Return to Transcripts main page

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Stocks Tank Again on Coronavirus Fears; Coronavirus Global Pandemic Inevitable?. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Fears over the spread of the coronavirus sparking another drop on Wall Street today, the Dow closing in a moment, down around 400 points today, not as bad as previous days.

It is down more than 3,000 points for the week. To put that into perspective, global markets have shed more than $6 trillion in value in just the last seven days.

I want to go right over to Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange.

Alison, obviously, a bad day, not as bad as previous days, but do we expect this trend to continue, the downward trend, because the fear about a possible pandemic does not appear to be going anywhere?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You make a very good point there, Jake.

It is fear and uncertainty about the coronavirus that is driving this massive sell-off we've seen all. And right now, the people I am talking with are telling me the extreme trading action that we have seen all week, it really suggests investors are not confident that the U.S. government is prepared for an outbreak of the virus in the U.S.

Some traders are telling me that what could stop the sell-off at this point is some action or positive piece news.

The Federal Reserve chairman, Jay Powell, he gave a stab at it a little while ago, releasing a statement saying, the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong, that the coronavirus is a risk to the economic activity of the U.S., and that the Federal Reserve is monitoring developments and how they impact the economy, and that they will use tools as necessary to support the economy.

But, interestingly enough, the only reaction I saw from stocks after that was that they went lower at that point, although this is a Friday and it's unlikely investors really want to hold onto stocks as they go into the weekend, just in case there's more bad news to come over the weekend -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Alison, obviously, most Americans invest for decades, not for days or weeks or even months. So I assume investors are being cautioned by experts to keep their money where it is right now, if they can afford to do so.

KOSIK: Yes, I would certainly say leave it to the professionals to buy on the dips here and day-trade.

When you have got a market that is this volatile, most money managers will tell you just leave your portfolio alone at this point. So unless you're retiring tomorrow, smart money people will say don't even look at your 401(k).

And as we head into the weekend, history -- to give you some sort of food for thought as we head into the weekend, history has shown that the U.S. markets will bounce back. But the, of course, question is, when will that be and by how much, Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange, thanks so much.

The U.S. is clearly now at the beginning of a health crisis, but though the president and his team wants to convey strength and confidence, they can occasionally seem defensive.

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney even suggesting today that, in order to calm the markets, Americans should just turn their televisions off for 24 hours. Mulvaney also suggesting that Democrats and the media are trying to use the outbreak of the coronavirus to try to bring down President Trump.

And he made the odd argument that the press should not have been covering the impeachment trial of the president when the outbreak began five to six weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The press release was covering their hopes of the day.

The reason that you're seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: I seem to recall a great deal of very aggressive media coverage during the Ebola crisis during President Obama's time in office.

President Trump's top campaign surrogate, Don Jr., even said this on FOX about Democrats criticizing the administration's response:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: For them to try to take a pandemic and seemingly hope that it comes here and kills millions of people so that they could end Donald Trump's streak of winning is a new level of sickness.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: That's the president's son saying that Democrats hope millions of Americans will die from the coronavirus.

The only actual sickness here, almost 3,000 people have died worldwide from the coronavirus, most of them in China, but the virus is spreading, including into the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control saying there are 62 cases of coronavirus in the U.S. right now that they know of, and there are questions about how the administration has handled the crisis so far, for instance, questions about whether Trump administration officials at the State Department and at HHS made the right call when they overruled the Centers for Disease Control in allowing cruise passengers who were infected by the coronavirus to fly on planes back to the U.S. along with people who were at the very least asymptomatic.

As CNN's Nick Watt reports for us now, the World Health Organization is now upping its assessment of the coronavirus to the highest level of alert.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One patient in serious condition in Northern California, potentially the first case of community spread in the U.S., now a focus in the fight to contain this virus.

DR. BELA MATYAS, SOLANO COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER: Because the patient did not initially meet the criteria for coronavirus testing, the patient was not in airborne isolation.

WATT: So dozens of health care workers now quarantined and a state of emergency declared in that patient's home county.

[16:05:03]

Meanwhile, at nearby U.C. Davis, three students now also quarantined, one of them suspected of having the virus.

MATYAS: There are probably cases of coronavirus from community acquisition in multiple parts of the country right now.

WATT: And this confirmed case in California is now changing policy nationwide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't been able to test more broadly. We have had kind of a bottleneck. We haven't had enough testing sites.

WATT: Now more labs are online, and the CDC's testing criteria radically overhauled. Used to be only those who had traveled to China or been in known contact with someone who tested positive.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Where, CDC, did you ever come up with a protocol that was restricted to people that only traveled to China? I mean, come on.

WATT: Now, if a doctor suspects coronavirus, they can test for it. Could be the key to prevent a silent spread.

Today, Washington state began testing.

DR. SCOTT LINDQUIST, WASHINGTON STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: The goal is if it's in here in the morning, mid-morning, we will have result by 5:00 that afternoon.

WATT: Illinois just kicked its program up a notch.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): We are beginning voluntary testing at select hospitals.

WATT: Meanwhile, Google just canceled an upcoming summit, Amazon and J.P. Morgan advising employees against nonessential travel, Miami-Dade schools prepping to teach kids online if need be. And Green Day just postponed its tour of Asia.

Overseas, in Italy, a soccer game in an empty stadium and a motor show canceled in Geneva. Best advice to all of us, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer a lot, but CVS now warning demand may cause temporary shortages.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And, today, Jake, the CDC did admit that the initial rollout of the testing program did not -- quote -- "has not gone as smoothly as we would have liked."

Some of those kits were flawed. That led to delays. And it is unclear right now how many states are actually ready to start testing. But the CDC says that, by the end of next week, they want every state and every local health department testing for this novel coronavirus -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt in California, thank you so much.

Joining me now is CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, thanks for joining us.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You got it.

TAPPER: You have you have said there are almost certainly many more cases out there that we do not know about. How widespread could this actually be?

GUPTA: I think it could be considerably more widespread, Jake.

I mean, they have been testing thousands of people a day in South Korea, for example. Here, we have tested not even 1,000 in several weeks, so the surveillance just hasn't been there.

And also keep in mind that around 80 percent of people who do have this infection have mild or no symptoms, so they wouldn't necessarily go to the hospital or the clinic in the first place. So I think it could -- two- to three-fold more widespread. That's why community spread starts to happen.

TAPPER: The World Health Organization is getting closer to calling this an actual pandemic. You think we're basically already there.

Why does that term matter?

GUPTA: I think there's two big reasons.

One is that it's from a -- from a resource standpoint, WHO, U.N., if a outbreak is considered a pandemic, it starts to divulge more resources, divert more resources to certain areas of the world, and particularly areas that don't have a stronger public health infrastructure.

But, also, Jake we're still in sort of containment mode. There's this belief that maybe this can be contained to certain regions of the world, as opposed to mitigation mode, meaning that, OK, we know that it's in these places, we just want to slow down the spread.

Once it's declared a pandemic, it sort of shifts, the resources and the efforts, and more into this mitigation mode. And that changes how the public health community approaches this.

TAPPER: The CDC now says that the goal is to have every state and local health department able to test for coronavirus by the end of next week.

GUPTA: Yes.

TAPPER: That's not happening now, though.

GUPTA: It's not.

And, I mean, this is quite striking. Again, I hate to say this, but if you look at our public health system, which I do think is one of the best in the world, with regard to this particular issue of testing, we're kind of near the bottom, sadly.

We have 10, 11 sites, seven public health sites, three DOD sites and the CDC, where that testing can occur now. So someone shows up in a hospital or a clinic someplace in the world and says, look, I was just in Italy. I don't feel well. I'm worried about coronavirus, and many times they're being told by their doctors or the hospital, they can't be tested.

As you point out, by the end of next week. That should change. But, look, we're two months into this and days matter, let alone weeks, Jake, when it comes to testing.

TAPPER: There's a whistle-blower seeking protection. The whistle- blower's with the Department of Health and Human Services.

And he or she says that health workers from HHS were sent into quarantined areas, and they did not have protective equipment. They were not properly trained. They knew that they were going to be dealing with evacuees from Wuhan in China who had been exposed to the virus.

[16:10:05]

GUPTA: That's right.

TAPPER: What does that tell you about how prepared we are? What does it mean for health workers across the U.S.?

GUPTA: I was really surprised by this one, Jake, because there's there's some just basic public health 101 type stuff.

And that is, if you're dealing with people who potentially are carrying a pathogen like this, personal protective equipment, PPE. You have it. You're trained for it. That's stuff that we learn first year of any kind of dealing with infectious diseases.

So, what it tells me is I think there was a little bit of a -- obviously an uneven sort of approach to this, maybe a minimizing of it, thinking maybe this wasn't that serious.

Officials at HHS have disputed some of that whistle-blower's complaints and how that person has described what happened here. But, regardless, it's concerning.

I have also talked to sources and I have asked them. Look, right now, today, if health workers needed to deal with a larger outbreak, how are we doing in terms of resources? And what I'm hearing is, we have maybe 10 to 30 percent of some of the personal protective equipment that we need, clearly not enough.

We can ramp up manufacturing of this gear quickly. But we're not there right now, if this were to get quite large in terms of numbers.

TAPPER: Something else I wanted to ask you about is this "Washington Post" report from a few days ago.

Back when those Americans who were infected were brought back to the United States from the Diamond Princess, that cruise line, the CDC did not want those infected patients to be flown back along with passengers who were uninfected or, at the very least, asymptomatic.

But the State Department and a Trump administration health official overruled the CDC. What do you think about that?

GUPTA: I think it's some of the same sort of interplay, entanglement between politics and science here.

I mean, sadly, there was clear science in terms of how patients should be treated that were known to be infected. In the past, as you know, people who were suspicious because they had been in an area where the virus was circulating, they were brought back and placed into quarantine.

But prior to that cruise ship, people who had been diagnosed with the infection were stayed -- were quarantined in that particular area. This case, they just totally flipped the decision. And there's no logic to it.

And, again, it's part of this uneven approach to how this has been handled.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you, as always, for your expertise.

The Trump White House saying, turn off the TV, maybe we can have a miracle, hoping the virus will just go away, as critics slam the strategy, or lack thereof, to fight it.

And the Trump White House is warned that the deal in the works with the Taliban could help a terror group declare victory, the warnings coming from Republicans.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:01]

TAPPER: Despite an uptick in coronavirus cases in the United States, today, the Trump administration is trying to convey a sense of control, downplaying fear of virus spreading widely, suggesting chances for a recession are low.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, one lawmaker briefed on the coronavirus today on Capitol Hill says the Trump administration is unprepared on multiple levels.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As health officials around the globe rush to respond to the new cases of the novel coronavirus, the White House is continuing to downplay the risk.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This is not Ebola, OK? I'll tell you what that means in a sense. It's not SARS. It's not MERS. It's not a death sentence. It's not the same as the Ebola crisis.

COLLINS: There have now been 62 cases identified in the United States. Despite warnings from experts, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney blamed the media today for overstating concerns.

MULVANEY: The reason you're seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the president.

COLLINS: Although the global spread of the virus has been covered in the media months now, Mulvaney claimed otherwise.

MULVANEY: Why didn't you hear about it? What was going on four, five weeks ago? Impeachment. That's all the press wanted to talk about.

COLLINS: Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also faced question it was from lawmakers who were skeptical about the administration's response to coronavirus.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We agreed I would come here today to talk about Iran, and the first question today is not about Iran.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, let me make it easier, we've learned there's been an outbreak in Iran of 245 cases is the latest number.

POMPEO: Right.

COLLINS: As Congress debates a coronavirus spending bill, the House was briefed by administration officials on the latest today, though some lawmakers still had questions.

REP. FRED UPTON (R-MI): Everyone is scrambling for information.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): This is potentially an enormous issue for the country, and I do not think we're prepared.

COLLINS: Despite initially putting Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in charge, President Trump has now given this responsibility to Vice President Pence, who landed in Florida today for a coronavirus briefing with the governor alongside several fundraisers.

As his officials insist, they're prepared the president seems to be putting his faith in a higher power as he continues to cast doubt on the opinion of experts who say it will spread in the United States.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear. And from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We'll see what happens.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, you saw the president sounded confident there, but it's been a blistering week on Wall Street, and that is something he's been playing incredibly close attention to, telling aides he wants to go out and sue the markets. You see Larry Kudlow trying to do, saying he didn't think the markets were actually that bad. And he quoted confident -- and predicted confidently, Jake, and I'm quoting Kudlow now -- this virus is not going sink the American economy.

TAPPER: OK. Larry Kudlow earlier in the week said the virus was contained.

Kaitlan Collins traveling with President Trump, thanks so much.

[16:35:02]

Let's talk about this and how the president is handling this. We did the first block on the health aspects through our politics and policy proposals at stake here too. The president suggested Wednesday evening in this news conference that his administration has a handle on the cases of coronavirus. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We really think we've done a great job of keeping it down to a minimum. And again, we have had tremendous success, tremendous success beyond what people would have thought.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Mike Shields, let me start with you. After that press conference we found out there's a new community-based case in California, thought to be the first not contracted abroad or from a patient or health care worker. What do you think of how the messaging is on this?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think he's doing the right thing. Five weeks ago, he declared a national health emergency. That's exactly what President Obama did with the swine flu. Amazing the coverage how glowing it was of his decisive leadership when he did that.

President Trump, it was kind of ignored, because we got back to impeachment, as Mr. Mulvaney said. It was talked about. But then we went back to impeachment. He stopped flights from China. Look what's happened.

Other countries that continued their flights like Italy are starting to have much larger amounts of this. We have hardly had any. And that's partly because of what the president did obviously.

And now, he's ramping it up. He put Mike Pence, a former governor -- most of the governors are front line in dealing with the public response of this type of thing. You have a governor in charge of that who knows how to talk with governors, who's had to deal with this himself and he's appointed himself a czar to handle it from the federal perspective.

Today, they had meetings across Capitol Hill. It was their fifth meeting with Congress to be briefed on this today. There's only been four before this.

And naturally what happens after that? Democrats come out and go, we're completely unprepared.

And then you wonder why at Democrats are cheerleading for this to become a problem. Because it immediately becomes a partisan issue and gets attacked even though he's showing leadership and doing what Obama did. Democrats are looking for an opportunity to attack him. So, here we are, partisan fight.

TAPPER: Go ahead, Karen.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's ridiculous. No one is cheering for anyone to be further harmed get sick, die from this virus. I think we all would like to see competent leadership -- one of the things I saw, clips from yesterday, were Republican senators asking questions and you could hear in their voice their fears because they're hearing from their constituents who aren't buying what the president is saying.

And this is the problem when you have a president are a reputation for lying. When you have to have confidence in the government, it's hard to know and believe what's the truth, and particularly when your lives are on the line, when your children's lives are on the line. Where are you getting accurate information?

This is also an example of why -- Trump made this big play for taking on China and the trade agreement, but he walked away from strategic economic dialogue that President Bush started that President Obama continued. So when you're not having those conversations about other issues, it means -- and we've considered them sort of an adversary, then we're not having conversations with other countries. We can't just be talking to ourselves.

TAPPER: What do you think about the response so far?

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, I think a huge thing to look at in terms of the adequateness of this response is the fact that we are not even prepared to test the people that we need to, something other countries are doing, are absolutely prioritizing that, and we're not.

I think if we take a step back at a lot of people fearful of the Trump administration for a good reason right now because of all the lies, the disinformation coming out, this is the exact scenario that scares a lot of people is when you need extremely competent leadership with a health care system that already leaves millions of people off an it, it's really, really scary for everyday Americans that aren't getting the answers that they deserve on how to deal with this.

TAPPER: And, Bill, apart from the politics about this -- Sanjay Gupta is as politically agnostic if not atheist as anyone I know. And he just says, look, we don't have enough places to test and we don't have enough protective equipment for people. Those are just facts as he reported.

BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE WRITER: Look, these things are very hard to handle, to manage. We did some things when I was in the White House. It's a very big government, getting it all coordinated, organized, dealing with 50 states, federalism is a wonderful thing, but in this case, it makes things much more complicated.

So, that -- the attitude should be one of humility from the White House, determination, of urgency. President Obama when he was dealing with Ebola put Ron Klain in charge, staffer who had great experience in the federal government, had the authority to really make things happen. He didn't go on fundraising trips to Florida. He didn't have to White House chief of staff back in 2014, the political conference popping off about how the media is exaggerating this.

Mick Mulvaney has no idea where this is going. I don't have any idea where this is going in the next month. And the right attitude is to say, we're mobilizing all the resources of the federal government to be sober and calm.

[16:25:03]

SHIELDS: By declaring a national health emergency five weeks ago.

KRISTOL: Fine. Yes, who did he put in charge five weeks ago?

SHIELDS: Andrew Azar, the secretary of health and human services.

TAPPER: Alex, Alex Azar.

SHIELDS: Alex Azar.

KRISTOL: What happened?

SHIELDS: They ramped it up, they ramped it up as you guys asked them to do. I mean, look --

KRISTOL: I'm not asking them anything. What is with you guys, what is with you guys? I was simply making a simple point. Do you think Mick Mulvaney was wise to say what he did today?

SHIELDS: Yes, I do.

KRISTOL: You think it's wise for Mick Mulvaney to say these things being exaggerated?

SHIELDS: I'll tell you what I mean.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: You know the things are being exaggerated --

SHIELDS: You guys had said, we can't trust this president.

KRISTOL: I didn't.

SHIELDS: So, we start from a place of not trusting. I can't trust Democrats -- in a time of crisis when we need bipartisan people to come together, have faith in what they're working on work, in good faith. You have people say, how can we trust the president and start attacking from a partisan perspective and then we're right back where we are, in every problem we've ever had.

So, why would I believe that anyone as the criticism of the president right now when you've been trying to impeach him, when you've been trying to go after every single thing he does, even in the face of a crisis when he does exactly what Obama did, it turned into a partisan fight. The signal that sending to million of Americans like me is, you are not serious about protecting the country. You are serious about scoring partisan points and that's what I believe.

FINNEY: Obama did not --

KRISTOL: He's the president. It doesn't matter what I will say, it doesn't matter what any of us on the panel says, the question is what the president and White House chief of staff says.

TAPPER: So, we have to squeeze in a quick break. Everyone, stay where you are.

Could health workers be spreading the coronavirus? That's a question after a whistle-blower claims some sent to handle evacuees from Wuhan, China, without proper gear or proper training. We're going to talk to the congressman representing the district where this allegedly happened.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:30:00]