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Israeli Strike Destroys Building Housing Al Jazeera, AP Offices; Fauci: Unvaccinated Students Should Wear Masks As Schools Reopen; WH Responds To Israeli Strike On Al Jazeera, AP Offices; CNN: Congressional Democrats Have A 100 Percent Vaccination Rate; Some Businesses Reviewing Mask Policies Following CDC Guidance; Man Last Seen With Tiger Jailed On Unrelated Charge. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired May 15, 2021 - 12:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hi, hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, we begin this hour with breaking news out of Gaza. International media outlets are responding after an Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise that housed their offices. Both Al Jazeera and the Associated Press have come out fiercely condemning the strike.

They say the Israeli Military warned them to evacuate before this happened.


WHITFIELD: The building collapses into rubble, just a few seconds later, an Al Jazeera English anchor said this on the air.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This channel will not be silenced. Al Jazeera will not be silenced. We can guarantee you that right now.


WHITFIELD: The Associated Press put out a strong statement saying this. "We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli Military would target and destroy the building housing AP's Associated Press Bureau and other news organizations in Gaza. They have long known the location of our Bureau and knew journalists were there." And it continues to say, "This is an incredibly disturbing development, we narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life, the world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today."

So it is the latest in a week of escalating conflict. Palestinian officials say 139 people have been killed in Gaza this week with another 1000 plus wounded. At the same time, a barrage of rocket fire from Hamas continues. The Israeli Military says at least eight civilians have been killed.

With us now Nic Robertson, near the Israeli Gaza border and Arlette Saenz at the White House. First to you Nic, it sounds a little quieter than the last hour when we talked to you and there were rockets overhead that were intercepted by the Iron Dome. But tell us what is transpired in the last hour.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, there have been some more intercepts in the past hour. I just heard some explosions about a minute or so ago in the distance. So, the threat from Hamas to respond to the downing of that media - the building housing media house Al Jazeera and the Associated Press Al Jazeera's, the Hamas' response to that was to say that they will target Tel Aviv with rockets.

They targeted it earlier in the day the sirens had gone off there. Several barrages of rockets fired an Israeli man, a 50-year-old man was killed on the street - on a street in a town very close to Tel Aviv when one of those rockets came down that wasn't caught by the Iron Dome.

But the Israeli Defense Forces are making no excuses for that building, they gave more than an hour's notice. And they're saying the Associated Press building that also houses Al Jazeera. They're saying very clearly that they had tactical Military reasons to target it. They say that Hamas had Military installations in that building that were connected to Hamas' Military intelligence wing.

They've also said in previous statements, they're aware that Hamas co locates its equipment and people in and around civilians. So that's a very clear statement there. Nevertheless, what the Associated Press is saying that this will give the rest of the world less scope of understanding of what's happening inside Gaza.

That is - that is a very strong statement. The Associated Press also say they've reached out to Israeli officials to understand more about why this building was targeted.

WHITFIELD: And Arlette, to you at the White House. What kind of responses coming out of the White House?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, this is a situation that the White House is certainly monitoring very closely, and I'm told that President Biden has been working out of the Oval Office this morning. The White House is also holding meetings over the course of this weekend specifically on this issue regarding these tensions in Israel and also other meetings regarding to the President's infrastructure push.

But a few hours ago, the White House press secretary sent out a tweet, I want to read you what she said. She said we have communicated directly to the Israelis, that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility. This comes after that airstrike flattened that building in Gaza that housed some media outlets, but what we are waiting to hear from this White House right now is what further engagement they have made with Israeli officials and other officials in the region.

We know that President Biden spoke directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the week. The White House believes that he can help in these conversations behind the scenes. There have also been other top officials within the administration reaching out not just to the Israelis but also the various counterparts in those regions as they are trying to address these escalating tensions in Israel.


Now, one thing that you have seen from progressive members of the President's own party is they are really pushing him to take a more forceful stance against some of these actions taken by Israel, but for the time being, what the White House has been saying is that they are working to try to de-escalate the situation on the ground as these tensions continue to rise.

WHITFIELD: All right, Arlette Saenz, keep us posted from the White House there. Nic Robertson, near the Israeli-Gaza border. Thanks to both of you. Appreciate it. All right back in this country. For the first time since the Coronavirus Pandemic began new CDC guidance that mask wearing for many across the country can end.

New CDC guidance says people fully vaccinated can do just about anything without wearing a mask. That's welcome news for the more than 120 million Americans who have gotten all of their shots. And now many states and businesses are jumping on board. More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia are now dropping their mask mandates following the CDC new guidelines.

And places like Walmart, Starbucks and others are also dropping mask requirements in their stores for those fully vaccinated. Still many questions do remain. School districts across the country are still trying to decide how and when to reopen. Dr. Anthony Fauci says students should return to the classroom but offered this caveat.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The school should be open, face to face, in-person classes in the fall, we absolutely have to do that. And in those situations, if the child which obviously elementary school kids are not vaccinated, they should wear a mask.


WHITFIELD: And now the FDA and CDC authorizing the Pfizer Vaccine for the use in children ages 12 to 15. Many parents are already taking advantage of that hoping to return their children to their pre- pandemic lives. CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Los Angeles. So Paul, this was welcome news for a lot of parents and their kids. What's happening? What are you finding?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Especially in this county, if you can believe this, Fred, in Los Angeles County, there are half a million adolescents. So look over here. Here's the line at this vaccination site. It's a Pfizer site. This is Balboa Park in Encino. We're starting to see the parents and the teenagers come in here and are they ever euphoric?

The parents are happy because they now see light at the end of the tunnel. Some of these stir-crazy children are able to get out of the house. And we're also hearing from some of the children here we're going to bring in a father and daughter team, if you will. Come on in here. This is Sophie and David. And Sophie, I have to ask you, you just got your first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. You're 13 years old. How are you feeling right now? What do you plan to do when you get your second dose?

SOPHIE WRIGHT, JUST RECEIVED HER COVID VACCINE: I feel good. I'm excited to hang out with more of my friends and see more people.

VERCAMMEN: And you have a vacation planned?

WRIGHT: Yes, I'm going to Zion, Utah. I'm going to go with my best friend Zee. We've been best friend since we were very little. And it's really fun to always hang out with her.

VERCAMMEN: That is so great to hear. And for you, David, I'm sure you had anxiety. You've been vaccinated, but your daughter hadn't? How is this a game changer for you?

DAVID LEVY, DAUGHTER JUST RECEIVED HER COVID VACCINE: Well, we're just very happy that everybody in the family is now vaccinated. We can all do things together. We can go places. We can go on airplanes. We don't have to worry about really anything for ourselves. And that's a big relief.

VERCAMMEN: And it had to be tough at times with everybody cooped up inside, you know, during this long road.

LEVY: Oh definitely. I mean, I was working from home, Sophie zooms from home. My partner was working from home. There was a lot of internet going down. I mean, all that kind of stuff. It was - it was not fun, and we are cooped up. But we got this far. We're very happy.

VERCAMMEN: We thank you so much for taking time out. Congratulations on your first vaccination, Sophie and have a great time in Zion when you go, and that's the sentiment here, Fred as this first wave of 12 to 15-year-olds. This is the first weekend they've been able to get the vaccination in LA County. This first wave is coming in.

And all of them are now thinking about what's ahead for them. This is trip to a national park and a lot more. And as we said, the county is getting extremely aggressive to try to put these shots into the arms of the 12 to 15-year-olds. Reporting from Encino, this is Paul Vercammen. Back to you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Paul. I can feel their relief and excitement. Appreciate it. Joining us now is CNN Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's also the producer and narrator of the new CNN film 'Race for the Vaccine,' which gives an extraordinary behind the scenes look at the five teams of scientists on four continents facing the enormous challenges of developing a coronavirus vaccine. Sanjay, so good to see you.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You too, Fred. Thanks for having me. [12:10:00]

WHITFIELD: We're going to talk about your film in a moment. But first, let me just ask you about some of the latest news and the latest CDC guidance on masks. So what do you make of the timing of this announcement? And what potential challenges do you see for Americans in the wake of this news?

GUPTA: Well, I think it's really welcome news. And it felt really important, you know, Fred, to hear this news. But it was also somewhat surprising that it came so abruptly and frankly, a little early, I think. I mean, I welcome this news. I want to I want to make that clear, because I think it's been a really tough, you know, 14-15 months.

I think, what the what the data basically showed, and I think what informed the CDC's decision was the continuous drop in new cases. I mean, we've seen that now over the past several weeks. And in the beginning, was this more of a blip or is it going to be a trend, it's clearly a trend.

But also, there was a study that came out of Israel, you may have heard about Fred, where they basically showed, not only is the vaccine good at preventing you from getting sick, that's what we knew from the trials. But it was also really good at preventing you from getting infected, developing what they call asymptomatic infections.

That's a situation where someone got vaccinated, then they get tested, and they say, well, I came back positive from the test. I'm surprised by that. That can happen but it doesn't happen very often. And then there was one bit of - another bit of science that came out over the past couple of weeks, which showed that even if you become infected after vaccination, the likelihood that you could then spread that to somebody else is really, really low.

And that was I think, what sort of pushed the CDC over the edge. Yes, we realized breakthrough infections can happen. But we kept telling people to wear a mask, even after you've been vaccinated to prevent you from spreading it to someone else. Now, they know based on this data, that the chance of that happening is low. And that's why they're basically saying for vaccinated people, masking essentially is not really necessary.

WHITFIELD: I also want to ask you about vaccines for children, and the plea by the World Health Organization not to move to vaccinate healthy children ages two to 11 because so many countries are in desperate need of vaccines. What's your understanding of that?

GUPTA: Yes, this is a - this is a an issue where science and ethics really collide, you know, so you know, in a perfect world, you'd say, look, we understand who is most vulnerable to this disease, people over a certain age and people with pre-existing conditions.

And in a perfect world, you'd say, look, anywhere you live in the world, you should be able to be prioritized if you fall into those groups. We know that that's not what's happened. 81 percent, I believe a vaccines have gone to wealthy countries and less than a percent to some of these low and some low middle income countries. So it's obviously that's - that's a very disparate approach to this as well.

I think what the United States has chosen to do from a foreign policy perspective and say, we're going to donate a lot of money to Covax, which is creating vaccines for the rest of the world. We are going to donate vaccines like AstraZeneca vaccine, they bought a lot here in this country, it's not authorized in this country. So they're starting to give that vaccine away to other countries.

But you know, I talked to an ethicist about this. And this is the analogy he used, Fred, which is kind of like the oxygen on airplanes, when you're flying and if the masks come down, what do they tell you to do? Put your own mask on first, and then help others. And I think that's a little bit of the approach here. We got to make sure we're in the best position we can to help other countries. And that's why they're, you know, distributing the vaccine so rapidly here.

There's going to be a lot of excess vaccine. And you know, as someone who has a lot of extended family in India, I can tell you that those vaccines are going to be really necessary. They are very necessary there. So I hope that you know, the vaccine supply can be increased.

WHITFIELD: Sanjay, let's talk about your film now. There must be more than one of you because I don't know how you were able to do this too. 'Race for the Vaccine,' it's premiering tonight at nine Eastern Time. It's a fascinating look at how these teams were able to move forward in creating these vaccines. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just going to swab the area.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you're ready.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, going in now.

KEITH CHAPPELL, DEVELOPED COVID VACCINE CANDIDATE: We're around halfway through the phase one trial now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.

CHAPPELL: And what we've seen is the incredible safety of this product. Hi you must be Joe. You know, we really appreciate you being here and

go through this for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Appreciate you inventing it.

CHAPPELL: What we're excited to see is the immune response so that's why we have you coming back every couple of weeks and taking blood. So we'll be analyzing that, see how it works against the virus.

Our safety review committees have been relatively boring. There's been nothing to discuss which is fantastic.

GUPTA: Their rapid progress has made them headline news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about that?

CHAPPELL: That's all right. I like that maybe when I was a kid.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh everyone loved that when they were a kid.


WHITFIELD: Oh, I don't know, it's still a huge compliment. So we now you know, Sanjay around the world have many vaccines available. But take us back how big of a challenge were these scientists up against when trying to develop at least one, let alone several?

GUPTA: I think the challenge was, was enormous, Fred. And I mean, you know, there were people in the beginning who were calling this sort of the moonshot of medical science. And I thought, is that - is that too - is that too exaggerated a way to describe this, but I think that's what it was. I mean, they - they basically, were throwing everything they could at the wall and seeing what would stick and in so many places around the world, you were just seeing what was happening in Australia, similar things were happening in the UK, here in the United States and China.

It was just incredible to follow these scientists. And they also had the weight of the world on their shoulders. I mean, Keith Chappell, who you just saw briefly there, the average age of his lab team is 30 years old. It's a young, young team of people and they were being told by the Australian Prime Minister, you know, we're all counting on you got to get this done.

So it was the scientific pressure, it was the political you know, sort of pressure, everything. And they did it, you know, I - you know, HIV AIDS, 40 years later, we still don't have a vaccine for they were able to create these vaccines in under a year and really, really effective ones. So I hope you watch this with your 16-year old, your eight-year old because I feel like this is such a celebration of scientific superheroes.

I - it just gave me chills the entire time.

WHITFIELD: Oh, I agree. I think collectively, there's already some relief. We know we're not there completely. But we're feeling you know, some ease. I think everyone's got a little bit more pep in their step. Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thank you so much. Good to see you. And of course, we'll all be watching the all new CNN film 'Race for the Vaccine' that's premiering tonight 9 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

Also coming up, a relief in sight at gas stations across the country but when? Find out what you can expect at the gas pump after a hacked oil pipeline resumed operations. Also ahead, tensions on Capitol Hill.

CNN uncovers video of Marjorie Taylor Greene trolling a Democrat before the Georgia Republican joined U.S. Congress.




WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. The pipeline that supplies about half the gas to the east coast says it's back in action after a crippling cyber-attack. But how long will it take for that fuel to make it to service stations and more importantly, into your tank?

Natasha Chen is at a Circle K station in Charleston, South Carolina and Natasha, a gas buddy estimates that nearly half of service stations in that state or out of gas. So what are you experiencing and seeing?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right Fred so it's a hit or miss here 50-50 across the state. Here in Charleston a little bit better than that the GasBuddy app which is crowdsourced is telling us that maybe two thirds of the gas stations in Charleston do have fuel for people, not the one behind us though, there are definitely still yellow bags on those pumps.

And people that are pulling in here are just coming in to get some snacks or water. So it is still a slow improvement though it is an improvement that we're seeing across the region, DC in particular has been struggling with this. They have improved their situation this morning, the latest GasBuddy numbers showed an 81 percent of gas stations there without fuel that is slightly better than it was last night.

Also here in our area, we're seeing that improvement happening slowly because some of the gas stations nearby just a few blocks away did not have gas last night. This morning, they did so they got some supply overnight. So this requires a lot of patience from people. As we've discussed, there was some panic buying at the pump earlier in the last few days.

People you know perhaps hoarding the fuel. Authorities have really tried to encourage people not to do that, because that just makes the situation worse. It prolongs the shortage. And while Colonial Pipeline did say that they are resuming normal operations, that their operations are normal as of today, it is going to take some time to feel that normalcy at the pump because as you can imagine this pipeline, the fuel flowing through it is going at about five miles per hour, the trucks need to deliver all of this.

So this is going to require patience from some people for perhaps several days, perhaps a week or two. But the good news is that experts say that the prices should be stable, it should actually come down in a little bit. And several states in this area throughout the southeast have issued states of emergency to prevent things like price gouging, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Natasha Chen from Charleston in South Carolina for us today. Thank you so much. All right still to come. As tensions between Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and her Democratic colleagues heat up, CNN uncovered a now deleted video of Greene from 2019. You'll see it next.



WHITFIELD: All right, this week brought more confrontations on Capitol Hill involving GOP Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. On Friday, an aide to the Congresswoman was repeatedly involved in a verbal altercation with Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell over his decision to wear a mask on the House floor.

This coming after Greene shouted down Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez earlier this week in the halls of the Capitol and Greene's aggressive behavior dates back to the early 2019 when then citizen Greene recorded her trip to Capitol Hill. A video that has been unearthed by CNN's k-file team.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): All right, we're going to go see - we're going to visit Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Crazy Eyes, Crazy Eyes, Nutty Cortez. OK, hang with these guys. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I'm an American citizen.


I pay your salary through the taxes that you collect for me through the IRS, because I'm a taxpaying citizen of the United States. So you need to stop being a baby and stop walking your door and come out and face the American citizens that you serve. If you want to be a big girl, you need to get rid of your diaper, and come out and be able to talk to the American citizens, instead of us having to use a flap, a little flap, sad.


WHITFIELD,: She's now a member of Congress. Olivia Beavers is a congressional reporter for POLITICO and author of the POLITICO, "Huddle." Rachael Bade is a coauthor for the POLITICO, "Playbook" and a CNN political analyst. Good to see both of you, ladies. Olivia, you first, so if Republican leadership won't step in to stop Greene's confrontational behavior, what are the options that perhaps Democratic leadership have?

OLIVIA BEAVERS, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: It's actually going to be really kind of tough terrain in Marjorie Taylor Greene because Democrats have used their most powerful weapon already, which is removing her from her two committees. So you know, unless there is some sort of crime committed or whatever, she's in Congress without those committees, and she can continue to do the procedural tactics of making votes last longer. She can continue to run after Ocasio-Cortez.

There is the House Ethics Committee which Ocasio-Cortez raised, but that's sort of toothless. There is a sensor, they could censor her. But that would require Republicans to come and side with them which I would, you know, bet that they would not do that unless there's some really serious behavior that concerns them besides heckling Ocasio- Cortez.

So at the moment, we're really just kind of seeing that Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leader, is all about likely not going to be reining in Marjorie Taylor Greene. He doesn't have a confrontational style. And so basically, we're probably going to see more and more antics from her.

Now, one thing I want to highlight is I had a pro-Trump House Republican mentioning to me how she fundraised 3.2 million in her first three months alone.


BEAVERS: That is a significant number. But she raised that off of being kicked off of her committees, and they don't expect her to raise that much again. So kind of having these videos of her chasing down one of the most prominent progressives in the house and saying, you need to debate me, which is not typical, you'll see debates and hearings, you'll see them on the House floor, but not right as they're walking on to the House floor. She can fundraise off of that.

So this might be one of those, you know, tactics. She's done it before. That's how she kind of gained her name is being this in person troll who records things and we're seeing that now and the U.S. Capitol.

WHITFIELD: So Rachael, while she may have been able to fundraise, you know, after being kicked off the committees, this kind of behavior, I mean, why would anybody within the GOP really embrace it? I mean, why would they feel like they could further benefit from Greene's approach, especially when you've got video like that, which is, I mean, who would dispute that as being anything but unsavory?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, look, we know that there's a group of Republicans in the GOP base that very much likes this style. And that's why you saw Trump elected president in 2016 and continuing to maintain sort of a popular status with his own party. I think, you know, Olivia is exactly right about Kevin McCarthy. He's the only one who can really do something about this. Democrats, they've already tried to kick her off of her committees --

WHITFIELD: And do you see him doing that?

BADE: Pardon? Sorry?

WHITFIELD: Would see him doing that, McCarthy doing it that, doing anything?

BADE: Well, you know, he just ousted Liz Cheney from leadership, so obviously, there's going to be pressure on him to, you know, have some sort of response to this. Silence and not doing anything, it's just not going to work in this situation. It just looks too hypocritical, right?

In terms of committees, she's already been kicked off, they could try to do something like a censure. But again, she'll just raise money off of it, this is going to have to come from McCarthy, and he's going to have to sit her down. And if he doesn't do something like that, his own members are going to start getting frustrated.

They don't want to be talking about this. They don't want to be talking about Marjorie Taylor Greene. They want to be talking about Biden. They want to flip the House. They want to be talking about policy. And this is a disruption from what they're trying to discuss in their effort to take the House. So he might actually step in. I'm not entirely sure if he will, but we'll see next week and he's the only one who can actually do something about this.

WHITFIELD: OK. And now all of this taking place while, here's the backdrop, you know, CDC saying it's OK for vaccinated Americans to stop wearing masks in most situations if you are vaccinated. But this also comes after CNN, and conducting a survey finds that a big partisan disparity exists on Capitol Hill of lawmakers who are vaccinated in the House, 100 percent of Democrats say they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.


But just 44 percent of House Republicans admit to getting vaccinated. In the Senate, the margin is a bit closer, where 100 percent of all Democratic senators say they are vaccinated versus 92 percent of Senate Republicans. So Olivia, you know, what is the message that House Republicans in particular are trying to send by virtue of their own behavior and approach to vaccinations?

BEAVERS: Well, it's certainly interesting, and I was reading that survey, that there's already a hesitancy among Republicans in the base to get the vaccination. And what you're seeing is sort of some excuses of, well, this is personal information or this is, you know, I have the antibodies, or they just, you know, are responding to requests about whether they have been vaccinated, which might just be a political move to appease a base that is, you know, taking a stance on vaccinations in a political way when it shouldn't be.

So it really is, there might be various different factors. But I think the numbers almost speak for themselves, you have 100 percent of Democrats saying that they're vaccinated, and then you only have less than 50 percent of Republicans. Now, that's not to say that there aren't some Republicans out there trying to get out the message. There's Mitch McConnell, who had polio and he's a very pro vaccination person telling the Senate that he wants everyone to get the vaccination.


BEAVERS: But and there's also some, you've seen in the House who have been out of their districts, vaccinating their constituents. But the message is needs to be more loud and proud from some of the House Republicans who are instead being quiet about it. WHITFIELD: Yes. So I wonder, Rachael, when you talk to people, is there a feeling on Capitol Hill of, you know, folks feeling safe? Are they particularly concerned because of that kind of disparity in numbers?

BADE: Well, look, I mean, I think that that's why you're going to see a lot of Democrats continuing to wear masks, I mean, unfortunately, what this does is it creates a situation, you know, where people who don't want to get vaccinated and don't want to wear masks, that change in the guidelines from CDC means a lot of times those people are going to be taking off their masks, and they're not vaccinated. Those are things that people should be wearing them.

But look, you never know, like, you know, this is early science, like if you're vaccinated, could you still have something on your body that when you go home and somebody who would run into somebody who's not vaccinated, you know, could you carry something. I know, it's a lot more unlikely that you can't, but still there are fears and I think that that's why you're going to see a lot of democrats wearing masks on the Hill as a lot of Republicans are not vaccinated.

And unfortunately, this is going to turn into sort of like a culture war. You can already sort of see, you know, with Marjorie Taylor Greene staff are going after a lawmaker which rarely happens on Capitol Hill --

WHITFIELD: Right, right.

BADE: -- over wearing a mask. You're going to see more Republicans attacking Democrats for wearing masks when they don't need to. But obviously, if you have people who are not completely vaccinated, folks are not safe yet.

WHITFIELD: Yes. That culture war --

BADE: It's just kind of create that culture war, yes.

WHITFIELD: Right. Already happening, already happening, right? Rachael Bade, Olivia Beavers, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

BEAVERS: Thank you.


WHITFIELD: All right, so these are the companies Costco, Walmart, Trader Joe's, just some of the stores that say thanks to the new CDC guidance. If you are vaccinated, you can officially ditch your mask. But still questions remain about how that will work. We'll talk about all that next.


WHITFIELD: Some nationwide store chains including CVS and Macy's say they are reviewing their face covering requirements following new CDC guidance, which says fully vaccinated people can go without masks indoors and outdoors. Others like Walmart, Publix, and Trader Joe's have already announced that they're doing away with mask mandates for customers.

Stew Leonard, Jr. joining me right now. He is the President and CEO of Stew Leonard's supermarkets, a grocery chain in the North East. Stew, so good to see. We talked to you in the throes of the pandemic and what you're experiencing. And now are we -- are you feeling like we're coming close to the end? You're feeling hopeful?

STEW LEONARD, JR., PRESIDENT & CEO, STEW LEONARD'S GROCERY STORES: No, you know what feels like we're back last year again, with --


LEONARD: -- keeping the shelves full. You know, and, you know, a lot of our suppliers, you know, we get hundreds of deliveries every week at Stew Leonard's from farms and ranchers and everything. And they're all feeling, you know, labor shortages right now, there's a burst in the economy, which is great.


LEONARD: Graduation parties, I'm in the store now, people are getting ready for graduation parties, prom parties --


LEONARD: -- all sorts of things. So there seems to be some enthusiasm in the economy, but it's quite I think a lot of our ranchers and suppliers and fishermen a little flat footed right now.

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes. OK. I want to talk to you more about that whole supply, demand issue and inflation in a second. But for now with the CDC guidelines on the masks, you know, you have stores in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.


WHITFIELD: What -- how are you treating this CDC guidance? What are you going to be requiring of your customers and of your employees as it pertains to being vaccinated, wearing a mask, not wearing a mask?

LEONARD: Well, you know what, that's my question I'm asking our customers on the floor right now.


LEONARD: Yes. And I think the overwhelming majority of people say they want to make their own personal choice. We were very quick to implement a lot of Dr. Fauci's recommendations at the very beginning of COVID. And we want to be very slow and relax them right now. Some people are still uncomfortable. You know, I was just down in Dallas and they really don't wear masks almost down there.


LEONARD: It's a different thing. So we're going to take it day by day and listen to our customers. [12:45:03]

WHITFIELD: So does that mean you still have a sign up say on, you know, outside of your door where it says, you know, mask required or something to that effect?

LEONARD: No, I don't want to go that, I don't want to go that far. But we did take down the sign that says masks require.


LEONARD: Because what do we do now if Walmart, Trader Joe's, Costco, all of the public, they've all have a no mask policy. What do -- you know, a lot of our customers are still a little uncomfortable walking through the store with no mask.


LEONARD: So all of our team members, we have 2,500 team members are all required to wear masks right now. We're not going to rope people out of the store if they come in with no mask.


LEONARD: We're just going to monitor this day by day right now.

WHITFIELD: I got you. You don't want to chase away your customers. OK, so now let's talk about the inflation, the issue of, you know, supply and demand United Food and Commercial Workers, the union that represents over a million essential food and retail workers has raised concerns about the guide, the CDC guidance saying, you know, that a lot of frontline workers will have to play vaccination police. Are your employees feeling that?

LEONARD: Well, I really don't want to try to be a policeman here. I really want to let families and everybody make their own decisions in what they want to do. I just met a guy in the store right now, he had a heart condition, and he wants to wear a mask.

You know, you're not going to change him. I think we have a lot of people commuting into New York City. And I think you're going to see just like in Japan or in Asia, a lot more people, you know, with masks on the mass transportation. So I think it has to be a person's personal choice right now.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right, got a little ahead of myself. Now, according to the consumer price index released Wednesday, consumer prices rose 4.2 percent in April from a year ago. And that's the biggest 12-month increase since September of 2008. That explains why you feel like there's kind of a repeat episode of what you experienced last year. So, you know, what are your concerns, how do you navigate this spike in prices?

LEONARD: Well, we are always -- we do a lot of fresh food at Stew Leonard. So we're used to riding this demand and supply curve all the time. I have been on the phone all week with our ranchers, farmers, fishermen, they're all saying the same thing. They put 100 to 500 gallons and gas of their tractors, their fishing boats, and left their boats. And that is up a buck a gallon right now. That's real $100 a day, $500 a day for it.

And these are just American family farmers, even our dairy farmers right now. Cows eat a lot of corn every day, 40, 50 pounds. That doubled in price, we're exporting less to China in this, price of ones double.


LEONARD: I mean, what do we tell our great suppliers that have been with me through the pandemic? They always said, Stew, we have your back. Our shelves were never empty. And what I have to do I have to honor a five cent, 10 cent increase on some items.

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right, Stew Leonard, Jr. I know a lot on your shoulders. Appreciate you taking the time to talk with us too.



LEONARD: Hey, Fredricka, I have something for you, one of our great items here. What do you think of this guy on the grill this weekend, huh?

WHITFIELD: It looks good.

LEONARD: How about that?

WHITFIELD: That's a humdinger. That's probably the biggest chop I've ever seen in my life.

LEONARD: That beautiful ribeye steak and our investors love that thing.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's fantastic.

LEONARD: New York, loves, look --

WHITFIELD: What? Oh my god. That's huge. That's like a feeding a family of eight right there.

LEONARD: Yes, that's right. You got it.

WHITFIELD: All right, Stew Leonard --

LEONARD: Hey, and by the way, if anybody --

WHITFIELD: There's more, yes.

LEONARD: If anybody wants to sort of vote on this mask thing, we have a thing on twitter at Stew Leonard's right now. We're asking our customers to give us feedback. I think over 50 percent of our customers would be OK with a no mask policy at Stew Leonard's. WHITFIELD: OK. You've let know where to go.

LEONARD: So if anybody wants to add in on that, let's see.


LEONARD: OK. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: The plate is full. Stew Leonard, Jr. --


WHITFIELD: -- good to see, thank you so much, all the best to you.

LEONARD: Thank you.


WHITFIELD: Take care. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back in one of America's biggest cities, a tiger known by the name India has been on the run for nearly a week and still no sighting. Houston Police caught the man seen coaxing the cat away in this video. He who has been identified as Victor Cuevas was actually out on bond for murder charges. CNN's Rosa Flores has been following this story. So Rosa, have you seen the tiger?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have not. But I hope at some point we do, Fredricka. You know, the Houston Police Department is the investigating agency here. They say that they have received hundreds of phone calls some of them tips, some of them alleged sightings of this tiger. And investigators have been following every single lead but still no sight of this tiger.

Now, as for the man that's linked to this missing tiger, 26-year-old Victor Hugo Cuevas his attorney releasing some pictures yesterday describing how he interacted with his tiger more like a pet dog or a pet cat like a domesticated animal.

Now, Cuevas was in court yesterday on a bond revocation hearing for a murder charge out of Fort Bend County and that hearing very quickly turned more into a dramatic second by second account about what happened on Sunday when this tiger went missing. There was testimony included in this hearing from the off-duty deputy. This was the man that you saw on that viral video that was pointing the gun at the tiger.


This officer says that his encounter with the tiger lasted for about 10 minutes. He described those moments saying that he was trying to have this tiger focus on him, Fredricka, so that he could have some control of the situation, of course, that tiger was then placed into a vehicle according to police, and then Cuevas according to police drove off. Cuevas says he took the tiger to its rightful owner. And his attorney is adamant that he does not own this tiger and that he is cooperating with authorities.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And so Rosa while you're talking, I mean, we're all captivated by the newer images that are coming in of this Victor Cuevas who is playing like it's his house cat or, you know, puppy, seemingly inside the residence, pretty extraordinary images there. And this is a what, eight month, nine-month-old cat? All right --

FLORES: It is nine months old.

WHITFIELD: I'm sorry, Rosa. We're up against the commercial break and I just can't stop talking about the cat. We'll we've got to go. We'll talk some more about it later. Good to see you in Houston. We'll be right back.