Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

More Than 20 Million People Under Winter Storm Alerts; FDA Authorizes Pfizer Vaccine Boosters for Children Ages 12-15; Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Says, Firsthand Testimony Ivanka Trump Asked Then- President to Do Something to Stop January 6 Violence. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 10:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Nice to have Bianna with us.

Right now, millions, multiple states under winter alerts from Georgia all the way to New England, this as millions of Americans are heading back to work, back to school after the holidays. Take a look at this snow. Capitol Hill is covered this morning. The federal government in D.C. is officially closed today because of those winter storms.

GOLODRYGA: And more than 2,000 schools are forced to cancel classes or go remotely not only because of the weather but there are COVID concerns.

SCIUTTO: Let's begin though with that breaking news. It's good news for a lot of families. The FDA has just approved Pfizer booster shots for children age 12 to 15. It's also shortened the recommended time period for those shots after completion of the first two.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joins me now. This is something they'd telegraphed in recent days. Tell us the significance of this.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think a lot of parents of children ages 12 and 15 have been waiting for this. Children that age have been able to be vaccinated since May. So, it has been well beyond six months for many of those children since their second shot, they want to know, should we be getting a booster since a booster does seem to help protect against illness for the omicron variant.

So, let's take a look at what the FDA decided to do. They said, all right, 12 to 15-year-olds can get boosters now, that would be Pfizer, because that is -- Pfizer is the only vaccine these children at this age can get. And this is really interesting. They shortened that time. It is only five months past the second dose, not six like it was before, only five months. And also they said that there should be a third dose for children ages 5 to 11 who are immunecompromised. For example, a child who received an organ transplant who is that age, that it should be standard that they get three doses rather than two.

So, the FDA said that for this booster shot for 12 to 15-year-olds, that they were relying on Israeli safety data and Israel boosters have been available for children this age for months now. They said after looking at data from more than 6,000 12 to 15 year-olds, they said the shot has no safety concerns. And that is very important as parents go back and school goes back in session, that you can get a booster. It has been shown to be safe for your 12 to 15-year-old children. Jim, Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: Yes, welcome news indeed. As you said, these children were first vaccinated back in May, right? And so many families were wondering when that booster was going to come. Well, it's now going to be available.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

Well, the winter weather is throwing a wrench in D.C.'s plans back to school. Parents and staff were supposed to be able to go pick up tests today for return to class, Wednesday. But that's been delayed now until Thursday. Several districts in Massachusetts are also delaying their start to give people more time to get tested.

SCIUTTO: In Metro Atlanta, at least five schools districts are back to remote learning all week, same for Newark, Camden and Trenton, New Jersey. But, listen, there's a lot of good news elsewhere. Places such as Philadelphia, New York, one of the biggest school districts in the country, they are moving ahead with in-person learning.

CNN Correspondent Gabe Cohen joins us now with more.

Gabe, it is remarkable to see that even with the omicron surge, a lot of school districts, they are finding a way to get those doors open, get those kids in classrooms.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Jim, all of this is developing so rapidly, like here in D.C., they have just announced that they're going to be pushing everything back a day, as you mentioned there. So, that means that students are going to have to have their negative COVID tests uploaded by Wednesday at 4:00 P.M. Otherwise, they could be turned away if they try to come back to the classroom Thursday morning.

Now, look, as you mentioned, districts across the country are grappling with this as the CDC is pushing them to keep classrooms open, especially dealing with the crises that so many kids are dealing with, including mental health issues.


And now coming off the holiday, we're hearing from health experts about the steps parents can take to keep their kids safe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) G. COHEN (voice over): Some schools are starting January with virtual learning, though the CDC wants districts to keep classrooms open. The U.S. Education Department put out a guide for schools, advising them to host vaccination clinics and test students after an exposure rather than quarantining an entire class.

ROBIN JACKSON, PARENT: It is scary that he is going back to school.

G. COHEN: Robin Jackson, a COVID long-hauler herself, says her 16- year-old son is battling brutal anxiety from the pandemic and needs to be in class.

JACKSON: There is a big concern, but it would be more detrimental to him to be home than to be at school.

G. COHEN: If a parent tests positive, the CDC considers their child a close contact. And they say families should follow local health recommendations based on their kid's vaccination status and their school's rules.

If you tested positive on a Sunday, would you send your kid to school on Monday?

DR. SARAH ASH COMBS, PEDIATRIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE: I would keep him out for two days or so, do my very best to get a test and monitor for symptoms.

G. COHEN: If a child shows any signs they are sick, the CDC says keep them out of class and activities and get them tested.

DR. GIGI GRONVALL, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: If you test negative, I would test again in the next day.

G. COHEN: You think still hold them out of school for a day and get them tested again?

GRONVALL: I would, especially if they have a sore throat.

G. COHEN: What if they can't get a test?

COMBS: Safest thing is probably to either isolate or quarantine in the home.

G. COHEN: Last week, the CDC shortened the isolation period for those who test positive from ten days to five, which applies to children too, though schools may have their own policies. Districts in major cities, like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, are distributing millions of free tests to students and the Biden administration is about to start sending a half billion rapid tests to homes for free.

JACKSON: I'm having my son PCR tested today simply because he has a cold.

G. COHEN: Robin Jackson is still struggling with this question for her son.

JACKSON: What can I do to ease his anxiety about going back?

G. COHEN: What would you say to her?

COMBS: Look, it is scary, it is out there. At the same time, it is an infectious disease that we have some treatments against, we have vaccines some against, so try and live your life.


G. COHEN (on camera): And the U.S. education secretary is already warning that, as schools reopen, there are likely going to be bumps in the road with this weather. We're already seeing it. And parents should remember that so much of the health guidance right now is still local. So, experts are saying if you do have a positive case or you have some unique health situation, you should be making two phone calls, one, to your kid's pediatrician, the other, to their school. Guys?

SCIUTTO: Gabe Cohen, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss this question, Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, also vice president of the American Federation of Teachers. Good to have you on, Michael. Thanks for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, first, I wonder if you could tell us how many teachers in your union are out sick today, and if you can characterize that in terms of percentage.

MULGREW: At this moment, we don't have a final number. Each school is reporting in. But in the metropolitan area, what we saw over the holidays, most of the industries had somewhere between 20 to 30 percent absentees due to positive COVID. So, we're assuming we're going to be somewhere in that percentage between 20 and 30.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Let me ask you this. You are watching this data, I'm sure, as closely as anyone, and a lot of the data on omicron has been positive. It causes less severe illness for the vaccinated. Meanwhile, we have increasing vaccination rates, very high among teachers, no question, but also increasingly high among students. Given that, why did you still support New York schools beginning with remote learning? It is a request, as you know, that Mayor Adams denied. But why still support a return remote given that positive data?

MULGREW: So, the issue was we wanted to make sure that each school could have the appropriate staffing to be safe. The last scenario we want is a school being forced to make a decision about combining classes together. If we had higher attendance of students and low attendance of staff because of COVID, that is a situation we want to avoid.

So, that's why we asked the mayor to start in remote so that we could get the testing done. Because, yesterday, thousands and thousands of teachers were online across New York City but at testing sites themselves are dealing with staffing issues. So, that was the main reason.

What we have done since over the holiday break holiday break, which wasn't a break for most of us, is we've increased all of our testing abilities and we've loaded up all of our schools with the appropriate things. For us, it was really about making sure we didn't put a school in a situation where they could not make a good decision.

SCIUTTO: Okay. You understand though on the flipside that the consequences, the costs of remote learning -- McKinsey did a study this summer and found that losses among K to 12 students in terms of learning, that they ended on averaged about five months behind in mathematics, four months behind in reading, and they updated again in December and found that students remain behind in both math and reading. Given those costs, why not emphasize going back instead of remote?

MULGREW: Because we had to deal with the situation that infectious rate heading up to the holidays and through the holiday season, we've never seen these numbers before. Remember last year, it was the teachers who fought to open their schools. We opened the largest school system in the country without a vaccine. But we've always had one thing that we've said to everyone. We're going to do whatever we need to do to make sure every school community is safe.

And we're very proud that the schools of New York City continue to be the safest place in every community. That is because of our work with the parents and the administration. So, this one was just straight in terms of we want to make sure we're not putting a school in a bad situation because they do not have the staff.

SCIUTTO: So, if the staffing shortage remains where your best guess is right now of 20 to 30 percent -- and, by the way, it is expected we're going to be seeing more infections, it is the fact of the way omicron is spreading. If it remains at that level, can you keep schools open? Can you keep the kids coming in?

MULGREW: Most of the schools, if we look at what was going on right before the holiday, remember, New York City has -- we have 1,600 school buildings, close 1,800 schools. So, there were some schools that were doing what is known as an operational closure because they could not be safe. We're going to have some of that. I don't see any way to avoid that because there's just not enough substitutes to deal with the numbers that we deal with here in New York City.

We have seen dramatically the effects of remote learning. We always told people, as indicated, this is not the way to go, if we had our druthers, we'd want your children in front of us. But we had to keep engaged and we wanted to keep engaged with all of our students and their families. That is why remote had to happen at the beginning of this pandemic.

But now, we're going to try to do the best we can. And, again, today, teachers are out there. I was in three schools this morning (INAUDIBLE) children. The teachers are there welcoming their children back, welcoming their students, making -- parents are with them. And that is really what we need to get through this.

SCIUTTO: Well, we wish you luck. We know it's a lot of hard work for you and for the teachers involved. And I know parents welcome having their kids back in school. Michael Mulgrew, thanks so much.

MULGREW: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And here to discuss is Emergency Medicine Physician and Medical Director at the Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Richina Bicette McCain. Doctor, welcome and Happy New Year to you.

First, let me get you to respond to this breaking news out of the FDA approving the booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 to 15- year-old. Welcome news for parents. I would imagine welcome news for physicians as well.

DR. RICHINA BICETTE MCCAIN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Absolutely welcome news for us. It is time. We know that that booster dose drastically improves your risk of contracting COVID. And if you do happen to contract COVID, it drastically decreases the risk of you being severely symptomatic, winding up in a hospital or dying. So, yes, I'm extremely excited that boosters were approved for that age group today.

GOLODRYGA: Hopefully, this will keep more children out of E.R.s as well down the road. But what do you make of the FDA shortening the window from six months following that second vaccine to now five months?

MCCAIN: I definitely do agree that the FDA probably should have shortened the window. We know that data is based on what they are seeing in Israel and Israel actually is doing an even shorter time period for their residents to get a fourth booster dose. They have already started giving booster dose number four, and that's being given only four months after your prior vaccination. So, there is some evidence that immunity seems to start waning before that six month window that we were initially considering.

GOLODRYGA: Of course, vaccines only work if you are vaccinated. And we continue to see a lagging figure among children who are vaccinated. I believe it's about 20 percent for 5 to 11-year-olds here in this country. In Israel, it's at 2 percent, and 90 percent of their overall population is vaccinated. Do you expect this news and the time that has now transpired since children have been authorized to get vaccines, do you think that will increase the number of vaccinations that we see among children, especially with omicron now?

MCCAIN: I can only hope that it will increase the number of children that are vaccinated. But I think the decreasing number or the low number of children that are vaccinated has a lot to do with COVID misinformation on two different fronts. There is misinformation on how COVID can affect children with a lot of people still thinking that if their child contracts COVID, they won't get sick and they won't end up in the hospital. That is not necessarily true.

There is a lot of misinformation on how these vaccines can potentially affect children, with, for some reason, there is an undying thought that the vaccines can cause infertility in children, which has been proven to not be true amongst other things.


That is why a lot of parents are not vaccinating their children. You don't want your child to be the only one that ends up in the hospital sick with COVID because they were not vaccinated.

GOLODRYGA: And that is why it's so important that we have people like you sounding the alarm, right, that these vaccines are indeed safe.

Let me ask you about schools, because as you just heard from that conversation, there is no appetite right now in this country to keep schools closed, but we want to keep students and teachers safe. And one question people have, especially with omicron now, is the standards of masks and whether cloth masks can do enough to cut back the spread of omicron, in particular, should children now be wearing N-95 masks in schools?

MCCAIN: Bianna, A lot with schools, with children and COVID has to do with framing. Let's not say that we're closing schools. Let's say that we're extending winter break until we get this current surge under control. The New York Times reported just on December 30th there were over 585,000 cases of COVID in this country. We have never seen COVID cases that high in the United States. So, it makes sense that we need do something more to protect our children.

Cloth masks are not as high quality as surgical masks with the metal piece around their nose, which are not as high quality as KN-95 or N- 95. So, if we are going to send our children into school, we definitely need to consider layers of protection, and one of those layers being better masking.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. I ordered my kids some N-95 kids as well, no complaints from them. So, if kids can wear them, adults can wear them as well. Dr. Richina Bicette McCain, thank you, as always.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Bianna.

SCIUTTO: I do find kids complain the least about masks, in my experience.

Other story we're following, just days after his direct call with Vladimir Putin, President Biden tells Ukraine the U.S. will act decisively if Russia invades further. We're going to have more on that ahead.

Plus, the White House committee investigating -- or the House committee, rather, investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol is revealing new details as we near the one year anniversary of the insurrection.

GOLODRYGA: And later, Antonio Brown is now out of an NFL job after abruptly leaving in the middle of yesterday's game. Why did he do that? We will discus, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


GOLODRYGA: New this morning, the House select committee investigation January 6th has information from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of what then-President Trump was doing during the U.S. Capitol riot. That's according to a source familiar with the investigation.

SCIUTTO: Yes, a view inside Trump's circle. It comes as Committee Co- Chair Liz Cheney said yesterday the panel has learned Trump was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on T.V., and that his daughter, Ivanka Trump, asked him at least twice to stop the violence.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju has been following and on the committee's next steps as well.

So, specifically, who gave this warning? And as Jamie Gangel, the point she made last hour, is this shows kind of a breaking of Trump's circle here, right, that the committee has penetrated had circle.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Even though there are a number of people who have held out and battled the committee, have refused to testify, tried to take the committee to court, people like the former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, there are some who are giving firsthand information, key information, letting the committee know exactly what was happening and what was not happening at the White House at the time. And now, what we are learning is that Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, went directly to the then-president urging him to stop the violence, according to Liz Cheney.

Now, Trump herself was being urged by some people outside of the White House and people who were close to Donald Trump at the time to argue, to push the then-president to act. One of those people, Lindsey Graham, told me last month that he did call Ivanka Trump on January 6 and urged her to tell her dad to do something about it.

Now, the committee is trying to figure out exactly what the president did and didn't do and whether they should go forward with anything, even a potential criminal referral. But Liz Cheney made it clear yesterday that they have learned some significant information from these witnesses who have cooperated.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The committee has firsthand testimony now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television as the assault on the Capitol occurred.

Members of his staff were pleading with him to go on television to tell people to stop. We know Leader McCarthy was pleading with him to do that. We know members of his family, we know his daughter -- we have firsthand testimony that his daughter, Ivanka, went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.


RAJU: Now, even though they are getting cooperation and learning new details, there are still a lot the committee does not know in large part because they are still trying to access key documents, evidence that could be useful to the information, something that Donald Trump himself is fighting, trying to stop in the Supreme Court.

Now, the question too, we are in 2022 now, can they get this all together, can they come to some significant conclusions and findings about what was happening, the discussions that were happening within the White House at that time because the clock is ticking. They are trying to put out an interim report potentially sometime this year.


And there is that big deadline, the November elections, when, potentially, the Republicans could take control of the House and this investigation all together if they do come to power next January.

So, a lot is riding on the line to get key information and get some details and get to some conclusions and hope to get some resolutions to these court battles they are now facing from the former president and his allies.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that one key detail there, the former president sitting in the dining room watching it unfold on television. Manu, thanks very much.

Well, Twitter has now permanently banned the personal account of Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. The company confirmed to CNN that Greene was banned for, quote, repeated violations of COVID misinformation policy. Her congressional Twitter account, which she has tended to use less, does remain active.

GOLODRYGA: CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins us now. And, Donie, Twitter had previously, temporarily restricted Greene's account for sharing misinformation about COVID and the 2020 presidential election. But now, we expect this to be permanent, right? This is, what, the fifth strike?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So, Twitter operates on a kind of strike system. If you are a politician, you are allowed to share a certain amount of dangerous B.S., whether it's about COVID or elections, before you get suspended. And in this case, Marjorie Taylor Greene's personal account, which is her biggest account, which she uses most frequently, has been permanently suspended. So, she won't be getting that back.

However, she does have her congressional account, which has about 300,000 followers on it. And so she can use that account if she wants. Twitter said the rules will also apply to that. So, if she continues to share misinformation, she will get banned.

But, of course, Greene using this as an opportunity to slam big tech, saying that Twitter is an enemy to America, she is sharing similar misinformation on FACEBOOK and on other platforms but is still active there. But, of course, this all coming just about a year after Twitter and Facebook banned the former president, President Trump, from their platforms as well.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. She continues to be defiant, speaking her mind, just not on Twitter anymore from her personal account. Donie O'Sullivan, thank you and Happy New Year to you.

Well, coming up next, how President Biden is preparing for potential negotiations with Vladimir Putin as tensions mount along Russia's border with Ukraine.