COVID-19 deaths 97 times less likely with booster, CNN's Jeff Zucker out: 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Boosted Americans 97 times less likely to die of coronavirus than unvaccinated

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But fewer than half of eligible Americans are boosted. Plus, health reporter Adrianna Rodriguez talks ivermectin, travel reporter Bailey Schulz explains how some in the industry are pushing to end entry COVID testing in the United States, Sarah Palin is back in libel court in her fight with the New York Times and Jeff Zucker resigns as president of CNN.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Thursday, the 3rd of February 2022. Today, new data on the effectiveness of booster shots against COVID-19. Plus, what’s the latest with ivermectin and more.

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Here are some of the top headlines:

  1. US Special Operations Forces carried out what military officials have described as a counterterrorism raid in Syria last night. The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights said the strike killed nine people, including two children. The Pentagon has not said who the target was, but called the mission a success.
  2. President Joe Biden set a national goal yesterday of cutting the number of cancer deaths in half over the next 25 years. Biden pledged to boost the Cancer Moonshot Initiative that he led during his final year as Vice President under Barack Obama.
  3. And Norway is banning the breeding of British bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Activists have argued selective breeding can cause health issues for the animals.

Health officials continue to encourage Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, if they’ve not already done so, and crucially, to get an extra booster shot. New data out this week from the CDC shows that fully vaccinated Americans are 14 times less likely to die of COVID-19 than unvaccinated Americans. And boosted Americans, they’re 97 times less likely. Based on reports ending in the week of December 4th, for every 100,000 people, 9.7 of those who were unvaccinated were killed by the virus compared with 0.7 of those fully vaccinated and 0.1 of the boosted.

That data comes as daily averages are down 36% this week of new cases, but deaths have risen this week about 4% to 2300 deaths a day. Just under 64% of the country is fully vaccinated and only 42% of eligible Americans for the booster have gotten the extra shot.

Contrary to scientific evidence and warnings from health officials, hundreds of doctors around the country continue to prescribe Ivermectin to prevent and treat COVID-19. Health reporter, Adrianna Rodriguez, has more on why that’s happening.

Adrianna Rodriguez:

It’s a multifaceted answer, for sure. There are these flawed studies that many of them follow, but the gist of it is that Americans aren’t prescribing themselves Ivermectin, they’re getting it from medical licensed doctors. It’s really hundreds of doctors that are prescribing these medications, and although, some of these Americans are going to doctors and demanding Ivermectin, many of these… many Americans don’t know the science behind a lot of these medications, and so it’s the doctors who are advising them to take Ivermectin, despite evidence showing the contrary. That it’s not really helpful for COVID, it’s not effective towards COVID.

A lot of people who are proponents of Ivermectin for COVID-19, they say that there’s this multitude of studies, like 70 studies out there that show that Ivermectin is effective. There’s different reasons why these studies should be taken with a grain of salt. One of them is many of them are not peer reviewed. They appear in pre-print servers where other experts have not reviewed them and have not confirmed whether the results were accurate. Another issue is that if they were published, maybe they were published in smaller journals that don’t require such rigorous review, so not many doctors or other experts have seen it. And the number one thing with these studies is that they’re really all just observational studies. They’re not really the gold standard randomized clinical trials where you have a placebo and you have participants that are blinded and you have even the researchers that are blinded, and you really don’t know who’s taking what. So the results are more accurate because there’s not as much bias. In these studies, Ivermectin was given to tons of people who knew they were taking Ivermectin for COVID-19, and so there’s a lot of room for bias there that they call that the placebo effect. Where they know they’re taking Ivermectin for COVID-19, and because of that, they feel like their symptoms are getting better. In reality, they may be getting better. We don’t know if it’s because of Ivermectin. We don’t know if it’s because if that placebo effect is taking hold. We don’t know if it’s because they’re naturally getting better with or without Ivermectin. A lot of the times these studies are also conducted through subjective measures. Instead of taking more of objective measures like measuring the viral load of somebody or more scientific, and you can’t really argue with those measures, they’re just calling them and saying, “Hey, how are you feeling?” These studies aren’t very reliable.

The studies that are more reliable are the randomized controlled trials, are the ones that have less bias. And those effectively say that there is no effect that Ivermectin has on COVID-19. It does not prevent COVID-19, it does not help treat COVID-19, it does not prevent hospitalization, it does not, nothing, basically. Ivermectin is not a dangerous drug when used appropriately. People aren’t dying when they use Ivermectin as prescribed or directed by their doctor. But it’s also not helping them. So the danger lies not in them taking this drug, but in them taking this drug instead of other proven therapies or prevention measures like the vaccine.

Taylor Wilson:

You can read the full story in today’s episode description. You’ll have to subscribe to USA TODAY to get full access. But you can sign up today for just a dollar a week.

Whenever you fly back into the United States, you still need to get tested for coronavirus, even if you’re fully vaccinated. But some travel industry trade groups want that to change. Travel reporter, Bailey Schulz, has the latest.

Bailey Schulz:

Yeah, so we are seeing different travel groups pushed in this testing requirements just to make travel easier for international travelers. They really want to open up travel more so, like really kickstart that recovery or improve that recovery, I should say. What these airline trade groups and other travel industry trade groups are hoping is that by dropping this testing requirements, travelers, whether within the United States or international travelers in other countries, will take a look at the new testing requirements and say, “Oh, this will be so much easier to enter to the United States now,” and go ahead and book those flights.

What we did see was these groups send a letter to the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Jeff Zients. So what happened next is that it would appear that federal government officials would review the letter, take into consideration what they’re asking. Right now, the testing requirements are laid out by the CDC, so we’ll be keeping an eye on news from that agency to see if anything does change.

No time frame was laid out in the letter, but this is something that they said they want to happen soon it seems. They used the word “urgently” in the letter, so I think they’re really hoping by the time travel picks up around spring and summer, we’re kind of approaching this peak travel season. It seems like they’re hoping to really get things rolling before travel starts to pick up again.

Taylor Wilson:

For more of Bailey’s work, find her on Twitter @bailey_schulz.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, is due back in court today in New York City. Her appearance comes after the start of her libel loss suit against the New York Times was postponed because she tested positive for COVID-19. Palin is seeking damages based on claims that the Times hurt her career as a political commentator. She initially sued the newspaper in 2017 over an opinion piece that falsely claimed her political rhetoric helped incite the 2011 shooting of then Arizona Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords. The paper conceded that the initial wording of the editorial was flawed, but not in an intentional or reckless way that made it libelous. The case was initially dismissed, but then reversed on appeal in 2019. First Amendment attorney Doug Morrell told the AP that this case could change the free press.

Doug Morrell:

Ordinarily, in a case involving defamation claims by a public figure, the media ought to feel very confident because the standard established by the New York Times vs. Sullivan case from 1964 is an extraordinarily high bar. But in many of these cases, there is a threshold issue which also arises, which is, was what was published false in the first place. But in this case, the Times has effectively conceded by issuance of its correction that it was in fact false. And so that’s not a hurdle that is going to be very difficult to surmount at all. The question will be really a psychological inquiry into what did the times know and when did it know it? What should it have known? What sort of investigation did it pursue or not pursue? And those will be very factually dependent questions that it will have to decide.

The Palin vs. New York Times case does run the risk that our conception of what a free press is and what it should be allowed to do, and what sorts of mistakes are permissible may well change as a consequence of this case. It could prove to be a landmark decision, and the rules of the road that have existed for the past half century, at least, could be altered by the outcome of this case.

Taylor Wilson:

Meanwhile, away from court, Palin caused a stir by being cited at an upscale restaurant in the city twice, once before and once after her positive test results became public.

CNN President Jeff Zucker resigned yesterday afternoon. The move comes after the reveal that he had a sexual relationship with a top executive at the cable news network. AP reporter, David Bauder, has more from New York.

David Bauder:

Jeff Zucker, who’s been head of CNN for the last nine years, resigned abruptly today when he admitted that he’s been in a relationship with one of his top executives and has been for about a year or two. And he did not reveal it to his superiors until it came up when lawyers for Chris Cuomo started asking questions in settlement talks with CNN. Yeah, Allison Gollust has been one of Jeff’s top aides since shortly after he started CNN. She has risen to the point where with Jeff, and with another aide, Michael Bass, pretty much run CNN. She is somebody who has worked… First of all, she worked for Andrew Cuomo prior to joining CNN, and prior to that, also worked at NBC where Jeff Zucker worked before coming to CNN.

I don’t think it has anything to do with ratings, I mean, he was well respected and regarded at CNN. Now, Warner Media is going to be merged with Discovery and the person who’s going to run the new company is one of Jeff Zucker’s best friends, and there was thoughts internally that he would stay on.

CNN is also in the process of starting a new streaming service this spring, that they’ve been spending a lot of money and giving a lot of attention to. And that was one of Jeff’s baby, so the timing was not very opportune for him to be leaving.

Taylor Wilson:

You can read more about the implications of this move for the rest of the news and media business in the entertainment section on

And you can find new episodes of 5 things seven mornings a week right here wherever you’re listening right now. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

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