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White House Controlling Messaging on Coronavirus; Global Markets Plunge Over Coronavirus Fears; Interview with Joe Biden; World Health Organization Issues Warning of Possible Coronavirus Pandemic; World Stock Markets Falter over Concerns of Coronavirus Spread; President Trump Puts Vice President Mike Pence in Charge of Government Response to Coronavirus. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Situation is turning into a pandemic, and it's having an impact on the markets around the world. NEW DAY continues right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Friday. It's February 28th. It's 8:00 in the east. Alisyn is off. Erica Hill with me here today.

The breaking news, the major developments in the outbreak of coronavirus. The World Health Organization now issuing a warning about a possible coming pandemic. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta says we're basically already there. Global markets so clearly rattled by this overnight. Look at the sea of red there, just huge losses in Asia and Europe overnight.

Here in the United States, let's take a look at the stock futures. They've been moving around this morning, now down about 150. Down again after just epic losses yesterday. The biggest one-day point drop in the Dow's history, 1,200 points. Overnight, eight more people died in Iran, raising the death toll there to 34 people. Friday prayers there canceled in 22 other cities in Iran for the first time in decades. A lot of questions about the summer Olympics in Tokyo as the prime minister in Japan has closed all public schools for a month. In Italy, five pro soccer matches this weekend are going to be played in empty stadiums like this. This was yesterday. What an image that is. This is a major tournament game. No one in the crowds there to protect people from a possible spread. Switzerland just canceled next week's Geneva motor show, one of the world's largest. And Facebook just pulled the plug on its developer conference in May. That's their biggest event of the year.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: All of this happening as a whistleblower in Health and Human Services is now asking for protection after revealing that more than a dozen federal workers interacted with quarantined Americans without proper medical training or protective gear. In California, dozens of health workers are being monitored after they were exposed to a patient who acquired the coronavirus with no known source of infection. And some of those health workers will be quarantined.

The CDC, we should point out, has now changed its criteria for who can be tested. That's after we learned of that patient in California who was the first possible case of what's known as a community spread. Why was that a big issue? Why wasn't she tested initially? Because she hadn't traveled abroad nor had contact with a coronavirus patient. And at the time, one of those or both of those needed to happen for you to have that test.

We want to begin with CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans on our top story. And we're continuing to watch this, Christine, as we wait for the markets to open here in the U.S.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: About seven months of stock market gains just wiped away in just a few days. And that feeling, that selling still continuing around the world. Asian shares closed lower again, sharply lower. These are corrections, corrections in major Asian stock markets. Also in Europe, big losses there. And futures, futures are down still, although they are off their worst levels of the morning. I think that's important. They had been down several hundred points at one point. So there is a real kind of uncertainty in how the market is going to react to end this week.

And $3.4 trillion in stock market value wiped away in just six days, six days from a record high in the S&P 500 to a correction. That has not happened in 70 years. I'm going to say that again. You have to go back to Great Depression era kind of stock market activity to see such a big decline so quickly.

What does the Dow look like this week? Yesterday, 1,190 points. You've never seen that many points comes off the Dow Jones Industrial Average ever.

However, when you talk about percentagewise, this is not in the top 20, because the stock market has been going up for 10 years. So 1,000 points today, obviously, is not exactly worth as much as it was even a few years ago. But these last few days in a row of stock market losses, real unnerving for investors. Yesterday, big declines again, official correction territory.

Let me give you just real quickly, though, over the past 10 years. This decline, a correction, there have been several of them over the last decade. But it is a reminder that stocks tend to go up over time. At least right now with coronavirus, you're not seeing a whole heck of a lot of buying to come in and stabilize this thing, guys.

BERMAN: I know 1,200 points isn't what it used to be in the Dow, but still, a four percent loss in one day. Anyone who holds any portfolio knows that's --

ROMANS: It's meaningful. These are meaningful moves, yes.

BERMAN: All right, Romans, thanks very much. HILL: Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay

Gupta and Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Gentlemen, good to have both of you with us. As we look at what we are facing now on a Friday morning, Sanjay, I want to start with you here. We've talked a lot this morning about the testing. And the reason that's coming up, of course, is because of this patient in California who possibly acquired the coronavirus through what's known as community spread. She wasn't tested initially because she didn't meet the criteria for the test. The CDC has revised its guidelines. Is that enough moving forward?


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the CDC revising their guidelines is really important because it does put it on par with several other countries around the world now. In Korea, for example, we know that there have been thousands of tests done every day, and we haven't had 1,000 tests done in several weeks in the United States. And the concern is, are we missing people? Are there people out there who are carrying this infection that we're simply not testing?

But in addition to the guidelines changing, the other thing that has to be paired with is the ability to have these tests out there to people and hospitals who need it. Right now, there's seven public health systems, three federal health systems, DOD systems, and the CDC where this testing can happen. My understanding is, talking to some of the sources that by the end of next week, there should be 40 sites where this testing can happen. But these two things have got to go hand in hand. You can say yes, more people can be tested, but then those tests have to be available. They're not quite available yet. That hopefully comes in the next several days.

HILL: We heard some really strong language this morning, and carefully chosen words, as well, I would say as you pointed out, Sanjay, from the World Health Organization this morning saying this is a potential pandemic. We are very closely. Sanjay, I know you said, we're basically there. But they went on, Dr. Schaffner, to say this is a very delicate situation. And it all teeters on how this outbreak is handled. How do you think it's being handled, Dr. Schaffner, here in the U.S. versus what we're seeing in other countries?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, we're still in very good shape here in the United States. We've had very few cases. They've been well identified, well cared for, and public health is working hard, having identified all the contacts. Now, this California case changes the equation, of course. Where did that person get their infection? That investigation is currently very much underway, and we're all watching that very, very carefully. So far, so good, but we expect more introductions of the virus. That's inevitable.

HILL: Messaging is key here. It is important when we talk about what we're seeing in the stock market. It's important when we talk about how to handle this in the community, what's being done in terms of preparedness and testing. Sanjay, we know that the White House has appointed Vice President Pence, and we're now learning, and I know you have learned specifically from a number of your sources, that all of the messaging needs to first be approved by the vice president before it can go out to the community. On the one hand, you step back and you say, OK, so we're going to get one uniformed message. On the other hand, is there a chance that we will not get the full message, that we are not learning everything that we need to from the people on the front lines here, from the scientists, from the medical professionals?

GUPTA: That is my concern. Thankfully we have people like Dr. Schaffner still who will weigh in on these types of issues. But people who are directly dealing with this outbreak in the United States have data, have information that is valuable to be shared.

The thing about this, Erica, is that this is a fast-moving story. It's very quickly moving. And when you have gaps in information, gaps in communication, that can be meaningful in terms of not being able to act on things quickly enough. So it does concern me. And I've got to say, I've covered lots of outbreaks over 20 years now. It's the first time I've ever seen anything like this where I couldn't go to my sources and instead, they come to me and say, look, love to talk to you but we've got to get approval from the vice president's office on something like this.

I'll give you an example. If we get to the point where this concept of social distancing needs to take place -- kids need to stay home from school, people need to not go into work, people told that public gatherings should be minimized, all those types of things we've been hearing in other countries around the world, if some of that's going to be recommended here in the United States, where is that information coming from? Is that going to be at the federal level, the state level, the city level? Who is in charge there specifically? And how is it going to be explained to people in terms of the value of that and the enforcement of that.

So I think, again, hopefully we don't get to some of these same things that we've seen in other places around the world. But as Dr. Schaffner said, as the head of the CDC said, as Dr. Fauci has said, this is not a question of if. It's a question of when. And they've been saying this for a while. I think some people are waking over the last couple of days and saying, wow, this seems like kind of a big deal. But the public health community has been saying, look, this virus is going to come. It's a virus. It's not going to just stay in one country. It's not going to just stay in one place. It's happening now.

HILL: And the fact that it can spread so easily, right, just by somebody coughing. When we look at this, I want to focus on the testing, if we could, for a minute. So Dr. Schaffner, from your perspective, we talked a lot about how difficult it has been. There were some issues with the test in the beginning, we should point out. However, in terms of accessibility, how concerned are you about the lack of access for hospitals and medical centers around the country?

SCHAFFNER: Erica, this has been a big block, hasn't it?

[08:10:00] We haven't been able to test more broadly as many of my colleagues in infectious diseases would like because we've had kind of a bottleneck. We haven't had enough testing sites. So we look forward to the distribution of all these testing kits to the public health establishment, and we also hope that commercial laboratories who also are developing their test will get rapid FDA approval. That will allow us all to test much more thoroughly.

HILL: It is remarkable that when you put it -- when you put the numbers up on the screen, and Sanjay, you were talking about this last night, and I have to say, it really solidified for me the stark differences that we're seeing. So I think we have a graphic where we can show just the number of patients that have been tested. It is only in the hundreds here in the U.S.

And as you told me earlier this morning, part of the problem is if someone walks in and says, maybe I didn't just get back from China but I just came back from Italy, and I have this cough, or maybe I have a low-grade fever. I don't feel great. Can you test me for coronavirus? Chances are the answer is going to be no.

GUPTA: The answer has been no, because I've talked to these patients and I've talked to these doctors in several states, including where you are in New York, Erica, where people have come back and they say, look, I'm concerned, as you point out. I wasn't in China, but I was in Korea. I traveled from there. I don't feel well. Statistically, as Dr. Schaffner said, statistically, I realize this is not likely to be coronavirus. It's more likely to be cold or flu, but can I get tested? And they are told, no, you cannot get tested. A, you don't meet the criteria, b, even if you did, some of these places don't have the testing equipment.

And I think that's a problem. There are so many things that we do so well from a public health perspective in the United States, and I think it's really helped us through similar situations in the past. But with regard to this issue, I think we're really in the bottom tier with regard to testing as compared to countries around the world.

HILL: Also, preparedness has been an issue, as well, I know that you touched on. Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. William Schaffner, really appreciate your expertise. Thank you, both.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, as you've heard, President Trump has put Vice President Pence in charge of the coronavirus response. New reporting on what that could mean, next.

HILL: Plus, it is make-or-break for former Vice President Joe Biden in tomorrow's South Carolina primary. He joins us live just ahead.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the government's response to coronavirus. "The New York Times" reports that the vice president will control all coronavirus messaging.

I want to bring in CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

Maggie, you sort of half broke this on our show yesterday. We talked about it yesterday morning. CNN has been talking about it for the last day also that they want to clear any comments with the vice president's office first.

I guess my next question is, why? Why would you want to try to control the messaging from someone like Anthony Fauci, for instance?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. So, look, there's been a lot of unhappiness, John, with our reporting on this from the administration and what their argument is, is we're not trying to control the substance of what's being said. We're just trying not to have seven different officials out on TV shows saying seven different things.

Appearances by Peter Navarro, one of the president's economic advisers, in particular, were mentioned to me by a number of administration officials as something that they saw as unproductive. They insist they don't need people like Dr. Fauci, who is a subject matter expert, but they have not been at all specific about that. And given the fact we have a president who has been repeatedly trying to downplay this threat and suggest that the media is overhyping it, there's understandably going to be a lot of skepticism that the only reason they want to control the messaging is simply to make sure they have a coordinated everyone on the same page and that they're not going to be editing scientific statements.

I think the -- it remains to be seen what they're going to do. The proof will be in the pudding. The proof will be in how much access folks like us have to subject matter experts and scientists and people who can speak unfiltered about what's going on.

We saw Dr. Fauci speak yesterday but only alongside Mike Pence. We did not see him on television. He had been doing several interviews before this new rule went into effect. Again, we'll have to see how it plays out but there's a lot of reason for skepticism.

BERMAN: Part of that reason, Maggie, is because what we had heard from some of the medical experts and public health experts was different from what we're hearing from the political leaders.

Anthony Fauci saying it will take a year to a year and a half to get a vaccine, side by side with the president telling us it's coming very soon.

Public health experts telling us it's very likely that coronavirus will spread, and the president continuing to say it's going to disappear almost like a miracle. So any sense that they don't want that message, the administration, they don't want that message we're hearing from the medical officials out there. HABERMAN: Look, we obviously have that sense based on just what the

president's own words have been to your point. His statement that it will be gone by April and he's said this to a couple of people at his private club at Mar-a-Lago, he's said it publicly. Obviously, he said that there's a theory, quote-unquote, that it will be gone by April.

That actually is a twist that he is doing. It's a mischaracterization of information he was given in a briefing where he was told typical viruses tend to wane in terms of spreading in warmer weather because they thrive in colder climate. That was not meant, as I understand it from the people who witnessed this briefing as some kind of a prediction on how the coronavirus is going to travel because they just don't know.

And so, that is a concern. The president tries to put his own spin on the ball on even scientific information to sort of bend information and facts to his will. So there is a reason to believe that at least the president doesn't want that information out and since the person he has trusted of with this is the vice president, I understand why all kinds of alarms were raised inside and outside the administration.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there are also concerned legitimately and you both have talked about this, about the lack of credibility coming out of this White House.


HILL: And that's the other issue, too, is what can you trust? Let's talk about the vice president. There was, obviously, a lot came up in the wake of this appointment looking at how he addressed this needle exchange program in Indiana which experts had said afterwards he -- you know, if he had moved much quicker, many more people, far fewer people, I should say, would have been infected.

He addressed the criticism last night. I just want to play what he had to say.



MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't believe in needle exchanges as a way to combat drug abuse. But in this case, we came with the conclusion that we had a public health emergency. And so, I took executive action to make a limited needle exchange available.


HILL: He took executive action because he had to change the law. But it is important to point out in the full context here, it took him months to get to that point and he resisted it for some time.

Is there any sense that within the administration, and even perhaps the president, was the president aware of that at all, Maggie? Was there a sense going into this that they knew there could be this blowback of once they put the vice president in this position?

HABERMAN: I think some aides at the staff level may have raised this or known about it. I don't have any reporting indicating this was on the president's mind. The president was considering at least three people for this point person role that he ultimately gave to Mike Pence, although as you've noted earlier in the show, there have been a couple of people who are now said to be in charge of it. Alex Azar in charge of the task force, there's the official who is in charge of PEPFAR, who has some role as well, also one of the people being considered for the role Pence now has.

I don't think that was weighing heavily, if at all, on the president's mind that there could be this blowback. The president wants to get in and out of this crisis as quickly as possible and the vice president seemed, to him, to be the best person. I think their assumption is the blowback will pass the same way almost everything with this administration seems to burn out within a couple of days.

HILL: And he was available according to your reporting.

HABERMAN: Look, the president -- this involves illness and germs. This is not something the president is particularly interested in being attached to himself or, you know, having a ton of focus on.

We know that the president is very, very concerned about the stock market and how it's reacting. He sees the stock market as if it's his poll. He's tethered his re-election hopes to the economy. And so, he's watching this all very warily.

I think the idea of putting Pence in charge was to signify to others in the states to citizens, to all sorts of people watching this, we are taking this seriously and here's the person you should be in touch with.

We know governors in a couple of states were in touch with the vice president yesterday. But it's all going to depend o how quickly this spreads. If it doesn't really spread, then it's going to -- it will -- this burn out fairly fast. If it does spread, then I think the president is going to face questions about how he's handled this.

BERMAN: And, of course, I know in the White House, in the Oval Office, they're watching the stock market very closely and the sea of red over the last few days I know was of grave concern.

Maggie Haberman, thanks so much for being with us.

Do we have "The New Yorker" cover? Let's just show people a "New Yorker" cover. This is "The New Yorker", consider the source. But they have an interesting take on what is happening in the White House now as it concerns the coronavirus outbreak.

In the meantime, the South Carolina primary is tomorrow. Vice President Joe Biden in many ways, it's make-or-break for him. We're going to speak to him about the race tomorrow. Also his take on the coronavirus outbreak, that's next.



BERMAN: This morning, Dow futures down about 100 points. This follows yesterday, which was the single biggest point drop ever on the Dow, 1,200 points. And this has been the worst week for the stock market since the financial crisis in 2007, 2008.

We've heard from the World Health Organization. This now all has pandemic potential. Obviously, this all happening at a very important time politically in the United States. The South Carolina primary is tomorrow.

Joining me now is Democratic candidate, former vice president, Joe Biden.

Mr. Vice president, thank you very much for being with us this morning. Good morning to you.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, John, for having me.

BERMAN: So, we see the stock market falling, the worst week since the financial crisis, which I know you lived through as a senator and then vice president. How serious do you think the economic impact will be from the coronavirus?

BIDEN: Well, I'm less concerned about the immediate economic impact than I am about whether or not we gain control of this. The idea that the experts are not allowed to speak, the president has silenced them. Dr. Fauci, who was in three administrations, worked in our administrations. We took care of Ebola.

The idea that whistle-blower came out today saying that people we sent to the air base to receive incoming folks were not trained. They didn't have the right suits on.

You know, I mean, this is -- this is time. Let the experts take this over. Everyone will have more confidence.

I think one of the reasons it's falling is not just the pandemic concern, quote/unquote, but the way in which the president is handling this.

BERMAN: You were a vice president. In a vacuum, is a vice president the right person to put in charge of a response like this?

BIDEN: Depends on how qualified the vice president is. And the fact is that I can understand a vice president coordinating it. I've coordinated a number of things, but you need to let the experts speak.

I was told -- I heard on the news this morning, Dr. Fauci is not allowed to speak publicly. What is this all about?

What -- all I've -- no one takes the president's word for these things. At a minimum, he exaggerates everything, and the idea that he's going to stand there and say everything is fine, don't worry, who's going to believe that?

Let the experts speak like we did in our administration. Look what they did, John. They took away the -- I was deeply involved when we were taking care of the Ebola virus.

What do we do? We set up a special office in the White House to deal with pandemics. He got rid of that office.

We funded heavily hospitals that would be the intake provision -- the intake centers for anyone with the disease. And what's happened? They haven't completely funded that.

The training of our workers to be able to deal with this Ebola -- excuse me, with the virus. This is -- this is not a way to run a nation. This is not a way to reassure the world.

BERMAN: You say part of the reaction in the market you think might be as a reaction to what's happening in the White House. But I do want to go back to my first question here which is, how do you think the United States economy will hold up as this virus becomes more of an issue here?

BIDEN: It will depend on how -- how well the administration handles the concern and the reality of the virus. That's what it will depend on.