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U.S. Struggles As Hospitalizations Near Record Levels; European Nations Tighten Rules On Vaccines And Testing; Interview With Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Australia Canceled Tennis Star Novak Djokovic's Visa Over COVID Vaccine Dispute; U.S.-Russian Officials To Begin Talks In Geneva Monday; Bad Weather, Omicron Outbreaks Wreaking Havoc On Airlines. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 08, 2022 - 19:00   ET




SIDNEY POITIER, ACADEMY AWARD WINNING ACTOR: Stand firm, hold our ground and refuse to be moved whenever the question of survival was at stake.

KYLE BOWSER, NAACP: When Sidney Poitier gets slapped by a white man on camera and within a millisecond he turns and slaps that white man back, as a young man growing up black in America, that was like someone turned the light on in a dark room. It was synonymous to James Brown releasing "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud."

It was a moment when black Americans say, OK, we're ready to turn the page now. Things may not be exactly how we want them, but it's going to be different than it was on the last page.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bowser said this was like a relay race that Poitier laid the groundwork passed that baton to future generations, and now he says the question is, whom will they pass that baton to -- Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: A legend in every sense of the word. Natasha Chen, thanks so much.

The Omicron wave is rising. Testing shortages with hospitals and schools struggling to stay open. Plus, an unvaccinated tennis star now held inside a detention hotel. Novak Djokovic, his freedom depends on an Australian courtroom, and we're learning new details about the weeks leading up to his trip down under.

And a dangerous and deadly flooding in the Pacific northwest. Some frightened people near Seattle forced to wait on top of their cars for help.

I'm Phil Mattingly in Washington in for Pamela Brown tonight. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Now, across the country this weekend hospitals are scrambling to deal

with waves of people newly infected with the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus. An alarming spike in patients are being admitted. Hospitalizations now inching closer to the record set almost a year ago. And now adding to the alarm, the soaring number of American children hospitalized with COVID.

Helping to drive that number, children under 5 who are too young to be vaccinated. Many hospitals are facing a staffing crisis because COVID is infecting their own staff. Some states have deployed National Guard troops seen here in protective gear trying to help fill the void. And New York is the most recent state to mandate booster shots for health care workers.

With child hospitalizations hitting record numbers across the country many states are also wrestling with the benefits and risks of in- person learning. New York's new mayor vows that classrooms will remain open in the city's public schools.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We can't continue to stop our children from developing socially and academically in the support that they need. So we have to learn how to live with COVID and live with COVID in a safe way, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to allow the hysteria to prevent the future of my children receiving a quality education and the development that all sociologists are stating that they needed.


MATTINGLY: It's a debate ripping through the country right now.

Right now, I'm joined by Dr. Rob Davidson. He's an ER physician in West Michigan.

Doctor, in New York state the governor has ordered 40 hospitals to stop all nonurgent elective surgery for at least two weeks. So they're basically rationing medical care amid this latest surge. What are you seeing at your hospital right now? Are you having to turn any people away or limit who gets care based on what you're seeing with Omicron?

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Well, we certainly limit the places in which people can get care, and we're changing those places. Right? We're holding people in the emergency department more than ever. Now, Michigan is coming off a massive Delta wave. And in our area we had six or seven weeks of every hospital being full in a two-hour radius of our emergency department consistently having about half of the beds filled with patients waiting either to be admitted to beds that didn't exist so they just were held for days or to be transferred in ambulances that didn't exist because they were driving other people around to places.

So that whole system has been broken. We're coming out of that a little bit, but now with Omicron we're seeing the numbers go up again. Came into my day shift today with several people, COVID positive, unvaccinated, on high amounts of oxygen waiting to get transferred and us providing in-patient care in a space that is really not where in- patient care should be provided.

MATTINGLY: One of the things that people tried to get their heads around right now is there's this kind of disturbing reality of a record number of kids under the age of 5 in hospitals. They have COVID. They're still too young to get vaccinated. New hospital admissions for children under 18 are already at a record level averaging nearly 800 per day. You know, what do those numbers tell you about this specific variant?

It looks like we've lost Dr. Davidson. Dr. Davidson, you still there?


So the question I wanted to ask was in the sense of what we're seeing with children right now, obviously we're seeing numbers that we haven't seen before. The biggest concern obviously is for kids who aren't vaccinated or even eligible to get vaccinated. What are the numbers you're seeing in terms of pediatric admissions telling you about this variant?

And we just lost him again. We will see if we can swing back in a little bit. Obviously this story isn't going away anytime soon. We will see whether Dr. Rob Davidson can come back. But in the meantime, the surge of highly contagious Omicron variant has prompted nations around the world to tighten their existing measures and sometimes create new ones.

Let's check in with CNN correspondents around the globe.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ben Wedeman in Rome where the government has mandated that all people over the age of 50 must be vaccinated. Those who don't get vaccinated will face stiff fines and risk losing their salaries until they actually get the shot.

Germany is tightening its rules for the vaccinated, requiring that they show negative COVID test results before entering bars, restaurants, cafes and other public venues. The only people exempted from these new rules are those who have received the booster.

The British government is taking a softer approach. It isn't introducing any new anti-COVID-19 measures, but it is having to deploy 200 members of the British military to London hospitals to help staff, many of whom have fallen ill with COVID-19.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Vedika Sud in New Delhi. India's Health Ministry has reported over 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, the highest since June last year. Financial capital of Mumbai has reported over 20,000 fresh cases of the virus, the highest single- day count for the city since the outbreak of the pandemic. Hundreds of health care workers testing positive in hospitals across big cities is a growing concern as COVID-19 cases surge in India. According to the revised travel guidelines by India's Health Ministry it is now mandatory for international passengers to home quarantine for seven days.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong. As the Chinese City of Xi'an enters the third week of hard lockdown a second pregnant woman has suffered a miscarriage due to delayed medical aid. This is according to state media. A Chinese vice premier is telling hospitals not to turn patients away under any excuses.

The Xi'an Gaoxin Hospital told CNN they initially turned the first pregnant woman away because they were following government COVID-19 rules. After that incident went viral local health officials were suspended, the director of the Xi'an's Municipal Health Commission bowed and apologized, but for angry netizens it is not enough with one saying this, quote, "COVID-19 might not kill you, but bureaucrats can."

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ivan Watson in Hong Kong. Some senior government officials here in this city are issuing public apologies on their way into government quarantine. And this is after a bunch of lawmakers and top officials attended a crowded birthday party with more than 150 people in a Spanish tapas restaurant Monday night, days after the top health official in the city instructed residents to avoid large gatherings saying the city was on the verge of a fifth wave of COVID infections.

The chief executive of the city says she's deeply disappointed. There have been at least two positive COVID cases from the partygoers. And now at least 19 lawmakers and the Home Affairs secretary and the head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption are all going to get a first-hand taste of government quarantine facilities.


MATTINGLY: The pandemic continuing to touch every corner of the world including the sports world where the world's number one men's tennis player remains inside an Australia detention hotel. Novak Djokovic must wait another 24 hours before he finds out if he will be allowed to enter the country and defend his Australian Open title.

I'll talk to former player and now ESPN tennis broadcaster Patrick McEnroe about that. But first with much of President Biden's agenda stalled, do the Democratic voting bills have shot of getting through? I'll ask Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono coming up next.



MATTINGLY: President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, they'll be in Atlanta on Tuesday to push for voting rights reform. While here in Washington there is a fight continuing particularly in the United States Senate to get a voting rights bill passed.

Joining me now Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. Senator, thanks so much for your time. Look, last week was another

week of kind of hours of closed-door Senate Democratic meetings trying to map out the path forward here. What's your sense of things? Do you see a path that exists right now to get something through the Senate?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): There is a path. We just have to keep at it. And my hope is that even though there won't be a single Republican vote to protect our freedom to vote that we're going to be able to do it with, basically with two of our Democratic senators whose agreement we need to get. But this is all just a continuation of the riots that we saw, the insurrection on January 6th.

And just because we don't have rioters hanging from the rafters in the Senate chambers doesn't mean that there's not an all-out assault on our right to vote by Republican controlled state legislatures all across the country. And that is why we need to enact the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Act.

MATTINGLY: You know, the president spoke passionately about January 6th but also touched on this issue when he spoke in the Capitol.


The vice president has as well. Do you believe with his speech in Atlanta, the White House clearly making this kind of a priority at this moment, that that, the bully pulpit that so many Democrats have been calling for the president to utilize, will be critical to shifting the positions of Senators Manchin and Sinema?

HIRONO: I think it all helps, and clearly when the president and vice president both focus on how important it is and how critical it is to get the Freedom to Vote Act done, yes, many of us have been focused on that for several months now. We need to let the people of our country know that there have been over 500 bills introduced by Republican controlled legislatures. Dozens of these bills are being passed that will restrict our freedom to vote.

And literally, you know, it would be astounding to you the kind of legislation that would make it harder to vote by mail, preventing people from using drop boxes. And I think one of the worst aspects is enabling any voter to challenge any other voter's right to vote. And that's the kind of legislation that's being enacted all across the country.

MATTINGLY: One of the questions is, you know, these bills have been out there. They've been proposed. Some of them have been passed, not all of them. But the two critical senators here that need to change their mind in order to move something through with just Democrats since Republicans are unanimously opposed have indicated no willingness to shift their position on the filibuster. Are you seeing something that I'm not or that we're not seeing publicly necessarily?

HIRONO: The last time I talked to Senator Joe Manchin which was just before our December break, he said that he supports a talking filibuster, so that is a big deal to me. And if we can work it out, that that will end up a procedure that will enable a talking filibuster, then I think we can get things done. But the discussions are ongoing. And that is why it's so important that the president focuses on the need to protect our freedom to vote.

MATTINGLY: One of the things I wanted to ask you about, there's a bit of a wild card here in that there's a bipartisan group of senators that have started meeting on kind of a more micro-aspect of this in terms of reforming the Electoral Count Act. Is that a possible avenue to agreement you'd want to pursue, or are you concerned that perhaps that would take the focus off the overarching goal here?

HIRONO: The Republicans are pursuing the Voting Count Act because that only happens every four years. Meanwhile, they are very busy supporting the Republican controlled legislatures who are very busy even as we speak to prevent all of us from voting. So it is more than a distraction. It's a tactic by a party that has absolutely no intention of protecting our freedom to vote.

MATTINGLY: One of the things I want to ask you if you could take a listen to what Congressman Jim Clyburn, obviously a close ally of President Biden's, a leader in the House, the number three official Democrat in the House, what he said about Senator Joe Manchin to our Jim Acosta this afternoon.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): They flew together. And he's still refusing to support it. So he has all the cover he needs to now step away and do what we need done, and that is provide the 49th vote and I hope that the 50 vote will come along.


MATTINGLY: Now he's talking about the fact that Senator Manchin asked for time to put together a new kind of proposal, which he did, and said he could get Republican support. He did not. It doesn't ever strike me that Senator Manchin is looking for political cover, necessarily. But do you agree, is the ball right now just very clearly in Senator Manchin's court here?

HIRONO: There are two senators, Democratic senators, whose votes we're going to need in order for us to enact the Freedom to Vote Act. And so I am very hopeful that those two Democratic senators will change their minds and recognize that we're going to need to get the Freedom to Vote Act done without a single Republican, that any hope that they may have that we're going to bring along Republicans that by now should be out the window because Mitch McConnell has made it absolutely clear that Republicans will not lift a finger to protect our right to vote, our freedom to vote.

So I hope that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will be the 49th and 50th Democrat who will enable us to vote and enact the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Act.

MATTINGLY: Yes. It's very true, Leader McConnell has made very clear he is completely opposed to this and he's trying to fight it tooth and nail. I want to ask more broadly, you said last month and you're a very

quotable member of the United States Senate always, but you said famously a 50-50 Senate sucks, which I completely understand.


But one of the questions I had when I saw that quote was that you guys were able, in a 50-50 Senate, to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal. You've approved more judges in the first year of a presidency than any president since Reagan. I think from the broader mood of the Democratic Party why does it feel folks aren't just happy right now or depressed, don't feel like they've accomplished what they set out to, given what you did in the first year?

HIRONO: I'm really glad that you mentioned the American Rescue Plan that enabled the -- the vaccinations to happen and a whole bunch of other things to support our families without a single Republican voting for it. Some of the other things that we are doing, the infrastructure bill got bipartisan support. Great, but we know that Build Back Better await our actions and that's going to need to be done without a single Republican vote.

And the Build Back Better, I am hopeful that that is still part of what we can accomplish. That it's going to help our families lower cost, child care cost, prescription drug costs. Housing cost is still really critical. And so that is still I would say on the table. But first and foremost we have to protect our freedom to vote. That is the -- I have such a sense of urgency about it that we need to get that done first and foremost.

MATTINGLY: You mentioned the urgency. A lot of your colleagues have spoken in similar terms in terms of this stark moment that the country is in. Do you believe democracy itself is in danger of collapse when you look around right now?

HIRONO: I'm not going to use the word like collapse because if we all make sure that we are protecting and strengthening democracy it won't collapse, but there's no question that democracy is under attack, and you have a former president who still is pushing the big lie leading to the January 6th insurrection and rioters. And there is no question on my mind that if any of these rioters had found members of Congress that we would have been hurt, people would have been.

There's no question in my mind that there would have been a lot of injuries and deaths. It's that serious. So the big lie continues. That is why we need to push for freedom to vote. You know, I feel like a broken record right now, but it's with that much sense of urgency that we know we have to get it done because democracy continues to be under attack even as we speak.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it'll certainly be the primary focus when Democrats return to Washington, also for the president next week.

Senator Mazie Hirono, as always, thanks so much for your time.

HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha.

MATTINGLY: And a programming note here, join Fareed Zakaria as he investigates "THE FIGHT TO SAVE AMERICAN DEMOCRACY." His new special begins tomorrow 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic sitting in a hotel room in Australia tonight waiting to learn if he'll be kicked out of the country. But now there's a new twist in the case. I'll talk live with former tennis pro Patrick McEnroe, coming up next.



MATTINGLY: There's a new twist in the bizarre saga of the world's number one men's tennis player. Novak Djokovic is confined to a hotel in Melbourne right now as he fights Australia's cancellation of his visa because he wasn't vaccinated.

Now new evidence appears to show that he was granted a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open because he tested positive for COVID last month.

Joining us now former professional tennis player Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN tennis commentator and host of the podcast "Holding Court."

Patrick, I've got to be honest, I've been intently interested in the story and completely confused about where things stand at the moment given all the different things at play, but you, you've been pretty critical of Australia's handling of this entire process. What do you make of kind of this latest development or information?

PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Well, trust me, Phil, you're not the only one who's confused because this story just keeps -- we're peeling away layer after layer in the last couple of days. So here's where it stands right now as we speak. Novak Djokovic assumed that when he got clearance, he got this so-called medical exemption to be able to get into the country of Australia unvaccinated and compete at the Australian Open that he was good to go.

But when he tweeted out a picture -- I'm sorry, on Instagram he put a picture of himself on his way to Australia this then created a political firestorm down under in Australia because the federal government said, wait a second, you may have gotten a visa to play in the tournament and to participate in the event in Melbourne, which is the state of Victoria, but to get into the country you need to clear the federal system, the border patrol.

And according to the border patrol and the federal government being unvaccinated and even if you had COVID in the last six months is not reason to get a visa to get into the country. In fact, you'd have to quarantine for 14 days, which, by the way, Phil, many of the players did last year at the beginning of this pandemic.

As you know the Australian citizenry has gone through lockdown after lockdown. They're over 90 percent vaccinated, the people that are eligible for it. So they're not really in the mood to let someone in the country that's been unvaccinated particularly one that's bringing this kind of attention. So it turned into what I believe has been a political firestorm between the federal government and the state government, and Tennis Australia which oversees the tournament.


They work closely with the Victorian Government. When the Prime Minister saw that he had the citizenry of Australia on his side, I believe that's when he took action, and they held Novak Djokovic at the border, and he is now stuck in a hotel, but it's more like a detention center.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and I think one of the things that have been -- another layer of the onion that is confusing, you know, Djokovic claimed he tested positive on December 16th, that's after the December 10th deadline. He appeared at a public event honoring him in his home country, with a stamp, I think the next day.

What I'm trying to figure out right now is, what is his status right now? And kind of from a public health perspective, how should he be viewing this moment?

MCENROE: Well, his status, Phil, I would say is precarious, at best, and here is why.

Because as you said, according to the released documents, at least, that we've seen so far is this 35-page appeal put forth by his lawyers. The appeal is going to happen Sunday night, our time Monday morning in Australia.

In that, Djokovic claims to have tested positive for COVID under December 16th. Now, in order to apply for the visa, you would have had to do that according to the materials sent out by Tennis Australia to the players by December 10th.

Now, so there is a couple of possibilities here, Phil. One that his COVID test is not correct. Okay, that is fraudulent. Of course, if that's the case, this is a major, major problem for Novak Djokovic. Now, the other side of that is if he did test positive, December 16th, then he was seen in public multiple times in the day or two following that shaking hands, giving speeches, appearing in a panel discussion, so of course not abiding by what he was supposed to be doing assuming he had tested positive.

Many people are questioning whether or not that COVID test was legitimate, and that may be why the Border Patrol stopped him at Melbourne Airport. We will find out all too soon.

And his appeal, apparently, Phil, will be live online. So, I hope they've got the bandwidth to be able to handle that on Monday morning, Sunday night our time.

MATTINGLY: That's going to crash a site or two. One thing I'm trying to figure out, you know, in this moment in time, everybody is always immediately blaming one side or the other. Social media goes crazy. We all decide who the hero is, who the enemy is, to some degree.

When you look at this, granting the information, clearly we still -- there is a lot to learn here, but who should be to blame here? Is it on the player? Is it Novak Djokovic? Is it Tennis Australia? Is it the organizer of the Australian Open? Is it is the politics here?

I'm trying to figure out where this is supposed to land.

MCENROE: Phil, check, check, check, and check. Check all the boxes, you know, you've got to get the green ticked box to get into Australia through your visa application.

So let's go -- let's start with Djokovic, Novak Djokovic made the decision, it is his right to make the decision not to be vaccinated. When you do that, you're going to run into these types of difficulties, and I predict that this will continue throughout the rest of this year as it relates to his tennis career and of course, trying to break the record that he currently holds with Federer and with Nadal at 20 majors.

Then you say Tennis Australia, who runs the tournament sort of acts as a go-between between the players and the government. I believe they overstepped their bounds. They are known as a player friendly tournament over the years, they've done a great job doing that. I believe they took that a little bit too far.

Then you can say, how come the state government of Victoria and the Federal government weren't working more closely? Because if as the Federal government says you can't get into the country, unvaccinated even with a positive test and not have to deal with the quarantine, don't think they should have known that? And they should have communicated that with each other before Novak Djokovic and others got on the plane?

How about Renata Voracova? Not as well-known. She is from the Czech Republic. She got into the country with a similar exemption. She played a tournament already in Australia, then when the Djokovic issue came up, they reanalyzed her visa, terminated it. She is stuck in the same hotel, call it a detention center, as Novak Djokovic.

I cannot wait to hear this appeal and see how this plays out. But at the end of the day, Phil, there's plenty of blame to go around.

MATTINGLY: So to take off your lawyer-border policy-international relations hat for a minute and put on your tennis analyst hat. Well, what does it mean for the sport? You mentioned the Majors record right now, which obviously everybody is watching.

If Novak Djokovic is deported from Australia unable to defend his title, potentially break the record here. What does it mean for tennis?

MCENROE: Can you say world class debacle, Phil? I mean, that's what it means. It is a shame because Novak Djokovic has been an unbelievable player. He has done a lot of great things in his career including helping the Australians through their bushfires that happened in the last year. He has won the tournament nine times.


MCENROE: I mean, he is an incredible player. He has done a lot of good in his career.

He has had some controversy in his career, some of that is on his own shoulders. But he has played in his career with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, which is part of his greatness.

But overall, when you're competing in major events, you want to see the best players going up against each other. I predict that there will be record ratings for the Australian Open this year, particularly if Djokovic plays, can you imagine that, see if he goes from the court of law to center court of the Australian Open, that will be something.

If I were a betting man, and I'm not Phil, and this situation has taken so many twists and turns, I find it unrealistic to think that he is going to win this appeal and be on the court, and he'll have to leave Australia on his own. That would be a darn, darn shame.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Well, somehow you made me understand this better, which is the ultimate testament to you, given everything we're seeing right now.

Patrick McEnroe, thank you so much, my friend. I appreciate it.

MCENROE: My father, who is a lawyer, may rest in peace, would be proud of me. Thank you, Phil.

MATTINGLY: So no question about it.

All right, there is new talk of a possible deal between -- or deal- making between the U.S. and Russia ahead of high level talks that are about to begin. The latest in Washington is next.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.



MATTINGLY: Russia's military buildup and their military intentions, those are the big issues on the table when U.S. and Russian officials sit down in Geneva on Monday.

The Biden administration, according to officials is open to discussing missile deployments in parts of Europe and pressing pause on some military exercises. If there are reciprocal actions from the Russians.

CNN White House reporter, Natasha Bertrand joins me now. And Natasha, officials putting some things on the table early, also putting some threats on the table early, but saying that they are going to these talks with realism, not optimism, a little bit of expectation setting right now what's your read on things from talking to officials? NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, they are hoping that they can find some kind of window here to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from launching an invasion into Ukraine, and they are saying that in these bilateral talks with the Russians, they do see some areas of overlap. They see some areas where the U.S. can offer certain things to the Russians, as long as it is reciprocal by the Russian side as well, that could perhaps defuse tensions in the region.

Among those things are discussions about missile deployments in Europe. The Russians have long complained that if the United States places missiles, for example, inside Ukraine, then that would be a red line for Russia. Of course, the United States has said repeatedly they have no intention of doing so, but this is one area where they think they can make some progress.

Another one, U.S. and NATO military exercises in Europe. The U.S. has said that they are willing to discuss potentially placing restrictions on those exercises and scaling them back in accordance with Russian concerns about those exercises happening so close to their borders.

Now, of course, that would have to be returned as well by the Russians who have been conducting what the U.S. has said are very provocative exercises along their borders. Russia again says they can do pretty much whatever they want as long as it is inside their borders.

So really, the U.S. is hoping that they can find some way to move forward with Russia and a collaborative process that will defuse tensions and hopefully get them to move those forces back from the Ukrainian border, but it is it's still a very long way from what the Russians really want, which is that commitment that NATO will not expand further east, and will not include Ukraine as a member ever.

MATTINGLY: Yes, a commitment the Biden administration bilaterally can actually make given the fact NATO has a large group operation. Now, administration officials, you walk through kind of potential carrots here, there are definitely very real sticks, too.

Officials telling CNN, they are prepared to impose harsh economic sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine. They have been pretty detailed to some degree about the scale of these. What specifically are they talking about?

BERTRAND: Yes, so they want Russia to know exactly what the U.S. and its allies are prepared to do if they do move forward with that invasion. Those include really harsh export control measures, things like blocking the sale and export of U.S. micro technology to Russia in a way that could impact its critical sectors.

You need microchips, for example, to build pretty much anything in the technological sector. And that is something they hope will try to deter Putin from making any kind of moves here because of how it would impact the Russian economy, its advancement in the technological sector, also considering sanctions on the major Russian financial institutions, Russia's energy sector. There are a lot of options on the table here, but one of the big things that they're also taking into consideration is how those sanctions will reverberate across the global economy because a lot of the sanctions that they are considering could have a negative impact on the European economy, which could then boomerang back onto the U.S. and especially during an election year that is not something that some administration officials want to see.

So they've been having intensive discussions over the last couple of weeks about how to mitigate that potential spillover effect, but they are making very clear to Russia that if there is an invasion here, they will have no choice, but to implement sanctions that are much stronger than anything Russia saw in 2014 when it annexed Crimea.

MATTINGLY: Yes, a lot of complex dynamics here, a very busy couple of days ahead for you, Natasha Bertrand. Thanks so much for your reporting.

All right from flooding to freezing temperatures, next, the wicked winter weather affecting tens of millions of people tonight.



MATTINGLY: Days of heavy rain have made a mess of things in Seattle, but they've also created a very dangerous situation for one family.

Firefighters, as you can see them here had to rescue a man from his basement Friday after his house slid 15 to 20 feet off its foundation during a landslide trapping him on the bottom floor.

The impact also triggered a fire in a propane tank next to the house making things even more perilous. A woman who was also inside the house managed to get out on her own while fire crews worked to put out the fire and bring the trapped man to safety.


MATTINGLY: Now Seattle isn't the only area seeing dangerous weather, a tornado watch is in effect right now for Southeast Texas, including the City of Houston. Several small twisters have already been reported. On top of that, more than 60 million people are under winter weather advisories across the Midwest in Northeastern U.S.

Meteorologist, Gene Norman is tracking all of this from the CNN Weather Center and Gene, what are you seeing right now?

GENE NORMAN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Phil, it's a very busy Saturday.

We'll start in the Pacific Northwest. Thankfully, most of the rain is starting to come to an end, just a little bit of light spotty shower activity, especially along the coast. Nevertheless, the flood warnings are still in effect in the highlighted green areas, especially along the Chehalis River, simply because they are starting to slowly recede. However, more rain Tuesday and Wednesday could make them rise once again.

Here is an interesting factoid I found about Seattle. They've been soggy to start the year. Six of the first eight days of 2022, they have had over four inches of rain. In the whole month of January, they average a little over five. So they're off to a wet start in the month, it hasn't even gotten going yet.

Now let's shift gears to that tornado watch you mentioned for Texas, for the Houston area. Again, the fourth largest city in the world getting hammered by some big storms today, including a confirmed tornado and there is actually tornado warning right now in this purple shaded area that you see just to the east of Cleveland, it has a potential tornado. So we'll be tracking that as well.

We move up this line and we'll see that it will continue to push off into the Southeast -- Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia -- you could see some rough weather on your Sunday. So keep that in mind.

No watch is posted yet, but keep us tuned in to make sure that if that does change, you will know about it.

Further up the line of storms, we have a really nasty situation. Rain falling into very cold ground that's called freezing rain. It is freezing on contact, already slippery roads around Chicago, around Indianapolis. The areas you see highlighted here in purple are under a winter weather advisory.

They could see a mix of rain and ice that could cause dangerous conditions. In fact, the ice accumulations could be anywhere from a quarter to a half an inch and Phil, once we get to the half inch mark, that's where we're concerned about. Trees getting weighed down, possibly power lines falling down.

So if you're in those areas of let's say Pennsylvania, Central New York into the overnight hours into tomorrow, please be careful. Try to stay off the roads if you can.

A busy, busy Saturday here in the Weather Center -- Phil.

MATTINGLY: Busy indeed. But Gene, I feel like every day at this point in time is busy for you. Gene Norman, thanks as always, my friend.

All right, bad weather is just part of the problem causing havoc at U.S. airports. Soaring COVID cases are creating massive problems for airlines looking to keep staff in place both on the ground and in the air.

So far today, more than 1,200 flights in the U.S. have been canceled. Thousands more delayed. And as our Pete Muntean reports, things aren't likely to get better anytime soon.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice over): But it is winter weather along with airline workers shortages that have led to a perfect storm of cancellations nationwide. The latest figures from FlightAware show that U.S. airlines have cancelled more than 27,000 flights since Christmas Eve. Cancellations so bad this week in Atlanta that travelers waited hours to get their checked bags back.

HAILEY CONN, TRAVELER: I went to try and talk to someone about my bags and they just said that they would try their best to get it on my flight and that was basically all I heard about my bag.

HENRY HARTEVELDT, TRAVEL ANALYST: This is maddening for everybody.

MUNTEAN (voice over): Industry analyst Henry Harteveldt says it is unlikely that airlines round that cancellations corner this month. An untold number of airline workers are calling out sick either because they've been exposed to or infected with coronavirus.

HARTEVELDT: The random nature of omicron means that you don't know which of your employees are going to get sick. While airlines are trying to take steps to reduce the impact, there is no way they can get to an absolute zero proof level of being disrupted.

MUNTEAN (voice over): Alaska Airlines is the latest carrier to trim its flight schedule proactively canceling 10 percent of January flights, citing the continued impacts of omicron and unprecedented employee sick calls.

Similar moves have been made by JetBlue and Delta.

MUNTEAN (on camera): Southwest Airlines canceled more than 500 flights on Friday for the third day in a row. It was so cold that its Denver hub on Thursday that it actually temporarily halted arrivals for a time.

But the good news here though, this time of year is typically a slow time for the airlines, but even still about a million and a half people are flying each day.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Reagan National Airport.


MATTINGLY: Parents are suing the teachers union in Chicago. They are trying to get those teachers back into their classrooms. I'll talk live with one woman from Chicago about why she thinks her kids should be back into their classrooms.

I'll talk live with one woman from Chicago about why she thinks her kids should be back in school despite the omicron surge.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not at normal we're nowhere near normal.

[19:59:00] NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. racing seem to keep up with near record hospitalizations and the omicron surge including child hospitalizations.

With the pressure now on schools on whether to switch to virtual learning.