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Sara Nelson is Interviewed about the new CDC Guidelines; Austan Goolsbee is Interviewed about Holiday Retail Sales; Reflecting on Covid Two Years Later. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired December 28, 2021 - 08:30   ET



CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Wounding one of them had they not acted in the manner that they did.

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

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so state investigators will get involved now because there was a fatality. They'll do their findings. Look, they need to be transparent here. They need to be accurate and they need to move quickly here. Ultimately, a prosecutor at the state AG's office and the local prosecutors will sit down and make a determination whether to put the case in front of a grand jury and whether to seek an indictment or not.

AVLON: We'll see what goes forward.

But thank you all for clarifying this tragic situation for us. Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, Elie Honig, thank you very much. Be well.

HONIG: Thanks, John.

DORSEY: Thank you.

AVLON: Coming up next, airline flight attendants are calling out the CDC's new isolation guidelines for people who test positive for Covid.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And there were some record-breaking holiday sales. How supply chains may have played a part.



COLLINS: During one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, airlines have canceled flights by the thousands as the omicron variant is taking a toll on their staffing. Now the nation's largest flight attendant union is weighing in on the new CDC guidance that cuts that isolation period for most people who were asymptomatic in half.

Joining me now is the international president of the Association of the Flight Attendants union, Sara Nelson.

Sara, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

And, first, I just want to get your reaction to this new guidance.

SARA NELSON, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: Well, look, this came in the middle of the busy holiday season at the behest of Delta Airlines when they started to see that they were going to have staffing troubles. Other airlines negotiated incentive pay to try to get through the holiday period. Delta did not do that and doesn't have unions. And so the CDC responded with a cut in half of the isolation time when someone is infected, with no testing before going back out into public, but with two key points, that you are asymptomatic and that you continue to wear a mask. It's really important that we lift this up and CDC should also be recommending, if they are going to fall in line with what the airlines want, that the airlines also say how they are going to implement this to make sure that it is only for people who are asymptomatic, who are coming back to work, so that people are not forced to come back to work when they're still sick and how they are going to implement ensuring that masks are worn at all times, including in the flight deck.

COLLINS: Right. And so they say that people should continue to wear a mask for those five days after they are asymptomatic, they go back to work. But you said -- you talked about, you know, the CDC citing the science here as the driving force behind this decision, but you said the fact that it aligns with the number of days pushed by corporate America is, quote, less than reassuring.

NELSON: Look, it was totally transparent here. This was asked for, as the staffing issues were being put in place. Delta's statement after the -- this policy was put into place had not an ounce of public safety in it. But it was all about the staffing issues. That's what was argued on the front end. That's how your segment started today. And that is the quick response from CDC in the middle of this holiday season to try to address that, rather than be focused on public health policies. And I want to make it very clear, the CDC should be loud and clear about implementation here because no worker should be forced to come to work when they are still sick. And that is, I believe, what we are going to see here. We're very concerned about that.

COLLINS: Yes, I think there's a concern about whether or not people are actually asymptomatic going back to work.

I do want to ask you about something else because yesterday Dr. Fauci told CNN a vaccine mandate for domestic flights is under consideration, but unlikely at this point. This is what he said.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Right now, I don't think people should expect that we're going to have a requirement in domestic flights for people to be vaccinated. When I was asked that question, I gave an honest answer. It's on the table and we consider it. But that doesn't mean it's going to happen. I doubt if we're going to see something like that in the reasonably foreseeable future.


COLLINS: So, Sara, he's doubtful. But we have heard from people who say that they think that there should be a vaccine mandate to get on a domestic flight. But are airlines even really in a position to be able to implement one?

NELSON: Well, the issue here is that we have not kept track of vaccines like other countries have. So there's real operational issues with being able to put this in place. And if there were a policy that put that all on the airlines, the frontline workers who are working there, it just simply wouldn't work. There's no way to get that done.

But, in coordination, we can continue to work on this and work to see how we can work through those operational issues. And I think it's more important than ever that we redouble efforts to try to do that in light of this new CDC guidance around the quarantine time.

COLLINS: Would airlines have to hire extra people if there was a domestic travel vaccine mandate?

NELSON: Well, we'd have to have a way that we could track vaccination status of travelers much more easily and we would likely have to have the government taking part in checking that vaccination status at the airports, not putting that on the airlines. So there's issues to work out here and it's something that we should look at. And I'm glad that Dr. Fauci says that it continues to be on the table.

COLLINS: Do you think there should be with one?

NELSON: Well, I think that we all know that this pandemic is not going to end until everyone is vaccinated. Right now there are still infections that are happen on the planes at the same rate as in our communities and we don't want to add at all to the spread of the virus, the continuation of it, the mutations of it. And the more that we can do to get people vaccinated, the better off we're all going to be. End this pandemic can get back to the freedom that we had prior to it.

COLLINS: Sara Nelson, thank you for joining this morning on all of this.

NELSON: Thank you.


COLLINS: Up next, a retail report card for holiday shopping. Did supply chain issues and inflation hurt the bottom line or help it?

AVLON: And a look back on two years covering the front lines in the fight against Covid.


AVLON: You heard all the predictions that supply chain problems and inflation and the omicron variant would cause a sluggish holiday shopping season to say the least, but that didn't happen. In fact, shoppers turned out in droves, leading to the fastest rise in holiday sales in 17 years.

Joining me now to discuss this and the bigger economic picture for 2021 is economics professor at the University of Chicago Business School and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Austan Goolsbee.

Austan, it's good to see you.

So we heard reports before the holidays that inflation would negatively impact holiday sales, but we've seen the opposite, while inflation does remain a real problem.

So, tell us, how do you square this?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO BUSINESS SCHOOL: Well, I mean, it was a great success story. The retail sector, despite the supply chain problems and with the encouragement and the efforts of a whole lot of the government, they were able to overcome those challenges and have really kind of a blockbuster season.

I think part of this also is, it's really a blockbuster season for brick-and-mortar retailers because online sales have been doing great during the pandemic.


Brick-and-mortar sellers were devastated so that they could have a strong season even while there's inflation, even while there's port backups, even while everyone said that there were going to be shortages, stock outs, et cetera, I think is kind of a testament to their ability to heal.

AVLON: And how did supply chains heal and what was their role in all this?

GOOLSBEE: Having mostly supply chains healed by ramping up production, expanding capacity, making investments, and you just got to wait for -- you just got to wait to get your parts, to get your machinery, and to get those things. But the, you know, there's this phrase that sounds like it makes no sense, but it's the cure for high prices is high prices.

You know, in a -- in a world where it's $500 a day for a rental car, there are going to be a whole lot of people who say, well, wait a minute, for $400 a day, I'll give you my car. I'll come out and pick you up at the airport. You know, so -- so that kind of writ large.

AVLON: Got it.

All right, well, look, I want to -- I want to take a step back because, you know, Democratic strategist James Carville, you knew him well, has called the economic recovery of the last year the greatest story never told.

So, what do you make in, for example, the drop in unemployment since last year as well as the rise in job openings amid the great resignation?

GOOLSBEE: Well, I think it's accurate to say that we're coming back strongly, that the GDP growth, economic growth, has been very strong and the job market is very tight. Those are the strongest parts of the economy.

People still -- there are many people who aren't feeling it because they -- you've got inflation, you've got the supply chain constrains and the price of gas is high. So there are definitely some negatives too.

I think and have thought from the beginning that the most critical aspect of this is you've got to get control of the virus. And if the omicron variant is going to explode the way it seems to be exploding, then we have to absolutely have a -- keep our fingers crossed that it's going to be mild and that this could turn more like into a flu or the cold, et cetera.


GOOLSBEE: If we're going to have a mass ramp up of hospitalizations, regardless of whether you have legal lockdowns or not, you're going to see people withdraw from the economy. We've seen that every time there's been a resurgence of the virus.


GOOLSBEE: And that could happen again now. So the recovery is tenuous.

AVLON: Well, and, still, as we have battled through the past year with Covid waves, we've seen something extraordinary. And there's a chart that really blew my mind because we are used to the rich getting richer while the middle class is squeezed and lower income workers lose ground. But actually in the last year we've seen the bottom quartile of workers see their wages rise. And it's pretty striking.

What do you make of that? How's that happened and what could put it at risk, if anything?

GOOLSBEE: Yes, rise and at almost unprecedented rates. I think that's because those jobs, the lower income jobs, have tended to be the jobs that have to be done in a specific place and where exposure to the virus is highest. And so there's not a lot of labor supply in the economist language. People don't want to go work for the same low wages that they did before if they're going to be exposed to angry customers telling people they have to put on masks, they might get the virus from working side by side with fellow workers. And -- and it's a very tight labor market.

So, I think that's where the demand is highest, and so that's where the wages are going up. That's just basic economics 101.

AVLON: Austan Goolsbee, we're going to have to leave it there, but thank you very much for helping to clarify some of these things for us.

GOOLSBEE: Great to see you.

AVLON: Be well.

Our frontline reporter reflects on two years of covering the human drama of Covid. That's next.



COLLINS: It's been nearly two years since the discovery of Covid-19. And in that time, our correspondents here and around the world have been on the frontline, bringing you the most up to date information.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The corridors in the ER here lined with those suffering from coronavirus. Patients, unresponsive, struggling to breathe.

The deaths here keep coming. While filming, another victim of Covid-19 was moved to the hospital's temporary morgue, a refrigerated semitrailer parked out back. The hospital's regular morgue, filled to capacity.

MARQUEZ (on camera): How much room do you have in your morgue?

KHAN EDWARDS, VP, EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, BROOKDALE HOSPITAL: Usually we have around 20 plus bodies that we can fit comfortably.

MARQUEZ: And you've gone over that?

EDWARDS: We've gone over that.

MARQUEZ: Did you think Covid was not a serious illness?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't give it that much thought because at the time it wasn't that big a deal, you know, when it first started, you know.

MARQUEZ: And what -- what's your thought on it now?



COLLINS: Joining us now is the correspondent you see there, CNN's senior national correspondent Miguel Marquez, who has been covering this pandemic since the beginning.

And I just want to ask you, what was it like in those early days when you're going into hospitals, there is no vaccine yet, there's no protection for you like that, you're relying on a mask, the goggles that you're wearing, the scrubs that you're wearing, the protection there. You know, what was it like putting all of that on and going in to talk to people who were on ventilators, who may be taking their last breaths, who aren't seeing their loved ones?

MARQUEZ: Yes, it was -- it was -- it was fear inducing. We had no idea what we were dealing with. You know, whether it was me, Frank Lavona (ph), the photographer who went us -- went with me on that first shoot, Andy Buck (ph), who did the second shoot here in New York, very early on, where doctors were still trying to grapple with what was happening to their patients.


They had no clue how to treat them. Some idea, but everything they were trying was failing and they were very, very frustrated.

The number of doctors crying and nursing staff crying and patients sort of staring off in the distance, and unable to breathe, it was shocking. So, coming home, stripping everything off, jumping in the shower, keeping myself isolated from family and friends for as many days as possible, you know, it was -- it was a very scary time.

AVLON: You know, hearing you recount all that brings me back to how far we've come, both in knowledge about the virus, even as new waves come in.


AVLON: And in the fact we have vaccines.

And I wonder, as you cover it now, and we confront the fact that this is primarily a pandemic of the unvaccinated, breakthrough cases aside, not leading to nearly as many hospitalizations and deaths, how does that change your perspective?

MARQUEZ: I mean it -- this pandemic, this virus, it reminds us how much we need each other. We need each other to wear masks everywhere. We need each other to get vaccinated. And it underscores how distrustful and how divided this country is. It is shocking to have gone from New York, where there was this -- everybody was cheering at 7:00 p.m. every night for workers, healthcare workers, to go into the Midwest and the south and all over country now to see other hospitals and how people just -- they've moved on. They just don't care. It's beyond their ability to sort of take in anymore because they just don't think -- either they don't believe that it's real or they just can't sort of accept that it's happening in their community. To see it go from cities to rural areas to everywhere in the country, it's -- it's been an experience.

I covered Iraq and Afghanistan. This has been worse.


AVLON: Geez.

COLLINS: That -- that says really a lot.

And I know risk -- taking a risk is part of the job, but you're going in there to tell people's stories. That's why you were taking that risk, going into these hospitals, you know, talking not only to the doctors and the nurses and those who were in charge of staffing the morgue there, but also to tell people's stories who were in the rooms, on the ventilators, in these hospital beds. And so I wonder if there's anyone whose story will stick with you.

MARQUEZ: I mean so many. The nurse who was getting ready to retire in Michigan, in Lansing, Michigan, whose husband was dealing with a health issue, and, you know, she got me into tears. I've cried more over the last two years talking to people -- I'm getting choaked up right now just even thinking about it -- and just how difficult it is for them to come to work every single day and deal with the same thing over and over and over.

AVLON: That's what we do. And that's what you do in telling their stories. It's all about telling a story about something bigger than ourselves.

MARQUEZ: Indeed.

AVLON: That's one of the things this pandemic has taught us and you've helped show us.

Thank you, Miguel.

MARQUEZ: Thanks.

COLLINS: Miguel, thank you so much. You just -- you did such good work for CNN, and it really showed.


COLLINS: And it was really powerful for someone to go in there to show what it was really like. And I think it was a big lesson for a lot of people who were at home who maybe were like that woman and didn't think it was a big deal at first and then realized quickly just how serious it was.

MARQUEZ: Oh, yes. Thank you, guys.

AVLON: Be well.

All right.

COLLINS: Up -- now it is time for "The Good Stuff."

And the power of social media and how it helped one man find his lost wedding band. Bob Mann and his wife were eating at one of their favorite Florida restaurants when he unwittingly dropped his wedding ring. That's when Michelle Heiser entered the picture.


MICHELLE HEISER, FOUND WEDDING BAND: I'm walking and all of a sudden I look down and I see a gold ring. And I said to my husband, I go that looks like someone's wedding band. All I thought to myself when I saw the ring was, oh, my God, what if

it was my ring or his ring, you know? I would want someone to try and find a way to get it back to me.


COLLINS: She found the ring and posted a picture of it on social media, noting that it had an inscription inside of it. When someone recognized it, they alerted the Manns who then described the inscription on the ring and Michelle returned it, just in time for Christmas.


KATY MANN, WIFE: I asked him if he had lost a ring. And he said, no. He said, well, wait a minute, I don't have my ring on. It must be -- he thought it was in the bathroom and he couldn't find it.

It was just great that they would follow through like that, find the owner.

BOB MANN: I think they were more enthused than we were.


COLLINS: Heiser says she now plans to get her own husband's ring inscribed, just in case, and maybe a phone number would work.

AVLON: All right, that's good. I think -- not romantic, but practical.

COLLINS: Yes. Exactly. Sometimes the practical can be romantic.

AVLON: Yes, you know, in some cases also for many husbands, that kind of -- that kind of knowing it will come back to you even if you lose it would be very helpful.

COLLINS: I know. I love that he said that the woman was more enthused that she reunited it with its owner than he really was about getting the wedding ring back.


AVLON: We needed some good stuff. Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: We did.

John, it's been good to be with you this morning.

AVLON: You too.

COLLINS: And we will be back tomorrow.