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At This Hour

CDC Reduces COVID-19 Isolation Time for the Asymptomatic; Long Lines at Testing Sites amid Omicron Surge; Shooting Spree in Denver Area Ends Four Lives; LAPD Releases Bodycam Video Related to Killing of Teen; New York City Reports Five-Fold Increase of Kids Hospitalized with COVID-19. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 28, 2021 - 11:00   ET




AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Alarming increase: New fears about the danger the Omicron variant poses to children as hospitalizations among kids soar. We'll answer your coronavirus questions this hour.

Under scrutiny: why did police open fire inside a clothing store, accidentally killing a teen in a dressing room?

Her parents speak out today.

And sticker shock: gas prices are forecast to surpass $4 a gallon by Memorial Day, just in time for summer.

We begin this hour with growing questions after the CDC shortened the isolation time for people with COVID from 10 to five days if they don't have symptoms. The CDC also cutting the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to coronavirus to five days, with no quarantine period at all if you got your booster dose.

The changes are part of an effort to prevent further disruptions to daily life. It comes as the Omicron variant is leading to a major surge across America. The U.S. is now averaging 237,000 new cases a day, approaching the all-time high of 251,000 last January.

Hospitalizations continue to climb, now 71,000; pandemic hospitalization records in four states have hit their all-time peak. And the number of Americans killed by COVID is nearing 1,500 a day. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen joining us now to explain these new CDC guidelines.

I have to say, Elizabeth, I had to read those guidelines four to five times. I think I understand much of it. But I'm really glad you're here to make sense of it for us.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And they are so confusing. I read them over way more than that, talked to my producer, called one of CNN's medical analysts. He didn't know the answer. He got someone else. All of us got together. These are difficult to understand.

It's unfortunate that the CDC guidance is guidance for the public but it's difficult for even medical professionals to understand. Here is sort of how we boiled it down.

If you have COVID-19, you do need to isolate but, as you mentioned, it's been cut from 10 days to five days.

Now five days of isolation and then five days of wearing a mask if you're around others. That is if you are asymptomatic or if you're sick but your symptoms are getting better. That's a big if.

So if you're still super sick, you obviously are not supposed to do that. Now let's talk about when people are exposed to COVID-19. Let's say someone in your family has COVID. You're not testing positive but you have been exposed.

And the rule before was, you needed to quarantine. Now they're saying, if you've had a booster or if your second shot was within the past six months, you don't need to quarantine.

But they are saying it's best practice to get a test to see how it's going and also to wear a mask for 10 days. You might say, gee, you're exposed to COVID and you don't have to quarantine; here's the reason why.

The CDC says if you've got an booster, a booster is 75 percent effective against the Omicron variant. So if it's 75 percent effective, you're not testing positive, you are not sick. They want you to be able to go to work, especially if you are an essential worker. Amara.

WALKER: Elizabeth, we're hearing from the CDC they're updating their numbers on the Omicron variant prevalence. There is a discrepancy.

Can you explain that?

COHEN: Yes. So we were told this thing moves like wildfire and it's just going up, up, up. But in fact, new numbers that the CDC put out, it reflects a smaller percentage of cases being Omicron than the previous week.

So what they told us last week was that 73 percent of the new cases were Omicron. And now they're saying it's 58 percent. Now I will say that the CDC has been clear that there's a large margin of error here. This is not an exact science.

But interesting to see that it's not sort of taking off the way that people thought it might, at least according to these numbers.

WALKER: Elizabeth Cohen, I appreciate you. Thank you so much.

As you know, the COVID surge is leading to long, very long testing lines, from New York to Austin to Milwaukee, people spending hours waiting to just get tested. CNN's Leyla Santiago is live at a testing site in Miami, where, yes, people are waiting hours to get tested still. Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Amara, we just got new numbers at the site where I am right now, one of the busiest in South Florida. They tell me that they tested about -- or they administered about 9,000 tests here, 60,000 across Miami-Dade County.


SANTIAGO: Let me put that in perspective for you. That's about a 50 percent increase compared to the peak during the Delta wave. So that really speaks to the volume, the increase and the demand for testing.

As a result today, Miami-Dade County has opened two new sites and have plans to open more in the next few days, because that's what they have do to meet that challenge as so many people coming to get tested, given how quickly Omicron is spreading and given the holiday gatherings that we're seeing.

So we talked to a few people in the line. Listen to how they compare what they're seeing right now in these long lines versus what they've seen here in the past.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's way more chaotic now. Everybody is freaking out. But that's the same thing that happened before the first time. You know, everybody was going everywhere about it (ph).

SANTIAGO: How would you (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a spot right by my house, where I would go. It would take less than five minutes. I would just walk there and that's it. And now the line extends into, like, the next street. It's crazy.


SANTIAGO: And how long the wait is, is kind of fluctuating throughout the day. But bottom line, it is typically hours long. We spoke to one woman, who came in overnight. She got in that line at 3:00 in the morning because this is a 24-hour testing site.

It took her three hours to get a test. Now that is the onsite testing. I should add there is also a part of this site that has vaccinations; much busier on the testing side than it is on the vaccination side.

Then there are those at-home test kits. Miami-Dade County distributed more than 150,000 for free over a two-day period. They are now completely out and have put in additional requests to the Department of Health. Amara.

WALKER: I guess, to find the positive part of this, I am a little heartened to see that people are actually willing to stay in that line for two to three hours to get tested.

What are people telling you about why they're willing to be in that line?

What are their plans?

Why are they getting tested?

SANTIAGO: Well, so, some people have told me that they, you know, don't feel well. They have fever or chills. So this is a matter of making sure that what they're feeling is reflected in what the diagnosis actually is.

Other people are trying to do it because of travel or because of the holiday gatherings, because of the holiday season and what could be coming up in terms of more gatherings.

So you know, we've been limited in the number of people that we've been able to talk to. But the reasoning has varied. When we spoke to general manager of Numi (ph) Health Florida who runs these sites, partnering with Miami-Dade, he was actually echoing what you said, that it's nice to see that people are actually getting tested, that they are able to offer this.

But yes, there was a long line, because there is such a large demand right now for that testing.

WALKER: Yes, and we're seeing that kind of demand in Atlanta. I don't want to stand in one of those lines if I don't have to. I drove around yesterday after the show to find an at-home rapid test at my nearby pharmacies. I went to two and I was unsuccessful. So I'll have to try again. These tests are in short supply. Leyla Santiago, thank you so much.

Coming up in just minutes, we'll answer your coronavirus questions.

Also coming up, the family of a teen accidentally killed by L.A. police are speaking out for the first time soon, as video captures the chaotic scene that led to her death. Details and a live report next.





WALKER: Developing at this hour, Colorado police are investigating a string of shootings that left four people dead and several others injured, including a police officer. Officials say the suspect opened fire at several locations in the Denver area before being killed in a firefight with police. CNN's Lucy Kafanov is live in Denver with more.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's more questions than answers at this early stage of the investigation. Police say that the first shots were fired -- or at least reports of them -- right around 5:00 pm local time in central Denver, where a suspect killed two women and a man was injured. The suspect then killed another man several blocks away. At a third

location, a gun was fired but no injuries happened there.

Denver police then spotted the vehicle, which they believe belonged to the suspect. They tried to chase after him, to pull him over. A gunfight ensued, in which the police vehicle was damaged. Then the suspect managed to get away to the nearby city of Lakewood.

Lakewood police had reports of shots fired almost an hour after the central Denver gunshots. A victim was found on the scene, pronounced dead on the scene. When police found the car and the suspect, another gun battle ensued.

He fled on foot to the Hyatt hotel, where he shot, reportedly, another employee there, a clerk, and he also shot and wounded a Lakewood police officer, who, as of yesterday evening, was getting treatment for his injuries. He was undergoing surgery. We don't know his fate at this hour.

More gunfire was exchanged and the suspect was killed. The police chief says they don't know the motive just yet. Take a listen.



CHIEF PAUL PAZEN, DENVER POLICE DEPARTMENT: As far as what started, that is part of the investigation. We need to really dig in and find out what the motivation behind this was.

JOHN ROMERO, SPOKESPERSON, LAKEWOOD POLICE DEPARTMENT: At this point, there's only believed to be one suspect. Again, we have our SWAT team, who is diligently going through a very large area behind us, to clear the area, to make sure.

But at this point, we do not believe there's any additional threat to the community. We do believe at this point there's only one shooter.


KAFANOV: And, Amara, just the amount of area the suspect covered is immensely large. This is a very large crime scene. It will take some time before we get these critical answers.

WALKER: Lucy Kafanov, thank you for that.

Also developing this morning, in just hours, the parents of a teenaged girl, killed during a police shooting at a California department store, will speak out for the first time; 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta died in her mother's arms after being accidentally shot by LAPD inside of the dressing room.

Police have released bodycam video of the deadly encounter. CNN's Josh Campbell live in Los Angeles with more.

I mean, you see this video; you see that, you know, there are very tense moments but your heart just -- there are no words. It goes out to the family.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely. Just a pure tragedy. What we're learning with this new body camera footage released by the LAPD is just how chaotic that scene was inside a California department store last week, as this suspect went on a rampage, assaulting customers inside that store.

Now I want to show you some of the video here that was released. I want to warn our viewers that this is graphic. It is disturbing. We have blurred some of the images.

But you are about to see the moment where officers are approaching that suspect. He opens fire. Sadly, on the other side of the wall, where that suspect is, was that 14-year-old girl. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (from captions): (INAUDIBLE). Hey, hold on. Hey, slow down, slow down. Let me take point with the rifle. (INAUDIBLE). Hey, back up. Get out. Out, out, out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's got -- he's got a tube.



He's hitting her now on the right-hand side.

Slow it down, slow it down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, she's bleeding, she's bleeding.

Shots fired, shots fired, shots fired.


CAMPBELL: So a scene of chaos there. It's worth noting that those officers, as they were on the way to the mall, they had received 9-1-1 calls of a shooting in progress. So on this body camera footage, you could see that they're clearly postured to try to locate an active shooter as they go through that department store, looking for the threat.

Obviously that shooting resulting in this tragedy. One major question that we are getting after looking at this video is how an officer, with a high-powered rifle, may not have actually looked beyond the target and considered what was beyond the place he was shooting.

That, obviously, part of this investigation. Finally, we are expecting to hear from this 14-year-old girl's family. She will be in a matter of hours outside of LAPD headquarters, addressing the public. They are clearly demanding answers.

WALKER: Yes, that is a key question. Josh Campbell, thank you.

Joining me now is CNN law enforcement analyst Anthony Barksdale. He is a former acting Baltimore Police commissioner.

Thank you for joining me, sir. Look, to my untrained, civilian eye, you know, I was taken by this large high-powered rifle that takes up much of the bodycam video from this vantage point.

And it makes me wonder, you know, was such a high-powered weapon necessary in this response?

What are the biggest take-aways for you?

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think that the patrol rifle for an active shooter situation is appropriate. But when we get to the situation, the officers have to evaluate what is going on.

What do they see?

And at the point where that officer fires that assault rifle, I don't see that there's any way to justify that use of force. And to make it even worse, in my opinion, behind that suspect is that 14-year-old girl and her mother.

When you pull that trigger, you better know your backdrop. And if you go earlier in that video, in the bodycams, you'll hear an officer say, "By the dressing room, by the dressing room."

Who is usually in a dressing room?

Customers. The area was not cleared and yet we have this use of force occur. It is just -- I don't see any excuse for what we saw.

WALKER: You're right, though, that you hear that audio of, "By the dressing room." So clearly it was known that there was a dressing room beyond the suspect and, you know, there could be casualties beyond that.


WALKER: What should have been done then in that situation?

BARKSDALE: OK, so let's pretend that you and I, we're two officers, we are going into the situation. When we see that we don't have an individual with a weapon, with a gun, now that could be dangerous, maybe.

But you could go to your less than lethal option and I back you up with a lethal option. You issue verbal commands: I've got your back. You use your less than lethal use of force. If that doesn't work, he comes toward us, then I'm going to engage.

We have other options there besides firing that assault rifle in that store. And they also had -- we had other officers there. I counted at least seven or eight following in toward the dressing room after the victim is shot. So we had options. LAPD did not use the options. And this is a preventable tragedy. And my condolences to the family.

WALKER: Can you talk us through some of the audio?

You mentioned the dressing room comments. But also you hear over and over the officers saying, "Slow down," several times.

What does that indicate?

BARKSDALE: Yes. OK, when you hear "slow down," whatever officers are using that language, they are right. You need to slow things down -- you need to take in what you're seeing, take in what you're hearing.

And when you'll see, at certain points, when someone says, "she's bleeding" or there's blood, you can actually sense the heightened reaction by the officers.

That's why you want to slow it down. You want to breathe. You want to think tactically while you're in the situation. And that did not occur. It's like their training was trying to kick in but it was -- it just didn't happen.

WALKER: Sadly, a 14-year-old girl is now not here and she just happened to be in the dressing room with her mother. We'll hear from that family. That's expected today, this afternoon, and we'll have that when that happens. Anthony Barksdale, thank you for your analysis.

Coming up, so many of you have been sending us your coronavirus questions. We will answer those about how to protect your kids, testing and the new CDC guidelines, next.





WALKER: The Omicron surge is leading to an alarming increase of hospitalizations for children. New York City has experienced a 395 percent increase in pediatric hospitalizations in the last three weeks.

Joining me now is Dr. Charles Schleien. He is the chair of pediatric services at Northwell Health, which includes Cohen Children's Medical Center. They are the largest provider of pediatric health services in New York state.

Welcome to you, Dr. Schleien. A lot of people have questions about how to protect their children. First, I want to ask you what's happening in your hospital and how the young children, who are hospitalized, what kind of condition they're in.

DR. CHARLES SCHLEIEN, CHAIR OF PEDIATRIC SERVICES, NORTHWELL HEALTH: Yes, so we have -- you know, we've had an increase in cases. We were running sporadic cases for the last year; one, two, three cases in the hospital. We have about 20 children infected with COVID right now in Cohen Children's.

Three of them are in the ICU, quite ill; about a third of the 20 are children who actually just tested positive who were either postoperative or in the hospital for something else. So you know, it's a handle-able (sic) number.

The -- what makes this different than what has happened in the past is that the hospital -- and this I know is true for the children's hospitals across the country -- have been very crowded and very busy because, interestingly, we had a lot of winter disease late summer and early fall.

So going into this surge, we were very busy, very crowded, very few beds. And then adding these 2 dozen cases to that had just made the situation a bit worse.

WALKER: I think a lot of people might be scratching their heads, though, because there's been so much talk about Omicron, you know, potentially being -- causing milder disease.

So why do you think we're seeing this spike in hospitalizations for COVID among children?

SCHLEIEN: It's just a matter of math. We know that Omicron is much more spreadable. And many more people, including children, are getting the disease. So with this incredible increase in the number of cases, a few are going to be sick.

And, in fact, if you look at the kids who are very sick, they're either very, very young, babies, who are going to be more prone to more illness, more severe illness, or there are other children, who are older, teenagers and so forth, who have major co-morbidities, whether that's chronic illness with immunosuppression or other major issues.