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U.S. Officials Say COVID-19 Should be Taken Seriously; Violence Claimed 20 Protesters in India; Virus Chooses No Color and Status; Egypt's Modern-Day Pharaoh Dies at 91; Political Rivals All Attacking Bernie Sanders; Huge Ice Sheets Melted in Antarctica. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2020 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Top U.S. health officials are warning Americans it's not a matter of if but when the coronavirus is going to spread throughout the country.

More deaths in New Delhi amid protests between Hindus and Muslims after the U.S. President praised India's unity.

And Antarctic heat wave. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it's the reality right now in what's typically the coldest place on earth.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church, and this is CNN Newsroom.

We start with fears of a potential coronavirus pandemic raging through the United States. Nearly 81,000 cases have been reported globally with more than 2,700 deaths.

Publicly, U.S. President Donald Trump says his country has nothing to fear. But federal health officials warn Americans need to get ready for an outbreak.


ANNE SCHUCHAT, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: Now it's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen. And how many people in this country will become infected and how many of those will develop severe or more complicated disease?


CHURCH: Well, the U.S. right now has at least 57 cases of the virus, and it confirms a U.S. soldier in South Korea is infected. South Korea has the largest outbreak beyond mainland China with more than 1,100 cases.

And CNN's Paula Hancocks joins me now live from South Korea. So, Paula, what are you learning about this infected U.S. service member, and of course the containment efforts across the country?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, we know that he is a 23-year-old male. He was at one of the U.S. bases in the southeast of the country, Camp Carroll. It's about 20 kilometers away from Daegu.

Now this is the city that everybody is focusing on at the moment. This is where the crux of the problem is. Where most of the spike in those new confirmed cases of novel coronavirus are.

Now we understand he was at this base. He then went to a base within Daegu itself before returning to his own base and then tested positive several days later. So, he's been brough here to Camp Humphrey, it's the head of the U.S. military in Korea. He is being held in a pressurized isolation facility to try and treat him.

And what we know is that the military is working extremely hard to try and track his footsteps, to try and build up a contact list of who he may have been in contact with and try and stem any potential spread of this.

Now there's 28,500 U.S. troops here in Korea. Many of the troops obviously live in close quarters, they work in close quarters so this is of great concern. The commander of the garrison here has just been speaking and he said that from tomorrow from Thursday it's going to be a mission essential personnel only allowed on this base.

And it's only mission essential personnel allowed to travel to Daegu as well. So, they are really trying to restrict soldiers' movements. And we are seeing a similar thing in the South Korean military. Eighteen South Korean military personnel have been confirmed with having this virus.

At this point they have canceled holidays, they have restricted off- base activities and movement, really trying to stem this before it goes too far. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Containment critical at this point. Paula Hancocks bringing us the latest on that from South Korea, Many thanks.

Well, European markets have just started another day of trading after falling on Tuesday over coronavirus concerns.

Let's bring up those numbers. You can see all in the red. The FTSE 100 down about half percent, and the DAX in Germany has lost nearly 1 percent there. Paris CAC down 0.73. We'll keep an eye on those numbers.

Meantime, stocks in Asia dipped again on Wednesday. The Nikkei, Shanghai Composite, Hang Seng and Kospi all fell about 1 percent.

Well, Iran now has the largest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. It has gotten so bad in fact the country's deputy health minister is infected. He was diagnosed a day after appearing on television to warn Iranians about the outbreak.

CNN's Isa Soares has the details.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the streets of Iran, uncertainty and fear as the novel coronavirus takes hold, threatening to further destabilize a healthcare system already strained by U.S. sanctions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have a deficiency in the supply of protective masks and disinfection products.


SOARES: The COVID-19 death rate in the country is officially hovering above 15 percent. That is far higher than any other country and the most overall deaths outside of mainland China.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is a problem we are involved. We should help each other.


SOARES: Ordinary Iranians are pitching in the face of shortages.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are making sanitizer and giving it for free for those who can't afford it.


SOARES: On Monday, Iran's deputy health minister held a news conference warning of the dangers of coronavirus. He appeared unwell, stopping several times to wipe the sweat from his brow.

By Tuesday, he was in quarantine after testing positive for the virus. In a video message recorded on his phone, Iraj Harirchihe said he was in pain from the fever but had begun treatment.


IRAJ HARIRCHI, IRANIAN DEPUTY HEALTH MINISTER (through translator): I want to reassure you that we will defeat the coronavirus. I say this to you from my heart, look after yourselves.


SOARES: An Iranian member of parliament also tested positive for the virus. The infection of such senior government officials a further demonstration of how the country is struggling to contain its spread.

Authorities have ordered the closure of schools, theaters, and sporting venues in Tehran, and showcased a very public sanitation display mosques, and schools and public transit to prevent the spread of the virus.


HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): It is an uninvited and unpleasant guest, which is troubling everywhere. We should overcome the problem and we shouldn't panic.


SOARES: That message to remain calm in the face of the unknown has failed to bring comfort to many Iranians who are worried that the infection rate is far more widespread that is being reported.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (On-screen): In general, almost the whole hospital is quarantined, and the situation is gravely critical.


SOARES: One thing is clear. The government's effort to contain the virus not coming soon enough to stop its spread to Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Cases all linked to travelers from Iran. A reality that has prompted several nations to suspend flights and close borders to any travel to and from Iran.

With an economy already crippled by sanctions and a population deeply suspicious of its secretive leadership, only time will tell just how serious the coronavirus situation is in Iran and whether the government has the ability to contain it.

Isa Soares, CNN.

CHURCH: And as Italy grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, thousands are expected to flocked to the Vatican to observe Ash Wednesday. In Rome, events are moving forward as planned. But to the north in Lombardi region has already canceled mass until further notice. Italy has reported more than 320 cases and at least 11 deaths.

So, let's get some more. We turn to CNN's Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher. She joins me now from Rome. And Delia, everything apparently continuing as normal there. But that's certainly not the case in the north. What's the latest on efforts to try to contain the infections in the north and how nervous are people there in Rome?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, I would describe Rome this morning as having a sense of a sort of caution about what's happening. We haven't seen a situation here yet like in the north where you have some cities and towns most hit on lockdown.

And as you mentioned, there are some important cities there like Milan and Bologna that have closed their churches, have closed their public spaces. And especially today of course, being Ash Wednesday, one of the most important religious holidays for Catholics outside of Christmas and Easter, that makes a difference. So, in those places in the north they'll be watching their Ash

Wednesday services on television or via the internet. Here in Rome, however, Rosemary, everything is still open. Obviously, it is a developing situation so Romans are waking up to try and listen to the news and see what the health authorities have said.

For the moment, schools are in progress. Businesses are open. And importantly, the Vatican is open because there are thousands of tourists coming now to St. Peters Square just this morning for Pope Francis' and weekly Wednesday audience.

The pope will also be going to two churches this afternoon in Rome in order to participate in the Ash Wednesday services. The Vatican spokesman said yesterday that the Vatican is in close contact with the Italian health authorities.

But for the moment the only precautions they have taken have been to cancel some conferences at their universities and to put hand sanitizer's in Vatican offices.


So, tourists are still here. Rome is still open, and importantly, the Vatican is still open, Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Many thanks to Delia Gallagher bringing us up to date on the situation across Italy. I appreciate it.

Well in just a few days U.S. voters in South Carolina will choose their Democratic candidate for president. Then, it's on to Super Tuesday when 14 states will vote. And in their last debate before these critical races, the gloves were off. Front runner Bernie Sanders was feeling the most heat Tuesday for his recent comments on Cuba.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I said is what Barack Obama said in terms of Cuba. That Cuba made progress on education. Yes, I think -- really? Really?


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, because there is no comparing to --

SANDERS: What Barack Obama said is they made great progress on education and healthcare.

BUTTIGIEG: Well, you were just making excuse.

SANDERS: That was Barack Obama.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama was abroad. He was in a town meeting. He did not in any way suggest that there was anything positive about the Cuban government. I don't share my private conversations, but the fact of the matter is,

he in fact does not, did not, has never embraced an authoritarian regime and does not now.

SANDERS: Authoritarianism of any stripe is bad.

BIDEN: Period.

SANDERS: But that is different than saying that governments occasionally do things that are good.


CHURCH: Electability is a key factor for Democrats in this race against President Trump. And as a self-identified Democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders front runner status has establishment Democrats especially concerned.

CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon has more.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Donald Trump back in the day was a populist outsider who broke all the rules, beloved by the base where the GOP establishment warned he would be a disastrous nominee. Now many people see a mirror image of that script with Bernie Sanders.

These outsiders built a populous movement. His supporters are passionate and quick to condemn the Democratic establishment. After two caucuses, and one primary, Sanders is the front runner after trailing Joe Biden for most of the campaign. He has momentum but can Bernie win? That's the 270-electoral vote question.

Now most of the illogical extreme candidate is usually worse position to win over swing voters and swing states. Barry Goldwater and George McGovern are iconic dated examples. Both lost in landslides.

But what if this time it's different, as Peter Hamby argues in Vanity Fair? Instead of asking if Sanders is unelectable, ask another question. What if Sanders is actually the most electable Democrat?

Now this may sound like magical thinking, but Hamby explains, "in the age of Trump, hyper-partisanship, institutional distrust, and social media, Sanders could be examined as a candidate almost custom-built to go head-to-head with Trump."

So, let's dig into that. Bernie is an authentic political celebrity. People know what he stands for. But there is plenty to suggest his views play better in a polarized primary than in a general election.

Let's look at Democratic Party division. According to 2019 Pew study only 15 percent of Democrats identify as very liberal, 32 percent liberal, 38 percent moderate, and 14 percent said are conservative.

Let's zoom out to the overall American electorate. Twenty-seven percent of Americans now identify as Democrats according to Gallup. Thirty percent Republican, 42 percent independent. American remains a center-right nation with 37 percent calling themselves conservative since 2019, 35 percent moderate and 24 percent liberal.

So, any nominee is going to need to reach beyond the base to win. Bernie's argument echoes Trump. He'll drive turn out by connecting with working class voters who have been alienated by the establishment. Maybe true. But the new voters predicted haven't materialized yet. And the label socialism in which Democratic socialism lives is really not popular.

Now you can say Americans vote on authenticity, not ideology. Fair point. But the center right center gravity is tougher to argue against. Democrats need to understand why Reagan and Nixon won 49 state re-elections, while Clinton and Obama had to fight for their second terms.

Electoral College also seems to favor the GOP with Trump and Bush 43 losing the popular vote. So, running up margins in New York and California is not enough. You can't write off Florida or ignore swing district Democrats warning against Sanders.

But bottom line, could Bernie win? Sure. Anything is possible. Donald Trump is an unpopular president despite a strong economy today.

Top tier Democrats beat Trump by different margins in dead polls like this. The same is true for key swing state polls of Pennsylvania and Michigan. Better gauges of who might actually win the White House.

But Bernie Sanders has built a movement. He has momentum. But there are rational reasons to think that nominating a Democratic socialist in a center-right country is a real risk that could reelect Donald Trump.

CHURCH: Well, a short distance from the pageantry of President Trump's state visit, a protest over India's new citizenship law erupts into deadly violence. The plan to restore order, that's ahead.


Plus, he was seen by many as a modern-day pharaoh. Now, as Egypt says goodbye to its leader of nearly 30 years, we look at the complicated legacy Hosni Mubarak leaves behind.


CHURCH: A New Delhi official is asking for the Indian military to calm and restore order after a day of deadly protests. At least 20 people including a police officer were killed in rioting between supporters and opponents of a citizenship law.

Sam Kiley reports the violence coincided with President Trump's state visit.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Honoring Mahatma Gandhi, the father the Indian nation, gunned down by Hindu fanatic a year after modern India was born. At a rally the day before, the U.S. president giving voice to his admiration for Indian diversity.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: India is a country that proudly embraces freedom, liberty, individual rights, the rule of law, and the dignity of every human being.

Your nation has always been admired around the earth as the place where millions upon millions of Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs and Jains, Buddhist, Christians, and Jews warship side by side in harmony.


KILEY: This was the reality on the ground in Delhi while he was addressing a rally in Ahmedabad. Often bloody, sometimes fatal. In riots against India's new Citizenship Amendment Act, legislation critics say that discriminate against Muslims. It was introduced by Trump's host, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Himself, a Hindu nationalist.

Now the act refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to apply for nationality here in India but only if they're not Muslim. And it's that aspect of it that its critics say threatens to tear apart the very social fabric that has held this country of 1.4 billion people together for 70 years.

But this is been a state visit high on bond and friendship. Neither leader keen to mention national divisions.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your position at the moment on India's Citizen Amendment Act?

TRUMP: I don't want to discuss that. I want to leave that to India and hopefully they're going to make the right decision for the people.


KILEY: They did announce that India would buy more than $3 billion worth of U.S. military hardware. But this trip has been about polishing the reputations of these two populist leaders. They've both been accused of exploiting ethnic frictions as a means to political power, and it's worked well in India for Mr. Modi whose BJP party won a landslide in elections last year.


And it's good for Trump in India. Here, he enjoys an approval rating of 56 percent, a figure no doubt he'd like to take back home. It would almost guarantee him re-election.

Sam Kiley, CNN, New Delhi.

CHURCH: A state funeral will soon begin in Egypt for its former president, Hosni Mubarak. The country declared three days of mourning for Mubarak who died Tuesday. He was 91 years old.

Mubarak ruled with an iron fist for nearly three decades until he was ousted in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings.

For more, CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins me now from London. So, Salma, talk to us about how Hosni Mubarak will be remembered.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Rosemary, his legacy will ultimately be complicated. And that's because Egyptians relationship to their former president is a complicated one.

On a day like this when a funeral will be held in a country where there is a great culture of respect, there will be some, especially among the older generation who will say let him lie in peace. Let him be buried in dignity.

And indeed, there is memorials on state television calling him a war hero, calling him a national hero, thanking him for his service to the country. But there are a lot of people who would dispute this narrative, dispute this view of President Mubarak.

It's important to remember he ruled the country for 30 years. That means when he was toppled by the revolution in 2011, there's an entire generation of Egyptians that knew nothing of the country but Mubarak. Mubarak was Egypt. It was almost impossible to imagine life without him.

And today, looking at current day Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, those hallmarks of power, the way in which the methods in which Mubarak contained his grip, contained that authoritarian rule are still very much in place. He ruled to the police the military and a ruling elite class that was rife with corruption. All of those are still in present day Egypt.

So, for an entire generation of Egyptians, they are going to look at this man and think this is the president who stole our future just so that he can maintain his grip on power. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Salma Abdelaziz, many thanks to you for that report. I appreciate it.

Well, the Antarctic is reaching stunning highs in temperature, and experts say the dramatic changes at the South Pole are just the beginning.


CHURCH: On Antarctica's northern tip, nine days of record heat has dramatically changed the surface of the normally frozen tundra. On February 6th it recorded its hottest day on record. The same temperature as Los Angeles.

Meteorologist Tom Sater shows us some surprising satellite images of the polar continent.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: An image of Antarctica's Eagle Island from space, captured by NASA on February 4th. Days later, this picture. The same area on February 13th. Twenty percent of the snow cover melted. In just nine days, the continent's northeastern peninsula dramatically

changed after an unprecedented heat wave in the coldest place on earth.

As temperatures continue to rise due to global warming, scientists say mass melting could leave to irreversible changes.


ZOE THOMAS, RESEARCH FELLOW, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES: With ice sheets it's very easy to melt them. This happens very fast. But building them back up again takes thousands and thousands of years. So, what we are seeing with the West Antarctic ice sheet is that the starting to melt once we reach a certain threshold will continue despite our efforts to stop it.


SATER: And that threshold maybe approaching quickly. Earlier this month Antarctic experienced its hottest day ever recorded. It's part of what experts describe as an accelerating trend.


CLARE NULLIS, SPOKESWOMAN, WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION: It's among the fastest warming regions of the planet. The amount of ice lost annually from the Antarctic ice sheet increased at least six fold between 1979 and 2017.


SATER: As Antarctica's ice sheets melt, the world sea levels rise. But scientists say it's the unnatural speed of melting that's cause for alarm. According to the World Meteorological Organization Antarctica's ice sheets contain enough frozen water to raise global sea levels by 60 meters.

Over time, that could translate to a catastrophic threat for millions living along the world's coast.


THOMAS: What we will see is a gradual increase in the sea level over tens of hundreds of years. And this will gradually displaced people as it goes. We know that this is already happening in island communities and this will just continue to happen.


SATER: Along with images of molding ice caps and melting glaciers a warming Antarctica may also lead to more scenes like this. An iceberg the size of Malta breaking off earlier this month from Antarctica's western edge. The 300-square-kilometer chuck detaching itself as sea temperatures rise.

More evidence the European Space Agency says of Antarctica's meltdown in the midst of the world's climate crisis.

Tom's Sater, CNN.

CHURCH: Well, there aren't many people who have achieved icon status while still in their teens. But two of them met up in the United Kingdom. Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg took a moment out together at the University of Oxford.

Yousafzai won a Nobel Peace Prize for advocating girl's education in Afghanistan after she was shot by the Taliban. She is studying at Oxford.

Thunberg was nominated for a Nobel Prize for her climate change activism. She is in the U.K. for a protest. Great shot there.

And thank so much for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. Quest's World of Wonder is up next. But first, I'll be back with a check of the headlines. You are watching CNN. Don't go anywhere.