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CDC Says, Almost 60 Percent of U.S. Adults Have Gotten at Least One Vaccine Dose; Soon, Biden Talks Economy Ahead of Key Meetings with Lawmakers; U.S. Pipeline Hit by Cyber Attack Hoping to Restore Service this Week. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 10, 2021 - 13:00   ET

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


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ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello on this Monday and thanks for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We begin with light at the end of the tunnel, the U.S. may finally be turning a corner on the pandemic. As of today, almost 60 percent of all U.S. adults have received at least one COVID vaccine dose, according to the CDC, and COVID cases are dropping across the country.

If you're looking for a dramatic example, check out this map. This is not a single state in the red zone, anywhere in the U.S. right now. Dr. Anthony Fauci even suggesting it may be time to rethink more of our mask restrictions, specifically indoors.

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GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST: Former head of the FDA Scott Gottlieb say, it's time to start relaxing the indoor mask mandates. Is he right?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: No, I think so, and I think you're going to probably be seeing that as we go along and as more people get vaccinated. The CDC will be almost in real-time, George, updating their recommendations and their guidelines. But, yes, we do need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So, that's the good news. The bad news is that the vaccination rate is slowing down, considerably, the White House saying today that several states, in fact, are even turning down their full allocation of vaccine doses. And that's frustrating for public health officials because CNN crunched the numbers and we came up with this, 80 percent of the U.S. population lives within five miles of all three vaccines, meaning they can choose which one they want, just five miles.

Joining us now is CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. And, Elizabeth, we just heard Dr. Fauci say it may be time to start easing mask restrictions. Do vaccinations support a move like that?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You can almost hear Dr. Fauci nudging the CDC to let loose a little bit on this. For example, if you're at a small gathering with four or five families, all the adults are vaccinated, do you really need to be wearing a mask? The CDC at this point says, yes, but I think a lot of experts are telling me, you know what, maybe you don't hug the kids but maybe you don't really need to be wearing a mask.

Now, let's talk a little bit about how vaccines -- how the vaccine rate, vaccination rate is falling. You sort of mentioned that, Ana. Let's take a look at what that actually looks like. If you look at this graph, the white line, you can see, it just takes this dip starting around a month ago. That's the number of vaccine doses administered. And that really, to a great extent, is because of vaccine hesitancy, about two out of five American adults have not taken the steps to get vaccinated, haven't even gotten a single dose yet.

Now, the hope here is that these numbers will make them think again and make them roll up their sleeves. Let's take a look in New York City. You can walk just a few blocks and get any of the three vaccines that you want.

Now, New York is a big city. You might think, well, of course, you can do that in New York. But now let's look in Zebulon, North Carolina. It's a town of less than 6,000 people, I'd love to say we chose it randomly but one of our producers lives there. Pfizer and Moderna are within a three-minute drive of downtown Zebulon, Johnson & Johnson within a five-minute drive.

And now, let's take a look at an even smaller place, Freeport, Kansas, population four, again, chosen, I have to say, one of my teammates grew up there, 20 to 30 minutes away, you can get a Johnson & Johnson or a Moderna shot. So that's all you have to travel from this teeny, tiny little place, and one hour away, and you can get Pfizer.

So that really is quite amazing, that even in a place that small, you can get any of those vaccines in an hour drive. And, again, the hope is, is that those who are vaccine hesitant will feel empowered and say, oh, I can choose which one that I want, because 80 percent of the population approximately lives within a five-mile radius, I can choose, I'm going to learn about them and I'm going to get the one that I want. Ana?

CABRERA: Convenience and accessibility is obviously a part of the equation in getting more people shots in arms. Elizabeth Cohen, I appreciate it, thank you.

Let's bring in Dr. Celine Gounder, she's a CNN Medical Analyst and infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist. She also hosts the Epidemic podcast. Dr. Gounder, good to see you. More and more health experts, doctors, seem to be getting comfortable with this idea of people taking masks off indoors for people who are vaccinated. Are you among those calling for masks to go?

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DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Ana, I think it really depends on your local situation. Not every part of the country has vaccinated people as quickly, and we are still seeing 43,000 new cases of COVID per day. More transmission is occurring in some parts of the country.

And I don't know if your producers have that map from the CDC up on screen, but that map shows you what parts of the country have much lower levels of transmission. The counties that you would see on this map are in blue at the lowest and yellow, you have a moderate level of transmission still and then the orange and red are still very high transmission.

And so you really need to be looking at what's happening locally, is there a lot of virus transmission in your community. If there is, you really do still need to be masking indoors. But if people around you have been vaccinated, you've been vaccinated, and there's a low level of transmission, that's when you can start to really relax on these kinds of measures.

CABRERA: I think a lot of people who are vaccinated are thinking though, I've been vaccinated. The science shows us these vaccines are extremely effective. So regardless of what's happening around me, you know, what is the real risk of somebody who's vaccinated taking off their masks indoors? Why not trust the vaccines?

GOUNDER: So, the vaccines are extremely effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in particular are on the order of 95 percent effective, Johnson & Johnson is more in the 70s, all of them, again, protect against hospitalization and death. But you also have to factor in, what is the baseline risk around you?

So let's just, you know, for the sake of argument, you're starting off with a baseline risk of a million, reduce that by 95 percent, that gets you down to 50,000. If you're starting off with a baseline risk of 100, you reduce that by 95 percent, you're down to five. 50,000 and five are very different levels of risk, even with that same relative risk reduction.

And so this is why you really have to look at not just, have I been vaccinated, but have the people around me been vaccinated and have we brought cases, transmission in the community around me, under control?

CABRERA: Nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults have now received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. White House COVID Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients says we are turning a corner, but that's far below what we need for immunity, right? When do you see the U.S. reaching normal?

GOUNDER: So I don't think herd immunity is the right threshold here. Herd immunity is when so many people have been vaccinated and are immune, the virus has no place to go. But, really, I think we should be thinking about this in terms of flattening the curve, which we talked about last year in terms of how we were using masking and social distancing and so on, to reduce hospitalizations and deaths. Now, we have a new tool, with vaccines, to flatten the curve.

And so if we can bring down transmission, if we can bring down hospitalizations and deaths, that really, I think, is the goal here. But we do have more work to do. And that really depends on us, how quickly we get back to normal. The faster each and every one of us gets vaccinated, me, you, our viewers listening to today, the faster we can get back to life as normal.

CABRERA: And so if you could give us your prediction though, because there was a doctor I heard earlier this morning saying maybe 2023. And I thought, wow, my jaw dropped, what do you think is realistic?

GOUNDER: Well, if you're trying to get to herd immunity, it may take that long. I think if you're talking about really reining in your cases, your hospitalizations, your deaths, I think we could get there by fall. But that's really, again, going to depend on all of us, on adolescents who are now becoming eligible to step up and get vaccinated too.

CABRERA: Okay. Thank you so much, Dr. Celine Gounder, much appreciated.

To the White House now, and moments from now, President Biden will speak about the economy. It is shaping up to be a critical week for the president and his spending plans.

CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins us. Kaitlan, what do we expect to hear from the president today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, he's going to talk about what's going on with the economy following that really weak jobs report on Friday that showed U.S. employers only added 266,000 jobs in the month of April, that unemployment rate 6.1 percent. It's a little bit up from where it was.

And so we're expecting President Biden to talk about basically pathways to make it easier for employers to rehire American workers, to get people back to work, to try to remedy that, that unemployment rate, which, of course, is left over from the economic devastation following the pandemic.

But this also comes amid a lot of Republican criticism that you saw over the weekend, Ana, saying that because President Biden extended those enhanced unemployment benefits when he signed the COVID-19 relief bill, that's an extra $300, that is driving American workers to stay home.

And the White House says, yes, they are hearing about difficulties coming from businesses when they are having trouble hiring people to work in their restaurants and their businesses as they are reopening, but they say there's no evidence so far that those unemployment benefits are tied to this. [13:10:03]

So we could expect to hear from that on President Biden as he does speak, but we do have to look at this in the bigger picture of what a big week this is for President Biden, for his legislative agenda and what that's going to look like.

CABRERA: And he clearly is trying to control the message, the fact he keeps on having more and more of these press conferences, these speeches to the American people about his spending plans, and he's also meeting behind closed doors with individuals who may be key to getting his agenda through, for example, we've learned he's going to be meeting with a couple of Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Tom Carper of Delaware. What more are you learning about that?

COLLINS: Yes, he has a ton of meetings scheduled this week. And so those are two meetings that are starting today. Those are individual one-on-one meetings between Senator Joe Manchin and President Biden. Of course, Joe Manchin has been someone who has said he does not want to get infrastructure passed just with Democrats, he wants to try to get Republicans on board. That is something that the White House has said President Biden is open to, compromising. But whether or not it actually happens is far from certain.

And so he is starting the meeting out, meeting this week out, meeting with the two of those but then he is also hosting congressional leadership at the White House on Wednesday. That's going to be Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, but also Mitch McConnell, who recently made a comment about trying to block Biden's agenda, and Kevin McCarthy, who has complained multiple times that President Biden has not called him and they have not spoken since the day President Biden was inaugurated.

And, of course, then later on this week, he is meeting with that group of Republican senators who have proposed a $600 billion alternative to his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. So, a lot of critical meetings this week and we'll see if anything shakes out with them, if anything comes to an agreement, where that middle ground could be and what that's really going to look like.

CABRERA: Well, at least they're talking, that's a start. Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

A brazen cyber attack on a vital U.S. pipeline sparking fears of rising gas prices and concerns that American infrastructure is too vulnerable. We'll discuss.

Plus, House Republicans this week expected to remove Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership position just for criticizing former President Trump.

And birthday party massacre in Colorado, one of nine mass shootings in America this weekend. More than 400 people have been shot or killed by gunfire in just the last 72 hours. Why is gun violence seemingly getting worse? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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CABRERA: We just learned from a Department of Homeland Security briefing that Colonial Pipeline shut down by Russian hackers three days ago is aiming to restore service by the end of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH SHERWOOD-RANDAL, HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Thus far, Colonial has told us that it has not suffered damage and can be brought back online relatively quickly but that safety is a top priority, given that it has never before taken the entire pipeline down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: The FBI confirming minutes ago that the Russia-based criminal group known as DarkSide is responsible. And a national security official says U.S. intelligence is probing whether the attackers have ties to the Russian government.

For now, the pipeline remains shut down, three days after one of the worst cyber attacks in U.S. history. The White House now finalizing an executive order to better respond and to defend these types of attacks. The pipeline affected spans more than 5,500 miles from Texas to New York. And get this, it transports nearly half of all fuel consumed on the east coast.

The White House is bringing together the Department of Energy along with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, all trying to help in the so response.

Chris Krebs is a former top cyber security official with the Department of Homeland Security and is now partner with Krebs Stamos Group. Thank you, Chris, for being with us.

Break this down for us, just how serious is this attack?

CHRIS KREBS, FORMER TOP CYBER SECURITY OFFICIAL, DHS: Well, I think it goes without question that this is the most disruptive cyber attack on U.S. energy infrastructure in history, that, you know, when you knock off the pipeline distribution for the entire southeast and really the east coast, it's a significant event.

And I think more than anything, my hope is that this is that final wakeup call that ransomware is a national security threat and that this administration take strong action against ransomware crews.

CABRERA: Can you explain how a ransomware attack works?

KREBS: Yes. So this crew, DarkSide, which was just confirmed by the FBI, tends to have two different sets of operators. First is the team that develops the software that ultimately encrypts the networks. And then they have what's known as an affiliate group. And so they partner with a group of hackers that will go out there, criminal hackers, to be clear, hackers that go out and just try to gain access to any network they can.

So what happens is those affiliates, they get the access to the network, they pass back the access to the developer crew, the developer crew goes in, and then locks up the network.

And, you know, from there, they send a message to the operator of the system and say, you're going to -- you want us to unlock your system, and it's going to cost you a certain amount of money. And I've heard ransoms in the order of $30 million-plus in the last year or so.

CABRERA: I know the FBI is part of this investigation. The Justice Department has been also briefed on this. What do you think the goal was here?

KREBS: Money, straight up money.

CABRERA: Just money?

KREBS: This is -- yes, look, when there are vulnerabilities out there in systems and there are no meaningful consequences for these ransomware crews, they're going to continue to run wild.

[13:20:08]

And they have had an incredibly successful run over the last five years. They are getting more sophisticated, they're getting more brazen, but, principally, because there have not been a set of meaningful consequences.

Now, I think that's come to an end, and I try to see some silver linings there. There's a report from Reuters that the adversary, the DarkSide crew, lost some of their Cloud infrastructure over the weekend. And then just earlier, a statement attributed to the DarkSide crew showed that they're a little bit nervous. And I wouldn't want to be those guys right now because every intelligence service from the U.S. and our allies are out there looking for them.

CABRERA: I mean, what would be a deterrent or what could you do to ensure that our critical infrastructure is secure?

KREBS: Well, first, we do need to invest in improving, particularly, state and local systems here in the U.S. Most of the victims for ransomware, at least that we hear about, are state and local agencies. You might remember Baltimore got hit by ransomware twice a couple years ago.

But we've got to call the ball with Russia and say, enough. These crews operate with effectively the tacit approval at this point of the Russian government, of the Kremlin. And I think it's a great opportunity this summer if President Biden does meet with President Putin that he tells him to knock it off. And in the meantime, we have to ratchet up pressure and we have to take down the tools that these guys use to conduct their activities. CABRERA: So we expect the president to be meeting with Putin next month, at least that's the plan at this point. Do you think Putin would have had anything to do with DarkSide hacking into and attacking the Colonial Pipeline?

KREBS: I'm not aware of any information that would suggest any direct involvement between the Russian intelligence services and this operation, but it's increasingly irrelevant. Ransomware crews have been operating out of Russia for years with great effect on our schools, on our state and local government agencies, on our health care facilities. Those are the three top victims for ransomware.

And now, you have this significant disruption of American energy infrastructure. It's -- they have effectively the tacit approval of the Russian government and it has to end.

CABRERA: So when you said that you thought that their goal was money, you don't think that they were targeting, you know, this pipeline that provides so much energy for one portion of the U.S., for a bigger purpose, to send a message of any sort?

KREBS: I do think that they are criminals, they're looking for an extortion, and a quick buck. They did issue in their statement, that they issued a little bit earlier today, that they'll do a better job vetting their victims. So they're just looking to make money and not have a societal harm.

Now, I don't take them at their word. They're criminals. They don't deserve any credibility on what they say. But the modus operandi is for money.

Now, it does comport with the broader strategic objectives of Russia, to have a broad destabilization, particularly of the United States. So I do think though and my hope is that there was a line crossed here. And that message, I think, has been delivered to the criminals. I hope it will be delivered to the Kremlin. But we have got to put an end to this ransomware pandemic.

CABRERA: It sure seems like they exposed the U.S., the U.S.'s vulnerability. In this case, even if that wasn't the goal, initially. And so I guess why, why is the U.S. so vulnerable right now, and do you have confidence that the resources are currently in place to get out in front of the next potential attack?

KREBS: Well, pipelines specifically have been known and on the radar as particularly vulnerable, and particularly targeted. You'll recall a couple years ago the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, testified and had in a statement about the lights are blinking red again. And in the worldwide threat assessment back in, I think it was 2018, there was a line about how we were worried about pipelines.

And so pipelines, we've known about, but the issue here, more than anything, and I testified in front of Congress about this last week, is we just like connecting stuff to the internet. And that's gotten actually to be more so over the last year with COVID, with people working remotely. You want to be able to operate and manage and monitor your systems remotely.

Now, the challenge is, a lot of the times that stuff gets deployed and security or safety is not first, or top of mind.

[13:25:06]

So that's the calculus that we have to change. And I think every single CEO out there right now needs to be meeting with their incident management teams, needs to be reviewing their security posture, needs to be making sure that they can recover from a ransomware incident, but also that they can continue operations when they have a bad day because everybody has bad days.

CABRERA: Quickly, if you will, what happens if a company is attacked by ransomware and doesn't pay the ransom?

KREBS: Well, they are going to have a set of costs, whether they pay the ransom or not, and that's important, I think, to note is even if you do get locked up and you pay the ransom, you're still going to have a series of costs associated with response, with fines from regulators, potentially.

I always advocate that you should not pay the ransom, and there are three reasons for that. First is you're doing a deal with a criminal. You know, who's to say they're actually going to leave your network? Second, is the decryption keys don't always work. And third, you're effectively becoming a shareholder in a criminal enterprise. You're investing in that criminal's operation. You're validating the business model. I just think it's a public policy negative. So, again, always advocate against paying ransom.

CABRERA: But I wonder if that would kick the can down the road then in terms of being able to resolve the situation and in the case of this pipeline, gas prices obviously trickle down to the average American, and so everybody is impacted. I could talk to you much longer because I think it's fascinating. There're still so much to learn, especially for the laymen like me. Chris Krebs, appreciate your time and your expertise, thank you.

KREBS: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Is the grand old party over? A critical week for Republicans and the party's future, the third most powerful House member on the GOP side now on the verge of losing her leadership spot for not backing the big lie.

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