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Trump Signs $8.3 Coronavirus Spending Bill As Infections Spread; Presidential Candidates Joe Biden And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I- VT) Head For Showdown After Warren Drops Out; Trump On Outbreak, We're Doing Well, But It's An Unforeseen Problem. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 6, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


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[10:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. Poppy Harlow is off today. The president has now signed an $8.3 billion coronavirus spending bill earlier passed by bipartisan majorities in Congress. And as he did, he explained why the White House scrapped his trip to the CDC today.

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DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: They thought there was a problem at CDC, somebody 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 be a person with symptoms with the virus, and they now find out that that was negative test. They 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)

SCIUTTO: the president and his administration are facing criticism over their preparations, response to the outbreak, example, shortage of test kits amid of a growing number of cases nationwide. The numbers now stand at 230 cases in 20 states here in the U.S. But, of course, the concern is as you test millions of people that that number, the experts say, certainly will rise.

Let's go live to the White House with CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood. So, first of all, it's interesting, because it shows, does it not, the extent of the spread or this concern about the spread of coronavirus and if the president is going to go to the CDC, the organization at the center of responding to this, and the concern was it might have spread into that building. But now, relief, I suppose, that that test came back negative. So will the president be going to Atlanta today.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It looks like they're going to scramble to put that trip back on the calendar. It's a confusing sequence, Jim. Because yesterday, as you know, Vice President Pence indicated the president would be signing the emergency Congressional supplemental spending bill with $8 billion to respond to coronavirus at the CDC. And instead they put out a statement saying, no, he doesn't want to interfere with their work.

And then when he -- they summoned us reporters into the diplomatic room for him to sign the legislation, the first thing I asked him was, why aren't you going to Atlanta? And that's when he came out and said, well, it is because this one high level person was thought to possibly have coronavirus, they found out that was negative, and now he's going. Obviously they're scrambling on the messaging.

Vice President Pence also said yesterday, as you noted, that they were way behind on test kits. Alex Azar, the HHS secretary, who was supplemented by Vice President Pence, as the lead response coordinator for the White House, came out and said, no, no, we're right on schedule, more than a million will be out and distributed this week, several million more next week. So this is a fast changing situation, the administration has been behind in some respects and they're trying to get their messaging on the same page right now.

SCIUTTO: John Harwood, Thanks very much.

Let's turn now to one particular problem here, that is the shortage of test kits for the coronavirus, as John referenced there, the vice president granting that yesterday. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me now.

You heard a lot of claims from the president there as he signed the bill, one being that we closed it down, we stopped it, speaking of his administration, in terms of the response. What -- he made a number of claims there. What did you hear that was important and were those accurate statements?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There were a few things that really jumped out there. He did say several things. This idea that it has been stopped in this country is obviously not true. The number of patients who have been infected, the number does continue to grow even without the adequate testing, we now know there has been two cases now that have been diagnosed in Pennsylvania, for example, so as you mentioned, 20 states, 230 people. And we really don't have an idea of the surveillance.

The other thing the president said, sort of dovetailing off this, is that the numbers here in the United States are among the lowest in the world or are the lowest in the world, I believe, is what he said. We don't know that. Again, because we have not been testing this. And just to give you some frame of reference for that, we talked about this before, Jim, but the CDC has tested around 1,500 people, 1,500. In South Korea, for example, they've tested more than 100,000. So, you know, it is a completely -- it is a magnitude of difference in terms of actually knowing what we're dealing with here in this country.

One thing I want to point out, and I think this is really important, you've talked about this, Jim, but as we test more, we're definitely going to find more people that have this. But as we find more people that have this, many of whom are not -- not ill, not really maybe having much in the way of symptoms, that fatality rate, which people have learned so much about over these past few weeks will start to drop.

[10:05:09]

In South Korea, I just mentioned, over 100,000 tests, I just did some quick calculations here, Jim, fatality rate there is about about 0.6 percent. So as we find more cases, part of the good news is that fatality rate does drop. I expect that to happen here as well.

SCIUTTO: No question. Here's the question though. As you test more and you discover more cases, here in the U.S., does the country have the resources necessary then to respond to those cases, to do things, such as, say, you're quarantined now, and to support people as they did, because that, of course, creates a whole host of follow-on problems, for instance, you're quarantined, you can't go to work, how do you take care of your kids? Is your kids' school closed, is the daycare closed, et cetera? Is the country prepared for those steps?

GUPTA: I don't think so. I mean, look, there are many people who do not have that option of staying home from work. That's just the truth. The number of emails and things I get on social media about that, saying, hey, you guys keep talking about quarantining and all that, that is not something that we can do.

So whether or not some of the relief from this package that was just signed would help defray the costs, hospital costs, would defray some of these homecare costs, whatever it might be, that's not clear as we sort of make our way through with this proposal is actually going to say.

So we do know that at least the test itself at this point is considered an essential health benefit. So that should be covered. We're not sure about the other things.

SCIUTTO: Listen, Pence was pressed on the question, would uninsured people be able to get tested for free as he was leaving the White House briefing room and did not answer that question. I imagine folks at home are thinking the same thing. Doctor --

GUPTA: If I could just say one more thing, Jim, yes, you know, you also heard the president said that because someone had tested positive at the CDC, that they may have scrapped the trip, maybe that person is not positive. Now, you heard that whole exchange, Jim. I think that was -- very interesting implications there as you think about this going forward. Are they going to be testing people that are in direct contact with the president on a regular basis?

We know there are cases in Georgia where the CDC is, we know there are cases in Florida where he's apparently going to be going after that. We're in a new era here in order to -- with regard to the safety of the president. How is that going to work? We don't have enough tests. Are people around the president now going to be tested on a regular basis? Is he going to be tested on some sort of regular basis? These are discussions that we have not had before and we may start to have based on what I heard this morning.

SCIUTTO: And we've seen in other countries, senior Iranian officials exposed, we have seen it in Europe, European government officials. This is going to be a question for whole categories of people in this country and not including the president.

Dr. Gupta, so great to have you on. We're going to keep doing that, folks, because I know you want to hear answers like you hear from Dr. Gupta about this. Be sure to check out Sanjay's new podcast, this is a great resource, Coronavirus, Fact versus Fiction. He's going to make sense of the headlines, he's going to give you information you need to keep yourself and your family safe. Check it out at CNN.com.

Right now, off the coast of California, more than 3,500 people on a cruise ship are waiting to hear the results of dozens of coronavirus tests. Those results are expected today. What happens then? They're being confined to their quarters as they wait.

On Thursday, the California Air National Guard used a helicopter to drop in those test kits. This is a precaution here, right? They don't want people having contact. This after officials learned that a passenger who was on that same ship two weeks ago had died from the virus.

Overnight, the number of cases in California rose to 49. Question is as you test more people, millions of people, perhaps, how high does that number go?

To Washington State now and the nursing home that is the deadliest place so far in the country from the virus. Dozens of cases there including at least seven deaths related to that facility. Family members are understandably demanding answers.

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CURTIS, MOM LIVES AT LIFE CARE CENTER: What I do blame now is the response from our government officials, when I was made aware of this Saturday afternoon on my way here to visit my mom, I assumed right away, okay, when I get here, there is going to be CDC trucks outside.

BONNIE HOLSTAD, HUSBAND AT LIFE CARE CENTER: I am fearful every single day that he may develop more symptoms. So help us get solutions for what to do with the people right now.

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SCIUTTO: With me now is Democratic Congresswoman from Washington State, Suzan DelBene. Congresswoman, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

REP. SUZAN DELBENE (D-WA): Thank you for having me.

SCIUTTO: So, first, let's start small picture because this nursing home in Kirkland is really one of the epicenters of this virus so far, with a lot of very vulnerable people, older people with immune questions, age issues, et cetera. They're asking for answers. So what can you tell people there and people affected by this there by what more we're learning?

[10:10:04]

DELBENE: They deserve answers. And that's why it is so important that we have federal, state and local officials all working together to address this issue. I talked to Vice President Pence about this earlier in the week, and then was with him yesterday, talking about the need for more testing, for more medical personnel, so that we have more staff who can help at the Life Care Center. Those resources are on the way both in terms of medical professionals to help take care of the residents there, as well as CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, coming in to see what is happening there and come up with any other solutions that they think would be helpful for that population.

SCIUTTO: Okay. A key question -- a key solution is testing, right, test kits. We heard the vice president admit that the U.S. does not have enough. Does Washington State have enough test kits to assess exactly how many people are exposed to this?

DELBENE: We need more. Part of the challenge is that things got started later, the test kits weren't available early enough. And so when we started to see folks with symptoms, they weren't being tested right away because they hadn't traveled. The guidelines have expanded, so that many people can be tested now. But we still need more test capability.

We have been ramping up quickly in our state, but we still can't do all the testing that we need to be able to do. So this is critically important issue. And we also raised that issue with the vice president and the head of the CDC.

SCIUTTO: So you're, of course, in a state that is already facing this and you've seen the numbers growing there. What happens after you test people and presumably, as the experts say, you're going to test more, you're going to find more, it is the nature of this virus, what do you do? Do you quarantine these people? Do you have the resources to do that, do you have the resources to treat them?

DELBENE: One thing we know and Ambassador Birx, Dr. Birx, who was part of the coronavirus task force, was also in Washington State yesterday. And she mentioned that we see a lot of transmission from folks who do not have symptoms yet or may have mild symptoms.

So part of the importance of testing is also so we can detect that as opposed to only see folks when they have severe symptoms. If we can detect earlier, hopefully do more in terms of containment, either self-quarantine or other measures, so we can stop the spread.

SCIUTTO: Final question --

DELBENE: I also want to add -- I also want to add the frontline has been our public health officials, our first responders, they are doing an incredible job, our healthcare workers, they have been fighting so hard and I just want to thank them for their work helping our entire community.

SCIUTTO: No question. They're the ones facing often the biggest risks. We have seen this in a number of countries and some have gotten sick themselves. Fair point. Congresswoman --

DELBENE: And we have supplemental funding to make sure we back fill those public health officials, the money they have already spent, they need resources. One of the things in the supplemental bill that the president just signed is money for our public health, local public health agencies, something I fought hard for, which will really help them do their job.

SCIUTTO: No question. It is the experts you need on the frontlines handling this. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

DELBENE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, we are just days away from Super Tuesday, the sequel. The biggest prize coming up next Tuesday, Michigan. Ahead, how that state is becoming the next Sanders versus Biden battleground. Who has a lead there?

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SCIUTTO: Super Tuesday, round two, just days away. Big prize there, Michigan, 125 delegates. Former Vice President Biden looking to keep up the momentum as Sanders nixes his trip to Mississippi to focus on Michigan.

Joining me now to discuss all this, CNN Political Commentator Paul Begala and A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor and Columnist for RealClearPolitics. Good morning to both of you.

Okay. So let's check in quickly on Biden and Sanders, the next big test, Paul Begala, Michigan here, who has the advantage?

PAUL BEGALA. CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Bernie won Michigan against Hillary. They call it Michigan miracle, and it was. He just did a terrific job. He's already signaling he's going to run hard on NAFTA there. Joe Biden supported NAFTA, totally a fair shot. But Biden, not only that he has momentum, he has two endorsements aside from Senator Warren that matter a ton, Jennifer Granholm, the current governor, Gretchen Whitmer, the current governor, they're not only wildly popular, they're exacrlt the vote he needs and, frankly, the voters that Elizabeth Warren got, college educated women. So that put Biden, and he may (ph).

Biden has a hell of a story to tell about saving the auto industry. Inside the Obama White House, he really was the person pushing hardest to step in and save the auto industry.

SCIUTTO: Yes, message that folks will often say Hillary Clinton did not take advantage of enough in 2016.

Okay. Elizabeth Warren is out, silent, but Bernie and Joe Biden both seeking her endorsement. Who are her supporters most likely to migrate to? A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REALCLEARLPOLITICS: Right. I that think you could see the progressive world react right away to all of the Wall Street checks and the Bloomberg money that Joe Biden started soaking up on Wednesday morning.

[10:20:01]

And they said, why don't we consolidate? Why doesn't Elizabeth Warren endorse Bernie and all her supporters come over and then we would have all this power? It doesn't stand to reason that actually all the Elizabeth Warren votes go to Bernie. A lot of them will go to Joe Biden. And so that's sort of a mystery. And her endorsement, I think, will never go to Bernie Sanders.

So I think it's clear she might not endorse Biden. She didn't endorse him in 2016, she wants to be a player, she's saying that -- he basically called her a liar on television, she is not pleased, and I think she leaked that information intentionally at one point to gain an advantage over him. She doesn't like -- she was open about it, his online supporters harassing hers. And I think if she wants to be relevant, she's going to jump on the Biden train.

Obviously, if Sanders got a bunch of Elizabeth Warren vote in Michigan and sort of stopped Biden, it would be a problem. But it really looks like any voter in the Democratic Party, say, for a few revolutionaries, have one goal in mind, not about NAFTA, it's about defeating President Trump.

SCIUTTO: Okay. This sounds familiar, does it not, Paul Begala, the party rallying behind a moderate candidate who has the best chance of winning the general election, of course, I'm saying Hillary Clinton in 2016, that did not work out well. Is the Biden train, as unstoppable as some Democrats --

BEGALA: No, I think there is a lot of green between here and there. He's got a long, long way to go. I think the thing that is most different, first off, let's be honest, Hillary had it harder as a woman. I think Senator Warren has raised that point. In fact, Hillary made it all the way to be the nominee makes -- I love her anyway, but makes us appreciate her even more what she had to overcome.

But also when Hillary was running, and I was part of this, we all thought Trump couldn't win. Now, Trump has won and he's in. So nothing unites the people from Earth like a threat from Mars. And Democrats think that Trump is a Martian. And so now it's real. Now, it's not just, oh, she's going to win anyway, so I can cast a protest vote for a far-left candidate. Now, they're saying, oh, my goodness, we have to get this guy out.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk, A.B. Stoddard, down ballot. Because, of course, a big argument, and you heard this from sitting Democratic lawmakers, they were worried about a Sanders nomination effect on down ballot races. You had one sitting Democrat say it's going to lose us 25, 30, that kind of thing. Now, we're seeing Biden. You see some of that fear being relieved. And you also see step like Steve Bullock jumping into the Senate race in Montana, races where Democrats have a chance of getting -- you know, bringing back the Senate. Where do you see the down ballot races stand today?

STODDARD: Steve would not have gotten in if Sanders was going to be the nominee, which we all thought on Saturday morning. This is Mitch McConnell's worst nightmare. Donald Trump might not appreciate the threat to the Senate Republican majority, but Mitch McConnell certainly does.

Thom Tillis in North Carolina, he's not only below his Democratic rival, he's now -- it's now officially a toss-up race. Martha McSally in Arizona, below her Democratic rival. Collins in Maine, below her Democratic rival. Cory Gardner in Colorado, below -- they are going to have to spend tons of money on John Cornyn in Texas and Joni Ernst in Iowa. This is becoming expensive. This is a real threat. And with Biden at the top of the ticket, the majority is absolutely in question.

SCIUTTO: It's amazing how quickly things can change, of course, with the proviso that things can change again.

A.B., Paul, good to have you both on.

Coming up, an unforeseen problem, that is what the president just called the coronavirus outbreak. But could the U.S. have been more prepared? They have been talking about a pandemic for some time. We're going to speak with the Republican senator who is also a doctor. Stay with us.

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[10:25:00]

SCIUTTO: This morning, President Trump called the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. an Unforeseen problem. He's promising though his administration is, quote, taking care of it.

Joining me now to discuss, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, we should mention he's also a doctor with experience in public health. It is great to have you on. We're doing our best to speak to folks who know the most. So we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

First, let's speak, if we can, to the current situation. You have a couple hundred people who have tested positive so far, but we really haven't begun to test large portions of the population. And there has been some delays in getting those tests out. What should people expect as the U.S. tests more people? Should we expect that number to jump?

REP. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): The number will absolutely increase. And it depends where you live. If you're in Shreveport, Louisiana, your risk now is extremely low. If you're in Seattle, it is higher. And there is some mathematical modeling suggesting that Washington State could have some problems. And so that means that you have to go in, find your person of interest, the person you know is infected, and just start testing the people around he or she, ideally asking them to avoid contact with others, as you gain control of that infection. SCIUTTO: Early on, the standards, the criteria for testing, we heard this even from Anthony Fauci, for instance, NIH Chief on infectious diseases, were too tight. We weren't testing enough people. We should have tested more. Was that a mistake?

CASSIDY: It was a mistake. One thing we learned from the Chinese pretty early on is that there are people who were infected but not symptomatic. And so they would then go and give it to others, so I'm infected, not symptomatic, I go and give it to you, you become symptomatic, I never know that I'm infected.

SCIUTTO: But still infected those people.

CASSIDY: Still infected. And so that's been very well established in China now. So we could have intuited that because there are other virus, for example, hepatitis-A, very low impact on children, major impact on those that are older, so we have kind of a paradigm of that could have been the case.

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SCIUTTO: So now, if there is that realization, and we have heard that from the experts, do we have enough resources to do it though?