Italy travel advisory TRANSCRIPT: 2/28/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Donald McNeil


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”:  And by next Friday, one week from

today, we`ll be back in New York City like from 30 Rock. Tickets for that

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the live audience experience. We hope to see you there.


THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.


Good evening, Rachel.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris. Excellent to have you in

South Carolina. Awesome crowd, great show, fantastic.


And I`ll tell you right now our coverage from South Carolina`s primary

starts tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. I will be helping to anchor

that along with Brian Williams and a cast of thousands so in terms of the

South Carolina primary coverage here 6:00 tomorrow night. We will roll

right through as late as we need to. I am really looking forward to it.


It`s good to have you here with us tonight as well. There`s a lot going on.


This is the international airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Actually that`s

just a picture of planes, but apparently they`re at the international

airport in Frankfurt, Germany.


Frankfurt is the largest international airport hub in Germany. It`s the

14th busiest airport in the world. I`ve never spent any time in Frankfurt.

In fact, I`ve never actually spent any time in Germany at all, ever.


But I have spent quite a bit of time in that airport because for whatever

reason any time I have ever needed to go to the Middle East or to that

whole quadrant of the world, I have always gone through and changed planes

at Frankfurt. A lot of Middle East bound, North Africa bound flights from

the U.S. end up stopping in Frankfurt. It`s the only reason I`ve ever spent

time there.


The entity that runs the Frankfurt airport has about 20,000 employees that

they directly employ at that site. Airport operations there further support

another 60,000 jobs or so. So that one airport in Germany accounts for

about 80,000 jobs.


“Financial Times” in London now reports that the entity that runs the

Frankfurt airport has instituted a hiring freeze and also started offering

all staff at the airport the generous option of unpaid leave, which means,

oh, congratulations, you can go home if you want and not get paid. They`re

also offering reduced hours to all staff at the airport.


And the reason they`re doing that is exactly what you think. As described

in the financial times passenger and cargo traffic at Frankfurt airport

have both, quote, slumped massively. And it`s not that Germany is a

particular epicenter for the coronavirus crisis. I mean case numbers in

Germany are rising rapidly, but they`re still only at about 53 cases which

is fewer than the United States.


The problem for the Frankfurt Airport is not specific to Germany or

specific to Frankfurt or specific to that airport. It`s that global

transportation and the global economy is cratering. And if you just look at

that one – just as one example you can start to see the kind of economic

fallout we`re experiencing all over the industrialized world.


The Frankfurt airport doesn`t have it any worse or any better than any

other international passenger travel or shipping hub. But what`s happening

there with them not only hiring freezing but starting to send all their

employees home, they`ve got 80,000 employees at that one airport, that`s a

sliver of what`s happening all over the globe, right?


And just follow any of the strands from that. Just as an example Frankfurt

airport happens to be a hub for the German airline Lufthansa. Well,

Lufthansa has also started offering unpaid leave and has started reducing

hours for all of its staff. And you can imagine what the knock on economic

effect of that is. Lufthansa has also started offering these – Lufthansa

announced today they are cutting about a quarter of their short haul



The airline is grounding 23 of their aircraft altogether. In the past two

weeks, the Lufthansa stock price has dropped 23 percent in two weeks, and

again not to single out Lufthansa. They`re no worse off than anybody else.

That`s just what`s happening to everybody. That`s a snapshot what`s

happening to the global economy.


In terms of other European career, British Airways is also freezing hiring

and cutting flights as is the European discount airline EasyJet. EasyJet

stock price down 27 percent in the last two weeks as well just like



Here in U.S., the big careers like United and Delta and American have all

canceled flights to China, excuse me. They`re all now starting to cancel

flights to hard hit places like Japan and Singapore and South Korea as

well. It`s happening everywhere.


I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. And I remember as a little kid we

once took a school trip where we all went in and rode the cable cars in San

Francisco and they gave us the tour and showed us how everything works. And

I remember, it was very cool they showed you how they put these cable cars

on these lazy Susans and swing them around in another direction when they

got to the end of their route. It`s all burned into my mind. It`s 40 years

ago, right?


But one thing that really stuck with me about that school trip I remember

is when they showed us the braking systems for the cable cars and they`re

sort of braking system, which I think it`s like squeezing the rails to

bring the cable car to a gentle if squeaky halt for normal braking

operations. But then I remember they also showed us the emergency braking

system, too, if the normal brakes weren`t up to the task or if they fail.

And the emergency braking system as described to 6-year-old me by a very

cool, very salty old cable car operator at the top of a veer steep hill in

San Francisco the emergency braking system I remember him explaining was

that if all else failed and the regular brakes didn`t work and you really

needed to bring this thing to a halt the backup system was that you could

drop a big steel rod through the bottom of the cable car and it would go

into a hole in the ground. And that would bring things to a halt in a most

uncomfortable and sudden fashion if need be if nothing else worked.


That was the emergency braking system for the cable cars as taught to me by

a 6-year-old. That appears also to be the braking system that`s been

applied to international air travel with the coronavirus crisis. It`s not

like tapering off. It`s just stopping.


And it`s not like an American phenomenon. Countries all over the world are

banning travel to and from specific countries or advising their citizens

not to travel. As of tonight, the U.S. State Department and CDC have upped

the warning for Americans when it comes to traveling to Italy.


Excuse me. I`m coughing not to make a point. I`m coughing because I have a

tickle. Excuse me.


The State Department is urging U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Italy.

The CDC is recommending travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy.

They`ve also tonight upped the warning for Iran. Avoid all nonessential

travel to Iran.


We`re starting to see the first signs, too, it may not just be

international travel affected. For the first time,. Amazon, gigantic

company, three quarters of a million employees, Amazon as of tonight is now

restricting employee travel even within the United States. They had

previously cut all Amazon employees business travel to China. Now they`re

restricting even domestic travel in the U.S.


And so, whether or not you care about the fate of the Frankfurt airport or

whether or not Amazon employees are going to go to conventions or do

whatever they do around the country, just extrapolate from those little

economic stories to what we are seeing in terms of the economic impact of

this crisis.


You take a look at the front pages of various news sources tonight and what

you`re seeing everywhere is this cliff dive that American and international

markets have taken over the course of this week. All right, it`s front page

news. It is front page news everywhere.


The Dow this week lost 3,500 points in total, largest point loss ever. The

Dow is down more than 12 percent over the course of this week. Other U.S.

major market indices look similar as do international markets.


But that plunge, that market plunge is not happening because of irrational

fear of a virus, right? It`s not happening because of just upset and

volatility in an uncertain and poorly governed world. We really are because

of this health crisis experiencing a very abrupt global economic shutoff.


JPMorgan saying tonight they expect the global economy will contract, it

will shrink for the first quarter of 2020 because of this crisis. This

follows on Goldman Sachs announcing yesterday they expect to see U.S.

corporate earnings growth drop to zero for 2020 again because of this



So, yes, we`ve seen the markets take this sort of garish sensational

southbound turn, this plummet. But it`s starting to look like less of a,

you know, just a phenomenon in the markets and more like the markets are a

reflection of a major external event that is having very large real world

economic consequences to which the markets are just reacting and adjusting.


They`re a window on the problem. The markets themselves are not the

problem. You know, this is not some incidence of traders mass psychosis.


This is about an external event that`s having very, very dramatic, sudden,

far reaching, deep economic consequences. While the reach of the virus

continues to expand, today, Iceland announced its first coronavirus case,

so did Wales, so did Belarus, so did Lithuania, so did New Zealand. So, did



Today, Mexico announced its first case and soon after announced its second



And while China was undoubtedly the initial engine of this epidemic, that

no longer appears to be the case. We don`t have that much visibility into

China is arriving at the numbers they`re releasing about their death toll

and about their number of cases, but if you sort of suspend any suspicion

and even if you take them at their word, China still announced today they

diagnosed 327 new cases in the past 24 hours. That`s a lot of new cases in

24 hours but that`s low for them given what the numbers have been.


That said, 327 new cases in China today, that pales compared to the biggest

outbreaks outside of China. The countries with the largest outbreaks that

we know of outside of China are Italy, and Iran and South Korea. Today,

those three countries between them announced 3,500 new cases. More than ten

times the new number announced in China today.


Again, 3,500 new cases in those three countries alone, more than ten times

the cases announced in China today. And in Iran, Italy and South Korea,

those 3,500 new cases today, that`s about double the new cases they

announced yesterday.


South Korea is clearly dealing with a large outbreak, but the South Korean

government also continues to act very aggressively. They`ve got over 2,000

people diagnosed with coronavirus in South Korea already. They`re reporting

hundreds of new cases each day. A part of the reason they`re able to do so

is because they are very aggressively testing their population. They`re

testing thousands of people every day. South Korea says between just

yesterday and today they tested 12,000 people.


And that mass testing in South Korea is revealing the scale of the epidemic

they`ve got on their hands, but it`s also allowing them to identify

infected people who then have to be isolated and monitored and if need be

cared for.


Now, look at Iran. Again, Iran, Italy and South Korea are the three

countries outside of China that have the largest outbreaks. In Iran, the

news continues to get sort of spookier by the day because Iran is a little

bit of a black box. Iran announced today that its official tool is 34

people died – 34 people have died from coronavirus. It was 19 deaths two

days ago, 26 deaths as of yesterday, now they say it`s 34 deaths in that



But even that steadily rising death count in Iran continues to seem out of

step with numbers that we`ve seen in other places and with the sort of

ratio of known cases to known deaths that`s starting to emerge as the

pattern when it comes to this virus. After Iran announced its official

death toll of 34 as of today, the BBC`s Persian language service announced

they had contacted individual hospitals all over Iran to check that

official death toll, and according to their reporting when you go hospital

by hospital, according to the BBC, the death toll in Iran as of today is

not 34, which was the official number, but is at least 210.


Remember also that the outbreak in Iran is believed to potentially be

linked to religious pilgrimage site in the holy city of Qom. And Iran has

taken cities to re – excuse me, has taken steps to restrict Friday prayers

and they`ve closed schools and canceled events and gatherings around the

country, they haven`t shutdown access to those religious pilgrimage sites

which brings thousands of people together in a country that now has what

appears to be an out of control outbreak of a very transmissible infectious



So, South Korea, Iran, the other big country outside of China that`s

dealing with a major outbreak is Italy. And in Italy today the news was –

was bad.


At the start of this week, Italy had announced 220 infections and six

deaths. As of today, they`re at 820 infections and 21 deaths. But get more

specific in Italy and look at the Lombardi region which is where the

Italian outbreak appears to be centered.


“Reuters” is reporting today circumstances there are dramatic, 345 people

in the hospital, 64 people in intensive care. According to local officials

in the hardest hit regions in Lombardi, approximately 4 percent of the

entire population appears to be infected with the coronavirus in those

hardest hit areas, 4 percent of the entire population.


Local officials also say that thus far in that region, each infected

patient on average appears to be infecting two additional people. So think

about that in terms of spread. If you`ve got 4 percent of your population

already infected and everybody infected is on average infecting two other

people, you`re going to go from 4 percent to 12 percent to – I mean that

math is bad, as is the outlook for just basic medical response and disaster

response in that region.


I mean, if they`ve got 64 people in intensive care already and they got 4

percent of the population infected and on average everybody infected is

infecting two other people, well, how many intensive care beds do you have?

Almost 350 people hospitalized already. How many hospital beds do you have?


The transmission rate for this virus, the number of people each infected

person on average goes onto infect, and the fatality rate for this virus,

the number of people who get this infection who die from it, those are our

two algebraic variables here. These are the two mathematical bugaboos that

have made people start using words like pandemic. And those are the two

numerical factors that have turned this so quickly from a regional problem

into a global crisis. And we`re going to get some expert help on this in

just a moment.


But, I mean, for perspective there have been other novel coronaviruses that

have sickened and killed people in recent human history, including things

like SARS and MERS, which you`ll remember freak outs in the past 20 years.

Well, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney today gave a speech at a

conservative activists conference in Washington, D.C., in which he lamented

that the American press is paying way too much attention to the coronavirus

crisis. They`re only paying as much attention to it because they`re trying

to hurt President Trump.


To back up his argument he talked at length today about the SARS and MERS

epidemics of previous years and he correctly pointed out that both SARS and

MERS had much higher fatality rates than the coronavirus does now. As far

as we know, the coronavirus kills about 2 percent of the people it infects,

whereas with SARS or MERS, it was more like 10 percent or even 30 percent.


White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney thereby arguing today that those

were much more serious global crises, those were much more worthy of

attention, those were much scarier. This coronavirus thing we`re dealing

with now is not much to worry about. Are you still freak out about SARS and

MERS? If you`re not, then why are you worried about this? This only has a 2

percent fatality rate.


Again, we`ll get some expert help in terms of understanding this in just a

moment, but it doesn`t take an advanced public health degree or even high

school level math to see what is actually way less comforting of that

analogy than Mr. Mulvaney might think and what the White House should be

propagating, because for SARS, in total, there were like 8,000 detected

cases in humans. For MERS, there about 800 cases detected in humans.


So, between the two of them, there were about 10,000 plus cases, there were

fewer than 2,000 deaths –10,000, 11,000 cases and fewer than 2,000 deaths.


Well, with what we`re going through right now, we`ve already got over

80,000 infections and we`ve already got more deaths than MERS and SARS



And this thing is in 60 countries and climbing by multiple countries per

day. And there`s no vaccine, and there`s no vaccine on the horizon. And

there`s no treatment and there`s no treatment on the horizon.


And as far as we can tell, everybody is infecting on average roughly two

other people with 80,000 known infections already. And honestly, when it

comes to the fatality rate of coronavirus, there may not be a drug that

treats it and cures it at this point, but because it causes in severe cases

severe respiratory and pulmonary problems, and it kills like 2 percent of

the people that it`s – got it, I mean, we can assume some of the fatality

rate from coronavirus will depend on whether or not people can get good

medical care, including access to intensive care units, including access to

high level medical equipment like ventilators.


And so, yes, how many hospital beds does your country have in your state in

your county? How many intensive care unit beds, how many ventilators?

That`s going to make a difference.


The fatality rate from coronavirus may end up averaging 2 percent, but it

may likely be different from country to country, depending on access to

health care, depending on the health of health workers in that country. As

we move from tens of thousands of people who are infected now to hundreds

of thousands people infected and potentially more.


And so, countries around the world try to figure out how they`re going to

respond. In Lebanon, they closed all the schools today. In Tokyo today,

they closed Disneyland and a related Disney resort called Tokyo Disney C.

On the island of Hokkaido, which is the northern most island in Japan,

where they`re supposed to be running the marathon and Tokyo Olympics this

summer, Hokkaido declared a state of emergency across the island. The

regional governor there told all the residents of Hokkaido to stay in their



In Switzerland, they announced nine new cases of coronavirus today. The

government then ordered the cancellation of all events that involve more

than a thousand people. Which among other things, Switzerland will be

canceling its annual large sporting event, which is a ski marathon. Of

course, that`s Switzerland`s largest sport event, a ski marathon.


It usually attracts like 14,000 people. This year it`s canceled. They also

today announced the cancellation of the Geneva International Motor Show,

which is one of the largest care events in the world. They also announced

the cancellation of something called Baselworld 2020 which is apparently

the big Swiss watch convention. All of those things are off, as countries

around the world continue to cancel large events.


In Iran, they`ve now closed parliament. Multiple members of the Iranian

parliament have been diagnosed with coronavirus, as has a vice president in

the Iranian government.


In Italy, the regional president of the Lombardi region, that hard hit

region in Italy, the president of that region is himself under isolation

after one of his work colleagues was diagnosed with the virus.


The president of Mongolia is himself quarantined as of today.


And here at home, tonight, we`ve had some bad new news out of California.

You`ll recall two days ago, Solano County in northern California produced

the first new infection in the United States of unknown origin, where the

source of the patient`s infection couldn`t be traced to international

travel where the disease is known to be prevalent. The patient also didn`t

appear to have any contact with anybody who had done any international

travel, nor did that patient appear to have had any contact with anybody

known to be infected.


That initial patient in Solano County is still being treated at UC-Davis

Medical Center. She is in serious condition.


But tonight in a different northern California county, in Santa Clara

County, public health officials have announced a second so-called community

transmission case, another case this time also a woman. She`s been

diagnosed with coronavirus, and again for the second time, the source of

her infection is not known.


She has not traveled to countries where the virus is known to be prevalent.

She`s not known to be in contact with anybody who`s bad that sort of

international travel. Nor is she known to be in contact with anybody known

to be infected. So where did she get it?


The Santa Clara Public Health Department – Santa Clara County Public

Health Department put out an admirably direct, straightforward announcement

and alert about this case and what it means, which again I`m no expert but

it looks to me like this is the sort of thing we might reasonably use as a

model for frank public communication around these things.


Quote: County of Santa Clara Public Health Department reports third case of

COVID-19. The third case of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County is not related

to other cases. The third case in Santa Clara County had no known exposure

to the virus through travel or close contact with a known individual.

Quote: Now is the time to prepare for the possibility of widespread

community transmission.


The individual is an older adult woman with chronic health conditions, who

was hospitalized for a respiratory illness. Her infectious disease

physician contacted the public health department to discuss the case and

request testing for the novel coronavirus.


Since receiving the results last night which were positive, the department

has been working to identify contacts and to understand the extent of



Dr. Sara Cody, the health officer for Santa Clara County says, quote, this

new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission, but

the extent is still not clear.


She goes onto say, quote: I understand this may be concerning to hear but

this is what we`ve been preparing for. Now we need to start additional

actions to slow down the spread of this disease. This case is important

because it signals now is the time to change course. This announcement from

the county of Santa Clara goes onto give specific instructions about how

individuals can keep themselves safe in terms of washing your hands,

covering your cough, staying home if you are sick, stop touching your face.

That is one way viruses are spread, when you touch your own mouth, nose or

eyes. Quote, since we know the disease is here we all need to stay away

from people who are sick.


Quote: Start thinking about family preparedness. How to take care of a sick

family member while not getting infected yourself. Think about a room to

isolate a sick person.


Santa Clara County also giving specific advice to schools and businesses

about planning for continuing their operations and continuing to do what

they do while potentially needing to keep students at home and employees at

home. Whenever possible, replace in-person meetings with video or telephone

conferences, increased teleconferencing options


The World Health Organization today moved to their highest level of

international alert for a public health crisis. The World Health

Organization official – the official who announced the change to the

highest alert status today described it as, quote, a reality check for

every government on the planet.


Well, for us here in the United States that, of course, means our federal

government where things continue to be pretty sketchy, the guy who

supposedly may be running the government`s response to coronavirus, the

vice president taking some time off to do some political fund-raising today

in Florida. The White House chief of staff today, again, suggesting that

it`s really no big deal, it`s all being blown out of proportion, it`s only

in the news because of a plot against President Trump to make him look bad.


But if this really is a wakeup call to every government on earth, every

government on earth for us Americans also includes our local governments

like that of the county of Santa Clara in California. And at least at that

level, that county health official who`s making that announcement, telling

people in that county what we`ve got to do now, at least at that level, the

information is clear and uncompromising and honestly stark.


Here we go. Got to lot to get to tonight. Stay with us.




MADDOW:  In London, you can get a coronavirus test in a drive-thru. The

U.K. has tested over 7,000 people so far. They`ve got less than 20 cases



In South Korea, yesterday alone, they tested 12,000 people for coronavirus.


In the United States, we have apparently tested a few hundred people total.

Why is that? I mean, I understand the test is under development and there

were some problems with it and it`s getting fixed, but – I mean the U.K.

and South Korea are very good friends of ours. Can we just use their tests?

They apparently have thousands ready to go.


That`s one of my admittedly ignorant questions about how the United States

handles this. But, boy, do I have many more.


Joining us now is Donald McNeil. He`s a science and health reporter at “The

New York Times.” Mr. McNeil has covered AIDS and Ebola and SARS and swine

flu and bird flu, and now this coronavirus crisis as well.


Mr. McNeil, thank you very much for being here tonight. I appreciate it.





MADDOW:  First of all, let me ask you a terminology question. I`m still

calling it coronavirus and that`s the way most people are talking about it.

The official name is COVID-19. You think it matters in terms of how we talk

about it?


MCNEIL:  No, you know, it`s politically incorrect. But to keep – I call it

China coronavirus, but I keep (ph) doing that, but it`s – it is the

coronavirus that came from China. The only reason you might not want to say

the coronavirus because there are six other coronaviruses that we know



MADDOW:  Including MERS and SARS.


MCNEIL:  Including SARS and MERS and four coronavirus that produce the

common cold that you`ve had and I`ve and everybody we know has had. They

produce 25 percent of the common cold in this country.


MADDOW:  But this is a novel iteration of the coronavirus.


MCNEIL:  This is, that`s it.


MADDOW:  In terms – let me ask you about SARS and MERS. I address that

briefly a little bit in the introductory remarks because the White House

Chief of Staff Mulvaney today at a political event talked about SARS and

MERS and said that those were much worse, those had kill rates of 10

percent or 30 percent in terms of people who got infected and then how –

what proportion of those people died, basically implying to his audience if

you weren`t afraid of SARS or MERS, you definitely shouldn`t be afraid

about this. This one only appears to have a lethality rate of about 2

percent, therefore it`s much less scary.


I think his math is backwards in terms of explaining the potential risk and

the scope of this epidemic, but I wanted to get your perspective on it.


MCNEIL:  He`s completely right about the lethality rate, and he`s

completely wrong about the danger. The 1918 flu only killed about 2.5

percent of the people who got it. But it was so transmissible that it

circled the entire world through 1918 and 1919, and a third of the world

got it.


If a third of the world gets this disease, that`s a billion people so the

deaths are going to mount into the millions, many millions.


MADDOW:  The transmission rate here in Italy where they have had one of the

worst outbreaks outside of China, local officials said today in the region

of Italy that appears to be hardest hit they think they`ve got 4 percent of

the local population infected and what they`re observing is a transmission

rate on average of one infected person infecting two other people.


Tell us what that means in sort of epidemiological terms.


MCNEIL:  It`s pretty early to make that guess in Italy`s outbreak because

it`s only been going on for a couple of weeks. But 4 percent people

infected so far doesn`t mean anything.


The 1918 flu was the 1918-1919 flu. It hit hard with a relatively mild wave

in the spring and then it somewhat disappeared in the summer which is the

reason for President Trump saying it`s all going to be gone by April. Then

it came back in an absolute killer wave in the fall and winter, and that`s

when most of the people died.


And this potentially, although I don`t like to predict the future has a –

it looks like something like that.


MADDOW:  When you talk about a third of the people on Earth getting it, in

1918, they obviously didn`t have jet travel. They didn`t have the kinds of

global connections that we`ve got that we`re rapidly seeing shutdown as we

see an economic contraction around this and travel restricts of all kinds.


Is there anything that people should – that governments or that

individuals or the health authorities ought to be rationally pursuing

toward the aim of containment, or is that falling?


MCNEIL:  No, they already pursued it, shutting down air travel. I mean, the

fact that we stopped air travel from China and China dove on its own viral

grenade and shutdown travel within China actually bought the rest of the

world quite a bit of time, I think.


But we`ve already run out of that time. Tedros, you know, the head of the

World Health Organization, has been saying, there`s a window of opportunity

here, there`s a window of opportunity here to do something about it, but

that window is closing, all right? That window has not completely closed

but it`s closing more and more as the virus spreads to the new countries.


MADDOW:  Our guest is Donald McNeil, he`s a science and health reporter at

“The New York Times”.


I want to talk you – we`re going to take a quick break, but when we come

back, I`d like to talk to you about the testing question that I raised but

also some of how the U.S. federal government is handling this now as we`re

starting to see county governments and state governments try to take the

lead at least locally.


We`ll be right back with Donald McNeil right after this.







reporting a new case of novel coronavirus in Santa Clara County. This is

the third case to be identified in our county, but it`s different from our

other two cases in an important way. Like the California case reported two

days ago, our third case did not recently travel to overseas or have any

known contact with a recent traveler or an infected person.




MADDOW:  That was health officer in Santa Clara County, California, today

announcing what is the second known case of a person being diagnosed with

coronavirus in this country without there being a clear indication of where

that person got it. The first one was two days ago in Solano County,

California. The second one was Santa Clara County today.


And now, tonight, since we`ve been on the air there appears to be a third

case. Oregon health officials announcing within the last 20 minutes that

there is a third case that appears to be what they`re calling a community

transmission case, somebody who has been diagnosed with a virus where the

route by which that person got infected is not yet known and is now being

tracked by public health officials.


Joining us once again is Donald McNeil, the science and health reporter at

“The New York Times”.


Mr. McNeil, I want to ask you about the first community transmission case,

one of these cases where they don`t know where it came from, in Solano

County, a nurses union put out a statement about that tonight, raising the

alarm about basically health resources as the number of cases in the United

States starts to rise, saying: The recent UC-Davis Medical Center COVID-19

case highlights the vulnerability of the nation`s hospitals to this virus

and the insufficiency of current CDC guidelines. The single patient

admitted to the facility on February 19th has now led to the self-

quarantine at home of at least 36 RNs and 88 other health care workers.

These 124 nurses and health care workers are needed now more than ever but

they instead have been side lined. Lack of preparedness will create an

unsustainable national health care staffing crisis.


I wanted to get your reaction to that.


MCNEIL:  That`s a lot of people to lose in your hospital. You can`t keep

taking in new patients if you keep having to quarantine all the doctors and



I mean, eventually, unfortunately, that will have to stop because they`re

going to need people who are not sick, who are not actively sick, and

actively shutting virus to work because you can`t – one case like the

Solano case and UC-Davis case doesn`t worry so much. What would worry me is

when an emergency room that normally has ten cases of pneumonia a week

suddenly has 40 cases of pneumonia that week and – you know, and that will

happen eventually.


But these sort of individual cases that are not known to a change of

transmission has actually been going on in Japan for a few weeks now. So,

we`ve got a little more before where Japan was and – but, unfortunately,

eventually we`ll be where Iran was. There`ll be large numbers of

unexplained cases. We`ll have a lot of them.


And then, eventually, you know, one third of Congress will get it probably.

They`ll have to close down a lot of things including our parliament. It`s a

public meeting.


MADDOW:  But if in individual cases, we do have one patient and more than

120 health care workers self-quarantined and not coming to work because of

it, clearly that ratio is unsustainable even for a week.


MCNEIL:  It`s an abundance of caution kind of move.




MCNEIL:  Eventually, they`re going to have to ask those people to come back

to work and say, look – ultimately, in epidemics of respiratory disease,

you start assuming most people are going to have mild cases, you know

there`s transmission in the community and you`re going to have to ask

people – you have to treat people who are really sick and hope that the

mild ones can continue. And, unfortunately, the real sick ones are the ones

who are going to end up with pneumonia and going to be – need to be on

ventilators or on oxygen.


MADDOW:  In terms of the potential scale of this just inside the United

States and the healthcare resource that we have available, hospital beds,

intensive care beds, ventilators, health – trained health care staff, how

do our resources match up with the potential scale here?


MCNEIL:  I have not looked into these figures myself, but one of my

colleagues was doing some research on this yesterday and he said that

pandemic preparedness planning for the United States for the worst possible

case of this kind of epidemic respiratory would need 750,000 ventilators in

this country. We have about 75,000 he said. So, about 10 percent of what we

might need.


I mean, a ventilator is like a $25,000 to $50,000 device. It`s like having

a car. And you can`t just run out and buy one in the showroom. It`s not

something you stockpile. You have to order them.


And, you know, I talked to a hospital director yesterday and he said we

have some storage in Brooklyn. And I thought, OK, that`s great, but if

number of people you have on ventilators triples, quadruples, quintuples –

you know, in China they built two hospitals in ten days. A thousand bed

hospital, a 1,600-bed hospital. They got 2,500 doctors and nurses to march

into Wuhan knowing that they were risking their lives and start treating



I mean, the whole of China focused on Wuhan. Outbreaks of flu in this

country tend to start in one place. This year it started in Louisiana and

spread out from there. A couple of years ago, it started up in Maine in the



It would be a good thing if this country were mobile enough to be able to

send a lot of doctors and nurses to the epicenter of the outbreak, but

we`re not a mobile society. I mean, we`re mobile but people have jobs and

they have obligations to their own hospitals. We`re not organized from the

top down the way China is.


So, we may have some troubles responding to this in the same kind of

people`s war way the way China did to their outbreak.


MADDOW:  Especially if we`re not testing widely to identify where –


MCNEIL: That`s a big the fact we`re not testing as much as Italy is. I

mean, we made test kits as soon as we knew the sequence of the virus. But

the test kits turned out to have a problem. It turned out to have at least

one of the rare (ph) agents was bad. So, a minority of the states in the

country now have test kits, state and localities.


The WHO is having theirs made in Germany. I don`t know why we`re not asking

WHO for copies of theirs and distributing thousands of those around the

country. We should be testing lots, lots more people who have pneumonia,

have undiagnosed pneumonia.


We should not just be testing people who have travelled history to China,

or travel histories to India, or travel histories to Iran or something like

that – I mean Italy, rather than India.


We should be testing people who have pneumonia if we know it`s not flu and

we know it`s not – haven`t isolated the bacteria and it`s not responding

to antibiotics, we should be testing for this.


MADDOW: Donald McNeil, science and health reporter at “The New York Times”,

thank you for being here from this very alarming story.


MCNEIL:  Thank you.


MADDOW:  Thanks. Appreciate it.


All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.




MADDOW:  All right. It`s Friday night. Here we are talking about a

frightening global viral outbreak and normally this would be my last show

until Monday. So I`d compartmentalize, go home, fish, and try not to worry.


But this weekend, I`m working because around this time tomorrow night, I

will be back in this seat covering the South Carolina Democratic

presidential primary. Polls open 7:00 a.m. tomorrow and close at 7:00 p.m.

in South Carolina. It`s very exciting.


Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, MSNBC`s national political correspondent.


Steve, is South Carolina going to be a close race, or is it not?



suggests that something very funny has happened here, that Joe Biden who

finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and an extremely distant

second in Nevada has all the momentum.


You`ve never seen a candidate lose that decisively in the early contests

and suddenly he`s built a double-digit lead in the polling here on the eve

of the South Carolina primary. So, the expectations certainly you`re

hearing this from Biden supporters is not just a Biden victory tomorrow in

South Carolina but a big Biden victory.


MADDOW:  And, of course, what the Biden campaign most wants is for you to

not be saying that, saying Joe Biden has done so terribly in the other

states, he`s got no chance tomorrow, and they want it to be a big shocking

turn when he wins tomorrow, if and when he wins tomorrow, so he can get big

– he can get the big momentum boost out of it.


KORNACKI:  It`s interesting how fast things can change because last

Saturday night when those Nevada results were coming in, if you had said

Joe Biden was going to win South Carolina by double digits the next

Saturday, people would have thought you were crazy.




KORNACKI:  People thought at that point, myself included, that it was very

possible Bernie Sanders would have the momentum to take the lead in South

Carolina this week. And yet poll after poll, we`ve been seeing has been

very encouraging news for Joe Biden. So it raises a question of not just

whether he`s going to do well tomorrow but whether that could change the

race going forward past South Carolina.


MADDOW:  And can you tell what did it or can you tell – either based on

the timing or based on the narrative? Obviously, James Clyburn`s

endorsement is nuclear in South Carolina. James Clyburn endorsing Biden,

you just feel the weight of it when it happened. But is that what`s driving

this, or is it – is it about Bernie? Is it about – I mean –


KORNACKI: It`s an interesting question. I think one theory that`s out there

is you could put a couple things together here. You can say that Sanders`

win in Nevada, it focused attention on the prospect of a Sanders nomination

as something that was seemingly imminent in a way that never before has

been the case.


I mean he ran in 2016. He never really got to a point against Hillary

Clinton where you looked at him and said, that`s it. He`s got it. He`s on

his way to the nomination. He was also the underdog in that race.


And even with Iowa, Iowa was kind of a muddled result. New Hampshire, it

was close. He gets this decisive win in Nevada, looks like he`s leaving

everybody else in the dust. And I think it does raise the question is this

one of those gut check moments where there are Democratic voters who may

like Bernie Sanders, they may have a positive view of him, but they`re

suddenly hearing all these messages from Democratic Party leaders saying,

are you sure you want to do this?


And we`ve seen this before where Democratic voters have kind of hit the

pause button and they might be hitting the pause button right here.


MADDOW:  Steve Kornacki, will you sleep tonight or is this the sort of

thing where you`re just like, no –


KORNACKI:  I`m going to try to sleep tonight so I can not sleep tomorrow

night. That`s going to be the plan.


MADDOW:  Good luck.


KORNACKI:  Thank you.


MADDOW:  Thanks.


All right. We will be back again tomorrow night. Special coverage on the

South Carolina primary starts at – at least my part of it starts at 6:00,

but it`s going to be a very exciting day. Polls open at 7:00 a.m.


All right. More to come. Stay with us.






GOV. KATE BROWN (D), OREGON:  Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being

here this evening. This afternoon, we learned that we have Oregon`s first

case of the COVID-19 coronavirus.




MADDOW:  Oregon`s Governor Kate Brown announcing tonight the first

presumptive case of coronavirus in the state of Oregon. They`re calling it

a presumptive case because it has not yet been confirmed by federal health



But the Oregon health authorities announced tonight that they believe that

this person has the coronavirus and that it is a case of community

transmission. This is a person who does not have a history of travel to a

country where the virus is known to be prevalent. They don`t believe this

person came into close contact with somebody else who is known to have the

virus. And so, it`s now a matter of trying to figure out how this person

got infected.


Oregon health officials say they consider this to be a likely community

transmitted case. This would make it the third in the United States. They

are investigating this person`s contacts.


This person is currently in isolation at a local hospital. We`ve also just

had word that health officials in Oregon say this person in Oregon, this

patient, has spent time at a specific elementary school, the Forest Hills

Elementary School in the Lake Oswego School District in Oregon. According

to a message sent to the community of that school district, the person is a

school district employee, and the school now – school district now intends

to close that Forest Hills Elementary School through early next week now

that this case has been reported.


Now, in addition to this third case of apparent community transmission in

Oregon tonight, there are an additional group of people in Oregon who are

currently being monitored by the state because they are seen as being at

risk of having contracted the virus. That includes one additional patient

who has apparently now developed symptoms and is waiting to be tested.


But Oregon is confronting a new status in terms of its role in this

coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The president had said that the

number of cases in the United States would quickly go to zero. That is not

happening, and we are now seeing community transmission reported both in

California and in Oregon.


This is a developing story. We`ll let you know more when we learn more.

We`ll be right back.




HANNITY:  MSNBC will be live from South Carolina all day long tomorrow for

the South Carolina primary. Polls open at 7:00 a.m. local time. Starting at

6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night, I will be here alongside Brian Williams

and Nicolle Wallace and the cast of thousands, as we await those all-

important results. First in the South, last early voting state before Super

Tuesday. It`s going to be a very big night.


Again, special coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. Eastern and goes into the wee

hours. I will see you right back here tomorrow night.


That does it for us for now. See you again then.


Now it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence



Good evening, Ali.







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