Coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 3/12/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): That means expanding food stamps, unemployment
insurance. That means making sure that the stress-testing of our health
care system that we are prepared, have the resources to do what`s
necessary. There are clear steps we should be taking understanding what`s
coming to our country.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, thank you for
your time tonight.
BOOKER: Chris, I know – I want to say, everybody, this is the time we
should be pulling together, not tearing apart. This is the time we should
be extending grace, support and help. Just because leaders are failing,
doesn`t mean we as a people together should fail each other. I hope we all
rise to the occasion to be there for each other with grace and support and
HAYES: Could not agree more with that final message. Thank you, Senator.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
This is the health minister in Great Britain you see on left side of your
screen there. She fell ill a few days ago. She got tested for coronavirus.
Her test was positive.
That`s bad news for the British health minister. It`s also bad news for the
Before she was tested, she reportedly sat in not only on cabinet meeting
and carried out her regular government business, she also attended a
reception at number 10 Downing Street with the British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson. Again, she`s now not only positive for coronavirus but she`s
Today, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British people
basically to steel themselves for what`s ahead, saying in public remarks,
quote, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.
The chief scientific adviser to the British government today said although
the number of officially confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.K. is just
under 600, he believes as the top science adviser to the government that a
more realistic snapshot of how many cases there are in the U.K. would be
more like 5,000 to 10,000.
The British government announced yesterday that they will move to rapidly
upscale the number of tests they are doing. They are currently carrying out
about 1,500. They say they are going to move to 10,000 tests per day. So,
they are trying to quintuple the rate of testing immediately.
Again, it`s stark to see the chief scientific adviser to the British
government saying he believes there`s 5,000 to 10,000 cases in the U.K.
already never mind that there`s under 600 official tests.
And for us here at home, you know, that`s a snapshot of what`s going on in
another country, just another dear ally of ours dealing as best they can
with a rapidly escalating crisis of this virus. But because it`s the U.K.,
just taking that little view, that short-term view of the circumstances
there today, the news about coronavirus there today, also gives lie to the
randomness of what our government is doing in terms of our own national
response because honestly, our own government`s response is basically just
a splatter painting thus far from the president and from this
I mean, just look at one day`s worth of headlines of what`s going on in the
U.K. in terms of coronavirus. The number of cases in the U.K. versus other
countries, the circumstances that the U.K. government believes itself to be
in, the fact that a senior member of the British government has herself
tested positive. I mean, just look at one day`s news out of the U.K., and
it`s clear, there`s no scientifically rational reason why our government
just instituted a travel ban from Europe that doesn`t include the U.K.
I mean, why do that? No matter how much you like the U.K., you know, or
enjoy British detective stories – I`m right there with you. No matter how
much the president might have a personal affinity for the prime minister or
the queen or whatever, it makes no rational sense. This European travel ban
excluding the U.K. is random.
Why is our own government behaving in a random manner? Our federal
government response to this epidemic is not rational. It`s not well-
designed, it`s not likely to accomplish its stated aims, and sometimes its
stated aims make no sense, either.
Honestly, there`s no reason why the main thrust of the U.S. government`s
top level response to the virus at this point should be a travel ban from
anywhere, especially – let alone on the day the World Health Organization
declared this is a global pandemic, what that is supposed to do is tell
every country, you can`t escape by virtue of your geography. This is
That`s the day we institute a new, inexplicable travel ban? The president
last night calling this a, quote, foreign virus, in a way that may have
been a little blessing for us, because that is so wrong. It is such an
irrational, unscientific, nonsensical way to talk about this that maybe
something that dumb coming from the president in a prime time Oval Office
address, maybe that is clarifying. Maybe that simplifies our national
understanding of where we`re at, because that alone should clarify for
everybody beyond any shred of a doubt that the U.S. response will have to
be led from somewhere other than the top of the federal government, because
at the top of the federal government right now, it is a fountain of
And, you know, it is one of the odd through lines in this global pandemic
as it evolves that people at the very top of governments around the world
are themselves at risk. I mean, there`s the British health minister who we
told you about.
In Spain, they have had a cabinet minister test positive. That resulted in
the entire Spanish cabinet announcing they would be tested as well as the
Spanish king and the Spanish queen. They have been tested. They are
awaiting test results now. The leader of the far right Vox Party in Spain
has been tested as well and is positive.
In Brazil, we reported last night on the delegation of top Brazilian
officials who not only came to the United States, they specifically went to
Mar-a-Lago this past weekend to meet with the president and members of his
family. We reported last night that a press minister from the Brazilian
government seen here in a photo with the president at Mar-a-Lago, that man
on the right in the brown make Brazil great again hat, he is the press
minister of the Brazilian government. We reported last night he was
undergoing testing for the coronavirus. He has now tested positive.
The president of Brazil, who was also at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, also
meeting personally with President Trump and shaking his hand, he himself
was today tested for the coronavirus and expects to receive his results
tomorrow. Not only President Trump but also Vice President Pence who was
supposedly leading the U.S. coronavirus response, they both had relatively
extensive contact with this Brazilian delegation over the weekend at Mar-a-
Lago, and we know that because a photo and video documentation. Even as the
White House insists, despite our lying eyes that President Trump and Vice
President Pence definitely aren`t going to be tested for coronavirus
despite those contacts because the White House says really there wasn`t
really much contact at all. Really, we swear.
At this point, the White House insistence that the president – the sitting
president of the United States, won`t stop shaking hands. No need to. The
number of – relatively large number of people who have been exposed to the
virus with whom the president has had close face to face contact and with
whom he has shook hands within the past few days, none of that warrants
special precautions for the president at all, let alone testing the
I mean, at this point, the handling of the president`s personal
susceptibility to this virus is getting a little bit weird. It`s getting
hard to believe our own government even about that. But as I say, that is
just one element of a federal government response that is largely
irrational, inexplicable and needless to say ineffective.
Republican U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott were both at Mar-a-
Lago this weekend. They both reportedly interacted with that same Brazilian
delegation that also interacted with President Trump and Vice President
Pence. Both of these Republican senators themselves are now under
quarantine, while they at least take steps to try to protect themselves and
anybody else who they might infect given they were exposed to the virus if
they got it.
It`s now actually quite a number of members of Congress and members of the
Senate who have potentially been exposed and who have isolated themselves
because of it. So far, there`s one Senate staffer, a staffer to Washington
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell who has tested positive and is reportedly
A number of U.S. senators announced they would close their D.C. offices
even as Mitch McConnell, the city majority leader announced that the
planned Senate recess next week would be canceled and Senate would stay –
the Senate would stay in session. At last count, it is 30 U.S. states that
have declared a state of emergency to try to speed state government
response to the virus.
Schools across the great states of Ohio and Maryland and Kentucky will all
be closed. We learned that tonight. A large public school district in
Houston, Texas, fourth largest city in the country, and San Francisco,
California, both of those large school districts announced tonight that
their schools will be closed. The Smithsonian is closing in D.C.
That`s just the national zoo as is Arlington National Cemetery, as is the
Metropolitan Museum in New York, as is Broadway in New York.
Tonight, Disneyworld announced that they`re closing on Sunday. Disneyland
is doing so as well. Disneyland is only closed like three times in the last
50 years. They are closing because of this.
New York City has declared a state of emergency. New York state, New
Jersey, California, Oregon have all instituted statewide bans on gatherings
of large numbers of people.
The U.S. Capitol is closed to visitors. The Supreme Court of the United
States is closed to visitors. And as you have no doubt seen today in a
veritable cascade of announcements, pro and collegiate sports of all kinds
have basically been shut down. Seasons of all major pro sports have been at
least suspended if not called off.
As of this time last night, we thought the NCAA college basketball
tournament would be a series of games played in front of empty seats. As of
tonight, the tournament itself just will not happen. The season is over.
It`s called off.
I don`t think there`s been a single individual tipping point at which our
country started to wake up to the magnitude of this crisis and what is
coming in terms of the strain that is about to be put on our public health
system, our economy, and all other governance systems that we`ve got. I
don`t think there is a single tipping point. But this past 24-hour period,
it does feel like enough shocking things happened in short order that,
again, there wasn`t one point, but we have tipped. We are inarguably in a
different headspace as a country about this. We are on a different footing
as a nation than we were even 24 hours ago.
I think part of it is the sports stuff being canceled honestly, just in
terms of the psychological reset that we are undergoing right now. Even if
you don`t care about the news at all, even if the only live media you ever
consume is sports, well, your life just changed drastically. No matter how
much you like to keep your head in the sand about anything that doesn`t
involve a ball or points or both, it`s unavoidable now even if you have
been not paying attention to any of this stuff deliberately or just as the
matter of the way you live your life.
I think part of it was also the president`s bad speech last night from the
Oval Office, confusing, strange, a little bit alarming in terms of his
strange affect. If that speech was meant to reassure the country about how
the government has this under control, boy, did it do the opposite.
I think part of it is also that the economic ditch just keeps getting
deeper. They had to stop trading again today on Wall Street. They hit one
of those circuit breakers that makes them stop trading for 15 minutes. But
even still, once they turned it back on, the markets kept falling off the
cliff even with the Fed announcing hundreds of billions of dollars in
basically grease for the wheels, liquidity into the markets to try to keep
The Dow today down more than 2,000 points. Sell-off by percentage that`s
larger than anything that happened during the 2008 financial collapse. You
have to go back as far as the Black Monday Wall Street crash in 1987 to
find a plunge deeper than what we had today. After the president`s Oval
Office address to reassure us all.
As of tonight, JPMorgan is bluntly predicting a U.S. recession this year.
But understanding, really getting how bad it is and how bad it is likely to
get, even if we are in that different headspace, even if we are coming to a
new understanding about this and people who run sports leagues and states
and colleges and malls are figuring it out and acting accordingly, it still
leaves all of us, all of us regular citizens with the day-to-day decisions
about what we are supposed to do and what we can do to protect ourselves
and to protect our families and to contribute to our country trying to
handle this as well as possible.
Clearly, we`re not leaving this to the government, and they`ll do it.
Clearly, it`s going to be us doing the right thing as best we understand
it. So, I mean, I could do sort of breaking news on all the different
things that are closing and shutting down and being changed because of the
virus for the entire course of this hour, but I`m going to stop there with
what I`ve already said.
And tonight, we`re going to talk to a couple different reporters. We`re
also going to speak with somebody who I think has very valuable experience
in successfully forcing improvement in what was a terrible government
response to a health crisis. There are people who have gone before us who
have succeeded in forcing a terrible federal government response to a
health crisis to get better. We should learn from them now.
I mean, we do ultimately only have one federal government, and we have to
try to survive this crisis and improve our national response to this crisis
with the government we have.
But let`s just look at – let`s look at one very specific slice of this,
something that “ProPublica” did today in a way that I think was very
valuable. It`s a public service. We all now have figured out that one of
the fiascos, if not the fundamental fiasco of the U.S. government response
to this crisis, is that there isn`t any testing really, that we are
probably the worst in the world, certainly the worst in the industrial
world at testing and screening for this virus.
We`ve got it. We`ve got it in probably every state in the country. We`ve
got states of emergency in 30 states in the country. We`re still not
broadly testing populations anywhere.
Virginia Congressman Don Beyer, one of those members of Congress who is
self-quarantining because he believes he was exposed to the virus, even he,
a sitting member of congress, just outside the nation`s capital, even he is
unable to get tested while he`s under quarantine because we don`t have
tests that are – not only do we not have widely available testing in this
country, if you`re a sitting member of Congress, you can`t finagle a test
in this country, not unless you have the right connections.
Whether you are in one of the nursing homes where there has been multiple
deaths in Washington state or you just got off a cruise ship that had
positive coronavirus cases on board, a cruise ship that was held offshore
in California, or whether you went to a conference in New Orleans or
Washington, D.C. where people were known to be positive or Boston or
somebody at your synagogue or your church or a wedding you went to has
fallen ill or tested positive, if you have been somewhere where you believe
there is a good chance that you have been exposed to this highly contagious
virus, chances are still, this deep into it, this long into this crisis,
that if you as an American are seeking testing to see if you yourself have
in fact been exposed, you are going to have a hard time getting it.
Even Americans who have returned from countries that have raging, out of
control outbreaks have found once they get here, even if they want to get
tested, there`s not necessarily a way to do it. And while the government is
trying to scale this up, Tony Fauci from NIH today saying it is a failure
of the U.S. system that we`ve been unable to scale up our testing. It is a
failure. Acknowledging it is a failure is a good first step to fixing it.
The CDC director today saying under harsh and persistent questioning from
Democratic members of Congress that, ultimately, yes, testing will be
provided regardless of whether you`re able to pay, the government
clarifying that for the first time today. The CDC director saying today
that coronavirus treatment will be provided whether or not you are able to
pay. That is a check that his mouth wrote today that I am looking forward
to seeing them cash as a federal government, because I don`t know how
they`re trying to guarantee that. But the CDC director today promised it
under tough questioning in Congress.
I mean, they are trying to improve all of these things but right now, we`re
watching the numbers go up everywhere. We know what the infection curves
look like in other countries that have community transmission. And we still
don`t have testing. More than 1,000 confirmed cases in this country, an
epidemic of absolutely unknown proportions because we don`t have testing,
but Americans who believe they`ve been exposed still have to do something.
If you believe you`ve been exposed, the general advice is that you should
isolate yourself, right? Self-quarantine-ish.
“ProPublica” today investigated the specific advice Americans are being
given if they believe they have been exposed to someone with the virus.
What they found is that instructions people are getting about how exactly
you do self-quarantine, how exactly you do isolate yourselves. These
instructions are wildly divergent depending on who you`re asking and under
It is basically impossible to get an authoritative answer as to what
Americans who have been exposed are really supposed to do. And honestly,
right now, with no vaccine and no treatment and very, very, very little
testing in this country, that`s all we`ve got. We`ve got these mitigation
factors that we can take as a society to close down vectors of likely
transmission, large crowds, school settings, sporting events, et cetera.
But for people who believe they`ve been exposed, we`ve got one thing you
can do, and the guidance on what that one thing is, is all over the map. In
the absence of testing, this is all any of us we can do if we`ve been
exposed. What exactly is it?
The lack of clear, consistent advice about how to handle this specific part
of America`s response to coronavirus is something the federal government
could fix over the course of a single day if they put their mind toward
clarifying and directly specifying best practices for isolation and
quarantine. And they issued that advice nationwide. If they had the
authority and wherewithal to do it, they could do it.
But as of right now, even this far into it, it appears to just be chaos.
Joining us now is one of the reporters on this piece for “ProPublica” that
investigated the extent of the range of advice people are being given.
Caroline Chen covers health care for “ProPublica”.
Caroline, thank you very much.
CAROLINE CHEN, PROPUBLICA HEALTH CARE REPORTER: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: I`m obviously wound up about this, and I do not expect you to be.
I`m not asking you for your opinion on any of these matters.
CHEN: Oh, I`m wound up too.
MADDOW: You are? OK. Well, tell me.
I mean, your reporting to me was something that I suspected was true, but I
find it the wide range of advice people are given to be shocking.
CHEN: And I was surprised too because I had gotten some inkling of this
just from seeing stories on Twitter. But we decided on Monday of this week
to actually seriously do a call-out and start searching out stories and
comparing standards. And what we found was that a lot of people are given
either misinformation, lacking information, or are desperately trying to
get information and are unable to get information.
And so, there is a patchwork of information out there about what you should
do if you think you`ve been exposed or you have been exposed across the
MADDOW: And this is people calling their local doctor, their local
hospital, the county health department, the state health authorities – I
mean, people are calling all sorts of different entities. Part of what your
reporting indicates is that nobody even knows who to call to check what it
is they`re supposed to do if they believe they`ve been exposed.
CHEN: Yes, and I think, generally, the advice is call your medical
provider, which is if –
MADDOW: If you have one.
CHEN: Yes, if you have one, which not everybody in the United States has.
And what I`ve seen, and I have honestly been impressed and moved by, is how
persistent people are because they`re concerned. So, we`ve seen a lot of
stories and heard a lot of stories of people who either heard about
somebody who was positive, for example, a woman who went to a wedding, and
then saw a tweet that a server at the wedding she was at tested positive,
and then launched herself on an odyssey of trying to get information
because she wanted to do the right thick.
MADDOW: Uh-huh. And to protect herself but also to protect her family,
protect anybody else from becoming exposed.
CHEN: And her community.
CHEN: And also I spoke to a mother of a daughter who came home from a
school trip to Italy, and when she developed symptoms, her first step was
to go to her daughter`s pediatrician, and the pediatrician started by
saying – well, I don`t think she has, you know, COVID-19. You know, she
has an upper respiratory infection. She`s probably fine.
And the mother pushed a little bit more and said, you know, we live in
Manhattan in a neighborhood that has elderly folks. You know, is it safe?
And just out of her sense of wanting to do the right thing, called the
school and then called 311 herself, and 311 took a different view and said,
you know, please take her to an E.R. and, you know, we`d suggest that given
where she came from, that she might be a candidate for testing.
So this mom then went out of her own way, you know, got a televisit with
NYU`s E.R. where they said, you know, we don`t have enough testing
capacity, so then suggested that she self-isolate the daughter. But then
here is where we have an example of different standards.
CHEN: So at this point the pediatrician also said, if you want to play it
safe, you can stay at home. The pediatrician said two weeks from the date
of the doctor`s office.
CHEN: The NYU E.R. doctor said two weeks from the onset of symptoms. The
mom also again doing her own research looked up the CDC`s website, which
says two days from leaving Italy.
MADDOW: Two weeks from leaving Italy.
CHEN: Yes, two weeks from leaving Italy.
So then the mom goes, OK, these all have different end dates. I`m going to
play it as conservatively as possible as a concerned citizen and keep my
daughter at home as long as possible.
MADDOW: Because we`re all in the position of directing our own public
health response to these matters at this point.
MADDOW: It`s just – it`s remarkable and it`s very helpful granular
reporting that is really infuriating.
Caroline Chen covers health care for “ProPublica” – thank you for your
time this evening. Thanks for your reporting.
CHEN: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: I would shake your hand, but I don`t do that anymore. Appreciate
All right. Up next, we`re going to look at how some other countries are
doing quarantines, what steps they`re taking that appear to be working and
saving lives, stuff that we`re not doing here.
That and much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: When we first shifted to covering this health crisis almost full-
time on this show, I did an interview here on set in New York with Donald
McNeil, who is a veteran science and health reporter at “The New York
Times.” And I replay that in my head nightly while I don`t sleep, because
Mr. McNeil could not have been more stark and more dark about what was on
its way and how large a response a pandemic of this scale and speed was
going to require.
And it didn`t seem crazy at the time, but it did seem a little bit like he
was visiting from another planet and trying to sound alarms that nobody
could really hear.
Not anymore. That interview was just a couple of weeks ago, but that is
thousands of deaths ago now. And now that the U.S. economy has cratered and
the U.S. response to the virus has finally started to come into view with
testing still almost impossible to get, with the messaging from the top of
the government still inexplicable often, with state and local officials
taking matters into their own hands, I think it`s time to check back in
with Donald McNeil.
What do we know works from other countries at this point, if anything? What
could we still change now to try to emulate other countries` best
practices? Are there things we are doing now or worrying about now that
we`ve got wrong?
I need a broader perspective.
Donald McNeil has covered AIDS, Ebola, SARS, swine flu, bird flu for “The
New York Times.” He`s now covering this coronavirus crisis as well.
Mr. McNeil, thank you for coming back.
DONALD MCNEIL, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you for inviting.
MADDOW: First of all, let me ask you – I know you`ve been here since the
top of the show. Have I said anything wrong?
MCNEIL: No, no. I thought Caroline Chen`s reporting was terrific. I`m glad
that somebody pointed out the incredible confusion that people face when
they want to know whether or not they have a disease they know is deadly.
We are in a headless chicken phase of our approach to the pandemic, and we
have a president who appeared to me terrified on camera while he made his
speech and who gave an approach that made no sense. I mean, you know, why
are we blocking entry from Europe when we have epicenters all over this
country? We have an epicenter in Westchester County right now.
We may have one in this room we`re in. I don`t know yet. Won`t know for a
couple of days because you can pass it for a couple of days
asymptomatically. But the president under all world standards should be in
quarantine right now. He shook hands with somebody who just turned
You know, this is just basic medical behavior. If you`ve been exposed to a
dangerous disease, our approach here is to go into quarantine. But there
seem to be exceptions.
MADDOW: The quarantine fiasco, which I think stands alongside the testing
fiasco, to me feels like a point that`s worthy of focus because it seems
more fixable. The testing thing, we obviously screwed that up royally as a
country. They are trying to scale it up. A lot of effort is going into
that. It`s still going to take a long time and it will hamper our efforts
until we`ve got it in place.
Meanwhile without testing, all we can do is large scale mitigation efforts
like getting rid of crowds, telling people not to fly, other things like
that. But also, people who have been exposed should quarantine.
Would clear federal standards on how to quarantine and under what
MCNEIL: It`s not the right approach anyway.
MCNEIL: You don`t want infected people or suspected infected people with
their families. They`ll just pass it on to them.
China has had enormous success in beating down its epidemic. We don`t know
what`s going to happen when China tries to reopen its economy and let
people go back to the factories and back to the subways and back to offices
and restaurants and everything else. We don`t know what`s going to happen,
and they`re going to do it in a very slow, graduated way, but they have
been in lockdown all this time.
But we see the drone shots from the city and think, oh, lockdown, looks
terrible. There`s no traffic on the street. That`s not the point of what
they did. They had to do that in order to introduce the measures they were
going to take that were actually going to fight the epidemic and that is
testing, testing, testing, testing. Find the virus.
So, one thing is no matter where you go, if you are able to get out of the
house, if you go into any building, your temperature is taken. I came into
this building, nobody took my temperature. They asked me some silly
questions I could have lied about.
But, you know, they – you get your fever taken. You get into a bus, your
temperature is taken. You walk into a train station, your temperature is
taken. You walk into a building, you walk back to your apartment building,
your temperature is taken.
MADDOW: What happens if you show a fever?
MCNEIL: Then you`re sent to a fever clinic. People are not sent to your
doctor`s office. Your doctor`s office is dangerous. One of those tests will
make you cough or gag and then you`ve infected the doctor and then the
doctor`s office is out and you`ve possibly infected everybody in the
So they`re sent to specific fever clinics which the Chinese have had since
they battled SARS back in 2002. They designed, basically mapped all them.
It`s usually entrance to a hospital, it`s separate from the main entrance.
They`re met by people in complete protective gear.
The temperature is taken. They`re asked quickly what their symptoms are,
whether they`ve been exposed, how they`ve been exposed. They get a quick
white blood cell count to see whether or not they have bacterial pneumonia.
It doesn`t tell you what the bacteria, but it tells you whether or not you
likely got it. They get a quick flu test to see if they have flu.
If you`ve got one of those, maybe you can be excluded and go home. Your
symptom is something else. But if you don`t have either one of those, then
you`re given a CT scan. CT scans in this country take half an hour to an
hour and they`re, you know, extremely expensive things.
There, they have portable CT scanners. They have pushed people through
those things at the rate of 200 a day. A couple of slices of the lungs, and
that`s all, to see whether or not there are these ground glass opacities in
both lungs that are pretty good indication of this. All right?
If you come up positive for that, then you are going to get a PCR test,
which is the test we`re talking about here. It`s basically a nasal swab is
the usual way to do it, which is push a Q-tip up your nose. It`s not very
pleasant, but they do that on site. They`ve gotten it down to four hours.
There`s no sending it off to the state health department.
MADDOW: So, you sit and wait for it to come back?
MCNEIL: And you sit and wait, you are told sit, you know, a couple yards
apart from everybody else. People sitting there, it was described to me,
they`re sitting there with their pink envelopes with their CT scan and they
afraid of each other because they know they might be sitting next to
somebody who has got the virus.
And once the scan results come back, and if they can`t get the scan results
back that day, they have to go to a hotel, a quarantine hotel and wait
until the results come back.
MADDOW: Apart from their family?
MCNEIL: Apart from their family, and that is the key element. There is no
home isolation. There is no home quarantine.
Seventy-five percent to 80 percent of the transmission in China was in
family clusters. What would make the news was things like, oh, my God, it`s
in the prisons, oh, my God, it`s in parliament – it wasn`t in parliament
there. But 75 percent to 80 percent of it was inside the family, and they
knew they had to stop that if they were going to stop the disease.
So people were quickly taken away from these families to these giant
gymnasiums or stadiums where they were not concentration camps. There were
beds there, and there were nurses in protective gear to watch out for
people. They even had dance classes in these things because when you have
lots of little old ladies sort of sitting there together waiting to see if
they`re OK, if you get them all up dancing, one, it helps clear their lungs
and the people who can`t get up maybe are the one who`s are crashing.
It`s not a bad policy. We laugh at the pictures when you see people dancing
in what looked like moon suits but, in fact, that was something medically
smart that was going on. If people actually need to be hospitalized, you
know, the people who don`t need to be hospitalized are the ones in these
so-called 80 percent of mild cases.
I`m sorry I used that expression because mild when you look carefully at
the study is everything from almost no symptoms to pneumonia but doesn`t
need oxygen, doesn`t need hospitalization.
MCNEIL: Now, I`ve had pneumonia. I`ve had walking pneumonia. That was not
like having a mild cold. That was serious. I had it about two weeks
different from when Hillary Clinton got it. You saw her collapse on the
street. She had to be carried into her van when she collapsed.
I was standing on third base playing softball with some friends and thought
I`m going to collapse here and went to the doctor the next day. So, those
are the cases. They`re isolated away, and people actually sort of move
through the system. Suspect cases, mild to moderate cases, and hospitalized
severe and critical cases who are actually in hospitals.
And the crucial thing about that system is break the chains of transmission
and also do what you can to keep the hospitals from getting overwhelmed
because when the hospitals get overwhelmed, you have to say, OK, she lives,
she lives, but he dies and he dies. She`s young and has kids, we`ll save
her, grandmother, good-bye.
Those are the choices they are making in northern Italy right now, and
they`re going to be making them all over Italy pretty soon, and we will
MADDOW: Donald McNeil, science and health reporter for “The New York
Times.” people are going to clip this and send it to their local health
department from having you describe this because of the distance because of
what you`re describing and what we`re doing and preparing for. But thank
you. Donald McNeil, a reporter with “The New York Times”, thank you for
MCNEIL: Thank you.
MADDOW: Appreciate it. I`m not shaking your hand.
MCNEIL: Nor I. Sorry.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, can`t an American still bring back coronavirus
under these travel restrictions?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have them very heavily
tested. If an American is coming back or anybody is coming back, we`re
testing. We have a tremendous testing set up where people coming in have to
be tested. We`re not putting them on planes if they are – if it shows
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Americans coming back, anybody coming into this country is being
very heavily tested. We have a tremendous testing set up.
That is not true at all. On the menu of things that President Trump has
said in his three-plus years in office that are not true, this is one of
the easier ones to fact-check. This is just flat not happening no matter
how many times he says it.
(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have them very heavily tested. If an American`s coming back or
anybody is coming back, we`re testing.
(END IDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Americans are not being very heavily tested for coronavirus.
Before they get here from another country, once they get here from another
country or if they`re just here and haven`t gone to another country.
I mean, that`s not happening. That is an operational thing the president
has imagined and is now declaring to the American people as the way it is.
That was just today.
But this is not a one-off. This is every day from him, and it turns out it
has serious consequences when in the middle of a severe public health
emergency, the president just lies about it over and over and over again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We`re going to be pretty soon at only five people, and we could be
at just one or two people over the next short period of time.
YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC ANCHOR: Congress` top doctor has told Senate
staffers that he expects 70 million to 150 million Americans to contract
TRUMP: I mean, view this the same as the flu.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIH: The mortality of this is multiple times what
seasonal flu is.
TRUMP: Anybody that needs a test gets a test.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don`t have enough
TRUMP: We`re very close to a vaccine.
FAUCI: When you`re talking about the availability of a vaccine, you`re
talking about a year to a year and a half.
TRUMP: A lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat.
FAUCI: We do not know whether it`s going to diminish as the weather gets
PENCE: The risk of contracting the coronavirus to the American public
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do expect more cases.
ALEX AZAR, HHS SECRETARY: We can expect to see more cases in the United
FAUCI: We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are
TRUMP: It`s going to disappear. One day it`s like a miracle, it will
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For us as a country, it is just unfortunate that we have that kind
of a president who`s that – who has that easy a time lying during this
kind of a problem when we really need to know the truth.
But for us as Americans, we also have a history, a recent history that we
can learn from at a moment like this. There are people among us from whom
we can learn about how best to pressure our government into being better
when they are being terrible and when they are bungling a health crisis
with consequences of life and death for potentially thousands of Americans.
There are people among us we can learn from because they`ve done it and
they`ve fixed it in the past.
That`s next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: This was a major day of protests by AIDS
activists in this country, 1,000 of them converging on the National
Institutes of Health outside of Washington demanding more research on the
REPORTER: Today`s demonstration is the latest of many staged by the
militant group Act-Up, which has gained increasing influence on AIDS
policy. Act-Up`s strategy has been successful in getting the Food and Drug
Administration to loosen the regulation of new drugs for AIDS.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Act-Up stands for the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. It was
founded in 1987 as the AIDS epidemic rose to almost unimaginable heights.
It was founded with the founding believe that AIDS was deadly not only
because of the virus but because of the human failure, institutional
failures, the failure of our government to recognize the magnitude of the
crisis and act rationally and aggressively to fix it and save lives.
One of the legendary activists with Act-Up starting in the early `90s was a
man by the name of Gregg Gonsalves. Altogether, he has spent more than 30
years working on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues, as an activist,
also as a scientist. He earned his PhD in public health from Yale. His
life`s work has been focused on giving politicians and policymakers a hard
time and also giving them the data they need to make better public health
decisions and then holding them to it if they show unwillingness to do it
in the time or with the alacrity that they need to save lives.
His life`s work in other words has been preparing him for this moment.
Joining us now is Gregg Gonsalves. He`s an assistant professor of
epidemiology at Yale School of public health. He`s also in 2018, MacArthur
Genius Grant winner.
Professor Gonsalves, it`s really nice to have you here.
GREGG GONSALVES, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, YALE UNIVERSITY:
Nice to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, I want to talk to you because I feel like Americans are
cottoning to the fact that our government is a big part of the coronavirus
problem, that our government response is terrible. I feel like there must
be something to learn from the AIDS movement in terms of how to make a bad
government response better.
GONSALVES: Well, for many of us, it`s deja vu all over again.
GONSALVES: It was death by public policy in the 1980s where we had malign
neglect by the Reagan administration that let tens of thousands of
Americans die before the president even uttered the word AIDS.
GONSALVES: And it`s been 30 years, and we`ve seen other health crises come
and go and presidents, Democratic and Republican, rise to the challenge.
Now, all these years later, we have another president, again, malevolence
and incompetence put together to imperil many, many more people in the
United States that were imperiled by HIV in the early days.
MADDOW: The gay community was so galvanized by AIDS, and the AIDS activist
movement was so inflected by the gay – by the gay community, especially in
the early days because that community was so disproportionately hit by the
This epidemic is a pandemic. It`s everywhere. It seems to show no
demographic contours at all in terms of susceptibility. I wonder if that
makes you think – how that makes you think about the possibility of
building – I don`t know if it has to be a movement but building some sort
of effective citizen feedback loop so that our government feels like they
can no longer stay this bad in their response.
GONSALVES: Well, we have to build a large coalition pretty quickly, and
it`s interesting that this disease is going to impact people who also were
impacted by the AIDS epidemic, the incarcerated, immigrants, people of
color, people who are underinsured or uninsured totally. So we have a lot
of work to do in building bridges with movements that already exist,
immigrants rights movement, the Dreamers, people working on prison
abolition, to try to build a movement very, very quickly to get our
government to get off the dime and do what`s right.
We don`t – we don`t have months and years for this. We have days and weeks
to get it right.
MADDOW: I want to talk to you about treatment and vaccine politics and
some of the other ways that you have learned the hard way how to try to
influence the government even in places that don`t like to be susceptible
to pressure, if could hold on to us for one segment.
Gregg Gonsalves is an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale School of
Public Health, a legendary AIDS activist – we`ll be right back with him
MADDOW: – Gregg Gonsalves, who is an Act-Up veteran from the AIDS
movement. He`s now assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale School of
Professor, thanks for being here.
One of the successes of the AIDS movement is penetrating a seemingly
impenetrable bureaucracy to get drugs developed and into bodies faster than
the system otherwise would have got them there. Do you envision any sort of
treatment activism like that around therapeutics for the coronavirus or
indeed a vaccine?
GONSALVES: I think there are people already as we speak working on trying
to figure out the problems that have to do with the diagnostics scale up in
the United States that are thinking about vaccines and treatment activism.
We have the connections with the scientists with the drug companies, the
diagnostic companies now that the we didn`t have 30, 40 years ago.
MADDOW: Because you changed the system.
GONSALVES: We changed the system. What`s difficult now is that the top of
the pyramid, the president, the vice president, secretary of state of
health and human services are an impenetrable fortress, and it`s been very
hard to think about how we can get into that sort of circle of influence to
make a difference.
MADDOW: Do you think that public pressure and citizen activism and direct
action and the sort of things that were so effective in the AIDS movement
have a role to play here either now or in the future when we start to think
about the hospital crunches that are coming, when we start to think about
the real point of the spear public health calamities that are coming? Do
you think that the government`s response can be made better by citizens
making it so?
GONSALVES: I think we can make noise. It`s the only thing we can do at
this point. It`s incumbent on journalists, on activists, on academics to
raise the alarm.
We don`t have weeks and months. We have days before our trajectory starts
to mirror that of Italy`s from two weeks ago. So, we have to do what we can
to point out the failings in the current response and push them to do
better. I know it`s a daunting task but we really don`t have any choice.
MADDOW: Gregg Gonsalves, thank you for being here. I want to shake your
hand. I`m not going to do.
MADDOW: I`m teaching myself not to do that anymore.
It`s great to have you here. Thank you.
GONSALVES: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: A couple things to update you on that have come to pass since we
have been on the air over the course of this hour. It`s a sort of an era of
constant breaking news.
I mentioned at the top of the show that the Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau
was himself under quarantine. His wife returned from a speaking engagement
in London, in the U.K. and felt ill. She was undergoing testing. He
announced that he would undergo self-quarantine while she awaited results
of her test.
We`ve just learned in the past couple of minutes that Sophie Trudeau, the
prime minister`s wife, has in fact tested positive for coronavirus.
Here`s the statement from the Canadian government. Quote: The prime
minister is in good health with no symptoms. As a precautionary measure and
following the advice of doctors, he will be in isolation for a planned
period of 14 days. Also on the advice of doctors, he will not be tested at
this stage since he has no symptoms.
For the same reason, doctors say there is no risk to those who have been in
contact with him recently. But again, his wife has tested positive.
In terms of what`s happening in our government right now, while it has been
a little bit of a nightmare to watch the president try to put together a
sentence or two on this subject, including last night`s disastrous speech
from the Oval Office, things proceed apace in congress. Just a short time
ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairman of the Ways and Means
Committee announce they are close to a deal with the Trump administration
on an aid package related to the coronavirus crisis. The speaker unveiled
this bill late last night. It would provide financial resources to people
and businesses affected by the pandemic, reportedly including free testing
once we finally have some freaking testing.
She and Chairman Neal reportedly negotiating all day today with the Trump
administration`s designated negotiator, who is Treasury Secretary Steven
Mnuchin. The speaker told a group of reporters camped outside her office
this evening that they should go home for the night and expect an
announcement of some kind tomorrow.
But according to the speaker, most of the differences between the two sides
have been resolved and this will be the first significant policy response
of the U.S. government through Congress in terms of legislation that we`ve
had. The House will meet again in the morning. It looks like they will have
something to vote on and again the Senate has canceled its planned recess
so they will be at work.
Watch this space.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the