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North Carolina Sees First Case of So-Called Coronavirus Community Spread; Coronavirus Outbreak Rocks Italy. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 27, 2020 - 04:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: An alarming new development for coronavirus on U.S. soil. A new case with no known source. The president trying to ease concerns about the virus by blaming Democrats.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday February, 27th. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York.

And the president is surprised that there's a flu that kills 20,000 to 30,000 people a year.

JARRETT: What do you know?

ROMANS: The president telling America he did not know that there was a flu that's an annual killer. Not inspiring confidence as we battle this.

The biggest fear of coronavirus is all we don't know, including the ways it can spread. Now that worry has come to American soil. A person in Solano County, California, near Sacramento, diagnosed with novel coronavirus. It might be the first example of what's called community spread. That's where the patient had no direct contact with someone known to have the virus. That patient was hospitalized a week ago at U.C.-Davis but was not initially tested.

Here's an infectious disease specialist from the hospital.


DR. DEAN BLUMBERG, CHIEF OF PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE, UC DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER: We can't say that there's definitely more but I think it's highly suggestive that if there's one there's probably more than one, there's probably other people. And that means pretty much that everybody is at risk. We don't know who might be carrying it. We don't know who we could get it from.


JARRETT: President Trump announcing at the White House briefing, the first one in months, he's putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus response. That raised immediate concern that the politics are coming ahead of public health. It's also more than a little ironic back in 2014 Mr. Trump tweeted it was a total joke, President Obama had named on Ebola czar with zero medical experience. Pence of course has none either and was also criticized as governor of Indiana for ignoring the advice of state health officials during an outbreak of HIV.

ROMANS: Now the president says the risk to Americans remains very low. He was asked about his stance just days ago that he did not expect coronavirus to spread in the U.S. contradicting CDC experts.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just of course in the last couple of minutes you have disputed some of what the officials that are working in your administration behind you have said about the risk of coronavirus and its spread. Do you trust your health officials to give you good information? Or do you trust your instincts more?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think I have. They've said it could be worse, and I've said it could be worse, too.


TRUMP: I also think -- No, I don't think it's inevitable.


ROMANS: Although Trump said the vice president is in charge, Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar stressed that he is still in charge of the coronavirus government task force so even the question of who is in charge is muddled in the midst of an effort to inspire confidence.

JARRETT: No doubt the president is trying to ease concerns in an election year. But a victory lap claiming everything's totally under control could look premature if his experts are correct in their more sobering forecast.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was at the White House briefing. He has more for us.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Laura, as you know, the news around coronavirus changes every day. Let me quickly show you the numbers here in the United States. Take a look at that last line, one exposure that is unknown. That means no known relevant travel history and no particular exposure to somebody who is known to be sick. So this is a bit of a question mark.

And we've got to pay attention to that one at the bottom of the screen there, again, because that patient -- you know, we've got to figure out where they specifically got exposed. And if there's no clear answer on that, it might mean that this patient represents the first example of community spread of the virus. It has not happened in the United States as of yet, but it's been the big question mark. Now I want to tell you, you know, I was at this press conference with

the president yesterday and he said that it's not inevitable that this would happen. At the same time, folks from the CDC have been saying it's not a question of if but when.

Lots of ground covered in that news conference yesterday. I was there. I want you to listen just for a second to this exchange that I had with the president.


GUPTA: The flu has a fatality ratio of about .1 percent.

TRUMP: Correct.

GUPTA: This has a fatality ratio somewhere between 2 percent to 3 percent. Given that --

TRUMP: Well, we think. We think.

GUPTA: And the fact --

TRUMP: We don't know exactly.

GUPTA: Based on the numbers so far.

TRUMP: And the flu is higher than that. The flu is much higher than that.

GUPTA: There's more people who get the flu but this is spreading and it's going to spread, maybe, within communities. That's the expectation --

TRUMP: It may. It may.

GUPTA: Does that -- does that worry you? Because that seems to be what worries the American people.

TRUMP: No. No, because we're ready for it.


GUPTA: Now, the reason that came up was because the president has been likening this coronavirus to flu, and in some ways, he's right. I mean, the transmissibility, the contagiousness, how quickly this spreads, there does seem to be similarities between the coronavirus and flu.

What is different, and this is the point that I was making and I think needs to be made, is that with the data that we have now the fatality ratio with flu is .1 percent, meaning .1 percent of people who contract the flu will die, whereas, with coronavirus, with what we know now, that fatality ratio is closer to 2 percent.

[04:05:18] So that's 20 times higher. So if the same transmissibility but significantly more lethal, that's a problem and that's what the public health officials are paying attention to.

JARRETT: Sanjay, the president also said we're completely ready for this in the United States, but is that true?

GUPTA: Now, completely ready from a public health standpoint means that we are testing everyone that needs to be tested, that we have strong public health infrastructure, that we have therapeutics, that there's a vaccine that's going to be available, that we have all the products in terms of masks and medical equipment that we need. And it's not clear that we have all that. Some of that is nobody's fault. We obviously need to work on a vaccine. But it's unclear just how prepared the public health system overall is ready for a significant influx of patients.

Christine and Laura, everyone is hoping that we don't need that. That we don't need that preparation, but we -- you know, seeing the numbers and seeing what's happening now with this possible community spread, you know, we have to be thinking about these things and it's something we're certainly going to be talking about in the days and weeks to come.

ROMANS: All right, Sanjay, thank you so much for that.

So what are markets doing around the world as the world continues to process this coronavirus? You can see that Asian shares closed mix and European shares have opened lower again. More than 1 percent declines, 1.5 percent declines in London, Paris and in Frankfurt.

U.S. stock index futures are leaning lower right now. Look, stocks struggling again Wednesday as investors are trying to understand the risk and how far this will go. The spread of the virus, closing mixed in the U.S. yesterday. The Dow fell 123 points. The Nasdaq and the S&P mixed here. The S&P had a -- down slightly, the Nasdaq eked out a very small gain.

Instead of inspiring confidence, President Trump at that extraordinary press conference pointed fingers.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are financial markets overreacting here?

TRUMP: I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democratic candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves.


ROMANS: So the president looking at the markets and attributing a 2,000-point decline to Democrats running for president, not concern about global growth because of what's happening with coronavirus. Meanwhile, investors piled into the safety of bonds, the 10-year bond yield dropped to its lowest level ever. Falling below 1.31 percent. The virus is also sending shockwaves through the oil market. Crude

prices fell another 2 percent. The idea here, a world that runs on oil will need less of it as the crisis spreads. Now, the silver lining here that could mean lower gas prices for consumers heading into the summer.

JARRETT: Meanwhile overseas South Korea confirmed 505 new cases Thursday. That's more than China for the day. Coronavirus has now spread to every continent except Antarctica. Brazil announcing its first case Wednesday. The first in South America.

The number of coronavirus cases in Italy soaring to 400 overnight. That's a 25 percent increase in just 24 hours and there are already growing fears that Italy's already shaky economy is about to be rocked by this.

Melissa Bell live for us in Florence.

Melissa, what are -- what are you hearing there from officials?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, this is just the beginning. When you think that the first case was only diagnosed here in Italy a week ago and we're now at 400 of course there's ripple effects and the consequences for the economy will be playing out over the coming weeks and months, but already people are suffering, businesses are suffering.

And when you consider those two regions that have been affected, Lombardi and Venetta, we're talking about a third of the output of the Italian economy, an economy that was already on the brink of its fourth recession since 2008. This was spectacularly a country that did not need this outbreak. And you have those containment measures. You have those 11 town and villages entirely on lockdown.

Cities like Milan, an economic for Italy, many of its super markets deserted. There have been panic buying. People are staying home. And we've just come from Venice where people are complaining bitterly about the effect on tourism already. The carnival was brought to a premature end, and the businesses all around those parts of Venice that rely so heavily on tourism saying, look, the government is already making us panic.

And what you're seeing playing out here is I think is very interesting is the first Western liberal democracy that's had to grapple with this at once, trying to contain the virus without sending everyone into a panic, even as they try and protect the economy, and you realize that it's a really difficult balance to strike, keeping people safe and yet trying to protect businesses. So for now things are looking pretty grim for the Italian economy.


The pressure right now, the focus is really on trying to prevent the spread of the virus. But already for the businesses, this is something that's hurting them a great deal. And you have those direct consequences, the factory -- the car factory business where one person gets sick that has to shut down but then all those people who are staying home, the tourists who aren't getting on planes, the people who are preferring not to go out shopping, these are consequences, these are effects that are going to play out for a long time and that are going to hurt a country like Italy a great deal.

JARRETT: Absolutely, though. The ripple effects are just huge.

Melissa, thank you so much for that.

ROMANS: So Democratic presidential candidates talked about the outbreak during CNN's town halls in South Carolina.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd insist that China allow our scientists in to make a hard determination of how it started, where it's from, how far along it is, because that is not happening now. And that should be -- we should be allowed to do that and they should want us to do that because we have genuine experts who know how to confront these things.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Number one, he fired the pandemic team two years ago. Number two, he's been defunding Centers for Disease Control, so we don't have the experts in place that we need. Bottom line is we are not ready for this kind of thing. And the president is not a scientist, it's a nice way to phrase it, doesn't seem to believe in science.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the president addressed this he did do it with the CDC. I think that's important because I believe in science. But I also think as we look at diseases and how they spread we have to think ahead.


ROMANS: There was some political headlines made. Michael Bloomberg says he will support any Democratic nominee including frontrunner Bernie Sanders despite warning that Sanders would lose to President Trump.

JARRETT: Joe Biden says that Trump could be escorted out of the White House if he loses the race but refuses to concede. Biden also got an emotional endorsement from Congressman James Clyburn, the highest ranking black member of Congress known as the godfather of South Carolina Democratic politics.

Meantime, Senator Elizabeth Warren dismissed any chance she'd drop out soon. She says she's in this race as long as no candidates reaches a majority of delegates to clinch the nomination.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way I see this is you write the rules before you know where everybody stands and then you stick with those rules. So, for me, Bernie had a big hand in writing these rules. I didn't write them. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: The candidates are splitting up today. Some are focused on South Carolina. Others are looking to Super Tuesday states like North Carolina and Texas.

ROMANS: All right. Five families grieving this morning after a coworker opens fire at a well-known brewery in Milwaukee.



ROMANS: Police are searching for a motive this morning after a worker at the Molson Coors Complex in Milwaukee opened fire and killed five employees before taking his own life. More than 1,000 people were working at the facility and corporate offices and two breweries when shots were heard. Workers then began receiving texts and e-mail warnings from the company about an active shooter.


GAVIN HATTERSLEY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MOLSON COORS: We're a family here at Molson Coors in Milwaukee, and this is an unthinkable tragedy for us. All across Milwaukee and Wisconsin, there are folks there are associated in some way with our employees at Molson Coors, and I'd ask you to stay close with them and particularly the families of those who lost their lives today.


ROMANS: And none of the victims have been publicly identified yet. A prayer vigil will be held tonight at the Ridge Community Church, about 10 miles from the Molson Coors Complex.

JARRETT: Lynching would finally be a federal hate crime under a bill passed overwhelmingly yesterday by the House, 410-4. The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is named for the 14-year-old brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955. Congress has tried and failed to make lynching a federal crime for more than a hundred years. One independent and three Republicans voted against the legislation. President Trump is expected to sign it.

ROMANS: All right. 18 minutes past the hour. She beat the odds, and the boys.



JARRETT: A 10-year-old Houston boy is in critical condition this morning after he was accidentally shot by his babysitter. Police say the 19-year-old sitter, a relative, was taking selfies with a gun she found in the home when it went off. We're told she did not think it was loaded. The child was shot in the abdomen. Doctors say his condition is stabilizing after surgery. No charges have been filed against the babysitter.

ROMANS: So losing a spouse may increase your risk of cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's. A new study found over a 3-year period cognitive abilities declined three times faster in widowed adults with the key markers for Alzheimer's than in married people with equally high levels. Researchers say even for those without the marker and no sign of cognitive decline, the risk for dementia is greater for men and women who are widowed. The study calls for greater attention and intervention for this high risk group.

JARRETT: A Dallas man's home reduced to rubble after a demolition company leveled the wrong house by accident. JR's Demolition Company admits making the mistake, has apologized for it, and says it's working to come up with a resolution for the homeowner Jeremy Wegner. Wegner says he inherited the 97-year-old house from a friend in 2018 and was planning to renovate it because of its sentimental value.

ROMANS: Well, it certainly needs renovation now.

All right. Heaven Fitch is the first woman to ever win a North Carolina high school individual state championship in wrestling and she did it by beating all the boys last weekend in the 106-pound weight class.


HEAVEN FITCH, HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLER: Wrestle my best and I kind of dominated the match if I'm being honest.


ROMANS: It's been quite easy for Heaven. She finished with a 54-5 record, won the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award in her classification and finished fourth overall in the state. Not bad for a young woman whose parents initially wouldn't let her wrestle.

JARRETT: Well, a gift of love from a hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, that held a special wedding for a terminally ill cancer patient. Gus Jimenez proposed to his fiancee Rachel nearly two weeks ago from his hospital bed.


RACHEL JIMENEZ, WIFE OF GUS JIMENEZ: We kind of just talked about why would we get married if we know this could potentially lead to him not being here much longer. But I said I didn't care about that. The hope is that there's miracles and the hope is that he does stay around. But I still want to be his wife no matter what.


JARRETT: Last week Gus and Rachel were married in the hospital's atrium. Many of Gus' caregivers were there to help the couple celebrate their very, very special day.

[04:25:05] ROMANS: Wow. I think doctors and nurses who really -- who take care of people who are in these really tough moments of their life really deserve just all the accolades. They're good for all of them.

All right, we're realizing one of the worst fears of coronavirus. A new case in the U.S. with an unknown origin now. Was it premature for the president to downplay concerns and blame Democrats for the declines on Wall Street?


ROMANS: An alarming new development for coronavirus on U.S. soil.