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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

FDA Expected To Approve Pfizer Booster For 12-15-Year-Olds; Thousands Flee Wildfires, 500+ Homes Burned; January 6 Committee Asks Supreme Court To Deny Trump's Bid To Hide Records. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 31, 2021 - 05:30   ET




TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Is this pending approval by the FDA of booster shots for kids from the age of 12 to 15 years old. Will that be that many people in this country? No, but it's a very vulnerable population out there because so many younger people have not been vaccinated at all. If you can get many more further down the pipeline that's a better sign for everyone.

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN, FORMER COMMISSIONER, FDA: Over eight million kids have been vaccinated with a very, very good safety record. The CDC just released some more data on that. The biggest risk to kids today is if they're not vaccinated and they are exposed they can go on to get very serious consequences for that. Ninety-nine percent of the kids who have been hospitalized, according to recent CDC data, had no vaccination before.

FOREMAN (on camera): What we're seeing right now in this giant surge -- make no mistake about it -- is exactly what health officials predicted. It is pounding away at people who are unvaccinated.

By and large, the vaccinated population is doing better. People who are vaccinated are being credited with keeping down the surge into hospitals during this pandemic surge. Basically, people are getting sick but not as sick -- many, because they are vaccinated.

And that's why they're pushing it at this time to say look, we need more people out there getting vaccinated -- getting the second shot if you need it. Getting a booster if you can because that can have such an overwhelming effect.

As it is, though, very serious warnings out there as the holiday is looming here. People are being told look, be very careful about going to a restaurant. Be very careful about going to a bar. If you are unvaccinated, just don't. It is simply not a safe thing for you to do.

A lot of people won't believe that. A lot of people don't want to hear that. But with this pandemic surging the way it is right now with these phenomenal numbers every day now, health officials say it just has to be that way or else we're going to have so, so many people in the hospital so sick, and so many more fatalities -- Laura. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Tom Foreman, thank you.

Let's bring in Dr. Ali Raja, executive vice-chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Raja is also a professor at Harvard Medical School. Doctor, so nice to have you this morning.

So, lots of New Year's Eve parties happening tonight, and a lot of kids going back to school on Monday. What do you think the testing protocols should be in schools? Should kids be tested the morning of? Should they be tested all next week? What do you think we should do?


First of all, I think it's really important that kids actually go back, right? They need it, but just as importantly, we all need it.


RAJA: And so, I think -- right. So I think that the key is going to be that over the next few days we need to limit their exposure. We need to test them this weekend before they go back if at all possible. And then, if that's just not possible and they do go back it will be important to test them when they get there because we don't want people coming back from this break and spreading COVID throughout the schools.

JARRETT: One of the things that seems so hard though is everyone's doing it so differently and there's no uniform practice right now, which makes sense because different places are dealing with different issues. But it is hard for these schools and educators that are doing the best that they can to keep our kids safe.

RAJA: For sure.

JARRETT: Also, speaking of keeping safe, gyms, restaurants, museums -- so many places that people want to go indoors that have struggled to survive during this pandemic are now facing a lot of hesitancy around what to do with Omicron and how to stay safe. The CDC now says please don't go on a cruise.

And so, I wonder for you, Doctor, how do you balance this in your own life? Are you eating indoors? Are you going to the gym?

RAJA: You know, right now, I'm not. And I hear you on the economic problem. You know, our local restaurant -- we live in a small town and the local restaurant down the street closed during the pandemic and we miss them. But right now, I'm not actually personally going much of anywhere. We'll go to the grocery store but I'm not going to the gym or anywhere else.

We've got so many staff out who had exposures over the holidays, even with just family and friends, with how easily Omicron spreads. I'm just not taking any chances.

JARRETT: Yes. It's just like -- as Christine and I've talked about just these constant risk calculations that we're all doing every day.

Meanwhile, the average case records --

RAJA: Yes.

JARRETT: -- that are being set every day are just -- they're astronomical. The numbers in New York are something like 74,000 cases in one day.

Hospitalizations are ticking up just a bit. But apples to apples, the number of people in the hospital is still about half of what it was at the peak a year ago. Obviously, we don't want to see hospitalizations go up. So if the numbers stay like this what does it say to you?

RAJA: You know, Laura, you hit the nail on the head. Apples to apples, we're actually doing a little better. You know, as we've been discussing, the Omicron variant is likely less severe than Delta and the other variants.

But the second thing that we have to remember is this means the vaccines are working. Yes, there are breakthrough cases but they haven't been putting people in the E.R. And quite honestly, I'm going into the E.R. for a shift right after this and I expect that the people that I have to keep in the hospital -- the majority of them just won't have been vaccinated.


JARRETT: Yes. You know, it's interesting. Some of the messaging this year -- it seems to have gotten lost about this virus. You may still get infected but you will not end up in the hospital. And that is really what the purpose --

RAJA: That's so right.

JARRETT: -- of the vaccines were supposed to be and somehow, that messaging sort of got muddled, it seemed, along the way this year. And hopefully, we can have a course correction next year on that.

Finally, Doctor, if you were advising President Biden and he said to you, Dr. Raja, what is the one thing I could do next year if I could -- you know, just do one single thing differently what would you want to see come January?

RAJA: Laura, the one thing that we need, that I need, that my patients need -- we need tests. We need rapid tests that we can take -- like that lady on the plane that you were talking about a few minutes ago who realized that she was -- and I can't imagine sitting in an airport -- an airplane bathroom for a couple of hours but --


RAJA: Whenever we develop symptoms we need to be able to do some tests at home and not expose testing personnel and others. We just need a lot of rapid tests in every house.

JARRETT: Yes, a lot of rapid tests.

What about domestic travel? Do you think there should be a vaccine mandate?

RAJA: I think we're probably heading there. The fact is that we -- you know, airplanes are safe and they circulate a lot of air but, quite honestly, we've had plenty of people after airport exposures --


RAJA: -- and all of the other stuff that goes with flying, that it makes sense to have a vaccine mandate, and I think that's probably where we're headed.

JARRETT: Well, and with all the delays at airports. You see people packed in like sardines just in, sort of, the waiting areas.

RAJA: Gosh, I've seen those videos.

JARRETT: All right, Doctor. Thank you so much for coming on EARLY START this year -- appreciate it. I hope to see you in the new year.

RAJA: Thanks, Laura.

JARRETT: Now to our other top story this morning.

Catastrophic wildfires have burned nearly 1,600 acres in Boulder County, Colorado.

Take a look at this video. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from the area. This driver fleeing a Costco parking lot while part of it was already on fire.

Thick smoke, low visibility, and flames slowing down first responders trying to help in the Superior and Louisville areas.

The National Weather Service has called the situation life- threatening, and the governor has declared a state of emergency.


GOV. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: Very little time to get out. Very little time to even get the most important parts of your life. And yes, it will be a difficult process for Colorado families who are directly affected to rebuild their lives.


JARRETT: In fact, all aircraft have been grounded because of these hurricane-force winds, so crews have been fighting the flames solely from the ground. Debris flying across roadways as hundreds of people evacuate the region.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like raining down ash just a mile or so that way.

REPORTER: Just scary, right?


REPORTER: Ever seen anything like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not in my time.


JARRETT: Several hospitals were forced to evacuate patients quickly from the ICU and from the labor and delivery units. Shelters have been opened for those who need it.

And forecasters say there is snow heading towards the area and will help douse those flames and smoke.

Well, the New York City Police Department is finalizing security plans for tonight's New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square. The usual crowd of 60,000 is being scaled back a bit to 15,000 because of COVID, of course. Everyone in attendance tonight is required to be vaccinated and masked.


TOM HARRIS, TIMES SQUARE ALLIANCE: Just upstream of where the counterterrorism bureau is going to be screening people, we will have -- we will have vaccination checkers who will check I.D. and vaccination status and make sure that people have masks on. If people -- if people don't have masks, we will be providing for them.


JARRETT: Well, the countdown to 2022 is on. Here is the holiday weekend forecast with meteorologist Gene Norman.


GENE NORMAN, AMS METEOROLOGIST (on camera): Well, Laura, 2021 goes out with a bang.

We've got storms in the south, bitter cold coming in from the north, and a strong winter storm emerging out of the Rockies. Watch as it barrels through, indicating that we're going to see some heavy rain -- heavy snow, that is, in sections of the Rockies, especially near Boulder where, of course, they're still trying to recover from yesterday's fires.

But look at all these storms blossoming from Texas down into the southeast. That could be some severe weather. And the pink from Chicago back toward Kansas City -- that could be ice. So it going to be a real mess, especially in the middle of the country. Two areas to watch. Friday, we've got a severe storm threat. And on Saturday, the threat expands to some of the same places that were dealing with the tornadoes from earlier this month. In addition to the severe weather threat, there could be flooding indicated by the areas you see hatched in red.

As far as the snow -- out in the Rockies, again, four to 10 inches in Denver. And to the north, further out into the mountains, up to a foot and even more than that.


Look where you are and see how the weather will be as the clock strikes 12. Happy New Year.


JARRETT: Gene, thank you.

A much-needed string of storms across the west improving drought conditions in California. The combination of mountain snows across the Sierras and heavy rainfall finally hitting Southern California nearly eliminating areas of exceptional drought in the state. Less than one percent of California is currently designated as extreme drought, down from nearly a quarter of that area just a week ago.

We'll be right back.


JARRETT: Forty-three past the hour here.

And Congress is dark for the holiday. Lawmakers return next week with a lengthy to-do list as the midterm elections loom.

CNN's Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Daniella, what can we expect on the other side of the holiday weekend?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Laura, I do want to refresh our viewers' memory because there was actually a lot of news that was made right before the Congressional recess.

In fact, it was when Sen. Joe Manchin actually torpedoed the Build Back Better act. He said he would not support the Build Back Better act considering it was a multi-trillion-dollar bill. It was this bill that would expand the nation's social safety net. It had provisions such as expanding the child tax credit, paid family and medical leave, a lot of funding to combat climate change.


These were provisions that progressives and most Democrats really wanted to pass but they needed his support in the Senate and because he did not support this bill it has been all but doomed. But that is not stopping Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is planning to put this legislation on the floor for a vote in the Senate when they come back from congressional recess on January third, daring Sen. Joe Manchin to vote against this legislation.

Now, it seems that Democrats are going to start working on possibly trying to pass these provisions separately in hopes of getting Sen. Joe Manchin to support these provisions, such as paid family and medical leave, funding to combat climate change. So that is where Democrats will turn their attention to when they come back from congressional recess.

Now, another thing is that the Senate needs to confirm Jerome Powell as the Federal Reserve chair. Now, while he's accepted -- expected, excuse me, to be confirmed, there could be some pushback from progressives, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who feels that Jerome Powell has not been tough enough against banks. But it does seem that he is expected to be confirmed and that is another thing, considering the soaring inflation in this country, that Congress is going to work on to try to pass when they come back from recess.

Now, I haven't even mentioned government funding. Now, Congress passed a short-term funding bill at the beginning of December. And they need to address a longer-term funding bill when they come back from recess in January because funding runs out in February.

So, a lot of things on Congress' plate when they come back from recess -- a lot more that I didn't even mention. So, they have a lot of priorities to deal with -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Daniella. You are going to be very busy come January. Rest up. Thank you.

Well, a New York jury has found Teva Pharmaceuticals liable for fueling the opioid crisis. This landmark verdict comes after a six- month trial. Lawyers argued the opioid manufacturer downplayed additional risks and failed to follow basic standards and safety safeguards, which led to thousands of deaths. A subsequent trial will determine how much Teva will be required to pay up.

The January 6 Committee has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject former President Trump's bid to block the release of those White House records. The documents contain information that could shed light on what the former president was doing as his supporters staged a deadly coup at the U.S. Capitol.

CNN's Jessica Schneider is in Washington with more.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Laura, it's now a waiting game to see how the Supreme Court will handle the request from former President Trump to take up his case to keep his White House records secret and out of the hands of the January 6 House Committee. Lawyers for the committee and for the Biden administration filed their replies on Thursday, urging the Supreme Court to reject his case and to allow Trump's records to be handed over.

The House cited what they're calling its overwhelming need to get the more than 700 pages of White House records. And they're saying that their interests should outweigh the former president's interests because -- especially because the current president, Joe Biden, also favors handing over the documents to the committee.

Of course, the two lower courts -- they've already ruled against Trump. But the documents are still blocked from the committee. That's pending the Supreme Court's decision on whether they'll even hear this case.

Now, of course, the documents would be significant to the investigation. They contain call logs and visitor logs from the White House on and around January sixth, plus drafts of speeches and handwritten notes that could provide some insight into how the former president was reacting to the Capitol attack in real time.

Lawyers for the House committee -- they're asking the Supreme Court to decide quickly, by mid-January, about whether they'll even hear this case or perhaps grant Trump's request to keep blocking his documents. But so far, no word from the Supreme Court on how quickly they might make that decision -- Laura.


JARRETT: Jessica, thank you for that.

Ikea is raising its prices by an average of nine percent across all of its global markets. The Swedish furniture giant is blaming ongoing supply chain disruptions. Ikea says its costs have been driven up by significant transport and raw material constraints. The company expects supply chain problems to continue into 2022.

Tesla is recalling over 475,000 cars. Two recalls are in place now, the first one involving the rearview camera in the Tesla Model 3. A cable may separate over time, blocking the camera feed.

The second recall here, a little bit more serious. It involves what's known as the frunk, or the front trunk latches on its Model S that could result in the hood opening unexpectedly.

The recall nearly equals Tesla's total global deliveries last year.

And a massive accidental payout now has a bank in the U.K. scrambling. Santander mistakenly paid out $175 million to about 2,000 corporate and private customers on Christmas Day. The bank blamed the duplicate payments on a scheduling issues, which it now says is fixed.


A few years ago, you'll remember, Citibank lost $500 million of the nearly $900 million it sent out by mistake to lenders of Revlon and went back to court to try to get it back. But in February, a federal judge ruled the bank will not be allowed to recover that money.

Well, we are just hours away from seeing who will play for college football's national championship. Coy Wire has it all covered in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.


This college football playoff -- it feels fresh. We have a new blueblood in it this season and a Cinderella looking to crash the party. It is Cincinnati wearing that glass slipper; the first non- Power Five conference team to make the playoff, and they're feisty.

The number-four Bearcats were the only team to go undefeated this season. They've only lost one game since 2019 and that was barely to Georgia in a bowl game last season. They had this chip on their shoulders because a lot of teams overlooked them but they are aiming to take down the kings, the Alabama Crimson Tide.


LUKE FICKELL, CINCINNATI HEAD COACH: This isn't a team that wants to ride the -- hey, let's shock the world or do anything like that. It's a team that really believes in what it is that they've done, loves challenges. And I think -- so, for us, that's kind of been the message. In order to beat the champs you're going to -- you're going to have to play at your best.


WIRE: Bring them out. Alabama, the defending national champs, seeking their seventh title under Nick Saban. And it seemed to take a while for the Tide to get up to form this season but they dominated number- three Georgia in the SEC Championship.

Coach was asked if his patience was tested early on this season.


NICK SABAN, ALABAMA HEAD COACH: I don't have any patience so anything that happens is a test of my patience, including sitting in this chair right now.


WIRE: A smile from Saban -- oh.

The Orange Bowl, meanwhile, last night, was going to be about redemption for this one as in a return to glory. Georgia's title drought has lasted four decades but they have to bounce back after getting that walloping from Bama.

And Michigan, now -- they're returning to the promised land for the first time in almost a quarter-century after a huge win over Ohio State in a Big 10 title. The Wolverines haven't been in a spot to compete for a national title since they last won it back in 1998.


JIM HARBAUGH, MICHIGAN HEAD COACH: Every day matters and the games are the ones that count, so we're going into our 14th game that counts. Our guys have done a tremendous job each day, making each day -- each day matter. KIRBY SMART, GEORGIA HEAD COACH: As a coach, you've been here before, but it's the players that it's really about. I mean, it's about these guys enjoying it and going out and competing and making memories of a lifetime, and just thankful for the opportunity that college football gives us.


WIRE: All right, Bama and Cincy will kick off the New Year's Eve party at 3:30 eastern. Then, Michigan and UGA at 7:30.

As for last night, Purdue and Tennessee had fans wondering what in the world are we watching here in the Music City Bowl? Four touchdowns scored in about a three-minute span, Laura, including Purdue's Payne Durham who pummeled his way 62 yards for a score.

This game would go to overtime, tied at 45, and that's when some drama happened. The Vols thought they had taken the lead on a fourth and goal, but watch here. The officials say Jaylen Wright's forward progress had stopped. Coach Josh Heupel was livid. He couldn't believe it.

Purdue would eventually go on to kick a field goal and win it. Forty- eight to 45 was the final. Boilermakers complete their best season since 2003.

All right, Michigan State trailing Pitt by 11 in the fourth in the Peach Bowl but that changed real quick. They scored three touchdowns, including the nail in the coffin here. Cal Halladay intercepting this pass and taking it all the way for a touchdown. Halladay! Oh, it would feel so nice helping seal the Spartans' 31-21 win, finishing 11-2 in Mel Tucker's second year at the helm.

Finally, a warning. Avert your eyes if you have a bit of a diversion to mayonnaise. The winning coach of the Duke's Mayo Bowl getting all lathered up in a bucket of the stuff. South Carolina's Shane Beamer taking the bowl tradition like a champ. He said it was everything I dreamed it would be, Laura.

Nothing like starting your new year with a -- you know, crevices filled with mayonnaise, right? I mean, this is incredible. This is either really disgusting or really hilarious, depending on how you look at it.

JARRETT: I mean, number one, you can see how they're struggling with it. I bet it's kind of heavy when it's all full. And also, just the smell. I just -- I can't.

WIRE: Oh, he got a big donk on the back of the head with that bucket. You know, he definitely --


WIRE: -- deserves a -- the title for that.

But I wish your family the best new year. I hope you have a great one. Part of my year -- the best part is being on and sharing stories with you every morning. So --

JARRETT: I appreciate that.

WIRE: -- Happy New Year to you.


JARRETT: I appreciate that a lot, Coy. Happy New Year to you. Thanks so much.

WIRE: All right.

JARRETT: And now, finally this morning, to an EARLY START tradition of sorts. A thank you to all of the folks working so hard behind the camera that you do not see every day but are doing so much. I've got a lot of names to read, so settle in here.

Ryan Miller, Tim Curran, Mark Friedman, Brian Seligson, Chloe Scretchings, Skyler Srivastava, Bruce Williams, Joanna Preston, Mallory Leonard, Meredith Richards, Michael Manduley, Sam Fernando, Kwegyirba Croffie.

Lizzie Yang, Emily McNulty, Andrew Seger, Adeja Crearer, Lauren Mascarenhas, Dominic Torres, Jeremy Hochman, Noah Broder, Alicia Lee, Anna Glickman.

Claudia Pedala, Laura Gattini, Merrel Daly, Betty Salinas, Dean Baxter, Jimmy Marsek, Mike Stein, Rob Brennan -- I've got more to go -- Doug Maines, Shimon Baum, Joe Chojnacki, Phil Pernice, Fred Uebele, Adam Gabel, Dante Olivia Smith.

Ben Gelb, Charlie Chester, John Rappa, Michael Chen, Alix Steinfeld, Amanda Torppey, Emily Wilson, Jill Davis-Wrate also known as Janice, Roseanne Jennings, Christine Casco, James Pertz, Paul Cutting, Paul Bernius, Phil Loccisano, Sean Clark, Jamie Vogt, Gina Pepe.

And last but not least, our fearless leader -- our executive producer L.J., for which this show would not be possible without you. Thank you, my friend. On behalf of me and Christine Romans, we appreciate all the work that everybody is doing trying to keep us on-air in the middle of this global pandemic. And thank you to our viewers.

I'm Laura Jarrett. We will see you back here Monday. Happy New Year. "NEW DAY" is next.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Friday.