Coronavirus Pandemic TRANSCRIPT: 4/13/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Social distancing, flattening the curve in some places.
GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: It is because of the hygiene
practices and social distancing that that is the case.
ANNOUNCER: While coronavirus hot spots flair up in others.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are bending the curve of the infection rate and the
deaths are still rising in the city.
ANNOUNCER: And heroes on the front lines working to save every life
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no vents. We literally decide who lives and
dies, and you`re playing god at that point.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Lawrence O`Donnell and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel on how long
Americans need to stay home and wear face masks in our global health war.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we don`t continue to follow social distancing,
then everything that we`ve done to flatten the curve so far will be for
ANNOUNCER: How testing will prove key to opening the economy.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Testing of antibodies, testing on a scale
that we have not done before.
ANNOUNCER: And the latest on the crucial efforts to find a vaccine.
This is a special edition of THE LAST WORD, “Life in the Time of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Life in the time of coronavirus involves
challenges we have never seen before. It has now delivered the largest
number of people in American history who are worried about where they`re
going to get their next meal or next meals. Millions of people who have
lost their incomes and worry about how they did afford food are now lining
up at food pantries for the first time in their lives, and the food supply
from farm to supermarket is being challenged as never before.
Imagine the weight of worrying when you look at your children and wonder
how you`re going to feed them next week or next month. And added to that is
the worry of being infected with the deadly coronavirus, which will be with
us until we have a vaccine. We`ll be joined tonight by someone who is
leading research and development for that vaccine and we will get a report
from inside a New York emergency room on a day when the governor of New
York, Andrew Cuomo, was able to announce the number of new admissions to
New York hospitals is declining for the first time.
Hospital admissions have dropped 17 percent in New York since Saturday. The
death toll in New York state seems to be declining with 671 deaths in the
last 24 hours. As of tonight, the United States has 23,476 reported deaths
by coronavirus. And the total number of reported cases is 579,909.
Governor Cuomo has formed an alliance of governors who border New York and
are close to New York to confront the coronavirus as a country should
confront the coronavirus with a unified strategy. The governors have
stepped into the leadership vacuum that was well-documented by “The New
York Times” this weekend in reporting on how president Trump delayed taking
decisive action against the coronavirus nationally and then publicly
refused to take responsibility for our national defense against the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t take responsibility
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: One of the governors will join us tonight, Connecticut Governor
Ned Lamont. We`ll get his reaction to the president telling the lie today
and there is nothing else you can call it but a lie. The lie the president
has total authority to reopen the economy. The president`s lies were so
extreme about this today that it provoked one reporter to finally shout out
that`s not true.
As viewers of this program have known for weeks now, the president shut
down nothing. The president can reopen nothing. Every word the president
says about reopening the country is pure posturing. It is pure propaganda.
I`ll have a last word to say about that at the end of this hour.
But for most of this hour, we are going to be concentrating on what you
need to know about what is happening in our hospitals and the fight against
the coronavirus, where we are and the development of a vaccine and what you
need to know about our current and future food supply during this pandemic.
With me again for the hour`s discussion of science and medicine is Dr. Zeke
Emanuel. Zeke Emanuel is a physician. And he holds a PhD in political
philosophy. Dr. Emanuel served in the Clinton administration and Obama
administration. He`s now the vice provost for global initiatives at the
University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Emanuel now is an NBC News and MSNBC
Zeke, we saw Dr. Anthony Fauci yesterday say that more lives could have
been saved if the United States had started mitigation sooner. He said that
on the day on that “The Ne York Times” published that investigative piece
showing how Donald Trump personally delayed the federal government`s active
support of mitigation, and then today, with Donald Trump looking on. Dr.
Fauci said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS
DISEASES: I was asked a hypothetical question and hypothetical questions
sometimes can get you into some difficulty because it`s what would have or
could have. The nature of the hypothetical question was if, in fact, we had
mitigated earlier, could lives have been saved and the answer to my
question was as I always do, and I`m doing right now, perfectly honestly
say yes. I mean, obviously, if mitigation helps, I`ve been up here many
times telling you that mitigation works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Zeke, your reaction to what Dr. Fauci said yesterday and the
way he repeated it today?
ZEKE EMANUEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He`s just right. We obviously
knew early on in January, there were indications from the intelligence
services and many others that coronavirus was around in China and was a
serious threat to the country that it was going to come to the United
States and that it could wreck havoc, the havoc it has had in the country
This was obvious to people. We know about the Peter Navarro memo to the
president. So the question is could we have done something differently, and
the clear answer to that, as Dr. Fauci said is yes. We could have done
things differently. We could have tried to contain it when it first
aroused. We could have tried to create a very robust testing mechanism that
we could have had in place before the, say, March and we could have tried
mitigation efforts where it took hold in Seattle.
Those things were not led by the president and administration despite a
clear warnings by government officials, people inside the White House, and
when Dr. Fauci just says yes, if we had done mitigation earlier, we could
have kept the curves even flatter than they are today, he simply is
speaking a fact. I mean, that is – I don`t think there`s a political twist
to this. It`s just a fact about the way biology works, viruses work,
viruses spread. That if you start earlier, you`re going to reduce the
number of people who are infected and therefore reduce the spread.
So I don`t think this is a controversial comment. And the fact that there`s
an even a question about attacking Dr. Fauci for saying it seems to me just
a – fly in the face of basic biology that we know about viruses.
O`DONNELL: Zeke, just a quick follow-up based on your experience working
in the White House, we have an exhaustive report in “The New York Times”
yesterday describing how long it took for the experts like Dr. Fauci to get
actually in front of Donald Trump to actually tell him and brief him
because the president was going through moods and he didn`t want to hear
about things. And so, today, Dr. Fauci said that when we did recommend that
the president make a statement encouraging social distancing, the president
did what we recommended, but it was very clear track in the “New York
Times” about how long it took to get Dr. Fauci in the room with the
You know how the White House works. You know how long that can take. What
was your reading of that kind of delay of getting the medical experts in
front of the president as we saw in the “New York Times” report?
EMANUEL: Well, I worked for President Obama and he read a briefing book
every night and he read it very thoroughly and if a memo like this, what we
need to have done was in that briefing book, President Obama would have
read it and would have called a meeting together to ask. That`s what he did
when H1N1 broke out. He got a memo about it. He read it and called the
meeting together and began asking people to get all the options in front of
him and to understand what the situation was.
This is part of the chaos of the Trump White House for not that doesn`t
allow clear reading of memos and clear instructions and getting the expert
together in the Roosevelt Room, frankly.
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now is one of the heroes of the
frontline, Dr. Eric Bressman. He`s the chief resident in medicine at Mount
Sinai and Elmhurst Hospitals in New York City.
Dr. Bressman, thank you for joining us tonight.
Is there reason to be hopeful for what we`re seeing in New York hospitals
DR. ERIC BRESSMAN, CHIEF RESIDENT IN MEDICINE, MT. SINAI HOSPITAL:
Absolutely. We`ve seen real signs I think the social distancing measure are
having an impact and admissions are declining, the flow of patients is
It definitely cause for optimism and I have to say, the work of the front
lines, the residents, all the front line workers have been unbelievable.
This is spectacular. They show up to work every single day not just out of
a sense of duty but purpose and it`s been an honor and privilege to work
EMANUEL: What`s the most challenging thing about dealing with these
patients from a medical standpoint?
BRESSMAN: Well, I think we`re fighting two battles here. The first is this
public health battle, the effort to flatten the curve, which as I said
seems to be going well. But the second one is a clinical and scientific
battle to better understand the course of the disease and understand what
is happening to these patients. We still can`t really predict with
reasonable certainty who will do well and who`s going to do poorly, and as
a medical community, we`re still very much in the dark.
And that weighs heavily on us as clinicians. There is a tremendous amount
of research going on. Mount Sinai lead the way with convalescent plasma
therapy and other therapies and working on vaccines, as well. But that
uncertainty really weighs a lot on clinicians to have to look patients in
the eye –
EMANUEL: Dr. Bressman, as I understand it, we get a lot of cases where
patients are on the vent, they seem to be doing well and then, suddenly,
they have clots in different places, they have heart attacks, they have
unexpected medical complications.
Is that what you`re experiencing?
BRESSMAN: We`re definitely seeing that and there are a lot of theories
circulating around, clots is a big part of this disease. The jury is still
out. There is theories this is an overwhelming immune response.
I think, again, when the dust settles and we look back, we`ll probably see
different types of patients who take different courses, but it certainly is
a fascinating time to be in the medical field and see this happen and play
out in real time but in the moment, it`s unsettling and it`s difficult.
EMANUEL: So why do you think as a front line doctor. The most difficult
social or patient interactions you have going forward are?
BRESSMAN: You know, I mean, to start with, it is uncertainty. As a young
generation of physicians, we have been raised on a lot of certainty. We
didn`t live through the AIDS epidemic.
We know – we were taught everything. We knew how every virus acted down to
the smallest to not know right now for us is incredibly, incredibly
It`s also very difficult to watch these patients suffer alone. They don`t
have visitors. Their family members aren`t with them and we`re really their
only family in the time of need and while that`s a tremendous opportunity
for us, it really difficult to watch.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Eric Bressman, thank you once again for joining our
discussion. We really appreciate it.
BRESSMAN: No problem.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Doc.
Well, Connecticut is one of the seven northeastern states that today
announced an alliance of governors who are fighting the coronavirus and who
will eventually consider the extremely complex questions that have to be
answered before those governors can relax or remove their orders for all
non-essential workers to stay home.
And joining us now is the governor of Connecticut, Ned Lamont.
Governor, thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
GOV. NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT: Good evening, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: I`m sure by now you have heard that Donald Trump has declared
you have absolutely no power to, quote, reopen Connecticut. It`s totally up
to him. The president said his authority is total.
Luckily, at least, one White House reporter got it right and shouted out
that`s not true. But what was your reaction to the president telling this?
And I won`t drag you into the debate over it, I`m just going to let the
audience know it`s a complete lie, the president has no authority. He
didn`t shut anything down in Connecticut.
But what is your reaction to the way the president spoke about it today?
LAMONT: These comments come and go. He loves us to run down these rabbit
We had a good meeting with the COVID task force, including Vice President
Pence. He knows that all of the regional governors here in the Northeast
are going to work together in a collaborative way for a phased reopening
based upon testing. We`re going to open up our state. We`re going to do it
in the safest way possible.
O`DONNELL: Governor, you said you`re teamed up with all your neighboring
states – Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York. And New York added to that
team New Jersey, Pennsylvania on the New York border, Delaware also
agreeing to approach this, pardon the expression but as a country would
approach it, as we kind of expected the president to lead this kind of
approach to it, because obviously, what happens in New York, what happens
in Rhode Island, Massachusetts has a huge effect on Connecticut.
So you can`t make these decisions independently.
LAMONT: No, you can`t. I mean, if I look how the COVID pandemic hit
Connecticut, came up along Metro North and I-95 from New York, going all
the way through Fairfield County up to New Haven, that`s the COVID corridor
for Connecticut right now.
I cannot solve that unless Andrew Cuomo helps solve it in his side of the
border, as well. That`s why we`re thinking together in terms of where we
want to do the molecular testing, where we do the antibody testing, how we
share that data and then we do. We`ll share that with the federal
government so they can make the right decisions, as well.
O`DONNELL: I just want to clarify for viewers, although you as a governor
and Governor Cuomo and others had the authority to simply close down
businesses and say no non-essential businesses are allowed to operate, when
you relax that order, that doesn`t actually mean that any private business
has to reopen.
So although you have the power to close them, you don`t really have the
power to open businesses.
LAMONT: No, but what we do do is allow them to open, allow them to have
more than two or five people in there, and I think they`re clamoring for
that opportunity. But nobody obligates them to open. You`re absolutely
right, if they feel unsafe and want to stay closed longer, they can.
What I care about is the public health. I just cannot have, you know, 100
people clambering into a store next Thursday because that`s the second wave
of a pandemic.
O`DONNELL: (AUDIO GAP) to have, in order to evaluate the risk for people
going back to work or going back to school?
LAMONT: Well, first thing I want to do is test the first responders, make
sure they`re safe going into the hospital, going into the nursing home.
Secondly, I want to test the folks that work at Electric Boat and Pratt &
Whitney, they`re going into the factory floor. By law, I got to keep them
open. They`ve got a number of infections there at E.B. right now. They need
the gowns. They need the fever meters. They got to be tested.
And then more broadly, I`ll test the person at the nail salon and
barbershop to make sure they`re not infecting 12 people a day, even the
patients come in on appointment basis only.
O`DONNELL: And just for the audience, Electric Boat is a major defense
contractor in Connecticut, and obviously an essential operation. That`s why
that`s open. But it`s right in that New London, Connecticut area, where
people working there on a daily basis.
The question becomes what happens in their commute, what happens when they
go home, what kind of exposure do people have from workers who are out
there already and coming home every day? We don`t really know the answers
to those questions, do we?
LAMONT: No, but we`ve certainly set some guidance there. Once you tested
on the way in, fever test, tested on the way out, you got to stay at home
and not see anybody.
These are the conditions of working in a critical defense industry, because
all you need is five or six people infected and pretty soon, the whole
factory floor could be infected.
O`DONNELL: Governor, what would – what would you say to the president
about how he should deal with this question about who has the authority in
Connecticut to close down businesses and who has the authority to release
that order of closing down businesses?
LAMONT: I`d say, Mr. President, I remember a couple of weeks, you`re on
your way to the helicopter and you said, hey, maybe we should have a
mandatory quarantine of the New York metropolitan area. And I got together
with Cuomo. I got together with Governor Murphy and we had no idea what
Did you want to shut down highways leading in and out? Shut down rail?
And we did have a good conversation, a firm conversation, said this is
unenforceable law and we pulled back some of the extremes, and we reached
an agreement that was workable for all of us. I`d like to think that`s
where we`re going to end up opening our states, as well.
O`DONNELL: So, just so Connecticut – people working in Connecticut can
understand, should they be listening to you or should they be listening to
Donald Trump about when they might be able to go back to work?
LAMONT: Look, I think everybody knows it`s the governors that enforce the
rules. It`s the governors that, you know, have – where the rubber meets
the road. So, I would certainly lead with the governors, because that`s the
way the White House has done as well. They`re saying, governors, you have
to take the lead on stopping this pandemic, now, we want you to take the
lead on opening the business on an appropriate way.
O`DONNELL: Governor Ned Lamont, thank you very much for joining us
tonight. We really appreciate it.
LAMONT: Thanks, Lawrence. Nice to see you.
O`DONNELL: And Dr. Zeke Emanuel is back with us.
Zeke, the governor said that the plan is eventually for a phased reopening
based on testing. Those were his words. When will these governors have the
kind of testing they need to suggest businesses are able to reopen?
EMANUEL: The honest answer is we don`t know. I think doctor or Governor
Lamont had some really good points. First, the importance of travel between
states as a conduit for re-infecting areas. And so, even when we open up,
that is a serious worry, and being able to test people who might come into
a community is very, very important, just to be sure whether we`re getting
new infections in a community.
Second, you heard him. He needs to test first responders. He needs to tell
healthcare workers. He needs to test workers and essential industries.
That`s tens of thousands of tests in the state of Connecticut probably
every day, every other day, and that`s – we haven`t even spoken about
patients or the asymptomatic spreaders that will also need to be tested or
family relatives of someone who turns out to be positive.
And we don`t seem to have the testing infrastructure. Nothing about testing
has gone right in this country. Abbott with that 15-minute test, a lot of
those are not being used because we don`t have the reagents, we don`t have
So, I`m a little skeptical we`re going to have testing infrastructure to
release, have non-essential businesses really begin to start sort of in May
or in June. There doesn`t seem to be any work that was really done to put
that in place now. We`ll have to work furiously for the month of May.
O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, as we sit here tonight, there is no testing
infrastructure out there on the horizon. We`d have to at least be able to
see it on the horizon to say that it`s ready to be used at some point in
Zeke Emanuel, stand by and stay with us.
And when we come back, the race to find a vaccine. First the vaccine has to
be created, then tested, then validated and then manufactured and then
distributed worldwide. Not just in the United States.
We will be joined next by a scientist who will be involved in every step of
that process. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Whenever you hear a serious scientists or serious governor talk
about returning to normal in the time of coronavirus, somewhere very close
to the word normal, you will hear the word vaccine.
In the past, developing vaccines has sometimes taken decades but scientists
around the world are now working at ultrahigh speed in the hope of getting
a vaccine into distribution next year.
Dr. Zeke Emanuel is back with us.
Zeke, is there actual hope of a virus as early as next year?
EMANUEL: Lawrence, there is a hope of a vaccine being ready in 2021.
That`s conceivable because scientists began working on a vaccine
practically the day that the viral genome was made public.
And we`ve decided to break it down for you, break down how we make a
vaccine with some animated help from our friends at Bio Digital.
The virus is a tiny package of genetic information covered by a fat layer
in which there are protein spikes. The virus then hitches a ride into the
body, goes down into the lung and lung sacs where it attaches to special
receptors on the lung cells. It invades the cells of the air airways and
then replicates exponentially.
The immune system either succeeds in flushing the virus out but sometimes
it can cause substantial and even fatal harm to the body. Vaccines
generally target the middle of this process after the virus gets into the
body, and they try to interrupt the virus from binding to the cells and
hijacking the cells and replicating.
Generally speaking, vaccines train your immune system to respond and
prepare you to fight off the virus before it becomes and infects the cells
of your body.
Here is what scientists hope to achieve with a successful vaccine. If
you`ve ever been vaccinated, you possess billions of antibodies and immune
cells ready to fight off the virus if you become exposed to it. These are
represented in green.
Antibodies serve many purposes in the immune system but for simplicity
sake, they play two key roles. The first is blocking the binding of the
virus to your lung cells, occupying the spike proteins on the outside of
the virus. The second function is as a signal, antibodies tell the rest of
your immune system to send in reinforcing cells to target and kill the
The thing to remember is vaccines train your immune system to produce those
antibodies and those antibodies prevent the virus from doing harm to you.
So, let`s say we developed a candidate vaccine.
What are the barriers from keeping me from getting that vaccine?
Well, vaccines work because scientists take the time necessary to ensure
that they`re safe and that they are effective to prevent you from becoming
infected. To get to that point, there are usually three phases of clinical
Phase one is a safety trial. Can I give this healthy person a vaccine and
not make them sick and, god forbid, kill them?
Phase two is efficacy. Does the vaccine actually produce an increased in
antibodies directed at the virus.
And importantly, phase three is an effectiveness trial. Does the vaccine
actually prevent you from getting coronavirus?
Once you clear those three hurdles, then the FDA gives the green light to
mass produce and distribute the doses to the hundreds of millions of people
who need it. Every one of these step involves patients, volunteers and
scientists, and there is no one long step but rather many small steps that
cause the process to take many months into a year and a half before you can
get a shot. And if you get it in a year and a half, that would be record
Right know, countless scientists are racing to get a vaccine for the novel
coronavirus. One of the efforts you might have heard about comes from the
pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson. They`re part of a billion-dollar
effort along with the Department of Health and Human Services. That was
really good news for the Johnson & Johnson stock price especially the
headline that they might be able to start testing a vaccine on human beings
as early as September.
Now, we get to ask how the work is going.
Joining us is Hanneke Schuitemaker. She`s the global head of viral vaccines
at Johnson & Johnson. She`s also a professor of virology at the Amsterdam
University Medical Center.
HANNEKE SCHUITEMAKER, GLOBAL HEAD OF VIRAL VACCINE DISCOVERY, JOHNSON &
JOHNSON: Thank you.
EMANUEL: So I want to ask you about the nature of the vaccine that you at
Johnson & Johnson are trying. How is it special?
SCHUITEMAKER: Yes, so we are using what we call a (INAUDIBLE) system. So
it`s really the method by which we present the corona piece to the human
body. And we applied this system also in our Ebola vaccine and also for our
HIV vaccine candidate and our Zika vaccine candidate.
So it`s a replication in competence to common cold virus, of which we have
deleted the piece of genetic material and replaced that, in this case, with
a piece of genetic material of the coronavirus. That`s coding for the S
EMANUEL: So you`re taking a common cold virus, putting some of the
coronavirus protein in it, and that is going to present to the body to rev
up the immune system to fight the coronavirus?
SCHUITEMAKER: Absolutely, yes. So it - by that, it`s really mimicking the
protein of the coronavirus as it is on the virus. And so the immune system
sees really the native protein and makes the correct immune response. At
least that`s what we are hoping for and also see now in our first
EMANUEL: And when will the whole thing be ready? Do you think September is
a realistic timeline to start the phase one safety testing?
SCHUITEMAKER: Well, yes, I think it is. Of course, we have a lot of first-
time, right, assumptions in that timeline, but currently, we are meeting
all the deadlines that we have set ourselves. And of course, it`s also
always with permission of the authorities, right? So we will have
discussions with the regulatory authorities if they agree with our package,
but so far, we are in a good dialogue.
EMANUEL: In the phase one safety testing, how many humans do you expect to
get your vaccine?
SCHUITEMAKER: Yes. So we want to initiate with a group of 250 people to do
some dose finding and also see if we need one or two doses to get the good
immune response. And then, of course, we need to go and extend the safety
cohort before we would go into larger groups for efficacy testing.
EMANUEL: And in your type of system, what are the major side effects you
see, say, the side effects you see with the Ebola attempt? What are you
really looking for in terms of adverse events?
SCHUITEMAKER: Yes. So what we know from our different vaccines that are
based on the same platform, so all on that common cold virus system, we
know that people can have some fever in the beginning, but we market as a
very well tolerated vaccine and also with a very favorable safety profile.
So I think - well, of course, we should not do any presumptions on what it
will look like, but we have good expectations.
EMANUEL: And then you`re going to move to a phase two efficacy study where
you`re expecting the body to produce antibodies to the protein. Is that
SCHUITEMAKER: Yes. So, first, also this phase one study assures to find out
whether it`s immunogenic. So whether we can get these antibodies and also
good cellular immune responses. And if we have the package ready and then
again, of course, with permission of the authorities, we will hopefully
start with an efficacy study early next year.
And in that study, we will test whether the immune response (inaudible)
will give protective immunity. So whether it will prevent people from
developing COVID-19, did this really caused by–
EMANUEL: So that`s actually more - that`s actually more an effectiveness
study. That`s actually assessing whether people are protected from getting
COVID-19. Is that correct?
SCHUITEMAKER: Yes. Yes, that is correct. So first, to test whether it`s
immunogenic - first, whether it`s safe and immunogenic, and then in the
next phase, we can test whether it`s effective.
EMANUEL: And that I take it would be record time to get a vaccine into
SCHUITEMAKER: Yes. So what we have seen, of course, is that other companies
with even faster platforms are already in people. I think we are sort of on
the intermediate timeline, but our forte is really that we know how to
produce our vaccine and that we can ramp up production really with good
speed so that we have that stockpile ready, and by the end of next year, we
foresee that we have produced 1 billion doses. So that`s I think really the
strength of our platform.
EMANUEL: Thank you, Hanneke Schuitemaker, Global Head of Viral Vaccines at
Johnson & Johnson. Thank you very much for helping us understand how you
produce vaccines against coronavirus.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, ANCHOR MSNBC: And when we come back, food insecurity
across the country. Long lines at the food banks now include many people
who used to serve food for a living since the restaurant industry has
basically closed down. And at the same time, some farmers have had to
destroy their products. How insecure is our food supply becoming in this
country? Andrew Zimmern joins us next.
O`DONNELL: Life in the time of coronavirus means crisis on top of crisis
for millions of Americans who have lost their jobs and incomes, which
leaves them worrying about how they can afford food if they can find food
on the shelves of our markets while they worry about the possibility of
actually catching this deadly virus.
The economic shutdown has dramatically increased the lines of food pantries
around the country. 10,000 people lined up in San Antonio. Southern
California, to thousands of - long lines in Southern California to
thousands of cars lined up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
We all know that the unemployment application filings have dramatically
increased and also dramatically understate how many people have lost their
income and their jobs so far since the states have been overwhelmed with
those unemployment applications.
A more realistic picture is drawn in a new Monmouth survey that finds that
four in 10 Americans have lost income as a result of the pandemic. In that
same survey, more than half of Americans say they are having trouble
finding certain items in stores. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer are at the
top of that scarcity list, but the scarcity list contains certain food
And so, tonight, more people are worried about where their next meal or
future meals are coming from than ever before. And the delivery of all of
our meals now depends on a food supply chain from farmer to supermarket
that has never been under more stress.
Andrew Zimmern is an award-winning chef, writer and teacher, and the host
of the MSNBC limited series “What`s Eating America”.
Andrew, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Let`s start with the
food supply chain and what`s happening. We`re reading about farmers dumping
crops, dumping products. What is happening in the supply chain?
ANDREW ZIMMERN, AWARD-WINNING CHEF & MSNBC HOST, “WHAT`S EATING AMERICA”:
Yes. We`ve gone in a short matter of weeks, Lawrence, from the shame of
seeing those that could afford to buy food and eat depleting the shelves in
our supermarkets to talking about if there was enough food.
A few weeks ago, I was on air saying there was enough food in the supply
chain, but the first cracks would be distribution-based. And we started to
see that last week. You shut down restaurants, you shut down schools, and
the traditional pathway for a lot of those trucks from the wholesaler and
warehouses now has to be rerouted to the places where people are actually
picking up food - the grocery store, the community resource kitchen, where
some other public or private space, which is doing community resource work,
allowing people to pick up goods.
But remember, this is a health care crisis we`re in. And I talked a couple
of weeks ago on the shows about the health care cracks that would soon
appear. We saw that last week with reports from the farmers themselves that
conditions on the farms, in the factories, on the fishing boats, in the
crab houses, in the abattoirs, people were not practicing proper physical
distancing. They weren`t cleaning properly.
A lot of workers are living in those places, four to six to a room, taking
transportation to and from work as a group. And a lot of us were talking
about the fact that if we didn`t protect workers in the supply chain, we`re
Well, the reality is that`s where we are now based on the Smithfield
processing plant shutting down in South Dakota. That`s a hotspot in that
state from a coronavirus case total standpoint. Right? It`s about 40
percent of the cases in South Dakota are in that plant itself. It`s also
responsible for 4 percent of the pork that`s sold in the United States. So
we do - we do now have a supply chain problem.
You were talking with the doctor before about the necessity for testing. We
need to be testing and re-testing these essential skilled workers. And we
needed to have been doing it weeks ago. We need to get those frontline
workers and food people, farmers, anyone touching our food in grocery
stores, et cetera. People trucking it are essential workers now, and they
need to be protected, tested because their working and living conditions
are prone to transmit, not mitigate the virus.
O`DONNELL: Andrew, I`ve been urged to include people working at our
supermarkets as part of the frontline troops who are actually keeping us
going through this.
O`DONNELL: I haven`t been thinking all the way back in the supply chain to
what you just identified. Those are the forgotten heroes of this story.
ZIMMERN: Yes. Well, we`ve - we`ve kept them in the shadows. We talked about
this in our premiere episode of “What`s Eating America”. The immigrants and
documented and undocumented workers, (inaudible) workers, the people who
have been demonized by the administration for the last several years, we`ve
actually disincentivized from going and participating in our health care
system, even showing up at the emergency room.
These are people who don`t have health care. They don`t have paid sick
leave. They are paying into our tax system. They are essential workers.
They are skilled workers. But we`ve done everything possible to
disincentivize them from helping out by taking care of themselves at a time
where it is essential that we all be taking care of ourselves as a way to
take care of the people in our country. I`m really, really worried about
the workers in our supply chain.
The trucks - we`re a capitalist society. The trucks will find their way to
the places where it needs to go. Cucumbers will grow again, but we need to
have people who are planting the cucumbers. We need to have people who are
cutting the chickens in the chicken factories. We need to have people who
are taking fish out of the ocean. Without people - it`s a very, very simple
idea. It goes back 10,000 years. If we don`t have people producing the
food, we`re not going to be able to eat.
O`DONNELL: Zeke Emanuel has a question.
EMANUEL: Yes. So I want to understand how you think we are going to keep
the food going. And in this moment, are farmers going to be able to plant
and have a reliable crop and also have a reliable marketplace come the
fall, or is this whole system going to break down?
ZIMMERN: Well, you`ve actually mentioned four different places. And I want
to remember, the pieces of your question is actually really, really
complex. Right? So we already have fewer visas being given this year in the
administration for those seasonal workers that are coming up, and we know
that we have a very large percentage of Americans who are sick and more
that will be getting sick. And we`re practicing physical distancing in this
So, ergo we`re going to have fewer workers on farms doing planting. Right?
We`re not talking about giant agro businesses where machines plant the
corn. We`re talking about what are deemed specialty crops, which is food
for human consumption. Right? So we`re going to have a problem this season
getting everything into the ground.
The people of the United Farm Workers that I speak to are very, very
concerned about how we`re taking care of our farm workers and, by
extension, all our people in the food system. We need testing and re-
testing, and we need to keep these people safe. Otherwise, who will replace
O`DONNELL: Andrew Zimmern, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
Andrew, we`ve got to get you back. There`s so much more to talk about in
this subject. Thank you, Andrew, very much.
ZIMMERN: So much. Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And we`ll be back with some final comments, but first, many of
you have sent heartfelt thank-you`s to nurses and doctors and health care
workers all over the country. Tonight, we have thank-you notes to first
responders, read by the people who received those thank-you notes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAXWELL ADEY, FIREFIGHTER/PARAMEDIC, SAN DIEGO FIRE-RESCUE: Here we have
some letters from the community showing their appreciation.
We love firefighters. Thank you for saving people. We are thankful for your
helping hands. Thank you for all you do, Fire Station 35. We see you. We
appreciate you. And you truly are heroes.
CHORUS: Thank you.
(CHEERS & APPLAUSE)
DEPUTY WALLY BRACKS, LOS ANGELES SHERIFF`S DEPARTMENT: I received this note
from one of my little friends while she was picking up her school lunch. It
says, “Thank you for protecting our city. Thank you. You are a rainbow.”
SGT. PAUL SPINELLA, SUFFOLK COUNTY SHERIFF`S OFFICE, NEW YORK: Thank you
for everything you have done for me and my family and my community. Thank
you for risking your lives to help people who are sick. Really thank you
for everything. Love, Emma (ph).
Well, thanks, Emma (ph).
OFFICER LUIS VASQUEZ, FAIR LAWN POLICE DEPARTMENT, NEW JERSEY: Officer
Vasquez, thanks for your support. I`m glad this finally got to you. You
rock! I hope you enjoyed it. Can`t wait to stand with you on the thin blue
line. Thank you so much, Michaela (ph), The Cops Rock Girl. Thank you.
CAPT. SHANNON PAULSON, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT: I was incredibly
touched and wanted to thank you for creating the support group during this
crisis. I was hesitant to reach out for assistance as I`m usually the
person helping and not asking for help. You did everything you could to
make sure I received what I needed. There are not enough words to thank you
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s know if you need anything else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will. I will.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re here for you.
DEPUTY SHERIFF YVONNE DECARO, SUFFOLK COUNTY SHERIFF`S OFFICE, NEW YORK:
Your actions will never be forgotten all of our lives. Love, Timothy
Together we will all get through this. Thanks again for putting your lives
on the line. Forever grateful, Heather (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re welcome.
LT. LATASHA PIERRE-DAVIS, PARAMEDIC, FDNY: FDNY heroes, thank you for once
again rushing in when New Yorkers need you the most. We thank you, and we
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: There is some encouragement tonight in the coronavirus
statistics we are seeing in New York and the frontline report we got
earlier in this hour from Dr. Eric Bressman from New York City. And that
encouragement is that that indicates that social distancing is working.
That means that if we really are slowing the spread of the coronavirus, it
is thanks to you. It is thanks to everyone who is staying home, everyone
who is being ultra-careful when they have to go out for groceries, wearing
a mask, gloves.
And so all of you, who have been observing all of the rules, deserve a
congratulations tonight because what you`re doing seems - seems to be
Dr. Zeke Emanuel, your final thoughts tonight.
EMANUEL: I want to tell you a story. It begins with something that we think
of as just a catch phrase.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Houston. We`ve had a problem here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say again, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, we`ve had a problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EMANUEL: That alarm was sent by the Apollo 13 astronauts back to Mission
Control 50 years ago tonight, almost at this precise hour. They were
supposed to be going to the moon, but an oxygen tank exploded. 200,000
miles above the Earth, they had lost most of the power and water. They used
a lunar module as a lifeboat. But it was designed to support just two
people for 30 hours, not three people for four days. There simply wasn`t
Together, the astronauts in the air and the engineers on the ground devised
an ingenious solution, a jerry-rigged filtration system, so the three
astronauts could breathe again. They used plastic bags, cue cards, hoses
and, of course, duct tape. And it worked. We remember the Apollo crew and
the engineers at Mission Control as heroes, not because they succeeded at a
lunar landing but because the astronauts returned home safely.
Right now, none of us is going about daily life in the way we intended.
Whether you`re aiming for the moon or a chance to raise your hand in third
grade math class, your life has been interrupted by a viral explosion. In
some sense, we`re all far from home. But we`re also beyond fortunate in
Apollo 13 was called a successful failure because the men and women at
Mission Control never gave up. Today, we have the smartest doctors, nurses,
and scientists, all working to get us back to normalcy. Their efforts
already are herculean. By the end of this crisis, we`ll think that their
efforts were miraculous.
As we heard again tonight, we`re in this for the long haul. A vaccine will
be more than a year away. In that time, we can all be heroes, each in our
own individual way. The working from home, hand washing, avoiding large
crowds, wearing masks in public. What we are doing every day is working
hard. We`re flattening the curve.
By staying strong now, we`re getting ready for the next steps, a path
forward to getting social life and the economy going again. The work will
be difficult and slow. At times it may be scary. But I know Americans are
ready to do their part because we`ve already shown that. By all working
together, we too can return home.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Zeke.
And in tonight`s “Last Word”, I want to reemphasize a couple of points that
I made with Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut earlier tonight.
First of all - and this is something you`ve heard me say weeks ago at this
hour. The President did not close a single place of business in America,
and the President cannot reopen a single place of business in America, not
Several governors have used their legal authority to issue emergency orders
for all non-essential workers to stay home in their states. And only those
governors have the power to remove those orders or to gradually and very
carefully adjust those orders to legally allow more people to leave their
homes to go to work. But even if that happens, it will still be up to the
company that you work for to decide whether to open that workplace again
for you to return to. No one in government can order any of those
businesses to open.
Governors do have that emergency power to close those businesses. But as
you heard Governor Lamont agree with me tonight, governors do not have any
power to order any business to open. Unfortunately, the President of the
United States is going to continue to pretend that he has, what he calls,
total authority about this. But he actually has no authority at all. None.
No one in government can order a business to open. That`s why it`s called
Zeke, one of the things that the President doesn`t seem to understand is
that the reason a lot of people are staying home is that their companies
have told them to stay home and told them to stay home before any governors
told them to do that.
EMANUEL: Yes. And many of us think that San Francisco has done remarkably
well because many of the big tech companies sent their workers home before
they were told to. Same thing in Seattle, with Amazon and Microsoft. And
they have to decide that it`s safe enough to bring their workers back. And
I`m not sure that`s going to happen just because the President decides it`s
the right time or he`s going to do it.
O`DONNELL: Zeke Emanuel, thank you very much for joining us for the hour
once again tonight. We really appreciate it.
“THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS” will be up next.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR MSNBC: Well, good evening once again.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the