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NFL Head Coach Jon Gruden Resigns; Miami Ousting Police Chief?; Gabby Petito Autopsy Report; Companies Defy Texas Vaccine Mandate Ban. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Something bad could happen if you take an aspirin a day, and that is that you could bleed too much. Too much aspirin can make you bleed too much. And that gets more likely as we age.

So let's take a look at these draft recommendations and what they're saying. What they're saying is, first of all -- and this is so important -- if you had a heart attack or a stroke, and your doctor says take a baby aspirin or take an aspirin today, take an aspirin a day. So if you have already had a heart attack or stroke and your doctor is saying to take an aspirin, take it.

However, if you have not had a heart attack or a stroke and you're over age 60, do not take an aspirin because of the bleeding risk. Also, if you have not had a heart attack or a stroke and you're ages 40 to 59, talk to your doctor. It is possible that maybe you should be taking an aspirin, for example, if you have got some health history of cardiovascular issues, if your family -- have a family history of cardiovascular issues.

Maybe you should be taking an aspirin but maybe not. That's really something you need to decide with your doctor -- Alisyn, Victor.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

Top of the hour. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott is facing new pushback on his controversial and broad ban on COVID vaccine mandates. It's a new executive order and prohibits every entity in Texas, including private businesses, from enforcing vaccination mandates.

American and Southwest Airlines, though, both based in the Lone Star State, vowed to continue requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: Abbott is up for reelection next year. He's been on a bit of a collision course with President Biden, who just last month announced that all employers with 100 or more workers should adopt vaccine mandates or COVID testing regimens. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Dallas for us.

So, Ed, why is Governor Abbott doing this now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think everybody here in Texas is looking at Abbott's move through the prism of the politics that he finds himself in the middle of.

And that is, he is facing a primary challenge to be reelected next year. That primary is coming up in the spring of 2022. And both of the candidates, Don Huffines and Allen West, that are running against him have been railing against vaccine mandates, among other things.

So it seems pretty clear at this point that a lot of what the governor is doing is driven -- is doing is driven in part by his -- the political primary that he is facing. And this is really putting businesses and even many Republicans here in the state of Texas in a bind.

It was just a few weeks ago that the governor was saying that government shouldn't be mandating and telling private businesses what to do. Now he's essentially doing just that with this executive order. American Airlines and Southwest Airlines say they will continue complying with the federal vaccine mandate that President Biden has signed.

But we're still waiting to hear from many of the other largest companies across the state of Texas. As you well know, the Republicans here in this state have been priding themselves in recent years about the number of companies that have chosen to relocate here into Texas, from Austin, Dallas, Houston, all over the state.

So this -- and you hear from -- in some Republican circles is that this is putting a lot of these businesses that are wanting to come here to Texas to do this kind of business, putting them in a very difficult situation -- Alisyn and Victor.

CAMEROTA: OK, Ed Lavandera, thank you very much for the news from the ground there.

And joining us now is Admiral Brett Giroir. He was the assistant secretary of health in the Trump administration.

Admiral, great to see us (sic).

You're coming to us from Texas, I believe, right now. So it is -- you're the perfect person to ask. What do you think of Governor Abbott's new ban on even private businesses in Texas? It prevents them from demanding that their employees or even their customers are vaccinated. Is that smart public health policy?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Well, first of all, I do want to point out the common ground. Governor Abbott did say that vaccines are safe and effective and are our best defense against COVID. So, I want the listeners to understand, President Biden, Governor

Abbott and certainly myself strongly advocate vaccines to all who are eligible.

Now, about this executive order from the governor, three quick points. Number one, I don't agree with it, based on conservative and public health principles, that the governor should be prohibiting mandates at businesses. I do not believe that is sound public health or conservative policy.

It may make sense for outdoor construction workers to not have a mandate, but, certainly, in hospitals, where we have a sacred responsibility to take care of our patients, mandates for health care workers make sense.


Second point, it's unclear whether this is going to differ so much from President Biden, because if President Biden's OSHA does adopt vax or test, Governor Abbott did not rule out mandatory testing. So, basically, what Biden may be saying is that we're mandating it, but if you don't want to get it, it's OK because we can get tested.

So that is still an option under Governor Abbott's E.O. And the third quick point is, I do support that we have lots of evidence now that if you survived COVID infection, your natural immunity is very strong. And I think we ought to recognize that.


CAMEROTA: I just want to ask you about that, because I keep hearing that.

Admiral, is it as strong as being vaccinated? It wanes faster than natural immunity than being vaccinated?

GIROIR: Yes, that's not really true. And this is not a political issue, because we really need to get those who are unvaccinated and who haven't gotten COVID to get vaccines.

You can improve your natural immunity by a vaccine. But the data right now suggests that, if you have had COVID, you're just as protected against hospitalizations and death and all the serious side effects as if you have gotten the vaccines, and that's kind of the way nature works.

So I think we got to modify that from the CDC point of view. I think that will add credibility. Sure, it's bureaucratically easier to say everybody must get vaccinated, and I support that. But we should recognize natural immunity in those people and allow for a little more room under that tent.

BLACKWELL: Admiral, let me get back to the mandates here, because although you are right that for those private companies with 100 or more employees, there is really a testing mandate with a waiver if you are vaccinated, that's what that is, but for federal contractors -- and there are five million federal contractor employees across the country, many thousands of them in Texas -- that is just a vaccine mandate.

You don't have the out of getting tested. So I heard you say that it's not a good idea, from conservative principles, from public health, to ban those mandates. Are you in agreement with the president that the mandate is a good idea?

The White House report shows that it cut the number of unvaccinated qualified Americans by a third since they were implemented.

GIROIR: So I think resorting to mandates is a little bit sad, because it really means that the public health messaging by all administrations have not gotten through.

And, sure, coercion about vaccines, you lose your job, you lose your money, you lose your family and food, they work. That's true that they do work. But I think we ought to do everything we can to convince people to be vaccinated.

And I believe if we give Americans the right information and level with them and be humble about them, I think we will see an uptick. And we have seen an uptick even without mandates due to the FDA approval and due to the fact that people are scared of Delta. And they ought to be scared of Delta.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about some news that just crossed. This is from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Actually, it was published yesterday, but we're just getting it.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in children remains -- quote -- "exceptionally high," with close to 150,000 cases reported in just the past week ending October 7. Children represent now a quarter of weekly reported COVID-19 cases. What do we do about that?

GIROIR: So it is absolutely true the number of children who are being diagnosed with COVID has gone up.

And the first thing we need to do is get better data. And this is really a tragedy. Only 24 states even report the number of children who are hospitalized. So we need to certainly pony up and get that data.

But, secondly, we do need to consider vaccination in those groups. Pfizer will be presenting the data, asking for authorization to the 5- to-11-year-olds. I think that's likely going to happen; 25 or 30 percent of parents will want that to happen to their children very early.

Certainly, teenagers, 12-to-18-year-olds, certainly, they pass COVID around. So, again, vaccines are our best defense. And if they're authorized for a group, it's an important decision for a family and their physicians to make. But, yes, they're going up in children. It's something we have to face. And it's not just benign, 1,000 hospitals a week. There's the multiinflammatory syndrome in children. And although there's only been a relatively small number of deaths,

there have been over 100 deaths in this group. And that number will increase as the numbers increase.

BLACKWELL: Admiral, we're seeing a lot of green on the COVID map now, 26 states 10 to 50 percent fewer new cases this week vs. last week, but the polling shows that people are not confident that we're getting back to a normal, as they would call it, life, pre-COVID life anytime soon.

Far more people now than there were two months ago believe that that's more than a year out. Are they right that we're a year away?


You see here, the most recent poll 30 percent believe that it's more than a year from now you get to pre-COVID life, vs. 9 percent back in June.

GIROIR: So, I think we need to alter some expectations.

We are not going to get rid of COVID infections anytime soon. What we will do, however, because so many people have gotten Delta and so many people have been infected, is, we're going to be able to eliminate, to a large degree, the hospitalizations and deaths.

COVID will become endemic. And I hate to say this, but we're going to have to learn how to reasonably live with it. And the best way we do that is by getting vaccinated, so that we could eliminate the side effects, like hospitalizations and deaths and long COVID.

We are not done with COVID yet. I do believe the cases are clearly going down. We will probably have another bump in the midwinter. And then, if things continue the way they are, I think you will see cases slide in the spring. But we need to be humble. This virus has thrown us a number of curveballs. There could be new variants, there could be new changes.

So we have to be aware. And, again, get vaccinated. It is your best defense against getting hospitalized or dying of COVID and also spreading it to other people whom you love.

BLACKWELL: All right, Admiral Brett Giroir, thank you.

GIROIR: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, we have some breaking news in the murder of Gabby Petito.

A coroner has just revealed that she died by strangulation. We have more details next.




DR. BRENT BLUE, TETON COUNTY, WYOMING, CORONER: In the manner of death of Gabrielle Venora Petito, we find the cause and manner, the cause death by strangulation, and manner is homicide.


BLACKWELL: And that's the breaking news, that Gabby Petito's cause of death revealed as strangulation. That's the corner there in Wyoming, who believes that she was killed about three to four weeks before her body was found on September 19.

And you will remember that she was traveling out West in the Western U.S. with her fiance, Brian Laundrie, when she was last seen alive. Laundrie returned home alone to Florida, but then disappeared, despite this massive search that's still ongoing.

Let's bring in now CNN's Jean Casarez.

Jean, first, tell us about the significance of this finding from the coroner's office.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very significant, because now we have finally not only the manner of death, which is homicide, death at the hands of another, but strangulation.

But the medical examiner said he could not say whether it was manual strangulation or strangulation by an object, because both are possible. They also said, the medical examiner did, that they brought in, of course, the forensic pathologist, a forensic anthropologist. They did toxicology examination, and that is one reason that it took so long, because that took a while, and then radiologic examination.

Also said that DNA samples that they took from her remains that were taken to a lab being analyzed, extremely important. Also said that they believe that the time period was three to four weeks before her remains were found, which would fit the timetable that the affidavit for a search warrant, the 27th of August being the last time her family spoke with her, phone turned off after that, and the remains being found on the 19th.

One quote that I think was so prolific in this, the medical examiner said: "In a situation like this, nothing was obvious. So the cause of death required examination," talking about the wilderness that she was in.

Now, there is a statement from the Laundrie family attorney. We want to show everyone.

CAMEROTA: So this is the first time that Brian Laundrie's family is responding to this news about strangulation. OK.

CASAREZ: That's right. They are responding obviously to the medical examiner.

They are saying, in part: "Gabby Petito's death at such a young age is a tragedy. While Brian Laundrie is currently charged with the unauthorized use of a debit card belonging to Gabby, Brian is only considered a person of interest in relation to Gabby Petito's demise."

Now, I will tell you the complaint indictment in regard to that debit card did not say it was Gabby's debit card. So what is being said right here, it's the first time that apparently there is an admission that it was Gabby Petito's debit card.

Another interesting part of all this is that there were a samples that were given to a forensic entomologist, which is an expert on insects, but it's a forensic entomologist, which means, after death, the person is looking at insect bites, insect remains, any aspect of insects that could be on those remains.

BLACKWELL: Could that narrow the date of death?


CASAREZ: Yes, that helps them to determine it, definitely, because they have those dates that I just told you.


CASAREZ: But, also, that can really specifically talk about -- because there are different insects that come out at certain times, even time of death possibly, that it could help.


So all the way around. And they have just got experts in so many areas. Full-body CAT scan they did. But I think for the medical examiner to say she was in the wilderness for three to four weeks, and especially a forensic anthropologist, because they deal with bones. They deal with the bones of the remains.

BLACKWELL: Very quickly, we were talking about they also said that they collected DNA samples. And that could help with any criminal investigation, because, as we have discussed, there are sometimes defensive wounds on someone who is strangled.

And maybe there's DNA under her fingernails, and so -- but it's complicated because Brian Laundrie was her boyfriend.

CASAREZ: That's right.

And, obviously, this could exclude Brian Laundrie, right, if there is foreign DNA.

CAMEROTA: Great point, if there's different DNA, yes.

CASAREZ: Obviously, they always do a sexual assault examination also.

But the DNA samples -- and, if you remember, a couple of weeks ago, they went to the family home and they got DNA, the FBI did, belonging to Brian Laundrie.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting.

Jean Casarez, thank you very much for helping us understand what we just learned.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Jean.

CAMEROTA: All right, so just six months on the job, and Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo's job is on the line now.

In a new memo released yesterday, the city manager announced that -- Acevedo's suspension and added that the chief's relationship with his department had deteriorated beyond repair.

BLACKWELL: Acevedo is facing a series of controversies, including a dispute with local officials on his comments about Cuban Americans.

CNN's Ryan Young is in Miami, where he just caught up with the mayor there.

So, what are you learning about the future for the chief?


Look, we have all dealt with this situation in life. You might not get along with a boss, but you sort of keep that to yourself.

Art Acevedo had no problem sort of saying why he didn't get along with some of the people who are sort of in control of his budget. This all played out pretty much on TV, in the media, all throughout Miami and has now reached sort of a nationwide pitch, as people start figuring out that the chief of police here could lose his job because of this personality conflict.

The mayor wrapped up a news conference about a half-hour ago, and he talked about the fact that he actually supported the city manager's move and said, look, sometimes personalities and the way management styles kind of come together don't work. So we're going to move on.

We also went one-on-one with the mayor behind the scenes to sort of ask them about this question. You got to remember the mayor actually compared the chief to Tom Brady and Michael Jordan when he hired him over local candidates to be the next police chief.

Take a listen to the conversation I just had with the mayor a few moments ago.


FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI, FLORIDA: You always go into a situation like this with the best of expectations. Unfortunately, things didn't work out. And it was a situation where we had to do what was best for the residents of the city of Miami and not prolong something that was untenable at this point.


YOUNG: Yes, Victor, we turned that around as quickly as we could after coming downstairs and having that talk with the mayor.

But, look, he says that, at the end of the day, with the fact that there are so many people in the police department, some of the FOP members basically said they had a vote of no confidence for the police chief.

Now, we know, when you hire a new manager, they come in and make changes. Some of the changes people say were too fast here. This police chief, though, is known throughout the country for being able to make substantive changes throughout a police organization. So it'll be interesting to see what happens.

I will say he wants a hearing. So that's going to happen within the next five days or so, where he will go in front of the commission and fight for his job. In fact, we got a memo that he sent to employees. A source gave it to me, and it basically says he will continue to fight to change the relationship between the police department and city hall.

But, right now, it seems like all the members of city hall are sort of standing up against this police chief, saying so. I don't know where the support is going to be for him to stay here. It will be interesting to see how this political mess plays out -- guys.

BLACKWELL: Certainly something to watch.

And thank you, Ryan, for getting that sound turned around very quickly for us there in Miami.

YOUNG: Absolutely. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, Netflix is standing by Dave Chappelle after critics take issue with his new special, calling it transphobic.



BLACKWELL: Jon Gruden has stepped down as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after "The New York Times" on earth a slew of old e-mails he sent packed with racist and misogynist and homophobic language.

The e-mails were sent between 2011 and 2018. They emerged as part of a different investigation into workplace misconduct that didn't initially involve Gruden.

Jay Brown is the senior vice president of programs for search and training and Human Rights Campaign and an advocate for the trans community.

Jay, thanks so much for being with me.

Let's start here. There's been thus far a tweet from HRC on this, I'd like you to just fill out the reaction to what you read that this now former head coach sent over these periods of years.

JAY BROWN, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Well, thanks so much, Victor. It's a pleasure to be here with you all today.

I mean, I think there's just not room for racist, homophobic and misogynistic rhetoric in sports.

But we know it's a pervasive problem. And, unfortunately, these e- mails really exposed that in a shocking way. I think Coach Gruden should know this. He should have known better and what he said was harmful. I'm glad to see that he's no longer a coach.

And I think the NFL has a real opportunity at this moment to double down on their diversity efforts and push an environment that is really fully inclusive, where all folks are welcomed in sports.

And there's a whole lot of work that needs to be done.