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CDC: Flu Activity Remains High But Continues To Decline; Erie County State Of Emergency Still In Effect One Week After Storm; Chinese Fighter Jet Uses An "Unsafe Maneuver" To Intercept U.S. Aircraft. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 30, 2022 - 11:30   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: This just in to CNN. Police in Idaho says they will hold a news conference this afternoon on the killings of four college students. Authorities telling CNN there are new developments in the investigation. CNN's Veronica Miracle is in Idaho. She is on the phone with the latest. Veronica, what can you tell us?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Amara, we just heard moments ago and confirmed -- CNN can confirm according to two federal law enforcement sources that a suspect has been taken into custody in connection to this investigation into the murders of four University of Idaho students. The sources are telling CNN the arrest was made by the FBI in northeastern Pennsylvania, all the way on the other side of the country. This is per our Josh Campbell and Mark Morales.

This comes just moments after we were told that there's going to be a press conference today at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time as you have said. Obviously, major developments going to be announced here today officially from the Moscow police department. And this comes nearly seven weeks since the murders of Xana Kernodle -- Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen, and Kaylee Goncalves happened on an off- campus home near the University of Idaho.

The colonel says that they were murdered and stabbed in their sleep, obviously a gruesome crime. And it has shaken this entire small rural college town here. And, of course, the families have been reeling and have been asking for answers this entire time.

But the Moscow police department has been steadfast in releasing very few details the entire time saying that they have had strong leads and that they were keeping information close to the investigation to protect the integrity of the investigation. Well, now, we are expecting that they will be announcing today at this press conference that an arrest has been made in the murders of these four students, Amara.

WALKER: Yes. Hopefully, we'll learn more on the motive as well. Veronica Miracle, thank you very much.

Just in, new data from the CDC shows flu cases remain high across the U.S. CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joining us now with the new reporting. Elizabeth, what are we learning?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Amara, this was a super early flu season. And what we're seeing now from data that the CDC just put on its website moments ago is that flu activity is going down after going up, up, up, up, up. This is now the third week in a row the hospital admissions for, you know, people hospital -- people admitted to the hospital with the flu has gone steadily down.

Now, a couple of caveats here. First of all, this doesn't include holiday activity because this looks at the week of December 18, so it doesn't include people moving around after Christmas or after New Year's. We'll have to see what happens with that. Also, flu activity is still super, super high in the United States. Nearly every country -- every state at high or very high levels, Amara.

WALKER: And, Elizabeth, I want to ask you about the COVID threat heading into the New Year. A lot of people are going to be gathering obviously to celebrate and welcome 2023. With the surge of cases in China, are experts worried about new variants developing?

COHEN: They are worried. I mean, no one is panicked, nobody is hysterical, but they are worried. And here's why. When a -- when a virus is in a population and they've tried to protect them and there was a lot of quarantine, a lot of controlling in China, there was vaccination with a vaccine that didn't necessarily work very well, and then all of a sudden, they said, hey, we're going to end the quarantines, you can get a whole lot of viruses out there. And that means that you can get a whole lot of variants. And that is the concern.

WALKER: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much. Good to see you.

Well, Russia ramping up its attack on Eastern Ukraine overnight. The top Ukrainian military officials say Russian forces shell the entire frontline of the Donetsk region. The strikes come as Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Chinese counterpart via video call this morning. Xi Jinping telling Putin China is ready to increase political cooperation with Russia.

CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman joining us now from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Hi there, Ben, what's the latest? What's the situation on the ground?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the situation is that after yesterday's massive strikes across the entirety of Ukraine, we also had more overnight. In fact, right here at about 2:00 a.m., we heard the sirens go off in Kyiv. There were seven drones that headed toward the capitol, two were shot down just outside of it, five over the city, a total of 16 drones. All of them were intercepted by Ukrainian air defenses. But we're seeing an intensification of fighting in the east. [11:35:02]

Ukrainian officials now conceding that their forces, in addition to the Russian forces are suffering heavy casualties around the city of Bakhmut, which has been the scene of the most intense -- some of the most intense fighting of this war. We also understand it in Kherson, the southern area recently liberated from Russian forces. That area took 80 separate artillery strikes in the last 24 hours, Amara.

WALKER: And, Ben, I have to ask you about this video call between Xi Jinping and President Putin of Russia. What do you make of that, especially when you have the Chinese president saying that he wants to increase political cooperation between the two countries? Will that impact the war in any way?

WEDEMAN: It's difficult to say that the Chinese leader is talking about a political cooperation. Putin mentioned military-to-military cooperation. But it's worth pointing out that even though China is one of the biggest producers of weapons, it has yet to -- yet to provide any to Russia because it wants to avoid Western sanctions. So, Russia has had to go to countries like Iran and North Korea for weapons and ammunition as its supplies are running low, Amara.

WALKER: All right, Ben Wedeman on the ground there in Kyiv, thank you very much, Ben.

Still ahead. Residents in Buffalo are still digging out as threats of flooding are now a serious concern as the weather warms. The latest on the recovery effort next.



WALKER: One week after a deadly winter storm slammed into western New York, a state of emergency is still in effect for all of Erie County. The storm has killed at least 39 people. As residents dig out, we're hearing stories both heartbreaking and heartwarming about community members stepping up to help one another.

CNN's Athena Jones is joining me live with more, Athena, you are standing in front of the sight where something pretty remarkable happened. Tell us about it.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Amara. That's right. We're here in a suburb of Buffalo, where I can tell you the story of a heroic mechanic named Jay Withey. He got stranded on Friday evening. A friend called, asking for help, asking to be rescued, and so Jay Withey took it upon himself to get in his car and drive towards helping that friend. He got stuck. He ended up picking up a guy who didn't know was wearing a light jacket and not prepared for the storm, and had him join him in his vehicle.

By later that night, his vehicle couldn't move anymore. An elderly woman knocked on his door and said she wanted a gas, so she joined the group in that vehicle. At one point Jay Withey went, he said to 10 houses begging for people to let him in. He offered $500 just to sleep on the floor saying he was in fear of his life. All of them turn them away saying no, I'm sorry, so they went back to the car, spent the night, took turns taking naps by morning -- by Saturday morning, one of them had to use the restroom, so the mechanic used his phone's GPS and found this school behind me, EDGE Academy. And he said this school is going to have heat, it's going to have restrooms, probably food too. So, he went and he used some old brake pads to break a window on the side of the school, managed to gain entry, went in there with this old elderly woman and the young man he found.

And then later, he noticed in the streets surrounding the school that there were several cars, at least seven vehicles, elderly people stranded in their cars, so he went and got them, brought them into school -- into the school, he broke into the cafeteria, got them cereal so that everyone could eat. Eventually, he managed to break into a closet and get a snowblower working, even without the key because he's a mechanic. And he later, at one point, went and cleared the snow around all of the vehicles. But bottom line, he was able to help save these people.

And he felt bad, of course, for breaking in, and so he left a note. And here's what the note said. To whomever it may concern, I'm terribly sorry about breaking the school window and for breaking in the kitchen. Got stuck at 8:00 p.m. Friday and slept in my truck with two strangers just trying not to die. There were seven elderly people also stuck and out of fuel. I had to do what to save everyone and get them shelter and food at a bathroom. He signed the letter Merry Christmas Jay.

And just one more note. One of those houses -- one of the people they stopped by begging to be let in, they came and found him later. And they said that they were so sorry, they couldn't sleep all night having denied him entry. And Jay Withey says he's a religious man. He said, you know, if you would let me in, I wouldn't have been able to save all these people.

At least 10 people that he saved that night. All of them exchange numbers. They are planning to stay in touch, but finally a good story out of this terrible storm, Amara.

WALKER: Oh my gosh, what an amazing insight from him. And quite fortuitous that these people turned him away. I do want to follow up on what's happening there because I see behind you the roads that look like -- looks like there has been cleared. What is the latest on the recovery efforts?

JONES: Well, first of all, it is much warmer now. We're approaching 50 degrees. This is exactly what everyone was expecting. And so, a lot of the roads -- most of the roads are clear. There are still large mounds of snow on the sides of the roads in some places, but you can see a lot more of the asphalt and the sidewalks.

Now, we did talk about a flooding concern. Officials have now said that that's less of a concern there is a flood watch out, which just mean that -- means the conditions are there for possible flooding, but it's not yet a warning. And, of course, it's been raining off and on here. But in terms of the biggest and most difficult part of the recovery, that appears to be over, Amara.

WALKER: Yes, finally turning a corner there. And thank you so much for bringing that really heartwarming story. Athena Jones, thank you.

Well, you know, there's also concern that rising temperatures and rain in the forecast could cause flooding in Buffalo as you just heard. Across the country, 16 million people are under a flood watch in California as a winter storm there dumped snow and rain across the West. CNN's Chad Myers has the forecast. Chad.


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Amara, you know, I mean, a lot of people in Buffalo have basements. And this is truly the problem here. Not so much a flood watch for big rivers and lakes and the lake itself, this is really for the localized area that are the low-lying areas where the water may be seeping into people's basements, may be seeping into the crawlspaces and the like. There's going to be some rain showers and there are some rain showers right now, but it's not significant. This would have to get a lot more severe for there to be widespread flooding. So, that is some good news.

56 degrees on Tuesday. They will take it there, absolutely. There's still going to be snow melt. There are still going to be some rain showers. The showers are on the radar right now, but they are widely scattered, not widespread.

Down to the south, I can't say the same thing. There are some severe flooding going on now in New Orleans. Also, severe thunderstorm warnings for places just to the west of Mobile. Kind of the same system that made the snow for Denver, the south side, the warm side, making the severe weather possible today.

Back out to the West. We are seeing the next storm system coming into the West. A big weather-maker flood watches out here, as you said, millions and millions of people in these flood watches.

I'm looking at some of the computer models from this morning. And there are models that are putting out 12 inches of rainfall in the next 60 hours. 12 inches of rainfall. You push that up into the Sierra, you're going to get snow and a lot of it. Some spots could pick up six to 10 feet in the highest of the Sierra. That's good news for the spring when we're going to use that water to one, drink water plants, and put back into the reservoirs.

Now, if you're going out for New Year's Eve, you may not want that rainfall. The rain is going to be early into probably San Francisco and then late into LA. As we work our way though, into the afternoon evening, New York City is looking a little bit drier. Some air is dry up -- coming up into parts of New York State and also even into Boston that may shut that rain off just in time for the big ball drop. Expecting the same thing in LA still raining around nine o'clock in the evening but by midnight, if you're outside or going to go see some fireworks, I think it starts to dry up, Amara.

WALKER: That's such great news about New York because I have a couple of friends who flew up yesterday and were praying for no rain. So, thanks for that, Chad.

MYERS: Take a poncho anyway. No umbrellas inside those gates, take ponchos, please.

WALKER: And maybe a diaper, Chad Myers.

MYERS: Oh, no.

WALKER: Chad Myers --

MYERS: That's TMI.

WALKER: What if you're stuck in that, you know, the crowds? Chad Myers, thank you so much.

MYERS: Yes. You bet.

WALKER: All right, still ahead. We are counting down to the New Year. Everything you need to know about the big festivities, that's next.



WALKER: A close call caught on camera. The U.S. Defense Department says a Chinese fighter jet intercepted a U.S. aircraft using what it called an unsafe maneuver. The U.S. says the American pilot had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. The incident happened December 21 in international airspace over the South China Sea. About 30 people were on board, no one was injured.

Two days, that's all what we have left of 2022. New York City officials preparing for tomorrow's ball drop in Times Square. CNN Gloria Pazmino is in the Big Apple. And, Gloria, tell us about the safety preps that organizers are taking ahead of the big event.

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Amara. It's a big undertaking for NYPD and all the other law enforcement agencies here in the city. But they've done this many other times before. And we have been trying to learn more and more about the preparations for this big party, the biggest day of the year here in Times Square tomorrow evening.

Even tomorrow morning around this time, people will be lining up right where I am standing. And you might be asking yourself, why would I want to go to Times Square for New Year's Eve? Well, the answer is why not? It's going to be a giant party.

And, Amara, for the last few years, this celebration has been significantly scaled down because of COVID. This year, they've lifted all restrictions, so we are expecting to see very, very big crowds. Now, you asked me about security. If you are watching this and saying to yourself, you know what I think I'm going to go to Times Square this year and ring in 2023 with thousands of people standing next to me. If you're going to do that do not bring an umbrella, do not bring a backpack, do not bring any coolers or blankets, or chairs. People are, you know really just asked to bring the bare minimum.

May will be a long day, but it will be a fun one. There'll be a lot of entertainment. And, of course, the energy of the crowd here in Times Square, which is a place like no other, Amara. There will be a ton of confetti falling on the rollers when the clock strikes midnight. And, of course, the star of the show, the ball that comes down at night, more than 11,000 pounds atop one Times Square. It will come down ringing the new year and it will be a complete, complete zoo here at midnight.

WALKER: Yes, it will be. Gloria, I know you're a proud New Yorker. Have you been a reveler before? Have you been there on the ground when the ball dropped? And what are you most looking forward to?

PAZMINO: I sure have, Amara. It's a rite of passage. I was here in Times Square 10 years ago ringing in the New Year full disclosure.


I was working, so I had some perks, you know like a bathroom. If you are just coming here to ring into New Year, you're not going to have access to a bathroom nearby, so take that into account. But I have to say it is an experience like no other once in a lifetime. You got to do it once, you don't have to do it ever again.

WALKER: You have the luxury of a bathroom. I don't know what others do, but we'll leave it there. Gloria Pazmino, maybe just don't drink any water. Probably not a good idea. Thank you so much.

And don't miss the second of the festivities tomorrow night. CNN live from Times Square with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

All right, still ahead. There has been an arrest in connection to the murder investigation of four college students at the University of Idaho. We're going to have the details. Plus, six years' worth of Trump's federal income taxes are now in the hands of the public. We're going to break down what we have learned so far. Next.