COVID-19 TRANSCRIPT: 3/16/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Rick Berke, Ralph Baric, Gene Sperling, Jennifer Haller, Anne Rimoin, Katty Kay




Hi, Ari. 


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Hi, Katy. Thank you very much. 


I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching a special edition of THE BEAT. 


We want to thank you for joining us, as we cover the latest developments in 

this coronavirus outbreak. 


If last week was the first time this health crisis shook the entire nation. 

This week begins a clear and new phase of intensity across basically every 

measure we have, the public health impact, the market reaction, the 

government response.


And while this is certainly a harrowing time for so many, it need not be a 

time for confusion, let alone panic. And here`s why. The facts and the 

science provide a clear path for us right now. There are facts that you can 

gather that will guide your decisions in the days and weeks ahead.


And focusing on the right facts, while avoiding misinformation, can help 

prioritize what you do, and literally what you do to make you and your 

community safer. 


So that is our spirit tonight as we begin. We have the latest facts and 

medical guidance for you throughout this broadcast. Here we go. 


Right now, there are over 4,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the 

United States, which have led to over 80 deaths. We can now report 33 

states have closed all public schools, plus additional districts across the 

country, and slightly more than 35 states declaring formal emergencies. 


These measures and the wider concerns have the markets tumbling again 

today, the Dow down a whopping 13 percent. That makes this – and you may 

have heard this last week, but now this is true as of today – this is the 

worst for the markets since 1987.


This is a crash that also comes even after the Fed took new stimulus 

actions, like severely cutting interest rates. Now, across the globe, more 

and more countries are closing their borders to noncitizens. 


Here in the United States, we`re seeing all sorts of new measures, Ohio 

literally postponing a presidential primary scheduled for tomorrow, the 

latest state to do so, in cities from Paris to New York to Los Angeles, 

officials shutting down restaurants and bars and movie theaters. 


Health experts at the White House press conference today releasing new 

guidance, avoid groups of 10 or more, and if you can, just stay home. 





who you are, please stay home. If someone in your household is diagnosed 

with this virus, the entire household should quarantine in the house to 

prevent spread of the virus to others. 




MELBER:  President Trump also struck a somewhat different tone today. He 

cited experts a bit more. He acknowledged a recession may be coming. And 

then he credited the role of the press during a national crisis like this. 


These are notes from the president that are certainly different than usual. 

We`re going to get into that more later in the hour. 


He also said something, big picture, that, whatever your thoughts, whatever 

your politics, whatever views you bring to the way America normally runs, 

he said something that I bet you can understand or relate to, that we are 

in a new reality. And it`s a reality that could last quite some time. 




QUESTION:  Is this the new normal until the height of the summer? 



they think August. Could be July. Could be longer than that. But I`ve asked 

that question many, many times. 




MELBER:  The truth is, no one knows exactly how long this will go. You can 

name a month, July, August or later. 


We do know, though, that experts have told us the nature of the spread of 

this virus in other countries, which is a very recent type of precedent, 

suggests that those of us here in the United States are currently still in 

the early stages of how our nation adjusts and reacts. 


What comes next, though, depends on several factors, some we can`t control. 

We know that. But others are behavioral and policy choices that the nation 

can control. 


Some of them are at an individual level, limiting interactions, following 

CDC guidance. Some of them are at the local level, the rules set by local 

authorities. And some relate to national decisions that the president and 

the Congress will continue to make. 


I want to kick off our broadcast tonight with Rick Berke, who runs the Web 

site STAT covering all health news. He was a longtime reporter and senior 

editor at “The New York Times.” Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at UCLA, and 

Katty Kay, Washington anchor for BBC News. 


Rick, when you look at the available facts, what is most important in 

understanding where the United States is at right now? 



thought it was very important what you said at the outset about the spirit 

of facts and the truth.


And I was really struck by the president today when he said, a month ago, 

nobody ever heard of it. 


I was – I almost fell out of my chair, because our lead public health 

reporter, Helen Branswell, wrote about this January 4. We had – a month 

ago, we had written over 100 stories, not just us, but other reputable news 



So the facts were out there. And the sad truth is, people weren`t looking 

at the facts. And it`s important for us to know – for us to all keep 

putting them out and being – as you said, not being panicked, but sort of 

taking the right steps, and knowing what we don`t know.


We don`t know if hospitals are going to be overloaded. We think that could 

happen. But there`s a model – we wrote about it – where data scientists 

today just said, well, if we do proper social distancing, the hospitals may 

not be overloaded. 


So there are a lot of on unknowns here that we have to be aware of. 


MELBER:  You think about, as you said, the known unknowns, to use a phrase, 

and then the known knowns.


Doctor, we have a lot of things that we can do. And that`s been an emphasis 

on this. 


I want to play for you Dr. Fauci talking about the level of reactions we`re 

seeing and what is not an overreaction. Take a listen. 




DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR:  When you`re dealing with an emerging 

infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are 

if you think that today reflects where you really are. 


That`s not word speak. It means, if you think you`re here, you`re really 

here, because you`re only getting the results. Therefore, it will always 

seem that the best way to address it were to be doing something that looks 

like it might be an overreaction. 


It isn`t an overreaction. 




MELBER:  I appreciate the nuance of what he`s asking us all to consider, 

the doctor using his bedside manner to speak to us all like adults. 


What does it mean for us to understand that things that may seem – quote, 

unquote – “drastic” because they ask a lot of us are not necessarily a – 

quote – “overreaction”?




When public health methods work, that is when we think afterwards, this was 

– this was all a big overreaction. We all have to do everything we can, 

and – to limit spread, to flatten the curve, social distancing, all of the 

things that everybody is telling us to do.


This will limit spread here in the United States, as it has in other 

countries. And the other thing we have to remember is that epidemics have 

happened all over the world before. And countries, when they can pull 

together, between business, between government, and between communities, 

they are all able to flatten the curve of epidemics before.


We have seen this in other places. We have to do the same things that we 

have done in other places now on a large scale. We`re just not used to it 

here in the United States. 


MELBER:  Katty Kay, thinking about the United States vs. other places, and, 

of course, what we can learn from other places, what`s been happening with 

the stress in air travel, take a listen to some of the passengers our 

reporters have talked to as this is all unfolding. 




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It felt like a scary movie, because of all the people 

wearing masks.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No consistency in questioning, no temperature check, 

no swabs, nothing. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So, it just been a lot of confusion, to the point 

where I just want to come home, because it`s not even worth the stress. 




MELBER:  What do you think we can learn about this from the global side, 



KATTY KAY, BBC:  I think there`s quite a lot we can learn. 


I was actually due to fly in on Sunday night into the States. I changed my 

travel plans to come back from Europe early. And when I flew in, there was 

no temperature testing, and there was no swabbing going on at Dallas 

Airport at all. 


The temperature testing does seem to be key. If we`re not going to give 

people swab testings, what happened in China that seemed to work 

effectively is, you got your temperature taken everywhere. You got onto the 

bus, your temperature was taken. You went into your own building, your 

temperature was taken. 


And if you had a high fever, you were separated from your family. One of 

the important things I think we heard from the White House today, and 

actually from the U.K. government today, was this stress on family 

clusters, because many of the cases, a large proportion of the cases in 

China were actually in family groups. 


So, trying to separate people from their families if they`re sick, but also 

isolate whole family groups, so that they don`t then go and affect other 



I think, to some extent, the United States has the advantage of being able 

to learn from other countries. There`s a tragedy that the Trump 

administration didn`t seem to want to learn for the first month or so of 



And now, today, we saw a very different tone. And, hopefully, they are 

looking at what happened in other countries and taking lessons from those. 


MELBER:  On that point, brings us to something else we wanted to get to, 

Rick, which is, take a listen to the surgeon general discussing the 

examples from other countries. 





got several different models.


And, yes, there is a potential for us to become Italy. We`re doing the 

right things now so that, in two weeks, we don`t become Italy. But we`re 

all in this together. 




MELBER:  Rick?


BERKE:  I think we do have the benefit of seeing other models and how it`s 

playing out in other countries. 


But that last quote, we`re all in this together, it`s really interesting to 

me. I think back to this crisis, and I think back to 9/11, when we were all 

uncertain and panicked, and not knowing where to turn. 


And I remember, as a political reporter, I didn`t have much to write about, 

because we were – we were all in this together. We weren`t – this 

country, the political leaders, were not attacking each other. Everyone 

thought, there`s a common goal here. 


And now we have a situation, because of what we`re hearing from members of 

Congress, members of the White House about the performance and the reaction 

of our leadership in this country, it`s become political and partisan in a 

way that doesn`t serve anyone well. 


And it`s really striking to me, because this feels like it should be a 

moment when people are together, are in this together and there should be 

common goals. And I worry that that`s not happening. 


MELBER:  Katty, do you share that concern? Or do you see any evidence that 

– again, this has been happening so quickly for some, although, as Rick 

says, many scientists, doctors and folks who write about this full-time, 

what we might call the empirical community, has certainly been on it and 



But do you see Washington catching up to the seriousness of this, even, 

say, today vs. a week ago? 


KAY:  Yes, I mean, I think you did see the White – a new tone from the 

White House today, certainly. 


It didn`t seem to reassure the markets. In fact, the markets now seem to 

think that the alarm that is being expressed in the White House and in the 

Federal Reserve made the markets even – investors even more anxious. 


I think the real issue is that the whole country has become politicized. 

And it`s really alarming to see the degree to which even the coronavirus 

and how serious you think it is depends on whether you support the 

administration or you don`t support the administration. 


That`s kind of fatal. I mean, we have to get people on board with realizing 

this is a serious problem, because, otherwise, people won`t make the 

sacrifices necessary. And they have to have that from leadership. They have 

got to hear it from the White House and they have got to hear it from 

Republicans on the Hill.




MELBER:  Go ahead, Rick.


BERKE:  There was an encouraging tone today at that press conference.


KAY:  Yes, there was.


BERKE:  I think you`re all right about that. 


And I thought, for the first time – and I can`t remember the last time the 

president complimented the press for its handling of anything. And he 

complimented the press, after being very critical of the coverage for a 

while. So I think that`s progress. 


MELBER:  You mentioned that. That caught our ears as well, not strictly 

because we happen to be in the press, but because, both on that, as well as 

the name of one of his well-known Twitter foes, Jeff Bezos, who has been 

trying, reportedly, to be a part of the solutions, he skipped the usual 

petty reactions we have seen in almost every other setting about the press 

and beyond. 


We`re actually going to show some of that later in the broadcast because 

it`s so relevant. 


Rick Berke and Katty Kay, I want to thank both of you.


Doctor, stay with me. We`re going to bring you back for something else 

special this hour. 


Coming up, Donald Trump also telling governors maybe they need to get 

respirators on their own. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is here, an 

interesting chance to get a different local perspective, later in the hour. 


I also have tonight a live interview coming up with a volunteer who just 

received the very first test of a potential coronavirus vaccine. That is 

definitely important news we want to get into.


We`re also going to speak about the race for treatments with a scientist 

leading this effort who has been working with this virus every day for 



And we will hear from one of the experts who helped saved the economy after 

the financial crash about what should be done now and the sense of 

perspective we all need. 


I`m Ari Melber. And you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC. 




MELBER:  Welcome back. 


Different countries around the world are obviously tackling coronavirus in 

different ways. But in the United States, federal authorities say, as of 

tonight, there are no plans for a nationwide quarantine. 


We heard that from federal officials Sunday, and the president reiterating 

it today, a federal quarantine not on the table. 




QUESTION:  Are you considering instituting a nationwide lockdown, a 

nationwide quarantine? The NSC knocked that down, but there`s still some 

questions about how it all came to be. 


TRUMP:  At this point not nationwide, but – well, there are some – you 

know, some places in our nation that are not very affected at all. But we 

may – we may look at certain areas, certain – certain hot spots, as they 

call them. 




MELBER:  That`s the public position of the federal government. 


But – and this is important – I want you to know, if you looked on 

Twitter, and certain parts of the Internet over this weekend, you would 

have seen the opposite of the fact we just reported, because there were all 

kinds of vague rumors and tweets about a lockdown. 


This is a reminder to treat unsourced information very carefully right now. 

And there are new reports that foreign governments may have been pushing 

the online talk of a federal U.S. lockdown to both scare and divide 



Now, having said that, you should also know, at today`s press conference, 

we saw a president – we were discussing this before the break – a 

president who struggled with his response to this crisis, at one point 

disclaiming any responsibility, and last week still poking, stoking and 

trying to poke at rivals with all sorts of petty fights. 


Well, we did see an attempt at a different tone today, the president saying 

uncharacteristically measured things about the media, about the owner of 

“The Washington Post,” who has personally locked horns with the president 

before, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. 




TRUMP:  I think a lot of the media actually has been very fair. I think 

people are pulling together on this. I really think the media has been very 



QUESTION:  We heard that Jeff Bezos has been in contact with the White 

House daily. Can you say what he`s been asking for or proposing to do? 


TRUMP:  Well, I`ve heard that`s true. I don`t know that for a fact. But I 

know that some of my people have, as I understand it, been dealing with 

them or with him. 




MELBER:  As we look at the government response, we`re joined by Rhode 

Island Governor Gina Raimondo, who shut all bars and restaurants in Rhode 

Island. That begins tomorrow. There are reportedly 21 cases or more in the 



And the former chair of the Republican Party, Michael Steele. 


Good day to both of you. Appreciate you making time. 




MELBER:  Governor – good to see you. 


And I`m on a slight tape delay, I will tell you and viewers – slight sound 



Governor, what you heard from the president, does it sound constructive to 

you? And does it sound like a shift? And how does it relate to what you`re 

doing locally? 




So thank you for having me. 


What we`re doing locally is really taking action. Here in Rhode Island, we 

have tried to stay out in front of this. We were one of the first states to 

deploy our National Guard to help us do some of the testing. 


I would say, at this point, the federal government is trying to catch up. 

We had a call today with the president and the vice president, all of the 

governors. I appreciated the call. I appreciated that they are listening to 



But, right now, states are leading, and the federal government needs to 

continue to speed up the urgency with which they are acting. We are 

particularly concerned – every governor I know who`s dealing with this is 

particularly concerned with access to the personal protective equipment.


Our front-line workers, doctors and nurses, we need to get them the masks 

and the gloves that they need to protect themselves. So it is a good shift 

in tone by the president. I think it`s late and coming. And the White House 

and our federal government needs to pick up the pace and catch up to where 

many of the governors are.


MELBER:  Michael?


STEELE:  Yes, I agree with that. 


I think the governor`s hit it right on the head. Governor Hogan and the 

state – from the state of Maryland, who`s head of the National Governors 

Association, has been coordinating with the governor and others around the 

country on that very front line.


Because the federal response was so slow, the fact that the federal 

government, the CDC, specifically turned down WHO, World Health 

Organization, test kits back in January, we`re now a little bit behind the 

eight ball. And you`re trying to do a mass production of testing kits to 

get into the hands of the governor and the states around the country makes 

this a very, very difficult challenge. 


But to their great credit, these governors have been on the front line. 

They are closest to the people, as you know, Ari, and they have a better 

sense of how these crises tend to form themselves and what they need to do. 


I remember, as a lieutenant governor of Maryland, dealing with certain 

issues in our state at the time, working with the governor, massing not 

just medical personnel, but your National Guard, if necessary, and 



And even the school system, as we see here, they`re front-line elected 

officials. They`re on that wall, so to speak, and have been handling this 

and actually sort of giving the government, the federal government, 

pointers on what they need and what they need them to do next in order to 

stay ahead of this thing. 


MELBER:  Michael, what did you think of the tone that Donald Trump struck 



Was it different enough to matter? Or is this the soft bigotry of low 



STEELE:  Well, I think it`s a little bit of both. 


I think that there were points where the president still doesn`t want to 

take, accept – accept responsibility for the slow response of his 

administration, looking backwards again, blaming, wanting to blame others 

for that. 


But the governor – and as we here in Maryland know with Governor Hogan, 

you have got to look beyond that. And so you take that glimmer of positive 

tone, sort of, OK, I get it. I understand what`s going on now. And we`re 

going to mass the resources that you need to get ahead of this thing as 

quickly as possible, taking the necessary steps, looking to the governor.


Some states are a little bit more severe with their quarantines, others not 

so much, depending on the nature of the virus there. And that gives them 

the flexibility to make those choices. 


So, when the president says to sort of quell this Internet rumor of a 

national lockdown, that would hamper governors at this point. And so good 

that he recognizes and he wants to let the governors decide right now 

what`s the best course of action to take in their states.


MELBER:  Governor, I saw you nodding.


I also want to read you briefly from a story that got a lot of attention 

here from “The New York Times”: Trump to governors, find your own 

respirators – quote – “Respirators, ventilators, all the equipment, `Try 

getting it yourselves.`”


Your response?


RAIMONDO:  We are doing that. We have been doing that for weeks. It`s time 

for the federal government to step up. 


I agree with Michael that the tone matters, and I was pleased to hear a 

different tone today. We need action. We don`t need a better tone. We need 

action. We need ventilators to be made available to us. We need 

manufacturers to increase manufacturing of the personal protective 



We need the federal government to massively step up the speed with which 

they are coordinating and getting – getting these supplies to governors.


Also, I would say, back to the difference between tone and action, the 

economic impact of the virus and its spread is enormous. 


MELBER:  Yes. 


RAIMONDO:  I was very proud Rhode Island was one of the first states to 

make unemployment insurance available. Today, I closed bars and 

restaurants. Unemployment is going to go up. 


That`s – we know that as a fact. So, what I would say to the president is, 

don`t wait. You know that now. Let`s get working, put another package 

together to start thinking about a stimulus which is big enough to make a 

difference. Don`t wait. Act.


That`s what governors are doing. And that`s what the White House needs to 



MELBER:  Right. 


And that`s why, all of a sudden, everything is – quote, unquote – on the 

table, Senate Democrats pushing new policies today to go to exactly what 

you`re talking about, robust unemployment insurance, emergency child care 

for families that are obviously going to be affected, and this hitting 

working-class families and people without health care even harder than 

everyone else, although it`s a shared challenge. 


Governor Raimondo and Michael Steele, thanks to both of you. 


STEELE:  Yes. 


RAIMONDO:  Thank you. 


STEELE:  You got it.


MELBER:  We are covering this story from a lot of different angles. 


And, next, we turn to something special, the first person to receive a test 

of an experimental coronavirus vaccine. She actually got this shot today. 


She joins us on MSNBC when we`re back in 30 seconds. 




MELBER:  Today, the United States has tested its very first coronavirus 



It went to a volunteer that you see right here, 43-year-old Jennifer 

Haller, who is from Seattle. That`s one of the hardest-hit areas for this 

virus in the nation, Washington state, with over 840 cases. 


It`s a fast-moving story. And she joins us right now, the very first 

coronavirus vaccine volunteer, Jennifer Haller. And back with us for a 

medical perspective, Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at UCLA. 


Jennifer, thank you for what you`re doing. Obviously, this fits into a lot 

of the different ways people are participating and trying to help around 

the nation. 


And thank you for being willing to talk with us. 



here. And I am so excited to be the first person. This is crazy. 




MELBER:  Yes, right? Crazy is one word for it. I think it`s got to have a 

lot of different feelings for you.


Very straightforward, I`d love for you to just tell us, as they say, in 

your own words, how did this come about? And walk us through what happened 





Just a couple of weeks ago, there was a call for volunteers. And I filled 

out a form and got a call back, and went through the phone screen, past 

that, went in person for a physical exam, blood draw. Everything looked 

good there.


And here we are. I went in this morning at 8:00 a.m. and got the first 

dose. There it is. I am – we feel – all of us, I know we feel so 

helpless. Like, what can we do? And I am so excited that there was actually 

something that I could do. And I did it and I`m doing it.


And I`m so proud of myself and so thankful for the privilege that I have 

that allows me to do this. I`m healthy. I have a full-time job, salaried 

job. My company is flexible. They allow me to take time off to do this. I 

have supportive friends and family. 


My real concern is for the people that have hourly jobs that – lives are 

going to be severely impacted coming up soon.


MELBER:  Based on what you`re learning what you`re participating in, where 

does this process go from here? 


HALLER:  I do a daily log, temperature and any side effects that I`m 

feeling. I keep track of those. I, of course, call in if I have any issues, 

do a phone call tomorrow, phone call the next day.


I will do weekly follow-ups, and then I will get a second dose of the 

vaccine in, I think, about four weeks. And then I will be followed through 

about 14 months through the study. 


MELBER:  And did the folks involved in this tell you about any potential 

risks? Obviously, this is, to put it simply, hopefully a good thing. And 

you`re participating in it, but you can imagine some people at home 

wondering, oh, my gosh, everyone`s nervous about all sorts of things right 



How were you walked through the risks? How do you see that? 


HALLER:  Sure.


Yes, a really important thing to understand that`s really helped a lot of 

friends and family who were concerned is that this – this vaccine uses 

messenger RNA. So, it does not use any of the virus. So, at no point during 

the study will I be exposed to the virus. 


So that`s awesome. You know, regular potential side effects from a vaccine, 

totally up for those. And then, of course, there`s the absolute unknown, 

right? This one has never been tested in a human. And I`m up for it. I`m 



MELBER:  And if they do have a breakthrough here, would you be really 

excited to be a part of demonstrating that?


I mean, there`s so much of this story that`s been so hard on people. It 

would seem this would be an opportunity, potentially – I don`t want to get 

ahead of, obviously, the test run – but would you be excited if it works 



HALLER:  Well, I mean, of course, yes. I mean, the chance that I could have 

something to do with helping save lives is huge. 


And if this isn`t the right vaccine or whatever, I mean, at least I`m part 

of this – the process. We`re part of figuring this out and getting closer 

to something to help everybody. 


MELBER:  Yes, fantastic. 


Stay with me. 


As mentioned, we`re getting this very newsworthy perspective from you, as 

Americans and people around the country and the world are wondering about 

the race for a cure or a vaccine. 


As mentioned, I have Dr. Rimoin here. 


What do you think it`s important that people understand about these types 

of tests?


RIMOIN:  So, in terms of the vaccine that we`re discussing right now, 

vaccines will take a while to be able to move forward and to be able to go 

through all the safety testing. 


There are a lot of regulatory aspects here. And what this woman is doing 

right now, which is really wonderful, is participating in a vaccine trial. 


In terms of tests, there are several tests that are coming online. And the 

more that we can get screening going rapidly disseminated everywhere, the 

better we are, and the more that we will understand what we have in this 

country in terms of burden of infection that will help dictate where policy 



MELBER:  And, again, following up to you, everyone wants to know about 



How quickly do you think we could learn about whether a given vaccine or a 

given experimental cure could be workable and then distributed? 


RIMOIN:  It really – there are several steps, regulatory steps, that have 

to happen. And this is to protect people, to make sure that there are no 

side effects, that the safety data is really straight, is very good. 


And once we have those data, then it can move forward into the next step. 

But there are always several regulatory steps that protect everyone, so 

that when a vaccine is available to the public, it will – we will know 

that it works well.


And we still do believe that this will take place a year so to be able to 

be available to the public. So, right now, all of the measures that we`re 

talking about, we can`t be putting our hopes into a vaccine. We need to be 

putting our energy into social distancing, to making sure that hospitals 

are not overloaded, and that everybody does their part to be able to slow 

the spread of this virus. 


MELBER:  Really great points about the difference between a panacea, hoping 

for this to all just be worked out, vs. all the things we have been 

covering that people still have to do. 


Jennifer, final question. What do your friends and family say? What are you 

telling them? 


HALLER:  Some are wary about it. 


But, no, it is amazing the outpouring of support and love that I have 

received from friends and family. And I have had messages from strangers on 

Facebook thanking me. And it`s so – I`m just so thankful that I get to be 

part of this. 


MELBER:  Fantastic.


I think it`s great, what you`re doing. I appreciate you not only doing it, 

but taking time to share something that is – for some people, would 

obviously be private or difficult. You`re clearly a person that`s willing 

to jump in and also be a part of sharing what could be the search for some 

scientific breakthroughs here. 


Jennifer Haller, thank you. 


HALLER:  Sure.


MELBER:  Anne Rimoin, stay with us, as you`re part of our coverage. 


Coming up, we will talk to a scientist that some are calling a coronavirus 

hunter, a world-renowned expert whose team is racing for a cure. 


That`s next. 




MELBER:  Welcome back to our special coverage. 


We have been looking at several different aspects of the ongoing health 

crisis in the United States. And now we turn to another part.


We just heard, in a newsworthy way, from the very first person to ever test 

a vaccine for coronavirus, Jennifer Haller in Washington state.


Now we look at this search for an outright cure. One of the nation`s 

preeminent research labs is at the University of North Carolina. And they 

have a team of scientists who are protected head to toe by body suits with 

battery-powered respirators. 


They work in a windowless, air-locked laboratory in a secret location. And 

they are searching, quite simply, for the cure. That is according to some 

Bloomberg reporting.


And joining us now via Skype is one of the people leading that lab and who 

some have dubbed a – quote – “coronavirus hunter” of sorts, Professor 

Ralph Baric. And back with us, epidemiologist Anne Rimoin. The two, of 

course, know each other. 


Ralph, what are you guys up to? And, as everyone wants to know, are you any 

closer to a cure? 



to be here on your show, Ari. And a special shout-out to Jennifer for her 

courageous efforts and leadership in taking the vaccine. 




MELBER:  Shout-out to Jennifer. 


BARIC:  Yes. Yes. 


Our group has been studying coronaviruses for about 35 years. And we have 

been focused on identifying small molecule inhibitors for the last five 

years that block coronavirus replication and pathogenesis.


One of those drugs, remdesivir, is currently in clinical trials. We 

developed it in collaboration with Gilead Scientific, as well as 

researchers at Vanderbilt University.


And a second drug called NHC we have also been studying that works well 

against all emerging coronaviruses, including SARS2. That was done in 

collaboration with groups at Emory University, and is moving through the 

FDA process right now. 




MELBER:  So, when you walk us through that – and we`re on a little bit of 

a delay from Skype, but, if it`s all right, I`m going to ask you a follow-



When you just walk us through your opening there, to put it in plain 

English, this is a big area of research that`s been going on for years. And 

people are waking up more to your work now because of this public health 

crisis? Is that right? 


BARIC:  We have been working on developing these two particular drugs for 

over five years.


Remdesivir, we began collaborations with Gilead, really designed to develop 

drugs against new emerging pathogens. And we focused on coronaviruses, 

particularly not only the emerging coronaviruses, like SARS coronavirus, 

MERS coronavirus, and SARS2, but also contemporary human coronaviruses. 


And this drug works against all of them. And so it`s quite impressive, at 

least in vitro, in animals, and now it`s in human testing. 


MELBER:  And when you look at what this takes, is there basically full 

support for everything you`re doing? We mentioned some of the reporting 

just about, obviously, the safety measures and the funding and all that?


Or is there more that the U.S. or other governments could do to help and 

expedite your work? 


BARIC:  Well, we have been well-funded by the National Institute of Health 

for about six years now, working on this particular problem. 


We have also been engaged in some of the early vaccine work with the NIH 

and the NIH Vaccine Research Center, developing and testing, not only the 

RNA-based vaccines, but also the recombinant protein-based vaccines. 


And part of that is because we developed the first animal models for many 

of these emerging coronaviruses. And so we were well-positioned to 

contribute to global efforts. 


MELBER:  I want to give Anne a chance to weigh in as well. 


RIMOIN:  Well, I think that what Ralph Baric is saying, who is one of the 

leaders in coronavirus research here in the world, is key. 


His lab has been funded to be able to do this work. And it`s so important 

to have NIH and other funding to be able to do this kind of science, so 

that, when there is an emergency, that this can ramp up quickly and keep 

moving forward. 


In general, funding has not been robust for science in general in the past 

several years, and so we`re seeing the results of that. We`re just very 

lucky that Dr. Baric has had so much ability to – so much funding and so 

much work on this for so long that he can move as quickly as he can. 


I have known him for a while. And I am very, very glad to see that he is 

front and center getting this work done.


MELBER:  Well, and you mentioned the federal funding from NIH, both of you 

educating us all about how this works. 


And it`s a really important reminder for the public, as we think about the 

tradeoffs, when we think about public health funding, new bills heading to 

Congress. If you have break glass in case of emergency, you need the fire 

extinguisher to already be in there. You don`t want to break glass, and 

then have an IOU note that, in six months, someone`s going to fund the 

production of fire extinguishers.


And with science, what we`re learning from all of you speaks to that and 

the runway you need. So we`re learning a lot as we go. We appreciate it, 

Ralph and Anne.


My thanks to both of you. 


We have to fit in a break. 


But, up next, we turn to another part of this crisis that is affecting so 

many Americans, the worst day in the markets since `87. 


We have a very special guest, one of the architects of Barack Obama`s plan 

to rebound the economy, when we come back.




MELBER:  Today, the markets continued to crash, this continuing response to 

the coronavirus that puts U.S. stocks not only in bear territory, but 

soaking talk of a full-blown recession. 


That`s something President Trump even acknowledged today in his press 



And here are a few financial facts for you. The Dow is down 13 percent. 

That`s the worst day since the Black Monday market crash in `87, a record 

that was previously held by crashes last week. We are now back to the worst 

in decades.


Now, during this crisis, the market has now been halted for trading three 

different times, including again today. The markets in general are reeling, 

but certain industries and workers are suffering more, like employees and 

companies in the hospitality and travel sector.


Top airlines have been cutting capacity by 50 to 75 percent. Today, the 

airline industry is already talking about seeking a $50 billion bailout. 


Some analysts projecting the hit there could be worse than after 9/11, when 

travel, of course, plummeted. The hospitality industry taking the blow, as 

some of the largest cities in America are pushing to close bars and 

restaurants outright until further notice. 


Tonight, Speaker Pelosi pushing a third relief package. That was right 

after this weekend`s emergency response package. 


Now, as America both unites and rallies and looks for responses here, we 

are treating this, clearly, as the economic emergency that it is. But 

notice some are pressing for even bigger ideas and larger questions about 

what the priorities are. 


For example, is this a time to spend more, so that every single American 

has health coverage in the first place? That`s a point that Joe Biden and 

Bernie Sanders were discussing at the debate last night. 


And while President Trump has already suspended interest on student loan 

debt during this crisis, others are advocating this as a time to put some 

of the billions that are apparently up for grabs towards student debt 

relief outright. 


Or do you remember the once longshot idea from progressive presidential 

candidate Andrew Yang, $1,000 cash payments for every American?


Well, in the midst of this public health crisis, right now, Republican 

Senator Mitt Romney is pushing a similar plan that would try to help people 

with cash payments during this outbreak. 


I`m joined now by Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council 

in the Clinton and Obama administration. He also worked on crafting the 

Obama stimulus. 


Great to have someone like you, who not only is an expert on the facts, but 

has been in the rooms when the hard decisions have to be made. 


And so let`s begin with the hardest question. 


Is this really a time to go right to the symptomatic issues or bailing out 

airlines, when, as some are advocating, maybe the real long-term solution, 

now that there`s billions on the table in Congress, would be to do the 

bigger things, do universal health care?



I think this is going to be a process where you`re going to find over and 

over again that the answer is going to be all of the above. 


We have never seen this kind of economic pullback. When there`s a recession 

normally, several percent lose their job. Another percent lose some hours 

in wages. Others fear they could be next. But large chunks of Americans go 

on with daily life, continue to spend.


There has never been a moment in our lives or even our parents` lives, 

perhaps, where everybody is pulling back, where you`re seeing this kind of 

dramatic pullback.


MELBER:  Yes. 




SPERLING:  And I think that`s going to require a response that`s 



MELBER:  Everything you said sounds right, but it sounds a little vaguely 



I`m pressing you on the very specific question, which is…




MELBER:  … if you – if you`re a young person, say you`re under 30, and 

you don`t have health care, and you have punishing student debt, and you`re 

being asked to now fund through tax dollars a bailout of the airline 

industry that you don`t ride that often, why is that a superior economic 

stimulus to pausing travel and dealing with some of those underlying 

insecurities in the market? 


Or is that the wrong way to frame the question? 


SPERLING:  Well, I mean, your – I agree with you completely.


Things that people like myself are pushing – and I think you will see from 

progressive and Democrats – are the type of payment that goes not just to 

workers, but to unpaid caregivers, seniors, to everyone. 


But I think you also have to know that that`s not going to be enough. 

You`re going to have to go to where the harm is. And I think that`s going 

to mean a moratorium on all evictions, not just for renters and homeowners, 

but for small businesses. 


They`re going to need to know they don`t have to make that payment to get 

through. I think we`re going to need a dramatic expansion of unemployment 

insurance, not the more narrowly tailored, but anybody who`s losing a job 

or hours now, gig workers, people in the gig economy, are going to need 



And I think we`re going to have to – going to your interview with the 

governor, we have got to give major money and resources to the governors 

and mayors, who are on the front lines, who are being told to get the 

ventilators and the respirators themselves.


MELBER:  Yes. 


SPERLING:  We are going to have to deal with funding people through these 





SPERLING:  So, I absolutely agree, the number one focus is on people.


MELBER:  Just because you`re a newsworthy guest, I also want to get Gene 

Sperling on the Senate Democrats` proposal to waive all current federal 

loan interest, mortgage, student debt, et cetera?


That`s in the new Schumer bill. Is that a good idea? 


SPERLING:  I haven`t seen the details. But, as I said, I`m for more, not 



And I think you`re going to have to have moratoriums on many types of 

payments. And then you`re going to have to think about whether you can 

actually give people the relief, not just the forbearance, but the relief. 


We got to – we`re going to have to help a lot of people to get through. We 

should target it as well as possible. But I also think this is – maybe is 

the time where you want to give some general relief, not just to workers, 

but to everybody to help them get through and hopefully fund some money. 


MELBER:  Yes. 


SPERLING:  I wouldn`t do it for people who are well-off, but for the people 

making $100,000 and under…


MELBER:  Copy.


SPERLING:  … people struggling, yes, they need relief. 


We need to help them, small businesses, people lacking health care, people 

needing free coverage, people with their housing, all of that, all of the 



MELBER:  Yes. 


Gene Sperling, as they say in “Hamilton,” you have been in the room where 

it happened. 




MELBER:  We had your expertise last week. We have it tonight. 


And with this economic uncertainty, I hope you will come back on THE BEAT. 


I`m going to fit in a break, and we will be right back. 




MELBER:  Some more things we want to show you tonight.


The singer Gloria Gaynor showing handwashing techniques with a song for 

these times that is now being shared online by young and old alike. 








MELBER:  That has gone viral, as they say.


It`s a lighthearted, but also effective way to share the news. We need 

clear and memorable methods to follow all these precautions. 


Many different people are getting in on the act. Take the rap group Wu-Tang 

Clan using the letters in their name online to spell out all the ways you 

can protect your neck from the virus, starting, of course, with washing 



Now, music and lyrics, they really always are about what matters most to 

people. So it`s not really surprising that we`re seeing artists speaking to 

what is clearly on so many people`s minds right now. 


Also, actress – I should say actor Idris Elba offered these new words 

after sharing that he tested positive for this virus. 




IDRIS ELBA, ACTOR:  This morning, I got some test results back for 

coronavirus, and it came back positive, yes. And it sucks. 


Now`s the time for solidarity. Now`s the time for thinking about each 

other. There are so many peoples whose lives have been affected, from those 

who have lost people that they love, to people that don`t even have it, and 

lost their livelihoods. 




MELBER:  We wanted to share some of those reactions around the world with 



Meanwhile, if you didn`t catch all of the debate last night in the United 

States, two major candidates who are left in this race for the nomination 

just battling back and forth.


Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders avoided the handshakes that are customary. 

They got into many topics and – this is important amidst everything else -

- a key promise from Joe Biden. 




JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If I`m elected president, my 

Cabinet, my administration will look like the country.


And I commit that I will, in fact, appoint a – I will pick a woman to be 

vice president. 


There are a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow. I 

would pick a woman to be my vice president. 




MELBER:  That is the farthest Joe Biden has ever gone pledging diversity in 

gender on the ticket if he`s the nominee. It`s a big story at a time where 

there are many big stories. 


As always, thanks for watching THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER. I will be back 

here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.


And keep it locked on MSNBC. 






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