NYC virus cases TRANSCRIPT: 3/18/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
DR. JONATHAN GIFTOS, RIKERS ISLAND, FORMER DIRECTOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTH
SERVICES: – but for people in city sentences or, you know, pre-trial on
felonies, that`s done at the local level with D.A.`s office and judges.
HAYES: All right. And I hope D.A.s and judges are listening.
Dr. Jonathan Giftos, Hamed Aleaziz, thank you both.
That is ALL IN this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well. Very happy to have
you with us.
Our set may look a little different tonight. I may look a little different.
We`re trying out a remote studio option to see how it works. We`re going to
have some of our guests tonight joining us by Skype. We`re just trying out
a whole bunch of different things to see what works, while we try to make
this broadcast as resilient and as permanent and as safe as possible for
everybody involved in producing it, including our crew of all different
types, our staff, our guests, everyone.
So if anything looks or sounds a little hinky, as we try out some new
stuff, A, forgive me and please be patient, we will work it out, we are in
this for the long haul and so we have to try to innovate. You are in this
for the long haul as well. We all are.
So let`s jump right in.
In Italy, they have crossed a new threshold today. The number of people who
died in Italy from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours hit an all-time
high, 475 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. That`s the highest one-day
death toll in any country, including China, since the start of the pandemic
– 475 deaths in one day.
Italy has reported more than 300 deaths per day in each of the last four
days. That itself is a terrible new standard. China, when they were in the
worst of it, they only once reported more than 200 deaths in a day. Again,
Italy is at more than 300 deaths a day for four straight days and today,
The situation in Italy remains the worse in the northern part of that
country, particularly in the wealthy region of Lombardi, which has now
become basically the warning to the world of what will happen in countries
all over the globe if they don`t take serious steps to bring down the rate
of infection as dramatically as possible and as quickly as possible.
But it`s worth knowing that the reason it`s going so violently terribly
wrong in Italy, with more deaths per day than we have seen anywhere else,
including China now, the reason it is going so badly wrong in Italy is not
because of something that`s inherently wrong with Italy and their health
care system. Quite the contrary. In 2017, the World Health Organization did
a report on the health care system in Italy, and they were critical of some
stuff, they wanted them to, you know, up their spending on some stuff, and
realign their priorities in some ways.
But honestly, by and large, the WHO report card for the Italian health
system was pretty good. Here`s part of that report.
Performance of the Italian health system, quote, the relatively low
mortality rates in Italy suggest that the Italian health care system is
effective in dealing with life-threatening conditions. Amenable mortality
rates trended downward over the past decade. Italy has a strong acute care
That`s Italy as a whole. Northern Italy itself is even better. Northern
Italy is the richest part of Italy. It`s not some backwater, when it comes
to advanced medicine, or advanced anything. I mean, that`s where they make
the most expensive yachts in the world. That`s literally where they make
And there are big modern hospitals there, full of lots of fully-qualified
doctors and world-class equipment. And there, that place, is where they`re
now losing more than 300 people a day, 475 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Reporter Chico Harlen wrote this for the “Washington Post,” with the last
line, it will put your heart in your throat, quote, even as lockdown
measures have gradually slowed the number of new cases, the country`s death
toll has exploded, more than tripling in the span of a week. Italy`s death
toll is increasing exponentially in the way that mirrors the growth of
total cases earlier this month, as people lose battles with the disease
after several weeks.
Today, the governor of the hardest hit Lombardi region, Attilio Fontana,
said that medical care facilities – excuse me, said that medical
facilities there will soon be unable to help the sick. Quote: We will soon
be unable to give a response to those who fall ill. We will be unable to
give a response.
What he means there is that the hospitals in that region in Italy are about
to be unable to treat people, as hundreds of people are dying every day.
The hospitals are at the point of collapse. And that note there about the
deaths in Italy, now, mirroring the rise in new cases there, earlier this
month, that`s really the whole ball game. Like if there is a relationship
between two numbers or two things or two trends that you have to
understand, in order to know why all of the epidemiologists and public
health people are so freaked out right now, as well as the political
leaders who get it, it is the different between these two number, the new
cases followed three weeks later by the intensive care demand.
Marc Lipsitch explained today in a piece for “STAT” about what our options
are as a country. Marc Lipsitch is an epidemiologist who runs the Center
for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard University, he said today,
very simply, in a way that I think is actually memorable for all of us, he
said, quote, intensive care demand lags new infections by about three weeks
because it takes that long for a newly-infected person to get critically
And again, not everybody who gets infected will become critically ill, but
the people who need critical care will start showing up in ICUs about three
weeks after they became infected.
So if this is the past month, in Italy, showing the rise, rise, rise, of
infections in Italy, we will add in a three-week lag time and that`s where
you see the rise, rise, rise, in hospitalizations. A slice of those same
new infections from three weeks ago are the people who are now critically
ill and needing to be treated in hospital. And that is why their hospitals
are collapsing, the steep rise in infections foretells by about three
weeks, the collapse in their hospitals happening today. That region`s
governor again saying that we will no longer be able to treat people in
That is the terrible news from Italy. That`s why you keep hearing people
talk about Italy like it is the boogieman in this story. That`s why New
York officials in particular are sounding the alarm about the mirror
between New York cases and Italy, about how the steep rise in cases in New
York now foretells a crush in hospitals here coming very, very soon, just
as we have seen it play out in real time in northern Italy.
There`s some good news though from Italy, as well today. And it is smaller
scale good news but I will take good news where I can get it, the town in
northern Italy that reported the first death from coronavirus is a town
immediately called Vo, that I can remember, V-O, was the name of the town,
to the Veneto region, forgive me, I don`t speak Italian, my pronunciation
is terrible, but there are about 3,300 people in that town of Vo, where
they have the first deaths.
And they did a study, the local university, and they decided that what they
were going to do in that town is that they were going to tests every single
resident of the town, 3,300 people. They tested everybody. They got 90
positive tests, including at least half a dozen people who were completely
asymptomatic and would never have been otherwise identified had they not
done this experiment in which they tested everyone regardless of symptoms.
But they tested everybody, everybody who tested positive, they isolated
them, and then after the period of isolation, they tested the whole town
again. Anybody newly positive again, isolated. Well, after having done
that, after having done universal testing and universal isolation of all
positive cases, they have now gone days with no new cases in that town.
And you don`t want to extrapolate globally from one experiment in one town.
But as a matter of principle, mass testing does find asymptomatic people
who are positive and therefore still infectious. And once you identify
positive people, isolation can work, to stop people who are positive from
giving it to anyone else.
And if those are the principles with which you can extrapolate from that
experiment, well, that at least gives you a way to plan for moving ahead.
If only we could get a test for the freaking virus in this country, maybe
we could start to think about the implications of that for our big country,
and the thousands of cases we`ve got here now, as our numbers really
New York City had 814 cases as of yesterday. As of today, the number is
1,871. That is way more than doubling in a day in New York City. New York
state has enough cases, that if New York state were a country, there would
be only ten other countries on earth with more known cases.
In the United States, the worries about testing, and our hospital capacity,
and how well we`re taking care of our health workers, who after all, will
be the people who run the hospitals, and take care of the sick, those
worries are really screaming now as the American case numbers take off. Tom
Bossert is one of the people who is supposed to coordinate the national
response to a pandemic for our federal government before he and his
colleagues were all fired by the Trump administration and the Trump
administration then just never hired anybody else to take that job, here is
Tom Bossert`s take on what we need to be doing now as of today, and what in
two weeks we will wish we had spent today working on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BOSSERT, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY & COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISOR: If we`re
like Italy, and every reason to believe our numbers will grow along that
line, we could see 2,500 dead in two weeks time, and we could see over
100,000 cases, and those are planning assumptions, not predictions, but if
that`s the case, in two weeks, I`ll look back on today and said I wish I
had done three things, and they would be personal protective equipment,
personal protective equipment, and personal protective equipment, because
these doctors that we just saw interviewed, if they`re absent, they can`t
take care of us and they can`t use those ventilators. So, that`s – that`s
my fear today and that`s where I think we should be focused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`re going to look back on this day two weeks from now and what we
wish we would have focused on is three things, personal protective
equipment, personal protective equipment, personal protective equipment.
Tom Bossert is one of the officials who would have been in charge of
coordinating this response for the U.S. federal government had the Trump
administration not fired all of the pandemic response teams from the
federal government two years ago. This is from “The Wall Street Journal”
today, quote, administrators at Renton, Washington headquarters – at the
Renton, Washington headquarters, the Providence Health System, are in
conference room, assembling makeshift face shields from vinyl elastic and
two-sided tape, because supplies are drying up.
Providence, a system of 51 hospitals across seven states, has less than a
week`s supply of face shields and medical masks at its Seattle area
Literally, that`s how we`re dealing with this, in this country. In one of
the places that had the earliest experience with large numbers of cases. At
the hospital, they are making face masks themselves. Like the HR people and
the accountants and the managers at the hospital are all sitting in
conference rooms with stuff they got at hobby stores and hardware stores,
MacGyvering face masks for the doctors and nurses to use to protect
themselves in their hospital. That`s our level of preparedness as a
country, even though we got advanced notice that countries who had it worst
than us than before us, so we can see how it is going to go, that`s how
In Massachusetts hospitals, they`re rationing testing of coronavirus as of
today, not only because of a shortage of tests which we still have all over
the country but because in Massachusetts, they even have a shortage of just
the swabs, just the big Q-tip like type things to collect the samples. They
don`t have those either.
A new study of a nursing home clusters of coronavirus in Kirkland,
Washington, shows that part of the way the virus spread to nine different
nursing homes there was this chain reaction that led to 129 new cases in 11
days, they`ve done an epidemiological study of how it happened, and how it
spread to those nine nursing homes, they found that part of what happened
is staff spread it from facility to facility in part because they had a
lack of access to personal protective equipment, because we haven`t
prioritized that. Even for staff who are working in cases, in places where
there are known clusters, and with patients who are known to have been
So things are moving very fast now, obviously. The response, obviously, is
nowhere near the size of the task. The first member of Congress to test
positive for the virus is Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican
congressman. He announced tonight that he`s now the first member to be
testing positive and if his name is familiar, he is the brother of our
beloved colleague Jose Diaz-Balart, who you know from MSNBC and Telemundo.
Just in the last hour, a second member of Congress, a Democratic
Congressman named Ben McAdams from Utah, has announced he too has tested
positive for the virus. The federal government announced today that they
will deploy hospital ship, U.S. navy hospital ships to try to provide
hospital overflow capacity, one in New York, and one in some undetermined
location on the West Coast.
While that seems good, it should be noted that that will take a number of
weeks to get up and running.
And all major U.S. automakers announced the shutdown of their plants, in
the U.S., and Canada, and Mexico today, there`s been some nonspecific
murmurs from the administration that U.S. manufacturing facilities,
including potentially auto facilities might be repurposed to start building
ventilators instead for intensive care units, since we`re going to need
tens of thousands for those than we have.
Again, that seems more kind of aspirational or brain storming at the moment
but you may have seen headlines about that today as the administration
tries to advance that concept at least. Tonight, Ford Motor put out a
statement confirming they have had preliminary discussions with the federal
government about the possibility of producing ventilators and other
Palm Springs, California, today, adopted a shelter in place order that`s
like the one that is in effect now for seven million people in the San
Francisco Bay Area but so far those shelter in place orders are just in
California. The U.S.-Canada border is closed for nonessential travel in
both directions now.
The economy`s crash continues unabated with another 1,300-point loss in the
Dow today even as the federal government unveiled new proposals for big
stimulus spending to try to shore things up. We`re going to get expert
advice on those proposals coming up later this hour.
Delta Airlines announced today that they`re cutting 70 percent of their
flights. The nation`s airports announced today that without their own
bailout, they may start defaulting on the bonds that were sold to pay for
The largest shopping mall operator in the country announced that it is
shutting all of its properties nationwide, after a four state consortium of
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, ordered the closing of all
indoor retail shopping mall spaces, along with amusement parks and bowling
But even as there is more and more focus of what states are pioneering new
ideas, about what they can do to shut down and slow the spread of the
virus, it`s also worth noting, we spend all of this time saying California
is trying, the Bay Area is trying this, this city is trying this, schools
are shut down here – we`ve been talking about the places where new stuff
is being tried, where new strictures are being announced.
Look at it from the other side, though, too it is worth noting that there
are a bunch of states in this country that aren`t doing much at all. We
checked with the National Governors Association today, which is tracking
state by state responses and I was shocked to find that there are seven
states as of right now where there are no mandated bans on gatherings of
any size, there are no state mandates ordering restaurants or bars or any
businesses to close, and there`s no state mandate for school closures. None
of those things
In Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming – no
state-mandated school closures, no state-mandated limits on large
gatherings, no state mandates on the operations of businesses like bars and
Now, in some of these cases, there are, you know, recommendations,
nonbinding recommendations, urgings, strong feelings expressed by leaders,
and within these states, some schools and some businesses have followed
their own lead, or followed those urging the nonbinding recommendations,
you know, local school districts, having to make those calls themselves.
But in all seven of those states, no statewide rules. Because sure, why
not, make it up yourself. See how it goes. Now, no reason to panic, right?
No reason to hustle. Let`s see how this plays out.
Joining us now is Donald McNeil. He`s a veteran science and health reporter
at “The New York Times”. He`s covered AIDS, Ebola, SARS, swine flu and bird
flu for “The Times”. He`s now reporting on the coronavirus outbreak. Mr.
McNeil did some of the pioneering reporting on the pandemic at the very
inception. He`s a bit of a voice in the wilderness from those early days
warning how bad this would get and how quickly.
Mr. McNeil, sir, thank you for coming back. I really appreciate your time.
I`m going to ask you that I ask every time, which is have I said anything
since the show started that is wrong or wrong-headed. I know you felt like
those of us in the media have sometimes sort of put the emphasis in the
wrong place here.
DONALD MCNEIL, SCIENCE AND HEALTH REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No,
everything you said is correct. I`m shocked at those states that are doing
nothing. There is just, I mean they`re asking for it.
When Donald Trump uses the expression, you know, the virus is going to wash
through the country, and he does it with this hand motion like washing
through like a gentle breeze, that is a very common expression of
epidemiologists, the virus will wash through the population, and they mean
it will wash through the population like a tidal wave, with no immunity.
And that`s what we`re facing in this country. It`s not some gentle breeze
going through the country, it`s a tidal wave, and they`re doing nothing to
hide behind a barrier to protect themselves.
MADDOW: The surgeon general is now admitting something that you have been
saying for a while, which is we`re now on a point, on our own
epidemiological curve where you can basically see our future by looking at
the timeline of where Italy was about ten days or two weeks ago. If that is
where we`re heading, with the death rates spiking, now, in Italy, with the
Lombardi government, the governor saying we are about to not be able to
offer care in hospitals anymore, if that`s where we are, what priorities
should we derive from that, what are the single, what are the most
important things our medical system should be doing right now, to prepare
for that happening to us within two weeks?
MCNEIL: OK, I will predict that we, since we are going down the path of
Italy and much bigger country than Italy, that we will surpass Italy in the
number of dead in a few weeks because we are following the Italian model,
not the Asian model.
I don`t understand why we`re looking at a small town like Vo in Italy, when
that same lesson that you have to test and isolate as many people as
possible, was a lesson learned in cities all over Asia months ago. And we
have been paying very little attention to what they`re doing.
I talked before about doing fever checks at every building, and doing
testing as much as possible. And how you do the safe testing, but on
hospital preparation, there is, we`re doing things like ending elective
surgery at hospitals, which is great, that is step number one, fine, but in
China, and in other places, they segregated the hospitals, they said, OK,
you three hospitals are going to be designated to do nothing but COVID-19
patients, and the others are going to handle the heart attacks and the
babies that need to be born and the car crashes and everything else,
because we don`t want those coronavirus patients infecting the regular
If they couldn`t do that, they would create separate wings in the hospital.
It was basically known as the dirty wing and the clean wing. The wing of
the hospital had nothing but coronavirus patients, and the other side had
nothing but other emergency patients. And the two staffs never crossed the
zone. It was assumed that like those nursing home employees, they would
carry the virus from one side to the other.
Inside those hospitals, inside those hospitals, they would build walls in
the wings with windows in them so that a ward became an isolation ward and
you went into it basically like you do into an Ebola treatment center. You
had a gray area where you did – put on your personal protective gear,
under the eyes of the nurse who saw that you`re doing it perfectly, you
would go through the ward in one direction only and come out at the other
end when you finished with the patients and you would then take off your
gear under the eyes of a nurse. That`s what they`ve been doing with Ebola
wards with chlorine showers and you have to take it off carefully because
it can contaminate you.
The other thing they did all over Asia, is for the mild cases, the mild to
moderate cases, in other words, people who did not need to be hospitalized,
they didn`t go home. They went into isolation centers.
They went into, you know, we have all sorts of empty buildings around now.
Madison Square Garden is empty. The Barclays Center is empty. School
gymnasiums all over the city are empty. Those become sort of miniature
hospitals for the people who are infected, but don`t need to be put into a
hospital because that way, they don`t infect their own families.
It`s 80 percent, 75 to 80 percent of the clusters there, were spread within
families and it`s important to stop that. And these were, you know, they
were bed, oxygen tents, basic care, but that`s how you brought people
through and in there for two or three weeks and most of them recovered and
were able to go home and they were survivors and they were able to donate
blood to help other people survive.
They were able to walk the streets. They`re OK. They`ve recovered. And
they`re thrilled. We`re not planning that here as far as I can tell.
MADDOW: My guest is Donald McNeil, science and health reporter with “The
New York Times,” who has incredible international experience with these
Mr. McNeil, I would like to ask you to stay with us a bit longer in part
because I want to ask you about the piece which was posted at “The New York
Times” which actually offers some of the first hopeful signs I`ve seen
about a potential out of the box surveillance tool to get a handle how big
this is and where clusters are arising.
If you don`t mind sticking us with, we`ll be right back with Donald McNeil
from “The New York Times.” Stay with us. Thank you.
MADDOW: We may not have a lot of coronavirus testing in this country, but
we do have a lot of people all over the country who are realizing that they
have fevers. Fever is one of the most consistent symptoms for the onset of
This company called Kinsa Health, that makes thermometer, and what makes
the company different, and what makes their product different, is that
their temperatures not only take your temperature, they connect to an app
on your smartphone. And when you take your temperature with that
thermometer and you load it into the app and you connect to the app, that
reading is saved for you so you can track your temperature over time on the
app, but it`s also uploaded and sent to the hospital. You can set to do
that when you use the thermometer.
The company in turn tracks that data. And they map that data. And that has
made the company uncannily good in the past at predicting upticks in the
flu around the country.
Quote: For the last few years, Kinsa`s interactive maps have accurately
predicted the spread of flu around the United States about two weeks before
the Centers for Disease Control`s own surveillance tool.
So, the CDC maps flu outbreaks as they happen every year. This app that
tells you where people in the country have fevers turns out to be even
better at it than the CDC. The smart thermometer appears to be useful for
spotting fevers and in this case, it may be very useful for spotting more
than just the ordinary flu.
There`s brand new reporting on this just out tonight from Donald McNeil at
“The New York Times” and it`s fascinating. According to McNeil`s reporting,
Kinsa health is already, quote, tracking the coronavirus in real time,
something that had been impossible given the lack of testing for the
disease. Literally, the interactive maps from this company, from these
thermometers that they have sold all over the country, are providing data
about where coronavirus case clusters may be emerging.
This reporting tonight is a big deal. And this technology could make a
difference in identifying new epicenters of the coronavirus as they start
to pop up all around the country. The story broke tonight, we had Donald
McNeil booked to talk on the show tonight, while I got that news, I was
looking at my own, one of these thermometers, because I own one, I have
been using it about, to be honest, five times a day, to take my
temperature, as I have been trying out various work environments and
dispersing our staff around the country, to try and get this show produced
in as resilient a way as possible.
We`re back now with the reporter who broke the story tonight, Mr. McNeil,
science and health reporter at “The New York Times”.
Donald, thank you very much for sticking with us.
First, let me ask you if I hit the high points there and, accurately
summarized what`s so enticing or potentially really useful about this
MCNEIL: God, yes, you have explained it incredibly well for somebody who
has never seen it before, and I think the company owes you a finder`s fee.
So, I`m kidding.
But yes, it`s – I mean, I`ve been watching this company for about two and
a half years now, since the guy who started it, Inder Singh, came to visit
me at “The Times” and he shed me the notion of hey, I have these – I have
these thermometers scattered all over the country, people buy them in
stores, but they also hand them out to school children in health education
programs and two million data points and they can produce maps where fevers
are popping up all over the country that same morning as people get up to
take their temperature and their kid`s temperatures.
And they know what the flu is, by the algorithm if it is a high temperature
for three days in a row, we assume that`s flu, rather than a regular cold.
So now, they`ve taken this data, and working with a professor at Oregon
State, they`ve mapped the, basically the complete history, the typical
range of flu in every zip code in the country, for years past. They know
the high and the low of the range.
And so they know once the season starts and they`re tracking it, where you
might expect flu to be in Brooklyn at this point now, mid-March, as the flu
season is winding up. And literally, in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, they
showed me, look, there are many, many more fevers being reported from
Brooklyn than we would have predicted with our flu-month-old. And we don`t
know what those fevers are, but the obvious explanation is, those might be
And sure enough, just last week, they were seeing a big spike of extra
fevers, if you want to call them, they basically subtract the flu data out
and what is left looks like the coronavirus data. They saw that in Florida.
South Florida was not reporting a lot of COVID cases. Now, it is. Now it`s
an epicenter. They predicted it several days in advance.
So what`s great about that, is you know where to bring your testing kits.
You know where you bring your personnel. You know where to look for the
virus if you can use these tools, instead of blindly testing people in
every Walmart parking lot in the country because the worried are coming in,
in a panic, causing traffic jams.
MADDOW: Obviously, for all of these things, more data is always better, but
with the kind of sample size that they`ve got and in your report, you say
about a million of the thermometers in use around the country, does that
give you an accurate sample size for national surveillance? I guess it
gives you a place to start, if there isn`t any other form of widespread
testing or monitoring going on that could direct public testing methods by
any other means.
MCNEIL: Well, a million data points is a lot more than the CDC has, and
it`s, you know, getting weekly reports from doctor`s offices and emergency
rooms and things like that. These things have started selling at the rate
of 10,000 a day. So they`re running into production problems. But they`re
getting a whole heck of a lot more data as a result of it. And you know,
this means their algorithm is just going to get better at predicting this
And, unfortunately, the CDC has basically ignored them for three years when
they`d come to them and say, hey, we think we got something, because, you
know, typically, CDC grabs your intellectual property. If you bring
something and the CDC wants to cooperate with you, they want the rights to
the data so that they can publish it in MMWR.
And this is a mistake. I talked to an expert today who says why is a
private company running a foot race against the CDC? You know, and possibly
beating it, when they ought to be cooperating and we could – we could use
this to predict, they were very excited, the person I talked to, said this
is 21st century, you know, data gathering, and we`re stuck with a mid-20th
century very labor-intensive system where, you know, a nurse at every
doctor`s office in the country writes down a report and sends it to the CDC
at the end of the week.
This is real time. Like the minute you take your child`s temperature, they
have the data.
Donald McNeil, a reporter for “The New York Times,” I really appreciate you
taking the time to talk us to tonight. I know you`re in the middle of all
of your own work. This is a real public service for you to talk to us about
these emerging stories. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We will have much more ahead. There`s some actual
positive breaking news out of China, since we`ve been on the air, for the
first time since the coronavirus virus began, China tomorrow, so the time
zone difference, China will report no new local infections for the first
day, for the first time, since this crisis started, they will have no new
local infections for the first time, which is a point of hope for every
country in the world, who is still on the upswing, most especially us.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We are all about to find out what it feels like when the American
economy grinds to a halt. Plenty of Americans are already experiencing it.
This week, today, this was the end of a “The Wall Street Journal” report
this afternoon on the wave of job losses sweeping across the country right
Quote: When Jenny Johnson received word about a week ago that her hours at
a Seattle staffing firm were cut in half, she focused on the positive, more
time to spend with her 17-month-old son and fiance. And then her husband to
be, a prep cook and dishwasher, saw all of his shifts evaporate, her hours
were further curbed late last week, leaving Ms. Johnson to worry about
affording food and paying her electricity bill. The 25-year-old said,
quote, I`m just feeling really terrified.
On Tuesday, she is laid off entirely.
Multiply that story by a thousand, by a million, by many millions. New data
today already shows thousands of Americans being laid off because of the
coronavirus pandemic. Those new numbers explicitly do not include all the
job cuts at bars and restaurants forced to shut down across the country.
There are nearly three million waiters and waitresses alone, in America,
there are as many jobs in food service in America as there are in
manufacturing. And manufacturing is shutting down, too. Ford, GM, and Fiat
Chrysler shuttering U.S. factories at least through the end of this month.
Unemployment claims have skyrocketed so fast this week, it`s straining the
computer networks of state unemployment systems. The state of Kentucky, for
example, they usually process 2,000 unemployment claims a week, and they
got 9,000 unemployment claims yesterday alone.
The stock market continued its collapse today. Now we`re in this pattern
where it does swing wildly around every once in a while, but thousand plus
point drops in the Dow are a day that ends in “Y” now.
There appeared to be consensus emerging today across the economic and
political worlds, that the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to cause
not just a recession but the great economic collapse since the Great
Depression. Is that possible? Is it possible to avert it? Is it literally
humanly possible for us to do anything as a society to stop that from
Today, the Senate got around to approving and tonight, President Trump
signed legislation that the House passed last week to spend $100 billion on
paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and free coronavirus testing,
although a compromise forced by House Republicans means the paid sick leave
part of it applies to only about 20 percent of American workers. Thanks.
Now to the White House and congressional Republicans are reportedly working
on a trillion dollar measure that may send a couple of $1,000 checks
directly to many Americans, that would also infuse cash into businesses
large and small, to try to keep them alive, to try to keep them afloat, to
try to keep workers paid.
Are those the kind of measures that we need? Are they enough? How do we
know? And what`s the smartest way to go about deciding whether or not we
have confidence that`s true?
I have just the person to ask here with us next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: If you are feeling scared about the economy tonight, you might have
a new single issue soul mate in Washington, D.C.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I`ve been a few of these. I was here at 9/11.
I was here during the financial crisis in `08. I was here during the fiscal
cliff. We occasionally have these great crises, and when they occur, we`re
able to rise above our normal partisanship, and many times, our normal
positions, because these are not ordinary times. This is not an ordinary
situation. And so it requires extraordinary measures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Extraordinary times mean extraordinary measures. Details are still
being hammered out but the ideas for a new stimulus include two rounds of
checks sent directly to individual Americans, loans to small businesses,
$50 billion just for the airline industry, more than a trillion total.
Are there right and wrong ways to do this sort of thing? What more will
need to be done if this is done? Will this stimulus of this amount be
enough to stave off what is being described as an imminent economic
Joining us now is Jared Bernstein. He`s the former top economic adviser to
Vice President Biden. He`s now at the Center on Budget and Policy
I asked Mr. Bernstein to be here tonight because he is good at explaining
things to us who are not economists.
Jared, it is great to see you. Thanks for making time for us tonight.
JARED BERNSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES SENIOR FELLOW: Of
course. My pleasure.
MADDOW: If they are willing to spend this kind of money, if this is the
size that we`re talking about, and if you could design what the federal
government was going to do, what would be the most effective, most
necessary thing to do, with the amount of money that large?
BERNSTEIN: Well, great place to start is to think precisely about the type
of folks that are most vulnerable to the type of economic shock we`re
seeing unfold in real time, and in the segment before our discussion here,
you talked about exactly that type of person. Someone who is facing a cut
in their hours, or a layoff, who doesn`t have paid leave, who almost
certainly has almost no savings to fall back.
If this person and their family misses a paycheck for a week or two,
they`re facing fundamental problems, existential problems, meeting their
basic needs for food and rent, and they could be facing both hunger and
eviction. And so, we have to design measures that target those folks and
get out the door very quickly.
Now, I`m very glad to finally see some of the urgency that many of us have
been talking about for awhile now, reflected in Congress. You heard that
from Mitch McConnell, there is still yet a dollar to go out the door in
terms of economic stimulus and so, therefore, they`re behind the curve that
MADDOW: What do you think the government is capable of in terms of speed
here? It`s not unprecedented to literally send people money away or another
to immediately stimulate the economy and stem off a collapse? We did
something like this in 2008 in the middle of the financial collapse there,
too. But I remember it taking months. They`re talking about trying to get
the first of these payments out in a couple of weeks. Does that seem
feasible to you?
BERNSTEIN: I think it might be on the edge of feasible. You`re right. It
took three months last time in 2008. I think the check or tax rebate was
passed in February and it got out in may. I`ve never seen anything like
this get out in two weeks and I should say that the folks who are saying
that don`t have the credibility track record need I tell you that leaves
one with a lot of confidence.
And in fact, while I think there are positive attributes to their plan, a
number of us have been arguing that precisely these type of checks,
targeted low and middle income people are the probably one of the best
first ways out of the door to help folks who are soon going to be without
paychecks or already in that situation. It could take longer than a few
weeks but I`m quite certain we can do it in less than three months.
Something that was missing, though, from the package discussed today, this
$1 trillion package is significantly strengthen the unemployment insurance
system. There is a bit of that in the bill that the Senate passed but it
was really quite marginal. It`s essential that we stand up our state level
unemployment insurance system so they can meet what is an onslaught of
layoffs in the coming weeks.
MADDOW: Jared, what do you say to people who wonder where a trillion
dollars comes from for something like this? I mean, we have fights in
Washington all the time ideologically driven fights and priorities fights
about amounts of money that are many orders of magnitude smaller than this.
What do you say to people who look at something like this and say where are
they going to throw a trillion dollars to do something on this with zero
notice and why couldn`t have had the money for other things?
BERNSTEIN: Well, you know, in fact, the zero notice part is really an easy
question to answer. One thing that is kind of working in our favor right
now is because of the flight to safety meaning that is investors got out of
the stocks, they get into bonds, and that lowers the interest rates that
the government has to pay on the borrowing it does. And so, interest rates
are extremely low right now on governing borrowing.
But here is the thing, Rachel, I have a feeling you and I discussed this
maybe going on over a decade now, the right time to ask the question where
are you going to get the trillions is when you`re contemplating a deeply
wasteful tax cut that isn`t necessary to help the economy get out of a
recession. So, what we`re talking about now is what economists called
counter cyclical spending, or spending in order to meet the shock, this
negative economic shock that is caused by the economic impact of the virus.
That kind of deficit spending is not just legitimate but it`s essential.
Now, what makes life difficult sometimes when you`re in this fiscal
condition is if you`ve already spent your sort of fiscal outlet with
wasteful tax cuts, but the point is that the treasury markets, the
borrowing markets are saying to the government, you have all the fiscal
space you need to do what it takes so we should not hesitate at all.
Remember, what messes up your fiscal account in the long term is not
temporary measures to offset a recession, it`s permanent tax cuts.
MADDOW: Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy
Priorities, former economic advisor to Vice President Biden – Jared, thank
you for your time and for helping us understand this. Stay well. It`s good
to see you.
BERNSTEIN: My pleasure.
MADDOW: All right. We got one more bit of news to get to tonight. We`ll be
right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Ohio was supposed to hold the Democratic presidential primary with
three other states, Ohio did not. They postponed their election on orders
of the state health officer just hours before the polls were due to open.
In the three states that did vote last night, Vice President Joe Biden won
by really big margins. In Florida, he won all 67 counties on route to an
almost 40-point victory.
In Illinois, which was the state where Senator Sanders actually kept it
close to Hillary Clinton in 2016, Biden beat Sanders there by 23 points. In
Arizona, Biden also won by a double digit margin. He won by 12.
Going forward, Democratic primary contests have already been postponed in
five states to come, presumably more will be added to that list.
Interestingly, Alabama postponed their primary run off for Senate. They
postponed that until July. That`s of national interest because that`s the
race where Attorney General Jeff Sessions who`s trying to get his old
Senate seat back.
But in the Democratic presidential primary with Vice President Biden
doubling his delegate lead last night, there`s reasons to believe the
Democratic primary may be coming to an end anyway functionally if not
formally, it would come to an end formally if Senator Bernie Sanders
decided to end his campaign. As of this morning, the Sanders campaign
pulled all of it digital ads off Facebook. They haven`t reserved any TV ads
beyond this week.
An email to supporters today was frank. Quote: While our campaign has won
the battle of ideas, we`re losing the battle over electability to Joe
Biden. Instead of ending that email with a customary donate here button,
the message instead linked to the senator`s coronavirus plan.
Now, tonight, “The Washington Post” reports that staffers to both
candidates have been in touch regularly to discuss the public health crisis
that`s gripping the country, disclosing talks that could form the basis of
a broader agreement on policies and might make Sanders more comfortable
leaving the race. Again, that being reported just tonight in “The
Washington Post”, but watch this space.
That`s going to do 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.
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