Virus surges TRANSCRIPT: 3/20/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

E.J. Dionne, Kirsten Gillibrand, Francis X. Suarez, Eddie Griffin, Cornelia Griggs, Amesh Adalja, Sarah Kliff




Good evening, Ari. 


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much. 


And thanks to you at home for joining us tonight. 


We have new reporting on this coronavirus pandemic to inform decisions you 

make for safety. 


And we begin tonight, as we have all week, with the facts and the latest 

numbers to try to cut through any rhetoric, any potential panic out there, 

to focus on what we know at this hour. 


There are more than 16,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United 

States and 211 total fatalities, cases soaring upward right now, partially 

from the way this infection spreads, but also the number reflecting some of 

the progress has been made, that there are now more tests available in the 

United States than there were even a few days ago. 


Meanwhile, around the world, authorities reporting all kinds of new 

information, over 4,000 people now formally dead, according to Italy. 

Congress working to backstop the economy here in United States, the markets 

falling again today, the Dow down here over 4 percent. You see that.


This is now the worst week in the American economy since the 2008 crash. 

Also, schools in 38 states remain closed, and more closures, we hear from 

authorities, will be coming. 


Now, these numbers tell basically the daily story, because the nation can 

count certain things, like reported cases or stock prices, several times a 

day. As this pandemic grinds on, other measurements will come into us over 

time. And we will share them with you.


We will get indicators that are showing the nature of the impact. It will 

help inform whether the precautions that you, that everyone is trying to 

supposedly take, whether they`re working, And that there may even, in the 

other numbers we get, be clues to how long all of this could last. 


And that`s a question any family, any business, anybody, really, wants to 

know in order to plan out choices. So, for the economic impact, for 

example, tonight, we are now seeing some brand-new indicators that go 

beyond the daily stock jitters. 


There is a larger spike in unemployment numbers. Experts projecting over 

two million people filed for unemployment just this week. And week by week, 

we will get information on how this is rocking our economy. 


Today, the Treasury Department announcing that the usual April Tax Day will 

be delayed three months out until July 15. That is a lifeline for many 



Congressional leaders are also moving on a third relief package that could 

be passed in the next few days. And President Trump announcing both U.S. 

borders will be closed to almost all travel. That begins Saturday night. 


We`re also seeing states continue to dial up their rules and precautions. A 

week that began with many voluntary impartial bans is now ending tonight 

with some of the largest states and cities in America restricting flat out 

people from leaving the home. This is basically a stay-at-home order, for 

example, from today`s – we heard from today in Illinois, the governor 

there saying to everyone you have to stay at home.


Or take New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. They have been coordinating 

their responses, and they`re preparing to issue very similar rules, 

sometimes slightly different language or tone. But the bottom line from 

these governors is, they are telling everyone in their states, stay home, 

unless your safety or your job really requires leaving. 


Meanwhile, in California, the governor has gone farther than most in 

demanding that people stay home, period, and also warning that he expects 

more than half of California`s 40 million residents will eventually get 

infected in some manner, while L.A.`s mayor telling people that the example 

that we have all seen from other countries suggests this is the new normal 

for two months or more. 




MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA):  The order was for a month, and my expectation 

is it could be at least twice as long as that. 


You look in China, it was a two-month stay-at-home order. And that`s the 

only way to flatten that curve. 




MELBER:  Now, that may be unwelcome news for many, many people. But this is 

how many mayors and governors are leveling with their constituents in real 

time, stressing this is not the time for sugarcoating, let alone any kind 

of misinformation. 


People need the facts, so they can plan their lives accordingly. And the 

government needs accountability for any shortcomings, any facts that are 

learned, so those can be fixed. 


All of this is a contrast to how the president addressed documented 

shortcomings today, flat-out denying the reality of the shortage, for 

example, in testing that has hampered the U.S. response thus far. 




QUESTION:  There are Americans though who say that they have symptoms and 

they can`t get tests. 




QUESTION:  What do you say to the Americans who are scared that they have 

symptoms and can`t get a test? 


TRUMP:  Yes. Well, OK. I`m not – I`m not hearing it. 




MELBER: “I`m not hearing it.”


Well, the public and the experts are hearing it. In fact, we want to show 

you, moments later, Dr. Anthony Fauci fact-checking Trump, saying this 

shortage is a reality. 


And that is the larger point tonight. We`re not here to get into blame, let 

alone politics, but this is a time for everyone, from the top down, to get 

real about the facts, because what people do locally, at the state level, 

as a nation, what we do with the facts we have can literally save lives. 


But everything we do ultimately depends on what we know. 


I want to turn to our experts now in that spirit. 


I`m joined by E.J. Dionne, an author and columnist in “The Washington 

Post,” Sarah Kliff, an investigation health care reporter for “The New York 

Times,” and Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for 

Health Security. 


Hello to everyone, and thanks to those of you working from home.


Doctor, what do you think is the most important thing for people to 

understand about the numbers that we have, the rising rate in the U.S., and 

how we`re dealing with the reported shortages? 



to see more cases being diagnosed all over the country, more hospitals 

reporting cases in their ICUs, more reports of issues with personal 

protective equipment shortages. 


This isn`t going to go away any time soon. Hospitals are going to be 

stressed, and we need to get resources to them. That`s the most important 

thing to do. 


This is going to be rough for the next several months, and I think it`s 

going to be very hard to balance some of the social distancing with what 

the needs are for a society to function. And I think that`s something that 

needs to be considered as well. 


MELBER:  Understood. 


Sarah, take a listen as well from today`s briefing the president talking 

about this use of military powers in the Defense Production Act. 




TRUMP:  We`re using the act. The act is very good for things like this. We 

have millions of masks that we`ve ordered. They will be here soon. We`re 

having them shipped directly to states. 


We need certain equipment that the states are unable to get by themselves. 

So we`re invoking it to use the powers of the federal government to help 

the states get things that they need, like the masks, like the ventilators. 




MELBER:  What`s important there, Sarah? 


SARAH KLIFF, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  So I think there really is a case where 

a lot of states, a lot of hospitals, they are struggling with materials. 


The thing I have been focused on in my reporting lately is ventilators, 

which we really expect to come into short supply after what we have seen 

what is happening in Italy. 


And one of the things that`s been very hard, there has been this 

discussion, could we use the manufacturing lines of other industry? It`s 

kind of hard to take a manufacturing industry that typically makes cars, 

turn that over to ventilators.


One ventilator manufacture I spoke with, their machine has 1,750 parts. 

These are not easy machines to build. And I think one of the other 

challenges you`re going to see, building more ventilators, creating more 

masks, this requires factories really ramping up their production in a 

moment when we`re telling people to stay apart. 


So those workers on the factory line, they need protective equipment too. 

They need more janitorial services. It`s a really challenging moment to – 

even with the government`s help, to ramp this up. 


And the ventilator makers I have talked to, they say they just don`t see a 

ton of government coordination at this point. They feel like they`re trying 

to do this on their own. They`re getting a lot of orders from hospitals and 

they`re just not able to keep up at this point. 


MELBER:  E.J., NBC`s Lester Holt was speaking to several governors about 

what they`re facing. Take a look. 




LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR:  What percentage of the tests that you need do you 

actually have on hand? 


Governor Pritzker, I will start with you. 


GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL):  About 1 percent. 


GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): I`d hate to put a percentage on it, Lester, but 

it`s not nearly enough. I don`t think any state in the country has nearly 



GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI):  We`re all in the same boat on this one, 





MELBER:  That`s a snapshot. Obviously, E.J., it reflects the data we have 



And we showed the president today flatly in denial about that, although I 

guess, to the credit of the Trump administration, other experts, unmuzzled, 

have said as much. How important is it that everyone has those facts 

without panic, so that the government can go about fixing it? 


E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  You know, I was watching 

the president and keeping an eye on the market today, which lost 900-plus 



And once again, the president was out there, and the more he talked, the 

more rapidly the market collapsed. And I think part of that is the sense 

that, no matter what is being talked about, no matter how honest the 

genuine experts like Dr. Fauci try to be, Trump cannot stop himself from 

trying to pretend that certain problems aren`t there. 


And so I think he ends up heightening insecurities and real alarm in the 



If we had had adequate testing, the way they had, for example, in South 

Korea, we might not have had to put our society through what we are putting 

our society through now. And there is a kind of refusal to take 

responsibility, where he keeps saying, it`s really up to the governors. 


Well, God bless the governors. A lot of them are doing good work. But we 

have a federal government for a reason. This is a national problem, and we 

expect it to give a hand, to give us all a hand when we confront a problem 

like this. 


And it just hasn`t been there, and they dismantled so many parts of the 

government that were designed to deal with crises like this. 


MELBER:  Well, E.J., you lay it out there. And you`re really referring to 

two things, one, which is the unique role of the president in our system of 

government, both as being in charge of the executive branch, but also 

trying to connect with the public at times like this.


And then, B, you`re really talking what is the underlying premise of the 

communication? Is the premise to say, well, we always want good news, so 

minimizing anything negative is welcome.? That`s a kind of a P.R., reality 

show approach that the president obviously used in his campaigning. 


Or, when things are bad, is being factual and accurate and clear with the 

public about what`s bad the most important thing? And, obviously, and when 

it comes to medical crises, the answer is obviously yes. You much prefer 

your doctor giving you information accurately that you can use than giving 

you – quote – “good news” that isn`t true, or, to use the oft-mentioned 

term, fake news. 


So, E.J., with all that in mind, for your analysis, I want to play the 

other moment that got some attention today in terms of how the president is 

choosing to deal with things, and your view on it on the other side. Let`s 

all just take a look. 





Americans who are scared, though? I guess, nearly 200 dead, 14,000 who are 

sick, millions, as you witness, who are scared right now. What do you say 

to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared? 


TRUMP:  I say that you`re a terrible reporter. That`s what I say. 

Go ahead. 


ALEXANDER:  Mr. President, the units that were just declared…


TRUMP:  I think it`s a very nasty question, and I think it`s a very bad 

signal that you`re putting out to the American people. 


The American people are looking for answers and they`re looking for hope. 

And you`re doing sensationalism, and the same with NBC and Con-cast. I 

don`t call it – I don`t call it Comcast. I call it Con-cast. 


Let me just – for who you work – let me just tell you something:  That`s 

really bad reporting, and you ought to get back to reporting instead of 



Let`s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good 

about it, but who knows. I`ve been right a lot. Let`s see what happens. 




MELBER:  Well, it was quite an exchange. 


And, E.J., to be clear, the question posed was – quote – “What do you say 

to Americans who are scared?”


DIONNE:  That was a slow pitch down the middle of the plate, and the 

president threw his bat away. It was a very good question, but it was a 

question where the president could have given an answer reassuring people, 

saying, this is a big problem. We can come together. We can solve it. 


There are so many things he could say. And, instead, he was the guy trying 

to sell people on Trump University, that if anybody raises anything 

negative, any question at all, then they are atrocious. 


I mean, there were many moments in this crisis where we have said, God, 

which wish somebody else were standing there. But when I saw that answer, I 

thought he can`t even take advantage of a moment that was made for him. He 

couldn`t do it. 


MELBER:  Well put, I think. 


Doctor, looking at the risk to front-line workers, which is something we 

have covered on many days of this story, I want to play a brief moment also 

from our international reporting in Italy. Take a look. 




QUESTION:  Have any doctors or nurses that you know have contracted the 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That I know, at least 20. 




MELBER:  That`s over 20 doctors, according to that account in Italy. 


We have heard from experts about how other countries give a portrait, a 

snapshot of what we may face, depending on how we deal with it. In your 

view, what is the risk to doctors and nurses now, and are we getting any 

better handle on it? 


ADALJA:  The risk to health care workers is going to be immense. 


We know that health care workers are our front-line people that are going 

to be exposed to these patients, often in very life-threatening situations, 

where people might be dying, and you have to really take action quickly. 


We want to make sure our health care workers have the personal protective 

equipment, that they have no doubts that they`re going have personal 

protective equipment. It`s really a key thing that we need to do. 


It`s one of the most important things we can do, is make sure that our 

hospitals are fortified and able to take care of patients. I know I`m going 

to be seeing patients with this disease in the next couple of days maybe, 

and I need to make sure that I know that I`m doing this safely and I`m not 

going to expose others or expose myself and then be taken out – taken 

offline because of those exposures. 


So it`s very crucial that our health care workers are completely protected. 

It`s the number one priority. 


MELBER:  That`s on the treatment side. 


On the patient side, Sarah, another point we saw was a gender disparity 

flagged at the briefing also from the experience abroad. Take a look. 





Italy, we`re seeing another concerning trend, that the mortality in males 

seems to be twice in every age group of females. 




MELBER:  Sarah, what do you know, what do we draw from the other countries` 

experiences? How much of it is predictive for the U.S. and how much depends 

on other factors? 


KLIFF:  I think it`s really hard to tell right now. 


The gender disparity, for example, it`s something we saw in China. And when 

we first saw it, the assumption was, oh, you see a much higher rate of 

smoking among Chinese men, so that probably explains it. 


But, in Italy, you actually don`t see as much of a disparity. So I think 

one of the things that`s so hard about fighting this disease is, there`s so 

much we don`t know about it. 


There were studies that came out earlier this week, for example, that 

showed children can have a case of coronavirus and be completely 

asymptomatic. And so that could be a large cause of spread. 


So I think what is – we can learn from other countries is there are things 

we know about the virus. We`re seeing gender disparities, some age 

disparities, but also what I take away is just that things are really 

unpredictable and that you need a strong government response if you`re 

going get your hands around this thing. 


You can`t just really leave it to doctors to be scrounging for ventilators 

and masks. That really isn`t the way to keep a disease like this under 



MELBER:  Certainly. 


Well, Ms. Kliff and Dr. Adalja, I want to thank both of you. 


E.J., we have a lot of serious stuff in the hour, but by the time we come 

back to you at the end of the hour, we`re doing something a little 

different and a little fun at the end of the week with E.J. Dionne later 



Now, still to come tonight, new calls for the senator you see on your 

screen, Richard Burr, to resign over what is the first major scandal of the 

coronavirus era. We`re going to get into that with a very special guest 

right after the break.


Later, doctors and nurses desperate for supplies, something we have been 

discussing. We`re going get into that with a doctor who warns – quote – 

“The sky is falling,” but there are things the government can do. 


We also have a conversation tonight about the testing shortage and what you 

can do to stay safe. 


All that and a lot more tonight. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT 

on MSNBC. 




MELBER:  Now to an important story. 


Do you remember the first thing you did when you realized the coronavirus 

was going to really impact the U.S.? Did you call a loved one or check on 

an elderly person at higher risk or talk things through with your children? 

Or maybe go buy extra groceries, supply, sanitizer?


Or, if you work in health care, you may have known more earlier. You may 

have discussed precautions at work. 


If you serve in government, you might have been privy to earlier warnings 

and basically the preparations, which provide extra time to do anything all 

of the above. 


But you know what some U.S. senators did when they got early secret 

warnings about this virus? They allegedly swiftly moved to profit on it, to 

either save or make money in their stock portfolios. 


This story tonight right now is the first Washington scandal of the 

coronavirus era. Obviously, it didn`t take long. 


Now, here are the basics. Richard Burr, the Republican senator who leads 

the Intelligence Committee, got key coronavirus briefings way back in 

February, and then made related trades, unloading $1.7 million of stock, 

including in key industries like hotels and resorts, NPR reporting that he 

grasped the seriousness of the epidemic, discussed his concerns at a 

private luncheon, while, in public, went on to tell is different story. 


He wrote in one article the U.S. was better prepared than ever to face the 

coronavirus. Another senator, Kelly Loeffler, allegedly involved in trading 

off this type of intelligence, selling millions in stock after a private 

meeting on January 24, investing in companies that would go up in value 

from the pandemic, buying stock, for example, in a company that helps 

people work from home called Citrix, while still recently striking a very 

different note in public. 




SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA):  The good news is, the consumer is strong. The 

economy is strong. Jobs are growing. Our president has done a fantastic 





MELBER:  Now, there are defenses to all of this. Senator Burr is insisting 

that he relied only on public information to make whatever trades he did. 

Loeffler saying any decisions for her investments are made by third-party 



But the outrage here is obviously piling up, from anti-corruption experts, 

from nonpartisan good government groups who say the law shouldn`t allow 

this in the first place, certainly from progressive critics, and criticism 

of all of this by an anchor that President Trump himself watches and tweets 

about, Tucker Carlson. 




TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS:  Now, maybe there is an honest explanation for 

what he did. If there is, he should share with it the rest of us 

immediately. Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution 

for insider trading. 




MELBER:  That`s tough talk. 


This is a very important story, not only for what may be partly legal 

corruption that is revealed, but for also the spotlight this puts on the 

priorities of people who literally write the laws that govern us right now, 

that decide how your government and your tax dollars will combat this 



It reveals where their heads are at when they get this information, and 

whether they do more, some of them, allegedly, to make money off of it, 

while saying the opposite in public, instead of looking out for you. 


And another I think I want to emphasize here tonight, the only reason we 

know about this is because of reporting and relatively recent legal 

requirements passed by, yes, the Congress. 


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, for example, pushed for this rule, and she 

argued, back when this was a debate in Congress, that – quote – 

“Politicians should play by the same rules as everyone else.”


Senator Gillibrand wrote part of the very STOCK Act in 2012 that prevents 

and discloses some of this type of information and material trading. And we 

should note Senator Burr was one of a very few senators who voted against 

it at the time. He said he was one of the brave souls to push against this 

kind of disclosure requirement. 


I`m joined now by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. 


Thank you for making time for us. 


There`s many, many important things going on in your state and around the 

country. But it would seem that what has been revealed here underscores the 

need not only for what you fought for in disclosing this, but going further 

and preventing it. 


Walk us through your view of this tonight. 


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY):  So, obviously, it raises a huge red flag. 


The purpose of the STOCK Act was so that members of Congress could not 

trade on nonpublic information that they received in the course of doing 

their job. 


Obviously, the facts surrounding the trades by these two senators are 

deeply concerning. They were privy to nonpublic information far earlier 

than the typical American constituent, and it`s concerning that they acted 

on that information and made trades that made them money. 


I think it needs to be investigated. It has to be thoroughly investigated. 

It should be investigated by the Department of Justice to see if insider 

trading in fact did take place. 


MELBER:  Can Congress simply ban any individual trading by its membership 

to get a – basically, a wider, brighter line around this? 


GILLIBRAND:  I think it should, frankly. 


I don`t think members of Congress should be buying and selling stocks, 

because, even if they`re not engaged in insider trading, so often it will 

create the appearance of impropriety. And Congress needs to improve its 

reputation, not continue to strain the belief by the American people that 

we`re doing the right thing, that we are doing what`s in the public`s best 



And, ultimately, this all comes down to greed. And that`s one of the 

biggest problems we have in Washington, just the amount of money in 

politics, along with how this place runs, and even the most recent bill 

from Mitch McConnell. It`s problematic. 


MELBER:  Because of what Senator Burr said in public, there is an extra 

spotlight on it that goes not only to the potential legal questions of, OK, 

did you go over the line, but also something that is obviously perfectly 

legal. Politicians can lie. We all know that. 


But I`m curious, just at a level of policy judgment, whether you`re 

concerned, given your work on, this about the distinction between what he 

did in private, which appeared to evince knowledge that this was bad and 

getting worse, and what he said in public. 


We have some sound from February. Take a listen. 




SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC):  There is one thing that I can tell you about 

this. It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we 

have seen in recent history. It`s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic. 




MELBER:  NPR has that from him in February. We just showed, though, what he 

and others were saying in public after that point. 


What is your view of any potential problem there? 


GILLIBRAND:  Well, obviously, when members of Congress have a personal view 

and then they have a public view, it`s not fair to the American people. 


And in this instance, if you actually profited on your private view and you 

did not disclose that to the American public, again, it`s going to 

undermine people`s faith that this government works for them. That`s why 

they`re so tired of politicians who say one thing but do the other. 


And so we need honest politicians, people who put their constituents first. 

And both of these cases raise big concerns for me. 


MELBER:  Understood. And very interesting to get your view, as I mentioned, 

having worked on it. 


While I have you, as the leader of such a big state going through so many 

challenges with this, take a listen to what your counterpart, the governor 

of New York, said today. 




GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY):  There are people and places in New York City 

where it looks like life as usual. No, this is not life as usual. And 

accept it and realize it and deal with it. 




MELBER:  Do you agree with the governor there? And what are you saying to 

constituents in New York, both a state and a city that is known for having 

a brash attitude and intermixing? And one of the most international 

metropolises in the world is New York City, and proudly so.


But what are you saying to people about what to do now? 


GILLIBRAND:  Well, what I have been hearing from my constituents is that 

they`re terrified. They`re very worried that they`re going lose their 

income, that they`re going lose their ability to put food on the table. 


Right now, we are asking workers to make a very tough choice. Either go to 

work and risk getting exposed, or stay at home with your loved one or your 

children, who are now home from school. And having to make that choice 

between earning a living and possibly exposing others or protecting your 

family is an unfair choice. 


And so what I`m working towards right now is national paid leave, so every 

worker in America can take up to three months paid leave to provide care 

for their children at home or to provide care for a loved one who is sick 

or for themselves, as well as two weeks of paid sick days. 


But the real troubling thing is this something that Mitch McConnell and the 

Republicans don`t want to do. We just had a vote to do this exact thing, 

and not one Republican voted for it. And it goes back to this issue of 

greed, Ari. 


People are far more concerned about paying back their big donors and giving 

tax cuts to large corporations than literally helping people who just want 

to provide for their families and take care of their kids. 


So I`m working very hard to meet the needs of New Yorkers, who are so 

worried, so afraid. And if you think of all the different industries, the 

critical workers. Think of the woman whose just in the grocery store, and 

she`s taking the money for the food that you`re buying. 


Imagine how she feels that she could be exposed any day from any customer. 

She is a critical worker. If she doesn`t show up to work, then no one can 

buy groceries to feed their families. So, we need protects for all these 

workers. And that is what I`m dedicated to doing hopefully in this next 



MELBER:  Understood. 


And, Senator Gillibrand, thank you so much for joining us tonight. 


GILLIBRAND:  Thank you. 


MELBER:  We`re fitting in a 30-second break.


And then we will be joined by a mayor of a U.S. city who has actually been 

diagnosed with the virus and is still working from home. 




MELBER:  The coronavirus is highly infectious, which makes it in many ways 

more challenging than other public health crises, because the people in 

charge of combating it can get it. 


We have seen this happen to doctors and nurses who have been exposed or 

contracted it, sidelining them from the very treatment they are there to 



The same risk is also hitting policy-makers, from two members of Congress 

now testing positive, to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, diagnosed with 

coronavirus last week, now self-quarantining and still trying to manage the 

city, working from home, like so many millions of Americans. 


And joining us now is the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, one of 113 people 

in Miami-Made County who have tested point of view for the virus. In 

Florida overall, there are roughly 520 cases. 


Hello to you. Walk us through, how are you feeling, how you doing, and how 

you doing your job? 


FRANCIS X. SUAREZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI, FLORIDA:  I feel great. This is the 

best that I have felt since I was diagnosed eight days ago. 


Thankfully, I have had a very mild case. I have not had fever. I have not 

had a cough. You know, obviously, not every case is like mine. There is a 

variety of different diagnoses. But I have been working from home. I have 

been working with technology, with FaceTime, with Skype, communicating with 

my government, making sure that all the residents in the city of Miami are 



MELBER:  Understood. And I`m sure a lot of people there in the community 

credit you for it. 


Take a look at some of the reporting we have seen about something that in 

normal times, I know Miami and Florida are very proud of, beach life, 

spring break, and all that good stuff. But, obviously, we`re trying to 

change as a society how people approach life. 


Take a look at some of this coverage. 




QUESTION:  Why don`t you shut down all the beaches? Because we`re seeing 

the spring breakers go into other counties that don`t have… 


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL):  Well, not under my order. So, we did an order no 

gatherings on beaches 10 or more. So, if you have a Floridian that goes, 

walks their dogs like a married couple on the beach, as long as you`re not 

within six feet of each other, they view that – and that`s a healthy 



And so I think it`s important to allow that, if the local communities want 

to do it, to be able to do it. 




MELBER:  Ron DeSantis there. 


What are you telling folks in and around Miami? We have heard from health 

experts that, of course, the goal here is not stay inside no matter what. 

There are safe ways to go outside, and plenty of people have reasons to do 

so within the rules about avoiding work and gatherings. 


But what are you saying to people about the beaches? 


SUAREZ:  Well, we did a – we were the first city to cancel a large event. 

We canceled Ultra Music Fest, which was an event that would have brought 

150,000 people from 105 different countries over the next couple of weeks. 


And so because Miami in particular, of all the counties in Florida, is one 

of the epicenters of spring break in the nation, the Miami-Dade County 

mayor decided to shut down the beaches in Miami-Dade County, something that 

I support, and I know that the mayor of Miami Beach supports as well. 


It`s obviously a dramatic measure, but it`s one that had to happen to make 

sure that the young in our immunity don`t spread to it the more vulnerable, 

the elderly, and those with immunocompromised immune systems. 


MELBER:  Understood. 


And are you avoiding contact with your friends and family right now while 

you self-quarantine? 


SUAREZ:  I have been self-quarantined future a little over a week. So, I 

have been home alone. 


I haven`t had contact with anyone. My wife has come to visit me, and , from 

afar, from outside the house, has come and said hello. I have two small 

children, a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old. I have not had any contact with 



And so the only thing people are doing is dropping off food from a 

distance, and that`s how I`m getting by. 


MELBER:  And you seem, at least through this video call, you seem of fine 

spirits. Do you find that much time alone starts to affect you? Or not 



SUAREZ:  You know, I really haven`t been alone, in the sense that I have 

been interacting with people constantly. I have been working ever since 

this happened. 


I have done a tremendous amount of interviews. I have been – I have had a 

video diary entry @FrancisSuarez Twitter, and @FrancisXSuarez Instagram, 

where every single day I chronicle this journey of being – of testing 

positive with COVID-19 to try to reduce anxieties, to try to get people to 

feel a little calmer about the possibility and the prospect that they may 

contract COVID-19. 


And I have gotten a lot of messages from people that feel grateful. 


MELBER:  Well, Mr. Mayor, if you are a politician plugging your social 

media, we know that you`re healthy, just like they do in the debates. 


And we`re happy to have you be healthy enough to do the normal political 





MELBER:  Say again? 


SUAREZ:  And I`m young. 


MELBER:  And you`re young, young and healthy, and also obviously still 

working hard at this time. 


So, Mayor, we thank you for spending time with us, and we`re glad you`re 

doing so well. 


We`re going fit in another break, and ahead speak to another doctor on the 

front lines who is actually sounding the alarm about looming equipment 



Lots more when we come back. 






BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK:  We don`t have masks. We don`t have 

ventilators. I was very blunt with the people of my city yesterday that, 

the beginning of April, we will run out of basic medical supplies because 

of the intense strain that`s being put already on our hospitals by this 



We literally will not have the things we need to save people`s lives. 




MELBER:  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sounding the alarm about these 

shortages of medical supplies. 


Meanwhile, news breaking in our hour. The White House is confirming a 

member of the vice president`s office has tested positive for coronavirus. 

The White House advising, this individual has not, they say, had close 

contact with Vice President Pence or the president.


But that is quite a piece of news. As for these equipment shortages, 

they`re a problem that have been exposed by doctors and nurses on the front 

lines who share videos, picture, and warnings about what they lack to keep 

themselves protected, essential to protecting their patients, a point we 

have heard about as the public health challenge unfolds. 




QUESTION:  How many ventilators do you have? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We only have one ventilator. 


QUESTION:  One ventilator? So you can have one patient who needs a 

ventilator. And then what do you do after that? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We transfer that patient. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We just sent over all the ventilators from our 

veterinary hospital to the Tufts Medical Center, as an example. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There is lots of unanswered questions, and we`re 

looking to our administration to get the answers. 




MELBER:  Joining the chorus of alarm, a surgeon going public with warnings 

about shortages of gloves, ventilators, writing in “The New York Times,” 

effectively, the sky is falling.


That was written by Dr. Cornelia Griggs. She is a pediatric fellow with 

Columbia University, and joins us now. 


What are you trying to get across in what you wrote in that warning, 



DR. CORNELIA GRIGGS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY:  I was trying to send a message 

nationally that shortage of PPE, or personal protective equipment, is a 

crisis for our health care workers, and it makes us feel like we`re being 

sent to Normandy with a bow and an arrow. 


MELBER:  Was it something that is widely discussed before it went public? 


It`s right on the line between getting the alarm out so people know, so it 

gets fixed, but obviously not causing too much alarm for patients who are 

going in and thinking, well, wait a minute, if you guys don`t have the 

protective materials, are they going to be at greater risk? 


GRIGGS:  We definitely don`t want to create any more alarm than there 

already is in the public. 


And everyone at the hospital and at all levels of leadership across the 

country is working tirelessly to solve the problems with PPE. But the 

problem is, there is a global shortage, and our supply chains are affected 

in a critical way. 


MELBER:  I also want to ask you, just again, given your expertise about 

this issue of just the general capacity, hospital beds.


We have seen these reports, no part of America has enough hospital beds for 

what could be the larger or outer edge of the pandemic. The U.S. basically 

has under a million total beds. That`s less than three for every thousand 



If we got to the levels that some countries have gotten, bottom line, there 

literally wouldn`t be enough beds. What do we do about that? 


GRIGGS:  Yes, based on some epidemiological models, we`re on track to face 

a critical bed shortage, not only just hospital beds, but ICU beds. 


And when we surge and we run out of beds, there is an increase in all-cause 

mortality, not just from coronavirus. And we need everybody who is at home 

listening and thinking about this problem helping us come up with creative 

solutions and thinking outside of the box to help us meet surge capacity. 


That means pop-up hospitals. That means solutions like that means the USS 

Comfort to New York City, which is under way, but may not come for weeks 

and weeks. It means finding places to set up fever clinics and testing 

centers, and rapidly. 


MELBER:  Wow. 


And, briefly, we just got this news that a member of Vice President Pence`s 

staff has tested positive for coronavirus. That`s a high-level person in 

the U.S. government, not completely unexpected, given the rates in other 

places. Your reaction to that news?


GRIGGS:  I mean, yesterday and today was the day when I started hearing 

about my colleagues across the country, health care workers, testing 



My friend, she is a surgeon in Cleveland, tested positive, and he is at 

home feeling miserable with a fever and a cough. And he can barely get out 

of bed. 


And I`m making him text me every morning just to make sure he is OK. 

Yesterday, I heard from a friend who is a surgeon in San Diego, and he was 

sent home with a fever and a cough. And they wouldn`t even offer him a 



MELBER:  Dr. Griggs, I appreciate the writing and the work you`re doing and 

sharing some of your insights with us here on THE BEAT. 


GRIGGS:  Thank you so much. Thanks for having me and amplifying our 



MELBER:  A hundred percent. Thank you. 


What we`re going to do now is fit in a break. When we come back on THE 

BEAT, we`re going to do something special we do on a lot of Fridays. We`re 

going have fun, but we`re also going to talk about the way we live now, 

what`s changing and how to keep your minds and wits about you, when we come 





MELBER:  Welcome back. 


It`s been quite a week. 


And every Friday here on THE BEAT, we try to take a step back, reflect, and 

even have some laughs, if we can. We call it “Fallback Friday,” and maybe 

we need it more than ever in this new normal of the coronavirus pandemic. 


Tonight, we are joined by Eddie Griffin, a comedian you know from 

everything from the Oscar winner “A Star Is Born” to cult classics like 

“Deuce Bigalow” and “Undercover Brother.” Hell, yes.


Griffin has a residency for shows in Las Vegas.




MELBER:  Yes, sir.


You have a – I was going say you have a residency in Las Vegas. But like 

so many performers, we should note the project is postponed as a health 



And for this conversation, we`re also joined by our friend E.J. Dionne, 

“Washington Post” columnist. He was named one of the top 25 journalists in 

Washington by “The National Journal.” He is a bestselling author, the 

latest, “Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our 



Eddie and E.J., thanks for coming together today. 




DIONNE:  Honor to be with Eddie and you. Thanks.




MELBER:  Hey. And virtually is the safest way. 


Eddie, you look good. I see you in the swivel chair. I see you working from 



GRIFFIN:  Yes. Yes. 


MELBER:  What what`s on your “Fallback” list, sir?


GRIFFIN:  Fall back – they need to fall back on the testing.


How many times have the World Health Organization offered test tools and we 

turned them down? Now we tests. We need to get some tests man. I can`t even 

test myself. 




MELBER:  You`re trying to make tests popular.


You mentioned this. We were looking at this, Secretary Azar and the Trump 

administration not only not helping get the tests out, but I mentioned 

earlier, the president kind of denying, Eddie, that it is a problem. 


GRIFFIN:  Well, the president has a problem. I don`t even call him the 

president. I call him the dude in the White House. 


There`s a nut in the White House. And, look, we have got to stop 

normalizing him by calling him president. Just call him what he is, the nut 

in the White House. 


Now, the nut in the White House is bad, he is out of his mind, and he has 

got these cronies, I mean, it is a cult. It is a cult. It is a cult. So, 

you have Mike Pence. Mike Pence – Trump has his hands so far up Mike 

Pence`s behind, you can see his fingers coming out his mouth when he talks.


You understand? I mean, that`s just bad. And then that little doctor, what 

is name, Zudru or something, you know, the little midget that look like a 

troll. He look like a troll, the doctor, head doctor troll dude, yes. 


And he just sits up there, and he lies with Trump. And then he tries to 

make up the truth. It`s just – it`s bad. It just real bad. 


MELBER:  Well, Eddie, I will say this. Sometimes, the president is 

criticized for his nicknames for people. Clearly, you have some nicknames 

for people as well. 


E.J., I want to bring you in and ask, what`s on your “Fallback” list?


DIONNE:  I`m not going to come close to anything like Eddie, although I am 

outraged – he`s right – on testing, by the way. 


I think Senator Ron Johnson really, really, really has to fall back. He 

told “The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel” getting coronavirus is not a death 

sentence for no more than 3.4 percent of the population, no more than 3.4 

percent of our population. 


That happens to be 11 million Americans, 11 million people. He went on to 

say, we don`t shut down the economy because tens of thousands of people die 

on the highways. 


I mean, Dr. Fauci reacted to this charitably when he said, that`s way out. 

I think that Senator Johnson should fall back and get either some math 

lessons – 11 million human beings is a lot of human beings – or some 

moral guidance. 


And Dr. Fauci had some for him. When he heard about what he had said, he 

said, I don`t think, with any moral conscience, you could say why don`t we 

just let it rip and happen and let X-percent of people die?


If Johnson had wanted to make the point that we might not have to disrupt 

the economy like this if we hadn`t botched the testing, that`s a fair 

point. But I think he should just listen to Dr. Fauci on what he actually 



MELBER:  Yes, I hear you. 


I heard Dr. Fauci on that today. 


And, E.J., this is something that we are struggling with as we think of the 

any normal here at the end of the new normal. On the one hand, there are 

ways that people can try to keep perspective, and yet these comparisons 

don`t work well if they`re seen, especially by our leaders, as minimizing, 

rather than giving people, E.J., something to focus on to do. 


DIONNE:  Right. 


Well, I mean, a lot of people are worried about how much disruption there 

is in the economy. That`s why they`re talking about some kind of stimulus 

package. But that`s very different from saying that, well, it doesn`t 

matter if 3.4 percent of the population dies. 


MELBER:  Right. Right. 


DIONNE:  I mean, that just is a conversation stopper, not a conversation 



MELBER:  Eddie, how are you keeping – how do you keep the laughs going 

when it is a serious time? 


GRIFFIN:  Well, it`s easy. 


I mean, laughter is contagious, you know, just like coronavirus. Laughter 

is contagious. So, you know, if you got the virus, you know, just tune in 

on TV, and catch one of my stand-up specials, laugh, because it creates 

endorphins in the cheek to promote health. 


So, every little bit helps, you know what I mean? So, I just say get your 

laugh on, you know what I mean, if you can.


MELBER:  Yes. 


Well, and if you are laughing, and you can laugh at yourself, maybe you`re 

healthy. And trying to stay healthy as possible, we try to set aside time 

to take in the big picture. 


I appreciate everyone along for the ride and the laughs.


E.J. Dionne, Eddie Griffin, thanks to you. 


By the way, again, the book is “Code Red,” if you want to check it out. And 

Eddie`s comedy special, since he mentioned it, is “E-Niggma.” You can find 

it on Showtime and Spotify. 


We will be right back. 




MELBER:  Welcome back. 


We began our broadcast tonight, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. 

stood at 16,000. Now, as we finish the hour, the number has jumped to 

18,000, a grim reminder of what we face.


That does it for me tonight. I want you to stay informed, stay safe and 

stay sane. We will be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Monday night. 


Keep it right here on MSNBC. 






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