Return to Transcripts main page


14 Deaths, 250 Cases Of Coronavirus Across 21 U.S. States; Test Results For Potential Infected Passengers On Cruise Ship Maybe Released Soon; Southwest CEO Says Coronavirus Travel Slump Has 9/11 Feel. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 6, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The President didn't want to, "interfere" with the agency's mission, but then today, the President contradicted that claim.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yesterday afternoon, we were informed that a person with the virus and they now find out that that was a negative test. They've tested the person very fully and it was a negative test.


BALDWIN: So the trip is back on and in the next hour, the head of the Coronavirus Task Force, Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to brief the media after admitting the country does not have enough testing kits to meet the demand.

All of this is happening as the number of people infected across the country continues to grow. There are now 250 cases across 21 states and a total of 14 deaths.

In California officials are anxiously waiting on those results of the corona virus testing from the Grand Princess cruise ship that still remains off the California coast.

A Coast Guard helicopter -- look at this -- a Coast Guard helicopter air dropped those test kits to the ship, and roughly 3,500 passengers are now being told to stay isolated in their cabins.

A little farther north, Washington State, major companies like Microsoft are asking employees to stay at home and work from there.

The University of Washington has moved all of its classes to online only until the end of the quarter, and then in states with the largest outbreaks, obvious panic to prepare, some retailers are having to place restrictions on the amount of hand sanitizer people can actually buy.

But let's start at the C.D.C. Elizabeth Cohen is our CNN senior medical correspondent she is outside C.D.C. H.Q. You know, where they're waiting for the President to arrive, and you know, we just heard the President's explanation, Elizabeth, about why he had initially cancelled and then changed his mind.

What do you -- what did you hear from the C.D.C. about this employee who the White House thought might have coronavirus?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Brooke, they are being very quiet about this staffer. We reached out to the C.D.C. and to many people several hours ago and they have not returned our e- mails or responded to our phone calls, so we don't know anything about this.

We have a lot of questions though. This staffer that they thought might have coronavirus --did he or she travel to, for example Washington State where there's community spread. In other words, people are getting coronavirus, unrelated to travel. They didn't travel. They don't know anyone who traveled outside of the U.S., so is that the reason why they were worried about this staffer? What symptoms did the staffer have?

And I think that this really underscores something very important, Brooke, that we all need to remember. The symptoms for coronavirus are so similar to a cold, to the flu, too many winter viruses that even at the C.D.C., they might think that someone has it and then it turns out that they don't.

BALDWIN: What's on the President's agenda as he is at the C.D.C. this afternoon?

COHEN: We're told that he's going to be taking a tour of the C.D.C. It'll be interesting to see and to hear what they give him, what they show him on that tour. It'll be interesting to see if he goes to the lab where they're doing coronavirus testing.

Of course, this lab has been the point of a lot of discussion over the past few weeks. Initially, all the testing for coronavirus across the U.S. was done at that building behind me in a lab in that building, now, it's done in many different labs across the country.

But the C.D.C. criticized for taking too long to get tests to other parts of the country.

BALDWIN: All right, Elizabeth, thank you. We'll talk to you again in just a little bit. But listen to this, this nurse in Northern California, who is currently under quarantine is waiting to be tested, is sounding off about the nation's coronavirus response.

She is so upset about how slow this process is that she is airing her feelings quite publicly. She wrote this statement about her experience hoping to raise awareness about her own personal concerns, and the President of her nursing union, National Nurses United, the largest nursing union in the country read it out loud.


DEBORAH BURGER, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: As a nurse, I'm very concerned that not enough is being done to stop the spread of the corona virus.

I know because I'm currently sick in quarantine after caring for a patient who tested positive. I am awaiting permission from the Federal government to allow for my testing, even after my physician and county health professional ordered the test.

The National C.D.C. would not initiate the test. They said they would not test me because if I were wearing the recommended protective equipment, then I wouldn't have the coronavirus.

What kind of science based answer is that? What a ridiculous and uneducated response from the Department that is in charge of the health of this country.

Later, they called back and now it's an issue with something called the identifier number. They claim they prioritized running samples by illness severity and that there are only so many to give out each day, so I have to wait in line for the results.

This is not a ticket dispenser at the deli counter.


BURGER: It's a public health emergency. I'm a registered nurse and I need to know if I'm positive before going back to care for patients.

I'm appalled at the level of bureaucracy that's preventing nurses from getting tested.

Delaying this test puts the whole community at risk. I have the backing of my union. Nurses aren't going to stand by and let this testing delay continue. We are going to stand together so we can make sure that we protect our patients by being protected ourselves.


BALDWIN: Again, the words of a nurse. The World Health Organization says early testing and detection are key to containing the coronavirus. They're encouraging medical teams "to be aggressive" in diagnosing patients and tracing down people who came into contact with them.

With the current shortage of testing kits, some health officials are recommending elderly patients and health workers should be the first priority. Dr. William Schaffner is a Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center there in Nashville.

And so, Dr. Schaffner, thank you so much for being with me. And I just want to your reaction to, you know, that nurse's letter. I mean, the line that got me, "This is not a ticket dispenser at a deli." She's outraged. What do you make of that?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR IN THE DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER, NASHVILLE: Oh, yes, she certainly is and it's a very eloquent letter, and it's a letter to the point. We all want more testing, and certainly of healthcare professionals, who are our frontline caregivers to patients who have, obviously, coronavirus infection.

So it's clear, all of us want more testing. I'm looking for the next week, week and a half for this to open up whereby state laboratories and increasingly private laboratories will also be able to participate in testing, that will make it much more available, and we'll find out more about how widely distributed this coronavirus is in the United States. We will get a better picture.

BALDWIN: I want to come back to your point on potentially private entities helping out, but you know, how much longer will it take for them to manufacture these tests? And on the point about the third parties, if they're able to, you know, develop this technology to make them test themselves? Could they do that? And then who is to ensure that they would actually work?

SCHAFFNER: Well, actually, you have to apply to the Food and Drug Administration to get your test approved. We have one in our own medical center that's in the approval queue. We hope it's turned around fairly quickly.

We're told it'll take another week, week and a half, something like that. And there are others, private testing laboratories, other academic medical centers who are eager to help out trying to define the extent of coronavirus in this country.

BALDWIN: And you would have confidence that they could pull that off effectively?

SCHAFFNER: Oh, yes, I think so. The F.D.A. will check all the validation studies and won't let individual testers go to work until their test has been validated.

BALDWIN: As we mentioned, the President will be at the C.D.C. this afternoon. One of the things that he may bring up is his request for an expedited vaccine. Dr. Schaffner, is that even possible?

SCHAFFNER: Well, we're all enthusiastic also, about a vaccine being developed. But those things take time. And as we've heard from Dr. Fauci, it will take at least a year and probably a bit longer, and that's working full steam ahead.

And assuming everything goes well, you can urge expedition, but the expedition takes time.

BALDWIN: The W.H.O. has yet to call this a pandemic, you say it is, tell me why that matters and then how that would change the response.

SCHAFFNER: Well, people don't like to use the word pandemic because it's thought to evoke panic. But it is very descriptive and it's understood by people at the local level.

This virus has escaped its home in China. It's now in many, many other countries. It's proceeding to be transmitted in those countries and transmitted very readily. That fulfills the definition of pandemic and that brings it home to local people who say, if it's a pandemic, I've really got to prepare. So there's utility in using that word, I think.

BALDWIN: There's also a lot of fear just in terms of travel. I can't imagine, you know, your loved ones and friends are probably saying, Doc, you know, what do you think I should do? Should I go here, here, here? But what would --you know, in your best capacity just as an MD, you know, how would you advise people in terms of jumping on a plane or taking a cruise right now?


SCHAFFNER: Well, let's have a look at the data. The older you are, the more likely you are to get a severe infection and sometimes gravely ill. So people who are, let's say, over age 60, who have underlying illnesses, and even people younger than that, who also have underlying illnesses, they should really reconsider going to mass events where they will be face-to-face with other people in enclosed circumstances, for prolonged periods of time.

You avoid the infection by avoiding other people, and so older people and others should really consider their life circumstances and that includes non-essential travel at this time.

BALDWIN: All right, Dr. William Schaffner, I so appreciate you. Thank you very much.

SCHAFFNER: My pleasure.

BALDWIN: Let's get an update now, speaking of, let's get an update on the cruise ship that is still waiting to get those tests results that were dropped in. CNN's Dan Simon is live in San Francisco where that ship was supposed to dock.

And so Dan, they're waiting for these results from 45 people on board the Grand Princess. What's the story now?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, these results, we were told, were going to come out sometime this morning. Now, it looks like it's going to be sometime this evening, plus they're going to do more testing on board.

Originally, they said a hundred passengers will be tested. They did 45 yesterday. So I guess they're going to do the rest today. But, Brooke, for these passengers, this is a really frustrating experience.

I've been getting a lot of texts from them, and they're anxious and they're worried. They don't know how long they're going to remain on this ship. There's really no path forward at this point.

It appears that they're just waiting to see what the results are going to show from the C.D.C. But right now, they're just confined to their rooms and they can't even leave the room to get something to eat, I'm told.

If they want something, they have to call room service. But the problem is the staff is just so overwhelmed. So if you're trying to reach room service, no one may pick up the phone. It's possible that, at least that's what I'm told, from one passenger who texted me a little while ago.

To make things a little easier, they just put some menus under the door and you just select what you want and they gave them like a five- hour window in terms of when they're going to get their meals.

But the bottom line is what ultimately is going to happen with this ship. We do not know. Originally, they were told that they would come in on Saturday, but it's possible that things may be extended, that they could be out there for some period of time whether it's like a two-week quarantine, we don't know. I think everything is going to be dependent upon these results -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Got it. So they're stuck on this cruise ship and results TBD to later this evening. Dan, thank you very much. Dan Simon in San Francisco.

A top airline executive is sounding a major alarm today saying the shock to the industry feels like 9/11. What it can mean for the wider economy that's ahead.

And the number of cases overseas is rising in a dramatic way. Italy is reporting a massive surge in deaths, 49 just over the past 24 hours.

And of course this Friday afternoon, we're keeping an eye on the 2020 race for you. Senator Bernie Sanders is scrapping a rally in Mississippi opting to go to Michigan instead. What this means for his battle with the former Vice President?

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right.



BALDWIN: The coronavirus has people avoiding airports, canceling airline tickets, so much so that the CEO of Southwest Airlines is drawing comparisons to what carriers expected following the 9/11 terror attacks just simply out of fear of flying.


GARY KELLY, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: 9/11 wasn't an economically driven issue for travel. It was more fear, quite frankly, and I think that that's really what's manifested this time. It has a 9/11 like feel. Hopefully, we'll get this behind us very quickly.


BALDWIN: CNN Business editor-at-large, Richard Quest is with me. And I mean, 9/11 was 20 years ago and just for people, maybe who are younger, who don't quite remember, can you just remind people of what that did to just the airline economy?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Okay, so, aircrafts were grounded for several days immediately after 9/11. There was no planes flying anywhere around in the domestic United States. And thereafter, the airlines that were flying, couldn't -- passengers

didn't want to fly and the airlines had problem with terrorism insurance. And the government came in, had to come in, and I won't use the word bailout, I will not use that phrase, they had to support the airline industry, or the airline industry would have collapsed.

So in those days, it was guarantees, it was loans. There were all sorts of things that were done at the time to keep the airline industry flying. We're not in that -- I know what Gary Kelly means, but we're not in that situation at the moment.

BALDWIN: Where are we now? You have been talking to airlines.

QUEST: Okay, airlines are in a much, much better case financially.


QUEST: Their balance sheets are strong, certainly for all the majors in the United States. They've making good, good profits.

Secondly, they've got a plan in place. I was talking to some senior executives at one of the large carriers, you're doing all sorts of things.

Firstly, you're reducing frequency. If you have six flights from --

BALDWIN: New York to London.

QUEST: New York to London, you go, you drop to five. Secondly, if you've got 10 flights from New York to Los Angeles, you drop to eight, but you up-gauge, you use those bigger planes, 76s or 777s that you're not using flying to London or Paris, or wherever you go. So you're moving things around.

Now, what this means is an absolute -- I mean, I cannot overstate the logistical difficulties for the airlines at the moment, but a good indication of how serious it is. Lufthansa Group which owns Lufthansa, Austria, and Switzerland, is cutting back capacity by up to 50 percent.


QUEST: So I think we've only seen the tip of it in the sense from the main U.S. carriers. I suspect, as demand is evaporated, they'll have to do more.

BALDWIN: What about the fact that airline CEOs were at the White House this week, and they were asking the White House not to discourage air travel? Is that irresponsible?

QUEST: No, no. I think everybody -- I mean nobody -- you've got to ask yourself, why are you traveling? Do you need to travel? Where are you going to look? Look, I was supposed to be going tonight to Brazil for a work trip. Well, we have a no essential travel policy now, so I'm not going. But will I still go to London in two weeks' time for a personal trip?

Absolutely. So you make -- you make your choices. Would I go to Italy? No. But a friend of man who was meant to be flying to visit me from Israel said that she's not coming. Why not? Because Israel has one of the most draconian return policies in terms of quarantine.

BALDWIN: That's the thing. It's like you may be fine going, but it's the returning -- you don't want to be stuck.

QUEST: That's it. So you don't want -- look, the chances of me or you and frankly, anybody watching actually getting coronavirus is so small, but the chances of us getting caught up in the whole melee that surrounds it, that's more problematic.

So you could be stranded. You could have to self-quarantine when you get home. You know, may I make a quick final point, coming to work this morning on the subway.


QUEST: It was noticeably quieter. Noticeably. Now, it could be because it's a Friday, but I went down to the Stock Exchange for one of my interviews at 10 o'clock this morning. Ten o'clock is normally quite busy on the New York subway. Virtually nobody.

BALDWIN: Do you -- I was on the train two days ago and you couldn't tell that anything had changed. I'm curious, though back to the point about the airline industry. And you were saying, they're not at all in the dire straits that they were post 9/11. Would Congress at some point need to jump in in terms of say, stimulus?

QUEST: Yes. Yes. Yes. It would have to be very targeted. And there are varieties of ways in which they can do it. And particularly in terms of duties and taxes and fees, and sort of -- there's a lot of programs that the airlines enjoy, but they could do it.

But I think Congress will be very reluctant to do it, because it does smack of corporate welfare. And one -- you know, if you're doing that for -- I mean, if the airlines are getting bailed out, well, Marriott says, well, hang on, I've got hotels with empty rooms. And before long, you've started something.

I think some help will be coming. But will it be necessary? That's a different matter.

BALDWIN: Okay. Richard Quest. Thank you very much.

QUEST: Have a good weekend.

BALDWIN: Thank you. You, too. The number of cases does continue to surge worldwide, coronavirus. We were just talking about Italy.

Italy there -- the total number of those who died in a single day now climbs to 49 and that's just over the last 24 hours.

Plus, we will talk to a mother who lives really at the epicenter of the outbreak here in the United States. What she says she is seeing, and is she fearing for her family? We will ask.



BALDWIN: The number of coronavirus cases around the world now tops 100,000. Further evidence that world leaders and health officials are struggling to contain the spread.

In just the last 24 hours, in Italy, 49 people have died and that marks the highest daily increase since the outbreak began in Italy and while the number of new infections is slowing in China, many other countries are seeing their numbers spike.

Christiane Amanpour, our CNN chief international anchor reports from London.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice over): Inside a temporary hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of China's coronavirus outbreak, there's not much for these patients to do, but wait, hopeful that they'll soon be given the all clear to go home.

The country has now recorded more than 80,000 cases, but China says the rate of new infections is slowing.

In nearby South Korea, it's a different story as the number of new cases there has risen sharply in recent days. Many governments around the world have imposed travel bans on South Koreans, which has prompted the country's Foreign Minister to summon foreign diplomats to a meeting in Seoul.


KANG KYUNG-WHA, SOUTH KOREAN FOREIGN MINISTER: I do hope that you will continue to maintain your trust in our approach to this health crisis.


AMANPOUR (voice over): Across the country, military teams are spraying disinfectant in public places, like shopping malls and airports to try to control the virus.

But there are increasing signs that Korea's health system is struggling to cope.


RYU HYUN-WOOK, CHIEF OF EMERGENCY ROOM, KYUNGPOOK UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL (through translator): The most difficult part is that there aren't enough medical resources to deal with the outbreak, especially quarantine treatment facilities.


AMANPOUR (voice over): While the World Health Organization is not yet describing the outbreak as a pandemic, some governments are.


LAWRENCE WONG, SINGAPOREAN MINISTER FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT: So it is starting to look like a global pandemic everywhere in the world. And as I said, it's not going to be possible to shut ourselves out.


AMANPOUR (voice over): Across the Middle East, Friday Prayers were again canceled in many cities.

In Mecca, one of Islamic holiest shrines, prayers did go ahead after the site was sterilized on Thursday, but only residents and Saudi nationals could attend, meaning the number of worshippers were significantly down.