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Omicron Variant Surging U.S. COVID Cases; Drop in COVID Cases in Xi'an Due to Zero-COVID Policy; Sudan's Prime Minister Resigns; U.S. to Respond Decisively if Russia Invades Ukraine; New Details in the Investigation of U.S. Capitol Attack. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 02:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm Anna Coren live from Hong Kong. Ahead on "CNN Newsroom," a new year brings new concerns about how and when to safely return to school and work as COVID cases surge.

Nearly a year since the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol, investigators reveal they have critical first hand testimony about DONALD TRUMP's words and actions during the riot.

And amid deadly protests on the streets, Sudan's prime minister resigns just weeks after being reinstated.

A post-holiday surge in COVID infections is gripping the U.S. right now. Sick airline workers combined with winter weather have led to more than 14,000 flights cancelled in the last 10 days. More than 300 flights are already cancelled for today. A nightmare for people scrambling to get home.

Just take a look at the seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. Experts warn it's likely to get worse in the days ahead. And the vast majority of the country seen here in dark red is struggling with 50 percent or more new infections in the past week compared to the previous week.

Well, so far hospitalizations are below their previous peaks. But top health expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging people to take the omicron variant seriously.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So, it's kind of like a very interesting, somewhat complicated issue where you have a virus that might actually be less severe in its pathogenicity, but so many people are getting infected that the net amount, the total amount of people that will require hospitalization might be up.

So, we can't be complacent in these reports, which are likely accurate, that it is ultimately in the big picture less severe. We're still going to get a lot of hospitalizations.


COREN: Well, schools across the U.S. are now wrestling with how to get students and staff back into the classroom safely. For many, a return to virtual learning is likely, at least for a little while. And others can expect some tough new restrictions. CNN's Polo Sandoval reports.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After adapting to this COVID era of teaching, schools throughout the United States are preparing to open up again after the holiday break and welcome back their students and staff. There are some school systems in the U.S. that are taking a more aggressive approach.

For example, several Atlanta area schools have announced that they will begin the semester with remote teaching. Students and staff in Washington, D.C. will have to have a negative test before they head back to class. And here's how the nation's largest school system is going to be handling this return. Of course, we're talking in New York City. Schools will distribute at-home tests to students and staffs who have symptoms or have been exposed to a positive person.

Kids who are asymptomatic and test negative will then be allowed to continue with in-person teaching. Kids with symptoms may not attend school until they receive two negative tests that have been taken 24 hours apart. And as for kids and staff that test positive, they will simply have to isolate at home for 10 days until they have that negative test.

This is really just a big effort to try to limit disruptions for students as they return back to class. Over the weekend we heard from the secretary of education here in the U.S. who is urging classes and schools to remain open this spring semester.


MIGUEL CARDONA, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: The message hasn't changed. We need to make sure we're following mitigation strategies, but we're supporting our educators by providing a safe learning environment. We're providing vaccination for our students as young as five so that the whole school community is safe. We need to double down now that omicron is higher to make sure that we're doing that, but it works. You know, we went from 47 percent of our schools open in-person in January of last year to 99 percent in December.


SANDOVAL: Secretary Cardona also acknowledged that he expects what he described as bumps in the road these next few weeks as already his department has received phone calls from schools that have -- that know that at least 5 to 10 percent of their staff will be unavailable as we start the spring semester. Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.

COREN: Well, joining me now is Dr. Darragh O'Carroll. He is an emergency physician in Honolulu. Doctor, great to have you with us. What is the safest way to get kids back to school considering cases of omicron are surging across the U.S.?


DARRAGH O'CARROLL, EMERGENCY MEDICINE SPECIALIST: Hi, Anna. Thanks for having me and Happy New Year. I believe the way that New York is handling is a very good one, is getting home tests into the hands of every student and the so to speak tests to stay in school. You know, it's a very good strategy. Or, you know, if parents aren't comfortable, I think there should be a good option for virtual learning for at least most of January.

I don't think it would extend all the way into February or March. Just a temporary virtual option. So, testing, virtual, and then also high quality masks are going to be really important just because this omicron variant is more transmissible and doesn't need as much virus in the air to infect anybody else.

COREN: The FDA is expected to authorize Pfizer booster shots for kids over the age of 12. How do you feel about this as a physician?

O'CARROLL: I think it's massively important. The people that we are seeing admitted mostly are unvaxxed or people getting sick enough to end up in the emergency department are those who are not or fully vaxxed but not boosted. So, I think it's definitely going to go a long way to getting kids safe on a whole.

It's going to contribute to schools being safe. But we can't -- unfortunately, schools are going back tomorrow, many of them. Many of them are going back the week after. And it's hard to get somebody -- a group like that that's large vaccinated so quickly. So, virtual learning for a month with a really, really massive ramp-up for boosters for those kids that are 12 to 15 would really, really go a long way.

Because we do see there's a little bit about the same severity in unvaxxed children as delta. And this is spreading a lot faster. So, there is a concern there.

COREN: It's good and well to give booster shots to kids who are already double vaccinated, but the vaccine take-up rate for kids we know is low. I guess, you know, from your perspective, why is this? And how does the government, the medical community combat this?

O'CARROLL: You know, it's tough. I think we're all exhibiting a little bit of pandemic fatigue. But this virus isn't tired of us, you know. That's what we have to remember. And everybody's individual action is what goes into when you're considering a pandemic, it's the collective, you know, of our country, of our globe, is getting our -- as many people doing the right thing as possible and keeping the amount of virus that's circulating, people who are boosted have -- if they do get omicron, have the virus for a much less length of time.

They shed less virus, thus they give it to less amount of people. And we're seeing a ton of people coming into the E.R., kids as well. And when the E.R.'s get flooded, it's really hard to take care of the run of the mill emergencies, I would call it at this point, you know, strokes, heart attacks, car crashes. So, it's massively important that everyone do what they can.

COREN: We know that there's been a spike in cases amongst children. Is it because they haven't been vaccinated?

O'CARROLL: Yes. That has something to do with it. They have -- for those who have been very careful or those who haven't been exposed to this virus yet, their immune systems are still quite naive to SARS- CoV-2. And so, if they're not vaccinated, absolutely they're going to have a higher risk of being hospitalized or being, you know -- or being severely affected as compared to, you know, a population of children who are vaccinated or young adults who are vaccinated.

So, it's -- you know, it's also in those who are under 5, their airways are a bit smaller and this virus does replicate really quickly in the airways and so kids can't tolerate as much airway inflammation as adults can.

COREN: Dr. O'Carroll, we know that New York's new mayor is considering a booster mandate for city employees. Do you think that this is what is now required considering we are, as you say, you know, two years into this pandemic?

O'CARROLL: Absolutely, Anna. I think it's a great idea. It's the right public health move. Anybody who is going indoors, two vaccines aren't really giving any efficacy in preventing you from getting omicron. If you're six months out, you've got 0 to 20 percent efficacy in having -- in getting it and transferring it to somebody else.

There's still a good efficacy against you getting really sick. But if we're trying to tamp down the amount of spread, requiring boosters to go indoors, you know, requiring boosters is absolutely what's going to really impact the spread.


And we're back to the same -- you know, all the way back in March 2020 that I'd like to reckon flatten the curve. We're not at square one, but we still need to flatten the curve because this virus has trans -- as Dr. Fauci said, is hyper-transmissible and is really, really spreading quickly.

COREN: Dr. Darragh O'Carroll, great to have your insight and thank you for your time. Really appreciate it.

O'CARROLL: Thank you, Anna.

COREN: Well, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has tested positive for COVID-19. Austin made the announcement on Sunday saying he developed mild symptoms at home on leave. His immediate staff have started contact tracing. Austin also informed President Biden, whom he last met with before Christmas after testing negative.

The defense chief says he is fully vaccinated and has received a COVID booster. He also says he was last at the Pentagon on Thursday and followed all COVID precautions the short time he was there. Well, China is reporting a drop in the number of COVID cases in Xi'an.

The city of 13 million people has been under strict lockdown measures for almost two weeks as Chinese authorities pursue a zero COVID strategy. Well, joining us now is CNN's Kristie Lu Stout here in Hong Kong. Kristie, are authorities hopeful the outbreak is under control?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have hope in their zero COVID policy. And as a result of that zero COVID policy, we are seeing cases falling but also at the expense of people being able to access freely to go out and get food. Look, what's happening in Xi'an, the outbreak there, is the worse that China has seen in months.

Earlier today, Chinese health authorities announced that there were about 101 new cases of COVID-19. That's down from 131 the day before. But the lion's share, the vast majority of those new cases, are from the northern Chinese city of Xi'an known for of course the terra cotta warriors, but it is a thriving industrial hub and high-tech center home to some 13 million people.

In fact, since December 23rd, that's 12 days ago, 13 million people in this major metropolis have been under lockdown. That means that they're not allowed to go out except to get a COVID test. They can't leave their residential compounds for food or central supplies. There have also been reports of public shaming taking place involving people who were accused of breaching COVID-19 protocols.

On Sunday, we learned two senior Chinese communist party officials were removed from their post because of their pandemic performance. And, Anna, we've also been closely monitoring Chinese social media here in the Hong Kong newsroom just to get an understanding, a picture of what it's like on the ground during this prolonged lockdown in Xi'an. And it paints a picture of control and desperation.

Here is one clip I want to share with you. And what we're seeing here is there is a man attempting to enter a residential compound in Xi'an. This clip was taken and shared on December 31st. It's gone viral on Sina Weibo ever since. And he was trying to enter that residential compound with a bag of food, a bag of steamed buns.

There is an altercation between him and the anti-pandemic workers. The man stumbles and the buns that he's holding, they scatter all over the ground. Now, local police, they have been forced to respond to this video after it went viral. They acknowledge, yes, there was a dispute. They said that, yes, a man was involved in this altercation and attacked by these anti-pandemic workers.

The two staff members apologized to the man and they were punished with a token fine and they have been detained for seven days. The Chinese government has vowed to deliver, in their words, three to five days' worth of food for people who are stuck at home in Xi'an.

On Friday, state-run media also reported that the deputy mayor of Xi'an said that they will eventually loosen restrictions for certain areas in the city that have no cases of COVID-19 or no close contacts of confirmed cases of the virus. Anna?

COREN: Kristie Lu Stout, as always, thank you.

Well, Sudan's political future is a question mark. Amid ongoing mass protests, the prime minister resigns. Those details just ahead.



COREN: A man is under arrest in connection with a fire at the South African parliament. It caused extensive damage on the first and second floors of the old assembly building and the third floor roof collapsed. A government official said the suspect was arrested inside parliament. Authorities believe someone tampered with the sprinkler system.

Sudan is in deeper political turmoil with the resignation of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. His resignation came after a doctor's group said security forces killed three protesters during anti-coup demonstrations on Sunday.

The military ousted Hamdok in October and briefly detained him. He was reinstated in a deal with the coup leaders in November, but his supporters denounced the agreement. Well, Larry Madowo joins us now on the phone from Uganda.

Larry, upon his announcement, Prime Minister Hamdok said our country is going through a dangerous turning point that may threaten its entire survival if it is not remedied soon. I mean, what will bring the Sudanese people together at least to the table?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Anna, he said that there's a need for a national dialogue to bring all the warring parties together and yet he also admitted that he failed. In the sixth weeks since he was reinstated he didn't get to name a government because of just how deeply divided Sudan is. And the divisions within the military and the civilian wing of government just could not get any closer.

And that's an admission from him that despite the legitimacy that he once enjoyed during the coup on October 25th and the weeks after, he was seen as a sign of legitimacy. But when he was reinstated six weeks ago, the people continued to (inaudible) because they thought he was (inaudible) addressing under the military dictators were still in charge.

And this resignation (inaudible) said that yes, that is a reality and that is much more difficult to try to bring everybody together. This holds as justification, Anna, when he explained why he could come back into the government, however brief.



ABDALLA HAMDOK, SUDANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translation): Even after the October 25th coup, we signed a framework with the military in attempt to get back on track toward the democratic transition to put an end to the bloodshed, for the release of prisoners, and to safeguard what had been achieved throughout the past two years, and to adhere to the constitutional declaration that governed the transition.


MADOWO: (Inaudible) Abdalla Hamdok had hoped that this would be a way to try and agree on a document to the (inaudible) the democratic process in Sudan leading to elections of next year. And now (inaudible) throwing his hands up in the air. The process will continue even as the military rulers in Sudan crack down violently on protesters. Three more people were killed in demonstrations yesterday, dozens of them killed since the October 25th coup. And it does seem now the military completely out of legitimacy at this stage.

COREN: Larry Madowo joining us from Uganda. We appreciate the update. Thank you very much.

Well, the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. capitol is revealing new details. All this just ahead of the January 6th anniversary. We'll have the latest from Capitol Hill coming up.


COREN: Well, U.S. President Joe Biden is vowing the U.S. and its allies will "respond decisively" if Russia further invades Ukraine. This, as tens of thousands of Russian troops remain amassed via Ukraine's borders.

Well that statement from Mr. Biden coming during his call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenski on Sunday and ahead of next week's diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Russia in Geneva.


Well, last week, Mr. Biden spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging him to ease tensions and warned of a "heavy price to pay" if Russia invades Ukraine.

Well, the White House says Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks on Thursday marking the one-year anniversary of the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol. This word comes as the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection attempt reveals troubling new information. Well, CNN's Melanie Zanona reports from Washington.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As we approach the one-year anniversary of the deadly attack on the capitol, we are learning new details about the direction of the January 6 investigation and exactly who is speaking to the select committee.

Specifically, investigators have really zeroed in on those 187 minutes that Trump was publicly silent as his supporters stormed the capitol building. Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, the chair and vice chair of the select committee went on the Sunday shows and revealed a little bit more about what they've uncovered so far. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We know as he was sitting there in the dining room next to the Oval Office, members of his staff were pleading with him to go on television to tell people to stop. We know Leader McCarthy was pleading with him to do that. We know members of his family. We know his daughter -- we have first-hand testimony that his daughter, Ivanka, went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We have significant testimony that leads us to believe that the White House had been told to do something. We want to verify all of it so that when we produce our report and when we have the hearings the public will have an opportunity to see for themselves.


ZANONA: Now, this is potentially a significant revelation because it suggests that someone very close to Trump is talking to the committee. It's not just someone who had second-hand knowledge. Potentially it's someone who was in the room with Trump as the riots were unfolding.

Now, what's less clear at this moment is what Trump's mindset and intent was during that critical time period, and whether it amounts to a criminal act of some sort. That is something that investigators are still working to determine.

But Bennie Thompson did say to our Dana Bash that if they determine a criminal act was committed, they have no problem making a criminal referral to the Department of Justice. And that is something that we could see included in the final report that the select committee plans to release this fall. Melanie Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.

COREN: Coming up on "CNN Newsroom," Dutch police and protesters clash in Amsterdam. Despite surging cases, they say it's time for restrictions to end.

Plus, Prince Andrew faces a potentially difficult week in his bid to block a sexual assault lawsuit against him. Keep it right here on CNN.



ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, despite skyrocketing COVID case numbers in the Netherlands, Amsterdam saw a protest, Sunday, against tough new restrictions. And clashes between demonstrators and police. Our Michael Holmes has that and some other COVID stories making headlines around the world.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Breaking the rules, thousands of people filling the streets of Amsterdam on Sunday defying the Netherlands' strict COVID-19 restrictions, which ban large public gatherings.

Riot police at times using batons and shields to break up the crowd of people who ignored parts of a government lockdown imposed in mid- December that closed all non-essential shops. The measures also say no more than two people aged 13 and up can gather outdoors.

ANTAL BUISMAN, PROTESTER: I had COVID and there wasn't not much problems for me, a little bit cold and a little bit runny nose, little bit headache and that's it. So, for me, I'm not scared for this new virus, Omicron.

HOLMES (voice over): But as cases of the fast spreading variant rise around the world, health experts warn people not to be complacent about what they think they know about the virus.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So it's kind of like a very interesting, somewhat complicated issue, where you have a virus that might actually be less severe in its pathogenicity, but so many people are getting infected that the net amount, the total amount of people that will require hospitalization might be up.

HOLMES (voice over): Testing facilities and hospitals have been inundated with Omicron patients. In New York, emergency medical services were instructed not to transport stable patients experiencing flu like symptoms to hospitals to help ease the burden on emergency rooms.

Ireland's Health Department reported a staggering number of new COVID- 19 infections with more new confirmed cases reported over the holiday period then in all of 2020. And as people return to school and work after the holiday break, more coronavirus measures could be on the table.

In England secondary students told to wear masks in schools so they can continue in-person learning. French schools also beefing up their testing procedures to try to keep the doors open there, as French lawmakers consider a bill that would limit unvaccinated people from getting into restaurants, bars and other public venues.

Traffic snarls continue across the globe, bad weather and staffing shortages due to COVID-19 sickouts, canceling thousands of flights in the U.S. alone. The backups causing long lines in airports, a perfect storm of sickness and crowds that could give Omicron even more opportunity to spread.

Michael Holmes, CNN.


COREN: Barbie Nadeau joins us now live from Rome with the very latest. Barbie tell us how are European governments coping with the surge of Omicron cases?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, as all these cases surge, the focus right now is on how to get the kids back to school safely. You've got in the U.K. they all have to be tested before they go back to school. Here in Italy kids don't go back to school till next week. But they'll have to - if there are three positive cases in a classroom, that classroom will have to go to distance learning.

And in France, kids go back to school today. And they're looking at how they - as well they have three positive cases, the kids are distance learning. But they're actually looking at a new measure that would mean a positive case in the class means all the kids - their co- kids have to be tested every three days in order to stay in the classroom.

So the focus really right now - party is over, holidays are over, and how do you get these kids - how do you keep them in class? They really - these governments are really focused on that at the moment, Anna.

COREN: And Barbie, how are people reacting where you are in in Rome to the measures?


NADEAU: Well, right here we're standing in front of a pop-up test site, and a lot of people are getting tested so they can go back to work, maybe they've been in contact with a COVID positive person, maybe they're a little bit nervous about that.

And people are reacting - people are compliant here in Italy. People don't want to be locked down. So they're doing everything they can in order to try to maintain a healthy environment in their workplace, in their homeplace, in the schools and things like that.

But you see, in the Netherlands, they're protesting against these sorts of measures. It's very different across Europe right now. Every government has a different approach. And the people in those countries have a different reaction to those approaches.

Here in Italy, it's almost impossible to do anything without a vaccine, that's what some something they're looking towards going for in France as well. Vaccinated people be the only ones out on the streets is what they want, Anna.

COREN: Barbie Nadeau, joining us from Rome, many thanks.

Well, India is reporting nearly 34,000 new cases today, over four times the single day recorded - reported, I should say just a week ago. The health minister is now calling on states to tap into the emergency COVID Response Fund. Well, despite the new wave of infections, only 17 percent of the more than $3 billion set aside have been utilized.

Joining us now from New Delhi is CNN's Vedika Sud. Vedika, early last year's Delta surge and then the ensuing crisis is obviously still fresh in people's minds, are authorities better prepared for Omicron?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Anna, logistically, yes, there has been a ramping up of ICU beds, be it in pediatric wards or outside. Medical oxygen supply has also been ramped up, there are more factories producing it now.

Remember, during the second wave in the month of May - the peak of the second wave rather, we saw over 400,000 cases of COVID-19. And it was at that point in time when we were reporting from the ground here in Delhi, we were talking about the crisis when it came to medical oxygen. So, yes, some lessons learned, but many not.

Like you just mentioned, 17 percent of the COVID-19 emergency fund has been utilized. There's so much more that the states can use to ramp up facilities medically and otherwise, while awaiting the third wave, which I would say is just knocking at India's door.

And why do I say that? You've mentioned the numbers 33,750 new cases in the last 24 hours. Cut back to Monday last week there were just about 7,000 plus cases in the last 24 hours back then. So we've seen a fourfold increase already, Anna.

Let's talk about two big cities, New Delhi and Mumbai. There's been a tenfold increase in the number of cases they're reporting on a daily basis today, compared to eight days ago. So clearly the cases are surging. Omicron cases stand at 1,700 officially, that's the number that we have from the health ministry. But that is also been rising at a very fast pace.

Now, I'm standing at a hospital. The silver lining here is that children between ages 15 and 18 are being vaccinated, this commenced today. And they are the most vulnerable lot of people really because they haven't received a single vaccine till now. So that is commenced. The hope is that children younger will also be standing in line very soon in the coming months.

There is a booster shot known as a precaution shot announced by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi for frontline workers, healthcare workers and senior citizens with comorbidities. That starts later this month.

But political gatherings haven't stopped, Anna, nor have some public gatherings. If you remember, in February last year, there was an election in the State of Bengal. There are elections in many states this year as well, and that is the worry and the biggest challenge we're going to be facing in the coming days, Anna.

COREN: Vedika Sud, in New Delhi, thank you.

Well, in the coming hours Prince Andrew's legal battle to block a sex assault case against him faces a major test. His lawyers claim an agreement between a Virginia Giuffre and Jeffrey Epstein shields the Prince from her lawsuit, accusing him of sexual assault. Well, that deal is expected to be unsealed later today in a New York courtroom. CNN's Max Foster reports.


MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: This is an incredibly difficult case for the royal family, because the longer it goes on, the more it damages the brand. FOSTER (voice over): But the monarchy can't be seen to be interfering with the legal process. So they're very much leaving it to Prince Andrew's legal team. And what they're trying to do is get the case simply thrown out.

They've failed in their most recent attempt, which was to argue that the U.S. court doesn't have jurisdiction here, because Giuffre has been living in Australia. That's being thrown out.

There next attempt to have the case thrown out comes on Monday or comes into focus at least on Monday. Because Prince Andrew's legal team claims there's an agreement in existence between Giuffre and Epstein that says that she wouldn't pursue cases like this against Prince Andrew and other people involved in all of these claims.

Now, that document is sealed. It will be unsealed on Monday. We wait to see what's in that. Then on Tuesday the judge will consider whether or not the case should be thrown out. If it's not, it continues.


And we're looking at possible depositions from Prince Andrew, his former wife, Sarah Ferguson, potentially, even the Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markel, because Giuffre's team thinks she can add something to this case, as well.

One of the other key things that judge will need to consider is a claim by Giuffre that she had sex in Ghislaine Maxwell's house in London after going to a nightclub where, Giuffre says, Prince Andrew was sweating profusely. Prince Andrew denies going to the nightclub. He says he was in a restaurant elsewhere in London at the time. He also says at the time, he had a medical condition that meant he couldn't sweat.

Giuffre's team have asked for documents to back up that medical claim. Prince Andrew's team say he hasn't got those documents. He says they're a private matter anyway. And that they are immaterial to this case.

FOSTER (on camera): Another part of this wide story that the judge needs to consider and weigh up and consider and whether or not to continue actually with this case and take it to trial. Max Foster, CNN, Hampshire, England.


COREN: For our international viewers, WORLD SPORT is next. For those in the U.S., I'll be back.



COREN: Well, they at least 14 million people in the U.S. are currently under a winter storm warning. Weather alerts are in place from Eastern Texas through Tennessee and into the mid-Atlantic. The Northern areas of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Eastern Tennessee could see two to five inches of snow.

Well, CNN Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri joins us now with more. Pedram, how severe will these storms be?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, Anna, the storms have certainly had a history of being very severe across the Southern United States United States. Just in the first couple of days of the year, upwards of 70 severe weather reports and about three reports of tornadoes. That was in the past 24 hours and big changes in store.

And notice what's happened here. Across portions of Memphis, Tennessee into Atlanta, Georgia, temperatures shifting around by about 50 degrees in a matter of just a 24 hour period. Memphis, on Saturday, climbed up to almost 80 degrees, a record temperature. Sunday, the best they could do 30 degrees. You notice Atlanta at 78. Monday, forecasts about 44 degrees.

All of this in spots cold enough to support some wintry weather. And a dramatic shift here going in from Spring Lake back to the heart of winter for some of these areas, and you'll notice the system is on the move. Snow showers at this hour across Northern areas of Alabama, Northwestern areas of the State of Georgia, and yes, high wind alerts widespread across this region. The entirety of the State of Georgia underneath these high wind alerts where winds could gust as high as 40 miles per hour.

Now, that's just one element of this system. As it moves a little farther close towards the coastline here, tap into more moisture get up into these interior areas, and we're looking at least two to three inches of snow fall across on these areas of the Appalachians and into the Delmarva, including the nation's capital as high as eight inches of snowfall. All of this in a matter of the next say six to 10 hours.

Very quick moving system. Pretty fair amount of potency with it here. And as it moves through heavy snowfall in store potentially around the Washington, D.C. region, again into the early morning rush hour of Monday, could continue to the early afternoon hours as well.

And what's impressive about this, Anna, is we look at Washington D.C., they have not had more than two and a half inches of snowfall in the city there in over thousand days, going back to January of 2019. In fact, the last time it snowed at all, less than an inch fell about 11 months ago. So this it's going to be one of the more impressive snow events.

And as much as thousand flights already canceled across the U.S., and of course we know a lot of that has to do with the virus taking place, but also the weather certainly not helping it all across this region as well. Anna?

COREN: Pedram Javaheri, as always, good to see you. Thank you.

Well, hundreds of still without power in Colorado following last week's devastating wildfire. The Marshall Fire tore through Boulder County on Thursday, destroying nearly thousand homes. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but authorities do have a few clues. CNN's Natasha Chen has the latest.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two people are still missing, one woman from Superior and one man from the Marshall Area.

CHEN (voice over): The Boulder County Sheriff says it's a difficult task searching the burn zone, especially given the extensive debris and destruction of houses reduced to ashes, some covered in about eight inches of snow in some places. Officials also point out that to missing people out of 35,000 evacuees is quite extraordinary.

At the same time, investigators are working with experts and partners, including the FBI, to look into how this fire started. A search warrant was executed on Friday on private property, but the sheriff would not go into details about the ongoing investigation.

The deadly wildfire ignited on a day with extremely dry conditions, especially with a Red Flag Notice because of the high winds. Winds reaching over 100 miles per hour ripped through neighborhoods so fast that about thousand structures, mostly homes, were destroyed.

We talked to families who lost everything they own. One family said they had just minutes to take their cell phones, dogs and medication as they drove away under an orange sky. A Boulder County Commissioner said he had to make a similar escape. Luckily, his house is OK, but he described being at a lookout point with winds strong enough to nearly knock him over. And he realized it was time to go.

MATT JONES, BOULDER COUNTY, COLORADO COMMISSIONER: And so I decided I better get home. And so I went back to the car, started driving home got a message for my wife that we had an evacuation order. In the meantime, I've been told by staff that I need to do an emergency declaration.

So as I was trying to think and collect the papers that I would need to get out - the legal papers and all the things, the pictures, the heirlooms, I had to sign the emergency declaration too. It was - and it was really, really intense.

CHEN (on camera): Many streets are still closed with hotspots still being managed. So reopening subdivisions to allow people to take a look at their homes has been a slow process. Back to you.



COREN: Natasha Chen reporting there. Well, anyone looking for the personal Twitter account for Republican U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene will find only this one. Twitter suspended one of her accounts over repeated violations of its COVID-19 misinformation policy.

Her personal account had been restricted previously for other false COVID claims and misinformation about the 2020 U.S. presidential election. However, her official congressional Twitter account is still up and running.

Paris Saint-Germain says Lionel Messi and three teammates have tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play in the French cups round of 32 Monday. The Football Club says its players are isolating and subject to the appropriate health protocol.

CNN's Matt Rivers has more on that, and case surges across Latin America.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, not that we needed much of a reminder of this, but we do have yet another example of the increasingly dire situation as it pertains to COVID-19 across Latin America with the latest example coming from Argentinian soccer legend Leonel Messi with his club PSG announcing the Messi has tested positive for COVID-19. Messi one of four members of that soccer club to have tested positive for this virus.

The country where Messi is from, Argentina, has overall seen a huge spike in the number of cases with a new single day record for the number of cases being recorded in a 24 hour period being set within just the last few days there. But it's not just Argentina, we are seeing an increasing number of infections in places like Brazil, in places like Bolivia and also here where I am in Mexico at this point.

One hopeful sign, though, of course, is that the number of vaccinations, the number of doses that countries have managed to get into their citizens arms over the past six months in Latin America has really increased when you're looking at the broader picture, including in a country like Chile, which actually ranks among the top 10 countries globally in terms of the number of people fully vaccinated.

And yet even despite that, we heard from Chilean President Sebastian Pinera who said that starting in February, certain groups more high risk individuals, will be eligible to receive a fourth dose of this vaccine. So an additional booster which can only serve to help that country's population, and is something that other countries might consider doing similar things in the months to come as they all deal with this latest wave of COVID-19.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


COREN: In the NFL, wide receiver Antonio Brown is now out of a job after walking out on his team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers mid-game in dramatic fashion.

Well, this happened Sunday as the Bucs played the New York Jets. Brown appeared to be upset on the sidelines. Some of his teammates tried to calm him down, but he pulled off his jersey and pads, threw his shirt into the stands and left the stadium.

Tampa Bay's head coach, and quarterback Tom Brady both spoke to reporters about Brown's actions after the game. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE ARIANS, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS HEAD COACH: He is no longer a Buc, all right, that's the end of the story. Let's talk about the guys that went out there and won the game.

TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS QUARTERBACK: Everybody should find, you know, hopefully do what they can to help him in ways that he really needs it. And we all love him, we care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best and unfortunately he won't be with our team.

I think the most important thing about football the relationships with their - your friends and your teammates and they go beyond the field, and I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening.

COREN (voice over): Well, it's still not clear why Brown decided to leave the game. He had been suspended for three games last month after the league said he had lied about his COVID vaccination status.


COREN: And in another NFL game, the Philadelphia Eagles saw some unexpected action after their win over Washington on Sunday.


COREN (voice over): Watch the left side of the video, quarterback Jalen Hurts is walking off the field when a railing gives way and several fans fall to the ground. It seems no one was injured and Hurts even helped the fans up as some took selfies with him. Hurt spoke to the media after the incident.

JALEN HURTS, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES QUARTERBACK: Well, I'm just happy everybody's safe from it. Happy everybody is safe from it. It's crazy - it's crazy stuff right there. That was a real dangerous situation. I'm just so happy everybody bounced back from it, it seemed like it. Passionate, huge fans I love you.

COREN (voice over): The league says it's looking into how the railing collapsed.

The NHL is celebrating a hockey fan whose quick thinking saves a life. That fan, Nadia Popovici, was reunited on Saturday with Vancouver Canucks Assistant Equipment Manager Brian Hamilton.


Popovici supports the rivals Seattle Kraken, but back in October, behind the plexiglass, she noticed a dangerous mole on Hamilton's neck. She banged on the glass to get his attention, held up her phone with a message saying the mole might be cancer.

After checking with doctors, Hamilton learned Popovici was right. He indeed did have a melanoma, a highly dangerous form of skin cancer. He had it treated, and thanks to social media, Hamilton tracked down his guardian angel. She was wearing this great octopus cap when she was honored at Saturday's game between the Kraken and Canucks.

Well, here is Hamilton praising Popovici's decisive play off the ice.


BRIAN "RED" HAMILTON, VANCOUVER CANUCKS ASST. EQUIPMENT MANAGER: She needs to know she's the story. She's the person that that did this. She saved the life. She doesn't know. Like she needs to know her efforts were valid and bang on and I'm happy that story is there, but not for me, but for her. Because the world needs to know that she's a - like this woman exists. She's a hero. And we need to celebrate her and people like her that take the time to do things like this and save lives.


COREN: We certainly do. And Popovici's ad hoc diagnosis was no fluke. Her mother says the 22 year old has been accepted to multiple medical schools. Both teams pulled together to give her a $10,000 scholarship. So they should.

I'm Anna Coren, thanks so much for your company. I'll be right back with more CNN NEWSROOM in just a moment.