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Coronavirus Pandemic Escalating; Bernie Sanders Vows to Fight On. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 11, 2020 - 16:30   ET




DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Among the complaints? No protective clothing, inadequate face masks used to prevent dust, not airborne germs. The workers tell CNN even cleaning was inadequate, baby wipes used to clean surfaces, instead of medical- grade antibacterial wipes.

And though advise to maintain a six-feet distance between themselves and evacuees, two of the sources say during the 14-day quarantine, that rule was not followed.

Failure to follow the proper procedures is troubling to infectious disease experts, especially since it's believed even people showing no symptoms can spread this virus.

CAROLINE BUCKEE, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We think that at least some people never show infection at all, never show symptoms of the infection, but they can spread the disease to others.

GRIFFIN: CNN has obtained this after-action report filed with the Department of Health and Human Services by a disaster worker, stating that, when the worker complained about the lack of protective equipment, the worker was told, "If you don't feel comfortable, we will find another job for you."

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Any time you have an epidemic with a new pathogen, you're always going to have missteps.

The key is making sure those missteps are not repeated over and over again.

GRIFFIN: The sources speaking to CNN echo concerns raised by a whistle-blower from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who filed a complaint about a different group of workers, saying more than a dozen people who worked with the first Americans evacuated from China at two Air Force bases were sent into quarantine areas without personal protective equipment, training or experience.

The Department of Health and Human Services has launched an investigation into the complaints at both Travis and March Air Force bases in California, to include what protocols and procedures were followed at both facilities.

BUCKEE: It's really a disaster if we don't properly protect our health care workers. If they get sick, not only are they no longer able to care for patients, but also they can transmit the virus in their communities.

So there's kind of a double threat to not caring for our health care force.

GRIFFIN: An even bigger concern to the sources speaking to CNN is the possibility workers could have easily transmitted the virus outside Travis Air Force Base, claiming they left the quarantine area every day with no restrictions, wearing the same clothes, going straight to a Starbucks on base, to local hotels, some even enjoying day-off field trips to San Francisco tourist spots, including Alcatraz Island.

"They're spraying down streets with bleach in China," one source told CNN, "and we were out there wearing our uniforms."

California's first suspected community spread illness took place near Travis Air Force Base. It's still unclear how that person contracted the virus.


GRIFFIN: Jake, the quarantined workers talking to CNN returned to their civilian jobs. None have developed symptoms, nor have they been tested for coronavirus -- Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Drew Griffin, thank you for that.

We're back with Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips and Dr. James Phillips.

Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, let me start with you.

What's your reaction to Drew Griffin's report? I find it stunning, personally, to hear that these first responders went into this situation without the proper training and gear.

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, PROVIDENCE ST. JOSEPH HEALTH: It's been really interesting over the past few years that we have taken what we used to considered skilled professionals that are -- they're prepared to help us in case of an emergency, and somehow labeled them as members of a bureaucratic state.

And so I think actually recognizing that we have skilled professionals from places like the CDC and from our public health infrastructure there to help us in case of an emergency, and we depend on that skill set. And so it just is disheartening to me to not have that skill set be recognized and honored and drawn upon and be ready and available for when it's needed.

TAPPER: And, Dr. Phillips, this actually reminds me of a story that I broke a few days ago, a first responder in Kirkland, Washington, telling me that he was in the Life Care Center. That's the nursing home where at least 19 patients have died, one of the other clusters, a week ago, to this day, Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, and workers there, weeks into this quite crisis, didn't have the proper gear, weren't wearing the proper PPE.

How can this be so incompetently run?

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: It's another example that the public needs to understand that we're not -- we need more protection.

There's a vulnerable population of older -- and older patients and those with comorbidities. But then there's also those who are the most valuable to society. Those are our firefighters, our police.

And I think we will soon find that our health care workers are an incredibly valuable commodity. And if we start losing those folks in this fight, we're going to be at a real disadvantage.

So I would like to know some more concrete steps from HHS. What is the exact pathway for that equipment to get to me? I have friends working in hospitals where they are running out of that N95 masks.


We -- there are stories that are trickling over social media and everywhere else around the country that, despite what's being said, we don't have the equipment. We need answers.

TAPPER: And, Dr. Compton-Phillips, let me ask you.

We have some breaking news. The acting homeland security deputy secretary, Ken Cuccinelli, said that coronavirus travel restrictions for Europe are under discussion. This would be a huge deal.

Do you think it's the right thing to do, given the outbreak in places such as Italy?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: It's really hard to make sure that we're not getting virus from abroad and put a lot of energy there while we have the virus here on our own shores.

And I think making sure that we devote energy and resources to exactly what Dr. Phillips was just talking about, making sure we have the appropriate PPE gear available for every health care worker and first responder, so that our nurses and our doctors and our firefighters and our policemen can actually do their job, and not be vectors for transmission, I think for us being able to manufacture test kits, that is a great use of energy.

But thinking about, how do we disrupt the rest of the economy that's still going on, through closing the borders down, we -- the horse is already out of the barn.

TAPPER: It's already here.

Do you agree with that, Dr. Phillips?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely.


PHILLIPS: It's a brilliant answer.

There's so many different aspects to this viral outbreak that go far beyond infection with the virus. The resources that we may lose, from our first responders, to our paramedics, to just hospital beds in general, all of that is going to have a significant trickle-down effect on other people who don't even get the virus.

One of the things that has me concerned about school closings -- and they're necessary -- 20 million American kids, that's the only good meal they get every day.


PHILLIPS: And we have to consider that we're going to see things such as nutritional deficiencies in young kids who aren't getting food.

So the trickle-down effects of this are vast. And there are people looking at it. But we need more.

TAPPER: Not to mention all the child care issues and the economy surrounding universities and schools.

Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips and Dr. James Phillips here in studio, thank you so much for your expertise. We appreciate it.

President Trump just said he will speak to the nation tonight. What we know about his message, that's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, President Trump says he will make a statement tonight around 8:00 p.m. Eastern about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

What message the president conveys will be closely watched, as the president has downplayed the potential impact of the disease for weeks and shared false information with the public about the infection rate, a vaccine, and much more.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us now.

And, Kaitlan, President Trump was meeting with bank leaders today when he said he would make a statement tonight about the coronavirus. Will he be focusing on the health aspect, the economy? Do we know what he's going to say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He said it could be both of those, Jake, but he didn't elaborate. He only said he's made some decisions and he's going to be informing us of those tonight. But, of course, you got to keep this in perspective here, because,

just yesterday, the president said he was also going to hold a press conference on the economic steps his administration was going to take to blunt the impact of the coronavirus. And, of course, that press conference never happened.

Now, he's been hinting on Twitter today that it could be some kind of executive action here. We have been hearing talk about a possible emergency declaration, that they could do travel restrictions. And, of course, he was there meeting with those bank CEOs, who definitely want some kind of financial stimulus here, as they are looking at how this is going to be affecting their banks and other industries as this outbreak is continuing to spread.

But what people are also going to be looking for from the president is some kind of concrete action or words that are not downplaying this, because you just heard him there in the room with these bank CEOs, saying, four weeks ago, no one knew about this, and we couldn't have seen this coming, when, of course, four weeks ago is February.

They had already put a task force together here at the White House and gone forward with some travel restrictions with China. So, of course, people have been taking this seriously, though people around the president, even his own advisers, have been questioning how seriously he is taking it.

Lately, they have said he's viewing it through the lens of the coverage, and he sees that he is not getting good coverage of this, which could be leading to this address that we're going to see from the president around 8:00 tonight, Jake, he says.

TAPPER: Not sharing misinformation would be a good start.

Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Breaking news: The NCAA has just announced it will hold its March Madness tournament games, but without fans, allowing only essential staff and limited family to attend the games in its upcoming Division I men's and women's tournament's, because of coronavirus fears, especially when people are in crowds.

Coming up next: still in the fight. Bernie Sanders admits he's losing, but not going anywhere, as he lays out a battle plan for Sunday's CNN/Univision debate.

Stay with us.




SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Last night, obviously, was not a good night for our campaign from a delegate point of view. Poll after poll, including exit polls, show that a strong majority of the American people support our progressive agenda.


TAPPER: That was Senator Bernie Sanders earlier today making clear he has no plans to drop out of the Democratic presidential contest after his rival, Vice President Joe Biden, handily won four out of six states during last night's Super Tuesday contests.

Right now, Biden is ahead by more than 100 delegates. And, at one point today, Sanders seemed to admit he knows why Biden is winning.


SANDERS: We are losing the debate over electability.

I cannot tell you how many people our campaign has spoken to who have said -- and I quote -- I like what your campaign stands for. I agree with what your campaign stands for. But I'm going to vote for Joe Biden because I think Joe is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump."


That is what millions of Democrats and independents today believe.


TAPPER: Let's discuss.

So, Jen Psaki, let me start with you.

Sanders in those comments said he's winning the ideological battle, because polls show that people really support his plans. And even in states where Joe Biden won, a majority of Democratic voters, according to an exit poll, supported Medicare for all, which Joe Biden doesn't support.

He also said, he's winning the generational battle, since he's winning voters under the age of 50.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think people over the age of 50 might argue their votes also count. Go figure.

But, look, I think Sanders does have a point, in that there are -- there has been movement in support for Medicare for all in a number of early states, we have seen from the exit polls, and that is an indication of that being a clear issue that will be debated around the Democratic platform.

But Joe Biden is here because African-Americans in South Carolina and then states in the South decided that he was the right candidate to take on Donald Trump. Is a big portion of that electability? Sure.

But we have also seen in exit polls that questions like, who's best here to handle a crisis, he's winning that. He was winning that by large margins. Who can bring the country together, which I think is a piece that a lot of Democrats across the country feel strongly they want in the next president.

So, yes on policy issues, but I think on a number of character issues, in addition to electability, Joe Biden brought people to his side.

TAPPER: Amanda, is there a path for Bernie Sanders? I mean, right now -- I mean, 100 or so delegates isn't insurmountable. But in the next four states are going to be -- they're states that Sanders lost last time.

And Sanders' base seems to be getting smaller. People who voted for him. 2016 are voting for Biden now.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, he did worse in the states of Michigan, Washington and Idaho than he did in 2016.

And that's because this revolution that he's promised for so long, that would be made up of young and non-traditional voters, aren't showing up. That's why he's not electable.

And so I'm confused -- you know, I can be the mean one here to Sanders, because I'm the Republican, why he feels the need to dictate to Joe Biden how to win. The coalition that Joe Biden is putting together, older voters, suburban voters, African-Americans and people in the suburbs, is how you win a general election.

And now he's going to go to the debate and try to push Biden to the left, which will alienate potentially some of those suburban Republican voters that are coming to Biden? That makes no sense to me.

TAPPER: What do you think?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one key constituency that is missing from Vice President Biden's coalition that was key to President Obama's election in 2008 and in 2012 is young voters.

TAPPER: In fact, let me just play a little sound from Bernie Sanders, come right back to you. Let's play that sound, Sanders talking about how the younger generations are with him.


SANDERS: -- say to the Democratic establishment, in order to win in the future, you need to win the voters who represent the future of our country, and you must speak to the issues of concern to them.


SIDDIQUI: And not only do young voters overwhelmingly back Bernie Sanders.

TAPPER: Overwhelmingly, huge numbers.

SIDDIQUI: They also -- even though they voted in large majorities for Hillary Clinton, they did not turn out in the 2016 general election in the numbers that would have potentially made a great deal of difference in what was an incredibly close election.

And so I think what I read was a very different tone from Senator Sanders, compared with last week, when the refrain of his press conference was, Joe is going to have to explain. And he attacked him on trade, on his vote for the Iraq War, on his position on Social Security and a host of issues.

This time, it was, Joe, what are you going to do? And so it did seem like he was symbolically passing the torch, and he wants to use this debate as an opportunity to influence Joe Biden's platform and ensure that he is going to bring along young voters and others who are skeptical about what a Joe Biden candidacy means for priorities that remain very popular, not just among liberals or progressives, but still the broader Democratic electorate, if not voters whose voices will absolutely matter if they don't feel energized to get behind Joe Biden in a general.

TAPPER: And, Toluse, we also heard Vice President Biden last night in his remarks in Philadelphia extend something of an olive branch to Sanders and his supporters.

Take a listen.


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need you. We want you. 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.


TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, what you see there is Vice President Joe Biden really switching to general election mode.

He's basically turning the page, saying, essentially, this primary is over. If you look at the math, if you look at the endorsements that he's getting, Andrew Yang last night, saying what basically all Democrats who are looking at this map are saying, which is that there's no path for Bernie Sanders.

And for Vice President Joe Biden, when he looked at some of those exit polls, he does need to pick up some of those Sanders voters, some of the younger people. He's got to figure out a way to do it without alienating the suburban voters.

But I think that speech last night was the first step in that process. We will have to see during the debate how contentious it gets or whether or not they're able to come together with sort of a joint platform that not only brings along some of the Sanders voters, but also allows some of those suburban voters to stick with Joe Biden.

[16:55:07] TAPPER: It's going to take some agility from the vice president.

Thanks, one and all.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force is meeting right now. Coming up, Vice President Pence will give an update.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Coming up this weekend on CNN, don't miss the next Democratic presidential debate, the first man-on-man contest.

I will be moderating, along with CNN's Dana Bash and Univision's Jorge Ramos. That's live on CNN Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN.