3,700+ deaths TRANSCRIPT: 3/31/20, All In w/ Chris Hayes
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We have a team of correspondents globally real-time
information and we`ll be tackling your questions about the virus 10:00 p.m.
Eastern tonight. Thank you for being with us. “ALL IN” with Chris Hayes is
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. We
are making some progress in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, but
we remain this evening a country that has not yet brought the virus under
control nationally. Today, the National death toll surged over 3,700 people
in the U.S. hitting a tragic milestone. More people have died of this virus
in this country than in the September 11th attacks.
Just today, we saw more than 700 deaths nationwide. This afternoon, the
president who claimed in early February that the virus was under control
stood before a graphic proclaiming that the U.S. policy goal right now, the
goal the thing that we are shooting for, that his administration is
attempting to pull off is for between 100,00 and 240,000 thousand Americans
to die from the virus. That`s right 240,000.
Apparently, that is what his administration meant when they said the virus
was contained, when the President said it would go away like a miracle,
hundreds of thousands dead. In New York State, the epicenter of the virus,
there are now more than 75,000 confirmed cases, with more than 1,500 deaths
and more than 10,000 hospitalized. More than 1,000 have died in New York
New York`s Governor Andrew Cuomo said today that the apex of the crisis in
the state is still two to three weeks away. And he`s stressed that we are
still chasing the virus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): And we have been behind it from day one since it
got here. And we`ve been playing catch up. You don`t win playing catch up.
We have to get ahead of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We`re behind because the president and his administration did not
take the virus seriously from the start. They ignored internal warnings
from their own administration. We knew what was coming. We saw it in China.
But the President downplayed the virus. He dismissed the threat.
At a closed-door briefing nearly two months ago, according to Senator Chris
Murphy of Connecticut, senators pressed administration officials to request
emergency funding to hire staff to stockpile supplies for the coming
crisis. They said they had a covered. Didn`t need any additional funding.
Today, the New York Times published a graphic showing the total number of
cases in the first 30 days after each country passed 500 cases. It is a
distillation based on the available data which again, might be a little
erroneous here and there of how well countries have handled the crisis.
Now the red line is China. And again, some skepticism about their data, but
as you can see, they flatten the curve in that 30-day period. Italy in
green, Spain in yellow, they did not do nearly so well, but they still did
far better than us. That is the U.S. in blue. As you can see our case
numbers shot up far more quickly than the other three countries with the
highest number of confirmed cases. It`s not even close.
There are three main ways that we in the U.S. are now trying to catch up to
chase down the virus. One, our testing capacity. Two, the availability of
ventilators to keep people alive who are in critical condition. And three,
the supply of personal protective equipment, particularly masks.
And you`ve probably seen announcements about companies, all kinds of
companies ramping up mass production or shifting their production lines to
produce masks. Individuals are pitching in too with GoFundMe and hand
sewing at their tables. All of this is great. All of it is going to make a
huge difference. What we do not know though is whether it will be enough.
Keep in mind, a single hospital treating coronavirus patients can go
through tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of masks in a single
day. The sheer volume we need is very high and will almost certainly rise
over time. More immediately, our hospital workers need masks right now, and
they do not have enough of them. If we had started manufacturing additional
mass say two months ago, we would not be so far behind now.
Our frontline health care workers have to do things like baking their masks
to try to clear them of any virus before putting them back on for another
day of work. The situation is much the same with ventilators which take
over the body`s breathing process when the lungs give out due to the virus.
Ventilators are crucial to keeping many, many coronavirus patients alive.
We do not have nearly enough.
And while General Motors and other companies are scrambling to manufacture
more, the situation is dire right now. Look at this headline from the Wall
Street Journal today. NYU Langone Health Center is telling E.R. doctors to
“think more critically about who gets ventilators.” In other words, how to
ration them and decide who lives and who dies.
And because the federal government refuses to take a leadership role here,
either for the Defense Production Act or coordination, what we have now is
the perverse, insane situation in which individual states are bidding
against each other, and then against FEMA for any ventilators they can
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: So you have 50 states competing to buy the same item, we all wind up
bidding up each other and competing against each other where you now
literally will have a company call you up and say, well, California just
outbid you. It`s like being on eBay, with 50 other states bidding on a
And then FEMA gets involved, and FEMA starts bidding. And now FEMA is
bidding on top of the 50. So FEMA is driving up the price. What sense does
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What sense does this make? Finally, there is a testing issue. Now,
we have in the United States due to a whole bunch of different factors, we
have ramped up tremendously testing. The government is saying we have
tested more than a million Americans. But here`s the thing. That is a far
cry from the millions of tests that the President and Vice-President
I mean, March 4th, they said we`d have a million tests, if I`m not
mistaken. The testing is also extremely uneven throughout the country,
meaning there are certain parts of this nation that are doing very little
testing, and there are still not enough tests for those who need them. And
because we were behind and getting ahead of this, now we are chasing the
virus and we need to scale up testing dramatically. Not a million tests
over two months, but a million tests per week according to Indiana
University School of Medicine professor Dr. Aaron Carroll.
We have lost time again, because the failures of this president and his
administration. We are making improvements now but we are still behind the
virus and we cannot defeat it from behind. We have to catch up. We have to
get ahead of it.
Joining me now for more on what needs to be done to get ahead of the virus,
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. Governor, I want to talk about a few of
these critical needs, and I saw you talk about the strategic stockpile vis-
a-vis ventilators. That`s a strategic stockpile owned by the federal
government that`s been giving out some equipment to states them. What is
your interaction been like, how many ventilators did you get, and where is
your state now in terms of what you need?
GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): It`s like Andrew Cuomo said, it`s a scramble to get
these ventilators. He said eBay, it`s more like surge pricing on Uber, only
at the last moment, the car drives away because somebody has outbid you.
We`ve got 50 ventilators on the come. I`m told they`re going to be here any
day. I`ve heard that before. I`m from the show me state. We put in an order
for 1,500 ventilators probably months ago.
HAYES: So you asked for 1,500 from the National strategic stockpile and you
got five-zero, 50 or you`re going to get 50 you think?
LAMONT: I`m going to get 50, I think. Show me.
HAYES: There has been reporting indicating concerns that the apportionment
of these federal backstop supplies whether from the strategic stockpile or
not are hindering on political considerations, maybe personal
considerations about whether the President likes a governor or not. There`s
indications that states like Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Florida have gotten
all their requests, while states like yours and Michigan and others have
Are you concerned that the people in your state who are sick and maybe on
the threshold of possibly dying or surviving are being punished for the
politics you or the state have?
LAMONT: I hope not. Look, I`ve got Cuomo, I`ve got Murphy in New Jersey,
we`re all Democrats. We`re all part of the same epicenter. We all have a
very high infection rate. You know, sadly, we`re now the fourth highest
infection rate in the country. It`s New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, and
So I`d like to – I think it`s more – it took the feds a long time to get
going, now they`re going, and it`s still a bit discombobulated between what
the states are doing and what the feds are doing. And that`s going to be a
very costly mistake. Look, a ventilator is a life. Every ventilator I get
can save multiple lives.
HAYES: So, I want to talk more about the weirdness of this market right
now. I have now heard in my own reporting from various people about how
haywire not just for ventilators but for personal protective equipment,
that these markets have gone haywire for the reasons you`re indicating,
right? All of a sudden, there`s a fairly fixed supply, there`s a surge of
demand, there`s people bidding against each other.
Has that been your experience in trying to acquire these needed things that
essentially it`s a kind of free for all and there`s no kind of robust
central coordinating purchasing entity that could then apportion this
perhaps more rationally?
LAMONT: The history books will show that was a terrible mistake. Look,
we`re all out there. We`re following every lead in China, Ukraine, across
the country. It`s promised, it`s on the tarmac, gets rerouted at the last
moment. And it`s terribly upsetting to a lot of our frontline workers or
nurses. You tell them the PPE is coming. We`re going to be able to save
your life and you go out and save other people`s lives, and then the truck
HAYES: So I just want to make sure I understand this. What you`re saying is
you`ve got procurement officers, you`ve got people that work for the state
that are trying to essentially execute contracts to purchase the equipment
you need, whether that`s PPE, it`s masks, and gowns, and things like that.
And what you`re saying is there`s these different suppliers, and because
they`re so sought after, they kind of get to like pick, and you had
contracts that looked like they were happening and then they just don`t
LAMONT: We have contracts. They`re signed, sealed, and delivered. Here`s
the P.O. It`s arriving at this time. And 1:00 in the morning, there`s
nothing there at the warehouse. And I`ve heard this from governors across
the country. It`s just a madhouse out there. And either people are over-
promising or they get – we get outbid at the last moment, often by the
feds, by the way. They`re often coming in and sweeping in and purchasing.
HAYES: So final question for you is about other states. Obviously, you`re
in the epicenter of this. There`s early confirmed cases and early outbreak
in the – in the Greater New York area. There are some states like Texas
and Florida that have been slow to issue the kinds of orders that your
state and others have. Do you have advice for those governors, those two
very big and important states about what they should be doing right now?
LAMONT: I do. You`ll never be faulted for overreacting, you`ll be faulted
forever for under-reacting. I like to think that Connecticut was very early
banning the parades, ending the schools, you know, be it bars and
restaurants. And I really urge those other states look at those states who
are successful and bending the curve by taking the social distancing
seriously. At the end of the day, you could not err by overreacting to this
HAYES: All right, Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut, good luck to you in
Connecticut and thank you so much for making some time in a very busy day.
Even as bad as the federal response has been, even in the part of the
country is the worst case is, new cases – this is good news, so listen.
New cases are starting to flatten. The near total lockdown of New York
appears to be working. It is doing what is supposed to do. The social
distancing – I`d like to call it physical distancing, because we can
still, you know, socialize with each other, it`s having an effect.
Now, Seattle and Washington had been the sort of main success story on this
front from the beginning, but New York is also beginning to trend in the
right direction as far as new cases are concerned. Joining me now is
someone I wanted to talk to throughout this, I`m following religiously
throughout this infectious disease, epidemiologist professor at Harvard
School of Public Health Marc Lipsitch.
Marc, let`s talk first about the effect that we`re seeing in New York which
really has the worst outbreak in the country and in some kinds of cases,
maybe the Worst in the world. Are you encouraged by the data – the case
data we`re getting that we`re seeing that effective the lockdown the state
and city are under?
MARC LIPSITCH, PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH:
Yes. I think in a number of places around the country, there are
indications that to some extent social distancing or physical distancing is
working. And that`s reflected in at least slower growth of the case
numbers, and in some cases, it looks like even declines in the case
numbers. So that`s good news. It`s doesn`t get us out of the woods, but
it`s the right direction for now.
HAYES: You published something today about sort of the idea of social
distancing as a kind of tool we keep using throughout the duration of this
crisis. Explain that concept.
LIPSITCH: Right. This is not peer-reviewed work yet. This is work that`s
under review with Yonatan Grad, and Stephen Kissler, and Christine
Tedijanto in our center. And what we`ve tried to show is that if we do
social distancing effectively, that will be good and that will slow down
the epidemic and perhaps even bring the case numbers down as seems to be
happening in some places.
But the problem is that that doesn`t get us to where we need to be. That`s
a starting point. That gives us breathing room. And it`s very important to
be building up our capacity with all the things that you were talking about
in the last few minutes, with ventilators and PPE and all those things as
we have that extra time.
But the problem is that if we let up on social distancing, there will be a
resurgence of virus. That is what happened in 1918 with the flu. That`s
what happens when we model it. And it`s just a matter of common sense that
if you have – if you have virus still around in people, then the virus
doesn`t remember that we were social distancing last week, it starts to
So we`ve – what we`ve considered is whether we could let off up for a
while but then would have to probably resume social distancing because
until we get to a large level – a high level of immunity in the
population, we`re not at the endpoint. It`s a – it`s a waystation and an
important waystation but not the end.
HAYES: You just referred to modeling. I`ve been following your work and
other`s work on modeling. It`s very interesting to see people inside the
universe of expertise. There are debates about these models. Obviously,
there`s a lot of uncertainty, there are a lot of parameters you`re putting
in based on the best available evidence.
I`m curious, the model presented today by the White House Dr. Fauci, Dr.
Birx which suggests a death toll of 100 – between 100,000 and 240,000 if
we do things right, your reaction to that as a projection and the kind of
the accuracy of that model to the degree it could be judged.
LIPSITCH: Yes. To be honest, I`ve been working today rather than watching
press conferences, so I don`t know – I don`t know exactly the details of
how that worked. But it is clear that flattening the curve is a way to
reduce the total number of deaths, and also to push the bad outcomes into
the future at a point where we may hopefully have more treatments and other
ways of dealing with this infection, so the – it`s qualitatively correct.
Indeed, as you say, all of us in the epidemiology community that work on
infectious disease find this incredibly challenging to get precise numbers.
And so, I don`t buy my own numbers, and I don`t buy anyone else`s numbers
as exact projections. I think we are trying to understand what`s better and
what`s worse. And that`s the best way to understand all of these models.
HAYES: I`ve noticed that there`s a lot of consensus among epidemiologists
on certain basic things right? The idea of the flattening of the curve, the
necessary necessity of large-scale mitigation and physical distancing in
the absence of treatment, vaccine, with a novel virus that, you know,
there`s no human immunity for. What are things that are there – are the
subjects of debate right now? What are the things, the big sort of
questions for folks in your field that you`re wrestling with that the
answers aren`t clear?
LIPSITCH: Yes. Well, there are a number. I would say, in a discussion today
with a number of colleagues around the country and the CDC, I identified
two major questions that we`re really trying to wrestle with, and was
surprised by to find that everybody else agreed these were major areas of
uncertainty. One, is how many immune people are there out there that we
didn`t even know got infected? Or what is the – what is the number of
people who get infected so mildly that they become immune?
We hope that`s a very large number. I think it`s clear But it`s not a very,
very large number. But the question is, is it half the people, is it a
quarter of the people, or is it more than half the people that get
infected. And the more are immune, the more quickly this will all come to
an end. So that`s one.
And then the other one, in thinking about it domestically and also in
Western Europe, our colleagues there, is really how are these social
distancing efforts working? Are they flattening the curve, as the graphic
you showed a minute ago suggests, meaning it`s still going up, but it`s
going up more slowly? Or are they actually bringing the curve down so that
– so that the number of cases is declining, even before we get to
And if it`s the first, that`s very good news for the short term, because it
will mean the pressure on the healthcare system will be somewhat relieved.
But it also means that we don`t yet – we won`t yet have enough immunity in
the population to just let off after a single round of social distancing.
And that`s what our paper was about really.
HAYES: Marc, I`ve been so educated by everything that you`ve been doing
during this, so I really appreciate you taking time tonight. Thank you very
LIPSITCH: Thank you for having me.
HAYES: Coming up, if you get the coronavirus – Professor Lipsitch was
talking about this – and recover, do you become immune to contracting it
again? Looks like you do. And then why testing those who survive, or those
who get it very mildly is an absolutely crucial next step in fighting the
spread. That`s after this.
HAYES: The pathogen currently turning the world upside down is called a
novel coronavirus because it is literally new, novel. Humans have never
encountered it before. We have no immunity to it. And that is why it`s so
serious and why it`s been able to ravage the planet. But the human body is
amazing, right? When we are exposed to a virus like COVID-19, we create
something called antibodies to help fight it off, and that builds immunity
against the virus.
And those antibodies, they stick around for a long time in the blood plasma
of people who are able to recover. Once a person has the antibodies, they
may actually be able to donate their plasma to help others as treatment for
people who are still sick or as the basis perhaps for vaccine.
For more on how antibodies can help fight this, I want to bring in Dr.
Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine
at Baylor College of Medicine, co-director of the Texas Children`s Hospital
Center for Vaccine Development.
So let`s just begin with the basics here, Doctor, about antibodies and
immunity. It seems there were some early – some reporting early on, one or
two cases in Hong Kong, maybe people getting infected twice. But it seems
from what I`ve read the bulk of evidence suggests, people get it once, they
build up the antibodies and are then essentially immune. Is that – is that
PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN`S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE
DEVELOPMENT: That`s right. And there`s precedent for that with other human
respiratory virus infections. What happens is, after you`re infected with
the SARS2 virus, which is the other name for the virus agent of COVID-19,
you develop an antibody response around 10 to 14 days after infection.
That doesn`t necessarily mean you`re immune, but there`s now been studies
in rhesus macaques done in China, non-human primates, showing that they
develop similar antibody responses and the scientists are unable to
reinfect them with the virus. So there`s indirect evidence that indeed does
confer immunity. The question is going to be, how long does it last?
And there`s some evidence from the previous SARS – so this one is SARS2,
the previous SARS back in 2003, that neutralizing antibodies we call it,
can last at least two years, possibly even much longer.
HAYES: So, if people have antibodies – so from a sort of epidemiological
perspective, Marc Lipsitch was talking about one of the great unknown
questions, right, is what percent of the population is getting this and
being totally subclinical and totally asymptomatic or very, very mild,
which means how many people are out there with the antibodies?
I`ve seen reporting that several different enterprises are attempting an
antibody test that would essentially test people how. Would that work?
HOTEZ: Well, it`s – and we have a lot of precedent for that for measuring
antibodies to lots of different infectious agent, and it`s an indication of
past exposure. So what we say is if we know the percentage of the community
that`s been exposed to this viruses and has antibodies, that we call that
the (INAUDIBLE) prevalence, the percentage of people that have been
infected and exposed to the virus, and therefore we know how much
transmission there has been in the community, and it`s a – it`s a very old
standard method for that infectious disease experts and epidemiologists
HAYES: And in terms of old standards, I was fascinated to see the use of
plasma donations and plasma in treating patients from people that have gone
through the illness and have antibodies dates way back to, in fact, was
used as a method in the 1918 flu pandemic itself. What is the thinking
there? How much do we know about the efficacy of that? I know that there
are New York City hospitals already taking blood donations from folks that
have been through COVID.
HOTEZ: Well, there`s a lot of old evidence going back 100 years. But more
recently, again after that first SARS virus infection in 2003, a number of
studies – a number of studies were done looking to see if you could
transfer the plasma containing the antibodies from recovered patients. What
you do is you take out their blood, give them back their red blood cells,
extract out the plasma component that has high levels of antibodies, select
only the patients that have high levels of antibodies, and then give that
as a therapy.
And it`s been shown in a nice paper a few years after the SARS epidemic in
2003 that it seems to work. And now there`s a new study that just came out
of China. It`s more of an anecdote around five patients that it seems to be
working. So you know, I have a lot of enthusiasm, a number of my colleagues
have a lot of enthusiasm that this could be the first treatment that we
have for seriously ill patients with one catch.
And that is you generally have to give that antibody treatment pretty
early. If you wait till patients are very sick in the ICU, it may be too
late. So the earlier you can give it the better. So then it`s a matter of
can we scale this up. And a number of us have been on the phone with the
Food and Drug Administration.
There`s a branch called the Center for Biologics Evaluation research led by
a wonderful guy named Dr. Peter Marks, who`s been really on top of this
together with a lot of heads of academic health centers. They build this
ecosystem where you can identify patients, take their antibody, and then
process it in the transfusion lab, the blood bank lab, and then give it
back to individuals.
And it`s a matter of whether we can do that at scale. It`s not easy to
mass-produce. In time, there will be more commercial therapies available of
hyperimmune globulin with – containing this antibody. But for now, we
think it has some real hope for patients.
HAYES: Well, that is a hopeful note, Dr. Peter Hotez, always a pleasure.
Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
HOTEZ: Thanks so much.
HAYES: Coming up, the country is in the middle of a national emergency. So
why is Congress in recess for the next few weeks? Congressman Hakeem
Jeffries is here to talk about what`s going on after this.
HAYES: Congress is now in recess for the next 20 days, almost three weeks.
And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is talking about passing a phase four of
rescue bills, right. There`s been three so far, the third, of course, that
big $2 trillion rescue bill. She`s talking about a phase four that would
have more direct payments to Americans, among other things.
But it`s really unclear how that`s all going to work. Getting lawmakers
together to vote is a considerable health hazard. And right now, Speaker
Pelosi has no interest in having members vote remotely, saying yesterday,
quote, let`s not waste too much time with something that is not going to
I`m joined now by a member of the Democratic leadership, Congressman Hakeem
Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic caucus.
Congressman, let`s talk about this recess and the sort of nix on remote
voting. I`ve got to say, like having one branch of government not working
in Washington during three weeks of this crisis seems crazy to me. What am
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) NEW YORK: Well, we`re in the midst of an
extraordinary moment. We have both a pandemic and a recession. And so in
terms of dealing with the pandemic aspect of this crisis, obviously we`ve
been advised by public health professionals to maintain social distancing.
Many of us who are from states like New York and New Jersey and Connecticut
in fact have been advised to stay at home and shelter in place. Many of my
colleagues throughout the country are increasingly under such directives
from their governors.
At the same time, congress is continuing to communicate, certainly House
Democrats have been in regular communication with each other. Earlier
today, we had a two-hour conference call that was led by our small business
committee and our committee on education and labor to discuss next steps as
it relates to providing relief to the American people, as well as to
discuss how we can make sure that some of the assistance that was contained
within the CARES act, such as extraordinary and unprecedented relief for
small businesses in America, actually make it to the men and women who run
businesses in our communities.
And so we`re going to continue to work hard over the next 20 days. There
was a previously scheduled district work period that was to begin next
Monday in connection with Passover and Easter. So effectively, that has
been extended for an additional week.
HAYES: I guess here`s my question. I completely obviously get that, right?
You absolutely cannot have all of you congregating in the Capitol, that`s
nuts. There are many septuagenarian, octogenarian legislators that would be
at risk, not to mention the people that work there.
But this idea that like remote voting of any kind is off the table, I guess
there`s constitutional concerns and things about that, but everybody is in
a whole new world here. I mean, people aren`t usually doing like cable news
shows from basements and garages or whatever. It does seem like it might
come to it that you guys have to think outside the box a little bit about
how to keep a congress running if this goes on for several months.
JEFFRIES: Well, in my view, I think we`ll have to cross that bridge when we
get to it. But what the speaker has done is to charge the chairman of the
rules committee, Jim McGovern, with processing member input. And she has
also asked Chairman McGovern to lay out some of the issues involved in
terms of any future consideration of remote voting.
As you pointed out, Chris, one of those issues may very well be the
constitution as an obstacle. But the most important thing that we`re
focused on right now is delivering for the people those who are in need. We
want to make sure that those direct payments make it to everyday Americans
as swiftly as possible. We want to make sure that everyday Americans who
have been laid off can take advantage of the extraordinary relief that was
provided with the bolstered unemployment insurance provisions in the CARES
act. And we also want to make sure that small businesses can get the relief
in the form of federally guaranteed loans that actually convert to grants
if those small businesses maintain their payroll throughout the duration of
this Coronavirus crisis.
So that`s really where our focus is right now. And we`ll deal with whatever
logistical issues we have to address in terms of remote voting down the
HAYES: Are you worried right now, there`s a considerable time lag issue
right here, which is that obviously tomorrow is the first of the month,
rent is due, mortgage payments are due, many bills are due, people are
probably not going to see the direct cash payments for another two weeks I
think at the best. Small business owners are probably not going to see that
assistance for another week or two. Are you worried for your constituents
about what happens during this sort of interregnum between bills are due
and money`s not there?
JEFFRIES: Well, simply that is the case. We had a telephone town hall
meeting a little bit earlier this evening. About 10,000 people were on the
line at various points in time, focused specifically on the question of
housing, because tomorrow, April 1, of course, is a day where rent is
normally due and mortgage payments.
We want to encourage everybody to take advantage of some of the steps that
Governor Cuomo has taken in the context of allowing for forbearances of
mortgages to occur. The governor and the mayor also together have worked
hard to freeze evictions and foreclosures over the next 90 plus days.
Hopefully we`ll see our way clear of the pandemic, or at least be in a
But we`re all going to have to make changes to things that we are used to
having to address in the context of our day-to-day lives because of the
extraordinary nature of this pandemic. Housing is the most important
expense that most Americans face, either rent or either through their
mortgages. Nationally, I think things need to happen in terms of providing
housing relief, and that`s one of the things that will be on the table in
terms of House Democrats moving forward.
HAYES: All right. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you so much for
joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: Next, how to protect employees who still have to go to work, we`re
seeing more protests and more work labor actions as people say they are in
dangerous working conditions. My next guest staged a walk-out at Amazon in
New York. What happened, after this.
HAYES: We are seeing a wave of labor action across the country in the midst
of this pandemic. Yesterday, workers for the grocery delivery app Instacart
held a one day strike demanding hazard pay and access to protective
Today, employees from the grocer Whole Foods had a sick out. We have also
seen labor action by sanitation workers who walked off the job demanding
protective equipment and hazard pay as well, and at Amazon, which has seen
its sales soar, not surprisingly, is now hiring 100,000 new warehouse and
delivery people. As a result, workers across the country have said the
conditions inside the warehouses are unsafe.
Yesterday, more than a dozen workers in Amazon`s Staten Island warehouse
walked out in protest. The organizer of that walkout, Christian Smalls,
joins me now. He was fired from Amazon after that walkout. I should tell
you we talked to Amazon today, they refused to speak on the record. They
did provide with us a statement. They claim that they did not fire Mr.
Smalls because he organized the walkout, rather he was fired because he
violated, they say, a medical quarantine and came on site yesterday.
And Mr. Smalls joins me now.
We can get to the firing, but first I just want to ask you about what
conditions in the warehouse have been like and why you felt the need to do
something about them?
CHRISTIAN SMALLS, AMAZON: Well, as you know, this pandemic shocked the
world, shocked America. The conditions in the warehouse has been hugely
different. It`s been scary. It`s been like a ghost town in there.
Associates are scared to come to work ever since the pandemic hit us.
I`ve never seen something like this directly. I`ve seen associates get sick
weekly, different type of symptoms, talking about vomiting, dizziness,
fatigue – you name it, I`ve seen it. And it`s been scary, it`s been very
HAYES: When you talk about – so, you say that workers that you are working
with, you`ve seen them get sick. Are you able to maintain any kind of
distance in that environment? Have you been provided with things like masks
to kind of prevent transmission?
SMALLS: No, that`s the thing. Our PPE is very limited at the time. We don`t
have masks. The gloves that we have are not latex, they`re used for lifting
up boxes. As far as the environment, like you said, you just stated 100,000
employees being hired. Amazon`s hiring process is very scary, because you
are bringing in large loads of crowds off the streets and these people are
We don`t know where they`re coming from. We don`t know their status. When
they come into the building, they come in large groups, 30, 40, 50 people
at a time. There`s no way we can tell who is diagnosed and who is not. And
the company is not being transparent about, you know, who has this virus
and who doesn`t, so that`s the scariest thing.
HAYES: In terms of the demands for the walkout, and I know there was about
a dozen people the company says look, there are thousands of folks who are
working, this is a very small group of people that are unhappy. What do you
want to see happen? If you could sit down with Jeff Bezos and tell him
these are the top three things that we need to happen at your company, what
would that be?
SMALLS: Well, number one, there definitely needs to be a transparency of
how many cases are confirmed in this building. Why is it such a secret? You
know, me being a part of management, a PA, a process assistant, we had a
sync meeting and they`re telling me there`s one confirmed case in the
building and do not tell the associates. That right there was just alarming
right there. Why can`t the associates know that there`s confirmed cases in
the building? So there needs to be a transparency between that.
There definitely is a disconnect between that. And Jeff Bezos needs to
listen to the associates. It`s not just this building, it`s buildings all
across the nation. As you can see, this case is popping up one by one,
building by building. That should be a red flag, that there`s something
very wrong with the process and the safety procedures that`s going on in
So yesterday was a cry, a cry for help and a statement. I was giving the
people voices that are unheard. And that`s what I wanted to do. I want to
continue shedding light to the people that are unpaid right now, people
that have underlying health conditions, that are sitting home for the
entire month of March that haven`t been paid. There`s people that have
lupus. There`s people that have bronchitis. There`s people that have
asthma. We have senior citizens that they hired as well, 55, 65. These
people can`t come to work. This virus has no remorse.
So I`m speaking up for them. Yesterday, my demonstration was a statement.
HAYES: Let me ask you about your termination. They fired you after the
walkout. They say that you were violating company policy. You should have
been staying out of there because you had been exposed to a sick worker.
You were imperiling the health of others. What do you say to that?
SMALLS: Well, I`ll say that`s totally false. Number one, the associate I
sent home on Tuesday, she was working the entire shift Sunday, Monday and
Tuesday up until the point whee I sent her home. Her results came back
Wednesday. So I had no idea that she was going to test positive. I was only
around her for less than five minutes. We had a brief conversation early in
the morning around 9:30. She looked ill. She had a mask on. She had gloves
on. I stood from a distance. We had a brief conversation. I suggested she
go home, because she informed me she went for testing the night before. And
we all know that you don`t get the test unless you`re showing severe
So the policies with Amazon is very flawed, you know, because if you are
gone for testing, you shouldn`t be allowed back into the building. And the
problem, the discrepancy is – the discrepancy is you`re actually allowed
to come to work, sick or undiagnosed, until they receive a confirmation
letter from the doctor, which is crazy to me, because she went for testing
on Monday. Her confirmation letter didn`t come in until Thursday.
As you know, we`re in New York, and the doctors are overwhelmed right now.
They don`t have time to send out an email to the CDC and the CDC to contact
the job, so it took a number of days for that to get through. And she
actually had the window of opportunity to come to work, so thank god I sent
her home on Tuesday and she didn`t return, but if I wasn`t – if I didn`t
send her home she would have been able to work another 10 hour shift and
possibly put more people at risk.
So, the point there being that this is not they`ve been real fastidious
about quarantine policy here, if that`s what their claim to…
SMALLS: No, the policy is very flawed and they need to take a very good
look at it.
Once again, I was only around her for five minutes. She was around every
employee in my department for 10-plus hours. So, who is the medical
expertise for Amazon that`s making these decisions that I need to be
quarantined and not my employees, not the employees in that department Like
how do they make that decision? And what do they consider as coming into
close contact? Is it walking into somebody? Is it touching somebody? Is it
talking, having a conversation?
So, these are the things that – the questions that need to be answered.
HAYES: Christian Smalls, thank you so much for taking time tonight. Thank
you for the work that you and your colleagues at Amazon in those warehouses
have been doing for the rest of the country. Appreciate it.
SMALLS: Ahead, what it`s like for the millions of health care workers on
the front line who are risking their lives every day. Their harrowing
stories after this.
HAYES: There are millions of health care workers in this country who are
exposed to the Coronavirus every day when they go to work. They`re
generally putting their life on the line. And many who have died, including
this world-famous neurosurgeon from Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, a
place I know well. I grew up a block away.
He performed life-saving surgery on conjoined twins a four years ago.
And there have been a bunch of others. In fact, in a very real sense, every
health care worker right now, particularly in places like New York, or
Louisiana, or Detroit, they`re putting their life on the line each time
they just show up to work.
It`s not just nurses and doctors, too, it`s also the janitorial staff who
are all risking infection every day when they go into rooms to clean them.
And many still don`t have adequate protection to do their job.
The chief nursing officer of Mount Sinai Brooklyn, who worked through the
AIDS epidemic, talked to New York Magazine about the nursing she manages,
saying every day I look at them and I think to myself, I don`t know if I
could do that. And if it was 20 years ago for me, could I do what they`re
doing? I don`t know.
Joining me now by phone is Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, she`s a nurse
practitioner and president of the New York State Nurses Association, which
is the state`s largest nurses union.
First, Judy, I just want to know where you and your members sort of mental
emotional heads are at right now in terms of gearing yourself up for the
risks that you know you`re taking, particularly for ER and ICU nurses.
JUDY SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK NURSES ASSOCIATION: yes, thanks
for having us on the show. You know, everybody is living in fear for their
own safety, for their own health, and for an ability to properly care for
patients because of the lack of PPE. It`s not necessary for health care
workers to risk their lives, if we had the appropriate PPE, the protective
equipment, such as that they had in the second wave in Wuhan and Singapore
and South Korea, we wouldn`t be risking our lives. We think it`s outrageous
that we have to risk our lives, because equipment exists that protect us
and allow us to carefully safely protect our patients, but we`re not in
that situation right now. And we find that inexcusable in a country like
ours with the wealth that we have to not be able to supply that kind of
protective equipment for our nurses, to not have the staffing that we need
to take care of our patients because the loads are now increasing
geometrically as the deaths do.
HAYES: One thing I`ve heard a lot about is health care workers just having
to rearrange their lives, their personal lives, particularly anyone with
around them who is immune compromised, old, with kids, who essentially had
to quarantine themselves just to do their job and are just doing nothing
other than being at the hospital and being alone. Is that a common
experience among your members.
SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ: Yes. People have had to dramatically alter their lives,
some of our nurses haven`t seen their kids for weeks, can`t take care of
their parents, which is what they usually do, you know, afraid to wear
clothing. You know, we don`t have a place to change. We are feeling
contaminated. And we desperately need the equipment, the safe PPE in order
to do so. We just don`t understand why the president hasn`t enforced the
DPA, so that we can manufacture the materials that we do need so that we
can take care of these patients, specially in the next two weeks as this
pandemic becomes much worse in this country.
HAYES: I guess final question in terms of this, I`ve seen varying
accounting of people not having PPE now or it being short supply or it
being rationed and about to run out. Are you saying that it`s all of those,
that there are nurses right now who are working who just don`t have the
actual adequate equipment they need right now as of right now, not
something that`s going to run out in the future.
SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ: Initially, the CDC changed guidelines and it made it
easy for hospitals to not to have the appropriate equipment because they
reduced the guidelines. It`s been a chaotic situation. We know what we
need. There is some equipment that we have but they need to produce more.
HAYES: All right. Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, thank you so much both for coming
on tonight and the work that you and all your colleagues doing. I really
That is ALL IN for this evening. “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
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Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the