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New Questions After Chinese Tennis Star Appears In Video Call; Armed Suspect On The Run After His Gun Goes Off At Airport; Biden's Build Back Better Facing Obstacles In The Senate; Vaccinated Families Can Enjoy Holidays Without Masks; Fears Raise Concerns Of Russian Military Build-Up Near Ukraine. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired November 21, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredericka Whitfield.
We begin with this breaking news.
Missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has surfaced in a video call with the head of the International Olympic Committee. Peng, an Olympian, initially disappeared from public view nearly three weeks ago after accusing one of China's most powerful former leaders of sexual assault.
CNN sports correspondent and anchor Patrick Snell joining us now with more on this. Patrick, what more do we know about this video call?
CNN SPORTS ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hi, Fred. This video indeed highly significant because it centers on the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach holding a video phone call with the three-time Olympian. The 35-year-old -- let's just remind everyone, she's also a two-time grand slam doubles champ, a huge sports start in her homeland. I can't stress that enough.
Also important to stress here that Beijing, which hosted the 2008 summer games will -- what, in just a matter of weeks now, Fred -- be hosting the winter games in early February of next year.
I want to get to a statement this day, Sunday, from the IOC which reads, quote, "At the beginning of the 30-minute call Peng Shuai thanking the IOC for its concern about her well-being. She explained that she is safe and well, living at a home in Beijing but would like to have her privacy respected at this time. That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much."
We also got this from the chair of the athlete's commission adding, "I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine which was our main concern. She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience which she obviously appreciates."
Fred, I do want to make a few points off the back of this. I want to point out that according to the IOC Peng has also accepted an invitation to have dinner with Bach when he arrives in Beijing in January ahead of the games.
Something else that's also really important to stress although a still photo of the video call was provided, CNN has not been given access to the video chat at this time. It's important to underscore that.
And also just to reset for our viewers here the big picture, the context of this story which has taken on massive global interest and appeal. This video coming up with Peng who's publicly accused one of the country's vice premiers of coercing her into sex at his home. This according to screenshots of a since deleted social media post dated in early November.
From the world of tennis and beyond really I think it's fair to say we've seen Peng's case taken up and highlighted, I should say, by global superstars. I'm thinking of names such as Japanese superstar Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams as well.
And we got this really strong stance too, from the WTA -- that's the Women's Tennis Association head, Steve Simon who's been calling for more robust proof of Peng's liberty and saying also that he quite simply is willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business in China if she's not fully accounted for and her allegations against the former the vice premier of China are not properly investigated.
I think it's fair to say that the WTA alone has ten events scheduled for 2022 alone in the forthcoming year. It's a highly lucrative market indeed for the women's professional circuit so that in itself speaks volumes.
But this is a highly significant day as I said at the top. Developments are fast moving through this day and the hours ahead. I'm sure we're going to be staring (ph) across it very, very intensely indeed, you can be sure, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Oh great. And then Patrick, I wonder, has there been an initial response at all from the WTA's, you know, Steve Simon about this video call?
SNELL: well, we're waiting for all the reaction to come into us. I do want to say what I said before, is that he's been absolutely front and center on absolutely not with -- the threat is very clear and present, that hundreds of millions of dollars he's willing to risk and pulling out the business from China if it actually comes to that, very, very strong and powerful stance indeed from the WTA's supremo Steve Simon.
WHITFIELD: All right. Patrick Snell, keep us posted. Thank you so much.
All right. Joining us to talk more about this Gordon Chang, he's a columnist for "Newsweek" and the author of "The Coming Collapse of China". So good to see you.
So what do you believe about that video call involving Peng Shuai?
GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, "NEWSWEEK": I think this video call, Fred, is very strange. Now, if you were Peng and you wanted to reassure the world that you were safe and free to do what you want you would either call international media organizations or you would talk to Steve Simon, head of the Women's Tennis Association because Simon has been leading the charge on your behalf.
The IOC, International Olympic Committee, has been very, very quiet about this. And this suggests to me that Peng made the call to Thomas Bach not because she picked him on her own but because Beijing was freaking out that they might lose the winter games which start on February 4th.
So it seems to me that this is an indication that the coercion on Peng is real and it's continuing.
WHITFIELD: So you believe the Chinese government was commandeering likely this video call especially because in just a matter of weeks, a couple of months, the Beijing winter games will be taking place. So besides feeling that level of skepticism about the intention of why reaching out to the IOC, do you believe what she's saying? Do you believe that -- that is indeed she speaking on her own will and accord.
CHANG: Yes, I don't. And the reason is we've seen a number of propaganda videos in the last couple of days. So for instance, one from yesterday in the Beijing restaurant. Obviously the conversation was scripted. Her coach and someone next to Peng were talking in ways that humans don't talk.
This is obviously an indication that they wanted to show that she was alive and well and the conversation took place on November 20.
Also, this video at today from the tennis tournament looks fine, and she is smiling and all of that, but the stands behind her are empty which indicates staging. So right now I don't think that we have a really good sense that she is free to act on her own.
remember, these allegations are still out there, and these allegations are unprecedented in the history of the People's Republic.
WHITFIELD: And I guess there's so much skepticism too, because there is precedence to speaking out, challenging authority there because, you know, of the kind of power that that government wields.
People disappear, you know, or are moved all of the time in that country. Now you've got this high-profile tennis player. Chinese billionaire Jack Ma disappeared from public view after criticizing Chinese regulators. Superstar Fan Bingbing, the head of Wei corporation. I mean people have, I guess, mysteriously disappeared or been punished, and there is precedent. There is a trend there. And that has helped precipitate this huge concern for Shuai, Peng Shuai.
CHANG: Yes, and -- and in the last year or so, you know, it's not only the people you mention who are just the most recent. We have those two citizen journalists from Wuhan, and one of them now is close to death, Zhang Zhan because she's on a hunger strike.
So this is a regime which is much more coercive than it's been in decades. And this is reminding us of the early years of the People's Republic. Xi Jinping admires Mao Zedong, reveres him, and we're starting to see social control measures. So that's why we've always got to be concerned when someone disappears, you know, like Peng has just recently done.
WHITFIELD: You talk about that social control measures. I mean Twitter and some other social media outlets are just not possible for general citizens to have access to. So what do you think generally Chinese people are thinking, hearing about her situation?
CHANG: There's a number of different strains because obviously China is a big country. But you hear a lot of skepticism about the videos that have been shown because people are just saying what everybody else around the world has been saying and that is let Peng speak. Let her speak freely.
Of course, there's some nationalist comments that are against the Women's Tennis Association, but, you know, in general, a lot of people don't know about this because Beijing has been ruthless in scrubbing social media posts.
So for instance, Peng's initial Weibo posting was taken down in 30 minutes and indeed all references to tennis have been scrubbed at some points in the last couple of weeks. So this is really a very relentless, determined response by the regime.
WHITFIELD: It's very concerning and concern for her is very real and widespread.
Gordon Chang, thank you so much.
CHANG: Thank you, Fred.
WHITFIELD: And coming up, the manhunt continues for a convicted felon whose gun went off inside Atlanta's airport causing major chaos and panic. We'll bring you the very latest next.
And later an investigation is under way in New Jersey after a Starbucks employee came to work with Hepatitis A possibly exposing thousands to the highly contagious virus.
WHITFIELD: All right. Developing right now.
A search is underway for a man whose gun went off inside one of the world's busiest airports, scaring travelers and temporarily grounding flights. The incident happened Saturday at a security checkpoint at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.
Police say 42-year-old Kenny Wells grabbed the gun that was in his bag as the bag was the being searched by the TSA, and that's when the weapon went off. At least three people were injured, not by direct gunfire but during this chaotic airport evacuation following the chaos.
CNN's Nadia Romero is at Hartsfield Jackson Airport. So Nadia, what more do we know about the search for this suspect.
NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well Fredricka, that is still the biggest question out there. Where is 42-year-old Kenny Wells?
And we have to back up to about this time yesterday. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon when the -- the police tell us and the airport security tell us that Kenny Wells lunged for his bag and tried to grab a firearm and that was loaded inside of his bag.
And Atlanta's airport spokesperson says it was an accidental discharge and that just sent everyone into confusion and chaos.
The problem though is what happened on social media. Word got out from a pilot telling his passengers on one plane and then throughout social media that there was an active shooter so people responded accordingly, fleeing, running out of the airport trying to get away what they thought was someone intentionally shooting at people inside of a busy airport on a busy weekend before a holiday.
And we know that it was an accidental discharge and that three people were injured, but we're being told that those three people who were injured were away from this incident.
Now the airport says that they get calls for medical attention all the time, but they believe that those three injuries were not sustained because of this particular incident.
But still, the chaos that ensued, the confusion, people running out to the tarmac, people leaving their own luggage and baggage trying to get away what they thought was someone shooting.
And then you have the ripple effect of the flights and the delays and the ground stop. Although it was temporary, it still caused this ripple effect.
So here's what we know about 42-year-old Kenny Wells and the charges that he's facing right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAJOR REGINALD MOORMAN, COMMANDER, ATLANTA POLICE DEPARTMENT AIRPORT PRECINCT: We have identified the suspect as Kenny Wells, 42 years old. We have taken out warrants for carry and concealed weapon at a commercial airport, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, discharging a firearm and reckless conduct.
We are actively pursuing this individual as we speak, and of course, once we've conducted our investigation here at the airport we were able to give the all clear and returned back to normal operations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMERO: And we're being told by authorities that Kenny was able to get away, 42-year-old Kenny Wells, during all of the confusion, that he ran out of the airport. But remember, this airport, the busiest one in the nation, the second busiest in the world has some 3,000 security cameras, and that is part of the reason why they were able to at least identify who he was.
There's still some questions though. How did he get away and how was he not apprehended sooner, and that we're still trying to work on more details right now, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about all those questions a little further -- Nadia Romero, thank you so much -- with our next guest, CNN transportation analyst and former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo. Also with us CNN national security analyst and former assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem.
All right. It was about this time as Nadia reminds us that we were all together talking about what in the world was going on. Chief Charles Ramsey was also with us.
So Mary, let's start with you. I mean initially the airport officials were calling this an accidental discharge. We've got a little bit more detail about how it happened.
But how are they now trying to evaluate not only how it got that far but the response time, you know, and just the -- the sequence of events that would follow. What will they learn from this?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN TRANSPORTATION ANALYST: Yes. Well, what they are evaluating on is actually based on lessons learned from the 2013 airport shooting in Los Angeles. Folks might recall back then there was an active shooter in the airport in Los Angeles, and he went through the airport looking for TSA agents to shoot or to kill.
And because of that there were a lot of changes put in place. Airports had to prepare for this. They had to have plans in place, et cetera. So what they are going to be doing is, one, evaluating if their plans that they put in place after the 2013 Los Angeles shooting were adequate and in place.
And also to give some, you know, quarter to the airport. So technically it was an accidental discharge and he was apparently reaching into his bag. But at the point that he got the gun and was running through the airport with the gun, technically they had to respond as if it was an active shooter.
So I know there's lots of criticism on social media that this got, you know, really expanded. But they -- they can't go into the mind of somebody running through the airport with a gun so they had to do this. Including they spilled out on to the tarmac in the 2013 attack in Los Angeles and in the 2017 in Fort Lauderdale so the big response probably will be judged probably necessary.
WHITFIELD: And so Juliette, while they try to assess what happened and figure out, you know, how do you prevent something like this again, Nadia reminds us they have some 3,000 cameras throughout the airport.
So I imagine they are spending a lot of time right now still trying to figure out the path of this suspect Kenny Wells from the point of discharge, where and how he ran.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right.
WHITFIELD: How is it that, you know -- or if there were calls made -- how was it he wasn't apprehended before he actually exited. And where did he exit? And then what happened once he got outside? Did he get on the, you know, MARTA, on the subway, did he get in a car?
They will be able to piece those things together, won't they, with those cameras.
KAYYEM: Yes. Absolutely. At least to the extent that there is surveillance cameras and at what point at the airport do they stop.
So he's now sort of, you know, he will be found. I have no doubt about that. These generally take a little time.
But seems to me, just picking up on what Mary said in terms of what happened. There's a security success and then sort of three, what I would security breaches or things that we're going to want to look at.
The success is, of course, that the system is picking up guns and that the TSA agent saw the gun and pulled the bag. The first breach seems to be the ability of someone to grab their bag back. They shouldn't -- most of us don't have access to the bag so I'm sort of curious what happened at that moment as Wells goes for the bag.
The second is his ability to get out, right. I mean he gets out on the public side of an airport. That is still controlled by state police or local police, so how did he get out and with a gun and not be stopped.
And then the third, is of course, the communications. I agree with Mary. We have to have, unfortunately, in this country, you know, sort of a no regrets policy. If a gun goes off, we don't know if it's accidental or not. You have to suspect it's an active shooter just given the prevalence of guns. And so, you know -- but the communication to the public, especially those in the airport, you know, should it have been faster once they knew that it was not an active shooter.
I will say the airport over 450 weapons are confiscated a year at that airport alone. The permissiveness of gun owners in putting guns in their bags is something we have to talk about because while I'm not blaming lawful gun owners, you know, there is something about a security system beginning to feel comfortable by a breach, right.
So if you're experiencing a gun once every day coming across you may not have your -- you know, your back up to the extent than if it were a rarity so that's something that we need to penalize greater.
WHITFIELD: Yes. This will be a time of re-evaluation because Juliette, you bring up a very great point. That critical moment when you put your bags through the machine, the magnetometers and then you're walking through. When they see something -- when TSA sees something peculiar, they usually grab the bag well before you're able to have access to it and ask is this your bag.
Ok, come over here. You get to grab your other possessions. You know, grab the shoes, et cetera, but what was the proximity to the suspect being able to reach for, reach in the bag when usually you don't have the advantage of a short distance, Mary.
I mean, usually, they show you the bag and they're putting it through another layer of inspection. So that's going to be a critical moment that they're going re-evaluate is my point.
SCHIAVO: Yes, I think that's right. And also, they are going to evaluate just the physical layout in which they do it. And when they get to that point often they ask the passenger did you have anything dangerous. Is there anything in this bag that could hurt, you know, (INAUDIBLE).
And usually the passengers within proximity to the bag and while, you know, they're going to be re-evaluating, do you want the passenger to be able to reach the bag. At many checkpoints the passenger literally stands across from a metal table. So that's going to be an issue as well.
And I want to add one more thing to what Juliette says. She's absolutely right because, you know, with so many, and you know, we know the rights and what the constitution says, but what we have experienced in just two years is a 50 percent increase -- I mean 100 percent increase.
In 2019 it was five guns per million passengers screened that the TSA was picking up. Now they are picking up ten guns per million passengers screened. So they have to have new protocols just to deal with the volume. And I think they will, they will develop them.
WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you so much. Juliette Kayyem, Mary Schiavo, good to see you again, sadly under these circumstances.
But you know, we're glad the outcome wasn't as bad as it really could have been. Still inconvenient however.
All right. Thank you so much.
All right. Coming up, President Biden now facing the daunting task of gaining the support of moderate Democrats for his Build Back Better bill. How will he thread that needle while still keeping progressives on board?
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.
President Biden and Democrats are celebrating a major win for a cornerstone of the president's agenda. The passage in the House of his $1.9 trillion spending plan expanding the nation's social safety net.
But Democrats will face the next major hurdle after the Thanksgiving holiday, getting the Build Back Better bill through the U.S. Senate. And two key figures in achieving that are moderate Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
Arlette Saenz is at the White House for us. So Arlette, what kind of you know, arm-twisting, cajoling, you know, meetings of the minds are there?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred. That is what lies ahead for President Biden in these coming weeks. You know, that celebration of passing the bill through the House was really just brief and momentary as now he faces that tricky task of muscling this bill through the Senate.
Now it's expected that this bill will see changes in the Senate in order to get all 50 Democrats on board. That means some of the President's top priorities like paid family leave may be on the chopping block.
Now, two of the key senators in this debate will be Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have each expressed concerns with elements of the bill as well as the price tag. One issue they have is whether the price tag of this $1.9 trillion could contribute to inflation down the road. But take a listen to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as he talks about those looming negotiations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Everyone knows the House did a very strong bill. Everyone knows that Manchin and Sinema have their concerns, but we're going to try to negotiate with them and get a very strong bold bill out of the Senate, which will then go back to the house and pass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: Now the president towards the end of the house negotiations really got knee deep in those talks, reaching out to members trying to arm twist and cajole them into voting for this measure. He is expected to do the same with both Manchin and Sinema as the bill heads to the Senate. Fred.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, Arlette Saenz at the White House. Thank you so much. Our Rachael Bade is a CNN political analyst and with us now. And co-author of Politico's Playbook, Rachael, so good to see you. Happy Thanksgiving week.
RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: So, we now -- thank you so much. So we know as senators Manchin and Sinema have, you know, big concerns about the size and the costs of this Build Back Better bill. Should the White House feel pretty confident that they're going to be able to get them on board?
BADE: Look, I think President Biden, he basically just needs to stay the course here. These two moderate senators, yes, they -- they're tough to work with and they have their demands. But they did signal an openness to this framework that was announced earlier this year. And that passed the House. And so I think they're on pretty good footing.
The problem that Biden is going to have is that progressives see this as sort of the last train leaving the station. It's pretty much the last big bill that Democrats will get to pass probably before they lose the House to Republicans next year. And so there are a lot of progressives who want to sort of dress this up like a Christmas tree and put all their favorite, you know, goodies in this bill.
And the more they do that, the more likely they are to lose moderates, like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. One example of this is Bernie Sanders wants to expand Medicare. And so he's still pushing for this behind the scenes. There are Democrats who want more with paid leave.
And so, you know, the more they pressure these moderates to add these things, the more likely they will be to alienate them. And that could be a problem. So it's, you know, tricky business, and they've got some work to do. But I do think, you know, they're on a good path right now.
WHITFIELD: All right, well, let's push even further ahead. But first happy birthday to the president. He turned 79 yesterday. But sadly, he's not getting a really great gift in the form of poll numbers. They are declining, but already there are people talking about, you know, 2024. If he were to run, he'll be the oldest, you know, to seek reelection. And then there's some real jockeying for position reportedly between Vice President Kamala Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. So anything could happen come 2024. But Buttigieg will act was actually asked about this earlier today. And this is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: She and I are part of a team that is disciplined and doesn't focus on what's obsessing the commentators. We're too busy with a job to do. She as the leader in this administration, with her leadership role, and I and the president and everybody else in the cabinet and across the administration, are laser focused on getting the job done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WITHFIELD: All right. So he underscores their team and there is no jockeying for position, you know, with 2024, in mind, is this a problem for the White House at this kind of discussion or response has to be had?
BADE: I mean, look, they don't want Joe Biden to look like a lame duck president. So naturally, they want to shut this sort of talk down. And that's why you saw Buttigieg sort of dodge there. But the reality is, look, President Biden just turned 79. There's a lot of questions among Democrats about whether he will have the stamina to run, pretty much everyone, you know, I've talked to doesn't think he will.
And so even though you saw reports, like the Washington Post over the weekend had a story about how President Biden and his top advisors are trying to reassure everyone privately, he's going to run, he's going to run. Nobody believes it. And so typically, in a situation like this, the number two, the vice president would be the one everybody sort of looks to, to take the mantle.
But there are a lot of concerns that Kamala Harris just doesn't have what it takes to win nationwide. And so that's why you have people saying, OK, who's going to be the party leader? Right now, Republicans have a lot of momentum. There's a lot of fear in the Democratic Party, about what happens, you know, when Biden steps aside if he steps aside, and so this jockeying is going to continue, and you'll continue to see the White House sort of add it back and people like Pete Buttigieg say, oh, Nothing to see here but there's a lot to see there.
WHITFIELD: I know. And it seems so premature to a lot of people. But isn't it always the case after inauguration. Already there's discussion about four more years. What happens in four more years. So we'll say all right. Rachael Bade, thank you so much.
BADE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up next, what you need to know about COVID safety as you gather with your friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday. All that is next.
WHITFIELD: Dr. Anthony Fauci has some good news for this holiday season. He told CNN this morning that fully vaccinated families can get together and celebrate like before the pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: If you are vaccinated, and you're going to a holiday setting where everybody is vaccinated, it's okay to be there without a mask.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE MEDICAL ADVISER: Absolutely, absolutely. That's what I'm going to do with my family. And that's what I think people should do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: OK, everybody's liking that advice. And emergency medicine physician, Dr. Anand Swaminathan, joining me right now. So, are you on board with that? Is that going to be your advice to everybody?
DR. ANAND SWAMINATHAN, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: I think this is really good advice. It's a good plan, if everyone's vaccinated, and the real push spread has to be for everybody to be vaccinated, everyone who's eligible should be vaccinated. The tough part in that, of course, is that kids group that just became eligible, so they're not going to be fully vaccinated, but at least they've gotten one shot in, it's going to be a pretty safe situation.
But there are other things that we can do to layer that safety and keep those numbers down. So if you're going to be gathering with family, maybe try to keep it to a smaller number than you usually would, maybe not the 30 or 40 people indoors --
SWAMINATHAN: -- maybe more along the lines of 10 to 15. And then testing, and I think this is what we're going to be doing, my family is going to be doing is everyone's going to take a test. And we're not talking about going and getting it tested on a lab, but to do home test.
WHITFIELD: At home.
SWAMINATHAN: Yes, I think those home tests are very good to know that one, you don't have it, but also that you're not shedding. So even if you happen to be that asymptomatic person and get the negative test, you can be pretty sure that you're not shedding virus and passing to others. So we're all going to test before we gather, and I think that is an extra layer of safety. It's a pretty easy extra layer of safety, just to guarantee that we are not bringing this to our older family members or our younger family members who haven't been fully vaccinated.
WHITFIELD: Wow, OK, you're very organized. That is great to impart on all of us. We all need to get that organized. So the whole, you know, terminology fully vaccinated. Most people have interpreted that as you've been vaccinated twice. But Dr. Fauci says that definition is probably going to change because of the whole advent and the necessity for booster shots. What do you think? SWAMINATHAN: We need more data here to know. I understand the push to say, let's get that third dose, let's get the booster especially heading into the winter, especially as we're seeing cases start to rise across the country. Getting the booster makes a lot of sense, because we want to keep those numbers down of all cases. And we also want to make sure we're not transmitting to others that we're able to stay at work. I know where I work, we always have tight numbers, and somebody calling out sick for two weeks can really mess things up. It can really upset family lives. So getting a booster makes sense.
I think at this point, we have been many of us have been resistant, saying do we really need boosters, when this -- the first two doses of vaccine protect us against hospitalization or death, but especially heading into the winter, heading indoors, it's probably a good idea at this point to go and get your booster.
WHITFIELD: OK. And right now, we're right on the edge of that winter wave that some experts, you know, have said to brace for. We're already seeing their spikes in some cases, in some communities confusion over the booster shots. What have you been experiencing and witnessing in the ER?
SWAMINATHAN: It this is really interesting, because what we are going to be hopeful to see is that the vaccines continue to protect us against hospitalization, and death. So while we might see rising cases, we're not going to see the big hips, the hospitalizations, we're not going to see the big number of deaths like we saw last winter. That's what we're hoping.
And if you look in Jersey, we have had rising cases now for about two weeks. But deaths and hospitalizations aren't markedly rising, I can tell you where I work, we don't have a ton of cases. It's nothing like what we were seeing last winter. And we're hoping that the high level of vaccination in our community continues to keep us protected against that. But really, you have to follow this and see.
And we also have to understand that it's not just a state by state, but it's county to county. So our counties in Jersey where the vaccine rates are 50 percent. And I guarantee that they're going to see rising hospitalizations and rising deaths as opposed to where I live and where I work where the vaccination rates are much higher. We're probably not going to see that.
WHITFIELD: All right, well let me get away from COVID for a hot second in your home state of New Jersey. We got when that this Starbucks employee came to work knowing that they had tested positive for Hepatitis A potentially exposing thousands of customers over the course of a few days and state officials are pushing vaccinations for the virus now to try and, you know, head off an outbreak. What's your take on all this and help people understand Hepatitis A how contagious and what can all those customers who may have been in that Starbucks do?
SWAMINATHAN: Well, hepatitis A is very contagious, it's passed by dirty hands by dirty food, and then other people ingesting that close contacts are at a high risk as well. The vaccine is extremely effective. I think the last numbers I saw is that since the advent of the Hepa A vaccine, we've reduced cases by about 95 percent. That's pretty incredible. Most people will get hepatitis A will get better.
It's a pretty miserable course, it's vomiting, it's diarrhea, it's not exactly what you want to have around the holidays. So a vaccine makes sense to get protected against this, and some small group will have liver failure as a result of hepatitis A.
But Fred, I think the real question we have to ask is why did this person come to work? And much of this maybe because calling out sick for two weeks because of a positive hepatitis test might not be possible. I don't know the details of this specific employee.
SWAMINATHAN: The Starbucks in many of these jobs don't have the best support for sick leave. And that's what this person should have been able to have paid time off to be sick to protect everybody around them, the employees at Starbucks as well as the thousands of people coming in --
SWAMINATHAN: -- but we don't have that system. This person should have been guaranteed sick pay so they can stay home and not get everybody else sick.
WHITFIELD: Yes, excellent points. Well, you are a wealth of information Dr. Anand Swaminathan, thank you so much. Good to see you and happy Thanksgiving week. Of course you you've given us valuable information but you later a whole another you know thing of stress on me. I got to figure out where to get the dag on rapid test. I was worried about what kind of sides am I having for Thanksgiving, thanks.
SWAMINATHAN: Happy Thanksgiving, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Happy Thanksgiving. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right, there's growing concern over Russia's military activity near the border with Ukraine, as Russia masses its troops, the U.S. and its European allies are raising the alarm over whether Russian President Vladimir Putin may be considering an invasion.
Let's bring in now CNN International diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, from London for us now. So is there a sense of invasion could be imminent? Or is it just Vladimir Putin, you know, flexing his muscle and trying to provoke some anxiety?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I think the picture here Fred is that there's a lot of muscle being flexed at an unexpected time close to 100,000 troops, many of them 3,000 miles from their normal bases, not the normal time of year for Russia to conduct military exercises, Special Forces, the Russia's military intelligence are there, their domestic intelligence services are there, when they built up troops of this place on the border earlier in the year. And then withdrew them under international pressure. They're left behind a lot of heavy equipment.
So the capacity, the muscle to do it, if you will is there. What analysts aren't seeing at the moment is sort of the connective tissue for that muscle, the tail if you will, that there would need to be sort of big supply chains heading in if there was going to be an advance fuel, ammunition, these sorts of things that you would use if you're going to push across the border, that's not being seen. But they it could be the invasion comes sometime early next year.
Russia has got strategic interests that it wants to protect in Ukraine, it's annex to Crimea, that's where it has a big naval fleet, it has access to warm water seas that it doesn't have from other Russian ports. So it's a massively important asset for Russia. And the analysis is that at some point, Putin is going to want to make sure that that is properly protected. And right now, he says, and we heard this from his spokesman just a day warning NATO not to advance their political and military interests ever closer to the border with Russia. They feel under pressure from a united NATO. And not only that you had the British Defense Secretary, just this past week in Kiev, capital of Ukraine, upping the support for Ukrainian military, the Navy in particular.
WHITFIELD: And so might this also test the European unity along with, you know, what is happening at the border with Belarus?
ROBERTSON: Certainly the EU has been incredibly united over what's happened at the border with Belarus. I mean, this was -- they see it as an, and for all intents and purposes, it is a complete manipulation of poor migrants who have been easily shipped into Belarus and then move to the border and manipulated, you know, into a situation where there's been confrontational at the border.
And, you know, for the democratic countries like the EU, to turn away migrants, that's a big deal, to turn water cannon on them as they do. That's a big deal that the EU sees this manipulation, and it won't be bent by it. So there's unity there.
And on the issue of Ukraine, perhaps there's some differences, you know, of some views, but absolutely united on the view that number one, Crimea, that Russia annex part of Ukraine that will never be recognized, and that Russia should not cross the border into Ukraine, and how to achieve that. That's where the nuances, but absolutely united on that point.
WHITFIELD: That's a lot. All right. Nic Robertson, thank you so much. Well done and happy Thanksgiving week.
ROBERTSON: Thank you.
WHIFIELD: All right. We're back in a moment, but first this week, staying well.
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DR. ROBERT WALDINGER, DIRECTOR, HARVARD STUDY OF ADULT DEVELOPMENT: On average, people who are in happier, more satisfying relationships live longer. I am the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. It was started in the late 1930s. And it's continuing to this day. The most important predictor of who was going to be a happy healthy octogenarian was how satisfied they were in their relationships.
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