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At This Hour

Chicago Cancels Classes For 4th Day Over COVID Clash; "Full House" Star & Comedian Bob Saget Dies At 65; Australian Judge Rules Djokovic Can Stay But Saga Not Over. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 10, 2022 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the doctors and staff struggling to fight and combat this crisis.

Defiant and determined, Novak Djokovic says he plans to play in the Australian Open despite the circus and controversy now over his visa status, his vaccination status and his COVID status.

And remembering a great comedian friends and fans say farewell to comedian Bob Saget with well, big questions surround what led to his death.

Thanks for being here everybody. We begin within your record number of Americans hospitalized with coronavirus. Right now, more than 138,000 Americans are in the hospital with COVID. That's an increase of 112 percent in the last month. And just a few thousand people short of the pandemic record of hospitalizations that was hit last winter.

More than 1,600 Americans are dying each day from the virus. The United States is now averaging more than 700,000 new cases per day, which is a jump of nearly 500 percent from a month ago. All 50 states are reporting a high level of community transmission fueling also the debate over how to keep kids safe in schools right now, a real time crisis showing no sign of letting up in many places.

Like Chicago, hundreds of thousands of students are once again out of class today is a battle between the school district and the teachers union over COVID protocols enters a second week. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live in Chicago with the very latest. What's happening there Adrienne?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Kate, this is the fourth day there has been no school. But according to its website, this school behind me has opened its doors allowing students inside if they want to grab a hot meal or study independently. The mayor said at least 70 percent of students enrolled across the district depend on free and reduced lunch.

Earlier this morning, we heard from -- he said they negotiated over the weekend, ending those talks last night at 10:00 p.m. Let's look at some of the progress they've made. So far, the district has agreed to provide KN95 mask to students and staff. The district has also agreed to weekly COVID testing for students and staff. The city and the district rejected the union's proposal to return to remote learning district wide.

And the mayor says she has support from parents listen in.


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: We've got an enormous amount of parent activism. They are writing letters, e-mails. They are protesting or holding press conferences. This is an unprecedented level of parent activism. I'm all in support of returning to in person learning and we know why.


BROADDUS: And talk about support, a group of parents who have at least 10 students throughout the district have filed a lawsuit calling this strike illegal and they are seeking lost wages for not being able to go to work and having to get extra childcare. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Adrienne, thank you so much for that. Let's dig into this more. Joining me right now is Dr. Paul Offit. He's a member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee. He's also the director of the Vaccine Education Center of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Good to see you, Doctor. Your hospital came out with a very strong statement and clear guidelines last week for how to keep kids in class even when this is a moment of very high transmission. It's six steps, six protocols, if you will, to take to keep schools open and keep teachers and students safe. So when you see what's happening in Chicago, what do you say?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIR. OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: I'm sympathetic to Mayor Lightfoot, I agree with her that, you know, that we all agree that children's best places in school that distance learning is in many ways a contradiction in terms that for many children, certainly it's true in Philadelphia as well. It's the only decent meal they get during the day. And I think that no one has suffered the lack of socialization and social development more than children during this pandemic.

So we all agree that children are better off in school. If that's true, then let's do everything we can to keep them in school, which is to say if they're over five, vaccinate them that the teachers will be vaccinated that the bus drivers be vaccinated, that if any child has any symptoms that might be COVID that they stay out of school and if hopefully they can be tested, but if not just assume that they're infected. And then when they become asymptomatic, you know, they can reasonably come back and then everybody wears a mask in school. That's sort of belt and suspenders approach.

It shouldn't be that hard, but I just think we have trouble doing the two -- taking on the two weapons that are the most important which are masking and vaccination.

BOLDUAN: You know, and one thing that union in Chicago is saying that it wants is more testing. And one thing about chops guidance that jumps out is the advice to no longer require weekly testing of asymptomatic students and staff. Explain, why. [11:05:02]

OFFIT: Well part of it is a testing isn't readily available everywhere and sometimes even when you get a test, you have to wait a few days until you get the result. Third, if the test is a PCR test, it's so called molecular tests, you can be positive with PCR for. you know, for a few months even though you're really no longer contagious. So, testing is fraught with some difficulty. So therefore, the thinking was, you know, obviously, if you have COVID, stay until you're completely asymptomatic, which would mean that if you're shedding virus would be a critically much lesser amount of virus. And then belt and suspenders wear a mask for an additional five days.

BOLDUAN: I think what you're touching on is an important part of this, that maybe a lot of people are missing, which is kind of the evolving understanding now of how we can and should use testing at this point in the pandemic when vaccines are so readily available across communities, because there's also with this now becoming a new round of COVID misinformation that is hitting people hard on social media, not over vaccine misinformation -- not vaccine misinformation, which you and I've talked about so much. But now researchers are seeing there's an uptick in testing misinformation that PCRs don't work, that rapids are unreliable. And I'm sitting here wondering if that trend continues. How dangerous is this?

OFFIT: No, it is dangerous. I mean, testing is valuable, especially the antigen testing, so called laminar flow testing -- lateral flow testing. I think that's an important test to see whether or not you have infection. But again, unfortunately, we're not in a position in this country as say, people are in the United Kingdom or Canada, where tests are readily available. I mean, my sister just visit us from London the other day, she brought with her a packet of antigen detection kits, which was provided to her by the National Health Service, we're not there.

And unfortunately, we may not be there until the end of this month. And frankly, I think that we're going to largely be on top of this particular Omicron pandemic, probably by no later than mid-February. So we're really only talking about four more weeks here of doing everything we should do, which is vaccinate. I mean, I work at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, I can tell you, the children who we see in our hospital, and the children who we see in our intensive care unit who over five are unvaccinated. So this is easy enough to do, do it.

BOLDUAN: Do it. And on that point that you just made on where we are in this point of the pandemic with this Omicron surge in this broader picture. The former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said this weekend that he thinks that omicron may have peaked in several places along the east coast. Let me play how he said it.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION COMMISSIONER: But if you look what's happening across the East Coast, right now, New York City, Washington, D.C., Maryland, probably Florida as well have already peaked, maybe Delaware and Rhode Island, you're going to start to see that in the statistics this week, you're going to start to see those curves as epidemic curves bend down. You're already seeing that in New York City and Washington, D.C.


BOLDUAN: But some of the tracking data out there that we often lean on it does not yet bear this out. Are you -- What do you think?

OFFIT: So as I take some part in the fact that the United Kingdom and Denmark which are usually about two weeks ahead of us are starting to clearly see a decline in the incidence of this sort of this Omicron peak. Hopefully that will be true here. It certainly was a story in South Africa. I mean, we're -- this isn't last winter. I mean, last winter, we didn't really have a vaccine that was available last winter, we didn't have nearly the level of population immunity afforded by natural infection, as we have this year. I mean this year, probably a solid 80 plus percent of the population at least it's protected against severe disease having been vaccinated are naturally affected.

So I do think that in combination with the fact that this is a winter virus and like all winter viruses, it will start to fade as we move into early spring. I'm optimistic that things will get better but on the other hand, I'm the Philadelphia Eagles season ticket holder. So you should put that in perspective.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I'm going to take that with a grain of salt. But I will not question your medical advice. Your sports advice, yes, I will. Good to see your, Doctor, thank you so much.

OFFIT: Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Now to another developing story that we're tracking, a space heater is being blamed for an apartment fire in New York City that killed 19 people, including nine children. And the stories coming out are really terrifying. We're also learning more of just the details of the harrowing efforts by firefighters to try and rescue victims from what is now the deadliest fire in New York City in decades. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in the Bronx with more on this. Shimon prayer vigil supposed to start soon, supposed to happen soon. What are you hearing from folks this morning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've been watching a lot of the residents, family members have been coming back to the building today trying to get an idea they're going to be allowed back in many of them wanting their belongings, medication. So that's what's been happening here all day, you know, and many of them just reliving those horrific moments from yesterday as firefighters arrived here, flames already out of the window and that thick black smoke spreading throughout the building because of a door, a door that was left open to the fire department which then allowed fire to seep and escape into the entire building.

Every floor of this building trapping people in stairwells in their apartments, people were panicking trying to get out and then when they went to the stairwells where they were met with a thick black smoke wound up choking them. Five year olds, nine year olds, young kids all have died as a result. And then of course, the firefighters who went in there to try and rescue all of those kids and people who were stuck inside. This morning, the mayor talked about the heroic efforts by the firefighters. Take a listen to what he said.



MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK: Many of them of their oxygen tanks were on empty. But instead of turning back and exiting the building, they push through, through the smoke.


PROKUPECZ: And Kate, so as we know the cause of the fire, the fire department believes that the space heater then caught -- a mattress caught on fire as a result, which then created that heavy smoke. The other thing that we're learning that investigators are looking at is the door. Why was the door left open? There should have been some kind of a mechanism that automatically shut it that does not appear to have happened here. So that is something Kate that they are looking into as well.

BOLDUAN: And dozens of people injured in this and a fear that the death toll could continue to rise today. Thank you, Shimon. We'll be tracking this very closely today.

Also developing an outpouring of love and support for beloved actor and comedian Bob Saget, who died yesterday. Saget is best known for well, this role playing Danny Tanner on the family sitcom "Full House." He was just 65 years old found dead in his Orlando hotel room on Sunday hours after performing a standup comedy show. CNN's chief media correspondent and host of Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter joins me now with more on this, Brian, the tributes really pouring in for Bob Saget.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. We are hearing from his costars, colleagues, even comedians who never even met him but looked up to him wanting to be more like Bob Saget. But let's start with John Stamos, of course, his costar on "Full House" writing overnight. I'm broken. I'm gutted. I'm in complete and utter shock. I will never ever have another friend like him. I love you so much, Bobby. That's from John Stamos.

You know, so much of Saget's fame stemmed from "Full House" first on ABC than in reruns and on Netflix with Fuller House. It's nice just for a moment to look back at some of those classic scenes from "Full House."


BOB SAGET, AMERICAN STAND-UP COMEDIAN: I know what the surprise is, Joe, you're making that chili again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not a mess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you're going to love this. I know you're going to love this.

SAGET: I have a date tonight. I have a date tonight.

D.J. you got such a good heart. You care about people. And that's why people care about you. And everybody who knows the real D.J. And she's pretty.


STELTER: Just a classic American family sitcom. And Bob Saget was the heart of the show. We've also heard from the Olsen twins overnight, Mary Kate and Ashley, who of course, starred with him on "Full House," they said Bob was the most loving, compassionate and generous man. We are deeply saddened that he is no longer with us, but know that he will continue to be by our side to guide us as gracefully as he always has.

You know, I think we're also between Betty White a couple of weeks ago and Bob Saget. We're also mourning an era of television where everybody's seeing him to watch the same thing would gather by the couch in the living room and watch together as families. And I hope that that does go on in different ways. It goes on now in the streaming age in a very different way. But you know, shows like "Full House," "America's Funniest Home Videos," tens of millions watched at the same time. And that's why Bob Saget was such a household name, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's good to see you, Brian. Thank you for bringing us that. I really appreciate it.


Coming up for us, Novak Djokovic wins a court battle in Australia. Will his visa be cancelled still or will he be allowed to stay to compete an Australian Open. Former pro tennis player Patrick McEnroe joins me next.


BOLDUAN: Tennis are Novak Djokovic is back on the court after winning one round of the legal battle to stay in Australia and play in the Australian Open. His family's speaking out this morning after a judge's ruling overnight. But this controversy involving the number one player in the world is far from over. CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Melbourne, Australia with more on this. Paula, what happened overnight?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the judge decided to quash the cancellation of that visa for Novak Djokovic, what he said was the treatment was -- and the procedural treatment was not correct at the airport when he arrived. Now, he said that he was not allowed to talk, talk to his lawyer or at least wasn't given the chance, wasn't given enough time and the same with the tournament organizers. So he couldn't find out any advice or what he should be doing.

So they said the procedural issues were in place and that is why he is now a free man tonight. We know from his family who have been speaking in Serbia that he's already been out on the court on Monday. So clearly, Novak Djokovic is moving on. He is trying to now switch his mind and his body to the Australian Open, which starts next week. But it is not necessarily 100 percent a done deal. We have heard from the immigration ministry that the minister himself actually has the power to be able to step in and say he himself decides that the visa should be revoked that may come in hours if it comes, Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Paul. So standby to standby on that one. I really appreciate it. Joining me now for more on this is a former pro tennis player Patrick McEnroe. He's an ESPN Tennis commentator and host of the podcast holding court. It's good to have you here Patrick. What do you think of this whole thing in where in this moment that we're in right now?


PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Can you say just a debacle on all fronts, Kate? I mean, it's unbelievable the twists and turns that this story has taken. And I believe there's a few more to come because Novak Djokovic, I agree with the court's decision with the judge's decision to overturn his visa being denied on procedural grounds. I think it was clear that he wasn't treated well when he got to the airport. He had all his ducks lined up as far as what he needed to get into the country according to Tennis Australia, which runs the tournament and the state of Victoria. He had dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's for what he needed to do, which was have a positive COVID test, and then apply and get the medical exemption to get into the country.

Now, the Border Patrol, of course, run by the federal government says hold on a second, if you got a positive COVID test, that doesn't necessarily mean you can come into the country as a noncitizen, particularly if you're unvaccinated, which is we found out during this appeal process, unequivocally that Novak Djokovic is unvaccinated one of a minority now of professional tennis players. I believe that number is at about 96, 97 percent of the players participated in the Australian Open are currently vaccinated.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and playing at the level that they're playing at vaccinated and fine. You know, Djokovic tweeted with his team on the court saying, he said, I want to stay and compete at the Australia Open, I remain focused on that. And I'm wondering, as a player, as a commentator, as someone who knows this better than anybody, what is it going to be like, if and when he does take the court here?

MCENROE: It's going to be an absolute madhouse, Kate, I mean, that's what it's going to be. I believe Novak did exactly the right thing. It was close to midnight, when he actually went to the arena and went to the court, where of course, he's won this title nine times in his career. But here are the things that that he's going to have to answer to Kate, when he does address the media, and that's going to happen within the next couple of days I would imagine. You tested positive, apparently, on December 16th, home in Belgrade in Serbia. You received the positive test result later that night, the night of the 16th. Well, we've seen Instagram posts and videos and pictures of him out and about doing a panel discussion in Serbia, and also with a bunch of young tennis players giving out some awards. He's done a lot of great things, by the way for charity and for Australia throughout his career. But a lot of questions about well, if you just tested positive for COVID on December 16th, why were you out and about for the next 24 hours? Maybe legally he could do that. But certainly morally, he's got some questions to answer on that front. And I believe it's going to be an absolute, it's going to be chaotic, Kate, when he takes to the court. If he takes to the court, there's still that chance that the immigration office can say, you know what, we're taking you add to the country.

By the way, we're not of COVID that a player from the Czech Republic, a female player was literally accosted out her hotel. She was in this swimming pool, taking a swim. She had already been in Australia for a week and played a tournament. And the after this Djokovic situation happened, they went to her hotel. They told her to pack her stuff. And she left the country. Of course, she didn't have quite the legal representation or the wherewithal that Djokovic when he was accosted or when he was detained, I should say at the airport in Melbourne upon his arrival.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean getting -- then that speaks to -- getting to just what you're talking about. I mean, we've seen protesters take to the streets outside the hotel where Djokovic was detained. People are very upset, but some supporting him. People are very upset in Australia as well about what they perceive as the treatment, that special treatment he's getting. I mean, and what this shows is this is much more than a sports story now. This hits right at that pent up anger and anxiety and exhaustion that people have over COVID. I mean, at its most basic. Is this a clear example, Patrick, of a celebrity getting special treatment when there are families in that exact same hotel he was held in separated for years due to Australia's tough immigration roles?

MCENROE: Yes, there's one male who's been in that it under a detainment in Australia, who's from Iran. He got there at 15. He's now 24. And he's never been outside in Australia. So it's brought attention to the plight of those refugees, which overall is a good thing. But to your question, Kate, there's no doubt there's a huge backlash from Australians particularly who have had to deal with lockdowns, they're vaccinated at the percentage of well over 90 percent. For Novak Djokovic, and others, I mean, there's just no doubt that there's extremes on both sides.

I mean my Twitter timeline literally has one quote saying that I'll never watch tennis again. I'll never watch the Australian Open again and then the very next one says Novak Djokovic is standing up to the tyrannical Australian Government. He's the only one doing it. He's the only one with the guts to do it. So you're getting both sides of this and the people supporting him are being very vocal. He's almost, Kate, becoming sort of a poster boy for this anti COVID vaccination, which as we know, can be very, very vocal, particularly in this country.


BOLDUAN: Yes, unbelievable that it's making it so distinctly real and happening in real time, kind of in the Australian Open. We're watching it play out. It's good to see you, Patrick, thank you very much.

Coming up for us --

MCENROE: You got it Kate. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Of course. Coming up for us, the U.S. and Russia face to face in Geneva as Vladimir Putin continues to amass troops on the Ukrainian border. What will come, what can come of today's meeting? That's next.