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Eighteen Unaccounted For As Death Toll Rises After Tornado In Tennessee; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Discusses The Democratic Race & Coronavirus; Daughter Of Woman In Nursing Home At Center Of Coronavirus Outbreak: I'm Frustrated. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 4, 2020 - 13:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Twenty-four people have died and 18 are still missing after a tornado ripped through Tennessee, leveling homes, restaurants, churches and businesses. A state of emergency has been declared there. Schools are closed in some areas. And we're learning small children are among some of the victims here.

Our Nick Valencia talked to one mother whose home was completely destroyed. She took cover in the closet with her kids, and when they came out, this is what they saw.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Tell us what happened. Take us through the house. This is what's left of it.

MARIE STOCKTON, HOME DESTROYED BY TORNADO: This is our kitchen. This is the first roof that came off. This whole side, this whole area was open. It was pretty much open like this. That's how we knew -- my daughter noticed it first that the roof was gone.

VALENCIA: You said you only had about three minutes?

STOCKTON: Yes. Three minutes from the time I woke up and we got an alarm about the weather and it started hitting our house.

VALENCIA: Text message?


We were all in here and my kids --


VALENCIA: This is where you were hiding?

STOCKTON: No. This is where we were when I got the text. My kids and nephew were out there where that wood is laying. They built a fort and wanted to sleep in there. So we built a fort right there. I jumped up because my dad called and the power went out. And I was, we've got to go now. So we took off and, by the time we got to right here, it was already busting the windows open and you can feel it shaking the whole house.

VALENCIA: How long did it last for?

STOCKTON: Maybe about five minutes. It was quick. The wind was still going. After about five minutes, it calmed down. We stayed in there until they lifted the tornado warning.

VALENCIA: Where did you go hide?

STOCKTON: Back here in my daughter's room. We all hid in this little closet, all four of us -- all five of us, me and four kids.

VALENCIA: All four of your guys were in here?

STOCKTON: Right in that closet?

VALENCIA: Oh, my gosh.


VALENCIA: Oh, my gosh.

STOCKTON: We were right in there.

VALENCIA: Yes. I don't think I could even fit in there my myself.

STOCKTON: This whole roof right here was gone. You could feel it lifting the house and shaking the house. The whole roof was gone. You could feel the wind coming underneath the door. It was shaking everything in here. I thought for sure it would take the whole house up.

VALENCIA: You must have been thinking you guys would get hurt or die.

STOCKTON: It was scary. Oh, gosh, I've never been through anything like that. I've never been more terrified in my life.

VALENCIA: What are you thinking right now? You lived through this and walk through your house and there's debris everywhere.

STOCKTON: I'm so thankful that we're alive. It could have been much worse. Some neighbors aren't as lucky. I have a co-worker who is still in the hospital. It could have been much worse. We are safe. We didn't get a single scratch at all. Just the house, but we can replace everything.

VALENCIA: I want to ask you because you had four kids with you and a lot of those believed to have been injured or killed are kids.

STOCKTON: Yes. It's terrifying. I was thinking, what am I going to do. All I could do was thinking to keep them safe. I thought it would be the safest place in the house to get. I didn't think it would be a tornado. I just thought it would be a bad storm. But like, we're getting in the closet and I'm so, so thankful that we did. VALENCIA: I'm glad you're safe. I'm glad you're alive.

STOCKTON: Me, too. Thank you.


KEILAR: Our thanks to Nick Valencia, in Putnam County, Tennessee.

A drama shift in the race for 2020, the state of the race. I will speak to one former candidate who once shared the stage with both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. He will give us his reaction on what this means for Democrats going forward.


Plus, it's the nursing home at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state. What one woman says happened when she showed up to see her mom there.


KEILAR: We're witnessing a major consolidation in the Democratic race for president. Michael Bloomberg is the third candidate within the last 72 hours to drop out and endorse Joe Biden. Senator Elizabeth Warren may not be too far behind. Her campaign says they're assessing a path forward.

One advisor tells CNN that Warrens biggest decision is not whether to drop out but whether to endorse Biden or Sanders if anyone at all.

This news following a huge Super Tuesday for Joe Biden who managed to win nine states compared to Sander's three. This puts Biden ahead in the delegate count for now at least. I say this because delegate-rich California is still counting its ballots and Sanders is ahead there.


Joining us now to talk about all of this is Congressman Eric Swalwell, of California.

Congressman, with signs that Warren could be getting out, do you think she needs to pick either Biden or Sanders to endorse or can she stay on the sidelines?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): It's up to her.

Good afternoon, Brianna.

I think wherever she goes, she should be proud of the race she's won and ideas she put out there. People across the country and young men and women, who believed in her campaign. That's really up to her. I think candidate by candidate has to make that decision.

But winning in November has to be the most important factor for any of us as candidates.

KEILAR: Your endorsement is?

SWALWELL: I'm getting there, Brianna. As you know, I ran on the issue of ending gun violence.


SWALWELL: I'm looking at the candidates that remain now. That's important to me as the father of a 1-year-old and 2-year-old.

I believe Vice President Biden has a long record on this going back to the assault weapons ban. And I look forward to talking to all the candidates this week about that.

KEILAR: If you look at Biden or Sanders, clearly, one is going to stand out more when it comes to gun rights than the other, right? Sanders comes from Vermont. His record has reflected that.

SWALWELL: That's right. Also, I want to win. With all the candidates we have remaining, they can say something Donald Trump can't. They're not corrupt.

When it comes to health care, they're for addition, not subtraction. When it comes to climate, they want to live at sea level and Donald Trump wants us under water. I think on these issues, we have candidates of the three left who can win. And I hope to make that decision soon.

KEILAR: As you mentioned, you were in the race early on. And you had a moment that got a lot of play when you were running. This is what you said really about Joe Biden when you were on the stage.


SWALWELL: Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago.


SWALWELL: He's still right today!


KEILAR: I want to ask you about this. You also said here on CNN, I don't think we can nominate a -- let's see, sorry, my prompter stalled for a moment -- "I don't think we can nominate a candidate who has been in government longer than 20 years."


KEILAR: This applies to Sanders and Biden.


KEILAR: I wonder if you're so surprised these are such older candidates really rising to the top and what this says about voters deciding, actually, we are ok with someone who has been here in Washington for decades.

SWALWELL: Brianna, when I ran and went across the country, I made a generational case. It's very much the case that Mayor Buttigieg made.

But what I learned and what I was told in so many homes, even of supporters of mine was, we like that you're running and the issues you're raising but we're so anxious to losing to Donald Trump we're not going to roll the dice on a generational candidate.

It was hard to hear that. But I get it I get that people want to be normal again. They want the anxiety of where this president has taken us to go away. And the steady leadership and experience of Vice President Biden has certainly been appealing.

He called me -- he was the first person to call when I got out of the race and he told me, on the issue of passing the torch, I hear you and I promise you, if I am president, I will do everything I can to put young people in positions of leadership.

That's what I and young people will look to, to see if the Biden administration will put young people in positions to lead, to step up.

KEILAR: Since you are from California, I want to ask you, since there are six new coronavirus cases in your state, which means your state is dealing with more cases than any other at this point in time. Does your state have the testing it needs?

SWALWELL: No. No, we do not. You're in this pickle where, if you're sick, you are supposed to stay home. But if you stay home too long to the point it gets catastrophic, you may not come out of it in good shape. Having the diagnostic testing is critically important.

I'm meeting with the vice president later today with my Democratic colleagues. The message is: We want you to succeed. We want to work with you. We struck a deal on funding but that has to include getting testing kits as widely disseminated as soon as possible.

KEILAR: Congressman, thank you so much.

SWALWELL: You're welcome.

KEILAR: We really appreciate you --

SWALWELL: Thanks. Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: -- joining us today. Congressman Eric Swalwell.

Still ahead, anger and frustration after five people at the same nursing facility in Washington state died from the coronavirus. So what's being done to protect everyone else there. I will talk to a woman whose mother is living in that nursing home, next.


And could March Madness fade away because of coronavirus. Coming up, one group's mission to play the big game without the big crowds. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: One nursing home in Washington State, which is located about 11 miles from Seattle, is looking more and more like the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S.

Of the nine people who have died, five of them resided at the Life Care Center in Kirkland. Families are furious and want answers why this happened.

Kim Frey is with us. Her mother lives at that nursing home.

Kim, first, I am so sorry you and your family are dealing with this. How is your mom doing?


KIM FREY, DAUGHTER OF ELDERLY WHO RESIDES AT LIFE CARE CENTER: The last I talked to her, her biggest concern was she can't be with us and can't talk to us. She actually got sick before she came to that nursing home. I think she may have immunity. There's so many questions about that whole situation.

But when I -- I believe she's in good care.


FREY: I know it's easy to jump to conclusions about what's going wrong. But, you know, we've taken her there several times after breaking her knee or her hip or whatever, and they rehab her and send her back home. And you know, every time we're like I don't know if she's coming home. This one especially feels very challenging.

KEILAR: And you're just worried about her being isolated, too, as you contend with that.

FREY: Yes.

KEILAR: So you think -- you think that she was sick before maybe with coronavirus. Your brother was regularly visiting your mom. He's now tested positive for coronavirus yesterday.

You had to take your father to the hospital, is that right? Tell us about that. Has he been tested?

FREY: He's been -- I'm sure he's been tested. You know, we're all going to be tested.


FREY: A little bit too little too late. I mean, we should have been tested back when we were asking for it before, but the tests weren't even -- I mean, it wasn't even in the dialogue when my mom was at Evergreen, and so the questions weren't even being asked at that time.

And you know, so now even last Saturday, when this all broke loose, we were all saying, well, are we going to get a test. Like, do we know. And the answer was no. You had to fit these certain criteria in order to get that test. So you know, there's a lot of frustration there.

It's really easy to get upset about things, And I think what I've had to really come back to is getting upset doesn't help anybody. It doesn't help people do their job better.

The people that are working in that nursing home are putting their life on the line really. They're putting theirself at risk. And you know, we should be supporting them as much as possible.

It's easy to get upset at the hospital. It's easy to get upset at the CDC or the president or whoever. But you know, all in all, this is something that is kind of out of the box, and there's not a whole lot of answers.

And I think, most importantly, we need to be patient with each other through this whole process.

And I've had wonderful people if my life that remind me of that. You know, they remind me to just be still, pray to God.


FREY: Be at peace with the circumstances. And now that there's a bigger picture -- and so I am, I'm praying regularly about this. And I have to leave my parents in his hands. And it's a challenging thing.

And then the whole community is concerned. So you know, and I don't have answers. That's the whole thing that's so hard about going back home. There's no answers for them. They want to know am I contagious. I haven't had a test. I didn't even have the option of a test.

Literally, this morning, I was given this information that, yes, they want to test me, and they want to test everybody. And so we'll be getting in line for those tests. And then we're going to wait three days.


FREY: We did just find out that my brother tested positive. My sister is very sick. I have another brother that was sick. You know, there's other people that I am hearing getting the headache and, you know, a fever. And so all the questions come up. And then you get the test and you wait.

KEILAR: And, look, I think your frustration is so valid, but it's also amazing to hear your grounded perspective on what's a very difficult situation to deal with.

Will you tell us a little bit about going to see your mom? You actually -- you went -- I mean, understandably, you're so concerned about your mom being isolated, you expected the facility wouldn't be open to families. But what did you find?

FREY: Well, you know, that's the thing. It's like things happened so rapid fire. People are making decisions left and right without being fully informed, without being fully aware. And then after you're in the middle of this chaos, it's hard to think. It's hard to process everything.

And yet, I was led in. And I'm terribly sorry for the turmoil that that's created. You know, the only thought in my mind was, I want to see my mom. Last time I saw my mom, she was at Evergreen, and she literally was on her death bed. And I didn't know if I was going to be able to see her again before I came back.

This time, I'm there, and I no one has seen her or talked to her. I don't know if she's dehydrated or if she's wasting away or if she's good. So getting an opportunity to check on her, I didn't hesitate. I didn't think and I didn't hesitate.


I think a lot of people are going to be in that position where, if you do a little prep ahead of time, and you say, OK, what's our game plan, what's going to happen. But so many people are in denial that this is even a thing. It's like you say coronavirus and people laugh it off.


FREY: So, but people do need to give it a little bit of a thought because, when it hits, it's a surprise, and you didn't expect it, and then you're not prepared.

And quite frankly, I wasn't prepared. I didn't think about that when I went to see my mom. I was so glad to see her in good condition and smiling and actually joking with the health care people that were there.

They didn't seem rushed and the other people that I saw in there actually looked like they were in -- it was peaceful, surprisingly peaceful.


FREY: But -- yes?

KEILAR: Kim, I am so sorry, we are out of time. I would love to talk to you more about this.

I just want you to know we are thinking of you. We are certainly praying for your family.

And we will be back in just a moment.

Kim Frey, thank you so much for talking to us.

FREY: OK. Thank you.