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U.S. Marks Grim Milestone: 1 Million Lives Lost to COVID-19; Key Price Index Shows Slower Increase in April; Gas Prices Hit Record High as Biden Admin Pulls Plug on Offshore Oil, Gas Leases; Passenger Lands Plane After Sick Pilot Slumped Over Controls. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 12, 2022 - 13:30   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: President Biden marking a devastating milestone today, one million COVID deaths in the U.S. And he is urging Congress to pass additional coronavirus funding.


Here's where we stand as a nation right now. Cases have been trending up in all but six states over the past week. And hospitalizations have been ticking up over the past three weeks.

Let's discuss with Dr. Carlos Del Rio of the Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health Systems.

Dr. Del Rio, thanks so much for taking the time.

I feel like so many of us have COVID fatigue. But it's important we have the conversation because many of us are noting more people around us and in our families getting COVID again.

We know there's a new dominant variant that appears to be spreading rapidly. So what do we know about this variant? And how does it compare to those that preceded it in terms of symptoms and severity?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY: Well, first of all, Ana, I just want to say that it's been a sad moment when we have heard that over one million Americans have died and more are still going to be dying.

And a lot of those deaths could have been preventable if people were vaccinated and boosted. So I want to, first of all, remind people that the most important thing you need to do is get yourself vaccinated and get yourself boosted.

The second thing is about the variants. The virus is rapidly evolving, is rapidly -- the variants are evolving rapidly.

After the onset of Omicron, we've seen the virus take different mutations with subvariants of Omicron. Each one of the subvariants is more transmissible than the other. Chances are you are going to be confronting this virus. Chance are you

are going to be exposed to this virus.

And with people dropping restrictions like masking and having gatherings, people are going to get infected. We have all heard about family members and friends getting infected.

The most important thing if you get infected is get tested and access therapy right away. We have now plenty of supply of Paxlovid and other drugs that people can use to get treated.


DEL RIO: So learn. Know your information. Know your rights. Know what you can do. Get tested rapidly. Get started on therapy right away. And that will be very helpful.

CABRERA: So are the symptoms still the same that we've heard before, like, you know, loss of taste and smell, stuffy nose, runny nose? Or are they somewhat different with the subvariants?

DEL RIO: You know, they're a little different, Ana. We don't hear as much about losing your sense of taste and smell with this variant. We hear frequently of people complaining of a scratchy throat. They feel like a sore throat with a very scratchy throat.

They also talk a lot about nasal congestion, like a head cold. And a lot of people initially think they have allergies Because it feels like they could have allergies.

But if you have fever, if you have allergy-like symptoms, if you have a scratchy throat -- in particular, if five days ago, you went to a big dinner with a lot of people, you went to a wedding, and you have the symptoms, don't say it's just allergies. Get tested for COVID.

CABRERA: According to the CDC, about 66 percent of the population is fully vaccinated with at least their initial series. And about 31 percent have received their booster. So a lot who are eligible for a booster haven't got that shot just yet.

But given we have vaccines and treatments, like you described, with this surge, are mitigation measures necessary or is it safe to just kind of let it run its course?

DEL RIO: Again, it depends on who you are and it depends on what your risks are, right?

If you are a 20, 30, 40-year-old person, otherwise healthy, who has been vaccinated and boosted, you may be able to take a lot more risky activities and do more risky stuff than if you're an 80-year-old who hasn't been boosted or you're a 50-year-old immune-suppressed person.

I think it's going to be varying depending on what the individual risk is.

The reality is that we're unlikely going to be seeing mask mandates come back again. But I think, if you want to wear a mask, you should wear a mask. There's nothing saying you shouldn't wear a mask.

And if you're going to wear a mask, make sure it's high quality. Get an N-95, a KN-95, a well-fitting mask. That's what you need to wear.

And if you are getting on a plane, make sure you're wearing the right mask if you're concerned about getting infected.

CABRERA: Quick answer, if you will. But on the treatment side of things, Paxlovid is available. Who should be trying and not be trying to get Paxlovid?

DEL RIO: I think, at this point in time, Ana, anybody who gets infected should at least inquire about it. If you are at high risk for repression, i.e., if you haven't been vaccinated or are over the age of 40 or if you have underlying conditions like obesity, you really should try to access Paxlovid.

And unless you're taking some very, very few medications, all the other drug interactions with Paxlovid can be easily managed by your clinicians.

And the reality is we're grossly underutilizing Paxlovid drug in the country. We have over 800,000, you know, courses of therapy available at our drugstores and they're not being used.

So we really need to make sure that we start using them more. Because it's an option that we're not using and we're not being effective as a nation to get it to the right people.

CABRERA: It's good to know you're encouraging a lot of people to seek that treatment.


Dr. Carlos Del Rio, thank you so much for joining us and giving us an update on how we can navigate the current time we're in with the pandemic. I appreciate it.

High prices are gripping the nation and just won't let go. But is there relief in sight? What new economic numbers tell us today.



CABRERA: Welcome back. We have new economic numbers today. And is there any indication we'll get some relief from the high prices gripping the economy and all our wallets?

Let's bring in CNN's Matt Egan.

So break down these numbers for us.

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, Ana, we did get a glimmer of hope on the inflation front, but it's all relative. I'll show you why right here. Today, we get the PPI, producer price index. These are prices that

companies pay. Eventually, those costs are passed along to consumers. And .5 percent month over month. That's a significant improvement from recent months.

And 11 percent up year over year. At any other point in the last 12 years, this would be an alarmingly high number, like really bad. But we're in unusual times. We're in a very high inflationary point. So this is actually an improvement. Because it was 11.5 percent, and it's down to 11 percent.

If you look at the chart, you can see that this is when COVID hit. And prices went basically straight up, 11 percent. Now it's 11 percent down from 11.5 percent. But this is -- you almost can't see the improvement here. It's pretty minor.

I think there was better news on the jobs front. Jobless claims, they remain very low, historically low. Way down from the beginning of last year, way down from the peak during COVID. Continuing jobless claims, lowest level since 1970.

Look at the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is way down, 3.6 percent. It was nearly 15 percent at the height of COVID. This is obviously going the right direction.

The question is whether or not the Fed has to slow the economy so much because of high inflation that unemployment starts to creep up next year. We don't know yet.

CABRERA: Let's talk about gas prices. Because once again, we hit another record high today. It comes as the Biden administration is pulling the plug on several upcoming offshore oil and gas leases.

So what's that all about?

EGAN: Well, let's look at what's going on with gas prices. As you mentioned, the third day in a row, the national average, $4.42 a gallon. This is very high. Third day in a row of a record, up 17 cents in the last week.

Now oil prices actually cooled off, if you recall, in April. The Biden administration released a record setting amount of emergency oil. Prices got to as low as $4.07.


CABRERA: Sounds so desirable right now.


EGAN: But that relief, obviously, was short-lived.

Now, the Biden administration announcing, at the same time prices are really high, the Interior Department cancelling three offshore oil and gas lease sales, two in the Gulf of Mexico, one in Alaska. They said they didn't really have any interest from the industry. The industry, obviously, not happy about it. They're crying foul. This

is why it matters. It's because demand has obviously returned, big time. Prices have returned. But U.S. oil output has not.

Check this out. You can see that this was the peak. This was record highs before COVID. Right now, the U.S. is producing less than it was before COVID. And that's despite the fact that prices have gone way up.

And I think this just speaks to the tension here. Because the president was -- he ran on the most ambitious climate agenda of anyone ever elected. But that ambition is running into economic reality. So that's the problem.

One other number we have to talk about, 40-year high.


EGAN: Birthday for Ana coming up.

CABRERA: I was with you until you pulled that up.


EGAN: I think some people in the control room wants to play a clip of some people you might know, Ana, who want to wish you a happy birthday.


BENJAMIN NIELSEN, HUSBAND OF ANA CABRERA: Hi, Ana. Happy birthday. We love you so much. Here's to 40 amazing years.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I love you, Mommy. Happy birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Love you, Mama. Happy birthday.

CROWD: Happy birthday, Ana.


CABRERA: Oh, my.

So, funny little story. Last night, I heard my kids and Ben doing something along those lines, and I just thought, what are they doing?


CABRERA: Now I know. I feel so loved.

Thank you, Matt.

Thank you to my family and my friends.

And my viewers. You guys are an amazing support system, and I appreciate you being with me on this special day. [13:49:15]

We'll be right back.


CABRERA: There are incredible new details today about that scare in the skies over Florida. We told you about this air traffic controller helping a passenger with zero experience flying a plane make this landing after the pilot got sick.

Well, now, we're finding out that's only the half of it.

CNN's Carlos Suarez has the rest of the story for us.

Carlos, what have you learned?


So, according to the FAA, the pilot told passengers that he felt sick in the minutes before he passed out on the controls after taking off from the Bahamas. At that point, the plane descended a bit and then made a sharp turn.

Now, one of the passengers, that was later identified as Darren Harrison, he was able to regain control of that plane and get on the radio.

Now, on Wednesday, we spent some time with him -- with the air traffic controller, rather, Robert Morgan, aboard his Cessna. And he walked us through what he told Harrison to do for the flight and the landing.

Morgan said that he guided Harrison some 20 miles offshore south of Boca Raton Airport to Palm Beach International Airport because it had a longer runway.

At one point, the two of them, they switched over to a cell phone because Harrison did not know how to change the radio frequency and because he couldn't figure out how to turn on a navigation screen.



ROBERT MORGAN, AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER & FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR: Yesterday, he had some really fancy avionics so that was another one where you can just turn knobs like this. He kind of had that, but his screen was black in front of him.


SUAREZ: All right, so, according to Morgan, the pilot said he was having some chest pains but was awake when the plane landed in Palm Beach -- Ana?

CABRERA: Carlos Suarez, thank you for that update. Now, if you or someone you know is in this incredible video I'm about

to show you, authorities in Florida want to hear from you.

Take a look at this. This is a group of Good Samaritans who rushed to the rescue of a woman who had a medical emergency while driving. You can see her car slowly drifting into the middle of this busy intersection.

Apparently, a coworker noticed the woman slumped over the steering wheel and ran into the street to try to stop this car. Suddenly, you see all these other drivers get out and try to help.

They used a dumbbell, we're told, to smash a back window and then they were able to move the car eventually into a nearby parking lot.

Police are helping and hoping that this video will be able to unite the woman with these Good Samaritans. Incredible teamwork. Just the best of humanity there.

That does it for me. I'll see you back here on Monday. Until then, you can always join me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

The news continues after a quick break. Thanks for being here.