Coronavirus: The Experts vs. The White House
Hello everyone I'm ZAC. Wolf a senior writer. Cnn and this is the daily DC. We will take a one day break. However from electoral politics to focus on corona virus today the worldwide outbreak. It has alarmed public health officials and threatens to cripple the world economy there are as of this taping sixty two cases in the United States. These include forty four people who were aboard the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. Three people repatriated from China and fifteen cases. That just came in the United States to new cases were reported Friday. Among the diamond princess passengers that makes a total of two hundred eighty five individuals from that diamond princess line who are currently under quarantine in the United States according to the CDC's website worldwide. There have been more than twenty eight hundred deaths and eighty three thousand cases of the corona virus. There are fears that the everyday effects of this outbreak. Which have already hit so much of Asia. In Japan. The government has voted to close all schools that those will start to migrate to the US. So I have the perfect guests to go into the story with me. Elizabeth Cohen is a senior medical correspondent for CNN. She's down in Atlanta and John. Harwood is a CNN wight house reporter. He's over at the White House right now to talk about the government response. Thank you both for joining me. Thank you Elizabeth. I'll go to you first. What do we know right now about this disease is it? Is it waning at this point or is it still gaining steam or do we just not know what it's doing? Oh I think it appears for sure that it is gaining This is going to get worse before it gets better. That's what the CDC seems. Be telling us that's what infectious disease experts. Tell us how bad it will get is yet to be seen. But it's going to get worse before it gets better so you've been on CNN a lot talking about all of this right. Now you're on a politics podcast and in case you hadn't you know the folks out there hadn't noticed we're in the middle of a presidential primary. Super Tuesday The biggest date of the primary season is on Tuesday South Carolina is on Saturday. The primary there do people need to be nervous about going out in public in the US. Right now oh I don't think so. I mean I wouldn't advise anyone to be nervous about that. I think we have to do. Is All the things that you do during flu. Season to keep yourself safe if you see someone sick. Stay very far away from them. Wash your hands is you always should Keep Your House clean as you as you always should sneeze into your inner elbow as you always should It's I think the infectious disease doctors. Tell me that in their heads. They're thinking about this like flu that there are many similarities between flew in this novel Corona Virus. And so anything that you would do during flu season. You should be doing now and you know everyone's different. I think decisions that people are GonNa make for example about travel to Europe. Let's say would be different? If it's too healthy people going versus someone taking their elderly mother with them who maybe has underlying health conditions. Different people are gonNA make different decisions. I you know and to that point I guess maybe California is probably happier than ever that they've moved towards a vote by mail system Instead of putting people In in in contact with each other. And let's hope all the the League of women voters volunteers out there all have plenty of The you know hand wash out there for all the folks now John. You pay a lot of attention to to markets and you're covering the White House. Let's look at this at a kind of a more macro level Don. Donald Trump Once he he's trying to have kind of two things happen here number one. He wants people to be calm about this. And he also doesn't want to rattle markets and it seems like the way he's handled this so far. Neither of those things seem to be happening for him. Well as a political and economic and market matter. It's plain that the administration's response has not been successful That doesn't mean that it has not been successful in the main in terms of the public. Health risk Because as was said this is something that if you treat it like the flu In an abundance of caution that you can minimize the spread. It's it is more lethal than the flu At least based on what we know so far but not lethal in the way that Ebola was for example or SARS or Merce But the way the When the market fell on Monday and Tuesday the president and his aides initially adopted a kind of Blythe. Tone saying Well does it buying opportunity for investors stocks cheap? Well it's kept going down steadily since then and when the administration had its news conference on Wednesday evening attempting to reassure the public stock futures went down during the press conference. And that's partly because the president has not had a clear message about the situation. He sort of equivocated on how much money we need to respond to it. On how lethal it is whether it's going to go away on. Its own or not on whether Community spread of this virus is going to happen or not. He's contradicted some of his health professionals at the CDC people like Anthony Fauci So that's been the problem from the administration point of view and I think over a number of weeks going forward we'll see whether from the public health aspect It is more successful. Get it looks right. Now which will in turn have a knock off affective calming investors and coming in the markets not only has trump contradicted people like Anthony Fauci but it also appears from our reporting out of the White House. That they're essentially going to clamp down Maybe that's the wrong word. But at least coordinate the messaging through. Vice President Mike Pence Somebody WHO's Record as a as a public. Health advocate is spotty at best He was in Indiana You know governor the no when there was an HIV outbreak there and his actions or lack thereof are credited with potentially not You know helping get that under control as quickly as possible now. This is a strange way to pivot. Yesterday I spent a lot of time because these are the strange kind of things I do looking at previous flu outbreaks. And there is of course the one thousand nine Hundred Nineteen. Spanish flu pandemic although Some people think that the Spanish actually started here in the US According to what I was reading yesterday it killed tens of millions of people worldwide. That is like the worst possible case scenario for something like this and I was reading this Element by John Berry. Who wrote a book about this? And his argument was that the Spanish flu was made much worse because public health officials and the government at the time. Were misleading people. They were trying to be They were projecting a lot of happy talk. They were saying you don't need to be as worried about this. I'm not saying that's what's going on right here but I do think An Elizabeth. I'm interested to get your take on this. How important is it that people trust the government in these kinds of scenarios? I mean trust is so so important because when the government needs to tell people for example you need to be quarantined. People need to listen so trust and honesty in an outbreak are so crucial without it things. Get out of control now You know in my mind. I think that people are going to listen to doctors people with actual medical degrees more than they're going to listen to president trump and so. I want to read you. Something that Dr Nancy Messenger at the CDC said earlier this week. I'm and she's referring to something called community spread which means that it's not a traveller who gets corona virus or a travelers husband or wife who get screen about Crony Virus. But someone WHO's out in the community as has happened now in northern. California at UC Davis. There's a patient where they don't know where she got corona virus that's community spread so Dr Sanjay said we expect to see community spread in this country. It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather a question of exactly when this will happen and this is important and how. Many people in this country will have severe illness. So she saying it's not a question of whether people will have severe illness. It's a question of how many I just have to think that people are gonNA listen to Tony Nancy mess anymore. They're they're more than they are going to listen to Donald Trump. I mean they actually are real doctors and then to follow onto Elizabeth Point That is what the president contradicted but CDC on And there's nothing wrong with coordinating messaging but the coordinated message should be coming from people like the likes of doctor and not from the president because the president has not focused on the details. He's not an expert on this. He doesn't have a high level of credibility with the public. But people like Tony Ouchi and Nancy. Messing do have high credibility and the Moore the administration could can put out people with actual expertise That will be helpful. Same goes with Mike Pence. Like actually has a bad record on public health so he does not have a high level of credibility here either But there are people in the administration do and can I jump in here for a minute. I think something that it's important to point out here. Is that this is going to be a tough crowd to rein in. I don't know if pence can do it because it's not just people in the administration but it's the county and state officials who do sort of the real You know legwork on outbreaks. They're the ones you do the quarantining and the isolation and the contact tracing and if he if he thinks if anyone thinks that local officials in California are going to listen to Mike Pence and do what he says I think they should probably think again there was a press conference. The governor newsom in California had yesterday where it was clear that he was saying. Hey something is wrong here. On the federal level yeah and trump has said that he would be ready to quarantine cities but ultimately that is something that would be. You would think adjudicated at the state level. Because that's where most of the public health happens in. It's more of a m correct me if I'm wrong. It's more of a coordinating thing for the for the feds at the at the national level. Like how does that work? How how would how would you even go about quarantining American city? Would IT BE MARTIAL LAW? Would you have the police in the streets would be? You would just ask people not to go to school. Would you ask? You know the the school districts not to convene I just this would-be so unprecedented for anything that I've experienced in my lifetime. I'm not sure how it would work in a free society like this right. I mean that's it's really hard to envision this. I remember when I was in public health. School quarantining on that level was seen as like a nuclear option. I mean that's just something that you know really hasn't been done before in recent memory e. Even what's happening now hasn't been done before done in recent memory even quarantining large groups which were doing right now for example the diamond princess passengers and others even that is something public. Health really really hesitates to do unless they absolutely need to do it. It is hard to imagine what a large scale quarantine like quarantining city would look like and I think that there are some excellent excellent chance that it would not necessarily work. Well because people would defy the quarantine and then what do you do right? And as far as trump is concerned if you think about his rhetoric on other issues and obviously those are totally different. But just say immigration. This is something where he had threatened to close the borders with Mexico over over something. That's not even close You know arguably the it's totally different than this but he has not used that kind of rhetoric with corona virus. At least not yet John. Why do you think that is well? He did act quickly at the beginning of the situation and Restricted flights from China to the United States He's not using A rhetoric comparable to rhetoric about the Mexican border. Because there's not really much evidence that it's Corner viruses coming into that source The president was complaining the other day that he'd been accused of racism when he restricted flights In from China so He's clearly conscious of potential backlash rhetoric of that kind but He did say that news conference on Wednesday evening. He was considering adding new restrictions from countries. Like Italy which is starting to see outbreaks of Corona virus and We'll see in the next few days if the if the situation seems to be leveling off or if we're on an inexorable march toward a pandemic then I would expect that the president is going to take a more stringent travel restrictions. Do you think that you know go ahead with this? Is Thinking that you know? I think that it's one thing to quarantine. Let's say Ebola had gotten to community spread in this country which of course it didn't but if it had I think that people might be able to wrap their heads around the need for quarantine for a disease that kills fifty percent at least fifty percent of its victims. I mean I was in Africa during the Bulla Outbreak and it was. I mean those people were incredibly sick. That is not the CASE WITH CORONA VIRUS. Mortality rate is maybe two or three percent could be even lower. There are people who are getting this new Corona Virus. Who have no symptoms whatsoever? They are not even sick. There are some people who are getting scratchy throat. I mean most of us have that you know probably every other day it is GonNa be very difficult to sell widespread quarantining when that's the kind of illness that people are getting people will think. What is the president doing this? We scratchy throats. This is crazy So I don't I that. Large-scale corning's seems like a A difficult scenario yesterday Mike Pence he he went and he spoke at CPAC which is a gathering of conservatives and he said something really important he said That now is not the time for partisanship and then moments later. He sort of launched into a screened in an attack on Democrats about being socialist and stuff like that so You know we. We are at a place in this country where we're going into this election and the two parties are fighting with each other with regarded corona virus. There Sniping Sort of sniping. Trump is doing some sniping over. How much money should be given to fight that? Should it be? Four billion dollars. Should be eight billion dollars Is Is there room for the parties to come together over this or should we expect them to continue to you? Know it will continue to be politics as usual on this issue John. Well I think there is room for the two parties to come together. you've had both Republicans and Democrats in the hill saying the administration's request for two and a half billion dollars was not enough And I think you will see bipartisan. consensus achieved Between the House and the Senate But this idea got A partisan bickering is the problem. Here is nonsense if partisan bickering Were the problem. We wouldn't have had three years of financial markets rising. The markets are reacting to reality here to the real threat to economic activity to the potential that consumers who have sustained the economy will Stop spending and push us into recession. it is common for administration to look to blame other factors when something happens that creates a bad set of circumstances for them. And that's exactly what this administration is. Doing Elizabeth. I just want to go back to what we talked about a little bit at the beginning. What is the timeline for when people should be ready for this kind of large-scale affect here in the US? How long will that take or do we know? Yeah I'm not. It's unclear. How large of on how large that effect will be and it really depends what you mean by large scale affect. It's you know what we've seen so far is that there have been cases in this country since at least mid January so a little bit over a month now and we have not seen or at least that we know of we have not seen you know rampant spread of this disease. And I think that that's a good sign. I think many people have asked me both friends. Colleagues everybody my mother my sister what can I do to prepare and what I tell them is look. You should be doing what you would do anyhow. You should be washing your hands. You should be staying away from sick people If you have an immune issue you should think about what other steps you would wanna take places you might not WanNa go. You know to prepare for a hurricane or a blizzard. You should have a fair amount of food and water in your house and batteries in the same way that you would prepare for an upcoming storm. You know those. Those are the kinds of things that people can do right now. Okay Elizabeth Cohen John Harwood. It was a pleasure speaking with you. Please stay safe especial. Thanks to our audience as well. Remember we publish a new episode every weeknight. So please subscribe on your favorite podcast APP. 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