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CDC: Fully Vaccinated People Can Go Maskless in Most Cases; Biden: Gasoline Crisis to End in Next Few Days; Israel Bombards Gaza with Artillery Fire, Airstrikes; Some Republicans Attempting to Rewrite January 6 Insurrection; Arizona's Republican Audit Based on Conspiracy. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 14, 2021 - 04:00   ET




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today is a great day for America in our long battle with the coronavirus.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: It appears to be a major turning point in the pandemic, U.S. health officials say generally fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear face masks.

It's a very different situation in Japan where there's growing pressure to cancel the Olympics.

And the death toll in Gaza passes 100 as fighting intensifies between Israel and Hamas.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching here in the United States, Canada and around the world, I'm Kim Brunhuber, this is CNN NEWSROOM.

Here in the U.S. the latest COVID-19 guidance is sparking hope that the beginning of the end of the pandemic is finally here. The CDC announced Thursday that fully vaccinated people can now ditch their masks in most cases, both indoors and outdoors. It's the biggest step toward normalcy that the U.S. has taken in more than a year. President Joe Biden celebrated the news at the White House and called on vaccinated Americans to take off their masks and smile.


BIDEN: If you're fully vaccinated and can take your mask off, you've earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world, greeting others with a smile. With a smile. So it's a good day for the country.


BRUNHUBER: Mask guidance opens up a path to wider reopening of workplaces as well as schools, but while a return to pre-pandemic life might seem within striking distance, many challenges remain including the task of getting more people vaccinated. CNN's Nick Watt reports.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're turning a corner, nearing the light at tunnel's end. Pick your cliche, it's happening. Average new infections a day near halved in the past four weeks, which helped the CDC make that call, no more masks for the vaccinated inside or out.

Reaction from a New York park --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am so happy. I couldn't wait.

WATT (voice-over): -- to a Chicago restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's really exciting.

WATT (voice-over): To the Senate floor in D.C., Senator Ernst there pointing to her bare face.

Vaccines are key to our current optimistic trajectory. Hesitancy? Ohio about to throw a lot of money at the problem.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Only in the United States, where we have this massive surplus of vaccines, lifesaving vaccines, do we have to bribe people to take them.

WATT (voice-over): A shot in Ohio will soon get you a ticket to a weekly draw. The prize for teens? A four-year free ride at a state college. For adults? A million bucks.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): I know people are going to say, hey, DeWine lost his mind, you know, this is a waste. But what I think is a waste, to have a vaccine that can save people's lives and to have someone die of the COVID because they did not get vaccinated.

WATT (voice-over): Widespread rollout of Pfizer's vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds begins making more things possible for them.

JACOB BALOGUN, RECEIVED COVID-19 VACCINE: Going to school, doing track, meeting new people. So, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you're a social kind of guy?

BALOGUN: I hope so.

WATT (voice-over): So, school for all in the fall?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I believe the schools should be open five days, full blast just the way it was before.

WATT (voice-over): But here's a weird wrinkle. One New York Yankee and seven support and coaching staff already vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson have tested positive for COVID-19.

AARON BOONE, MANAGER, NEW YORK YANKEES: It's been a little bit hectic, but everyone is handling it well.

WATT (voice-over): Only one has symptoms. Such breakthrough infections are very rare.

BOONE: Six of the seven are asymptomatic.

WATT (voice-over): So the evidence at least, the vaccine works really well at stopping severe disease.

WATT: Now, in the U.S. you do still need to wear a mask if you're on an airplane. And White House officials also said, listen, it's still a personal choice and if you see somebody on the street wearing a mask, don't give them side eye, they're allowed to.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


BRUNHUBER: And Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke with CNN shortly after the new guidance came out from the CDC Thursday.


He says that while it's too early to declare victory against the virus, the new rules are significant. Listen to this.


FAUCI: I think this is a very important step in the direction of trying to get back to some degree of normality. Because this is something that everyone has had on their mind. You know, I'm vaccinated, when can I start doing things a little bit more in the normal trend? And being able to go around without a mask indoors as well as outdoors is really a big step in that direction. So I wouldn't want to declare victory prematurely, but I'm saying this is clearly a step in the direction that we want to go.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think that places such as grocery stores, pharmacies, whatever, should allow vaccinated people to come in and shop without masks?

FAUCI: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, that's really the whole point that we're talking about, that vaccinated people -- if you look at the data and people have asked the CDC, well, what's changed? Why the change in the recommendations? Well, the data that's accumulated now is that clearly the infections are going down. They're averaging about 36,000 a day right now, which has gone down about a third. As you mentioned, 58 percent of people have at least one shot of the vaccine and greater than 40 percent are fully vaccinated. So the situation has changed.


BRUNHUBER: But mask requirements aren't going anywhere for those using any form of public transportation in the U.S. The Transportation Security Administration says the current mask mandate will stay in place until September 13th. That applies to planes, trains, buses and boats. The airline industry's top lobbying group confirms that carriers will keep enforcing the requirement for now, but there's also concern that relaxing mask rules elsewhere could lead to more fights over masks on planes where they're still required. The number of reports of unruly passengers has already increased in recent months.

And a programming note for our viewers here in the U.S. and Canada, be sure to join Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the new CNN film "RACE FOR THE VACCINE." that's this Saturday night at 9:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

Sources are now telling CNN that Colonial Pipeline has paid a ransom to cyber criminals who attacked its systems this week triggering gas shortages in about a dozen Eastern states. U.S. President Joe Biden says the gasoline crisis should end over the next few days now that the pipeline is fully operational. Pete Muntean has more from Washington.


BIDEN: Don't panic, number one.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That is the message from President Joe Biden who says gas stations should return to normal by this weekend. But what federal officials are calling a supply crunch can still be seen at gas stations up and down the East Coast.

BIDEN: I know seeing lines at the pumps or gas stations with no gas can be extremely stressful, but this is a temporary situation.

MUNTEAN: Admittedly not my best planning.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Driving on a nearly empty tank in Alexandria, Virginia, we passed at least two stations without gas. The latest data from GasBuddy says 52 percent of all stations in Virginia are now sold out. In North Carolina, 68 percent of stations are now offline. Conditions are improving in the Atlanta area, where at one point 73 percent of stations were without gas.

MUNTEAN: How hard is it to find gas around here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very difficult. This is the first gas station I've seen in the last couple of hours with gas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was bound to happen, just like when it's going to snow, people run to the store to get groceries, you're doing the same thing with the gas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to top it off, you got to top it off.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Federal officials stressed the end is in sight. Colonial says it's making substantial progress in restarting its pipeline. But experts say fuel leaving refineries travels at pipeline speeds of only 3-5 miles per hour. Fuel must then reach terminals like this one before going to stations for delivery. JENNIFER GRANHOLM, U.S. ENERGY SECRETARY: People need to know the gas is flowing.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says it is not like flipping on a switch and is urging against hoarding gasoline.

GRANHOLM: People will start to see normalcy in the next couple of days, hopefully by the end of the weekend. The consumer won't even know that the shortage exists anymore.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Though security experts stress this attack is anything but normal, calling it a wakeup call when it comes to critical infrastructure.

BOB MCNALLY, PRESIDENT, RAPIDAN ENERGY GROUP: That is an authentic emergency. I know of no bigger attack on our energy system in U.S. history.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: Now to the Middle East and the worsening violence between Israel and Hamas. Gaza has come under heavy fire from Israeli war planes and now tanks and artillery.


The military says it's not a ground incursion and no troops are inside Gaza.

Palestinians report 119 people have been killed by the Israeli bombardment. So Israel says it's going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Meanwhile, Hamas militants continue to fire rockets into Israel claiming seven lives. A U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the conflict has been put off until Sunday.

All right, so it's just past 11:00 a.m. in Tel Aviv where journalist Elliott Gotkine is live this hour. Elliott, bring us up to speed on the latest developments and give us an idea, if you can, of what's likely to happen next.

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: Well, you talked about the artillery and tank fire being used by the IDF firing into Gaza, Kim. They say that they fired about 50 rounds last night trying to hit this network of labyrinth tunnels that Hamas operates under the ground. They call it the metro and they're trying to hit that, and they have hit that again this morning trying to attack underground launch sites. In addition to that the IDF says that a drone that was flown into Israel from the Gaza strip was taken down by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System.

What happens next? Well, the possibility, the option of a ground incursion is still on the table. There were thoughts, as you say, that this might have begun yesterday but that was swiftly clarified by the IDF. A couple of reasons why it may not happen imminently, one is that Israel just doesn't have the firepower down there to carry out a successful ground operation at least according to analysts. It's just one division of armor and infantry down there. Yes, 9,000 reservists have been called up, but they are not all down there. So that's one reason from the military side.

Politically it can also be quite complicated. Going into Gaza will inevitably result in casualties on the Israeli side and that is something that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is clinging to office by the skin of his teeth will not do lightly. It looks now since yesterday that the opposition is unlikely to be able to form a governing coalition. Netanyahu already failed to do so. That increases the prospects of fresh elections, which means Netanyahu will be incredibly mindful of doing anything that could adversely impact his popularity.

Now separately, tensions have continued between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews across Israel. Here in Jafa a 19-year-old resident, a soldier was attacked last night. He suffered a fractured skull. His condition in hospital is said to be stable.

And just driving here this morning I witnessed someone throwing a rock into a car window, this is along the main beach fronts in Tel Aviv. I didn't catch a look at the assailant, but I understood that the people in the car who were only lightly injured were Israeli Jews. President Reuven Rivlin has called for an end to the madness, Prime Minister Netanyahu they've been talking about tightening the curfew in the central city of Lod which has seen perhaps the worst violence to far. And said that the perpetrators of mob violence, be there Arabs or Jew will suffer severe punishment.

And just finally in terms of hopes for any ceasefire, reports say that the Egyptian delegation that came to Gaza yesterday has returned. The Israelis said they don't want a ceasefire right now. And on Sunday the U.N. Security Council is due to meet to discuss this situation -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much for bringing us up to speed. And we'll stay on this story of course. Elliott Gotkine in Tel Aviv, appreciate it.

Some Republicans are now insisting the January 6th insurrection -- well, it wasn't a big deal, but don't tell that to one of the officers who was severely beaten that day.


MICHAEL FANONE, WASHINGTON, DC POLICE OFFICER: Peddling that (BLEEP) is an assault on every officer that fought to defend the Capitol.


BRUNHUBER: Coming up after the break, a closer look at what some Republicans are now saying about the deadly riot.

Plus, there is a carnival going on in Phoenix, Arizona, and an audit of the 2020 presidential election. CNN got a look inside with binoculars. Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: The deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th played out on live television for all the world to see. The facts, well, they really shouldn't be in dispute, but just four months later there is a disturbing trend among some Republican lawmakers to pretend it either didn't happen or to portray it as a benign event. We get more from CNN's Ryan Nobles.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Some Republicans on Capitol Hill are attempting to rewrite history and their leaders aren't doing much to stop it.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I look at the rioters that came in. Those people should be held accountable to the rule of law, and that's exactly what's happened. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what about the members that are saying this?

NOBLES (voice-over): During a contentious hearing Wednesday, several House Republicans downplayed the violence and chaos on January 6th, even defending the rioters and explaining away their motivations.

REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): There was no insurrection. And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a boldfaced lie. If you didn't know the T.V. footage was a video from January 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.

REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): Outright propaganda and lies are being used to unleash the national security state against law abiding U.S. citizens, especially Trump voters.

REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.

NOBLES (voice-over): Andrew Clyde was among those Congressmen who attempted to paint over the problems on January 6th, despite video like this from the body cam of a frontline D.C. police officer showing the moment he was attacked by pro-Trump rioters. Congressman Clyde refused to take back his claims during an event honoring police officers this morning.

REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): Think about what you just said. You didn't take what I said in context at all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So can you explain it.


NOBLES (voice-over: This all comes against the backdrop of the GOP booting Liz Cheney from leadership, in part because Republicans were angry she kept speaking out about Donald Trump's lies about the election.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We all have been put here in this moment by history and history is going to judge us.

NOBLES (voice-over): Despite her demotion, Cheney has no plans to fade into the background. Her likely replacement, Representative Elise Stefanik, is a staunch defender of Trump. But Cheney promised to do everything she can to prevent the former president from being the party's nominee in 2024 and even opened the door to him being criminally charged.

CHENEY: Any president who did what we know this former president did has got to be investigated criminally.

NOBLES (voice-over): Meanwhile in the halls of Congress, the tension between Republicans and Democrats continues to boil.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Antifa, BLM riots, and she's a chicken. She doesn't want to debate.

NOBLES: Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene confronting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, screaming at her right outside the House chamber and demanding she participate in a debate. Ocasio-Cortez would not engage. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued Greene should be punished for her actions.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Their own caucus should exercise some -- discipline is not the word, respectable behavior standard for them. But it could be that this would rise to the level of an ethics complaint.

NOBLES (voice-over): Taylor Greene saying --

GREENE: No, she doesn't need to file ethics violations. That's reacting like a child. Adults are able to debate policy.

NOBLES (voice-over): The incident follows a pattern, leading members like Ocasio- Cortez and moderate Republican Adam Kinzinger to seek additional security for their personal safely.

NOBLES: Ocasio-Cortez says that she did not want to engage Taylor- Greene, but she was cornered by reporters as she left the House chamber and said this about her interaction about the Congresswoman from Georgia.

She said, quote, I used to work as a bartender, these are the kinds of people that I threw out of bars all the time.

A sign that these tensions between Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives are not going anywhere.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


BRUNHUBER: And Ryan Nobles' report included graphic footage of a Washington police officer as he was attacked on the Capitol steps. Well, that officer, Michael Fanone, was seriously injured in the attack and is now suffering posttraumatic stress disorder. Here is his reaction to one Republican describing the riot as a normal tourist visit. Listen to this.


FANONE: I'm not interested in getting into like political squabbles. I'm not a politician. I'm not an elected official. I don't expect anybody to give two (BLEEP) about my opinions. But I will say this, you know, those are lies. And peddling that (BLEEP) is an assault on every officer that fought to defend the Capitol.


BRUNHUBER: An audit of Arizona's 2020 presidential election is on hold for a week to make way for high school graduations at the sports arena where the ballots are being scrutinized. As CNN's Kyung Lah reports, it's a scene that rifles the carnival being held next door.


KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We are getting the first look ourselves.

LAH: Hey, good morning.

LAH (voice-over): At the next act in the replay of the big lie. The 2020 election was stolen.

LAH: So this is the press box. And that's the floor.

LAH (voice-over): The counting floor of yet another tally of the nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County from a distance and they're keeping reporters so far away that I have to use binoculars to see. It looks like a ballot review but look harder, and the ballots are on a lazy Susan zooming by ballot counters.

This guy and a cowboy hat walking around with what appears to be some type of cell phone jammer. And then there's this light machine with multiple cameras.

KEN BENNETT, ARIZONA SENATE LIAISON: Two of the three matching.

LAH (voice-over): Ken Bennett hired by the Republican controlled Arizona Senate to help run this ballot review explains why they're using it.

BENNETT: Some microscopic cameras can zoom in on certain parts of the ballot to make sure that we're the ovals were filled in. There's a depression instead of the ovals being filled in by a Xerox machine.

LAH: Is there a concern that ballots were Xeroxed?

BENNETT: There's always concerned that we want to make sure that every ballot came from a -- an eligible registered voter in Maricopa County, as opposed to somebody trying to introduce unauthorized ballots.

LAH (voice-over): That's a conspiracy theory that ballots were somehow snuck in leading to Donald Trump's defeat in the state last year. But these types of lies resonated with ballot counters like Elouise Flagg.

ELOUISE FLAGG, AUDIT WORKER: I hope that we can come to a point where we're happy with the results and in truth is told.

LAH (voice-over): We talked to her as workers arrived outside the coliseum to count ballots, their cars covered with bumper stickers supporting Trump and logos for conspiracy websites.


LAH: Do you think that Donald Trump won Arizona?

FLAGG: Yes, I do. I think that Donald Trump won the election. Firm believer.


LAH (voice-over): These workers didn't want to talk unless --

LAH: Hi, we would like to know you guys talk about kind of Biden's (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They kind of made us sign a nondisclosure.

LAH (voice-over): Workers were told to not tell the public anything. Remember the guy in a cowboy hat. He jumped in to tell this worker to ignore us. He works for Cyber Ninjas, the tech company hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to conduct this third ballot review, or as Lisa Shacket calls it.


LAH (voice-over): With no training. Shacket got hired for two days. Here she is on the floor as an observer. She's retired, a Democrat and worried about lack of training or consistent protocol with ballots.

SHACKET: The effort here is to uncover fraud. And if they can't uncover it, then they're going to create the fraud.

RYAN MACIAS, ELECTION TECHNOLOGY EXPERT: From the counting process. It is not a normal recount process. It is definitely not an audit process.

LAH (voice-over): Ryan Macias is an expert in election technology. He's on the floor brought in by the Arizona Secretary of State to observe Cyber Ninjas ballot count. He's a registered independent and has been hired by both Republicans and Democrats to help safeguard dozens upon dozens of state and federal elections.

MACIAS: I mean that there's ballots, there's people counting. But the process in which they are utilizing at least on the counting floor is nothing that is in an election environment.

LAH (voice-over): A show that the Maricopa County Sheriff does not want to be a part of. SHERIFF PAUL PENZONE, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: To be reckless and to give away something of this capacity into the hands of a complete stranger is not going to happen while I'm the sheriff.

LAH (voice-over): Why is the sheriff involved? Another conspiracy this audit is chasing. The Cyber Ninjas want county routers to see if hackers rigged the election. Sheriff Penzone refuses to hand over the routers saying the entire County's electronic security and law enforcement technology is at stake.

PENZONE: And when you have individuals who assume a conspiracy and then try to create the reality behind it, it's extremely dangerous.

LAH: Is that what's happening here do you think?

PENZONE: That is what's happening here. You know, there's assumptions without any factual information to justify that.

LAH: And this bizarre ride is not over. The ballot counting is paused. What is going to happen to those 2.1 million ballots? Well they have to leave the coliseum because high school graduations next week. The coliseum is going to used. So those ballots are going to travel from the coliseum across where I'm standing. This is a crazy times carnival that runs through Saturday. The ballots are on the move on Friday morning, and they are heading there to that green building.

The Cyber Ninjas, Arizona Senate Republican representative says that that building will be secured, monitored 24 hours with security and that it will be temperature controlled. But a couple of problems apparent to the naked eye, the wall of that green building that's closest to the carnival, it has a couple of restrooms that carnival goers currently use and the heat. It's summertime, the fairgrounds' website says that that building should not be used in the summer because of the high temperatures and here we are talking about paper ballots.

Kyung Lay, CNN, Phoenix.


BRUNHUBER: All right, coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, all smiles at the White House as many includes the U.S. president start following the new CDC guidelines on masks with an immediate effect.

Plus, growing anger in Japan that the Olympic games are still set to take place in the middle of a dangerous pandemic. We'll talk about how people are trying to stop them from happening ahead. Stay with us.