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CDC to Require COVID-19 Test for U.K. Passengers; Stimulus Checks in Limbo as Trump Demands Changes to Bill
by Alisyn Camerota and John Berman
 Published on Monday December 28, 2020 - 4:39 AM
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Shoppers walk through Macys department store in New York on Black Friday, Nov. 27. Furniture and home improvement items were big sellers this holiday season, helping give retail sales a 3% boost during this year's expanded holiday shopping season, according to a report by Mastercard (MA) SpendingPulse.  KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images
NEW DAY

CDC to Require COVID-19 Test for U.K. Passengers; Stimulus Checks in Limbo as Trump Demands Changes to Bill; Keeping Hope Alive This Holiday Season. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 25, 2020 - 06:00 ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

[06:00:56]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning everyone.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special holiday edition of NEW DAY. Merry Christmas, everyone.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Merry Christmas to you.

CAMEROTA: And you, as well.

BERMAN: This is a pretty unusual Christmas, we hope you are having a lovely morning at home alone with your insular family. This Christmas is different, but when and how can you expect to get together and celebrate with family again? We'll talk about that in a little bit.

CAMEROTA: We will also celebrate some of the heroes of this pandemic, who have done so much to help and inspire others. So all of that and more ahead, but first, let's get a check of your headlines at the news desk.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning.

Let's start with some breaking news overnight. The CDC announcing it will require all passengers from the United Kingdom to prove they've tested negative for coronavirus before they can fly to the United States.

The order is a response to the new COVID variant that appears to have originated in the U.K.

Let's go live to London and bring in CNN's Salma Abdelaziz. Good morning, Salma.

So what's the reaction you're getting from the U.K. about this new requirement?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's just go through the details of what needs to happen first. So you have up to 72 hours in which you need to get that negative coronavirus test before you depart. It's up to the airliners. They have the responsibility to check and make sure you have that negative coronavirus test.

If you do not have a negative test, you will be denied entry on to the plane. But in a way, the United States is sort of late to the party here.

There's over 40 countries that have already put in restrictions. This new variant that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced -- was announced last weekend when everybody was traveling for Christmas, so you can only imagine that there are thousands of people who had already traveled to the United States before Christmas after this variant was announced.

What is the variant? Well, according to the prime minister, it is up to 70 percent more transmissible. It is not more dangerous. It is not more immune to the vaccine, although there is some evidence that it might be more difficult to vaccinate against it, but this is terrible news for the U.K. and I'll tell you why.

Just yesterday a Brexit deal was announced that means the U.K. is officially leaving the E.U. in one week's time, and it needs to have trade deals. It needs to have business with very important partners like the United States and, of course, something like this will make that very, very difficult.

And getting a test here is not easy. This is another thing I want to tell you. Yes, mass testing is being rolled out across the country, but, for example, here in London if I wanted to get a coronavirus test through the national health service, our public health service, I'd have to have symptoms or pay $200 to get a private test, Alisyn.

KOSIK: It's certainly not a perfect situation. Salma Abdelaziz, thanks very much.

Also making news on this Christmas morning, some very nasty weather. A storm on the East Coast bringing heavy rain to the northeast. Let's get to meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, not just bringing rain but some heavy, heavy winds that woke me up at 1 in the morning.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Heavy wind, heavy rain and then cold air behind it. It's 60 in New York City right now. It's 19 in Pittsburgh. And that air is headed toward the east, for sure.

Heavy, heavy rainfall on top of places that already saw between 30 and 40 inches of snow. So guess what that's doing? That's melting the snow. That's creating flash flooding. Look at the windchill right now in Chicago. Three below zero, Indianapolis 5 below zero. So that cold air is coming in.

If you are traveling in this area today, especially this morning, check some type of highway traffic app, because a lot of roads are shut down this morning.

Even the flash flooding here, floods -- roads are covered in water, all the way from Binghamton back down even to Luzerne and, for that matter, down even into parts of Virginia and West Virginia.

Now, the storm goes by. By 11 a.m. it's completely out of here. But with the temperatures going down so quickly, we could see flash freezing on the roadways, which a lot of ice after dark tonight across those roadways.

Temperatures are mild across the south. I would like a warmer than 35 Christmas day, but it did snow slightly, slightly, in Atlanta yesterday. So the kids were thrilled to look at it, Alison.

[06:05:07]

KOSIK: A white Christmas, a little bit. Chad Myers, thanks very much.

Stimulus checks for millions of American -- American workers still in limbo this morning. The relief bill that President Trump has so far refused to sign has been flown to Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf club in Florida, where the president is spending the holiday.

More than 12 million laid-off Americans could lose their jobless benefits as early as tomorrow.

Joining us now is Ron Brownstein. He's a senior political -- CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic."

Thanks for getting up early on this Christmas morning. Happy holidays to you.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Happy holidays.

KOSIK: So let's walk through the impact of this. If this bill doesn't get signed by the president, what kind of impact will this have on Americans? Wat will it have on the U.S. economy?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, as I understand it, if he doesn't sign it by tomorrow, at the least, unemployment benefits will be disrupted. The extended unemployment benefits will be disrupted for next week.

You have the operation of the government. You have the eviction moratorium. Obviously, you have the extended unemployment benefits, the new benefits for -- the renewed benefits for -- for small business and the paycheck protection.

So, I mean, there's just an enormous economic impact, an enormous impact on human need and, just frankly, Alison, an enormous level of chaos that the president is continuing to introduce into the system at a point when Americans need some sense -- many as we've seen in the coverage. Millions of people are literally at the end of their rope and need to know that there is a pathway forward, and he is producing uncertainty instead of that -- instead of that pathway.

KOSIK: Can you go through some of the motivations? What is motivating him to do this? Does he understand what he's doing, or is he just kind of giving the big middle finger up not just to Republicans but to the American public, as well? BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, I think by now it's pretty clear what

motivates the president on every front, which is what he perceives as his own political interest and, you know, no one knows for sure where this objection -- where these objections have come from, since he remained disengaged from a process that has been going on pretty much almost -- you know, for the last six months or so as Republicans and Democrats -- Republicans have resisted the Democratic effort to have a bigger, broader package.

So he's had innumerable opportunities to weigh in and I think, as a result, the fact that he's doing this now is seen largely as a temper tantrum, a peek at the Republicans who have had the temerity to finally acknowledge six, seven weeks after the fact that he lost the election.

KOSIK: Is there anybody who's in his ear at this point who can try to talk some sense into him, or is everybody just gone at this point?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, you know, pretty much in the organized Republican Party wants to talk some sense into him, particularly because they realize how damaging this is in the two January special elections in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.

But whether he is listening to anyone, I mean, all the indications are that Mitch McConnell isn't even trying.

You know, when you take this and you add it to what we have seen since the election, the sustained effort to undermine the outcome of the election. And then you throw in the pardons to cronies, just transparently corrupt pardoning of people who refused to cooperate in an investigation in which he was personally implicated. And then you add to it, yet still his pressure on the Justice Department to appoint special prosecutors to target his political opponents, to target the incoming administration, I mean, you add all of that up.

And this is the kind of thing you see in a third -- in a tin-pot dictatorship, really, in the final days of a strong man who is about to fall, you know, whether it's Somoza or Ceausescu or Noriega in Panama. This is what happens when the walls close in. You get an angry, vengeful, erratic leader who's lashing out in all directions and really making a mockery of the rule of law and the American -- really, the mainstream of the American political tradition.

KOSIK: Ron, walk me through now what you think -- how you think this relief bill is going to play out. Will the president veto it and give Congress a chance to override it or will he sit on it, ultimately letting it die before the new congressional session is in play on January 3?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I -- you know, I think anybody at this point who is going to wager on what the president is going to do, it's very -- you know, it's a very hard bet to place.

In the end, it still seems more likely than not that he signs it, only because the alternatives are almost unimaginable. I mean, letting it completely lapse right before the Georgia special election, in particular, would be an unbelievable act of kind of self-immolation within the Republican Party.

And renegotiating a new deal between now and the end of this Congress after it has taken so long to get to this point also seems very improbable.

As I said, he had -- he has had opportunities all year to weigh in if he genuinely had substantive concerns and, you know, he's complaining about spending that is literally replicated from his own budget.

So you kind of -- you kind of back yourself into it, you say, well, I think most Republicans still believe that, in the end, he will sign this bill, because not doing so is so catastrophic.

[06:10:22]

But the president doing things that are catastrophic, the president breaking windows, you know, started that way. It would not be shocking if he goes out that way, despite the enormous human need and really tragedy that it would trigger.

KOSIK: Absolutely. All right. Ron Brownstein, thanks for coming on the show today on Christmas. Merry Christmas to you.

BROWNSTEIN: Merry Christmas. I think I'm up early enough that I still have a shot at seeing reindeer, so thanks.

KOSIK: Got it.

All right. A message of hope this holiday season from a rabbi and a pastor who spent the past year guiding their faithful through adversity. A dose of inspiration, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: 2020 has been a difficult year for so many Americans. Of course, with the coronavirus pandemic, a terrible unemployment crisis and so much uncertainty about what lies ahead.

So how can people keep hope alive? Well, joining us are two people who know. They are two faith leaders with shared experiences of tragedy at their places of worship.

We have Pastor Eric Manning of the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Gentlemen, merry Christmas. It's great to see both of you.

RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE, PITTSBURGH: Pleasure to be here.

PASTOR ERIC MANNING, MOTHER EMANUEL CHURCH, CHARLESTON, S.C.: Merry Christmas.

CAMEROTA: Rabbi Meyer, I just want to start with you, because obviously, we were together, I remember so well the tragedy, the mass shooting that happened there at the Tree of Life Synagogue. And so you already we're dealing the aftermath of tragedy and now this year, of course, with the pandemic and coronavirus.

So how are you? How is the Tree of Life doing?

MYERS: Well, thank you for asking. It's a pleasure to be here today. For some, it's been very difficult, to be frank. They were retraumatized.

Not only were we initially, shall we say, kicked out of our house of worship, but with the pandemic, the closure of the synagogue, that's been so kind to host us. So we've been displaced twice. So that's added strain to a lot of people.

[06:15:00]

But it's also caused people to think about what really matters and what are the really important things. And when you get down and dig deep, you recognize the things that matter most and that buildings are less important than people.

BERMAN: And, Pastor, I actually want to follow up with you on that very subject, because this has been such an unusual year. And I'm using that word euphemistically because it's the holidays and I don't want to say something worse. It's been an unusual year.

So, Pastor, what have you learned about coming together as a community when you can't physically be together?

MANNING: Yes, John, that's a great question. I think realistically, what we have learned is, as rabbi was already said, that it's not necessarily the building. I know we were always so used to coming together and sharing from a physical perspective.

But now, we have to learn how to do that, albeit virtually. And it has been challenging, but at least, we know that we will get through this together and that we will be able to share with one another again.

CAMEROTA: Rabbi, when so many people are struggling all around the country because of unemployment, because of coronavirus, sickness, just everything. I mean, what do you say to people who, you know, their faith is really challenged right now?

MYERS: Wonderful question. I think that the first things for people to understand, they are not alone. They're not alone in their suffering, but they're also not alone in that they're going to be ignored, that at least for my congregation, there's a community of people who care, who telephone, who reach out in any way possible, no matter your skill sets to say, you're not alone. We're struggling.

Let's struggle together. Let's figure out how can we make this work with the challenges and restrictions that we do have? And I think just to remind people of their humanity and their responsibilities as citizens to each other, I think, can be comforting to many.

BERMAN: So Pastor, I've been saying for some time that what we've seen with this vaccine or the vaccines, it's a miracle. And to use that word in this season is doubly meaningful, I think, and it strikes me as an interesting question, which is, how do you talk about the combination of science and faith in this season?

MANNING: And, John, that's a great question. Actually, I dealt with this this past week from a sermon perspective. We consider it to be a miracle, because we believe that God has given the scientists the knowledge and the wisdom, the fortitude, the resilience, the determination to be able to bring about this vaccine, and from a historical perspective, very quickly.

I know it seems as if -- as if it has been a while, and it has, but historically speaking, the vaccine has come quickly. So we would attribute that, yes, to the almighty being in the midst of yet again bringing all of us through this pandemic together.

CAMEROTA: Rabbi, do you have many people in your community who have gotten sick with coronavirus? And part of why I ask is because this, in particular, is such an isolating time and an isolating virus. You can't interact with other people. And so what have you done for the community in that case?

MYERS: Yes, I would see that our numbers are relatively comparable to the average around the country, although here in Pittsburgh it's a bit more isolated, because it's a large geographic area.

But once you get outside of our grid or area, it's a lot more rural, so there is less human interaction and connection with the greater world in that regard.

Insofar as people and challenges, I can say in our congregation we immediately identified those who were technologically challenged and made sure that regular phone calls were made to those people who could not, say, tune into a virtual service, because they don't have the skill sets to be able to do that.

I've got congregants who have use their cell phones and call other congregants during Friday evening worship and just keep the phone on and put it into the speakers of their computers so people can hear the service, because they just don't understand or just can't figure out how to get it together.

Nor is it safe for us to just enter their homes and help get everything working right for them. So we're just doing all that we can to regularly connect with people. I think that's our responsibility as a faith community to each other to find out what are people's needs, how can we meet them.

[06:20:13]

Quite frankly, that's a year-long thing every year. That doesn't change because of COVID. It should be the way that faith communities work with each other regularly. And we're trying to just extend those challenges into the COVID community itself.

BERMAN: Part of your job description, it's just more complicated to do that job this year. And it's been amazing watching you all figure out how to do it.

This is the season of hope, right, pastor? And one of the biggest hopes we have right now is for the vaccine, which people have started receiving.

We also know that one group where there is more vaccine hesitancy, where there is more distrust for -- for obvious reasons over the decades, is among the African-American community. So I'm wondering how you plan to address this over the coming months about how much of an obstacle you think this is.

MANNING: Well, again, John, it's a great question. And it is, of course, reality. It is a reality based on historical facts that has taken place.

And I think the thing that I have shared with the -- from the community here in Charleston is I volunteered to be one of the first, if they would have me, to receive the vaccine. I believe by setting a precedent and by setting an example and showing an example, that it would hopefully ease the -- the reluctancy that several may have within our community.

And I think when we do that, then that would hopefully, like I said, inspire others to receive this vaccine, so that way we can get back to a degree of normalcy.

CAMEROTA: Rabbi, more than 300,000 Americans have died in the past year because of COVID, and so that's hard every day. But obviously, it's very hard around the holidays to have an empty seat, and what solace do you say to people who are grieving?

MYERS: You're not alone. We are here for you. We understand. How can we help take away a little bit of the pain that you feel?

The incredible thing about technology is the fact that we can gather in ways that we probably could not have during holidays. It's not likely that a vast family scattered around the country might be together pre-pandemic.

So this is an opportunity now for everyone to be together to help ease that loneliness just by seeing the faces of other loved ones in a way that we probably would not. And that's just one way that technology can be a blessing.

BERMAN: You are not alone, and I think it's such a wonderful message. And I know both of you have helped deliver that message always -- always through all the tragedies and especially this last year, as well.

Thanks so much for being with us. Merry Christmas, happy holidays to both of you.

MANNING: Merry Christmas.

MYERS: And to you both, as well. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. They always make us feel better.

OK. It's a holiday season truly unlike any other, with many Americans apart from their family and their friends. So we discuss safety and how you can stay safe during the holidays, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:27:29]

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome back to this special holiday edition of NEW DAY. Merry Christmas, everyone.

It's so great to be with all of you. It's terrific to be here with you.

CAMEROTA: You, too.

We hope that you're as warm and cozy as we are by this wonderful toasty fire that we have.

BERMAN: We're very cozy. Very cozy.

CAMEROTA: We're very hot.

BERMAN: Very hot, and it's not just the fire.

Look, this is a very different Christmas this year. Hopefully, you've all paid attention to the scientists who said not to gather in large groups for this holiday season, but let's look into the future. And this hour, we're going to talk about how and when you will be able to get together with the family you're just being with virtually this morning.

CAMEROTA: OK. Also how frontline heroes have risked their lives to help others and have inspired hope all over the world, but first, let's get a check of your headlines at the news desk.

KOSIK: Good morning, everyone. I'm Alison Kosik.

Breaking overnight, the CDC announcing all air travelers from the U.K. to the United States must present a negative COVID-19 test before they're allowed to board.

The measure is set to take effect on Monday. The negative test must be less than 72 hours old, and documentation is required. Passengers will not be allowed on flights if they refuse a test or do not provide documentation.

The order is in response to a new coronavirus variant that is said to have originated in the U.K. and is potentially more transmissible.

Dr. Anthony Fauci now estimates 70 to 85 percent of the U.S. population needs to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large enough portion of the population becomes immune to a disease. Dr. Fauci previously estimated that 70 to 75 percent of the population

would need to be vaccinated. He says he revised his estimate after considering that about a 90 percent vaccination rate is needed to control the spread of measles.

The $900 billion stimulus package has been flown to Florida, where President Trump is staying at his Mar-a-Lago resort for Christmas. Although it's unclear whether it's going to sign it.

Meantime, as the fate of the relief bill hangs in limbo, more than 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits after this weekend. Back rent will be due January 1 for millions of tenants, and states could lose unspent funds from the $150 billion that Congress provided earlier this year.

Officials say a wildfire near a military base 50 miles north of San Diego scorched more than 4,000 acres as the Santa Ana winds brought dangerously gusty and dry conditions to Southern California.

The Creek Fire broke out late Christmas Eve, next to the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base.

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