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New Day Sunday

U.S. Tops 350,000 Deaths, 32 Days Of 100,000 In Hospitals Due To COVID-19; More Than 4.2 Million Vaccine Doses Administered So Far In The U.S.; Twelve Republicans To Oppose Certification Of Biden's Win In The Senate; GOP Senators Romney, Toomey And Murkowski Condemn Futile Plan To Vote Against Counting Electoral Votes; Pelosi Up For Reelection As Speaker; Trump Heads To Georgia; Kamala Harris To Campaign In Georgia Today For Ossoff And Warnock; Broadcasting Legend Larry King Hospitalized With COVID-19. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired January 03, 2021 - 06:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. crossed another morbid pandemic threshold. More than 350,000 COVID-19 deaths reported since the crisis began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to get this vaccine distributed and get it out there faster and faster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have seen elderly people literally camping out overnight trying to get that vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At least a dozen sitting and incoming senators say they'll object to the certification of the Electoral College votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should point out many of these lawmakers that are going to object to the Electoral College results, they were on the same ballots.

SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): It's like a great Georgia football game. We're in overtime. We've got to win. We've got to make sure we get the job done.

JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Tuesday is it. The whole country is watching us. The whole country is watching you.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you on this Sunday, January 3rd, 2021. I'm Christi Paul.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Avlon in today for Victor Blackwell. Good morning again.

PAUL: So good to have you with us, John. So this morning, he's with us as we're talking about milestone moments in both politics and pandemics.

More than 350,000 people have died in this country due to the coronavirus. And for the 32nd day in a row, more than 100,000 people are battling COVID-19 in a hospital. Now vaccines are on the way, but getting people vaccinated, that's taking much longer than expected. There are 13 million doses that have been distributed thus far. More than 4.2 million people have gotten their first shot.

AVLON: And President-elect Joe Biden will inherit this crisis in just 17 days. But before the inauguration, on January 20th, a series of consequential steps begin today. In just hours Nancy Pelosi faces re- election as speaker of the House with 117th Congress set to be sworn in. On Tuesday, control of the U.S. Senate is up for grabs with the high-stakes runoffs in Georgia. And then there's January 6th, Wednesday, and the final certification of Biden's win in Congress.

A dozen Republican senators and senators-elect now say they'll back a futile attempt to undo the will of the voter by baselessly contesting the results of the election held exactly two months ago today.

PAUL: So we're covering this from all angles this morning. CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill. Sarah Westwood's at the White House. And Jasmine Wright is with President-elect Joe Biden in Delaware.

AVLON: All right. Lauren, let's start with you on Capitol Hill where Congress today convenes at noon. First on these 11 Republicans who announced their plan to object to the Electoral College vote yesterday, they say they're trying to address allegations of voter fraud without presenting any evidence. So who are they and why are they willing to assault the Democratic process this way?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, John, I think you put it perfectly. This is a futile effort. This is not going to change the underlying result of the presidential election. But what we do expect to see is on Wednesday there will be a joint session of Congress where Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate will gather to certify the election results. They'll essentially go state by state, and we now know, of course, that Senator Josh Hawley is expected to object to at least one of those states. He'll be joined by other House members.

Then each chamber will break up, they'll go to the House, they'll go to the Senate depending on where they're elected. After that, what we'll see is there will be a two-hour debate, and then they will be a vote on each of those challenges. What these 11 senators are now saying, Senator Ted Cruz along with others, is that they will vote for Hawley's objection.

There have been no decisions according to aides that I'm having conversations with about whether each of those senators would object to other states which could drag this process out even further. But essentially this is Republicans casting doubt on a fair and free election. In many cases, some of these senators were also re-elected in the last election.

They're not complaining, of course, about the states President Trump won or the states that other Republican senators won. But, of course, this is going to be one of those moments on the floor where even though ultimately the result is not going to change, you're hearing a lot of Republicans very frustrated with their colleagues to be put in a position where this is going to divide the party -- John.

AVLON: It sure is. And divide the country. And, of course, the allegations they're concerned about are ones being pumped up by the president and now by their own actions. But we're already seeing some Senate Republicans standing up to their colleagues. Tell us more about that.

FOX: Well, exactly. I mean, you've seen some very strongly worded statements from people like Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, one of the states that Senator Hawley has signaled he might actually challenge on the floor.


And, you know, all of these statements coming from Republican senators like Toomey, like Murkowski as well as Senator Mitt Romney are very strongly worded. This is a statement from Senator Romney. And I want to read to you just a piece of it. It says -- quote -- "The egregious" -- "the egregious" -- excuse me -- "ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic. The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances. These are far from it."

And I just want to highlight that this is something that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear he didn't want senators going down this road. Now that Hawley has elected to do that and there have been a string of very political, very frustrated emails bouncing around between Republican colleagues and that conference, now that Hawley is going down this road, you're going to see a lot of other Republicans following him. And Senator Ted Cruz and these other 10 Republicans are just that first example, John.

PAUL: So we do need to get to another moment that's happening today. Nancy Pelosi up for re-election as House speaker. Is there any doubt that she's going to hold on to her power?

FOX: Well, I think that this is a slim majority. And I will tell you that there has been a rush to really count the votes here.

Now, we always talk about how Pelosi is on a high-wire act. She always seems to pull it off. But I will note that, you know, all eyes are going to be on some of these moderate, Democratic members who are coming back into office.

Remember, she missed 15 votes when she was elected the last time around. Ten members are coming back today. Now as I said, she has about a 10-vote margin. So some of those members have already said that they will actually vote for the speaker. Other members like Elissa has said that she will actually vote against the speaker. So I think that that's where we are today. We expect that Pelosi will pull it off, but it's going to be close. PAUL: All right, Lauren Fox, appreciate the update. Thank you so much.

Let's go to the White House now. CNN's Sarah Westwood is there. Sarah, probably not a surprising to anybody to learn that President Trump is lauding these 11 Republicans who came forward yesterday. What are you hearing there this morning?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Christi and John. Unsurprising that President Trump was happy to learn that a number of senators had come out and said that they plan to object to the certification of the votes, but that may not even be enough for him. And in fact on Twitter when he was reacting to this news he suggested that he wants to see even more lawmakers come out and pledge to do this. He said, "After they see the facts, plenty more to come. Our country will love them for it."

Now, we should just remind everyone that no facts have come to light so far, no evidence has been presented to suggest any kind of widespread fraud. That argument has been thrown out in dozens of courts from the state level all the way up to the Supreme Court with a high-profile case brought by Republican lawmakers beings tossed just on Friday. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also reacted to the news praising the lawmakers who he said were ready to stand up for election integrity and object to certification. It's time to fight back.

Fighting is sort of how the White House has been framing these actions by the lawmakers. We've asked the White House whether they got a heads-up that the senators were planning to announce their intention to object to the certification. The White House won't say whether they knew that was coming. But perhaps the most interesting statement to come out of the White House yesterday came from the vice president. And it came through his chief of staff, Mark Short.

Pence has been pretty silent on all of the president's efforts to undermine confidence in the election results so far. That has raised some eyebrows. And all eyes are on the vice president because on January 6th he will preside over the joint session of Congress where all of this drama is going to unfold. And it's his job to count the votes in what's largely a ceremonial role.

Now in a statement Pence said that he shares the concerns of those who are worried about the election results. Short said the vice president welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence.

Of course, there's not expected to be a lot of new evidence presented on Wednesday. Lawmakers have said they plan to call for some sort of audit or commission to look at the election results even though, again, no courts have found any evidence so far. This has been looked at pretty carefully over the past two months.

AVLON: It's been looked at exhaustively, and there is no evidence. And even Trump's own lawyers have not put forward any evidence of voter fraud when it comes to actual court cases. But even as he spread lies, and let's call them lies, about defense of election integrity, because the effort is the opposite, the president will be out on the campaign trail again tomorrow. So, how will that work with this high-stakes Georgia race?

WESTWOOD: That has been a concern, John, of Republicans for weeks now that the president's message about baseless claims of election fraud just doesn't jive with Republicans' efforts to get GOP voters to the polls on Tuesday.


They have worried that the president will convince people who would otherwise go out and vote for Senators Perdue and Loeffler that it's not worth their effort because the fix is already in. And they are worried that those early voting numbers in Georgia could suggest that the president has been severely undermining their efforts to get out the vote. So that is obviously a big concern of the Georgia Republican Party.

Also the president has spent the two weeks airing a lot of grievances about the Republican governor of Georgia, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia. Really been working against Republicans who are trying to get those senators elected. So it will be interesting to see how the president can square that circle when he goes to Georgia tomorrow.

AVLON: Interesting to say the least. Sarah Westwood at the White House. Thank you very much.

Now CNN's Jasmine Wright is in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, following the Biden transition. Jasmine, how's the Biden team reacting to all this news?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN VIDEO PRODUCER: Well, John, the Biden team is really just dismissing this latest plan by Republicans. And it fits in with their larger posture to not engage with these various attempts by Republicans to overturn the election.

Biden's spokesman, Mike Gwin said as much in a statement yesterday saying that -- calling it a stunt that won't change the fact that Biden will be sworn in on January 20th. He called them baseless claims that have already been examined and dismissed by people within the Trump administration themselves.

And Biden himself took a similar posture last month in December when he really upheld and praised the judges that upheld what he called the will of the people during these various lawsuits brought by -- brought by Republicans. Take a listen to this -- take a listen right now.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: They knew this election was overseen, was overseen by them -- it was honest, it was free, and it was fair. They saw it with their own eyes, and they wouldn't be bullied into saying anything different.


WRIGHT: So this is a presidential transition in campaign that is really just moving forward. They continue to fill out their cabinet with five outstanding positions including that of attorney general. They are previewing their 100-day plan that is going to tackle coronavirus. Really things that a typical administration would be doing, incoming administration would be doing in a very non typical transition -- John.

PAUL: So, Jasmine, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris we know are going to be in Georgia tomorrow campaigning for the Democratic candidates there, for the runoff. Do we know what their messaging is going to be?

WRIGHT: Yes. So their messaging is fully that bring these two men to Congress for me so that we can control the Senate and Congress in general. That is Biden's message to voters in Georgia. And so senator -- excuse me -- Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be going down later today to Savannah. Biden will be in the state tomorrow, the same day as Trump. Really to bring that message home.

And they are coming full force all in. Biden has invested a large amount of money and time in the state. It is now up to about $18 million that he has guided to the state, that's 6 million in staff and voter support and 12 million in fundraising. An increase from last month really to make sure that he can enter Congress -- excuse me, that he can enter the administration in January with a united D.C., with a united Congress that helps him pass those large reforms that he spoke about during the general election, but also helps him get past some of those more progressive cabinet members that may have a tough chance with a Republican controlled Senate.

And so he needs those two candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, to be -- to come to D.C. as he has told people in December, send me those two men so that he has a better chance at a successful administration come January.

PAUL: All right. Jasmine Wright, appreciate your time so much. Thank you. Thanks to all of them actually there.

So let's talk with Lynn Sweet. She's the Washington Bureau Chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times." Lynn, so good to see you this morning. Let's talk about these Republican objectors. They're acknowledging that this attempt that they're trying to make to challenge the Electoral College is futile. I mean, the votes have been counted. They've been recounted. They've been litigated. They've been state certified. What is the end game for them?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The end game for these senators is not even political gain, but it's political survival.


And that is what Trump holds over him. This enormous leverage he has to primary. PAUL: OK. So I want to talk about some of the pushback that they're getting from their fellow Republicans. First of all, we've got Mitt Romney who said -- who has said ambition has eclipsed principle. We've got Toomey out of Pennsylvania saying that allegations have been adjudicated in the courtroom. We've got Klobuchar who has called this undemocratic and un-American.

When you contrast that with the 11 senators and 145 -- or 140 House members who are pushing for this emergency 10-day audit, the degree of the divide within the Republican Party seems particularly adversarial at this point. Where does this leave the party right now?

SWEET: Well, I like that question because we're all witnessing the -- we're at the crossroads. A dangerous crossroads in some ways. We're at the birth of the Trump party which has been in the works for years.

In his post presidency, my analysis is that Trump is wanting -- wants to take the Trumpism that he has spawned, that you see in these senators and House members who are willing to deny reality, and try to make -- they're trying to do two things -- make people believe the election was rigged and delegitimize Joe Biden as president. The byproduct of that is changing the Republican Party from the establishment Republican Party that we've known to the Trump party. This is where Trumpism is leading.

PAUL: But the -- the Republican Party -- I love how you say that is the birth of the Trump party but those are two different parties. So I guess it's yet to be seen where this goes. But the other question attached to this is is this setting a precedent to challenge future elections?

SWEET: Yes and no. At this scale, other presidential elections, the answer is maybe. We are in such uncharted waters here. We don't even know what boat we're on on this voyage. Now for lower level elections, yes, there is trust. You don't need me to point out because so many people and analysts on CNN have that some of these senators and House members are objecting to an election that just elected them. So this isn't fact based. But --

PAUL: I'm sorry that we lost Lynn Sweet. We'll see if we can try to get her back. But, Lynn, if you can hear me, we thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us -- John.

AVLON: Absolutely. The perils of live TV in the COVID age. All right.

Right now, more than 100,000 Americans are fighting for their lives in U.S. hospitals, and one of them is a CNN legend. Detail on Larry King's COVID battle is just ahead.

PAUL: Also, we've been talking about Georgia. This is the final push that we're in together here for the Georgia Senate candidates. What are their closing messages as Tuesday's election is really just pushing toward us to determine the balance of the Senate?

AVLON: Also, the virus has hit multiple NFL teams with playoff aspirations. And one of them isn't only down a star but all of his backups, as well.



PAUL: Twenty-one minutes past the hour. Listen, I know that we talk about a lot of numbers here. And sometimes it can feel after we talk about it so much a little disjointed or disconnected. So let me put this to you this way -- the coronavirus has killed now basically more lives than the populations of Orlando or Cincinnati.

And to make matters worse, the distribution of the vaccines are happening at a much slower pace than had been promised. People are having to wait in these long lines just to try to get the first dose.

AVLON: That's right. And also this morning, broadcasting legend Larry King is one of those hospitalized battling COVID-19. And CNN's Polo Sandoval has more details.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A staggering loss of life. More than 350,000 Americans now dead from the coronavirus. For context, that's more than the populations of cities like Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Lexington, Kentucky. Hospitalizations also showing no signs of slowing. Staying above the 100,000 mark for the 32nd straight day. In hard-hit Los Angeles, doctors now warning that this is a big problem for anyone with any medical issue.

DR. BRAD SPELLBERG, CMO, L.A. COUNTY-UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MEDICAL CENTER: If you are in a car accident, you're going to want to us to save your life. If you have a heart attack or a stroke, you're going to want an ICU bed with trained ICU nurses and physicians who are not caring for 20 other patients at the same time.

SANDOVAL: Former CNN host and talk show legend Larry King now among the many hospitalized with the virus. A source close to the family telling CNN that the 87-year-old has been at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for over a week. Meanwhile, frustrations growing over a slower than expected vaccine rollout.

JESSICA MALATY RIVERA, SCIENCE COMMUNICATION LEAD, COVID TRACKING PROJECT: It is a setback, and it is disappointing. I really think that, you know, states were kind of left to fend for themselves.

SANDOVAL: CDC reports just four million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States. Falling very short of the government's goal to reach 20 million people before the new year.

Let's take a look at this scene at St. Johns County, Florida, a line of cars stretching for more than three miles, some waiting for more than 13 hours to be one of just 600 people to get the vaccine. Everyone else was turned away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were lucky. We were able to get here. But many won't, and that's a concern I think for the public in general. SANDOVAL: Similar scene unfolding in Houston. Mayor Sylvester Turner saying the volume of calls for appointments crashed the system.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON: The call-in centers across the board received about 250,000 calls today, and so the system literally was overwhelmed.

SANDOVAL: And for those lucky enough to get the vaccine, remember, you will have to come back in a few weeks for a second dose.


AVLON: That was Polo Sandoval reporting.

Let's bring in public health specialist and CNN medical analyst Dr. Saju Mathew. Dr. Mathew, good to talk to you.

So this new report and what we just saw, these long lines, the slow vaccine rollout, is going to bring on more problems. So what -- what needs to happen in your estimation to speed up distribution? What do the states need?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: You know, John, we really don't have a choice. I mean, every 30 seconds one person is dying from COVID in this country.


That is absolutely unacceptable. You know, it's like soldiers that are dying on the field, and it's not because we can't fight the enemy. The ammunition is not getting to them fast enough. We've got the bags of gold, we've got the vaccines. The question is why is it not getting to the states? And there are lots of reasons for that.

The first problem is a problem we've seen before. We've seen this already play out before, early in the pandemic, that the states, John, are left to decide what the counties, what they're supposed to do with the vaccines, who they're going to vaccinate, is it going to be the nursing home residents, frontline workers. And obviously with the holidays, that's slowed down a little bit. But also money, right? You're going to need finances to undertake probably the largest public health effort ever in the U.S.

AVLON: You know, this gets to basic questions about a stronger central federal government versus states, and states being decentralized, this distribution network, which obviously hasn't worked to date.

But let's put this in perspective. In order to vaccinate at least 80 percent the U.S. population, we're going to have to administer shots to more than 200 million people. So here's the question, specifically what would you recommend the federal government, the incoming Biden administration, do to help ramp up the necessary escalation of vaccine distribution?

MATHEW: Right. So exactly right. That's over 500 million vaccinations that have to take place in order to get to herd immunity. Listen, the bottom line is we need a national plan. The federal government cannot just drive up the trucks to a hospital, say, in Atlanta, and leave it up to the state of Georgia to decide what to do. Storage, you know, the federal government can actually help the states store. Finances, I think money is the biggest issue. And ultimately states should not have to fend for themselves.

When I got vaccinated last weekend here in Atlanta, I'm part of a large hospital system, John, and it's easier for large hospitals to store the vaccine and administer it. We have enough nurses. What about a small local county, a rural hospital? How are they going to be able to actually administer the vaccine? There's a big difference between allocation and administration.

So I think that ultimately the bottom line is we need a federal plan and the federal government should guide each state and really help them pretty much to the end of the race.

AVLON: So you're basically saying is the federal government needs to be on a war footing with more money, more coordination, and the right proper storage facilities.

Let me ask you, what are you seeing in the hospital about prioritization of vaccinations? Because obviously it's supposed to go to the elderly, frontline health care workers like yourself, but there will be a lot of pressure by some folks to sort of skip the line if they're in positions of privilege. How are you seeing that play out in your hospital?

MATHEW: Right. So this is all like a supply/demand issue, right, John. There is a --

AVLON: That's right.

MATHEW: -- huge demand that we don't have enough of a supply just yet. Really we need to follow the CDC guidelines. I think that the priority groups, phase 1a, 1b, and 1c makes complete sense to me. Health care workers should go first. Our nursing home residents -- remember 40 percent of the deaths have happened actually in nursing home care. So they need to be prioritized.

And then you can't forget the 75 years and older which is the next group, and essential workers. We've got to make sure that we vaccinate our Uber drivers, school drivers. We need to make sure we vaccinate our teachers. So the current plan and the priority actually makes sense to me.

The bottom line, John, is we should be getting these vaccines rapidly and quickly to masses of people. We need to be setting up maybe stadiums, even huge parking lots. The biggest differences, we need to change our mentality. We need to take the vaccine to the community as opposed to expecting the community to come to the vaccine.

AVLON: Such an important point. Obviously all this is further complicated by this new strain of COVID-19 confirmed in the U.S. So my question to you is, look, a lot of kids are expecting to go to school next week. There are some signs that this could be not only more contagious but specifically for young people.

So how do you recommend people deal with this new degree of uncertainty? What precautions should be taken and how concerned are you about this next wave?

MATHEW: Well, I'm definitely concerned. I mean, this new strain has about 20 mutations. We know for sure that it's more contagious but not more lethal. You know, we've talked about how the U.S. is lagging behind in genomic sequencing. The U.K. does over 50 percent of the genetic sequencing. We need to get ahead of that game.

And if you have a more contagious strain, well, that means more people can get infected, more people can be hospitalized, and more people can die. Now we know that schools are not necessarily a place where a lot of transmission takes place.


But remember, children can transmit that virus to teachers, to principals, to nurses, and take that home to the elderly. So, that's a big concern of mine. And then, obviously, by keeping in touch with all these mutations that are happening, that can have a huge impact in terms of vaccine development, making sure that the vaccines continue to work on these contagious strains.

AVLON: That's the big question. Dr. Saju Mathew, thank you so much.

MATHEW: Thank you, John.

PAUL: We have some new details this morning about that Christmas Day explosion in Nashville. CNN learned the suspect, Anthony Warner, send materials expressing his viewpoints to several acquaintances throughout the country. The FBI says they're asking anyone who received those to contact them. Officials believe Warner blew himself up in that R.V. Christmas morning. They say the motive is still not clear.

AVLON: And it's coming down to the wire for Georgia's critical senate runoffs, and President Trump, President-Elect Biden, Vice President- Elect Kamala Harris are all set to stump in Georgia. The details on where they're going to be, that's up next.


PAUL: Two days away from the Georgia Senate runoffs. And those runoffs determine, of course, the balance of power in Congress.

AVLON: That's right. And here's the thing, Republicans only need to win one of the two races to maintain their Senate Majority, but if Democrats win both seats, the Senate would be split 50/50. That means Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote.

That's how high the stakes are here, folks. CNN's Ryan Nobles joining us now live from Atlanta. Ryan, how does this last-ditch attempt to overturn the election in the Senate impact the Georgia runoffs, and has David Perdue indicated whether he would join the effort if he's reelected.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, to answer your first question, John, it does have a big impact because both of these senators could be involved in the process and both have refused to say where they stand. And David Perdue, in particular, has an exit ramp on this because he's not going to be there on January 6th.

In fact, as of this afternoon, David Perdue is no longer a United States Senator, and may not be unless he wins on January 5th, but there's a period of time where there isn't enough time between when the election happens on the 5th, and when the results are certified for Perdue to be in office on January 6th.

So, he's punted on the issue, and said, since he's not going to be there, that he's not going to talk about it. Meanwhile, Kelly Loeffler, yesterday said, that everything is on the table, that she is open to joining this group of senators that had said that they will object. She will definitely be there on the 6th, but she hasn't taken a definitive stance.

But meanwhile, the President's continued attacks on the electoral system, which this whole objection process is a part of is really been a drag on these Republican candidates. Because remember, they're begging people to vote on January 5th, and it's a pretty tough ask. Yesterday, the Georgia Secretary of State made it clear there is nothing wrong with Georgia's electoral system.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), SECRETARY OF STATE, GEORGIA: We just have to accept the facts of what happened in the November election. I'm not happy with it. And many conservatives aren't either. But at the end of the day, we want to make sure that we have a fair, honest election coming up Tuesday, and that's we fight for.


NOBLES: And Raffensperger will be in charge of this runoff, as well. His office has been busy at work, dealing with all the planning for that, and they were in charge of the early voting stage of it, as well. Meanwhile, the candidates are out on the trail, doing everything they can to push those voters to the polls on the last day of voting on Tuesday. Here's a sampling of some of what we saw yesterday.


JON OSSOFF (D), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, GEORGIA: We had four years of bigotry, and hatred, and scandal, and racism, and gross incompetence that has killed countless Americans and left millions in financial distress. Now, it's on us to repair that damage.

SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA): We went to Washington to work for you. We don't owe the swamp anything. That's right. And we're going to keep doing that every day. We will never bring Washington to Georgia. We're going to take Georgia and Washington.

REV. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE, GEORGIA: I am feeling very encouraged by what's happening here on the ground in Georgia. We've had over 3 million people to vote already during the early period. And it is because they understand how much is at stake.


NOBLES: So, the one person you didn't see there in that collection of candidates was David Perdue. He remains in quarantine. It's unclear whether or not he'll be with President Trump on Monday night as the President makes his final visit here to the state to push Republican voters to the polls. There's going to be some other big stars here as well. Today in Savannah, the Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will appear, and Vice President Mike Pence will be here on Monday, as well. The eyes of the entire political world here on Georgia here in the final hours of this campaign. John and Christi?

AVLON: They sure are. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.

PAUL: Thanks, Ryan.

AVLON: All right. Senate Candidate Jon Ossoff is one of several guests on "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning. Also joining Jake Tapper, Stacey Abrams, Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. That's a 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

PAUL: As we're learning more about broadcasting legend Larry King's fight against the Coronavirus, he's 7 -- he's 87 years old. He's former longtime CNN host, and he's being treated at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He's actually been hospitalized there for more than a week. CNN Media Correspondent Brian Stelter with us here. So, Brian, what more do we know about his condition?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we know that Larry is in isolation, as is the norm for COVID-19 patients. His three sons have not been able to visit him in the hospital. But we do know as you said, Christi, this has been going on for more than a week, and that is quite concerning. You think about the experience of so many Americans in the past nine months being hospitalized with COVID-19. Most of those faces are anonymous.

We don't know most of the time, unless it's a loved one or a friend. But Larry King is someone the entire world knows. And this news is a reminder that COVID-19 is affecting everyone, that this is a virus that is not discriminating. And I think when people hear about Larry being in the hospital for more than a week at this point with COVID- 19, it does -- it does make a statement.

Now, we know that he's in Cedars Sinai, a world class medical center, and as you mentioned, he is 87 years old with a number of health challenges in his life that he has been able to overcome. Heart disease, for example, a heart attack back in 1987 when he was new here at CNN. And then, back in 2019, Larry also suffered a pretty severe stroke.


He said afterwards that he was in a coma, that he struggled to recover. But he was able to turn it around and get back to work in 2020, hosting a web program for Warner T.V. That's one thing I really appreciate about Larry King. He was on CNN here for 25 years, retired in 2010, then picked up a new show where he interviewed celebrities, politicians, political experts.

In fact, a segment with Larry just went viral about a week ago, where he was interviewing a celebrity from DuckTales. And it just shows his staying power is really a mainstay of broadcasting. And hopefully, soon enough, he'll be able to tell us about his experience with COVID- 19.

PAUL: We absolutely hope so. Yes. And at 87 years old, there aren't a lot of people out there who are still as embracing work, I suppose, the way that Larry King embraces it. His staying power has been extraordinary. Nancy --


PAUL: Lynda Carter, you know, go ahead. I'm sorry, Brian.

STELTER: Well, it's something related to my -- I was thinking about all the folks that have been sending love -- well wishes and messages overnight once this news broke. Celebrities and politicians wishing him well. You know, the COVID-19 Tracking Project finds that about 125,000 Americans are hospitalized right now with this virus.

The numbers have been fluctuating in recent days, because over the New Year's holiday, some states have not reported figures. The most recent figures are over 123,000 people. And to hear about a boldface name like Larry, it does bring it home. We also, of course, know people like Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, President Trump, all had been hospitalized with COVID-19. This is sadly something that many Americans can relate to this weekend.

PAUL: Yes. And I feel for their families, too. I read that his three sons, obviously, because of hospital protocol can't see him. And I just feel for those people who are in that same boat. That's got to be one of the hardest parts of this, I think. Brian Stelter --


PAUL: -- we appreciate you. As always, thank you so much.

STELTER: Thanks.

AVLON: We wish him well and his family well.

PAUL: We absolutely do.

AVLON: Still ahead, a death that could still have consequences for the U.S. a year later. Why the killing of an Iranian general by U.S. drone strike is still so critically significant for many folks in the region. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


PAUL: You're looking here at pictures of a large crowd that's gathered right now at a memorial in Iraq for a military official killed by a U.S. drone strike there a year ago. They paid tribute to Iranian General Qasem Soleimani as well at the site where he was killed in Baghdad.

AVLON: A Shia paramilitary commander was killed in the same strike. Soleimani is associated with the death of many throughout the region. Now, the group's leader referred to these folks as martyrs. That's one word for it and called for revenge. But in the past few minutes, the group has said that does not include a plan to enter the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad nor overthrow the current Iraqi government.

Now, in a matter of just a few hours, the U.K. will mark a new first in its Coronavirus vaccine program, as the Oxford University- AstraZeneca injection is administered to patients.

PAUL: Now, this is significant. This is a step forward because it doesn't need those extreme cold storage and transport temperatures such as other vaccines that are on the market. Phil Black has more on what else Britain may be banking on here.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL REPORTER (voice over): The British Prime Minister has a reputation for prematurely predicting an imminent return to normal life. His latest forecast ...

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: April the 5th, Easter, we really are confident that things will be very, very much better.

BLACK (voice over): During one of the darkest moments of the pandemic, Johnson and his government are telling the British people, it'll be behind us by spring. Could he be right this time?


BLACK (voice over): The government's optimism is fueled by this vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. It's only a scratch.

BLACK (voice over): Developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, it's the most low maintenance vaccine option so far, because it doesn't need ultra-cold storage. And the British government got in early, speeding up the regulator scrutiny and securing supply. 100 million doses are coming, plus another 30 million doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer, and BioNTech. Together, it's more than enough to protect every British adult.

WENHAM: The U.K. Government has made a lot of -- a lot of mistakes in this outbreak. But the thing is, when really well has been the vaccine development.

BLACK (voice over): Public health experts say the U.K. has another big advantage for pulling off the next phase of the plan, which involves getting the vaccine to around a third of the population, including everyone over 50 and everyone at greater risk due to an underlying condition.

LINDA BAULD, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH: We have a national health service that is funded through a general taxation and is highly integrated in a way that is not the case in so many other countries.

BLACK (on camera): That's a structural institutional advantage that other countries don't have.

BAULD: That's correct. I mean, many other countries in particularly larger, more complex countries, where and health systems, for example, you have multiple partners, insurance companies, or many more private providers, when you have a system like that, it's much more complex to deliver at scale a nationally vaccine rollout.

BLACK (voice over): But nationalized health care hasn't prevented the U.K. from recording one of the highest numbers of deaths in the world.

BLACK (on camera): Britain's track record through the pandemic also shows that it does not guarantee success in handling big complex operations.

WENHAM: Well, quite, quite. I'm slightly more confident in their ability to do this than other thing -- parts of this pandemic, simply because it's been their baby, it's been what they've been pushing.

BLACK (on camera): So, there are good reasons why the U.K. finds itself in a hopeful place. And we'll see needles plunging into arms relatively quickly, but to meet that Easter deadline and effectively and the threat of the pandemic in this country that will take a medical logistics operation unlike anything seen here before. Phil Black, CNN, London.


PAUL: It's that time of year where you can kind of get lost in football. So, fans rejoice here, grab your remote, you might need an extra T.V., too. The NFL Playoffs come down to today. Andy Scholes has what you need to know for the final week of the regular season.



AVLON: In a season like no other, the NFL has had a number of constant COVID cases, two major outbreaks, and several games postponed, but it has made it to the finish line.

PAUL: Uh-hmm. Andy Scholes is with us now. Made it to the finish line, Andy, but there are a couple of new cases to talk about? ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi and John, you know, the Cleveland Browns, it's a big one for them because they can clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2002. It's the longest playoff drought we have in the NFL, but it's been a tough couple weeks for the Browns dealing with COVID-19.

You remember last week, they lost to the New York Jets as they didn't get to play with most of their wide receivers that now this week, they've had to close their practice facility three days including yesterday because of positive tests among the team. Many key players going to miss today's game against the Steelers due to being placed on the reserve COVID-19 list. A number of coaches will also not be on the sidelines. For now, that game with Pittsburgh is still on for one Easter.

Now, the Browns likely need to win that game in order to make it to the playoffs. And that's because the Colts, Dolphins, Ravens and Titans are all also 10 and five on this season. So, we have five teams battling for four playoff spots. In the AFC, the Colts are the team that need help. They need to beat the Jaguars and have one of those other four teams to lose. For everyone else, win and they are in.

Now, amazingly, the Dallas Cowboys can still clinch a playoff spot and that's because, well, someone has to win the NFC East Division. Now, the Washington football team, all they have to do today is beat the Eagles and they win the division. If they lose, that means the winner between the Cowboys and the Giants will take the division crown. If the Giants do, they become the first 10 loss playoff team in NFL history.

Now, the Arizona Cardinals, the L.A. Rams basically are already in the playoffs. Winner of their games today gets a wild card. The Bears are also in with a win over the Packers or a Cardinals loss. Now this year, the NFL increased the playoff spots in each conference to seven teams, just one team in each gets the first round by. Now, the Saints chances of getting that top seat, taking a major bowl this week as all of their running backs, including star, Alvin Kamara, are out today against the Panthers (INAUDIBLE) backup all placed in the reserve COVID-19 list.


Now, if the Saints don't get a by, Kamara status for the first round of playoffs, it's up in the air. All right, finally, we know there's some great actors in soccer, but this is (INAUDIBLE) Gator Bowl and his favorite receiver Devin Carter. He just shoved Kentucky's Brandin Echols down.

And you see Echols there, just was limp on the ground, doesn't move. And come over the help of -- you know what, John and Christi, I'm usually not here for the flopping, but to me, this was just great. I think more players should do that, where they get shoved, just go down and don't move, because you're guaranteed to get the flag.

AVLON: Yes, I like the CPR action there. But, man, I mean, the Saints and the Browns. That's just rough. Rough. SCHOLES: Yes, limping to the finish line here. You know, but, you know, the NFL did make it. They were hoping they wouldn't have to go past week 17 in order to play some of these regular season games, and you know, if they're able to play this Brown-Steelers game, you know, mission accomplished.

AVLON: Well, mission accomplished.

PAUL: Yes, yes.

AVLON: This is a ...

PAUL: Finish line -- finish line is there, though. They made it. Allrighty. Andy, thank you.

AVLON: They did. Andy, thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

PAUL: So, up next, we're talking about the showdown in Congress over the electoral college results, certifying Joe Biden's victory. 12 Republican Senators now say they will reject. 140 House members are in that same camp. Not every Republican is supporting President Trump on this, though. NEW DAY is back with you in just a moment. Stay close.