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CNN NEWSROOM

U.S. Communities Grapple with Coronavirus; Dow Jumps at Open; Poll Numbers on Super Tuesday; Latino Voters Play Crucial Role in Race; Dozens Missing after Tornadoes Tear through Tennessee. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired March 4, 2020 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00]

MIKE LEAVITT, FORMER HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: There were some back and forths between them and FDA as to its accuracy. They resolved that now.

But the ability manufacture it fast enough has caused them to begin to expand the amount of testing that can be done. A lot of academic medical centers now are developing their own tests and there are some commercial tests.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Right.

LEAVITT: So there's a fair amount of ambiguity about this. But it's very clear that more testing will be available from this point forward, and I think it will help us get a better picture of where we are.

HARLOW: Secretary, you said, quote, anyone who thinks the federal government will ride to the rescue in this epidemic is mistaken. What does that mean for every American?

LEAVITT: Well, a pandemic is different than any other disaster. We see a tragic thing happening in Tennessee. We live through these periodically. And when emergency resources are required, the federal government essentially asks the states from surrounding areas to go there and help.

HARLOW: Yes.

LEAVITT: In a pandemic, it happens everywhere at the same time and the capacity of the federal government to respond with feet on the ground is very limited. And so this is a very local kind of response. It's something that every family needs to have a plan. Every business needs a plan. Every local government that every family needs to have a plan.

Every business needs a plan. Every local government, every church, every school. We all need to be involved in developing a plan that will allow us to avoid. We're not going to have a vaccine for a long time now, and so we have to avoid this and find ways of preventing the illness.

HARLOW: Wow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The WHO now estimates that the death rate from coronavirus at 3.4 percent. That's higher than initial estimates that have hovered around 2 percent, which is still an order of magnitude higher than with the regular flu.

I wonder -- and, again, I know that this is going to accordion a bit because as you test for more cases, presumably the death rate comes down. But 3.4 percent, what does that mean for the global impact of this as it spreads?

LEAVITT: Well, let's be candid that we still don't know with any certainty. This -- you pointed out, this is -- this is moving a bit as we gather more information, particularly here in the United States. But we measure viruses by two primary factors.

One is how quickly do they spread and easily do they spread and then the second is how virulent are they or how many -- how sick do people get? And this appears to be very rapidly spreading. And while the -- the -- it is higher than the annual flu, it may be lower in terms of death rate or virulence than some other viruses that we've seen in the world.

Make no doubt about it, this is a serious situation and one we all have to take caution on, but most people who get it recover. There are targeted populations who have to be particularly careful. We all have a member of our family who may have another health condition. We need to be particularly careful with them.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: A number of events, huge conferences getting canceled across the country. What's going to happen to public schools across America, in your estimation?

LEAVITT: Well, I think they'll -- they're -- as we see the virus begin to spread through communities, I think there will be schools that will make the choice to -- and appropriately -- to close. These are local decisions. It's not a decision that should be made in Washington. And it's a decision that school officials should be making with the assistance of local health officials.

HARLOW: Secretary Leavitt, appreciate your time and expertise this morning. Thank you very much.

Tomorrow night, a CNN global town hall, "Coronavirus Facts and Fears." Dr. Sanjay Gupta and our Anderson Cooper will answer your questions on the deadly virus. That is tomorrow night, 10:00 Eastern, only right here on CNN.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's really worth watching because a lot of us have questions about this.

HARLOW: True.

SCIUTTO: Right now we're watching Wall Street. The opening bell ringing on Wall Street. You see a big jump there.

Let's get to CNN's Christine Romans.

Christine, reaction to the politics of Super Tuesday?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a political narrative has shifted. For months now the assumption has been that Donald Trump would be maybe versus Bernie Sanders. Now Wall Street doesn't like, as a rule, Bernie Sanders' policies banning fracking and breaking up the big banks and rolling back corporate tax cuts and all these -- remaking health care.

But when Biden's -- when Biden seems to be coming to the lead now, Wall Street is sort of saying, we prefer Donald Trump but we could live with Joe Biden. Joe Biden could reach across the aisle, maybe do a big infrastructure bill. They're not concerned about a Biden because he's moved to the center of the party. The party has moved to the center with a Biden at the lead.

SCIUTTO: Interesting.

ROMANS: Now, a lot of things can change. I want to be very clear. There are debates. There are other performances, speeches. There are other primaries. So this is a reminder in in an election year, markets can be a little nuts.

On Monday you had a bounce back. On Tuesday you had a big sell-off. On Wednesday you have another bounce back. So just everyone kind of buckle up. I think this is what it's going to be like for the foreseeable future.

[09:35:01]

SCIUTTO: Listen. And as economic numbers come in real hard --

ROMANS: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Measurable economic impacts from coronavirus, the market certain to respond to that as well.

ROMANS: Especially in tourism and leisure and hospitality. You know, been talking to a lot of people in those areas and they, you know, they want to take care of their employees. They want to take care of their customers. You know, United Airlines, for example, is waiving change fees for a few weeks in March, trying to encourage people, look, if you want to book your flight for later this summer --

HARLOW: Sure.

ROMANS: Please do it. And for 12 months we'll waive the change fee so you can take the trip later.

HARLOW: Yes.

ROMANS: So trying to find ways to accommodate people and minimize the impact on the business. SCIUTTO: Yes, and the airlines are big components of the Dow. Their

stock prices are right in that number you're watching there.

ROMANS: Health care having a great morning because health care -- think, Warren and Sanders as they maybe recede in the -- in the pack of the Democrats here. That's good for health care stocks.

HARLOW: Thanks, Roman.

SCIUTTO: That's why we bring you on, Christine.

HARLOW: Our steady, steady ship in the midst of the chaos. We appreciate it. >

A major player in the 2020 race, Latino voters. Bernie Sanders dominating that demographic. Will it be a big enough boost, though, to propel him to the Democratic nomination?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:40:25]

SCIUTTO: A big night for Joe Biden, scoring clear wins on Super Tuesday, fueled by voters who weren't so clear on their choice as recently as a few days ago.

HARLOW: That's right. Our Harry Enten with us to break it down this morning. It is so notable how many people decided in the last few days.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: It's unbelievable. I want you to just take a look at the support by time of decision in the median Super Tuesday states. Look at this margin for Joe Biden, winning by over 30 points over Bernie Sanders.

Compare that to the voters who decided earlier than the last few days. Bernie Sanders actually won among them by 7 percentage points. So clearly that South Carolina bump that Joe Biden got coming out of that big win down in the deep south definitely generated a lot of momentum heading into Super Tuesday, which he took advantage of.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk delegates. This is a delegates race now. Where do we stand now coming out of Super Tuesday and with California, which is going to be counting for days and days, and the upcoming races, who has the advantage?

ENTEN: Right. So right now, if you're looking at all the delegate count, you have Joe Biden at 382 to Bernie Sanders' 321, which, of course, when you look at the total number up here 1,344 that were going to be allocated on Super Tuesday, that means there's still a lot of delegates to be allocated and many of them will be in the state of California when it comes to Super Tuesday.

I also really look forward to next week when a state like Michigan, which isn't actually colored in here, that's going to be voting and indeed there's going to be a slew of states that are going to be voting next Tuesday, so still a lot of delegates to go, a lot of time to go in this contest.

And one last thing for you, I just want to point this out, I think this is so important, support by race. African-Americans in South Carolina supported Biden by a large margin.

HARLOW: Yes.

ENTEN: They did it again last night. Hispanics, though, supported Bernie Sanders. Of course, the one thing I will note, there was some real differences across the different states. In California, Hispanics were really behind Sanders. Not so much in Texas, where Sanders' margin was a little bit shorter at 13 percentage points.

SCIUTTO: Interesting.

HARLOW: Harry, always good to see the numbers. Thank you.

ENTEN: Shalom. Be well.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the number on African-Americans really notable because there's more than five times Biden over Sanders.

HARLOW: Yes. It's huge.

Let's talk about all of what we saw last night. CNN political commentator Ana Navarro joins us this morning.

So good to have you.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thank you.

HARLOW: Why did Joe Biden not do better with Latino voters in a number of states?

NAVARRO: Look, I think the first thing people need to understand is that Latino voters are not a homogeneous group.

HARLOW: Yes.

NAVARRO: There's very different geography, there's very different ideology. Some are social conservatives. Some are progressives. And the Latino youth is a lot more progressive than people think at first blush.

I also think Joe Biden has really focused, and it's paid off. It's been strategically brilliant on the African-American community. He was running short on money. He didn't have the structure. He didn't have the ground game. And he had to focus on one thing. He focused on that community. It was a brilliant move.

But for that African-American firewall in the south, Joe Biden would be in a much different position today than he is. He needs to build Jim Clyburn a statue. He is indebted to that community.

But now, as the campaign grows, as the money is coming in, as he is now Joe the comeback kid, he's got to focus on other groups and he's got to grow and he's got to grow it quickly. And I think -- I think what these results showed last night is that one of those groups that he's got to do better with is the Latino group.

HARLOW: Yes.

NAVARRO: And focus on endorsements there, focus on visiting the states that matter --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

NAVARRO: The cities that matter.

Look, I think here in Florida, where I am, he's going to do well with Latinos because Bernie Sanders has done himself a lot of harm with the Hispanics -- with Hispanics, with Cuban Americans, with Nicaraguan Americans like me with Venezuelan Americans.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

NAVARRO: So he's, you know, I think Joe is going to be fine here but he's got to work it.

SCIUTTO: Let's --

NAVARRO: You don't take anything for granted.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk about a specific problem Sanders may have in Florida, of course, his comments praising Fidel Castro. Not received well. I mean even Democratic lawmakers, we had Donna Shalala on the air, for instance --

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Who represents a district, says that that could lose -- not just him the nomination, but lose Florida for Democrats in November.

When you look ahead to two weeks in Florida, does Biden have a distinct advantage among Hispanic voters, Latino voters there?

NAVARRO: I think he does. But I think he has to work it.

SCIUTTO: OK.

[09:45:01]

NAVARRO: And you're right. Look, we have -- down here we've got two seats that were long held by Republicans that are now held by Democrat women, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala. They have worked their butts off to represent this community.

And when Bernie Sanders says that Castro is not all bad, that there are some good sides to him, he causes great harm to people like Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, which is why I think you saw such a turnaround. I think that moment from Bernie Sanders was a crucial part to the Joe Biden comeback because people realize it's not just about the presidency, which is the top prize, but it's also about the harm that a Bernie Sanders on top of the ticket can cause down ballot.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

NAVARRO: And we better get over feeling lukewarm over Joe Biden because he's our horse and we're going to get behind him.

And also, you know, Joe Biden never gave up on Joe Biden. And it reminded me so much of 2008, John McCain, when he was given up for dead.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

NAVARRO: His campaign imploded. He had basically no money. But he never gave up. And I've seen that in Joe Biden in the last couple of weeks. And it's contagious. Nobody wants to vote for a dying campaign. Everybody wants to vote for the political Lazarus, the comeback kid, the guy that came back from the dead. And I think that's how Joe Biden is looking to many voters.

HARLOW: Thirty seconds left. How does he get -- if Biden's the nominee, how does he motivate Sanders' supporters -- ardent Sanders' supporters not to stay home in November?

NAVARRO: You know, I hope the ardent Sanders supporters, if they are Joe -- if Joe Biden is the nominee, get motivated, if not by Joe Biden, by Donald Trump. Some of these Sanders supporters stayed home when Hillary Clinton was the nominee --

HARLOW: Right.

NAVARRO: And they woke up with a political hangover that's going to last four years at least the next day. And so if 2016 hasn't taught us all the lesson that primary -- that the presidential race is a binary choice and that not voting for one means voting for the other, not showing up means other people do show up and make the decision for you, then, you know what, you've got no right to complain. And you are being negligent on your rights and duties as an American citizen.

SCIUTTO: Ana Navarro, thanks so much. Always good to have you on.

HARLOW: Thank you. Thank you.

NAVARRO: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Dozens of people still missing after deadly tornadoes ripped across Tennessee. We're going to have more on the desperate search of survivors. Fears the death toll could rise.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:52:14]

HARLOW: It is becoming more tragic by the hour in Tennessee. Dozens still missing this morning after those devastating tornados killed 24 people in the center of the state. A state of emergency has been declared. Schools closed in some areas as first responders continue searching through piles of rubble for any survivors.

SCIUTTO: It's sad, it's sad, because the toll may very well rise.

CNN's Nick Valencia is in Putnam County, just east of Nashville, one of the hardest hit areas.

Nick, what are people telling you there and can you tell us anything about the progress searching for those missing?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, it's stunning to see these images, really sobering. I think a lot of the attention early on was on Nashville, but there is no denying that here in Putnam County, about an hour east of the city center in Nashville, is where it took a direct hit. The hardest hit. And this is a kind of scene that you see what's left behind. People already cleaning up here. You see over the course of the last 24 hours that's what they've been doing, debris removal.

But this was a home, Jim and Poppy. A home that was knocked off the slab of bricks here. You go around here, Callaway (ph), if you can just rotate the camera, you see home by home, block after block, it all looks just like this. Really the big thing here is just how many, as you mentioned, Jim, 30 people -- more than 30 people unaccounted for.

It was just a little while ago that we went on a search and rescue mission with some sheriff's deputies. I think we have some new video to show you. Part of the concern is not just how many people are missing, but many of these -- those that died here are feared to be children. Eighteen of the 24 people that died across the state were killed here by the tornados in Putnam County.

I just interviewed an 11-year-old girl who says that she has a lot of friends, a lot of classmates who are hospitalized. In fact, one of those that died, she says, was a classmate, someone that she went to school with.

It's hard to see these images. It's clearly a lot of desperation among the search and rescue crews. We were on those missions. We obviously didn't want to interrupt what they were doing, so we let them go about their business. But there are large swaths of empty land where things like apartment complexes and homes and businesses. We saw a gas station just wiped away. It almost looks like a giant hand just swept away Putnam County.

Jim. Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Wow.

HARLOW: Nick, for -- so -- I have -- one of my best friends lives in Nashville, runs a bunch of businesses there. I was, you know, texting him immediately. And I think everyone wants to know what can they do for these people? Where is the best place for donations to go? D we -- does CNN have some information that we can share?

VALENCIA: Absolutely. We always encourage people, our viewers, our readers to go to cnn.com/impact. We have a list of vetted organizations there than helping out. Local agencies, state agencies that are doing the hard work and the heavy lifting here. It's going to be a long road before this community gets back to normal, guys. It's just truly devastating.

HARLOW: OK.

[09:55:01]

Nick, thank you for bringing there. Really horrible to see.

SCIUTTO: Yes, those poor children and families.

HARLOW: Nick Valencia, thank you.

A quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: U.S. forces have conducted an air strike on Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Those fighters were attacking Afghan security forces. This came just hours after President Trump said he had, quote, a very good talk with a top Taliban leader and that violence would be coming to an end. A U.S. military spokesman said the strike was defensive while at the same time accusing Taliban militants of carrying out dozens of attacks on Afghan security forces just over the past several days.

HARLOW: The U.S. signed an historic agreement with the Taliban. Of course you'll remember that over the weekend. That laid out conditions trying to pave the way for a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. American officials have spoken with Taliban leaders since the strike.

[10:00:03]