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Evacuated Americans From Quarantined Ship Arrive In U.S.; Five Days Until The Nevada Caucuses; Democrats Take Aim At Bloomberg As He Rises In National Polls. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 17, 2020 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: 300 Americans are back on U.S. soil at this hour.


And now, they are facing another 14 days in isolation here.

These two charter planes have landed this morning in California and Texas. But 14 of those Americans have now tested positive for the coronavirus. They were allowed to get on the planes but then they were kept in this special isolation chamber during the flight, no idea if that's effective for containing it or not. But we do have exclusive video from inside the airplane to show you ahead.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEW DAY: And the conditions people have to live under, just remarkable.

Also breaking overnight, 99 new cases of coronavirus on that cruise ship in Japan, that's just one cruise ship, raising questions about the overall effectiveness of the quarantine.

And now, another possible crisis, public health officials are scrambling to determine whether passengers on a separate cruise ship, one docked in Cambodia, were exposed to the virus, this after an elderly American tested positive, and this is crucial, days after disembarking and interacting with other people. That ship was believed to be virus-free. And over a thousand passengers were allowed to leave. We have the significant story covered from every angle.

But let's begin with CNN's Lucy Kafanov. She is at the Travis Air Force Base in California. That's where one of the planes landed earlier this morning. And, Lucy, those passengers, they're going to spend two weeks in another quarantine.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two more weeks after being trapped on board the Diamond Princess for weeks. It's a frustrating situation, although for more than 300 Americans who had been, the nightmare is almost nearly over.

Now, the second plane landed in Texas just over two hours ago. The first one landing right here at the Travis Air Base near San Francisco and Sacramento at around 11:00 P.M. local time. The people who had landed here, the Americans will be evaluated. They'll be Housed at the same facility where the plane loads of American evacuees from Wuhan are Housed within a slightly separate area. The Wuhan evacuees, a lot of them, due to be released tomorrow, so their nightmare is almost completely over.

But a lot of questions being asked about how those 14 infected passengers were able to get home. Remember, there's at least 46 Americans who have previously been diagnosed with the coronavirus on board that ship. They were told that they could not go home. They had to recover in Japanese hospitals. And yet these 14 sick passengers are now here.

Well, it's not really clear how it all played out. We're understanding that the State Department and U.S. officials potentially learned of these infections after the 14 passengers who were not displaying symptoms disembarked the Diamond Princess cruise ship. They were on their way to the airport to board these charter planes when it was discovered that they were, in fact, sick with the coronavirus. They were tested two to three days ago, and then the decision was made to let them board probably of great frustration to those Americans who had to stay back.

Again, they are here. They are safe. But they are embarking on another two weeks in quarantine. Jim?

SCIUTTO: That's just one cruise ship. You've got to think of all of the other places where they have to keep track of this. Lucy Kafanov, thanks very much.

It has been an agonizing two weeks in isolation for so many aboard that one cruise ship. In Japan, several hundred Americans just made the journey back to the U.S. and they shared video of their trip exclusively with CNN.

CNN's Will Ripley live in Yokohama, Japan with more. I mean, these planes are not your normal planes. I mean, they're taking extreme measures here, really, to keep a lid on this.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was not a luxury flight home, Jim, for people who thought they were going to go in a luxury vacation then found themselves confined to these cramped cabins for almost two weeks. They were told repeatedly that after the quarantine on the cruise ship, they would be able to go directly home. But then they learned the U.S. government was coming in to evacuate them, but a whole new ordeal was about to begin.


RIPLEY: Daybreak in Yokohama, Japan, the final day on the Diamond Princess for more than 300 Americans evacuated by the U.S. government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a converted cargo 747. So there is less insulation than a regular passenger. So bring layers to stay warm.

RIPLEY: American health officials try to prepare passengers for a long, uncomfortable journey, a journey Karey Maniscalco from Utah is reluctant to take. She and her husband already endured nearly two weeks of quarantine on the cruise ship.


RIPLEY: Now, they're about to do it all over again at a California military base.

MANISCALCO: They have sent over a dozen emails assuring us that there would not be an additional quarantine. And they just told us that we'd be re-quarantined for 14 more days. I've just lost a whole month of my life.

RIPLEY: She is angry at the U.S. government, angry they waited so long to evacuate the American passengers. Others like Gay Courter from Florida are grateful.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I want to go somewhere where I can feel safe. And I just want to thank President Trump and the U.S. government. There has been a lot of silence on this. And now we know the silence has been putting together a brilliant plan.

RIPLEY: Executing that plan will take nearly ten hours, even though the airport is just a 20-minute drive from the ship.

MANISCALCO: The buses are starting to line up.

RIPLEY: Once they get on, there's no getting off, not even to go to the bathroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The best I can do is find out where a bathroom is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go and find out.

RIPLEY: As the hours drag on, this health worker tries to break the tension.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you call a witch on the beach? A sandwich.


RIPLEY: Passengers are beginning to feel like the joke is on them.

MANISCALCO: We're just waiting. I don't really know what we're waiting for, but we are waiting indefinitely.

RIPLEY: Finally, they're allowed off the bus.


RIPLEY: And onto the tarmac, boarding two converted 747 cargo planes. The cabin best described as bare bones, no windows, makeshift toilet, temporary seats.

MANISCOLCA: This is first class, baby. First class. RIPLEY: Lack of luxury aside, Maniscalco feels anxious.

MANISCALCO: It's not good conditions. No one on here has had their temperature taken by the federal government or any government for that matter. So we're all in really closed, tight quarters. Everybody is sitting next to each other. I have a girl sitting here in just a minute. It seems dangerous and not safe.

RIPLEY: The U.S. government says they are safe, even though 14 passengers who tested positive for coronavirus are allowed on the flight all showing no symptoms. They're put in a specialized containment area isolated from the other passengers.

Just after daybreak, both planes finally take off, a long, sleepless night followed by a ten-hour flight. Now they've arrived in California and Texas. One ordeal ends, another begins.


RIPLEY: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship do face a higher risk of becoming infected. And just in the last 24 hours, 169 new confirmed cases on the ship, including the 99 we learned about overnight. So for all the discomfort, I'm sure a lot of those Americans are grateful to be back in their home country and off that ship.

CAMEROTA: Understood, Will. Thank you very much for all of your reporting.

Joining us now are Blake Courter and Ashley Rhodes Courter. Their parents, Philip Courter and Gay Courter (ph) were on board that quarantined cruise ship and they have just landed in Texas.

Blake, I know these past couple of weeks have been very stressful for you and your family. Have you talked to your parents yet?

BLAKE COURTER, PARENTS EVACUATED FROM QUARANTINE SHIP: I've not talked to them yet this morning. We did receive a text from them about an hour-and-a-half ago with some new images. It sounds like they slept fine, they traveled fine, and they're looking forward to their new temporary home in Texas.

CAMEROTA: Ashley, one of the big headlines this morning is that of those 300 Americans who've been evacuated, here's a picture we have of your parents. They look well given the conditions. But the big headline is that of the 300 passengers who were quarantined on that ship and have now been evacuated, officials thought they were all virus-free when they put them on that plane. But then when they tested some of them, and I think we might even have some pictures of their throats being swabbed, t4 tested positive for the virus. Do you know if your parents are two of those 14?

ASHLEY RHODES-COURTER, PARENTS EVACUATED FROM QUARANTINED SHIP: So far -- well, sorry, Blake. I have been texting with my mom this morning. Maybe it's like a mother/daughter mini freak-out. But, so far, they are feeling healthy, they've been testing negative, regular temperatures, and this is a negative stressful situation that is being handled as best it can. And even though conditions may not Be ideal, she sees one too many porta-potties than she's accustomed to.

But they realize that they're in the best place to be receiving the care that they and the others need. And now we hope that the same can be said for everyone else aboard that ship because the numbers are increasing. They're increasing rapidly. And we are tremendously grateful that our parents are now back on U.S. soil receiving all of the care and medications and things that they'll need to hopefully remain healthy.

CAMEROTA: And, in fact, I mean, I know that your mom I guess did have some -- or maybe your dad -- did have some medical challenges, needed medication, then was quarantined on the ship, didn't have enough medication for that time. So I can only imagine how stressful these last couple weeks have been for you.

Blake, we just heard -- our reporter just showed another woman who was one of the evacuees, another American.


She was crying. I mean, she is so disappointed that they're going to have to be quarantined for longer. She wasn't expecting that. No one was. She really feel so -- you know, like she's lost a month of her life. How are your parents feeling about being quarantined now?

COURTER: Well, let's unpack that for a second. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And although there was a shelter in place policy initially announced, it didn't really pass the sniff test. That boat, it's hard to argue even if you're not an epidemiologist, that that was a safe quarantine and that the staff wasn't passing infection around them, that the ventilation systems were the same specifications you would use in a hospital under the same circumstances. And then it turns out not even the hospitals could contain the infection.

It's been our position since the beginning that that was not a safe quarantine and the Dr. Anthony Fauci of the CDC, who in charge of the project, recently announced that the boat is a hot spot. So I think we're going to see more and more caution with people coming off of that boat. And we're thrilled that the United States government took a leadership position in getting people off and doing the right thing for the passengers.

CAMEROTA: Well, you're so right. I mean, obviously, it's not a safe quarantine since we keep getting new numbers and they keep growing from just that ship. I mean, I think that the latest numbers of it, like 99 more people, just overnight, have tested positive.

But I guess my question, Ashley, and since you're in touch with your mom, maybe you can answer this. Is the idea of now being quarantined for longer, for two more weeks, not being able to get back to their life, how are they feeling about that?

RHODES-COURTER: I think they're feeling this tremendous responsibility to keep, as dramatic as it may sound, the American people safe. They have no intention on spreading this virus. They want to ensure that they are healthy. This has not been ideal.

One of the more frightening components of their quarantine was that when the quarantine was announced, they knew they didn't have enough medication, including my mother's insulin. We had to work as a family and utilize family friends and very grassroots efforts to work with the local hospital to send them a package of medication and masks and insulin. And so the people that remain aboard, many of them still don't have life-saving critical meds.

And so I think because of the alternative, they're very grateful to be here to be able to have access to what they're going to need. And they want to be sure that they're healthy. They have grandchildren. We call ourselves the Courter 15. My brothers and I all have families. They don't want anyone to get sick. They want to figure out what's going on just as much as everyone and this is the place for them to do so, hopefully, safely. It's not ideal, but they are -- they know that this is the responsible choice for the protection of thousands of others. And if that means my parents using a porta-potty a little longer than they had hoped, then they're willing to do that and abide by the rules.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that makes perfect sense. And those pictures of your parents with their grand kids are really great. But I know that this has been a stressful for you both as well. I mean, you haven't had a lot of support, it sounds like, from the State Department, and I know that you had to do -- as you say, do these grassroots things.

And, Ashley, I was just reading the research. Have you all been getting threats from people online? I mean, what's that about?

RHODES-COURTER: Sadly, yes. We, I think, culturally live in a bit of a divisive time right now. Initially, my brothers and I were powerless. We didn't know what to do. So we were reaching out on social media trying to bring awareness about the plight of the people aboard the ship. And that was not necessarily well received. I think because our family was so deeply entrenched in research and medical information, we realized very quickly the severity of this situation.

And while my parents were very jovial and very positive in the beginning, there also needed to be an urgency to ensure that people were going to get off the ship and get the help that they need, especially once we saw the numbers rising as quickly as they are. And so there was, at one point, a petition started to put me aboard the ship so I could die with my parents.

So we've received some pretty hateful feedback for trying to advocate for our parents. But at the end of the day, we were three siblings with our spouses and our family, aunts, uncles, everyone coming together simply trying to keep our parents alive, and I think that's what anyone would do for their family.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, Blake, we only have five seconds left, but, I mean, what's wrong with people? How dare you guys be on the receiving end of that vitriol? RHODES-COURTER: Well -- and my parents as well. My mom is --

COURTER: Well, a lot of times, I think people would do what people say.

CAMEROTA: What, Blake?

COURTER: You know, I think a lot of people want to obey authorities. I just want to say that Captain Arma has been a fantastic leader throughout the process.


I think that it's always tricky when you have different governments saying different things. And we just took a critical eye to the situation, brought a team together and did what we thought was right.

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood. Ashley Rhodes-Courter, Blake Courter, thank you very much for taking time on this very busy morning. We're thinking of your family and we hope that your parents are healthy. Thanks so much for talking to us.


COURTER: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: That is one of hundreds of American families at this point, and you think the global impact of this, I mean, it's --

CAMEROTA: We're feeling it.

SCIUTTO: We're just seeing the beginning of it.

We're just five days away from the Nevada caucuses here at home. Where does the Democratic race there stand? Harry Enten, you might know him, breaks down the numbers, next.


SCITTUO: It's already starting, early voting underway in Nevada. The next contest among Democrats in the race for the White House, who do the latest polls say leading in that state?

Let's get to the forecast with CNN Senior Politics Writer and Abe Lincoln impersonator Harry Enten.


HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICSWRITER AND ANALYST: Top of the morning to everybody. Four score, seven years ago.

SCIUTTO: Did he say top of the morning, Lincoln?

ENTEN: I don't know if he said that. But the fact of the matter is I also have a new hair cut, so I'll show that off now and I'm going to toss this over here to someone who may, in fact, get that. Let's talk about Nevada a little bit. Look, this is the Democratic caucus and primary electorate by race. And you can see the Democratic Party right here, pretty diverse, 57 percent white, 20 percent African-American, 15 percent Latino.

New Hampshire, not really all that diverse, right, 89 percent white, 5 percent Latino, only 3 percent African-American. Nevada looks a lot more like the nation as a whole, at least in terms of the Democratic primary electorate.

SCIUTTO: And so it's almost perfectly represented when you look at the numbers, yes.

ENTEN: Exactly, it's almost perfect, a little bit more Latino, a little less African-American, but pretty much perfectly represented. And so we are no longer New Hampshire and Iowa. Non-white Democrats will finally get a say in this primary.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Who's going to win?

ENTEN: You know what? There has not been a lot of polling here, but based upon the polling predictiveness, plus the betting markets kind of took an average here, the favorite is clearly Bernie Sanders, right? He has about a 12 in 20 shot of winning, and that's about 60 percent. So he's clearly the favorite. But the rest of them all have a shot combined anyway. Joe Biden right now on second place, 3.5 shot in 20 of winning. That's -- we'll see if that holds right after Iowa and New Hampshire.

SCIUTTO: But for Biden, given his performances in the first two states, a second or even a third, I mean, would that be considered a win in effect for him based on that quotation (ph)?

ENTEN: I think if he came in second, that would not be awful. I don't think he can come in third here. Obviously, he would need to come in first in New Hampshire, which is -- I'm sorry, in South Carolina, which is the next contest down the road, a majority African-American.

CAMEROTA: Have you looked at who wins in Iowa and New Hampshire and then who wins in Nevada?

ENTEN: We have a very small sample size at least in the Democratic side where we have Iowa and New Hampshire, then Nevada. Back in 2008, for instance, Hillary Clinton won in New Hampshire and then one Nevada. Obama won in Iowa, did not win in Nevada. You jump forward to 2016, again, what you saw was Hillary Clinton winning in Nevada, Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire and Clinton have won --

SCIUTTO: So the answer is we don't know yet.

ENTEN: We don't know yet.

CAMEROTA: That's the idea (ph).

ENTEN: Let's just talk about this. You know, there's all this talk about a contested convention. And I'm actually pretty big on this train right now of there, in fact, being a realistic shot. I'm going to tell you why I'm banking on this train.

So 1992 was the first year in which all Democratic contest were proportion (ph) with 15 percent threshold. Look at the Iowa winner this year. We don't know who's won yet. We do know there is about 26 percent of the vote. That is the lowest share ever for a Iowa caucus winner since 1992.

And the same thing in New Hampshire, look, Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire but with 26 percent of the vote, again, the lowest share of any New Hampshire winner 1992. These two combined really do hint at that, a very weak frontrunner.

SCIUTTO: You know what you had in none of those races that you have in this race? A billionaire with endless amounts of money who have been --

CAMEROTA: That is changing things.

ENTEN: That could shift the entire dynamic. But I think there's another thing that I'm looking at, not just that the low vote share of the winner but also how many candidates actually got above a certain threshold.

So four candidates were at or above 15 percent in 2020 in Iowa. That is, by far, the greatest. There has been never been a situation where there were more than four or more at or above 15 percent going back since '92. And in New Hampshire, we had three candidates at or above 20 percent. We had never had that before in a Democratic primary in New Hampshire dating back to '92

CAMEROTA: It is so interesting to look back at history and how different it is right now. So what else tells you -- gives you a clue?

ENTEN: Yes, so what's something else? We're talking about Iowa. We're talking about New Hampshire. But take it national, right? Take a look at the Dem primary national poll leader by polling share after the New Hampshire primary. Normally, the lowest before this year was Bill Clinton at 39 percent when undecideds were allocated. So look at Bernie Sanders. He's in front, but he's just at 26 percent with undecided allocated. That is very different from what we normally see, where normally they're at about 50 percent or above and he is well, well below that.

So we see it in Iowa. We see it in New Hampshire. And we see it nationally. And you put that together and you really do think there's a real shot of a contested convention.

SCIUTTO: Can you say, in effect, that there is no frontrunner at this point, with confidence?

ENTEN: Well, I would say there's a frontrunner but it's a weak frontrunner. And more than that, there's not a clear favorite, right? There's a favorite in Bernie Sanders, clearly, but it's not overwhelming.

And, you know, just talking about this if we were just to put this in mathematic terms, right, this is an average of a bunch of different sites.

Right now, I still think the most likely option is no contested convention at 5.5 in ten, but a 4.5 in 10, that's not a low shot at all. That's basically 50/50.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. I mean, this could actually happen, as you keep saying.

Okay. What day is today?

ENTEN: Today is -- I don't know what today is, because look at this. How do you spell it? Is the presidents' day is the apostrophe here, is here or is there no apostrophe at all in Jersey. New Jersey is --

SCIUTTO: We already said this is grammatically wrong because it is for two presidents, right? You can say that confidence.

ENTEN: Well, you believe that. I'm not --

SCIUTTO: I'm going to get hit on Twitter by Nebraska.

ENTEN: I'm not going on the wrong timeframe.

CAMEROTA: All right. You vote. Let Jim know.

SCIUTTO: Please. Goodness gracious, praising myself now.


Mike Bloomberg, as we said, spending hundreds of millions of dollars as he rises in the polls. How his Democratic rivals are trying to slow his momentum, that's next.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: $60 billion can buy you a lot of advertising but it can't erase your record.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've got to answer questions like I just did on my record. And he has to do the same thing. I don't think you should be able to hide behind airwaves and huge ad buys.


SCIUTTO: Well, $400 million of that, so far.

Five days away from the Nevada caucuses, Democrats taking aim at a candidate who is not even competing in that state, Michael Bloomberg. The former New York City mayor's poll numbers are on the rise. How far can his billions take him?

Joining me now is CNN Political Commentator Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's Smerconish, and CNN Political Analyst Mitchell Landrieu. He is the former Democratic mayor of New Orleans. Good to have you both on this morning.

Mike, I suppose one good thing about being attacked, it means that you're getting some traction, doesn't it, for Michael Bloomberg?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he clearly is getting traction not only in those national surveys but when you look at some of the state-by-state breakdowns, it's pretty remarkable the rise he has had.

And, Jim, I think what's about to transpire is that he can only be.