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New Day Saturday

Child Hospitalizations Hit Record Highs Amid Omicron Surge; Debates over COVID-19 School Safety Measures Heat Up Nationwide; CDC Director Walensky Facing Criticism over Confusing Guidelines; States Scramble to Keep Up with Surge in COVID Hospitalizations; Three Men Convicted in Ahmaud Arbery Murder Sentenced to Life in Prison; U.S. Economy Adds 199K Jobs in December, Fewer than Expected; Lockdowns in Northern Kazakhstan After Violent Protests; Will Unvaccinated Djokovic Play; COVID Also Hit U.S. Olympic Pairs Favorites at Nationals. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired January 08, 2022 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you and welcome to your "NEWDAY." I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez.

Rising cases and bitter confrontations. The Biden administration working to reassure Americans amid a COVID surge as battles playout across the country over mask mandates and testing to keep kids in class.

PAUL: And a judge hands down life sentences to the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery. The message of Arbery's mother had for the court as those sentences came down.


KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, KAZAKHSTAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Gave an order to law enforcement agencies and the army to shoot to kill without warning.


SANCHEZ: Chaos in Kazakhstan. Security forces there ordered to open fire on protesters during antigovernment demonstrations. We'll take you there for a live report.

PAUL: And to new developments to tell you about the on case of tennis star Novak Djokovic who is being held in a detention facility in Australia. What we're learning this morning from some newly released court documents.


PAUL: It is Saturday, January 8th. We hope that you're healthy and you're happy and that 2022 was good to you. Well, is good to you.


Hope you look ahead, Boris. How are you?

SANCHEZ: I'm doing well, Christi. Grateful to start 2022 back with you after a couple of weekends away. Glad that you can join us this morning.

PAUL: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Grateful to be with you as always.

And we start with growing concern for our nation's kids as the Omicron variant drives more Americans to the hospital. Federal data shows a record-level of COVID hospitalizations among kids averaging nearly 800 new hospital admissions a day. This is the highest it has ever been. It's an 80 percent increase in just one week.

PAUL: Wow. Look at that chart.

States across the country are raising to help hospitals facing staffing shortages now. More frontline workers are calling out sick. They're under quarantine due to COVID exposure as well. And with child hospitalizations hitting these new records. Concern over students' safety is sky-high.

CNN's Polo Sandoval has more on how disputes of over in-person learning are playing out in several districts.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a week of clashes, confrontations and a lot of angst over schools reopening.

Chicago, the largest school district in the nation with classes in limbo. That's because of a standoff between the teachers' union and Chicago public schools. The union insisting on virtual learning while the mayor is pushing for schools to stay open.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D-IL), CHICAGO: I think we've made significant progress over the last two days, but I want a deal done this weekend. Our kids need to be back in school. Schools are safe.

SANDOVAL: Georgia public school teachers who test positive for COVID- 19 but remain asymptomatic no longer have to isolate before returning to school if masked. And contact tracing in schools no longer required. That's according to a letter to school leaders released Thursday from Governor Brian Kemp and Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey.

And in New York, nearly 13 percent of New York City students have tested positive for COVID-19. That's according to sample testing from the New York City Department of Education on Thursday.

Health experts say the U.S. needs to change its COVID-19 strategy to face a new normal. DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER MEMBER, BIDEN'S TRANSITION COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: The new normal is the way we live with flu. We are going to live with the coronavirus. It is going to be around. People are going to get infected. But hopefully, few people will be hospitalized, and even fewer people will die from it. And we'll be able to go about our lives as we did before.

SANDOVAL: The FDA has now amended the emergency use authorization for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine shortening the period of time between initial vaccination and the booster shot to at least five months for those over the age of 18.

Meanwhile, experts say vaccines need to evolve.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: What we need is first to improve on our vaccines and you're going to see a lot of work being done to try to get us to what we call the next generation vaccines. Over the course of the next weeks to months is a much more wide-scale availability of these very effective drugs if given early in the illness can actually greatly reduce the likelihood of severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths. But so if you combine vaccines and drugs together, I think we really can put a big dent in this virus not just in high-income countries but around the world.

SANDOVAL: Nearly two-thirds of the eligible U.S. population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC. A top health expert said, in order to get to a place where the coronavirus is endemic like the flu, the U.S. has a lot to do.


EMANUEL: We have to get to a situation where what we are seeing from coronavirus is not big surges. We need many more people vaccinated in this case. We need additional therapies, not just the couple of oral therapies we currently have. We need to upgrade our air filtration system. We got to get the prevalence down. And then we'll get - will be able to get to a new normal.

SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


PAUL: There's also new drama inside the Biden administration regarding its response to the COVID-19 pandemic this morning. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is facing some backlash for her agency's COVID quarantine and isolation guidelines.

SANCHEZ: Let's get straight to CNN's Jasmine Wright. She's live for us at the White House this morning. Jasmine, some really fascinating reporting coming from the CNN White House team including details about Dr. Walensky looking for essentially a new communication strategy, perhaps an admission that the CDC hasn't communicated its strategy effectively.

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Look, that's right, Boris and Christi. And yesterday, Dr. Walensky, she acknowledged that listen, public messaging in a pandemic is hard but she said that she is committed to improving her own messaging and the CDC's messaging when it comes to pandemic guidance. And now, one thing that Dr. Walensky is doing to really bring about that commitment is that she has as seen and learned really been participating in media training looking to improve that messaging. Because the bottom line here, Boris and Christi, is that Dr. Walensky, when taking this position, she promised to restore faith both in science and the CDC.

And now, the back-and-forth messaging that we've seen from the CDC specifically over the last few weeks when they changed that isolation guidance for those who test positive. That does not necessarily help that mission because it confused Americans about the back-and-forth guidance. But also, it led to scientists openly questioning why the CDC did not institute a test out policy and of course, that back-and- forth frustrated both CDC officials and also White House officials.

So, there is a lot of pressure on Dr. Walensky to improve her messaging and prove the sending. But what remains to be seen, Boris and Christi, whether or not those improvements will actually help build any public trust that has been lost. Boris, Christi?

PAUL: So, we know that there is also pressure, Jasmine, on the administration as a whole to pivot to accept the new normal. Speaking of messaging, the president put out some messaging on that yesterday. Talk to us about what not just what he said but what's some in his administration may have thought about his comments.

WRIGHT: That's right. Look, former group of health advisors has really calling on the White House, urging into change their strategy to reflect the fact that from their perspective, COVID is going to be around a long time. And now, while officials within the White House, they kind of shifted or there is a shift in process to trying to pivot to acknowledging hospitalization cases over just the amount of people that are getting COVID because of that latest strike.

But looking at President Biden's comments yesterday here at the White House and these -- after he gave these remarks about jobs, it doesn't seem like the administration is just there yet really trying to pivot to what these health advisors are calling for. President Biden, he acknowledged that the theory that yes, COVID may be around for a long time but he added you know basically his own caveats. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't think COVID is here to stay but having COVID in the environment here and in the world is probably here to stay. COVID as we are dealing with now is not here to stay. The new normal doesn't have to be. We have so many more tools we're developing and continuing to develop that could contain COVID and other strains of COVID. The new normal is not going to be what it is now. It's going to be better.


WRIGHT: So, there you go. You heard from Biden. He said it's going to be better of course. Optimism from this president as his White House works to expand testing. And of course, he will wake up in Las Vegas this morning. Boris and Christi?

PAUL: Jasmine Wright, always so good to see you. Thank you so much.

Dr. Chris Pernell, a fellow with the American College of Preventive Medicine and public health physician in Newark, New Jersey with us now.

Dr. Pernell, always good to have you as well. We appreciate your incite here.

First, we want to get your reaction to what we heard there from President Biden. Accurate?


No, we're definitely not in a new normal. As long as we're averaging 1,300 deaths a day, as long as we have over 130,000 Americans who are hospitalized, and that we're nearing 1 million case rate, daily rates. That is not normal.


This pandemic is definitely surging. It's flaring. We are in the midst of an Omicron storm. Where we need to get to, is where the coronavirus performs and behaves more like the seasonal flu. And we aren't there yet. The way for us to get there is for our public health to be clear and consistent for us to do a multilayer mitigation strategy, and for us to talk to the American people with practicality and with a fierce commitment to the truth. Unless we do all of those things at the same time and with the level of vigilance that is required, we want to approach that new normal. So, there is no need to sugarcoat. There's only a need to speak truth and to speak it in a way that people can understand.

PAUL: I think that for a lot of people who are sitting at home, watching this right now, there is some confusion about what the threats specifically is with Omicron. And if the Delta is still floating around out there. So, we know Omicron is certainly as far as we can tell, the most contagious but in terms of how deadly it might be, how it might - it might cause sever illness in people. We know that there are these hospitalizations, particularly with children. But can you give us some clarity, for people sitting at home, as to what the threat level is right now for COVID, whether it be Omicron, if it's different from Delta, all of that.

PERNELL: The threat level is exponentially high. Why do I say that? Because any infection with coronavirus presents the opportunity for long COVID to develop, for the opportunity for there to be serious, health complications down the line. And we don't want to see that happen. We definitely don't want to see that happen in our children and we don't want to see that happen in anyone.

As long as Omicron is around and surging the way that it is, being that it is more contagious is a threat to cause a surge and a drain on our health care system. Because if you have more people who are positive, even if the disease isn't as virulent as a different variant.

The fact that you have so many people positive, the opportunity for hospitals and our health care settings to be overwhelmed is high. That's why it is so important for none of us to fall asleep at the wheel. For all of us who are eligible to be vaccinated and boosted to do that, to wear a properly fitting high quality mask, and to ensure that our systems are looking at ventilation and filtration. We need to do all of those things well, making tests readily available for all Americans.

PAUL: So, there are public health experts, and you talk about this in regard to the CDC, these are public health experts and they're scientists. They are not always well versed. I heard somebody saying that yesterday, they are communicators, necessarily they are not politicians. Their messaging may be less effective, less polished but they say the missteps fall on the CDC director. Do you agree with that? And what might some sort of media training that she's asking for now. How might that change things?

PERNELL: Of course, Director Walensky bears a significant amount of accountability because she's at the head. All leaders bear accountability. But I want to pushback on this notion that public health scientists, that CDC scientists, that they are not communicators. I'm a public health physician, a preventive medicine physician. We know that there can be no public health guidance without the ability to clearly - and to articulate that in ways that are literally across multiple populations.

There is no public health guidance without thinking about how that messages going to land. How that messages going to impact human behavior. I think unfortunately, we in America need to scrutinize how we practice public health, and we need to practice public health of the future, the public health that is going to allow us to be prepared for pandemics, allow us to drive equity across multiple different settings and health conditions.

That's what's they're lacking. And if the director needs media training, then get the media training. But we need to return to at least the sense of collective feedback, consensus from scientists and an opportunity for front liners and opportunity for everyday Americans to reflect and to even say, hey, what does this guidance mean for me? Without just having a constantly changing message.

PAUL: Dr. Chris Pernell, such wise words. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

PERNELL: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Still to come this morning.

Ahmaud Arbery's family speaking out at the sentencing hearing for his killers. We have a look at the highly emotional day in court. Plus, yesterday's jobs numbers coming in below expectations. President Biden though trying really hard to find that silver lining. How he put a positive spin on a dismal report. Next.



SANCHEZ: So, after nearly two years of waiting. Ahmaud Arbery's mother says that their family finally got justice after all three men convicted of killing her son were sentenced to life in prison.

PAUL: Arbery, a 25-year-old black man was chased and shot dead while running back in February of 2020. It took the release of video of his killing and national outrage for prosecutors to bring charges.

CNN's Ryan Young looks at an emotional day in a court.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Christi, just a lot of emotion involved in this case. And when you think about how long this trial lasted and the process that the family had to wait to go through for more than a few months to get to the point where the men were charged. And then this court case started, you can understand why the feelings were really strong in court on Friday.


JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, CHATHAM COUNTY, GEORGIA: Today, the defendants are being held accountable for their actions. will face the count.

YOUNG (voice-over): Two of the three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison. Travis and Gregory McMichael received life without the possibility of parole.


WALMSLEY: After Ahmaud Arbery fell, the McMichaels turned their back to get a disturbing image, and they walked away. This was a killing. It was callous.

YOUNG: William Bryan, Jr. sentenced to serve life with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

WALMSLEY: He had grave concerns that what had occurred should not have occurred. And I think that does make Mr. Bryan's situation a little bit different. However, Mr. Bryan has been convicted of felony murder.

YOUNG: Before reading sentences, Judge Walmsley paused for one minute.

WALMSLEY: I want us all to get a concept of time. And so, what I'm going to do is I'm going to sit silently for one minute. I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores.

YOUNG: And the court heard powerful statements from Ahmaud Arbery's family.

WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I laid you to rest. I told you I love you, and someday, somehow, I would get you justice.

YOUNG: His mother spoke directly to her son and to the men responsible for his death.

COOPER-JONES: These men have chose to lie and attack my son and his surviving family. They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency. This wasn't a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. They chose to target my son. And when they couldn't sufficiently scare him or intimidate him, they killed him.

YOUNG: Taking aim at a defense attorney's comments during the trial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His long, dirty toenails.

YOUNG: About her son's toenails.

COOPER-JONES: I wish he would have cut and cleaned his toenails before he went out for that jog that day. I guess he would have if he knew he would be murdered.

YOUNG: Arbery's family was clear, they wanted the maximum sentence possible.

MARCUS ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: Me and my family, we've got to live with his death the rest of our life. We'll never see Ahmaud again. So, I feel they should stay behind them bars the rest of their life because they didn't give him a chance.

JASMINE ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S SISTER: The loss of Ahmaud has devastated me and my family. So, I'm asking that the men that killed him be given the maximum sentence available to the court.

YOUNG: Last November the McMichaels and Bryan were convicted of murder after chasing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in their vehicles while he jogged in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, killing him after they say they thought they saw Arbery inside an unfinished home on February 23rd, 2020. It took two-and-a-half months before arrests were made after video Bryan took of the murder was released and went viral.


YOUNG (on camera): And let's not forget the video that happened involving this case was leaked by defense attorney thinking that when the public saw it, the three men would be cleared. That didn't happen. I think the judge's words really stood out when they took that moment of silence for a minute to show how long Ahmaud was chased really stood out to a lot of people in court just in terms to get emotion and that break. We can even see Wanda Cooper-Jones bow her head during that moment of silence. Boris and Christi?

PAUL: Thank you so much, Ryan.

CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson, is with us now.

Joey, I know you talked a lot about what happened yesterday in court. I want to look ahead here because this is not finished. There is a federal case. The feds are looking at this. We understand the new reports through CNN that the feds went to the Arbery family and they asked if they would consider a plea deal in the federal case. Of course, his mother - Arbery's mother said, no. She would prefer that there not be. How do you foresee this federal case moving forward?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. Good morning to you, Christi.

And so, tomorrow, certainly or yesterday rather, we saw what I think was major accountability with regard to what these three defendants did and what the judge needed to do to hold them accountable.

To your question in moving forward, there is the federal case. The first question is, has that differ. Of course, the federal case is predicated upon the hate crimes, Christi. It's predicated upon the notion that you would have these three men who had engaged in this activity that's based upon that's motivated by what we call in more racial animus and that's very important because there is always a federal role to play.

When you interfere with someone's mode of travel based upon the fact that it's you know related to their race, when you take up arms against people related to that question, when you otherwise confine or kidnaps someone based upon that. So, that's what the federal government is looking at.


The other issue then becomes well what now. Of course, you mentioned the plea deal with them going that is the federal government to the family and saying, hey, what do you think about 30 years? Now, it is important to note that the family doesn't really have the final say. Of course, the federal government does.

But I think it is very telling that they would go to the family and that's always very important because that's the person and those of the people who were impacted as we saw from those statements. The open question to me is whether there will be a trial.

Remember now, why do I say that? The judge sentenced the two McMichaels to life plus 20 years, right? In addition to Roddie Bryant, the third one to a life sentence but he is eligible for parole after 30 years. So, will the federal government move forward anyway in a symbolic way largely, right, to hold accountability or will the federal government not withstanding that, move forward with the plea in light of the fact that these defendants will be in jail anyway. That's very much an open question.

However, that the trial, of course, is scheduled or at least jury selection is scheduled next month. The trial soon thereafter. Thousand jurors from 43 counties will see what the federal government does. But whether a trial moves forward in light of the sentencing that occurred yesterday is very much an open question.

PAUL: Very interesting. What about the former DA, Jackie Johnson? She's been arrested. A grand jury indicted her potentially on obstructing this case. And in violations of her oath as a public officer. What are you wanting to see in that case?

JACKSON: I think everyone here you know needs to really be brought to account by the court. It's very important. Remember how we got here, Christi. We first, as you mentioned, this particular DA really stifling any type of prosecution. All you need is probable cause whenever there is an issue as to whether someone should be arrested. She interferes with that. You should not, right?

We don't know what that time whether someone is guilty or innocent, but we do know that our elected officials need to, right, see that a person is at least evaluated, at least a determination as to what they did. She didn't do that. She impeded that.

So, what needs to happen is she needs to be brought to account for what she did. They are after the next DA says, nothing to see here. Writes a long memorandum indicating that there is - there is you know no basis. This is a citizen's arrest law. It goes to another DA, right? And then, finally, the state comes in.

And then, of course, we move forward. There's a trial. But oh, wait, there's 11 jurors who are white. I think it's very telling that notwithstanding the jury composition here, they ultimately focused on the fact, focus on the law, got it right. And then, the judge render sentence.

So, I just go through long winded explanation to indicate that a system can work if good minds come together. That system needs to work as to the prosecutor who tried to halt this in the first instance.

PAUL: Hey, I think it's a really baffling to a lot of people to think there's this DA who said there's nothing to see here as you've said. And now, we have three men who are spending life in prison. Very, very different scenarios, had we not seen that video.

Joey Jackson, we appreciate you so much. Thank you.

JACKSON: Always. Appreciate you more. Thanks, Christi.

SANCHEZ: Remember that Republican senator who called the insurrection a largely quote, "peaceful protest?" He's now expected to run for a third term. So, what are the chances that Ron Johnson of Wisconsin gets reelected?

We'll discuss after a quick break.



PAUL: We are so glad to have you with us this morning. 32 minutes past the hour right now. And the U.S. economy, it added just under 200,000 jobs last month. That is the lowest that figure had been all year.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. The White House was hoping to end the year on an economic high note but here's our President Biden explained a disappointing number.


BIDEN: There has been a lot of press coverage about people quitting their jobs. Well, today's report tells you why. Americans are moving up to better jobs with better pay, with better benefits. That's why they're quitting their jobs.


SANCHEZ: It is a complicated picture. And CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans explains why.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Boris, December jobs growth was the weakest month in what turns out to be a record year for job creation. The U.S. economy added back 199,000 jobs in December, bringing the year's total to a record 6.4 million jobs.

The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent. That's the lowest to the pandemic. Wages are picking up too. Average hourly earnings grow 4.7 percent over the past year. The problem is those wage gains aren't keeping up with inflation. We'll get more inflation news this week.

On the jobs front, the gains were broad-based with jobs added in leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, in construction. Still, the economy is down 3.5 million jobs since the pandemic began.

And there are 1.2 million fewer women in the workforce. Some of that is voluntary. People are taking care of family in the middle of a pandemic. They're also leaving their jobs for higher wages and better opportunities in the middle of COVID. Guys?

SANCHEZ: Christine Romans, thank you so much.

Plenty to discuss this morning with Axios managing editor Margaret Talev.

Margaret, hope 2022 has been fruitful so far for you. Thanks for sharing part of your weekend with us.

Let's start with a broader picture of the economy because the White House seems to feel that this a perception problem. There were fewer jobs added than expected. But the unemployment rate fell below 4 percent and wages ticked up even though there is lingering inflation. Going into the midterm election with Republicans poised to pick up seats. What are you hearing from officials in the administration about their concerns regarding the economy and the way that it could shape the midterm races?

[06:35:00] MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: Look, Boris, the way people experience inflation in the supply chain problems, the way people in their own homes are experiencing wage-related issues or other concerns that are softer economic ties like about childcare, right, how you live day-to-day. Those are all difficult to control because the pandemic is driving them and the administration has limited abilities, limited levers with which to deal with them.

President Biden is talking about this exactly as you had expected. He is looking for the silver lining, those low unemployment numbers. He's also talking about what his administration is trying to do when it comes to inflation, when it comes to supply chain.

But he's continuing to argue for the need for his Build Back Better plan, right? The means to address childcare costs, prescription drug costs, continuing to lean to Senator Joe Manchin, right, to try to break the log jam and move portions of this forward.

The other thing that we're starting to hear Biden do is to layout the idea that there will be a new normal, right? Life is not going to go back to the way it was before any coronavirus. But the idea that it won't be like this right now. That Omicron and the current surges are temporary. That his administration is moving towards a different place.

That required some trust and confidence from the American people. The other problem is this latest report does not reflect the full brunt of the Omicron-related problems because of the time lags. So, the next jobs report maybe tough too. And then he's going to have some momentum behind some bad perceptions. It's going to be difficult for him to weave through this period.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. And especially when you consider that historically, midterm elections have not been good for the incumbent party.

Speaking of elections, CNN reports that Republican Senator Ron Johnson is expected to announce he's going to run for that third term. Notably in a state that Joe Biden won. Johnson's proximity to Trump, his -- his flirting with conspiracy theories, they could be seen as liabilities or to some voters, selling points. Do you think he gives Republicans the best chance to hold on to that seat in Wisconsin?

TALEV: Many Republicans do. There are other Republican contenders there less - less polarizing, less contentious. There are also less well-known, maybe less likely to drive and spur turnout.

Like when you look at that famous now, Virginia governor's race. You saw a candidate who was successful because he was able to distance himself from Trump personally while running. No chance that happens in this race. There's three - at least three Republican contests up in 2022 that could be swing races or flip races, right? Wisconsin is one of them, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Democrats are like, yeah, bring it on. They want to run against the conspiracy theories, against the ties to Trump. But many Republicans think, you know, Johnson defied the odds in 2016 and perhaps if he can - he and Trump could help inspire enough Republican turnout, perhaps that would be their best chance. But for sure, it's going to be a contentious race if that's what happens.

SANCHEZ: From a current senator to one that recently passed away. President Biden celebrating the life today of the late Democratic Senator Harry Reid at a funeral service in Nevada this afternoon. He served 30 years in the Senate. He was hugely influential during his time. And leadership, we're going to hear from those that were closest to Harry Reid later today, including former President Barack Obama.

Margaret, how would you describe his legacy?

TALEV: You know, Harry Reid, among those who knew him was known on a real level for his personal kindnesses, his personal and involvement. But I think he's not a household name quite the same way you know that Obama or Biden are. Nationally, his two biggest impacts have been helping Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act and interestingly, his work in 2013 to pull the nuclear option, right, that ended the - that ended the filibuster for most presidential appointments and judicial nominations, except for the Supreme Court.

But that really paved the way, cleared - cleared the log jam for Obama to get many of his judges in place. It's also paved the way for the conversation that we are having now on many levels about whether to end the filibuster for good, the legislative filibuster. Reid in his final months very much forcefully making the case that that should happen. That the Republicans had been so obstructionists. That the filibuster served no purpose anymore. The Democratic Party is not quite there yet but they're inching closer every day and that's due in large part to Harry Reid's legacy.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. He will be remembered for his kindness and leadership. And of course, CNN is going to follow through with coverage if that even in Nevada later this afternoon.

Margaret, we got to leave the conversation there. Always a pleasure to have you.

TALEV: You too. Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

A quick programming note for you as well. Make sure to join Fareed Zakaria as he investigates the fight to save American democracy.


His new special airs tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

PAUL: Stay with us because up next, we're taking a look at what is behind deadly antigovernment protests in Kazakhstan. Why thousands of people are in the streets. Look at these pictures we're getting in.

And why Russia is now sending security forces to the country.


PAUL: What the president of Kazakhstan is declaring a national day of mourning after earlier, ordering security forces to quote, "Kill without earning" in response to protests that really got violent.


The country's northern region is under lockdown. Now, dozens of people have reportedly been killed in a former Soviet Republic. What started as protests over rising fuel prices ignited anger over government corruption, poverty and unemployment.

SANCHEZ: CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, joins us now live from Moscow.

Matthew, this the biggest challenge that Kazakhstan's leadership has faced to its autocratic rule and they are claiming that a lot of this effort isn't domestic. That it's the work of foreign influence.


I mean, look, I mean Kazakhstan, we don't hear much about it in the news even though it's a vast area, the size of Western Europe. Because it's really very much that sort of island of stability. In that central Asian region. It's a former Soviet state. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, it's one of the states that's been perhaps less dependent on Moscow because it's got strong energy resources, and things like that from other natural resources that it has managed to exploit. Its undergone, you know, significant economic growth over the past couple of decades as well.

But yes, there are indications and it's very difficult to get information out of Kazakhstan right now. Because the Internet has been dying for a week. There are indications that part of the violence that has been ravaging the country. Particularly, the biggest city Almaty over the past several days is perhaps a domestic political battle.

The - the Kazakh president has issued a terrifying order that protesters will be shot - shot without warning. And that has had apparently, an impact on the streets. As I say, it's very difficult to get information out of Kazakhstan right now.

But I spoke to one of my contacts earlier on this morning in Almaty. And she told me that look, it's very quiet. The protests have dissipated. There are checkpoints on the streets still hearing occasional gunshots. But she thinks that might be coming from the soldiers at the checkpoint firing into the air to warn people away.

There were people sort of coming out of their houses and apartment blocks a bit more now trying to get food. It's been several days since they vanished the stuck up on groceries because of the terrible violence that's - that's been - that's been taken placed there. But of course, that calm has come at a really high price. As you mentioned, there have been dozens of people that have been killed. Nearly 4,000 people according to official figures have been detained. And we've also seen foreign troops particularly Russian troops being invited into Kazakhstan to help the authorities there restore some order.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. The president of Kazakhstan thanking Vladimir Putin for that assistance.

Matthew Chance, from Moscow. Thank you for the update.

PAUL: Matthew, thank you.

So, unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic is waiting for an Australian court to rule as to whether he can compete in the Australian Open.

New developments that broke overnight. We have those for you next. Stay close.


stability in the sebt ral place. One of the states that has been perhaps less dependent on moscow because of the strong energy sources. Undergone strong economic growth. There are indications. It is difficult to get information out now because the internet has been down a week. The violence ravaging the country including the biggest city is perhaps a domestic political battle. The Kazakhstan president has issued an order that protesters will be shot without warning. That has lead to an impact on the streets. Sayings it very quiet. Check points on the streets. With gun shots and warning people away. People are coming out of their houses and apartment blocks. It has been more. The calm and dozens of people that were killed. Numbers have been detained. We've seen foreign troops, specifically Russian troops, being insighted in to help there.

The president of Kazakhstan thanking putin for that assistance. Thank you for that from moscow.

Unvaccinated tennis star novak novak djokovic is waiting for the court to rule if he can stay to defend his title. We have more next.



SANCHEZ: There are some new developments to share with you overnight in a bizarre situation involving tennis star Novak Djokovic. Court documents revealing the 34-year-old is unvaccinated and that he had a bout with COVID less than a month ago, on December 16th.

PAUL: And despite that, new evidence reportedly shows he was told that he'd still be allowed to travel to and play in the Australian Open.

Coy Wire is here trying to make sense of all of this for us.

Coy, good morning to you.

SANCHEZ: Good morning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Good morning, Christi and Boris.

Defending Australian Open champ Novak Djokovic traveled to Melbourne on the premise he had been granted a visa for a medical exemption. But it now seems he was given the wrong information by tournament officials.

A letter reportedly sent by tennis Australia on December 7th and leaked to local press yesterday tells unvaccinated players, they could receive a medical exemption if they had entered the country as long as they had a confirmed COVID case within the previous six months and they have a doctor's note.

Well, court documents released yesterday show Djokovic then received a letter from the tournament's chief medical officer saying, he had received the exemption but of those green lights directly contradict the letter sent by the government to tennis Australia in November. And shared on Thursday, saying that a doctor's note in recent positive test, are not acceptable.

Djokovic has been confined to a Melbourne hotel for days. Supporters outside. He's facing the possibility of being deported. Decision on whether the 20-time Grand Slams champ will be allowed to stay in the country is expected to come Monday. The Australian Open is set to begin one week later.

COVID-19 is also rocking a U.S. figure skating championship in Nashville this weekend. And Winter Olympic hopefuls are now wondering if they're ever going to see their dream come true. We're talking some of the biggest stars.

2-time U.S. figure skating champ, 16-year-old Alysa Liu, looking to make her first Olympics, forced to withdraw hours ahead of the free skate competition after testing positive for COVID. The news came after Liu finished third in a short program. She'll now have to petition the committee to be one of three to represent team USA in next month's Olympics.

Brandon Frazier and Alexa Knierim, the highest ranked American duo in pair skating, they're forced to pull-out last-minute Wednesday after Frazier tested positive for COVID. Meaning, they too await to hear the decision of a committee on their Olympic fate. Those Olympics start in 27 days.


Now, we also saw history on the ice in Nashville. 25-year-old Mariah Bell, becoming the oldest U.S. women's figure skating champion in nearly 100 years as his - her first win ever on the senior level. The Oklahoma native beating out 2018 Olympian, Karen Chen for the gold with 14-year-old Isabeau Levito. Grabbing the bronze, Bell has a chance to make more history today. If selected to go to Beijing, she would become the oldest Olympic women's single skater for the U.S. in 94 years. So, some really great storylines coming out of there as these athletes chase their dreams.

But also, up in the air, where there were some and some of the biggest star will even make it due to COVID. Clearly, the protocols they have there in place are quite working the way they may have hoped.

SANCHEZ: About three years into this pandemic. We still can't figure out exactly how it's going to go down in the field or on the court or if there's even going to be a certain game.

WIRE: Yeah.

SANCHEZ: Coy Wire, thank you so much for the time.

WIRE: Got it.

PAUL: Thanks, Coy. So, stay with us because the CDC is facing a credibility crisis as these COVID cases are surging. And also, the fight over how to keep kids safe in class is heating up across the country. We're going to have more on that next.