Return to Transcripts main page
Voting In South Carolina Primary Underway Right Now; Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) Is Interviewed About What Health And Human Services Is Doing About The Coronavirus; First Coronavirus Death Confirmed In The U.S.; Will Trump Again Try To Calm Markets Panicking Over Coronavirus?; President Trump Gives A Press Briefing On The Coronavirus & Afghan War Negotiations. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 29, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Those four patients have no travel history to affected regions and none of them knowingly had contact with anyone infected with the virus. CNN White House Reporter Sarah Westwood joining us now from the briefing room where the President will make a return visit there. What are the expectations, Sarah?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred, we don't know exactly what President Trump is going to say. As you mentioned, he announced two moments ago that he will be holding a coronavirus press briefing here at the White House at 1:30. Now, the President did say yesterday he told reporters that the administration is close to finalizing travel restrictions on some unnamed countries.
So that could be a way that the administration could curb travel to and from countries where the corona virus outbreak is getting worse. We know that that is occurring in South Korea and Italy in a number of countries. Again, we don't know exactly what President Trump is going to say. The administration is also considering a number of other economic responses to deal with coronavirus.
That's something that CNN reported this week. But even though it's rare for the President to have a press conference on a weekend, let alone make an appearance in the briefing room. This is actually his second press conference this week. He also had one on Wednesday. This is the White House is trying to curb concerns about a coronavirus outbreak that have sent the market plunging to new lows of the Trump presidency.
The President has also put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus task force that's in charge of formulating the administration's response to the illness. That task force has been meeting here at the White House this morning, including the Vice President and the heads of various health agencies across the administration. So we're waiting to see what the President has to announce here in the briefing room. Just under a half hour, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Keep us posted on that. Sarah Westwood. Thank you so much. All right. I want to bring in now Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen as we wait for the President to speak and in about 29 minutes or so. What kind of questions do you think he might venture to answer you?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think Sarah mentioned one travel restrictions, will he say, no more flights from Italy, will he say no more flights in South Korea. Another tactic he could take is screaming from those countries. Right now, when people come into the United States from China, they get asked, Do you have a cough? Do you have difficulty breathing, they get their temperature check.
That is not happening when people fly in from other countries of particular concern would be Japan, Korea, and Italy as well. And so it'll be interesting to see if he's going to increase that travel screening. It would make sense when they instituted the screening for passengers from China, there were far fewer people coming in at that point than there are right now from Italy or Japan or South Korea.
So it would make sense if we thought it made sense to screen those passengers from China. Maybe we should be doing it from these as well.
WHITFIELD: And the screening involves temperature checks. I mean, that is the extent of it. Isn't that?
COHEN: Well, it's temperature check -- well, it's actually three components. So it's temperature checks, and it's also symptom checks. So the folks from the CDC who do this, they observe is the person coughing. Do they appear to have difficulty breathing and they are -- and people also asked about the symptoms. Possibly the most important part though, is the simple card. Travelers are given cards and say, hey, you just came back from a place where there's the spread of coronavirus.
If you are having these symptoms or if you develop a fever you need to check in with your healthcare provider. It sounds very simple just a card, but at least two cases of coronavirus were caught this way. The temperature checks actually are controversial. They're not necessarily so effective because people might be asymptomatic. They might also if they're kind of devious, just pop some Tylenol or some Advil and that fever will go away. So the --
WHITFIELD: Right. A lot of people are concerned about the whole two week, you know, quarantine, so there is that possibility maybe.
COHEN: Well, actually at that -- at that point, if you're found with symptoms, you're actually isolated, you're isolated in a hospital or at home but sometimes in a hospital and, you know, that -- none of this is fun but being isolated in a hospital for two weeks is really not fun.
WHITFIELD: Right. So now, you know, the Commissioner of the FDA, you know, is saying that it has new testing, a new testing policy that will expedite testing by allowing some labs to develop and use their own tests before they go through an independent FDA review. How significant is that?
COHEN: That's significant because this is -- the whole testing situation has been a real low point for the CDC and for the entire administration. Back in early January. I mean, in mid-January, rather, the CDC was saying, we've got to get more tests out, the only place to test is at the CDC lab in Atlanta, we've got to get more out. And that didn't happen week after week went by. Now, finally, over the past couple of days, and in the next couple of days, they are getting more out.
But now the FDA is saying, you know what, private companies, if you've got a test going and you think it works, put it out there, you will have to go through the FDA at some point. But right now, in the immediate sense, we want to get as many tests out there as possible. And I should note that, you know, infectious disease experts have told me these tests are not that difficult to make. I mean, lab companies have been making tests to test for viruses for, you know, forever basically. So, you're putting in this virus instead of that virus, this is not the most difficult thing to do.
WHITFIELD: All right. Elizabeth Cohen keep us posted and you'll be back because again in about 25 minutes or so, from now, the President will come from the briefing room to give his latest update on this coronavirus. And of course, I'm sure he'll be touching on the 3500 point, you know, loss, market loss. That's cost some were upwards of $3 trillion, just in a week's time as a result of the coronavirus fright. All right. Thank you so much.
All right. Meantime, politics now it is decision day for Democrats in South Carolina. And right now voting is underway in that state's primary, and 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 own first win.
We have a team of correspondence covering the candidates in different locations on the campaign trail. Let's begin our coverage with Abby Phillip in Raleigh, North Carolina where Buttigieg -- Pete Buttigieg is already looking forward to Super Tuesday. Abby, why is he so confident?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very much so looking forward to Super Tuesday. Not only will he be here in Raleigh, North Carolina, but he also has a campaign stop in Nashville, Tennessee later today. Now this campaign is -- has been saying and Pete Buttigieg told me in an interview this week that he believes he needs to do well in South Carolina, but also well on Super Tuesday in order to slow the momentum, frankly, of Bernie Sanders, who as you said is the Democratic front runner.
But first, of course, South Carolina voters are going to the polls today and Buttigieg spent the morning rallying his supporters in that state this morning. And even though they are pretty clear-eyed about the picture there in South Carolina, Buttigieg told his supporters that he believes the wind is at their back. One of the challenges for him in that state has been his lack of support among African-American voters who are about 60 percent of the South Carolina electorate. And as I was with a Buttigieg campaign all week this week, you could see that in his crowds of the campaign continuing to struggle to get black voters in chairs at his event but the campaign is saying it's not over tonight in South Carolina, they are looking forward and they are planning to be in the game and Super Tuesday, the point being to try to stop Bernie Sanders from getting an insurmountable lead in delegates, Fredericka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Abby, we're going to take that literal sense that the wind is at the candidate's back. It's also a good day to fly a kite from where you are. All right, Abby. Thank you so much. Let's bring in Jessica Dean in Columbia, South Carolina. Hopefully not as windy. OK, good. A little bit more docile setting for you there. So, Jessica, you know, Joe Biden, you know, is hoping for a very big win tonight to help you know, get some momentum back into his campaign. How confident is he?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Fredricka, the candidate himself has said he plans on winning South Carolina. The question is for everybody, Joe Biden and his supporters, his campaign by how much? If he can get a big win out of South Carolina, will he be able to get enough momentum to really take him into Super Tuesday and start to consolidate some of this more moderate lane of the Democratic Party?
As we've said Bernie Sanders still the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, but Joe Biden is hoping that his win if he can get a win here in South Carolina, and if it's big enough that it can really take him into Super Tuesday and boost him among all those states and all those delegates that are going to be up for grabs. So they're certainly hoping for that. And he is counting on his support with African-American voters here in the state.
Abby mentioned that they are a majority of the Democratic electorate here in South Carolina and Biden and his campaign certainly counting on them to come through for him in a big way and deliver him his first win in the primary season. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right. Jessica Dean in Columbia, South Carolina. Thank you so much. Let's go to Ryan Nobles now in Virginia Beach where Bernie Sanders will be holding a rally later on this evening. I feel like along the way, we're also getting a weather forecast. We've gone from windy to partly sunny conditions to -- it look like very sunny conditions from your vantage point. All right, so how confident is Sanders now leading into this evening?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Sunny but a little chilly here in the Tidewater area of Virginia, Fred. You know, I think that the Sanders campaign judging by where they're spending today, not all that confident that he can pull out a win in South Carolina tonight. They've really focused a lot of their effort on the Super Tuesday states. He's actually spending this morning in Boston, Massachusetts, a massive rally there and they think they've got an opportunity to win in Massachusetts.
It will make two stops here in Virginia. What's interesting about today versus the previous contest in the Democratic nomination, Fred, is that they were preparing for victory parties on those first three nights. In Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. Tonight, not so much. Tonight is going to be about closing the gap as much as they can with Joe Biden. They understand that this is going to be a difficult state for them to win.
NOBLES: Still, they have invested a lot of resources, spent a lot of money on television ads in South Carolina and it specifically worked to try and bring in African-American voters to the Sanders team. So, you know, there's certainly a managing of expectations by the Sanders camp at this point. They are certainly looking ahead to Super Tuesday. A lot on the line for them. They feel a lot of victories in their future when it comes to Tuesday. Tonight, it's just about keeping it close. Fred?
WHITFIELD: OK. Ryan Nobles, Abby, Philip, Jessica Dean, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it. All right. With me now, Congressman, Mark Pocan. He has a Democratic Representative from Wisconsin. Congressman, good to see you.
REP. MARK POCAN (D-WI): Well, thank you, Fredricka, glad to be here.
WHITFIELD: All right. So a couple things. You know, here we are looking at, you know, the primary race and the upcoming Super Tuesday but at the same time, we're also awaiting the president who will be coming from the briefing room at the White House to address the nation on the coronavirus and how the administration is handling things. I want to play this exchange you have this week with Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POCAN: The tweet from this morning from the president talking about low rating fake news, doing everything possible to make the coronavirus spelt incorrectly. But I'm a journalism major look as bad as possible, including panicking markets if possible. Markets being the concern. So help me is this contained the common cold, inevitable two months 18 months?
Provide me some security that someone knows what's going on in this administration about the coronavirus.
ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: What we're trying to do and we've tried to do this with members of Congress, Senate and the public and the media is really flood you with information about this to make sure that we're being transparent about what we're facing, what we know and what we don't know as well as what our plans are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, Congressman. Um, you, you know, we're challenging him there and at the same time it -- you've exhibited your frustration. How confident now are you that the President will be a little bit more forthright with information today at his scheduled press briefing?
POCAN: Well, if he leads with medical information that's relevant to the public, that'd be a good thing. But, you know, up to now, it seems like most of their focus has been trying to calm the stock market. But what we need to do is have competent medical information being shared. And you know, President as of yesterday, still was trying to say there's only 15 cases that are more than that United States.
We just have to be very honest with the American people. And if we do that, and we show that we have competence and explain this on a medical level, that'll help solve many of the market issues. But if the President comes out and tries to play politics is as he did yesterday and his family did yesterday, I think we're going to have some real problems.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And I hear you want non-alarmist but at the same time, you want some real transparency and as we're talking now we are now getting confirmation that one person with coronavirus residing in King County, Washington has died now according to the Department of Health spokesperson Jamie Nixon. So what are your thoughts now about what would appear to be now the first U.S. death of coronavirus?
POCAN: That's right. I think the best thing that President can do is be bluntly honest with the American people about what to expect and talked about it in medical terms, not political terms and not financial terms. I tell you, one of the people I've been watching via Twitter is the former FDA Secretary under Donald Trump, Scott Gottlieb, who's I think put some really great information out and is being very honest with the American people what to expect.
I think that's the right tone. And if the President takes that he'll be doing the proper job, and I really hope he does that today.
WHITFIELD: How much information do you think the president needs to be sharing?
POCAN: He needs to be honest, the information that we're getting and that we're getting and briefings should be shared with the American people, period. Don't sugarcoat it, don't have your people out there who are spinning things talk about how it's like the common cold. It's not, don't be out there leading about talking about the markets. It's a health crisis. If we deal with this, like professionals like all the medical professionals have, who've been dealing with this, I think the American people will have more confidence and know how to make sure that they won't be as exposed to it.
So I really think the President has to find his better self, which we don't always find with him. And if he can do that, we'll be in a much better place.
WHITFIELD: All right, Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
POCAN: Sure. Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk further now about this report of now the first U.S. death of coronavirus out of King County Washington. Elizabeth Cohen back with me now. So was -- is this likely the person you were saying earlier who appear to be elderly who didn't seem to be faring well.
COHEN: Well, that person actually was in California. It's unclear who this person is, there have been -- there was a case in Washington, you know, very early on, but that person recovered and got better.
COHEN: So it's unclear exactly who this person might be. But this is tragic and also not unexpected. This is a disease that has a mortality rate, we think sort of around two percent, it may be lower than that but people do die of this the, the response to this -- to this virus, people's response is very different. It really varies. Some people have a -- minority, but some people have no symptoms at all.
They don't even know they're sick, and some people develop pneumonia and die. The thing here that's so important, Fred, is that hopefully now that we're going to be able to test more quickly is that we can identify these people early. The problem is that people are walking in with pneumonia to hospitals as they do every day. We're into doctor's offices, and they don't quite know does this person have coronavirus or not, it makes a difference.
WHITFIELD: And especially this time of year because people come down with the variety of symptoms that are very similar to Corona virus but they don't know how to identify it or maybe they think in passing OK this is a cold, OK maybe this is a flu but then come to find out potentially could be much worse.
COHEN: Exactly. I was just on the phone with a geriatrician earlier today and he said look when someone walks into my hospital an elderly person with pneumonia which is -- which is mainly the people who pass away in -- from the coronavirus. I don't know if they have pneumonia because of the flu. I don't know if they have pneumonia because of bacteria. I don't know if they have pneumonia because of coronavirus.
But he said I've been really handcuffed because I can't test for coronavirus now. Hopefully that will change and in his area soon there will be a test for coronavirus even perhaps, you know, in the next few days. And without being able to have that test. If there's two bad effects from that, one, it makes it harder to treat the patient. The other thing is that makes it harder to protect the healthcare workers.
And that is crucial, obviously -- for obvious reasons. You don't want them to get sick. You also don't want them to go home and spread the disease to their family. Health care workers can be a real vector in spreading disease. And if you know what's coronavirus, there's certain steps you're going to take that are different than if it was, let's say a bacteria.
WHITFIELD: And just remind people what are some of the symptoms because, you know, I heard Dr. Sanjay Gupta earlier talking about lower versus upper respiratory, you know, symptoms. One is more associated with the flu, the other might be more associated with the coronavirus.
COHEN: What would infectious disease doctors tell me is that in the beginning, it's very difficult to know whether someone has coronavirus or anything else because in the beginning, often people are mildly ill. So someone walks into a doctor's office or an E.R. and they have a fever, and they're coughing and they're having difficulty breathing, could be coronavirus, could be something else.
The doctor -- what the doctors told me is that you need to do a C.T. scan of their chest, you need to do an X-ray, you need to do blood work. You need to know a little bit more about their history. And from that you can discern whether this pneumonia is from coronavirus or from something else. The symptoms of coronavirus are so similar to so many other things. And to your point, we're in the middle of flu season and it's been a bad one. It can look just like the flu. You have to dig a little bit more.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And earlier we made their distinctions that they were four people with coronavirus. We're talking about California, Oregon, Washington. And now what we know is confirmation of one U.S. death at of King County, Washington, but that's all we know. We don't really know anything identify, any identifiables about this particular patient.
COHEN: No. So it's not clear if it's the Washington case that we heard about yesterday. They said Snohomish County, but is it? Well, no, actually wouldn't be that case, because that was a -- that was a teenage boy, I'm sorry. So that was a teenage boy. So it wouldn't be that case. It's unclear this Washington case who has died, this may not be a case we've heard about before.
WHITFIELD: Right. We don't know the distinguishing factor.
COHEN: Right. And that's something actually I wrote a story on CNN.com today about how there is probably more coronavirus out there than anyone is counting. And once we start testing, we're going to see it. So there's probably, you know, we're counting them one by one, another case, another -- there could be lots of cases out there.
WHITFIELD: And again, there's that incubation period, right, isn't it? I mean, based on exposure, it may be -- is it five days before there may be any visible, you know, or symptoms that are felt by someone who's been exposed?
COHEN: Right. Five days they're thinking is sort of the average it could be less than that. But it could be more than that. And the problem is that this virus can be spread while someone's a symptomatic. That's really important. That was not the case so much with SARS. And SARS was brought under control in this country pretty easily. There were about eight cases and it was brought under control, nobody died.
Obviously, it has been difficult, much more difficult to bring this one under control. One of the reasons is that you can spread it when you're asymptomatic. We don't know if you can spread it easily or if it's difficult while you're asymptomatic, but you can spread it even when you're not feeling a thing.
WHITFIELD: That makes it very frightening.
COHEN: Yes. Sure. Thanks.
WHITFIELD: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much. Stick around because again in about nine minutes from now, we expect to hear from the President from the briefing room at the White House. An update on coronavirus and there you see people getting prepared for that. Meantime, just a reminder, one more time of this breaking news. One U.S. death, the first U.S. debt a coronavirus out of King County, Washington State. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. I want to welcome our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. This breaking news right now, one person with coronavirus in King County, Washington State has died. This now makes the first coronavirus death confirmed in the US. Also in just a few minutes President Donald J. Trump will update Americans on the coronavirus from the White House briefing room.
WHITFIELD: You see right there people poised to get ready for the President's arrival and statement. I want to talk this over now with Dr. Celine Gounder. She is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital and host of the new podcast Epidemic.
Good to see you. So, how significant is this now that we would learn the first U.S. death of coronavirus still unclear whether this person got this virus from community spread or whether this person had recently visited an affected area or had been exposed to someone? What are your thoughts?
CELINE GOUNDER, CLINICAL ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, I think as we see this virus spread in the U.S. we are going to see just -- that's really to be expected. I think what is concerning is that there's been so many delays in terms of testing for the virus. You know, the FDA has finally come out and said that they're going to be approving local and state health department test and private tests that have been developed as long as they can provide data to show that they work in New York City, for example.
We're finally going to be able to do our own testing in New York State. And, you know, I think -- I think that's going to be very important to making sure that we appropriately diagnose patients, identify them early and get them the help they need. Ideally, to prevent these kinds of deaths.
WHITFIELD: You believe it's going to make a significant difference. GOUNDER: Well, I think you need to be able to screen and diagnose in order to, one, track the epidemic, you need to be able to do that to get people the appropriate care and you need to be able to do that to protect healthcare providers who are caring for those patients.
WHITFIELD: So, we have also learned, you know, patients who have contracted the virus, you know, with no known source. Clearly there is a source, it's just unclear how people have been exposed. How do you believe, you know, any -- anyone in the medical community will be able to get to the bottom of how people are being exposed if they haven't been to an affected area abroad?
GOUNDER: Well, it's a bit like the flu, right? Or the common cold. Are you ever able to definitively say, well, that's how I got the cold that I got last week, you know, that's going to be very difficult. And that's really why the measures that have been used so far, things like quarantine, don't really work in this kind of setting. Because once you have community spread, once you get to the point where you can't really track those chains of transmission, those measures do not work.
So at that point, you really have to shift your strategy. And your strategy needs to be about scaling up testing, scaling up treatment, scaling up the ability for physicians to care for these patients. You know, I've heard -- just this morning I got an e-mail from somebody in Westchester County who said he had just come back from Milan. He had flu like symptoms, he called up his primary care doctor, his doctor said, you know, don't come here, go to the hospital, he called the hospital, they weren't very helpful either.
And, you know, that kind of thing is really concerning. I think providers on the front lines, many of them, if they're not at the top tier hospitals are not sure what to do.
WHITFIELD: And as it pertains to this one now reported death, the first in the U.S., and then it comes out of King County, Washington. And among the four cases, where it had already been reported that it was believed that there may be victims of a community spread. And we're talking about California, another portion of Washington and Oregon, that this death comes from an area other than these four unknown origin cases.
How concerning is that to you? What does that tell you?
GOUNDER: Well, King County, that's where Seattle is located. So we know that there's a lot of travel between Seattle and Asia for business reasons. It really doesn't surprise me that we would be seeing a case in the Seattle area. For that reason you also have a large Asian-American community who might be traveling to visit family in the -- in the recent past in that area. So honestly, it was surprising to me that the first case was in Snohomish County and not King County.
WHITFIELD: What do you want to hear from the President as he is at any moment to arrive at the briefing room at the White House to address the nation? GOUNDER: I would like the President to stop saying things like coronavirus is a hoax, to acknowledge this as a problem and to focus on solving the problem. You know, I think we need to stop debating whether this is an issue. It reminds me of West Africa where people will -- would say Ebola does not exist, it's not real, you know, we need to move beyond that into, you know, really prepared -- preparing ourselves for the spread and for caring for patients.
WHITFIELD: What kind of -- OK, and quickly what kind of damage potentially might have been done by the President calling it a hoax?
GOUNDER: Well, I think it really makes people question whether it's real. I mean, and I worked in West Africa for two months during Ebola, that's exactly what happened. And so it's not that these people were superstitious or ignorant. They didn't trust the messages they were hearing and then they didn't take the precautions to print protect themselves and got infected.
WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Celine Gounder, stick around.
We're taking a short break for now.
Again, if you're just joining us, the first U.S. death of coronavirus, that being confirmed now.
And at any moment, the president will brief the nation from the briefing room at the White House. We'll take that live.
We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Back now with more breaking news. You're seeing the briefing room at the White House. At any moment, President Donald J. Trump is expected to update Americans on the deadly coronavirus. We are told he will talk about the U.S. response efforts.
This coming just days after Trump downplayed the virus, saying it would, quote, "disappear eventually." And then even last night at a rally in north Charleston, South Carolina, calling the coronavirus a hoax.
But it appears the situation is getting worse worldwide. And even here in the U.S. Now confirmation of the first coronavirus death in the U.S.
Of course, we'll take the president's remarks live as soon as it starts.
Meantime, let's talk it over. We have a team of correspondents and analysts at the White House Correspondent, Jeremy Diamond.
Jeremy, you first.
What's the expectation of the area in which the president will cover?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Fredricka, the president hasn't come into the White House briefing room very often. He has only done it a couple times during the course of his presidency. Yet, we're seeing two times this week the president will step into the briefing room, just a sign of how much he feels now that he needs to wrangle the message.
We know the president is often very confident in his ability to bend the public narrative in his direction. And certainly, he is going to try to do that today.
The last time the president was in the briefing room, he took flack for underplaying the seriousness of coronavirus spread and contradicting his own top public health officials, including when those officials were saying this is going to get worse, and the president said, well, it might get worse, might get better, we'll have to wait and see.
Now we know it has gotten worse, Fred, and that's because we have one death confirmed in the United States. Four cases of potential community spread, meaning cases where we don't know how those individuals got that. They had not had any history of travel recently.
Those are the kinds of questions the president has to answer. Why did he underplay it several days?
And also, on the economic front, which we know has been top of mind for the president as he has been confronting this issue, what is he going to do to calm the markets? Last time the president came to the briefing room, he didn't manage to calm markets. We have now seen Wall Street had its worst week on record since the 2008 financial crisis.
And that's something that the president is extremely concerned about, particularly, of course, Fred, because this is a re-election year, and the president is banking on a strong economy to give him another four years.
WHITFIELD: A market loss to the tune of $3 trillion in value with a 3500-point loss, just over seven days.
All right. We have a lot of people with different perspectives on all this. We have NYU Medical, Dr. Celine Gounder, host of podcast, "Epidemic," as well as our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.
Dr. Gounder, what is the message you believe everyone needs to hear from the president, particularly after his own credibility has been challenged, calling the coronavirus a hoax and then also saying a few days earlier it will just go away, don't worry about it?
GOUNDER: I think the president needs to be very clear this is real, that this is not a hoax, that he misspoke the other day. We have seen in other settings, as I was saying before, the break, in West Africa, people said Ebola is a hoax, really messaging that this is real.
Because, otherwise, people are not going to take measures to protect themselves. Doctors will be underprepared. Health systems will be underprepared. And people will die as a result, and that's not necessary.
We have a high-level health system. We are in position to prevent some deaths. And we should take advantage of that, take advantage of time the Chinese bought us.
WHITFIELD: And, Elizabeth, confirmation now, one U.S. death, the first U.S. death out of King County, Washington. What more do we know about this person?
COHEN: Really, that's all we know. It appears we may not have heard of this case before. The question that comes to mind is, had the person traveled to China, perhaps to Italy, to South Korea, did they contract it there, or are they a close contact of someone who traveled, or is this a situation of community spread.
We have four other cases like that in the U.S. where nobody knows where it came from. That's where it starts to get a bit scary, to be honest, because, once this starts spreading, and we don't know where people are getting it, it becomes much more difficult to contain.
WHITFIELD: And this is separate from the four other cases of community spread. Also one was in Washington State, the other is in Oregon and California, but it is believed this is separate from that.
COHEN: It looks like it is. It is hard to know exactly. But it looks -- if you look at the ages and genders, looks like this is separate from those four.
I think this may be a sign of things to come, that we're going to see cases popping up with some regularity.
Before, you would have a week go by, days go by, but as tests get out there -- and they're in better supply -- doctors can test for it. Doctors said, look, we have patients die of pneumonia all the time.
They might have had coronavirus. For the past two months may have had patients like this. But we couldn't test them. We attribute it to some bacterial pneumonia, for example, or attribute it to pneumonia in general.
Now that tests are out, we're going to hear about many more cases and I think, sadly, many more deaths.
WHITFIELD: Back at the White House, as we await the president to come out to the briefing room there.
Sarah Westwood, this is the president trying to walk a fine line, to what extent? WESTWOOD: That's right, Fred. President Trump is trying to walk a fine
line between getting Americans prepared for what could be a wider outbreak, as his own health experts have said, also not trying to spark a market panic, which is happening despite the president's effort to calm the economic fears. That's the line the administration has been trying to walk all along.
Before this week, we saw experts from the CDC, from HHS, warning Americans that this could get worse, that they should start to prepare for possibility of being confined to their homes for at least several days.
And the president spreading what could be characterized as misinformation, for example, saying coronavirus might disappear when the weather gets warm, something that scientists don't agree is a possibility.
Now the president and the White House have tried to crackdown on disparity between various messages coming out of different parts of the administration.
It is largely run through Vice President Pence's office. But as we know, whenever President Trump gets behind a microphone, there's no controlling what he says, even though there have been efforts to try to have some message discipline, run media appearances by administration officials through Pence's office.
The president is always a wildcard when he is the one speaking and answering questions off the cuff from reporters.
WHITFIELD: And, Brian, let's talk about the president and use of the media, a tool to, you know, further his political messaging. In this case, it will certainly be a test of how responsively he uses this media to perhaps even correct what he has said in the last few days, including last night, calling coronavirus a hoax. He can't do that today. He can't afford to today.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The networks he needs to get the message out. This is a moment the experts feared a long time. Experts have feared that a president known for his lying would need to be trusted in a crisis, and that's what this increasingly appears to be. Nobody takes joy in pointing this out.
But this president lacks credibility. He lacked credibility for three years. But, Fredricka, credibility is not something that just goes away, never comes back. It is like a gas tank. You can start to fill it back up.
This president can start to fill it back up. He can regain credibility every day, bit by bit, by being accurate, honest, transparent with the public, by being careful in his words, by helping voters understand the seriousness of this without stoking fear and causing people to get too fearful, because, after all, fear is a virus as well.
This is something that is manageable, that experts know how to handle. And we need to listen to those experts and not voices of FOX News that are telling you this is all political. Ultimately, this is not political.
The president needs to remember, this virus doesn't know if you're Democrat or Republican. It doesn't know. It is a nonpartisan virus but it's spreading in partisan warfare. He was at the rally last night saying the wrong things, saying the Democrats are trying to politicize this, make it about politics, when it is not.
I hope we'll see a different president this afternoon.
WHITFIELD: You have to wonder, Brian, how difficult will it to be to wear a different hat today, especially after he used fear -- there's a pattern of using fear to his advantage. And now we've got reports of one U.S. death from the coronavirus, the source is still unknown.
Now the president has to restore some calm. He has to convey a message of surety, not just from where the administration is coming from, and how it is treating coronavirus, but his message will also help dictate to Americans, so to speak, what to do next, how to prepare themselves.
How is he going to be able to do that today successfully?
STELTER: I think he needs federal agencies, like the CDC, to be front and center. There have been reports about the White House trying to control messaging, trying to manage who is giving what television interview. It is scientists and medical professionals in the federal government that are crucial right now.
Let's hope the president listens to them, takes their message seriously, make sure they're front and center in this, in the same way that when there's a weather emergency, the National Weather Service is front and center.
He needs to be sure we hear from experts and that he is taking their messages seriously.
WHITFIELD: Elizabeth, how much detail should be expected from the president, whether it be on this single singular case, the first reported U.S. death, or if the president will take a macro approach to setting the record straight of seriousness of coronavirus.
COHEN: Right. To Brian's point, he needs to set a certain tone. Usually, the president won't, any president won't get into the nitty- gritty, or they shouldn't. That's for the doctors and scientists to do. The president doesn't necessarily need to do that.
What he needs to do is set the tone that this is real. It is not a hoax. This is a virus that's never been seen before. There were three cases announced yesterday, and we don't know how any of the people got sick. That's not good. He needs to address that this is a real thing.
People are feeling anxious, and rightly so. He needs to address that rather than say it is not real.
WHITFIELD: Stick around, everybody. We're taking a short break. Again, breaking news. First reported U.S.
death of coronavirus.
And moments from now, the president of the United States will be addressing the nation from the White House briefing room.
We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Moments from now -- you're looking at the White House briefing room. Moments from now, the president of the United States is expected to take to the briefing room to make an announcement, update all of us on coronavirus.
This coming as we learn of the first reported U.S. death of coronavirus. Unclear whether the person is a victim of community spread or whether they had recently visited an effected area or been exposed to someone who may have been in an effected area.
But again, the president was planning to make the announcement just prior to confirmation of us learning about the first reported death. It's unclear whether he will address any specificity about the person who has died, the circumstances which led to the death of this first reported death of coronavirus, or whether the president will instead brief everyone about what kind of measures hospitals are being instructed to do, travel, the gamut.
I have a great variety of experts with me, including our Sarah Westwood, who is there at the White House. We have Dr. Celine Gounder, Elizabeth Cohen, and Brian Stelter.
Sarah to you first.
What's the expectation of the president's message?
WESTWOOD: Well, Fred, we know that the president's --
WHITFIELD: Hold your thought.
I believe we have a view of health officials making their way in. I see Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert of the United States, perhaps a prelude to the president soon to arrive.
Go ahead with your thoughts, Sarah, until the president does arrive.
WESTWOOD: These are members of the president's task force. They have been meeting in the White House Situation Room today. The president's earlier appearance this week in the briefing room, he announced that Vice President Mike Pence was taking control of the taskforce. Really, the efforts are being coordinated through the vice president's office.
[13:50:05] We don't know exactly what President Trump is going to announce. But CNN has reported the administration has been working on a number of different responses to the virus, that include economic responses, to help curb what we've seen, the enormous economic impact this virus already has had in the U.S., all the way to travel restrictions for countries where we've seen the virus threat rapidly and more widely.
And you mentioned, that first U.S. death in Washington State was confirmed moments after the president announced via Twitter that he would be making his appearance in the briefing room, and something he promised reporters he would start doing more often.
And we should note that the president is expected to give a very political speech later today at a major conservative conference here in Washington. So it will be interesting to see his words about the coronavirus there, juxtaposed to what is a more serious environment speaking about it here.
WHITFIELD: Thank you very much. Great timing, Sarah.
There is the president of the United States. Let's listen in.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everybody.
Before we begin, I'd like to congratulate all of those incredible people that have worked for so long on our endless war in Afghanistan, 19 years, going on 20 years. And there hasn't been a moment like this. We've had very successful negotiations. We think they will be successful in the end.
The other side's tired of war. Everybody is tired of war. That's been a particularly long and grewsome one.
And I want to congratulate President Ghani, and the people of Afghanistan. I want to remember all of the people, all of the great, great men and women that have lost their lives in the war. And to their parents and wives and husbands and families, brothers and sisters. Its these are great, great people, many lives, over such a long period of time have been lost.
I want to thank our wounded warriors, people that are still bearing pain and all of the problems that they've had to go through. They're incredible people. Incredible spirit.
I'd go to Walter Reed and see them so often and the spirit that they wanted to go back, despite their wounds. Despite their wounds, they always said, I wanted to go back. Wounded warriors, they are incredible people.
I guess most of all, I want to thank all of the people of the United States for having spent so much in terms of blood, in terms of treasure, and Treasury, the money that has been spent, the lives that have been lost.
And we just signed an agreement that puts us in a position to get it done, bring us down to, in the vicinity of 8,000 troops.
And the United Nations was informed of everything. And NATO has been great. Secretary Stoltenberg has been fantastic. I want to thank the United Nations for the help they gave. And I also want to thank and congratulate Secretary Stoltenberg of NATO. And 29 countries involved. And all approving, all very happy with what's going on.
I want to also thank and congratulate Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
And I'll be meeting personally with Taliban leaders in the not too distant future. And we'll be very much hoping that they will be doing what they say they're going to be doing. They will be killing terrorists. They will be killing some very bad people. They will keep that fight going.
We've had tremendous success in Afghanistan, in the killing of terrorists, but it's time, after all these years, to go and to bring our people back home. We want to bring our people back home.
And again, it's been -- it's been a long journey. In Afghanistan, in particular, it has been a very long journey. It's been a hard journey for everybody. We're very largely a law enforcement group and that's not what our soldiers are all about. They're fighters. They're the greatest fighters in the world.
As you know, we've destroyed, in Syria, and Iraq, 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate, 100 percent. We have thousands of prisoners. We've killed ISIS fighters by the thousands. And likewise, in Afghanistan.
But now, it's time for somebody else to do that work, and that will be the Taliban. And it could be surrounding countries. There are many countries that surround Afghanistan that can help. We're 8,000 miles away. So we'll be bringing it down to 8,000, to approximately 8,600, in that vicinity. And then we'll make our final decision at some point in the fairly near future.
But this was a very spirited agreement. There was a lot of -- a lot of talk, there was a lot of everything. They've been trying to get this for many years. And it's time.
So I just want to thank everybody. I want to congratulate everybody.
I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show that we're not all wasting time. If bad things happen, we'll go back. Let the people know, we'll go back, and we'll go back so fast, and we'll go back with a force like nobody's ever seen. And I don't think that will be necessary. I hope it's not necessary.
And so I just wanted to bring that up, before we begin on a topic that has become very, very important to everybody.
First of all, the amount of work that these professionals behind me and many other professionals in many rooms behind us, who are watching right now -- we don't have the room here to bring them all in -- but they have been working around the clock, so hard, on the coronavirus.
It's a tough one. But a lot of progress has been made.
I want to provide an update to our people, our citizens, to the world, frankly, on our action to address the coronavirus, and those that have been hurt badly by it.
At this moment, we have 22 patients in the United States currently that have coronavirus. Unfortunately, one person passed away overnight. She was a wonderful woman, a medically high-risk patient, in her late 50s. Four others are very ill. Thankfully, 15 are either recovered fully or they're well on their way to recovery. And in all cases, they've been let go and they're home.
Additional cases in the United States are likely. But healthy individuals should be able to fully recover. And we think that will be a statement that we can make with great surety now that we've gotten familiar with this problem. They should be able to recover, should they contract the virus.
So healthy people, if you're healthy, you will probably go through a process, and you'll be fine.
Since the early stages of the foreign outbreak, my administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to confront the spread of this disease. We moved very early. And it was one of the decisions we made that really turned out to be a life saver in a sense, a big life saver.
On January 31st, I imposed travel restrictions on foreign nations who had -- and anybody that had been to China, people coming out of China. And I want to say that China seems to be making tremendous progress. Their numbers are way down.
And if you read, Tim Cook, of Apple, said that they're now in full operation again in China. The numbers are way down.
Experts now agree that the decision to move so quickly, despite a lot of opposition on that decision, was a wise one. It greatly slowed the spread of the virus to the United States. And it really gave us time to do some of the critical moves that we've done. And it allowed these great professionals to get together and figure it all out, and we think they've done that.
We've taken the most aggressive actions to confront the coronavirus. They are the most aggressive taken by any country.