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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Thousands of Schools Across U.S. Delay In-Person Reopening; Former Theranos CEO Found on 4 Charges, Faces 20 Years in Prison; What to Expect from U.S.-China Relations in 2022. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 04, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, here we go. It is Tuesday, January 4th, 5:00 a.m. exactly in New York.

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

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning, Christine. I'm Laura Jarrett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world.

Less dangerous, but spreading quickly. Omicron is twisting this nation in knots. After two exhausting years, people are desperate to find a way to live alongside coronavirus, but striking a balance between restrictions and accommodations is tricky.

At the center of it all, schools. Today, more than 3,200 of them are closed nationwide.


DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We need our children to be in school. I think the term distance learning is like a contradiction in terms. I mean, Philadelphia, you know, when children aren't in schools, they're -- many aren't getting the one decent meal they get during the day. The instance of child abuse basically disappears because you're not picking that up in school.

Most importantly, the socialization and social development. The kids surely missed last year. I think we need to do everything we can to get children back to school, but it's a precious thing. And because it's a precious thing, we need to treat it preciously.


JARRETT: Seventy-seven of Philadelphia's 215 schools are shifting to 100 percent online today. Schools in Detroit, L.A., Atlanta, Milwaukee, Seattle, Cleveland, Washington, all also going remote or they're delaying their start for at least a few days after the holiday break.

In many cases, they're waiting for COVID tests, rapid tests which are scarce, or PCR tests which take days to return results. In Louisville, Kentucky, teachers are lining up to be tested before

going back to class. They're hoping to avoid virtual learning.


BROOKE HINKEL, LOUISVILLE, KY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: I do not want to go to NTI. None of the teachers do. The kids don't want it. I want to teach. And I'm scared right now, just the result of this. I don't want COVID.


JARRETT: Meantime, hospitalizations in the U.S. now topping 100,000 for the first time in nearly four months, including children, largely spared by earlier variants. The hospitalization rate for kids is the highest it's ever been with more than 500 kids admitted every day last week.


DR. EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ, PEDIATRICIAN; ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Now, did those children show up because they had a broken leg, or broken arm and have to test positive for COVID? Versus did they have trouble breathing because of COVID-19? I think those two are still needing to be a little pieced out. And, unfortunately, you and I both know people who are seeking to minimize the seriousness of COVID-19 in children are going to hang onto that fact. I think we would be foolish to keep minimizing COVID-19 in children at this point in the pandemic.


ROMANS: I mean, let me repeat that. Five hundred kids per day hospitalized, and some doctors are saying they're seeing comorbidities like asthma. Think of how many children have asthma and what a risk that is for catching the omicron variant here. The possibility of sending kids home for the umpteenth time in this pandemic, the cloud that looms over all parents now, it's also threatening to cause major economic disruption if workers can't get child care.


MEAGAN CLANAHAN, KATY, TX PARENT: I am entering the year as calm and confident as possible. There is very little we can control, but I can control how I behave and how I present it to my kids.


JARRETT: Some school districts, though, did reopen on time. Most notably, New York's, the nation's largest school system under a new mayor defying a union request to start virtually.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK: I'm going to tell you what's going to happen day to day. We are staying open. We're going to do everything that we have to do to keep our schools open.

And I know there's questions about staffing. I know there's question about testing. There's a lot of questions. But we're going to turn those question marks into an exclamation point. We're staying open. We're going to make sure our children are in safe spaces.


ROMANS: All right. That's New York. In Chicago, the teachers union threatening a walk-out now. Members will hold an emergency vote today on whether teachers should go virtual, but that can only happen if the Board of Ed agrees. If not, teachers could be locked out of their online classrooms, leaving kids with nothing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to ask them if they would prefer that children, who they know won't be in these buildings, should be without any type of interaction, any type of education.


ROMANS: The number of children hospitalized in Illinois has tripled since the beginning of December. The governor wants kids in class.



GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D), ILLINOIS: I've said all along that it's better for our students to have them in class, but safely. And so that's why we've provided and offered testing and we've offered and provided more vaccinations. And so we hope that school districts across the state will take us up on that.


JARRETT: Students in Chicago, which has the third largest school district in the country, by the way, went back in class in-person yesterday. School officials insist that it is safe to have kids in physical classrooms.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has the latest from Chicago.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, Laura, today, the Chicago teachers union is expected to convene an emergency meeting among its representatives at individual schools to vote on whether they would want to move to remote learning amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, which, of course, goes against what the school district has asked them to do. Now, if they vote yes and actually don't show up to school after this vote goes through, it puts the decision in the school district's hands as to whether they would lock these teachers out of their remote classrooms as they have threatened to do under similar circumstances in the past. And for the school district, they resumed in-person learning on Monday, and have maintained all along that going to school is safe because of vaccinations, universal masking, social distancing, testing, and more. Mayor Lori Lightfoot even releasing a statement Monday that read, in part, we cannot forget that shifting fully to remote learning is not a panacea, and comes with significant harm to students and their families.

The best thing that we can do for our students, staff, and all our partners at CPS is to get vaccinated.

Now, part of the union's concern is coming from a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in students, staff and the surrounding community. But also from uncertainty on what the current COVID-19 picture actually looks like.

And that's because according to Chicago public schools data, between December 26 and January 1st, of the more than 35,000 COVID-19 tests that were returned, more than 24,000 of those were declared invalid. These past two weeks, Chicago has seen its highest daily case rate of COVID-19 since the pandemic began -- Christine, Laura.


ROMANS: All right. Omar, thank you so much for that.

So, omicron case counts are breaking records, but health experts say hospitalizations are the important number, the most important number to watch here with omicron. Thankfully, many reported cases have mild or no symptoms. And the high overall numbers you see could partly be the result of a holiday backlog in reporting.


MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, INFECTIOUS DISEASES EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: And state and local health departments are struggling right now just to get cases reported. I've talked to health departments in the last several days where they're weeks behind in reporting cases. So a daily case count means little. What we need to focus on right now and what you're getting at in terms of the seriousness, how many people are hospitalized, particularly with requirements for oxygen. That's going to be an indicator, meaning 7 to 10 days offset. It's going to be the best measure we have.


JARRETT: And Jimmy Fallon back on the tonight show after he revealed he tested positive for COVID right before Christmas. He says he was boostered and only had mild symptoms.

And Whoopi Goldberg has also tested positive. Her co-host Joy Behar announcing the news Monday on "The View". Behar told viewers that Goldberg's case has been mild so far.

ROMANS: All right. She was compared with Steve Jobs. She claimed her blood testing start start-up was revolutionary. It's Elizabeth Holmes and now, she is looking at decades potentially in prison for defrauding investors.



ROMANS: Welcome back.

A former darling of Silicon Valley is now a convicted felon. After an 11-week trial, Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty Monday of four charges of misleading investors about her blood testing start up. The jury deliberated for 45 hours, finding her not guilty on four counts, failing to reach a verdict on three others. She is now facing up to 20 years in prison.

CNN's Camila Bernal with more.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Laura, Elizabeth Holmes is leaving the courtroom in San Jose knowing she is likely headed to prison.

The jury in this trial delivering a partial verdict. So, I want to break it down for you. There are four different charges where they found her guilty. There is one of those that is conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the other three are wire fraud counts.

They also found her not guilty on another four different charges, and these were in relation to the patients. Then the jury was not able to come to an agreement on three other wire fraud charges.

But what matters here is the four guilty verdicts in relation to the investors. According to prosecutors, Elizabeth Holmes lied to these investors about the capabilities of her blood testing company. They say she lied about the technology and the capabilities of it, but also lied about the relationship that the company had with the military, and about the validation that the company had received from pharmaceutical companies.

And this jury agreed with the prosecution, saying that she lied instead of selling a vision of the future. This is someone who was once known as the next Steve jobs, as the darling of Silicon Valley, who had that vision for the future.


But instead she is now facing the consequence of her past -- Christine, Laura.


JARRETT: Camila, thank you for that report.

Well, the Trump family is now in a standoff with the New York attorney general's office. Lawyers moved late Monday to quash subpoenas served on Ivanka and Donald Trump, Jr. The state AG Tish James is seeking their testimony in the civil probe

about whether the Trump Organization manipulated the value of its properties to obtain more favorable loan terms.

ROMANS: Trump's lawyers argued James is trying to use her civil investigation to aid a criminal probe by the Manhattan D.A. by turning testimony from the civil case over to criminal investigators.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: This isn't a prosecution. This is simply an attempt to take depositions, get information. And judges basically don't like it when witnesses try not to answer questions. There are certain well-established privileges, you know, attorney/client privilege, spousal privilege, privilege against self- incrimination. There is no such thing as a father/son or parent/child privilege.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: What gets complicated when we talk about the Trumps, there are so many investigations by different bodies, federal investigations, state investigations, congressional investigations. This is a standard garden variety civil investigation by a particular attorney general in a state, and all those other things we have been talking about for months and months, executive privilege, deliberative process privilege, all those things going on in Washington, they don't pertain here.


ROMANS: The subpoenas seek communications and financial statements prepared by Trump accountants dating back to 2010. They also demand documents relating to Trump hotel in Chicago and the family's estate in Seven Springs, New York, and communication was "Forbes" magazine which wrote articles about Trump's wealth.

JARRETT: All right. Programming note for you here. Something you definitely want to watch. Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper, an unprecedented gathering inside the Capitol with police, lawmakers and leaders live from the Capitol, January 6, one year later, begins Thursday at 8:00 p.m.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

With the Beijing Olympics just one month away, controversy and complications in China keep growing by the day, from human rights violations to millions still under COVID lockdowns, from a trade war to squashing democracy protests and the free press. From the China that was opening up just a decade ago to a China now on a different track.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us live from Hong Kong.

Kristie, good morning.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESONDENT: Laura, you're absolutely right. CNN now is on a very track. You know, back in 2008, the Summer Games, that was called China's coming out party on the world stage. It had the mantra, Beijing welcomes you.

But this year, the 2022 Winter Games are going to be monitored closely for any acts of protests against Beijing. And it's all going to be held in this COVID bubble ceiling Olympic participants and athletes from the general population in China. And throughout games, all the athletes, all the participants must stay inside the bubble and have to go daily COVID-19 testing.

In fact, according to "The Global Times" today, the pre-game bubble has already kicked off. It started today welcoming Olympic personnel from overseas. It also announced there is this high-speed train that has this divided carriages to separate Olympic participants from the general population.

And this is critical, because the timing of the Winter Games. It's happening alongside the lunar New Year festival. This is when hundreds of millions of people in China travel home, many by rail, for family reunions. And the Winter Games will test China in its zero-COVID policy.

It is going to be difficult to control the virus because of the omicron variant. It is so highly transmissible, and China has only reported a handful of cases of this variant. And experts who have been talking to, say people in China are vulnerable because of their lack of exposure to the virus, because of the lower efficacy in China's home-grown vaccines, and because of the limit of China's zero COVID policy.

Listen to this.


YANZHONG HUANG, SENIOR FELLOW FOR GLOBAL HEALTH: The problem is not the vaccine. It's the policy, right. Under the zero tolerance policy, right, even the best of vaccines, you know, cannot fulfill the objectives set by the government.


STOUT: And public patience in China pushed to the limit. In the northern Chinese city of Xi'an, it's now it's in the 13th day of lockdown, very, very desperate scenes as residents are forbidden to leave their homes unless it's for a COVID test. They can't go out for food or supplies. And if you monitor Chinese social media, it is flooded with cries for help, cries for food.

In fact, there is one hashtag in Sina Weibo, grocery shopping in Xi'an is difficult. That's the hashtag. It has been viewed over 420 million times. Laura.

JARRETT: What a bizarre dichotomy. Sort of the reality on the ground and the optics that obviously they want to project for these games.

Kristie, thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-four minutes past of the hour.

Walmart, Disney, Netflix, Nike, Exxon Mobil, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Morgan Stanley, McDonald's, AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Boeing. I could go on. Add them all up, you still won't match the value of the world's first $3 trillion company.



ROMANS: A milestone for apple, almost too huge to wrap your head around. Apple, the first company in history to break the $3 trillion market cap barrier. Put another way, if you combine the value of Walmart, Disney, McDonald's, Ford, Coke, Exxon-Mobil and the other eight giant companies you see here, Apple is still worth more.

Or you could say it's bigger than the gross domestic product of most countries, including Great Britain. Only the U.S., China, Japan and Germany are larger than the market cap of apple. The stock settled back slightly to close at a market cap of $2.99 trillion. A figure all the more remarkable because of how fast Apple got there.