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7 Michigan State Players Charged With Assault After Brawl; Experts Fear New COVID Subvariant Cases Could Rise After Holiday; Sarah Palin Loses Alaska House Race, Ending Comeback Bid; GA Supreme Court Allows Early Voting On Post-Holiday Saturday; Retailers Optimistic About Holiday Shopping Despite Inflation. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 24, 2022 - 14:30   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Criminal charges have now been filed against seven Michigan State football players in connection to a postgame brawl. Authorities are reviewing this video allegedly showing several MSU players assaulting at least one player from arch-rival Michigan University last month.

CNN's Jason Carroll has much more on the charges. Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, probably not the football story some were expecting today there, Alex, but as you know, several Michigan State football players had already been suspended because of what had happened. Many may remember the video of that fight that broke out involving Michigan State and Michigan. You showed some of it there.

At one point, it shows an MSU player swinging his helmet, apparently striking one of the players from Michigan. Now come the consequences. Six MSU players are facing misdemeanor charges of aggravated assault. A 7th player, Khary Crump, who goes by KJ, is facing felony assault charges. His attorney went to Twitter to defend him.


MIKE NICHOLAS, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING MSU PLAYER KHARY CRUMP: This was a gut punch to KJ being charged the day before Thanksgiving, but he's going to get through it. While you're getting up having your turkey, whatever, watching football, just think about seven young men whose lives have been upended by these criminal charges. In KJ's case, a felony charge, which is felonious assault because he allegedly used his helmet as a weapon to strike at the other player.


CARROLL: Well, Alex, as you can imagine, the investigation into the matter took weeks. It included the University of Michigan Police, Michigan State Police and representatives from the Big Ten. The University of Michigan Division of Public Safety, which also took part in the investigation, released a statement saying, at the conclusion of its investigation, it submitted to the prosecutor's office a request for criminal charges against several individuals, all, student athletes on the Michigan State football team.

Meanwhile, the interim president of Michigan State saying in a statement, "While we do not condone the actions taken by some football players on October 29, we will support our student athletes through this process." Adding, "Consequences are part of a learning environment."

It should also be noted that none of the players from Michigan have been charged. CNN did reach out to the MSU players for reaction to the charges, but Alex, we did not hear back from them.

MARQUARDT: All right, Jason Carroll, thank you so much for that report.

Now, as families and friends gather for the holiday weekend, health experts are warning that the reunions may be breeding ground for new COVID subvariants to spread. We'll have more on that next. Stay with us.



MARQUARDT: Health experts are warning that family gatherings today may fuel the spread of COVID-19 as well as other respiratory illnesses. New COVID subvariants are already circulating, and some groups are seeing higher positivity test rates.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner is a CNN Medical Analyst and a Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University. Dr. Reiner, thank you so much for joining us on this Thanksgiving Day. I want to ask you first, these variants, how do they compare to what we've seen so far over the past two years?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Hi, Alex. Happy Thanksgiving. Well, the new variants appear to be even more immune evasive than the original Omicron variants.


Whether or not they cause more severe disease has yet to be determined, but they are starting to spread in greater numbers in the United States and now comprise the majority of new infections.

MARQUARDT: How are the latest boosters that have been developed to fight several of these new variants? How are they faring?

REINER: Our most recent data on the bivalent booster, which incorporates elements of the original vaccine to the original so- called Wuhan strain, as well as Omicron, now appear to be relatively effective in terms of preventing symptomatic infection. A recent study published showed that the bivalent booster was about 40 percent to 60 percent effective in terms of preventing symptomatic infection, which is about as good or maybe even a little better some years than the annual flu vaccine, and about as good as the original AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID.

So the booster is effective at preventing infection in significant numbers of people. The problem is, only about 11 percent of the United States has actually gotten the bivalent booster.

MARQUARDT: Only 11 percent. Doctor, I think you'd agree this is arguably the most normal Thanksgiving since 2019 in three years. I mean, so many people stayed home in 2020 to --


MARQUARDT: -- you know, prevent the spread and prevent some of their older relatives from getting sick. Things were kind of getting back to more normal in 2021. What is different about families gathering this year, young relatives, older relatives, than in the past two years?

REINER: Well, I think what's different is that almost everyone has had COVID in the last two and a half years, almost three years now. So there's been a lot of COVID transmission, a lot of COVID infection, and there's a bit -- a little bit less fear. The problem is there's still a tremendous amount of virus circulating in our communities.

If you look at the CDC's COVID transmission map, about 70 percent of counties in the United States have either substantial or high levels of COVID transmission. And when you combine, you know, high levels of holiday travel, like we're seeing this weekend, and family gatherings, we're going to see more people get infected.

The good news is that if you are vaccinating, particularly if you are up to date on your vaccines, including the bivalent booster, you are, you know, greatly protected against a serious illness. So I think there is less concern about the consequences of infection, but there will be plenty of people who will become infected in the aftermath of the holiday weekend.

I agree there is much less angst this year, and I hope this is the last Thanksgiving I'm on this air talking about this pandemic. But that's not up to us. It's up to the virus, actually.

MARQUARDT: Well, we always appreciate your expertise, but I agree with you on that. If there is a surge that comes out of this holiday season, of course, lots of families getting together over the course of the next month, what are the dangers of people getting reinfected? You just said that, you know, most now have already been infected at least once.

REINER: So if you think about why our vaccines are less effective than they were when we first started vaccinating people in December of 2020, there are a couple of reasons. Number one, the efficacy of the vaccine wanes over time. So the longer it's been since you've received a vaccination, the less potent it remains in your system.

And the other major problem is that the virus continues to mutate and the virus has changed. So our vaccines are less effective because the virus has a different structure. And the more people who are infected and the longer COVID stays in our community and on this planet in such high numbers, the more likely it is to mutate and the more likely it is to state as a substantial, you know, threat.

So the best defense against that would be to put this virus down finally, and that would include sometimes reinstated mitigation measures. There just isn't a lot of political will to do that.

MARQUARDT: All right, well, Jonathan Reiner, we certainly appreciate your time on this Thanksgiving. Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for joining us.

REINER: Same to you, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Thank you.

Now CNN protects Democratic Congresswoman Mary Peltola will keep her House seat, fending off Republican Sarah Palin. Well details on her failed comeback and what that means for the GOP, next.



MARQUARDT: This weekend in Georgia will be full of family food and now voting. The Georgia Supreme Court has denied a bid by Republicans to stop early voting on Saturday in the Senate runoff election. This, of course, is a high stakes race between the incumbent Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker.

Now, if Warnock wins re-election, Democrats will hold 51 out of the 100 seats in the Senate. That means they'll no longer have to rely on Vice President Kamala Harris to break tie votes. Let's go right to CNN's Maeve Reston. Maeve, even though Republicans know that they can't win control the Senate, there's still fighting pretty hard for Hershel Walker.


MAEVE RESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They really are. And, you know, this was a big -- this court decision was a big deal for Democrats because they're operating on such a compressed time frame in this runoff election, and they are trying to boost turn out as much as they possibly can.

And so, getting this additional Saturday of early voting will really allow a lot of those voters whose schedules are constrained during the week to get out there and vote. And, of course, the big question here is what that pool of voters is going to look like. We're expecting, of course, a huge drop off from General Election Day, but the more voters that Warnock can get out there, the better it's going to be for him.

MARQUARDT: Maeve, let's go from one side of the country to the opposite. Alaska, there's a House race, there was a House race. CNN now projecting that Democratic Congressman Mary Peltola, she has defeated the former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Does this mean, do you think, that this is the end of Palin's political career?

RESTON: I don't -- having watched Palin over many years, I don't think that we can ever say that just because she certainly has such a big following, particularly among social conservatives and religious conservatives. But this was yet another example of the fact that Palin's party now has kind of eclipsed her.

There are -- she was among the first of this sort of Republican celebrity candidate when she stepped out with John McCain as his running mate in that 2008 race. But really, her brand of politics was something that turned off a lot of Alaska voters. Whereas, Peltola had -- was running on, you know, her independent streak, her ability to work across the aisle ,there were a lot of voters who remembered that that Palin had abruptly step down as governor in 2009, some lingering resentments about that.

And so this is sort of just a time when Palin was not able to pull off the kind of robust campaign and raise the money that she needed to, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes, you really can't tie so much of what we see in today's Republican Party back to the rise of Sarah Palin in 2008.

RESTON: Absolutely.

MARQUARDT: But Maeve, Peltola's victory really is quite significant, isn't it?

RESTON: It is, actually, because last night, as we were waiting for Alaska to finish up their rank choice voting, we actually crossed the threshold where there will now be a record number of women serving in Congress next year, 149. That's only two more women than are in the current Congress, which set the current record.

But it is a milestone, albeit a sort of milestone of inches. There will also be a very diverse freshman class. There will be more Latinas serving in Congress than ever before and one more black female member than before. So some records being broken there, though not by the margins, that we saw, you know, back in 2018, for example, Alex.

MARQUARDT: And Peltola will be the first Alaska Native serving in Congress as well.

RESTON: Right.

MARQUARDT: So lots of barriers being broken. Maeve Reston, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

RESTON: Thanks so much.

MARQUARDT: Now, Black Friday deals arrived even before the turkey got to the table this year. But the question, of course, is will Americans squeezed by inflation still shell out for holiday shopping? We'll ask that question next.


[14:58:10] MARQUARDT: In just a few hours, Americans will go from filling their stomachs to filling their shopping bags. And despite record high inflation, retailers are expecting some big turnout for Black Friday. CNN Alison Kosik joins us with more on the biggest shopping day of the year. Alison, what do you think we can expect? And how is inflation playing into it?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Alex, all eyes are on Black Friday, obviously, begins tomorrow. The unofficial start to the holiday shopping season. And very quickly, if you're looking to get out and, you know, take a walk after eating that big Thanksgiving meal tonight, I would think again because a lot of the stores that used to be open at midnight on Thanksgiving, they're just not anymore. So you're not really going to find that.

You'll have to wait until Black Friday itself, on Friday when stores I've been seeing open around 5:00 or 06:00 a.m. A more respectable hour. I think what we are going to find this year still are the discounts. I think this year's buzzword really is value as, you know, consumers are trying to contend with higher prices for just about everything -- inflation.

So you're really going to see consumers really try to find, you know, they're going to be more conservative about what they buy, but they're also going to find those deep discounts. You know, they're trying to stretch their dollars more and still try to capture the magic of the holiday season, even though their dollars can certainly buy less.

Retailers are also looking to bring in as many sales as possible as well, not just to offload the excess inventory they had since the COVID surge, but because there is so much uncertainty about where the economy is going to be next year. So they want to bring in those sales as early as possible.

And despite this persistent inflation, though, Alex, we are seeing consumers continue to have a strong appetite to go ahead and buy this holiday shopping season. We've got some data. The National Retail Federation says that just this week, this long weekend rather from Friday to Monday, we're going to see 166 million people get out there and shop both online and in store.

And you're looking at figures there, sales could reach up to $942 billion before November and December, the shopping season actually ends. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Yes. Stores opening at dawn, a much more respectable hour. Alison Kosik in New York, thank you very much. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

KOSIK: Same to you.