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Expert Review Says Booster Shots Not Needed for General Public Yet; Hospital Pauses Baby Deliveries as Workers Quit Over Vaccine Mandate; All NYC Public School Students Return to In-Person Learning Today; Senator Joe Manchin Says He Will Not Vote for the $3.5 Trillion Bill; White House Welcomes Democrats' Tax Proposals for Sweeping Economic Plan. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 09:00   ET



DANIIL MEDVEDEV, 2021 U.S. OPEN MEN'S SINGLES CHAMPION: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Champion Daniil Medvedev had to go buy an anniversary gift.

CNN's coverage continues right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning. I'm Erica Hill.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Very nice to have Erica Hill with us this morning, and it is a busy morning. Welcome, Erica. Right in the middle of it, we are following breaking news this morning.

A pair of international scientists, including some from the WHO and the FDA now say that booster doses for the general population are not yet appropriate at this stage in the pandemic. That review published in one of the most prestigious medical journals, "The Lancet," says that even with the Delta variant, vaccine efficacy against severe disease is so high already that a third shot is not needed right now.

And Erica, looking at this report, it seems that this is really about first thing is first, in other words, focus on the unvaccinated now before you focus on getting a booster shot to the vaccinated.

HILL: I agree that's exactly what it sounds like in reading that. Let's get straight to CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

So, Elizabeth, to be clear, as Jim is pointing out, this is a group of scientists here. They're not suggesting that the science has changed. It's that the vaccines still work, as we know. They are looking at the broader issue of the pandemic.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They're really looking at both, Erica. What they're saying is that the science isn't telling us that a booster is necessary. They're saying that two shots -- the two shots that so many of us already got, that it works against preventing hospitalization. You might still get infected with COVID- 19, but that two shots are very effective at keeping you out of the hospital.

So this was written by a very esteemed group of scientists, including two FDA officials who actually have recently resigned. And there's been a lot of talk that one of the reasons they resigned is that they disagreed with this booster program. I'm going to read to you a quote from the primary author, from the first author of this study, and she says, "Taken as a whole, the currently available studies do not provide credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease, which is the primary goal of vaccination."

So, essentially, they're saying, why should we give boosters if two shots does a good job at keeping you out of the hospital? So we've heard this from people like Dr. Paul Offit, who is a member of an FDA advisory committee on vaccines. But on the other side of this, there's the Israeli data, and data from other countries as well that says, no, boosters work, boosters do help you get -- keep people out of the hospital.

Israel has had a booster program for more than six weeks and they say that it's actually working quite well. And Dr. Anthony Fauci has said repeatedly, look at the Israeli data. Essentially boosters are a good idea. This is a real serious debate. We haven't seen this kind of debate on COVID really in this way. And the FDA is scheduled to talk about this. Their advisers are going to talk about this in five days. It will be really interesting to see how this plays out -- Erica, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question, big part of the public health debate. Limited resources here, how best to use them.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

Joining us now to help understand what's new here, Dr. William Schaffner, he's professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr. Schaffner, always good to have you on. So help us understand this a bit here, right, because the Israeli data seemed to be pointing in one direction. When you look at this, I suppose the good news, perhaps, is that the current vaccinations still provide, I believe they say 95 percent efficacy against severe disease even with the Delta variant. That, I imagine, is something that folks at home should welcome.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: I think they should, Jim. Let's hold on to that notion. It's very, very important. And less, as you said before, focus on getting people their first dose rather than people getting their third dose. But that said, I think the Food and Drug Administration is likely to approve the use of boosters and then the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in its early discussions has been tending toward giving the vaccine to people who are older and frail, nursing home residents, as well as health care providers, because they're at greatest risk. And over this weekend, the CDC did release yet another study, back and

forth, another study indicating that people who were quite older, 80 and older, for example, the effectiveness of two doses does start to diminish with time. So it looks as though we can bring both streams of thought together by focusing on older persons and people such as health care workers at really great risk.



HILL: So once again then, Dr. Schaffner, it's focusing on the most vulnerable because as this article in "The Lancet" is pointing out, it's doses for the general population, they say, they're not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic. We should point out, too, this is really consistent with what we've heard from the WHO, especially in the last several weeks as there's been more of a push and more discussion about booster shots in more developed countries around the world. This has been a consistent message from the WHO, that we need to handle the pandemic first among the unvaccinated.

SCHAFFNER: Well, clearly, Erica, that continues to be the major focus. Let's get vaccine doses into people who are unvaccinated. And then we will see, both at the FDA meeting, which is totally open to everyone, as well as to the CDC meeting, also open. We will see this discussion about how intensely these groups advocate the use of boosters, as we move down the age ladder.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Schaffner, I'm always conscious because nearly every day, we are inundating our viewers with new information from this. And by the way that's the nature of the pandemic, right? Because it's constantly being researched, there is more data about who is getting ill, how the vaccines are working, et cetera. But I wonder just again so folks can understand, is the real question here a matter of degree, right?

That, yes, there's evidence that boosters help over time. There's some evidence of waning efficacy, but not so much waning efficacy, if I have this right, that this is a real urgent issue right now, the matter of boosters. As I digest this, that's how it comes down with me. But I wonder if I have that right.

SCHAFFNER: I like the way you've done that. It's not a matter of immediate urgency. It may well be desirable. And we'll hear what those committees have to say. But that's very important. These vaccines still do provide excellent protection against serious disease. And the people who are being admitted to the hospital now demonstrate that. There's well over 90 percent still unvaccinated.

We might also put in a little footnote for those immunocompromised people, a third dose is absolutely currently recommended. Those are immunocompromised people.


HILL: Dr. William Schaffner, always appreciate your insight. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: No question. Always good to have him on.

Well, one of the consequences of all the cases of severe illness from COVID we're seeing is starting next week, a hospital in upstate New York is going to stop delivering babies, at least temporarily because several maternity unit employees resigned over COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

HILL: CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is following all of this for us.

So, Evan, today actually marks as I understand it two weeks from when employees would need to give their resignation notice if they didn't want to get vaccinated. So what is that hospital seeing, experiencing at this point?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica and Jim, that's right. I mean, we've all seen the scenes in the south, where people aren't getting vaccinated outside of hospitals, which then lead to these situations where people can't get into hospitals because they're overloaded. This is a different situation. This is the call that's coming from inside the house in this case. This is not about the national mandate, the Biden mandate that was put into place last week.

This is about a New York state mandate that says all health care workers have to have at least one shot of the vaccine by September 27th, about two weeks away, as you say. At the Louis County Medical Center Health System up in Louis County in New York, which is about 60 miles northeast of Syracuse, heart of rural New York, officials there are saying that so many people have resigned that they can't actually keep some basic services open like the maternity ward.

They said they've had 30 people resigned, including 21 from the clinical side of the hospital and six alone in the OB section of the hospital. So while that's going on, they say they have to just go ahead and plan for a pause in maternity services, hoping people will change their mind and get the shot. Maybe they can reopen things later. Their plan is to shift these maternity services around other hospitals in the area.

But for now the challenge is, they don't have enough people who are willing to get the vaccine to keep the hospital open in that area. They said they have other people in other parts of the hospital, enough people in other parts of the hospital. But they still have other people who are not vaccinated all over the health system and they can't rule out other closures due to people rejecting this vaccine mandate -- Jim, Erica.

HILL: Wow, that is something to hear all about.


HILL: Evan, thank you.

Well, this morning, here in New York City, students in the nation's largest school district back in the classroom, full time in-person learning. And despite the surging Delta variant there is no online remote option available.

SCIUTTO: Listen, it's good to see kids back in school. I know parents welcome it. Returning students and teachers will be required to wear masks in all New York City public school employees have until September 27th to get vaccinated, and there is no test-out option.


In other words, you've got to get the vaccine. You can't just take regular testing as an alternative.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is in New York. So, Polo, tell us what schools officials are saying this morning. I mean, are they seeing a kind of smooth start to this new school year?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Erica, kids right now about an hour into their first day in school, which you said just now it's really important to keep in mind that some parents did have the option to send their kids to school before the summer break. But what's different now is that that remote learning is no longer an option. So it's safe to assume that -- or at least you can expect that the Department of Education's close to one million students are back in school this morning.

And that's why school officials have been working basically around the clock for the last month and a half to make sure that students, parents, even their staff feel comfortable knowing that in this pandemic era of teaching they are as safe as they can be. The mayor describing these measures as a, quote, "gold standard," when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID here. There's obviously that encouragement of -- encouragement of obviously social distancing. And also PPE that's been placed in campuses throughout the campus or a series of campuses here.

And also, air purification systems. At least two HEPA air filter purification systems on every campus. And also with many students still not eligible to receive the vaccine, the focus is also on testing. In fact school officials have been trying to get consent from parents to randomly test about 10 percent of their unvaccinated student body here. And then, of course, the issue of vaccination.

This morning we heard from the new head of the New York Department of Education, chancellor porter, who is issuing or at least assigning some homework to the roughly 25 percent or so of teachers still have not been vaccinated.


MEISHA PORTER, NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR: Because I have a job to do. And it's to make sure that everyone does their homework and everyone probably already knows what the homework is. But if you don't, let's be clear. Get vaccinated. Vaccinations are our passport out of this pandemic. Vaccinations are our key to recovery.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) SANDOVAL: I did speak to one parent of a 7-year-old, obviously not vaccinated at this point, but still felt comfortable that the school district is -- rather, the Department of Education has done everything that they can to make sure that they're safe.

And I was able to see, Erica and Jim, teachers basically telling kids how to socially distance, telling them that if you're holding your arms out and you're making contact with your fellow student, that you're simply too close. That's obviously going to be very difficult to enforce. So at this point it all becomes the focus is on those other measures that are in place to try to make sure that these kids are as protected as possible.

And they certainly do expect some positive cases. And if that does happen, they do have some measures in place to try to deal with that as well -- guys.

SCIUTTO: Well, let's hope they stay open and stay open safely.

Polo Sandoval in New York, thanks you very much.

HILL: Up next, a critical day on Capitol Hill. Democrats expected to lay out the blueprint for their $3.5 trillion economic plan. Some moderates, though, in their own party say they'll vote for anything at that price tag.

SCIUTTO: Yes, is it a negotiation or is it an impasse?

Also Capitol Police are recommending that six of their officers be disciplined for their actions on January 6th. What behavior in particular is behind that?

And what we're learning as the FBI releases the first documents from its 9/11 investigation. It involved Saudi Arabia.



HILL: This morning, congressional Democrats pressing ahead with a sweeping $3.5 trillion spending plan as infighting over the president's economic agenda intensifies. House Democrats are expected to release their draft proposal for the bill later today. In order to pay for it, they want to increase taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations.

SCIUTTO: But West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, one of the party's more moderate members but also vocal members, is not falling in line with the majority.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): He will not have my vote on 3.5. And Chuck knows that. And we've talked about this. We've already put out $5.4 trillion and we tried to help Americans in every way we possibly can. And a lot of the help that we put out there is still there and is going to run clear until next year, 2022. What's the urgency? What's the urgency that we have? It's not the same urgency we had with the American Rescue Plan.


SCIUTTO: Our team is following all the latest from Washington. Let's begin, though, with CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, you always make the point, Manchin the most vocal critic here. But he's not the only one that has blanched at the total price tag. I guess, my question is, is this still a negotiation playing out in public or are the sides internally at lagger heads here?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Jim, I think the challenge here is that Joe Manchin is arguing that he's not going to supportive of $3.5 trillion in spending on that larger economic plan. Instead, he argues that needs to be pared back. But you have progressives in the House of Representatives who say, look, we didn't like Manchin's bipartisan infrastructure plan but we are planning to back it if he supports this larger package.

This is what Manchin said about progressives who are threatening to vote against his bipartisan infrastructure plan if he withholds his vote on that $3.5 trillion bill.


MANCHIN: That's fine. And if they can go home and tell people that hey, I don't care about the roads and bridges. You don't need it. I don't care about internet service. You don't need that. I don't care about fixing water and sewer lines, I don't care about the hard infrastructure that's left go deferred for the last 30 years, I don't care about any of that. I can't go home and say that in West Virginia.


FOX: And of course, Manchin is also arguing that he has concerns about some of the ways the Democrats want to pay for their $3.5 trillion plan. And I think that's an important sticking point because Manchin is somebody who is saying this should be paid for.


But he also has concerns about some of the mechanisms that Democrats would use to actually finance this legislation. Look, over the weekend, the House Ways and Means Committee started circulating plans of how they would pay for that massive $3.5 trillion plan. They said that they are going to raise that corporate tax rate. They're also planning to raise the top marginal rate on individuals as well as the rate on capital gains for people who make more than $400,000.

Those are some areas where Democrats are going to have some disagreements. And it's not just about what you put in this $3.5 trillion bill. It's about where you get the money to actually finance it, Jim. And that is going to be a major sticking point in the weeks ahead.

HILL: That is certainly what we're going to be hearing about. And to that point, let's turn to CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz, who joins us from the North Lawn.

So, Arlette, as there's all this jousting taking place on Capitol Hill, as there is talk about how this will be paid for, the White House does remain committed to raising taxes on wealthier Americans.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They do, Erica. And the White House is welcoming this draft proposal from Democrats today with officials arguing that it makes good on two of the president's promises. One is to not raise any taxes on those individuals making less than $400,000 a year, and also reversing some of the Trump-era tax cuts.

A White House spokesman saying that the plan makes significant progress towards ensuring our economy rewards work and not just wealth by cutting taxes for middle class families, reforming the tax code to prevent the offshoring American jobs and making sure the wealthiest Americans and big corporations pay their fair share.

But the White House is aware there is still a heavy lift as these negotiations are ongoing. And President Biden is hitting the road today, leaving any minute now, to head out west, where he will be promoting the infrastructure plan and that more sweeping $3.5 trillion economic agenda. The president will first stop in Boise, Idaho, where he'll receive a briefing on wildfires. He then travels to the Sacramento area in California for a similar briefing and also to tour some of the damage of the Caldor Fires out west.

One thing that the president is expected to promote today is some of the resilient infrastructure proposals in his plans as well as calling for more investments to fight the climate crisis. You heard him do that last week when he was in the New York area, hurricane -- surveying the storm damage from Hurricane Ida. He will do so again with those wildfires out west. He is also campaigning for California Governor Gavin Newsom ahead of the recall tomorrow.

And tomorrow he heads to Denver, Colorado, once again making his case for that Build Back Better agenda. But the White House is aware that so many of the president's domestic policy priorities hang on these delicate -- very delicate negotiations playing out up on Capitol Hill.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That's where he seems to need to be making his case.

Lauren Fox, Arlette Saenz, thanks very much.

You're watching live picture there, that's Marine One at Joint Base Andrews. Biden about to depart the presidential helicopter to hop on Air Force One for his trip out west.

CNN senior political analyst John Avlon joins us now to discuss. And John, you know, listen to Manchin's words there about AOC. It really struck me. He basically was issuing a dare. It's like a game of chickens, say, hey if they want to stand in the way of infrastructure, fine, they're going to have to go home, you know, not being pressed in exchange on the larger $3.5 trillion budget.

I just wonder, where this stands? I mean, like I asked Lauren, is this a public negotiation, and it's always messy, it's the sausage making, or are the two sides really at an impasse here?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a negotiation. That said, there are deep differences. And whenever you get into positional bargaining as Manchin did when he threw out a $1 trillion, $1.5 trillion number that's not good for the overall process. Now Jim Clyburn on "THE SITUATION ROOM" the other week actually said look, maybe we end up around $2 million.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did some ad homonym hits on Manchin, that doesn't help the process of reasoning together. But Manchin not only I think has an interest in the hard infrastructure which is popular and needed as Hurricane Ida and its impact should have impressed upon everybody, but also in West Virginia a lot of the items that are in this $3.5 trillion bill would help residents of West Virginia.

He's got a fair point to make about, look, we're not spending some of this money. Is all of this really needed? Would the market address this on its own? Can you rein it in? Sure. It is a process, it is a negotiation. But you cannot overestimate how important it is for Democrats and President Biden's agenda that they find a way to reason together over the next month.

HILL: You know, as Jim pointed out earlier, as we often hear from our colleague, Lauren Fox, Manchin is obviously very vocal on all of this. But I'm curious, in terms of how things are actually playing out behind the scenes to your point, John, about how crucial a lot of these elements are to the residents in West Virginia and across the country.


Is there a sense of how those private conversations are moving forward, and just how much more pressure there is this morning?

AVLON: Look, pressure is ramping up because Democrats are trying to put forward an outline. And Manchin has -- if you're trying to do something through reconciliation, you need every vote, and Krysten Sinema, by the way, isn't on board with the $3.5 trillion either. So it's just not Manchin. But I do think pressure needs to be brought to bear by appealing to specifically how it would benefit the residents of West Virginia, the residents of Arizona. Those sorts of hard arguments need to be made.

And then on the left some Democrats are going to have to deal with the fact that is all of this money necessary, especially if some of it hasn't already been spent in previous bills?

SCIUTTO: Yes. John, as we're speaking there you see, of course, the president there, boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews. This, for his trip, as we mentioned, out west.

John, there's a deadline here, well, not quite a deadline. There's a schedule here, right, that Democratic leadership wanted a vote by September 27th. That's two weeks from today on the infrastructure bill, which has already been agreed to. But the trouble is, it's wedded to the larger budget bill, at least in this two-track plan. I mean, is that September 27th date now in danger?

AVLON: Dreams need deadlines, Jim.


AVLON: I don't think Nancy Pelosi is a parliamentarian of the first order. And I don't think she's going to lay out dates without being able to meet them. And she's committed to the two-track process. So I think for now, you know -- President Biden has shown he's pretty willing to let a deadline slide as long as he can get to where he wants to go. Pelosi has run a very disciplined ship in the House. That's where these bills stand. That's where the action is today.

HILL: And real quickly, John, before we let you go.


HILL: We can't look at all of this and intensive infighting without an eye toward 2022.


HILL: That has to come into play here as well, doesn't it?

AVLON: For sure. Because look, I mean, look, in off-year elections, the opposition party tends to gain seats. You got a razor-thin margin in the House, four, five seats, you got a 50-50 margin with a tie break from Kamala Harris. So Democrats who want to run the table here they can make a political argument. They also need to recognize they need more Joe Manchins in the Senate. They need to pick more seats in swing districts.

So all those calculations need to be balanced against the fact that they want to deliver for their voters but there is a clock to this because an election year is right around the corner and they could very well lose the gavel in two years.

HILL: John Avlon, good to see you. Thank you.

AVLON: Thanks, guys. You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: Also this morning, top congressional leaders will get a security briefing. This, about a planned right-wing rally that is raising real alarm bells in the wake of January 16th. Concerns about a repeat. We're going to be live on Capitol Hill next.

HILL: But first, a quick look at Wall Street. We are just moments now from the Opening Bell. The Dow looking to rebound today after five straight days of losses. That is the longest losing streak since February. Investors ultimately anticipating the Consumer Price Index, which set to be released tomorrow. It's expected to show prices jump about 5 percent in August.