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Number Of New U.S. COVID-19 Cases On The Decline; U.S. Capitol Police Release Statement On Jan. 6 Radio Transmission; Colorado Law Tests Policing Reforms At State Level. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 22, 2021 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The Biden COVID response team now says addressing vaccine hesitancy is among its biggest challenges now that it has made substantial progress in the vaccine rollout. Let's walk through the latest numbers. And look at this -- look at the trend lines.

If you look at the seven day average of cases, the seven day average of cases, still above 60,000 62,962, you see 62,000 cases reported yesterday. Yes, it is down from the horrific winter peak and below 70,000 which we had just a week or so ago. But that's still a plateau, a flat line, the administration and the public health experts would love to shove down. Watch this play out.

Red and orange are bad. You see a lot of it in this third of the country over here. This is community transmission of the virus over the past month. There's still a lot of coronavirus being spread around the United States, even though the vaccine rollout is accelerating. This line flat as well. There's never good news. I never know the right word when we bring up the chart of Americans dying from COVID- 19.

Again, down from the winter peaks, 842 of our friends and neighbors and fellow citizens died yesterday. It's a flat line, it is below 1,000. The seven day average now just under 700. Yes, that's a better number than back here. But it's never a good number. It's progress but a lot more to be done.

This is the big question right now, as vaccines accelerate, 40 percent of the population now has at least one dose, will the case count come down? And the public health experts can give you their own analysis on that. There's no question. You're down from February, is to see where you are now, the beginning of the month into -- beginning of February into April. But when will it go down faster. This map is part of that calculation.

Here, the darker the better. New Mexico, 33 percent of its population, fully vaccinated, Maine 34 percent, Vermont 33 percent. You see the 20s and the 21s here in the southeast, 20 percent out in Utah. There are many states still behind many of their neighbors when it comes to vaccinating their citizens. And in the vaccine race, we're averaging 3 million vaccines a day.

And you see it's actually down a little bit from a week 10 days ago. Here's the challenge for the Biden administration. It says it believes and it has the numbers support it, that a very good job ramping up production and distribution. Now, though, I showed you those states still at 20 percent, one of the problems across America is some people say I don't want a vaccine.

Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC says we need to convince them get one.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We knew we were going to hit this point. We thought it would be around the late part of April. And here we are. And now comes the hard work of working with our community core, trying to understand why people might be hesitant. Is it the science that they feel was rushed? We know 100,000 people were enrolled in these clinical trials for these vaccines. Is it that they just haven't reached the messaging from a trusted messenger? So that's the work that we have ongoing. That's the work that we're doing and we know we have it ahead.


KING: Joining us now for insights, Caitlin Rivers, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Caitlin, it's great to see you. Help us from what you know from the data. Who are we talking about on the question Dr. Walensky was just talking about which is vaccine hesitancy?


I showed you the southeast states on the map, I showed out in Utah. There a lot of people who say it is Trump America, if you will, a red America. Is that what it is? Or is it a little bit of this and a little bit of that?

CAITLIN RIVERS, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: It is a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We see in polls that conservative Americans tend to be a little less likely to say they're willing to get vaccinated, and also younger Americans who may be thinking that they are at low risk of severe illness. And that might not be a priority for them.

And so determining what the reason is for each individual for why they're not willing to get vaccinated or not enthusiastic about getting vaccinated, I think is our work of the next phase.

KING: All work of the next phase. Another part of the next phase is that, you know, case count, I don't know what to call, 60,000 new infections a day. It's better than 300,000 new infections today, but it's still a high number. But you do have a lot of people asking and Andy Slavitt, one of the big COVID coordinators on the Biden team says there soon will be guidance, a loosening of some restrictions if you are vaccinated. And as more Americans get vaccinated, where do you see the question of masking outdoors going?

RIVERS: I do think there's flexibility to not have to mask outdoors. Exceptions would be if you're in a crowd, if you're particularly vulnerable to severe illness. But we know that outdoors is much safer than indoors. It's fully ventilated. A lot of room for distancing. And so I do expect there to be flexibility and outdoor masking.

KING: I mean, just as you from your perspective, I don't want to lead you anywhere. When you look at the data right now, what jumps out at you, when you come to work in the morning will you say, that's my biggest problem, or that's my biggest, wow, that's better?

RIVERS: We've been in a difficult phase, this last month, certain areas of the country, particularly New England and the North Midwest, have not been doing as well as we want them to. The good news is they are starting to turn the corner. And I think from here on out, we might be in a slightly better place getting to a better and better and better place. Fifty percent of adults have now received at least one dose, a third are fully vaccinated. We're going to really start to see the effects of that. And so I'm feeling quite optimistic.

KING: It's nice to hear that. We've had many difficult conversations over the past year, 14 months. Caitlin Rivers, a lot of optimism there. I'm glad to hear it. We'll circle back and hope we keep on that track, grateful for your time today.

Up next for us, we know who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. So why were Capitol Police officers instructed to be on the lookout for anti- Trump agitators?



KING: New questions today about the mindset of the Capitol Police or at least some of its leaders on the day of the January 6th insurrection. At a hearing yesterday, a senior House Democrat revealed details of a radio communication the morning of the attack. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren reading from a transcript of instructions to police stationed outside the Capitol. Listen.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): This is, quote, a radio broadcast was sent to all outside units, attention all units on the field. We're not looking for any pro-Trump in the crowd. We're only looking for any anti pro- Trump, who wants to start a fight. You wouldn't have that information yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time, no Ma'am, we would not.


KING: CNN's Ryan Nobles is with us from Capitol Hill with more. Ryan, explain that one. RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, John, the U.S. Capitol Police is really pushing back on the way that Zoe Lofgren has framed this radio transmission that went out at 8 o'clock in the morning on the day of the Capitol insurrection saying, that it was only just one slice of the radio communication going on that day and is not indicative of what the Capitol Police had instructed their officers to be on the lookout for throughout the entire day.

And in fact, in a statement that they just shared with reporters a few minutes ago, Capitol Police says, quote, the radio call does not mean that USCP was only looking out for anti-Trump counter protestors. The next radio transmission requests that officers be on the lookout for pro-Trump protesters carrying a possible weapon.

Now, the Capitol Police that goes on to say in this statement that that the way that this has been framed is inaccurate and that they were taking seriously the threat of pro-Trump demonstrators and the possible disruptions or violence that they could cause at the United States Capitol.

And they've even said prior to releasing this statement, that the purpose of perhaps that specific radio transmission was to be on the lookout for possible dustups between protesters and anti-Trump protesters. And of course, John, this of course, gets to the larger scope questions about exactly what happened on January 6th.

You know, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is proposing a commission that would impart look into questions about how the United States Capitol Police handled the events on that day. That commission right now in a stalemate. The speaker actually just asked her questions about this in a press conference a few minutes ago, she's actually said that she's willing to concede on some certain points in the negotiations between Republicans and Democrats saying that she's up to a 50-50 split and even allowing Republicans to have a say in subpoena power.

But right now, John, there is a real desire by both Republicans and Democrats here on Capitol Hill to have an independent bipartisan commission look into what happened on that day to get answers to some of these questions. And despite these concessions from Pelosi right now, that commission is at a stalemate, John.

KING: Perhaps they break that stalemate. And then in a report, you could have all of the transcripts of these radio conversations so we could see them in their full context. Ryan Nobles, grateful for the reporting and the hustle.


Up next for us, Colorado was the first state to limit qualified immunity for police officers. Is its new approach a national model?


KING: The Washington debate over protections for police officers could, emphasis on could, dramatically alter policing. Let's take a look nationally. Four states right now, our test cases you might say for what happens when you curb civil protections for cops to use excessive force. Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Mexico, all have limited immunity for police officers in civil suits. That's according to the National Conference of State Legislators.


Back in 2020, meaning last year, Colorado passed sweeping changes that allow police officers who violate people's civil rights to be held liable in court. With us to share his insights on that law the Colorado Attorney General, Phil Weiser. General Weiser, grateful for your time today.

As you know, they're trying to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act through the Congress. Qualified immunity or limited immunity for police officers, one of the big hang ups that a lot of people say the Colorado law is the model. Maybe we should adopt that as in this national legislation. Civil rights claims can be made directly against officers in state court. Officers can be held personally liable, I know there are some qualifications of that, for 5 percent of any judgment or up to $25,000. Walk us through your experience. This law is not quite a year old. Is it a national model? Should Congress look at it and say fix your logjam here?

PHIL WEISER (D-CO), ATTORNEY GENERAL: I want to underscore the way that we got this law in Colorado was through bipartisan discussions with law enforcement at the table. And this law passed with bipartisan support, with law enforcement support. We need to improve trust in our police. Communities right now are asking for enhanced training, accountability to make sure that when you've got bad actors, they are held accountable.

In Colorado, our legislature passed, not just this law you mentioned but also a law that gives my office the authority to review pattern and practices civil rights violations. That's something that Congress can do for all state attorneys general. It's important that we have accountability. That's how we build confidence in our police force.

KING: You mentioned it was done in a bipartisan basis in the state of Colorado. In Congress, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed the House. Republicans didn't like it. It's held up in the Senate. Now there is a lead republican trying to find it compromise. But I want you to listen to one of the Republican critics. Now a Congressman but a former Mayor of Miami Dade, on his position why he does not think limiting this immunity is a good idea. Listen.


REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): Officers perform vital task requiring split second decisions under intense circumstances, taking away qualified immunity will lead to police officers not taking the decisive actions and rendering and possible to do their job. Without the security, officers will resign and deplete our police officers leaving our communities the very ones who need a strong police force the most, less safe.


KING: Have you seen any evidence of that in Colorado, Congressman Gimenez is saying that even good cops that just won't want to take the risk and they will resign, leave the force, are you seeing that?

WEISER: We're not seeing the sort of fears and concerns expressed. And an important point and you noted our law had qualifications. If an officer acts in good faith, they're not subject to any personal liability in any civil rights action. That's an important point. We want to train officers to handle a range of situations. We expect them to operate in good faith.

There are rare situations where officers may act in bad faith, having them have to pay some money, in our case, up to $25,000, as you note or 5 percent of the total amount of the judgment is a reasonable form of accountability. People need to know that there can be accountability. It's critical. And our law provides that.

KING: As you know, the goal here is better policing, simple, its better policing, better community relations, and especially in communities of color where there is systemic bias there just is and I know there are people out there who roll their eyes at that. But there is and all the data supports it. What is your casing, again, you're only a year into this, but if you look at the statistics about officer involved shootings back in 2019, there were 59 total according to Colorado Public Radio, 22 at this time of year. In 2020 the number, 53 total, same, 22 this year, so far in 2021, 18. Maybe it's too early, but are you seeing any data about that the number of police officer involved shootings are going down, especially in communities of color?

WEISER: I think it is too early. And what I would say is, this has to be a comprehensive effort to recruit talented, concerned, empathetic individuals to serve in this important profession, to train people so they're up to the challenge of difficult situations where they can act with empathy, sensitivity to hard situations.

And finally, accountability, where officers act inappropriately our law and the one we passed last spring has other provisions. We can actually decertify officers, for example, for being untruthful. That's how we build confidence and support in law enforcement. Our law provides a path for responsible law enforcement policing, and can build the trust that we so desperately need.

KING: Phil Weiser is the Attorney General in the state of Colorado. Appreciate your time today, Sir. And send us as you get new data as the law ages, if you will, and you get new data, send it our way. It's an important conversation. Appreciate your time.

WEISER: I look forward to it. Thanks so much.

KING: Thank you.


Up next for us Republican senators unveiled their proposal to rival President Biden's big infrastructure plan.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today. Just moments ago Republican senators unveiling their own infrastructure package, it is much smaller than President Biden's proposed $2 trillion American Jobs Plan. The Republican package is more than $560 billion, though, it would not raise corporate taxes and it focused on traditional infrastructure like roads, highways, and bridges.

House Democrats just passing a bill that would grant statehood to Washington D.C., the vote along party lines, 216 to 208. Its odds of passage in the Senate are beyond long. House Democrats also passed this bill last year. That was the first time either Chamber of Congress advanced the D.C. statehood measurement.


Grateful for your time today, hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere in this busy News Day. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.