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Pfizer: COVID Pill Reduces Risk Of Hospitalization & Death By 89 Percent; Manchin Re-Election Plans Loom As Dems Court His Critical Vote; At Least 74 Dead, 100 Plus Missing In Kentucky. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 14, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Expand there on what Dr. Gottlieb says and what anybody watching understands how this is part of their life for a long time.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXEC. ASSOC. DEAN, EMORY UNIV. SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: So John, the way I think about it, as Dr. Gottlieb said, as I think about it the same way I think about the flu, right? The influenza virus mutates continuously. So we need to be getting a new vaccine every year because the vaccine I got this year is not going to work for next year because the virus mutates. Those mutations is what we call COVID variants. We've gotten used to that known variants, it's mutations to the virus, different viruses. So you may need different vaccines.

But we also have drugs like custom like Tamiflu that in case you get infected, you can start that drug, not only it will treat you, it will prevent you from getting sick from the flu, it would also prevent you from transmitting to others. And that's what this is new drug Paxlovid from Pfizer is apparently doing. You know, in somebody who has high risk of progression of severe disease, it may not be a drug we give to everybody.

But it may be a drug you give to people who have high risk of ending in hospitalization, or its complications or even death from COVID. And if that's the case, if you can prevent hospitalizations, and severe disease progressing in 90 percent of people that will be a game changer.

KING: So I want to come back to your point about this will be just like the flu. As I do so, I just want to bring up this new Omicron study from the South African medical researchers, they say 29 percent less of a chance of hospitalization compared to the initial COVID virus. So number one, number one, should we view this what Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky both say that Omicron will soon be the dominant variant here, it will surpass Delta. Should we look at that as quote unquote, encouraging or better news than having Delta on top, if you will, because this leads to less hospitalization and deaths or what does that mean?

DEL RIO: Well, you know, I think it could be a silver lining, right. But at the same time, John, I want to caution people that we really don't know what Omicron is going to do in our country. I think in South Africa, they have, you know, 70 plus percent of people have previously been infected, they have a much younger population. So it may be that younger people don't get sick, which is what COVID does all the time. But we have to see what happens in our country, we have a much older population, we have many more people with comorbid conditions including obesity that is a major risk factor for severe disease.

So as a friend said to me the other day, I want to see Omicron go through nursing home and see what happens. And if, you know, people in nursing home get infected but don't get sick, that will be a different story. And I think we're all going to be happy. But I'm still worried that if you have a lot of people infected even at a 28 percent less risk of severe disease, you will still have a lot of people going to the hospitals. And that's what we need to avoid.

KING: So I look at the cases right now, if you just look at the cases right now, across the country, anybody watching the darker colors, mean higher rate of cases, and a lot of that we've been through this before, sadly, this is another COVID winter just a week ahead of us, Dr. Del Rio, the northern part of the colder part of the state. But back to your point, so am I going to be standing here a year from now with a map that looks like this and will there be a new COVID vaccine? Will it become like a flu shot every year where it gets rejiggered depending on what the variant of the day is?

DEL RIO: You know, John, I'm going to go out on a limb here and saying you will not be standing in front of a similar map like this. Next year, we may be, I think we're going to be seeing the end of COVID in 2022. But it may become endemic right. You may be showing parts of the country that have flashes of epidemics, but not big parts of the country lighten up like what you see right now. Right now, many, many states are having major outbreaks, healthcare systems are being overwhelmed. That's what we want to avoid.

KING: Well, I certainly hope you're right, sir. I certainly hope you're right. We'll have a different conversation a year from now, then. But I do want to ask you about this. We are right now at 798,710 COVID deaths. We will today or tomorrow get to 800,000 of our fellow Americans dying from COVID over the past since the beginning of 2020, in early 2020. That's like wiping Seattle or San Francisco off the map, put that into context.

DEL RIO: Well, you know, I put it into context that, you know, every day over 1,000 people are dying, you know, every three days, you know, 3,000 people die. But think about it, every day from the sky, two and three planes drop and people died, we would be having a crisis about what's going on. What to me is really incredible is that how numb we have become to the number of people who are dying of COVID.

And this epidemic is not over. I worry that we may reach a million before this is all said and done. But I also worry, John, about the thousands of kids who have lost one or both caregivers going forward and the number of orphans from COVID is calculated to be about 180,000. And I think that's something we're going to have to struggle with as a society going forward. The end result of COVID is not just going to be the people that died of the epidemic but the people that are left behind who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic.

KING: It's such a critical and compassionate point. Dr. Del Rio as always, sir, grateful, grateful for your time and your insights.

DEL RIO: Happy to be with you.

KING: Thank you.


Up next for us, we all have Christmas delivery questions, right? Can you count on Amazon, Santa's reindeer, how about Senator Joe Manchin?


KING: We are 11 days until Christmas now and Senator Joe Manchin is still a maybe at best on the big Biden agenda package. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says what Democrats called the Build Back Better bill will pass by September 25th. But it's pretty big but, Manchin says there's still a ton to work out. His office says there was a productive conversation. That's a quote, productive conversation, Monday, with President Biden.

Let's bring our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju into the conversation from Capitol Hill and, Manu, let's start with your effort yesterday to try to get Senator Manchin to explain what the issue is.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he has some major concerns here, John, he doesn't want just this bill to allow for temporary programs to be extended he wants the bills to actually include what could be the full breadth of the spending package. He doesn't believe that say the provisions in here that could be three or five years long, will only last three or five years long, because he argues that people, Americans, once they get these benefits, they will want them for more years and then Congress will come back and extending it.


So suggesting that a proposal could cost roughly $2 trillion is what the House plan costs is just simply not enough for him, John, so he wants to actually change a significantly parts of this bill in order to see its true cost.

KING: Standby Manu, we'll come back to you in a second. But so here's the question, does he want to deal? I mean, this has been on the table for months now, months, months, the big picture, and then, you know, the House passed the plan. It's been back and forth. If he wanted a deal, he could hand the President or Chuck Schumer or anybody a piece of paper that says here it is, this is all I can vote for, take it or leave it. Instead, we keep doing this.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, he is a man who was clearly not in a hurry to get this done, which is in such a contrast to the rest of the party. Obviously, there's no forcing mechanism here to get Build Back Better done by the end of the year. There's no government shutdown, no debt default. And Senator Manchin understanding the leverage and the influence that he has is planned to a litany of things to show that he is not yet ready to get on board and may not be by the end of this month. And as every day goes by, it seems less than likely that this will get done by the end of the year.

KING: To that point, to the litany just, excuse me for interrupting, but to the litany point, let's listen, depending on which day you ask Senator Manchin, what's the problem, you might get a different answer.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I've seen the text to a certain extent, but I just haven't seen the final, the final bill. And you asked me about inflation is real. It's not transitory. It's alarming. It's going up not down, geopolitical fallout we talked about that. I'm concerned with close to 100,000 troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border, and also with the continuous flyovers from China taunting Taiwan. I'm concerned about paying down debt too. So whatever we raise, I want to make sure there's money going towards paying down debt.


KING: I get inflation. I'm sure, I get the debt. Sure. How would providing home care or more child care or taking some steps to protect the climate impact 100,000 troops on the Russian-Ukraine border? Can you help me with that one?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I wish I could. I think what I am not hearing is this will get me to yes. He's -- and I know they don't like to negotiate with the press. That's fine. We disagree. But you're not hearing, you know, what -- this is what's going to get me to yes. And we're not even hearing that from behind the scenes, you're hearing more problems and more problems and more problems and more reasons why to say no,

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That has kind of stayed consistent throughout, right?


KANNO-YOUNGS: We have both, you know, him not revealing what we'll get him to say yes, right? And the things have changed is that we've had new things for Senator Manchin to point to continue to delay this, right? Inflation, that's not new. What we do have that's new is a report that came out that said, these are the highest inflation numbers that we've seen in roughly 40 years, right? A CBO score we have -- that has been a topic of conversation in terms of Manchin expressing concerns about the price of this. But, again, that CBO score also was talking about an extension. He would have a vote in any certain extent. And then he said extension on some of these provisions. So there's still a lack of clarity here. And we'll see where he ends up getting.

KING: And to be to be fairer to the senator, Manu Raju, look, he's from Trump's second best state. He might run for reelection. You've been trying to poke around on that, how much does 2024 and the possibility of Manchin asking the people of West Virginia for six more years, factor into what he's willing to do today?

RAJU: Well, he told me that it is not a factor for him. But in talking to a lot of the folks who are dealing directly with Joe Manchin, they recognize the difficult political position he could be in if he moves ahead with this vote. Remember, this is of course a state that Donald Trump won by 39 points. This is a state that has trended during the Republican direction dramatically.

And also remember what happened in 2018. He was the lone Democrat to vote for Brett Kavanaugh and confirm him to the Supreme Court. He campaigned on that. He won by just three points and his potential opponents are watching how he handles Build Back Better as well. One of them is Alex Mooney of West Virginia told me that if Manchin does something that's conservative, the conservative voters like it. They like opposing Build Back Better.

If he goes and supports it, he's going to get backlashed. But it's also, John, not that easy, because if he is the decisive vote to tank this bill, his own core supporters will vote -- revolt as well, which is why all of this could play big not just for the Democratic agenda, but also for Joe Manchin, his own hopes, he told me quote, I am considering running again. He said I'm not ruling it out. And I said to your voters want this bill. He said there are challenges let me put it that way.

KING: Well, that's a fair statement. There are challenges like I said, 11 days until Christmas. We will track this drama daily, daily, Manu on the North Pole there up on Capitol Hill for us, keeping track.


Up next for us, a live update on the recovery efforts in Kentucky as President Biden prepares. You see the pictures right there, Memorial visit to the areas hardest hit by these deadly tornadoes.


KING: President Biden is set to visit tornado ravaged areas of Kentucky tomorrow. At least 74 people are dead more than 100 are still missing in Kentucky alone, 12 of those dead we now know are children. The ages of the victims range from just two months to 98 years old. Mayfield is one of the hardest places hid in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. And CNN correspondent Brian Todd is there now. Brian, what's the latest?


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you mentioned the more than 100 still missing. That means there is still a very urgent search and rescue situation operations going on all over this area in Mayfield and the surrounding areas that were so hard hit by this. So again, very dynamic situations here, this is like three and a half days now, since this tornado hit this town and all the series of tornadoes hit the state.

Governor Andy Beshear talked a little while ago about the one piece of good news that we've gotten in the last several hours. That is the fact that everyone in that candle factory just outside Mayfield, where they lost eight lives. But they now know that everyone has been accounted for, there had been eight people listed as being missing. But the Governor did update along with some emergency officials earlier and say that they now have accounted for everyone. Here's what the governor said a short time ago.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We certainly hope that our miracle, our prayers were answered, and that that is just eight that are ultimately lost there. If you saw it in person, you believe that's a miracle.


TODD: And our team actually did see that in person yesterday, John, that factory was completely leveled. If there was anyone in there then we wouldn't have believed that they would have pulled anyone out alive. But the good news is there were more than 100 people in that factory. And it looks like all but eight got out alive. That was some very positive news and much better news than they have actually expected, John.

KING: And we will take that snippet of good news amid all that tragedy. Brian Todd, grateful you're there keeping track of the latest for us in Kentucky, thank you.

Up next for us, the House vote soon on a bill to combat Islamophobia worldwide. It is a reaction to racist comments by one Republican congresswoman.



KING: The House votes today on a proposal to create a special envoy to monitor and combat Islamophobia. The legislation is sponsored by Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. It is a reaction to Islamophobic rants by Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert which included labeling Omar a terrorist.

I'll bring the conversation in the room. This is how Congresswoman Omar described her legislation in a tweet today, a full House of Representative votes on the Combating International Islamophobia Act. Until everyone is free to practice their religion, no one is. It is a global effort. It would be headquartered at the State Department. But this is interview the Congresswoman gave Sunday where she makes clear what she's really worried about is Congressman -- Congresswoman Lauren Boebert.


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): My worry is for the hundreds and millions of Muslims, especially young woman and women who wear the hijab, who might be put at risk because of this dangerous rhetoric that's being trafficked by members of Congress. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There has, you know, she's right. She's right. She was subjected to an Islamophobic racist rant from Congresswoman Boebert and that was then magnified by some of Boebert's friends. The question is, is this the best way to deal with that?

KIM: It is certainly the way that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chosen to deal with this issue because obviously, in response to those Islamophobic comments, you know, Congresswoman Omar and others in Democratic caucus wanted to go much further, they wanted to punish Congresswoman Boebert either, you know, center her, strip her off Committees. But that is a tactic that is making Democratic leadership nervous. Democratic leaders have already done that for two other Republicans this year. And whether they believe this is justified or not. And they clearly believe that it is and that those horrible Islamophobic comments may or should be condemned, they are worried about setting some sort of a precedent for next year when or if Republicans take back the majority that they that Republicans in power start stripping Democrats off their committees. So this is the solution that Pelosi has landed on for now. And she felt was the best path forward.

KUCINICH: On the fact of the matter is Congresswoman Omar will likely be a target of that effort.

KIM: Right.

KUCINICH: I mean Kevin McCarthy has made that as clear as he can, that that if there is retribution, she will likely be at the top of the list.

KANNO-YOUNGS: And just the idea that Democrats -- that the House Democratic leadership is worried or concerned about overusing this ability to strip assignments, it does also just tell you kind of about the current state of the House as well. The idea that now we have had three incidents in recent months, where members are using either violent imagery, violent language, fear mongering, xenophobia. I mean, it does just also show you about the current state of the rhetoric coming out the House as well.

KING: And the ranking Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee says this, he says, well, OK, I'd like to have this conversation. But that's not really what this legislation is about.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX) RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: It's hard to conclude that we're here today to conduct a series exercise to address religious persecution of Muslims. And I'd be happy to do that. Rather, it's clear to rushed partisan messaging bill meant to portray Republicans as indifferent to the persecution of Muslims.


KING: It may well be, sir, effort to portray Republicans as insensitive, but if your leadership would speak up publicly and condemn it publicly, maybe you'd have better standing to make that argument.

This quick programming note for us on Sunday, you don't want to miss this. Join Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a look at how some families with autistic kids are finding hope in cannabis. And see how for some hope comes at great risk. This new CNN special report Weed 6 Marijuana and Autism begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.


Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics today. Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcasts. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.