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New Day

Boris Johnson's Political Future amid Scandals; Cases Plunge in Earliest Omicron Hot Spots; Maxwell Drops Fight Over Names; Lindsey Vonn is Interviewed about the Olympics and Mental Health Struggles. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 17, 2022 - 06:30   ET



NINA DO SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The queen was about to attend his funeral on her own. That has many voters up in arms and the opposition party yet again demanding that Boris Johnson step down to try and reset the narrative. You can expect potentially a purge of staff here and also new populist measures to recapture voters' loyalties.


KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: So, Boris Johnson and 10 Downing delivering a steady stream of scandals. New polls show that the citizens of the U.K. are reaching the end of their proverbial rope with their prime minister. But the question, of course, will this be enough that he'll have to step down?

Joining us now, economics editor for the U.K. publication "The Spectator," Kate Andrews.

Kate, it's great to see you.

Boris Johnson has survived a number of miss steps throughout his political life to the point where here in the states he has -- there are comparisons to Donald Trump, who, you know, seemed untouchable. But isn't it different this time? Is this the final straw?

KATE ANDREWS, ECONOMICS EDITOR, "THE SPECTATOR": Good morning. Thanks for having me.

It is different this time. Scandal has plagued Boris Johnson in the past, but it was very much baked into his personality and who he was. And voters knew that when they went to the polling booths in December 2019. And he won a huge majority, an 80-seat majority. And it was thought even by his opposition, up until months ago, that Boris Johnson would hold the title of prime minister essentially as long as he wanted. That the conservatives were likely to win the next election and that he could be there for the better part of a decade.

But a few weeks has been a lifetime in British politics on this side of the pond. And these revelations that the people who were drafting the rules at 10 Downing Street are also the people who were breaking the rules throughout lockdowns, primarily with drinks, parties and socializing behind the Downing Street walls. It has the public absolutely infuriated. And then the additional revelation that Boris Johnson certainly attended one of these events has people even angrier.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's one thing when you have to apologize to tens of millions of citizens of the United Kingdom. It's another thing when you have to apologize to the queen.


BERMAN: Another thing completely. And, what, one of these parties took place the night before Prince Philip's funeral. And there's an apology for that now too.

ANDREWS: Yes, this is really quite grotesque. It should be said, the prime minister didn't attend this party, but leadership comes from the top. Clearly there was a culture that led people working in Downing Street to think that that was an acceptable thing to do. There are reports that there was a wheelie suitcase that was being brought to the local shops to fill up with wine. They actually bought a wine cooler during lockdown so that they could store all the booze that they were bringing back to have these elicit parties. And one did take place the night before Prince Philip's funeral.

There is now a very famous shot here in the U.K. of the queen sitting by herself socially distanced at her husband's funeral. They were married for 70 years. And, of course, that pulls on many heartstrings because it's the queen. But it's thought that she represented every family that lost loved ones during the pandemic, that couldn't mourn them in a humane and appropriate way because of all the restrictions that we had here in the U.K. So -- so that one is particularly compelling.

I think it's important to remind American audiences as well that the U.S. and the U.K. have a shared experience of lockdown. But here in the U.K., we had more lockdowns and they were much more intense. We actually legislated who you could or could not have in your home. So, close family, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners. It was illegal for them to come into your home for the better part of a year in the U.K. in many circumstances. We would send the police after people if they did so.

So, to think, you know, this isn't just a matter of people having a few glasses of wine after work in a boozy culture. It's a matter of, we brought in such strict laws for the public, to think the people that were crafting those laws were then breaking them almost simultaneously has people up in arms.

BERMAN: Boris Johnson, the prime minister, in trouble. We'll see if it gets worse for him.

Kate Andrews, thank you very much.

I do have to say, I know it's not supposed to be the main takeaway from this entire story, but I'm fixated on the wheelie bag, the wheelie bag bar, and wondering if that's something that I can incorporate. Again, as an aside. It's not the main part of the story. HUNT: As someone who lived in the U.K. for year, it surprises me not

at all that such a things exists. But to -- to Kate's point, I mean, can you imagine. And can you imagine if that had happened here, that there were lockdowns so severe that people were being arrested because their friends were coming to their homes. And, meanwhile, the president of the United States, in our case, was behind closed doors having a great time? Forget it. It would not fly.

BERMAN: You'd have to put some kind of laundry in the wheelie bag, I think, to protect the bottles else -- sorry, again, not the main part of the story. I'm fixated on the wrong thing.

HUNT: It's OK.

BERMAN: Up next, omicron showing signs of slowing down in major cities. Are we now reaching a turning point in the fight against the virus?

HUNT: Ahead, Prince Harry says he doesn't feel safe bringing his family to the U.K. Why he now wants to pay for his own police protection after he split up with his royal family.



BERMAN: New this morning, solid evidence that the omicron wave appears to be slowing in some of the earliest hot spots, even as the U.S. surgeon general warns the surge has not peaked nationally.

Joining us now, Dr. Paul Offit, physician in the infectious diseases division at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He's also a member of the FDA vaccine advisory committee.

Dr. Offit, it's always great to have you on.


BERMAN: Look, in New York, it does look like cases have peaked and have started to slow. Hospitalizations plateaued, started to drop. Boston, the waste water, just plummeting there and cases seem to be slowing down. Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. These are the places that were hit first and worst. So, what does that tell us?

OFFIT: Well, it's a winter virus. I mean independent what variant is circulating in this country. Remember, if you look last year, when we really -- in December, January, February, we didn't really have much in the way of vaccinations.


We didn't have much in the way of population immunity from natural infections. Still, by mid-February, you saw a dramatic decline in the number of hospitalizations, in the number of deaths, because it's a winter virus. So I think by the end of January, certainly by no later than mid-February, almost independent of what virus is circulating, you would expect to see a decline.

HUNT: So, Doctor, let me ask you, as we talk about the end of this surge, I know there are a lot of Americans who are, obviously, very exhausted with dealing with the pandemic. There are certainly a lot who feel they want to move on.

But one group of -- of people who can't really, and I'm in this category, I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son, he can't get vaccinated, which, in addition to, of course, worrying about his health, also has all of these policy implications in terms of quarantines and schools and daycares being closed.

What is your take on that population? Where do the studies for the vaccinations stand? And do you think we should be changing some of these draconian policies that are keeping kids out of school for days on end where they can't do the test to return the way now some of these older children can?

OFFIT: Right. So in answer to your first question when can we expect the vaccine. Hard to know. Initially Pfizer had said at a CDC meeting that they planned to submit data in April. More recently Dr. Fauci has said March. I mean I'm on the FDA vaccine advisory committee. We haven't been specifically told that there's going to be any date, at least in the immediate future, where we're going to be reviewing these data. So, we'll see.

In terms of -- of measures, in terms of going back to school, I agree with you completely. I think that -- that -- that, for of most part, we need to have children back in school. I mean they have suffered this lack of socialization more than anyone else. And I think that just practical guidelines just to the extent that you can mask wear, mask wear to the extent that you can social distance, social distance, and do the best we can to get back in there because we're almost there. I really do think within the next say three to four to five weeks you're going to see a dramatic decline in the incidents (ph) of this illness and we're going to feel better, at least as we get into spring, summer, and early fall and then presumably next winter we'll see somewhat of a surge that's presumably less than this surge.

BERMAN: There is one thing I know you watch carefully, though, as great as it would be for children younger than five to be able to take the vaccine, in older children who are eligible now, it's not like there's a giant, massive uptake. It's still, what, it's about half or even less depending on what age group.

OFFIT: Oh, it's frustrating. We talk about how desperately we want a vaccine for children and then we get them and don't use them. Only about 50 percent of 12 to 15-year-olds have been vaccinated, which means 50 percent haven't. Only about 25 to 30 percent of five to 11- year-olds have been vaccinated. We've had a vaccine available since the middle of November. Nonetheless, about 75 percent of children in that age group aren't vaccinated.

What's frustrating for me is, when I'm on service at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, we admit a lot of children over five years of age. And what they all share in common, for the most part, is none of them are vaccinated. None of their family members are vaccinated, siblings, parents, which is generally where they get it from. Having a vaccine isn't good enough. You actually have to administer it.

HUNT: Right, that is the frustrating part.

So, let's talk a little bit about some new information that we're learning. There is a study out about NBA players. And that has been a leading indicator, actually, in so many ways throughout this pandemic. But the study found that many of these players were still infected even after five days of having the virus. What does this mean in the context of the CDC guidelines that reduced that quarantine period from 10 to five days?

OFFIT: Yes, I think the problem with that study was the tests that they use to see whether or not you were Covid positive was a PCR test, which looks for viral genome, which is, you know, that blueprint, the center viruses that tell the virus how to reproduce itself. What you really want to know is infectious virus. What's the quantity of infectious virus that's being secreted?

Now, neither the antigen test or the PCR tests tell you that. But there have been studies looking at trying to compare PCR testing with the quantity of infectious virus that you're excreting, which is to say that the degree to which you're infectious. And what they found is there's not a great correlation, especially for people who are vaccinated. If you're vaccinated, you're going to shed far less virus for a far shorter period of time. So I think that was the problem with the study.

I actually like the CDC guidelines, when they came out initially, which is that if you're Covid positive and symptomatic, quarantine yourself until you're not symptomatic anymore, and then mask. And I think that's probably the best idea because the testing, especially the PCR testing, can be misleading.

HUNT: All right, Dr. Paul Offit, thank you, as always. We really appreciate your expertise and thanks for being here today.

OFFIT: Thank you.

HUNT: All right, coming up next here, Ghislaine Maxwell is ending her fight to keep secret the names of the men involved in Epstein's operation. Why?

BERMAN: Former Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsey Vonn joins NEW DAY on her mental health struggles and the controversial Olympics in China, which begin just weeks from now.



HUNT: Welcome back.

Ghislaine Maxwell will no longer fight to keep the names of eight so- called John Does secret and will leave it up to a court to determine whether those names should be unsealed. Last month a New York jury found Maxwell guilty on five of six counts for her role in Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse and trafficking of minor girls.

Kara Scannell has the latest developments from New York.



So, this all stems from a civil lawsuit brought by accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre.

Now, as part of this lawsuit, thousands of pages of documents, including deposition transcripts, have already been unsealed. The question, though, is what happens with the documents relating to these John Does? Well, before Maxwell's trial, she had argued to keep these records sealed, saying that if they were unsealed, that it could potentially prejudice the jury.


Well, she was convicted last month and now her attorneys are saying that they no longer wish to address this, saying that the John Does have their own lawyers who can ably defend their privacy rights.

Now, we don't know anything about the John Does, who they are, if they're accused of any wrongdoing, or in what context their name comes up. A lawyer for Giuffre says that for many of these Does, it's the embarrassment about having been associated with Epstein and Maxwell. But a decision on this, Kasie, is not expected for several weeks.

HUNT: All right, Kara Scannell, thanks very much for that report.

Coming up next here, former Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn joins NEW DAY on the Olympics in China and her struggles off the slopes.

BERMAN: Plus, the winter storm puzzling -- not puzzling --

HUNT: Puzzling.

BERMAN: Pummeling -- you know what, it's Wordle. I've got wordle on my mind.

HUNT: John (ph).

BERMAN: I've got wordle. It's wordling (ph) the East Coast.

HUNT: Not you too.

BERMAN: The winter storm is pummeling the East Coast, making its way to the Northeast. Millions of people affected by this. Thousands have lost power already.

And a TV host goes on an epic rant against the unvaccinated in a wild video.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): You damned antivaxxers, gaggle of morons! Stop you're your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and at least put on a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) face mask and stop hitting the brakes. (END VIDEO CLIP)



BERMAN: Lindsey Vonn is a four-time Olympian, Olympic gold medalist, a world-cup champion and the most decorated female skier of all time. She's out with her memoir called "Rise," revealing never before told stories about her life and career, her struggles with depression, and the decisions that helped her break down barriers on and off the slopes.

And Lindsey Vonn joins me now.

It's so great to meet you.

And this book, I have to say, it's really revealing, particularly the way you talk about your retirement from competitive skiing. It's been hard.

LINDSEY VONN, AUTHOR, "RISE: MY STORY": Thanks. Yes. I mean it was definitely a hard transition for me. You know, I really thought it would be much easier because, you know, I had set things up so that I would, you know, be very busy with my schedule and business. But it was very difficult.

You know, I've been skiing my whole life since I was two and a half years old. And, you know, in retirement, I basically woke up one day and something that I relied on so heavily in my life was no longer there.

So, it took me a while, but I'm in a great place now. And I think that was an important part of my story, and for me to express that in my book.

BERMAN: You know, it's interesting because I actually associate you with overcoming adversity with your injuries. And my wife, who tore her ACL, looked to your example for how to come back from that.

You know, it's one thing trying to defeat physical adversity here, but when it's -- when it's emotional, it's different.

VONN: Yes, definitely. I think that it was actually easier for me to overcome my physical injuries as opposed to some of the psychological ones. I think that, you know, I had definitely low moments in my life and in my career, and I think that was also brought on by, you know, by some of my physical injuries. You know, my back-to-back ACL surgeries in 2013 was really difficult. And then missing the Olympics. Having to watch it on TV. I don't know, for some reason that was a really, really tough time for me. Not for some reason. It was -- it was just a really tough time. But I think that, you know, all of those instances made me more

motivated to come back from skiing. And skiing was really what got me through all those tough times which, again, was why it was so hard to retire because I no longer had that as an emotional crutch.

BERMAN: Is it going to be hard for you to watch the Olympics next month?

VONN: I think it's going to be hard. You know, I'm definitely going to be jealous of the athletes because I miss the competition and I miss skiing fast, and the adrenalin and everything that comes along with it. But I'm also in such a great place that I -- I'm genuinely happy for my teammates and everyone that's competing. And all of the women that I mentor with my -- with Team USA and also from other nations. So I'm excited to watch everyone compete. And while I will be jealous, I'll be cheering ferociously.

BERMAN: Two question about the Olympics coming up. First, how hard do you think it will be for these athletes with the Covid situation right now? You don't just have to worry about competing, you have to worry about not getting infected.

VONN: Exactly. I think it's going to be really tough. And I was actually texting with some of the competitors just this morning. There's been so many cases of Covid in the last few weeks. And women are just really trying not to get it because obviously with China's no tolerance policy, if they get it, they can't come in the country.

So, everyone is really on pins and needles trying to manage it, make sure they don't get it and, at the same time, prepare to compete in the biggest moment of their careers.

BERMAN: And, finally, there's the political angle here, which is that China is accused of genocide for its treatment of the Uighurs here. Now, I know athletes want to focus on their competition and exactly their task at hand, but I also know that athletes -- I also know that athletes care a lot about the situation in the world.

So how do you juggle that, how do you juggle the competition combined with what you know is going on in the nation where you're competing?

VONN: I think for every athlete it's different. And, you know, obviously, we get asked politically charged questions and there's so much going on right now with China and, you know, with the Olympics being held there.

But I think that athletes are not a stranger to those types of conversations. You know, I think we're in a position where, you know, we're on the -- on a global stage.


And I think it's every athlete's choice whether they speak out or don't speak out because, ultimately, that has a huge weight that comes with it, you know, and that can affect their performance in -- again, in a competition that they've been looking forward to their entire