Governor Whitmer TRANSCRIPT: 5/21/20, The Rachel Maddow Show
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, “ALL IN”: Yes, that`s a good – I`m going to try
to take that to heart.
Jamie Lloyd-Smith, that was so, so, so, enlightening and fascinating and
thank you so much for making time to share your expertise.
JAMIE LLOYD-SMITH, UCLA INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Thank you. It`s a
HAYES: That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, my friend. Much
And thanks to you at home for joining thus hour. Happy to have you here.
Last night here on the show, we had the governor of New Mexico, Governor
Michelle Lujan Grisham. She is reportedly one of the high-flying female
elected Democratic Party officials who Vice President Biden`s presidential
campaign has started vetting, as a potential running mate for Joe Biden.
So, we had the governor of New Mexico here last night.
Tonight, we`re going to be joined live by the governor of Michigan,
Gretchen Whitmer, who is also reportedly in contention for that slot. She
is also reportedly being vetted by the Biden campaign as a potential
President Trump, of course, was in Governor Whitmer`s state today. He was
in Michigan, where he gave a sort of rumbly string of consciousness rally-
type speech after he toured a Ford factory. That was really strange.
And then even though everybody in that factory is supposed to wear a mask
at all times, the president told the press that they were not allowed to
see him in a mask, and that`s why he wasn`t wearing one there. Whereupon,
nevertheless, we promptly got pictures of him in which he appears to be
wearing a mask. This one comes from the Twitter account of Congresswoman
Jackie Speier. You know, another day, another thrill, in terms of what it
means to cover the surreal, surreal presidency of Donald Trump.
Governor Whitmer in Michigan is contending not only with that nonsense,
she`s contending with a serious disaster right now in the central part of
her state, in Midland, county, Michigan, where there is fairly catastrophic
flooding and serious worries about a superfund site there, under the flood
And that is of course on top of Michigan`s ongoing battle with the
coronavirus. Michigan has had more than 5,000 of its residents killed by
the virus thus far. Only New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have had a
higher death toll than Michigan thus far. We`re going to be speaking again
live with Governor Gretchen Whitmer in just a moment tonight.
You should also know we are going to be speaking tonight with the
epidemiologist whose work landed on the front page of “The New York Times”
today. You probably saw this headline. Waiting to lock down costs 36,000
American lives. That is the absolute gut punch of a finding from a new
study by, among others Columbia University epidemiologist Dr. Jeffrey
And this is a complicated study. There is a lot of math here. Look at this
for a second. This is the transmission model. This is from page 14 of their
The equation on the top there is for daytime transmission. The equation on
the bottom is for nighttime transmission of coronavirus. This is like a
seriously numerological thing. But for all the math here, the bottom line
is the most human thing in the world this. Study will just rip your heart
out. I mean what all that math is about, is the fact that we finally got
around as a country, in mid-March, to putting in broad stay-at-home orders,
and starting to tell people to stay away from other people basically, to
try to slow the spread of the virus, and those restrictions did slow the
pace of the spread of the virus.
And it slowed the spread of the virus to a degree that you can measure it,
with all this complicated math. It turns out that you can then use that
math to figure out what would have happened, sort of build a counter-
factual model to figure out what would have happened if we had taken those
same actions that we took in the middle of March, but we had taken them a
week earlier, or two weeks earlier. And the numbers suggest, just blow you
I mean if we had acted nationwide according to this modeling from Columbia
University, today, if we had acted nationwide, just in the way that we did,
but we had done it one week earlier, on march 8th, 36,000 Americans who are
dead today would not have died. If we had acted two weeks earlier, if
instead of acting on March 15th, we had acted on March 1st, 54,000 American
lives would have been saved. Americans who are dead today, whose lives
would have never been at risk, had we just acted two weeks earlier.
But, of course, you know, this is where we were at, even as of March 9th,
saddled with a federal government run by a president who even as of that
date was crying about how, quote, nothing is shut down, life and the
economy go on.
Maybe not too much emphasis now on the life part now that we know that him
dithering for that long cost tens of thousands of Americans their lives.
So, we`re going to talk with the epidemiologist behind that absolutely
And importantly, that epidemiologist is going to come on the air with us
tonight, to talk about what that modeling tells us, not just about when we
should have started taking this seriously. But what we should do now, from
here on out. Now that we`ve got 1.5 million cases, now that we`ve got over
95,000 Americans dead.
This kind of modeling isn`t just about what we should address about the
past and who we should blame for inaction in the past. It is helpful for
that. But it is also fairly prescriptive in terms of what is going to
happen next, and how we shouldn`t make the same mistake twice, and how we
should make the next round of decisions that we need to make in terms of
So we`re going to be speaking with Governor Whitmer from Michigan. We`re
going to speaking with that epidemiologist. Big show. That`s all coming up
But we are going to start tonight, with what appears to be a really, really
urgent situation that is unfolding right now, in one great American city.
You might have seen the headlines today, about modeling that`s been done to
try to account for how people are behaving now, as state restrictions get
lifted around the country.
In particular, there`s been quite a lot of coverage of this one bit of
modeling from Philadelphia-based researchers, who are using anonymized
mobile phone data to track how people are moving around more as state
restrictions get lifted, and using that mobile phone data about how people
are actually behaving right now. They are modeling the epidemiological
consequences of these new patterns of movement as the states are starting
to open up, and as people are starting to move around more.
And the “Washington Post” headline about this modeling today put it pretty
succinctly, quote, coronavirus hot spots erupt across the country. Experts
warn of second wave in the South.
And I know that we keep talking about first waves and second waves, and
that`s part of the jargon of our discussion around this epidemic at this
point, but in this case, it`s important to know that when they`re talking
about a second wave in the South here, they`re not warning about a sec wave
in the fall, or, you know, in the flu season, or when it gets cold again.
This is the second wave that the experts are warning about that is coming
right now, over the next four weeks.
Quote: According to a research team that uses cell phone data to track
social mobility and forecast the trajectory of the pandemic, Dallas,
Houston, Southeast Florida`s gold coast, the entire state of Alabama, and
several other places in the American south, that have been rapidly
reopening their economies, are in danger of a second wave of coronavirus
infections over the next four weeks – over the next four weeks – which is
worrying if the second wave is coming like now. The second wave is going to
be here for June.
But that basic idea does make sense. It does roughly jive with what we are
starting to see in terms of data in places that are reopening. In Texas,
and in Florida, and in Maryland, and, yes, in Alabama, we are seeing the
reopening of those places coinciding with the case numbers hitting record
highs and going back up.
I will say the numbers in Alabama in particular are unsettling. Every state
has one of these sort of coronavirus dashboard things now, at least a
central web site where they do, they release basic information from the
state about what is going on in the epidemic, and Alabama, the state`s data
visualization dashboard thingy, I have to tell you, is a mess. Literally,
this is the data visualization aid you are greeted with when you first go
there. Oh, that`s helpful. I see now, I understand. There`s a lot of stuff
on the Alabama data visualization web site which makes no sense and is of
no help at all.
But if you fiddle around with it, long enough, eventually, you can get the
Alabama coronavirus data hub to spit out this chart showing the growth in
daily case numbers in Alabama. And as bad as all of their other data
visualization stuff is, this is clear, and this is bad.
Quote: The average number of new cases reported each day in Alabama has
been higher in May than any prior month. Before May 5th, Alabama had seen
only two days with more than 300 new COVID cases.
Since then, Alabama`s reported 300-plus new cases on ten out of 15 days.
That`s how AL.com is summing up the rise in cases and how the state is the
worst it`s been and seeming to get worse every day.
So it`s bad generally speaking in Alabama, even as the governor there,
Republican Governor Kay Ivey, keeps insisting that something else should be
opening up every day, and keeps insisting that everything is fine and
everything needs to be opened there. That model that I mentioned is using
cell phone data to track mobility and the epidemiological consequences of
that, that model could not be more blunt about the risk in Alabama right
now. Quote: According to the model, Alabama will probably experience a
steep increase in cases in nearly every county in the state over the course
of the next month.
So, as we are going through this political and policy transformation, where
every state in the Union is opening to a certain degree, and in some
states, that might be okay, that might be wise, and in some states, it
really seems clear that it is not a good idea, there really is an alarm
ringing for the whole state of Alabama right now. Depending how you look at
it, in terms of state`s own numbers and in terms of the state`s journalists
and in terms of modelers who are finding the most worrying places in the
country, everybody is kind of pointing at Alabama and saying this is not
But if you live in the capital city of the great state of Alabama, if you
live in Montgomery, Alabama, specifically, you woke up today, to an even
louder alarm than everybody else in your state got today, because this is
what arrived on your doorstep in Montgomery, as your morning paper today.
This is the front page of the “Montgomery Advertiser” today and this is how
big the headline is: Montgomery hospitals down to one ICU bed. And that
photo there, that is the mayor of the city of Montgomery, that`s Mayor
Steven Reed and he really does have a bear of an epidemic on his hands
this. It shows the total cases in Montgomery, Alabama, over time, how
steeply they have risen over time.
For an even starker look, this is a graph that not only shows their
cumulative case, their total cases, this is their new cases day by day.
Look at the recent days on that. Look at how that is spiking.
And that isn`t scary just in terms of being alarming graph. That isn`t just
scary in math terms. It`s not even scary in terms of the forward-looking
implications for the spread of the virus, inside that American city. What`s
going on in Montgomery, Alabama, right now, is already being lived in terms
of real dire consequences. And I use the word dire advisedly, because that
is the mayor is calling it right now.
The mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, right now, is ringing the alarm bell as
loudly as he can. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR STEVEN REED (D-AL), MONTGOMERY: Whether you believe this or not, it
is a serious issue. Our health care system is at a critical point right
now. And we are at a point that we are now diverting acute care patients to
Birmingham, because of our ICU bed shortage. That`s very serious.
Right now, if you are from Montgomery and you need an ICU bed, you`re in
trouble. If you`re from central Alabama, and you need an ICU bed, you may
not be able to get one, because our health care system has been maxed out.
Right now, we are short at Baptist East by three beds. Baptist South has
zero ICU beds. Baptist South in Prattville has zero ICU beds and Jackson
Hospital, not far from here, Montgomery, has one.
I really want us to think about the seriousness of that. Because none of us
know who may need that ICU bed today and who may need that this evening,
tomorrow, or over this extended Memorial Day weekend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mayor Steven Reed of Montgomery, Alabama, sounding the alarm. If
you are from Montgomery, and you need an ICU bed, you`re in trouble. If you
are from central Alabama, and you need an ICU bed, you may not be able to
get one. This is happening right now. Montgomery Alabama. And their mayor
signaling that the city needs help.
Joining us right now is Steven Reed, the mayor of the great city of
Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for making time tonight. I know you have an
incredible amount of work on your plate. Thanks for making time to be here.
REED: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me just ask if what I`ve described about what is happening in
your city and indeed in Alabama, if that comports with your understanding
or if I`ve gotten anything wrong in the way that I`ve described it?
REED: No, you`re dead on, that is the information that we had yesterday,
when we did the press conference. We understand that information has
changed somewhat. It has been some improvement but not very much, in terms
of availability in the community.
However, we`re still at a point of crisis in this city, because of the lack
of ICU beds that are available, even with some beds being freed up over the
last 24 to 48 hours.
MADDOW: I think the thing that is so worrying, from a national
perspective, thinking about what`s going on in your city is, that we`re, as
we see rural outbreaks, places where they`ve got maybe a prison, or some
nursing homes, or a meatpacking plant or something, where it`s a rural
area, but they`ve got workplace-based outbreaks, and so they have large
spikes in cases. You`re – sometimes, I feel like I`m recognizing this
pattern now, we`ll get reports from rural America, that there is a place
where there is only one hospital, there`s only two hospitals, and they`re
getting overwhelmed and they need help.
What you`re describing in Montgomery, is a good-sized American city, with a
handful of hospitals. It`s not like Montgomery just has or two hospitals.
You`ve got a reasonably sized health care system there but it sounds like
all of the facilities in your city are being taxed and that the system as a
whole is essentially overcapacity, even if you factor in all of the
different places that people can go to get treated. Is that fair?
REED: You`re exactly right. We`re at a place right now, because of the
decimation of our rural health care system, in Alabama, and throughout this
country, where we have people that come from as far away as 80 miles, in
towns that are big and small, that depend on Montgomery, as a health care
capital. They come here to get medical care. They come here to get taken
care of. And unfortunately, because of that, not only are we here to
support our residents in the city of Montgomery, and the county itself, but
we`re supporting the entire area.
Now, I think what we have to look at is, this COVID-19 virus has really
exposed the gaps in our health care system, both in terms of who can get
access to it, and those who have access to particular and what it can
sustain. And we`re in a very serious situation here because of the trends
that you`ve highlighted on your show, and what the numbers are saying and
that is happening here over the last few weeks, since we reopened the
MADDOW: Now, the reopening is not something that is a fait accompli. It
continues. And the governor continues to make these announcements.
I mean, it was yesterday that you gave that stark warning about the ICUs in
your city essentially being full and needing to offload patients to
Birmingham and then, it was today, that the governor further relaxed
restrictions in the state for theaters and summer camps, for schools and
athletic activities. I have to think that those statewide decisions that
the governor is making, they don`t really seem to match up with the
experience in Montgomery, both in terms of the number of cases you got, but
how taxed your resources already are in terms of whether you can handle
more cases. It seems like there is a real disconnect there.
REED: Well, I think there is. You know, we`ve had different hot spots
around the state over the last couple of months. And right now, in
Montgomery, we`re at a point where we can see the cliff, and we don`t want
to get too close to it from fear of falling off. And that`s why we sounded
the alarm yesterday, leading up to this Memorial Day weekend.
And I think when you look at Montgomery, we tested less than 4 percent of
our population, we`ve doubled our cases, month over month. We`ve had week
to week increases of over 40 percent, this month alone. We`re in a very
dangerous predicament. And I think parts of the state may be doing a little
better for now.
But I don`t think that the economy should have been open at the time that
it was. I think that we should have slowed our reopening and done some
things a little bit differently, because what I think it has done is send a
message that the battle with COVID-19 is over, and it has been won.
We`re still in this battle. And we can`t afford to relax now and lose much
of the progress that we`ve made over these last few weeks. And make no
mistake about it. Our first responders, our medical personnel, our
frontline workers, they`ve done a great job. Members of the community have
stepped up to do things over and beyond to help their neighbors and to help
their families and just to help out in any way they can. But it doesn`t
help us if we are doing those things on, and taking two steps back, by
prematurely trying to get back to our normal routine and what was normal
prior to this pandemic.
MADDOW: Steven Reed, mayor of the great city of Montgomery, Alabama –
sir, thank you so much for taking time, for us tonight, we`re going to be
checking in with hospitals, in your city. We`ll do our best to stay on this
story as your city continues to struggle with these real high case numbers.
But please keep us apprised if you feel if that there are things the
country needs to know about what you`re going through. We`d love to help
you get the word out, sir. Thank you.
REED: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: All right. I will say, you know, there has been a lot of happy
talk about the course of the epidemic from the very beginning, from the
very top, which delayed our initial response which likely caused tens of
thousands of lives in America. We will be talking about more of that later
on in this hour.
But part of the happy talk that we`re getting right now, particularly on
the political right is look the reopening is happening and everybody is
fine, everything is fine. Well, first of all, when people get exposed it
takes a couple of weeks in terms of people getting tested and having
positive results and turning up in the hospital and ultimately turning up
critically ill, and so, all of the premature celebration about look how
great the opening up is, is ignorant.
But this idea that it`s just a theoretical that our health care systems
will be overtaxed or will come to capacity, as we reopening fuels the surge
in more cases, it`s not a hypothetical. It`s happening right now in
Montgomery, Alabama. Ignoring that because you like the idea of reopening
doesn`t make that go away.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is going to join us live here next. Stay
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it goes. There it goes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And there it went. That is the moment when the Edenville dam in
central Michigan collapsed. That footage was caught on camera by a local
resident named Lynn Coleman who happened to be recording at the time that
that happened. Lynn Coleman told MILive.com quote, I shot the video for
about 30 seconds. Then shut it off and called 911. Yes.
The Edenville dam was one of two hydroelectric dams that failed the day
before yesterday after heavy rains over the weekend. The other was the
Sanford Dam, upriver from the city of Midland, Michigan, which has a
population of about 42,000 people.
Now, Midland, Michigan, has been inundated with what is being called 500-
year flood, parts of the city, recover tops were left just barely visible
underneath the flood waters. Hundreds of homes got swamped. Many of them
totally destroyed. Local roads washed out, left impassable. People who live
in the area, more than 10,000 of them were evacuated ahead of the breach.
They were told that it could take another four or five days before the
flood waters recede there, before they can even start to clean up. People
evacuated from their homes have been put up in some cases in temporary
shelters, set up around the city.
At Midland, Michigan, high school, senior citizens make up about 90 percent
of the crowd that is now sleeping in the gym there, and that, of course, is
not ideal, in terms of the other crisis in Michigan right now, the crisis
we`ve all got now, in terms of the coronavirus epidemic. Not a great time
to have people sheltering in congregate facilities, particularly mostly
Late last night, Michigan`s Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to
President Trump requesting a federal emergency declaration. As it happens,
President Trump was in Michigan today, giving a weird rambling campaign-
like speech at a Ford plant.
The president granted the governor`s request for federal assistance to
augment the state and local response. That`s of note, because it comes
right after he threatened earlier this week to withhold all federal aid for
Michigan, because the state was going ahead with plans to make voting
easier and less risky during the epidemic.
Today, Governor Whitmer described the damage in midland as truly
devastating. She said it was like anything we have seen before. She noted
the incredibly stressful nature of an operation to get 10,000 people out of
a flood zone, while maintaining social distancing.
With everything going on, Governor Whitmer has agreed to join us live
tonight for which I`m very grateful. I have lots of questions for her about
this very desperate situation in central Michigan, her state`s local
efforts to combat the coronavirus which has killed over 5,000 people in her
state, the fourth highest death toll in the country.
I also want to talk to her about what she is calling the opening
conversation she had with Vice President Biden`s team which reportedly has
her on the list of potential running mates.
Last time Governor Whitmer was here on the show, she really did not want to
talk to me about that last thing and I will ask her again and she will
probably blow me off again. And I`ll try.
Governor Whitmer joins us live next.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Joining us now for “The Interview” is Governor
Gretchen Whitmer of the great state of Michigan, and, boy, does she have a
lot to contend with right now.
Governor, you are dealing with an emergency at home. You`re dealing with
this ongoing epidemic. You are dealing with a strange visit from the
Thank you for making time in the middle of all of this to be here with us
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you first about this historic flooding in your state.
This is – this is a crisis that you could see coming. You ordered people
evacuated out of harm`s way before those dams failed or were overwhelmed.
But it seems to me, at least as best as I can tell, that this is a crisis
that is not over. Not only have flood waters not receded, but are you
expecting that there may need to be further evacuations, there that there
may be other – other towns that are in danger?
WHITMER: Well, we are concerned and we`re watching it very closely, and we
know, too, that there is more precipitation in the forecast. And so, we`re
taking this very seriously.
I`ll just acknowledge, the fact that we`re in the midst of a global
pandemic, on top of that, dealing with a 500-year flood event, which are,
of course, becoming more and more frequent. We`ve got climate change as a
part of that, but also, old infrastructure as well. We were able to
evacuate 10,000 people in the midst of all of this. And at this – as of
our conversation now, we`ve not found any casualties, and it really is a
I know people see the footage of what`s going on at the capitol and
protests, but what`s really happening in the state of Michigan is people
are rising to the challenge and helping one another. We`ve flattened our
curve. We`ve helped each other out. People have been displaced from their
And when I went to Midland, I was so inspired by the attitude of the people
who are all wearing masks and chipping in to help each other in the midst
of these two crises. And it was really inspiring. We got a lot of tough
stuff to deal with, and tough things that we`re trying to confront
together, but I think you can see bits of humanity every day in this, and
that`s what keeps us going.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the way these two emergencies sort of dove-
tailed in your state. Obviously, emergency planning when you think about
the need to evacuate large numbers of people, as you said, 10,000 people,
in very short order – short order, in advance of an impending dam failure.
That`s a specific kind of emergency planning.
To have to integrate that with social distancing, and infection control
protocols that are so unusual, so unfamiliar, something that we`ve never
done before this epidemic – I mean, how do you integrate those two
imperatives? How do you evacuate people and keep them safe and put them up
in shelters while also preventing them from giving each other coronavirus?
WHITMER: Well, it`s really incredible. When I went to the state emergency
operations center, to call for the evacuation, and to declare a state of
emergency on Tuesday night, I found myself saying, this is a once in a
lifetime event. And I found myself saying this again, right, I`ve said it
many times over the last ten weeks here in Michigan.
And yet, here we are, and we`re going to grit our teeth and get through
this and help one another out. The local emergency operations center was on
top of this. And they worked seamlessly with the state emergency operations
But they`ve done phenomenal work. And I think that the planning and all of
the different agencies, the Michigan National Guard, the Michigan State
Police, combined with what was happening at the local level, really
contributed to an organization that helped save people.
But we`re going to have our work cut out for us. And it`s going to take a
while to come back from this. There`s no question.
MADDOW: Hmm. On the issue of the epidemic, per your executive order in the
state, anybody who`s medically able to do so has to wear something that
covers their face in enclosed spaces. The whole country watched today as
the president sort of personally, gleefully flouted that by talking to the
press today on his visit to your state, when he visited that Ford plant and
he didn`t wear a mask – at least for most of that visit. Photos did later
surface of him apparently in other parts of the plant wearing a mask, but
when he was talking to the press, he was sort of bragging about the fact
that he wasn`t doing so.
I just wanted to ask your response to that. It`s public health behavior
modeling by the president at one level. But it`s also specifically flouting
your order in the state.
WHITMER: Well, it`s disappointing. It wasn`t surprising but it was
I think that our Big Three have just started the reengagement, right? They
are phasing in reengaging, after what has been a stay-at-home order, and
the UAW members are concerned about their safety, naturally. They worked
The head of the UAW, Rory Gamble, worked very closely with the head of the
Big Three, to make sure that his members would be safe when they went back
to the workplace.
As you saw in the footage, all of the Ford executives wore the masks. All
of the employees were wearing masks. All of the press were.
And it`s really important that anyone with a platform has a responsibility
to make sure that they model precisely what we`re asking everyone else to
do. This is about public health. Not one person`s or another. This is about
all of us.
And anyone in a position of power, and responsibility, I hope emulates and
does precisely what they`re asking everyone else to do.
MADDOW: One of the things that we talked about the last time you were
here, Governor, is an effort to try to get everybody in nursing homes, in
Michigan, tested. I know that you have been pursuing that. I know that
you`ve also, in Michigan, been pursuing a plan to try to get everybody in
Michigan state prisons tested, and that has turned up some large numbers of
positive prisoners, in some state correctional facilities.
I have to ask you – now that you`re further along into those projects, if
you feel like you have clarity, or if there are lessons learned in terms of
what you do with that information when you`ve got it, once you know that
you`ve got an epidemic, once you know that you`ve got an epidemic in a
dangerous place for the spread of this virus, like a prison, or like a
nursing home, do you understand what the right protocols should be that go
into effect in terms of separating people with the virus from people who
don`t have it?
WHITMER: Yes. So, obviously, with a novel virus like this, we are learning
an incredible amount every single day. And we have been really ramping up
our testing in Michigan. We`re now in the top six, both in numbers of tests
done and numbers per million. That is something to be proud of.
We have tested a lot of people in our nursing homes, and in our prisons. We
have learned from that, and we`ve got protocols that we have developed in
conjunction with our nursing homes, to make sure that we are able to keep
This is a challenge. But we – the more information we have, the better we
can take actions that will protect people. And that`s why this testing is
We`ve been behind the eight ball as a nation when it comes to testing.
We`re still struggling to make sure that we`ve got all of the appropriate
swabs we need so that our testing capabilities were up to the maximum and
are on all fronts. We`ve made great strides but there`s no question there`s
a lot more work to do.
I`m also proud that we have been one of the first states to release racial
data, that we have been able to learn in this process as well, so that we
can identify the fact that this has had a disproportionate impact on
communities of color. I`m hopeful that every state in the nation is
ultimately sharing that data so that we do the hard work of learning the
This virus is holding up a mirror to the United States of America and we
better learn lessons and come out of this determined to do better.
MADDOW: Governor Whitmer, I asked you the last time you were here about
reports that the Biden campaign had approached you about potentially being
vetted to be his – his running mate for the forthcoming campaign against
President Trump and Mike Pence in the fall, and you absolutely did not want
to talk about it, and I can tell just from looking at you that you do not
want to talk about it again right now.
But I`m going to press you on it a little bit because these reports
continue. We believe that those opening conversations have happened. And
it`s a really important thing, as the country is trying to figure out who
Joe Biden might pick and whether or not that person is going to be ready to
Can you tell us anything at all about that – about that process, whether
or not that vetting is happening, and whether or not you look forward to
the scrutiny and potentially joining that campaign?
WHITMER: Here`s what I can tell you, that they have got a phenomenal group
of people to vet, and there are a lot of phenomenal women leaders across
this country, who would make a great running mate for Joe Biden.
And no matter who it is, I am going to be a strong ally, and I`m – because
this is a crucial election, and I believe in Joe Biden, I believe he will
make a great president, and no matter what way that goes, I am going to be
helping and counting on us, you know, move forward as a country and learn
the lessons from – from this horrible experience we`ve been going through
MADDOW: Governor Gretchen Whitmer of the great state of Michigan, thank
you for at least entertaining my question, to the degree that you did.
MADDOW: I know that`s not your favorite thing to talk about. Thank you,
WHITMER: Thank you.
MADDOW: And – and, you know, good luck to you. I know you got – every
governor`s dealing with a lot right now in terms of this epidemic, but it
just feels like you are – you are being, you are fielding more than most.
So please keep us apprised. We`d love to have you back any time you want to
WHITMER: Tough times don`t last, but tough people do. We`re going to get
through, this, but thank you for shining that light here on Michigan. We
MADDOW: I hear you, Governor. Thank you.
All right. Coming up next here, we`re going to be speaking with the
epidemiologist whose study is on the front page of “The New York Times”
today. The study that says that had we acted one week – or even one week
earlier as a country while the president was insisting nothing need to be
done about this virus, had we acted one week earlier, tens of thousands of
Americans who have since died would not have died.
That study, that epidemiologist, next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Epidemiological news isn`t often the kind of thing that makes you
feel like your heart is breaking. But that`s what this did today.
Quote: If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures,
one week earlier than it did, in March, about 36,000 fewer people would
have died in the coronavirus outbreak, according to the new estimates from
the Columbia University disease modelers. And if the country had begun
locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1st, two weeks
earlier, than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the
nation`s deaths, about 83 percent, would have been avoided.
Quote: Under that scenario, about 54,000 fewer Americans would have died by
So just one week earlier, on what we did, something we know we are capable
of doing, because we did it, we just had done it one week earlier, 36,000
Americans who died would have been saved. If we had done did two weeks
earlier, 54,000 Americans who are dead would have not have lost their
It just breaks your heart because it is so possible that we could have
But that`s how “The New York Times” today describes the findings of this
new modeling from researchers at Columbia University, and you know, models,
it is just that, it`s a model, it can`t tell us for certain what might have
been, but their method of arriving at these estimates is pretty
straightforward and compelling, even for those who aren`t scientists.
And the researchers looked at how transmission of the coronavirus slowed
down, starting in mid-March, when the social distancing and the shutdown of
schools and businesses really did take hold across much of the country.
They took that real world data, and essentially mapped it backwards in
time, what if that slowing curve of virus transmission, what if slowing of
the transmission of the virus had begun a week earlier, when the epidemic
was one week younger, one week smaller, in terms of how many people were
What if those things had been put in place two weeks earlier, when the
epidemic was two weeks younger? When we had two weeks less of people
getting infected? And those people infecting others. And those people
And this, very simply is, what it looks like. That steep red line on the
top is what we lived through or died from. That is the number of the
coronavirus deaths in the United States through May 3rd. Below that, you
see the lines showing what the toll would have been if the lockdowns began
one week or two weeks earlier, all of that excess death, all of it
In all of these scenarios, the first American deaths happened at the same
time. It`s the increase in deaths overtime that get slowed down and that
gets so drastically reduced.
“The Times” today also translated these findings into maps. On the left,
you`ll see the actual number of deaths that we`ve had. On the right, the
number of deaths if social distancing began a week later. And the first
thing you notice is that not only would deaths have been reduced by half,
the deaths would have happened in fewer places would suggest the virus
would have been kept from spreading. Someplace places would have been
On one hand, this is about the past. This is more data for us to use and
evaluate and what has already happened in our government`s terrible
dithering mismanagement of the epidemic. And certainly, this raises
upsetting and haunting questions for the loved ones of Americans who have
But this isn`t just about regret and what we did wrong in the past. This is
also about not making the same mistake again. These models would also seem
to hold a warning about our next steps that would seem to hold a warning
about the future.
From “The Times” today, quote, the results show as states reopen, outbreaks
can easily get out of control unless officials closely monitor infections
and immediately clamp down on new flare ups.
Just as we needed to stop this thing when it was small from the outset, we
need to stop new outbreaks when they`re small, too. Columbia epidemiologist
Jeffrey Shaman`s team estimated the effect of relaxing all control measures
across the country. The model finds because of the lag time between the
time – because of the lag between the time infections occur and symptoms
begin emerging without extensive testing and rapid action, many more
infections will occur leading to more deaths, as many as tens of thousands
of deaths across the country.
Joining us now is Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health
sciences at Columbia University School of Public Health. He`s the lead of
the research team that did this modeling.
Dr. Shaman, appreciate you making time to be here tonight. Thanks for being
DR. JEFFREY SHAMAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY CLIMATE & HEALTH PROGRAM DIRECTOR:
Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So I am a lay observer of these things and I read your study. I
got tripped up by the math, but I`ve read the reporting on it, as well.
Let me ask you first if I`ve explained anything wrong or if I misunderstood
anything about what you and your colleagues have found.
SHAMAN: I think you summarized it very well and I think the important
thing that we`re really trying to do here is not just look retrospectively
and quantify might have been, but to use that information to really inform
how we go forward and how we have to be very vigilant with this virus.
We`re not done with this pandemic by any stretch. Most of the story has not
been exposed to it, has not been infected. And it`s really vital we
actively seek it out in our communities, that we monitor what is happening
with the transmission of the virus in communities as we loosen restrictions
and reopen the economy further and further to make sure we don`t have flare
ups and if we identify growth in cases, we have to clamp down quickly. We
have to respond more quickly because as you said, if you get the virus when
the outbreak is young, when it`s in the early stages, you`re going to limit
the number of deaths that will accrue over time.
MADDOW: Can you put a little more meat on the bones of that basic idea? I
feel like it makes sense just when I think about it qualitatively that
getting it early is better and if you get it early, it doesn`t grow as
large. What I was shocked by in your model is the quantitative difference
that just one week, just a few days would make such a huge difference in
the number of people who ultimately died over a couple – over a couple of
Can you explain just in may lean terms why the numbers are affected in just
a few days difference in response time?
SHAMAN: Well, it is very staggering. And I think it`s important to
quantify so you see how strong that response is. When you`re dealing with
the growth of a virus in a fully susceptible population, it`s going through
a doubling process. It`s growing exponentially.
And it`s very important to remember the doubling processes can really sneak
up at you. They seem to start small and insignificant and not be of much
consequence. But it really can swell and overwhelm you kind of like a
tsunami wave. There are many examples that you`ll hear in the mathematics
where they will try to explain it very simply.
One of my favorite is this idea you have a pond and there is this invasive
lily flower that gets into it and every day doubles in size or doubles the
number that are there. And by, let`s say, day 30, the entire pond is
covered with lilies. The question is, well, on what day was it halfway
covered with lilies? And the answer is Day 29, just the day before, because
it is a doubling process?
By jumping on this virus earlier, you are really going to circumvent that
growth, you`re going to squash that growth down and you can prohibit the
number of people who are going to subsequently be infected by taking early
It`s a very strange and horrifying compounding process that this goes
through by which it`s spreading through a community. And as a consequence
is really vital that we reach out and we monitor what is going on in our
communities actively. We can`t get complacent with this. There is a risk of
that, particularly as we`re moving into summer, particularly because the
virus may be seasonal and less transmissible during summer, that we`re
going to get complacent and feel like we have this thing under control.
But we have to get in this for the long haul and we want to keep it
squashed and reduce the levels to a low number of cases per day going
forward while we hold on until we can get a vaccine that`s effective or
MADDOW: Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, professor at Columbia University School of
Public Health, thank you for being here tonight. That key insight that that
dynamic that was true at the outset is also true with new outbreaks going
forward. It`s just a game-changing understanding.
Thank you so much for helping us understand it, sir.
SHAMAN: You`re welcome. Have a good night.
MADDOW: You, too. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Thanks for being with us tonight. It`s good to have you here. I`ll
see you again tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
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