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President Biden to Announce New Guidelines on Mask Wearing; Trump Advisers Urge Him to Make Vaccine PSA; Calls Grow Louder for Officials to Release Body-Cam Video of Fatal Police Shooting of Black Man in North Carolina; Biden Prepares for First Address to Joint Session of Congress Tomorrow. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 27, 2021 - 09:00   ET



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


Two crucial presidential addresses to the American people at a critical time in this pandemic. Hours from now, President bidden will update Americans on the state of the pandemic from the North Lawn of the White House. This just ahead of his first presidential address to Congress on Wednesday.

Today the president is expected to introduce several new recommendations for people who have been fully vaccinated as well as new and highly anticipated guidance on mask wearing outdoors.

HARLOW: That's right. But the effort to vaccinate all Americans is now proving to be a tall task with even greater challenges, it seems, ahead. Experts are now fearful the U.S. could fail to reach herd immunity as part of the country -- as parts of the country are already seeing a drop in vaccine demand. Data from the CDC show fewer new people are getting their first shot than those finishing up their second.

So let's begin at the White House with our colleague Jeremy Diamond.

Good morning to you, Jeremy. Two big things from the president today and tomorrow night. What's the message going to be today?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, you'll recall, Poppy, when President bidden came into office, he made a plea with Americans. He urged them to mask up for the first 100 days while he was in office. And as we approach that 100-day marker, we expect that President bidden today will provide new guidance from the CDC on the necessity of or lack of necessity of wearing masks outdoors.

He will also be providing new guidance for Americans who have been fully vaccinated. Now what we're expecting today in terms of the run of show is that the CDC is first going to announce these new guidelines during a 12:15 briefing today. Coronavirus briefing. You'll see updated guidance on masking outdoors. These new recommendations for fully vaccinated people and guidelines for infection control in health care settings.

Then the president an hour later will tout many of these recommendations but more broadly than that, what you're going to see from him is this shift in tone, looking forward to provide more hope for vaccinated Americans and also to talk about what lies ahead. That's kind of what the secretary of Health and Human Services, Javier Becerra, described earlier this morning. Listen.


XAVIER BECERRA, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The message is clear. You are vaccinated. Guess what? You get to return to more normal lifestyle. If you're not vaccinated, you're still a danger. You're still in danger as well, so get vaccinated.


DIAMOND: And ultimately President bidden is going to have to continue dealing with this balancing act even though more than half of U.S. adults have now gotten at least one shot of that coronavirus vaccine, there are still millions of Americans who have not been vaccinated. And so the president on the one hand wants to provide this new guidance, this new optimism for those who have gotten vaccinated, while also urging those who haven't been yet to be cautious until they themselves also get the shot.

SCIUTTO: Amazing how quickly the country moved from, you know, high demand and people not getting it fast enough to now there being too much out there. People don't want it.

So what the president is doing is he's providing more help overseas, particularly to places in India, including now, is that right, sharing some unused AstraZeneca vaccines?

DIAMOND: Yes, that's right. This has been a question hanging over this administration for weeks if not months now. Health experts have been urging the U.S. to share some of its vaccine supply, particularly those tens of millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses which the -- were produced in the U.S., have been stockpiled because it has not yet been approved for emergency use here in the United States.

Yesterday the bidden administration finally announcing that they will share in the coming months up to 60 million vaccine doses, AstraZeneca vaccine doses, 10 million of which are expected to begin being shared with other countries in the coming weeks as the FDA completes a quality control review of those doses, and then 50 million more by June. So these doses are going to be shared with other countries.

We don't know yet which countries other than Canada and Mexico which the U.S. has already committed to loaning four million doses. Separate from that, though, the U.S. is providing raw materials, oxygen supplies, PPE, testing, all of that to India which is currently dealing with that deadly, deadly surge. SCIUTTO: Yes. No question. Sad to see there. Jeremy Diamond, at the

White House, thank you.

We are joined now by former acting CDC director, Dr. Richard Besser. He currently serves as president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We should note that foundation was created by a founder of J&J, still owns stock in the company, but they are otherwise separate and independent companies.

Dr. Besser, the president expected to announce today that it's no longer necessary for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask outside at least. Do you think that's the right guidance at the right time?


DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING CDC DIRECTOR: I think it is the right guidance. You know, it's important, Jim, that we think about risk, not as an all or none. That there's a continuum. And if you are fully vaccinated, your risk of getting COVID is really small. And that's because these vaccines are highly effective. And so if you're outdoors, we knew that outdoor activities were at much lower risk.

Back in last summer and in the fall, you can remember a time where the recommendations were, look, if you're outdoors and you're six feet away from people, you don't need to wear a mask. You can go for a run. You can be in the park with your family. It's a safe thing to do. Well, now we've got so many people in America who are fully vaccinated, the message needs to be, look at all the things you can do if you're vaccinated.

This is a wonderful thing. Go ahead and get vaccinated. We knew that there was -- the majority of people in America wanted to get vaccinated and there was massive demand, but that we would hit a point where that backlog was addressed and you were then faced with two groups of people. Those who wanted to wait, were a little more cautious, and those people who said, no matter what, I'm not going to get vaccinated.

Well, that middle group of people who are a little cautious, I think that they're going to be encouraged when they see the activities that fully vaccinated people can do.

HARLOW: Dr. Besser, the U.S. is going to share our, you know, what will be 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses with the world, and Mexico, Canada, we know already, and hopefully India. But they are waiting for the FDA to give it the EUA, right, the Emergency Use Authorization. Given that India is already using the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine, is that a prudent decision by the United States to wait for that FDA approval to send it to India, or should it be sent now given the scale of the crisis there?

BESSER: Well, my understanding, Poppy, is that they're not waiting for an Emergency Use Authorization. They're waiting for the FDA to certify that the standards for those vaccines in manufacturing, that they were safe. That they were done properly. And that's very important thing to do. You wouldn't want to send doses overseas that haven't been certified as being manufactured appropriately.

AstraZeneca has not submitted the vaccine to the United States to request an Emergency Use Authorization, but it has been approved in other countries. So if it has been shown that it's been manufactured, we can certify that these doses are proper, then giving it makes a lot of sense. And I would encourage the administration to think beyond that. You know, transmission anywhere in the world poses a risk to people everywhere in the world. There is a moral reason to help other countries. There's an ethical reason.

But there's also the reason that as this virus transmits anywhere in the world, mutations occur, variants will develop, and if a variant were to develop that was not covered by the current vaccines, we would all be in deep trouble. We would need new vaccines right away to be able to address that.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Besser, I want to talk about COVID and kids in schools. You just had an op-ed in "USA Today" writing about the importance of recalibrating our expectations so that, as you write, the tens of millions of children in this country are kept safe. I wonder, because in your first answer you talk about risk management. Right? The more data we have, and I don't want to minimize the number of families who have had kids who have gotten very sick, but if you compare it, say, to seasonal flu, right, the numbers are very similar.

I wonder, have we learned more than a year in that we've perhaps taken too many precautions, right, in terms of closing schools across the board? You know, where do we have -- where should the pendulum be right now on schools and what measures are taken given, you know, it's a percentage, but it's a tiny percentage of kids who get very sick from this?

BESSER: Yes, you know, Jim, I think that there's some things that we did that have been shown to be too extreme, but I think were appropriate at the time, and that was very quickly closing schools because we know from flu what role children played in that. But as we've learned, children can go to school safely without full vaccination program.

The point that I was making in that piece along with Dr. Marita is that there's still a lot we don't know about this. And while it's -- you know, as a pediatrician, a parent, I'm so grateful that the rate of hospitalization and death in children is low. There have been hundreds of children who have died and there are thousands of children who have developed this very unusual inflammatory syndrome that's affected their hearts, their kidneys.

And there's still so much we don't know about the long-term consequences. We shouldn't forget children. And we shouldn't forget the children who haven't been able to go to school because their schools don't have the resources to be able to do it safely for them, for staff and teachers.


And that's, you know, a greater proportion of schools that serve black and brown children because of how we fund schools in America. So the point is, what we do can help protect children and it's not that we -- that I'm saying kids shouldn't be in school. They should, and we can do it safely.

HARLOW: Right.

BESSER: But we need vaccines for children that are safe and effective. And we're on our way to getting there. But we won't have vaccines for younger children until this winter at the earliest.

HARLOW: Look at the news just out of Minnesota. A first grader dying from complications with COVID. I mean, you're right, Dr. Besser. It's rare but it's still happening to kids.

We thank you for being here this morning.

BESSER: Thanks so much.

HARLOW: We turn now to a new push from former president Trump to speak up about the importance of getting vaccinated. Why now? I mean, remember, he got the vaccine back in January. Didn't tell anyone. Didn't talk much publicly about it. Well, we know how many of his supporters are facing this vaccine hesitancy.

SCIUTTO: Yes, Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. The numbers are clear here that it's far more Republicans who are unlikely to want to get the vaccine. And even some of his own advisers are saying, you can do, you can make a real difference here. You've done it. Just encourage them, say it's safe. Why would that be important and do we know if he's moving at all in that direction?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know if he's moving in that direction. Now the former president did tell Sean Hannity in an interview last week on FOX News that he would make a PSA, but, you know, he just sort of said it briefly. It was hardly a commitment.

And I've spoken, Jim, with two former senior officials in the Trump administration. And they are really -- they say that his close advisers are really urging him to make a PSA, to tell his followers to roll up their sleeves.

These two former officials telling me, we know that his followers will listen to Donald Trump like they will listen to no one else. These officials also saying, you know what, look, the president should own the fact that these vaccines were developed under his administration, under Operation Warp Speed, and it was really incredible what happened.

Three effective vaccines developed in a matter of months and that the president should own that and should make sure that his own followers don't basically ruin it by failing to get vaccinated and failing to get to herd immunity. So let's take a look at one of his -- what one of these officials told me.

One of these officials saying, "I see Operation Warp Speed tipping towards failure and it really concerns me. If we don't move half those people into the vaccinated column, we're most likely not going to reach community immunity. And if we don't reach it, then the president's vaccine legacy is dead."

So that is a former senior official in the Trump administration. So that's pretty strong language saying we want the president to make a PSA. And let's take a look at how Republicans feel about vaccines. 54 percent say that they are -- tell us that they are unenthusiastic about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Almost a third of them saying they definitely won't get it -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Wow. Yes. It's remarkable.

HARLOW: Well, Elizabeth, we -- yes, we appreciate that reporting very much.

Still to come, the family of Andrew Brown Jr. says 20 seconds of footage of his killing is not transparency. They want to view the entire body camera video of what their attorney says shows an execution. The sheriff says the video only tells part of the story. Now it's completely in the hands of a judge to decide. Will it ever be released?

SCIUTTO: And President bidden will try to sell his big plans for the country in a joint address to Congress tomorrow. Can he convince not only Republicans but some members of his own party to join?

Plus, a growing rift inside the GOP on full display at a party retreat. At the center of that divide, the former president.



SCIUTTO: Later this morning, we are expecting to learn new information about the police shooting of 42-year-old black man Andrew Brown Jr. in North Carolina. Attorneys for Mr. Brown's family are set to release the results of an independent autopsy.

HARLOW: It has now been six days since Brown was fatally shot by police after they attempted to serve an arrest warrant, and despite growing calls, authorities have not publicly released the body camera footage of that deadly shooting. So far, actually, the family has only been shown a redacted 20-second clip.

Our Brian Todd is in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, this morning. Brian, you've been there since the beginning, really since the day after he was shot. And after the family saw this 20-second clip, an attorney says, A, it's not enough, it's not transparency, but also says what they saw was a, quote, "execution".

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter gave a very graphic and disturbing account, Poppy and Jim, of what they saw in that 20 seconds. We actually have two pieces of video to talk to you about this morning. Yes, that 20-second body-cam video that we haven't seen yet. The

family and its attorneys have seen that, I mean, I'm going to get to that in just a second. But there's also some private video that came out yesterday evening. This is from a neighbor who filmed this private cell phone video.

This neighbor lives across the street from Andrew Brown's house. They took this in the aftermath of the shooting. You do not see the shooting on this video, but you see the immediate aftermath. You see Andrew Brown's car kind of across the street, across a grassy area where he drove his car in trying to get away from deputies. You see the car crashed against a tree. You see it next to a white house there.


We talked to the owner of that white house, he said a bullet from one of the sheriff's gun ripped through the front of his house and landed inside, luckily no one was home at that white house at the time of the incident. But there, you have some aftermath footage of the incident. Now, let's talk again about that body camera video.

The 20-second snippet that no one seems to be satisfied with this morning, least of all, the Brown family and their attorneys. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, one of the attorneys spoke to CNN earlier this morning and said, look, they're looking for any additional video, no matter what it is, anything they can get. Here's what she had to say.


CHANTEL CHERRY-LASSITER, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF ANDREW BROWN JR.: We are still trying to get transparency. We are still trying to obtain the rest of the -- if it is just 10 more seconds, we would like the whole 10 seconds. We would like to see all the body-cam footage, we would like any dash cam that's available. Just any information that we can provide to this family so they can know what happened to Andrew.


TODD: In the meantime, Chantel Cherry-Lassiter described what she did see in the video that they did get access to, very graphic and disturbing descriptions of Andrew Brown with his hands on the wheel being shot, almost --


Excuse me, execution style they say, as he was trying to drive away. That he posed no threat to the officers and they kept firing at him. Poppy and Jim?

HARLOW: Brian Todd, thank you for that reporting. Let's bring in Anthony Barksdale; former acting Baltimore Police Commissioner. Good morning Commissioner. If that is, in fact, what happened, the family's account, that Andrew Brown Jr. had his hands on the steering wheel and was driving away and, yes, they were trying to serve him an arrest warrant, I understand that. But if that is what happened, is there any scenario under which a police officer is allowed to shoot, let alone multiple times as happened here?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: If this department cannot show that a citizen or an officer was an imminent threat -- imminent like standing right in front of Mr. Brown's vehicle and was about to be struck and couldn't get out of the way, then maybe it could be justified.

But based on what I am hearing, what you're hearing, what the world is hearing, I don't see any justification for these actions. Based on what I'm hearing, we're going to see poor strategy, poor tactics, poor training, poor supervision that led to the death of Mr. Brown. And just because you have a warrant on you, it's not a death sentence.

HARLOW: Right.

BARKSDALE: You know what? Targets of investigations, sometimes want to get away. That comes with the job of policing and you have to be trained. You have to understand your job. You have to be a professional. And accept, OK, he got away and will just have to regroup and figure out how to make this arrest another way.

SCIUTTO: Mr. Barksdale, North Carolina has a law that doesn't make it easy to release this body-cam footage quickly and fully. In fact, there's a Democratic legislator we're going to have on shortly who is working to change this law. I just wonder, when you look at situations like this because Columbus, Ohio, they very quickly released body-cam footage, we saw that in Brooklyn Center, you know, outside Minneapolis. Is it in the police department's interest to be more rather than less transparent following incidents like this?

BARKSDALE: More transparency is the best route. You're a 100 percent. Well, releasing, own your mistake. If you have made a horrible mistake, if you've taken a life, own it. Show the public. Why the hell did we get body cams if we're going to play these games with releasing footage. Show it.

We're at a time where transparency is vital to the relationship between the police departments and the communities. Right now in North Carolina, they need to be thankful that these citizens have gone this route. They are showing patience and I know it's being tested, but that whole crew in North Carolina at the top, you need to change. These laws need to change.

HARLOW: You bring up a great point. And I'm looking forward to that conversation with a lawmaker trying to change things in North Carolina because the fact is, even if the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act gets through both chambers and signed by President Biden, that only requires body camera video to be released from federal officers. So that would not supersede the North Carolina law, right? And I wonder if you think that needs to be changed as they're working to draft whatever the final legislation will be on policing.

BARKSDALE: That's a huge point. Absolutely needs to change. Local jurisdictions -- see, a lot of this failure that we're seeing, it's in some of these smaller police departments.


And it needs to be across the board. If you have body cams, there should be a set amount of time given to release. I mean, look at -- look at the unfortunate incident with Mr. Wright.

An officer mistakes a taser for gun, whatever, but it's still released immediately to the public, what was it, a day? April 11th it happened, April 12th it was out. That's what I'm talking about. That's what you're -- we need transparency. So, we need to cut these games, get these lawmakers into the game and fix what's wrong across the nation.

SCIUTTO: Anthony Barksdale, we appreciate you sharing your experience with us. Thanks for joining us this morning.

BARKSDALE: Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: Well, as President Biden gears up to push his ambitious legislative agenda to Congress, some in his own party say it's too ambitious while others say it does not go far enough. We've heard that kind of disagreement before. I'm going to discuss with Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.

HARLOW: We are also moments away from the opening bell here on Wall Street, futures mixed this morning, investors waiting to -- for the start of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting, also keeping a close eye on a slew of earnings reports that are coming today, obviously, inflation concerns still top of mind and the surge of COVID in India. Stay with us.