Return to Transcripts main page


Hochul: "I'm Ready for This, I'm Fully Prepared" To Be NY Governor; California Governor Announces New Rules On Vaccines; Frontline Workers: Seeing More Children In COVID Wards Than Before; Louisiana Nurse: COVID Patients "Getting Younger And Sicker"; Judge: Congress Can Access Some of Trump's Tax Records; Scott Kirby, CEO, United Airlines, Discusses United Requiring All Employees Get Vaccinated. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 14:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: She got a lot of questions about how she'll handle the pandemic as well.

AVLON: There's no learning curve when it comes to handling the pandemic. She's coming into office with a growing crisis but a strong record to build on. She'll have to meet and exceed that.

BLACKWELL: There's also the closer scrutiny of her record. The first time that she was, I'm assuming, in that full press corps there answering questions even about the green light law.

You know, this is a different level of scrutiny that she'll have to face, of course.

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I think this is why we saw her pressed so many times, that she is prepared. Not only did she talk about her own record and everything that she has been doing.

But speaking to important stakeholders across the state, but also traveling and meeting with different folks.

She really wanted to press that this is somebody who is going to be ready on day one, that, yes, she was lieutenant governor but the job of governing the entire state, that is something she is ready for.

John is absolutely right. When it comes to COVID, I mean there's no bigger sort of crisis and problem that she is going to have to tackle.

I think that's why she brought that on unprompted as well in her prepared remarks.

AVLON: She's got to. That is the number-one test for any executive right now and she knows that. This is an area where Andrew Cuomo had a 70 percent approval rating just a year ago.

Reminds you a week can be a long time in politics. But she'll have to pick up that mantle.

You mentioned the green light law. She first came to prominence as an Erie County clerk opposing driver's license for undocumented immigrants. She said she changed her position.

That is now the law of the land but it's an indication that some of our instincts and background mine more conservative than many downstate Democrats are accustomed to.

BLACKWELL: She wants the message that she's ready to resonate so clear that she said she didn't want the 14 days, it's not what I asked for. But she'll make sure to use this time to make sure she is prepared when she does take the oath.

John Avlon, M.J. Lee, thank you both.

California's governor is issuing a new order to help protect children in schools as COVID cases there continue to rapidly spread.

Plus, a huge win for House Democrats and a major legal loss for former President Donald Trump in his effort to keep his tax records sealed.



BLACKWELL: For the first time since June, the U.S. is back up to averaging more than a half million new vaccinations a day. That's good news.

But the surge of coronavirus is showing no signs of slowing down. The seven-day average of daily new cases is now above 116,000. More than 73,000 people are in hospitals with COVID.

Look at this. All this red. And 99 percent of us, 99 percent of us in this country live in counties that the CDC says are experiencing substantial or high transmission.

And that's prompted California Governor Gavin Newsom to take on the issue of vaccine mandates in ways that no other state has.

Minutes ago, he announced that teachers and other school staff must be vaccinated or submit to regular COVID testing.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We think this is the right thing to do and we think this is a sustainable way to keeping our schools open.

And to address the number one anxiety that parents like myself have. I have four young children. And that is knowing that the schools are doing everything in their power to keep our kids safe, to keep our kids healthy.


BLACKWELL: Nick Watt is in Los Angeles.

Let's start with this new mandate in California.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Victor, as you mentioned just in the past few minutes, California becoming the first state in the nation to mandate that staff and teachers must be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

We have just heard from the California Teachers Association. They are supportive of this.

Now, the governor was also asked will he extend this to mandate that kids are also vaccinated. He said, well, we will consider all options sometime in the future. That is not on the table for now.

Now, Governor Newsom says the whole reason for this is to try to keep schools open.

And as you might expect, governors in Texas and Florida are taking a very different tack.


WATT (voice-over): More Floridians are in the hospital with COVID-19 right now than ever before. And a health official tells CNN 200 ventilators have been sent to the state from the federal stockpile.

The governor claims ignorance.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I would honestly doubt that that's true, but I'll look because we have a lot of stuff that we stockpiled over the last year and a half.

WATT: And he still doesn't want masks mandated in schools.

Experts who studied spread among nearly a million staff and students in North Carolina schools say this.

DR. KANECIA ZIMMERMAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS, DUKE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: There's been consistency in the data that masks can be effective in helping to prevent spread of COVID-19.

DR. DANNY BENJAMIN JR, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, DUKE HEALTH: Schools that don't have mask mandates should be held accountable when they put children at risk, which they clearly are doing.

WATT: And 1-year-old Carter Butrum caught COVID after attending day care in Missouri.

KYLE BUTRUM, YOUNG SON CAUGHT COVID-19: There's no smaller feeling than watching someone who can't speak for themselves go through that and you not be able to help.

WATT: In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, there are more kids with COVID in the ICU now than ever before. In all of June, they say, 22 kids in just the first week of August, 63.

UNIDENTIFIED MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF PEDIATRIC CARE, OUR LADY OF THE LAK CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: We are not doing a great job in keeping our kids safe. We need to do better.


WATT: With masks and shots.


WATT: Skid Row's Sebastian Bach among the tiny fraction of the vaccinated to catch COVID. His message?

SEBASTIAN BACH, SINGER: Why I say thank God for the vaccine is because it's been a very mild case.

I don't understand politicizing medicine. It doesn't make sense to me. So I would -- my advice to the fans would be get the vaccine.

WATT: Delta, American and Southwest airlines just announced they will not require their staff be vaccinated.

DR. ASHISH JHA, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PEDIATRIC HEALTH: Airlines, which have always sort of led on safety, deciding that that's no longer a priority really strikes me as an odd decision.

WATT: In the U.S., there are plenty of shots to go around. Most other countries like India, far less fortunate.

BARKHA DUTT, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": Hesitancy, if you'll forgive me, is a very polite understated word to describe self- indulgence and bad behavior in my opinion.

WATT: And 175 experts just wrote to President Biden urging an uptick in manufacturing vaccines for export.

Delta's spread in the developing world, they say, is an omen that highlights the risk of newer emerging variants, some of which may turn out to be resistant to current vaccines.


WATT: The CDC puts out what it calls an ensemble forecast, what things will look like in the next few weeks. That forecast right now suggests that hospitalizations and deaths are going to rise over the next four weeks.

But forecasts can be wrong, forecasts have been wrong. So let's hope that this one is wrong -- Victor?

BLACKWELL: Nick Watt there in California for us. Nick, thanks very much.

Let's go to Louisiana where officials say the state is going through a fourth COVID surge. Of all states, Louisiana ranks in the top five for the most new cases

reported Tuesday, with more than 6,000 new infections. And it's ranked 47th of 50 for the percentage of its population that's fully vaccinated.

In Shreveport, a nurse's plea for vaccine goes viral. The state Health Department tweeted out a clip of Felicia Croft's video. She works in the ICU of the Willis Knighton Medical Center.


FELICIA CROFT, ICU NURSE, WILLIS KNIGHTON MEDICAL CENTER: People are younger and sicker and we are intubating and losing people that are my age and younger. People with kids that are my kids' age that are never going to see their kids graduate.

I can't explain the feeling of defeat when you do everything, you pour everything into a patient and it's not enough. And then to know that they could have gotten vaccinated and it could have made a difference.


BLACKWELL: Felicia Croft joins me now.

I thank you for spending a few minutes with me.

You've worked in the COVID unit for the entire pandemic, as you said in that video. And over a year and a half you've seen climb after climb. This is the fourth surge.

How bad is it there now? Your worst days you're saying are happening in August.

CROFT: So the thing that makes these days so hard is that, you know, before -- in the beginning, it was mostly elderly population. People that had chronic conditions, been sick for a long time. People that had been able to see their families grow. Dads that had walked their daughters down the aisle.

You know, that had lived lives of love, full lives.

But this wave, this group of people that we're seeing haven't done those things. They haven't had the chance to get their daughter ready for prom or to teach their son how to drive a car, to be there with their daughter when she delivers her first child.

You know, that is what has made this so much harder.

And we're seeing a lot more patients that are -- you know, people that I may have graduated with.

I'm only 34. And I have a lot more things that I want to do with my kids and with my family. That is what has made this just so rough.

BLACKWELL: So what are your conversations with these people who are your age who have so much life ahead of them? Are they vaccinated, unvaccinated, and what are you talking about with them?

CROFT: I am vaccinated, you know. And we've seen some that are vaccinated and mostly more that aren't. You know, sometimes people ask me what made me decide to get the vaccine. As a nurse, as a mom, as a church member.

And I did a lot of research, because like a lot of people that I know and a lot of people that may be watching this, I didn't trust the vaccine at first.


I felt like, how does it take so long for us to develop treatment and, all of a sudden, we have this vaccine like magically. What's the deal? Something doesn't seem right.

So I did my own research and I talked with doctors.

We've got some amazing infectious disease doctors at our hospital. This is their specialty. I talked to them. I talked to local doctors that I've known for a long time and I trust, you know, with my family. Why wouldn't I trust them with myself?

The more I researched, the more I saw that this is not new technology.

You know, I'm a firm Christian and I believe that god is never taken off guard. The more I prayed about it and researched and really sought him and sought peace about it, the more I saw that he laid the foundation for this treatment long ago.

When I was, you know, 3 years old, they started doing research for what we're using now to help people. And I felt peace about it. And I got my shot.

And I hope that makes some of the people that are my age feel the same way.

BLACKWELL: You mentioned your family. I understand you have a 14-year- old daughter, Macy (ph).

CROFT: I do.

BLACKWELL: And she came to you with a request for her friend's parents who are in the hospital with COVID. Tell me about that.

CROFT: So she came into my room one night. She said, mom, I need to talk to you. So we shut the bathroom door so it was just us.

She said, mom, my friend called me and she just asked us to pray. She kind of told me what was going on.

I had not been back to work yet so I didn't know anything about what was going on.

But we prayed for them. That brought a whole new level to this for me because it's spilling out of my workplace and into my home. My kids are hurting for their friends, for people that they love. And

that really plot a whole new perspective to this.

BLACKWELL: Felicia Croft, I thank you for not just your time but the work you're doing.

I can only imagine how difficult it is to climb these peaks again as there are surges for the fourth time in Louisiana. And there's a vaccine that can prevent a lot of the suffering we're seeing.

Again, thank you.

CROFT: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: So a significant court ruling today just opened the door for Democrats in their long fight to get access to Donald Trump's tax records. We'll talk about that in a moment.


BLACKWELL: A major court ruling is opening the door for Democrats. The federal judge in Washington says that House lawmakers can now access some of former President Trump's tax returns and records.


CNN's Kara Scannell is following this.

So break down what does this ruling mean?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Right. What the judge's ruling here is that the House Democrats can get some of the records that are belonging to the former president and the judge narrows it in some key ways.

However, the big picture here is Trump didn't want the records getting turned over and some will be being turned over.

As it relates to the Trump D.C. hotel, that's a property that's leased from the federal government.

So the judge here is saying that the Democrats have a right to the records that relate to that hotel, that lease arrangement from the former president, that relate to the company and the hotel.

Now, another area that the oversight is looking at is the issue of emoluments. The judge is saying you can have the records from 2017 to 2018 because that's the period that Trump was in office.

The broader question, could they subpoena any offices relating to the broad section of companies because they're made up of dozens of companies from 2011 to 2018?

The judge says you can't have access to the records that precede his time in office.

BLACKWELL: So we expect there will be an appeal from the Trump attorneys, of course.

SCANNELL: Right. We have reached out to the Trump's attorneys for comment. We haven't gotten anything back yet. I think they're just getting the ruling.

But their pattern and practice is to appeal the cases. This went up to the Supreme Court once already. So I don't imagine they'll be backing down right now.

BLACKWELL: Kara Scannell, thank you.

Three major U.S. airlines will not require vaccines for their employees, breaking from United Airlines. I will talk to the CEO of United about his company's mandate next, next.


BLACKWELL: Amtrak announced today that all workers must be fully vaccinated by November 1st and new hires must show proof starting in October. Those who do not comply must provide a valid medical reason or produce proof or have weekly negative results.

The company is following the lead of United Airlines, which is requiring its staff to get vaccinated by October 25.


But Southwest, Delta, American Airlines have decided not to follow suit and are just encouraging the workers to get their shots.

Let's bring in the CEO of United Airlines, Scott Kirby. He attended a meeting with President Biden and others on ways to get more Americans vaccinated.

Scott, good to have you here. You're out front. As I said, American, Delta, Southwest, have not done this yet. How far or how long until you expect they will have to?

SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: Well, rather than talk about this specifically, I was really encouraged at the meeting with the president today.

I'm also encouraged to see more companies, more organizations, the pentagon, requiring vaccinations, And I think not just in aviation, but this is going to be -- you know, a few weeks from now, this is something that's widespread across the country because it's a basic safety issue.

The facts are that you're about 300 times as likely to die of COVID if you're unvaccinated than if you're vaccinated and given that, I think that this is just inevitable, that safety is going to win the day.

And this is largely going to become a requirement at most places of employment.

BLACKWELL: I know this is not why you did it likely, but does it give you a business advantage that the U.S. employees of United are vaccinated when people are choosing which airline to fly?

KIRBY: Yes, it's certainly not why we did this. The reason we did this is -- again I know a year from now, if there are people who are unhappy about me for doing this.

There are some people who are alive who otherwise wouldn't have been because we required the vaccine.

And I don't know if it will help us or hurt us in the short term. But in the long term, again, I think most companies are going to follow eventually.

And I hope it's not a competitive advantage for us because it's far more important for safety that everyone get vaccinated. That's the real answer.

Not just for United Airlines, not for the employees of United but for our society and for the world. We have a solution to this problem. We just need to make sure that we all get vaccinated.

BLACKWELL: Yes. You said, in a year, there might be some who are unhappy with you. The flight attendants union said four out of five flight attendants are vaccinated.

Are you getting pushback from those who are unvaccinated who work for the company?

KIRBY: Well, certainly, there are some strongly held views, as you know, on vaccine requirements. And I have heard from some of those people.

But I expected actually to hear disproportionately from those. And I'm encouraged that my in mailbox is running 10-1 in favor of those, employees are thanking us for doing it.

Ad some are emotional because they're often from family members who lost people to COVID. And hearing from those means a lot to me as we're going through this.

But I have been pleasantly surprised so far. Certainly, some negative.

But pleasantly surprised at how much positive and really excitement there is that I didn't fully appreciate before we made this announcement.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about the meeting that you were a part of with the president and other CEOs today.

Did the -- was there a discussion of vaccine requirements for your customers, for the flying public and then mandating that for the industry?

KIRBY: No, this was really -- you know, I was honored to be invited to participate with President Biden. And he gave us half an hour and really it was impressive to me.

He was listening, he was asking us questions, what have you learned, what's your experience, why did you do this?

And you could tell he was -- and he said, he was trying to think through, how do we convince people, how do we get the whole country to do the right thing and get to vaccination?

And so really the conversation was focused about -- on that and him encouraging us and asking us to do everything we could with fellow CEOs or anyone we were in contact with, to encourage others to do the same thing.

BLACKWELL: So it wasn't a part of the conversation in the meeting but what do you think about the idea?

Our national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, said there should be a vaccination requirement to fly in this country, as an incentive to encourage more people to do that.

Do you support that?

KIRBY: I think there's a vaccine requirement broadly --


BLACKWELL: For customers, passengers?

KIRBY: It's a government question, but I suspect that it probably won't happen domestically. Mostly because it's just -- it would be logistically hard to get implemented.

We would need a government passport which some countries have done, where we have a centralized system to be able to check if someone was vaccinated, much like a passport works today.

I think the logistics makes it hard.


But the flip side is, as more and more companies require vaccinations, I think we'll get up to the high 80, 90 percent vaccination rate. And that will have COVID behave much like the flu does.