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Inside Politics

Soon: FDA Could Authorize Booster Shots for Immunocompromised; HHS: More Than 1 in 5 ICU Beds Filled By COVID-19 Patients; DeSantis Promises to "Fight Back" Against Biden White House; Moderate, Progressive Dems at Odds Over Next Move on Biden Agenda; Doctor Shares Heartbreaking Video From Inside ICU. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 12, 2021 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Dr. Anthony Fauci today says more vaccinations now would slow the Delta surge and with a longer term pandemic plan likely include booster shots for everyone.

Plus, the president sells his giant agenda as a price cut for American family. But there are signs of a Democratic standoff over the plans' price tag and over its midterm election consequences. And the "My Pillow Guy" is having a very bad no good week.

This conspiracy convention disappoints even election skeptics and illegal case seeking billions in damages over his 2020 election lies is moving forward. We begin the hour though with some important changes in COVID medical guidance.

The CDC now strongly recommends pregnant women get vaccinated. And as early as today, the FDA is expected to authorize vaccine booster shots for people who are immune-compromised. The top White House Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci today, making clear boosters are likely for everyone down the road.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CDC MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: No vaccine, at least not within this category is going to have an indefinite amount of protection; inevitably there will be a time when we will have to give booster. At this moment they are examining the data, they do not feel that we absolutely have to give it except for the immune compromised who you know; imminently they're going to get the approval.


KING: With us to share her expertise and our insights is Dr. Ala Stanford. She's the Founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium Dr. Stanford grateful for your time today. I just want to put up on my wall here as we have this conversation. This is the CDC's current map of community transmission. 99 percent just shy of that 99 percent of Americans live in communities where the CDC says there's high or substantial community spread therefore, you should be wearing a mask indoors.

It's because of this the deteriorating COVID situation that we're getting and because of new data this updated medical guidance. Let's start with the booster shots, the immune-compromised and Dr. Fauci saying booster shots probably for everybody, pretty soon. Why is that important now?

DR. ALA STANFORD, FOUNDER, BLACK DOCTORS COVID-19 CONSORTIUM: So it's important now because we see our positivity rates going up. We see the hospitalizations, the ICU and the burden on our healthcare system.

We see children at rates that we had not previously seen before. And we see the after effects with this long haul COVID in children and adults. So the time is now for the folks whose immunity may be waning after that first shot, to give them the booster and for the rest of us to get ready because we will need it too.

KING: And also the changing CDC guidance. 24, 48 hours ago the CDC says if you're pregnant, you can get a COVID vaccine. Now the CDC strengthening that saying you should. It recommends that if you're a pregnant woman, you get a COVID vaccine. I want you to listen to the Surgeon General explaining why he thinks this is critical.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: They're at higher risk for hospitalization for being intubated and being on a breathing machine for being admitted to the intensive care unit and for having preterm labor and preterm birth.

So for the health of the mother for the health of the developing baby, you know, getting protected from COVID-19 through a vaccine is really one of the most effective things that you can do.


KING: Help me break down the reasoning there. Obviously, the vaccines have been out there for months now there's more data on their safety and their efficacy. But you also again, have this happening right now.

And if you're a pregnant woman and you live anywhere, especially in this red America with high transmission of the CDC now says it's not just that you can but that you should.

STANFORD: Yes. And I should mention, and I understand having been a pregnant woman that all you want to do is protect your child. The American Academy of Obstetrics and Gynaecology put this out back in January that they were recommending that pregnant women receive the vaccine and also if you are a lactating woman that you should breastfeed and get the vaccine.

We know you're immune-compromised when you're pregnant, you're more susceptible and the best thing you could do is have the vaccine because if you get COVID it can - actually it threatens the life of you and your child. There have been countless stories of women needing emergency C-Sections to deliver a premature infant while the mother struggles for her life with Coronavirus. So please get the vaccine.

KING: I want to walk through more of the latest numbers to get your take on. If you look at the case rate right now new COVID infections. This is the seven day average is eight times higher, eight times higher right now than it was two months ago. Yesterday - averaged 123,000 cases as of yesterday.

If you go back two months ago, you see it was down to 15,000 cases. This is when we thought; we thought perhaps we had finally pushed the baseline down but look at this coming up right now. And with higher cases come higher hospitalizations.

75,718 Americans hospitalized yesterday, of COVID. Again, that is four times higher just shy of four times higher than it was two months ago. Dr. Stanford when you look at these and then you add in this ICU map here, this is a map and the deeper the color here, the higher the percentage of ICU beds taken up by COVID patients.

Look across the Southeast this is where you have most of the lower vaccination rates and look at this you have more than 22 percent of ICU beds nationally filled with COVID patients those numbers are even higher in these deeper reddish states out here.

Your assessment, doctor of where we are at this moment and I just want to come back to the case rate because as we've gone through the various spikes in the past, this is what scares me the exponential rate of growth.


KING: Once you get the numbers up high like this above 100,000.

STANFORD: Right. That exponential rate of growth is directly contributory to the Delta variant. It is thousand times more contagious. It can affect ten people when the original was affecting one to three people.

Right now folks are out and about, many of the mask mandates are coming back. But for the majority of the summer, they have not been present. Kids are going back to school. People are traveling in our airports are filled.

And our hospitals are really being overburdened, that if you are sick, either with Coronavirus disease, there may not be an ICU bed for you. And if you just have chest pain, there may not be a bad for you. And it's because it's more contagious.

It's because we missed our mark a couple of times with people being fully vaccinated. And so that other 30 percent that were not, it was an opportunity for the Delta variant to replicate and to mutate become more contagious and more virulent and really impact the unvaccinated and our children too young to receive a vaccine. KING: Dr. Stanford, I wish the news were better. But I'm grateful for your expertise and insights on the report today. I appreciate it. We'll continue the conversation.

DR. STANFORD: Thank you.

KING: And as the doctor and I were just discussing it is this, this COVID map right here, the Delta transmission this Delta surge, and it's a giant national problem. You don't need me to say that you can see it right there and a giant national challenge.

But for better or worse, there is a crystal clear red blue divide over how to deal with this moment on issues ranging from vaccine requirements to whether we need to mask up indoors at the office or at school?

Just a few examples in just the past 24 hours California announced the statewide vaccine requirement for teachers, Minnesota and Oregon also announcing new COVID restrictions. Democratic Governors in all three of those states, Texas taking the opposite track, its Republican governor is suing Dallas County to block a mask mandate there.

In Arizona Republicans now demanding the governor cut funding to communities that say you need to wear a mask. And Florida's GOP Governor clearly sees political gain in his public campaign against masking and against just about anything the Biden White House recommends.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A headline from "The New York Post" from I believe, two days ago, Team Biden war on DeSantis is all about kneecapping a successful governor - a GOP governor. Could you address that concern, please?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our war is not DeSantis. It's on the virus, which we're trying to kneecap. And he does not seem to want to participate in that effort to kneecap the virus, hence our concern.


KING: With me in studio today to share their reporting and their insights Julie Pace, of "The Associated Press" CNN's Melanie Zanona, Brittany Shepherd of "Yahoo News" and Karoun Demirjian of "The Washington Post".

It is sad to me - tell me if you think I'm wrong, that we have a national crisis and a red and a blue path to deal with it. We could just put up a graphic on the screen. In Democratic states this is not universal, but pretty close masks mandates in schools vaccine requirements and restoring more mitigation measures.

In Republican states laws prohibiting masks mandates in schools, withholding funding from schools with mask mandates, resisting mitigation measures. You can see it now. And I'll get to some numbers in a minute. But we will see it even more.

Now the kids are going back to school and you're putting people in these group settings in four weeks, six weeks, ten weeks and twelve weeks, we will have the data that tells us who's right?

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF & ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Absolutely. And you know, in some ways, this is not surprising, because this, this pandemic has been so politicized in the U.S. from the beginning.

But I think what's different about this is now there's a way out. We can actually see the solution through vaccines to get into the other side of the pandemic. And yet we are having politics stop us from getting there.

That is what I think is so frustrating to so many Americans who have been vaccinated who are sending their kids to school this fall, who say I want to be able to send my kids to school safely, you know, why can I not even have that choice in some of these reasons? And the only answer for them is really politics.

KING: And to that point, in the case of Florida Governor DeSantis seems to think this is a plus. He has said - he's now asking the State Health Department cut off funding if you're a teacher, a school administrator, you're pushing masks. You're in charge of putting masks in your schools. They'll say like can I cut up your pay?

The White House says maybe we'll find some federal money to make those people --. Governor DeSantis says go away Washington.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Obviously, if you're talking about the federal government coming in and overruling parents in our communities, you know, that would be something that we would fight back vociferously against.


KING: If you look at the case count the hospitalization rate, the other issues in Florida, you would think that anybody Democrat Republican, would have pause and say, do I need to do things differently as the numbers get worse? He has no pause.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's really striking, especially given the fact that you have seen a change of heart and a turnaround the last several weeks in other parts of the GOP where people are saying look, this is worse. This is different. We have to do this.


DEMIRJIAN: There's no choice here to see the doubling and tripling down in Florida when they have, frankly, you know, as bad numbers of anybody on those is that much more surprising given the fact that his party is not speaking with one voice on this anymore at all? Frankly, it seems like the majority of Republicans are advocating vaccinations and smart measures.

KING: And thank you for pointing that out. Because you have Governor Hutchinson in Arkansas Republicans says he now regrets assigning a law that bam mask mandates. You have Governor Justice in West Virginia, a Republican who every day is throwing up his hands saying people please look at the data get vaccinated for your own safety.

I just want to show you these numbers here. Again, we will get more data as kids go back to school and you have people in these crowded congregate settings teachers, staff, administrators, janitors, everybody else. This is where we start.

California says look, this is proof. This is proof that our way yes, we require masks. Yes, that can suck for people. Let me just put it right out there. But they have a 6.4 percent positivity rate versus nearly 20 percent in Florida and 18 percent in Texas.

This is a public health giant challenge, which I suspect will again be also a central issue in the next election as it wasn't the last.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: But it is clear that someone is in both DeSantis and Abbott's era saying that this is political gamesmanship that you were just saying is a boon for them.

And of course, I would call it Shakespeare and but it gives people far too much credit, but it's cartoonish and there's real life implications. Abbott and the White House trend could have posit themselves as foils, you know, Biden in the White House are saying, well, Biden is empathetic, he understands he believes science.

And then you hear Ron DeSantis saying well, the White House doesn't believe in freedom. And he's - we're seeing for the last couple of months DeSantis positive himself is I would like a mini me a Trump clone, because he's making this insane bet. And I say insane in the most appropriated ways, because people are ending up in the hospital and --.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. I mean, clearly that message works with the base that helps them raise money and for DeSantis who potentially wants to run in 2024. It gives him a lot of attention, especially with Trump on the sidelines is an opportunity for him.

He's made himself the face of the resistance to measures but look A, it's irresponsible and B, the polling actually shows that the majority of Americans including independents actually support these restrictions.

KING: Right for their public health and safety because they have lived through this for 15 months or so. It's the politics are interesting in the sense that those Republican Governors are counting in a midterm year, lower turnout, we have to motivate our base, that's all you - base, base, base, base. Celinda Lake the Democratic Pollster, says she's not so sure. She tells "POLITICO" a lot of voters think Trump has sort of gone from the scene for now DeSantis reinforces the contrast that helped us win the election and sharpen the focus on the Trump style of policies.

The question is what we don't know. Number one, the data will tell us from a public health perspective, which way it works? And then the voters will tell us next year state by state what they think.

PACE: And a lot of Republicans look at what happened in the November election and say Trump could have conceivably won had it not been for his handling of COVID. And so that's what makes the DeSantis position really interesting that actually, a lot of people in the party think that Trump's pretty cavalier attitude.

His refusal to really, you know, push people to take on a lot of these restrictions ultimately backfired against him. I can only think that DeSantis believes that over time, the public's opinion will change because people will simply have gotten tired of this.

But as those case numbers rise as the death toll rises, again, I'm not so sure that that's going to ultimately bear out.

DEMIRJIAN: That's kind of the bad bet that the president - the former president made too, right? Which is that he figured it would be over people would forget and move on. This pandemic is proving all of those predictions that we've got it under control wrong.

And we're heading into colder months where people are going to move indoors, germs like to spread around in that environment. And with the lack of vaccinations, we're talking about new strains that may who knows what they're going to actually be doing to the country at large?

KING: Well, it sucks! Forgive me for the language. It sucks, that politics is in the middle of all this but so it is and we will watch the numbers over the next few days and weeks. Up next for us, big progress meats big problem two giant pieces of the Biden agenda clear the Senate but a democratic Family Feud complicates getting them all the way to the president's desk.



KING: The road to passing the big Biden agenda now runs through the House where there is a democratic Family Feud over how to pave that road? We shouldn't hold infrastructure hostage to it that from the Florida Democrats Stephanie Murphy, commenting on the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint.

She's among the moderates, many of them calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to put the bipartisan bill to a vote this month and deal with the larger budget plan later. Progressives though, say that's not what was promised. And they insist it's not what's needed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I'm just concerned about momentum and making sure we deliver everything together. We're a big team. We ran on and won the House, the Senate and the White House on a vision that got laid out through the jobs and families plan. These two are integrally intertwined.


KING: Panel is back with me. Let me start with Melanie, you're - Karoun, you guys work on the Hill every day. Is this a process debate? Or is this a policy problem?

ZANONA: Well, look with moderates, if they're willing to actually take this bill and vote against leadership, they can actually have some success here and have some results. The question is are they willing to stomach that? Are they actually willing to piss off leadership and potentially blow up this entire economic agenda?

So far, we haven't seen that's the case. These members are not putting their names to these threats. We have heard at CNN that they're about, you know, half a dozen moderates who are considering voting against the budget resolution if they don't get a quick vote on the bipartisan bill.

But these are the members who are the most vulnerable. And whereas the progressives are the ones who actually, you know, they'll probably be safe no matter what happens. But these are the moderates. We're worried about their seeds, and that their election probably depends on getting these things through Congress.

KING: But the Speaker tends to pay closer attention to those who are vulnerable. That's her job. She wants to stay in the majority. However, the progressive members have just as many if not more, saying this time they mean it. And they will not vote for this unless it goes their way the Speaker has to navigate this.


DEMIRJIAN: Yes, I mean, look, we've seen on the margins that the progressives are not willing to tank things necessarily, but they are willing to dare and threaten the Speaker to remember that they could if they wanted to. And they have played very, very close to the margin before to make sure that she knows that.

So you're right. Pelosi has always had an eye towards trying to keep her moderate safe, trying to - Jayapal was just saying in that clip that we won the House, Senate, the White House. Yes, you did. But you have a smaller majority that since 2020, than you did before 2020 in the House, which tells you that the moderates really do matter, then that those seats can be lost.

And so this has always been kind of the other issue, right? Is that we talked about potential bipartisanship in Washington. But there is the cohesion among the partisan half of the Democrats have kind of being the first problem and the first breakdown. That's it today see thing dueling letters have tried to bring out? SHEPHERD: Well, I just think it's important to remember though, that we have like the healthcare debate of 2009 looming over progressive saying, we're not going to make the same mistake Obama and all you guys did and you kind of left with, you know, carrots and sticks.

And they're just you know, Bernie Sanders trained his entire life for this in the same way Joe Biden tried and tried and tried again, to get the job he has now. Bernie Sanders went to jail for this and they have 96 to 100 progressives on their side. I don't think that they're going to do anything close to backing down.

KING: A lot of people do make that comparison, including to this time of year the recess in 2009, Democrats went home, they had passed Obamacare. It hadn't taken effect yet, you know, it was going to take a long time to get into the weeds.

The Democrats got scared, because Republicans are spending a lot of money attacking them, like now as big spending, government controlling, I don't remember if socialist was used in 2009 or not. It is being used now. So that's the big test.

And whether the moderates blink, whether the progressive blink, a lot of that will be determined on there's millions of dollars being spent on television by both parties during this August recess. What do they hear back home?

PACE: And what does Joe Biden do? You know, what is he really pushing publicly? Because, you know, he is not on the ballot next year, but his success as president will depend on what comes out of those midterm elections.

You know, he was in the White House, of course, when the health care debates happened. And he saw firsthand how Democrats didn't get scared into backing down and ultimately ended up with a bill that didn't give everybody you know, anything that they really, you know, wanted in that moment.

I think that he is going into this pretty clear about what the internal politics are, and pretty clear that the best outcome for Democrats is to get both. He wants to find a way to get both because then everybody can go back home into that midterm election year have something to campaign on.

But he wants those moderates to be able to stand firm and say, yes, we know that price tag is really big. But here's why we had to go do that.

KING: The lesson of Obama, lesson of Trump, you get two years. You come in with your own party in charge, you're guaranteed two years. So that's what the Democrats have to think about. They're only - they're guaranteed two years. They don't know beyond that.

Well, what's going to be fascinating? When we come back, a doctor shares heartbreaking video from inside an Arkansas Intensive Care Unit, illustrating dire situation hospitals all across the country now. I talk to the doctor last week; just what she's seeing firsthand next.



KING: Because of the big COVID surge hospitals especially in Southern States are dangerously full. Hospitalizations across the country have been rising since early July. Let's take a closer look at the numbers. You start with the cases.

If you look at it from this perspective on the map, this is the Coronavirus growth of cases over the past seven days. You do not want to be red you do not want to be pink you see down here again from Florida all the way across the Texas is the largest problem that's where cases are rising the fastest.

What happens when that happens? You have nearly two times the national average in Alabama two times the national average in Arkansas two times 2.5 almost the national average of cases in Florida same in Mississippi more than three times the national average in new cases in Louisiana.

What happens when you are way above the national average in cases? Well look those same five states now also double the national average, double the national average when it comes to hospitalizations, you see Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, five states, those five states double the national average in hospitalizations.

Let's at that point bring in to share her frontline expertise and insights Dr. Sonal Bhakta. She's the Chief Medical Officer for Mercy Hospital in Northwest Arkansas Dr. Bhakta grateful for your time. Your state is one of the states on this map double the national average for 100,000 residents when it comes to the hospitalizations.

You are seeing this firsthand every day and what strikes you? What's the difference what you're seeing in the hospital between this COVID surge and in the past?

DR. SONAL BHAKTA, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, HOSPITAL NORTHWEST ARKANSAS: This looks very different. This feels very different. The patients are sicker, they're younger. The previous strains it affected the older patients more. This one is more contagious and it affects the younger population compared to the previous.

KING: I know you told our staff that 90 percent of the hospitalized patients I believe that's the right number COVID patients in your hospital are unvaccinated. You've also have some videos of from your rounds. I just want to play for our viewers, a gentleman who's just in really tough shape. Let's watch.


BHAKTA: This is a 40-year-old person. He was racing and attending races. He genuinely loved helping people and spending time with his family and friends who married his high school sweetheart - anniversary today. He is in critically ill condition. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Put that moment in the full context of what you're seeing in terms have you mentioned they're sicker? I believe a respirator is in use there. And it also takes a lot more resources at the hospital, right?

BHAKTA: Absolutely.