Tracking coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 5/4/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Chuck Schumer, Ali Boehm

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.


THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.


Good evening, Rachel.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. I want to thank you, my

friend, for the segment that you did tonight, about the escape from the lab

hypothesis, and how it makes no sense either factually or politically. The

point you are making about how politically, it`s insane to be making up

that particular story, is something that has been driving me nuts and you

are the first person who actually articulated it, thank you.


HAYES: Well, thank you very much. It is a, such a tantalizing phrase, they

can`t help themselves because escape from a lab, it has dystopian feel to

it because there is no sense from escape from a lab.


MADDOW: No, there`s no – I mean, A, it is not proven, so nobody should be

saying it, let alone, you know, the secretary of state or the president,

all these things, but even to their own political point, it is defeating.


Anyway, as always, you have both mastered the facts and made things make

sense for me. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.


HAYES: Thank you. I appreciate that.


MADDOW: All right. Thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour.

Happy to have you with us.


So, the American coronavirus epidemic is now approaching 1.2 million

confirmed cases and well over 68,000, nearly 69,000 deaths. Which means the

epidemic in our country is more than five times larger than the epidemic in

any other country on earth.


That said, in the one state in our country where more Americans have died

than any other, at least thus far, there have been some sort of positive

touch stones that have been hit over the past few day, some good moments.


The Javits Center, the gigantic convention center in Manhattan that was

converted into a field hospital to take overflow from New York City

hospitals, they have closed that down as a field hospital site. They

treated over 1,000 patients there at the Javits Center, but they`ve shut it

down now, New York Fire Department, FDNY, and their bagpipers were on site

to mark and cheer for that closing, which does feel like a real blessing.


The U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort has also now closed up its New York

operations and has set sail. It has started the return trip to its home

port in Norfolk, Virginia, after that ship treated hundreds of overflow

hospital patients while floating in New York harbor.


Also, the pop-up hospital in Central Park that was built to take overflow

patients from the Mt. Sinai hospital system. As of today, that Central Park

pop-up hospital is not going to be taking in any further patients. We

understand they`ve apparently still got some small number of patients

there, but they are not admitting any new ones anymore with an eye toward

closing down that facility as well.


That was all – all three of those entities were emergency surge capacity

for New York, right? Well, New York is past that point in a way that feels

fairly stable, specifically in New York. Cases and hospitalizations and

deaths all now declining in what appears to be a stable way, and that is

great. And it gives you hope to see those facilities close down because

they are not needed, because New York has the hospital capacity it needs to

handle the remaining challenges of the epidemic.


I also want to show you something that New York`s Governor Andrew Cuomo

said today when he fielded questions on nursing homes, where in New York

like everywhere, the case numbers and the death numbers are still

staggering. Watch what he said here.




GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We`re doing everything we can. The nursing

homes are working very hard.


We also announced an investigation with the attorney general and the

Department of Health to make sure the nursing homes are doing what they

need to do. Many of them are privately run, but the state can regulate

them. They have to notify families, et cetera. So we`re doing an

investigation on that.


But remember the basic premise of the nursing home. The nursing home can

only accept or keep a patient if, if they can provide adequate care for

that patient. If they have a COVID patient or non-COVID patient but they

can`t provide adequate care for that person, it is their obligation to

transfer the person. If they can`t find a place to transfer the person,

it`s their obligation to call the state department of health, and the state

department of health will transfer the person.


We have facilities for COVID nursing home residents. We have some

facilities that are just for COVID-positive nursing home residents. So we

have those facilities available.


If a nursing home can`t care for a COVID resident, call the Department of

Health. The Department of Health will transfer the patient, period.




MADDOW: We have those facilities available. If a nursing home in New York

state cannot care for a COVID-positive resident, call the State Department

of Health. The State Department of Health will transfer the patient,



No state has figured out yet how to focus enough resources and enough

attention and enough help and enough focus on nursing homes and long-term

care facilities to keep those facilities from being the riskiest place in

America when it comes to American lives at risk from this virus. But what

Governor Cuomo of New York is saying here today is qualitatively different

than some stuff you`ve heard in other states. It`s qualitatively different

than a state just declaring nursing homes to be a priority or a state

announcing, you know, state strike forces that will tackle nursing home



It`s even different than the commitments that we`ve seen in some places now

to get testing into every nursing home, and that is important. This is

different, though. What Governor Cuomo is saying here is that the State

Department of Health is taking responsibility to get this done themselves

when the nursing homes can`t. They are setting up – they have set up

nursing home units specifically for people with coronavirus if the facility

in the wild, if the city out in New York state, can`t care for a specific

coronavirus patient, quote, the state department of health will take them.


If a nursing home cannot care for a COVID patient, call the department of

health, and the state will transfer the patient. We have those facilities



I mean, I don`t know if this will be the best idea either, but this shows

taking it to another level. This is another way and another level of

commitment to try to tackle this problem, which is good. And it shows New

York as a state continuing to innovate in terms of the thorniest parts of

this crisis, even as they have dealt with the largest burden of death and

hospitalization and disease in the country. You know, innovation and

inspiration are the cure to despair, and we need innovation when it comes

to the issue of nursing homes and the number of Americans that are at risk

and dying them – and dying in them.


So, I mean, seeing that at work, seeing innovation, seeing a new level of

commitment, we will take responsibility, we have set up those facilities –

seeing that at work in the scariest, most dangerous, riskiest part of this

epidemic, that is good. I find that heartening. That is good.


And here`s the bad. You might remember these projections. You`ve seen a lot

of them just in TV news and maybe in the newspaper as well. You`ve

certainly seen them online. This is the very user-friendly, very easy to

understand projection model created by the University of Washington at

their Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.


This institute at the University of Washington has been doing modeling

that`s actually been really central for weeks now to our own national

expectations of what we`re going through and how long it will last and how

bad it will ultimately get. These projections from this one entity at the

University of Washington have been really popular, really widely used and

widely cited. They do nationwide projections. They also do them state by

state, and because their interface online is so easy to use, it`s sort of

addictive to look at individual states, to click through for all the states

where you have family and where you have friends to see, you know, where

they are in their curve and when it`s going to be the worst and how they`re

doing overall.


But this has also been a useful tool for policymakers because this

University of Washington model predicts not just how many deaths and

hospitalizations and infections you`re likely to have in any particular

state. It predicts when that`s going to happen, when the peak will happen.

Peak hospitalization, right? Peak death.


That`s helpful in terms of planning for hospital utilization, right? When

and whether your state might need, say, a pop-up field hospital or a

convention center conversion by the Army Corps of Engineers or a visit from

one of our navy hospital ships. It`s helpful to know that stuff if you can

put a date on when it`s going to be the worst. New York is past its worst

so it sent some of that surge capacity back to where it came from. It`s

helpful for planning to have this kind of data with not just numbers in it

but projected dates.


This University of Washington model in particular has also had a lot of

national attention because it has been repeatedly showcased by the Trump

administration, by the White House, by the coronavirus task force with its

rotating cast of people who happen momentarily to be in favor with the



In early April, this University of Washington model was the projection that

said that by the first week in August, the total U.S. death toll would be

60,000 deaths. Well, it didn`t take us until the first week of august to

get to that. We hit that before the end of April.


At the end of April, April 29th, the University of Washington was revised

to project that it would now be more like 74,000 American deaths by the

first week in August. Well, it`s only the first week in May, and we`re

already over 68,000, nearly 69,000, so clearly that seems wrong too. I mean

not with all of this month and all of June and all of July stretching out

before us, we`re going to not have to wait until the first week in August

to get to 74,000 dead.


But here`s the thing. This model from the University of Washington, it`s

not nuts. I mean, it has repeatedly projected death numbers for the United

States that are too optimistic in terms of the American epidemic for sure.

It`s hard not to conclude that`s part of why the White House kept talking

about this model so much. The president likes happy talk about how

everything is going great and the virus will soon magically disappear,



So models that predict a lower death toll than what we`re actually

experiencing, you know, he can`t resist that, and apparently neither can

the people he invites up to the podium to say things that make him happy.

But that model, as I said, it`s not nuts. It`s a serious thing.


The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of

Washington, which have been making these projections, they`ve been totally

open and transparent about their methodology and about the underlying

assumptions for their model. And it turns out, one of their really

important underlying assumptions for that model was that people in the

United States would stay home to stop the spread of the virus, that all

states would put those stay at home rules into effect, that those stay at

home rules would be kept in place as long as they needed to be in place,

and that people would abide by those rules. That was the assumption that

led to them projecting 60,000 or 70,000 deaths. That was a basic assumption

baked into their projections.


Well, not anymore. Today, this University of Washington group has unveiled

what they are calling the IHME, Institute for Health Metrics and

Evaluation. The IHME COVID-19 model 2.0, in which, among other things, they

stop assuming that the United States will actually do what is needed to

stop the spread of the virus. They are no longer rose-colored glasses

assuming that there will be consistent, coherent leadership in this country

that establishes consistent, coherent stay-at-home orders, that people are

consistently and coherently urged or potentially required to follow. They

are no longer assuming, therefore, that Americans will abide by the stay at

home rules.


Since we`re not doing that, they need to stop assuming that`s what we`ll do

or they`ll never have numbers that are anywhere close to accurate. The

director of the institute that does this modeling explained to reporters

today that, quote, the primary reason for the increase in their new

projection in terms of the American death toll is that many states have

prematurely relaxed social distancing. Quote, for the first time, Dr.

Murray explained, the model is factoring in data from four different cell

phone providers showing a major uptick in Americans going out in public.

This rise of mobility in the last week or ten days is likely leading to an

increase in transmission.


And so bottom line, because we are screwing this up so badly as a matter of

public policy, because we as a country are screwing this up so badly in

terms of our political leadership and the, you know, hear no evil, see no

evil, speak plenty of evil encouragement of how everything needs to open

back up right now no matter what, right, because of – because of that,

because of what we are doing, because of the political mishandling of the

public health imperatives of this crisis, because of what we are doing

wrong, even this optimistic forecast that the White House has liked so much

over the past couple of months, now they are nearly doubling their

projection of the number of Americans who will be dead from this thing by

the first week in August.


Their projection is no longer that it will be 74,000 of us dead by the

first week in August. They`re now projecting it will be 134,000 of us dead.

And, again, that`s by the first week in August. And forgive me, but that

projection, that updated projection, that horrible, almost doubled updated

projection may still be optimistic given what the institute explains about

their revised assumptions now. They are no longer assuming that we`re going

to have stay-at-home orders and do social distancing and abide by those

things because we`re not, so they shouldn`t assume those things anymore.


But they are now assuming that we will have, quote, rising testing and

contact tracing that will, in the words of the institute`s director, put

the brakes on transmission. So, they`re no longer assuming we`re going to

have stay-at-home orders because we don`t. But they are assuming that

testing will ramp up and contact tracing will ramp up, and that will be the

way we stop transmission.


Raise your hand if you think nationally we`re going to really soon have

access to easy testing for everyone and really well-organized contact

tracing all over the country. Raise your hand if you think this White House

is going to lead us to that bright future in time to put the brakes on

transmission through sheer public health investment and competence in

governing. And that will result in us only have having – you know, I don`t

even want to say it – having this many dead Americans.


Here`s something you should know. I mention that this University of

Washington projection has been a favorite of the Trump administration. I

think it`s impossible not to suppose that that`s potentially at least

related to the fact that this model has had a projected American death toll

that`s been much lower than some other projections, and the president

likes, as I said, happy talk about this virus.


Well, let me show you something. Here is a screenshot from the CDC`s

website as of yesterday. This is courtesy of the good folks at the Internet

archive, the Wayback Machine.


This as of yesterday is the CDC`s coronavirus resources page where they

list a whole bunch of different projections and models that they respect

and you might want to look at. You can see that the University of

Washington model, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model

that I`ve just been talking about, it`s right there on the CDC website,

pride of place, right up top. That`s as of yesterday.


Today is the day they upped their projected death toll for the United

States from 74,000 to 134,000 dead Americans. Today is also, presto, the

day the CDC dropped this model from their list of models that you should

look at.


For weeks now, they have been promoting this model, showcasing it, talking

about it in the White House briefing room, got it pride of place on the CDC

website. Now that model says, we`re not going to have 74,000 deaths. Now

we`re going to have more than 130,000 deaths, and so they`ve just taken it

off the website. Don`t look at that anymore.


It`s so – it`s pitiful, right? And it`s one thing to see the White House

pulling stuff like this. But this is the CDC, who we should be able to

count on, right? You`re supposed to be data-driven. You`re supposed to be

science-driven. If there`s bad news in the science, you`re supposed to be

still willing to tell us the bad news so we can prepare and try to change



“The New York Times” was also first to report today on an internal document

inside the Trump administration with the CDC`s logo on it, a document the

CDC is now apparently disavowing, which actually has a worse projection now

than the new terrible University of Washington projection. In that

University of Washington model, they`re saying by June 1st, less than a

month from right now, our daily death toll in this country will be 890

deaths a day. While the other internal projection reported today by “The

New York Times” says that by June 1st, we won`t be at 800-something deaths

per day. We`ll be at 3,000 deaths per day, which is nearly double what

we`re at right now. And we`ll be there in less than a month.


This internal document that has the CDC`s logo on it also says that from

the 25,000 new cases we`re getting each day, we`re going to go up to

175,000 new cases a day, which honestly is just sort of terrifying thinking

about the next month.


Remember when Mike Pence said like last week this whole thing will be over

by Memorial Day? He said the whole thing will be in our rearview mirror by

Memorial Day, which is later this month. I mean, inside the Trump

administration, they`re projecting privately that we`ll be at 3,000 deaths

a day a week after Memorial Day with no decline in sight.


For context, we`re at about 1,750 deaths on average per day right now. That

internal document from the Trump administration says we`re going from 1,750

deaths on average today to 3,000 a day inside a month.


Laurie Garrett, the Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist who helped

sound the national alarm on this crisis almost before anybody else, she

said this today online about these new projections just in terms of helping

us lay folk understand what this all means. She says, quote, new infection

rates will soar in May and June.


The new case projections put great increases across the prairie states from

the Dakotas down to the Deep South. Much of the U.S. COVID-19 crisis will

shift from New York, New Jersey, California, Washington, urban centers to

rural counties. Quote: it`s quite striking how closely the CDC`s

projections for increased COVID cases mirror the locations of America`s

meatpacking industry, which is currently slammed by COVID spread. Quote:

The new CDC forecast also shows surges ahead in areas that have reported

COVID outbreaks in nursing homes.


Quote: It seems that prior reckonings grossly underestimated the scale of

focused outbreaks in meatpacking, assisted living centers, prisons, and the

likelihood of community COVID spread from these facilities. Yes, that is

what it seems like to me too. We had a huge epidemic in New York, and that

has led to a very big and sustained epidemic in the tri-state area, New

York, New Jersey, Connecticut. That`s for real. That`s been the start of

American epidemic.


But now, we see large outbreaks all over the country. I mean close your

eyes, drink three beers, and throw a dart anywhere in the country that has

nursing homes, meatpacking facilities, other large processing plants where

people have been at work, prisons and jails. They`re everywhere, and that

means we`re seeing outbreaks in those kinds of facilities everywhere. And

those outbreaks in those kinds of facilities don`t stay inside those

facilities because people go in and out of them every day, and they

eventually become community outbreaks in all of the places where those

things are.


And those things are off the beaten path in all sorts of states. I mean,

the data bears it out. Here`s the new update on “The New York Times” today

of which metro area in the country has the most new cases per capita.


Most new cases in the country per capita: Number one, Sioux City, Iowa.

Number two, Gallup, New Mexico. Number three, Grand Island, Nebraska.


Number four, Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Number five, Marion, Ohio. Number six,

Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Iowa.


I mean, that`s where the American coronavirus epidemic is the worst right

now and growing the fastest, taking off like a rocket ship. And, no, that`s

not – those aren`t American metropolises. That`s just regular hometown,

heartland America where this thing is now growing the fastest, and you can

see these kinds of patterns in the local press before you can even

necessarily see them in the confirmed data.


I mean, in the Texas panhandle today, local officials invited in the

federal government to please come help with a surge of coronavirus cases

tied to meatpacking plants in the Texas Panhandle. In Moore County, Texas,

there`s a huge JBS meat processing plant that as of a week ago had over 150

known infections.


But like I said, these outbreaks don`t stay inside the plants. They don`t

even stay inside the county where the plant is depending on how people are

traveling to and from that workplace. Turns out a lot of people who work at

that big JBS meat processing plant in Moore County, Texas, live over the

Oklahoma state line.


And so, even that work site crisis in Moore County, Texas, is becoming a

problem for the state of Oklahoma because that`s where the workers go home

too. That said at the same time, Oklahoma has got their own outbreak at

their own meatpacking plant in their own Oklahoma Panhandle. More than 100

cases confirmed among workers at a single pork processing plant in Guymon,

Oklahoma, which is just due north of Amarillo, Texas.


Seaboard Foods, 116 cases. Plant still up and running. They`ve got 2,700

employees there.


In Missouri, in St. Joseph, Missouri, where local officials have been

agitating to open everything up as soon as possible, they just tested

everybody at the local pork plant in St. Joseph. It`s run by Triumph Foods,

373 workers at that plant tested positive, 373 positive, all of them

asymptomatic, which tells you why you can`t just test people who have

symptoms, not at meatpacking plants, not at nursing homes.


You can`t rely on symptom-driven testing, not if you`re actually trying to

find people who are infected and stop them from going into those facilities

to keep them from being in contact with people who aren`t infected, who

will soon get infected either in their nursing home where they live or

where they work or in the plant where they work. You can`t rely on symptom

testing. You have to test people who aren`t symptomatic. Everybody who

tested positive at that plant in Missouri is asymptomatic.


But what are the odds that meatpacking plants are going to be testing

everybody, asymptomatic or not? What are the odds that every state is going

to be able to test everybody in every nursing home living and working

there? What are the odds?


I mean, testing is actual a catastrophe in this country. You can tell

because they`re not testing. In New Mexico, I just mentioned Gallup, New

Mexico, they`ve got one of the worst emerging outbreaks on the planet in

that part of New Mexico.


Well, the state correction system in New Mexico says publicly at least new

Mexicans don`t have to worry about an outbreak in their prisons there. New

Mexico has more than 6,000 people in state prison. They`ve got a terrible

outbreak in the community in New Mexico, but the state corrections

authority says they`ve got zero cases among state prisoners.


Well, of their 6,000-plus state prisoners, New Mexico has tested a grand

total of eight of them. Eight. That is not a typo. It`s not 80. It`s not

800. Eight.


So, yes, it appears there`s no problem in New Mexico. They`ve got no

positive tests because they`re not testing, because in most places in the

country, they`re not testing. And even the places where they`re testing

they`re not testing enough because they`re not enough tests because the

federal government never got it together and they still have it. But open

everything up, sure.


I mean, as the outbreak moves into a very scary and what looks to be a

sustained phase, where the American case numbers and the American death

numbers stay three feet high and rising, and it is not driven by one state,

it`s not driven by New York, it`s not driven by the tri-state area around

New York. It`s now driven by those – I mean, those numbers are fairly

stable at this point. The numbers are going up – the numbers are – the

numbers are what they are. The American epidemic is what it is right now

because the case numbers and the death numbers and the hospitalization

numbers are being driven not by one place but by the whole rest of the

country all over the place, where we`ve got sizeable outbreaks in specific

kinds of facilities that are creating community outbreaks all over America

– nursing homes, meat processing plants, prisons and jails.


And all over the place where we`ve got those things, the continued lack of

access to testing, particularly for those populations, means we are

nationally living in la-la land when it comes to taking measures to slow

this thing down. And so, we`re not taking measures to slow this thing down.

And so, we are looking at doubling death rate projections even among the

models that the White House likes the best because they`ve been shiny,

happy talk so far.


Our access to testing is bad enough that the United States Senate came back

in session today and the senators didn`t even get tested before they all

got together in the capitol. Why is that? Because we still have to triage

testing in this country even to that degree.


We`ll talk with Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, next.






REPORTER: Do you think it`s safe to be here right now?




SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): I worry more about the janitors and all of the

people that have come in to work. I worry more about them and I think this

is pretty careless what`s happening right now.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Well, I wish we were back to deal with

COVID-related relief.


SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): I think we need to be working on the next stimulus

package. But I think we can do that by working together, by working in our

own offices. There`s no need to be collectively together.




MADDOW: For reasons that nobody has been able to explain very well, the

whole United States Senate returned to the capitol today, the majority of

senators that you saw wearing masks when they returned. Others not so much.

Returning senators were encouraged but not required to wear masks at the



It was only Delaware Senator Tom Carper who opted to keep his mask on while

delivering his floor speech today.


Over the weekend, in a rare display of bipartisan bicameral unity, House

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell,

rejected a White House offer to give on-the-spot, rapid response

coronavirus testing to all of the representatives and senators as they came

back to the capitol. McConnell and Pelosi rejected that offer from the

White House, saying that those limited, very in demand tests should be

reserved for frontline medical workers and not given to members of Congress

instead – because we still have such terrible access to testing in this

country that we have to make those kinds of decisions, we have to triage

access to testing like that, even for our legislature.


So, no testing for the returning senators before they were summoned back to

Capitol Hill today. Senators will only receive a test if they show

symptoms, which is terrible policy because people can be infectious without

showing symptoms. But yet, they`re back today.


Senator McConnell insists that the Senate needed to reconvene today,

because of the Republicans` agenda of confirming White House nominees and



As for the pandemic, you heard Senator Blumenthal say there, I wish we were

back to deal with COVID-related relief. That`s not what they`re back to

work on. And in fact, the White House told lawmakers today that members of

the Coronavirus Task Force will not be permitted to testify to Congress

this whole month unless directly cleared by the White House chief of staff

– which is a very weird thing.


After a quick response from the Democratic leader in the Senate Chuck

Schumer who said, quote: President Trump should learn that by muzzling

science and the truth, it will only prolong this health and economic



Joining us now for the interview tonight is the top Democrat in the United

States Senate, New York Senior Senator Chuck Schumer.


Senator Schumer, it`s great to see you. Thank you for taking the time to be

here tonight.



evening, Rachel.


MADDOW: Let me ask you first about what I just mentioned there. This White

House notification today that members of the administration`s coronavirus

task force won`t be allowed to testify at any time this entire month unless

the White House chief of staff gives a permission slip.


It`s a – to me, it just strikes me as a strange sort of proclamation, I

wonder if this is something you expected, or if this is a surprise to you.


SCHUMER: Well, it`s not surprising, because Donald Trump and his

administration, by and large, have just shied away from the truth. They

don`t want to admit the reality. President Trump said a month ago, every

American who wants a test can get a test. Well, obviously, that is not even

close to true.


And you know, Rachel, the longer they don`t admit the truth, they don`t,

and the longer they don`t admit – to listen to the scientists, the longer

this crisis is going to last. And even worse, it`s more likely to come back

a second and third time.


So, frankly, this president, who only looks out for himself, is even

hurting himself, by shying away, by putting his head in the sand, by not

admitting the truth.


You know, we Democrats, you`re right, we came back today, so Mitch

McConnell could confirm a right-wing, very divisive judge, a judge who even

said that the chief justice was wrong when he didn`t get rid of the ACA,

even at a time when people are desperate for health care, and that`s why

we`re coming back. It`s unbelievable.


There is nothing on the floor this week about COVID. We asked McConnell, at

least to have hearings, and bring up, so they could get real questions, not

– you know, when a reporter asks them a question, or ask the president or

one of his people at the White House, the president cuts them off.


In a hearing like this, a real focused hearing, you could ask question

after question, and we ask that Fauci and Birx and Mnuchin and Powell and

others all come forward. We don`t have that here, those hearings this week.


Now they say they may have Fauci next week, but who can believe that given

what Mark Meadows said and given that they pulled him away from the House?


So, by not telling the truth, by not hearing the truth, by not listening to

the scientists, they are prolonging this crisis, they are prolonging how

bad the economy will be, they are prolonging the agony of this country.

It`s appalling.


So, does it surprise me? No. Does it upset me? A lot.


MADDOW: Senator, especially given what you have been called back to do, as

you say, you`re not dealing with what the country is facing now, you`re

dealing with, you know, confirming controversial judge picks and other

things like that – given that that`s the thing for which you are all

potentially sacrificing your health, coming back to work in aggregate at

the U.S. Capitol, without actually having you and all of your staff tested

before coming into that environment – which is something that does happen

at the White House for anybody who comes into contact with the president.




MADDOW: I mean, I`m worried about you and your colleagues. You are –




MADDOW: – with all due respect, an older group. You have –you have to

have interaction with a lot –




SCHUMER: Young at heart. Young at heart.


MADDOW: It does feel scary to me though that you`re all there.


Is there – is there real (ph) – is there concern among your colleagues?


SCHUMER: Yes, since some of my – each colleague has made his or her own

choice, whether they can best serve their constituents by staying home, or

coming. And that choice, I respect, in every colleague.


But we`re here right now to force McConnell and the Republicans to do the

job that we`re supposed to do. Pass new COVID legislation. We haven`t heard

a peep out of McConnell other than these lines in the sand for his

ideological issues. We`re not going to give aid to state and local

governments. He first said, let them go bankrupt.


Now, he`s saying, oh, we have to exempt the corporate leadership from

liability. That means if a corporate – a head of a company, said you have

to sit next to someone who has all the signs of COVID, without PPE, you

can`t sue that boss. That encourages bad bosses to do just that. That`s all

he is doing.


So I`m here to force them, as best I can, to do real oversight, that`s part

of Congress` responsibility, and to come up with things, like money for

state and local governments, like heroes pay for the people who – who are

on the frontlines, like getting money for housing relief, for people who,

after three months, will be kicked out of their homes.


And that is something that he is not doing. Why he called us back here,

given the agenda, is befuddling, even to many of my Republican colleagues.


MADDOW: Senator, in terms of the what the Senate can do right now – and I

hear and can see your frustration with the Republican leader in terms of

how he is organizing the time of – and the priorities of Senate right now.

But I know that Senate Democrats for example, put together a detailed plan

about trying to fix the testing disaster in this country.




MADDOW: I know that the Senate Democrats have talked in detail about what

needs to happen different in terms of the financial relief and how it`s

been directed and now in some cases it has been misdirected to the kinds of

companies that were not supposed to get small business aid, but

nevertheless took the lion share of it.


Do you have the opportunity –




MADDOW: – to work on those things, at all? Even as a caucus? Even if

Senator McConnell isn`t allowing those things –




MADDOW: – to be driving the floor agenda?


SCHUMER: Well, the last two bills show that, Rachel – COVID 3 and COVID

3.5. McConnell came on the floor with a corporate first bill in the first

one, we forced them to do some state and local aid, we forced him to do aid

to hospitals, we forced him to do aid to small business.


On testing, they resisted, but in this COVID 3.5, we forced them to put in

$25 billion for testing, $11 billion to go to the states so they could do

testing and do contact tracing, and then the rest to go to the federal

government so they could actually provide the supply lines that are needed,

and the manufacturing that are needed to make the most tests.


So when we confront McConnell, we usually win. And that`s because, often

though we`re a minority, the public is on our side, and lot of those

Republican senators – some up for re-election, some not – eventually come

over to our side.


And so, we`ve had success in bill three, we`ve had success 3.5. Not

everything, believe you me, but making it a lot better than when we

started, and I believe we`ll have the same success as we get to work and

roll up our sleeves on COVID 4, the next bill.


MADDOW: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer – Senator Schumer, thank

you for making time tonight. I know there`s a lot of demands on you right



SCHUMER: Thank you, Rachel. Good to be with you.


MADDOW: I appreciate you making time.


SCHUMER: Thank you, thank you.


MADDOW: All right. We got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us.




MADDOW: There`s only one clear cut way to monitor and track the spread of

coronavirus. That`s widespread testing. The problem, of course, is that

here in the United States, we are not conducting widespread testing, nor

does it appear we will be conducting widespread testing anytime soon

because our federal government botched that so badly, we are still nowhere

near digging ourselves out of the hole they put us in when this whole thing

started, and that`s part of the reason we have the largest epidemic on

earth by a mile.


But because we do have terrible access to testing, public health officials

are scouting around to try to come up with other ways we might try to track

the virus, and they are ending up in places you might not expect. This is

from “The New York Times.”


Quote: Water authorities and governments are in discussions with scientists

and companies about tracking the pandemic through the detection of viruses

in the sewer. Wastewater monitoring could provide early warnings of



Quote: Measuring viruses in wastewater in effect tests an entire city or

region at once. While only some people may get tested for the coronavirus

on a given day, everyone uses the toilet.


So far, the results are promising. Quote: After the Netherlands saw its

first confirmed case February 27th, researchers found the virus in the

sewers of cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht. Researchers then went to

remote towns without any known cases of COVID-19. They discovered the

coronavirus up to six days before the first confirmed cases were found



The sewer told them six days in advance of the proper testing data.


Quote: As the confirmed cases of COVID-19 have gone up in Amsterdam and

Utrecht, they have found more virus genes in the wastewater. Similar

results have been reported out of Australia and France and Spain and

starting to be in the United States.


And that`s encouraging because with cities and states opening back up now

inexplicably, it would be very good to have some sort of a public health-

driven, science-based, early warning system as to when that results in

another outbreak coming down on us. As “The Times” reports, quote, when

cities or states come out of lockdown, they could check the sewers to

follow the virus trend. An increase would tell them that people were

infecting each other. Quote, then you`d need to go back into quarantine.


Testing in the sewer to take a community viral load snapshot, it`s like a

cross between science fiction and a hilarious kids` book plot, right? But

it`s also working.


And given our particular handicap as a country, this might be one of the

only ways, certainly one of the only painless ways we could try to make up

some distance toward what our testing disaster has cost us.


One of the scientists who is working on just that is going to join us here

live, next.




MADDOW: The headline is sort of irresistible. Is it safe to come out of

lockdown? Check the sewer.


Wastewater could provide early, painless, and localized data about the rise

or fall of coronavirus levels. That`s exactly the type of data we are

looking for right now. With ongoing problems about access to testing in

this country, is this an alternative that could give us the data we need to

make good public health decisions without having to wait for our government

to get it together when it comes to testing?


Well, joining us now is Ali Boehm. She`s a professor at civil and

environmental engineering at Stanford University. She leads a research team

that is studying the detectable prevalence of COVID-19 in wastewater.


Professor Boehm, it`s a real pleasure to have you here. Thanks for taking

time to be here.



ENGINEERING: Thank you for having me.


MADDOW: Let me ask you if I have mischaracterized what you`re working on in

any way or if I`m looking at this the wrong way in terms of how I`m

explaining this.


BOEHM: No, I think you`re explaining it perfectly, and our aspiration is

actually to create a tool where you can use the concentrations of the

coronavirus that we`re measuring in sewage to infer prevalence in the sewer

shed in the community that uses the sewers in that watershed.


MADDOW: I know this is going to sound like I`m sort of jumping right to the

end, but I`m trying to figure out if this is something that we should be

not thinking about in an academy context but thinking about in a public

health context right now. I feel like I have to ask you if, A, this is

expensive to do, and, B, is it technically difficult too do?


BOEHM: It`s hard to answer that question because expensive to an

environmental engineer, it may not be expensive to the state of California.


I don`t think it`s particularly expensive. It`s relatively easy to sample

the wastewater treatment plants, and the type of analyses we do are

routinely done in environmental microbiology labs around the country and in

environmental engineering labs. So, it`s – theoretically it`s not

technically difficult, and we make these kinds of measurements all the

time. We measure viruses in the environment.


We usually are focused on enteric viruses that give you diarrhea and cause

you to vomit. But the time of analyses we have to do for the SARS virus are

we similar to ones that we already do for other viruses.


MADDOW: Could we or should we imagine near-term public health future in

which this data – this approach to prevalence testing, you know, testing

at the water treatment plant locally, could be focused enough that an

individual state or even an individual county could use this kind of

information to find out if public policy changes that they`ve made have

increased or decreased the prevalence in, as you call it, the sewer shed,

in their area? Can it be pinpointed that well?


BOEHM: We hope that it can, and our goal at least with our project here at

Stanford is to get a tool ready to use in the next six months. So, that`s

our goal, and we`re working very hard towards it. And I think our entire

community of environmental engineers around the world actually – and you

mentioned some of the places earlier, in the Netherlands, in Spain and

Switzerland, Australia, Japan, China, we`re all working together to try to

get this tool so that it can be used in the very near term.


And I think we all recognize the urgency of getting this tool working

within the next few months if that`s possible.


MADDOW: Ali Boehm, professor of civil and environmental engineering at

Stanford University, Godspeed to you and your team and all of your

colleagues around the world who have worked on this. If this – if this can

come to fruition, particularly as you said in a matter of months, it could

be just huge in terms of what we can understand and how we can better plan

for what to do here. Thanks for helping us understand it this evening. Good



BOEHM: Thank you.


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




MADDOW: A “Best New Thing in the World Today” just what you needed. This

one took root last year before all of this, before this crisis.


In December, the outgoing governor of Kentucky, Republican Matt Bevin, he

lost his bid for second term. On his way out of the governor`s mansion, he

gave out a huge number of pardons on what appeared to be somewhat dubious

terms. Governor Bevin pardoned, for example, a convicted killer whose

brother hosted a campaign fund-raiser for him. Bevin also pardoned a

convicted child rapist and also someone who killed his parents.


The list was long, and like I said, it was sort of an unusual eyebrow-

raising group of cases. Well, “The Courier-Journal” newspaper in Louisville

started digging into that story. At one point in the middle of their

investigations, a funny thing happened. By then, ex-Governor Matt Bevin

called up a reporter from the “Courier Journal” who was working on the team

investigating those pardons, a reporter named Joe Sonka.


Sonka says the governor kept him on the phone for almost an hour, defending

the pardons and apparently dropping a juicy quote that the Joe Sonka says

is one of the best quotes he ever gotten in his whole career. Ultimately it

was cut out of the “Courier Journal” story, but he just kind of couldn`t

stop thinking about it.


What the governor actually said to him, that quote was not publicly known

until today when we learned finally, thanks to Joe Sonka, that what

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said to Joe Sonka said that day, was he told

him, quote, dig into his pardons. He told him, quote, if it`s done right,

you could win a Pulitzer Prize.


Why, yes, you could. Today, Joe Sonka and his colleagues at the “Courier

Journal” of Louisville, Kentucky, did indeed win the Pulitzer Prize for

their work investigating Governor Matt Bevin`s pardons, which turned out to

be an ethical catastrophe. The governor`s prediction came true in the best

possible way, a Pulitzer Prize, best new thing in the world today.


But because this is our world, I need to add here that between accepting

congratulations on Twitter, Pulitzer winning reporter Joe Sonka revealed he

begins his second week of unpaid furlough on Monday. Times are hard.

Newspapers are struggling. Subscribe to your local paper if you possibly

can. And congratulations to Joe and all you guys.


That does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.




Good evening, Lawrence.







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