Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Pew Research Poll Shows 54 Percent of Adults Say Worst of Outbreak is Still to Come; Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) Easily Survives Recall Election in Blowout; Sources Say, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to Meet Separately with Biden Today. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Just moments from now, riveting testimonies expected on Capitol Hill. The Senate Judiciary Committee examining how the FBI handled the investigation of former USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar. Today, we will hear from some America's most well known elite gymnasts. You can see them here arriving on Capitol Hill just within the last hour. Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, Aly Raisman, all will share their testimony today. And they'll be joined by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz and FBI Director Chris Wray.

SCIUTTO: All of this is the result of a scathing report from the Justice Department's inspector general. That report found that FBI officials delayed a probe into allegations made by some of Larry Nassar's accusers.

And new this morning, CNN has learned that the FBI fired an agent who was accused of failing to launch a proper investigation into Nassar. We're going to bring you more from inside that hearing as it gets under way shortly this hour.

But, first, a brand new Pew report out this hour. It shows that half of U.S. adults fear the worst of COVID-19 is yet to come. It says a majority say pandemic restrictions were, however, worth the costs.

HILL: CNN Health Reporter Jacqueline Howard joining us now to break down what we're learning from this study. So, Jacqueline, what more do we see in this survey?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Erica, what this survey also says is that about 72 percent of Americans say they personally know someone who has been hospitalized or died from COVID-19, and I think that helps provide context as to why the majority basically say that the public health restrictions in place are worth any inconvenience or worth the cost.

When you look at restrictions on public activity, the survey finds that 69 percent of people find that, yes, public restrictions hurt businesses and the economy a lot. 58 percent have acknowledged that, yes, public health restrictions have kept some people from living the life that they want. But 62 percent say these restrictions are worth the cost or the inconvenience.

Now, when you look at vaccine requirements, we see more of a mixed opinion there. When it comes to who favors requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination, 61 percent of people say, for air travel say, yes, they favor it. 57 percent say for attending college or university, yes, they favor it. 56 percent say for sports came or concert, yes, they favor it.

But that drops to about half of people in favor of requirements for dining and about 45 percent in favor for shopping. And then these percentages, Jim and Erica, drop even more when you look at the workplace. Should employers require vaccinations? 39 percent of people say they should. 35 percent of people say, well, employers should just encourage vaccines. And then we see 25 percent don't want any of it. They say, neither require or encourage.

So these are mixed opinions here, but, overall, the takeaway message is that most people, the majority say that restrictions to benefit public health outweigh the inconvenience. And, of course, it will be interesting to see if these percentages change as time goes on. Erica and Jim?

HILL: It certainly will. Jacqueline Howard, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, right now, less than 10 percent of ICU beds are available in six states, those states, Kentucky, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama, where it's actually even worse there.

SCIUTTO: They're down to zero, not a single ICU bed left. That means some patients now being treated on gurneys in the hallway.

Nick Valencia joins us live from a hospital in Birmingham. And, Nick, I mean, this reminds me of some of those images from the worst early days of the pandemic, right, pre-vaccination. What are you hearing from doctors and nurses?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the south has been a leader during this pandemic for all the wrong reasons, Jim and Erica. And right now, today, the situation in Alabama is particularly bad with the health care system on the verge of collapse. That's what frontline workers are telling us here with COVID-19 patients filling up hospitals, filling up ICU beds.


In fact, right now, as it stands, 50 percent of those on ventilators are COVID-19 patients. 50 percent of those in ICU beds, also COVID-19 patients. And we're hearing these really terrible stories of hospital gurneys in hallways turning into makeshift ICU wards. Resources here were stretched so thin and the strain is just really a dire situation right now.

And that is underscored by a story we heard from earlier this month of Ray Dimonia (ph), who was going through a cardiac episode earlier this month and was taken to a hospital in his local town. The hospital called 43 hospitals across this region before they were able to find him a bed. But it was too late. He died as a result of not getting the care that he needed. Earlier I spoke to a doctor who said calling 911 in some parts of this state is taking a gamble with your own life.


DR. DAVID KIMBERLIN, CO-DIRECTOR, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE DIVISION AT UAB: Two weeks ago, late in the evening, I got an emergency email saying that there were 60 runs that were in front of someone calling for an ambulance. Some of those runs are 100 miles away. So, basically, you call and you say, look, I'm having chest pain or I can't move my right side of my body because I think I'm having a stroke, and they say, we'll send you an ambulance in four hours. That is a health care system on the verge of collapse.


VALENCIA: The state health officer here says the ascent of cases that we saw in July and August and the beginning of September in the last seven days have hit a plateau, so have hospitalizations. But with 40 COVID-related deaths per day, things cannot afford here to get worse, even still though we're seeing politics played by the governor here, Kay Ivey, who says she plans to fight back against these proposed vaccine mandates by President Biden, calling them flat-out nonsense. Jim, Erica?

SCIUTTO: And yet the vaccines are what are saving lives and keeping people out of the hospital. Nick Valencia, thanks very much.

Joining us now to talk about all of this, Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, he's an Internal Medicine Specialist and Viral Researcher. Doctor, good to have you on this morning.


SCIUTTO: I mean, the data is clear, right? You're 11 times more likely to be hospitalized or die if you're not vaccinated. I wonder, the number on the screen I always watch every day is where this country stands in terms of the percentage of the population fully vaccinated. It's just been 54 percent, it's been ticking up very slowly in the last several weeks and months. I mean, is that picking up fast enough to get a handle on this? Do you see any evidence of vaccination rates increasing to hem in the delta variant?

RODRIGUEZ: No, I don't, actually. The ideal situation would be for at least 80 percent of the United States, maybe even higher, to be vaccinated. And, unfortunately, I think we are at a bottleneck now with the people who have wanted to be vaccinated are vaccinated. Slowly, perhaps these work mandates or what I call requirements are going to be in place and people are getting vaccinated. So, no, we're not anywhere near where we need to be to stem not just what's going on now but what may be looming in the future.

HILL: Dr. Rodriguez, the Pfizer CEO said its data on vaccine trials for 5 to 11-year-olds, that data could be submitted for emergency use authorization by the end of the month. How much of a difference do you think it would make in this country if, let's say, even just half of eligible 5 to 11-year-olds, once that is authorized, the vaccine is authorized, if they were to work to get the shot?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, it would make a huge difference, especially for 5 to 11-year-olds, right? They're the ones that are now at higher risk along with people that haven't been vaccinated and maybe immunecompromised people that were vaccinated a long time ago. It's a substantial portion of the population. And also it would alleviate some of the stress felt by parents and school systems.

So I hope that they do look at this as quickly as possible and give it emergency use also as quickly as possible.

SCIUTTO: Okay. So, the other question is this question of boosters. There's going to be a big meeting in the FDA on Friday here. And the disagreement seems to be how necessary, how urgent. I mean, there's some benefit from boosters, particularly for folks who are older as they have waning immunity. I mean, how should folks at home process this, particularly, because, as you mention, there's a big portion of the population not vaccinated at all at this point?

RODRIGUEZ: Right. This is a very sticky wicket. For example, the U.K. just approved yesterday that they're going to give boosters to anyone that's 50 years old or above. There's certainly data, especially live data, meaning data in the real world, especially in countries like Israel that had a huge portion of their population vaccinated that show that after six months to eight months, the immunity does wane and people do get sick. If you're going to look test tube data, some scientists are going to say, listen, sure, antibodies may go down, but there's other type of immunity.


So, personally, I believe in boosters. I think there's a certain segment of the population that right now is at risk, including people that were vaccinated in December/January, health care workers, elderly, that probably now don't have the same robust protection that they did back last year. And I do think they should be protected because, again, we don't know what the winter is going to hold. We don't know what mutation, there's a new mutation out there, whether this is going to really get a hold of what is happening. So I am a supporter of boosters and I think it's something that should be looked at critically and probably expedited.

HILL: You mention we don't know what the winter holds but could be coming down the pike. The WHO though did say yesterday, they saw the first substantial decline in cases. And even though there were more than a million reported in the U.S. over the previous week, it was a decline in the U.S. of 20 percent in terms of new cases. That's encouraging.

So, how do we look at that, right, and also look at what is coming as the weather changes certainly and much of the country becomes colder, more people will be inside?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think we need to be in front of the data and not take -- look, in July, the data looked great. It looked like there's nothing happening, we're doing really great and look what happened. The delta variant took hold. I keep mentioning the Provincetown data, people that were vaccinated got infected. So we were behind what was happening. It's almost like the analogy that I use, being raised in South Florida. There's a hurricane coming, you don't know if it's going to hit you, so you board up anyway. I think that's what we need to do right now. We'll learn and we'll see what may be coming next year.

So I am of the school that we need to be more preemptive than reactive.

HILL: Safety first, preparation.


HILL: It goes a long way. Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, I always appreciate it, thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.

HILL: New overnight, California Governor Gavin Newsom keeping his job. Voters decisively rejected the GOP-led effort to recall him by a two to one margin.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it wasn't even close. CNN's Stephanie Elam is in California this morning.

So, Stephanie, how are parties interpreting this, not just in the state but nationally, right, because a lot of the campaigning had been tied to a broader national kind of response among Democrats to Trumpism?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly. And you look at the numbers here and how this played out in California, Jim and Erica. And you can see where I am in Orange County, which as we know has traditionally been a Republican county, it did not go in the Republicans' favor. Here even, when you look at the votes that are in for the county, they broke for the side of Newsom.

However, when you look at the candidate who had the most likely choice of perhaps replacing Newsom, that was Larry Elder, who did make his nerve center right here in Orange County. He got about 58 percent of the vote.

Take a listen, in fact, to how he did concede. He actually did concede last night, but he also pointed that this may not be the end. Take a listen.


LARRY ELDER (R), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR RECALL ELECTION CANDIDATE: We have lost a battle, but we are absolutely going to win the war.

As a former radio host, let me just say this, stay tuned.


ELAM: It is noteworthy that Orange County still did go for Newsom. Of course, though, especially since I talked to several people who were waiting in line to vote yesterday, many felt that this was necessary. One woman told me that she said that this is one way to keep our elected officials -- keep their feet to the fire so that they know that they will be held accountable if folks aren't happy with the job that they've done.

And then also some are saying that this was all about Republicans versus Democrats, and that this was just a showing that this is beating back Trumpism and showing that the California way of doing things, the way that Newsom was leaning in to trying to protect California from the pandemic, was actually a winning policy because of the way the numbers have turned out.

There was also a tweet from California Assembly Speaker pro tem Kevin Mullin, and he was talking about how much the cost of this was, especially considering we're going to have another election just in November 2022. He said in this tweet, quote, $276 million waste just to reaffirm 2018's results with an election coming in 2022. And I can tell you, Jim and Erica, there are people I talked to yesterday, they thought that that was the exact same point that they were really focused on. This was a giant waste of money.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, that next election just next year, right? Stephanie Elam, thanks very much.

Well, right now, four elite gymnasts, including Olympian Simone Biles, they are on Capitol Hill, you see them there, set to testify this hour about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar and the FBI's failed investigation into those allegations.


HILL: Plus, Democrats staring down a long list of key deadlines. The pressure is on to get all 50 Dems on the same page. Now, President Biden meeting with two of the holdouts.

And later, a murder mystery, an opioid problem and a failed plot to organize a hit, all of this dealing with one prominent South Carolina attorney, the latest bizarre turn in a family tragedy.



HILL: It is deadline day for Democrats. Today marks the self-imposed cutoff point for them to finish their markup of President Biden's $3.5 trillion spending bill. Now, sources tell CNN President Biden will meet separately with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema today, both, of course, who are resisting that price tag.

SCIUTTO: Yes, as their middle ground.

CNN cameras captured Sinema arriving at the White House just a few minutes ago. I would love to, as Erica said, be a fly on the wall for those conversations.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju joins us now on Capitol Hill. Manu, I mean, the big question is are they going to find some way to meet in the middle, right? Is there a point in the middle that not just -- it pleases not just Sinema and Manchin, right, but the progressives?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That has been the challenge that happened for weeks and weeks and weeks. And yesterday, Joe Manchin, behind closed doors, addressed the Senate Democratic Caucus, and we're not all on the same page, we all need to find some sort of resolution. There was a lot of discussion, but certainly no deal yet, and this meeting today a key moment because there is just simply not much time for the Democrats to get everybody on board behind this massive package.

You mentioned $3.5 billion is a price tag both Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema has said they will not accept that. And also Joe Manchin has laid out a laundry list of concerns, attempting to pare back this bill substantially. Sinema too, through her staff, over the last several weeks, had a number of discussions with the key committee chairmen on the Senate side. Now, they will go and talk to the president about what their bottom line is.

But today was a deadline that Democratic leaders had hoped that they could put aside their differences and get behind one proposal. They are going to blow past the deadline and not reach an agreement on the Senate side. On the House side, they're still drafting the bill and they could get the bill through some key aspects of the committee process today.

But some of the provisions could fall apart, including an important drug pricing provision to allow for -- to push for lower prescription drug prices. There's a disagreement about how to do just that. That could fall apart. That could lead to problems for the larger bill itself, this bill so dramatic in its size and the scope at touching virtually all aspects of American life. But can they get that all together, can they deal with this in addition to other big deadlines that are coming up, including funding the government by the end of the month, raising the national debt limit to avoid a debt default. That comes by the middle of next month.

So, so many key resolutions now on the table, no clear resolution on any of them, and two key senators meeting with the president, can they get behind what the Democrats want, really unclear at this moment.

HILL: Yes. It is quite a to-do list. Manu Raju, I appreciate it, thank you. SCIUTTO: Yes, a lot of deadlines. We'll see how dead those lines are.

Dueling ballistic missile tests on the Korean Peninsula overnight just hours after North Korea launched two new missile tests. The south responded with a launch of its own, this one from a submarine, as you see there.

HILL: Well, that tense exchange raising concerns in what is already one of the world's most volatile regions. Kylie Atwood following it all for us from the State Department. So, Kylie, how is the White House viewing all this?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the State Department said through a spokesperson that the United States condemns North Korea's ballistic missile launch, also said that the Biden administration remains committed to diplomacy with North Korea, say that they call on North Korea to engage in dialogue.

Of course, that comes after there hasn't been a whole lot of engagement between the Biden administration and North Korea. There have been a few instances where the Biden administration has reached out. As far as we know, North Korea has essentially not played ball. It hasn't engaged in those outward efforts.

Now, the State Department made clear that the United States maintains its ironclad commitment to the defense of Japan and South Korea, sort of saying in so many ways that they are supportive of South Korea's missile test.

We should note that INDOPACOM, that's the commander of all the U.S. forces in the region, came out with a statement earlier this morning saying that North Korea's ballistic missile launch doesn't pose any immediate threat to the United States personnel or United States territory or those of America's allies, which is significant.

But the fact that these two launches happened just three hours apart from one another doesn't mean that one was necessarily responding to another because there is a lot of planning that goes into these. But what it does demonstrate is how volatile the region is and continues to be, which will be a challenge for the Biden administration. North Korea hasn't been front and center. This is putting it front and center, at least for today. We'll see how they deal with that.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And North Korea has a pattern of putting itself front and center, right, when it's not getting the attention it wants. Kylie Atwood, thanks so much.

Well, moments from now, we are set to hear from some of America's best, legendary gymnasts testifying on Capitol Hill about something far sadder. Did the FBI bungled the investigation into disgraced former USA gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar.


They had a lot of allegations. They dragged their feet looking into them. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: The breaking news, at any moment now, and these are live pictures from Capitol Hill, four of America's top gymnasts, pictures there, they're going to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the FBI's mishandling, foot-dragging on the investigation into former USA gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar.