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CDC Says Coronavirus Spread In U.S. Not A Matter Of If, But When; Influential Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) Endorses Biden In South Carolina Primary. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired February 26, 2020 - 13:00   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: I'm Alex Marquardt in today for Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington Headquarters.

And underway right now, it is not a question of if but a question of when coronavirus will spread through the United States. And if that's not enough, the top official of the CDC has issued this warning.


DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CDC: We now have outbreaks in Europe, outbreaks in other countries and Asia, and we recognize our very strong measures here in the United States to contain the virus, to keep it limited to very low numbers may not hold for the long haul. We don't know exactly what will occur here, but the transmissibility has us wanting to be prepared.

We also know that the virus is not as severe as we first feared in the reports that of Hubei Province.


MARQUARDT: That could be good news.

Now, president will be speaking to the country at around -- about the epidemic tonight rather at 6:00 P.M. Eastern Time. Before that happens, he will be directed by the doctor, the director of the National Institute of Allergy Infectious Diseases. His name is Dr. Anthony Fauci.

He did speak to CNN earlier today about the status of coronavirus in the United States right now. Take a listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There have been no secondary cases in the United States. So as things are right now, things are under control.

You're right. there're two ways of looking at it. You could look what's going on right now. Are we containing it, the answer is, yes. He was not looking at what might happen if, in fact, we have a pandemic in the rest of the world. Because it's very clear, if we have a global pandemic, no country is going to be without impact, for sure.


MARQUARDT: What happens to the rest of the world, of course, affects us as well.

There is cause for concern. The CDC reports only 12 labs in the United States and the CDC can test for coronavirus. The FDA says that some medical products, such as personal protective equipment, like face masks and gowns, could be at risk for shortages over the coronavirus. While there are no confirmed cases, however, the mayor of San Francisco declared a state of emergency.

Publicly, President Trump has been downplaying the possible effects of coronavirus here in this United States. Privately, we're being told that the president has grown more and more frustrated.

CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is here with us now.

Kaitlan, it does seem like much of what we've heard from the president is him framing his response to this growing crisis around the impact on the economy.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's directly tied to that. The president has been watching the markets closely. And that's why sources tell us he's been downplaying it because the president fears that if he does otherwise, it's only going to cause further chaos in the markets.

And he tried to really reassure people after the markets, after the Dow plunged over a thousand points on Monday. But then when they saw again market losses on Tuesday, that is something that they have been closely over here.

And the president has been praising their response. He's been publicly downplaying it. But, Alex, privately, we are told he's actually been lashing out at some of the officials who are making key coronavirus decisions, saying he wants some people fired, but isn't specified really who and it's not clear that anyone has been terminated or is going to be terminated.

But, privately, there is a lot of frustration on the president's response, on the president's side and his reaction to all of this. And, of course, as he's down playing it, you're hearing bipartisan concern from Capitol Hill. It's not just coming from Democrats or typical critics of this administration but Republicans too, who were asking questions like, is this administration prepared for something like this, are they requesting enough money to be able to combat this. And those are questions they do not feel like they've gotten sufficient answers to yet.

So they are going to be holding this briefing later this afternoon at 6:00. We don't know exactly what that's going to look like, whether or not the president himself is actually going to appear. But we should note, Alex, that presser is going to be happening at 6:00 Eastern Time. Of course, that is after the markets have already closed.

MARQUARDT: A lot of people will be looking for answers from the president's comments.

Kaitlan Collins, fresh off a long flight from India, thanks very much.


MARQUARDT: Now, the contradictions, the differences we're hearing are disturbing. Experts sounding the alarm while the president and his administration have tried to downplay the risks, as Kaitlan was just saying.

Now, case and point, the secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, is making the rounds on Capitol Hill in an effort to calm nerves, testifying in front of the House Appropriations Committee this morning. And he will go before the House Energy Committee in the next half hour. We'll be keeping an eye on that.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not happy with the president's efforts. Listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): So what he is doing is late, too late, anemic.


Hopefully, we can make up for the loss of time. But we'll have to have professionals in place, the resources that are adequate.


MARQUARDT: I want to bring in Republican Congressman Tom Reed of New York. He is a member of the House, Ways and Means Committee and on the Subcommittee on Health, which, of course, is very relevant to what we're discussing today. Congressman Reed, thank you so much for joining me today.

REP. TOM REED (R-NY): Great to be with you, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Congressman, I want to start there with those comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. You heard what she just said. She was talking about the slow response. She called it anemic. Is it too little too late, as she says?

REED: Actually, I disagree with her sentiment, and it's troublesome to hear that kind of attack when we're dealing with a real serious situation. I would think the appropriate message from the speaker should be, we stand ready to work with the administration to get ahead of this coronavirus impact on the community and on the nation, and rather than attack the president, open arms and say we're going to stand together to make sure that the American public health is protected.

MARQUARDT: Well, one of the things needed to protect American health, of course, might be a lot of money. And on the other side of Capitol Hill, we're seeing Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is preparing an $8.5 billion request for emergency funding for coronavirus. Is that something that you'd be in favor of?

REED: Yes. Well, obviously, I think the first step by the administration asking for the $2.5 billion is the right step. And I'm glad the senator is agreeing that if additional money is necessary, that the senator won't stand in the way and have this money flow through Congress ASAP when it's necessary.

So we're taking proactive measures and I think the administration rightfully. I just got back from Japan myself. And I will tell you, that threat is real and we just need to be proactive and I hope we can all work together in order to keep America's safety at paramount concern.

MARQUARDT: Yes. I wanted to ask you about your trip. I mean, you've seen this firsthand now. Japan, as you know, has the most cases of coronavirus outside of mainland China, more than 850 by the last count, most of those, we should say, were on that Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. What are the Japanese most concerned about? What do they tell you they're most concerned about that you think is now not being properly addressed here in the U.S.?

REED: Well, I think we are properly getting ahead of this in the U.S. But on the trip to Japan, I saw the transmission issues. Their economy is obviously directly tied to China and much closer geographically, so there's a lot of flow of goods as well as individuals. And I think they're rightfully taking the right steps in Japan to get ahead of it too.

And as this comes to the shores of America, I think the proactive steps that are being implemented, and I think Secretary of Health Azar is hitting the right tone in his presentation to Congress, is that we need to be adaptable, we need to be proactive and we need to stand together as one nation, not as Republicans and Democrats but as American elected officials to protect America's health.

MARQUARDT: Congressman, that sounds really good and I think this is something that should not be political. This is something that your colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, because this does affect us all, should be able to come together and agree on.

So in more concrete terms, do you think that members of Congress on both sides feel like the correct preparations are being made?

REED: I hope so. I do believe that there may be this impression as members of Congress, that maybe this is happening outside the world, outside of America's Shores, but the reality of the situation is that this is coming to America's shores. I do agree with assessments from those at the CDC and seeing it firsthand in Japan. I think we just have to recognize this is coming, let's be prepared, let's work together to protect America.

MARQUARDT: Yes, as we said, matter of not if but when.

Congressman, we have heard from the president a number of times on this issue. I just wanted to get your reaction to the president, who has, frankly, tamped down fears. And even today, he was accusing the media being alarmist about this to look bad. Is that the right message -- to make him look bad. Should he be sending that message?

REED: Well, yes. I think, obviously, the tone of what the president is trying to achieve I can appreciate. You don't want to cry wolf, you don't want to be an alarmist and have people disregard that warning. But what you want is a constant, consistent theme we are aware of the situation, we are taking proactive measures and now the American citizens need to step up and say, you know what, this is real and we have to do our part as citizens to protect our fellow neighbors as well as ourselves.

MARQUARDT: Yes, tone in a case like this is so important from him, from us and from you on Capitol Hill. Congressman Tom Reed from New York, thank you very much.

REED: Thanks for having me, Alex.

MARQUARDT: So there are nearly 60 cases of coronavirus here in the U.S. And most of those are people who are back after being quarantined over that ship that I just mentioned in Japan, the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship.

American officials and businesses are taking notice. There are four U.S. universities that have canceled this semester's study abroad programs in Italy for the foreseeable future where the virus really has hit the hardest in Europe.


Airlines are reducing their flights to areas that have been affected by the virus.

So let's bring this back to you. How concerned should you be about the coronavirus right now?

So to answer that, I'm joined by CNN Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, thank you very much. As you might imagine, there are a lot of concerns, a lot fears right now. You've heard the CDC warning that the measures in place may not hold for the long haul. So how worried are U.S. health officials about this pandemic that, as we've been saying, is not a question of if but when?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, the pandemic is not necessarily coming. Pandemic is a specific word. And Dr. Fauci, we heard earlier from him earlier in the show, and he said he's not sure that there's going to be a pandemic, because that means explosive growth all around the world. And we're certainly not seeing that in the United States now and we might not see it.

What we will see for sure is growth, there will be growth. Right now, Alex, only two people have caught the coronavirus in the United States, and those were spouses who caught it from their spouses who traveled to China. So two is not a lot.

Public health officials tell us, you don't need to be worried, you don't need to panic. There's absolutely nothing that you should do besides some of the obvious things. You should be covering your cough, you should be washing your hands, disinfecting things in ways that you usually would do. There is nothing specific that you can be doing right now because of coronavirus.

MARQUARDT: Can you expand on that a little bit more about how people should or should not be changing their -- the patterns of their lives? We are seeing frankly scary headlines and people are asking, what should I be doing? So, for example, is it safe to travel? Is it safe to go to the grocery store? And how best can people protect themselves?

COHEN: Right. There's no reason to think that going to the grocery store now is any less safe than it would have been a two months ago. For travel, you definitely want to think through a couple of steps. In fact, the CDC does have warnings of various levels for several different countries, for example, for travel to Iran or Italy or China or South Korea or Hong Kong. There are different warnings of different levels.

And different people are going to make different decisions. If my elderly mother, who's immune compromised, wanted to go to Italy, I might think twice about that. I might feel differently if it was just me and my husband and children because we, thank goodness, don't have health issues. So different people are going to make different decisions, but you want to pay attention to those CDC warnings about those specific countries.

MARQUARDT: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for some very, very important and measured context there.

Well, the stock markets are bouncing back after closing down amid coronavirus concerns. The impacts that the spread of the virus could have on the global economy, that's coming.

Plus, one 2020 Democrat has scored a big endorsement from South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn just days before that state heads to the polls for their first in the south primary.

And a top intelligence official gets to keep her job after appearing to overstate Russia's inference in this year's election, her support coming from a somewhat unlikely source.



MARQUARDT: With just a few days left until the critical South Carolina caucus this weekend, one of the state's most influential voices is weighing in with his endorsement. Longtime South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn said he wanted to wait until after last night's debate before deciding or announce who he was going to be supporting in this weekend's primary.

This morning he did make his pick known having given much needed good news to the Biden campaign. Take a listen.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): As I stand before you today, I am fearful for the future of this country. I'm fearful for my daughters and their futures and their children and their children's future.

I can think of no one better suited, better prepared, I can think of no one with the integrity, no one more committed to the fundamental principles that make this country what it is than my good friend, my late wife's great friend, Joe Biden.


MARQUARDT: An emotional Jim Clyburn endorsing his good friend, Joe Biden.

Now, the drama and the tone of last night's debate clearly mirrored the high stakes for the candidates in South Carolina, which is the last primary before Super Tuesday next week.

Now, campaigns and candidates were on edge. Jabs and quips and retorts flying from podium to podium, and with Bernie Sanders generally considered to be in the lead now, much of that fire was directed right at him.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vladimir Putin thinks that Donald Trump should be president of the United States, and that's why Russia is helping you get elected so you will lose to him.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me tell you how many nickels and dimes we're talking about, nearly $60 trillion. Do you know how much that is for all of his programs? That is three times the American economy.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House and the inability to get the Senate into Democratic hands.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard. And it's going to take someone who digs into the details to make it happen.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie, in fact, hasn't passed much of anything. I'm not out of time. He spoke overtime and I'm going to talk. Here is the deal.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am scared, if we cannot pull this party together, if we go to one of those extremes, we take a terrible risk of re-electing Donald Trump.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been hearing my name mentioned a little bit tonight. I wonder why.


MARQUARDT: Another person who is at the crosshairs was latecomer and billionaire Michael Bloomberg last night, as he was also in the previous debate in Las Vegas.

So to talk about his performance, live on Capitol Hill is Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy. She is a National co-Chair of the Bloomberg Campaign. Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining me today.

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Great to be with you, Alex.

MARQUARDT: I do want to compare Mayor Bloomberg's performance last night to the first outing that he had. He did seem to fare better. I think you'd agree with that.

There was one moment though that the people have zeroed in on which Bloomberg talks about the gains that the Democrats made in the midterms in 2018. Let's take a listen.


BLOOMBERG: They talk about 40 Democrats, 21 of those were people that I spent $100 million I helped elect. All of the new Democrats came in, put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress ability to control this president, I got them.


MARQUARDT: It sounded there he wanted to say he bought them. He quickly corrected himself and said that he got them. So how can he convince especially date-based Democratic voters that he isn't trying to buy this election when he almost literally says the word and then goes on to talk about spending $100 million to get those seats?

MURPHY: What he was saying was that he has been making investments in Democratic causes that important to our caucus, whether that is returning the House to Democratic control to act as a check on the president or whether it's his investments in Planned Parenthood so that they can fight back against the Republican efforts to roll back reproductive rights for women, or whether it's in climate change, where he has invested to make sure we can close down over 50 percent of the coal-fired power plants and start shifting towards green energy. I could go on of the types of investments that Mike has made to advance Democratic values and actually achieve real progress in those areas.

MARQUARDT: In terms of turning the House blue in 2018, let's be clear, does he want credit for that, for Democrats being able retake the majority?

MURPHY: I think he wants to acknowledge that he helped support these members who were running on platforms that were not about healthcare- for-all or Green New Deal. What they were running on was a promise to their constituents that they would get things done in the healthcare space, in climate change, on issues that matter constituents, and that we need a president that's going to unify this country and actually get things done and deliver for Americans across this country.

There is a parallel there. These candidates won because they talked on those types of kitchen table issues and about being bipartisan and reaching out across the aisle and getting things done. And that's really been Mike's track record as well.

MARQUARDT: Let's talk about his track, his path forward, because it's a unique one if he's to be successful. He has been in two debates now, in Nevada and South Carolina, he has not been on the ballot in either one of those states. He is focusing instead on the states that follow, starting with Super Tuesday. It seems that he has to perform well on Super Tuesday.

So, Congresswoman, if that does not happen, if he can't finish, let's say, higher than fourth in the delegate count on Super Tuesday, how can he justify continuing and staying on in this race?

MURPHY: As you know, Alex, Mike didn't compete in the first four races because he got into the campaign too late. But in all of the races where he -- going forward, he has made significant investments and he is talking to voters and he is talking to the people who were going to show up at the polls. And I'm confident that he is going to secure the number of votes that he needs to continue to move his campaign forward.

What I found is that, as people hear his message and hear about his record of accomplishments, not just policy ideas but actually getting things done, people come to his camp and the support and momentum builds.

MARQUARDT: Congresswoman, I do want to ask you about his record, and there are two parts that have been particularly troublesome to Democratic voters, and that is his stop-and-frisk policy in New York and then the complaints, the allegations against him of sexual harassment. How can he look to secure a Democratic nomination with those two parts -- two things on his record that many Democrats have seen as significant blemishes?


MURPHY: Alex, he has addressed both of those issues. And with stop- and-frisk, he has apologized for not recognizing the impact on communities of color that that policy had, and they actually rolled back that policy. And he has laid out a forward-looking vision on how we can ensure the communities of color get access to equal opportunity and access to the American dream. And I would refer you to the Greenwood Initiative, which has been met with quite complementary reception within the communities of color.

Additionally, on the sexual harassment, he also addressed that issue. He has -- the company, Bloomberg L.P., has identified the three instances where there was an NDA. And they have -- he's indicated he's willing to release the women from that.

But let's take a step back and look at the totality of his record on women. He supports women, whether it's in the boardroom or in legislatures or halls of Congress, he has invested in ensuring we can protect reproductive rights. He's also supportive of pay equity, as well as paid family leave. These are policies that will ensure that women have equal opportunities in this country. And that's the kind of leader we need moving forward.

MARQUARDT: All right. Congresswoman, we have to leave it there. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, a surrogate for Mayor Mike Bloomberg, thanks so much for joining us today.

MURPHY: Great to be with you.

MARQUARDT: And tonight, you can catch Mayor Mike Bloomberg on CNN. He's part of the live Democratic presidential town halls from Charleston, South Carolina. He's going to be followed by Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, all of that starting at 7:00 P.M. Eastern Time.

Now, up next, President Trump is preparing for a news conference later on today about the threat of coronavirus as the CDC is issuing new warnings. But as he is briefed on preparations, the president is also watching the stock markets, the Dow recovering today, but is it stabilizing? That's coming up.