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Biden Administration Targets Human Traffickers; Republican Infighting; India's COVID Crisis; President Biden Lays Out New Guidelines For Vaccinated. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 27, 2021 - 15:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Top of a brand-new hour. I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

We begin with the push by the Biden administration to get more people vaccinated, President Biden sharing new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans, hoping it is motivation for those who have not gotten a shot.

BLACKWELL: Now, the CDC is updating recommendations for people who have been or are now fully vaccinated.

You don't need a mask for most outdoor activities. And that means that fully vaccinated people finally do not need to wear masks while hiking or being in small groups of vaccinated or unvaccinated people or dining outside. Here's what the president said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is another great reason to go get vaccinated now, now.

Yes, the vaccines are about saving your life, but also the lives of the people around you. But they're also about helping to get us back to closer to normal in our living, more normal living, getting together with friends, going to a park for a picnic without needing to mask up.

We're back to that place now, as long as you get vaccinated. So, go get the shot. It's never been easier.


BLACKWELL: Nick Watt is in Los Angeles.

Nick, the president making the hard push there for the vaccination. It's happening as vaccination rates are slowing.


This is all part of the administration plan to try and get as many people vaccinated as possible. They're using a lot of carrot and no stick. Now, the CDC director this morning made it clear. She said, listen, as long as people continue to get vaccinated, as long as case counts continue to fall, we will continue to update this guidance and ease the recommended restrictions.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Over the past year, we have spent a lot of time telling Americans what they cannot do, what they should not do. Today, I'm going to tell you some of the things you can do if you are fully vaccinated.

WATT (voice-over): You can without a mask now run, walk, bike with your family outside, attend smaller outdoor gatherings, go to an outdoor restaurant. Why?

WALENSKY: Less than 10 percent of documented transmission in many studies have occurred outdoors.

WATT: This new guidance gives info, reward and:

WALENSKY: I hope will encourage people to get fully vaccinated.

WATT: More than a third of American adults are now fully vaccinated, but the pace is slowing, yesterday, 2.1 million doses in arms, down from a high of 4.6 million April 10. Hesitancy is kicking in.

In a poll last month, nearly a third of Republicans said they would definitely not get the vaccine. Two former Trump officials say some of the former president's advisers are encouraging him to make a pro- vaccine PSA.

Trump got his shots in secret, unlike other leaders here and abroad. Meantime, the U.S. will release, pending safety review, 60 million stockpiled doses of AstraZeneca vaccine likely to Canada, Mexico and beyond. Why? It goes beyond the ethical. It's practical.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Transmission anywhere in the world poses a risk to people everywhere 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.

WATT: And the virus is exploding right now in India. Globally, new case counts have risen the last nine weeks in a row.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: To put it in perspective, there were almost as many cases globally last week as in the first five months of the pandemic.


WATT: Now, President Biden also -- President Biden also made it clear that it is his intention to send some of those AstraZeneca doses to India. There's some math and red tape to deal with first.

And he made the point, when we were in a bind here in the U.S. early on, India helped us out -- guys.

BLACKWELL: Nick Watt for us there in Los Angeles, thanks so much.

Dr. Ali Khan is dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center's College of Public Health and a former CDC official.

Dr. Khan, the recommendations, what do you make of them, first, based on the science, but also as a potential motivation, incentive for people who are hesitating?

DR. ALI KHAN, FORMER CDC OFFICIAL: Hello, Victor. Thank you.

So, these new recommendations are really science-based. We know that less than 10 percent of infections occur outside. We also have seen a marked decline in cases and deaths in the U.S. And it's very appropriate to help people understand what a big game-changer it is for themselves, their families and their community if they get vaccinated.


And so not wearing a mask outdoors and -- is an extension of already advice from CDC that says, we don't need to wear a mask indoors with loved ones. We don't need to quarantine if we're vaccinated. And I'm hoping that they will continue to extend all of these new benefits of getting people vaccinated to improve vaccine confidence.

CAMEROTA: But, Dr. Khan, of course, there is still some confusion, I think, among fully vaccinated people about why they need to wear masks at a big outdoor venue, say, a concert.

And so Dr. Rochelle Walensky and the CDC addressed that today. Listen to her explanation.


WALENSKY: I do want to sort of convey this outdoor large public venues, such as concert stadiums and things like that, and a lot of that is the inability to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated, and to say that, in those settings, when you have those -- that density, we really do worry about protecting the unvaccinated people.


CAMEROTA: So, Dr. Khan, I mean, I just so that we're all on the same page. there is a school of thought that, why do fully vaccinated people need to protect the health of unvaccinated people if they have chosen not to get vaccinated?

KHAN: Hi, Alisyn. Always nice to speak with you.

CAMEROTA: And you as well. KHAN: So, going back to Dr. Walensky's comments, I think that's valid when we have given everybody the opportunity to be vaccinated. And everybody in America yet hasn't had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

So, this isn't flu vaccine at this point. At some point, when everybody in America has had the opportunity if they want to be vaccinated, then I agree that maybe we can think about, well, OK, if you had the opportunity, and you're not vaccinated, it's on you. But that's not true yet.

And we need to make sure that, until that's true, we are protecting the health of everybody, including those who are unvaccinated.

BLACKWELL: So, Dr. Khan, I -- something I learned today is that India is the largest vaccine maker in the world. And we're going to go to India in just a moment to check in with the situation there.

But why don't they have access to vaccines, at least the number that they need, now?

KHAN: That's a great question. There's lots of different reasons. So it's pretty complex.

Some of it has to do with a different approach. So, the U.S. approach, we pre -- the U.S. pre-bought all of their vaccine up front. And so the manufacturers had it all ready to go and the manufacturing plants up and going. India did not use that approach.

There's also supply -- issues around getting the raw materials that they need. Plus, it takes time to sort of scale up these facilities to make billions of doses, which is essentially what they need.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, they're obviously in such horrible dire straits right now.

And so I'm sure it's welcome news that the Biden administration says that they're offering to send all sorts of things, from PPE to more oxygen to the raw ingredients, as you say, for vaccines. But I don't know about the timeline. I mean, when we heard from the press secretary, Jen Psaki, it sounded like the raw ingredients for the -- or more vaccine, I guess, not just the raw ingredients, more vaccine, they would consider over the next month or so.

They need them now.

KHAN: And this is always a good reminder that there are numerous countries in the world who have zero cases and zero deaths without vaccine. So, it's really important for India to make sure that they have appropriate public health measures in place to supplement their vaccination effort to get cases down.

And, until recently, the country was holding gigantic political rallies with tens of thousands of people and held the largest super- spreader event in the world.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Khan, we are several months now into the vaccine campaign here in the U.S. First, people got their vaccines at the end of 2020.

But J&J, Moderna, Pfizer, those vaccines only have emergency use authorization. Why? I mean, what's the path to full approval from the FDA? And why hasn't it happened yet?

KHAN: Another great question to help clear up some of the confusion in the public.

So, the emergency authorization was to allow immediate use of these very efficacious, very safe vaccines. To get full approval, you need about six months or so of data. And so, as this data accumulates, all of these companies have committed to get these vaccines approved by submitting a biologic license agreement.

So, in 2021, they will all ask for approval also. But it's just a time issue, to have enough time to collect of all of the safety data and to do all the documentation that needs to be done to get full approval, as opposed to emergency authorization.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Ali Khan, always great to talk to you and see you. Thanks so much for all the information.

KHAN: Real pleasure. Thank you.

Oh, and, remember, for those who aren't vaccinated yet, get your shot, and mask on.


CAMEROTA: We can always count on you, Dr. Khan, for the mask shot.

Thank you.

BLACKWELL: That is a huge mask.

CAMEROTA: That is -- he's really -- he's wearing it over his eyes at this point.


CAMEROTA: That's very protective, Doctor.

BLACKWELL: Huge mask.

CAMEROTA: OK, now to that growing coronavirus crisis in India that we just talked about. More than one million new cases have been reported over just the past five days.

And CNN's Vedika Sud joins us now from India's capital city of New Delhi.

So, Vedika, you have seen, obviously, the hideous pictures that we all have seen about these long lines that people are waiting in to cremate their loved ones. What's happening in India? VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are deaths, there's

dejection, and there's also a lot of fear at this point in time.

There's a shortage of supply when it comes to oxygen. There's a shortage of supply when it comes to beds. And that's what we really need at this time. That's what India needs. I was at a hospital yesterday, Alisyn.

And what I saw is something that I'm probably never going to forget. We had so many people rush into the COVID ward area just begging for one bed. That's all they said: Just give us one bed for a relative just for tonight. And we need oxygen for them.

And that hospital had to turn them away because they were packed. They had people, apparently, when we spoke to relatives saying to us that there were people on the ground in that COVID ward just waiting to get a bed itself.

And that's not the situation only in one hospital in India's national capital, Delhi. That's happening in a lot of places in the city, as well as across India. And that's the worry, that the deaths are going up. And we have got a caseload of 17.6 million already. In the last 3.5 days, India's added more than a million confirmed cases of COVID- 19 to its count.

And that's the devastating situation that we find ourselves in. I was at a crematorium as well. Young children were there to say -- there to say the final goodbyes to someone who had a mother who was suffering from COVID-19 and couldn't make it to hospital.

Someone else had a husband in the backseat of her car. She was wailing away. And all she could tell me while she was trying to catch her breath is: "We took him to four hospitals. No one took him in. And he died while he was at home."

And this is the story in almost every household. It's so close home this time, Alisyn and Victor, because all of us know of people who've died because of COVID-19 without beds, without oxygen supply. You go to the social media, and you go to Twitter, you go to Facebook, everyone's saying, hey, can you help us with remdesivir? Can you help me get a bed for my aunt? Can you help me just with some oxygen supply for the night, so that my family member survives?

This story is being repeated at possibly every doorstep that we can think of in India. It's a nightmare right now out here -- Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: It is horrible to listen to these stories.

We heard earlier the president say that aid is coming, aid is on its way to India. And other countries are sending aid as well. But it just seems, Vedika, that it just cannot get there soon enough.

SUD: Well, it's already a bit too delayed, I would say. And that's what medical experts say, too little, too late.

A lot of people are saying that India was caught off-guard because they had time to prepare for the second wave. Some scientists and medical experts believe that India is a few months behind European nations. So, they should have buckled up and prepared for the second wave.

You had India's health minister earlier this year saying, endgame COVID-19. We seem to -- there was complacency, as far as the authorities are concerned, as far as the citizens are concerned, because there were large gatherings. India just had an entire festival take place, the largest religious festival in the world called Kumbh Mela, which took place in Northern India.

And there were so many people who were infected because of that. Along with that, when politicians should be in the forefront telling people to wear their masks and socially distance themselves, they were at the forefront for political rallies because of the elections in five states taking place here in India.

They're the ones who go there and say, wow, look at the crowds we have gathered. We're so impressed, at a time like this, when everyone should be aware of the kind of deaths we could see in the coming days, and now we are seeing. And you also have studies saying that the deaths could go up to 13,000 a day.

That was the situation that India was in, large gatherings, social, political, and otherwise -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Vedika Sud for us there in New Delhi, thank you so much for that report.

Well, still ahead: The FBI opens a federal civil rights investigation into the death of Andrew Brown Jr. And, of course, there are calls growing for officials in North Carolina to release the full bodycam video of the fatal police shooting.

CAMEROTA: Plus: the feud playing out for the future of the Republican Party. Congresswoman Liz Cheney is not ruling out a bid for president in 2024, as one conservative senator says she's totally out of step with GOP voters.


What's the truth?


CAMEROTA: Republican Senator Josh Hawley is criticizing House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney for being -- quote -- "really out of step" with GOP voters and members.

The split also continues between Cheney and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy over Donald Trump's role in the Republican Party.


Cheney says she believes senators such as Hawley, who, let's remember, led the effort against certifying the 2020 election, should be disqualified from running for office in the future, this as she is not ruling out a presidential run herself in 2024.

So, today, McCarthy was unclear if he would support Cheney if she's challenged in a primary.


QUESTION: If she does ask you to campaign for her in a primary run, would you do so enthusiastically?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I haven't talked to her about it.


CAMEROTA: All right, CNN senior political correspondent Abby Phillip joins us now.

Abby, this is just playing out right in public for everyone to see. And so what are we to glean about the current state of the Republican Party?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that both Josh Hawley and Liz Cheney are onto something with their comments.

There is this massive chasm that has emerged in the Republican Party. And Liz Cheney is on one side of that chasm, and Josh Hawley is on the other. I think the question, though, is, how big are either camp? And I think that's a little unclear, frankly.

I mean, I think you could argue that the Hawley camp, the Trump camp, even the McCarthy camp is larger right now. The Republican Party, by and large, according to the polls, buys into the election lies that have been sold and peddled by former President Trump.

They buy into his brand of politics, and they have not abandoned former President Trump. And so Liz Cheney is a little bit isolated here, even though I think that she herself has a certain well of support because of her family ties, and a lot of traditional Republicans have been trying to buck her up by fund-raising for her, by rallying behind her.

I'm just not sure that it'll be enough.

BLACKWELL: So the Republicans are attending a legislative retreat, right, to talk about how to move policy forward.

I want you to listen here to Representative Cheney about how potentially the Republicans can take back the majority. Let's talk.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think, as we look at '22 and '24, we're very much going to be focused on substance and on the issues. And I think that's where we have got to attract back the voters that we lost in 2020, by conveying to them that, in fact, we are the party that they can trust, we're the party of competence and of conservative principles. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: That sounds good. How?

I mean, because what they're talking about is where you stand on one side of or another of a lie.

PHILLIP: Of course.

And, I mean, look, Liz Cheney certainly wants that for the Republican Party. I'm just not sure the rest of the Republican Party wants that at all. I think there is definitely a strain of the party that is much more focused on issues like cancel culture, much more focused on whether or not -- the lie that Joe Biden's trying to ban beef, or whatever it is.

They're much more focused on those issues than they are on policy. What we have found and what we have seen in recent months is that a lot of things that I think Republicans thought might animate the base, like the issue of whether Joe Biden might raise taxes on businesses, or even immigration, they have not resonated the same way with the Republican base.

And that's been a problem for them. It's been hard for them to create actually a loyal opposition against Biden and against the Democrats on policy. And so I'm not sure that what Liz Cheney is saying is going to happen is actually going to happen, because they're much more interested in things like whether or not people are being canceled on Twitter or on Facebook for being conservative.

CAMEROTA: But, Abby, I mean, just to remind people, Josh Hawley was the person who also showed solidarity in that famous photo with his -- with his fist up, for the rioters, the people who stormed the Capitol during which five people were killed, including a Capitol Police officer, defecated -- I sometimes throw that in for good measure, Victor -- in the Capitol.

I mean, that's not where the majority of the Republican Party is today, is it? How can he say that he represents the majority of the party?

PHILLIP: You're right.

Obviously, the majority of the party is not rioting or supportive of the rioting on the Capitol. But there's no question that there has been an effort at the highest levels of the Republican Party and in conservative media to whitewash what happened on January 6.

Look at Ron Johnson, who talks about January 6 as though it were a walk in the park and a picnic, and in large part because the protesters were not Black Lives Matter activists. There's a wide amount of latitude on the right that's being given to some of these excuses for January 6 that allows people like Josh Hawley to be members of the Republican Party in good standing.

[15:25:06] And that's the element that I think is going to be difficult for Liz Cheney to combat. Maybe there -- Republicans, by and large, don't support the riots. But they are permissive of people like Josh Hawley and others being leaders in their party.

I mean, folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene and others, who are part of the kind of rationale for why January 6 happened have more power today than they did before the January 6 riots.

BLACKWELL: Abby Philip, thank you so much.

PHILLIP: Thank you, guys.

BLACKWELL: So, one of the biggest criticisms that we heard about President Biden at the GOP conference this week was his handling of the situation at the border.

Well, today the Biden administration just announced a new operation to crack down on human smuggling.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is following this for us.

So, what's the administration's plan?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, they plan to impose penalties to human smugglers.

And that can happen in a number of ways, like, for example, revoking travel documents or freezing financial assets tied to the network. Officials are calling this Operation Sentinel, and it's a cross- government approach that includes the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Justice Department.

Now, remember, human smugglers pose a steep challenge to this administration. They use platforms like social media and popular messaging apps to reach migrants and encourage them to come to the U.S.-Mexico border, oftentimes spreading disinformation.

Now, the United States has launched a campaign through ads and social media to combat that messaging. But, clearly, here, officials don't think that's enough. And they want to target specifically these transnational criminal organizations.

And one of the things officials raised was the pure risk to migrants. So, we saw earlier this year that video from Border Patrol of smugglers dropping two young girls from a 14-foot barrier on the border, officials looking at that and saying, that's enough. They want to go after the human smugglers with transnational criminal organizations that are making profits off of the journey that these migrants go on.

So, again, Operation Sentinel launched today. Officials will say that they're going to target the organizations and crack down on them in the coming months, and we expect to start to see those penalties -- Victor.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, Priscilla Alvarez.

OK, so, next, there's a curfew in place in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, tonight, after the deadly police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. The president of the NAACP joins us live, as calls grow for that full bodycam video to be released to the public.