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New Day

CDC Panel Debates Boosters; Governor Commutes Julius Jones' Sentence; J.D. Vance Regrets Bashing Trump; Tennis Star Missing. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 19, 2021 - 06:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, Austria will be the first European country to reimpose a coronavirus lockdown beginning Monday. In the U.S., Pfizer and Moderna are both seeking federal approval for booster shots of their Covid vaccines for all adults 18 and over. And this afternoon, a CDC panel of advisers will meet to discuss the requests. It's possible that the FDA could actually authorize those boosters as early as today.

Let's talk about all of this with CNN contributor and former Detroit health commissioner Dr. Abdul El-Sayed.

Doctor, first off, let's talk about these universal boosters. I mean this is big news that could come as soon as today. What would that mean for the pandemic that all adults could get one?

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is really big news and it's really important right now in particular considering the fact that cases are rising in the United States. Where I am in the country, in Michigan, in fact, we became the national leader for the second time this year.

But these boosters are critical because they do reduce the probability of transmission and infection. Those breakthrough cases that have become such an issue for folks who are vigilant but vaccinated.

The real problem, though, on the pandemic is the unbothered, unvaccinated. And, among them, the key thing is, people have to get their first shot. And that really is the worry is that the boosters will be great for people who have already been vaccinated, but the worry is those folks who continue to drive this pandemic who have chosen not to get vaccinated.

KEILAR: Yes, I mean, of course that's the worry. Those -- that's where we're seeing the price being paid, right?

How should a person who is vaccinated but is not boosted be thinking about their immunity level?

EL-SAYED: Yes. Well, what we understand now, and where the science really has changed that's pushed this -- this effort by both Pfizer and Moderna to get their boosters approved for everyone, is the fact that we now have evidence that, in fact, particularly with Pfizer, that the immunologic response has waned with time. We don't really know whether or not it's with time or with delta. Those things happened at the same time, unfortunately. But we do know that those responses are waning.

And so the way to think about this really is that these shots probably should have been, rather than two shots and a booster, the way to think about it is that they really ought to have been three shot regimens to begin with. And this is just getting your third shot. So for those folks out there who have yet to boost, you know, this FDA and CDC ruling will be coming down. And as that does, I would highly recommend following the recommendations that you get. It's likely that considering where this evidence is that the FDA and the CDC are going to approve and recommend. And so I would follow those recommendations, just like you have to get those first two.

KEILAR: What should we make of how Austria is approaching this with a nationwide lockdown and the national vaccine mandate?

EL-SAYED: Well, there's a couple of things to remember here, right? They didn't have a vaccine mandate to begin with. And they're also one of the least vaccinated countries in Europe. None of us want to go to any form of lockdown at this point. And the good news is that we are more vaccinated than they are out there in Austria. But it reminds us that the vaccines really are critical. And because they were slow with the national mandate and because the vaccination level is so low, at this point, given the nature of their surge, they're in this position where the best bet they've ruled is to have this national lockdown.


But, none of us want to be there. And as we think about our circumstances here, the reality is -- and, frankly, the reality everywhere is that we sort of have a tale of two pandemics now. There is the pandemic among those unbothered, unvaccinated, which is really severe and continues to account for the highest proportion of hospitalizations and even death. And then there is the pandemic among the vigilant vaccinated, which tends to be a series of very, very uncommon, though possible, breakthrough cases that tend to be mild, if not asymptomatic. And so, you know, those who are vaccinated, they look at this and say, wow, cases are going up, that must mean my risk is going up. But, really, it's more a reflection of that stated average.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean you're saying that increasing cases here in the U.S. aren't the cause for alarm that they were this time last year. A case in 2020 isn't necessarily the same as a case in 2021.

So tell us how we should be measuring these cases then.

EL-SAYED: That's right, Brianna. We're in the situation right now where we're looking at the -- the case count, which is something that we've been accustomed to looking at from the beginning of the pandemic. And we're seeing cases go up. And, of course, this is deja vu all over again. We experienced this back before last Thanksgiving and people forwent their Thanksgiving because of it. But that's not really the case anymore. The big difference is that 60

-- actually 70 plus percent of people have been vaccinated who are eligible in this country. And that fundamentally changes the nature of this pandemic.

And so I think rather than thinking about cases, which mix together those serious cases among unvaccinated people and less serious cases among vaccinated people, we probably should be talking about hospitalizations and watching them. And then, even beyond that, we should be thinking about how we stratify those -- the hospitalization rate in counties where more people are vaccinated, say more than 70 percent, than counties where less people are vaccinated. Because the reality of this is that, if you're unvaccinated in this country, you're more likely to live among other unvaccinated people. And if you're vaccinated, you're more likely to live among vaccinated people.

And the sad thing about that is that the risk of being unvaccinated in an unvaccinated community is higher than being unvaccinated in a vaccinated community. And so there really are two different pandemics that we're watching right now that are mixing in to this one case ticker that we keep watching. And it's probably worth us asking, well, can we get a better look at serious cases and can we get a look at serious cases in communities where people have made the right choice versus communities where they have not.

KEILAR: Yes, look at the hospitalizations and look at the community demographics as well on vaccination.

Dr. El-Sayed, thank you for being with us this morning.

EL-SAYED: Brianna, it's always my privilege. Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Oklahoma's governor halting the execution of Julius Jones in this major, last minute decision.

Plus, is Trump souring on DeSantis. What we're learning about their relationship since Trump left office.

KEILAR: And, ahead, a Chinese tennis star still missing, hasn't been seen in days. Why the head of the Women's Tennis Association says he's willing to lose millions of doctors if she is not fully accounted for.



BERMAN: Just hours before his schedule execution, Julius Jones granted clemency by the governor of Oklahoma. The 41-year-old has been behind bars for 20 years. He is now sentenced to life in prison without parole for a 1999 murder. He maintains he's innocent of those charges.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us live.

You know, Ed, this was a dramatic day yesterday.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was. His attorneys -- Julius Jones' attorneys tell us he had eaten his last meal the night before the scheduled execution. And he was actually in a holding area next to the execution chamber in the middle of his last meeting with his attorneys before the scheduled execution before they got the -- when they got the news that his life had been spared by the governor of Oklahoma. His team says they are grateful that the governor prevented an irreparable mistake.


JIMMY LAWSON, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF JULIUS JONES: What an amazing win today to actually see and feel the world and all the pressure that was paying attention to this case. And then, at the last minute, we get that bucket and we saved Julius Jones' life today

MADELINE DAVIS-JONES, MOTHER OF JULIUS JONES: We will fight another day. And we're going to keep going forward. We shall not turn back.


LAVANDERA: Now, what the governor of Oklahoma ordered, John, is that Julius Jones' sentence be reduced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and without the possibility of future clemency or pardons. So, there is that caveat.

The family and supporters of Julius Jones, and this is a case that has garnered the support of millions of people across the country who signed a petition for the governor to spare his life, and they say they will continue to fight to figure out a way prove his innocence, to try to get him a new trial.

Now, the family of the victim, Paul Howell, and this is a murder that dates back to 1999, Paul Howell's family says that they understand that the governor had a difficult decision. The family has maintained that they believe there is overwhelming evidence that Julius Jones is the one that is guilty of murder of Paul Howell. They say they are -- understand that the governor's decision was very difficult and that they take comfort in the fact that they believe that the governor's announcement yesterday affirms the fact that Julius Jones is guilty.


BERMAN: We're going to hear from Julius Jones' family a little bit later in the broadcast.

Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.

So he once called Donald Trump reprehensible and now an idiot.


But now one Senate candidate is changing his tune. Why?

KEILAR: Plus, Dwyane Wade out with a new memoir about life after basketball. The never before seen photos and what he shared with us, ahead.


KEILAR: Author J.D. Vance, running for an Ohio Republican Senate seat, while running from his never Trump and well-documented never Trump past, after previously calling the former president an idiot. He also called him reprehensible. Vance is trying to transform his image from Trump critic to Trump cheerleader.

CNN's Eva McKend has more.


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (voice over): In Ohio, an outspoken Trump critic now embracing the former president.


J.D. VANCE (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE (October 19,2016): I'm a never Trump guy. I never liked him.

MCKEND: J.D. Vance, who made waves as the author of the bestselling book "Hillbilly Elegy," running for the GOP nomination in Ohio's key Senate race. In the process, having to atone for his past criticism of former President Donald Trump.

VANCE (July 6, 2021): And I've been very open about the fact that I -- I did say those critical things and I regret them. And I regret being wrong about the guy.

MCKEND: Vance deleting old tweets attacking Trump, including this one from 2016 when he wrote, Trump makes people I care about afraid. I find him reprehensible.

The author's 80 on Trump opening him up to questions from Republicans about his loyalty to the former president who won Ohio in 2016 and 2020.

SHANNON BURNS, PRESIDENT, STRONGSVILLE GOP: I think everyone should be suspicious.

MCKEND: Shannon Burns leads a group in Strongsville outside of Cleveland.

BURNS: And he was clearly a self-proclaimed never-Trumper.

MCKEND: Vance, who declined CNN's request for an interview, going all in on the culture wars.

VANCE: Think about what this says --

MCKEND: Posting a plea on Twitter in support of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager standing trial in the killing of two people in Wisconsin during racial unrest last summer.

VANCE: If we don't defend this young boy who defended his community when no one else was doing it, it may very well be your baby boy that they come for. MCKEND: And saying this in a recent interview with the far-right media

outlet "Breitbart News."

VANCE: It turns out the voters want us to fight the culture wars.

MCKEND: Vance also facing questions over blowing a deadline to disclose his personal finances. His campaign responding, we are working on this report and are just waiting for a few additional pieces of information from third parties, and noting they will file the report well within the 30-day grace period provided for in the rules.

Vance, who has financial backing from PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel, is just one of several candidates in the race vying for the Trump vote. There's also former Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel, who has made the big lie that the election was stolen from Trump in 2020 a major part of his campaign.

JOSH MANDEL (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: I believe the election was stolen from Donald J. Trump.

MCKEND: And former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: A really incredible person and friend of mine, Jane Timken.

MCKEND: Who is also embracing Trump, but trying, as well, to appeal to voters who didn't support him in 2020.

JANE TIMKEN (R), OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: I am the candidate that can build a winning coalition of the Trump supporters and the education parents and bring back those suburban voters.

MCKEND: and taking a subtle dig at her primary opponents.

TIMKEN: You can't win a race in Ohio on Twitter.


MCKEND: At a nearby forum in Strongsville last night, Vance also running from us as well. He would not take our questions. It's worth noting that Vance, Mandel and businessman Bernie Moreno, all candidates in this race, echoing the big lie, saying that the 2020 election, either rigged or stolen.


KEILAR: Yes, she's trying the Glenn Youngkin playbook. We're going to see if it works for her.

Eva, great report. Thank you.

Up next, growing concern over the whereabouts of a Chinese tennis star. The head of the Women's Tennis Association willing to lose millions until she is fully accounted for. BERMAN: Baby carrots, McDonald's and "Red Dawn." Topics covered by

Kevin McCarthy in a record-setting eight-hour speech all to try to block the Biden agenda. But, a huge vote coming just minutes from now.



BERMAN: This morning, the Women's Tennis Association taking a strong, public and what could be hugely consequential stand against China. WTA CEO Steve Simon tells CNN, if China does not fully account for missing tennis star Peng Shuai, he's willing to pull all business from the country. Peng disappeared after she accused the former Chinese vice premier of sexual assault.

CNN's Will Ripley standing by with the very latest here.

First of all, we still haven't heard anything from Peng. Let's go right to the piece here. Will Ripley has the story for us.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): silenced and disappeared for speaking out. That's what many fear is happening to Peng Shuai, the 35-year-old, one of the top-ranked doubles players in the world, accusing China's 75-year-old former vice premier of coercing her into having sex. Peng's shocking claim erased within 30 men's from Chinese social media. That was more than two weeks ago. Peng vanished from public view ever since.

Her Wabo (ph) account, with more than half a million followers, blocked. The tennis world, outraged. Serena Williams tweeting she's devastated, shocked, saying, this must be investigated. On Wednesday, an email claiming to be from Peng, released by a state-owned broadcaster. The email reattracts her allegations saying, I'm not missing nor am I unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine.

The man who received the email, the head of the Women's Tennis Association, is not convinced.

STEVEN SIMON, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: For us to see an email that basically denied what -- that happened and said it didn't and that all is great, I'm just struggling at -- to agree to that and don't believe that's the truth at all.

RIPLEY: The WTA is demanding proof Peng is OK, a probe into her allegations and says it is prepared to pull out of China, potentially losing a lucrative 10-year deal.


SIMON: There's too many times in our world today when we get into issues like this that we let business, politics, money dictate what's right.