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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on February 7, 2021

Face The Nation: Maria Van Kerkhove, Scott Gottlieb, James Brown
Face The Nation: Maria Van Kerkhove, Scott Gottlieb, James Brown 22:35

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Janet Yellen, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina
  • Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical Lead at WHO
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner
  • James Brown, CBS News Special Correspondent, Host, "The NFL Today"  

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, it's Super Bowl Sunday. We'll look at how to prevent it from becoming superspreader Sunday. Plus, we'll have more of CBS' exclusive interview with President Biden. For the first time in months, COVID-19 numbers are moving in the right direction. Infection and hospitalization rates in the U.S. are all headed down, and the number of Americans vaccinated is going up.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Job number one of the American Rescue Plan is vaccines. Vaccine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That American Rescue Plan is President Biden's two-trillion-dollar economic aid package moving through Congress.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Once-in-a-century virus has decimated our economy, and it's still wreaking havoc on our economy today. And so much of it is still about the virus. We're still in the teeth of this pandemic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But will that effort slow down due to distractions on Capitol Hill, such as the second impeachment trial of former President Trump revisiting a dark and terrifying day in American history.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (January 6): And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.

(January 6): So go home. We love you. You're very special.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham will join us, along with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. We'll talk with the World Health Organization's COVID-19 lead, Doctor Maria Van Kerkhove. And, finally, a look at the NFL struggles in the pandemic with our own CBS News special correspondent and host of the NFL Today James Brown.

It's all just ahead this Super Bowl Sunday here on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. More than a hundred million people are expected to tune into Super Bowl LV later today. Either on the CBS broadcast or streaming networks. And another COVID record will be set, that of the least number of in-stadium spectators for a Super Bowl. Just twenty-five thousand fans will see the game in person, including seventy-five hundred vaccinated health care workers. Senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann reports from Tampa.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News Senior National Correspondent): Super Bowl LV in Tampa faces one known threat: COVID-19, the NFL blitz with adjustments, a stadium one-third full, cardboard-like cutouts will outnumber people. Mandatory face masks.

ROGER GOODELL (NFL Commissioner): We had a lot of unknowns ourselves. We had to adapt at every stage, just like everybody else.

MARK STRASSMANN: For fans watching anywhere, the CDC urges no chanting or cheering and mask up.

ALEX VILLANUEVA: It's the Super Bowl, not the stupid bowl.

MARK STRASSMANN: But parties outside the stadiums spread worry or worse about masks, social distancing, and potential spikes unrelated to a touchdown celebration. Concerns already realized overnight in North Carolina. Now some good news: COVID America's various benchmarks suggest transmission has dropped to pre-Thanksgiving levels. This week new cases fell below one million nationally, at least a ten-percent drop at nineteen states, more than twenty-five percent in twenty others. COVID hospitalizations down more than twenty percent the past two weeks.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: Now is not the time to let our guard down. Keep taking steps to protect each other.

MARK STRASSMANN: And vaccinate quickly. Of the nearly sixty million doses delivered, less than two-thirds have actually made it into arms. Starting Thursday the first of sixty-five hundred retail pharmacies, big players like CVS and Walgreens will become vaccination centers. The federal government will ship them roughly one million doses weekly. Maryland's building this mass vaccination site. But America's frustrated. Demand still dwarfs supply.

GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN (R-Maryland): We can vaccinate everyone in the state, that's why we're building all of this. But we can't do anything without the vaccines.

MARK STRASSMANN: Other vaccination issues, long lines, line jumping, lack of access, lack of equity, and who gets priority. Nearly half of states now say its teachers with CDC guidance expected this week on reopening schools.

GIRL: Learning on Zoom has been really hard, especially because I can't always get the help I need.

KAREN TURNER: No, no, no, no.

MAN: Stop resisting.

MARK STRASSMANN: Unbridled, unmasked, like this belligerent woman in an Ohio grocery store, a year into the pandemic.

KAREN TURNER: Let-- get-- oh, illegal search.

(End VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: Health officials worry that Super Bowl Sunday could become superspreader Sunday. They're encouraging virtual parties and for all fans to watch the game at home only with people they live with. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark, thank you.

One Super Bowl tradition that is going on as planned this year, the pre-game interview with the President. Our Norah O'Donnell sat down with President Biden on Friday. She talked to him about China and also about the challenges of reentering the nuclear deal with Iran, which has begun enriching nuclear fuel close to weapons-grade levels.

(Begin VT)

NORAH O'DONNELL (CBS EVENING NEWS): The U.S.-China relationship is probably one of the most important in the entire world. Why haven't you called Xi Jinping?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN (CBS EVENING NEWS): Well, we haven't had occasion to-- to talk to one another yet. There's no reason not to call him. I probably spent more time with Xi Jinping, I'm told, than any world leader has because I-- I had twenty-four, twenty-five hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president, traveled seventeen thousand miles with him. I know him pretty well.

NORAH O'DONNELL (CBS EVENING NEWS): There is a lot to talk about?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN (CBS EVENING NEWS): A lot to talk about, a whole lot to talk about. And he's very bright. He's very tough. He doesn't have-- and I don't mean this is a criticism, just the reality, he doesn't have a democratic, small D, bone in his body. But he is-- the question is I've said to him all along that we need not have a-- a conflict. But there's going to be extreme competition. And I'm not going to do it the way that he knows and that's because he's sending signals as well. And I'm not going to do it the way Trump did. We're going to focus on international rules of the road.

NORAH O'DONNELL (CBS EVENING NEWS): Will the U.S. lift sanctions first in order to get Iran back to the negotiating table?


NORAH O'DONNELL (CBS EVENING NEWS): They have to stop enriching uranium first?

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: It appears there is a standoff. Overnight Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran will not scale back its atomic work until the U.S. removes all sanctions. More of Norah's interview will air on the 4:00 PM hour of Super Bowl pregame coverage right here on CBS.

We want to go now to Senator Lindsey Graham in Clemson, South Carolina. Good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-South Carolina/@LindseyGrahamSC): Good morning. Thank you for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Iran has threatened to kick out U.N. inspectors within the next three weeks if sanctions are not lifted. You heard the President. Where do you think the stalemate goes from here?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, the Trump administration put Iran in a box. As a result, you got four or five Arab nations doing peace agreements with Israel. I think Iran is weaker today than they've been since the regime was started about forty years ago. So if I were President Biden, I would keep the sanctions on until Iran changed its behavior. I would not want to go into an old deal with Iran because they've been up to no good for too long. So he's going to have three problems here: what to do with Iran differently than Trump, what to do with China different than Trump and how to change Trump immigration policies without creating a run on the border. I would caution President Biden because Trump did it doesn't mean it's wrong.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: So I would slow down if I were President Biden and re-evaluate some of these Trump policies and keep them in place if they make sense.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've known the Biden family for years. Have you spoken to the President since inauguration?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: No, I haven't. Congratulations

 to-- to him. He's the legitimate President. I talked to Secretary Blinken two days ago. I'm very pleased with what the Biden administration is proposing for Afghanistan. We're going to keep troops there on a conditions-based approach.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: The Afghan study group came out with a good-- say again?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Past May, which is when the Trump deal would call for conditions-based drawdown?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think it's-- I think it was-- yeah, I think we're not going to leave in May. We're going to leave when the conditions are right. The-- the Taliban have been cheating. They haven't been complying. And so I like what Tony Blinken and the Biden administration is doing. They are reevaluating our presence in Afghanistan to keep the footprint low, but not to walk away and lose all the gains we've achieved. If we leave too soon without a conditions-based withdrawal ISIS and al Qaeda will come roaring back. Women will suffer greatly. So they're in a good spot, I think, on Afghanistan. When it comes to Iran, I would caution the Biden administration to go back into the Iranian deal. There's a proposal by myself and Senator Menendez--


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --that the Iranians can have all the nuclear power they want. They just can't enrich. And I think Arabs would sign up for that deal, which would be a good deal for the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we'll stay tuned for-- for what the policy is. I want to ask you about what's happening here at home with the scheduled trial that is supposed to begin on Tuesday of former President Donald Trump. You voted against holding that trial, but you said this on the morning after the siege of the Capitol:

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (Jan 7, 2021): When it comes to accountability, the President needs to understand that his actions were the problem, not the solution, that the rally yesterday was unseemly. It got out of hand. It breaks my heart that my friend, a President of a consequence would allow yesterday to happen. And it will be a major part of his presidency. It was a self-inflicted wound. It was going too far.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, it's not a crime. I mean the House is impeaching him under the theory that his speech created a riot. When you look at the facts, many people had already planned the-- to attack the Capitol before he ever spoke.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, the trial memorandum from the--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: The President said at the rally I think was--

MARGARET BRENNAN: The trial memorandum from the House impeachment managers actually lays out a pattern of behavior. They say it wasn't just the speech. They say this was cultivated over time.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah, well, here's what I would say, that if you believe you committed a crime, he can be prosecuted like any other citizen. Impeachment is a political process. We've never impeached a president once they're out of office. I think this is a very bad idea. Forty-five plus Republicans are going to vote early on that it's unconstitutional. It's not a question of how the trial ends. It's a question of when it ends. Republicans are going to view this as an unconstitutional exercise. And the only question is, will they call witnesses? How long does the trial take? But the outcome is really not in doubt. That doesn't mean what happened on January the 6th was okay. It means his impeachment, in the eyes of most Republicans, is an unconstitutional exercise.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: The President's behavior, in my view, is not a crime, but he can be charged with one if people think he committed it because he's now a private citizen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, some Republicans, your colleague, Pat Toomey, a Republican, believe that this is constitutional since the President was impeached while he was still in office. But, you know, people can look at this and say, look, when you can't argue a case on its merits, you argue on process. And that's what Republicans are doing right now. Because I want to ask you to clarify this. You said on January 7th, this about Mike Pence:

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: The things he were-- he was asked to do in the name of loyalty were over the top, unconstitutional, illegal, and would have been wrong for the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Unconstitutional and illegal sounds a lot like high crimes and misdemeanors.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah, well, he wasn't charged with that. The bottom line is the impeachment articles, I think, are unconstitutional because the President is in Florida. He's not in office. Impeachment for a president requires the chief justice to preside over the trial. He's not at the trial because President Trump is not the "President." So this is not process. The Constitution, I think, is being flagrantly violated because, when it comes to Trump, there seems to be no end to all of this. So, the trial is going to result in an acquittal. Most Republicans, I don't know what Senator Toomey is going to do, is going to view this as unconstitutional and the President's behavior is not incitement under the law. And the longer it takes, the worse off for the country, I believe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said if the President committed a crime, he should be charged. Do you think any of the President's actions, the tweets calling for the rally, the language leading up to the rally, the lying to the public about the ability to overturn the election, what you described he said about Mike Pence, does any of that deserve a reprimand?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, I mean, he's going to have a place in history for all this, but the point of the matter is that we're in Congress. We're not prosecutors. Impeachment is never meant to be a prosecution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but you have oversight of the Justice Department.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: We don't do bill of attainders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you think?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah, I think I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to end the impeachment trial because I think it is blatantly unconstitutional. I'm ready to get on with trying to solve the nation's problems. And as to Donald Trump, he is the most popular figure in the Republican Party. He had a consequential presidency. January the 6th was a very bad day for America, and he'll get his share of blame in history. But I do believe that in 2022, the Republican Party is going to come roaring back because our friends on the Democratic Party-- on the Democratic side are going to change immigration policy to have caravan after caravan hit our borders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you still believe he is the head of the Republican Party?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: They're going to raise our taxes, and they are going to weaken us across the board. Excuse me again? I'm sorry.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You still believe President Trump is the best face for the Republican Party? Yes or no?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think he's-- I think he's the-- yeah, I think, yeah. I think-- I think Donald Trump's policies served the country well. I think Donald Trump has to rehabilitate--


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --himself as a politician. But here's what I think. I think--


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --most Americans are going to look--


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --at the Biden administration and--

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm-- I'm sorry we are-- we are out of time.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I'm sorry go ahead.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. I'm sorry here to--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --cut you off, I have to take us to a commercial break. Thank you for your time this morning. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to the former Fed chairwoman and new Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. She joins us in Washington. Good morning to you, Madam Secretary.

JANET YELLEN (Treasury Secretary/@JanetYellen): Good morning, and thank you so much for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know the U.S. is still ten million jobs short of where we were before this pandemic. Many people have stopped looking for work. Is the jobs market stalling?

JANET YELLEN: Well, I'm afraid that the job market is stalling. We saw that in Friday's employment report, just six thousand private sector jobs created, forty-nine thousand overall, and that's after a month in which we actually saw job loss. So, yeah, we have ten million people unemployed. Four million have dropped out of the labor market and another two million are working part time who really would like full-time work. So we have-- we're in a deep hole with respect to the job market and a long way to dig out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Specifically, the unemployment rate for men and women is relatively similar. But the President's economic adviser, Jared Bernstein, said this past week the number of women who've left the workforce is of great concern and unusual in a recession. What's driving that and how do you get women back into the workforce?

JANET YELLEN: Well, you know, women really are-- many face just an impossible situation in which they have children they have to take care of who weren't in school and would be facing increasing demands on the job. And many, over two million, have dropped out of the labor force because it's so hard to manage that-- that conflict. And the-- the package, the American Rescue package that President Biden has proposed really addresses the problems that women face. It places huge emphasis on getting our schools open safely, getting children back into school, providing paid family and medical leave during this crisis so that women don't have to leave their jobs when they're faced with health issues or family issues that they have to address. There's emphasis on providing more childcare and-- and payments, tax credits expanded for children to help families address these needs. And I think this is really necessary to get women back to work. They've faced a-- a disproportionate burden because of this crisis, especially low-wage women and women of color.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Those emergency paid leave provisions would expire in September. During your confirmation hearings you talked about the U.S. needing to make these more permanent, essentially, to stay competitive with the rest of the developed world. Is getting U.S. to adopt a legal mandate for expanded paid leave and childcare your ultimate goal?

JANET YELLEN: Well, it's certainly something that President Biden is interested in and, you know, the current package that he's proposed, the American rescue package, is intended to deal with the immediate crisis, the economic crisis and the healthcare crisis. But beyond that he looks forward to proposing ideas to-- to address longstanding challenges that our economy has faced.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That sounds like a yes in the future. Let's talk about now. In this current rescue--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --package, who-- what should determine who is eligible for a stimulus check? Should it be your-- your 2019 income level or your unemployment status?

JANET YELLEN: Well, you know, President Biden wants to make sure that the-- the payments that he's proposed, fourteen-hundred-dollar hundred payments to make good on the total two-thousand-dollar pledge, goes to families that really need it, that are struggling. And, of course, it shouldn't go to very well-off family-- families that don't need the funds and haven't been hard hit by the crisis. So, he's discussing the appropriate cutoffs and phase-ins with members of Congress and is open to negotiating on those. But there are a lot of families that are struggling with lower income and need-- need those payments.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know sending people checks in the mail, though, the criticism is that this is more about politics than economics. Some of your fellow economists have been very critical. Stanford's John Cogan claims seventy percent of stimulus payments from last year were either saved or used to pay debt. Mark Zandi of Moody's, who-- who the President often references, said stimulus checks are not the most effective type of support and said much of it goes to households that don't need the funds. Given that how do you justify writing these checks?

JANET YELLEN: Well, it has to go to people and households that do need the money and those are lower income households, and we need to make sure that the cut-offs are appropriate so that households that are doing really well maybe have seen their stock portfolios rise and make a lot of income and haven't lost their jobs, those households shouldn't be getting it. There is a lot more--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What's your floor and ceiling on that?

JANET YELLEN: --targeted relief also. Well, I-- I don't have specifics for you today. These are matters that President Biden is discussing with members of Congress and is open to reviewing what's-- what's appropriate. But he is committed to providing the fourteen hundred dollars of payments to those who qualify.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And there's no jobs creation program in here. The President says he wants that massive infrastructure bill to be next. And job creation is what we need to see. Don't you risk spending your political capital now when you need to create jobs in this next bill?

JANET YELLEN: Well, there will be another bill that addresses job creation through infrastructure development, through investment in people, in education and training, addresses climate change, improves the competitiveness of our economy and is designed to create good jobs with good pay that involve create-- careers for people. But right now this package will do a huge amount to create jobs. The spending it will generate is going to lead to demand for workers, help put people back to work, especially when we can get vaccinations and the public health situation to the point where the economy can begin to open up again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, there's been some wild swings in the price of GameStop. Are markets functioning properly?

JANET YELLEN: We really need to look in detail to understand what happened in those-- in those stocks over the last couple of weeks. I would say that the core infrastructure of the markets, the plumbing, ability to trade, clearing settlement, those infrastructures performed well. But we need to make sure that investors are adequately protected, that they understand the risks, and that we have fair and efficient markets. And we'll be looking into all of that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Madam Secretary, thank you for your time.

And we'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Coming up in our next half hour, a Super Bowl preview with our own James Brown. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION, so stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. Vaccine efforts around the world are also picking up speed. Senior foreign correspondent Liz Palmer reports from London.

(Begin VT)

ELIZABETH PALMER (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent/@CBSLizpalmer): Good morning. There was a good news milestone this week: The number of vaccinations given worldwide was greater for the first time than the number of new recorded COVID cases.

(Begin VT)

ELIZABETH PALMER: That's partly due to aggressive public health action. Like here in Brazil teams pushed into the Amazon to vaccinate people in remote villages who wouldn't have a hope of getting to an ICU, and the very first vaccine shipment arrived in South Africa this week. Such a big deal that officials, including the president, came out to welcome it in the pouring rain. But wherever there is vaccine in both the developing and the developed world there are plenty of takers. From Morocco to Sweden, where the majestic hall normally used to award the Nobel Peace Prize was being repurposed as a vaccination center. In spite of the progress, though, this pandemic is more lethal now than it was last spring. Twice as many people are dying daily than in mid-April 2020. With terrifying local surges, the worst of them at the moment in Portugal. It's got the highest death rate anywhere in the world. And it had to welcome German doctors and equipment to help. COVID has reminded millions that life in fleeting and precious. Take Rosario, hospitalized with COVID in Madrid, she was wheeled to see Fernando, her partner of fourteen years. He'd finally proposed to her, by text, from his bed, and she joyfully replied.


(End VT)

ELIZABETH PALMER: It's also worth noting, Margaret, that in this push to vaccine, there are some deliberate holdouts, notably New Zealand and Australia. They closed their borders early on. They have virtually no COVID cases. And so for now they have decided just to watch and wait.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Liz Palmer in London, thank you.

We want to go now to the World Health Organization's COVID-19 lead. That's Doctor Maria Van Kerkhove. She joins us from Geneva, Switzerland. Good to have you with us, Doctor.

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, PhD (World Health Organization COVID-19 Lead/@mvankerkhove): Hi, Margaret. Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're an epidemiologist. You specialize in zoonotics, which means you know a lot about how these viruses jump between species like COVID did. These new variants, you've described them as a combination of mutations all at the same time. What does that mean?

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: Mm-Hm. Well, these viruses change all the time, and-- and every time they replicate, the more they spread, the more changes that they can have. These are called mutations. These are individual changes in the genome itself. These variants have had a combination of mutations, which mean a number of mutations identified at the same time. And so that means that this clustering of these-- of these mutations happening at the same time are quite different than individual-level mutations. And we've had three such variants being reported, actually four such variants being reported in the last few months. The first in Denmark, the second reported from the United Kingdom, the third from the-- South Africa and the fourth from Brazil.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So which countries have actually been successful in-- in containing the virus and is there a common approach to their success?

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: Well, that's a great question. There's-- there is a common approach that many countries have taken to control the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including these virus variants that have been detected. And it's a combination of factors. It's in-- it's individual levels that we've-- individual-level measures that we've seen people take, you and I, in terms of our physical distancing, our mask wearing, our avoiding of crowded spaces, our opening of windows, our sneezing into our elbow. All of those measures are really critical, as well as government-led responses where we have all-of-government, all-of-society approach, where we're conducting active case finding, where we know where the virus is. We can support people who are infected through good clinical care. We make sure that those individuals are isolated. Any contacts of confirmed cases are provided supported quarantine so that if they are infected themselves, there is no opportunity for them to pass the virus to others, making sure that we open up our workplaces safely, our schools safely. It's a combination of factors, and many countries have done well in-- in having an aggressive approach to making sure that they have the testing, the tracing, the clinical care and really strong, empowered, enabled, and engaged communities. It's all of this. You hear us say a lot, do it all. This is what we mean by when we say do it all.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you're talking about things like enforcing quarantine, I-- it sounds like you're talking about Australia, New Zealand. Are those the best examples?

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: We have great examples all over the world of how countries have used these-- these combinations of factors. When I use the word "quarantine," I'm using this in the sense of contacts of confirmed cases. So when you have a case that is infected, that individual who is infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus needs to be provided with good clinical care, and they need to be isolated from others so that they don't have the opportunity to pass it to someone else.


MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: But before they go into isolation, they may have many contacts, and those contacts of individuals who-- of cases need to be provided supported quarantine, which means they're separated from others and provided food and care and safety and security for fourteen days while they wait and make sure that they're not infected themselves, they get a test themselves, but they don't have the opportunity to pass to others. South-- South Africa is-- is a good example where they got through their first peak, countries across Asia and the Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand. But, in fact, we've actually seen really strong responses across Europe during their first peak--


MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: --where over the summer months in Europe cases were down to single digits. And they showed us, and many countries across Africa, across Europe, across the Americas, have shown that they can drive transmission down. And this is really, really critical now that we have these virus variants being detected because the more opportunities this virus has to spread--


MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: --the more opportunities it has to change. So we need to make sure we prevent as many infections as we can.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which part of the world is going to be most complicated to vaccinate?

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: Ooh. That's a great question. We need to vaccinate people at-risk all over the world. So, I think there are different complicating factors in-- in different parts of the world for different reasons. But what we want to make sure that we do is, number one, that we have multiple safe and effective vaccines that are in production, that continue to be tested, continue to be studied, to continue to come online--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you concerned by this AstraZeneca report?

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: That we have good production capacities all over the world. Say that again-- say that again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you-- are you concerned by this reporting that AstraZeneca's vaccine may not be effective against the South African variant, B1351?

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: Yes. So the B1351 variant was identified-- first identified in South Africa, there's a number of studies that are underway to look at the response of the body, the immune response of the body, but also the impact of vaccination. There are some preliminary studies suggesting reduced efficacy, but, again, those studies aren't fully published yet. And our group, our-- our independent panel group on vaccinations, is meeting tomorrow to specifically discuss the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as the results coming out of South Africa to determine what does this mean in terms of the vaccines going forward. But this is why it's really, really critical that we have more than one safe and effective vaccine. We cannot rely on only one product, and that is not the goal of anyone around the world. So, that is definitely something we need to continue to push forward. But, again, vaccines are not just enough. It's vaccination that's really critical. We need to make sure everyone who is at risk, you know, the old-- elderly, people who are most at risk for severe disease, receive the vaccine--


MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: --in all countries around the world, as well as health workers all around the world, as opposed to everybody in just a handful of countries.

MARGARET BRENNAN: World Health Organization investigators a year after the outbreak began in China have now been allowed in to look at what happened on the ground. Is this just a show by the Chinese government?

MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: No, it's not. In fact, we have a team of ten international scientists. You called them investigators, but, indeed, they're-- they're scientists from a number of different technical fields, as well as people from WHO, my colleagues. And we have colleagues from FAO and OIE who are supporting the mission, as well. And this is-- these are studies that are ongoing to find the virus origins and understand the intermediate hosts. You know what were the zoonotic origins of this pandemic? And this is really, really critical from a public health perspective so that we know and we can take steps further to prevent this from happening again. They're very good discussions that are having on the ground. There are constructive exchanges between this international team from ten different countries, as well as the Chinese counterparts, looking at the earliest cases, looking at studies from the markets. They've had visits to hospitals. They've had visits to two laboratories, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology--


MARIA VAN KERKHOVE: --as well as visiting different levels of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control. So, we're hoping for the reports as soon as possible, and that will be made available as soon as it can be.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Doctor, thank you for your time this morning. Good luck to you.

We'll be right back with Doctor Scott Gottlieb.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to go now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. He sits on the board of Pfizer as well as Illumina, and he joins us this morning from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard from Doctor Van Kerkhove, and-- and she outlined all the mutations here. What is the bottom line from what she was laying out? I mean she did seem to indicate there are concerns about this AstraZeneca vaccine and its efficacy against B1351 out of South Africa.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think there's a rule of thumb we can assume that the vaccines are probably going to be about twenty percent less effective against these new variants from Brazil and South Africa, which has mutated some key regions of the protein that we target with our vaccines. We've seen that now in a Novavax trial, in the J&J trial, as well as with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The mRNA vaccines-- and I'm on the board of Pfizer, which developed one of those, are very efficacious. And so even if we see a reduction in the efficacy of those vaccines, and it may not be as profound with those vaccines, you're still getting very good protection with those vaccines. And, frankly, you're getting very good protection with the J&J vaccine as well. So I do think that the existing vaccines are going to offer reasonable protection against these new variants. And we also may be able to develop in a timely fashion, maybe in four to six months, a consensus strain that bakes in a lot of the different variation that we're seeing to have boosters available for the fall. So I think that there is a reasonable chance that we're going to be able to stay ahead of this virus as it mutates. Trevor Bedford at the Hutch has done some good work on this, and some people are speculating right now that this virus may have gone-- undergone a really significant evolutionary leap, if you will. It's mutated a lot all at once in different parts of the world, but it's not going to continue to mutate at the same rate. It may have reached a new fitness level, but-- but it's going to slow down. It's not going to continue to change as much. So we're going to be able to keep up with it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I asked the doctor about the probe underway in China. From your view, how important is it to know the origins of the first strain that-- that we learned of with COVID-19 in China?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think it's important from a political standpoint, and I think it's important from a public health standpoint, so we know what the risk is for future transmission, for future jumps from zoonotic sources into-- into the human population. And we kind of better understand the risk from coronaviruses more generally. I don't think we're going to find out and we're certainly not going to be able to find out with any level of certainty that's going to put to rest some of the speculation that this could have been a lab source. Now, most people believe that this was a zoonotic source. You know as well as I do, there's still speculation even in the government that it could have been from an accident in a laboratory. We know that that Wuhan laboratory was doing a lot of experimentation. It had a big repository of coronaviruses. I don't expect that the WHO mission is going to firmly put that to rest. We would need access to the source strains. I suspect they're not going to get that. That information, if it's available, the Chinese government would have that. And so far they have not made that available.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You told us on this program last Sunday that it was Miami and Southern California that you were most concerned about as hot spots for this B117 strain detected in the U.K. Are there-- are those still the areas of greatest concern for you?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yeah, and Florida's growing pretty significantly right now, between five and ten percent of the infections in Florida are B117, that U.K. variant, the more contagious variant and that's centered in southern Florida. I think that what's going to happen in Florida right now, they're continuing to show declines in new infections like the rest of the country. I think as the rest of the country continues to come down that curve, you're going to see a leveling off in Florida. And while I don't think that they're going to have another surge of infection, they could have persistent high infection because B117 is gaining a better-- better foothold in that part of the country. Southern California is probably right now about five percent of infections are B117. So they're a little further behind Florida. For the rest of the country, it's probably less than one percent all around the country. Now, there could be localized hotspots--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --particular counties where you have an outbreak of B117 but I think for the most part around the country it's probably too little, too late. We'll probably be able to get ahead of it with our vaccines and the seasonal effect from the warming weather.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Getting ahead of it's a good thing. The CDC is expected to release guidelines this week on how to safely reopen schools. The CDC director said vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite. What should be a prerequisite?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I think the prerequisite is putting in place mitigation steps in the schools. The school districts that have reopened successfully and it was good data out of North Carolina where they did some sys-- systematic research looking at the experience in those schools which were open, showed that when they wear masks, when they distance, when they try to take precautions in the classroom, there's very little transmission within the classroom. The schools are not a vector of transmission and especially children under the age of fourteen are less likely to both get infected and transmit the infection. I think it certainly would be good to be able to prioritize teachers to get them vaccinated so they're not at risk from contracting the infection and spreading the infection. But I don't think it's necessarily a prerequisite. I think schools have demonstrated that they can open safely if they take precautions in the classroom.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When it comes to getting vaccines out there, we know retail pharmacies will begin receiving shipments this week. The Biden administration is sticking with that Trump plan of giving doses based on population. Is this the best way to get doses into the arms of the public?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think for now. You know they've made a lot of progress. We've had some days where there's two million vaccines that have been delivered. I think we're going to see that more consistently. That's going to be the run rate. As we get into March, by the end of March, we'll have delivered two hundred and fifty million vaccines onto the market if the J&J vaccine gets authorized and in April we'll probably deliver another hundred million vaccines onto the market. If you assume a sixty-forty split between first doses and second doses, you assume about sixty percent of the supply that's coming onto the market is going to first doses--


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: --by the end of March we'll have delivered a hundred and fifty million vaccines and in April, another sixty million, we're going to run out of demand. I mean I think we need to start thinking about the demand side of this equation soon.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Doctor Gottlieb, good to talk to you as always.

And we'll be back with a preview of Super Bowl LV. Stay with us.


KENAN THOMPSON (SNL/Broadway Video): Hello, and welcome to the Super Bowl, four hours of television for eleven minutes of action. I am James, no, not that one, Brown. As everyone at home knows, this year has been anything but normal. The pandemic, racial and political divisions, Armie Hammer, but today we come together in a spirit of unity to watch football and murder billions of chickens for their delicious wings.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That, of course, was not CBS, but about last night's Saturday Night Live. And we want to go now to the real James Brown. JB is CBS News special correspondent and host of the NFL Today. But really, JB, you don't need any introduction here. How are you doing?

JAMES BROWN (CBS News Special Correspondent/@JBsportscaster/Host, The NFL Today): Margaret, I didn't see the beginning of SNL. My text messages started blowing up as I'm trying to go to bed last night, but that's an appropriate opening to say the least. So I'm looking forward to it. And thank you for giving me a little bit of levity to start.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, congratulations

. This is your tenth Super Bowl, I understand. But, I mean, you-- I have no doubt, have never seen anything quite like pulling this off in the midst of a pandemic. What is going to be different this year?

JAMES BROWN: Well, the fact that we won't have a packed house, that adds immeasurably to any big event, the pomp and circumstance of it and the excitement of the fans, we won't have that. But the players will be thrilled to have at least the twenty-two to twenty-five thousand who will be there. That really does influence them significantly. Obviously, a lot of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Super Bowl, the parties, the celebrations and all of those things have been nonexistent. So it's a little different that way, but we're glad to get to this point. Heavens, who would've thunk it that we would have gone through seventeen weeks of the regular season, getting two hundred and fifty-six games in, and now we're at the Super Bowl, but that's a real tribute to the players, the teams, and the coaches who have-- who have adhered to the COVID protocols, by and large, throughout this season. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it's significant that there even is a Super Bowl. But I'm wondering, JB, what are you hearing about what comes next for the league? Are we going to see athletics get vaccinated or be part of sort of a public relations push to encourage Americans to go get that shot in the arm?

JAMES BROWN: Excellent question. A number of players are doing that at present. And I'm certain, given that you're involved in news full time, you know that there has been a bit of a challenge in communities of color to embrace the vaccinations. So you see a number of the athletes, especially those of color, who are doing PSAs to encourage people. You know, personally, it's-- I say it's a personal decision, do your homework and examine it to see what makes sense for you. But there is a push. I would think we'll see a lot more of that. However, the other elephant in the room is I've been told by league officials that they will not advocate for having a priority position in terms of being vaccinated, because as you well know with the sobering news surrounding this, there are far more people who are in need of that as opposed to athletes trying to move to the front of the line.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. We spoke to the head of the Players Association about that question the other day, DeMaurice Smith. And-- and he shared with us something else that I want to get your reaction to, and that is frustration, frankly, among many players, with the lack of diversity among coaching staff in particular. And he said, "Unfortunately, we've had some former coaches of color who I think have given excuses, or cover, for the league in this." There's some sharp words. What do you make of that assessment?

JAMES BROWN: Well, you know, today on our pre-game show, I'm going to address that very issue with a commentary of my own, coming off of an excellent but sobering piece that's entitled "Before Jackie," meaning before Jackie Robinson. And that would be in the four o'clock hour of our pregame show. And it addresses, sadly, part of the history was there were a number of owners back in 1953, who collaborated and consciously deliberately made a decision to eliminate Black players from the league. And it was thirteen years later before when the team moved to California, Los Angeles, specifically, playing in a stadium that was in a minority community, meaning they paid taxpayer dollars, and they said they weren't going to allow it. And that's when Kenny Washington broke the color barrier. So the fact is, sadly, there is a history that I know definitively, that Roger Goodell, the commissioner, Troy Vincent, the highest ranking African-American, have done everything possible to create an environment and a culture to that. And the bottom line is equality of opportunity is all that is sought. Male and female, there's no division. I'm so happy to see full-time female assistants on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that you'll get a chance to see. And bottom line, there's a McKinsey report that came out in May 2020 that said, "Diversity wins; inclusion matters." We have a wonderful mosaic here in America, people of all hues and stripes. And excellence comes in all hues and stripes, so why not take advantage of that to improve the bottom line and the culture and winning with that attitude.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know-- you know, football and activism really became a-- a hot topic in the past few years. Where does that conversation go next? Is it coaches or is it in another direction?

JAMES BROWN: Coaches, quite frankly, are low-hanging fruit. Look, when the league was opened up to diversity, it's not surprising that half the number of players who are in the Hall of Fame are players of color, Black players, specifically. The same thing I'm going to be talking with Amy Trask who is, has been and still is, sadly, the only female CEO of a team. It's going to continue to move forward because I think people see that and embrace it, and it only makes sense.

MARGARET BRENNAN: JB, it's always good to get your reflections. Good luck to you today. Thanks for joining us.

JAMES BROWN: Hey, by the way, Margaret, Kenan Alan-- Kenan on SNL, he had a better hairline than me, and his mini Afro looked a lot better than my micro Afro. But thank you for having me on, anyway.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I like the real JB.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: There's more from the head of the NFL Players union, DeMaurice Smith, on our latest podcast. We hope you'll listen and enjoy today's game safely. For FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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