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Coronavirus Community Spread Comes To The U.S.; Vice President Mike Pence To Take Charge Of U.S. Coronavirus Response; President Trump Blames Democrats, Not Coronavirus For Market Decline. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 27, 2020 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: This 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 UC Davis but was not initially tested.

Here's an infectious disease specialist from the hospital.


DR. DEAN BLUMBERG, CHIEF OF PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UC DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER: Well, 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's at risk. We don't know who might be carrying it. We don't know who we could get it from.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump announcing at the White House briefing -- by the way, the first in months -- he's been putting -- he's putting Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus response. That raised immediate concern that politics are coming ahead of public health.

It's also more than a little ironic. In 2014, Mr. Trump tweeted it was a total joke President Obama had named an Ebola czar with zero medical experience. Pence has zero medical experience and was criticized as governor of Indiana for ignoring the advice of state health officials during an outbreak of HIV.

ROMANS: 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.


REPORTER: Just in the course of 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 and do you trust your instincts?

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

REPORTER: But you don't believe it's inevitable.

TRUMP: I also think --


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


ROMANS: Although Trump said the vice president is in charge, the Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar stressed he is still in charge of the coronavirus government task force. So, even the question of who is in charge is a bit muddled here 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 is under control could look premature if his experts are correct in their more sobering forecast.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta was at that White House briefing. He has more for us now.


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

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

GUPTA: This has a fatality ratio somewhere between two and three percent. Given that --

TRUMP: Well, we think -- we think.

GUPTA: -- and the fact -- we think --

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 --

TRUMP: It may, it may.

GUPTA: -- expectation.

Does that -- does that worry you because that seems to be --


GUPTA: -- 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 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 two percent. So that's 20 times higher.

So with 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, before you go, the president also said we are completely ready for this. 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 local 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 -- 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 Gupta, thank you for that.

You know, markets around the world are still rattled by all of this. I mean, you can see that Asian shares closed mix; Tokyo down another two percent. European shares opened lower and really have not been able to find their footing here.

On Wall Street, U.S. stock-index futures leaning down after stocks struggled again Wednesday -- investors assessing the spread of the virus. Stocks, yesterday, closed mixed. The Dow down five days in a row though, 123 points.

Instead of inspiring confidence during this press conference, President Trump blamed Democrats.


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 -- the Dow was down almost 2,000 points for the two days before there was that debate that he's talking about, we think.

Meanwhile, investors piled into the safety of bonds -- your leading indicator for today. The 10-year bond yield dropped to its lowest level on record, falling below 1.31 percent.

Multiple industries are warning the outbreak will hurt them. We've heard from Apple. Now, Microsoft says it doesn't expect to meet sales guidance on Windows and Surface computers because of the virus. Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Guinness, and Captain

Morgan said consumer consumption is dropping. Bars and restaurants in China are closed. That is sure to hurt its sales.

Danone, which makes Evian bottled water, says its sales will also take a hit. China is the company's second-biggest market. Its factory in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is still closed. That is affecting distribution around the world, Laura.

JARRETT: All right, more ahead on all of this. Plus, she beat the odds and the boys.




TRUMP: The flu in our country kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me.


ROMANS: President Trump does not know that the flu -- influenza kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. It's an annual killer.

That's another thing not inspiring confidence as he tries to calm coronavirus fears. Renewed urgency this morning after a patient in California was diagnosed with coronavirus. It could be the first example of community spread where the patient had no direct contact with someone known to have the virus.

JARRETT: Joining us live from Washington now, CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood. Sarah, so good to see you.

ROMANS: Hi, Sarah.

JARRETT: -- this morning.

You reported yesterday that the president was weighing appointing a czar, essentially to be the point person overseeing the coronavirus response and effort -- essentially, to give people confidence that somebody is in charge here. He announces yesterday at the briefing that the vice president, Mike Pence, is going to now be the point person. He doesn't want to call it a czar, but now going to be in charge.

What is the move there? Pence doesn't have any medical experience at all. What do you think the thinking is?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the appointment of Vice President Pence to oversee the coronavirus response comes amid tensions between President Trump and Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar.

Sources familiar with the discussions tell CNN that the president has been irritated, particularly about learning of decisions that aides have made only after advisers come to complain about him. Essentially, the president has the sense that Azar has been keeping him out of the loop.

So, for example, the president was irritated about the decision to bring those Americans who had coronavirus symptoms home from the cruise ship that was docked in Japan. Also, about a botched effort to try to put some patients at the FEMA facility in Alabama. Local officials pushed back on that. So the president has been unhappy with some of the ways that Azar has gone about managing this.

There was also a sense from some White House officials that Azar had requested a lot of money -- perhaps a disproportionate amount of money while the White House was working on its emergency funding request -- to cover up some -- what some officials had seen as mismanagement.

So, Pence, even though he doesn't have that medical background necessarily, he does have a leadership background, obviously, as a governor --


WESTWOOD: -- who has run health agencies. And so, he is a very prominent face to put on the coronavirus response that the president trusts.

ROMANS: As a governor, has been criticized for not taking his health officials' advice when there was a -- when there was HIV --


ROMANS: -- outbreak. So that's -- you know, that's sort of an interesting twist to it.

I want to talk a little bit about the credibility and the leadership test here of this president. I mean, you heard him -- we bumped in with that sound of him expressing surprise that the flu kills so many people. This is common knowledge -- an annual killer in the United States. It's almost as if he's trying to downplay coronavirus by saying oh no, look over here. We already have something that kills a lot of people.

Is the president running a risk of having a mission accomplished moment by saying this is not a big deal -- we already have the flu? Don't worry about this -- it's going to be contained when if it isn't, how do you trust what's coming from the White House?

WESTWOOD: Right. If this were ever to become a pandemic and daily life was interrupted for Americans, these sound bites of the president now downplaying it, saying that the administration doesn't need to go further than it's gone right now -- those could easily come back to haunt him.

Right now, I think what the administration is doing is walking a really fine line between trying to avoid sparking a public panic --

ROMANS: Exactly.

WESTWOOD: -- that could affect the supply chain, banks -- I mean, disruptions that are unnecessary -- but also encouraging Americans to be prepared. I think that's why you see that disconnect between what the CDC is saying, what DHS is saying about how Americans --



WESTWOOD: -- should be preparing and what -- that Trump is saying.

ROMANS: I will say projecting competence and confidence --


ROMANS: -- is one thing that is critical from the Executive Branch when you have a public health emergency. But now knowing the basics of American public health doesn't inspire confidence.

JARRETT: And just being very loose with the language --

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: -- in general, I thought, throughout that briefing.


JARRETT: Sarah, the other thing he did, he went back to his safe space. He blamed the Democrats. He essentially tried to make some link between the debate and the stock market crash even though, of course, we saw the markets take a nosedive way before that.

I mean, how is an average American at home who wants to see leadership from their president at a time of great uncertainty when we don't know the full effects of this virus, we don't know how it's going to spread throughout the United States -- do you think that's an effective move to get up there and blame the Democrats for this?

WESTWOOD: Well, the president has always been very sensitive to movements in the stock market. When it's been high --


WESTWOOD: -- he's prized that as an indication that his economic policies are working. And he has also been particularly agitated when the stock market is going down.

And what perhaps you're seeing is more of President Trump trying to stave off a worse market outcome in response to coronavirus. The president does not want to be blamed for the handling of coronavirus and you could easily see him pointing fingers at Democrats if things start to go wrong.

Democrats are putting themselves in a position, though, to have the higher ground. For example, you saw Sen. Schumer float this much higher emergency funding request than what the administration is asking for, perhaps laying the groundwork to be able to say even though they're not in power in the White House that they have done more if this starts to get worse than it is right now.



ROMANS: I mean, this is why other administrations don't cheerlead the stock market because when it turns on you, then you own it.

And I will also say the president is not a stock market guy. He has said before he was president I'm not a stock market guy. NATO, when the stock market was falling last year -- he was like oh, I don't watch the stock market. I watch jobs. So --

JARRETT: There is -- there is a reason we're seeing a briefing when they haven't been at that podium in almost a year.

ROMANS: It got his attention. Oh yes, the stock market got his attention.

All right, Sarah --

JARRETT: All right, Sarah --

ROMANS: -- nice to see you. Sarah Westwood at the White House for us.

JARRETT: Thanks so much, Sarah.

WESTWOOD: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, a growing number of American universities are now canceling their 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. -- you need to have a two-week supply of water and food on hand and you need to have your necessary over-the-counter medications.

If your kid is sick, 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, at child care centers, and other places where people gather.

Americans are urged to talk to your employers about working from home if necessary.

Coronavirus has now spread to every continent except Antarctica. Brazil announcing its first case Wednesday. That is the first in South America.

JARRETT: Democratic presidential candidates talked about the outbreak during CNN's town halls in South Carolina. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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, and 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, is a nice way to phrase it, and 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.


JARRETT: There were also some political headlines at the town halls. Michael Bloomberg says he will support any Democratic nominee, including Bernie Sanders, despite warning that Sanders would lose to President Trump.

ROMANS: Before the town hall, Biden also received an emotional endorsement from Congressman James Clyburn, the highest-ranking black member of Congress, known as the Godfather of South Carolina Democratic politics.

Meantime, Sen. Elizabeth Warren dismissed any chances she'd drop out soon. She has an endorsement there from John Legend. She says she's in it as long as no candidate 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.


ROMANS: So the candidates are splitting up today. Some are focused on South Carolina; others are looking to Super Tuesday states like North Carolina and Texas.

We'll be right back.


[05:54:17] ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning.

Markets around the world, once again, reacting to the coronavirus outbreak. You can see Asian shares closed mixed, but Tokyo down. European shares have opened lower and have actually been worsening over the past hour or so. Paris and Frankfurt down two percent each.

U.S. stock-index futures also leaning down here. It was a mixed day Wednesday in the U.S. Investors still assessing the spread of this virus and the damage to industries.

The Dow fell 124 points, five days down in a row. The S&P 500 -- that's the real broader gauge of stock market health -- also down. The Nasdaq -- tech stocks bounced back just a little bit.

All right, a bright spot in the election year economy -- America's housing market. New home sales increased nearly eight percent to 764,000 -- that's the rate -- unit rate in January -- the highest level since July 2007.


Low mortgage rates along with low unemployment and modest wage growth have helped the market regain momentum. You should look at mortgage rates. They are real low here right now.

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. That list includes police forces, law enforcement agencies, banks. The company claims to have scraped more than three billion photos from the Internet -- photos from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Clearview AI said it has patched this flaw and the person didn't access any search histories conducted by customers.

JARRETT: Oh, that's comforting.

ROMANS: Yes, exactly.

JARRETT: A 10-year-old Houston boy is in critical condition after he was accidentally shot by his babysitter. Police say the 19-year-old sitter, a relative, was taking selfies with a gun when it went off. We're told she did not think it was loaded.

Doctors say the boy is stabilizing after surgery. No charges have been filed.

ROMANS: All right. Blizzard warnings are up for parts of the eastern Great Lakes. Up to two feet of snow will cause whiteout conditions.

Here is meteorologist Derek Van Dam.


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 raindrops this morning but that's going to clear out rather quickly.

But our lake-effect snow machine is going to kick into high gear, especially for those downwind 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 nine 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. And 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.


JARRETT: All right, Derek. Thanks so much for that.

Well, a Dallas man's home reduced to rubble after a demolition company leveled the wrong house. JR's Demolition Company admits making the mistake, has apologized for it, and says it's working to come up with a resolution.

The homeowner says he inherited the 97-year-old house from a friend and was planning to renovate it because of its sentimental value.

ROMANS: All right, Heaven Fitch is the first female to win a North Carolina high school individual state championship in wrestling. She did it by beating all the boys in the 106-pound weight class.


HEAVEN FITCH, FEMALE WRESTLER: I just wrestled my best and I just -- I kind of dominated the match, if I'm being honest.


ROMANS: You can be honest.

It's been quite a season for Heaven. She finished with a 54 and five record and won the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award in her classification. Not bad for a young woman whose parents initially refused to let her wrestle.

JARRETT: Coronavirus is, of course, no laughing matter and the late- night hosts -- well, they tried their best.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": This could be the fastest-spreading virus from Asia since "Gangnam Style," which is scary.


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

COLBERT: Oh, really? Yes, really nice.

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: I didn't even know there were that many kinds of beards. There's like all these beards.

JARRETT: And they have names.

ROMANS: I know, the zapper, the walrus, the painter's brush. Clean- shaven, however, is best.

JARRETT: Yes, best for several reasons.

ROMANS: Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Thursday, February 27th. It's 6:00 here in New York.

And we do begin with breaking news. A significant and troubling development in the coronavirus situation overnight in Northern California.

Listen closely because we now have what appears to be the first person in the United States to catch the virus through what is called community spread. You need to know that phrase. It means the person did not travel to any high-threat region or come in any known contact with someone else who was infected.