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New Day Sunday

European Nations Take Actions As COVID Cases Increase; COVID Cases Straining Hospitals, Health Care Workers; KY Relief Fujnd Raises $19m In One Week After Deadly Tornadoes. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired December 19, 2021 - 06:00   ET



PAULA REID, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm Paula Reid in for Christi Paul.

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

A surge in coronavirus is once again threatening Christmas plans. Holiday celebrations scaled back, live performances canceled. Some schools even returning to remote learning and now one doctor tells CNN -- quote -- "There's a tsunami coming."

REID: The Biden administration is working to reassure Americans that it is prepared for the rise in cases with President Biden himself set to address the country this week.

SANCHEZ: And a busy holiday travel week is in full swing. Airports on Friday seeing double the number of travelers from 2020, but storms could up end the itinerary. Your NEW DAY starts right now.

Thanks so much for waking up with us this Sunday, December 19th. And, Paula, I have to acknowledge a wave of panic when I say December 19th. I have not done enough Christmas shopping yet. I hope you're further along than I am.

REID: I'm in pretty good shape but you still have time. You have plenty of time.

SANCHEZ: I hope so.

REID: Now, the start of Christmas week certainly brings additional anxiety for millions of Americans not just because of shopping delays but also COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the U.S.

SANCHEZ: And now the White House says that President Biden will address the nation about the threat posed by the new Omicron variant, as one medical expert put it, a tsunami is coming for unvaccinated Americans.

The Omicron strain has now been detected in all but seven states in the country. Experts, though, say the Delta variant is still fueling this latest wave of infections. From New York to Miami and across the United States, lines for COVID-19 testing are long and results often slow to come in. Also, at home tests are flying off the shelves. CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner blames the Biden administration.


DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We need to, you know, mobilize manufacture produce, hundreds of millions of these tests and make them ubiquitous. That's how you're going to keep businesses open. That's how you're going to keep Broadway open. That's how you're going to keep your kids in school.


REID: Facing these grim realities, colleges, venues and businesses are re-implementing restrictions not seen in months. CNN's Polo Sandoval reports.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): America is on alert leading into this holiday week facing an alarming surge of new coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide. With this new COVID upswell holiday celebrations and everyday life are becoming more disruptive with each passing day. "Saturday Night Live" canceled its live studio audience last night.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: We do not have an audience.

SANDOVAL: Musical guest Charli XCX canceling her performance on the show citing a limited crew. Radio City Rockettes' Christmas Spectacular show also canceled because of breakthrough infections within the production. And Broadway has pulled down the curtain on some shows.

New York State broke the record for the highest single day COVID-19 case counts since the beginning of the pandemic for a second consecutive day on Saturday reporting more than 21,000 positive COVID- 19 cases, according to the governor's office. The NFL and NHL are postponing games as more players are asked to quarantine as part of COVID-19 protocols. And some colleges and universities shifted classes and exams online to finish out the semester.

As of now experts say the Delta variant is driving this latest surge, but Omicron is expected to become the dominant variant in the U.S. in the coming weeks.

REINER: There's a tsunami coming. This Omicron variant is extraordinarily contagious. It's as contagious as measles and that's about the most contagious a virus that we've seen. This may be the most contagious virus that civilization has faced in our lifetimes.

SANDOVAL: Both cases and hospitalizations are at levels not seen since September at the end of the summer spike. In Michigan this week, COVID hospitalizations are hovering around all-time highs. The state's health department says the majority of them are people who are unvaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci comparing it to a war.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We will win this war with this virus. We know what public health mitigations work. We have just got to hang in there. We can't give up.

SANDOVAL: With Christmas and New Year's Eve fast approaching the TSA expects more than 20 million Americans to fly between December 23rd and January 3rd.


There are concerns that holiday travel will super charge a spread. If you're wondering about holiday get-togethers this doctor has advice on what family and friends should do so they can celebrate without worries.

REINER: Get some tests for your house and use testing before you meet with other people this holiday season.

SANDOVAL: Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


SANCHEZ: Thanks, Polo. In response to rising case rates President Biden is preparing to address the crisis looming over the country in a speech on Tuesday.

REID: CNN White House reporter Jasmine Wright joins us now from Wilmington, Delaware. All right, Jasmine, a lot of anxious Americans right now, what do we expect to hear from the president?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Paula, Boris, we expect the president to really announce additional steps that his White House will take responding to communities struggling as these cases continue to rise. And we also expect him to make a very direct warning to the unvaccinated, really laying bare for them what their winter could look like should they continue to refuse those shots.

Now, this is the second type of really direct forceful warning the president has offered to the unvaccinated as they deal with an influx of cases around the country, really as they try to project that this administration is capable of taking care of the American people in face of these increases. But one sort of messaging hiccup that came in the way this weekend came from the vice president, Kamala Harris, who was quoted in an interview in "The L.A. Times" that she says that this administration did not see the Delta variant or the new Omicron variant coming.

Now, of course, that is kind of a stunning admission. I talked to a Harris aide afterwards and they said the vice president was not talking about the variants in general. Of course, they said that the White House knew that variants were possibility but they were talking about -- but she was talking about the variant specifically.

Still, we got a tweet from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. And I want to read it for you. She said, we are prepared for rising case levels and the president will detail how we will respond to this challenge. That was a tweet issued Saturday.

But still, the president really -- he is going to talk on Tuesday after he received a briefing last week that he was warned about this looming surge of cases that could rapidly increase around the country. I think something that you are really starting to see Americans really become anxious about as these cases continue to rise. Paula, Boris.

REID: Anxious indeed. Jasmine, thank you so much.

Let's bring in Dr. Bob Davidson. He is a West Michigan emergency room physician and executive director of the Committee to Protect Health Care. Doctor, thank you so much for being with us.

Now, the White House has ruled out the return of full shutdown. Of course, nobody wants to go back to that. But are you concerned we are returning to what looks like the worst days of the pandemic?

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT HEALTH CARE: Well, listen, I think we know a lot more than we did when this all started. We know more than we did at the beginning of the last wave and we have more tools to fight this. We have vaccines.

Everything that is coming out now is telling us if you're vaccinated and you're boosted your likelihood of getting severely sick or ending up in a hospital or dying from this strain or any strain is extremely low. And so I think every single bit of public health messaging needs to continue to be around that.

I think the president should address the country but should address Congress. Talk to folks on the other side of the aisle. Tell them to quit screwing around.

You know, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Ron Johnson, all of this messaging undermining vaccines, promoting fake treatments, is just going to delay us getting back to normal. It feels like broken record but it just has to be said over and over.

So we should be concerned and while we're gathering data on Omicron we should, you know, institute as many measures as possible to limit the spread and to keep people apart. But once we know more we have to always go back to following the science. And if we find that vaccines and boosters are the answer continue to push for mandates, continue to push for keeping unvaccinated people out of the rest of our way so we can live our lives.

REID: So give us a little report from the ground. What are you seeing in West Michigan? DAVIDSON: So we're still stuck in a massive surge of the Delta variant and our hospitals are still extremely full. We have seen a decrease in the case -- the test positive rate, but a decrease means we're just below 20 percent because we were hovering around 30 percent which still an incredibly high number.

When I see numbers coming out of D.C. saying, you know, a 250 percent increase, well, they're still only at about a 2 percent test positive rate. You know, we're sitting in that 20 percent range.

COVID patients end up in the hospital for a very long time. So even if cases start coming down just a bit and we feel like we're getting to that point the crisis still looms because folks are still in the hospital.


And all those other illnesses, including now influenza starting to tick up, those folks need hospital beds too and those are the folks that are struggling the most to get the beds because of all the COVID folks without -- you know, who aren't vaccinated.

REID: Of course, experts are encouraging people to get tested before traveling home, but easier said than done. Getting a test and getting results continues to be an issue across the country. So what is your recommendation to anyone who is looking to travel over the next couple weeks?

DAVIDSON: Yes. I think you should do your best to get a test. In our family we're all vaccinated, we're all boosted. As long as we're all symptom free and haven't been in contact with people who are, you know, known to be COVID positive, we're very comfortable getting together. Because we know in our small family unit that we are taking the precautions so we're not getting each other sick.

I think if you're venturing into places around people you don't know their status, you don't know if they're infected or not, or vaccinated or not, absolutely need to be testing and taking as many precautions as possible so you don't -- you know, so you don't end up spreading it to other folks.

REID: Long lines for testing we just saw there. There are people who don't want to get vaccinated but they also believe they can avoid getting the virus through mitigation methods, working from home, wearing a mask in public. What is your message to those people, especially given how highly transmissible this variant is?

DAVIDSON: Well, hey, if you're going to go live in the woods and not be around the rest of us ever on planes, on buses and stores, absolutely. You cannot catch this virus by never being in contact with other people. That's just not realistic.

Where I work and live some people do live that way and have for a while and that's just the reality. Social distancing is part of life. But for everyone else it's inevitable that you will come in contact with the virus and the more times you do the more likely you are to get sick.

In our experience, 98 percent of the people in intensive care are unvaccinated COVID patients. You know, over 90 percent of people in the hospital general -- who have COVID are unvaccinated.

I think we need mandates. We're done asking nicely saying, "Please. Thank you." It's safe. It's effective. We need to make it a part of everyone's reality.

REID: Dr. Rob Davidson, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate your insight.

DAVIDSON: Thanks, Paula.

REID: And for the very latest on the Omicron variant and the COVID surge be sure to catch Dr. Anthony Fauci this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER AND DANA BASH." It all starts at 9:00 a.m. right here on CNN.

SANCHEZ: Something else you'll likely hear about on "STATE OF THE UNION" Senator Joe Manchin and his potential power to derail President Biden's agenda. Are other Democrats OK with that? We're going to have a conversation about it after the break.

Plus, first it was Broadway, then Radio City and now SNL. A lot of live shows impacted by the latest surge of COVID-19. We'll tell you how "Saturday Night Live" made some last-minute changes to their lineup after a quick break.



SANCHEZ: One industry hit especially hard by the pandemic is child care. Some centers can't find workers, which means the waitlist for parents are getting longer.

REID: Well, CNN's Gabe Cohen takes a look at the ripple effects this has on the economy.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's a crisis closing classrooms at Nurtury Early Education in Boston. The nonprofit staff has shrunk 30 percent.

(On camera): Why can't you find employees?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they can earn a lot more money working anywhere other than child care.

COHEN (voice-over): Across the country more than 10 percent of child care workers have left the industry during the pandemic, driven out by closures and furloughs early on and now wage competition. Nationwide the average child care worker makes just over $12.00 an hour, far less than K through 12 teachers. And in this competitive hiring market, other industries are raising wages to attract workers.

RHIAN ALLVIN, CEO, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR EDUCATION OF YOUNG CHILDREN: This developmental time for children is the most critical developmental time in the human life cycle. And yet, we're competing against other minimum wage jobs.

COHEN: The American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March spent billions to keep the child care industry afloat. It helped Nurtury raise wages a dollar an hour but Martin Ramos, a teacher here, still works a second job at Home Depot.

MARTIN RAMOS, TEACHER, NURTURY EARLY EDUCATION: I've been living like pay -- check by check and I was getting behind on my bills.

COHEN: With the staff shortage worsening Nurtury is now taking 15 percent fewer students.

(On camera): How long could families sit on a waitlist?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They may sit on the waitlist for the better part of 2022.

COHEN (voice-over): Across the U.S. roughly 10 percent of child care programs have closed. Others are downsizing and many parents are seeing prices rise and waitlist grow.

ALLVIN: And parents predominantly women can't go back to work.

COHEN: A recent survey found 84 percent of parents feel overwhelmed by the cost of child care and nearly 20 percent have quit a job because of it. The average annual cost nationwide is more than $10,000 per child. For the average couple that's 10 percent of their income. For single parents it's 35 percent.

Reshonna Reynolds became a stay-at-home mom when her son was born last year. She was making less than $40,000 in Seattle.

RESHONNA REYNOLDS, QUIT JOB TO CARE FOR HER SON: The child care cost was more than we were paying for rent. That's how much the child care costs were. I decided, hey, I have to quit my job.

COHEN: She and her husband are now trying to find day care so she can get back to work but the waitlists are up to two years long.

REYNOLDS: We can't find any child care.

COHEN: Nearly 3 million women, including hundreds of thousands of mothers, are still out of work from the pandemic.

NELA RICHARDSON, CHIEF ECONOMIST, ADP: And it's really important in terms of the jobs recovery going forward.

COHEN: Nela Richardson is ADP's chief economist.

RICHARDSON: The U.S. is losing trillions of dollars when women are not fully participant in the labor market. [06:20:05]

COHEN: President Biden's Build Back Better plan would invest close to $400 billion in child care, boosting wages, offering universal free preschool for 3 and 4-year-olds and guaranteeing middle-class families paying no more than 7 percent of their income on child care.

ALLVIN: Parents can't pay more, early childhood educators can't earn any less and so it's going to continue to take significant public funding in order to fix this problem.

COHEN: Just look at Reshonna Reynolds and the career she left.

(On camera): What was the job you quit when your son was born?

REYNOLDS: I was a preschool teacher and I had that job for 15 years. I loved it. It was great. But I could not afford the cost of child care.

COHEN (voice-over): A teacher stuck at home needed now more than ever.

REYNOLDS: If you want us to pour into your children you got to give us what we need.


SANCHEZ: Thanks to Gabe Cohen for that report. We should note that later this morning we're going to talk to the CEO of a nonprofit that serves low-income families. She says she can't find enough teachers to serve the children in her community. You're going to want to stay tuned for that. She joins us live next hour.

Meantime, President Biden conceded this week that Congress would not pass his Build Back Better spending bill before the end of the year, despite Democrats' efforts to pass it before Christmas. Not only does the White House not have any Republican support it's a Democrat that's impeding their goals, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Joining us now to break down where things stand in Washington, political congressional reporter Nicholas Wu. Nicholas, thanks for joining us this morning. Always appreciate you getting up early for us. Let's start with something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday when she was asked whether Manchin was holding up the party's ability to pass that signature spending bill. Listen to this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Let me just say, I wouldn't place too much credence on any gotcha statement coming out of the Beltway. But make no mistake, Joe Biden is in charge.


SANCHEZ: President Biden has been trying to sway Senator Manchin and to an extent Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, no apparent avail. What is it going to take from the White House to get this passed going into next year? NICHOLAS WU, POLITICO CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: It's going to have to take a big push from Democrats to get this passed. I mean, we've seen this story play out over and over and over over the past year, right? In this 50/50 Senate, any one senator has veto power over what happens, and that is what Manchin has here. Maximum leverage over what happens.

And, you know, like it or not, Democrats have to work with him on that. And, you know, this is why we see such defensive arguments from the speaker. You know, such a fiery response from the vice president the other day when she was asked if, you know, if Biden or Manchin is president.

SANCHEZ: Right. And you wrote about the frustrations that some members of Congress are feeling as the bill remains in limbo. Congressman David Cicilline telling you that there are a lot of bills the Democrats haven't been able to pass and -- quote -- "That's a very hard thing to explain to people. All they know is we have controlling majorities in all those places, and we ought to be able to deliver, and they're right."

He points out that this logjam isn't exactly a selling point going into an election year, Nicholas.

WU: Exactly. Democrats came into this year with this big laundry list of priorities passing immigration reform, gun control, even more expensive Build Back Better plan, and all of that has fallen by the wayside not in, you know, what Democrats used to call McConnell's graveyard in the Senate, but what in some ways has become Democrats' graveyard in the Senate. They just don't have the votes to move these bills forward with a filibuster still intact.

And so this ranges all back to square one. You have these big ideas but, you know, it runs into the reality of the 50/50 Senate.

SANCHEZ: You bring up the filibuster. Obviously, a barrier to Democrats getting a lot of things on the agenda done, things like national voting rights reform. Democrats, of course, need the support of 10 Republicans to pass any bills. The White House pivoting now to a push for national voting rights legislation after Build Back Better hit a wall.

But there's reporting out there that even White House aides are bearish on voting rights passing. Any inclination from the Hill that this might actually gain some traction?

WU: From what I've heard on the Hill, Boris, is that, you know, this looks like it's fated for the same, you know, ending as other big Democratic policy proposals. You still have the filibuster intact.

There was some talk over the past few weeks of a filibuster carve out for voting rights legislation. But again, it takes all Democrats in the Senate to get on board to change the rules in order for you to do so. And Senator Kyrsten Sinema stood strong against doing that. And so you can't do that. There was some talk among senior Democrats of using the so-called reconciliation process, the fast track process that only takes a simple majority to pass voting legislation, but it's unclear if the strict rules of the Senate to do so would actually allow you to put voting rights through it.


And so, you know, this is, you know, really where Democrats' dreams, you know, might be a bit crushed.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And the counter argument from people like Manchin in West Virginia and Sinema in Arizona is that their Senate seats could very easily be occupied by Republicans and that would make, you know, this agenda, these hopes an even bigger pipe dream than it is already.

Nicholas Wu, thank you so much for the perspective and time. Always appreciate it.

WU: Thank you.

REID: And Europeans vent their anger as surging COVID infections prompt officials to enforce very unpopular restrictions hoping to slow the spread. We're live from Rome and London next.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: The latest COVID surge is prompting strong measures across the globe as the rapid spread of the Omicron variant looms and the Delta variant remains dominant for many.

PAULA REID, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get an update on what's happening in other parts of the world.

CNN Contributor Barbie Nadeau is in Rome, and CNN Scott McLean is in London.

All right, Barbie, I want to start with you. New protocols are being put in place all across Europe. So what's the latest?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we've got very strict restrictions in places like the Netherlands which are going into lockdown. They're limiting how many people can go to each other's homes for Christmas.

Here in Rome, they've canceled the New Year's Eve concert that's generally held in Paris, they've canceled fireworks for New Year's Eve.

We've also got travel restrictions in Germany.

And France are banning people from the UK because of the rapid spread of the Omicron virus that hit mostly in continental Europe, though they're still dealing with Delta.

The rising cases all across the continental Europe is because of Delta and slowly Omicron is climbing up in cases but we're still really dealing with the last wave right now before they're getting ready for the next one.

SANCHEZ: And Scott, the mayor in London declared a major incident as Omicron cases continued to rise yesterday. What exactly does that mean for people in the UK?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This means the situation here is not good at the moment, Boris. Here we are six days away from families getting together a Christmas and we have this surge of the Omicron variant it is now the dominant strain here in England.

And we might be in sort of the calm before the storm. The storm, being an unexpected surge in hospitalizations.

Yesterday, the British Prime Minister met with his top key -- top scientific and health advisors and his cabinet to try to figure out what to do next.

Last year, you might remember restrictions effectively canceled Christmas across England and surely the government wants to avoid a repeat of that.

This morning, the Health Secretary seemed to dismiss suggestions that there might be a two-week circuit breaker lockdown, but he did point to the advice of government scientific advisors who say that look, in order to prevent near peak levels of hospitalizations, something will need to be done in excess of the measures in place right now to try to tamp that down and to try to reduce social contacts and even to shut down the places where those take place restaurants, bars, soccer stadiums, etcetera, etcetera.

The Prime Minister, though it seems is more content to take a bit of a wait-and-see approach in part because it's not entirely clear just how severe an illness Omicron actually causes.

And at least on paper right now, there has not been a national surge in hospitalizations, people on ventilators, things like that.

But there is starting to be an uptake in places where Omicron is most present, including in London, where there's been a 30 percent increase in hospitalizations over the past week, according to the mayor.

And that is why he has declared this a major incident allowing emergency services to better you know, take drastic measures in order to make sure that they're fully staffed because so many health care workers are calling in sick with the virus.

And this major incident designation, by the way, it's normally reserved for things like terror attacks, things like major disasters under normal circumstances. You wouldn't see this for sort of a health care emergency like this.

SANCHEZ: Yes, hard to say that we've had normal circumstances for almost two years now in this pandemic. Barbie Nadeau, Scott McLean, thank you both. REID: Another example of how the COVID surge is affecting entertainment. Saturday Night Live was only partially live last night.

SANCHEZ: Now there was no live audience for the show. Former host Tom Hanks was there along with Tina Fey and Kenan Thompson and they welcome actor Paul Rudd into the Five-Timers Club having hosted the show now five times.

Here's what they said about the absence of an audience.


TOM HANKS, ACTOR: COVID came early this year, so in the interest of safety, we do not have an audience and we sent home our cast most of our crew, but I came here from California. And if I was going to fly 3000 miles and I'd be on TV, well, you got another thing coming.

MICHAEL CHE, CO-ANCHOR, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE: So we thought we'd read these dumb jokes anyway and just see if we can make these guys laugh.


HANKS: Let's go.

FEY: Hey, until you're ready, can I call you Hanks?

HANKS: I'd rather you did.

FEY: OK. Can we confirm that you have never heard these jokes before?

HANKS: Not the ones except the two blue in the rehearsal.



REID: Let's bring in CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter, author of -- Anchor of Reliable Sources, author of other books.

All right, Brian, I will admit but I did not stay up late enough to watch this last night. So what have you learned about what went into this decision and how different really was the show last night?


BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. The show had to go on but in a very unusual way mostly on tape. They were basically airing a version they taped at 8 p.m. and runs some sketches that were produced basically as practice as rehearsal earlier in the week.

You know, Paul Rudd alluded to it in his comments at the open, he said, it's been a crazy week and an even crazier day.

He meant during the day on Saturday, plans for this program changed on the fly. So as more and more crew members and others tested positive, the show basically had to scramble to come up with a new way to stay on the air.

And we're seeing versions of this throughout the entertainment industry, whether it's because of the Delta surge, or now this highly contagious Omicron variant, we are seeing you know COVID cases rip through New York City and other major cities.

And so SNL had to scramble. As a result, they had so many people that were out due to illness, that they had to figure out a different way to put on the show.

Look, I -- and then they pulled it off really well. It's impressive to see, you know when you know, plans change, and they find a way to go forward.

But it's really a symbol of what's going on more broadly, I think in the country right now. And in an industry, I cover, in media, we are seeing examples of this all around as well.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Brian. It's not just SNL, a lot of places are reinstituting COVID measures, including here at CNN. We're doing things a little bit differently because of the surge in cases.

STELTER: You're right. Overnight, CNN announcing we're basically moving back to 2020 protocols for the time being.

What that means is only staffers who need to be at work in the office are in the office, everybody else back at home.

You know, it's disappointing. Frankly, I think it's disappointing, no matter what industry we're talking about because many industries have moved back toward a sense of normalcy.

Here at our office, it's been a lot busier in recent weeks. And yet we've had to pull back because of this incredible increase in cases that's happened in the past few days.

Take another example. Broadway, 10 Broadway shows were canceled on Saturday. That number has been creeping up all week long and it's largely due to the same factors.

When you have so many people who are testing positive, then you can't put on a Broadway show.

Well, I think this -- of course, it's going to continue to raise a really challenging question.

What is different about cases now if these cases are in vaccinated Americans? If you are asymptomatic and positive, should you be treated the same way?

Then if you're unvaccinated, and you're very sick, and you're coughing and you're having a hard time and you might have to be hospitalized? This country now has to reevaluate what it means when it says a positive case and what those protocols are because we're not in March of 2020 anymore. We're in a very different situation.

And yet, I think a lot of people don't know what the current rules are, and what the new rules should be.

We're in a little bit of a limbo state right now going into the Holidays.

SANCHEZ: No more questions.

REID: Brian Stelter, with the question of the day perhaps the question of the year, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Brian.

REID: Don't forget to watch Brian later today on Reliable Sources at 11 a.m.

And after months on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic, a Kentucky nurse gets a holiday surprise of a lifetime. She'll join us next.



REID: Hospitals pushed to their limits, doctors, nurses, and staff stretched out and stretched thin with a number of new cases only going higher and higher.

The latest COVID surge is once again straining the country's health care system.

Amy Kaelin is a COVID nurse who was recently rewarded for her hard work. We'll get to that in a minute.

But first, I want to thank you, Amy, for your work on the front lines and I also would like you to give us a sense of what you're seeing and how things are going in the area where you live, in Kentucky.

AMY KAELIN, COVID-19 NURSE: Hi, good morning. I think we're seeing the same things that everyone is seeing nationwide. Cases are up, you know, hospitals are already full. And our health care staff is been kind of pushed to the max over the last year and a half, 20 months.

And to think that we're going to have to go through this again with another surge is a little disappointing, it's a little frightening and you know, very overwhelming for sure.

REID: These are such tough times for so many people, but really, especially health care workers, how are you holding up?

KAELIN: I think we're all just again, doing what we have to do to get by. You know, nurses are known for showing up and doing what it takes in good times and in bad times. And this certainly has been one of the worst times I think that any of us can remember.

And we're just doing the best that we can and we're taking care of our patients and hoping that this is going to come to an end soon.

REID: So when you're going about your job, what are you hearing from unvaccinated patients about why they're choosing not to get the vaccine?

KAELIN: You know, I think there's just been a lot of misinformation.

I think people are apprehensive, they don't know what to expect, they feel like the information regarding the vaccine has been changing as you know the virus changes and things evolve.

Our data has changed and I think that has made some people apprehensive. And I think some people have just decided that they want to take their chances just not realizing what the consequences of that could be.

REID: Al; right, switching gears. You are recently rewarded for your work on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic.

First, you learned that your mortgage company was paying your mortgage for a month, then came, an even bigger surprise. Tell us what happened.

KAELIN: Well, I was going in through our thought was just kind of a follow up to kind of -- for I guess the thing to newsletters kind of what I thought.

And so when I walked in and I saw balloons and people were smiling and then I kind of look, fine, I could see people kind of swarming behind me. I knew something big was going on.


KAELIN: So it was definitely a surprise, definitely was overwhelmed and humbled and appreciative of (INAUDIBLE). And what they were able to do it was it was an amazing day for sure.

REID: And how does it feel to know that your work is appreciated in that way?

KAELIN: You know, it's overwhelming, I think we all know that nurses are appreciated.

It's a little humbling to be singled out. You know, there's lots of people at the hospital that make things work.

It's not just nurses, you know, that have been working, you know, the last 18, 20 months with regard to this. It's been the whole system as a whole.

But it's very humbling, I feel very grateful and I'm thankful to be honored, for sure.

REID: And is there anything special that you'll get to do now that you maybe have a little extra money in the budget this year?

KAELIN: Absolutely. I have a beautiful almost seven-month-old granddaughter and her daddy is getting deployed.

So I'll be going down there and spending some time with them, helping her mom get adjusted, and making sure they're doing OK.

So I'm looking forward to that for sure.

REID: Well, we thank him for his service, you as well. And best of luck to you and your family. Thank you so much, Amy, for joining us.

KAELIN: Thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Still ahead, millions of people have already hit the road of traveling to their holiday destinations but heavy rain and snow could change the itinerary especially if you haven't taken off just yet.

We'll tell you what to expect heading into the Holiday week.

We'll be right back.



SANCHEZ: So, in Kentucky, one Relief Fund has raised $19 million in just one week following the devastating tornadoes that killed dozens and left thousands without homes.

REID: The team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund was created by Governor Andy Beshear. It will start by giving $10,000 in funeral assistance to families who lost a loved one. Then, the next priority will be uninsured homeowners.

Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surveyed some of the damage and says he plans to be there for his state no matter how long the recovery takes.

SANCHEZ: A Holiday travel season here in the United States is looking a lot busier this year compared to last.

The TSA says it screened more than 2 million people at airport security checkpoints Friday, which is higher than Thanksgiving but still a shade lower than pre-pandemic levels.

REID: All right, let's check in with CNN Meteorologist AllisonChinchar.

All right, how could weather potentially impacts travel plans as we've been talking this weekend, it doesn't look so good over the next week?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Now, and really the problem spots are going to be along the coastlines not only the West Coast but also the East Coast of the U.S., we've got a couple of different systems that are going to be impacting. Now the first wave for the East Coast is this one that was really kind of impacting yesterday, still lingering across the Carolinas, Virginia, Florida down through Georgia today, that should push out overnight tonight.

Then the second wave begins to form really later today pushing rain into Texas, but then that's going to surge into the southeast over the coming days.

So really any travel plans in around the southeast, it's going to be a messy couple of days.

The heaviest rain will be focused over towards areas of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas where two to four inches is possible.

Heavier rain is really what the main impact is going to be out in the west coast storm.

This is also going to be a series of waves here. The first one came in yesterday.

Now we're talking about the second one that's going to surge moisture into Oregon, Washington in even Northern California.

Then, once we get into say Monday, Tuesday, and especially Wednesday of the upcoming week. Then we really start to see a lot of that moisture spread into other areas of California.

And overall we're looking at pretty significant rainfall totals as well as snowfall totals once you get into the higher elevations to the Cascades, the sears, the Rockettes.

Again, you're looking at some of these areas to be measured in feet of snow. In terms of rainfall, it's going to be heaviest along the coast, widespread about two to four inches, but there could be some spots to pick up six, eight, even 10 inches of rain.

So let's break down the trouble spots for today. Again, going to be out to the West and along the east coast for today, by Monday the eastern half of the country, not too bad, it's the Northwest that's really going to be the focus.

Then once we transition into Tuesday, we start to see that next system push into the southeast, creating some travel spots there.

We also have a storm system in the Midwest and our next system pushing into the West.

Wednesday again, the focus out to the West and also into portions of the Northeast, and by Thursday, we're looking at some pretty significant problems guys in the western portion of the country.

REID: All right, Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, Allison. So on Saturday, volunteers gathered at Arlington National Cemetery for the annual wreath-laying to honor fallen service members. More than 250,000 wreaths re-laid at headstones in Arlington.

REID: Ceremonies also took place at over 3000 cemeteries in all 50 States and abroad.

Some lawmakers even joined volunteers including Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Virginia's Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin.

This year marked 30 years since the tradition first began.

SANCHEZ: While, new COVID cases surging across the United States, President Biden says he will announce new measures this week aiming to slow the spread of the virus. But are Americans ready to listen? And a quick programming note for you.

Join Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a look at how some families with autistic kids are finding hope in cannabis. And see how for some, that decision comes at great risk.


SANCHEZ: This new CNN Special Report Weed 6: Marijuana and Autism, begins tonight at 8 p.m.


SANCHEZ: Buenos Dias, Good morning and welcome to your new day I'm Boris Sanchez.

REID: And I'm Paula Reid in for Christy Paul.

A surge in Coronavirus is once again threatening Christmas plans. Holiday celebrations are scaled back, live performances canceled, some schools even referring to remote learning. And now, one doctor tells CNN "there's a tsunami coming."

SANCHEZ: Now, the Biden administration is working to reassure Americans that it's prepared for the rise in cases, but President Biden --