably going to be a lot of hiccups until, you know, that happens. But I have full confidence that we can achieve the goal of mass vaccinations in this country. CHURCH: And doctor, I wanted to ask you this. Because Pfizer board member Dr. Scott Gottlieb has revealed that the Trump administration declined an offer from the vaccine makers six months ago to purchase additional doses of the vaccine for 2021. And now Pfizer has committed those doses to other nations.

So, what did you make of President Trump's signed executive order Tuesday proclaiming Americans will get Pfizer vaccine doses first?


And what impact could this have on a U.S. vaccine rollout going forward?

RODRIGUEZ: First of all, I don't think the, quote, unquote, executive order really has much teeth behind it. I don't think that you can force a company not to, you know, sell what it's already promised to other countries. And again, this is not just a U.S. problem. This is a world problem. And until the world is vaccinated, nobody is truly safe.

Listen, I think it is what it is, you know, to quote the president. I think other companies like Moderna are going to be stepping up. I think it was supposed to be 100 million from Pfizer, 100 million maybe from Moderna, and then perhaps Johnson & Johnson and others are going to fill up the vacuum.

And in a couple of weeks, Moderna is going to be right here with their vaccine, and probably another three or four weeks later and other companies. So, I don't think it's going to make a big difference, the fact that Pfizer does not have all that it has promised. And who could have predicted in July, A, whether the vaccine would have work, and B, how many doses we were going to need.

CHURCH: Right. So, you think Joe Biden, he vowed of course to have 100 million doses for the first hundred days of his time in office. So, you see that as a very realistic goal there?

RODRIGUEZ: I think -- I think it is a realistic goal, but I think it all has to do, obviously, with planning. And the best part of president-elect Biden's plan is the fact that it is a plan. It isn't just wishful thinking. It isn't just pie in the sky. If nothing else, there's a leader saying this is what we are going to do and this is how we're going to do it, and it's going to be implemented. So, is it achievable? Absolutely.

CHURCH: Well meantime, President Trump is touting what he called a vaccine summit at the White House, but vaccine makers and some top health officials did not attend Tuesday's event. One administration official described the summit as nothing more than a publicity stunt for Mr. Trump. Here's CNN's Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Showering himself with praise for the development of the coronavirus vaccine, President Trump declared the government's effort a miracle in the making.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They say it's somewhat of a miracle, and I think that is true. People that aren't necessarily big fans of Donald Trump are saying whether you like him or not, this is one of the greatest miracles in the history of modern day medicine.

ACOSTA: The President signed an executive order he says will guarantee there are enough doses to go around for every American. But an administration official told CNN, the vaccine summit was another Trump publicity stunt. One of the leaders of the governments Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort admitted he wasn't sure what the executive order would do.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you're the chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed.

SLAOUI: Our work is you know, rolling. We have plans. We feel that we can deliver the vaccines as needed. So I don't know exactly what this order is about.

ACOSTA: There are other looming questions about the vaccine rollout. CNN has confirmed the administration passed on a chance to purchase more than an initial 100 million doses of the Pfizer version of the vaccine that's proven to be highly effective. An administration official told CNN the government shouldn't have close the door on buying more doses. White House officials denied that.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: According to the people involved in negotiation, just simply was not true. This President contracted for doses of this vaccine from many different companies.

ACOSTA: The President appeared to suggest that Americans are moving in the direction of herd immunity. A controversial COVID approach rejected by respected health experts.

TRUMP: I hear that we are close to 15 percent. I'm hearing that and that is terrific.

ACOSTA: The vaccine shots can't come on enough in Trump world, as another ally the president has contracted the coronavirus.

RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Just like you, they don't want to know the truth.

ACOSTA: This time is Trump's legal team member Jenna Ellis, who is sitting next to Rudy Giuliani last week before he was hospitalized with COVID. Aides of the President fear Ellis spread the virus to other people at the White House holiday party last week. The same reception press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended.

MCENANY: If you can move businesses, burn down buildings, engage in protests, you can also go to a Christmas Party. ACOSTA: Asked why he didn't invite members of the incoming Biden administration to today's summit at the White House. Mr. Trump insisted that he won.

TRUMP: We're going to have to see who the next administration is. Because we won in those swing states. Let's see whether or not somebody has the courage. Whether it's a legislator, or legislatures, or whether it is a Justice of the Supreme Court or a number of Justices of the Supreme Court.

ACOSTA: The President is still pressuring state GOP leaders to defy the will of the voters and hand them a second term. The latest Pennsylvania's Republican House speaker.

Pennsylvania GOP Senator, Pat Toomey slam Mr. Trump telling "The Philadelphia Inquirer," it's completely unacceptable and it is not going to work. And the president should give up trying to get legislators to overturn the results of the election in their respective states.


Mr. Trump's defenders are leaning on state leaders in Georgia too.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If you are not fighting for Trump now, when he needs you the most, as a Republican leader in Georgia, people are not going to fight for you when you ask them to get reelected. There is a civil war brewing in Georgia for no good reason.

ACOSTA (on camera): And the U.S. Supreme Court has dealt another blow to President Trump's attempts to overturn the election results. The high court has decided in the state of Pennsylvania that it will not allow Republicans there to block Joe Biden's win in that state.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: Caroline Heldman is a political analyst and an associate professor of politics at Occidental College and she joins us now from L.A. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So, Donald Trump and his team received a crushing defeat from the U.S. Supreme Court when it dismissed their Pennsylvania case. This may be the end of Donald Trump's legal efforts to overturn a free and fair election, but could he still try to fight this on the House floor?

HELDMAN: He certainly can. So he's tried to put pressure on election officials. That did not work. He put pressure on legislatures. That hasn't been effective. He as you noted, has filed almost 50 lawsuits or his camp has and they now, you know, got a really big blow with the Supreme Court dismissing the case, not ruling in the Trump camp's favor.

And beyond that there is no dissents, right. There none even -- none of his appointees spoke up. So, Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, none of the folks that he appointed in the Supreme Court who I think a lot of Trump supporters were relying on even had a dissent in this.

I don't think it will stop the frivolous lawsuits, because, you know Donald Trump to date has made $170 million his camp has off of running this campaign that they have to say that the free and fair election was something else. So, I expect that they will continue to do that, and Rosemary, as you point out, they will definitely try to stop this on the floor of the House as they are counting the electoral votes.

CHURCH: Right, and of course, most Republicans in Congress have shown their true colors going along with President Trump's false claims of election fraud. Only a few have actually dared to speak out. How dangerous is this for U.S. democracy? And how much longer can these Republicans keep supporting Trump's lie?

HELDMAN: Well, I think they are very afraid of him, right. Because he uses social media as a bully pulpit. And I have some sympathy for Republicans who had put in this tight position. But as you point out, you know, this is -- I think a real threat to democracy. If you have a leader who is refusing to accept the outcome of a free and fair election. In any other country we would call that a democratic coup. So, I choose to call it, what it is here in the U.S.

And what we have seen is while Donald Trump is raking in this money and putting out these false claims. He's also inciting a lot of violent rhetoric and violent action. So, you saw armed protesters gathered outside of the Secretary of State's house in Michigan while she is, you know, putting -- watching the Grinch and decorating a tree with her 4-year-old. You see death threats to election officials.

And at the end of the day looking at public opinion polls, 52 percent of Republicans believe that Donald Trump won this election. That is a majority. And so we are in a crisis here. The question is whether Republicans will really step up and put an end to this before January 20th. Before Joe Biden is sworn in.

CHURCH: And our thanks to political analyst Caroline Heldman for her thoughts there.

And still to come on CNN. The U.K. pushes ahead with the biggest vaccination program in its history. We'll be live in London with the latest on the rollout.



CHURCH: So far so good. The U.K. is pushing forward with day two of its major vaccination rollout. The country began to administer the first doses of Pfizer's vaccine on Tuesday. And in the coming days roughly 800,000 shots will be given to the most vulnerable including health workers and people over the age of 80.

And CNN's Cyril Vanier is live for us in London. He joins us now. Good Morning Cyril. So the world watched on with much excitement as the first jabs were handed out yesterday. How did that first day go? And what's the plan going forward?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Rosemary. This is day two of the U.K.'s biggest and most complex immunization program. Yesterday went well. I think most people, whether it's the government, the British population, other countries that have pre-ordered this Pfizer vaccine were looking at this keenly, and it went well.

We saw so many faces yesterday, so many human stories of people who got the very first jabs and who felt privileged that they had. We had one such story here in central London just outside a Guy's Hospital, one of the 50 vaccination hubs in England where we met a 91-year-old grandfather, Martin Kenyon, who had by sheer determination managed to get himself into one of the early vaccination appointments. And we met him as he was walking out, had just gotten the first jab of his vaccine. We asked him how he felt.


MARTIN KENYON, RECEIVED COVID-19 VACCINE: I hope I'm not going to have the bloody bug now. I tend to have it because I've got granddaughters and I want to live a long time to enjoy their lives.

VANIER: Have you been able to see them much this year, this past year?

KENYON: Not lately. I've not hugged them and I'm going to for Christmas. And we have plans, my daughter and son-in-law are going to -- I'm not quite sure their able to be hugged. Well, I don't plan to die now when I have lived as long as this. I don't plan to anyway.



VANIER (on camera): And, Rosemary, there are human stories like that that just touch your heart across the U.K. yesterday, today, going forward. Now really, it's just a race of how many people can be vaccinated.

You know, there is talk here of a third wave of coronavirus perhaps in January after increased human activity and human interactions around Christmas and the New Year, and that could be curtailed provided priority patients, the most vulnerable in society, Martin Kenyon, others like him, 80, 90-year-olds, those who are most susceptible to the virus, provided they can be immunized before then.

It's going to be difficult because of the scale of this program because it had to be put together in so little time, Rosemary. The U.K. is expecting up to 4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine between now and the end of the year. That in theory would be enough for 2 million priority patients -- Rosemary. CHURCH: Absolutely, and so important that those people who are getting

that first jab come back in three weeks to get the second one. Just critical. Cyril Vanier, great to chat with you there in London. Many thanks.

And just ahead here on CNN, my conversation with a California business owner who fears she may be forced to lay off her staff due to a surge in COVID cases. Back with that in just a moment.


CHURCH: Well here in the United States there is some hope for a new stimulus deal to help millions of struggling Americans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin presented a $916 billion COVID-19 relief proposal to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday. It is the first move by the Trump administration since election day to end the standoff.