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U.S. Gains Ground in COVID Fight, But Experts Urge Caution; Sydney, Australia Partially Reopens After 100 Days of Lockdown; U.K. Lifts Travel Restrictions on 47 Nations and Territories; Opera Performer Killed Onstage During Live Performance; Questions Raised about Laundrie's Survival Skills; Strong Storms and Tornadoes Across U.S. Southern Plains. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 11, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and right around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London. And just ahead right here on CNN NEWSROOM.


DR. FRANCES COLLINS, DIRECTOR NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: It's not time to run back in and pretend like nothing is going on.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have to just be careful that we don't prematurely declare victory.


SOARES: America's top health experts are warning not to get too comfortable because declining COVID-19 cases could be a premature sign of relief.

Australia's largest city coming back to life opening up after a strict four-month lockdown. Plus, we are live for you in Sydney

And --

Mass protests across Poland, why there are growing fears of another European Union exit.

ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Isa Soares.

SOARES: Hello, everyone. It is Monday, October 11, welcome. And we begin this week with signs the U.S. is gaining ground in its fight against COVID-19. Now have a look at this graphic that shows on your screen. The number of new cases is dropping across most of the country -- you can see there -- only five states actually saw a significant jump in new infections last week. Hospitalizations, as we have a look at that and deaths are also dropping across much of the country. But experts say now is not the time of course to let your guard down. Take a listen.


FAUCI: We have to just be careful that we don't prematurely declare victory. In many respects, we still have around 68 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated that have not yet gotten vaccinated. And even those who have been vaccinated, I mean you want to look forward to holiday seasons and spending time with your family and doing those sorts of things, but don't just throw your hands up and say it's all over.

COLLINS: Kind of like if your house was on fire, and Delta had set it on fire and now we can say OK the fire is under control, it's not time to run back in and pretend like nothing is going on. We still have some work to do here.


SOARES: Well, good news is that vaccinations are picking up pace. The country is now averaging more than a million doses a day with just over 56 percent of the country fully vaccinated. But as Dr. Fauci mentioned just there, around 68 million eligible Americans still have not gotten a shot. Some site religion as the reason why. Dr. Fauci's boss at National Institutes for Health had this lesson for them. Take a listen.


COLLINS: If you prayed to god to give you protection against COVID-19, and along come these vaccines, created by science, which god has given us the ability to do, and they're incredibly safe and effective, maybe that was the answer to prayer.


SOARES: Well, another reason to roll up your sleeve, staying safe, of course, during the upcoming holidays. Dr. Fauci says celebrating Halloween outdoors should be safe, especially parents and older children have been vaccinated.

We're also learning new details about when the U.S. might see COVID vaccines for children under five. Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Sunday, it would be likely next year before those shots are allowed. He says officials are being especially cautious about vaccines for younger children.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I think the CDC is likely to take a very cautious approach in children ages 5 to 11 in part because there are less risk from COVID and in part because there this is a new vaccine and still collecting data about it and it is a novel virus. And so, there is still some things we don't know but I think there is a lot of information available, and certainly makes me confident about vaccinating my kids. And for those parents who still have a lot of questions I would urge them to have a discussion with their pediatricians about the pros and cons of vaccination.


SOARES: In Boston, more than 1,000 city employees may be paced on unpaid leave tomorrow if they do not comply with COVID-19 regulation. The mayor's office says those employees were notified last week that they have been failed to present the vaccination status or meet testing requirements. Some doctors say time will tell if these types of regulations will increase vaccinations.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Essentially, everyone who wants to get a vaccine has gotten a vaccine. Now we'll see what mandates can do to essentially nudge people to getting a vaccine. But people who aren't subject to mandates, and who have a steadfast against it, who have been misinformed, deliberately misinformed they're going to be very, very hard to convince.


DR. SAJU MATHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: We're coming down from such a very high level, we're averaging 95,000 case. And still, about 1,500 Americans are dying every day. Let's not forget we're going into the cold season and we know what happens. People take off their masks and especially in places that are really cold, will be hanging around other family members also in tight spaces. So, I think we should actually tighten up restrictions.


SOARES: Well, that is in the U.S. In Australia, more than 70 percent of adults in Sydney are fully vaccinated. Now the city is emerging from COVID lockdowns. Fully vaccinated residents can go to the pub as you can see there, work out in gyms and shop in stores. The Australian Prime Minister talked about the simple pleasures of life that once again are possible.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Today is the day so many have been looking forward to. The day we -- the things we take for granted we're celebrating, being with family and friends, getting your haircut, grabbing a meal together, going to the pub and having a beer with your mates. These are things that across New South Wales, in particular in Sydney, people will be able to do again today and I know all around the country that will be true.


SOARES: Our CNN producer Angus Watson joins me from Sydney with more. And Angus, it was a pretty cloudy and rainy day. But that clearly hasn't spoiled the freedom party. Any sense of nervousness from those you've spoken to today?

ANGUS WATSON, CNN PRODUCER: Nervousness -- more so relief I would say, Isa, today. People know what the challenge will be ahead. They still need to keep COVID in mind but they'll be doing so in a COVID normal way here in Sydney. They'll be living with the virus, as were told, because the vaccination rate has crept so high. Yes, they're concerned about there being more cases now that we're opened up, and hospitals may have many more patients over the next coming weeks.

Authorities and people here hoping that will be ameliorated in some sense by the fact that vaccinations have been driven up to that 70 percent mark and more, of adults fully vaccinated. And children from the age of 12 to 15 are also taking up the vaccine at a quick pace. And that's very different to the way things were in June, when this outbreak of the Delta variant first popped up and when Sydney went into lockdown, 106 days ago.

Then one case, an outbreak began with an unvaccinated driver who was chauffeuring airline crews from the airport to their hotel, he caught it, now these next few months later, over 60,000 COVID-19 and over 300 deaths, so there is concern. We all know how deadly and how dangerous the COVID-19 virus can be. But people are out celebrating today, and I went to one pub here in central Sydney, the Angel Hotel, where they're giving out free beers to celebrate. I spoke to the pub owner and he is confident he will be able to stay open, keep his bar open, because of those high vaccination rates. Here's what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're lucky that Australia's actually got a higher vaccination rate than what the U.K. does at the minute, which is great. People have been jumping on it, which is excellent for us. And we'll hit 80 percent next week, which is really good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pub is way better than drinking in your own house. 106 days in my house there's nothing better than a pub.


WATSON (on camera): So, some joy there from people experiencing a small taste of freedom after such a long time. Next, we'll be looking to more vaccinations across the country, trying to get closed borders state by state open to one another and then the next big thing is getting Australia open to the rest of the world -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, it was great to see that guy just say there, that the pub is way better than drinking at home. Angus Watson for us in Sydney. Thanks very much, Angus.

Now, just in time really for the holidays right here in the U.K., dozens of countries are coming off the list of restricted travel destinations, starting today, 47 nations and territories will be removed from the so-called red list, only seven countries remain, all in the Caribbean, Central, as well as South America. Let's get the latest from our Salma Abdelaziz who joins us from London. And Salma, this of course, is not just welcome news for travelers but also for airlines who have been crippled by COVID, as well as quarantine rules. Talk us through the new government policy here -- Salma.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely, Isa. So, 47 countries coming off that red list, at 4:00 a.m. today, that means that travelers coming from those countries will no longer have to quarantine in a government hotel. It's essentially an impossible hurdle for most people who wanted to bring family or relatives or travel to these countries themselves. And the other additional change here is that there will now be 37 countries where vaccinations are recognized by authorities here at these airports here. I'm just outside Gatwick.


So that really opens up the possibility for travelers who are fully vaccinated, can show their proof of vaccination, they don't even have to isolate at home, for those ten days as long as they go through the series of required tests. And this is something that people have been calling for, for a while, as you know, Isa, this is a very international city, people have relatives from all over the world. I have family from all over the world. And this really begins to allow for reunification of families, allow for reunification of friends, and as you said, most importantly, it allows people here to begin to have more confidence in the travel industry.

It means families can begin to travel for the half term break which is coming up in a few weeks. You're looking at winter coming here, so a lot of desire to travel abroad, particularly to some of these countries in Asia, Thailand, I'm going to point to here in particular which came off the list. One of the key countries that really wanted to be removed. So, this opens up the economic possibilities as well as of course being able to bring families together.

And yet there is concern about what this means in terms of keeping the COVID numbers down. But first of all, you have that layer of protection, about 80 percent of the population is fully vaccinated so a layer of protection there, because of the vaccination. And then you have that system of sort of checks and balances with a series of tests required, with the proof of vaccination that is required. So, yet another step here towards normal but also with all of this cautionary stuff, to make sure that variants and that the numbers of COVID cases continue to stay down -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, indeed some good news, of course, for many people who haven't seen their loved ones for some time. Salma Abdelaziz, great to see you. Thanks, Salma.

Now, it's been a weekend of travel nightmares really for Southwest Airlines. Their employees as well as their passengers, with canceled late flights, stranding frustrated travelers right across the country. More than a thousand flights were canceled Sunday morning alone. More than a quarter of Southwest's total schedule. That's after Saturday saw some 800 cancellations and 1,100 delayed flights. Listen to one Southwest passenger who was headed to a funeral describe her experience.


MICHELA VINCENT, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT CANCELED: And at 7:45 p.m. Friday night, I was dealt a devastating blow that my flight was canceled. And they sent me a link to rebook. There were no other flights available At all on Southwest or any other airline actually. And that's when I just began to cry. I was just devastated.


SOARES: Southwest blamed the problems on bad weather, traffic control issues and limited staffing. But the FAA is pushing back, saying they haven't had any shortages since Friday and the Southwest pilots union say it's not their fault either, pointing to operational issues at the airline and, quote, management poor planning.

Now authorities say there was no criminal play after a flight had to be evacuated at New York LaGuardia Airport on Saturday. People cleared out of the American Airlines flight after passengers reported suspicious as well as erratic behavior. But a probe by the joint terrorism task force, the FBI found and port authority, found no criminality involved. One person was taken into custody. It's important to note we aren't sure this is the video of that person.

Now, undercover agents have arrested U.S. Navy nuclear engineer and his wife in a sting operation that is stranger than fiction really. The Maryland couple are accused of trying to sell secrets about nuclear powered submarines to a foreign country. Agents posed as spies for the country and arranged for a handoff. The Justice Department says the FBI retrieved an SB card concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich, yep, at a prearranged dead drop location. No word on whether it was creamy of course or crunchy.

Now parts of the United States are dealing with a threat of severe weather including tornadoes. We'll get the very latest from the CNN Weather Center just ahead.

Plus, details on the tragic death of an opera performer killed during a live show. We'll have a report for you from Moscow next.



SOARES: Now, a night at the opera ended in horror on Saturday at Russia's famed Bolshoi Theater. State media reports a performer was crushed to death during a live performance. CNN's Matthew Chance reports now from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this tragic accident happened during a scenery change during the performance of a famous Russian opera called Sadko at the prestigious Bolshoi Theatre here in Moscow. Apparently one of the background actors according to law enforcement officials moved the wrong way when a heavy ramp was being loaded onto the stage, crushing him underneath.

Footage that's appeared online shows performers shouting stop and call an ambulance but attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. On social media members of the audience have expressed their shock and said they initially thought it was some kind of staged trick. In a statement, the Bolshoi Theatre has expressed condolences to the friends and family of the victim.

Investigators say they're looking into the circumstances around the death. Because, you know, this is not the first time that the Bolshoi is becoming embroiled in tragedy. In 2014 a violinist died after falling into the orchestra pit at the theater. And in 2011, a Bolshoi Ballet dancer was jailed for throwing acid into the face of the company's artistic director badly damaging his eyesight.

Matthew Chance, CNN Moscow.


Thanks, Matthew.

Now to saint Paul, Minnesota, where the community is struggling to understand how a night on the town turned deadly. Gunfire erupted early on Sunday morning at a popular restaurant and bar district. One woman in her 20s was killed, another 14 people were injured. Police have arrested three suspects. They're all in the hospital receiving treatment for their injuries. Investigators are still working to figure out exactly why this happened. Particularly since how they described the scene when officers arrived.


STEVE LINDERS, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA POLICE: Officers rushed to the scene, they got there quickly and they walked into a hell-ish situation.


There were gunshot wound victims lying in the street outside the bar. There were gunshot wound victims lying on the sidewalk outside the bar and there were gunshot victims lying on the floor inside the bar. All told 15 people were shot.


SOARES: Well, in California, a man is dead, after police in Los Angeles county said he drove his truck on to a sidewalk, and nearly hit several pedestrians. He then struck a tree and crashed into a building. That's when police say bystanders pulled him from the vehicle and allegedly beat him to death. When officers got to the scene, they found him dead. The corner is working to determine the exact cause of death.

Now, police and federal agents have now spent nearly a month searching to Gabby Petito's missing fiancee Brian Laundrie. They've been focused in vest and swampy nature preserve in Florida. But if he has been there this entire time, some are now wondering if Laundrie could still be alive. CNN's Nadia Romero has the latest for you.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're coming up to four weeks since Brian Laundrie's parents say they last saw or heard from their son back on September 13th. They say he only left with a backpack and headed was headed toward Carlton Reserve. It's an area that's about 25,000 acres. It's swampy, full of alligators, and snakes and other insects and that's where they say he was familiar with some of the hiking trails. Even his father, Chris Laundrie, went last week to that area with investigators.

But CNN asked some survival experts what they thought about Brian Laundrie potentially being able to survive for four weeks there, and they all said it's pretty unlikely. Listen to what his sister Cassie said to one news outlet about her brother's survival skills.

CASSIE LAUNDRIE, SISTER OF BRIAN LAUNDRIE: I'd say Brian's a mediocre survivalist. it wouldn't surprise me if he could last out there very long time. But also, I don't think anything would surprise me at this point.

ROMERO: And the Laundrie parent's attorney was asked by CNN if he thought that Brian Laundrie was still alive and he says he's hopeful.

Nadia Romero, CNN, North Port, Florida.


SOARES: Now, a 3-year-old boy in Texas is now reunited with his family after he was lost in the woods for four days. Christopher Ramirez was found Saturday in rough terrain five miles from his home after apparently wandering off while chasing a dog on Wednesday. A massive search effort was launched but he ultimately citizens helped authorities find the boy. They say he was tired, hungry and dehydrated, but otherwise OK. It's wonderful news.

Now, Sunday was the second day the central U.S. has been hit by severe weather. The National Weather Service reports at least nine tornadoes in Oklahoma on Sunday night as a line of severe thunderstorms has been moving through the region. The risk of severe weather is now shifting. Meteorologist Tyler Mauldin joins me now. So, Tyler, is it shifting? Is it easy and somewhat? Paint us a picture of what to expect?

TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Isa, yes, we're seeing improvement across the central and southern plains. We continue to have 1.5 million Americans in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, under a tornado watch. But that will expire in about 40 minutes from now. And I highly doubt that the storm prediction center extends that watch, because we are seeing this line of thunderstorm activity really die down.

In total, on Sunday, we had nearly a dozen tornado reports and about 30, 31 severe weather, severe wind reports and some of these wind reports were as high as 73 miles per hour, and there are some preliminary reports that wind gusts could have gotten up to about 80 miles an hour still.

If you live in the Midwest and the Great Lakes, listen up, because this storm system is now heading your way. We're not looking at the same type of severe weather setup that we saw across the plains but we certainly could see some large hail and damaging wind in this part of the country. Level two out of five risk, for severe weather, here in the Midwest and the Great Lakes on Monday. But then on Tuesday, we hit repeat. And the central plains are, they're going to see another round of severe weather on Tuesday.

Here, we can see yet again more tornadoes, large hail, and damaging winds, a level three out of five risk for severe weather here. Plenty of time for the Storm Prediction Center to up that risk to a level four or level five. The reason why we're going to see more severe weather here in the center part of the U.S. is because of a developing storm maker across the West Coast, and this system is going to drop more than a foot, and in some areas more than two feet of snowfall, especially in the northern Rockies.

It's also going to bring down some really cool air, and the clash and the temperatures that you see here on the map here, the above average heat across the East Coast, the below average temperature across the West Coast, where they meet, that's where we get the severe weather. And that's where we're going to be dealing with for the next couple of days.

SOARES: Thanks very much for breaking it all down for us, Tyler. Appreciate it. Tyler Mauldin there at the CNN Weather Center.

Now, I want to show you these images from that erupting volcano in the Canary Islands, we've been showing you here on this show for the last few day, weeks in fact. These are actually live pictures, blocks of lava as large as three story buildings have been rolling down the hillside of the island of La Palma.


The lava has been flowing for more than three weeks and tremors are still being felt in the area. It's about 9:24 in the morning there in La Palma. About 6,000 people have been forced from their homes, and more than a thousand buildings have been destroyed. And as we told you, La Palma's airport has reopened though after being forced to close on Thursday of course due to the volcano ash. So, we'll keep on top of that story for you.

Now, President Biden's poll numbers took a recent dive. Coming up, Democrats are concerned about how that will affect they're election chances.

Plus, Taiwan marks its National Day as tensions with mainland China remain high. We'll hear how the island's president is responding to comments from China's Xi Jinping. Both those stories after a short break. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.


SOARES: Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is declining across 45 U.S. states, while new vaccinations are averaging more than 1 million doses a day. But health experts warn it's too soon to relax mandates as well as restrictions. Meanwhile Southwest Airlines canceled and delayed thousands of flights

over the weekend, leaving hundreds of people stranded, the airline blames the problems on bad weather, air traffic control issues as well as limited staffing.

Now the drop in U.S. President Biden's approval rating has one Democrat worried about his own election chances three weeks from now. Terry McAuliffe is running for governor in Virginia. He's downplaying a recent remark that he has to overcome the president's likely support in the state. But he's calling on Democrats to stop the infighting and pass the infrastructure bill. Our Joe Johns has the details for you.