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Fifty-Four Delegates Up For Grabs In The First Democratic Primary In The South; Interview With Tom Steyer (D), Presidential Candidate; Coronavirus Outbreak; Trump Suggests Supporters Vote For Sanders In South Carolina Primary; Four New U.S. Coronavirus Cases Not Travel-Related; Voting In South Carolina Primary Underway Right Now; U.S. Signs Historic Agreement With Taliban. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 29, 2020 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:16]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right. Right now the polls are open and voting is under way in the South Carolina Democratic primary -- 54 delegates are up for grabs. Much of the spotlight will be on former vice president Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Going into this primary Sanders leads the field with 45 pledged delegates from prior races. But recent polling shows Joe Biden could be on the verge of his first win and the stakes are high. The former vice president acknowledging the Palmetto State is an important contest for his campaign.

After around-the-clock campaigning and last minute pitches all of the Democratic candidates now putting their fate into the hands of South Carolina voters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All I know is that I think I'm going to do well here. and I think that's going to put me in a position to do well in North Carolina and Alabama and other states. And I think in the Democratic primary I can do very well. But I don't think it will even be over after Super Tuesday.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let us win the primary here in South Carolina. Let us win the Democratic nomination. Let us defeat Donald Trump.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe you are going to help me become the next president to the United States and when you do I will work every day to make you proud.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been on the ground in South Carolina meeting people more than anybody else. Win, lose, or drop -- I will never stop working on these issues.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I'm asking you to help me because I will promise you this. When I win this I will not be the President for half of America, I will be the President for all of America.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you ready to fight back and elect the first woman to be president of the United States of America? Then let's do this. Dream big.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. CNN's Jessica Dean in Columbia, South Carolina for us. Candidates -- a whole lot of enthusiasm there -- Jessica.

You know, Biden and most of the other candidates are already, you know, campaigning in Super Tuesday states. I mean they haven't necessarily moved on from South Carolina. You know, they are waiting with bated breath but they are thinking about the what's next.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right -- Fredricka.

Because what's next is also just so many delegates compared to what have been doled out so far.

But let's talk first about South Carolina. I think you set it up perfectly.

This is a big, big pivotal state for Joe Biden. His campaign has long pointed to this state as where he will be able to show his strength as a candidate and really see that strong support from African-American voters.

So they are counting on a victory. You heard the vice president say it there himself. They are hoping that that victory is big enough here that he's able to amass such a lead here that it gives him a huge amount of momentum going into Super Tuesday.

Because remember, there's just a very small amount of time between Sunday morning or even today and Tuesday and when all of these states will be voting. You can't be in all places at once.

But here in South Carolina, the vice president has been here all week trying to draw strong contrast between him and the other candidates, most notably the front runner for the nomination right now Senator Bernie Sanders. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Well, I always pointed in the past that bill one my opponents, Bernie Sanders voted against it five times. Bernie also voted for loopholes that allowed white supremacist to get guns that were used -- gun used in Mother Emmanuel Church in the first place.

But guess what, we have that law -- a law that some folks voted for including Bernie Sanders to exempt them to give the corporations a loophole where they could not be sued.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: And we've heard Bernie Sanders pushing back on Joe Biden's record pointing to his vote for the Iraq war. So you've seen a lot of that contrast happening here in South Carolina. And to the end that we were talking about with everybody kind of fanning out all across these Super Tuesday states, only two of the candidates will actually be here in South Carolina tonight after the polls close.

That's Joe Biden and Tom Steyer who spent a lot of money and a lot of time here in South Carolina -- Fred. Everybody else will already be in those Super Tuesday states as we get ready to make that turn.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jessica -- thank you so much.

And spending all that time and money, Tom Steyer -- you just mentioned him. And here he is -- voila, just like that from Columbia, South Carolina.

All right. Good to see you.

Well, you're showing a whole lot of energy, you know, there in South Carolina. We're going to talk a little bit later about the dancing on stage and why you are feeling so invigorated.

[11:04:50]

WHITFIELD: But let's talk about the kind of money and time that you have spent -- $22 million in campaign ads in South Carolina. Are you feeling like today is going to be a day that you get some return from that investment?

STEYER: Fredricka -- honestly, I spent more time here than any other candidate. I've loved being here. I think that there's a lot of momentum to my campaign. I can feel it on the ground. I think you can see it in the polls.

So yes, I'm expecting to have a great day today in South Carolina.

WHITFIELD: So what is a great day? Is that, you know, top two? Well, number one? Top two, top three -- what?

STEYER: I don't know. You know, I don't want to make predictions. What I think is this. You can read the polls. I've seen the polls, of course.

But what I can also see is that in every poll I keep moving up. And that's what I believe in. That's what I feel on the ground. And that's what I expect.

I expect to surprise people by doing really well here, by doing really well with African-Americans. And I think that, you know, that's reflective of something that's important.

I think it's important to be able to appeal to the entire spectrum of Democratic voters and that definitely includes a lot of black people and Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans as well as white people. I think that's why one of the things that's really important about South Carolina is it gives people a chance to show that.

WHITFIELD: You feel like you're resonating with a good cross section. I mean that's the message I'm hearing from you. Do you feel like it's enough, you know, for that path to the nomination?

STEYER: We'll find out tonight. You know, I feel as if this gives me a chance to show I can pull together that coalition.

I mean, Fredricka -- one of the things that's very clear now is this. Whoever is the candidate for the Democratic Party has to beat Trump in November and that's going to mean pulling together this party across all the divisions with the proverbial big tent.

Thank God we're diverse. Thank God this party represents the diversity of America. But it also includes some philosophical diversity. You know, some differences between the more progressive Democrats and the more moderate Democrats.

I'm a progressive Democrat but I feel like I can appeal across the spectrum of people racially and ethnically. And I believe I'm a progressive Democrat, maybe the most progressive but with a business background so people can know I'm practical. I know we have to create jobs. I know how to do that.

And I also know how to make much more money for working people and allow them to keep it.

WHITFIELD: And you feel strongly about the kind of messages that you're conveying and that you do believe that, you know, it is resonating with a great diverse cross section of people.

Does it mean anything to you, you know, the value of endorsements? Look, it was just last weekend when, you know, Majority Whip, you know, James Clyburn announced that he was watching this closely. That he would make his endorsement come Wednesday. He did that. It was Joe Biden.

And you know, he has a lot of clout in that state. He is very persuasive.

Does it concern you at all that Joe Biden would get that kind of endorsement, that you don't have someone on equivalent, you know, I guess ranking who is behind you in South Carolina?

STEYER: You know, of course Congressman Clyburn is an important person and he and Joe Biden have been in D.C. together for decades.

What is true is that people who have been endorsing me are the people on the ground in South Carolina. They're the environmental justice activists. Go check, Fredricka.

The people who have been driving environmental justice in this state on the local level are for me. I've been going around this state, the people from here who are on the ground every day, I'm connecting with and are endorsing me.

Look, I am serious about these issues. I have been working on economic and environmental and racial justice for a long time. And when one of the most heartbreaking parts of running for president is this. After you talk to people, they very frequently say to you that sounds good, that sounds like the right words, but how can I believe you? So many people have broken their promises to us.

WHITFIELD: And then what do you say?

STEYER: And what I can say is, I say look, take a look at my record. I've been working on this successfully for over a decade. You know --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Then you must take offense when -- you must take offense then when there are accusations, you know, from some even, you know, elected elections, who say you are buying black support, or you're trying to buy black support in South Carolina.

STEYER: Fredricka, I honestly believe that has a deep racist undertone to it. I believe the idea that you could buy black votes implies that for some reason African-Americans are not thinking citizens who make up their minds based on the facts. And that to imply the opposite is absolutely racist and wrong.

[11:09:49]

STEYER: The fact that we are organizing on the ground level that 60 percent of our organizers are organizing within 20 miles of where they are born. When they do that job, we pay them. That's absolutely normal grassroots organizing.

I built one of the biggest grassroots organizations in the United States of next gen (ph) America. That's what we believe in. That's what we believe in -- organize within the community. and then and to say paying black people somehow is buying votes in the black community -- that is offensive.

And actually -- just so you know the legislative black caucus, the head of the southern Christian leadership conference and the leaders of the NAACP have all denounced that kind of rhetoric. It's absolutely wrong, it's arrogant and it has dramatic racial overtones.

WHITFIELD: All right. Something else now, Mr. Steyer -- something that perhaps will make you smile for sure. This viral moment of yours. You got a little loose. You're dancing. You're on stage there with rapper Juvenile -- you know, one of his hit songs.

What was that moment like? What was moving you? What were you thinking?

STEYER: You know, Fredricka -- it's really funny to me because we are talking about really serious things here. I mean we are talking about people who are working for inadequate wages and can't live on. People who are dying because the health care is so bad.

We're talking about kids who aren't getting the chance to get educated about environmental injustice where people are being poisoned, about racial injustice that's gone on for centuries.

But let's also remember that life can be really fun. And all I was doing last night was having a little fun. And I would hate to think that the American political culture is so toxic that -- actually Juvenile is a really nice guy.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

STEYER: And he was teasing me to come up and show my moves. I was, like, ok, baby -- here we go. So that was just a little bit of fun.

WHITFIELD: Right.

STEYER: And I enjoyed myself in it. If the culture is so bad you can't have fun, I think there's something wrong.

WHITFIELD: Right. We all got to have a little fun. A lot of fun, in fact. Charisma goes a long way too, absolutely.

All right. Tom Steyer -- a pleasure. Thank you so much. And good luck.

STEYER: Fredricka -- it's nice to talk to you. Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: All right. The South Carolina Primary under way right now. Could those voters shake things up?

Tune in to CNN. Special live coverage beginning today -- 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And then Monday is CNN prime time special. We interview seven of the Presidential candidates one-on-one. The live primetime special starts Monday at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

All right. Still ahead -- four new cases of the coronavirus right here in the United States and the patients have no known contact with anyone who is already infected. How is the virus spreading?

Plus, hospitals and clinics stocking up on masks and gowns. Will be there enough for a worse-case scenario? A live report straight ahead.

[11:12:45]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. This morning, President Trump's coronavirus task force met at the White House as we're learning about new cases of the virus in the United States. There are now 67 cases across the nation and four of those patients have no travel history to affected regions leaving health officials trying to figure out how those four became infected.

Two of the cases are in California and one in Oregon and one in Washington State. And again, none of them knowingly had contact with anyone infected with the virus.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen with me now. So what more do we know about these cases?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, before we talk about these individual cases, I want to tell you something in infectious disease doctor told me. He said, you know what, se can sort of begin to think of this as being like the flu.

When you get the flu during flu season, sometimes you know my husband was just diagnosed. I must have gotten it from him or my wife or my best friend. But sometimes you just don't know. And we are headed into the "just don't know" category here in the United States with these four cases.

So let's talk about those cases.

The first one is a woman in Washington County, Oregon. She had spent time at a local school and may have exposed students and staff. A high school boy in Snohomish County, Washington spent a short time at school. Some of those students who he was in contact with are now quarantined. A woman in Santa Clara County California. A woman in Solano County, California she's at U.C. Davis Medical Center where she is actually unfortunately quite ill.

And so those are the four of unknown origin. They didn't travel to China. They didn't travel to a coronavirus hot spot and as far as we know, as far as they know -- they didn't have contact with anyone who had done any of those things.

WHITFIELD: So those are the common threads and they're all -- you know, they range in ages.

COHEN: They do. They do. This is a virus though that seems to attack the very old more. You and I have talked during flu season about the very old and the very young the most vulnerable. In this case This seems to be more the very old there.

If you look at the experience in China when you look at people who died, it really tended to be elderly people and not so much the very young, thank goodness. In fact, there was a study that was done of a family in China, a large family, and the little boy infected, completely healthy. Would never have known his grandfather passed away.

WHITFIELD: So now that we have this community, you know, transmission, what does this tell us about the potential of containment?

COHEN: You know, containment is a little bit of a funny word. But if we're going to define it as we can stop it, we can stop this from spreading, I think the existence of these four cases tells us that we have not contained it because I mean three out of these four popped up yesterday. And the fact that two of them had spent time in schools and had contact with people in schools and goodness knows where the other two might have been. We know the one at U.C. Davis for example was at another smaller

community hospital before she got to U.C. Davis and they didn't even think about coronavirus. So they didn't think to take the precautions that one would take with coronavirus necessarily. So it's hard to use the word containment when we see three new cases in one day.

[11:19:58]

WHITFIELD: Right. All right. Elizabeth Cohen -- thank you much.

COHEN: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you. Appreciate it.

So hospitals across the country are now getting ready to respond to a potential coronavirus outbreak right here in the U.S.

CNN's Natasha Chen joining me now with more on the preparations. So Natasha -- what are you learning about the readiness plans in these hospitals?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred -- I spoke to the Georgia Hospital Association last night. They say that their hospitals in that organization have been practicing what they call the ebola protocol, procedures they advanced during the ebola crisis which they feel apply here.

We also visited a clinic that started doing drills this week specific to the coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I recently traveled outside of the country, and I'm thinking I possibly was exposed to the coronavirus.

CHEN: This is a drill and this woman does not have the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you put one of these masks on and just wait right there and I'm going come around and get you.

CHEN: She's actually a medical assistant at an American family care clinic in Marietta, Georgia. Like many hospitals and health care providers across the U.S., this network of clinics is running drills with mock patients to practice responding to a coronavirus outbreak.

Were you surprised when you heard that American Family Care Clinics were doing drills this week?

DR. ADIL ANSAN, CLINIC PHYSICIAN: No. I, you know -- I was anticipating this was going to happen eventually.

CHEN: That moment came when their chief medical officer, Dr. Benjamin Barlow, heard this phrase from the CDC on Tuesday.

DR. NANCY MESSONNIER, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.

DR. BENJAMIN BARLOW, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, AMERICAN FAMILY CARE CLINICS: That actually is what sparked this for me because I'd been thinking about it and we've been preparing in the background. But as soon as they said that is was when we decided, all right, let's roll it out and let's get moving.

CHEN: They're drilling everything, taking the patient to a designated room by the exit, testing a swab to rule out the regular flu, bringing in a doctor for further screening and everyone putting on and removing gear at the right times.

ANSAN: The N-95 masks -- it really doesn't allow anything to kind of go through. It's a little bit better than some of the standard masks that you would use.

CHEN: But will there be enough of them during a pandemic? The Food and Drug Administration said it is currently not aware of specific widespread shortages but it has heard reports of increased market demand and supply challenges for some protective gear.

While this clinic said they have enough, doctors and health officials across the country say they've received notices about current or anticipated shortages, especially N-95 respirators.

In the meantime, drills with mock patients --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From here -- you would immediately go home. We would give information to the Health Department.

CHEN: Are being done at some hospitals around the Metro Atlanta area. Others say they regular practice for general pandemics which can apply to a coronavirus outbreak.

BARLOW: I don't think we should be overly excited about it but, you know, being prepared is the best way to go when you're facing possibilities like these.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: The Nurses United Union told us yesterday that 124 nurses and health care workers at U.C. Davis are now self-quarantined after exposure to the one patient we were discussing at that facility. The emphasize the importance of preparation, resources and planning at hospitals just like we saw.

They say if the health care providers actually get sick, then that limits how they can take care of the rest of the community -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Natasha Chen -- Thank you so much.

All right. Still to come, President Trump makes it clear he wants his supporters to get involved in yet another Democratic primary. This time in South Carolina.

So could Republican efforts have a real impact on the race there today? We'll discuss.

[11:23:48]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back.

President Trump continues his new tradition of visiting states holding Democratic primaries and caucuses on the eve of those elections. At his Friday night campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina the President encouraged his supporters to take advantage of the South Carolina open primary to cast votes for Bernie Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the way, the Republicans allowed to vote anyway? Are you ready? Are you ready? Let's do it together.

I assume this is ok from a campaign finance standpoint, I assume.

Lindsey, Tim -- our great congressmen, are we allowed to do this. Am I allowed to request -- first we have to figure out who would be the weakest candidate against President Trump. Are we allowed to tell them who we would like them to vote for because you're allowed to shift? Who is easier to beat? Crazy Bernie? Or Sleepy Joe? They think Bernie is easier to beat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. Jay Parmley is the executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Jay, thanks so much for being with us on a very busy day there in South Carolina.

So what is your reaction to the President last night encouraging people to have ulterior motives and vote in this open primary?

[11:29:48]

JAY PARMLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well -- thanks for having me -- Fredricka. Appreciate the opportunity.

Listen, I think the President should have other important things on his plate than coming to South Carolina and encouraging Republicans to participate in, yes, what is an open primary and would technically be legal. But I don't see much more activity other than the President coming here and asking Republicans to vote in our primary. So it's really couldn't have much effect --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Am I hearing from you -- you do not think his words are influential by encouraging his supporters or, you know, Republicans to take his direction? PARMLEY: Well, I think some will. But I think something on this

magnitude would have had to have months of work, lots of money spent. I mean some of the Republican County chairs have been what they call -- conducting what they call operation chaos to try to get Republicans to vote in our primary today.

But we haven't seen a lot of money behind it. The President, sure, he went to North Charleston last night and asked people to vote. But I just don't think it's going to make that big of a difference in the turnout.

We've seen strong turnout for the absentee ballots and I just -- I don't believe this is going to have a huge impact.

WHITFIELD: Ok. But You won't really know until the polls close, right, and things are tallied up?

PARMLEY: Well -- right. We may not even know then.

(CROSSTALK)

PARMLEY: I mean quite frankly we'll -- we'll just know what the turnout is. It will take about a month for our state election commission to input all of the data. So we'll know in about a month who actually voted and we can go back and look if they participate in Republican primaries in the past --

WHITFIELD: All right.

PARMLEY: -- but we'll be able to sort of analyze it probably in about a month.

WHITFIELD: All right. So the President was taking advantage of the fact that it is open primary. Do you think as a result of, you know, that opening, do you think ultimately rules should be changed or should this continue to be the case for South Carolina open primary?

PARMLEY: We have long had open primaries here. And it hasn't been a problem. And I don't really see this as being sort of a clarion call for change. I just think parties typically here have enough respect for each other that we don't openly go meddle in each other's primary.

Certainly the state Republican Party has discouraged it but yet the President comes to town and he can't even play by his own party's rules. And it's just -- I just think it's stupid quite frankly to do this. And it won't have the impact that he would hope or that the Republican Party might secretly hope it will have.

WHITFIELD: Ok. All right. Well, you know, post-Iowa voters are still concerned, you know, that in any race there may be a similar outcome where it takes a very long time to find out what the results are. What kind of precautions has your party taken to ensure that South Carolina's primary numbers will be accurate and will come with some brevity?

PARMLEY: Well, it's a great question. And the best thing about this system is that South Carolina like New Hampshire our primary is conducted by the state of South Carolina and the State Elections Commission. So we're doing the same things we do in every other primary or general election. And the state, our trained poll workers, we have updated voting machines that have been used in over 200 municipal elections last year.

So, I'm very confident our State Election Commission and our local boards of elections and poll workers know what they're doing.

We've had meetings with the State Election Commission as recently as two weeks ago to go over -- to go over all the processes. So you can be very confident the election is going to be conducted fairly and the results I think will come pretty quickly tonight.

I don't want to speak for the election commission, but I would say we'll know by 8:30, 9:00. We'll have a good picture where this is going.

WHITFIELD: All right. That's pretty --

PARMLEY: Well, I mean at the earliest.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: That's pretty close considering polls close at 7:00, right?

PARMLEY: It is. But that's about when we normally get results here. So I don't expect this to take any longer.

WHITFIELD: All right. Very good. Jay Parmley -- thank you so much. Good luck for the day.

PARMLEY: Hey -- thank you. Appreciate it. Have a great day.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thank you.

All right. Meantime, fresh concerns over the spread of the coronavirus after four new cases are found to be not travel-related. The search for the source next.

[11:34:18]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

There are now 67 cases of the coronavirus across the U.S. Including four patients who have no history of travel to infected areas and no known contact with anyone infected with the virus.

Earlier, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert said health officials will now have to step up their efforts to figure out where the cases came from.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you have cases appearing like this, that is the beginning of community spread which means you're going to have to do much more intensive testing and the contact tracing that's going on right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Dr. Syra Madad is senior director of the system-wide special pathogen program at New York City Health and Hospitals. Good to see you. So in your view --

DR. SYRA MADAD, SPECIAL PATHOGEN PROGRAM, NYC HEALTH AND HOSPITALS: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: -- how crucial is it to track down the source of transmission?

MADAD: It's very important to know where these sources are coming from so we can get a good picture, we know what to expect. And I think the other big question is what is the true denominator? We don't know how many more cases are out there whether it's in the United States or even globally.

We know that as every day passes, as every day passes, the cases continue to mount. We really need to know what is the true denominator to fully understand the full spectrum of illness of this coronavirus disease.

[11:39:45]

WHITFIELD: And then we're learning, you know, that some health workers came into contact with one of the first patients in the U.S., a patient who is at U.C. Davis before the virus was even diagnosed.

So is this, I guess, an entry level into how a virus can turn out -- turn into an outbreak?

MADAD: That is exactly right. And there is multiple different levels at play here. And so I want to make sure folks understand that while on the hospital side we are tasked with identifying these patients right away, isolating them and informing public health authorities, we have a whole infrastructure and process that we follow.

So if we identify a patient, we need to call public health authorities and ask we want to do testing of this patient if they meet the clinical case definition.

Before 24 hours ago, CDC had a narrow clinical case definition where we weren't able to test these patients. And what that happens is that if we can't test them then, you know, we might not know what type of precautions to take and then exposures can happen.

On top of that, you know, now that the clinical case definition has brought in and we are able to screen more patients potentially that we think have coronavirus disease, we don't have national diagnostic capabilities to be able to test them rapidly. So there's a number of processes on play and everybody relies on each other.

The other big thing as you're hearing is that there's a huge impact to the global supply chain. So as we're able identify these patients, you know, more and faster, we still need to wear our personal protective equipment. And with these N 95 mask shortages that you're hearing, in fact, you know, recently you know you're hearing reports that we need 300 million N-95 masks across the nation to better prepare for the coronavirus disease. And yet we have a fraction of that in the United States.

So again, as we're screening more patients and testing more patients, our front line health care workers need these masks to protect themselves. And I'm seeing drills happening across the nation which is great. Hospitals need to prepare for this type of event. But one of the drills that I've seen recently is that they're actually giving N- 95 masks to patients. That makes absolutely no sense.

So everybody has a responsibility even on the health care side. Health care folks need to look at the actual guidance that's coming out from public health. It's not telling, you know, to give visitors and patients N-95s. We're supposed to give them a simple mask and we're having a huge N-95 shortage so everybody needs to be responsible in this type of situation.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So there's a big distinction between these N-95 masks you're talking about that are used by the health care workers are able to protect themselves from any kind of airborne, you know, liquids and any kind of pathogens from the virus.

But then the regular masks that people are buying, you know, in the store, you're saying the stuff to protect these medical workers, there's a low supply. And so when CDC says there's an expectation that all hospitals need to be ready and have their kits -- I mean are there the resources for that deadline as early as the end of next week? Can that be met?

MADAD: So from a hospital in a health care system standpoint, we won't be doing the testing. Those tests that we will collect the specimens but we rely on public health to conduct these testings.

And right now, all of the specimens are being sent to CDC for confirmatory testing. So we need to make sure that our local public health laboratories have their test kits so we can be able to send it to them and have a much faster turnaround time.

So that's another process, you know. So if we're sending specimens to CDC, we may not hear back for another 24 to 72 hours. Whereas if we send this to a local health department that have the test kit we can reduce that turnaround time to maybe a few hours and then actually see, does the patient require this level of isolation, yes or no. And we can go on from there.

So again, it's a whole process. We all rely on each other. We all have a responsibility. But we need for this to work.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dr. Syra Madad -- thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MADAD: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. And we'll be right back.

[11:43:29]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right.

Polls are officially open in the Palmetto State and voting is now under way as South Carolina holds the nation's first in the South primary.

Joining me right now is CNN National Correspondent, Athena Jones who is in North Charleston talking to voters along with Maayan Schechter, a South Carolina state house and politics reporter for the state newspaper.

Athena -- you first. I know it's very early but how are things shaping up there?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi -- Fred. Well, it's early but we've been talking to voters since 7:00 a.m. We've talked to just under 20 percent of the 450 or so who had voted at this particular polling station in North Charleston.

And I can tell you that, you know, Joe Biden is well ahead in terms of who is getting the support. And of course, this is anecdotal. We've talked to a lot of folks and Joe Biden has about 60 percent of the support of the 85 or so people we have spoken to. Bernie is next -- Bernie Sanders is next at around 21 percent.

So at least at this polling location and anecdotally the firewall that Joe Biden was hoping South Carolina would be is proving true at least here.

You know, this is not only the first in the south to vote, it's also the first state with a significant African-American population. We know that in 2016 the primary electorate was 61 percent African- American. Other voters we've spoken to here, at least 65 percent or so have been African-American, the vast majority of them support Joe Biden.

So it's looking good to him here now

We've also heard support for Bernie Sanders and at least one person who is voting for Amy Klobuchar. So there is a little bit of support for other folks but Joe Biden seems to be doing very, very well at this location.

And one of the things we've heard consistently from voters is that they like his moderation, they like his experience. Listen to two of the Joe Biden supporters that we talked to earlier.

Here's what they had to say.

[11:50:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERT GRAHAM, VOTED FOR BIDEN: I felt like he has the experience. And I think that he cares a lot about the economy and also about the people that's involved with it.

And also he has the experience of the vice president. So I thought that was worldwide knowledge for me. Not because he was with Obama, but his experience and his knowledge of it.

EUGENE WINKLER, VOTER FOR BIDEN: He is experienced. He is down to earth.

I don't particularly care for socialists. And the other guy is spending money to buy the election. And that isn't the Democratic way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: So there you heard it from them. They say they like Joe Biden's experience, what he stands for. And they say they feel like they know him and believe that he could win -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Athena -- you've got to love that people are willing to be frank and talk openly there in South Carolina about their vote, their choices, and the reasons behind it.

All right. Thank you so much -- Athena.

All right. Maayan -- let me bring you back into the equation, here. You know, your paper is reporting that in one precinct alone today, nearly 60 people had voted in today's primary by 8:00 a.m. That's just an hour after polls opened. So that's almost a voter a minute. So in terms of voter turnout, what are the expectations today?

MAAYAN SCHECHTER, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE AND POLITICS REPORTER, "THE STATE": The expectations, if you're talking to Democratic Party officials here in South Carolina, is that turnout is going to look good. We know that turnout is up in absentee voting. And you just mentioned this voter per minute.

We're hearing that among other precincts as well. It is still early here in Columbia. There's a lot going on. We have a downtown farmer's market that maybe folks are hanging out at before they go vote. Certainly there's plenty of time to go vote today. We could see those numbers up tick.

But echoing the same thing that you heard in the Charleston area, yes, the overwhelming name that I heard when I talked to voters today is Joe Biden.

However, Tom Steyer's name has also come up. He's been a very frequent individual here in South Carolina over the last several weeks and he's been doing a lot of campaigning, particularly in the lower Richland area of this county.

So those two names keep popping up. But again, like we expect, we are hearing continuously that turnout is looking good for the party.

WHITFIELD: So, you know, in South Carolina alone, you know, Tom Steyer, you mentioned him-- he spent a lot of money. I spoke with him earlier in the hour. He is very enthusiastic, nonapologetic about spending $22 million in campaign ads.

And we just heard from that one voter who talked about, you know, a candidate being able to buy votes. Well, if you ask that to Tom Steyer, he says, you know what, I find that very insulting to voters to, you know, even infer that voters can be bought.

So what is the general consensus about the kind of money he has spent, even Michael Bloomberg, and the kind of support they get as a result or the support they've gotten --- period.

SCHECHTER: Well, Tom Steyer supporters will certainly agree with their candidate that Steyer is not buying their vote, he is actually doing a really good job at strategizing across the state. Tom Steyer has been in this state, for the candidates that are still in the race I think at the top, he has one of the highest number of visits here. And he has been in the state frequently from the beginning before he decided to declare his candidacy with his need to impeach.

I mean look, he has been able to spend like you said millions of dollars in the state on digital ads, on TV ads. I see his ads on my Spotify account. I see his ads on Instagram.

He's also been spending money in black-owned media. He's been taking out full page ads in college newspapers. So certainly the money is working. He has been able to boost his name ID across the state.

When I talk to voters, one of the first -- and about Steyer -- one of the first things they tell me, oh, yes, I saw that man on TV.

But it is not just that. Steyer has been able to take advantage of just being on the ground here in South Carolina while the other candidates have been kind of duking it out in Iowa, New Hampshire, even Nevada.

And of course as we know, there are several candidates who are in the race who have had to be in D.C. to deal with impeachment.

It is an accessibility factor that Tom Steyer's voters really feel connected to. So yes, if you say to Tom Steyer voters, is he buying them, absolutely not to them. He is simply investing in them. He is investing his time into their communities, and he has got a really smart strategy.

WHITFIELD: Maayan Schechter -- we'll leave it there for now.

Thank you so much.

We've got so much more -- SCHECTER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: -- straight ahead in the NEWSROOM right after this.

[11:54:30]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. The U.S. and the Taliban have signed a historic agreement which will allow the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan over the next 14 months. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Qatar for this signing.

CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is in Doha, Qatar there with the latest. So tell us, Nic -- what is in this deal?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Fredricka -- there's optimism that this can be a pathway to peace but a lot of hurdles before then. The United States commits to pulling all of its troops out of Afghanistan in 14 months. That it will cut troops to 8,600 within 135 days. That it'll ultimately pull its troops out of all five major U.S. bases in Afghanistan.

[11:59:57]

ROBERTSON: No mention in this signed agreement of rights for women.