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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

U.S. Issues New Rules for International Travelers to have COVID Test Within One Day of Flight; Omicron Now in At Least 42 Countries and 17 U.S. States; Outrage Over Kentucky GOP Congressman Who Posted Family Photo with Guns. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 06, 2021 - 05:00   ET


LAURA JARRETT, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Good morning everyone, it is Monday, December 6th, it's 5:00 a.m. here in New York, thanks so much for getting an early start with us, I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: And I'm Christine Romans, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, we have reports this morning from London, Johannesburg, Hong Kong, Berlin, Washington and Michigan. We begin though with new rules for international travelers coming to the U.S. Starting today, everyone will have to show proof of a negative COVID test taken within one day of departure.

And that applies whether you're a U.S. citizen or not. Foreign nationals will have to prove they are fully vaccinated as well, and that does not apply to U.S. citizens. The requirement come as the Omicron variant is spreading around the world, that has now being detected in at least 42 countries and 17 U.S. states. There's still so much we don't know about the new variant. One of the biggest questions, how dangerous is it?


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Thus far, it does not look like there's a great degree of severity to it, but we've really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn't cause any severe illness comparable to Delta. But thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity.


JARRETT: At the same time though, Delta remains the dominant strain in the United States. Still, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says Omicron is being carefully watched.


ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION: We know we have, you know, several dozen cases and we're following them closely, and we are every day hearing about more and more probable cases so that number is likely to rise.


JARRETT: U.S. now averaging about 120,000 new COVID cases a day, as you can see there, that is the highest level in two months. The good news here though, vaccine demand is skyrocketing. It is now the strongest it's been nearly since May, early May. CNN's Anna Stewart starts us off this morning with our COVID coverage from London's Gatwick Airport. Anna, good morning, international travelers coming through that airport this morning face all these new testing and vaccination rules. How are they coping? What are you hearing?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Laura. Yes, it's been OK, everyone is coping. I just actually met some American travelers heading home to Florida, their flight taking off in a couple of hours. For them, really, it was just moving their pre-departure testing booking from a few days ago to just yesterday. It can be a rapid antigen test, it costs around $40, they're not too expensive. Some people did it via Zoom in a hotel room, some people went to testing facilities.

One lady I spoke to did wait for two hours despite having scheduled an appointment. So, that's not really how she wanted to spend her last day in London. There you go. So the message here really is, it is expensive, it is something that requires organization and also tourists coming from the U.S. to the U.K. have to do a test within two days of arrival. Now, that used to be a rapid test. That now has to be a PCR. That's more expensive again. From tomorrow, the rules also change for anyone arriving to the U.K., you have to have a pre- departure test two days before arrival.

Everyone is keeping check on this. So, really, travel in a pandemic is possible. It's doable. You just have to be prepared to spend some money on the test. You have to be organized and you also have to be flexible, given the rules keep changing. It could change where you are and where you're trying to get to.

JARRETT: All right, Anna, thank you so much.

ROMANS: All right, to South Africa now where Omicron was first detected. COVID case numbers there are spiking five times higher last week than the week before. This morning, South Africa's president and the Omicron -- said that Omicron variant appears to be dominating new infections nationwide there. Let's bring in CNN's Larry Madowo, he is live this morning for us in Johannesburg. So nice to see you, Larry. How are officials there dealing with this surge?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, officials here in South Africa are preparing hospitals for an increase in hospitalizations, though, it has not come yet, but that could be because we're still at the very early stages of the fourth wave of the pandemic here in South Africa. At the same time, health authorities are encouraging South Africans to get vaccinated. They say they have enough vaccines in every part of the country, as this disease spreads through the population, the reasons to get vaccinated are compelling.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa saying that cases have more than increased. In fact, for just the last week, cases are up five times and the positivity rate in South Africa right now is about 23.8 percent. Two weeks ago, it was 2 percent.


That is why here, they are considering a vaccine mandate, making it mandatory for people to get vaccinated if only to increase herd immunity and make sure that life can reopen here, because one of the fears is that there might be another hard lockdown to try and limit the spread of the disease. At the same time, a lot of anger, frustration to those travel bans which affect South Africa and majority black nations here in the southern part of the continent. President Ramaphosa has repeated something. The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, he calls it travel apartheid.

Some people here on the streets have told me this is racism. Why is it that these travel bans only affect African nations and not anywhere in western Europe, like in the U.K. or Germany or France or Portugal that have also reported cases of the Omicron variant. So, a lot of anger about that here.

ROMANS: Sure, all right, Larry Madowo, so nice to see you, thank you so much. Laura?

JARRETT: New tensions this morning between the U.S. and China. The Biden administration is expected to announce a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics this week. Big news. Now, U.S. athletes would still be permitted to compete in the games, but no U.S. government officials will attend the games and the White House will get a chance to condemn China's human rights abuses on the world stage. Kristie Lu Stout joins us live from Hong Kong this morning. Kristie, what would this boycott look like exactly if the athletes still get to attend, and what's the Chinese government saying.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just heard from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They said that they will take resolute counter measures against a Biden administration. We've also been monitoring Chinese social media, and the words United States Olympic boycott have been actively blocked and censored this day. This after several sources told CNN that this week, the Biden administration plans to announce a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing games. This is not a full boycott.

This means that U.S. government officials would not attend the opening ceremonies of the games. And this was expected. You know, for a few months now for a while now, in the run up to the games, U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been demanding a diplomatic boycott over concerns over human rights abuses in China including the charge that China is committing genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. A charge that China vehemently denies.

Now, China has been lashing out against these continual calls not just from the United States, but other western nations as well for a diplomatic boycott, calling it malicious hypes, saying that this is the politicization of sport. And we have fresh comment this day from the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this afternoon's briefing. Zhao Lijian said this will bring up the pick, quote, for you. "The U.S. should stop politicizing sports and hyping up the so- called diplomatic boycott so as not to affect China-U.S. dialogue and cooperation in important areas", unquote.

Now, Zhao Lijian went on to call the boycott, quote, "a grave offence to the 1.4 billion people of China." He also mocked American politicians for being, quote, in his words, "totally mawkish, sensationalist and politically manipulative as China had yet to invite them to the Beijing Olympic games." Laura?

JARRETT: Well, certainly an escalation here. All right, Kristie, thank you.

LU STOUT: Got it.

ROMANS: All right, breaking news overnight. A Myanmar court has sentenced civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to four years in prison. She was charged with inciting public unrest, breaking COVID protocols and violation of the official Secrets Act. The 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner has denied all charges. She was Myanmar's state counselor and de facto leader until the military seized power back in February.

JARRETT: Still ahead for you, the parents of that 15-year-old Michigan school shooting suspect arrested after an hours' long manhunt. How and where authorities captured the missing couple. That's next.



ROMANS: The parents of the Oxford Michigan School shooting suspect are each being held on a half a million dollars bond. James and Jennifer Crumbley were arrested Saturday morning at a Detroit warehouse after an hours-long search. Prosecutors have accused the couple of providing unfettered access to the gun their 15-year-old son used in killing four of his fellow students.


SHANNON SMITH, JENNIFER & JAMES CRUMBLEY'S ATTORNEY: They were scared. They were terrified. They were not at home, they were figuring out what to do getting finances in order. But our clients were absolutely going to turn themselves in.


ROMANS: The police say they were hiding when they were arrested, nearly 40 minutes from their home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where they were and how they were seems to support the position they were hiding and they weren't looking to surrendering at that point.


ROMANS: And now we're also learning a man who's accused of helping the gunman's parents has come forward. CNN's Athena Jones with more.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Laura. The Oxford School District is now requesting an independent third party investigation into the events leading up to Tuesday's shooting. And in a letter, the superintendent of schools is revealing more about the school's version of what led up to that day. We now know that on Monday when Ethan Crumbley was discovered looking at images of ammunition on his cellphone, he told a school counselor and a school staffer that he had recently gone to a shooting range with his mother, and that shooting sports were a family hobby.

We know that on Tuesday morning when another teacher alerted the school counselor to Ethan Crumbley's concerning drawings, Ethan told the school counselor that the drawings which depicted a semi-automatic handgun, a bullet, a body with bullet holes that appear to be bleeding, and words and phrases like blood everywhere and the thoughts don't stop, help me. Crumbley told the school counselor that, that was part of a video game he was helping design.


So, in this letter, the superintendant says that at no time did counselors believe that Ethan Crumbley could be -- could cause harm to himself or to others. His demeanor was calm, and he appeared to be acting calmly. One key point here though is that in this letter, the superintendent writes that Ethan Crumbley's parents did not inform the school district about their son's access to a firearm or that they had recently purchased him a firearm.

What isn't clear in this letter is whether the school asked the Crumbleys about Ethan's potential access to a firearm. And one more thing here where we've learned more about the person who helped the Crumbleys get into that building, that warehouse they were discovered in and arrested in, in the early morning hours of Saturday morning. That man is now cooperating with authorities. He's a local artist. He uses that warehouse as his work space. And he has said he's unaware that the Crumbleys were facing arrest warrants. Now, that man is a 65- year-old Polish immigrant who has lived here for a while.

That man has retained a lawyer and he could face charges still, for having helped the Crumbleys. Christine, Laura?

JARRETT: Athena, thank you, and great reporting to our team in Michigan there. And just days after that school shooting in Michigan, GOP Representative Thomas Massie from Kentucky tweeted a Christmas photo with each family member holding a gun, asking Santa for more ammo. Outrage from parents who have lost children with gun violence was swift. This from Fred Guttenberg whose daughter Jaime was one of the 17 killed in the 2018 Parkland Shooting massacre.

He says this, "since we're sharing family photos, this one is the last photo that I ever took of Jaime. The other is where she is buried."

ROMANS: That's quite a juxtaposition. Isn't it? All right, the world is on watch as tensions escalated over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. The latest is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


JARRETT: And welcome back, and new fears over Russia's potential military invasion of Ukraine. U.S. Intelligence reports Russia has been increasing troops steadily along the border over the past few months. At a recent panel at the Reagan Institute's National Defense Forum, here is what Army Chief of Staff General James McConville said when asked what he thinks could happen.


JAMES MCCONVILLE, CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY: I don't know what they're going to do, but I am very concerned about, you know, their posture. And it's in the news, you know, somewhere around 95,000 to 100,000 Russian soldiers on the border of Ukraine, that gives a lot of options to the Russians. And you know, I'm not quite sure what they're going to do, but to me that is a terrible -- going to have a terrible impact on the stability and security of our European friends. And so, I have serious concerns about that.


JARRETT: CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us live from Berlin this morning. Fred, we've seen the build-up of tens of thousands of troops this Fall. What is happening on the ground? Where does this go?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Laura. Well, that is the big question as to where exactly this is going to go. However, if you ask U.S. Intelligence who was here talking to CNN, also the Ukrainians as well, they believe that the Russians are amassing those forces and that they could be ready to launch a large scale investigation as early as the early months of 2022.

Some are talking about that being ready by January 2022. So, obviously, a lot of concern there on the ground, on the Ukrainian side, the U.S. obviously, but also the U.S.' NATO allies as well. And the big thing that everyone is looking forward to right now is that phone call between Vladimir Putin, the Russian President and President Joe Biden, and that's set to take place on Tuesday.

We just got some information from the Kremlin. They just had a talk with journalists a couple of minutes ago, and they said they expect that call to happen around 6:00 p.m. Russian time, that's about10:00 a.m. Eastern, and obviously, it's going to be the two presidents speaking to each other, unclear who else is going to be on that call or if anyone else is going to be on that call as well. And essentially, what President Biden says he wants to do as he says he wants to make clear to Vladimir Putin that any invasion of Ukraine will be very costly for the Russians.

What exactly that means, we don't yet know. However, one of the things that's currently in play is possible massive sanctions. The Russians for their part are saying that they want concessions from the U.S. and NATO. They say they believe that NATO is infringing upon Russia, and they say they want assurances that Ukraine will not become a NATO member. NATO is rejecting those demands from the Russians already, Laura.

JARRETT: No doubt this will be a big topic of conversation on that call tomorrow. Fred, thank you.

ROMANS: Our President Biden and the Russian president will speak via a video conference tomorrow as you heard. Ahead of that call, President Biden is warning Putin to stay out of Ukraine or face the consequences, and he believes his administration has leverage.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do, but that's in play right now.


ROMANS: His voice, you can hear -- he must have a head cold because he's got that deep voice there. Jasmine Wright joins us live from Washington. Jasmine, what's the level of concern from the White House heading into this week?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Christine. Look, the level of concern from the White House is high over this troop build- up. That's why you see them taking very deliberate steps with their messaging very disciplined.


So, on Saturday, when they confirmed that Tuesday secured a video call between President Biden and President Putin, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, she said in a statement that Biden would discuss strategic stability, cyber and regional issues and underscore U.S. concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine. Now, I want to note that this call will come exactly -- almost exactly six months to the day after President Biden met with President Putin in Geneva.

And later, he told reporters of that meeting that he -- that he told Putin really that there needs to be basic rules of the road that we can abide by. But of course, flash forward to Friday where we just saw the president saying that he would -- is looking at measures that will make it very difficult for President Putin to proceed. So now one of the questions is kind of what comes next. Well, Secretary Blinken said that some of these actions could be high economic impact measures that they have not taken before, but still as we just heard my colleague say, we don't really know exactly what those measures are going to be.

But headed into this week, there are very high stakes for this White House, something that they're acknowledging with this call.

ROMANS: Yes, all right, thanks so much, Jasmine, nice to see you this Monday morning.

JARRETT: All right, coming up, a well known Trump ally throwing his name into the Georgia governor's race. David Perdue's chances next.