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First Move with Julia Chatterley

Xi'an Sees China's Highest Daily COVID Count since Wuhan; 1,000 Plus Incorrect COVID Test Results Given in Australia; Italy Battles Record- Breaking Surge in COVID Cases; European Countries Impose New Rules Amid COVID Surge; U.S. Cuts Isolation Time After COVID from 10 Days to Five; Russia: Training Over Near Ukraine Border, Troops Back at Bases; Heavy Flooding Kills at least 20 and Displaces 60,000 Plus; China's Space Station Dodges Elon Musk Satellites. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired December 28, 2021 - 09:00:00   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Live from New York. I'm Alison Kosik in for Julia Chatterley. This is "FIRST MOVE." And here's your need to know.

Cases climb. Growing numbers, test positive for COVID in the Chinese city of Xi'an.

Moscow moves. Reports Russian soldiers pull back from Ukraine border.

And deadly deluge. Brazil suffers worst flooding disaster in years.

It's Tuesday. Let's make a move.


A warm welcome to FIRST MOVErs around the world. It's a special 30-minute version today as we approach the market open on Wall Street.

U.S. stock futures are pointing to a higher open after a buoyant session Monday. We got strong U.S. retail sales numbers that are boosting hopes

that the recovery can withstand the effects of the Omicron variant. That's despite the wave of flight cancellations hitting the travel industry hard.

At last check, more than 2,000 flights scheduled for today have been canceled, according to tracking site FlightAware.

Europe following the U.S. lead higher. The French and German markets are higher as well. The UK market is closed. And trading volumes are thin

because of the holidays.

It was a risk-on session in Asia, too. Japan led the gains and markets across the board closed in the green.

Let's get right to the drivers.

Authorities in the Chinese city of Xi'an reporting the nation's highest number of daily COVID infections since March 2020 in Wuhan. Xi'an have been

in a strict lockdown since December 23rd. Streets have been disinfected and the population is currently being mass tested for the fifth time.

Joining me now is Ivan Watson. He joins us live.

So, Ivan, it turns that the city of Xi'an is actually going back in time, going back to measures that it had when the pandemic started?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yeah, this is -- China has this zero-case approach to COVID. And basically, anywhere COVID

is detected, the authorities use mass testing. They lock people up in their homes. They cancel public gatherings and public transport. And that's what

we have seen in Xi'an.

They've only had - I mean compared this to other countries, in that city, they've only had about 800 plus cases since December 9th. But that's a big

deal. In China ironically where COVID was first discovered in the city of Wuhan in December of 2019, but this is a big crisis for a city of 13

million people where everybody except essential workers have to stay home.

The government has - the city government has embarked on this disinfection campaign of all the public spaces and there are mass testings underway as

well. All as part of an effort to try to completely eradicate the virus from Mainland China.

There have been other flare-ups like this, smaller ones in other cities. And these measures have worked in the past to kind of to dampen, to

extinguish the outbreaks. We don't know yet if this could be Omicron fueled, but it's certainly a locally transmitted outbreak in Xi'an.

KOSIK: Switching gears here to Australia. I understand you have - you got information about a testing blunder there happening in a lab.

WATSON: Yeah. I mean we reported on this yesterday. And there have been more developments. It's a lab that's in Sydney in the state of New South

Wales. And the lab had discovered that around 400 people who were tested for COVID on Sunday, they figured out that about 400 of these people that

have been tested before Christmas who were sent negative test results, whoops, in fact, they were positive.

And they've since learned that another almost 1,000 people who were tested separately before Christmas that they were sent the wrong test results of

negative. About half of them were, in fact, positive. The lab, it's called SydPath, has since - it's publicly apologized for this.

It says this was due to a manual process, a simple data processing error that sent out the wrong test results and that's been fixed by now.


But it's symptomatic of a bigger problem that Australia much like the U.S. has had with a crush of new cases of COVID has had a rush on testing. Part

of that is because many Australians if they want to travel internally have to get a PCR test before they're allowed to board a plane or travel into a

neighboring state or province. And as a result, people were trying to do this and protect their loved ones before Christmas. And that has clearly

overwhelmed some of the labs and resulted in this really embarrassing and potentially harmful blunder with this one lab in Sydney.

KOSIK: All right. Ivan Watson, thank you so much for all of your reporting.

Protests against new COVID measures in Germany turned violent, once again, overnight. Police and demonstrators clashed in the city of Bautzen leaving

12 police officers injured.

Countries across Europe are imposing tougher restrictions amid the latest COVID surge.

Barbie Nadeau joins me now from a pop-up COVID testing site in Rome with the latest.

So, Barbie, let's go ahead and start in Italy where I understand there are even more cancellations to tell us about.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. There are a lot of restrictions. This COVID testing site, it's actually close for lunch right

now, but it's been busy all day long. And people are getting tested so they can enjoy New Year's Eve privately. Because so much has been canceled


It is banned - Italians are banned from gathering on public squares to watch fireworks. Concerts have been canceled. And so, people are trying to

figure out a way to maybe be inside each other's homes. And a lot of people are asking their friends and family, can you get a COVID test before you


And so, we've seen a big run on these tests, and these tests - pop-up tests which are all over this country in small villages, in front of pharmacies.

This is a neighborhood pharmacy, and it seems to me the strategy the Italians are taking, tests and tests and tests to try to understand just

how many cases are out there and then try to separate those people and make them isolated and keep them away from the general public, Alison.

KOSIK: OK. So, that's Italy. But in Europe, more broadly, every nation you know seems to be handling Omicron restrictions very differently. Talk us

through what's going on.

NADEAU: Yeah, you know, we've just seen restrictions really, really a of varying degrees. Now, in the UK, they're saying they're not going to do any

sort of lockdown, they're not going to do anything to restrict. They got like 100,000 cases a day.

In France, which has the same number of cases, they're going to be implementing restrictions on the 3rd of January. They're going to say

there's among those are that you can't eat or drink in a theater, a cinema or at a sporting event. They don't want you to take your mask down to take

a sip of something. They want to keep people out in the public, but they want to keep them protected.

We've seen various degrees of lockdowns, of curfews, of social distancing measures. Some country you know we've seen Italy, for example, people

canceling their reservations for New Year's Eve. We've seen other places where they're going out for New Year's Eve in other countries.

But it's not flat across the board. And there are no -- currently no travel restrictions among the European countries. So, you can do something in one

country, and you can't do perhaps in another. You got some movements around that as well. Alison?

KOSIK: A big divide there.

Barbie Nadeau, thanks very much.

And here in the U.S., health authorities are shortening the recommended isolation time of people who have tested positive for COVID from 10 to five


Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has all the details with these new rules.

So, this, Elizabeth, seems like a major shift for the CDC. You know walk us through what the new rules say.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, the new rules effectively shorten the amount of time that you need to isolate if you have

COVID-19 or that you need to quarantine if you have been exposed to the virus.

So, Alison, let's talk about isolation first.

It used to be that you had to be out 10 days if you had COVID-19. Now they say if are you asymptomatic, in other words you are infected, you tested

positive, but your symptoms are gone or they're getting better, only five days isolation is necessary, followed by five days of wearing a mask when

you're around other people. So, those are the rules for isolation.

The point here is to try to get people back to work. The thinking and there's a lot of science behind this. Is that you're actually most

contagious right before and right after you contract COVID-19 and a few days before and a few days after. So, the 10 days really isn't quite

necessary. Again, as long as you are not sick or if you are sick as long as you are getting better. Alison?

KOSIK: CDC, Elizabeth, also tweets its recommendations for people who are boosted and exposed to the virus but have not tested positive.

COHEN: Right, exactly. So those people you would think the way it used to work would go into quarantine. Now what they're saying is if you've had a

booster or if your second shot has been within the past six months, you do not need to quarantine, although you should be wearing a mask for 10 days.


So, now no more quarantine for people who are exposed as long as you have had a booster, or your second shot was in the past six months.

Now, let's take a look at some vaccine efficacy data that led the CDC to doing that. They say that two doses against Omicron is 35 percent

effective. Which is you know not so great. But with a booster dose, it's 75 percent effective. So basically, they're saying, we think that the booster

or a recent two doses is so effective that you don't need to worry quite so much. That's why they got rid of the quarantine. Alison?

KOSIK: And just to clarify, with these new rules, you know, people who have been sick, they can go back to work within five days if they're

asymptomatic or wear a mask. But what about testing? Do they have to show they have a negative test or did the CDC even delineate that?

COHEN: Right, it does not appear that you do need to have a negative test. So, this is really based on symptoms.

KOSIK: Based on symptoms and I guess the honor system as well, right?



COHEN: That's right.

KOSIK: All right.

COHEN: And remember, even if tests were required. People are doing home tests. So, theoretically, you could take a home test, and say whatever you

want. So, the honor system is a big part of this.

KOSIK: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

Coming up after the break, disaster strikes Brazil at Christmas. Record rainfall follows a long drought, leaving one state virtually submerged.

Details are next.


KOSIK: Welcome back. And these are the stories making headlines around the world.

The White House is tracking reports that Russian troops have ended training near the Ukraine border and are back at their permanent basis. The troop

movement had raised western concerns. Moscow may be preparing to invade Ukraine.

CNN's Nic Robertson is in Moscow for us.

First thing that hit me was skepticism when I heard about this, Nic. What can we make of this? Can we consider this pullback genuine?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think you consider what genuine means I think in this context. Look, these troops, it

appears, on the face of it from what Russian officials are saying have completed their planned winter training on their own territory, not inside

Ukraine away from its border, they have now gone back to those bases.

But that still leaves a question about the other 60,000 to 90,000 other Russian troops that are relatively closed the border with Ukraine. So, it

begs that question, what is genuine?

Movement could they come back, or could there be other troops that will be deployed from other bases to that same military training area close to the

border with Ukraine? And will they go through those military exercises?


You know I think when you take it in the context of what we are learning today that Russia has agreed not to meet with U.S. officials on January the

10th to discuss Russia's concerns about NATO's they consider it expansion eastward. Specifically, the possibility of Ukraine becoming a member of

NATO, specifically the possibility of NATO members putting troops and weapons inside of Ukraine. All of which President Putin here was saying

that he has to have legally -- internationally legally binding guarantees that NATO and the United States won't do that.

So, I think when you have those talks now that appear to be coming on track and have you this movement of troops, or the announcement of the movement

of troops. The White House has still yet to verify it.

It does indicate that the mood for talks is more a mood for talks than it is a mood for military action. But I don't think anyone at this stage would

take this necessarily at face value as an end to and enter that tension on that possible incursion.

KOSIK: Yeah. I mean the troops have moved, has the equipment moved, and also you know with the security talks on January 10th, what is expected to

come out of them?

ROBERTSON: What Russia wants is this legal-binding guarantee that given from the United States and potentially by nature as well as putting the

onus on the United States to get NATO to agree this. Not to threaten the core strategic and security interests of Russia, which includes not

allowing Ukraine in this instance to join NATO. Not allowing NATO to deploy troops or military equipment into Ukraine. Because Russia considers this a


Ukraine as far as President Putin is concerned is still a part of Russia's sphere of influence. It's historic to Russia's identity as he sees it. So,

you know, I think when you sort of look at what Putin once had in the talks, that's what he wants. The United States is considering what else,

arms control being one of the big topics it would like to get on the table, it appears.

KOSIK: All right. Nic Robertson in Moscow. Thanks for all of that great context.

Heavy flooding in northeastern Brazil has left at least 20 people dead and more than 300 injured. More than 60,000 people have been forced from their

homes. And with the region in the middle of its rainy season, they're bracing for the possibility it could get worse.

CNN's Matt Rivers reports.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the streets of Brazil's northeastern Bahia state, some are resorting to rafts and jet

skis to get around. Others can only trudge through the fast-moving waters. Locals doing what they can to cope and finding ways to carry on while

deadly flooding surrounds them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's very sad to see our town like this. It's very sad. I have never seen anything like it in my life.

RIVERS: For weeks, intense rain has been pounding the area. Then, in recent days, two dams gave way, overwhelming towns that were already swamped.

Since the start of November, more than a dozen have been killed, scores injured, and tens of thousands forced from their homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): There is a bridge over there. It's crazy. It's like the sea. There was a wave of almost two meters high.

RIVERS: Water now stretches as far as the eye can see -- homes, roads, cars, and land partly or entirely submerged. In the wake of the

devastation, one of the towns' mayors blames human-caused climate change.

EDER AGUIAR, JUSSIAPE MAYOR (through translator): We know rain can be seen as a blessing from God, but because of the ecological imbalance that we

human beings have caused there can be too much of it causing serious damage.

RIVERS: While heavy rain in northeastern Brazil is not uncommon this time of year, local leaders say this is the worst in recent history. According

to weather officials in Bahia's capital, December's rainfall is already six times greater than average.

And as rescue operations continue, emergency crews work to find anyone who may be trapped, hoping to stop the deadly rains from claiming another life.

Matt Rivers, CNN.


KOSIK: Chinese social media users are lashing out at SpaceX founder Elon Musk, amid reports that the country's space station had to take evasive

action to avoid satellites launched under Musk's star-link program. A document submitted to the U.S. Space Agency cites two close encounters in


On Webo, a Twitter-like platform once described Musk satellites as space junk. And we'll have more "FIRST MOVE" after the break.



KOSIK: People who have COVID in the United States can stop isolating after five days instead of 10 if they don't have any symptoms. However, the

Centers for Disease Control says people will still have to wear a mask for a further five days. It comes as the country is averaging more than 200,000

new infections every day.



and that we expect to continue with Omicron, one of the things you want to be careful of is that we don't have so many people out. I mean, obviously,

if you have symptoms, you should not be out. But if you are asymptomatic and you are infected, we want to get people back to the jobs, particularly

those with the central jobs to keep our society running smoothly.


KOSIK: Dr. Peter Hotez is the director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital and dean of the National School of

Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. And he joins us now.

Great to have you on the show today, especially as we are you know analyzing the CDC's new guidance, cutting in half the amount of time people

have to isolate before going home.

Here's the question. This guidance is changing just as we're seeing cases surge and I think a lot of it really depends on the honor system. What do

you think?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yeah. There is that component. Remember, Alison, this also dove tails on new guidance last week for

healthcare workers. And what you are seeing is I think a nice mixture of both the science and practicality. Because we are seeing this enormous

surge and the concern, our number one concern is that we're going to knock out too many healthcare workers out of the work force, so we won't be able

to handle this rise in hospitalizations that we are already seeing in New York City and Washington, D.C.

So, the guidelines last week were to try to do the best possible within safety bounds to keep our healthcare workers and the work force. And that's

essential because we have seen our mortality rise so quickly.

And then this week around the essential services, so the entire nation doesn't shut down. And you might say, well, why do we have to do this now?

Why didn't we do this before?

Well, part is the additional data that's come through about the transmissibility of COVID-19, including Omicron. But also, this super high

transmissibility that we've seen. So, this variant has the ability to shut our nation down like no other variant has and the consequences of that

would be devastating.

KOSIK: And that's understandable to find a balance. But we are hearing from the U.S. as biggest flight attendants' union them criticizing the CDC on

this, saying that the new guidance is happening because of what business is pushing, specifically the airlines because of staffing shortages. Is this

really a decision about public health and science? Or is it about keeping businesses open? The concern from the union is that there doesn't seem to

be concern about the people coming back to work and possibly spreading it even more COVID?

HOTEZ: Well, here's what their biggest concern should be and I empathize with the flight attendants, but the bigger issue that they're not -- that

nobody seems to be taking on is having vaccine mandates to get out to airplanes. That would be the most impactful measure that we could do as if

we knew that everybody on that airplane, both flight attendants and passengers and crew were vaccinated.


And I think that should be where the next push now is, so I think the new rules are fine. I think the key now is to get everybody vaccinated.

KOSIK: Children are especially being impacted now. I want to hear what you are seeing at your hospital.

HOTEZ: Well, right now in Texas, our Omicron wave is not as severe as it is New York and Washington. It's going to come here. I have no doubt about it.

What I would say is, it is resembling somewhat our Delta wave last summer, which is that not necessarily that Delta was targeting specifically

children. It's just that this was a firestorm as what my friend, Mike Osterholm, calls a virus blizzard. And kids are getting swept up in it

alongside everyone else.

And I think that's what's happening in the northeast right now. So, we are seeing unprecedented numbers of kids getting hospitalized. Some incidental

findings, where other conditions are there because of Omicron. Bottom line is we still are doing terribly vaccinating kids five and up even though

they are eligible for it.

KOSIK: Do you see the Omicron variant peaking here in the U.S. by mid- January?

HOTEZ: So, this is - you know I get asked this a lot. Because people are looking at the infection curves in South Africa and the UK. They're saying,

hey, it's going down now as quickly as it's going up. And I would put an asterisk on that. Because we've seen that before with other variants. That

they start going down, and people think you know they're all for a high fiving themselves thinking they're out of it. But then it gets stuck about

halfway down and starts to plateau.

So that possibility still remains both in the UK and elsewhere. And it's a possibility in the U.S. So, if all the stars align, Alison, by over the

next few weeks, the number of cases will go down in time enough for kids K- 12 and college students to be back in school. But we can't promise it. We don't really know.

KOSIK: OK. No complacency just yet.

Dr. Peter Hotez, thanks very much.

HOTEZ: Thanks, Alison.

KOSIK: And finally, on "FIRST MOVE."

3D printers have been around for a while now. And now they're able to build houses.

Habitat for Humanity is a group that builds affordable housing for people around the world. This is Habitat's very first 3D printed home in the U.S.

It took just 12 hours to construct this three-bedroom house, which would normally take about four weeks.

It's made of concrete, which is great for insulation and is very durable. The family who bought it got the keys just in time for Christmas. Nice


And that's it for the show. I'm Alison Kosik. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @alisonkosik.

"Tomorrow Transforms" is next.

I'll see you tomorrow morning.