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Los Angeles County Expands Vaccine Mandate to Include Paramedics, Dental Office Workers, Home Health Workers; Pandemic Widens Learning Gap Between Struggling and Excelling Students; Britney Spears's Father Says He'll Step Down as Conservator. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired August 13, 2021 - 10:30   ET


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: County Public Schools reporting that they've had 138 employees that have already tested positive.


Listen to what the chairman of the board just told CNN.


ROSALIND OSGOOD, CHAIRWOMAN, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA SCHOOL BOARD: There a lot of people that have still not gotten a vaccination and it is becoming a deadly thing for them not to be vaccinated or it is becoming very challenging where people are getting COVID and they're living with lifelong complications. We have not opened schools yet. So that is why the eight of us on our board are adamant that we cannot have people in schools without masks because we are living in backlash of people dying with COVID.


SANTIAGO: And, Erica, we're still not sure exactly where these employees contracted the virus. That remains a big question here. But I also want to point out, remember, Broward County is one of two counties in Florida that's sort of going head-to-head with Governor Ron DeSantis other whether to have mask mandates in school. Broward voted Tuesday that they will have mask mandates in all public schools with no opt out, something that goes against the governor's executive order. And we expect them today to respond to the commissioner -- the education commissioner to a letter that he wrote them about an investigation for noncompliance.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: Leyla Santiago with the latest for us, Leyla, thank you.

On the other side of the country, Los Angeles County expanding its health order as the delta variant surges and will now require vaccinations for all EMTs, paramedics and dental office and home health workers. That expanded order coming a week after California became the first state to require all employees in health care be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Earlier this week the, L.A. City Council advanced a measure that would require proof of vaccination from anyone wanting to enter indoor public spaces.

And joining us now, Los Angeles Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, he is the one who introduced that legislation. Good to have you with us.

And so that legislation, as I pointed out, would require eligible individuals, they need to have had at least one shot, at least one dose of the vaccine. We're talking about indoor public spaces lake restaurants, bars, fitness centers, entertainment centers. How is this hitting with the folks in L.A. County?

MITCH O'FARRELL, LOS ANGELES COUNCILMEMBER: Thank you, Erica, so great to join you this morning.

So far so good, I think that people have really had enough of the (INAUDIBLE) over getting a vaccine. The science and the data is crystal clear and just growing stronger every day, that if you're vaccinated against COVID-19, your health outcomes are exponentially drastically better if you still contract the virus as opposed to the unvaccinated. So I think people are rallying around this and it's high time that we make this requirement across the city.

HILL: You're seeing people rally around it. I imagine that there has been some pushback as well. What are you hearing from folks who are opposed to the idea?

O'FARRELL: Yes, some pushback, for sure. There has been so much disinformation spread over the -- since the pandemic began. And what I'm telling folks is take a look at the facts. Look at information that is coming out of medical journals and put away the Twitter disinformation. This is real life. Take a look at the facts.

And I think that more people are doing that and I believe that when local governments do things like what we're about to do in Los Angeles, people get the message that it is probably time to stop debating on whether or not a vaccine is good for you and just go and get vaccinated so that you can protect yourself and others and the general public.

HILL: You said instead of fighting science, we should be fighting the virus. I think there are a lot people who feel that way, but to your point, there are people looking at different information, misinformation. They think they have the facts. They don't. They have mistruths. So, in terms of combating that information and doing it at the local level, what is the messaging that you're finding is most effective?

Real life examples, the statistics that are coming out, the fact that, just a couple of days ago I spoke with a friend of mine, who is a medical professional, who said that one of her nurse had to intubate a four-year-old here in Los Angeles County. Children in Los Angeles County are dying from COVID and it could be prevented. So it is becoming very real.

And the second thing I would say is for people to take a look at historical context. We eradicated polio, we eradicated smallpox. There was the 1947 New York outbreak that was limited to 12 people in total, and that was in 1947, with only two fatalities, because within one month, 6,350,000 New Yorkers became vaccinated against smallpox and it ended the pandemic of smallpox and that was over 70 years ago.


So take a look at our history and our tradition of believing that vaccinations work because they do.

HILL: Mitch O'Farrell, good to have you here this morning. Thank you.

O'FARRELL: A pleasure. Thanks.

HILL: The pandemic has had a massive impact on children and their education, widening the gap between those who are excelling and those who are struggling. So what can be done to make sure that no child is left behind? We'll discuss, next.



HILL: The closing and reopening of schools, the abrupt switch to virtual learning, those major changes that came during the pandemic have had an unprecedented impact on the education of children. In a recent study by Horace Mann Educators, more than 97 percent of teachers reported seeing some type of learning loss in their students over the past year. Experts say the pandemic has widened the gap between kids who are excelling and those who are struggling.

Joining me now Sal Khan, he is the founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a digital learning, non-profit, known for its online education tools worldwide. It is great to have you here this morning.

When we look at those numbers, 97 percent of teachers, educators saying they saw some form of learning loss over the last year, does that surprise you at all or is it about what you expected?

SALMAN KHAN, FOUNDER AND CEO, KHAN ACADEMY: Unfortunately, it is about what we would expect. There is always learning loss. People always talk about the summer slide or even three months of not being in school, kids not only don't learn those three months but they forget the atrophy of those three months.

We know pre-pandemic, 70 percent of kids who show up at community college have to -- they have so much learning loss or unfinished learning, that they have to essentially take pre-algebra. They're not ready to learn algebra. Then you add the pandemic, distance learning, 18 months of it. And it is ironic to hear it from me, who is sometimes a poster child for online. If I had to pick between distance learning, the most amazing technology versus the most amazing in-person teacher with no technology, I would pick the amazing in-person teacher every time.

And one of my neighbors is a schoolteacher for fifth and sixth graders, and she was telling me that even in a middle class, upper middle class neighborhood, she's seeing 10 percent of the kids that just kind of fell off the radar during this past year, year-and-a- half. It is even worse in neighborhoods where kids don't have suitable digital access.

And what is really scary is now we're going back to school hopefully somewhat normal, although, obviously, the delta variant is throwing a little bit of a wrench in that, we're seeing huge numbers of kids, especially in low-income neighborhoods, just not showing up. So this is a scary situation.

HILL: It is a scary situation, and I'm glad you brought up the digital divide there as we look at the resources. I mean, this was a major focus in the beginning as well, right, when everybody had to abruptly shift to online learning. Not only did districts and schools have to figure out how to make that happen but they had to make sure that, at home, kids had not only a device but a way to access the internet and get online. So in this infrastructure bill, we know that there is, what, I think, $65 billion set aside talking about high speed internet access.

The fact that the pandemic has so exposed the digital divide in this country, do you think it is enough to make sure that that money is applied where it is need and that it does help these kids and their families so they're not further left behind?

KHAN: I'm hopeful. $65 billion is a lot of money. If you just take that and straight and divide it by the number of students you have in America that's on the order of $1,000 a student, and that is -- and a lot of students do have digital access. But this is a huge issue. A lot of people are calling it the homework gap, this digital divide home.

Even pre-pandemic, to use something like Khan Academy, we also have a free tutoring platform called, you need digital access. And if you're a teacher and there are 30 kids in the room, and even one of them don't have access, you can't responsibly use these tools for homework or for self study or for whatever else. That is pre-pandemic.

Now, if there is a silver lining behind the pandemic, it is because -- it is this energy that there is now behind closing the digital divide, behind closing the homework gap. I do think this order of magnitude, $65 billion, is the right order of magnitude to actually do it. So I'm hopeful in the next, let's call it three to five years, we will have significantly closed that gap.

HILL: Masks are so politicized, as you know. They shouldn't be. So if we're looking at this purely from an education standpoint, from a science standpoint, you said you would choose in-person learning every time, I know, for your kids. What is your message to people who have concerns about their kids going back to school masked but still want them there full time?

Yes. One thing that we're not good at as human beings or as a society is to really stack rank all of the risks that we have in life. If the parents are vaccinated, if the teachers are vaccinated, if the school is taking reasonable precautions, students are wearing masks, my understanding -- I teach statistics on Khan Academy. My wife is an endocrinologist. I can't pretend to be an epidemiologist.

But the statistics, the risks, based on my understanding, if you compare it to things like even a car accident or getting struck by lightning or the risks of the flu, which -- the flu always kills, unfortunately, many people, including young people every year, if you look at those risks relative to the delta variant risk, if you take reasonable precautions for children, it is not as scary as it sometimes seems.


So I think we just have to do a better job after educating ourselves on the stack rank of risks in our life.

HILL: Pro-mask?

KHAN: Very pro-mask. I mean, a lot of times kids are in schools and they wonder why do I have to know this in life. Well, if you know stats, then you're going to make better decisions, and this includes on a society level. I think a lot of times, we even make policy decisions based on somewhat irrational emotions versus saying, wait, I'm more likely to be killed by a bookshelf, and that actually happens than by X, Y or Z.

HILL: Yes, it's always a good way to look at things based on the data and the science and the facts and the stats. Sal Khan, great to have you with us, thanks for all the work you're doing.

KHAN: THANKS for having me.

HILL: Up next, the dramatic move by Britney Spears' father. Is this really a victory in the Free Britney Movement?



HILL: After months of Britney Spears pushing to remove her father as conservator of her, stating increasing public pressure from her supporters, the singer's father now says he intends to step down, Spears' attorney calling Jamie Spears' announcement, quote, vindication.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Los Angeles this morning, along with Criminal Defense Attorney Sara Azari.

So, Steph, I want to start with you. What is the latest here? What just changed?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What changed is this new legal filing, the response from James Spears, who goes by Jamie Spears, and indicating that he does intend to step down as the conservator of his daughter's estimated $60 million estate.

In this filing he goes on to say that while he doesn't think that there are grounds for him to be removed, he doesn't think also that a long, protracted -- prolonged battle publicly with his daughter about this conservatorship is a good idea either. So that is why he's saying he is going to working on having a smooth transition to a new conservator for her estate.

When he says when he first took over this role 13 years ago or so, he said that Britney was in crisis mentally and emotionally. He also claims that there were predators around her and that they were targeting her financial wealth as well. All of that is why he's done this.

However, like you said, Matthew Rosengart, who is Britney Spears' current attorney says that this is vindication and that there still seems to be plenty of attacks in here which, of course, Jamie Spears sees as just making his case on -- he says that he's been getting attacked over this time. But he's saying that this is vindication and they're going to continue to investigative all that Jaime Spears has done because they alleged that he earned millions of dollars while he was head of her conservatorship.

HILL: So, to that point that they're going to continue to investigate, Sara, you say that this voluntary step aside may be a huge win and one less fight, so one less fight. There is still a lot more fighting to come, it sounds like, Sara.

SARA AZARI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There is, Erica, because this doesn't end the conservatorship. So, when we talk about Free Britney, it is about freeing Britney from this oppressive scenario with her father being the conservator. But in order to terminate the conservatorship, she has to be able to convince the court that she can now care for herself and her finances.

And it sounds to me, like Stephanie said, that perhaps the position that her attorney is taking is that Jamie Spears might be one of these predators. We know that at some point he was profiting off of her tours and had a percentage deal. And so there is going to be a lot of investigation into potential criminal and civil exposure by her father and others, as her lawyer indicated.

Under California law, under the welfare and institution code, if there is financial abuse and/or physical abuse that has criminal intent in it, and that is a crime. Otherwise, to the extent that he may have earned monies that were misappropriated or funneled to himself or what not, he may be ordered to pay those monies back.

HILL: And so those last items that you mentioned, is that what would fall under, because Britney has said that she wants to press charges for conservatorship abuse? Would those specific issues fall under that?

AZARI: Absolutely. Abuse of an adult, whether it is financial or physical, can be criminal if there is intentionality involved. However, if he may not have had criminal intent but still misappropriated funds from the estate to himself, or it sounds like there are others to other that are going to be investigated, and they may be ordered to pay those monies back to the estate. So he's here saying, I actually improved the state of the estate, I saved my daughter and her finances but it appears that there is more to be revealed.

HILL: And, Stephanie, before I let you go, so much of this has focused on or started with, I should say, concern for Britney by her fans. She has recently said she is sort of stepping back. She doesn't want to spend as much time on social media. Is there any sense that some of this could be tied to perhaps either advice from her attorney or even just the fact that all of these legal battles are going on?

ELAM: I think we could take that assumption very -- to heart. Because I think they know that everyone is watching what is playing out. She did make her case in open court, which she wanted.


But after that she did that, she did instruct her lawyer, her previously court-appointed lawyer, Sam Ingram, that she wanted to keep everything closed after that. So she wanted to make her case and then to close everything down.

And now, it's working on moving forward. Obviously, this is the most movement we've seen in 13 years as far as Britney's conservatorship. So, this is a change here and, obviously, it shows that they're trying to focus in on making these things happen.

HILL: Yes. Stephanie Elam, Sara Azari, good to see you both this morning. Thank you.

AZARI: Thank you.

HILL: And thanks to all of you for joining me today. I'm Erica Hill.

At This Hour with Dana Bash starts after a quick break.



DANA BASH, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Hello, everyone. I'm Dana Bash in for Kate Bolduan.

Here is what we're watching at this hour.