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Biden Expected to Unveil $3 Trillion Jobs and Infrastructure Plan Next Week; CDC Says, 26 Percent of U.S. Adults Have Gotten At Least One Dose of Vaccine At Least Six Killed as Tornadoes Rip Throughout Southeast. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 26, 2021 - 11:30   ET


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWSROOM: And the president made clear, infrastructure is his next priority.


Our reporting is it could be maybe a $3 trillion package. Already, Mitch McConnell has responded to the prospect of it even is possibly a Trojan horse for massive tax hikes is how he put it. What will, Cecilia, be the most important part of this package to convince people it's needed?

CECILIA ROUSE, CHAIR, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Well, look, the president's focus at the moment and right now has been on getting us past this pandemic and getting us out of the economic hole that pandemic has caused. But as he stated on the campaign, it's not enough to just build back to where we were back a year ago but we have to do better by this economy.

We know that there are badly needed investments in our infrastructure, in R&D and our workforce so that so this economy remains competitive and so that we increase productivity, and as he rightly said, so that we generate high value jobs, jobs that are good paying jobs.

So that is the president -- that is the focus of the next round of his focus and what we'll be working on.

BOLDUAN: In general, I'm kind of looking, and in terms of the recovery, I'd love -- I wonder where you put the marker of when you'll be comfortable that the labor market has fully recovered. When do you expect that to be?

ROUSE: Well, you know, the American rescue plan really helped accelerate all of the forecasts of when we will be -- to get back on track. And so now, I expect that we'll be at full employment some time in 2022, maybe as early as the first quarter of 2022. But it's not just enough for us to get back to an average unemployment rate that is, you know, in the 3 or 4 percent. We also need to be ensuring that unemployment rate is also coming down for our African-Americans, for our Latinos, in Native-American population.

So we know we need to be dealing with our structural inequalities as well, but, you know, I do fully expect that, you know, sometime next year this economy will be coming along.

BOLDUAN: And one very unexpected new threat to economies across the world, including ours is now this massive ship that is stuck in the Suez Canal. I mean, not only is it amazing to look at but it is also very serious in terms of the threat that it can pose. How worried you are about it impact the U.S. economy and recovery?

ROUSE: Well, I think what this reflects is this economy is not yet back, that we are still in a hole, as you pointed out at the top there that 9.5 million jobs, we'll get a new report next week, have been lost over the course of last year, and we still have a pandemic. The president is still focused. He has a new goal of 200 million shots after 100 days, so we know we still have work to do on the pandemic.

And until we get to the other side, the economy will be fragile. This ship is highlighting how, you know, interconnected we are, how hiccups in our global economy and our supply chain can have ripple effects throughout, you know, economies around the world.

So we're concerned about it. We're watching it. And I think it just highlights, again, how important the American rescue plan was, how our families needed the additional income with the checks, how the support for children through the child tax credit and the expansions, childcare, opening schools so that women can get back to work in particular, that we need to be bolstering our own economy because we're not quite there yet.

BOLDUAN: I just want to ask you about one aspect of the COVID-19 relief package that I have been really fascinated by, which is the child tax credit. You have got up to $3,600 per child under the age of six, slight less but still an increase for kids, than that number for kids older than six. And even families without an income will income will receive a tax credit.

One poverty expert, Cecilia, told me that this will be transformative in reducing child poverty. How and when though will you know if it worked?

ROUSE: Well, that's an interesting question. So, yes, the group of researchers at Columbia University have estimated that five million fewer children will be living in poverty as a result of the package of support we've given through the American rescue plan. The way that the poverty numbers are collected, they are lagged by a year. But I think we will be able to see it families being able to put food on the table, being able to pay rent, children having clothes to wear and thriving in school.

So I think we will see it on a day-to-day much more quickly than we'll see it in the official poverty statistics.

BOLDUAN: When will families see this money? Have they started to see this money yet?

ROUSE: Absolutely. I think that we've already sent out 100 -- I think it's 100 million checks. And so the checks are already arriving. And on the child tax credit, the treasury department is working out a way for it to be paid on a regular basis so that families don't have to wait until the end of the tax season next year in order to see that relief.

BOLDUAN: That is what I was curious about, how that would work with the credit and tax credit.


Do you think -- in your view, do you think that this should become permanent, the child tax credit, or do you think that it should just be part of an emergency economic recovery effort for the country in this moment that we are in right now?

ROUSE: Well, look, child poverty is -- reducing child poverty is part of investing in our society. We know that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be held back in school. They're less likely to graduate from high school. They're more likely to be teen parents. And so we know that investing in childcare, they're -- kids that are in poverty are less healthy.

So, yes, we believe that this is a transformative investment in our kids. The president has said he would like to make it permanent and he would like to see it permanent and wants to work with Congress. There are many ways to do so but would like to work with Congress to see that happen.

BOLDUAN: More broadly kind of on the approach of the White House to an economic recovery, Larry Summers is speaking out again and he really criticized the macro impact of this economic policy, saying that he thinks that this is the least responsible macroeconomic policies that we have had in the last 40 years. Does this -- does that assessment from Larry Summers give you pause about potentially spending and borrowing trillions more?

ROUSE: Well, look, you know, we -- Larry Summers is concerned about the American rescue plan in particular. And he is concerned that it is larger than what was necessary to address the economic shortfall right now. We -- Larry is, you know, is someone that his concern that he has raised are concerns, we are aware of them.

We assess the problem differently. We see that there is potential risk for inflation but the risk of doing too little in terms of generating economic scarring, having families that can't food on the table, the impact for children, which we just discussed, was far greater than the potential impact on inflation.

Importantly, the Federal Reserve has the tools to address inflation should it occur. And we have full faith and confidence in their ability to address it should it actually happen.

BOLDUAN: Cecilia Rouse, thank you for taking the time. Thanks for coming on this show.

ROUSE: You're very welcome. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Coming up for us, a new rule for students hoping to return to one university next fall show proof that you've been vaccinated before coming to class.



BOLDUAN: New numbers out from the CDC this morning show that more than one in four American adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. When you look at people ages 65 and older, just look at this, the numbers show nearly 45 percent are fully vaccinated and 71 percent have gotten at least one vaccine shot.

Still, President Biden's response team today is sounding the alarm still about the trend they're seeing in new cases and deaths. Here is the CDC director just last hour.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The seven-day average of deaths continues to hover at 1,000 deaths per day. I remain deeply concerned about this trajectory. We have seen cases and hospital admissions move from historic declines to stagnations to increases. And we know from prior surges that if we don't control things now, there is a real potential for the epidemic curve to soar again. Please take this moment very seriously.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Medical Analyst and former Baltimore Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, let's talk about vaccines, which is a huge part of this entire equation, of course. Rutgers University just announced that it is going to require all students in the fall to be vaccinated to return to class. This is appears to be the first university to kind of do this. What do you think of it?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Rutgers is the first maybe but it's certainly not going to be the last. I think this is an attempt by Rutgers and potentially other places to essentially create herd immunity in their population as if that everyone -- all the students are going to be vaccinated and ideally many of the staff as well, you essentially have herd immunity in that group of individuals that will protect everybody else around them, which is fantastic. I also think that a lot of students are going to feel safer attending a university where everybody else is protected too.

I do think that there will need to be exemptions made for individuals who are unable to get the vaccine, don't want it for some particular reason, and I think there are ways to do that. For example, you could say, if you're unable to be vaccinated, maybe instead you replace that by having weekly testing or twice weekly testing to ensure that you're not also carrying coronavirus.

BOLDUAN: And that's an interesting aspect of it. They do have exemptions for medical or religious reasons. They also say anyone who is studying remotely, they are not required to do it. I'm curious if it also offers an opportunity, as you say, kind of in this particular environment to get out one of the biggest questions is do vaccinated people, can they infect others?

WEN: That's right. There are studies ongoing about this but there is growing evidence now that being vaccinated does not only protect you from coronavirus, which is very important, but it also substantially reduces your likelihood of carrying the virus.


And probably, by extension then, dramatically reduces your likelihood of transmitting it to somebody else. So we need to see the data from ongoing studies about this but that's what it is looking like.

And, again, think that the trends by the universities, I think we're also going to start seeing businesses, for example, I can imagine, cruise ships, or airlines or other businesses also saying that there are going to be special types of privileges, if you will, for individuals who are fully vaccinated.

BOLDUAN: When there is such -- when there is easy access to a vaccine, that's when it seems the equation will really start to shift.

As more and more people are getting vaccinated, Dr. Wen, they're facing a question, at least, that maybe I'm asking this selfishly as a parent, of what to do in a lot of certain circumstances. Like if parents are vaccinated, what -- and their children are not vaccinated, what do you see as best advice and boundaries here?

WEN: It's same situation that my family will be in as well, that the parents, ideally soon, are going to vaccinated, but our children who are young are not going to be. And so for the time being, I still think that using an abundance of caution is really important.

So if we're getting together, for example, with another family also with vaccinated parents but unvaccinated children, we should ideally still see one another outdoors with a family space at least six feet apart. I think our children can and should play together but should be wearing masks if they're not able to keep six feet distancing from one another.

In time, this might change especially as the immunity around us increases as more and more people get vaccinated, but I would still use an abundance of caution if there are two or more families getting together where there are some individuals in these different households that are unvaccinated

BOLDUAN: And there is a very interesting Q&A with Dr. Wen on about these exact questions. Dr. Wen, thank you.

Coming up for us, deadly tornadoes rip through the southeast and leave behind a serious path of destruction. We're going to be on the ground in Georgia next with an update there. Also ahead, moments from now, Colorado officials are going to be giving an update on the mass shooting in Boulder, the investigation, where things are at this moment. New details are emerging about the suspect. We're going to bring that you to live as soon as it begins.



BOLDUAN: Across the southeast, cleanup and recovery are underway after a string of dangerous tornados tore through the region, and the pictures coming in from the storm are incredible. Take a look at this.

Jeez, we know at least six people have died, one in Georgia, five in Alabama, which was the state that was hardest hit. Three of those killed are from the very same family.

CNN's Amara Walker joins me now from Georgia, where officials in one county described the damage there as catastrophic. Amara, what are you seeing?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it is catastrophic. Just take a look here around me and see for yourself. This is a scene just all the way down this neighborhood street. A lot of the roofs have been damaged, if they have not been ripped off entirely.

You can see this is a transformer here that snapped in half when this tornado touched down and just so many trees that have fallen, sheared off at the top there. And a lot of people obviously coming out to see what happened here.

There's a little bit of good news though, and that is the residents I've been talking to here on the ground, Kate, tell me that they did have time to seek cover. They said the alarms went off at about 11:45 last night and they had a good 15 to 20 minutes before the storm hit. So they were able to gather their family and rush into the basement or into an interior room.

And, coincidentally, our CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller lives here in Newnan. This is the hardest hit area, according to local officials. And he talked about his reaction and why it's so dangerous for tornados to hit this part of the country. Here he is.


BRANDON MILLER, CNN METEOROLOGIST AND NEWNAN, GEORGIA RESIDENT: It is sort of surreal to say -- to go out -- I go out in Kansas and Oklahoma and Texas and chase tornados even. And here it's almost like it chased me.

It's just so different to see one when it's areas that you know and you relate to, but also the terrain is so much different than what we see in tornados in Oklahoma and Kansas. They don't have tall pine and oak trees like these that just snap in half. And that's what makes tornados in this part of the world so dangerous.


WALKER: And fire and police officials tell me that they're continuing to go door-to-door through this neighborhood to make sure that everyone has been accounted for. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Wow, I just cannot get over the scene behind you, Amara. Thank you very much for bringing that to us.

Moments from now, officials in Colorado will be giving an update on the investigation into Monday's shooting at the Boulder grocery store. There is also new information coming in about the suspect. We're standing by for that and we will bring it to you.

But, first, as the world remains focused on the pandemic, of course, Boko Haram terrorists continue their vicious cycle of child kidnappings in Nigeria. Last month, a group of militants took 300 girls from their boarding school in the middle of the night.

Now, one man is making it his mission to try to bring a brighter future to children who need it most.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are children who do not even know what's their second name, what's their tribe, their religion, children who are not even having this war. They are confused and in a helpless state. You need to give them courage.


You have to give them hope.

We are in a community where every segment of the society has been ravaged.

What keeps you going is the resilience of these children. Whenever I see their faces, it gives me hope. It keeps my dream alive.


BOLDUAN: To learn more and to nominate someone you think is a CNN hero, go to We'll be right back.