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W.H. Unveils Plan To Roll Out Vaccines For 28M Children; Source: FDA To Recommend Boosters For People As Young As 40; NYT: Trump Aide Floated Plan To Send 250k Troops To Border; Medical Examiner Called To Park Where Laundrie's Items Found; As Climate Change Threatens West Virginia, Sen. Manchin Blocks Key Components Of Biden's Climate Change Agenda. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 20, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The attorney for the Laundrie family says that he has no further comment, respectfully, he says. So this is a development this morning because what does it show? It shows conceivably that Brian was there.

But remember, Brian frequented that area. He loved to go to that area, according to his parents. He had gone there many times before. So we don't know when some of these articles could have been deposited there left behind. And we don't know what they are, John.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Jean Casarez, grateful for the hustle and the breaking news. As you know, important clues the significance to be determined. We know you'll come back to us when we learn more. Jean, thank you very much.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

KING: And some new COVID news new to CNN as well. The FDA likely to recommend, we are told, coronavirus booster shots for people as young as 40, who received either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccines. The source telling CNN, the planning due to growing concern within the FDA, that recent data shows an uptick in hospitalizations among people in their 40s and 50s, who have been fully vaccinated.

Also today, the White House sharing its plan for rolling out vaccines for children ages five through 11. The FDA green light to make that age group eligible for vaccines could come as early as next week.

Let's bring in to share his expertise and insights, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University. Dr. Reiner, thanks for being here. Let's start with this question about booster shots. I'm just looking at the vaccine rates right now. People initiating vaccines here. I just want to come up to hospitalizations among those vaccinated.

Now, this -- at home, it might be difficult to see. The blue line here hospitalization rates among unvaccinated people significantly higher, way higher, dramatically higher among unvaccinated people. But you do see, Dr. Reiner, a slight uptick down here in hospitalizations among people who have been fully vaccinated. That seems to be the reason the FDA says why don't we give people age 40 and 50, because that's we're seeing more of them here, let them get another shot, right?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: That's right. Actually, John, before I answer this question, I just want to take a point of personal privilege and thank you for telling your story. I struggle every day to explain to people why they need to be vaccinated. And I've never heard a more poignant or personal or appropriate discussion and what you've done over the last couple of days, so thank you.

KING: I appreciate that. Thank you.

REINER: What I'd like -- look, what we've come to understand is that the efficacy of the vaccines wane over time, and many Americans now have been received their second vaccine more than six months ago. And the consequence of waning effectiveness of these vaccines is increased infections. And the more people get infected, the more people will have a serious infection or lead to a hospitalization.

So I think the FDA and the CDC are starting to understand what the Israelis have understood, which is, you know, we need to boost a much more broad selection of our population. And that's why I think we're going to see the level, the age limit lower to about 40.

KING: And you heard the White House today -- I just want to put up vaccination by age right now -- you heard the White House today saying we'll be ready and expect perhaps the Emergency Use Authorization for those children ages five through 11 as early as next week. And if you look through, you know, 84 percent of those over the age of 65 are vaccinated, it's 75 percent among those 50 to 64. It starts to go down as we go, and obviously, five to 11 not yet eligible at all. 12 to 15 were approaching but we're still below half of that population vaccinated.

Number one, how critical is it because we're in the middle of the school year for those younger people to get eligible for a vaccine? And then for the White House, they're saying they'll have these in local pharmacies, they'll get them to pediatricians, essentially saying they've learned valuable lessons from the previous rollouts, and they'll be even better this time. How important is that?

REINER: I think it's really important. First of all, we're still seeing almost 150,000 infections in children per week. Thankfully, you know, nearly all of those kids, you know, will do well, but it's very, very disruptive to the families, and some kids will get sick. And, you know, we've certainly seen multisystem inflammatory syndrome in a small number of children.

I think the challenge going forward is going to be to convince families to vaccinate their kids. You know, we still -- there are still many adolescents who are eligible for this vaccine who have not been vaccinated. And, you know, a recent poll suggests that, you know, only a third of parents are going to go out and vaccinate their children right right away.

A third we're going to wait and see. And as many as a quarter have told pollsters that they will not vaccinate their children. So we still have a lot of work to do to convince parents to vaccinate their kids once these vaccines are available.

KING: Amen and true in any event. Help me continue that conversation about the importance, whether you're getting a booster to further protect yourself, or whether you've just been told that you're eligible and you can get -- finally get a shot or if you're still out there and you have been eligible for some time.


Why is that important in the context if this is progress right here. The seven-day average of new cases down 7 percent from last week, down even more dramatically if you go back here to the peak of September. Tuesday, 8,351 is the average of new COVID infections. That number is still too high.

I remember back in the days when everyone was saying, if we could only get it down to 20,000. It's still too high. But we are down significantly and we're trending in the right direction. What are the critical next pieces to keep this trajectory heading south?

REINER: Well, we're moving into winter. And and as the colder weather comes, and more people remain indoors and gatherings are indoors, not outdoors, we are going to see a tendency for infection to rise. And it's rising. And we will be going into winter at a point where vaccine efficacy will be dipping based on what we discussed earlier.

So for all these reasons, we need to get the unvaccinated vaccinated, we need to get kids vaccinated to keep them in schools, to keep schools open. And we need to get people eligible for boosters to be boosted. If we do all of these, we can keep the curve in decline and prevent what we saw last winter, which was a giant spike that went from basically Thanksgiving to the end of January. That's that's the imperative right now.

KING: Right. And you can see that and go back. We live through this together and it's terrific. It's terrific. Obviously, vaccine is not widely available back here, they are now. So let's hope that your best advice is taken and we can continue to come down.

Dr. Reiner, as always, grateful for the important insights.

Up next for us, a simply eye-popping Trump plan to secure the border with the Army. He ask was a quarter of a million troops. The Pentagon's answer was, no.



KING: Outrageous, that's what President Trump's defense secretary thought when back in the spring of 2020. He learned of an idea floating around the White House to send 250,000 U.S. troops to, quote, seal the entire 2,000 mile border with Mexico. The New York Times broke this news last night and puts that jaw-dropping figure into perspective. 250,000, that is more than half of the active U.S. Army. It is one-sixth of all U.S. military forces, and two and a half times the number of American troops in Afghanistan at the height of that war.

The Times reports Trump immigration hardliner Stephen Miller orchestrated this plan, and that then Defense Secretary Mark Esper, quote, quashed it after, quote, a brief but contentious confrontation with Mr. Miller in the Oval Office.

CNN Immigration Reporter Priscilla Alvarez joins our conversation. I guess the plan is eye-popping. No surprise that Stephen Miller would be involved that New York Times puts it this way. The idea is under discussion that spring underscore the Trump administration's view of the Armed Forces as a tool of the presidency that could be wielded on behalf of Mr. Trump's domestic political agenda in an election year. Send a quarter million troops to the border, Secretary of Defense Stephen Miller, I guess.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: Well, we saw this several times over the course of the Trump administration when the President often leaned on the Pentagon to enforce the U.S.-Mexico border. Former President Donald Trump sent troops, although, a much smaller number of trips to the U.S.-Mexico border. He also dipped into military funds to fund his border wall, often to the frustration of defense officials.

And while this idea was quashed, a public health order was put in place last year during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of migrants. And that is still in place today. So while the troops didn't go down, migrants have been expelled in great numbers since then.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: I think this also show where Trump's mind was at even as the coronavirus pandemic was raging. He's more focused on illegal immigration at the border from undocumented people than he is on addressing, you know, the people in America who are dying because of the pandemic, you know? Where is -- what is he thinking about and what are his priorities?

KING: It's a great point. This is the spring of 2020. It also gets to the chaos and dysfunction we reported on pretty much from day one to day last of the administration in the sense that you have a plan, now the White House floats policy ideas all the time. That's their right. You have a staff that floats policy ideas.

But the fact that this got to the point where the Defense Secretary has to come to the Oval Office and say, no, no, no, that's the Defense Secretary's job. He should have been brought in a little sooner, maybe.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It just shows who the former president was listening to. And the, you know, the extent of which Stephen Miller really was allowed to make his fever dreams reality, if given the chance only to be blocked by people who actually had those jobs, you know, not at the 11th hour but, you know, before it was going to be implemented. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: It also shows the extent to which the president potentially wanted to use the different levers of the government to help his re-election campaign.

KING: Right.

BARRON-LOPEZ: To try to divert attention, whether it be at the border or show this -- have this show of force, 250,000 troops, that would definitely have captured the election campaign, the focus of voters. And so, this isn't also the only time they have done that. We've seen other people besides Esper tried to put checks on Trump throughout the time he was in office.

KING: Quashed, I like that word quashed. We'll be right back.



KING: More details now on an important breaking news story we began to bring you moments ago, it revolves the search for Brian Laundrie in Florida CNN's Jean Casarez is back with us with more details. Jean?

CASAREZ: Well CNN has confirmed that the medical examiner from Sarasota County has been called to the scene.


Now they reversed course because it was just minutes ago they told CNN they had not been called to the scene. So now they are telling us they have been called to the scene. In addition to that, the Pasco county cadaver dog has been summoned this morning to the scene, just one, just one cadaver dog plus two spotters. We don't know when this morning that cadaver dog was called to the scene, but we have confirmed that it has.

Now this all started, Steve Bertolino, who is the family attorney for the Laundrie family told CNN this morning that it was last night that the parents of Brian Laundrie made the decision they were going to go out this morning to search for their son to that Carlton Nature Reserve, where they have said from the beginning that they believe their son was located. And so, they contacted the FBI North Port Police that they were going to go there.

And apparently this morning, according to the Bertolino, Steve Bertolino, the family attorney, that the parents along with law enforcement found some articles that were Brian's, that's all we're told. He will not disclose what was found, or when it could have been deposited there because remember, this is an area that Brian love to go to. This is where he frequented a lot. But now the news that we have just heard the medical examiner from Sarasota County has been summoned to the nature reserve. John?

KING: Jean Casarez, appreciate the reporting and the hustle to bring it to our viewers I know stay on top of it. Appreciate it very much.

We'll be right back.



KING: To many Progressives, Senator Joe Manchin is the problem. Manchin, for example, opposes many of the aggressive new White House ideas to combat the climate crisis, perhaps understandable politics, at least at first glance, since West Virginia is a coal state. But as CNN's Rene Marsh shows us, it's not that simple. Manchin's West Virginia is being punished by climate change.


JIMMY RADER, ELK VIEW, WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT: It was rising about 1 foot an hour.

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jimmy Rader, a retired Iraq war veteran survived the deadly 2016 West Virginia flooding, but his home did not. Five years later, he's still rebuilding. In the meantime, he, his wife and three dogs called this camper home.

RADER: It's really tough with my PTSD being in such tight quarters.

MARSH (voice-over): Look around the small West Virginia town of Clendenin and it's still without a grocery store, bank and elementary school. Yet Senator Joe Manchin is blocking the most aggressive climate change legislation in U.S. history.

This neighborhood lost safe access to their homes after the 2016 flood weakened the foundation of this bridge and rested it out.

MARSH (on-camera): If someone dialed 911, could not come across this bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they'd be afraid that they wouldn't make it, that the bridge might collapse.

MARSH (voice-over): This bridge is Connie Richards lifeline to everyday life, including medical care.

CONNIE RICHARD, CLENDENIN, WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT: You just keep moving along and praying you get to the other side.

MARSH (voice-over): But even in the face of severe weather and its costly destruction, neither Rader nor Richard blame climate change.

RADER: I'm not bad (ph) into the whole climate change thing.

MARSH (on-camera): So somebody said in order to make sure a flood like this never hit your community again, we need to get rid of coal. What would you say?

RICHARD: Let it flood again. MARSH (voice-over): In the second largest coal producing state in the nation, climate change is a complicated issue. Senator Joe Manchin, one of the key lawmakers blocking the most aggressive parts of climate legislation that would drastically curb greenhouse emissions linked to climate change is currently ranked the top congressional recipient of campaign donations from the coal mining and fossil fuel industry. Manchin's personal investment in Enersystems, a coal brokerage company he founded and later put in a blind trust, is valued between $1 and $5 million.

(on-camera): Will you be OK knowing that West Virginia could continue to get hit by severe flooding because we, as a country, failed to curb greenhouse gases?

CHRIS HAMILTON, PRESIDENT, WEST VIRGINIA COAL ASSOCIATION: I think the premise is filled with malarkey. I really do.


MARSH: Well, we reached out to Senator Manchin's office to get a sense as to how much he is weighing the impact that climate change is having on his state when he's making his decisions here on Capitol Hill, but John, we have not received a response.

KING: It's fascinating when you listen to that. On the one hand, critics say look at those financial stakes Senator Manchin has, that he's in for coal because he benefits from it. But when you listen to those people, even who have suffered from the climate crisis --


KING: -- the generational family economic commitment to coal.

MARSH: It is, I mean, coal in West Virginia during my time there, it clearly is intertwined as a part of their identity. The problem is that the industry that was is not what the industry is now, it is actually shedding jobs. It's only 3 percent of the workforce now, and it's incredibly expensive just to heat your home because of their reliance on coal, but it is this desperate need to hang on to what was simply because the economy there is not diversified.

KING: It's what they know and it's what their parents --


KING: -- knew and the grandparents knew and this town has not done a good enough job of saying, if we transition, here's how we will help you.

MARSH: No they.

KING: Here's how we will help you get through it.


KING: Renee, really grateful for the reporting right there. Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics today.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.