On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Sen. Tammy Duckworth, (D-IL)
- Sen. Rob Portman, (R-OH)
- Mayor Eric Garcetti, (D-Los Angeles)
- Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Former Chief Adviser for Operation Warp Speed
- Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner
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, familiar crises challenge this country and the Biden administration. One presidential goal down: One hundred million COVID vaccinations in not one hundred but only fifty-eight days. But is the race to reopen outpacing the dash to vaccinate enough Americans in order to shut down the virus. Los Angeles County was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak just two months ago; now they're reopening. We'll hear from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. Former Operation Warp Speed chief scientific adviser Doctor Moncef Slaoui and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb will also be here. A shooting rampage in Atlanta puts the spotlight on an ugly consequence of the coronavirus. A steep increase in violence against Asian-Americans particularly women.
KAMALA HARRIS: Racism is real in America, and it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been. Sexism, too.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth about the push to pass new laws protecting Asian-Americans from hate crimes. Plus, the ping-pong politics of blame starts up again with a record number of migrant children crossing the southern border. President Biden has faced this challenge before as VP. Does he have any new solutions now?
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Do you repeat what Trump did? Take them from their mothers, to move them away, hold them in cells, etcetera? We're not doing that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The top Republican on the Senate Committee that deals with border security, Ohio's Rob Portman is just back from the region.
It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. It is the second official day of spring, a season that brings with it the complications of warmer weather. This year it's spring break, and a spring surge in unaccompanied children at the southern border as they seek a better life in the U.S. We've got a lot to get to today, and we begin with senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann.
MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News Senior National Correspondent): Despite a curfew and the pandemic, Miami Beach jammed with spring breakers last night until police fired pepper balls to break up the party.
MAN #1: We've got too many people coming, and we have COVID at the same time.
MARK STRASSMANN: Irresponsibility unmasked. To health officials, this is the other March Madness.
MAN #2: You can hardly see the sand because all of the umbrellas on the beach.
MARK STRASSMANN: And reverse COVID progress. Over the last two months, new cases and daily deaths both have plummeted. But--
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI (Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden): You are seeing increases in number of cases per day.
MARK STRASSMANN: The so-called U.K. variant blamed for up to thirty percent of new infections. Viral spread. The TSA reports eight straight days of more than one million people flying. Relaxed COVID restrictions, and resentful attitudes, like this mask burning in Arizona.
WOMAN #1: We are the people, and we're done putting a muzzle on our face.
MARK STRASSMANN: In the vaccine rollout, more than forty-three million Americans have been fully vaccinated. Over half of them age sixty-five and over.
But there's no vaccine for COVID-era racism. Three spas here in Atlanta became homicide scenes, eight murder victims, six of them Asian women. The confessed killer could face Georgia's new hate crime law. And the murders spotlight at the increasing risk to Asian-Americans.
(Woman #2 speaking foreign language)
MARK STRASSMANN: "You bump," this seventy-five-year-old woman yelled in Chinese. In San Francisco she beat her attacker bloody with a stick.
GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D-California): It's painful and infuriating at the same time. The hell is wrong with us?
MARK STRASSMANN: During the pandemic, thousands of Asian-Americans have been assaulted, physically and verbally.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: They've been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed. We cannot be complicit.
MARK STRASSMANN: It's a COVID contradiction. Vaccines have made millions of us feel more protected, but many Asian-Americans feel more vulnerable than ever.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That's Mark Strassmann in Atlanta.
And we want to go now to the West Coast and the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. Good morning to you, Mister Mayor. You--
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-Los Angeles/@MayorOfLA): Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You run the second largest city in the country. When we spoke last in January, it was the epicenter of a COVID outbreak. Now we're at fifty thousand infections a day. Are you confident there is not a fourth wave coming?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Oh, COVID makes you never confident, but hope really hangs on the horizon. I haven't felt this optimism in twelve months, Margaret. Here in Los Angeles we have a positivity rate of 1.9 percent, and we estimate that anywhere between half and two-thirds of our population has antibodies in it now--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Wow.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: --either because of exposure to COVID-19 and vaccination. So it is a very different context than when openings happened last July or when openings didn't happen in December. But we still saw this virus burn through our city. So this is a very, very optimistic moment. And we're doing a lot of work to make sure that vaccines don't just get to all of our population, but get to every community as well through a lot of equity programs Doctor Fauci has praised--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: --as some of the best in the country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yet the CDC said this week that you have two variants of concern, B.1.427 and 1.429. How do you know that L.A. isn't opening fast-- too fast, too soon?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Well, you never know, but you have to follow the data and the data is very clear. If we were a state right now, we'd have the second lowest positivity rate. And our state of California right now, I think, is the third lowest case rate in the country. I believe that some of those variants have burned through Los Angeles. It's the only way to really explain what happened in December and January when we still had the same level of closures as a month or two before and we didn't have that case rate. So I think that our population really is much stronger, our vaccinations are accelerating and we can take these steps. It was a year to the date that we closed down movie theaters, restaurants, first big city in America--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: --to do that, March 12th. It was that date that we now have reopened those places cautiously, with the lessons learned. But it's time to get things moving. It's time to get our economy started. It's time to start hugging our loved ones again. And, certainly, that comes from getting a vaccine.
MARGARET BRENNAN: On vaccines, since before the Biden administration took office, you have been petitioning Joe Biden for direct shipments to your city instead of going first through the state. Why are they blowing off your requests?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Well, we still keep asking as cities. And I want to praise the Biden administration where we've seen them hit their targets early. We've seen vaccines ramp up, a lot of support--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you said--
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: --for the mega sites, mobile teams--
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said a few days ago you can't meet the President's target of May 1st opening up all vaccinations because he's not giving you enough supply.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: I didn't say those words. What I've said is you give us more and we have double the capacity today. So I look forward to when those deliveries come in for us to be able to do that. And I think cities across our country, mayors have been very clear, are the right places to add more vaccines. And I'll continue saying that to our friends in the administration. I'll keep saying that especially when cities are larger sometimes than most states. We're larger than twenty-three states.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: L.A. County is larger than forty-five states. Give us more, we'll get them into arms.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. So now you think you can hit that deadline. So California, though, when you rank it by the CDC numbers that we looked at, it is among the most unequal states. I know you're talking about the city you control, but you also said in a speech at Harvard that many of these deaths could have been prevented if it had been distributed by zip code, really targeted. Have you talked to your friend--
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Yes. No, I believe that--
MARGARET BRENNAN: --Gavin Newsom about his plan? And-- and did you tell him you were frustrated?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Mm-Hm. Yes, we've talked and he actually did-- did a great move by making sure that forty percent of all of our vaccines, and I don't know if other states have done this, but forty percent of them are targeted now towards the most vulnerable. That's allowing us to be able to put that into zip codes with mobile teams. We actually deliver vaccines now to people in their homes, and we're working with local, community-based organizations. But I look forward to when the federal regulations release our handcuffs and allow us to target anybody in a hotspot. I think that is probably two or three weeks away. And when we can do that, we can make sure even as our numbers have plummeted here, some of our lowest hospitalizations in a year, that'll allow us, if there is anything that comes up quickly, go into the geography of a neighborhood, knock it down before it spreads throughout a city.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you say two to three weeks away, what are you talking about? Which restrictions?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: I think that is the time when we'll have enough supply to be able to have states and, or the federal government to allow us to go into the hardest-hit zip codes and just say, look, anybody, regardless of age, can be vaccinated there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about this really troubling spike in hate crimes because your city has really experiencing--
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: Mm-Hm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: --experienced them when it comes to Asian Americans. Last year, you cut around a hundred and fifty million dollars from the police budget. Because of these Black Lives Matter protests you reprogrammed those funds. Do you need to push that money back to the LAPD so they can police this kind of ethnic targeting?
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: No, I think that's the wrong frame. We are reimagining public safety together with our police department. We know that things like hate crime need both a police response and education, reporting mechanism, civilians and community-based groups that can help be the eyes and ears. And we have no tolerance for this hate here in Los Angeles, a great city filled with folks of Asian American and Pacific Islander descent. And we have seen attacks, footsteps away from where I'm talking from you today. We had an attack here in Koreatown just a couple of weeks ago.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: And we are putting together some of the best programs in the country. LAPD is absolutely part of that. But that-- no, that's absolutely the false kind of dichotomy. For us you need to make sure that there is a police officer to answer. And we have more patrols this year, even with cuts that every department--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI: --including our police department hit because of the fiscal crisis and also making investments in the human side of this to make sure community organizations are well-funded, too.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Mister Mayor, thank you for your time this morning. We want to take a closer look at this specific issue with this wave of racist attacks on Asian-Americans. Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth joins us now from Capitol Hill. Good morning to you, Senator.
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-Illinois/@SenDuckworth): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard Mayor Garcetti talk about what's happening in his city. I want to ask you as well about what happened this week in Atlanta. The FBI director, Chris Wray, says that local investigators, they've got the lead, but from where he sits so far, it doesn't look like these shootings were racially motivated. From where you sit, is he wrong?
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Well, from where I sit, I want to see a deeper investigation into whether or not these shootings and other similar crimes are racially motivated. It looks racially motivated to me, but I'm not, you know, I'm-- I'm not a police officer. I'm not investigating the crimes. What I have done, though, is I have actually sent a letter to Director Wray and to Attorney General Garland asking for a deeper investigation into crimes that involve Asian-Americans to see how many crimes have actually been underreported as hate crimes. We know that crimes against Asian-Americans that have been ca-- categorized as hate crimes have increased by over hundred and fifty percent in our nation's major cities. That's over thirty-eight hundred additional crimes last year. But we also know that many of these crimes go underreported as hate crimes and are just classified as a mugging or harassment or vandalism when really they were targeted at Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in particular.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Earlier this month, when Director Wray appeared before Congress, he was pressed on what he was doing. He said that the FBI is already trying to address this with training, liaison events. He said they put out intelligence reports about what's happening in the Asian community. What more does federal law enforcement need to be doing? And-- and don't they already have a civil rights division dealing with these kind of crimes?
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Well, they do, but the problem is the crimes often are not reported as a hate crime or race-motivated crime at the scene with the local police officers because people just don't see Asian-Americans as a minority group that gets attacked on a regular basis. Now, if you're Asian-American like me and my family, you know it happens on a regular basis. But oftentimes these crimes just get reported in some other way. Or when you say, hey, I think it was race motivated, it doesn't-- the authorities don't pay attention to that and just reclassify them. And that is what I've asked Director Wray and Attorney General Garland to take a deeper dive into. Let's-- let's relook at all of these crimes involving Asian-Americans. And let's see how-- how bad is this underreported.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. I want to ask you about another dimension to this issue that I thought was raised in an interesting framing by the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. They have a front-page story saying before the killing spree in that city, Georgia let an industry that exploits Asian women flourish. Given the national conversation around commodification and exploitation of Asian women in this country, I wonder what you think of this idea. Were those women in Atlanta essentially being exploited and-- and victimized twice?
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Well, I think that any time that you're part of a minority group, especially one with reduced power, you are much more susceptible to being exploited. And that's why I want us to take a deeper look at the situation here. Asian women in particular have been commoditized. Asian women in particular have this stereotype against them that they are weak and submissive, and they've been over-sexualized. And so what happens is that they become the victims of crimes far more often. I mean, these increases in hate crimes against Asian-Americans in the last year, two-thirds of them were against Asian women.
MARGARET BRENNAN;' Mm-Hm.
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: We really have to deal with this situation, but we need the real data as to what is going on here so we can fix it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The president on Friday endorsed a bill I know you are a co-sponsor of-- of called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. All the co-sponsors are Democrats. Do you have any pledges from Republicans to sign on?
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: We don't at this time. And it's astonishing to me. I mean, the House passed a bill that actually condemn-- was a resolution against hate crimes against Asian-Americans tied to COVID. And, you know, we had actually Republicans who voted against it. And Mitch McConnell at the time, because Republicans were in charge, wouldn't even let us vote on it in the Senate. I mean how-- where can you be that you would not be willing to vote on a bill that would condemn violence against any group of Americans?
MARGARET BRENNAN: We will look for an answer to that question. On immigration, I want to ask you, President Obama, as you recall, was heavily criticized. He was even called the deporter-in-chief. President Biden now is coming under heavy criticism for this crisis at the U.S. border. From where you sit, does the administration need to send a stronger message to discourage migrants from making the trek to the U.S.?
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Well, let's-- let's make that clear. We have a situation at the border, and that is as a result of four years of failed policies, inhumane policies and a systematic dismantling of the asylum system by Donald Trump. We all saw what Donald Trump can do in terms of damages in a single day on January 6th. And he's had four years to basically undermine our nation's immigration system. He dismantled--
MARGARET BRENNAN: But they're coming now.
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Right. But they-- but you know what? It's-- as a result of him dismantling the asylum system and the pathways to-- for seeking asylum that used to exist, I know that President Biden is going to be committed to repairing that system that Donald Trump broke in order to make it not only more-- work better, but also to make it humane so that these kids and other migrants can actually apply for asylum in their home countries without coming here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: You know, Donald Trump stopped aid to the Northern Triangle countries. He did everything he could to dismantle the system which led to the crisis we're in now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Quickly, Secretary of Defense Austin was in Afghanistan this morning. In about forty days, U.S. troops are scheduled to be pulled out. Do you think President Biden should leave a residual force? And how big and for how long?
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Well, I think that Secretary Austin is there taking a look on the ground and I would listen to the military commanders. I've long said what we need to do is to eliminate the old AUMF, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, vote on a new one. But listen to the military commanders on the ground along with our allies. So I'm-- I'm really anxiously waiting to hear back from Secretary Austin, what he finds in Afghanistan and what his recommendations are going to be. Again, I want American troops to come home, but I also want to fight the bad guys over there instead of allowing them to come here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Duckworth, thank you for your time this morning.
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: FACE THE NATION will be back in a minute. Don't go away.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Biden administration is faced with a growing crisis at the southern border as the number of unaccompanied migrant children in custody has now surpassed fifteen thousand. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman toured several border facilities in Texas last week. He joins us from Cincinnati. Good morning to you, Senator.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN (R-Ohio/@senrobportman): Good morning, Margaret. Thanks for having me on.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You just heard the numbers. You heard your Democratic colleague, Senator Duckworth, lay this at the feet of the last President. The problem right now is with this current administration. Their message this morning is a clear, do not come. Will those words change what is happening?
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: No. I mean people are going to listen to actions and watch actions and not listen to words, and-- and I spoke to a number of migrants. I spoke to single individuals who are coming over at night, men who told me that they'd heard what President Biden said and they were coming anyway because they could make a lot more, ten times more in the United States. I talked to children and talked to them about the messaging. And what they're hearing is that you can now come into the United States, which you can as-- as a kid. And so they're going to keep coming. And the-- the problem here is that the Biden administration on day one made about a half-dozen changes and since then have made several more that encouraged more people to come to the border. And they didn't put anything in place to deal with it, either another policy to discourage people from coming, which the President says he wants to do. Or to put the preparations in place, including the shelters and the holding facilities that are-- that have been so criticized. And I saw some of them the other day. Kids are overcrowded. They're in situations you would never want your kid to be in. And so it's irresponsible. And, you know, they say, well, it's more humane. I don't think it's humane to encourage kids to make this treacherous journey north and then have to live in these kind of conditions--
MARGARET BRENNAN: So--
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: --so we need to change course.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Specifically, on that issue of children. You know, the-- the Biden administration has kept the Trump administration policy, that-- that Title 42, of during the pandemic, pushing people back across the border without due process because of this pandemic. But they are allowing children to stay. Are you saying children should be expelled even if they're trying to seek asylum?
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: Well, it's not so much a matter of expelling kids it's a matter of telling them that they're not going to be able to come across the border during the public health crisis and, yes, I think Title 42 ought to stay in--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, they are in U.S. custody because they're not being expelled.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: Well, exactly. So-- so now it's a different situation. But what I'm saying is that we ought to put in place the provisions that were in place previously while we prepare ourselves. I mean, I think there are five things that we-- we can do and should do right away. One is to help the Border Patrol, they're overwhelmed. Finish the small parts of the wall that haven't been completed because it's silly. You've got openings in the wall that's making the Border Patrol job impossible. Provide the technology for them, even more important than-- than the wall. Second, stop the magnet of-- of work by putting a mandatory E-Verify system in place. And then third, let's deal with this asylum issue in a-- in a much more logical way. Let's have rapid adjudications at the border. This was a pilot program started in the Trump administration. It was stopped. Let's put that back in place. Let's put the resources into that so people can find out right away. Do they-- do they qualify or not? Right now, as you know, it's four or five, six years before they know. Meanwhile, they're living in the United States. We know that only about half of them even show up for their court cases. No wonder they're in the United States for-- for several years. And at the end of the day, only fifteen percent of them qualify. So it's-- it's a bad situation. Finally, in terms of the third country agreements--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: --that the Biden administration entered right away, let's allow these-- these kids to seek asylum and families and individuals in their country of origin, but also in third countries. So as an example if you're in Honduras and you're coming up, you can apply in Guatemala--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: --or you can apply in Mexico. That makes a lot more sense. So encouraging these kids to come is not a humane thing, and it's certainly overwhelming our system. So--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well. I want to-
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: --there's a much better way to do this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Specifically, let me ask you about one thing in particular the White House is asking for. They want four billion in aid over the next four years, a billion a year for Central America to help the countries of origin basically keep their people within their own borders. You have oversight. Is that a reasonable number?
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: Probably. I mean, let's face it, Margaret, we've spent 3.6 billion dollars, so roughly that amount, in the last five years in those three countries in the Northern Triangle, alone, so El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. There's a lot of corruption down there. They've also had issues and natural disasters, including the hurricanes. So, you know, it hasn't made much of a difference in terms of the poverty rates. It's a little better. And, of course, we should work on that. Everything I talked about earlier, were sort of to stop the pull-factors because there are obviously millions of people around the world who would love to come, so you need to reduce the pull-factors. On the push-factors, I'm for that, but it's going to take many years, some say a decade to make any substantial difference. So let's begin the process. But let's be sure we do two things. One, let's tie that aid to them helping us in terms of the asylum process and working through this issue that otherwise overwhelms our system. And second, let's tie the aid to actually dealing with the corruption and make sure that there-- there is transparency, there-- there is a-- an adherence to the rule of law so that we can actually make the fundamental changes in these countries to be able to help those people rather than just sending--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: --more money down as we-- as we have been doing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly, will you press DHS to give journalists access, yes or no?
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: Absolutely. I mean this should be transparent.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: I mean, it's amazing to me how little my constituents know about what's going on down along the border. And--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: --it was a situation spiraling out of control.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: As the Rio Grande Valley sector chief--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: --just said in-- in a tweet yesterday, there is no end in sight. I mean this is not fair to the Border Patrol and others within our immigration system trying to--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: --deal with it. And there are things that can and should be done to deal with it. And I hope--
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right.
SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: --the Biden administration will do that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Portman, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: On our new episode of Facing Forward, I spoke with the founder of the world's largest hedge fund Ray Dalio. A new episode drops every Friday. You can subscribe on Apple podcast or your favorite podcast platform.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with former chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed, Doctor Moncef Slaoui and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We want to take a look at the COVID situation around the world. Senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports from Tel Aviv.
ELIZABETH PALMER (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent/@CBSLizpalmer): Margaret, good morning from Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations. Eighty percent of the people over sixty here have been immunized.
ELIZABETH PALMER: The U.K. is doing well, too. Nine out of ten adults over sixty-five have now had a shot. At the hospital where he almost died of COVID a year ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson got his.
BORIS JOHNSON: I literally did not feel a thing.
ELIZABETH PALMER: But in mainland Europe, things are going from bad to worse. Its COVID death toll passed the million marked on Friday and infections are surging. Parisians rushed to leave the city before a new lockdown put a stop to travel as of this weekend. Those left behind will be able to meet outside for exercise, but not much else. The vaccine rollout in Europe has been slow, plagued with politics, supply problems and last week a shutdown in the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine because of an alleged link to blood clots. Regulators say there's nothing to worry about, but this facility in Germany shows the fallout, plenty of vaccine, just no costumers. Scientists say this mess will cost thousands of lives. Also struggling is Brazil, where authorities closed Copacabana Beach in Rio. With infections rising almost three thousand Brazilians died of COVID-19 on Friday alone. And, finally, in Mexico, public health in action. Wrestlers took masks to the maskless. Resistance was futile.
ELIZABETH PALMER: Here in Israel, the effect of the mass vaccinations is clear, deaths are down to under ten a day, and the economy has pretty much fully reopened. Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Liz, thank you.
As part of our continuing efforts to learn from experience in terms of the coronavirus pandemic, we spoke Saturday with Doctor Moncef Slaoui, the former chief scientific adviser of Operation Warp Speed, the vaccine development effort under the Trump administration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden has said that the Trump administration had not contracted for enough vaccine doses when he took office. As recently as a month ago, Biden blamed the Trump administration, saying:
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN (February 18): America had no real plan to vaccinate most of the country. My predecessor had failed to order enough vaccines, failed to mobilize the effort to administer the shots, failed to set up vaccine centers. That changed the moment we took office.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that fair?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI (Former Chief Scientific Adviser for Operation Warp Speed): I think this is a very negative description of the reality. I do think that we had plans. And, in fact, ninety percent of what's happening now is the plan that we had. Of course, the first thing was to accelerate the development of the vaccine. We contracted specifically a hundred million doses of vaccine, but also built into the contract options to acquire more vaccines once we knew they are effective. And the plan was to order more vaccines when-- when we knew they are more effective. So I think what's happening is right. But I think what's happening is, frankly, what was the plan. Substantially, what was the plan.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You say ninety percent of what's happening now is what you put into place?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: I think in terms of manufacturing and supply and distribution, which is the physical shipment of vaccine to immunization site, the answer is yes, because there's a ramp up in manufacturing, as always happens. And that's what we are experiencing and seeing. I do think that in terms of immunization and shots in arms, in particular, the large vaccination sites in sports arenas and-- and the likes and the participation of FEMA, those were not parts of the plan and they are participating to accelerate, I think to some extent, the immunization. But the bulk of vaccine distribution is happening in the health care centers and now in the pharmacies. And that was all part of the plan.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Where do you think that there were flaws in-- in the strategy because certainly on the vaccine rollout, we hear from governors, we hear from those who have to do this last mile of administering it, that there were problems, that there still are problems.
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: I think we have failed to communicate the fact that vaccine doses availability is going to be, you know, slow over time because-- because we went so fast. There is no stock of vaccine. It was impossible to have enough vaccine doses quickly enough compared to the expectations. So we were unable, as we communicated in the month of November and December and January, to-- to manage the expectation. In the actual immunization, the approach taken was a philosophical approach that was frankly part of what the previous administration philosophy is, which is the federal government is going to provide vaccine. The states should be accountable for actually immunizing. And that's-- that's the principle on which we have worked. Clearly, there was a need for the states to actually learn, which they did in reality. And that-- that's how improvements are happening now and also for the central government to participate to that learning process and-- and accelerate it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the things that President Biden did do was to get Merck, a competitor to Johnson & Johnson, to step up and help them produce supply to make up for their own shortfall. Did Operation Warp Speed have the manufacturing plan like that in place?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: So the discussion with Merck had started already prior to the new administration taking office, including discussions around making available their facilities for-- definitely on the short term doing what's called the fill finish, which-- which is the putting vaccines into the sterile vials and then over a longer period of time to manufacture the bulk vaccine itself. And they have been completed under this administration. And I think it's very, very good.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Just to clarify, was President Trump going to order Merck to do this?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: No, no, no. But we had discussion, the HHS had discussions with Merck to come to an agreement to use Merck's facilities for pandemic purposes. Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think that President Trump's refusal to concede the election caused problems in the handoff to the Biden administration when it comes to vaccines?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: Things didn't start very quickly. I don't think there's been in terms of execution and operations, I don't think there was any changes or delays. Maybe in terms of ownership and full understanding by the new administration of what was going on, it's possible that it was not as-- as fast as normally it should have been.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What we are seeing now, Doctor Slaoui, in our own CBS polling is that Republicans, particularly those under the age of sixty-five, are showing hesitation to taking a shot in the arm. What do you attribute that to?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: I'm very concerned, very concerned that for political motivation, people decide to actually place themselves and the people around them in harms' way by refusing to be vaccinated. I think-- I think we need to do every effort we can to explain to people that vaccines have nothing to do with politics. These vaccines are safe. They are highly effective. They're going to help them protect themselves and protect the people around them from the spread of this virus and critically from the potential appearance of new variants.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you think Republicans are now hesitant to take it?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: I-- I don't know. It's beyond my rational thinking. I'm a scientist, not a politician, but I would hope that President Trump and others in the Republican Party should really work hard to engage more Republicans to accept to be vaccinated.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump has said he's taken the vaccine, but he chose not to do so on camera. Do you think that would have made a difference?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: I do think it makes a difference. I think people project images and can convey important messaging.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The response to the virus continues to be a political issue. This week Senator Rand Paul mocked Doctor Fauci for continuing to mask after he was vaccinated.
SENATOR RAND PAUL (Thursday): We're not spreading the infection. Isn't it just theater?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI (Thursday): No, it's not.
SENATOR RAND PAUL: You have the vaccine and you're wearing two masks. Isn't that theater?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: No, this is not-- here we go again with the theater.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think people who've been vaccinated need to still wear masks?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: I do think as long as the herd immunity levels have not yet been attained, that people who have been vaccinated should continue wearing a mask when in public and in crowded areas because what we don't know yet is whether the vaccine prevents replication of the virus. It's an act of, frankly, you know, civility I would say, vis-a-vis the people around us who have not yet been vaccinated. So, yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you feel like you're stigmatized for having worked for the Trump administration?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: With time, the one thing I want to focus on is I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to help and participate to allow us to have vaccine and control this pandemic. That's the only thing that counts. There were moments, frankly, where I told myself, oh, my God, why did I get myself into this? But they never lasted long because the-- the mission is way more important than-- than-- than those emotional moments. I do believe that it's a mistake to politicize a health issue. It's a big mistake. Many people probably have died or suffered because the whole situation became so political that, you know, emotions overtook rationality.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Elizabeth Warren took aim at you because you had worked for Moderna, a company that was part of Operation Warp Speed. You then went and you sold your stock in the company, so this came at a cost to you. But you're saying you think it was worth it?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: It did come at a very significant financial cost to me, to be honest, and it is worth it. I had major issues with Senator Elizabeth Warren because, as I told her in a video, I don't know you and, therefore, I don't judge your values. You don't know me. You can't decide because I was a pharmaceutical executive that I am a corrupt person and I'm doing this to make money because that's-- I know that's not the case. And I worked for nine months, day and night. I wasn't paid. I didn't ask to be paid. I didn't want to be paid. I sold my shares in Moderna. The one thing I decided I didn't want to do was my-- selling my shares in GlaxoSmithKline, but I agreed to give any gains, if they were to happen, to research. I couldn't do more than that. And, frankly, now it's behind me. The one thing that counts is we have vaccines, and I'm glad I was part of the team that helped deliver that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Bottom line, do you think America is prepared for the next pandemic, and what do you think needs to be done differently now by the current administration?
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: We have to be better prepared, and the preparedness, in my view, should in particular include availability of manufacturing capabilities, which means manufacturing sites, manufacturing equipment and manufacturing people that are running the manufacturing of vaccines on an ongoing basis. We should be having laboratories and manufacturing sites dedicated to discovering, developing, manufacturing, and stockpiling vaccines, even if they are not useful now against known potential pathogens that can be pandemic agents. I think it's imperative. I think it's a matter that may cost five hundred million or a billion dollars a year. It's a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of the pandemic on a daily basis.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor Slaoui, thank you for your time today.
DR. MONCEF SLAOUI: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Our full interview with Doctor Slaoui is on our website at facethenation.com.
We'll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. He sits on the board of Pfizer as well as Illumina, and he joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning to you.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We-- when we spoke last Sunday you were very concerned about New York City and this new variant, 1.526 that's been circulating. You said you would be very cautious. What do we know now?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I'm still concerned about it. We're seeing cases and hospitalizations go down across New York, so that's a good-- good sign. Although testing has also plummeted. When you look in certain parts of New York, Brooklyn, parts of Queens, parts of Staten Island, the positivity rate is approaching fifteen percent. So you're seeing a lot of infection surging in pockets of New York City. What we don't understand with 1.526 is whether or not people are being reinfected with it and whether or not people who might have been vaccinated are now getting infected with it. One of the concerns about this particular variant is that it has that mutation that's also in the South African variant, the-- in the 1.351 variant, that we know in certain cases is causing people who have already had coronavirus to get reinfected with it. And so the question is-- is whether 1.526 is responsible for some of the increases that we're seeing in New York right now and whether this is the-- the beginning of a new outbreak inside the city. We're just not very good right now at collecting the cases and linking it back to the clinical experience. So we need to step in much more aggressively and start sequencing cases, especially people who report that they either were previously vaccinated or already had COVID.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you say we, you mean the CDC. Who needs to do that?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: The CDC, I mean, they need to work with the New York City Public Health Department, but the city alone isn't going to have the resources to do this on a systematic basis. I think they're going to step in and start to do that. But they need to be aggressively marketing to doctors, asking doctors to come forward and report cases where they're seeing situations where people who were previously infected with COVID may be getting reinfected. We don't know that's happening. But, anecdotally, some doctors are reporting that now and that could potentially explain why you're seeing an upsurge in cases. It could just be that, you know, 1.526 and B.1.1.7 is becoming more prevalent and that's responsible in and of itself. But you want to make sure that it's not reinfecting people. Right now more than fifty percent of the infections in New York we know are with variants. And B1-- B1-- 1.526 is the most prevalent variant right now. We're probably undercounting it because we're biasing our-- our screening, our sequencing towards B.1.1.7. So we're probably missing cases of B.1.526 right now. It's probably more prevalent than what we're detecting.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When it comes to B.1.1.7, the variant first detected in the U.K., Doctor Fauci said this week it's about thirty percent of U.S. infections and it's, what, fifty percent more transmissible? It's also potentially more lethal. When you see these pictures of these spring break gatherings in Florida and elsewhere, does that make you rethink your projections here and worry about a fourth wave?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I don't think we're going to have a fourth wave, I think what we're seeing around the country is parts of the country that are plateauing, and we're seeing upticks in certain parts of the country. I think the fact that we have so much prior infection, a hundred twenty million Americans have been infected with this virus, the fact that we've now vaccinated, we've gotten one shot in at least seventy million Americans, even if you account for the fact that maybe about thirty percent of the people being vaccinated previously had COVID, we're talking about some form of protective immunity in about fifty-five percent of the population. So there's enough of a backstop here that I don't think you're going to see a fourth surge. I think what you could see is a plateauing for a period of time before we continue on a downward decline, in large part because B.1.1.7 is becoming more prevalent, in large part because we're pulling back too quickly with respect to taking off our masks and lifting the mitigation. But I still don't think that it's going to be enough to create a true fourth wave. If you look at in Europe, where they're having a true fourth wave, they've only vaccinated one in-- one in nine adults.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Here in the U.S., we've vaccinated one in three. In the U.K., which is seeing consistent declines, they've vaccinated one in two. So the vaccination is going to be a backstop, and we're continuing to vaccinate about three million people a day right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Mayor Garcetti of Los Angeles was essentially saying that. His hunch, it sounds like, is that these variants of concern in California already ripped through his population, that that's just what they saw with the epidemic in January. What do you think of his thesis?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: It's probably right. The-- the two variants that we're tracking in California probably have already become epidemic in that part of the country, and they probably have a level of prior immunity in the population that you're not going to see a true fourth wave. You might see a tick up, but once you get fifty, sixty percent of the public with some form of immunity, which is where we are in many parts of the country, there's not a lot of people left to infect. And, again, we're vaccinating against that. So we're continuing to put protective immunity into the population. I do think that the fact that we've sort of taken our foot off the brake a little too early here, March was always going to be a difficult month. People want to lean forward, but we really should have waited till April. The fact that we've done that now probably means that we're probably going to plateau. Maybe we'll see an uptick in certain parts of the country. The only thing that can be a real game-changer here is if we have a variant that pierces prior immunity, meaning it reinfects people who've either already been infected or who have been vaccinated, like the 1.351 variant, older P.1 variant, the one in Brazil. Now, those variants aren't epidemic in the U.S. They're just sporadic. But 1.526, the reason why people are concerned about it, including me, is it could be such a variant. We need to figure it out. We don't know right now. We need to get better at determining these things.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor Gottlieb, thank you for your analysis.
We'll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The number of unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border this spring is on track to be the highest ever. CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal has been covering the story from both sides of the border. We asked her to share what she's been seeing.
MIREYA VILLARREAL: Every day they see between two and three hundred people, every day.
As a journalist, you're taught to just report the facts, but riding in the back of a pickup truck along the banks of the Rio Grande River provides perspective most people don't usually get.
(Roger Rich speaking foreign language)
(Man #1 speaking foreign language)
MIREYA VILLARREAL: When you see a group of migrants--
ROGER RICH: Yeah, there's more coming.
MIREYA VILLARREAL: --filled with children, babies, a ten-year-old boy traveling alone from Honduras.
He said God-- God is watching over him. That's why he's not scared.
It's hard to contain your emotions as a human.
So he's ten. And he doesn't know where he dad is. His mom is in Honduras. There's a family up there that's going to kind of watch over him.
Fleeing violence, poor living conditions and corruption in their home countries, many travel for months to get here. They are hungry, wet, and desperate for a chance to request asylum, a right afforded to everyone, no matter how they get here, by a United Nations Treaty in 1951 and U.S. law in 1980.
ROGER RICH: Well, this is one of the main crossing areas where they like to cross because it's-- it's very secluded out here.
MIREYA VILLARREAL: We embedded with local constables who are helping respond to the latest surge of migrants in South Texas.
MAN #2: You have to be escorted to film.
MIREYA VILLARREAL: Because federal agencies won't allow media access to shelters or processing facilities.
MAN #2: But you cannot be here.
MIREYA VILLARREAL: For decades the border has been used as a pawn to push political agendas forward, but all efforts to find any kind of solution have failed. Local leaders on the ground on both sides of the border are tired of the federal government's inability to fix the system.
This is actually a church school that has now been converted into a shelter for migrants. Have a lot of people from a lot of different areas. One thing they have in common is they-- they want to be able to have their chance to go into the U.S., ask for asylum.
City governments, nonprofits and faith-based organizations are once again bearing the brunt of this humanitarian crisis.
(Man #3 speaking foreign language)
MIREYA VILLARREAL: So we just spoke with this family over here. She's six years old. They crossed the river. They'll be asking for asylum. And he said he wasn't scared.
SISTER NORMA PIMENTEL: It is not about whether they should be here or not. They are here. So what we need to do is work together to care for them correctly.
MIREYA VILLARREAL: The Biden administration refuses to call this a crisis. Instead, they see it as a very serious challenge. But the word crisis is defined as a situation that has reached a critical phase--
(Man #4 speaking foreign language)
MIREYA VILLARREAL: --a sentiment we clearly saw from the back of that pickup truck along the banks of the Rio Grande.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Our Mireya Villarreal reporting from the U.S.-Mexico border.
We'll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you all for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.
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