Full transcript of “Face the Nation” on August 8, 2021

On this “Face the Nation” broadcast moderated by John Dickerson:

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JOHN DICKERSON: I’m John Dickerson in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, as the Delta variant marches through the U.S., tempers flash over whether or not to mandate vaccines and masks. The Delta’s surge of Southern swing appears to be peaking, but as it moves north, it’s hitting some states just as students are returning to school. America’s anger is spreading, too.

CROWD (in unison): We will not comply. We will not comply.

JOHN DICKERSON: This time there’s an alarming rise in cases among those who don’t even have a choice when it comes to getting a vaccine: Kids.

DR. PETER HOTEZ: I don’t think the virus is target– targeting kids necessarily, I just think there’s a firestorm under way and kids are getting swept up in it.

JOHN DICKERSON: President Biden singled out Republican governors who have openly disregarded federal mask guidance despite local spikes in cases, and is reportedly considering limiting federal money that goes to states unless they improve their vaccination rates.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I say to these governors, please help. But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.

JOHN DICKERSON: Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is threatening to withhold some funding to those school systems who do require masks.

RON DESANTIS: If you’re trying to deny kids a proper in-person education, I’m going to stand in your way.

JOHN DICKERSON: We’ll talk with the Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona about the COVID challenges facing America’s education system. And we’ll ask Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, how his district plans to handle the governor’s threat. We’ll also talk with Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, who says he now regrets signing a law banning state mask mandates, and is confronting vaccine hesitation among his constituents head on. And we’ll check in with former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. Plus, we’ll preview CBS THIS MORNING and the Albany Times Union’s exclusive interview with Brittany Commisso. She’s speaking for the first time about why she’s filed a criminal sexual harassment complaint against embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

BRITTANY COMMISSO (CBS THIS MORNING/Times Union, Exclusive): What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.

JOHN DICKERSON: Finally, we’ll sit down with author Amanda Ripley. Her new book, “High Conflict,” examines how in this age of outrage we can find our way back to productive conversations.

It’s all coming up on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We thought we were done with that feeling in our fight against COVID-19 that one step forward could be followed by two steps back. But we’re not done. The U.S. is now reporting an average of one hundred thousand new cases a day, up from fifteen thousand a day just a month ago. Public health officials expect that number to go a lot higher before it begins to drop. What is different, though, is that during this time of backslide, there is something that we could only hope for during previous ones–a vaccine. But one hundred million Americans who are eligible for the vaccine have not gotten it. We begin this morning with our senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann in Marietta, Georgia.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News Senior National Correspondent): Cajun country versus COVID, it’s not a fair fight. Louisiana has one of America’s lowest vaccination rates. COVID hospitalizations are eight times higher than they were five weeks ago.

FELICIA CROFT (Willis-Knighton Medical Center): People are younger and sicker, and we’re intubating and losing people that are my age and younger.

MARK STRASSMANN: In two weeks, one percent of Louisiana’s entire population has caught the virus.

JOHN BEL EDWARDS: We have no reason to believe in our data that we’ve reached the peak or that we’re coming down. We have more children sick with COVID-19 than at any other time during the pandemic.

MARK STRASSMANN: Across America seventy-one thousand kids tested positive in the last week of July. One in five new cases as the Delta variant stalks the unvaccinated of all ages.

WOMAN #1: The level of sick visits that we’ve seen this summer, June, July, and now August, I’ve never seen in twenty years of practice here in Houston.

MARK STRASSMANN: Another negative: Surging positivity rates. Twenty states are over ten percent. More alarming, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, over forty percent. Two states, Texas and Florida, make up nearly one-third of America’s new COVID cases. Both governors oppose universal masking as schools open.

GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-Florida): We can either have a free society or we can have a biomedical security state. And I can tell you, Florida, we’re a free state.

MARK STRASSMANN: Free state, costly approach.

WOMAN #2: So we have basically patient everywhere, in both sides of the– the unit.

MARK STRASSMANN: On Friday the state set a daily record–nearly twenty-four thousand new cases. Hospitalizations have quadrupled in a month. Deaths have doubled.

(APPLAUSE)

MARK STRASSMANN: Despite the run-away spread, COVID’s culture war is unrelenting. More schools opened this week, more parents will square off about protecting kids.

MAN #1: You can’t mask the kids. It’s unconstitutional. It’s child abuse. And everybody knows it.

MARK STRASSMANN: Anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers.

GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY (D-New Jersey): These folks back there have lost their minds; you’ve lost your minds. You are the ultimate knuckleheads.

MAN #2: The only way to fight against it is we get the shot.

MARK STRASSMANN: Urgency now drives vaccination campaigns, right behind the Delta variant lurks the Lambda variant. More employers have a new vaccine policy: get it or get gone, including Microsoft, Tyson Foods and United Airlines.

(End VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: Here in Georgia, the number of new daily cases is at its highest level since late January before the vaccine was widely available. Hundreds of them in Metro Atlanta are kids. They tested positive during the first week of school. John.

JOHN DICKERSON: Mark Strassmann in Atlanta. Thank you.

We go now to the Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, who joins us from Little Rock. Good morning, Governor.

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON (R-Arkansas/@AsaHutchinson): Good morning, John. Great to be with you this morning.

JOHN DICKERSON: It’s good to have you. I want to start with schools and masks before we move on to the bigger issue of vaccinations. But they’re related because in schools, those under twelve can’t get vaccinated. You signed a bill that was against mask mandates. You changed your position. Why?

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, facts change and leaders have to adjust to the new facts that you have and the reality of what you have to deal with. Whenever I signed that law our cases were low. We were hoping that the whole thing was gone in terms of the virus, but it roared back with the Delta variant. And whenever, we– you know, we’re pushing the vaccines out, but those under twelve cannot get vaccinated in the schools. And so I realized that we needed to have more options for our local school districts to protect those children. And so I asked the legislature to redo the law that prohibited those requirements or those options for the school districts to protect the children. And so it was an error to sign that law. I admit that. Thank goodness if the legislature did not act this week, which they didn’t, the court stepped in and held that as unconstitutional. And now we have that local flexibility for schools to make their decision to protect the children based upon the unique circumstances of their district.

JOHN DICKERSON: When you say facts change, do you see something in the last few weeks, particularly with respect to those under twelve who are in hospitals who are getting COVID? Did you see and learn more about the way in which the Delta variant is affecting that specific part of your community?

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: We have. And part of it is that the Delta variant is so transmissible that it affects every population. The higher age group populations have been vaccinated. So we’re seeing forty-year-olds in the hospital and on vents and– and then it goes down. And while the children are less susceptible to it and have less at risk, still a small number of children find themselves in the hospital. We’ve had over twenty-four in our children’s hospital. We’ve had three adolescents die. They couldn’t be vaccinated. And– and so I look at that and I say that we’ve got to do everything we can to protect those children. Everybody else can be vaccinated. And I’m pushing those vaccinations. We don’t need other stringent measures there because vaccine is their solution. But for those under twelve, we want them to go to school and we need to have that flexibility because they do have some risk.

JOHN DICKERSON: I want to get to the vaccine solution in a moment. But, quickly, about the Marion School District. I think there are about nine hundred students and teachers in quarantine. Do you feel like that wouldn’t have happened if the school district had had the freedom of local control and the ability to have a mask mandate in that school district?

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, if we would have had more vaccines out, those numbers would have been less. But it illustrates the point that if we’re going to have a successful school year, school districts like Marion need to have that option to require masks for those lower grades or make the decision that’s suitable for their community. But let me emphasize a point here that ordinarily you have about 2.5 contacts from one exposure that has to be quarantined. But in the school environment, it was more like eighteen to one. And so that’s why we had so many that were quarantined. And you can’t have a successful school year with that kind of exposure in the school. And so vaccines, as well as flexibility of the local school district would be the key, in my judgment.

JOHN DICKERSON: Last time you were on the program, Arkansas was forty-sixth in the nation in terms of first vaccinations. It has now risen to thirty-eighth in the nation. So it has gotten better. Sixty percent of Arkansans are now gotten at least one shot. What accounts for that improvement?

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, two things: we did start our community conversations, which are town halls that I’ve been to over twelve cities, and those honest conversations from skeptics to trusted advisers in the community has spurred action to increase vaccination rates. But even more significantly, the risk factor is at play. And people see the hospitalizations up. They see the cases. They see what happens to their neighbors. They’re worried about it. They’re going out and getting vaccinated. We want to continue to mount that campaign to engage our local communities. Hopefully, we can be successful and continue that increase our vaccination rate. That’s the only way out of it.

JOHN DICKERSON: Last time you were on you said if incentives don’t work reality will. And it seems to have kicked in. When you have these conversations in the community–a new Kaiser Foundation poll found that half of those who are unvaccinated say that they’re more worried about the vaccine than getting sick. When that comes up in your conversations, what do you say to people?

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, first of all, it’s not what the government says, and I recognize that’s not going to be the answer that is needed or is persuasive. But I will call on a local physician that they know that they trust in their community and ask, what do you say about that? And that trusted adviser is more persuasive and fact oriented and helps to dispel the myths. The second thing that’s important is the FDA has to act. We’ve had over– well-over a hundred million Americans that are vaccinated. They’re not going to come in now and say, well, that shouldn’t have been approved. You know as, Doctor Fauci says, they’re dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. We need that final FDA approval. They need to act.

JOHN DICKERSON: Do you think if the FDA approves, that there would be any vaccine mandates in school districts or that would kick in after that full approval happens?

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Not in Arkansas. I don’t support a vaccine mandate. We can do it through education, but I do expect that broader acceptance of the vaccine–I do expect that some employers in sensitive industries will require vaccines. But you have to have the FDA approval before that is more broadly accepted.

JOHN DICKERSON: When you’ve been going around the state and– and encountering your constituents, a lot of times in this pandemic, people have said we’re all in this together. But you made a statement this week where you said some politicians are, you know, playing to people’s fears and not being compassionate. Are we all in this together based on your experience?

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, we’re all in it in terms of trying to get through the pandemic, but we have to have leaders that will step up and say that’s a myth that’s not supported, and you all need to listen rationally to people. We can’t just give in to the loudest voice, which is fifteen percent of people who’s not going to take the vaccine regardless, that believes in the conspiracy theories that are totally irrational. And we have to have leaders that will be able to resist that loudest voice in the room and talk common sense, compassion, and logic to them.

JOHN DICKERSON: Finally, Governor, as we go out the door here, you served as chairman on the National Governors Association. The Democratic co-chairman was Andrew Cuomo. When Margaret was here and asked you about it, you said you’re going to wait for that investigation to take place in New York. Investigation has taken place. A lot of people think he should step down. Do you have a view?

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Well, the investigation was very thorough. The allegations could not be more serious. No woman should have to go to the workplace and have to choose between a paycheck and being assaulted, particularly when it’s in a public environment. So he either needs to resign in the face of this. Certainly, if criminal charges are filed, he should resign. It’s– it’s a sad circumstance, but that was a very credible review. And the allegations are very serious. And that should not be tolerated in a public environment for sure, much less a private environment.

JOHN DICKERSON: Governor Hutchinson, thanks so much for being with us.

GOVERNOR ASA HUTCHINSON: Thank you.

JOHN DICKERSON: In an exclusive interview for CBS THIS MORNING and the Albany Times Union, national correspondent Jericka Duncan spoke to Brittany Commisso, who was going public for the first time since she was identified as executive assistant number one in the New York attorney general’s devastating report of sexual harassment charges against Governor Andrew Cuomo. In that report Commisso said she was groped and sexually harassed by the governor, and on Friday filed a criminal complaint against him with the Albany sheriff’s office. Commisso is one of eleven women accusing the governor of sexual misconduct. And the state assembly is expected to finish an impeachment inquiry later this week. Cuomo denies the allegations and says he will not step down.

JERICKA DUNCAN (CBS THIS MORNING/Times Union): Why did you file that criminal complaint with the sheriff’s office?

BRITTANY COMMISSO (CBS THIS MORNING/Times Union): It was the right thing to do. The governor needs to be held accountable.

JERICKA DUNCAN: And just so I’m clear again–

BRITTANY COMMISSO: Mm-Hm.

JERICKA DUNCAN: –being held accountable to you–

BRITTANY COMMISSO: Mm-Hm.

JERICKA DUNCAN: –means seeing the governor charged with a crime?

BRITTANY COMMISSO: What he did to me was a crime. He broke the law.

JOHN DICKERSON: You can see more of Jericka’s interview tomorrow on CBS THIS MORNING.

FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: And it’s back to school time across America, so we turn to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. He joins us from Meriden, Connecticut. Good morning, Mister Secretary. I want to jump right in. The governors of Texas and Florida have enacted measure– measures to forbid mask mandates. You said you were going to talk to them. Have you talked to them? Or if you haven’t, when you do, what will you say?

MIGUEL CARDONA (Secretary of Education/@SecCardona): Good morning, John. Yes, we are ready, fifty million students across the country are ready to return to school in person. We owe it to our students to safely reopen schools and make sure they have the best opportunity for learning, which we know as educators is in person. And, yes, it’s in all hands on deck effort. I have calls out to many governors, including Governor Hutchinson, which we just heard from. And I did talk to Governor Abbott and I spoke to the commissioner in Florida. We need to work together to make sure our schools are safe for all students and for our staff.

JOHN DICKERSON: You make any progress in those phone calls?

MIGUEL CARDONA: You know I think what we’re seeing across the country is we recognize the importance of vaccinations and the President put a charge on all of us. Let’s get our vaccination pop-up clinics set up in our schools where students feel comfortable going to get it. And I think everyone across the country agrees on that. I believe strongly that we need to do everything, including our mitigation strategies, to make sure our students are safe. The data is showing us that in places where they’re not following those mitigation strategies we’re putting students at risk. We can’t accept them.

JOHN DICKERSON: You said in a briefing this week that governors in those states of Texas and Florida are putting politics– they’re letting politics interfere. Do you see no merit, though, to their argument that basically the school experience is– is impinged by wearing a mask?

MIGUEL CARDONA: Listen, I understand the fatigue of wearing masks. I don’t like wearing masks. I know my own children don’t want to wear masks. They are vaccinated, but we also understand that this is bigger than us. We’re trying to keep infection rates low. And I think it’s more dangerous for students to be home and have interrupt– interrupted learning because of the decisions that we’re making. We’re clearly at a fork in the road in this country. You’re either going to help students be in school in person and keep them safe or the decisions you make are going to hurt students. That’s where we are right now. And while I understand the argument around not wanting to wear masks because we’re fatigued, it– it– without question, student safety and staff safety come first.

JOHN DICKERSON: And your– your argument, as I take it, is that if you don’t allow some flexibility or if you don’t have masks in schools, you’re going to see interruptions. I mean there’s a quarter of the country in which there are these blockages on mask mandates. Do you expect in that quarter of the country you could have schooling actually fully interrupted?

MIGUEL CARDONA: I do believe that. I mean the segment before eighteen students in a classroom had to be quarantined because masks weren’t being used and, perhaps, they were in close contact. We’ve done this before. Last year we spent a whole year trying to safely reopen schools. This year we have the benefit of the return to school roadmap that provides tips for families and for schools, the benefit of the American Rescue Plan where resources are there to make sure our schools are safe and then the vaccination efforts that are underway. We know what works. We’ve seen it work. We just have to follow the guidance from CDC and let our educators and education leaders lead. They know what to do to keep our schools safe. Let’s give them the opportunity to do what’s right.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me get your insight on some– on the cost of this pandemic, on schooling. The New York Times had an analysis they did with Stanford University that showed that in thirty-three states, ten thousand local public schools lost at least twenty percent of their kindergartners. First of all, can you assess the gravity of that figure? And, secondly, what are we going to do about it?

MIGUEL CARDONA: Yeah. I saw that, and my experience last year in Connecticut, as we reopened schools, we– we saw also that our kindergarten numbers were very low. Half of the number of students that didn’t return to school were three-, four-, and five-year-olds; and what that tells us is that we must double down as educators to reach out to those families and share with them what we’re doing to keep their children safe. You know, as I said before, as a parent, nothing is more important to me than the safety of my children. And I think our role now as educators is to communicate that schools are safe places. We know early childhood education is critically important to the success of our students. So having our students come into the classroom where they learn by doing, learning social and emotional skills by doing as three-, four- or five-year-olds is critically important. It’s our job now to help parents feel comfortable with what we’re doing to keep their children safe.

JOHN DICKERSON: One of the ways that parents can feel comfortable is increasing the vaccination rates, as you mentioned, particularly with teachers. What is your position on teachers’ mandatory vaccination among teachers in schools?

MIGUEL CARDONA: Sure, well, we’re promoting the week of action where we’re really getting the message across the country to get vaccinated when you’re eligible. We’re having pop up clinics in schools. And just tomorrow, I’m going to be in Kansas with the Second Gentleman promoting some of the vaccine efforts underway there. And for the educators I feel strongly that if you’re eligible to get vaccinated, get vaccinated, do your part to make sure that we’re all safe and that we can reopen schools without interruptions. Again, our students have suffered enough. It’s time for all of us to do our part to keep our students and staff safe. Students need to be in the classrooms. That’s where they learn best.

JOHN DICKERSON: Teachers union representative Randi Weingarten on NBC suggested that the teachers should get vaccinated. How helpful will that be in that cause?

MIGUEL CARDONA: It’s helpful and– and, quite frankly, I think we recognize as educators across the country that we’re going to get farther if we work together and that’s what we’re seeing across the country. Educators who have bent over backwards for our students this last year are coming together to say, let’s do our part. We know they– they are lining up to get vaccinated. Ninety percent of the teachers across the country have gotten vaccinated. We’re proud of that. We want to keep the efforts going. We want our youth to get vaccinated. Listen, and– and to those who are making policies that are preventing this, don’t be the reason why schools are interrupted, why children can’t go to extracurricular activities, why games are canceled. We need to do our part as leaders like Governor Hutchinson is doing, to make sure that they have access to the decision that they need to make to get their students safely back in school.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Secretary Cardona, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

MIGUEL CARDONA: Thank you.

JOHN DICKERSON: And we’ll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: 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+ app.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: And we’ll be right back with Miami-Dade County Public School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, and author Amanda Ripley. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. The Miami-Dade County public school system is the fourth largest in the country. School starts there in two weeks. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho joins us from Miami– Miami. Mister Superintendent, let me start with the governor. He signed a– an executive order banning mask mandates in schools. You have about three hundred and thirty-four thousand students. The governor threatened funding to your school system if there are– is a mask mandate. How are you weighing the governor’s order and the health of your students?

ALBERTO CARVALHO (Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools/@MiamiSup): Good morning, John. Number one, we have been a school system that’s been guided by science all along, We’ve navigated this awful pandemic with the expert advice of public health and medical experts, and we’re not going to abdicate that position. We’ll continue to be a district that’s oriented by the expert advice of professionals. It is sad that currently in America we see this rhetorical narrative that’s deeply influenced by politics rather than– than medicine and the wise advice of those who know best what’s in the best interests of our students and the professionals who teach them. But, look, we are in a privileged position in Miami-Dade as we have time in our hands. Most of the school systems in Florida open tomorrow. We have two additional weeks to continue to negotiate, as Secretary Cardona indicated, a practicable, reasonable solutions that achieve two things. Number one, the appropriate protocols for a safe reopening of schools without compromising the health insurances for our students and our teachers while simultaneously avoiding these punitive defunding strategies. That could be a consequence of a defiance of the executive order or the emergency rules that were followed after the publication of the executive order by the Department of Health and the Education.

JOHN DICKERSON: When do you think you’ll have to make the call?

ALBERTO CARVALHO: We hope to make the call immediately after our last meeting with the health task force that was convened by the school system over a year ago, which include– which includes individuals like– like U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Doctor Aileen Marty. These are experts in the field who have advised our school system and will continue to advise Miami-Dade County public schools.

JOHN DICKERSON: The governor says that there is the science, but then there is also the mental health of the children, which he says will be significantly affected by wearing masks. How do you as someone who has been in education at the level you have, how do you evaluate that assessment about masks and– and students?

ALBERTO CARVALHO: I think it’s a fair– I think it’s a fair comment that we should have a balanced set of protocols and safeguards that, number one, ensure the health and well-being from a protective and preventive perspective of our students and– and employees side-by-side, obviously, with the psychological impacts that we hope to protect on the part of students. And I think we are– we are poised to be able to do that with technologies that we have in place with much improved contact-tracing protocols, much-improved quarantine rules in place. We believe we can do this without, in a deleterious way, impacting the well-being, psychological, mental well-being of students, but also while protecting the health and well-being in the school environment. Look, I am one who is driven by parental choice. We have seventy-five percent of our students enrolled in nontraditional programs in Miami-Dade. We are one of the highest performing urban school systems in the country and we hope to be able to negotiate a reopening of schools with protocols that, number one, provide protection for our students with masks while simultaneously avoiding financial consequences–

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me–

ALBERTO CARVALHO: –perhaps allowing some degree of parental opt-out provisions.

JOHN DICKERSON: You, as I understand it, were a part of a school-district-wide campaign to talk to households where they were reluctant about coming back to school. You, apparently, had a pretty good track record. You talked to thirty families, got twenty-three to agree to come back. Can you tell us what those conversations were like?

ALBERTO CARVALHO: Absolutely, John. Look, I think across the country, we have been ex– extremely concerned for a long time over the unfinished learning that we observed in every single state associated with the pandemic and social isolation. We were able to early on, based on early assessments, determined that there were communities of students, particularly, English language learners, fragile students who lived in poverty, and students with disabilities who were regressing in a very aggressive way. We identified those students. We called the parents, and the parents, quite frankly, were making decisions driven by two factors, one at work circumstances that put them in a position of keeping their kids at home, often older kids supervising younger kids, which was heartbreaking. Secondly, making decisions on the basis of underlying conditions faced by the parents themselves, a relative or the child. We provided assurance to the parents and we were able to return to the schoolhouse thousands of students who are absolutely better served in a physical environment with a caring professional in front of them rather than distance learning through virtual means.

JOHN DICKERSON: You grew up in Portugal in what you described as pretty dramatic poverty. As you have these conversations and look at your community and what has been lost during the period of COVID, can you give me your assessment of those, the poorest, who have schooling as their route to possible opportunity in America, what the damage has been in that community?

ALBERTO CARVALHO: We know, John, that the greatest equalizer in our democratic country is the power of public education, where ninety percent of our children are educated and, that is, you know, so true, particularly when you reference children in poverty who make up seventy-five percent of our student population in Miami-Dade. And we know that schools offer that ramp of opportunity, that ramp of hope for these kids. That is why all of our efforts are geared towards welcoming every one of our children back into a physical school in reality, come August 23rd, with acceleration towards full potential for all kids, with longer school days, with summer school opportunities that we built this year servicing– serving in excess of seventy-five thousand students, providing additional coaches and interventionists, additional mental health professionals to, quite frankly, provide a holistic approach that will address the unfinished learning that thousands of kids across America have experienced. And that’s why I tell you, John, we ought to pay less attention to the loud voices that are often disconnected from reason and focus our attention on students, teachers, and healthy protective environments while allowing at the same time the mental and social emotional protections for students and some degree, obviously, of qualified parental choice.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Superintendent Carvalho, thank you so much for being with us. Good luck with your decision.

And we’ll be right back with former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: We go now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, who is on the board of Pfizer and is the author of an upcoming book, “Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic.” Good morning, Doctor Gottlieb. I want to start with a Harris poll. It showed that for the first time in two months, Americans think that the pandemic is getting worse rather than getting better. What do you think?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Well, look, it’s certainly getting worse. I think you’re going to start to see improvements, particularly in the South. There is evidence that the rate of growth in the cases in the South is starting to decline. I think that this week you may see some of the states that have been the outbreak states start to tip over in terms of showing less cases on a daily basis. The rate of expansion, the epidemic is clearly slowing in states like Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri. But, at the same time, we now see the virus spreading to northern states. So cases are building in states like Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina. So this is an epidemic that’s going to sweep across the nation at different points in time. I think the northern states are more impervious to the kind of spread we saw in the South, but they’re not completely impervious. They have higher vaccination rates, there’s been more prior infection. But there’s still people who are vulnerable in those states. And– and the challenge right now is that the infection is going to start to collide with the opening of school. And we have seen that the schools can become sources of community transmission when you’re dealing with more transmissible strains. We saw that with B.1.1.7 in states like Michigan and Massachusetts and Delta is far more transmissible than B.1.1.7. So that creates a lot of risk that the spread in the northern states is going to start to collide with the opening of school.

JOHN DICKERSON: So let’s update our thinking here about schools. Your argument is you saw it before even you saw a spread in schools. Now there’s a more transmissible variant, so you’re likely to see more. But Governor DeSantis in Florida said that schools were, quote, “a low-risk environment,” unquote. Is that wrong?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, schools aren’t inherently safe. They can be made more safe if you take the proper steps, but we can’t expect the same outcome that we saw earlier with respect to the schools where we were largely able to control large outbreaks in the schools with a different set of behaviors. If we’re going to change what we do in terms of the mitigation in how we approach the schools, we’re going to withdraw masks. We’re not going to engage in testing. We’re not going to be pod-ing students. We’re not going to try to de-densify classes. We can expect a different result, especially with a more transmissible strain. I would enter the school year with a degree of caution and keep in place some of these measures and see how it goes, particularly in areas where there’s higher prevalence. I wouldn’t be withdrawing these things a priori before the school year gets underway, given the fact that we’re dealing with a strain that we don’t fully understand. This strain is clearly more transmissible. It’s going to be harder to control in a school setting, and it may be more pathogenic. Kids are getting sick with it. We don’t know if they’re getting sick at a higher rate or we’re just infecting a whole lot of kids right now. I can’t think of a business right now that would put thirty unvaccinated people in a confined space without masks and keep them there for the whole day. No business would do that responsibly. And, yet, that’s what we’re going to be doing in some schools. So I think we need to enter the school year with a degree of humility and prudence.

JOHN DICKERSON: In the– in keeping that in mind, that humility and prudence, we’ve talked a great deal about masks. What else should schools be doing to stay on top of this new variant in this time when kids are coming back?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, with respect to masks, first of all, I’d still be looking at higher quality masks. The Utah governor recently announced that he’s making available to every school KN95 masks. Now– now, they’re not mandating masks in Utah. And I think most governors will not be mandating masks, but they’re leaving discretion to local officials to implement masks depending on what the local circumstances are. And I think that that’s the prudent step that we should be doing. The other thing schools could be doing is operationalizing testing on a regular basis. There’s a lot of money, federal money that’s been flowing into states to support testing regimes. Now a lot of states have had a hard time standing that up, but some have done it quite well. California is going to be testing all students there. They’re– they’ve created their own lab. North Carolina, Maryland, ma– Massachusetts have turned to private labs. The Broad is doing a lot of testing for New England states. In New York City they’re doing saliva testing on all students with the help of Mount Sinai that– University Medical Center that I’m affiliated with. So a lot of states are going to be doing testing, but there’s still a lot of states that won’t be. And I think that that’s a very prudent step. The other thing that’s very important is- is pod-ing, keeping kids in defined social pods so that if you do have a case, you don’t have to quarantine the entire school. You can track exposure. Right now, the former surgeon general, my friend Jerome Adams, pointed out that many schools require parents to report if the kids have lice but don’t require to report if the kids contract COVID. We need to turn that around. We need to still be vigilant heading into the school year. And I think from a standpoint of parents, what they can be doing is checking local prevalence, trying to get high quality masks, if prevalence is high, you know, sending kids to school with masks, even if it’s not required and monitoring symptoms and maybe doing home testing, as well, and avoiding unnecessary congregate settings. So if you can avoid activities, after-school activities that are done indoors without masks for the time being, try to do that. This is going to be a short-lived wave of infection. It might be our last wave of infection. We have the means to protect ourselves. I think we ought to adhere to them.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you now for parents who are considering getting their kids vaccinated. So those would be over twelve years old, a lot of parents have expressed nervousness in this regard. What would your advice be to a parent who is weighing that decision about getting their– their child vaccinated?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, talk to your pediatrician. Vaccination rates are still low among kids in– in the twelve-to-fifteen age group, about thirty percent of children have been vaccinated. In the sixteen-to-seventeen age group, about forty percent. Now is the time if you’re going to vaccinate your child in advance of the school year, to do it. I think for most parents you should talk to your doctor, because this isn’t just a binary decision between do I vaccinate or don’t I vaccinate? There’s different strategies that doctors might recommend for different children in terms of how you vaccinate kids. Some doctors I know are telling parents, maybe go with one dose for now in lower-risk kids. Some doctors are spacing it apart. So pediatricians are making judgment calls in terms of how they approach this. So I think parents who are uncomfortable or reluctant to get their children vaccinated really should afford themselves the opportunity to talk to a physician and see if there’s a way to tailor an approach that can address any concerns that they may have.

JOHN DICKERSON: The FDA is now or– or the administration is now moving to your position on boosters, which is that it should be– there should be boosters for the immunocompromised. We also think about nursing homes in this context. Can you tell us, given that they’re going to be boosters coming, are they going to come in time for Delta? What’s your sense of when somebody who needs a booster might be able to actually get it?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yes, so the reporting is that the FDA is going to make a decision on immunocompromised patients within a week and maybe make a decision on older patients, patients over the age of sixty-five, maybe as early as September. I think, unfortunately, it’s going to come– come a little bit too late for this Delta wave, because by the time you actually make that decision, then CDC issues a recommendation, then you start operationalizing a booster campaign. You’re talking about maybe late October at the earliest if the decision comes in September that you can start really getting a sizable number of people boosted. It takes time to get that stood up and get people into the doctor’s office to get those injections. And it’s going to take a couple of weeks for the immunity that the booster is offered to mature. So it’s something that we should be considering, I think, right now, particularly with immunocompromised patients, not just people with pre-existing health conditions, but also people in congregate settings like nursing homes, long-term care facilities who are vulnerable.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Doctor Gottlieb, thank you as always.

We’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: From politics to policy, it seems a lot of debates these days have become filled with toxicity and outrage to the point where we are no longer listening to each other. Amanda Ripley is the author of “High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Can Get Out,” and has some ideas on how we can transform dissension in this country. It’s a tall order, Amanda, but we’re going to start with defining our terms. What does high conflict mean?

AMANDA RIPLEY (Author, High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out/@amandaripley): So high conflict can start small, but it becomes an all-consuming us-versus-them feud that sort of takes on a life of its own. So it doesn’t operate according to the normal rules of conflict. Anything, any counter, any intuitive thing you do in high conflict usually will backfire. Right? So it’s important to understand that in high conflict, we all make a lot of mistakes. We’re making them right now, as you can see, in all kinds of ways, right? So in a high conflict, people behave differently. We sent– we tend to get really certain of our own moral superiority and we make a lot of mistakes about the other side. So the– the key thing to understand is that we have to do the counterintuitive thing and we have to do it with great care.

JOHN DICKERSON: The counterintuitive thing being opening, basically being more empathetic about the other side, just as your high conflict instincts are telling you that you want to bury the other side in the deep shale?

AMANDA RIPLEY: Exactly. I mean there’s a few things you want to not do, right, that– that your body wants to do.

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah.

AMANDA RIPLEY: So a few of those are sort of the tripwires that tend to lead to high conflict. It’s important to understand. One of those is humiliation, don’t humiliate your opponents. Whether you intend to or not humiliation is the nuclear bomb of the emotions, as the psychologist Evelin Lindner puts it. And you will do yourself a great disservice. Right? So calling names, that sort of thing. Nelson Mandela has a great quote where he says, “There is no one more dangerous than one who has been humiliated, even when you do so rightly.” So I love the end of that quote. Also, you want to distance yourself to the degree possible from conflict entrepreneurs. These are people or pundits or platforms that intentionally exploit conflict for their own ends.

JOHN DICKERSON: So bad-faith actors essentially?

AMANDA RIPLEY: Yeah, people who really delight in every twist and turn of the conflict. And right now we tend to amplify those voices–right?–on social media and other places. And if you can’t distance yourself from the conflict entrepreneurs in your life, you want to try to redirect their energy to the degree possible on something more constructive.

JOHN DICKERSON: And you actually studied the kind of structural nature of these high conflict. So anybody who’s listening can think of mask debates, vaccine debates, debates over things that are done and settled, like who won the last election. We all know that President Biden did. And, yet, there are virulent debates about a fantasy world in which he didn’t. So everything I just said probably infuriated some number of people. So you studied the structural parts of this. Give me a little bit more about how we unwind from that structural– those structural forces.

AMANDA RIPLEY: Yeah. So it turns out that how we behave in political high conflict is not different from how we behave in high-conflict divorces. Right? Or other kinds of high– high conflict all over the world. You know I followed people who were really stuck in conflict, whether they were politicians or gang members or even guerrilla fighters in civil wars. And it is always the same behavior. It’s not about the facts. It’s not about the original cause of the dispute. What starts to happen in every high conflict is we have a lot of the wrong fights with the wrong people and we don’t have the fights we most need to have, right? So every high conflict has the thing it seems to be about-vaccines, masks, et cetera, right? And then the thing it’s really about, which is the understory of the conflict, which usually not always is about fear, humiliation, a need to belong and to matter, right? So those are the things you want to try to get to if you’re going to make any progress so that you can have the right fight. Because the truth is we need good conflict in this country, right?

JOHN DICKERSON: Sure.

AMANDA RIPLEY: Like there are a lot of fights that we need to have, but we need to have them in a way that they don’t destroy us, right?

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. Founded the country on the idea of if we have good conflict, it will keep us from going into the streets and having actual fisticuffs.

AMANDA RIPLEY: Right. You need to channel that. I mean people need to push each other and– and– and defend themselves and be pushed and be challenged, right? Like that’s how we get growth.

JOHN DICKERSON: So in the toolkit to try to avoid high conflict, and the reason you want to do that is to create collective solutions, the first thing to do is think about what is this high conflict really about?

AMANDA RIPLEY: Exactly.

JOHN DICKERSON: And, again, just to be clear, you’re not talking about debate and argument. You’re talking about a new level–

AMANDA RIPLEY: Right.

JOHN DICKERSON: –which is just– so in that new level you want to figure out what the debate is about and then what’s– what’s next in the things I would try to practice?

AMANDA RIPLEY: So another thing you would want to do is resist the binary, resist the urge to divide the world cleanly into two camps. That is not possible. It is very tempting, right? But don’t do it. Just catch yourself doing it, because what happens is we make a lot of mistakes, we miss big opportunities when we do that, right? And so you cannot divide. You cannot put seventy-five million people in this country who– who all call themselves Republicans or Democrats in one bucket. That’s just madness, right? We are all many things. Try to speak to another identity outside of the conflict. Right? As a New Yorker or a Californian or a, you know, Floridian or a parent is a very good one because you see and we saw this on your show today, in every high conflict, it is always kids who suffer the worst of it, right? Everyone suffers in high conflict, but kids suffer the worst. So speaking to people’s alternate identities outside of the conflict is a very powerful maneuver.

JOHN DICKERSON: You– you talk to academics who studied conflict and keying on your idea about binary decisions that complexity when people recognize the complexity of things, that helps them get out of their binary instincts. Is that right?

AMANDA RIPLEY: Right. So in a time of high conflict, we all get oversimplified, right, in our perception of the world. So the more you can amplify and surface real complexity, right, like real complexity of humans, the more people become open to information they didn’t want to hear. What you’re trying to do is revive curiosity in a time of false simplicity, right? And once you do that, you start to see people’s whole expression changes. They start to say more nuanced things. They admit to more internal doubt and– and– and uncertainty.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. Amanda Ripley, thank you so much. Hopefully, we’ll get towards the solutions.

And we’ll be right back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: That’s it for us today. And today also marks the end of my summer stint in Margaret’s chair. Thanks to all of you viewers out there for your trust and to the extraordinary FACE THE NATION team who make this show what it is. Margaret will be back from maternity leave soon, and I’ll be back soon enough, just in a different chair. For FACE THE NATION, I’m John Dickerson.