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Afghan Refugees Celebrate First Thanksgiving; Countries Rush To Contain Omicron; Stores Boost Security After Smash And Grab Crimes; Dr. Oz Eyeing Pennsylvania Senate Race. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired November 28, 2021 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.
More countries detected cases of the Omicron variant and still more are banning travel from the African countries where the variant was first discovered.
A look at what could be the reason for the surge in smash and grab robberies in the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Kim Brunhuber.
BRUNHUBER: Countries around the world are scrambling to get a hand on the new COVID variant, Omicron. It's already spread from southern Africa and has been discovered in Germany, Italy the U.K. and the Czech Republic.
Australia has reported two cases within the last few hours and Dutch authorities are now saying that Omicron was presumably found among 61 people who tested positive for COVID on arrival at Amsterdam's airport.
More analysis is being done. And while the variant is being studied extensively, we don't yet know whether it's more deadly than the regular virus or whether it can blunt vaccine efficacy or natural immunity. But scientists fear it could be more contagious.
Dozens of countries have already banned or limited travel from parts of South Africa and several of its neighbors, where there are confirmed cases of the variant. On Saturday, British prime minister Boris Johnson gave a sobering description of the threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: As always with the new variant, there are many things we cannot know at this early stage. But our scientists are learning more hour by hour. And it does appear that Omicron spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated.
There is also a very extensive mutation, which means it diverges quite significantly from previous configurations of the virus and, as a result, it might, at least in part, reduce the protection of our vaccines over time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: We have full coverage of how this new variant is impacting every corner of the globe. Larry Madowo is in Paris but first let's go to Barbie Nadeau in Rome.
Now more restrictions are on the way as Omicron has been found in more and more European countries.
BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, these countries are dealing with how to balance the surge in cases, the threat of the new variant and balancing the economy, keeping things open for the holiday season.
Everything was pretty much closed up last year. Nobody wants to repeat that. So there's a lot of discussion going on, especially about whether or not there should be restrictions between the European nations if there are more cases in one country than another.
But it will be an interesting week as more is learned about the variant and what these countries can do to stop or mitigate the spread of it.
BRUNHUBER: Then in the meantime, Europe is still in the throes of the existing COVID crisis because of the Delta variant.
How are the countries trying to cope with that?
NADEAU: Exactly right. WHO said Europe is the epicenter of the fourth wave of the pandemic. It was already difficult for countries like Germany, which has seen record breaking cases, Austria is in full lockdown and the Netherlands were already in a partial lockdown.
As you mentioned, some people have the Omicron variant who are on that flight from South Africa to the Netherlands. Europe has to look at what is more important, health or the economy. They have to bulk up the vaccine program, which really hasn't taken off yet.
BRUNHUBER: Let's go to Larry now in Paris.
You just arrived from Kenya. In Africa, there's been lots of pushback against the restrictions. Tell us more about what's driving this perceived sense of injustice and outrage.
LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This has been led by South Africa itself. The foreign minister there said South Africa is being punished for having an advanced scientific community that can detect variants faster.
And what the South African position is, excellent science should be applauded, not punished, even though she has spoken recently with the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who supported her and said he was grateful that South African scientists were able to detect the Omicron virus.
Now they feel they are being punished that sharing that knowledge openly and you see the travel bans.
MADOWO: South Africa points out that nobody infected is allowed to leave the country. You need a test for COVID just to fly out of the country. So it's not possible that anybody infected could leave the country.
You heard the speaker of the national assembly of South Africa say these travel bans are irritating and annoying. It will be devastating for the economy of the country, which has been closed for the last 1.5 years.
I personally flew from Kenya and East Africa, arriving in France. I have been required to isolate and get a PCR test and only if it comes out negative can I be out in the community again.
So you can see why these Africans feel these are specifically targeted to South Africans and not Germany, the U.K. or Belgium, where you do not see a red list or travel restrictions from those places.
BRUNHUBER: This might be hard to answer but since you're arriving there from Africa going to Europe, we saw early during the pandemic -- I guess throughout the pandemic, people of Asian descent being targeted as a threat or a cause of the pandemic.
I wonder if you have fear that now people of African descent, regardless of where they're from in Africa, might face the same type of racism or worse because of the fear of this new variant linked with Africa.
MADOWO: There are legitimate concerns among Africans, not just where these variants were variants first discovered, there's feelings among Africans for instance why Israel put in a travel ban on everybody from Africa south of the Sahara.
So they feel that this targeting of people of African descent is deliberate and has been repeated throughout this pandemic and that it might be extending to whenever there's a new variant coming that's discovered, that everybody else from the African continent is a target, is at risk, whether you're traveling, especially in the West, in North America, Europe, that that's a real fear.
Which might explain why somebody like me who flew in from East Africa is still required to test and getting an email from the health minister in France, saying you came from a country where a variant was discovered, when that's not true. BRUNHUBER: Yes. That's shocking. Listen, really appreciate your
perspective, Larry Madowo live in Paris.
Israel is now barring foreigners from entering the country for two weeks over fears of the Omicron variant. Starting Sunday night, Israel will be the first country to completely shut its borders due to the new variant. Israel is also imposing quarantine rules like forcing residents who reenter the country to isolate for at least three days.
The U.S. has not confirmed any Omicron cases so far but, in less than 24 hours, travel restrictions on eight African countries goes into effect. The White House is not saying whether more restrictions could be in the works. Arlette Saenz has the details.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Biden administration, refraining from saying whether they would enact other travel restrictions or mitigation measures, due to the Omicron variant.
Even as the United Kingdom has announced some new steps that they are taking. President Biden, out shopping in Nantucket on Saturday, ignoring questions from reporters, asking about those possible mitigation measures.
But vice president, Kamala Harris, says they are simply taking things one step at a time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been briefed and, as the president has said, we will take every precaution. So that is why we take the measures we have.
QUESTION: Do you think there will be any additional travel restrictions?
HARRIS: We will take it one step at a time. But as of now, we've done what we believe is necessary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: Biden health officials are in contact with health officials worldwide, as they try to get a grasp about this new variant. Officials say, imposing new travel restrictions set to take place on Monday, will simply buy the administration more time to understand what this variant can do, such as the type whether it, can potentially, have severe illness that goes along with or, even possibly, evade vaccines.
But one thing the administration continues to push is vaccinations and booster shots, arguing, that is the way for Americans to protect themselves. The secretary of state, Tony Blinken, also had a phone call on Saturday with the foreign minister in South Africa, where he thanked them for their transparency in notifying the world about this variant. Of course, South Africa has been critical about this travel ban that
the U.S. and others, have put into place.
SAENZ (voice-over): President Biden returns to the White House on Sunday and we will see the further steps that they might announce, in the coming days -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, traveling with the president, in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
BRUNHUBER: Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert suggests it's likely the variant is already in the U.S. Here's what he told NBC News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: I would not be surprised if it is. We have not detected it yet. When you have a virus like this, it almost, invariably, is ultimately going to go, essentially, all over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: Joining me now is Lawrence Young in Birmingham, England. He's a virologist and professor at the University of Warwick.
Thank you for joining us. The fact that this variant was described just recently and already cases are reported so widely around the world, does this confirm what you already knew about how quickly coronavirus spreads?
LAWRENCE YOUNG, VIROLOGIST AND PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK: Yes. This comes as no surprise. Once a variant is identified, particularly one that is likely to be more infectious, it will spread quickly. So this comes as no surprise. It's a product of the way international travel works and the infectiousness of coronavirus.
BRUNHUBER: Seeing how this travels, we're seeing these travel bans around the world. We heard from African experts and politicians pushing back strongly, saying travel bans haven't worked in the past.
Why go back to this failed measure?
It may be good politics but bad science. We heard Dr. Fauci saying it's not going to stop the virus but it buys us time.
Is that why you support travel restrictions?
YOUNG: It is. At this stage everything we're doing is precautionary. We know so little about this variant. We need to control and limit the spread of this variant. That means travel restrictions, one way of preventing the virus spreading whilst we gain time to understand more about this variant, whether it's more infectious and, indeed, whether it's more vaccine resistant.
BRUNHUBER: Yes, that's one of the big worries, of course, that it will evade the vaccines.
You said in an article you think they will still offer some level of protection against this variant.
BRUNHUBER: So where's the cutoff in terms of vaccine efficacy that would mean we would all have to line up for a new different shot if the shot didn't offer 50 percent protection or less?
Where do we draw the line?
YOUNG: That's an interesting question. We just don't understand enough about the protection, particularly how long-term protection will be provided by booster shots.
It's true, for Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, all the variants we've been dealing with, current vaccinations, particularly for vaccination and booster vaccinations, provides very good protection.
That's why we believe, looking at the enormous number of mutations in this Omicron variant, that vaccination is very likely to protect against severe disease. But you're right, if protection drops below 50 percent, we'd have to really seriously consider the use of modified vaccines.
I think that's unlikely. But we're having to wait for laboratory testing. It will take two or three weeks to fully understand whether immunity induced by vaccines will protect sufficiently to prevent severe disease with this new variant.
BRUNHUBER: Many are blaming this on the fact that we haven't vaccinated the world population as well as we should have done.
Former British prime minister Gordon Brown, now WHO ambassador, has been outspoken about how this variant is no surprise, saying, "Our failure to vaccinate the rest of the world is going to come back to haunt us."
The current prime minister, Boris Johnson, has pushed back against that narrative when it comes to the Omicron variant. We'll play the clips back to back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON BROWN, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Let's just remember, only 25 percent of what America has promised in vaccines, to the rest of the world, has been delivered. Only 11 percent of what Britain has promised has been delivered; 19 percent of the European Union; only 5 percent of Canada.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: I think when you look at the arrival and the spread of Omicron, sadly, it's been in countries where the problem has not been supply of vaccine; it's been really due to hesitancy and lack of takeup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRUNHUBER: So which position do you support here?
Or do they both have a strong case?
YOUNG: I think it's a really interesting situation in terms of the way that governments respond to this. What Omicron is telling us is that you have to control the pandemic globally as well as locally.
It comes back to the mantra we've heard, that none of us are safe until all of us are safe. It's true there are low levels of vaccination in South Africa. A lot of that is not to do with vaccine supply; actually, it's to do with hesitancy and to do with getting the jabs out of the fridges and into arms.
Nevertheless, this is a wake-up call for us. I don't see why this should be a either/or. We should all be able to look after our own populations as well as support the rollout of global vaccination by ensuring there's enough vaccine being manufactured and that we do everything internationally to support the practicalities, the logistics of getting vaccines into people's arms.
BRUNHUBER: Our thanks to Professor Lawrence Young at the University of Warwick.
Still ahead, more details on the global response to the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, including a live report from South Korea as new restrictions take effect there.
And large groups of thieves are targeting retail stores in the U.S. We'll look at what's behind the sudden surge of smash and grab robberies coming up. Stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: An uptick in smash-and-grab robberies is being reported in cities across the United States, terrifying employees and shoppers. A brazen group of thieves broke into a Louis Vuitton store near Chicago last week, stealing merchandise. On the left, another group of criminals smashing the glass and
stealing jewels at a store in California. Also in California, about 10 people entered a Home Depot and left with a wide range of stolen tools, including sledgehammers and crowbars, the same kind of tools used in smash-and-grab robberies this month.
BRUNHUBER: Professor Charis Kubrin is with the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California/Irvine.
Thank you so much for joining us. Professor, almost literally every day now we're getting new reports of attacks by flash mob thieves. What we're seeing, it seems like scenes from some sort of dystopian movie.
What's behind all of this?
CHARIS KUBRIN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA/IRVINE: Well, so, I mean, we're still trying to get a handle on exactly what's going on with these types of crimes.
On the one hand, the places that they're occurring, cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, at least in California, are places that have seen lots of retail thefts over the years and, in fact, rank in the top 10.
On the other hand, as you mentioned, they're quite distinct. They're very unique. These are involving many, many individuals that are highly organized, using social media in many cases, to get that organization down and then using social media where these are playing out.
So it's very -- it's a very distinct situation here. In terms of why this is happening or what's behind this, I don't think that we have the full answer at this point. There's lots of culprits that I've heard, being thrown around, everything from the pandemic and associated lockdowns, which led to economic displacement, economic disadvantage, among many.
There's been the social and civil unrest. I like to say that crime is caused by many factors. At this point, we don't know but it's probably some combination of those.
BRUNHUBER: All right, so we don't know why. Let's look at who. I mean, these are gangs.
I mean, are these like organized, established criminal gangs that are just sort of, you know, trying something new?
Or is it something completely different altogether?
KUBRIN: I think in many cases it is. The sheer volume of folks involved in some cases dozens of people suggests that this is not just like a seat of the pants, let's do this tonight and make this happen. They're very highly organized. They're organized criminal rings, if you will.
However, there are other cases popping up in other parts of the country that maybe look a bit different, that maybe are imitation or copycat sorts of things because these videos have been shown so widely on social media.
There is concern with imitation and the diffusion of these types of crimes in other places and in other situations and types, if you will.
BRUNHUBER: I want to ask you about something you touched on here and that's the theory that the pandemic and the economic disruption caused by that seems to have played in. The link seems a bit tenuous. But take me through it.
Why would everything we're seeing kind of lead to something so specific as this?
KUBRIN: Right. Well, so, I mean, I think no one would argue that there's been the economic disinvestment, disadvantage, that's resulted for many folks due to the pandemic and the lockdown.
This does raise questions about these kinds of crimes for profit. There's lots of scams going on, on the internet and otherwise. So this may be a unique form that has arisen in response to these economic demands and that sort of thing. So, you know, there is some link between economic conditions and these types of crimes for profit.
BRUNHUBER: So thieves are just getting more creative then, I guess.
How do you stop it?
What would you advise, you know, stores do to combat this?
KUBRIN: There's a number of different measures stores can take. I mean, for example, increased police presence, hiring more private security guards, increased surveillance so that police officers have video footage for after the fact if they are able to review that footage and identify suspects. Those are some of the steps that stores can take.
I think the police have to do a lot as well.
KUBRIN: They need to be looking through social media, trying to identify groups, breaking these groups down, potentially identifying the next places where these types of crimes will occur. So those are some of the things that can be done.
What I don't think should be done, I didn't mention this in the previous question around the what's causing this, is there's been a lot of concern in California about recent criminal justice reforms and claims that these thefts, these large retail thefts, are the result of these criminal justice reforms.
I don't see any support or evidence for that whatsoever. There's reason -- I don't think these reforms have anything to do with that. So I would hate to see the state undo a lot of these reforms, assuming that's what's causing these crimes to occur.
BRUNHUBER: Well, let's hope they can start getting a handle on it because it's absolutely terrifying for customers and has a huge effect on retail stores, especially the smaller ones, that get caught up in some of the side effects of all of this.
So people stay away from in-person shopping because of this. We have to leave it there. Thank you so much for your insights, professor. Really appreciate it.
KUBRIN: Thank you.
BRUNHUBER: The rash of robberies doesn't seem to be stopping people from doing a lot of holiday shopping. Millions of Americans went to the stores on the busiest shopping weekend of the year. But with supply chain bottlenecks and fears of inflation, shoppers will likely find higher prices and even a few empty shelves. Polo Sandoval has details.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Industry experts expecting roughly 158 million people will be doing some of their holiday shopping by the time this weekend wraps up. We should mention the majority of those, according to same experts, are expected to do some of their shopping in person.
One of the reasons is because of that lingering fear about supply chain shortages. That lingering worry that, maybe, some of those goods and those gifts that they are looking to purchase won't actually make it to their destination on time.
What we are seeing right now is certainly many Americans actually taking to some of the retailers throughout the country, to make those purchases.
In the meantime, we do know that some of those industry experts are very confident that some of the larger retailers, the big box stores, have been loading up on their inventory ahead of this holiday rush, this holiday shopping season. The president of the National Retail Federation, explaining, why that is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW SHAY, CEO AND PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: Retailers have been working on this, since the beginning of the pandemic, they understood the real stress the supply chain was under.
They've invested billions of in their teams and their systems, working with their partners to get goods here. That's why really we've survived the last 20 months and been able to get most of the things we needed when we needed them. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SANDOVAL: That covers some of the larger retailers. The big concern this weekend, are some of the more independent, smaller, mom and pop stores. Hence, Small Business Saturday, when Americans were encouraged to do some of their shopping, at some of those stores, they're the ones that have been particularly hit hard during the pandemic.
But whether you make those purchases at those locations or here are on Fifth Avenue, the National Retail Federation, estimating, there will be roughly $843 billion spent, this holiday season. This as Americans are still, struggling with the rising price of everyday goods, due to inflation -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.
BRUNHUBER: Still ahead, countries around the world are on high alert as the Omicron variant sparks another fear of a worse COVID wave.
And Dr. Oz is said to be eyeing a key Senate race after the Trump- backed candidate abruptly dropped out.
Will Republicans back the daytime talk show host?
We'll explore that coming up. Stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: Welcome back to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber and this is CNN NEWSROOM.
Our top story: countries around the world are racing to curb the spread of the new COVID variant called Omicron. It was first detected in southern Africa. Now cases have been detected in Hong Kong, Israel and several European countries.
Governments have moved quickly to impose travel bans on Africa to try to curb the spread. But already Australia said two people arriving from South Africa have tested positive for the new variant.
The travel restrictions have angered scientists and officials in southern African countries. They say in a sense they're being punished for detecting the variant and alerting the world.
At least two cases of the Omicron variant have been discovered in the U.K. That's prompting immediate action from the British government. CNN's Nada Bashir has more.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NADA BASHIR, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): Warning signs: U.K. prime minister, Boris Johnson, announcing new COVID-19 restrictions, as fears and questions, growing over the new Omicron coronavirus variant.
Johnson says, the variant has already been detected in the U.K. and scientists warn, this highly mutated strain, first identified circulating in countries in southern Africa, could challenge some of the hard-fought advances, already, made against the virus.
BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Our scientists are learning more, hour, by hour. And, it does appear, that Omicron spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated.
BASHIR (voice-over): England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty says the possibility that vaccines may not be as effective against the Omicron variant is what is galvanizing the government response.
DR. CHRISTOPHER WHITTY, BRITISH CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Delta, it was primarily, driven by the ability to spread really rapidly. This, one here, really the biggest thing that is leading us to wish to move rapidly is to do with the least strong theoretical reasons, for thinking that in fact some degree of vaccine escape is likely.
BASHIR (voice-over): After suspending flights from several southern African countries on Friday, Johnson says, new targeted measures are necessary to contain the new variant.
All travelers to the U.K., will have to take a PCR test, within two days of their arrival. And, quarantine, until they get their results. All contacts of positive Omicron cases must quarantine for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
Face coverings will be mandatory in shops in public transport and the government is looking to expand the booster program. Top U.S. health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, says that the new variant, is likely, more widespread than it's known.
And tightening COVID-19 measures, like the U.S. move to restrict travel from some countries in Africa, starting Monday, is a way to buy critical time.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: The issue of blocking travel, from a given country, is to just give us time to assess it better. That is the reason for doing that. Not any reason to panic. But we want to give us some time to really fill in the blanks of what we don't know right now.
BASHIR (voice-over): Some experts say it is not surprising the Omicron variant first took root in Africa, with only 7.4 percent of the continent's population fully vaccinated.
LILY CAPRANI, ADVOCACY FOR HEALTH AND VACCINES, UNICEF: This, time last, year we were all sitting here hoping for a vaccine. And science did what it does, it comes up with solutions. They were available and now the world has billions of vaccines a year's -- this short time later.
The problem that we haven't solved is to equally distribute them. We still have got most people in Africa have never been offered their first shot yet. They are dangerously and protected.
BASHIR (voice-over): A problem that, is increasingly, becoming a global one as more countries confirm their first cases of the Omicron variant -- Nada Bashir, CNN, London.
BRUNHUBER: Many countries are tightening their borders over fears of the new variant, including South Korea. For more on that, I'm joined by Paula Hancocks from Seoul.
Looking across Asia, more restrictions are on the way now because of this new variant.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It appears so, Kim. Ironically, just a week ago, we were talking about living with COVID, talking about how many different countries around Asia and the world were starting to open up and lift some of these restrictions.
Here in South Korea, it was similar. Four weeks ago, they eased curfews on certain businesses. More people could gather, even if they were unvaccinated in some cases. Now we're expecting potentially these eased restrictions to be walked back.
Now what South Korea has done, which is what many countries have done, is to ban travel from eight southern African countries. Even Korean nationals that are coming in from that country will have to quarantine in a government facility for 10 days.
They're also suspending the visa system. We saw similar in Australia, to introduce quarantine for those coming in from certain countries, to ban others. Some landing in Australia and then realizing they had to undergo a quarantine; they were not prepared for that.
So certainly, this is a fast-moving situation for all countries now, trying to give their borders a chance, trying to give their citizens some protection. The worry is that this may already be more widespread than is believed at this point.
Australia saying it has found and confirmed two cases of this new variant. And other countries are also undergoing testing to find out if they have the variant within their borders already.
As you heard as well, many officials are saying they're just trying to buy time at this point so they can figure out what they are dealing with.
So despite the fact that some in South Africa and also some airlines in the IATA are criticizing these very sudden border closures, for officials within different countries, they're saying at this point they don't know what they are working with.
So they want to try to buy time for officials and scientists to figure out exactly what this new variant means for them. Kim?
BRUNHUBER: Paula Hancocks in Seoul, thank you very much.
Here in the U.S., the CDC is keeping a close eye on COVID variants as Omicron appears in more countries overseas. New travel restrictions on eight African nations goes into effect in less than 24 hours. But as Nick Valencia reports, flights between the U.S. and the affected region will still keep going.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At least two major U.S. airlines will continue their flights to South Africa and continue business as usual, despite the emergence of a new strain of COVID-19, Omicron.
United Airlines and the Atlanta based carrier, Delta, say they will continue their flights to Africa and South Africa specifically, despite an upcoming travel ban that will go into effect on Monday.
The travel restrictions will affect eight African countries but U.S. citizens will be exempt as well as lawful permanent residents and the spouses of both those groups, perhaps leaving the door open for Omicron to more easily come to the United States.
For some in the health community, it's only a matter of time. They're skeptical that these travel restrictions will do much to stop the spread of Omicron.
There's clearly a lot of concern. We heard from Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday, saying it's not time to panic and there's no indication Omicron is here in the United States. On Saturday morning, he struck a more cautionary tone, saying he wouldn't be surprised if the strain is already here.
Here's what the CDC had to say.
VALENCIA (voice-over): "The CDC is continuously monitoring variants and the U.S. variant surveillance system has reliably detected new variants in this country. We expect Omicron to be identified quickly if it emerges in the U.S."
To be clear, there is a lot we don't know about this strain but what we do know is scary -- Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.
BRUNHUBER: Dr. Oz is getting a new title, like U.S. senator. Details after the break. Stay with us.
(MUSIC PLAYING) BRUNHUBER: A TV doctor could emerge as the top Republican candidate in
a crucial Senate race. Daytime talk show host Dr. Oz is among several big-name Republicans eyeing the Pennsylvania Senate race after the Trump-backed candidate dropped out. Sunlen Serfaty reports.
SEAN PARNELL, TRUMP-BACKED CANDIDATE: Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trump- backed candidate Sean Parnell suspending his campaign for Pennsylvania's open Senate seat, scrambling the GOP field, creating a new opening for others to get in.
In a seat, a Republican has been elected to going back five decades and crucial for Republicans to keep in the midterms as the party seeks to win the Senate majority.
In addition to those candidates who have already declared the race could see political newcomers and wildcards like hedge fund millionaire David McCormick, the husband of former Trump official Dina Powell.
A source close to McCormick telling CNN, "The Parnell departure has clearly created an opening where he seriously considering it." Saying there's been accelerated outreach from GOP leaders within Pennsylvania and nationally. And another possibility, daytime TV talk show host, Dr. Mehmet Oz.
MEHMET OZ, DAYTIME TV HOST: So let me ask you, if your health is as strong as it seems from your review of systems, why not share your medical records?
SERFATY (voice-over): In 2007, Oz was saying he'd consider running for office someday calling himself a moderate Republican. But a potential Oz's candidacy wouldn't come without controversy. Earlier in the COVID pandemic, he initially advocated for hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus.
OZ: It's believed to be very safe.
SERFATY (voice-over): And its unproven benefits.
OZ: It turns out that it might have an effect against this virus.
SERFATY (voice-over): He later said not enough was known about the drug and caused an uproar with these comments pushing for schools to reopen in April of 2020.
OZ: We need our mojo back. I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing that the opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality.
SERFATY (voice-over): The backlash prompting him to later apologize.
OZ: I've realized my comments on risks around opening schools have confused and upset people.
SERFATY (voice-over): In the past, Oz has been fiercely criticized for promoting unproven products on his show like certain diet pills.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't get why you need to say this stuff because you know it's not true.
OZ: So if I can just get across the big message, I actually do personally believe in the items that I talk about in the show.
SERFATY (voice-over): In 2015, a group of doctors sent this letter to Columbia University, calling his faculty position there unacceptable, accusing him of promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.
OZ: We will not be silenced. We will not give in.
BRUNHUBER: That was our Sunlen Serfaty reports from Washington.
Wednesday's mass drowning in the English Channel has sparked renewed concerns and anger over migrants fleeing to Europe from the Middle East and Africa.
France will be hosting an emergency meeting with most neighboring countries in a few hours to discuss the escalating crisis. But the U.K. is excluded from the talks over a diplomatic dispute.
CNN's Jim Bittermann is covering that part of the story.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: The immigrant tragedy has contributed to some pretty undiplomatic words between France and Britain. After the broken submarine deal earlier this fall and a dispute over fishing rights, the finger-pointing over the migrant deaths in the English Channel has added to the acrimony between the two countries.
After British prime minister, Boris Johnson, tweeted out a letter addressed to French president Emmanuel Macron, Macron was said to be outraged and showed it at a press conference yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): I am surprised at the methods, when they are not serious. We do not communicate between one leader, to another, on these issues by tweeting and writing letters and making them public. We are not whistleblowers. Come on, come on.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BITTERMANN: Macron's interior minister has disinvited the British home secretary on Sunday to discuss ways of dealing with the refugee issue. Meantime, a spokesman for the prime minister said Johnson had no regrets about posting the letter on Twitter and that both Britain and France have a shared recognition of the urgency of the situation -- Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.
BRUNHUBER: An apparent stowaway was found safe in the landing gear of a plane upon arriving at Miami International Airport. The American Airlines flight came from Guatemala City Saturday morning. U.S. Customs apprehended the 26-year-old man, who tried to escape detection by hiding in the landing gear compartment.
Emergency personnel gave the man some water before taking him to the hospital for a medical assessment. An investigation is underway on how he got into the aircraft.
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan forced many Afghans to become refugees in other parts of the world. Now many of them in the U.S. celebrated their first Thanksgiving. We'll meet one family after the break. Stay with us.
BRUNHUBER: Many Afghan refugees who fled to the United States after the Taliban takeover had their first Thanksgiving this week. Volunteers from a non-profit organization in California opened their doors to Afghan families for the typically American holiday tradition.
Natasha Chen went to one of those celebrations to bring us their story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, how are you?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kiki Nagy was already cooking a Thanksgiving meal for a large group of friends.
KIKI NAGY, VOLUNTEER, MIRY'S LIST: Why is everything was so much harder after the pandemic?
I've forgotten how to do this.
CHEN (voice-over): But she also wanted to open her Los Angeles home to some of the country's newest residents. She volunteers for an organization called Miry's List, that helps refugees settle in the United States.
NAGY: I just threw it out to Miry, do you know any Afghani families who need to have a first Thanksgiving with an American family?
And so she said, "Yes, why don't you invite Wahid?"
CHEN (voice-over): Wahidullah Asghary tells us he was a translator and interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. He arrived in late 2020 with his four children under a special immigrant visa. His wife joined them five months later. This was the family's first invitation to a tradition Thanksgiving meal.
WAHIDULLAH ASGHARY, AFGHAN REFUGEE: Sometimes when they ask what turkey is, I say turkey is like a big chicken.
CHEN (voice-over): Nagy made sure there would be at least something familiar on the table.
CHEN (voice-over): This experience wasn't just about new foods. It was also about learning the tradition of sharing gratitude.
ASGHARY: We have more opportunities in our lives, in our hands, so, of course, the foremost example is this, that we are together with the family.
CHEN (voice-over): With his wife's visa delayed, he says they're lucky she arrived before the chaotic exit of U.S. troops in August. The scene of people trying to escape particularly resonated with fellow Thanksgiving guest, Tam Van Tran.
TAM VAN TRAN, VIETNAMESE REFUGEE: When I saw the photo of the Afghans in the cargo plane, it reminded me of very much of -- I was in the same. But it was a gigantic cargo ship.
CHEN (voice-over): Tran came to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam in 1975 when he was around the same age as Asghary's oldest children. He says he can offer a warm welcome.
TRAN: Brotherhood, a camaraderie.
CHEN (voice-over): And can imagine what they might be experiencing.
Like at many holiday gathering, not everyone here practices the same religion or holds the same political beliefs. Despite that --
NAGY: There is something essential to the American experience that is rooted in gratitude, that is rooted in the volunteerism that you leave your country, you leave a situation and you come here, sometimes with very little, sometimes with nothing and you start over.
CHEN (voice-over): Asghary tells his kids to work hard to seize this opportunity. ASGHARY: We are here for you. And the United States is here for you. And everything you have got in your hand, what are you going to do is you have to study. That's it.
CHEN (voice-over): Starting with what Nagy hopes is a lesson from their first Thanksgiving.
NAGY: I would want them to see that that kind of tolerance is really possible in the United States, that Americans are, at heart, really a generous people.
CHEN (voice-over): Natasha Chen, CNN, Los Angeles.
BRUNHUBER: That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber, for viewers in the U.S. and Canada, "NEW DAY WEEKEND" is next. For international viewers, it's "AFRICA AVANT GARDE."