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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on March 28, 2021

Face The Nation: Letlow, Palmer, Gottlieb, Capuano
Face The Nation: Letlow, Palmer, Gottlieb, Capuano 22:33

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

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden, Director, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  • Rep. Henry Cuellar, (D-Texas)
  • Rep.-Elect Julia Letlow, (R-Louisiana)
  • Anthony Capuano, CEO, Marriott International
  • 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, as President Biden prepares to unveil the next phase of his economic agenda, the continuing threat of COVID and a growing crisis at the border may complicate his plans. Health officials are warning Americans the virus could be heading in the wrong direction as new cases of COVID continue to plateau at high levels every day.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY: If we don't control things now, there is a real potential for the epidemic curve to soar again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It comes as President Biden sets new ambitious vaccine goals, promising two hundred million shots in his first one hundred days.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Twice our original goal. But no other country in the world has even come close.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can we vaccinate quickly enough to put the pandemic to rest? We'll check in with Doctor Anthony Fauci and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. And the dire situation along the U.S.-Mexico border. A surge of migrants has overwhelmed some shelters in the region. The President grew defensive when pressed by reporters.

CECILIA VEGA: Is what's happening inside acceptable to you? And when is this going to be fixed?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: That's a serious question, right? Is it acceptable to me? Come on. That's why we're going to be moving a thousand of those kids out quickly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Republicans have identified their culprit.

SENATOR TED CRUZ: It is a crisis that was created by the Biden administration, by their own policies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lawmakers leak their own images while journalists are barred from visiting many of the overcrowded facilities. We'll hear from Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas, who shared with us these new exclusive photos from inside a holding facility. We'll also hear from Doctor Julia Letlow. She was just elected to Congress, replacing her late husband who passed away from COVID last year. Plus, fewer industries were hit harder by this pandemic than tourism and travel. What's the roadmap for recovery? We'll speak with the CEO of Marriott International, Tony Capuano.

It's all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. This weekend the race to vaccinate America marks a new milestone: The daily number of doses administered is at a record level. Despite that ramp up in vaccinations, infections are also on the rise in thirty states, plus, Washington, DC. We begin with senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann.

(Begin VT)

(Crowd cheering)

MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News Senior National Correspondent): COVID immunity. To these California seniors it's a shot of liberation in the season of renewal.

MAN: It gives you a feeling of normalcy again.

MARK STRASSMANN: On Saturday alone nearly 3.5 million Americans got the COVID vaccine, a single day record. Across the country more than fifty million adults, roughly one in five, now fully vaccinated. Clearly, it's progress. Now here comes the disclaimer.

WOMAN: Too many people feel like the pandemic is over.

MARK STRASSMANN: Immunologists worry with the vaccine we're confusing immunity with invulnerability. TSA agents now screen more than one million fliers every day, including many returning spring breakers.

NED LAMONT: Watch out for Miami Beach. Get tested before you come back.

MARK STRASSMANN: In Michigan, new cases over the last week jumped more than fifty percent and climbed generally in New England and the Great Lakes region, where it's colder. Despite pleas from health officials, seventeen states now don't have masking requirements, even though the virus still kills roughly one thousand more Americans every day.

ROCHELLE WALENSKY, M.D., MPH (CDC Director): I remain deeply concerned about this trajectory. Please take this moment very seriously.

MARK STRASSMANN: COVID also complicates the U.S. response along the Mexican border. The daily surge of more Central American arrivals, refugees from squalor and gun violence. A nine-year-old girl drowned last week trying to cross into Texas.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-Texas): We also saw a group of children who just today tested positive for COVID-19.

MARK STRASSMANN: Images from congressmen show overcrowded border crossings. Packed facilities are challenged by COVID protocols. Unaccompanied children are allowed to stay, and hundreds have tested positive. FEMA is helping put up more temporary housing. Bob Fenton talked to us about the challenge.

ROBERT J. FENTON, JR. (Acting FEMA Administrator): So, we have to find the right facility. We need to have the staffing for the facility to be-- be able to feed and take care of them and provide the-- the wrap-around care services for them.

MARK STRASSMANN: Officially, the Biden administration won't label its struggle to control the border a crisis. But no question COVID remains a continuing one in America.

(End VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: At mass vaccination sites like this one at Delta headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia this week became the sixth state to offer shots to anyone age sixteen and up. Universal eligibility--all adults, that is the goal. And more than forty states have committed to it by May 1st. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mark Strassmann, thank you.

We go now to the President's chief medical adviser, Doctor Anthony Fauci. Good morning to you, Doctor.

ANTHONY FAUCI, M.D. (Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden/Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have been warning all month that we are stuck. We are plateauing at a high level of infection. You just heard that Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, we're seeing spikes. What's driving these infections? Is it the new variants?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, you know, the variants are playing a part, but it is not completely the variants. What we're likely seeing is because of things like spring break and pulling back on the mitigation methods that you've seen. Now, several states have done that. I believe it's premature, Margaret, because when I've said many times to you that when you're coming down from a big peak and you reach a point and start to plateau, once you stay at that plateau, you're really in danger of a surge coming up. And, unfortunately, that's what we're starting to see. We got stuck at around fifty thousand new cases per day, went up to sixty thousand the other day. And that's really a risk. We've seen that in our own country. And that's exactly what's happened in Europe in several of the countries in the European Union where they plateaued and then started to come back. And that's why we say it really is almost a race between getting people vaccinated and having this peak that we may want to see. And we don't want to see that. And again, it isn't just the variants. Variants we take seriously and are concerned, but it is not only the variants that are doing that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The CDC director said this week it is not the time to travel. What specifically is the problem with travel?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, when you see travel and-- and what-- and what Doctor Walensky was referring to is that whenever we see surges in travel, be that around the holidays or around certain-- certain situations like we did over the Christmas and New Year's holiday and other types of holidays, you get congregation of people. Even if on the planes people are wearing masks, when you get to the airport, the check-in lines, the food lines for restaurants, the boarding that you see, how people sometimes can be congregating together, those are the kind of things that invariably increase the risk of getting infected. That's what she was referring to. The travel phenomenon in general does that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's still high risk then? So when you were last with us--


MARGARET BRENNAN: When you were last with us, you said that your expectation was that elementary school kids likely wouldn't be vaccinated until the first quarter of 2022. For parents who are trying to plan their summers, what does that mean? Can they send their kids to summer camp? Can they allow them to play again on playgrounds?

ANTHONY FAUCI: You know it is conceivable that that will be possible, Margaret, because what we're seeing is, you know, as you just mentioned on the piece, we now have 3 to 3.5 million vaccinations each day. If we keep up at that pace, invariably, that's going to drive the rate and the level of infections per day to a much, much lower level. If we get into the summer and you have a considerable percentage of the-- of the population vaccinated and the level in the community gets below that plateau that's worrying me and my colleagues in public health, it is conceivable that you would have a good degree of flexibility during the summer, even with the children, with things like camps. We don't know that for sure, but I think that's an aspirational goal that we should go for.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So if parents are vaccinated, they still do need to be concerned about their unvaccinated children playing together in groups. Is that right?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yeah, the children can clearly wind up getting infected. When we talk about what you can do when you're vaccinated, you can certainly have members of a family if the adults are vaccinated and you're in the home with your child, you don't need to wear a mask and you can have physical contact. When the children go out into the community, you want them to continue to wear masks when they're interacting with groups from multiple households.

MARGARET BRENNAN: People are excited about the return of big events. Baseball, for example, is coming back next week. When would you feel comfortable attending in a stadium?

ANTHONY FAUCI: You know what I think you're going to see, Margaret, is you're going to see an incremental relaxation of some of the restrictions. Again, related to the question you asked me about camp for the kids. As we get into the late spring and early summer, we're going to have a greater proportion of the population that will have been vaccinated. As you mentioned in the beginning of the piece, there are fifty million people in this country that are fully vaccinated. That's a lot of people. And every day we get more and more. I would expect that as we get through the summer, late spring, early summer, there's going to be a relaxation where you're going to have more and more people who will be allowed into baseball parks, very likely separated with seating, very likely continuing to wear masks. As we get a really, really low level of infection, you're going to start seeing a pulling back on some of those restrictions. I hope and I think that's going to happen. I think if we do it correctly and we get the vaccines out at the rate we're doing that will happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about you? You going back to a baseball park to throw out an opening pitch again this year?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, I certainly miss the Nats. I really am looking forward to this season. I hope that we have a situation where we can get out to the park and that we can get a limited number at first, but then more and more people into the ballpark.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I meant your-- your own pitching arm from-- from last year, but I'm just teasing you there. I want to ask you about this forthcoming report from the World Health Organization, but also, specifically, guidance from the chief of the World Health Organization this week who has endorsed this idea that intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical companies that produce pharma-- produce the COVID vaccines, that those should be waived. South Africa has asked for this. India has asked for this. Do you expect the White House to get on board and-- and waive patent protections for pharma companies?

ANTHONY FAUCI: You know, Margaret, I-- I can't go out and say what the White House is ultimately going to do. I can tell you that everything is on the table, discussions on every aspect of this. And, you know, we are playing a major role in helping other countries get vaccination. We have the four-billion-dollar pledge that we have going into this. We've joined COVAX. We have given away surplus types of vaccines to Mexico and to Canada. And we will be certainly seriously considering more. But with regard to the intellectual property, that's something we always will consider and keep that open.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. We'll watch what happens in that space. On the report that's forthcoming from the World Health Organization, it's supposed to be about the origins of COVID. And the Biden administration has been clear that they are concerned that Beijing helped write it. I want to play for you a sound bite from a scientist named Doctor Jamie Metzl, who spoke to 60 MINUTES and said the WHO did not even ask for key samples of the virus.

(Begin VT)

DR. JAMIE METZL (60 MINUTES): It was agreed first that China would have veto power over-- over who even got to be on the mission. Secondly--

LESLEY STAHL (60 MINUTES): And WHO agreed to that?

DR. JAMIE METZL: WHO agreed to that. On top of that the WHO agreed that in most instances China would do the primary investigation and then just share its findings with these international experts. So these international experts weren't allowed to do their own primary investigation.

LESLEY STAHL: Wait. You're saying that China did the investigation and showed the results to the committee, and that was it?

DR. JAMIE METZL: Pretty much that was it.


DR. JAMIE METZL: Not entirely, but pretty much that was it. Imagine if we had asked the Soviet Union to do a co-investigation of Chernobyl. It doesn't really make sense.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you expect this World Health Organization report to be a whitewash?

ANTHONY FAUCI: You know, I don't know, Margaret. What I would like to do is first see the report. I think that's really important. You're getting a lot of conjecture around about what they did and what they were allowed to do or not. No one has been speaking specifically about that. When the report comes out, I'd like to take a really close look at that. And if, in fact, obviously there was a lot of restrictions on the ability of the people who went there to really take a look, then I'm going to have some considerable concern about that. But let me take a look at the report first.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is your opinion on how COVID became so well adapted to humans?

ANTHONY FAUCI: You know, Margaret, that's an argument that goes back and forth. A-- a very plausible explanation for this is that this virus jumped from an animal host, a bat to maybe an intermediate host and then to a human. And we didn't see it, we being at first the Chinese. And it was under the radar screen. And we know that infections, many of them, are without symptoms. So it's entirely conceivable that it was spreading considerably for weeks, if not months, before we recognized it at the end of December, giving it plenty of time to adapt to a human. And that would really be completely consistent with just jumping species in the wild. The other theory that people have is that somehow it did that in a lab and it accidentally escaped. I mean those are just varying opinions. I think the most likely one that in nature, in the wild, it adapted itself.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. And-- and as you're acknowledging there, no evidence. We're still looking at it. We'll continue to following it. Doctor Fauci, thank you for your opinion and your perspective.

FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute with Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Now to the surge of migrants at the southern border. More than eighteen thousand unaccompanied children are being held in federal custody. Pictures from inside a Customs and Border Patrol facility in Donna, Texas, that you are seeing right now show children waiting to be processed, held in overcrowded conditions, sitting on the floor with foil blankets. These images have been shared with us by Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas, a Democrat who joins us from Laredo. Good morning to you, Congressman.

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR (D-Texas/@RepCuellar): Good morning to you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to talk about some of these pictures that you have shared with us and-- and start with some of the others, the pictures that we want to put up on screen right here. You say that they show dozens of young girls who have been held for far longer than the seventy-two-hour legal time limit. Why are these young girls being held for that long? Where are they going? What is their status?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Well, certainly, first of all, Border Patrol does not want to keep people there longer than seventy-two hours, but there's two issues-- two factors coming into play. One, there are so many number-- there's a large number of people coming across every single days--groups of over a hundred individuals coming in into the Border Patrol custody, number one. Number two, the flow through-- that is through HHS, they're moving and they're trying to get more shelters open. For example, the one in San Diego, the one in Carrizo Springs, San Antonio is going to have two places, different places. So they've got to flow those people out as soon as possible. And what we're seeing is at-- at first the priority was given to young boys. For example, Carrizo Springs has young boys from thirteen to seventeen. San Diego is-- is going to be now taking five hundred of the young girls-- or have taken that. They've been flown from there. They were supposed to fly out seven hundred, but only five hundred went out. So the other two hundred are part of the over five thousand individuals that they have only in the Rio Grande. And out of the five thousand plus that they have at the Rio Grande, sixty-five percent, about sixty-five percent are unaccompanied kids.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I also want to put up on the screen some of the other pictures of families that you say are being detained under a bridge, it appears. They're being given foil blankets. You tell us this is a temporary processing site and that they are waiting to get into a holding facility. These look like families outside under the elements, are-- are all of the people we're seeing here, were they expelled from the U.S. or were they released into the U.S.?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Combination of two is what we see. Title 42, which is a 1944 law, the health-- public health rationale, is used mainly for seventy-one percent of the crossers which are single adults. There are some family units that have been returned to Mexico depending on the age of the kids that are with them. So what we're seeing is at that particular facilities, they might want to move them into another Border Patrol facility. And if they don't, this is what's happening. Some will be returned, but over two thousand of them have been released into the United States without a notice to appear. I emphasize, without a notice to appear at a immigration court. They're supposed to appear, show up, maybe in sixty days, report to a ICE office. This is unprecedented.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden said this week that-- that the majority of people were to be expelled under Title 42. What you are saying and what Customs and Border Patrol has also said to-- to CBS News is that this is essentially not being fully enforced as he explained it. You're saying people are being released.

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Well, adults are pretty much returned. You know seventy-one percent out of the one hundred thousand people that passed in-- in February are adults. Those are being returned, expelled back. Some family units are ex-- are turned back into Mexico depending on the age of the kids. Thirteen and above are being returned. I know the President's right about they're working with Mexico, so Mexico do more.


REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: But the rest of them, the family units--the family units are being released into the United States. That's where the burden of the border communities are felt. The cities, the counties, the NGOs. We're feeling the brunt of what's happening with the family units. Unaccompanied kids are different.


REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Those are taken under the HHS.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And I just want to point out that we're showing your photos because journalists are being blocked largely by the Biden administration from bringing our own cameras inside to do that firsthand reporting, which is why we've identified as being provided by you. On-- on the point you just made about Mexico, you've said you're hearing more from Mexico than you are from Washington. The president of Mexico said this week that President Biden created the expectations that migrants would be treated better here than they were under his predecessor. And that's what's feeding this. Do you think Mexico is just trying to use this as leverage right now over the United States? Is that why they are not accepting those families trying to be expelled back?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Well, I don't want to put any motives in the words of the Mexicans. They need to answer that. But I will tell you that they have started raids in the southern part where they've sent the National Guard. They've sent immigration officers where now they're trying to do more to stop people from coming across. And that is key. Roberta Jacobson knows this. She's a friend of mine. She's going to be concentrating on getting Mexico to do more. They can do more. I promise you. They can do more.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The vice president was handed this portfolio this week, along with some of the diplomatic initiatives. Have you spoken to her or her office about your concerns?

REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: Not since November. I have spoken to Secretary Mayorkas. I've spoken to some folks at the White House, I've spoken to the CBP acting commissioner, I've talked-- talked to a lot of folks on the ground. But I-- certainly myself, the other congressmen down here, Congressman Vicente Gonzalez and of course, Vela, Congressman Filemon Vela, we all want to be helpful to the vice president. I'm glad that the President put the second-- the vice president in charge, because we need somebody that can look at the comprehensive view--


REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: --of what we're seeing here. It's-- it's not a simple solution.


REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: I grant that. But you've got to start from what we do in Central America, because remember--


REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: --we have, since 2016 to now, we've given them over 3.6 billion dollars--


REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: --appropriated money. Now some of that has been held because of some conditions--


REPRESENTATIVE HENRY CUELLAR: --that the Senate added. But we've got to help them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Congressman, we have to leave it there. Thank you for joining us today.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back with more FACE THE NATION in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: On our latest Facing Forward podcast, I spoke with Rich Gelfond, the CEO of IMAX. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts or on your favorite podcast platform.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We go now to Louisiana Congresswoman-elect Doctor Julia Letlow. Welcome to FACE THE NATION.

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT JULIA LETLOW (R-Louisiana/@jbletlow): Thank you so much for having me, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Doctor, you are the first Republican congresswoman in Louisiana's history, and you won your seat in a special election that was held after your husband. Luke Letlow recently passed away from COVID in December. And I'm wondering how that experience firsthand with COVID is going to inform your work here in Washington.

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT DR. JULIA LETLOW: Well, it's definitely going to inform my work. You know, I just want to take a second to acknowledge all of the Americans out there who have lost loved ones to COVID. I want to say that I-- I see you. I hear you. I, most importantly, pray with you. I'm a huge proponent of the vaccine. It has lifesaving capabilities. And I want to encourage anybody out there who's eligible to go ahead and get that vaccine. It's so important.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that's a resonant message coming from you, not just because of your personal experience, but also, I mean, frankly, looking at your district. Louisiana is going to open up eligibility on Monday, right? For everyone sixteen and up. One group, though--


MARGARET BRENNAN: But every-- but we're seeing in our own polling, though, is a new level of hesitation among self-identified Republicans sixty-five and younger. So when you were speaking to voters, what is your message to them about why they should trust this vaccine?

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT JULIA LETLOW: That's right, that's why I want to be an advocate and a voice for-- for everyone. Look at my family, use my story. You know I experienced a tragedy in my immediate family and COVID can touch every family out there. And so, you know, there is a vaccine that has lifesaving capabilities. I want to encourage everyone to trust it and get the vaccine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you spoke with former President Trump. You also received a phone call from President Biden who talked to you about your loss. Can you share with us anything about that phone call?

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT JULIA LETLOW: Sure. They were both so gracious and expressed their condolences and President Biden, you know, who is no stranger to loss, as well as shared with me that he understood the pain that I was walking through and that it will get better. And I know it will.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I know we all hope it certainly does for you, and you have a lot of business to carry on on behalf of your constituents when you get here. I mean looking at your district, you have one of the highest poverty rates in the country, about twenty-five percent. You've said for you a priority is expanding broadband access infrastructure. That's high on President Biden's list. Does that mean as a Republican in the House, you are going to get on board with his proposals?

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT JULIA LETLOW: Well, I'm definitely going to get on board with any proposal that is going to provide rural broadband to my district. Just like you said we have some of the highest poverty rates in the nation right here. My background is in higher education. I believe if you can educate a child, you give them a future. And so I want to champion education all the way from early childhood K through twelve, our underutilized trade schools and community colleges to our four-year institutions. And there's nothing like a pandemic, Margaret, to bring to light how vital rural broadband is in educating our children, but also providing health care to the constituents in my district.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So there has already been apprehension. The bill hasn't even been proposed yet. You know it's just being talked about. But the price tag on it, you know, another two trillion or more. Does this mean as a Republican, you would vote for anything that would expand broadband access?

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT JULIA LETLOW: Well, I would definitely have to take a close look at the bill. You know I'm not up there yet, so I would definitely have to analyze it. But I'm going to be looking for avenues to find a way to expand rural broadband in my district. So I'll look at everything that's on the table.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are joining a record-breaking number of women in the House of Representatives. When we looked at Louisiana, it's at around the bottom of the country when it comes to equal pay for women, particularly black women, it's about forty-seven cents on the dollar. Latina women about fifty-two cents. Women writ large, about seventy-four cents. Is addressing pay equity a priority for you?

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT JULIA LETLOW: It's definitely something that I will look into. I believe women should be paid equitably, but I am so proud to be the first Republican woman elected to represent the state of Louisiana. You know, when you look at our-- the population, the makeup of Louisiana, roughly fifty-two percent is female. Every issue is a woman's issue. And so it's a wonderful opportunity for Louisiana to have a woman to have a seat at the table.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be watching what you do with that. I want to ask you to-- just to share some of your personal experience. You-- you talked about your personal loss here. And I know when we looked at your background, you've experienced quite a lot of grief in your life. You also lost your seventeen-year-old brother in a car accident when he was in college. You wrote a thesis and a dissertation on grief itself. What is your lesson, as you said, for those who have lost during this pandemic? How do you continue moving forward, as you did with, you know, bringing your children here to Washington, continuing to push forward with a career in the mass of-- of such a loss?

REPRESENTATIVE-ELECT JULIA LETLOW: That's right. Well, you know, I happen to be a woman of faith. I believe that the Lord doesn't waste an experience good or bad. And so all of those experiences that I've had prior, even writing a dissertation, just like you said, on finding meaning after the loss of a family member, is helping guide me through. You know, one of the findings of my dissertation was that when a person can get outside of themselves during the grieving process and find ways to serve others, that can actually be cathartic in-- in helping guide them through the grieving process. So I just see everything in my life and in my marriage has led me to this one moment in time. I am so honored and excited to serve the people of the Fifth District.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Congresswoman-elect, we will be watching. Thank you for joining us today.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Most regions of the world are seeing an increase in COVID infections as highly contagious variants continue to spread. The World Health Organization called it a worrying sign. Senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports from Tel Aviv.

ELIZABETH PALMER (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent/@CBSLizpalmer): Good morning. Israel, where I am, has now vaccinated almost three-quarters of adults over sixteen years old. And the effect has been dramatic. The number of people who died, on average every day last week, was down to twelve.

(Begin VT)

ELIZABETH PALMER: By contrast, Europe is in big trouble. Czechs stopped for a minute of silence on Monday, a year after the first COVID patient died there. In the Old Town Square, white crosses marked the lives lost so far, and now deaths are climbing again. Most European countries are either heading for or are in a third wave of infection that German health authorities warned could be the worst yet. Europe's vaccine rollout has been crippled by politics and supply problems, but it isn't last accelerating with temporary centers springing up everywhere, including this French velodrome. And three new vaccine manufacturing sites have just been approved, which will also help. Then there is Brazil, now responsible for a quarter of COVID deaths worldwide every day. Regional governments have closed beaches, restricted traffic, and told people to stay home. Medical teams are doing their best, but poverty, disinformation, and a more contagious variant means eighty thousand new cases every day. And a warning that Brazil may end up with more coronavirus deaths overall even than the United States.

(End VT)

ELIZABETH PALMER: As for the World Health Organization report by the team that had traveled to China to look for the origins of the virus has been much delayed, once again it was due out on Friday. So far no sign of it. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Liz, thank you.

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: Do you agree with Doctor Fauci in terms of his projections on where we are headed with this sort of stuck at about sixty thousand infections a day level?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: You know we've now vaccinated ninety-two million Americans. It's about twenty-eight percent of the public. About fifty million have been fully vaccinated, that's fifteen percent. Israel started to see the big declines in cases when they hit about twenty-five percent of their population vaccinated. So I think that's a pretty big backstop against a true fourth surge. What we're seeing around the nation right now, which is worrisome, are outbreaks in certain states, Michigan, the metro Detroit area, Boston around Massachusetts, the Tri-State Region, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, are experiencing an upsurge of infection. And I think what we need to do is try to continue to vaccinate, surge vaccine into those parts of the country. So the incremental vaccine that's coming onto the market, I think the Bush administration can allocate it to parts of the country that look hot right now. But if we could just get two or three more weeks of around three million vaccines a day, that's going to be a pretty big backstop, against a true fourth surge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, three-- three million a day or so, the president's benchmark was two hundred million by the end of April. We're already at a hundred and forty. So that is it sounds like you're saying, a very hittable target, but how do you overcome that sort of last hurdle of-- of skepticism, particularly among Republicans? I mean is the government going to be the best-- best messenger in this case?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: They won't be. And you need to get the vaccine into community sites that have relationships with patients and get it into more doctor's offices, get it into pharmacies. You know, the administration is starting to push a lot of vaccine out through different channels. They've given the pharmacies a big role. They'll be marketing the vaccine very aggressively. They're going to community sites, community health centers. So that's what we should be doing. They're going to start vaccinating patients who present to dialysis centers. We should be vaccinating patients on discharge from the hospital, patients who go into infusion sites. So we should be looking at every single interaction that patients have with the medical system and trying to offer a vaccination at those points of care through a provider that patients know. That's ultimately how we're going to get some people who are more hesitant about being vaccinated to take up the vaccine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: People you trust, not necessarily people you would-- celebrities.


MARGARET BRENNAN: On the World Health Organization, I-- I want to add--nothing against celebrity endorsements of vaccines--on the World Health Organization and what Doctor Fauci was saying, I know you must be looking at this. He said, yes, the White House is talking about it, but he has no indication of what policies there might be regarding patent protections and pharmaceutical companies who make COVID vaccines. The World Health Organization chief has endorsed this idea of-- of lifting it in order to help some developing countries get access. What is the implication if that happens?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think the implication is you're going to provide disincentives to the future, but the reality is just looking at the practicality of it, the rate-limiting step here is not the intellectual property around these vaccines. These companies are producing, including Pfizer, the company I'm on the board of, as much as they can. The rate limiting factor here, the raw ingredients, the inputs to making those vaccines. There's just a limited global supply of those highly specialized inputs. If you appropriate the intellectual property and give it to a bunch of other companies to try to make these vaccines, they're not going to be able to make them efficiently. And they're not going to be able to stand up the supply because they don't have the supply chain either. If they manage to secure, it is just going to come at the expense of companies like Pfizer, Moderna that are making these vaccines far more efficiently. I think what we have to be doing is trying to get more resources into expanding that manufacturing capacity. This really is an opportunity for President Biden to do what President Bush did around the PEPFAR program and create a global campaign to try to supply vaccine around the world using the U.S. intellectual property. These companies have already donated vaccine. They'd be willing to provide more to low- and middle-income countries if the U.S. government would backstop some of the legal protections around doing that. So there are opportunities here to dramatically expand global supply. Unfortunately, I think just giving away our intellectual property is going to be an empty promise. It's not going to result in more vaccine in these countries.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So when someone looks at what Liz Palmer was just describing happen in Brazil with this surge where it seems almost uncontrolled within their borders, this is not something you would point to as a solution to surge vaccine into a-- a problem country.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: It would be a solution. Right now we don't have the supply to do that.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think we can get the supply, but not in time probably for Brazil. And Brazil has been reluctant to take up the vaccine. That's part of the problem, too, is policy failure down there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When it comes to the World Health Organization report on the origins of this, you and I have spoken about this in the past. We've had Matt Pottinger, the former deputy national security adviser to President Trump on. I know Doctor Redfield has spoken to CNN, the former CDC director, about his theories on the origin of COVID. To be clear here, when it comes to this report, you've said you believe the most likely scenario on the origins of COVID was that it was just bouncing back and forth between people and animals for a period of time and finally broke out. But you said the lab theory is never going to be fully dispelled and the World Health Organization shouldn't walk away from that so easily. Do you expect them to walk away from that when this report comes out?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: It looks like the WHO report was an attempt to try to support the China narrative, Chinese narrative around this-- this origin of the vaccine. You know, the lab leak theory doesn't seem like a plausible theory unless you aggregate the biggest collection of coronaviruses and put them in a lab, a minimum-security lab in the middle of a densely populated center and experiment on animals, which is exactly what the Wuhan Institute of Virology did. They were using these viruses in a BSL-2 lab and, we now know, infecting animals. So that creates the opportunity for a lab leak. It might not be the most likely scenario on how this virus got out, but it has to remain a scenario. And I think at the end of the day, we're never going to fully discharge that possibility. What we're going to have here is a battle of competing narratives.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. And we will continue to cover it. Thank you very much, Doctor Gottlieb, for your analysis.

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Tony Capuano, CEO of the world's largest hotel company, Marriott International. He joins us from Bethesda, Maryland. Good morning.

ANTHONY CAPUANO (Marriott International CEO): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We just heard Doctor Fauci say that travel remains high risk, and yet we see numbers from TSA reporting people are getting on planes in-- in record numbers, in terms of the pandemic. Are you seeing a similar surge in spring bookings?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: We are seeing pretty significant acceleration of demand. The reality is people are traveling, which is why we can't let our guard down. We've got to continue to adhere to the CDC protocols and keep our cleaning and operating protocols in place.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So vaccination, you have said, is going to be key to business, to the economy reopening it. You have actually opened a program to try to incentivize your employees to take that vaccine by offering them, what, four hours of pay. Why did you need to give that incentive? And is it working?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: We didn't need to. We chose to. Our culture is very much an employee-first culture, and we wanted to make sure they had access to education about the vaccinations and the flexibility to take time off work if they chose to get vaccinated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that four hours of pay is to allow them to take the time off work to get the shot in the arm?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: That's correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So last March, your predecessor said the financial impact of the pandemic was on par with 9/11, the-- the Great Recession, and the financial crisis around that time. Marriott cut thousands of jobs. You lost about two hundred and seventy-six million dollars. When do you expect to get back to that pre-pandemic level of both jobs and business?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: It really depends on demand recovery. And demand recovery will be driven by consumer confidence. The good news is we have such great visibility into real-time data. In certain markets where the vacc-- the-- the virus containment seems to be proceeding well and where you're seeing broad distribution of vaccine, we are seeing demand recover and that's allowing us to bring many of our employees back.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So demand is up, Arizona, Texas and Florida I see. But it's still low in some of the big cities. Is that a trend you think is going to stay with us for some time?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: We'll continue to see growth in demand in drive-to destinations and I think leisure destinations. One of the really interesting phenomenon we've seen over the last year is a blending of trip purposes. People have learned that they can, in fact, work from almost anywhere. And as a result we're seeing our guests combine business travel with leisure travel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Gas prices aren't going to impact those drive-to destination bookings?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: Certainly, they'll have some measure of impact, but we've really not seen it yet. There is enormous pent-up demand and because of concerns about safety, we continue to see lots of appeal of drive-to destinations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know when we look at the jobless rate in the country your industry is so frequently turned-- pointed to as one of the biggest places of losses, particularly for women. I'm wondering of all the adaptations that you have had to make in your hotels for safety reasons and protocols with, you know, not checking in in-person, but doing it on your phone or doing it, you know, digitally, haven't you managed your way towards just needing to employ fewer people? I mean are these jobs actually coming back?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: In markets where demand is recovering, we're absolutely seeing those jobs come back and in many of the markets you described we're actively hiring. I think what those technological advances allow us to do is really engage our employees more in interacting with the guests and meeting their needs.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So desk clerk is not a job that's going to disappear?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: Absolutely not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In New York state, they're kind of experimenting with something I'm interested in getting your view on, which is this idea of having some kind of vaccine passport, so to speak, some kind of digital stamp to show that you have been vaccinated. Is this something that you think business-wise you would encourage other states to adopt? I mean would it help give you some reassurance?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: Time will tell what the right platform is. What we know with certainty, however, is a global, coordinated, reliable health credential system will be key to giving folks comfort about traveling to-- and to giving jurisdictions comfort in opening their borders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But who is going to run that since the states are administering these vaccine programs? You know the-- the particulars of how you actually get this up and running are-- are kind of a big stumbling point.

ANTHONY CAPUANO: It's the right question to ask. I-- I worry a bit that the approach to date is a bit fragmented. And, again, we need a comprehensive and global solution for it to be effective.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you talked to the White House about that?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: We're in active discussions with the administration with our industry colleagues to try and identify opportunities to inform borders as they consider opening.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, two dozen or so industry groups wrote a letter to the White House pushing for international travel to be reopened by this summer, saying that's really key time frame for them. Do you have any indication that any of the travel restrictions will be lifted, that international travel will return?

ANTHONY CAPUANO: It really varies by jurisdiction. We know there's enormous pent-up demand for international travel and we know those destinations, like many European cities, are struggling mightily because they rely so heavily on inbound international travel. The markets that have recovered most quickly are those that have depths of demand domestically. So we've seen that in drive-to destinations in the U.S. and we've seen it across China.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But no promise from the White House? We're lifting the travel restrictions on countries by the summer. Nothing yet?


MARGARET BRENNAN: Not yet. All right. Thank you very much, Tony Capuano, for your time and your perspective.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you all for watching. And before we go, we did want to extend a thank you to broadcast producer, Jillian Hughes, who is leaving our program and our network. She will be missed. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

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