Return to Transcripts main page

Quest Means Business

U.S. Hits 20 Million Cases as New COVID Strain Gains Ground; Markets Eye Georgia Runoff Elections Next Week; Thousands Gather to Celebrate New Year in Wuhan, China. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 01, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ZAIN ASHER, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: No trading today on Wall Street. Markets are closed because it's is New Year's Day, but this is the day,

yet, so far.

As the U.S. hits 20 million coronavirus cases, experts warn the darkest days could be ahead with a potentially fast moving new COVID variant

gaining ground.

And early voting numbers in the Georgia Senate runoff could spell trouble for Republicans.

And Wall Street end a year after the world's first COVID outbreak was reported in Wuhan, we look at how life in the city has practically returned

to normal.

Coming to you live from New York, it is Friday, January 1st, 2021. Happy New Year, everyone. I'm Zain Asher, in for my colleague, Richard Quest and


Tonight, a devastating milestone in what has been a tragic start to the New Year. The U.S. has passed 20 million coronavirus cases, something that

really sort of seemed unthinkable just a few short months ago and experts are warning the worst is still ahead. It comes as more transmissible

strains of COVID-19 that first emerged in the U.K. may -- may be gaining a foothold in the United States as I speak.

The new variant has appeared in Colorado, California, and now possibly Florida.

December has undoubtedly been the worst month for the U.S. since the pandemic began and the slow pace of the vaccine rollout, along with

distribution problems are only adding to the misery. Here's our Nick Watt with more.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From Wuhan where all this began to New York, not much fondness in the farewell to a terrible year.

2020 was tough, but --

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: We are still going to have our toughest and darkest days.

WATT (voice over): An LA County official says hospitals are quote, "on the brink of catastrophe."

SCOTT BRICKNER, REGISTERED NURSE, CEDARS-SINAI MEDICAL CENTER: It's like treading water from a hundred feet below the surface. You're already

drowning, but you just have to keep trying because that's what you can do.

WATT (voice over): Today in Atlanta, a field hospital reopens for business at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Meanwhile --

DR. KATHLEEN TOOMEY, GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSIONER: In many parts of rural Georgia, both in the north and the south, there's

vaccine available and literally sitting in freezers. That's not acceptable. We have -- we have lives to save.

WATT (voice over): They're just not getting the hoped for uptake from medical workers. In West Virginia, 42 people were given antibodies, not the

vaccine by mistake. In Wisconsin, a pharmacist now in custody after destroying 500 doses, taking them out of refrigeration.

The administration projected 20 million would have had vaccine dose number one by now. The reality, not even 2.8 million reported.

DR. CHRIS PERNELL, PUBLIC HEALTH PHYSICIAN: States and localities need resources. They need funding. I expected that we would see bumps in the

road, but I didn't expect that we would see this lack of consistency across the states.

WATT (voice over): And that new faster spreading coronavirus variant now detected in Colorado, California, and maybe Florida.

DR. SAJU MATHEW, PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST: I think we have to assume that this strain has been in the U.S. for a long time.

WATT (voice over): December by the numbers was the worst month of the pandemic, the most confirmed cases, the most deaths. Ten thousand lives

lost in the last three days alone.

MATHEW: We do have these vaccines. We just need to hunker down and get them.

WATT (voice over): In 2020, three hundred forty five thousand seven hundred thirty seven people confirmed killed by COVID-19 in America; in

2021, how many more?


ASHER: That is really the big question and I think, they just reported more states are reporting cases on that U.K. variant of the coronavirus. So

why is this new variants so concerning?

Well, let me just run through what we actually know about it so far. It is thought to be a far more contagious form of the coronavirus and experts

say, an increase in cases could overwhelm an already strained healthcare system.

There's no evidence that it actually makes people sicker or gives you worse symptoms. And actually pharmaceutical companies are optimistic that the

vaccines will still actually work on it. So that's the good news, but they are still testing.

For more on this, I want to bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. So, Elizabeth, the virus, this particular variant of the

virus has been found in Colorado, in California, possibly in Florida as well. The fact that the people who have been infected with this variant

haven't -- a lot of them themselves haven't actually had any recent history of travel, what does that tell you about how quickly this virus is

spreading within the U.S.?


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Zain, you hit the nail on the head. The fact that they haven't traveled and the fact that these

cases don't know each other tells us that it is widespread.

I mean, experts have actually been saying this for several weeks now, they think there are hundreds of cases of this U.K. strain in the U.S. and we're

just not finding them because the surveillance system in the U.S. is not very good.

They also think it's likely that a strain from South Africa, another new strain, also probably is in the U.S. Once it's around the world, it means

that it's probably in the U.S., too.

Let's take a look at the list of about 29 countries where the U.K. strain has been found. You know, when it's in all those places, it is most likely

in the U.S., too in great numbers, even though there's less travel during the pandemic internationally, there is still travel during the pandemic --


ASHER: So Elizabeth, given all of that then, given the fact that American experts believe that this virus is already here, much more widespread than

these numbers out of California and Colorado suggests, why not impose the same sort of lockdown restrictive measures as we're seeing in parts of the

U.K. and other parts of Europe?

COHEN: You know, I think that what authorities in the U.S. have realized is that it's already here and when it's already here, possibly in hundreds

and hundreds of people, does it really make sense to have those kinds of travel restrictions?

They have done some requirements, for example, you have to get tested before you leave the U.K. But you know, experts I've talked to you say that

really doesn't do very much. You could still be infected and get on that plane. Plus, it's not just in the U.K., it is all over the place as we just

saw on that long list of countries, so requiring a test for people who are just leaving the U.K., it is questionable how much that actually does.

ASHER: And just given this new, more transmissible strain, given the rising number of cases, what happened in December in this country is

unthinkable. What does that mean for the outlook for American hospitals for the month of January?

COHEN: I mean, it's quite terrible. Both the U.K. strain and the South Africa strain appear to be more transmissible. In South Africa, for

example, this new strain, which has just been traced back to November 20th, I mean, that wasn't that long ago. It's now about 90 percent of all the

cases that they've looked at in South Africa.

So when it becomes that dominant, you know, it spreads quickly. You know, the United States is already in a terrible situation. Hospitals are

overrun. ICUs don't know what to do.

So, you know, getting these variants that are more transmissible even though they're not more deadly, they are more transmissible, that just

makes an already terrible situation worse.

ASHER: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, Happy New Year. If I can say that just given all the news.

COHEN: Happy New Year.

ASHER: I wish you all the best. Thank you.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the United States will not delay giving people a second dose of the coronavirus vaccine. The U.K. has adopted that strategy

to get more people their first shot as quickly as possible.

British doctors are criticizing the plan and Pfizer says it has no data to support it. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz has more.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Zain, plans by the British government to delay the second jab in a two-part vaccination program has created

controversy here.

The British Medical Association says the plan is grossly unfair and other doctors group so upset they've written directly to the Health Secretary,

Matt Hancock.

In their letter they say that this plan undermines patient consent and that it fails to follow the science. Another developer of one of the vaccines,

Pfizer, also weighing in saying that there is no data, no evidence to back up this delayed strategy that the government is implementing.

Now the country's chief medical officers have, of course had to write to healthcare workers. They've written letters to try to explain this method.

They say that according to the advice the government has received, that that first injection will give patients a significant amount of protection

from serious illness and the second jab only provides a modest increase in the efficacy in the short term.

Essentially, the argument is that less people will be going into hospital and more people will be getting vaccinated. The country's top medical

officers saying that twice as many people could be vaccinated in the first two to three months under the strategy and you can understand why they're

trying to rush this out.

The UK right now facing a horrific surge of coronavirus cases, much of it driven by a new variant of COVID-19. This week, there were records broken

in terms of infection rates. Hospitals are ringing the alarm saying that they are almost reaching capacity in parts of England.

So this is a way to take a thin resource, the number of vaccines available and spread it out over a greater portion of the population -- Zain.


ASHER: Thank you, Salma. Investors are eyeing next week's runoff elections in Georgia which will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. We will

be on the ground in Atlanta for you after the break.



ASHER: Next week could be rather crucial for U.S. markets. Investors are watching the Senate runoff elections in Georgia. Candidates will be on the

campaign trail this weekend, except one, Senator David Perdue is in quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID.

Millions of Georgians have already voted early. Some Republicans are reportedly nervous about the Democratic turnout so far.

Kyung Lah is on the ground in Georgia, Alison Kosik is live for us in New York. Kyung, let me start with you. So three million votes cast in early

voting. What does that tell us about how this race is shaping up? And who has the upper hand?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now in the early vote, the data is telling us that Democrats have seen a strong turnout and

you simply just compare with where they were in early vote before the November 2020 election.

And Democrats and Republicans who have also been tracking this data tell us that Democrats are outperforming where they were, so that is making

Republicans nervous because it is simply adding pressure on Republicans on Election Day. They've got to get out the base on Election Day.

They are hoping that the President, should he stick to his message and should he focus on January 5th instead of January 6th, that he will help

bring out the base.

As far as Democrats, we are hearing from Stacey Abrams, who says that this is very encouraging. But again, this is going to be a climb for the

Democrats because on Election Day, they do anticipate that a lot of Republicans will show up in person to vote.

ASHER: And Kyung, standby, I want to bring in Alison Kosik. So Alison, if the Democrats do actually end up squeezing out a win here in terms of the

Senate, in terms of winning these Georgia runoff elections, just walk us through what does that mean for Biden's macroeconomic agenda, whether it's

in terms of city and state governments needing aid, just the overall efforts to bring the American economy back from the brink?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Let me just say that these Georgia said it runoff races are incredibly important to the economy. So if

Democrats wind up winning those two seats, it means that Democrats would control the Senate, they would control the House and in theory, it would be

easier to pass legislation.

And this is important for the economy, because despite the fact that Congress went ahead and passed that $900 billion stimulus package,

Americans need more help.

So it could be more likely to pass yet another aid package with a Democrat controlled Senate and a Democrat controlled house. Additionally, President-

elect Biden is looking to push for an infrastructure package and this package is calling for $3 trillion of infrastructure spending to look to

repair roads and bridges and airports here in the United States.

And if democrats win both of these runoff, Biden's infrastructure plan, which is called Build Back Better plan, then that plan would be in play. If

Democrats don't win those Senate seats, you'd have a split government in Congress. You'd have a Republican controlled Senate, a Democratic

controlled house and that infrastructure package may have a ceiling of let's say, of $1 trillion, so there wouldn't be that much and many believe,

Zain, that an infrastructure package wouldn't only help improve infrastructure in the U.S., it would also give a boost to the U.S. economy

because of all the jobs that will create -- Zain.


ASHER: And Kyung, let me go back to you. The fact that Donald Trump A, is not on this ballot, I'm curious how that affects Democrats in terms of

motivating them, but also that Donald Trump has talked so much about not trusting elections; elections being rigged. How does that affect

Republicans wanting to turn out as well?

LAH: Oh, well, you know, I was just talking about him being on message. That's really the biggest concern for Republicans here because in the State

of Georgia, when you go to these rallies for the senators, people are not showing up in senator Kelly Loeffler or Senator David Perdue t-shirts.

They are waving Trump flags. They are wearing those Make America Great Again red hats. Donald Trump is simply the most potent force when it comes

to the base, to the Republican faithful here in Georgia.

So what he has been doing, though, is talking about what's going to happen on January 6th, a rally, this hope that some of these lawmakers will

overturn the U.S. election results, which is just an empty hope.

So all of this discord and this emphasis on the election and talking about how the voting machines are not accurate or talking about, you know, votes

that have appeared out of thin air, these are all ridiculous, every single lawsuit, and every single recount has shown that Donald Trump lost the


So all of that, Zain, is something that the Republicans are worried will suppress their turnout on Election Day.

ASHER: All right. Kyung Lah, we'll see what happens. Alison Kosik, guys, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The online dating app Bumble is seeing a rise in activity during the pandemic. That's good news for the company as it prepares for an IPO. With

bars and restaurants closed, CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd says people have learned to date differently. She told Richard Quest how.


WHITNEY WOLFE HERD, FOUNDER AND CEO, BUMBLE: It has been an absolutely fascinating time for romance and for connection. And I think one thing has

proven to be remarkably true, no matter what circumstances take place, globally or locally in our lives, we all need connection. We all need


And our health, and our happiness depend on the strength of those relationships. And what's fascinating, is really watching the way people

are dating now digitally. As you know, the alternative dating opportunities have been put on pause. Restaurants, bars, outings, gatherings, dinner

parties, these you know, historical ways of meeting each other.

And so online dating has seen a huge rise, and we have seen really fascinating behavior take shape.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: Okay, so I can certainly see the purpose and the reason and the causation, if you like,

but at some point, I guess you have to meet up.

HERD: Yes, but what we've seen is this fascinating trend of slow dating is what we call it, where people have actually slowed down and gotten to know

one another through video, through audio, through chat.

And this is fascinating, when you think about it, pre-COVID, you know, our members were connecting, they were chatting, and then they were going

straight to the coffee shop or straight to the restaurant or the bar or wherever.

And it was this rapid interaction taking place where they really weren't getting to know each other digitally. They were meeting and connecting

physically and then going offline.

And this fascinating thing has happened where now, they are getting to know one another. It's almost the new version of pen pals, but with video and

with audio and they are really building relationships online first. Now for a minimum of two weeks, right, given the quarantine dynamics around the


And so you're seeing these people fall in love online, and actually fall in love online or actually build friendship.

QUEST: What do you want Bumble to be? I mean, as it grows and expands and moves and shifts, and widens its reach, and has had to accommodate the

pandemic? What do you want it to be?

HERD: I want Bumble to be a platform that helps people find healthy and equitable relationships, and not just romantic ones. Relationships are

truly the backbone of our lives and I and our team, we want Bumble to be there, through every step of your relationship: joys and struggles,

wherever you are in the quest of those relationships, and Bumble is all about engineering healthier and more equitable ones.

You know on Bumble women make the first move.


QUEST: Right, but as you move away, as you widen up the professional relationships, associated relationships, friendships away from the romantic

side of it, I wonder whether you end up being the jack of all trades, mistress of none.

HERD: You know, I think that it's more simplistic than that. We are not just our love lives. We, as human beings globally, we need other connection

as well.

And don't get me wrong. We are very committed to building better romantic relationships for people around the globe and we will never take our eye

off of that focus.

But as we help people build healthier and better romantic relationships, there's also an opportunity to help people fill other voids in their life.

And so when you think about a person's life, it's not just who they're dating or who they're married to, or where they're in a partnership with.

It's their friendships, it's their business opportunities.

And if you think about social media more broadly, there's nothing right now that finds you people you don't know yet. All of the major social media

players are helping you stay in touch with people you already know.

And so Bumble is really finding you new people, expanding your horizons and building healthier and more equitable relationships with people you haven't

met yet and it really bypasses the physical world. You can meet people beyond the wall that maybe you didn't know existed.


ASHER: All right, up next, a look at what life is like in the city where the pandemic started one year ago. The founder of the social media

campaign, Go Wuhan talks to us about the city's hard fought recovery after the break.


ASHER: In Wuhan, China, a scene almost unimaginable just one year ago.


ASHER: Thousands of people gathering in the streets to welcome the start of 2021, a lot of them in masks, but few other signs of the worry that

overtook Wuhan this time last year. That's when Chinese authorities reported the first case of a mystery respiratory disease there. A few weeks

later, the city was under lockdown.

Joining me now, now former Wuhan resident, Yuli Yang, her family was there during the 76-day lockdown. She is a former CNN editor and also the founder

of the #GoWuhan Campaign.

Yuli, thank you so much for being with us. So what a journey Wuhan has been through. I mean, when you think about what's going on there, you know, this

time, roughly around this time a year ago, it is unimaginable to think that they were able to ring in the New Year pretty much almost -- almost --


Just walk us through what this year has been like for Wuhan and what is it like right now on the ground there today compared to one year ago.

YULI YANG, FORMER WUHAN RESIDENT: Thank you, Zain. Thank you for having me on. Yes, it has been an extraordinarily challenging and unbelievable year

for Wuhan and I know for the rest of the world as well.

You know, I can understand that it is hard to imagine that as the world is still struggling with this pandemic, Wuhan -- in the City of Wuhan, life

has mostly gotten back to normal right now. It has been that way actually for months now.

Kids are back to school. People are back to work. Traffic is back on the street. It really, at the beginning of the year 2020, it was hard to

imagine that this is what we will be able to eventually achieve in Wuhan. It was such challenging times in January, February and March and the months

after that.


YANG: But normalcy is what -- we have a new kind of normalcy, obviously. People on the streets are all wearing masks, as you can see in lots of the

pictures. And also wherever you go, you have to get temperature checks and scan QR codes with your phone, phone apps for contact tracing purposes.

But there is a real sense of normalcy and safety finally in Wuhan, but that said, people are still very concerned, especially for the elderly. People

are keeping very close eye on the latest news. Any story, any news that's coronavirus related, especially domestic news get spread and shared very

quickly and people want to make sure, especially for the elderly people, that they are safe and they are nowhere near any kind of potential danger

of the virus.

ASHER: All right, Yuli Yang, live for us there. Unfortunately, not much time to go deeper in this conversation. We have run out of time, but thank

you so much for being with us.

And that is it for the show. I'm Zain Asher.

"2021, The Next Workforce" is next.