Stocks Plummet TRANSCRIPT: 3/12/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: “THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER” starts now.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Chuck. Thank you very much.
And we join you tonight throughout this continuing coverage of the
coronavirus outbreak and the fallout. We have the latest developments
tonight. We are going to bring you facts. That`s what we always try to do,
what we know, what`s happening on Wall Street, where there has been another
day of massive sell-offs after the president`s speech, what`s really
happening with the ongoing concerns over testing inside the United States,
as well as what`s brewing in Washington.
We also are going to address some of the misinformation stemming from a
person who, of course, is supposed to generally be the source of the best
information, the president of the United States.
Later tonight, I want to tell you the great Neal Katyal also here. And
we`re going to get into some important questions that relate not only to
the United States, but the legality of quarantines and travel bans around
We begin, though, with the latest for you.
Right now in the United States, we have more than 1,500 confirmed cases of
coronavirus. Right now in the United States, the Dow is down nearly 10
percent today alone. And, right now in the United States, there are 19
different states, at least, that have declared types of emergencies to
address all of this.
So, that gives you a portrait of a crisis. Now, as for the markets, it`s
the worst day on the Dow since the 1987 crash, which, you may recall many
referred to for years as Black Monday. So we are in our own territory of
that, although, unlike the underlying economic issues then, many hope that
the United States can rebound from this if the health situation evolves.
We should tell you that, at one point this morning, if you didn`t see this,
the Dow was falling so fast that they formally froze trading to try to
forestall any panic selling.
Meanwhile, the president had an idea that he worked out relatively quickly
to try to address all of this, a travel ban of Europeans who come here. And
it is getting panned by even people who served in his own administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BOSSERT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Unfortunately,
George, those travel restrictions and additional screening measures are
going to have little to no effect at this stage of controlling the spread
of the virus.
I think people perhaps misunderstand that the virus is here already in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The virus is here already in large numbers. You probably know
A lot of the question is about , what are the different levels of
precautions that can be taken? You, in your own life, your own family, how
you deal with other people regularly, whether that`s through a job or other
activities, and which you can take precautions for, which you can curtail.
Then the macro is, as always, it`s policy. It`s what happens in Washington
and in capitals around the world. What are the policy choices that have to
be made? In a democracy, we all talk about them, but Washington tends to
decide on them.
And that has some people concerned with the president returning again today
to another policy idea, maybe taking what`s happening inside the United
States, like domestic flights, and canceling them as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Are you considering travel restrictions within the United
States, such as to Washington state or California?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We haven`t discussed that
yet. Is it a possibility? Yes, if somebody gets a little out of control, if
an area gets too hot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Around the nation, there are local officials also doing their best
to find ways to have everyone just step back from the kind of contacts that
For example, we`re seeing major league sports, basketball, hockey,
baseball, now pause, Broadway here in New York going dark for a month,
church services on hold.
Meanwhile, in other states, you have bans on any types of large gatherings
Today, Speaker Pelosi taking charge of basically how you craft the
coronavirus relief package in Congress, working with Trump officials,
including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Secretary Mnuchin, he had some suggestions, all
very reasonable. I think that none of them is a – would prevent us from
moving forward with the bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: In a moment, I`ll be joined by this expert panel covering the
medicine, the science, the economics, as well as the Washington response to
this unfolding situation in the U.S.
We want to begin with a local leader facing this crisis on the ground,
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan out of King County, where there have been over
270 coronavirus cases reported.
Thank you for joining us during a busy time.
JENNY DURKAN (D), MAYOR OF SEATTLE, WASHINGTON: Thank you, Ari, for having
MELBER: People around the country are concerned, while trying to avoid any
type of overreaction or panic.
What are you seeing right now in this city of Seattle and the King County
area outside it, which has been hit so hard, and what are you doing
DURKAN: So, Ari, I think that you framed it exactly right. People should
be concerned, and leaders across this country should be taking urgent
But urgency does not mean fear or panic. And I would encourage the markets
and others to lower the temperature and increase the action.
We`re doing a number of things out here in Seattle, Washington. There`s
things we`re looking to the federal government to partner with us on,
because this is an emergency and health crisis, not just here in Seattle,
but across this country.
And we will only resolve it if we pull together and pull our resources in
places that are actually going to make a difference.
MELBER: What are the local measures you have taken?
DURKAN: So, we have taken a range.
Just to set a framework, you gave the numbers of actual cases we have. But
we have been really hampered by the fact that we have not had adequate
testing even until today. We`re starting through our private labs to get
more testing, but we estimate that the actual cases we have in our
community are much higher than the confirmed cases.
We have some of the best researchers in America. They estimate that, today,
we have over 1,100 cases and that, if we don`t do measures like we`re
taking now, which I will describe for you, by April 7, we will have 25,000
cases and 400 deaths.
So the governor…
MELBER: Where? That`s 25,000 where in that estimate?
DURKAN: In our – in the Seattle region, in the King County region.
MELBER: And those are – just to be clear, you are referring to the sort
of credentialed public health experts that you rely on are warning you
that, in a matter of weeks, you could hit 25,000 in Seattle alone?
DURKAN: That`s right.
So they have been able to actually – to get the genome and done a lot of
modeling. And their best modeling is based on how this virus is transmitted
and the tests that they actually have run through the modeling, that they
estimate that, if we don`t take action – so, that`s why the governor,
standing with the three county executives, myself and other mayors,
instituted a number of measures, because this is a virus that goes face-to-
And if you limit that contact, you can limit the spread of the virus, save
lives, and preserve our health care system. So we`re taking a number of
things to limit public gatherings and other places where people will
congregate, and give public real scientific-based information, and let them
take measures to protect themselves.
MELBER: Mayor Durkan, thank you very much for joining us during a busy
time and for your candor.
Meanwhile, as mentioned, there`s a lot of questions about the leadership in
the White House, as well as the people who want to replace this president
in the White House.
Against the backdrop of this crisis, we heard from the two remaining
leading presidential candidates in the Democratic race with their views on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Protecting the health and safety
of the American people is the most important job any of president.
Unfortunately, this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need that
information coming from credible, respected scientific voices, of which we
have many in our own country and all over this world, not from politicians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I want to bring now in our panel, Dr. Leana Wen, the former health
commissioner of Boston and president of Planned Parenthood. She is now, we
should mention, with George Washington School of Public Health.
Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council in the Obama and
Clinton administrations, he helped actually work on crafting the Obama
stimulus, responding to a different set of national problems and a market
crash, not unlike what we have seen rolling over these past several days.
And, of course our friend Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winner from “The
This is, unfortunately, a time where each of you brings so much to bear, I
could start with anyone.
I could start with Gene Sperling on one of the largest market crashes since
`87. I could start with Gene Robinson in Washington looking at coronavirus,
reshaping the entire presidential race.
But I`m going to start with our doctor here with me on set.
What is the nature of this public health crisis today, as Americans heard
the president give his view of it last night?
DR. LEANA WEN, PRESIDENT, PLANNED PARENTHOOD: This is the relative calm
before the storm that we know is going to be coming.
We just heard the mayor talk about what`s going to come to Seattle. And
this is what`s going to come all over the country. We`re going to see many
hundreds, thousands of cases, maybe tens of thousands of cases, in the
MELBER: Let`s pause on what you just said, because, for a lot of Americans
right now – particularly, we see the way people are tuning into this story
– it doesn`t feel like the calm. It feels like part of the storm.
And, again, we`re hearing from health officials with experience like
yourself and the mayor we just heard from saying, that doesn`t mean to
But when you say, this is a calm, when you say tens of thousands of cases,
what are you getting at, that this is going to get much more onerous on
people`s daily lives?
WEN: That`s right.
I think we`re about to see significant disruptions in a way that we`re just
experiencing a little bit of it now. The streets feel emptier. The stores
feel more crowded as people are stocking up.
But we`re soon going to see all of these schools being closed, work being
significantly disrupted, and us changing our routines. But we have to,
because we have to protect the most vulnerable among us.
And we have a very small and limited window to act. That window is in the
next week or two. So I`m really glad that our political leaders, at least
on the local and state levels, are taking dramatic action that may seem
I`m hearing my neighbors and people in my community saying, well, why are
all these things happening? It feels like, while we – a lot of communities
don`t have any cases yet. But it`s only a matter of time.
MELBER: And let me read to you on, with regard to preparation, “The New
York Times”` reporting on the capacity in the United States.
We talk a lot about the health care system here, how expensive it is, and
where it is a patchwork. This is a quote of someone noting that there
aren`t enough ventilators and ICU beds if there`s a significant surge of
cases. As with Italy, the health system itself could become overwhelmed.
Do you agree with that assessment?
Our own federal government estimates that even if we have a moderate
outbreak, not a severe outbreak, but a moderate outbreak, that we`re going
to need 200,000 intensive care beds.
The U.S. only has 100,000 intensive care beds at any point in time, and
most of them are occupied. So, if you have all these patients coming in all
at once, many of them are not going to get care.
And we`re also going to compromise care for those who are coming in for
non-coronavirus-related issues, people with heart attacks and trauma who
need that care.
So, anything we can do to, we call it, flatten the curve, anything we can
do to reduce the rate of infection and spread it out over time, it gives
the health care system a chance to catch up, so that doctors don`t have to
make that choice about who gets to live and who is going to die.
MELBER: Really appreciate your points there. You`re obviously staying with
Turning to Gene Sperling on what, any other day, would be, by far, the
biggest story in America, in American life, and certainly in presidential
politics, given the economy`s relationship there.
What does it mean when we see the statistic that this was the largest
single-day drop since the 1987 crash?
GENE SPERLING, FORMER DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL:
Well, there`s no question it was a bloodbath in the market, not just today,
but in the last couple of weeks.
But, you know, what I think is important to recognize is, this is not
fundamentally a financial issue. The markets are responding to the real
economy, to the failure to have a competent, professional, truthful
government response that should have included massive, just massive
government effort to get widespread testing, so we had knowledge and
certainty, to have the kind of medical surge, so that we weren`t at risk of
a lack of capacity.
To do things like emergency paid sick leave, not because Nancy Pelosi`s
making somebody do it, but because, if you don`t do this compassionate
thing of making sure people can stay home when they`re sick, you`re going
to increase the community spread.
And so there`s nothing the government could do to make all this go away
simply or have no health or economic cost.
But if you had the confidence that our response was going to say, we`re
going to have a dip, we`re going to have a downturn, but we`re – it`s all
because we have a national strategy of testing, treatment, to handle this
in a relatively short period of time, and a surge of economic response to
help people and communities in our country get through it, then I think you
would see markets saying, wow, it`s going to be bad for a little while, but
we have confidence it`s going to get better.
When you have this complete failure of the government to help the real
economy, the real health care crisis, markets can`t see where the bottom is
and they can`t see where the end is, and that`s how they are responding.
MELBER: You mentioned the markets sort of reacting or pricing into their
understanding of how the U.S. government is handling this.
Then, in your view, was today`s crash partly a response to the way the
president handled this last night, or is it too soon to draw that link?
SPERLING: Well, I have a little bit of a different view, which is, I don`t
think that this is just about the president`s speech. I think it`s about
people`s growing recognition that you have a government that was out
talking about this as if it was a political conspiracy, the president
golfing, the vice president who was in charge of it going to fund-raisers.
And now people are starting to really realize, oh, my God, I`m
understanding the exponential growth of how this spreads, and I am
realizing our government is way behind. They are looking at South Korea.
They are looking at other countries. And they are losing confidence.
So, I don`t think it`s just about the speech last night. I think it is
about the entire government response and the lack of confidence.
Ari, I`ll say this. This is a national teaching moment, or maybe just a
painful reminder, competent, professional, truthful, credible government
matters. And it matters a lot.
MELBER: You say that, and then Gene Sperling walking us through that.
Our other Gene is Gene Robinson.
Take a listen to Speaker Pelosi with regard to the Congress` role in trying
to craft something.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It`s about putting people and families first.
Everybody could have a complaint about this or that.
I said, save it for another day. We can have an after-action review about
how we got into this situation. Save it for another day.
Right now, we have to find our common ground, work together to get this
done as soon as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Gene, what do you see coming out of Washington on this, and how
much is it right-sized, a lot of emphasis on what they can control, which
is, like anybody, what do you have control over, when the doctor and others
have outlined some of the problems in the U.S. health system don`t relate
to payroll tax credits?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly.
You know, from the economic point of view, I`m a little concerned that the
deal they eventually come out with – and I think they will certainly come
out with a deal. Speaker Pelosi was negotiating with Treasury Secretary
Mnuchin all day, basically.
And so there`s going to be a deal. I`m a little worried that it`s going to
be too small-bore. It seems to me – you saw what happened on the markets
today – we need kind of a bazooka in the economic sense, I think.
Far be it from me to tell Gene Sperling anything about economics, but it
seems to me we need essentially a stimulus. We need help for people who are
not able to work now.
Restaurant workers are having their hours cut back or being laid off
because people aren`t eating out, that sort of thing.
ROBINSON: People are not taking trips that they otherwise would take on
the airlines, on Amtrak, everywhere. And this ripples through the economy.
And I wish we had a big plan for addressing this, because I think it is an
emergency, in that sense, as well as a health care emergency.
MELBER: And we`re running over on time, but, Gene Sperling, having been
name-checked in your economic expertise, I give you the last word.
What about the other concern that a lot of these precautions are, by their
very nature, the type of thing that are harder on wage workers, on people
with less savings, on people with less health care?
It`s fine if it is medically true that everyone needs to take a step back,
but what about people who are literally losing what would be next month`s
rent for that precaution?
SPERLING: Well, precisely.
And in response to the other Gene`s comments, exactly right. You need all
of the above. There`s a lot of things that…
MELBER: I thought you were the other Gene.
MELBER: Why is he the other Gene?
SPERLING: Just in my – only in my family is Gene Robinson the other Gene.
But the – but I think he`s right. You know, we`re going to need some big,
powerful help for economic demand. But you do have to contain the actual
And there is this category that I think is the most win-win. And that is
helping the people like Gene just described who are – don`t have paid sick
leave. They are gig workers who might not have total – the right type –
they don`t get covered by unemployment insurance.
I think the first win-win is you get a massive influx to them, and I think
we need a broad emergency paid leave. We need to take most of the
restrictions off unemployment insurance, so that that waiter with less
hours, the gig economy worker, the domestic worker can get that assistance.
And I will tell you that was a point of agreement today between Joe Biden
and Bernie Sanders. And that is just not – that is compassionate and the
right thing to do. But those are the people who are going to need the
money. They are going to spend it the fastest.
If you have a surge of that type of help, Medicaid match, unemployment paid
leave, broadly available in a way that hasn`t been before, that will be a
good step to what Gene is talking about. But we may end up needing even
more to ensure we have the economic demand, because I have never seen a
situation in my life where everybody, whether you have a job, whether you
are financially secure, is pulling back on their spending.
It doesn`t matter how well-off you are. You are pulling back on your
spending, and your economic activity. That`s not the normal thing in just a
And that means it`s going to be a scary – I think it will be a bit of a
scary downturn. And I agree with Gene. You need – in addition to the
targeted help, which will help the economy and help those workers, we`re
probably going to need some bigger mobilization to state and local
governments, to individuals, to seniors to make sure this – we get through
this as a country.
Well, look, these are sobering assessments, each of you with a lot of
experience in the respective fields, including the intersection between
health policy, managing the precautions and government. What does
government do and what tradeoffs does it make during a time when there are
some big decisions ahead?
I think we benefit from exactly that kind of sober information.
Dr. Wen and Gene Sperling, I want to thank you.
Gene, I`m coming back to you later in the hour on THE BEAT.
Now, coming up, we have updates on what we were just discussing in part,
because the House may vote as soon as tonight on the beginning of a
coronavirus aid package. We have a Democratic congressman who is also a
physician to give us more on that important intersection.
What about the testing failures? We have a doctor dealing with the crisis
also in the hot spot of Washington state joining us.
And former Solicitor General Neal Katyal is here. We`re going to get into a
lot of these important issues, including a huge question you may be
discussing around your dinner tables. What can the government do and what
are its limits on quarantining and other measures?
I`m Ari Melber. And you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: Now turning to a different facet of digging in to this coronavirus
issue, as it spreads around the nation, and thinking about what governments
are able to do.
Consider Italy, which is on basically a full lockdown. How do quarantines
work, and how would they happen in the United States?
We have a Constitution that does discuss the idea that the federal
government can make any regulations that basically prevent the spread of
communicable diseases. That`s a federal law.
The Constitution, meanwhile, has other rights to cut against that.
Now, keep in mind that, while quarantines thus far and all of the talk you
hear about limiting or even – quote – “banning” the large gatherings are,
for the most part, voluntary.
But what if they weren`t? Consider when you had a flu pandemic over 100
years ago. CDC released an example of a coronavirus quarantine order that
could look like mandating that infected individuals simply cooperate with
health officials, but also authorize other deterrents, for example, a
criminal fine or even up to one year in jail for violating a quarantine
Now, the United States has different rights, of course, than many other
places. Consider China, a country that has basically a more authoritarian-
style control of government, far fewer civil liberties, no resort to the
courts for a lot of citizens, but they utilized that kind of set of powers
to contain the virus.
“The Wall Street Journal” reporting, for example, the sealing off of an
entire area, Wuhan province, which dispatched armies of low-level enforces
to guard the gates of compounds and tapped data from state-run mobile
carriers to track down people who slipped those lockdowns, and had
volunteers go door to door in apartment buildings to record people`s body
That`s obviously very invasive and farther than what most Americans
consider the role of government.
So, we don`t believe and we`re not reporting tonight that the United States
is looking at things like that. And yet the international part of this
international pandemic is a big story.
For this on this, we want to bring in a guest that we use for so many legal
questions as part of our Opening Arguments series, former acting Solicitor
General Neal Katyal.
A tough time, but good evening to you, sir.
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Good evening.
MELBER: Neal, when we talk about quarantines, when we talk about things
the government tells and advises vs. mandates, how should we be thinking
about this, particularly if, as I just heard experts tell me minutes ago,
we are in still the calm period before a potential health crisis storm?
KATYAL: Yes, I think, Ari, the Constitution and the federal and state laws
and localities regulations altogether really give all these governments
sweeping powers to deal with a crisis.
So, in a way, the law is actually not the problem here. I mean, the Supreme
Court in 1900 said it was beyond question that the federal government has
quarantine powers and the states and localities can impose any number of
movement or crowd restrictions as well.
And, as you just noted, the federal statute says, if you violate a federal
quarantine, you can get fined up to $100,000, put in jail for a year and
the like. So you have got that.
You have also got the power to restrict movement and travel. President
Trump tried that yesterday a little bit. The problem there is not, again,
the law. It`s the kind of haphazard policy, closing it to Europe, but not
to the U.K., and not closing it for all of Europe. So those are all policy
But, actually, in general, the law is not going to stand in the way. There
will be some restraints. Like, if you`re doing it on a discriminatory basis
– like, San Francisco in 1900 said, if you were Chinese, you had to get
inoculated against the bubonic plague, but only Chinese.
And the federal court said, no, you can`t do that. I mean, you have got to
prove that the Chinese were like uniquely susceptible or something to it,
which they couldn`t. It was just done out of racism.
So, if we went down that path – and I sure hope we don`t, even with this
president`s proclivities – I sure hope we don`t do that. If we do, there
will be some court challenges on that front. But , otherwise, there are
sweeping powers for the government here.
MELBER: Governor Inslee was speaking quite starkly this week in Washington
– we just heard from a mayor there – about penalties.
And he made a broader point. You`re speaking to the fact there`s plenty of
authority for an actual, bona fide, justified public health emergency. But
he spoke about something higher than the law. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE PATTERSON, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: How far does this extend to
personal events, like parties, like weddings, like funerals? And then what
are the penalties exactly for not abiding by the ban?
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): The penalties are, you might be killing your grand
dad if you don`t do it, and I`m serious about this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What do you think about that and the way government officials try
to instill seriousness within the law, without panic?
KATYAL: That`s 100 percent right, Ari.
Yes, there are penalties for violating all of these different government
restrictions, but, at the bottom, this shouldn`t be about penalties. This
is about your own conscience and what you`re willing to do and what you`re
willing to risk.
And anyone – you know, we`re all in this together, and we all have to do
everything we can to avoid the spread of the disease and flatten the curve.
The law is a piece of it, but it`s the tiniest piece of it. It`s all about
our individual actions.
And so I think the governor got it exactly right. This is why we`re also
very different than China. China, in addition to the movement restrictions,
they`re literally tracking everyone`s cell phones, WeChat and other things,
so they can determine if anyone is moving out of their restricted areas or
into the restricted areas.
They can go and get them with their military. And, you know, we don`t want
to go down that path. And we`re a country of liberty and freedom, but we`re
also a country in which we view ourselves as having a communitarian
responsibility to one another.
And we shouldn`t need the law to do this. We shouldn`t need apps to be
tracked or anything like that. But if it comes to that, unfortunately –
fortunately, the government does have powers to do things like impose
MELBER: Neal Katyal with a lot of context here, thank you so much.
I want to remind everyone you can always go to MSNBC.com/openingarguments.
We will have this segment there later tonight on coronavirus and the law,
as well as Neal`s past reporting and analysis.
Meanwhile, a lot of Americans finding that this hits home when you hear
about people you care about, if not in your community. What about famous
people you know about? Tom Hanks and his wife publicly announcing they have
coronavirus. They got tested in Australia.
It also puts more pressure on why it`s so hard to get tested right here in
We`re back on that and much more in 30 seconds.
MELBER: We are back with breaking news here.
And it`s all about responses to the coronavirus.
Since we came on the air, Delaware has joined the many states declaring
states of emergency, the 20th state to have done so. You can see we`re
keeping track on several of the ways that you can understand this and keep
it in context.
As we have been saying throughout the evening, facts, not panic, but over
1,500 cases and quite the market crash today as well, all of this putting
pressure on the federal government and how Donald Trump is leading.
Here he was today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Stay away from people and wash your hands and do all of the things
that we`re supposed to be doing a little bit anyway. But it will be – it
will go very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Congressman Ami Bera from California, who is
also a doctor.
REP. AMI BERA (D-CA): Good evening, Ari.
MELBER: What is important to know here as we move forward? The president
spoke last night, issued a type of travel ban, said some things that had to
What do you want your constituents and the rest of the viewers to know?
BERA: Look, let`s take this seriously. The president often undermines our
own message of how serious this is.
This will get worse before it gets better. That said, the vast majority of
folks are going to be fine, but we have got to be vigilant here. We, as
Congress, have to get our act together. There are a lot of vulnerable folks
that are one paycheck away from being evicted.
There are a lot of vulnerable folks that don`t have paid family leave.
Let`s take politics out of this. Let`s address the urgency of now. Let`s
put those safety net services in there for the uninsured folks, so they can
go get tested if they`re concerned.
And let`s actually fix this testing problem. It would almost be better if
the president didn`t get on television right now, because I think he is
undermining the urgency of now we can do this, we can get ahead of it, but
we have all got to be on the same page.
MELBER: Well, which is it at this point? Because some of his critics and
Democrats have said he`s played it down too much. Then, as of last night,
some are saying he`s overreacting with the partial travel ban.
BERA: Well, so what we know is, a travel ban right now is not going to do
a whole lot to mitigate things. It may slow things down a little bit, but
coronavirus is now community-spreading.
It`s throughout the United States of America. Six weeks ago, when he did
the China travel ban, that probably bought us a little bit of time.
Unfortunately, they squandered that time. That`s when we should have been
developing testing capabilities, getting equipment out to the hospitals and
public health centers, et cetera.
And that just didn`t happen. They have slow-played this. That`s fine.
Listen to Dr. Fauci when he says, you know, this was a mistake. We have
Now let`s get our act together. Let`s come together. This isn`t political.
This isn`t partisan. We have got to do our jobs as Democrats and
Republicans, reassure the public, but let the doctors and scientists do
what they have got to do.
MELBER: Why is testing such a problem, from a policy perspective?
BERA: You know, we`re frustrated.
The administration cannot answer the question why it is taking us so long
to get testing capabilities up and running, when South Korea can do 10,000
to 15,000 tests a day.
I would tell the CDC to pick up the phone, call that South Korean company
that`s creating these tests, ask them if we can get that licensing, and
let`s start creating those tests here.
This is not about ego or anything else. This is about getting the
capabilities out to the front lines to the doctors, the nurses, the public
health workers that are on the front lines that are going to keep us safe
and help us get ahead of this.
MELBER: Congressman Bera, thank you so much.
We want to dig as well deeper into the testing issues and how to fix them.
We have a doctor in Washington state when we come back.
MELBER: Actor Tom Hanks now is quite clearly the most famous American to
contract the coronavirus, testing positive while in Australia.
As “The New York Times” notes, though, tests there are widely available and
free, a marked contrast to the United States, where test kits have been
hard to find , there are not enough for people who need them, a fact that
the government`s own science leaders admit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: The system does not – is not really
geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): A failing, yes.
FAUCI: It is a failing. Let`s admit it.
The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are
doing it, we`re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You are looking at the process of congressional oversight, where
people from the administration have to say under oath what the facts are.
They also have private briefings. And lawmakers who received one also
speaking out on what they are learning about our capabilities as a country
to deal with coronavirus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): I think we are all very concerned about the
spread, about the lack of testing. The reality is, and we are told by the
experts, that they do not yet have the tests available and can`t give us a
date they will be.
SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): We`re not the best-equipped nation in terms
of testing. That`s absolutely obvious.
I think, generally speaking, our public health system and our system of
hospitals and experts and doctors is. But we have a serious deficiency in
being prepared for testing.
South Korea, for example, is doing a better job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: About 11,000 people have been tested thus far in the U.S. South
Korea, which you just heard mentioned, tests about 10,000 people daily.
Experts say several factors lead to this failing. We were just discussing.
We want to bring you some more context.
Flaws in the initial test kits sent by the CDC last month, that compromised
critical early stage efforts. The Trump administration also declining
offers of a test developed by the World Health Organization, instead,
basically – quote – “going it alone.”
Then, weeks ago, Trump administration officials blocking efforts by doctors
out in Washington state to use their own tests, because – and this can be
a consideration, of course – but those tests were not at the time FDA-
One of those Washington state doctors, though, joins me right now, Dr.
Alexander Greninger, assistant professor at the University of Washington
Medical Center in Seattle.
Good day to you.
DR. ALEX GRENINGER, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON MEDICAL CENTER: Hi, Ari.
Explain to us the context here and the balancing of things that, in a non-
emergency setting might make sense, like waiting, vs. the situation we`re
So, on February 4, the FDA offered EUA for the CDC. That`s an emergency use
authorization for the CDC tests.
And part of that emergency use authorization and the laws around that
basically did not allow hospital labs and clinical labs to begin to perform
testing until they also had received emergency use authorization.
And the FDA has a clear – had a clear interest in this – and we do too –
for having accurate testing, which is very important. The problem is, is
that created a monoculture, which the CDC test, unfortunately, had one bad
And it took three weeks to fix that issue. And so it wasn`t until the last
week of February where we were able to both fix the CDC kit, and then, on
February 29, the FDA allowed the go-ahead for clinical labs such as ours to
begin to perform testing.
MELBER: So, is that how the system supposed to work, or do you have a
criticism embedded in that history?
GRENINGER: Well, I think there are a few things that could be fixed. But I
also think that any country that has come in contact with this virus has
been caught unaware.
GRENINGER: I mean, it`s a very difficult virus. It transmits very, very
efficiently. It has a high morbidity and mortality. Every country that`s
come in contact with virus has not made peace with it.
They have decided to fight.
MELBER: What would making peace involve?
GRENINGER: Well, I mean, like, with flu, it`s not peace, really, but it`s
just like the flu, we kind of – we get vaccinated, but we sort of still go
about economic activity, right? We don`t – we don`t – the market hasn`t
dropped 10 percent for respiratory syncytial virus.
But with this particular virus, we are – we – China, Italy, you can see
the response of these countries to this particular virus. It has a high
morbidity, high mortality rate.
MELBER: It seems that you`re gesturing towards the psychological part of
this, that there is something scarier about the newness, without minimizing
the obvious pain, suffering and death, and that you`re saying, if it were
acculturated differently over time, it might not have – no, go ahead.
GRENINGER: Not at all.
I`m saying exactly what Tony Fauci is saying, which is, this virus is at
least 10 times more lethal than flu. And so this is a special virus. And
that`s part – when you`re talking about regulations around this virus and
how that works, I mean, we have never seen something like this.
MELBER: So you`re saying, don`t make peace with it and…
MELBER: … redouble efforts to contain.
GRENINGER: Absolutely. Absolutely.
So let me play something for you. I just want to – if you shake your head
early, then it saves time, because I will stop talking, and you will give
us the goods.
I also did want to get in something that happened in the Congress today, an
exchange with Congresswoman Porter and the head of CDC, and looking at
something we have also been talking about that I don`t think anyone wants
to make peace with, which is looking at how unfairly the burden is
apportioned in an unequal society like ours, which is, of course, as
everyone knows, a huge issue in health care access.
Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): We live in a world where 40 percent of Americans
cannot even afford a $400 unexpected expense.
Dr. Redfield, will you commit to the CDC right now, using that existing
authority, to pay for diagnostic testing free to every American regardless
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: Well, I can say that we`re going to do
everything to make sure everybody can get the care they need.
PORTER: No, not good enough.
Reclaiming my time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And she went back and forth. You saw the whiteboard.
Where do you, as a scientist, a scientific expert, see all that?
GRENINGER: Well, so I`m an assistant director for the clinical virology
And so right now, our consideration is to expand testing. We performed more
than 1,300 tests yesterday, and detected more than 100 infections here in
the Puget Sound area. We`re also a national reference lab, so we get things
Our job is to push that testing number to 5,000 tests per day. And we`re
working with that every day within the next few weeks. So that`s our number
one goal. I do think it`s important that there – we get reimbursed for
doing this work.
But, right now, that`s not really our number one consideration.
MELBER: And, finally, I`m over on time, but I would want, given where you
are, to get your view of what the mayor of Seattle said earlier in our
broadcast, that they think this could hit 25,000 cases by the first week of
April in your area.
Do you agree with that assessment?
GRENINGER: Yes, I think that`s consistent with what we`re seeing.
And, like I said, we detected more than 100 new infections yesterday.
And, by context, that`s, by multiples, many more than are confirmed across
the entire country right now.
So it takes – our data gets reported to the state of Washington. It then
gets reported to other places. But we sort of get a first look at what`s
coming across the pike. And everywhere across the United States, this virus
is there, it`s spreading.
We have a 10 percent positivity rate where we`re testing. Now, again,
mostly we`re testing hospitalized patients.
GRENINGER: But this is a significant – a significant threat.
MELBER: Dr. Greninger, thank you not only for your work, but for your
blunt clarity. We learned something. Thank you, sir.
GRENINGER: Thank you.
MELBER: Appreciate it.
And coming up: How is American society shifting amidst all of this, from
suspending entire sports leagues, closing Disneyland? What do we do and how
do we do it better?
An important conversation. We will be rejoined by our friend Eugene
Robinson when we come back.
MELBER: Do you feel like everything is changing all at once right now?
Could anyone have seen this coming?
Well, over two weeks ago, there was a CDC doctor discussing the
possibilities with reporters on a media call, and we saw the foreshadowing
of exactly what has been transpiring this week.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NANCY MESSONNIER, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Disruption
to everyday life may be severe.
I had a conversation with my family over breakfast this morning, and I told
my children that, while I didn`t think they were at risk right now, we as a
family need to be preparing for significant disruption of our lives.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: Significant disruption. That was weeks ago.
A lot of people were saying different things then, but not these
scientists. Think about how this prediction has proven correct.
Sports leagues and tournaments telling basically fans, do not show up or
shutting down entirely, March Madness canceled today. The NHL suspending
the entire season for now, as did the NBA, canceling games in real-time
just last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So both head coaches have gone back. You see the teams
heading back to the locker room, the officials now going over to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You don`t see that every day.
Meanwhile, think about the creation of our own culture, Hollywood putting
off movies that people love, employers telling folks, work from home, maybe
indefinitely, until we figure this out, entire school districts telling
parents, keep your kids at home.
All of this raising so many questions about fairness, about economics,
about who bears the brunt of this, and about what is to become of life
during this pandemic.
We bring back Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winner of “The Washington
And we have tracking on the screen the facts that we know, which are
against the backdrop of how life is changing.
Your thoughts, sir.
ROBINSON: Well, Ari, I think today might be the day when it really came
home to people that things are going to be different for a while.
And the big unknown is, we don`t know for how long. But just the list of
things that happened today, last night and today, that you ran down, no
March Madness, no professional sports leagues. Major League Baseball is
putting off opening day and won`t have crowds at the spring training games.
It`s not just a sports leagues, but those really focus – they get your
ROBINSON: And so many are working from home, as I did today, because, at
“The Washington Post,” that`s the policy now.
If you`re able to work from home, please do. There`s hand sanitizer
everywhere. We`re all washing our hands. And I think what we need is, what
I wish we had is a better narrator than we have right now.
MELBER: Well, let me ask you about that, because a word that is so
overused in politics and culture, certainly, the movies that are being
canceled, is sacrifice.
How much do people need to think about this, even with the inequities that
we have covered on this very broadcast, as a time where maybe the stuff we
have got to put up with is sacrifice for our greater good and what we owe
ROBINSON: Well, I think it`s – that`s a lot of it, because, let`s face
it, most of us don`t know anyone who has been infected with the coronavirus
or who has suffered from COVID-19.
And we read the stories and we see the number of cases, which, thankfully,
appear small. That is actually partly because we haven`t done the testing.
But – and so there is, I think, a natural tendency to say, why am I
turning my life upside down for this?
And there is a very good answer. There`s a very good answer. We have seen
what happened in China. We have seen what happened in Italy. We know what
can happen if we allow our medical system to get overwhelmed. And that`s
what we have to worry about.
MELBER: Eugene, we had you on the breaking news at the top of the hour,
but this is a fitting thing to reflect on.
As always, we appreciate your words, not only in writing, but right here on
Thank you, sir, and stay safe.
ROBINSON: Thank you. Thank you.
MELBER: Thanks to everyone watching THE BEAT tonight.
We will be back with one more thing.
MELBER: I`m Ari Melber.
You have been watching THE BEAT on MSNBC. That does it for our hour.
Stay safe, stay informed. And thanks, as always, for watching. I will see
you again at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.
Keep it right here on MSNBC.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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 content.>
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