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Coronavirus Outbreak; America's Choice 2020; Disease Is Straining Worldwide Medical Resources; EU Plans Border Intervention, Humanitarian Aid; Man Faces Execution For Murders He Did Not Commit. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired March 5, 2020 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, as the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, governments are taking unprecedented steps to try to contain it, closing schools, canceling sporting events and concerts, quarantining entire communities and more.

Frustration and fear on a Greek island overwhelmed by a surge of migrants.

Also ahead the resurrection of Joe Biden. His big comeback on Super Tuesday and what it means for the rest of the primary election season.

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VAUSE: The place where it all began, the number of coronavirus infections is dropping. That is in China. But the disease is spreading around the world. It threatens to overshadow the Olympic Games in Tokyo, set to begin late July; 33 new cases were reported there on Wednesday, the largest increase in a single day there, putting the nationwide total at more than 1,000.

Italy is facing the biggest outbreak in Europe and has closed the schools nationwide for more than a week and sporting events in the hardest hit areas are canceled.

And in the United States, California's governor has declared a state of emergency. A cruise ship is being refused permission to dock for now near San Francisco because more than 20 people on board are showing symptoms of the disease.

We begin our coverage with CNN's Blake Essig in Tokyo.

Blake, Japan, the authorities did not cover themselves with glory with the quarantine of that cruise ship and now they're facing this spike in cases.

What are their options?

What can they be doing that they're not doing at the moment in dealing with this crisis?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, at this point, the main focus of the Japanese government is social distancing, people being asked to work from home, sporting events have either been postponed, canceled or are being played but inside stadiums with no fans.

Even schools as of earlier this week have been closed around the country. That's essentially what the Japanese government is focused on right now.

You have a state of emergency that was declared by the governor of Hokkaido over the past weekend and the Japanese government is working with parliament to work up the legal framework to declare a state of emergency for Japan as a whole.

And what that would do would give municipalities the authority to ask their residents to stay indoors. It would allow for the ability to close down public buildings, schools and also the ability to build medical facilities to deal with the potential increase of the coronavirus cases.

At this point one of the other things they're doing is trying to figure out where this all started in the clusters that are popping up around Japan. The Japanese government has brought in a researcher from Hokkaido University focused on contact tracing. I had a chance to talk to him earlier today.

And what he told me was that the confirmed cases versus the actual cases that he believes exist based on the data he's seen is vastly different.

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HIROSHI NISHIURA, HOKKAIDO UNIVERSITY: At the moment, to confirm the case count, it is between 200 and 300 in Japan, excluding those who are diagnosed on the Diamond Princess. That 200 to 300 means that the actual number with infected individuals is on the order of over a few thousand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ESSIG: When you think about that number, again roughly 300 confirmed cases on land, but this researcher believes there are thousands of actual cases that exist here in Japan. So when you talk about the increase we saw yesterday and what could potentially happen in the days and weeks to come, those numbers are very likely continuing to rise.

VAUSE: Thank you, Blake Essig live in Tokyo.

California monitoring more than 9,000 possible cases of the coronavirus. Meantime, test kits are being flown to a cruise ship being held at sea not far from San Francisco where more than 20 people are said to be showing symptoms of illness.

California's first recorded death from the virus was a passenger who was on board that ship last month.

Now to CNN's Ben Wedeman in Milan for more on Italy's strict new containment missions.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Italian government is taking ever more draconian measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Wednesday, the cabinet ordered all schools and universities in the entire country to remain closed until at least the 15th of March.

They have also imposed new restrictions on sporting activities, this in a country that is mad about sports. The numbers, however, continue to send a grim message about the situation in this country. The number of recorded coronavirus cases has reached 3,089, with a death toll of 107.

The government is considering adding new red zones to the already 11 towns and villages under severe restrictions in the Bergamo Province, where authorities have seen a spike in new cases.

Driving home the gravity of the situation, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte says the country's public health system, one of the best in the world, is increasingly overwhelmed by the number of new coronavirus patients -- I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Milan.

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VAUSE: And the coronavirus has spread to nearly all 31 provinces in Iran which has almost 3,000 confirmed cases, the most in the region. CNN's Sam Kiley has the latest. And a warning: his report contains some disturbing images.

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SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The grim ranks of the unburied clutter the floor of an Iranian morgue. Some of the coronavirus victims have to be treated with lime before burial. But those believed not to be infected can be interred unsullied and according to tradition here in the holy city of Qom.

ALI RAMEZANI, BEHESHT-E MASOUMEH MORGUE (through translator): What we are dealing with is how to handle the bodies of coronavirus victims versus non-coronavirus victims, as the instructions for burial are different for each.

KILEY (voice-over): The tests take time, delaying burials and straining the city's facilities.

RAMEZANI (through translator): This is the reason for the pileup. KILEY (voice-over): With around 3,000 known infections and over 90

deaths from the epidemic, Iranian authorities have begun screening for more infections in Qom, the worst hit city after the capital, Tehran.

This mosque will be empty for Friday prayers for the second week in a row. The weekly services have been banned in cities across the country; 300,000 extra health workers have been drafted in to deal with Iran's expanding epidemic.

Citizens are instructed on how to avoid infection. Public transport hosed down with disinfectant. Under U.S. sanctions, Iran's oil industry and banking system have been crippled, making even humanitarian goods hard to come by.

There are fears that Iran may also be underestimating the scale of the epidemic it faces; the supreme leader, though, keen to dispel such anxieties.

ALI KHAMENEI, IRANIAN SUPREME LEADER (through translator): This outbreak did not just happen in our country, you know and have heard it is happening in many countries today.

The difference is that many countries have kept it hidden. Our officials have been informing the public since the first day, with confidence, honesty and transparency. But some other countries are hiding the fact that the disease is more severe and more widespread.

KILEY (voice-over): Perhaps but across the Middle East Iran is being seen as a springboard for infection into other countries. There are few, if any, signs that the epidemic is being brought under control here -- Sam Kiley, CNN, Abu Dhabi.

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VAUSE: Markets in Asia are in positive territory for a fourth day. All major markets have been up for the day and more than 1 percent in fact are up by more than 2 percent. (INAUDIBLE) on Wall Street Wednesday. The Dow up more than 1,100 points, erasing Tuesday's losses of almost 800 points.

An airline in the U.K. is just now announcing it's ceasing operations. Flybe says all flights have been grounded and passengers should not go to the airport. They appear to be the latest victim of the coronavirus outbreak. CNN's Richard Quest reports the virus has been hammering the travel industry worldwide.

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RICHARD QUEST, CNNMONEY EDITOR AT LARGE (voice-over): The travel industry has faced many shocks of different types before. But this is something different.

SCOTT SOLOMBRINO, GLOBAL BUSINESS TRAVEL ASSOCIATION: The last time we've seen anything close to this was post 9/11.

QUEST (voice-over): It's the range and scale of industry that's truly worrying. Think about it. It's more than just planes and trains. It's at hotels where we stay. There are restaurants we dine at, the credit cards we use for expenses.

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QUEST (voice-over): Giant companies like Nestle and Unilever have restricted almost all business travel and massive trade shows like Mobile World Congress have been canceled along with even travel trade shows such as ITB. It's creating a cascading threat to the travel industry and the millions of people who depend on it.

SOLOMBRINO: If there's nobody traveling on planes and staying in hotels and nobody is staying in hotels, no one's going to restaurants, no one is using taxicabs, Uber, chauffeured cars or anything else, everything kind of stops and that's the problem.

QUEST: This is what the impact of the coronavirus looks like on Chinese airspace. Busy routes disappeared altogether at the height of the outbreak as travelers stayed home. Now major European and transatlantic routes are also being canceled because of falling demand. All told, IATA says it will cost airlines more than $29 billion this year.

BRIAN SUMERS, SKIFT: It is not good. I'm talking to people who say this is the worst crisis for airlines since at least 2008 and maybe post 9/11. People right now don't want to travel.

QUEST (voice-over): The cruise industry has been particularly hard hit. Last month thousands of people were confined on board to cruise ships amid fears of spreading the virus.

Coronavirus was detected on only one of the ships. There are fresh restrictions as companies deny boarding to passengers deemed at risk. Cruise line share prices have tumbled heavily and some countries are turning ships away from ports that rely on the constant flow of tourists.

QUEST: So look at the effects on some of the major players across the areas, cruise lines, Carnival straight the way down. United Airlines with all those Asian routes out of the West Coast, also a big faller. And the largest hotel group in the world, Marriott, have seen some very serious falls, down some 21 percent.

SOLOMBRINO: This is a new twist. It's the black swan that landed on your lawn. Nobody ever wants the black swan showing up but we had one show up. But the world is resilient. Humans are resilient. There's always a solution. It's just a matter of how much time is it going to take to find the solution that's necessary.

QUEST (voice-over): The travel and tourism industry is huge. It's estimated 10 percent of the global workforce is in some way connected to travel and tourism.

So with all its vulnerabilities the industry is worried but well practiced at dealing with crises -- Richard Quest, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: The outbreak is also blamed for a big drop in oil, driving down prices in a market already facing oversupply. Now OPEC is facing pressure to announce another round of production cuts. It is meeting this week to consider the emergency measures.

Officials attending that meeting are being told to avoid contact with one another. So on Wednesday two officials started to greet each other not with a handshake but with a footshake, as you can see here.

How about that?

Bloomberg out. Biden surging. Bernie looking for help. Well, he wants it from Elizabeth Warren. That's the new dynamic among the Democrats vying for the White House. More on that in a moment.

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VAUSE: With apologies in advance to Elizabeth Warren, who has yet suspend her campaign, the race for the White House is now basically down to three old straight white men.

A resurgent Joe Biden scored a surprisingly good night on Super Tuesday but Bernie Sanders' enthusiastic army of supporters did not turn out to vote for him in the numbers he was hoping for and then, of course, there's Donald Trump. More now from CNN's Arlette Saenz.

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JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They don't call it Super Tuesday for nothing.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Biden basking in a historical political comeback.

BIDEN: We were told when we got to Super Tuesday it would be over. Well, it may be over for the other guy.

SAENZ (voice-over): In the wake of Super Tuesday a major jolt to the race coming as billionaire Michael Bloomberg dropped his presidential bid and officially endorsed Biden.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D-NY), FORMER MAYOR OF NYC: I'm glad to say I endorsed Joe Biden and I hope you will join me in working to make him the next President of the United States of America.

SAENZ (voice-over): This after Bloomberg poured more than half a billion dollars of his own fortune into his race and only came up with one victory in American Samoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do it for Joe.

SAENZ (voice-over): It's the latest sign of the more moderate candidates coalescing around the former vice president. After a rocky start to his campaign Biden racking up wins in 10 Super Tuesday states with a sweep across the South, overtaking Bernie Sanders in the fight for delegates, with California still up for grabs.

BIDEN: I'm out here to report we are very much alive.

SAENZ (voice-over): Sanders' victories came in his home state of Vermont, Colorado and Utah and he is leading in California, where the campaign hopes to rack up delegates. But there are questions Sanders can expand the electorate as the contest has quickly turned into a two-person race.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe has his ideas, his record, his vision for the future. I have mine and I look forward to a serious debate.

SAENZ (voice-over): Sanders already looking to the contest ahead, running new TV ads targeting Biden and attempting to tie himself to President Obama.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Great authenticity, great passion and is fearless.

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SAENZ (voice-over): One candidate's fate up in the air: Elizabeth Warren, who had a disappointing showing on Tuesday, including a brutal loss in her home state of Massachusetts.

Warren assessing the state of her campaign. But one of her advisers says her biggest decision isn't whether to end the campaign but whether to throw her support behind Biden or Sanders.

Michael Bloomberg spoke with Joe Biden on Wednesday and told him he's willing to help him in any way he can. Bloomberg not only has a massive amount of cash but he also has extensive field organizations across the country in a lot of those states that are coming up in a contest in the coming weeks ahead.

And Bloomberg's team is working to figure out how they can best leverage that to help Biden going forward -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, Los Angeles.

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VAUSE: Caroline Heldman, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College and Ethan Bearman, talk radio host in Los Angeles, both join us now from L.A.

Good to see you both. Let's start with the new ad from Sanders's campaign. We saw a clip of it just in before. We heard Obama praising Bernie Sanders in Obama's own words.

But did we?

Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bernie is somebody who although I don't know as well, because he wasn't obviously in my administration, has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, great authenticity, great passion and is fearless.

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VAUSE: So Caroline, "who I don't know as well, because he was not in my cabinet," were the words that were taken out. That's when Obama was comparing Bernie to Hillary Clinton, which he knew better. It's not a hanging offense but it does look kind of desperate.

[02:20:00]

CAROLINE HELDMAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, certainly. He's attending to appeal to African American voters, who Joe Biden is now winning overwhelmingly about 8 out of 10. And if you look at what jolted or catapulted him back from the dead if you will in the 72 hours coming up to Super Tuesday, it was that South Carolina win and African American voters.

And Bernie is polling better with young voters who don't turn out to vote at high enough rates to have the impact they should. He also polls high with Latinx voters. But at the end of the day he's trying to expand his coalition with black voters because that's really playing a key role in what's happened with Biden in the last couple of days.

VAUSE: Ethan, taking the dodgy moment of the commercial to one side, that's some tryst with Sanders, from king of the kids on Monday, calling from the revolution, to embracing the establishment on Wednesday.

BEARMAN: It's actually hypocritical and not very consistent because that's one of the big arguments in favor of Bernie Sanders. We know who he is, he's been consistent for 50 years but when he starts losing to Joe Biden and everybody starts getting behind Joe Biden and endorsing him now he starts embracing the establishment?

It's not a good look for Bernie. Look, he has struggled, as Caroline just said, with African American voters. He struggled with them in 2016, he's struggling with them now in 2020.

That is a core base of the Democratic Party. While young people are wonderful at showing up to protest and voicing their opinion and getting out there on social media, they're not showing up at the polls. They never do.

Election after election, sadly, but Bernie needs to stay consistent if he does wants to win this and this is just a chink in his armor.

VAUSE: What's notable is that both Sanders and Biden say the rest of this campaign will be a contest of ideas, policy, not personal attacks. Here's what they said on Wednesday.

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BIDEN: What we can't let happen in the next few weeks is let this primary turn into a campaign of negative attacks.

SANDERS: My hope is that in the coming months we will be able to debate and discuss the very significant differences that we have.

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VAUSE: Caroline, any Democrats still yet to make up their mind, waiting for the policy debate on infrastructure, maybe immigration, before they decide they want Sanders or Biden?

Or is it pretty much done?

HELDMAN: It's definitely going to be a really bloody battle. Whatever they said today, they'll toss out tomorrow. This is a two-man race. They immediately need to get it down to a one-man race.

There's a bigger concern for the party moving forward right, that if you have the Sanders folks not turning out to vote for the moderates, for Biden and moderate Biden supporters are going to see Sanders as being too left-wing. So the party actually needs to come to grips with whether or not they'll have a moderate candidate or left-wing candidate and they need to do it right away and the way they'll do that is really I think through a bloodbath the next couple of weeks.

VAUSE: This will go negative and ugly, despite what they say.

But Ethan, there's this lot of talk that if Biden does win this nomination then what happens to the Bernie supporters?

Perhaps the better question might be how should Biden win them over?

What does he have to do?

BEARMAN: I don't know he has to win them over. I think they need to realize the threat in the White House and do the right thing.

(CROSSTALK)

BEARMAN: They made that mistake in 2016. Look at what happened.

Is that what people want, four more years of Trump?

It is that simple of a question and this idea that they are not going to go negative is utterly ridiculous. Every time we talk about that, the people themselves prove they want it to go negative and they respond to negative ads way too strongly.

Here's what it is, we need Bernie Sanders to get behind the right person right now as soon as possible and by the way the biggest issue nobody ever wants to talk about with Bernie Sanders is he's an independent who chooses to be a Democrat every four years when it's time to run for president.

That is irking so many people in the Democratic Party and this is his opportunity to show he really is a team player in the Democratic Party and get behind Biden as soon as possible.

VAUSE: Team player/Bernie Sanders, not words often spoken together. We should mention Elizabeth Warren is still in the race. That's a point not lost on the U.S. president who tweeted,

"Wow, if Elizabeth Warren wasn't in the race, Bernie Sanders would have easily won Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas. Not to mention those other states. Our modern-day Pocahontas won't go down in history as a winner but she may very well go down as the all-time great spoiler."

Caroline, did she inflict that much pain on Bernie Sanders?

And if so, how much pressure will she be under to have the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to bow out?

HELDMAN: It's interesting to hear Trump echo Russian talking points and use racism in his critique of Elizabeth Warren but he's wrong about this.

[02:25:00]

HELDMAN: The data is pretty clear that only about 40 percent of Elizabeth Warren are voters who would otherwise go for Bernie Sanders. A lot of Elizabeth Warren supporters are Clinton Democrats.

They're moderate Democrats. They want to see a woman in the White House. It's been 240 years.

And if this election has taught us anything is even with a #MeToo movement and a massive, historic Women's March protest, six women running in the race very seriously, women are still not taken seriously for this office.

You essentially have to walk on water and you are held to a different standard. But Donald Trump is wrong in thinking she was a spoiler for Bernie Sanders. Again, an overstatement if you look at the data.

VAUSE: Data and facts, President Trump, again, words not often used in the same sentence.

Even if you're looking at Joe Biden as the nominee, which seems more likely every day at this point, is Elizabeth Warren a possible V.P. choice?

The other one is Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor here in Georgia and missed out.

Where do things stand as far as you see it?

BEARMAN: I think if Elizabeth -- Senator Warren by the way -- is smart in this case -- and she's brilliant by the way and I have utmost respect for her -- if she wants to play it smart right now, she works out a deal, negotiates a deal with the Biden team and I think she's an ideal Secretary of the Treasury.

The vice president needs to be somebody representing the next generation in the Democratic Party so it's not just our septed (sic) -- I can't even say the word -- 70-plus-year olds right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BEARMAN: We really need the next generational leaders to get the support of the establishment now. So that vice presidential candidate really should be somebody from either Gen X and/or younger and not just another Boomer.

VAUSE: To Caroline's point this was a field that had so much promise and was so diverse on many different levels and now we're down to two old white guys. It is what it is.

Caroline and Ethan, thank you both.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAUSE: Climate activist Greta Thunberg is calling out the European Union, accusing the bloc of pretending to tackle the climate crisis.

New climate law reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050 was announced in Brussels Wednesday. Under that law, the executive commission will have the power to set tougher goals for the government every five years. But the 17 year old activist says the law is simply inadequate.

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GRETA THUNBERG, CLIMATE ACTIVIST: When your house is on fire, you don't wait a few more years to start putting it out. And yet this is what the commission are proposing today.

The E.U. must lead the way. You have the moral obligation to do so and you have a unique economical and political opportunity to become a real climate leader. You yourselves declared that we are in the climate and environment emergency. You said this was an existential threat. Now you must prove that you mean it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: The new law is still waiting to be approved by the European Parliament as well as member states.

Still to come here, migrants are risking everything for the promise of a better life but that's not what they find when they reach the (INAUDIBLE) island. We'll have more on their mounting frustration in just a moment.

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JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Nearly 95,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed since the disease first surfaced in December. A sheer volume of patients is straining resources around the world. CNN's Christiane Amanpour has our report.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: A worldwide shortage of protective equipment is hampering the response to the coronavirus outbreak and leaving countries scrambling to prepare for public health emergencies. Rapidly depleting supplies of goggles, gloves and masks have left doctors and nurses dangerously ill-equipped according to a new warning from the WHO, the World Health Organization.

China announced to further drop in new cases raising hopes that the outbreak is beginning to level off there, the hardest-hit country and where it erupted. But across Asia, the number of confirmed infections continues to grow. In South Korea, where a spike was recorded, authorities of battling the contagion with technology. A GPS based app is expected to monitor thousands of people under quarantine and set off an alarm if they leave their designated locations.

Iran, one of the worst effects countries will activate a 300,000 strong team of healthcare workers after reporting more than 90 deaths from the virus including an advisor to the Supreme Leader. An outbreak of the virus in Iran's prisons prompted the temporary release of more than 54,000 inmates, including the British Iranian Nazanin Ratcliffe. And the country's parliament has been suspended until further notice after some 23 lawmakers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Across Europe, authorities are taking early precautions to stop person to person transmission, and several governments have banned large scale gatherings and have closed some public places. Italy announced a significant increase in its death toll, and most of them living in the north of the country.

The disease and its knock-on effects of rattled markets all over the world. And a sudden interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday was designed to stimulate the economy and could be followed by similar actions from other countries.

As the developing nations grappling with their public health response, the World Bank has now committed $12 billion in aid. Christiane Amanpour, CNN, London.

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VAUSE: When it comes to deadly outbreaks of infectious diseases, nothing comes close to the Black Death in terms of numbers killed and chaos caused, also known as the plague, the great plague, the black plague, and the pestilence. In just five years between 1346 and 1351, half of Europe's population was wiped out. The plague is believed to originate from Hubei province, yes in China, then traveled westward along the famous Silk Road trading route.

Within a few years, it reached Persia, what's known as Iran today, and then to Europe by Italy's port of Genoa. This is the modern-day version of the Silk Road. It's called One Belt, One Road and as it had sort of happens, the coronavirus is taking a very familiar path from Wuhan where was first detected and also a capital Hubei province to the rest of the world. And instead of years, it's happening in days or weeks. Again, Iran and Italy are waypoints for the outbreak.

This is not to say the coronavirus is expected to wipe out half the population of Europe, like the plague, but there are lessons from history which are relevant today. And joining us now from Annapolis in Maryland is medical historian Merle Eisenberg. So, Merle, thanks for being with us and clarifying a few points here.

MERLE EISENBERG, MEDICAL HISTORIAN: Thanks for having me.

VAUSE: We're looking at a situation where there are some coincidence here. Some have described the One Belt One Road initiative, this multi-billion dollar investment by China you know, building roads and rail and ports as a perfect pandemic freeway for the coronavirus. So you know, during previous outbreaks like SARS and MERS, there wasn't this little level of connectivity. Is this one of the reasons why the virus is spreading so quickly to other countries, and also notably, why most cases globally still have some kind of direct link to China, not a lot of community transmission?

EISENBERG: Yes. I mean, it's one thing to say -- you know, drawing on my expertise here at the National Social Environmental Synthesis Center -- it's one thing we need to think about is how global connectivity works more broadly. So, you know in the past as you discussed with the Black Death, the transmission routes were very similar, right?

People follow the same routes over the same -- over the same roads, the same mountain passes, as they've always done. So global trade has always been a way in which both in the past and today, disease outbreaks have spread. So, you know, it's not surprising that it's working in many ways the same way.

[02:35:25]

VAUSE: What is surprising is that you know, the virus spreads a lot of busy trading route, whether it's the 21st century or the 14th century. It does seem surprising that both outbreaks emerged from Hubei province in China. And that does sort of lead to almost like a paranoia of outbreaks that you know, something deadly and mysterious and the horrible coming our way and that's almost sort of a creation of how we look at these things these days, right?

EISENBERG: Yes. I mean, that's very much true, right? You talked about the Black Death, right? Whenever we think about the plague, right, most of it with a capital T and a capital P with scarecrows around it, right? We always think about it in that way in this catastrophe. But in fact, there's two other large outbreaks of plague over the course of history. One happens 800 years before the Black Death in the sixth century. And one happens around the year 1900, around the turn of the 20th century. And both of those actually are quite different. They're both spread very far, but their impact is significantly less, I would suggest.

And if you look at, say, the early 20th, century one, right? In some places, it killed a lot of people in South Asia but somewhere like San Francisco, for example, there was five years of an outbreak and only 120 people died. And for those 120 people, it was obviously terrible and a devastating event, but that's a very small number, obviously, when you compare that to say, half the population of Europe.

VAUSE: I wonder if still get to the conclusion then that you know, historical comparisons can only take you so far, because these outbreaks seem to have their own individuality each time.

EISENBERG: Yes. You know, that's exactly right. I mean, you have to think about the locality in which things are happening and how governments react to them, both in the past and in the present, right. We see that today in different countries around the world. Different governments are pursuing different measures to stop the coronavirus.

And just in the past as well, you know, with obviously some more limited ways to do it, but certainly around the year 1900 people, you know, did the whole Greek rat-catching endeavors to catch all the rats that supposedly spread the plague. So that was successful in some places, and in some places, it was not. But there's a whole host of local places that really matter how we address these issues.

VAUSE: And very quickly, explain sort of the historical parallels between Iran and Italy both have a significant role in the spread of the plague, and also in the spread of the coronavirus.

EISENBERG: Sure. I mean, that has to do with, you know, geographic positions, more than anything else. In the medieval period, Italy is a strong center of commercial trade. And so they have trade networks throughout the Mediterranean that reach all the way into Central Asia, like Iran and stuff like that. And so that's where you have that direct connection to Genoa, another Italian cities.

And it's, you know, something similar. It's a geographic positioning where trade goods simply have to move across the earth.

VAUSE: Good point. Merle, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

EISENBERG: My pleasure. Thank you so much.

VAUSE: CNN is hosting a Global Town Hall on the facts and fears about the coronavirus, Thursday night 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time in the U.S., Friday morning 11:00 a.m. in Hong Kong only here on CNN. Over three years, Turkey has kept almost four million refugees mostly from Syria from crossing into Europe. But now the gates are open in creating a crisis on their border with Greece. Thousands of migrants have gathered there hoping ultimately to reach parts of Europe. Greek authorities have used tear gas and water cannon to prevent the

refugees from crossing. Turkey opened the border as leverage. Ankara wants more support from the E.U. with its military offensive in Syria, especially after at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in fighting between Russian backed forces.

The E.U. is proposing a border intervention program and is offering more money for humanitarian aid. Now, many of the migrants who leave Turkey by sea end up on the Greek island of Lesbos, and Phil Black is there. And this is one of those moments, Phil, when desperation and political games and absolute cruelty all combined and thousands of innocent people are victims again.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, John. That's right. And even before Turkey announced this recent decision to allow migrants to cross into Europe. This region of Greece, the Eastern Aegean was -- is at breaking point, and that's because of the pressure that has come with being the front line of Europe's migration crisis for the past five years.

Hundreds of thousands of people have crossed this way over that time. And while the numbers diminished for a while, they never stopped. And indeed, over the last six months, there has been a consistent surge, which means the migrant population here is already very large. Over just a handful of islands, there are 40,000 migrants being kept in facilities designed to accommodate 6,000.

What that means is that everyone is angry, frustrated, and out of patience. People are literally furious from the locals who want their own London their way as a way of life back to the migrants who have been kept in conditions considered to be among the very worst in Europe. We've been watching these tensions bubble over here on the streets of Lesbos. Take a look.

[02:40:15]

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BLACK: These people are cold, exhausted, and deeply relieved. They're all Afghan, mostly families and children traveling alone, who recently crossed that stretch of water from Turkey in a small boat during the night.

It's scary, right? Are you scared?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are shouting. The water is up and down.

BLACK: That danger is behind them, but their suffering doesn't end on this shoreline. This is where most migrants on Lesbos must stay, the now sprawling Moria Camp. Designed for touch over 2,000 people, the current population is 18,000.

Most live among olive trees in handmade shelters without running water, sanitation, electricity. It's a slum. It is no place for a newborn, no place for three week old Adrian to start his life. Moria no good, they chant. The migrants want out of the camp and off the island to catch a ferry to mainland Greece. The police won't let them.

They're especially fired up. There's a rumor a few migrants were allowed to border ferry to Athens the day before. When clubs fail to come the police try words.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the cameraman please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just go.

BLACK: So this is the friction on the island of Lesbos. On one hand, the migrants who hate where they live who say that Moria is not good, and then on the other hand, the authorities, the people Lesbos who believe their quality of life has suffered dearly because of all of this and they just want it to end.

After five years and hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving on Lesbos and nearby island, Greek frustration is turning violent as well. This U.N. facility was torched on Sunday night. Aid workers say they're now frequently targeted by angry locals, because they're helping the migrants.

BORIS CHESHIRKOV, SPOKESMAN, UNHCR GREECE: There have been intimidating acts, violent acts against humanitarian workers, against refugees that are arriving on the shores, but also against journalists.

BLACK: We hear about a gathering on a dark empty patch of land by the coast road where migrants walk to and from the camp. There we find a plainclothes police officer watching dozens of local people. Some carry sticks, cover their faces. They scream furiously and has not come near them. Cars have been attacked.

This man who gives his name is Tony and insists on staying hidden, tells us the meeting is for people who are worried about the situation on the island.

I mean, the violence against the NGOs, the aid workers. Is that OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's not. We're all humans.

BLACK: But you know -- you know some people do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some. Maybe some people do.

BLACK: There is tension everywhere on Lesbos, among Greeks who feel abandoned and trapped in an endless crisis they didn't create. And with the many migrants, living in squalor, hopelessly watching fairies come and go every day, all want the same thing, a chance at a better future.

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BLACK: So far, the consequences of Turkey's shift in policy allowing migrants to cross its borders once again, has been most visible at its land border with Greece. But the concern here is that if the boats start coming in big numbers, then it's already vulnerable, toxic, environments, could very quickly become explosive. John?

VAUSE: And very quickly, Phil. So, if we look at the numbers at this early stage, it sounds -- it seems like it's a trickle rather than a flood. I guess if this continues, and if Turkey allows those borders to remain open, is there a timeframe when they're looking at you know, these great numbers coming in, just keep coming and coming and coming?

BLACK: Yes. Well, it all depends upon a couple of different factors. Whether or not Turkey allows its freedom at the land borders to exist among the people-smuggling operations that had been taking people across the water here to the Eastern Aegean as well. We don't know if the Turkish authorities are going to allow those operations to function as they once did at the very height of the migration crisis.

What we saw at the weekend was a definite surge, more than 1000 people in just a few days, the highest number of arrivals in a long time. Since then, the weather conditions haven't been conducive to those sorts of crossings, so we don't know if that initial surge was a blip or if once the things come down and particularly once we move into the spring-summer months, that is going to simply, well, take off in the way that it once did before. That's what the authorities here are worried about. That is what they are looking for.

And from the position of the Greek government, well, they accuse turkey of weaponizing migrants in this way by deliberately exporting chaos and instability. But as I've been saying, the worry here is that there already is chaos. It is already a highly destabilized situation. There are simply too many migrants in an environment that has had to cope with them for too long, and emotions are already running very high, John.

[02:45:37]

VAUSE: It is such a difficult story and it is important to remember that you know, people, families, moms, dads, kids are caught in the middle. Phil, thank you. Great report. I appreciate it. Time is running out for Nathaniel Woods. He faces execution even though someone else confessed to the crime.

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VAUSE: On March 11th, CNN will partner with young people around the world for day of action against modern-day slavery. So this year's My Freedom Day, we're asking What does freedom mean to you? He's what Basketball Legend Charles Barkley had to say.

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CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I am Charles Barkley. What does freedom mean to me? Living in the greatest country in the world, being able to say whatever you want to, just be a good person, but being part of the solution, not part of the problem. That's what freedom means to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAUSE: Well, tell the world what freedom means to you. Share your story on social media using the #MyFreedomDay. In the United States, a man is scheduled to be executed by a lethal injection in a few hours for a murder he says he did not commit. Nathaniel Woods was convicted of killing three police officers even though he never pulled the trigger. Here's CNN's Martin Savidge.

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MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a fact no one disputes. Alabama is about to execute 44-year-old Nathaniel Woods for the murders of three police officers he did not kill. June 17, 2004, three Birmingham police officers are gunned down attempting to serve a misdemeanor warrant on Woods at home in the city's West Side. Woods had surrendered to police when another man in the house Carrie Spencer open fire with an assault rifle, killing officers Charles Bennett, Carlos Owen and Harley Chisholm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never in my life have I ever imagined going to three funerals in two days and feeling the pain and hurt that we've all experienced.

SAVIDGE: The shocking murders left a city grieving. Spencer confessed to the shootings and said soon after his arrest that he had acted alone. He was convicted of the murders and sits on Alabama's death row. But for prosecutors, one conviction wasn't enough. They charged woods with three counts of capital murder, accusing him of conspiring or being complicit in the killing of the officers.

[02:50:02]

LAUREN FARAINO, ATTORNEY OF NATHANIEL WOODS: In order for a person to be convicted on complicity, they have to be involved in a plan or a scheme to kill.

SAVIDGE: Prosecutors allege a calculating Woods intentionally lured the officers into the home where Spencer was waiting.

FARAINO: Absolutely not. He was terrified when they came into the house.

SAVIDGE: Woods was found guilty. And even though he hadn't fired a single shot, he was sentenced to death.

PAMELA WOODS, SISTER OF NATHANIEL WOODS: He thought it was the craziest thing in the world. He's like, how, how -- you know he didn't do anything wrong?

SAVIDGE: How much do you think race played a role in this case?

FARAINO: I think it did play a role. I mean, I think that if you look at the victims, it's three white officers, and if you look at the people who are sitting on death row, it's two black men.

SAVIDGE: Woods' current defense team says his conviction was just one of many legal wrongs, including years of bungled appeals by other attorneys. Now down to his final hours, Woods' family believes their only hope is for the public to convince Alabama's governor that killing a man who killed no one is wrong.

WOODS: I love my brother. People need to know about this.

SAVIDGE: We wanted to know what the families of the murdered police officers thought of Woods. We reached two of them who said they either couldn't or wouldn't talk to us. But in a local radio interview last year, the granddaughter of officer Carlos Owen reflected on his loss and the hole its left in all their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I remember how special he used to make each of his grandkids feel. That was something that he was so good at, making others feel loved and special.

SAVIDGE: What would you say to the families of the officers who died?

FARAINO: We are deeply, deeply sorry for what happened that day. But the murderer of their family members is sitting on death row. He has confessed. He has been punished. They don't need an innocent man's blood as well.

SAVIDGE: Martin Savidge, CNN Birmingham, Alabama.

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VAUSE: And CNN NEWSROOM continues right after this.

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VAUSE: There was a time when Libya leader Muammar Gaddafi had an all- woman guard for his personal protection. And after the Super Tuesday, it seems Joe Biden has one as well. Here's Jeanne Moos.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Like a lioness protecting our cobs, Jill Biden, got between her husband and an animal rights protester. And seconds after that, a demonstrator was hustled away, another popped on stage. This time Joe Biden was hands-on pushing back. No penalty for holding and this key block.

Read one tweet, if any NFL teams are scouting for a right guard Jill Biden is available. Though the takedown was performed by Biden Senior Advisor Symone Sanders who wrapped her arms around the demonstrator. That's Symone in the striped jacket dragging the woman off the stage and later tweeting, I broke a nail. Evidently a long nail, a small price to pay.

One Web site added a sport soundtrack. Jill Biden was proposed for Secretary of Defense. Just last month, she pushed back on a male heckler headed for husband as the crowd chanted to drown out the protest. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got to protect those you love, right?

MOOS: Back when Kamala Harris was still in the race --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, hey, hey.

MOOS: A moveon.org moderator stood up to a protester.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much, sir, for your big idea. Kamala's husband rushed on stage to help. His protective juices flowing captured in this photo. Now it's Joe Biden's spouse being celebrated as Wonder Woman, and senior aide Symone Sanders --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She reminded me of Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard.

MOOS: Kevin Costner took a bullet for Whitney Houston while Joe was playfully nibbled on Jill's fingers when she waved her hand to close for comfort. Better guard her body, Joe. She needs those fingers to protect you. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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VAUSE: CNN NEWSROOM continues with me. Stay with us. I'll be back in a moment.

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