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New Day Saturday

Experts Warn Things Will Likely Get Worse As Omicron Spreads; Schools Weigh A Return To Class As Infections Rise Among Children; Biden Signals Pandemic Strategy Shift In The Face Of Omicron; Dems, Republicans Brace For Midterm Campaigns; CNN Poll: Three In Four Americans Worried About State Of Economy; Three Retired Generals Raise Alarm About Possible 2024 Coup; Winter Weather And Freezing Temperatures Usher In 2022; Tributes Pour In For TV Icon Betty White. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 01, 2022 - 08:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: 2022, I wasn't sure if we would make it, Amara, but we did. Happy New Year and welcome to this special edition of New Day weekend. I'm Boris Sanchez.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Happy New Year. I can't believe we're already here, 2022. I'm Amara Walker. We do hope your 2022 is off to a great start. I got to say the music made me want to do like jazz hands or something.

SANCHEZ: The glitter in the background too, so.

WALKER: Right.

SANCHEZ: Terrific (ph).

WALKER: Well, coming up, we will look ahead at the crucial midterm elections that will determine the balance of power. For the second half of President Biden's term, the impact that could have on his agenda just ahead.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And a new year usually comes with New Year's resolutions. We've got some ways to help get your financial house in order in '22.

WALKER: And we'll introduce you to the rising singer songwriter using her own challenges to inspire other young people. But first, let's get a check of your top stories.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, and thank you for joining us. I hope your new year is off to a great start. I'm Ryan Nobles.

2022 begins with more disruptions and a grim warning. Things will likely get worse as the Omicron variant spreads across the U.S. The nation broke records twice this week for the seven-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases.

Now, one doctor's warning this latest wave is unlike anything we've seen before. While hospitalizations and deaths are lower than their 2021 peaks, the CDC predicts that more than 44,000 people could die of COVID-19 in the next four weeks. And now with millions prepared to return to work and school, there are concerns that the number of new infections will rise further.

CNN's Polo Sandoval reports.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. is shattering record this week with an average of about 356,000 COVID infections reported every day in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University. As the world rang in the New Year, the latest surge is sweeping across the U.S. pushing cases and hospitalizations to unprecedented levels. Experts warning a turning point could be weeks away.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Given the size of our country and the diversity of vaccination versus not vaccination, that it likely will be more than a couple of weeks probably by the end of January.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Roughly 62 percent of the country is fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only about 33 percent of fully vaccinated adults have gotten boosters, which experts say, are critical in protecting against severe illness from the variants. The Omicron variant, the most contagious strain rapidly spreading across the world.

In the U.S., states are seeing their highest case in hospitalization numbers ever. New York reported more than 76,500 new cases on Thursday, governor's office said breaking its single day record. Hospitalizations hit about 8,000, an 8 percent spike from the day before. Hospitalizations have risen almost 20 percent since Monday.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND POLICY: Clearly New York and Washington, D.C. are ahead of the curve, but not by much. And so expected in the next three to four weeks, we're going to see everyone really hit with this.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): New Jersey identified more than 28,000 new COVID-19 cases via PCR testing, Governor Phil Murphy said on Thursday. The number of positive cases likely higher due to at-home testing, he added. Some governor's calling on the National Guard.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine deploying 1,250 National Guard troops. He said on the day, the state reported its highest hospitalization numbers. Georgia also deployed 200 troops in the same week that six major health system saw 100 to 200 percent increases in hospitalizations, Governor Brian Kemp said.

And New York doubling its National Guard deployment to 100 and preparing for 80 guardsmen to undergo emergency medical training next month, according to the governor. With more virus spreading in the country, more than 30 colleges and universities are changing the start of their spring semester and more children are getting sick and being hospitalized than at any other point in the pandemic just as their school will be navigating reopening after the holidays.

FAUCI: Quantitatively, you're having so many more people including children who are getting infected.


And even though hospitalization among children is much, much lower on a percentage basis than hospitalizations for adults, particularly elderly individuals. However, when you have such a large volume of infections among children, even with a low level of rate of infection, you're going to still see a lot more children who get hospitalized.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): A positive note, studies and reports on the Omnicom parent continue to suggest it may not be as lethal as Delta, even as it spreads quickly.

Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


NOBLES: All right, thank you, Polo.

Let's talk more about this. Now joining me is Dr. Jayne Morgan, the Executive Director of the Piedmont Healthcare COVID Task Force in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Morgan, thank you so much for being here. You know, there seems to be so many things to be worried about -- right -- there seems to be so many things to be worried about with this new surge.

I, of course, I'm a parent, I have several kids who are school age. My anxiety centered around my children going back to the classroom on Monday. Do you think schools are prepared for this? And what advice can you give parents like me to help keep their kids safe?

DR, JAYNE MORGAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE PIEDMONT HEALTHCARE COVID TASK FORCE: So I think when we were thinking about the children returning to school, and you are a parent, as so many of us are parents, we certainly have concerns. We always want to do the best for our children. So the number one thing that you can do is to get your children vaccinated, and probably even ahead of that for the parents to be vaccinated to make certain that you have a vaccinated household. And that's the number one thing.

The second thing you can do is to make certain that your children are masked when they are in their school environment, if your school is going to be in person. We certainly understand very clearly the mental toll, the mental anguish that is -- that this has taken on our youth. And when this is all said and done, it will really be unclear what will be the damage of the emotional and mental toll on our children for -- because of lack of socialization and interaction, and the odd way in which we have lived and interacted for the last two years. And so we absolutely want to encourage, if we can, children to be in school, as long as there can be a safe environment, well-ventilated space, that type of thing. And vaccines and boosters are at the top of the list of providing safety, not just for the children, but their households as well.

NOBLES: Yes, all three of mine have been vaccinated, which is came as a great relief. Well, we've seen Omicron begin to level off in countries like South Africa where it was first discovered. You know, it seems that it's arcing pretty quickly. Is that something that could happen here in the United States or could we see the impact of Omicron be different depending on vaccination rates in different parts of the country?

MORGAN: And that's something, Ryan, that we are watching very closely. Our demographic in the United States is different in South Africa. They tend to skew a bit younger. They tend to have more unvaccinated people than we did as well. And so it's difficult to compare that's more of an apples to oranges comparison. In some ways, our population mirrors that of the U.K.

And as we've seen what has happened in the United Kingdom ahead of us, we tend to parallel that. One of the things that we may see is this exhaustion of the susceptible. This term, exhaustion of the susceptible, in science, meaning that we might see this virus blow in and blow out.

But in doing so, similar to a tornado, their leaves -- that it leaves a lot of destruction in its path. This exhaustion of the susceptible. And that is part of what we're seeing now with this volume of positive cases, which by the way, is being grossly underreported.

If you look at the profits that Abbott posted for the third quarter, 46.8 percent, 1.9 billion in just testing. 1.6 billion of that is rapid test. And you look at what that means when we look at units. That means probably 60 million units sold at about $25. That's probably close to 120 million tests that people are doing at home that probably are not being registered anywhere.

They are being thrown into the trash. So we are grossly under reporting and under estimating what the volume is of Omicron and Delta here in our society, but we are watching as we see this surge continue to rise. The sheer volume of this particular variant has the ability to overwhelm our healthcare systems.

NOBLES: All right, Dr. Jayne Morgan, hopefully we aren't still talking about this on New Year's Day of next year. But, you know, we shouldn't make any predictions. We thank you so much for your expertise here this morning and have a Happy New Year.


MORGAN: Thank you. Happy New Year, Ryan.

NOBLES: All right. And as the highly transmissible Omicron variant surges across the country, the Biden administration is signaling a shift in its strategy to contain the virus. CNN White House Reporter Kevin Liptak has more on the federal response to COVID-19.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, good morning, Ryan. Happy New Year. President Biden is entering 2022 facing this massive surge of COVID-19. That's really testing his ability to contain this virus and return the country to normal, which is something he had hoped would happen by this holiday season.

Now, the President spent the last week speaking with advisers about this plan to combat the Omicron variant, including those 500 million tests that he promised Americans last week. We are expecting to hear more details about those tests next week, including contracts between the federal government and companies. We're expecting to learn more about those late next week.

Now, in addition to those tests, the federal government is searching resources to states that have been affected by this virus that includes new -- a new testing sites set up by the federal government in New Jersey that will open today. Additional sites in the District of Columbia and Philadelphia are also expected to open in the coming days. FEMA has dispatched health workers to states like New York and Arizona. Other federal health workers, including from the military have been sent to Indiana, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

One other thing to watch this week is the Supreme Court. They're scheduled to hear oral arguments on Friday related to the President's vaccine mandates on public health workers and large businesses. That, of course, has been a major component in his bid to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror, the fate of those mandates before the court at the end of this week.

Now COVID is not the only thing on the President's plate as he returns to Washington to begin this New Year. Of course, his domestic agenda is still uncertain after Senator Joe Manchin seemed to put the whole thing in doubt the Sunday before Christmas. That's something that the President will be working on when he gets back to Washington.

Of course, he is also still trying to defuse this situation, this crisis on the Ukrainian border. He spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. He's also scheduled to speak with the Ukrainian President on Sunday. And then, of course, the President is also looking ahead to Thursday's anniversary of the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6th. We do expect to hear from the President on that day as well.

So all of these items, waiting for the President when he gets back to Washington. And remember, Ryan, we're not only entering 2022, we're also entering a mid-term election year when Democrats control of both Houses of Congress is on the table. Ryan?

NOBLES: All right, Kevin Liptak with the President in Wilmington. Obviously, a lot on the President's plate, but he is out with a New Year's message for the American people. During a pre-recorded video on ABC, the commander-in-chief and First Lady Jill Biden struck an optimistic tone heading into 2022.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No matter how tough the challenge, how high the obstacles, we always overcome. This virus in tough as we enter the New Year, I'm more optimistic about America's future than I've ever been. You know, at our best, we've taken every crisis we faced and turn it into an opportunity to be a stronger and a better nation.


NOBLES: Biden and the First Lady also paying tribute to medical workers on the front lines of the COVID fight.

Major New Year's Eve plans were scaled back around the world due to the spread of the Omicron variant, but many cities still found ways to celebrate.



NOBLES: That, of course, the scene in New York City that's where around 15,000 masked and fully vaccinated people gathered in-person for the Time Square ball drop. The fireworks lit up the sky on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as people there celebrated the start of a new year. And another major show of fireworks in Dubai at the Burj Khalifa skyscraper to bring in the New Year.

And before we go to break, the 50-year friendship between singer songwriters James Taylor and Carole King had a remarkable impact on music. Make sure to watch an unforgettable CNN film, "Just Call Out My Name" tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN. Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Friends, collaborators, legends, their music shaped a generation. They came together for the tour of a lifetime.

CAROLE KING, MUSICIAN: And it's too late baby now. It's too late.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His songs were amazing. His voice is amazing and his demeanor.

And Carole King.

JAMES TAYLOR, MUSICIAN: Carole King, one of the greatest songwriters of all time, asked to be a part of my band.

40 years have passed since the first time we played.

KING: I love every experience we have had together.

(MUSIC) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Just Call Out My Name" tomorrow at 9:00 on CNN.


SANCHEZ: So just months from now, voters across the United States are going to determine who will call the shots in Washington for the next two years. Emboldened by President Biden's lagging poll numbers, Republicans seem all but certain to pick up new seats and potentially take the House and Senate. While Democrats may have to find new ways to show voters, they will keep their promises after self-imposed deadlines to pass key portions of President Biden's agenda came and went last year.

With us this morning to discuss, Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona and GOP Strategist Alice Stewart. Ladies, thank you both so much for joining us and sharing part of your New Year's Day with us. Happy '22, let's get right to it. 34 states are holding Senate elections this year. Here are 10 states that CNN is watching as the most likely to flip right now. Four of them currently held by Democrats, six by Republicans.

Alice to you first, which of these races are you focusing on as pickup opportunities? What is it going to take to flip them?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's going to take really galvanizing the Republican Party together and really capitalizing on the division and the low morale in the Democratic Party which is in full swing. I happen to look at Georgia, my home state because it's a -- it was a pivotal race in -- earlier in 2021 and I'm looking at Georgia to see the Raphael Warnock race get flipped back to Republican hands.


And whoever it may be, potentially Herschel Walker but I see Georgia as a big pickup opportunity. And certainly other states across the country can galvanize and focus on what we see as a low-morale problem with the Democrats, and also the low accomplishment in terms of the democratic policy agenda, accomplishments. And so those are key places and ways we can look at turning over the Senate from Democrat to Republican.

SANCHEZ: And Maria, where on the map are you looking?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN DEMOCRATIC COMMENTATOR: First of all, Boris, Feliz Ano Nuevo a todos. And, you know, you started out this segment by talking about resolutions and Democrats are going to make it their New Year's resolution to not lose any seats in the House and to increase our margins in the Senate.

And look, there's no question that it's going to be a tough year because history dictates that, right? Normally, the President that is empower his party or her party loses seats in the midterm elections. But look, we are focused on talking about economic growth, we are focused on talking about all of the accomplishment -- all of the accomplishments that are under President Biden and Democrats belts. You have 6 million jobs that were created. 200 million Americans have been vaccinated. You had economic growth that was huge. Labor participation is up, wages are up. People are worried, there's no question, about the Omicron variant now. And President Biden had a great speech last week, where he laid out a big bold plan to make sure that we're able to crush this virus.

And so I think that there are a lot of opportunities for Senate pickups, as well as not just keeping the House but increasing the House. And I know a lot of people are going to roll their eyes at that. But look, there are, you know, eight more months where Democrats can make sure to talk about all of these great accomplishments, including the American Relief Plan, including the infrastructure bill.

And while we did not build back better, at least in 2021, we are still focused on making it happen in 2022. Because Americans economies are at stake. The Child Tax Credit has to pass. We have to pass universal health care, universal kindergarten for all of our kids, elderly care.

And so we're hoping that Joe Manchin will come to the table. And who knows, maybe a senator as well. Lisa Murkowski, I'm looking at you, who understand that they have to govern and they have to meet the needs of the American people, and they are in need right now. And Democrats are going to continue to fight for them.

SANCHEZ: There is a perception problem, though, Maria, and I want to stay with you because a recent CNN poll found that three quarters of Americans are worried about the state of the economy. Only three in 10 voters, three in 10 said that President Biden's policies have improved economic conditions in the country. The White House had been holding out for Biden's social spending bill, you mentioned Joe Manchin, effectively sinking it a couple of weeks ago.

How do Democrats turn that perception around among voters? You mentioned a list of accomplishments from the White House. It doesn't seem like it's sinking in?

CARDONA: You're right, we have to do a much better job of bragging. We have to make sure that Americans understand what we have accomplished, what we have accomplished for them. And what we will continue to fight for.

Build Back Better is not dead. Build Back Better is going to continue to be a focus of the Democrats, of President Biden, I hope Joe Manchin as well. And look, maybe it's not going to look like what it looked like at the end of 2021. But there are definitely pieces in there that we can do together that will be important to make sure that the American people continue to look at their own economies and that they see opportunities not just to survive, but to succeed and to thrive.

And there are so many proposals in there, Boris, as you know, that are immensely popular with the American people. And so Democrats do need to continue to talk about the accomplishments that I listed. The infrastructure bill is going to inject millions into the economy. The American Relief Plan that we passed earlier in 2021. That put shots in arms, that put money in the pockets of the American families that were desperate for help that helped jobs, not just jobs, but help small businesses survive the pandemic. All in the face of a Republican Party who refused to join Democrats to do anything to help the American people while they were happy once these laws were passed, to join in ribbon cutting ceremonies and taking credit for something that they absolutely did not do.

So we will absolutely continue to brag about all of these accomplishments. That is something that we need to do a much better job of.

STEWART: Boris, if I can -- I'll just -- if I can may just --


STEWART: -- clearly Maria's New Year's resolution is to look at politics and an optimistic lens and that's why I love her.

CARDONA: Always.


STEWART: But to fact check a few of her list of accomplishments, one of the cornerstones of Joe Biden's campaign was to unify the country. He's having trouble with unity within his own party, as the progressives are really steamrolling through his own agenda. The Build Back Better plan has failed. I see at DOA, it's not moving forward.

We have a terrible humanitarian crisis at the border. Inflation is a big problem. It's not transitory, it's long term. He said he would get a handle on COVID. COVID is worse over the past year than when he took office, as well as the abysmal withdrawal from Afghanistan.

We're seeing rising gas prices, rising price of food, and the economy is in peril. And those are the kind of issues that are concerning to the American people. Boris, you mentioned that as a key focus for the American people.

Also, important part of that recent CNN poll is when people look at Joe Biden's accomplishments or how he has handled the economy, 55 percent of American people disapprove of the way Joe Biden has handled the economy. And that is a key issue for them.

So that bodes not well for Biden and the Democrats moving forward. There's also a terrible morale problem within the Democratic Party. They are certainly concerned about their lack of accomplishments, and the fear of losing. But also a key factor is they are concerned about how redistricting will impact their districts moving forward. So I think as as they say, Democrats, you have a real problem in the midterm elections.

SANCHEZ: And we --

CARDONA: You know, if -- SANCHEZ: -- unfortunately have to leave the conversation there. I had

so many more questions, but sometimes chatting with you -- you both go back and forth. I love it. Thank you so much for the time.

Maria Cardona, Alice Stewart, Happy 2022. Look forward to seeing you both soon once all this Omicron stuff is behind us.

CARDONA: Feliz Ano, Boris.

STEWART: You too. Thanks for, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Thank you so much. Thank you.

WALKER: All right, we've got a check of your top stories just ahead. Plus, if one of your 2022 goals is to get your finances in order, yes, I've got my hand up. We've got a few tips to help, that's next.



SANCHEZ: We're less than one week away from the one year anniversary of the January 6th attack on the Capitol. And while the insurrectionists failed in their attempt to stop the democratic process, there are concerns that next time could be different.

WALKER: A group of retired generals says they are concerned we could once again see political violence following the 2024 election. And the perpetrators could be members of America's military. CNN's Pamela Brown sat down with one of them.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Three retired military generals have authored an op-ed in The Washington Post saying they are growing more and more worried about the potential for political violence in the military. One part really stands out.

"As we approach the first anniversary of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, we -- all of us former senior military officials -- are increasingly concerned about the aftermath of the 2024 presidential election, and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military which would put all Americans at severe risk. In short, we are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time."

I'm joined now by one of the authors of that op-ed, Retired Army Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson. General, thank you for joining us tonight. This is a big step for you and to your colleagues to speak out like this. What motivated you all to write this column now?

BRG. GEN. STEVEN ANDERSON, CO-AUTHOR OF THE WASHINGTON POST OP-ED: Well, thank you, Pamela, for having us on. Yes, it's very difficult for me to talk like this. I mean, I was raised 31 years in the Army to be apolitical to not pick sides. And I've never been active politically.

But the events of the last couple of years, in particular, the 6th of January has changed my mind considerably. We can no longer afford to be apolitical. I mean, I was a conservative Republican my entire political life. I voted as such, but I never was active until 2016 when things change, and Trump got hold of the Republican Party.

And now it's a mere -- it's completely lost itself. It's lost its way in it's -- overwhelmed with cowardice. But, you know, 43 years ago, I took an oath to this -- to the country that I would support and defend the Constitution of United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

And my co-authors and I and vote vets organization we worked with closely are -- were tremendously concerned about the threat internally, the threat domestically, within the military in particular. And so we need to start taking actions now to prevent for the eventuality in 2024, that Trump will try to do the same things he did in 2020, in which he got incredibly close.

We're just trying to write an article that highlights our view that democracy at risk. We love our country. And we need to take actions now to mitigate that risk.

BROWN: Why are you so concerned about what's going on within the military in particular?

ANDERSON: Well, if you look at the extremism that has gone on within the military, you look at those that were active in the actual assault on the capital. Over 10 percent had a military background. We all saw the pictures of the guys with the zip ties and the helmets and taking for -- in marching informations into the end of that throng.

You know, there's a threat within. We've got some people that just haven't been educated, they haven't been found out. And they're -- they've grown empowered through perhaps inaction on the part of some of our key leaders. And we need to do what we can do now to identify those people, get them out of our ranks and train the rest of the force on civics one-on-one about how our country is supposed to work, how elections work. Stop listening to the Pillow Guy and start learning about our country and how it's actually supposed to run.

BROWN: Really quickly, just walk us through your concern about this partisan divide, and how it could impact the chain of command and why that is so concerning to you in terms of preventing another coup attempt, potentially in 2024.

ANDERSON: Well, the big problem here is allegiance to the Constitution versus allegiance to a leader or, in this case, a cult like figure like Trump. There's a lot of people in uniform that are confused about that. They think that President is something like a king and it's not.

You know, we are -- we swore an oath to the Constitution. That's how our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines need to act. And, you know, we're concerned that there's so much activity within in the military that shows that people are ignorant of what our Constitution is really all about and they have responded to people like Trump. And when he tells them to jump, they're probably willing to do that.


BROWN: All right, that is just chilling, bone chilling as you say in the op-ed. Brigadier General Steven Anderson, thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Stop listening to the Pillow Guy. Always good advice.

Still ahead, the up and coming singer songwriter using her voice to help those struggling with depression and anxiety. We'll hear from her next.


WALKER: Welcome back everyone to this special edition of New Day weekend. I'm Amara Walker.

SANCHEZ: Happy New Year, Amara. I'm Boris Sanchez. The New Year usually comes with new resolutions and for some that may mean getting a handle on your finances. We've got some tips to help you get your financial house in order this year.

WALKER: And we will introduce you to the up and coming singer songwriter using her voice and platform to help other young people dealing with adversity. That's all coming up. But first, let's get a check of your top stories.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Amber and Boris. I'm Ryan Nobles in Washington. And 2022 is getting off to a chilly start. Some states are getting hit hard with heavy snow and freezing temperatures. So how could it impact your holiday travel plans?

Let's check off the New Year's Day forecast with Allison Chinchar. Hi, Allison.


ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And good morning, Ryan. We've got kind of a smorgasbord of weather across the map today. We've got snow, we've got ice, we've got tornadoes, damaging winds and even some flooding potential.

Let's begin with the winter side of the storm. It's a very expansive system. We have winter weather alert, stretching all the way from Arizona, up to Maine and pretty much everywhere in between. Again, when you look at the north side where all of that cold arctic air is already in place, you've got a lot of snow and some of that snow is coming down in pretty heavy bands at times.

It's going to make its way from the eastern Rockies over towards the Midwest as we make our way through the day today, and especially the Great Lakes region by tonight. For tomorrow morning, as that colder begins to infiltrate into the northeast, that's when we're going to start to see some impacts there in terms of the cold weather, like snow and ice. Widespread snowfall totals from areas of northern Kansas and southeastern Nebraska all the way over towards the Chicago suburbs looking at about 4 to 6 inches. And several inches as well in the higher elevations of the Northeast. South side of the system where the warm air is really in place, we've got a lot of severe weather in the forecast Nashville, Jackson, Atlanta, Montgomery, Huntsville, all looking at the potential for tornadoes, damaging winds, and even some hail as well.

Well, we do have ongoing storms this morning. The bulk of the severe weather really ramps up this afternoon and it will continue through the evening hours and even into the overnight timeline once we're talking about to the east.

Ryan, the other big concern, a lot of the ground is saturated at this point. So any additional rain that we bring in is likely going to exacerbate any flooding concerns.

NOBLES: All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Fans around the world are mourning the loss of TV icon Betty White. White died yesterday, just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. Former First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted, "Betty White broke barriers, defied expectations, served her country and pushed us all to laugh." Actor and co-star Ryan Reynolds said, "The world looks different now. She managed to go very old and somehow not old enough."

White won five Emmys during her long career in film and TV.

Let's go back now to Boris and Amara.

WALKER: With the start of a new year brings new resolutions and a chance to refocus. For some of us, that might mean paying closer attention to our finances, especially now, as we're seeing prices on nearly everything continued to go up.

Joining us now is Julian Kheel, a Senior Editor at CNN Underscored, a team that is always testing out the best products and services to help you save money. Julian, Happy New Year, great to have you. There are plenty of simple things people can do to get their financial house in order and a big one, of course, is paying down as much debt as you can, right?

JULIAN KHEEL, CNN UNDERSCORED SENIOR EDITOR: Absolutely. Most people hate talking about debt, it's one of the least favorite financial topics. But if you're looking to spend more money on the things you want, or just want to get your finances more under control, paying down at least a portion of that debt in 2022 is vital. Especially if it's credit card debt because the interest rates on those credit cards are so high that if you're only making the minimum payment each month, you're paying most of it towards interest and not really paying down the debt itself.

Now there's a solution to this that seems counterintuitive. Believe it or not, one thing you can do is go out and get another credit card. No, not to go spend on a spending spree and buy more, but rather, you're going to look for a credit card that has an introductory balance transfer offer. These are cards that come with the ability to transfer an existing balance from another credit card and get 0 percent interest from anywhere from 12 to 21 months from the date that you first open the account.

Once you've got your interest rates down to zero, when you're making that monthly payment, all of it is going to your principal and none to your interest. So if you're looking to get started on the right foot in 2022 by paying down some debt, we have a list of our favorite balance transfer credit cards at CNN Underscored that's a great place to start.

WALKER: That is really a great idea, right? Transfer that balance first to get your interest rate to zero because some of these interest rates, I mean, they're shockingly high like in the 20s or so. Don't even know how to Fleegle (ph) but hey, we'll move on. A lot of this has to do with budgeting, right? You've got to prioritize what to pay down first.

KHEEL: Yes, if debt is everyone's least favorite financial topic, budgeting might be number two. A lot of people get nervous about budgeting. If you are nervous about budgeting, one thing you can do is take a look at some of the popular budgeting apps that are available out there.

We test these apps at CNN Underscored every year. Consistently, PocketGuard is one of our favorite. It's cheap, it's easy to use, and there's even a free version to get started. If you're still nervous about budgeting, though, another option is to create a spending plan.

Now this is similar to a budget except you're aside money for just the things you absolutely need that you have to pay for and then you can do whatever you want with the rest.


For instance, when you get your monthly paycheck, if you created three spending plan buckets, the first one would be to pay yourself back. You always want to pay yourself first, if you can. You're going to put that first bucket of money towards a retirement fund, a college fund, even a vacation fund. Pay yourself first.

Then the second bucket is the essentials. The things that you must pay each month, your rent, your utilities, your car payments, these are the things you can't do without. Whatever's left for the third bucket, that's your fun money that you can do with whatever you want. Again, not totally different than a budget, but a lot of people find it easier to use a spending plan. So that's one way you might get started 2022 on the right foot.

WALKER: Yes, that's great advice. I wish I had known you many years ago. So doing all of these things could have an impact on your credit score, right?

KHEEL: It could and credit scores are something that scares a lot of people because they're complicated, and people don't really understand how they work. But a great credit score even a good one can open the door to better car loans that are credit cards even to buying a house with a mortgage down the line.

Now the bad news is, there's really only one way to improve your credit score permanently and that's to pay your bills on time, each month, consistently. But if you're looking for a little bit of a jumpstart, one product we like at CNN Underscored is called Experian Boost. This is created by Experian which is one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S.

And what Experian Boost does is it adds the on-time payments for items that wouldn't normally appear on your credit report to your credit score, such as your utility payments, your cell phone payments, even believe it or not your Netflix payments. By adding those on time payments, it increases your credit score, without you having to really do anything to start.

Now, not all lenders use Experian Boost, it's not a cure all, but it is a good way to get a jumpstart.

WALKER: Wow, that's very good advice. And yes, I mean, who would ever be delinquent on their Netflix payments, right? And you've got one more tip specifically for homeowners.

KHEEL: If you haven't refinanced in the last two years and you're feeling left out, believe it or not, it's not too late. Interest rates are not at historical lows that they were in 2020. But they are still relatively low. And if your mortgage is more than a few years old, there's a good chance you can find a lower interest rate through a refinance than you currently are paying on your mortgage.

Also, because home values have gone up so drastically in the last year, you may be able to take cash out of your home because the home value is higher than it was. You'll be able to do that through a refinance. Now there's lots of ways to start a refinance. You can go directly to a lender, you can approach a broker.

But one thing -- one way we like to do it at CNN Underscored is with an online lending marketplace, where you can get multiple offers from lenders all at the same time. If you want to start on that process and, again, I recommend that you do if you haven't already, check us out @CNN.comunderscored for our list of our favorite online lending marketplaces.

WALKER: Who needs a financial adviser when you have Julian Kheel at CNN Underscored. What a pleasure to talk to you. Happy New Year. Let's all start with a clean slate if we can, right? Thank you so much, Julian.

KHEEL: Sounds great. Happy New Year to you too.


[08:51:57] SANCHEZ: 19-year-old rising singer, songwriter Grace Gaustad has thousands of followers on Instagram and millions of music streams online. But before the fame, Grace struggled with depression and anxiety after being bullied by classmates in high school.

WALKER: So for her debut album, she has released a short film recreating both the traumatic experiences of her past and the healing journey that got her through it all. Listen.


GRACE GAUSTAD, SINGER AND SONGWRITER: That's 75th Cafe, the place where every ounce of my dignity was stolen. The place where I learned to hate myself, the place where I learned to hate others. It's also the place where I learned that everyone, even the worst people are human.

I realized that only hurt people hurt people. These girls who I so desperately wanted to be were so broken. They just learned from a very young age how to create the illusion of perfection, even though they were the farthest thing from it.


WALKER: Christi Paul sat down with her to talk about the project.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Singer Grace Gaustad is with us now. Grace, it's so good to see you. Congratulations on your debut album here. "BLKBX: Wht r u hding?" is what it's called. I know this is happening on World Mental Health Day, what made you want to share your own experience with mental health?

GAUSTAD: What made me want to share my own experience with mental health is really, you know, I think it's so hard to be a teenager in today's society. And I think that as much as I can do to help the next generation have an easier time than I did. You know, that's really what I want to use my voice and my platform for.

I knew that I didn't just want to put out an album, I wanted to put out a project that I feel could actually make a difference in the world.

PAUL: So it takes a lot of strength. I mean, it takes a lot of gumption to be as vulnerable as you're allowing yourself to be publicly. Help us understand what you went through.

GAUSTAD: I went through a lot of bullying in school, about a lot of different things. And I explore all of these topics in "BLKBX: Wht r u hding?" I went through body dysmorphia, anxiety, depression, a learning disability, sort of coming to terms with my sexuality. You know, a lot of things that I feel a lot of kids go through today.

And you know, bullying, unfortunately, is very prevalent in today's sort of school system and society. And it can really affect, you know, people long term, it certainly affected me. But I'm really grateful for the experiences I did have because it allowed me to create a project like Black Box and sort of turn something that was rather painful into something beautiful.

PAUL: And what have you heard from people about this because I know that when somebody, particularly if you're younger, teenager or, you know, early '20s you see somebody going through something that you're going through now or that you have been through. It's -- it is so strengthening. You must be getting some sort of feedback from people.


GAUSTAD: The feedback has probably been the most rewarding part of the entire project. You know, I get countless messages on a day-to-day basis about, you know, team sharing, you know, their own coming out story because of the song read or, you know, people sharing how they were able to sort of overcome their fear of therapy through 93 days. And it's just amazing to see, you know, the music really doing something good.

And it's been an incredible way for me to connect with fans on a much deeper and more personal level. And it's just amazing. You know, I'm fascinated by human beings and our entire existence. So it's great to see, you know, the project of positive impact.

PAUL: It's so nice to hear you talk about therapy because it can have a negative connotation to it. I love therapy, personally. I've been there, I've done it. Is that part of your hope is to make sure that people figure out a way to get the help that they need that oftentimes has to come from somebody, somebody else that is a professional.

GAUSTAD: Absolutely. You know, I think therapy is a really important part of anybody's healing journey. But, you know, I totally understand that therapy is not always available to everyone. So part of, you know, my mission with the Black Box which is sort of our social give back section of "BLKBX: Wht r u hding?", I paired up with a professional therapist, Jaz Robbins, who walks through 12 of the topics discussed in Black Box, you know, that anxiety depression, sexuality, et cetera.

And on the website, she provides sort of free guidance for, you know, teens, adults, anyone who's really searching for it. And it's really easy to access and that's something that I wish I had when I was younger. So I wanted to make sure that was something I included in this project for, you know, anyone who may be struggling.

PAUL: I love how strong you are and how brave you are and how talented you are. Grace Gaustad, thank you for everything you're doing. We wish you the very best.

GAUSTAD: Thank you so, so much. I'm happy to be here today.

PAUL: We are happy to have you. Take good care of yourself. We're cheering you on.

GAUSTAD: All right, thank you. Thank you. (END VIDEO TAPE)

SANCHEZ: Thank you so much for sharing part of your New Year's Day with us. We hope all of your resolutions come through. Amara, always a pleasure to be with you.

WALKER: I hope my resolution comes true. Going to try to be nicer to my husband.

Newsroom is coming up next. Have a great day everyone and Happy 2022.