GOP slush fund TRANSCRIPT: 3/23/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Amy Klobuchar, Donald McNeil, Megan Ranney


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much 



And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 


Here`s just one snapshot, one cross-section, one day in one U.S. state. 

This is the front page of the “Minneapolis Star Tribune” right now. 

Governor Walz in self quarantine. The governor of Minnesota is former 

Democratic Congressman Tim Walz. 


He is under quarantine as of tonight after coming into contact with someone 

with COVID-19. It was believed to be a member of his security detail. The 

governor says he is not showing any symptoms but he is going into 

quarantine. That`s the governor. 


Also, on the front page of “The Star Tribune” right now, a story about the 

lieutenant governor of Minnesota. Her name is Peggy Flanagan, also on the 

front page of that same paper right now, with the news that her brother has 

just died from coronavirus. She described her brother as a tough as nails 

U.S. Marine.


And she says this, quote: If you feel fine, that`s great, but please 

consider the possibility that you`re carrying the virus and don`t know it, 

and then you walk past the next Ron, my big brother, in public. COVID-19 

now has a personal connection to me. Please do all you can to prevent one 

for you. 


Also on that same front page, tonight, Minnesota`s confirmed case load as a 

state, jumps from 169 known cases yesterday to 235 known cases today. 


Also, on that same front page, the fact that the transit system in the Twin 

Cities is cutting its service by, two days from now, by 40 percent. 


And then there`s the news from Minnesota`s senior U.S. senator, Amy 

Klobuchar. And again, the context here, in that state, the state`s governor 

is now quarantined, the state`s lieutenant governor just announced that her 

brother just died, and now, the state`s senior U.S. senator, Senator 

Klobuchar, announces that her husband has coronavirus and he is 



Quote: I have news that many Americans are facing right now. My husband 

John has the coronavirus. We just got the test results at 7:00 a.m. this 



She says, quote: John started to feel sick when I was in Minnesota and he 

was in Washington, D.C. And like so many others who have had the disease, 

he thought it was just a cold. Yet, he immediately quarantined himself just 

in case and stopped going to his job teaching in Baltimore. 


He kept having a temperature and a bad, bad cough, and when he started 

coughing up blood, he got a test, and a chest X-ray, and they checked him 

into a hospital in Virginia, because of a variety of things, including very 

low oxygen levels, which haven`t really improved. 


He now has pneumonia and is on oxygen but not a ventilator. While this 

story is his and not mine, I wanted to let my colleagues and constituents 

know that since John and I have been in different places for the past two 

weeks, and I am outside the 14-day period for getting sick, my doctor has 

advised me to not get a test. As everyone is aware, there are test 

shortages for people who need them everywhere and I don`t qualify to get 

one under any standard. 


While I cannot see him and he is, of course, cut off from all visitors, our 

daughter Abigail and I are constantly calling and texting and emailing. We 

love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but 

a very strong and resilient person. 


I love my husband so very much, and not being able to be there at the 

hospital by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease. 


I hope he will be home soon. I know so many Americans are going through 

this and so much worse right now. So I hope and pray for you, just as I 

hope you will do for my husband. Meanwhile, I`m working in the Senate to 

get help to the American people. 


And that announcement today from U.S. senator and until recently Democratic 

presidential candidate, Amy Klobuchar. 


Joining us now, live from D.C., where she has stayed at work as the Senate 

tries to pass a bill to mitigate the economic collapse caused by this virus 

– Senator Klobuchar, thank you so much for making time to be here tonight. 


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN):  Well, thank you, Rachel. And thank you for 

mentioning my good friend Peggy Flanagan whose brother so tragically died. 

And I think one of the things about this happening to me and to so many 

others, is it`s going to happen to every family, it`s going to happen to 

everyone, whether it is a friend or your grandpa, and one of the things you 

find out when this happens, which Peggy knows too, is you can`t go and 

visit your loved one. 


I would love to be at my husband`s side right now. But instead, I`m with 

you, which is fine, on this show. But it is so hard, because you want to 

talk to the doctor, and be there. You want to see what the oxygen levels 

are, you want to bring flowers, and you can`t do any of that. 


And that`s going to happen to everyone, because visiting someone in the 

hospital makes it so much worse, because you can pick up the disease, or 

spread it to other people. 


And if my husband hadn`t did what he did, he literally went into the 

apartment, and never left, except to get groceries, and was very careful, I 

think a lot of other people would have gotten sick from him. And I think 

that`s one thing you learn from people that get sick, but it`s also people 

that just have to stay in their houses, and listen to the experts right 

now. I can`t tell you how important that is. 


MADDOW:  You said in your statement that he has had low oxygen levels and 

that he`s in the hospital, he`s getting oxygen. Can you give us any update 

on his condition and what – what you are, at least, what his doctors are 

able to say about what they expect for his prognosis? 


KLOBUCHAR:  Well, one of the things he had, which is so common, is he had 

over 100 degree temperature, for ten days, and it was really only when he 

coughed up the blood that he went to get the test, because we knew how hard 

it was to get the test and then it took, you know, five and a half days, 

like so many people have experienced, to get the results. And so, that was 

this morning, and that`s when we knew for sure, but all weekend, we thought 

that it was probably it. 


And so right now, he`s still at that low oxygen level, he is still on 

oxygen. But we`re just so glad that he hasn`t gotten to the point of 

needing a ventilator, and so, they`re waiting to see what happens because 

one of the strange things with this disease is it can just suddenly 



And, of course, he`s saying, I got to go teach my class remotely. And I`m 

like no. And so, at some point, I mean, the hope is he will probably come 

home with oxygen, but the minute he can come home, he will. 


So, you know, we don`t know. These things have taken a turn for the worse, 

like Peggy`s brother, who had cancer, and so that was part of what went on 

there, but there is a lot of other people that suddenly, for no reason, it 

takes a turn. 


So I am just hoping and praying for him like I am for so many people across 

the country. Like I said, many people have had worse or will have worse. 

And it`s made me, as I was, obsessively focused on getting these tests out 

to people, getting them in much more available, making them quicker, so 

health care workers know, getting the equipment to healthcare workers, 

everything would make a difference for people right now. 


And that`s why I`m here and I`m so proud of our Democratic Caucus, hanging 

together, from the most progressive people in our caucus, to the more 

moderate conservatives, everyone hung together, everyone said no, everyone 

said we`ve got to do better for the hospitals. 


And Senator Schumer and Senator Durbin and Murray and so many others, did 

such a great job on this. They`ve been negotiating through the night, as 

well as so – it was such a team effort, and we are working on, of course, 

unemployment insurance, and small businesses. And I keep pushing to get 

those ballots ready, so we can have our mail-in ballots. 


There`s just been so much good work going on right now, and the American 

people should not settle for what they`ve had to date, which is not enough 

tests, not enough equipment. And that`s why I`m here tonight, and so many 

of my colleagues are working around the clock. 


MADDOW:  There has been this – this fight in the Senate, as you`re 

describing, all Democrats, standing together, and saying what Senator 

McConnell is offering is not the right response, it`s not enough, it 

doesn`t meet the right priority, not the right way to deal with this. It 

certainly feels like a clash between two immovable sides, but there`s also 

this urgency to get some relief passed. 


KLOBUCHAR:  Yes, I think that actually there have been some really positive 

developments in the last few hours, because of all of this work that`s 

going on. I know I`ve talked to at least ten of my Republican colleagues 

today, and I know that those that are in the committees, like I can`t even 

– Senator Warner, and Senator Cardin, Senator Shaheen, that are just 

working so hard, that are negotiating all of this right now. I think that`s 

key (ph) – Senator Leahy, of course, with Appropriations. 


There`s just been a lot of work going on that`s positive that I still think 

that there is a good chance we`re going to get an agreement. And then, of 

course, Speaker Pelosi has her bill that has a lot of things in it that is 

difficult to get through the Republican Senate, but would make the bill so 

much better. 


So I just cannot stress enough for your viewers how hard people are working 

so that we have a bill that puts people first, and it`s going to get that 

equipment out, and make us so much better prepared when this next group of 

patients are going to be coming in, and we know that they`re coming in. 


MADDOW:  Senator, let me just also ask you about your workplace right now. 

By last – my last count, I think that five members of the Senate are now 

quarantined. Senator Rand Paul has tested positive. While he was awaiting 

his test results, he was coming into work every day, reportedly using 

facilities like the Senate gym.


As a member of the government, as a senior member of the government, in the 

branch that you`re in, are you worried about a situation in which a single 

– a significant number of people who are involved in the government are 

essentially out of commission at the same time, we`re already in an awkward 

situation in the Senate, where there`s a good number of senators who can`t 

come in to cast votes? 


KLOBUCHAR:  Oh, yes, and that`s why I`m a proponent for remote voting. That 

is something that a number – Rob Portman called me about it today, he`s 

been working on it, Senator Durbin and others. And I`m ranking on the Rules 

Committee, and having seen these senators now either quarantined, off and 

on, off and on, we`re going to have to do more work, Rachel. 


I don`t think we`re going to get everything we want on the mail-in ballots, 

and I think we could because we have Democrats and Republican secretaries 

of states that actually want to have a democracy, an election where people 

can vote in the fall. And so, there`s a number of things that we`re pushing 

for right now and there`s some things we`re going to be doing in the next 

month, and people are going to have to vote. 


And so, one of the ways you can do this, and I looked at this, I believe 

it`s legal under the Constitution, as long as we change the rules of the 

chamber, on a very emergency basis, to allow for some remote voting, and 

especially when it pertains to these emergency measures. 


So that`s one of the things we`re pushing for. The staffs are the ones that 

are on the front line, and I think again, I just keep going back to the 

grocery store workers, and the doctors and nurses, and the janitors, and 

the people who are taking care of their neighbors, and leaving groceries on 

the front porch. We`re going to be tested as a country, like we`ve never 

been tested before. 


And the way you have to do this is to step back, and be grateful, and be 

generous in spirit. When all these things are going wrong, that there are 

people that are going to work every single day, including staff members, in 

the Congress, but including those police officers at the front door of this 

place, including – that right now, all of these health care workers, like 

the ones treating my husband that I have never gotten to thank because I`ve 

never gotten to meet them, because I can`t go there. They are doing this 

incredible job, and putting themselves at risk, and the least they deserve 

is the best equipment that money can buy. 


MADDOW:  Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, we wish, of course, 

John an absolutely swift and complete recovery. 


KLOBUCHAR:  Yes (ph) 


MADDOW:  We look forward to him being immune from this disease after his 

recovery, so he can be one of the super heroes who`s going to help us on 

the other side of this curve. 


KLOBUCHAR:  Exactly. 


MADDOW:  Thank you for making time for us –  




MADDOW:  – Senator.


KLOBUCHAR:  That`s what I keep telling him to make him feel better. That is 

a good point. So, thank you.


MADDOW:  Good.


KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  Well, tell him that THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is with you on that. 

Thank you, Senator. 


KLOBUCHAR:  OK, excellent.


MADDOW:  We`ve got a lot of news to get to tonight. Well, first, let me 

give you what we think may amount to a little bit of good news. Honestly, 

good news is overstating it a little bit. But it is potentially the light 

at the end of someone else`s tunnel. At least it`s reason to hope. 


Let me tell you about this. For a couple of weeks now, as Italy became the 

largest epicenter of the pandemic, as Italy surpassed China in terms of its 

death toll, as northern Italian hospitals have become overrun by seriously-

ill coronavirus patients, as it has just been absolutely terrible in Italy, 

we have repeatedly been warned in this country, by people in a position to 

know, that the shape and the scale of the Italian epidemic is where the 

United States is heading. 


That overall of course is terrible news, because Italy is in terrible 

shape. But the reason to hope, that`s coming out of Italy right now, is 

that Italy may, may, I repeat may, be starting to turn the corner. China 

and South Korea had the two first worst epidemics as you know, and their 

graphs went straight down and then came down, they had the two first worst 

epidemics and they each turned the corner against them and they have 

additional challenges and things aren`t over, but those numbers came down. 


In Italy, things are still terrible. And their death toll is higher now 

than China or South Korea ever got. But after living with weeks of a 

national stay at home order, Italy may have finally come to that kind of 

inflection point that both China and South Korea hit, where things started 

to turn in a better direction. 


Last week, we reported here on the show that the number of new infections, 

newly-reported cases in Italy, had started to show a smaller rate of 

growth. Still terrible. Still getting lots of new infections. But the rate 

of growth in new cases had started to shrink. 


As of today, the rate of increase in new coronavirus cases in Italy is down 

in the single digits for the first time. They still have 13.5 percent 

double digit growth, as of Saturday, but as of today, it is down to just 

over 8 percent. It`s the first time they have had single digit growth in 

new cases since things got terrible, right? 


It`s still growing. Still terrible. But those numbers are finally starting 

to head in the right direction in terms of newly-discovered cases. 


And now, it`s the same kind of news on deaths in Italy. We have been 

watching in horror over the past week, as the death toll rose and rose all 

week long, last week, as Italy started to see one-day death numbers that 

were higher than anything China reported in any sustainable way, at the 

worst of the Chinese epidemic. 


Well, now, the number of daily deaths in Italy is still abominably, 

unimaginably, but the daily death numbers in Italy have finally started to 

decline. We reported last week that Italy had climbed up over 300 deaths a 

day, over 400 deaths a day. On Saturday, Italy hits 793 deaths per day. On 

Sunday, it was not 793, it was 651. Today, they announced it was 608. 


And that`s still very bad. That`s still the worst on earth. But in the 

place that has it the worst on earth right now, it is starting to very 

slowly get better. The numbers are starting to go in the right direction. 


And why is that? Well, as I mentioned, and as you know, Italy has a 

national stay at home order. Italy put in place a national stay at home 

order and travel restrictions March 9th. That`s only two weeks ago. Just 

like a decade ago, doesn`t it? 


Two weeks ago they put that order in place and the experts said at the time 

that the Italian authorities were expecting that it would take two weeks to 

start to show any beneficial effect of that national stay at home order in 

terms of just starting to slow it, starting to tame that raging out of 

control epidemic. Well, it is two weeks ago today, since they put in place 

that national order, and now, as of today, their curves in terms of new 

case, the curves, in terms of deaths, are finally starting to flatten just 

a little tiny bit. 


And that is, you know, thousands of deaths down the road. But maybe for 

them, the inflection point is within site. Maybe the light at the end of 

the tunnel is at least imaginable. 


We, on the other hand, have a raging out of control epidemic in this 

country, and we even now, even with those kinds of examples, around the 

world, see what China did to fix it, see what South Korea did to fix it, 

see what Italy didn`t do in time to avoid the calamity they are in now, 

seeing what their two-week national effort has finally started to yield, in 

terms of benefits, we in this country, with our raging out of control 

epidemic, are only barely starting to take the measures that will offer us 

any hope of slowing it down. 


I mean, California was first, with a statewide stay at home order. Then 

Illinois and New York joined them. And now, finally, in hither and yon, 

when they get around to it, other states are starting to follow. Over the 

past few days, on Saturday, New Jersey joined the stay at home order as 

well. On Sunday, it was Delaware, and also Louisiana, and also Ohio. 


Today, it was Michigan, and West Virginia, and Wisconsin, and 

Massachusetts, and Indiana, and Connecticut goes into effect today. 

Missouri finally announced school closures. But still, there`s no stay at 

home order in Missouri. 


Idaho, announced 27 new confirmed cases today, but the governor of Idaho 

has no interest in say banning gatherings of any size, he`s apparently fine 

leaving restaurants and bars and whatever other businesses to do whatever 

they want and that leaves the state of Idaho`s cities and towns to invent 

it themselves, figure it out themselves, put in place their own measures if 

they want to if they can figure it out, but hey, rush, no worry, statewide, 

the governor thinks everything will be fine, right? 


Here`s the front page of the “Idaho Statesman” right now. For every ICU bed 

in Idaho, experts predict we will have one to 14 patients who need it. You 

may be about to outstrip your ICU beds by a factor of 14. You know what 

kind of condition people are in when they need an ICU bed? And they`re not 

going to be able to get them by a factor of up to 14? 


Yes, no rush, Governor. No rush. It will probably work out OK. Even if you 

don`t do anything statewide to slow the spread in your state, sure, 

probably, why not risk, it see what happens. 


In Brazil, they are now using their gigantic Brazilian soccer stadiums as 

field locations for new coronavirus hospitals. In Austria, this weekend, 

volunteers and firefighters converted a convention center in Vienna, to an 

880-bed hospital, literally over the course of one weekend, they did that. 


In Spain, which has the second worst outbreak in Europe, after Italy, 

officials announced today that an ice rink in Madrid will be converted into 

a huge new morgue, because existing morgue facilities cannot keep up with 

the hundreds of deaths per day, with increasing numbers expected every day 

ahead, because Spain has not yet hit an inflection point, and started to 

turn this thing back, or slow it at all. 


Here at home, in Maryland today, the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, 

announced that the Baltimore convention center will be converted into a 

large field hospital. The Hilton Hotel in downtown Baltimore`s inner harbor 

will also be converted into a hospital overflow care center. 


In New York, which is now becoming a world capital of coronavirus impact, 

it`s starting to feel like America has this one president in Washington, 

but a whole different president for the coronavirus crisis who is the guy 

in charge of New York, who President Trump and Washington literally said 

this weekend, that GM and Ford are making ventilators, he said, quote, 

right now, when that is absolutely not happening. 


I mean, President Trump has continued, inexplicably hyping supposed miracle 

cures for the virus, right? We`ve got a president of the United States, who 

is operating in Washington, the president of the coronavirus response still 

does appear to be the guy who is in charge in New York, where New York, as 

a state, is forging ahead into the darkest days of this crisis. 




GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK:  We are today issuing an emergency order 

that says to all hospitals, you must increase your capacity by 50 percent. 

You must. Mandatory directive from the state. 


Find more beds. Use more rooms. You must increase your capacity 50 percent. 


We would ask you to try to increase your capacity 100 percent. OK? So we 

now have 53,000 beds. We need 110,000 beds. 




MADDOW:  Today, they announced that the Javits Center, the giant convention 

center in Manhattan, they are going to put four 250-person FEMA hospitals 

inside it. That`s 1,000 beds. They think it will be done within a week. 


The Army Corps of Engineers is reportedly going to filled out another 

thousand bed capacity at that same site. So 2,000 beds at the Javits 

Center, plus New York is planning on three other sites where they will put 

250-bed hospitals at two state college sites, in Old Westbury and Stony 

Brook and another at the convention center in Westchester County. 


They are also scouting nursing homes and other health care sites that the 

state can temporarily take over to basically commandeer them and make them 

into new hospital bed space, new overflow bed space, as New York hospitals, 

particularly New York City hospitals fill up. 


In New York, last week, they asked recently retired doctors and nurses to 

come back into service and help. Thirty thousand doctors and nurses signed 

up and said they would. Imagine seeing something like that going on inside 

your country, seeing New York hospitals filling up lightning fast. And 

doctors and nurses, by the tens of thousands, answering the call, coming 

out of retirement, to relieve the doctors and nurses who are themselves 

going to get sick and themselves die in some numbers, because we don`t have 

the resources to protect them, as the patient numbers surge out of control. 


Imagine being in a position of authority anywhere in this country, looking 

across this country, no matter how far away you are, looking across this 

country, to the biggest city in this country, the first worst-hit city in 

this country, knowing that the virus is already in all 50 states, imagine 

being in a position of authority, looking at the first worst-hit city in 

our country, hearing about the nurses already reusing the same protective 

masks for days at a time, already. 


Imagine being like the governor of Idaho, Brad Little, looking at that and 

deciding, eh, no big deal, I`m sure that won`t happen us to, why would I 

tell people to stay home in Idaho, we don`t need any state-wide order, I`m 

sure we will be fine. And if we won`t be fine, I`ll leave it to the mayors 

and stuff to figure it out if they want to do something, but statewide, I`m 

going to do nothing. Imagine that. 


Donald McNeil, the veteran science correspondent at “The New York Times” 

has just published a gigantic and chilling 5,000-word piece about what the 

expert international consensus now is, what we have now learned, about what 

needs to happen to shut down the epidemic and save millions of lives. I 

will tell you right now, it is not what we are doing, with this patchwork 

of responses, and non-responses, where maybe some states try to tackle it 

and some others don`t. 


Donald McNeil joins us live next. Stay with us.




MADDOW:  Donald McNeil is the veteran science and health reporter at “The 

New York Times”. We`ve had him several times since the start of our 

basically full-time reporting on the pandemic. McNeil has been pioneering 

reporting on the coronavirus pandemic since its inception and the most 

recent article is on the front page of today`s “New York Times,” above the 

fold and it will be seen as a landmark piece of journalism in the early 

U.S. response to this crisis. It`s called: Halting virus will require harsh 

steps, experts say, near total cooperation from public is key to isolating 

clusters of infections. 


In this piece, McNeil writes that stopping the virus, quote, takes 

intelligent, rapidly adaptive work by health officials, and near-total 

cooperation from the populace. Containment becomes realistic only when 

Americans realize that working together is the only way to protect 

themselves and their loved ones. 


Donald McNeil joins us now live.


Sir, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate you being here. 




MADDOW:  I mentioned a few states in the introduction tonight that have 

recently added state-wide stay at home orders, singled out a few states 

that haven`t. I should also mention that Oregon`s new stay at home order 

goes into effect today. Hawaii just announced one that goes into effect on 

Wednesday. We are seeing the sort of patch work quilt of these stay at home 



Are those types of orders in keeping with what international experts told 

you should be done? 


MCNEIL:  Yes, as long as they`re serious orders and they are seriously paid 

attention to by the populace. There`s all sorts of wiggle room and lots of 

orders. People are still gathering out and playing in the park, basketball 

and stuff, and transfer the virus, people are still, you know, having play 

dates, several kids together.


So it all depends on how people cooperate, if people recognize that they 

could be passing the virus or picking up the virus in any human 



MADDOW:  In terms of the American capacity to do what needs to be done, 

some of the things that you outlined in this new reporting feel doable if 

not politically difficult. For example, the first thing you suggested is 

the scientists need to be heard, that the people who are doing the day to 

day explaining of what`s going on, what the dynamics are of the epidemic 

right now, what needs to be done to stop it and why, should be scientists 

and not politicians, you wrote, in the same way that General Schwarzkopf 

was the person explaining what is going on in the Gulf War to the American 

people. That seems at least theoretically doable. 


But some of the other things that you talk about, I sort of have been 

reading between the lines but it seems that you are not sure America will 

ever get it together to do some of the more extreme forms of isolation and 

intrusive monitoring. 


MCNEIL:  We are not nearly as together as the Italians right now who are 

not famous for cooperation with authority at any time. You know, in 

Tennessee, people are still insisting on going, the right to go to bars. In 

England, you know, the minute they heard that the bars were going to close 

down, the bars were flooded for last call. 


You know, no. And this is just, this is just the beginning. This is just an 

attempt to freeze everything in place. Then the real work begins. 


And the real work includes first of all, you`ve got to get people who are 

infected out of their homes, so that they don`t infect their family 

members. And that means they`re going to have to go, even if they have mild 

cases, even if they have almost no symptoms, they`re going to have to go 

some blase where they can get over it together, and so that the ones who 

crash, which is a big phenomena the second week, people who seem to be 

doing fine and some will crash and need to be on oxygen, you don`t want to 

be having to call 911 at that point because there may be no ambulance for 



You would be much better off in something like the Javits Center where 

there is a nurse keeping an eye on everybody in the room who has a number 

of oxygen tanks by the wall so when you need oxygen somebody can get it to 

you instantly. And plus we need to find the fevers. Plus, we need to test 

literally millions of people because the first thing you get the test, it 

means nothing. And a negative test yields no information. You sometimes, it 

takes three or four days, even after you have symptoms, for a test to turn 

out positive. 


So there is a lot of, a lot had more to do, even, a lot more to do even 

after we go into a lockdown. And the president is talking about, after 15 

days, this may likely be over. And that`s a disastrous way to look at it. 


MADDOW:  In terms of finding the fevers, I was interested to see that Dr. 

Fauci did an interview with “Science Magazine” in which the interviewer 

asked him, you know, listen in, China, one of the things they do, they 

point an infrared thermometer at your forehead before they allow you in the 

grocery store, before they allow you on the bus to check to see if you`ve 

got a fever. Is that something that we should be doing?


And Dr. Fauci responded positively to that and said I will bring this up in 

the task force meetings, logistically, I don`t know if we can do it, but we 

– there is a good case to be made for doing that. To hear him talk about a 

measure like that positively is of interest on its own terms but, of 

course, it raises the questions of what we would do with people who had 



What you`ve described is this sort of temporary hospitals where people who 

have mild or moderate illness, have to leave their families, people who 

have fevers and get diagnosed, even just mild cases, need to be isolated 

outside of their home. That would be – that would be the next logistical 

next you`d need in order for it to make sense to widely screen people for 

fever, right? 


MCNEIL:  Yes. Look, this is tough. You have to see this as an open carry 

issue. Is it safe to walk into a grocery store while openly carrying a 

fever? You`re in endangering the other people in the store. 


You know, you yourself may not even recognize that you`re sick and 



The fever doesn`t mean you`re took (ph) to the isolation. The fever means, 

in China, that you`re taken for a test to see what the cause of your fever 

is, you know? They try to pull out flu and they try to pull out the 

possibility of it being pneumonia, and see, aha, OK, if you have 

coronavirus, we`re going to put you in isolation. 


It`s – for your own protection. Not every case is mild. It`s a misnomer to 

believe. You probably seen the TV today. I mean, I had an email from a 

family of a 25-year-old guy, very athletic young man, he is in induced coma 

and on a ventilator now, and he can`t get Gilead`s remdesivir drug and 

there is a 12-year-old girl in Georgia who is now, you know, may or may not 

make it.


This notion that it is all – this notion that it is all only going to kill 

grandma, as if that were OK, has – has got to stop. 


MADDOW:  Do you think that the problems that we`ve seen –I don`t want you 

to, I don`t ask you to do any political discussion that you don`t want to 

do – but because we have had such a patch work response of mistakes, 

because there have been problems, with the president`s communication, 

around this issue, where he has said things that aren`t true, that he has 

wild goose chased himself and happy talked this thing to the point that it 

is unrecognizable compared to the ground truth, do you think we should be 

hoping for federal nationwide orders, for their federal government, in 

other words, to get its act together or should we be just hoping for 

individual states to develop best cases that well meaning governors in 

other states can then copy? 


MCNEIL:  I don`t hold out much hope for federal orders, because the 

president is seeming to have a hard time believing in this germ. In this – 

I mean, when he`s talking about it, 15, you know, 15 days, the doors are 

open, it`s like, you know, having a lead-lined room next to the Chernobyl 

power plant and you fling open the doors and say, hey, the flowers are 

still sprouting out there, it`s a sunny day, I think it`s OK to go out. 


It`s not OK to go out. You know, there are things that you haven`t seen yet 

because so many people are getting infected but they`re not going to be 

hospitalized for, on average, another 10 days after they show symptoms, 

it`s only going to be forced home in the same way that AIDS was forced home 

to Ronald Reagan after four years of not mentioning it by the death of his 

friend Rock Hudson. 


Something`s going to have to wake the president up to the realization that 

this is a very serious danger, including to him, and his family, and being 

cavalier about it, in order to save your 401(k) is probably a short-term 

good with really bad long-term consequences. 


MADDOW:  Donald McNeil, reporter at “The New York Times,” who again has 

published what will be seen as a definitive, at least landmark piece of 

journalism, in terms of rounding up international expert opinion on what to 

do here. Thank you for being with us tonight, Don. I appreciate it. 


MCNEIL:  Thank you for inviting me. 


MADDOW:  All right. We`ve got – we`ve got much more ahead tonight, 

including some of the doctors who are trying to raise the alarm in trying 

to create some constructive pathways to get doctors and nurses more 

protective gear, so that they can stay in the fight. 


Let`s lots still to get to tonight. Stay with us. 




MADDOW:  We know we have a ventilator shortage in this country. As the 

number of coronavirus cases skyrockets, as the number of people 

hospitalized starts to rise steeply, as the number of people hospitalized 

and needing intensive care also starts to rise steeply, we have a shortage 

of ventilators in this country. 


But do we even know where the ventilators are that we do have? And where 

they are most needed? And where they might be repurposed to maximize the 

number of human lives saved? 


President Trump seems to believe that Ford and GM right now are producing 

new ventilators. He said as much this weekend. Ford and GM right now are 

not producing new ventilators. 


But if U.S. manufacturing of these things does start to surge, do we know 

at that point how those new machines would get where they are most needed? 


One doctor at Mass General in Boston writes this in “The New York Times.” 

Where should these ventilators be delivered? Which hospitals need them 

most? How can we build a nimble logistics operation that can rapidly deploy 

these machines the moment that a shortage appears imminent? The truth is we 

have no idea. 


We are currently taking an every hospital system for themselves approach. 

Big tech needs to rapidly build and scale a cloud-based national ventilator 

surveillance platform which will track hospital ICU capacity and ventilator 

supply across the nation in real time. Such a platform which Silicon Valley 

could build and FEMA could utilize would allow hops nationwide to report 

the hospital bed status and their ventilator supply daily in an 

unprecedented data sharing initiative. 


That`s a proposal from Dr. Daniel Horn who is helping lead the pandemic 

response effort at Mass General in Boston. A national ventilator 

surveillance system, basically. 


I mean if we`re honest, in addition to doing something like that for 

ventilators, which seems like a great idea, we could really use a similar 

tracking and delivery and resupply system for the life-saving personal 

protective equipment that health workers are already running out of. 


Well, there are some people who are now trying to do that themselves, on 

their own time. But trying to create and run a private sourcing and 

delivery system on a national scale for the kinds of equipment that health 

care workers need to keep them uninfected and alive in this pandemic. The 

group is called Project N95, the national COVID-19 medical equipment 



And it`s part of a digital tech-driven response to the coronavirus 

pandemic, launched by three people who used to work for the White House 

chief technology officer. That`s a position that was created during the 

Obama administration. 


So do you work in a facility where you need N95 masks or surgical masks? Or 

isolation gowns? Even ventilators? Tell Project N95 where you are, and what 

you need.


On the other side of the supply and demand chain, do you have any of those 

things? Are you making any of those things? Do you expect that you will be 

able to procure or make any of those things? Well, send information to this 

clearinghouse, about what you have, and where it is. 


Are you a local government looking for bulk orders to distribute across 

various health care facilities? Project N95 says they will work on 

connecting you with suppliers. 


And it remains to be seen how successful a project like this will be. 

Redistributing resources is really important, at a time of scarcity, but 

the original sin here is scarcity, the original sin here is the question of 

whether there is enough, even if you distribute it with perfect efficiency. 


But hey, it`s an effort. We`re trying. Folks are using the skills they have 

to try to fill – and fill the gigantic void that has been left by the 

federal government, who did no planning for this, and who squandered weeks 

of advanced notice, as to what was coming. But in terms of what it`s like 

living with this situation, as it is right now, as the numbers of 

coronavirus patients start to rise, in emergency rooms, and intensive care 

units, the doctors who are on the front lines in hospitals, as they are 

starting to become inundated with this wave of coronavirus patients, the 

doctors and the nurses, are the ground truth of this. 


Regardless of what ideas are cooking or percolating or what people are 

planning, there are health care providers right now who are living with 

this right now, who are very clear on exactly what it is that they need. 

That`s next. 




MADDOW:  Joining us now is Dr. Megan Ranney. She`s an emergency physician 

at Rhode Island hospital, which is affiliated with Brown University. Along 

with other medical professionals, Dr. Ranney founded the website, as an outline hub to try to match those with access to masks 

and other basic protective equipment with the folks who need it most, our 

front line doctors and nurses. 


Dr. Ranney, thank you so much for taking time to join us tonight. 


DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN:  It`s my honor, Rachel. Thank you. 


MADDOW:  What`s the situation right now at Rhode Island hospital and among 

you and your colleagues as you`re starting to see cases? 


RANNEY:  So I`m lucky to be in a state and hospital system that have been 

really proactive about this pandemic. We saw it coming months ago and have 

been working to try and conserve supplies, to use – set up space, to do 

everything we can to make sure that we`re adequately prepared. 


But the number of cases is rising in our state and as you know, we`re not 

actively testing the patients who come through the doors of the emergency 

department. And although doctors and nurses and housekeeping staff have 

trained for this and are 100 percent committed, we`ve never faced a 

pandemic of this nature before, much less without adequate protective 



I mean, the CDC guidelines are telling us to reuse protective equipment 

that normally would be completely disposable. We are changing our normal 

protocols in order to try and conserve supplies. The mood across the nation 

right now in emergency departments is one of fear. 


MADDOW:  In terms of what we can do as a country, what we can do as 

citizens to try to lessen the burden on you as an emergency room physician 

and for other front line providers who are really going to be taking the 

brunt of this, obviously, the idea of these social distancing measures is 

to try and slow down the number of new cases that turned up in the hospital 

and need urgent care.


At the president`s press conference today he said, our country wasn`t built 

to be shut down, he said, normal life will return soon. He seems to be 

suggesting that the social distancing measures we`re taking should be 

relieved sometime soon. I have to ask how that landed with you. 


RANNEY:  That landed pretty poorly. I can`t emphasize enough how important 

social distancing is right now. So when you stay apart from people, you 

prevent the transmission of the virus. We know from Italy that it is 

starting to work. There is preliminary data out of San Francisco under 

Governor Gavin Newsom`s direction that they`re starting to see a decrease 

in the number of new cases because they put social distancing in place 



We know it takes about two weeks for the virus to show up. So, maintaining 

that distance now is absolutely critical. And here`s the thing, it matters 

not just because I don`t want people to be infected by COVID-19, but it 

also matters because if my emergency department is full of critically ill 

patients with COVID-19, I`m not going to have the resources to take care of 

appendicitis or a car crash or a heart attack. 


Now, again, my hospital system is preparing for these eventualities. But 

nationwide, we`re going to be overwhelmed and we`re not going to be able to 

take care of the everyday emergencies that folks have whether or not 

there`s a pandemic out there. So social distancing is just critical. Now is 

not the time to say that we`re done with it. 


MADDOW:  Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital, 

thank you so much for your work and thanks for taking time to talk with us. is a clarion call to wake people up as to what you guys are 

facing and what you need. Thanks for doing that work. 


RANNEY:  Thank you, Rachel. Appreciate it.


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




MADDOW:  I have just the thing for you. How about a best new thing in the 

world today? 




MO WILLEMS, AUTHOR:  Today is Monday, March 23rd. It`s our second week of 

Mo Lunch Doodles – 




MADDOW:  That is children`s book author Mo Willems who gave the world 

Elephant and Piggie and Knuffle Bunny and the Pigeon who definitely should 

not be allowed to drive the bus. And with the help of the Kennedy Center, 

Mo Willems is also as of now America`s ad hoc at home art teacher. 


Quote: With millions of learners attempting to grow and educate themselves 

and new circumstances, I`ve decided to invite everyone into my studio once 

a day for the next few weeks. You might be isolated but you`re not alone. 

You are an art maker. Let`s make some together. 


You might be isolated but you are not alone. It`s basically a doodling 

master class, which is fantastic. It`s called Lunch Doodles. It`s free 

online. So far, it`s kind of a hit with tons and tons and tons of kids 

tuning in and making some pretty fine artwork including, full disclosure 

here, some of our own. 


These are the littlest RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producers with their doodles that 

they have done with lunch doodles. We are very proud. We`re all trying to 

do good work, to be creative, to try to find ways to do the most we can to 

help our country and be good citizens and good members of our families and 

communities. This is the kind of thing that helps. 


Be creative. Be creatively engaged. Stay engaged. Like the doodle says, we 

are all connected. 


And that is the best new thing in the world. That`s going to do it for us. 

We will see you again, same bat time, same bat channel tomorrow. 




Good evening, Lawrence.







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