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Biden Faces Series of Challenge in 2022; Biden to Deliver Remarks on COVID-19 as Cases Rise; Okinawa Governor Slams U.S. Military Over Omicron Outbreak; Delhi Imposes Weekend Curfew Amid Rising Omicron Cases; Prince Andrew's Civil Case Hearing; China Launches "Pregame" Version of Bubble Ahead of Games. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 04, 2022 - 04:30   ET



PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And you notice this trend. Eventually does arrive around the northeast. So, even though it's cold now, it could get even colder over the next several days -- Isa.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: I know you'll keep us posted, Pedram. Thank you very much.

Still to come right here on the show. President Joe Biden will be speaking on the COVID situation in the U.S. today. We'll tell you what else he has on his schedule this week.

And the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is quickly sweeping across the Asia-Pacific region. More on the progress as well as the setbacks against the virus next. We're live in Tokyo.


SOARES: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, everyone. I'm Isa Soares. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour.

Crews are working to clear a major interstate in Virginia after Monday's winter storm left the I-95 highway covered with ice and snow. The section in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has been blocked by disabled vehicles as well as fallen trees. Hundreds of drivers have been stranded 12 hours or more.

And the U.S. is now reporting more than 100,000 people in the hospital with COVID-19. Pediatric hospitalizations are also on the rise across the country. And this comes as the U.S. Foods and Drug Administration is authorizing Pfizer boosters for children 12 to 15.

Now, in just a few hours, U.S. President Joe Biden will address the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the U.S., and the steps really being taken to address it. And as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, this is one of several challenges Mr. Biden is facing as he begins his new year.



JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Biden starting the first full week of this new year, several challenges on his plate both foreign and domestic. On the domestic front, the White House still trying to push its Build Back Better agenda. Of course, that is one half of his economic plan that was left on the cutting room floor essentially at the end of last year when Senator Joe Manchin, the lone Democrat, said he simply could not support it.

The White House hopes it will be back to the drawing board at least in some respect, trying to get some part of this agenda through before this critical midterm election year. Of course, Democrats are fighting to hold the House and the Senate, so they are trying to move parts of this agenda before the year gets too far away.

Of course, this week also marks the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection and attack on the Capitol. The President and Vice President Kamala Harris will be traveling to Capitol Hill to make speeches on Thursday, on that one-year somber anniversary.

Also using this as an opportunity to talk about protecting voting rights. Both the president and vice president will be giving speeches in that regard. And Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is vowing to push ahead on trying to get some type of voting rights legislation through. That would require the Senate to have a vote on the filibuster, trying to eliminate and remove the filibuster for this issue only. It will be very controversial and not likely to pass, but Democrats are trying to move forward on this agenda.

And, of course, on the foreign policy stage, the president and the White House also still deeply -- have a close eye on Ukraine. You know, 100,000 troops, Russian troops amassing on the border there. The president of course, spoke to Vladimir Putin last week and the Ukrainian president as well. And next week the first of a series of meetings will be beginning in Geneva, Switzerland as well on this issue. So, the president keeping a close eye on that.

But the domestic challenges, of course, also include COVID-19. The president will be speaking about that on Tuesday, we're told here at the White House. Still promising more improvements on the, you know, dramatic shortages in the number of tests. Omicron is still rippling through Washington and many cities across the country. Most states as well here. So, a central challenge for this administration. Once again, COVID-19 really entering the third year of that challenge.

So, as the president begins 2022, again, many challenges on his agenda, his approval rating low. He's trying to fight through all of this in the new year.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


SOARES: Thanks, Jeff. Well, AT&T and Verizon have agreed to a U.S. government request to postpone Wednesday's rollout of 5G cell service near airports. The two-week delay comes after aviation authorities raised concerns that 5G signals would interfere with airline instruments. A spokesperson for AT&T -- CNN's parent company -- says, quote, we know aviation safety and 5G can coexist, and we are confident further collaboration as well as technical assessment will allay any issues.

Now, of course you can hear that bell. U.S. financial markets are looking to keep the momentum going on the second day of trading this year. The Dow and the S&P 500 both finished at record highs on Monday. Blue chip stocks gained almost three quarters of a percent. Pushes now to 36,585. The Nasdaq pointed up 1.2 percent short of its all-time high set in November. The S&P also gained nearly 3 percent -- three quarters of a percent as you can see there, pardon me, to close at 4,796. Not a bad start.

Now, Toyota is expected to become the leader in U.S. auto sales for the first time ever when reports year-end sales today. General Motors has held the top spot for nearly a century. But Toyota sales topped GM in the first three quarters of 2021. Both companies expected to see a sharp drop, though, in the fourth quarter. GM hopes to regain the crown, though. The company says the launch of several new vehicles and improvements in the supply chain will lead to growth this year.

Apple is the first company in the world to hit the $3 trillion in market value. It reached the milestone briefly on Monday when shares rose to an all-time high before pulling back later in the day. Overall Apple's stock was up almost 35 percent last year driven by strong iPhone sales and subscriptions to Apple Music as well as Apple TV.

Now, the Omicron variant -- which is our top story on the show -- is spreading quickly in the Asia-Pacific region to the Australian state of New South Wales. Now has one of the highest infection rates in the world, leading to record numbers of patients in hospital.

CNN's Blake Essig joins me live from Tokyo with what's really happening across the Asia-Pacific region. And Blake let's start what's happening where you are in Tokyo. How are hospitalizations, how are case numbers? Is it being contained?


BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Isa, here in Japan the daily case count remains relatively low. But earlier this week, Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa reported 103 new cases, its highest single-day total since last September. And Okinawa's local government is blaming the U.S. military for failing to contain the spread of infection of U.S.-based personnel.

Now on Monday, the U.S. military reported nearly 3,700 cases across the prefecture, and more than 500 cases from a single base. U.S. officials say 47 percent of the cases are believed to be Omicron. Now, here's what Okinawa's governor recently had to say about the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DENNY TAMAKI, GOVERNOR OF OKINAWA PREFECTURE (through translator): I'm outraged because the rise in the number of infected among U.S. military personnel suggests that their management is not enough.


ESSIG: Well, in response to the recent surge in cases among U.S. military personnel, U.S. forces, Japan says, that they recognize that everyone has a part to play in keeping our community safe and that they have taken several steps to minimize the increase in cases. U.S. military personnel are now required to wear masks while off base regardless of their vaccination status. And new personnel arriving into Japan require three negative tests before they are released from their 14-day restriction of movement on base.

Now, moving to India, as a result of increasing Omicron cases, the capital territory of Delhi has announced a weekend curfew to try to control the spread of infection. India is currently seeing a surge in cases across the country with more than 37,000 cases reported just in the past 24 hours. In the capital, Delhi's health member says that 84 percent of the cases reported since Monday, have been Omicron. Health officials are asking people not to leave their homes over the weekend and say, all establishments except for essential services will be closed.

Now, there is some good news out of India. While the country has been slow to approve vaccinations for kids, on Monday the first day of its COVID-19 rollout for children, more than 4 million kids between the ages of 15 and 18 received a shot. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to praise the vaccination saying it is an important step to keep looking forward in protecting the youth against COVID-19.

Nationwide, Isa, about 90 percent of Japan -- excuse me, of India's adult population has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

SOARES: Blake Essig for us in Tokyo there. Thanks very much, Blake, great to see you.

Now, Prince Andrew's legal team is preparing for a big day in court. Ahead, how newly unsealed documents could impact the sex assault case against him. That is next.



SOARES: Now, in the coming hours, a federal judge in New York will hear arguments on whether to drop a sexual assault case against Prince Andrew. His lawyers claim a 2009 agreement between Virginia Giuffre and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein shielded the Prince from Giuffre's lawsuit. And that settlement has now been unsealed. CNN's Max Foster has all the details for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the document that Prince Andrew's team has been waiting for. It's an agreement between Giuffre and Epstein signed back in 2009. She received $500,000 for signing it, and it does say that she agrees not to sue anyone connected to Epstein who could be described as a potential defendant.

Now, Prince Andrew isn't named specifically in this document. Prince Andrew's team are certainly going to use it to try to have the case thrown out. That will be heard in a New York court on Tuesday. A critical hearing then. It could be the end of this case or the judge could rule that the case continues and we could go on to having depositions potentially from Prince Andrew. His ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, even the Duchess of Sussex has been mentioned as someone who could be deposed in this case.

But right now, it's all about Tuesday's hearing, and whether the judge feels that this agreement between Giuffre and Epstein means the Prince Andrew case should be thrown out. Prince Andrew's team haven't responded to the release of this document yet.

Giuffre's team however have issued a statement, David Boies, her attorney saying, that he firmly believes that this agreement has nothing to do with the current Prince Andrew case in New York. He said, as we've said from the beginning, the release is irrelevant to Ms. Giuffre's claim against Prince Andrew. The release does not mention Prince Andrew. He did not even know about it. He could not have been a potential defendant in the settled case against Jeffrey Epstein.

So, the judge will need to decide whether or not this agreement plays into the trial in New York or what will become a trial potentially in September, or whether or not it's completely irrelevant and the case continues. Prince Andrew denies all the charges that Giuffre has laid against him.

Max Foster, CNN, Hampshire.


SOARES: And a federal judge in New York will hear those arguments about five hours from now.

Still to come right here on the show, the Beijing Winter Olympics are now a month away. A look at the measures China is taking to prevent a COVID outbreak at the upcoming games. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.




ANDREA ARRIAGA BORGES, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: I couldn't walk. I lost my motor skills. Lost all my muscle. Dropped about 35 pounds and came home in a wheelchair. I learned how to walk again. And basically, didn't have water or food, couldn't talk for four months. I don't want anyone to go through what I went through. And the only thing I can say is just have that extra layer of protection and get vaccinated.


SOARES: A heart felt plea there from COVID-19 survivor Andrea Arriaga Borges there. She spent two months in a coma after being hospitalized with COVID last year with a 5 percent chance -- 5 percent chance of survival. The unvaccinated mother of five was against the shot before her coma, but now wishes she had been inoculated. Even though she has since recovered, Andrea still has a raspy voice as you heard there. The lasting impression of tractotomy due to COVID. Glad she's on the mend.

Now, we are one month away from the opening ceremony at the Beijing Winter Olympics. Ahead of that officials in China are making their final preparations and launching measures aimed at preventing a COVID- 19 outbreak which includes an Olympics bubble. And joining me for more is CNN's Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. And Kristie, we are counting down. And there is so much hanging over these Olympics. You and I have talked at great length. Diplomatic boycotts, COVID, just two of the main pressures here. How is the planning coming along?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, new announcements today, especially in regards to having it as zero COVID as possible in China. The games will be held in a bubble. This closed loop system around Beijing, covering stadiums, venues, accommodations. And throughout the games, all participants and athletes will have to stay inside the bubble and undergo daily COVID testing.

And according to the "Global Times" today, the pregame bubble officially started already. It started today. It's welcoming all Olympic personnel from overseas. And there is also an announcement about this cross-province high-speed train that has these divided carriages to separate Olympic participants from the general population inside China.

And Isa, this is critical because the timing of the games coincides with the Lunar New Year Festival. This is when hundreds of millions of people across China travel home for family reunions.

When the games kickoff, this will be a test for China's zero-COVID control measures which will be very, very difficult given the highly infectious nature of the Omicron variant. China has only reported a handful of Omicron cases and experts you've been talking to say that people in China are vulnerable because of their lack of exposure to the variant, because of the lower efficacy in their home-grown vaccines in China.


And because of the limits of China's zero COVID policy. Listen to this.


YANZHONG HUANG, SENIOR FELLOW FOR GLOBAL HEALTH COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The problem is not the vaccine. It's the policy. Because under the zero-tolerance policy, right, even the best of vaccines, you know, cannot fulfill the objectives set by the government.


STOUT: You know, inside China, public patients for the zero COVID public policy is wearing thin. In the city of Xi'an cases may be falling there, but there is still more desperation. That lockdown is on its 13th day there. Residents are not allowed to leave their homes unless it is for a COVID shot or COVID test. And Chinese social media, it's been flooded with cries for help for food. In fact, onwaybora (ph), is a hashtag we've been monitoring. It's called grocery shopping in Xi'an is difficult. That has been viewed over 420 million times on Weibo -- Isa.

SOARES: It will be interesting to see if people follow the rules when it comes to Lunar New Year, as you mentioned there. Kristie Lu Stout for us. Thanks very much, Kristie.

Now, David Bowie's estate has sold the late singer's entire song writing catalogue including his "Ashes to Ashes" and this one you may remember.


DAVID BOWIE, SINGER, SONGWRITER: We could be heroes just for one day.


SOARES: Well, Warner Chappell Music made the purchase for an undisclosed amount. Although "The New York Times" reports it was for roughly $250 million. It includes songs from the studio albums released during his life, plus material released after his death and as well as other projects.

And that does it for me here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares in London. "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett is up next. And the latest, of course, on the Omicron surge impacting schools reopening in the United State. I shall see you tomorrow. Have a wonderful day. Bye-bye.