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Johns Hopkins' Dr. Amesh Adalja Answers Viewer's Questions on Coronavirus; Biden Takes Big Step Toward Democratic Nomination; Death Toll Rising in Italy As Coronavirus Puts Entire Nation on Lockdown. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 11, 2020 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Entire countries in lockdown abroad. Cities in the United States now facing increasing restrictions. Schools and universities closing their doors for now.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci said today, things are going to get worse with the coronavirus, which means there are more and more questions about what this means for each and every one of us.

Here on the show, we're going to continue to take your questions directly to the experts to help you separate fact from fiction.

To do that today, Dr. Amesh Adalja joins me. He's a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.

Doctor, thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

Let's get right to the viewer questions. There are often multiple viewers asking similar questions. I try to bring those up top because it seems like that's a driving question.

One we have seen over and over is actually -- and this is full screen one, guys -- can the virus be spread on cash or credit cards? I mean, I guess that also gets to -- remind folks what we know about how this virus spreads?

ADALJA: This is a respiratory virus. It spreads through coughs and sneezes and the droplets that go out of your body. They go about six feet and land on the ground. It can land on surfaces. It can remain viable on the surfaces but that's not the main way this is transmitting.

I don't myself worry about money or coins as a major way of this transmitting. You still have to wash your hands and be mindful about that type of this, but it's not the main way. I wouldn't put much worry to it.

BOLDUAN: You said six feet, is that the -- if folks were wanting to be careful and having this conversation about social distancing, is six feet the general working assumption of what is safe?

ADALJA: Yes, about six feet, because those things go in the air and then gravity hits them and they fall to the ground. They're not like measles particles, which stay in the air.


ADALJA: Very different.

BOLDUAN: But, although, six feet seems further than a cough should be able to travel, which is a great reminder of exactly what it can do.


BOLDUAN: And then there's also this from many viewers and readers. Why does it seem that this virus is hitting the elderly harder than children? When we often hear, when we look at a virus like the flu, it hits both the elderly and the young particularly hard. That's not the case with this virus.

ADALJA: So it's definitely one of the open-research questions, why children don't have severe disease. There's a couple of hypotheses. Maybe their immune response is that robust and they don't get very many symptoms. Because the immune system is what causes the symptoms to occur. Maybe older people have that kind of more reaction to the virus.


And it's also that children get lots of little respiratory viruses, many of which are caused by coronavirus. Remember, there are four other coronaviruses that are always with us. Maybe they have cross immunity. So that's another thing that might be protective of children.

We know they get infected but we don't know -- they don't really get that sick and we don't know what role they play in transmission. So those are important questions.

But clearly, the elderly, that's where we're seeing the clustering of severe illness and death. And that's why we have to protect our elderly, protect our long-term care facilities. We really have to focus our actions on making sure that vulnerable population is safe.

BOLDUAN: It also gets to -- it also gets to, particularly young children. We had a lot of folks asking about newborns or children up to six months. The youngest of children where it's still too young to be giving them kind of your typical fever remedies and a lot of the antibiotics and medications older kids can actually take. Do you have a particular concern there? ADALJA: We haven't seen much data on that age group. And so far, it

doesn't seem to be represented in data we're seeing from other countries.

I do think you have to be careful any time you have a newborn, especially if it's a neo-nat or a preemie.

But we don't see this really clustering there, but it's really early days still in this outbreak and we don't really know how each age cohort will respond to it.

BOLDUAN: That's kind of where that one lands, right? There's still a lot of unknown. There's kind of a sample set we have and it's very obvious the elderly are being hit hard.

But it is -- as Dr. Fauci said, it's going to get worse. More testing needs to be done to figure out how many people have it. This is a big unknown when it comes to what it means for other groups, other groups, like children.

ADALJA: Right. There's going to be lots of shifting data that comes out. You should expect, as a member of the public, that things are going to change, guidance is going to change because, really, this is a novel virus and research is going on in real time right now.

BOLDUAN: So here's another one that we're getting from a lot of folks. If this is contained in some parts, as the government has said, does it mean those communities are out of the woods?

ADALJA: No, it doesn't. Remember, our testing is really constrained, like you talked about. We're not testing mild cases. It doesn't mean just because some places kind of contained it, there aren't cases that are escaping.

Right now, we have this kind of impression that this was something that was first travel related and isn't something that everybody had to think about. But we know this is spreading in our communities. And because of the way testing is done, we don't want every mild case to be tested, but we have to acknowledge that there likely are mild cases out there.

So even if something seems to be contained, it may not be all of the cases.

So right now, the whole country kind of is at risk for community-wide spread. And I wouldn't say anybody is out of the woods yet.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, not. A tough reality, but a reality, nonetheless.

Let me ask you, because folks look to experts to kind of be the measure of how concerned and measured they should be about something so new and uncertain as this. What worries you most, Doctor? I know that's a question you were telling me you're getting a lot from people.

ADALJA: What worries me the most is the fact our health care system is always operating at capacity. We have very little slack in that system. If we get hit with a lot of patients in emergency departments, ICUs, do we have the capacity to care for those individuals.

We're seeing these disturbing reports from Italy, and I don't know how true they are and exactly how representative they are, but it's scary seeing people running out of ventilators, running out of ICU beds, having to cancel elective surgery.

So I'm really worried about our hospitals not being able to cope with this. That might be different in every city, but that's something we have to really think about because that's really going to make or break our responses, our hospitals.

BOLDUAN: Think about before, now, or last month, not when is actually in the process.

ADALJA: Right. They should have been preparing for this for a long time.

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

ADALJA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for your time and your expertise.

To all of you, please continue to submit your questions about the coronavirus. They have been fantastic and helpful for everyone. You can head to We'll continue to try to answer them right here on the show.

And also, a programming note. You can join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a second town hall about "CORONAVIRUS, FACTS AND FEARS." You can watch that. That is tomorrow night at 10:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up still for us, it was a big night for Joe Biden as he picks up a slew of wins and moves a big step closer toward locking down the Democratic nomination. A big question now is, what did last night and what does today mean for Bernie Sanders.


We'll be back.


BOLDUAN: Joe Biden appears to be on a march toward the Democratic nomination after last night's Super Tuesday. Now, there's a very real question about what Bernie Sanders is going to do next.

The former vice president winning decisively in Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, and Michigan last night. Sanders winning in North Dakota. The state of Washington has not yet been called.

If you can take a look here, we're going to show you the latest delegate count. Joe Biden is at 800. Bernie Sanders at 660 in terms of delegates.

CNN's political correspondent, Arlette Saenz, is in Wilmington, Delaware, following the Biden campaign.

Arlette, what are you hearing from the Biden campaign now?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, Joe Biden is here at home in Wilmington, Delaware, meeting with advisers today. But he certainly had a lot to celebrate last night as it appears he has taken command of the Democratic presidential race.

It's really hard to understate what a turn of events the past 10 days have been for Joe Biden. He lost the first three nominating contests and now it's clear he's getting closer and closer to securing the Democratic nomination.


And yesterday, as you mentioned, he won Mississippi, Missouri, Idaho. Idaho is a state he didn't even campaign in. Michigan, which was really a major blow to Bernie Sanders, who won that state in an upset victory in 2016 and was hoping for a repeat.

Now, Joe Biden, last night in Philadelphia, tried to take on this presidential tone, presenting himself as the one that can unify, not just the Democratic Party, but also the country.

Take a listen to what he had to say.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need you. We want you. And there's a place in our campaign for each of you.

And I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion. We share a common goal. And together, we'll defeat Donald Trump. We'll defeat him together.




SAENZ: So Joe Biden offering a bit of an olive branch to Bernie Sanders and his supporters. And if Joe Biden becomes the Democratic nominee, he could face the difficult challenge of uniting the party going forward.

BOLDUAN: So, Arlette, have you heard anything about what this means for the Sanders campaign? What are you picking up?

SAENZ: Well, there are certainly questions about where Bernie Sanders' campaign heads from here. He didn't speak last night in Vermont. He is planning on attending that debate. His advisers say he's eager to debate Joe Biden on Sunday. But, there's certainly a question about whether he has the path to the

nomination. If you look at the states coming up, a lot of them appear to be favorable to Joe Biden as this race has quickly turned Joe Biden's way -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Arlette. Thank you.

Coming up for us, the death toll is rising in Italy as the coronavirus puts the entire nation on lockdown. What does that mean for everyday life there? We're live in Bologna, next.



BOLDUAN: Italy is the hardest-hit country by the coronavirus in all of Europe, and the situation there's going from bad to worse, reporting a huge spike in the number of deaths from the outbreak, now up to 631. This, as the entire country of 60 million people remains on lockdown.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is in Bologna, Italy.

So, Ben, how and what are you seeing and hearing from folks who are facing this lockdown now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing is that the Italians aren't really panicking, Kate, at this point, but they are having a bit of difficulty coming to terms with these latest measures designed to stop the outbreak of the coronavirus.

But this comes at a time when Italy's public health system, especially in the north of the country, is dealing with its worst crisis since the Second World War.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): Inside the intensive care unit in a hospital in northern Italy, doctors and nurses struggle with what they say is a tsunami of new patients. Every day brings ever more new cases, ever more


Despite it all, the few tourists left in the northern city of Bologna pursued la dolce vita, though many sites are now closed.

CAROLINA VERSAU, BRAZILIAN TOURIST: Italy is so beautiful outside. But I think inside is better. But I have next trip, I think.

WEDEMAN: This country of 60 million souls is now in theory under lockdown. Movement is restricted, schools and universities closed, public gatherings prohibited, and all sporting events canceled.

FILIPPO BASSI, TEACHER: Every day this main square is full of people that's talking with each other, very close, kissing, handshaking, you don't see that now. So, of course, it is like the plague.

WEDEMAN: The bubonic plague killed thousands here in the 17th-century. Bologna survived and went on to prosper.

The cafes in the city's normally bustling central Piazza Maggiore are emptier than usual, yet the few patrons are hardly panicking. Life must go on. The dogs still need to get out.


WEDEMAN (on camera): Two dark clouds hover over Italy at the moment. Of course, there is coronavirus, but many people here are, in fact more, worried over the long-term impact the virus will have on the economy.

(voice-over): Business has all but evaporated. And if draconian measures are what it takes it bring it back, some say, so be it.

"We have to face the emergency with the strictest measures, like they did in China," says Alessandria Carvalho (ph). "It is a dictatorship, but they did the right thing."

Across the street, Manuela Pinnate (ph) says more should be done. "I would be fine with a total 20-day shutdown," she tells me, "because people are afraid and work is going badly. It's bad but this city has seen worse."


WEDEMAN: And one story, to give you -- just to give you an idea of how bad things are. There was an elderly man in Liguria, in the northwest of the country, who came down with the symptoms of coronavirus but refused to go to hospital. He passed away in the apartment with his wife.


But because his body had to be tested, and it took time for the results to come back, this woman, an elderly woman, had to spend 30 hours in their flat with the corpse before a hearse could be brought to take the body to the morgue. This woman is now receiving psychiatric treatment -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: My god, Ben.

Thank you so much for bringing us that story, as horrific as that is. Thank you very much.

Coming up, as the number of cases continues to rise, the Trump administration -- officials in the Trump administration are still struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus here at home. More on that, next.