COVID-19 survivors TRANSCRIPT: 5/8/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
appreciated. Have a good weekend.
HAYES: You bet. You too.
MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you
here especially on a Friday night. And for your troubles, as a reward, for
you being here on a Friday night, I would like to thank you for being here,
by introducing you to Warnell Vega.
Watch this. God bless him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARNELL VEGA, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: Hello, my name is Warnell Vega. I tested
positive for COVID-19. I have been in the hospital for about a week and a
half. And today I get to go home. I am so excited.
When I first got here, trouble breathing, coughing, everything. I feel so
much better now. And I am happy. Thank you to the doctors, to the nurses,
thank you to everybody who helped me get better.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re looking good.
VEGA: Thank you.
Hi. So I just made it home. First time being back home, after being in the
hospital for so many days. I`m excited to be back with my family. They`re
happy to have me home. I`m happy to be home.
And one of the things I`m looking forward to doing first is having a good
night sleep. It has been a while. So I think a good night sleep is well
RAYMOND SANGSTER, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: My name is Raymond Sangster. Sangster
is the last name. I`m a COVID survivor. I was admitted to Mount Sinai
hospital on the fifth of April. Just prior to being hospitalized, for three
days prior to hospitalized, my mom died of COVID. And then I was
hospitalized here on the fifth.
I came in here, I spent almost, a little more than 72 hours on the
ventilators, and now I`ll be able to go home to my family, just after
coming out of ICU after one week, and now ready to go home to my wife and
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye. Take care.
SANGSTER: Love you guys.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Love you too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Love you guys. Love you too.
That`s Warnell Vega, the first gentleman there and Raymond Sangster, whose
mom died from coronavirus three days before he was hospitalized with it
himself, and was eventually put in the ICU and himself intubated, but now,
has gone home. Godspeed to you both.
You know, we keep asking front line health care workers across the country
to send us their thoughts, send us things in their own words, send us their
own view on their own work right now, what they`re going through, I think
it is an interesting peak into the mind set of these front line health
workers who are risking so much for all of the rest of us, that a lot of
what they keep sending us is portraits of their patients, their parents who
are surviving it and making it out of the, their patients who are surviving
and making it out of the hospital. And I think it is also revelatory for us
civilians on the outside, to see how important those successes are, and not
just for the patients and their families but also for those working
themselves half to death, trying so hard to save people from a disease that
is very unpredictable, very cruel and just relentless in terms of the
number of Americans it has sickened and killed.
And so, they celebrate these moments which I think is important for us to
know about them.
This is another one we just got from Indiana, watch this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRACIE DAVIS, NURSE AT IU HEALTH METHODIST HOSPITAL INDIANAPOLIS, IN: The
gentleman was discharged today after April 24th, and spent time in critical
care, and discharged today joyfully after spending about two weeks in the
hospital, 300 patients, it an enormous number.
His discharge speaks to all of the patients who have been cared for. You
think about the number of hours of care that have been involved & getting
to the number 300, that is an incredible number. So, it`s not just his
discharge. It`s everybody who has come before him as well.
For the nurses on our unit, it is an incredible sense of pride, rising to
this occasion, to take on the biggest undertaking of the lifetime in
nursing. We just we continually adjust to all of the needs that are
required of us. I could not be more proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I could not be more proud. That`s Tracie Davis, she`s an RN in
Indianapolis, at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital which has
been a really hard-hit hospital in Indiana.
“The Indianapolis Star” today profiling what they call the slow rolling
disaster of a COVID-19 crush at that particular hospital in Indiana. And so
darn right, you know, they are going to celebrate when their 300th patient
survives, and is able to leave the hospital, after all it takes from all of
these health care workers, to try to keep people alive once this thing has
gotten a hold of them.
Because we keep just hearing, over and over again, especially as this thing
has sprawled and grown, into this enormous epidemic, that we`ve got in our
country, it`s grown from march, and has stretched on all the way through
April and is now stretching on through May, it just keeps going, and the
people who are doing the physical medical work to try to keep Americans
alive, who are worst hit by this, they just keep telling us, I feel like
they need us to know what it is that they need to keep going, but also,
just how hard this work is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYN VIRAY, INTENSIVE CARE UNIT NURSE, MOUNT SINAI WEST, NEW YORK: It`s been
a very – it`s been a very difficult experience. I`ve been a nurse for
years. I`ve never experienced anything like this. I`ve never experienced
this much emotion.
I find it difficult to talk still. I think the one good thing that I`ve had
so far is knowing, that I talk about my nursing staff and how it`s very
helpful to talk to them, and they`ve been a great support, but it`s been
more than that. You know, I think that we help each other get through this,
because we share the same experiences. You know, we all have – we all have
families that we have to go to, we all make sacrifices, by not seeing them,
for long periods of time, it`s been, it`s been very difficult and I don`t
think that, I hope that nobody has to experience like what we`ve been
experiencing, but I`m going to go home, I`m going to listen to some music,
like I said earlier, I`m going to Zoom with some of my friends, for just,
to look forward to seeing my son tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Lyn Viray is an ICU nurse at Mount Sinai West in New York. She
herself got infected and got sick with coronavirus early on in early March.
She has now recovered and she is back on the job.
I also want you to meet Josephine Stevens. Josephine Stephens works in Port
Jefferson, Louisiana, she actually works in a dental clinic, in Port
Jefferson, Louisiana. But with the epidemic descending with particular
ferocity, upon Louisiana, Josephine moved over to do something entirely
different, at Saint Charles Hospital, in Port Jefferson.
She trained to work with COVID patients who can`t have their families with
them. They can`t have their families with them. They can`t have any
visitors. Josephine is now the one who sits with them, and facilitates
FaceTime conversations, conversations via phone or iPad between these very
ill patients and their families at home. She is the one who helps them
bedside to connect and communicate their last wishes in some cases and to
say goodbye, if that time has come, if that time comes.
That is Josephine`s job now, because everybody`s job has changed in the
(BEGIN VIDEOI CLIP)
JOSEPHINE STEPHENS: We`re on 3 North. And everything has been very
different since COVID-19 came into play about five weeks ago. Everybody`s
working very hard to save as many lives as they can. And it`s really scary.
It`s just heartbreaking, and it is really hard.
It`s just very, very different. You`ll definitely look at life in a
different way. You`ll appreciate every breath you take, and every family
member that you have. Very hard
PETER SESI, CRITICAL CARE NURSE, COOK COUNTY HEALTH, CHICAGO, IL: I just
finished working a 16-hour shift. I came in at 7:00 a.m. and it is
approximately 11:00 p.m. now. The day started off pretty rough, came in
running, ran to a patient`s code.
Realized that the day starts unknown every single day. I`m very grateful
for the team I work beside. We all work really hard. We look out for one
another. And we`re very grateful for one another.
It is kind of the family that I built, especially since my entire family
lives out of state. I haven`t been able to spend much time in the last two
months with them. I keep coming back though. I keep coming back because the
patients need us.
But the biggest thing is, the patients who need us, they need us to also
stay healthy for them, because if we get sick, who is going to be here for
you. The biggest concern for the public is reopening our cities and getting
stuff open, which would be great for all of us, including me, I want to, go
I want to be able to go out to dinner and do something.
But unfortunately, we can`t right now. We really have to get this virus
under control to prevent it from spreading out, even further than what it
DR. ERNEST PATTI, SAINT BARNABAS MEDICAL CENTER: Seven-forty-five, the end
of a 12-hour shift. This is Dr. Ernest Patti.
Today was definitely busier. We had to intubate a few patients with
suspected COVID disease. It seemed like the volume is ticking up again a
bit, although not as bad as it was a few weeks ago.
You can hear the noise still, still somewhat lower than it was when I last
reported a few weeks ago. So I`m hopeful of keeping things under control,
although we still have to maintain our vigilance and not let our guard
down, because these sick people are still coming in. Just not to the same
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay strong. Stay home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Dr. Ernest Patti from the Saint Barnabas Medical Center in the
Bronx. You recognize him. We have been checking in with Dr. Patti every
week for a few weeks now. He is the emergency medicine chief at the very
hard-hit emergency room at Saint Barnabas in New York. That little dispatch
was the past week and you can hear from him the sort of mix of hope and
worry, you know, hope that the numbers won`t tick back up to be as bad as
they were, but also some worry from him, as what he describes as the
noises, he said the noises from all of the ventilators, start to ping
again, constantly in the background in his emergency room as they continue
to get new patients who are in acute distress.
But in addition to sending us that dispatch from the Saint Barnabas
emergency room this week you will want to see what else Dr. Patti sent us
this week, because basically, from Saint Barnabas this week, he sent us a
big multi-part bundle of hope.
First of all, he, too, sent us one of these videos. This video shows the
release of the 500th coronavirus patient from St. Barnabas, the 500th
patient who had beaten the virus and released from the hospital. Patient
number 500 gets to go home and get out of the hospital alive and you can
see the health workers are so proud, right? Even the firefighters came out
for the 500th patient to celebrate his milestone. So Dr. Patti sent us
Dr. Patti also sent these pictures of his co-workers from St. Barnabas
outside after sending off that 500th patient, trying to encourage everyone
with signs that say keep calm and think positively. And the sun will come
out tomorrow and we will overcome this.
Dr. Patti also sent us pictures of the stuff that he and his colleagues
have been sent from all over America, by just regular Americans, trying to
lend support, to try to like bolster and support and show a desire to help
the St. Barnabas doctors and nurses and what they`re doing. And it`s an
amazing collection of stuff from all sorts of people who perceive all sorts
A woman named Marge in Silver Springs, Maryland, sent in respiratory
equipment, a respirator, and masks.
Dr. Patti received what he called an enormous box of Hawaiian-themed gifts,
and treats, from Darlene in Honolulu, who used to live in New York City and
wanted to send that.
Iris, who works at Planned Parenthood in Ohio, sent the St. Barnabas
emergency room some masks.
Beth in Chicago sent what she called her own personal supply of masks.
So you see the appreciation, both of people sending that stuff, to St.
Barnabas but also the appreciation of this physician, saying do you believe
people are being so kind? So, it`s nice, I mean that mutuality I think is
nice to see.
But I mean, honestly, big picture, in the news, things are terrible,
obviously. We are closing in on 1.3 million cases in this country. We are
over 77,000 American deaths at this point.
The unemployment rate today hit 14.7 percent, which is the worst level of
unemployment in this country, since the Great Depression. We do not need to
qualify it any other way.
“The Associated Press” tonight reporting that the highest levels of the
White House, there was political intervention to block the CDC from issuing
practical guidance about how businesses and services could safely reopen,
without risking people getting infected there. The White House at the
highest levels intervened, to block the CDC from releasing that guidance to
the American people, which would save lives, because the White House is
encouraging all sorts of states to open up. The CDC produced guidelines on
how to do that safely. The White House blocked it.
And then the White House overtly lied about it when they were asked. When
they were asked about the CDC guidance, they said oh, that guidance wasn`t
actually approved by the CDC. Actually, the CDC had approved it. And the
White House blocked it.
Things are bad. I get it. If there is one thing that is worse than an
astonishingly botched response to an existentially challenging pandemic,
that is killing tens of thousands of Americans on an ongoing basis, if
there is one thing that is worse than that, it`s maybe an astonishingly
botched response to that kind of an epidemic that just keeps getting worse
over time, right? Where the public health people and the scientists are
actually exerting less control over the country`s response over time,
rather than more. Where the scientists and the public health people who
actually know to what to do are getting more and more muzzled, as the
terrible response of our government continues, and actually gets worse day
So I got it. Everything`s terrible. I know. And we`re going to cover a
bunch of that stuff over the course of this hour tonight, including a look
at what might be the worst state in the country in terms of how the
epidemic response is being botched, and how the people of that state are
being prevented from knowing the truth about the scale of the disaster
Things are bad. I know. We will – we will cover, we will still continue
covering all of the badness of it, but for a hot second here, on this
Friday night, I do just want to cover one piece of this that is something
constructive and innovative and good, so forgive me.
Let`s go back to Dr. Patti at St. Barnabas for a second. You might remember
something that caught my attention in this photo that we showed from Dr.
Patti a week ago. And you see, he`s got his respirator on, the face shield
at the top of his head. He`s got this PPE gown, he had his gloves on, but
you can see the sticker of himself, the sticker of his own face, that
little picture of a smiling Dr. Patti, that is put on his medical gown as a
Dr. Patti told us that somebody sent that to him, among all of the people
who have been sending him an his staff great stuff, somebody sent that
picture of him of his head shot, so that his coronavirus patients could see
his face, and know that there was a human being behind all of that
It turns out there is a kind of amazing story behind that. That sticker,
with Dr. Patti`s photo on it was sent to him by somebody who never met him
in real life. Her name is Lori Justice Shocket. She is an artist but she
also has a medical degree and she is married to an ER doctor and she is the
mom and the stepmom of two more ER doctors. She is connected.
And right now, one of the things she has started doing, is making PPE
portraits for medical staff who wear full protective gear when taking care
of their patients. So, you, the doctor, or you the nurse, send her the
smiling photo of yourself, she will print, laminate and mail a sheet of PPE
portraits to stick on the outside of your PPE gear so your terrified
patients who can`t actually see really any of your face, they can at least
have some idea of who you are, and what you really look like.
And where this idea came from, I had no idea, was the Ebola outbreak in
Liberia, in 2014 and 2015. An American artist named Mary Beth Heffernan who
teaches at Occidental College, she was moved and intrigued by the images of
the full space suit-like PPE, that health workers were wearing, while
caring for people with Ebola in Liberia. And she started studying it. And
she ultimately created the PPE portrait project, subscribing it as an art
intervention designed to improve Ebola care.
And this was, this was not a whim. It was not a small thing. It was not an
easy thing. It was a deeply-research, grant-funded project, focusing on the
psychological effects of isolation on patients and ultimately the
beneficial effects of puncturing that isolation by allowing them to connect
better with their providers.
Mary Beth Heffernan, the artist was invited by the government of Liberia to
come work with doctors in Ebola treatment centers in 2014 and 2015. She
told us that she has always hoped that what she started doing in Liberia,
these few years ago, would become best medical practice for all kinds of
patients who have to experience the isolation of never seeing people
outside PPE. Seeing only masked faces for days at a time.
Well, now, this epidemic that we are in, appears to be putting her idea
into effect, putting her idea at the center of consciousness, at least, in
more and more places. It was Heffernan`s work, the PPE portrait project, in
Liberia, for the Ebola crisis, that inspired Lori, who saw Dr. Patti at St.
Barnabas here on this show, and then she sent Dr. Patti his portrait and
that is why we were able to see him wear it.
The same work also inspired a Stanford university researcher who works on
quality improvement of patient care. As the COVID epidemic drove tens of
thousands of patients into American hospitals, and American front-line
health providers everywhere, were into full PPE whenever they could get
their hands on, it the Stanford researcher, Katie Brown Johnson, got in
touch with Mary Beth Heffernan, and now they are working together on a
project at Stanford that provides PPE portraits to hospitals across the
They have a DIY version of the project on the web, which is basically a
template that health care workers can use to do this. I will also tell you
that we got kind of a hilarious offshoot of this idea from a brother and
sister team named Linda and Jack. Jack was recently being treated for
cancer at the hospital, during the COVID-19 epidemic, and after seeing all
of the medical workers dressed head to toe in protective gear, Jack and his
sister Linda and their other siblings decided to design their own sort of
home-grown, home-conceived version of this very fancy high level art world,
high level medical world idea.
And what Jack and Linda and their siblings came up with is a version of it
that is sort of equal parts awesome and hilarious and slightly unsettling.
Look. Behold. It is the selfie mask.
This isn`t you printing a portrait of your straight to camera smiling face
on a sticker that you put on your gown, this is you approximating the look
of your face, as kind of a mask overlay, it`s like wearing a face suit of
yourself, on your face. They tell us they`ve now made a bunch of them at
the hospital jack is being treated at for cancer.
This is Jack`s oncologist wearing his. Look at that. He can shave that
goatee and nobody would ever know.
Jack and Linda`s brother Andy helped them come up with a fairly simple way
to augment a normal 2D image of a person`s face so that it could wrap
around a traditional mask and traditional face covering along with a link
to the standard template for health care workers to get a link for their
PPE gowns. We`ll post a link on MaddowBlog.com to the selfie mask web tool
that lets you up load an image and print one for yourself just in case you
too want to stop walking the dog and looking like this and instead want to
start walking the dog wearing your own face on your face, right?
I tell you, it`s like equal parts hilarious and awesome and unsettling. But
it comes from this idea that is deeply rooted in patients needing that
human connection with their providers. And it turns out to have pretty good
data, pretty good databases, in terms of understanding how this can help
patients in what may be the worst and most scared time in their lives.
Joining us now, is Cati Brown-Johnson, who is the research scientist at the
Stanford University School of medicine that I just talked about, who helped
revive the PPE portrait project invented during the Ebola crisis now being
put back into practice for the coronavirus era.
Ms. Brown-Johnson, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
And I have to ask you how much have I got wrong or if I explained the
basics of it in a way that seems coherent?
CATI BROWN-JOHNSON, STANFORD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE RESEARCH
SCIENTIST: You`re still coherent, Rachel. Thank you so much for having me
on the show.
MADDOW: Tell me about the way this idea, which is sort of cute, and
intriguing, and interesting, and warm-hearted, how it ultimately
translates. I mean, you – you are a serious researcher in terms of patient
outcomes, and the way that patients interact with their health care
providers and how that can ultimately affect the course of their care, what
does your research show? What do we know about how this improves things for
BROWN-JOHNSON: Yes, so I`m a social scientist, and very interested in human
connection, and patient provider connection. And so with the fear and
isolation that was coming up, around COVID, we knew we needed to address
that right away, so the research behind this, a warm and a competent
provider, connects with the healing mechanisms within a person`s own body.
And PPE, obviously, it`s straight up and down competence, it tells you
competence right away, the only warmth that you might get would be a PPE
per trait, and so that`s really some of the basis of the research that has
us interested in pursuing this.
MADDOW: I can imagine, I mean just seeing Dr. Patti wearing his portrait, I
mean, we had talked to him in his apartment, so we knew what he looked
like, and then we had received these video diaries from him, in the ER at
St. Barnabas where he is completely covered up and sometimes would very to
use subtitles in order to be able to convey what it is that he is saying.
There is that barrier in terms.
But being able to see him, you are able to make that human connection, back
to the guy who you recognize, or the guy who you might think you could
know, rather than having this almost alien interaction, even while somebody
is doing their best to save your life. I mean I think even those of us who
aren`t patients sort of inherently get how this might work.
BROWN-JOHNSON: Absolutely. I think it`s really valuable for patients. I
think the exciting thing that we`ve been – we shouldn`t have been
surprised, but we`ve been surprised at how important this has been for
health care workers, so health care workers experience a huge amount of
burnout in general, and we`re really hoping that this, well, we hear from
them already, that this really helps them feel humanized and reconnected
and those are the types of things that are going to help our health care
workers, those are the types of feelings that will help our health care
workers be able to do the long haul that the COVID is calling for.
MADDOW: Cati Brown-Johnson, research scientist at Stanford University
School of Medicine – Cati, thank you very much for helping us
understanding this tonight. It obviously captured our imagination a little
bit, but understanding that this comes from a pretty deep place in terms of
your understanding of patient outcomes. It`s really intriguing. Thanks for
helping us understand.
BROWN-JOHNSON: Thank you so much for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right, much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. President, I`m so
grateful for the governor`s leadership in Iowa. So very impressed with her
team. Iowa has been leading the pack.
Iowa, with Governor Reynold`s leadership has been a success story, because
whether it be the mitigation efforts, social distancing efforts, and now
rolling out testing at a record pace in the state, Iowa has stayed in front
of this effort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Are we talking about the same Iowa?
Vice President Mike Pence at the White House this week praising the great
success story that is Iowa. Iowa leading the pack. Rolling out testing at a
Got lots of testing troubles in Iowa. People are waiting two weeks plus for
their results. I don`t – I`m not sure why the White House thinks that
things are going awesome in Iowa.
They do have testing trouble. They have several of the fastest-growing
outbreaks in the country in Iowa. They did terribly with social distancing.
They actually never did a stay-at-home order.
And they have lots of – I mean don`t take it from me, I will say the local
press in that part of the country itself appears mystified by this
characterization from the White House that Iowa is doing great.
“The Quad City Times” out of eastern Iowa ran with this headline, quote:
Pence calls Iowa “success story” as virus-related deaths and
“The Des Moines Register” made a similar point. Quote: Although Pence this
week called Iowa a success story in its handling of the pandemic, rates of
infection continue to climb across the state.
One columnist with the “Omaha World” in Nebraska simply tweeted a picture
of that success story line from Pence with this, as the caption. Are we in
upside – are we in the upside down?
Against that backdrop, Vice President Pence visited Iowa today, he has been
arriving an hour late, after the news broke that his press secretary had
tested positive for coronavirus. Because of that, other staff members on
board his flight were asked to de-plane and go get tested. So, the vice
president was late.
By the time he actually landed in Iowa, Iowa was dealing with a flood of
headlines about one of the meat processing plants in the state that Pence
had been bragging about on Wednesday at the White House, bragging about how
great it was that it was reopening.
Ahead of yesterday`s reopening of the Tyson meat processing plant in
Waterloo, Iowa, the Governor Kim Reynolds had soberly announced that 400
workers a the that plant had tested positive. That was yesterday.
Today, as Pence was finally belatedly landing, the state was grappling with
headlines about the fact that it is not actually 400 workers from that one
plant like the governor said just yesterday, it turns out to be more than a
thousand workers at that one plant in Waterloo, Iowa, who have become
infected, More than a thousand workers from one plant. That`s not to
mention their families, their community contacts, nothing. Just the
workers, over a thousand cases, one plant. Iowa. More than double since the
governor`s sober assurances yesterday.
I mean for whatever reason, the White House seems very invested in lauding
Iowa as a great success story. If I had to pick a state, I wouldn`t pick
And I mentioned the “Omaha World Herald”, and the reaction of their
columnist to that characterization about Iowa, and that whole part of the
country is having trouble honestly, particularly in places where those
states come together. One of the reasons that Sioux City, Iowa, is dealing
with one of the worse outbreaks in the whole country is thought to be
because of a huge meat processing plant across the river in Dakota County,
Nebraska. That county, Dakota County, just saw a record surge in new cases,
the largest number of new cases one day yet, they have 361 new positives in
one day, and that is a county with only 20,000 people in it.
We don`t know how many of those positive cases are workers from that Dakota
County plant, which also just reopened, the plant is not announcing how
many of its workers are infected. Nebraska`s governor says the plants don`t
have to say how many of their workers have tested positive. He says it`s a
business decision. It`s their call.
But that county, Dakota County, just across the Missouri River, from Sioux
City, Iowa, Dakota County does have a population of less than 21,000
people, and they are up over 1400 cases overall now. I mean, not testing in
the first place. Not allowing test results to be made public when there is
I mean denying that these outbreaks exist or that they attend to any
specific place or workplace is a bad strategy. It`s a specific kind of bad
though. It`s the kind of bad that one Nebraska state senator is now calling
a political cover-up in his state.
He joins us next, stay with us.
MADDOW: This week, Nebraska`s Republican Governor Pete Ricketts announced
that the state would no longer release any data on coronavirus case numbers
in specific meat processing plants. He said counties would have to get a
signoff from the individual plants if they wanted to continue releasing
that kind of information. The governor made that announcement, I should
say, just as – just as at least one major plant in the state known to have
at least dozens of cases was about to receive the results from testing all
of its workers.
This announcement from Governor Ricketts, drew incoming fire from a bunch
of places in the state including state senator named Adam Morfeld, who
represents parts of Lincoln, Nebraska. He said that Ricketts shutting down
public information on the spread of coronavirus inside Nebraska`s meat
packing plants is, quote, commonly referred to as a political cover-up.
Quote: There is no legitimacy that this is a privacy concern. Understanding
where outbreaks are occurring is important for the public and the
government to know and to understand from a public safety and mitigation
point of view. No data equals no spread equals victory and will eventually
say there is no zero new cases in plants, sort of like the claim that zero
Nebraskans in prisons have the virus only because we have tested zero
Nebraska prison inmates.
Joining us now is Senator Adam Morfeld. He`s a state senator from Nebraska.
Sir, it`s nice to have you here. Thanks for making time to join us tonight.
STATE SENATOR ADAM MORFELD (D), NEBRASKA: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: So I am fixated on your state because I feel like Governor Ricketts
is mounting a response to this epidemic that is troubling to me, and it
seems, even though a lot of states have not great responses, but it seems
particularly troubling, is the lack of data that`s being released to the
public, the state is not releasing data on individual nursing homes. It`s
not releasing data on individual meat plants now.
And as you point out, they`re not even testing any prisoners in the state.
I want to ask if you feel like that national concern is warranted at this
point, from those of us in the rest of the country, looking in on what is
going on in your state.
MORFELD: Absolutely I think the national concern is warranted and it`s
warranted because just releasing aggregate data is dangerous to the public
safety, because we can`t tell, as a public, whether we should be rewarding
or keeping accountable public or private entities that are doing a good or
bad job. And quite frankly, right now, we should be building trust, not
keeping certain things in secrecy.
And that`s pretty important because we need to make sure that we are
allocating scarce resources to where we need them the most. And if we`re
not providing specific data, the public doesn`t know where the actual
problems are, which means that organizations in the state, like Nebraska
advocacy, the workers center, can`t provide critical training and services
for employees and employers. And public officials like me don`t fully
understand what the scope of the problem is, and how well we`re doing.
All of this plays into the narrative that the governor wants, which is that
we`re ready to open back up. That things are on the upswing, when we
haven`t even hit our peak yet.
MADDOW: We are seeing, in a number of states, varying levels of
transparency when it comes to how big the outbreaks are in individual
plants. There aren`t federally-required guidelines, on these things.
There`s guidelines but there is no actual rules that the plants have to
follow. Some county health departments or state health departments have
been able to exact promises, from individual plants that they will test all
of their workers, and that they will make those results public.
Nebraska seems to be the least transparent of all states, in terms of the
number of plants that aren`t saying anything publicly, and where the
information that we`ve got about problem outbreaks comes from anonymous
tipsters, comes from journalists ferreting out the information, and it
seems like it may ultimately come from individual county health departments
defying this line from the governor now that they can`t release this
information and they have to defer to these businesses. It sort of sounds
like things are getting worse in Nebraska and not better over time.
MORFELD: It is getting worse, and you wouldn`t know it from the governor`s
office. But you would know it from the local public health officials that
are telling the truth, that are coming out and saying hey, listen, we have
major problems, in our state right now, like the Republican mayor of Grand
I think it`s also important to note that if we don`t know exactly where the
problems are, we can`t allocate resources in order to help people. And that
only plays into the governor`s narrative again, that we`re supposed to be
ready and open for business when in fact, we are in the middle of our
outbreak. And that`s very concerning, because the governor seems more
concerned about protecting the reputation of businesses, which is one of
the stated reasons, why this information needs to be private. Rather than
saving the lives of Nebraskans and protecting the public health and public
safety of our state.
MADDOW: Adam Morfeld, state senator from the great state of Nebraska, I am
concerned so much about Nebraska, because I like Nebraska a lot, because I
really am worried.
MORFELD: Well, thank you.
MADDOW: You one of the worst managed large epidemics in the country. I know
you`ve been doing your damnedest to squawk about it and try to improve it.
Keep me apprised and keep me honest as we keep covering this. We`re going
to stay on the story.
MORFELD: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This I think is a clarifying moment. Senator Pat Roberts is a
Republican. He`s the senior U.S. senator from the great state of Kansas.
At a Senate hearing, here is Senator Roberts expressing his concerns about
how the operation of meat processing plants is being affected at all of
these COVID-19 outbreaks that are happening at the plants for some reason.
Here`s what he think the problem is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: The problem is our workers. And just this
morning, they showed up at the plant, not in numbers that we had hoped for,
but we at least keep the meatpacking plant open. And what`s happening is
that they`re not catching the virus at the meatpacking plant. It`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s afterwards. The problem is the workers. They`re not getting
infected at the plant, nothing is happening at the plant. It`s these people
after they go home, it`s just a coincidence that all the meatpacking plants
all over the country are having huge outbreaks among their workers.
The problem is nothing that`s happening at the plants, it`s just
coincidentally that they all have these terrible worker people, who are
getting infected elsewhere, victimizing the plants.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar echoed this argument this
week on a call with members of Congress. He told them outbreaks at
meatpacking plants in this country are due to the, quote, home and social
aspects of workers` lives. They`re not getting infected at work, they just
all coincidentally happened to be getting infected at home and coming to
work at the same place, it`s so weird.
Then there was Wisconsin this week. A lawyer for the Democratic governor of
the state was making an argument to the state Supreme Court this week about
why Governor Tony Evers`s stay-at-home orders were important, why they
shouldn`t be overturned. The court`s conservative chief justice interrupted
the lawyer with a remark that for a lot of folks I think really seems to
clarify and sum up what has been going on here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN ROTH, WISCONSIN ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: The cases in Brown County
in the span of two weeks surged over tenfold from 60 to almost 800 and
that`s two weeks that would be required for emergency rule making. So look
PATIENCE ROGGENSACK, CHIEF JUSTICE: These are due to the meatpacking,
though. That`s where the Brown County got the flair, it wasn`t just the
regular folks in Brown County.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Giant outbreak in Brown County. It wasn`t the regular folks there.
It was just the meat packing people. Not the regular people. So you can`t
really call that a point of concern. It`s not the regular.
We`re starting to get a better sense of why these huge outbreaks in the
middle of our country seem not to be causing any concern whatsoever among
lots of political leaders. At least no concern beyond what effect the
outbreaks might conceivably have on the plants themselves as opposed to the
thousands of people who work in them who are all getting infected there.
Those workers are thought of as apparently being not regular in a too
different, not part of the real community maybe, therefore they`re not
really real people. But, you know, it`s one thing to not particularly care
what happens to this group of other people, it`s another to decide that
what happens to them really has nothing to do with, no effect on the rest
And because of that, I want to show you something that was sent to us today
by a data visualization company that`s called Tectonix. This shows the
meatpacking plant in Cass County, Indiana, in March of this year. This is a
plant you probably heard something about. It shut down last month.
This is a plant where 900 workers tested positive for COVID-19, about 40
percent of the workers at that plant. This is a plant in Cass County,
Indiana, that just opened yesterday.
Now, all those tiny bluish white dots in there, those are people`s mobile
devices giving off a signal at that facility. Tectonix used anonymized
location data from cellphones to create an animation of what happened to
those mobile devices and the people attached to them over the month – the
course of the month of March.
Those devices traveled out into the surrounding counties and into
surrounding states and then ultimately also across almost the entire
country by the end of March, people who had been inside that Cass County
Tyson plant which would eventually be diagnosed with 900 coronavirus
infections just among people who work there, people had traveled to nearly
every state in the nation.
And it makes sense, actually. Meat processing plants are in the middle of a
sprawling national supply chain. The Trump administration and leaders in
these states with all these meat packing plant outbreaks, they may want to
blame the outbreaks on the workers in these plants and describe them as no
big deal because it`s just those people.
But however much you pay for that at the end of your life when you answer
for the way you have lived, right now, that sort of prejudice and
shortsightedness is not going to make these outbreaks go away. And it`s not
going to magically contain these outbreaks to those workers. There is going
to need to be a better plan for this. And the clock is ticking.
MADDOW: Do you need a best new thing in the world today?
I do. We got one that`s plural. May I introduce the newest members of THE
RACHEL MADDOW SHOW family? Oliver James and Henry Joseph. Oliver James is
the elder brother by four whole minutes, which we are hoping and expecting
him to lord over Henry Joseph their whole happen by lives.
Both kiddos are perfect as you can see and absolutely healthy and already
speaking up on their own behalf. They will, of course, be the beginning of
a whole new adventure for our beloved associate producer Johanna (ph).
Johanna, we are so happy for you and for Mike and these bundles of joy. It
is a crazy time in the world but these guys are pure joy. We`re so happy
for you. Best new kiddos in the world today.
All right. Now, it is time for a special hour here on MSNBC, “Life in the
Time of Coronavirus” hosted by Dr. Zeke Emanuel and our own Ali Velshi.
Good evening, Ali.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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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
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