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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Health Experts: Focus on Hospitalizations and Deaths, and not Cases; LAPD to Release Bodycam Footage from Deadly Store Shooting; Desmond Tutu Dies at Age 90. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 27, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Good morning, everyone, it's Monday, December 27th, it's 5:00 a.m. here in New York, thanks so much for getting an early start with us, I'm Laura Jarrett and I'm joined by Paula Reid. Paula, so nice to have you for a couple of days.

PAULA REID, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: I am so excited to be here with you filling in for Christine Romans and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

JARRETT: A lot to get to this morning as America prepares to bring in a new year. A growing number of public health experts say it's time for another change as well. For almost two years, coronavirus infections have been a key metric in what's to come here. A first indicator, if you will, before hospitalizations and in the worst cases, death. But that may no longer be the case in 2022.


ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I think this is the most important part of this moment in this pandemic. We have to do a shift. Look, for two years, infections always preceded hospitalizations which preceded deaths. So, you could look at infections and know what was coming. This is the shift we've been waiting for in many ways. But we're moving to a phase where if you're vaccinated, particularly if you're boosted, you're going to have -- you might get an infection.

It might be a couple of days of not feeling so great, but you're going to bounce back. That's very different than what we have seen in the past, so I no longer think infections generally should be the major metric. Obviously, we can continue to track infections among unvaccinated people because those people will end up in the hospital at the same rate. But we really have to focus on hospitalizations and deaths now.


REID: Omicron surge of cases has now topped Delta's, but hospitalizations haven't skyrocketed in the same way. They remain about 70 percent of what they were during the September peak. It's part of the reason many businesses are now pushing to shorten isolation times for asymptomatic cases. In New York, state essential workers are now allowed to return to work just five days after testing positive.

JARRETT: Yes, that's right, but note here, it applies to workers who are fully vaccinated, don't have symptoms and haven't had a fever for 72 hours. Also note here, testing not required, perhaps because finding a quick PCR test in particular right now is nearly impossible unless you want to pay hundreds of dollars. Coast-to-coast, there have been long lines and days spent waiting for PCR results.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just suspending, hoping to have a normal Christmas with my wife and family, and in the middle of the day, her sister said she wasn't feeling well. So, she went to see if she could get a rapid test by Christmas day, that ended up coming back positive. I'm supposed to work this entire week, so I want to make sure that I do have the knowledge that I am positive if that's the case because I don't want to expose anybody.


REID: And cruise ships with COVID returning to U.S. ports. At least, four cruise ships were turned away from ports in the Americas recently because of virus cases on board. The disruptions are still though a far cry from March of 2020 when the pandemic shut down the entire industry.

JARRETT: So cruise lines have used vaccination requirements and other precautions to try to minimize the outbreaks. But the rate of ships forced to alter their plans appears to have ticked up. One passenger telling CNN, quote, "we're sailing on a Petri dish." The opinions are mixed.


LEAH MURRAY, PASSENGER, CARNIVAL FREEDOM: They didn't inform us of hardly anything. They let everybody go about their business. The only reason why we found out that people on the ship had COVID is because the first destination we were supposed to go to, it took -- we sat there for a couple of hours and then we found out they wouldn't let us on the destination because of so many people on the ship having COVID.

JIM SKORUPSKI, PASSENGER, CARNIVAL FREEDOM: We've heard varying stories, we've heard 5, we've heard 12, we've heard 25.

KIMBERLY KELLEY, PASSENGER, CARNIVAL FREEDOM: They quarantined them. I mean, it was safe. We had a good time. We'll do it again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't even go in the pool the whole time. We didn't touch one pool on that ship because everybody is in there all over each other. Nobody is wearing masks. It was disgusting. Nobody cared.

(END VIDEO CLIP) REID: The situation in airports, no better for holiday travelers.

Thousands of flights were canceled in the last few days as staff and crew were calling out sick, although millions of people are still flying. What about a vaccine requirement for air travel? Well, Dr. Fauci didn't dismiss the idea.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated, namely, you can't get on a plane unless you're vaccinated.


Which is just another one of the ways of getting requirements, whatever that might be. So, I mean, anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome.


JARRETT: Interesting to hear him say that especially since the president has said his advisors have not told him he needs to do it yet. Meanwhile, airport crowds did ease a bit over the weekend, but the week of travel leading up to Christmas, well, it rivaled pre- pandemic figures. CNN's Nadia Romero has more from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Paula, good morning to you. And it hasn't been great here at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport simply because of all of the cancellations and delays. Just think of it, some 2,000 flights canceled over the holiday weekend, Christmas Day, the day after Christmas. And then when you add in global flights, international flights, you can triple that number. Just think of all of the travelers impacted and that domino effect of those cancellations and delays.

We spoke with people who said they were excited to have their flights canceled because that meant they got to see their family for one more day. Other people were really frustrated because they made their way to the airport and they needed to get back to work on Monday morning, but they can't now because of cancellations. Some people were able to get a heads up. So Delta canceled about 250 flights on Wednesday. So that gave people notice, but still interrupted their holiday travel plans.

Listen to some travelers talk about how it meant so much to them to finally see their family and friends after two years not seeing them since before the pandemic in 2019. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my in-laws. The first time I've seen them in about two years. So, yes, it's been a while, saw my mom over Thanksgiving first time in two years. I got my booster shot, that was first and foremost, I was due for it so I got that. Been wearing my mask. I actually ended up switching my seat to be next to one person instead of three other people. So just to keep my distance. So, yes, my whole family is vaccinated and we felt safe. It was just immediate family. Just like ten people.


ROMERO: Now TSA tells us that they saw fewer passengers going through the screen check-points. Some 800,000 fewer passengers on Christmas day compared to the same time frame two years ago back in 2019 before the pandemic.

And you can attribute some of that at least to the coronavirus, the Omicron variant that is spreading rapidly. Cases are rising across the country and all of those thousands of cancellations with the domino effect we're still feeling at the beginning of the week. Laura, Paula?

REID: The pandemic may be slowing travel, but not holiday shopping. I believe I may have personally contributed to this trend.


REID: Retail sales over the holiday season up 8.5 percent over the same period last year, that's according to MasterCard which defines the holiday season as November 1st through December 24th. In-store sales were up 8 percent compared to last year, while e-commerce sales were up 11 percent. And despite all the warnings and concerns, nearly all packages delivered this year by UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service arrived on time or with minimal delays according to ShipMatrix, a Christmas miracle.

JARRETT: That is a good thing for sure, I, too, I think contributed to a lot of the shopping boom right now. Somehow doing it online just doesn't feel the same. It doesn't.


JARRETT: All right, still ahead for you. Follow the money. Where did the financing for the Capitol riot come from? The first subpoena from the January 6th Committee to a bank is revealed. We'll tell you how?



REID: The Los Angeles Police Department is expected to release body cam footage today from the fatal shooting of a 14-year-old girl. Valentina Orellana-Peralta was killed Thursday in a department store dressing room when police fired at a man suspected of attacking a woman inside the store. One of the shots penetrated a wall and stuck the teen in the chest. Now, the male suspect targeted by police was also shot and killed, no weapon was found at the scene.

JARRETT: And in Colorado today, a hearing for a truck driver sentenced to 110 years in prison for a deadly crash back in 2019. A judge is set to review Rogel Aguilera-Mederos' clemency application to the governor's office. Findings that brake failure contributed to that crash have sparked a national outcry for another look at his sentence. It also frustrated the judge who originally sentenced him. CNN's Lucy Kafanov has that story.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN REPORTER: Laura, Paula, good morning. The district attorney is now asking the court to reconsider that lengthy 110-year prison sentence for Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, potentially reducing it to just 20 or 30 years. Just to remind our viewers, the truck driver was 23 years old at the time of the incident. He was going at about 85 miles an hour when his brakes failed, he was convicted of vehicular homicide among other charges.

The DA is not looking to overturn the conviction. In a statement, she said that he made multiple choices that resulted in the death of four people as well as serious injury to others, adding that the shorter sentence, quote, "reflects an appropriate outcome for that conduct." Now, at issue are Colorado mandatory minimum sentencing laws that require sentences to be served out consecutively rather than concurrently, which is how he ended up with nearly a century behind bars.

Even the judge who sentenced Mederos said, and I quote, "if I had the discretion, it would not be my sentence." Some Colorado lawmakers now calling for legal reforms. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our system here at this building has created a situation where a judge at their own discretion who doesn't want to issue a sentence has had to issue that sentence. What we hope to achieve is reforms. That's really what this is all about. We have to reform a system that is creating a situation where we are creating more victims of our justice system. We have to do that now.


KAFANOV: This case sparking national outrage. Nearly 5 million people signing a petition, urging the Colorado governor to either reduce his sentence or grant clemency. Kim Kardashian got involved, tweeting about this, calling for legal reforms. The governor's office, meanwhile, saying that the governor's office is reviewing this clemency request. Paula, Laura, back to you.

REID: An accidental Christmas day shooting has a 3-year-old child hospitalized this morning in Asheville, North Carolina. Police say the unidentified child accessed the firearm and fired it Saturday afternoon. No word on the condition of the toddler. An investigation is underway. It's important to note though in 2020 in the U.S., more than 5,100 children younger than 18 were killed or injured in gun incidence according to the Gun Violence Archive.

JARRETT: That is alarming indeed. Well, coming up, Omicron not holding back movie goers from the theaters. At least, in one case, the first billion-dollar film of the pandemic era. That's next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, my life is felt and warm, now where is one

you found out?





CYRIL RAMAPHOSA, PRESIDENT, SOUTH AFRICA: Archbishop Desmond Tutu was one of our nation's finest patriots. He was a man of unwavering courage, of principled conviction and whose life was spent in the service of others. He in many ways embodied the essence of our humanity.


JARRETT: Tributes like that pouring in this morning for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a hero in the fight against apartheid. He died Sunday in South Africa at the age of 90.


DESMOND TUTU, SOUTH AFRICAN PRIEST: But unfortunately, when you say let bygones be bygones, they unfortunately don't operate that way. Either the past comes back to haunt you. What we are saying is, we need to look the beast in the eye, deal effectively with that past and then we can close the door on the past and concentrate on the present and the future.


JARRETT: That was Archbishop Tutu on CNN in 1998, speaking about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a cornerstone of the racial justice process in South Africa. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was wildly hailed for playing a critical role in ending apartheid in the '90s alongside former President Nelson Mandela. CNN's Larry Madowo joins us live from Nairobi, Kenya. Larry, a week of remembrances in store for a man revered far beyond South Africa.


LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Laura. The South African government, the whole country in national mourning for a man they fondly called the Arch. There will be a funeral service for him on new year's day, on 1st January in Cape Town. And so far, the government in South Africa telling the world that this is a global bereavement for this man who believed and fought against apartheid because he said the white man already ruled, racial segregation in South Africa was un-Christian, immoral and evil.

And he campaigned around the world against that, that's why he won the Nobel Prize back in 1984, almost a whole decade before apartheid fell in South Africa. And even after that, he found other causes to rally against. He marched against the Iraq war. He was a prominent activist for LGBTQ rights, even the Anglican Church when that was controversial in South Africa.

And he's also a man who had extraordinary talent, a great sense of humor, who was comfortable preaching in some of the world's biggest cathedrals, accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2009 or even chatting with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show".

And that is why you see tributes from the Dalai Lama, from the queen of England, from the prime minister of India, from leaders all around the world will remember him as one of the greatest Africans to have ever lived and who left an indelible mark in the fight for justice, he spoke against it wherever he saw it. President Biden said they were heartbroken to hear about the death of a man who was truly in service to man and in service to God, Laura.

JARRETT: Just an incredible life. Thank you so much, Larry, appreciate it.

REID: Authorities in Xi An, China, are taking extreme measures against COVID. The entire city is being disinfected while 13 million residents remain under lockdown. That's the population of New York and Los Angeles combined. CNN's Steven Jiang is live in Beijing. Steven, what are you learning on the ground about these extreme measures?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU CHIEF: Paula, that's right. The kind of draconian measures in Xi An, something really we haven't seen since the peak of the pandemic in this country when Wuhan was still the epicenter. As you mentioned, 13 million residents, they're placed under these strict lockdowns since last week. Each household being allowed to send out one representative every other day to do grocery shopping.

But even that privilege just suspended according to the latest reports from local media as the authorities there began another round of city- wide mass testing. So, this is really a familiar page by now from their playbook in containing the virus here. Mass testing, mass quarantining and extensive contact-tracing, and of course, in Xi An also disinfecting, spraying disinfectants throughout the sprawling Metropolis with authorities warning residents to keep their doors and windows shut and not to touch an outside surfaces and plants.

Really, this is a reflection of them taking no chances, especially as the Beijing Winter Olympics draws ever closer. But the government here of course insists their zero COVID policy is working well, pointing to the fast-growing number of cases outside of Chinese borders including in the rest of the Asia Pacific. In Singapore, for example, authorities there are now forcing strangers who have tested positive for COVID to share the same room in quarantine facilities over their 10-day mandatory isolation period.

Officials there say they have to do this to optimize capacity as they face a slew of new infections in that city state. Paula?

REID: Steven, thank you so much for that report. A lot of chemicals looks like they're spraying. Yikes.

JARRETT: All right, this is something to look forward to this weekend. Friends, collaborators, legends. Carole King and James Taylor in an unforgettable concert film, "JUST CALL OUT MY NAME", Sunday at 9:00 p.m. only on CNN.



JARRETT: Welcome back. The January 6 Committee is ramping up efforts to uncover the funding behind the Capitol insurrection. Now, issuing the first confirmed subpoena for bank information. And that subpoena was sent to JPMorgan ordering it to hand over financial records for Trump's spokesperson Taylor Budowich. Budowich filed a lawsuit on Friday in an effort to block the committee from those documents.

REID: Now, it's not clear if the bank has already turned over the documents because he actually missed the deadline to dispute this request. Now, the committee has moved aggressively in recent weeks and is using its subpoena power to follow the money around the pro-Trump rallies that led to the insurrection.

JARRETT: When it comes to the holiday weather, quite a contrast across the country. Thousands of customers were left without power, Sunday, after a storm hit the Pacific northwest dumping almost 30 inches of snow across the Sierra Nevada. Several highways in northern California and Nevada had to close. On the flip side, however, Texas and Oklahoma were seeing temperatures in the '90s to welcoming Christmas day. Here's our meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Laura and Paula, good morning, guys. This is what's happening around the U.S. We have big time warmth around the eastern half of the U.S. and record cold widespread in place around parts of the west and northwest. And this really goes to continue for a large part of this weekend. How about this? Through Friday, upwards of almost 200 record-temps in place for a maximum high and even warm overnight temperatures, largely around the southern U.S. now where temps in New Orleans, in Houston, in Atlanta, running as much as 20 degrees above seasonal averages.

The 80s where you expect the 60s, the 70s where you expect the 50s. And in the northeast, some changes on the horizon. A couple of disturbances push through one today, another one coming in on Tuesday with it a few showers and cold enough in the interior portion of say Pennsylvania, and to New York where some Winter weather alerts in place, and even some ice secretions possible. Generally, going to be about a quarter of an inch or less, but some pockets certainly could exceed or get up to about half an inch, so some disruptions possible there in central Pennsylvania.

But notice, the western U.S., it is an absolute mess, significant snow into the higher elevations and some heavy rainfall, even into southern California. Temperatures as cold as 2 degrees in billings, around 22 in Seattle, and in the 80s down in south Texas. Guys?

JARRETT: Pedram, thank you, EARLY START continues right now. Good Monday morning everyone, this is EARLY START, I'm Laura Jarrett.

REID: And I'm Paula Reid in for Christine Romans, it is 28 minutes past the hour.

JARRETT: Paula, so great to have you this week. Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today. Another 700 flights in the U.S. already canceled today driven by staff calling out sick and snow in the Pacific northwest. About 3,000 U.S. flights were canceled over the holiday weekend. Meantime, New York City's new workplace vaccine mandate for the private sector goes into effect today, impacting about 184,000 businesses.

REID: Jury watch in Manhattan. A third day of deliberations will resume this morning in the sex trafficking case of Ghislaine Maxwell. The former girlfriend of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has pleaded not guilty to all six charges against her. She faces up to 70 years in prison.

JARRETT: And the jury in the fraud trial of Elizabeth Holmes returns today to deliberate her fate.