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Coronavirus Cases & Hospitalizations On Rise Across U.S.; At 27 Dead After Migrant Boat Capsizes In English Channel; Pricey Thanksgiving Costing American Farmers. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 25, 2021 - 12:30   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: For the second year in a row Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving during a global pandemic. But this year, vaccines and new treatments are giving families much more comfort to get together. At the same time, there's a rising case -- there are rising case numbers and hospitalizations, which are a reminder that this virus is still very much with us.

Tracking all this as Dr. Jonathan Reiner he joins me now. He's a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us on Thanksgiving.


MARQUARDT: When you look at the vaccination rates, almost 60 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, it could be much higher given the supply that we have, but that's what it is, COVID cases, rates, hospitalizations are all rising again. When you compare this Thanksgiving to last years, obviously, things are far better. But are you among those predicting another surge, a coming surge? And what would that look like?

REINER: Well, things certainly are so much better this Thanksgiving than last. So remember, last Thanksgiving, zero Americans were fully vaccinated. And this Thanksgiving, 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated. So we've given shot, we've given about 400 million shots in this country, an enormous achievement. But you're right, 40 percent of this country is not fully vaccinated. And even the folks who are fully vaccinated only 19 percent are boosted.

So for those reasons, there's a lot of opportunity for this virus to, this very opportunistic virus, to infect folks in the next several weeks. So I think we are going to see a fifth surge in this country. What I really want people to understand is that if you are not vaccinated, you are almost certain to get this virus. So you can choose to get vaccinated. Or you can roll the dice when you get infected. And it's not too late to get vaccinated.

MARQUARDT: And not only are the unvaccinated helping this virus to continue spreading and continue killing people, but it's also affecting others with other diseases and afflictions. Hospitals starting to feel the strain yet again, in Michigan, for example, they are leading the nation in COVID hospitalizations, and they're calling an emergency help. What are you seeing in your hospital? And how does it impact hospitals that are trying to deal with other things at the very same time is this pandemic?

REINER: Right. So, even before the pandemic hospitals around the United States faced a nursing shortage, and the people that run hospitals are trained nurses, and they are irreplaceable. And what's happened during the pandemic through both attrition because of the terrible workload placed on our nurses, and also because of shortages around the country, nurses have left hospitals to go to hotspots where they are being rightfully paid a lot of money to do that.

But all over the United States now, there are nursing shortages. Emergency Departments are full of patients, not because the hospital has no more beds, but because the hospitals don't have enough nurses. And this is happening, this is a crisis all around the country, made much worse by this pandemic. And the way to keep people out of the emergency departments and to ease this crunch is to have a vaccinated community where this virus is not surging.

And we're seeing now in places like Michigan and Minnesota and Illinois and Massachusetts, we're seeing these really dramatic surges in caseload, flooding hospitals. And at some point, there are not enough resources to do the kinds of standard things that we need to do every day. Like, you know, replace hips and replace heart valves, you know, electively.

MARQUARDT: Right. The -- as you pointed out at this time last year, no one was fully vaccinated. And now --


MARQUARDT: -- many are, millions are thankfully. But, you know, the virus is still here. And when people get together for Thanksgiving, they're inside, probably windows are closed because it's cold. There's uncertainty about whether others around the table are vaccinated as well. And a lot of, you know, people are sensitive about asking that a family and friends but what are you doing? What are you and your family, your friends doing, for example, what are you recommending to others?

REINER: So we're joining friends where everyone is vaccinated, every person attending this multigenerational household where everyone is vaccinated. And I think it's right now it's very, very difficult to invite folks to your home who are not vaccinated. And I think what we haven't spoken enough about is using these rapid antigen tests which you can pick up in a drugstore. It's kind of a belt and suspenders kind of approach, trust but verify. In other words make sure everyone is vaccinated and also have people test, have them test before they come over.


You have a whole group of vaccinated people who have all tested negative, you know, the morning of your event. You have a safe event. I've been to two weddings in the last month, two, you know, sets of large events where that's exactly what people did. Everyone was vaccinated, everyone was tested. There was no transmission of virus in those events. But when you see people to get together, and you have vulnerable people and uncertain vaccination status, it's an opportunity for a super spreader event.

MARQUARDT: Right. Well, Doctor, I hope you enjoy that multigenerational dinner later today, wishing your family very happy Thanksgiving. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank you.

REINER: Thanks so much, Alex, same to you.

MARQUARDT: All right, coming up, more than two dozen migrants are dead after a boat capsized in the English Channel, details and a live report that's coming up next.



MARQUARDT: Developing right now, at least 27 people have died in the frigid waters off of the French coast after an inflatable boat carrying migrants capsized trying to get to the United Kingdom. It's one of the deadliest incidents there in years. CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Dover, England. Nic, what are France and the U.K. trying to doing to try to stop people from attempting this dangerous journey?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the French have hundreds of border force personnel along -- patrolling the beaches of France. But it is hundreds of miles that's at stake here. The migrants can hide out in the dunes, the smugglers helping give them the locations of these flimsy dangers to find in the dunes and then, you know, put them together at night and take off in the morning.

There's been acrimony between Britain and France, the French interior minister have said that the British are not really doing enough to help the French. The British Prime Minister yesterday said that, you know, there's an offer by the British to send their own border force people to France to help patrol the beaches.

We heard from President Macron today or France saying that this is a problem that goes beyond just Britain and France, that it involves Germany where some of these small flimsy boats are purchased, that the migrants are also being held by the smugglers and in the Netherlands and in Belgium as well. They're bought into France in the last minute. So the French Prime Minister has called a summit or those five nations in France over the weekend to try and sort this out, a terrible tragedy, maybe something positive will grow out of it. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Such desperation. Nic Robertson in Dover, thanks very much.

Now to Ethiopia, which has the second biggest population in all of Africa, and where according to state affiliated media, the prime minister himself is heading to the frontlines of the country's year long civil war. CNN's Larry Madowo has the latest.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ethiopian states T.V. drumming up support for the Prime Minister's move to the battlefront, a Nobel Peace Prize winner now leading the war against the rebel coalition that wants him out of office. The Tigray People's Liberation Front, TPLF, claims to have captured two towns as they advance towards the capital, Addis Ababa, one year after the conflict erupted in the north of the country. The Prime Minister asking Ethiopia's to join him at the waterfront.

LEGESE TULU, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN (through translator): Every Ethiopian from all social groups should respond to the call from the Prime Minister and join the fight.

MADOWO (voice-over): Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called his decision to go to the battlefront as the final fights to save Ethiopia from internal and external enemies. He has previously asked citizens to take up arms to defend their neighborhoods and has used inflammatory language were rallying supporters to fight.

Fifty-five-year-old Getachew Megersa patrols Addis Ababa, and is among thousands who have joined the defense groups to protect the capital from the TPLF, a construction worker by day and a self-styled vigilante by night.

GETACHEW MEGERSA, PATROLS ADDIS ABABA (through translator): I am now safeguarding my city with a stick. But if it is required, they give me a weapon, I'll do the same. There is no way that the TPLF will be able to rule Ethiopia again.

MADOWO (voice-over): Even athletics legend Haile Gebrselassie appeared on state media supporting Addis call to arms.

HAILE GEBRSELASSIE, ETHIOPIAN ATHLETICS LEGEND (through translator): This is what's expected of a real leader. And when he leads, we need to follow to the front and work from behind, preparing everything that it requires.

MADOWO (voice-over): As a prospect of a military escalation hangs over Ethiopia, Germany, the U.K., France, and the U.S. have all asked the citizens to leave the country. A leader who came to power under the banner of Medemer, a term that means coming together in Amharic, now overseeing a country at risk of falling apart.

ABIY AHMED, ETHIOPIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): The world knows that Ethiopia is a country of great heroes that have shattered their bones, spilled their blood, and paid with their lives to establish, keep, and pass over independence.

MADOWO (voice-over): The top of us envoy to the region said both sides feel they're on the verge of victory, complicating diplomatic efforts at a negotiated ceasefire. Neighbor has turned against neighbor in Ethiopia, and the government has promoted anti-Western sentiment in a last ditch effort to reclaim the country. [12:45:01]

Larry Madowo, CNN, Nairobi.


MARQUARDT: Our thanks to Larry Madowo for that report.

A U.S. Embassy bulletin from inside Ukraine has put the rest of the world on alert is Vladimir Putin about to launch an invasion. That's next.


MARQUARDT: Rising inflation and supply chain lunches are having an impact on just about everybody this holiday season and that includes American farmers who say they're not benefiting from the most expensive Thanksgiving in history. In fact, profits are down and a growing number of farmers are concerned about what's next. CNN's Gabe Cohen has the story.



GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As Jim Jones finishes the sweet potato harvest on his North Carolina farm, skyrocketing costs are slicing through his profits.

(on camera): Are you seeing any more money from this inflation?

JIM JONES, SWEET POTATO FARMER: No, no, we're actually paying for it.

COHEN (voice-over): The price of fertilizer, fuel, and labor are way up with no ceiling in sight.

(on camera): How did your profit change this year?

JONES: I would say maybe 10, 15 percent.

COHEN: What about looking ahead to next year?

JONES: And that much more to it again.

COHEN (voice-over): Inflation maybe cooking up the most expensive Thanksgiving in history for families. The USDA says the average dinner cost is up 5 percent. The American Farm Bureau says it may be as much as 14 percent. Their survey shows price hikes on most products from potatoes to cranberries to Turkeys, which are nearing a record high.

(on camera): Despite those markups at the market. Many farmers say the price they receive for their crop isn't going up.

So your price is staying the same?

JONES: My price is staying the same or a little lower. COHEN: Why don't farmers just raise the price of their crops?

PATTY EDELBURG, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FARMERS UNION: Farmers are price takers, not price makers.

COHEN (voice-over): Patty Edelburg is vice president of the National Farmers Union.

(on camera): Who's making the money from that inflation?

EDELBURG: Much more the middlemen than anybody else.

COHEN (voice-over): The USDA confirms that in many cases, processors and distributors that get food from the farm to store shelves are the ones passing along their surging costs, with materials and ingredients still stuck on cargo ships and a shortage of labor and truckers driving up wages and costs.

TREY MALONE, AGRICULTURAL ECONOMIST, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: To some extent, we're also trying to pay for the uncertainty in the marketplace right now.

COHEN (voice-over): Trey Malone is an agricultural economist at Michigan State University.

MALONE: So we're in the middle of a perfect storm of unique events and agricultural production. I would say buckle up for a while longer of these higher input costs.

COHEN (voice-over): Some farms are stocking up on materials in case suppliers run out. Others are waiting, hoping prices will drop. All these costs, especially labor are threatening Matt Alvernaz's California sweet potato farm.

MATT ALVERNAZ, SWEET POTATO FARMER: We were making, you know, 100 to $150,000 a year in profit. This year, we're probably going to lose 80 to $120,000.

COHEN (voice-over): And it's only getting worse.

ALVERNAZ: We could potentially lose a quarter of a million dollars next year. We would not have enough cash to take into the following year in order to get our operating loan in order to operate for the following year.

COHEN (voice-over): Farmers are used to volatility and both Alvernaz and Jones are now looking for ways to adapt like downsizing or shifting to other crops.

JONES: It's going to worry but I don't -- I ain't going to let it get me down. We will survive somehow.

COHEN (voice-over): As long as these money problems stop piling up.

JONES: We just need to get a fair price for what we're growing.

COHEN (voice-over): Gabe Cohen, CNN, Washington.


MARQUARDT: All right, thanks to Gabe Cohen for that report. China is threatening to hit back after the U.S. put a dozen Chinese companies on its trade blacklist. The Commerce Department says those entities weren't acting in the best national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. The Chinese for their part say that the decision was arbitrary and unsubstantiated. CNN's Steven Jiang has more on this escalating tension between the U.S. and China.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Just a little over a week after that much touted virtual summit between President Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the two governments seemed to be yet again when it comes to their trade disputes. The Chinese Commerce Ministry on Thursday said it's largely strong protest with the U.S. government over its decision to blacklist a dozen Chinese companies calling the decision unsubstantiated and arbitrary.

The foreign ministry here going a step further saying the U.S. government is again abusing its power and the concept of national security warning of unspecified countermeasures to quote unquote safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, this kind of language almost a deja vu of what we used to hear regularly in the height of U.S.-China trade war during the Trump presidency.

Now what's issue here is again, the U.S. government accusing Chinese companies of using emerging U.S. technologies to help the Chinese military in the field of quantum computing, especially when it comes to counter stealth and antisubmarine applications. Those capabilities increasingly important and sensitive as tensions remain high or even growing between the two governments in the fields of geopolitical and strategic issues, especially regarding Taiwan.

But in the eyes of the Beijing leadership here, these latest USA sanctions again, reinforcing this notion of the importance and urgency of achieving so called self-reliance when it comes to key tech analogies as President Xi Jinping himself has repeatedly said in speeches and meetings during recent months.


Steven Jiang, CNN, Beijing.

MARQUARDT: Thanks to Steven Jiang for that.

A quick programming note, during the 1920s, the Osage people of Oklahoma were some of the richest people in the world but as Lisa Ling uncovers that wealth made them a target. Discover the horrific plot carried out to steal Osage land and money watching all new This is Life with Lisa Ling at Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time right here on CNN.

Thank you very much for joining us today. I'm wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving. My colleague Jessica Dean picks up our coverage right after a quick break.