House to vote TRANSCRIPT: 3/26/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Rachel.
And I have to tell you, listening to General Semonite was – was real
pleasure. Having worked in government and interacting with the Army Corps
of Engineers, they are just among my favorite get-it-done people. They know
how to get it done and the only thing that gets in the way is politicians.
And it was great to hear his clarity, his directness, and I have to tell
you, my phone was just ringing with texts coming in of people overjoyed to
get that kind of clarity that you brought up in that discussion with the
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
The specificity with which he`s speaking about what he`s doing, the fact
that he`s volunteering the urgency of the nature of what he`s doing, but
he`s offering no excuses, talking about his own urgency, the need for
everybody else to act urgently and then answering questions with specifics
about what he`s doing because they`re actually doing the work and getting
it done and leaning forward and trying to do as much as possible. Just the
contrast with everything else going on in the federal government, even
though he has nothing but kind words to say about everybody else in the
federal government. Don`t put any of my politics on him at all.
But the contrast between hearing him talk about getting this stuff done and
excuses and defensiveness and, you know, non-sense frankly that you`re
hearing from the rest of the federal government, from the administration
and their response, I finally feel like there is something going on
federally that we should all be paying attention to and hoping for success
and counting on, and meant a lot to me he made time to be here.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, next time if he has more to say and you run out of time,
just leave him in the chair. I`ll do the whole hour with him.
MADDOW: Will do. I will do, my friend. Thanks.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you very much.
Laura Dean stopped wearing her wedding ring at the beginning of this month
because she was afraid of what might be on it when she gets home from work.
Laura Dean is an emergency room physician in Boston which today reported
150 health care workers infected with the coronavirus. Laura Dean will join
us at the end of this hour and she will tell you her story.
Last night, we brought you the then breaking news report in the “New York
Times” about the surge in coronavirus deaths at Elmhurst Hospital in the
borough of Queens in New York. Tonight, we`ll be joined by the reporter who
went to that hospital and talked to the people waiting in line all day, day
after day, in the hope of being tested for the coronavirus.
And Dr. Zeke Emanuel will join us. He`s a veteran of the Clinton
administration and Obama administration. We will get his reaction to the
president`s suggestion that America should be ready to reopen for business
by Easter Sunday.
And Senator Amy Klobuchar will join us later in this hour. She is one of
the 96 senators who voted yes on the emergency economic aid bill passed by
the Senate with no one voting against it. Senator Klobuchar`s husband has
been hospitalized with coronavirus and she has some good news to share
tonight about his progress.
We begin tonight as we always do with the numbers. As of today, the United
States has 82,849 reported cases of coronavirus and 1,177 reported deaths
from coronavirus. That is more reported cases than any other country in the
world, including China and Italy, and on the day when the United States
broke this terrible record, it is worth remembering that exactly one month
ago, Donald Trump said that the opposite would happen.
Donald Trump said one month ago that as of now, we would have zero cases.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you have 15 people, and
the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that`s
a pretty good job we`ve done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Don`t ever forget that he said that.
Today, Donald Trump said his administration is working on a data analysis
that will allow them to change their recommendation on social distancing
and other coronavirus precautions from a national recommendation down to a
county by county basis. Now, it is hard to think of a less relevant measure
for public health than the utterly irrational and archaic boundaries of
counties in the United States.
Most Americans can`t tell you what county they are in right now, what
county they live in.
Still, the president said today that possibly, next week, his so-called
coronavirus task force will offer guidelines categorizing counties in
America as high-risk, medium risk or low risk. There are vast tracks of
America that are virtually empty of people but they are counties, those big
empty spaces are counties.
And so, Donald Trump will probably get to rate some of those empty counties
as low risk, and then claim some victory in urging the reopening of
American business in say, Inyo County in California, which is the second
biggest county in California by land mass. Over 10,000 square miles, and it
has only 18,000 people living there, which means that each person in that
county has at least half of a square mile per person for social distancing.
Los Angeles County is less than half the actual physical size of the county
and it has 10.1 million people. What possible relationship do those county
haves to each other? By choosing counties, Donald Trump has chosen the
geographical marker that he believes will allow him to tell some people in
America that they are at low risk.
The shut down of most of the American economy produced the biggest one-week
surge in applications for unemployment benefits in history. That news came
out today. 3.3 million Americans applied last week. Many, many more have
lost their jobs. But don`t qualify for unemployment benefits or have not
applied for those benefits yet.
So, the number – the real number is much, much bigger than 3.3 million.
The president who predicted we were going to be at zero coronavirus cases
at this point, which would also mean zero unemployment filings based on the
coronavirus told this lie today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This was something that nobody has ever thought could happen to this
country. I`m not even blaming – look, we inherited a broken situation but
I don`t totally blame the people that were before me in this
administration. Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: All the professionals thought a thing like this could happen,
all of them. And in fact, the Obama administration left a pandemic playbook
for the Trump administration to use precisely for the situation that this
country is in tonight. “Politico” reports the Trump administration was
briefed on the existence in 2017 said four former officials but two
cautioned it never went through a full National Security Council-led
interagency process to be approved as Trump administration strategy.
The playbook was designed so there wasn`t piecemeal thinking when trying to
fight the next public health battle, said one former official who
contributed to the playbook.
Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of
the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Colombia University. He`s
an MSNBC public health analyst.
And Nicolas Kristof is with us. He`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for
“The New York Times”. He has been interviewing epidemiologists about the
coronavirus, doing important reporting on that.
Dr. Redlener, when the president said again today, no one could have
possibly imagined a situation like this ever coming to the United States,
what was your reaction to that?
DR. IRWIN REDLENER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS:
Well, having been very much involved with the development of such plans
back in 2007, 2008 on a federal, state and local level, it`s a preposterous
statement and has no bearing to reality. But, you know, why are we
I think the key thing is we continue to get mixed messages based on
ignorance, lack of understanding of the science and just a complete
misunderstanding of what the message should be to Americans. The problem is
he`s using that kind of information to justify in someway or explain the
incompetency of what this administration has been doing or not doing in
preparation for something that we knew was coming, and even when we got the
early warnings, we still messed up the entire process of getting the
appropriate testing done and distributed properly and now behave mixed
messages which are just confusing states and localities.
And the biggest problem of all, of course, is a complete, active, melting
down of America`s health and hospital system. It is staggering in it
breadth and scope of incompetence and, you know, the president did not
cause this virus to develop. The president is responsible for leading the
country in the wrong direction with misinformation that has been extremely
destructive to the efforts to combat this on our doorstep.
O`DONNELL: Nick Kristof, as you`ve been talking to the experts and
reporting on this in “The New York Times”, have you found anyone who said,
who is an expert in this arena, who said they are completely shocked by
this happening in the United States, they never dreamed something like this
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, THE NEW YORK TIMES: No, of course, it`s the opposite and
I will back up what Irwin said. I`ve known him for many years and he`s been
hounding me as many other journalists to write about this risk as have
other epidemiologists, as have other national security people. This is a
risk we`re all aware of and we`ve also known the importance of getting
personal protective equipment, PPE, in the hands of doctors and hospitals.
We`ve known the importance of getting ventilators.
You know, I began writing about this in January when Wuhan was hit and we
had China gave us a two-month warning that we squandered and now, I`m
afraid New York City is turning into Wuhan.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Redlener, what was your reaction to the president saying the
task force will come up with a county by county ranking of risk from low
risk to medium risk to high risk?
REDLENER: It is jaw-dropping, Lawrence. I can`t imagine who advised him of
that. I would be very disappointing to hear one of our really great
professionals in the agencies responsible for dealing with this actually
have advised him of that. It made no sense whatsoever. I mean, among the
things in addition to what you said earlier makes total sense. The virus is
not aware of a map of the United States counties and how it`s going to
behave in county X versus the county next door. The whole thing is just
fraught with inaccuracies and really contrast to what the professionals
that he has around him are actually saying.
It`s – I`ve never seen – I don`t think anyone seen this level of conflict
and complete disparity between what the scientists and experts are saying
and what the administration is saying completely like they are in a
different universe here. I know Nick has been reporting on this like, you
know, like intensely and appropriately, and I don`t know who is listening
to us exactly but it`s not seeping up.
We should have been having a national policy recommendation a long time
ago. So we wouldn`t have governors and mayors struggling to improvise on
their own. There`s one state on this, and other state is doing that, and
part of that is just responsibility of completely faulty improvised
messaging that`s coming from the White House. It`s a shame and I`m shocked.
But there you go. Now we have to deal with it and the main thing we have to
do is make sure we save the lives, literally, of the doctors, nurses and
aids and attendants, registrars, technicians that are struggling every day
basically going, Lawrence, into a war zone and two combat veterans told me
this analogy the – that this analogy is not hyperbole. This is what it is.
I have a son who`s an ER doctor in New York and we are worried sick every
single day that he and all of his comrades and workers in all the
hospitals, all the places this has been on outrageous intense outbreak, we
fear for them and we should be protecting them. Nothing could be more
important than that, otherwise the entire health care system will sooner
rather than later collapse. We`re worried about that anyway.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Redlener, let me assure you that millions and millions of
Americans are listening to you and we have the proof of that in the latest
polling on this, a poll question coming up today saying, should Americans
continue to socially distance even if the economy is damaged? And 81
percent say yes. Eighty-one percent agree with you, Dr. Redlener. Eight
percent say no.
And, Nick Kristof, that poll is very, very encouraging poll in a country
where the president of the United States gives everyone misinformation
KRISTOF: Yes, and, you know, in fact, look, I mean, obviously, there are
frustrations in parts of the country. People worried about being laid off.
There is some evidence that the downturn, that their joblessness rates may
actually become greater than they were the peak of the Great Depression,
according to the St. Louis Fed.
But the evidence is that what damages the economy is not these public
health measures but is rather the virus itself. And so, the way to protect
the economy is simply to protect the population and that does involve
social distancing measures. That was kind of a basic point that
epidemiologists were taking to me to with the help of two epidemiologists
and a colleague we model for the coronavirus, and it showed that if you
compare that a two-week intervention and then lifting it would lead with
certain assumptions to more than 120 million infections in the U.S., a two-
month intervention would lead to 12 million.
So, you know, there are trade-offs there. We`re where the country chooses
decides to go will depend on part of the course of the epidemic. I do think
in response to your question, Irwin, that what the administration is
talking about in terms of classifying different parts of the country is if
you had enough testing out there to determine that there were some places
where community transmission was not occurring, then you might in those
places be able to send kids back to school, et cetera.
The problem is that right now, we don`t have that testing capacity. We have
no idea where community transmission is occurring. Down the road, if we
have more testing, if we have more data, we can make smarter decisions
about where to ease curbs and where not to.
O`DONNELL: Nick Kristof –
O`DONNELL: Go ahead.
REDLENER: – right, Lawrence. But – and the other thing and he`s right
about the economy versus the public`s health, but that`s the whole point of
having this gigantic appropriations to help people get through this without
actually being afraid of being able to pay their rent and buy food and all
that stuff, and that was the whole point. We have to deal with the economy,
but we can`t do it at the expense of the public`s health. It just doesn`t
make any sense at all.
And the point of the data, yes, if we had the data, if we had the testing
we should have been doing for many months now, we would be in a position to
make much more fine tuned nuanced predictions, but that`s not where we are.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Irwin Redlener and Nicholas Kristof, thank you both for
starting us off. I really appreciate it.
KRISTOF: Our pleasure.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Dr. Zeke Emanuel will join us. He said
this week in “The New York Times” that America is losing the war against
COVID-19 but he believes there is way to turn that around. Zeke Emanuel
joins us next.
O`DONNELL: Three days ago, Dr. Zeke Emanuel wrote in “The New York Times”,
America is losing the war against COVID-19 but we can win it with decisive
and extraordinary actions now.
Monday night at this hour, Dr. Emanuel will join me for the full hour and
he will lead us with the help of other experts in a special hour-long
discussion of the best practices we can use in confronting this pandemic,
best practices for our own personal health and for the public health of
this country, along with an assessment of the damage done already and the
repair work that will be necessary in the health care system and the
Joining our discussion now is Dr. Zeke Emanuel. He`s a veteran of the
Clinton administration, the Obama administration, and he is the vice
provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.
Zeke, thank you very much for joining us tonight and a special thanks
already for what we`re going to team up on on Monday night. I want to get
your reaction to the president`s proposal which will be made possibly next
week, ranking the counties in the United States, counties, by low risk,
medium risk or high risk.
DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, FORMER HEALTH POLICY ADVISOR, OBAMA WHITE HOUSE: Well,
you know, I`m not sure what to make of it. I`m not sure how you decide what
to make of it. A lot depends I think as Irwin and Nick said in your
previous segment on do we have fine enough data on those counties t
actually make the ranking. That`s the first thing.
The second thing is, you know, we have to understand that this virus is all
over the country and it`s going to spread and it`s spread by social
contact. You know, maybe we`re actually slowing down in some counties. I do
think that counties that have very, very low numbers of patients with
coronavirus that have actually good health care infrastructure can do
testing, can do contact tracing, can do isolation of those people who are
positive, this might make some sense.
The problem is, I doubt that that`s a lot of counties in the country. When
you hear what`s happening about testing, when you hear what we don`t have
in terms of contact-tracing capability, it`s highly unlikely this is going
to work and work well.
You know, just last week, who was talking about New Orleans or Detroit as
big outbreaks? And yet, here they are and, you know, everyone is talking
about them about to explode with it, large numbers of patients.
So I`m a little wary that we`re going to actually have the kind of
information and the kind infrastructure to actually implement that. The
only reason to label someone green is that then they can actually, you
know, do contact tracing and actually isolate those patients and prevent a
spread, and you can maybe take the yellow counties down to green. But that
requires an infrastructure both of testing and contract tracing as I
mentioned that I don`t think we have.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Dr. Anthony Fauci said tonight about what
the president is trying to do, his attempt to interpret the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS
DISEASE: I think that the president was trying to do, he was making an
aspirational projection to give people some hope, but he`s listening to us
when we say we really got to reevaluate it in real-time and any decision we
make has to be based on the data.
When you have a situation when the cases today compared to tomorrow is
increased dramatically and then the next day increased is dramatically,
that`s no time to pull back. That`s when you got to hunker down, nail down,
mitigate, mitigate, get the people taken care of. That`s what you got to
concentrate on. You have to go with the data.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Zeke, it sounds like Donald Trump is not going to get the
recommendation he wants from Anthony Fauci.
EMANUEL: Yes, I mean, I think the idea that we`re going to open up the
country in time for Easter is, I think, it`s an ambition but it`s a pipe
dream. I don`t even think we could open up safely in time for Easter.
Again, if you look at China and you look what they did in Wuhan and Hubei
province, you have this eight-week curve. You start out, you actually do a
lockdown, quarantine people and then the cases are still going up. They`re
going up for four weeks, and then they turn and then you don`t ease up when
it just turns, you have to wait for them to come down and then the last few
days, they`ve reported that they`re getting no new cases of coronavirus
That`s been an eight-week cycle from the end of January to the end of March
and I think that`s what we have to anticipate if we could actually get this
country to have a nationwide policy of shelter in place and limiting social
interaction, that`s probably what we could succeed in doing. But given the
fact that we have different statements going different places, we have the
governor of Mississippi saying, you know, we`re not doing that, it may look
good there today but it`s not going to look good there, you know, in a few
New York is the bleeding edge but it only the bleeding edge and the rest of
the country, especially if they don`t take steps today are going to look
like New York. That is a major reason to have a country-wide quarantine,
sheltering in place, so that we don`t have a Montgomery or a Mississippi
end up looking like New York. And I think that`s critical. And I think
that`s what Tony was suggesting. We`re not going to be there. We`re not
going to have an increasing number of cases.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you very much for joining us tonight and
we`ll see you here Monday night.
EMANUEL: Yes, looking forward to it.
O`DONNELL: On Monday night, Dr. Zeke will be back with us for the full hour
of special in depth coverage of the science and medical best practices that
should be guiding this country through this pandemic. That`s Monday night,
right here at THE LAST WORD at 10:00 p.m.
And up next, Amy Klobuchar will join us. She cast a vote late last night
for the most expensive legislation in history and she got good news about
her husband today who has been hospitalized with coronavirus. Senator
Klobuchar joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Tomorrow we will go to the floor for this
legislation. But as I have said, there are so many things we didn`t get in
any of these bills yet in the way that we need to.
We`re still going to need to have more money for state and local
governments, municipalities and the rest. Then one of the important things
that just, we have to insist upon, we said free testing, free testing, free
testing, but with free testing is the visit to - to the doctor`s office,
the treatment that goes with it, and that has to be free as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Joining our discussion now is Democratic
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight. You were one of the 96
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: –thank you, on that bill that Nancy Pelosi is going to take up
in the House. She wants more. I`m sure you wanted more. What is the case
for the bill that you voted for?
KLOBUCHAR: It was a compromise, like so many things, but we had to have the
backs of the people that are going to work every day. Those people that are
treating people on the front-line in those hospitals that didn`t have the
equipment, they still don`t have the equipment that they need.
All the workers who`ve been laid off, they didn`t have enough for
unemployment benefits. And that`s part of why, Lawrence, we made a major
addition there for $600 more a week on top of what they would normally get
in their states, and also covering all these gig economy workers.
You`ve heard about some of the drivers who`ve already died from
transporting people to the hospitals. And so, that is part of the need out
there as well, and small businesses that really have been the engine of our
So, there were a lot that brought us to the table that caused people, from
Bernie Sanders to some of the most conservative members, the Republican
Caucus, came together and voted for this bill.
Of course, as Speaker Pelosi points out, there`s so much more work that
needs to be done, but we had to get something done.
O`DONNELL: I`ll never forget, Senator, and I`m sure it was said a lot last
night, the first time I heard, someone in leadership in the Senate in one
of these tense moments say “You can`t let the perfect be the enemy of the
And - and that is the moment and especially when for someone like Bernie
Sanders, who has a lot about this that he doesn`t like, he also saw there
things that were absolutely necessary that people had to have.
KLOBUCHAR: And could I add one more thing, Lawrence?
We only got $400 million for early voting for voting at home, and we are
really going to have to ramp this up in every state in the country, so that
people don`t have to choose between their health and voting.
And that`s my bill that I have with Senator Wyden, and we`re really pushing
that to get reforms in place, so that we are ready so we can actually have
an election in November.
O`DONNELL: Senator, I know you have good news about your husband`s
condition. But - but tell - he`s been in the hospital for Coronavirus
treatment. How is he tonight?
KLOBUCHAR: He is at home. I guess I`ll wave to him because there`s still
rules because they don`t know if he`s still contagious, so I`m staying at a
friend`s apartment because she`s not here.
And so, but I am so glad that he is home. He was in the hospital for
something like five days after being sick, and having a temperature of over
a 100 degrees for 10 days, and it was really rough, and his oxygen was
very, very low.
He had pneumonia. And that`s why he was in the hospital. So, he is
recovering now at home, I hope, following all the doctor`s orders, since
this is as close as I`ll get to him today. And maybe I`ll yell it down to
the window tomorrow.
But making light of it, we all know how hard this is. So many families have
people in the hospitals, just like us, they couldn`t visit, or people that
are in so much worse condition. A lot of people, thankfully, don`t have
this happen to them. They don`t have a series of symptoms, and that`s
But I just say, follow the doctor`s orders because the more we can lessen,
and the orders of the governors, the more we can lessen exposure, you just
don`t know how someone in your family is going to react to this because my
husband`s only 52, he`s very healthy, and it just hit him hard.
And you`re hearing stories like that all over the country. And we know for
our senior population or for people with pre-existing conditions how hard
this can be.
So, I hope our story helps because we`ve really followed all the rules. We
have no idea how we got it. But, right now, he`s at home, and I`m thankful
for that, and all the kind words and prayers from so many people across the
O`DONNELL: Senator, you`ve experienced what the rest of us are fearing and
then, tragically, many others have also experienced.
But we`re - those of us who haven`t, are all fearing that phone call that
someone we love has tested positive, we`re all fearing a feeling in our
throats or anything that that gives us the hint that this might be it.
Everyone is on this edge both personally.
What did it - what did it mean to you when you were trying to get this bill
to make more sense in the Senate and trying to get it across–
O`DONNELL: –with Republican resistance to what you were trying to
accomplish and - and that personal experience of what was needed–
O`DONNELL: –that you already had. What was it like to be in that fight
with that personal experience?
KLOBUCHAR: I just kept emphasizing that this can happen to anyone, and it
could happen to any of their loved ones.
And it`s what made me so focused on the testing because even, you know,
once he got really sick, and was coughing up blood, only then did he go in
to get a test, and it took five, six days to get the results.
And I`ve never gotten one because I didn`t qualify and I didn`t want to
test because I wanted to follow the rules, and I didn`t have the symptoms.
But so many people are waiting to get those tests.
So many people, are on the front-lines, don`t have the right equipment,
nurses, and doctors, and janitors in the hospitals. And so, it`s really,
really important to me, and that was a personal argument I could make to
them is that this can happen to anyone or to someone in your family.
O`DONNELL: Senator Amy Klobuchar, I can`t thank you enough for joining us
on this important night. And best–
KLOBUCHAR: Oh, thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: –best to your husband and stay safe.
KLOBUCHAR: Well thanks for getting the facts out. We need more of those
right now, so thank you.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Senator.
And when we come back, last night we brought you the breaking news from
“The New York Times” last night about the “Apocalyptic” situation at
Elmhurst Hospital in New York City.
We`ll be joined next by the Reporter who went to Elmhurst Hospital, spoke
to some of the heroes who are treating the sick there, and watching too
many of them die. And she spoke to the people who have waited for days in
the line outside the hospital to be tested for Coronavirus. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: “I`m OK. Don`t tell mom and dad. They`ll worry.” That was the
last text that Kious Kelly sent to his sister.
Mr. Kelly, a Nurse Manager at a hospital in New York City had tested
positive, and was on a ventilator in an intensive care unit when he sent
that text to his sister. Days later, he was dead. He may have been the
first New York City nurse to die from Coronavirus.
We know this tragic story from the extraordinary reporting of Somini
Sengupta at The New York Times.
She is the Reporter who went out to Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, and
described what she saw there in the story that we presented at this hour,
last night, including the description of the situation there as
“Apocalyptic” by Dr. Ashley Bray, who has had Coronavirus patients ranging
in age from 38 to their 80s die in her care.
Somini Sengupta spoke to people waiting in line outside the hospital
waiting to be tested for Coronavirus and reported what she found, this way,
in The New York Times.
“The line of people waiting outside of Elmhurst to be tested for the
Coronavirus forms as early as 6 A.M., and some stay there until 5 P.M. Many
are told to go home without being tested.
Julio Jimenez, 35, spent six hours in the emergency room on Sunday night
after running a fever while at work in a New Jersey warehouse. He returned
on Monday morning to stand in the testing line in the pouring rain.
On Tuesday, still coughing, eyes puffy, he stood in line for nearly seven
hours and again went home untested. “I don`t know if I have the virus,” Mr.
Jimenez said. “It`s so hard. It`s not just me. It`s for many people. It`s
Joining us now, Somini Sengupta, she is a Reporter for The New York Times.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it. And
can you tell us when you were out at Elmhurst Hospital gathering this
information, how were you protecting yourself from infection, and
distancing, when talking to people?
SOMINI SENGUPTA, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. Thanks for having me,
Lawrence. I`ve been to hospitals in some pretty risky places. I was in
Baghdad right after the U.S. invasion. I was in Bombay at a hospital
reporting after the terrorist attack there.
But going to Elmhurst required a different kind of risk calculation. I
stood outside, taking precautions to be seven to eight feet away from
people in line. I had a mask on.
I took their phone numbers. I spoke to them briefly outside. And I called
them later to do a more in-depth interview. And then I stood across the
street. And I watched the line, I watched people in line form for some
O`DONNELL: And the - your reporting is just so extraordinary from - from
the scene. It is a grim situation. You were - you were there to report the
13 deaths within one 24-hour period, which was the record high at that
point. And is - what does the future look like at Elmhurst Hospital and
other New York City hospitals?
SENGUPTA: The - the story that you`re referring to was a team effort by
several of my colleagues. I was only one member of that - of that team.
I certainly did not go inside the hospital. To do that would be not only to
take a risk, but it would be to get in the way of people doing their jobs
inside. But my colleagues and I spoke to several people inside the
hospital. And, as you say, they described a situation where they were just
stretched very, very thin.
There was a video that - that, you know, a doctor took inside. They spoke
of a refrigerated truck that had been stationed waiting for - waiting for -
for corpses. They spoke of that record, you know, number of 13 people dying
in a 24-hour period. Some people were waiting in the emergency room. They
died in the emergency room before they were assigned a bed.
It`s a very, very grim situation. It`s a public hospital. People - it
serves a neighborhood, a very densely populated neighborhood of working
people, many of those people I met, as you say, in line, and they stood for
days just to get a test.
O`DONNELL: Somini Gupta, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And I
- I don`t mean to be presumptuous about this. But this is Pulitzer-worthy
work that you`ve been delivering, and it is really extraordinary reporting,
and it`s a real honor to have you here tonight.
SENGUPTA: Thank you for your interest. Be safe.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And when we come back, the heroes of this crisis are the nurses, the
doctors, the healthcare workers, who are on the front-line, fighting this
pandemic. Dr. Laura Dean will join us next.
She is an emergency room doctor in Boston, where “The Boston Globe” has
broken the sad news tonight that now 160 healthcare workers have been
infected with the Coronavirus. That number has been going up all day in
“Boston Globe” reporting. It`s now 160. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: At the beginning of this month, Laura Dean stopped wearing her
wedding ring. She was afraid of what might be on it when she came home from
work each day.
Laura is a graduate of Harvard College and Brown Medical School, and is now
a Resident in Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General and Brigham and
Women`s Hospital in Boston.
And she is nine months pregnant, with her baby due to arrive on April 22nd,
perfectly timed for the end of Laura Dean`s second year of residency.
Every day, this month, Laura Dean wiped down her computer keyboard, and
found some time to search for information about what happens to the unborn
child of a mother infected with COVID-19. Because it`s such a new disease,
she didn`t find much data on the effects on unborn children. And so, she
kept working, as her friends kept asking her “Why are you still working?”
And on St. Patrick`s Day, normally a noisy day in Boston, during a meeting
of medical residents, someone suggested that pregnant residents and other
medically high-risk residents should probably be moved off the front-lines
of emergency medicine into behind-the-scenes support roles.
Dugan Arnett tells the story of what happened next in his powerful article
in “The Boston Globe.”
“She was at home the next day when the call came from her supervisors,
asking what she wanted to do.
Typically poised, she suddenly heard herself rambling, talking around their
question, unable to bring herself to say it out loud, until finally, one of
her supervisors stopped her.
“We need an explicit answer,” Dean recalled her saying.
She was near tears when she said that yes, it was her preference to step
back from direct clinical care during the final weeks of her pregnancy.
Then she put the phone down and cried.
There is a part of her that feels some sense of relief. Her family,
certainly, is happy with her choice. But the guilt, that her colleagues
remain in harm`s way while she is not that she was given a choice they
weren`t, has not subsided. She is not sure that it ever will.
“I could`ve said, I want to keep going,” she said, “And I didn`t.”
“I don`t think I will ever be totally at peace with that decision.”
Joining us now is Dr. Laura Dean.
Dr. Dean, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And we - we see, in
your story, the dilemma that faces healthcare professionals now, especially
healthcare professionals in your situation.
First of all, how are you feeling? How is the pregnancy going? And does
April 22nd seem still on track for delivery?
DR. LAURA DEAN, EMERGENCY MEDICINE RESIDENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY MEDICAL
SYSTEM, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Thanks, Lawrence, for having me,
and for your kind and thoughtful questions.
Everything has been so far so good. We`re looking forward to delivery,
hoping that our little baby boy stays in there a little while longer.
That`s been the easy part these days. Unfortunately, the rest of the world
seems to be burning down around us.
O`DONNELL: And what do you expect to be the situation for delivery of
babies generally in the Boston area by the time you get to April 22nd when
the hospitals could be more overwhelmed with Coronavirus patients?
DEAN: Absolutely. I think, unfortunately, in the - the preceding segment,
hearing about what`s going on in New York feels like some kind of awful
time travel to the future, giving us a sense for what it might soon be like
in Boston. We`re already seeing increasing numbers of patients like plenty
of (ph) patients right now.
They`re still allowing single visitors to the labor floor, so my husband
still gets a pass. But there`s a very real chance that by the time I`m
delivering in four weeks, there will be no visitors permitted in the
hospital, which I know is the case in a lot of New York hospitals. And if
that`s the case, then that`s what we have to do to try to keep everybody
O`DONNELL: And, of course, you`ve been training for birth, and your
husband`s been training for birth with you. And - and by - when the day
comes, he might not be allowed in that room.
DEAN: Yes. It`s something we never could have imagined nine months ago when
we were so happy to find out we were going to be starting our family. But
we have to roll with the punches here and try to follow all the directions
that the hospitals and administrators are putting in place to try to keep
O`DONNELL: Doctor, I`m sure you know other tough decisions made by other
And, in fact, in my view, every doctor who goes to work now, in these
hospitals, every day, is making what I think is a difficult decision every
day to go to work, and to be exposed to this.
Tell us what it`s like for the medical professionals who continue to go to
work today, just as they went to work 90 days ago, before they had any of
this on their minds?
DEAN: I am so in awe and so grateful for all of my colleagues, every single
person who works up the courage to go to work every day, whether it`s, you
know, doctors, nurses, people who are cleaning the rooms, people who are
making the hospital run.
I was scared to go to work every day until I was reassigned. And I can`t
imagine how they continue to muster the strength to do that. It`s - it`s
scary. It`s real. It`s getting worse. And I cannot applaud them enough. I
think none of us can, for really putting themselves in harm way - in harm`s
O`DONNELL: And the reporting tonight indicates that the big spike in
infections among medical professionals in Boston could actually be
happening outside the hospital in community spread. So, it might be a
situation where taking every precaution possible in the hospital still
isn`t enough because the larger community is so dangerous.
DEAN: That`s absolutely right. They`re really scary numbers. And I think
that people are acutely aware of the risk going to work, and they`re taking
every precaution they have available to them.
But the spread right now is so fast and so unpredictable. We`re seeing so
many people in the community who are coming down with symptoms and very
severe forms of the disease. But it`s really hard to keep up with where the
highest risk even is.
O`DONNELL: And do you know any of these medical professionals, the 160 so
far that have tested positive, or do you know people who know them, that
are close to them?
DEAN: Certainly, you know, it`s a very close network of people. I hesitate
to talk about anybody`s particular health circumstances. But it`s a pretty
close-knit group of healthcare professionals, and I think everybody`s
feeling it really acutely.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Dean, I hope that you understand that I and, I think, all of
this audience, are very much at peace with your decision to protect your
baby, and I hope you find peace with that decision.
DEAN: Thanks. I really appreciate that.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Laura Dean gets tonight`s Last Word. THE 11TH HOUR WITH
BRIAN WILLIAMS starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: We start again with an image of a barren Times
Square in New York. Good evening once again.
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Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the