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CDC Cuts Recommended COVID Quarantine Time in Half. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 28, 2021 - 12:30   ET



MATTINGLY: More than 7,000 cases on average are now being reported daily. Hospitalizations in the state are also ticking up, but most importantly below where they were a year ago before most folks got vaccinated.

Joining us now from Boston, Dr. Ali Raja. He's the Executive Vice Chairman of the Emergency Medicine Department at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Raja, thanks so much for joining me.

Your team at Mass General just had, I think what was termed as the busiest Christmas ever. I guess, can you tell us what you're seeing on the ground right now in this moment of the pandemic?

DR. ALI RAJA, EXEC. VICE CHAIR, EMERGENCY MEDICINE DEPT. AT MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSP.: Phil, you're absolutely right. We normally - our prior record for Christmases was 270 patients in a day, which is pretty busy. We saw almost 340 on Saturday, and it was a combination of so many things.

You know, nobody wants to be in the emergency department on Christmas and I can tell you there are so many sad stories I've had to tell people and their families over Christmas. But this Christmas was so busy because of the fact that we also had - in addition to the usual volume, so many patients who were coming in for testing because they just couldn't find tests anywhere else.

MATTINGLY: That's astounding that we're in this moment two years into the pandemic, and that's one of the things you're dealing with. Can I ask - one of the things that I've been trying to get my head around over the course of the last couple days is the idea of incidental kind of positives, right?

Where folks are coming in with something other than COVID-19. They take a test upon arrival because they have to, and boom turns out they're positive. What - is there a way to kind of calculate how many cases you're seeing that are because of that as opposed to admissions because they feel like they're really sick due to COVID?

RAJA: There is. You know, we classify those patients as either having primary COVID, meaning they're being admitted to the hospital for their COVID. They're coming in short of breath, their oxygen saturations are low, they need to be admitted because of COVID. Or patients with secondary COVID, who are coming in with a broken hip,

or a gunshot wound, or a heart attack and need to be admitted to the hospital but then we find out they have COVID when they get to us.

Right now it's about a 50/50 split of patients who have primary COVID and secondary COVID, but I have to tell you the impact of both populations is pretty significant, even if a patient isn't coming in for COVID themselves, we still have to don full PPE when we're going in to do anything from do a physical exam, or take them food for lunch after they've had their hip repaired.

And so the impact on the staff is still really significant regardless of whether or not COVID is the primary reason, or the secondary reason that they get admitted.

MATTINGLY: You know, it brings up something that I've been thinking a lot about, how's your team doing? How's your staff doing in this moment, which it seems like it's been a perpetual state of high anxiety emergency, 24-7 now going on two plus years?

RAJA: Well, I have to tell you, Phil, I've got an amazing team. They can work through anything. You know, the Boston Marathon bombing, so many big busy things that we've all been through together. But two years is a long time. You know, disasters take a day or a week at the most - this has been two years of just constant drainage.

And the thing is, that now our staff are dealing with on top of surging patients, and more and more patients at work - they're also dealing with things at home, right? There's breakthrough cases in family members, there's kids who haven't been able to go to school.

You know, this week is a holiday week, but next week kids are going to need to go back to school, and if they're out because a classmate tested positive or something, our staff have to try to arrange sitting or try to take care of them.

I'm dealing with that with my family too. So it's not just the work volume and the crushing just number of patients who are coming in, it's also everything that's going on in the rest of society that makes it really hard to be a healthcare worker these days.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, I can't - I can't even imagine. We're grateful for the work that you guys are doing, particularly in this moment in time. I know how difficult it is on you and your team.

Thanks for sharing your time, but more importantly, thanks for all the work you guys are doing.

RAJA: Thanks for having me on, Phil.

MATTINGLY: All right, coming up ahead. The January 6th Committee rolls out a new timeline for the new year.


[12:35:00] New today, CNN has learned the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol Riot could have a report out before next year's midterms. The panel is hoping to share its preliminary findings by next summer, before releasing a full report in the fall.

Our panel is back with me to discuss. And Jon Martin, I want to start with you. "The Washington Post," had a really detailed story on this as well where they quoted -


MATTINGLY: - an aid to the Chairman of the Committee Bennie Thompson, saying "we want to tell it from start to finish over a series of weeks, where we can bring out the best witnesses in a way that makes the most sense. Our legacy piece and final product will be the select committee's report."

The idea being that in the months ahead there's going to be a lot of public hearings, which we haven't had over the course of the last several months -

MARTIN: Right.

MATTINGLY: - leading to this report. What do you make of that? The idea of kind of setting the narrative, and building up the legacy, given the - I think very diffuse manner in which people view January 6 at this point?

MARTIN: It tells me that they want to obviously do oversight and accountability, which is the role of Congress in a public forum. That that (ph) is not terribly surprising, especially given the composition of this Committee. It also tells me that (ph) we're in a political season, or we're coming in one here pretty soon. And obviously the Democratic led Committee wants to hold the opposition accountable in a way that is going to remind voters of who was responsible for January 6 -


- so that's not terribly surprising either.

You know, I think they are going to have to really press the accelerator, Phil though, to get the final report done before the midterms. I think that could be a step too far, or too steep of a challenge, which makes it unsurprising that they would do some kind of an interim report before the midterms. I just think it's going to be hard for them to get this thing done before the first Tuesday of November.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and Francesca, that's not an insignificant timeline, because there's a very real chance Republicans hold the majority. And you take a look, we'll pull up the headline of that "Washington Post," report "Committee investigating January 6 attack plans to begin a more public phase of its work in the new year," clearly entering a new phase at this moment which has largely been done behind the scenes. But there's a clock ticking right now on this Committee as everybody

kind of assumes the House will flip, and this Committee probably won't exist anymore. Is that probably an accurate way of looking at it?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well, and Jonathan touches on an important point about the politics of where this is all headed.

Because I'm hearing from two different camps of Democrats, all of whom agree on the merits of this investigation, but some Democrats who feel that leadership, the White House, the Committee - all need to be much more public, they need to be more vocal about this.

But then there's this other camp of Democrats, Phil, who feel that Republicans perpetrated the insurrection, cannot be the principle argument for Democrats heading into the 2022 election. Their concern that there's not enough focus and debate being placed on the president's agenda, and his ideas as a whole, and that they need something besides anti-Trumpism, and anti-Republicanism to run on, heading into the 2022 elections.

And of course, we were just talking in the last segment earlier about whether or not they'll have some of those ideas, and progress that they want to make to be able to run on. But they do say (ph) some Democrats, that there needs to be more focus on a positive argument about what they'll do for the country.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, the macro political message versus the micro of what this Committee is actually doing. You know, Mel, I want to ask you about that, because one of the things we've seen the Committee really zero in on is the kind of war room at the Willard Hotel, which the Committee's done a lot of work on.

Chairman Bennie Thompson, telling our colleague Jim Acosta, "the 'war room' at the Willard Hotel and the individuals in it is a key part of the Select Committee's investigation. This includes anyone who communicated by telephone." And to make this abundantly clear, I want to pull up some video from January 6 that was released on Friday.

People sometimes can move away from what actually happened on that day where you see, this is part of that three hour battle between rioters and the U.S. Capitol Police. It gets more and more aggressive as the video moves on, and becomes visceral at various points. You know, what do we think the Committee is actually going to uncover as it starts to go through, I think a lot of details that we weren't necessarily aware of just a couple months ago, Mel?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, definitely. I mean, one of the things the Committee is trying to do is connect the dots between whether there was any coordination between Trump and Trump officials, and this effort to storm the Capitol and overturn the election. So they're laying out the pieces now, and I think that is what they're going to try to do in some of these hearings, and in the interim report as well as the final report.

One thing I think that's worth pointing out here, I was thinking about this the other day. The bipartisan commission that Republicans rejected would have required the investigative body to wrap up its work by the end of this week.

Republicans rejected that, and now we're in a scenario where a final report might drop right before the midterms, that could include criminal referrals for Donald Trump and others. And Republicans, they won't say this on the record, but privately I have talked to some Democrats - some Republicans who have said maybe that was not the right play call, maybe we should have gone with the commission versus the select committee -


ZANONA: - which is now going to have the spot (ph) cutting into (ph) the midterms.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, what's the difference between this Committee and the impeachment committees? There's no Republicans trying to get in the way of a lot of what they're doing. Maybe a mistake -

ZANONA: Also that.

MATTINGLY: - by the minority leader.


MATTINGLY: All right, coming up next - make or break midterms. Republicans have history on their side, but retirements by several reliable vote-getters and Trump's polarizing presence are potential hazards on the road back to a Senate majority.



Right now the Democrats have the slimmest of majorities in the U.S. Senate, balance of power 50/50 with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaking vote. Now, CNN has identified the 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022. Thirty-four Senate seats in all are at stake next year.

And I want to bring the panel back with me, because we want to do a little bit of a lightening round. What race are you watching that you find most interesting? And ever the contrarian, J-Mart obviously picked a race that is not in our top 10. Yeah - the Alabama Senate race, but - and I will grant him this, is a very good political reporter. It is a fascinating Republican primary -


MATTINGLY: - tell me why, J-Mart, when it comes to Mo Brooks and Katie Britt?

MARTIN: Because this is not about control of the Senate necessarily, but it has everything to do with the future of the Senate, the future of Congress, and what the GOP is going to look like. And the sort of nutshell version of this is you have Mo Brooks, who is one of the biggest voices on January 6, urging people to fight like hell on the Capitol who's in the House, whose running for the Senate, as Trump's endorsement.

Running against somebody who is a former Aid to Senator Shelby who's retiring, who is the Mitch McConnell preferred candidate, to be blunt about it, who is much more traditional, mainstream Conservative. Now, either of them is going to win the seat probably in the general election.


But it's this kind of race, Phil, that's going to shape what the Senate becomes, and the GOP becomes in the year - in the years ahead. Is it going to be more of a Donald Trump party, or more of a traditionalist Mitch McConnell Dick Shelby party?

MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's such a good window into it. And you talk about where Trump has influence on primaries. Mel, you're looking at Georgia, and Donald Trump made that Republican candidate - it's Herschel Walker, I think by all accounts will be running against Raphael Warnock, a fascinating race. Warnock won his Senate runoff on January 5, President Biden flipped Georgia for the first time since 1992, if I remember correctly. What are you looking at in this race right now?

ZANONA: Well, I think Georgia once again is going to be the epicenter for the battle for the control of the Senate. Democrats see this as a state that's been trending purple. They see Herschel Walker as a really flawed candidate. He has a trail of allegations behind him involving problematic and erratic behavior.

And I also think Stacy Abrams jumping into the governor's race and ensuring that voting rights are going to be center stage is also going to turbo charge the battle (ph). Democrats see that as favoring them, but Republicans have really warmed up to Walker, including Mitch McConnell.

They were impressed by his fundraising, impressed by his television performances, and it's really important that McConnell did get behind Walker, because essentially it avoids what would have been a really messy civil war in the GOP between Trump and McConnell. So that is eliminated now.

I think the big X factor that I'm watching - not just in Georgia, in all the Senate race, but especially in Georgia is whether the continued false claims of voter fraud by Trump and other Republicans in the party are going to depress voter turnout. That is something that most Republican leaders want to keep in the rearview mirror, but it'll be interesting to see whether Trump can restrain himself, especially if he's out there stumping for candidates in Georgia.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. No question about it. And Francesca, another race where the president - former president has a whole lot of influence right now in the Republican primary, North Carolina, what are you watching? CHAMBERS: North Carolina is on your list, but the reason that it's on

mine is less about whether it'll flip and more about former President Donald Trump. It'll be a true test of the power of his endorsement. He's endorsed Ted Budd, who is also backed by the influential conservative group Club for Growth. Ted Budd is competing against former Republican Governor of the state Pat McCrory as well as former Representative Mark Walker in the House.

Now, the former President Trump, he was part of a group of people who tried to influence Mark Walker to get out of that race, to run for a House race instead in order to help Ted Budd. Walker hasn't dropped out of that race yet, but is currently considering it.

Meanwhile you've got Club for Growth spending $10 million in that race to try and boost Ted Budd. What are they zeroing in on? That Trump endorsement. Club for Growth, they said if they can tell voters about the Trump endorsement, which voters might not know about because Trump is no longer in the White House, isn't on major social media platforms - that that will encourage GOP voters to back Ted Budd in that primary. Will that be an effective strategy? We'll have to wait until May to find out now that the March primary has been pushed to May.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, delayed. More fascinating months ahead in North Carolina.

J-Mart, I want to go back to you, because the political story -


MATTINGLY: - that kind of shook Washington last week was your story about another race that isn't going to be competitive in general. But whether or not Senator John Thune, widely expected to be -

MARTIN: Right.

MATTINGLY: - one of - if not the heir appearance (ph) to Mitch McConnell is considering retiring. Everybody wants to know why you wrote it, and does it mean one way or the other - I think I had 1,000 people ask me who I thought your sources were on that, which I will not ask you. But what do you think this means that Senator Thune is considering retiring?

MARTIN: Oh, I think it tells you a lot about both just how difficult it has become to serve in Congress in general, the sort of strain - especially for the Republicans who are not the Trump fans but have to obviously suppress what they really think of the former president because their base mostly still likes the former president.

And I think more broadly, it tells you a lot about the changing nature of the Republican party. If you just go back, Phil, to 2018 you'll see a succession of GOP lawmakers who chose to retire rather than run again because they just didn't want to deal with the hassle of either contending with a primary, or serving in a Trump dominated party anymore.

And you can start with Bob Corker and Jeff Flake in 2018, take it to the present day - and if Thune does retire it would become the exclamation point on those lawmakers. John Thune, only 60 years old, choosing to retire on the precipice of potentially being the leader, would send a loud statement about who is and is not eager to serve in today's GOP Congress.


MARTIN: That said, Phil, I think we're going to know some news here pretty soon on this front from Senator Thune. There's definitely folks in Congress who still think he's inclined to run again. Yes, and why they say he's a competitor - how do you walk away right now when you have a chance to be leader?


MATTINGLY: That is a tease from J-Mart.

All right, coming up ahead in just a few minutes. Crews are set (ph) to open a second time capsule found at the site of the Robert E. Lee statue.



In minutes, officials will open the second time capsule found under a statue of Robert E. Lee. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam tweeting this x-ray image of the capsule, saying experts belief it could contain coins and even Civil War ammunition.