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Pfizer Applies for Full FDA Approval for Its COVID Vaccine; Gaetz, Greene Holding "America First" Rally Amid Uproar; Interview with Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, (D) Miami-Dade County, DeSantis Vax Passport and possible losing Cruise Line Business in Florida; WriteGirl Expands Work Helping Teens Find Their Voice. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 7, 2021 - 15:30   ET



NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): And this is the font line. More than 130 million Pfizer vaccine doses already in American under Emergency Use authorization. Today Pfizer announced, it'll apply for full approval.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: What will do is two things. For a lot of people who are on the fence, who are worried about, well, this is emergency use, should I get vaccinated, it will give them confidence. And then there are a lot of businesses who want to require that their employees be vaccinated for those businesses. It will also make them feel better about moving forward with that.

WATT (voice over): Around 140 colleges already mandating vaccines for students on campus in the fall. Some offering incentives. Rowan University in New Jersey will give us to $1,000 in credits to vaccinated students. Average new infections nationwide, well, four months ago this country peaked at over a quarter million per day. Now just over 45,000. A huge drop to continue that trend.

DR. CHRIS PERNELL, FELLOW, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE: We have to continue to encourage vaccinations. We have to continue to follow the data.

WATT (voice over): One-time basket case California now has the lowest cases per capita in the country.

DR. MONICA GANDHI, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN FRANCISCO: We're opening up and even despite opening up, with relatively high rates of first-dose vaccination, we're not seeing the cases going up. When do I think we're going to get to herd immunity? I don't think it will take anything more than 70 percent first dose.

WATT (voice over): Half of Californians are at least partially vaccinated. In some other states that percentage is way lower. Meantime, those influential modelers up in Washington just changed how they estimate how many people have died due to the pandemic. In this country was under 600,000, now they say over 900,000 when they add their estimate of unreported fatalities.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: And that in my mind is just more and more reason to continue to get vaccinated.


WATT (on camera): Now, the hope is that by getting this Pfizer vaccine fully approved not just used under Emergency Use Authorization, that that will increase public confidence in the vaccines. But as the White House pointed out this morning, that approval process can take a few months. But given the state of the pandemic, they imagine that the FDA will move as quickly as possible while stressing, this is all up to the FDA, nothing to do elected officials -- guys.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, Nick Watt, thank you.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Let's talk now with Dr. Megan Ranney, ER doctor, Brown University. Dr. Ranney, let's start here. 250 million -- a quarter billion vaccine doses administered across the three vaccines with EUAs. What's the significance now of potentially full FDA approval and long term?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: So, the significance of that full FDA approval is that it takes away one of those drivers of hesitancy in so many Americans, which is, why would I get something under only emergency use?

We as scientists have been trying to reassure folks that these vaccines are safe as well as effective, but once something gets full FDA approval, there's no more argument. This in incontrovertibly safe and effective. And then as that clip with Dr. Jha played, it also allows businesses and universities and schools to start to insist on vaccination with a little more confidence.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Ranney, Scott -- Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, said that it is time to start lifting some more restrictions. Here he is.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I think we should start lifting these restrictions as aggressive as we put them in. We need to preserve the credibility of public health officials. To perhaps reimplement some of these provisions as we get into next winter if we do start seeing outbreaks again. And I think the only way to earn credibility is to demonstrate that you are willing to relax these provisions when the situations improves.


CAMEROTA: Do you agree it's time to relax some of the restrictions?

RANNEY: Not yet. Only about 30 or 40 percent -- depending on where you are in the country -- of adult Americans have been fully vaccinated. It is not time to get rid of indoor mask mandates, although I know that many states have done that. That isn't what the public health data supports.

You look at what Israel did. They have gotten infections to virtually zero by waiting until the majority of their adult population was vaccinated before lifting mask mandates. Now, the one exception is outdoor masking, we can start to lift those mandates. And the CDC, in fact, has recommended that. And I expect that more of those indoor mask mandates will be lifted but it's going to be in another one or two months. Not today.

BLACKWELL: New cases are down. Deaths are down. Hospitalizations are down.


But Dr. Gottlieb mentioned there the possibility of seeing more cases in the winter. What's your expectation? Do you believe or buy into this theory that there could be a winter surge?

RANNEY: There's no way to know. But most of us in medicine and public health are deeply afraid of new mutations. Now most of the globe is not vaccinated. And every time this virus spreads, there's a possible threat in new dangerous mutations that increases transmission as well as increases hospitalization and fatality rates. And God forbid, a new mutation that the vaccines don't work against. That would be the triple combo to set us up for another bad surge in the winter.

And then Victor, the other thing that worries me is that there are a lot of states in the U.S. that have low vaccination rates. And in those states, I think we will see pockets of surges in the coming winter, even if we don't have dangerous new variants.

CAMEROTA: Let's hope not. Dr. Megan Ranney thank you very much. We always appreciate talking to you.

So next we're live in Florida as Congressman Matt Gaetz holds as rally at the same time he's under federal investigation. Also Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene will be by his side. Fact-checkers everywhere are on alert.



BLACKWELL: In a few hours Congressman Matt Gaetz, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, they're going to kick off their "America First" tour. The first stop is The Villages. The well-known retirement community in Central Florida. And CNN correspondent Donie O'Sullivan is there today. So Donie, hope you can hear me. I don't know that he can.

CAMEROTA: I think he's giving you the silent treatment.

BLACKWELL: Yes. What have I done Donie? What have I done? We'll try to fix that and get back to Donie there in The Villages.

CAMEROTA: Yes we will. All right, we'll go to a quick break. We'll get back to Donie, because I'm sure he has a lot to say about what's going on in The Villages.



CAMEROTA: As Florida Governor DeSanctis is about to lose Norwegian Cruise Lines from operating in Florida. Last month DeSanctis signed an executive order banning private companies from requiring proof of vaccination. While yesterday, the CEO of Norwegian Cruises warned that his company may suspend cruises from Florida as a result.

Quote, he said, at the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders and God forbid we can't operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states we can and do operate from.

Mayor of Miami-Dade is demanding that the governor drop that policy. And joining us now is the Miami Dade Mayor, Daniella Levine Cava. Mayor thanks so much for being here. Just explain what happens to Miami-Dade County if Norwegian Cruises pulls up and heads out of there?

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA, (D) MIAMI-DADE COUNTY: It would really be devastating. We are the cruising capital of the world. And we depend on these cruises. We ready set and able to deliver vaccinated crew members. We've already vaccinated 2,000 of them, getting ready to follow through on the CDC policy.

We can get up and running by July. And this is so important to our local economy. So, this kind of game of chicken is not helping us. We have clear guidelines. The cruise industry is ready to follow through and we support them.

CAMEROTA: Is there a way to put an actual number on the amount of jobs this would affect?

CAVA: We're talking about tens of thousands of jobs. It's not just those on the ships themselves. It's the ancillary economy, those that produce for the ships. It's the tourism that results from people coming into Miami-Dade County. We're talking about billions of dollars of impact on our local economy.

CAMEROTA: Governor DeSanctis a month ago when he signed this executive order, he basically -- his rational was that your health information should be private, I think. I mean, that's one of his reasonings, his logic. Let me play it for you.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You have a right to live your life in our society. You can go to a restaurant, you can get on a cruise ship, you can go to a movie theater without the company demanding that you show them your health information. It's just not necessary to do.


CAMEROTA: What do you think about that logic?

CAVA: This is private enterprise. These companies have made it very clear that they are willing and are very eager to follow through with these rules that are actually happening all around the world. So, it's contrary to our free market economy. These are private businesses. They're ready to take these steps. They've put into place everything the CDC has asked. I do not understand why the governor would want to tie the hands of private business.

CAMEROTA: I read that Miami-Dade County spent $263 million building a terminal for Norwegian. They just finished construction last year. How do you recoup that money if they decide that they're not to cruise from there anymore?

CAVA: We cannot. This is absolutely unforgivable. And you know if Norwegian goes, who else might go? You know, we cannot afford to have this domino effect. We must allow these businesses to do what they believe is best for the lives and livelihoods of their crew members, of the economy, of those who want to resume safely cruising.

CAMEROTA: And speaking of that, do you think there's an appetite for people to get back on a cruise ship? I mean, we all remember the horror stories at the beginning of the pandemic with people stranded on cruise ships. They couldn't come back. They were getting sick. I mean, do you think that passengers are ready to get back on board?

CAVA: Many people are very eager to go sailing. And most of them want to know that they'll be safe. And the truth is that travel is back, with precautions. And cruising can be safely resumed. It has been all around the world with very positive results. And the CDC guidelines will assure that people can safely cruise.


CAMEROTA: Mayor Levine Cava, thank you for your time.

CAVA: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So next, a man charged in the January 6th attack on the Capitol has a unique defense. His lawyer says Fox News made him do it.

CAMEROTA: But first, a CNN heroes update. Keren Taylor's organization WriteGirl provides teenagers with the tools they need to find their voices. One of its most famous members may be Amanda Gorman. I'd say is. Gorman wowed the world with her poem at the Biden inauguration. So today we're catching up with WriteGirl to see how they continue to make an impact.


KEREN TAYLOR, FOUNDER WRITEGIRL: Many of our girls come from environments where they are really struggling with stable family situations, violence in their communities. Our goal is to really try and reach the most teens we can that are in the greatest need.


TAYLOR: Since receiving the hero award, we've expanded to include programs for boys and co-ed groups to clarify our definition of girls by including non-binary girls, trans youth. Developed more programming for youth who are incarcerated, or assistance impacted on probation. We are always encouraging our girls to share their own story. What is going on in their world. Because they are the only one that can write that poem, tell that story, write that song.

AMANDA GORMAN: In a time when a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother.

TAYLOR: Amanda Gorman joined WriteGirl when she was 14. When we saw her perform at the inauguration, we could see the same things that we really embody at WriteGirl represented in her, confidence, being willing to really be present.

What was really exciting to know was that she represents not only every girl that's ever been in WriteGirl, but she also represents every young woman in this country.


CAMEROTA: And what a journey she has had. To learn more about WriteGirl and to nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero, go to



BLACKWELL: Donie O'Sullivan is with us now. He's at a retirement community The Villages in Florida where Congressman Matt Gaetz, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Green are kicking off their American First tour. So Donie, neither represents that community and Gaetz is currently being investigated by the Justice Department so there are other things going on. But what is the point of this?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor. I mean, they are cashing in. They are cashing in on the big lie. We have seen how successful Marjorie Taylor-Green has been in fundraising, and, you know, there was a point, of course, in the recent Republican history -- Republican Party's history that this event, these two Republicans would have been fringe. But we now know that this sort of thinking, these sort of conspiracy theories are not fringe in the Republican Party.

In fact, we saw a CNN poll last week where 70 percent of Republicans buy in, in some way, to the big lie that Biden didn't actually fairly win the election. And of course, what makes this all a little bit more surreal is Marjorie Taylor-Green's history of belief in QAnon. A conspiracy theory that levels false, absolutely baseless allegations of pedophilia against Democrats. While today she is appearing on stage with a Republican who is facing

allegations of sex trafficking and sexual relations with a 17-year- old. Which he denies, but there is a real investigation taking place. So surreal fringe but, unfortunately, for Republicans like Liz Cheney, this is gaining steam within the Republican Party.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it certainly is. Donie O'Sullivan for us there at The Villages. Donie, thank you.

So there's a new defense strategy from one of the people charged in the violent Capitol insurrection. Listen to this. So the attorney for the defendant Anthony Antonio is blaming his clients behavior on what's called, "Foxitis" and Fox mania.

CAMEROTA: So this attorney is arguing that his client watched so much Fox in the six months leading up to the riot that he began to believe all of the lies and conspiracies that were, quote, fed to him by the network and by President Trump. And I know, Victor that "Foxitis" sounds funny. It sounds like something that would be itchy, but this is deadly serious. I mean, disinformation does rot your brain.


CAMEROTA: And it is an epidemic, and as we've seen it did lead to violent consequences.

BLACKWELL: And let's also remember that the defenses for some of the hosts, some of the programs had been that no sane person would have believed what they said was fact, that -- that we've heard that about Tucker Carlson and other programs and guests on those shows. So certainly we've seen at least this is a defense. One guy out of more than 400. We'll see if we see it from other people.

CAMEROTA: But I'm very interested to see how his attorney is going to prove that he has "Foxitis." And if -- do you show an MRI? Do you show how the behavior changed? I mean, this is real, and we'll see how far this can go in court and if other people end up claiming something like this, too.

BLACKWELL: Of course, we'll continue to follow those cases but for now The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.