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Booster Debate Explodes As Some Scientists Disagree With Need; Texas Business Leader: We Support Vaccines But Not "Frightening" Mandates; Californians Decide If Governor Should Stay In Office. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 08:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: In a new review, a group of international scientists says booster shots aren't needed for the general public right now. This includes two senior FDA vaccine leaders, who will be stepping down from the agency here in the coming months.

Joining us now to talk about this is Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health.

Doctor, this is interesting at a time when we are looking at vaccine booster timetables for everyone.

What is your reaction to this?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, good morning. Thanks for having me here.

I'm a little perplexed by that piece. There's some terrific scientists on there, so I want to be thoughtful about how we talk about it.

But the bottom line is that, as I look at the data, data out of Israel, data out of the United States as well, is you clearly do see waning immunity in high-risk people.

As I think about who needs boosters, elderly, frail, people with chronic diseases, the evidence is leaning towards that. Both of the companies, Moderna and Pfizer, have submitted more data to the FDA. That will become available in the next week or so.

But I think for high risk individuals we almost surely need a booster.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I want to ask you about an argument, you're hearing from Republican politicians, Jim Jordan yesterday, and other people, in surprising locations.

They will say, look, if you're vaccinated, you're protected.

What do you care if someone chooses not to get the vaccine?

It doesn't affect you, is how their argument goes.

What's your answer to that? JHA: Yes, it sounds right as long as you don't really dig deep and think about it, because here's the problem. We all live in one country, one society. For instance, if you get large outbreaks of mostly unvaccinated people, they fill up hospitals.

They have a hard time getting care. But everybody needs hospital care. If you have a heart attack, a stroke, in a car accident, you need those ICU beds and they're often not available. We're seeing that. That's one thing.

Also large outbreaks cause real economic damage. And that everybody suffers from. Of course, obviously also unvaccinated people are our neighbors and friends. We ought to care for the most humane and basic reason.

But they also live in our communities and have profound effects. I think this idea that somehow there will be large outbreaks of among unvaccinated people and everybody will be sick and dying and everybody else goes around as nothing is happening just is unrealistic.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about something you were tweeting about yesterday. You think this fourth wave in the U.S. has actually peaked.

Why do you say that?


JHA: Yes and it's always hard to call these things, right, because obviously no one can predict the future with any great certainty.

Part of it is I've been looking pretty closely across the country. And you are seeing across the entire South, which has driven the recent wave -- the recent surge, the infection numbers are coming down. It's coming down in California as well, New York. Really across the country.

Now I think part of it is people pulling back. A lot of people have gotten infected, vaccines are rising.

I don't want to be cavalier. I'm not saying it's going to plummet. What I'm saying is I think we've peaked. My hope is we come down quickly. But this has not faded. What happens next is up to us. If we do the control measures, we really can drive these infection numbers down.

BERMAN: Let's get it down. We are so close to 10,000, which is the number Dr. Fauci points to. We're so close. Let's get there. Dr. Jha, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

JHA: Thank you. Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, get vaccinated or face testing. President Biden's tough message to employees at private businesses. We'll be speaking with a business leader, who says the president has overstepped here.




KEILAR: President Biden rolling out some of the most wide-reaching coronavirus rules to date, announcing that businesses with more than 100 employees must require vaccinations or weekly COVID testing. The mandate is now facing backlash among business leaders, who say that this is a step too far, some of them at least.

Let's bring in Glenn Hamer, who is CEO of the Texas Association of Business.

Glenn, look, I know you have issues with this policy. You say that you support vaccinations. You don't support a mandate. But you've seen what happens when there aren't mandates. A lot of people don't get vaccinated.

So how is this not just providing cover or condoning a refusal to vaccinate?

(AUDIO GAP) All right, all right, I think we're having an audio -- hold on, one second, Glenn. All right, let's make sure you're not muted there.


KEILAR: You're on -- OK, talk to me, Glenn. That was beautiful. I see you, I hear you.

HAMER: Well, I'm in a hotel room in Washington, D.C. Vaccines are the single best way to get out of this pandemic. I'm at a U.S. Chamber conference with 100 great chambers across America. We are unified in our belief that vaccinations work.

I've gotten vaccinated. People need to get vaccinated. But there's a big difference between mandating vaccines and incentivizing. And I think we can all agree this was a half-baked process. This came out of nowhere. Not a single state had mandated employers to vaccinate workers of any size, employee count.

What the president should do is scrap this ill-conceived executive order, bring business groups together, bring labor groups together and hash out a way we can increase vaccination rates in America with the power of persuasion.

KEILAR: So here's an example. Delta Airlines. This is maybe not just an example of incentivizing getting vaccines but de-incentivizing not getting them, right. Delta is having a $200 surcharge through insurance per month, which is a lot of money, you know, that's $2,400 in a year, for not getting vaccines.

What about that?

Do you support that?

HAMER: Yes, I think businesses should have the ability to determine how they conduct those type of workplace situations. So if Delta has an innovative way to handle this, other companies in Texas have vaccination mandates.

But they were -- they came to that conclusion as private entities. It was not mandated by the state. It certainly wasn't mandated by the federal government.

Look, the segment you had before us, the CDC and the White House are on different pages when it comes to the booster shots.

Now I'm married to an Israeli. The booster shots are a good idea after six or seven months. So there's a lot of other things we can do to increase protection for Americans. Boosters, I think the president was right on talking about the importance of therapeutics, of surging health care but bring people together.

Bring them to the White House. Bring them virtually together. Bring business, labor. We will do a much better job of increasing vaccinations if we work together as opposed to mandates that come out of nowhere.

KEILAR: You're talking about convincing people. I mean, you've seen --


HAMER: Yes, I am, yes.

KEILAR: It's not working, Glenn. You've seen that.


KEILAR: I just want to highlight one of your arguments.

You say the vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, right?

It's also the way to get the Texas economy back on its feet. If you just go back to the economic --


KEILAR: Glenn --

HAMER: We're the strongest economy --

KEILAR: -- my question is how do you -- OK. Let me ask my question, Glenn.

HAMER: Sorry.

KEILAR: If you're looking for economic optimization, you don't want to do it at the expense of people's health. That's actually going to hurt the economy. HAMER: Sure, you have to balance lives and livelihoods. But take a

look what's happening -- I think there is a vaccine mandate at a hospital in New York. This was reported NPR, not a conservative media outlet by any stretch.

And now what's happening, they're having difficulty delivering babies because people are quitting. So when you think about President Biden's proposed vaccine mandate, it covers employers 100 or more.


HAMER: You still have 60 million or so jobs open for employers that are less than 100.

So what happens when those people leave those positions in the larger companies and go to the smaller companies?

Or they just say, we're going to stay out of the labor force?

How does --


KEILAR: But Glenn, is your counterproposal, then, you should be having unvaccinated people delivering babies?

Because that's what's going to happen without a mandate. There will be unvaccinated nurses delivering babies. And that hospital, as it pauses deliveries of babies, is looking to hire nurses, who will get vaccinated so that they can provide their services but also provide a safe place for people to get their health care.

HAMER: Yes, and I applaud companies -- I mean, look, the business community wants people to get vaccinated for -- not just economic reason. We care about the people that work at our company.

And again, vaccines are the single most effective way to beat COVID- 19. But my point is that mandate without persuasion could have unintended consequence. And what's going on in that hospital in New York is sad.

KEILAR: What would you propose, then?

You'd have unvaccinated people delivering babies.

Are you cool with that?

HAMER: No, I would want all health care personnel to, to be vaccinated. My point --

KEILAR: Why not have that in a business so that people are not jeopardizing their health in order to do work and be part of a thriving economy?

HAMER: Well, if you're, if you're vaccinated -- like, I will just tell you personally, sure, I'd rather be next to someone who is vaccinated. But I feel -- I believe in American ingenuity. I have no problem -- I

am not concerned about being around someone who's not vaccinated. I would hope they would get vaccinated for their own protection and, you know, I want them to be healthy.

But the vaccines -- the best way to handle this is bring together the business community, bring together labor. Talk about these different issues because, again, even with the president's proposal, it doesn't cover smaller employees.

An employer that employs 99 people is still fairly large.

You tell me, how does it help anyone if someone leaves a larger company, goes to a smaller company or just drops out of the labor force?

I mean, this is a half-baked proposal. No one else is commenting --

KEILAR: Half-baked?

HAMER: Everyone knows that it was. It was terrible process, it's going to be challenged in the courts. And, you know, I don't think this was the -- this was a terrible process. We want people to get vaccinated. The president should have brought people together. Instead, he did something, unfortunately, that continues to divide us and that's --


KEILAR: We'll see where this conversation goes. Just to be clear, a majority of Americans do believe in mandates for vaccines in workplaces. It's right now at 54 percent and that's up 8 percent since April. Glenn Hamer, thank you so much. It was great to talk with you this morning. Thank you.

Up next, all eyes are on California as voters will head to the polls in a couple of hours as governor Gavin Newsom fights to keep his job. CNN's John King joins us with analysis next.





BERMAN: This is it. Tonight is the deadline for California voters to vote in the recall election. Democratic governor Gavin Newsom and Republican challenger Larry Elder made their final pleas to voters.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We may have defeated Donald Trump but we have not defeated Trumpism. Trumpism is still on the ballot in California. LARRY ELDER (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: To the extent

that there still are mandates that this governor has imposed for state workers, mandates for every worker who has not been vaccinated, to be tested once a week and to wear a face mask at work, I'm going to be repealing those because I believe we still have something in this country called freedom.


BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN chief national correspondent the anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS," John King.

John, I should say on Election Day, your hands should be in mittens. You're going to be at the Magic Wall tonight. God forbid something happen, like they get shut closing a door.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: First big math test of the school year, I'm excited.


BERMAN: Be careful. Be careful for the next few hours.

KEILAR: Don't do that.

BERMAN: I know.

What should we watch for tonight?

KING: Number one, it's turnout or we should say participation. We use turnout because it's an old school word in politics; most will be cast early, mostly by mail.

One thing to watch is do Democrats participate?

Everybody in California has reason to be frustrated with their governor. We've been through 15, 16 months of hell in COVID. So everybody has some grievance against Gavin Newsom. That doesn't mean you want to recall him.

So do Democrats play, do they vote?

Do we see turnout?

Republicans are counting on overwhelming turnout. Even if every Republican turns out, it's not enough as long as Democrats participate because they have such a lopsided registration advantage.

The first rule is participation. It's a referendum on Gavin Newsom but we're going to learn a lot about, can Democrats be motivated.

You just feel bad, this cloud of COVID is with us forever.

Can Democrats find ways to motivate their voters to come out and vote?

That will be a lesson that carries over. Don't magnify a quirky recall. But turnout participation, what motivates people, what stubbornly won't motivate people, there will be lessons to be learned.

KEILAR: On the ballot is, do you want a recall essentially.

If you want to recall the governor, who are you going to vote for?

It's worth noting, the majority of Californians, they don't want for there to be a recall. That doesn't mean that's necessarily going to be reflected in the vote by numbers. That's why you've seen these sort of big guns come out for Gavin Newsom.

KING: You have this quirky law that allows, if you get the requisite number of signatures, it's on the ballot. If you look where they came from, the people who voted against Gavin Newsom in 2018 lost, were largely the driving forces that said let's try to do this again.

Let's have the recall election. Democrats have a 2:1 advantage. If they reasonably participate, Gavin Newsom is fine. But what Gavin Newsom wants is a big no. He wants a huge no vote.

So this is about something. You just had a conversation with a business leader about vaccine mandates. Again, California is not Texas. It is not Florida. It is not even Michigan or Wisconsin. Those are Democratic states. They're not as liberal as California.

But Gavin Newsom wants the voters of California to say, yes, we know masks suck but we need to keep wearing them.

We know mandates -- you don't want the government telling you what to do. But in some public health crises, maybe the government should guide us through it. There are national implications to what happens tonight. Again, I wouldn't overmagnify it but let's watch.

BERMAN: You're talking about something that Democrats can hang onto, maybe as a way to win going forward. They're clearly trying to say Larry Elder is Donald Trump. Joe Biden said as much last night on the stump.

Trump may be helping him a little bit, too, by saying the California recall is rigged even before the votes are counted here.

Will we learn whether the Trumpification of politics is still effective for Democrats?

KING: Yes. And Terri McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia, will be watching that.


KING: Anybody running in 2022 midterm elections will be watching that.

Can you nationalize, Trumpify if you will, an election when Trump is not on the ballot?

There are two pieces to the Elder in California. Number one, he gave Newsom a foil. Newsom stays, Newsom goes. That's what you want. If you're the opposition to the governor in recall, you want it to be stay or go. You do not want it to be stay or Larry Elder.

For a whole number of reasons, including, you know, his positions, right. Again, California is a very blue state. Larry Elder's positions are out of the mainstream in California. Maybe he could sell them elsewhere but they're out of the mainstream. We've had election after election in California, where candidates have run on those positions and lost. It's a blue state.

The other thing you touched on, which is something I hope every Republican around the country thinks about, the fraud when Larry Elder says it's rigged. When Donald Trump says it's rigged, the fraud is on you. The fraud is on Republican voters.

When your team loses, when Donald Trump loses, when Republicans keep losing in California, the challenge should be, how do we win the next one?

Do we need to change our ideas?

Do we need to talk to voters of color about immigration?

Do we need to talk to younger voters about climate, about same-sex marriage in a language they appreciate?

Or do we keep blaming?

We don't want to change our position so it's rigged. That is a fraud on Republican voters. They are the ones being defrauded. Donald Trump lost, there's no evidence of fraud in California.

I hope Republican voters stand up and say, why don't we try to win?

Change the team if we have to, change the ideas if we have to, find a better way to sell our ideas. If we think they're right, let's stop saying it was stolen because it wasn't.

BERMAN: John King, thank you for being here. Please protect yourself.


BERMAN: Hand mask, manicure, all these things.

BERMAN: You can watch John on CNN's special coverage of the California recall election that begins at 10:00 pm. Back in a moment.




KEILAR: All right. This is the good stuff, right. Getting back to normal is fun and after going dark 18 months ago, Broadway is back. Some of the biggest shows are returning tonight and CNN's Athena Jones is live from inside a Broadway theater with more.

This is very special, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is, Brianna, and certainly theaters like this one, shows like this are hoping people are ready for Broadway to be back.

We are inside a Manhattan theater, where a play by Ruben Santiago Hudson (ph) will be making its debut, along with several other musicals, "Wicked," "Hamilton," "The Lion King."

Broadway is essential, the re opening is essential to New York City's full reopening. It is an incredible part of the economy, contributing $15 billion the last full season, supporting 97,000 jobs.

So this is something that the mayor, the governor all want to see come back. But of course, they want to see it done safely. So there are a whole list of safety precautions involved here, proof of vaccination is required along with a government-issued ID.

You can't just show a card.