Italy’s death toll TRANSCRIPT: 3/19/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Ron Klain, Edward Markey, Katie Porter



CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: That’s all we have for tonight. There is a lot 

more. And we know you have a lot more questions. 


So, guess what? We’re going to start with THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER right 

now. He hopefully will answer some of those questions. 


Ari, it’s all yours. 


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We will try. Thank you very much, Chuck.


I am Ari Melber.


As we begin our broadcast tonight, the coronavirus outbreak is crossing a 

grim milestone across the United States. Now, tonight, we have context for 

you on the new numbers. We have these reports on the government’s new 

warning to Americans. 


And, later tonight, we have something positive and constructive, our report 

on what you can do now, tonight, to protect yourself and your family. So we 

have a lot to get to on THE BEAT. 


We begin with the facts. United States has passed the 10,000 mark for cases 

across the nation, and now, at this hour, it is officially at 11,000 

confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide, with 170 deaths. 


That skyrocketed in the last 24 hours, a sign that both the problem is 

growing – you can see the spike right there – but this is also, make no 

mistake, a sign that the system is kicking in. These numbers are rising 

faster partly because more tests are available, and more people are getting 



And we’re also tracking the impact in several other ways tonight. Schools 

in 38 states remain closed. That reshapes, of course, daily life, family 

obligations in literally most of the country. 


And while after days of market crashes and slumping, today, the Dow is up. 

It’s trading slightly higher. And the numbers that we’re tracking in the 

United States also reflect the stage that our country is in dealing with 



We cannot and we will not try to predict what come next. And one of the 

reasons that it’s so unpredictable is that it depends on what millions of 

people do, how people act, how people follow or ignore the guidance and 

rules that we’re getting from the experts. 


But we do know how other countries are faring, and many of them are in what 

look to be later stages of this than what the U.S. is going through right 



Take Italy, where 3,400 deaths now mean that country’s hit surpasses 

China’s death toll, where, of course, this outbreak first began. 


Also new tonight, what the U.S. government is advising you not to do. The 

federal government now has, of course, already restricted incoming travel 

from, say, China or Europe. You certainly heard about all of that, and 

those are mandatory rules at our borders. 


But, tonight, we’re reporting on something brand-new, a new step that is 

voluntary, but stark, the United States State Department formally telling 

Americans, do not leave the country. Do not go abroad, and advising 

Americans who are abroad to either come home or shelter in place there. 


Now, this is formally referred to as a level four travel advisory from the 

State Department that is the highest level. 


Now, this virus carries the greatest risk of death for the elderly. We have 

been reporting on that. We have heard that from the medical experts. But 

that is why there is also such an emphasis on shielding them from being 

basically put at risk by younger people or carriers. 


So we know that. But, tonight, as we go through these facts for you, I have 

another fact, which doesn’t mean there is no risk or harm for young people, 

because while that guidance stands, protect and stay away from the elderly, 

if you can, particularly if you’re younger, here is some news tonight. 


The Centers for Disease Control has released new data which shows 38 

percent of the people hospitalized with this virus were under 55. 


Meanwhile, in a different update, the virus is reaching Congress. Two 

members today confirming they have it. And while their colleagues, of 

course, continue to work on this relief legislation, unemployment reports 

are also spiking. 


Now, Trump officials are pressing forward on this plan that’s been 

discussed to try to pay Americans directly with basically $500 billion of 

U.S. Treasury funds, but cutting checks may ultimately be the easier 

challenge for the government amidst these new reports of increasing 

failures by the feds. 


The CDC had been advising state officials that they had – quote – “more 

than adequate testing capacity” in February, a claim that has obviously 

been proven, sadly, tragically, false. 


Now, the shortages for basic supplies go on in what is the richest country 

on Earth. And this has moved something we also want to show you tonight.


Some of the brave people on the U.S. front lines of public service, nurses 

and doctors, are deploying social media to strike this new alarm, basically 

explaining what it’s like to fight the coronavirus without enough face 

masks, and posting pictures about that. 


Keep this story in mind as you hear the president’s new response. 




QUESTION: You’re getting a lot of calls on Capitol Hill from the Democratic 

leadership to pull the trigger on it. Why – why – what’s the rationale 

for not doing that? 



supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this 



The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts 

of items and then shipping. You know, we’re not a shipping clerk. The 

governors are supposed to be – as with testing, the governors are supposed 

– are supposed to be doing it. 


We’ll help out, and we’ll help out wherever we can. 




MELBER: In a few moments in tonight’s broadcast, we will be joined by a 

member of Congress who has been pushing for answers on these issues. 


But we begin right now with Ron Klain. You may recognize him, because he 

has been everywhere providing his insights, given the unique experience of 

leading the Obama White House’s Ebola response. He is also a former chief 

of staff, we should mention, to Vice President Biden. 


We’re also joined by an MSNBC medical contributor, Dr. Lipi Roy, a clinical 

professor at NYU Langone. 


Thank you to both of you for joining us. 


Ron, walk us through your view of what the new numbers mean, what the 

government is doing, and the defense we just heard there. 




So, look, the numbers mean, as you said, Ari, that partly this disease is 

progressing, partly we’re testing more, but we’re still behind on almost 

every single front. Three weeks ago, President Trump said there would be a 

million tests by the end of that week, then 1.4 million by the end of two 

weeks ago, then millions by the end of last week. 


We’re probably still only in the hundreds of thousands of tests. What we 

see on your board is a fraction of the reality. Hospitals are starting to 

see that inflow of patients that we all predicted a few weeks ago would 

start to come around now, as emergency rooms and ICUs struggle to meet that 



Our doctors and nurses are going to start to get sick from the disease. And 

so capacity will go down as load goes up. And we have the spectacle, as you 

mentioned, here in the richest nation on Earth of doctors and nurses having 

to go to work without the basic protective gear, not even the lack of the 

N95 masks, which would really keep them safe, but not even surgical masks. 


The CDC said today that doctors and nurses should put bandanas on to treat 

patients, bandanas. We are in a mess here. The administration dropped the 

ball here. And the president saying it’s up to the governors to do it. 

That’s not right. That’s not the kind of leadership we should have. 


MELBER: Dr. Roy? 


DR. LIPI ROY, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: So all that data that you just 

showed, Ari, reinforces a key point. 


We are in a public health and medical crisis. We need multiple sectors all 

acting simultaneously in parallel, from prevention, hard-core prevention, 

diagnostic strategies, including vaccines, which, again, won’t be short-

term. That will be long term, as well as treatments. 


But – and the last, but most important right now, we need resources, not 

only supplies, ICUs, ventilators, but the most scarcest resource of all, 

which is people. 


I have been talking to my colleagues all over the country, from pulmonary 

critical care doctors, like my colleague Dr. Divya Bappanad, who is a 

community – who is a doctor in a Washington state community hospital, and 

she’s telling me that, in a typical week, they use about 8,000 pieces of 

PPE, personal protective equipment, like gloves, masks, gowns. 


Just this week alone, they have used over 24,000. That’s a three-fold 

increase in this small community hospital, 200-bed hospital. That’s just 

one example. 


We need to really ramp up supplies and health care workers, doctors, 

nurses, respiratory technicians. These are the interest highly specialized 

people who operate ventilators. I mean, all across the board, we need to 

ramp up on all of these levels. 


MELBER: Ron, why aren’t more hospitals more prepared? 


KLAIN: Well, so it’s the job of the federal government, agency of the 

Health and Human Services Department, the assistant secretary for 

preparedness and readiness, to make sure we have stockpiled the supplies 

that we need, and that they’re being routed to the most important place. 


The worst thing with what the president is saying, every state should do 

this for itself, isn’t that no state will get anything. It’s that some 

states will get things, even if they don’t need them, and other states 

won’t get them even if they do. 


During the Ebola response, we had a whole team at the White House and HHS 

working on supply chain management, getting the kind of PPE that’s being 

discussed to the places where it’s needed most critically. 


And for the president just to throw up his hands and say, I guess someone 

else should sort this out, we’re not shipping clerks, no, Mr. President, 

you’re not a shipping clerk. You’re the president of the United States. You 

have the federal government at your disposal. 


Get these supplies where they need to treat these patients safely, because 

what’s going to happen here, Ari, is that more and more doctors and nurses 

will get sick. And that’s obviously very sad for these heroes, but also 

means that people coming in to the hospitals to get treated for other 

things won’t get treated.


Labor and delivery nurses will get sick. Babies can’t get delivered. Cardio 

care doctors and nurses will get sick. People won’t get treated with heart 



So this is a crisis. As the doctor said, it’s not just about the virus, but 

about our whole health care system. 


MELBER: All really important points about that aspect. 


Dr. Lipi, while I have you, I want to read something from Bloomberg News 

about Italy, where, as I mentioned, they’re obviously in a later stage of 

this. And it says, basically, 99 percent of those who actually died from 

the virus had other illnesses, according to Italian officials. 


More than 75 percent had high blood pressure, 35 percent diabetes, a third 

heart disease. 


What does it mean for us to understand that aspect of the death toll? 


ROY: Yes, so, that’s a really key piece of information. 


We already know, even before this particular viral epidemic, that 

individuals who are chronically ill, who carry other chronic illness, heart 

disease, diabetes, lung disease, they’re more vulnerable to other 

illnesses, particularly infections, as well as older patients. 


This resonates with me not only as a doctor who has cared for patients in 

the hospital with all of these illnesses, but also, if I remove my doctor 

hat and tell you, as a daughter of a father who is over 80 years old and 

who has chronic illnesses, and who has also suffered from three ICU-level 

hospitalizations over the past year-and-a-half, this is personal for me, as 

it is with so many other people. 


This is really serious. We need to really act, not just react. You know, as 

to what Mr. Klain just said, we need a coordinated response, an 

unprecedented, coordinated response from the federal level to guide, 

because, right now, what is happening, local hospitals and public health 

departments are making these decisions about visitor policies, PPEs. 


And these are decisions that should be guided, in fact instructed, top-

down. That’s what we need. 


MELBER: Right. 


Dr. Roy, I want to thank you very much. I know you’re going to be quite 

busy here as an analyst for MSNBC in these times. So, thanks for being part 

of the broadcast. 


Ron Klain, stay with me. I’m going come back to you in a moment. 


But turning now, as promised, to California Congresswoman Katie Porter. 


She has been pushing the Trump administration on this very crisis and 

pushing Congress to allow remote voting, an issue that obviously will come 

up. I want to get into that.


But let’s begin by highlighting an exchange that some people may not have 

seen that was before some of the more drastic measures had been taken now 

by the Trump administration. 


Here you are discussing some of the issues with the CDC director about 





REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Will you commit to invoking your existing 

authority under 42 CFR 71.30 to provide for coronavirus testing for every 

American, regardless of insurance coverage?


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: What I was trying to say is that CDC is 

working with HHS now to see how we operationalize that. 


PORTER: Dr. Redfield, I hope that answer weighs heavily on you. You need to 

make a commitment to the American people, so they come in to get tested. 


You can operationalize the payment structure tomorrow.


REDFIELD: I think you’re an excellent questioner. So, my answer is yes.


PORTER: Excellent. Everybody in America, hear that. You are eligible to go 

get tested for coronavirus, and have that covered, regardless of insurance. 




MELBER: As mentioned, you were pressing this before it had gotten a fully 

serious embrace by the Trump administration. 


What was important to you about that then, and what do you think needs to 

be done now? 


PORTER: What we have seen is, this administration has been too slow to act. 


They haven’t used the existing tools that they have in their tool kit. And 

so that exchange, which was more than a week ago now, was really designed 

to say, look, there is plenty of authority here. People have contemplated 



They have contemplated health emergencies. And you in the CDC and in the 

Trump administration aren’t using the tools that you have. 


And so we’re continuing to see that. We heard the president say the other 

day that he is going to use the Defense Production Act, which can be used 

to order different companies to produce personal protective equipment or 



But is he doing it? So, there are these tools available to the federal 



MELBER: Right. 


PORTER: But we’re having trouble with an administration not making use of 



MELBER: You mentioned these tools. 


And what we just showed was your use of the oversight authority, which is 

what your constituents elected you to use, to get questions under oath. 


Another thing that we’re seeing evolve is an administration that has a 

well-known disregard for the give and take with journalists. And I try not 

to say that as a journalist asking for access, but at a more systemic 

level, they discontinued the White House press briefing, as you know and I 

as think many of our viewers know, for years. 


Well, now it’s back. And I think we’re seeing that, in some ways, some of 

the journalists, including many who are competitors, they don’t work for 

us, are using that to show the public the answers that they’re getting and 

not getting. 


And so, with that in mind, I wanted to get your view of this important 

moment, today, a journalist specifically asking about the mask shortage. 

And take a look at how the president responded. 




QUESTION: The CDC has put out guidelines for hospitals that are dealing 

with a shortage of masks to use them beyond their shelf life, reuse them 

instead some getting new ones, and in a worst-case scenario, use a bandana 

instead of a mask. How is that acceptable at all? 


TRUMP: Well, I haven’t seen that, but I will let Mike answer that question. 

Vice President? 





I just – I can’t emphasize enough the incredible progress that was made 

with the passage of the legislation. We’re seeing a dramatic increase in 





MELBER: What is your view of the president literally stepping aside – 

quote – “let Mike answer”?


And what is your view of what the government should do about the underlying 

mask shortage? 


PORTER: Well, first, the president is refusing to take responsibility. We 

have seen that for a long time now. 


And then, when he does turn it over to the vice president, he doesn’t have 

any truthful answers for the American people either. 


There are widespread mask shortages. I was on the phone today with a local 

hospital. It’s extremely short. My sister and brother-in-law are emergency 

medicine physicians in another state. They’re down to single-digit numbers 

of both the highly protective N95 masks, but also of the everyday surgical 

masks that are used. 


So, we simply have to keep pressing the Trump administration for answers. 

And one of the reasons I feel so strongly about Congress adopting remote 

voting and remote hearing capacity is so that we can continue to press the 

administration for answers. 


That hearing was the first exchange we got free testing. 




MELBER: Let’s get into that, as promised, and I’m going bring back into the 

conversation Ron Klain, who, as we mentioned, full disclosure, was a top 

aide to Vice President Biden, who, of course, is right now in the delegate 



But I want to get both of your views on this, because we are in a time when 

everyone at the local, state and federal level is trying to figure out what 

the trade-offs are. And these aren’t easy answers, right? 


But some states literally delayed, rescheduled entire presidential 

primaries over this. And one can understand the public health concern. And 

that’s a short-term emergency response. 


First to you, Congresswoman, and then I’m curious Ron’s view at the 

intersection of all these issues. 


We mentioned your public health work in the past. 


What is the right solution? What are you working on, Congresswoman, here 

for the potential general election? 


PORTER: Well, I think there’s two separate issues that we’re talking about 



One is whether Congress as a body ought to be able to remote votely (sic). 

I think that’s incredibly important. If I fall ill, if I need to self-

quarantine – and my colleagues have already fallen ill and they are going 

to keep getting sick.


We need to make sure that Congress can continue to function, can continue 

to pass bills, can continue to deliver relief to the American people. 


So, Congress is asking businesses, nonprofits, schools, government 

officials to do things they haven’t done before, to adopt new technology, 

to permit remote voting – use technology, permit remote telework – excuse 

me – and, most of all, to put public health first. 


Congress should be no exception.


MELBER: But you do that – just to be clear, on the congressional side, 

you’re arguing for that for how long? 


PORTER: Until the CDC and the public health authorities determine that it’s 

safe for us to be able to gather together in the traditional manner. 


MELBER: So that’s striking. 


And I think to a lot of people, you think how much the world has evolved. 

Congress, of course, still has that in-person voting in the well, and what 

you’re describing as a temporary measure for public health reasons. 


More broadly then to Ron, what is your view of what should happen in the 

general election? Because there is talk about we have a localized system, 

but does that really cut it if we’re getting closer to November and some 

states allow vote by mail and many don’t? 


KLAIN: So, first, I want to pick up something Congresswoman Porter said, 

which is, it’s also important for Congress to be able to hold remote 



People just watched her win a right for the American people for free 

testing by virtue of using her power, her unique power, conducting 



And if what happens is, Congress shuts down and doesn’t hold hearings, 

we’re going lose the ability of her and her colleagues to put that pressure 

on the administration. 


I testified before Congress twice about this already. I was supposed to 

testify two more times. Those hearings have been canceled. We need Congress 

on the job. 


Now, Ari, to your question about voting, every American should be able to 

vote by mail. It should just be that simple. People should be able to vote 

by mail. They should be able to vote by mail postage-free. That’s not a 

partisan position. Why shouldn’t everyone in this country want that right? 


We don’t know what’s going to happen with this disease in November. I think 

the best guess is it will abate a bit late summer or early summer, but it 

may come back in the fall. Why have that be at risk? 


And voting by mail works. We just saw, Ari, last week in Florida where they 

held the election. In-person turnout was down. But more people voted in 

Florida in 2020 than in 2016, even with an epidemic, because they were able 

to vote by mail. And that should be a right of every single American. 


MELBER: Great point.


Well, you just nailed it on that data point. And both of you talking about 

the way that we can persevere, both as a government and as a citizenry, 

even with the understandable public health risks. 


Congresswoman Porter and Ron Klain, thanks to both of you. 


KLAIN: Thank you. 


MELBER: We’re going fit in our first break of the hour. 


But when we come back, we have my special report on how handwashing can 

save lives, including the science and history behind it, some important 

details you may not know. 


And, later, officials cracking down on price-gouging, hoarding, from 

basements all the way to We have the great Neal Katyal with us. 


And reports that doctors and nurses are forced to reuse their masks, 

something we have been discussing, well, we have more on that later in the 

hour, as Donald Trump suggests maybe cruise ships could house coronavirus 



Stay with us. I’m Ari Melber. You’re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC. 




MELBER: We’re back with an update. 


When we started this hour, we reported for you the number of coronavirus 

cases in the U.S. was at roughly 11,500. Well, since we have come on the 

air, we have a new update. It is now formally up to 13,000. This came in 

just the last few minutes, a sign of, yes, the problem, but also, as we 

have stressed, the fact that the testing lag is being addressed, more 

Americans getting tested. 


We also want to turn to something else that shows the system trying to deal 

with all of this, plans for a bailout, an economic passage that lawmakers 

in both parties are working on as we speak, a trillion plan which could 

include those direct payments to Americans that many have been discussing, 

plus billions for businesses. It comes as jobless claims are skyrocketing, 

literally straining unemployment offices in states around the country. 


The package follows a multimillion-dollar bill that the president just 

signed last night. That provided something else I’m sure you have heard 

about that we have been reporting on and what people need, the paid sick 

leave and massive new programs to support free testing. 


Today, the president floating another idea, trying to use cruise ships to 

treat sick patients. 




TRUMP: I spoke with Micky Arison of Carnival Cruise Lines, and he’s going 

to make ships available. 


So in addition to the big medical ships that you have coming, if we should 

need ships with lots of rooms, they’ll be docked at New York and Los 

Angeles and San Francisco, different places. 




MELBER: I’m joined now by U.S. Senator Ed Markey, Democrat from 



There are roughly 300-plus confirmed cases there. 


And we should mention, as we were just discussing this with other guests 

and the way government can keep working, you just held a virtual town hall 

discussing this and other issues with your constituents. 


Thanks for being here tonight. 


SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D-MA): Thank you. Thanks for your focus on this issue. 


MELBER: Of course. 


So what is important in this next phase? People could understandably lose 

track of the different bills, The Congress moving faster than usual to get 

stuff going, I think that’s generally good. What’s in the new bill you’re 

trying to hammer out tonight? 


MARKEY: Well, again, we just received the legislation from the Republicans. 

And now the Democrats have to examine what the president and what Mitch 

McConnell have agreed to and begin to negotiate. 


But I will tell you this. At the top of the list is, we’re going to make 

sure that workers and families are first, that we protect them, that as we 

help the largest industries, we also make sure that workers and families 

get everything they need. 


There is an enormous amount of stress across our country. We have to make 

sure they get the help they need from the health care system, that they 

have the unemployment insurance, that they get enough from the federal 

government in terms of direct payments, so that it’s adequate to deal with 

the crisis that we’re facing right now. That’s going to be our principal 



We also have to make sure that we keep our health care system going. It’s 

under massive stress right now. 


MELBER: Clearly. 


MARKEY: They won’t be able to have the traditional revenues which are 

coming into the system. And many of them could go bankrupt within two or 

three weeks, all across the country. 


The smaller community hospitals could be out of business, unless we help 

them with the resources from the federal government. And they’re going to 

be the ones on the front lines. 


So I guess what I would say is, we need a massive economic mobilization in 

our country right now, and we need a massive manufacturing mobilization in 

our country as well, so that we are producing the kinds of equipment, which 

is going to be needed across our country with health care worker, first 

responders, home health care workers, so they’re protected, so that they 

don’t go down as part of the response they’re providing for ordinary 

American families. 


MELBER: Part of the messaging we have heard from the White House recently 

has hit the medical expertise and the guidance limiting social distance, 

taking this seriously. 


But, by definition, it’s had to undercut what the president was claiming as 

recently as a few weeks ago. 


I spoke with Republican Governor Larry Hogan on this program. Take a listen 

to that brief exchange now. 




MELBER: Did the president and other leaders make a mistake by saying as 

recently as two to three weeks ago that everyone needs to – quote – 

“relax,” that this would basically go away by itself seasonally? 


GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Well, yes, there is no question that was a 



We declared a state of emergency like 15, 16 days ago. We have had press 

conferences every day. But nobody was really taking it seriously. 




MELBER: Are people taking it more seriously now? And what is your view of 

the course correction by the president? Has he gone far enough? 


MARKEY: No, he hasn’t gone far enough at all. 


He has invoked the Defense Production Act, which I called upon him to do 

five days ago. But he is saying he is not going to use its powers. We need 

him to mobilize our manufacturing capacity, so that we produce the masks, 

we produce the ventilators, we produce the beds, we produce all of the 

equipment we are going to need. 


You’re reporting a doubling of the cases from yesterday, and it’s going to 

continue to exponentially increase. We know it’s going to happen. The 

president, the White House, they’re not shipping clerks. They’re the 

leaders. They have to organize the entire country and provide the resources 

to the country. 


No individual governor has that capacity. We might need to produce the 

equipment in one state that’s going to be needed in another state. Only the 

president can do that. 


So, today, once again he is trying to shunt off the blame and the 

responsibility to the governors. It’s in the White House. He has to do it. 

He has responded late, but he still has the capacity to mobilize the 

country, but he refuses to invoke all the powers which he has.


We need 3.5 billion masks, 3.5 billion, not tens of millions. That’s 

according to our own federal government. That’s according to a study his 

own government did, his own agencies did last year, reflecting a 2015 study 

as to the number of protective masks which were needed. 


We know what the needs are. The president just has to step up and to 

command our country. We will respond. The corporations will respond. The 

American people will respond. We just can’t wait any longer for the 

president to respond. 


MELBER: All strong words, and understandably at this crucial time. 


Senator Ed Markey, thank you for joining me. 


Right now on THE BEAT, we have the shortest break in our whole hour. It’s 

30 seconds. 


And when we come back, my special report with good news about what you can 

do, when we’re back in 30. 




MELBER: The coronavirus outbreak has sparked many responses for containment 

and prevention, the U.S. already committing over $100 billion, with more 



But some of the most important measures you can take are simple and cheap, 

like washing your hands to prevent getting or spreading the virus in the 

first place. That’s the top recommendation from the CDC. And, lately, we 

have been hearing about it a lot. 




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wash your hands. That is the best thing that you can 



TRUMP: Stay away from people and wash your hands. 


PENCE: A really good recommendation is to wash your hands often. 


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: Wash your hands frequently. 



Soap and water, vigorously washing your hands for 20 seconds is what the 

American public needs to do. 



touched anything, you go and wash your hands again, 20 seconds, with soap. 


ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC HOST: Stay calm and wash your hands. 




MELBER: It’s a step that just about everyone agrees on across the world, as 

we have also seen in some international public service ads that have gone 









MELBER: Wash your hands. 


Others are joining in with homemade announcements. In Australia, you see 

someone did skywriting with that same message. 


So what do we know about this simple and crucial step? First, you need soap 

and time. The best thing is to wash for 20 to 30 seconds, removing over 99 

percent of bacteria. 


In the first 15 seconds, you knock out about 90 percent of it. But many 

people simply do not wash long enough to remove the bacteria. And that 

means, as well, especially men, who do statistically worse on hygiene than 

woman, according to studies. 


Now, second, you need that time because most soap does not actually kill 

germs. It works actually by mechanically removing them from your hands. As 

a Harvard Medical School guide explains, the soap surrounds and removes the 

germs and viruses that would otherwise stick to you, soap molecules acting 

like crowbars to wedge the bacteria off of our skin, and then, thankfully, 

render viruses useless. 


Now, a third thing about handwashing, we have actually had this technology 

for a while. It dates back all the way to the 1840s, when a Hungarian 

doctor discovered the basic act of doctors washing their hands lowered the 

death rate of women during childbirth. That’s an important thing that 

reminds us where we’re coming from. 


Now, fourth, washing works best to combat the specific times that you would 

contact germs. So, to be clear, this is not like brushing your teeth 

automatically twice a day. It’s more like using a napkin when you eat. You 

need to wash ever time you have likely contact with germs. 


Typically, that’s after the bathroom or before preparing food and eating, 

of course, and always whenever you might have contact with someone else. 


But that brings us to again why understanding what we’re doing is so 

important. This is not a typical time. Because of this virus, most contact 

with any people or any public surfaces will be a reason for you to wash, as 

this pandemic spreads, because, at times, it’s spreading by people who, of 

course, don’t even know they have it, which means you wouldn’t know they 

have it. 


Now, if people who have heard of this since, well, being children, right, 

and we have heard it for years straight, why are we even still talking 

about it? Why are these public service ads and these press conference and 

these reminders? 


Well, for the answer to that, consider something that we all see several 

times a day, those signs in bathrooms that tell employees to wash their 

hands. I’m sure you know the ones. They tell employees, simply, wash your 

hands before returning to work. 


There are ones nudging people by suggesting washing hands can even, you see 

here, make you cuter. In fact, see if we can bring these into full, make 

these as big as possible, this one, if we have – yes, “whatever” – this 

one has two categories, maybe like a centaur and a mermaid. 


But it says: “Whatever. Just wash your hands.”


Another iconic bathroom sign pays tribute to local culture: “Texas 

coronavirus prevention. Wash your hands like you just got done slicing 

jalapenos for a batch of nachos, and you need to take your contacts out,” 

which is very Texas and very memorable. 


Or take this one from an L.A. restaurant, which insists that both decency 

and state law require you to wash your hands. 


And guess what? That is true. Federal rules really do require not only that 

food establishments provide sinks for their staff. That’s just the action 

part, right? But also that they literally post those signs that tell 

employees to wash their hands. It’s an FDA rule. 


So, just like we have all been getting these seemingly obvious reminders to 

wash our hands to combat the virus, food workers get that reminder daily, 

along with any customers who use the same bathrooms. 


So why am I telling you this on the news tonight? Well, here’s what’s 

really interesting. Whether this sounds obvious or not, these reminders, 

these signs, they work. This is where medical science meets psychology. 


About 40 percent of Americans say signs do make them more likely to wash. 

And when researchers monitor bathrooms with and without signs, boom, they 

found just the posting of a sign led to an almost 10 percent increase in 



Now, nationwide that means these signs can increase handwashing by the 

millions, which can save lives during a pandemic. 


And that’s not all. Research also showing 70 percent of people wash more 

thoroughly when they hear that it’s flu season, and coronavirus is 

something like the flu on super steroids. 


So, as simple as handwashing sounds, the research shows this isn’t 

something to just take for granted. We actually know that, when handwashing 

is more on autopilot, statistically, a lot of people don’t do it enough or 

don’t do it long enough to make it effective against viruses. 


But the good news is, when handwashing is promoted and touted and nudged in 

bathrooms, when it is mentioned and explained and prompted in our everyday 

life, when it even becomes, yes, part of our daily culture, the actual 

handwashing increases. 


So, as you see people mixing in some hijinks in these, yes, serious times, 

remember, even lighthearted reminders, they are effective. They are a 

serious public service. 





song that is informational that you can sing while you’re washing your 



(singing): There are so many things that can kill you. 


Rock it, yes!


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: A good employee always scrubs his hands thoroughly. Be 

sure to get under those fingernails, and don’t forget about the knuckles. 






MELBER: To get everyone washing their hands right now thoroughly, we need 

all the reminders we can get, really, the more memorable, the better. 


This is a time to get as germophobic as possible. As the rapper Big Sean 

once put it, I can’t dap you without hand sand. I don’t know where your 

dirty hands been. 


He has a point, because America, this is no time to be riding dirty. 




MELBER: We’re back with Dr. Natalie Azar, an MSNBC medical contributor from 

NYU Langone Medical Center. 


Thanks for joining us. 


For viewers who have been watching just this hour, for example, the numbers 

we have on the screen, they see it jumping from 11,000-plus to over 13,000. 

How should we medically understand what looks like this rapid surge? 



twofold. I think that we’re seeing widespread transmission, and we’re 

seeing increased testing. I think that’s the combination. And this slope is 

going to continue in an upwards trajectory for the next few weeks. 


MELBER: And that means that we are getting a handle on it or that it may be 

going up regardless of all the measures being taken? 


AZAR: Well, I think the expectation is that the numbers are going to go up 

for the next few weeks.


And the whole point – I know we’re getting tired of the redundancy of 

saying flatten the curve. We’re just trying to make the numbers go up a 

little more slowly. We’re not trying to make the numbers – or, I should 

say, we’re really not able to not make the numbers go up, but we want to 

see a slow rise, rather than a sharp peak. 


MELBER: Doctor, I don’t find it redundant. Anything that you’re teaching us 

that is constructive and reminds people what we’re trying as a society to 

do, I think, is great. 


Let me play for you a nurse we heard from who had contracted coronavirus, 

but was initially denied a test, only learned that later. And this is one 

of those many stories that seem to reveal the holes in the system. This was 

on THE BEAT. Take a look. 




LISA MERCK, RECOVERING FROM COVID-19: On the 2nd of March, I called the 

CDC, and I called our local public health department and just told them 

about all of the travel that we had. I told them what my symptoms were, 

that I had a fever, but – and no cough or anything like that. 


But they said that I didn’t meet the criteria for any type of testing. 


I think we can test more people. We can get the tests out rapid – much 





MELBER: How long are we going to see these testing gaps sideline health 

care workers, or is there any way to know? 


AZAR: Well, health care workers and the general population. Both groups are 

going to have some difficulty, it seems. 


You know, I have patients who obviously are in the tri-state area, and I 

also have patients who have been reaching out to me who have moved to other 

parts of the country who are, you know, deemed to be at moderate risk for 

this disease and haven’t been able to get tested. 


You know, for health care workers, I think that we’re setting up something 

separate within my own institution, in addition to the capability that we 

have now. I think we have three locations in Manhattan, Long Island and 

Brooklyn annexed of the emergency room. The testing is still restricted. 

You can’t just walk off the street and get tested. 


You do need a physician’s order. But, hopefully, the capacity will 

increase. As I understand it, for health care workers who have been 

exposed, I’m hoping that testing will be facilitated, but there is no 



MELBER: Dr. Natalie Azar, thank you.




MELBER: Sorry. Go ahead. Finish. 


AZAR: No, no, I said there is no guarantee. It’s not like we’re going jump 

in front of the line. 


But I know that the workers at the front of the line of this battle, you 

know, I – it’s going to be hard on them, the ones who are in the emergency 



MELBER: Sure. Understood. 


Dr. Natalie Azar, as always, thank you very much. We will be coming back to 



We’re going fit in a quick break. When we come back, the reports of price-

gouging you may have heard about around the country. This is a whole 

different side of the story, and it may prey on desperate people. 


Well, we have someone very special, Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor 

general under President Obama, to separate fact from fiction and tell you 

the law, when we come back. 




MELBER: There are shelves in supermarkets that have been raided in parts of 

America, some, of course, empty, others trying to take advantage of this 



We are hearing concerns about price-gouging, people making money off a 

pandemic that obviously is a risk for so many people. 


A Tennessee man actually bought up 18,000 bottles of sanitizer and started 

selling them, hundreds, for between $8 and $70 each, a massive markup. 

Amazon shut him down. 


And, after blowback, we want to be clear, he did come out and apologize.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If by my actions, any of – anyone was directly impacted 

and unable to get sanitizer from one of their local stores because I 

purchased it all, I’m truly sorry for that. 




MELBER: I’m joined by former acting Solicitor General in the Obama 

administration Neal Katyal, an MSNBC analyst, Skyping in, as it were.


Thank you for joining us. 


When we look at these situations, people wonder, why are some things 

allowed and others not? Why do long-term pharmaceutical company research 

projects seem to be able to increase prices a lot on things people say they 

need, but, in other ways, it’s limited? Walk us through it. 


NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC ANALYST: Yes, Ari, there’s both state and federal laws 

that say, at least for emergencies, you can’t as a retailer kind of gouge 



And they basically fall into two kind of categories. There are laws like 

New York and Alabama that say you can’t just an unconscionable price for 

something during an emergency. 


And then there are laws in places like California and Arkansas and other 

places that say, when the governor declares a national emergency, you can’t 

charge more than 10 percent. 


These are, Ari, emergency-specific laws, so they’re not like the examples 

you were talking about earlier about pharmaceuticals and drugs and so on, 

which are done in the ordinary course of business. 


The law recognizes that, in unprecedented emergency situations, ordinary 

business rules don’t apply. You can’t have that guy hoarding 18,000 bottles 

of sanitizer or selling them, or the Lysol that sold for $220. 


All of that is flatly illegal under state law. And then there’s federal 

law. The Federal Trade Commission can regulate this as well. And, indeed, 

the House Democrats have asked the Federal Trade Commission to do exactly 



MELBER: Well, you explain it so clearly, Neal. 


We had a lot of conversations on our newscast about how much life is 

changing fast, and everyone is figuring that out. This is a reminder of how 

state and federal laws in our system also adjust to these emergencies.


The things that normally would be considered even good business acumen, up 

to a line, are just not allowed, capitalism giving way to a crisis, if you 



And you explain it in a way that makes it sound like a good thing that some 

of these rules exist. 


I wanted to turn to something else you know a lot about, the president 

saying he will use the Defense Production Act, then wavering. We heard 

members of Congress on this very show criticize that today. 


And, briefly, I’m going to play someone who also served in the Obama 

administration, Jeh Johnson, about this today, take a listen. 





when they announced that they were going to be invoking it, the president 

probably heard from his friends in private industry to say, please hold off 

on this.




MELBER: Walk us through what we know about this law, and what, if any, view 

you have about the president making a big deal out of using it and then 

potentially faltering?


KATYAL: Yes, so the Defense Production Act has been around since 1950. 


And it’s an example, Ari, of exactly what you were talking about, that 

there’s an existing suite of laws that gives the government massive powers 

in an emergency. And this is kind of the numero uno one. This allows the 

president to say to factories, hey, we’re going – you’re going to 

prioritize our contracts and we’re going to make contracts for you making 

ventilators or masks or hospital gowns or whatever, and they have got to do 



And I think former Secretary Johnson is exactly right that there’s probably 

some industry pushback on that, because, of course, industry doesn’t want 

the federal government telling them what to do. 


But this is exactly what the Defense Production Act was meant for, an 

emergency like this in which ordinary business rules don’t apply. The 

president has said, well, you know, we can just wait to invoke it whenever 

we need, as if it’s like “Harry Potter,” and you can just wave your wand 

and create ventilators and masks and things like that. 


All that kind of production takes time. That’s sophisticated equipment, 

particularly for ventilators. And so it requires really the president to 

act right now, invoke the act. This is a president who, you know, has not 

been shy about using his executive power in all sorts of areas. 


He’s got to use it now to protect every American. 


MELBER: Right. 


KATYAL: And, you know, he’s got the tools to do it. Right?


We’re reading about a ventilator shortage right now that’s about to come. 

And he’s got to start now. The time to actually start was yesterday. He’s 

been dithering on it for a while, but now, now, now. 


MELBER: Now, now, now, that couldn’t be clearer on this important issue and 

where the law can support the emergency efforts. 


Neal Katyal, thank you, as always. 


I want to remind folks, particularly if you’re not a regular viewer, that 

you can actually catch this and other segments with Neal on, a lot of important stuff about coronavirus, the 

law and the rest.


We will be right back. 




MELBER: That does it for us. 


Keep it right here on MSNBC.






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