The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Transcript 3/27/2020

Michael Osterholm, Laurie Garrett, Katie Porter, Betsey Stevenson, Thea M. Lee, Rebekah Gee, Anthony Almojera

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: In California in Fresno County, officials 

announced today they`re planning on makeshift hospital on local Fresno
fairgrounds with 250 beds. In Florida, Miami-Dade County construction well
underway on a 250-bed field hospital on the fairgrounds there – we
reported on that several days ago.

Officials are expecting construction there to wrap up today. Also on the
state fairgrounds in Oregon, the National Guard, Oregon National Guard, is
well underway to opening a makeshift hospital there to handle the surge in
hospital patients. We are seeing cities and counties all across the country
build out field hospitals in all kinds of places.

And as it turns out in some parts of the country, you can also sail
hospital capacity into port. Once again, the U.S. Naval ship “Mercy”
already arrived in Los Angeles as of today. We just spoke with its
commanding officer. The USNS Comfort will be arriving in New York City we
believe by Monday.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Be well. Now
it`s time for “The Last Word” where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, we have for the last three and a half years
thought about how we are covering stories that journalists like us have
never covered in our careers and we end another week thinking the same
thing. Rachel, please be safe. We`ll see you Monday.

MADDOW: You, too, my friend. Thanks Ali.

VELSHI: Tonight, while Donald Trump was in front of television cameras
singing the $2 trillion – signing, I`m sorry – the $2 trillion economic
relief bill with a $500 billion fund for his businesses, his administration
quietly posted a statement that said it does not consider the congressional
oversight provisions to apply.

You just heard Rachel ask Speaker Nancy Pelosi about that. Congresswoman
Katie Porter on the Oversight Committee, this is her job, is going to join
us with her response to the Trump administration. And coming up, plus the
emerging coronavirus crisis in New Orleans where one parish now has the
highest per capita death rate in the country.

And at the end of tonight show as coronavirus ravages New York, people are
still having heart attacks and strokes and falls, but the 911 system in the
city that responds to the usual medical emergencies is receiving twice as
many calls as normal.

A paramedic is going to tell us what`s happening, another frontline of this
crisis in tonight`s “Last Word.” But tonight, the United States has reached
a sobering milestone in the coronavirus pandemic. We`ve now passed the
100,000 case mark.

There are now 100,993 reported cases of coronavirus, more than any other
country in the world and 1,573 reported deaths in the United States from

As these numbers continue to climb at an alarming rate, President Trump
continues to spread mixed messages and disinformation about the pandemic
and his response.

Today, it was unclear for instance whether Trump was invoking the Defense
Production Act to compel General Motors to produce ventilators to deal with
increased hospitalizations from the coronavirus.


respect to General Motors and hopefully, maybe we won`t even need the full
activation, we`ll find out. But we need the ventilators.


VELSHI: Maybe we won`t even need the full activation. What does that even
mean? We don`t really know. When a reporter tried to get a straight answer
about the virus-stricken Americans being able to get ventilators, here is
how Trump responded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody who needs one will be able to get a

TRUMP: Look, look, don`t be a cutie pie. Okay? Everyone who needs one.
Nobody has ever done what we`ve done. Nobody has done anything like we`ve
been able to do.


VELSHI: Don`t be a cutie pie isn`t an answer to the question as the
president continues to evade and lie his way through this process.
Governors have been taking charge and leading the fight to combat this
deadly virus, but the governors can`t do it on their own. They need the
help of the federal government. Many of these governors have written to and
called the president begging for help.

But if these governors don`t beg in the right way it seems like the
president has no problem denying them critical supplies that could save
lives. Governor Gretchen Whitmer suggested today, she`s from Michigan,
suggested that a growing rift with the White House is affecting shipments
of medical supplies to Michigan.

She told a local radio station, “What I`ve gotten back is that vendors with
whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff to Michigan.
It`s really concerning.”

The president said he doesn`t even want to call Whitmer or the governor of
Washington State.


TRUMP: Mike Pence, I don`t think he sleeps anymore. These are people that
should be appreciated. He calls all the governors. I tell him, I`m a
different type of person. I say Mike, don`t call the governor of
Washington. You`re wasting your time with him. Don`t call the woman in
Michigan. It doesn`t make any difference what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t call the governor of Washington?

TRUMP: You know what I said? If they don`t treat you right, I don`t call.


VELSHI: The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, responding to Trump
tweeting, “I`m not going to let personal attacks from the president
distract me from what matters, beating this virus and keeping
Washingtonians healthy.”

All right, let`s be very clear, the people who are the victims of Trump`s
inconsistent capricious handling of the federal response are not the
governors, even the governors he doesn`t call. It`s the people who live in
those states.

The 7.5 million residents of Washington, the 10 million residents of
Michigan, some of whom voted for him, all of whom he is supposed to serve
as president and some of whom are very sick tonight or working another
exhausting overwhelming shift in the E.R. tonight.

Here is the reality of the situation tonight. Here in New York, the
epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, there are 44,635 cases of
coronavirus. There have been 519 deaths so far. Health care workers and
first responders are on the front lines combating this crisis.

Hospitals have already begun to be overwhelmed by patients. The emergency
call volume is the highest this city has ever seen. More than 200 New York
City firefighters have tested positive for coronavirus. So have more than
500 NYPD officers.

And now there`s a new concern about hot spots in the American South and the
Midwest including New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit. A new national survey
of U.S. mayors reveals how under-prepared cities are to deal with the
coronavirus crisis.

According to the survey, 91 percent of U.S. mayors from 41 states say they
lack sufficient test kits, face masks and other protective equipment for
their emergency responders and medical workers. Eighty-five percent say
they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Michael Osterholm. He is the
director of the Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the
University of Minnesota. He`s the author of the “Deadliest Enemy: Our War
Against Killer Germs.”

Laurie Garrett joining us as well, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter
covering global pandemics. She`s a former senior fellow for global health
at the Counsel on Foreign Relations in New York. Dr. Osterholm, let me
start with you. What`s your evaluation of where we stand tonight?

POLICY: Well, you know, as much as we keep talking about these numbers,
we`re going to look back one day and think wow, I wish it was only this

Things are going to continue to deteriorate for the next weeks and months
ahead of us and we`re really in this for the long haul. And I think the
other thing I just want to reflect on is because I`ve heard all day about
the numbers.

We must never forget and I know you don`t, is the fact that each one is a
father or a mother, a brother or a sister or even in some cases a child of
those we love and know and we got to always keep that in mind. That`s what
is happening right now.

VELSHI: Yes. Yes. It not sheer numbers. These are in fact, lives. Laurie
Garrett, I had had a moment today. Look, we`ve been working, you`ve been
working endlessly, we`ve been talking about this for weeks, but I had a
moment today that actually made me sad.

It was – Deborah Birx appeared in an interview on Christian Broadcasting
Network. Deborah Birx is someone this country has come to rely on in those
press conferences where Donald Trump goes off and says whatever he wants
and you look to Fauci and you look to Birx to say what is really going on.
This is what she said today.


been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details of the data.
And I think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his
long history in business is really been a real benefit.


VELSHI: Laurie Garrett, if that were true, you and I would have no business
talking on a regular basis. In fact, most of what you and I do is
interpreting and correcting the record for what Donald Trump has been
telling this country.

RELATIONS: It`s really hard to hear that. I don`t know exactly what`s going
on inside the White House. None of us do. We`re not there. And there is a
huge swirl of speculation and misinformation around all the details.

But the one thing we do know and Mike pointed this out in an opinion piece
he had in today`s “New York Times,” one thing we do know is there`s no
strategic plan. The plan seems to change every day, every press conference.

We get a different we shall march down this road. We shall march down that
road. I don`t know if you can hear around me, but all I hear all night long
here in Brooklyn is sirens, all day long.

VELSHI: That`s right.

GARRETT: A steady parade of ambulances. And anybody, any idiot can stick
their head out the window and see we can`t keep up. This can`t just keep
endlessly, you know, racing to find a ventilator, racing to find masks, we
need a strategic plan.

And the key to having a strategic plan that might have success to
controlling this now completely out of control epidemic in the United
States is to really come up with epidemiologically-based study so you can
answer fundamental questions that will guide the policy decisions.

There is so much we don`t know about how this virus is spreading, about
whether a person can be reinfected or are they permanently immune, about
how physicians are being exposed.

We have brand-new study just came out that shows that the entire room in
which a patient is laying still and not coughing because they have a
respirator covering their face, even so the entire room is full of
contagious viral particles. And they reside all over that room for hours.

We have to have plans that allow us to study the details and figure out how
do you ameliorate one situation after another in some methodical way. And
instead it feels like we`re just endlessly racing to catch up with the next
big step from the virus.

VELSHI: Dr. Osterholm, reasonable people like yourself and others in your
field can disagree on what we should be concentrating on and you wrote
about this today, whether it`s using the Defense Production Act to make
more respirators, whether we need to test a larger piece of the population,
what surveillance looks like.

But to Laurie`s point, we`re not having that discussion. Right now, what`s
the thing that concerns you most? Laurie talked about the sirens that she`s
hearing. I`m in Manhattan. I`m hearing the same sirens at a level that I
haven`t heard since 9/11.

There are medical professionals. There are front line workers being exposed
to this and getting sick. What`s your biggest concern right now? What
should we be doing most immediately?

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, I want to just preface it by saying we`re
going to get through this. We as a nation going to get through this, but we
got to stop the happy talk. We got to stop saying everything is okay
because it not, because that`s what`s keeping us from getting on and doing
what we have to do.

For example, just take the Defense Production Act, which you know, right
now has become this political theater about are you for it or against it.
Take one mechanical ventilator. That machine is so critical.

To make one of those takes over 156 parts that comes from at least 14
different countries and is made each of those parts by experts who have the
machines specifically for that part.

And to suddenly to ask General Motors to do that is absolutely like asking
you and me to go become brain surgeons because we at one time or another
held a knife in our hands. And so we got to get off of that.

What`s going to make a difference? You know, as a former defense secretary
once said, when you go to war, you don`t get to go to war with what you
want. You have to go to war with what you got.

And we have to understand we`re going to have a very major shortage of
ventilators. We`re going to have a major shortage of protective equipment
for health care workers. They are putting their life on the line every day.

And we got to have a plan that says this is the reality. Let`s go with it.
If we keep talking happy talk about, you know, how everything is going so
well, we`ll never get to the plan and in the end we`ll all suffer.

And finally, let me just say and the public will lose faith. We know
absolutely clearly that any leader who will approach a topic with honesty,
even if it`s tough, the public will stay with him when they provide that

GARRETT: I think that`s a really –

VESHI: Yes. And that by the way is the natural instinct in America. Go
ahead Laurie.

GARRETT: It`s just that I think Mike is raising a key point because
everything falls apart in public health if there is not a bond of trust. If
the public doesn`t trust the government and the government doesn`t trust
that the public will respond to its directives and what it indicates is the
right thing to do.

We have a complete breakdown in trust and it`s really, really distressing
to me to see that surveys are showing a partisan divide in the nation over
whether or not people think the epidemic is something serious, something
they should worry about.

So, literally based on whether you consider yourself a Republican or a
Democrat, you`re more or less likely to take the epidemic seriously and
believe that it`s something that imperils your life and the life of people
you love and care about.

That`s unbelievable. I can`t think, you know, I`ve written histories of
epidemics for ages and I can`t think of any outbreak ever where you had a
literal belief system based on political ideology that decided whether or
not people were prepared to respond to an epidemic.

VESHI: Michael, let me ask you one thing. There is something in your op-ed
that stood out to me. I understand you`re saying that we should focus on
using what we have and developing a strategy. But you expressed doubt that
we can make these respirators, these ventilators for instance. Look at what
we did in the war. I mean, we can turn factors around to (inaudible) stuff
out. Should we not be thinking about this?

OSTERHOLM: You know, Ari, this is a really, really important point. Think
about this. In World War II, which I agree we didn`t have quite the same
technology. When our Pacific fleet was destroyed in Pearl Harbour, it took
almost three and a half years before we got that built up again and we
worked 24/7, 365 a year.

We need ventilators now. We need N95 respirators now. There is nothing
that`s going change the fact that we`re not going to have next week or next
month or several months from now. Even if we increase the production of
these ventilators, we`re talking about scaling up from a couple hundred a
month to maybe closer to 1,000 a month.

And you`re hearing already we`re many thousand short. So, all I`m saying is
let`s just be realistic. If I know what this enemy is and it`s the virus,
and I know what tools I have to fight it with so then I can plan
realistically, that`s what we need to do.

And can I just add one piece to what Laurie just said, which I think is
very important that she illustrated. We right now have a blue and red
condition on this. If you look, the major hot spots are all blue countries
and counties and states in the United States.

But let me just tell you, as we see with seasonal influenza, that happens
all the time where the virus starts to emerge in large cities. It will be
in the red states in the next several months and they will then see this
was not a blue or a red issue.

This is an on-fire issue and closing down a little hospital in rural Iowa
that has 35 beds that is an absolute anchor for that community is going to
happen. It won`t be New York City but it will be just as bad.

GARRETT: And I want to suggest to –

VESHI: Thank you to both of you, Dr. Michael Osterholm. Laurie, I`m sorry,
we got to get going, but Laurie Garrett, we appreciate you have been for
weeks helping us out with the coverage of this.

Coming up, Donald Trump says he doesn`t consider the oversight provisions
that Democrats fought for to be mandatory. So does that mean that we can`t
ensure that companies that get taxpayer help keep their end of the bargain
when it comes to maintaining payroll or that we won`t be able to ensure
that taxpayer money is going where it`s needed rather than to friends of
the president or to the president`s personal businesses.

I`m going to ask Congresswoman Katy Porter. She`s standing by about all of
that right after this.


VESHI: Today Donald Trump signed into law $2 trillion in coronavirus
economic relief, a package that was passed just hours earlier
overwhelmingly in the House with bipartisan support.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played an integral role in forcing Republicans
to make concessions on accountability for how the $500 billion to large
corporations would be spent including – this one is going to turn out to
be very important, the appointment of an inspector general and a
congressional oversight commission to scrutinize the lending.

But in a statement posted tonight, the Trump administration says it doesn`t
recognize the congressional oversight as valid. One such provision requires
the inspector general to report to Congress if any government agency fails
to provide information about loans.

To which Donald Trump says, “I do not understand, and my administration
will not treat this provision as permitting the special inspector general
to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision.”

And as for the requirement that Congress helped choose who will run the
pandemic response accountability committee which will oversee the federal
government`s response to the pandemic, Trump says this, “My administration
will treat this provision as hortatory but not mandatory.”

Speaker Pelosi was asked about the president`s comments in an exclusive
interview with Rachel Maddow tonight.


REP. NANCY PELOS (D-CA): It`s not a surprise to anyone, but Congress will
exercise its oversight and we will have our panel of House – appointed by
the House in realtime to make sure we know where those funds are being

But let me just say that the president`s statement is indicative of the
difference between Democrats and Republicans when it came to this bill. The
bill was jujitsu. We just took their bill and turned it around, and so they
signed it in the White House as if they had some real (inaudible) to what
was in the bill.


VELSHI: Joining us now Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter from
California. She is a member of the House Oversight and Financial Services
Committee. She sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi today requesting to be
appointed to the Oversight Commission to scrutinize the lending of billions
of dollars to corporations.

Representative, before we get to that which is very important, I`ve had a
lot of tweets from people asking how you are. You had isolated yourself
because of symptoms that you were concerned might be coronavirus. What`s
your health like?

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): I`m recovering. I feel better each day. The test
came back negative for coronavirus. So, we assume that`s not what it is,
but the doctor cautioned that false negatives are possible and so to go
ahead and stay home until my symptoms have fully gone away.

And of course, California is in a stay at home order, stay shelter order
so, I`ve been recovering and I do feel much better yesterday and today.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, let`s talk about this oversight commission. You are
known for the detail that you bring to your work. You know, when there is
an 800-page document, you find something 640 pages in. So you`re known for

So I think there are a lot of people who would really like someone with
your attention to detail to be on the oversight committee. What do you make
of this comment that the president made that he would take this as
hortatory. I`ve never heard Donald Trump use that word before.

But that sort of means that it`s a recommendation, it`s an encouragement,
it`s not mandatory. That`s not what the rest of us thought this bill was

PORTER: No, and this bill was negotiated in good fifth on a bipartisan
bicameral basis. And, you know, it`s very clear President Trump didn`t
write that statement. That statement is coming from the administration`s
lawyers who at every turn for years now have resisted any effort out of
tripartite government, any efforts of Congress to do its work in creating
checks and balances.

And so what we`re seeing from the Trump administration lawyers are the same
kinds of resistance, the same kinds of lack of respect for the checks and
balances in the Constitution that we saw with impeachment that we`ve seen
with oversight of appropriation spending.

But what it really means is, what he`s pushing (inaudible) specifically is
that the inspector general, the appointment of a special inspector general
and this advisory counsel – this oversight counsel. What that means is the
congressional oversight commission where the members are going to be
appointed by Congress itself is going to be the most important tool because
arguably the president has no authority to restrict the work that it does.

VELSHI: What are you worried about could happen? I mean, look, this is our
money as taxpayers, the money of all my viewers and all of your
constituents, you, our representatives in Congress, and if $500 billion is
going to go to companies, we need certain things to happen. We need to make
sure that their executives are not compensated before taxpayers are paid
back and before all their payroll is made.

We need to make sure that money goes to payroll and not laying people off.
We need to make sure there are no stock buybacks paid out with that money.
There are basic things we need done. What are you worried about the
president not following this directive or these instructions is going to
lead to?

PORTER: So look, the bill provides for some of the basic guardrails you
mentioned. It says for example, there can be no increases in executive
compensation if a company receives a loan. There can be no stock buybacks
during the period that a company is receiving a loan, but that`s about it.

So what it doesn`t do is provide any conditions that the loan money be used
to keep people on payroll, which is really the point of doing this, is to
keep people on payroll to allow those businesses to continue to operate.
And so it`s really going to be important.

I don`t think that there is rigorous oversight, but then it`s done quickly.
The treasury has the ability to move this money extremely quickly. There is
nobody that Secretary Mnuchin has to ask. He can decide $100 billion to
this industry, $100 billion to that industry.

Meanwhile, he could be ignoring some of the industries that most
desperately need the money and that are some of the largest employers in
the country. So there is a real potential here for the administration to
play favorites and there is a real potential here for the money to go out
the door long before this oversight commission even gets set up, long
before the inspector general can do its work.

So especially in light of what President Trump said about his intent to
ignore these oversight provisions, we in Congress need to be appointing
people to this congressional panel immediately and they need to be starting
their work this evening and tomorrow, getting staff up, being ready day by
day to see what Secretary Mnuchin is doing with our $500 billion in
taxpayer dollars.

VELSHI: Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you. I`m glad to hear your health
is improving and that you tested negative. Thank you for joining us

Coming up, 3.3 million people filed unemployment claims for the first time
last week and economists believe that is actually an under representation
of the number of people out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Up next, two economists are going to tell us what the $2 trillion package
just signed today could do to help people who are struggling and how soon.
Plus, what lawmakers need to do to help battle this economic crisis.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, from Chicago to Los Angeles to San Francisco to
Seattle to Boston to New York, the restaurant industry is getting
devastated. This is just, we`re in a crisis. We need federal help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Business is down so I did have to ask a few people not
to come into work today and that`s probably the worst part of the job is
telling your dishwasher that he can`t come in to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got a nice meal.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because we`re not going to be able to eat until about
8:00 tonight.


VELSHI: Coronavirus has brought untold economic despair. Many are
struggling to afford rent, food, health care and other basic necessities.
Last week, a record 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment
benefits, an increase of 1500 percent over three weeks and more than three
times the peak during the 2008 recession.

Now the real numbers are likely higher because many laid off workers say
the system was overwhelmed and they couldn`t apply for unemployment
benefits. We`re going to get a better number a week from today when the
March jobs report is released.

Even that won`t be entirely accurate because this stuffs all lags a little
bit the biggest relief package in American history is expanded unemployment
insurance because Democrats aggressively fought for that. This is a rolling

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is getting ready for the fourth relief package
what passed today was phase three because the worse is still yet to come
Ezra Klein the Co-Founder of VOX put it in stock terms on this program
earlier this week.


EZRA KLEIN, CO-FOUNDER OF VOX: This is - as some comes and said to me. It
what happens if you mix a recession, a financial crisis, a natural disaster
and a war.


VELSHI: Joining me now Betsey Stephenson, Professor of Economics at the
University of Michigan. She was the Chief Economists at the Department of
Labor under President Barrack Obama Thea M. Lee is the President of
Economic Policy Institute.

Betsey, I certainly don`t want to be polonaise about this, I`m trying to -
at some points draw some silver linings around some clouds and I`ll remind
people that on a five-year basis just looking at my charts here, the stock
market is still up 25 percent on a 10 year basis up 120 percent.

So these things do have a way of adjusting themselves. The issue is how
long they take. But with respect to the money being loaned out, what are
the things that you`ll remember from top, the troubled asset relief program
during the recession is that not only was that all paid up, not only was
the auto loans all paid back but they were paid back with interest with a
rate of return to the U.S. investors. So, if things go well, this could

Absolutely. I would say that it wasn`t a great rate of return on top but I
still feel that it was the right thing to do and all the money was paid

And, when we`re looking at the stimulus package right now when we see 2
trillion, we should realize a lot of that money will hopefully going to get
paid back. And, it really incredibly important right now that we don`t have
a liquidity problem turns into a solvency problem.

And, we don`t want to see bank runs we don`t want to see bankruptcies. We
don`t want to see liquidations. We want to sort of put the whole economy on
pause, battle the virus, and then be able to pick up where we left off and
the only way to do that is if we can help people get through with the kind
- get through the kind of payments that they need to get done even when
they don`t have revenue coming in.

VELSHI: So Thea here is the problem, when we look back at these 15 years
from now, we`ll have said wow we got through it and will probably see a
stock market higher than it is today. We don`t know whether this takes two
years or three years or five years or six years to recover from.

When I walk outside in Manhattan, 90 percent of the shops are closed. 100
percent of the small businesses that depend on anything other than food or
a corner store are closed. These aren`t statistics. These are businesses.
These are individuals. These are people who are losing their livelihoods.
How much do we need to do to prevent this from becoming a disaster?

in our power to protect the people who have done the right thing. This is
an induced recession. We are telling people to stay home.

We are telling businesses to close. It is all for the public good. It is to
save people`s lives but what we can`t do is have the health crisis turn
into an economic disaster. And we are, you know, we know there is going to
be a lot of job lost. We know people lost income.

But the federal government can and should and has taken some pretty
important steps to make people whole again and that is what is crucial. We
can limit, mitigate the economic harm that happens from this crisis if the
federal government and the state local governments act appropriately.

And today`s relief bill was an important step in the right direction
incomplete but a step in the right direction for sure.

VELSHI: And in fairness, everybody involved it knew it was incomplete.
There is nobody who is saying this is the last go at it. Betsey, I`m a
financial Journalist. We look at first-time unemployment claims regularly
but the public doesn`t usually.

They get an unemployment number which we will get a week from now? What`s
the relationship between these first-time unemployment claims and what`s
going to happen to either our unemployment rate or more importantly than
the rate itself, the number of people who were going to learn lost their
jobs in the month of March?

STEVENSON: So, I`m really glad you brought this up because I don`t think
we`re going to see a really big rise in unemployment reports. So the week
that employment report is based on what people were doing in the week that
included March 12th.

When we looked at the initial unemployment insurance claims that week, the
week that included March 12th, they went up. They went up to 281,000 from
their previous amount around 200,000. But what we just saw this Thursday
was a rise in claims up to 3.3 million. It`s a big difference between
281,000 and 3.3 million.


STEVENSON: That difference is not going to be in the employment report. So
it`s not going to be the employment report we see next week that`s going to
shed a big hit, it`s going to be the month after that.

I`ll tell you that when you have 212 million Americans who have been
ordered to stay home, 3.3 million is just a drop in the bucket of the
number of people who need to be getting unemployment insurance.

VELSHI: Right.

STEVENSON: So we`re going to see those numbers continue to be
astronomically high. The hope is, though, that it doesn`t go on for months
and months and months, because it goes on for weeks or a few months and to
put that in perspective, if you look back in the 2008 recession.

We never had any kind of number like this but what did have two years of
week after week after week of there being two to 400,000 extra people that
were filing for first-time unemployment insurance claims.

So, week after week after hundreds of thousands of more people than normal
add up over 24 months, our hope is this is something that will last maybe
five weeks.

VELSHI: And Thea while it took a few years before we got back to
reemploying people, not having extra people, it took more than five years
before we started to see things that people might consider meaningful
increases in their paycheck.

At this point, we are back to a structural problem and a lot of people say
look, we`re putting trillions of dollars into this. This is not something
that it is going to happen often. Should we try and fix some of the
structural inequality that exists in our labor market?

You know, it was a quant thing when Andrew Yang talked about universal
basic income but hope on to problem to be universal basic income are saying
why don`t we start thinking about this now so that people, their income
isn`t an emergency matter in times like this and their health care is not
an emergency matter in times like this?

LEE: I think that`s one of the most important things we can do coming out
of this crisis is to make the kind of permanent structural changes that we
need in our social safety net, in our health care provision, in our
emergency preparedness that - this crisis has lay bear all the weakness and
the dysfunctionality and inequality the underline inequality in U.S.

That means that we were ill prepared for this crisis but we shouldn`t be
ill prepared for the next crisis and I hope that lawmakers, once we get
beyond the immediate emergency of dealing with the loss of income and the
loss of business and the loss of revenues for state and local governments
that we can take those steps to learn some lessons, to put in place for
example paid sick leave for everybody and to put in place a health care
system that doesn`t cause people to go bankrupt when they get sick.

And make sure that our unemployment insurance system really does cover all
the people those who need it. And I think those are important steps we can
take coming out of the crisis so we`re better prepared the next time.

VELSHI: And that is the discussion that we should be having now. So
perhaps, in the fourth phase of the relief bill that comes out or the next
phase of it, we should be having these discussions. Thanks to both of you
for joining us Betsey Stevenson and Thea Lee.

All right, coming up, New York is the epicenter of the Coronavirus crisis
in the United States but there`s an emerging alarming crisis in other
states. Coming up next, we`re going to talk to a doctor in New Orleans
which now has the highest mortality rate in the entire country.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you were saying something to the folks of New
Orleans who are probably watching you this morning, what would you say to

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`d say hang in there and maintain hope and obviously,
we`ve been through a lot of tough times together whether it`s hurricanes,
oil spills, floods, this is just another one of those bits of adversity
that we`re going to come out better on the other side but we got to stick
together right now. And obviously and they get a little bit worse before
better but at the end of the day, we`ll become better because of it.


VELSHI: That`s New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees this morning on
“The Today Show.” Reason is his wife Brittney announced a $5 million
donation to provide meals to people of Louisiana who are in need throughout
the Coronovirus health break.

Now the donation highlights the dire situation across the state especially
in New Orleans as Coronavirus cases start to overwhelm the city`s health
care system. “USA Today” reports throngs of revelers may have brought the
coronavirus to New Orleans during Mardi Gras celebrations here but the
city`s poverty rate, lack of health care, affordable housing and high rates
of residents with preexisting medical conditions may be driving it
explosive growth and could make it the next U.S. Epicenter of the outbreak.

Currently the city of New Orleans has 1,170 confirmed cases of Coronavirus
and 57 fatalities. Joining me now Dr. Rebekah Gee she is the CEO of the
Louisiana State University Health Care Services and Former Secretary of the
Louisiana Department of Health.

Rebekah thank you for joining us. Can you give me your evaluation of what`s
happened in New Orleans? Why Louisiana and New Orleans specifically has
become such an active center for Coronavirus?

going to find that out later on when we have time to research it. You know,
I don`t know why wasn`t it Disney World? Why wasn`t it a marathon that was

The bottom line it`s here and we have some of the highest rates in the
world, one of the highest increases in rates in the world, higher than New
York, higher than the initial rates in Italy and that`s leading to very
concerning numbers of people on vents, people on ICU`s and a great concern
that we`re going to run out.

In fact, the Governor estimates we`re going to run out of vents before one
week is done. And so we have about seven days to get vents here. He`s asked
for 12,000. So far we`ve gotten 192. So far from what we need to make sure
that the people who need them are able to stay alive through this crisis.

VELSHI: In fact, the Governor as you said has suggested that by April 2nd
or 3rd, that`s next week given the trajectory Louisiana is on, they are
going to run out. Donald Trump was asked about that today and here is what
he said.


TRUMP: We are going to have plenty and if for some reason, if for some
reason you`re going to need even more, we`re going to be prepared. If there
is a mad rush in New York or may be in Louisiana or may be someplace else,
we don`t want to have given out all of the units ventilators and in those
sections we give them to Iowa but they didn`t have a problem in Iowa.

We have given them to Idaho. We have given them to lots of different places
and now we have to try and get them back which is never easy to do. John,
what I`m saying is this; we are prepared for things that nobody has any
idea that we would be prepared.


VELSHI: Dr. Gee, this is the problem. Every day we hear things like this.
We are prepared for things that no one would imagine we are going to be
prepared except you`re seeing it. You are right now in Louisiana what you
see this thing is spreading in a rate.

I mean, New Orleans has half, almost half you know, a little more than a
third of all the cases in Louisiana, 1170 cases, 57 deaths in New Orleans
itself. How does that translate? What exactly has to happen right now
because the President is saying, the Governor saying he need the
ventilators, the President is saying we are prepared but it should not

GEE: Well, I hope he`s right. He`s saying the Defense Production Act which
is very appealing. It`s GM who will have to manufacture these. The question
is can GM manufacture them in time and if not, does the nation have a
stockpile to send us? That`s the key question right now.

We`re staffing up the Memorial Convention Center, 500 beds and the Feds are
sending a strike team down to help staff it. All of that`s helpful but that
is not intensive care. What we need now are intensive care specialists to
come help us.

We need vents to make sure we can take care of the patients we`re going to
have. The Governor is using the best available evidence that`s we need
12,000. Let`s hope we get a heck of a lot more than the 192 we have.

Now we have some of the best doctors and best medical systems in the
country. LSU, I`m very proud to be at, our doctors and nurses on the front
line. Our CMC a fantastic Governor and Mayor and a wonderful Congressional
delegation I think next you`re going to hear from Congressman Richmond.

All of that is fantastic but we need equipment. I mean, we`re fighting a
battle. We need to be armed with the right tools. We need medicine. We need
personnel. We need protective equipment, which we`ve been struggling to do.
Last week some of us had to order, in my network, bunny suits on EBay to
protect them from this virus.

We were having to source masks from China, making masks in a furniture
store in New Orleans, taking plastic covers from office depot, punching
holes in them and making face shields, makeshift face shields. That should
not happen in America in 2020.


GEE: That needs to be changed. It is changing. It`s getting better, but now
we`re really focused on the ventilator issue. So we`ve got to get those


GEE: And so–

VELSHI: Dr. Rebekah Gee, thank you for joining us. Go ahead.

GEE: Thank you very much. I hope that the nation continues to understand. I
think people understand how big this problem is? That`s why more deaths
here than in Manhattan. We have a quarter of the population.


GEE: Although there are other places that have a problem, this is where the
real national focus needs to be now so we can solve the problems and
prevent avoidable deaths.

VELSHI: We`ll make sure we keep the focus on New Orleans. Thank you. Dr.
Rebekah Gee. Coming up, there has already been some discussion about what
happens if you`re pregnant and you need to give birth in a hospital during
the Coronavirus.

What happens if you have a heart attack? What happens if you have a stroke
you fall you need an ambulance? You call 911 but here in New York City, 911
is overwhelmed. We`re going to talk to one first responder about the impact
that the pandemic is having on workers who are always on the front line,
next in tonight`s Last Word.


VELSHI: New York City`s emergency medical technicians and paramedics are
responding to the highest number of 911 calls since September 11th. On
Wednesday, the city received 6,550 911 calls that 40 percent increase from
New York daily average.

The city is on track to beat that record today all while 2,000 firefighters
and paramedics and 4,000 members of the NYPD are out sick. More than 550
NYPD members and more than 200 members of the FDNY have tested positive for
the Coronavirus.

In New York City, emergency medical services, EMS, is part of the FDNY, the
Fire Department. The FDNY is urging New Yorkers to only call 911 during an
emergency and to call 311, which many cities have, if they are sick or have
Coronavirus symptoms if they can`t otherwise contact their doctor.

Joining me now, Anthony Almojera he is a paramedic in Brooklyn. He`s the
Vice President of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union, Local 3621. Anthony,
you and I talked yesterday, I believe, and you were warning me about how
serious this matter is, about the fact that you said then you`re running
beyond capacity, and this worry about supplies and about how people are?

Where are you today? What is the situation for EMS`s like yourself today in
New York?

ANTHONY ALMOJERA, PARAMEDIC, BROOKLYN: The situation is the same. We are
running out of supplies. The city and the Mayor has failed to hear us, our
concerns in regards to providing us the N-95 masks that we so desperately
need. We are going to go over 7,000 calls again today.

We anticipate this to go on for the week, two weeks, as long as this
epidemic is going on. We`re doing what we have to do. The members of EMS,
not only in New York City but nationwide, are here to help we`re doing it.

But we`re running low on resources, and we`re working night and day, and
the answer to your question before is, correct, today is not the day to
call for the stubbed toe. Today is the day to call for when you are sick.

But if you do call, we will be there. We will be there. So the concern is
great, the members are tired the city and the department has been a little
lack luster in our concerns in addressing them. But the members, they`re
going to be there for when the citizens of New York need us.

VELSHI: You always are. I was here for 9/11, and I know what you have done,
and I know that you`re doing it now. I think it`s important, Anthony, I
know you wouldn`t bring this up, but I think we need to. Across the country
but even in this city, EMS workers are generally speaking not highly paid.

ALMOJERA: Correct. You know, right now in this epidemic, we`re the tip of
the spear. We`re the ones on the front lines. Every other day we`re the
ones on the front lines as well. We are the lowest paid of the 911

We are considered a stepping stone to the other 911 or even other agencies
within state, city, and federal government. That has to be corrected.
There`s no reason that that should be. When you call 911, you get a choice
of three options.

We are one of them. So not only in New York City but Nationwide, that has
to be corrected tomorrow if not sooner. This deserves to be, this job
deserves to be a career path. You don`t want people coming into your home
who are here leaving.

You want people who are 15, 20 years. You go to a hospital because that
doctor has 20 years experience and can help you. We bring the hospital to
you. You want 20-year people to be training new people and training you and
your families.

And unfortunately the way this city has treated EMS, that`s not the case.
But we are doing the best we can.


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