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EARLY START

Addressing Coronavirus Unknowns; Tornado Cleanup in Tennessee; Gunfire at Ceremony with Top Afghan Leader. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired March 6, 2020 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:16]

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Growing anxiety on a cruise off California. Coronavirus tests due back today. Passengers can't even leave their rooms. What experts are saying about the virus now and in the future.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And the rollercoaster on Wall Street just won't stop. A huge tumble wiping out most of Wednesday's historic gain. What's in store? The jobs report due today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: And if you don't cut something in entitlements, you'll never really deal with the debt.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll be cutting, but we're also going to have growth like you've never had before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: "We'll be cutting." The president with a seismic shift on entitlements. How will it play in key states eight months until the election?

MATTINGLY: And sharp criticism of the attorney general's candor and credibility, not by Democrats but by a federal judge.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Phil Mattingly in today for Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: Nice to see you this Friday. Thanks for coming by. I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, March 6th. Happy Friday, everybody. It is 4:00 a.m. exactly in the East.

And a sobering reality as coronavirus cases grow rapidly in the U.S. and around the world, a top infectious disease doctor says there is still not a full understanding of the virus' fatality rate. The World Health Organization has reported the virus may kill as many as 34 out of 1,000 infected people. But at a CNN global townhall last night, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that calculation is based on limited information.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: The range is lower than that. How much lower, it's uncertain. Until we have a much more accurate determination of who is infected, including those who are asymptomatic, we will not get a more accurate determination of what the case fatality rate is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Fauci said the world will need millions and millions and millions of tests for coronavirus and he acknowledged testing got off to a slow start.

MATTINGLY: The administration's point man on coronavirus response, Vice President Mike Pence, traveled to Washington state yesterday, modeling good infection control by bumping elbows with Democratic Governor Jay Inslee instead of shaking hands. On the subject of testing earlier in the week, Pence said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any American that wants to be tested for the coronavirus on their doctor's indications can be tested.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: But yesterday Pence acknowledged what is now obvious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PENCE: We don't have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: But Pence now claims 1.2 million testing kits will be shipped nationwide by the end of this week, though actually testing patients will take longer.

ROMANS: Meantime, the World Health Organization is ringing the alarm saying, quote, "This is not a drill. Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans." A WHO doctor tried to ease concerns on last night's CNN town hall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, WHO INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: What is really interesting about this virus is that many countries, not just China, but China is the largest example we've seen that we can slow this down. This is a controllable virus and that's a really important message. It's not uncontrollable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The number of confirmed infections worldwide now nearing 100,000. The death toll over 3300. MATTINGLY: Now with all that, lab test results from 45 people on the

Grand Princess cruise ship are expected back today. There are nearly 3500 people on board. The ship is stranded off the coast of San Francisco. Officials refused to allow it to dock because its last voyage included a passenger who became California's first person to die from coronavirus. The California National Guard delivered test kits and medical personnel. Every passenger has been told to remain in their cabins until further notice and to not expect any frills.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in discussions with the CDC regarding time for guests to access the open deck for fresh air and exercise. We are working to have more details to share with you tomorrow. As you are now aware, we did not offer turndown service this evening as an overabundance of caution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: A bit of nightmare scenario. The death of a 72-year-old man from the Bay area is now under investigation. He was recently on the same cruise ship.

And Google is now giving its Bay area employees the option of working from home.

ROMANS: The number of deaths from coronavirus in Washington state rising to 13 overnight. Across the country, there are a total of 228 confirmed cases with 14 deaths. 11 of those deaths stemmed from one nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. Family members of residents there want answers about the condition of their loved ones.

[04:05:09]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CURTIS LUTERMAN, SON OF NURSING HOME RESIDENT: I don't blame the staff in here for his incident. What I do blame right 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, OK, when I get here there's going to be CDC trucks outside or people here looking at the visitor list.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The Life Care facility says its clinical team is making one- on-one calls to family members. The nursing home had severe deficiencies noted in inspection last year related to infection control.

MATTINGLY: And New York is activating a state-wide emergency operations center to combat their coronavirus outbreak. Nearly 2800 people are in home isolation right now because of recent travels. There are 22 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state with four people hospitalized. And most of those cases are connected to a Westchester County attorney who's considered New York state's first infection via person-to-person contact. The rabbi at the synagogue attended by the family is also now infected.

ROMANS: All right. So a rollercoaster of trading week continued. Investors weighing the economic effects of the coronavirus. The Dow tumbled nearly 1,000 points, the fifth worst single-day point drop on record. Over the past 11 days I want to show you this, it has whipsawed more than 1,000 points back and forth. The S&P and the Nasdaq both closed down more than 3 percent.

The 10-year treasury yield fell to an all-time low of 0.9 percent, the lowest on record as investors flocked to safer assets. The best performing stock on Thursday, Kroger. The grocery chain says it is benefitting as consumers stockpile pantry essentials.

Markets in Asia followed suit, big losses overnight in Asia and European shares have just opened. They are also lower.

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said the outbreak is delivering a, quote, "gut punch," to the airline industry. He says. "This is isn't economic in the sense that people want to travel but they can't afford to. We could discount prices tomorrow and it wouldn't do any good."

Costco says it had sales up tick due to panic shopping. Starbucks predicts a 50 percent sales drop in China because of coronavirus.

Take a look at futures. Right now they are leaning lower again, although not quite one percentage point for the Dow. We'll see if they can stabilize.

MATTINGLY: True story, it's the only reason I come up here is to talk to you about the bond market.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: OK. Good.

MATTINGLY: That's why I'm here.

President Trump is backing away from his promise to not cut Social Security and Medicare. At a FOX town hall in Pennsylvania last night the president says entitlements are on the chopping block.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MACCALLUM: But if you don't cut something in entitlements, you'll never really deal with the debt.

TRUMP: We'll be cutting, but we're also going to have growth like you've never had before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: "We'll be cutting." All right. Just last month the president tweeted, "We will not be touching your Social Security and Medicare." I bet there might be another tweet this morning related to that FOX News town hall.

ROMANS: Right.

MATTINGLY: Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden was quick to respond saying, quote, "Here's the deal, folks. Social Security is on the ballot this year and the choice couldn't be clearer. I'll protect and expand it. Donald Trump will cut it and take it away."

ROMANS: That's when Bernie Sanders entered the fray. Instead of going after Trump, he targeted Joe Biden. "Here's the deal. Joe Biden has repeatedly advocated for cuts to Social Security. I've fought my whole career to protect and expand it."

The Democratic contenders kept the Twitter beef going for a bit, then called it a night. The president, I will say, has floated this. Oh, I'm going to cut it, and then walks it back every time.

MATTINGLY: Yes.

ROMANS: He was in Davos in an interview with CNBC, he floated cutting -- you know, cutting entitlements and then walked it back and said no, it's the Democrats who want to cut entitlements. So you're right. We'll look and see if there's --

MATTINGLY: Yes. There's going to be -- there's going to be a tweet here.

ROMANS: We'll see if he has --

MATTINGLY: Just watch. I also like how the Biden-Sanders Twitter feud ended at night, which is usually how they always end. Somebody falls asleep eventually.

All right, a federal judge is sharply criticizing Attorney General Bill Barr's candor and credibility in his handling of last year's Mueller report. Judge Reggie Walton ordering the Justice Department to let him review the un-redacted Mueller report in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by BuzzFeed and a watchdog group.

Now Walton, who was appointed by a Republican president, called Barr's summary of Mueller's main conclusions, quote, "misleading," echoing Mueller's own objections. Barr told Congress and the public Mueller found the Trump campaign did not conspire with Russia. Barr also said the Justice Department determined the president had not obstructed justice.

ROMANS: All right. About nine minutes past the hour. After a brief moment of hope an Alabama man is executed for the deaths of three police officers he did not kill.

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[04:13:40]

MATTINGLY: The state of Alabama has executed Nathaniel Woods for the 2004 murder of three Birmingham police officers. The 42-year-old Woods offered no final statement. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey refused to intervene and the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute stay after briefly ordering a temporary halt.

There were serious questions raised about Woods' guilt before the execution. His codefendant even wrote a letter from death row claiming Woods was innocent and not involved at all in the killings. Martin Luther King III called it, quote, a mockery of justice.

ROMANS: People in Tennessee facing a massive cleanup after tornadoes cut a devastating and deadly path through that state that week. At least 24 people were killed, two of the victims, 81-year-old Donna Eaton and her 85-year-old husband James. They were married for more than 50 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERESA LEWIS MARTIN, COUPLE'S NIECE: The way that they went, God honored them. God just took them home and they woke up in his presence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Tennesseans are living up to the volunteer state nickname. That includes Taylor Swift who lives in Nashville making a million- dollar donation to help victims. Those with much less to give are doing whatever they can to help.

CNN's Nick Valencia is on the ground in hard-hit Putnam County, Tennessee.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Phil and Christine, immediately after the tornadoes much of the focus was on Nashville and the surrounding city center.

[04:15:01]

But in the days since much of the attention now has been drawn towards Putnam County, about an hour east of Nashville, and looking behind me, you can tell why. The tornado just came here with ferocious power ripping off parts of roofs and leaving empty lots where homes used to stand.

We're hearing harrowing stories of survival. In fact I spoke earlier to a resident here, Traci Brown. She says her home was one of the first homes built here about 15 years ago. She says not only did she survived the storm, but she also turned into a first responder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

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

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: The cleanup efforts are well under way with people even coming from out-of-state to chip in a hand. Later today they'll get a visit from another out-of-state visitor as President Trump comes to tour the damage and devastation first hand. He'll also speak to survivors, some of whom tell me they lived through the worst day of their lives -- Phil, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks so much for that, Nick.

You know, Harvey Weinstein has been moved from Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan now to the infirmary at Rikers Island jail. According to his publicist he had a heart procedure on Wednesday with doctors inserting a stent. After his sex crime conviction last month, doctors determined Weinstein had a blockage. His sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday.

MATTINGLY: Former Illinois Republican Congressman Aaron Schock revealing that he is gay. During his time in Congress, Schock opposed same-sex marriage. Schock says he grew up in a family, quote, "centered on faith and tradition," and that coming out was, quote, "unwelcomed news to every single person in my family." Schock was elected to four terms in Congress. He resigned in 2015 after an ethics investigation in the reports he used taxpayer money to fund lavish trips, events, and the redecoration of his office.

ROMANS: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Diamond is recovering this morning from emergency heart surgery. The 63-year-old bank executive experienced an acute aortic dissection or a tear in the inner lining of the aortic blood vessel. The company's two COOs say he is awake, he's alert, he's recovering well.

You know, Dimon is one of the most powerful men on Wall Street, maybe one of the most powerful men in the economy. He has been CEO of JPMorgan since 2005 and he is chairman of the board since 2006.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Curry, three points.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: You missed the three-pointer from Steph Curry. Golden State Warrior Steph Warrior showing flashes of brilliance in his long- awaited return to the court after breaking his left hand four months ago. He scored 23 points and had seven assists and seven rebounds, but the Warriors still aren't very good at basketball right now. They lost to the Toronto Raptors 121-113.

ROMANS: All right, welcome back, Steph.

All right. Moments ago gunfire at an event in Afghanistan with the top leader underscoring a precarious security situation after signing a peace deal with the U.S.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:22:33]

MATTINGLY: Activities like walking, gardening, swimming, dancing, lots of dancing, may actually keep your brain healthier longer. Researchers from Columbia University examined the brain quality of older adults using MRIs and matched each individual's results to their activity levels. They discovered those who were more active had larger brain volumes suggesting physical activity may help slow brain volume -- slow down brain volume loss. Shrinkage to the brain can start at 60. It slows down processing and cognitive functions.

ROMANS: That's interesting. All right. Breaking moments ago gunfire erupts at a ceremony in Kabul attended by a top Afghan leader. A spokesman for the Taliban denies involvement but this comes at a precarious time. President Trump still insisting the peace agreement in Afghanistan can succeed even with a surge of violence since the signing.

International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson live in London.

Nic, walk us through, you know, all the competing interests here for peace.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure, well, that senior Afghan figure who was at the event is the CEO, the number two, if you like, in Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah. The event is an annual event, and it's a Hazara event, and they are majority Shias. They are an ethnic minority in Afghanistan. But they're a majority Shia. And that's important because that gives us a clue who might be behind the attack.

This event was targeted last year as well in the same way. Gunmen from high buildings overlooking the venue shooting automatic weapons onto all the people that were gathered there. Now Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the number two in Afghanistan, if you will, he is reportedly OK. Other casualties we're not aware of those yet. But in a case like this where it's an attack on a Shia event, Shia Muslim event, it means it's more likely to be ISIS. And given the Taliban have very quickly denied that they were involved this does point to ISIS.

But as you say, this is a tense and precarious time in Afghanistan. Just a couple of days ago there was a U.S. drone strike on Taliban because they were breaking the terms of the reduction in violence that they had signed only last weekend in Doha. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo witnessed that signature with a senior Taliban commander. So there's been a breakdown in that reduction of violence, a breakdown in the dialogue that's supposed to be happening between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

[04:25:01]

So when you have a gun battle like this raging in Kabul that involves senior government members, it of course causes a lot of concern and I think we're going to get a lot more information about this as the morning goes on. ROMANS: All right, Nic Robertson for us in London. Keep us posted.

Thank you.

All right. Stay in your rooms, wait for tests on coronavirus. Not exactly a pleasure cruise.

MATTINGLY: No.

ROMANS: No. For 3500 passengers stuck in limbo off the California coast.

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[04:30:00]