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New Day Saturday

NYPD Office Killed, One Seriously Injured During Domestic Call; Omicron Surge Push Parents Of Young Children To The Brink; McConnell On Defensive Over Comments About Black Voters; Biden Signals New Strategies For Second Year In Office; Poll: 41 Percent Of Americans Approve Of The Way Biden's Handling His Job; Admin Revisits Plan To Vaccinate Migrants At Southern Border; Beijing Becomes Giant Anti- COVID Fortress For Olympics. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 22, 2022 - 08:00   ET



CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good to see you on this Saturday. I'm Christi Paul.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez. New York City is waking up to outrage and sorrow this morning after two police officers were ambushed during a call.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am struggling to find the words to express the tragedy we are enduring. We're mourning, and we're angry.


SANCHEZ: What we're learning about the attack and how the NYPD is now responding.

PAUL: And some new details we're learning for you just regarding how important those booster shots are in the fight against the coronavirus. And this is happening as hospitals warned that they're still overwhelmed with patients and it's forcing them to actually send people elsewhere.

BOLDUAN: Plus, some Virginia School Districts vowing to defy Governor Glenn Youngkin's order banning mask mandates even in the face of repercussions.

PAUL: Also, how Beijing has essentially been turned into a fortress in an effort to keep COVID out of the upcoming Olympic Games.

Take a nice deep breath because it is the weekend, Saturday, January 22nd. And we're always so grateful for you.

SANCHEZ: Great to be with you, Christi. This morning, New York is mourning the loss of one of its finest. One officer was killed, a second in critical condition after a shooting last night.

PAUL: Yes, authorities say rookie Officer Jason Rivera died last night while responding to a domestic violence call. Now the officers are the latest to be shot in the line of duty. Officials say three others have been shot just this month.

Yesterday while speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, President Biden address the challenges that police face every day.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We shouldn't be cutting funding for police departments. I propose the increasing funding. Look, you know, we asked cops to do everything including the psychologist and social workers. Guess what, they need psychologists and social workers.


SANCHEZ: Let's go to CNN's Polo Sandoval. He's been following the story for us. Polo, help us understand what happened during the shooting. It started out as a call for a domestic dispute, right?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And as we tried to make sense of this, Boris, it's important to remember that police commissioner here in New York says that this is just beyond comprehension, the loss that they're experiencing right now. And also, just a sad reminder of the real dangers of responding to these kinds of domestic calls.

You see Jason Rivera is a 22-year officer that was among three officers responded to a mother's call for assistance. He was having a dispute with a 47-year-old son. Where Rivera and another officer Wilbert Mora were the two officers that walked along a narrow hallway in that apartment when the doors swung open and Lashawn McNeil, police say, open fire with a Glock 45 pistol.

And when you look at the weapon that was used here, guys, it's certainly just deeply disturbing here. And when you see the level of firepower that these officers were up against, and many have said that they really stood no chance of defending themselves with this high- capacity magazine that held, according to investigators, up to 40 rounds, where Rivera was killed when those shots rang up. His fellow officers who saw there a few moments ago continuous fighting for his life and it was a third officer who was in the living room with mom who opened fire wounding McNeil.

When you hear from Mayor Eric Adams, there's certainly just a high level of frustration as he calls on not just a state but on the federal government to step in and assist in getting more guns off the streets of New York.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We need Washington to join us and act now to stop the flow of guns in New York City and cities like New York. We're all witnesses. We have witnessed these murders and we have witnessed the failure on a federal level to stop the flow of guns through this city.


SANDOVAL: As for McNeil, the suspect in this case as of last check, remains in the hospital as well here, Boris and Christi. When you look at his rap sheet, he's really been described as a career criminal here. When you look at it here, he was arrested for -- here in New York City for narcotics in 2003 and four outside arrests outside of New York City including a lawful possession of a weapon and assaulting a police officer.

As for Adams, it's certainly going to renew the pressure on him to act on his vowed to try to improve public safety around the city, especially after a recent rash of shootings. Boris, Christi?

SANCHEZ: An uphill battle, no question. Our hearts go out to those officers and their families. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

SANDOVAL: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: There are new signs this morning that the surge of the Omicron variant may be starting to ease. The U.S. average of daily COVID cases now trending down compared to last week. Meantime, hospitalizations in the Northeast and Midwest are on the decline.


PAUL: That's the good news. There are a lot of states across the country that are still in crisis though right now. In North Carolina, health officials say the Omicron variant, quote, is sending a record number of people to hospitals. And then you look at West Virginia, while COVID hospitalizations are near an all-time high, Governor Jim Justice is stressing the need for people to get their booster shot.


GOV. JIM JUSTICE (D), WEST VIRGINIA: What in the world are we waiting on? I mean, how can it be logical that you made the decision to be vaccinated and now, now, absolutely, you're just waiting. You're making a real mistake. A real mistake.


PAUL: CNN's Nadia Romero has more on why getting your booster shot is so important right now.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A trio of CDC studies released Friday underscore just how urgently the booster shot is needed to fight off the Omicron variants. According to the CDC, the booster was 90 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations over a period of December in January compared to 57 percent for those with only two shots six months after their second vaccination.

The new data raised the question of whether people with just two vaccine doses should still be considered fully vaccinated. But CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stopped short Friday of endorsing such a change.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: And what we really are working to do is pivot the language to make sure that everybody is as up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, as they personally could be, should be based on when they got their last vaccine. So importantly, right now, we're pivoting our language. We really want to make sure people are up to date.

ROMERO: Meanwhile, those fighting COVID out on the front lines are being stretched beyond their limits. Six Metro Atlanta hospitals say they're seeing mostly unvaccinated patients fill up their hospitals beyond capacity.

DR. ROBERT JANSEN, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER AND CHIEF OF STAFF AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: We are running about 110 percent capacity right now. We've had to divert ambulances over the last several weeks because the huge number of patients coming in. That has a big impact on the rest of the city. It's wall to wall stretchers. We have no capacity left at the hospital.

ROMERO: The message from health care experts to get vaccinated and boosted also comes with a renewed push to limit the spread of the virus. And to alleviate long lines at testing sites across the country, you can now order free at-home coronavirus tests from the federal government, online or by using a new hotline.

JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: People need a test immediately. We continue to encourage them to utilize one of the many testing options that are out there in addition to the website. 20,000 community-based testing sites nationwide, federal surge sites, dozens of which have opened in the last few weeks are online.

ROMERO: Nadia Romero, CNN, Atlanta.


PAUL: And the rapid spread of Omicron variant of COVID-19 has left a lot of parents with very young children feeling really uncertain. Parents are losing their temperature -- their tempers, I should say, their sleep, their jobs because of childcare issues. And now, under new guidelines in Minnesota, specifically, children and childcare centers no longer need to quarantine if they've been exposed to COVID- 19.

Clare Sanford is with us now. She's government relations chair at the Minnesota Childcare Association and Vice President of Government and Community Relations at New Horizons Academy. Thank you so much for being with us, Clare. We appreciate it. How comfortable are parents and how comfortable are you with this new guidance from Minnesota?

CLARE SANFORD, MINNESOTA CHILD CARE ASSOCIATION: Well, childcare was in crisis before the pandemic and the pandemic over the last two years has just revealed how reliant our society is on childcare, not only parents and their young children, but their employers and the rest of us. And we've really seen the cracks in that system and the stress we're under.

And part of that, I mean, obviously is, is figuring out how to operate and how to keep your children safe during this pandemic. And Minnesota recently changed its childcare licensing regulations to say that quarantines for young children who are still too young to be vaccinated, we're talking birth to five, are now in under the purview of each provider to decide on what to do.

We are still being asked to follow CDC and state health guidance, but it is no longer a requirement tied to our childcare licenses. So it's a move that the state has done to try to give families and providers more flexibility and to make, you know, their own individual risk benefit calculations. But it is very difficult. And we have parents and providers on both ends of the spectrum who this new flexibility makes very nervous and some for whom it's the best news they've gotten in two years.

PAUL: Yes, you can see it's two-pronged depending on who's receiving the information. Help us understand the anxiety that parents of this age group, infant to five years has right now.


SANFORD: The anxiety is stupendous and it's different for every family based on every family situation. But, of course, there's the constant nagging anxiety about keeping your children safe and healthy. And that is the core of what we do in childcare, is keep children safe and healthy. So, this is unbelievably important to childcare providers and of course, parents of young children.

But that's only part of the problem right now. Two years into this pandemic, parents of young children, we've put them in an impossible situation in our country. Their children are too young to be vaccinated. They are subject to quarantine after quarantine, exposure after exposure. And employers are losing patience with parents.

We've pulled a lot of supports from parents. The expanded childcare tax credit recently expired at the end of December. So we have families who are unable to work because of quarantine rules for their young children. So they're nervous and anxious about the health of their children and their families.

But they're also incredibly nervous about their financial stability and their ability to keep -- providing a home and food and all the necessities for their children. And parents are just between a rock and a hard place right now with those two anxieties (ph).

PAUL: Well, we know that there were some provisions in the Build Back Better bill which, of course, is stalled. If you could stand at a podium, or even sit down at a table say and get the attention of lawmakers in Congress, what would you say to them? What do you think they really need to know?

SANFORD: They really need to know that we are the only developed economy in the world that doesn't take collective responsibility for the care and education of young children. We all take responsibility that through taxes and collective commitment to --

PAUL: Oh, I'm so sorry. Clare -- I think we lost Clare. Clare Sanford with Minnesota Child Care Association in the government there. Clare, thank you for detailing what you could for us before the gremlins in the systems, in the technical systems came out. But we appreciate you Clare Sanford there.

So, Senator Mitch McConnell's comments about black voters and Americans sparked some outrage, let's say, this week. Here how he tried to clarify the remarks. That's next.

SANCHEZ: Plus, a new year, a new approach for President Biden, coming up. How he's planning to switch up his strategy. Will it work? A candid conversation still ahead.



PAUL: While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is defending his record on civil rights, he's claiming to have forgotten a word when talking about black voters. Here's what he said earlier this week, just for perspective here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your message for voters of color who are concerned that without the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, they're not going to be able to vote in the midterm?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, the concern is misplaced. Because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting and just as high percentage as Americans.


SANCHEZ: McConnell's office tells CNN that he inadvertently left out the word other before Americans. His comments though have sparked mounting criticism is some simply don't buy that explanation.

CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend is live from Washington, DC. Good morning, Eva. How is Mitch McConnell responding to all of this?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, good morning, Boris and Christi. Listen, he clearly takes this criticism very personally, when he was responding to questions from reporters in Kentucky this week. You could tell that this really struck a nerve. This suggestion that he holds some sort of racial bias.

But listen, he really hit a sore spot. I think he tapped into, I think, a real vulnerability in this country. The suggestion that black Americans are somehow not a part of the American story. There is a wrongness there. And that is why we have seen this backlash.

But take a listen more to what he had to say in defense of himself.


MCCONNELL: I want to take an opportunity outset here to address the outrageous mischaracterization of my history and record own voting rights and race relations as a result of inadvertently leaving out the word almost in my comments the other day.


MCKEND: So, he again misspoke there and then walked back to the mics at the end of the news conference. He meant to say all Americans. But this is not the first time that Leader McConnell has received backlash when he opined on issues of race and racial inequality in America. This is the response that he often meets.

When I asked him about reparations for slavery in 2019, and he evoked former President Barack Obama. Many people were outraged by that, of course, they had a very contentious relationship. And many took that to me when he raised Obama, that he was saying that, essentially, the black Americans. President Obama was a form of reparations. Now, he did not say that, but that was the takeaway.

And then of course, last year, when I asked him about the racial history of the filibuster, he said that the filibuster has no racial history, none at all. That prompted a spokesperson for his office to again clean that up again. He was saying that he was talking about the origins of the filibuster.

But I think that this episode reveals that someone like McConnell who typically chooses his words very carefully. He is going to have to take a special attention when he does so in the future because there is a lot of anger there, I think. And that was on full display this week.


SANCHEZ: A lot of cleanup especially as his party at least through states has tried to pass legislation that could suppress voters and prevent voters of color specifically from getting to the ballot box. Eva McKend, thank you so much.

So, after a challenging first year in office, President Biden says he's going to do things a little bit differently. I mean, slumping poll numbers, the President told reporters he's going to spend more time speaking to people outside of the White House this year.

Two CNN Political Commentators join us this morning to discuss the new approach and what it could mean for the midterm elections. Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona and Republican Strategist Alice Stewart are with us. Thank you, ladies, both for sharing part of your weekend with us.

Maria, first to you. The President says he's going to be deeply involved in the midterms. That comes as dozens of Democrats recently told CNN that the political operation at the White House is unprepared and unresponsive heading into campaign season. Have you gotten that sense? What do you think needs to change? MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think what the President should be doing is exactly what he said, what he signaled he was going to do, which is not just a shift in messaging, Boris, but a shift in strategy. And he should be going out and talking directly to the American people, getting out of the White House, talking to them about his successes in the first year.

Look, has it been challenging? Absolutely. This President inherited a historic bucket of problems in this country. But what he was able to accomplish is 6.4 million jobs were created in his first year, a record for any president.

He got 400 million shots in arms. He passed the American Rescue Plan which put money in the pockets of American families, American workers and businesses who needed it the most, when he got zero Republican support for it and yet they are out in their districts taking credit for it.

You have, for the first time in decades, American wages are going up for workers. Historic numbers of new small businesses are popping up. So, there are great things to talk about, the historic infrastructure, bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed that is going to start pumping money into local economies this year. And so there are great things to talk about.

Are there challenges? Of course, he's got to talk about that, too. He's got to feel people's pain. He is starting to talk about those things. The inflation, the incredible variant of Omicron, which is still we're feeling the onslaught of that.

Sadly, Republicans have refused to help him deal with any of these problems. And instead, they're just focused on tanking his agenda, taking away the rights of Americans to vote, and putting people -- trying to put people in office, running people in these midterm elections up and down the ballot, that frankly, Boris, if elected, would do nothing short than destroy our democracy. So those are contrasts, that Democrats need to continue to make.

SANCHEZ: Some heavy claims there from Maria. Alice, I do want to ask you about something specific that she alluded to. And President Biden quoted from the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, on Wednesday. He chose not to run for Senate because he doesn't like that Republicans. In his words, aren't doing anything.

He says he doesn't want to be a roadblock. Biden is arguing that Republicans are simply obstructing him like they did, Barack Obama. So aside from criticisms of the current White House, as Mitch McConnell says, we're going to run to the party -- we're going to run against the party in power. What do Republicans have to sell to voters?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They can sell that they are going to stand up to the widespread policies that the Biden administration is trying to do. Look, you mentioned, one person that's not running for re-election, we have almost 25 Democrats who say they're not running for re-election this time, because they don't like the direction that their party is going. And look, I think it's important, this President is out of touch with Americans. So it is important to go out and press the flesh. But if I can correct a few of the comments that my friend Maria made, she touched on job creation. Look, that pales in comparison to what we're seeing with long term inflation. Not transitory. I'm talking long-term inflation.

She talks about vaccines. What about the testing? The President has acknowledged that he is way behind the eight-ball on getting at-home test to American people. And right now, the quote, checks in the mail with regard to that.

Looking at foreign policy, we're now in a very crisis situation with regard to Russia, coming on the heels of China and Afghanistan. That's not good. And clearly, what we're seeing now is that President Biden thinks as though his mandate was about unifying the country and putting it into COVID. Because that's what he campaigned on -- that's what he went into office on and that's what people voted for. Bringing the country together and putting it into COVID.

Unfortunately, he is being kowtowed by the far left of the party. They believe the mandate is social spending and election reform. That's not what he was put into office for.


And the fact that they are continuing to focus on large spending packages and voting rights reform. That is why we're seeing poll numbers in the low 40s. We're seeing job approval numbers lowest in many, many years for a president. And specifically, with regard to how he's handling COVID and how he's handling the economy.

And those numbers are going to not only affect him come 2022, that's going to be a huge anchor on any Democrat who's running for election in the midterm elections.

SANCHEZ: Maria, your --

CARDONA: I still --

SANCHEZ: Go ahead.

CARDONA: Yes. I was going to say I still really didn't hear from my amiga Alice, what is it that Republicans are for? What kinds of solutions are they going to put forth, to deal with the massive problems that the American people are dealing with?

And frankly, what -- the only thing that we've seen is Republicans that are anti-science, anti-vax, anti-mask mandates. And frankly, that is not something that is helping to crush this virus, which would hopefully be something that politics is taken out of, because this is something that has been killing Americans, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

And sadly, again, the only thing that we're seeing from Republicans, and it comes from Mitch McConnell's mouth, they're going to do absolutely nothing. They're going to be obstructionist. They're going to try to tank President Biden's agenda.

And economists have said if we're able to pass Build Back Better, or even pieces of the Build Back Better plan, that would relieve inflationary pressures on American workers. Let's see if Republicans can step, played and help us govern.

STEWART: The last thing we need in these inflationary times is more spending. We do not need Build Back Better, and we don't even need pieces of it. But to answer your question, what Republicans are for, encourage you to look at what happened right here in Virginia just a few months ago. Glenn Youngkin winning on key issues that the American people actually care about. That is the economy, public safety, jobs and education.

And it's not about Donald Trump. It is not about the last election. It is about these issues that are kitchen table issues for the American people. That is a textbook, playbook for any candidate running in 2020.

And rational Republicans in Washington, they're focusing on jobs and the economy and what they can do to get our economy back on track and get inflation under control. And those are the issues they're going to be focusing on as they campaign from now until November.

SANCHEZ: And it will be quite a campaign. Ladies, always love having you on. I ask one question of each of you and then you both just go. It's great. It's wonderful.

Maria Cardona, Alice Stewart, thank you both so much.

STEWART: Thanks, Boris.

CARDONA: Gracias, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

PAUL: Yes, I think they've got the program down, right, Boris? Yes.

SANCHEZ: We got to figure it out.

PAUL: So, the U.S. and Russia say they're going to keep talking about Ukraine. Can diplomacy really prevent a military conflict though? We're going to talk about that. Stay close.



SANCHEZ: The Biden administration is trying to chart a new course on immigration especially along the southern border. The President has made progress but to some, it is not enough and roadblocks remain.

PAUL: CNN's Priscilla Alvarez has more.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: The White House is again considering a proposal that would include vaccinating migrants crossing into the United States and then later released into the country as they await their court hearings. It's a plan that was the source of tension among White House officials last year, including top White House officials, Ron Klain and Susan Rice, who ultimately shut down the proposal because they saw it encouraging migrants to come to the U.S.-Mexico border, whereas other officials believed it would address public health concerns.

Now a White House spokesperson disputed the account, telling me in a statement, "A decision on vaccination for migrants had not been made at the time, just as a decision hasn't been made right now." But the anecdote is telling of the political undercurrents and concerns that have sometimes influence immigration policymaking.

The handling of the U.S.-Mexico border in particular exposed divisions among officials internally as some sought more progressive objectives and other officials leaned on deterring migrants as the U.S. has typically done. And it also divided the Biden administration with Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocates who, to this day, are asking the administration to do more on the border.

Now, it's important to note, the administration has made inroads on a variety of immigration issues, including halting construction of the border wall and repealing Trump era policies. But much of the attention is often placed on the border as a barometer of success for administrations.

And on that front, a senior administration official tells me they are prepared to do more this year and chart a new path on the border including leaning on new technologies to process migrants, entertaining reception models like that of the United Nations and entering into potentially a regional compact with countries as they focus on the deteriorating conditions on the Western Hemisphere.

All of these new challenges for the White House that says they are committed to seeing it through.

PAUL: Priscilla Alvarez there for us. Thank you, Priscilla.

SANCHEZ: Virginia's new governor has rescinded mass mandates for schools. But some school districts are keeping it in place, facing potential repercussions. We'll tell you how parents are reacting after a quick break.



PAUL: Oh his first day in office, Virginia's new Governor, Glenn Youngkin rescinded the Commonwealth's K through 12 mask mandate. And you can imagine, there are some schools that have not welcomed this decision.

SANCHEZ: Yes. CNN's Gary Tuchman has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ten minutes away from the Virginia State Capitol building where new Governor Glenn Youngkin was inaugurated this past weekend, is Richmond's Westover Hills Elementary School, where an executive order he issued is getting panned.


JASON KAMRAS, SUPERINTENDENT, RICHMOND PUBLIC SCHOOLS: We will be maintaining our mask mandate.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Jason Kamras is the superintendent of Richmond 55 public schools. Here in Richmond and a number of other school districts across the state, there's concern that without mask mandates, the spike in COVID cases will only get worse.

Anna Mason is the mother of a second grade daughter at the Westover Hills School. She says despite her superintendent stance, the governor's order which takes effect next Monday is very concerning.

ANNA MASON, PARENT OF STUDENT: I feel really disappointed. Yes.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): Why?

MASON: Because I'm scared. I'm scared for my kid. I'm scared for her classmates. Yes. And I feel like this is -- what other protection do we have?

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Dionne McCormick is the mother of a fourth grader.

(on-camera): Your school district says we're not listening to Governor?


TUCHMAN (on-camera): We want our kids in our school to still wear their mask. How do you feel about that?

DIONNE MCCORMICK, PARENT OF STUDENT: I felt like they're protecting us. They're protecting our kids. I love it.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Notably, one of the Governor's children goes to a private/out-of-state high school that does have a mask mandate. We wanted to ask the Governor about that, and about school districts in the state defining his order. But our request to speak with him was declined.

However, his spokesperson did send us a statement saying, "The Governor is allowing Virginians to opt out of the mask mandates so that parents can choose what's best for their children." Over the weekend, the Governor did say on camera that school districts need to listen to parents.

GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): Because we will use every resource within the governor's authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parents rights are protected.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And he does indeed get some support from parents at the Richmond school.

MARCUS JOHNSON, PARENT OF STUDENT: It still should be a choice. Nobody should be able to be forced to do anything.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): Do you agree with the Governor?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Robin Snead is the grandmother of a second grader.

ROBIN SNEAD, GRANDPARENT OF STUDENT: I know what it feels like for me to have a mask on. And it's hard for me to breathe. So I can only imagine how they feel, the children.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But at this school, a majority of parents we talked to feel differently.

(on-camera): Governor says it should be up to the parent, shouldn't be up at schools. Parents should make the decisions for their own children. Your reaction?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if I agree with that because their decisions affect my child.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): It's not clear what Governor Youngkin can do, wants to do or will do when it comes to school districts that disobey his executive order. Either way, though, this district shows no signs of backing down.

Are you concerned your school district could be punished by the Governor for not listening to what he's saying?

KAMRAS: I think we'll have to take it day by day. And of course, if there are any repercussions, we will do our very best to defend ourselves and to continue for what we believe is right.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This parent agrees with that plan of action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because, I think, I care about everyone and we're responsible for everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So everyone should be responsible for each other.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, Richmond, Virginia.


SANCHEZ: Gary, thank you so much.

Just ahead, we're going to introduce you to the skating champion who's hoping to bring home gold for Team USA in the Winter Olympics. We'll be right back.



PAUL: So you may be excited for this. Two weeks, less than two weeks actually until the Winter Olympics start, there is an increase in recent COVID-19 cases in Beijing and that's led to some drastic changes as they're trying to prevent the spread.

SANCHEZ: CNN's David Culver has that story.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Traveling into Beijing may prove to be a tougher race than an Olympic competition. These winter games taking place in a capital city that increasingly feels like a fortress. China determined to keep out any new cases of COVID 19 starting at the airport.

(on-camera): This is the terminal that's going to be used by athletes. Some of the Olympic personnel and media arriving into Beijing. They've got a wall up that keeps the general population away from everyone who's part of the Olympic arrivals.

(voice-over): Those coming in required to download this official app to monitor their health, inputting their information starting 14 days before arriving in Beijing. While health surveillance and strict contact tracing is part of life for everyone living in China, it's making visitors uneasy. Cybersecurity researchers warn the app has serious encryption flaws, potentially compromising personal health data.

China dismisses concerns but Team USA and athletes from other countries are being advised to bring disposable burner phones instead of their personal ones. From the airport, athletes and personnel will be taken into what organizers call the closed loop system. Not one giant bubble so much as multiple bubbles connected by dedicated shuttles.

Within the capital city, there are several hotels and venues plus the Olympic village that are only for credentialed participants.

(on-camera): The dedicated transport buses will be bringing the athletes, the personnel, the media through these gates. But for those of us who are residents outside, now this is as close as we can get.

(voice-over): Then there are the mountain venues on the outskirts of Beijing, connected by a high speed train and highways. All of them, newly built for the Winter Games. So as to maintain the separation, even the rail cars are divided. And the closed loop buses given specially marked lanes.

(on-camera): It is so strict that officials have told residents if they see one of the vehicles that's part of the Olympic convoys get into a crash to stay away. They've actually got a specialized unit of medics to respond to those incidents. It's all to keep the virus from potentially spreading.


(voice-over): It also helps keep visiting journalists from leaving the capital city to other regions like Xinjiang or Tibet to explore controversial topics. With the world's attention, the Olympics allows China to showcase its perceived superiority in containing the virus, especially compared with countries like the U.S.

But this will, in many ways, also be a tale of two cities. One curated for the Olympic arrivals and pre-selected groups of spectators. Another that is the real Beijing. Though some local Beijing residents are now in a bubble of their own.

Communities locked down after recent cases surfaced in the city outside the Olympic boundaries. A mounting challenge for a country that's trying to keep COVID out and yet still stage a global sporting spectacle to well the world.

David Culver, CNN, Beijing.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to David Culver for that report.

We should note later this morning, we're going to have an important conversation with a congressman about the Beijing game. So stay tuned for that.

Also, a lot of folks are going to be watching this today. The divisional round of the NFL playoffs, kicking off the Tennessee Titans and their fans waking up to some great news.

PAUL: Coy, I'm not going to steal it from you, you go ahead and give it to them.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: I can't think of a scarier thing for Bengals fans and players then thinking of Derrick Henry stiff arm squashing their Super Bowl dreams. We have eight teams vying for those four spots in the conference championships. Cincinnati and Tennessee will kick it all off and it features the Return of the King, the number one seed in the AFC.

The Titans getting their titan of a running back back, Derrick Henry, 63, 245 pounds of pure power reigning Offensive Player of the Year. He's back less than three months after a foot injury that many thought was season ending. Well now, he is fresh. And if he's running the football, praying for us from Cincinnati defenders, please.

Tonight, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is getting another chance to rewrite history. The three-time MVP, he's front runner yet again this season. He's zero and three bill against the 49ers in the playoffs, including in the 2020 NFC Championship game. But that game was in Cali. This time, it's in Green Bay.

And the Niners are going to have to fly cross-country to the frozen tundra where game time temperature is expected to be in the teens. Feels like temps below zero. Huge advantage for the Packers, especially considering their quarterback, the Niners, Jimmy Garoppolo never started an NFL game when it's been colder than 40. Aaron Rodgers is six and three in the playoffs when it's below freezing.

All right, finally, 25-year-old Mariah Bell is set to become the oldest individual female figure skater to compete in an Olympics for Team USA in nearly 100 years. Mariah sat down with us as she sets out to prove yet again that age is just a number.


MARIAH BELL, 2022 U.S. FIGURE SKATING CHAMPION: I'm skating 25 years old. In life, obviously, it's not old at all. But in skating terms, it's old. There aren't many women who are 25 competing, internationally. There are, but the majority are 18 and younger, probably.

I think there's kind of the stigma in skating, and probably a lot of things that you can only do it up to a certain age or, you know, it's kind of your time to move on or whatever. If you're dedicated to something and you have a dream, there's no time limit. There's no expiration date on that. And if you want to put in the work, it doesn't matter what age you are. You can do it.

WIRE: What kept you fighting?

BELL: The idea of really wanting to be on the Olympic team and feeling like I had a shot at it was really what kept me going. But truly, I just love skating. I absolutely, it's just a part of me. And so, I just feel really lucky that I get to, you know, travel the world doing something I love and doing it at 25. This ancient age of 25 is really exciting.

WIRE: What are your expectations for Beijing?

BELL: You know, the women's field is really strong. But if we skate the best that we can, truly anything can happen. So, you know, ice is slippery. We have three Russian ladies that will be there that will be really, really good, you know? But it's the Olympic Games, it's what you want. But anything can happen and I know for sure that we're going to go and do the absolute best that we can.


WIRE: Now, Mariah story is a microcosm of what so many of us love about the Olympics, right, Boris and Christi. Chasing a dream for years against the odds. You never give up. I'll be there for us covering these games. And it's my favorite event because of humility and spirit of athletes just like Mariah Bell. They're inspiring through and through.

SANCHEZ: Look forward to that coverage, but it hurts to hear that 25 is ancient at anything. Coy Wire, thank you so much, Coy.

So, we're going to hand it off to Michael Smerconish now, but we'll be back just an hour from now.

PAUL: Yes. We hope that you make good memories today. And, by the way, you can catch an all new CNN Original Series "Reframed: Marilyn Monroe." It's tomorrow. Here's to preview.


SARAH CHURCHWELL, PROFESSOR, AMERICAN LITERATURE: The owner of the Mocambo didn't want Ella. It was mostly a whites-only club.


But when it did have black performers, they had to be spectacularly beautiful. And the owner of the Mocambo didn't really care about Ella's immense talent. If she wasn't, you know, hot and svelte.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marilyn read this in the paper. She got very annoyed. So she called the manager and said, hi, this is Marilyn Monroe. And if you rebook Ella Fitzgerald, I will come every night to hear her sing, both shows.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, where the Ku Klux Klan was out. What was Marilyn going to get out of that being that visible, a friend with Ella Fitzgerald? Nothing. Nothing.

MICHELE MITCHELL, ASSOCIATED PROFESSOR, HISTORY: Advocating for somebody like Ella Fitzgerald when she did not have to. And win it was unpopular. This speaks to her principles.


PAUL: Watch CNN's Original Series "Reframed: Marilyn Monroe", tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. We'll be right back.