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New Day

Biden Urges Putin to De-Escalate; Covid Update from Around the World; Joseph Allen is Interviewed on Masks; Health Tips for 2022. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 31, 2021 - 06:30   ET

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


[06:30:00]

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And this is sort of a setting of the table, a setting of expectations or taking a pulse of where those negotiations are going beforehand.

But the other is the calendar because Russia is widely expected to need to make a decision in the next couple of months about how aggressive they're going to get toward the Ukraine. This is something that would probably need to happen in the winter months. Russia has indicated it's very concerned about getting slow walked by the west here. And so there is some sense of urgency and timing for Putin.

But, primarily, it's that January 10th kick-off meeting, a series of meetings. And this was a call before then to try to figure out essentially whether the U.S. and NATO were going to blink and begin to give in to some of Russia's efforts to push the west back and regain more of a kind of Soviet-era, you know, approach to the countries around them.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, and, John Harwood, it appears they're kind of still in a standoff. There's no signs of de- escalation. The White House, when they were briefing reporters on how this call went, didn't really sound confident that it had been resolved during this call.

So, on January 10th, those talks that Margaret's talking about, what are we expecting them to look like?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think they're kicking off as a result of these two phone calls. Remember, the first phone call, President Biden warned Vladimir Putin, if you invade Ukraine, we may unplug you from the global financial system. Vladimir Putin, in this call yesterday said, OK, well, if you do that, we may unplug our relationship with you. Complete rupture are the words that the Kremlin used to describe what he laid out.

Now, you can see that as posturing ahead of these January 10th week meetings in Geneva involving both the U.S. and the Russian side, NATO, the organization for security and cooperation in Europe. All attempts to try to deescalate the situation.

But the challenge is, nobody knows what Putin's real intentions are. He's got a clear record of aggression. He invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president, invaded -- seized Crimea illegally in 2014 when Barack Obama was president. He could do it again. On the other hand, as pain -- it would be a painful thing to invade Ukraine, both militarily and economically. So he may be trying to get some leverage, trying to get NATO to back off a bit. Joe Biden is not going to meet his demand to promise never to have Ukraine join NATO, but they could have some other steps to try to reassure Russia that the U.S. and NATO are not trying to incur on Russia's sovereignty.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean there are ways to deescalate this. But the demands Russia has made are absurd. And the fact that, you know, all the sanctions and the strong condemnation, Crimea is still under Russian control. So that's why when Putin had said to President Biden allegedly that, you know, that -- if stronger sanctions are put in place, it will have a catastrophic effect on the relationship, I mean that is the card to be played. This is a risk/reward ratio.

Why in the world would Putin think that Biden would back down from that?

TALEV: The relationship's in a pretty tense state already. And, in fact, as you'll recall, Russia kept violating this other weapons treaty so often that it was just abandoned entirely during the Trump administration, now Russia. "The New York Times" has some good reporting, has some real concerns now about its own posture vis-a-vis missiles that could make Russia venerable.

So, I think John's right, that it's not -- it's a little bit opaque still what Russia is actually trying to get. Are they trying to get permission to go on a more offensive posture in sort of what used to be considered the satellite countries, or are they actually feeling vulnerable and trying to get some space for themselves? Obviously, they could improve their own vulnerability by walking away from Crimea and other steps that have been -- the U.S. has been dealing with for the last several years, but that's not going to happen.

And so we go into the new year with this really tense situation. And, look, if you're Biden, or any western democracy, you're dealing with Covid, dealing with the pandemic, and you're dealing with an assault on democracy inside your own country. So, like, getting into it with Russia is sort of the last thing anyone's looking for. But this is now a problem that's going to have to be the top of Biden's agenda as he starts the new year.

COLLINS: And, John Harwood, where are the Ukrainians in all of this because I know we had heard from Ukrainian President Zelensky saying that when he was briefed by President Biden on the sanctions they were threatening Russia with, he didn't really think that they were enough to deter Russia from invading. So, where are they given all of these calls about them are playing out?

HARWOOD: Ukraine wants to be shielded by the west. And so, yes, sanctions are not enough in the view of President Zelensky. But, of course, the U.S. and NATO are also promising to strengthen the military posture and provide some defensive weapons for Ukraine to try to deter a Russian attack. [06:35:09]

You know, Russia, as Margaret indicated, is longing for the lost days of the Soviet Union, when they controlled a lot of that territory near Russia, including Ukraine. But the Ukraine wants to move closer to the west. And that's the -- that's the challenge. And so, you know, you had President Trump, on behalf or vindicating the aims of Russia, pressuring Ukraine when he was president. Joe Biden is taking a different posture. He's supporting Ukraine. But it's clearly a standoff that's very difficult.

On the other hand, I will say one thing, Russia knows that the United States is not going to deploy military forces to defend Ukraine.

AVLON: Yes.

HARWOOD: But the president's moving with the support of NATO allies. You've got NATO there as well. And given all the other challenges President Biden has, a foreign policy standoff in which he comes out on top with -- with President Putin, if Putin backs down, that's not necessarily bad politically for President Biden given the other challenges that he's got.

COLLINS: Yes, and we know President Biden, this has been in his portfolio for some time. He wanted to send lethal aid to Ukraine when he was vice president.

Margaret Talev, John Harwood, thank you so much for joining us this morning and happy New Year to you both.

AVLON: Thanks, guys, Happy New Year.

HARWOOD: Happy New Year, guys.

AVLON: All right, up next, omicron is now the dominant variant in France as well. What that country is doing ahead of New Year's Eve cancellations.

COLLINS: And which mask is the best mask to protect you against Covid- 19? Cloth, surgical, N95? Our next guest breaks it down. His top pick.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:40:16]

AVLON: China is placing millions under harsh restrictions amid one of its worst outbreaks in a single city since the start of the pandemic in Wuhan. It's one of China's largest cities to be locked down since Wuhan was shut down when the coronavirus was first discovered.

CNN has reporters covering the pandemic around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: I'm Steven Jiang in Beijing. Friday marks the two-year anniversary of China reporting the first

cluster of cases of what becomes known as Covid in Wuhan to the World Health Organization. Despite Beijing's claim of victory against the pandemic in the city of Xi'an, 13 million residents are now living under increasingly harsh lockdown conditions due to a new Covid outbreak. Local officials have promised to ensure the distribution of food and medicines, but some citizens who had aired their grievances now under attacks by trolls, with the Chinese government, once again, intensifying their effort to both contain the virus and control the narrative.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jim Bittermann in Paris, where the new year will begin about the way it began last year, with people required to wear masks in public, and few or no large public celebrations. Across the country, year-end festivities and fireworks have been cancelled, disco techs are closed and, in many places, bars and restaurants will be required to shut their doors at 2:00 a.m.

Similar measures are in place in countries across Europe with perhaps the most severe in Austria, where bars and restaurants are required to close two hours before the new year begins. This year one French newspaper headline read, celebration rhymes with resignation.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm David McKenzie in Cape Town.

Authorities here say the country may have passed the wave of omicron- dominated infections. In fact, they are reducing the amount of restrictions in time for new year, including ending a many months long curfew. There's also new research coming out from private hospitals showing that in the early stages of this wave, people were far less sicker, especially around the issues of acute respiratory illness, again indicating at least anecdotally, that omicron in this country has been less severe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: With the omicron variant spreading across the U.S. at a rate not seen since the pandemic first gripped the nation, there is an increased focus on what kind of mask you should be wearing.

Joining us now to talk about that is Joseph Allen, the professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is also the chair of the task force on safe schools, safe work and safe travel for The Lancet Covid-19 Commission.

So, good morning, Joseph.

And I guess the first question we have for you is, which mask is the best mask?

JOSEPH ALLEN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, good morning. Thanks for having me back on.

I think we have to recognize that all masks are not equal. And I think most people know it at this point. But there's still some confusion about what you should select if you need to wear a mask. And so we want to promote these better masks, so-called better masks. These are things like N95, or KN95s or KF94s. And I want to drive home one thing here, that the power of a mask depends on the two fs, filtration and fit. And I'm going to show you a KF94 that I wear to demonstrate this.

So the KF94, like an N95, gets 94 percent to 95 percent of filtration efficiency, but you want that fit to work as well too. So you want this bridge on the top of your nose, this flexible bridge that can keep it close to your face. And also you'll see, in addition to the ear loop, I like this one because it's got an adjustable strap, this second loop. So when I put it on, filtration is good. But then on top of that I can make the fit better around my nose and then pull these extra straps to improve fit around my face. So it's filtration and fit that are key, and you want these better masks.

AVLON: All right. So, this is really -- you -- any version of 95 you think is the way to go. I think folks should know by now that cloth is nowhere near as effective. Is there any difference between the variations of 95s?

ALLEN: You know, there is an important caveats here because N95s, I think, are trusted. The KF94s out of Korea, I really like. I find them comfortable. KN95s are also very good, but you have to be careful, OSHA has been warning about these since April 2020 that there are potential counterfeits. So before you purchase a KN95, I highly recommend you go to CDC or the FDA has links on this too where they've tested some international brands to check their filter efficiency. Some KN95s that are counterfeit get as low as 20 percent filter efficiency. So I urge caution there. Find yourself an N95 or one of these KF94s. That's what I would recommend.

COLLINS: Well, and, Joseph, I think when the CDC updated their new guidance when it comes to isolation, when you can exit isolation if you've tested positive for Covid-19, they said, wear a mask after those first five days if you're asymptomatic.

[06:45:02]

I think some people were surprised they did not recommend a certain grade of mask, a certain kind of mask, like the ones that you're talking about that are the most effective. But do you think that that has played into the factor that they're just hoping some people who are reluctant to wear a mask will just wear a mask at all, whether it's a cloth mask or whatever.

ALLEN: Yes, I think that's exactly right. I think most of us first would have liked to have seen tests to return. You test out of isolation.

AVLON: Yes.

ALLEN: But in -- CDC went with, wear a mask. And, yes, they should have specified what kind of mask.

I also think we should be careful here about making, because it matters -- the context matters for what mask is most appropriate. You know, all masks work. They work to varying degrees. But if you're in a low-risk setting, and here, you know, I'm fully vaccinated with friends, boosted in a small get-together, your windows are open, you have good ventilation, I think a low-level mask in that case would be fine. In fact, I think no mask in that case is actually OK.

If you're a health care worker, absolutely you should be wearing a high-grade mask. You're around a lot of people who are highly infectious. So I don't think it's all that simple to say everyone just needs to wear an N95, we're going to be fine. I think we have to recognize the reality of that. Quite honestly, a lot of people, even where I am in Boston, are not wearing a mask all the time. If you're going to wear a mask, it makes sense to wear a better mask. But the context matters. There is a hierarchy of controls. And first and foremost, get vaccinated, get boosted, good ventilation, good filtration. You do all of these things and then masking provides that extra -- that extra layer of control.

If you're unvaccinated, your risk is really high. You need to be wearing one of these better masks.

COLLINS: Of course, though, we know those people are often the ones not wearing a mask at all.

AVLON: Yes.

COLLINS: Joseph Allen, that is some great information ahead of this New Year's holiday. So, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

AVLON: Thank you.

ALLEN: Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: Up next, you want to start the new year off on the right foot? Dr. Sanjay Gupta has his top health tips as we head into 2022. And, you know, this is the time of year everyone cannot get enough health tips.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:50:29]

AVLON: All right, we are less than 24 hours from ringing in 2022. And I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a fresh start. And that begins, of course, with getting rid of some bad habits that have only gotten worse during the pandemic. So, please, let's bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who has some wise advice on how to start out the new year on the right foot.

Sanjay, happy almost New Year.

What should folks be focusing on in the new year?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, I think you want to be realistic but, you know, audacious enough that you're actually going to make some changes. And, you know, John, I'm a brain guy, so I do think about a lot of

these things from the perspective of the brain. It is often said, what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. But there's some differences as well. So I break it down into sort of these three pillars of health, which are going to sound familiar to people, but it's basically movement, which I use that word instead of exercise, nourishment, I use that word instead of diet, and rest.

AVLON: Of course, movement, or exercise, is at the top of your list. Now, you're a runner, which makes me envious and jealous and deeply admiring. But for the rest of us, who maybe aren't built quite that way, is there a prescription for how much exercise we need to be getting?

GUPTA: Well, this is a really interesting point, and I think we're seeing a shift in terms of how we think about this. There's still guidelines. People say there's 150 minutes that you should be getting of exercise every week. It may or may not surprise you, John, to know that about 80 percent of Americans do not hit that goal. So that's just sort of a starting point.

But I also -- you know, more fundamentally, John, I am a runner, but I also am a believer that the human body wasn't designed to sit and lie for 23 hours a day and then go for a run for an hour. You know, we were designed to be moving all day long. That is when we function best in terms of all these different processes in our body.

AVLON: Now, losing weight, of course, is at the bottom of all of this. Always a perennial, popular New York -- New Year's resolution. But while more exercise is key, there's the other side of the equation. So, what should we know about eating?

GUPTA: Well, you know, again, there's some cultural shifts in this. And, you know, one thought I'd like to tell people and remind people is that when you eat, when you're actually consuming food, it is the most consistent message we are giving to our bodies, a message from our outside world to our inside world. It's a signal. Think of it like that. We think of it in terms of calories and pallet and taste, understandably. But it's a signal to our bodies. And there's an army of microorganisms, for example, in our gut, our microbiome, which stand at the ready to be able to interpret that signal and do something about it.

I spent some time for my podcast talking to Dr. Uma Naidoo. She is a psychiatrist, nutrition, chef, sort of this triple threat. Just listen to how she put this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. UMA NAIDOO, PSYCHIATRIST, NUTRITIONAL SPECIALIST: If we're eating for our inside of our body, the outside will follow, because by taking care of our brain, our gut, the rest of our organs, the weight will come off because we're going to be eating healthier foods.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: So, again, this is a way of thinking about it. But let me -- let me take it a step further that a lot of people have told me, especially over these last couple of years. I want to increase my immunity. I want to build up my immunity.

Now, what does that mean exactly, right? Well, 80 percent of our immunity lies within your gut. It's called the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue. It is that microbiome that I'm talking about. And there are ways to create a healthier microbiome that can help inoculate you from illness. You know, and it works so quickly, when I talked to these scientists. What you had for breakfast on any given day could influence how sick you might get to an infection or something else later on that night.

So, you know, when you're thinking about eating that way, you will eat better, the weight will come off as Dr. Naidoo said, if that's the goal, but you're going to get all these ancillary benefits. The best microbiome, a diverse one. So eat different foods.

AVLON: That's fascinating.

GUPTA: That's the key, eat different foods.

AVLON: That's a fascinating way of approaching it.

All right, lastly, we come to rest. And I know you've confessed you don't always get enough sleep and I resemble that remark myself. So how important is shuteye to a holistically healthy body?

GUPTA: Well, can I just say, John, I do not brag about being able to get a lot done on little sleep anymore. That used to be a point of pride, I think, for a lot of people.

AVLON: Yes.

GUPTA: I don't think of it that way anymore at all, when you -- when you look at the science. And just basic things. Like, I'm in my early 50s now. You start to think about things. When you look at the data and you say, people who get less than six hours of sleep, there's a significant correlation for those people potentially going from being prediabetic to diabetic.

[06:55:02]

Forty-four percent increased risk. So if you're like someone, hey, I'm doing pretty good so far. I'm not diabetic, but I'm worried about it. If you're not getting enough sleep, that could push you over the edge. These are more concrete sort of, you know, things that have come to light.

But I think, you know, the what and the why. When I -- when I try and explain these things, I can tell you what you should do, but the why I think is -- makes it stick. So why do you sleep? There's all sorts of different things. But two things I think always come to my mind. One is that it is a time when you consolidate memories. So you've had these amazing experiences throughout the day, maybe throughout this holiday season. You -- three, four years from now you want to remember them, you know, very clearly. If you sleep well, that is when those short-term memories get sort of imprinted into long-term memories. For a lot of us, it's not that we forget things, it's that we never really remembered them because we're not getting enough sleep.

The other thing I'll add to that is that we have this constant rinse cycle that happens in our body. It's our lymph glands. Well, there's a similar sort of system that happens in the brain where you're basically clearing away the metabolic waste. That can be problematic later on in life if it accumulates. At night, when you sleep, is when you are typically clearing most of that waste away. You're constantly doing it, but the most efficient time is at night. So, cleaning out the waste, consolidating memories, and people's moods and everything else obviously improved as well.

AVLON: Sounds like a pretty good deal all around.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta with crucial advice for mind, body and spirit as it turns out.

Happy New Year, my friend. Be well.

GUPTA: You too, John. Great to see you.

AVLON: All right, coming up, health officials to everyone looking to celebrate this new year, do it safely and at your own risk. What they're also warning travelers about.

COLLINS: Plus, the college football playoffs are finally here, and the Alabama Crimson Tide is looking for a repeat as National Champions. But first, Cincinnati is looking to make history of their own.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: We are just hours away from the college football playoffs. Not sure if you've heard, but the Alabama Crimson Tide kicks off this afternoon in Dallas.

We've got Coy Wire with more on this.

Coy, I don't know if you can see my mug here, but I am a little prepared for today.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: The Sabanator. I love coach on your mug. Kaitlan, good morning to you.

This college football playoff feels fresh, right? We have a new blue blood in it this season. A Cinderella looking to crash the party.

Let's start in the Orange Bowl, which is featuring a return to glory for Michigan. They're back to the promised land for the first time in almost a quarter century after a huge win over Ohio State in the BigTen title as well. The Wolverines haven't won the title since 1998. Coach Jim Harbaugh played quarterback there. Now he has a chance to win a title for his alma mater. Georgia's title drought has lasted for decades, but Coach Kirby Smart

has built a perennial powerhouse. The nation's top scoring defense has to bounce back after getting blasted by Bama in the SEC title game, though, right, Kaitlan.

[07:00:05]

That takes us to the Cotton Bowl, where the Crimson Tide will collide with Cincinnati.