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

Full Interview: Dr. Anthony Fauci looks back on COVID-19 response
Full Interview: Dr. Anthony Fauci looks back on COVID-19 response 01:09:43

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

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner  
  • Dave Clark, CEO of Amazon Worldwide consumer    

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

MARGARET BRENNAN, HOST: I'm Margaret Brennan.

And this week on Face the Nation: Countries are racing to contain a new COVID strain. And the U.S. is on high alert, as experts warn it's likely already here.

With much of the U.S. now vaccinated, Americans seemed to enjoy an almost normal holiday. But the WHO just sounded the alarm about a new concern. Omicron, a highly mutated COVID variant, is now in more than a dozen countries across the world, triggering new travel restrictions and sending jitters through a global economy still on the mend.

(Begin VT)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to be cautious. We don't know a lot about the variant, except that it is of great concern. It seems to spread rapidly.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will bring you the latest reporting on the evolving COVID pandemic, and we will check in with former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

(Begin VT)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: My worst nightmare is something that you have just described. And, unfortunately, it's happening.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Plus, Dr. Anthony Fauci reflects on nearly two years of the country battling coronavirus. He still has plenty he'd like to get off his chest.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Cruz told the attorney general you should be prosecuted.



ANTHONY FAUCI: I have to laugh at that. I should be prosecuted? What happened on January 6, Senator?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think that this is about making you a scapegoat to deflect from President Trump?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Of course. Of course. You have to be asleep not to figure that one out.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Stay tuned for our extended sit-down with Dr. Fauci on the origins of COVID, the hard lessons we have learned, and the fight ahead.

Then: The holiday shopping spree has officially began, with millions of Americans diving into the usual Black Friday buying binge. But how will inflation and supply chain problems affect you during this make- or-break season for the country's retailers and consumers?

We will talk to the CEO of worldwide consumer at Amazon, Dave Clark.

It is all just ahead on Face the Nation.

Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.

A week ago, much of the world had never heard of COVID's Omicron variant. Four days ago, South African authorities alerted the World Health Organization that they had detected a new COVID strain in a small number of individuals from nearby Botswana.

Since then, reaction has been swift. On Friday, the WHO declared it a variant of concern, citing evidence of increased transmissibility. It has since been detected on at least four continents, with new cases detected this morning in Australia and France.

The WHO also asked countries to avoid imposing travel bans to contain the spread. But, thus far, that advice seems to be going unheeded, as countries from the U.S. to Europe to East Asia restrict travel to and from Southern Africa.

We begin today with CBS News foreign correspondent Debora Patta, who's in Johannesburg, South Africa.

(Begin VT)

DEBORA PATTA (voice-over): We have been here before, a pandemic-weary world plunged into uncertainty with the discovery of a new variant.

Omicron has a worrying number of mutations, over 30, that scientists fear could make it more transmissible and vaccine-resistant.

ANNE VON GOTTBERG, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR COMMUNICABLE DISEASES: The first time I saw it was -- I just saw the mutations, and I didn't quite believe it. In fact, I thought we weren't doing something right.

DEBORA PATTA (voice-over): Anne von Gottberg of South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases says scientists should know within the next 14 days just how dangerous Omicron is.

Cases are slowly rising in South Africa, but are still very low, sitting at just over 3, 200 nationwide. But it's put the rest of the world on edge.

Before the arrival of the new variant, Europe was already the epicenter of an alarming surge in cases...

WOMAN: Go, go, go.

DEBORA PATTA (voice-over): Terrified of a repeat of spring, which saw the Delta variant spread with lethal speed. One nation after another has shut its doors to countries across Southern Africa.

The U.S. is prohibiting foreign travelers from South Africa and seven other African nations from entering its borders, while Israel has taken a hard line, banning all foreign nationals from entering the country for two weeks.

In the Netherlands, at least 61 people who arrived on two flights from South Africa have tested positive for COVID, 13 infected by the new Omicron strain.

There is better anger here over the hasty travel bans. South Africa says the country is being punished for its excellent science and ability to spot variants quickly.

(voice-over): The U.S. has praised South Africa for its transparency, but that hasn't helped smooth over smoldering resentment amongst many Africans, who believe they are bearing the brunt of wealthy nations' decision to hoard the lion's share of vaccines.

Is Omicron the price the world pays for not having global vaccine access?

ANNE VON GOTTBERG: I think, yes, it should remind us that it may have played a role, and that we should be making vaccines accessible to all populations throughout the world.

DEBORA PATTA (voice-over): In South Africa, Omicron has shown up mainly in young adults, a group that has the lowest vaccination rate.

But although doses were slow to arrive in this country, they are now widely available here. Vaccine hesitancy and difficulty accessing remote regions have complicated the rollout.

Elsewhere on the continent, there are still desperate shortages. Less than 7 percent have been fully vaccinated, and many health workers have not received a single jab.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's Debora Patta reporting in Johannesburg.

We go now to Dr. Scott Gottlieb. He's a former FDA commissioner and current Pfizer board member. He joins us from Westport, Connecticut, this morning.

Good morning to you, Doctor.


MARGARET BRENNAN: There is nothing short of panic.

And I'm hoping you can give us some perspective here. The WHO and the NIH say that this variant appears more transmissible. Do you have any indication that it's more lethal or that it makes people more ill?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yes, not right now.

The three critical questions right now is, first, is this more virulent? So, to your question, is this making people more ill, there's no indication that it is. And, in fact, there's some anecdotal information off of physicians in South Africa that this could be causing milder illness.

Now, that could be an artifact of the fact that the initial cases seem to have been clustered in younger people, perhaps in outbreaks around the universities.

The second critical question is, does this escape immunity? And this is the question that has people concerned, because, when you look at the genetic sequence of this new variant, it has a lot of mutations that we know correlate with escape from immunity that's conferred by prior infection or by the vaccines.

But then the third critical question is, does that escape from immunity increase its transmissibility? And there's an assumption right now that it does. We don't have a firm answer to that question. But even if its ability to escape the immunity that we've acquired from prior infection of vaccines does make it more transmissible in certain circumstances, the question here is going to be whether or not a fully boosted individual, someone who's had three doses of vaccine, has good protection against this variant.

And, right now, if you talk to people in vaccine circles, people who are working on a vaccine. They have a pretty good degree of confidence that a boosted vaccine, so three full doses of vaccine, is going to be fairly protective against this new variant.

The other critical question we're going to need to answer is whether or not someone who has immunity from prior infection from Delta also has good protection against this new variant. If those two things hold true, if someone who's been infected with Delta is well-protected from this and someone who is fully boosted is also well-protected from this, that could be a pretty good backstop from this becoming really epidemic in the United States.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're talking about vaccine makers.

Moderna's president told the New York Times: "This is the highest level of alert we've ever been on so far." But it'll take weeks to know before the vaccine is actually known to be effective or not.

From what you've seen -- and we've mentioned you're on the board of Pfizer -- what do you know?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, people close to this who are starting to do modeling work -- so we don't have data from -- certainly clinical data, and we don't even have data from test tube studies.

But people who have looked closely at this sequence and at the protection offered by the vaccine -- now, remember, that third dose of the vaccine provides a much broader level of immunity. So, it's not just more antibodies that you develop, but you develop antibodies against more parts of the virus.

Those individuals feel reasonably confident that three doses of vaccine is going to be protective. Now, that could give a really strong impetus to trying to get more people boosted.

We're going to have studies out, maybe by the end of this week, but certainly into next week, where what -- hat scientists are going to do is take the plasma from people who either had two doses of vaccine or had three doses of vaccine or were never vaccinated and just recovered from a Delta infection, and they're going to test that blood plasma against the virus to see if the antibodies in the blood neutralize this virus.

Now, I would expect that those studies are going to show that the neutralization against this virus decline substantially. But that doesn't mean that the vaccines won't be effective. Remember, with the old South African variant, which also escaped the vaccines, we saw neutralization decline by two-thirds in those studies.

But when the vaccines actually were put into the population, the mRNA vaccines were almost equally effective against 1351 as they were against the Wuhan variant. So, you could see a decline in neutralization, and the vaccines will still be effective.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Important point to make there.

So, a lot of Americans are getting back on a plane after celebrating Thanksgiving and gathering with their families. What do they need to know about transiting through airports? And should they get tested when they get back off that plane?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Look, I think people should use the same precautions that they were using before.

It appears that this has been detected very early in South Africa, and I think it's not that prevalent right now in South Africa. We may be overestimating its prevalence because of the recent uptick in cases in South Africa. There's a presumption that many of those cases are this new variant, but it may well be the case that South Africa is also exhibiting a surge of Delta infections after they relaxed some of their recent mitigation following their big surge of Delta.

So this probably isn't that prevalent around the world. I would still exercise the same cautions as before. I think the biggest risk to travelers right now is that, given the uncertainty around the world, and the fact that countries are reacting so briskly, if you do end up being positive overseas, you could find yourself stuck in a very onerous quarantine...


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: ... relative to where we were maybe one or two weeks ago, because I think countries are behaving with no frills right now and trying to control the spread of this new variant. And they're taking pretty drastic measures in certain cases.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the CDC said this variant has not been detected here yet.

Viewers will hear Dr. Fauci later in the program say that America's surveillance system isn't where it should be. How far behind are we? Is it here already?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, it's almost definitely here already. Just looking at the number of cases coming off planes this weekend, it's almost a certainty that there have been cases that have gotten into the United States.

We're in a much better place now than we were a year ago when B117 first arrived, or even when Delta first arrived. We are sequencing about 100,000 cases a week, which is very good. It's about 20 percent of all the diagnosed cases.

CDC is also going to set up this week a new surveillance system specifically for this variant, so they had this system in place when B117 was becoming epidemic in the spring, where you were able to detect B117 on PCR tests, just normal PCR tests that people get at a doctor's office, because it had a very specific finding called an S gene dropout.

Basically, the PCR couldn't detect the S gene because it was so heavily mutated. They did away with that surveillance system because B117 receded. They're now going to reimplement that this week. And that should be effective at detecting these cases.

So, we do have a pretty robust surveillance system in place right now, relative to certainly where we were maybe six months ago.


Well, the WHO said the first confirmed case was November the 9th, as far as they're tracking. What does shutting off travel from Southern Africa accomplish if this is already on four continents?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think it's, unfortunately, very punitive, and we could have accomplished a lot of what we're seeking to accomplish with these restrictions perhaps by increasing requirements on travelers, requiring that they be vaccinated and also have a negative PCR test in the last 24 hours.

You know, these kinds of restrictions are going to reduce introductions that could buy us perhaps a couple of weeks.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: But we didn't need to close off travel. And, unfortunately, we're punishing South Africa for doing the right thing and telling other nations that -- who want to sequence strains that they find, that we're giving them a real disincentive to do that...


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: ... because, if they turn over new variants, this is what's going to happen to them.

So, this is a bad step, I think, from a policy standpoint.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Another policy question.

We heard from our correspondent in South Africa that vaccines are actually widely available there. They're just not being distributed, that there is hesitation. We're hearing from the administration a call for donation of more doses and a call for lifting protections off of vaccine makers.

Is that a different solution to the problem that exists?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I can tell you that five of the eight countries that now fell under this travel ban imposed by the Biden administration have told Pfizer to either slow down or stop shipping vaccines because they haven't been able to distribute what they've received.

That represents about 95 percent of the population that now falls under these travel bans in Africa. It's South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, and Malawi.

And I can also tell you that, with respect to South Africa, South Africa has also told J&J and Pfizer, the two companies that are distributing vaccine there, to also throttle shipments or stop shipments, because they have an excess of vaccine. They now have 16 million doses in that country that they haven't been able to distribute in a population of 60 million people.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Of the 19 million doses that Pfizer has sent -- of the 30 million doses Pfizer sent to South Africa, only 19 have been used to date.


It seems like that's a distribution problem. and that's something we're going to have to follow up on.

Dr. Gottlieb, thank you so much for your analysis this morning.

We'll be back in a minute. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We spoke with President Biden's top medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for a wide-ranging conversation before the new variant, Omicron, was detected, and as the deadly Delta variant continues to spread.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are we in a fifth wave?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, we certainly have the potential to go into a fifth wave.

And the fifth wave, or the magnitude of any increase, if you want to call it that -- it will turn into a wave -- will really be dependent upon what we do in the next few weeks to a couple of months.

For example, we have now about 62 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet gotten vaccinated. Superimpose upon that the fact that, unquestionably, the people who got vaccinated six, seven, eight, nine, 10 months ago, we're starting to see an understandable diminution in the level of immunity.

It's called waning immunity. And it was seen more emphatically in other countries before we saw it here, for example, Israel, which is usually about a month or a month-and-a-half ahead of us temporally with regard to the dynamics of the outbreak, the administration of vaccines and, most recently, boosters.

So, now we know that, although the vaccines are very effective -- and the data that you look at are incontrovertible that, if you compare unvaccinated with vaccinated, infections, hospitalizations, deaths, dramatically multi-multi-fold more in those who are unvaccinated.

However, given the waning of immunity, right now, boosters are going to be very important.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said in the past that you would like to get under 10,000 infections a day in order to sort of live with COVID.


We've heard people say, understandably, they're trying to look for a metric to give to the public, that we're going to have to start living with COVID. I believe that's the case, because I don't think we're going to eradicate it.

The best way you can get to where you want to go is to just say, we're going to vaccinate as many people as we can, we're going to get as many people boosted as we can, and we're going to get that level down.

And I think that's going to have to be as low as less than 10,000.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is it really realistic that we have to get to 85 percent of the population, which is what you've said in the past...


MARGARET BRENNAN: ... in order to sort of have herd immunity? I mean, it seems almost impossible to get there.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes, let me get to that number, Margaret, because it really is important.

We have to be very humble about it. We don't know what that number is. And the reason is, the number is a moving target, because, if you get someone who's vaccinated, and he wanes down and gets below a certain level, I don't know whether you can count that as a full-protected person, which is the reason why it's a combination not only of getting the total population vaccinated as a primary, but also getting people boosted.

And that's what I mean by a moving target.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what you're describing is never really having control, necessarily, of COVID, but learning to, what, get boosted every six to eight months?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Right, great question.

And that's what we don't know. The important part when you're dealing with a unique, never-before- experienced outbreak of a new virus, that, sometimes, you can extrapolate what you know about other viruses, because there are some commonalities, but, sometimes, you have to realize that this may be very unique.

Right now, we do not know definitively what that course is going to be, whether it's going to be a three shot and you're done, or three shots and then, every once in a while, you have to reboost. We'll have to see how things roll out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why isn't the CDC tracking breakthrough infections? Wouldn't you be able to better answer that question if you knew?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes. I mean, yes, in many respects, they are.

One of the things that we really...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Among health care workers.


Yes, we need to do a lot of things. We really need to find out, when you do boost an individual, how long does that immunity last, both from a laboratory standpoint and from a protection standpoint?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why did the United States decide not to track those breakthrough infections?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, it's a very complicated situation.

And, often, the public doesn't hear yet in time things that are being collected. So there's a lot of data, clearly a lot of data that's being collected by the CDC that people don't know about yet. So we need to make sure, in real time, we get that data out.

Historically, when you're not in a pandemic, you can collect data, you can analyze it, you could talk about it, and then you could look back and say, this is what we've done.

But when you're dealing with a pandemic, you've got to get that out in real time, so your policies can be dictated by data that occurred relatively recently, not data that occurred four or five months ago.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's the criticism, that they're too academic.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But is there data being collected now in the United States about breakthrough infections that the public doesn't know about?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes. Yes. Yes. The CDC is collecting data, yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Beyond just health care workers, everyday people? You have an idea of what's happening with breakthrough infections?

ANTHONY FAUCI: I don't have the data for you right now. That's obviously - - we'll have to get the CDC to get us that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Each school seems to be handling this differently, in terms of masking and not masking...


MARGARET BRENNAN: ... or when they alert parents and the like.

What's the most responsible thing for parents to do if they know they're sending their child into a classroom and someone in that room tests positive?

ANTHONY FAUCI: There are a lot of options about that.

There's the test to stay. In other words, if you test and you're negative, you don't have to go out and get quarantined. The idea about, when you get an outbreak in a class or two, to then immobilize essentially the class, is functionally very, very difficult to get a good academic year with some continuity about that.

And that's the reason why we need to do several things all at once. One, you want to surround the children with adults who are completely vaccinated. Number two, you want to vaccinate the adolescents that we already have been vaccinating for some time, vaccinate the 5-to-11-year- old.

And when there is a case in the school, then you really got to do something about...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sometimes, parents don't even know if there's a case in the school.

ANTHONY FAUCI: I know that.

And it's got -- Margaret, it's got to be articulated much more clearly, so that people know exactly and there's no ambiguity about that.

When you don't know what the situation is, and you have community spread around, that's the reason why the CDC still recommends masking for the children in school.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this is one of those criticisms of how our country responded here, which is just -- maybe it's by virtue of the federal system, but, district by district, state by state, different things.

And then they look for you for unified: Tell me what to do. Just tell me what to do with my kid.



ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes, I mean, but the clarity when it comes to the situation of the public health, we really need to -- and I think they are very likely doing much, much better than what the public thinks they are -- is to get the CDC to be very clear, to be very, very sharp about what a recommendation is, when there's no data to make that to, then just give a recommendation based on best judgment, if you want to call it that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And when you say lack of data, this has -- this has been a criticism throughout, that there's just not enough information being collected in this country...


MARGARET BRENNAN: ... not enough surveillance being done.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Right. Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that still the case, in your view?

ANTHONY FAUCI: We do need -- we need to do more, no doubt about it, no doubt about it.

We need to do more surveillance, and we need to do more testing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, when do we get to pull back the public health restrictions for kids?

Is it until the toddlers get vaccinated?

ANTHONY FAUCI: No, I think that you're going to see likely a gradual pulling back.

When you get -- you have to put the dynamics of the outbreak in a community into the mix of your decision- making. If, X-number of months from now, you have a very high proportion of children vaccinated, and you are in an area with a level, what I call the dynamics of infection, is very low, I would be almost certain that you're going to see a significant diminution in the mitigations, such as masks and things like that.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will have more of our conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci in our second half-hour.

Stay with us. We will be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: If you're not able to watch the full Face the Nation, you can set your DVR, or we're available on demand. Plus, you can watch us through our CBS or Paramount+ apps.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation.

Stay with us.



The American consumer is the engine of the U.S. economy, and we are now officially in peak holiday shopping.

We are joined now by Dave Clark. He's the CEO of Amazon's worldwide consumer business.

Mr. Clark, good morning to you.

DAVE CLARK (CEO, Amazon Worldwide Consumer): Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: From where you sit, what can you tell us? Is price inflation eating into holiday spending? What do you expect this season?

DAVE CLARK: Well, we're right in the middle of what we call "turkey five, "which is the between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. And we're off to a great start. We had a record-breaking Black Friday, and we're seeing customers engage -- you know, it's really interesting to see how customers are spending in this first post-vaccine holiday as we start to come back together.

And as you might expect, consumers are spending on things like apparel. You know, we're seeing a lot of uptick in denim and dresses. We're seeing a lot of things like home decor, particularly in our holiday decor, which is showing that I think families and friends are preparing to come back together, as they just did at Thanksgiving and plan to do in the Christmas holidays.

We continue to see spend on things like toys. Lots of kids are going to have a good visit from Santa this holiday season, I suspect, as we continue to support there. And a little bit of downturn in electronics as, you know, people have spent so much during Covid supporting their home office and various electronic spend.

But off to a very good start. I don't see inflation particularly impacting consumers this holiday season so far. And we're very optimistic about what's to come.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Not impacting consumers.

Let me ask you about the pandemic then. The White House has blamed the delta variant for adding to shipping delays. Given this developing news about a new variant that's circulating, I'm wondering what you think the impact on business might be here.

DAVE CLARK: Well, I think as we've heard throughout the morning, it's very early in the process of understanding what's happening with the new variant. And I, for one, am incredibly optimistic around what the scientists and these companies that have supported us with these miraculous vaccines are going to do. And I think consumers are going to wait and see in terms of what happens with that but are going to move on with their lives into this holiday season. And I think we're going to continue to see -- people are definitely going towards deals and considered spend as what they evaluate for this holiday, you know, particularly as they come back together with their family and friends. You know, people want to have a very thoughtful holiday season and want to, you know, prepare themselves to go back out into the world, if you will. And that's what we're seeing in their spend.

And -- but we are optimistic about what's ahead and what's ahead in '22.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said "miraculous vaccines." Are you going to change your company's policy and require vaccination of employees?

DAVE CLARK: Well, we're in a -- we've been in a really good position throughout the pandemic where we've been able to -- we built -- spent hundreds of millions of dollars investing in laboratory equipment to be able to test our teams weekly for whoever wants to be tested. And we've been promoting vaccine clinics. We've done over 1,800 onsite vaccine clinics at our own facilities to get our folks vaccinated.

So, we're incentivizing. We're trying to make it easier to do. We're educating our teams. We're not planning to move to mandates, as we sit today, but we think we have a very good balance of activity in place. We do think vaccines is the way out of this pandemic and we continue to work with our teams to incentivize them and help them understand why it's so important and get them vaccinated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Amazon said during its earnings that it was labor that was a big constraint for you. If you pay $15 an hour as the starting wage, $18 an hour average pay, why are you short on workers?

DAVE CLARK: Well, we're having great success hiring, but it is a challenge. You know, we hired -- we actually onboarded 45,000 people last week. So we are hiring a lot of people and continue -- people continue to be attracted to the great offer we have in pay, which, as you said, is $18 on average, and lots of hiring incentives that are kind of unprecedented, really, of these sort of $3,000 sign-on bonuses, lots of extra hourly incentives.

But labor across the U.S., particularly in metropolitan areas, has been very tight this season. And I know when I talk to -- you know, while we've had success and it continues to be a challenge and there are certain areas of the country where it's certainly harder to fill than others, you know, I hear from small business every day about how challenging it is for them to fill their roles.


DAVE CLARK: Well, I think it's just because people are looking at their lives so differently through the course of the pandemic. I don't think there's a silver bullet. There's a lot of different reasons. But people have evaluated, you know, what kind of jobs do they want to have? Do they want to be in the food service business? Do they want to be in retail? Do they want to be in fulfillment? What do they -- do both people in the family want to work? What's the life structure and setup? So many things have changed for people during the course of the pandemic that it's hard to say one particular thing.

We're proud of the offering we have for employees, and we -- we're finding success with it. As I said, you know, hiring, you know, over 40,000 people a week for the next few weeks.


DAVE CLARK: But it's a challenge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In the April letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos acknowledged, though, that Amazon needs to do a better job for employees.

When I looked at your website, it says sick leave is available based on local laws. It said most leaves are unpaid, except pregnancy and parental leaves. If someone gets Covid and they have to be -- have to be out of work, do they get fired? What kind of guarantees do they have?

DAVE CLARK: Well, first, I would say, I think we have among the best benefits in the world for our hourly employees. The employees who work in our fulfillment centers have exactly the same benefits as I do. And so -- and we offer maternity leave and paternity leave in a way that most people at those levels don't have access to.

We have, throughout the pandemic, also offered --

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't want a federal mandate for that?

DAVE CLARK: Well, I think that it's -- I think it could be very interesting to see what that could do for the country. I worry about what that means for small businesses. You know, we have the capability and the resources at our scale to do a lot of good for our employees. It can be more challenging for small and medium-sized businesses. And I think that's where most of the concern you hear with that lie.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Dave Clark, good to talk to you. Thank you for making time today.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We return now to our conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci about mistakes made, lessons learned, and whether we'll ever crack the mysterious case of Covid's origin.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to tick through some of these --

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI (Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases): All right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To see if you agree --


MARGARET BRENNAN: With some of the criticisms of the public health response.

The U.S. Didn't have a national surveillance system. Testing was inadequate. And there was a lack of data.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You agree with that?


MARGARET BRENNAN: It was a deadly mistake by the CDC to try to use the flu as a model, according to Dr. Debra Birx. It meant doctors were looking for spread in the wrong places and did not recognize the possibility of asymptomatic spread.

ANTHONY FAUCI: The idea about not recognizing that it was spread in a very efficient way in an asymptomatic situation was really a problem, because what it did, it did not allow a testing of the asymptomatic individuals.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the flu model being used, why was it used?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes, the CDC would do that, and that's the way they looked at respiratory diseases. And it took a while to figure out that this is really, really different from flu in many respects.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When did you realize that?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, Debbie Birx and I realized that right in the middle of 2020. It was very, very clear. If you go back on some of the statements I made at some of those White House press conference, we need to flood the system with testing, which means not just somebody who shows up with symptoms.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We look back at statements and in February of 2020, very early on there, you were still saying it's certainly a possibility, but it's extraordinarily unlikely that Covid was spreading in the U.S.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Right. And that's because we didn't know it at the time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why did you have that blind spot?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, it wasn't a blind spot, because we didn't -- we weren't testing. That was the point. And influenza-like illnesses are not noticed unless you get an influenza-like symptom. The asymptomatic model, that when you have a disease in which you have 30 percent to 40 percent of the people who get infected have never -- no symptoms, then you say transmissibility, that was unprecedented in respiratory illness.

So I guess you could say, well, you should have known that. The CDC should have known that. But they couldn't have known it from day one. But it should not have taken so long to figure out that, in fact, we have a substantial amount of transmission that's asymptomatic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It also brings us to why people should have been wearing masks earlier. They didn't know that they were spreading it. That --



ANTHONY FAUCI: And that's the reason why back in January and February we were saying we're not so sure you really need masks because we didn't realize at the time that there was being asymptomatic spread. As soon as that became clear, there was no doubt you should be wearing a mask.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I point some of these specific things out because they don't -- they're not political. These were public health mistakes.


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's almost scarier.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, you know, I think it -- to -- to defend the CDC, if I could for a moment, is that one can say something is a mistake because you know now data now that you didn't know then.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why aren't we having a national conversation about what went wrong? I mean apart from this room right now, why isn't there a 9/11-type commission?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes. I think what's going to happen is that you are going to see that, for sure, Margaret. I think the lack of doing that now is because you're focusing on getting this thing under control. I would be astounded if we didn't have a very serious look at what went right, what went wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you want one?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Oh, I absolutely want one.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were quoted as saying, it was the worst possible decision for the Trump administration to have left things up to the states.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Where do you rank that?

ANTHONY FAUCI: I rank that right there maybe a little bit below some of the things you're talking about, but way up there. People always ask, if you had the magic wand and did things exactly the way you wanted what it would be, one of them would be, if ever -- if ever there was a situation where you where you needed a synergistic, uniform, well-thought-out approach is when you're dealing with a common enemy of a virus that is a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven't seen in 100 years. To be able to say, if I don't really want to do this because I want, you know, my own opinion of what it's going to be with this state versus this state versus this state, to me that's one of the antitheses of public health. How can you possibly have a situation where one state says, I'm sorry, you shouldn't be wearing a mask. In fact, you have executive orders saying you shouldn't be wearing a mask.


ANTHONY FAUCI: You have another state that does not want to get vaccinated because they think it's a political statement to get vaccinated or not. The divisiveness in this country, to me, is the biggest mistake that supersedes everything that we're talking about.

I mean when we look back historically and look back at this and said, we had this devastating plague out there that were killing hundreds of thousands of Americans, and we're having public health principals being decided on the basis of political ideology.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Public health is often politicized, though.


MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean you know that so well from your experience with AIDS.


MARGARET BRENNAN: What was the chief lesson you brought into dealing with Covid from that experience with AIDS?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Never underestimate infectious disease outbreak, because it can be insidious, the way AIDS was. You learn, also, to pay attention to what's going on in the community. And that's the major lesson I learned. You don't do it from above and dictate down.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Was that happening at all in China when this first appeared, going back to the fall of 2019?

ANTHONY FAUCI: You know, it was very tough with what's going on in China. You know, they -- they're -- they -- it's kind of opaque. Clearly there was infection that was percolating, you know, as early as November, maybe even earlier. You had an infection that emerged almost certainly out of an animal reservoir. The more you study bats there, the more you see how close some of the viruses are to SARS- COv-2.

So it was assumed in the beginning, well, this is a coronavirus. Why isn't it just assumed that it's SARS- COv-1, which means it doesn't transmit very well and it's going to get controlled by public health measures, which is exactly what happened with SARS-COv-1. Then you find out that even though it's SARS-COv-2, it is a very, very different virus than SARS-COv-1, because, a, it is transmitted spectacularly efficiently from person to person. And, b, most of it is -- around 40 percent, to 50 percent, to 60 percent is asymptomatic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why is it so efficient?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, that -- it evolves in animals. It evolves in humans. And it could just -- you know, sometimes viruses jump into humans and they take off and run right away.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But we don't know what went between the bat and the human. There was something in between?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes, it was very likely in a host -- what the Chinese did -- I don't have firsthand knowledge of that -- but the people who were reporting it, who investigated, what they did is they cleaned out the markets as soon as it turned out that it was clear that there were clusters coming from the market which, you know, in typical fashion, I think trying to make sure that things don't get pointed to them, they probably got rid of the animals that were the intermediary hosts there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Beijing acknowledges now that they don't think it originated in that market.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, it may not have originated in the market, but it certainly could have.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, there were clusters that may have been picked up and transmitted, as I understand it, through the market.,


MARGARET BRENNAN: But the -- the place of origin was not within the market itself.

ANTHONY FAUCI: No, I don't think you could say that. I think you could say we don't know how and where it originated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When was the first time that you heard that there was something, some strange pneumonia?

ANTHONY FAUCI: I think it was the very last day. It may have been December the 31 or the 30th or first of January, something --

MARGARET BRENNAN: When they informed the World Health Organization?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes, I mean, I got a -- I got a call from Bob Redfield who said, you know, I'm -- I just heard from colleagues in China that there's an unusual pneumonia among people there that has been detected, so we've just got to stay heads-up for that. And then a few days later, I think it was January 9th or 10th, the sequence came out.

I got -- as soon as I heard there was a new pneumonia, I said, well, a new pneumonia, Wuhan, wet market, almost certainly it's going to be a coronavirus. And that's when I got my team organized immediately and said, as soon as we get that sequence of what it is, let's go after that vaccine. Let's plug it into mRNA. We were already collaborating with Moderna with mRNA, and let's do it. And it was rocket speed. It was about five, six days later we were starting with the vaccine development with Moderna. Sixty-five days later, we did a phase one trial, and multiple months later we knew we had a safe and effective vaccine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's incredible speed that you were already there.


MARGARET BRENNAN: But it was despite the lack of information being shared.

ANTHONY FAUCI: All I needed was the sequence. I mean the public health part was handled by the CDC.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Live virus samples wouldn't have had a -- made a difference for you?

ANTHONY FAUCI: I didn't need it at all. I just needed the sequence to get a vaccine.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment with more from Dr. Fauci.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Towards the end of our conversation with Dr. Fauci, we asked him about whether there should be tougher global regulations put in place for labs that deal with highly contagious viruses. He brought up legislation sponsored by Republicans that would limit U.S. government support for "gain of function" research in which experts modify viruses to better understand them. There has been speculation that a lab accident led to the spread of Covid. Dr. Fauci said there are already strict guardrails in place that the public doesn't fully appreciate.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is a political football right now.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Oh, it is a total political football. Total.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you take the fire, specifically, for this. For this -

ANTHONY FAUCI: I do. I do. All the time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There's a congressional act with your name on it, literally.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes, exactly. And it's just a lot of -- well, anyway.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Finish the thought.

ANTHONY FAUCI: No. No, there's a lot of politicization of that. And I think there's a lot of misinformation, disinformation, and outright lies about that. And that's really unfortunate.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're angry about it.

ANTHONY FAUCI: It's painful and disturbing to see when you're trying to focus all of your attention on doing what you can do, the way we did to create the vaccines, to develop the drugs, to save millions of lives, and then you have this completely outlandish politicization of it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Two "Washington Post" reporters said that back in July of 2020 you had been speaking to your wife about resigning.

ANTHONY FAUCI: I never spoke to my wife ever about resigning.


ANTHONY FAUCI: They got that wrong. I never even considered for a moment of resigning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you feel so strongly about that, about staying on the job, when you become -- I mean you were personally, not just rhetorically, threatened, your security, your safety, your family.


MARGARET BRENNAN: How did you deal with that?

ANTHONY FAUCI: I dealt with it by focusing on what my job is from the time that I went into medicine, to right now where I am at my age, my job has been totally focused on doing what I can with the talents and the influence I have to make scientific advances, to protect the health of the American public.

So anybody spins lies and threatens and all that theater that goes on with some of the investigations and the congressional committees and the Rand Pauls and all that other nonsense, that's noise, Margaret. That's noise. I know what my job is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Cruz told the attorney general you should be prosecuted.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes. I have to laugh at that. I should be prosecuted? What happened on January 6th, Senator?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think that this is about making you a scapegoat to deflect from President Trump?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Of course. Of course. You have to be asleep not to figure that one out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, there are a lot of Republican senators taking aim at this. I mean --

ANTHONY FAUCI: That's OK. I'm just going to do my job. And I'm going to be saving lives, and they're going to be lying.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It seems another layer of danger to play politics around matters of life and death.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Right. Exactly. Exactly. And to me, that's -- that's unbelievably bad because all I want to do is save people's lives. And, I mean, anybody who's looking at this carefully realizes that there's a distinct anti-science flavor to this. So if they get up and criticize science, nobody's going to know what they're talking about. But if they get up and really aim their bullets at Tony Fauci, well, people could recognize, there's a person there.

So it's easy to criticize. But they're really criticizing science, because I represent science. That's dangerous. To me, that's more dangerous than the slings and the arrows that get thrown at me. And if you damage science, you are doing something very detrimental to society long after I leave.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a playbook that you are handing over to the next person right behind you at the NIH, when that retirement day does come?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Yes, the playbook for them is to do what I'm doing now, focus on what your goal is. And your goal is to end an outbreak by what you have at your disposal. And what we have at our disposal is science. If you get caught up in this nonsense of politicization, you're not going to be able to do your job as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In this playbook you're handing off to your future successor, do you say the next pandemic comes at us faster?

ANTHONY FAUCI: You know, I think we likely will, though you can't predict, you know -- I've been through multiple, multiple emergences of diseases. Some have been one-off, trivial. But I think the idea of the human animal interface is something that we've really got to address that. You know, that's the reason why I get back to the fact of these wet markets that bring in animals that are next to bats in caves in wherever -- who knows -- all in southeast Asia, in China.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You want more regulation of this internationally.

ANTHONY FAUCI: I want that to be regulated. I really, really do. And we know the Chinese were trying to regulate that. But there were people who were breaking the law, and there is good documentation from people who've photographed that, that animals that were not supposed to be brought in from the wild into the wet markets were there. And I think that's the reason why when this happened -- I don't know, but I think -- why the Chinese just completely cleaned it out. I think that is one of the reasons why we're not able to find out what the original source was. I think they destroyed some of the evidence.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: 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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