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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Historic Tornadoes, Winds and Storms Hit Wide Swath of Heartland; Trio of Public Health Concerns; Jaguars Fire Urban Meyer 13 Games Into 5-Year Deal. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 16, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: A record number of hurricane-force winds, parts of the U.S. blasted by another round of damaging storms.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Omicron, delta and the flu, the trio that has doctors facing a long winter.

ROMANS: And he's out. Urban Meyer's rocky tenure of the Jacksonville Jaguars ends after less than a year.

It is Thursday, December 16th. It's 5:00 a.m. in New York.

Thanks for getting an early start with us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world.

We begin this morning with this wild weather, really historic weather blasting a broad swath of the U.S. heartland for the second time in a week.

From New Mexico to Wisconsin, tornadoes, howling winds, you can hear it, severe storms, even wildfires. Folks, it's mid-December. The Central U.S. experienced the highest number of reports of hurricane- force wind in a single day ever, 55 reports across nine states.

ROMANS: Yeah, there were more than 350 reports of severe weather from the Central Plains to the Upper Midwest, 20 tornadoes were reported, including the first December twister on record in Minnesota. In Colorado, winds gusting up to 107 miles per hour, toppled tractor- trailers, ripped the roofs off homes.

More than 450,000 customers and climbing this morning remain in the dark. Across eight states, including Iowa, where wind gusts topped 70 miles per hour at the Des Moines airport.


UNIDENTIFIED BOY: We were in the basement. My mom was heating up some left over ravioli when it happened. The power went out, so we had to run downstairs. It was really -- it was really fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was on my front porch and cleaning up some water that was coming in. And I looked across the street and there was a big glowing orb. I thought it was aliens at first. Then it exploded and sparks went everywhere, and about 10, 15 minutes later, I could see a tree had fallen.


JARRETT: Officials in Comanche County, Oklahoma, advising residents to document the livestock that they lost to the wildfires burning. And in the upper Midwest, this unprecedented threat of damaging wind remains, 58 million people are under wind alerts overnight.

ROMANS: You know, in Iowa, there were reports the 911 call centers reporting all these fire reports. But the fire is not in Iowa, the fire is in Kansas. The winds have brought the fires there. So it's just been epic.

JARRETT: All right, we have with us now CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri bringing us the latest.

So, Pedram, how much worse is this expected to get?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, the wind element is not going anywhere for at least the next six to eight hours across the region and the plains. You noted one of the most remarkable weather events has all the makings of a spring element, summer element and a winter one all wrapped into one taking place in the span of 12 or so hours. But upwards of almost 400 severe wind reports, you noted historic amount of hurricane force gusts, upwards of 55 of them, and 20 tornado reports.

Now, if you think we've talked about tornadoes a lot in the last week or so across the United States, of course, you'd be absolutely correct. You look at the numbers, it is as incredible as it gets. Some 116 preliminary tornado reports so far in the month of December, eight of the first 16 days in the month of December have had tornadoes and historically speaking, the month of December is the quietest time of year when it comes to tornadoes. Only 23 occur. This is 5X the number of tornadoes you'd expect in the cold season. We're getting taking shape.

Here's what's happening. The severe element, tornadic element, winding down. Minneapolis, Chicago, 50, 60 mile an hour winds pushing towards the east. Upwards of 50 million underneath these high wind alerts that are in place.

Again, we'll see this kind of gradually wind down, what is left of it here, some showers in the southern end of the front. That will bring rain showers into western Kentucky. Some of the areas that are very hard hit with last week's tornadoes going to get some rainfall out of this by the time we get do this afternoon and evening.

Half a million customers without power in upwards of nine states, nine states dealing with what's happening across the United States. Wind gusts and we talked about some officials across the region saying if you get winds of this magnitude, any spark that is ignited is going to take off and fires large enough in parts of Kansas, that satellite imagery could pick them up in space. So an incredible day of wild weather, guys.

ROMANS: So, a lot of this happened after dark. So when the sun comes up in a couple hours here, we'll get a better picture, I think. Especially the Upper Midwest about what really happened there.

Pedram, thank you so much for that. Nice to see you.


All right. Breaking overnight, Urban Meyer out as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars after less than one season.

Coy Wire is here with more.

Hey, Coy.


Urban Meyer's tumultuous tenure in the NFL over after just 13 games and two wins. Earlier this morning, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan confirming that he's fired the Florida and Ohio State head coach just 11 months into a five-year deal. In a statement, Khan wrote, quote: After deliberation over many weeks and thorough analysis and the entirety of Urban's tenure with our team, I am bitterly disappointed to arrive at the conclusion that an immediate change is imperative for everyone. Regaining our trust and respect was essential. Regrettably, it did not happen, unquote.

The move just comes hours after former Jags kicker Josh Lambeau told the Tampa Bay Times that he was kicked by Meyer while doing warm ups in the final preseason game. Back in October, video emerged of a woman getting extremely close to the married Meyer at a bar in Columbus, Ohio, after a Thursday night loss in Cincinnati. Meyer apologized to the team. Reports later in the season said that Meyer had arguments with players and coaches suggesting to his assistants during staff meetings that they're losers, while he is a winner.

Offensive coordinator Derek Bevel will serve as interim coach the remainder of the season against the game against the Texans -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Coy Wire for us this morning, thanks, Coy. Talk to you soon.

JARRETT: All right. U.S. health officials are bracing for a terrible trio this winter, more infections from the omicron variant, surging infection with the delta variant, and a slow but steady comeback of the flu.

The big takeaway from Dr. Anthony Fauci, get that booster shot. He says two doses of the vaccine are simply not enough to stop the spread of omicron, but there is no need yet for a variant-specific booster shot. One infectious disease expert says don't overreact here, but also don't under estimate Omicron.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN FOR THE NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: So, we will see breakthrough symptomatic illnesses, and that's problem number one. Problem number two, I'm worried about the impact if there is a big surge also in our hospital staff, maybe because of community transmission. So it's going to mean that a number of our health care providers are also going to get sick, so you're going to have this combination of a surge on our hospitals and the fact that our work force may be partly depleted. And that combination could be really very serious for the country.


ROMANS: Surges are, again, overwhelming doctors and nurses. Doctors in Minnesota took an unusual step, a full-page newspaper ad pleading for people to get vaccinated.


DR. KENNETH HOLMEN, PRESIDENT, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER CENTRACARE: We're working as hard as we can to give the message to the public, please join us in this war against COVID. Get vaccinated and public health measures. It is aimed at our employees to thank them and spread the message around vaccination. The second thing was to give a message to the community. Please help us. Not only is it about the demand of this work, but also the political and social environment among some subsets of patients in their families. It is heartbreaking.


JARRETT: Meantime, the New York City area also struggling with the staffing shortages. Their staff shortages at the Manhattan district attorney's office after a COVID outbreak stemming from an off-site holiday party. NYU and Princeton adding themselves to the list of schools moving finals and nonessential events online for the end of the semester as well.

And the lights on Broadway, a bit dimmer. Multiple Broadway shows, including Hamilton and Harry Potter, have canceled performances this week due to COVID outbreaks. Just two months after reopening, following an 18-month suspension.

ROMANS: The navy will be the latest military branch to begin discharging members who refuse to get their COVID-19 vaccine. About 98 percent of the Navy is fully or partially vaccinated now. And Apple will return to the office indefinitely. Apple will give all corporate and retail employees a thousand dollars to buy equipment for their home offices.

JARRETT: All right. To overseas now, the E.U. is starting to vaccinate kids age 5 to 11. Government officials there are bracing for a COVID surge as well given the holiday season and the quickly spreading omicron variant.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is at a children's vaccination center in Rome.

I know, Ben, people are just starting to lineup. What is the turnout expected to be like?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They expect a pretty good turnout. This is a nationwide rollout of this vaccination campaign for children between the ages of 5 and 11. And it's not just Italy. It's also Spain, Greece and Hungary which this week are starting to vaccinate that age group. Not with a full vaccine. It's a third of the normal dose given to adults.

Now, for the problem in most of Europe is from the delta variant. The omicron variant is still a small fraction of the number of cases.


But France, for instance, has declared that it is going to ban British tourists from entering the country. This, of course, after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the U.K. is facing a tidal wave from the Omicron variant.

And we did hear from the president of the European Commission, that she expects that by mid-January, Omicron will be the dominant variant in Europe -- Laura.

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

ROMANS: Okay. Ten minutes past the hour.

What do Ross from "Friends" and Fed Chief Jay Powell have in common?


ROMANS: The Fed's big pivot, next.



ROMANS: A big pivot for the Federal Reserve from rescuing the COVID economy to now fighting inflation.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE BANK: I believe that inflation may be more persistent and that may be putting inflation expectations under pressure, and that the risk of higher inflation becoming entrenched has become increased. That is part of the reason behind our move today, is to put ourselves in a position to be able to deal with that risk.


ROMANS: The Fed forecasting at least three quarter-point increases in the benchmark interest rate next year. That's up zero percent right now. To get there, begin raising rates in March, the Fed will taper down its bond purchases, trimming about $30 billion a month from the pandemic stimulus buying. The fed's goal now, keep this economy from overheating. The Fed chief says the economy is strong and so is the jobs market despite that lukewarm jobs report last month.

What does this mean for your pocketbook? Well, stocks jumped Monday on the Fed's announcement. So, good news there for your 401(k) at least for now, after a very good couple of years for stock market investors. Higher rates next year mean high borrowing costs are coming for a car, a home, or to refinance your home. So that's something that everybody should prepare for.

I think the bottom line also about the stock market rally yesterday on the back of this, I mean, the Fed is going to start tapping on the brakes, right. Why was the stock market like that? I think the Fed chief has perfectly telegraphed what's going to happen.

Once you got through that meeting, stock investors said, look, you have profit margins very high, companies making a lot of money. The economy is strong. The Fed is on the case in terms of inflation. And taken altogether that was good news for the stock market.

JARRETT: The stock market likes predictability.

ROMANS: It has been predictable Powell. So, that has been good.

JARRETT: It looks like build back better plan for President Biden is not build back in 2021. Why talks between the White House and a key senator are now at a stand still. That's next.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

It's looking like President Biden's $1.75 trillion expansion of America's social safety net will not cross the finish line in Congress before the New Year. The key Democratic holdout is Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia who says the child tax credit, set to expire soon, could blow up the price tag on the bill.

He's also far apart from the president on other key priorities.

CNN's Daniella Diaz joins us live from Capitol Hill. She's been following it all.

Daniella, why oh, why the child tax credit of all things, the thing that is really a tax cut for poor working families?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Laura, this all goes back to Joe Manchin and his concerns about the price tag for this bill. Joe Manchin, as you said, has said again and again he does not want this bill to cost more than $1.75 trillion.

And the reason the child tax credit has come up as a provision he's very concerned with is because he believes that it is misleading. The CBO score for this bill is misleading because, of course, the CBO being the price for this bill and what it would cost over ten years. That Democrats want to extend the child tax credit year after year, currently with the build back better act, this legislation that would expand the nation's social safety net has the child tax credit act. It is an extension for one year. But Democrats want to make this permanent.

And he says that the price tag for this legislation is misleading because they plan to try to extend this more each year.

Take a listen to what Senator Joe Manchin told reporters, including our Manu Raju last night when he was exiting the capitol about where he stands on these negotiations with Democratic leaders for the Build Back Better Act.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I want to make sure that we're upfront and transparent with the public.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But you don't believe child tax credit could fit -- it does -- if it's -- it could blow up the price tag on this bill? Because you want to go for the 1.7.

MANCHIN: Well, that's a big one, that's a big one, it really is. But the president makes a decision. I'm going to try to work with him. I really am.


DIAZ: Laura, the child tax credit is an incredibly popular provision that helps roughly about 35 million Americans a month. But it could be that the last child tax credit payment that went out on Wednesday could be the last that Americans get, considering that Joe Manchin is a key holdout here for this provision.

But remember, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said multiple times he was hoping that this legislation, the Build Back Better Act, would pass by Christmas. However, it is looking like that is not going to happen. Maybe not even until after the New Year. And it looks like some Democrats are shifting their attention towards voting rights reform, voting rights legislation and trying to pass that before the New Year.

But again, this problem continues to be Joe Manchin because he does not support a filibuster carve-out to pass this bill with just Democratic support. So it is unlikely that will happen as well. So, the bottom line here being it doesn't look like the Senate is going to do much before the New Year so we'll have to wait until they come back on January 3rd.

JARRETT: All right. Daniella Diaz live on Capitol Hill for us. Thank you so much, Daniella.

ROMANS: It's so interesting the position he's taken on the child tax credit, because I'm looking here at the statistic that the child tax credit -- the enhanced child tax credit reaches 93 percent of children in West Virginia, more than 346,000 children in West Virginia. [05:25:13]

JARRETT: The children in his home state.

ROMANS: His home state. Families with children got a tax cut. You take away the tax cut you're raising taxes on these families. It's a popular provision. He's concerned about the hypothetical budget score. We'll see. We'll see if he sticks to it or negotiates more.

JARRETT: Some push back.

ROMANS: All right. Big bucks for The Boss.

We'll tell you what the entire Bruce Springsteen catalog is worth. The big acquisition overnight, next.