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Remembering George Floyd; Arizona Ballot Audit Battle; CDC Expected to Announce Decision on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired April 23, 2021 - 15:00   ET




LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the Vegas you know with a safer twist.

(on camera): This is just one of the many COVID-19 safety measures casinos are putting into place, betting big on a Las Vegas comeback.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're completely betting big on the Las Vegas recovery. And, frankly, I don't think it's that big of a bet. I think it's a sure thing.

KAFANOV (voice-over): The Vegas jobless rate shot up to 34 percent last April, one of the worst in the nation, dropping down to roughly 9 percent in February. But not everyone is cashing in. Thousands of workers who kept the casino resorts operate are still out of work.


KAFANOV: Matthew Seevers spent 15 years bartending at Station Casino, but was let go last March.

SEEVERS: Never would have I thought a year from now we would be still be here waiting to get our jobs back.

KAFANOV: Others tired of waiting are picking up a new trade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-five coming in.

The CEG Dealer School, which trains aspiring casino dealers, promises jobs to almost anyone who wants to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vegas is making its comeback.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The energy here at the school, you can tell right now, a lot of optimism, a lot of positivity.

KAFANOV: A promising reminder that, in Las Vegas, the chips are never down for good.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Las Vegas.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And welcome to NEWSROOM. It's the top of the hour. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

There is a big decision that's coming down the next hour or two on the future of Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine. We're learning of new cases of those rare blood clots among people who have received the vaccine. A meeting of CDC advisers revealed 16 known cases of clots. That's more than twice the number initially reported.

But, again, that is still a tiny number compared to the close to eight million J&J vaccines administered.

CAMEROTA: Right now the advisers are trying to figure out how to move forward on this J&J vaccine 10 days after these cloths came to light, and the distribution was paused.

A White House COVID adviser tells CNN there are more than nine million doses of this vaccine ready to go.

So, CNN chief medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

Elizabeth, you have new details about this possible warning that could be on the label now?


So, at this meeting, this CDC Advisory Committee meeting, a representative from Johnson & Johnson said that the company has agreed to a warning label. This label would warn that there is an increase -- that there are these cases, rather, of blood clots, suggests an increased risk of blood clots, and that some of these cases have been fatal.

So, again, the company is saying we're OK with a warning label that suggests, that says the reports suggest an increased risk of these clots. Let's take a look at what these numbers say.

We talked about them a little bit just now. Nearly eight million people have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson. Out of those eight million, there have been 16 cases of blood clots reported; 15 were in women. The average age was 37. And there have been three deaths.

And this is what we know that the CDC Advisory Committee is considering. We know that they are not considering getting rid of the vaccine. The vaccine is going to be used. That seems 100 percent clear at this point.

There, however, might be this warning, like the one that Johnson & Johnson has agreed to. There also could be a restriction. It is possible that this Advisory Committee will say, you know what, a lot of these clots are in women under 50. Let's tell women under 50 not to get it. That might happen. That might not happen. We will have to see.

But right now, it does seem clear this vaccine will be out there and there will be a warning on it -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Elizabeth Cohen there for us, thank you so much.

Let's get some insight now from Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

Doctor, good to have you with us.

Let's start here with what Johnson & Johnson says that it is OK with, this new warning label. Do you think that's adequate?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, good afternoon. Thanks for having me on.

I think it's fine. I do think it's adequate. I think it's more than enough. These are incredibly rare adverse events. And the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is terrific. And it saves lives. And so putting a warning on is good. I think it's just about openness and transparency.

I'm glad to see the company's OK with it. I think that would be a pretty reasonable compromise and a way to move forward.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Jha, with or without the J&J vaccine, it sounds like the U.S. is about to have more supply than demand.

And so, given that, I'm wondering if it's time for the U.S. to start sharing more vaccine. The director of the -- director general of the WHO said this: "We have all the tools to tame this pandemic everywhere in a matter of months. It comes down to a simple choice, to share or not to share. Whether or not we do is not a test of science, financial muscle or industrial prowess. It's a test of character."

JHA: Yes, I looked this afternoon. And here I am in Providence, Rhode Island. There are hundreds of vaccine appointments available for this afternoon.


Supply is no longer the problem in the United States. And our production is going to continue. And we're going to continue cooking along on making vaccines, and they're going to start building up on shelves.

And the question for us is, do we want to just leave them on the shelves, or do we want to start sharing them with the world? India is going through a horrible outbreak right now. Vaccines for India would be extremely useful. For all sorts of reasons, that's the strategy we got to go to. It will not affect any Americans in any negative way.

But this is really the moral thing to do. It's the right thing to do. And it's the good thing to do in terms of getting this pandemic under control.

BLACKWELL: We had a conversation last hour about getting people who are a bit reluctant to get vaccinated to get the shot.

And the vaccine Hunger Games are over. Now there's more supply. What's the strategy to shift toward convincing those who are reluctant? And how do you think that should start? Where should they go? And how should the administration do it?

JHA: Yes, so I look at everybody -- we have vaccinated about half the people in America, half the adults, right?

So the other half, I look at them in three buckets. There are people who are perfectly happy to get it, but aren't going to be willing to jump through a whole lot of hoops. We have got to make it super easy for them. We got to go to people where they are. We got to have setup walk-in clinics, physician's offices.

This is where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be so awesome to have back available. There are people who are reluctant, as you said, who have questions. We should engage them, engage public health leaders. We should engage civil society and religious leaders, talk to people, address those concerns.

There's a small minority that's truly resistant. I think that group needs engagement too. But I worry less about that. I want to make sure we meet the needs of people who want it, but can't do all the hard work of signing up. And people who have questions, we should be addressing that.

If we do all that, we will get to 70 80 percent, which will make an enormous difference.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that, Dr. Jha, because just help us understand.

For the 52 percent of adult Americans who are at least partially vaccinated, how do the 48 percent of adults who are not vaccinated pose a threat to the rest of us?

JHA: Yes, so I'm fully vaccinated, and so why do I care so much about everybody getting vaccinated? For several reasons.

One is my kids are not vaccinated. And if large numbers of infections are happening across a community, children who are not going to be vaccinated will be at risk. We saw from Israel that, as vaccination rates went up, infections in kids dropped, because vaccinations reduce infections in everybody.

There are people who have been vaccinated who are vulnerable, might be immunocompromised. For them, it's important to bring infection levels down. And third is, I care about all Americans. I just want people to get vaccinated so we can move on from this pandemic.

And that is going to happen when the vast majority of people get vaccinated. It turns out vaccines are not just an individual responsibility. They actually have all of these community, family benefits. There are many reasons to get vaccinated. Protecting yourself is one of them, but protecting your loved ones is another.

BLACKWELL: So, some good news here from the CDC for pregnant people, now recommending that for people who wanted to get the vaccine, that it is now recommended for those who are pregnant. Up until today, it was just -- the CDC listed it as a personal choice.

What got the CDC to get from this is a personal choice, decide for yourself, to you should get this if you're pregnant?

JHA: Yes, I think the CDC made the right call.

The evidence so far -- and, again, we have had hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pregnant women get this vaccine. They have done very well. We have seen no adverse events from it.

And here's what we do know. We know that pregnancy is a serious risk factor for bad outcomes from COVID. So, if you're a pregnant woman, and you have a choice, right now, it's much more dangerous if you get COVID than if you get vaccinated. The vaccine seems to be really safe.

So I think the evidence is clearly shifting towards it. More data will come in. But what I have been recommending to pregnant women is, if you're pregnant, if you have the chance to get the vaccine, which now everybody does, you should get vaccinated, it's good for you, it's good for the baby. It's just -- it's a much safer thing to do.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Jha, thank you so much. Really helpful to have your explanation of all of this.

JHA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, so up next, George Floyd's girlfriend, who you will remember took the stand, and she shared her emotional memories of him, she's going to join us live on what she would like to see happen next.




COURTENEY ROSS, GIRLFRIEND OF GEORGE FLOYD: It's a huge day for the world.


ROSS: We're finally starting to see -- we walked around with eyes wide shut for a long time. So they're starting to open today. And this is going to be the first in a future of change.


CAMEROTA: That was Courteney Ross, the girlfriend of George Floyd, speaking right after the guilty verdicts were announced for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

You will remember her testimony during the trial, describing how she and George Floyd met at a shelter where he was a security guard. George Floyd is now pictured on the cover of "TIME" magazine, the face of this call across the country for police reform, with the caption "Justice Not Yet For All."

And joining us now is Courteney Ross.

Courteney, great to see you this morning -- today, I should say.


I have been so looking forward to talking to you after your just, I think, really powerful testimony on the stand.

But let me just start with this week, because you have had a really intense week, I mean, first, the conviction of Derek Chauvin, and then you went to the funeral for Daunte Wright. And so how are you at the end of this week?

ROSS: I think I'm still in shock.

There's been so much happening this week. But losing Daunte has really affected not only me, but the entire educational community that I worked with Daunte in. The students, the staff, they are crushed. The community is crushed right now. All these young people are really suffering.

So, I have just been trying to really now find strength for them. They need it more than anything.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I was surprised to learn that you were -- not only obviously played a huge role in George Floyd's life, as his girlfriend, but that you played a role in Daunte Wright's life and that you worked at the school where he went.

I mean, I know they're only 10 miles apart, but the fact that you were the nexus between these two cases -- and so what was it like to be at his funeral this week?

ROSS: There is nothing like losing a student.

Daunte Wright, unfortunately, is not the first student I have lost, not only to gun violence, but to police violence. I can't describe the heartbreak that we all feel when a young person dies.

To the world, you hear Daunte Wright, a man who died, but to so many of us, he's still -- he's just a young man. It's like, he's still a student in our eyes. And to lose a young -- excuse me -- to lose a young person like that is -- it's the worst pain, I think, that any community can feel.


(CROSSTALK) CAMEROTA: I mean, he was only 20 years old. And we heard that from

his siblings, and we heard that from his parents at the funeral.

I do want to ask you about your testimony during George Floyd's -- well, during Derek Chauvin's trial, because you spoke so candidly and openly about your own struggles with opioid abuse, as well as George Floyd's, whom I know you call Floyd.

ROSS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And I guess I'm wondering what impact you think that had on the jury, because, as you know, the defense attorney tried to make it sound like that's what killed George Floyd.

But that's not what the jury decided. And so do you think that your testimony played an -- a role in that?

ROSS: I was certainly hoping so, Alisyn.

I think, now that the verdict is out, I'm hoping so. I would love to hear from the jurors and hear what they thought. What was really most important to me throughout all this is to tell the truth and tell our truth together. Floyd and I are bonded on earth and in heaven, and we are going to be together forever.

And he spoke with me. And it's time that we start being honest and open about this opioid epidemic. It is not something that we should shame people for. It is not something that we need to hide. We need to start talking about it, so we can help people. And that was Floyd's mission in life.

He always helped people. He not only helped the homeless, but he helped the people that are suffering from mental illness. He helped people with drug addiction, even though we suffered ourselves. It's not something that we ever wanted to be caught up in. It's a lifelong struggle that we had to deal with, and, like most addicts agree with, that it is something you always have to deal with.

But we will still help those in need, no matter what.

CAMEROTA: I mean, and now I know that, sometimes, the grief hits after a big event.

So, now that you have gotten through the trial, and there were convictions, which I know was a feeling of victory, but still the trial is over, and now the funeral also for Daunte Wright is over. And, sometimes, that's when the grief hits.

And so how are you doing now? And how -- what do you think your next couple of months look like?

ROSS: Well, blessedly so, I have the most wonderful grief therapist who works with me, weekly, biweekly, sometimes more than that, because she's so supportive of me.

[15:20:13] So, I also have a wonderfully supportive community and network of people that have done nothing but show me love and help me get up every single morning.

As far as my future goes, I will keep working on making sure that I'm OK. But I think now it's time that I help those who need to get their voices heard. There are so many cases, particularly in Minnesota. Since 2000, we have had over 470 deaths by the hands of the police. And we need to start looking at those cases and reopening those and getting justice for those that haven't got justice.

And then--


CAMEROTA: Let me just ask you about that, because you say you will continue to speak out, and that you, I think, feel sort of activated after this tragedy in your life.

So, what is your message? And what do you plan to do?

ROSS: Yes, as well as helping the families that have lost loved ones in the past. I will support them in any way they need me, as long as I can be there for them.

It's hard. It's a difficult journey. And I understand whenever anybody needs to take time for themselves. But I plan to do that. And then, as well, I plan to work on change for the future. We are in such a reactive society now.

And it's time that we don't even have to get to that point where we can start being active, so we don't have to react. We need to start working on supporting the systems that need it. We have to start working together and stop being separate -- stop separating, something being separatists.

We have a lot of work to do together, and not only have change for the future, but we have problems to fix in the past still too.

CAMEROTA: Well, Courteney, listen, your voice has already been valuable, certainly in the trial. And you're just have, I think, told a really compelling story about what your life is like and what the life for so many people in that community, your community, is like.

And so we really appreciate you. And just take care of yourself. And we look forward to talking to you again as you proceed on this journey of pro-action.

ROSS: Thank you.

Minneapolis loves you. We love you.


ROSS: Thank you so much, Alisyn.



ROSS: And thank you.



CAMEROTA: Thank you. Great to talk to you, and we will talk again.

She's already -- I mean, it's amazing to me when regular people already have found their voice--


ROSS: -- and want to use it.


CAMEROTA: You know?

BLACKWELL: It was a powerful thing to listen to. And I'm sure we're going to hear more of it, yes.

All right, just in to CNN, Democrats efforts to block an audit of millions of ballots in Arizona is successful, for now. We will explain the order that just came down from a judge.

CAMEROTA: Plus, Caitlyn Jenner is launching her campaign for governor of California. She did so in a tweet. So, hear what the former Olympian and transgender activist is saying to voters.



BLACKWELL: Moments ago, a judge ordered a pause on the recount of more than two million ballots in Maricopa County, Arizona, from the 2020 election.

Attorneys for the state's Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to stop the audit altogether.

CNN's Sara Murray is following the details there.

So, why and where do things stand now?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, essentially, this is a temporary pause. It's set to go into effect later on this evening.

And this is because Democrats filed a lawsuit. They wanted to try to stop this audit that was going to take place in Arizona's Maricopa County. And we should explain that this audit is not like the other election audits we have talked about before. We saw there were a lot of counties, we saw there were states that ran

audit, that ran recounts of their elections, essentially because they were concerned that there was widespread fraud. This happened in Maricopa County too. County election officials ran two audits. They found no evidence of widespread problems or widespread fraud.

But, in this case, Republican state senators actually subpoenaed to have more than two million ballots, nearly 400 voting machines turned over, so that they could run what is essentially a partisan audit of the election.

So this was directed by Republican lawmakers in Arizona. It's going to be overseen by a firm called Cyber Ninjas, which has come under fire because its CEO retweeted a bunch of election conspiracies. And it is going to be broadcast on a livestream by a right-wing network.

So, obviously, this has been a big cause of alarm for Democrats. They took the Republicans to court to try to get a halt on this audit. That's not what they got from the judge, but they did get this sort of temporary pause in the meantime.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sara, thank you very much for the update on all of that.

Now this: former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner just announcing that she will run for governor of California, tweeting -- quote -- "I'm in. California is worth fighting for."

So, this race is actually a recall election. If it happens, she would face incumbent Democrat Gavin Newsom.