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Cases Of Coronavirus Jump In The U.S And Around The World; Buttigieg Mulls Biden Endorsement After Talking With Obama; Supreme Court Ruling On Obamacare Fate Likely After Election. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 2, 2020 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, as the coronavirus outbreak spreads inside the United States, new measures being taken to contain it and new questions about whether it's being properly tracked.

Plus, as the field shrinks, the biggest day of the Democratic primary so far begins just hours from now. See which Super Tuesday states are the biggest prizes and where the candidates are spending their final last hours stumping.

And as rivals wonder how Pete Buttigieg's exit will impact the race, the former mayor talks to President Obama about who he will endorse.

But we begin with growing concerns over the spread of coronavirus in the United States after cases of the virus jumped by two dozen over the weekend, bringing this number to at least 89. Worldwide, there are almost 90,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,000 people have died.

Washington State's governor declaring a health emergency after the state recorded the first two deaths in the U.S. and there is growing concerns the virus has been present in a nursing home community there for weeks.

President Trump saying today that a previously planned meeting with pharmaceutical company executives will now focus on accelerating the timeline to find a coronavirus vaccine. There is so much left to cover. We have a lot to talk over.

So let's bring in CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, who is in Atlanta and has been following this coronavirus exclusively. Let's start, Elizabeth, with this spike in cases over the weekend. Do we believe that this is because of growing community spread or is this an increase in testing, or is this both?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, it looks like it's both. Once you have some community testing of some community spread, you're going to have more and more of it. What community spread is, it's not people who travelled to China, it's not their spouses or their first contacts, it's people where we don't even know where they got it. They got did somewhere out in the community, they didn't travel, they don't know anyone who did travel, they just got it somewhere.

Now, this is coming at the same time as we're able to test for this much more efficiently. The CDC since mid-January has been trying to get tests out to state and local health departments, but it didn't go very smoothly. And it's only really now in the past week or so that they've been able to get those tests out there. So many of the cases that we heard about this weekend, cases in Oregon, cases in New York, cases in Florida, Rhode Island, other states, it was because they had a test right there that they could locally use in that state.

KEILAR: Yes, it didn't go smoothly. There were flaws in a lot of them. And I wonder, talking test kits here, Elizabeth, is there enough? Are there enough testing kits to do their best to contain this virus?

COHEN: I'm certainly hearing from physicians, I want to test but I still have to send mine to the CDC in Atlanta, which obviously is not the most efficient way to go. In other places here on CNN, we heard from a doctor in New York who said, I have to send the tests I want to do to the New York State Lab, and he was complaining about that. Doctors want and need to have this test right there in their hospital wherever they do a flu test or any other test. This should hopefully become just like any other test, but we are not there yet.

KEILAR: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

President Trump also announcing new travel screenings for some people arriving in the U.S. Travelers from high-risk areas will now be subjected to an extra level of screening once they arrive in the U.S. after being checked before boarding.

Brynn Gingras is at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. And, Brynn, a lot of international flights where you are. What is this screening process like?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Well, Brianna, first, let's just go over those high-risk countries as said by the Trump administration. We're talking parts of Italy, South Korea, China and Iran. Those are the high-risk countries as of yet. That could be expanded as this entire outbreak around the globe really continues.

What we're learning is that there is going to be dual screens for international travelers with those four countries. Meaning, travelers, before they get on the plane, they are going to be screened, and then once again once they actually are stateside.

Now, what we've learned from just talking to people, that screening process seems to be a series of asking a lot of questions, about where you have been, but also in some cases getting your temperature checked as well among other things. Now, over the weekend, we learned more about what the Trump administration is doing, expanding that travel ban with Iran. Now, this is essential for foreign nationals who are traveling to Iran. Essentially, if you've been there in the last 14 days, you are not going to be allowed back into the United States.

And then we also heard the vice president, Mike Pence, over the weekend urging Americans to not travel t those high-risk countries, to stay away from Italy, South Korea, China, Iran, essentially saying that this is now a level four advisory, the highest level it can be.


And in response to that, Brianna, we have seen airlines really cutting down on their flights, some cancelling outright, like American and Delta. We're also expecting possibly more airlines to follow suit. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Brynn, thank you so much, from Newark Airport.

The CDC is also under fire after admitting it mistakenly released a patient in San Antonio, Texas, who then later tested positive for the coronavirus. Although the patient was part of a group that came back from Wuhan, China, the person tested negative twice for the virus and was then released. It was only later that this person was tested again a third time and put back into quarantine after that test was shown to be mildly positive.

This news infuriated the mayor of San Antonio, Ron Nirenberg, tweeting out that this mistake was unacceptable. And Mayor Nirenberg is joining us now.

Mayor, thank you so much for coming on. And just -- this person, as we said, tested negative twice before they were released. They were asymptomatic, according to officials. Are you worried about this particular case on its own, or is this because you also have quarantined patients from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship and other patients from China, and you want to make sure that there is a proper protocol in place for them so this doesn't happen again?

MAYOR RON NIRENBERG (I), SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: I think it's all of the above, Brianna, and thank you for clarifying that. There are quarantines happening in multiple locations around this country. And based on the guidance of our medical community, we want to make sure that before anyone is released into the public, they are confirmed not to be of any risk to exposure to the public.

The whole point of quarantine is to make sure that exposure to the general public is eliminated. And in this case, we found out that a patient who had previously tested positive was subsequently tested negative, was released when a test result was still pending, which I find totally unacceptable.

KEILAR: Now, you want -- the request that you've been making is that quarantined patients are tested a third time. You want to make sure that they're clear before being released. NIRENBERG: That's right.

KEILAR: Are officials going to heed that request going forward, do you think?

NIRENBERG: Well, so far, our federal delegation is in agreement. We have agreement from the highest levels of our state health department. The Governor's Office all agree that there need to be more rigorous testing and that we shouldn't release people that could potentially be exposed to the general public. And that's for their own safety as well. These are Americans who are requiring the highest level of care once they come to the United States.

And so we have about 122 people from the Diamond Princess that were scheduled to end their quarantine today. We're asking for that to be extended until such time as we get additional testing back, and for some of them, being tested the first time.

KEILAR: Is San Antonio ready for an outbreak? Do you have enough test kits? Do you have enough hospital space for a surge in patients?

NIRENBERG: San Antonio has benefited by a very well-coordinated, regional health response team. We coordinate in the event of an emergency or disaster for eight States region-wide, so we do this very well. But what makes it strong is a partnership and good coordination with our state and federal partners. And so we've been communicating for weeks now concerns about how we can improve the protocol.

So we are prepared at the local level to do everything we need to do to protect the public, but once again, we need to make sure that our federal partners are in coordination.

Look, the CDC is requesting people to -- encouraging people to wash their hands to prevent the spread of the virus as they would during this time of season.

What we're trying to say is I also encourage the federal administration not to wash its hands of their responsibility to keep our people safe.

KEILAR: All right. Mayor, thank you so much, Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio.

NIRENBERG: Thank you.

KEILAR: The surgeon general issuing a warning about a shortage of face masks in hospitals, which is where they are needed the most, as the public buys them in bulk.

Plus, as candidates head into Super Tuesday, see the delegate scoreboard and also which states are the biggest are the biggest prizes tomorrow.

And after leaving the race, Pete Buttigieg is mulling whether to endorse a candidate still running and he's thinking about it after a conversation with President Barack Obama. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KEILAR: We are now less than 18 hours away from polls opening on Super Tuesday, and right now, 2020 Democrats are fanned out across the country making their case to voters. With 14 delegate-rich states up for grabs, there is a lot on the line.

And now, that former Mayor Pete Buttigieg is out of the race, an energized Joe Biden is hoping to emerge from the pack after a resounding win in South Carolina as he looks to lock down moderate support and challenge the frontrunner, Senator Bernie Sanders, head on.

We have CNN's Tom Foreman with us. Tell us where the delegate count stands right now, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looked just a short while ago like Bernie Sanders was going to run away with this. And then we had South Carolina come in and Joe Biden came surging up here, Buttigieg dropping out now. The question is where do these votes go? We don't know. Look at the others who are in the top tier here, as best we have, the women who are running for office, they are falling behind these numbers as well.

But then if we go and look at tomorrow, that's when the big prizes are on the line, specifically California out here, 415 delegates play out here.


That, you have to get a 15 percent delegate threshold to get a share of it. If Sanders can really run it over here, he'll get a big, big boost, but if he doesn't, Biden could get a share of that and then we see what happens elsewhere here.

And, of course, the question is Mike Bloomberg. He spent about $175 million to have a big showing in all of this, Bri. We'll see if he comes through.

KEILAR: All right, Tom. Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

We have our correspondents spread out across Super Tuesday states as candidates are making their final pitches to voters.

First, let's go to Kyung Lah. She is in Denver with the Klobuchar campaign. So, Kyung, Senator Amy Klobuchar walked away from South Carolina and she got zero delegates there. How much of her candidacy is riding on tomorrow's contest and can she improve to really stay in the race?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in short, a lot. Let's do a quick review. In Nevada, she finished sixth. In South Carolina, she finished sixth. Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer both finished above her in Nevada and South Carolina. They both have already dropped out.

So the pressure is on for Super Tuesday, but the campaign says they are moving forward to Super Tuesday. A source who knows and understands what's happening inside the Klobuchar campaign tells CNN that planning is moving forward to March 10th., that staff is still being hired.

So the Klobuchar campaign is still moving forward. She was in Utah. She's planning here a rally in Colorado and then will be in Oklahoma. She will spend Super Tuesday in Minneapolis, in St. Paul, and it is that state, Minnesota, that her campaign feels very good about. It is her home state. They are hoping to win the delegates there, a majority of the delegates there because she is an extremely popular senator.

But I want you to look at what happened last night in Minneapolis. This is a rally. It was supposed to be a rally for Senator Klobuchar last night. Protesters took over the stage. They forced the cancellation of this rally. Those protesters were there asking to highlight a case that happened when Klobuchar was a Hennepin County attorney, saying that they felt it was inadequately prosecuted, that there was prosecutorial and police misconduct, and that forced the shutdown of that rally, Brianna. The campaign said they were disappointed and hoped that they would be able to meet with them. They simply did not want to. Brianna?

KEILAR: Kyung, thank you.

Let's go to Los Angeles now, and, Leyla Santiago, Senator Elizabeth Warren is going to be speaking there later on today, Leyla.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And her campaign is saying this isn't over yet. I mean, that's the message that you see on social media, in conversations with them. And her campaign is pointing to numbers, saying, look, in February, we raised $29 million. And while we're speaking about numbers, I think it's important to also talk about Persist PAC, the pro-Warren Super PAC that is dumping $12 million in ad buys for Super Tuesday, 5 million right here in California where, as you said, Brianna, she will be tonight.

Over the weekend, she was in Texas. And I think her strategy here is becoming clearer just based on her actions. She released this morning a plan for farm workers. Tonight, she is expected to speak about the Justice for Janitors Movement, that was a movement that was organized by a majority of Latina and Latino service workers.

So, clearly, they are here targeting Latino voters, a very important, significant voting bloc in California. But the big question will be, she herself has admitted that she had disappointing results in early voting states. Will she be able to do well enough on Super Tuesday to move on?

KEILAR: Leyla, thank you.

And Athena Jones is in Salt Lake City, where frontrunner Bernie Sanders will soon take the stage. What's it like there, Athena? ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna. Well, people have been lining up here at this rally in Utah, a state with 29 delegates at stake for the last several hours. And the Sanders campaign has reason to be confident about Utah. This is a state where back in 2016, Sanders won by a landslide. He won 80 percent of the vote. We should mention that Utah is a majority white state, about 80 percent white, but there is a pretty good-sized Hispanic population of about 13 percent. And we've seen Sanders do well with Hispanic voters, particularly in Nevada.

Now, they haven't let that chance (ph), of course. In the last year or so, since the campaign launched, they've held more than 300 events with volunteers, including some in recent days with Sanders' wife, Jane Sanders, who held a small business roundtable. She held a black people for Bernie event, she held an event with members of the Mormon community. So they're not leaving it to chance.


Here, today, Brianna, expect Sanders' message to be very much focused on Biden. In the last few days, he spent more time in his stump speeches talking about the former vice president after his big win in South Carolina. Bernie Sanders trying to argue that he is the best candidate to put up against Trump because of the vice president's record. He says that you can't put someone against Trump when President Trump could cut ads, talking about the fact that Vice President Biden, back in the day, voted in favor of the Iraq War. He voted in favor of what Sanders calls the disastrous trade deal of NAFTA. He was in favor of a balanced budget amendment that would have led to cuts to social security.

So Sanders' argument he has the energy, the enthusiasm and the right record to go against Trump. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right. Athena, thank you.

Jessica Dean is in Houston now with the Biden Campaign. And, Jessica, they're feeling pretty good, right, coming off this win in South Carolina.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. The Biden campaign really feels like they have got a strong wind at their back. We are here in Houston at Texas Southern University, it's an HBCU. Hear the gospel choir behind me. They are really targeting African-American voters that who came out so strongly for him in South Carolina, giving him that blowout win on Saturday.

And what they're hoping is that that win propels them with this momentum forward into Super Tuesday, both money, that they're getting a lot of donations, they've raised a lot of money, millions and millions of dollars, $10 million over the last couple of days, which is a lot of money for the Biden campaign, but also momentum.

They are hoping that that win was significant enough to really blunt Michael Bloomberg in a lot of these states, and in states like Texas, where we are right now, and that tells you a lot about where the Biden campaign is headed, is a delegate-rich state, one of the big prizes tomorrow. They are hoping to do very well here, that they can win to keep Bernie Sanders' numbers down, here and certainly in California. That's where the vice president will be spending Super Tuesday in California.

But, Brianna, the other thing that we're seeing from the Biden campaign today, a lot of endorsements, many, many congressional endorsements, and they're trying to push out that message that that wing of the Democratic Party, this more moderate wing of the Democratic Party, is coalescing behind Joe Biden.

So, Brianna, can they effectively make that message? That's going to be the question on Tuesday.

KEILAR: All right. Jessica, thank you for that report. And I will say, I just love seeing all the women on the bus, Jessica, Leyla, Athena and Kyung. And tonight, you will be able to watch the biggest interviews before the biggest day of primaries. CNN has exclusive one- on-one interviews with the Democratic presidential candidates live from Washington, D.C., starting tonight at 8:00 P.M. right here on CNN.

And the Supreme Court announced they will be taking up a challenge to the Affordable Care Act this October. What that could mean for Obamacare?

Plus, as fears grow over the coronavirus outbreak, we'll be answering your questions, your pressing questions about the virus with an epidemiologist.



KEILAR: The fate of the Affordable Care Act is once again in the hands of the Supreme Court. The high court announcing today that it will take up a third challenge to Obamacare.

We have CNN Supreme Court Analyst, Joan Biskupic here with me to explain all of this, because this might be a little bit different. We're expecting this decision to come after the election, that may be key, but what's at the heart of this?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Okay. So this is the third time the Supreme Court is going to take up this landmark law that was passed in 2010. But this is the first time that we have an administration that is not fully defending the law. The two times were when President Obama was in office. So this makes this case, which is already very dramatic and politically charged, even more so.

At the core of it, Brianna, is a test of what was originally a tax penalty that anyone would have gotten if he or she did not obtain insurance. Now, the linchpin of the whole law was that people was that people had to get insurance. In 2017, Congress zeroed out that tax penalty. So Texas and several states sued, saying, without the tax penalty, the

individual insurance mandate is invalid, and frankly, the whole law should fail. That's been their position. That's what one lower court had ruled. And then when an appeals court judge ruled in December said, okay, so the individual mandate would fall, but we can't figure out what else would go with it.

The Trump administration, throughout this litigation, has had shifting positions. But for a time in the lower court, it said the whole thing should fall, and that would include coverage for people with preexisting conditions, such as cancer or diabetes, other popular provisions such as, you know, allowing people to stay on their parents' healthcare plans until they're 26, the Medicaid expansion. You remember how sweeping this law was. It's about a thousand pages long, so a lot will be at stake.

And you mentioned the election. You're right. The case will probably not be resolved until after the 2020 election, but the Trump administration is going to have to make its position clear before then, and that's going to play into the election politics, I believe.


KEILAR: Joan Biskupic, thank you so much. You always make this so accessible, and we appreciate it.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.