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Depositions Scheduled for Stop the Steal Rally Organizers; Moderna Says, COVID Vaccine Shows Strong Immune Response in Kids 6 to 11; Gwinnett County, Georgia School Board Member Faces Harassment, Threats. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 10:30   ET



DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, we see this all the time, whether it was a few weeks ago talking about eating disorders and pushing pro-anorexia accounts to kids, Facebook only acting when it's brought to their attention. And it's clear as day it's on the platform.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And you had internal Facebook employees warning about this. And, by the way, it's not confined to trafficking. I mean, it seems they were obeying the request of dictators in Vietnam, for instance, about censorship or helping facilitate the targeting of minorities in a country such as Myanmar.

I wonder, what are the legal consequences, if any, globally for this? I mean, in our country, we've clearly had trouble getting there with a company like this.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. I mean, I guess this all comes back to the regulation issue. And one point that's being made, you know, true, people have left the company that I've spoken to through these documents and elsewhere, is that Facebook, as bad as the issues are here in the United States, Facebook really puts a lot of emphasis on keeping lawmakers, keeping people here, the media sort of placated in the U.S. where they will be responsive to us, but sometimes at the expense of ignoring issues in other parts of the world.

And we saw some reporting over the weekend through these papers as well. CNN will have some more reporting on it about how the company is being used to stoke -- the platform is being used to stoke sectarian divisions in India, which is actually its biggest market.

So, how this all plays out, where this ends, Frances Haugen, the whistleblower, through all of these (INAUDIBLE) are from, right now, she is appearing before the British parliament. So, it is getting attention of lawmakers around the world. Whether they will act, well, that is another issue entirely.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: Yes, and that is a big question. Donie O'Sullivan, I appreciate the reporting, as always, thank you.

We are also learning some new details about Facebook's role in the January 6th insurrection. The House committee investigating the Capitol attack has asked two key organizers of that day's Stop the Steal rally to give depositions today. Now, it is unclear if they'll show up or have their depositions postponed.

SCIUTTO: But we are learning how unprepared Facebook was for the way its platform was used to organize the Stop the Steal movement.

CNN Law Enforcement Correspondent Whitney Wild joins us now. So, Whitney, the January 6th committee has been looking at a whole host of facets of what happened that day. How do we expect them to handle this particular information about Facebook?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they'll move aggressively. And we've already seen their actions toward the social media companies, particularly Facebook, going as far back as August.

Now, I'll remind you, they sent a flurry of letters to more than a dozen social media companies to get an understanding of how the internal practices at these social media companies impacted the posting, the perpetuating of this big lie and also the companies' reactions to that.

So, certainly, a central part of the investigation because it was one of the first movements we saw coming out of the committee was zeroing in on these social media companies, specifically the chairman of that committee, Representative Bennie Thompson, spoke about this weekend and here's what he said.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Facebook is working with us to provide the necessary information we requested. At that point, staff and the committee will review that information. And if it's consistent with some of the things we're hearing from other areas, then, obviously, it's a problem.


WILD: It is a huge of not only this investigation but other congressional investigations across the board, for example, Jim, Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Chairman Senator Gary Peters of Michigan sent letters to Facebook as well about a month ago demanding very similar records. So, you have this really full-court press from members of Congress and now there's more proof than ever that these social media companies know there's a problem and they're just not doing enough.

SCIUTTO: Well, Donie earlier in the last hour had a number of folks on that day describing, or November and leading up to that today describing how they were using Facebook openly to organize to show up. Whitney Wild, thanks for covering it.

Still ahead, while most of the country is expecting a reprieve from the latest COVID-19 surge, it's in the numbers, Colorado, however, is once again seeing cases rise, threatening to overrun intensive care units there.



HILL: Could another vaccine soon be asking for emergency use authorization from the FDA for kids? Moderna today saying it found its COVID vaccine generated a strong immune response in its trials for kids ages 6 to 11.

SCIUTTO: CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. So, Elizabeth, you have got the FDA meeting on the Pfizer one for children tomorrow, you got this new data coming in from Moderna, encouraging. What's the likely timeline that children will be able to get vaccinated?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The likely timeline to get any vaccine, Jim, could really be as soon as next week. That's when we could see Pfizer getting their emergency use authorization for children. So, Moderna is behind them. But what we've learned from Moderna is that they say that they have some data that really looks quite promising for children ages 6 to 11.

So, let's take a look at what Moderna found. They had a clinical trial of nearly 5,000 participants ages 6 to 11. They were given two half- doses, half the dose that adults were received, they were given those doses 28 days apart, and one month after the second dose, the children showed similar antibody responses to what adults showed.

Now, that's good, that's a step in the right direction.


What you really want to know was did those antibodies help those children out, in other words, the children who received vaccine in the trial, were they less likely to actually get COVID than the children who received a placebo.

But, again, all eyes right now on Pfizer to see if they'll be getting their authorization for children ages 5 to 11 and possibly could vaccination for children in that age group start next week. Jim, Erica?

SCIUTTO: A big portion of the country, 9, 10 million people. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: It is. Thanks.

HILL: Nationwide, things really are looking up when it comes to COVID, hospitalizations at their lowest levels since early August, the height of the surge fueled by the delta variant. So, that's the good news, right? But it's raising questions about some states, including Colorado, which are seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients. Where, why?

Joining me now, Dr. Michelle Barron, she's a Senior Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Colorado.

Look, the vaccination numbers in your state for those eligible are actually pretty strong. 72 percent of eligible people in Colorado are fully vaccinated, 78 percent have had at least one shot. Why do you think you're seeing this, you know, sort of consistent hospitalization number in Colorado and even concerns, as I understand it, about the ICUs?

DR. MICHELLE BARRON, SENIOR MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF INFECTION PREVENTION, UCHEALTH: Yes. So, for better or worse, Colorado didn't see the same kind of trajectory in terms of the number of cases rising as other states did where they were seeing 1,200 cases a day. We've been sort of at a slow, steady increase, and I think that's where we're seeing the cumulative effect of that, where we never saw the huge surge but we never didn't see cases either, unfortunately. And when you look at them, it's still primarily individuals that are unvaccinated that we're seeing in our hospital.

HILL: As we've heard so much and health care providers that I've spoken with, like yourself, on the frontlines, this is, as we know, a pandemic of the unvaccinated. You paint this picture that to me is really like the slow, steady burn that you're seeing in Colorado. We know, as temperatures dip, people move inside. How concerned are you about this winter versus what we saw last winter given that the vaccine is widely available?

BARRON: I mean, I think I'm very concerned just because vaccinations, while were done quite well, is not up to 100 percent. It never probably will be there, but we obviously want it there.

The other thing that troubles me is just the number of respiratory viruses that we didn't see last year that were already peaking and seeing now. Respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, we don't have mask mandates in place like we did last year. So I think all of these are going to spread. Kids being in school, this is another place where these spread easily. And so I'm definitely worried about the fact we're going to have that on top of COVID.

HILL: What's your sense -- you bring up kids, kids obviously being in school. We were just talking with our colleague, Elizabeth Cohen, about we could see shots authorized for 5 to 11-year-olds, the Pfizer vaccine, as early as next week. Based on what you're seeing, patients you're seeing, patients you're talking to, how much support do you think there is among parents in your area to get their kids vaccinated when it's available?

BARRON: I think there's high anticipation. I've been getting calls and emails consistently for weeks wondering when is it going to happen, when is it going to happen. I think there's a lot of people that are definitely in favor of this and want that protection for their kids. So, I think it will be very well received when they get the approval, which hopefully will happen tomorrow.

HILL: Moderna, as you're likely aware, put out some of its own trial data this morning, again, not peer-reviewed or not published, but they're showing very positive signs for their trials in 6 to 11-year- olds for their vaccine. Do you think it will have an impact if there are ultimately -- or if there's ultimately more than one authorized and ultimately, hopefully approved COVID vaccine, necause I can't think of another shot that my kids get where you have a choice?

BARRON: Yes. You know, I think it will be important just to be able to have access. There are some differences in storage and in terms of the timing between the two vaccines. And so I think, ultimately, the more vaccine we have available for all age groups, the better off we're going to be.

HILL: Dr. Michelle Barron, I appreciate your joining us this morning. Thank you.

BARRON: Thank you.

HILL: Still to come, school board members facing serious threats online, often in person, being followed. We'll take you to frontlines of the intense debate on masks and vaccinations in public schools, how that's impacting board members. We'll hear directly from one of them, ahead.



SCIUTTO: For months now, the board of Georgia's largest school district has been on the frontlines of heated debates over simply wearing a mask. Gwinnett County's board members have been the subject of harassment and threats. And just last week, several audience members took off their face coverings during a public meeting and refused to leave in protest of the district's mask mandate. Here is a look at how heated things had been there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My child is not a threat to anyone, so please stop acting like it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The three Democrats that sit on the board tonight need to resign because you do not care about kids, you are not focused on education, math, science and reading but, rather you're interested in politically gaslighting our children, which is a form of psychological abuse.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is mental and physical abuse. Stop being mask Nazis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you dare go near my child with a swab or a jab, you will find out what kind of mama bear I really can be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's shameful that this board and others like it cannot muster more leadership than blindly following blanket masking policies and mandates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the good of our children, for the health of our children, unmask our children.


SCIUTTO: Well, it actually keeps them safe from getting infected.

Joining me now, Karen Watkins, she's the vice chairwoman for the Gwinnett County School Board. She says she's been yelled at, followed to the parking lot, sent threatening messages as well. Karen, it's good to have you on.

First, I'd just like to ask you what it's like to receive these kinds of threats, because we've been hearing them in a number of places around the country.

KAREN WATKINS, VICE CHAIRWOMAN OF GWINNETT COUNTY, GEORGIA SCHOOL BOARD: Yes, so this is unfortunately something that's kind of commonplace and for you to bring that up. It's frightening that hundreds of our school board members now are being, you know, harassed, bullied, intimidated for clinical ideologies and beliefs particularly over masks and CRT.

How I feel about that, I'm worried. I'm worried in our board meetings for our students, constituents that came to vocalize and, you know, are focused on our students achieving as a whole, and not political ideologies and beliefs. I'm worried that when disruption comes to our board meetings, it takes away from our focus. Also if they become agitated, I don't know where it could go, especially where we have students and constituents and parents who are, you know, also want to be able to vocalize what's going on, how they're feeling within our school system.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

WATKINS: I'm worried about my family and I'm worried about my community.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you, this because last year, a right-wing attack ad had actually used your image along with two other women of color attempting to paint you as radical liberals. I wonder if it's your concern that this attention that's been focused on you is not accidental, it's been organized.

WATKINS: I believe it is organized. I do believe that. We see Facebook posts of, you know, families share with us, parent share with us, community members share with us Facebook posts of how they're going to rally together to disrupt a meeting, to do certain things. There is a lot of organization behind this. And it's unfortunate this organization is behind a lot of, again, political ideologies and beliefs, things that a school board member, like myself, doesn't have any control over or can change.

SCIUTTO: Now, you're elected, of course, your election last fall. Are these efforts working, I wonder? Because it seems like part of the goal here, right, is to get others to replace you, right, others with beliefs, for instance, against, you know, mask mandates. Are they trying to get right-wing people to replace you, I suppose, is my question.

WATKINS: It seems like that is the case because of everything that has happened throughout years via complaints. We just literally -- Dr. Teresa and myself, we just started on the school board this year. How much of an impact could we have made for us to get as many complaints as we get to get as much attention?

So what you're stating is, you know, I think many people are anxious to remove us from the school board, but, again, you know, it sounds more like it's because of, you know, political -- more political reasons other than student achievement.

SCIUTTO: We don't have much time, but you mentioned threats to you and your family. Have you asked for protection? Is anyone offering protection?

WATKINS: So, we do ask for protection, but I think, you know, we do try to work with individuals, you know, within our county. They tried. But I think because resources are lacking, it's very difficult. And I think that's part of the reason why the National School Board Association has tried to -- you know, has reached out to the federal government to see if we can get some assistance here.


SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, listen, I hate to hear this happening to folks like yourself, so we wish you and your family safety. Karen Watkins, thank so much for joining us this morning.

WATKINS: Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

SCIUTTO: And thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HILL: And I'm Erica Hill.

Stay with us. At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts after a quick break.