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Democrats Close to Infrastructure Agreement?; New Details Emerge in Alec Baldwin Shooting; FDA Meets to Discuss Vaccine For Kids 5-11. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired October 26, 2021 - 15:00   ET



EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: And the book details many of the atrocities slaves faced.

Now, McAuliffe is dismissing this latest episode as a racist dog whistle that looks to gin up support from the most extreme elements of his party. But Youngkin's team says that this is just about centering parental choice and is not about race.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: I mean, up until now, parents haven't wanted to control curriculum and dive into the nitty-gritty of the curriculum of their kids' schools. This is a new phenomenon of wanting to be able to control all of it.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The idea that "Beloved" is the target now...

MCKEND: Yes, it's amazing.

Let's actually take a listen to a clip from Youngkin's kids latest ad.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When my son showed me his reading assignment, my heart sunk. It was some of the most explicit material you can imagine.

I met with lawmakers. They couldn't believe what I was showing them. Their faces turned bright red with embarrassment.


CAMEROTA: Huh. So those lawmakers, they haven't read "Beloved."

MCKEND: However you view this, Youngkin seems to be pushing this parents' rights message in the final days, because he believes that these cultural battles are working.

BLACKWELL: It's a good book. People should read it.

Eva McKend, thank you.

Top of the hour. I'm Victor Blackwell. CAMEROTA: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

Any moment now, the FDA advisory panel will vote on whether to authorize Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11. If approved for emergency use authorization, 28 million kids could become eligible for the vaccine. Safety is a top priority they say at the meeting and the data presented underscored that the benefits of the vaccine for children outweigh the risk of potential side effects, especially as winter approaches, which could lead to an uptick in cases.

That's what one Pfizer official warned.


DR. WILLIAM GRUBER, PFIZER: If you just look at our track record in terms of predicting the epidemic, we have not done particularly well. Given that the winter season is coming, the Delta virus is still out there, you still have a large number of susceptible children, there's every reason to believe that the rate will not be at the nadir.


BLACKWELL: CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been watching this meeting closely.

So this vote could happen at any moment now. What are we expecting to learn from the meeting, though?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It could happen at any minute. So all eyes are on this panel of FDA vaccine advisers. These are doctors, professors, infectious disease experts who don't work for the FDA. They work mostly for universities, and they are looking at every bit of data that Pfizer is supplying.

It's their job to look at the clinical trial done with children and see, A, did it work and, B, were their safety concerns? So let's take a look at the efficacy data that these advisers are looking at right now. So what Pfizer found in a large clinical trial with children ages 5 to 11 is that the vaccine was 90.7 percent effective at protecting those children against getting sick from COVID-19.

What they did is, they gave more than 1, 300 children in the trial, the vaccine, they followed them over time, and only three became sick with COVID-19. Then they looked at 663 children who got a placebo, a shot of saline that does nothing, and 16 became sick with COVID-19. You can see that's a much bigger number and far fewer children got the placebo.

And so the advisers will be looking at that. Now, it doesn't end here. If they green-light this application for emergency use authorization, let's talk about the next steps. I know people with young children especially want to know this timeline.

So, today, the advisers are meeting and are due to vote any minute now. By November 1, by Monday, we expect the full FDA to say yea or nay to emergency use authorization for this vaccine for children.

By November 2 -- on November 2 and 3, a panel of outside vaccine experts to the CDC are meeting. They will talk about what they think ought to be done. Should they move forward? Should they change anything? And then, after November 3, probably pretty quickly after November 3, we expect the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, to weigh in on this vaccine.

So if everybody gives a green light, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said he is -- quote -- "optimistic" that shots could go into children's arms in the first or second week of November. So that means, next week, we could see children ages 5 to 11 getting the Pfizer vaccine -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: All right, and we are standing by for the decision by this panel.

Elizabeth, thank you.

Joining us now is Dr. Susannah Hills. She's a pediatric airway surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center.


Dr. Hills, great to have you here.

So, assuming this actually gets passed, do you think that it will be a challenge to get a large number of kids vaccinated? And the reason I ask is because, at the moment, we can put up our latest graph, roughly half of young people aged 12 through 17 who are eligible are actually vaccinated.

So do you think it will be harder to get younger children vaccinated? Easier? What's your thinking?

DR. SUSANNAH HILLS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, Alisyn, I think it's perfectly natural for parents to have questions. It's normal to have concerns.

And that is likely why the numbers that you just put up are what they are. We're not quite at 50 percent in terms of vaccinations for kids, for adolescents who are in that eligible group yet, but some areas are doing really well. Some areas have 70 percent or more of their adolescent population who are eligible vaccinated.

So I think the key here is to anticipate these questions, and to invite these families and parents in to see their doctor, to see a trusted source to ask the questions and get the good information that they need, so they're ready when the vaccine is available, which we anticipate that it should be, hopefully.

BLACKWELL: So, Doctor, you're anticipating the questions. How do you respond then to a parent who is more concerned about the vaccine than they are about the potential that their children will -- their child will be hospitalized or die from COVID, if they say, listen, kids are going to be OK if they get this, so I'd rather take that chance than take the chance on the vaccine?

What do you tell that parent?

HILLS: Yes, I think the key here, Victor, is getting parents accurate data that reflect what's really happening with kids.

Right now, about 25 percent of our infections of COVID-19 across the country are in children. That is a very significant proportion of our infections. And we know that, of the kids who get infected, as many as 2 percent of them may end up in the hospital.

We see kids with COVID. We see kids with the full spectrum of COVID. And that includes children ending up in the hospital as well. So it's just really important for people to understand that while, yes, kids generally do, do well, the majority will do well, there are still a significant number of kids getting infected.

And there's absolutely the potential for kids to get very sick with this disease. So, the quicker we get that population vaccinated, the safer our children will be, and the more quickly we will have control over this pandemic.

CAMEROTA: We heard earlier in our program about a couple of towns that are experimenting with dropping the mask mandate in schools.

I think Hopkinton, Massachusetts is one of them. Obviously, kids would rather go to school without a mask on. I think that that is stating the obvious. Do you think that, in places with low transmission rates right now, they can start to do that?

HILLS: Yes, I think it's so important to look at the entire context of where we are with this pandemic.

As we make these public health decisions, we have to look at what we can anticipate just around the corner, just down the road. Right now, we're approaching the holiday season. Last year, right after the holiday season, the week after, we had the highest number of cases every day. It was the highest spike that we have seen throughout this entire pandemic.

We were up at 300,000 cases a day, on average, by January 8. So we have to anticipate that, with travel, with gatherings, we're going to see an increase in cases. And right now is the time to encourage protecting, to encourage keeping the case numbers low now, so we can enjoy the holidays and be healthy.


HILLS: The other thing to keep in mind, guys, by the way, is that we're approaching the flu season as well.

So the combination of the flu season with COVID could really be a strain on the hospital system. So people need to keep that in mind too.

BLACKWELL: Yes, I was looking at these file photos of kids getting injections. It reminds me of a conversation we had on the call this morning.

The parents on the call described their kids just being frightened of needles. And this may be unavoidable, but when you think you have got the flu shot, and then this two-dose regimen for the vaccine, is there any way to get around this being a two-dose?

What do you do with kids who this afraid of needles? It's a real concern for some parents?

HILLS: Yes. Yes, it's hard.

And I deal with this every day with doing procedures in my clinic on children. I find the very best thing to do is to be totally honest, just to tell kids what's going to happen, to be straightforward with them, and to give them a chance to process and cope with that information.

And as long as kids understand what you're doing and they trust that you're being forthcoming, generally, kids will actually surprise us and do better than you think.


Strategies that help bringing a child into get a vaccine, letting them have some control over what they wear. Let them choose if they want to wear something comfortable. Let them choose if they want to bring a stuffed animal or a game to help keep them distracted.

Let them choose whether they sit on a lap or hold a hand or maybe even what arm they get the shot in, if that's possible, and then, of course, rewarding their courage in facing that fear. It can be really scary. That's a really powerful thing too, rewarding that and giving them a treat or some sort of some sort -- after the vaccine, a congratulatory treat of some sort can be really helpful too.

CAMEROTA: I tell my kids, it's going to be a huge needle, like a horse needle, so then they're pleasantly surprised when they go in. And that's been my strategy.


CAMEROTA: It doesn't work for every kid, but that is what I have been doing.

Dr. Susannah Hills, thank you very much for all the advice.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Doctor.

HILLS: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So, we are learning of multiple major red flags on the set of "Rust" in the days before Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins last Thursday.

CNN has obtained court records that show detective seized from the set revolvers and spent casings and ammunition boxes, some loose ammunition, also ammo in a fanny pack.

CAMEROTA: Also, a veteran prop master is coming forward saying that he rejected a job offer to work on the film because of multiple safety concerns.

They included the decision to merge the jobs of armorer and assistant prop master.


NEAL ZOROMSKI, PROP MASTER: I turned the job opportunity down on "Rust" because I felt it was completely unsafe.

I impressed upon them that there were great concerns about that. And they really didn't really respond to my concerns about that.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Lucy Kafanov is in New Mexico.

So, Lucy, we're also learning about a report from the news outlet The Wrap saying that members of the crew were using these guns with live ammo hours before Hutchins was killed.


CNN has not been able to independently verify that reporting about this live ammo that was used for basically shooting cans or whatever it might be. The practices called plinking. But we do know from the inventory list that was listed in the court documents obtained by CNN that three revolvers and a variety of ammo were seized from the scene.

What's not clear, however, is the type of ammo. We don't know if these were real bullets or blanks. But as to the topic of safety concerns on set, you mentioned Neal Zoromski, who turned down the position because he felt that the producers valued cost over experience, he said the film "Rust" was -- quote -- "an accident waiting to happen."

That sort of aligns with what we have heard from some other folks. I, in fact interviewed a 22-year veteran of the industry, a hairstylist who was hired to work on "Rust," who also turned down the position because of safety concerns.

Her specific concern was that the producers were housing crew members in Albuquerque, which is an hour's drive, 50 miles away, from where the film was being filmed here in Santa Fe. She thought that was too dangerous. Take a listen.


JOLYNNE NIETO, FILM HAIR AND MAKEUP ARTIST: In negotiations, they told me the terms were nonnegotiable, if I wanted housing, which was -- you know, I'm Albuquerque. It was being shot on the ranch in Santa Fe.

I felt like, at this point, that we needed to take think about safety. And I felt like the housing was important. And, also, my rate was being negotiated, and they said it was nonnegotiable. So, at that point, I -- there was just a few other little glitches that just felt very funny to me that just -- I'm a 22-year member.


KAFANOV: And the reason why this is a safety concern is because of the long hours.

Obviously, this was -- not obviously, but there have been reports this was a rushed production schedule. So if you have crew members who are working 12, 14 hours a day, that could lead to accidental mistakes.

We are also hearing from one of the actors on "Rust," Ian Hudson, who spoke out publicly about safety concerns on his Instagram page. He said: "Multiple blank rounds were fired at me over multiple takes. I felt pieces of the blanks hitting my body and my face. I am heartbroken and honestly pretty freaked out. Especially the more this story develops, I feel as if I literally dodged a bullet."

So a lot of safety concerns emerging from that set, guys.

BLACKWELL: Indeed, there are.

Lucy Kafanov for us there, thank you.

Let's turn now to entertainment law attorney David Albert Pierce, who has handled many issues involving thin film sets.

David, thanks for being with us.

Listen, the more we learn about this case, this shooting, the more red flags pop up. There will clearly be civil liability for the production company or for individuals. Do you see criminal exposure here?


DAVID ALBERT PIERCE, ENTERTAINMENT LAW ATTORNEY: There could be criminal exposure in terms of negligent homicide.

The amount of gross negligence that seems to be reported is really jaw-dropping. I don't think the average American public understands how truly extraordinary this is on a normal film set and the level of safety precautions...


CAMEROTA: Yes. What's the most stunning thing that you have heard? Because we keep getting new information every day.


Well, I will tell you, this plinking is nuts. I mean, CNN has an employee handbook. I have an employee handbook. Every company in America has an employee handbook that says you don't bring guns into the workplace. So the fact that during off-time, they're shooting at cans, whatever happened to marathon games of gin rummy?

I mean, you have a prop, you don't toy with the prop. This is a cardinal sin, that the armorer keeps these guns locked up under lock and key, and presents them only when necessary. You would never put live -- have live ammo on a set.

And think of it like when you go to the hospital. If you have ever had a procedure done, you get that wristband, and you might meet 15 different people, nurses, doctors, aids. Every time they approach you, they say what's your name? What's your birthday? What is the procedure you're here for?

And it kind of feels like a little overkill, but, at the same time, you're like, I'm really happy this happens, because, when it doesn't, that's when the wrong leg gets amputated.


PIERCE: So the same thing is supposed to happen here. This gun should never have left the prop master's -- the armorer's locked box. They should have completely made sure it was empty.

When the first A.D. came to take it, they should have physically checked to make sure that the rounds were all empty. And, quite frankly, I think a good armorer -- I'm not saying that this one wasn't good, but I realize didn't have a great experience level -- would have personally walked it over and not even a trusted the first A.D.

Maybe they both walk over together and say cold gun. I mean, this is the type of thing that should have been -- level that should have been instilled.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I have a question about that.

Is it customary for two people to handle the gun before the actor? So is it customary that an assistant director would be the person to hand it over? Does that happen or is it always the armorer?

PIERCE: Well, the first A.D. is the number one employee on a film set responsible for the overall safety.

So, the DGA was really brilliant when they came up with the idea that the same union employee who's responsible for saying, hurry up, we have to get the shot, let's keep things on time, on budget, that same employee is also single-handedly the most responsible for safety on the set, so they don't forego speed for safety.

And so if anyone was going to take it other than the armorer, the guy who is primarily responsible for overseeing safety on the set in all capacity would be that person.

CAMEROTA: That's a lot of good information for us.

David Albert Pierce, thanks for the expertise.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, David. PIERCE: My pleasure.

BLACKWELL: So, we're getting new information about negotiations on Democrats' social safety net package, how soon they think they will have it wrapped up and the specific sticking points they're still trying to work out.

And Dave Chappelle is speaking out, who he's blaming for the backlash over his latest special. We will give you all the latest.



CAMEROTA: OK, just in to CNN, Senate Democrats now say that, by the end of the day tomorrow, they hope to have a deal on the framework of the president's social safety net package.

BLACKWELL: Now, they acknowledge that there are major sticking points still left to be ironed out, but they're confident that they're on the verge of an agreement.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

Manu, we know that Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who is head of the Progressive Caucus, is meeting with Speaker Pelosi now. What more can you tell us?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is an important meeting, because it's not just about the policy and the policy differences have not been resolved yet. But it is also about the process.

This is a similar debate that they have been having for months, including that happened in September that led to the first delay of that bipartisan infrastructure vote that has not yet gotten a vote in the House, despite passing the Senate in August.

Now, Pramila Jayapal told me last night that she believes that both the infrastructure bill and that larger social safety net package need to pass the House simultaneously, back to back. Now, that's a problem because Democratic leaders had hoped there could just be a general agreement, a framework agreement, on that larger package, and that would be enough to pave the way for passage of the infrastructure bill this week.

Actual drafting bill text, however, could take an additional several weeks potentially to get that all through. So, do they resolve the process differences? That remains to be seen.

Now, on the policy, there are some major sticking points left, even though Democratic leaders hope to get a deal by the end of tomorrow on the larger package. I'm told in the private lunch just now they walked through some of the issues unresolved, dealing with Medicare, expansion of Medicare, dealing with Medicaid, closing that coverage gap that exists in a number of states, how to deal with immigration, also paid leave for employees.


There has been a big push among liberals, as well as climate issues and taxes as well. So, as you can see, a number of major issues still have yet to be resolved. The question is, can they get this all together? And can they keep their various factions in line? That's uncertain at the moment.

CAMEROTA: Yes, those don't sound like minor sticking points.


CAMEROTA: They sound pretty major.

BLACKWELL: What to pay for and how to pay for it still on the list of things that have to be figured out. OK.

Manu Raju, thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, so now, in a fresh response to the ongoing controversy surrounding his Netflix special, Dave Chappelle says he's not bending to anybody's demands, but he did leave the door open for a conversation.

We have all of the details of what he said next.