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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Hospital Systems Beg Americans to Get Vaccinated to Slow Resurgence; Biden Walks Political Tightrope as COVID Resurges Nationwide; Manchin: "These Programs Will Cost More Than They Are Saying". Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning. It is Wednesday, December 22nd. It is 5:00 a.m. in New York.

Good morning. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Christine. I'm Laura Jarrett.

Welcome to viewers in the United States and around the world.

We begin this morning with a simple plea, "Help". That word in big black letters, calling out from Ohio's largest newspaper. Six Cleveland area medical systems are being crushed right now. The text reads, quote, we now have more COVID-19 patients in our hospitals than ever before, and the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated.

ROMANS: The ad follows a similar plea from hospitals in Minnesota earlier this month, now facing omicron, pleading for help.


DR. DONALD ZIMMER, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, MEMORIAL HOSPITAL OF SOUTH BEND, IN: That part of it all feels like it was preventable. We had a level of protection that was offered that people declined, and now they're taking up beds that we know we need for other patients that need surgery for their heart disease or for their cancer, and those patients don't have access to the care that they need right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us working on the front lines, health care providers, doctors, nurses, respiratory techs are going to feel the impact of those individual decisions. Hospitals and emergency rooms were crowded before omicron came. We had a delta surge, we had ERs that are full of tired workers exhausted, not enough nurses.


ROMANS: COVID now the third leading cause of death after heartland disease and cancer. Being bombarded with new restrictions and restrictions, California will require health care workers to get booster shots.

In Chicago, proof of vaccination will be required to get into bars, restaurants and gyms after the New Year.

JARRETT: Massachusetts National Guard troops are training to provide non-medical support to hospitals starting Monday. Hundreds of military medical personnel are already helping at hospitals across six states. In Cleveland, free drive-thru COVID testing opened. Staffed by the National Guard, but demand was too heavy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sat in line for more than three hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What were you told?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just cut it off for today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you disappointed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is what it is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm coming tomorrow morning like at 7:30.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe even 6:30.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought it would be optimal. That long line depended consequence, we didn't see the congestion we experienced.


ROMANS: New York City mayor-elect Eric Adam has postponed his inauguration ceremony while the current Mayor Bill de Blasio is offering $100 to New Yorkers who come in for a booster shot by the end of the year. The federal government will be offering pop-up testing sites in New York City, trying to shorten the very long lines.

JARRETT: Yeah, part of the reason those lines stretch around the blocks is you can't find at-home tests basically anywhere. CVS and Walgreens are now limiting the number of rapid tests you can buy in stores after a huge surge in demand.

In his speech Tuesday, President Biden pushed back on the notion that testing in the U.S. is a failure right now, trying to reassure vaccinated Americans that their holiday plans can go forward while also outlining the next phase of the White House COVID response, a belated effort to maximize at-home testing.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports from the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, three days before Christmas, President Biden and the White House squarely focused on omicron and this deeply concerning surge of cases heading into the holidays. Now, the president making clear that Americans who are vaccinated should continue their holiday plans. But also made clear those who are not vaccinated simply should get the shot, and they could face severe illness, really delivering a stark warning from the state dining room of the White House. With Christmas trees flanking behind him, talking about the reality, the blunt reality here that a dark winter does indeed exist for the unvaccinated.

But the president also stepping into that role of comforter in chief with this message for Americans.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are we going back to March 2020, not this last March 2021, but March 2020 when the pandemic first hit? That's what I keep getting asked. The answer is absolutely no, no.

I know you're tired. I really mean this and I know you're frustrated. We all want this to be over. But we're still in it.

And this is a critical moment. We also have more tools than we ever had before.


We're ready. We'll get through this.

ZELENY: The president also laying out clear testing measures that this administration will be doing, sending 500 million at-home tests in the month of January. But the question, will that be enough?

Striking a defensive tone when asked if there has been enough done on testing.

BIDEN: What took so long or didn't take long at all. What happened was the omicron virus spread even more rapidly than anybody thought. If I had told you four weeks ago that this would spread by a day-to- day basis, it would spread by 50, 100 percent, 200 percent, 500 percent, you would have looked at me and said, Biden, what are you drinking? But that's what it did.

ZELENY: But the question is, this administration now will be judged on how this testing goes, and how this reaction goes to the surge of cases. No doubt, this is not where any president wanted to be right before the holidays, but President Biden reassuring Americans and warning them at the same time -- Christine and Laura.


ROMANS: Jeff, thank you so much.

In the president's speech, President Biden also gave credit his predecessor and take aim at those who profit from pushing lies and misinformation about the pandemic and vaccines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Just the other day, former President Trump announced he had gotten his booster shot. Maybe one of the few things he and I agree on. People with booster shots are highly protected. Join them. Join us.

The unvaccinated are responsible for their own choices. But those choices have been fueled by dangerous misinformation on cable TV and social media. You know, these companies and personalities are making money by peddling lies and allowing misinformation that can kill their own customers and their own supporters.

It's wrong. It's immoral. I call on the purveyors of these lies and misinformation to stop it, stop it now.


JARRETT: So it's clear who the president had in mind. But the question is who is hearing him? The biggest purveyors of garbage right now whether it's on Fox or Facebook or your friends' cousin who had something bad happen to them, these are audiences that are not moved 1 inch by the president's scolding.

As CNN's Oliver Darcy points out here, most of the messaging seems geared towards people who already pay attention to the news and have their mind made up one way or another. The pro-vaccine messaging for lack of better words is boring.

And, Christine, Oliver points out something that I hadn't realized, which is when you open up Instagram, you are not bombarded by sort of this onslaught of pro-vaccine messaging. We are not bombarded with an onslaught of PSAs from celebrities or other people, influencers, if you will. Instead, there is this onslaught, a one-way messaging of nonsense.

ROMANS: Well, and that's because as we've heard over and over again on social media in particular, the profit motive is the extremist rabbit hole, that's where the money is, right. And pro-vaccine conversation is just fact. It's not that rabbit hole that is so popular on social media. And that's a real challenge here.


ROMANS: The COVID resurgence driven by the delta. Now, the omicron variant taking a heavy toll on restaurants and hotels. Service sector businesses hoping holiday traffic would help them recover from the pandemic.

With New York state reporting record-high new infections, one Harlem restaurant owner tells CNN her customers are cancelling reservations left and right. She says ten out of 70 employees have tested positive for COVID.

A trade group says many restaurants were already struggling with a labor shortage, and that spike in wholesale prices. Now they say these low-margin businesses face a third threat here, plummeting customer confidence as COVID cases surge. Fewer customers are coming in this month than in November.

According to Open Table, restaurant seatings nationwide were down 11 percent last week compared to the same stretch in 2019. 90,000 restaurants, about 14 percent of the U.S. total, have permanently closed during the pandemic.

And, Laura, I think it's interesting for our viewers to notice on the right side of the screen how you're seeing a little different information this morning.


ROMANS: We're in a new phase where we're measuring the latest surge by hospitalizations because we do have the important tool of vaccines and boosters, right? So, now, we're looking at the hospitalizations to try to figure out, you know, the spread of this virus. So I think for viewers you're seeing it different on the right-hand side. That's why.

JARRETT: Yeah, it's great to point out. We're going to talk to an ER doctor in the next half hour about refocusing the conversation and what he's seeing in his ER.

All right. Still ahead for you, spurned by the power broker in his own party, President Biden is trying to get Build Back Better back on track. What Senator Manchin told his Democratic colleagues in a private call last night and what it means for the plan.




BIDEN: -- not Irish because I don't hold a grudge. Look, I want to get things done. I still think there is a possibility of getting Build Back Better done.

REPORTER: Did Senator Manchin break his commitment to you?

BIDEN: Senator Manchin and I are going to get something done.


ROMANS: President Biden holding out hope for Build Back Better. Days after Senator Joe Manchin defied his party and torpedoed a key part of the Biden agenda, leaving millions of people looking for help with child care, paid family leave, universal pre-K, drug price, climate concerns and more.

Manchin spoke with the Democratic caucus on a phone call Tuesday night.

CNN's Manu Raju reports.



Now, Democrats had a conference call last night to figure out if there is a way forward. And at the moment there just is not the consensus to move forward yet. Yes, talks will probably continue. Yes, there will be discussions about whether they can do a scaled-back plan. But what exactly that looks like remains to be seen. I am told Joe Manchin reiterated his concerns over this proposal saying that he has been consistent over the past five years, saying this bill would add to the debt.

Now, also raising concerns about the temporary nature of these programs he does not believe will be temporary. In fact, he believes that they are not showing the true cost of the proposal. One of those issues is the child tax credit. Of course, that has been a central plank of the Democratic proposals for this past year, an expansion of which would expire the end of this year if they don't get a deal here.

But Joe Manchin is not in favor of that because he believes that any expansion of the child tax credit does not really accurately reflect how much it would cost taxpayers because year after year they would be extended. He also has concerns about waste in the program, and that is simply a no-go. And also just the general structure of this bill, there are things that Joe Manchin doesn't want to, things that he wants to be smaller in scope.

But he did indicate that he is willing to continue to talk. So whether they end up somewhere that can get the various factions in line is the major question here.


Perhaps talks will continue, but perhaps it will lead to nothing and more frustration from Democrats who have struggled, engaged in painstaking negotiations for months, only to see nothing materialize. They've had other accomplishments they can point to like the $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal.

But it is very clear that right now, Democrats don't have a clear path forward and are laboring to get anything out of the Senate -- guys.


JARRETT: All right. Manu Raju, thank you for that.

To the January 6 investigation now, CNN has learned committee members are exploring the idea that they could produce criminal evidence against former President Trump. Now, sources say any potential referrals to the Justice Department could be a long way off. The justice department also doesn't need a referral, by the way. Meantime, the panel is condemning GOP Congressman Scott Perry's refusal to talk with them and has not ruled out a subpoena for him.

Perry is a member of the freedom caucus and is considered a key player in pressuring the Justice Department to investigate bogus claims of voter fraud. ROMANS: Body cameras for ICE agents in some cities, the immigration

customs enforcement pilot program in Houston, New York and Newark. The goal: improve transparency and accountability. The ACLU claims it has documented ICE officers using violence against migrants.

JARRETT: So, if omicron is more contagious but less deadly, is it time to shorten the isolation time for an asymptomatic positive test? It's one of the big questions right now. New CNN reporting on what health officials are thinking, next.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

As people around the globe try to live with this latest COVID surge, Delta Airlines is urging the CDC to shorten the recommended isolation period for those who get infected with COVID, but are vaccinated. Delta CEO writes this. With the rapid spread of the omicron variant, the ten-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our work force and operations.

ROMANS: Yeah, delta is suggesting shortening the isolation period to five days, and to end isolation with an appropriate testing protocol.

CDC Chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky responded on CNN last night.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We are reviewing that science and that policy right now and understanding in the context of people who have been vaccinated, people who have been boosted, people who have mild or no symptoms associated with what might be a positive test, they have some low-level of infection, but they're not being symptomatic. We're reviewing that science right now.


ROMANS: The U.K. has already reduced the COVID-19 self-isolation to seven days. And CNN has learned the U.S. could take measures soon.

Jacqueline Howard has more details for us.


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Christine and Laura, the current CDC guidance is for to isolate for ten days. So, isolation starts the first day after you develop symptoms or if you have no symptoms the first day after you test positive.

But we are hearing that health officials are considering shortening that time for fully vaccinated people with no symptoms. Here's where the debate comes in. Some doctors argue that the ten days could be cut in half for people who are asymptomatic and fully vaccinated, or better yet, boosted. They're less likely to spread COVID to others. So, after five days, why not say they can stop isolation if they test

negative at that point. That's the question being considered here.

Here's Dr. Anthony Fauci speaking with our colleague John Berman about this.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: That's certainly an important consideration which is being discussed right now, particularly, John, in the context of health care workers. For example, if you get a health care worker who is infected and without any symptoms at all, you don't want to keep that person out of work too very long.

HOWARD: So, you heard there Fauci said we don't want to keep health care personnel out of work too long. If hospitalizations surge this winter, we'll really be relying on our health care workers to be on the front lines -- Christine and Laura.


ROMANS: Jacqueline, thank you for that report.

So, while Americans are being urged to get boosted for maximum protection, Israel is rolling out a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

CNN's Elliott Gotkine is live from Jerusalem with all the details on this.

Elliott, Israel has been one step ahead of the U.S. all along here. So what's the rollout plan there?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura, we're still waiting for details of the rollout plan. As you said, Israel led the world in rolling out a third booster shot in July or August, and now it wants to repeat the same trick with a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine. Initially, it's going to be available for folks over 60 and medical workers. As we've seen in the past, it will be rolled out to other age groups and the population at large.

It is introducing it to try to slow the spread of the omicron variant and its fifth COVID wave. It knows it can't stop it but wants to slow it down adding U.S. and other countries to red line no-fly list. They are extending the green pass to prove that you've been vaccinated or recovered in order to gain access to certain shops and certain venues. It's also reducing the time gap between the third -- excuse me, the second and third booster shot. There are also going to be restrictions coming in for the education system depending on the prevalence of COVID in those areas and the prevalence of vaccination rates among children.

But as we've also seen in the past where Israel leads, other countries tend to follow. So it wouldn't be surprising to see at some point in the near future other countries following Israel's lead and also introducing a fourth shot of the COVID vaccine -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Elliott, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Of all the restrictive voting laws passed in the last decade, a third -- a third of them came in the last year alone. Now Republican-led states are gearing up for more of the same in 2022.



JARRETT: The big lie 2.0 is coming in 2022. New analysis shows Republicans are pushing more ways to make it harder to vote at the state level after an historic onslaught of bills, audits and lies about voter fraud, nonexistent voter fraud this year. We're talking fewer places for you to drop off your ballot, cutting back on mail-in voting, and new ID requirements, old playbooks with more momentum in GOP-led states.

CNN's Sara Murray reports for us.


PROTESTERS: Protect the vote! Protect the vote!

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: After successfully passing restricted new voting laws in states like Georgia and Texas.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: Ensuring the integrity of the ballot box isn't partisan.

MURRAY: GOP lawmakers across the country are readying another round of bills for 2022 that could make it tougher to cast a ballot. A new report from the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice showed GOP lawmakers are already preparing more bills to allow review of votes, limit vote by mail and new voting requirements. Many in the GOP followed former president Trump's Donald Trump's lead as he peddled baseless fraud about the 2020 election.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: In other words, the election was a fraud and we must pass a complete overhaul of our entire election system to ensure it's free, fair, honest and able to be fully and quickly audited.

MURRAY: Clinging to those debunked allegations to justify new voting restrictions and post-election ballot reviews. As of early December, lawmakers in 19 states passed 34 restrictive bills in 2021, according to Brennan's analysis.

Brennan Center President Michael Waldman said it is a sharp uptick driven by Trump's rhetoric.

MICHAEL WALDMAN, PRESIDENT, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: The big lie has driven states across the country to enact new laws to make it harder for people to vote. Some are worse than others, but they are invariably targeted at black and brown and Asian voters. It is the biggest attempt to roll back voting rights since the Jim Crow era. MURRAY: Senate Democrats are insisting their stalled national voting

rights legislation is top of the agenda in the New Year, but state Republican lawmakers are already chugging ahead with voting restrictions.

WALDMAN: If Congress doesn't act, it gives a green light to these states to restrict the vote, to sabotage their own elections, and to turn them over to the hands of partisans.

MURRAY: State legislators in Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Arizona filing at least 13 bills --