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Sources Say Biden will Announce New CDC Mask Guidance Tuesday; Biden Preparing to Address a Joint Session on Congress Wednesday Night; India Breaks Record for Single Day of COVID Cases, Five Days in a Row. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 26, 2021 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. We begin this hour for what could be a significant return to normalcy. This is step in that direction heading into this summer. One day before President Biden set to address Congress for the first time, sources tell CNN that tomorrow the president will announce new CDC guidance on whether vaccinated people need to wear their masks outdoors. Dr. Fauci over the weekend seeming to hit in a more relaxed direction.

Also this morning, as states across the country resuming Johnson & Johnson vaccinations after its brief pause, new polling suggests troubling number of Americans are turned off from taking the vaccine at least for now.

HARLOW: And as more Americans do get vaccinated, they could soon put Europe on their list of summer travel. We'll explain why ahead.

First though, we're joined again this hour by our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Good morning, Elizabeth.

What do we know about what's to come up tomorrow on updated mask guidance. Because, right now, every time I walk out the door, I wear a mask. Everyone here in New York does.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. And everyone is supposed to do that. That's what the rules are in most places. What we're hearing that tomorrow, there will be a new announcement. We don't know what it will be. But, of course, there is a lot of talk about whether or not there is going to be an announcement that if you're vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask outdoors.

And let's go through some of the data that would sort of lead the CDC to go that way. There was a recent study published in the medical journal that looked at indoor versus outdoor transmission. And this is thousands and thousands of cases of COVID-19 in various parts of the world. What they found is less than 10 percent of infections occurred outside, so a relatively small number. And that the risk of transmission was nearly 20 times greater indoors. So that's certainly what would make you sort of think about, gee, if you're vaccinated, do you really need to be wearing a mask outdoors? Of course, we don't know -- we won't know this until the CDC makes their announcement, that the president makes the announcement tomorrow, but definitely much anticipated. Poppy? Jim?

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth, this polling on the number of Americans willing, I should say, really, the biggest numbers of Americans unwilling to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine now, it's a high percentage, disturbing. But you make the point that perhaps not as bad as the numbers indicate but explain that. Explain both sides.

COHEN: Yes, for sure. So, obviously, it is not good news that people are not willing to take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Yes, it comes with a warning, but these the blood clots to the brain were highly, highly unusual. The numbers are still very small.

So let's take a look at what this poll found. It found when they found when they asked on vaccinated people, you are willing to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 77 percent said no, that's a lot. And then 22 percent were willing.

And, Jim, the point I want to make is, if there is enough supply of Moderna and Pfizer, these numbers don't matter quite as much. If Americans have a choice and they can get the other ones, then it's okay, they'll get vaccinated. So I think we need keep that in mind when we see these numbers.

SCIUTTO: Understood. It's a good point because the direction, right, Poppy, as we see every day, it's 28.5 percent fully vaccinated and above 50 percent of the country now has least one shot.

HARLOW: Thanks, Elizabeth.

SCIUTTO: With me now to discuss all the news with COVID-19, Dr. William Schaffner, Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Schaffner, always good to have you on.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT MEDICAL CENTER: Good to be with you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: I just wonder looking back at this whole J&J thing, the pause and I get the data and I've met women who have taken the J&J shot in that age category were genuinely disturbed by seeing, though it's a small number of cases and bad reactions here. But given how small the number of cases are, and given how you see a figure like that, 77 percent of the country don't want that one shot, too much damage done to this vaccine as a viable option?

[10:05:00]

SCHAFFNER: Well, Jim, I think we'll see going forward. It was a favorite before this came up about these rare reactions. People really liked the one and done and health departments liked it because it can be managed under good refrigerator temperatures, normal refrigerator temperatures and it could be used to bring the vaccine to underserved populations. For example, the homeless and people who were home bound, who couldn't leave to get the vaccine. And so we'll see how much of it is used going forward.

And as Elizabeth said, we've got plenty of Moderna and Pfizer vaccine available at the present time. So we would like you to get vaccinated. If you don't get the J&J, get the others.

SCIUTTO: I mean, it sounds like you're saying the damage is done. It is just that we're lucky that we have a couple other options that haven't had these problems.

SCHAFFNER: Well, we're glad to have the other options. All the vaccines are very, very effective. We just want anybody and everybody to get at least one of them as quickly as possible.

SCIUTTO: Okay. So, mask guidance, listen, I don't think the White House will be telegraphing this presidential announcement unless he is going to announce a change. And if it is change, it's not going to be wear five masks, right? It sounds like he's going to relax this. Is that the right call? Is this the right time?

SCHAFFNER: Jim, I think it is the right call. It's the right call because people who have been vaccinated have wanted some reward from this. And as Elizabeth said, the data indicates that the risk particularly outside if you're masked is very, very low.

And so we're at this point where we're making progress and in a gradual way, we're loosening restrictions. So let's see what the guidelines say. They have been long anticipated, actually.

SCIUTTO: Yes, no question. Okay. Let's talk international health, because the U.S., something of an embarrassment (INAUDIBLE) at this point, right, three viable vaccines, a really fast pace of mass vaccination and ahead of many countries in Europe and elsewhere. So, you have India now, it's going through a genuine crisis here. I mean, is the argument that it's both a magnanimous incentive to do this, help a friend in need. But also that if the world is going to control this pandemic, we all have got to work together. You can't just sort of fight it inside the palace walls.

SCHAFFNER: A and B both are correct, and they're both very, very important. The humanitarian instinct is very important. That is our U.S. tradition. And also self-interest. if this virus continues to spread abroad, it can mutate, create variant strains and they could come back to bite us. So, the more we suppress the virus around the globe, the safer we are. So both things are very important.

And we'll want to not only give vaccines to India, you know, the story, don't just give the person a fish, teach them to fish. Give them the raw materials so that they can make more vaccine on their own also.

SCIUTTO: So here we are in May. You have every other day it seems like a new announcement perhaps on masks, the progress of vaccinations. Europe now talking about fully vaccinated Americans being -- come to visit there, many European countries. I just wonder for folks listening at home, how should they take this information, say, hey, can I start planning trips for the summer safely?

SCHAFFNER: Well, I think you can but get vaccinated first and make sure that everyone who you want to visit is also vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that's the measure. Well, makes a big difference. Dr. William Schaffner, thanks very much.

SCHAFFNER: My pleasure.

SCIUTTO: A state of emergency has now been issued for Elizabeth City, North Carolina, this in anticipation of Andrew Brown Jr.'s family viewing the body cam video of his death. I just can't imagine having to do that. His family will meet with county officials this morning where they could have the opportunity to view that footage. This will be for the first time.

HARLOW: Well, Brown was killed last week when deputies attempted to serve an arrest warrant to him. Our Natasha Chen is in Elizabeth City. Natasha, what has been so heartbreaking for the families, they haven't been able to see it. And so frustrating for the public, is there has been no transparency for the public either.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Poppy and Jim. We're comparing this or at least the community is to some other instances around the country where police use of force cases have had body camera footage released pretty much immediately. That is not how it works here in North Carolina. The sheriff has had to explain to the public that here it requires a court order. A judge has to grant the release of that video publicly.

Now, the family could potentially view it privately, and that's what they're hoping to do today at their meeting at 11:30, so in just an hour or two. They're supposed to meet with the county attorney and take a look at that video hopefully. The family representatives would then be speaking to the media after that potentially explaining to us what they have seen.

[10:10:05]

But as far as requesting the public release of that body cam, you might see a few entities actually file official requests in court today that includes the sheriff himself once he is confirmed with state investigators, that it wouldn't hinder the investigation. It is includes Elizabeth City council members who are also very interested, and a coalition of news organizations, including CNN.

Right now, we see number of people about 30, 40 people gathered on the street on one side of the building here. They are prepared to support the family. They've actually taken out their folding chairs, prepared that this could take quite a long time today. Poppy and Jim?

HARLOW: Natasha, thank you for the reporting. Keep us posted as you learn more.

Well, this shooting, the recent shootings, I mean, the list is just so long. Also the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial have all given new energy to negotiations in Washington as lawmakers work to potentially pass significant federal police reform. Both sides of the aisle say they see a hope for compromise on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would set national standards to guide police conduct and use of force.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill. Manu, where does it stand? Last week, we heard a big sticking point being this legal standard for prosecuting cops, whether their use of violence is willful or reckless, in effect, lowering the bar. Is there a meeting of the minds on this? Where do things stand?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is not yet meeting of minds on that issue. As of late last week, Tim Scott, the Republican from South Carolina, said that issue is off the table for him. Karen Bass, the key House Democratic negotiator said that is essential, she told me last week, to any deal.

And also the issue about qualified immunity, first talking about criminal prosecution, qualified immunity referring to civil lawsuits and the Democrats want to gut those protections for those civil lawsuit protections, arguing that victims of police violence need to have their day in civil court.

Republicans are open to what they view as a compromise and that police department will get sued, not the individual police officers in civil court. Democrats are not yet onboard on that. But there is still hope on both sides that ultimately there can be a deal reached.

Now, yesterday on one of the Sunday shows, Karen Bass did mention -- was asked about compromising in this deal, but she also made clear or concerns about compromising too much.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): So we compromise on so much, you know, we compromise, we die, we compromise, we die, we compromise, we die. You know, I didn't come to Congress to compromise on what keeps us -- what could keep us alive because it holds police officers specifically accountable. Because the thing is this. If you don't hurt people, if you don't kill people, if you are just and fair in your work, then does qualified -- do you need the qualified immunity anyway?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And that was Congresswoman Cori Bush of Missouri. Congresswoman Karen Bass also has made clear her concerns about going too far on the -- and compromising. She said that there is a possibility of reaching a deal. But she also has made clear that they are in the very early stages here of these talks while they do anticipate things to pick up in the coming weeks. Still a long way in order to thread that needle and ultimately get something on to Joe Biden's desk. Guys?

SCIUTTO: Well, they tried last summer, failed. We'll see if this time is different. Manu Raju, thanks very much.

Still to come, hospitals in India are running out of oxygen tanks and beds as the coronavirus surge unfolding there across the country. The U.S. and other nations are now sending aid. But there is more the Biden administration could choose to do. What is that and will it?

HARLOW: Plus, President Biden marks his first 100 days in office later this week as he prepares to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

And later, he testified that George Floyd died of cardiac arrest. Now, a retired medical examiner's work is under a spotlight and under investigation.

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[10:15:00]

SCIUTTO: Well, it went quickly. This week, President Biden marks 100 days in office. But before he marks that historically big milestone, he will deliver a big first, his first address to a joint session of Congress as president.

HARLOW: Our John Harwood and Harry Enten joins us. Good morning, gentlemen. And, John, let me begin with you, because, yes, this is Biden's first, although he has gone to, I think, 36 of these in his history as a lawmaker, but it is also a first in this way. Two women will be seated behind the president, right, V.P. Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. What are we expecting from Wednesday night?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I expect Joe Biden to acknowledge that point of history. He is proud of having put Kamala Harris on his ticket and serving with her in the role that he played for Barack Obama.

I think what we're going to see from Joe Biden is two parts. One is taking credit for the progress against the pandemic that we have seen over the first 100 days, 200 million shots in arms.

[10:20:01]

He low-balled the initial promise of 100 million. He well exceeded that. We're seeing vaccination rates go up. We're seeing -- we can glimpse the other side of the pandemic and we expect that he will tease that or elude to that with reference to the new CDC guidelines that we expect, telling Americans that, yes, we're making progress and here are some of the rewards of that. We can do more things than we thought we could just months ago.

But the other part of that is going to be saying, okay, we took care of the immediate crisis, but now let's build for the future. And that's what the American jobs plan, the American family plan is all about, massive investment in economic growth, in the building blocks of economic growth and helping families up the economic ladder. I think that is a two-part message.

And he's going to say that taking that second step is going to be critical to showing, and he's begun sketching out this argument in various remarks, is going to be critical to showing that democracy can still function despite polarization, that we can compete with countries like China that can make top-down decisions. And I think that's going to be his closing pitch when we get to the end of the summer. But he's really going to lay that out this week.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and the government is your friend, not necessarily the enemy, seems to be part of the message.

All right, Harry, let's talk about what the poll numbers are showing us. President Biden's average popularity at this point in his administration, how do they compare historically?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: It's fine. I mean, it's fine, right? Look, the average approval rating at this point is about 54 percent. And if you compare that to the last few presidents, which you see, is that it's certainly better than the last guy at this point, right? Donald Trump's approval rating was just 42 percent. But Obama and Bush were above Biden's 54 percent. So Biden is fine.

But here is the key thing I think is so important about Biden's approval rating at this point, is how steady it has been. Look at this. The range in his approval ratings over the first 96 days, his low is 52. His high was 55. That's just a range of three points. The last three guys had a range of nine points between the high and low.

So right now voters, seem to be really locked in on their opinion of the president of the United States and they're locked in at a point where he is above 50 percent, which, hey, is much better than the last guy's was.

SCIUTTO: It's fine, like the best that a Mets can ever hope for. It's fine.

ENTEN: Exactly.

HARLOW: People should hear you two on the commercial break with the Mets.

John Harwood, to you. So, I mean, Biden did begin his term as consoler in chief, and that was especially important and poignant during the pandemic and it continues. But now, I mean, he takes on these legislative pushes on so many fronts that are much more divisive than the first.

HARWOOD: That's right, and I think he's going to make the case that we need long-term vision for the country. And this was something that Barack Obama ended his term not having achieved. Yes, he wanted to solve the immediate crisis of the Wall Street collapse and the great recession in 2009 when he took office, but he also wanted to take action to lift the long-term economic prospects for millions of struggling Americans to narrow the rich/poor income gap, narrow income inequality, and was able to make only a little bit of progress in that regard.

Joe Biden is trying to say, no, we need a big step up. This was a 40- year problem of income inequality and the rewards of U.S. prosperity not being evenly distributed, this is the time to act. And, again, as I indicated earlier, this is a test of democracy to see if we can do that in the 21st century.

SCIUTTO: Harry, how about pandemic? I mean, that was job number one for the Biden administration coming in. He's already met exceeded goals certainly on mass vaccination. How are Americans feeling about how he is doing on the pandemic?

ENTEN: Very good. His other number is fine. This one is very good, if not, excellent. His approval rating in any poll you look at is in the 60s. You see this here. This is an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 64 percent. Donald Trump back in January, just before Biden took office, was just at 38 percent. And I would argue if there is one reason the voters put Biden into office, it was because they really didn't like the way that Trump was handling the pandemic. And right now they really, really like the way that President Biden is handling the pandemic.

HARLOW: Thank you, gentlemen. Good to have you, John Harwood, Harry Enten.

As a reminder, of course, you can watch President Biden's joint address to Congress. It is Wednesday right here on CNN. Live coverage begins is at 8:00 Eastern.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, coronavirus infections exploding in India, and less on this 10 percent of the population, so far, has just a single dose of the vaccination, less than two fully vaccinated. Why is that rate so low in some countries, so high in others?

[10:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: India is in just desperation mode this morning as the nation battles a devastating second wave of coronavirus. The South Asian country has broken daily global infection records for five consecutive days. Look at this. I mean, this wave bigger than anything, it seemed. Indian officials reported more than 350,000 new infections on Monday. There had been than a million new infections in the span of just three days.

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