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New Coronavirus Outbreak Clusters Spark Alarm; Rivals Fan Out Across South Carolina, Super Tuesday States As Clock Ticks. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired February 27, 2020 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington Headquarters.

Underway right now, we start with a growing global outbreak of coronavirus now spreading to at least 45 countries, including the United States. As of now, there are more than 82,600 confirmed cases worldwide. This is a number that is growing and could be much higher unofficially. The virus has killed more than 2,800

The head of the World Health Organization says, the virus has pandemic potential but adds, quote, this is no time for fear. This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now.

President Trump named Vice President Mike Pence as his point man for the administration's effort to combat the coronavirus. At this news conference yesterday, the president said the U.S. is really prepared and that he hopes it doesn't spread. But members of the administration also say the risk has the potential to change quickly.

In the United States, there are no deaths from the 60 cases across the country, but as with any virus like this, it is unknown how many people might have it and not even know it right now.

In Sacramento, California, there is evidence of a first patient contracting the virus without traveling to another infected country, and this is important, because experts say this kind of community spread can be the tipping point that leads to a pandemic.

In the meantime, other countries are taking drastic measures. In Japan, they are closing schools for all of March in an effort to protect vulnerable children. And Iran has closed its borders to all Chinese citizens.

We have a team of correspondents and analysts who are standing by with new reporting on this. Let's talk about the coronavirus and how it's now hitting the global economy, because here in the U.S., the stock market is on pace for its worst week since early October of 2008 when financial crisis caused the worst week in stock market history. The Dow, S&P, the Nasdaq all down in a big way for the sixth straight day, and our Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange for us. So, Alison, tell us about this economic projection from Goldman Sachs that is getting so much attention and having such an impact.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. So Goldman Sachs releasing this report today, saying that U.S. companies this year are expected to post zero profit growth this year. Now, Goldman Sachs basing its forecast on the likelihood that the impact of the coronavirus could be more widespread than first thought. That is what it's basing its estimates on. It's saying S&P 500 companies could post a 13 percent plunge this year in profits, and it's not ruling out a recession, either.

Now, not everyone is that bearish. Fact set researchers found some analysts who expect earnings to rise 7.5 percent. But we are already hearing from a lot of big name companies like Microsoft and Anheuser- Busch saying that supply chain disruptions could cause the companies to miss their estimates. And, of course, we did hear from Apple last week saying similar that they will miss its revenue targets as well and that there could be a shortage of iPhones as well.

A couple of bright spots to mention though, Brianna, pharmaceuticals doing well, Pfizer, Merck and 3M. It looks like investors are bullish on meds and masks. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

I want to talk more now about all of this, how it's affecting the economy, this coronavirus crisis, with Damian Paletta. He is the Economics Editor of The Washington Post.

This assessment by Goldman Sachs is pretty ground-shaking here. It's really hitting home that the danger of the coronavirus isn't just what do I do to make sure I don't get it, but it's a danger to the economy and it's a danger to the pocketbooks of Americans.

DAMIAN PALETTA, ECONOMICS EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That's right. And when you mention the global financial crisis, it's kind of the same thing in terms of community fear. Because when people are afraid of the future, when they see their portfolios or 401(k)s go down this quickly, they kind of pull back, they're not going to go on that vacation, they're not going to redo that kitchen, they might not buy that new car.

And that all kind of snowballs and has a bigger and bigger effect in the economy, more and more companies fell the pinch and those companies start to pull back, maybe lay off workers and stop investing, and then you really get into a big mess. And it's amazing this has all happened just in the last few weeks.

KEILAR: So when you're looking here at the industries that are being affected, and some of them actually are having positive effects of this, it makes sense, right, if they're a pharmaceutical company. Who is really feeling the hit here?

PALETTA: Well, I think big manufacturers, the ones that really rely on the global supply chain, maybe they import a lot of parts from overseas or they count on sales overseas.


Obviously, agricultural companies were counting on shipping a lot of products through this new China trade deal and consumer products, disposable things. I mean, people spend if they had a little extra money. Obviously, travel companies are being hit really hard, cruise companies as well.

So it's going to start kind of in a consumer spending area, and then it's going to snowball out more and more to more and more companies, especially the manufacturers that rely on this supply chain and getting products quickly.

KEILAR: What I think most people care about is, is my job stable? How does this trickle down, and when does it, are you expecting that this would start hitting that?

PALETTA: Well, what's been weird is that we've had such low unemployment and the stock market has been so high that you think it wouldn't take much to kind of have an impact in those areas. We haven't heard companies having to resort to that yet. Obviously, the real pain in the stock markets only happened in the last few days.

KEILAR: But if there is no growth in a year, if this Goldman Sachs prediction is correct, what would you expect?

PALETTA: I mean, if this goes on for a while, obviously, it's going to have a major impact on the label market, unemployment rate and people's jobs, because people are not out spending money. If restaurants are not having customers as much, then, of course, people are going to start letting those workers go and those workers stop spending money, and then companies they would get money from start laying off people too because it can snowball quickly when you have the unemployment rate at 3.5 percent where it is now.

KEILAR: Yes, it could be a vicious cycle. And that's why everyone is so concerned and that's why you're talking to us about it. Damian, we really appreciate your insight on this. Thank you.

PALETTA: My pleasure. Thank you.

KEILAR: So one of the big concerns of health officials is what is called community spread. We talked about this. This is when a virus spreads from person to person in a new community without any travel link to an affected region. So that's what we're seeing in California.

Let's talk to Elizabeth Cohen. She's our Senior Medical Correspondent. And this particular patient that we're talking about, Elizabeth, is a single patient, but this also means that the virus has made a very important leap.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, this is a day that people will remember when they write the history of this outbreak, Brianna. Because what happened here was that this patient shows up at U.C. Davis Hospital in Northern California, and Davis, rightly so, quickly, on the day they were admitted, said, wow, we have a patient with pneumonia, a cough, they've been sick for a while. They ordered a test from the CDC and the CDC did not do it initially. The CDC has been focused on testing people who traveled to China or who are in close contact with someone who traveled to China, and this patient didn't fit this definition.

Now, the CDC did, after several days, do the testing, and then it took a while, they reported the results. But some time passed, and that is not good. Now, that will hopefully be changing quickly. Today, there are more labs that are able to do this testing than there were even just a day or two ago. In the next couple days, there will be even more labs that can do this testing so you won't have this kind of wait, hopefully. But, certainly, what this case points out is that people can get this virus even if they haven't traveled to China, even if they don't know anyone who has traveled to China or any of the coronavirus hot spots. That means, really, that anyone could potentially be at risk.

KEILAR: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for that update.

And we're joined now by Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips. She oversees clinical care at 51 hospitals and she is in charge of the team that created coronavirus patient 1 in the U.S. And, Doctor, thank you so much for coming on to talk about this.

Your hospital, St. Joseph's, which is just outside Seattle, confirmed this first case of Chinese coronavirus in the U.S. Your team has treated additional patients. What is your biggest concern as you hear that there is this first U.S. case of unknown origin?

AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, OVERSAW TREATMENT OF FIRST CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: Well, the biggest concern is we have to be ready, right? So from the health system, we're first responders in this world, and we see a lot of patients during flu season, which is still is right now with cough, fever, shortness of breath.

And the challenge is going to be how do we tease out people with just the regular cold with the flu and with coronavirus, and so it's going to be really critical getting access to that testing capability sooner rather than later.

KEILAR: And we're hearing some labs aren't even online today, right? They're coming online quickly, which is key. But if, as in the case of this individual in California, it is missed and there is this extensive incubation period, what are the risks there? What would you expect to see from that in terms of other people contracting the coronavirus?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Well, the risk is that spread is going to -- is actually going to accelerate. And so we are advising people to do what they know they need to do anyway, but it's just not in our culture to do it, that if you're sick, stay home, right? Cover your cough, wash your hands frequently. Make sure you're doing those things that if you have an infection, we don't want you to pass it to other people, and that's raised up to even more importance than it is normally because if what you have is a community-acquired coronavirus, we need to make sure we're containing that spread.


And that's what officials in places like Italy are trying to do right now and that's why they're cancelling large gatherings and ensuring that we can't have rapid transmission of this novel infection because it really is -- we can't prevent it at this point, but we do need to do everything we can to contain.

KEILAR: I do think, especially as what we're seeing with the stock market, we're seeing this case in California. I think people are starting to pay attention more this week to the coronavirus and how this could impact them individually. And I know that when people think of an outbreak, Doctor, they think about maybe some recent examples, like the Ebola outbreak, which actually -- it was pretty quickly contained in the U.S. There were two people who died. They also think of SARS, which was also relatively quickly contained and it didn't kill anyone here.

So put this coronavirus into perspective for us in terms of how quickly it has spread, how often it kills someone and just, I guess, how difficult it is to contain.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: It's a great question, because we do really need to calibrate our fear, right? Like, Ebola is incredibly deadly and if you get it, you had really high odds of having a life-threatening infection and/or dying. In the U.S., people didn't die as often as they did in Africa, but still, it's a horrible infection. But that means because it's so lethal, people are not well enough to be out in the community passing it on to others.

So one of the challenges with COVID-19 is that people get it, and very often, for them, it is like the flu or it's like a bad cold. It's not as severe, and so people are out in the community and transmitting it further. It has a higher mortality rate, as we can tell right now from the data particularly coming out of China. The mortality rate is somewhere between 2 and 3 percent, probably, which is significantly higher than the flu strains out right now. So it is more deadly but it's not nearly as deadly as the SARS and MERS epidemics that had mortality rates at 20 and 30 percent.

But, again, what that means is that people are out and about more and able to spread the germs further, which makes it harder to contain the epidemic because there is more opportunities for transmission from person to person.

KEILAR: Thank you so much. It's an important perspective and we will take your advice. If you're sick, stay home. We appreciate it, Dr. Compton-Phillips.


KEILAR: Democrats are blasting the president's response to the outbreak, including his choice to have Vice President Mike Pence lead it despite his controversial record on public health issues.

Plus, why the 2002 candidates are separating on the campaign trail two days before South Carolina and five days before Super Tuesday?

And new CNN reporting on why House Democrats are getting more and more nervous about Bernie Sanders winning the nomination.



KEILAR: Now, to the race for the White House where Joe Biden is staking his candidacy on a win in South Carolina this weekend. Candidates are making their final pitches in South Carolina today ahead of the primary on Saturday, but other candidates are already getting a head-start on states that vote next week on Super Tuesday.

Bloomberg, for instance, has events today in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. Senor Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, will briefly visit Virginia before he heads back to South Carolina tonight.

And if Sanders were to win South Carolina -- it is a long shot, according to the polls -- but still, this is a race that would consolidate. There would be little to stop him from running up a delegate count next week. Even so, Senator Elizabeth Warren says she's taking her candidacy all the way to the convention.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was going to spend 100 percent of my time with folks, and I make my phone calls, as other candidates do. And the phone calls I make are the people who have pitched in $5 or $25. As long as they want me to stay in this race, I'm staying in this race, that and I've done a lot of pinky promises out there, so I've got to stay in this. I've told little girls we'll persist.


KEILAR: CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip is live for us in Greenville, South Carolina, where Pete Buttigieg's rally is set to get under way any minute. And, Abby, just set the scene for us there in South Carolina ahead of this pivotal primary.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, South Carolina right now seems to be all about what happens with Joe Biden. This is his stand where his campaign has really staked everything on his performance in this state.

Now, the campaign is exuding all kinds of confidence going into the primary on Saturday, but they are also raising their own bar. Jim Clyburn, the congressman from South Carolina, who endorsed Joe Biden yesterday, saying repeatedly that he believes Biden needs a significant win if he is going to go into Super Tuesday with the momentum that he will need in order to stop Bernie Sanders, which has become a big priority for a lot of these other candidates.

So all the other candidates are still fighting for votes here on the ground because they know there are quite a few undecided voters here in the state, and there are big questions about how big of a margin Joe Biden wins by if he wins the state and then what happens with the rest of the candidates. For candidates like Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg, the question for them coming out of this state is, can they make progress and showing that they have at least have a pulse with non-white, particularly African-American voters in this state?


That's going to be an important part of the narrative as they head into Super Tuesday.

But, Brianna, as you pointed out, a lot of these candidates are already in other states. They are signaling to reporters like myself and others that they are in this not just through Super Tuesday but beyond. I think whatever happens on Saturday, every single candidate is going to try to make a case that they ought to be in it at least three days later through Super Tuesday and even farther beyond that.

It's become a question of whether or not they can stay in this race and pick up delegates so that they can make a case that Bernie Sanders is not going to have an insurmountable delegate lead after Super Tuesday. That's become been the big talk not just among Democrats back in Washington but also among the candidates here on the ground in South Carolina. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Abby, thank you so much in South Carolina for us.

Many Democratic lawmakers in Washington are watching the race there in South Carolina, they're watching the upcoming Super Tuesday races with trepidation. They're worried not a single congressman or senator in a competitive race has endorsed Sanders, some warning that if Sanders becomes the Democratic nominee, voters in moderate district could vote for Republicans and wipe out the Democratic gains of the last midterm election.

I want to bring in Congressman Seth Moulton to talk to us now. And, Congressman, you're someone I know -- you worked for Joe Biden when you left the race as a presidential candidate. You ended up endorsing him. And at the time, you actually warned that if Democrats adopted an overly liberal platform, it would be hard to beat President Trump. So I wonder what your thoughts are now as you see Joe Biden and and moderates in general lagging behind Bernie Sanders lagging, even as Joe Biden is leading in the polls in South Carolina.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Look, this race is still in its early stages and I think Joe Biden's comeback is going to start this weekend, it's going to start Saturday, and we're going to see in South Carolina that he can build a winning coalition that we need to beat Donald Trump. We've got to turn out the base, we've got to also appeal to moderates. He's the best candidate who can do that.

And you know what? After he is elected the next president, he is also a unifying leader, which this country desperately needs right now. We need a unifying leader in the White House. We have the exact opposite of that right now in President Trump. KEILAR: Congressman Clyburn of South Carolina endorsed Biden yesterday, a coveted endorsement. And he said that if Sanders is the nominee, the House is in real trouble. What do you think, what do you hear your colleagues who come from more competitive districts saying there?

MOULTON: Look, I'm not a pundit but I can certainly tell you that my colleagues are concerned. We want a unifying leader at the top of the ticket because we have to build that diverse coalition that Democrats always need in order to win. And Joe Biden can clearly do that. That's why I'm behind him. It's so important that we beat Donald Trump, and it's so important that we bring this country back together again when we do.

When you look at these tough competitive districts, these House seats, many of which I supported in 2018, they're tough races. These are leaders who have to go out and get independents, Republicans to vote for them as well, and they need someone at the top of the ticket who can bring together that coalition that cannot only win the presidency but can make sure we hold onto the House and have a good chance of taking back the Senate too.

KEILAR: Do you think you lose the House if Sanders is the nominee?

MOULTON: No, I don't think we lose, but I think it's harder.

KEILAR: Okay. So The New York Times has interviewed party leaders in a half a dozen Super Tuesday states and they say that Biden has the same issues in those states that he had in Iowa, which are, quote, subpar organization, limited outreach to local Democrats and the late start to campaigning.

The chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas said this, quote, Arkansas was, in my opinion, going to be a default Biden state. He hasn't been here. Of all the campaigns, the least organized in Arkansas is Biden. What's your reaction to that and do you have concerns here?

MOULTON: I mean, I'm not on the ground in Arkansas and, again, I'm not a pundit. What I know is that people are looking for leadership in these tough times. We're looking for an experienced leader who can get the job done both in the election and afterwards. And that's about much more than whatever campaign organization is on the ground in Arkansas right now.

KEILAR: I want to talk to you about a moment you had yesterday questioning the defense secretary, Mark Esper. This is a comment that you made to him at the end of your questioning. Let's listen.


MOULTON: Mr. Secretary, when you took this job, did you take an oath to the president or to the Constitution?

MARK ESPER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The Constitution of the United States. I've taken that oath multiple times over my 40 years of professional life.

MOULTON: It must be very difficult to reconcile having lived with the West Point honor code that, quote, no cadet shall lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those that do when working for this president.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.



KEILAR: You, of course, are someone who knows a thing or two about combat and about service with your past in the military.


I wonder, when you had that moment with him, you clearly have a frustration with him. You have a frustration with the administration. What is it in particular that was, I guess, motivating what you said there to him?

MOULTON: If you want to be in this administration, and especially if you want to be on Trump's cabinet, you've got to be willing to stand up to him.

Now, obviously, that's not what Trump is looking for. He doesn't want dissent. But that's what we need out of the secretary of defense.

And when Secretary Esper took this job, I said to him -- we had a very small session, and I said to him directly, you've got big shoes to fill, because you're following Secretary Jim Mattis, a Marine general I actually served under in Iraq. And the most important thing that Secretary Mattis did was not just bring a wealth of combat experience in the job, not just have an ability to talk about military strategy, it was his willingness to stand up to Trump.

And I asked him, Mr. Secretary, Mark Esper, are you willing to stand up to Trump, not just disagree with him but fight for what you know is right for our national security and for our troops.

And I'm not sure that Esper is doing that. I mean, he told us, for example, that there would be no retaliation against Lieutenant Colonel Vindman for testifying under oath as he had the constitutional responsibility to do in the Trump investigation, in the impeachment inquiry. And yet Trump just went ahead and fired him. In fact, he even fired his brother for purely being his brother. Where was Esper then? Where was the secretary of defense to stand up for Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, one of the great American heroes who serves under the secretary in the Department of Defense?

KEILAR: Congressman, thank you so much for joining us, Congressman Seth Moulton.

So Democrats are slamming President Trump's handling of the coronavirus. Why Vice President Pence is drawing much of this criticism after President Trump appointed him to lead the country's response.

Plus, shuttered schools, dark movie theaters, what life is like for those living in virtual ghost towns amid coronavirus fears.