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A CNN Global Town Hall: Coronavirus Facts and Fears. Aired 11p- 12a ET

Aired March 5, 2020 - 23:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to the CNN Global Town Hall. I'm Anderson Cooper, along with CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our audience here, on social media, and around the world. We're going to spend the bulk of our remaining time taking questions from the audience, also -- audience members and also on video.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And we're also going to take some from social media, a lot of Twitter questions have been coming in all evening long. In addition, we have CNN correspondents standing by all over the world, including Ben Wedeman, who's in Italy, home to the biggest outbreak in Europe, Ivan Watson in South Korea, and David Culver in China, that's where this all started.

COOPER: And joining Sanjay and me right now is Dr. Seema Yasmin. She's director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative, as well as a former disease detective at the Centers for Disease Control.

What are you most closely sort of monitoring right now about this virus?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, DIRECTOR, STANFORD HEALTH COMMUNICATION INITIATIVE: So there's a lot of talk about the pathogen itself, but the thing that I study is the concurrent spread of rumors and misinformation. Need to be really clear here, the disease is not the only thing that spreads. You also get rumors and health hoaxes, misinformation, and emotional contagion, as well. So one person --

COOPER: What's emotional contagion?

YASMIN: It's when one person gets anxious and starts panicking, and then you pick up on that, and then you get panicky. Then Sanjay next to you is like, why is Anderson scared? I'd better be scared, too. That kind of stuff has been really --

COOPER: I'm usually the one to get scared first.

YASMIN: It goes that way.

COOPER: It starts right here (ph).

YASMIN: But that can be really dangerous, because that can help the virus itself get a handle. People can stop acting so rationally, start acting from a place of fear and be more susceptible to the misinformation that spreads.

And I want to say, WHO is doing fantastic work, needs a lot more support, but we do need public health agencies around the world to realize that disease is not the only thing that spreads. Misinformation is contagious, too. We have to take that seriously.

COOPER: All right, let's get some questions from the audience and from folks at home. This is Alejandra Villanueva. She's a master's -- getting a master's of public health at Columbia University. Hey, welcome. What's your question?

ALEJANDRA VILLANUEVA, PUBLIC HEALTH GRADUATE STUDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Hi. My question is, does the coronavirus change or mutate? And could it affect a person more than once?

GUPTA: Yes, I'll be able to take that. We've looked into this a bit. It's very interesting. First of all, this coronavirus likely jumped from animals to humans. In order for that to do that, it actually probably mutated at some point in order for that to happen.

And then, as it starts to spread through humans, it does continue to mutate somewhat. We know, for example, this patient in Washington, the first patient that was diagnosed in this country, they looked at the genome of that patient's coronavirus and they tried to match it to subsequent infections, and they found there was a lot of similarities, but, in fact, the virus does continue to mutate.

What we don't know is whether or not it mutates into something that is more problematic or less problematic. Interesting point, Anderson, I heard that -- viruses, you know, they don't want to kill their hosts. I don't want to assign a virus a personality, but as a general thing, they want to keep their host alive. So oftentimes they'll mutate into something that's less lethal, if they do mutate.

COOPER: But just to be clear, if somebody gets sick with a virus, gets over it, is negative, do we know, can they then get it again? Are they immune for a couple months or years? Is it known?

GUPTA: I mean, this is a little bit of an open question. But I did ask Dr. Fauci this. We were at the White House a few weeks ago. It's interesting, because we don't know for sure. The general thing is, once you're infected, it's kind of like getting vaccinated. You know, your body is vaccinated.

This virus, he believes, should behave the same way. There have been some reports around the world where people have become infected more than once, but sometimes that might just be a testing issue more than the fact that the virus has actually changed so much.

COOPER: OK. This is Robert Le Vien, Jr. He's an elementary schoolteacher and president of the Islip Teachers Association in Islip, New York. Welcome. Thanks for being with us.


ROBERT LE VIEN, JR., PRESIDENT, ISLIP TEACHERS ASSOCIATION: Thank you. Good evening. So each evening, our custodial staff in my district work very diligently to make sure our schools are clean. However, we all know that once those kids get off the bus and start running down to the classroom, everything changes. My question is, what should teachers be doing on a daily basis in the classrooms to protect their students and themselves?

YASMIN: The cleaning is completely spot on, but one of the mysteries about this new infection is that it seems that it doesn't seem to be affecting children as much. So from the largest data set we've seen from China of about 70,000 cases, less than 1 percent were in children. Now, that's still about 415 kids, so I'm not saying it doesn't affect them at all, but this is a bit different to your regular respiratory virus where you do see kids really affected. So watching that space really closely.

COOPER: But let's be practical. I mean, not only for your classroom, for, you know, airplane seats, movie theater seats. I was at the gym today. I'm like, where -- you know, should I be wiping everything down? Should I even be in this gym? What do you recommend, Sanjay?

GUPTA: I try to wipe things down for sure. You know, I'm definitely one of those guys on the airplane that will wipe the --

COOPER: I've never done that before. I'm going to start doing that, tray table, everything --

GUPTA: I do it, and then I always notice the guy next to me starts doing it, as well. Well, if this guy's doing it, I'm going to do it --

YASMIN: See, that's emotional contagion.

GUPTA: That's a good contagion.

COOPER: That's a good contagion, I will say. But you really -- but, you know, we've often heard, you know, don't overuse these antibacterial stuff. This is a case you really think wiping down is a good idea?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, look, the way a lot of people can contract this virus is touching something and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. I mean, we've heard this over and over again. Tray tables, incidentally, on airplanes are one of the dirtiest places on the plane.

COOPER: Well, you know, that pouch in front where you open, where everyone puts, like, their old food and they don't clean it.

GUPTA: Don't put your hands in there.

COOPER: All right, good. So wipe down things. Janae Moodie is a master's -- getting a master's in public health at NYU. She has a question. Welcome.

JANAE MOODIE, PUBLIC HEALTH GRADUATE STUDENT, NYU: Hi. Now that the disease is in several countries, do you think it is effective to continue doing travel restrictions? COOPER: You know what? All right, let's go to Ben Wedeman for that. He's in Milan. Ben, Milan, by the way, has created red zones. Can you explain what that means? And has it been effective?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These are so- called containment areas. It covers about 11 towns where 50,000 people live. And around those areas, those so-called red zones, the police, the army, the Carabinieri, the Italian paramilitary police, have set up roadblocks where they check everybody going in, everybody going out, to see if they have permission to do so.

So most of the inhabitants of that area simply cannot leave. And the whole idea is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus because that's where the outbreak was first concentrated. But what we've seen in this part of Italy is that, despite these containment areas, these red zones, the virus has spread to other areas, so the government is considering creating new red zones.

Now, the red zones that were set up are due to, at least in theory, they should come to an end this coming Sunday. There's a question of whether they will be extended. And therefore, there's a big debate here in Italy whether they have been effective at all, because the numbers, frankly, continue to rise. When we arrived here 10 days ago, the number of infected cases was 322. The number now being reported is 3,858. So there's a question of how effective these containment measures actually are.

COOPER: Yes, Ben Wedeman, Ben, thanks.

Let me follow up with, Sanjay, with you on that. I mean, with -- in China, the numbers have dropped, and so -- you know, it's an authoritarian regime, they are able to completely lock down people and force them to stay in their homes. That's not a situation here that we have faced.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, I think that that's part of the issue. If people don't abide by this, and actually are real honest about, you know, abiding by the quarantine, it may not work as well.

And I should point out, in this country, we really haven't done quarantines, you know, for 60 years. I mean, just to give you some context of how big a deal this is, I think during smallpox in the 1960s. What happened with that first plane that came out of Wuhan, 195 passengers, they went to this airbase in California, southern California, and they were quarantined for two weeks. That was a very unusual event in this country. And some people think that that did help.

But as far as the screenings go and all that, it's unclear how much of an impact that's going to make. I mean, we don't know. We haven't done this in a long time. So it's tough to say.

COOPER: We asked for video questions, as well. This is a video from Donna from Massachusetts. She sent it in to us. Take a look.

DONNA, VETERINARIAN: Yes, my question is, as a small animal veterinarian, is how stable is the virus outside of the host? For example, could a pet be a vector of transmission by virtue of having been in contact with a symptomatic patient?


COOPER: Let me just translate that, as I understand it. Can you infect your pet? Can your pet infect you?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, I have a couple thoughts, and I'd be curious to see what Seema thinks, as well. First of all, it's likely this came from animals, you know, just -- you know, most of the pathogens, as you mentioned earlier, do come from animals.

COOPER: Viruses like HIV came from animals.

GUPTA: Exactly. And even previous coronaviruses. SARS likely came from an animal known as a civet cat. Did you know that?

COOPER: I did know that, actually, yes.

GUPTA: Civet cat did? And then the -- MERS, the Middle East --

COOPER: He's always challenging me.


I know he's a doctor, he's a neurosurgeon, you know, I have skills, too.

GUPTA: You do.

COOPER: I don't.

GUPTA: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome came from camels, so this likely came from animals. But there is some evidence that this could actually go the other way. There was a dog, I believe in Hong Kong, that was subsequently swabbed and found to have the coronavirus in their nasal cavity. Didn't make them sick, necessarily. Just because it goes back and forth doesn't mean it's necessarily going to make the other animal sick.

COOPER: We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to be joined by Chef Jose Andres. He and his World Central Kitchen team have thrown themselves into the thick of this outbreak. We'll have more on that ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back. The coronavirus has affected populations across the world. As we reported earlier, 12 people have died in Japan and the whole world watched last month as nearly 700 passengers became infected aboard a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, that was docked in Yokohama.

[23:15:08] My next guest is Chef Jose Andres. He's head of the World Central Kitchen. His team served 3 million meals in the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. In the current crisis, they fed people -- they were called in and ended up feeding people on the Diamond Princess. He has also done extraordinary work, obviously, in Puerto Rico.

Explain how a chef who has restaurants all around America and around the world ends up feeding everybody on the Diamond Princess, the idea that you're being called in in the midst of a virus outbreak is kind of extraordinary.

JOSE ANDRES, CHEF WHO FED PASSENGERS STUCK ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS CRUISE SHIP: Yes, we almost have to go, 10 years ago, to Haiti, after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince --

COOPER: That's where you got interested in the whole idea of disaster relief.

ANDRES: Very much, and it's why World Central Kitchen happened. There we began feeding in many places where cholera became a big problem and I can say we began learning how to handle those kind of places where cholera was an issue, and in the way of feeling we were making sure that everybody will be safe.

COOPER: So how was the food being prepared on the Diamond Princess before you got involved? Were the chefs on the boat cooking for people and then feeding them on the boat?

ANDRES: Very much is what was happening. And everybody will understand that if you are in a place, a hotel, a cruise ship, where everybody may be under -- infected, will be very logical to say that you want to make sure that in this case food is prepared outside.

COOPER: Right. People who were infected should not be cooking food to people and giving it to people who may not be infected. That just doesn't logically make sense.

ANDRES: That's a very logical thing. So, yes, Princess cruise line, they call us, the government of Japan was actually very helpful. We sent some of our best team members. Remember, we were in Mozambique, in Beira, after the typhoon. There was a lot of cholera. I can say that in every single place we were, cholera was not an issue.

So we had very good protocols to handle those moments. Obviously cholera and coronavirus are two different things but nonetheless we were kind of trying to respond to those situations, to make sure that our people who are the cooks were protected, but at the same time we were doing it in such a way that everybody will be protected.

We will cook outside. Actually, we got a lot of help from different Japanese chefs. Actually, Chef Nobu was super helpful. Then we will bring the food to these kind of kitchens near the boat where we will reheat the food. Then we put it back and then we'll bring it in with a forklift. Everything --

COOPER: And they distribute it on the ship. ANDRES: And then inside they will take care of the solution. Everything was done, I will say, in a very professional way to make sure that everybody will be safe, achieving what we wanted, feed everybody in a very healthy way.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, you've learned -- the learning curve has been huge for you and you're doing -- you know, feeding millions of people in Puerto Rico and Bahamas and places where other food isn't getting out. What have you learned about disaster response? Because when I hear -- you know, you and I had dinner the other night, and when you told me what you were doing, I thought it was amazing but I was also a little freaked out that a guy who has just gotten involved in disaster relief is the one who's feeding people in this situation.

You would think there would be protocols and a long-established way of doing this kind of stuff. It seems like they're reinventing the wheel every time. What have you learned about disaster relief from your point of view and how to -- what needs to get better in an outbreak like this?

ANDRES: I think in the 21st Century we need to be asking from our governments and the big international agencies kind of more responsibility. If they're in charge of taking care of the people of the world, they should be taking care of the people of the world.

Let me tell you what we need to do, we need to give voice and the tools of success of the people that know. Very often we listen to the people that don't know. We need the professionals and the experts with the power to execute protocols that will be successful.

I see way too many politicians speaking. I see way too many people speaking in Congress. Those people should be where boots on the ground in the front lines. If there is a problem in Seattle, if there is a problem in any state in the United States of America, we need the best people there making sure that that will never be a problem.

That's what I'm seeing. For example, one of the biggest problems we're going to see, if we start shutting down the schools, poor neighborhoods, poor school districts, who is going to be feeding those children where their only meal every day only happens at the school? You see, we need to be planning less and adapt more.

I feel that sometimes we have way too many plans that nobody even is aware of. And we need to be training people to be adaptable. You need to adapt to situations you never see coming. That's what World Central Kitchen is, kind of the main expertise.

COOPER: I'm glad you're in this fight, Jose Andres.

We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have more audience questions coming up next. We'll be right back.


[23:23:50] COOPER: And welcome back. We're talking tonight about how we all are having to adapt to the coronavirus outbreak. Right now I want to turn to another element of it, and unfortunately a very dark part of it, the racism, xenophobia it has sparked in some people. We have an audience question about that in a moment.

But before we get to it, I just want to show you one incident. It was shot in a Los Angeles subway by a woman who is not Chinese. She's American of Thai descent. But she was subjected to a lengthy verbal rant by a man who she said started talking immediately about Chinese people and the coronavirus when he saw her. Take a look.




COOPER: And apparently we have problems with that video. But he rambled on for more than 10 minutes, she said. Nobody on the subway helped her at all. Let's take a -- I think it's now working. Let's take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every disease has ever came from China, everything comes from China. It's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) disgusting.


COOPER: A man who knows a lot about being disgusting.

So it's incredibly disturbing to see that and it's -- you know, we heard from Carl earlier, who's in quarantine whose wife is getting hassled at work because she's with him. I want to introduce everybody to Adam Whalen. Let me -- I can't even say exactly what -- you are so smarter than me. You're a biostatistics major?



COOPER: Wow. OK, cool. What's your question?

WHALEN: Thank you. So COVID-19 is not only a biological disease, it's a social one. Many of us in the public health field have seen examples overt xenophobia targeting Asian-Americans as a result of this outbreak. And as incidents increase so too will the discrimination. How do we separate the biological facts of this disease to the racist views that members of this community face?

COOPER: David Culver was in Shanghai for us. David, I just want to -- if you have any take on this question, what are you seeing on the ground in China, how people are being treated? CULVER: This has been going on, Anderson and Sanjay and Adam, to your question, for several weeks. I mean, we've seen this with regards to folks who are of Asian descent, not only in places like in the U.S., but also in Europe. I mean, some of the cases that we've heard have been as extreme as Chinese tourists with a group and being left behind and essentially stranded. And then the Chinese government trying to figure out how to get many of those tourists back. Also people being pushed away on the subway.

Here in China, though, it has also been happening. So it's folks who are from Hubei province or from Wuhan. So it's happening at the domestic level as well where people are being ostracized, that if you say you passed through that area, for example, taxis will pass you, they don't pick you up.

So it's a real issue that has gotten the attention of the government and the state media in particular. So in part to answer Adam's question, what the government here has been doing through certain propaganda outlets as well has been trying to defuse this and by trying to stress that everyone is going through this together, that this is a collective effort to try to push past.

But also they're issuing policy. And they're doing so against Western countries like the U.S. The Chinese government, for example, has advised their citizens not to go to the U.S. They're saying do not travel there because you will potentially be treated unfairly in the midst of all of this. And so it's rising in the ranks to the governmental level too. And it's a real concern and one that's seeming to only grow as this crisis grows.

COOPER: Yes. We have another question from Bianca Hunter, a production editor at Guilford Press here in New York.

Bianca, what's your question?

BIANCA HUNTER, PRODUCTION EDITOR, GUILFORD PRESS: Isn't it true that children often don't show symptoms of illness as early as adults, like they can -- you know, they basically can look like they're not sick, and then by the time you start seeking help or whatever they're really sick, like gravely ill because they -- you know.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, it's interesting because, as Seema was mentioning earlier, with this particular virus, for whatever reason, we don't know, it's good news though, that kids seem to be somewhat insulated from this. They can get the infection but they're not getting really sick.

I think your point is a good one that sometimes with other viruses kids will look fine for a period of time and because they don't have as much reserve they can suddenly start to decline. And it's important, I mean, you know, doctors and hospitals have to keep a close eye monitoring kids for a period of time for that reason.

But, you know, we still don't know why kids are so protected from this. But there might be some clues in that in going forward. Is there something we can learn from kids that we can apply towards adults as well? That's something investigators are researching.

COOPER: There's another question we got on social media. Deborah Warren wants to know, "Should we be concerned about products that arrive via mail since not knowing how long virus can sit on surfaces?"

YASMIN: Well, we have an idea that this virus might survive on surfaces for a few days, but it depends so much on the particular conditions. You put a virus on a very dry fabric, for example, it may not stay a lot. But you add what we call a microdot of snot, sorry to sound gross, but suddenly you have that humidity and that moisture that really lets the virus thrive. So it depends on the conditions, again, this is a new virus, we're learning it by day.

COOPER: So what about money, you know, currency?

YASMIN: It can be. And it can be and the Chinese government has actually been burning some of the currency to make sure that contamination isn't causing more disease spread.

COOPER: But, I mean, do we know for a fact that it can be on money?

GUPTA: It can stay on surfaces like money. You know, cardboard, my understanding is, because it's so porous it won't really last there, but money, as they mentioned -- Seema mentioned, was -- they were burning it because they were worried it was contaminated and a source of spread.

COOPER: One of the tweet questions that I just saw on the wall, and I've seen a couple of these, people are saying that they're booked for a cruise in a couple of weeks, should they go? I mean, I know what my answer would be, but I'm not a health professional so I'm not going to --


GUPTA: Here's the issue, and I'll tell you, like, even if there's not -- even if you're totally fine, if somebody gets sick on your cruise ship, you saw what happened with the Diamond, you see what's happening with this cruise ship off the coast of San Francisco, most of the people on that ship are fine, but now they may be quarantined.

They're just sort of cruising off the coast of California. They're not coming into San Francisco yet. So you could be wrapped up in it even if you yourself physically are well.


COOPER: Right. It's the same thing with traveling, you know, should you go on a vacation overseas? It's even not so much maybe the threat to you particularly but just the getting trapped in a place where they suddenly have a quarantine of a particular area that you're staying in.

That -- I'm not saying don't go, but that's something you have to take into consideration.


COOPER: Or flight travel -- you know, airplane flights are going to be canceled. There are going to be fewer flights. Is it going to be harder to get to and from?

YASMIN: I -- I do refer to cruises as floating hot zones --


-- because, as an epidemic investigator, you learn that outbreaks are so common on them. If not something respiratory, then the winter vomiting virus, norovirus. It's just so common. When you have that many people packed together, one person gets something and it can spread so quickly.

COOPER: You know, with a great accent, even saying "the winter vomiting virus" sounds, kind of, lovely.


YASMIN: Oh, I've had it when I worked in a hospital, and it is not lovely.

COOPER: No, I'm sure.



COOPER: This is Sabah Fatima. She's pursuing a master's in public health at NYU. Welcome. What's your question?

SABAH FATIMA, PUBLIC HEALTH GRADUATE STUDENT, NYU: Hi, my question is, if I have been exposed to COVID-19 and I do not have insurance, who then will pay for the treatment and recovery involved?

COOPER: That's a great question.

YASMIN: What a great question. Can I just say that, you know, we talked earlier on your show about the test kits being broken, and I can talk all day about the blunders with the test kits. But we need to talk about the system being broken.

Twenty seven million Americans are uninsured. Many more are underinsured. And we have so much data already that that delays people getting the treatment that they need. At the best of times, that's not good. But during an epidemic, that's terrible. It delays people getting the care they need, which is bad for them, but it's bad for everybody.

COOPER: Well, do we even know, would the testing be free?

GUPTA: The testing is free. Well, it's considered an essential health benefit now. This is coming from the Center for Medicaid Services. So that part -- that part will be covered, but I think your question is about the hospitalization, everything that would be associated with that.

YASMIN: Right, that's expensive.

GUPTA: That --

YASMIN: And there's no guarantees about that being covered.

GUPTA: Right, there's not a guarantee about that part. The testing, though, at least for the time being, will be covered.

YASMIN: As far as we know, we're hearing more so that it's covered by Medicare and Medicaid and it's covered in states and local public health labs. So watching that as it's changing, especially because we're seeing a patchwork of responses across the states.

COOPER: Just practical questions, too -- I know a lot of people have already talked about this, but masks.

GUPTA: I -- you know, this is a really interesting thing. And I want to say, I found this fascinating. People do want to take control in a situation like this. I get that. I think we can't be dismissive of the idea that people want to wear masks.

Here's the issue, though. For someone who is healthy that wears one of these surgical masks, it's not going to protect you against the virus. Important point: the surgical mask will not protect you against the virus. It may actually become a reservoir, when you're taking it on, when you're taking it off. You could actually contaminate yourself.

COOPER: Meaning -- a reservoir meaning it may trap --

GUPTA: It traps -- traps viral particles. Or it may even get bacteria inside of it. It doesn't do what people think it would do. And it's a little counter-intuitive. I think masks are good for people who are already sick because it may, you know, decrease the amount of respiratory droplets that are coming out of their mouth or their nose. For health care workers who are taking care of very sick patients, you know, and they need a special kind of mask. That's the N95 mask that is an airtight mask.

COOPER: Why -- I think people who have not worn -- when you wear a mask, you end up fussing with the mask more than anything. It doesn't fit right; you squeeze your nose. Your glasses get fogged up.

YASMIN: I've seen people touch the front of it, where the contaminant happens and they touch their eyes. And even --

COOPER: You end up touching your face, actually, more, when you're wearing a mask.

YASMIN: Yes, you end up also with this really false sense of security that I'm protected. I'm OK.

I do just want to clarify that we do tell health care workers it's OK for them to wear the surgical mask to prevent droplets. And the N95 is when they're doing bronchoscopies and intubating and they're aerosolizing a lot more virus.

GUPTA: Exactly.

COOPER: The masks -- most of the masks that the people are buying are meant to be disposable. They're meant for just, kind of, single use. The idea that you're going to be wearing that for days at a time is -- is not wise.

GUPTA: It could become contaminated. It could actually do the opposite of what you're hoping that it would do for you.

YASMIN: And N95s don't fit everybody. When I worked at CDC, you have to be fit-tested, and it doesn't -- I have a weird face, apparently, and N95s don't fit on my face. I have to wear a different kind. So there are people walking around -- you may have seen the CDC guidance about facial hair and what kind of beard works and doesn't work.

There was some terrible recommendations around facial hair. We'll have to say that. They weren't very --


COOPER: But, I mean, I've seen people wearing, you know, even sometimes gas masks, which seems -- obviously is very extreme. But even something like a gas mask, you need a special -- just drinking water in a gas mask is very difficult. You have to have a special -- I don't know why I know this, but --


YASMIN: No, but people have been wearing gas masks on the Tube in London, as if we're back in wartimes. The issue we also had in the U.K. was that there was a mask shortage. So dentists were told to cut back the number of patients they could see in a given day because they did not have enough masks to do their regular work.

So it's really important to think about, with epidemics, it's not just that disease. it's the trickle-down effect that overwhelms a medical system at large.

COOPER: We're going to take another quick break.

Coming up next, a closer look at how the virus may have originated. And as we go to a break, a quick reminder about a new CNN podcast, "Coronavirus: Fact Vs. Fiction, With Dr. Sanjay Gupta." You can find it anytime, anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts. We'll be right back.



COOPER: I want to talk for a moment now about a word you may have been hearing a lot lately in connection with the outbreak, zoonotic. That's the transmission of deadly viruses from animals to humans, which the coronavirus is believed to have done. It's been a topic we've covered for quite a while, actually, here at CNN. This is from a documentary that Sanjay and I did together back in 2008. It was called "Planet in Peril." Some of the video is graphic. I just want to warn you. Take a look.


NATHAN WOLFE, VIROLOGIST: This monkey, potentially, is infected with retroviruses.

COOPER (voice over): But virus hunter Dr. Nathan Wolfe is concerned about what unknown viruses these animals might carry, viruses that could make their way into the human population, touching off a pandemic.

(on camera): There's at least three viruses that you know about which are in this particular monkey?

WOLFE: This species, yes, yes.

Yes, and I mean, there's many -- many, many more pathogens that are present in these animals. These individuals are at specific risk, particularly depending on the level of contact, but if there's blood contact, they're at risk for transmission and possibly infection with novel viruses.


COOPER: Novel viruses. Back with me are Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Seema Yasmin. Joining us is the zoonotic expert you saw in that clip, Dr. Nathan Wolfe. He's the author of "The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age."


Nice to see you. I've never seen you in a suit.


It's always been in forests with you.


COOPER: You warned of this back in 2008, and actually before that as well. So I wonder what you make not only of this outbreak but just of the global response as well?

WOLFE: Well, look, it's important to think about -- we talk about the 1918 pandemic. How many flights were there in 1918? Zero.

How many flights do we anticipate are going to be in 2020? Forty million flights.

The nature of our world and the connectivity of our world has changed so dramatically that we're going to continue to see these outbreaks again and again and again, epidemics. COOPER: The reason we were in the forest in that -- in that, is that's basically the front line of where that transmission may occur in some cases, from a hunter kills an animal. The animal's blood has been carried back. If they're skinning the animal, it might get blood on the hunter. He might have a cut, and that actually enters the human body?

WOLFE: Yes. And I think that, for many people, they may feel that what we're experiencing is a sort of Groundhog Day, and it's certainly the case that these epidemics are going to continue into the future.

But a lot has happened since, you know, 10 years ago, 12 years ago, when we were doing this. There's been a tremendous investment. Now the U.S. government invests something on the order of $12 billion a year for health security. It needs to be sustained. it's not enough, but what we weren't doing then, we do now.

COOPER: When you say health security, what does that mean?

WOLFE: Well, health security includes catastrophic health risks like epidemics but also potentially other risks as well. And so there's a tremendous amount of change that's happened, but we also are missing a big future piece.

And I think it's important for people to consider, and I think maybe it's appropriate for your next guest, which is we consider the impact on mortality and morbidity. Do people die. do they get sick? But there's also livelihood damage, right, which is, worst-case scenario, in the worst absolute scenarios, 99 percent of the people on this planet are going to live, and many of those people will be devastated financially, whether it's loss of a breadwinner, whether it's absenteeism, whether the impact of corporations going down in this.

And we've had huge, huge changes with hurricanes and earthquakes, where now there's insurance. there's mechanisms for understanding risk. This has not happened at all with regards to epidemics. We're about 10 years behind. And when I think about the next 10 years, that's one of the areas that I think we really are deficient in.

GUPTA: Can I ask you a quick question?

WOLFE: Please.

GUPTA: We were in those forested areas with you, and I still remember you talking about this chatter that goes back and forth between animals and humans constantly, these pathogens going back and forth.

Could this have been predicted, based on that chatter?

And given that we keep encroaching on animal habitat, are we going to see more of these types of -- of outbreaks?

WOLFE: Look, let's face it, we understand much more about this class of viruses than we did 12 years ago. The coronaviruses -- you know, we've seen MERS. We've seen SARS. we now have seen this SARS coronavirus 2, COVID-19. We now understand that all of these bats -- yes, they may have come through a civet or through a camel, but these come from horseshoe bats, almost certainly. That's where all the diversity exists.

The notion that, within 24, 48 hours, you can get a sequence out of a virus, have a rough sense. So there's been a tremendous amount. This is -- we heard earlier about USAD PREDICT. There are -- have been a huge number of projects that have really fundamentally changed what we've done.

The question is where do we go from here and how do we -- how do we continue to move forward?

COOPER: It's also interesting -- you know, we were in Cameroon, I think, in southern -- southwestern, maybe. Anyway, we were in Cameroon when we shot that. It seems -- it obviously seems far away to most people. It's really only, like, two plane rides away. It's two, kind of -- you know, one short flight and one very long flight. And today it's not just, you know, that food, that -- the bush meat. it can end up in the United States. It can end up in markets all around the world.

We are much more connected in that way, and as there's people migrating, there's also food migrating and people coming into contact with animals they hadn't previously.

WOLFE: Yes, and the science has really advanced tremendously. There's a fascinating new project called the Global Virome Project. And the idea here is can we really continue what we've done and go out and sequence enough to know the vast majority of viruses out there that have pandemic potential.

This connectivity you refer to, we are going to experience more and more of these. And we're going to just be sitting in this audience again in five years, in 10 years, in 20 years.

COOPER: Are we -- are -- it seems like we don't really necessarily learn the lessons in how to respond to -- or we're learning them new each time? Is that fair or not?

WOLFE: Well, I would say that we have improved. You know, I was thinking back to 2008. Things really have improved since then. You know, you see the speed at which you get great health communication out of places like Vietnam, where there's been massive investments both by the Vietnamese government and U.S. government. Many places around the world that are hotspots, we've really been working in these places and improved the capacity.


But the risks -- the connectivity improves. Global interdependence of our economy. So the cost of these things is going to continue to mount. You know, I have been deeply shocked over the last couple of years working with corporations how unconcerned they are with these phenomena, how much they lack the capacity to really have the data that influences their impact. And unlike hurricanes and earthquake, almost no corporate insurance. Disneyworld in Florida closed I think it's seven or eight times due to hurricanes. You can bet that that risk has been transferred and mitigated and spread around. Shanghai Disneyland closes? Undoubtedly that has not occurred.

And that's something that's very important. If this would have become an epidemic that would, you know, kill really percentages of the human population, you'd be talking about defaults in life insurance, a whole range of impacts on human population.

COOPER: Yes, and we're just starting to see the impact just financially. I want to go to David Culver in Shanghai. David, scientists believe the coronavirus may have come from an animal market in Wuhan, China. I know they shut down that particular market. But what about other markets across the country?

CULVER: Right, that was considered to be the epicenter of all of this, Anderson. And we were there just before the lockdown in Wuhan outside of that market. It had already been closed. They closed it New Year's Day.

And the belief was -- it's a seafood market that the transmission initially happened there. But now what we're hearing is kind of conflicting data. In fact, Chinese health officials believe it may have come before that market, and the first known case actually didn't have any connection to that market. But what we do know is that several of the following cases were certainly linked to that location.

Several other markets were shut down. The Chinese government moved quickly, because while that was a seafood market, they believe that wildlife was being sold there illegally. And so they have not only made clear that there is a ban on consumption and sale of wildlife, but you can bet, they are enforcing that. They're coming down hard on it.

But it goes beyond the origins. It's also about the transmission. And it's affecting not just those outdoor markets, but supermarkets, regular grocery stores. My team and I went grocery shopping this weekend just to get a feel for what it was like. And you step into the grocery store and people are layered up. They're covering their kids in strollers in plastic. They're wearing gloves. One by one, carts are sanitized and then handed off to you. They have people going through the aisles with loudspeakers saying, "Keep a meter apart." If that's not enough for you, they will physically remind you to keep a meter apart from the next person. That's the extreme it's coming to, and people seem to be adjusting, Anderson, to this new normal.

COOPER: All right, David, thanks very much.

I want to bring in from our audience Tutu Secka, a student at Columbia University. Tutu, what's your question?

TUT SECKA, STUDENT, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Hi. So my question centers on the validity of the statistical measures that are currently being used to quantify the spread in effective coronavirus globally. As a Senegambian immigrant, I am concerned about the reports regarding a shockingly slow spread of coronavirus in Africa, especially given the devastating effects of Ebola. Is coronavirus truly not taking hold in Africa? Or are we inaccurately measuring its spread?

COOPER: Nathan, let's -- what do you think?

WOLFE: Yes, look, I do think, when we measure preparedness of countries around the world, again, things have improved. They continue to improve. But not every part of the world is equally prepared.

And some parts of the world have massive population density, and sometimes they overlap. Think about a city like Delhi or Bombay. I think we have to be very concerned. I think we have to provide tremendous support to the scientists and public health officials in places that still are developing their health infrastructure, like sub-Saharan Africa.

And while I do think that the capacity to detect cases has improved dramatically, it's still not anywhere near where it could be.

COOPER: And also, I mean, it brings up the larger point, even in the United States, as Dr. Fauci was talking about, because we don't have testing widespread yet, we really don't know the scope of this.

GUPTA: We don't know the scope of this. But, you know, we should point out that in Nigeria, where you and I both traveled, there has been a case confirmed of coronavirus, and they did an amazing job with Ebola back in 2014. There was a patient who showed up in Lagos at the airport, collapsed in the airport terminal. Many health care workers subsequently got infected, but they were able to contain that.

And I've talked to some of my colleagues over there in Nigeria around this most recent outbreak and they say that they want increased testing, as well, like so many places do. But they really feel like they have the capacity and the experience to be able to control this. So, you know, have a good infrastructure for this sort of thing.

COOPER: But accurate statistics?

GUPTA: They need that, yes.

COOPER: That's vital.


This is Erick Brocoy, he's got a question. Eric is a nurse here in New York City. First of all, nurses rock. Thank you for being one.

ERICK BROCOY, NURSE: Thank you. Hi. So the New York subway is the main means of transportation in New York City. I do not see it shutting down, or else I can't go to work. But what are the MTA measures to prevent the transmission and proliferation of the virus?

COOPER: I'm going to give that to Richard Quest, who among many things at CNN is a -- our travel expert in all things. RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: On the subway, there's not a lot you can do in that respect. You know, the previous speaker was making the point, these things, like the Tube in London, the Metro in Paris, the subway in New York, they are the backbones of the economic system of getting most of us to work. And the reality is there's -- all you can do is the very fundamental and basic advice that you've been hearing. And that throws up whole issues, not least of which do you wear a mask, don't you? I mean, I was traveling through Europe the other week. Many more people are wearing masks now.

COOPER: What about on airplanes? Everything I've heard about airplanes is that it's not -- you know, people are afraid about circulating air. It's really an issue of being close to other people. And if somebody sneezes on you, but that airplanes aren't necessarily -- we were talking to my friend Zeke Emanuel about this and Dr. Nuzzo (ph).

QUEST: OK, so the air is changed in the plane. It's refreshed every three minutes at a maximum. So it's constantly being refreshed. But as the CDC pointed out in a graphic which probably sent the bejeebies of most people. You know, you are two people away. That's the -- so my passenger next to me I'm in deep trouble with on this side, and probably the next side. But, Sanjay, just about I would not be, would not be at risk to me.

The airlines are deeply, deeply concerned. I was speaking to two or three airlines during the course of the day, senior management. They're doing what they can, but this is a major economic disruption to the airlines and to the travel industry.

COOPER: Again, it gets to what you were saying. You disinfect with wipes, seat on an airplane. I mean, if you're on a subway, you're holding on the rail, you're holding on a rail. You know --

GUPTA: I mean, you know, I think that how people should behave typically during flu season. You know, I mean, and again, we don't pay much attention to it, because flu we're used to, the devil you know, I guess, versus the devil you don't.

But, you know, even during flu season, there is basic -- I think the same principles you're talking about should be applied here. They would work or be effective here against coronavirus, like flu season. We just don't think about it as much.

COOPER: And, again, if you're concerned about coronavirus, and you haven't gotten a flu shot, those are two -- you should get a flu shot.

GUPTA: I'm going to be really curious, after the coronavirus vaccine is developed, what percentage of the population --

COOPER: Actually get it.

GUPTA: -- actually gets it.

COOPER: Because if you're not getting the flu vaccine, why would you get the corona vaccine?

GUPTA: Exactly.

COOPER: This is Soumya -- "Parashar"?

QUESTION: Parashar.

COOPER: Parashar. Thank you so much for being here. You're getting a master's in public health, that's awesome, at NYU.

SOUMYA PARASHAR, PUBLIC HEALTH GRADUATE STUDENT, NYU: My question is, recently, South Korea has pioneered coronavirus drive-thru testing stations. Why do you think this idea has not been implemented here in the United States?

COOPER: I want to go to Ivan Watson, who's in Seoul, for that, because I think he's been seeing this. He actually went to a drive-thru testing stations, got tested. What was that like?

WATSON: I drove a car through. I actually got the test. I got a swab shoved way too far up my nose, which is part of the process. The mayor of the city that implemented that said he was inspired by Starbucks and McDonald's drive-thru.

And the doctors that we talked to said this really speeds up the process of testing people, and it also protects the doctors and the nurses from more contact with potential carriers, because the patients never get out of the cars. And they could process at that one place more than 300 people a day.

Seoul, the capital, now has at least three of these drive-thru testing centers. And as we've reported before, more than 150,000 people have been tested here. I think this is an example of how, amid this public health crisis, people are coming up with ideas. They are adapting.

And just one final observation for you, Anderson and Sanjay. You know, it's midday here in the capital. There's a lot of pedestrian and vehicular traffic here. Life has not stopped just because coronavirus -- you have the second highest number of infections here in South Korea anywhere outside of mainland China.

There is massive disruption. There is uncertainty. But a message I would send, having covered this across a couple of countries in the region, and many of my colleagues were living here and our families are living here with the uncertainty, life still does go on, though you may get stuck going crazy trying to take care of your kids at home when schools are closed for weeks, if not months at a time.


COOPER: We have about a minute left. Are you cutting down on your travel at all? Are you --

QUEST: Well, being forced to in some cases, but otherwise, no, not really. We have to continue to travel. I mean, that's the reality. The other reality of this whole crisis, for most people, they will not be affected directly by coronavirus in any shape or form, except by the way the stock market has fallen and their wealth has been impinged through pensions, 401(k)s, and by the way, of course, the travel industry. That is the way that most people are going to feel the effect of this crisis.

COOPER: Final thought? We have about a minute left.

YASMIN: I want us to really focus on the emotional contagion part. I don't think it's enough to keep telling people don't panic, unless you're saying, "Don't panic because," and don't panic, but do get prepared. And public health agencies have to realize diseases do not spread in isolation. They spread alongside rumors and pseudoscience and anti-vaccine messages. Those are just as important to fight.

COOPER: Sanjay?

GUPTA: You know, I'm really -- we talk about this 80 percent number of people who are going to probably either have minimal symptoms or no symptoms. But we've also identified --

COOPER: Eighty percent of the people in this room --

GUPTA: Eighty percent of the people --

COOPER: -- will likely get it and have no symptoms or minor symptoms.

GUPTA: No symptoms or minimal symptoms. But it also means that we've identified a vulnerable population. And I got to say, I've been thinking about my parents a lot during all this. I mean, they're elderly. They're in that population now.

I think, you know, action really can inform how we do things, you know. The idea that a nursing home in Washington state ended up becoming a place where this virus spread, now we know nursing homes are a place that we should focus on. And so how do we protect elderly people and people with pre-existing conditions? That's what we should focus on.

COOPER: All right. Fear -- facts, not fear.

GUPTA: That's right.

COOPER: Thanks very much. Sanjay, appreciate it. I want to thank our guests tonight for their expertise, thank our audience for all the great questions, and thank everyone for watching. The news continues next here on CNN. Good night.