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tv   CBS Evening News With Norah O Donnell  CBS  December 22, 2020 6:30pm-7:01pm PST

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captioning sponsored by cbs ♪ ♪ >> o'donnell: tonight, 2020 will go down in history as america's deadliest year as president- elect joe biden warns the darkest days are ahead of us. the heartbreaking news tonight that more than 115,000 americans could spend christmas in the hospital fighting coronavirus. and that new more-contagious covid strain is likely already here in the u.s. while overseas it's isolating england, stopping thousands of delivery trucks at the border. biden blasts trump: the president-elect blames the president for the enormous cyber attack on the federal government. >> this has all happened on donald trump's watch when he wasn't watching. >> o'donnell: his warning tonight for those responsible. fauci's turn: the nation's top infectious disease doctor rolls up his sleeves.
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>> i feel extreme confidence in the safety and efficacy of this vaccine. >> o'donnell: plus, why who gets the vaccine next can make a difference in flattening the curve. americans out of work: tonight, the story of middle-class families hurting, relying on food banks and not getting a check from the u.s. government. jailed for violating quarantine: an american college student is sentenced to two months behind bars in the cayman islands. what her parents are asking the president to do. and our "season of giving": world-renowned chef jose andres feeding hungry americans and providing a lifeline to small businesses. >> this is the "cbs evening news" with norah o'donnell, reporting from the nation's capital. >> o'donnell: good evening to our viewers in the west, and thank you for joining us. we are going to begin tonight with unusually blunt words from president-elect joe biden, who said our darkest days in the battle against covid are ahead of us, not behind us.
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his warning comes as america is expected to top three million total deaths by the end of 2020. now that is a 15% increase since last year, and it's because of the pandemic. according to the c.d.c., that makes 2020 the deadliest year in u.s. history. today, top health officials in this country said we should assume the new, more infectious covid-19 strain ravaging the united kingdom is already here in the u.s. this was the scene in the u.k. today as delivery trucks jammed the roads at border closures in response to the outbreak there. we have learned that moderna and pfizer's partner, biontech, are testing to see if their vaccines are effective against this new strain. in the past few days, u.s. airports have been crowded with more travelers than we have seen since march, raising new fears that the virus will spread further during the holidays. and as we come on the air tonight, more than 322,000 lives have been lost to covid. there's also a lot of new reporting tonight for you and
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your family, and our team is following it all. cbs' mola lenghi is going to lead us off from newark airport in new jersey. good evening, mola. >> reporter: good evening, norah. more than 80 million americans are expected to travel between tomorrow and january 3. as you can see, they've already gotten started-- that is, despite the c.d.c.'s recommendations. add to that, that new strain that's believed to be significantly more contagious, and hospitals across the country are bracing for impact. tonight, growing concern that the variant strain of covid, locking down much of the united kingdom, has now reached the u.s. >> when you have this amount of spread within a place like the u.k., that you really need to assume that it's here already. >> reporter: the lockdown stranding travelers, leaving rows of trucks stretching as far as the eye can see and then farther. france now saying it will resume essential travel and transit for european union citizens to ease the gridlock. while the new strain is believed to be up to 70% more infectious,
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it's unclear if it might require the vaccine to be modified. >> it is possible. and we should be ready for that but a bit down the road that it may happen. but i'm not worried the current vaccines we have will become ineffective. >> reporter: pfizer and moderna are testing their vaccines against the new strain. what is worrisome: how bleak things have gotten inside u.s. hospitals, especially in california. this is a covid unit just north of los angeles. >> it's getting worse, and it's exhausting. >> reporter: dr. brad spellberg is chief medical officer at l.a. county u.s.c. medical center. what is the worst-case scenario here? >> our fear is, we end up looking like new york did in april, or what italy went through, that when you are just systematically completely overwhelmed and there is nothing you can do. >> reporter: there are no i.c.u. beds left at this orange county hospital... >> it's been exponentially increasing since thanksgiving.
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>> reporter: ...sparking new concerns about a christmas surge nationwide. those warnings so far largely ignored as airports remain packed. a coroner in louisiana now confirming that the passenger on this united airlines flight, seen on this t.m.z. video, died from covid. in september, the u.s. never averaged more than 50,000 daily cases. california just reported over 60,000 in a single day. the state also setting records for hospitalizations and deaths. relief can't come soon enough for those newly infected, those hospitalized... >> one, two... >> reporter: ...or those on the front lines. how do you go on? >> it's our job. we continue to come every day, walking towards the danger. we're willing to do the hard work. we're willing to go into the rooms and care for these critically ill patients. please, just help us stop the spread. >> reporter: well, dr. spellberg says it's important to point out that it's common for viruses to
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mutate and to spread more during the cold winter months. that was expected. still, it could create an unsustainable situation in hospitals over the next several weeks, which is why new york governor andrew cuomo tonight is calling on all new york hospitals to begin testing for that new strain, norah. >> o'donnell: all right, mola lenghi, thank you. president-elect biden is blasting president trump for not holding russia accountable for the widespread cyber attack on u.s. computer systems. he is urging u.s. citizens to keep up the battle against covid saying "it's time to steel our spine" for the weeks ahead. here's cbs' nikole killion. >> reporter: president-elect joe biden with a blunt message to the american people today: tens of thousands more lives will be lost in the months to come, even with the vaccine. >> our darkest days in the battle against covid are ahead of us, not behind us. >> reporter: with more than 2,500 americans currently dying each day, president trump again had no public events or comment
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on the pandemic, only focusing on what he called the rigged election. mr. biden suggested additional travel restrictions may be warranted as a new, more contagious strain emerges in the u.k. >> one of the things i'm waiting to get a response from my covid team is whether or not we should require testing before they get on an aircraft to fly home, number one. and number two, when they get home, should they quarantine? >> reporter: president trump has also said little about the enormous hack that penetrated several government agencies and fortune 500 companies. today, mr. biden called mr. trump out for failing to respond. >> this assault happened on donald trump's watch when he wasn't watching. it's still his responsibility as president to defend american interests for the next four weeks. but rest assured that even he does not take it seriously, i will. >> reporter: the president-elect
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called on the administration to publicly announce who is responsible, noting that it looked like russia's doing. attorney general bill barr and secretary of state mike pompeo agree, but mr. trump said it may have been china and downplayed the seriousness of the hack. the president-elect was asked how he would respond. >> let us determine what the extent of the damage is, and i promise you there will be a response. >> reporter: meanwhile, vice president-elect kamala harris' california senate seat has been filled. on twitter, governor gavin newsom broke the news of his appointment of secretary of state alex padilla, who would be the first latino senator from the state. >> i'm honored, man. and i'm humbled. i can't tell you how many pancakes my dad flipped or eggs he scrambled trying to provide for us. >> reporter: cbs news has learned mr. biden is nominating connecticut schools' commissioner miguel cardona as his new education secretary. cardona, who taught public
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school earlier in his career, will be tasked with getting kids back in the classroom within biden's first 100 days. norah. >> o'donnell: all right, nikole killion, thank you. the cbs news desk for the latest details. >> president trump: it really is a disgrace. >> reporter: the white house said the president intended to sign the $900 billion covid relief bill, instead tonight he surprised everyone by calling on congress to go back to the bargaining table. >> president trump: i'm asking congress to increase the ridiculously p$4,000 for a couple.r i'm also asking congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation. and to send me a suitable bill. >> reporter: the president also caught washington by surprise by pardoning 20 people, including george papadopoulos and alex van der zwaan, who were
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convicted and served time in connection with the russia investigation. three former republican members of congress were pardoned, steve stockman, chris collins, and duncan hunter, who was scheduled to begin a prison term. and also pardoned, four gardens who opened fire on civilians in baghdad, iraq, killing 14 and wounding 17. as for the covid relief bill, both houses of congress passed it overwhelming. and now the question is whether congress will dare the president to veto the bill. chip >> o'donnell: tonight, states are deciding who should get the next wave of covid vaccines, sparking the debate over which groups should receive priority. for example, should it be corrections officers or teachers? cbs' adriana diaz continues our series, "vaccinating america." >> reporter: it's week two with more than 600,000 vaccines administered, including to dr. anthony fauci today.
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( applause ) ( applause ) the c.d.c. recommends the next group should be those 75 and older, and frontline essential workers. but that's 49 million people, and so far just under five million doses have been delivered. do you feel like you're almost in competition with other essential workers? >> yes, for sure. >> reporter: sylvia tanguma heads the teachers' union in mcallen, texas. she eats in her car to not remove her mask at school. monday, texas announced its next group will be those 65 and older or at high risk, not teachers as a whole. what would you say to the governor if you had a chance to talk to him? >> he needs to consider how many teachers we have and how badly we are needed. >> reporter: after studying new york's surge, the c.d.c. found that corrections officers are most exposed. that's why anthony mcgee of chicago thinks they should get priority. >> they have to pass out medicine. they have to pass out food.
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there is no way for our members not to the have direct contact with inmates. >> reporter: infectious disease specialist dr. aileen marty said the order of vaccinations must be both ethical and strategic. >> you vaccinate the right group of people, you are going to flatten the curve faster. >> reporter: but the c.d.c. says even those next in line will be waiting at least a month. adriana diaz, cbs news, chicago. >> o'donnell: and tonight, we have a remarkable story about an 18-year-old college student from georgia fighting to get out of jail in the cayman islands for breaking covid isolation rules. she and her boyfriend were locked up, and her family is now pleading for help from the president. cbs' meg oliver has late developments in the case. >> reporter: today, 18-year-old skylar mack and her boyfriend had their lengthy four-month prison sentences for violating the caymen island's covid restrictions cut in half. the ordeal began november 27 when mack, a premed student from
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georgia, flew to the british caribbean territory for her boyfriend vanjae ramgeet's jet ski competition. she was supposed to wear a monitoring bracelet and quarantine for 14 days. >> she took multiple covid tests when she arrived and throughout this period of time, and every single one of them has been negative. >> reporter: but two days in, she removed the tracking device and went to watch her boyfriend compete. they both pleaded guilty to violating the quarantine rules. initially, they were ordered to perform 40 hours of community service and pay $3,100 in fines, but the prosecutor appealed that sentence and a judge increased it to four months in jail. during sentencing, the judge called their actions "as flagrant a breach as could be imagined. it was borne of selfishness and arrogance." her family is now hoping the u.s. government steps in. >> everybody's in limbo and, you know, trying to figure out what do we do?
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no one really wants to do christmas without skylar, so i'm not sure what we'll do. >> reporter: the family sent a letter directly to the white house asking president trump to intervene. the state department tells cbs news they are aware of the situation. for now, the reduced sentence stands, but, according to the cayman islands, anyone who violates their covid restrictions faces up to two years in prison. norah. >> o'donnell: harsh sentence. meg oliver, thank you. well, tonight "feed america" says there's a 60% increase over last year in requests for food assistance. and it's not just lower income americans who need help because the first round of stimulus checks were based on last year's tax returns. a middle-class family who lost a job this year is also feeling the impact. here's cbs' mark strassmann. >> reporter: worry kept jose cruz company on this morning drive.
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>> reporter: that's seven-month- old, valentina. >> reporter: her dad, a 52-year- old unemployed chef, picked up donated food, enough to stuff this van. it will feed families in crisis, including his. >> when i go to the bed, sometimes i cry myself. you know, i say, "god, help me, please." >> reporter: cruz fell hard and fast in march after losing his job. he made good money cooking at the mayflower hotel in washington, d.c.-- $92,000 last year. now, he volunteers full-time at "so what else," a food bank. the siege of this pandemic has eaten into america's middle class. >> what you need? what you need? >> reporter: in prosperous montgomery county, maryland, this charity serves 60,000 meals a week. >> the need increases every single day. >> here you go, man. >> reporter: executive director dave silbert says cruz stands
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out. >> the main thing i know about him and learned is that his work ethic is tremendous. >> reporter: six weeks ago, someone stole cruz's social security number. his unemployment checks stopped. under the latest pandemic stimulus bill passed by congress, he'll likely get a few hundred dollars because of his infant daughter. that's it. cruz helped hand out more than 150 christmas toys. one of his only gifts for little valentina: donated diapers. mark strassmann, cbs news, atlanta. well, there's still much more news ahead tonight on the "cbs evening news." the department of justice takes on walmart. did the retail giant help fuel the opioid crisis? and look at these flames. what caused a truck filled with hundreds of propane tanks to flip on a busy highway? hway?
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>> o'donnell: all those months >> o'donnell: all those months that congress argued over how to help americans in the pandemic, chef jose andres was serving those in need. cbs' chip reid continues our series, "season of giving." >> reporter: celebrity chef jose andres is a man on a mission to feed the world and to help struggling restaurants. that mission brings him here to breaking bread in baltimore. >> why we need to be having hunger lines in america? why do we need to see people with long lines of cars in person, when snowing or rain, waiting for a box of food? >> reporter: across the country, his non-profit world central kitchen pays local restaurants to prepare hot meals for the
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hungry. since april, 175,000 meals have been served in baltimore, with $1 million going back to the community. you saw restaurants that were unable to have customers, and we saw hungry families. so, we thought, why don't we connect those two things? >> reporter: it's a partnership that helps the hungry and keeps the lights on. chef-owner kimberly ellis. would you still be in business? >> no. hands down, we would not. i don't want to get emotional, but it really saved us. >> reporter: at nearby catherine's family services, andres and his volunteers served out 400 meals. hailey mitchell's mother depends on the food given away to feed her four children. >> i get food and stuff for my kids so they can eat. >> reporter: and so can families in nearly 400 cities, thanks to andres and his food magic. >> people showing you that boots on the ground works, that programs work, that they can uplift communities, one meal at a time. >> reporter: chip reid, cbs news, baltimore.
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evening news."
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right now at 7, breaking the rules, the bay area football team that seems to have no regard for travel quarantine. >> they are just focused on the season, trying to get what they can out of it. the climb in california covid cases. changing her tone, what the mayor of a san francisco said just what he five minutes ago about kamala harris's replacement. >> san jose state football team had the best season ever but now it is being shrouded in


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