Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Americans Facing Long Lines for COVID Tests, At-Home Kits Scarce; Trump Faces Right-Wing Blowback After Defending Vaccine Efficacy; NASA Successfully Launches $10 Billion Webb Telescope into Space. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2021 - 07:00   ET



CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: This is a corgi race at U.S. Bank Stadium. And the dogs were wearing Christmas costumers with mini Santas on their adorable backs, by the way. So, this is 12 good boys and girls lining up on the 40-year line, taking off down the field to meet their owners in the end zone. I've been calling this a photo finish-ish all morning because we're not really sure. We had to go back and look at the tape to see who actually won this race. There was a lot of circling, tail wagging, treat giving, that sort of thing, but adorable way for Minnesota fans to at least enjoy the halftime. If you're going to lose to the Rams, you might as well.

JOHN AVLON, CNN NEW DAY: Absolutely. I have got to say my kids particularly enjoyed the corgi racing, so, something for everyone. Thank you very much.

MANNO: Sure.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN NEW DAY: And if you don't have New Year's Eve plans yet, you can join and celebrate with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen right here live on CNN. The party starts at 8:00 P.M. Eastern.

New Day continues right now.

And welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Monday, December 27th. I'm Kaitlan Collins in with John Avlon this morning.

AVLON: Good morning.

COLLINS: Good morning.

The extraordinarily contagious omicron coronavirus variant is surging across the U.S. and Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that those cases are likely to climb much higher.

Years into this pandemic, testing is still a major challenge now featuring lines around the block at testing sites and shortages of those at-home tests at drug stores. Many Americans are wondering if they need to scrap their New Year's Eve plans all together. But there is some promising news, as Dr. Anthony Fauci expects that things will improve next month.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: -- testing much more extensively than we have even in a situation where you have people who are vaccinated or boosted. We've obviously got to do better. I mean, I think things will improve greatly as we get into January, but that doesn't help us today and tomorrow.


COLLINS: Dr. Fauci will join us here on New Day in just a few minutes.

As omicron cases are surging, health experts are waiting to see if hospitalizations will too. Right now, they are about 70 percent less than what they were during the last peak around September. And the millions of Americans still unvaccinated are at the greatest risk of severe illness and death from the omicron variant. And it's those cases that could overwhelm the country's already overwhelmed health systems.

AVLON: And over the holiday weekend, millions of people around the world dealing with mass airline cancelations as staff and crew called out sick from the omicron surge. The disruptions left thousands of travelers frustrated. While some of the groundings were caused by problems like bad weather and maintenance, several airlines acknowledged the impact of the current wave of cases.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Imagine with all our bags leaving the house, thinking we are going to travel, and then you get here and it's canceled.


AVLON: Today, more than 2,000 more flights have been canceled globally, including more than 600 in the United States alone.

Let's get to CNN's Nadia Romero live at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta with the latest. Nadia?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, John. And it is so busy at the airport today. And it's only gotten busier from Friday to Saturday to Sunday now to today with so many people trying to get out, get back home after the holidays. 700 flights, more than canceled this morning alone before 6:00 A.M. So, you can imagine that ripple effect that it will have throughout the country, cancelations and delays.

And we spoke to so many travelers who said they were checking their phones frantically hoping that their flights weren't canceled, some of them being able to get on their flights, make it home, just to see their families, many of them, for the first time since 2019. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CALVIN WARREN, HOLIDAY TRAVELER: I guess I'm one of the lucky few, maybe not few but one of the lucky ones. Yes, I guess it makes you a little nervous because you see somebody get canceled kind of thing, well, I might be one of them. What do I do now? But it all worked out for me at least. But I feel bad for those who didn't work out for.

ROMERO: When did you come in, why did you come and how has COVID impacted that?

JENNIFER SMITH, HOLIDAY TRAVELER: I actually came in Christmas Eve, the 24th. I'm from Salt Lake City, which another Delta hub. So, I kind of think that may have something to do with how excellent it was. And I left early. I left at early time. I'm leaving at a later time now. Yes, I just came to see family for a couple days and heading back to snow.


ROMERO: So, many of the people who were the most worried were the ones who were taking those international flights. I interviewed a man who is from Paris. His family lives back there. He lives in Atlanta now. He says he hasn't seen his family since before the pandemic, because the last Christmas in 2020, the borders were closed.


So, he had to take three legs to try to get back to Paris to see his family. He was hoping that his flight from JFK to Paris wouldn't be canceled. So, mostly, it's the international travelers. And there have been some delays because of weather cancelations as well. John?

AVLON: So frustrating for folks. Nadia Romero, thank you very much.

COLLINS: I can't believe I'm saying this, but we are now entering our third year of the coronavirus pandemic. Vaccinations and new therapeutics are putting us in a much different position, of course, but there are still major challenges ahead. Omicron is now the dominant variant in the U.S. and has cases trending up yet again.

Joining us now to discuss all of this is Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Medical Analyst and the former Baltimore City health commissioner. Dr. Wen, thank you for joining us this morning.

And just the idea of stepping back and looking at this is now entering year three of this pandemic, are you surprised this is still where we are here in the United States?

LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think if we rewind back to early 2020, I don't think any of us would have predicted that we are in a position that we're in now, which is entering year three, as you said, Kaitlan. I do think that the end of the pandemic phase is in sight. I'm very optimistic about that.

But I do think that we need three things to be in place. One is we need vaccines for younger children. I have two kids under the age five and many parents are in the situation that I am, which is that we are not returning back to our lives until our kids are better protected. We need oral treatments, and we now have two pills authorized by the FDA to be able to treat COVID, and that's fantastic, but we need them to be widely available.

And then the third thing that we need to end this pandemic phase so that we are able to live with COVID is much more rapid testing. We keep talking about testing, but, ultimately, testing is what is going to help us to figure out, are we infectious at this point in time. That way we can separate ourselves from others. And have widespread free available free testing that ideally is given by the federal government the way that it is in other countries. That's also really key to us figuring out what 2022 is going to look like.

AVLON: No question about it. Those three things are very helpful, testing under for fives, oral testing and more testing, oral pills to help treat this.

It seems though that hospitalizations so far have been lower with recent omicron surge. So, does that give you a hopeful itself about the relative severity and the ability of us to return to normalcy as well?

WEN: When it comes to individuals who are vaccinated and boosted as well, this statistic definitely gives me a lot of hope. What we are seeing out of South Africa, U.K., Israel and here in the U.S. is that people who are vaccinated and boosted by and large have mild symptoms, or if any symptoms at all. Many people test positive but are asymptomatic. And so the individual for all of us who are vaccinated and boosted, I think we should feel pretty secure that if we are to contract COVID, and omicron specifically, chances are we are going to do just fine.

The problem though is that, as a society, we should be concerned because there are so many people out there who are unvaccinated. And for those individuals, if they are to contract omicron, yes, many of them are going to be just fine. But some of them are going to become severely ill. And because of how many people are catching omicron, we are really facing a dire situation with our hospitals that have already suffered substantial burnout in staff, worker shortages, many people who have waited because of the pandemic to get their medical needs taken care of. And so these hospitals were already overwhelmed prior to omicron. And now they are going to be really be stretched.

And so as a society, we should be very concerned even if, as individuals, we should be pretty well assured that we will be protected due to vaccines and boosters.

COLLINS: Yes, millions of Americans still unvaccinated.

I do want to get your take, Dr. Wen, though on a new move by the CDC, shortening that isolation period for health care workers who test positive, shortening it from ten days to seven days. Is that something you think that they should do for the general public? WEN: Absolutely. When it comes to health care workers, this was done out of necessity, because so many people are calling out that hospitals are having trouble getting their E.R.s and ICUs and other wards staffed. But I think a lot of health care workers are feeling like this is pretty unfair, that they are already being targeted as frontline workers who have had to bear the brunt of this pandemic.

And, frankly, the science is there. I mean, we should have a test to return policy the way that we are having test to stay in our schools. Why not have individuals get a test. And if they test negative, then they are able to return back to work or otherwise exit out of isolation.

I know personally of many people who are choosing not to get tested because they don't want to have -- they don't want to be asymptomatic, test positive and then be stranded at their destination, unable to travel back, or otherwise unable to go to work or take care of their kids.


Ten days is a really long period of time. It's unnecessary. If you test negative after five days, why shouldn't you be able to exit isolation?

So, I hope that that is something that the federal government acts on really quickly to maintain our critical infrastructure but also help to actually incentivize testing, because, otherwise, people are just not going to get tested and that will prolong the pandemic.

AVLON: Incentives really are key to all of this.

We are getting more data but there are still a lot we don't know. And I wonder what you're seeing about how long people remaining contagious after contracting the virus and what other open questions you have right now.

WEN: Yes, that is an important question, John, and one that we need to get better answers to. The ten days of isolation came from data that was done -- or from research that was done quite a while ago, specifically in unvaccinated people and before omicron. And the reason this is important is it appears that vaccinated people clear the virus a lot faster compared to unvaccinated people.

Also omicron, the incubation period appears to be much shorter. The omicron passes through your system much faster. So, we really need to see the data but also do not let perfect be the enemy of the good. Because, again, if people are not getting tested for fear that they might test positive, if you shorten the isolation period, you might actually convince a lot more people to get tested and comply with isolation as opposed to the situation we're in now.

And so I think that is a big open question that, again, I would hope that the federal government does not wait until they get perfect data. Sometimes if you wait for perfect to be the enemy of the good, you are really prolonging how long this pandemic will last compared as opposed to the endemic phase will last.

COLLINS: And we know all of this comes as that vaccine mandate for the private sector in New York City is going into effect today in New York City as well. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

AVLON: That's right. And ahead, Dr. Anthony Fauci is going to join us live. As coronavirus cases are surging once again, what could be done to slow the spread?

COLLINS: And coming up, why right-wing circles are pushing back against former President Trump over them telling the truth about vaccines.

Plus, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell sharing a disturbing voicemail she got from a stranger years after Trump attacked her and her family. We'll have how she responded, next.



AVLON: Former President Trump is under fire from the far right for finally telling the truth. That's following comments he made recently defending the effectiveness of vaccines. Here's right-wing commentator and normally dependable Trump ally Candace Owens after Trump insisted to her that vaccines work.


CANDACE OWENS, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: You oftentimes forget how old Trump is. He comes from a generation -- I've seen other people that are older, have the exact same perspective. Like they came from a time before T.V., before internet, before being able to conduct their independent research, you know, and everything that they read in a newspaper that was pitched to them that they believed that that was a reality.

I believe also that he only reads the mainstream media news, believe it or not. I do not believe that Trump reads or partakes in any other news sources. I don't believe that Trump is on the internet.


AVLON: Cleanup on aisle Trump. Joining me now is CNN Senior Political Analyst and USA Today Columnist Kirsten Powers as well as CNN Political Commentator and Political Anchor at Spectrum News Errol Louis.

Errol, I'll start with you. What does this backlash against Trump from the far right say about his base of support as well as the war against the virus and some of the shifting fault lines?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What it says about his base, John, is that some of them I think are recognizing that there's more at stake here than simply supporting the president and going down whatever path of bravado and B.S. that he wants to hand out to them. That may work as politics but the reality is there's quite a lot at stake when you're talking about individual families, when you're talking about people who have seen what happened at their local hospital and the filling up of the ICUs. And so they're not necessarily going to sort of run down this path with him. And so he finds it now difficult to inject a note of truth into the torrent of lies that led to him being voted out of office. He is in a very difficult place, a difficult place of his own making, John.

COLLINS: And this was just really, Kirsten, an unbelievable exchange to watch Candace Owens and the former president talking about this and him pushing back on her, saying just the truth about vaccines and boosters and what it means for hospitalizations. But she's not the only one, of course, now trying to talk about this in the aftermath. Alex Jones is also criticizing Trump over what he said.


ALEX JONES, HOST, INFOWARS: This is an emergency Christmas Day warning to President Trump. You are either completely ignorant about the so-called vaccine gene therapy that you helped ram through with Operation Warp Speed, or you are one of the most evil men who has ever lived to push this toxic poison on the public and to attack your constituents when they simply try to save their lives and the lives of others.


COLLINS: Now, we should repeat, Trump was quite literally telling the truth about vaccines when he was pushing back on Candace Owens. Are you surprised, though, to see what she is saying in the aftermath of this and what Alex Jones is saying about this?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not really, because you really can't put the genie back in the bottle. So, what Trump unleashed can't just suddenly be undone.


And you have people who have been out there parroting this line, telling all of their followers that this is the case and they're not going to just turn around on the dime and say, oops, we were wrong because Donald Trump says this, because how stupid would they look, right? That doesn't -- and I guess when you listen to Candace Owens, she lives in a world where you are supposed to get medical information on obscure websites on the internet, like that's a very different world view that even Donald Trump doesn't ascribe to.

And so he is basically just saying what is true, what the doctors are saying, and she is saying, well, he doesn't really know that because he's old and he doesn't spend his time basically going down rabbit holes on the internet to get medical information. It is just such an alternate universe and I don't think it can be undone. I think that's one of the most dangerous things about the Trump era is that even if he wanted to try to pull it back, I don't think he can. AVLON: I think that's exactly right. It's also showing that another old, ancient wisdom is that Gollum always turns on its creator, and that's what we're watching right now.

Errol, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell was on CNN State of the Union yesterday with Dana Bash and she shared this voicemail that was left to her recently. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You god damn old senile (BLEEP). You're as old and ugly as Biden. You ought to get the (BLEEP) off the planet. You (BLEEP) foul (BLEEP). They ought to (BLEEP) try you for treason, (BLEEP). You and every one of your scumbag (BLEEP) friends. I hope your family dies in front of you. I pray to God if you've got any children, they'd die in your face.


AVLON: That kind of vile and hate, we're playing it because she says she receives these types of voicemail regularly ever since then President Trump attacked her late husband, Congressman John Dingell, after he passed away. So, is this par of the course these days and does airing these kinds of voicemails maybe help break the fever?

LOUIS: Well, I don't know about that last part, John, unfortunately. I think this is a case of the radicalization of American politics, the poisoning of American politics. This is the same state, let's remember, where there was a plot that was broken up. And one man pleaded guilty and is now serving in prison is in the same plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer.

There was a backup plan to hold a week-long trial and execute legislators of the Michigan legislature. I mean, there is a streak of radicalism out there that is very dangerous. You just showed us a sample of it. People should take it very, very seriously. FBI, Homeland Security, t hey have been warning about this for two decades now. But this is a real problem. This isn't made up. This is something that we're going to have to confront as a nation. And when lawmakers are being threatened in the way that you just displayed, we should all be alarmed

COLLINS: Kirsten, what do you think?

POWERS: Oh, I was like, wow, this is really -- I mean, I don't get the voicemails. I get the emails. I was like, wow, these are my people. I mean, the thing is that anybody who is in the public eye in the Trump era can tell you, and especially having been on T.V. pre- Trump era, that something really happened after he came into office where these kinds of, you know, emails and voice messages have become pretty commonplace for a lot of people, I think particularly for women who are on T.V., and any time in the public eye, if you're a member of Congress.

Because Debbie Dingell, you have to remember, is not a particularly controversial person, right? She's a moderate Democrat from a mid- western state and Trump attacked her husband, and so this is now what she -- who was also a pretty uncontroversial person. And because Trump attacks him, this is what happens. It is 100 percent about Donald Trump. And something is qualitatively different. And I think anybody can tell you that. The kinds of things that I receive now on a regular, almost daily basis maybe happened once a year before, right?

So, again, what I was saying earlier is that Trump has unleashed something in this country that just can't be put back in the bottle. And as Errol was saying, I mean, this is something that has been identified, this kind of like hatred and vitriol as a serious problem. Fortunately, most people don't act on the things that they say. But what happens when they do, like in the case of the governor from Michigan?


AVLON: No question about it. Kirsten Powers and Errol Louis, thank you very much. Errol, I hope you had a very Merry Christmas with Juanita and Noah.

All right, up next, NASA just launched its most powerful telescope ever. How it could help solve some of space's biggest mysteries.

AVLON: And how Spider-Man became the billion dollar man.


AVLON: NASA's historic James Webb Telescope is now the world's most powerful telescope ever successfully launched into space and it could literally change the way we see the heavens forever.

Joining me us now, Astrophysicist and Professor at George Mason University Hakeem Oluseyi. Professor, it's great to see you.

This is so cool. My family was fixated by this all weekend. So, when can we start to expect receiving data from this launch?

HAKEEM OLUSEYI, ASTROPHYSICIST: Well, the telescope still has a long way to go. It has -- the first science results aren't expected for months.