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Biden Invokes Defense Production Ace to Tackle Baby Formula Shortage; New COVID Cases, Hospitalizations Rise Nationwide; 12 Civilians Killed in Luhansk as Russian Bombardment Intensifies; Oklahoma Legislature Passes Ban on Abortions from Fertilization. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 15:30   ET



BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: In addition, that's why the president yesterday directed the Department of Defense to use contract cargo to move formula that is overseas and that is safe, into the United States more quickly. That is something that again, we are still on the phone with producers and manufacturers around the world to identify those circumstances where that will get formula here more quickly. And we will be reporting out when, as soon as we can responsibly, explain where these instances will be in place. We will do so. But rest assured, there is an entire team that is engaged on an hour-by-hour basis, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to facilitate this movement of goods into the country.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: So, Brian, you know that there has been criticism -- bipartisan criticism from Capitol Hill, Senator Patty Murray says that nobody has done their job here, well including the FDA. She sent a letter to the FDA back in February to address this. And now, in approaching late May, you say that the DPA has been invoked, but the White House still has not figured out how that can help specifically companies?

DEESE: Just to be very clear about how the Defense Production Act works -- and this is the same that how it was used in the context of COVID relief, as well. The president issued the order and gives the authority to the relevant departments -- in this case the Health and Human Services. Which then enables the agency and enables the administration to go to those manufacturers, and say where is it that you need help to make sure that you can get to 100 percent production?

If a manufacturer is able to get to 100 percent production without us having to intervene in the market, then that is a good outcome. What our end outcome is to make sure that we are getting maximum production of manufactured formula, and bringing formula into the U.S. But what the Defense Production Act does is provide that real-time flexibility and real-time authority so that if there is a problem they can identify, we're able to move on immediately. And as I said, those conversations are happening in real-time and in giving the manufacturers and the suppliers the certainty that they need to move, to put people onto shifts and to get this all moving more quickly.

BLACKWELL: All right, Brian Deese, thank you.

DEESE: Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, the first case of monkeypox reported in Massachusetts, and now other several patients are being monitored. Should we be worried? We'll ask doctor, next.



BLACKWELL: It appears that summer COVID surge experts have been predicting. It is already here. The daily national average of new cases is up 26 percent since last week and the caseload is now triple what it was this time last month.

CAMEROTA: Nearly one third of Americans lived in areas considered to have medium or high COVID-19 community levels right now. And if you're living in one of those regions, the director of the CDC says that you should go back to masking indoors.

Dr. F. Perry Wilson is an associate professor of medicine at Yale University. He joins us now. Doctor, it's great to have you here. My impression -- tell me if it's yours -- is that people are sort of resigned to it at this point. They don't want to mask up again because they feel like it's everywhere. And they feel like if they do get COVID, it'll probably get a bad cold, and in any case, they'll survive. Is that wrong?

DR. F. PERRY WILSON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR MEDICINE, YALE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: No, I think that's what I'm hearing on the ground as well. And you're right on several points. It is everywhere. The current caseload about 100,000 cases a day, as reported by CDC, is a vast underestimate. Because probably four people are testing at home for every one person who gets a PCR test that gets reported. So, we're probably talking about 500,000 cases per day.

Right now, in the U.S., that makes this another wave. This is the second Omicron wave. Tons of people have COVID. Masks do protect the person wearing a mask, and if we all wear masks it can slow the rate of progression of the disease. It can slow the spread of this disease. But if you don't couple those mandates to an endgame, what are we masking for, how long are we doing it? People aren't going to adopted it.

And maybe that endgame is getting more people boosted, only 30 percent of Americans have been boosted. Maybe the endgame is letting this wave die down. But if you're going to make a recommendation like that, the CDC has to give the off ramp as well.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Wilson, I've heard something several times over the last couple of weeks, people who are trying to time that second booster, waiting for a surge, and then they'll time it to get the peak of protection, or they've got an international trip that they will take a couple weeks before, so that when they fly, they've got the best protection. I see your facial expression, put that into words for me, people are

trying to plan this booster for protection when they're back with crowds.

WILSON: I think, yes, it's like trying to time the stock market. You know, good luck. But more often than not, you're going to get burnt. I've heard that too. We're in the middle of a surge right now, so if you're waiting for cases to rise, we're there already.


You should definitely, definitely get boosted. I appreciate that immunity wanes overtime in terms of infection, in terms of the risk of being infected. But it's still quite protective against hospitalization and death. And trust me, those are the things you want to avoid. We will slow this epidemic down substantially if people get their booster, you should do it.

CAMEROTA: The last thing that we need right now, is monkeypox, but somehow there is now -- there are now monkeypox cases in this country. So, how concerned are you, how concerned should everybody listening be?

WILSON: I wouldn't be too concerned, this is not COVID 2.0. Monkeypox is a very different virus, it does not spread well from human to human, which makes this outbreak a little bit interesting. Because most monkeypox outbreaks tend to be small clusters of very closely contacting individuals. So, there's something interesting here, but you know, we've got one case in the U.S. essentially, and this is a virus we know a lot about.

Whereas sars-cov-2, was completely new. Was really reinventing the wheel in terms of virology. Monkeypox, we know, I would be very surprised if this becomes a substantial threat. And of course, I should mention, that we already have a vaccine in our back pocket for this. We also have therapeutics that will be quite effective for monkeypox if they are necessary.

BLACKWELL: All right, good to know, Dr. Perry Wilson, thank you as always.

Another potential setback for Vladimir Putin. Ukraine's military claims Russians had to pull back from Sloviansk after suffering losses there. We've got details next.



BLACKWELL: Heavy Russian shelling and missile strikes were reported overnight in the Luhansk region. In Severodonetsk, military officials said at least 12 civilians were killed, more than 40 wounded in the attacks. The official described the shelling as chaotic and said mostly residential buildings were targeted.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, no measured advances were reported for either side. The Ukrainian military said Russian forces attempting to breakthrough to Sloviansk, suffered losses and retreated. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live for us in Lviv. So, Suzanne, give us the latest.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really was a devastating day for Ukrainian residents, and particularly in the Luhansk region. That is where Russians control 90 percent of the territory. Trying to break that Ukrainian defensive line. And so yes, you saw that shelling, punishing shelling. Mostly in these residential communities here.

So, we're talking about -- if you take a look at these photos -- a high rise building that was hit, the aftermath of another one. 12 people killed, more than 40 wounded. The scene so chaotic that they do not believe those numbers were final. They were not really able to get a sense of what was underneath these massive fires because of the shelling that took place there. So, just a devastating day on that end.

And of course, all eyes on Mariupol, that steel plant there, where we do know that about 1,700 have left that steel plant facility. It's believed that there is still hundreds who are inside, including some top military commanders from the Ukrainian side. One of those commanders has been using social media quite frequently and making these posts. His name is Major Bohdan Krotevych, and he has an Instagram page, just on Wednesday said, look, he is not surrendering.

He had a message to his fellow commander saying: The war is not over, the full-scale war has just begun. You will have to become commanders and take control or run away and then you will suffer even greater losses.

And says that the overconfidence, the self-confidence of the enemy is our trump card.

So, we may see some activity there at that steel plant. It's certainly seems like fight has not yet ended.

BLACKWELL: All right, Susan Malveaux for us with the latest from Lviv, thank you.

Back here at home, the Oklahoma legislature has just passed a bill that would ban almost all abortions. If that becomes law, it would be the nation's strictest yet. New details, ahead.



BLACKWELL: This afternoon, Vice President Harris met with abortion providers. She warned how far-reaching the impact would be if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, this, when and if it happens, will be an extreme step backward. And it represents a threat, not just to women, but to all Americans. It would be a direct assault on the fundamental right to self-determination. To live and love without interference from the government. At its core, this is about our future as a nation. About whether we live in a country where the government can interfere in personal decisions.


CAMEROTA: And new this afternoon, the state of Oklahoma is now one signature away from having the most restrictive ban on abortion in the country. Its legislature just passed a bill that would outlaw abortions from the point of fertilization. CNN's Camila Bernal is covering Oklahoma's abortion ban --

BLACKWELL: All right.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, Victor, I do want to let you know essentially that it is very likely for this to be banned -- for abortions to be banned in the state of Oklahoma. All we need is the governor's signature here.


What happened was that the legislator -- the legislation in Oklahoma passed a bill that defines pregnancy as starting at fertilization. You would calculate it on the first day of the last menstrual cycle. So, essentially what it means is that abortions would be illegal. And in addition to that, private citizens would be able to sue any abortion provider that knowingly performs or induces an abortion here.

And as I said, the governor previously stated his support for these kinds of bans. He has said that his state will protect the life of the child. He's also said that it's churches, and nonprofit organizations that will likely have to focus on adoptions. And he says that his state will essentially protect the mother.

Now, on the other hand, Planned Parenthood has said that this is a very dark day. They say this is not just one ban or another ban, what they're saying is that this is a first. They're also saying that many states they anticipate will follow in the footsteps of Oklahoma. And they're already making plans for what is going to happen in the next couple of days. I do want to read part of that statement that Planned Parenthood put out today where they say --

Planned Parenthood and our partners are already fighting two other abortion bans passed this year in Oklahoma, and we're going to bring everything we have to fight this one.

As I said, they're already planning their next step. So Planned Parenthood saying that in Oklahoma they anticipate abortions that were scheduled this week to continue. But they are already making plans to cancel next week's abortions. They also anticipate that this is going to be something defined by state lines -- Victor, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Camila Bernal, thank you. BLACKWELL: All right, one more look now at the Dow. Last-minute of

trading, down more than 220 points, follows the worst day in two years. The index was in positive territory at the top of the hour. But we'll see where it closes in just a few minutes.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts after a quick break.