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CNN NEWSROOM

How a Pandemic Simulation Eerily Predicted Current Outbreak; Trump Disputes Data on Virus Death Rate, Citing Own "Hunch"; Stories of Survival Emerge in Tennessee as Cleanup Begins; Number of Promised Coronavirus Kits Falls Short; Majority of N.Y. Coronavirus Cases Linked to Attorney Now Hospitalized. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 5, 2020 - 14:30   ET

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


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[14:33:54]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Coronavirus cases in the United States is growing by the day. Nevada just announced its first confirmed case and New York just doubled its number of infections.

But a report in "Axios" indicates that scientists long warned about a potential pandemic like this because they conducted a simulation of a global outbreak. And it greatly resembled what we're all experiencing now.

And Bryan Walsh, future correspondent for "Axios," was the one who witnessed the simulation. And he joins me now to share what it was he observed.

So we can learn a lot from what you saw. Start with what was the simulation?

BRYAN WALSH, FUTURE CORRESPONDENT, "AXIOS": It's basically a table-top exercise where you bring together experts who represent agencies like the CIA, the CDC, the World Bank. And you give them a scenario. You say, OK, we have a new virus. It started spreading in South America in this case. You begin to see it spreading from one country to the other, you start to see deaths.

How do you deal with it economically, in terms of medical countermeasures? How do you deal with it in terms of dealing with trade, with travel? By doing that, it enables people to actually understand, what are the challenges we'll face when that pandemic comes.

I don't think they expected it to happen about three months after --

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[14:35:02]

BALDWIN: Talk about the timing of all of this, the coincidence, and the fact that you point out there were actually a lot of parallels between this fictitious simulation and the real world. What's the thing that maybe you experience in the simulation that you would recommend this White House get on?

WALSH: Certainly, I think -- I wish they could go back in time. That's really the lesson of this. This exercise used same kind of virus, a coronavirus, the same one we're facing now.

We have to learn the fact that containment may no longer be possible here. At this point, you have to focus on, how do you mitigate the impacts of this disease.

You're always dealing with uncertain information. That was something that came across during the exercise. You don't know 100 percent what will happen with this virus. You don't know how it will break out. So you have to understand you deal with that imperfect information and try to respond as best you can.

BALDWIN: Was there a best-case or a worst-case scenario?

WALSH: What happened in this exercise is by far the worst-case scenario. By the end of it, about 18 months into the simulation, 65 million people had died, the global economy had essentially collapsed.

It's important to remember the kind of scenario they're using is well beyond anything we'll experience here.

In that case, about 50 percent of the people were hospitalized. Here, we're looking at 80 percent or more of people have mild cases. It's not going to be that bad but that's doesn't mean it won't be bad.

BALDWIN: When the simulation was over, what was the talk of a solution?

WALSH: Really, at that point, it was how do we prepare for this to come. Of course, it came very quickly so there's no time to go back on that.

I think what we really have to understand is, how do we work together as an international community.

BALDWIN: Yes.

WALSH: That was one lesson that really came across. You can't deal with this on your own. And of course, you really have to listen to scientists.

I'd be concerned if you start to see political leaders or business leaders start to go off on their own, ignoring what you're hearing from the WHO, CDC or others.

BALDWIN: Listen to the scientists. I've had so many doctors in that chair saying the same thing.

Bryan Walsh, thank you --

WALSH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: -- for coming by. The president, meantime, says he has a hunch -- his word -- that the

experts are wrong about the severity of the coronavirus. So we'll discuss that.

And hear from passengers on board this cruise ship that's being held off the coast of San Francisco amid fears that some of them may be infected.

We'll be right back.

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[14:41:47]

BALDWIN: As the number of people infected with coronavirus increases around the globe, the World Health Organization says the death rate is at 3.4 percent, and that it appears to be deadlier than the flu.

But President Trump says he sees that statistic differently. Here's what he said during a phone interview with FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): I think 3.4 percent is really a false number. Now, this is just my hunch. But based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this -- because a lot of people will have this and it is very mild. Personally, I would say the number is way under 1 percent.

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BALDWIN: Brian Stelter is our CNN chief media correspondent.

And the thing is millions of people were watching and listening to him.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's why these interviews with Sean Hannity a FOX actually matter. They are the president's safe space. That safe space can be dangerous when he is spreading misinformation and disinformation.

There's a difference between the two. Misinformation is accidental. If I tell you to go down the wrong way down an alley, there's an accident, that's misinformation. There's disinformation about coronavirus. I tell you to go out in an alley on purpose to get you in trouble.

When the president of the United States spreads misinformation, it seems accidentally he doesn't know what's going on so he says misinformation. That can be dangerous. Because even when he's on FOX and talking to one of his friends, because three to five million people watch every night.

The WHO says the percentage is 3.4 percent. It may come down over time as more testing is done around the world, as more tests are done. The number currently is 3.4 percent, and no hunch from the president can change that.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about another tweet the president put out today. He inaccurately tweeted there are 129 cases in the U.S. At the time of that tweet, officials were reporting 161 cases. It's now gone up even higher.

The president of the United States has all the top scientists on speed dial, so why did he get that wrong?

STELTER: Right. But he also misspelled coronavirus last week. He doesn't have anybody checking these tweets before they go out. That's been a problem for three years now.

It's more of a problem in an environment like this. There have been crises during the Trump presidency. The Puerto Rico disaster, Hurricane Maria, comes to mind.

This is one of the most obvious crises of the Trump presidency. And I think all Americans are right to be concerned about whether they can trust the information he is sharing.

Remember, a week ago, the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, went to CPAC and said coronavirus is being trumped up by Democrats as an attempt to take down the president, to bring down the president. That's how they were talking a week ago.

And even more recently, the president's going to downplay this for various political reasons.

In retrospect, those quotes are going to look more damaging as this virus, unfortunately, spreads.

BALDWIN: Brian Stelter, thank you very much.

STELTER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Thousands in Nashville still without power after a violent tornado killed 24 people and destroyed dozens of homes and businesses. Coming up next, I'll speak with former American idol winner, Taylor Hicks, who rode out the storm in his basement.

[14:45:50]

Plus, moments ago, Vice President Mike Pence says they do not have enough coronavirus tests at this point to meet the expected demand. Stay here. We've got that news.

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BALDWIN: Just hours from now, an Alabama man is set to be executed despite questions remaining about his guilt. Nathaniel Woods was convicted of a 2004 killing of three police officers. Those officers were serving a warrant on Woods for dealing drugs when another man, Kerry Spencer, opened fire killing those officers and wounding another.

[14:50:01]

Advocates have been urging the state's governor to intervene, including Martin Luther King III.

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MARTIN LUTHER KING III, SON OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Many in the community feels like this is once again another lynching. The man is innocent, it appears, based on all kinds of evidence, including evidence that was not presented at the first trial. So it would seem that there's -- it's never too late to save a human life, specifically, if it's an innocent life.

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BALDWIN: Meantime, incredible stories of survival are starting to come out of Tennessee after deadly tornados ripped across multiple counties killing 24 people. Among the victims are young children and families. National Guard members are there assisting with recovery efforts.

But what we're also learning is that while families are starting to pick up the pieces of what used to be their homes, neighbors are doing anything they can to help.

Here's CNN's Nick Valencia.

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NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are beginning to hear just incredible stories of survival.

And we're joined now by not just a resident but also a first responder, Traci Brown.

You live in this neighborhood. You have some incredible stories. First, I want you to tell us about this tree here.

TRACI BROWN, TORNADO SURVIVOR AND FIRST RESPONDER: This tree is one of the first trees in our neighborhood. It's about 600 years old. This was the old Eller Farm, that's why we're named Eller Plantation. The tree is the staple of the neighborhood because it's the largest, biggest tree we have.

VALENCIA: Just uprooted just like that.

BROWN: It's gone, and it's unbelievable that it's gone.

VALENCIA: It's unreal.

BROWN: It's huge.

VALENCIA: So you have these unreal stories here and specifically about what happened here to the resident, Raymond, you said? What happened? BROWN: So Ray lives here in this house, and when we looked out of our

house to their house and saw his house was gone, we started searching immediately for him and making sure his children isn't here. His bedroom -- it's a split foyer home, and his bedroom is on the back side of the home. And we found him about 100 feet that way in that garage.

VALENCIA: Oh, my gosh.

And he survived that?

BROWN: He survived it. He was impaled through the garage door. That's where we found him. He's alive. He was treated and he's home I think. We don't know the extent of his injuries. We do know he had a broken arm.

VALENCIA: As far as you know -- that was a very serious injury. As far as you know, were there any people that died here?

BROWN: Not that I'm aware of. We did head counts and everybody was accounted for. We don't think anyone died here. Just seriously injured and homes.

VALENCIA: Your home, it's fully intact, but it turned into like a triage center or a first responders station.

BROWN: Yes, we treated --

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VALENCIA: The one with the blue tarp right there?

BROWN: It's a gray tarp. And of course, that's my husband walking.

That's my house. And we turned it into the command center, and we doctored abrasions, scrapes, bruises, bumps, glass in the feet. We just tried to do as much help as we could. And of course, we have a storm shelter so we put everybody downstairs.

VALENCIA: What was it like? What was it like?

BROWN: It was cold. It was wet. It was scary. The unknown, we just didn't know what was going to happen. And where do we begin? Where do we start over? What do we do next?

VALENCIA: That's it, the long road ahead of recovery. At the very least, you have your life and you have to be very grateful for that.

BROWN: We're very grateful, for family, friends, and everybody involved. We're very grateful.

VALENCIA: Thank you so much for joining us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: All these stories coming out of Tennessee. That was Nick Valencia there in Putnam County.

Breaking news now in the coronavirus outbreak. The vice president says, at the moment, there aren't enough tests to meet anticipated demands.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, what do you know?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We can report right now the vice president is in Minnesota meeting with health officials, meeting with manufacturers, medical manufacturers, that are really at the forefront of this effort to get these coronavirus testing kits out to the public.

And just a few moments ago -- as you know, Brooke, this has been a concern all week as to whether or not there are going to be enough tests out there for people who feel like they may be coming down with this virus.

And the vice president, while talking to reporters, was essentially saying, right now, there aren't enough tests to meet the demand as things stand at the moment.

Here's what he had to say.

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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward for those who we believe have been exposed, for those who are showing symptoms, we've been able to provide the testing.

We're focused very much on a cruise ship just off the California coast today. The Coast Guard delivered a sufficient number of tests for the passengers on that ship.

But as more Americans take an interest in this or have concerns about this, we want to make sure they have access to a coronavirus test as well, and we've made real progress on that in the last several days.

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[14:55:03]

ACOSTA: Now, contrast that, Brooke, with what the vice president was saying earlier this week. He was in one of these briefings over here at the White House on the coronavirus. And at that briefing on Monday, he said we're issuing clear guidance that subject to doctors' orders, any American can be tested.

When the vice president is saying, on Thursday of this week, that, you know, they don't have the number of tests to meet the demand, obviously, it sounds as though, at this point, that they are trying to downplay expectations in terms of how many tests they can get out there, how quickly they can get these tests out there. They seem to be a long way off from any American can be tested at this point.

And what we've heard from health officials, administration officials all week is that they wanted to get enough of these test kits out to the public so they can do about a million tests or have the capacity to do a million tests by the end of this week.

The HHS secretary, Alex Azar, he was talking to reporters up on Capitol Hill just a short while ago, Brooke, and also seemed to be downplaying expectations, putting out different numbers that are much lower than that one-million tests goal.

It seems, at this point, the administration is still trying to keep up with this demand that they just don't have their arms around at this point -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Speaking of numbers that are a bit off, I was just having this conversation, what is the White House saying about, you know, numbers of fatalities in the U.S. The president is putting out what differ from what scientists and official organizations are saying. Even the mortality rate of coronavirus, it is not jiving.

ACOSTA: That's right. The president was on Sean Hannity last night and said it was his hunch that the mortality rate for the coronavirus is below 1 percent. Dr. Fauci is saying it's 2 percent. He's listening to the scientists in all of this.

And so one of the things that we're grappling with as we cover this story is sort of an outbreak of misinformation. And at the heart of that outbreak, it seems that the epicenter of that outbreak, from time to time, it is the president misleading people about what is going on with the coronavirus.

In addition to talking about the mortality rate and his hunch that it's below 1 percent, you know, he was suggesting also, in that interview with Sean Hannity, that people could go to work with the coronavirus.

But people should know, if they're at home right now, they can go on the CDC Web site. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, says right on its Web site, you should not go to work if you have the coronavirus. You should limit your exposure to other people so this virus does not spread exponentially over the coming days.

It's obviously a very dangerous virus. And so anybody who has it should not be going to work right now -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Check it out for yourself, CDC.gov.

Jim Acosta, at the White House. Jim, thank you.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BALDWIN: Cases of coronavirus in New York have doubled overnight. Most of the new infections are linked to this lawyer from Westchester, who's currently hospitalized. The governor said that there are now 22 cases in the state. Eight of

those are connected to this attorney. But none of the hospital patients is hospitalized.

Brynn Gingras is our CNN national correspondent outside the law firm where this attorney works.

And, first of all, how is he doing?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, the latest update we got was from the governor himself saying that his condition was improving in the hospital. But just his whole family now has tested positive for the coronavirus. They're isolated in their homes. They can't visit him in the hospital right now.

I mean, it's just, sort of the more micro, you know, issue of people being tested positive for this. They all have to stay in their houses and away from other people.

Can't even visit her husband, this woman and her kids at this point. But anyway, that's just one example.

We know now that he, as you said, is linked to a majority of the new cases here in New York. But there are 22 overall in the state, four of which, including that lawyer, who are hospitalized at this point.

And disease detectives here in the state are continuing to sort of do their work of trying to trace people who had any connection to anyone who tested positive in the state, track those people down, give them a test, and then isolate them.

We know just in Westchester County alone, where this lawyer lived, about a thousand people have been asked by local health officials to be self-quarantined. We know schools have shut down. We know a temple where this family worshipped has been shut down temporarily. A lot going on in this state as these numbers continue to tick up for the moment.

Local state health officials are really saying now is not the time for panic, now is not the time for wrong information, but to really just make sure you take care of yourself -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Let me ask you about that. You mentioned the thousand people who are self -- you know, in self-isolation, self-quarantine. How are they?

[14:59:56]

GINGRAS: Well, that's the -- that's the rub. We don't know exactly because, at this point, it's just a matter of how these people had some sort of connection to this lawyer. And then his family, who's tested positive. And then this lawyer's neighbors, who tested positive.