Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR

Trump to Visit CDC After Saying He Wouldn't Earlier; In CNN Townhall, Dr. Anthony Fauci Spoke about Lack of Coronavirus Testing Kits; Trump on Outbreak: "We Closed It Down & Stopped It"; Thousands in Limbo on Cruise Ship Awaiting Coronavirus Test Results; Families of Washington Nursing Home Patients Demand Answers; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) discusses Trump Administration Coronavirus Response, House Oversight Hearing with CDC & HHS. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 6, 2020 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: You heard it moments ago, the president's trip to the CDC in Atlanta, the focus here, the one organization in charge of the response to the coronavirus, is back on. We will bring you his comments there, his visit as it happens.

Thanks so much for joining me today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

We begin with a new picture of the scale and the scope of the coronavirus outbreak right now. A new report from Johns Hopkins saying that more than 100,000 people are now infected worldwide.

And the World Health Organization stepping up its call to action for countries around the globe, warning, quote, "This is not a drill."

Here in the United States, the administration's response to the outbreak is causing confusion once again after the White House announced that President Trump was canceling his visit today to the CDC for one reason and then another. The visit is now back on.

CNN's John Harwood sat the White House. Let's start right there.

John, bring us up to date. What exactly is happening there?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, yesterday, Vice President Pence said the president was going to be signing the $8 billion emergency supplemental spending bill for coronavirus that was passed by Congress yesterday at the CDC in Atlanta. It was on the president's schedule.

Then, this morning, we learned it was off the schedule. The White House put out a statement saying the president did not want to interfere with the work of the CDC, that they have been proactive, that they were on top of it, he was going to stay away. And then, we had a photo opportunity with the president when he signed

that legislation that, in the White House, that he was supposed to sign in Atlanta. And I asked him why he wasn't going to the CDC. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was -- they thought there was a problem at CDC, that somebody that had the virus. It turned out negative, so we're seeing if we can do it.

But yesterday afternoon, we were informed that there may have been a person with the virus and they now find out that that was negative test. They have tested the person very fully and it was a negative test. So I may be going. We're going to see if they can turn it around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARWOOD: And now, as the president suggested, that trip to the CDC is back on the president's schedule, Kate. He will be there mid- afternoon.

BOLDUAN: All right, John. Let's see what happens next.

One of the biggest questions -- appreciate it John. One of the biggest concerns has been and still is that there aren't enough testing kits, aren't enough tests to meet the demand in the United States.

During a CNN town hall, last night, one of the top medical experts responding to this crisis, Dr. Anthony Fauci, he talked about that. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We've heard from the vice president recently that we want to make sure people who want to get tested can get tested. People who have concerns, can get tested. At the same time, we hear that there are not enough tests to go around. What are we supposed to take away from that?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Sanjay, you're right. It is unfortunate it got off to a slow start. There was some missteps with regard to the CDC's test. They had a problem. They fixed the problem.

Now, by the end of the week, they should be able to get out about 75,000 tests. They have now partnered with the private sector, so that everything doesn't have to come from the CDC, which generally makes tests for the public health segment.

When you get the commercial segment that can then make millions and millions of tests, what you're going to see in the reasonable future is the dramatic escalation in the number of tests that will be available.

But you're absolutely right. Up to this point, there has been a lag in the ability to get tested.

GUPTA: Can we follow up on that, in terms of the -- you said by the end of the week, do you mean like tomorrow or Sunday? And how many tests you say will be out there, available by then?

FAUCI: Well, what they are telling us, what the CDC and the FDA is saying, that by the end of the week, the beginning of next week, they should be able to get 75,000 tests out there. And by the following week, they can get up to a million tests out there. That's the plan. That's what we're hearing.

GUPTA: I don't want to belabor this. I know you answered this a lot. But how many tests are we going to need, Dr. Fauci? You heard from South Korea, over 100,000 tests have been performed. How do we really get an idea of what has happened here in the states, how widespread this is?

FAUCI: You know, Sanjay, you and I have discussed that in the past. And I've been an advocate of much more proactive testing. Not only testing when physicians ask for a test but testing to determine where we are and what level is under the radar.

And for that reason, we're going to need millions and millions and millions of tests. That's what I feel and that's what many of my colleagues feel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:05:02]

BOLDUAN: Quick turnaround. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is here with me now.

Thanks for being with me, Sanjay.

GUPTA: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: So a fascinating and important and informative town hall last night.

But then, just this morning, now we have more to discuss.

GUPTA: Yes.

BOLDUAN: The president speaking in just the last hour. What is your sense what the administration's response, take on this whole situation is at this point?

GUPTA: It is interesting because Dr. Fauci clearly is saying, he has said this before, that there was a little bit of a split between what he was recommending and what was done.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

GUPTA: That's really important. Since the beginning, he's wanted more widespread testing. That was not done. Instead, there was a lot of sort of focus on the president and what he did with regard to -- trying to stop this outbreak by quarantines and things like that.

In the federal bill he signed into law this morning, he did address that. Let's listen carefully and I'll tell you about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I heard about it. We made a good move. We closed it down. We stopped it. Otherwise, the head of CDC said last night you would have had thousands of more problems if we didn't shut it down -- that was a very early shutdown, which is something we got right.

We have very low numbers compared to major countries throughout the world. Our numbers are lower than just about anybody. And in terms of deaths, I don't know what the count is, 11, 11 people. And in terms of cases, it is very, very few. When you look at other countries, it is a tiny fraction. Because we have been very strong at the borders.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: Kate, you know, he says he stopped it. The actions they took stopped it. Sadly, that's not true. Every day we sat down --

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: -- the numbers continue to grow.

The other thing is he says we have really low numbers compared to the rest of the world. We don't know that because we haven't tested. And just, you know, I know we talk about this a lot, but in South Kora, they tested close to 150,000 people. In the United States we tested close to 1500 by the CDC. It is a magnitude of order difference.

BOLDUAN: Is there a reason -- I've been getting this a lot -- of why is there such a difference that South Korea seems more prepared than the United States?

GUPTA: I don't know. And there's some -- I heard everything from the initial tests were flawed, therefore --

BOLDUAN: Right.

GUPTA: -- they couldn't scale those tests up, to the testing criteria were too narrow.

Also, I heard some suggestions that, look, it would be better not to test so much because it would lead to this inflation of numbers, which would cause panic. Unfortunately, we need to know the numbers. It a basic pillar of public health.

I don't know. But the fact of the matter is we -- our public health system is great in so many ways. With regard to the primary pillar of public health, surveillance, we're in the bottom tier of the world now with this. And that's too bad because we just don't simply know what we're dealing with now.

BOLDUAN: We're seeing the real fallout of it and result of this right now.

GUPTA: Yes.

BOLDUAN: You also heard, as John Harwood was reporting, the president explaining his reasoning for why they had canceled his trip to the CDC over a concern of a potential positive test of coronavirus at the CDC.

You think that -- beyond the fact that the White House's statement was different from one hour to the next, you think that acknowledgement and admission is significant. Why?

GUPTA: I think this is a -- this is one of the most remarkable things I've heard. I'll tell you why. Look, they made a decision, sounds like it, IF what we're hearing now is true, that because someone at the CDC had potentially tested positive for the coronavirus, they were no longer going to allow the president of the United States into the CDC.

We have a virus that is circulating around the country. For example, we know he's going to Florida next.

BOLDUAN: Right.

GUPTA: We know there are cases down in Florida. Are we now in this era of time where, because he's the president, they're going to -- they're going to require testing around him? Maybe even testing of the president to determine if this virus is actually circulating somewhere close to him or infected him?

I don't know. I never heard of something quite like that before having covered H1N1 and SARS and H5N1 and Ebola and all that.

BOLDUAN: Right.

GUPTA: This might be a new era. This is something very hard to detect, obviously. It lies in your body. You can be asymptomatic and still transmit it. How are they going to handle this?

It sounds like they made a decision, according to what the president said, in consultation with the Secret Service, if someone had been positive in the CDC building, that the president of the United States, would not allow him to go there?

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: Is that going to be something going forward now for all of his visits? What is it going to mean for how he's going to conduct his affairs and his business?

BOLDUAN: Yes. How do they apply that standard if it is applied equally and have him -- and have him do his job?

GUPTA: Yes.

BOLDUAN: You know what you also need more of?

GUPTA: Testing. Testing. BOLDUAN: Testing. This gets back to testing. Yet again, if you're going to apply that standard to anything.

GUPTA: It all comes back to testing.

BOLDUAN: Honestly.

Thank you, Sanjay.

GUPTA: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you.

GUPTA: You, too.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

So off the coast of California, passengers and crew are still stuck on a cruise ship, waiting to hear what happens next for them. They're also waiting for test results to see if there are any positive cases of coronavirus on board, leaving hundreds and hundreds of passenger and crew in limbo.

CNN's Dan Simon is in San Francisco. He's been following this. He's here with us now.

Dan, what is the latest there?

[11:10:11]

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. The ship remains parked off the coast of San Francisco. We don't know when it might move. We're waiting for clarity in terms of the tests. Will anything come back? Is there coronavirus on the ship or not? Perhaps we'll get an answer to that in the next couple of hours.

I've been communicating with passengers with text messages. I've been talking to them as well. And obviously, a whole range of emotions, but the atmosphere is pretty tense.

And that really happened when the captain made an announcement, unexpectedly, yesterday afternoon. He came over the loudspeaker and said that everybody had to go to their state rooms and can't leave.

This is part of what the captain said over the speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARD PERRIN, CAPTAIN, "GRAND PRINCESS" CRUISE SHIP (voice-over): We're in discussions with the CDC regarding allowing guests to access the deck for fresh air and exercise. We're working to have more details to share with you tomorrow.

As you are now aware, we did not offer dining service this evening. (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: With those passengers isolated in their rooms, they can't even leave to go get something to eat. Everything now is being handled by room service.

The problem, Kate, is I got a text message from a passenger last night who said she couldn't reach room service. Nobody was picking up. Which goes to show you how overwhelmed the staff might be.

And at this point, you know, people are just really anxious. They want to know when they'll be able to leave the ship, when the ship might come to the terminal. And right now, those questions just remain unanswered -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: It just continue to mount.

Thank you, Dan. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us, the families of patients at the Washington State nursing home that has been at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak out west, they say they have been left in the dark and they want answers. Details on that next.

Also later, Bernie Sanders, he shifts his focus from the south to further north, canceling a trip to Mississippi to rally in Michigan. How critical is a win there for Sanders at this point?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:33]

BOLDUAN: There are cases of coronavirus now in 20 states. And Washington State has the most. And also the largest number of deaths related to the coronavirus, now standing at 13.

More than half of those deaths are connected to one nursing home in suburban Seattle that we have talked so much about. And family members there are now demanding answers, saying that the facility is not giving them enough information about their loved ones.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live outside and she's joining us now.

Stephanie, what are you hearing from the families of people with loved ones in the facility?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, overall, people here feel like the system is just overwhelmed. They feel like the workers at Life Care Center of Kirkland, where their family members are -- and some of them have lost family members already -- but they're overwhelmed with what they need to do and the task at hand in getting the testing done.

It is still not clear if everyone has been tested that the point. There seems to be not enough tests here in the state overall. We checked in with the health department of Seattle and King County. All this frustrating people. In fact, take a listen to Pat Harrick,

whose mother passed away early Thursday morning and she got a call mid-Thursday morning telling her that her mom was stable. She's frustrated. And also Kevin Connolly, whose father-in-law is here, and he's frustrated with the overall process of getting answers.

Take a listen to both of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT HARRICK, MOTHER DIED THURSDAY AT LIFE CARE CENTER: I want her body tested. And I've been told, well, we don't do that. We just have to assume it is natural causes. And so I'm saying, it is not OK. I need to have her tested. For the larger picture.

KEVIN CONNOLLY, FATHER-IN-LAW A PATIENT AT LIFE CARE CENTER: If they have time to call press conferences, if these people have time to answer your questions, why don't they have time to answer our questions? And I -- it is too late for a lot of families here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELAM: The other issue that is weighing on these families, keep in mind, a lot of these people that are staying here, who are residents of this facility have dementia, and so they don't really know what's going on and don't understand why their family members have stopped visiting them.

I talked to another woman whose mother is here in this facility, and she is now concerned about both of her parents. Her mom seems to be fine, but her dad, who would visit her often, now seems to have symptoMs. Her brother has also contracted the coronavirus.

So they are very concerned about their loved ones being in this situation, and then not having their family members by them while they may be at the end of their life. That's upsetting for so many of these families right now as you can understand -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That is tragic.

Stephanie, thank you for being there.

Let me talk more about the outbreak, the government's response, and also the role of Congress here now and going forward. Joining me is Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, of Illinois.

Thank you for coming in.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you first about the White House, the White House response. Other than it seems that the White House was lying, it seems, about why they first announced it, why they first canceled the president's trip to the CDC, we now know that is now back on.

Have you heard anything about what the president was talking about this morning when he said that there's a possible positive case of coronavirus at the CDC?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: No. We don't have any further information.

And I have to say that one of the reasons why my subcommittee and our Oversight Committee is convening a hearing into this very issue of COVID-19 next Tuesday is because of the lack of transparency of information with this administration.

[11:20:00]

I'll give you one example. You know, on the CDC Web site, they were listing the number of tests that were being conducted nationwide for COVID-19. But then, suddenly, those numbers were removed from the Web site.

And it appears that the White House is trying to prevent the public from knowing the full scale of the outbreak, perhaps for political reasons and others.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISHNAMOORTHI: But that's exactly the wrong response.

BOLDUAN: Well, it seems they were saying it was hard to keep up and keep it accurate with -- but I gather they -- you don't find that an acceptable answer.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: No. Absolutely not.

You know, another thing that they refused to do is to explain exactly where the cases are. This is extremely important for public and state health authorities. Because they need to know as they get prepared to be able to test and treat people.

They don't want to tell where the -- tell us where the confirmed cases are. They don't want to tell us the number of tests that have been conducted. They don't want to tell us how many people are presumptively positive for COVID-19. And this is deeply disturbing.

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this. As you mentioned, your committee -- your committee, the Oversight Committee will be holding a hearing. You have a lot of questions.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes.

BOLDUAN: As this crisis is literally still unfolding, and there's clearly a lack of information and a need for more testing and more data, that is paramount.

What can you say to folks that will give them any confidence that Congress holding another hearing about it is going to get them a tangible answer come next week?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: That's a good question that they should be asking. And the reason why we're having this hearing is to bring some sunshine as to the answers to some critical questions. I think that when the CDC, the HHS, and FDA have officials there, and

they're having to testify under oath as to what the answers are, at the least it gives state and local authorities more information than they had before.

And it obviously sends a signal to the administration and others that the public is going to continue to demand answers through Congress.

There are a couple of other subjects, however, that we are also going to be grilling these folks about. One is we're learning that uninsured and underinsured patients may be discouraged from being tested and treated.

Just the other day, someone in Florida went to get tested. Thankfully, he came back negative for COVID-19. But he was handed a bill for $3,270. This type of bill is going to discourage others from getting tested. And then they'll get sicker --

(CROSSTALK)

KRISHNAMOORTHI: -- and the rest of us are at risk.

BOLDUAN: Right, Congressman?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Isn't that something that could have been inserted into the $8 billion of emergency funding the president just signed?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes. And I'm hopeful that state and local health authorities will use a portion of their funding for those purposes.

And then the last piece of this that people also need to be aware of is that, you know, this whole testing issue is so -- has been so botched, that we're really concerned that folks are in the going to be tested in the numbers that we need.

In China, they're testing people at the rate of 10,000 a day. And here there are reports we conducted no more than 500 tests total across the country.

BOLDUAN: So the --

KRISHNAMOORTHI: That's absolutely unacceptable.

BOLDUAN: -- the HHS secretary said this morning they are ramping up sending out the test kits. There's going to be, he says, as many as four million tests available next week.

Do you trust the number? Do you applaud that they have ramped up where there clearly was a deficiency in getting tests out originally?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I'm glad they're ramping up the number of testing kits that are being sent out.

But making claims that four million tests are going to be able to be conducted when the numbers just aren't adding up, and we don't have information that would otherwise justify those numbers.

I think it is yet another of the types of irresponsible claims and statements that do two things. One, they undermine public confidence, which could lead to panic. We see the stock market gyrating up and down, in part, because of statements like that.

And then, two, some people might actually believe the administration when they make certain statements that are just plainly incorrect, like the president saying that it is OK to go to work with coronavirus. That type of statement would really cause the acceleration and the spread of the virus, not stopping it, which is what we need right now.

BOLDUAN: Yes, well, more information, regardless if it scares people, it doesn't matter, more information is required in order to stop what is a public health crisis that the country and the world is currently facing.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: That's absolutely right.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, thank you for coming in. Looking forward to seeing what happens next week.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Absolutely. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Seriously.

[11:25:01]

Coming up --

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: -- Michigan is the next big battleground for Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in the race for 2020. Could that state be do or die for both campaigns?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:09]

BOLDUAN: Forget Super Tuesday, friends.