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Markets Plunge over Coronavirus Fears, Crash Oil Prices; Russia & Saudi in Oil Price War; CNN Now Calling Coronavirus a "Pandemic"; Dr. Leana Wen Discusses Coronavirus; Soon, Cruise Ship to Dock in Oakland with at Least 21 Infected People; King County Executive, Dow Constantine, Discusses Coronavirus & Governor Weighing "Mandatory Measures". Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 9, 2020 - 11:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.


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

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

The coronavirus outbreak is becoming more serious this morning. Governments around the world are struggling to contain the crisis. And fear and uncertainty is wreaking havoc on the global economy.

In the United States, the Trump administration is still trying to ramp up testing as a number of cases jump again over the weekend.

Here are the latest numbers. Again, we would know more if they would test more. And 565 confirmed cases in 34 states. In Washington, D.C., the number of confirmed cases doubling since Friday.

And 22 people have died nationwide. Health experts continue to warn, as people are able to get tested, these numbers will continue to rise.

With that in mind, CNN is now referring to this outbreak as a pandemic. We'll tell you more about what that means in just a moment.

But first, we have to talk about the financial impact on this and what we've been seeing this morning. It's already proving to be a brutal day on Wall Street. The Dow, as you can see, down 1,700 points right now.

Trading was halted this morning after a steep drop in the S&P 500 triggered a so-called "circuit breaker" minutes after the trading day opened.

Helping to drive the anxiety, oil prices are crashing. We have folks covering all of these angles for you with hour.

Let's start with CNN's Alison Kosik. She's at the stock exchange and joins me now.

Alison, you were there at opening bell this morning. You saw it play out. How bad is it? What are you hearing right now?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Amazingly, we are seeing the Dow off its lows at this session. We did see the Dow down as much as 2,000 points. What you're seeing now is more orderly selling.

Early this morning, a dramatic scene as stocks really fell quite quickly and that is why we saw the circuit breakers kick in. Stocks fell too fast and too far.

And stocks stopped trading for about 15 minutes, kind of giving investors and traders a moment to collect their thoughts, let cooler heads prevail and they can assess their positions. That worked because we did see stocks bounce off their lows.

But why did they originally panic? Part of the panic was because of what you mentioned, oil prices crashing over the weekend, tumbling 30 percent. That really spooked the markets because that could have a real ripple effect throughout the economy.

That creates that layer effect that already exists because of the coronavirus, the uncertainty of how much of an impact the coronavirus will have on the economy, then you add the layer of crashing oil prices and how much that can hit the energy industry.

The worry is there that could create possible bankruptcies. That could create job losses. And you can see that ripple effect throughout the economy. So that all spooked the market, causing that tumble this morning -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Alison, thank you so much.

So a major wild card for the markets today, oil. An all-out price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia causing crude prices to plummet.

Let get over to CNN's editor for emerging markets, John Defterios. He's in London and he's been watching this.

John, the oil story, the oil element to this huge story, what is going on here?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EDITOR FOR EMERGING MARKETS: I tell you what, Kate, you almost have to rub your eyes and see if you're reading the numbers correctly. When I went to bed here in London, I looked at the Asian market open and we saw a drop of 25 percent. Oil usually moves in increments of 1, 2, on a radical day, 3 percent.

This is a perfect storm and I'll explain what I mean here. The coronavirus virus has undermined demand for oil and demand, particularly in China. We've had way too much supply hitting the market the last two years, led by the U.S. shale producers. U.S. production at a record 1300 barrels a day.

Then we had the two largest exporters, Saudi Arabia and Russia, at the so-called OPEC-plus meeting in Vienna, where I was covering it, with very different views of how to solve it.

Saudi Arabia was trying to get all 22 producers in Vienna to cut more supplies right now, to lift prices to $50 a barrel. Russia is basically saying, after the last three years of cooperation with OPEC, we're tired of making space for the U.S. shale producers, so we're not signing on the bottom line.

So what did Saudi Arabia do? They doubled down. They said they would raise their production. And over the weekend -- get this, Kate -- they're cutting prices by about $7 a barrel. It's radical, something we haven't seen. This is 1991 in terms of the drop.

We have to start thinking, as Alison said, the implications for the U.S. energy basins of the United States, which employ 10 million people right now.


DEFTERIOS: Who have had a terrific 10 years. It's going to be painful for the next two or three, it looks like.


BOLDUAN: John, thank you so much. Please keep us updated as things are changing very quickly here.

Joining me now to talk about all of this, and there is a ton to get to, CNN business editor-at-large, Richard Quest, is here, and Christine Romans, CNN chief business correspondent.

I'd like to know where you think we should begin. You were saying this is not a repeat of 2008. Why is that?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE & CNN HOST, "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Very simply because the financial system is in a much better case. I remember reading an economist headline once saying, why are we baling out the banks. We bailed out the banks in 2008 because we needed to. They were rotten. The rot had got into the foundations of the economic system.

Banks are better capitalized. Everything about them. They're profitable. This is not 2008 again. Nor does it have the potential to have the

effect of 2008, because the banking system in the United States and most of Europe is solid.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is the biggest test of the market since 2008, though, when you look at kind of the strain overall. The oil price declined at the same time the stock market declined over the concern of the coronavirus. BOLDUAN: Christine, of course, it is clear that fear and uncertainty

have now set in.


BOLDUAN: That is part of what we're looking at and part of the reaction here.

But I looked at the president's Twitter feed and it looks like the president is -- it looks like the president is afraid as well, if you look at the tweets of what he's put up just in the last few minutes.

One, he's saying it's good for the consumer, gasoline prices are coming down. Then he blames Saudi Arabia and Russia arguing over oil. And also the news media for the reason that the market is dropping.

You've been talking to investors on the impact of the president in all of this. What are you hearing?

ROMANS: I ask everybody I talk to, what about the tone from the White House. Is that helping or hurting? And they say it's not helping.

The president in one of those tweets downplaying this, saying, look, we lose 37 people last year because of the flu and we don't close schools and tell people to go home.

What does he say at the end? He says, "Coronavirus with 22 deaths. Think about that."

Well, he's again at odds with his public health officials who are saying there are prudent things we should be doing, and when we find someone who is spreading it communitywide, we need to take steps around those people.

We're not talking about mass panic. No one is. Public officials are not calling for mass panic. But the president seems to be putting a spin on it that's not realistic. It's almost an alternate reality.

QUEST: I think back to George Bush, and I think back to President Obama, and the grave seriousness with which they comported themselves when faced with economies on the brink of collapse.

And the other thing that's important, yes, cheap gas? Yep, well done, Mr. President, cheap gas. But what about your factory that doesn't have work because the supply chain has been corrupted and is being disrupted?


QUEST: Or you're closed down because of the local movie theater.

I mean, yes, you can have cheap gas in your car but you won't have much else.

ROMANS: The supply chain is real because there are concerns in the credit markets that you've got potentially hundreds of billions of dollars of bills that can't be paid because the supply chains are broken. So companies then turn to their lines of credit. They borrow the money and that goes back to the banks.

QUEST: Let me put it. This is key for the Fed, by the way.


QUEST: Not for interest rates. Half a point on interest rates means nothing. This is key for the Fed doing their other function, which is lending as a last resort, making sure the discount window and the money markets, that they're flooding the markets. They did it a few months nearly a year ago.

ROMANS: They did it this morning, too. The New York Fed announced it was up on the repo market.

BOLDUAN: On the most basic level, when circuit breakers are triggered by, for a layman, that sounds and feels really scary.

ROMANS: It is.

BOLDUAN: At this moment, should Americans be afraid?

QUEST: Not afraid. No, not afraid. They should be concerned, but not afraid.

ROMANS: On this day, exactly 11 years ago, I was terrified. We were all terrified.


ROMANS: Because this was the bottom of the financial crisis 11 years ago. From that horrible day, the green chutes of the longest recovery in history came.

So also -- regular people can't be market timers.


ROMANS: If you sell right now and it comes back tomorrow, you've just made a terrible mistake.

QUEST: Eleven years ago, the fear of bankers and government were that some people would put their ATM card in and it would say not today. There's no fear of that. There's not fear of that.

That comes back to, I think --


BOLDUAN: There's a definite different type of fear but a real fear.


QUEST: Yes, 2008 was -- is the economy going to turn off like a light switch? Today is could there be a recession and how shallow will it be? That's what --


QUEST: Europe has been forecast for -- but Europe is being forecast for a sharp, deep recession. A recession in the U.S. is not probable, but it's getting much more likely.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, guys. I really appreciate it. Thank you for being here.

As we mentioned off the top, CNN is now using the word "pandemic" to describe the coronavirus outbreak.

Here is CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to explain why.



DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: This terminology we're going to start using now isn't so much to cause panic, but rather to really cause a focus on preparedness.

Here's the criteria you can see there. A new virus that causes illness or death. We know that's been happening.

Sustained person-to-person transmission. Again, for several weeks now, we know it can happen. Not only does one person spread it to two or three others, but they spread it to two or three others.

And this goes on for at least four to five generations. We know that is happening. And that is happening around the world.

These three criteria really do seem to be met.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now for more on this and just to answer some of our continued questions, Dr. Leana Wen. She's a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. She's a visiting professor at George Washington University School of Public Health.

Doctor, thank you for coming back in. I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: If we could just start right there where Sanjay was talking, the fact of the virus now fits the definition of pandemic. Does that change anything from a practitioner's standpoint today?

WEN: Well, first of all, I'm glad that CNN is calling this new coronavirus outbreak for what it is, which is a pandemic. This is what a lot of public health experts, including myself, have been saying for weeks because it meets the definition, and words do matter. When we call this a pandemic, it means that, yes, we can continue to

focus on limiting the spread of this disease, but we also have to go beyond the individual who may be exposed and talk about what we as a society have to do to get ready.

So hospitals need to be implementing their pandemic preparedness protocols. And also we as a society need to think about school closures and what happens when we have to take some rather dramatic actions that do have a disruption on our daily lives.

BOLDUAN: What we hear over and over again is wash your hands and stay home if you're sick when it comes to the best and most simple defense to protect yourself and loved ones against this virus. What are health officials recommending now in how people should be changing their routines?

WEN: Well, definitely those things, the good hand and face hygiene still matter a lot. The most basic common-sense procedures are still important.

But health officials are now saying, as of this weekend that older adults and those who are more vulnerable, for example, those with chronic medical illnesses, should be avoiding large gatherings of people, large crowds. Should not be going on long haul flights and should not be going on cruises.

And this is a shift, too. Because before, we were just talking about if you're in one of these areas where there's community spread, but now we're saying don't wait until that comes to your community, start taking these actions now, particularly if you are the most vulnerable.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the top experts on this with the government, he spoke directly to that this weekend. Let me play what he said about that.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES ON ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The ones who get in trouble at a high rate are people with underlying conditions, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, diabetes. Particularly the elderly. Those are the ones that need to be protected, because they're vulnerable.

So right now is what we're saying, if you fall into that category, you shouldn't wait for anything. You should be doing what some people are calling social distancing, which really means stay out of crowds, don't do travel. Above all, don't go near a cruise ship.


BOLDUAN: Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that on CNN just this morning.

Do you agree with his assessment there?

WEN: Very much so. Even if your individual risk, the risk to any individual in the U.S. is still low, we have to protect those who are the most vulnerable, who are the most likely to get sick.

We know that with this new coronavirus, young healthy people will probably recover without any issue. But if you're older, if you have underlying medical issues, you're much more likely to get sick and require a lot more services like hospitalization. So now is the time to get ready.

BOLDUAN: Doctor, thank you so much for being here. Please come back. There are more questions every day, and I really appreciate your expertise on this.

WEN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, a cruise ship with at least 21 infected people is getting ready to dock in Oakland, California. Who will be allowed off the ship first? Where will they go? And why is the crew being told to stay on board? Much more on that developing situation coming up.


Plus this. At least two members of Congress now are in self-quarantine after being exposed to a person with the coronavirus. What does this mean for Congress?

We'll be back.


BOLDUAN: Right now, 3,500 passengers and crew on board that cruise ship that has been stuck off the coast of California, they're expected to dock soon in California. At least 21 people on that ship have tested positive for the coronavirus. Nearly all of them crew members.

Let's get the very latest. CNN's Dan Simon is at the port in Oakland where the ship is expected to be coming in.

Dan, what is the plan for passengers and crew? What's going on?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. The good news is these passengers finally have some clarity after idling out at sea for days. Now they finally know they're going to reach the shore. The bad news is they have to go into quarantine for 14 days.


The way this process is going to work, the ship is going to get here sometime mid-afternoon. And there will be a process for getting all 2,400 of these passengers off the ship. It will begin with the ones most critically ill. They'll be going to various hospitals.

And from there it's going to begin with California folks -- 40 percent of the people on board are from California -- and the rest and so on. They'll be going to different military bases across the country, three different states, California, Texas and Georgia.

For passengers, this has been an awful ordeal. They've been trapped in their room for days.

I want you to listen to what some of them had to say. Take a look.


JUSTINE GRIFFIN, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER: We're getting information more from the news than we are from the ship. It's just really, really hard. If we realized this was going to happen, we wouldn't have come.

ARCHIE DILL, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER: It's not quite prison, but it's a lot like that. I don't know what to expect. If they had a well-formed plan and let us know what was happening, that would be one thing. But right now, you're looking at an uncertain destination.


SIMON: Well, these passengers, all of them, will be getting a full refund from Princess Cruises and a credit towards a future cruise.

And again, Kate, as far as the crew is concerned, 19 of 21 of the people who did test positive for the coronavirus, they did come from the crew. Those people are going to be quarantined at sea -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Dan, thank you so much. Let's see what happens with that today.

So the number of coronavirus deaths in the United States has now increased to 22. Almost all of them in one state, Washington State, and linked to one nursing home in King County. The governor of Washington says he's now considering what he calls mandatory measures in the state.

What does that mean? What is being considered?

Joining me now, Dow Constantine is back with us, the executive of King County in Washington.

Dow, thanks for coming back.


BOLDUAN: I appreciate it.

What are the mandatory measures being considered? What are you hearing?

CONSTANTINE: Well, we are discussing a range of approaches to try to stem the spread of this virus, protect elders and others who are vulnerable while keeping our economy going.

And so a lot of people discuss school closures. It is not clear how effective that is yet, and when you should begin it and how long it needs to last. But that is an active discussion. And we are not going to act precipitously. We're going to act based on public health advice. Also, large gatherings are being discussed. Whether people can bring

folks together and still keep them safely distanced from one another is a critical issue, or whether we have to ask all of our organizations to simply stop having gatherings.

BOLDUAN: You know, Dow, I remember last week when we spoke, I asked you if it was time for the governor to start cancelling large events like we're discussing here, and you didn't think it was there yet. You said that you would still go to a large-scale event. Has your view changed on that in the last week?

CONSTANTINE: We are daily talking with our public health folks about what is safe and what is not safe. A large open-air event where people are able to be arms' length apart is not necessarily more dangerous than, for example, than going to the supermarket.

But we'll have to make a judgment at some point about whether we ask people to shut down events, large and small, in order to protect, particularly those who are most likely to fall seriously ill or die of this disease.

BOLDUAN: It sounds to me like -- as you said, things are changing every day. But I think it's an important measure --


BOLDUAN: -- kind of, the tone of our discussion last week and it seems like things have changed in the last week for you.

CONSTANTINE: Yes. Well, last week, we asked people to work from home if they are able. People heeded that call. The roads are noticeably less congested. And people are beginning to understand what it means to socially distance now.

I've had to have some stern conversations with my own elderly parents about keeping themselves safe and not exposing themselves to potential infection. That is a cultural shift that people have to accept.

The fact is we need to keep our economy going. We don't need people thrown out of work, people losing their homes.


CONSTANTINE: We also need to make sure that people are able to continue to live a happy and productive life, even as they take appropriate measures to avoid infection.

BOLDUAN: Finding that line seems to be harder by the day.

About the nursing home in your county --

CONSTANTINE: Yes, it is.

BOLDUAN: -- it really is becoming the epicenter in Washington State.

CNN has heard from a first responder who said, when they went into the Life Care Center, they found it was woefully understaffed that, they didn't have accurate gear. There was only three staffers reporting to work to serve 90 residents there last week.

We know the CDC has sent more folks in. But was the situation there exacerbated by the fact there wasn't enough staff on hand?


CONSTANTINE: I think they had a huge challenge with staff attrition, either because staff were ill or because staff were afraid to come in to work. Life Care did not replenish that staff from other locations in the country as fast as they needed to.

We're very grateful for the U.S. medical team that came in on Saturday, 50 people, to help take up the slack and provide aid. We are moving people as appropriate out of that home and into a hospital or other settings.

BOLDUAN: One other quick thing I saw coming in as I was walking to the set, this morning, there was announced a /public private philanthropic partnership of $2.5 million in the state to try to help fight, I guess, the coronavirus outbreak. Where is the money going to?

CONSTANTINE: It's really to help individuals who are economically impacted or otherwise impacted by the virus, people who are the most vulnerable economically.

So Microsoft, Amazon have stepped up with million-dollar donations each. Alaska Airlines and Starbuck's with the Seattle Foundation. They're investing in community-based organizations that can help people get through this crisis.

BOLDUAN: People are really going to need it.

Dow, thank you for coming in again. I really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Coming up, there's new reporting from behind the scenes of the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus. Tension now becoming apparent between the White House and public health officials. How is that going to impact efforts to contain the virus and fight its spread?