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CDC: U.K. B-117 Variant Is Most Common Circulating in U.S.; White House: Half of U.S. Adults Could Have Vaccine Dose by Month's End; Fauci: No Exact Number to Signal End of Pandemic; Study: One- Third of COVID Survivors Suffer Neurological or Mental Health Disorders; Tiger Woods Crash Investigation Details Released; GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz Sought Preemptive Pardon from Trump; Stephen Miller Responds to Boehner Criticism of Trump, Tries to Tie Boehner to China; Soon, 8th Day of Testimony in Derek Chauvin Trial to Resume. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 7, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Laura, Cedric, always appreciate your insight.

In a few minutes, of course, we will return to court when testimony continues.

Up next, this hour, the White House laying out an ambitious timeline to get Americans vaccinated.

As the CDC says the more contagious variant first identified in the U.K. is the most common variant in this country. What does that really mean?

Plus, new reporting that Congressman Matt Gaetz tried to get a pardon from President Trump before he left office. But now the former president is weighing in.



DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Based on our most recent estimates from CDC surveillance, the B-117 variant is now the most common circulating in the United States.



HILL: The most common lineage circulating in the U.S. That's the latest from CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky. And that variant is the one first identified in the U.K.

We know it's more contagious than the original virus we have been dealing with for more than a year now. And with more than 16,000 confirmed cases of the variant in this country.

CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is here.

So we know the real number will likely be much higher, Elizabeth. But still, the fact that this is now the dominant variant seems to reinforce the importance of vaccinations.

So how are things looking today?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Eric. And I just want to pause for a second. Think about this. This U.K. variant was first identified in the U.S. in December. It first appeared in December.

So almost a year into the pandemic, this newbie shows up and takes over. That tells you just how fast this particular strain spreads.

What we have right now is a race between that variant and others and the vaccine.

And Andy Slavitt, the senior White House adviser on the COVID response, he addressed at a briefing today, how fast we're going in the vaccine rollout. Let's take a listen.


ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER ON COVID RESPONSE: We are in, you know, between 40 and 45 percent of adults in the U.S. that have had their first vaccine, which means, sometime likely this month, over the next couple of weeks, we're going to get to about half.


COHEN: So about half. You can tell this rollout is indeed clipping along. However, to switch that around, that means that about half of people will not have had a COVID-19 vaccine in this group.

So it's important to remember, while there are many vaccinated Americans, there are also nonvaccinated Americans -- Erica?

HILL: It also depends on where you live, Elizabeth, in terms of states?

COHEN: It really does. The rollouts have been so different state to state. We are like 50 different countries. And it is going to get very different rates.

Let's take a few examples. This is from a recent CNN data analysis that was done.

If you look at vaccinations, full vaccinations per 100,000 people, so equalized across states, large and small, in New York, it's 950 people out of 100,000. And in North Dakota, it's 570, much lower. And in Georgia and Alabama it's less than 300 out of 100,000.

So we can see that some states are doing quite well, others not quite so well.

HILL: All right, Elizabeth, appreciate it as always. Thank you.

For a closer look at some of these developments, CNN analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen, is with us.

Dr. Wen, if we look at this, as Elizabeth laid out for us there, she pointed out, hey, great, nearly half of all adults will have at least one shot by the weekend.

But what would that really change? Because that does leave a large number of people unvaccinated.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: That's right. Although, I do think we need to celebrate the amazing news. I mean, now we're at three million vaccinations per day. We now have 75 percent of those over 65 that have at least one dose of the vaccine in them.

But all of that said, Erica, we still have a lot of people who don't have immunity, who don't have protection. So it's too soon to be lifting all restrictions, including things like mask mandates that are actually protecting people.

And we have to keep in mind, too, that children are not yet able to be vaccinated. And even though children tend to become less affected than adults do, children have gotten sick, children have been hospitalized and, tragically, some kids have died.

So it really is important for all of us, as adults, to be vaccinated when it's our turn. But also to just hold off for a little bit longer because the end is really not that far. But we're not quite there yet.

HILL: That end, so many people know -- they want a metric. They want something to point to where we will know when we are at the end of this.

My colleague, Kaitlan Collins, asking Dr. Fauci about that a short time ago. Here was his response.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I don't think it's going to be a precise number. I don't know what that number is. I can't say it's going to be this percent.

But we will know it when we see it. And it will be obvious as the numbers come down rather dramatically.


HILL: Is that what we should be focusing on at this point is what will tell us we're at the end?

WEN: I think there are two things we should focus on. One is what we should be looking for as a society. And the other is what we can do as individuals. As a society, it may take some time. We are still a few months from

whatever that herd immunity number is, when we, as a society, can let down our guard overall, as in lifting all types of restrictions, mask mandates.

We're at least a few months away. It may be quite a bit longer.

As individuals, though, we can start returning back to pretty close to pre-pandemic normal once we're fully vaccinated.

The CDC has issued some guidelines about this. I wish they would go even further.

They're now saying -- I think this is good -- that fully vaccinated people can be together with one another.


But I think they could go further in saying that here are all the activities that were high risk before, but now that you're fully vaccinated, you can do many of these things again because they are at now lower risk.

HILL: Yes, you pointed out several times here on the network how much of an incentive it would be to say to people this is what vaccination opens up for you.

Quickly, before I let you go, when it comes to COVID-19 survivors, we're learning from a new study that about one-third say they have long-term mental health or neurological symptoMs.

Here in New York City today, they announced a new program for residents who are dealing with lingering effects of the virus.

Do we know yet why some people maybe more prone to longer lasting or long-haul symptoms?

WEN: We don't. And this is one of the great mysteries with COVID-19. One mystery is that it's a respiratory virus but that seems to affect every single body system.

And the other mystery is some people recover without much of symptoms at all. Others get very ill but still recovery completely while, still, others may be mildly ill but may have these lingering symptoms for months or even longer.

So I think there's lot more for us to do. But we, as a society, have to recognize the many effects of COVID-19, including peoples' psychological well-being.

HILL: Yes, absolutely.

Dr. Wen, always good to have you with us. Thank you so much.

WEN: Thank you. HILL: We're following a developing story out of California at this

hour. New details on that horrific crash involving Tiger Woods. What police say likely caused the accident, next.



HILL: New this hour, first, details on the Tiger Woods car crash that left the golf legend recovering with serious leg injuries.

The Los Angeles County sheriff today, holding a press conference, revealing details from that investigation. That crash happening in late February in southern California.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Los Angeles with the latest.

Kyung, what more have we learned about the moments leading up to that crash?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're getting some of those finer details that we had lots of questions about when we saw the devastating crash, Erica.

This news conference just wrapped up. This was, in essence, what the sheriff had promised, that he was going to release everything he could about what happened, give, you know, the public interest in this case, because of who we are dealing with, Tiger Woods, a world-wide global celebrity in the sport of golf.

Essentially, what caused this crash, unsafe speed and his inability to negotiate the turn of this round.

The sheriff's department said that he was traveling between 84 to 87 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone.

And then when he crossed the median and the car began to flip, and then he hit that final tree, which stopped the forward motion of the vehicle, he was traveling at 75 miles per hour.

The sheriff's department says that they did not seek a warrant to check out whether he was intoxicated or do any blood testing, saying that officers who responded did not see any sort of visual impairment. They don't believe it's a factor so they did not seek a warrant, saying there was no probably cause.

That they did not cite Woods for any sort of citation or ticket him because, in this case, they say that what they are getting this data off is the black box of the vehicle, that no law enforcement saw this crash happen, that there were no witnesses. So that would not -- that they did not cite him.

They also say that they did not look at whether or not he was texting or on the phone, Erica, because, in this case, even if he was, it would just be an associated factor. It would not be the exact cause of the crash -- Erica? HILL: Wow. Interesting.

Kyung Lah with the latest for us. Kyung, thank you.

In the waning days of the Trump presidency, the White House was inundated with requests from political allies seeking pardons. One of those requests, we're learning, came from Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz.

"The New York Times" first reported that Gaetz was asking for a blanket pre-emptive pardon. And CNN has learned the request was never seriously considered by the White House.

And we now know Gaetz was being investigated by the Justice Department at the time, allegedly for a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, allegations that he denies.

CNN chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us now.

Manu, what more are we learning about this push, this failed push for a pre-emptive blanket pardon?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we do know there was an ask for a pre-emptive pardon but we are hearing different accounts of how serious it was and how high up it went.

Matt Gaetz has not disputed that this came up. He has disputed that it was a serious ask.

He said, in a statement through his spokesperson, that this was something that was essentially he had been asking for a pardon for, quote, "everyone, from himself to the administration to Joe Exotic."

It's uncertain why he would have asked for himself at the time, being investigated by the Trump Justice Department.

We are also learning about the president's response, the former president's response about all of these reports.

He issued a statement earlier today saying, "Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon. It must also be remembered that he totally denied the accusations against him."


So one of the key words there is he never asked "me" for a pardon.

What our reporting shows is that this came up in discussions with White House staff. And at the time, White House staff made pretty clear that, to him and others, that they were not going to move forward with preemptive pardons.

Remember, at that time, there was discussion of a preemptive pardon potentially for Trump himself, for the Trump family members. He was advised against that by the then-White House counsel, Pat Cippolini. So perhaps one reason why this also was rejected at the time. But, of course, all comes with this investigation into Matt Gaetz's

conduct, whether he did have a relationship with a 17-year-old, and how that relates to sex trafficking, part of an investigation into a separate politician.

All questions facing the congressman, who has denied the allegations and insisted he won't resign -- Erica?

HILL: Manu Raju, with the latest for us. Manu, thank you.

For more, let's bring in CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Really quick, on Matt Gaetz, what's interesting is, here we are, again, another day and yet very little response from his fellow Republicans.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, it's an open secret he's not well liked among Republicans. They don't want to go out on a limb for him in any way, shape or form.

I think the only people that have done it are really Marjorie Taylor Greene and his friend, Jim Jordan, who said he believes Matt Gaetz.

Which is not what the former president said. The former president said, you know, it should be remembered that he's denied the accusations against him.

It's kind of a mealy-mouthed way to sort of say I kind of support you, but not really, I'm holding back.

Then, the president had to make it clear, of course, he was never personally approached, because every statement has to be about him.

HILL: There is that.

BORGER: Yes, yes.

HILL: I also wanted to ask about, you were getting drips and drabs from "The New York Times" about former House Speaker John Boehner's new book, which is coming out.

In one excerpt, he talks about the January 6th insurrection.


HILL: He talks about the capitol attack, where he writes, quote, that President Trump, former President Trump, quote, "incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons perpetuated by the B.S. he has been shoveling since he lost a fair election."

On the one hand, it's sort of shocking/not shocking that we're hearing this from John Boehner, let's be honest, just based on history. It's also a reminder of just how divided the GOP is at this point.

But I wonder, Gloria, how much does this change anything? BORGER: I don't think it really does change anything at all, except

Republicans, who do not like Donald Trump, will look at it and say, I agree with you.

And Donald-Trump Republicans will call him a RINO, a Republican in Name Only.

But Boehner really, really went out of his way to criticize Trump and what he stands for.

What really struck me, Erica, was a sentence which says, "The legislative terrorism that I witnessed as speaker had now encouraged actual terrorism."

So he is calling the insurrection on January 6th terrorism. And he lays the blame at the former president's feet. You cannot get much more critical than that.

HILL: Right.

BORGER: I mean, it was remarkable. I mean, again, surprising/not surprising, he's out of office, he's been a critic, but quite striking to me.

HILL: And you're exactly right, that he used that specific language.


HILL: It was really interesting that Trump adviser, Jason Miller, responded. Didn't really address his specific, you know, insurrection comments there, but instead trying to tie Boehner to China.

BORGER: Right, because his law firm did -- I mean, his firm he's affiliated with, lobbying firm, did some work for the embassy of China.

So, you know, what it is, is attack, attack, attack. That's what Donald Trump has always done. That's what his associates do, without addressing the charges. But rather, say, oh, you know, yes, sure, he's just trying to protect himself and his relationship with China.

So I just think it's a back-and-forth that will never end. Nobody's mind will be changed on either side.

But I think, for a former House speaker, a Republican, to come out and say that a president of his own party incited terrorism, as he called it, it's one for the history books.

HILL: That it is.

Gloria Borger, always good to see you. Thank you.

BORGER: Good to see you.

HILL: We are waiting for a return to testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial. New witnesses, or rather the latest witness will continue on the stand in just a few moments.


We're also keeping a close what on the White House. President Biden set to make a major announcement on jobs. We'll bring that to you live as soon as it starts.

Stay with us. Brooke Baldwin picks up our coverage on the other side of this break.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: It is Wednesday. You are watching CNN. Thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We're following two huge stories this afternoon.

Number one, President Biden ramping up his pitch for this massive $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan that Republicans are not on board with. He is set to speak any moment. We'll look for him.

And, secondly, in just a couple minutes, the trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, will resume. The court, right at this very moment, are on that lunch break.

But before the break, the jury heard more testimony from experts on police use-of-force tactics.


And just a reminder for all of us of what's being debated here.