tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC January 2, 2021 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
and uses the ashes in the garden. so nothing goes to waste. there you go. >> perfect recycling plan. yeah. thanks for watching. "nightly news" is next. >> see you back here at 6:00. have a good night. tonight the deadliest month yet from the coronavirus and the fear it will only get worse with millions traveling home this weekend. the packed parties broken up by police over new year's. icus at a breaking point. >> we're stretched so thin it's pretty unimaginable >> one city asking for this hospital ship to come back. long les to get vaccinated older americans waiting overnight. >> i asked the cop what's going on. he said we're clearing you all out, they ran out. >> cars stretching for miles. phone lines jammed and a state that just opened up vaccinations to the general public today. stunning numbers this flu season. influenza rates down
an incredible 98%. the common cold also way down will it last a dozen republican senators now joined in a last-ditch effort to overturn the election results. as another effort gets thrown out by a trump-appointed judge. double hit the snowstorm snarling highways and the second storm coming right behind it. mystery at sea a boat carrying 20 people from the bahamas vanishes and the amazing moment this surfer sprinted across the beach into the water to save a swimmer from being swept away >> announcer: this is nbc "nightly news" with jose diaz-balart. good evening, and happy new year the start of a year is often filled with hope, but for many public health officials it's filled with dread more than 77,000 people died in the united states in the month of december, more than october and november combined. and there is a new prediction tonight
that january will be far worse. the vaccine rollout that should ultimately stop the surge is moving desperately slow these are the long lines in the few states that are offering them to the general public we have every angle covered tonight, beginning with steve patterson in los angeles. >> reporter: tonight on the eve of one of the nation's busiest travel days health officials worry americans returning from a winter holiday could spark a new surge, with hospital workers already at a breaking point >> i've never seen a health care system pushed to the level that we're at. >> reporter: more than 77,000 americans died of covid in december alone, the deadliest month so far across the country field hospitals are now being put into place to help with the surge. as some researchers project 115,000 could die this month >> what people need to understand, that some 15% of people who get covid will end up in the hospital and half of those people will
probably die >> reporter: despite the desperate warnings large gatherings across the country were spotted ringing in the new year. including a party at mar-a-lago attended by donald trump jr. and several parties in new york and hard-hit los angeles busted by law enforcement. >> the risk that you take will result, will result in death of somebody else in your community. >> reporter: on top of a new record daily case count in florida the sunshine state is now the third to report a new more contagious covid variant, joining colorado and california in los angeles county the nation's epicenter where one person dies from the virus every ten minutes the army corps of engineers is being called in to help upgrade older county hospitals having problems delivering vital high flow oxygen to patients desperate for every breath >> they can't maintain the oxygen pressure in the hospital because there's so many patients on high flow o2 >> reporter: one county official
calling on governor gavin newsom to bring back the "usns mercy." the hospital ship originally provided emergency care to non-covid patients in the spring to help with the demand. as health officials say they need all the help they can get, with icu capacity at 0% for weeks and hospitals now too overloaded to treat everyone >> we're really bad. we're overwhelmed. we're stressed we're stretched so thin it's pretty unimaginable >> and steve joins us now from l.a.x steve, this is a big travel weekend >> reporter: absolutely, jose aaa projects 85 million americans will have traveled this holiday season health officials say that may lead to another surge but we simply won't know for another two to three weeks because it takes time for symptoms to show jose >> steve patterson in los angeles, thank you. another state began vaccinating the general public today, and there were issues there as well. across the country
those desperate to get the covid vaccine are finding chaos. long lines and short supplies sam brock reports from broward county, florida. >> reporter: in a country overwhelmed by covid, sweeping vaccine demand has spawned massive logjams like this one. houston unveiling its first vaccine clinic today. hours later call centers were swamped >> i counted on my phone over 400 calls that i tried to get through and never got through. >> he's got issues and we need to be in this line >> reporter: spanning from texas to florida seniors waiting in line for hours >> there was people in front of me in their late 80s and they could hardly walk and they were sitting out there that whole time too. >> reporter: and in tennessee the police actually had to turn people away. >> some of us are getting in the car and pulling along the curb and just sitting in the car to try to stay warm and not get tired. >> reporter: yet despite the desperation the national figures for
vaccinations are stunningly short of expectations the federal government promised 20 million immunized by year's end. but a cdc dashboard shows more than 14 million doses distributed and fewer than 3 million vaccinations a reality utah senator mitt romney calls inexcusable. >> we have people who will die needlessly if we're not able to get vaccines out as quickly as humanly possible and we're just not seeing that. >> reporter: amidst the frustration -- >> yay [ applause ] >> reporter: -- feelings of joy too as dr. kiesha raphael of memorial health care system in florida becomes one of the first frontline workers in the country to get her second dose is there anything you would want to say to the general public just about this process? >> i think having apprehension is normal but the main thing we need to do is come together as a nation to get rid of this virus. and the way we do that is to do it through the vaccination. >> reporter: an hour later dr. randy katz also joined the rare group of doctors and nurses with two doses. as many americans and even health care
workers show hesitance. the riverside county public health director in california saying half of frontline workers there have refused the vaccine. >> it's extremely important that we get out there and set an example and show people that this is a safe vaccine and the virus is a deadly virus. i've seen what it can do to patients and people >> sam, we saw those long lines in florida. are they doing anything to meet the demand >> reporter: jose, they're trying to keep up where i am in broward county there are several sites coming online starting tomorrow specifically for people who are 65 and older that includes the park behind me. 500 folks will get vaccinated here. but it's by appointment only and as you talk about the demand, jose, the site right now to book is down >> sam brock in davie, florida. thank you. meanwhile, the vacce roinout overseas is under way with an important milestone just reached in one country and a controversial plan for delivering doses in another. sarah harman is in london >> reporter: around the world the race to vaccinate is on.
at the front of the pack, israel, where 12% of the population already received their first dose >> i don't think there's anywhere in the world who's managed to do this and to vaccinate them within six weeks is unprecedented. >> reporter: israel now leads the world in vaccinations per capita the u.s. in fourth place after bahrain and the united kingdom. where tonight the british government is taking two controversial and untested steps to expand the rollout, announcing it will delay giving people a second dose of the pfizer vaccine in an effort to get a first dose to as many people as possible. instead of the recommended 21 days, brits will now have to wait up to 12 weeks for the second shot. pfizer warning the safety and efficacy of the new schedule has not been evaluated dr. anthony fauci making clear the u.s. won't follow suit. >> remember that when you're doing things like administering vaccinations you want to do it based on the science. >> reporter: more than a million brits have already received their
first dose tonight some frontline doctors weighing up whether to follow the government's advice. >> your patients consented to the vaccine under the understanding that they were going to get the doses on the manufacturer's recommended schedule, and now you're having to tell them that they're not. >> i would support my patients who've already been consented to have the vaccine at their three-week mark, their second dose, to come forward and still get that vaccine >> reporter: the uk will also allow clinicians to substitute a second dose from a different vaccine in cases where the vaccine from the first dose is unknown or unavailable the changes come as cases soar the nation battling a new, more infectious strain that's threatening to overwhelm an already strapped health care system >> and sarah, the uk will start giving out another vaccine in the next couple days >> reporter: jose, that's right as we speak the first doses of the oxford vaccine are being delivered to hospitals across the uk.
the rollout starts monday there are about half a million doses ready to go and more expected soon jose >> sarah harman in london, thank you. back here in the u.s. breaking news on the political front. starting with a new move by some republicans to once again challenge the presidential election results. we get late details from kelly o'donnell at the white house >> reporter: tonight a striking new measure of president trump's grip on republican power. 11 gop senators and senators-elect led by ted cruz of texas say they will object when congress meets to certify joe biden's electoral college victory. in a traditional capitol hill ceremony this wednesday and the republican senators are making a new demand that congress appoint an electoral commission to conduct an emergency ten-day audit of the election returns in what they refer to as the disputed states.
but did not name them. the move channels president trump's unproven allegations >> we cannot allow a completely fraudulent election to stand. >> reporter: but the courts already rejected numerous claims and all states certified their own results. >> the integrity of our elections remains intact >> reporter: today's new act of trump loyalty follows missouri senator josh hawley, who also announced his own plan to object to the certification in order to trigger congressional debate and a series of separate votes democrats call these plans outrageous and doomed to fail >> everyone should understand, they will not be successful at overturning the results of the election joe biden and kamala harris will be sworn in on january 20th >> reporter: the cruz group acknowledged the risks, writing, "we are not naive. while claiming this defense of their motives. "we are acting not to thwart the democratic process but rather to protect it."
tonight the biden transition responded "these baseless claims have already been examined and dismissed by trump's own attorney general, dozens of courts, and election officials from both parties. >> kelly, is this latest attempt likely to achieve anything? >> reporter: well, jose, i've just heard from the vice president's office, and they say mike pence, who will preside over the electoral count -- tally, he welcomes this use of the laws to object to the results here among republicans but other republicans are coming forward to say this is wrong, including senators toomey of pennsylvania, murkowski of alaska, and so far there is not enough of a sizable protest to overturn the results jose >> kelly o'donnell at the white house. thank you. up next, the stunning new flu numbers. what's behind the dramatic drop in cases this year? also, the one-two weather punch this weekend.
this time of year we'd typically be reporting on skyrocketing flu cases. but now it's a much different story. one silver lining of the pandemic, an astonishingly low number of people sick with colds and flu tonight nbc senior medical correspondent dr. john torres explains what's behind the big change >> reporter: it was a nightmare scenario >> are you concerned about a twindemic? >> the start of flu season creates that double threat. >> the twindemic is
the concerned. >> reporter: the twindemic, the covid-19 pandemic plus a severe flu season. when i visited lehigh valley hospital in pennsylvania two years ago, they had so many flu cases patients were being treated in the parking lot. but today? >> how many flu cases are you guys treating there now? >> we are seeing zero cases of influenza >> has that surprised you? >> it's shocking, actually >> reporter: and those shockingly low numbers are countrywide. down 98% a new historic low according to the cdc so why is there so little flu this year first, it's just not traveling internationally. every year when winter starts in the southern hemisphere influenza levels there soar. then as the seasons change the virus travels up to the northern hemisphere for our winter but fewer people traveling means fewer people to carry it between regions. >> flu doesn't just float in the air and move through the air streams from one country to another it's people that move the flu. >> it is people. and that's certainly true with the
coronavirus as well. >> reporter: second, our own actions are also helping >> what's slowing the spread of the virus, the flu virus? >> the masking and staying at home more, social distancing that we're doing for the coronavirus will all help with influenza as well >> reporter: and third? >> the other big thing is that we have a vaccine for influenza and we're seeing record numbers of people choosing to take it. >> reporter: in fact 11 million more americans have turned up for a flu shot this year and it's not only flu on the decline other respiratory viruses have dropped too. >> we see bronchiolitis rsv is down we see the common rhinovirus cold virus cold is down >> reporter: for hospitals overwhelmed with covid low flu numbers are making a huge difference. >> we certainly are at capacity like a lot of emergency departments around the country but the bottom line is because there's no flu the patients that need the ventilators, they need the icu beds, we're really able to
take care of those patients >> reporter: a silver lining certainly but with months of the flu season to go we could still see a surge. >> do not let your guard down yet >> no, definitely not. never. and anything could change >> reporter: one last thing. it's not too late to get your flu shot. dr. john torres, nbc news still ahead, mystery at sea the baffling disappearance of a boat and its 20 passengers on the way to florida what happened to them? and the daring rescue caught on camera the pro surfer who was able to save a woman from being pulled out to sea
we are back with news about a double winter weather blast we start in new england, hit hard this morning with snow and ice and bracing for up to a foot of snow in maine. in its wake another storm is heading east from the central u.s., bringing a dangerous mix of snow, sleet and rain to the midwest and east coast tonight and into tomorrow. the u.s. coast guard has called off its search for a boat lost at sea. the 29-foot boat left monday from the bahamas with 20 passengers on board. it was heading to lake fort worth beach in florida. when it didn't show up, the coast guard and other agencies searched more than 17,000 square miles over three days without a sighting no word on who was on board or if they called in a distress report a pro surfer is being called a hero tonight for his quick action helping save a woman from being pulled out to sea off the hawaiian island of oahu the dramatic moments
all caught on camera anne thompson has the story. >> reporter: seeing a water rescue mikey wright picks up his camera >> oh, no. she's getting dragged out. >> i was like this is going to turn really bad here and i literally was just -- had a beer in hand and said to my wife, here, take this. >> you can't save him. >> reporter: want to make a bet 24-year-old wright is a pro surfer, an australian most famous for his trademark mullet, until now. he jumps the fence and makes an all-out sprint to the struggling person, a woman. that's right, jumping into the hawaiian surf >> i just came and met her on the other side of the rock. i just dove straight in and just went straight for her >> reporter: the waves as high as 15 feet in the rough winter conditions on the north side of oahu >> pretty much as soon as i got her in my arms i just told her i said hey, you're going to be okay >> reporter: the ferocious surf had
other ideas. mike's sister tyler, a world champion surfer, helping from shore >> if it wasn't for my sister, i wouldn't have known to grab her, pick her up and like throw myself into the waves and take the force of the wave. >> reporter: finally, wright with help brings the grateful woman safely to the beach and meets her son. >> she was hugging me so tight just saying thank you, like i thought she was gone and -- >> reporter: right now adding hero to his resume anne thompson, nbc news and in the skies over that same hawaiian island a mystery sighting see that giant glowing blue something it was spotted over oahu earlier this week before it appeared to fall into the ocean. some who called 911 said they were seeing an unidentified flying object the faa says it has no reports of any overdue or missing aircraft. when we come back, dreaming big what this young man
santiago potes is making history and preparing for a future he never imagined possible >> you're the first latino daca recipient who has a rhodes scholarship. >> and i don't want to be the last. i definitely don't want to be the last one. >> reporter: the columbia university graduate chosen from among thousands for one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world, a chance to study at oxford university in england. the award life-changing because of the incredible odds against him. potes is a dreamer, a daca recipient, the policy protecting young undocumented immigrants brought to the u.s. by their parents. >> tell me what daca has meant for you. >> daca came out in 2012 and it really helped me to not feel limited in my choice of applying to colleges >> reporter: potes was born in colombia and was just 4 years old when his family escaped the brutal violence that killed his grandparents they fled to miami and for a time they were homeless but never without hope for santiago education was the way to a bright future.
>> how many languages do you speak >> nine. >> nine languages? >> nine, yes >> reporter: his love of learning ignited by a special mentor a teacher was key in your growth and in your life. >> yeah. my gifted education teacher i had from second to fifth grade. >> reporter: it was teacher marina esteva who made all the difference a cuban exile who understood what he needed to get ahead. >> marina, what's your first memory of santiago >> well, santiago was so eager to learn, to learn the language, to express himself in english. >> reporter: the two have stayed in touch ever since >> she still is one of my life's biggest blessings. she really molded me into the type of thinker that i am today. >> reporter: the rhodes scholarship an honor he describes as a team effort. >> so when he writes to me that he won, he
says to me, oh, my goodness, we did it. so he says "we did it." and i said no, no, no, you did it it was you he said no, we did it. >> santiago plans to study international relations at oxford. that's nbc "nightly news" for this saturday i'm jose diaz-balart thank you for the privilege of your time happy new year, and good night a. right now at 6:00, a wet start to the weekend but it's only the beginning. we're tracking it all for you. the news at 6:00 starts right now. good evening, thanks so much for joini
joining us. >> cloudy and some drizzle in places today. take a live look right now at san jose the golden gate bridge. both places getting some sprinkles today. rob mayed tracking it all for us. rob? >> so now it's light rain that has our concern, but you can see over my shoulder its progression through the next seven to ten days steadier and heavier rain to approach the bay area, so that's what's got our attention here over the next few days as these storms starts to stack up across the pacific. right now we're seeing drizzle or brief like rain, but it is keeping the roads damp. as you can see a lot of moisture here available to work with. you can see the plume of clouds off to the north of hawaii. that's a tropical boost moving to at times generate to brief light rain. though i think we'll see less of that as we