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New Day

CDC Confirms First Coronavirus Case Of Unknown Origin In U.S; Democrats Make Final Pitch Ahead Of South Carolina Primary And Super Tuesday. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired February 27, 2020 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Explosion in Italy as one of the most struggling developments in all of this.


Thank you very much, Melissa.

There's a major development in the spread of the coronavirus in the United States as well. Our breaking news coverage continues right now.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day, and we begin with breaking news for you, because there is some major development in the coronavirus situation here in the United States.

A patient in California appears to be the first to contract the virus through what's being called community spread. That means he or she did not travel to China and no one is sure how this person got sick. The patient arrived at a hospital near Sacramento, California, but four days passed before anyone realized this was a case of coronavirus.

And there's more to the mystery. The patient does not appear to have interacted with someone who was infected. So how did they get sick?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: It means the person caught it just out there in the normal course of daily life, and that is the concern. The coronavirus could be here in the United States undetected.

Now, the White House was aware of this information just before the president held this news conference on coronavirus. He knew, we are told, there was a report, he knew about it but did not bring it up. At times the president seemed to be at odds with his own health experts who say that it is very likely that coronavirus will spread here in the United States.


REPORTER: Just the course of the last couple of minutes, you have disputed some of what the officials that are working in your administration behind you have said about the risk of coronavirus and its spread. Do you trust your health officials to give you good information or do you trust your own instincts more. DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't think I have. They said it could be worse and I said it could be worse too. No, I don't think it's inevitable.


BERMAN: The coronavirus crisis also escalating around the world. Japan's prime minister is now calling on all public schools nationwide to shut down for a month in order to protect children there. Imagine if that happened in the United States, every public school shutting down for a month.

All of this continues to rattle global markets, stocks in Asia struggling to rebound at this point. I'm looking at the Dow Futures down 280 points about two and a half hours before the opening bell.

We want to begin though with our coverage with Dan Simon, who is live in San Francisco with the new details on this case in California. Why this is different and why it's of such concern, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, John. First of all, it sure sounds like we are entering into a new phase here in the United States. The patient we are talking about had not traveled to a foreign country where the virus has been spreading. It was also not around anybody known to have the virus. And that is what makes this a first. The source of the infection is unknown.

Now, perhaps once the patient gets better and the CDC interviews him a lot bit more, perhaps authorities will be able to figure out where the infection took place. But at this point, they not know.

Now, he is at the U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. And what is concerning here is that the diagnosis was actually delayed. So perhaps this patient may have exposed other people to the virus.

I want you to listen now to a doctor from that medical center. Take a look.


DR. DEAN BLUMBERG, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, U.C. DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER: We can't say that there's definitely more. But I think that it's highly suggestive that if there's one, there's probably more than one, there's probably other people.

That suggests that the virus is out there in the community. And that means that pretty much everybody is at risk. We don't know who might be carrying it. We don't know who we could get it from.

That other person probably exposed other people. And you have to understand that this virus is so new that none of us have any immunity to it. So anybody who is exposed is at high risk of getting infected with this.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SIMON: Well, the CDC conducted this test on Sunday and the results came back yesterday. And right now, we are talking about 60 people who have been infected with coronavirus in the United States, 28 people in California. But, of course, most of those people were infected in Japan on that cruise ship.

John and Alisyn, I send it back to you.

CAMEROTA: Dan, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

Joining us now is CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Zeke Emanuel, he is a senior adviser for the World Health Organization. It's great to have both of you this morning to help us understand what's happened overnight.

And, Sanjay, this feels like with this patient who they can't trace the origin of this, this feels like a game changer here in the U.S. right now.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And this is what we've been talking about. We've been able to identify where these other people that we've been counting had been infected. Most of them early on, travel related. A couple of people who were close contacts, spouses, they contracted the virus. And the rest of them off that cruise ship. So this is the one where it may represent this community spread.


And I have to tell you, it's just quite extraordinary because I was at that news conference last night. And as you point out, I guess this information was known before the news conference. We didn't know it at the time. And there were a lot of questions that were asked about community spread. Is this going to happen? We've been hearing from the CDC. It's not a question of if. It's a question of when.

But then you just heard, you played that little clip from the president saying this isn't inevitable, this is going to happen, and he kind of knew it already at the time.

So this is the concern. When a virus is sort of out there now in the environment, people potentially becoming exposed to it despite having had no travel to one of these areas where the virus is known to be circulating, despite having no known contact with someone who's infected with the virus. That is the definition of community spread. And I think that's what public health officials will pay attention to this.

BERMAN: Dr. Emanuel, I guess, I want your take on this breaking news overnight, this patient in Northern California, but I also want your reaction to that news conference, the announcement from the White House overnight.

DR. ZEKE EMANUAL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think, first of all, to have an effective public health response, the public has to trust the government that they're getting the right information and that the instructions they're getting from the government are accurate. And when you have this dissidence between what President Trump says, what the public health officials at the CDC and NIH say, and then this episode which they knew about before the press conference, public trust goes down. I think you're going to see this reflected in many, many outcomes.

And maybe the one that will get the president's attention will be the stock market. Maybe we can't trust what comes out of the president and the White House's mouth. That will be a very dangerous moment. And I think that was a very bad judgment on their part to withhold information from the public, which is inevitably going to come out. Facts do overwhelm the P.R. that you might want to put on them. And I think the facts in this public health case are going to be very stubborn.

I do think this is a turning point, as your reporter mentioned and Sanjay mentioned. We have community acquired spread. That means there are other people out there who have the virus. But, remember, most people are going to be asymptomatic and going to have this virus and not know that they're sick. We see this from the cruise ship too.

I also want to note that, you know, having Vice President Pence in charge, having Alex Azar still head of the task force, it's confusing to me what actually is going on in the White House and who's responsible. I would just remind your audience when H1N1 happened in 2009-2010, at the White House, we had a whole command post filled with people from the CDC and HHS who were very well prepared in infectious disease and pandemic responses. There were two doctors, myself and another doctor available and working on this issue and helping guide judgments. I don't see anything like that at the White House today.

And then to put secretary -- Vice President Pence, who's not known to be a public health expert, who we know in the past has delayed responses that public health officials urged on him for months in Indiana during an HIV outbreak because of shared needles. This doesn't inspire confidence. And I am very worried that despite having great people at the CDC and the NIH, we may not have the leadership at the top to actually coordinate this response and really effectively address it.

CAMEROTA: Yes. The president was trying to inspire confidence yesterday, it seemed, at that press conference, Sanjay. I mean, he has taken the tact that things are not bad, things are going to get better. I mean, that's just his maybe wishful thinking. Because when you challenged him about even what he knows about the flu -- first of all, the president kept expressing surprise about the severity of the flu every year, okay? So he didn't know that. He was surprised when his officials told him.

And then when you asked him specific questions, he also wasn't getting it right. Here's that moment.


GUPTA: Flu has fatality ratio of about 0.1 percent.

TRUMP: Correct.

GUPTA: This has a fatality ration somewhere between 2 percent and 3 percent given that --

TRUMP: We don't know exactly what it is. And the flu is higher than that. The flue is much higher than that.

GUPTA: There are more people who get the flu. But this is spreading. It's going to spread maybe within communities. That's the expectation. Does that worry you? Because that seems to be what worries the American people.

TRUMP: No, because we're ready for it.


CAMEROTA: Sanjay, he was just getting those numbers wrong.

GUPTA: Yes. No, I -- it was confusing. I mean, it was a bit of a chaotic sort of news conference back and forth. But, you know, the point that was being made was earlier in the press conference, he was saying, look, there's a lot of similarities between the coronavirus and the flu. And with regard to transmissibility, that's true. These are both very contagious pathogens.


The point is though that flu, which does kill tens of thousands of people a year in the United States, something apparently he didn't know until right before this news conference, it has a fatality ratio of 0.1 percent. So 0.1 percent of the people who get the flu will die from flu.

With coronavirus, based on what we know so far, based on the largest study that's come out of China, the fatality ratio appears closer to 2 percent or even a little bit higher, 2 percent to 3 percent, so 20 times higher than flu. And that's the concern. Look, if you have something that is as transmissible but 20 times more lethal, that's what you're worried about. That's what the public health officials are worried about and they're trying to avoid this becoming a bigger problem.

In order to best address that problem, you have to understand it. And it just wasn't clear to me and I think other people in the room that he understood it. He was learning sort of as we go along. So that was a concern.

And it also wasn't clear to me that the things that go into place as a result of having that knowledge are going into place. We talked about this before. I'll just say it again. In Korea, they've been testing thousands of people every day for this coronavirus. In this country, besides the people that came off that cruise ship, we've tested 445 people in several weeks. Why is that? Why are we not testing enough people? Are we missing people? Is this person in California this 15th patient now aside from those cruise ship patients, is he one of many patients? So we just don't know because we haven't been doing enough testing.

There's three department of defense testing sites, seven public health sites. That's it. Some of the original tests were flawed. And I'm worried that this may represent a bit of a failure with one of the basic tenets of public health, which is surveillance. I don't know that we're doing a good enough job right now.

BERMAN: And there's a connection between public trust, as Dr. Emanuel said, and public health. I think the two are inextricably bound. And no one should panic. And I think it's important to send that message out, and the White House tried to send that message out. But you have to be honest and you have to tell people what you know and what's happening.

And, Dr. Emanuel, I was struck we woke up this morning to the news of possible of community spread on California, but I was also struck by what's happening in Japan, where the prime minister just requested that all public schools shut down for a month. I can't imagine that happening in the United States.

EMANUEL: I can't imagine that happening in the United States either. But one of the principles of trying to contain an infectious spread like this and similarly like flu is what's called social distancing, putting distance between people so there's not so much convening with people and not as easily spread of the viruses either through hand shake or just rubbing up against each other.

I think, you know, that's something we considered during the swine flu epidemic. It is something that happened in a variety of spot areas where it seemed to be concentrated. And it's something that will have to be considered. Whether preventing it in the whole country like Japan with over 100 million, 120 million people is the wisest move, I don't know. I don't know the detailed epidemiology, frankly, in Japan. They have a lot of judgments that probably go into this. The Olympics are coming up and they want to reassure people that they're really addressing the problem. This, again, is what concerns me that these external factors, whether it's the Olympics or the stock market or whatever are going to drive judgment rather than good science.

And I have to say, so far, it's not reassuring. I think Sanjay was very charitable about press conference that it was chaotic. The president repeated a lot of stock phrases without, as Sanjay said, expressing deep understanding of this situation or having someone by his side who really had that deep understanding of the situation.

And the person he brought in to run this, Vice President Pence, you know, again, not a person who's demonstrated deep understanding of government policy related to health or the science behind various policies like needle exchange for HIV.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Well, Dr. Emanuel, thank you very much for all of your expertise on this, Dr. Sanjay Gupta as well. We should let you all know that Sanjay will be back in the next hour to answer all of your questions, because we know you have a lot of them this morning. And so Sanjay has been collecting them and he'll be answering them. So stick around for that. BERMAN: So the race for the Democratic nomination in a critical few days right now, two days until South Carolina. Some of the candidates made a final pitch last night in these really revealing CNN town halls. We'll talk about it next.



BERMAN: Two days until the South Carolina primary. South Carolina likes to say, we pick presidents.

CAMEROTA: And they're not wrong.

BERMAN: No, they have a pretty good track record on this. So two days away from South Carolina, Super Tuesday is next week. The candidates are making stops across the country today. Most of them focused in the south, but not just South Carolina, Joe Biden really focusing on South Carolina, some of the other candidates spreading it to other places. There were these really interesting CNN town halls last night.

Joining us now to talk about it, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, who was on that stage last night though not running herself yet. And CNN Contributor Frank Bruni, he is a New York Times Columnist.

Dana, one of the things people are talking about today, and I think we're going to talk about this in many different ways, is Joe Biden who received the endorsement from Jim Clyburn yesterday and has a history of a relationship with the people of South Carolina. And you saw that and you saw one of the traits that people look to in Joe Biden, which is empathy when he was asked or addressed on the stage by the spouse of the victim of the mother Emanuel mass shooting.

And Joe Biden, once again, was able to dig into his own experience and the death of his own emotion to connect with this voter. Listen.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Reverend, I kind of know what it's like to lose a family. And my heart goes out to you. If you may remember after Barack and Michelle and I were there and my family, I came back on that Sunday, the regular service because I just lost my son. And I wanted some hope. Because what you all did was astounding. They forgave him. The ultimate act of Christian charity, they forgave him.


BERMAN: It's emotional outside politics and outside campaigns. That's just an emotional moment, a person-to-person connection right there. But coming three days before the South Carolina primary, I want to talk about this moment for Joe Biden and what it means. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the town halls took place in the auditorium behind me, and I wasn't even in the actual room when it happened, but you could feel the emotion throughout the whole building. And obviously you could feel it through the T.V. screen. And it was classic Joe Biden empathy. And he can do it because it's genuine in a way that no one else can. And, unfortunately, tragically, he can do it because of all of the loss that he has suffered.

But when it comes to South Carolina, what he said there is so important. He mourned with the people of South Carolina. He mourned the loss of his son with the people here. And that was just one example of the connection, the real connection that he has with people here. And that is why, on the political level looking ahead to Saturday's contest here, he is banking on the people of South Carolina remembering that, and voting for him and keeping his candidacy alive.

And that doesn't -- it sounds dramatic, it is not dramatic. He needs South Carolina to keep his candidacy viable. And he needs a win. And even James Clyburn, who endorsed Joe Biden yesterday and another emotional event said to Wolf Blitzer yesterday in kind of a very candid, typical Clyburn way, he can't just win by one point because that is not going to propel him forward. He needs to win big. And Joe Biden and his campaign know that.

CAMEROTA: And then, Frank, you contrast that to mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was also asked about gun violence on the stage. This was his first town hall, I believe. So all eyes were on Bloomberg to see how he responded. And, you know, you just see the contrast. I'm not saying which one is better, but he went right to action. He went right to his action plan. So watch this moment with Michael Bloomberg.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I want you to met Melvin Graham Jr. He is the brother of Cynthia Graham Hurd. She was a beloved librarian here in Charleston for 31 years. She was killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in June of 2015 along with eight other people. Melvin says he's supporting former Vice President Biden. Melvin, I'm so sorry for your loss. Welcome. I'm glad you're here. What is your question?

MELVIN GRAHAM, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: Good evening, Mayor Bloomberg. My question is what can you do to bring common sense gun control into law and close all the loopholes with and without Congress?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, we've created an organization every town for gun violence. It has 6 million members across the country.


CAMEROTA: A totally different tact there. I mean, it's up to voters which one they want.

FRANK BRUNI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Bloomberg is ever the technocrat. You could not find two different candidates with different emotional temperatures. But the thing is there's not a right or a wrong here. I mean, what you see in Joe Biden is just such evidence of humanity and that can be very important to persuasion. And I think Joe Biden has an effect on people because he brings his own heart, his life experience.

Bloomberg isn't saying, you know, I'm someone who's going to weep with you. He's saying I know how to do things. Here's what I've done. Let me show you the flowchart. Let me show you the record. And that's another way to come at these things. And we're going to find out in the coming week what voters right now at this moment in America, what they respond to more and what they want more.

BERMAN: Can you talk more about this? Because you wrote an interesting column that was about Bernie Sanders, yet another person we didn't talk about, basically making the point, and I don't want to put words in your mouth, and don't attack me, Frank wrote the column.

BRUNI: They attack me, yes.

BERMAN: People go after him. People don't like Bernie Sanders.

BRUNI: Right.

BERMAN: But the issue is does that matter?

BRUNI: Well, I think what we're finding out in American politics right now is it doesn't so much. So let's go back to 2016. People didn't really like Donald Trump. By people, we mean other Republicans in the case of Trump, other Democrats in the case of Bernie. We're talking about people who worked with him. Neither Donald Trump nor Bernie Sanders now would ever be considered someone who is brimming with charm and who have developed a reservoir of goodwill among the people around them.

But each of them was pitching an idea with selling a narrative about America and what had gone wrong and needs to be changed that voters responded to. And I think what we're learning in the success of the Bernie Sanders candidacy is that what you're telling people about their country, how you're describing it and whether it resonates with them matters a whole lot more than whether you seem like the person they want to have a beer with.


And I think we journalists need to re-examine the way we've covered so many campaigns. And we've always said, oh, which candidate do you want to have a beer with? I don't think that's what it'sabout in America right now.

CAMEROTA: Frank, Dana, thank you both very much.

All right, meanwhile, this story, President Trump urging calm as the coronavirus outbreak spreads around the world. What does this new case that we've learned about overnight in California, how does this impact what the government is going to do?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: Breaking news. The CDC is investigating what could be the first case of what is being called community spread of coronavirus in the United States.

This involves a patient in Northern California who did not travel outside of the country and has not been in contact with someone who did as far as officials know. President Trump tried to down play the risk in a rare White House press conference last night.

Joining us now to talk about all of this is Republican Congressman Will Hurd.


He serves on the Homeland Security Committee, and he recently wrote an op-ed on China's response to the coronavirus crisis and how it spread confusion and risk.

Good morning, Congressman.

REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): Good morning.