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WHO Officials Warn Of Pandemic Potential; Urgent Race To Solve Mystery OF U.S. Patient's Contacts; Whistleblower Says U.S. Crews With Infected Lacked Gear And Training. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: A WHO spokeswoman tells CNN that officials need to have a checklist when preparing.


DR. MARGARET HARRIS, SPOKESWOMAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Look at what you need to be doing and ask a range of questions. Do you have the capacity in your hospitals? Have you got the ventilators? Have you got the staff ready? Have you got backup teams?

Because your staff are going to get exhausted, you need backup teams. Is the training in place? Are the laboratories ready? Do your staff know how to take swabs? Do you have big teams that can do surveillance?

All these are the questions that need to be asked and answered right now.


BALDWIN: One big question that's being asked in California, who came into contact with that woman who tested positive for the virus despite no links to countries or people affected? We'll have more on the efforts to track down those people in just a moment.

Another question today, did Federal workers who helped evacuate Americans from the Chinese epicenter of the outbreak, get proper training and proper equipment?

A whistleblower tells "The Washington Post" the answer is in a word, no. But a State Department official is pushing back on that claim saying based on the experience with those missions that procedures were followed, and for the first time, the F.D.A. is now warning of a drug shortage related to the virus as airlines cancel or cut back on flights to the hardest hit countries.

All of it weighing heavily on the markets, we will take a look at the big board and you can see, down 885 points here. Dow suffering its biggest one-day point drop ever.

And even with all of that, many inside the White House, still appearing to be downplaying the potential impact. Here's President Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to disappear 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. Nobody really knows.


BALDWIN: So let's go to California where officials are trying to track down anyone who may have crossed paths with that coronavirus mystery patients. One thing that is known, the woman is not a repatriated evacuee who was taken to local Air Force Base.


DR. BELA MATYAS, SOLANO COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICER: This individual has no connection whatsoever to that Federal mission, and to any of the personnel that have been involved in that evacuation process. So this is -- it does appear to be a person who genuinely did acquire their illness in the community.


BALDWIN: Standards Dan Simon is outside that UC Davis Medical Center where this patient is being treated.

You know, Dan, several days passed before this woman was tested. How are officials identifying who may have come into contact with her?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Brooke. First of all, from what we understand the woman is still in serious condition here at the UC Davis Medical Center, and it's still a mystery in terms of how she obtained the virus.

Just to review, the people in the United States who have gotten the coronavirus were people who traveled to foreign countries where the virus has been spreading or they got it from somebody known to have the virus.

In this particular case, the source of the infection is unknown. So to answer your question, specifically what authorities are doing in California is there trying to get in touch with any person this woman may have come into contact with.

But what they do know is obviously, she was in contact with healthcare workers. So we know that dozens of healthcare workers not only from this hospital, but from a previous hospital where the woman had been, those people are under isolation or under quarantine.

In addition to that, Brooke, obviously her family, authorities have reached out to them, a number of them under quarantine for about 14 days. But the bottom line, Brooke, is that authorities do seem to be treating this with the level of urgency that it certainly deserves -- Brooke. BALDWIN: Dan, thank you. In addition this to the story there, we're

now learning more about the whistleblower complaint made by Department of Health and Human Services employee.

The whistleblower says, more than a dozen workers did not have proper training or protective gear when they were assisting the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China. Those Americans within quarantine at military bases in Texas and California including Travis Air Force Base, and listen to this, it is located in the very same county in California as that first patient to contract the illness from this mystery source.

Let me be clear, officials are cautioning that the patient has no connection to the Air Force Base or to the evacuees from Wuhan.

Dr. Peter Hotez is a professor and Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor Medical School. And so thank you so much for being with me, doctor.

Let me begin with the whistleblower's account we were just reporting on, how concerning do you find that?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, it is certainly concerning, but I think right now what we have to focus on is the fact that the C.D.C. Director, Robert Redfield predicted 10 days ago, two weeks ago that this -- in talking with Sanjay Gupta -- that this virus will gain a foothold in the United States.

And guess what? That's what happened and it's starting like so many things in California and Northern California, so this is our first significant community level transmission in the U.S. and the big question now is, is this a one off thing or probably not? It's probably we're going to be looking at multiple points, nodes where we're going to be seeing community level transmission.

And then the question is going to be, is that all we'll see or whether we -- are we going to see a significant percentage of the population affected by this virus?


BALDWIN: Sure. And I will come back to this California patient, but I really just want to get you on these whistleblower claims. Because you know, this whistleblower says the more than a dozen of these employees lacked the proper training, didn't have the protective gear, right, when they were dealing with the Americans coming out of Wuhan.

So how concerned should these employees be just about their own health or infecting others?

HOTEZ: Yes, well, I'm sure right now they're being appropriately counseled and possibly even placed in self-quarantine and they're being advised on what to do, but you know, again, I think now, where we have to put our friends focus in is, what's the next big thing that we have to get ready for? And what I'm especially worried about right now, our healthcare

providers on the front lines, because what we saw in Wuhan was devastating. A thousand healthcare workers infected, five or six deaths. If that happens in in anywhere in the United States, anything like that, it's going to be lights out, it'll be completely destabilizing.

So we have to recognize that that's the weak link right now. So it's all hands on deck. And I've identified three things that we have to do to protect our healthcare workers. First is ensure that they have adequate protective equipment, the PPE, the personal protective equipment.

Second, we're going to have to refine our clinical algorithms for how we're identifying patients at risk, because in the past, it was because you came from China or now because you came from Italy.

Now, we know that we can't rely on geography necessarily to make that decision. So the C.D.C. now is going to have to, what I call do an audible and try to fix that algorithm and figure out what that is.

And lastly, we don't have adequate diagnostic capability right now. The C.D.C. is working overtime to get those tests in -- those kits in place so we can determine if someone is infected.

But even then that's not really enough, because the kits still require you to go to a reference lab, whether it's the Centers for Disease Control, or one of the State Health Departments, and even that takes too long.

So that's, you know, a day. What we really need is a rapid test at the bedside, at the clinic, where a patient -- just like a rapid flu test, where hospital workers can know because otherwise, they're not going to feel protected and safe.

So we really need to shore all that of up right now. That's our number one priority in my mind.

BALDWIN: Right, now that we've been reporting on those, there has been this lag in test time and that is a huge part of it. Now, obviously, we're thinking of our, you know, healthcare providers, our folks at all these wonderful hospitals around the country as this gets worse before it gets better.

Dr. Hotez, thank you so much for your expertise. That's just one piece of all of this, right, then you have the U.S. financial markets. They are plunging for the seventh straight day.

The Dow down nearly 1,000 points here just the day after the index effort, its worst single day drop, ever. Stocks are on track for the worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

So I have with me CNN's Julia Chatterley, and I know you spent much of your day down at the New York Stock Exchange, how concerned are investors that we have not reached the bottom of the selloff? JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR, "FIRST MOVE": You know, I think

most people down there, quite frankly, want this week to be over. They're pretty concerned, I have to say. There's a few things. It's the sheer level of uncertainty at this moment, as you've just been discussing for all these reasons, the outbreak around the world, what happens with the risks in the United States too, but it's the speed of the shift.

We've gone from talking about record highs to being in correction, but I do think the important thing to look at here is -- and to draw a distinction between the rough and tumble of markets that we've seen this week and the U.S. economy and what's going on there, and they're connected clearly, but they're not the same things.

And what we've seen with these bigger market vents in the past is that in a year's time, the stock market tends actually to be higher.

So it's a case of going back to being prepared and not looking at the markets here and showing the same level of panic. Our reality is very different from financial markets.

BALDWIN: With the spreading now to more and more countries. How worried are economists about the global supply chains being disrupted or just totally shut down?

CHATTERLEY: Yes, this is key. And this is very similar to what we were talking about with the trade disruptions as well. It's highlighting how connected we are in the United States to other countries, particularly China.

So when you've got a country like China, where whole chunks of the manufacturing sector is simply taken out of action, which is what we've seen, it is going to create supply chain disruptions, and we've heard that from many companies. Smartphones, Apple warning about this. Microsoft with PC saying there's going to be a problem. Coca-Cola, fake sugar, aspartame, they said we may see an impact down the line.


CHATTERLEY: It's not immediate and it just depends how long that manufacturing capability is out of action. The timing.

BALDWIN: It's a domino effect, and I had a doctor sitting right where you are, and I don't think a lot of people realize myself included how much just medicine comes from China.

And one of the best pieces of advice she was giving was, you know, listen, if you're on a regular prescription, try to see if you can get a 90-day prescription as opposed to 30 just because that may be affected because so much of it even Tylenol, Advil -- China, you know, it is all connected.

CHATTERLEY: It's really important. And to be clear, in talking to these manufacturers and saying, how can we mitigate the risks, we are looking at other options and things, so it's not immediate, but there could be implications and it just depends how long it goes on. We don't know.

BALDWIN: Sure. Julia Chatterley. Thank you so much for all of that context. The worldwide outbreak of coronavirus has world leaders and health officials struggling to stop the spread and save lives. The latest reports from Italy to Iran.

Plus, a question of credibility with the health of millions on the line, the Trump White House is facing serious criticism of its plan to protect the country.

And when it comes to markets, the Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney wants you to turn off your television. Let's talk about that.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: The coronavirus has now spread to every single continent with the exception of Antarctica and that has health officials all around the world scrambling to figure out how to save lives from South Korea, supplying millions of masks each and every day to the cancellation of Friday prayers in Iran and the creation of red zones in towns and cities all across Italy.

Take a look at this. This is this eerie scene in Milan where the soccer team played Bulgaria. But what's missing? There's no one seated in the seats, no fans. Italian health officials ordered the match to be played behind closed doors.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman has more from Milan -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ben Wedeman in Milan, where the authorities are reporting continued dramatic increases in the numbers of new infections.

At this point, the total of infections in Italy is 888, of those, 21 people have died, 46 have recovered. Just to put it all in perspective, I arrived in Italy on Tuesday. On that day, it was only 322 infections and 10 deaths. We spoke with one doctor of Infectious Diseases, who says that the number of infections is going to continue to increase.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin having just returned from Iran, where the authorities there are trying to stop and at least contain the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Now of course, Iran is one of the hotbeds for the coronavirus in the Middle East and the death toll and the amount of people who are confirmed with the coronavirus appears to be rising day by day.

The authorities there are now taking more drastic measures than before. One of the things that they've done is they have stopped Friday prayers in many cities across the country, including the main Friday prayers in Tehran.

Now that's something that's almost unheard of in the Islamic Republic in the past history, 41 years of the Islamic Republic. It really hasn't happened very often that the Friday prayers did not take place. So it is certainly something that the Iranian authorities don't take lightly.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I've been watching in Seoul, the number of coronavirus cases here in South Korea continues to surge leaping by more than a thousand confirmed cases in just 48 hours and the health authorities are predicting that that is just going to grow bigger this weekend because they're waiting for the results to come in for tests on more than 1,200 members of a secret of religious group.

A doctor in a crisis center I interviewed said the worst is yet to come.

BALDWIN: All right, guys, thank you. Japan, another country hard hit by the coronavirus with more than 900 cases, and that includes roughly 700 from that Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The Prime Minister is asking all public schools to be closed for an entire month starting next week, and there are real concerns about what this means for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

CNN's is Blake Essig has the latest from Tokyo.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Japan's very first attempt at taking on the novel coronavirus, government advisers admit, they got it wrong.

The quarantine onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship was flawed from the very beginning.


ESSIG (on camera): Should the crew members have continued to work, is it fair to have continued to expose them to potentially contract this virus?

DR. NORIO OHMAGARI, JAPANESE GOVERNMENT ADVISER: Strictly scientifically speaking, you know what needed was, isolation for the crew members -- all the members.


ESSIG (voice over): But the crew continued to work and the infections kept climbing. Now as they disembark, the attention turns to prevention on dry land.

Sunday's Tokyo marathon will only allow elite runners. Normally, crowded baseball games will be played in empty stadiums. Rugby soccer matches all postponed. Schools nationwide asked to close on Monday to contain the spread.

As Japan seeks to reassure the world, their Olympic teams continue to practice.

"It is important for us to have visitors feel safe and enjoy Japan while here," the Vice Minister of Health says, "So this is a top priority for us."

While Japanese officials say the idea of canceling or delaying the games is just speculation, IOC member, Dick Pounds says all options are being considered.


DICK POUNDS, IOC MEMBER: If the games are canceled, 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 be governments and international agencies saying it is not safe to hold the games. We're a long way from that.



ESSIG (voice over): Amid fears the outbreak will turn into a global pandemic, there is only so much Japan can control.

Blake Essig, CNN, Tokyo.


BALDWIN: Back here at home, conflicting messages in a crisis. We will talk about why President Trump and his own health officials don't seem to be on the same page.

And a reality check when it comes to just how close we are to seeing a vaccine, our special coverage of the coronavirus outbreak continues.



BALDWIN: Politics amid this global outbreak. Today the Annual Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC, Acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney first blamed the media for being slow to report news on the coronavirus and then blamed the media for stoking panic about it all in a bid to sabotage President Trump.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The press was covering their hoax of the day because they thought it would bring down the President. The reason you're seeing -- so you're seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the President. That's what this is all about.

Really what I might do today to calm the markets is to tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours. This is not Ebola. Okay. And I'll tell you what that means, in a sense, it's not SARS. It's not MERS.


BALDWIN: All of this as the White House struggles to find its footing as a global outbreak spreads and the President predicts a miracle.


TRUMP: It's going to disappear one day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear.

The greatest experts I've spoken to, well, nobody really knows.

The risk to the American people remains very low.

I don't think it's inevitable.


BALDWIN: All right, let's discuss all of this. Kaitlan Collins is with me, as is our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger and Kaitlan, because you are in South Carolina traveling with the President, I want to begin with you and let's talk about your reporting about what's been going on behind the scenes over at the White House because on Wednesday before that big coronavirus press conference, you know, it was chaos and uncertainty. So tell me some of the specifics you've learned.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And Brooke, you saw that lead to a shakeup in the leadership team of who was really handling the coronavirus response going from the Health and Human Services Secretary to the Vice President.

And Brooke, we're being told by sources, a lot of that actually had to do with less of what the President actually thought of what Azar was doing and more of the coverage that the President was seeing where he was growing frustrated, because he felt like his administration was being criticized, they weren't getting the credit they were due for some of the travel restrictions they'd carried out or that task force that the President had put together in late January.

And that's what led him to go to the Vice President and say he was going to have him take over instead. And of course, that has prompted more questions from lawmakers, as you were seeing them saying today that even though they're getting a briefing from administration officials, they're still skeptical that they have done enough to be prepared for what health officials say is going to be this outbreak.

But Brooke, most of this comes down to -- most of this criticism that you're hearing comes down to the President himself where he is saying things like maybe there will be a miracle and the disease will -- and the virus will go away and that is really something that administration officials have been trying with the President to stop, simply dismissing it as much as he is.

But there you saw the Acting Chief of Staff trying to do similar because the President feels like people who are saying otherwise, and you know, speaking more realistically about this are causing alarm that he sees is unnecessary.

BALDWIN: Well, he's worried. Right? This administration is clearly worried that -- look at the stock market, right? We were just looking at the Dow, it's down a thousand points at the moment.

You know, when he puts his -- here you go, down 840 points. So you have this tanking stock market, Gloria. It puts the chief political talking point for this President, the economy in jeopardy months before the election. What other political liability does he have with all of this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, he doesn't have a full time global health security team. When National Security adviser, John Bolton came in, he disbanded it in 2018. So they haven't had anybody full time on the job doing that.

Also, C.D.C. -- Centers for Disease Control funding, the proposal is to reduce it by 16 percent.

Former Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert, who advocated a comprehensive bio defense strategy, no longer there.

And don't forget all the people running the response, including the Vice President of the United States actually have other jobs to do.

So there is no czar and the former Ebola czar, Ron Klain put it this way, and I thought it was an apt way to describe it. He said, "Running this response is not like driving an Uber. You don't do it for a couple of hours a day."

BALDWIN: Listening to you and I'm just okay. There's also been, Kaitlan, criticism that the fact that the President put Mike Pence head of this outbreak response. Gloria and I were just talking about this yesterday.

We know that Mike Pence is down in Florida fundraising for the G.O.P. Is his eye on the ball?

COLLINS: Yes, he had several of these fundraisers already on the schedule and what will be interesting going forward as he is often someone who does --