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U.S. Tries to Get Back to Work Amid Omicron Spike; Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Tests Positive for COVID; Twitter Suspends Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's Personal Account. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: All right, here we go, it is Monday, January 3rd, 5:00 a.m. in New York, thanks for getting an early start with us, I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Christine, happy new year --

ROMANS: To you, too --

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. We begin this morning with America getting back to work and school, or at least trying to in the age of Omicron. The super contagious variant is pushing case counts to all- time highs right now. And you can expect even bigger numbers as states catch up on reporting backlogs from the holidays.

One of the latest reported cases late last night, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he was last at the Pentagon on Thursday, but he hasn't seen President Biden in almost two weeks.

ROMANS: But hospitalizations are really the thing to watch here. Those numbers are climbing at a slower pace. That means vaccines are working despite the faster spread of Omicron. And more data coming in from the U.K., and South Africa shows Omicron infection may not be as severe.

JARRETT: And that's a good thing, but the problem, of course, is more infections in more people gives more chances for the virus to mutate again. Only 62 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated right now. That means, more than a third of the population is essentially a breeding ground for a new variant and many of those Americans are in less populated states with fewer healthcare facilities.

ROMANS: Yes, the crush here for the healthcare workers is just really important to note. Another question researchers are looking at, why is Omicron affecting children more than earlier variants. Here's the former head of the FDA.


SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA CHIEF: It appears to be more of an upper airway disease than a lower airway disease. That's good for most Americans, the one group that, that may be a problem for is very young kids, very young children, toddlers, who have trouble with upper airway infections. And you're in fact seeing more croup-like infections and bronchiolitis in New York City among children. So that could be a challenge for young kids and we are seeing rising hospitalizations among that pediatric segment.

STANLEY SPINNER, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER & VICE PRESIDENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S PEDIATRICS: A lot of our toddlers have -- you know, certainly been admitted with those kinds of symptoms, and even before, you know, COVID, a lot of the viruses started off as upper, you know, airway viruses, but then sometimes could still lead into lower airway. But you know, again, our toddlers are unvaccinated so they are extremely vulnerable.


ROMANS: In New York City, nearly a third of EMS workers are on medical leave because of COVID. The remaining EMS staff are under orders not to transport stable patients to the hospital with only flu- like symptoms and no fever.

JARRETT: Many children across the country are back to classrooms this week while their parents are bracing for shutdowns driven by outbreaks of COVID among students and staff. In New York City, the teachers' union had asked to go remote to cope with all these staffing problems. But the new mayor, Eric Adams says he feels strongly, schools must remain open. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more from New York now.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Laura, after adapting to this COVID era, you have students and staff across the country that are going to begin to return to class after their holiday break. There are some school systems that are taking a more aggressive approach. For example, there are several systems in the Atlanta area that have announced that they're going to start off their semester with remote learning.

In D.C, students and staff have to have a negative COVID test before they're allowed back to school. Then here's how the nation's largest school systems is going to be handling this. Of course, we're talking New York City rather than send an entire classroom that's been potentially exposed to COVID home, what they're going to be doing, they'll be distributing at-home tests to students and staff who have symptoms or possibly been exposed to a COVID positive person.

Now, kids who are asymptomatic or test negative will be allowed to continue at school. Kids with symptoms may not attend school until they receive two negative tests taken 24 hours apart. And as for those kids and staff members who test positive, they'll have to isolate at home for ten days. The whole effort here or the point is to try and limit disruptions and allow those healthy students to remain in class.

Over the weekend, we heard from the Secretary of Education on "CBS", is basically urging schools to remain open this Spring semester.


some bumps in the road especially this upcoming week. So, any decisions on very short term or emergency closures are most likely based off of staffing issues, and ultimately, those are safety issues when you don't have adequate staff. But the goal is full-time in- person learning for our students, they've suffered enough.


SANDOVAL: The Secretary Cardona acknowledging that there will be bumps in the road as schools across the country, at least in the coming weeks. In fact, the department already receiving calls from some schools announcing that 5 percent to 10 percent of their staff is going to be unavailable. Christine and Laura?


ROMANS: Yes, this is one of the biggest questions right now, is whether kids are going to school this week, how they're going to school this week, and whether there are enough teachers to handle it. Look, rapid COVID tests are being handed out to teachers and staff in Massachusetts. The states' largest teachers union called for all schools to be closed to give time for testing. Some will delay reopening but most will remain open.


JEFFREY RILEY, COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION, MASSACHUSETTS: I think we're one of the few states in the whole country that's been able to supply both masks and test kits in advance of returning back to school. We're trying to use every mitigation strategy we can to have a good outcome in our schools, and so, this is an important day for us.


ROMANS: An important news for kids here. The Food & Drug Administration could green-light Pfizer's COVID-19 booster shots for children between the ages of 12 and 15. That could happen as early as today. COVID concerns are reshaping Spring semester plans at more than 30 colleges and universities.

JARRETT: Yes, Goldman Sachs told its employees to work remotely for at least the next two weeks just to get through this influx of cases. JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup also say their U.S. employees can start the new year working remotely. And then there's this.




JARRETT: Cast and crew of the Broadway Musical "Mrs. Doubtfire" are being asked to take a nine-week, get this, unpaid hiatus. Starting next week, the hope is that, that will help keep the show financially afloat as audiences concerned about COVID stay home. ROMANS: All right, work and school are on hold for a lot of Americans

as travel delays mount across the country. Take a look. More than 17,000 flight cancellations since Christmas eve peaking this weekend as thousands of people tried to fly back home.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's too long and there is no space to spend the time on something to eat. So, it's a long time here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last year I was traveling and there was no one here, which was kind of eerie, so I'd like to see people -- look, this is a lot of people.


ROMANS: I was there at O'Hare, Laura, on Saturday. And I'm telling you, the cork is out of the bottle. People are traveling. People want to see their families. They are moving around, and travel has really picked up to pre-pandemic levels just before Christmas. That collided with Omicron driven staff shortages, airline staff shortages and weather delays, just a total mess. Just canceled across the board on those arrival and departure boards. CNN's Ryan Young has more.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Laura and Christine and happy new year. Of course, everyone wants to get the new year off to a great start. But when you think about all the canceled flights, it's really having an impact across the country. We talked to so many travelers who were frustrated as you can understand about trying to get home. Take a look at some of this video from the inside.

And there were long lines throughout this airport, and that's doubled up from across the country where people are trying to get home especially to start work on Monday morning. Talked to one family of seven who had their flight canceled three times and another couple who are just hoping to get home. Now, on top of all this, you've got to think more than 2,500 flights were canceled on Sunday.

More than 2,700 flights canceled on Saturday. You put that recipe together and you can understand why this family that we talked to was very frustrated.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sunday in the night going here so far, checking the -- my flight. So the lady told me, yes, it's OK, Winnie, they canceled the flight. So what happened? Why? Not happy. We don't have a place to live as well, so only change the flight for Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. -- 7:30 p.m., no half mark solution.


YOUNG: Look, we've been dealing with this pandemic for quite some time. One of the things that we noticed in the airport, people were wearing their mask They understood why they needed to have some distance as they went through the security checkpoints. But at the same time, when you look at the big board, especially with flights going to the West Coast, you saw a canceled -- canceled flight could have a ripple effect especially for families trying to get across the country.

JARRETT: Ryan Young, thank you for that. Meantime, supply chain delays are now slowing down medical supplies up to 37 days at U.S. ports between the 8,000 and 12,000 shipping containers, medical supplies are essentially stuck right now because all the congestions through the transportation system. This latest data from the Health Industry Distributors Association reports recent shipments won't be delivered until at least February.

ROMANS: All right, it is the new year that always brings new laws on the books, stating workers in 25 states have a reason to celebrate this new year and increase in the minimum wage. It took effect Saturday in 21 states with increases ranging from cents to dollars per hour. For the eight states you see there in red, including New York and California.


The raises are aimed at phasing in a $15 minimum wage in years to come. The four you see there in yellow including Michigan and Virginia, they're taking a step toward a $12 minimum wage. For the nine in green including Ohio and Colorado, those are automatic cost of living adjustments based on inflation.

And in the remaining four in blue, the raises take effect later this year. Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25 an hour, it hasn't moved since 2009, that's the longest American workers have gone without an increase in the federal wage since the creation of it back in 1938. President Biden and some progressive Democrats have pushed for a $15 federal minimum. But last February, the Senate parliamentarian ruled against including a minimum wage increase in that COVID relief bill.

Many of the workers will see increases because their employers raised the pay floor some after prolonged labor disputes if you remember strike October. The tight labor market we're in has prompted many companies to hike wages hoping to lure and retain hourly workers. And that is the free market at work, Laura, when you have companies who know to survive, they've got to pay more. But again and again, these states, it is voters in these states when asked about a higher minimum wage, they're voting yes and you're seeing it phased in here in so many of these places.

JARRETT: Yes, just giving the people what they want. All right, still ahead for you, the first major snowstorm of the season, more than 14 million people under Winter storm watches and warnings this morning. We'll tell you how much snow is on the way next.


ROMANS: All right, the first snow of the Winter season for the South and Mid-Atlantic, all the way up to the northeast today. The Washington D.C. area is under a Winter storm warning, closing federal offices in the capital, severe weather is far south. Georgia, where more than a 100,000 customers are already without power and as far north as New England. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri live this morning this January 3rd for us. What can we expect here on the East Coast?


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Christine, it's going to be quite a mess here, and you know, for portions of the northeast, more snow than we've seen in a couple of years time. And you take a look across the south as you noted, we've had plenty of severe weather in recent weeks, in recent days as well, incredible heat to go around. Just a couple of days ago, temperatures, record values, Memphis, almost 80 degrees -- 30, what we saw on Sunday. Atlanta, Saturday's 78, 44, we expect this afternoon. New York City, you touched 60 degrees yesterday and dropping off almost in half there down to 32 by this afternoon.

So, the storm system has quite a bit of potency with it, gusty winds are going to be widespread across portions of the south and snow showers even into this early morning hours. We saw them accumulate a couple of inches, northern Alabama, Metro Atlanta tapped into some snow showers and it is a quick-moving system. So, the energy now shifting eastward across eastern areas of Tennessee, into western north Carolina.

Some of these higher elevations over the next six hours or so can pick up as much as 4 to 6 inches of snowfall. But as you work your way a little farther towards the northern east, get into the Delmarva, get into the nation's capital, those areas, rush hour, you'll begin to see the snow showers pick up in intensity, and potentially bring down as much as 4 to 6 inches here before it's all said and done by this afternoon.

Preemptively, flights, already 1,500 of them canceled across the U.S., almost 700 of them around the northeast. Of course, a lot of COVID- related delays and cancellations. But you can attribute some of the heavy snowfall to this as well, and that's the mess we're watching carefully with the heaviest pockets potentially again around portions of the D.C. area on into the Delmarva into early this morning and eventually into the afternoon.

ROMANS: Important to mention those flight cancellations. Thanks, Pedram. Laura?

JARRETT: A back-flip attempt could have ended with a California skier in serious trouble. Take a look at this, Josh Gold watching his friend Jeremy Pascal flip off the edge of a cliff at Lake Tahoe.





JARRETT: So, he lands deep in that powder upside down with his head buried in the snow, then he doesn't move. Gold and another friend Duke Arnold acted quickly here and rushed down to dig him out. After 53 seconds of terror, Christine, it all ends well for him --

ROMANS: Yes, you know, when I do those kind of jumps, I always think you've got to land not in too much powder, you know, I'm just kidding --

JARRETT: Let me just tell you, I will not be the one to dig you out because I am not a skier --


ROMANS: I will not be the one to do that jump. But I love those guys at Tahoe. All right, the public may not believe it yet, but the economy roared back to life in 2021. What could stand in the way of growth in 2022?



ROMANS: The January 6th Committee is revealing more on former President Trump's actions the day of the political riots. The select committee had previously disclosed texts from GOP lawmakers, "Fox News" personalities and Trump Jr. pleading with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to have Trump put an end to the Capitol assault. Now, we're told his daughter Ivanka begged him to stop the violence as well. CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill with the latest.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Good morning, Christine and Laura and happy new year. It's nice to be with you. We are learning new details about the direction of the January 6th Select Committee's investigation, and just exactly who is talking to the committee. Specifically, investigators are zeroing in on those 187 minutes that Trump remained publicly silent while his supporters stormed the Capitol Hill building.

Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, the chair and vice chair of the select committee went on the Sunday shows and revealed a little bit more about what they're learning.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We know as he was sitting there in the dining room next to the Oval Office, members of his staff were pleading with him to go on television, to tell people to stop. We know leader McCarthy was pleading with him to do that. We know members of his family. We know his daughter -- we have first-hand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.

Any man who would not do so, any man who would provide a violent assault on the Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes, any man who would watch television as police officers were being beaten, as his supporters were invading the Capitol of the United States is clearly unfit for future office, clearly can never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We have significant testimony that leads us to believe that the White House had been told to do something. We want to verify all of it so that when we produce our report and when we have the hearings, the public will have an opportunity to see for themselves.


ZANONA: Now, this is potentially a significant revelation because it suggests that someone very close to the president is talking to the committee. This is not just someone with second-hand knowledge. I mean, it's potentially someone who was in the room with Trump as the riots unfolded. What's less clear at this moment is what Trump's intent and mindset was during those critical moments. And that is something that investigators are still working to determine and are also trying to determine whether or not that rises to the criminal level.

But Bennie Thompson did say that if they determine a criminal act was committed, they have no problem making a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, and that is something that could be included in the final report, which the select committee is aiming to release this Fall. Christine, Laura.

JARRETT: Melanie, thank you for all of that reporting. President Biden and Vice President Harris plan to address the nation on Thursday to mark one year since the deadly Capitol insurrection. The White House says their remarks were part of a series of events in Washington organized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There will also be a moment of silence on the house floor and a prayer vigil on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

ROMANS: Yes, almost a year since violent scenes of rioters attacking officers were broadcast live across the country. The current chief of the U.S. Capitol Police is revealing a stark reality. His force remains short-staffed.


TOM MANGER, CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF, UNITED STATES: When we looked at the events of the 6th and we saw that operational planning failed, Intel -- they were Intelligence failures. Those things have been addressed, those things have been largely fixed at this point. But one thing that we have not been able to fix, so-to-speak, are the staffing issues. And we've lost over 130 officers that have left through either retirements or resignations after January 6th.


The prior year in 2020, the National Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy was shut down for ten months because of COVID. So between not being able to put in any academy --


MANGER: Classes through the prior year with the attrition the way it's been over the past year, we're now really about 400 officers short of where we need to be.


ROMANS: Wow, that's really troubling. More than 700 people in that crowd there have been charged by the Justice Department in connection with the riot.

JARRETT: There's still hundreds more they haven't found.


JARRETT: Twitter has pulled the plug on Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's personal account. The company says that it has permanently suspended her account due to quote, "repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation policy".

The tweet that prompted the ban this time included a misleading paragraph reporting to show deaths caused by COVID-19 vaccines completely fact-free. The Republican who still has access to her congressional account by the way responded with a statement not apologizing, but taking a swipe at big tech.

ROMANS: Performance act instead of policy-making. Join Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper for an unprecedented gathering inside the Capitol with the police and lawmakers and leaders live from the Capitol, "JANUARY 6: ONE YEAR LATER" begins Thursday at 8:00 p.m.


JARRETT: Good Monday morning everyone, happy new year. This is EARLY START, I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans, the first Monday in 2022, wow, you've got to write that on your checks, right? I guess do we write checks anymore?


ROMANS: Five-thirty in the east, time for our top stories to keep an eye on today. The vacation is over. Tens of millions of Americans head back to work and school today in the face of Omicron. That includes more than 1 million students in New York City. More in a moment.


CHENEY: He could have told them to stand down. He could have told them to go home, and he failed to do so. It's hard to imagine a more significant, a more serious dereliction of duty.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JARRETT: Congresswoman Liz Cheney says the January 6th Select Committee has firsthand information now that Ivanka Trump urged her father to intervene that day as his supporters attacked the Capitol.