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Doctor Warns Congress on Coronavirus; Young Climate Activist want GOP to Act; Curry Returns to the Court; Trump Plans to Cut Entitlements. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 6, 2020 - 06:30   ET





DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Look what this virus did in that nursing home in Kirkland, Washington. It rolled through it like a train. So this is like the angel of death for older individuals.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's Dr. Peter Hotez testifying before Congress warning that as coronavirus continues to spread, older people are very vulnerable.

So what can be done? Dr. Hotez joins us now.

Dr. Hotez, that got people's attention that the virus is like the angel of death for older people. Can you just expound on that a bit?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. Well, first of all, thanks for having me, Alisyn, this morning.

You know, the reason I made that statement was because, you know, we're hearing a lot of different numbers about case fatality rates. You know, just a few minutes ago you had Dr. Fauci, who rightly said, you know, that the official numbers are 2 percent to 3 percent. It's probably lower. And now we're seeing, for the big epidemic in Korea, it's about 0.6 percent and probably it's going to come out to be between 0.6 percent and 1 percent, which is pretty high. That's roughly four to ten times higher than seasonal influenza.

But that's not really the point. The point is what we're seeing is relatively low case fatality rates among younger people, but very, very high case fatality rates among older people, those over the age of 70. We're looking at 10 percent, 15 percent case fatality rates. And that's what the Chinese told us what -- with what was happening with the epidemic in Wuhan. So we knew about the high risk that we have to older individuals. And that needs to be our emphasis in the United States because, sure enough, our first big area of community transmission in the U.S., which occurred in Kirkland, Washington, when it hit that nursing home --


HOTEZ: We've had, what is it now, 11 deaths in --


HOTEZ: In a population of around 100 residents. So, there you are, it's about 10 percent, 11 percent. So that's the message and that's the part that I really tried to strike home in the House Science Committee testimony yesterday is --


HOTEZ: We need to look at our nursing homes because "New York Times" is reporting this morning, for instance, that less than a third of nursing homes actually have any preparedness plans for isolating individuals with this infection.



HOTEZ: So we're clearly not ready. And that's what we really need to emphasize.

CAMEROTA: You have these three things that you say need to be urgently addressed, and that is, the first one, how to stop it in nursing homes. Do you have a suggestion? I mean so many Americans have family members that are in nursing homes. What's the answer here?

HOTEZ: Yes, including my 90-year-old mother, who is in the Hebrew home in -- outside of Brookline, Massachusetts. So, absolutely. We have to now really look at this in detail and really make decisions about what we can do about this, within reason, right? So should we limit the number of visitors? Do we have to emphasize diagnostic screening here? Remember, as the vice president says, the aspirational goal is to get to a million diagnostic kits. We're not going to get there for a while. So how do we ration it? And I would argue that one of the ways to ration it is to focus on our most vulnerable populations, clearly focusing diagnostic testing on who goes in and out of nursing homes, who has access to older individuals. That has to be a big priority.


HOTEZ: The other two that I'm also worried about, that I also spoke about yesterday in Congress, is our health care providers, because we saw in Wuhan of -- there were more than a thousand health care providers who got sick in that epidemic. And for reasons that we don't understand, health care providers, even if they're not of an older age group, were still very at risk for severe illness. About 14.8 percent, 15 percent had severe illness or were in the ICU. I don't know if that was an exposure issue and whether that will pan out elsewhere. But we really -- next to those older individuals, we have to protect our health care providers because if they start to go down, the whole system falls apart. What I really want to avoid is the situation that I personally

witnessed in Texas, in Dallas in 2014, when you had those two ICU nurses infected and there was nothing more demoralizing for a hospital staff than to have to take care of their colleagues in an ICU.


HOTEZ: And if you start having that situation happen across America, that's going to be a huge issue.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

HOTEZ: And then my third big concern are the first responders, because I think we need to do more to protect them as well.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Dr. Peter Hotez, you certainly lay out all of the things that we need to be really concerned about and that you need CDC guidelines and guidance for all of this, because we just don't have the answers for how we're going to get around this yet. But we really appreciate you sounding the alarm to Congress and to us. Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

HOTEZ: Thanks for having me.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So young conservatives trying to get fellow Republicans to believe in and act on the climate crisis. This is a really interesting story. Bill Weir brings it to us, next.



BERMAN: Overnight, the state of Alabama executed Nathaniel Woods for the 2004 murders of three Birmingham police officers, despite serious questions about his culpability in the case. Now, Woods was inside the house when another man, Kerry Spencer, opened fire on the officers. Spencer, again, the guy who pulled the trigger, says he acted alone, but prosecutors alleged that Woods lured the officers into the home and they charged him with conspiring or being complicit in the killing. So Spencer, again, he is the guy who pulled the trigger, recently wrote a letter proclaiming Woods was 100 percent innocent. The Supreme Court briefly did order a temporary halt in the execution. You can see the moment here which brought Woods family to tears. But, hours later, the last-minute stay was denied and Alabama Governor Kay Ivey refused to intervene. Martin Luther King III called the execution a mockery of justice.

CAMEROTA: Climate activist Greta Thunberg denouncing a climate law unveiled this week by the European Union saying it amounts to surrender. Meanwhile, a group of conservative college students are following in her footsteps and are trying to move Republicans to action.

CNN's Bill Weir met them at CPAC. So Bill is here with us. BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Hi.

CAMEROTA: So tell us about what they're doing.

WEIR: Yes, this is really interesting. And I traveled between like two Americas generally on this job, those who believe in the warnings from science, those who have a hard time coming to grips. But it seems like the conversation is really changing as evidenced by the reddest of red blooded Republican gathering, CPAC, this year in which not one but two young, green Teddy Roosevelt-style Republican groups were trying to convince the base to think differently about this issue.


WEIR (voice over): At the Conservative Political Action Conference you'd expect Fox News, the NRA, and "deplorable" hammocks, Donald Trump nut crackers and statues made of nails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's America's superhero and he's tough as nails.

WEIR: But this year's CPAC had something new.

WEIR (on camera): So do you consider yourself sort of a Republican Greta?



O'BRIEN: I'm done with us talking about the problem. We've talked about the problem. We recognize the problem. And now we need to talk about solutions.

WEIR (voice over): She is the leader of this booth full of Republicans all devoted to fighting climate change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our website.

WEIR: With taxes on big oil.

WEIR (on camera): I've been to a few CPACs in my day and spotting a climate-woke Republican who wants to have a carbon tax is like spotting a snow leopard in the wild. I mean what drives this change?

O'BRIEN: I think it's a lot of young people, honestly. This is really a generational issue. We believe that people my age and a little bit older are really waking up to the problem that is climate change on both sides of the aisle.

WEIR (voice over): And in a packed happy hour around the corner --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is really awesome to see such an amazing crowd of conservatives who care about the environment here.

WEIR: A rival group of conservative climate hawks gather. As for the first time polls show more than half of young Republicans believe the government isn't doing enough to fight manmade global warming.

But as more of them agree with Greta that our house is on fire, new debates are breaking out over the best way to put it out.


BENJI BACKER, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CONSERVATION COALITION: I think she's incredible. For someone her age to be speaking up and shifting the course of global history.

WEIR: Benji Backer grew up knocking on doors for John McCain and Mitt Romney as a kid and in college created the American Conservation Coalition.

WEIR (on camera): Do you support President Trump?

BACKER: I don't support President Trump's approach to the environment so far.

WEIR (voice over): A group built for green and frustrated young Republicans.

BACKER: And the fact that you have to have some government protections on human health and the environment and protecting animals and wildlife, that has to be there.

WEIR: He says his group now has chapters on over 200 campuses, all who share the belief that free market forces and innovation can stop global warming.

BACKER: Everyone in my generation wants to buy a Tesla. Everyone in my generation wants to have solar panels on their rooves. Their -- that demand is there. And that's a culture change that no government policy could ever enact.

WEIR: He opposes most regulation and a carbon tax.

But Kiera O'Brien, disagrees. She's an Alaskan helping pay for Harvard with the money her state takes from big oil and gives to each resident. So she's all in for the Baker/Shultz plan named for the members of Ronald Reagan's cabinet who helped write it.

O'BRIEN: This is the solution that is backed by the largest statement of economist in the history of the profession of economics.

WEIR: It would tax carbon and divvy it up among Americans. The average family would get about $2,000 a year to start, but both tax and dividend would ramp up until fossil fuel goes the way of the dinosaurs.

O'BRIEN: I would love for President Trump to sign a plan just like this.

WEIR (on camera): You think he will?

O'BRIEN: I think he could.

WEIR: Really?


WEIR: But if he wins again, what does that do for the climate, do you think, based on his attitudes historically?

O'BRIEN: I mean, attitudes can change in the future. We're betting on it with the Republican Party as a whole. I see no reason why President Trump couldn't change his mind as well.


WEIR: It would be hard to find a Democrat who agrees with their climate prescriptions, but at least they're part of the conversation. And that's really a first step to at least a national effort in this space. But you're seeing more and more Republican congressmen introducing bills to plant a trillion trees or to incentivize carbon capture, all but driven by the urgency of the climate crisis.

BERMAN: So you're saying it's general -- generational more than ideological (INAUDIBLE)?

WEIR: I think so. Yes. I think age trumps ideology, no pun intended, in this -- in this sector. And more and more young people look at the timelines laid out by those scientists and say, wait a minute, that's when I -- starting a family, or that's why I'm thinking about my grandkids.

CAMEROTA: I mean the president can, of course, change his mind. He does often.

WEIR: Of course he can.

CAMEROTA: But you have to start from the position that he thinks it's a hoax. So that's starting pretty far down along the continuum.

WEIR: But he seems to agree with the last person in the room. So who knows, you know? Richard Nixon gave us the Clean Air and Water Act in the EPA. Who knows?

BERMAN: Maybe these kids can be the last person in the room (ph).

WEIR: You never know. Yes.

BERMAN: All right, Bill, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Bill.

WEIR: You bet.

BERMAN: So, after breaking his hand in October, Steph Curry finally made his return to action last night.

Andy Scholes has it all in the "Bleacher Report." Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, yes, good morning, guys.

You know, it just seemed like something was missing all season in the NBA, and that thing, well, it was Steph Curry high-light (ph). The two-time MVP making his return to action after missing 58 games this season with that broken hand. And Curry showing flashes of that amazing shot-making ability that he has here, hitting that long three to beat the shot clock buzzer. That had the home crowd going nuts. Curry finishing the game with 23 points. The Warriors, though, losing to the Raptors in this one, 121-113 the final. Toronto clinching a playoff spot with the win.

All right, sports leagues around the world continue to monitor the coronavirus outbreak. In Seattle, a stadium worker has tested positive for the virus. The person worked at the XFL game at Centurylink Field on February 22nd. Now, attendance at that game was more than 22,000. The King County press offer said in a statement that the risk to those who attended the game is low. No games at the stadium have been canceled. The Seattle Sounders in the MLS, they're going to host a game there tomorrow. And if you look closely at the English Premier League this weekend, you're going to notice that the players aren't shaking hands before the game like they normally do. That's guidance from the league until further notice.

So, Alisyn, the trend from handshakes to first bumps is going to continue in sports leagues for the foreseeable future.

BERMAN: My kids' soccer league, Andy, kids no longer shaking coaches' hands, which is part of the ritual, and kids no longer slapping hands after the game. That's as of this week. It's really incredible to see how rapidly all these changes are taking place.

SCHOLES: Yes, happening everywhere. Yes.

CAMEROTA: Andy Scholes, thank you very much.

So, President Trump reversing his promise not to cut Medicare or Social Security.


How will that play in the all-important state of Pennsylvania and beyond? Michael Smerconish is here, next.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When these -- when these trade deals kick in and when all -- you know the economy is the best economy we've ever had. It's nothing compared to what it's going to be when the trade deals kick in.

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

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


BERMAN: Oh, we'll be cutting, he says, about entitlements. Interesting.

That was President Trump at a town hall overnight. That took place in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which, of course, the birthplace of Joe Biden.

CAMEROTA: I don't feel like that was a coincidence. I don't feel like the first town hall that President Trump wanted being in Scranton was a coincidence.


BERMAN: I don't think so.

CAMEROTA: I'm just going out on a limb.

BERMAN: All right, joining us now is Pennsylvania's favorite son, Michael Smerconish. He is a CNN political commentator and host of CNN's "SMERCONISH."

I actually don't think that's an exaggeration. I think you're at least like top four in Pennsylvania.

Michael, I'm old enough to remember when a politician of either party who wants to be president, even the current officeholder, if he said bluntly, oh, we'll be cutting to entitlements, that would be a huge deal. President Trump, who has declared he would protect Social Security and Medicare, on TV, in Pennsylvania, which is a state with a lot of seniors -- not you, you're a young man -- just said he would cut entitlements. What's the impact of that?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is not the part of the state where you'd want to make that statement. I think the president misspoke because northeastern Pennsylvania is an aging demographic in comparison to the rest of the state.

Quick background, if I may. Both my parents are from northeastern Pennsylvania. Both from the coal regions. My mother, one of eleven, eight sisters and three brothers.

I have raised my family in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Philly burbs. And for the past several cycles you've heard all of this discussion about, how will it play in the Philly burbs? What's going to go on in those -- in those outlying areas of Philadelphia? I would suggest to you that as we move forward in 2020, we focus a heck of a lot more on northeastern Pennsylvania because, as you mentioned, it is Joe Biden's birthplace. It is also an area that was traditionally Democratic, but the president won. And it was critical to his success in winning the state by about 44,000 votes. And, frankly, one of the embarrassments that I have in terms of not

seeing it coming in my own state is I wasn't paying attention to what I was being told at the Thanksgiving table by all those relatives, or by David Urban, who's a CNN consultant contributor now who said, there's something going on in northeastern Pennsylvania. So we want to continue to focus on this area is my point.

CAMEROTA: That's a good point.

In terms of your other point that you think the president misspoke, Joe Biden doesn't think he misspoke. Joe Biden is taking him at his word. He tweeted, here's the deal, folks, Social Security is on the ballot this year and the choice could not be clearer. I'll protect and expand it. Donald Trump will cut it and take it away.

Michael, are you saying that the president isn't going to do that?

SMERCONISH: Well, I'm saying that the president may be of a 2016 primary mind-set because that's the sort of thing that I would expect Donald Trump to have said when he had Republican opposition. Obviously he doesn't in this cycle. It's not the sort of thing that you want to be talking about when you are trying to keep in your tent those high school educated, formerly Democratic voters with aging parents, some of them aging themselves. I would argue it's not a smart play for the president as he squares off against this opponent.

BERMAN: We'll see. We'll see what he meant there. But I guarantee it you're going to hear it from Democrats. WE already heard it from Joe Biden. But, today, going forward, I think that will be a big point.

CAMEROTA: And one more thing about that. I think he was asked a question about the ballooning debt and deficit. So I think that that was his response. And so he has to address that. The debt and deficit have, you know, exponentially ballooned.


CAMEROTA: He promised that wasn't going to happen. So that was his answer. So he knows the math has to work out somehow.

BERMAN: Yes, unless he doesn't think that --

SMERCONISH: Well, there's no doubt about that.



BERMAN: I mean, I just -- you know, I --

SMERCONISH: I mean I was simply going to say that the second part of his answer was about growth. I expect you're going to hear a lot more about growth and a lot less about cutting entitlements as we move forward.

BERMAN: Trade is going to be an issue. The president likes to talk about the new NAFTA. And he's very critical of the original NAFTA. Even though there's not a heck of a lot of space between the two. That aside, it is an area where he will try to contrast himself with Joe Biden. It's an area that Bernie Sanders is going to contrast himself with Joe Biden next week in Michigan.


BERMAN: So it's on the ballot I think next week in Michigan. But if Biden ends up as the nominee, I assume it will be on the ballot in, you know, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan in a general election because Joe Biden voted for NAFTA in the '90s.

SMERCONISH: John, you make an excellent point, that on Tuesday at least there will be some simpatico between the president and the man that he referred to last night as a communist, because both he and Bernie are critical of those trade deals. And so Senator Sanders will seeking to use it for leverage with Michigan voters in a way that the president will seek to do so in the fall if he's running against Joe Biden.

BERMAN: I thought Michael was going to announce his candidacy at the beginning of the segment when he said, I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania.


BERMAN: I raised my kids in southeastern Pennsylvania.


BERMAN: So that is why I declare that I am running.


BERMAN: Listen, Michael, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

SMERCONISH: See you guys.

BERMAN: Be sure to watch "SMERCONISH" tomorrow and every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

CAMEROTA: That's probably where he will announce his candidacy, on his own show.

BERMAN: Tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m.

CAMEROTA: All right, we are awaiting test results from the passengers who are trapped on that cruise ship off the California coast.

NEW DAY continues right now.



CAMEROTA: High anxiety for thousands of passengers off the coast of California.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly whether we're going to be quarantined for two weeks or what's happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Elderly, those with underlying --