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Pence Leading Coronavirus Response But Still Heading to Florida to Fundraise; Jason Schwartz, assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health, Discusses Coronavirus, Vaccines & Answers Viewers' Questions; Trump's Media Allies Downplay Coronavirus Risk, Accuse Democrats of Weaponizing Virus; Donald Trump Jr.: Democrats Hope Virus "Kills Millions" to Tank Economy and Hurt Trump; Corona Beer Suffering Negative Buzz over Coronavirus; Cruise Lines Take Hit over Coronavirus and Market Fall. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 14:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We know that Mike Pence is down in Florida fundraising for the GOP. Is his eye on the ball?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He had several of these fundraisers already on the schedule. And what will be interesting going forward as he is often someone who goes out to diners in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, kind of doing this, you know, campaigning that the president typically doesn't do where they take bus tours and go across the states.

So it will be interesting to see if that remains on the vice president's schedule as he is now in charge of this. They kept these fundraisers today.

You notice they also added a briefing on coronavirus with the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, today. We know several Florida officials have been raising concerns about what to do at schools and situations like that if the coronavirus does spread in the United States. So they seem to be trying to balance that.

But it will be interesting to see going forward what his schedule is going to look like because what we were told by sources is essentially, when the president was deciding who could he put in charge of this that he trusts, Pence was someone he did not see as someone who was very busy.

People were going to him and saying the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has a giant job running that agency so the president then went with Mike Pence. Of course, he is often someone who is on the road.

Now, he's faced some criticism over this from Democratic lawmakers who are questioning his record from the time when he was governor in Indiana, even though that's what the president cited when reporters like myself asked the president why he picked the vice president for this role. But he does seem to be taking it seriously. He's hired this State Department official to be working underneath him, more of like a czar in this situation. She is going to be in charge of coordinating this response. There are going to be questions about that going forward.

Brooke, some people we've talked to close to Pence fear he's been put in this impossible situation because it's not really seen as a win situation, since health officials have already said it is going to spread in the United States.

And now, of course, when things like that do happen, he will be looking to the administration for a response and judging Mike Pence by this.

BALDWIN: OK. As I'm listening to you, I can't help but -- let me explain to the viewers, you're listening to Queen and singing along in your head.


BALDWIN: And it's because the president is, you know, in South Carolina. Just wanted to point that out.

Gloria, we played the Mick Mulvaney clip. This administration can cry media hysteria all it wants this is a legitimate global crisis.


BALDWIN: Cannot be dismissed by talking points. How could this be a defining moment for this presidency?

BORGER: I mean, the natural thing to look at, of course, is Hurricane Katrina and the way it was a turning point for George W. Bush.

And I think one way that the administration can say, OK, we're in charge of this and we don't want anything translated through the media. We want to give it to you directly. It's to have a scientist, to have somebody from either the Center for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health somewhere come out every day and do a briefing, much like you do for a hurricane.

You come out, you give a briefing, and you say, this is where we stand today. Take questions from the media, here's where we are with the number of coronavirus cases in the country. Here's what's happening with that case in California. Here's what our investigation shows. Here's how many more testing kits we have available throughout the country.

And let the public know that the scientists, not the politicians, are answering the questions that everybody wants the answers to. And give a sense of reassurance to the public that the public health community is being allowed to do his job and is being well-funded enough so it can do its job.

BALDWIN: Would be the smart thing to do.

Gloria, thank you.

Kaitlan, and all of the Queen playing, thank you so much in South Carolina.


BALDWIN: Good to have both of you on, seriously, though, to talk about the politics of all of this.

As the nation, the world is preparing for a pandemic, many are pinning their hopes on a vaccine. We will talk to one man who says that may not be a great idea.

Plus, how the Corona beer brand is trying to navigate the unfortunate reality of having a similar name to the virus, and what's that doing to business.



BALDWIN: The CDC says it wants every state and local health department to be testing for the coronavirus by the end of next week. And testing in some labs got off to a slow start because some of the kits were flawed. Officials say that issue is now fixed.

Also today, the World Health Organization says the global risk of a coronavirus outbreak has reached the agency's, quote, "highest level," but that the alert is not meant to scare people. It's meant to give a reality check to governments to prepare.

Jason Schwartz is an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health, who studies vaccine policy.

Jason, thank you so much for being with me.


BALDWIN: I want to get right to really the reason I wanted to have you on. I read this quote from you, you said, 'If we're putting all our hopes in a vaccine as being the answer, we are in trouble."

How do you mean?

SCHWARTZ: So vaccine development is very difficult. It's a science and it's an art. And as we've been hearing the estimates for when a vaccine may be available, the best-case scenario, is somewhere nine months, 12 months, maybe longer. That's a long time. It's an estimate. Lots of things can go wrong.

And in the meantime, we have a host of public health responses, classic tried-and-true public health practices that can help identify cases, isolate those individuals who have been exposed or infected, and build an effective response. We're right to be enthusiastic and working hard towards a vaccine. In

the meantime, it's important to think about all those other tools in our public health arsenal.

BALDWIN: Let me actually back up three steps. The vaccine itself, what would it do? Would it be like, you get a flu shot, preventative for the flu, like that?

SCHWARTZ: Well, we don't know. Right now, we're happening at the very earliest stages of the foundational science that will help us figure out what a vaccine could look like.

There are several dozen groups around the world that are doing this early stage basic science research, from which we'll figure out in the next few months what the best, most attractive strategies are for a potential vaccine, which then would be tested in animals. Then it would be tested in humans, increasingly to make sure whether or not it's safe or effective.


So what a vaccine would look like, let alone when it would come available, are all the kinds of things being studied day by day here in the United States and around the world.

BALDWIN: We were listening to Dr. Fauci earlier, from NIH, saying it will be a year, year and a half to even get a viable vaccine. As you point out, though, there are dozens of coronavirus vaccines in development and being studied all around the world.

So if all of these entities, Jason, actually work together instead of independently of one another, would that mean a faster vaccine?

SCHWARTZ: Hopefully, it would. Right? This is a global health emergency. It demands global health coordination between governments, between the pharmaceutical industry, between researchers.

So this idea for coordination, to learn collectively, to learn what's working, what's not working, what can work best as the days and weeks pass is exactly the kind of collaboration that can happen, that should be happening, coordinated by the World Health Organization and coordinated by the National Institutes of Health and some of our American researchers.

BALDWIN: We do, Jason, have a couple of viewer questions just about testing for the virus. Let me throw this at you and see if you have an answer.

The question was, is the test able to detect the presence of virus in its early stages before fever and clinical symptoms show? Do you know?

SCHWARTZ: So testing is one of those tools that we have right now that we've been using around the world. There have been challenges developing and refining and distributing the test, particularly here in the United States. So that we have a good sense of the epidemic, the outbreak rather and in terms of where it's spreading. So the tests are increasingly effective. They're helping us get a

handle on its spread. They can help identify the virus in ways that can then help public health authorities tailor their responses to what we know on the ground. And that's critically important during this really important stage of the outbreak.

BALDWIN: I appreciate your candor in this conversation.

Jason Schwartz, at Yale. Thank you very much.

SCHWARTZ: Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Protecting lives during a global outbreak like this should be a bipartisan effort, but there seems to be another message coming from the Trump team and its media allies.



BALDWIN: Despite the fact that Vice President Mike Pence is calling for bipartisanship in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, some of the president's most prominent media allies are in full attack mode in a bid to downplay this growing outbreak as media hysteria or that familiar phrase, "fake news."


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST, "THE INGRAHAM ANGLE": Democrats and their media cronies have decided to weaponize fear and also weaponize suffering to improve their chances against Trump in November.

PETE HEGSETH, FOX NEWS HOST, "FOX & FRIENDS WEEKEND": They're rooting for the problem to get worse. They're rooting for mysteries, unknown cases, quarantines in towns, for it to become an absolute national for crisis, for one reason and one reason alone. They have yet to find a reason to try to drag down the presidency of Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the president's done exactly right. Let me tell you something, Laura, he could personally suck the virus out of every one of the 60,000 people in the world and suck it out of their lungs, swim to the bottom of the ocean and spit it out, and he would be accused of pollution for messing up the ocean.


BALDWIN: CNN senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy, is with me.

And I'm sorry, it's like, you got to be kidding me.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Right. It seems like these hosts on some of the big shows over on FOX don't actually want to cover the serious public health threat that the coronavirus --


BALDWIN: That exists.

DARCY: -- other than what the Trump's own CDC has told Americans about. They don't want to cover that, it seems like. They don't seem to care for covering the fact that the Dow Jones is tanking and stocks are having one of the worst weeks in Wall Street since 2008.

What you see them doing is resorting back to the cliche thing that they do every single time, is attacking the media, saying that the media is spreading hysteria.

And even going further than that. You're seeing some hosts say things like -- or you just heard him say that they want this virus to spread, that the media and Democrats want people to get sick. They want people to be infected. They want people to die because it will tank the stock market and possibly hurt Donald Trump's re-election chances.

Obviously, that's a lie. It's reprehensible. But that's the kind of message that people over on FOX are saying.

I'll make one more point. During public emergencies, whether it's a health crisis, whether it's terror attack, a storm, like a hurricane coming, people rely on organizations like this one, like the "New York Times," the "Wall Street Journal." They rely on news organizations to provide credible information and to let them know what precautions they should be taking, what is going on? What is the government saying?

And so for FOX hosts, and even the president of the United States, to be undermining the credibility --

BALDWIN: It's dangerous.

DARCY: -- of media organizations right now at a time like this, it's appalling.

BALDWIN: Speaking of this messaging, I want to get to this clip. I want you to listen to Don Jr and what he said just this morning on "FOX and Friends."


UNIDENTIFIED FOX HOST: Are you surprised the way they've been handling the coronavirus situation, meaning Democrats?

DONALD TRUMP JR, SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Not at all. I mean, we've -- like you said, we've seen this play out for four years. Anything that they can use to try to hurt Trump they will. Anything he does, in a positive sense, like you heard from the reporter that was just suspended from ABC, they will not give him credit for. The playbook is old at this point.

But 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. You know, I don't know if this is coronavirus or Trump Derangement Syndrome but the people are infected badly. [14:50:18]

DARCY: The person --

BALDWIN: Call him out.

DARCY: The person there that seems to have the sickness is Donald Trump Jr., to spread that horrendous lie, again, that the media wants to see people die, by the millions, according to Trump Jr, if it hurts his father's re-election chances. That's not true. No one's trying to do that.

The media folks that I speak with are trying to get the message out there to the public from the government officials so people can take the proper precautions.

One final note is that FOX, ironically, has been attacking all these other media organizations for supposedly politicizing this crisis, this public health crisis, when if you actually watch the channel, the only people politicizing this happens to be on that network. I think you just saw that with Donald Trump Jr.

BALDWIN: Oliver Darcy, thank you for all of that. Call them out, call them out.

Our special coronavirus coverage continues with a look at the business impact of all of this. Listen to this, what Corona beer is saying about its name being all too similar to the virus.

Plus, how cruise lines have been especially hit hard this week.

A programming note for all of you about the CNN original series "RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE." With the nation reeling from JFK's assassination, his successor fights to prove he deserves the job. It's LBJ versus Goldwater. That's Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific, only here on CNN.



BALDWIN: There's no link but the names are very similar. And now Corona beer is responding to all the attention on the coronavirus. Is the global outbreak having any impact on the beer brand's bottom line?

CNN business correspondent, Alison Kosik, is at the New York Stock Exchange.

Obviously, those are two very different things.

What's the beer company saying?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I would say that. Constellation Brands, Brooke, is the company that's behind Corona beer. And at this point, it's not making any changes to its advertising despite the name's unfortunate similarity to the deadly coronavirus.

The company issued a statement saying its customers, they understand that there's no link between the virus and our business, the company said. The company went on to say that "the sales remain very strong, and we appreciate the continued support from our fans."

But the spread of the virus couldn't have come at a worse time for Constellation, which is spending $40 million to launch its new Corona- branded hard seltzer. Part of the promotion includes a sponsor tweet using the phrase, "Coming ashore soon."

Replies to the tweet say the ad is in poor taste and that the brand should lay low for a few weeks.

And in case you're wondering, earlier in the month, online searches for Corona beer virus, those searches spiked, but, Brooke, they have since declined -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Amazing.

How about the cruise ship industry? How big of a stock hit have they taken because of all of this?

KOSIK: To put it lightly, the cruise ship industry, it's a challenging time for them.


KOSIK: The cruise companies, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines, they fell around 20 percent this week because of worries about sick passengers on ships.

China was actually the second-biggest market for cruise passengers in 2018. The U.S. was a top market with more than 13 million Americans taking a cruise.

But now one Hong Kong-based travel company, Brooke, says new bookings for cruise packages are currently down, get this, 95 percent. They're not even trying to book for the second or third quarters at this point. They're now targeting fourth quarter and beyond.

BALDWIN: Alison Kosik at the stock exchange. Alison, thank you.

KOSIK: Sure.

BALDWIN: Let's continue on.

Hour two. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

The World Health Organization is urging countries worldwide to prepare for the coronavirus as it's raising its global alert for the disease to its highest level of risk.

That's happening as California officials are trying to retrace the steps of this mystery patient who up and tested positive without any links to travel or another infected person. Dozens of hospital workers who were exposed have been identified so far.

And the safety of any worker who interacts with these patients is now under scrutiny after this whistleblower alleged that government staff assisting American evacuees from Wuhan in China did not have the proper equipment or training. A State Department representative says, though, that that claim is untrue.

Yet again, just speaking of the markets, down nearly 700 points here. U.S. stocks selling off.

As the FDA announces a drug shortage tied to the virus, airlines have cut back their schedules. And destinations like Tokyo Disneyland are set to close their doors.

Still, President Trump offered this somewhat upbeat outlook on the coronavirus's future.


TRUMP: It's going to disappear one day. It's like a miracle. It will disappear, and from our shores. We've -- you know, it could get worse before it gets better. Could maybe go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows.



BALDWIN: But this former director of the CDC, which has now changed its testing criteria for the disease, says that there's still a lot of time before this disease -- before this virus a thing of the past.