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President Biden Admits Current Availability of At-Home Tests for COVID-19 Inadequate; New York City Reporting Fivefold Increase in Pediatric Hospitalizations Due to Coronavirus; CDC Lowers Quarantine Time for Those Infected with Coronavirus but are Asymptomatic from 10 Days to Five Days. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired December 28, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks to Clarissa Ward for that big look back on a year for the history books. NEW DAY continues right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Tuesday, December 28th. I'm Kaitlan Collins in with John Avlon. John Berman and Brianna Keilar are having some much deserved time off today, John.

AVLON: They deserve it.


COLLINS: Glad to be with you. And we begin this morning with the CDC cutting the recommended isolation period for many infected Americans in half. The agency now reducing the number of days from 10 to five if you are asymptomatic. The CDC also now recommending the same amount of time for vaccinated people to quarantine if they have been exposed to the virus, with no quarantine at all if you're boosted. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the new changes are part of an effort to get people back to work faster amid major concerns about staffing shortages at hospitals, airlines, and businesses across the country because of the Omicron surge.

AVLON: And President Biden is grappling with a failure that could have been foreseen as the Omicron wave has exposed shortages in access to testing. Many Americans are now waiting in long lines for tests, if they can get them at all. Speaking to governors on Monday, the president acknowledged that steps to scale up testing capacity were not enough to meet demand.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It went from no over the counter tests in January to 46 million in October, 100 million in November, and almost 200 million in December. But it's not enough. It is clearly not enough. If I had known, we would have gone harder, quicker, if we could have. We have to do more. We have to do better. And we will. (END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: Now, the president has pledged to distribute 500 million testing kits beginning in January. That won't help this week's holiday crunch. So let's go to CNN's Leyla Santiago live outside a Miami testing site, where some people have been waiting for more than two hours.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. We've been here all morning long, and we have seen that it is very busy. We talked to one woman that got here at 3:00 in the morning. She had to wait actually three hours to get a test. This is something that the organizers here expected to see somewhat of a surge in demand for testing, but they said that what they're seeing now is unprecedented, something they have never seen before at this site, which is one of the busiest sites in south Florida. They have increased the amount of workers here by 50 percent. But, still, again, to your point, very, very long lines. Listen to what two friends told us that waited in line.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is way more chaotic now. Everybody is freaking out. But that's the same thing that happened right before the first shutdown. Everybody is, like, going everywhere about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a spot right by my house where I would go. It would take less than five minutes. I would just walk there. And that's it. And now the line extends to the next street. It's crazy.


SANTIAGO: And so now Miami-Dade county says that it will be opening four to five new sites to try to meet that demand over the coming days. We should also mention that they were distributing test kits, that people could take rapid tests at home over a two-day period. They distributed 150,000 of those. And now they're all out. So they put in a new request to the Department of Health to try to get more testing supplies here in Miami-Dade County. John?

AVLON: So 150,000 tests and already out. The demand is there, we got to increase the supply. Leyla, thank you very much.

COLLINS: On top of that, there is new government data on the pandemic that will be of concern to parents. The CDC and Health and Health Services Departments say the number of children in the hospital with COVID-19 is getting close to a peak that was reached in early September. New York City is reporting a fivefold increase in pediatric hospitalizations.

And so for more on that let's get to CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. And, so, Elizabeth, parents obviously are watching this closely, but you say they should not be panicking just yet.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And the reason why is that these numbers are still really small. They're still a very small number of children who are ending up in the hospital, thank goodness, with Omicron. The concern is that these numbers are getting bigger. And let's -- we'll talk about why, but let's first look at the numbers.

So if you look nationally, what we're seeing according to CDC data is that for the week ending December 18th, there were 201 children in the hospital.


For the week ending December 25th, there were 260 children in the hospital. So that's a big -- still a small number, but a big difference. If we look specifically at New York City, December 5th through 11th, there were 22 children in the hospital with COVID. December 19th through 23rd, so actually a shorter time period, but more recent, 109 admissions. So that really tells you something when you look at the differences in those hospital admissions numbers.

Now, this may be a case where so many people are getting Omicron, it is so transmissible, that the more children who get Omicron, the more are going to end up in the hospital. In other words, it's not so much necessarily that Omicron is more dangerous for children. It could just be that there are so many more children getting Omicron. That hasn't sort of been figured out yet. But we shouldn't conclude, my goodness, Omicron, more dangerous for children in and of itself. That's not necessarily the case. But, still, a concern to see these rising numbers for children. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, especially given children under five are still that last group that is ineligible to get vaccinated yet. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

And for more on all of this, let's bring in the Dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha. Dr. Jha, in your view, the CDC changing this isolation period, cutting it for people who are asymptomatic, we should note, that's a key phrase in this new guidance, from 10 days to five days, was this long overdue?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: First of all, good morning, thanks for having me back. Yes, I do think it was long overdue. I've been actually calling for a shortening of the isolation period for a while now, really for two reasons. One is the evidence suggests most of the spreading that people do happens for a couple of days before they have symptoms and two to three days after they have symptoms. So waiting five days is really reasonable.

And second is asking people to be isolated longer than they need to be is hugely burdensome to them. And so I think this CDC move is exactly right. And if people follow what CDC has laid out, it will still keep people safe and let them get out of isolation more quickly.

AVLON: And, Doctor, you made the point that this is about incentive structures, and if there is a more reasonable window rooted in sound science, then that will increase people's ability or instinct to participate. We see the distinction between asymptomatic cases and symptomatic, but what about for folks who have vaccinated versus unvaccinated? Should there be a distinction there?

JHA: I think there is. Even though I applaud the CDC's decision, this is not exactly how I would have done it. I actually think they should have done this a bit differently for vaccinated versus unvaccinated, because we know vaccinated people, when they have a breakthrough infection shed for a much shorter period of time, so this is really reasonable for vaccinated people. I think they could have made that distinction, and I wish they had.

COLLINS: I do think it's surprising they did not make that distinction or recommend that people get a rapid test at the end of those five days as these discussions were going on behind the scenes. I do want to note something you noted earlier, 10 days of isolation was a lot, especially if you're a single parent or if you're relying on hourly wages. So do you think this is going to make people more willing to actually follow the guidance?

JHA: I hope so. I hope so. Look, anytime you put a really high burden on people to do something, they're less likely to do it. So if you are an hourly wage worker and you feel reasonably fine, maybe you have mild symptoms, you're much less likely to get tested if you know that a positive result will mean 10 days of not being able to work, of being isolated. Five days feels more reasonable to a lot of people. And I think as long as it is the right thing to do from a science and public health point of view, I think that's what we should be doing, I think it will make a difference.

AVLON: Doctor, we're seeing a fivefold increase in pediatric hospitalizations in New York City. So do you expect cases to spike after the break when kids return to school? And if so, do you think some communities, no one wants to do this, but do you think some communities should consider delaying opening schools in person by a week or so?

JHA: Yes, so what we know is that most kids get infected from their families and people around them. So I don't think that schools are the major source of spread. A lot of this spread that's happening right now is because kids are spending time at home, with older siblings, with parents, grandparents, uncles, friends. That's how a lot of the spread is happening. I have seen no evidence of getting kids back into school will somehow cause infections to go up further, so I actually think kids should get back to school. And we now know how to keep kids and teachers and staff safe in schools, so I would like to have everybody back as soon as they're able to get back.

AVLON: That's great.

COLLINS: And part of that aspect of keeping kids in school, keeping teachers in school, is testing. And so you saw President Biden yesterday acknowledging pretty bluntly they need to do better when it comes to testing, because we are seeing this nationwide shortage of those rapid at home tests. It's very difficult to just walk into a store and get one.

[08:10:01] And what we're hearing from officials like Dr. Fauci is that they believe they're going to have this solved by mid-January, in a few weeks. But how critical is the window that we're missing right now for testing?

JHA: I think it is incredibly critical. And I cannot believe this is where we are almost two years into the pandemic. Everybody saw it coming. We knew we needed more tests. I think the administration had dropped the ball on this. They focused a lot on vaccines, which is terrific. Vaccines are a really, really important part of this, but did not pay enough attention to testing. And I think it has been really costly in this holiday season.

I hope we fix it in January and February, but we're going to have to have a real effort to make sure there's plentiful, cheap, ubiquitous testing everywhere in the country. That's where we should be in this pandemic right now.

AVLON: Certainly, you make a good point. Vaccines have got to come first, but without testing, you're flying blind. So two questions about testing. Do you have any concerns about the efficacy of these rapid tests for the Omicron variant? And then how often should people ideally be taking the at-home test if they can get them, once they go about their normal lives?

JHA: Two great questions. All the data so far suggests the rapid tests work just fine against the Omicron variant. Obviously, the different companies are also testing it out, but the preliminary data suggests it should work just fine. So I'm not super concerned.

In terms of how often you should be testing your set of, it really depends on who you are and what kind of life you have. And I think, for instance, people should test before they get together for the holidays or for a New Year's Eve party. I think if you're in a high risk situation, high risk work, maybe testing a couple of times a week just to make sure you're not infected and walking into a nursing home infected, that kind of thing can make a big difference. And, of course, if you have the mildest of symptoms, you should get tested because that's a good way of identifying the disease early. So lots of different context, and that's why we need really tens of millions of these tests widely available every day for people to use.

COLLINS: One quick question for you, going abroad for a moment, you're seeing in Italy where there is concern about new cases. They're imposing an outdoor mask mandate, hoping to curb the surge there, saying that unless you're playing a sport, you have to wear a mask when you're engaging in outdoor public activity. Do you think that is something that is appropriate in a time like this, where we are in this pandemic when it comes to vaccines and treatments and testing?

JHA: I don't, and here's why. We have not seen much evidence that there is spread in the outdoor setting. Theoretically it can happen, and I'm sure it has happened, but it is pretty infrequent. And what I want to do is make sure that if we're going to ask people to change behavior, we focus on the high risk situations. Outdoors is not particularly risky. Indoor large gatherings, absolutely essential people wear masks. I want to focus our attention on those much riskier situations and not get distracted by things that I don't think are going to make a big difference.

AVLON: Fascinating. Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you for your insights as always.

COLLINS: Thank you.

JHA: Thank you.

AVLON: Now, not all airline flight attendants are exactly happy with the CDC's new five-day isolation rules. You're going to hear why from their union boss. That's coming up.

COLLINS: And the stories that had people hungry for the truth this year. The most popular fact checks of 2021.



JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Fact-checking can be a thankless job. But, hey, somebody's got to do it. The political landscape in 2021 provided a seemingly endless supply of work for journalists like "The Washington Post's" Glenn Kessler, who's tasked with setting the record straight and doling out the Pinocchios.

He joins us now to discuss the most popular fact checks of the past year.

Glenn, good to see you.


AVLON: All right. Let's start with number one, the most popular article you published this year, debunking the claim that the Taliban had seized $85 billion with a B of U.S. weapons. Walk us through that one.

KESSLER: right, so that's the -- that $85 billion number, it is actually 83, technically, was the number for all money appropriated to Afghan security forces. But only about 75 billion of it even got to Afghanistan and then less than 30 percent of that even went to weapons.

So you can see already way lower than $85 billion, you're in the $20 billion range, and a lot of those weapons, that's a figure over 20, 25 -- 20 years, so the actual number of weapons that were abandoned, most of which before the army left they disabled is much, much smaller.

AVLON: That is a key fact to disrupt that partisan stat. Another popular piece you dealt with this year was the lab leak theory of the origins of the coronavirus. Now, there's' initially a lot of pushback, but then evidence started coming in that sparked some serious investigations, and certainly no one should be calling that a conspiracy theory now. Walk us through it.

KESSLER: Right. So what I did there was I -- I created a timeline that led readers through all the key events and the articles by scientists and, you know, expert opinion that led people to more increasingly decide that the lab leak theory was possible. I mean, most experts still believe the coronavirus emerged out of nature, you know, from an animal to a human, but there are questions raised about the way that that lab was operated and some of the tests they were doing in that lab that gave new credence to that theory.

So, that fact check helped readers understand how the scientific consensus had changed over the last two years.

AVLON: And certainly the lack of Chinese transparency and cooperation doesn't help clear that up, but it does raise additional questions.

You also fact check number three, the political origins story spread by Representative Lauren Boebert, Republican from Colorado. Now, she claimed she began to allow her staff to carry guns after a man was killed outside her restaurant. But, wait, what's the real story, Glenn?

KESSLER: Right, yeah. I obtained, you know, coroner's reports and police documents, but what happened was there was a guy involved in an apparent drug transaction and several blocks away from her restaurant, and then he collapsed as he was running away. And it had nothing to do with a murder.

The way she described it, he was killed in a fight or something like that. The fight took place far away from her restaurant, and, you know, it was determined within a day that this had been a drug overdose. So it was a story that was, you know, convenient for her politically, helped explain her politics and why she went into politics and why she let her staff carry guns at the restaurant, but it was very far from the truth.

AVLON: For sure.

To one, to point out it is not Republicans telling tall tales all the time. You found Biden falsely claiming that the new Georgia election law that imposed new restrictions on voting ended early voting hours. But that wasn't exactly true, was it?

KESSLER: No. There are issues with what people can raise about aspects of that law, but for some reason the president kept harping on the idea that it would cut voting hours, and actually it expanded voting opportunities in large parts of Georgia. And it didn't affect voting hours on Election Day.

This is something he said about three times, and we could never get an explanation as to why he kept saying it. Interestingly, we fact checked Joe Biden more than any other politician or person this past year, but fact checks about Biden don't initially get the eyeballs that you would expect.

[08:20:04] AVLON: Well, maybe volume issue as well.

Real quick, I want to get to number five, because it's about January 6th. You fact check claims from Representative Jim Jordan that Nancy Pelosi denied a request for reinforcements on January 6th from the National Guard. What's the truth about that?

KESSLER: Well, there is no evidence at all to support that. And this is an example of how some Republicans have tried to reframe January 6th and point the blame in other directions. Pelosi is a common person that they would blame. In this case, this was a tweet by Jim Jordan, we looked into it, there also has been lots of public testimony, there is absolutely no evidence to support what he claimed.

AVLON: Thank you, Glenn Kessler, for all that you do, wrapping up 2021. Here's to 2022, I know there will be more fact checks ahead.

Up next, the just released body cam video in the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl by police inside a Los Angeles store.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And the CDC's new five-day isolation rules, the nation's largest flight attendants union is speaking out against the change. We have that next.


AVLON: New this morning, the Los Angeles Police Department releasing bodycam video showing the frantic moments leading up to the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl by an officer who was firing at a suspect, just two days before Christmas.

Here's a portion of the footage. We want to warn you, it is disturbing.



POLICE OFFICER: Victim down, victim down!

POLICE OFFICER: Hey, hold on.

POLICE OFFICER: Hey, slow down, slow down, let me take point with rifle.

POLICE OFFICER: Hey, back up.

POLICE OFFICER: Get out. Out, out, out.

POLICE OFFICER: He's got -- he's got a tube.

POLICE OFFICER: Hey, get her out, get her out.

POLICE OFFICER: Okay, on you.

POLICE OFFICER: He's hitting her now on the right-hand side. POLICE OFFICER: Slow it down, slow it down.

POLICE OFFICER: Hey, she's bleeding! She's bleeding!

POLICE OFFICER: Hold up, hold up Jones. Hold up, hold up.



POLICE OFFICER: Shots fired, shots fired, shots fired.


AVLON: More surveillance video shows a man acting violently inside the store. You can see him swinging a metal bike lock at a woman and pulling her by her hair, continuing to strike her until she is bloody. That suspect was shot and killed by police.

With more on all of this, let's bring in Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey. She's retired LAPD sergeant and author of a new book called "The Confidence Chronicles: The Greatest Crime Story Never Told", and CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

Great to see you both.

Sergeant Dorsey, let's start with you.

The suspect was also hit and died at the scene. Steel or metal cable lock was found near his body. No firearm was recovered. Do you find any fault with what the officers did here? Should the officers fire the weapon?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD SERGEANT: I don't find any fault with what the officers did. They deployed tactically. They communicated continuously and they gave the suspect an opportunity to surrender. They announced they were coming on the second floor, suggesting he make himself visible and surrender and he did none of that.

And while as tragic that this young girl lost her life there was no way to know she was on the other side of the wall we saw that, for the most part, there weren't any patrons or customers on the second floor. And so, let's not forget there was a young woman who we saw just moments before being savagely beaten by this man with this chain, with a lock on the end of it.

While it's not a gun, be clear. That's a deadly weapon. He could have easily killed her.

AVLON: No question about it. And just as clear is the heart breaking tragedy of this young girl's death.

Elie, what's your reaction to Sergeant Dorsey saying there was no fault with the officers sneer is it possible that the officer could face criminal prosecution? ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, John, prosecutors will

have to do a complete investigation. But my initial instinct based on what we know far is similar to Sergeant Dorsey. Of course, this is an unthinkable tragedy.

The law in California says a police officer is entitled to use lethal force to discharge his or her weapon if it is necessary to prevent imminent -- meaning immediate threat of death or great bodily injury. And I think the video image we have seen shows the officers walked into the scene of a rampage. This individual -- Mr. Lopez is his name, he was on a rampage, he was hitting people with a heavy metal object, which as Sergeant Dorsey noted can do real damage. They walked right past a bloody woman.

So, it is a tragic situation, we have to get all the facts. But I do think that ultimately the shooting will be ruled a justified shooting by the police.

AVLON: And what's that process for determining if the officers acted reasonably under the circumstances?

HONIG: Yes, so, under the law you have to look at what the officer reasonably knew at that moment. The law says you can't go back and use sort of perfect hindsight and say, well, for example, there was this person -- this young woman behind the wall there, there is no way based on the evidence we have seen that the officers could have known that.

Police and prosecutors have to get every bit of evidence here, they have to run the ballistics, they have to review every second of surveillance video, a body cam video. They have to interview everyone who was there, police officers, bystanders, get the complete picture and make their legal conclusion.

AVLON: Sergeant Dorsey, put us in the police officer's shoes. This is a clothing store, open during shopping hours, middle of a busy holiday season, so what is the protocol when it comes to assessing that kind of environment and ensuring that others are not in the line of fire, understanding there was no way to see the young girl and her mother behind that wall.

DORSEY: We can see the officers on scene asking some of the people exiting the store or working in the store are there any customers upstairs? They knew he was on the second level. And so they're being observant as they're going up the escalator to that second level and perusing their environment, looking left to right as they're walking, trying to locate the suspect and you don't see anyone until they encounter the victim.

So, what is in the mind of the officers in that moment, they're responding to a code three call, that means red lights and sirens, shots fired, possibly an active shooter, that's what was in the mind of the officers. The suspect hitting this woman with that lock probably sounded to the witnesses like gunfire. And that's what the officers were responding to when they encountered the suspect. Now, I give you there was some distance between them, but they did not

have concealment, there was a clothing rack between the officers and the suspect. Had he been armed as they were told and believed, he could have done great damage to the officers, fatally wounding one of them if they had not acted in the manner they did.

AVLON: So, Elie, briefly, what's next in this investigation? What's the process?