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New Day Saturday
Nearly 55 Million People Under Winter Weather Alerts; Massachusetts Issues Highway Travel Ban for Large Trucks; High Winds and Heavy Snow will Lead to White Out Conditions; RI Governor Declares Emergency and Orders Travel Ban Due to Snowstorm; Trump WH Spokesman Subpoenaed by January 6 Committee; Top General Warns Russian Invasion would be "Horrific"; Pres. Biden Says He'll Move U.S. Troops to Eastern Europe; DHS Warns of Potential Russia Cyberattacks Amid Tensions; COVID Cases and Hospitalizations Declining As Deaths Still Remain Alarmingly High; Democrats Hope to Move Quickly to Confirm Biden's Supreme Court Pick; Joni Mitchell Joins Neil Young in Pulling Songs from Spotify. Aired 6-7a ET
Aired January 29, 2022 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. It's a white one out there for a lot of you. Good morning. Welcome to your "NEW DAY." I'm Christi Paul.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Christi. I'm Boris Sanchez.
Right now, nearly 55 million people are in the path of a dangerous bomb cyclone. States northeast bracing for hurricane force winds, flooding, potentially record-breaking snow. We've got your latest forecast.
PAUL: Also need to tell you about this new round of subpoenas. The January 6 Committee zeros in on a former White House spokesman. Why they say he pulls critical information about a Donald Trump's action before and after the January 6th riot.
SANCHEZ: And some signs of optimism to share with you. The rate of new COVID cases dipping in some parts of the country. So, when are states going to start easing restrictions?
PAUL: Also, the White House confirms one of the potential picks for Supreme Court nominee. We'll tell you who is officially on the list of front-runners.
Well, you are up without an alarm at this hour on the weekends. I am impressed.
January 29th. We are always grateful for your company.
SANCHEZ: Hey, Christi. Always great to be with you. We hope that you're staying warm this morning because soon, a whole lot of you will not be.
Some 55 million people under winter storm alerts. A powerful bomb cyclone expected to bring heavy snow, vicious wind, and potentially coastal flooding as it slams into the northeast.
PAUL: Now we know several states have already issued a state of emergency.
Across this region that you just saw there, snow crews and emergency management teams are on high alert. Officials are urging all of you to just stay home and keep off the roads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DAN MCKEE (D-RI): Not only are we expecting large amounts of snow. We're also expecting high winds. And we're fully expecting white out conditions.
MAYOR MICHELLE WU (D-MA), BOSTON: This has a potential to be historic storm. A huge one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: I've heard that it can paralyze travel in some areas and we're seeing the first of that, nearly 3,400 flights have already been canceled across the U.S. That's on top of the thousands of flights that were canceled yesterday as well.
Now we do have CNN teams covering the powerful storm as it moves across the northeast.
CNN meteorologist Tyler Mauldin with us first here.
Tyler, talk to us about the trajectory of this at the latest. Because we can see based on the other reporters who are out in the middle of it, what it's doing.
TYLER MAULDIN, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah. We have a powerful and potentially historic storm system impacting the eastern seaboard at this time, Christi and Boris.
What we're dealing with is a massive system giving way to winter weather alerts from the Carolinas all the way up into Maine.
We're going to hone-in on the mid-Atlantic to the northeast where we have a blizzard warning in effect. Right all the coastline from Virginia all the way up through Boston and going on into Maine.
Boston is included in this blizzard warning. New York City is not. This is if you guys have heavy snow, and 40-70 mile per hour winds, for several hours, which will lead to near white out conditions. Travel will be absolutely impossible in this part of the region.
You can see the snow is stretching from Boston all the way down into the Carolinas. Eventually the snowfall in the Carolinas will begin to taper off, but we'll continue to see the snow fall, actually pick up in intensity as we go through time here across the mid-Atlantic and northeast as the system rapidly intensifies, aka a bomb cyclone.
So, once we get to 4:30 this afternoon, it's tapering off in Washington D.C. It continues in New York City. It continues in Boston. It is a really rough night for us in the state of Maine. You add in some extremely strong winds to the snow fall totals that we're seeing here.
And really, anywhere from Long Island up to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. You could see well north of a foot of snow. And in Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, we can see north of 2 feet of snow. You add in a 40 to 70 mile per hour wind, and that is going to wreak havoc across the region. That's what we're talking about blizzard warnings. And this could be a potentially historic snowfall event for the city of Boston. Guys?
PAUL: All righty, boy. Thank you so much, Tyler. We appreciate it.
Brian Todd, live in Atlantic City for us right now.
We are seeing what we have heard about, Brian. I'm sorry that you're standing in the middle of it. But what we're seeing of you right now prove that some visibility issues are going to be of concern right now. But talk to us specifically about where you are. Famous at the Boardwalk here, but coastal flooding is a real concern for them there?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Christi and Boris.
It is getting pretty dangerous. This is one of the dangerous periods that we're entering into. We're told that between right now, 6:00 a.m., and about midmorning, this is going to be the most dangerous period of the day because the snow is the most intense.
And Christi, I'll talk to you about the coastal flooding in just a second. But right now, we're in the middle of the Boardwalk here in Atlantic City. And you can see the visibility. Visibility is really starting to drop here.
There's a Ferris wheel just behind my right shoulder here. I don't think you can see it. I mean, it's got blue and green, kind of pulsating LED lights, the lights are changing color. It's less than a block away. Normally, very, very bright. You probably can't see much of it, if you can see it at all. But it's right there.
You can see these tracks here. I just talked to a snowplow operator that came by here and cleared this path here. And he said this is one of the toughest storms he's ever experienced. He's been here 18 years. He's been doing this since midnight, going up and down the Boardwalk trying to clear this track.
The snow has been coming down here for about 10 hours. The blizzard warning is in effect for another 10 hours - excuse me - 10 hours. Getting kind of - just hammered here with one gust of wind coming up the street here. I'm going to try to actually crossover here. It is a little bit better now. But you can't really tell exactly how much has come down. If you put your hand down here in the pure snow, it looks like maybe 5 inches, but because of the wind being so intense, it's blown a lot of the surface snow off. So, you can't really tell how much snow has come down.
Coastal flooding you mentioned a second ago. High tide here was about an hour and a half ago. Right now, it's - you're really on a danger zone for some flooding. We're going to check out some of the coastal areas because this is a barrier island. There are -- the bayside of Atlantic City down here, these are some of the streets that go to the bay. This is South Carolina Avenue. And they're worried that streets like this could get flooded right about now in the next couple of hours, guys.
So, I'm going to toss it back to you. We're going to check out some of the flooding - possible flooding when some daylight hits us here in Atlantic City.
PAUL: You know, I was thinking about what you've said about that plow driver. He's probably driving by thinking what in the heck are you doing.
But we appreciate you so much. Stay safe. And you - to you and the crew, stay warm and safe as often as you can. We appreciate you, Brian.
SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, Brian.
It looks rough out there. Tough to imagine another 10 hours of that. So, stay safe.
Let's get over to Brynn Gingras. She's live in New York where they are cutting back on public services and telling folks to stay home. So, Brynn, what are you seeing where you are?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Boris and Christi, I actually said, what the heck are you doing to a guy who is running this morning in this snow. He said, this is the great time to do it at this hour.
So, there are actually people getting out and about even though as you guys even said, officials have said, stay home. And the good thing is, of course, it's a Saturday, so that does help.
But what you're seeing is we get these strong gusts of wind that you heard Brian Todd talking about. Those are the biting winds that we are feeling the most. Not so much as the snowfall.
Let me get over here though so you kind of get the sense. The city doing pretty good job of already getting streets cleared. We're at Columbus Circle here. And you could see, there's still snow on the ground. And we have been seeing some cars going by, sort of slipping and sliding. And that's exactly why officials have been saying, of course, stay at home.
We know that they pretreated all these streets. That they're ready for the storm. And of course, as you guys know, we have a new mayor here in New York City. This is going to be somewhat of the first test for his administration, which has been kind of a bungle for previous administrations, when there's big snowstorms like this.
So, it will be interesting to see how the day progresses, how the snow gets stronger. Of course, expecting much more on Long Island, going up north into Boston, as you guys mentioned. But certainly, we'll be sticking around and keeping you updated.
SANCHEZ: Yeah. Keep warning those joggers to get back indoors. Brynn, thank you so much. Try to stay warm out there.
SANCHEZ: Brynn Gingras from New York City.
Joining us now is Tom Guthlein. He's the acting director of Rhode Island's Emergency Management.
Tom, we're grateful to have you this morning. Your governor issued a ban on travel ahead of this snowstorm. I'm wondering what you're concerned about for your residents right now.
TOM GUTHLEIN, ACTING DIRECTOR, RHODE ISLAND EMERGENCY MANAGERMENT: So, we're concerned pretty much what you've been broadcasting. So far, is again the roadways, where our Department of Transportation keeping up with the snow as we start to approach the near white out conditions with the wind and the snow coming down. Well, the plows may have to stop for a period of time. Because we don't want the plows out on the road or cars where you know they could create a problem interacting with each other basically.
So, that's why the governor and his Emergency Management team came together, and he placed the travel ban as well as the tractor trailer truck ban across the state beginning at 6:00 a.m. today to about 8:00 p.m. for the vehicles. And then, for the tractor trailer trucks to midnight tonight.
So, we can give that, those plow drivers a chance to get on the road and get those roads clear as soon as the snow starts to taper off.
SANCHEZ: What other kind of preparations have you made? Because we're talking about 1.5 to 2 feet of snow in a very short amount of time.
GUTHLEIN: So, we've been working on this for probably the last three or four days. We've been in contact with all the municipalities, the cities and towns. We've made sure that they all have enough material to put down on the roads. Any gaps that they have or where other more trying to help them, fill them out easily. Our biggest focus has been on personnel because of the COVID virus. You know, if they were short anywhere in some of these local DPWs, we're ready to step in from the state, and kind of help them if needed. So, we've been doing all that kind of prep work. We've also been in contact with you know different organizations to make they're aware. Like if you need to bring your people in early, go ahead and do that. Try and stay away from the perioded of you know 8:00 a.m. this morning to about 6:00 p.m. tonight when the storm still the worst. And just to make sure everyone is prepared and is ready to take on charge your devices, things along that lines.
SANCHEZ: And for folks who didn't heed the warnings and maybe weren't quite as prepared as you talked to us, what's your message to them?
GUTHLEIN: So, contact your local Emergency Management agencies. Obviously, if it's critical thing, dial 911 and they'll get help to you as soon as we can. So, again, those are things that if you didn't prepare, that you know, the time is past now here. We already have 3 inches of snow on the ground. The wind is starting to pick up. So, a lot of the roads are still very snow covered and slippery.
So, you know, if you don't have to go out, like the broadcasting, don't go out. Again, it's a 24-hour storm. You know, hunker down for 24 hours. And sometime tomorrow, you know you'll be able to go back out and resume some of your normal activities.
SANCHEZ: And Tom, I didn't hear you mention coastal flooding as a serious concern. How would you rate the level of concern in Rhode Island over that?
GUTHLEIN: So, with us with the northeast wind and north winds, it's -- we're going to have minor coastal flooding, and those towns know about it. But we're not as concerned as you know obviously our neighbor, Massachusetts, on their south shore area, where they'll be in the direct path of the wind coming out of the northeast where the seas will build.
SANCHEZ: All right. Good to hear. At least there's no concern or relatively little concern for coastal flooding where you're at.
Tom Guthlein, appreciate the time. Thank you so much and stay warm.
GUTHLEIN: Thank you, sir.
PAUL: From the White House Press Secretary Judd Deere is the latest Trump administration official to be subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee. In a letter to Deere obtained by CNN, the committee says, they want to speak with him about a staff meeting in the Oval Office the day prior to the violence at the Capitol.
SANCHEZ: Let's take you out to Capitol Hill. And CNN congressional reporter Daniella Diaz, who is live for us this morning.
Daniella, what's the significance of this specific meeting that the committee wants to know about on January 5th? DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Boris, it's really the committee's goal to figure out what kind of communication was happening at the White House leading up to the January 6th insurrection and one of these key witnesses of course being the former Deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere, who the committee wants documents from. And a deposition next month because they said, he quote, helped with "formulating White House's response to the January 6 attack as it occurred."
This is of course, according to the letter that was obtained by CNN from the panel. Look, the specifically, as you said, want to hear from this spokesperson - former spokesperson at the White House about this meeting that took place on January 5th.
And the committee has already met with this person's former boss, of course, Kayleigh McEnany, the former White House press sectary. She appeared in front of the Select Committee a month this month after she was subpoenaed in November.
So, this is just really the latest chapter of many, of course, of the committee's investigation.
PAUL: So, let me ask you about the subpoenas that we understand were also sent to more than a dozen Republicans who are tied to this fake elector plot that day. What do we know about who those individuals are?
DIAZ: Christi, the panel actually subpoenaed 14 people who were behind this push of the, quote, "fake electors," alternate electors that were an attempt to subvert, of course, the will of the people and overturn the election results. This was all part of a scheme to try to overturn the election, of course, former President Donald Trump's big lie that the election was stolen from him. Ultimately, that scheme failed.
But it really shows how the committee is not only looking into the violence of what happened and what led to January 6th, but even the schemes from different states. These states like Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, these Republicans that were listed as these fake electors, who tried to overturn the election results and these plans that they tried but ultimately failed to do that.
PAUL: All right, Daniella Diaz, always appreciate the insight. Thank you.
SANCHEZ: Tensions are rising in Eastern Europe over the crisis in Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll be moving U.S. troops to Eastern Europe and the NATO countries in the near term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: The plan President Biden has laid out to reposition U.S. troops. How will Vladimir Putin react?
We're live in Kyiv after the break.
PAUL: Also Dr. Fauci says he's cautiously optimistic about the direction of the pandemic.
Coming up. What positive signs he's seeing and why you can be cautiously optimistic as well.
SANCHEZ: One of the United States top generals has a stark warning about Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley says this current escalation is larger in scale and scope than any recent moves by Russia.
Milley says the outcome of an invasion of Ukraine would be horrific.
PAUL: And his comments are coupled with Ukraine's president downplaying the urgency of the Russian threat and President Biden preparing to move U.S. troops into Eastern Europe.
CNN's Melissa Bell is live for us from Kyiv, Ukraine right now. Melissa, always good to see you and get your perspective here. Help us understand how serious this rift is. I mean, can you decipher what's going on?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, it's been rumbling along in the background for these last few weeks, a difference in tone, a difference in the assessment of the threat level that is currently faced by Ukraine. What's happened now is that even as the world awaits Vladimir Putin's response to those written proposals from both NATO and the United States, those divisions really coming out much more openly than they had before.
As you say, those pronouncements both from General Mark Milley yesterday and President Biden explaining that those 8,500 troops will in the near future be moved towards NATO eastern flank. Even as President Zelensky was holding a press conference here for foreign journalists and saying, look, the threat level may be imminent, but it's also been constant. This is something Ukraine has been living with for a long time. As far as Ukraine and intelligence is concerned, the threat level and the troop movements on the part of the Russians are no different really to what we saw in the spring of last year. Have a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I'm the president of Ukraine. I'm based here. And I think I know the details much deeper than any other president. It's important the president should know what the situation is from me, not from intermediaries.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BELL: Now, President Biden's strategy of very openly sharing the intelligence's assessments using that very belligerent rhetoric over the course of the last week was crucial in bringing together NATO allies and specifically European allies that have often been divided on the question of how aggressively to take on Moscow. So, it worked on that front. The danger, of course, is that the longer - the more time passes, and the longer Vladimir Putin takes to reply to those requests, the greater those divisions between Ukraine and the United States are likely to get. Christi and Paul -- Christi and Boris?
SANCHEZ: And Melissa, the United States has requested UN's Security Council meeting, Monday, on Ukraine. What is the Biden administration hoping that meeting is going to accomplish?
BELL: Well, again, keeping in the minds of everyone, how imminent and dangerous these Russian maneuvers are. They're trying to get the world to pay attention to what Vladimir Putin is doing.
Again, crucial to his strategy of wrongfooting Vladimir Putin's administration and his military efforts but also crucial in bringing allies together. How long that can last is the real question, getting the United Nations together, a sure way of keeping that at the forefront of people's minds, Boris.
PAUL: Melissa bell, we appreciate you so much. Thank you.
So, officials in the U.S. -- I don't know if you know this -- are bracing for potential cyberattacks from Russia as the threat of a potential invasion of Ukraine obviously. We just heard there, remains high.
Government agencies have warned large banks, utility companies, state and local governments of Russian cyber capabilities. And Ukraine has been ramping up cyber defense efforts with urgent meetings and support from the U.S. to make their networks more secure.
John Hultquist is with us now. He's vice president of Threat Intelligence for Mandiant Cybersecurity Firm.
We appreciate you being here, John. Thank you so much.
So, this news bulletin from the DHS warned the U.S. Russia could launch a cyberattack if it sees the U.S. respond to the scenario that's going on in the Ukraine. Help us understand what a cyberattack would look like for our daily lives here in the U.S.
JOHN HULTQUIST, VICE PRESIDENT, THREAT INTELLIGENCE, MANDIANT CYBERSECURITY FIRM: I think the thing that people are most concerned about are disruptive operations. There are really two ways that Russia does disruptive operations at scale.
One way they do it is they hit critical infrastructure. They have, for instance, have turned the lights out in Ukraine before. That's very difficult to do. But there are a lot of different types of critical infrastructure they could potentially affect. And then maybe hit hard downstream customers as a result. The other way they do it is they do a more superficial attack against a lot of different targets simultaneously. We actually saw an incident called "NotPetya" where they hit a ton of organizations. It was actually focused in Ukraine.
And it managed to stop global shipping. It stopped vaccine production. It was the most expensive attack in history. And it was actually only focused on Ukraine. It just sorts of leaked out of the region.
PAUL: Wow. So, one of the things when we get back here to the U.S.
I remember and thought about this as I was reading this last year. You know, the pipeline disruptions that we had here from those hackers. And I'm wondering what is your level of confidence that the U.S. is equipped to deal with something from Russia that maybe that much more treacherous.
HULTQUIST: So, right now, it's you know very important time for defenders. We are urging them to prepare, to harden their networks, even hunt for Russian hackers that may already be in their networks. But the good news - and this could be a very trying time for a lot of individual organizations.
But as a whole, you know we actually think that ultimately, these are tools of influence and competition, that we are -- our critical infrastructure is very resilient. And that we are going to be able to weather anything they can carry out in the United States.
So really, you know, it all comes down to us and how we respond to these sorts of incidents.
PAUL: Yes. That's what I wanted to ask you about next. Because I'm wondering if you could relate the severity of a U.S. response in that same arena in cybersecurity. I mean, this is somewhat, I think, to most of us on the outside, this is a new arena for conflict.
HULTQUIST: It is. And you know, it's interesting because, you know, we do have significant capability. The United States -- every time we've seen it demonstrated, we're very capable in this space. I think it's important to remember, though, that you know, we may be dealing out blows, you know, against another country very well because we have such an advanced capability. But the reason we have such an advanced capability is because we're such an advanced country and have an advanced economy. And that's also somewhat a vulnerability, right? Those organizations, those companies that are going to be the targets that Russia will target.
PAUL: And, really quickly, you talked about how the Ukrainian government has suffered a series of cyberattacks in recent weeks. Do those attacks tell you anything about what could be to come to the U.S.? Can you glean anything from what you're seeing in that area?
HULTQUIST: We saw a sort of superficial -- another sort of superficial destructive attack that was actually pretending to be a ransomware incident. And that's exactly what we were telling our customers to suspect weeks before. This is something that they've done again and again. And the lesson that I gathered from that is that we are - we do know a lot about how they operate. And we can somewhat predict their behavior. And that means that we can take a lot of actions now to defend against them.
PAUL: All right. John Hultquist, we appreciate your insight here and your perspective. Thank you for taking time to be with us this morning.
HULTQUIST: Thanks for having me.
PAUL: Of course.
SANCHEZ: A quick programming note to share with you all.
Sunday night join CNN's Sara Sidner as she rides along to find out why driving black in America can be deadly serious.
CNN's new Special Report "Traffic Stop" begins tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
SANCHEZ: There is some good news on the COVID front as daily COVID-19 cases are dropping from where they were two weeks ago, and hospitalizations are also down, but, still, more than 2,200 people are dying on average every single day.
PAUL: Despite that alarmingly high rate because it is alarming and look at those numbers. Experts say the state of the pandemic may finally be taking a turn for the better. CNN's Natasha Chen has more on the latest headlines.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. daily COVID-19 cases are down more than 25 percent from the peak two weeks ago, but not all states have reached their Omicron peak yet. Several states are seeing increases compared to last week's shown on the map in Orange or red. And more than 2,200 people are still dying each day in the United States. Still in the frustrating ups and downs of what is nearly a two-year pandemic, there's optimism that things may be looking up again.
ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Deaths are still rising, we know that lies about 2 or 3 weeks behind, so my hope is within a week or so, we'll see that peak and start turning, and my expectation is in the upcoming weeks we will see substantial declines in inflections.
CHEN: A new spinoff of Omicron called BA-2 has been detected in 49 countries including the U.S. But experts say there's no reason to panic.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The immunity that you get from vaccines and even to some extent from natural immunity still seems to be protective against this lineage. That's the bottom line. It's not different enough.
CHEN: As people look at how to do more safely, the White House says 16 million households have requested free COVID-19 rapid tests from the government with tens of millions of tests having been shipped out already, but there's no definitive guidance from the CDC on how to come out of the pandemic and return to some version of normal.
MAAME BINEY, SHORT TRACK SPEED SKATER: I'm really focusing on like things that I can control, like that's like my life motto right now.
CHEN: Some athletes headed for the Winter Olympics in Beijing know years of hard work and preparation could hinge on not getting sick.
BINEY: If we get COVID right now, we're not skating and that's extremely fearful, and like I'm very -- I'm not that fearful of it just because I know that I've done everything in my power to not get COVID and I've done everything right.
CHEN: The games begin in less than a week with limited spectators, and athletes will live in a bubble.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Usually you're connecting with your friends from all over the world, and like it creates this unity, but lately, it's been a little bit like segregated. So, that aspect is not super fun.
CHEN: In Los Angeles, the Niners-Rams NFC Championship game this weekend is a precursor to the Super Bowl held in the same stadium on February 13th. L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer says the county has likely passed the peak of Omicron, but masks will still be required at the big game, and free rapid tests will be available. For those at home --
BARBARA FERRER, PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR, L.A. COUNTY: You can't move the TV outside, which in many places you may not be able to move the food outside.
CHEN: She says fans gathering for a watch-party or celebrating lunar new year this week should get tested before meeting up.
FERRER: It's not that people can't gather, it's that if you're going to gather, you need to layer in some of those safety precautions, and for people at highest risk of severe illness, you need to be super careful.
CHEN: Like in years past, the NFL will have a fan experience before the Super Bowl. In L.A., fans will get free take-home test kits. Anyone receiving a first, second or booster dose of the vaccine on site will be given free entry to the fan experience event. Natasha Chen, CNN, Los Angeles. (END VIDEOTAPE)
PAUL: I want to bring in Dr. Taison Bell; an Assistant Professor of Medicine of Infectious Diseases, International Health, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at UVA. Always grateful to have you here, thank you so much Dr. Bell. Your COVID reality looks very different from what so many of us see. Help us understand what you are going through right now in your ICUs. Because the numbers look good to us. I mean, is there space for us to have some hope here?
TAISON BELL, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: I think there certainly is. We're seeing like cases go down. But just like what you alluded to earlier in the segment, we do expect to see a high patient volume over the next few weeks. And if you look in my ICU like many others across the country, we're in a devastating sort of state right now. I only have 40 percent of the staff that I started the pandemic with, and half of our current staff are temporary travelers.
And so, we're really in a much-wounded state than we were before. So, you know, there's hope on the horizon, but we just have to weary that, you know, another wave could happen again several weeks or months down the road, and we have to be prepared for that.
PAUL: You know, we can expect more variants, this we know. Omicron, highly contagious, not as deadly if you're vaccinated. But we've heard a lot of differing views, so I'm hoping you can give us some clarity. Do variants become more potent or do -- we just need to accept that, look, this is -- this is our life now or maybe it will become an annual shot like a flu?
BELL: Well, I certainly hope, Christi, that as we have more variants that happen over time, that they do get more and more mild. We have to keep in mind that mildness, the person doesn't necessarily mean that it's meant for the nation or the healthcare system, right? Omicron was more -- tended to have milder cases but spread to so many more people that it ended up being a crush on ICUs, and it felt just as bad as our previous waves.
But yet, the hope is over time, that these get more and more mild, and that, you know, we'll have less severe disease, there'll be more immunity build-up through the population, and will finally be able to turn a page on this. But the one constant thing that we know about variants is that they're different. So, there could be a variant that for instance it's more deadly or even more contagious.
We just have to, you know, watch them closely, continue to vaccinate people because that is still offering the protection -- they've offered very good protection against hospitalization and death. We have to keep expanding it and getting unvaccinated people into the vaccinated camp.
PAUL: Yes, so Moderna and Pfizer, BioNTech we know are beginning to -- these clinical trials, I understand it, for vaccine, specifically for Omicron. But Omicron has been so rampant. Is it -- is it too late for that? BELL: Well, we always have to be prepared for what may be to come. So,
it's a good idea to start testing Omicron-specific variants because it does take several months to develop and ultimately bring it to market. And you don't want to be caught on the back foot here. But what's really encouraging is that the current boosters that are available, that are not specifically targeting Omicron, have provided very good protection against vaccination.
You know, we're talking 97 percent protection from hospitalization and death. If you're vaccinated and boosted compared to an unvaccinated person, is 100 times more likely to die from COVID-19. And despite the fact that in our ICU, we've taken care of many different kinds of patients. One that I'm yet to take care of is someone who's vaccinated and boosted. They're that good at protecting from hospitalization and death.
So, I will say, you know, if you're on the fence and waiting to see the results of these trials, don't do that. Just go ahead and get the booster that's available now because what's available now offers very good protection.
PAUL: OK, Dr. Taison Bell, best of luck to you and your teams there. We know that it's been -- can't even imagine what it's been like for you. But we appreciate you taking time to walk us through it. Thank you.
BELL: Thank you.
SANCHEZ: So right now, a team of White House officials are vetting potential Supreme Court nominees. Who's on the short list to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer? Potentially, a historic pick. We'll discuss just ahead.
SANCHEZ: President Biden's search for his first Supreme Court nominee is on. And here with us to discuss this morning is "Politico" congressional reporter Nicholas Wu. Nicholas, good morning, always great to have you on.
President Biden renewed his pledge this week to appoint a black woman to the nation's highest court after the announcement that Justice Stephen Breyer would retire after his successors confirmed. Talk to us about the significance of a potentially historic pick given that so many of the ambitious items on President Biden's agenda have stalled in Congress.
NICHOLAS WU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Well, Boris, Democrats really see this nomination as kind of a, you know, part of medical here, but a shot in the arm almost for, you know, the broader Democratic agenda. I mean, with everything else kind of stalled out right now, this is the one thing they could potentially get through, and it really would make history to put a black woman on the Supreme Court, not to mention be a nod to the most loyal constituency of the Democratic Party.
SANCHEZ: Yes, so give us a sense of the timeline. Obviously, we don't yet know who President Biden will nominate, but when you look at the Senate, which members are you watching closest to get a sense of just how smoothly this process might go?
WU: Right. This is kind of interesting. Because of rules changes that were made in the Senate over the past few years, it only takes a simple majority to confirm a Supreme Court justice. So, in theory, Democrats could actually confirm someone without any Republican votes. So, at the very least, we'll be watching key moderates in the Democratic Party like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. On the other hand, we'll also be looking at Republicans who supported a lot of Biden's court nominees.
That being I would say Lindsey Graham or Mitt Romney to see how they're leaning this way or not. But you know, like I said, Democrats can still do it without any Republicans. They could just pick up a few along the way.
SANCHEZ: Yes, as you said, sort of a shot in the arm, building momentum potentially for the Midterm elections. The White House is also saying that momentum is building for a specific proposal amid several others that, as we noted before having been stuck in Congress. This Is a roughly $250 billion bill attempting to make the United States more competitive with China, to alleviate some of the supply chain issues the country has been plagued with now for about a year or so. What components of that proposal stand out to you, and how likely is it to pass?
WU: You know, this has been kind of a tricky build up, just because so much of it sort of mirrored between infighting between the House and Senate. I'm looking at the money that's set aside to help spur American research, since that is something that, you know, both parties seem to say that they can agree on and want more funding to go towards.
But you know, the devil's really been in the details here between what the house wants, what the Senate wants and what both parties want to put in this legislation ultimately. It is still something they want to advance, it's just a question of what the final form will be.
SANCHEZ: Yes, and so speaking of these stalled items, the Build Back Better plan, progressive caucus chair, Pramila Jayapal says that she wants to see it passed by March 1st. That's ambitious to say the least, right? Speaker Pelosi though --
WU: No --
SANCHEZ: Told reporters that there's no deadline. Do you think we're going to see another showdown, another chapter of progressives versus Manchin and Sinema on Build Back Better?
WU: The difference this time around is the progressives have lost a whole lot of their leverage here. They don't have, you know, it's something like the infrastructure bill to hold hostage. And to say that they won't do anything without like what they did the last time until they could have action on this larger social spending agenda. So, progressives can set a new deadline all they want, but you know, they don't really have a whole lot to force everyone else to come to the table and force them along on that timeline.
SANCHEZ: And we've seen these self-imposed deadlines come and go a number of times now. I don't know that another one would necessarily be a good look. Nicholas Wu, we've got to leave the conversation there, always great to have you on.
WU: Thanks so much, Boris.
SANCHEZ: Of course.
PAUL: Up next, Joni Mitchell says she will follow Neil Young's lead and pull her music from Spotify as well. We're going to tell you why?
SANCHEZ: Here are some of the top stories that we're following this morning. Legendary singer and songwriter Joni Mitchell says that she also plans to remove her music from Spotify, acting in unity with Neil Young who did the same in protest over vaccine misinformation. You might recall earlier this week, Young pulled his music from the streaming service, citing Joe Rogan's podcast, which is known to spread false and inaccurate claims about the pandemic.
In a statement on her website, Joni Mitchell wrote, quote, "irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives."
PAUL: Well, after a six-month long undercover investigation, authorities in Florida have charged 68 people in connection with the sale of illegal narcotics, unpopular dating apps. The Polk County sheriff's office called the operation swipe left for meth. And said the dealers would use emojis to signal they were selling drugs as well as code words such as "party" and "Tina", what stood for methamphetamine. Detectives say the drugs were worth about $14,000.
SANCHEZ: Twitter says it's no longer taking action to try to limit the spread of lies about the 2020 election. The announcement comes a day after YouTube removed a Republican congressman's campaign ad because it included misinformation about the election. A spokesperson for Twitter told CNN that they're current civic integrity policies designed to be used during the duration of an election.
And since the results are certified, they stopped enforcing the policy in March of last year.
PAUL: Listen, we are already starting to see what is happening in the northeast, what has been expected. The snow, this intense wind. Some gusts up to 70 miles per hour, we're going to take you to these places, we've got crews all over the place, stay with us.
PAUL: Well, welcome to your weekend and your NEW DAY here, I'm Christi Paul.
SANCHEZ: Hey, Christi, I'm Boris Sanchez. Right now, nearly 55 million people are in the path of a dangerous bomb cyclone as the storm begins to slam into the northeast, and states are bracing for hurricane-force winds, flooding, potentially, as well as record-breaking snow.