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New Day

U.S. Daily Case Count Hits Pandemic High as Omicron Surges; Jury Finds Maxwell Guilty, Tied to Epstein Sex Trafficking Ring; Today, Biden to Speak With Putin at Russian Leader's Request. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired December 30, 2021 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:04]

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And as part of a package of reform that is aimed at modernizing Jordan, reforms that are backed by the Jordanian king, but instead of talking about the issue, parliamentarians instead ended up trading insults and exchanging blows.

So what is the key issue? It boils down to women's rights. There are concerns, fears among some parliamentarians that this change could end up leading to changes in Jordan's citizenship law and in its inheritance law.

Right now, as it stands, Jordanian women are not allowed to pass on citizenship to their children. And when it comes to inheritance, well, that is based on Sharia Law, and that quite often does receive larger share being given to a man than to a woman.

Jordan's religious conservatives fear that any sort of movement towards full equality for women could lead to more freedom over women's own bodies and that could then end up damaging certain societal and family norms and traditions and lead to shameful behavior.

Women's rights activists say that there is one objective only, and that is to ensure that Jordan's female population has the same rights as its male one.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN AVLON, CNN NEW DAY: Arwa Damon, thank you very much.

New Days continues right now. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Thursday, December 30th. Two days left until 2022. I'm John Avlon with Kaitlan Collins. Good morning.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN NEW DAY: Good morning, John.

AVLON: All right. This morning, the U.S. shattering its record of daily new coronavirus cases as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads rapidly throughout the country ahead of New Year's. Nationwide, daily new cases hitting a record average of more than 300,000 cases this week. The last time the number hit that peak, close to that was even in January.

Dr. Anthony Fauci strongly recommending against celebrating new year's eve by avoiding large parties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES (voice over): If your plans are to go to a 40 to 50-person New Year's Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a happy new year, I would strongly recommend that, this year, we do not do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: And this just in. Johnson & Johnson show two new reports show that people who get boosters doses of the company's vaccine are well protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the omicron variant.

Let's get more on that from CNN's Elizabeth Cohen who has all the data she is looking at. And, Elizabeth, what is this data showing us?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, this graphic that I'm about to show you, it is really striking. Let's take a look back at January 11th, when we had a peak of 252,000 cases. That's the big peak that you see on the left. Fast forward to now, we have over -- just over 300,000 daily cases. So we are -- we have more cases per day than we did back in January when remember things were so terrible. But, thank goodness, omicron seems to be producing mild disease compared to delta and other variants.

And so what we have here is that if you compare now to the January peak, hospitalizations are 55 percent lower, so more cases. But 55 percent lower hospitalization rates. Deaths 42 percent lower.

Now, we don't know what the future will hold, as, Kaitlan, you said, that it's hard to predict football. It's really hard to predict COVID as well. But as these case numbers go up, up, up, even if just a small percentage end up in the hospital or end up dying, a small percentage of a huge number can be a very large number.

Now, you also mentioned Johnson & Johnson. So, Johnson & Johnson putting out a press release saying that their vaccine, plus a booster, was 85 percent effective at preventing hospitalization compared to folks who got no vaccination at all. They also say that those two shots put together don't just boost antibodies, they also boost other elements of the immune system. But, and this is a big but, the CDC has cited safety concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and they recommend instead to get Moderna or Pfizer for your first vaccinations and also for your booster except in some pretty unusual circumstances. Kaitlan, John?

COLLINS: Elizabeth, thank you so much for that update.

And so for more on this, let's bring in CNN's Dr. Peter Hotez, he's a Professor and Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and one of the designers of the patentless vaccine, which has just been granted emergency use authorization in India.

We want to talk about that, Dr. Hotez

[07:05:02]

Of course, that is incredibly significant news. But, first, I would like to get your reaction to this new Johnson & Johnson report.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, you know, Kaitlan, this was actually always a good vaccine. The J&J vaccine is an outstanding vaccine. It's -- if you give it in two doses, I think what's happened here in the United States is there are a lot of circumstances that cause people to lose public confidence in it.

I think one was the fact that, you know, we don't -- most of our vaccine effectiveness data comes from Israel and the U.K. We're not collecting a lot of effectiveness data in the United States. So, you would always hear about the Pfizer vaccine, mRNA vaccine, and people would naturally extrapolate to the Moderna mRNA vaccine.

But I can tell you, every day, I would get emails from people who got the J&J vaccine expressing buyers' remorse because they weren't hearing anything about the J&J vaccine because they don't use those -- use that vaccine in Israel and the U.K.

So, it started out with two strikes against it. It should always have been a two-dose vaccine. It was a -- as two doses, as Elizabeth points out, it is an excellent virus-neutralizing antibodies. And it does something unique which is that very, very high CD8 positive cells, which are good for durable protection. So, it has advantages.

The other thing that happened was there was as a med archive preprint that, in part, was done by my colleagues. It's a great article and really important. But it showed early on that the boost you get with the J&J is not as high as the mRNA vaccines. But that's because the J&J has different kinetics. It takes longer for the antibody response to come up but it has the advantage of CD8 positive cells. And others papers will be forthcoming.

So, you put all of that together, and then on top of it, this very damning ACIP meeting, and I use that term in both ways, because I think it really unnecessarily tarnished the reputation of the J&J vaccine around safety. And even when so far is try to condemn the whole class of vaccine, adenovirus vector vaccines, I think that ACIP, it could have been handled in a much better way.

And so not to discredit the adenovirus vector vaccines, it was tone deaf to what was going to happened in terms of our dependence on this class of vaccines for global health. So bottom line, it is a really good vaccine as a two-dose vaccine. And it's unfortunate the way things worked out for, at least here in the United States.

AVLON: That's fascinating insight. I want to thank you for sort of following in (INAUDIBLE) footsteps with the patentless vaccine. That is an extraordinary accomplishment. And I look forward to India now taking that up first.

But I want to ask you about something that I'm hearing more and more folks expressing concern about, which is long COVID in the context of omicron. And this is still, in many cases, a black box. But it does seem omicron's symptoms are less severe, particularly when people get breakthrough cases because they have been vaccinated.

What do we know about long COVID with omicron in the context of people who have been vaccinated? Are the impacts of long COVID reduced by getting vaccinations?

HOTEZ: Well, almost by definition, we don't know a lot about long COVID for omicron because it takes months to -- by the case definition, to know you have got long COVID. And this has come up so quickly first in Southern Africa and then the U.K. and now here. We are not going to know this for a while.

I think we have to be really careful about being too dismissive about omicron. This is a severe pathogen. First of all, the hospitalizations are going up in New York City. They are going up in Washington, D.C. And, you know, we have this unique circumstance here in the U.S. where not only the hospitalization are going up, but we're getting a significant chunk of our health care workforce being knocked out by omicron because they have to be at home either with breakthrough symptomatic COVID or asymptomatic COVID. And that one-two punch really concerns me.

So, the overall picture of omicron ultimately is not going to look too different from other waves in terms of severe morbidity and mortality. So, I think we have to take it very seriously. And the fact the two of the three monoclonal antibodies that we use for COVID-19 do not work against omicron. So, we have knocked out two of our important therapeutic tools. We don't have Paxlovid. We've not gotten testing up to speed. We have Remdesivir but that requires parental administration.

So, when you add all these things up, we are in for a pretty serious time and we have to take this seriously, as Dr. Fauci has pointed out.

COLLINS: Yes. And Paxlovid, that a, of course, COVID pill that has gotten authorization from the FDA. And we talk to Dr. Fauci the other day, and he said it is going to be quite a while before that is something that's widely available. And so I think that is something that you have to remind people. You have got that good news about it, but it is going to take time before you can have access to it.

I do want to ask you before we do get to the vaccine news out of Houston about something that Michigan's Department of Health is doing, saying that they are going to keep with the current isolation guidelines, not the new CDC, ones that have revised it, if you are asymptomatic you can go from ten days to five days in isolation and then wear a mask the next five days.

[07:10:13]

They say they want to wait on more evidence from the CDC. And so what do you think of that?

HOTEZ: Well, you know, one of the problems with the CDC guidelines, and I understand them because it's trying to balance the science with the fact that we didn't want to shut down the whole country because all the essential workers are home with COVID. But, you know, I think one of the things that we don't really talk about is each variant behaves differently and with respect to virus shedding and how contagious it is and when we can lift these kinds of restrictions. So, we don't really have that data collected on omicron. We have it for the other variants. So I think the CDC is making its best attempt based on previous lineages to do that. So I understand what Michigan dong.

The problem that Michigan will have with that, of course, is will it knock out too many essential workers not only in the health care industry but also essential workers from fire and rescue, et cetera. So, it will be interesting to see how that works out.

AVLON: Interesting is one word for it. Before we go, I want to just dig in deeper to the vaccine you and your team at the Texas Children's Hospital at the Baylor College of Medicine have been developing. This is this patent-free vaccine falling in the footsteps of called Corbevax. You're essentially giving away to people in the developing world. Tell us what the significant says and about India's up taking it apparently.

HOTEZ: Well, the significance is that the southern hemisphere is unvaccinated and we have seen how, you know, delta arose out of an unvaccinated population in India. Omicron arose out of unvaccinated population in South Africa.

Until we vaccinate the southern hemisphere, we're going to continue to have new variants. And the one that I'm worried would be something like omicron that's actually more -- that produces more severe illness, not less severe illness.

So, the only way that is going to happen is if we vaccinate the world. And things are just moving too slowly. So, the Texas Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, together with my science co- partner for the last 20 years, we lead a group, that's make the vaccine at the big pharma companies won't make, mostly for parasitic infections, like chagas disease and schistosomiasis and hook worm infection. But we've -- about ten years ago, because there was also not much interest in coronavirus vaccines, we began doing that and started pivoted around pretty quickly to make this low-cost, recombinant protein COVID vaccine that uses the same technology or others do. It's similar to the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine used all over the world.

And we used that technology because that's produced locally in places like Indonesia, in India, in Vietnam, in Brazil, and that's -- so that's what we did because that's what we always do. And the consequence of that is now we have licensed it. As you say, no patent, no strings attached. To India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Botswana and the one furthest along is this outstanding vaccine produced in India, known as Biological E, they have -- in clinical trials, it look at superiority study to the AstraZeneca Oxford vaccine. And it looks really terrific enough for the Indian regulators to green light it for emergency use authorization.

And here's the thing. There is no limit to the amount you can produce because they already -- throughout the southern hemisphere, you have that capacity. So, they have already got 150 million doses ready to go. They will now produce 100 million doses a month. They are going to produce a billion doses.

And the irony is our small research institute at Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine together, with Bio E, we are going to match or exceed the entire U.S. government commitment to global vaccine equity at this point and better than any of the other G7 countries.

And so the other messages, guys, wake up, you've got to step up to what we're doing now and vaccinate the world.

COLLINS: That's amazing news.

AVLON: It really is. It really is a gift for the world. You make a profound point about how these new variants are emerging from places that are undervaccinated in the southern hemisphere. Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you very much and Happy New Year.

HOTEZ: Thank you, all the best to both of you.

AVLON: All right. Up next, a jury convicted Ghislaine Maxwell on five counts for her role in a sex trafficking ring. How many years does she now face behind bars.

COLLINS: And President Putin to President Biden, call me, we need to talk. The quote complicated issues that the two leaders will discuss this afternoon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:15:00]

AVLON: This morning, the former companion of Jeffrey Epstein is vowing to appeal her conviction for sex trafficking and other charges. Federal jury in Manhattan found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty on five of six counts for her role in Epstein sexual abuse of minor girls. Maxwell now faces 65 years in prison for sex trafficking of a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three related counts of conspiracy.

Joining us now CNN Legal Analyst and former New York City Prosecutor Paul Callan and Criminal Defense Attorney and former Prosecutor Bernarda Villalona. It is good to see you both.

Paul, let me start with you here. Maxwell was convicted on five of six charges for crimes that took place in 94 to 2004. Do you think justice was done with this conviction?

PAUL CALLAN,CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I would have to say, yes, I do think that justice was done based on the evidence that I saw, which was produced in the case. And also, I have a lot of confidence in this jury. Because they spent so many days meticulously analyzing each piece of evidence that was presented to them. This was a hard-working jury. And one that really got into the details in a way I've never seen in any other jury deliberation. So I'm satisfied that they did an excellent job in evaluating the evidence.

COLLINS: Well, and Bernarda, this was seen as a reckoning that Jeffrey Epstein never had, of course, after he killed himself.

[07:20:03]

But she was acquitted of one count, I mean enticing a minor to travel across state lines to engage in illegal sexual act. She was convicted on all the others. So what stood out the most to you how this came down from the jury yesterday?

BERNARDA VILLALONA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AND FORMER PROSECUTOR: So I commend the jury. But most importantly, I commend the victims in this case. Jane, Kate, Carolyn and Annie for having the courage, and the bravery and the strength to come forward to face their abuser.

The jury saw them. The jury believed them. And the jury determined that despite 1994 to 2004, Ghislaine Maxwell, you are guilty. And we're holding you accountable for your predatory behavior. So what stood out to me was the courageousness and bravery of these victims.

However, I will note what do we do about the names that were mentioned during the trial? What do we do about the names entered into evidence? Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew? Do those names go uninvestigated? Where do we stand with that?

AVLON: So, Paul, let me pick that up with you. Without you know -- there is this question about accountability for some of the men who seem to have enabled Epstein's predatory behavior. What about the documents that were -- that have not yet seen by the public, what about any future efforts to create accountable of those men. Do you think that will happen, or is this the end of the road?

CALLAN: Well, if it's not the end of the road we are getting to the end of the road, John. And the reason for that is, of course, the Southern District of New York, which is the federal entity that did this prosecution. They have got piles of evidence on this case because they have been looking into this case for, well over a year. And, of course, it even goes back to about a year 2005 when Epstein originally pled guilty. So, they have thousands of pages of documents undoubtedly that their investigation has turned up.

But all of that remains confidential, because criminal investigations, we don't just release everything in this country. Because just putting this case aside for a minute, let's say somebody near local town was investigated for something and exonerated. Well, could you release all the information? No, you wouldn't, because there are privacy rights that could be violated.

Now, that's not to say that if Ghislaine comes forward, Maxwell comes forward, and Ghislaine comes forward and implicates somebody new that she hasn't previously and presents solid evidence there, yes, you could have a case against one of these more famous individuals whose names have come up. But until we hear something specific about that, it is just speculation.

COLLINS: It is just speculation, but it is a big question a lot of people have because the big names are a big part of this. In the aspect of how this all happened for so long and the connections that Jeffrey Epstein had that allowed him to continue this, and the people are willing to help him hide it. Of course, you cannot forget that this ensnared former President Trump labor secretary at the time when all of this was going on.

And I want to point out a lot of this came to light because of the relentless reporting of Julie Kay Brown, who did amazing work here and stayed on this and paid attention to it.

And, Bernarda, so I wonder what that means to you, because listening to the victims and the survivors talk about what happen to them, and how for so long several of them had tried to report it to the police. Several of them tried to tell people about it and they were ignored or dismissed.

VILLALONA: Exactly, because this has been going on since 1994. There was so much evidence that was presented during this trial, Jeffrey -- in terms of Ghislaine Maxwell. And, for example, two of the search warrants that were executed, one in 2005. This is over 15 years ago. But we don't have arrests until 2019-2020, because the people in Florida weren't willing to go forward or to penalize or stop this behavior that could have prevented so many young girls from being victimized.

But thanks to the Southern District of New York, they were able to look into these claims and form a prosecution against Jeffrey Epstein and one against Ghislaine Maxwell. But what does this say to you? It doesn't matter the power that you have, the money that you have, you too are not above the law. You too can be held accountable.

And I hope that the criminal justice system sees that, that you cannot turn a blind eye to this sexual predatory behavior. Shame on you for those that did. AVLON: Equal justice under law. Paul Callan, Bernarda Villalona, thank you very much for joining us on New Day.

CALLAN: Thank you, John.

VILLALONA: Thank you.

COLLINS: Up next, Russia's Vladimir Putin is requesting a call with President Biden. A big question that even some U.S. officials have is what does Putin want?

AVLON: Plus, omicron and your kids. What we know about pediatric cases of this new COVID variant.

[07:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: As concerns grow over Russia's continued military presence at the Ukrainian border, President Biden has a call scheduled today with Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to a White House official, Putin wanted Biden to call him.

Joining us now is CNN Political and National Security Analyst David Sanger and CNN Global Affairs Analyst Susan Glasser. Thank you both for getting up to talk to us about this morning.

And, Susan, I want to start with you. Because Putin made this request after yesterday a senior White House official did tell reporters with respect to deescalate, quote, we continue to see a Russian troop presence in and around the border of Ukraine. So, there're no signs of de-escalation. So, what are you expecting in this call today?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, Kaitlan, this really -- this is a moment of crisis. I can catch that term that, you know, some were using. It seems apt. There are more than 100,000 troops as best U.S. intelligence can figure right now on the border with Ukraine.

This is in advance. This conversation between the two leaders, first of all, the second time they have spoken.

[07:30:02]

That's very unusual. It comes in advance of a January 10th meeting between U.S. and Russian negotiators in Europe --