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Surge Pushes U.S. To New Covid Record; LA Returns to In-Person Learning; Chicago Students Go Back to Class Tomorrow; Kathryn Rose is Interviewed about Chicago Classes Resuming; Biden Heads to Atlanta; Marc Morial is Interviewed about Biden's Speech. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Because they don't go around and around and around.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. That's right.

BERMAN: All this and they put a pig heart in a human being. So I think, you know, the animal kingdom today is having a very, very big morning.

KEILAR: Really coming through for us.

CNN's coverage continues right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


We are following breaking news this morning.

The U.S. has now surpassed the highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations ever. That's according to the Department of Health and Human Services. There are just under 146,000 people currently hospitalized with Covid-19. That's about twice as many as just two weeks ago. Now most of these people are unvaccinated.

Let's take a look at this graph from New York. It shows the rate of hospitalizations among the unvaccinated -- that's the top line that you see -- versus the vaccinated -- that's the bottom line. Now, add to that this important context. The CDC says that some hospitalized patient tested positive after being admitted for other ailments. That's an important note.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and that's something we'll explore more deeply as we move forward.

We are also following developments out of Chicago. Teachers will be back in the classroom today. Welcome developments there for parents and students. Students will return to in person classes tomorrow. This after the Chicago Teachers Union struck a deal with the mayor over Covid safety protocols. We're going to speak with a Chicago public school teacher, who's also a parent, in just a moment.

Plus, hours from now, President Biden and Vice President Harris will speak in Atlanta as part of a push to pass voting rights legislation through Congress. But, we should note this, and it's interesting, a coalition of voting rights groups say they will not participate or attend in the president's speech. We're going to have more on why in a moment.

Lots to get to this morning. Our reporters, correspondents, guests, all standing by to bring you the latest.

GOLODRYGA: But we begin this morning with the new Covid infections surging to near record levels.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us with more.

And, Elizabeth, breakthrough infections now account for a growing share of hospitalizations. But we should note that the risk to the unvaccinated still remains very high.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Bianna. The bottom line here is that with omicron, if you're fully vaccinated, or, even better, fully vaccinated and boosted, your chances of ending up in the hospital are really teeny tiny. But if you're unvaccinated, omicron poses a much, much more serious threat to you.

So, hospitalizations, as we can see in this graph, hospitalizations are surging, surging, surging. But I do want to add some context to this. These are hospitalizations of people who have Covid. Not all of them are in the hospital because of Covid. In other words, some of them are in because they're having cancer surgery, or they had a heart attack or for whatever reason. And when they test them, which is now routine in the U.S., they find out they have Covid. So that's an important piece of context that needs to be in there. That's the way we've always done the statistics over the past two years. But now it's even more important to remember that because so many people have omicron. It's just, you know, almost saturating the country and other -- and many parts of the world. So that's super important to remember.

But vaccinated versus unvaccinated, this graphic will really make your jaw drop. When you take a look at that red line, that's the unvaccinated who have Covid-19 linked hospitalizations. The green line is the fully vaccinated. So red is unvaccinated. Green is fully vaccinated. You can see the difference right there, I would say in black and white, but in green and red. But the difference is so stark. You're protecting yourself by getting vaccinated and you are protecting others.

Bianna. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth, thanks so much.

Well, in person classes, they will start today in Los Angeles. That is the country's second largest school district. And this despite more than 60,000 school staff and students testing positive for Covid. But that, Bianna, as we know, is the reason they waited an extra day, right? They wanted to get a baseline level of positive tests before they opened those schools.

GOLODRYGA: And to test all of the students before they came back.


GOLODRYGA: CNN correspondent Stephanie Elam joins us now.

And, Stephanie, does the school district have a plan if too many teachers or -- and staff call out sick now?


What we are seeing here, remember, LAUSD has some 640,000 students and they've now said that some 62,000 staff and students have tested positive. That means they're not going to be able to come here back to school today. But they're also saying that when you look at the positivity rate for LAUSD, they're saying that number is just shy of 15 percent. For the county overall, it's above 21 percent. So this is why they're saying they are all systems go and they do believe it's safer for the kids to get back into school.


On top of that, they're saying that if teachers are not able to come in because let's say they've tested positive, they say they have some 4,000 credential district staff who will be able to step into those classrooms and keep those classes going. Overall, though, there are some 1,000 schools here in LAUSD and they have not closed any of them down during this academic session they're saying. And they're saying that because of the fact they're requiring vaccination for the teachers and staff and that they have 90 percent of the students that are vaccinated. They said they've upgraded their filtration systems. And that really hard core rule of masking, both indoors and outdoors, they're saying all of that is helping them keep their schools open. And they do believe, even though we are still in the midst of this surge here, of the omicron surge here in LA County, that it is safer for these students to be back in class.

Bianna and Jim.

GOLODRYGA: Stephanie Elam, it looks like they have their plan in place.


GOLODRYGA: And, wow, a tale of two different cities, really, Jim, between Los Angeles and where we turn next, and that is Chicago.

The bitter four-day standoff between the Chicago Teachers Union and city officials over Covid safety measures appears to be over. Teachers will be back in classrooms today, and students return tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Adrienne Broaddus joins us now from Chicago. Adrienne, the deal came through late last night and this is one of

those issues here which is -- which is, frankly, bipartisan, right, that you had a Democratic mayor, in addition to many Republicans, right, calling for those schools to open. So how did they manage this? What did they agree on?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, I can tell you, if you talk to the union president, he will tell you this deal, or this agreement, isn't perfect. The union members didn't get everything they wanted. But, from their perspective, it does have measures in place that will help in the fight against Covid.

For example, the city, and the district, will provide enhanced weekly testing. On top of that, the city and district will also provide students and staff with KN95 masks. There's also a provision for upgraded contact tracing, where people will be paid to do the contact tracing.

And here was another sticking point, a threshold or metrics in place triggering schools, individually, to flip to remote learning while in the middle of high transmission of Covid. And when we say high transmission, they're talking about guidelines outlined by the CDC. But getting here wasn't easy.

Here's what the mayor had to say.


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: This was not necessary to happen. And I'm glad that we're hopefully putting this behind us and looking forward. But, you know, there does come a point where enough is enough.

JESSE SHARKEY, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION: I'm tired. I wish it hadn't gone that way. Ultimately, I'm very proud of the fact that the members of the Chicago Teachers Union stand around this. And we're going to keep doing what's right as we go forward in this city. You know, it was not an agreement that had everything. It's not a perfect agreement.


BROADDUS: Students returned to the classroom tomorrow. And rank and file members still have to vote and ratify this agreement.

And for some students in this district, it's not just about learning. Nearly 70 percent of students enrolled in the district depend on free and reduced lunch. They'll have those meals now.

Jim and Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Thankfully the children will be getting the aid that they need, both academically and in terms of nutrition as well.


GOLODRYGA: Adrienne Broaddus, thank you so much.

Well, joining me now to talk about all of this is Kathryn Rose. She's a Chicago public school teacher and a parent.

Good morning to you, Kathryn. Thank you so much for joining us.

I would imagine you are quite relieved that your children will be going back to school and you hear that there is some sort of agreement between the city and the teachers union.

What do you make of the agreement thus far and do you have faith that it will be lasting?

KATHRYN ROSE, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER AND PARENT: I -- well, the members still have to vote. And from what I've heard and read, they're very disappointed. So, I think they'll be voting today and tomorrow. So, we'll see what happens.

I'm certainly relieved to go back to the classroom and see my students. And my kids are really excited to go back too.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Can you describe for us what the last week and a half has been like for you? You have said that as a teacher you feel safe going back into the classroom and that you feel that the mitigation factors are in place to keep both yourself and your children safe. That doesn't seem to have been the case with many other teachers there in the district. But what has this been like for you in the interim?

ROSE: It's been frustrating to sit at home, healthy, and wanting to be in the classroom.


I, you know, disagreed that we should have a district-wide shutdown. When you send kids home, you've got a million kids who will be spending time in shelters or bedrooms of friends, and safe havens, and we know that places that are legible to the state are where you can do those basic mitigations, like masking and ventilation, regulations. And CPS schools have been doing that.

And, yes, I feel safe. My kids have had one reported case in their elementary school building all school year. I think you just have to realize that, you know, you can't do those mitigations for whatever people are substituting schools with. And when you shut down schools, you're ignoring the multitude of dangers outside of the classroom, like abuse and hunger and lack of heat and violence. And these are things that, you know, families in Chicago are really struggling with. It's a very extreme measure to close schools.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. I was struck by something that you said in a recent interview. You said, as a teacher, I feel supported, not so much as a mother, and not so much as a parent. And you have the unique perspective of being all three there, you're a mother, parent and a teacher.

Are you an outlier amongst your other colleagues? Why is it that you, yourself, feel safe, and you've listed all the reasons why, and yet so many of your colleagues don't seem to feel safe to return to the classroom?

ROSE: I don't have a good answer for that. I don't know why a teacher across the hall from me is, you know, is fearful of going back. I know there are a variety of reasons. It may not be personally that they feel like they're at risk, but they're afraid of spreading it to students and then students going home and spreading it to their families.

I mean, you know, what I would have to say to that, what we do as teachers is incredibly important to work. And if you are worried about contracting Covid, then you got to, you know, get vaccinated and boosted, and encourage your students and families to get vaccinated. And I don't think there's anything cruel about expecting teachers to do their job in person. I think it's actually a function of believing what teachers do is crucially important work.

GOLODRYGA: Right. And then you mentioned -- you mentioned --

ROSE: I have talked to a lot of teachers who agree, though, with me, and they're just, you know, they don't want to speak out against the union.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Well, you are indeed speaking out and we're thankful that you are joining us and giving your perspective. We should note, over 90 percent of the teachers there have been vaccinated.

ROSE: That's right.

GOLODRYGA: So I'm just grateful that you will have some reprieve in your life and get back to some sense of normalcy, your children will be back in class, and you, hopefully, will be back at school teaching.

Kathryn Rose, thank you so much for joining us.

ROSE: Yep. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: An important interview there and perspective.

Coming up next hour, President Biden heads to Atlanta to make his pitch for a voting rights bill. But this is key, some of the most prominent voting rights groups are not planning to show up. Details on why and what they're demanding from the president.

Plus, a federal judge questions former President Trump's actions on the day of the insurrection. How that could impact the civil lawsuits filed against him.

GOLODRYGA: And after a 40-year drought, the Georgia Bulldogs are the college football champs. Reaction to their come from behind win -- you won't want to miss this -- straight ahead.


[09:18:16] SCIUTTO: Later this morning, President Biden will head to Georgia to make an urgent speech to attempt to push Congress to act on voting rights legislation.

GOLODRYGA: CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins us now from the White House.

And, Jeremy, how far is the president expected to go today?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Bianna, President Biden is expected to make his most forceful push yet to pass those two voting rights pieces of legislation that have been stalled in the Senate amid Republican opposition and a reluctance from two Senate Democrats to change the filibuster rules to get those pieces of legislation passed. The president is going to be using the backdrop of Georgia, both as a symbolic place for the civil rights movement, but also as a place where you have seen the state legislature there pass increased restrictions on voting over the last year.

And the president is expected to throw his weight and the weight of the presidency behind making changes to the filibuster in order to pass the voting rights -- these voting rights pieces of legislation, spelling out more clearly, we're told, how -- what kinds of changes he is willing to support and to make the case for that. The president, in this speech, is also -- this also comes after he made that fiery January 6th speech last week. And the president is going to look at this as a quote/unquote turning point in this nation. Talking about the role that the Senate needs to play in moving the nation forward towards more voting rights legislation.

He's expected to say, and so, quote, the question is, where will the institution of the United States Senate stand? And clearly President Biden believes changes to the filibuster are necessary. But, again, Senators Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, so far they have been resistant to any changes to the filibuster which makes the path forward still very, very difficult.

Bianna. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes, multiple senators expressing at least hesitation.


Jeremy Diamond, at the White House, thanks very much.

This is notable, prominent voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams will not be attending President Biden's speech today. She says she has a scheduling conflict. But she's not alone. A handful of voting rights groups have decided against going, instead calling on Biden to stay in Washington unless he is prepared to announce a clear path to passing legislation.

Joining me now, Marc Morial. He is the president of the National Urban League.

Marc, thanks so much for taking time this morning.

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Hey, Jim, thanks for having me. Good morning.

SCIUTTO: Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund is not alone in his criticism of the Biden plan on voting rights legislation. I want to play his criticism and get your reaction.

Have a listen.


CLIFF ALBRIGHT, CO-FOUNDER OF BLACK VOTERS MATTER AND BOYCOTTING BIDEN'S SPEECH: We would have loved that the president used the presidency as a bully pulpit for the past seven, eight months, while we we've been fighting for vote rights, even getting arrested outside of the White House begging him to do so. But at this point, we don't need another speech. We don't need him to come to Georgia and use us as a -- as a prop. What we need is work.


SCIUTTO: We don't need another speech, what we need is work. I wonder if you agree.

MORIAL: We need the full weight of the presidency, the prestige of the president and the vice president, to be fully behind the passage of these two bills to protect American democracy. And I think regardless of whether you believe the president should make a speech or whether he should be in Georgia, and I believe he should make a strong statement, and he should be here in Georgia, the point is, is that we are all united on the ultimate objective, which is to protect democracy, and also to pass these two bills.

All of us in the civil rights and voting rights community are united in that outcome. And I think that's what we ought to keep the focus on. Today is important because we have been encouraging, demanding, asking, pleading, begging, saying to the president and the vice president, it's time to put all of the prestige and power of the presidency behind this existential threat to the future of this nation, which is what these attacks represent.

SCIUTTO: OK. This speech, it's got the prestige, certainly has the symbolism, things like being in John Lewis' home district here. But what's the plan is the question, right? Because the president, Democrats, don't -- they don't have the votes.

MORIAL: Oh, I think -- I think it's --

SCIUTTO: They don't have the votes. So, what's the plan to get it passed?

MORIAL: No, here's -- it's going to come down to the will of the Senate and the will primarily of the Senate Democrats, their courage and their conviction, as to where they stand in this moment of American history. And that --

SCIUTTO: Don't we know that. Don't we know that, though, when we say -- MORIAL: Hang on, that's --

SCIUTTO: When -- like, when -- and, by the way, Manchin's not alone in -- as "Politico" notes this morning, other Democratic senators, Manchin, Sinema, Mark Kelly in Arizona, Jon Tester, have at least raised questions or expressed hesitation about this. I mean that puts them well short of the votes they need.

MORIAL: I'd say it's time to call the question, Jim. Put it on the floor. Let's see where people stand. Let's see how they vote. Let's see if they choose between an antiquated, outmoded filibuster rule that's being used historically to block civil rights and thwart progress on voting rights, or whether they're going to stand in light of January 6th --


MORIAL: In light of this tsunami of voter suppression laws, in favor of and in support of the protection of American democracy. It's time to call the question in the United States Senate. And I hope that the president is going to say that today. Let's let the Senate have a vote. Let's see where people stand. Let everyone turn their cards up. And I am hopeful and encouraged that they'll do the right thing. But we're going to continue to keep the pressure on the United States Senate.

And let me say this, I am absolutely taken aback by Republican members who have thwarted this bill when they were 15 years ago at the White House celebrating the passage of a prior extension of the Voting Rights Act. So Republicans cannot be let off the hook in terms of why they have flip-flopped in their position on voting rights. A number of them have. Several who were there in 2006 remain in the United States Senate.

So, call the question on all of these members. Democrats and Republicans, where do you stand?

SCIUTTO: Well, we'll see that. The question is then what happens next, of course.

Marc Morial, good to have you on the program this morning.

MORIAL: Always, Jim. Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: And that speech from the president expected to take place this afternoon. Oof course, we will be covering that as well.

Well, still ahead, a possible major development that could put former President Trump in civil jeopardy.


A federal judge is questioning Trump's claim of immunity from allegations that he incited the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. We'll have details up next. SCIUTTO: And we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street.

Futures point down now, slightly, this morning. Investors closely watching the reconfirmation hearing of Fed Chair Jerome Powell today, looking for any signals once again regarding the Fed's upcoming moves on inflation or crucially interest rates. That hearing starts in the next hour. We'll keep a close eye on it.

Stay with us.