protective gear TRANSCRIPT: 4/21/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
ALBERT SAMAHA, BUZZFEED INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: – factor that both the
governor and the company have cited is the fact that a lot of their workers
are immigrants who live close together.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: Yes. Albert Samaha, who along with
Katie Becker (ph), did some phenomenal reporting about this plant. It`s one
of several that have really bad outbreaks. I want to keep on this story.
Thank you very much.
SAMAHA: Thank you.
HAYES: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. I`m happy to have you
with us tonight.
I would like to start tonight by introducing you to someone. This is Hannah
Blakley. She is a nurse in Avon, Indiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNAH BLAKLEY, NURSE, IU HEALTH WEST HOSPITAL, AVON, INDIANA: Hi, my name
is Hannah Blakley, and I`m a nurse in IU Health West Hospital in Avon. I
work on a med surge floor that is currently all COVID.
I think one of the biggest things for me in the mornings is the car ride
over to the hospital. Every inch I get closer, the anxiety has gotten
bigger. And the anxiety is mostly just from, is this the day that I bring
COVID home to my husband? Is this the day that I walk in and my patient is
on hospice and their family won`t be there with them during their
Is this the day, you know, that is the end of my – my stick? You know, am
I going to lose it? Is my coworker going to lose it?
Just remember to stay home. We are fighting for you on the front lines. And
the biggest thing you can do is stay home, wash your hands, make sure that
you don`t end up in my hospital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Make sure that you don`t end up many any hospital. I feel like
we`re in this moment in terms of media coverage of this crisis where you`d
think that everyone off the coasts is not only fine, they`re all chomping
at the bit to wind down efforts from the coronavirus and to keep people
from getting sick. I feel like if you just look at American media right
now, you might have that impression.
The polling of the American public doesn`t suggest that`s what people
believe at all, even if that`s how the media is portraying. Americans by
huge proportions recognize that what we`re doing right now to slow down the
spread of the virus is necessary and prefer that we don`t dump those
policies too soon and thereby endanger ourselves and put ourselves in even
worse shape than we are now.
But, you know, don`t take it from the polling. Don`t take it from me. Front
line health workers across the country are telling this story very, very
well themselves about this not being something that is just on the coasts
and this being something that we need to take seriously. I mean, whether
it`s the nurses and health workers and their masks standing silently in
front of the fringe traveling Trump rally we don`t believe in coronavirus
protesters that we`ve seen in a few states, or whether it`s them taking
time in the middle of this crisis, in the middle of their work days to just
tell us what it is that they are dealing with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGHAN DANCY, NURSE, ST. LUKE`S HOSPITAL, CHESTERFIELD, MO: Hi. My name is
Meghan Dancy, an RN here at St. Luke`s Hospital in Chesterfield, Missouri.
I just finished a 12-hour day shift on division 9,700. It`s one of the med
surge divisions here at St. Luke`s.
For about three weeks we`ve been designated COVID unit, along with the
entire 9th floor here at St. Luke`s. I`ve been a nurse for 11 years and I
have to say this is something that I`ve never seen before. These patients
are very sick. They deteriorate quickly.
The first shift I had after we were completely designated COVID floor, I
transferred three of my four patients to the ICU to be intubated. These
patients were young, about my parents` age. So, that weighed on me
They were alone, you know, family or friends – we have no visitors here
right now. These patients are alone and they`re trusting us to take care of
them. Their families are trusting us, and it`s scary.
I have a 4-year-old, a 6-year-old, and a husband at home. And that`s one of
my biggest fears. I drove home that night, that first night, and I just
cried because I couldn`t – I really couldn`t fathom the thought of
bringing COVID home and exposing my family to that. That would be something
if had an ill outcome, I don`t know that I could bear that.
That`s – but that`s just the reality of where we`re at right now. We are
here in the middle of the country so we`ve been able to kind of take some
ideas and kind of have a little bit of an idea of what we`re going to
experience because we`ve seen on the coast before it came here.
But I`m telling you, like, I couldn`t fully understand or even – I
couldn`t – I wasn`t prepared for what we saw, what we`re seeing. It`s
definitely something new, something we have never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just one thing to see it hit first on the coasts like she`s saying
But, A, what that`s supposed to do is buy you time to prepare. And B,
seeing it hit somewhere else doesn`t necessarily prepare you even as a
health care worker for the magnitude of what is coming when it comes. So,
that`s an RN in Missouri.
I also want to show you this which I think you should see this. This is
from a trauma nurse who was working with coronavirus patients at Stony
Brook University Hospital, which is on Long Island, outside of New York
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY PACHOLK, SURGICAL TRAUMA NURSE, STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, NEW
YORK: I listen to politicians speak on TV, reporters speak on TV. We
always have the TV on listening to some sort of news. And all I keep
hearing is that the curve is flattening. The curve is flattening, the curve
is flattening. It`s working. Stay at home, stay at home.
So, that may be true, but all the ICUs are still full. They`re full. The
sickest people are still there. Some people are getting extubated, but the
truth is that there are still people on the floors that need to be
intubated and come to us.
So, I mean we may have a bed or two available but it`s not like we`re
emptying out. If, you know, if we choose to open too soon, we`re going to
be at capacity. We`ve already used our reserves. There`s, like, nothing
We are maxed out. We have these wonderful nurses from Syracuse helping us
out where we are. If it wasn`t for them, we would all be dead. I had a
crazy day today. We were super busy.
I just – I just can`t imagine what people are thinking. The ICUs are full.
We really can`t open. We can`t open this country. We can`t open the tri-
state area. That`s for sure.
None of us in the downstate area of New York can even handle anything more.
There`s no way. We`re full. If you want to live, stay home.
My God, don`t open up this country. It needs to be closed until at least
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Please. When she talks about the tri-state area, she means New
York, New Jersey, and Connecticut which as of today, those three states
alone have had more than 20,000 deaths from coronavirus just between them.
Three states account for more than 20,000 deaths out of the 44,000 plus
deaths that we`ve had in the country at large.
And that is a tragedy for the tri-state area. It tells you something about
how beleaguered health workers and health resources are in the tri-state
area. It tells you something about why. It`s also an opportunity for the
rest of the country to watch that and learn from it, to use that time of
those places going first before it starts to scale up in the rest of the
country like that.
Because the tri-state – because New York first and then the tri-state area
went first, it has been doctors and nurses working in the tri-state area
making so many of these first-person recordings about what they`re going
through and what they`re seeing. You`re seeing doctors and nurses in the
middle of the country saying don`t underestimate this. You see doctors and
nurses in the tri-state area where they`ve been absolutely overtopped
saying you need to prepare for how you are going to cope here, right?
They`ve been trying to let the rest of the country know to not
underestimate this thing. It`s interesting, we`ve been watching these front
line reports day after day after day as they come in. Particularly this
week, what we`re starting to see from people who work in hospitals in the
hardest hit areas is that they`re trying to let people know, first of all,
patients are incredibly sick and they`re incredibly hard to bring back from
But also we`re seeing a lot more young people than you might president
exam. So, do not feel immune if you are not 60 or 70 or 80 years old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ABDEL BASSILY-MARCUS: We had a very busy day, a lot of emergencies on
both sides of the unit, go from one patient to another. Interestingly, a
lot of our patients are young with no past medical history unlike the
common knowledge that it only affects older patients with a lot of
comorbidities. That`s not really what we`re observing here.
We have a lot of young patients. This patient here who is unfortunately at
the verge of being intubate. We`re trying to save her. Don`t be surprised
if she`s going to be on the ventilator by the end of the day.
DR. HAMID SHAABAN, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, ST. MICHAEL`S MEDICAL
CENTER, NJ: Today was a difficult day because we lost two young patients
who are under the age of 50. No matter how many times we lose lives in the
hospital, especially during this COVID-19 crisis, we will never get used to
the loss of the young lives.
ASHLEY WAY, TRUSTAFF TRAVEL NURSE, MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL, NY: We ended up
getting a patient in a room that – I mean, she was basically dying. She
was very unstable. We were too worried to move her upstairs because –
sorry. We were afraid that she would die in the hallway.
So, Mount Sinai has Zoom set up where they can bring the iPads in the room,
and they get the family on the phones to make a phone call. To say their
good-byes over Zoom because we`re not allowed to have any visitors right
So, I`ve never had to see anything like that ever. So, it was pretty tough
in that sense. I`ve never had to see anything like that ever, not having
someone at their side while they`re sitting there dying and just watching
their blood pressure drop slowly and their oxygen levels drop slowly. And,
you know, It was tough, for sure.
DR. MATTHEW BAI, E.R. PHYSICIAN: The volume is down but they`re coming in
sicker. So, when they come in, they can be to the extreme where they have
no pulse already or they`re coming in breathing really fast and hypoxic
with very low oxygen level and cold and blue, some of them. And this is –
this seems to be the course of COVID-19.
When they do come in and they need a lot of work, it`s a lot of work and
stressful on us. And it`s even more stressful when the young patients come
in and they don`t end up making it. It takes an emotional toll on everyone.
It makes us realize that everyone can be affected and actually kind of
scares me a little bit because when I get it, there`s no telling if I`m
going to be a mild case or a serious case.
The sobering thing is these patients aren`t the ones you expect to come in
severely affected by COVID-19. Those cases are especially emotionally
taxing, because they were previously healthy and had a family and, all of a
sudden, this happens and everything changes in the blink of an eye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s Dr. Matthew Bai who`s an ER physician at Mount Sinai
Hospital in Queens.
Again and again from these front line providers, particularly in the areas
that have been hardest hit so far, they are saying take this super
seriously. People are super sick by the time they get to us. And do not
feel immune if you are not an older person. We are seeing lots of people
including younger people without comorbidities.
You see health workers saying, please take this more seriously than you
are. The workers that are in the areas hardest hit are broadcasting that
not only to us, the public, across the country but to their fellow health
workers in other places in the country that haven`t been hit that hard yet
telling them what`s coming.
But that last doctor, as I said, works at Mount Sinai in Queens. Queens and
the Bronx, both neighborhoods in New York City, they`re both part of the
14th congressional in New York. And the 14th congressional district in New
York is represented by the high profile freshman Congresswoman Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez. It is a fair estimate that her congressional district may be
the hardest hit district in the whole country, at least for now.
Congressman Ocasio-Cortez is going to join us live in just a moment
One of the things that she has been advocating for from the federal
government is more direct support for nursing homes, including hard-hit
nursing homes in her district. When New York state started releasing data a
few days ago about the worst hit nursing homes in the state, that list
included the Kings Harbor Multicare Center in the Bronx, which is in
Alexandria Cortez`s district. The state says that 45 Americans have died
from coronavirus at that long term care facility already, 45 deaths.
The congresswoman`s district is home to these two nursing homes where 12
Americans have died at the home on the left in the Bronx and where 15
Americans have died at the one on the right in Queens.
So, we`re going to talk with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez about what it
means right now to be representing such a hard, hard, hard hit district and
what the federal government, what Congress is trying to do in terms of its
newest relief bill.
I should also mention though the congresswoman also has Rikers Island in
her district, the huge New York City jail where nearly 10 percent of the
roughly 4,000 prisoners held there have tested positive. That alone is a
stand alone crisis in the crisis that is New York City.
But we are seeing some of the largest outbreaks all across the country turn
up in jails and in prisons including the largest outbreak known anywhere in
the country which is right now at the Marion Correctional Institution in
Ohio. At that one state prison in Ohio, they`ve got 1,950 confirmed cases
among prisoners. That`s 78 percent of the prisoners in that facility have
Last night, we also mentioned a huge new outbreak in Arkansas. Notably in
Arkansas, there is no stay-at-home order, thanks to Republican Governor Asa
Hutchinson. Governor Hutchinson today announced more cases. At the Cummins
Prison in rural Lincoln County, Arkansas, the new cases he announced bring
the total to 850 known positive cases in that one prison, with more test
results still to come in there.
Still though, somehow this kind of news which we`re seeing escalating day
after day now all across the country, nowhere is safe, somehow this kind of
news translates in national politics into President Trump closing down
immigration for 60 days, since that will surely protect America from
You know, I don`t mean to oversimplify here, but it`s not like we`re
getting it from other places at this point, right? I mean, America is the
largest coronavirus disaster in the world by a million miles.
These are the top five largest outbreaks on Earth. Number five is Germany,
with just under 150,000 cases as of today. Number four is France, just
under 160,000 cases. Number three is Italy. Number two is Spain with just
over 200,000 cases.
And then there`s us, USA, USA, biggest outbreak in the world, with over
800,000 cases now. We have more coronavirus cases than all of the other top
five countries combined.
According to the COVID tracking project, our single day death toll hit a
new record high today in the United States. In the past 24 hours, 2,674
Americans are reported to have died from coronavirus, which means we are
losing one American every 32 seconds to this virus as of today.
But sure, stop immigration into the United States. That will surely cure
what ails us. Yes, surely it`s foreigners and not us who have this problem.
I mean, if you want to see the dynamic that`s actually at work in the
biggest coronavirus disaster on earth right now which is our country, this
actually shows – this is from group Topos which we`ve talked about in
terms of data visualization over the past couple of weeks. This shows how
coronavirus spread across the country, cases per capita by county day after
This is what`s happening with the American coronavirus outbreak. But sure,
stop immigration from other countries. That at least sounds great to the
The front page of the “Omaha World Herald” today in Nebraska, where
Republican Governor Pete Ricketts says there`s no need for a stay-at-home
order, everything`s fine. The front page of the biggest paper in Omaha
today is a main story about how all the meat packing plants in Nebraska are
becoming coronavirus clusters, one after the other.
The Western Reserve meat processing plant in Hastings, Nebraska. The Costco
chicken plant in Fremont, Nebraska. The JBS beef plant in Grand Island,
Nebraska, where the local mayor has pleaded for a stay-at-home order and
the local hospital is maxing out.
Smithfield pork plant in Crete, Nebraska, a Tyson plant in Dakota City,
Nebraska. Another Tyson plant in Lexington, Nebraska.
Locals there telling the “World Herald” that even workers who are testing
positive at the plants aren`t able to get their own family members tested
for the virus even when they themselves have tested positive. And they`ve
been living with their families when they come home from work every day.
But yes, no stay-at-home order in Nebraska because everything will be fine.
Surely that little problem they`ve got in all the meat packing plants will
stay right there inside the meat packing plants, right? Nothing a little
deep cleaning can`t fix. Sure, it will be fine.
Last night, we reported on a big shopping mall outside Omaha, Nebraska. It
happens to be run by a major donor to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts. That
mall as we reported last night had announced that it was going to reopen
its stores next week.
We`re reopening America, reopening the economy. Drive on out, ride on
Interstate 80. Come shopping at a mall in Nebraska, come hell or high
water, why not?
Today, that mall announced that maybe they`re not going to do that. They
are walking back their plan to open up this week.
In South Dakota, where more than 760 employees from one pork processing
plant in Sioux Falls are now confirmed to have coronavirus, the governor of
South Dakota says she`s not even planning to try to get testing for the
other people who work at that same plant, 760-plus cases among people who
work at that plant, not to mention all of the dozens of cases that have
been found among their family members already. But they`re not planning on
testing the other people who work at the plant?
And there`s still no stay-at-home order in South Dakota because
everything`s fine. State is planning on holding a big car racing event with
a big live audience just outside Sioux City on Saturday night. Woo-hoo.
They`re thinking they`ll have 700 people in the stands for that. The
governor keeps insisting everything is fine, there doesn`t need to be a
statewide order in South Dakota so, see you at the races, see you there?
Governor of South Dakota, Governor Noem, said today that people shouldn`t
go to that car racing event on Saturday night outside Sioux Fall. As far as
she`s concerned, she thinks that isn`t a great idea, but she`s not actually
doing anything to stop it because she doesn`t want to. They are, as I said,
expecting a huge crowd.
In Georgia, the Georgia governor`s plans to rip the lid off and reopen
everything including tattoo parlors and massage parlors and nail salons and
dine in restaurants, as of next, that plan from Georgia Republican Governor
Brian Kemp turns out is a plan the governor announced without consulting
the rest of his supposed state coronavirus task force. He also apparently
didn`t even run it by the largest cities in his state, the mayors of which
were totally blindsided by this order from Governor Kemp.
Now, the mayor of Atlanta is left asking Atlanta residents to please ignore
what the governor`s doing, please ignore the governor saying all these
businesses should be open, please just pretend he`s not doing that.
The leadership shown in this country by elected officials in Washington and
in the states that are pretending this isn`t really happening or it`s not a
big deal, that`s what`s given us so far the run away largest coronavirus
epidemic on Earth, and more than 44,000 Americans dead, more than 2,600
Americans dying just in the past day.
And for the U.S. death numbers being so unimaginably high right now, you
cannot put the blame on New York. New York`s death numbers are finally
coming down. The spike in American deaths today is what it looks like when
we see the rest of the country`s death numbers coming up now. And Americans
are dying fastest in the nursing homes, and they`re getting infected the
fastest, it appears, in the prisons and jails and in large workplaces and
states with lax responses and lax protections.
New York went into the deep water first. New York and then the tri-state
area, their doctors and nurses, their politicians even have been trying to
warn the rest of the country about what was coming.
Well, now here it is. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez representing
the worst hit congressional district joins us live, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): In my district and in New York City
and in our community, we have had more deaths than 9/11. Multiple times of
9/11 have happened in the time since Congress has recessed.
So, I`m not here with the luxury of time. I need legislation that`s going
to save peoples` lives. And the fact that Republicans do not want to have
recurring payments, the fact that Republicans don`t want to fund states and
cities, the fact that Republicans don`t want to guarantee peoples` health
care is unacceptable to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now live is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of
the great state of New York. Her district includes portions of the Bronx
and Queens. Of all congressional districts in the country, hers appears to
be the hardest hit, so far, in terms of the impact of this virus.
Congresswoman, I know you have a lot on your plate. Thank you so much for
making time to be here with us tonight.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course. Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: I can tell from looking at the hospitals in your district and
right on the border of your district, the hard-hit nursing homes in your
district, I can tell from looking at the overall borough by borough numbers
in New York City, how badly your constituents are suffering right now and
how many of them have been killed by this virus.
But can you just tell us more about what your constituents are telling you,
what they`re asking from you?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, their requests are absolutely reflecting how dire
the situation is getting, and they`re also reflecting the lack of adequate
federal response. You know, two, three weeks ago, people were concerned
about unemployment. They were concerned about stimulus checks.
But now that rent payments have gone out, now that we have another rent
payment around the corner on May 1st, people are not asking about food
assistance. People are now scared to leave their homes. There are people
that are scared to answer the door when food does come because we`re
getting reports of continued ICE activity throughout this pandemic.
And so, what we`re really starting to see is people going from “I don`t
know how to pay my rent” to “I don`t know how I`m going to eat next month”
because 43 percent of Americans right now have either had their incomes
dramatically reduced or completely ended overall. And this crisis, that
aspect of a crisis is a choice, and it is a choice that Republicans are
affirmatively making right now by denying people the recurring payments and
the amount of aid that people need.
And when it comes to the health impacts that we have right now, we still
need PPE. You know, hospitals, thankfully, we`re starting to get to the
levels that are necessary, but we still have home health aides. We still
have nursing home workers. We have plenty of people who provide assistance
that aren`t necessarily in a hospital or clinic but are going into the
homes of vulnerable people and the elderly that do not feel like they have
the support or the assistance that they need right now.
MADDOW: I hear you in terms of the home health aides and people who are
working like health assistance paraprofessional roles. That`s absolutely
key in terms of those folks not being protected. We are also seeing in
nursing homes and long term care facilities, these incredible numbers. I
know you`ve had dire circumstances in terms of the death rates with some
nursing homes in your district.
And that`s one of the things that you have advocated for there to be more
of a federal response on.
What do you want to see the federal government do when it comes to those
congregate care facilities, long-term care nursing homes? What do you think
they should be doing?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: We need to really get in the weeds and start digging into
reimbursement and Medicare reimbursement, Medicaid reimbursement, to make
sure that people are able to access all of the care that is necessary and
so that those facilities can provide as much of the care as necessary for
everybody in need right now, COVID patients and non-COVID patients that are
in these facilities.
You know, early on, I was even hearing and seeing on the way that these
reimbursement rules are drafted, even folks who are – who are able to
offer telemedicine early on in this still had to physically show up in a
clinic in order to provide telemedicine because the reimbursement for those
services was only eligible if the person showed up to the clinic, even
though they would be able to do the same work from home.
So, a lot of this has to do with how the federal government reimburses some
of this work. A lot of it also just has to do with some of the other
factors that we have to contend with right now. We have a broken health
care system that is very disjointed that nickel and dimes people.
And we`re in the midst of a pandemic where someone could come in with a
pneumonia but because they didn`t have the ability to access a COVID test,
they have to jump through certain hoops, whether it`s through paid sick
leave or whether it`s through, you know, what kind of health care you can
get, it`s very difficult for people to make sure that they get the whole
person care that they need because our current rules are putting up a lot
of red tape.
So, what we need to do is dramatically expand Medicare so that it covers
peoples` health care costs and so that it covers the cost of the uninsured.
Pramila Jayapal has a fantastic bill that covers that.
But we also need to make sure that we`re caring for peoples` economic –
economic situation. And these aren`t unrelated because when people are able
to safely feel like they will be able to pay next month`s rent, then they
will stay inside. But if people are scared that they are going to be
evicted, foreclosed on, or have any other sort of life-altering economic
event, they are starting to go outside and trying to expose – and trying
to find work and exposing themselves to unnecessary risk because they are
frightened about the instability of their economic situation.
MADDOW: Now, there is going to be a bill that`s expected to be voted on
the day after tomorrow. And I know that you`ve been critical and very
outspoken about the fact that it ought to – that we ought to be talking
about things like recurring payments to people, not just individual sort of
stimulus-style checks. You`ve talked about some of the kinds of reforms
that you want to see as well.
And I`m – I am quite sure that that bill does not meet what you think it
ought to meet in terms of the immediate needs of the American public right
now and your constituents. But do you plan on voting for it? Do you have –
do you know if it`s – if it`s going to be better than nothing at this
point in terms of whether it`s going to earn your vote?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, you know, we`re just – the final text was not ready
for the majority of this week. We`re hearing that it just rolled out from
the Senate and we`re starting to pore over it.
But, you know, I think what we really need to realize is that this small
bill, while something may be better than nothing, it is happening in the
context of Congress having gone on recess for a month. We are going to pass
a small potatoes bill, and then we are talking about recessing again until
And if we are going to bring every member or call back almost every member
who can back to D.C. to pass a small incremental bill with the knowledge
that we are not coming back until next month again, that`s two rent checks.
And the last time we left, again, we lost over one 9/11`s worth of people
due to this lack of action.
And so, we really need to acknowledge that this small bill – whilst again
something is better than nothing – and, frankly, Democrats fought very,
very hard to get basic things like testing. Republicans didn`t want to fund
hospitals. They didn`t want to fund mass testing which is what is actually
going to allow us to reopen the economy.
So, I appreciate the strife they made in that. But, ultimately, in voting
on the text of this bill, knowing that Congress is – we are abdicating our
responsibility. We haven`t legislated for a month, and thousands of people
are dying. Thousands of people are dying every day.
And we aren`t going – and we`re talking about coming back. And every time
we pass one of these bills, we`re hearing that the real solution is coming
in the next bill and then the next bill and the next bill.
And at some point, we have to raise our hands and say, when is the solution
coming? Because two months of rent are going to pass by before we`re
actually even entertaining a real bill.
And people – we`re talking about a mass – we`re talk about the scope of
mass displacement in the United States of America. We are also talking
about major cities – New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago – laying off
almost every city worker or large – thousands of city workers and
essentially only keeping certain personnel.
We`re talking about laying off first responders and police officers because
we aren`t getting state and municipal funding.
So, I appreciate when in Congress, we say we`re going to get to it, but we
need to get to it in time. And that is ultimately the issue that we have.
And so, I`m reading the text, but we cannot just throw our hands and say
that this is someone else`s problem or that we`re going to get to it
eventually, because if we pass a relief bill next year, we`re going to be
paying for morgues. If we pass relief bill now, we`ll be paying for
prevention. And that`s the difference.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, incredibly
hard hit district, I know you have a ton on your plate – thank you for
making time for be here with us tonight.
And in terms of what`s going on in your district and what you want – what
you think the country needs to know, come back any time. We`d love to have
you any time that you want to be here.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. Thank you.
All right. Coming up next, we`ve got a bit of a scoop. Despite very, very
happy talk from an important government agency, we`ve got ahold of internal
documents that shows how a very dire situation has been papered over by the
Trump administration. We`ll show you the receipts, next.
MADDOW: Nurses protesting outside the Atlanta V.A. Medical Center a few
days ago over having to work despite a lack of protective gear to keep
themselves from getting infected. V.A. Medical Center workers around the
country have been saying that they`re being ordered to ration and recycle
PPE like masks which is putting them at greater risk for getting
coronavirus on the job.
You can see the sign this one woman is holding. It says “Say no to one mask
per week.” Sounds dire, right? One mask per week?
Practically no medical system in the U.S. has what it needs in terms of
protective equipment. But for weeks, we`ve been hearing about particularly
dire shortages in the country`s V.A. facilities and that`s worrying because
V.A. facilities are responsible for the care of more than 9 million
American veterans, a majority of whom are older and therefore at increased
risk when it comes to coronavirus.
For the times, we`ve been seeing these reports, the V.A.`s leadership has
been insisting that all is well and people are complaining for no reason
because the V.A. and all its workers have everything they need.
When “The Wall Street Journal”, for example, reported on internal documents
showing that facility has really had begun rationing PPE, a spokesperson
said in response, quote, the premise of your question is false. All
employees who need PPE have it.
That may be the line from the V.A., but I can also prove to you that that
is absolutely not the situation on the ground. We recently obtained an
email sent to employees at the V.A. Medical Center in Charleston, South
Carolina. It has to do with the face mask policy in effect at that
According to the memo, V.A. workers are separated into two groups. The
first is priority group one, those at high risk of exposure.
Here`s the face mask guidance for the priority one employees. Quote:
Employees caring for COVID-19 positive patients not undergoing high risk
procedures will receive five face masks as a two-week supply. The patient
should be encouraged to put on a face mask when someone enters their room.
The employees` face masks are reusable between patients.
Those employees, those priority one employees are encouraged to store their
own masks in their paper bags when they`re not using them. But again, those
are the lucky employees because V.A. says they`re at high risk, so they
each get a grand total of five masks to last two weeks.
As for priority group two, V.A. workers who work in outpatient care or as
screeners of these facilities or folks who work at community-based
outpatient clinics, well, here`s the guidance for them. They`ll be issued
one mask per week in the paper bag. At the end of the week, store the mask
in a paper bag. At the beginning of the second week, staff will begin a
second mask. Those two weeks will be a four-week supply. One mask to be
worn each week, and each mask reused for a second week.
Like their colleagues in the priority one high risk pool, the priority two
employees are encouraged to keep their masks in paper bags when they`re not
using them. So, the highest risk medical workers get five masks to last
them two weeks. The second group of V.A. employees, including people
working as screeners of these facilities, they get two masks that are
supposed to last them a month.
Use one for a week. Use the second one for a week, then go back to the
first one for the third week, then use the – we asked that V.A. facility
for comment to see if this policy is still in place. They forwarded us to
the National Press Office for the Department of Veterans Affairs where that
national spokesperson told us in part, quote, V.A. is currently adhering to
CDC`s contingency capacity for PPE use. V.A.`s PPE practices are keeping
veterans and employees safe during challenging times, and the numbers prove
The spokesperson also says, quote, there is no V.A.-wide guidance
categorizing staff by priority groups. Well, I guess we know that means
there`s no standard guidance across the board for V.A. workers when it
comes to using face masks. It just depends on which part of the enormous
V.A. you work for?
I mean, the sheer scale of the V.A. makes this an enormous problem. The
failure to get the equipment needed in the hands of caregiver now, right
now, I mean, we`re hearing that from V.A. workers who are picketing and
protesting outside their workplaces so people know this is what`s going on.
But the strategy from the V.A. which again is a federal agency, as part of
our government, the strategy from them over and over again has been to
happy talk this problem. And that might have worked for a while were it not
for the protests of health care workers themselves and were it not for one
intrepid reporter in particular who has consistently exposed the extent of
this problem despite the V.A. saying there`s nothing to worry about.
And that intrepid reporter joins us next. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the first big scoop almost two weeks ago. The headline:
Veterans Affairs hospital facing serious short an of protective gear,
internal memos show, even while, publicly, the V.A. was saying everything
One health care professional told “The Wall Street Journal” reporter Ben
Kesling, quote, the fear is palpable, when Kesling kept reporting on this,
as a line of inquiry at “The Journal”.
And then just a few days ago, Ben Kesling got the V.A. secretary himself to
finally acknowledge the problem, quote, in a better situation, would we
have more supplies available? Yes, but we are competing with the rest of
Joining us now is “Wall Street Journal” reporter Ben Kesling who`s really
been driving the heck out of this very important story.
Mr. Kesling, thank you for your joining us tonight. Thanks for your
reporting on this issue so far.
BEN KESLING, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: The thing that I find remarkable about this story and what you
have reported is not that V.A. has had a hard time putting together enough
PPE to protect all of their medical staff. That does not surprise me.
Sadly, I`m disappointed and worried about it, but not surprised.
What I`m surprised about is there`s this huge disconnect with that fact on
the ground and all this happy talk that the V.A. has been spreading about
it, trying to say it`s fine and there`s no problem. That`s at least the
impression I`ve had. But I wanted to ask whether that lines up with your
impression as you have pursued this line of inquiry.
KESLING: It lines up exactly with what I`ve been reporting. Talking to
doctors and nurses, providers on the ground, they understand there`s
shortages. We all know the shortages.
The nation is facing a shortage in PPE, from masks to gowns to face shields
to everything. Since the V.A. is part of the national medical system,
they`re, of course, going to be facing shortages.
Doctors and nurses just want that to be honestly conveyed to them.
And until recently, the V.A. was not saying that there were any shortages.
Every time I would reach out for comment, I would be told that the premise
of my question is wrong, and that – and that I – and that there was
plenty of gear. There were no shortages.
MADDOW: I know that a lot of your reporting has been based on internal
memos that are being circulated among top level V.A. employees. So they
have this public facing line that everything is fine, but at the highest
level of the agency, they`re circulating memos very concerned about
rationing and that extreme things they`re needing to do in order to try to
spread minimal PPE around this huge workforce.
And, obviously, I`m not asking you to compromise or even characterize your
sources, but is it fair for those of us reading your reporting to draw the
conclusion that there are a lot of people at the V.A., including high level
people at the V.A., who see value in having this information out there,
despite the fact that it contradicts the official line from the agency?
KESLING: Yes. In a word, yes. And the folks who were providing these –
providing a view into these memos, they want to make sure that this
contradiction is pointed out, that it`s shown that the V.A. just needs to
step forward and say, hey, we – we don`t have all the supplies we need. We
understand that. We`re going to have to use crisis level de facto rationing
of equipment, and we were working to get more equipment, but we don`t have
And doctors and nurses, the folks who are seeing – who are part of this
system seeing these memos, just want that to be honestly conveyed. Until
recently, it hasn`t been conveyed. And it`s only in the past couple of days
the V.A. leadership has really stepped out and started doing more broader
media appearances and talking about the fact that there is not, as the
secretary puts it, optimal levels of PPE. And that the department is going
through 130,000 some masks a day, and you`re going to run up hard against
shortages when you do that.
And they`re now coming out and saying the messaging could have been better.
We could have talked about this more. We could have – we could have just
told people that we were in the same boat as the rest of the nation.
MADDOW: Ben Kesling, reporter for “The Wall Street Journal”, I will tell
you, your reporting is what has finally forced them to be more honest about
it. And we all you owe a debt for that. Thank you for staying on this.
Thanks for your time tonight.
KESLING: Thank you.
MADDOW: Good luck.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. We will see you again
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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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