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House Takes Final Vote on Biden's $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill; House Takes Final Vote on Biden's $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired March 10, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you for joining us.

At this hour, we're following two stories. At any moment, we're going to get an update from President Biden's COVID response team. It's getting pushback on CDC guidance on what America should or shouldn't do. We'll bring you the briefing when they begin -- as soon as they begin.

The CDC director is appearing to acknowledge some of this criticism in an opinion piece co-written with two other experts and published just moments ago. In the op-ed it says, quote, CDC guidance will evolve as coverage increases across the country change and new data emerge.

We're also keeping a close eye on Capitol Hill where the House is debating, you see Kevin McCarthy there, get ready to hold a historic vote on President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, a monumental piece of legislation that offers aid to almost every part of life right now. Direct stimulus checks to millions, extending unemployment benefits, funding for schools, funding for states, funding for vaccine distribution.

But there is more than that. It also has the makings of a policy revolution and the most direct attempt to tackle poverty in this country in decades.

Joining me right now for the state of play on where things stand there, Manu Raju, he's on the Hill. John Harwood joining us from the White House and CNN's political director David Chalian is here with us as well.

Manu, walk us through what is about to happen in the House.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do expect final passage to occur late in the 12:00 hour in the East, 12:45 or so is when we expect that vote to begin. Republicans have tried to delay, specifically one Republican, Marjorie Taylor Greene tried to delay the vote by forcing a motion to adjourn the House. That was rejected. A lot of Republican colleagues don't like that tactic, either.

Nevertheless, they can delay it but they can't delay the inevitable. It will pass this afternoon, expected almost strictly along party lines. Democratic leaders are confident that they will hold their members. In fact, Nancy Pelosi believes it can do better on the Democratic side than it did the first time the bill passed. At that point, there were two Democrats who voted against it, but one of those Democrats, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, has indicated he intends to vote for it. The other Democrat, Jared Golden of Maine, has not said yet. We reached out to his office as to whether he will continue to oppose this bill.

But on the Republicans side, we expect uniform opposition to this plan. Republicans are arguing it's not needed, it's unwieldy, it's too much spending, and that's the argument even though polls show a majority of members do support this kind of relief package.

But nevertheless, each side is making its own calculation. Democrats are confident this will get done, but they need to get it implemented, sell to voters that it's needed and hope the economy turns around. So, a lot of questions about the ultimate impact of this bill but no question about the outcome which is going to be a final passage in just a couple hours, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. We're going to stick close to Manu as debate on the House floor continues.

So, John, as we keep a look at the House floor, what is expectation from where you are right now? When is Biden going to sign this into law, and how soon should Americans expect to get these checks?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, not clear exactly when the bill will be signed. It takes a little time to do paperwork on a piece of legislation this massive, so we don't know where it's going to be cited by the time President Biden gives that Oval Office address on Thursday evening. Another option, of course, as he travels across the country to sell this package to the American people is to sign it while he's on the road. So, that's still TBD.

In terms of the checks for the American people, people who have the IRS direct deposit relationships with them should get them within a week or two. It will take a little longer for people who have to get physical checks or debit cards from the government, but we expect in the next two weeks for this to go out. Not all of them will go out immediately, but Americans should see this pretty quickly. That's all part of the Biden team's expectation and calculation as they look to capitalize on this victory.

BOLDUAN: And, look, part of the calculation of the Biden team is also looking at is support and where it lands in the country right now. And part of the calculation is also -- and bring David Chalian on this, is the calculation of how partisan the vote is going to be on Capitol Hill.

David, you have really interesting numbers out this morning. A new CNN poll looking into how much and where the support for this massive bill is coming from. What story do the numbers tell you?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, it is a broadly popular bill, Kate.


Our CNN poll shows 61 percent of Americans approve of this bill. If you look at it, you see there are only 37 percent are opposed, look at it by party --

BOLDUAN: Darn, David, I have to interrupt because I have to head over to the White House right now. The White House coronavirus response team beginning their briefing right now.


ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR ADVISER TO WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM: -- double the number going out every week before we came into office. This presents an opportunity for everyone to increase your vaccinations even as that supply and supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccine ramp up even further. The country must quickly work through this additional supply.

Today, President Biden will direct Jeff and the Health and Human Services team to procure an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This order allows for the president to plan for the future in the latter part of the year. This is wartime, and as facts still emerge, it gives us maximum flexibility for our upcoming needs.

So to review some of our progress from the vaccination program over the first 49 days, we've increased vaccine supply. The president has ordered enough vaccine doses for every adult in the U.S. we've more than doubled the amount of vaccines going to states. We've improved the efficiency of the vaccination process. When we arrived, less than half of vaccines distributed to states were administered. Today that number is approximately 75 percent.

We worked with the vaccine manufacturers to speed up their delivery to May 31st. As you'll hear about later today, we led a historical partnership between two rival drug companies to scale manufacturing and speed delivery. We surged the number of vaccinators. The president has deployed 3,500 federal personnel, in addition to providing federal funding for members of the National Guard to serve as vaccinators, with more to come.

We've signed an order to allow our nation's doctors and nurses to give shots. We've mobilized more than 2,000 military men and women to support community vaccination sites. We've also dramatically increased the number of places to get vaccinated. We provided federal support for over 500 community vaccination centers. We launched a program to directly send vaccines to more than 9,000 local pharmacies.

We've opened or are ramping up 20 high-volume federally run sites that will be able to deliver 70,000 shots a week in some of America's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Sixteen sites are operational now. Those sites have already delivered more than 500,000 shots.

We're ramping up a program that directly sends vaccines to more than 1,300 community health centers to retirement communities. We're launching mobile sites to help vaccinate the hardest to reach communities. This is leading to results for the American people most importantly. More than 91 million Americans have received a shot. At least one dose, 61 million Americans, fully vaccinated, 32 million Americans.

America leads the world in total vaccinations. On January 20th, there was a seven-day average of 900,000 shots a day, and now we're at 2 million shots per day. On Saturday, we set an all-time record. Nearly 3 million Americans vaccinated, a pace seen nowhere else in the world.

In terms of protecting the most vulnerable, our core duty as a nation, when we came into office, 8 percent of people over 65 were vaccinated. Today, 60 percent are vaccinated. And according to the CDC's new guidance, vaccinated parents can now visit and hug their grandchildren, and in most circumstances, without wearing a mask.

This is an accomplishment every American going through the difficult process of waiting for the vaccine can take pride in. As more people get vaccinated, more people will become eligible. Yesterday Alaska became the first state to make vaccines available to all people over the age of 16. There are many steps left in the path, but we are making progress. With that, I will turn it over to Dr. Walensky.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Thank you, Andy, it's a pleasure to be back with you today.

Let's take a look at the current state of the pandemic.


CDC's most recent data indicate that the recent plateau of cases may be again starting to trend downward with a seven-day average now of 56,000 cases per day. We also see decreases in hospital admissions for the most recent week. An average of 4,900 patients with COVID-19 were admitted in the recent week.

And while we've seen deaths hovering around 2,000 deaths per day in recent weeks, the latest 7-day average is now down to 1,600 deaths per day. Earlier this week we saw the number of deaths per day drop below 1,000 for the first time since November. All of this is really good news.

And while these trends are starting to head in the right direction, the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, still remain too high and are somber reminders that we must remain vigilant as we work to scale up our vaccination efforts across this country. We must continue to use proven prevention measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. They are getting us closer to the end of this pandemic.

As I discussed on Monday, CDC released initial guidance on activities fully vaccinated people can resume safely while limiting risks to themselves and others. To help get this information out to the medical community and to the public, today, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a scientific commentary from CDC. In the commentary, we again summarized the new recommendations from CDC that fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people in small gatherings without wearing masks or physical distancing. That fully vaccinated people can also visit with unvaccinated people from one other household without wearing masks or distancing as long as no member of the unvaccinated household is at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. And that fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine or get tested following contact with someone who has COVID- 19 as long as the fully vaccinated person is asymptomatic.

We also reiterate that in other scenarios, including public settings and travel, people who have been fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks and practice safe public health precautions just like people who have not yet been vaccinated. In addition, the commentary include information about the scientific basis for CDC's new recommendations that balance the risk of fully vaccinated individuals with the risk of infection and spread among the still 90 percent of the American public not yet protected by a COVID-19 vaccine.

The commentary also describes the outstanding scientific questions we are working to answer to inform future guidance and get people back to their everyday activities. Key among them are questions about the risk of vaccinated people transmitting the virus to others if they have a vaccine breakthrough and become infected. How long protection from vaccine lasts and how well the vaccines work against the circulating virus variants. While we are starting to see emerging evidence that the vaccines remain effective through circulating variants and that the risk of breakthrough infections in vaccinating persons and spreading the virus to others is low, we must be resolute in our efforts to fully answer these critical questions.

When answered, they will inform the future guidance that will enable us to safely resume activities while also protecting others who remain vulnerable to this disease. We are working across the government and with many scientific partners to answer these questions as quickly as we can. And I'm committed to updating our guidance as new scientific information becomes available and, importantly, as more people get vaccinated.

I want to close by reiterating that our actions this week represent a first step, not our final destination. We are at a critical point in this pandemic and on the cusp of having enough vaccine to protect every adult in the United States. We ask for your patience in practicing proven prevention measures for just a little longer.

We ask for your participation by rolling up your sleeve when it's your turn to be vaccinated, and we ask for your leadership in helping others do both of the same. With the above actions, we are so very close. We can turn the tide on this pandemic.

Thank you. I look forward to your questions and I'll turn things over to Dr. Fauci.


What I would like to do over the next couple of minutes is talk a bit about what we refer to as special populations. So if I can have the first slide, many of you are very familiar with this slide. It is a slide of the phased vaccine distribution that has been put out by the CDC.


If you look at these from the phase 1A, B, C and 2, what is not specifically mentioned here are pregnant women and pediatric individuals, namely people from age 6 months to 16 to 18. Also, in the third panel, on phase 1C, we refer to that as persons with high risk conditions. So, I'm gong to get a little bit more granular on that with you.

If I could have the next slide, please. First of all, let's take a look at what we mean by special populations?

First of all, pregnant individuals. There were about 3.7 million births in 2019.

Then there are adolescents and children, a very important topic when we think in terms of schools and the protection of children. There are about 73 million individuals between the ages of birth and 18 years.

And then, importantly, there are immuno-compromised individuals, those who have immunosuppressive medical conditions, primary immunodeficiencies or required immuno immunodeficiencies such as HIV, or receiving immunosuppressive treatment or chemotherapy. That could be either due to an underlying neoplasm or maybe even more frequently, to individuals with one form or another of an autoimmune disease, requiring suppression of a hyperactive immune system. It's estimated around 3 percent of U.S. adults fall within that category.

Next slide. So what are some of the questions that we ask of these special populations? The obvious ones are, what is the safety and immunogenicity of vaccines in these populations? As I mentioned on a previous presentation, it is unlikely that we will require a full efficacy study involving tens of thousands of individual volunteers.

What we almost certainly will do is determine safety to determine if special populations, either pregnant women, be pediatric cases, that these individuals make a comparable immune response that which we know actually is associated with a high degree of protection that we're seeing in our vaccines.

Next is, what is the duration of the immune response to vaccination in certain special populations? Take, for example, individuals who have immuno-depression, either by a disease or by iatrogenically via drug. We may show that the level of immune response is good, that the durability of that might be different because of the compromise of the immune system in these individuals.

And then we want to know what is the efficacy of vaccination on reducing disease and transmission in certain special populations? There may be a difference between them and individuals in what we refer to as the normal adult population.

Next slide. So let's take a quick look at the pregnant individuals. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, ACOG, recommends that vaccines of SARS-CoV-2 should not be withheld from pregnant individuals. And pregnant individuals may choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and they should have a conversation with their clinicians.

As I mentioned on a previous briefing, although we were not specifically looking at pregnant women in the studies which led up to the EUA, since the EUA, several thousand pregnant individuals have gotten vaccinated, and the CDC has established a Be Safe pregnancy registry to follow the outcomes of vaccinated pregnant individuals.

Specifically in one case, Pfizer BioNTech has launched a randomized placebo control study to do just what I said a moment ago, to evaluate safety and immunogenicity in pregnant individuals.

Also what I mentioned in a previous briefing when we discussed J&J, the J&J adno26 vector has considerable experience with Ebola in Africa in individuals who are pregnant and/or lactating.

On the final slide -- excuse me, not yet final -- the adolescents and children. The current age to be vaccinated is 18 and older for Moderna, 16 for Pfizer, and 18 for J&J.


There are vaccine safety and immunogenicity studies in adolescents and children that are either ongoing and/or planned. For example, Pfizer BioNTech studied in persons aged 12 to 15 is fully enrolled as well as TeenCOVE study from Moderna in individuals 12 to 17.

This led me tell you last time that we would know, likely by the beginning of the fall, whether or not we can or should be able to vaccinate children of high school age. Now, there are also trials in younger children which will follow referred to as the Moderna KidCOVE study. As I mentioned, J&J is also planning studies in pediatrics.

Next slide. On this last slide, just a couple other considerations. People with HIV, questions we get asked all the time. People with stable HIV infection are included in the trials, although the data are limited. The HHS guidelines for HIV recommend that people with HIV should receive SARS-CoV-2 vaccine because the benefits certainly outweigh the potential risks.

And remember although persons living with HIV are often considered to be immuno-compromised, many of them, in fact, who have normal CD4 counts, who have the viral loads suppressed by combination of anti- retroviral therapy have relatively intact immune response, so we would expect they would do quite well.

And then finally studies on highly allergic individuals are planned and we will keep yu updated as we get data on these studies.

I'll stop there and back to Andy.

SLAVITT: Thank you. Let's take some questions.

(END WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS BRIEFING) BOLDUAN: All right. We've been listening to the White House coronavirus response team, their updates just now.

Let me bring in Dr. Michael Mina. He's a professor of epidemiology at Harvard.

It's good to see you again, Doctor. What's your takeaway from what we heard from the response team? They really did have a note of optimism in what we heard reported, I think.

DR. MICHAEL MINA, PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH : Absolutely. I think -- and rightfully so. I think with good reason, the White House is acting very aggressively to get Americans as many vaccines as possible. We heard Andy Slavitt and Rochelle Walensky both discussing the benefits of vaccines and the efforts to get an increasing number of them onto American soil.

Some of the most interesting announcements are certainly from the CDC in the updated recommendations about what the CDC feels that vaccinated individuals can do and partake in, and that includes seeing family and friends who are also vaccinated who don't have vulnerable, unvaccinated individuals in their households, for example, being able to start gathering together, which is something fairly new we haven't seen over the course of the whole pandemic.

BOLDUAN: In addition, making kind of official the announcement that the president is going to be asking the administration to order 100 million additional doses of the J&J vaccine to put us in a better position, he said, by the end of the year. That coming in the briefing as well.

And on the front of what vaccinated individuals should and shouldn't do, I found interesting, Dr. Mina, that "Business Insiders" are reporting that Mike Bloomberg, he told employees in an e-mail that they're expected to return to work as vaccines become available. I note that because you were also announcing something very interesting today, the first ever large-scale at-home rapid testing study. You're leading it.

The study is underway as we speak, and I wonder what you're hoping to find out here, especially as we've just discussed so much of the focus now is on getting people vaccinated, less so, if you will, on testing.

MINA: Absolutely. So the study we're rolling out right now, and that's with Citibank as well as a test company making rapid antigen test called Innova and A.I.-based mobile app, and a software company called LivePerson.

That is to evaluate the use of rapid tests in the household for people before they go to work. They take them three times a week. It takes 30 seconds or a minute to use these tests, and they can identify that they are infected before they go to work, if they're infectious.

Now, in the context of the vaccine, some people are asking, do we need tests? The short answer is yes. Vaccines are absolutely the priority right now, as they should be. [11:25:06]

But this virus, like any pandemic novel virus, can take turns. It can -- it may develop new mutations that could render many of these vaccines less beneficial, especially over time as people's immune systems might wane a bit. We just don't know.

So part of this study is to make sure we have the backstops. If we see fall surges of cases, we want to have the tools to keep the American economy and to keep schools going through any of those surges and ideally to prevent any surges before they even arise.

BOLDUAN: That's really interesting. I'm looking forward to hearing how the study goes.

Thanks for coming on, Dr. Mina. It's good to see you.

Coming up for us, coming for us, we are awaiting the final vote on President Biden's COVID -- massive COVID relief package. CNN will bring you the debate as it happens. We're also going to be diving into what this bill could do to lift millions out of poverty when passed.

Plus, today is the first real test of what happens when a governor completely opens the state with no COVID restrictions right now. What this means for private businesses now facing a very tough choice. One restaurant owner who has already faced backlash is joining us.