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New Day

More Than 100,000 Hospitalized in the U.S. with COVID-19; Drivers Stranded on Major Interstate Because of Winter Weather; Docs Reveal Trump Allies' Plan to Target Homes of Election Officials. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 04, 2022 - 07:00   ET



CARI CHAMPION, HOST, NAKED WITH CARI CHAMPION: I find him to be -- I mean, it really is an enigma in so many ways, because you want to feel like, please, get some help, but then he does this. It's so brazen, like, na, na, na, in your face, if you will.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Cari, I want to ask about something completely different, and it has to do with, I think, what it might be like to be a woman of color in media, which I think you can relate to. Michelle Lee, who is an Asian-American broadcaster, was on New Year's Day, she's an anchor. And she was talking about how she would have traditional foods on New Year's Day, and then received these phone calls which she then played. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. This evening, your Asian anchor mentioned something about being Asian and Asian people eat dumplings on New Year's Day. And I kind of take offense to that because what if one of your white anchors said, well, white people eat this on New Year's Day? I don't think it was appropriate that she said that. And she was being very Asian and, I don't know. She can keep her Korean to herself.


BERMAN: Wow. Cari?

CHAMPION: Ridiculous. Ridiculous. And, by the way, I think kudos to Michelle. I know this story very well. I think she played that because it is so ridiculous, and I'm sure it's not the first time she's heard something like this in her career, as a woman of color. Trust me, I know.

I'd like to add, just for the record, I, too, loved black-eyed peas for New Year's Day, because it is good for you. And it's not censure. This woman made it about her. You can tell me what you'd like to eat. That's fine. But good for Michelle, and I love the way in which the hashtag very Asian became something positive, in the way people responded. It is unfortunate that we live in a day and age where we can't say what we like culturally, and it becomes a versus type of situation. And it is sad because we deal with it often. But guess what? The beauty of it is the resilience, because Michelle showed what you can do when people come together. Right, John?

BERMAN: Yes. Look, I eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, and the collard greens. Like one brings luck, one brings money, my wife makes both. So --

CHAMPION: John, you're in the know, as are your viewers now. So, everyone should be doing it, okay? Go get some black-eyed peas and some greens, everyone calm down.

BERMAN: To be fair, it is my wife. My wife is in the know on New Year's. Every New Year's, she makes that. Yes, so that's why we have it.

Cari Champion, thank you so much.

CHAMPION: Hi, John's wife. Thank you so much. Have a good one, guys.

BERMAN: And New Day continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. And hi, John's wife, as well. It is Tuesday, January 4th. And I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

This morning, record highs in the number of coronavirus cases, the U.S. seven-day rolling average of cases now standing 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 that this total has reached six figures in nearly four months.

States are also reporting surges in child hospitalizations, very alarming here, which are now the highest that they have ever been, with more than 500 children being admitted daily.

BERMAN: This as the omicron variant complicates the return to school with some of the largest districts shifting to remote learning and others relying on more robust testing. In Chicago, which is the third largest school district in the country, the teachers union is gearing up for a potential walkout as cases there skyrocket. Today, they'll hold an emergency meeting to vote on measures that they deem safe.

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

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

KEILAR: let's bring in CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, really, to get a sense of where we are in all of this. Sanjay, it is the first time that we've spoken -- good morning to you -- since the omicron surge really took hold a little more than two weeks ago. And you have cases nearing almost 500,000 per day on average. Where do we stand as you see it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Happy New Year, guys, right? I mean, this is going to sound familiar. I mean, what we're seeing here is obviously a significant increase in the overall number of cases. And at the same time, as people have sort of alluded to almost since the beginning, when we started looking at the data out of South Africa, that there is a decoupling or fewer, if you will, hospitalizations and deaths associated with this.


So, those are the numbers, so 90 percent, the cases sort of compared to January 2021, but 27 percent lower hospitalizations.

The concern, though, is if you look at sort of the trend over the past couple of years, and look at where the peaks have been, that was a peak that we were talking about, 90 percent of a peak, and the numbers are still going up, obviously, in this country. So, even if you have something that is less severe, and that may be because of pre-existing immunity out there or because of the nature of this omicron variant itself, if you have absolute numbers of cases that continue to go up, that's going to cause a significant pressure on the hospital system.

And, you know, we've talked about cases, hospitalizations, deaths. Which one of these is going to be the truest measure, the thing that is going to sort of be the biggest thing to watch? And it is hospitalizations. As you see more and more hospitalizations, that's going to be the real pressure on the system, not just for COVID patients but for all patients who are trying to access care. So, that's going to be the big concern, I think, over the next several weeks.

BERMAN: Sanjay, there is some news which is big in my household with two 14-year-olds, and I know I think you have got someone in this age group as well. Children ages 12 to 15, the FDA now says they're authorized to get the Pfizer booster shot. CDC has to sign on, which I guess happens Wednesday. But what's the significance of this, in your mind?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think, overall, you're look at a percentage of people. We can show the number of people who have already been vaccinated sort of in this group. You have about 39 percent -- 51 percent that have been fully vaccinated. 39 percent, I think, partially vaccinated -- I'm sorry, unvaccinated. You can see the numbers there. This would be an opportunity obviously to give additional protection, at least to the people who have already been fully vaccinated.

Now, you know, this is a group of people who are already at lower risk of hospitalization, of death, but we are in the middle of a significant viral storm right now. And we know that the hospitalizations overall for this population have been increasing. Again, as more and more people get infected, because there is so much of this virus around and it is so contagious, you're going to have an increase in hospitalizations. So, hopefully, this can help mitigate that to some extent.

We're not going to be in this situation forever. At some point, hopefully, the cases will start to come down again and the demand, I think, you know, in terms of the pressure on the hospital systems, will hopefully start to reduce a bit. But for right now, anything we can do to try and reduce that demand, I think, is really critical.

KEILAR: And Florida's surgeon general, Sanjay, says that states should limit testing, specifically looking at his, and focus on high- value testing. I want to listen to some of this.


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.


KEILAR: What do you think about that strategy?

GUPTA: Well, I mean, the original sin here is still that we have not been doing enough testing in this country. I mean, it's really hard to believe. Three years now we've been talking about this, and going into the third year, and we still haven't been doing enough testing. I think what he is sort reacting to is the idea that they're trying to justify, look, we don't have enough testing, we're not doing enough testing. Florida's positivity rate is 30 percent.

I think most people understand when a positivity rate is that high, that means you're not doing enough testing. You're not nearly catching the number of people out there who actually are carrying this virus.

Now, if you don't have enough testing, yes, makes sense that you have got to sort of figure out who should most likely be tested. But the problem still is we need more testing. I mean, when people talk about the idea we should be doing 30 million tests a day in this country, that was something that we were talking about, you know, last year, summer of last year. And we're still, like, you know, about a million tests a day as opposed to 30 million tests a day.

So, the problem still is that we don't have enough tests out there, period, not that we should start to rollback tests. And, again, Florida specifically, positivity rate is 30 percent. That is a clear indicator that not enough testing is happening.

KEILAR: Yes. It just really speaks to how overwhelmed the testing systems and just health care systems in general are getting here. Sanjay, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you. KEILAR: Coming up, we're going to speak with the surgeon general of the U.S., Dr. Vivek Murthy, as omicron continues to set record highs and impact schools across the country.


BERMAN: Right. Breaking right now, we have a live look near Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is travel on one of the busiest stretches of Interstate 95. It's been at a near total standstill for hours because of snow, debris and multiple accidents. This is much more movement than we've seen from a long, long time there. Emergency crews are trying to tow away vehicles blocking the road. Officials believe around three dozen trucks were stuck. Some people were stranded in vehicles overnight, and the temperatures kept dropping outside.

Joining us now, stranded in her car, is Susan Phalen. Susan, can you hear me?

SUSAN PHALEN, STUCK IN HER CAR ON I-95 FOR ALMOST 12 HOURS NOW (voice over): I sure can. How are you, John?

BERMAN: Well, how are you?

PHALEN (voice over): I'm a little tired and a little grumpy.

BERMAN: How long have you been sitting there?

PHALEN (voice over): I left the house in Fredericksburg at 8:00 last night. And I moved to where I am, just south of Stafford, Virginia. And I've been sitting in the exact same spot for just over ten hours now.

BERMAN (voice over): Ten hours?

PHALEN (voice over): Yes. Thankfully, I'll have a full tank of gas. But I've got a couple little dogs in the car with me, and so we're hitting the point of no return. People are getting out of their cars, not in mass quantities, but hiding behind car doors and doing their business on the streets here. There's no place to go.

BERMAN (voice over): I think I know what you're describing there. I won't ask a follow-up on that. But, you know, the dogs, I mean, what are you all doing to pass the time ten hours in?

PHALEN (voice over): Well, I've never been much of a tweeter, but I've been trolling through tweets to try to keep updated on what is going on. And so I've been tweeting updates from where I sit. And it's been passing the time. People are interacting on Twitter and asking how we're doing. So, I mean, it's terrifically boring, but I've been stuck in worse places.

BERMAN (voice over): Are you getting any kind of official communication from authorities on how much longer it is going to be?

PHALEN (voice over): We're not. We're not even seeing any official cars, like the cars with the lights and siren cars, whether they're construction or whether they're police or rescue workers. They're about a mile ahead of me. And they turn on for a while and I see them up there, and now they're gone. Traffic is still not moving.

Every now and then, traffic in the southbound direction will move a little bit. It seems like they'll let 40 or 50 cars go through, and then they'll stop it again. So, I must just be south of the bottleneck, but I don't know how long the bottleneck lasts. I mean, it could just be one choke point or a choke point that lasts miles. I have no idea, and I'm not seeing any of that information on the VDOT, Virginia Department of Transportation page. So, we're going to -- I'd say we're flying blind out here, but we're actually just sitting blind out here, have no idea.

BERMAN (voice over): I can't imagine what it was like to see the sunrise after sitting in your car ten hours overnight. I mean, how cold did it get?

PHALEN (voice over): It got down in the 20s. But, you know, a lot of people have been turning their cars -- a lot of people in the vicinity where I am have been turning their cars off to save gas and then they'll turn the car back on to heat it up a bit. But I've made friends with the people in the car behind me and they have got food and water. If we get into a jam, I'm sure people in the cars around us are willing to help. But at this point, everybody has just been staying in their cars because it's pretty darn cold outside.

BERMAN: Well, Susan Phalen, I hope things start to move there quickly. I can't imagine what that's been like. Please hug your dogs? Walk your dog around the car? I don't know what advice to give you at this point, but hang in there.

PHALEN (voice over): Yes. I took the dogs out on a little snow bank here that had been plowed. They're not at all interested. They're five-pound dogs, so they're really tiny and not used to the cold. But they had their chance.

BERMAN: All right, Susan, hang in there. Stay safe. We hope you get moving soon.

PHALEN (voice over): Thanks, you too. Have a good one.

KEILAR: Ten hours, unbelievable. Can you believe that.

So, documents recently turned over to the January 6th committee reveal a plan by Donald Trump's allies to target the offices and the homes, the homes of state and local officials in the days and weeks following the 2020 election. The document outlined the need for a targeted plan to put pressure on officials in states like Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan.

And joining me now is Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Good morning to you, Secretary. We appreciate you being with us.

JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning. Thank you for having me and shedding a light on this very critical issue. KEILAR: I mean, it's pretty, you know -- as much as one can be stunned these days, these are documents from Bernard Kerik, a Trump ally to the January 6th committee.


And what it shows is this really orchestrated campaign of harassment and almost stalking of officials, folks like yourself. What's your reaction in learning of this?

BENSON: I think -- I mean, this is what life has been like for nearly two years now, as we've lived through this moment, this attack on democracy. And as election officials, we personify democracy. So, to the extent that democracy itself is under attack right now, as it is, those who personify it, the election administrators whose job it is to make sure people get their ballots, that they're securely counted and their results are accurate, we're the ones with the people being targeted by those who want to target and dismantle democracy. If they can take out us, then they can, you know, have a significant victory along their path. Then we're also seeing efforts to potentially replace those professional election officials with partisans who are willing to turn a blind eye or fail to certify election results simply because they don't agree with the outcome.

KEILAR: What do you say to people who planned and supported this?

BENSON: First, it failed. You know, we as election officials, we are resolute. And I am nothing but emboldened to continue to work to protect democracy and work harder than ever to ensure that every person's vote is counted and every voice is heard. But at the same time, I worry deeply about people leaving our industry because they no longer want to be subject to these threats and their families as well. I mean, it is a harrowing ordeal. It is abhorrent.

And it is sad because these are people who -- those attacking democracy are those responding to lies, falsehoods, deceit, misinformation for months, for years. And so it's this cycle that really won't end until there is accountability for the leaders who are lying to individuals about our election realities, our election procedures. And when there are consequences for those leaders, then I believe we can start to see the end of this.

KEILAR: Look, we've already heard about people who are leaving this profession, good people, right? And they're concerned for their safety. They're concerned for the safety of their families, and they're being pushed out of this. So, when you think of that, how do you think about these folks, as you said, being in charge of elections, you know, governing democracy? What does that say about the state of democracy in the country?

BENSON: It really says, as I've said before, this is a five-alarm fire. This is a moment where every single citizen, regardless of your political affiliation, needs to prioritize protecting the truth and protecting democracy and protecting those whose job it is to guard and enforce and defend democracy. This is the moment that we all must prioritize that or else our democracy will wither on the vine. I'm very saddened to see so many of professionals who I work with and admire on both sides of the aisle, people who stood guard and held the line in 2020 to protect democracy leaving the profession. The bright, shining hope is that there are also many people coming into the profession, prioritizing protecting democracy, not for a partisan goal but for protecting our Constitution, our country. And if we see more people willing to step up and prioritize democracy right now, and even serve on the front lines as election workers and more, then we can save it.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, it is an incredibly alarming trend on the state level, on the local level we're seeing this. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, thanks for being with us.

BENSON: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Coming up, absurd Capitol riot lies from Trump supporters.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: January 6th attack was not the Republicans nor Trump. It was the Democrats were behind it all.


BERMAN: Plus, what an anchor admitted live on the air about Fox and the network's ratings.

And life on Mars, a top NASA scientist's plan to make it happen.



KEILAR: A Fox host saying this live on the air.


JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: I work at Fox. I want to see disarray on the left. It's good for America. It's good for our ratings.


KEILAR: Joining us now, CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp. I mean, I'm filing this under stuff we already knew, I guess?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, it's the quiet part. He said the quiet part. I never would have imagined calling Jesse Watters a scholar. However, I think what he just did is really articulate sort of the three pillars of the new American right. The first is that there are two Americas, not one. He talks about, you know, wanting to see disarray on the left as if it is somehow not also wanting to see disarray in America. And not just in a political party, but wants real pain in the streets. That's because we are not the United States anymore on the right. There are two Americas. One is righteous. One needs to be sort of excised. Number two is that the cruelty is the point, right? They want to see the pain and the disarray. They want people like Joe Biden and AOC and Pelosi and liberals to suffer. They're not interested in changing hearts and minds with ideas. They want to see the pain because the cruelty is the point.

And, thirdly, ratings above all else, that's true at Fox, where, certainly, ratings have seemed to trump public health and safety and also like facts, but it is also true of the attention economy that has really gripped the right, for people like Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert.


Getting attention is the most important thing.

BERMAN: It's interesting. You talk about the attention economy, you talk about what people will do for ratings. And Writer Mark Green was talking about Joe Rogan, who hosts this wildly popular podcast. And this is how he suggests Joe Rogan works. He says, Rogan has paid millions of dollars to have controversial opinions and guests because a lot of people really like the feeling of being independent from or looking down on main street people and perspectives, look at a shtick through that lens, and it all makes way more sense. Is that what you're talking about?

CUPP: Sure. I mean, listen, there is nothing new about being contrarian or shocking, right? I mean, we've had shock jocks. Go back Morton Downey Jr. if you really kind of want to be shocked, Howard Stern. That's a thing. And, you know, it's been a thing for a long time here.

The problem is, I don't think Joe is very careful with his platform, right? Like during a global pandemic, it might not be the right time to give medical advice, which, by the way, I think Joe knows is not sound. Because he sort of walked it back a few months ago, saying, listen, I'm not a doctor, don't listen to me, but that hasn't stopped him from giving it out.

Look, I don't think Joe Rogan is cruel, like Alex Jones is cruel. I don't think he is manipulative intentionally the way I think Tucker Carlson intentionally manipulates his audience. I just think Joe Rogan has a huge platform, and he is not careful with it.

KEILAR: Then also let's talk about something that Conan O'Brien said. He was on his podcast. And he said that he was thinking about when he first saw January 6th. I think we all know how that moment went for us. And this is what he said.


CONAN O'BRIEN, CONAN O'BRIEN NEEDS A FRIEND PODCAST: And in the background, I'm watching our country start to come apart at the seams. I said, I don't think we're doing a podcast right now because I think the American experiment is ending right now on CNN, live. That was insanity. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Do you think, S.E., it was the American experiment ending?

CUPP: It was certainly breaking. Luckily, it didn't end but it was certainly breaking and by people who want to break it. I think, look, there were a lot of people there that day who didn't know why, and then there were a lot of people there that day because they really thought they could overturn a democratic election somehow procedurally. And then I think there were a lot of people there that day who admit wanting to overturn a democratic election violently, if necessary. And then they went ahead and tried it.

And those people, that wing, really do want to break democracy. It's not that they just want someone else in charge of our country. It's that they want a different country. And to get it, they have to break it. They have to break democracy. And that they're willing to do that and go to the extremes to do that, that's really horrifying. Because it is not just like five or six, it is, like, tens of thousands. They are in the military. They are in intelligence. They are in law enforcement. They are in QAnon. They're your next door neighbor in some cases. And this is a group that really believes this is a cause, it's a righteous cause, and it is one potentially worth dying for.

So, I don't think that was the beginning. I think -- I don't think that was the end or the last attempt. I think that was the beginning of this attempt to break democracy.

BERMAN: As we sit here on the anniversary, S.E. Cupp, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

CUPP: Thank you, guys.

BERMAN: So, just hours from now, Chicago teachers take a crucial vote. Will they refuse to work in the classroom because of COVID?

KEILAR: Plus, Apple goes where no U.S. company has ever gone before.