Return to Transcripts main page


CDC Says, Vaccinated Americans No Longer Need Masks in Most Cases; Trump Ally Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) Replaces Ousted Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) after House GOP Vote. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 14, 2021 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim Sciutto is on assignment. Glad you're with us.

Game-changing guidance and a lot of questions along with it this morning after spending over a year in what has seen like a different universe. The CDC now says fully vaccinated Americans can stop wearing masks inside and outside. The agency also says fully vaccinated people can stop social distancing except for in certain settings, like on a plane. We'll get to that in a moment.

The move impacts more than a third of the country as more than 118 million Americans have already completed their vaccinations. But critical questions remain. How do businesses implement this? What decision dozen they make? How do officials convince hesitant Americans to still get vaccinated? How do you know if the mask-less person next to you is actually vaccinated? Our team is following it this morning.

So let's begin here in New York with Miguel Marquez is live mask-less in Times Square. But everyone in my neighborhood is still wearing their mask.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And a lot of people here in Times Square are wearing masks as well. Look, the country has been through a hell of a year. A lot of people are very stressed out still over the situation in their own families because some people are vaccinated, some people aren't in the family, so that is always a concern for people.

Actually, I want to talk to a family here that is up from Virginia. This is the Nielsen family. You guys are on your first family trip since the pandemic began, the first family trip since. You're in from Virginia, enjoying the Big Apple mask-less, except for these two, because these two are not vaccinated, you two are. How do you react to the CDC guidance that no mask outdoors if you are vaccinated?

BRIANA NIELSEN, NEW YORK RESIDENT: So, I think it's great. It feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel. I think it's great that we still have a lot of time to be outside with the kids while they still need to be masked. I mean, a lot of places still require masks. So we have them and we'll still wear them most of the time. But it's nice to have that option.

MARQUEZ: But you got a job during the pandemic and you're not sure when you're going to go back. You never been to your office. When do you think life becomes normal again?

RASMUS NIELSEN, NEW YORK RESIDENT: Yes, that's right. So I started in May last year somewhat (INAUDIBLE), so I've never actually worked in my office. So right now, it looks like we'll be working remote until September. After that, we may be going back partly. So, meaning one or two days a week in the office, otherwise keep working from home.

MARQUEZ: And you drove up, I take it, first time in a hotel since the pandemic. And how about you? You are not back at work yet. You're working remotely. When do you think -- will these two go back to school full-time in September? When does life get back to normal?

B. NIELSEN: Yes. So I think, yes, the girls should be back in school five days a week. They've been virtual this year. And that was by choice. A lot of their friends are back in school. But it's been working out great. But they are looking forward to seeing their friends again and getting back to normalcy there. And, hopefully, we'll be back at work as well around September or Labor Day, going back to a hybrid model.

MARQUEZ: Are you two ready to have a fabulous time in New York?


MARQUEZ: Yes, fabulous. All right, have a great time. Thank you very, very much. Welcome to New York.

B. NIELSEN: Thank you.

MARQUEZ: So it gives you a sense that things are starting to return to normal. But for many, many families out there, it is going to take some time before they feel completely comfortable with getting back out there. It sounds like September for a lot of people is the time where we think life will return back to normal. Back to you.

HARLOW: We can dream. Let's hope so. Miguel, thank you very much.

Well, President Biden weighing in on all this, calling the new guidance, quote, a great day for America and an important milestone in the fight against this pandemic. Our Jeremy Diamond is outside the White House.

It is interesting. They didn't know this was coming, the White House.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. And that is exactly how this White House has wanted to do things. It was the CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, I'm told, according to a senior administration official, who called white house officials -- senior white house officials the night before this announcement to let them know it was coming down the pike and let them know what it was.

And I'm told that the reaction from those White House officials was surprise. They were surprised they didn't expect that this announcement would come as quickly as it did. And they didn't expect it to be as expansive given how cautious the CDC has been up to this point.

But the CDC director insisting yesterday that this is all based on the science, on these new study showing reduced transmission rates among people who are vaccinated and protection against those coronavirus variants.


Here is the president yesterday reacting to what he called a great milestone.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: You've endured all this. When your country asks you to get vaccinated, you did. The American people stepped up. You did what I consider to be your patriotic duty. That's how we've gotten to this day.


DIAMOND: And now, of course, we're going to start to see how the CDC guidance actually plays out in practice across the country. The CDC drops this but now it's up to state and local officials to decide how this applies to their mask mandates in their areas, for example.

One thing that it will change here at the White House is how the president is able to model the behavior of a vaccinated person. Yesterday, we're told that when the president is meeting with Republican lawmakers and the CDC guidance came down, he and other lawmakers took the masks off and you can expect to see the president mask-less a lot more around here at the White House and when he's around the country. Poppy?

HARLOW: Okay. Another bit of great news on this front for the country. Thanks, Jeremy, very much.

Let's bring in our Chief Medical CORRESPONDENTDR. Sanjay Gupta. Good morning, Sanjay. Thanks for being with us.

This is -- it's a huge deal, right? But it's a huge deal and decision and announcement that is based solely on trusting our fellow Americans, right? The honor system that the person standing next to us, sitting next to us is vaccinated, right?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No, I mean, you bring up the wonderful parts of it and also the potential limitations of this going forward. I mean, it is a momentous time, Poppy, after, you know, more than a year of talking about this, the idea that pretty much on a dime the CDC sort of turned the guidance and said, if you are vaccinated, you basically don't need to wear a mask anymore. It does feel very, very significant. But, yes, it's going to be all in the implementation. So these are guidelines, these are recommendations, to be clear, from the CDC. But how is this going to play out in communities and states and private organizations?

I'll give you a couple of examples. Just overnight, Nevada, you know, the way that that state approached things, they said we're just going to follow CDC recommendations. So when the CDC recommendations change yesterday, that means casinos will now -- you know, large indoor gatherings of people will have no particular mask mandate in place and they also won't be checking proof of vaccination necessarily. Some may, some may not.

So you could run into a situation where no one is wearing a mask and you don't know who is vaccinated and who isn't. State of Hawaii says they're going to keep their mask mandates in place, so is L.A. County. Minnesota is not. The point is it's going to be a mishmash, I think, for a period of time, certainly. And you're not going to know, as you point out, Poppy, who, in fact, is vaccinated or who isn't.

HARLOW: Right. Trust -- everyone has to trust everyone. It's a big ask. But let's hope people tell the truth.

Okay. So, Sanjay, you spoke to the CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, yesterday about all this guidance. I wonder if she got to some of these viewer questions that we have for you.

So here is one from a viewer in Tampa who wrote in and asked, my child is seven and not vaccinated but my spouse and I are. Will we endanger our kids by not wearing a mask?

GUPTA: Now, it's a really good question. So, obviously, the seven- year-old child is not eligible for a vaccine yet, point number one. But point number two is if you are vaccinated, I think the newest thing to sort of know that informed this new guidance is that, as at as a vaccinated person, even if you had breakthrough infection. Meaning you test positive even after you've been vaccinated, the idea then that you would then transmit that virus be contagious to somebody else is really, really low. That's what some of the newest data has shown. And therefore, in this situation, the idea that you would then transmit the virus to your seven-year-old is very, very unlikely. So I would not worry about that.

HARLOW: Okay. Here is a question that comes to us from a viewer in Washington who writes in several baseball players have tested positive for COVID-19 post-vaccine. Reports say some have very mild symptoms while most are asymptomatic. My question is can vaccinated people carry and infect non-vaccinated people while be asymptomatic?

GUPTA: Right. So this is the critical point again. One thing I want to say is that -- this is the Yankees you're talking about, the New York Yankees, the story that came out yesterday. It is a breakthrough infection. That's what it's called when you have been vaccinated and you still become infected.

Right now, we see that there is a few thousand of those cases out of more than 100 million people who have been infected in the United States.

My guess is, to be fair, the breakthrough infections may be higher than that because a lot of people who have been vaccinated don't subsequently get tested. I don't know that we know the real number.

But I think the crucial question is, okay, now I have the virus even though I've been vaccinated, will that virus actually replicate enough in my own body to create a high enough viral load where I then spread it?


I got it in my nose and in my mouth, I'm spreading it. And the answer to that question appears to be no or at least very, very unlikely that that would happen.

So even in these New York Yankees, yes, they may have tested positive. They probably got tested because of routine testing, came back positive. But the critical question whether they were then transmit to others that, seems very, very unlikely.

HARLOW: All right, quickly, one last question. The U.S. is not near herd immunity, this viewer writes. So why is the CDC advising people who have been vaccinated to go indoors without a mask?

GUPTA: Yes. So, I mean, why now, I think, is a very fair question. I mean, why not wait until we get to herd immunity or even closer than now? I think this was the critical back and forth at the CDC. And I think as Elizabeth Cohen and others reported, there was a lot of back and forth within the last few days on this. And I don't think it was a slam dunk decision. I think they said because cases are going down, because this new data came out showing low transmission rates, that's why they decided to do it. And I think that they want to show that there is a real benefit to being vaccinated.

I mean, they say it's not to incentivize people, but people will look at this and say, hey, look, if I get vaccinated, all these things now, all these openings happen for me.

HARLOW: This is certainly a way to show it, that's for sure. Sanjay, thank you, for this and for guiding us through all of this. We're seeing a big bright light at the end of the tunnel, finally.


HARLOW: Thank you so much.

GUPTA: Yes, have a very good day.

HARLOW: Be sure to watch a great film by Sanjay, the all new CNN film, Race for the Vaccine with Sanjay Gupta, premieres tomorrow night, Saturday night, 9:00 Eastern only right here on CNN.

Still to come, House Republicans cementing the direction of their party voting to replace ousted Conference Chair Liz Cheney with Elyise Stefanik. We're live at the Capitol, next. And officers who faced the terrifying violence at the Capitol during the insurrection now outraged at Republican lawmakers, some of them attempting to whitewash what happened that day. Hear them in their own words this hour.

And all of this as we're learning new details of text messages between leaders of the Proud Boys who planned the attack.



HARLOW: The breaking news this morning, new leadership in the Republican Party, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik is replacing Liz Cheney as the new House GOP Conference chair. Our Manu Raju following the breaking details on Capitol Hill.

I know this was expected. What was interesting is to hear her go all in, you know, on Trump as a leader of the party.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it was one reason why she won by such an overwhelming margin here because of Donald Trump's ultimate support and her defense of Donald Trump that happened during the 2019 impeachment, the proceedings as well throughout the last couple years of his administration, even as Donald Trump was trying to overturn the electoral results. She stuck with the former president unlike the person she is replacing, Liz Cheney, who is ousted amid her battle with Donald Trump.

But she made clear in the aftermath of resounding victory that came against Congressman Chip Roy by a vote of 134-46 in the House Republican Conference by secret ballot. But she made very clear she is with Donald Trump and still considers him a leader of the Republican Party.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): I believe that voters determine the leader of the Republican Party and President Trump is the leader that they look to. I support President Trump. Voters support President Trump. He is an important voice in our Republican Party. And we look forward to working with him.

REPORTER: But how can you be unified so long as you have some members who support the former president and some who don't?

STEFANIK: We are unified and I look to the voters across America. Republican voters are unified in their support and their desire to work with President Trump. And we are unified as Republicans.


RAJU: So, the question is where do Republicans go from here? For Elise Stefanik, she has indicated she will only stay in that leadership position through the rest of this Congress. That would open up a fight for that number three position, a powerful position particularly to take the majority, the new Congress. But still what the Republican leadership is very thankful for is that this messy period is over but how long can they stay unified is the question going forward. Poppy?

HARLOW: A big question. Manu, thank you very much for that reporting.

With me now, CNN Political Commentators S.E. Cupp and Margaret Hoover. Good morning, ladies.

Let's start -- happy Friday. It's been a long week.

Margaret, you worked with Elise Stefanik and the Bush White House. And Time Magazine wrote a really interesting piece on her evolution, shall we say, from moderate, just looking at her voting record, even until recently, to MAGA, as they call it. You heard her go all in just there on Donald Trump as the leader of the party. She has to stay MAGA- minded, right, or else she would lose that seat, just like Cheney, no?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, that's the calculation she has made. Look, Elise -- I knew Elise when we worked in the Bush White House 15 years ago together. I knew her when she was going to run for Congress. I've known her for several years and I've seen her evolution up close. She was a young millennial who is going to be this new modern -- moderate voice of the Republican Party. And at that time, she did represent her district.


And I had a lot of hope and faith in her. A lot of people did. She's broken a lot of hearts with this transformation, this metamorphosis that has gone full MAGA, as that Time Magazine piece by Charlotte Alter, excellent piece, points out.

She's made a calculation. But what she hasn't done -- and many people, and many Republicans can forgive somebody from going from moderate to Trump because they recognize that that's what their political future depends on. But what you can't get behind, Poppy, is somebody who goes from Trump to undermining the Constitution. And leading a conference in the House of Representatives that is predicated on the lie that Joe Biden was illegitimately elected because the election was a fraud. That is undermining our Constitution and that is the part that is so unforgivable about Elise's metamorphosis.

HARLOW: S.E., the way that I think I have been talking about it and a number of people have been talking about it is sort of a civil war, like the push and pull in the party and the civil war in what is going to prevail. But Jeff Greenfield in Politico, I think, put it better when he said, actually, this is a purge within the party. Is it?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, for sure. I mean, the GOP is, as you are well aware, Poppy, remarkably, eerily united. I don't see much of a war. If it is one, my friend, Wajahat Ali, said, the confederacy has already won.

But I think it's important in the context of this conversation. I think most people don't really know what the conference chair does. And I think explaining that is helpful in determining where the GOP wants to go. The conference chair is basically like a messaging group. And staffers from every member goes to the conference on a regular base to get their talking points. And here from the conference chair, what they're meant to be talking about that week.

It's a little less important of a role now that social media has sort of become a thing, where every member can just go to their Twitter and tweet something out but that's the job. And so if the GOP really wanted to talk about issues, the economy, the debt, the deficit, the border, well, there is no better conservative voice to do that than Liz Cheney, one of the most conservative members of the House.

Clearly, the messaging the GOP wants to focus on over the next year- and-a-half towards 2022 is Trump. And that is why Elise Stefanik was chosen not for her record, not for her ideology but because she will do that messaging leading up into the next midterm election. That's where the GOP wants to go.

HARLOW: Margaret, it is so interesting that, like, overnight, essentially, Liz Cheney has become a hero to the left. And I say that knowing that's not fully accurate. But if you listen to the comments praising her from Chuck Schumer, from Nancy Pelosi, it's notable. And Bret Baier pointed that out to here, like is she comfortable with it in their interview last night.

And I asked you this because you've interviewed her numerous times and asked her about really key issues and her convictions, issues like same-sex marriage, where she has not changed her position on at all, even given her own sister. Like those things have not changed and will not change in her as she continues this fight, right?

HOOVER: Yes. And, look, I mean let's not over -- let's not kid ourselves about what Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are doing by calling Liz Cheney a hero. They're sticking the knife in and wiggling around in what they see as a GOP -- a weakened GOP that is going to pave the way to their resounding success in 2022, okay? And Liz Cheney is not taking this personally either. She knows full well that this is all politics all the time. And it is true.

This has been a debate on left. Should we call Liz Cheney a hero for standing up for the Constitution? Yes. Let me just answer that question. Yes, you should. She is standing up for the Constitution.

And, by the way, folks this is really serious. The entire conference in the GOP overwhelmingly voted to oust, to cancel the one person who is willing to continuously tell the truth about what happened in the last election. And so if you can't get -- put your Iraq War -- her Iraq War stance on hold to respect the fact that she is standing up for the Constitution, then, you know, this is hyper partisanship killing and strangling our democracy. Liz Cheney is a hero in this moment, there's no question.

HARLOW: What do you think, S.E.?

CUPP: Well, listen, I've covered 2012. I'm sure you both did as well. In 2012, Mitt Romney was a monster to Democrats. Now he is a hero. And, in fact, a monster to Trump Republicans. I'm sure, you know, Mitt Romney will do something to incur the wrath of Democrats again, and same for Liz Cheney. I mean, these are sort moveable parts depending on the era in which you are living and depending upon where your party is in the moment.

So Margaret is right. I mean, you know, it's a bit of shock and (INAUDIBLE) and a bit of sticking the knife in for Democrats to sort of wrap their arms around Liz Cheney but she deserves the praise. She deserves the acclaim for standing on the majority party, her own party, that no longer sees a place for her in it. And doing that just to speak the truth, to say that what we saw with our own eyes is true. And so if that's her role now to do that over the next year-and-a- half, that will be an important one.

HARLOW: Thank you both. So nice to have you on together on this Friday. Have a good weekend.

HOOVER: Have a great weekend.

HARLOW: Ahead, two officers beaten brutally during the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol are now speaking to CNN. What they say to the lawmakers who called the Capitol riot a tourist visit, next.