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Unknown Exposure in U.S. Soil Raises Alarm; Coronavirus Threatens Tokyo Olympics; Coronavirus Creates New Normal in China. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 27, 2020 - 04:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, 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 back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. About 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

So the biggest fear of coronavirus is all that we don't know including the ways that it can spread. Now that very 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. The patient was hospitalized a week ago at U.C.-Davis but was not initially tested.

Here's an infectious disease specialist from that 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.


ROMANS: President Trump calling a White House briefing, the first in months, and 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 a little more than bit ironic. In 2014 Mr. Trump tweeted, it was a total joke, President Obama had named on Ebola czar with, quote, "zero medical experience." Pence of course has no medical experience. Also he was criticized as governor of Indiana for ignoring the advice of state health officials during an outbreak of HIV.

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


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just the 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.


JARRETT: 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's really in charge is muddled in the midst of an effort to inspire confidence.

ROMANS: No doubt the president is trying to ease concerns in an election year, projecting optimism, 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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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?


GUPTA: Because that seems to be what worries the American people.

TRUMP: 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.

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.


ROMANS: Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much for that.

You know, the president trying to inspire some confidence but he admitted that he was unaware of the common knowledge that 20,000 to 30,000 people a year die from the flu. You know, at the head of the American government not knowing that did not inspire confidence. And in fact markets around the world remain rattled. It did not assuage fears in the markets.

Asian shares closed mix, European shares have opened lower again. On Wall Street futures struggling for direction here, leaning lower at the moment. Stocks again struggled yesterday as investors assess the spread of the virus and it closed mixed. The Dow fell 123 points, the fifth day lower in a row.

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


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are financial markets overreacting here?

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


ROMANS: The stock market wreck began well before that debate and here's why. The coronavirus is straining global supply chains. Multiple industries are warning the outbreak will hurt them. We have heard from Apple. Now Microsoft says it doesn't expect to meet sales guidance on Windows and surface computers because of the virus.

Diageo's, the maker of Johnny Walker, Smirnoff, Guinness and Captain Morgan, it warned sales could be hit by as much as $421 million. Danone, which makes Evian bottled water, expects the virus to shave $109 million off its sales in the first quarter.

JARRETT: Well, because of the coronavirus outbreak a growing number of American universities are canceling study abroad programs. All of them in Florence, Italy, South Korea and China. And the Department of Homeland Security is recommending everyone in the U.S. to have a two weeks supply of water and food on hand as well as necessary over-the- counter medications.

If your child is sick it is important to keep them home from school to protect other students. The CDC warns widespread transmission of the coronavirus could lead to mass absences or even closures at schools, child care centers and other places where people gather. Americans are urged to talk to their employers about working from home if necessary.

ROMANS: Working from home is a good option, but you know people don't have paid sick leave in the United States.


ROMANS: We don't have federally mandated paid sick leave and that starts to be a real concern especially among low-wage retailer workers who go to work because they have to get paid.

JARRETT: Yes. Yes.

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

JARRETT: The virus has cast a cloud of uncertainty over the Tokyo Olympics now less than five months away.

CNN's Blake Essig is live in Tokyo with more for us.

Blake, what are some of the preparations that are being done to compensate for this?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: Well, you know, Laura, it's business as usual. I'm actually standing in the heart of Tokyo 2020. You can see the iconic Olympic rings right behind me. And just across the street, Japan's new national stadium where in less than five months, unless the coronavirus has anything to say about it, that is where the opening ceremonies will be held.

And I did have the chance to talk to local Olympic organizers who told me that the idea that this event, this global event will be canceled is just speculation. That being said, IOC member Dick Pound says it is something being considered.


DICK POUND, MEMBER OF INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: If the games are cancelled, and that's a big if at this point, it's going to be a complicated decision. My guess is it would take more than simply a decision by the IOC and the Tokyo authorities. It would governments and international agencies saying it is not safe to hold the games, and we're a long way from that.


ESSIG: In 2016 the International Olympic Committee did have to deal with the Zika outbreak in Brazil, but they've never had to deal with a potential pandemic like what we're facing here with the coronavirus.

Now, it'll have to be made on whether or not these games move forward. Dick Pound said that that'll be made by late May, but as far as the Japanese government is concerned the focus right now for them is the next one to three weeks to try to contain the potential spread of the coronavirus across Japan. And to do that they have asked all people across Japan to avoid any large or small gatherings.

They've even gone as far to cancel sporting events including rugby and soccer. They've also, as far as baseball's concerned, their spring training games for the next three weeks, those games will be held as scheduled, but they will be played in empty stadiums.

[04:40:06] And when you talk about everything else that is going on here, Laura, the games are going to continue at least as planned right now. But again, there is a big concern that the coronavirus could impact the decision on what happens moving forward.

JARRETT: All right, Blake. Thanks so much for being there for us.

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 Trump could be escorted out of the White House if he loses but refuses to concede. Biden also got an emotional endorsement from Congressman James Clyburn, the second highest ranking -- I should say, 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 is 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. A rare intervention by former President Obama in the 2020 contest. His lawyers sending a cease and desist letter to a Republican super PAC demanding it drop an add that uses Obama reading from his 1995 memoir. In the passage Obama quotes a barber complaining about how politicians treat black voters but the committee to defend the president uses it to suggest Obama is actually criticizing Joe Biden. An Obama spokeswoman calls the use despicable and misleading, and calls on South Carolina TV stations not to air it.

JARRETT: Still ahead, even the simplest things are a big challenge right now in China. Just wait until you see what our David Culver had to do for some fast food.



JARRETT: Welcome back. The coronavirus outbreak in China is hitting some of the most basic aspects of daily life including fast food.

As CNN's David Culver shows us grabbing a bite to eat is now incredibly complicated.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You are looking at the new normal for many fast food restaurants in China. Customers entering this KFC passing through the now standard temperature checks, walking up to a giant screen. They either transfer their order from their smart phones, thus avoiding the surface or they type it in. As soon as they step away an employee swoops in to disinfect. Some stores like this Shanghai Starbucks take away only. The goal, keep people from gathering. This as the corporate side to stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have been having daily crisis meetings since the end of January.

CULVER: We sat down with Yum China Holdings CEO Joey Wat. Her company runs some of the most popular food brands in China including KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

JOEY WAT, CEO, YUM CHINA HOLDINGS: What's the best way to deal with adversity is to stay calm, protect ourselves.

CULVER: That protection continues outside of the restaurants. Food delivery also about keeping your space.

(On camera): This is what happens here. They leave it there, he tells me, I can go, I move in, pick up the food and head home to eat. And as soon as you get your food you'll notice on top of the receipt is this little card. It has two different types of readings on it. The temperature reading of the person who prepared your food along with their name and the name and temperature reading of the person who delivered your food.

(Voice-over): For Wat it is as much about being health conscience for customers and staff as it is to give her employees financial comfort.

WAT: And that's part of a company's responsibility to make sure that our staff and their families will continue to have their jobs and money to put food on the table. So therefore we always make sure that we have enough cash to prepare for challenges like that.

CULVER: And this challenge is real. At the onset of the outbreak the company closed more than a third of its roughly 9200 restaurants. And even the ones that stayed open saw a 40 percent to 50 percent drop in sales compared with the same time last year. Yet Wat stresses that keeping restaurants open does not always mean turning a profit.

WAT: We reopened six restaurants in Wuhan just to serve the food for the medical staff.

CULVER: Sending off meals to feed doctors, nurses, and others working at the epicenter of the outbreak.

WAT: Every great company has a soul inside. Of course we need to learn how to make money but at the same time in a moment like this we need to learn how to not make money sometimes.


CULVER: Wat says she often reflects on her time as a young factory worker and as a waitress before rising the ranks to her current leadership role. It's inspired her to learn from these difficult moments.

WAT: It's tough right now but I always cite to my staff that good time builds confidence, bad time builds character. This year we're going to build some really good character.

CULVER: Yielding hope from a surplus of uncertainty.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


ROMANS: Gosh. We really thank David for the great reporting he's been doing there.

JARRETT: So much.

ROMANS: You know, and managers of every kind of company you can imagine are trying to game out, you know, what to do with their staff, urging people to work from home, how do you deliver your product.

JARRETT: How do you get your KFC.

ROMANS: Just -- exactly. That makes me hungry. All right, 50 minutes past the hour. Can stock markets stabilize after

another disappointing day on Wall Street? Five days lower in a row for the Dow. CNN Business is next.



ROMANS: Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Markets around the world once again reacting to the coronavirus outbreak and trying to find some direction here. You have Asian markets basically closed mixed. Tokyo down another 2 percent. And then European shares opened lower there. More than 1.5 percent losses in Europe.

On Wall Street, again, struggling for direction this morning. Dow Futures down here. And it was a mixed performance Wednesday for stocks. Investors really assessing the spread of this. The Dow down 124 points. That's five days in a row of Dow losses.

The S&P 500, that's a broader gauge of stock market health. That was also down, but Nasdaq bounced just a little bit. So a bright spot in the election year economy, America's housing market. New home sales increased almost 8 percent to a rate of 764,000 units in January.

Here's what's really important. That's the highest level since July 2007 in the housing peak. Low mortgage rates really the deal here along with low unemployment and a modest wage growth have helped the market regain momentum.

Clearview AI has billions of our photos. Now it says it lost its entire list of clients to a hacker. The startup compiles billions of photos for facial recognition technology. It says a hacker gained unauthorized access to its customer list which includes police forces, law enforcement agencies, banks. The company claims to have scraped more than three billion photos from the Internet, including photos from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. Clearview AI said it has patched this flaw and the person didn't access any search histories conducted by customers.

JARRETT: Well, blizzard warnings are up for parts of the eastern Great Lakes. Up to two feet of snow and strong winds will cause white-out conditions.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam has the latest.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Laura and Christine. We have a full-fledged winter storm shaping up today across northern New England. Specifically downwind from Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The major East Coast cities, you have had some rain drops this morning but that's going to clear out rather quickly but our lake effect snow machine is going to kick in to high gear especially for those downward communities from the Great Lakes.

Through this afternoon we could experience up to two feet of snow for some of the snow bands that do end up forming and the potential to see winds in excess of 60 miles per hour that will lead to blizzard conditions. Of course the lake effect snow machine turned on by the lack of ice coverage across the Great Lakes at the moment sitting at 9 percent.

Here goes the storm system and there comes the hefty snowfall. Look out Buffalo into Syracuse, as well as the Watertown region. Again up to two feet of snow is possible across this region. You can see the rain expected from New York into Boston.

Here's a look at your temperatures. Chilly from the Great Lakes right through the East Coast.

Back to you.

ROMANS: All right. We'll take that. Thanks, Derek.

Five-time tennis grand slam champion Marie Sharapova saying good-bye to tennis. The 32-year-old Russian announcing her retirement in a column written for "Vanity Fair." It's a love letter to the sport that made her one of the world's most famous and richest female athletes. Sharapova burst on to the scene -- tennis scene in 2004 as a 17-year- old beating Serena Williams in the Wimbledon Final.

JARRETT: We all know coronavirus is of course no joke and the late- night hosts, well, they tried their best.


JIMMY KIMMEL, LATE-NIGHT HOST: This could be the fastest spreading virus from Asia since Gangnam style which is scary.

STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE-NIGHT HOST: Trump tried to reassure us all.

TRUMP: There's a very good chance you're not going to die.

COLBERT: Oh. Really? Really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Really nice.

COLBERT: Fear of the virus has led many to wear masks in the United States and the CDC has released this actual graphic detailing which styles of facial hair are best for wearing respirator masks and which ones do not work. Oh, god, all of Brooklyn is dead. They will be missed. They will be missed.


ROMANS: Pity the bearded millennial.

JARRETT: So, what, the hipsters don't get to protect themselves and be safe? They have to shave now?

ROMANS: Hipsters at higher risk. We should note.

JARRETT: So unfair.

Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day. For our U.S. viewers EARLY START continues right now.

ROMANS: An alarming new development from coronavirus on U.S. soil. A new case with no known source. The president attempting to ease concerns about the virus by blaming Democrats.

Good morning and welcome to --