Return to Transcripts main page


Stocks Tanking Again on Coronavirus Fears; South Carolina Set to Vote; Coronavirus Global Pandemic Inevitable?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 15:00   ET


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



DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: It has become clear over the past few days that a pandemic is inevitable. What is not certain is how severe it will be.


BALDWIN: Let's start with Dan Simon outside that U.C. Davis Medical Center, where that mystery patient is still hospitalized.

Tell us first just about her condition, Dan, and also about the efforts to track down anyone who was in contact with her.


Well, this female patient behind me at the U.C. Davis Medical Center, she remains in serious condition. And we still don't know how she may have obtained this virus, and we may never find out. But authorities are doing what they can to see if they can pinpoint how she got the virus.

But, right now, the source of the infection remains unknown. And to be clear, remember, the people in the United States who have gotten the coronavirus are 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 case, that's what makes this so concerning. We just don't know how she obtained it. But what authorities are doing is, they're trying to get in touch with anybody with whom the patient came into contact, at least over the last several days.

And, obviously, that includes health care workers. Excuse me.

We do know that dozens of health care workers not only from this medical center, but from a hospital where the patient had previously been, those people are either under self-quarantine or they are in isolation.

As for her family as well, also under quarantine for at least two weeks -- Brooke, we will send it back to you.

BALDWIN: All right, Dan, we will take it. Thank you.

And as officials in California try to find who that patient may have come in contact with, this whistle-blower over at the Department of Health and Human Services is sounding the alarm about another incident of possible exposure.

This federal employee is claiming more than a dozen workers who assisted in evacuating those first Americans who they brought out of Wuhan, China, that they were sent into quarantine areas -- quote -- "without personal protective equipment, training, or experience in managing public health emergencies, safety protocols, and the potential danger to both themselves and members of the public they come into contact with."

So, Dr. Irwin Redlener is the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Columbia University.

And, so, Dr. Redlener, thank you so much for being here.

I have got a lot of questions for you. So, let's just begin with this whistle-blower account.


BALDWIN: How concerning is that?

REDLENER: Well, it's very concerning.

And if it's true, it's completely inexcusable, and it's a matter of common sense even. You don't necessarily even need the protocols. But having this out there for so long, it's so worrisome, that the idea of sending in workers without training and without the proper personal protective equipment is really outrageous, and reflects, hopefully -- doesn't reflect, hopefully, the general way that we're handling all of this.

But it's very dangerous what they did. And not only that, but, apparently, people were allowed to wander off the military base where they were being quarantined, also extremely dangerous. This whole thing is a mess and exacerbates our concern.

BALDWIN: On the one hand, you have these once unprotected workers who all happen to be have been at this Air Force in Solano, California, Solano County.

On the other, happenstance, in this same county, you have this mystery patient who everybody's trying to get to the bottom of, who was she around, because she hasn't traveled anywhere, infected. And she's intubated, so she can't answer any questions. What questions would you be asking? And, by the way, again, no officials are connecting the dots.

REDLENER: Well, first of all, we are doing the contact tracing.

California's been very aggressive about that and trying to figure out indirectly who she's been in contact with and when. And this is a hugely difficult task.

But the other thing is that this case represents the first instance of community transmission, that is, a case that's been identified that has not been in contact with anyone with known disease or has not been in contact with anyone who's traveled from an area where it's endemic, say, in China.

So, this is a real big mystery. And it's hampered by the fact that we don't actually have appropriate amount of testing kits available everywhere. And that's also inexcusable. The CDC sent out a batch of a couple hundred testing kits a week-and-a-half ago. It turns out the kits were defective. They had to be pulled back, and we still don't have a timeline of when these kits are going to be dispersed.

They keep saying soon. But New York City, for example, is expecting only one testing kit that can test maybe 700 people, and they don't know when that's going -- they're going to get that one.

There's issue after issue that's really concerning.

BALDWIN: Can I just ask you, as a doctor, how worried you are?

REDLENER: I'm attentive. I'm concerned.

I think these attempts by the president and people in his administration to downplay this -- the president talks about some kind of miracle cure or it disappears in April. This is absolute nonsense.


And what it does is, it undermines credibility in what the government officials are saying.

For me personally, I'm worried. I actually believe this is a pandemic and it should be called a pandemic.

BALDWIN: Despite the fact that the World Health Organization has been saying otherwise?

REDLENER: It doesn't matter. We have already met all the criteria for a potentially deadly virus that is out of control, that's being passed from person to person, and has crossed many, many international borders now.

And so all the standard criteria for saying it's a pandemic are there.

BALDWIN: By calling it a pandemic, what then would that change if and when those top health officials do so?


BALDWIN: Is it response that changes?

REDLENER: Yes, it's the response.

So it would allow people, states and cities, to do things like close schools, if necessary, if they started getting a lot of cases there.


REDLENER: And, really, if you think about it, Brooke, the only reason not to is political. So, if you don't want alarm, you want to stabilize the stock market, you got other issues that you're thinking about in terms of your election, the last thing you want is to have a pandemic under your watch and a pandemic that's not actually being handled very well, in terms of what the whistle-blower said, the issue in California and so on.

So, we're in a jam. I'm not -- I think what we need to do is find the sweet spot between complacency and panic. And I think that's where I am personally. I'm getting droves of, you know, e-mails and texts from relatives, friends, neighbors.

BALDWIN: I'm sure you are.

REDLENER: Should I go to Los Angeles this weekend? I'm supposed to be at a meeting in Paris.

BALDWIN: What's your bottom line piece of advice for every single person watching?

REDLENER: Every single person should every single day go to the

BALDWIN: Web site.

REDLENER: .. and find out real information. Stay away from information coming on your social media sites. It's not accurate, and don't go there.

You want real information, do that. And, by the way, the CDC, as Gloria said in the last segment, should be doing a daily press briefing that has not been vetted by Vice President Pence. This whole situation is getting increasingly absurd and not helpful.

BALDWIN: Let the science do the talking and live in a world of facts.


BALDWIN: Dr. Redlener, I appreciate you coming by.

REDLENER: Pleasure.

BALDWIN: Thank you. The response to the coronavirus has varied widely around the world. A

source inside North Korea tells CNN that a plan is in the works to evacuate quarantined foreign diplomats there.

In Switzerland, all gatherings of more than 1,000 people have been banned. And in Seoul, South Korea, the popular K-pop band BTS has actually canceled four concerts just over fears about the virus.

CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward takes a closer look at the global fallout.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Governments around the world are in crisis mode, as they struggle to contain the coronavirus.

In South Korea, the most affected country outside of China, authorities are scrambling to track down and investigate almost 3,000 members of a religious group at the heart of the country's biggest outbreak.

South Korean authorities believe a large number of people infected with the virus attended a service of the religious group. In Japan, all primary schools were asked to close starting Monday. The request comes amid fears that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics may be postponed if authorities fail to contain the virus.

In the Middle East, Iran's death toll continues to climb with 34 dead; 388 have been declared infected, but health experts warn the actual number may be much higher.

Parts of the country even canceled Friday prayers, a rare decision. And in a historic move, Saudi Arabia suspended tourist travel for pilgrims to Islam's holiest sites of Mecca and Medina.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the Geneva Motor Show, one of the world's biggest car shows, has been canceled. It's latest in a string of international events scrapped because of the virus.

Experts say the coronavirus is also fast becoming an economic pandemic, with global markets on track for their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

As the virus spreads, it is fueling a sense of panic over the fallout if it cannot be contained.


BALDWIN: Just ahead, I know you have questions. We have answers.

You have been sending so many questions to us here at CNN, especially about when it comes to traveling in the midst of the coronavirus, what to do if you're getting on a plane, planning a trip. We have got answers. Also, CNN is on the campaign trail with the 2020 Democrats as they

make their final push ahead of the South Carolina primary, and, of course, next Tuesday, which is Super Tuesday.

And new details about how the Trump campaign is spending millions of dollars. Turns out that its lawyers are largely focused on suing the media.

We will be right back.



BALDWIN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to witness the signing of an agreement with representatives for the Taliban. The president just made that announcement. He also said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will issue a joint declaration with the Afghan government.

Details are scarce. But a statement indicates -- quote -- "If the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan live up to these commitments, we will have a powerful path forward to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home" -- end quote.

The Trump campaign, meantime, has shelled out more than $2 million in the past two years to a law firm known for suing media companies. It is a clear signal President Trump's reelection strategy will involve going to war with the media, as well as taking on his eventual Democrat rival.


BALDWIN: CNN political correspondent Sara Murray has been following the money for us.

And so, Sara, what is the story here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, I have been digging into this with my colleagues Katelyn Polantz and Ellie Kaufman.

And they're -- the Trump campaign is paying big bucks to this firm, Harder LLP. It's led by an attorney, Charles Harder. They paid them more than $2 million over roughly the last two years.

And, look, we know that political campaigns pay lawyers a lot of money. They do it for campaign finance issues. They do it for ballot access issues, but the sources and the lawyers we talked to said it's odd to pay a firm like this so much money, when this firm specializes in litigation, specializes in defamation.

And it wasn't entirely clear what Charles Harder might be getting paid so much money for. But you may remember, earlier this week, the Trump campaign decided to sue "The New York Times." And then President Trump came out and said there will be many more where this comes from. And it's an indication, Brooke that we have seen this president take a

really aggressive tone with the media. And we have seen him do that at his rallies, as part of his campaign strategy. And it looks like that is going to be his strategy going forward.

Now, Charles Harder would not comment on the extent of the work he's doing for the campaign. The Trump campaign would not comment on the extent of the work he's doing. But it is certainly an interesting law firm to be making so much money from the Trump campaign.

And it's not Harder's first foray into the Trump orbit. He represented Trump on a couple of the Stormy Daniels-related cases. He's represented Melania Trump in some of her fights with media outlets, so he's not new to the Trump orbit, but he's -- certainly, his firm is making a lot of money off of the Trump campaign -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right. Sara Murray, thank you for that.

We are just one day away from South Carolina primary, and ad spending -- speaking of money, ad spending in the 2020 race has just passed the $1 billion mark. That is a record for this early in a campaign season.

Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer are behind nearly three-quarters of that money, but it has not stopped Senator Bernie Sanders from surging to the lead. And that is a narrative that former Vice President Joe Biden is hoping to change starting tomorrow in South Carolina.

So let's begin there, as our CNN politics team is fanned out across the country today, beginning with Jessica Dean.

Hey, Jessica.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jessica Dean with the Joe Biden campaign.

The former vice president is hoping to make South Carolina his first win in this Democratic primary. Recent polling has shown that he is primed for a win here, but the campaign not leaving anything to chance. He's spending the entire day here in South Carolina, and will be in the state tomorrow when the final votes are counted.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ryan Nobles in Columbia, South Carolina, with the Bernie Sanders campaign, where the goal here for Sanders may not be about winning on Saturday, but as closing the gap as much as possible with former Vice President Joe Biden and improving his standing with African-American voters from his dismal performance from four years ago.

Sanders spending as much time in Super Tuesday states as he is in South Carolina leading up to the vote on Saturday. They're hoping for a strong showing, but a win is not necessarily their main objective.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Cristina Alesci. I'm covering the Michael Bloomberg campaign. He just wrapped an event here in Memphis, Tennessee. And he is on a

multistage swing, trying to make closing arguments to voters before that critical Super Tuesday contest, the first time that he's actually going to be competitive in this cycle.

And in the last 24 hours alone, Michael Bloomberg has hit Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and today Tennessee. This is critical for him. He needs to get the vote out and he needs people to go to the polls to make the case that he can stay competitive in this contest.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kyung Lah with the Amy Klobuchar campaign in Virginia.

The Minnesota senator may know that the South Carolina primary is happening tomorrow, but she is eying Super Tuesday states like this one. Her plan is to stop here and then make two stops later today in the Super Tuesday state of Tennessee, her plan, scoop up as many of these moderate voters in these midsized states as possible, states like Virginia, as well as North Carolina.

And it is in North Carolina where she will watch the returns from the South Carolina primary tomorrow.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Leyla Santiago in Greenville, South Carolina, following Senator Warren's campaign, where she is making a last-minute pitch to South Carolina voters before the primary, but still very much focused on Super Tuesday, where, interestingly enough, a super PAC, Persist PAC, placed a $9 million ad buy today for Super Tuesday in support of Warren.

And this is interesting because Warren has spent much of her time on the campaign trail saying she would not accept that type of support from high-dollar fund-raising groups.

Now, today, she has said that she is not changing her mind on this, that if other candidates stop taking that support, she will as well, but her supporters are hoping that that may be the boost she needs for Super Tuesday.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jeff Zeleny covering the Buttigieg campaign in Charleston, South Carolina.

On the eve of the state's critical primary, the former mayor is still traveling across the state, trying to reach out to a diverse section of voters, still struggling to make an appeal to African-American voters.


He says that he's going to stay in this race through Super Tuesday and perhaps beyond, but he does believe that Democrats must consolidate to find an alternative to Senator Sanders.

He believes that that is still his campaign, but, no question, the next four days so critical to Pete Buttigieg -- Brooke.


BALDWIN: All right. Thank you all.

And, as you heard, many of the candidates are already looking ahead to Super Tuesday.

And on eve of that critical voting day, CNN will air extended interviews with seven 2020 Democrats. It all starts on Monday night 8:00 Eastern.

We are watching the markets.

Let's get a quick peek, as coronavirus in stocks plummeting for a seventh day in a row. An economist will join me next to talk about what this means for your money and the U.S. economy.



BALDWIN: As the coronavirus continues to spread, and fears mount that it may soon become officially a pandemic, the U.S. financial markets remain on edge and once again in freefall, the Dow facing a seventh straight day of steep declines, currently down 727 points here just a day after the index suffered its worst single day dropping ever.

Stocks are on pace for the worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

And Lindsey Piegza is a chief economist for Stifel.

So, Lindsey, thank for coming on.

And I was reading some of the notes you gave our producers. You see this potentially going two ways. Number one, the coronavirus is short- lived, or, number two, it really interrupts the global economy. So how would those two scenarios factor out when it comes to the United States economy?

LINDSEY PIEGZA, ECONOMIST: You're exactly right.

And as we wrote this up, there really are only two pathways as we see it, not great and worse. And we have heard from Fed officials, we have heard from government officials that we don't have enough data to really know how this is going to play out.

And that is true, but from a broad-based perspective, we either see on the one hand that the virus is contained in the short-term, workers are slowly able to return to factories, and China gets production back online. So we really only expect one-quarter of negative growth overseas before a nice rebound.

Over here in the U.S., however, the hardest-hit time period wouldn't likely come until the second quarter, because there is a lag between disrupted deliveries and overseas production.

But, still, we're talking about a moderate disruption to growth, probably a loss of about a half-a-percentage point January to June. Now, a more dire scenario would be when we don't see the virus contained in the short-term, and this does continue to spread.

We see production shut in overseas for an extended period of time, meeting more than the first quarter. And, of course, that could extend to global production, losing a third maybe more of total output. In that case, we would expect an extended decline, both overseas, as well as at home, and that could translate into a potential recession.

Now, in both scenarios, we would expect the Fed to step up. In the first, it would probably be more in the form of stabilization, maybe one or two rate cuts. In the ladder, it would be more in the form of stimulus to help safeguard against a potential recession, potentially bringing rates back down to that zero bound.

BALDWIN: OK, you read my mind. So I wanted to ask you about what the Fed would do. So you just answered my question there.

If you are sitting at home and you're panicking and you're looking at your 401(k), what is your advice?

PIEGZA: Well, I do think that we need caution, not necessarily panic.

Right now, governments are working to stabilize the spread of the virus. We do have plans in place. And as we heard from the chairman just moments ago, the Federal Reserve is ready to step in and provide that additional accommodation to the market.

Now, with rates already so low, arguably, an additional 25, 50 basis points wouldn't necessarily spur investment and consumption back to robust levels, but it will help on the margin and it should help confidence, at the very least, in terms of market participants.

BALDWIN: Lindsey, thank you, Lindsey Piegza.

PIEGZA: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And a lot of people, from the markets to vacations, right -- you're planning your spring break, your summer vacation -- you want to know how the coronavirus might impact your travel plans.

We have answers for you on that.

Also ahead, a federal appeals court deals two big blows to the Trump administration's efforts to turn asylum-seekers away at the border. We have those details just ahead.