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Schools, Colleges Bracing for Local Spread of Coronavirus; Interview with Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) About Coronavirus in Florida; Northern Italy Hospitals Receiving a Tsunami of Patients. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 9, 2020 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Just into CNN, all schools and offices in Georgia's Fulton County School District will close tomorrow. This is the Atlanta area. The decision comes as public health officials report a county school employee has coronavirus. A statement to CNN reads, quote, the affected schools will be cleaned and sanitized, end quote, while officials determine next steps.

Meantime some colleges and universities in New York which now has 142 cases of coronavirus and is under a state of emergency are telling students and faculty to stay away.

Athena Jones is our CNN national correspondent she is just outside the campus of Columbia University. And Athena, what is the story with classes there?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke. Well, as you mentioned a number of colleges across country are taking steps to try to mitigate or try to prevent the spread of this virus.

Columbia University here in New York and its sister campus Barnard College just across the street or down the street from here, they are suspending classes today and tomorrow. They're going to move to online classes for the rest of the week -- so Wednesday through Friday.

And then it is spring break. That is one thing that could make this a little easier for colleges around the country. They're already going to be entering into spring break either now or in a few weeks' time. So that is one good thing.

But Columbia University says they're doing this because a member of their community has been quarantined as a result of exposure to the coronavirus. Now this person is not a confirmed case of the virus. But the university wants to take precautions.

And students we've been speaking to are taking it pretty much in stride. They don't seem particularly worried. They're talking about how they're taking extra precautions to wash their hands and careful not to touch their face. Here is more of what one students I spoke to had to say, Josephine Ewing. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPHINE EWING, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENT: I guess, at first, I thought everybody was really, really overreacting. But now that everybody has sort of fallen in line and like there is a lot of schools that are canceled, like I know Stanford canceled their classes and it's like we're in a state of emergency and there is a bunch of stuff going on. I feel like this is actually, probably the appropriate reaction and it's like nothing too crazy is happening.

We're still going to have classes. They're going to be online. So like hopefully everything could sort of continue as normal while keeping everybody safe.


JONES: I also talked to a grad student who does most of his work out of the classroom anyway. You heard that student mention Stanford, that is yet another one of the colleges over on the west coast that is temporarily suspending classes including several in Washington state which we know is the hardest hit state or among the hardest hit so far. So a lot of precautions being taken to try to prevent the virus from spreading -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Athena Jones up at Columbia University and Barnard. Thank you very much, Athena. And in the midst of this coronavirus crisis with more than 600 cases thus far, the President is falsely blaming Democrats for the crisis. We'll get you the facts ahead.

And the President and his Democratic challengers are all in their 70s. So one of the questions being thrown out there, should they be holding rallies and big events full of tons of people? New concerns about their health ahead.



BALDWIN: Facing a growing pandemic, President Trump and his administration have at times resorted to misinformation and a lot of mixed messages. It's all led to plenty of confusion about the coronavirus threat.

So with me now, Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell represents Florida's 26th Congressional district in the southern part of the state. So Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here.

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL): Thank you for having me, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Listen, you represent Florida, where the south Florida economy really relies on the cruise industry. So what do you make of these conflicting messages coming from the White House?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: You know, to tell you the truth, it is very concerning. I think the most powerful tool that we have right now is to have clear messaging, clear and factual information that's based on science.

On Saturday Vice President Pence came and visited south Florida. They had a press conference with the governor where they were telling Americans that this was perfectly fine to travel on cruises. Then the next day, we get information from the Department of State that they were recommending that all Americans stay out of the cruise lines.

Of course, this is going to affect our local economy in south Florida. I also represent Key West and that is a huge economic influx for the community. So at this point, I am really concerned that we don't have a clear strategy and a clear message on what we need to do. I am in constant communication with the governor's office and with health county public officials so that we can really provide the appropriate information for our constituents.

BALDWIN: As for the President of the United States, he has been busy tweeting today. Congresswoman, tweeting at least a dozen times, many of those tweets blaming your party for inflaming the coronavirus situation. Your response?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, listen, this is no time for politics. We need leadership and we need someone that is going to unite this country in the time of a crisis. I'm extremely concerned this is going to test our health care system.

We have a shortage of doctors and nurses in south Florida and we have a very vulnerable population. We have many seniors that are residing in the state of Florida. So what we need is leadership, we need to work closely together at all levels, federal, corporate, pharmaceutical companies providing them with the resources that they need so that we can actually start creating these test kits.


That is why last week we passed -- the House Democrats passed an $8.3 billion bill so that we could provide support, a $100 million for additional test kits, $300 million to make sure that vulnerable populations who are underinsured or uninsured are not punished because they don't have insurance. So we could provide these therapeutics and these vaccines with affordability for these populations.

BALDWIN: Let me underscore your point about vulnerable population. There are a lot of older folks who go to Florida, right. It is a lovely place full of sunshine, a lot of folks who could be you know, extremely at risk of contracting coronavirus, and I'm just curious what you're anticipating in terms of how many Floridians could possibly be affected there?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Look, I have to be honest with you, I have been concerned. And also by the lack of seriousness by a lot of people that are living in south Florida. I'm from Miami. We kiss each other, we hug each other. And so I'm telling everyone in our office, we're already adopting a no handshake policy. I want to make sure that even though it is difficult for us culturally, that we may be OK if we get affected by the virus. But if you have an older parent -- I have my 80-year-old mother who's living with me -- you may be exposing your parents or other seniors or people that have immune system problems to this virus. And so we really need to take this seriously.

BALDWIN: I was talking to reverend, a priest in Washington, D.C. tested positive and she was saying love thy neighbor, from home, is where they are right now.

Let's talk politics. Turning to 2020, Joe Biden has been courting the Hispanic vote, it's a group that Bernie Sanders seems to do pretty well with and Florida has a really sizable Hispanic population. Have you decided who you're going endorse?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Well, funny you ask, Brooke, because I want to make the announcement officially today that I am very excited to endorse Vice President Joe Biden. I think that he will deliver results for my community. He has been a champion on gun violence and that is an issue that's very personal to me.

He was one of those that actually stood up to the NRA, took them on twice and beat them twice. And he led the effort to pass the Brady background check bill in the Senate. So I'm very excited to provide him support and campaign with him when he comes down to south Florida. So I welcome him as soon as he can, after tomorrow.

BALDWIN: I appreciate making the news on this show. I'm curious, Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell, what conversations have you had with Joe Biden himself or the campaign?

MUCARSEL-POWELL: You know, the Vice President called me early on and one of the issues that was very important to me as the first South American Congresswoman to be elected to Washington was his foreign policy experience. And he is someone that I think is going to bring credibility to the United States and the world stage which we need so badly, especially now we're facing this crisis with the coronavirus.

So we spoke extensively on his experience providing support to Central American countries, helping those countries deal with the violence that they deal with and the poverty they've been dealing with which is why we see such an influx of immigrants coming to the United States. He understands the politics of Venezuela and I've been advocating for TPS for Venezuelans. I know that Vice President Joe Biden is going to deliver on those issues that are so important to me and my community.

BALDWIN: There you go. Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, thank you very much.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: Thank you so much, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you. A pleasure.

Just in, Georgia Republican Congressman Doug Collins just announced he will self-quarantine out of caution since an infected person attended CPAC. He was near this person so he is now officially the third lawmaker to isolate himself. And here's the thing, Collins came face-to-face with President Trump

just days ago during the visit to the CDC in Georgia. So let's go straight to Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill -- Lauren.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: We are just learning this new information that Doug Collins has elected to self-quarantine after he said CPAC found a photograph of him with the individual who we now know was infected with coronavirus.

Now this is what Doug Collins tweeted just a few minutes ago. He said, quote, this afternoon I was notified by CPAC that they discovered a photo of myself and the patient who has tested positive for coronavirus. While I am not experiencing any symptoms, I have decided to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution.

We also now know -- thanks to my colleague Jeremy Herb up here on Capitol Hill that two of his staffers are also self-quarantining. So very significant development up here on Capitol Hill.

And of course adding to all of this is the fact that he was with the President on Friday and went to the CDC with President Trump. So you could expect that we're going to be waiting to hear what the White House has to say as well -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Lauren Fox, thank you very much. We'll stay tuned for that.

As the coronavirus is spreading here in the United States, Italy is taking extreme measures to stop the spread within its borders locking down nearly 16 million people. We'll talk about that.

And right now U.S. markets are on track to have their worst day in more than a decade.


What this panic selloff means for you and your bottom line.


BALDWIN: An Episcopalian priest has become the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the nation's capital. Washington, D.C.'s Mayor today called Reverend Timothy Cole "patient one." She is now directing hundreds of congregants at Cole's church to self-quarantine among them is the reverend's assistant at Christ Church, Georgetown, she is Reverend Crystal Hardin and I spoke with her just last hour.


BALDWIN: Does he have any idea how he got it?


REV. CRYSTAL HARDIN, ASSISTANT TO EPISCOPAL PRIEST WHO TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS (via Skype): I do not believe that he does. I think that they are still working those channels and trying to figure out how he may have come into contact with the virus. Father Tim was, you know, aware that he was sort of recovering from a cold.

And so he definitely was taking his own precautions, as well as knowing that this coronavirus was probably coming our way in general. We've been following guidance given to us by our diocese and the guidance of the CDC.


BALDWIN: CNN's Tom Foreman has more details on Reverend Cole and his impact his illness is having on his church -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Brooke, Reverend Timothy Cole has told his congregation there is no need for panic, that they should be calm because he's being treated well and doing relatively well in a Georgetown hospital.

Nonetheless, there is a lot of concern, only a week ago he was taking part in services here, serving communion, shaking hands with hundreds of people. Health officials here have now warned all those congregants that they should self-quarantine for the next two weeks in hopes that nobody else has picked up the virus.

The Reverend's case is interesting. Because while there have been some cases in Virginia and in Maryland, all of those cases seem to involve international travel. He did not travel outside the country. He had been at a conference in Kentucky.

Whether that is connected or not, they don't know, but that is one of the cause for concern about community transmission of the disease. Nonetheless he seems to be doing relatively well right now. And as for the church, this weekend they canceled services for the first time in more than 100 years -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Tom, thank you.

Governments around the world are taking extensive measures just to try to slow the spread of coronavirus. It has now become a global pandemic. There are now more than 100,000 confirmed cases worldwide. Nearly 4,000 are dead.

And we have a team of correspondents all around the globe covering the latest developments. So let's start with Ben Wedeman in Italy, where 16 million people in northern Italy are on lockdown as the country undergoes a stunning spike in cases -- Ben.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ben Wedeman in Bologna, in northern Italy. The coronavirus crisis is getting worse by the day.

CNN was able to speak to the coordinator for intensive care in the Lombardy region, home to 10 million people. He said that the health system is one step away from collapse. That patients are receiving intensive care in hospital corridors. Those hospitals he said are receiving a tsunami of new patients. OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem.

Israel has taken some of the most stringent measures in the world to limit the spread of coronavirus including travel restrictions and mandatory self-quarantine. And leaders here are considering applying those measures to anyone who enters the country from abroad, Israeli citizens and foreigners alike. Who health officials say would only be allowed to enter if they can show they can self-quarantine.

Meanwhile, the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank has been locked down, the center of the outbreak in the Palestinian territories. Israel and the Palestinian Authority are working together here coordinating their response to try to keep the spread of coronavirus under control.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm David Culver in Shanghai. As the rest of the world is grappling with how to handle the worsening novel coronavirus outbreak, the recent numbers suggest things here may be looking more positive. The number of new daily confirmed cases, down to just 40. Compare that with the high of roughly 4,000 at the peak of this outbreak.

Remember the rapid scramble to increase hospital capacity? Well, health officials here say they're now starting to close field hospitals. The reason, lack of demand. Not enough new patients.

And after way two-month hiatus, some students are headed back into the classroom as of Monday. All of this as millions still remain under lockdown. But restaurants and shops are starting to reopen. We're seeing folks venture out more and more. Clearly, they are eager for a taste of life before this outbreak.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Paula Hancocks in South Korea. There was a rare sign of optimism here in the country today. I spoke exclusively to the South Korean Health Minister and he told me that even though the number of new coronavirus cases is still rising, it is slowing down. And we've certainly seen that over the past couple of days. And the Minister said that he is cautiously hopeful that we may have seen the peak here.

He also had some advice for the United States, for Europe, given the fact that South Korea has been dealing with this virus for some months now. He said that early detection is key, that testing is key. And we've seen that in South Korea, they have done 196,000 tests so far. Testing here is widespread, it is fast, and it's free.


BALDWIN: Back here in the United States, we are minutes away from the closing bell. It's been the worst day on Wall Street in years. Stand by, we'll be right back.



Announcer: This is CNN Breaking News. JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start with breaking news, Wall Street is about to close any minute now, the Dow is collapsing, around 1,900 points today. Its worst single day loss ever, as an oil price war adds to fears over the coronavirus.

The Treasury bond today, the yield hit an all-time low. The Treasury bond yield is the government's interest rate to borrow money.