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New Day Saturday

Police: Possible Human Remains Found Near Explosion Site; Unemployment Money For Millions Runs Out, Relief Bill Waits For Trump's Signature; Trump Administration Makes Final Push To Finish U.S./Mexico Border Wall; Health Officials Brace For COVID Surge After Holidays; Teachers In 2020: Providing Steady Education In A Time Of Upheaval; LeBron, Lakers Continue To Own Christmas Day. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired December 26, 2020 - 08:00   ET





BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: One of Nashville, Tennessee's main entertainment and tourism industries is one giant crime scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It blew out the back windows on our two top floors and blew debris and stuff over across the bed where my wife was sleeping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The spirit of our city cannot be broken but we're not going to rest until those responsible for those outrageous and cowardly attacks are brought to justice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For most Americans even the first dose of vaccine is still months away but another surge may be just days out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just never believe that we would get to 330,000 American lives lost by Christmas Day and still accelerating at 3,000 deaths a day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seems clear that he's not going to read the bill or sign it or veto it, if he doesn't sign the bill by the end of the day, then actual unemployment benefits will cease.


SANCHEZ: Good morning, thank you so much for joining us. I'm Boris Sanchez. Victor and Christi have the morning off. We're following developments in that Christmas Day explosion in Nashville, but first, we have to mention the clock is ticking for President Trump to sign a desperately needed COVID relief bill.

After today, more than 12 million Americans will lose their extended unemployment insurance and adding to uncertainty for millions of Americans the threat of another surge in COVID-19 infections. Nationwide there are more than 100,000 people in the hospital right now. We'll get back to that in just a moment. First, let's pivot to the explosion in Nashville, where investigators have found what might be human remains near that blast site. CNN's Natasha Chen joins us now live from Nashville. And Natasha, we have Former FBI Special Agent James Gagliano on earlier. He said this was perplexing and investigators have a lot of questions to answer.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris especially because it is highly unusual to see that a warning given out for an explosion. A 15-minute count down. So this really started you know Christmas morning. People heard gun shots, called 911.

And when six officers arrived from Metro Nashville Police, they heard that recorded message playing from an RV, telling people they had 15 minutes to evacuate. So this was a terrifying experience especially for the residents who lived in a building nearby.

They heard that message, they heard that sound. Police really worked hard try and evacuate people and get people to a safe place. In fact, one woman who evacuated Betsy Williams told Anderson Cooper, that she had hoped to spend Christmas Day in her pajamas lounging around, but she ended up doing that in a very different way. Here is what she said on air yesterday.


BETSY WILLIAMS, NASHVILLE EXPLOSION EYEWITNESS: We were on our way back down there. We saw the thing, the fireball went all the way up past the AT& percent above the AT&T building everything just - I mean, everything shook. It was - it was quite the blast.


CHEN: So, you're hearing her talk about her returning to her home because she had already left it. She said that when she was on her way back and saw that explosion, she tried to look at her home. Everything was scattered everywhere. But she did see her Christmas tree still standing there so a really devastating scene for people.

Of course, now, it is impossible to get that close. We are on Second Avenue, the street where it happened, but the blast site is several blocks away from where we are. And there's a curfew to try and keep people away from this investigation area until Sunday afternoon.

And as you mentioned there was tissue found, believed to be human remains. That's what the police chief told us last night. I asked specifically where it was found. And perhaps if it might relate to whether somebody was inside the RV he said those questions could not be answered yet. There's just such a debris field right now that they're combing through. Boris.

SANCHEZ: We're hoping to get some answers when we hear from law enforcement later today. Natasha Chen thank you so much. Let's bring in Former Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security and CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem - it appears we have got some technical difficulties and we actually just lost Juliette one of the many issues caused by COVID-19 and trying to connect with folks.

Let's go ahead and go to Alison Kosik. She's following the latest developments with COVID-19. She filed this report.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Starting Monday in the UK, all passengers must have a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a flight to the U.S.


KOSIK: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised the decision by the CDC for passengers to be tested who are flying from the UK. Testing people for COVID-19 before they get on planes is common sense. We cannot repeat the mistake of the past. And we must continue to do everything we can to keep New Yorkers and Americans safe, Cuomo said in a statement Friday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the new testing requirements for travelers but research by the agency's own scientists shows the rule may have only a small impact on the spread of the new UK strain of the Coronavirus.

According to researchers on the CDC's COVID-19 response team, testing three days before a flight might reduce the risk of spreading the virus by just 5 percent to 9 percent. Pfizer and Moderna are testing to see whether their vaccines work against the new variant which thus far has not been detected in the U.S.

Southern California is grappling with surging COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths as the state passes another grim milestone reporting more than 300 new COVID deaths for a third straight day. In Los Angeles County, a person dies every ten minutes from COVID-19, county's Public Health Director says.


DR. CHRIS PERNELL, PUBLIC HEALTH PHYSICIAN: I think people don't think Coronavirus will happen to them. They think Coronavirus will happen to another family. But there is no safety, other than those public health measures that we have been preaching from the mountaintops.


KOSIK: As Christmas comes to an end and we head into the New Year, experts say the safest way to celebrate is at home. With the people you live with, or online with friends and family. For those that host a New Year's celebration, the CDC suggests staying outside, limiting the number of guests. Wearing and making extra masks available and keeping background music low to avoid shouting.


ERIN BROMAGE, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS: We've just seen these amplification events and that's what's happened at the end of this year in the U.S. We had - you know, Thanksgiving. We had Labor Day. We had Halloween. Each one of these events brought lots of people together. And just gave the virus more fuel to move through the population. So, Christmas is going to do a similar thing.


KOSIK: And the TSA says more than 1 million people pass through security checkpoints at airports across the country, just days before the Christmas. Its stoking fears from health care experts that we could see another spike in Coronavirus cases on top of the ones that we're seeing now. Boris.

SANCHEZ: All right, Alison Kosik, thank you for that. Juggling a lot of news this morning fortunately, we were able to take care of those technical difficulties to get back to the explosion in Nashville where investigators found what might be human remains near the blast site.

Let's go ahead and bring in Juliette Kayyem, she's a CNN National Security Analyst and she is also a Former Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Juliette, just on the surface with the few details that we have right now, what stands out to you about this incident?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's highly unusual. So, that's why we're reserving judgment on what motivation it is, right? So, when you have the pre-warnings, you have massive explosive material. But no desire to have a mass casualty event, you have potentially remains, but we don't know whose remains those are.

If this is a suicide, it's a dramatic suicide. If this is an industrial attack, there's no manifesto we know of. So, the data or the facts we know are pointing in multiple directions right now, in terms of who and why? But what we do know, fortunately, knock on wood, is that this explosion that may be more akin to Oklahoma City than, say, the Boston Marathon attack, really, you know, at least have limited harm on the streets of Nashville.

SANCHEZ: Yes. I'm curious this is what appears to be an enormous blocks-wide radius. How difficult is it going to be for investigators to find pieces of that explosive device?

KAYYEM: I think the investigation the physical investigation should be relatively easy because here's what we know so far. There is a picture of the RV, presumably then we can begin to figure out who owned it? Who purchased it? Who rented it? Where was it last?

Explosives like this in terms of purchasing are going to leave a footprint, investigatory footprint where did he or they get them, when were they purchased? Is there activity now that the FBI is investigating that they can go to stores, they can go to warehouses and they can go online to determine who may have bought this stuff?


KAYYEM: So, I'm pretty optimistic in the way one can be optimistic that the physical evidence will lead to understanding who it is, or who they are, relatively quickly. And I actually think that's probably why we haven't seen the FBI at the last two, I believe, press conferences. This is the kind of investigation that is - that is beneficial in terms of what the FBI has to go with at this stage.

SANCHEZ: Yes, there's not been an implication that this is terrorism. Investigators have not implied that.


SANCHEZ: Is there anything that you've seen that might indicate it pointing in that direction?

KAYYEM: No. That's why I've been really cautious on the air the last 24 hours. I know Twitter and others really want an answer, right? You want it - so the difference between terror and terrorism. There's a difference between an intentional attack and terrorism.

We know that the threat environment is higher, for a variety of reasons, the election, politics, the way the world is now. But I have to say, if you look ask me; looking at this, at what I see now, it's a really odd critical infrastructure attack. There's lots of talk with AT&T.

But that's a building that most people don't know. There is no manifesto which we generally see in attacks on buildings or corporate places. And I turn again to the potential for a suicide. This is quite dramatic for suicide.

And then of course the fact that you don't want a mass casualty event in this way it's more historic type of attack of what we used to see the IRA do in the olden days so to speak. I'm very, very cautious about the motivation at this stage and I think we should be because often - you don't want to focus on a particular threat or motivation and then ignore where the real evidence is taking you.

SANCHEZ: Yes, you don't want to essentially confirm your own bias.


SANCHEZ: When you're looking at the data. The thing that really stands out to me is this warning.


SANCHEZ: For 15 minutes this automated warning was playing saying that a bomb was going to go off or something similar basically telling people to leave the area. I'm curious, have you seen something similar in previous incidents like this, in previous investigations? And ultimately, what did that say about the incident what did that reveal?

KAYYEM: So, political terrorists in the past who actually wanted political gains look at the IRA sometimes political violence in U.S. in the '60s, there would be a warning because you didn't want people dead. You just wanted to make a point.

But we haven't seen anything like this. The car, the use of the audio, all of that stuff that you're talking about, it's like out of a movie. It's a little diabolical. But nonetheless also something that obviously saved a lot of lives. It feels like it comes out of a movie. We haven't seen anything quite like this and certainly not in recent history. That's why you can't really peg this thing quite yet. I will say to do something like that, to have the prerecording - to have it work - this is hard to do. To have it work. To have the RV detonate on time apparently there was some music. All of it was just strange. As I said, diabolical is sort of the word that comes to my head but we don't know the motivation for that strangeness.

SANCHEZ: Yes, we should also know that there were six police officers I believe who rushed in and got people out of their hook are being held as heroes today and they certainly deserve it. Juliette Kayyem, the list of questions is endless but we have to leave it there. Thank you so much.

KAYYEM: Thank you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Millions of Americans are waking up this morning with fresh fear about how to pay the bills? Now, a Republican Senator says the rest of his party should get on board and back the president's 11th hour demand for bigger paychecks directly to Americans.

Plus, the rush to build the border wall before the Trump Presidency ends. Supporters say it's vital for security. Activists say it is creating an environmental disaster. We'll take you to the boarder.



SANCHEZ: Millions of Americans now face a stark new reality. Their unemployment benefits have run out, and there is little sign that a Coronavirus deal will give them relief anytime soon. The bill that congress passed with a veto-proof majority is sitting in Mar-a-Lago, stalled, waiting on the president's signature.

The president called the bill a disgrace this week and issued a new demand for $2,000 direct payments to Americans. Republicans in the House rejected that on Christmas Eve. But a Republican Senator who spent Christmas with the president now says he supports that change.

CNN's Sarah Westwood is live for us in West Palm Beach Florida, this morning. Sarah, Senator Lindsey Graham now says the president's last- minute demand for those checks for Americans is reasonable even though he voted for the bill that was passed. Is there any expectation that other hesitant Republicans might move that direction on this?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Boris, this will certainly put more pressure on them to have to weigh in on the president's new demand. Up until now, many of them were sort of trotting water hoping that this would potentially blow over that perhaps the president wouldn't step up his opposition to the level of the veto threat for this Coronavirus relief bill that is sitting in Mar-a-Lago right now awaiting his signature.

But now, the president has gotten a reversal of sorts out of Senator Graham who voted for the bill and who has been vocal in his support of it. That's the kind of reversal he wants to see from other Republicans who voted for this bill under the impression that the White House backed it.

Because it was the White House that brought to the table the idea of $600 being the amount for the individual checks, because Republicans didn't support anything higher than that. But Graham, after getting off the golf course with the president yesterday tweeted out his support.

I want to read you what he said. After spending some time with President Trump today I am convinced he's more determined than ever to increase stimulus payments to $2,000 per person to challenge Section 230 Big Tech Liability Protection.

Now that 230 provisions, that is the reason why the president vetoed the defense spending bill it's because Republicans and Democrats would not agree to repeal that big tech law in this defense spending bill.


WESTWOOD: He has been tweeting about it against this morning saying that it is time to end section 230 before it's too late. And yesterday as millions of Americans celebrated Christmas under an uncertain economic future, the president was doubling down on his opposition to the relief bill awaiting his signature saying made many calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida.

Why would politicians not want to give $2,000 rather than only 600? It wasn't their fault, it was China, give our people the money. Of course, as if this wasn't complicated enough, Boris. That relief deal is tied to a spending bill that's needed to keep the government open, if he doesn't sign it by Monday. We're looking at the potential of a government shutdown.

SANCHEZ: Sarah Westwood reporting from West Palm Beach thanks for that. Though, the president makes the claim that he may stay in office another four years, another tacit admission that he is on his way out is the fact that his administration is rushing to finish building at least 450 miles of border wall along the U.S./Mexico border before his presidency ends.

Activists have documented what they call an environmental catastrophe unfolding along the border. CNN's Ed Lavandera has more.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you want a taste of life on the Arizona/Mexico border, ride shotgun in Kelly Kimbro's 1992 Desert- beaten ford pickup truck.


KELLY KIMBRO, ARIZONA RANCHER: We're not big time ranchers. We have a couple of cattle ranchers we make a live. We love the lifestyle.

LAVANDERA (voice over): It's hard to tell where the United States ends and Mexico begins on Kimbro's 800 acres in South East Arizona. This year, that changed. The Trump Administration is carving a 19-mile wall right through this wide open valley.

LAVANDERA (on camera): What's it like to see this massive construction project on your property?

KIMBRO: We did not think it was necessary.

LAVANDERA (voice over): Construction crews moved in about a year ago. This is what the wall looked like across the San Bernardino Valley in February. This is what it looks like today. Some see it as a long scar.

KIMBRO: And the American taxpayer doesn't see - they hear build that wall, it's going to secure this country. I promise you, it's never going to secure the country. Not any better than it's already secured.

LAVANDERA (voice over): In the final weeks of the Trump Presidency, the rush is on to finish building at least 450 miles of the border walls. Customs and Border Protection officials say at least 438 miles of that are now complete. As the Coronavirus pandemic raged this year, border wall construction never stopped.

For months, anti-wall activists have documented what they describe as an environmental catastrophe, unfolding along the southern border crews blasting and bull dozing through rugged mountainous terrain. Border patrol officials say the new walls are vital to patrolling these remote regions.

DANIEL HERNANDEZ, BORDER PATROL AGENT: Good infrastructure buys us more time and gives us the critical seconds and minutes that we need to get to an area. But as of now a lot has been erected and we're hoping in the future it pays off dividends.

LAVANDERA (voice over): The army corps of engineers says eight border wall projects have been finished with crews actively working around the clock on 37 other project.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT-ELECT: Good evening, my fellow Americans--

LAVANDERA (voice over): The question is what happens when President- Elect Joe Biden takes office? Biden has pledged he would not build another foot of border wall.

BRANDON JUDD, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: Construction is taking place. It's going up this mountain.

LAVANDERA (voice over): Brandon Judd leads the National Border Patrol Council. The union has been a vocal ally of President Trump. Judd says it would be foolish for Biden to stop the construction now.

JUDD: You can see that trench that goes straight up that line. Those are the footers. What, you're just going to throw that away? That just doesn't make any sense because now you're just throwing money down the toilet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't flat lock anymore.

LAVANDERA (voice over): Halting construction isn't enough for some anti-wall activists.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take the wall down in the areas that we need to be taken down right away.

LAVANDERA (voice over): We hiked to this border wall gate stretching to San Pedro River bed in Arizona with environmentalist Kate Scott. She says this construction is a deadly threat to wildlife that migrates through this area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can tell you, we wake up, we cry, we steady ourselves and we get to work because it's just so painful for me to witness this monstrosity.

LAVANDERA (voice over): But the wall also isn't being built fast enough for Jim Chilton.

JIM CHILTON, ARIZONA RANCHER: The international boundary.

LAVANDERA (on camera): This isn't the kind of wall you want?


LAVANDERA (voice over): His ranch pans out across 50,000 acres in Arizona. Chilton is lobbying for a wall on this spot. He says it's a low-priority area because it's so remote but he does have the ear of the border wall's biggest cheerleader. President Trump put Chilton in the spotlight during a rally last year.


CHILTON: Mr. President, we need a wall. I offered the federal government ten acres of land over here on my private property to have a forward operation base. I offered it for a dollar a year. And I even told them, I'll give you the dollar, if you can't find one.

LAVANDERA (on camera): You've made the border patrol, the federal government an offer that you thought they couldn't refuse?

CHILTON: They said they would study it. That was four years ago.

LAVANDERA (voice over): Chilton's ranch sits between a 25-mile gap in existing border wall and he says it's prime terrain for drug smugglers. He's deployed hidden camera to capture what he says are more than 1,000 images of camouflage smugglers marching across his ranch.

CHILTON: My ranch is a no man's land. It is aptly controlled by the car tail.

LAVANDERA (voice over): Laken Judall (ph) has spent the year sounding the alarm about border wall construction in Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This wall is purely political theater. It does nothing to actually stop people or drugs from the stopping the border.

LAVANDERA (voice over): He drove us around Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument a breathtaking National Park in the heart of the desert. The tranquility of the landscape is broken by the sounds of crews building more than 60 miles of wall part of it through this national park. He calls himself a disaster tour guide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're pulling out all of the stops to rush this project through. This is all rushed.

LAVANDERA (voice over): He used to work as a U.S. National Park Ranger at the Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona. He says he resigned after President Trump took office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really an insult to those of us who lived on here. We're seeing our communities ripped apart. We're seeing these ecosystems being destroyed. We don't care what you call it. This thing is a disaster.


LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, along the Arizona/Mexico border.

SANCHEZ: Ed Lavandera, excellent work as always. Next, Nashville police revealing the six officers who helped save lives by evacuating the area targeted by an intentional explosion. Details on where the investigation stands? Plus, Europe set to start COVID-19 vaccinations this weekend. We'll take you live to Paris where the first doses are arriving right now.



SANCHEZ: We're continuing to monitor the breaking developments in Nashville, Tennessee, where police say someone intentionally detonated a bomb near the tourist district. Investigators found what might be human remains near the site of the blast. The blast damaged dozens of buildings and injured at least three people yesterday morning.

A really odd thing for 15 minutes before the explosion an audio recording warned people to evacuate the area. Six police officers rushing to the scene responding to gunshots are being credited with getting people out of harm's way. They're being rightfully hailed as heroes.

Now, authorities say there are no credible threats signaling an impending attack before Christmas, so the FBI is asking anyone with information to please come forward.

Turning now to the fight against the Coronavirus, more European nations are set to begin vaccinations tomorrow as a new more infectious strain of COVID-19 emerges around the world. Let's go to CNN's Cyril Vanier in Paris, where France is one of several countries getting ready to begin administering these shots tomorrow. Cyril, what's the latest, are people ready to receive the vaccine?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Boris look, after being one of the epicenters of the pandemic earlier this year, Europe is now ready to open a new chapter, right? And it is going to be a massive rollout program. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which is currently the only one approved in Europe, is being manufactured in Belgium and it is being sent to 27 member states.

Remember, the European Union, that's almost 500 million people. That gives you a sense of the magnitude of what's happening here. It's going to be very gradual. Here in France, where I am, the very first doses have arrived in Paris and they're going to be administered tomorrow morning.

When I say gradual, I mean, it's just going to be about a dozen patients in the geriatric ward of a hospital outside of the capitol. And then that's going to grow. So just two establishments are getting the shots tomorrow and then its 23 next week, and then its several hundred the week after that.

And the authorities don't expect here in France that they'll be able to make the vaccine available to the entire population until this summer. So, again, that gives you a sense of how gradual it is? But Europe will start turning a corner tomorrow.

SANCHEZ: And, Cyril, France has also confirmed that first case of the new Coronavirus variant. What are we learning about that?

VANIER: Yes. That's worrying news because the first signs are that this new variant is highly transmissible. We're learning that a French national who lives in the UK, where this virus - this variant was first detected, travelled to France a week ago. And then after that, got tested positive for COVID-19.

Because he had traveled from the UK, his test was then sent for DNA sequencing. And we found out on Christmas Day, on the 25th of December, that indeed, the particular variant of the particular type of COVID that he had was this new UK originated variant.

And so, it bears repeating that this patient is actually fine. He's in isolation. But France is now contact tracing trying to isolate all of the people he came into contact with, to avoid this spreading any further, Boris.

SANCHEZ: All right, Cyril Vanier reporting from Paris. Thank you for that. Looking at airports, tourist destinations or maybe even around your town there's a clear theme this holiday weekend COVID fatigue, plenty of Americans disregarding Coronavirus warnings about travel and what a Christmas surge would do to case counts and hospitals across the country?

The U.S. heading into the New Year approaching 19 million infections and more than 330,000 deaths that's effectively how we can measure 2020. A key part of how we'll measure 2021 depends on vaccines and how many Americans will actually take them.

The latest CDC tally puts the number of Americans who have gotten shots in the arm just over 1 million.

[08:35:00] SANCHEZ: Joining us now, CNN Global Affairs Analyst and Columnist for "The Washington Post" Max Boot. Max, thank you so much for joining us this weekend. In your latest column, you worry about how many Americans are actually going to take the vaccine? And you attribute that concern to what you call, "The biggest divide in modern America between those who are rational and those who are not". Help us understand.

MAX BOOT, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINTON POST: Well, that's right, Boris. We have a pandemic of irrationality and ignorance in this country. And it's - you know there's a huge dichotomy here between on the one hand you have these brilliant scientists who helped to come up with the Coronavirus vaccine in record time.

We need to appreciate what an amazing achievement this is because previously, the fastest time for development of any other vaccine was the mumps vaccine in the 1960s which took four years whereas, the Coronavirus vaccine has been developed in less than a year and it's 95 percent effective.

I mean, that's an astonishing achievement. But that achievement can be very easily undermined if people don't take it. And Dr. Fauci has said we need to have 75 percent, 80 percent, maybe even 90 percent of the population taking the vaccine in order to achieve herd immunity.

But roughly, a third of the country are saying they probably or definitely will not take the vaccine and there's no real rational reason why that's the case. But there have been so many conspiracy theories and there has been so much rumor and innuendo circulating about Coronavirus online, justice that has been about the election.

There are so many other crazy conspiracies like QAnon out there that people believe in. So we have the potential to solve a lot of our problems including the Coronavirus. But the question is will most Americans be rational enough to do the right thing. Or will they give in to conspiracy mongering, fear and ignorance. And that's the challenge that we're facing right now.

SANCHEZ: Yes. I think there's absolutely an overlap between folks who are susceptible to conspiracy theories about the election and folks who are susceptible to conspiracy theories about the vaccine and the pandemic to begin with.

So ultimately, do you think the vaccine can end the pandemic? Or do you think it will get caught in this sort of realm between what you refer to as the land of facts and a la-la land of alternative facts and fake news?

BOOT: Well, there's no question that Coronavirus in general has become part of this cultural war that we have and the vaccine is certainly going to get caught up in that. I mean, just look at what's happened over the past year where we have way more deaths than we need to have, if we just had a universal mask mandate.

If everybody simply wore a mask every time they left the house, a lot of Americans would still be alive. We would have a lot fewer casualties in our near future. But people refuse to do that because they just don't believe that the virus is serious. They don't believe that masks help. They essentially ignore science.

And unfortunately, there are a lot of snake oil peddlers online who indulge these conspiracy theories in the way that President Trump and his followers indulge conspiracy theories about the election. And of course, Trump and his followers are also deeply complicit in conspiracy theories about masks and basically trying to undercut the science and unfortunately, I think that's going to carry over into the vaccine.

And we've seen that already with a lot of Trump's followers are circulating these crazy conspiracy theories and suggesting that the vaccine isn't really safe. Unfortunately, Trump is doing nothing to dispel that rumormonger, which he ought to be doing but he is not in.

So I think it's going to be a struggle to achieve herd immunity and stop the virus which we have the scientific capabilities to do but do we have the buy-in from the public. And I think that remains very much to be determined. And I hope that people understand that it is safe and it is incredibly important for the vaccine.

SANCHEZ: So, Max, I want to get your thoughts on moving forward. Because I certainly sympathize with the argument that I've heard from some that part of the reason we're facing this wave of irrationality is that movement of skepticism and irrationality has become galvanized by people in power and the media painting caricatures out of these folks deplorable and that sort of thing.

From your perspective, what would be the best way to move forward, to persuade that one third between 20 percent and one-third of Americans who are skeptical about the vaccine, who are skeptical about the pandemic that refuse to wear masks? How would you go back persuading them that, perhaps, you know, facts are a real thing and they should follow science?


BOOT: Well, you need to have the messenger that they trust telling them to take the vaccine. That means folks like Fox News. That means News Max that means President Trump they need to be messaging about the vaccine. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening to a sufficient degree right now.

It's kind of a paradox with President Trump because he wants to take credit for Operation Warp Speed he's constantly bragging them out how quickly the vaccine was developed. When it came time to actually take it he hasn't done that. Vice President Pence went out there in publicly took and praised it but President Trump has not done that.

He is spending almost all of his time indulging his grievances about this election and spreading conspiracy theories to undermine American democracy, instead of trying to dispel these conspiracy theories about the vaccine that he seems to be very proud of. So, unfortunately, I think a lot of his followers are spreading misinformation which is very dangerous. SANCHEZ: Yes, it says a lot, Max, that the president is tweeting more nonsense about the election being rigged and he is warning people to do very specific things to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Max Boot, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much sir.

BOOT: Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course. Several states are making a push to get back to in-person learning at schools after the holiday break. A look at how 2020 has changed the face of education, next?



SANCHEZ: Welcome back. 2020 has changed so much for so many people. One of the hardest hit parts of society has to be our schools' teachers, students and administrators all working to find a way forward day by day. Bianna Golodryga shares some of their stories.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLBOAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: A few things in 2020 drove home the reality of the Coronavirus pandemic more than millions of children are being sent home from school. Just weeks after the virus began spreading across communities large and small, frantic officials made the decision to suspend in-person learning. Like everything else in the early stages of the virus, no one knew how long it would last.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nation's largest public school system in New York City is shutting down.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Schools across the country are closing for two weeks in some cases like here in New York, a month.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Those estimates turned out to be optimistic. As the reality of the pandemic set in, so did the realization of how long school buildings would be closed?

GOV. ROY COOPER (D-NC): We're not going to be able to go back to school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remote learning for the rest of the school year.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): And what would be needed to adapt. Many schools were essentially learning on the fly how to conduct virtual teaching while attempting to finish the school year.

LILY ESKELSEN GARCIA, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: A lot of teachers have said we're building the airplane while it's going down the runway. Another teacher said, oh, it's bigger than that, we're Apollo 13.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): The same happened with colleges. DON LEMON, CNN HOST: The Coronavirus pandemic forcing many colleges and universities across the country to shut down class rooms and dormitories, forcing students off campus and to continue their studies online.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): For a class of 2020 graduation was sometimes a ceremony of one online.


GOLODRYGA (voice over): Or it came to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so good to see you.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Or it took place on a ski lift those graduating from college failings the brutal reality of looking for a job during a pandemic-fueled recession.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of the responses I've gotten have been hey we don't know if this position ever even going to reopen again.

SHADAE LESLIE, GRADUATED COLLEGE IN 2020: Vacates from now, whenever we all reflect back we all have this common and shared experience. You'll be able to say, oh, you're class of 2020? I know what happened?

GOLODRYGA (on camera): In 2020 we learn just how helpful educational technology can be, but also its many limitations. It proved to be no match for in-person school learning. And as the months of online learning dragged on, experts began to worry about how far behind students may be falling.

MEGAN KUHFELD, RESEARCH SCIENTIST, NORTHWEST EVALUATION ASSOCIATION: Not only is the forgetting process studying but they're also missing out on its exposures. It's kind of a double whammy.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): A triple whammy for those students who are unable to logon. Online learning made existing inequalities even worse as students from lower income and homeless families often struggle to get connected. School attendance dropped across the country prompt some administrators to even send out social workers door to door. In hopes of finding missing students and helping them to get back to class virtually.

ELISA OLMO, SOCIAL WORKER: We have some families that are just - that they're having a difficult time with life in general right now. They are, you know, losing their jobs. They're maybe losing a house. And so school gets put on the back burner. It's no longer a priority.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): The need to find child care for children learning from home meant some parents giving up their jobs.

SARAH PARRA, LEFT JOB DURING PANDEMIC: It didn't really make sense for me to go to work and pay somebody else to be home with my own kids.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Throughout the summer, school administrations around the country began a monumental task of figuring out what they would need in order to safely reopen their buildings. Starting with how to safely get students back inside.

GRENITA LATHAN, SUPERINTENDENT, HOUSTON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: As you can see, we've labeled our seats where we will space students out. They'll enter here. We'll have hand sanitizer that is replenished throughout the school day.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): With the uncertainty of when school buildings might reopen. Some families became creative organizing pandemic pods with other families for their students at home.

ANDREA LABOUCHERE, ORGANIZED LEARNING POD: We wanted to create an environment where our kids could work together and be together. And have that social part of school is so important.

ADDY LABOUCHERE, STUDIES IN LEARNING POD: I'd rather be in a pod with my friends than being at home just working on school by myself.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): When the academic year finally began some schools offering in-person instruction had to deal with outbreaks or quarantines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This morning over a thousand students and staff from two Georgia high schools are in quarantine following a Coronavirus outbreak which forced the schools shut their doors.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Delayed openings.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): School days and instructional days were slated to begin September 10th. We're going to hold that for a few days.


DE BLASIO: We made a few days here to get it right.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): And a few silver linings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, there are people with COVID at schools but they are really seem to be coming from the communities. We're not seeing a lot of large outbreak.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): With more evidence as the year went on that severe illness due to COVID-19 is relatively rare among children a greater push was made to find ways to get them back into the classrooms.

JOSEPH ALLEN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The science is actually quite good and tells us there is a way to keep adults and kids safe in schools.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Even that wasn't without conflict as pressure for families pushing for buildings to be reopened at times clashed with other parents and staff worried about safety measures.

NASEEB GILL, TEACHER: The scariest part is you just - you have no idea what you're walking into, into those classes. I could be putting my students at risk. I could be putting my family members at risk.

GOLODRYGA (voice over): Also unknown, the long-term social emotional and academic costs of what students went through during this pandemic year.

BETSEY STEVENSON, PUBLIC POLICY PROFESSOR: It's not going to be like oh, this is great. Let me just put my kid back in school and get back to work and everything will go back to the way it was in 2019. I think these kids are going to need a lot of attention.

GOLODRYGA (on camera): As 2020 draws to a close, a widely available vaccine appears to be on the horizon. It cannot come soon enough for so many families, students and teachers who showed us that while we have the tools to make online education possible--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can come off and if you can tell us our Zoom classroom rules.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Be on time, stay on mute. Be on the assignment.


GOLODRYGA (on camera): There's still no substitute for a classroom. Bianna Golodryga, CNN, New York.



SANCHEZ: Before we go, we want to hit you with some sports headlines. Coy Wire joins us now. Coy, the NBA and the NFL sharing Christmas Day?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a great day in the NBA as always on Christmas Day. LeBron and Lakers head lining against the Mavs and Luka Doncic. Let's get to the highlights. It was L.A's 22nd consecutive appearance on Christmas, LeBron's 14th. He turns 36 in four days but even after that historically short off-season LeBron still slays.

22 points against Dallas yesterday moving into second on Christmas Day scoring that's just twelve points shy of - that's even with Superstar Luka Doncic playing incredible defense like this. The Lakers, after an opening day loss, it was just nine days of prepping to get it already getting into the groove beat the Mavs by 23 points.

Finally in a rare Christmas Day NFL game Saints star Alvin Kamara scored six rushing touchdowns in Minnesota, tying - most in end game in NFL history. That record was set Boris in 1929. Kamara sporting all kind of Christmas cheer rocking red and green cleats in the strip he got 32 win. He actually broke or tied five NFL team records in that game, Boris.

Heck of a day, first Friday NFL in 11 years and there are actually three games today including the 9-5 Dolphins against the Raiders, Boys. Playoff hopes alive and well. Life is good in the AFC with no Tom Brady in there. SANCHEZ: Oh, yes. That's right, you know it. Coy Wire thanks so much man I appreciate it. And thank you so much for watching. CNN NEWSROOM with John Avlon starts after a quick break next.