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Urgent Race To Solve Mystery Of U.S Patient's Contacts; Coronavirus Puts Markets On Track For Most Week Since 2008; Rivals Swarm South Carolina And Super Tuesday States Ahead Of Votes. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar and this is CNN's special live coverage of the coronavirus.

As the world takes drastic measures to stop its spread, the World Health Organization is saying the outbreak has hit the highest level of alert. In Northern California, health investigators are focused on tracking the infection of a single patient who is the first known person in the U.S. to contract the coronavirus without any contact with someone from the infected regions. What may be more troubling is how health workers came in contact with the patient before the virus was diagnosed.

And in Washington, a whistleblower says the HHS Department did not adequately prepare or train its workers when they were sent to bring Americans home from China, some of whom had been infected with the virus. Administration officials though are denying that claim.

On Wall Street, fear of the unknown has caused investors to hit the panic button. It's sending the markets through the worst week since the 2008 Financial Crisis. On Thursday, we saw a nearly 1,200-point drop in the Dow. And as you can see, we are down over 400 points just today.

One industry to watch is pharmaceuticals, because China is the number two exporter of drugs and biologic products to the United States, one company is saying its drug has already been pushed onto the FDA drug shortage list because of production concerns in China, and more are expected to follow.

Then the travel industry is being hit hard by coronavirus fears. Hundreds of thousands of flights in and out of Asia have been canceled, and now add Europe to that list as airlines cancel flights to Italy because of the surge in cases near Milan.

Meantime, as he attempts to allay fears, President Trump said this.


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 it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away, we'll see what happens. Nobody really knows.


KEILAR: So back to the mystery now surrounding this first suspected case of community spread coronavirus. Officials in Northern California are tracing the movements of this one patient. They're trying to track down all of the people they came into contact with before being diagnosed.

Let's go to Stephanie Elam. She is there in Davis, California for us. And, Stephanie, they're also trying at this point to figure out how this patient was even infected.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Brianna. We're actually outside of U.C. Davis Medical Center here in Sacramento, where she is being treated. But she is a resident of Solano County, about 20 miles or so away from where are now. We know she was in the community there for a couple of days before she went to the hospital there in Vacaville, which was also in that county, was there for three days before transferred by ambulance here to the medical center.

The reason why all of this is noteworthy is that she was not tested for coronavirus until she got here to the medical center. So in light of that, what we do know is that her family has been quarantined and also the hospital saying that any hospital worker that came into contact with her, they are now monitoring them. Some of them are quarantined, some isolated, some are just at home monitoring their own symptoms. They are saying it is dozens of hospital workers that they are monitoring but it's less than 100 people. They're also looking at a few people she could have come into contact in those first early days and she may have been asymptomatic. They are looking at that as well.

And then another big concern that has been talked about a lot, Brianna, the fact that this is the home, Solano County, is to Travis Air Force Base, where we saw those planes coming in repatriating Americans who were in China who were coming point of concern, as the governor put it. They are saying that this woman had no contact with anyone from Travis Air Force Base and that is a part of the conundrum of how she got sick in the first place, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Stephanie Elam, thank you so much for keeping an eye on that from Sacramento for us.

Governor Gavin Newsom says California is monitoring more than 8,000 people right now for possible coronavirus infection, but he adds that the entire state has only received 200 testing kits.

Joining me on the phone is Steve Huddleston. He's the Vice President of Public Affairs for NorthBay Healthcare, which is this facility that initially saw this first identified patient to contract coronavirus without a connection to someone who came from an infected area.

Steve, thank you so much for joining us. It's significant to point out that it was 11 days between when this patient was first admitted to your facility and their diagnosis at U.C. Davis Medical Center. Your facility, NorthBay, wanted the patient tested for coronavirus.


This patient was not tested. Tell us why.

STEVE HUDDLESTON, VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC AFFARIS, NORTHBAY HEALTHCARE: Well, thank you for having me, Brianna. In fact, we did not request that the CDC test this patient while in our facility because the patient did not meet that criteria that the CDC has laid out in terms of what symptoms that patient would have before they would qualify to have the test. That occurred after we transferred this patient to the UCD Medical Center in Sacramento.

KEILAR: Okay, so that occurred afterward. And I wonder, with this lack of tests, knowing that you now have a community spread issue, how concerned are you? Do you have the tests that you need if people come in and are exhibiting symptoms? And they may not meet the criteria, but now they don't need to, right, with this being a community spread issue?

HUDDLESTON: Well, the guidance that we're going to follow, of course, is now being directed by the public health experts and under the guidance of the CDC, which has now sent a contingent of experts into our community and they're working very closely with our clinicians. How that protocol will change over time, and we expect that it will, is still pretty much in a state of flux. I think this case has probably caused all of us and including the CDC, to reconsider when those test will be administered to patients moving forward.

KEILAR: Are any of these health workers there at NorthBay who came into contact with this patient during what appears to be the incubation period, are any of them showing symptoms?

HUDDLESTON: Well, we're not certain how many or if any are having any serious symptoms. I mean, this is the cold and flu season, so just like everyone else in the community, many people in the work force have shown symptoms of flu-like measures. But the Department of Public Health is the one monitoring all of our workers now that they are no longer -- we've sent them home, and they're now under the care of the Department of Public Health. They will be the agency that will now monitor their condition on a regular basis, daily basis, from this point forward.

KEILAR: So do you know if they've been tested for coronavirus if they're exhibiting symptoms? Because it sounds like you're not ruling out they may be exhibiting symptoms. The issue is, is it the normal flu or a standard cold or is the coronavirus?

HUDDLESTON: No. Our understanding is some of our individual workers have been tested.

KEILAR: They have been tested. Okay.

Steve Huddleston, thank you so much for joining us. And right now, Let's take a which can of how the coronavirus crisis is affecting the stock market, down over 450 points right now. Closing out the month today with a drop like this, coupled with other massive drops this week, means it is the worst month since the Financial Crisis of 2008 for the stock market.

Let's talk to Diane Swonk. She is joining us now from Chicago. She is the Chief Economist for Grant Thornton, an audit, tax and financial advisory service.

And tell us about how -- I wonder how you are seeing this, because we're getting mixed signals, right? Goldman Sachs has predicted U.S. companies will see zero growth for the year due to the virus. The president's director of his National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, says he doesn't think this week's stock market drop will have much of a long-term impact. So what are you expecting?

DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, GRANT THORNTON: Well, actually, what we know from other epidemics, like the Ebola epidemic, the World Economic Forum has actually done estimates on what it does to economies. And it is pretty devastating what this do, and we're talking about something that's global in scope.

80 to 90 percent of economic losses that we endure are due to the behavioral response of what is really a sort of political paradox for firms and for governments. The line between prudence and panic is do you close things down to stop the spread of the virus, which is what they're doing, and quarantine people to stop the spread of the virus because that's an imminent health threat, but that also undermines economic wellbeing of the global economy.

And I think that's what we're seeing ripple through the stock market now is that this is global in scope, it has real economic cost to it that are not easily recouped. If you don't buy a sweater in February, you're not going to go back and buy a sweater in April. If you don't show up at a game of public sporting event, as they're saying in Italy now, playing the events, but not allowed to show up in the stadium, you're not going to re-buy that same ticket and go back and recoup that loss for those stadium in the near future.

So this is really something that's a very different kind of economic shock and it's hard to deal with with the simple tools of fiscal or monetary stimulus, because they're designed to get people out spending right now. But how do you get people in quarantine to actually spend or the fear factor that lingers after that?


KEILAR: Yes. Okay, so lost sales are truly lost, which is alarming. When it comes to the Fed, because we've heard a lot of discussion about this, how do you see the Fed fitting into a solution? And that may speak to the point you just made as well.

SWONK: Well, their tools are limited. That said, on the margin, companies that have a lot of debt, which frankly we have a lot of corporate debt in the United States, it's not very highly rated right now. Those companies, to blunt the blow, it's not a cure-all, but lowering short-term interests by the Fed can make debt a little cheaper and easier to service going forward to blunt the blow.

They can't reverse the blow, which is very important, and even tax cuts or handouts like Hong Kong is doing don't make much difference if people are still afraid go out to the stores. But it can blunt the blow and also calm the panic that we're seeing take root in the financial markets.

So we do expect the Federal Reserve to cut rates because, ultimately, they have a mandate to respond to a weak economy and we will get a significant weakening in both the global and U.S. economy in response to this.

KEILAR: All right. Diane, thank you so much for that reality check. Diane Swonk, we appreciate it.

And around the world, governments are in crisis mode. Schools are being shut down, Friday prayers canceled, even Disney Parks in Tokyo are closing. We're going to take you there.

Plus, the Trump administration under fire for once again downplaying this outbreak.

And 2020 rivals swarming the trail just hours before the critical primary in South Carolina. Hear how much is being spent in this race.



KEILAR: The coronavirus is stoking fears around the world. It's turning popular places that are usually packed with into ghost towns. In Italy, where the virus has infected more than 600 people, an important soccer match had to go on, so they played it in an empty stadium. Streets, restaurants, popular attractions in Northern Italy are also unusually quiet. Tourists are deserting coronavirus-stricken areas, where the virus is considered to be the worst.

The online community is also bearing the brunt. Facebook had to cancel its biggest annual tech conference in California scheduled to take place in early May. In Japan, Disney is closing down its theme parks on Saturday, which will then stay closed through mid-march.

And then there's more. The U.S. and South Korea have postponed annual military drills. K-pop superstars BTS canceled an upcoming concert series in South Korea. The National Symphony Orchestra canceled next week's tour to Japan after already canceling three concerts in China.

The Swiss government is banning all events with 1,000 people or more. And the Church of Latter-Day Saints is postponing a key leadership event in Salt Lake City.

But this doesn't stop there. CNN's Clarissa Ward has even more on the global impact of the virus and how it's bringing life for many to a standstill. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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 failed 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 the 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.


WARD: And, Brianna, there is no sense the situation is improving any time soon. Just in the last 24 hours, we have learned another six countries coming forward saying they have identified their first cases of coronavirus. This has spread to almost every continent in the world, Brianna.

KEILAR: And there's also this concern, Clarissa, that the true rate of infection is higher than it's being reported around the world. Tell us about that.

WARD: Well, that's right. Take Iran, for example, 48 deaths, they say, and 388 cases total. But if you look at the broader death toll globally, it appears to be roughly 2 percent rather, Which would indicate the actual number of cases in Iran is probably much closer to 1,700.

There are also fears, Brianna, that in some countries, particularly third world countries, that don't have the healthcare infrastructure, they may not have been able to detect it yet. They may not be reporting those numbers yet. Countries like North Korea also possibly have a vested interest in hiding the actual number of cases that they're seeing. So for a number of different reasons, very real concern from health experts that the actual number of cases across the world could be much higher than we even know we're dealing with.


KEILAR: All right. Clarissa, thank you so much. Clarissa Ward from London.

And as the world is scrambling to contain and control the coronavirus, one doctor is offering some words of caution. Why he says global lockdown may not be the answer to containing the coronavirus.

Plus, the numbers are in, the total amount of ad spending for the presidential race soars to over $1 billion and one candidate alone accounts for half of that. Will it help in the race for the president?



KEILAR: We are less than 24 hours away from the country's first in the south primary and for any 2020 Democrats who are not named Bernie Sanders. The next week is do or die.

Candidates have one eye on South Carolina and more -- and one on more than a dozen states voting next week on Super Tuesday as they look to slow down Sanders' momentum and boost their own.

We have just learned that spending on the 2020 presidential primary has officially surpassed the $1 billion mark. This is a historic amount with more than half of that coming from billionaire candidate Michael Bloomberg.

Let's head now to South Carolina where CNN's Ryan Nobles is with the Bernie Sanders campaign and Leyla Santiago is with Elizabeth Warren's.

Ryan, South Carolina is must win for the former vice president, Joe Biden. So how is Sanders looking to undercut some of his support there?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. It seems like the Sanders strategy at this point is just to close the gap on Joe Biden as much as possible, because they way that Biden performed in the first three states, he needs not just a win here but he needs a convincing win. And the Sanders campaign understands that. If they can close that gap to 5 points or less, they would consider that to be a big victory.

But it's not just that, Brianna. The Sanders campaign also has to demonstrate that they've made serious inroads with African-American voters, particularly in this state, because the African-American vote is so important to the final outcome.

So they believe they've done that. They feel that they're in much a much better position than they were four years ago. Of course, their performance here was dismal four years ago, so it doesn't take that much to approve upon it. But you do see Sanders in the closing days of the South Carolina primary spending more time here than they originally intended. He is spending a lot of time in those Super Tuesday states, but bouncing back and forth to South Carolina, and they're spending more money. He dropped a $500,000 ad buy that went across the entire state in the closing days of this campaign.

So for Sanders, just keeping it close would be a victory. They don't expect to win but they do want it as close as possible. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes. I was there in South Carolina that night, and, I mean, wow, it was over quickly and it was not good for Bernie Sanders and he's made a whole lot of progress there.

Leyla, talk to us about this mysterious Super PAC that's supporting Senator Warren. They've put in a $9 million ad buy in Super Tuesday states, and this doesn't exactly mesh with Elizabeth Warren's original anti-Super PAC pledge.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna. Senator Warren is starting to take the stage here in Greenville, South Carolina any minute now. But what you point out is very interesting because, all along, Senator Warren has said that she does not want to accept support from Super PACs, even denounced the group of high dollar donors on her website in February, called on her opponents to do the same, and now you have this today, a $9 million ad buy in Super Tuesday states, Texas, California, her home state, Massachusetts.

Now, for her part yesterday, Senator Warren in San Antonio said that she has not changed her position, that she still believes that her fellow candidates should not be taking Super PAC money, and if they don't, she won't. Today, her spokesperson said that they are calling on Persist PAC to release its list of donors before Super Tuesday. The PAC has said it will not.

But in talking to supporters, they -- some have admitted that this may be the lifeline she needs given what they called disappointing results in early voting states. Her campaign has, for a while now, said that they see the path to the nomination and a heavy focus in Super Tuesday. We're just going to have to wait and see if this Super PAC, whether Warren likes it or not, is enough to give her the boost she may need moving forward, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Leyla, thank you so much. Ryan Nobles, thank you.

The South Carolina primary is tomorrow. So could southern voters really shake things up here? Join me tomorrow at 4:00 P.M. Eastern for a CNN special live coverage and then on Monday a CNN primetime special, CNN interviewing seven of the presidential candidates one-on- one. The live prime time special starts Monday at 8:00 P.M. That's right here on CNN.

The message from the Trump administration is turn off the T.V., as key allies work to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus.

Plus, a tongue lashing in Congress, Congressman Ted Lieu going off on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the administration's response to the virus.