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Moderna Prepares To Ship First Vaccines As Nation Sees Record Hospitalizations & Deaths; Congress Closes In On $900 Billion Relief Package; Biden Climate Team To Tackle "Existential Threat Of Our Time". Aired 7-8a ET

Aired December 20, 2020 - 07:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A second vaccine to fight COVID is just one final step away from the go ahead. Now it just needs a final nod from the CDC director.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Moderna's version of the vaccine is likely to have a broader reach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This vaccine rollout, four times larger than the initial Pfizer rollout.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're running out of space. We're converting any and every room for our patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll have two arms, two vaccines going at the same time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Retired Lieutenant General Flynn who had been the national security adviser making this pitch for use of martial law.

LT. GEN. MIKE FLYNN (RET.), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: He could take military capabilities and could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This meeting began in the oval office. The president asked about it, and it was pushed back on by everybody in the room.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This is appalling. There's no other way to describe it. It's unbelievable, almost certainly completely without precedent.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. It is Sunday, December 20th. I'm Christi Paul. VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell.

And the first shipments of the Moderna vaccine are set to roll out at any moment. We saw the live pictures there, they'll stay on the screen, coming to us from inside the facility where the vaccine is being packed and then will be loaded on to the trucks.

PAUL: Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines are soon going to join Pfizer's in the significant boost to America's arsenal here. Today, the CDC director's expected to sign off on Moderna's shots to people 18 and older, then once that happens, then vaccinations can start.

BLACKWELL: Pete Muntean is in Olive Branch, Mississippi.

Pete, good morning to you.

Explain where you are in relation to what we're seeing on the screen inside, and what we're expecting to happen very soon.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, the ceremonial first box of the Moderna vaccine is about to hit the loading dock here. You can see the trucks back there standing by for it. But it's inside that's where all the action is. This is a McKesson facility, that's the company handling the distribution of the Moderna vaccine.

And inside, workers are bundled up inside a 15,000 massive freezer here. They're parking vials of the Moderna vaccine into boxes. And alongside with that, they're also packing the things needed to physically administer the vaccine, things like swabs of alcohol and syringes, to get this out and into the -- the shot into arms. They're also going to be loading all of these boxes on to these trucks going to places like Memphis.

In fact, this is a strategic spot. We're not that far from Memphis, the head of FedEx. It and UPS will be handling the distribution of these packages to 3,000 locations across the country. Those are places like hospitals, pharmacies, CVS, and Walgreens.

It's the federal government that decides when this vaccine should go and how much should go out, and it's actually apologizing to states who did not get as much vaccine as they initially planned.

Here's what Operation Warp Speed said:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have already learned a lot of lessons from last week and the initial rollout. And we will continue to apply those lessons as we move forward. I know we'll learn more this week, but I'm also confident that we will have the agility to correct ourselves and get things right so that the next time it will go flawlessly.


MUNTEAN: Now, the Moderna vaccine does not need to be stored at temperatures as cold as the Pfizer vaccine. It gives it a bit of an advantage. It can be stored in a regular refrigerator, even a regular freezer.

That opens this up to places like rural clinics that don't have deep freezers on site. This is a big, massive expansion of this vaccine rollout. Six million doses about to go out the door here, and it begins right here in Mississippi.

PAUL: Pete Muntean, thank you so much for walking us through what's happening there. We're going to continue to come to him obviously throughout the day.

I want to bring in right now, CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard. And Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, he's an epidemiologist and Detroit's former health commissioner.

So, as we look at what's happening there, I just wanted to ask you, Jacqueline, we had been getting reports that there were allergic reactions to Pfizer's vaccine at a hospital in Libertyville, Illinois. People had some tingling. They had elevated heart rate symptoms.

What do we know about any potential side effects and when that might affect the administration of the vaccine?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: It's important, first, to note that these four cases in Illinois represent just 0.15 percent of the about 3,000 health care workers in that specific health care system who did receive the vaccine.


So, those allergic reactions are rare, and when it comes to the side effects in general, the more common side effects are what you would expect -- pain at the injection site, fever, chills, headache, and those normally, you know, calm down within at least, you know, the first few hours following the vaccination or within the first 24 hours.

So again, these allergic reactions that we're hearing about, FDA officials and CDC officials said they are looking into this. They are taking a close look, and if there's anything that emerges that would cause the authorization to change, they'll notify the public immediately.

But these reactions represent just a small percentage of the thousands of people who have received this vaccine. And it's not like they're unexpected -- reactions happen just like someone might have a reaction to medication or food. So these small, you know, reactions, these small percentages out of the thousands of people who have been vaccinated are not unexpected.

But they're something officials are looking into. That hospital in Illinois, they announced that they're resuming vaccinations today. They paused them yesterday after the reactions, but they're resuming today. And so, we can expect to see vaccinations moving forward at that hospital starting today on Sunday.

BLACKWELL: Again, for people who are just joining us, we're looking inside the Moderna facility where the vaccines are being packed up, and those will be placed on the trucks and delivered across the country.

Doctor, some punctuation for this moment, not only is there a second vaccine with emergency use authorization inside a week, but this is one that has a bit more temperature tolerance. And what happen does that mean for where we're seeing the surges in some of the rural areas outside of the big cities where they may not have the equipment to store the Pfizer vaccine which requires such cold temperatures?


The requirements to be able to move and administer the Pfizer vaccine given the fact that you have to keep that vaccine at such low temperatures, are really quite high. And it requires really special refrigeration. In fact, Pfizer had to create a special shipping container to be able to keep those shipments cold so that the vaccine didn't spoil.

And all that overhead is something that oftentimes in rural communities and sometimes poor urban communities, we just don't have. Not to mention the fact that this is a global pandemic, meaning people are suffering this virus all over the world. In many other countries, the overhead and the infrastructure that's needed to keep that vaccine cold just doesn't exist.

And so having another vaccine that's going to be able to ship out nearly eight million doses over the next couple of days, is really a big deal. It's much more fastidious, it stores at higher temperatures, it's less likely to spoil. And so, we can use it in a number of different locales.

And this really is a big deal in terms of the overall work of trying to get every single person who is susceptible immunized, and that is really the big goal right now considering the fact that last week, beyond the -- the notion that we had two EUAs issued for vaccines was also the deadliest week of COVID-19 in America -- in American history since the pandemic started. So, we're really facing two competing challenges right now.

PAUL: Jacqueline, let's talk more about the differences between the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. We just mentioned the difference in the storage requirements. But talk about the age differences that are available here and the dosage and the days from the first dose to the last dose are different. Do we know why?

BLACKWELL: Jacqueline, let me jump in before you answer that question, please. I want to make sure people know what's on the screen. We just saw the applause of the crew that was working, and this is that first ceremonial -- more than ceremonial, it is the first box that will be placed on to the truck to be sent out. That's why we're following this very box that's going to be heading out. And you're going to see this be loaded on.

And, of course, millions more will follow it. But an important moment after more than 300,000 deaths, millions, more than 17 million confirmed cases, this is now a second vaccine that's been approved inside a week, the Moderna vaccine, which Dr. El-Sayed pointed out why it's so important. But again, we want to make sure you know why this box that we're following, this woman walking, is so important. Jacqueline, my Christi, as well, continue with your answer.

HOWARD: It is exciting to be the Moderna vaccine rolled out. Compared with Pfizer's vaccine, they are very similar. They have similar efficacy and the safety profiles are similar.


But some of the main differences -- Pfizer is administered 21 days apart whereas Moderna is administered 28 days apart.

And when it comes to their emergency authorization, Pfizer is authorized for ages 16 and older, whereas Moderna is authorized for adults, 18 and older.

So those are some key differences. But it's also interesting to note Moderna has announced that it's continuing ongoing trials, looking at the vaccine in children, the ongoing trial in adolescents, ages 12 to 18, launched on December 9th. And that trial's continuing.

So as more data come out when it comes to findings among children, we might see that age lower from just adults. You know, that's way far ahead, the company announced that results are not expected until sometime in 2021, sometime in next year. But this is something that is being studied and being looked into. We can expect to hear some data, you know, in the next year.

BLACKWELL: Jacqueline, let me stay with you on this. Two vaccines inside a week. How far behind are the others, AstraZeneca and the others working through to develop vaccines, as well?

HOWARD: Those are some other vaccines that we could see in the future. But it's likely that we will not see much until, again, the next year. And just thinking about how we already have two vaccines already is pretty remarkable. Just in January, the World Health Organization announced that there has been information about some unusual pneumonia cases which we later learned is COVID-19. In March, the World Health Organization announced that this coronavirus outbreak was a global pandemic. And now almost a year later, we have two authorized vaccines in the United States.

So things are happening quickly, and we can expect to see possibly more in the next year, like you said, AstraZeneca and others. And under Operation Warp Speed, the United States already has, you know, placed orders for additional vaccines. So we'll expect to see many more rollouts hopefully in the New Year.

PAUL: So, Doctor, the only thing as we watch what they're doing there in Olive Branch, Mississippi, the only thing that is keeping those vaccines from going into arms right now is waiting for the approval from the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield.

Do we have any idea what he's doing to make that determination to approve and how long it might be at this point?

EL-SAYED: Well, the important thing to remember here is that none of the process is being sidestepped. Once the FDA issues the emergency use authorization, a couple of panels at the CDC have to decide exactly who is going to be eligible for getting the vaccine, as you heard, and what order they're going to get them. And once those decisions are made, then Robert Redfield, the CDC director, will sign off, and those shipments will go out.

But I think the American public, who is going to be receiving these vaccines and in various order considering who you are and what you do, they should know and rest easy that there has been a full process followed here, that the science was given primacy and that we have yet another safe and effective vaccine that's ready to go into arms, ready to protect people from this disease right now. And that is scientifically driven rather than driven by any other process.

So, you know, having to wait a couple of -- couple more hours, couple more days for the appropriate signoff I think should make us rest a little bit easier.

BLACKWELL: All right. Jacqueline Howard and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. Thank you so much for being with us. As we're seeing the packing up, the first box, and they'll, of course, have more this morning of the Moderna vaccine that's going to be sent out.

Lawmakers say they are close to a deal on a new COVID relief package.

PAUL: The deadline's tonight at midnight to avoid a government shutdown.

Sarah Westwood's live at the White House with the very latest. Sarah, what are you learning this morning about where they stand and if they're going to make this deadline?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Victor and Christi, this deal is in sight after weeks where it looked like it might not happen. But lawmakers did late last night reach an agreement in principle on a $900 billion stimulus package. That's after hours of talk on Capitol Hill to resolve the last big sticking point over the Federal Reserve's emergency lending powers.

Now, Republicans led by Senator Pat Toomey wanting to see language in the bill that would wind that down. They said if that emergency lending authority was extended into the Biden administration, it would in their eyes amount to a slush fund essentially for President-elect Biden.

But Democrats said that emergency lending authority was necessary for the Fed to have to prop up the economy as the recovery looks to be taking longer than some had initially hoped.


And they said it would unfairly tie Biden's hands if the program was wound down. That was resolved in a way that allowed both sides to claim credit, both Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans emerged saying that they got what they wanted out of those talks.

Now no text of the bill exists yet. That's something that's expected to be hammered out today. But we do know the broad outlines of what is expected to be in this stimulus deal.

That includes $300 per week of enhanced unemployment support, $600 direct payments to individuals, $330 billion in small business loans, crucial for businesses that are suffering right now under renewed lockdowns. Schools are expected to get more than $80 billion in support. And there's billions more expected to be in this bill for vaccine distribution.

Now, President Trump has not been engaged with these talks for weeks. Lawmakers have really been handling those negotiations on their own. Last night he did weigh in on the deal. He was not nearly as positive as some of his Republicans on the Hill.

He said, why isn't Congress giving our people a stimulus bill? It wasn't their fault. It was the fault of China. Get it done, and give them more money in direct payments.

Now lawmakers had really been feeling pressure for leaving the loose ends of a stimulus bill potentially untied heading into the holiday season. And in case this wasn't complicated enough, they have only until tonight to get this done because they're hoping to pass it at the same time as a $1.4 trillion funding package to keep the government open.

There are still potential pitfalls, though, with this bill. For example, Republicans want more of that school support to go to private schools. Democrats want to limit what goes to private schools. There are still some things that could pop up, but they are hoping to take that vote tonight, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: Good to know. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: We've got the video here. This is inside the truck where the pallets are being brought over and unloaded, put on the trucks to ship the vaccines, the Moderna vaccines, across the country. There will be the second vaccine approved for emergency use in the U.S. We're going to continue our live coverage throughout the hour.

Also ahead, President-elect Joe Biden says just like we need a unified response to COVID-19, we need a unified response to climate change. His new team and his new plan, ahead.

PAUL: Also, a White House meeting sources say went off the rails after one of the president's advisers suggested invoking martial law to overturn the election results. We get more on that ahead.

Stay close.


[07:21:53] PAUL: This is a big moment in the fight against COVID that you're watching right here. Olive Branch, Mississippi, the McKesson plant, which is the central distributor. That is the first box of the vaccine that has been -- is being loaded up on to a FedEx truck and will be taken to any of these facilities, pharmacies, doctors' offices, health clinics, schools even are going to be receiving some of these vaccines.

And this is what so many people have been waiting for. The own thing we are now waiting for this morning is for the CDC director, Robert Redfield, to give the green light to go ahead and start administering those vaccines to people.

For now, McKesson and the FedEx and UPS, everybody is getting ready to at least get them in place. So as soon as the green light is lit, that will be able to happen.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, this -- this vaccine being sent out is less temperature sensitive, although it has to be chilled, has to be very cold. Not as cold as the Pfizer vaccine, so it can go to all of those facilities that do not have the equipment to keep these vials as cold as the Pfizer vaccines are required to be stored. So, important element for the Moderna vaccine.

PAUL: Yeah, a lot of those facilities in rural areas that just have not been able to handle the influx of the virus that they've seen thus far. So, we're going to continue obviously to watch what's happening there at Olive Branch, Mississippi, at the centralized headquarters there, for the distribution.

We are now, meanwhile, getting some details about another story. Details from two sources who talked about this heated meeting at the White House this week. It apparently started with the president and his advisers meeting with lawyer Sidney Powell and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

BLACKWELL: So, at one point, Flynn suggested that the president could invoke martial law as part of his efforts to overturn the election. He has also publicly floated this idea.


FLYNN: He could order the -- within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states, and basically rerun an election in each of those states. I mean, it's not unprecedented. There's people out there talking about martial law, like it's something that we never done. We've done -- martial law has been instituted 64 -- 64 times.


PAUL: "The New York Times" reporter and CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman said various officials in the meeting forcefully pushed back on that idea and also shot down the suggestion of naming Powell as a special counsel to investigate the president's false voter fraud claims. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president not just that it came up, is my understanding, the president asked about it, and it was pushed back on by everybody in the room. Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff, and particularly the White House counsel were very forceful in saying Powell should not be some kind of special counsel appointed serving in the White House. The president talked about getting her a security clearance to allow her to do her work.


Various other officials in the administrations administration said this shouldn't happen. Sidney Powell was pushed by others who said you keep alleging fraud but you've shown no truth. She brandished a bunch of affidavits, but also had a person as an expert witness whose credentials have come into question.

It didn't end with her getting appointed, but it left a lot of Trump advisors alarmed about him reaching a new place in his quest to try to question the results of the election with just a few weeks left in his term.

BLACKWELL: Now, it wasn't clear if the president was endorsing this idea of martial law, but he did tweet that it was fake news.

Now, President-elect Joe Biden's climate team, he called them, his words, barrier busting. He's unveiled an ambitious plan to address what he calls the existential threat of our time. And that's climate change.

He also spoke about creating jobs, transportation and energy infrastructure, and lowering the nation's carbon emissions.

PAUL: CNN political reporter Rebecca Buck is in Washington with more on this.

What else can you tell us about this new climate team, Rebecca? And good morning.

REBECCA BUCK, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Good morning, Christi and Victor.

Well, we heard from the president-elect yesterday debuting his climate team, and he highlighted just how central climate issues and energy issues will be in his administration. I want you to take a listen to what he and Vice President-elect kamala Harris had to say.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Folks, we're in a crisis. Just like we need to be unified nation in response to COVID- 19, we need a unified national response to climate change.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE-PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our climate crisis is not a partisan issue. And it is be a hoax. It is an existential threat to all of us, particularly poor communities and communities of color who bear the greatest risks from polluted air, polluted water, and a failing infrastructure.


BUCK: Now that message and tone obviously very different from what we have heard on climate and energy issues from the current administration which has rolled back energy and climate protections in many ways. Biden and Kamala Harris making sure they're going to take a different tack, and that also applies to the team that will be leading them forward on these issues.

We saw the debut of their climate and energy picks yesterday in Wilmington. One very interesting pick to highlight here, you mentioned the president-elect calling his team barrier busting. Well, that is certainly true. We've seen it with some of his cabinet picks to date. That carries on with his picks for this climate team.

I want to highlight Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico, who is Biden's pick to lead the Interior Department. If she's confirmed to that position, she will be the first Native American to serve in a cabinet, and this is a position, of course, that oversees not only public lands but also tribal lands in the United States. So, a very significant historic pick in that regard, something that Democrats are very excited about, and really giving us a sense of the approach that president-elect Joe Biden plans to talk as he puts together his team moving forward -- Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: Rebecca Buck for us in Washington, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Rebecca.

BUCK: Thank you.

PAUL: Still ahead, we're watching here obviously these first vials of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine loading on to trucks, getting ready to be shipped to places that so desperately need them. We have an update on the deadly coronavirus surge that's going on in our country right now, and when we can expect these vaccines to really make an impact.



PAUL: You're looking at live pictures. See the scramble there at the McKesson plant, the central distributor in Olive Branch, Mississippi, of the Moderna vaccine. All of those boxes are filled each with 100 doses of the vaccine getting ready to be shipped out to facilities, doctors' offices, hospitals, health clinics, schools. So you can get this vaccine.

This is a big moment. The second vaccine being sent out now. We will continue to follow what they're doing there this morning.

But it is finally going to be able to reach some of these areas, these rural areas because of the temperature sensitivity of this particular vaccine, the Moderna. It's going to reach some of those areas that it has not been able to get to thus far.

BLACKWELL: So, it's headed to some of those areas, but experts caution that it will take some time to see the impact of the vaccines on this ongoing surge.

Let's go to CNN's Polo Sandoval, he's with us. So, a lot of states are really struggling just as the holidays start to ramp up. And we're seeing more of the vaccines.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Victor, already at least about 272,000 people across the country have received that first initial dose over the last six days or so. And there certainly is an expectation not just here at Mt. Sinai New York but hospitals across the country that we will continue to see more people vaccinated as this new vaccine is distributed. It cannot come at a better time with a record number of infections on Friday.



SANDOVAL (voice-over): Over a quarter of a million Americans have gotten their first vaccination against COVID-19 so far, says the CDC. If all goes well, that number is bound to shoot up with the first deliveries of Moderna's newly authorized vaccine already in transit. Infectious disease expert, Dr. William Schaffner, believes Moderna's version is likely to have a broader reach than Pfizer's as it can be stored in normal freezers.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES & VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: It can go out to rural areas, smaller hospitals, local county health departments that can start distributing the vaccine while the folks dealing with the Pfizer vaccine are vaccinating in large medical centers.


So we'll have two arms, two vaccines going at the same time.

SANDOVAL: As the nation continues to grapple with record infection, death, and hospitalization rates, states continue their push to vaccinate as many people as they can.

New Jersey expects to open six so-called vaccine mega sites next month. They're part of Governor Phil Murphy's push to get 70 percent of the state's nearly nine million residents vaccinated within the next six months.

It won't be easy, though. New Jersey's health commissioner says doses from the federal government are already fewer than expected. On Saturday, the army general responsible for overseeing vaccine distribution addressed what he called a miscommunication over available doses in several states.

GEN. GUSTAVE PERNA, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, OPERATION WARP SPEED: There is no problem with the process. There is no problem with the Pfizer vaccine. There is no problem with the Moderna vaccine. It was a planning error, and I am responsible.

SANDOVAL: Despite the complications, General Gustave Perna confident the country is on track to allocate 20 million vaccine doses by the end of the year.

The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, says he's more concerned about vaccine confidence than vaccine supply.


SANDOVAL: On Saturday, he assured Americans that reports of allergic reactions after vaccine injections are normal and to be expected.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: If you are someone who had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past, let your health provider know. That everyone out there, please know there means the system is working. We are recognizing and catching these very, very rare side effects.

SANDOVAL: Side effects remain extremely rare, says Adams. He insists the vaccine is the way to end a pandemic that's raging across the country and particularly ravaging the state of California. It's the worst this ICU doctor has seen since the start of the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, we need L.A. to turn into a ghost town again. That's what we need to save as many people and heal as many souls.


SANDOVAL (on camera): A hospital in the Chicago suburb did put their vaccinations on a temporary pause yesterday. This after four of their frontline workers experienced some of those adverse effects. We're told they're doing fine this morning.

Just to add some important context here, that was four out of nearly 3,000 employees at that entire hospital system has vaccinated. So it's important to keep that in mind. We should mention that the vaccinations, they are resuming again this morning -- Victor and Christi.

PAUL: Yes, they are.

Polo Sandoval, good to see you this morning. Thanks for the update.

BLACKWELL: And, of course, we are live in Mississippi where the first shipments of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine are rolling out.

PAUL: And lockdown in the U.K. The government says a new strain of COVID-19 is, quote, out of control. We're going to take you live to London.


[07:42:38] BLACKWELL: All right. Live pictures here inside the McKesson facility where Moderna vaccines are being packed up to be shipped out, the second coronavirus vaccine. It's just a few minutes away from heading to the health care workers, long-term care residents, desperate need of them. We've been watching these live pictures here in Mississippi as the first vials are being loaded on to the FedEx trucks that will be sent across the country.

PAUL: Now, they can go from the box to the person, meaning into your arm, as soon as CDC director signs off on these shots for people 18 and older. We expect that to happen today. Vaccinations can then begin.

So, more than six million doses are being shipped to more than 3,000 sites where they're going to be administered. That's why when we see these pictures and you see people who have been there for hours, working so hard, this is a really important moment.

BLACKWELL: And this moment is coming at a tough time in the fight against this coronavirus pandemic. California seeing a huge surge in cases. ICU bed capacity has now reached nearly zero in several parts of state. The L.A. County public health director says the surge is explosive and very deadly.

PAUL: CNN's Paul Vercammen gets us more here.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, Victor, doctors, nurses here in California, battle weary. That's because 43,000 new cases announced -- 272 deaths, and then the hospitalizations at about 18,000, 3,500 in the ICU. When the head of the unit here in Tarzana started his shift at 2:00 a.m., he walked into a perfect storm of COVID-19 infections.

DR. THOMAS YADEGAR, ICU DIRECTOR, PROVIDENCE CEDARS-SINAI TARZANA MEDICAL CENTER: I had a patient this past week who waited too long. And I asked him, why are you not coming in earlier? And it broke my heart, what he said was -- I didn't want to take someone else's bed. I didn't want to take someone else's bed. I thought that someone is going to be sicker and needed it more.

VERCAMMEN: So as the death toll rises and so does the number of people in the ICUs, the doctors, the nurses, the physicians assistants, so many others are playing a role in trying to get the sick in touch with their relatives.


SARA TROYER, NURSIONG ASSISTANT, KECK USC SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Until you have to go through talking to someone's family and will telling them we have to take extra steps because they're not getting better or, you know, people calling their family and telling them that they're about to get intubated because they're not getting any better. You know, it's -- it's a feeling, it's indescribable. Indescribable. And it's so sad. VERCAMMEN: And so as the pandemic rages on in California, what's the solution? Dr. Yadegar here says he thinks that Los Angeles needs to go back to being a ghost town, meaning people need to stay at home.

Back to you now, Victor, Christi.


BLACKWELL: Paul Vercammen for us there, thanks so much.

Now, of course, as we wait on the news of the vaccine being sent out, worrying news from the U.K. We're seeing crowds trying to get out of London before strict lockdown measures take effect.

We'll take you there next.



PAUL: Listen, there is deeply concerning news out of the U.K. The British government says a new strain of COVID-19 is, quote, out of control, and severe new lockdown measures are in place now for almost 20 million people.

BLACKWELL: So the news led to this at train stations in Britain. People desperately trying to get home for Christmas before the lockdowns took effect. The British prime minister said there was no choice. And only a couple hours ago, the U.K.'s health secretary reiterated how serious things are.


MATT HANCOCK, BRITISH HEALTH SECRETARY: Unfortunately, this virus, the new strain was out of control. We've got to get it under control. And the way we can do that, the only way you can do that is by restricting social contact, and essentially, especially in tier four areas, everybody needs to behave as if they might well have the virus, and that is the way that we can get it under control and keep people safe.


PAUL: And the other development this morning, because of this, the Netherlands has banned flights from the U.K. So we're waiting to see how other countries may respond as well.

Back in the U.S., what you're seeing there are the -- is a rollout really underway of the first shipments of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine. They will be leaving this facility you're seeing in Mississippi, going out to hospitals and clinics across the country. The people have been working for hours to make this happen.

BLACKWELL: Our Pete Muntean is live outside that facility.

Pete, give us details about what we're seeing and what happens next. PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, the ceremonial first box of

the Moderna vaccine just hit the loading dock here bound for the trucks behind me. We're waiting for all the action to start outside.

Meanwhile, plenty of action is going on inside this McKesson facility. That is the company distributing the Moderna vaccine. Inside workers are bundled up in this 15,000 square foot freezer, a lot of hubbub inside, essentially a large production floor. This is exacting, tedious work as they put these vials into work.

Along with that, they'll be packing the things needed to physically administer the vaccine. Things like syringes and alcohol swabs that will go on these trucks bound for places like Memphis. In fact, this is a bit of a strategic spot. We're not too far from Memphis, which is the headquarters of FedEx. It and UPS will carry those packages to 3,000 locations across the country. Those are places like hospitals and pharmacies, CVS and Walgreens.

It's the federal government that determines where the vaccine should go and how much. It's apologizing to states who did not get as much of the Pfizer vaccine as they initially thought they would.

This vaccine, the Moderna has one advantage over the Pfizer vaccine, though. It does not need to be as cold. In fact, it can be stored in a regular fridge or freezer, opening this up to plenty of more rural communities and clinics. Six million doses are about to go out the door here, and it all begins right here in Mississippi -- Victor, Christi.

PAUL: Yeah. It is quite the accomplishment, and we're hoping it does all the help in the world.

Pete Muntean, thank you so much.

Let's talk about human kindness, shall we? We want to shine a spotlight on one human in particular for this, Pastor Earl Granberry.


EARL GRANDERRY, PASTOR: Merry Christmas to you.


PAUL: The pastor in the streets of Chicago, take a look at this. That's his Acts of Kindness truck. He's trying to help some people who really need it.


GRANBERRY: God just laid it on my heart. You do it.

Well, we have coats and toys, but it depends on if they need toys, there's toys in the bag, and needs clothing, clothing also. They get a turkey and a meal for about three or four kids.

TYRIE SPURLOCK, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL WORKER: It makes a big difference being a single parent right now.


PAUL: Granberry left behind his insurance sales career to start True Rock Ministries 38 years ago. And for years, he's been taking his effort to deliver hope on the road. Hope in the form of his words and good food and whatever supplies and necessities some of the families need.

Because of the pandemic, it's been hard, though. He had started his -- put it on the porch effort here. Pastor Granberry's Acts of Kindness truck is traveling around Chicago until Christmas Eve. So, if you see him, wave, maybe say a thank you. It's a big task for

one man. I'm sure he has a lot of people helping him, but we all need to see a little more human kindness. Not just this time of year, but just this year.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Just this year.

PAUL: Oh, I know. It was something.

Hey, thank you so much for starting your morning with us.


We won't be here next weekend. So, I'm going to say merry Christmas.

BLACKWELL: And I'm going to say merry Christmas and happy New Year, because I'm not going to be here the week after that.


PAUL: He's got the vacation smile on right now.


"INSIDE POLITICS" with Abby Phillip is up next.