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Biotech Company's Meeting At Center Of Boston Coronavirus Outbreak; Italy Reports Biggest Jump In Coronavirus Deaths So Far; Growing Frustration In Wuhan, China Amid Strict Lockdown. Aired 5:30- 6a ET

Aired March 11, 2020 - 05:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The coronavirus has proven especially deadly for the elderly but children, who are typically susceptible to sickness, have been virtually untouched by this outbreak. Researchers are trying to figure out why.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more on this medical mystery -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, the fact that children aren't really getting sick from this coronavirus is certainly a blessing and the question of why that is is an intriguing medical question.


COHEN (voice-over): As any parent knows, children get colds and viruses a lot but mercifully, children are not getting terribly sick from this new coronavirus.

DR. ARTHUR REINGOLD, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, BERKELEY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Children simply don't get very sick when they get this infection so if they develop any symptoms at all, they're mild. So severe illnesses and deaths, fortunately, are incredibly rare.

COHEN (voice-over): Numbers of out China show out of 1,023 deaths through February 11th, there was only one death in people under age 20 and no deaths among children under 10.

DR. MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We saw low attack rates in children and that was something -- that is something that is important and warrants some further study.

COHEN (voice-over): Children are getting the novel coronavirus and figuring out why they only get mildly sick from it could help doctors figure out why so many elderly become so deathly ill. It could be that children don't tend to have heart disease or lung disease or the other conditions that make people more vulnerable to getting very sick from coronavirus. Or maybe their immune systems are just different.

REINGOLD: Children are still maturing in terms of their immune response but they simply mount a different type of immune response.

COHEN (voice-over): But just because children don't become deathly ill from the new coronavirus doesn't mean they can't spread it.

REINGOLD: We have to assume that they can spread it. They're incredibly efficient at spreading other respiratory viruses, like influenza.

COHEN (voice-over): So while children easily survive coronavirus they could spread it to their grandparents, making them, possibly, an important vector in the growing global coronavirus outbreak.


CAMEROTA: And so, Elizabeth, is that why so many schools are closing even though kids, themselves, are not getting sick? Why the mass school closings?

COHEN: Right -- exactly, Alisyn. The mass school closings are really for the rest of the community. They don't want to give children the opportunity to spread it to each other and then those children will take it home maybe to their grandparents or elderly relatives.

Also, they don't want to give children a chance to spread it to teachers or to staff because while they're probably quite young, the teachers and staff, they may have underlying severe medical conditions. And they don't want those people to then take it to their homes.

So it's really an attempt to contain community spread. The school closings are not really to protect the children.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's really helpful, Elizabeth. Thank you very much for all of that reporting -- John.


One of the pieces of breaking news overnight, we learned that the governor of Washington State is going to ban gatherings of more than 250 people. Why is this happening? We also learned overnight that 70 cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts are linked to one single meeting. We have a live report from Boston, next.



BERMAN: Major new developments in the coronavirus pandemic this morning. The United States has reached a milestone. There are not more than 1,000 cases across 38 states and Washington, D.C. Thirty-one people have died.

Overnight, there was a warning from infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: As a nation, we can't be doing the kinds of things we would were doing a few months ago. That it doesn't matter if you're in state that has no cases or one case. You have to start taking seriously what you can do now that if and when the infections will come. And they will come -- sorry to say, sad to say they will.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Fauci is basically saying that because of the virus we're seeing our way of life in this country change. It's already happening in ways big and small.

In Washington State, the "Seattle Times" reports that the governor will announce putting a stop to all gatherings of more than 250 people in some counties.

Google is recommending that all of its employees in North America work from home.

"The Washington Post" reports the Trump administration is developing a plan to have hundreds of thousands of federal employees work remotely from home.

Thousands of students across the country are home this morning because of school closings. At least 59 colleges and universities in 19 states have now canceled in-person classes, including Harvard.

Did you sneak that in?

BERMAN: I didn't sneak that in.

CAMEROTA: Did you just sneak that in there?

BERMAN: I don't why. There are 59 colleges. Why is that the only that's listed by name?

CAMEROTA: I don't know, John, you tell me.

BERMAN: Colleges everywhere are closing down. The notes have been going out like wildfire over the last day. And some of the biggest school districts in the country -- Fairfax, Virginia; Fulton County, in Georgia. I know Christine Romans was saying her district out in New Jersey -- they are closing. Sometimes it's because there's a case, but sometimes not. Sometimes just out of precaution.

CAMEROTA: Sorry, Harvard. You're not special.

Massachusetts announced 51 new cases on Tuesday bringing their total to 92. And at least 70 of those cases are linked to one company's biotech meeting at a Boston hotel last month.


CNN's Athena Jones is live in Boston with more on that cluster outbreak. What happened, Athena? ATHENA JONES, CNN NATION CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued a state of -- or declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, easing the process for accessing federal aid and issuing new guidance to prevent and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus -- guidance that includes canceling all conferences or holding them virtually.

The moves coming after the state announced those 51 new cases bringing the total to 92. Seventy of those cases are related to a conference held last month here by Biogen, the biotech company based in Cambridge. The "Boston Herald" reporting that almost 200 managers from all over the world, including Italy, attended that conference.

Now, last week, Biogen announced that three people who attended the conference tested positive for coronavirus, so any employee who was there was directed to work from home for two weeks. Now, cases traced to the conference are being reported statewide and beyond.

Here's what the public health commissioner had to say.


MONICA BHAREL, COMMISSIONER, MASSACHUSETTS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We heard from outside of Massachusetts of individuals being positive and that led us, through cooperation with the employee -- with the employer, excuse me, to begin this process of contract tracing, which is a pretty standard public health process where we then go and see who else might be symptomatic and who their contacts are -- and that's ongoing.


JONES: And a Biogen spokesperson tells the "Boston Globe" "At the time of the meeting, we were absolutely following national guidance on travel and in-person meetings."

All of this, of course, another sign of the challenges communities face in trying to stop the spread of this virus -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Athena Jones for us in Boston. Athena, thank you very much.

Look, that's why people are so concerned about the CPAC meeting. That's why people are so concerned about gatherings. One meeting in Boston, now 70 cases and counting.

CAMEROTA: Right, and we don't know exactly yet the ripple effect of what happened in CPAC.


CAMEROTA: People are self-quarantining but we haven't heard of more cases --

BERMAN: Right. CAMEROTA: -- from it.

BERMAN: But that's why they're concerned.

CAMEROTA: Of course.

BERMAN: All right.

The number of deaths in Italy overnight skyrocketing. The mortality rate in that country is nearly double the rest of the world, so why? A country of nearly 60 million people in lockdown this morning. We have a live report, next.



CAMEROTA: Developing overnight, Italy is reporting a huge spike in the number of deaths from coronavirus. Six hundred thirty-one people have died. The entire country of 60 million people is on lockdown.

That's where we find CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman. He's live in Bologna. What's the situation at this hour, Ben?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, Italy, at the moment, is sort of a jarring juxtaposition of disturbing images from the front lines in this emergency -- the hospitals, the intensive care units -- and daily life in the streets of cities like this, Bologna, where life must go on.


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 evermore new cases, evermore deaths.

Despite it all, the few tourists left in the northern city of Bologna pursue 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 (voice-over): 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 are talking with each other, very close, kissing, hand shakings. You don't see that know. So, of course, it's like a plague.

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The Bubonic plague killed thousands here in the 17th century. Bologna survived and went on to prosper.

The cafes in the cities 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's coronavirus but many people here are, in fact, more worried over the long-term impact the virus will have on the economy.

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

We have to face the emergency with the strictest measures like they did in China, says Alessandra Cameriero. It's a dictatorship but they did the right thing.

Across the street, Emanuela Pignati 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.


CAMEROTA: And so, Ben -- I mean, you've been -- you've reported from Italy forever -- for a long time -- and so what is it like? It's hard to tell from that piazza where you are. We see people on bikes behind you -- a few scattered people. Is it a ghost town?


WEDEMAN: It's not a ghost town but it is not what it was, say, a month ago. There are people out -- there's not a curfew -- but there are many fewer people around.

And you see that -- you know, life -- as I said, it has to go on. People do have to go out and buy their groceries. And those few who are lucky to still be working have to go work. But really, the pace of the city has changed dramatically.

We arrived in Bologna on Sunday evening and the streets were crowded. There were lots of people out at about 8:00 at night. But these days, in the evening, it is a ghost town. The only people you see out are food delivery bicycles that are taking food to people who now can't go to restaurants because they close at 6:00 p.m. and nobody in Italy eats at 6:00 p.m.

CAMEROTA: No, they don't. And the idea of restaurants in Italy being closed unheard of.

Ben, thank you very much.

BERMAN: So this morning, some people are pointing to China as a place where containment efforts have had some success, but authorities are claiming the death toll in Wuhan has slowed. Residents there are growing frustrated with the restrictions.

CNN's David Culver joins us now live from China with the very latest -- David.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, so interesting to hear that shop owner in Ben's piece there as she referenced the lockdown that has been underway here for nearly seven weeks. In fact, seven weeks ago today, my crew and I, we were down in Wuhan just before that lockdown took effect.

And so now you have nearly 50 days that people have been living with this new way of life down there. And in some cases, it is extreme -- sealed off from the rest of the world it seems -- and they are growing increasingly frustrated with the local government.


CULVER (voice-over): As the novel coronavirus outbreak spreads and the number of cases rise, countries around the world are looking to China and considering whether to enforce similar city lockdown measures. The World Health Organization has praised China's containment efforts.

Tens of millions are still living within the extreme lockdown zones. Some residents telling CNN they feel like prisoners in their own homes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are lots of complaints among people.

CULVER (voice-over): As she showed us her dwindling food supplies, this resident asked that we not reveal her identity for fear of repercussions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many have stopped working and they have no income, but the food prices are so high. Everyone I know is not happy but what can we do about it?

CULVER (voice-over): It's led to moments like this -- Wuhan locals yelling from their apartments, shouting fake -- it's all fake as one of China's vice premiers inspected a lockdown neighborhood last week.

The residents claiming that local government leaders were misleading the central government officials by pretending to provide residents with free and reduced-price food while, in fact, affordable daily necessities are in great shortage as later revealed by both state and social media. China's vice premier ordered an immediate investigation.

To make things worse, Wuhan's newly-appointed top official, the city's party secretary, has suggested that residents should, instead, be grateful to the government. That did not go over well.

Everybody is outraged, Wuhan resident Zhang Yi told CNN. How is it they send such an ignorant official to Wuhan?

With his mother now in the hospital treated her swelling legs and heart problems, Zhang says he is determined to point out local government missteps even as, he says, police have warned him to keep quiet. Somebody has to speak, he says. I don't want to be one of those who has lost every member of his family to the virus and yet, never spoke up.

After the vice premier was met last week by anger, Tuesday's presidential visit to a different Wuhan community appeared to show President Xi getting a much warmer welcome, though social media posts and photos from the neighborhood WeChat groups suggest local police helped assure that by apparently sitting on residents' balconies to discourage any potential disruptions.

There are real indications that life here might be returning to normal. Officials are discussing the easing of restrictions and for some, that will mean freedom -- stepping out of their homes for the first time in nearly 50 days.


CULVER: It's a delicate balance though because there's this aspect of effectiveness in containing the spread and then there's, quite frankly, a mental health aspect to it -- the people who are within the strictest of lockdown zones.

Alisyn, it's interesting because they are talking about easing these restrictions little by little, but they're going to have to continue to track people. And they're tracking us here in Shanghai, a city of 24-plus million people. They're doing that across the country.

Let me show you how they're doing this. They've got these Q.R. codes. These are up in hotels, they're up in restaurants, they're up in some shopping malls. You scan it with your Alipay or your WeChat Pay, which is pretty common here -- everybody's got that -- and it tells you whether or not you can go through.


I've got a green pass, meaning I can go in. If you have a yellow, if you have a red, that means you've been flagged for potential exposure of the virus. But that's how they're keeping track of folks.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, that is remarkable. That is so space-age and big brotherish --


CAMEROTA: -- yet it's working for them in terms of trying to contain this.

BERMAN: Right. But again -- and David, I think your reporting has been so helpful here. What has happened in China and has seemed successful is --


BERMAN: -- is not replicable in the United States. There is just no way --

CULVER: You're right, yes.

BERMAN: -- they can take those measures here and I think that's one of the concerns this morning.

David Culver, so great to have you there.

CAMEROTA: Daily life in America is changing by the minute. All of the overnight developments in the coronavirus outbreak, next for you.