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THE SITUATION ROOM

Record Drop in Stock Market; Whistle-Blower Calls Out Trump Administration on Coronavirus; Interview With Presidential Candidate Tom Steyer; Turning Point, First Coronavirus Case Of Unknown Origin In U.S.; Biden Makes Closing Pitch In Must-Win South Carolina; Biden Makes Closing Pitch in Must-Win South Carolina; Dow Plunges Nearly 1,200 Points Amid Coronavirus Fears; Interview with Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA). Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 27, 2020 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news on a record plunge in stock prices, as coronavirus fears intensify, the Dow Jones industrials closing down nearly 1200 points today, the worst one-day point drop in U.S. history.

Also breaking, a whistle-blower complaint is escalating concerns about the administration's response to the outbreak. The whistle-blower says U.S. workers were sent in to help coronavirus evacuees without proper training or protective gear.

This comes at a turning point in the spread of the disease. For the first time, a coronavirus case has been diagnosed here in the United States that is not -- not -- linked to foreign travel or known contact with anyone infected. And that could mean the virus is silently spreading through U.S. communities right now.

We have a team of doctors standing by, along with our correspondents and analysts, as we cover the day's top stories.

Let's first go to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, this breaking news, first of all, about the whistle-blower complaint, tell us about that.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're hearing this complaint that a particular division of HHS called the Administration for Children and Families, they had a bunch of workers, this complaint says, that went to receive those first patients that came out of Wuhan.

Remember those images of that plane coming in, and they say these workers who spent time with these patients face to face, patients who had just come, again, out of that epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and the complaint says they had not been either properly trained with personal protective equipment or didn't receive personal protective equipment in some cases. The complaint also says they have -- that these concerns had been

raised even before they were deployed to go meet these passengers coming in, that the complaints were not addressed at that time, and that, subsequently, this whistle-blower complained again. She was reassigned within HHS.

And now, fearing for her position within the department, she filed this complaint, and it's now coming to light. The question is really how much preparation did these workers get when they first came in contact with these patients?

Now, it doesn't appear that any of the workers became sick. It also doesn't appear that they were tested for coronavirus. They certainly were not quarantined after coming in contact with these passengers. They flew on commercial flights back home.

And this is all part of the complaint. Again, I'd be careful not to suggest that anyone has become sick as a result of what sounds like was a real lapse in personal protection. But this is what the complaint is really all about, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is. It's very disturbing.

Also, in terms of this one case in California right now, as you know, Sanjay, a patient who caught the virus from an unknown person, the state's public health director calling it a turning point. Tell us about that.

GUPTA: Well, this is sort of what we have been talking about for some time.

We have looked at who these patients are in the United States that have been tested positive. Initially, the vast majority were patients who had been in China. They had been traveling and carried the virus in their bodies back to the United States.

Two more patients within the United States got it, but they were close contacts, spouses of patients that were known to be infected. So, that totaled 14 patients. And then there were 45 more patients that came from that cruise ship.

Now there's an additional patient, so a 15th patient in the United States that's been diagnosed, that seems to have had no relevant travel history to one of these areas, and no known exposure with someone who's infected.

That's why they say this person just got it in the community. The person's walking around the community, subsequently gets ill. Several days pass before this patient is able to get tested, and when that patient is tested, comes back as being positive for coronavirus.

When you are asking the question, where did she get it from, because there's no obvious source, then you start to raise this idea, is the virus already circulating in the community, maybe among somebody who was either minimally symptomatic or didn't have symptoms or whatever it might be, and the person got it from that person? We just don't know, is the point. But this idea that the virus could be circulating in the community, certainly in that community, is what public health officials are now -- now investigating.

BLITZER: All right, Sanjay, I want you to stand by, because I'm going to get back to you in a moment. There's more news we're following.

I want to go to our chief -- excuse me -- our White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond.

Jeremy, the president has been to agitated, as you know, as our viewers know, about the coronavirus, the toll it's taking, for example, on the stock markets, now down nearly, what, 1,200 points on this one day, 3,500 points or so over the past few days.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And our sources that made very clear to us that the economy and the stock market has been a top concern for the president as he has been approaching this coronavirus outbreak.

[18:05:08]

Of course, this is a reelection year. And the president is banking on a strong economy to deliver him another four years. That's why we saw the president come out into the White House Briefing Room yesterday, something that he doesn't do often, to try and reassure the public.

But, despite that, Wolf, as you mentioned today, another stock market downfall -- Wolf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND (voice-over): Tonight, growing concern here in the U.S. over the coronavirus outbreak, fueled by rising fears of a pandemic, U.S. markets suffering losses for the sixth day in a row.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While the risk to the American public remains low, as the president said yesterday, we're ready. We're ready for anything.

DIAMOND: Vice President Mike Pence, on his first day in charge of the federal response, looking to reassure the public and calm the markets, announcing several additions to the coronavirus task force, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, and Ambassador Deborah Birx, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, an Obama appointee.

But, at the top, more confusion.

QUESTION: Are you leading the task force?

PENCE: I'm leading the task force. We will continue to rely on the secretary's role as chairman of the task force and the leader of Health and Human Services. But we have known each other for many years, worked together very closely over the years. And the president has every confidence in the secretary, as I do.

DIAMOND: That decision coming after Trump returned from India on Wednesday and grew frustrated with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, amid spiraling markets and lawmakers drilling his Cabinet officials.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mike is going to be in charge, and Mike will report back to me. But he's got a certain talent for this.

DIAMOND: Now several people close to Pence fear it could spell disaster, putting him in an impossible position, as health experts warn the situation will inevitably get worse.

Pence also has a controversial record combating an HIV outbreak as governor of Indiana in 2014.

PENCE: This is truly a crisis that is centered on a crisis of drug abuse.

DIAMOND: Pence initially opposed a CDC-recommended needle exchange program, which could have helped prevent the spread of the virus.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she told Pence she didn't think he should be in charge.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Unfortunately, up until now, the Trump administration has mounted an opaque and often chaotic response to this outbreak.

DIAMOND: This as a patient testing positive for coronavirus in Northern California is now the first U.S. case believed to have been contracted from exposure within a U.S. community.

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

DIAMOND: President Trump contradicted the health officials tasked with fighting the illness at Wednesday's news conference.

TRUMP: No, I don't think it's -- I don't think it's inevitable. I think that there's a chance that it could get could worse. There's a chance it could get fairly substantially worse. But nothing's inevitable.

DIAMOND: A stark contrast to officials who warned the situation will inevitably get worse.

ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly. And we can expect to see more cases in the United States.

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We do expect more cases. And this is a good time to prepare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: Wolf, the vice president is not just in charge of efforts to contain the spread of the virus, sources telling us that his office is now in charge of all of the public messaging surrounding the effort.

That means that any officials going out on TV or putting out statements about coronavirus will have to run that through the vice president's office.

And all of this, of course, Wolf, comes after there's been some mixed messaging from senior administration officials contradicting messages about the spread of the virus, for example.

But, of course, none of this is going to change the fact that a lot of it comes from the top. We saw even just yesterday the president contradicting his own top health officials -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very disturbing development.

All right, thanks very much, Jeremy Diamond, over at the White House.

Let's bring back our experts.

Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is still with us. Also joining us, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, the former Obama White House health policy adviser, and Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Frieden, how concerned are you, first of all, about this whistle- blower complaint that U.S. officials went in to deal with some of these American evacuees from Wuhan province in China without proper training and without protective gear?

DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Without seeing the details, Wolf, it's hard for me to comment.

But I think the bigger picture here is that it has become clear over the past few days that a pandemic is inevitable. What is not certain is how severe it will be. There are mild pandemics, moderate and severe.

What we can do now is prepare in the society generally, in our health care settings, in the government. And one of the key things to track in this next week is what happens with the supplemental funding for this, because that will determine how robust the U.S. response can be.

[18:10:10]

BLITZER: It's interesting, Zeke, because maybe a dozen us health care workers potentially could have been compromised by going in without the proper protective gear.

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: Yes, I don't know what that situation is. And, obviously, that -- people are going to have to investigate that. But I agree completely with Tom. There's a whole series of things that

we need to do. One is, we need to be sure that, if this gets worse, we have the protective gear in place, and that people know how to use it, not just in a particular place, but throughout the country. We don't know where the next case might be.

Second, we also need to be sure that we're going to have the right drugs in this country for everyone. A large supply of the raw material for drugs and generic drugs comes from China. And we need to be sure, if that dries up, we have alternative production sources, so it doesn't go down.

And a third absolutely essential thing is, we coordination between the White House and the 50 states. We need the White House to convene all those state public health officials and make sure they're all playing from the same playbook.

And then all those testing, right? We have done 500 tests in this country. We need to be doing thousands. Hospitals should not be having to contact the CDC to do a test on coronavirus.

BLITZER: Well, that's an important point.

And let me ask Dr. Frieden about that, because the CDC changed its criteria for testing today as a result of that one patient in California, who was not tested for several days because supposedly that patient didn't fit the initial criteria.

How significant is this new development?

FRIEDEN: Really, in the U.S. and globally, there are two phases that we're going to face when we deal with the coronavirus.

The first is where we try to contain it, where you're trying to find every single case, every contact, isolate them, and stop it completely. What we're seeing in many parts of the world is that that becomes impossible.

And then you have to move to a different strategy of trying to manage or mitigate the impact. And that's going to require much broader testing, but also preparedness in the health sector.

We have to be able to safely surge what health workers do, so they don't get infected, so they don't serve as amplification points for the virus in the community, as happened not only in Wuhan with this coronavirus, but also with MERS and SARS, two other coronaviruses that have spread in hospitals.

BLITZER: Very significant.

Sanjay, the latest numbers we have -- these are the official numbers, and I think they're probably low -- but, right now, 82,717 confirmed cases worldwide, 2,808 deaths confirmed cases worldwide, mostly in China.

And let me just point out to you and our viewers, Saudi Arabia has now suspended pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina for people from outside the country. The U.S. and South Korea have now suspended, postponed joint military exercises long planned. Japan has requested all kids in public schools, elementary, middle schools, high school, for the next month, those schools are going to be shut down.

Is that something we here in the United States potentially could anticipate happening?

GUPTA: Tough to do.

But, I mean, you can also understand why some of these things are being put into place. I mean, when you have a situation like this, one of the thing -- the terms you will hear a lot is this idea of social distancing and this idea that people can try and do anything they can to try and prevent the spread of this.

And that means sort of self-isolating to some extent. And you do hear about the idea of people staying home from work, kids staying home from school as much as possible.

I think the idea of shutting down all the schools in the country for a month, it sounds like an extreme step. I'd certainly be interested to hear what Dr. Frieden Dr. Emanuel have to say about that. But I hope that we don't get to that point this country, but you could see where it's possible, because that is part of the idea of this social distancing taken to the more extreme.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a significant development.

Everybody, stand by, because we're staying on top of this story. It's a very significant development.

Also, other news we're following this hour, the Democratic presidential race could take a new turn in South Carolina on Saturday.

I will ask Tom Steyer about his chances in the primary -- there you see him live -- and the mega-night of contests around the corner on Super Tuesday next week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:52]

BLITZER: The Democratic presidential candidates are about to be tested in the South for the first time.

The South Carolina primary gets under way a little over 36 six hours from now.

Joining us now, Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer.

Tom, I want to talk about what's going on in South Carolina in the race.

But, very quickly, if you were president right now, what, if anything, would you be doing differently than the president? TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me say this, Wolf.

The president has already blown this. He is very, very late.

The first announcement of this publicly was at the end of December of last year. We're at the end of February, and he's starting to focus on this. And, honestly, that is way too late.

He has already gutted the Centers for Disease Control. He should have been on this months ago. He should have been sending scientists to China. He should have been working to develop a vaccine. If he -- he should have been working with the National Institute of Health.

This is a guy who thinks that this is a problem for his reelection, and he thinks it's a problem for the economy. And he's right in both cases.

But let's be clear. He's the president of the United States. His job is to protect the health and safety of American citizens, first and foremost, and he's failed in his basic duty.

[18:20:07]

BLITZER: All right, let's...

STEYER: This is a clear example of Mr. Trump's incompetence, deep incompetence. And we're watching it real time.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about what's going to happen Saturday in the South Carolina primary. Where do you expect to finish?

STEYER: I don't exactly know, Wolf.

What I know is this. This is a very diverse Democratic electorate. It's 65 percent African-American. And I have been down here more than any other candidate to meet people, to look them in the eye, to hear what's going on in terms of clear -- clean air and clean water, in terms of wages, in terms of health care, in terms of education.

And, honestly, I have never been to a place where people need more help, where there is more need for turning the page on this failed Republican experiment starting with Ronald Reagan, and where I'm more determined to fight for racial justice, for economic justice, and for environmental justice.

These people have taken my heart. And I have spent a ton of time here and I have been fighting for what's right. And that's why I'm here. And I really care about it.

BLITZER: And you're going to move on to the Super Tuesday contest, 14 states, next Tuesday?

STEYER: Yes.

Well, I'm hoping that the people of South Carolina will vault me into Super Tuesday with a lot of momentum, Wolf. That's what I'm hoping for. And that's what I'm counting on, because, honestly, this is a state that reflects the Democratic Party, South Carolina, the diversity of the Democratic Party, and will show whether I or other candidates can pull together that diverse electorate that is the big tent that people need to pull together to beat Donald Trump in November.

BLITZER: Last night, in a CNN town hall, Elizabeth Warren said she'd continue to fight for the nomination, even if another candidate arrived at the convention ahead of her in the delegate count.

Will you make the same statement?

STEYER: I honestly have not been thinking about that, Wolf.

It's funny. I am focused on Saturday in South Carolina and Super Tuesday past that. I'm not thinking about what happens after that. I think everything's going to change. And it doesn't make any sense to start worrying about what happens four months from now.

As far as I'm concerned, what's really important to me is fighting for that kind -- for the kind of justice these people deserve and getting in front of them, hearing their stories.

I had a guy crying in my arms this morning. That is what I'm focused on, is what's happening on the ground, what I can say, what I can learn, and really trying to connect with the people of South Carolina, honest to gosh. That's about as far as my brain will take me.

BLITZER: All right.

Well, let's talk about what happened in -- this week in the debate. You warned that, if Democrats nominate, let's say, Democratic socialist, as he calls himself, a Democratic socialist, like Bernie Sanders, they risk reelecting President Trump.

But are you giving Sanders an easier path to the nomination by remaining in the race, essentially dividing what's called that moderate support?

STEYER: Look, I'm out here trying to show, Wolf, that I'm the person who can pull together the Democratic Party.

And I just don't believe that having the government take over big parts of the economy is a smart thing to do. I know that unchecked capitalism has failed the American people. But the answer isn't for the government to take over big parts of the private sector.

We need a job-creating, dynamic private sector. The answer is to break the corporations' stranglehold on our democracy. They have bought the democracy. That's the actual answer for the American people. And that's what I'm arguing for. That's what I'm pushing for.

And, honestly, for 10 years, I have been fighting those corporations, and I have never lost. I want to go to D.C. and do it again on a bigger scale.

BLITZER: Well, we will see what happens, first of all, on Saturday, then the following Tuesday.

Tom Steyer, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck.

STEYER: Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much for having me. It's great to talk to you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

All right, coming up, we're going to more on the new coronavirus case in California with no known origin.

I will get reaction from a California lawmaker, as the danger may be spreading.

And a doctor is warning that this is a turning point in the transmission of the virus. Are health officials prepared?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:28:56]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the coronavirus threat to Americans and the U.S. economy.

The Dow Jones industrials reeling from the worst one-day point drop in U.S. history fueled by coronavirus fears, this as we're also learning that a whistle-blower complaint claims that U.S. workers were sent in to help coronavirus evacuees without proper training or protective gear.

Let's go to see CNN's Nick Watt. He's joining us from California right now.

Nick, the spread of the disease appears to be right now potentially at a turning point.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does.

And listen, Wolf, testing is going to be absolutely crucial in the fight against this virus. And, today, the governor of California said that the number of test kits that have been available here in the state so far has been simply inadequate.

More of those kits are now on their way here, and fast, after California had yet another positive diagnosis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): This new California case could be a turning point.

We're told this woman has not traveled overseas recently or been in contact with anyone who is known to have the virus.

[18:30:06]

DR. DEAN BLUMBERG, U.C. DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER: That suggests that the virus is out there in the community. And that means pretty much that everybody is at risk.

WATT: It's possible this could be an instance of community spread, the CDC says, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Absolutely, people that have been contact with this individual have the right to know and in real-time, they are being interviewed, points of contact, family members are being interviewed.

WATT: 8,400 people in the state who have returned from overseas are right now being monitored. Facebook just canceled its large F8 Conference scheduled to take place in San Jose in early May out of concern over the virus.

Orange County just joined San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Diego declaring a state of emergency, freeing up funds just in case, even states with no confirmed cases getting ready.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We are very active ourselves in what we're doing.

WATT: New York's governor approved $40 million for staff and equipment if needed. Florida has assembled an emergency management team.

SCOTT RIVKEES, FLORIDA SURGEON GENERAL: This is an emerging and rapidly evolving situation.

WATT: Hawaiian Airlines has canceled all flights to and from South Korea. This virus could pose some major challenges. It appears to be easily transmissible. Of the 3,711 people aboard the Diamond Princess, at least 705 caught it. It's novel, it's new, so very few of us have immunity from past exposure. It can mild, even asymptomatic, so infected people can be walking around unknowingly spreading it.

The FDA has now simplified the test and more labs should now be able to test for this virus.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The next step is working with the private sector and also CDC to develop basically a bedside diagnostic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And the CDC has just changed the guidelines on who can be tested. It used to be unless you had been to China or been in known contact with somebody who had tested positive then, you would not get the test. Not anymore after this latest case in California. That woman went into the hospital last Wednesday, wasn't tested until Sunday. So the new guideline is if a doctor just suspects coronavirus, then they can test for it. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, very important indeed. Nick Watt reporting from California.

Joining us now, Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat of California. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

And I first, want to get your reaction to this whistleblower complaint alleging that federal workers were potentially exposed to coronavirus without the proper training, without the proper equipment, all taking place in your State of California. How concerned are you about the administration's ability to respond to this threat with the proper protocols?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Well, certainly, it would be reckless if, in fact, proper protocols were not being used. I am concerned too that this whistleblower may have been transferred so I think Congress is going to have to look more deeply into the whistleblower's complaint and what actions had been taken and if there had been any repercussions to this person as well.

Now, the American people deserve a government that will respond to this pandemic. It's time for the president to stop tweeting. It's time for him to stop using happy talk. It's time for him to have daily White House briefings to alert the American people and the various states and localities as to what the federal government is going to do.

BLITZER: You just heard in our report that we're following this first known case of what's called community spread of the virus, just north of your district. Did the delay in testing this one patient potentially put other Californians in danger?

SPEIER: It could possibly have done so. I mean, the profile that was being used that prevented that particular individual from being tested had to do with the fact that they were only testing those who had traveled to China or had been on airplanes and this particular individual had not, but we don't know enough yet.

We brought many of these parents to Travis Air Force Base. The patient was located in and around that vicinity. Maybe there was some exposure that way. But meanwhile, we do know that in 80 percent of these cases, people are having a mild reaction to the coronavirus or asymptomatic, which means they are carriers and don't even know it. That's why testing, random testing in hospitals is going to be so very important. Why it's also important for us to make sure that states and localities know that we are going to reimburse them, that we develop a vaccine, that we make sure that the money we're going to set aside for the coronavirus is not going to be cannibalized from other NIH functions.

[18:35:12]

One of the efforts was being made by the president to take money away from Ebola, which is still something that is not completely in check.

So we're going to have to be responsible here and it's going to require the president to recognize that the stock market is going to continue to reel from this until there is confidence that we are addressing this.

BLITZER: Your governor, Gavin Newsom, says the number of testing kits in your state has, that your state has on hand right now, is, in his words, simply inadequate. So what do you need right now from the administration?

SPEIER: Well, the administration has to overnight these test kits. They are now changing the protocol so they're simpler test kits. They will then be made available in California. We can then test them in California at the public health testing lab. So as soon as we get those kits, we'll be in a much better position to be able to get a handle on those who are asymptomatic in California.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Jackie Speier, thanks for joining us. Good luck out there.

SPEIER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, Democratic presidential candidates campaign down to the wire in South Carolina while looking ahead to next week's Super Tuesday contest.

Plus, more on the breaking news, historic losses on Wall Street as the fear of the coronavirus grows.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: This hour, Joe Biden has a campaign event in South Carolina. He's making his closing pitch in a state that could revive or sink his presidential campaign.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is joining us from Spartanburg right now where Bernie Sanders also is on the campaign trail tonight.

Ryan, no one has more riding on South Carolina right now than Joe Biden.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no doubt about that, Wolf. For the most part in this Democratic primary, South Carolina has been Biden country. And right now, the former vice president is hoping that this state delivers the rescue his campaign desperately needs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: Tonight, Joe Biden making a final push in South Carolina hoping for a much needed win.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, this election is about getting rid of Donald Trump.

NOBLES: Biden has planted himself in the Palmetto State where despite pressure from Bernie Sanders, he appears to be in strong position ahead of Saturday's primary. A new Monmouth University poll shows the former vice president opening up a double-digit lead.

In the closing days of the South Carolina campaign, Biden continuing to draw sharp contrasts with Sanders.

BIDEN: Senator Sanders' Medicare-for-all push will be a long, long expensive slog. We can't afford to wait for what he calls and others call and I believe they're totally sincere, a revolution.

NOBLES: While Sanders is making a play for South Carolina, he's also setting his sights on Super Tuesday, sprinkling in visits to states such as Virginia, Massachusetts and North Carolina, which all vote in just five days.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to defeat Trump because the American people are demanding all over this country and I've been from California, East Coast, all over, the American people want a government and an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.

NOBLES: Sanders, the Democratic frontrunner, also facing incoming from rivals other than Biden. Elizabeth Warren suggesting Sanders' position that the candidate with a plurality of delegates should be declared the nominee was disingenuous.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie had a big hand in writing these rules. I didn't right them, but Bernie did. When we were -- they were putting together the 2016 platform for the Democratic convention, those are the rules that he wanted to write.

NOBLES: During his CNN town hall appearance, Biden connecting through his own loss with a pastor whose wife was killed in the 2015 shooting at Charleston's Mother Emanuel AME Church.

BIDEN: I kind of know what it's like to lose family. And my heart goes out to you. If you may remember after Barack and Michelle and I were there and my family, I came back on that Sunday to regular service, because I'd just lost my son. And I wanted some hope because what you all did was astounding.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: And we're expecting Bernie Sanders here in Spartanburg, South Carolina in a little less than an hour, and there is no doubt he is spending a lot of time in this state, but he is also very focused on Super Tuesday. And it seems as though he's spending more time talking about Donald Trump instead of his Democratic primary rivals, but there's no doubt he's thinking about them, Wolf, and his travel schedule tells us that.

Before Super Tuesday, Sanders will visit both Massachusetts and Minnesota, home to two of his rivals, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Ryan, I want you to stand by. I also want to bring in our Political Correspondent, Abby Phillip. She is in South Carolina tonight as well.

Abby, obviously a lot riding on a win for Joe Biden.

[18:45:01]

How's the campaign feeling heading into Saturday? ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Biden campaign is

clearly feeling very confident going into this primary. Joe Biden has already said he believes he will win this state of South Carolina.

And, Wolf, as you know, because it happened on your program, Jim Clyburn was on with you yesterday and made it clear that he thought this should be a pretty significant win for Biden. So I think the campaign is feeling fairly confident that the pieces are coming together at this point.

That endorsement was very critical and at the same time, there are not as many signs that other competitors are encroaching on his support from African-American voters. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar haven't been able to do that. Bernie Sanders is going to do better here than some of his other competitors, but not well enough to cut into Biden's lead. So, they're expecting a win and I think a lot of people agree that win needs to be significant if it's going to produce the bump that he needs for momentum going into Super Tuesday.

BLITZER: Yes, we're showing our viewers some live pictures of the former vice president out on the campaign trial right now. Abby, with just what, five days to go until Super Tuesday next week, that potentially 14 states including large states like California and Texas, other important states, that could very well change the trajectory of this entire race.

PHILLIP: Absolutely. What you're hearing from a lot of the other candidates right now is that they are eyeing Bernie Sanders. And whether he can, whether he has the opportunity to amass an insurmountable lead on Super Tuesday, with about a third of the vote for grabs, that is a possibility. So, you've seen a lot of other candidates really pivoting their messages to talk about Bernie Sanders much more directly, criticizing him more directly.

The point being that by the time they get to Super Tuesday, all they need to do is be viable in some of these states in order to chip away on how many delegates Sanders is able to pick up.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens.

Abby Phillip in South Carolina for us, thank you.

There's more breaking news coming up next. A whistleblower alleges that Americans who helped with those coronavirus evacuation flights weren't properly trained or equipped. And will the outbreak send the U.S. economy into recession? We'll take a closer look at the truly dramatic and historic financial fallout.

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[18:52:05]

BLITZER: Coronavirus fears sending stocks tumbling today, the Dow losing almost 1,200 points, the largest one-day point drop in U.S. history as markets are on track for their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis. CNN business editor at large Richard Quest is joining us right now.

Richard, help us break down the growing economic fallout from the coronavirus. How badly could the U.S. economy eventually be hurt?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: If things continue as they are at the moment and don't get much worse, and I think things will be all right. The situation will be OK. There will be a hit to economic growth but there won't be a recession. However, the worry here is things won't be the same. Now, they're going to get a great deal worse.

And that's what you're seeing today, Wolf. There is a bonfire here of uncertainty, worry, companies like Microsoft now saying that they won't be able to meet the numbers they set. We're seeing companies like Apple warning that if China continues to close factories, that's going to have an effect.

And even some companies saying that toys for Christmas later this year could be in jeopardy. That's the bonfire of worry. And what was the accelerant and ignited it today was Goldman Sachs saying that they're expecting zero percent earnings growth for U.S. corporations.

Now, remember, Wolf, the share price is the project of future earning streams. It's looking forward. If companies are not going to make as much, if there are going to be serious worries, prices can't be justified. Prices fall in worry. That's what we've seen over the course of this.

BLITZER: Well, take us through how businesses potentially could be impacted if the coronavirus were to spread here in the U.S.

QUEST: Let's take any sector you like, doesn't matter. If it's aviation, the airlines, they're being hammered. The airlines obviously get hit, they can't fly to Asia, profitable routes are no longer there. They've got people worrying about traveling. Therefore, the planes are on the ground.

Lufthansa has announced a hiring freeze and it just grounded 13 aircraft. But you've got other companies, industrials that can't get parts from Japan. And as Japan recovers, but now there's problems from Italy, for example, Northern Italy where 25 percent of the economy is. They have problems if things are starting to shutdown.

This could snowball. There is no company short of perhaps your corner deli that won't be affected in some shape or form, and even they may be affected if fruit and vegetables become more expensive.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a serious, serious situation. All right. Richard Quest, thanks very much.

More news right after this.

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[18:59:08] BLITZER: "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is next. But, first, we're mourning the loss of a beloved member of the CNN family.

Mike Kraft was the heart and soul of the graphics team for nearly 27 years. Mike passed away from cancer and was laid to rest today. He was only 55 years old. His colleagues want you to know that Mike Kraft was a great friend and great boss and they cherished every day they worked with him.

And he adored them right back. I'm told Mike made sure in his final days that his team knew they loved him like family. Of course, Mike's greatest love and greatest joy were his wife Laura and his children Matt and Katie.

Our hearts go out to them tonight and our deepest, deepest condolences. May they be comforted by their memories, their good times at the best, Mike's passion for tennis, his dedication to this network that he served so well.

All of us at CNN are treasuring our memories of Mike tonight. May he rest in peace, and may his memory be a blessing.