PPE shortage TRANSCRIPT: 4/30/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests:
Safaa Elzakzoky, Keisha Lance Bottoms
Transcript:

 

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

appreciated.

 

Thanks to you at home for joining thus hour. Very happy to have you with us

here tonight.

 

I`m going to start tonight with a little piece of video that I`m just going

to say you might not want your kiddos to watch, just in the event that your

kids are watching with you. It`s nothing gory or sexy or anything, and we

have bleeped the swears, but there are many swears to be bleeped. And so

you might just want to watch this yourself before the kids see, it better

safe than sorry, you can always rewind me and restart if you decide it`s OK

for them to see. I just wanted to give you fair warning.

 

What this is, is video we actually first got our hands on a couple of weeks

ago, and it is out of Kansas, specifically out of a Kansas state prison.

Lansing state correctional facility, which is just outside of Kansas City,

Kansas.

 

And at the time that we first got this, we thought this might be a document

that was important to a larger national news story. But it might be a

bigger national news story than it seemed, specifically because of some of

the things that prisoners can be heard saying on this video. But at the

time, we first obtained this tape, we didn`t have any way to know for sure,

we were intrigued by what we were hearing, but we didn`t have the factual

backup.

 

Well, now, we know for sure. And now I think – I think you should see

this. And I will mention once again about watching the video with kids.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

(INAUDIBLE)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They aren`t giving us no healthcare for this

coronavirus.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what happen when you all got (EXPLETIVE

DELETED) going afraid.

 

(INAUDIBLE)

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They aren`t giving us no help for these mother

(EXPLETIVE DELETED). So we have to turn up real quick.

 

(INAUDIBLE)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all want to give us no healthcare? You all want to

give us no healthcare? This is what we do. All you had to do was give us a

little (EXPLETIVE DELETED) health care.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

MADDOW: Like I said, it`s a little hurly-burly. But that was a couple of

weeks ago. A video shot by a prisoner, inside Lansing state prison in

Kansas.

 

And, obviously, what`s going on there is the kind of thing that you would

call an uprising, or a riot, or an incident of unrest, depending on your

perspective or maybe depending on your politics, but the prisoners there

did really tear the place up, in one of the cell blocks at that prison. It

is a medium security prison.

 

As of that morning, the day they started tearing the place up, more than 14

members of the prison staff at Lansing had tested positive and had been

sent home from work. Twelve prisoners who had tested positive had been

moved into a medical isolation unit.

 

Now, we knew that from the prison on the day that the riot happened. But

then this Facebook live contraband cell phone video got out, showing the

riot, showing the prisoner saying, you aren`t giving us help with this

coronavirus, you aren`t giving us health care, you want to give us no

health care, well, this is what we do.

 

Just a couple of days after they got the prison back under control, there

was this notice from the Kansas National Guard, announcing that Kansas

National Guard medical staff were being brought in to help at that prison.

Quote: Trained medical Kansas national guard professionals are assisting

staff at Lansing correctional facility by supplementing medical support.

The secretary of the state department of corrections saying, quote, we

recognize the need for additional medical support at the facility.

 

So that`s what happened with the riot and then two days later, the national

guard being brought in, not to restore order, they restored order the night

that it happened, the national guard being brought in to surge medical

capacity there.

 

Well, now, we have started to get the full, first full picture of what has

really happened there, and the riot turns out to be just a crack in the

window into this story. On Monday of this week, Lansing correctional

facility reported that the first prisoner has died from coronavirus at that

facility. Yesterday, Wednesday, the prison reported that a second prisoner

had died from coronavirus at that facility.

 

The local NBC affiliate ran this feature on a 15-year veteran sergeant at

the facility who quit and walked out over lack of protective gear for the

people who work at that facility, he told the local NBC station that the

spread of coronavirus inside the facility is completely unchecked with

prisoners living five to a cell, in four-men cells, and even the guards are

only wearing homemade cotton masks.

 

There are now 75 staff who have reportedly tested positive at that prison,

prompting this headline from “The Kansas City Star”, today: A dangerous

situation, Lansing prison under stress, with 75 staff testing positive.

 

And, you know, when you have that, all those signs, when you have that many

signs, all pointing in the same direction, really you know what you`re

going to find, if you ultimately have the courage to look at what is

happening there, if you ultimately have the courage and the resources to

check.

 

Well, they have now started to test all of the prisoners at that prison, at

the Lansing state correctional institution in Kansas. Quote: Early test

results show that 75 percent of Lansing inmates have the virus. They

started the process of universal testing in the prison and the initial

results from the first sample there show 75 percent of them are positive.

 

So when those prisoners in Kansas were rioting a couple of weeks ago,

tearing the place apart, saying we need help with this coronavirus, we need

health care for this coronavirus, they were in fact, living in a unit where

almost all of them would get infected with this disease, within just a

couple of weeks. And now, two of them thus far are dead. And 75 staff are

positive.

 

You know, we are far enough into this thing now, that we know where it is

likely to be in large numbers. And we know for sure where it spreads the

fastest, if we don`t take steps to stop it. We know that now. That said,

it`s still hard to get tests in this country, even this far into it, even

with nearly 63,000 Americans dead from this already, it is still hard to

get testing here.

 

But we do know now from watching the contours of this epidemic, from

watching the number, watching the red dots on the epidemiological maps

sprout all over the country and then zooming in and figuring out where

those are, we know now where we ought to be testing, if we only had tests.

And it turns out, when we are able to test in those places, lo and behold,

you find the virus in magnificent numbers.

 

So 75 percent of the prisoners at that prison where they rioted two weeks

ago saying, we need help with coronavirus, 75 percent of those prisoners

are positive. And we know that because they finally tested there. So far,

the federal prison system has done full-scale testing in one prison at

Terminal Island in California. They ran 1,055 tests on all the prisoners at

Terminal Island, 443 of them tested positive.

 

They now started a medical build-out at that facility to try to handle the

huge numbers of cases there. And the medical care there ultimately, they`re

going to have to provide. And, of course, it`s not just prisons, we know

where the biggest concentrations are of infection, we know where the most

rapid and exhaustive spread of infection tends to happen in our country.

 

This, for example, is the headline today in “The Cleveland Plain Dealer”.

What happens when an entire nursing home is tested for coronavirus? More

than half of the patients test positive at one Tallmadge, Ohio facility.

 

This is an Ohio nursing home where they believed they had one resident who

had tested positive case. But then they got access to test, so they tested

everyone. And of the 104 prisoners, excuse me, 104 residents that they had,

59 of the 104 were positive. They thought they had one case. They have 59

cases.

 

We have terrible and spotty and inconsistent access to testing in this

country but there`s no mystery where we should be testing, to try to

identify the most cases, and to try to stop the most spread. In a lot of

these facilities at least, just the sheer death toll tells you where to

look. We have thus far, just with a news search, of statements by state

health directors, we have thus far been able to identify at least ten

states in the United States of America, where the statewide death toll from

coronavirus is mostly made up of nursing home residents. That`s where most

of the death, is that`s where, there are the most Americans at risk of

getting this thing and dying from it.

 

In Pennsylvania, it`s 65 percent of the deaths in that state are in nursing

home and long-term care facilities. In Pennsylvania, one facility in Beaver

County has had 58 Americans die within its walls. We learned today that a

veterans` home in Chester, Pennsylvania, has had 27 American veterans die

there.

 

And the great state of Maryland, the state now admits that more than 50

percent of their deaths are in nursing homes as well, Maryland

interestingly, also announced today, that they will now mandate universal

testing for all nursing home residents and staff. You might remember,

Maryland just bought 500,000 coronavirus tests, from South Korea.

 

The governor of Maryland, his wife is an immigrant from Korea, she speaks

fluent Korean, he got her on the phone with business connection, the family

hopefully had or could make in Korea, they arranged for 500,000 tests to be

flown over on a Korean airlines plane. The Governor Larry Hogan told “The

Washington Post” he made the planes carrying the supplies from Korea land

at Baltimore Washington International Airport, at BWI, even though a Korean

airlines plane had never before landed at BWI.

 

He also said he made sure there were tons of state troopers and national

guardsmen on the tarmac when that plane landed all because he wanted

Maryland to not have those materials stolen by the federal government when

that shipment of tests came in.

 

Now, the governor says those tests are still under lock and key, still

being guarded by state troopers and natural guardsmen. They`re still under

lock and tree because the tests still haven`t been widely deployed in

Maryland in part because just like everywhere, they need swabs, and

reagents, and all of the other lab materials to process those tests, just

like everybody else in the country still does, but we have a shortage of

those, and so even when you got the test kits, you still can`t do tests.

 

Still, though, the governor of Maryland has now ordered, mandated that

everybody in a nursing home in Maryland, symptomatic or not, staff or

resident, everybody, must be tested. Now, state mandate is a serious thing.

What are nursing homes supposed to do in order to fulfill that mandate?

 

We have reached out to the governor`s office to ask if they will provide

all of the necessary tests to the nursing homes, so they can fulfill that

mandate, or if the facilities are going to have to scramble to find the

tests themselves, we`ll let you know more when we hear more.

 

But if Maryland is able to fulfill that mandate, if Maryland is able to

make good, if they`re able to actually test, every resident, and every

staff person, in every nursing home and long term care facility in the

state, brace yourself for the numbers that will emerge. I mean we know what

kind of numbers are going to emerge. We can imagine them. Just follow the

trail of dead.

 

The largest nursing home in the state of Maryland has already had 35

Americans die there. How many positive cases do you think there are at that

facility, with 35 of their residents have already died. Maryland has not

been regularly posting the regular cases in their nursing homes by

facility. They have not been regularly posting the number of deaths by

facility. They are going to get those numbers now if they`re going to

universal test.

 

They know that most of deaths in that state are in nursing homes. If they

start to get universal data from those facilities, brace yourself for the

number of positive tests. And for what that is going to indicate about how

much resources, how many resources those facilities need. And for

ultimately what the death toll is going to be coming out of there.

 

But testing in the places where people are most likely to get infected, as

scary as it is, given the kinds of numbers that we see, when those most

impacted facilities start to get tested, as scary as it is, testing in

those facilities where people are most likely to get infected is how you

deal with this as a public health matter. That`s how you start to protect

people who live in those facilities, who are the most vulnerable to getting

this thing, and the most vulnerable to die from it. That`s how you target

care and resources, and ultimately protective gear to those place, you have

to know where it is and who`s got it and you have to protect people in

those facilities who don`t yet have it who are at grave, grave, grave risk

of getting it.

 

This also incidentally is how you learn what you need to know to protect

the community, the local community, near those facilities, from what will

be a non-contained community-based outbreak there soon. None of these

facilities is an island. No prison, no jail, no nursing home, no meat

packing plant, no freaking cruise ship once it`s stopped, if you have an

outbreak of this virus, it is an outbreak that will leak behind the

boundaries we are comfortable thinking of it residing in when we talk about

it hitting most nursing homes, prison, meat plants, these other kinds of

facilities.

 

We like to think of those outbreaks as being contained in those spaces, but

this is a highly contagious communicable disease, right? And just because

it starts spreading somewhere kind of the beaten path or places due really

think about, like a big industrial plant or a nursing home or a place where

a lot of immigrants work and you don`t know them in your community because

they keep to themselves.

 

I mean, just because these facilities and these types of places and prisons

and jails and all these types of places may be limited to us, and they may

not be in our constant view unless we`ve got family members there or who

work there, just because these are liminal facilities that are not visible

to us does not mean these outbreaks will stay in those places. That`s not

how it works with highly contagious communicable diseases.

 

Take for example, Cass County, Indiana. Earlier this week, you may remember

we mentioned them on the show because Cass County Indiana got our

attention. Local commissioners there proclaimed a serious public health

emergency specifically for that county.

 

And this is not like the emergency or the disaster that everybody declared

at the start of this thing so they could qualify for things. They declared

a new public health emergency in that county and the declaration had teeth,

it established serious new restrictions on what people can do in that

county, in terms of social distancing. Far stricter than what people are

restricted in doing in the statewide order in Indiana.

 

Well, why did Cass County, Indiana, do that? Well, they do have a Tyson

meat plant in Cass County, Indiana, in Logansport, Indiana. And they knew

they had some cases there. Just like a lot of meat processing plants do.

 

But the county, the county officials there were smart, and thinking ahead.

Because sure enough, it is just a couple of days later now, and today, the

county has announced the results of what they insisted must be the

universal testing of workers at that facility. And it turns out, when you

universally test all of the workers at a meat plant that`s got a bunch of

known cases, Katy bar the door when it comes to actually getting the total

number, when it comes to getting the universal testing result.

 

It turns out at that one plant, there are 890 positive cases, at one plant.

A local hospital I should mention in Logansport, Indiana, has a total of 83

beds, nine beds set aside for COVID patients, they are all already full,

they have eight ventilators there, in the hospital, in Logansport, Indiana

– 890 positive cases, just among employees, at the one plant in town, let

alone any other cases that now may exist in the county, tied to each of

those 890 employees.

 

Last night, we talked with the sheriff of Black Hawk County, Iowa. He was

here to talk about the Tyson plant in his town, Waterloo, Iowa, to which

the county can now link more than 90 percent of the 1,300-plus coronavirus

cases they`ve got in Black Hawk County. The sheriff last night mentioned

that sizable outbreak in Black Hawk County is no longer something that

resides within that plant. It now encompasses the whole community, and

specifically a number of nursing homes in that community. And indeed, there

are now known outbreaks in multiple nursing homes in Black Hawk County,

Iowa.

 

Over in Columbus Junction, Iowa, that is actually one of the first meat

plants they shut down after a big outbreak there. That plant in Columbus

Junction is now reopened, but the outbreak in the community there is such

that the governor has just called in the Iowa national guard to start doing

testing in that county`s nursing homes, because they`ve got such a problem

in their nursing homes now, too.

 

How did things get from the meat plant into the nursing homes? Well, they

get from the meat plant into the community, and then they get from the

community into the nursing homes. And then all of the people in the nursing

home are very susceptible to getting it, and a lot of them are susceptible

to dying.

 

Grand Island, Nebraska, the large outbreak there, tied to the JBS meat

processing plant in Grand Island, the local health director there just

announced ten deaths in Grand Island nursing homes in the past few days and

tells the local paper today, quote, it is very, very sad, I knew this was

going to happen, we knew this was going to happen, excuse me, and I`ll

start crying if I think too much about it. It is just hard.

 

The death toll spiking around Grand Island, Nebraska, because these things

may start in your meat packing plant, or your prison, or your nursing home,

that`s where your outbreak might incubate, might spread unchecked through

everyone in that facility. To the people who live, there people who work

there, both. But by nature, it`s not going to stay, nature, it`s not going

to stay there in Grand Island, Nebraska. The outbreak didn`t stay in the

plant of the mayor of Grand Island tonight, going public with his

desperation, saying his city has quote paid a price.

 

I think Grand Island, during this or deal, has paid a price. He is asking

please, for the federal government to come help Grand Island, Nebraska,

rather than the federal government just ordering the reopening of all of

the meat plants. He`s asking specifically for the agriculture secretary to

please come to Grand Island, Nebraska, to see the impact of that huge

outbreak there, that started in the meat plant, on that small community.

Oh, and by the way, please bring some help.

 

The problems we are faced with government orders that have failed to

protect the people of Grand Island. I want him to come to Grand Island, so

I can explain it. And we don`t know if the Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue will

come and pay his respects to Grand Island.

 

Now, Grand Island, Nebraska, needs help, and they are asking for it. I

should tell you that Nebraska at the state level is not tracking nursing

home deaths. They are not tracking cases in meat processing plants. They

are also not testing widely in prisons in Nebraska.

 

So even today, as yet another corrections officer tested positive in the

community, it is a black box as to what is going on inside the prisons

themselves. This was a, I think a frameable cross-stitched quote today,

from the “Omaha World Herald”. Quote, no inmates have tested positive for

COVID-19 but the state corrections agency said recently that no inmates had

been tested.

 

Yes, if you don`t test, it`s amazing how few cases you have. Isn`t that

crazy how that works? I mean, seeking, you shall find. But if you don`t

seek, how long can you pretend that there is nothing to find?

 

I mean, for the record, in Nebraska, they had their first known coronavirus

case way back on march 6th. It took them from March 6th, almost six weeks

mid-April, before they hit their first 1,000 cases in the state. But then

to get from 1,000 to 2,000 cases, that only took a week and to get from

2,000 to 3,000 cases that only took two days.

 

Now, they`re scratching at 4,000 cases as we speak with no tracking of

nursing home cases, no tracking of meat facility cases, no tracking of

prisoners. Good luck, Nebraska. I hope your governor has hidden depths

because what is happening on the surface here is nerve curling.

 

I mean, they`ve got outbreaks at meat plants in Grand Island, Nebraska,

Lexington, Nebraska, Dakota City, Nebraska, Madison, Nebraska, Hastings,

Nebraska, Crete, Nebraska, that`s a plant where people walked out in fear

this week. The plant had said they were closing after finding dozens of

positive cases, and they said they changed their mind and they`re staying

open and everyone walked out in fear.

 

Governor Pete Ricketts says that he wants all the plants open. He said

yesterday at a press conference yesterday he didn`t think the meat

processing plants were a problem at all. He was asked why so many meat

processing workers are testing positive and said, quote, they`re more

likely to pick up an infection outside of the workplace, where these people

spend two-thirds of their time.

 

Meat processing workers all have ended up positive by the hundreds,

potentially by the thousands in Nebraska, because they all do the same

stuff outside of work that exposes them. Also, I`ve got wet hair when I get

out of the swimming pool but that might just be because I took a shower

this morning before I went swimming. Maybe that`s why my hair is wet.

 

I mean, yes, all the meat workers, they`re definitely turning up positive

in the numbers that they are, because of stuff they`re doing at home. It`s

amazing.

 

They must be really different people than all of the other people, and all

of the other different kinds of workplaces who don`t have those kind of

numbers. It`s definitely their fault.

 

I will say, for the first time, today, for the first time, a Nebraska meat

plant has announced that it is closing its doors for what they call a deep

cleaning. This is the Tyson plant in Dakota City, Nebraska. Nobody knows

how many cases there are at that Dakota City plant in Nebraska because as I

mentioned Nebraska doesn`t track it. The governor doesn`t think that meat

plants are a problem in terms of the spread of coronavirus.

 

And Tyson, for this plant at least, refuses to say how many people are

positive there. But for some reason, they have decided to close that plant

for a deep cleaning. I should also mention that perhaps it`s a complete

coincidence but Dakota County, Nebraska, where this plant is located,

happens to have the second highest number of known coronavirus cases in the

entire state, after Grand Island, even though the population of Dakota

County is only about 20,000 people. But we don`t know if there is any cases

there, and are we sure we want to look?

 

So they`re going to close for a deep cleaning. Deep cleaning isn`t actually

a thing. That`s just a word that people use when they tell you they`re

sending in cleaners. There`s nothing different about a deep cleaning

compared to a regular cleaning no matter what someone wants to send you,

certainly in virologic terms, a deep cleaning versus cleaning? Come on.

 

And ultimately cleanliness is not the real problem here. It`s the

conditions, the working conditions in the giant aggregate production

environments where so far, the companies have shown no ability to prevent

the spreading of viruses super-efficiently among all of their workers who

tend to work in groups of several hundred or even a thousand at a time.

 

The federal government has played a strange role in this part of the crisis

so far, right? These kinds of plants have been huge accelerants for the

epidemic in America overall, and specifically, in parts of the country,

that the Republican Party and this president pretends to care about more

than any other parts of the country, and where they supposedly got

governors on a very short leash, right?

 

But the plants are so far not required by the federal government to do

anything, to protect these workers. They`re required to make a good faith

effort, to comply with guidance, but the guidance is non-mandatory, the

Trump administration absolutely has the option of making those guidelines,

requirements, in terms of how these places operate, they are absolutely not

doing that.

 

All they want is these plants open. There`s no pushing in terms of what the

plants need to do, in terms of the way they operate to stop keeping

thousands of people from getting infected there.

 

I`ll tell you, we are on the trail right now of a story about what`s

happened at the CDC specifically, that has actually led to that scandalous

part of the federal government response to this epidemic. We are going to

have a special report on that here tomorrow night.

 

But next here, on the show we will talk to a worker who`s got firsthand

experience about what exactly is going on. That`s next.

 

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: This is from the “New York Times” op-ed that the worker wrote.

Quote: In the past month, two of my co-workers died from COVID-19. The

company instituted protective measures but it was too late.

 

The company in this instance is JBS, the giant meatpacking conglomerate,

and this is specifically about their plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania,

which is north of Philly.

 

The person who works at the plant continues, quote, our plant temporarily

closed on April 2nd, before the deaths. At that time, 19 people had tested

positive. JBS remodeled the floor in line with coronavirus safety measures.

 

Quote: In meatpacking plants, workers are piled up on top of one another,

often touching because there are so many.

 

Quote: The two people we lost to the coronavirus were most likely exposed

to the virus at work before the factory shut down. Quote, they will not be

forgotten.

 

We should note that Souderton, Pennsylvania plant, had 19 cases when it

closed on April 2nd. As of tonight, the union says they`ve got 119 cases at

that plant. The company tonight tells us that many of the workers who

tested positive have returned to work after quarantine.

 

The plant reopened, April 20th, minus the 15 percent of its work force that

is over the age of 60. The company says that those workers over age 60 are

home now with full pay and benefits.

 

As for the others who are back at work, JBS tells us this, quote: Team

members have responded positively to the safety interventions put in place

during closure and the facility is now running beyond expectations.

 

That is how the company views the situation with that one plant. We have us

with tonight a colleague of the person who wrote that “New York Times” op-

ed, so we can ask for ourselves what it`s like to work in one of those big

plants now, having been reopened.

 

Joining us now is Safaa Elzakzoky. She works at the JBS plant in Souderton,

Pennsylvania. She is the shop steward for the union, UFCW local 1776.

 

Ms. Elzakzoky, I know this is a difficult time. Thank you for taking time

to be here tonight.

 

SAFAA ELZAKZOKY, JBS SHOP STEWARD: Thank you.

 

MADDOW: Let me just ask you, bottom line, do you feel safe now working at

the plant and going in every day?

 

ELZAKZOKY: Right now, yes, but before, no.

 

MADDOW: How big have the changes been? They closed down on April 2nd. They

reopened a couple of weeks later, having made significant changes to the

way you and your colleagues work with each other.

 

Can you describe to us how much that`s changed the way you work?

 

ELZAKZOKY: So, right now, they provide like a face masks for each employee.

They take the temperature when they start working early in the morning,

even if someone, a worker go outside to break time, or doing something

outside the plant, they take the temperature again.

 

Also, they provide the face shield. They provide the hand sanitizer

everywhere. We have the lines on the floor, to have social distance between

each worker, we have like a supervisor and superintendent on the hallway,

arranging people during the break time, disintegrate the people during the

break times. Also, the beginning time, they divide them to a group, so one

of them starts 15 minutes early, than the other. Also, when we are going

home, it`s like 15 minutes between each group.

 

MADDOW: Uh-huh. In terms of testing, obviously, when they shut down the

plant, there was about 19 people who worked there, who were positive, now

the union says it`s like 119 people are positive, if you want to get tested

for coronavirus, if you or your colleagues want to get tested, do you have

easy access to get testing?

 

ELZAKZOKY: To be honest, that was (INAUDIBLE) right now because we still

have the issue that we had a worker on the floor, work behind each other,

yes, they wear masks, they wear facial, there is no social distance behind

each other so they work shoulder by shoulder on the floor.

 

So, also, we have employees that they say they get the virus but they never

had the symptoms, so that`s our worry, that we had the employee who maybe

carried the virus, came to work, because they had no temperature, they had

no cough, or any symptoms of the virus, and maybe spread the virus in the

plant.

 

That`s why we ask for like testing from the employer, the workers during

the daytime, during the work, stuff like that, make us more safe,

especially, we had some worry from Tuesday, about Trump ordered that there

is no mandatory CDC or OSHA. This makes us worry.

 

So we`re back to work, because they told us that they will – we would be

safe. And we feel that he should worry about the protection, that he should

treat (ph) us like a human, should be (INAUDIBLE), should we be safe,

should we be healthy, and make us less worried.

 

MADDOW: And you would feel less worried if the OSHA guidelines, if the CDC

guidelines were mandatory, you would feel safer?

 

ELZAKZOKY: Yes.

 

MADDOW: Safaa Elzakzoky, an employee at the JBS plant in Souderton,

Pennsylvania, I really appreciate you coming on to talk to us tonight, god

bless you, and all of your co-workers, we`re counting on you in lots of

ways but we don`t want you to be at risk when you go to work. Thanks for

helping us understand.

 

ELZAKZOKY: Thank you.

 

MADDOW: All right. More ahead tonight. Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: Here`s the front page of “The Atlanta Journal Constitution” today.

You can see the big top story. It`s a four column across the top of the

front page there. Kemp set to lift restriction. It`s the top story in

Georgia today.

 

The state`s Republican Governor Kemp is allowing Georgia`s stay-at-home

order to expire tonight after already opening up very, very, very essential

businesses like bowling alley, tattoo parlor, salons, gym, movie theaters

and dine-in restaurants over the past week. The governor now says that all

restrictions of all kinds will be gone in two weeks.

 

But then look right below the big top headline, the other big story on the

front page of the “AJC” today, Georgia poultry workers test positive for

COVID-19. Check out the lead on this story.

 

Quote: Nearly 400 workers in Georgia`s prized poultry industry have tested

positive for the disease, caused by the coronavirus.

 

Quote: Ominous signs are popping up in Hall County, Georgia, where much of

the poultry industry is based. Hall has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases

per 100,000 residents in the region. As of Wednesday afternoon, 1,233

people in Hall had been sickened and 20 had been killed by the disease.

 

If you want one at least partial snapshot of Georgia today, they have it

right next to each other on the front page of the biggest newspaper:

Coronavirus outbreaks spreading rapidly through the state`s poultry plants

and the governor says, open everything back up. Everything. No

restrictions.

 

Georgia`s governor has made these kinds of demands even as his state rose

to 12th in the country in the number of cases and deaths. Even as one of

the nation`s worst outbreaks hit in his state, in Albany, Georgia, and even

as the city of Gainesville, in Hall County where all of those poultry

plants are became the center of one of the nation`s newest emerging large

outbreaks.

 

The Northeast Georgia Medical Center there projects it will not hit the

peak of its coronavirus hospital admissions until the middle of June. But

they expect to max out their staffing capacity at the hospital, well before

then. Like within a matter of three weeks.

 

It`s hard to square what`s happening in Georgia right now, between the

characteristics of the large epidemic in Georgia right now, and it`s hard

to square that with Governor Brian Kemp`s insistence that everything is

fine and faster than everywhere in the country Georgia needs to open

everything back up.

 

It`s hard to square those things sometimes. But sometimes it`s not that

hard to square them.

 

This is the other big news in the Georgia epidemic today. A new CDC study

that finds that more than 80 percent of hospitalized coronavirus patients

in Georgia are African-American. African-Americans comprise only about 30

percent of the population in Georgia. But they`re 80 percent of who has

been hospitalized for coronavirus in the state.

 

And certainly, the study tracks broadly with the data we`ve seen across the

country, that coronavirus is hitting black Americans disproportionately,

but over 80 percent of the hospitalizations in Georgia?

 

Governor Kemp telling the Atlanta journal constitution today, quote: If you

weren`t in the medically fragile category, or someone in a long-term care

facility, for the most of the rest of Georgia, the effect of coronavirus

has been minimal. For most of the rest of Georgia, for most, 80 percent of

the people in hospitals are black people – for most of Georgia, it`s been

minimal, minimal impact. We haven`t barely noticed. It`s fine as far as

we`re concerned.

 

Today, in Atlanta, Georgia`s fantastic majority black capital city,

residents held a mock funeral procession, complete with several hearses,

driving around and around past the Georgia state capitol building.

Organizers told a local NBC affiliate that, quote, death is the foreseeable

result of Governor Kemp`s misguided plans to fully reopen the state of

Georgia.

 

The mayor of the great city of Atlanta is going to join us live here next.

Stay with us.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: The mayor of the great city of Atlanta, Georgia, just published

this piece in “The Atlantic magazine” today, entitled Atlanta isn`t ready

to reopen and neither is Georgia.

 

Quote: As the mayor of Atlanta, I`m unable to endorse the governor`s

decision to reopen businesses before health experts say it is safe to do

so.

 

The mayor makes a point about something in particular that worries her. She

says, quote, we should recognize that many of the kinds of businesses that

are reopening are especially popular in African-American neighborhoods

where barbershops and salons are ubiquitous. This concerns me because we

continue to see much higher rates of infection and death occurring among

African-Americans than in other communities.

 

This, of course, comes as a CDC study finds that 80 percent of coronavirus

hospitalizations in Georgia thus far have been African-American patients.

 

Joining us now is the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms.

 

Madam Mayor, been really looking forward to talking to you tonight. Thank

you so much for making time.

 

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-GA), ATLANTA: Thank you. It`s great to join

you.

 

MADDOW: Let me just ask you if anything that I have said in the last couple

of minutes about – about Atlanta, and about Georgia, and about what`s

going on in your state right now, if it strikes you wrong or if you think

that I`ve sort of got the telescope turned around the wrong way in any of

this? Does it sound like a reasonable description of what`s going on in

your state and city?

 

BOTTOMS: So, you`re spot on, and the reality is this, Rachel, in Georgia,

we beat the national average in every single category that makes this virus

so much worse. Our rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma, are

all above the national average. And then you layer on top of that the

African-American community, it`s even above that.

 

And so, the fact that we are opening up businesses in this state, and that

we are putting the economy before the lives of – of people is, it`s

baffling, and I keep searching for new words and I can`t find any because

I`m still completely dumbfounded that we were one of the last states to

close down and yet, one of the first states to open up.

 

And the governor has said this is about the economy and unfortunately, the

people who will be the test case for whether or not we have gotten it right

are the people who can least afford to be sick and are more likely to die.

 

MADDOW: I`ll tell you, Madam Mayor, one thing I`m worried about with

Georgia because it does like your governor is ideologically fixed on the

idea of not having businesses shut down, of not enforcing stay-at-home

orders, as you said, he started so late and he`s ending – and he`s

releasing these things so early. I am worried when you look at that,

alongside the fact that there is so little testing in Georgia. Georgia is

one of the worst states in the country in terms of how much testing there

is – I`m worried that he`s not going to feel the pressure to try to

increase testing numbers in Georgia because testing numbers might reveal

bad epidemiological consequences of his policy decisions.

 

BOTTOMS: So, our testing has increased but it`s still dismal. We are still

40th in the nation in testing.

 

And, you know, listen, Rachel, the reality is this – we all bring a

different lens to office. So, the governor was a small business owner and

I`m certain that the lens that he brings.

 

Well, what I bring is the daughter of a small business owner, a woman who

owned a hair salon. And so, I know what happens in a hair salon. There are

people from the community who come into the hair salon. Many people in the

hair salons don`t have health insurance. They are living paycheck to

paycheck.

 

And so, even if we are testing people in our communities and this was a

question that I posed to the governor and Dr. Toomey, our health – leader

of our health department in Georgia today, testing is a point in time test.

And so, if I test negative today and then I go out and get exposed

tomorrow, it means what?

 

And so we know that testing is just one part of this. There needs to be

contact tracing. There needs to be isolation and quarantine, and there

still is so much more to be done.

 

And even when you have funeral directors saying I`ve never seen anything

like this before and you couple that with the CDC along with health

professionals and even the president of the United States saying it`s too

soon, then I – I think all of those are signs that this is – it`s not the

appropriate thing for us to do at this time.

 

MADDOW: I will say, looking at this from outside the state and having been

sort of half in love with Atlanta my whole life, I think you`re the mayor

of one of the world`s great cities and certainly one of the cultural hubs

in America that we all have to be both thankful of and often in awe of –

from outside the state looking in, one of the things that is just

remarkable and explicable is that the governor didn`t talk to you before he

made any of these decisions. I know Georgia is a big state and Atlanta is

one city, but it`s Atlanta.

 

It`s remarkable to me that he has been preceding on this as if Atlanta is

kind of outside the state or its own thing, or should just go along with

what it says regardless of whether or not you think what he`s doing is a

good idea.

 

Has that just been a hallmark of the way he`s conducting himself as

governor or has that been – has that been worse over the course of this

epidemic?

 

BOTTOMS: No, the governor and I have had a great working relationship over

the past couple of years. And we obviously are from – he`s a Republican.

I`m a Democrat. But we`ve come together to work together on the things that

we agree on.

 

He did not speak with me before when he lifted the first set of

restrictions, but I can say the governor and I did speak on yesterday, and

we have essentially agreed to disagree on this and his staff did call today

to let us know that he was going to move forward with lifting further

restrictions. So that has changed since the first restrictions were lifted.

 

But that being said, I still didn`t have any input and influence because we

simply don`t agree on this. And so, I continue to use my voice and I`m

grateful for the opportunity to talk to you and have this platform to

continue to encourage people to stay home.

 

And the reality is this: people are going back to work because they need

money. And so that part is right. Our economy is suffering and people are

facing economic hardship.

 

But I think this is where we step up as leaders and we lead our community

into recovery, and we make it easier for people to stay at home by making

sure that those small business loans are getting into the pockets of not

just the people who have well-established banking relationships but that

barber on the corner who may not have as lengthy as a credit history. We

make sure that people have food on their table.

 

These are the things that we are doing in Atlanta. These are the things

that we need to be doing statewide and certainly at a national level.

 

MADDOW: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, thank you so much for taking

time tonight, Mayor. I know you have a lot on your plate and this is

valuable time. Thanks for sharing some of it with us.

 

BOTTOMS: Thank you very having me.

 

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

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

MADDOW: There were protesters again today at the Michigan state capital. A

whole bunch of them armed, in a state that just reported another 119

coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours. These protesters were demanding

with their guns that the governor should get rid of the state`s stay-at-

home order.

 

Republicans in the Michigan legislature are making plans to try to sue the

governor to achieve the same thing. But during the debate over that today,

the view from the Senate floor was of these pro-Trump protesters denouncing

Governor Gretchen Whitmer bearing their long guns inside the capitol

building.

 

State Senator Dayna Polehanki tweeting today, quote: Directly above me, men

with rifles yelling at us. Some of my colleagues who own bulletproof vests

are wearing them. I have never appreciated our sergeants-at-arms more than

today.

 

That`s going to do it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

 

Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.

 

Good evening, Lawrence.

 

                                                                                                               

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END   

 

Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC.  All materials herein are

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

content.>