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U.S. Southern Border Bracing For Surge Of Migrants After Federal Appeals Court Clears Way For Ending Title 42; American Tourists Trapped In Peru Due To Political Unrest Within Country; American College Student Reunited With Family After Being Reported Missing Two Weeks Ago While Studying Abroad In France; House January 6th Committee May Refer At Least Three Criminal Charges Against Former President Donald Trump To Department Of Justice; Russian Forces Launch Missiles Against Targets In Ukraine; U.S. Finalizing Plans To Send Patriot Missile Defense System To Ukraine; COVID-19, Influenza, And Respiratory Syncytial Virus Surging Across U.S.; Chinese Government Attempt To Pivot Away From Zero COVID-19 Policy; Daughter's TikTok Video Dramatically Increases Sales In Father's Horror Themed Christmas Ornament Business. Aired 2-3p ET.

Aired December 17, 2022 - 14:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Right now, a major crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is reaching a boiling point. A larger number of migrants is expected to try to cross the border to be processed in just about four days time after a federal appeals court rejected Republican efforts to keep the Trump- era policy Title 42 in place.

Title 42 allows authorities to quickly expel migrants who cross into the U.S., citing health concerns over the COVID pandemic. But unless the U.S. Supreme Court acts, the policy will expire on Wednesday.

CNN has reporters on both sides of the border and in Washington. Let's begin with Ed Lavandera, who is in El Paso, Texas. Ed, the city is seeing more than 2,000 migrants crossing every day. So how are officials now preparing for a possible increase next week?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know El Paso for the last week has been the focal point of these days leading up to the end of Title 42, and the surge of migrants that have arrived here actually probably has very little to do with the ending of Title 42, more to do with just the timing of a large group of migrants arriving in the Juarez, Mexico area.

But many of them have been released after being processed by Border Patrol agents here in the El Paso area. And they are waiting to leave the city. But there's such a backlog of so many people that it's created scenes like this here in the streets around the bus stations in downtown where people have been sleeping out on the streets. You can see this is some of the campsites, if you will, that are still left over from last night.

And Fredricka, I can tell you is because there are so many people here, and we can just walk through the crowd here to give you a sense of just how many people are here, is that it is taking many of these people several days to get out of the El Paso region because there just aren't enough buses to get them to where they need to be. So that is why you are seeing so many people like this.

The nights have been painfully frigid, very dangerous situations. Actually, the emergency management teams here in El Paso have teams going around the streets, urging people, and they're trying desperately to find as much shelter space as possible, especially to get young children off the streets in these overnight hours where the temperatures have dipped close to freezing.

But many of these people are waiting several days to get on buses. And city officials here say that really is the key to making this go as smoothly as possible and averting a total humanitarian meltdown crisis here in the city. And they are really working on trying to get as many buses and people moved to bigger transportation hubs.

So city officials say that they are talking to folks in Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, Houston, to try to get many of these people on buses, moved to those cities as quickly as possible, because from there there's more options. They can move to their final destinations much more quickly. So that's what officials say will really be one of the big focal points this coming week when Title 42 is lifted on Wednesday.

WHITFIELD: Ed Lavandera in El Paso, Texas, thank you so much.

CNN's Gustavo Valdes is on the other side of the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Gustavo, what are you seeing there?

GUSTAVO VALDES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't have the long lines, but we do see a steady flow of people being taken into right now. This group passed a few moments ago. They crossed the river, and now they are being directly taken to Border Patrol van that is going to take them somewhere else to be processed. That's the difference. It's not that the numbers are reduced. They are just taking them away faster from this area where a few days ago we saw those long lines.

So not only are these people getting in, we have all these people pondering when to pass. Most of them I've been talking to, they are from Venezuela. They are telling me that this some of them already tried to go in.


Some of them are saying that once they get there, the agent tells them this is not the right time.


MIGUEL MORENO, MIGRANT (through translator): They told me to at least wait so I wouldn't waste my time turning myself in because they were going to send me back across the border, that the right thing to do would be after the 21st, so that I had a chance to enter. At least I have a bit of hope more than anything because of my daughters.


VALDES: Now we are also hearing a lot of misinformation under everything that they believe is going to happen on Wednesday. Some people are telling others that, hey, wait until Wednesday. It's going to be OK. They're going to have to take you in. Especially for people from countries like Venezuela or Nicaragua, where U.S. relations are not the best right now, because in order for somebody to be repatriated, the country has to take them in. They believe that their countries are not going to allow the people to be returned. Some fear that they're going to be deported back into Mexico but through another border. So the confusion is greater here.

And also, the authorities here, they don't know what to do. They say here in Juarez, they were used to people being deported, but not people coming in in these large numbers to try to get in. They are struggling also with the shelters, with the services.

And just like we have seen some governments in the U.S. bussing people farther north, states farther south in Mexico, they don't want to see the people walking through their state. They are helping with buses to bring them through to the border. Not only Ciudad Juarez, this is happening in Piedras Negras, Eagle Pass, McAllen. This is a larger issue.

WHITFIELD: My goodness. All right, Gustavo Valdes there in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, complicated now, about to get even more complex. Thank you so much.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is at the White House. So Arlette, what's the Biden administration planning to do?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, the Biden administration is bracing for the end of Title 42 on Wednesday as Homeland Security officials have warned that there would likely be an increase in migrant flow immediately when Title 42 is lifted.

Now, officials here at the White House have been aware for quite some time that there would be a point where this Trump-era policy would end. But it took on new meaning after that judge last month made the decision that the program would need to be lifted by December 21st.

As mentioned earlier, last night a federal appeals court blocked an effort by some Republican-led states to try to keep this plan in place. And last night a White House spokesperson reacted, saying that they are focusing on a robust effort to try to manage border issues in the wake as they are expected Title 42 to be lifted on Wednesday.

That spokesperson went on to say, "To be clear, the lifting of a Title 42 public health order does not mean the border is open. Anyone who suggests otherwise is doing the work of smugglers spreading misinformation to make a quick buck off of vulnerable migrants. We will continue to fully enforce our immigration laws and work to expand legal pathways for migration while discouraging disorderly and unsafe migration."

The Department of Homeland Security has been working for quite some time to develop a plan for when Title 42 is lifted. They released some points about that plan earlier in the week, and that includes trying to surge resources and personnel to try to deal with some of this processing along the border.

They are also establishing some temporary facilities to do that processing. And they're also trying to ramp up, as mentioned earlier, on the ground and air transportation to try to process and move some of these migrants as they are expecting this increase to come on Wednesday.

The White House has also asked Congress for more than $3 billion in funding in anticipation of this Title 42 change. And one thing that the White House has repeatedly said, that in order to fix issues at the border, it does require comprehensive immigration reform.

And they have urged Congress to act. But right now, the White House and Biden administration are staring down this very steep challenge with Title 42 set to end on Wednesday.

WHITFIELD: Arlette Saenz, Gustavo Valdes, and Ed Lavandera, thanks to all of you. I appreciate it.

Let's talk further now with Hamed Aleaziz. He is an immigration policy reporter for "The L.A. Times." Hamed, so good to see you. So here we are just four days away, and after years of Title 42, it looks like it is coming to an end, barring another legal decision. So is the U.S. ready to handle what's to come? Paint the picture of what you envision, or people envision will happen possibly come Wednesday?

HAMED ALEAZIZ, IMMIGRATION POLICY REPORTER, "L.A. TIMES": I think hearing that from Mexico confirms some of the worst fears within the government, that there is going to this confusion about when to cross the border, people waiting until Wednesday, grouping together in large groups to try to cross on Wednesday.


And being able to process thousands of migrants a day, there have been some internal estimates of potentially 12,000 migrants crossing the border at Title 42 lifts every day. That is incredibly difficult to handle.

We will see whether or not this administration decides to revert back to some deterrence policies, to try to turn back migrants to Mexico, to restrict asylum. We're hearing that individual from Venezuela saying potentially waiting until Wednesday to cross.

There's some context there in that this administration expanded Title 42 to allow them to turn back Venezuelans to Mexico in October. That brought down the numbers of Venezuelans crossing every day after that policy expanded.

But after Wednesday, obviously if the Supreme Court doesn't step in, Title 42 goes away. Whether or not the administration decides to try to work with Mexico in some way to continue to turn back Venezuelans through another way, that remains to be seen.

So I wonder, Hamed, while you mentioned possibly a return to some 12,000 people who are going to try to cross the border might mean 12,000 people who want to cross the border, but they're just simply isn't enough manpower, there are not enough people to process the 12,000 per day. So what is that scene likely to look like as people wait to be processed, but they can't because there aren't enough resources in which to do so?

ALEAZIZ: Well, there's real concerns around overcrowding in Border Patrol facilities. Like it was mentioned earlier, the conditions, it's quite cold. These cities along the border having strained resources. It can really turn into a situation where the border becomes quite challenging for this administration to try to scramble together resources to help not only the cities but, again, these Border Patrol facilities that are not prepared for thousands of people every day. How are they going to handle this? How are they going to handle that situation?

WHITFIELD: So we just learned that New York City says it will need at least $3 billion in federal support through 2026 to manage the surge of migrants entering the city. If New York needs that kind of help, what are the chances, what kind of resources are border cities going to need?

I just spoke with a councilwoman from El Paso earlier today who said they're already at a point where they need some kind of emergency assistance because there are just so many people who have crossed the border, who are in great need, who are on the streets, sleeping on the streets.

So we're talking about cities that are saying they need more help after so many more are processed. So what is the scenario likely to be?

ALEAZIZ: Yes. I think this administration is going to have to jump on that really quickly and try to get Congress involved, like it was mentioned before, to try to get funding to these cities. Again, their resources are quite strained. They have all these nonprofits along the border that have been helping migrants for years.

And now you are seeing migrants sleeping on the streets. It is incredibly challenging. And, again, that's why Secretary Mayorkas and other officials say they need some form of comprehensive immigration reform to handle this or else we're going to be potentially stuck in this cycle for years to come.

WHITFIELD: Hamed Aleaziz of "The L.A. Times," thank you so much. Great talking to you.

Still to come, evacuations expected to start today for hundreds of stranded tourists in Peru after the country was plunged into a state of emergency following a mass protest and unrest. Plus, the American college student that was reported missing more than

two weeks ago while studying abroad in France has been reunited with his mother. We'll have details.



WHITFIELD: Peruvian officials say evacuation of tourists who are stranded in the ancient city of Machu Picchu are expected to start today. Hundreds of tourists, including many Americans, became trapped amid mass protests and unrest that have left the country in chaos. CNN's Rafael Romo joins me now. So Rafael, what more do we know about these potential rescues or how people can get out willingly?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Hi, Fred. Well, the problem wasn't only the fact that several regional airports, including Cusco, one of the busiest ones, had to close to the fact that they were targeted by protesters who were bent on disrupting traffic. The rail line connecting Cusco to the ancient city of Machu Picchu also suspended service for the same reason.

I've been in touch with Americans who had planned the trip of a lifetime and wanted to end the year in an exotic location. They told me as early as Monday they noticed saw people protesting violently on the streets in cities like Cusco and Ayacucho.

When airports and rail lines shut down, they ended up missing connections to travel back to Lima, the capital, and therefore were unable to return home. Peru's Ministry of Transportation confirmed that Cusco airport has reopened, which is good news for those people trying to fly back to the capital.

What is going on in Peru? It all started December 7th when then president Pedro Castillo was impeached and arrested after he announced plans to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government.


He was apparently trying to get ahead of a congressional vote on his impeachment. His supporters have staged violent protests that have left at least 20 people dead, disrupting traffic, and leaving many people stranded, including hundreds if not thousands of foreign tourists. I spoke with Michael Reiner.

He is an American tourist from Washington, D.C., who told me he is part of a group of eight Americans, mainly college buddies and other mutual friends, who are now stuck in Peru. This is how he described their situation, speaking to us from Cusco.


MICHAEL REINER, AMERICAN STRANDED IN PERU: It's surreal to be a tourist in a country where there's political unrest taking place before our eyes is a whole new way of experiencing a country. The context for that for us is there's something bigger happening here than just our travel experience.


ROMO: Fred, just to give you an idea how popular Peru is as an international destination, more than 1.6 million foreign tourists visited the country in the months -- in the time between January and October, according to government figures. Now back to you.

WHITFIELD: Rafael Romo, thanks so much.

American college student Kenny DeLand Jr. has been reunited with his mother in Lyon, France, after being reported missing two weeks ago while studying abroad. DeLand's father getting the news this week while on the phone with a CNN producer that his son was actually in Spain. So what was he doing for two weeks? And why did he seem to vanish without a trace? Here's CNN's Melissa Bell.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After more than two weeks, word from an American student who vanished in France the moment the family of Kenny DeLand Jr. had been waiting for.

SASKYA VANDOORNE, CNN SENIOR FIELD PRODUCER: And then he just stopped and said, wait, wait. It's Kenny. I have to go. And the line went dead.

BELL: CNN producer Saskya Vandoorne was on the phone with Kenny DeLand Sr. when we got the call from his son.

VANDOORNE: It was about 15 minutes later that he called me back. And he just said he's alive.

BELL: The family later releasing a statement saying in part, "We are so happy to announce that Kenny is safe. Kenny is in Spain and his mother is in France preparing to see Kenny and hopefully bring him home for Christmas." Adding, "Without the media's help, Kenny would not have seen himself in the news."

The 21-year-old senior at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York, had been studying at the University of Grenoble Alps. His parents said they hadn't heard from him since November 27th.

KENNY DELAND SR., FATHER OF KENNY DELAND: For him to not reach out with no correspondence, this is very uncharacteristic of my son. And this is what creates all the worry that any parent could ever feel.

BELL: His fellow students reported him missing on November 29th, prompting Grenoble prosecutor Eric Vaillant to launch an investigation and prompting his parent to create a website seeking answers. He was reportedly seen at a store on December 3rd, about a 90-minute drive from the school.

During the search, the woman who had hosted DeLand in France told CNN she thought he may have left voluntarily, echoing a theory the Grenoble prosecutor put forward earlier this week. On Thursday, Interpol issued a yellow notice which are used to help locate missing persons, often minors, or to help identify persons who are unable to identify themselves according to Interpol's website. And now a day later, part of the mystery that sparked a multinational search, thankfully solved.

Melissa Bell, CNN, Grenoble.


WHITFIELD: Coming up, multiple referrals may be coming for former President Donald Trump. The January 6th Committee is expected to announce at least three referrals to the Justice Department this week. Details to come.



WHITFIELD: All right, we're following major new developments involving former president Donald Trump. The House select committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol is expected to refer at least three criminal charges against Trump to the Justice Department, including insurrection. We'll hear the panel's final recommendations during its last hearing on Monday.

CNN's Annie Grayer joining us now. Annie, what more are you learning about these referrals?

ANNIE GRAYER, CNN REPORTER: Well, Fredricka, we know that the January 6th committee is considering at least three criminal charges against former president Donald Trump to send over to the Justice Department for them to pursue. And those three charges are obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the federal government, and insurrection.

Whichever criminal referrals the committee decides to make against the former president, and we're told there could be more than just those three, the committee will be presenting that evidence in their final public meeting, which is scheduled for this Monday at 1:00.

WHITFIELD: And then what else might happen on Monday?

GRAYER: So in addition to those criminal referrals for Donald Trump, we're told there could be more individuals facing a criminal referral. And beyond that, we know that there could be as many as five or six categories of referrals that the committee makes on Monday.


This could include referrals to the House Ethics Committee or even referrals to the Bar Association. And on top of that, all the committee members are going to vote on their final report to be able to release it to the public, which we're expecting to be on Wednesday.

WHITFIELD: And how influential or potentially influential might this be on DOJ, the Department of Justice? GRAYER: Just to take a step back here, a criminal referral from the

January 6th Committee to the Department of Justice is largely symbolic in nature. The Department of Justice already has an ongoing criminal probe into January 6th. But if members stand up there Monday and say that they believe they have evidence that Donald Trump committed a crime as a result of their more than 17-month-long investigation, over 1,000 interviews, if they pull all that together to say that they have evidence of a crime, that's a really powerful message to end on, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Annie Grayer, thanks so much.

Power, heat, and water are slowly being restored in Ukraine following Russia's latest wave of missile attacks on the country's infrastructure. Ukrainian officials say at least 76 Russian missiles were fired in recent days, knocking out power and water supplies in several cities. This comes as the U.S. is now finalizing plans to send the Patriot Missile Defense System to Ukraine.

CNN's Brian Todd has more on how this system could help protect Ukraine from Russian missile attacks.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It rocketed to fame during the first Gulf War, touted as a miracle defense. And it's a significant step up from the air defense Ukraine is using now. The Patriot Missile is America's top of the line interceptor, with a longer range, higher altitude, and more advanced tracking.

MARK CANCIAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Much, much larger missile designed to take out at very long ranges aircraft, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles.

TODD: Ukraine's infrastructure and power grid have been pummeled by Russian missiles, sometimes as many as 100 launched per day according to Ukrainian officials.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET), FORMER AIR FORCE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Once the Ukrainians get this capability to counter these offensive weapons, it's going to make a really big difference in how this war is prosecuted.

TODD: One deployment of a Patriot battery would only cover an area the size of a city and would not be intended to counter unsophisticated weapons like drones. Still --

LEIGHTON: If they are pretty certain that they're going to target a critical piece of infrastructure, then the Patriot battery would be the weapon of last resort in a case like that.

TODD: But there are other challenges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Patriot is extraordinary expensive. It takes a long time to train on it. TODD: Deploying one batter with up to eight launcher, plus radar

guidance, could cost $400 million, plus $250 million for the first set of 60 missiles, and $4 million per missile after that, according to analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

CANCIAN: It's not worth shooting a $4 million missile to defend against a $50,000 drone.

TODD: There's also the time it takes to train and the manpower, as many as 90 personnel, training that can take months. Another consideration, Russia's response. The Kremlin has warned that a Patriot deployment would escalate the conflict and increase the risk of Americans being drawn in.

But the U.S. says its personnel would only be training Ukrainian troops on how to operate the Patriots, training that will take place in Germany. And analysts say the Russians are likely dialing up the pressure over the Patriot deployment because they are nervous about it.

LEIGHTON: The Russians are definitely worried about the Patriot system. Their offensive weapons are really dependent on us not having the defensive capability to counter them.

TODD: The experts we spoke to warned of other potential vulnerabilities and drawbacks with the Patriot system. They say that although these batteries are capable of defending themselves, they could be taken out by Russians, which the Russians are certain to try to do. And they say the missiles themselves could fall into the hands of the Russians who could then try to reverse engineer them.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, federal health officials warning about a triple threat this holiday season, the flu, RSV, and COVID-19. The flu hospitalization rate for this point in the season is higher than it's been in more than a decade. Details straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: All right, yay, Hanukkah starts tomorrow, and Christmas is just days away, meaning families are gathering together. But there are warnings, right? Federal health officials are urging everyone to take advantage of available resources like COVID tests and boosters to have healthy celebrations. COVID hospitalizations have been rising since November, and roughly 14 percent of people in the U.S. live in a high transmission area.

For more perspective, I'm joined by Dr. Jayne Morgan. She's the executive director for the Piedmont Healthcare COVID Task Force right here in Atlanta. Dr. Morgan, always great to see you.


WHITFIELD: So what are the hospitals looking like with the flu, RSV, COVID?

MORGAN: Absolutely. We do see hospitalizations increasing with COVID, 56 percent increase in cases, 24 percent increase in hospitalizations. That's just with COVID. With flu, we have had had 7,300 deaths already, 13 million cases. And remember, flu season tracks through May. We're only in December.

WHITFIELD: We've got a long way to go.

MORGAN: So we are absolutely looking towards a rough patch this year.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. And so HHS data is showing less than half of the population actually got their annual flu shots. And I wonder if it's because people are feeling very fatigued, getting their COVID vaccines, getting the boosters.


And are people just throwing up their arms and saying, yet another shot? Flu? I don't want to. But they should.

MORGAN: They should. And I think people are fatigued, you are absolutely correct. But also there's this anti-science, anti-vax movement that's pushing forward, and we have to make certain that the scientific voices are heard, that people with scientific backgrounds are actually leading these discussions as opposed to people with large platforms but no scientific credentials.

And so we have to make certain that we understand that vaccines do save lives. And we have seen the COVID vaccine really be responsible for saving millions of lives during this entire pandemic. So this is not the time to be exhausted. We know that people are super, super tired.


MORGAN: But honestly, get your mask game on.

WHITFIELD: I love the color coordinated.

MORGAN: Color coordinated. Feel free to wear your mask and enjoy it. Have a little fun with it. And also be safe. And remember that your masks not only protect you, but they keep you from touching your face where your hands may be contaminated as well.

WHITFIELD: And people really should not be offended. We are all getting together this holiday. And people feel like for the first time in a very long time, they are getting ready with friends, family, all on the same time of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, all of this together.

But then they feel like a little apprehensive about wearing the mask because they don't want to insult anybody. So how should we handle this when we go to family households or friends' households, how do you disarm some to the folks feeling that kind of apprehension?

MORGAN: Absolutely. Have the courage to be the only one. Maybe have the courage even to exhibit some leadership with it, because one of the things that we know is that masks certainly provide some protection. And if we need any evidence on of that, let's look at the last two years with regarding to our flu rates and RSV rates, which not only flattened but decreased.

A lot had to do with public health measures. And while we're seeing a resurgence now as people have come out from behind the masks. So masks absolutely help you. Make certain that you are looking at boosters. Your COVID bivalent booster is available. We have only had an uptake of about 11 percent or 12 percent.

Those over the age of 65, only a 35 percent uptake, which is incredibly alarming because this is the group that we are seeing have the highest rate of hospitalizations and death because that early vaccine, those antibodies have now waned, and you need a booster to make certain that you are protected.

WHITFIELD: So we've talked about the flu, we talked about COVID. But then RSV, which has swept through a lot of households. But there really isn't a vaccine for that. So how are you protecting yourself against RSV or even treating yourself if you have been exposed to it?

MORGAN: With all of the viruses that we have had circulating, not only COVID and the flue, we had monkeypox, we have a resurgence of measles in some areas, RSV, they all have vaccines, with the exception of RSV.

So make certain those viruses for which you can get protection, you do so, because that helps with everything with the circulation of viruses. Remember, not only does RSV not have a vaccine, it also doesn't have a therapy. There is no treatment for it. There's only supportive treatment.

So make certain you do everything you can to decrease the rate of circulation of this entire medley, this entire potpourri of viruses. And that will also help with RSV to protect those in your household who could be vulnerable.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and RSV, it's miserable, but it's also potentially deadly.

So at one point this week, 375 pediatric ICU beds in Georgia, of that amount only two were available. I mean, the notion of that is just really frightening. It is for a kaleidoscope of reason. It's not just flu. It's not just COVID. In many cases people have delayed surgeries as well. So what is happening? How are hospitals able to meet the need?

MORGAN: Absolutely. And we are always on the precipice of are we approaching a crisis in hospitalizations and beds. And certainly, we've seen our children's hospitals really be inundated. And what we're seeing now, even though we are seeing a flattening of the RSV cases, we still see a spike in certain areas of the country. And so it really will depend on where you are.

And just because we don't now see an increase in cases, it doesn't mean hospital beds aren't available, because people who are admitted and they're sick and they're still there taking up those beds, because they are not well enough to leave. So remember that just because you don't see cases increasing, those people in the hospital can be quite ill and are there for long periods of time. And that's why the beds aren't available. RSV can be quite serious. So make certain we take it seriously.

WHITFIELD: Indeed. So good to see you, Dr. Jayne Morgan. Happy holidays.


MORGAN: Thank you. Thank you. The same to you.

WHITFIELD: And let's keep it happy by everyone being safe.

MORGAN: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: I appreciate you so much.

MORGAN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, in China, we are seeing a seismic shift in the nation's approach to tackling COVID. After several years of zero COVID policy, government officials are now pivoting. And that is sending residents scrambling to keep themselves safe. Here's CNN's Selina Wang.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: China's top infectious disease expert now saying COVID should be called, quote, "coronavirus cold." This is a dramatic shift for the Chinese government and jarring contrast for the public here. After going through three years of this draconian, heavy-handed approach to COVID, now the government trying to downplay COVID. People here were caught off guard by the sudden reopening. Many feel like they weren't given enough time or resources to get ready.

Across the country, fever medicine and antigen test kits are incredibly hard to get and out of stock here in Beijing. The country is scrambling now to boost the elderly vaccination rate and increase ICU capacity. At a state media event, some health experts even admitted that, quote, "We were not super well prepared in certain aspects."

The chief infectious disease doctor at a Beijing hospital said there have been outbreaks among doctors, nurses, and other staff, putting strain on the system. The doctor continued that, quote, "We expect the overwhelming strain on medical services to be on hospital wards as infections reach the elderly population."

This decision to relax COVID restrictions during China's winter when millions are expected to travel across the country for the new year holiday and also while seasonal flu could further strain hospitals, this timing has led to a wave of criticism on Chinese social media.

State media has reported that all vacations for doctors and nurses in China's central Henan Province will be canceled until March. The report said, quote, "Health workers must be on duty 24 hours a day to ensure we smoothly pass this transition period." Henan, which is the third most populous province in China, is ranked among the top destinations during this Chinese New Year travel rush.

Experts say that considering how obsessed this government is with control, it is striking just how little preparation there has been for such a dramatic exit from Zero COVID.

Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


WHITFIELD: Still ahead, a daughter saves her dad's evil ornament business after a TikTok video goes viral. It's creepy but really cool. That story is next.



WHITFIELD: NBA point guard Chris Paul is winning both on and off the court. Hours after the Phoenix Suns beat the L.A. Clippers Thursday, Paul got his college degree from Winston-Salem State University Friday morning. The NBA star received a bachelor's degree in communications from the North Carolina school and is already using it to give back.

At the commencement ceremony, Paul announced that he is gifting each graduate a banking account at Greenwood, which is a financial services company geared toward people of color. They'll get a one-year waiver of membership dues, plus $100 added to their account, all totaling $2,500. Perhaps that's his best shot ever.

All right, in Germany, a massive hotel aquarium holding 1,500 tropical fish burst open, sending a flood of water, debris, and fish right into the hotel lobby and a nearby street. And most of the fish, they did not survive.

And two people were injured. The Berlin fire brigade says it is rescuing fish that are in containers in the basement of the building. And at this point it's still unclear what caused the aquarium to burst.

A devoted daughter helped save her dad's business small business selling horror-themed Christmas ornaments. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more on what she did to bring sales back from the dead.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Who needs to decorate the tree with snowmen and Santas when you could be hanging bad elves and evil pickles.


MOOS: Ornaments associated with horror, hence, the killer name.

MAKAYLA BURNS: It rolls off the tongue. It's HorrorNaments. HorrorNaments.

MOOS: It's a daddy-daughter business out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. But this year sales have been dead, which led 24-year-old MaKayla Burns to post a TikTok video of her father pacing. It's the middle of December, and my dad is currently walking around our warehouse wondering why we aren't busy with orders. After the video went viral, they were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm overwhelmed by the support of the people.

MOOS: In two days, they had as many orders as they had gotten the entire rest of the year, 11-and-a-half months. MaKayla was recording another video when her dad approached the car.

BURNS: He had tears in his eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She saved this business. You just saved this business. You have no idea how tickled I am. Oh, my God.

MOOS: Would you say she's a pretty good daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is a fabulous daughter. And I'm a little emotional right now. Truly blessed.

BURNS: I don't see myself leaving his side any time soon.

MOOS: A touching father-daughter blood relationship, sort of the opposite of the serial killer kind of blood conjured up by some of their most popular ornaments.


And just like one of their zombies, sales have come back to life.

Jeanne Moos, CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She saved this business.

MOOS: New York.


WHITFIELD: Oh, that's nice.

And don't miss an all new "This is Life with Lisa Ling." She explores how the pandemic pushed casual drinking into the disease of addiction, tomorrow night at 9:00 right here on CNN.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks for being with us today. The CNN Newsroom continues with Jim Acosta after this.