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FDA Authorizes Second Antiviral Pill for COVID, From Merck; Ex- Officer Kim Potter Guilty of Manslaughter in Daunte Wright's Death; NYT: Harris Allies Concerned Biden "Does Not Need Her to Govern". Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 24, 2021 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:00:02]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The airline industry is pushing the CDC to shorten the required isolation time for airline workers who have been exposed. The CDC has already done so for health care workers. This as overburdened hospitals bracing for spike in cases this winter.

Under the new guidance, asymptomatic workers who've been vaccinated and boosted can now return to work after seven days, that is with a negative test.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, the omicron variant setting new records, easily topping daily case numbers set during the delta wave. The average number of daily new cases, 182,000. But, and this is really important to focus on, we are not seeing hospitalizations rise at the same rate.

Want more good news? Well, for the second time this week, the FDA greenlit an anti-viral pill for COVID. This one is from Merck. For immunocompromised Americans who aren't well protected by vaccines, an effective drug from AstraZeneca. The U.S. government only ordered enough for a 10th of the people eligible for it.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joining us now with more on these developments.

Elizabeth, good morning.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Good morning.

Yes, we -- the situation here is that as the numbers are rising, we are seeing cases rise but not seeing hospitalizations go up as much. Now, I want to talk about one group of Americans that I don't think we talk about as much as we should and that's the immune-compromised.

Folks, who are immune-compromised, millions of them, did not get a response to the vaccine in the same way healthy people did. They are now vulnerable to COVID-19 because they didn't get the antibody response they should have.

So I want to introduce you to four of them. One of them, her name is Diane Barren (ph). She's in Florida. She has cancer.

Diane Ellis (ph), she's in Arkansas. Eris Bowder (ph), he's in Hawaii. Candy Johnson, she's in Virginia.

Cancer patients, they're immune-compromised. And there is drug can help them called Evusheld, which was just authorized this month. But take a look at this. There's 7 million immune compromised people who are eligible for this drug. But unfortunately the U.S. government has ordered only 700,000 doses of this drug that can help them. These folk, who were excited to have this are thinking, wow, will I be one of the lucky few or will I continue to be vulnerable to COVID-19 -- John, Erica.

HILL: Yeah, that's tough to see, knowing there is something you could benefit from but there is such a small amount of it. What do they then do with that information?

COHEN: You know, what they do is they have to keep isolating themselves, keep staying away from people, as we hear the president say good out and enjoy Christmas. We're not shutting things down.

Well, you know what? The world is shut down for these people. They know their convenience did not produce anti-bodies. They have blood tests that show that. And so they have been told by doctors, you know what, you need to pretend it's March 2020 all over again.

So, all they can do is make phone calls, talk to their doctor, talk to their health state department, trying to get one of these precious doses. When only contracted is one tenth of the population, they're not confident they will be one of them.

HILL: You said they got the vaccines but their bodies didn't produce antibodies. That's two shots, right?

COHEN: Or three. Or some of them four.

That's right. When you're immune compromised. And they're a miracle. They give your body an instruction manual for how to make antibodies. So, my system can read that, your system can read that. If you're immune compromised, your system says, huh, what is this? I don't get it. I can't act on this.

So, what Evusheld does as a monoclonal antibody, it just gives you antibodies. It just shoves antibodies into you. And that's not the first choice. The vaccine is better.

But if your body can't read the instruction manual, if your immune system doesn't get, monoclonal antibodies are really your only alternative.

HILL: Yeah. Hopefully, there will be more. Elizabeth, appreciate it. Thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Carlos del Rio. He is executive associate dean of Emory School of Medicine.

Dr. del Rio, good to have you back.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Good morning, Jim.

SCIUTTO: You look at the travel numbers, people decided to live with the virus, have their vacations with omicron. By the way, that's what health officials like Dr. Fauci and the president are saying, pgs as long as you're vaccinated.

Do you have any concern of this many people traveling, seeing friends and family, and are there any simple precautions you would recommend?

DEL RIO: Well, Jim, I mean, everybody is traveling, including myself.

[07:05:02]

We're all going to see an increase a number of cases. Yeah, I think if you're vaccinated, especially if you're boosted, but if you're fully vaccinated, you are at much lower risk of getting infected, much lower risk of ending up sick. So, you may end up staying in isolation. Maybe you need to be isolated another 7 to 10 days at a beach, which wouldn't be that bad.

But the reality is, if you use a high-quality mask, something that fits very well, like an N-95, K-95, you keep it on all the time, use eye protection when you travel. Be careful of what you do. People take care when they travel. They go to restaurants, bars. That's where you get infected.

So, if you're going to eat, eat outdoors. Use testing. I have been using a lot of testing. I got together two nights ago with my family. We all got tested 24 hours before and right as we were entering our bubble. And we were all negative. And I think it's going to be fine.

So if you do testing, you're going to be okay. You really need to take precautions. You don't want to get infected during a vacation. .

SCIUTTO: Sure, it's already a big change. You are saying, as others are saying, if you're vaccinated, you can keep living through the holidays. I want to ask about another change. We saw the CDC reduced the required quarantine time of health care workers from 10 to 7 to alleviate any shortage of them but also based on the science.

You have airlines asking for a similar change. And I imagine other industries and companies might follow.

Do you believe that quarantine time should be shortened more broadly?

DEL RIO: I strongly believe that, Jim. I sign a letter with the CEO of delta and the chief medical officer for Delta Air Lines. The three of us sent a letter to CDC director asking specifically to do that for Delta. We think that airline pilots are central personnel. If you have a sick crew, you're not going to be able to have a flight.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

OK. The other positive development is a second pill to treat COVID. Now, at first, this is about if you test positive to keep you from getting sick and going to the hospital. But I just had a senior executive from Merck on who said it's possible it gets to the point where you can take this to prevent getting infected. And I wonder if you believe that's where we're going here?

DEL RIO: You know, Jim, I'm not sure of the data. I'm very excited about the approval of Molnupiravir. I'm not sure it's going to be -- I seen data that it works for prevention. It will be nice to have a drug that works from prevention.

We already heard from Elizabeth about Evusheld. Evusheld is a monoclonal antibody given by IV who will be helping immunocompromised people. That is a preventive therapy. You can use some other monocolonal antibodies to do that.

I have not seen that data with pills. But, yes, having something that prevents -- the approval of both Molnupiravir and Paxlovid, the one produced by Pfizer, the one produced by Merck, is really game changers. We desperately need oral therapies for COVID and this is a very good development indeed.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

Okay. Now, going forward, the data does seem to be good on omicron. South Africa, Israel, that, one, doesn't causality of severe illness. But also it burns out quicker. And I wonder if you believe we're going to get relief from omicron perhaps sooner than we expected.

DEL RIO: Well, Jim, I believe so. I hope so. The modeling suggests we will peak in the number of U.S. infections the second or third week of January. Then we're going to see a decrease in infections probably going through middle of February, to late February.

So, yes, I do think this is likely going to happen. And again, the disease is significantly modified, not only because of the virus, but also because people are immune. If you have a lot of people with immunity, the clinical course of the virus is going to change. That's where vaccines are helping us.

In New York, for example, not having a huge spike in hospitalizations, having a huge spike in infections I think is very good news

SCIUTTO: It's good to hear good news.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, merry Christmas to you and your family.

DEL RIO: Merry Christmas, sir.

HILL: Former Minnesota police officer Kimberly Potter found guilty on two counts of manslaughter for the killing of Daunte Wright. Potter said she mistook her gun for a Taser during a traffic stop in April. She's now facing about seven years in prison over the state's sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors say they will seek a longer term. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live in Minneapolis this morning with more.

Adrienne, you have been covering this case. Walk us through what happened yesterday.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you mentioned, Erica, members of this jury found Kimberly Potter guilty on both charges.

[07:10:01]

After 26 years of protecting and serving a community she loves, the former police officer is waking up behind bars this morning. As she was escorted away by two Hennepin county sheriff's deputies, her husband Jeff, who was at her side, every day at the courtroom, could loudly be heard saying, I love you, Kim. She turned and looked back and replied with, I love you, too.

The Wright family was also inside the courtroom. And Daunte Wright's mother began to cry when that first guilty charge was read. We learned during the reading of the verdict yesterday that members of this jury decided guilty on the second degree charge Tuesday around 10:30 local time. And if you remember, five hours later, they submitted a question to the court wanting to know if they could not reach a consensus what steps they should take and how long they should deliberate. That gave us a little insight as to what stump those jurors.

Meanwhile, relief from the Wright family. Listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE BRYANT, MOTHER OF DAUNTE WRIGHT: We'll never have Daunte back. Accountability is what we have been asking for since day one. So, we're grateful. This is a step forward and the bigger issue with policing. There has to be no more Dauntes, and so more names that, you know, that we chant on our streets.

AUBREY WHITE, FATHER OF DAUNTE WRIGHT: It gives us a little hope, makes us feel a little bit better knowing we're one step closer. There is a lot of people that didn't get this type of justice that we got today. So, man, it was unbelievable. It was a happy moment for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROADDUS: And Daunte's father talked about a lot of people who didn't get this type of accountability. Interestingly, both Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison used the word accountability as well as the Wright family, accountability versus justice. And those words matter.

I spoke with the family of Philando Castile after the verdict was read yesterday and they, too, were happy to see accountability. That's something they did not see when their loved one, Philando, was shot and killed here in the state of Minnesota.

Interestingly enough, a defense attorney Paul Eng also represented the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile. This morning, quiet outside of the courtroom. A stark contrast to what

we saw and heard as the verdict was read. There were explosions of applause -- Erica.

HILL: Adrienne Broaddus, appreciate it, thank you.

In the next hour, we will be joined by Daunte Wright's mother, Katie Bryant. Be sure to join us for that.

Up next, growing concerns from Vice President Kamala Harris's team that she is being sidelined by the president. The brand new insider reporting.

Plus, Chris Cillizza is here with a look at which politicians deserve coal in their stocking this year.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching that.

Someone who definitely made the nice list, a TSA agent leaping, check this out, over a conveyor belt to save a choking baby. What a rescue. We'll show you the video and tell you the story.

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[07:17:29]

HILL: Vice President Kamala Harris made history when she assumed to office earlier this year. But according to a new piece in the "New York Times", the vice president's allies are increasingly concerned that President Biden relied on her to win but does not need her to govern.

Joining us now is co-author of that piece, Zolan Kanno-Youngs. He's a CNN political analyst and White House reporter for "The New York Times".

Good to see you this morning. You know you are going to spark lots of discussion with a piece like this. I'm curious, you also point to a warm close relationship with the president and the vice president have. Is this more about the way Biden govers -- governs, rather?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It's a combination of factors here. You're absolutely right, Erica. We did point to a warm relationship. Even there are times at one of the more controversial first moments, including when she went to the border and gave answers or stumbled on some answers about visiting the border.

The president called her and thought she did a good job on that trip. They often tag-team. That relationship is warm. It's also not unique in the past to have VPs, to have frustration around feeling sidelined.

What is different about this dynamic is that you have a partnership here where you have the oldest sitting president and a vice president already coming in facing questions about her political future, and coming in widely thought of as a front-runner. And there is rising concern here, as you noted, that both the way her role has been shaped by this White House not headlining some of the issues that many allies would say would bring back a political return and headlining issues, agenda items, thought to be more polarizing, has really set her up at this point to be in a troubling position, right?

Some examples of that, we report on the meeting this summer, where a pivotal meeting with a senator holding a key vote, Joe Manchin. And the president, who has over three decades experience in the Senate going at that alone and not having the vice president there. Now, of course the White House said that she did have meetings later in the day.

You have allies pointing to other issues such as her headlining migration north and the border, trying to deter migration from Central America.

[07:20:03]

You have comments from Democrats on the Hill. Representative Henry Cuellar saying he tried to talk to the vice president's office and telling us on the record that he felt it doesn't seem like the VP's office is really interested in that topic.

On the other end, you have a Democrat like Representative Karen Bass of California saying that -- directing some frustration at the White House, saying they haven't done a job explaining the complexities of the issues.

Now, at the same time you have the vice president's camp, as well as the White House saying the vice president is dealing or contending, rather, with the double standard and heightened scrutiny. She has even talked about that to people like former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as well. All of these factors combined --

HILL: You have a lot at play, absolutely. Look, it's not easy when you're the first either. Let's just be clear here. She is not only the first woman, first person of color in that role. Unfortunately, oftentimes, when you're the first, oftentimes that means more scrutiny. How much of the way Joe Biden is handling this power dynamic or split of responsibilities, if you will, how much do you think is influenced not so much by the current vice president but by his time as vice president and the way that former President Obama treated him in that role?

KANNO-YOUNGS: It's a really interesting question. People did say there were frustrations with previous vice presidents, including Joe Biden. But you also had him headlining with the Affordable Care Act. That is one thing people pointed to as well.

And a distinct difference here in terms of what President Biden values from those around him and the input he gathers. And that's the experience in the Senate. And there is a difference when it comes to those 36 years that the president had in fostering the relationships and the four the vice president had as well.

So you think that would be a factor here. But, look, all of this does raise questions. The whole reason we're talking about this again and that there is heightened concern, among those close to the vice president, is that you have the oldest sitting president.

While the president said he is running again, look, there are questions about 2024, who would be the potential front-runner, and this heightened scrutiny does speak to how the vice president came in, widely thought to be a front-runner. You have representatives like Karen Bass saying -- still -- I thought it was interesting.

I spoke to former Senator Chris Dodd, who managed -- the search committee for vice president. He said while he does believe President Biden will run for re-election, if he doesn't he still thinks Vice President Harris will be at the top of the ticket. There's questions right now whether she is being set up to successfully hold the position.

HILL: We'll be watching as it all plays out. Zolan, good to see you. Happy holidays. Thanks.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Happy holidays.

SCIUTTO: Well, 2021 was a busy year to say the least in Washington. I don't think anyone would argue that. So in the spirit of the Christmas season, let's take a look back at who is getting coal in their stocking and who is getting the opposite of coal, which our lawyers tell us is candy canes.

Santa himself is here, CNN politics Chris Cillizza.

So, because we want to end on a good note, let's start with the bad stuff. Who is getting coal this year?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: I forgot my snowy white beard for my full Santa effect, Jim.

Let's start, and Zolan referred to this. First, Joe Biden. He starts in the high 50s, looks like he's getting the coronavirus back under control, the economy is starting to recover. He ends the year with omicron raging, with his approval rating in the low 40s. Some good signs in the economy, but overall, a very tough year for the president. So coal.

I will also put Kamala Harris in the coal category. For a lot of Republicans Zolan and Erica just talked about. She has struggled with will the role as everyone who has ever been vice president has. This is not unique. Part of it is the job. That's just the job of being vice president.

I think she has struggled a little bit. The whole thing with Biden's age. Is he running again? Would she be the frontrunner? That complicates. So coal for her.

And the other one getting coal, Mitch McConnell. And I say this because he has become target number one for Donald Trump.

[07:25:02]

Donald Trump calls him the old crow. He attacks him. He is trying to recruit someone to run against him as leader in the Senate.

Mitch McConnell's number two John Thune is reportedly thinking about walking away from politics. That would be a blow to McConnell as well.

The last one I want to put in the coal category is the Republican Party and I think this one probably the most important. This is a party that is currently organized and led by a man who falsely claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

We cannot lose sight of that. He is not only arguing it is stolen. He is working to put some place people, secretaries of state, lower level offices who favor the idea of the election being stolen and might reverse an outcome. And I think we can't lose sight of that. So, those are my four goals.

SCIUTTO: So, not coincidental that Mitch McConnell is one of the few willing to stand up to the big lie.

So candy canes. Who is getting the good stuff?

CILLIZZA: Yeah. I do like you -- I can tell you have kids. You're like me. You give them the broccoli first and the candy at the end.

SCIUTTO: Yeah.

CILLIZZA: First, getting a candy cane, Pete Buttigieg. Easy for me to say.

I think he has had a really good year, in that he is headlining the best thing for Democrats that Joe Biden got done, the infrastructure package. He's out there selling it, getting good reviews. And candidly getting good reviews and Kamala Harris not getting good reviews, they are sort of the two axis of the future of the Democratic party. So, when one goes, the other goes down a little bit, so Buttigieg.

On the other side, Ron DeSantis I think gets a candy cane. Before I feel my twitter feed blowing up because people hate Ron DeSantis, particularly Democrats. Here's what I'll say, I'm talking about what Ron DeSantis' goals were at the start of the year and what the end of the year looks like.

He wants to run for president. He has had a very good year in gaining support and loyalty within the Republican Party, so much so that Donald Trump is taking notice and trying to throw a few punches back to say, hey, if I'm running, he better not be running. So, DeSantis.

Third, and talk about your twitter feed blowing up. Joe Manchin. Here's why. Whether you agree or disagree with Joe Manchin, it is impossible to debate that he is the single most powerful United States senator, and as some people would argue, has as much power as the president of the United States in terms of getting the legislative agenda done.

Joe Manchin didn't want the Build Back Better Act. We don't have the Build Back Better Act. If there is going to be a social safety spending bill, it is going to go through Joe Manchin. He is as powerful now as he has ever been.

And one people don't know, Charlie baker, govern of Massachusetts. Charlie Baker is the most popular second most popular governor in the country, which is remarkable. He is a Republican in one of the most Democratic states in the country.

He's retiring mostly because he's sick of being in the Trump Republican Party. This is a guy who left his ballot blank in 2016 and 2020. I think he is an example of leadership in the Republican Party saying I'm not going to go along to get along.

I don't think this guy is good for the party. And I think he deserves some commendation for that. So, that's all of them. So, I ran out of candy canes just now

SCIUTTO: But he is leaving the party with a candy cane.

CILLIZZA: He is.

SCIUTTO: That's all too common of a phenomenon for those who stand up.

CILLIZZA: That's why Republicans get the coal. Again, the people who should be Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Charlie Baker, people who shown actual leadership in an attempt to overthrow an election are leaving. And that means the party consolidates around that big lie, and that is hugely problematic, both for the party but also for the country.

SCIUTTO: Chris, do I get a candy cane or coal? I'm just curious.

CILLIZZA: Well, Erica definitely gets a candy cane. You're still up in the air. We have another 24 hours to decide.

SCIUTTO: I can't win. Chris Cillizza, thanks very much.

CILLIZZA: It's you being a Mets fan that hurts you. Let's be honest. Go Nats!

SCIUTTO: Well, I should get a candy cane just for that.

Chris Cillizza, merry Christmas to you and yours.

CILLIZZA: You too. Thank you, my friend.

SCIUTTO: Just ahead for us -- by the way, Erica, I'm not so sure about his snap judgment, you getting the candy cane and me getting the coal.

HILL: What?

SCIUTTO: I mean, I'm happy to you to have a candy cane. If you get one, why don't I get one? That's all I'm saying.

HILL: I will go back and check the list and we will discuss.

SCIUTTO: OK. How COVID will change the pope's Christmas eve mass today.

HILL: Plus, NASA counting down to a Christmas Day mission when it could help solve some of the space's biggest mysteries.

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