Return to Transcripts main page


Dow Dives Again; Coronavirus Pandemic Intensifies; Seattle Closes Public Schools, 53K Children Out of School. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 11, 2020 - 16:00   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It looks like, yes, the Dow has entered bear market territory -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And, Alison, how long could we see the volatility or market drops? Is there a floor?

There it is, down more than 1,400 points today.

How long is this going to go on, do we know? And do you anticipate a floor?

KOSIK: You asked if there's a floor? Yes, there's a floor. But the question is, where is it? I don't think investors really know where it is.

This is territory that really is unchartered. The problem is, the number of coronavirus cases is accelerating. And I think until we see those numbers decrease, I think we are going to continue to see this crazy volatility.

And it's really hard to put a cost on the unknown. We don't know how much of an impact the virus is going to have on world economies. We don't know how much of a cost it's going to have on businesses, everything from retail to restaurants to airlines, you name it.

We just don't know the costs. And investors are kind of swimming in this sea of a world where we're using pandemic and bear market in the same sentence. Who would have thought that in 2020, Jake?

TAPPER: OK, all right, Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange first, thank you so much.

Today, a stark warning from one of the nation's top medical expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He's director since 1984 of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

And Fauci was asked a simple question by the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee about the coronavirus outbreak, which, as of right now, has claimed 33 American lives and infected more than 1,000 individuals in the U.S.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the worst yet to come, Dr. Fauci?


I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now. Bottom line, it's going to get worse.


TAPPER: "Bottom line, it's going to get worse."

The World Health Organization confirming today that this is a global pandemic. A crisis like this requires leaders who understand how to make government bureaucracies function, people who trust experts in medicine and science, credible sources of factual information, capabilities demonstrated by Dr. Fauci, and faculties that even the president's supporters at the conservative "National Review," which today assailed President Trump for not passing muster in leadership metrics, note that have been lacking in the president.

And Dr. Fauci's warning that things are going to get worse is a jarring contrast to what President Trump told the public just yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.


TAPPER: "Just stay calm. It will go away," the president says.

Here's Dr. Fauci:


FAUCI: If we are complacent and don't do really aggressive containment and mitigation, the number could go way up and be involved in many, many millions.


TAPPER: At every turn in this crisis, the president has publicly downplayed the crisis. Last month, he falsely promised, within a couple of days, the number cases are going to -- quote -- "be down to close to zero."

Not true.

Last Friday, he said he wanted to keep Americans with coronavirus stuck at sea on a cruise ship because he wanted to keep the numbers of cases low.

And through it all, the president keeps noting how many Americans die each year from the common flu.

He tweeted this week -- quote -- "So, last year, 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. Nothing is shut down. Life and the economy go on. At this moment, there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 22 deaths. Think about that!" the president said.

Well, here's what Dr. Fauci had to say about that:


FAUCI: I mean, people always say, well, the flu, the flu does this, the flu does that.

The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent. This has a mortality of 10 times that.


TAPPER: Experts believe that the novel coronavirus is not only deadlier than the flu. It could also be more easily transmissible than the common flu.

States of emergency have now been declared in 19 states. And even the president's allies are finding his response inadequate, as CNN's Nick Watt now reports.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Schools, houses of worship, other large facilities now shut down within this one-mile radius containment zone, New Rochelle uncomfortably close to the largest city in this country.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): You know you have an intense cluster, stop large gatherings where you have a large cluster of people who are infected. It's called common sense. And that's what we announced with New Rochelle.

WATT: In Washington state, now no gatherings of more than 250 people allowed across three counties, affecting nearly four million people.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): These events that are prohibited our gatherings for social, recreational, spiritual, and other matters, including, but not limited to, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based or sporting events.


WATT: The governor has said that if more isn't done to slow the spread, Washington could see a quarter-million cases within a few months.

Life across this country is now changing. The Golden State Warriors will play to an empty arena tomorrow night. The Giants just canceled an exhibition game. San Francisco just banned all gatherings of 1,000- plus. Kentucky's governor now recommending canceling all church services.

GOV. STEVE BESHEAR (D-KY): I know that there's going to be some pushback on it. I wouldn't recommend it if I did not believe that it was necessary.

WATT: Symptoms and severity vary, but here's part of one patient's story.

CLAY BENTLEY, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: Both my lungs are -- I can't think straight. Both my lungs have fluid in my lungs.

WATT: And he's living in isolation.

BENTLEY: I feel like I'm in a jail cell and just can't get away. So, hopefully, I will be out of here soon. It's very lonely. It is a lonely place to be.

WATT: Meanwhile, passengers from the Grand Princess who have been confined here in Oakland now arriving and entering quarantine on military bases. It's been a slow process. There were 21 confirmed cases on board.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be about an hour-and-a-half before we start getting your bus unloaded.

WATT: And a difficult one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm having a little difficulty breathing. I always suffer from shortness of breath.


WATT: Now, we're told that everyone will be off this boat by the end of the day today, although we were also told that yesterday.

Now, I don't want to be alarmist, but I do want to share something that the German chancellor said today. She says -- by the way, Germany has maybe 500 or so more cases, confirmed cases, right now than the U.S.

And Angela Merkel is saying her experts believe that 60 to 70 percent of the German population will eventually become infected. Jake, that could be somewhere around 50 million people.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt, thank you so much.

Joining me now is New Rochelle, New York City, Manager Chuck Strome.

Chuck, thanks for joining us.

A one-mile containment zone around New Rochelle, it allows for freedom of movement, but it closes large gatherings at places such as schools or houses of worship.

Let me just ask you, as a practical matter, if a person lives in the containment zone, but their child goes to school outside New Rochelle, what should they do? Are they allowed in and out?

CHARLES STROME, NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK, CITY MANAGER: Yes, they are allowed in and out, Jake.

Thanks for having me.

Students that live inside the containment zone, but go to school outside of the zone are free to go to school. At the same time, those that live outside of the containment zone, but their school is in it, cannot go to school.

TAPPER: If New Rochelle is the largest cluster of coronavirus cases in the country, which it is, as far as we know, should New Rochelle residents consider taking even more drastic action, such as not leaving New Rochelle, or staying in homes as much as possible?

STROME: Well, we're telling people, based on the guidance we're getting from the public health professionals at the county and state level, that the vulnerable populations, particularly the 60 -- the senior citizens above 80, and those that have compromised health situations, that they should do their best to stay at home as much as possible.

We were told that others can move about freely. And until we're told differently, we will just follow the health guidelines that are given to us by the state and county health professionals.

TAPPER: How many people in New Rochelle have coronavirus as of now, as far as you know?

STROME: The numbers that we got today, that I got, were 108 people in Westchester County as a whole; 92 of those are New Rochelle, and they all seem to still be in and around that original cluster up at the synagogue in the northern end of the city.

TAPPER: And so, I mean, is -- what's the reason you think that this big cluster is in New Rochelle? Is it because somebody who had it went to Beth Israel Synagogue, I think it is -- I might have the name wrong -- and at a time that a lot of people were there, and that's how the infection spread?

STROME: Yes, it was Young Israel of New Rochelle.

There was a gentleman who they call the index case who had the virus. He went to three separate events a couple of weekends ago. One was a funeral. One was a bat mitzvah, and one was a general service. And that's a synagogue of up to about 1,000 people, men, women and children.

And that's why we think the infection -- that's why we're told the infection seems to be centered in that area. Those folks have been quarantined since about a week ago, and will stay that way until Saturday.

And that was the effort to try to contain it as best as possible from the health officials. TAPPER: So, CNN's Erica Hill spoke with one New Rochelle resident

today who is not feeling well, does not want to be a public health threat, but cannot get any information about testing.


How can the containment zone be effective if people don't know what to do if they believe they're showing symptoms? What should this person do?

STROME: What we have been told by both county and state officials is, if you're feeling like you might have something similar to this disease, you should first call your personal physician, and do not go to the emergency room unannounced.

Then you should have your physician set up a visit for you to the emergency room. And at the emergency room, they will take the steps necessary to protect both the workers and other people in the hospital, the health care professionals.

And then, from there, the county and state health department will be notified, and testing will be scheduled.

Look, I wish there was more testing available. There's supposed to be a testing center opening here soon, according to the governor. And the more testing we can get done, and the quicker we can get that, the better, because you're right. People are concerned. And they want to be able to see if they have this or not.

TAPPER: It just seems odd to me, because we keep hearing from the White House that millions of testing kits are getting out there. And you are in the biggest cluster in the United States.

And you're telling me that you don't have the testing kits you need.

STROME: What I'm saying is that I don't know that we have as many as we need. Obviously, the city is not doing the testing ourselves. So I'm really depending on the state and the county.

But I don't think there's been any secret to the fact that there haven't been enough testing kits for sometime now. And I think most of the testing that's been done here in New Rochelle has been done on the people in this synagogue that had contact with the index patient.

So, obviously, with a cluster like this, and with New Rochelle being sort of the epicenter of the virus, in not only the state, but maybe, outside of Washington, the country, we'd like to see as many testing kits and as much testing as available.

And it's very frustrating for us to answer phone calls from constituents asking the same questions you're asking us, and really not being able to tell them that there's testing readily available for them and just to go here and get tested.

TAPPER: Chuck Strome, thank you so much for your time, sir. Appreciate it. And best of luck handling this crisis. STROME: Thank you very much, Jake. Good to be with you.

TAPPER: Schools and big events canceled, major companies asking employees to work from home.

We're going to talk to two experts about the potential ways to curb and contain the coronavirus.

And a CNN investigation. Some medical workers caring for some of the first evacuees from China say they did not have the proper protective gear. Wait until you see where they went after they worked in the quarantine zone.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you now. Public schools in Seattle closed for at least two weeks to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. That means starting tomorrow, more than 53,000 children in Seattle will not be going to school. This comes at the same time several major colleges and universities are telling students that classes will be held virtually instead of in person.

Athena Jones has all the latest.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A growing number of colleges and universities suspending classes.

Harvard's classes empty out for spring break, students living on campus are being asked to pack up their things and leave until further notice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're making us move out by Sunday morning. Sunday morning, at 5:00 p.m., from all the dorms but I think we have to stay calm and what we're doing.

JONES: Harvard's decision to move classes online was not taken lightly, the university president says. President Lawrence Bacow telling students: We are doing this not just to protect you but also to protect other members of our community who may be more vulnerable to this disease than you are.

KARINA COWPERTHWIRE, HARVARD STUDENT: I definitely understand the precaution. It's definitely coming from like a young person who maybe the corona threat isn't as pressing for me, upsetting that I won't be able to finish the freshman year the way I wanted to, but I also like sympathize and understand like where the university is coming from.

JONES: Georgetown University announcing similar measures, from coast to coast, schools are suspending or even canceling in-person classes, opting instead to teach remotely, including schools like Duke, Yale and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Schools are heeding the advice of top infectious experts to take caution with high population areas, limiting in-person interaction where the disease can move quickly.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Start seriously looking at this kind of mitigation. They call it social distancing but it's common sense stuff. You don't want to go to a massive gathering, particularly if you're a vulnerable person.

JONES: K through 12 schools are also temporarily closing in some districts in the country including Elk Grove Unified School District in northern California and then North Shore School District in western Washington which is moving classes online.

In New Rochelle, New York, one of the hardest hit parts of the country, multiple schools will be closed for the next two weeks.

HOWARD ZUCKER, MD, NEW YORK HEALTH COMMISSIONER: One of the places where people gather together particularly is school systems and schools and other areas events and daily or weekly activities. And we believe that the most important thing from a public health standpoint is to minimize that.


JONES: We've also learned that a teacher at the United Nations International School in Manhattan has tested positive for COVID-19. That teacher had not traveled internationally in the last few months.

Now two schools are closed until spring break begins on March 20th. Bottom line here, this is a trend that's not likely to end soon. Social distancing and virtual instruction are becoming the rule, not just here but schools across the country -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Athena in Cambridge, Massachusetts, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss, Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, she oversees 51 hospitals across six Western states, including the hospital that treated the first U.S. coronavirus patient.

Also with me in studio is Dr. James Phillips. He's the chief of disaster and operational medicine at George Washington University Hospital.


Dr. Compton-Phillips, let me start with you. You're in Seattle, is the public school system there making the right move by not having classes for at least two weeks?

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER AT PROVIDENCE ST. JOSEPH HEALTH: Well, exactly as your reporter just talked about, social distancing is one of the key ways that we can start mitigating the spread of an epidemic. And we are definitely in the midst of an epidemic here in Seattle. It's kind of a ghost town outside. And so, we need to be able to do things that limit people congregating, that can facilitate transmission of the virus. So, it's going to be challenging but it's a good move.

TAPPER: Dr. Phillips, should more universities and more school systems consider canceling in-person classes, or do you think that some of them might be overreacting?

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, CHIEF OF DISASTER & OPERATIONAL MEDICINE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: I think that they have to consider it very strongly. When we look at this virus and the spread, we compare ourselves to the other countries like China, for instance, and we see how that new case curve flattened out there, that's the result of very authoritarian, very strong measures to keep people from other people.

We're not going to do that here. So, I think we need to be aggressive in the way we do things in our culture, in our norms, and part of that is restricting these large gatherings.

TAPPER: And, Dr. Compton-Phillips, the world health organization declared a pandemic.

You're on the front lines of this outbreak in the U.S. Do you think that it's too late in the sense that the World Health Organization took a long time to declare it a pandemic or does it not really matter that much?

DR. COMPTON-PHILLIPS: To be honest with you, it doesn't really matter that much. On the ground, what we're dealing with right now are people who are infected and with the community transmission that we're having here up and down the West Coast as well as moving inland now. And so, whether or not it's happening in Mongolia and Argentina probably matters less than it's happening across on the east side of Seattle and down in the peninsula and over in the Olympics.

And so what we're having to do right now is make sure we marshal all the resources across every health system, across our public sector and saying how are we going to make sure we have the tools and information and ventilators and test kits available for people wherever they are in our part of the world.

TAPPER: And, Dr. Phillips, "Axios" is reporting that Congress' in- house doctor told Capitol Hill staffer that is he expects 70 million to 150 million Americans will contract the coronavirus.

Now, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist, told Congress that the virus could have a fatality rate of 1 percent. That's conservative because the World Health Organization had it above 3 percent. One percent of 70 million, which is the lower end of that, that's 700,000 deaths.

Is that a reasonable estimate or is that a worst-case scenario?

PHILLIPS: Well, I think that we need to look at things in terms of best-case scenarios, medium and worst. There's concentric circles of how bad this thing is going to get. For weeks, we've seen people trying to throw estimates out there of 20 to 70 percent of the world's population. We know --

TAPPER: Contracting it, not --

PHILLIPS: Contracting it.

TAPPER: Not dying from it, OK.

PHILLIPS: Contracting it. That's one -- that's one of the tricky parts about the mortality rate that people need to clarify when they speak about it, is that the mortality rate of the general public or just those who contract it? Regardless, we won't know those answers until this calms down and is over.

TAPPER: And testing kits out there to know how prevalent it really is.

PHILLIPS: Yes, and even more so than the kits, it's an important distinction, is we can have all the nasal swabs and test tubes in the world but until we get the machines and the right primers and chemicals, if you will, to run those tests closer to the patient, we're still at a disadvantage.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around. We're going to talk more about this. Coming up, health workers grabbing coffee and visiting tourist hot spots after treating coronavirus evacuees without the right protective gear, according to sources. That's a CNN investigation that we're going to bring to you, next.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Three health care professionals are telling CNN that medical staff were ill-prepared and ill-equipped when the first evacuees from China landed in California weeks ago. This echoes concerns first raised by a whistle-blower to the Department of Health and Human Services saying that different group of workers also lacked proper gear.

And as CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin now reports for us, they handled hundreds of people who may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the first evacuees landed at Travis Air Force Base from Wuhan, China, they were met by a U.S. government team equipped and ready to handle Americans who may have been exposed to the deadly coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throughout their quarantine, we will be following CDC guidance for infection control.

GRIFFIN: But that was not the case, according to three professionals who worked with the quarantined passengers. All three tell CNN medical staff were ill-prepared, not given personal protective equipment, and all three say the lapse could have led to a possible spread to the virus if any of the passengers carried COVID-19 back with them from China.

Among the complaints -- no protective clothing, inadequate face masks used to prevent dusts not airborne germs.