Tyson meat plant TRANSCRIPT: 4/29/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you us with.
So, if you`ve been watching the show for the last few weeks, you know we`ve
been trying in touch with front line health providers throughout this
crisis. I think that`s sort of a no-brainer. They ought to be at the center
of our understanding of what`s really grasping the country right now, what
we`re going through. What it means to have over a million coronavirus
cases, and climbing. What it means to have had over 60,000 Americans die
from this, just in a matter of weeks, with that number still just climbing
The president`s son-in-law who is a senior White House adviser with no
fixed responsibilities, Jared Kushner just went on TV today and called the
American coronavirus catastrophe a, quote, great success story for the
Trump administration. It is not, obviously. With the hugest outbreak on
Earth, even though we have the luxury of weeks, even months of warning that
it was coming, with now more Americans dead in less than two months, than
died in all of the years of the Vietnam War.
It is not a great success story for America. It is certainly not a great
success story for the administration that has not been leading a response.
So you probably noticed the pattern here, right? We`ve sort of tried to
steer clear of the happy talk weirdness as much as we can reasonably avoid
it from Washington and instead, we have tried to focus almost on a daily
basis on the American doctors and nurses and health providers who are in
the middle of it, who are really risking their lives to keep the rest of us
alive. They, of course, are also the ones who will pay most acutely for any
decisions that we and our government make in terms of accelerating the
spread of the virus again, by stopping a stay at home orders, and reopening
We don`t have a vaccine for this. We don`t have a treatment for this. The
only thing we can do is stay apart from other people, to stop the virus
spreading so fast. That`s the only thing we`ve got. That is really the only
way we can stop piling dying Americans by the thousands and tens of
thousands into the arms of our doctors and nurses who are doing the hardest
work on earth, fighting to keep people alive in the biggest coronavirus
epidemic on earth. So, we`ve tried to stay in touch with them. We tried to
keep hearing from them on their own terms as much as we can.
But tonight, here`s one that I want you to see that did not come to us
because we asked the doctor or a nurse to put on a GoPro or grab their
phone, and make a video for us. This is something that we got from Waterloo
community television in Black Hawk County, Iowa. And I`ll just tell you,
the reason I want to show this to you is that, my God, if there is one
thing that I have seen in about a week that has made me sit down and try to
figure out if I`m doing enough, if there is anything else that I can do, I
think it was seeing this.
Maybe that`s in part because I`m not sure anybody involved in this ever
thought it would be seen outside Black Hawk County, Iowa. Here`s Black Hawk
County on a map if you want to picture it. Here`s the big Tyson meat
processing plant there where apparently hundreds of people got infected on
the job and the state kept the plant open anyway through last week.
But now, little Black Hawk County, Iowa, population 130,000 in the whole
county, now, because of the outbreak that started in that plant, they`ve
got over 1,300 coronavirus cases in that county. And they`ve got a climbing
And no, they don`t have a ton of health care resources in that county. They
just don`t. They`re not designed for a pandemic. But that is what they are
coping with now.
And so, I want you to meet tonight, the medical director of one of their
local clinics, her name is Dr. Sharon Duclos.
This again the Waterloo community television. And you can hear the White
House, or the conservative TV, or your home state governor, brag about how
things are better, we`re over this, and this isn`t New York City here, and
trying to stop this virus is worse than the virus itself. Just introduce
them to Dr. Duclos in the middle of Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SHARON DUCLOS, PEOPLES COMMUNITY HEALTH CLINIC CO-MEDICAL DIRECTOR,
WATERLOO, IA: Thank God there are a lot of people that have not been
personally touched by this. And thank God there are a lot of people out in
that don`t know somebody that has been personally touched by this. But for
people who work in the health care profession, they are the front lines of
this. And they`ve had to go through that emotional rollercoaster of feeling
the wave that`s coming.
Initially, you know it`s coming, you`re watching New York City, you`re
watching all of that, that you go through, but you`re a distance away,
you`re seeing it, but not really feeling it, you feel sympathy, you`re like
oh, my gosh, that`s just so, I`m so sorry for them, but you`re still over
here, feeling A-OK. And then it gets a little closer. And then it starts to
hit your community. And then we saw the surge.
And then we felt that emotional, OK, here it comes, this wave is now
coming, here comes the tsunami. And then you change a little bit more, as
far as working around, how many positions can I change to really take care
of this wave of people if they come in.
And as you do that, then you`re trying to take care of your staff, who
start to feel like they start to get sick. And so as the wave comes in,
then you have a portion of your staff that`s out, because you`re worried
about illness, and they don`t feel well.
So, you get over that. And then people going to the hospital, and then
finally, finally, you start to see the death. And I think that`s the thing
that really gets you, is you see the impact on the family who have to sit
at home and can`t be with their loved one, who have to FaceTime, as
somebody is going through one of the most traumatic experiences of their
life. We`re going to FaceTime.
And that`s the part that finally gets very overwhelming, and I know in our
organization, that is what we`re feeling, and that`s what I`ve been
feeling, and it`s hard, because you start to go through the grief of
realizing again this is not a sprint, it`s a marathon. You have to set your
mind to work on your stamina.
As the governor announces the opening, now more than ever, and especially
in Black Hawk County, the social distancing is so important. And for me, it
is, I think about what would the person say to me who just died from this,
how would they advocate helping other people not go through what they just
went through, so that`s what I think about.
So for the other businesses, churches, restaurants, think about your
community, and think about your actions, and think about how you can best
serve the greater good. And really, really work on social distancing,
because I can tell you, it is a heavy load to carry. And my biggest fear,
as I encourage my staff to come to work every day, and be compassionate and
help people, is, my biggest fear is I`m going to lose one of them, and then
I have to carry on my shoulders, because I`m asking them to do a service
that I realize it is very hard.
And I`m asking them, I know they`ve got that pit in the middle of their
stomach, and you get up and you come to work, and you think, OK, is this
the day, so please, work on the social distancing, please help people out,
so the number of deaths that we have to endure are minimized as much as
they can. That`s my plead today. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So the number of deaths that we have to endure are minimized as
much as they can. Black Hawk County, Iowa. Waterloo, Iowa. The impact on
the doctors there, that`s the medical director of one of their clinics, I
mean that`s what happens, when you get a big outbreak of hundreds of cases,
that happens among the people who work at a meat processing plant,
somewhere in America.
And it`s not just a food supply chain issue. It`s not just an issue of the
economics of those plants. It`s not even just the immense tragedy of
hundreds of people from the same workplace all getting sick, and a number
of them starting to die.
I mean, these huge outbreaks of hundreds of cases in the places where we`re
getting big outbreaks, at meat plant, at prisons, at big jails, at nursing
homes, at all of the places we now know we as Americans are doing the worst
job keeping people alive and keeping them from being infected, all of the
places we`re seeing these – the worst outbreaks, these are not islands of
individual failure, where these infection explosions are confined within
the four walls of these facilities, these are all outbreaks, of a very
contagious communicable disease, that then creates not only immense
infection inside that facility but a large outbreak of new infection and
mild illness and severe illness and ultimately death, around wherever those
And that is what then pours into and pours over whatever hospital and
health, and ultimately morgue resources there are in that area. And that is
why it is more than just bad, that the places that have so many of these
huge outbreaks often tend to be the places politically that want to open
stuff up, the fastest, or who never shut down nonessential businesses, and
told people to stay at home in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DAN GLASCOCK, UNITY POINT HEALTH/ALLEN HOSPITAL MEDICAL DIRECTOR,
WATERLOO, IA: As the incidence of, has the incidence of health care workers
coming down with the COVID-19, impacted our services and the answer is yes,
and we have nurses that are being exposed to it, we have lots of people
that are getting tested now.
And it`s not just Unity Point clinic, it`s the health care workers across
the Cedar Valley. So it is every one of our organizations, and the nursing
homes, and anybody that`s involved in health care, that`s where we`re
starting to see the numbers start to climb. So that`s a major problem.
And as we continue to see a surge in the hospital, we are moving more
resources and more people into the hospital to try to address the care that
our patients need there, and they`re doing the same thing at Mercy One, so
that is taking more patients, or more nurses and staff and putting them
directly in harm`s way, to take care of the patients that need to be taken
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The medical director at the main hospital in Waterloo, Iowa. They
just had to build a second respiratory clinic at that facility because of
the high volume of patients that are now surging in that hospital in acute
respiratory need because they are COVID patients.
With that unfolding, in Black Hawk County, including now starting to lose
health care staff, as the patient numbers surge in the hospitals and the
clinics, with the Sioux City, Iowa area, also being another place in that
state with one of the fastest-growing outbreaks on the planet right now,
with that problem they`ve got in Black Hawk County, with the problem
they`ve got around Sioux City, Iowa Republican Governor Kay Reynolds this
week is ordering businesses in Iowa to open up.
And she has now threatened workers in the state of Iowa that if for some
reason they are afraid of unsafe conditions at their workplace, if you`re
worried about the way your workplace is set up, poses a risk of you getting
infected on the job, well, tough. According to your governor, you have to
go anyway. The governor is ordering businesses back open and going a step
further, explicitly ordering that if you believe your workplace isn`t safe
and so you don`t show up for work, she will zero out any unemployment
benefits that you have been getting.
Governor Pete Ricketts, also a Republican governor in Nebraska, is doing
the same thing to working people in his state as well.
But this is what`s emerging as Republican Party policy, or maybe strategy,
now that we`ve got over 60,000 Americans dead.
“The New York Times” today reporting on a, quote, network of conservative
leader, donors and organizations that has launched a legal onslaught
against state and local restrictions intended to slow the spread of the
coronavirus. “The Times” further reporting that these conservative groups
mounting this effort have become, quote, emboldened in recent days, by
ever-more-explicit signs that the U.S. Attorney General William Barr and
the Justice Department may take their side, to help them legally dismantle
public health efforts to slow the virus and to limit the death toll. And
they`re doing this because, because, well, this is what they`re doing,
because that`s how the administration and the Republican Party and the
conservative media are going to want to go down in history here?
Sixty thousand Americans dead. Yes. Sounds like a good start. What else can
I mean, it`s one thing if this had been their take from the outset, right,
before Americans started dying in huge numbers. We`re going to legally
challenge anything you do to try to slow this virus or slow the death toll
from piling up. It would be one thing if they had take than stance from the
very beginning but they didn`t take that stance from the beginning. This
increasingly is the unified position now, now that this many Americans have
died this quickly. Now that we`ve outpaced by four months the date by which
the favored White House model said we hit this many Americans dead.
They say we may be at 61,000 Americans dead the first week in August. Well,
it`s still April and here we are.
So, now, is what they really want to put the screws to the doctors and the
nurses and the hospitals. Let`s see how high we can get the body count.
Let`s see how many people we can get infected all at the same time. It`s
just now, now`s the time? It`s just incredible to see, to live through
It is hard to imagine what would be appropriate political accountability at
the ballot box for people who are doing this at some point. But that`s
where we are. That`s where the Republican Party is, that`s where the
conservative media is. That`s where the administration is.
And so the president issued this executive order late last night mandating
the opening of meat processing plants across the country, technically,
despite the hype and the way they build it, he didn`t really order meat
plants to stay open. He basically just moved to block any state from being
able to close a meat plant.
But just think about this for one hot second. Why have meat plants been
closing all over the place, right? Why have meat plants been closing? It`s
not like it`s been some blue state plot to make everybody a vegan or to
make meat packing look bad.
These plants have been closing in all of these different states all over
the country for one very simple, very consistent reason, because these
facilities are in the elite, the very top rung of the places in America
where the most people are being infected the most quickly by this virus.
They have proved to be an incredibly efficient location for creating
enormous outbreaks of coronavirus and all of the subsequent
hospitalizations and deaths that come from that.
I mean, to the point where otherwise stoic doctors in the heartland who
have never before been known to cry in public, medical directors of
hospitals in northeastern Iowa are weeping in public over the toll on their
doctors and nurses, right, begging the public, please, do social distancing
even though the governor is telling you it`s all fine to open now, to the
point now where today the county health director could barely get it out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. NAFISSA CISSE EGBOUNYE, BLACK HAWK COUNTY, IA PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR:
To all of the frontline staff, especially to our health care providers,
thank you for everything that you are doing. We value every single effort
you make to save every life.
This is a very difficult time, so if you see me emotional, it`s just
because it`s very difficult, and I want everybody to take this very
seriously. COVID has had a huge impact on the community.
As much as I hear, you know, with the communication that things are opening
up, what I`m asking for Black Hawk County is to pleased continue to
implement these preventative measures, I need you all to not give up. I
know it`s been very difficult, but please do not give up. By staying home,
you are saving a life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s what is happening in northeastern Ohio after the outbreak
that started in their Tyson meat plant which employs thousands of people
there. But that`s what is happening in America right now with this
In Weld County, Colorado, where the local Republican board of supervisors
is demanding that all businesses open up, and no statewide orders apply to
them, Weld County, Colorado, they`ve got one of the worst infection rates
in the state in that county, in part because of an outbreak of unknown size
as a 6,000-person JBS meat plant.
The U.S. senator in Colorado, Corey Gardner, has been bragging recently
about his role in directing 5,000 tests to that plant once they realized
they had a real problem there. Well, 5,000 tests still wouldn`t be enough
tests to test everybody who works at that plant, but in any case, the plant
did not even try to test all of its workers before reopening this past
Already five people who work there are dead. Already the public health
system in that part of Colorado is raising the alarm about the strain they
are facing in terms of the surge into the northern Colorado hospitals
because they`ve got hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cases there now.
But the plant is back up and running.
In Minnesota, today, Governor Tim Walz, visited a plant in the town of
Worthington, Minnesota, that has hundreds of cases associated with it, too.
There`s no reason for Nobles County, Minnesota, to have over 600
coronavirus cases, except for the fact that they have a JBS pork plant
there, where apparently hundreds of people have been infected on the job
because of the way the plant is set up.
In Dakota county, Nebraska, there`s a Tyson plant there that didn`t report
its first case until April 12th, which is not long ago. They have their
first case, April 12th, they`ve now got 608 known cases.
In Crete, Nebraska, which I think is how you say it, Crete, Nebraska. It`s
a small town of about 7,000 people, 25 miles from Lincoln, Nebraska, they
have at least four dozen employees tested positive this weekend and the
plant announced plans to close temporarily to clean the plant down and try
to come up with pleasures to keep the workers safe. But then the plant
reversed that decision and told the workers actually no, we`re not going to
shut down, we`re going to stay open.
And after they told the workers this re going to change their mind to stay
open, the workers at the plant walked off the job, an impromptu walkout,
not organized or approved by the union, they just didn`t know what else to
do to try to get the company to make the necessary changes to keep them
There are actually fairly good up to date federal guidelines about how
workplaces like this can be run without continuing to infect their workers
by the dozens and the hundreds, thereby creating large outbreaks of
coronavirus, all over the country, wherever these plants exist. And the
guidelines are not rocket science. But they are carefully derived by
And they involve some expense and some stuff the plants presumably don`t
want to do. They did tell them to consider slowing the line speeds down.
They don`t want to do that. Space the workers more than six feet apart.
Don`t have the workers work right across from each other, facing each
Provide everybody with masks. Disinfect everybody`s hardhats and face
shields every day. Slow down or space out break times and shift times so
there isn`t a time when everybody is crammed together in the same room or
corridor. Let people wash their hands frequently, and put hand sanitation
And these guidelines make sense. They are certainly doable things if we
want to continue to be a country that continues to have meat processing but
they`re only doable with some considerable time and expense invested on the
part of the people who invest these plants. Well, we know how this works in
a regulatory environment, right?
Unless you mandate it, unless you require every plant to do these things,
you will create a competitive disadvantage for any plant that does this
stuff, if the other plants don`t, because they don`t have to. Because of
that, you have to make them all do it. You have to make a blanket rule. You
have to make guidelines like that, mandatory, or not only will there be
some plants who don`t do it, because they want to skate, you will
economically disincentivize compliance even among plants that might be
inclined to do the right thing.
You have to make these guidelines mandatory and universal or you will not
get them. And that is how a functioning government would approach it. That
is not what our government is doing.
Instead, today, we got a hold of this. It`s the enforcement memo that goes
along with the president`s late night executive order from last night which
banned any state from shutting down a meat plant. This was the “Trump is
ordering the meat plants open” thing. It is really him blocking the states
from shutting them down.
Since received, the enforcement memo how they are actually going to do this
and the enforcement memo says yes, there are these existing, good, CDC-
derived federal guidelines how meat plants can operate without infecting
all of their employees. There are guidelines, there`s ways to do it.
But the enforcement memo for the president`s executive order explicitly
says, the Trump administration will not actually make any plant follow
these guidelines. Quote: No part of the joint meat processing guidance
should be construed to indicate that state and local authorities may direct
a meat and poultry processing facility to close, to remain closed or
operate in accordance with procedures. OSHA will take into effect good
faith attempts, attempts, to follow the joint meat processing guidance.
Just do your best, you guys. I mean really, it`s whatever you think is
best. Make a good faith effort. That`s all we`re looking for here. Give it
the old college try.
When the H1N1 virus was rearing its head in 2009, the administration
decided that the guidelines for preventing the transmission of that virus,
the guidelines worked out by the CDC and OSHA, the government decided, the
Obama administration decided in 2009 that those guidelines would be
binding. You can do that through the Department of Labor, establish an
emergency temporary standard, and you require, in that case, places like
nursing homes and hospitals, to follow those guidelines, to prevent
infection, because that made sense to do.
You don`t say these are the guidelines but nobody has to follow them. That
will ensure that nobody follows them. Instead, you create the guidelines
and you make them mandatory. That`s what they did with H1N1 in the Obama
administration. It takes a signature.
There`s no reason why the Trump administration could not do exactly the
same thing with the guidance they have already drawn up for these meat
plants that have infected thousands of blue collar workers in this country,
and that has started to swamp the hospitals and working class and middle
class and rural communities all through the Ag Belt already.
They literally could just do it. And likely save hundreds, thousands,
arguably tens of thousands of lives. They could do it with a stroke of a
pen. Why aren`t they doing it?
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: A little over a week ago, you might remember, we spoke with the
sheriff of Black Hawk County, Iowa, which is in the middle of a large and
growing coronavirus outbreak tied to the giant Tyson meatpacking plant in
the town of Waterloo. Black Hawk County at that point, a week ago, had 356
cases and three deaths. They tied roughly half of those cases back to that
one Tyson meat plant.
But the sheriff there, along with the county board of supervisors and the
board of health and the mayor of Waterloo, they were all begging Tyson, the
plant`s owner, or Iowa`s governor, Kay Reynolds, to please shut that plant
down given the impact the outbreak there was having on the surrounding
community. The sheriff said on this program last week, quote, that plant is
the biggest hole in our defense right now and creating a risk to the entire
population of my county.
Well, two days after we spoke to the sheriff last week, Tyson did finally
close down that plant. They closed it in part, they said, because so many
of the 2,700 workers at that plant were out sick. The sheriff and the
Waterloo mayor both welcomed the plant finally closing, both of them said
they worried it had come too late for their community. That was last week
in Black Hawk County.
Here`s the sheriff this week now that just as they feared, cases have
skyrocketed. I just said 350 cases roughly when we talked to him last week.
Now, the cases are up over 1,300.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF TONY THOMPSON, BLACK HAWK COUNTY, IA: One percent of our population
is now infected, and that`s the 1 percent that we have tested and that we
are aware of, that we know of, and we know certainly there are more
asymptomatic and people who haven`t been tested that are still out there. I
hear corporate Tyson talking about how this community COVID spread is
impacting their operations. And it makes me want to jump up out of my chair
to say their operations is negatively, has negatively impacted the COVID
spread in my community.
You can`t jump 500 people in testing positive and not have somebody stand
up and say, listen, folks, this is real. We can`t let it sit without
Today should be that wakeup day because we`re over a thousand cases. We`re
almost double the second highest county.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Almost a thousand cases, that was yesterday. As of today, Black
Hawk County, Iowa, has 1,326 confirmed cases. There have been more than a
dozen deaths already and the local hospitals are filling up, one Waterloo
hospital adding a second respiratory unit in the past few days to try to
deal with the high volume of COVID patients.
The county`s public health director saying now that over 90 percent of the
cases they got in the county can be traced to the Tyson meatpacking
outbreak in one way or another.
And now, President Trump says that is time to open that plant back up.
Executive order, no more shutting down meatpacking plans. Open them all
back up, with no binding guidance in terms of how they should prevent their
workers from continually getting infected in huge numbers. No binding
If Tyson decides to reopen that giant plant, because of the president`s
executive order last night, nobody can tell them no if they decide to. What
is that going mean for local officials and local hospitals trying to cope
in a place like Black Hawk County?
Joining us now is Tony Thompson, who is the sheriff there.
Sheriff, thank you so much for coming back. When you were here, I said at
the end of our discussion last week that I`d really love to have you come
back and apprise us of the latest. I am sad to know that it`s more than
1,000 cases down the road in just that week`s time. But thank you for being
THOMPSON: It is absolutely my pleasure. I wish we were talking about
something that was more positive. I wish we could have an update that said
we were on top of this. But certainly it`s now outrunning us and so
absolutely frustrating for me to know that my citizens –
MADDOW: Did we just lose his audio for a second? Do we have a backup audio
with the sheriff that we can – get him on the phone for a second? This
sometimes happens with the remote studio that I`m in and he is joining in
Oh, Sheriff, are you back with us?
THOMPSON: We could do it this way. Absolutely.
MADDOW: God bless you. See, sheriffs always have another way.
THOMPSON: I`m sorry.
MADDOW: It`s all right. If not by hook, then by crook. Let me just ask you
to – let me ask you to pick up where you left off there in terms of
feeling like you`re not getting ahead of this, that it feels like it`s
running away with you.
THOMPSON: Well, it is. It is frustrating that my citizens are so – they`re
more at risk than any other county in the state. Any citizens in the state
of Iowa, at contracting COVID, and we know that 90 percent of that ,1326
that we are facing right now that tested positive is because of the Tyson
plant. Ninety percent of that testing, it incenses me, and I almost feel
like the full-page ad that John Tyson took out in the “New York Times”
about how operations are being negatively impacted by this COVID spike, or
this COVID spread, was like a shot over my bow and my citizens` bow when we
know that it`s attributable to these inept reactionary and dysfunctional
responses to what was happening in their plants.
MADDOW: From the testing that has happened at the plant in waterloo, we
know that nearly half of the test results they got back were positive,
showing something like 44 percent positive, among people working in that
plant. Do you believe that they could operate safely enough to prevent
further spread, to prevent more people from getting infected on the job
when their work force has that many people who have been infected on the
THOMPSON: Well, look, the concern for us is clearly that Tyson is a big
part of our agri economy, in the state of Iowa, in Black Hawk County,
they`re an important partner for us, and we definitely want them to reopen.
We recognize that those 2,700 employees probably live paycheck to paycheck.
That`s an important thing for our economy. It`s an important thing for
But obviously, we`ve got to do this safely. And I don`t – I don`t have a
good feel right now that that`s possible.
But I think with that DPA that was released by the president, that we`re
going to have any kind of control or say-so whatsoever at this point. I
think again, if the good faith effort that I was seeing back on April 10th,
when I walked through that plant, with the department of health, if that`s
the good faith effort that they`re putting forth, from this point forward,
forget about it. The hole that they blew in our front line of defense is
already, the damage is already done.
Now, our front line of defense is in our correctional institution, it`s at
our E.R. front doors, it`s at our long term care facilities and nursing
homes front doors, we`ve already, we`re monitoring five long-term care and
nursing home facilities. I`ve got a nurse and a food service worker in my
own jail that have tested positive, because of, one was a roommate of a
Tyson worker, the other one worked as a PRN nurse, at a long-term care
facility, where a Tyson worker was married to a nurse that brought it into
I mean, this is ridiculous. And to have our governor opening things back up
now, obviously, we`re concerned about the economy as well. But in our
county, again, my biggest concern is my own citizens, and their public
safety, and God, I wish I was chasing bad guys instead of chasing a virus.
MADDOW: Tony Thompson, the sheriff of Black Hawk County, Iowa – sir, I can
hear the frustration in your voice, I know that you do not have to talk to
national media about what is going on right there with everything else
you`re dealing with, I appreciate you taking the time and I do want you to
come back and keep us apprised.
I`m really worried about your county and a few other counties in that part
of the country dealing with similar situations right now and I feel like we
need to stay in touch to let the country know what`s happening.
THOMPSON: Sincerely my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: All right. Thanks, Sheriff.
We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There`s a panel of 17 CEOs, hospital officials, state and local
government officials, whose job it is now to advise the governor of
Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, about what Massachusetts should do about that
state`s sizable epidemic when it comes to trying to save and restart parts
of the Massachusetts economy.
The outbreak in Massachusetts is bad. There`s now more than 60,000 cases in
the state, more than 3,400 deaths in the state already. It was 3,405 as of
4:00 p.m. today.
Thinking about what to do with existing stay at home policies, whether and
when and how to open up businesses, it is definitely a hard decision. It`s
hard for all states. It`s all the more difficult and all the more
consequential in a state that has a big epidemic already.
But in Massachusetts they`ve also got a big really advanced health sector,
including on the academic side. And that`s what makes it very interesting,
that there is another tool that can advise the governor now on what he
ought to do. Mass General Hospital, Massachusetts General, along with
Harvard Medical School and Boston University and also Georgia Tech, they
created a tool that they call the COVID-19 simulator. It doesn`t simulate
the virus, it simulates the effect of policies designed to limit the spread
of the virus.
It is a tool that basically lets policy makers play out different
scenarios. Do you lock down businesses in the state? Do you lift all
restrictions? Do you try something in the middle?
This is a tool that`s designed to show you what the consequences of that
decision might be, given the state of the epidemic right now, and when you
might want to make this policy change. The simulator lets you do this for
all 50 states. You can get online yourself, and fiddle around with it. You
can make yourself a decision maker and see if you can make good calls.
But just take a look at Massachusetts, right, which is currently under a
stay-at-home order. The governor says it is going to be there until at
least May 18th. OK.
Well, according to the simulator, this is what it looks like, if
Massachusetts keeps doing what it`s doing for the next few months. If
Governor Baker leaves intact the measures that he`s got right now, the
state will go from 3,400 deaths as of today, and those deaths will rise,
they will however level off over the summer, until by the end of August,
the state will reach a total number of deaths that is right around 4,900 –
4,900 deaths by the end of august with policy as it is right now.
But if instead restrictions are lifted by the governor, let`s say before
the end of may, soon after the current restrictions are due to expire,
well, then what happens? Then what happens is that the death count
explodes. And by the end of August, Massachusetts would not have 4900
deaths, it would have more than 27,000 deaths. That`s if they dropped the
policies they`ve got now before the end of May.
That`s the difference for one state, for Massachusetts. Between having
solid public health policy in place, and not, between keeping things as
they are, or ripping the lid off. More than 22,000 dead residents in one
state before the end of the summer.
And that is just one model. Again, that`s Mass General, Harvard Medical
School, B.U., and Georgia Tech, there are a whole bunch of different models
out there. But that`s kind of a well-sourced thing.
And obviously, it`s scary for all of the front line reasons, unless of
course you look at those absolutely preventable 22,000 deaths and decide,
well, yes, 22,000 dead, but we`ve really got to get the economy going.
That kind of thinking is what brings us to our next guest tonight, and the
next big mistake that the country is making right this second.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, we got another punishing round of economic news. The economy
shrank in the first three months of the year by an annualized rate of
almost 5 percent. Not only is that by far the worst economic quarter since
the 2008 financial disaster but we know the worst is yet to come.
Economists warn that in this current quarter the economy could be shrinking
at a rate of 30 percent.
Already more than 26 million Americans have lost their jobs in five weeks.
Tomorrow, we`re going to get the latest weekly report on job losses.
Economists expect another 3.5 million Americans to have filed for
unemployment this week.
Americans losing jobs by the million, tens of millions, across the economy,
from companies, but it`s also from town halls and local libraries. It`s
This is I think the very important headline in “The Washington Post” about
this mass layoffs begin in cities and states amid coronavirus fallout,
threatening education, sanitation, health and safety.
In Dayton, Ohio, the city`s already furloughed a quarter of its workforce
including at the city`s water department. In Baltimore, the cuts are slated
to include furloughs for police officers and firefighters. I mean, cities
and states are broke right now just like everybody`s broke right now.
But while Congress has passed roughly $3 trillion in economic relief, only
a tiny sliver of that has gone to states and cities that are facing these
huge budget shortfalls. And maybe you don`t care about that in the
abstract. But when states and cities go bankrupt, they have to fire or at
least furlough the people who work for them.
And the people who work for states and cities tend to be the people who
make civilization basically possible. Unless you don`t particularly care
for or need running potable water or trash pickup or cops or people who
will come with a truck full of water and hoses if your house catches fire.
Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell first said that states should just go
bankrupt. Then he said maybe Congress could help the states, if the states
all agree to certain Republican political priorities.
If the idea is to prop up the economy, though, why aren`t police officers
and teachers and firefighters and people who work at the water company seen
as part of the economy? And setting aside the politics of any of this, how
is this not a disastrous decision in terms of how we as Americans live and
what we`re spending money on to try to keep our civilization together while
our economy is in a coma?
Joining us now is Paul Krugman, “New York Times” columnist, Nobel Prize-
winning economist and the author most recently of “Arguing with Zombies:
Economics, Politics and the Fight for a Better Future.”
Mr. Krugman, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for being here tonight.
PAUL KRUGMAN, NOBEL PRIZE-WINNING ECONOMIST: Glad to be on.
MADDOW: Let me ask you if I said anything that seemed dumb there or if my
frustration here is frustration that you share.
KRUGMAN: No, I mean, this is basically insane. We have – there is no
shortage of money. The federal government is running huge deficits, but it
can. Right now, we can sell bonds. Washington can sell bonds at interest
rates which are ridiculously low. Interest rates which one`s we adjust for
inflation are actually negative.
So there`s essentially – there`s no reason why we should be suffering.
Things that have to be closed, restaurants have to be closed, big giant
sports events have to be closed. There`s nothing that says that we should
be laying off schoolteachers, that we should be laying off firefighters.
The money is there. But the money is in Washington. States and local
governments are required to run balanced budgets. So, the obvious thing is
to maintain these.
No unnecessary pain no, gratuitous suffering. There`s going to be a lot of
– this is going to be a difficult period. But we should minimize the harm.
But the trouble is that because of the rules of the game that money has to
come from Washington and it`s completely insane to say, no, we`re not going
to do that and to try to pretend that this epical, this Great Depression-
level economic crisis is somehow the fault of the fiscal irresponsibility
of progressive governments in blue states when in fact it`s nationwide and
it`s completely – again, has nothing to do with lack of wisdom. This is a
vast natural disaster.
MADDOW: Do you see a way that this could be structured as a policy or even
framed as an idea that could get broad Washington support and could move
money quickly? I mean, I`m – you know, I`m an American living through this
just like anybody is. You but the idea that cops and firefighters and
teachers and people who work as sanitation workers and people who work at
the water department and other people who just do basic utility stuff that
we need to keep ourselves together, that they`re at risk right now of
furloughs gives me a great sense of urgency around this.
And I feel like you can read the politics as well as anybody. Do you see a
way that this will get politically fixed?
KRUGMAN: I think there`s two things that may work in our favor. One is I
think as this starts to bite, people get a much better sense of what we`re
really talking about. Lots of people say I`m against government.
Then you say, well, do you think we should have fewer schoolteachers? Do
you think we should have, you know, fire departments? Do you think we need
to lay off policemen? They say no.
Well, that`s what state and local government is. State and local government
is overwhelmingly education, first responders, public security, highways.
It`s things that we all depend on.
The other thing is that, you know, governors, even Republican governors for
the most part, I mean, not DeSantis, but for the most part Republican
governors are aware of what`s really happening here. And if they imagine,
if Mitch McConnell imagines that somehow this is only a New York problem or
a New Jersey problem, whatever, he`s going to very quickly hear from
governors of red states that it`s – they`re in as much trouble.
And in some ways maybe even in more trouble. I`m looking at this a bit,
places like Florida and Texas depend almost totally on sales taxes whereas
New York or California depend on income taxes. And probably the sales tax
revenue is going to fall faster than the income tax revenue.
So this is going to be – we`re going to see desperate budget situations in
Republican states. And hopefully those – you know, the governors, the
legislatures of those places will be burning up the phone lines to the
Senate and saying Mitch, you know, this may sound great to you, but if you
look at what`s actually happening to us on the ground we need that money.
And it`s not at all hard to do. You could do this in a day. It wouldn`t be
a perfect bill but you would save us from what will be otherwise
catastrophic cuts in public services.
MADDOW: Really important point about those sort of coming political
“New York Times” columnist, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman,
it`s great to see you. Thanks for your time tonight. Really appreciate it.
KRUGMAN: Great to be on. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Earlier in the hour tonight, I called Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds,
Kay Reynolds. I have no idea why I did that. I didn`t realize I said it
wrong, but I apologize. It`s Kim, not Kay. That said, I still maintain her
coronavirus policies in Iowa are cray, so maybe that`s what happened.
That does it for me tonight. I will see you again tomorrow.
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