Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Chicago Schools Cancel Classes; CDC Tries to Clarify Guidance; January 6th Panel Wants to talk with Hannity; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) is Interviewed about the Capitol Riots. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 09:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: No, it would say -- it would say, why did you get in this accident and then it would make a little snack of you.


KEILAR: That's what I think. I'm actually a cat person --

BERMAN: So, that's why we can --

KEILAR: But, I am a dog person for this story big time.

BERMAN: Not any more. The cat lobby is coming after you.

KEILAR: Oh, I know.

All right, CNN's coverage continues right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

We are following two major stories this morning.

First, omicron now accounts for 95 percent of all the nation's new Covid cases. And that variant is pushing Covid hospitalizations closer to an all-time high in this country. For now, hospitalizations, still, though, about 20 percent short of last winter's peak.

Most of those patients, we should note, this has been consistent throughout the pandemic, unvaccinated.

President Biden is urging Americans not to overreact, and in particular pleading with the unvaccinated to go get their shots now to protect themselves and their families.

The president has also doubled the government's order of Pfizer's antiviral pill, which reduces hospitalizations and severe illness for those infected.

The CDC is attempting today to clarify new guidance after receiving criticism for cutting the recommended isolation time after a positive Covid test, from ten days to five days. We're going to have more on that in a moment so you can have all your questions answered. The other story, of course, we're following this morning, tomorrow

marks one year since Trump supporters rushed the Capitol, violently disrupting the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 election. Lawmakers investigating the riot are now encouraging former Vice President Mike Pence to cooperate, while revealing how top Fox News personality Sean Hannity was sounding the alarm behind the scenes while pushing lies in front of the camera.

But first this morning, other news.

Classes canceled today in Chicago, that is the third largest school district in this country, after the teachers' union voted last night to teach virtually rather than in the classroom, citing concerns over the fast spreading omicron variant.

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez has been following all of this.

So, Omar, I'm curious, first of all, how long have they voted to stay virtual?


So, the union indicated this yes vote doesn't just apply to today, but that members intend to refuse in-person teaching until at least January 18th, or until both the school district and the union can reach an agreement on what safe, in-person learning actually looks like.

Now, the Chicago school district sent out a communication not long before midnight last night notifying families that class would be canceled today, and they described this as an unfortunate decision. They also said they are now worried about the well-being of students. They also went on to say that teachers won't be paid for this, as they consider this a work stoppage.

But part of what the teachers' union has been concerned about is they don't believe the current measures in place make in-person learning a safe enough environment amid record numbers of Covid-19 cases we've seen among students, staff and the city of Chicago in recent weeks.

And the CTU leadership, the teachers' union leadership, has said that they saw this as their only option.

Take a listen.


JESSE SHARKEY, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION: We've been failed by the mayor. We've been failed by the public health office. And teachers and the school staff have decided we have to -- the only thing that we get to control is whether we go into the buildings.


JIMENEZ: Now, part of what the teachers' union is asking for is they want more access to testing, they want a greater portion of the student population to be vaccinated. That number is right around a third right now, though the rates for teachers are much higher.

On the school district side, back in April of 2021, the district announced an investment of more than $200 million to ensure situations like this don't happen. Investments in Covid-19 protocols and to ensure in-person learning happens during this school year. And the district says it's worked. They maintain that being in the classroom is much safer than being in the community, based on the measures they've instituted, including universal masking, distancing and more.

But, of course, the bottom line in all of this is, until these two sides reach an agreement on what safety in the classroom looks like, kids are out of the classroom, and class is canceled.


SCIUTTO: Yes, we should note, the surgeon general's guidance as well is that mitigation, masking, ventilation, et cetera, does keep education in the classroom safe.

Omar Jimenez, thank you for following. We'll continue to follow the story in Chicago.

There are still questions over the CDC's updated Covid isolation guidance after the agency did try to clarify it yesterday.

Let's go to CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen for more.

So, Elizabeth, first you have the timeframe issue here, cut from 10 to five days.


And the fact is, a lot of folks welcome that, right, particularly companies that were having trouble staffing up.

But now the question is about testing to get out of isolation. So, tell us where we're landing.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. That ends up being, well, kind of mushy for want of a better word.

Let's take a look at these revised isolation guidance that the CDC came out with yesterday.

What they say is if you have Covid-19, and so many more people are going to have Covid-19 because of omicron, stay home for at least five days. And they say isolation can end if your symptoms are resolving.

And then after that, after you leave isolation, wear a mask around other people for five more days. What's new is that they say, around day five, if you have an antigen test, and if you want to use it, go ahead and use it. If you don't, don't. That's a pretty unusual piece of public health guidance. Usually it's a little more clear. This is, if you want to, do. If you don't want to, don't. It's usually not -- we usually don't give people that option. And, finally, they say that if you're positive, if you take that test and you're positive, you should be isolating for five more days. So this is sort of like an optional kind of thing.

Now, let's take a look at why the CDC feels comfortable telling people that you can leave after five days without testing. Because there is some real science behind this. So, if you look at this graph, what you're seeing on the left-hand side is when you are right at the beginning of having symptoms, that's when you're very, very contagious. So you're very contagious. And then, as you go on, and you go on, it gets less contagious. Starting at around day five, the chances that you are going to transmit Covid, as long as your symptoms are resolving, are very, very small. And that's why the CDC, in many ways, was between a rock and a hard place because, of course, they want people to isolate when they're sick. But if days six, seven, eight, nine, ten, you're not transmissible, why should they be keeping you out of work, especially if you're an essential worker. So, again, they're saying, you're not that transmissible after day five, so you can go out of isolation as long as you meet those criteria.


SCIUTTO: Yes, that graphic you just showed is very revealing because it does show a steep drop in transmissibility days after that first positive test.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much for clarifying.

Let's dig a little deeper now. CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen joining us now. We should note, she's the former Baltimore city health commissioner as well.

Dr. Wen, good to have you here.

Now, looking at that graph, perhaps we can put it up on the screen again, that shows how infectiousness drops quickly after that first day that folks test positive. When you look at that, does that make this new guidance make sense to you to some degree, or do you think they could have done it better?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I do think that shortening the isolation period in general is a very good idea. First of all, a lot of people are unable to really comply with ten days of isolation. And so if you're able to increase compliance by shortening the isolation, that's a good thing from a public health perspective.

Also, we are facing a collapse, potential collapse, of our critical infrastructure. And so getting workers back to work sooner is good. And so I like this idea of five days and then, once you are out in public, you're still supposed to be wearing your mask, a well-fitting mask, the entire five days after. So I think that's right.

What I don't like, though, is the CDC not recommending at least testing. I know we don't have enough tests, but I wish the CDC would just come out and say, hey, we don't have enough tests. We really should have enough tests and then you can test your way out of isolation. But, in the meantime, because we don't have the tests, that's why we're not able to make an official recommendation.

Right now, their guidance that says you can test after day five, but if you test positive, you have to keep isolating for a whole ten days. No one is going to do that. If you have enough tests, you're going to say, let me test at day six, then day seven and then maybe I can test out of isolation then. Why make it even harder and, in a sense, discourage people from using testing.

SCIUTTO: So what's the better answer here, right? I mean the fact is there aren't enough tests out there around, and it's going to be a couple of weeks before folks can get better access to this half a billion tests that the government's going to be providing. What's better? I mean it sounds like what they're trying to do is get at least more people to test, right, at that five-day point, rather than none. But, fact is, folks don't like confusion, they like -- they like stuff to be very clear. What would have been better?

WEN: That's right. I'm having trouble right now explaining the CDC guidance to my patients. And so what I'm saying is the following. That right now, because we don't have enough tests, people should know, you should isolate for five days, and then after five days, if you have to go back to work, if you have to be caring for your family, you should be wearing a well-fitting, ideally an N-95 or KN-95 mask for five days. Do not have meals with your family because you're going to be maskless.


Don't go to restaurants or in other settings in those five day -- the second five-day period. If you have availability of testing, then you should keep on testing yourself. And either you clear yourself from isolation at ten days or whenever you have two consecutive days of negative tests, whichever comes first. I think that kind of guidance is a lot clearer than what the CDC currently has.

SCIUTTO: OK, big picture. You know, again, the biggest thing folks have to deal with is, is how serious is this, right? It's clearly spreading more quickly. We all have stories. Folks watching have stories. Family, friends, perhaps themselves, testing positive it a greater degree than they did in the past and many folks who were -- who were even fully vaccinated and boosted, although the rates for the unvaccinated still much higher.

How should folks be reacting here? I mean, you know, New York City Schools are staying open, to their credit. The mayor said, stay open, we need you in school, most school districts are. Chicago is not. I mean are those kinds of steps an overreaction?

WEN: Yes. And, in fact, they are not balancing the priorities in our society correctly. At this point, these kinds of surges that we're seeing with omicron and delta, this could be our new normal going forward. Every year, or every few months even, we could be seeing these massive surges of cases.

The key is for us to get people vaccinated and to make sure they have optimized immunity through boosters if necessary so that we're able to protect people from having severe illness, protect our society from huge disruptions.


WEN: But we cannot shutter our schools. We cannot close our businesses. In particularly, we cannot harm our children, especially the most disadvantaged, even more. If you are a vaccinated and boosted teacher, and you're wearing a high-quality mask at school, your chance of contracting Covid is very low. Your chance of getting severely ill is even lower. There should be no reason why teachers' unions are going on strike for themselves. And when it comes to children, they have been harmed so much by schools being closed.


WEN: We have to emphasize getting our kids back in school for learning, otherwise we're hurting once again a whole generation of young people.

SCIUTTO: Yes, for learning and even for some for access to reliable meals, right? I mean it has so many carry on consequences.

Dr. Leana Wen, thanks so much.

All right, so we're a day away from a year from January 6th, and the investigation of the insurrection continues. The January 6th committee now says it wants to speak with former Vice President Mike Pence.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the committee.

We have not formerly asked, but if he offered, we'd gladly accept.


SCIUTTO: A spokesman for Pence declined to comment on Thompson's remarks and request.

And he's not the only high-profile name that the committee, of course, is looking at. We've learned the panel has also approached Fox News host Sean Hannity to cooperate voluntarily, noting dozens of his text messages to then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on the days leading up to and surrounding the insurrection.

CNN law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild joins us now.

Whitney, what strikes me about these texts, but how they fit into the broader picture here, is just how many people were aware of a plan to reject the votes of several swing states and overturn the election here. Tell us how Hannity fits into that.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly he had an understanding that this was an effort stemming from the White House, that there was an effort here to try to get people to use whatever authority the White House thought they had to overturn the election.


WILD: And what Hannity clearly realized was that the final plan, like the last-ditch effort of January 6th, to try to get former Vice President Mike Pence to just call it a wash and say these electoral votes don't count and send everybody back to the states was just nonsense. And so, at a certain point, he was trying to warn the White House that this was just -- this was a path to nowhere and it made no logical sense.

Here is a text message from December 31st that highlights that. We can't lose the entire White House counsel's office. I do not see January 6th happening the way he is being told. Pointing out what people know, which is that Trump was being fed this creative legal lie, which was that former Vice President Mike Pence had any authority to shut it down on January 6th.

However, the White House perpetuated that lie and then we know how that ended with an attack on the Capitol.

Further, here is a text message from January 5th. Hannity saying he's very worried about the next 48 hours. And the committee is interested in Sean Hannity for a list of reasons, because he was talking with key players within the White House. They are still trying to drill down on the details of what was going on in the White House, basically between -- really between the election and the inauguration. But for Hannity's purposes, between December 31st and January 20th, they need to know, what was the mindset and what was the planning out of Trump's inner circle, they're collapsing in on the key person here, Jim, which is Trump himself.


SCIUTTO: No question. And, by the way, Trump himself continues to perpetuate that same lie 364 days later.

Whitney Wild, thanks very much.

Coming up next this hour, Congressman Mike Quigley will join me live. He was one of the last House members evacuated on January 6th a year ago. His take on where the country is one year later.

And we'll hear straight from some of the people who have been charged for their actions that day. Has the prospect of prison time changed their views?


JOSHUA PRUITT, ACCUSED CAPITOL RIOTER: I don't feel like I did anything wrong. But knowing the consequences that came out of it would be the part that would make me question it.


SCIUTTO: Also ahead, the travel nightmare finally over for people who got stuck on the highway in that snowstorm in Virginia. We're hearing new details from passengers who spent 30 hours on an Amtrak train.



SCIUTTO: The nation is preparing to mark the one year anniversary of a sad day in this country, the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. So where were we one year ago today, the day before, January 5, 2021, one day before that insurrection?

The U.S. Capitol Police chief met with top law enforcement and military officials, including the FBI, Secret Service and National Guard about the upcoming January 6th protest, as well as the January 20th inauguration. Then Chief Steven Sund later testified that at that meeting, no entity, including the FBI, provided intelligence that there would be a coordinated attack on the Capitol.

That same day, an FBI field office in Norfolk, Virginia, issued a warning to its counterterrorism partners that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and war.

Throughout the day, then President Trump tweeted heavily. Among his messages, the vice president has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors and, quote, thousands of people pouring into D.C., they won't stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen.

Of course, those are lies.

Outside the White House, in Freedom Plaza, pro-Trump supporters held a precursor rally to January 6th. And perhaps the biggest red flag yet, outside the Democratic and Republican Party headquarters, two pipe bombs were planted that night. They were discovered the next morning. There is CCT video of the person who left those pipe bombs.

Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley was in the gallery as rioters stormed the Capitol. He was one of the last members of Congress to be evacuated. During the attack, Quigley was on the phone with his home district television station, WGNTV.

Have a listen.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): We have a bunch of security (ph) trying to hold the door, the main entrance door to the House floor. They're -- they're freaked out but most of them are staying pretty calm. A lot of them have been evacuated. There's a group of us that went up to the balcony, about a dozen of us, and the Capitol Police just telling us to keep our heads down.


SCIUTTO: Congressman Mike Quigley joins me now. He also serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

You know, one thing strikes me as I look at that, Congressman Quigley, is that Democrats and Republicans, on that day, were united in their fear and their sense of alarm. Democrats and Republicans were evacuated. Democrats and Republicans sounded warnings about the violence that day. And as we know, many of your Republican colleagues contacted the White House, trying to get the president it call them back. That unity is gone. It's gone. I wonder how disappointing that is, to you, having gone through that day.

QUIGLEY (D-IL): Yes, absolutely.

You know, as I was thinking back and trying to reflect on all this, and put it in perspective, the first thing we all have to say is, without the Capitol Police and the district police, I'm not sure we'd be having this conversation. They certainly saved me and my colleagues and the staff and they probably saved the democracy from a coup because, you know, in succession, what, two, three and four were within feet of the insurrectionists.

And to your point, as I try to, again, put this in perspective, and the day of and the days after, McConnell, McCarthy, and as we're now learning from these texts, family, friends, staff, media, all knew how severe this was. And they seem to forget that. They're like a perverse groundhog who finds their conscience once a year, but then they see their shadow and they go back into hibernation. That's a disappointment.

SCIUTTO: One striking revelation, not just from the Hannity text, but all these texts, is just how many people knew, not just of the threat of violence, but of a plan to straight up overturn the election, to reject the electoral votes on no basis from several swing states and therefore hand the election to the loser, Donald Trump.

Is the country any safer today, set aside the acts of political violence, but any safer today from the ability to overthrow an election?

QUIGLEY: You know, in a way, I don't think we are. And here's why, because if you can forget, if you can deny in the days after a violent attack on our Capitol and our democracy, a year later, so many -- unfortunately, so many Republicans think so little of what took place, it's a fragile process.


It's a fragile government. And we have to remind ourselves of that. And if there aren't people willing to defend the Constitution over a single former president of the United States, we are indeed in trouble.

SCIUTTO: What will the consequences be for former President Trump for leading all this? A year later, he is still spreading the same lies. He may very well be the nominee for the Republican Party in 2024 and many Republicans either outright support him or say they cannot oppose him. Has he faced any real consequences?

QUIGLEY: You know, it's a question that you and others asked me during the original impeachment investigation. And I was a part of that as a member of the Intel Committee. It was a question you and others asked me during the second impeachment, when the president of the United States extorted a foreign government to benefit politically. And it was also, if people actually read the Mueller report, the president was not exonerated. In fact, you know, he obstructed that investigation and all the others. He has never been held accountable for his actions.


QUIGLEY: And if this committee isn't allowed to do its work, if it isn't allowed to enforce its subpoenas, if the courts don't back them up, we'll still be in that dangerous state.

SCIUTTO: Of course, it's not entirely on the committee. There is a Justice Department. There's an attorney general. And your fellow Democratic colleague, Ruben Gallego, told me yesterday that to this date -- to date, the attorney general, Merrick Garland has, in Gallego's words, been extremely weak, feckless, in his words, by not prosecuting the ring leaders. Yes, more than 700 of the participants in the attack on the Capitol have faced criminal charges, but none of the ring leaders, none of the folks who encouraged them or who perhaps planned, right, an attempted coup here.

Do you agree that the attorney general has failed here?

QUIGLEY: Look, I'm going to let the process take its full course. I was a criminal defense attorney for over a decade. I'm going to give the attorney general every opportunity. I know the FBI and the Justice Department have been working on this over a year.

But he is right, the ring leaders of this have to face the consequences. It's already troubling enough that those who physically attacked and injured police officers, over 100 were injured, we lost a couple of officers in the days following this insurrection, if they're not held accountable, there's a real problem and there's a danger, a further greater danger it could happen again.

SCIUTTO: And it's already been a year.

Congressman Mike Quigley, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

QUIGLEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, some good news. A key December jobs report blows economist predictions out of the water. What it all means for the economy and hiring. Lots of jobs out there.

And we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Stock futures down slightly this morning. This after the Dow closed at yet another record high yesterday. They just keep coming. Investors are waiting -- investors are waiting today for the Federal Reserve to release minutes from its last, latest meeting, where chair Jerome Powell announced plans to raise interest rates, as well as tapering off the Fed's bond buying program. We're keeping an eye on all of it. Stay with us.