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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  December 25, 2021 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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could bring it to 2,000 feet. inland areas, 40s. overnight in the 30s, it's cold, drive safe. merry christmas. >> thank you for watching. "nbc nightly news" is back. back at 6:00, hope you can join us then. on this christmas night, as millions gather across the country, omicron cases are soaring, forcing people to wait hours on testing lines >> how long have you been waiting >> three hours. >> some states smashing previous records for daily cases, putting a strain on hospitals and already burned out doctors for the second christmas in a row. >> we are still tting the same amount of covid patients the difference i then we had more staff. >> staffing shortages more than 1,000 canceled flights and growing concerns covid sickouts could impact other parts of daily life from public transportation to grocery stores
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plus, what you need to know about how to stay safe even after those holiday gatherings. also tonight, celebrations around the world. from the pope's mass to the queen's emotional address on her first christmas without prince philip. lift-off a $10 billion telescope launched into space the historic mission ahead and what it could reveal. the holiday movie season is here and how the tradition of going to the theater on christmas is changing. plus, the new blockbuster giving the industry hope. and the christmas choir brought together by hardship. ♪ >> now lifting up each other and those around them >> announcer: this is "nbc nightly news" with jose diaz-balart. >> good evening. i'm kristen welker in tonight for jose for a second year, americans are marking christmas with covid casting a shadow while many families are able to be together this
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year with the help of vaccines, the omicron variant has upended plans from coast to coast. the u.s. now surpassing 52 million infections since the start of the pandemic, prompting long lines for testing across several states, including new york and florida, which saw their highest daily case count since the pandemic began medical workers are pleading with people to get vaccinated desperate to ease the strain on the healthcare system. sam brock starts our coverage tonight >> reporter: covid's dominating grip on american life has darkened another christmas. the united states surpassing 52 million infections since the start of the pandemic. new york and florida both smashing their single day highs this week with los angeles county alone nearly notching 10,000 cases in a day one california hospital treating patients in hallways and parking lots again. >> we are here i the triage tent in the parking lot at saint mary medical center due to the covid surge
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ingoong right now. >> reporter: an insatiable deman for tests has driven up the eye-popping numbers. log jams have crescendoed during the holidays in miami on christmas day the flow in and out of this vaccination site is being monitored by police with lines of cars spill out on to the main road going down several miles until finally ending here all of these people desperate for a test what time this morning did you get here >> 8:00 in the morning. >> just to make sure i don't have anything to give my family. >> reporter: a sobering indication this latest wave is not just a milder version of past surges this is the penn state icu a year after the arrival of vaccines. >> right now it's very stressful. the hospitals are full a lot of the very sick ones are the unvaccinated population >> reporter: at umass memorial there are 14 beds in the icu, 12 of them covid patients, some of whom require proning. >> takes six or seven of us nurses and
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staff, pcas, respiratory therapists to flip them on to their stomach so they can get better ventilation and breathe better. >> reporter: a country hoping to move on from covid, throw around 15% of he will eligible adults refusing to be vaccinated. >> i can't believe that i didn't get the shot, and i will be getting one because i don't want to do this again. >> and sam joins us now from miami so, sam, what does the hospital picture look like across the country? >> reporter: kristen, roughly half of all states are in a high stress situation which is to say 10% or more of the available hospital beds are being dedicated to covid patients is true in the northeast. it's true in the midwest. but not here in florida even though we have seen an 800% increase in cases in two weeks. kristen. >> the numbers are just staggering. sam brock, thank you. this weekend thousands of flights were canceled due in part to the rapid spread of the omicron variant leaving many scrambling, but it's not just airlines
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being impacted by the soaring number of new cases. kathy park has more. >> reporter: holiday travel plans dashed. with nearly 1,000 flights canceled on christmas day, delta, united and alaska airlines citing in part omicron spread through staff and crew, sending travelers scrambling >> i came in for christmas and got stuck here. >> reporter: the christmas chaos could be the beginning of what's to come as omicron takes hold growing worries over our healthcare system. >> we're seeing anywhere from 5% to as high as 15 to 20% of staff who have tested positive or have symptoms that are consistent with covid realize it affects the people delivering medications, supplies to cancer patients that need treatment. we are seeing this all across the line. >> reporter: as staffing shortfalls worsen, the cdc has trimmed the recommended isolation period for health care workers who test positive for covid and are asymptomatic from ten days to seven.
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new york state also modifying its own policy for essential workers, cutting the isolation time to five days >> health care, transportation, grocery stores, all the things that we have identified are important, that they can get back to work as soon as it is safe to do so. >> reporter: experts pointing to more changes to come begin the need for everything from bus drivers to supermarket cashiers. >> i think many states and many employers will follow suit simply because of staffing. >> reporter: tonight rising cases temporarily dimming lights on broadway, where breakthrough cases are blamed for canceled performances. "the music man" the latest to go dark, but not before the show's star, hugh jackman, took a moment to praise swing actors and understudies for stepping up during extraordinary times. >> for all of these people here, the swings, and it humbles me, the courage, the brilliance, the dedication, the talent, the swings, the understudies, they are the bedrock of broadway [ cheers and applause ].
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>> a moment that really resonated there. kathy park joins us now. what does the future of broadway look like? broadway league sayshe that they are still following strict covid protocols. even though covid cases are disrupting shows, they don't plan on shutting down broadway again. >> all right kathy park, thank you. there are still big questions about omicron and what families should do once their holiday get-togethers are over i spoke with dr. paul offit about that and began by asking him if and when people should take tests after their family gatherings. >> if you know that you are exposed to somebody who was symptomatically infected with covid, it's reasonable to take a test. frankly, within a few days of being exposed. if you are symptomatic with cough and cold
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symptoms, even though that could be influenza or many of the other respiratory viruses that circulate in the winter, it would be reasonable to get a test. >> looking forward, we've still got new year's so what are your recommendations for gathering safely >> if you want to completely avoid this virus, don't leave the house. assuming you are going to leave the house you have to do everything you can to mitigate risk if you are going to be in a room with people who aren't vaccinated, wear a mask. or if you are going to be in a room with people you don't know whether they are vaccinated, wear a mask. >> what do you think people should do to help stop the spread of omicron with so many people travel and many mixing households >> get vaccinated. it's simple, really. i mean, look at countries like israel which have a 91% population vaccination rate they have dramatically slowed the spread of this virus there is a ticket out of this. people are tired of talking about this
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pandemic i am tired of talking about this pandemic. here is a way to stop talking about it just get vaccinated. >> let's talk about another big issue on the minds of parents every day. hundreds of children are being admitted to hospitals with severe covid. what is the best way to protect our children >> i was on service a couple weeks ago we certainly saw a flood of patients come into the hospital with covid. all of them had one thing in common. none of them were vaccinated none of their parents were vaccinated. a handful this to go to the intensive care unit when you watch the children struggling to breathe, you watch us have to sedate them, put a tube down into their windpipe, connected to a ventilator, you are watching the parents cry, this is all avoidable by vaccination. >> our thanks to dr. offit for that important information. now we want to turn to christmas celebrations around the world. many of which were changed in recent days tonight molly hunter takes a look at how different countries are marking the holiday. >> reporter: tonight so many across the world are celebrating christmas just a little differently donning masks, filling pews like normal but
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this yea in smaller numbers in the uk the queen giving her annual christmas message, her first since losing her husband prince philip. >> christmas can be hard for those who have lost loved ones this year especially i understand why. >> reporter: like so many of us, the queen also changed her plans, spending the day with prince charles and camilla at windsor castle and the biblical city of bethlehem keeping the christmas spirit alive even without tourists for the second year in a row in italy, the pope speaking today from the central balcony of st. peter's basilica with thousands, but far less than usual, of faithful. he spoke about the importance of staying connected during the pandemic italy ha canceled all new year's celebrations and as omicron cases spike new restrictions are coming in across
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europe, shuttering bars and restaurants, limits on social gatherings, and the netherlands even in a full lockdown. back home in the u.s., the president and first lady meeting virtually with american service members stationed around the world. >> thank you, thank you, thank you it's a poor substitute for what you are missing. we are grateful for your courage, your sacrifice. >> reporter: sacrifice is what so many are feeling tonight. >> as the carol says, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in need tonight. i wish you all a very happy christmas. >> reporter: molly hunter, nbc news, london well, this morning a wonder to behold the world's largest and most powerful telescope blasted off into space set to discover more about the early days of the universe and the untold secrets of how it all began here's guad venegas. >> lift-off from a tropical rainforest to the edge of time itself, james webb begins a voyage back to the birth of the universe.
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>> reporter: a christmas launch from south america. the new $10 billion james webb space telescope, its ultimate holiday light display. moments later, real time images with the telescope making its way into deep space. >> now taking its first steps in pursuit of cosmological discovery. >> reporter: it begins a two-week process to deploy the antennas, mirrors and sun shield. >> james webb has its array out. >> reporter: it is 100 times more powerful than the hubble telescope before it, and will orbit the sun nearly a million miles away from earth. scientists will get deeper look into the universe capturing light so far that the lens will show images of what happened 13 billion years into the past, maybe even from the beginning of the universe >> we are going to discover incredible things that we never imagined >> reporter: the new seven ton telescope
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will also expand the search for earth-like planets with elements that make life possible thousands of people from 14 countries worked on the project for more than two decades and it will be another six months before it is fully operational. but today celebrations after a successful launch. >> we have delivered a christmas gift today to humanity. >> reporter: a gift of knowledge, perhaps unwrapping unimaginable secrets from across time and space. guad venegas, nbc news, planet earth >> truly a christmas gift. up next, hollywood's holiday tradition with covid cases on the rise, what theaters are doing to get more people in seats. plus, how first responders are shining a light of hope for children in the hospital
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the holiday movie season is here and the new spider-man film is on pace to be the only one this year to gross $1 billion at the box office it's creating new hope for movie theaters steve patterson reports from los angeles. >> reporter: just like how it happens on screen, the movie theater business needed a hero to swoop in when all seemed lost theater operators hope the holiday swing may have saved the day. >> this could be the savior of the industry and mark a really important turning point in this road to
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recovery for that big screen experience around the world it's a big deal. >> reporter: the industry needed this 88% of theaters are now open and operating compared to pre-pandemic levels. in an era of covid fears and widespread lockdowns, audiences traded crowded theaters for the couch. back in 2020 covid plummeted the box office to about 2 billion. the year before 11 billion. this year back up to 4 billion and theater operators are hopeful that's a promising sign of some return to normalcy but the pandemic also pushed a new thing to the forefront. streaming. facing incredible losses, studios made blockbusters like the matrix resurrection available to watch day in date at home alongside the theater. the ceo of the second largest theater chain. >> the premier of the big movie into be should be in the sin malls. >> reporter: the release window before it hits digital is now even shorter. >> these can work out.
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the day in date releases are not good for the industry. >> reporter: theater operators are doing everything they can to get moviegoers back to the cinema they have to do a lot more than the standard bag of popcorn big chains say the cinemas is beyond just catching a flick with many offering gourmet meals, alcohol and 4d experiences. >> we compete with restaurants, sports events, everything which is happening out of the house visiting the cinema is still the most affordable entertainment you can get. >> reporter: for now, the holidays may have been the hero the big screen needed, but in the long run theaters will have to save themselves. >> sorry, kid. >> reporter: steve patterson, nbc news, hollywood. coming up, the gift of light. how one holiday tradition has become a beacon of hope for sick children.
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we're back with a touching moment from mayfield, kentucky devastated a few weeks ago by that deadly tornado outbreak, in an empty lot between two destroyed churches two congregations came together for a to joint chief service last night surrounded by rubble, vowing to rebuild. now to a holiday tradition that's lighting up the night and lifting the spirits of children spending christmas in one new york hospital. joe fryer has more. >> reporter: the
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sirens that blared through westchester county, new york, felt more like music. welcome soundtrack to do accompany the stream of first responders who illuminated maria frieri children's hospital, brightening the holidays for young patients like this 6-year-old. >> what did you think of that parade >> loved it. >> reporter: tell me, when you were out there watching the parade, what did you do >> i was dancing >> reporter: really, she was dancing. we've got the video. what kind of dancing were you doing >> chicken dance >> reporter: she has been in the hospital for 11 months now ever since she was diagnosed with a rare disorder called aplastic anemia. >> there are moments that i just cry myself because it's been so hard on us, but today we're very grateful. >> reporter: they are grateful for this holiday tradition called good night lights a luminous parade featuring police, fire and ems agencies from
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around the area. >> after 11 months of ups and downs, it was the best thing i could see. >> reporter: even kids who can't make it outside can still join in the fun. >> certainly brightens spirits. it's something to make their hospital stay a little bit more memorable. in a good way. >> reporter: a precious present you can't wrap. >> thank you for coming and making may day. >> reporter: the gift of light joe fryer, nbc news. >> those smiles truly say it all. up next, holiday music with a mission the choir raising up more than just their voices
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there is good news this christmas about the spirit of the season and how one choir is lifting up not just the audience, but each other ♪ chestnuts roastin ♪ on an open fire ♪ >> a night filled with hope and holiday cheer. ♪ rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose ♪ >> reporter: san diego's voices of our city choir performing songs of the season. >> we love you >> reporter: the group filled with loca musicians who have struggled with homelessness, finding
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connection and support with others who have walked similar paths ♪ although it's been said many times many ways ♪ ♪ merry christmas to you ♪ >> reporter: among them, olivia feagles. >> voices of our city choir saved my life. >> reporter: she says a lifeline. >> they dragged thee from the street and put me in a hotel and hooked me up with the interfaith shelter network. ♪ >> reporter: jazz vocalist seth johnson co-founded the non-profit in 2016 to help those struggling with homelessness. >> they are hit with a wall of love when they come in and they are treated with respect and dignity. we want to know their names. ♪ >> reporter: the group even getting the
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coveted golden buzzer on "america's got talent." and while the pandemic forced them to pivot -- ♪ i want to wish you merry christmas from the bottom of my heart ♪ >> reporter: they are back for their first in-person performance, even inviting the audience to join in. anthony says the choir helped him get back on his feet. >> we are all family we love each other as time goes by, we are closer and closer ♪ >> reporter: a grou of people brought together by hardship now coming together to raise their voices -- ♪ walking in a winter wonderland ♪ >> reporter: lifting up the world around them this christmas. >> i hope people feel healed by the music because we feel healed by the music i think that's where we have to start it's all of us together ♪ walking in a winter wonderland ♪ ♪ walking in a winter
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wonderland ♪ [ cheers and applause ]. >> encore. we hope to hear a lot more from them in the new year. that is "nbc nightly news" for this saturday peter alexander will be here tomorrow for all of us here at nbc news, have a safe and happy holiday. good night right now at 6:00, it just keeps coming down. rainy day across the bay area. look how much we've gotten, how much more we're going to get. not just here, causing problems
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in the mountains. what you need to know if you're planning a trip to the snow. despite the omicron and weather cancellations they finally got home for the holidays on this christmas day. good evening, everyone. thanks for joining us. merry christmas to all. it's been a wet and soggy christmas day. live look across the bay area from network of traffic cameras, wherever you look, wet roads. rain coming down on and off causing downed trees, clogged drains and mud slides. get to meteorologist vianey arana with look at what is still to come. >> small hail and reports of lightning and thunderstorms and not in the clear. live look in san francisco. 48 degrees, even though it is a cold christmas and rainy day, hope it's been cozy at home. satellite radar, plenty


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