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Biden to Speak on Rapid Omicron Spread; Florida's Surgeon General: Focus Only on High-Value Testing; Ex-Trump Aide: 100+ Lawmakers Were Set to Overturn Election; Trump Kids Refuse to Comply with Subpoenas in Money Probe; Drivers Stranded on Major Interstate Due to Winter Weather; Ex-Tech Icon Elizabeth Holmes Guilty of Defrauding Investors. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 04, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, January 4. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.


This morning, record highs in the number of new coronavirus cases. The U.S. Seven-day rolling average number of cases now stands at a record 400,000. And now, more than 103,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with coronavirus. It's the first time the total has reached six figures in nearly four months.

States also reporting surges in child hospitalizations, which are now the highest they've ever been, with more than 500 children being admitted every day.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And this as the Omicron variant complicates returning to school, with some of the largest districts shifting to remote learning and others relying on more robust testing.

In Chicago, the third largest school district in the country, the teachers union there is gearing up for a potential walkout as cases there are skyrocketing. Today, they will hold an emergency meeting to vote on measures that they deem safe.

In the meantime, many students are now eligible for booster shots. The FDA is authorizing Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine boosters for children ages 12 to 15. And the agency is also shortening the timing of booster shots from at least six months to five months after the initial vaccine series for everyone 12 and older.

Today, President Biden is set to speak about Omicron's rapid spread and discuss steps that his administration is taking to combat it. The White House still has not offered comprehensive details about the plan to distribute half a billion tests for free.

BERMAN: Let's get to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, what are we seeing in terms of these hospitalizations nationwide?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, I know people keep saying, Oh, Omicron tends to give a mild disease. We don't need to worry as much about hospitalizations.

Well, unfortunately, what we're seeing is we're creeping towards previous peaks. So let's take a look at this graph.

You can see here, there's three humps. And the first one is January of last year, with 142,000 hospitalizations. And that was January 14. And then you have the second one, September 2, 102,000.

The third one, January 3, just yesterday, 103,000. So in other words, we have inched past that September peak, and we are inching towards that January peak.

Let's take sort of a bigger picture look at where we're at with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. What you can see here, we are 90 percent higher than we were a year ago. Cases 90 percent higher. Hospitalizations, however, 27 percent lower. And deaths, 64 percent lower.

The fear, John and Brianna, is that those hospitalizations and those deaths, as Omicron gets bigger and bigger and bigger -- and it will get bigger and bigger -- that those hospitalizations and deaths are going to inch towards or even past the peaks from a year ago.

KEILAR: And so we look at that. You know, we are going up when it comes to hospitalizations. We're not at the record that was set before. But when you take kids out of that, Elizabeth, they are at a record. And I think that's a trend we have to pay a lot of attention to.

COHEN: It certainly is. So what happens is, while more and more children are getting Omicron, because Omicron is so transmissible, you're going to have more and more children in the hospital than you did with previous variants.

So let's take a look at those numbers. The previous peak for childhood -- for children's hospitalizations was the week ending September 4th of last year, and that was 342 admissions a day.

We're now at 574 admissions per day. Those are based on seven-day averages. So we are considerably higher than we were at the peak with childhood hospitalizations.

The numbers are still low. Hundreds in a country as large as ours. But still creeping higher, that's obviously not good -- John, Brianna.

BERMAN: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

KEILAR: Florida's surgeon general says that he wants to reduce what he calls low-value testing and focus on high-value testing. This comes as the state has seen a sharp increase in new infections and an overwhelming demand for tests.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Miami with this story. Tell us what this means, Leyla.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Brianna, so here is how he's explaining high-value versus low-value testing. He's saying, this is about prioritizing.

The example he used is it is of more value to test, say, a grandmother than an 8-year-old, a third grader that is getting weekly testing. And so he wants to put out more guidance that emphasizes that.

And then after he explained that in a press conference yesterday, he says he also wants to unwind testing psychology coming from the federal government. Listen.


DR. JOSEPH LADAPO, FLORIDA SURGEON GENERAL We're going to be working to unwind the sort of testing psychology that our federal leadership has managed to, unfortunately, get most of the country in over the last two years.

We need to unwind this testing sort of -- sort of planning and living one's life around testing. Without it, we're going to be sort of stuck in this same cycle.



SANTIAGO: And so the timing of this is noteworthy. Because right now, Florida is seeing record-breaking numbers when it comes to the number of cases, especially given the drive from Omicron.

I mean, just last week, they had the highest numbers that they've had since the pandemic even began. And so the governor has consistently said that early treatment is where his administration will put the focus, and they are saying that they need more monoclonal antibody treatments. Treatments that have shown to reduce the risk for hospitalization and even deaths.

And he is saying that they're not getting enough from the federal government, demanding more from the federal government when it comes to those treatments. And that they are waiting on the federal government to open more sites for that early treatment.

But noteworthy here is that, in the first time that he's had a press conference in several weeks, they didn't really talk about pumping more resources into what you're seeing behind me, testing. Where lines are hours and hours long for people to get. Where there really is a strong demand right now.

From the federal government's perspective, we did check in with them, and they are saying that Florida should have ample supply when it comes to that, and that there should also be a lot of focus on prevention and testing.

KEILAR: It's quite the shift. Leyla, thank you for the report.

BERMAN: Let's stay on this issue of testing. Because in this new piece for "The Atlantic," one doctor says more testing is not the answer. He argues that, with a surge in cases, tests should be reserved for those who need them most.

Joining us now, the author of that piece, Benjamin Mazer. He's a clinical fellow in pathology at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Dr. Mazer, thanks so much for being with us. You also write, "Testing is, for now, a zero-sum game. Each unnecessary swab that you concern [SIC] -- consume means one fewer is available for more important purposes, such as diagnosing a symptomatic infection."

So when should people get tested, in your mind?

DR. BENJAMIN MAZER, CLINICAL FELLOW IN PATHOLOGY, YALE NEW HAVEN HOSPITAL: Yes, thanks for having me. And I just want to say off the bat that these are my personal opinions. They don't represent, you know, any of the hospitals or employers I'm affiliated with.

And it's a really hard decision to make, because testing has been pushed appropriately throughout the pandemic for pretty much everyone. You know, asymptomatic people can transmit the virus; symptomatic people. And so we've been told, you know, test, test, test, as many as possible, with very good intentions.

And, you know, despite the fact that we have an enormous number of tests in this country, it's still not enough. There have been, you know, systematic mistakes that have limited our supply somewhat.

But the Omicron surge was enormous. I mean, absolutely enormous. You know, it's overwhelming testing systems throughout the world. And so while we could have had more tests, I think we'd be probably facing some kind of limitation in almost any scenario with, unfortunately, with the Omicron virus.

And so then you do have to prioritize. In health care, we realize that everyone needs care, but there may be some tests that are more effective than others or scenarios of testing that are more effective than others.

And there's two -- two scenarios that I point out where, really, we should be prioritizing. One is symptomatic people. One, because you want to know if they have the virus, versus some other alternative disease they -- that we need to treat.

And two, because we now have growing numbers of antiviral pills that people can more easily take as an outpatient to prevent ending up in the hospital or ending up dying. And so -- but you need to take those quickly after onset of symptoms, and you need a diagnosis to be prescribed those treatments.

And so symptomatic people should be able to get tested relatively quickly.

And the other groups are high-risk individuals who remain at relatively high risk, even if they're vaccinated. And those two groups are mainly the elderly, people, you know, 70 or older, 65 and older, and -- and immunocompromised people. People with severe immune system deficiencies who don't respond to the vaccine as well, even if they're vaccinated.

And so those groups would benefit from having people around them testing. Caregivers, friends, family, to try to keep the virus out of their -- their immediate vicinity. And so those people, you know, should probably be doing a lot of testing if they're able to.

Instead, what we have are, you know, a lot of lower-risk people testing right now. We have, you know, people who are vaccinated and younger and more access to resources, because testing isn't cheap right now. And so they end up consuming a lot of tests, both personally and through universities, through corporations, through these other systems that consume a lot of testing.

KEILAR: You know, it seems a little like a proposal for triage. You know, and I wonder what you think about that, especially at a time when, you know, a lot of Americans wanted -- at least, you know, I know we're not past it, but psychologically, they wanted to be past this. They want to be getting back to normal, even in the middle of winter.

What do you say to them, that this is sort of like triage, and it needs to be coupled with behavioral changes of people?

MAZER: You know, it's very hard for people. Because the pandemic has been, of course, been extremely challenging. And -- and I think people, you know, have lacked a sense of control about the pandemic, for understandable reasons.


And testing has been a way in recent months to try to regain a sense of control. To say, I can buy these tests in stores. I can test myself when I feel like it, when I worry. And -- and that's really -- that is a very powerful tool of testing, is to give people a sense of control.

But, you're right, that we just have to be aware of the larger implications. You know, it's not enough to just blame the government or to blame policy, although there's plenty of blame, I'm sure, to go around. But to say, like, as individuals, you know, we can try to look out for each other as best we can, knowing that we're just one person or, you know, one company or one school. But we can do these things.

And I think you're right. You know, I see a lot of emergency doctors talking about people coming to the emergency department for COVID testing, because it's not really accessible at other places. They're not necessarily in an emergency health situation, but they have symptoms, and they want to be tested. And they can't get a regular, you know, drive-through test or home test, and so they end up clogging what are clearly already overloaded emergency departments.

Emergency doctors are telling people not to come to the E.D. for routine COVID testing. And so it's the same thing. Of course, the E.D. is available for anyone who thinks they need it for my emergency. We want people to come and access care, but that's obviously not the highest priority, in an emergency setting, to do a more routine test. And so in the same way, I think we should be looking at, across our

testing infrastructure, how we could better target, you know, higher- risk people.

BERMAN: Dr. Ben Mazer, thanks so much for being with us this morning. Appreciated reading your piece.

MAZER: Sure. Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: We're going to have a chance to speak with the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, as Omicron continues to set record highs. We'll ask him about testing. We'll ask him about possible new CDC guidelines for people in isolation. So stick around for that.

So Peter Navarro just admitted out loud what 100 lawmakers were willing to do on January 6. What this now means for those who were part of it.

And slapped with subpoenas, Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump refuse to comply. Where the civil investigation into the Trump Organization goes next.

KEILAR: And happening right now. Winter weather stranding drivers on a key interstate in Virginia. We are going to take you there.



BERMAN: New this morning, former Trump adviser Peter Navarro revealed to "Rolling Stone" that he briefed the former president on how to overturn the 2020 election, helping devise a plan to block the January 6th certification vote.

Navarro added that, quote, "There were more than 100 congressmen, both the House of Representatives and senators, that were lined up to execute the plan."

Joining me now is CNN senior legal analyst and federal former prosecutor Elie Honig, and senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, Tim O'Brien.

Elie, you know, it's interesting, because Navarro says this out loud, and it seems like a big deal, but I'm remind you that 139 House members and 8 U.S. Senators voted to block certification on several states.

What Navarro is saying is they had a plan to do it even more, with even more states than they were allowed to. But Navarro says that the violent insurrection prevented his plan to try to overturn the election in Congress. What do you make of it?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, well, first of all, congratulations, Peter Navarro. I think you've just earned yourself a subpoena. And I think the first question is obvious: who are these 100-plus representatives and senators? And let's see if they match up with the same ones that we already knew about. I also think this -- these revelations are so interesting, because

it's a clear example of how the big lie was spread. Navarro essentially says he went on the Internet. He Googled a couple things. He printed out some garbage.

And then he circulated it to enough people and insisted it was true enough times that it became something that, shockingly, he could get over 100 members of Congress to sign onto it.

And the last point, John, is this really shows us the need to update and reform the Electoral Count Act. That's the law that the committee has said they're looking at. This is the law that Navarro's plan would have exploited, where one representative and one senator can object to each state, kicking off four hours of delay. I mean, they were planning to do it for six states. But taken to an extreme, under the law as it is now, someone could do that for all 50 states. So the committee has to fix that piece of legislation.

BERMAN: But Elie, what does the committee do with a statement like this? Because as I said, you want to see if the 100 he's talking about line up with the 147 that we knew about. But we have the names of the 147 there. So, you know, what do they get from Navarro, and also, why haven't they called Navarro at this point?

HONIG: Yes, well, I'd want to see if the names match up.

And also, Navarro's plan was a bit more devious than just sort of lodging objections. Right? He gets into all this behind-the-scenes maneuvering. So I think these 100, I would want to know who they are. I'm sure there's a lot of overlap, maybe complete overlap.

Why have they not subpoenaed him is a great question. I don't have an answer to it. They should.

BERMAN: Now Bannon, Steve Bannon, of course, was and is being held in contempt of Congress, and that was Navarro's claimed partner in all of this. So maybe that's part of it.

So Tim, I want to talk about something else with you, which is that, in New York state, the attorney general here has now issued subpoenas for Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump's two children, two of his children, to testify, to come be deposed in this civil action that they are trying to take against the company here.

What's the significance of this?

TIM O'BRIEN, SENIOR COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG OPINION: Well, the significance is that everything that we expected to start to come to a head in this investigation, that the children would be swept into this. That the children would be compelled to testify, and that you'd have a very public and emerging fact pattern around what the Trumps did or didn't do pertaining to financial fraud.

And I think you've seen Eric Trump a year ago, almost two years ago, was subpoenaed to testify, and he threw everything but the kitchen sink at the New York attorney general's office to try to stop sitting for his own testimony. That didn't work. He ultimately sat down with the A.G.

That's going to happen again now. Trump's lawyer and -- well, the children's lawyer, Alan Futerfas, last night threw this absurd sort of hail-Mary pass, claiming that the attorney general had overreached, that the subpoenas needed to be quashed, that this all should come to an end.

But they're not going to be able to quash those subpoenas. They're going to be compelled to testify.

And -- and the fact that the Trumps continue to try to avoid providing documentation and testimony around this investigation raises a very simple and obvious question. What are they hiding?

And I think what they're hiding is decades and decades of financial manipulation, some of which is possibly criminal, in order to save themselves. And I think that's what this process is ultimately about. And it's why you're seeing some of these hiccups along the way.

BERMAN: Based on your reporting, your years of reporting on the organization, Tim, how involved were the children in the decision- making processes? How much would they know?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, when -- most recently when Donald Trump went -- went into the White House, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. stayed behind and ran the business.

But even prior to that, they all had various senior roles in deals that are now under scrutiny. An estate in Westchester that was low- balled, the value was low-balled for tax reasons. But the value was inflated in order to get bank loans.

They're looking at a Chicago property that Ivanka had a very serious role in, 40 Wall Street.

The children all had been given greater seniority over the years by Trump to make decisions and deals. They know what happened. They were central to those decisions. And that's why they're of interest to the prosecutors.

BERMAN: Elie, what happens if you don't show up for a subpoena? What's going on here with Don Jr. and Ivanka trying to squash this, A? And, B, if they don't successfully do that, can they just not show?

HONIG: So they're in court trying to quash the subpoena.

I agree with Tim. It is very difficult legally to quash a subpoena, but I do want to say this. The Trumps' argument here is not absurd. It's not ridiculous.

The crux of their argument is we have been politicly targeted by this attorney general, Letitia James. And you know what? They're right. And that's not a matter of opinion or speculation. That's a matter of fact.

Because Letitia James herself said it over and over again when she was running for attorney general of New York. She said, essentially, the main plank of her platform was, Vote for me, and I'll nail the Trumps.

Now, I object to that. I don't think any prosecutor, Republican or Democrat, should ever run for office as a prosecutor on a platform of, vote for me and I will nail this specific person.

But more to the point, it's counterproductive. Because now, her own statements of politicization are being used against her.

Ultimately, a judge will rule on this. If the subpoena is quashed, then it's over. If it's not, they'll have to show up and testify. And if they fail to do that, then there could be further consequences. They could be held in contempt and, eventually, prosecuted for defying a court order.

BERMAN: Elie Honig, Tim O'Brien, thank you both very much.

HONIG: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: So we do have a programming note. Join Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper for an unprecedented gathering inside the Capitol with the police, lawmakers, and leaders. Live from the Capitol January 6th, one year later. It begins Thursday at 8 p.m., Eastern Time.

So bad blood. Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes found guilty on four out of 11 federal charges. How many years she now faces in prison.

KEILAR: And he's a far-right prime minister with a hardline stance on immigration, the media, and the judicial system. Donald Trump just endorsed him. We'll roll the tape next.



BERMAN: All right. Happening now, a travel nightmare on I-95 near Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is all a result of the severe winter storm we've been through.

Vehicles stuck in the snow. Trees down on the road. And traffic at a complete standstill. You can see, these are live traffic cameras you're seeing right there. And nothing is moving, because nothing's moving.

Cars have been stranded throughout the night. Emergency response crews say they're trying to clear trucks one by one and get traffic moving again.

We're trying to reach some people on the road, including a woman who's been sitting there since 8 p.m. last night.

KEILAR: No, those are not still pictures, right? It's crazy looking.

So at one time, she was compared to Steve Jobs, and now she's a convicted felon who is facing up to 20 years behind jars.

A jury yesterday found former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes guilty on four charges of misleading investors about her blood testing start-up after a trial that lasted almost three months.

CNN's Camila Bernal with more on this story.


CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elizabeth Holmes leaving a San Jose courtroom knowing she's likely headed to prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have anything you want to say?

BERNAL: The jury finding her guilty on three federal counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for lying to investors about her blood-testing technology.

But the jury also found her not guilty on four additional charges in relation to patients. Jurors did not reach an agreement on three other wire fraud charges pertaining to investors. She faces 20 years in prison for each charge, plus fines and restitution.

ALAN TURKHEIMER, JURY CONSULTANT: At some point in the deliberation, jurors on both sides, the "not guilty" and "guilty" camps, said something to the effect of, Look, this is how I feel, and you guys aren't going to convince me otherwise.

BERNAL: Prosecutors argued her company, Theranos, promised a wide range of blood tests, using just a few drops of blood, but did not deliver.

ELIZABETH HOLMES, FOUND GUILTY OF FEDERAL CHARGES: So this is the little tubes that we collect the samples in.