tv CNN Newsroom Live CNN December 26, 2021 9:00pm-10:00pm PST
be the butt of the joke. in fact, that's why we made this town so accepting. the town is the goal. it's the family that had a lot to learn. ♪ ♪ live from hong kong, welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm anna coren ahead on cnn newsroom. the omicron variant is fuelling a new surge of infections across the u.s. as cases spread, the country is seeing a covid test shortage. covid-19 is causing chaos at airports around the world. thousands of flights canceled as airline workers continue to call in sick.
and a look back at the legacy of archbishop desmond tutu. ♪ ♪ we begin this hour with the growing concern over the rapid spread over the omicron variant in the united states. it's driving daily covid infections to highs not seen since last january. as cases spread, so does the demand for tests. americans are facing a shortage of at-home kits. and this is the scene at testing sites around the country. long lines with people often having to wait hours to get tested. the white house is facing increased criticism over its handling of covid testing. here's what top health expert dr. anthony fauci had to say. >> we should be using testing,
much more extensively than we have. even in a situation where you have people that are vaccinated or boosted. but the situation where you have such a high demand, a conflation of events, omicron stirring people to get appropriately concerned and wanting to get tested, as well as the fact of the run-on test through the holiday season. we have to do better. i think things will improve greatly as we get into january. but that doesn't help us today and tomorrow. >> all this is causing major disruptions during what is typically one of the busiest travel days of the year. sunday, nearly 1500 flights were canceled as staff and crew continued to call out sick due to the omicron surge in the united states. two cruise ships returned to florida after several passengers and crew members tested positive for covid, despite all adults being fully vaccinated. cnn has this story covered from all angles. alison is in new york with more
on the cruise ships. first, let's go to nadia, in atlanta for the details on the flight cancellations. >> reporter: some frustration here at atlanta's airport for travelers whose flights were delayed or cancelled. one woman told me she was hoping to get back to wyoming buzz she has to go back to work. but that can't happen because of that canceled flight. that flight one of more than a thousand flights canceled on sunday alone, bringing the total to about 2,000 flights. that's just domestic. you add thousands more when you talk about international travel. for some people they said despite all the cancellations, the way they had been checking their phone, when their flight was able to be on time, they said they weren't going to miss it, because they haven't seen family and friends before the pandemic since two years ago. >> this is my inlaws, the first time i've seen this in about two
years. yeah, it's been a while. saw my mom over thanksgiving, first time in two years. i got my booster shot. i was due for it, so i got that. been wearing my mask. i ended up switching my seat to be next to one person instead of three other people. so just to keep my distance. so yeah, my whole family is vaccinated and we felt safe. it was just immediate family. just like ten people. >> reporter: tsa tells us that screening through their security checkpoints is down this holiday season. christmas and christmas eve compared to the same time period back in 2019. so prepandemic levels. and they contribute some of that to the coronavirus, the omicron variant that is spreading rapidly with cases arising across the country, and also all of the thousands of cancellations and delays. nadia romero, cnn, atlanta. the cruise line industry is facing disruption again because
of covid-19. over the past week, at least four cruise ships were turned away from ports of call, and passengers were denied entry to port because of case of covid on their ships. now, u.s. based ships resumed service just this past summer after being shut down because of the pandemic. now there are vaccine requirements in place, and measures in place to try to keep the spread of covid from happening on these ships. but even since then, covid incidents have happened. one case in point in august, on a carnival cruise ship. 27 people tested positive for covid. they were isolated, and passengers were still allowed to disembark after they showed proof of a negative covid test. the difference this time, the omicron variant. it's more transmissible. and a spokesperson told cnn in a statement that the variant may shape how some destination authorities view even a small
number of cases. cruise ship "freedom" was one of the ships impacted over the past week with what carnival calls a small number of passengers testing positive for covid. that ship docked as planned in miami on sunday, and the passengers getting off the ship after their voyage had different experiences. listen to what they said. >> we heard 5, 12, 25. >> they quarantined them. we had a good time. we'll do it again. >> we didn't catch one port on that ship, because everybody is in there all over each other. nobody is wearing masks. it was disgusting. nobody cared. >> reporter: although there is an uptick in the number of cruises that had to alter their itineraries, the impacted cruises only represent a small fraction of the dozens of cruise ships that are throughout -- that have sailed throughout the
month. and the disruptions are a far cry from what happened in march 2020 when the entire u.s. cruise industry had to shut down because of the pandemic. and there were peeks where there were efforts to get passengers and crew on board those ships to get them home as ports were closed as vessels were hit by outbreaks of covid. it's not just the u.s., the omicron variant is fueling surges in covid cases around the world. in israel, the prime minister is self-isolating after his daughter tested positive. this as israel sees a spike in new infections. in south africa, where the variant was first detected, a top scientist says the country has passed its omicron peak. officials are relaxing rules for people exposed to the virus. in the uk, new data shows vaccine uptick soared ahead of
christmas. in the week leading up to the holiday, the number of people getting their first dose was up 46% compared to the week before. the government is ramping up its vaccination and booster campaign amid a record surge in new cases. so far the uk has resisted bringing back strict lockdown measures in england. but that's hardly the case in other parts of europe. >> reporter: a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the omicron variant has led to new restrictions across europe ahead of new year celebrations. in france, which logged more than 100 s,000 cases on christm eve, no fireworks. in italy, which logged 55,000 new infections, concerts and outdoor gaterrings have been canceled. spain and italy requiring masks
to be worn outdoors. belgium has closed movie theaters. some european countries require visitors within europe to be tested for covid before departing. in greece, visitors have to test after arrival, as well. elsewhere across europe, spikes in cases have led to closures, cancellations and curfews, as the governments do anything they can to avoid locking down entirely. cnn, rome. joining me now is dr. scott miscovich, president and ceo of premiere medical group, usa. doctor, seasons greetings to you and your family. great to have you with us. omicron is spreading at lightning speed across the u.s., sending daily caseloads soaring to levels higher. are you concerned this will overload the country's health care system, considering 62% of
the population is fully vaccinated? >> absolutely. we are totally concerned that our health system may be pushed to the brink. right now, our health system is about 75% of the beds are full. we have about 25% of our -- or 25 of our 50 states have their icu capacity upwards of 85 p%. those are serious numbers, and we are starting to see the numbers of hospital beds go from 40,000 or so in november. now it's approaching 80,000. and we are just starting to reflect the hospital admissions. remember, they lag about 14 days after the counts go up, and the numbers in the u.s. are soaring. so we are very concerned about it. >> where are you expecting omicron cases to peak and hospitalizations to also peak. >> well, right now, we can't answer that question because we
are looking at europe. as the reports we just listened to basically show the counts are at all-time highs in pretty much half of europe right now. and we're really pulsing in london, because london and suburban london is where the omicron surge really happened. it's a really further ahead. actually their hospital beds have gone up 92%, the usage in a period of one week. so very concerning number. and the real answer to that, anna, we don't know. and more than likely, if you look at what's going to happen in the u.s., we'll see the real barometer following what's happening in europe. >> as you well know, doctors are burnt out. they've been fighting, you know, against covid now for two years. if there is a surge in hospitalizations, will the system be able to cope? >> i don't think so. i mean, we already have i think
at least five states have fema and national guard that are helping to staff their hospitals. there are more requests that are coming up that can't be handled until january. now, the real concern is, you know, we talk about -- what we like to say it's still a little bit of a myth for people saying it's mild, don't worry about it. we still have questions about that. but the fact is, because the rise is vertical, even if 25% less people get hospitalized because the numbers are going up exponentially, it's going to overwhelm our health system in a very short period of time. so it's the speed of the rise of omicron which is threatening our health system. remember, we lost almost 20% of our nurses across the united states over the last 18 months. so it's a real challenge. >> i wanted to ask you about these mild symptoms, because the latest data out of the uk,
scotland and south africa suggests that omicron causes less serious illness than its predecessors. should we welcome this as encouraging news or is that a risk that is not worth taking at the moment? >> it is an absolute risk we need to stop people from thinking about. there are so many compounding variables and the data. we look at the scotland data and the royal college data. the south african data started it all, but the factor is they had 70% of the population that already had covid, and the ages of those that were affected with omicron were very young. that's a different population. what we're worried about is this getting into populations that are unvaccinated. we do not have data yet. and most data shows that the unvaccinated are getting just as
serious an illness as this. and the vaccinated with two shots, which we know is not effectively against omicron, are getting hospitalized. they're still not dying. remember, shots work. boosters work. but very early, we will probably have within two weeks much better data that we can confidently rely on. but right now, please, we have to have everyone understand, take it serious. >> yeah. i got my booster shot last week. i presume this is something that you are pushing people to do. now more than ever. >> oh, gosh. yeah, right now we want to do everything we can to encourage boosters and the third shots. and i think any of these prior systems that had set up, if you had full vaccine and two shots, you could enter into a bar or a pub or an indoor setting. we need to turn that to three.
right now, three shots is fully vaccinated, not two. and i don't want to be sounding the alarm, but the eu has already purchased 150 million or 180 million of the pfizer omicron specific shots that will be available sometime in april. so we're not done. we are going to continue to stay ahead of this. >> doctor, as always, great to get your insight. thank you for joining us. >> thanks for having me. take care. still ahead, with the winter olympics just weeks away, china's zero covid policy is being put to the test. a look at some of the extreme measures being used to wash local outbreaks. first, the world mourns desmond tutu who passed away sunday in capetown. a look at his life and legacy, after the break.
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messages of sympathy are pouring in after the death of human rights leader archbishop desmond tutu. joe biden tweeted, we are heart broke on the learn of the passing of a truer erservant ofd and of the people. former president barack obama described him as a mentor and universal spirit, adding that tutu was concerned with injustice everywhere.
robin kerrnow has more. >> reporter: desmond tutu was the voice of apartheid struggle. >> continue in the struggle. continue in the struggle to make south africa free. >> it's desmond tutu speaking, he's got a way of reaching out to people. he makes it light, even when it is tough. makes people laugh even when they are mourning. and he's able to inspire people and knew exactly what to say at the right moment. >> reporter: when he won the nobel peace prize in 1984, the anty apartheid movement was under attack. the minority go.
-- desmond tutu stepped in to fill the void. >> we had reached the stage where the church was a protector of the people. in fact, the president then put it this way, that the council of churches was presenting itself as an alternative government. and if the president of the country makes that type of statement, then you know the church had taken the police, they served the victims of apartheid. >> reporter: a decade later, the struggle paid off, when south africa held its very first democratic election in 1994. for you in your life, what do you think has been the greatest thing you've ever done? >> well, i say to people, the --
my happiest moment was when i was told i'm a father for the first time. when our son was born, i was on cloud nine. a close second to that is 1994, when i was standing on the balcony of the city hall overlooking the grand parade and introducing nelson mandela to the cloud, to south africa, to the world. >> ladies and gentlemen, friends, fellow south africans, i ask you welcome, our brand new state president, nelson mandela! [ cheers and applause ]
>> i said to god, god, i don't mind if i die now. [ laughter ] >> reporter: as a new democracy took hold in south africa, tutu was again called on the lead. in 1995, president nelson mandela appointed him as chair of the truth and reconciliation commission, in front of a nation desperate to heal. a man never aparade to speak his mind, wasn't afraid to show his emotion either. >> he's a person whose life was always dedicated to others. and the thing that has enriched him also is knowing how to connect to different find of people, different status. but he connected very, very, very well. >> we owe our freedom to extraordinary people. >> reporter: in 2007, he joined a group of prominent world leaders called the elders. their mission, focusing the
world's attention on all forms of injustices. his biographer, john adams, says that tutu gaped an unwavering confidence in his causes, grounded in his faith. >> to take that particular role he took, which was to be public enemy one of white south africans, and with stand the ha hatred that he was the victim of, needed somebody that had a healthy sense of self and ego. and his faith helped that. >> hiany regrets, sir? >> being maybe too -- because i was right, so easily because self-rig shouse. >> for you to say that -- >> yeah. we knew we were right.
but it got so easy for that to turn and you get to feel you're better than your opponent, whereas you aren't. you're all god's children. >> reporter: tutu officially retired from public life in 2010. but remained in the public eye. a man unafraid of criticism and threats from an apartheid government. he was also unafraid to criticize even those with whom he had fought for freedom. >> i am warning you -- >> reporter: before his 80th birthday celebration in 2011, he lashed out at the south african government for denying the dalai lama a visa. >> one day we will stop praying for the defeat of the government. you are disgraceful. i want to warn you, you are
behaving in a way that is totally at variance with the things for which we stood. >> reporter: talking in desmond tutu's shoes, do you feel like a great man? do you feel like -- >> what is that? >> i don't know. >> what is a great man? i just -- i just know that i've had incredible, incredible, incredible opportunities. and i knew -- and that is why i say, i know i depend on others. and they said when you stand out in a crowd, it is always only because you are being carried on the shoulders of others. depend on the leaders. imagine if the people, if the
townships had repudiated me. where would i be? so the -- i always said i accept the awards that i won, representatively. because they belong as much to those people, the millions and millions out there, as to me. maybe i should say they belong much more to them than to me. they took me only because i have this large place and this easy name, toutu. [ laughter ] >> reporter: the country's moral compass with a voice to match.
>> what a laugh nand what a man. he was 90 years old. in the coming hours, we'll have more on his legacy and global reaction to his death. stay with us. o dianne. i got the awesome new iphone 13 pro and airpods, and t-mobile is paying for them both! and this is for new and existing customers. upgrade to the iphone 13 pro and airpods both on us. only at t-mobile. hey! it's me! your dry skin! i'm craving something we're missing. the ceramides in cerave.
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5,000 on sunday for the first time in weeks. and china is fighting local outbreaks with strict quarantine rules, hoping to prevent a surge ahead of the winter olympics. for more, let's go to cnn's steven james who is live for us in beijing. let's start with the epicenter of the latest covid outbreak, where they've locked down a city of 13 million people. how are authorities tackling this, considering the country's covid zero strategy? >> reporter: that's right, anna. that's where we're seeing a rush of some of the most straingent matters. as you said, since last week, the authorities have placed the city's entire more than 12 million residents under a strict lockdown with very few exceptions that each household is allowed to send out one representative to grocery shopping every other day. even that has been suspended
according to the latest local news reports, because now they're doing another round of city wide testing. this is part of their by now familiar playbook, mass testing, mass quarantine and extensive contract testing. they have blamed this latest on a flight from pakistan, but there are still some unanswered questions in terms of this chain of transmission. that's a major source of concern, which is why we are seeing some of the rather over the top measures being adopted there, including the city now in the middle of a city wide disinfection campaign, with officials warning residents to close windows and doors and not to touch anything outside in terms of surfaces and plants. even though the effectiveness of this has been questioned by china's own experts and officials. as we draw closer and closer to the winter olympics here in
beijing in about a month and a half, nobody wants to take chances that. 's why these measures are being adopted in xi-an. anna, the biggest question for the entire country right now is whether or not people can travel home during the upcoming lunar new year holiday. local officials are already advising people to stay put. and that would be a very bitter pill for many to swallow. for many, that would mean for the third year in a row they couldn't go home to see their loved ones off during their only time off in the year. >> certainly a tough time. steven james, thank you. joining me now is karen griffin, an associate professor at the school of public health at the university of hong kong. doctor, great to have you with us. you are based here in hong kong,
which as we know has very strict, if not draconian quarantine measures. but due to these measures, you know, hong kong has managed to catch bo covider cases at the border. what are your thoughts about omicron getting into the community? >> things are heating up in hong kong in terms of the number of imported cases. every imported case is a risk in that it has the possibility of getting into the community. at the same time, we have some very rigorous border control measures in place here in hong kong and thus far have proven to be successful. i think the next couple of weeks are going to be critical in terms of whether we succeed or not, but the measures we have in place are amongst some of the most rigorous in the world and we hope they should be enough to keep cases out of the community. >> are you concerned about the vaccination rate here, which is
still shy of 70%? >> i'm very concerned about the vaccination rate here in hong kong. 70% doesn't sound that bad, but the distribution is quite depressing. less than 20% of those over the age of 80, meaning those that are the most critical, to be vaccinated haven't been vaccinated yet. so the case where they get into the community here in hong kong, it could -- it could spell disaster in terms of overloading up the hospitals, and the number of cases and mortality that we would experience. >> welt, the omicron variant, which is ripping through parts of the world, most of the world, is highly transmissible. but i guess the severity is questionable. the data out of scotland, england, south africa, that suggests it's less serious illness that comes from omicron compared to its predecessors. but the concern is will people
become complacent? >> yeah, i mean, i think there is an open question about how severe this is. the problem is, of course, today we're looking at the virus spreading in populations that have been exposed to the virus, that have seen high rates of vaccination. for here in hong kong, we have a lot of reasons to worry about this new strain of the virus. we don't have any previous exposure to any of the variants of the virus, and vaccination rates amongst the most vulnerable are low. so it's very dangerous to start saying this is going to be mild. it could be very severe in places like hong kong. >> countries in asia are delaying their border reopening, easing travel restrictions due to the development of omicron. singapore, japan, thailand and
new zealand just to name a few. how much longer do you think they will delay the reopenings and don't we have to learn to live with the virus? >> just a couple months ago, these same countries were saying they were going to start living with the virus and were starting to reopen their borders. of course, the new variants have come along. so it's given a lot of these places reason to pause. there's some value in that. it allows for count countries t prepare in what is likely to be a big surge. but it's probably inevitable that this virus will get into these communities, regardless of what types of measures they have. it's likely it's in most of these places that have opened up. so a question of how long it will delay it. probably a couple of weeks, but unlikely to be able to avoid it
all together. >> we know that china has gone from the zero covid policy, it's closed its borders and has closed its borders now for going on almost two years. we know this outbreak that's been reported in the province, locking down a city of 13 million people. given what we know about omicron, sit realistic to maintain this zero covid strategy? >> china has been incredibly successful over two years. they have developed a playbook that has allowed them to squash out anyized outbreaks. it's unclear how successful it will be, but i think there's still a possibility that the things they are putting into
place will get this under control. the longer term question is how long do they want to maintain the zero covid strategy is not clear, and it's an open question about how long any country could sustain this over the long run. >> great to get your insight and perspective from hong kong. many thanks. >> thank you. a district attorney in colorado wants a court to reconsider the 110-year prison sentence for a truck driver convicted in a fatal crash in 2019. the details ahead.
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a colorado court is set to hold a hearing in the coming hours as it's being asked to reconsider a lengthy prison sent tems for a truck driver convicted in a 2019 fatal crash. cnn has the details from los angeles. >> reporter: the district attorney is now asking the court to reconsider that lengthy 110-year prison sentence, potentially reducing it to 20 or 30 years. just to remind viewers, he was 23 years old at the time of the incident. he was driving at 85 miles an hour, his brakes failed. he was convicted of vehicular
homicide. the d.a. is not looking to overturn the condition. in fact, the d.a. said he made multiple choices that resulted in the deaths of people, but the shorter sentence reflects the appropriate sentence for that conduct. he ended up with more than 100 years sfwhinld bars. even the judge said, if i had the discretion, it would not be my sentence. several colorado lawmakers now calling for legal reforms. take a listen. >> our system here at this building has created a situation where a judge, at their own discretion, has had to issue a sentence when they didn't want to. this is all about reforms. we have to reform a system that is creating a situation where we are creating more victims of our justice system.
we have to do that now. >> reporter: moderos said he never intended to hurt anyone, the case parking international and national concern. nearly 5 million people signing a petition asking the governor to overturn the sentence, the office saying they are reviewing the clemency request. stay with cnn. we'll be right back. i lost 26 pounds and i feel incredible. with the new personalpoints program, i answer questions about my goals
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are you a christian author with a book that you're ready to share with the world? get published now, call for your free publisher kit today! at least 18 people are dead and dozens more hurt as heavy floods hit eastern brazil. officials say thousands have been displaced and left homeless in bahia state. rain is possible through tuesday, raising the threat of more flooding and landslides. well, the governor in bahia says he cannot remember seeing anything like those deadly floods, but brazil is not alone. 2021 was marked by natural disasters, extreme storms, and record heat. cnn's bill weir looks at the year's top weather events and the growing threat of climate change.
>> reporter: the signs were everywhere in '21, starting at the top of the world, where greenland's highest peak was so freakishly warm that it rained for several hours. they believe that this is the birthplace of the iceberg that sank the titanic. but now scientists are really worried this place could help sink miami and boston and bangkok and shanghai because just this part of greenland has enough ice that if it all melts, we'll raise sea levels by two feet. a new study predicts that the arctic will see more rain than snow as soon as 2060. and in the meantime, the ice sheets so vital to a planet in balance is melting at a staggering rate. at number nine, that icy surprise in texas, which
illustrated how the climate crisis can run hot and cold. with windchills below zero on the rio grande, nearly 10 million lost power. the february blast became america's costliest winter storm event ever. at number eight, flash floods on three continents. in germany and belgium, modern-day warning systems failed as a month of rain fell in one day. in china, commuters clung to the ceiling of a subway as a 1,000-year flood hit hee non-province. and back in the u.s., the deadliest flood in tennessee history came like a tidal wave. at number seven, the u.s. rejoins the paris climate accord hours after joe biden became president. but pledging to slash planet-cooking pollution by half this decade is one thing. convincing congress to take bold action is another. at number six, a code red for
humanity as scientists around the world issue their most dire warning to date. the u.n.'s intergovernmental panel on climate change says it is unequivocal that human activity has cranked up the global thermostat by over 2 degrees fahrenheit and that we are careening dangerously close to a point of no return. >> we meet with the eyes of history upon us. >> reporter: and those warnings made number five all the more urgent. cop-26 in glasgow, scotland. of the four main themes laid out by boris johnson, coal, cars, cash, and trees, it probably is going to be cash that provides the biggest challenge. for the first time in 26 meetings, the world's delegates agreed that fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis. but not a single country committed to stopping oil or coal production anytime soon. >> a monster named ida.
the hurricane is intensifying quickly and drawing chilling comparisons to katrina. >> reporter: hurricane ida comes in at number four. as 150-mile-per-hour winds screamed ashore in louisiana in early september. but that was just the beginning. ida's aftermath dropped a rain bomb on new york sudden enough to drown families in their basement apartments. and all told, the single storm cost over $60 billion. >> we are following breaking news this morning. a dangerous and deadly night across the central united states. a powerful line of storms unleashing at least 24 tornadoes across five states. >> reporter: at number three, tornadoes in winter. december usually brings the fewest twisters of any month, but record warmth in the heartland spun up funnel clouds from arkansas to ohio. and weeks later, the damage is
still being tallied. at number two, the pacific northwest heat dome, which pushed the mercury in famously mild portland well over 100 degrees for days, creating a mass casualty event of creatures great and small. over a billion shellfish baked to death on the shores of british columbia, and the little town of litton broke the canadian heat record three times in a week before most of it burned to the ground. and at number one, america's mega drought. your water can come from rivers, reservoirs, or from wells, all of which have been impacted by a 20-year mega drought fueled by the climate crisis. with 90% of the west starving for rain, the feds declared the first ever shortage of the colorado river, which is a s source of life for over 40 million americans. meantime smoke from western
wildfires reached the east coast this year. from one to ten, it is all connected. and without dramatic changes on a global scale, scientists warn us the worst is yet to come. bill weir, cnn, new york. thanks so much for watching. i'm anna coren live from hong kong. i'll be back with more news after this short break. please stay with us. to support a strong immune system your body needs a routine. centrum helps your immune defenses every day, with vitamin c, d and zinc* season after season. ace your immune support with centrum. now with a new look!
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live from hong kong, welcome to our viewers here, there in the united states, and around the world. i'm anna coren in hong kong. ahead on "cnn newsroom," the omicron surge causes chaos as countries around the world pose new restrictions. democrats in the u.s. work to salvage whatever they can of president biden's agenda as inflation skyrockets. and the legacy of desmond tutu resonates as the world remembers the iconic voice that helped end apartheid