Face The Nation: Gottlieb, Focus Group

Missed the second half of the show? The latest on coronavirus cases in the U.S. as some states ease restrictions, global impacts of COVID-19 and voters spar over race and recovery in "Face the Nation" focus group.

Video Transcript

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JOHN DICKERSON: - Welcome back to Face the Nation. We turn now to the battle against COVID-19. Mark Strassman has more from Atlanta.

MARK STRASSMAN: COVID America is eager for moments of magic. Disneyland obliged.

- Welcome back, everyone. Welcome home.

MARK STRASSMAN: 13 months after viral dread sidelined Mickey and Minnie, the California park has reopened. Though changed like all of us.

- You have to have the ears, the whole outfit. And now, you have to have the mask too.

MARK STRASSMAN: To pandemic officials, the real pixie dust is injected, not sprinkle. And needs more believers.

MAYOR DAVID HOLT: If you go to a hospital or worse, you die all because you chose to not get vaccinated, that would really be a tragedy.

MARK STRASSMAN: More than 1 in 4 Americans has been fully vaccinated. As a daily average, 2.6 million more people got a shot over the last week. That's down sharply. The shortfall is demand, not supply. In the Northwest, a plea for young people to get the shot as cases start to spike again. Take Oregon. Hospitalizations have nearly doubled in the past week.

GOV. KATE BROWN: COVID-19 is now knocking younger people off their feet.

MARK STRASSMAN: Millions of Americans refuse to give the vaccine a shot.

- We will not be silenced.

MARK STRASSMAN: Some are never vaxxers. Others assert freedom of choice. But to most objectors, it's the science, a vague, visceral skepticism that Operation Warp Speed moved too fast. At stake, America's herd immunity. Keeping new variants at bay and getting fully on the other side of this pandemic.

- Your first time here?

- It is.

MARK STRASSMAN: The economy is getting there.

- In general, we're already back to the pre-COVID levels.

MARK STRASSMAN: People want to spend. Help wanted signs are everywhere, even on the menu.

- I've hired more people now that never worked in restaurants before than ever.

MARK STRASSMAN: They're gearing up for a hot summer in Las Vegas, the Disneyland for adults.

GOV. STEVE SISOLAK: When will Vegas be back? To all those who ask, the comeback is here now.

MARK STRASSMAN: The same for here in Georgia. A rollback of COVID restrictions starting this weekend for businesses, including gyms and movie theaters. Restaurant staff no longer have to wear masks. And all of that is worrisome to health officials. John.

JOHN DICKERSON: - Mark Strassman, thank you. The situation in the United States is definitely improving. But that's not the case in some other parts of the world. Here's senior foreign correspondent, Elizabeth Palmer.

ELIZABETH PALMER: Good morning. Mass vaccination is at last bringing COVID under control in Europe. But there are still hot spots across the world. Right now, first and foremost in India. Yesterday, it set a grim record. More than 400,000 new cases. To say hospitals are overwhelmed is an understatement. Medical staff are working flat out against huge odds. And everywhere, there's a shortage of oxygen.

People wait for hours in the street to refill tanks for home care. A Sikh temple in East Delhi even set up curbside oxygen distribution for the very sickest like Abu Sa'adat, whose brother has been trying to get him into the hospital for a week.

- No more vax, all in hospital.

ELIZABETH PALMER: More than 3,500 Indians died yesterday. Makeshift crematoriums have even sprung up in parking lots with the fires going day and night. International aid, including oxygen from the US is arriving. But not enough to end this crisis anytime soon. The other hot spot on the planet is Brazil with a per capita death rate right now even higher than India's. And the virus is still spreading fast thanks to people obeying rules on mask swearing and social distancing sporadically or not at all.

Speaking of no social distancing, how about this? A government sponsored rave. 3,000 young people tested to make sure they didn't have COVID were invited to a party in Liverpool. They'll now be tested every day to find out if mass events like this can take place safely over this summer.

JOHN DICKERSON: - Liz Palmer reporting from London. Thanks, Liz. We go now to former FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb. He sits on the board of Pfizer. And he joins us from Westport, Connecticut. Good morning, Dr. Gottlieb.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Good morning.

JOHN DICKERSON: - Before we get to the International picture, I want to get your weekly update on where things stand right now in the United States.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Look, the situation in the US continues to improve. And I think in the coming weeks, we're going to see an acceleration, the decline in cases. And one of the big reasons is vaccination. We vaccinate 145 million Americans who've had at least one dose. About 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated at this point. This has been a monumental achievement rolling out this vaccine, getting that many Americans vaccinated.

And it's going to continue. We'll continue to chip away at it. The rate of vaccination is going to slow in the coming weeks. But we'll continue to pick up more people as we get into the summer. And if you want to get a harbinger of what it's going to look like, look at San Francisco right now. About 71% of people in San Francisco have had at least one dose of vaccine. 47% have been fully vaccinated.

They're recording about 20 cases a day. They have about 20 people who have been hospitalized. So they've dramatically reduced COVID in that city. And it's largely a result of vaccination. I think that right now, the gains that we're seeing across the country are locked in. We're entering warm months when this is going to create a backstop against continue to spread the coronavirus. So we're locking in these gains.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned San Francisco. Let me ask you about New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said New York City will fully reopen on July 1st even though New York state has the sixth highest count of new cases over the last seven days. What's your assessment of that decision by the New York Mayor?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Look, I think as we look out into the summer, we're going to be able to resume normal activity or something resembling normal activity. There's still going to be a layer of protection on top of what we do. I think people are still going to be cautious. But this is going to be a relatively quiescent summer when it comes to coronavirus spread. New York's doing a lot of testing. New York is leading the country really in testing. So they're turning over a lot of their cases.

And we're not even capturing all the negative tests. There's a lot of testing going on at home now with that home tests that aren't necessarily getting reported unless they're positive cases. So I think the positivity rate around the country is even lower than what we're recording. But we're seeing cases come down. We're seeing hospitalizations come down. Which is really the hardest measure of the overall impact of COVID. Hospitalizations are pretty good indicator of where the direction is heading. And they're coming down as well. So I think these gains are pretty sustainable at this point.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about India. There is a travel ban for travel from India. Do you think that's a good idea?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, I'm not sure what we're hoping to accomplish. If the goal is to try to prevent the introduction of virus into the United States, there's plenty of virus here already. If the goal is to try to prevent introduction of that new variant, 617 that's circulating in India. I assure you it's here already. So we're not going to prevent its introduction.

These travel restrictions could serve a purpose. But we need to be clear about what that purpose is. Right now, we still have restrictions in place against travel from China and the UK. That doesn't make a lot of sense. So I'm not really sure what the overall strategy is around these continued travel restrictions that we have in place.

JOHN DICKERSON: When people see these, an enormous number of cases and the virus blooming in different parts of the world, how should they process that with respect to variance? In other words, more disease, does that create the conditions for more variants that could then come back to the United States and cause us issues here?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Look, that's absolutely the case. The more that this virus continues to circulate, the more it's going to continue to mutate. But the reality is that these variants aren't just cropping up in one market and then migrating around the world. They're cropping up simultaneously in every market. You're getting what we call convergent evolution, where the same mutations that are arising in other parts of the world are also arising here spontaneously.

There's probably a finite number of ways that this virus is going to try to mutate to evade our immunity. And it's testing us everywhere in the world. So the same mutations that are arising in other parts of the world are arising here as well. They just haven't gotten a foothold here in part because we've been vaccinating our public.

JOHN DICKERSON: A lot of people are thinking about what they're going to do with their kids this summer. What is your assessment? What's going to happen, do you think, in terms of being able to vaccinate those under-age 16, say, in the 12 to 16 age range?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Look, I'm hopeful that the FDA is going to authorize the Pfizer vaccine. The company I'm on the board of has applied for permission to start giving its vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds. I'm hopeful the FDA is going to authorize that in a very short time period. And I think once that gets authorized, I think you'll pick up-- probably, 5 million kids will get immediately vaccinated. There's about 17 million children between the age of 12 and 15.

I think we'll pick up about 5 million immediately. I think probably another 5 million, 5 to 7 million would get vaccinated over the course of the summer before the school year. So that'll be incremental. Americans getting vaccinated against COVID. And hopefully providing protection in an age group that has been susceptible to the infection. Older kids are more susceptible certainly than younger kids.

JOHN DICKERSON: Will vaccinating kids, is there-- will that go through the regular system we've had or will parents be going through pediatricians? Is there a different way when you're talking about those younger ages to get the vaccine passed?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yeah, it's a great question. There's a lot of effort underway right now to try to break the vaccine down into units that can be distributed to doctors' offices, to allow pediatricians to provide those vaccinations. And I think that's ultimately the way we're going to get more kids vaccinated. I think initially, you're going to see vaccination sites start to offer vaccines to children. Pharmacies will as well. But really, the key to getting kids vaccinated is doing it through pediatricians.

JOHN DICKERSON: All, right Dr. Scott Gottlieb, thanks so much as always. See you next week. We'll be right back. To mark the first 100 days of the Biden administration, we asked voters what was most important to them about the president's campaign promises.

- The thing that concerns me the most and it was probably an unspoken promise, and that is that my kids will be safer, potentially safer. I myself have been placed in jail multiple times for no reason of my own just because of the color of my skin. And to hear a leader come in, and try to bring in, and try to bridge this country, and bring it back together, for me, is what was desperately needed.

JOHN DICKERSON: In-- Senator Tim Scott in giving the Republican response on Wednesday night after the president spoke said, America is not a racist country. How did-- did you hear that and what was your response?

- I did hear that. My great grandfather was lynched. People came to their home in the middle of the night and grabbed him, lynched him. And my grandfather and all his siblings were separated. Never to be seen again. So they don't even know. I have relatives that I've never seen again. But also, Tim Scott-- for Tim Scott to state that he's been stopped and he's been profiled, he has been stereotyped, and all those things, and then to turn around and say that America is not a racist country, it's sad to say but it looks like the guy just bought out by [INAUDIBLE] on the other side.

- I was disappointed with his speech. But I don't think that America is a racist country overall. But I do think there has been a disgusting amount of not only systemic racism coming from before-- and we are talking about our families. But coming from a family of mixed ethnicity and having a lot of friends of all, you know, races and everything and living in the South, you know, I mean, I almost started crying hearing your stories. I mean, I do agree that it's a huge problem.

- There are a lot of good people in the United States. So not everyone is racist.

JOHN DICKERSON: Is it your view that it's a racist country or that there are racists in America?

- I believe that this is a racist country.

JOHN DICKERSON: OK. April, you're shaking your head.

- And I've lived it. And I've lived it.

- Yeah, I don't agree that the United States is a racist country. I don't know why so many people will be coming across our border who are not white would want to come here so badly if we're so racist. I disagree with that premise totally.

- I'm happy for you but you didn't live that.

JOHN DICKERSON: Allen, you want to jump in there.

- My father was Puerto Rican, so he was born in America. My mother, however, was from Honduras. And I can tell you right now, I mean, she left for safety reasons. Because nobody leaves their home, their family just on a lark, you know, or looking for a better job. You know, just for that reason. I mean, they leave and go through that hardship because they feel genuinely in danger.

And I don't think America is a racist country per se. But I don't think that a lot of people even realize when they're being racist. And when they are looking down at someone, you know. And unless you've been the target of that, you know, either verbally or by the looks, you don't know.

JOHN DICKERSON: President Biden, is it your feeling that he's spending a lot of money even given the fact that America's just been through a pandemic and a lot of people are out of work?

- I believe more people would be back to work if he'd spent less money on unemployment. We have local people with small businesses who can't hire enough people to take care of their clients because the people are getting $600 or whatever, $400, $600 more in unemployment. So they don't want to go back to work.

JOHN DICKERSON: When Joe Biden ran for president, what was it that he said that you would like him to deliver on?

- Well, the health message. Making health affordable to all families, creating jobs through actually working toward fixing the infrastructure. Another thing that he's touched on as well is education. You know, I mean my sister got her master's. But you know, she's a year older than I am and I'm 65. And she's still paying off her student loan. So I mean, you know, what is the incentive for a person to get educated if there's no light at the end of the tunnel.

- I bartend with my master's degrees.

- Well, that's what I'm saying. I mean, that's atrocious. That shouldn't be happening.

- Well, I like-- I mean--

- But yes, it is. But yet, it is. And where are these jobs going? I mean, a lot of these jobs are going overseas.

JOHN DICKERSON: Kate, did you watch the president's speech?

- I did. And again, I feel like, you know, the jobs answer isn't really on a federal level answer. It's really a state level answer. So HIM promising jobs is just a pie in the sky thing to appease American people. The minute he raises the corporate tax back to where he wants it to be, where the liberals want it, you can kiss the rest of whatever jobs are left in this administration goodbye. Because it is all about the money. We are a capitalist country. And you can't just say, you have to produce jobs but we're going to tax you at 45%. They're going to send all that job.

- I believe the number was 28%. But I think that even so, that was a stretch. And they don't-- well, they don't-- you know, just saying, you know, it won't be that high.

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- --a $5.4 trillion expenditure plan, you're going to have to go higher than what you're saying.

JOHN DICKERSON: And Kate, what did you make of his argument that by raising the corporate tax rate, corporations that have paid no taxes will pay their fair share?

- To me, it all goes down to if the economy is robust and if the corporations are paying less but the jobs are there, there's more money going back into the economy.

JOHN DICKERSON: If you heard that the Republicans worked with President Biden on some piece of legislation, you don't-- that would be fine with you if they work together.

- Yes. I have no problem with that. I have no problem. I'm from New York. I have to deal with the liberals every day of my life. So to me, yeah, if he work with bipartisanship, it's a little bit better for the country.

JOHN DICKERSON: Becky, do you feel like the American economic system is basically fair?

- I mean, no. I always work-- you know, I have 2 to 3 synonyms for different, you know, like three part time jobs and then a freelance job and, you know, whatever. I think that we tip on backwards with women also in the business like as far as what we earn, that's taking a hit again, you know, compared to men.

JOHN DICKERSON: Kate, you were shaking your head. Do you do you think that the American economic system is basically fair as it set up in the moment?

- It's the greatest in the world. Honestly, I mean, I'm a female, I'm a business owner. I own my own business. I worked really hard for a living. I come from a single mom, a poor background. You know, I put myself through college. No, I don't think that could happen in any other country in this whole entire world than in the United States.

JOHN DICKERSON: Allen, as you look at the next year, what gives you hope?

- I think that what gives me hope is that, again, trying to unify the country. Yeah, you know, we're always going to have us against them obviously. However, if we can look past our own egos and our own hardships and try to see the other person's viewpoint a little bit clearer and more respectfully, I think that we can go forward.

JOHN DICKERSON: April, what gives you hope?

- That there's another election coming up in 2022. And hopefully, we'll get the house back.

- I'm with April. 2022, making sure that tech is not going to censor for the next two years for the next elections. And also tightening our election laws. Making sure that if I have to show license to go on the plane or to buy a beer, that I should have to prove who I am to vote.

JOHN DICKERSON: Becky, what gives you hope?

- I'm hopeful that we are headed-- well, first of all, to be out of this, you know, what pandemic. I look forward to being able to work. I look forward to seeing people again. But I look forward-- no, I look forward to less violence hopefully.

JOHN DICKERSON: Ray, what gives you hope?

- I think all of us were just tired of waking up every day, looking at our phones to see what the heck has happened over the night. And what other fear mongering was taking place as a result of some tweets or whatever. But I think that now, we have a good leader in place. He's going to help us move forward in the right direction.

JOHN DICKERSON: And we'll be back in a moment. We end today with a tribute to all the people who paved the path to Americans becoming vaccinated. When doctors, Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissmann got their COVID-19 vaccines last December, they received a standing ovation. They were at the end of a global vaccine bucket brigade that they had helped start. Their life's work with mRNA was at the center of the cure in those syringes going into their arms.

It had helped doctors like BionTech's Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, who joined the vaccine push with Pfizer scientist, Catherine Janssen.

CATHERINE JANSSEN: We can call it a miracle. But a miracle always has a sense of it's just happened. It didn't just happen.

JOHN DICKERSON: Next in the brigade were the volunteers who tested the new vaccine. Jennifer Haller was the very first to participate in the Moderna trial.

JENNIFER HALLER: The value that I'm going to add to, hopefully, for everybody will certainly outweigh any risks that that could happen.

JOHN DICKERSON: The vial spun through their factory chutes quickened by Operation Warp Speed.

- D-day was the beginning of the end. And that's where we are today.

JOHN DICKERSON: Airlines and shipping companies took it from there.

- Do you feel like you were delivering hope this morning.

- Absolutely. They know it's going to make a meaningful difference in the lives of so many.

JOHN DICKERSON: Pilots handed to truck drivers.

- After many years with UPS, this has been the most important load that I've hauled.

JOHN DICKERSON: The supply was spread over 60,000 vaccination sites including the one at the New York Department of Health where it went into my arm. The visit was an efficient ballet of injection where nurses and volunteers ministered to people from all walks of life. Who were polite, orderly, and grateful .

This is not an exhaustive list of all those who lent a hand in turning an idea into a cure. But the winding chain of effort illustrates the magnitude of the toil of thousands, most of them out of sight. Which has led to over 146 million Americans being vaccinated. Hearts lightened. Summer plans opened. Hugs finally deployed.

We are grateful beneficiaries. Our gratitude is tempered though by the stark sorrow of the pandemic that is still shaking our world. The links in the chain of vaccination have given those of us who received it a chance at the future. As a recipient, thank you. I hope that all of that work will inspire all of us to be worthy of it. Back in a moment.

Before we go, some very happy news to share. There's a new member of our Face The Nation family. Malik Murphy Yakub arrived Wednesday. Margaret, her husband, Giotto, and big brother Aymond sent us this photo to share with you. Welcome to the world, Malik. For Face The Nation, I'm John Dickerson.

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