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U.S. Struggles As Hospitalizations Near Record Levels; Europe Protests Over COVID-19 Restrictions; Novak Djokovic Appeals Decision; Kazakhstan Power Grab Plays Out After Crackdown On Protests; U.S. Schools Struggle With Staffing Shortages; Brazil Boating Disaster; Pakistan Snowstorm Claims At Least 21 Lives; Canary Island Residents Return Home After Months Of Volcanic Eruption; Twins Born In Separate Years. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired January 09, 2022 - 03:00   ET




LYNDA KINKADE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Lynda Kinkade, good to have you with us.

The global surge of COVID cases is paralyzing health care providers, now in a position of rationing resources and having to choose which patients to care for.

And Novak Djokovic at risk of deportation in Australia. New details over his COVID status escalate the controversy.

Plus the president of Kazakhstan calling on help from Russia, as he tries to tighten his grip on power in the wake of deadly protests. We'll have a live report from the region.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center this is CNN NEWSROOM with Lynda Kinkade.

KINKADE: And we begin with the COVID pandemic. It's a picture ever more complicated. In Europe the U.K. has joined only a handful of countries reporting over 150,000 total deaths from the pandemic. In Italy a mandate for everyone over the age of 50 to be vaccinated appears to have yielded some good results.

Since announcing the requirement Italy has seen a threefold increase in vaccines administered to people in that age group.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, U.S. hospitals are scrambling to deal with waves of people infected with the highly contagious Omicron variant. And it's disrupting the delivery of routine health care in places like New York. CNN's Polo Sandoval reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This weekend the State of New York's health department issuing a temporary order, putting a stop to all non-urgent, non-essential elective procedures throughout multiple facilities, about 40 located mainly in the central-northern parts of the state.

The goal here, according to health officials, to help alleviate what they're describing as limited bed capacity amid this ongoing Omicron surge throughout the country here, as New York just the latest to -- in a race to try to help their health care facilities with staff and supply shortages, including at the University of Kansas Health Care System, where the chief medical officer told CNN over the weekend, that they are nearing a breaking point.


DR. STEVEN STITES, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS HEALTH SYSTEM: Go from normal operations to contingency. And contingency planning means I'm going to have to put patients in unusual situations. I have to cancel surgeries. But at some point, you say, we're too overwhelmed to do any of our normal daily work.

We can't meet all of our patients' demands and, at that point, we have to turn on a switch that says we've got to triage to the people we can help the most. And that means we have to let some people die who we might have been able to help.


SANDOVAL: When it comes to that temporary order issued by the New York Health Department, we should mention those patients clinically high risk if their procedures are not carried out, they're not actually exempt. And this is just temporary right now and expected to last two weeks -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


KINKADE: Even as the virus rages across the continent, Europeans marched on Saturday against COVID restrictions.


KINKADE (voice-over): French president Emmanuel Macron has said he wants to, quote, "piss off" the unvaccinated. And if that's his plan, it's working. Angry protesters took to the streets in Paris as lawmakers mull a vaccine pass to get into venues.

Demonstrators also gathered in Italy, furious after the over 50 vaccine mandate went into effect. For more on those protests, I'm joined now by our CNN contributor, Barbie Nadeau, live in Rome.

And let's start with those protests. Give us a sense of how many people are protesting that vaccine pass in France and the over 50s vaccine mandate in Italy.

What sort of numbers are you seeing opposed to these measures? BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In France, they saw more than 100,000 people taking to streets all over the country. There were a number of arrests. Every single time these people go out to gather, the anti-vax people without their masks on, they end up spreading the virus even more.

In Italy there's a number of people protesting the vaccine mandate for people over the age of 50s in the hundreds. Those people are angry, too, because if you don't have a vaccine if you're over 50, when this comes into effect you'll be fined.

You won't be able to pull a paycheck or do anything. They'll come after you. The government has been very clear they're going to punish anyone who defies this new mandate, Lynda.

KINKADE: But it's interesting, looking at some of the numbers, because we have seen a surge in vaccinations for people over the age of 50 in Italy.


KINKADE: So clearly this mandate is proving effective.

NADEAU: Oh, yes, absolutely. There's a threefold increase in the number of people who have reserved a vaccine, which a very easy process, very organized. You can get a vaccine if you wanted, get a booster, if you wanted at this point.

I think it just goes to the fact so many people here are compliant. The people who are over 50 who didn't get the vaccine yet have to do it now. And they're doing it. The resistance is sort of being met or, you know, the mandate is being met with pockets of resistance; not resistance widespread across the country, certainly, Lynda.

KINKADE: We'll leave it there for now. Our thanks, Barbie Nadeau, good to have you with us.

New cases of COVID-19 hitting Australia hard despite some of the longest and harshest lockdowns over the past two years. New South Wales on Saturday reported 16 deaths, the highest since the pandemic start.

It's against that backdrop the most famous unvaccinated tennis player in the world is hoping to defend his title at the Australian Open.

Right now, Novak Djokovic is confined to an immigration detention center in Melbourne after his visa was revoked for allegedly not meeting the vaccination requirements. On Monday, a court will hear his appeal to stay in the country for the tournament.





KINKADE: The power struggle plays out in Kazakhstan after a violent crackdown on protesters. Next the president moves against other powerful figures, as anti-government protests appear to grind to a halt.

Plus the U.S. is laying out some ground rules ahead of high-level talks with Russia. What the White House says it will and will not discuss -- coming up.





KINKADE: Welcome back.

Kazakhstan's president is moving to tighten his grip on power in the wake of his violent crackdown on anti-government protesters. On Saturday, officials said the nation's former intelligence chief was detained on suspicion of treason.

The move came days after he was fired from his post. The intelligence chief was an ally of the former president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was also removed as head of the security council this past week. He retained that post after leaving the presidency and still wielded significant political power.

His press secretary denied rumors that the former president had left Kazakhstan. Information from inside Kazakhstan is hard to get, partly because the government is keeping most foreign nationals out. Our Fred Pleitgen is monitoring the situation just across the border.

Fred, as I mentioned, it's almost impossible to get inside the country, to get -- to really see what's going on. But you've been speaking to sources on the ground.

What are they telling you?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're absolutely right, Lynda. We can see that all play out here on the border. Several foreign nationals have tried to get across the border into Kazakhstan and been rejected by the border guards.

Even foreigners from the region, so far, it's impossible for them as well. Very difficult to get verified information from on the ground inside Kazakhstan. However, the sources we do have on the ground, they tell us that the situation there has become somewhat more calm than it has been over the past couple of days.

Of course, you not only saw protesters there in Kazakhstan but also street battles going on. That, of course, due to fact there was that violent crackdown on protesters, authorities coming out there in full force and the president also giving a shoot to kill order, saying he'd be very tough on what he called people -- what he called essentially terrorists, who are trying to destabilize the country.

The president of Kazakhstan was saying these are people, in part at least, were steered from abroad. There's absolutely no evidence at this point in time to support any of that.

And essentially what the government is now saying is that, with the situation having somewhat calmed down -- there apparently were still some smaller protests. There was some gunfire being heard as well -- but it has been a lot calmer, that all this is moving into a new phase where the government is now saying it's going to go after those people who they believe were behind the uprising that happened here.

The information we have is more than 4,000 people have been already arrested or detained in those protests that happened and in the crackdown that happened against those protesters.

Dozens of people were killed and apparently 16 security forces were killed as well. Now the government really moving onto try and clamp down on the situation. And one of the things the president has done, in that bid to also consolidate that power, is yesterday the telephone call with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.


PLEITGEN: And he thanked Vladimir Putin for moving not only the Russian forces into Kazakhstan but also doing that very, very quickly. It was really interesting to see how fast the Russians moved to get their troops, 3,000 troops, mostly paratroopers, into that country really fast, using some 70 aircraft to move not only the personnel in but also heavy gear, like, for instance, armored vehicles on the ground in Kazakhstan to prop up the Kazakh forces as well.

So we can see the crackdown accelerating. I think we can also see the president strengthening his grip on power, people now saying that Nursultan Nazarbayev is also urging the people of Kazakhstan to rally around Tokayev as well.

KINKADE: It really was a swift operation as you say when Russian troops moved in. Good to have you with us. Thanks so much.

Well, Russia is lashing out at America's top diplomat over comments he made about Moscow's role in Kazakhstan. When asked about the Russian- led security forces sent to quell the unrest, secretary of state Antony Blinken said history shows, once Russians are, quote, "in your house, it's hard to get them to leave."

The Russian foreign ministry issued this response.

"If Antony Blinken is so into history lessons, here's one that comes to mind. When Americans are in your house, it can be difficult to stay alive, not being robbed or raped."

This latest spat comes just ahead of crucial talks between the U.S. and Russia over Moscow's military buildup near Ukraine. Just a short time ago, Russia's foreign ministry told state news that Moscow is disappointed with the signals it has received from the U.S. ahead of those talks in Geneva on Monday.

Still to come on CNN NEWSROOM, schools across the U.S. struggle, as the pandemic enters its third year. I'll speak to an expert, who says in-person learning is safe for students and their teachers.





KINKADE: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade.

Here in the U.S., the surge in COVID-19 cases has left school officials facing staffing shortages and dealing with concerns whether in-person learning is safe. Nadia Romero looks at how cities and states are reacting from coast to coast.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in the state of Georgia, the governor releasing new guidelines, slashing restrictions for teachers who test positive for COVID-19 even if they're infected with the virus, as long as they're asymptomatic. They can go back to the classroom to teach as long as they wear a mask.

Now the governor, though, is leaving those guidelines up to each school district to decide what they think is best.

So I'm outside of Midtown High School here in the Atlanta Public School District and they have decided to go back to mandatory testing at least twice a week for teachers and voluntary testing for students, as long as they have their parents consent.

But in states like -- in other states like New York, New York City, for instance, there are some 30 lawmakers and teachers unions that are urging the city to allow for a remote learning option.

They say it will give them time to have more testing and vaccinations so they can try to curb the spread of COVID-19 after seeing cases there going out of control and spiraling, rising in New York City.

But the mayor is adamant he only wants in-person learning. Here's why.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: Strain after strain, 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 have stated they need.


ROMERO: From New York City on the East Coast all the way to the West Coast in the Bay Area, San Francisco, Oakland, we saw teachers there scheduling a sickout. Now they wanted to do the sickout as a protest to their school districts saying they wanted more testing, more masks.

And they want the districts to try to figure out a way to deal with the critical staffing shortages they've been dealing with since the beginning of the pandemic -- Nadia Romero, CNN, Atlanta.


KINKADE: Joining me from San Francisco is Dr. Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine and associate chief of infectious diseases at the USCSF.

Good to have you with us.


KINKADE: So as a parent it's pretty hard to believe we're entering this third year of a pandemic when major school districts have returned to remote learning. Here in Atlanta, most public schools are remote currently. There are plans for more of them to go back to person or instruction next week.

But the governor has already said teachers who test positive can come to school even if their asymptomatic. It feels like there's a lot of policy on the run.

What are your concerns, what is best for children right now?

And are schools safe?

GANDHI: So school is really safe, actually. And school has been safe in a way even prior to vaccines, teacher vaccinations. There were ways to keep everyone safe with masking and ventilation, testing.

After vaccines schools became very safe because teachers were very -- given priority for vaccines and then now we have to vaccine for children down to the age of 5.

So putting it all together in January of 2022, we shouldn't be closing schools, no matter how many cases there are, because we have so much opportunity to get vaccines. And we still have the mitigation procedures in place. So I'm sad to see this happening in various regions of this country.

GANDHI: And I'm sure a lot of parents would be relieved to hear that as well.

In the U.S., children under the age of 5, the only group not eligible for a vaccine. And it's in that group that we're seeing hospitalization rates soar in recent weeks to the highest levels since the pandemic began.

What's your advice -- what should parents look out for, if their child does have a fever and a cough?

At what point would you say to parents, take your child for a PCR test?

GANDHI: So you're right that this is the only group, unfortunately, that we're still waiting for one more part of the trial to see if we can give children another dose and get them vaccinated.


GANDHI: At this point what we're seeing in the country is that places of high adult vaccination -- and we saw this during Delta as well -- are keeping children more safe. So being -- everyone around them being vaccinated is very helpful to keep them safe.

And then, because children have small airways, really this is more -- Omicron is more of an upper airway disease -- watch out for shortness of breath and watch out for cough and, like you said, a continual fever. And then please take them in.

And again, get everyone vaccinated in the household.

KINKADE: And so, at this stage of the pandemic, Doctor, what metric should we be focusing on?

Because we know that infection rates are soaring. But of course, that's only part of the picture. Hospitalization rates are not following that same trajectory, right?

So what does that tell you about the variant and the vaccination rates?

GANDHI: Right. So you're right that essentially, what used to happen is cases and hospitalizations would go on a parallel track. Cases would be much higher but hospitalizations would follow the same curve. That changed with vaccines. We've had two variants since we developed the vaccine.

In with Delta, in highly vaccinated places, the cases would go up and hospitalizations would stay manageable.


Because we had immunity. And now with Omicron, two things are happening. One is that we have higher immunity, even still than we did with the Delta wave in this country, some from natural, some from hopefully more from vaccinations.

And then also Omicron itself was likely to cause less severe disease, even among the unvaccinated. It doesn't infect lung cells very well, according to six studies now -- four animal studies, two human studies.

And so all of that put together is cases are going up very high. But hospitalizations in highly immune places are staying much lower. So we need to monitor hospitalizations as our metric of success, specifically COVID-19 hospitalizations and those that are there admitted for COVID-19, because we also swab everyone for isolation purposes.

We swab everyone's nose, so we want to distinguish between there with COVID in the nose and actually there COVID sick. And that's our metric of success at this phase of the pandemic.

KINKADE: Yes, you raise some very good points there. And just talk to us about the treatments currently available for those who are seriously ill with COVID.

GANDHI: Before very recently, we only had monoclonal antibodies. There's a difficulty with them: they're expensive, hard to give. Most of them are IV. Some are subcutaneous and you need monitoring. And we didn't have the supply we needed.

What we now have are two anti-viral therapies. These are medications, oral, five-day course, that can severely reduce the risk of hospitalization, molnupiravir, 30 percent in unvaccinated people who are at risk for severe disease; 30 percent lowering of hospitalization rates and Paxlovid is an 89 percent reduction in hospitalizations and deaths if you're unvaccinated and at risk.

So we needed more Paxlovid now before the Omicron surge. And we just need to get our production up and Paxlovid out because we need to treat our unvaccinated with compassionate and they're also with use and they're also those who are at risk for severe breakthroughs and we need Paxlovid for them.

KINKADE: All right, Doctor, really good to have you on the program tonight. Thanks so much for your time.

GANDHI: Thank you.


KINKADE: Well, a scenic day at the lake in Brazil turned into a nightmare. An enormous rock wall collapsed onto several tour boats. Next, the latest on the search and rescue efforts.

Plus emergency teams scramble to save dozens of people stranded on a drifting and melting sheet of floating ice. That incredible rescue next.





Search and rescue efforts are set to resume in the coming hours in Brazil, where an enormous cliff wall broke off and collapsed. It smashed onto several tour boats on Saturday, killing at least seven people. CNN's Rafael Romo reports.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SR. LATIN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Divers in charge of a search and rescue operation stopped the search at dusk due to security reasons. That's according to Colonel Edgard Estevo from the Minas Gerais fire department, who confirmed at least seven people died after a canyon wall fell onto boats below, injuring about 30 others.

Earlier, local media reported there were as many as 20 missing but it still said that the number of unaccounted for now stands at three. It happened at Capitolio Canyon, a tourist attraction located in Furnas Lake, a hydroelectric dam in the Brazilian central state of Minas Gerais.

As people watched the canyon walls from tourist boats a short distance away, a massive rock formation collapsed, falling on top of at least four boats carrying tourists. Before we show you the video, we must warn you that it may be disturbing for some people.


ROMO (voice-over): Video posted on social media showed tourists on other boats in Furnas Lake, shouting, "Get out of there."

That was right before the canyon wall fell onto the lake. Minas Gerais governor Romeu Zema blamed torrential rains that have hit the region for the canyon wall collapse.


ROMO (voice-over): "Today we are suffering the pain of a tragedy in our state, due to heavy rains, which caused the detachment of a wall of stones in Lake Furnas in Capitolio."

He added that search and rescue teams from the Minas Gerais civil defense and fire department have been at the site since the first moments of the collapse to help those affected.

Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president, who also retweeted the video of the collapse, said that the navy deployed a relief team to join the search and rescue efforts.

Authorities are now urging the public to avoid places in the area with high risk of land and rockslides as well as flooding due to the recent rains -- Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


KINKADE: At least 21 people are dead, some freezing to death after a thousand cars got stuck on a road during a blizzard Saturday in northern Pakistan. Pakistan's prime minister described the snowfall as unprecedented and said many people failed to check the weather before traveling.


KINKADE (voice-over): This family, stuck in heavy snow in Pakistan, is one of the lucky ones. Rescuers were able to push their vehicle to safety. But Pakistani officials said on Saturday that there were more than 1,000 other cars stranded in blizzard conditions in a town about 67 kilometers from Islamabad.

Rescue operations were mounted to evacuate people trapped on the impassible roads.


KINKADE (voice-over): Pakistan's interior minister says in addition to the unusually heavy snowfall, a huge influx of tourists created the crisis.

Many visiting the area for a scenic drive through the mountain town to see the winter sights which quickly became a nightmare, as traffic began to back up and more bad weather rolled in.

Cars were buried in the snow and downed trees blocked passageways. Police say that people trapped in vehicles froze to death or succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Children were among the dead.

Imran Khan, Pakistan's prime minister, tweeted that he was shocked and upset at the deaths of the tourists. An Islamabad police spokesperson said all the roads where the traffic jam occurred are now clear and thousands of people who were stuck have been evacuated.

Shelters have been set up around the town to provide food and blankets for the rescued and the people who left their cars on foot. The Pakistani prime minister says that he has ordered an inquiry into the incident.


KINKADE: Well, dozens of people are back on solid ground in Wisconsin after being stuck offshore on a drifting sheet of ice. The Brown County sheriff's office says a large chunk of floating ice broke off near Green Bay mid-morning on Saturday, leaving multiple people stranded. Local media say they were ice fishing.

Rescue teams had to move quickly as the open water further moved and cracked the ice during the operation. Within two hours, they had drifted about a mile from shore before authorities were able to rescue all 34 people -- incredibly, with no injuries.


Well, tens of millions across the Midwest and northeastern U.S. are now under frigid winter weather alerts. (WEATHER REPORT)

KINKADE: Residents are finally returning home on Spain's La Palma island. A massive volcanic eruption there wreaked havoc and destruction for months. CNN's Michael Holmes has more on what will be a long and costly cleanup operation.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blue skies, once again, over Spain's La Palma island. Officials say, the rain of fire from the island's volcano, rumbling to life in mid-September and erupted for the next three months, is finally extinguished.

Around 1,000 people were allowed to return to their homes this week; ash is everywhere.


HOLMES (voice-over): Around 3,000 properties and more than 1,000 homes and banana farms, have been destroyed.

Some houses still standing but encased in hardened lava. Others, coated in dusty debris. This man says he feels lucky that his neighborhood was spared the worst of it.

He says, "We have been fortunate enough to return. But others have lost their homes. I really feel for them."

In another part of town, it's a tougher cleanup; emergency workers use bulldozers, trying to dig through the solidified lava clogging the streets. Experts say the damage could exceed $1 billion and it could take several years to remove all of it.

Also, they warn it is still not safe.

One volcanologist says, "The exclusion area is still pretty dangerous." He says the flows of lava may have gotten colder on the surface but when you take a sample or watch them up close, the flows are still holding so much heat. And there are also gaseous emissions.

Many homeowners face months of backbreaking work before their houses are functional again. Many are without water, because of damaged pipes. Trips around the island to get basic supplies, of course, take much longer because of blocked roads.

This woman says her property looked like a graveyard when she first saw it; everything was black. But she said she is hopeful with each load of ash she removes, that, one day, she will have her house back.

And the once thundering giant in the distance will stay silent -- Michael Holmes, CNN.


KINKADE: Well, former Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid was honored in Nevada Saturday. Reid died in late December at the age of 82 following a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

At his memorial, former president Barack Obama gave him credit for his own political rise and for the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Current President Biden eulogized Reid as one of the greatest Senate majority leaders in history. He was 82 years old.

We'll be right back.





KINKADE: Well, twins separated at birth by different years. A boy and girl, twins born in California were born 15 minutes apart on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. He was born at 11:45 pm in 2021. She made her debut at exactly midnight on January 1, 2022.

And it turns out the chance of this happening is quite rare. According to the hospital where they were born, there's about a one in 2 million chance for twins to be born in different years.

And a big shoutout to my twin brother, Stuart, happy birthday. Today he'll be celebrating his birthday about 16 hours before me in Sydney, thanks to our different time zones.

I hope you have a great day.

That wraps up this hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Kristie Lu Stout will have more after a quick break.