tv ABC World News Tonight With David Muir ABC December 22, 2021 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
tonight, breaking news from washington. the abc news exclusive. with america bracing for omicron, now the dominant variant here in the u.s., my one-on-one with president biden at the white house. tonight, so many of you asking, where are the test kits? we ask the president about the long lines across this country. americans waiting for hours. and those empty shelves at pharmacies. how soon will there be help? also, the major announcement from the fda tonight, authorizing the first covid pill in the u.s., the pfizer pill. we asked the president, how much has the government purchased? how soon before it's available for americans who need it? we also ask tonight about family gatherings this christmas. we also ask about boarding planes. should vaccines be required?
the president tonight on senator joe manchin and the president's build back better plan now stalled. and we ask the president about running for re-election and on any potential rematch with donald trump. also tonight, the new evidence just in, how severe could this new variant be and how quickly does it move? if you're traveling this holiday, tonight, what they're seeing already on the roads and in the air. and could this be even busier than before the pandemic in some places? tonight, the growing backlash after a truck driver is sentenced to 110 years after he claims his brakes failed. part of a deadly crash in colorado. tonight, even the d.a. now asking the court to reconsider. tonight, the athletes in the u.s. and canada pulled from the winter olympics. what's behind the nhl's decision and could covid lead to more athletes staying home? three days left. the last-minute guide tonight to shipping. and the much-needed help for parents and students this christmas with their student loans. and the images of hope here. what hasn't changed this
christmas, even in these times. and good evening tonight from washington. and we are here in the nation's capital tonight for our exclusive interview with president biden, at a critical time in our country. the omicron variant now the dominant strain. we learned today now in all 50 states. and with this new covid surge just as americans gather for the holidays, the long lines across this country. americans trying to get tested. we ask, nearly two years into this pandemic, why is it so difficult to find a test? we sat down with the president right after the fda authorized that breakthrough new treatment today, the first covid pill in the u.s. pfizer's anti-viral pill. we asked the president, how much has the government purchased, and how soon before those pills reach the americans who need them? and with those long lines for covid tests across the country, we ask, could more have been done to prepare for this new variant? and where do we go from here? and will his own family get rapid tests before they gather for christmas?
tonight, the president also on the economy. the prices americans are paying, the white house today noting the success of getting ports moving again, progress after the supply chain shortage, saying gifts made it in time for christmas. and we ask the president about senator joe manchin and whether the president's build back better bill can be saved. and with the january 6th anniversary approaching, after the attack on the capitol, what the president said today about accountability. and we ask, does the president plan to run for re-election? tonight, president biden one-on-one with us at the white house. i want to get right to omicron, as you know now, the dominant strain here in the u.s. dr. fauci now says it could account for up to 90% of all new cases by -- by just next week. the cdc now warning americans that we could see peaks that we haven't seen so far in this pandemic. i know just before we sat down here, the fda has now authorized the first covid pill, the first
antiviral pill from pfizer, 89% effective at preventing hospitalizations and death. the obvious question for you, mr. president, is how much has the government purchased? how much is ready to go right away? >> we purchased several million already, but here's -- right away, i think -- don't hold me to the number, i think it may be 20 million, but a lot of pills. all they can make so far. but you know, i hope we don't get there, because if people get the shots, they get their two shots and a booster, they're not going to be in a position where they're going to need such a pill. >> do you have any idea how quickly the american people will actually see these pills? how soon we're going to be able to get them to hospitals that are already seeing patients? >> the answer is, i think it will be a matter of a week -- weeks to a month to get the pill. there won't be enough to get to all the hospitals. we ordered a lot more of those pills, we're going to have to order millions of those pills. >> we learned just before we sat down together here that omicron has now been detected in all 50 states, and you told the american people just yesterday that we are prepared for what's coming.
but three days before christmas, if you look out across the country, you see it everywhere, these long lines, people waiting for hours outside i the cold, just to get tested -- >> yep. >> -- to be reassured before they spend time with their family. >> yeah. >> i saw it in washington today coming to the white house. if you go to the pharmacy, we hear this over and over again, "empty shelves, no test kits." is that a failure? >> no, i don't think it's a failure. i think it's -- you could argue that we should have known a year ago, six months ago, two months ago, a month ago. i've ordered half a billion of the pills, 500 million pills -- excuse me. 500 million test kits that are going to be available to be sent to every home in america if anybody wants them. but the answer is yeah, i wish i had thought about ordering a half a billion pills two months ago before covid hit here. >> but we're nearly two years into this pandemic, you're a year into the presidency, empty shelves and no test kits in some places three days before christmas when it's so important.
is that good enough? >> no, nothing's been good enough. but look, look where we are. when -- last christmas, we were in a situation where we had significantly fewer vaccinated -- people vaccinated. emergency rooms were filled. you had serious backups in hospitals that were causing great difficulties. we're in a situation now where we have 200 million people fully vaccinated. 200 million people fully vaccinated, and we have more than that who have had one shot, at least one shot. and they're getting these booster shots, as well. so, we've moved along, and we still, the cdc is still saying and my -- the docs who advise me on this, they're still saying, if you are tested, if you know where you are in terms of having gotten the shots, there's no reason why you can't get together with your family and your friends. and we -- we couldn't do that last christmas. >> let me ask about what dr. fauci said. i think it was a week ago today about the so-called neutralizing antibodies.
he said after two shots, it did wane over some period of time, and that it was only after the booster that you got back into that protective zone. so are you talking about gatherings with people who are -- had both vaccinations, both shots and the booster? >> that's the safest thing you can do. both shots and the booster. >> let me ask you about what you said on july 4th. i know you remember it well. you told the american people we're closer than ever to our independence from a deadly virus. do you think you overpromised? >> no, we were closer than ever, but there's a lot we don't know. it's like, i'm sure you're going to ask me when is this going to end? how are we going to do this? are we certainly going to be able to overcome the delta -- excuse me -- the virus, covid-19. the answer is, the expectation is yes, because we have the best scientists in the world.
we move so rapidly compared to other countries. but we don't know, we don't know for certain, so -- >> what would you say to some americans who might say this feels like we're chasing omicron instead of being ahead of it, fully prepared for it? >> well, look, omicron only really came on the scene just before thanksgiving. we weren't talking about omicron six months ago. but it's just recent. and so we are chasing omicron. but the fact of the matter is, you're chasing whatever comes on the scene that hadn't, wasn't there before, and this wasn't there this last summer for example. >> reporter: the vice president said in recent days that -- that you didn't see delta coming, you didn't see omicron coming. how did you get it wrong? >> how did we get it wrong? nobody saw it coming. nobody in the whole world. who saw it coming? >> i guess -- i guess what i'm asking is, scientists have long said that when you're dealing with the coronavirus, covid-19, that there are going to be mutations. that most likely over time it is going to become very transmissible, because this
virus is trying to stay alive -- >> yes. >> -- trying to survive. so did the administration not expect that there could be moments like this one where you'd have a highly transmissible variant -- >> sure. >> -- that's possible around the corner? >> it was possible, and it's possible there could be other variants that come along. that's possible. but what do you plan for? you plan for what you think is available. that is the most likely threat that exists at the time and you respond to it. and i think that that's exactly what we've done. and that's -- for example, omicron is spreading rapidly, but the death rates are much, much lower than they were. this is not march of 2020. this is a very different time that we're in now. >> i know you're going to get together with the children and the grandchildren for the holiday. how will that work? will you all rapid test before you're together? >> yes. and i'm doing it almost every day. >> and is your hope that for the millions of americans who are
trying to get tests -- >> yes. >> -- before the holiday, that they'll be able to do -- >> well, they won't be able to do it. the number of tests available, i've ordered half a billion of them for the united states to be sent to every -- everybody who wants a test can have one sent to home. >> and that's january, right? >> that's in january. >> and so will they have those rapid tests, by when? by mid january? by the end of january? >> well, the answer is the expectation is it will be by -- the rapid tests will start going out in the beginning of january, because they're being produced now. >> mr. president, let me ask you about just getting on a plane in this country. we're seeing millions travel home for the holidays, filling the airports, and getting on these planes. have you considered requiring passengers in this country to be vaccinated to get on flights? >> it's been considered, but the recommendation i've gotten, it's not necessary. >> even with omicron? >> even with omicron. that's the recommendation i got so far from the team. >> let me turn, r. president, to build back better. many say it's an agenda in peril right now, in large part because of senator joe manchin. universal pre-k, the child tax credit, of course, historic money to fight climate change, in the words of your administration.
you've met with senator joe manchin a number of times. you invited him to your home in delaware. he came to the white house a week ago. then he's on sunday morning cable and says, "i'm a no." >> well, look -- >> how does that happen? how -- how are you not able to close the deal? >> well, look, let's talk about what we have done. we have passed more major legislation than anybody in their first year ever, ever, ever, ever. i haven't -- i haven't given up on this. i haven't given up on it. >> but senator manchin's main sticking point, it would appear, is the child tax credit. are you willing to take that out, if it means bringing him on board? >> well, look, i want to get as much as i can possibly get done. as much as we can possibly get done, and i still think we'll be able to get a significant amount of what we need to get done,
done. particularly, as the american people figure out what is in this legislation. it's extremely consequential. >> and as americans gather this christmas, we talked about the cost. inflation at a 40-year high in the u.s. unemployment has come down, gas prices have come down 10, 11 cents or so since you tapped -- >> because i made sure to -- >> you tapped into the strategic reserve, i know that. but american families are feeling this. >> they are. >> and we have to acknowledge that. inflation at a -- >> they are. >> -- 40-year high. the fed just indicated that they might have to raise interest rates up to three times in the coming year just to slow things down. that sounds like americans should be prepared for potentially more pain before this gets better. >> if we don't pass build back better, i think they're right. but if we do, 17 nobel laureates in the economy said it's going to bring down inflation if we pass what i'm talking about. >> as we prepare to mark the new year, we also know that means january 6th is coming. >> yes. >> one year since the attack on the capitol. i sat down recently with three of the officers who testified before the american people about being attacked that day. the one officer trapped in that doorway. and all three of them kept
coming back to one word in this interview, they kept saying accountability. and they told me that means, if it leads right to the very top, we want accountability. do you agree with those officers? >> i think accountability is necessary. look -- >> and that means if it goes right into the previous administration? >> no matter where it goes. those responsible should be held accountable. >> i want to ask you about something i asked weeks before the election when we sat down. you said you would absolutely serve eight years if elected. do you plan to run for re-election? >> yes, but look, i'm a great respecter of fate. fate has intervened in my life many, many times. if i'm in the health i'm in now, if i'm in good health, then, in fact, i would run again. >> and if that means a rematch against donald trump? >> you're trying to tempt me now. sure. why would i not run against donald trump for the nominee? that'll increase the prospect of running. >> the president at the white
house with me this afternoon. later tonight on "nightline," what the president said about voting rights in this country. what he's willing to do. and what the white house revealed today about student loans in this country, that's coming up here in just a moment. but we are following that other developing headline we asked the president about. that new covid pill. pfizer's new anti-viral pill. this is once you have covid, for patients at high risk. how does it work? here's abc's trevor ault tonight. >> reporter: tonight, that first covid-19 pill now entering the fight. the fda authorizing pfizer's paxlovid. a series of 30 pills that can be taken at home over five days shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization nearly 90%. among people at risk for severe illness. >> it almost certainly will be a physician writing a prescription for someone who within the first three days of notable symptoms of covid and is in a high risk group to get it. >> reporter: omicron is already spearheading another surge.
the variant now confirmed in all 50 states. testing scarcity is still a problem. some americans waiting hours, if they can get an appointment. >> i tried to find three different places. >> reporter: today, new york once again shattered its record high single-day case load but the state's largest hospital system says they have hatch the covid patients they had this time last year. >> we're in a pretty good place right now. it's busy, but it is very manageable. >> reporter: and several new studies overseas suggest that while omicron is very transmissible, it may cause less severe cases of covid-19, including a much lower percentage chance of being hospitalized, but it is still too early to say for sure. and david, about those pfizer pills, 265,000 courses will be available in january, then millions more by the summer, all free for patients. david? >> trevor ault tonight live in new york. trevor, thank you. and as this nation deals with this new variant, millions on the road and boarding planes. and could the number of travelers actually be higher than pre-pandemic levels in some places?
abc's gio benitez covers transportation. >> reporter: tomorrow might be the busiest travel day in almost two years, but tonight, the crowds are almost as heavy on the roads and at the airports. international flights may require proof of vaccination and a negative test, but domestic flights don't. that means a good mask is all the more important. >> you get a flight from washington to san francisco, it's well over a five-hour flight. even though you have a good filtration system, i still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do, and we should be doing it. >> reporter: but many travelers aren't taking chances. at cleveland's hopkins airport, they've gone from testing 30 people a day to nearly 400. >> just to keep everybody safe. i think everyone should be tested, if you're vaccinated or not. >> reporter: as for the hundred million predicted to hit the road -- >> even if you're staying local, if you're planning to be out on the roads, you might want to consider off-peak travel. >> reporter: so, david, the best time to get on the road tomorrow is after 7:00 p.m., between noon and 6:00, the roads will be
absolutely packed, just about anywhere. david? >> we wish everyone a safe trip this holiday. gio benitez, our thanks to you, as well. and to the other news this wednesday night, and to growing backlash after a truck driver was sentenced to 110 years behind bars after a deadly crash. that driver has always said his brakes failed. nearly 5 million people have now signed a petition and tonight, even the d.a. is now asking the court to reconsider. here's kaylee hartung. >> reporter: tonight, outrage growing over a 110-year prison sentence for the truck driver convicted in this deadly highway inferno. his family on the steps of the colorado capitol today, joining calls for justice for rogel aguilera-mederos. >> governor polis, we want you to reduce or grant clemency for the unfair sentencing of 110 years. >> reporter: nearly 5 million people signing an online petition asking for his sentence to be reduced, and now the district attorney filing a motion for the judge to reconsider, calling this "an
exceptional case involving unusual and extenuating circumstances." in 2019, four people were killed and several injured in the fiery crash. the trucker claiming his brakes failed. >> your honor, i don't know why i'm alive. >> reporter: but prosecutors arguing he was going almost twice the speed limit, bypassing a truck ramp before the crash. a jury finding him guilty on 27 counts. the judge saying he wouldn't have chosen this sentence, but his hands were tied by state law. and david, the d.a. is asking colorado's governor to meet with surviving victims and the families who lost loved ones as he considers this application for clemency. david? >> all right, kaylee hartung with us tonight. kaylee, thank you. and i mentioned there was one more note from the white house today. relief for parents and college students across the country. president biden extending the pause on student loan payments through may 1st now. the president saying that some student loan borrowers are still coping with the pandemic and need more time. the payments were set to restart february 1st. and tonight, the nhl is
pulling its players out of the winter olympics in beijing. more fallout from covid. beginning today, the league pausing its season until after christmas. the nhl will use what would have been the olympic break to make up for missed games in this pandemic. when we come back here tonight, news coming in this evening about a tragic holiday discovery. a family of seven found dead in their home and what authorities have now revealed tonight. today, things can be pretty unexpected. but your customers, they still expect things to be simple. and they want it all personalized. with ibm, you can do both. businesses like insurers can automate it processes across clouds. so agents can spend more time on customer needs. and whatever comes your way, you've got it covered. saving time and improving customer service, that's why so many businesses work, with ibm. no one can deliver your mom's homemade short ribs. that's why instacart helps deliver the ingredients.
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our closing images tonight that rem our closing images tonight that reminded us of one of the few christmas traditions largely still untouched by this pandemic. the christmas lights across the country. this is from brooklyn. from california tonight, the display featuring more than 85,000 lights. powered entirely by solar panels. and in pennsylvania, sometimes a picture says it all. joy. thank you for watching. and our thanks to the president tonight. i'm david muir. good night
>> a horrific scene in fremont, a deadly crash that took hours to reopen wednesday traffic. >> our goal is to get people vaccinated. the most important shot is the first shot. >> there are three things the governor is focused on to keep us safe and we will explain how each will affect you. >> downpours and sunder, -- sun- thunder, the timeline coming up. >> building a better bay area, moving forward, finding solutions. this is abc 7 news. >sandhya: doppler 7 to see the a. -- ama: don't let the live doppler deceive you. i'm on the date
san mateo but that was the sound heard around the bay area today. a series of storms will bring us several inches this weekend while you may see a break on occasion, you may not get a chance to dry out until next year. ama: conditions will worsen in the sierra, these cameras show clear roads even with snow as you see some coming down. highway 50 admires there was a mix of rain and snow. dangerous conditions for drivers from tomorrow through sunday. dan: what we did not see today was the sun, clouds covered the bay area. ama: today's storm ranks a one on the impact scale. it will turn into a two overnight. the meteorologist is tracking what is to come. sandhya: the next few hours is spotty and light variety. i want to show you live doppler 7 because we have slippery roadways. really right stuff as we get you into street-level radar,