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What to Watch: Boosters, Vaccines for Kids, Delta & Schools; Biden Gears Up for Consequential Fall; Texas Clinics Taking Multipronged Action against Texas Abortion Law; COVID to Continue to Impact Entertainment this Fall; Dr. Anthony Fauci is Interviewed on COVID Trends, Vaccines. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, September 7. I'm Brianna Keilar. And Jim Sciutto here today in for John Berman.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here.


KEILAR: America is bracing for a critical few months in the fight against the pandemic and the fate of bills that could forever change the country.

This morning the Biden administration is gearing up for fights that could shape the outcome of next year's congressional elections. From reining in coronavirus to a Capitol Hill battle over infrastructure, the president's legacy is very much on the line.

It has been a summer of relentless challenges, including the chaotic exit from Afghanistan, in-fighting within the Democratic Party, and a series of natural disasters.

SCIUTTO: So in a matter of hours, President Biden will leave the White House to tour the damage in New York and New Jersey after the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought just historic catastrophic flooding that killed at least 52 people. People drowning in their cars, in their homes.

And children across the country, they're back in school today at a time when the seven-day average of new coronavirus infections is more than 300 percent higher than Labor Day last year. Dr. Fauci will join us shortly, but we begin with a preview of what to watch with the pandemic and in Washington as we exit just a tumultuous summer and head into the fall.

Let's bring in CNN's Brynn Gingras.


There are school districts across the country with kids already in class and others like New York City set to begin in the coming week. The goal, of course, is to get as many kids back in the classroom as possible while keeping the COVID cases town. The Delta variant is still dominating, and we know there are vastly

different rules governing school districts all across this country. So that's why health experts health experts advise, to achieve that goal, stick to the science.

The CDC encourages mask use in all schools to protect students, though what're seeing is a mixed bag of mask adherence across the country: some requiring masks, others not, others making laws against it, and others only making it mandatory for the unvaccinated. So we'll see how all of that will impact outbreaks in our schools in the coming months.

One thing is for sure this fall: the school year will be anything but normal for students yet again. Which gets me to the next thing we'll be looking out for in the coming months: when kids under 12 will be able to get the vaccine.

It's obviously taking longer than parents sending their young children back to school feel good about, as we see the Delta variant is finding the unvaccinated.

Trial data is still being gathered. Once that's done, it will be submitted to the FDA. Pfizer thinks it will be able to hand in its information by September and then file for emergency use authorization by October, according to a doctor who sits on the Pfizer's board.

Of course, Dr. Fauci says in the meantime, the best to keep those who can't get vaccinated safe: surround them with people who are vaccinated.

This fall we'll also be keeping an eye on the hospitals and how the booster shot will impact COVID cases, particularly against the deadly Delta variant.

Dr. Fauci told CNN Pfizer has submitted information to the FDA, and the booster rollout is coming soon. He also said Moderna's booster will lag behind.

So we'll be also looking ahead to September 17, when Israel's health officials will brief the FDA about the efficacy of the third dose. Israel's been administering the booster shot to its vaccinated people since August 1, as we know -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Thank you, Brynn. Well, it's been a difficult month for President Biden. He's now entering what is arguably the most critical few months of his presidency.

Phil Mattingly is live at the White House. So Phil, what do you expect?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, for White House officials, it was an August to forget that has now given away to a very daunting September. But it's one where you're going to see an aggressive posture from President Biden and White House officials, according to officials I'm talking to, starting with the coronavirus pandemic. We're expecting the president this week to give what White House

officials are saying are major remarks related to the pandemic. Now, keep in mind: the ability to kind of wrangle and handle the pandemic was one of the driving elements of the president's approval ratings up to this point. Those approval ratings have obviously dropped on net, and it's certainly dropped as it relates to the pandemic.

Now, officials believe that a focus on the pandemic and the very real tools they have to address it is critical to bringing those ratings back up. But perhaps more importantly, restore some confidence in a country that has, I think, been kind of in the midst of malaise in the wake of the last several weeks as the Delta variant has surged.

Now, that will come in parallel to a major push on the domestic legislative agenda front. Remember, the president has two items moving in tandem. A $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion expansion of the social safety net. That latter proposal, aides have been working behind the scenes feverishly over the course of the last couple of weeks to draft the details of that bill. Both congressional committees, White House officials have basically a September 15 deadline to finalize those details.

They also now have a deadline on that infrastructure proposal. House Democrats agreeing to a September 27 deadline between moderates and Speaker Nancy Pelosi to consider that legislation.

So Jim, in the weeks ahead, pretty much the core, everything the president has laid out for his legislative agenda on the economic side, will have to be done in the next few weeks. It is quite a needle to thread.

But one thing to keep in mind: Afghanistan isn't going away. We talked to White House officials. They want to focus on domestic issues. They want to shift the focus to things, but they recognize Afghanistan is still a very real issue on their plates.

As one House Democrat told me last night, if they think this is leaving, they're kidding themselves.

One thing to keep an eye on: September 14, the first Senate hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to testify -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And a lot of people still fleeing that country for their lives. Thank you, Phil Mattingly.

KEILAR: And so much, of course, happening on Capitol Hill, as you heard Phil talking about there. Let's head to Lauren Fox to discuss that.

This is quite the battle ahead when it comes to the Biden agenda.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right, Brianna. Look, I mean, you only have a matter of weeks to get some must-pass legislation through the House and through the Senate. One of those top priorities, of course, is funding the government.

Without cooperation from both Republicans and Democrats, you're going to miss that September 30 deadline, and you have a government shutdown. So that, of course, is a top priority.

Democrats are also looking to raise the debt ceiling. And this is potentially problematic. Because you have 46 Senate Republicans who have already signed a letter saying they aren't going to help. You need 60 votes, which means you are already starting short on the votes you need.

So that's going to be another major showdown this fall. The Treasury Department can take extraordinary measures but only for so long, Brianna.

You also, of course, have that infrastructure agenda that Phil mentioned, and that's going to be a tough high-wire act for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, because she can only lose three votes, and she has to keep her moderate members and her progressive members on board with both a bipartisan proposal and that $3.5 trillion proposal that would reimagine the social safety net.


You also have in the backdrop, if you will, the January 6th probe, which of course, is going to put more political emphasis on what is already a very tough and long agenda of must-pass items ahead -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. You are going to be busy, Lauren Fox. Thank you so much, live for us on Capitol Hill.

The Supreme Court is also in the spotlight after the majority allowed a near total abortion ban in Texas to go into effect. And Ariane de Vogue is with us now on this. Tell us the latest here, Ariane.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the clinics are reeling now that the Supreme Court allowed this law to go into effect that allows almost anyone to bring suit against somebody who they think are assisting in an abortion.

So the clinics are trying this three-part strategy: on the ground, in courts, and pressuring the government.

On the ground, of course, they've got to help these women, who are trying to travel across state lines to get the abortion that they can't get.

And then in the other areas, they're trying to go in court, because of course, this law has now been blocked. And they want to get back into court. But in order to get back into into court, the procedure has to be performed. So it's kind of a catch-22 here, what to do.

So they're trying a piecemeal approach, and that piecemeal approach would be to go and try to get temporary restraining orders against some of these vigilantes. But that sort of piece by piece. And then they hope to eventually get to the Texas Supreme Court.

And finally, they're trying to put pressure on the government here, bring the force of the federal government. And we saw already Merrick Garland yesterday said he was going to use a law on the books that's supposed to bar people from intimidating women in front of clinics. He's hoping to use that. There are other ideas being floated.

But going forward here, you've got to look at a few things, the future of Roe. The Supreme Court is going to be examining that in a Mississippi case.

You have to think about conservatives are a little bit worried here, right? Because if you can bring this against abortion, could a vigilante do it in regards to the Second Amendment? So that's something to be -- to take into consideration.

And of course, people are still -- liberals are still wondering if Justice Breyer is going to retire. So that will be something that we'll look at. He'll be under increased pressure.

KEILAR: Yes. They're sort of pressuring him. When is he going to do it if he's going to do it? Maybe the question is maybe when. But he's facing a lot of pressure.

Ariane, thank you so much for that.

DE VOGUE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, in the world of entertainment, coronavirus will have a major impact on everything from sports to movies. Lisa France joins us now.

LISA FRANCE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT WRITER: Hi, yes, when it comes to pop culture and movies, and TV and sports, everybody wants to get back to where we were prior to the pandemic, but it's complicated.

Broadway has really led the way in terms of requiring vaccinations. They've also created positions like the COVID safety manager in an attempt to keep everybody safe and have them be able to return to the theaters. They also have been doing a lot of testing.

Movie production has been doing the same thing. They're testing everyone. They're trying to make sure that people can film as safely as possible. They're requiring masks.

The question is going to be, will people return to the theaters, especially now that they've had more than 18 months, in order to get comfortable with watching movies from home?

And that seems to really depend on are we going to see the death of the family returning to the movie theater en masse, in whole? Because people were concerned with the Delta variant about their children who are too young to be vaccinated. So for some of them, they don't have a problem as adults going to the movie theater, but they don't necessarily want to bring their kids. and we know that family movies have been big business for Hollywood. In terms of sports, sports teams have been very active, making sure

that their athletes get tested. But when it comes to the spectators, people are falling on different sides. You know, do you require vaccinations? Do you not?

But when we, as people watching these sporting events, we see these huge crowds. You can't help but think, is the Delta variant running rampant -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: A lot of crowded college football stadiums this weekend, certainly. Lisa France, thanks very much.

FRANCE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, Dr. Anthony Fauci will join us live. Kids are going back to school. When will Americans expect booster shots and what we know about the danger of the new variant.

KEILAR: Plus, just in, Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealing that the U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban right now to keep evacuations going.

And why is Russia's space chief jealous of American billionaires? We have an exclusive CNN interview ahead.



SCIUTTO: It was back to school today in many states. I'm sure many of you getting those kids ready for school right now.

It comes with concerns over an increasing number of coronavirus infections. There's also news of new variants.

The United States has been averaging around 160,000 new coronavirus infections per day. Deaths also quite high and, in some areas, hospital ICUs are nearing a breaking point.

Joining us now, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor on coronavirus to President Biden, also director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Fauci, always good to talk to you.


SCIUTTO: All right. Top of minds for many parents today, kids are going back to school. Many have been back in school for a couple of weeks now. How much should we expect an increase in infections among children under 12 not yet vaccinated as they go back to school, particularly in many states where they're not even allowed to require masks, for instance, in school? How concerned are you?

FAUCI: Well, that's the issue that you just mentioned, Jim. If we do things right, we hope that we don't see much increase at all.


If we want to protect the children, particularly those who are not yet eligible for vaccination, you want to surround the children with people who are vaccinated: teachers, school personnel, everyone else.

But also, in order to protect those who can't get vaccinated, there are certain simple things you have to do. You mentioned one of them. Universal masking in the school.

And even though there are, you know, some government leaders locally who are trying to push back on that, we've got to get the school system masked, in addition to surrounding the children with -- with vaccinated people. That's the solution. We don't need to see a big uptick at all in cases if we do it right.

SCIUTTO: The trouble is, as you know, politics still trump the science, right? You listen, for instance, to the governor of Florida, one of the states, of course, that has banned mask mandates. The way he described vaccinations was really remarkable, and again, defies the science. I want to play it now, just describing who the vaccine is for. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The vaccines have helped people ward off severe illness, and you know, we obviously work very hard to distribute it. At the end of the day, though, it what somebody -- it's about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn't impact me or anyone else.


SCIUTTO: That's false. Please explain to folks right now why that's false.

FAUCI: Absolutely. Well, I mean, I didn't hear him very well from the sound, but, I mean, if he feels that vaccines are not important for people, that they're just important for some people, that's completely incorrect.

Vaccination, Jim, has been the solution to every major public health issue in which a vaccine was developed for. I mean, smallpox, polio, measles. I'm not sure what people are talking about when they push back on vaccinations. It has historically, over decades and decades and decades, shown to be the way you control an infectious disease.

SCIUTTO: Beyond that, I mean, to clarify, his point at the end there was to say, it's just a personal choice about yourself. It doesn't impact anybody else. Explain why that's just not true.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, that's not true at all. I mean, obviously it's important for you as an individual, for your own personal protection, safety and health. But when you have a virus that's circulating in the community, and you

are not vaccinated, you are part of the problem, because you're allowing yourself to be a vehicle for the virus to be spreading to someone else.

So it isn't as if it stops with you. If that were the case, then it would be only about you. But it doesn't. You can get infected, even if you get no symptoms or minimally symptomatic, and then pass it on to someone who, in fact, might be very vulnerable: an elderly person, a person with an underlying disease.

So when you're dealing with an outbreak of an infectious disease, it isn't only about you. There's a societal responsibility that we all have.

SCIUTTO: Sad fact is a lot of folks aren't making choices based on that science or that responsibility to others in their community. We have the Delta variant. It has been leading to an increased number, not just of infections but, crucially, deaths.

Do you anticipate that, in the coming weeks, that will tail off at all? That the fall will be worse? Or is it possible it might be better, that those -- those increases, we'll see those graphs kind of come off these peaks?

FAUCI: Well, Jim, it could go either way, and it's up to us. We have the capability within our own selves, our own decision-making process, as to whether or not we want to go in the direction of diminution, we can do that. We have the tool to do it.

We have about 75 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated. If we get the overwhelming majority of those people vaccinated, we could turn this around, even as we go into the cooler weather of the fall. We can do it. It's within our grasp.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because beyond that question of getting the portion of the population, about a quarter to this point, who is still not vaccinated, you now have this question of, for the vaccinated, when and how urgently they might need a third shot. I mean, we're moving in that direction.

My question is will it become that this is really not so much a two- dose vaccine, right, a Pfizer or Moderna, but really a three-dose? In other words, you will need that third shot, that booster, to be truly protected from this virus.

SCIUTTO: Right. I think the latter, Jim. I mean, given the experience I've had over many years with vaccines, it looks very much like it isn't as if two doses of a vaccine are failing. It's that the proper regimen will very likely, as we look back on it months from now, will be that three doses is really what you should be getting of an mRNA. That might be two doses for a J&J.

[06:20:22] But for the mRNA, we know from studies that are already ongoing in Israel that when the degree of attention against infection and even severe disease goes down to a certain precarious level, when you give the person that third boost, you dramatically increase the level of protection, even more so than before the boost. It goes up to and beyond the level of protection.

So I mean, I believe strongly that, ultimately, we are going to see that as proper regimen, three doses of an mRNA.

SCIUTTO: And that's a good point you just made there, that that third dose makes you even more protected, as an incentive.

Trouble, of course, has been some mixed messaging, some movement of the time line on when that third dose will be fully approved. I know you have said that you still believe by the week of September 20, or close, that the White House will be able to move forward on its plan for booster shots. But governors, understandably frustrated about some of this guidance. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.


GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): We've got people that are well beyond six months that are 60 and older, that need the booster shot. And we can't give it to them, because we're being held up by, you know, the nation and on the federal level right now.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): We need clear guidance on these booster shots, because it undermines, you know, the credibility of it.


SCIUTTO: When, in your best guess, will not just governors but folks watching right now know exactly when and what boosters they will get and should get?

SCIUTTO: Well, we're still aiming for the week of September the 20th. It would have been optimal to get, at least with the mRNA's, to get both Pfizer and Moderna to roll out the booster program at the same time simultaneously. It looks now, it is possible, and I think likely, that you will see Pfizer get ruled out -- get rolled out first, because the data that they submitted to the FDA.

Remember, you've got to get approval. All of this, Jim, and we've said that from the very beginning, is contingent on the FDA regulatory approval and the recommendation of the advisory committee and immunization practices to the CDC.

Pfizer has gotten those data into the FDA. They're going over it now. I think they're going to be on time. Moderna may be a bit behind but not much. So I think that you're going to get both of them out. They may not be absolutely simultaneously. But it's going to be close.

SCIUTTO: By the end of this month?

FAUCI: I would hope so. I think they're probably no more than a couple of weeks behind, if that much.

SCIUTTO: OK. Big picture, there's a question now, right -- you're familiar with this -- about is there a point where we begin to live with COVID-19 to some degree, that it becomes less of a pandemic response, more of what's known as an endemic response? In other words, it's one of many, though severe diseases, infections we live with. Are we reaching that point?

FAUCI: I think we're going to get there. And as I said before, in answer to one of your other questions, Jim, we will get there depending on how successfully we vaccinate our population.

If we get more people vaccinated, we really give a big dent into that 75 million people who are eligible, but not vaccinated, we will turn this around from the standpoint of it will no longer be an outbreak. It will be there. You're not going to completely eradicate it.

But right now, we are in outbreak mode. We have 160,000 infections per day. That's a pandemic. We can get that way, way down. We may not get rid of it completely. You may see intermittent cases that will come and break through, which will be manageable. It will not interfere with our lives. It will not be a public health threat.


FAUCI: How soon we get there is dependent on us. It's how soon we get those people vaccinated who are not vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: OK. So depending on us, taking reasonable health precautions. I noticed this weekend, watching a little bit of college football -- we're going to show some pictures here now -- big crowds in stadiums. Not clear who was required to be vaccinated. Recommendations for masks, but as you can see in these pictures, folks just weren't doing it.

I mean, is this kind of behavior going to get us on the other side of this? Or if we keep doing this, are we going to be kind of stuck in outbreak mode?

FAUCI: Well, we could be stuck in outbreak mode, and that's why I think what you're going to be seeing, in addition to the fact that we're -- people are getting voluntarily vaccinated now on a more and more basis. As you said, we've been a couple of days, even, over a million per day.


I think you're going to see a lot more local mandates, Jim. I think there are going to be organizations. There are going to be universities. There are going to be colleges. There are going to be sports events, travel events where the rule is going to be if you want to participate, you get vaccinated. If not, sorry, you're not going to be able to do it.

And I think when we get more and more of that, I think we're going to start seeing a great diminution in the number of cases. SCIUTTO: Listen, I get folks want to go back to normal life. They want

to go to games, right? I want to go -- I want to go to games. But when you look at crowds like that, do you approve of that? Or is that just not smart?

FAUCI: No, I don't think it's smart. I think when you're dealing particularly -- you know, outdoors is always better than indoors, but even when you have such a congregant setting of people close together, first, you should be vaccinated. And when you do have congregant settings, particularly indoors, you should be wearing a mask.

SCIUTTO: It's good advice, Dr. Fauci. Let's hope more folks listen to it. Thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

FAUCI: Thank you for having me, Jim.

FAUCI: President Biden, he's heading to New York and New Jersey to see the catastrophic damage inflicted by Ida. One of the mayors from the hardest hit areas will join us next.

KEILAR: And Hollywood and millions of fans stunned by the sudden death of Michael K. Williams. We'll have former costars from "The Wire" join us ahead.