CDC TRANSCRIPT: 4/21/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.


Maybe we now know why no one from the V.A. is a regular participant in

those White House press briefings. Boy, do I wish to be a question in

tomorrow`s briefing about what you were reporting tonight.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  I will tell you that our own beloved

colleague Stephanie Ruhle has managed to score an interview with V.A.

Secretary Wilkie tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC.


And, of course, we`ve been, you know, beating down the door trying to get

him to do an interview with me, and everybody has been chasing him. He`s

been unwilling to talk until quite recently. So I`m very much looking

forward to seeing Stephanie Ruhle go one on one with him tomorrow.


O`DONNELL:  Yes, we will both be watching tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., that`s for

sure. Thank you, Rachel.


MADDOW:  All right. Thanks, Lawrence. Thanks.


Well, it`s all about testing now. That`s how the governor of New York,

Andrew Cuomo, sees it. For him, coronavirus testing is his number one

issue. And that is why Mr. Cuomo went to Washington today, to meet with the

president of the United States.


Here`s what Governor Cuomo told Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC immediately after

his meeting with the president.




GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK:  The meeting went well. And I think it was

productive. The big issue was testing, as everybody knows that`s going to

be the next step as we go forward. And how do we separate the

responsibilities and the tasks on testing, vis-a-vis as stated in the

federal government and the acknowledgement that we will need to work

together on this. It has to be a real partnership. And I think we had a

very good conversation.




O`DONNELL:  Governor Cuomo maintaining diplomatic relations with Donald

Trump, did not mention anything specific that the president actually agreed

to. And the president didn`t mention anything specific that they agreed to

when the president appeared later at the White House press briefing.


Governor Cuomo did say that he believes New York state has to double its

current rate of testing from 20,000 tests a day to 40,000 tests a day.


Dr. Zeke Emanuel will join us later to discuss a new action plan from the

Rockefeller Foundation, proposing what it calls, quote, an ambitious, but

achievable goal of rapidly expanding testing capacity to 30 million tests

per week over the next six months.


Dr. Emanuel is one of the contributors to that Rockefeller Foundation

action plan. Thirty million tests per week is over 4 million tests per day.

A new Harvard university study shows that we should be conducting at least

a half a million tests per day, or more over the next 30 days. We are

currently testing about 150,000 people a day nationally, without any

national coordination for the testing process at all.


Fifty states compete not just with each other, but virtually every other

country in the world for testing kits and equipment necessary to do the

testing. The testing crisis comes as the director of the Centers for

Disease Control, Robert Redfield, gave an interview to “The Washington

Post” in which he said a second wave of the coronavirus could be worse than

what we are seeing now.


He said, quote: There`s a possibility the assault of the virus on our

nation next winter will be even more difficult than the one we just went

through, and when I`ve said this to others, they kind of put their head

back. They don`t understand what I mean. We`re going to have the flu

epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time, he said.


We`ll ask Dr. Harvey Feinberg, an expert on infectious diseases, in a

moment what that second wave could look like.


Today, Donald Trump said, quote, we`re going to do very significant

testing. We`re going to do very significant testing. And by “we”, Donald

Trump does not mean Donald Trump or the Trump administration or the federal

government. By we, he means he intends to watch governors and mayors

scramble to find ways to protect people and ways to do test enough people

so that governors and mayors can make careful decisions about when people

can go back to work or go back to school safely.


The county coroner in Albany, Georgia, told the New York Times that the

coronavirus “hit like a bomb.” That leaves the mayor of Albany, Georgia,

who will join us later in this hour, scrambling to protect his community

now that the Republican governor of Georgia decided to allow the opening of

some small businesses in Georgia, non-essential businesses.


So beginning on Friday, if you really want a massage or a haircut, or a

tattoo, the governor says those businesses can all open everywhere in the

state. And after you get your tattoo, you can go to the bowling alley,

which is also allowed to open on Friday.


Dr. Deborah Birx was asked about this at the White House briefing today,

and once again, Dr. Birx gave the kind of answer that a Republican Party

lawyer would give, an answer designed to protect any Republican office

holder with a bad idea. Dr. Birx actually said that it`s perfectly OK to

open those businesses as long as you can maintain social distancing inside

those businesses – social distancing for a massage, social distancing for

a tattoo, social distancing, six feet away for haircutting.


Dr. Birx actually pretended that all of those things are possible.





If there`s a way that people can social distance and do those things, then

they can do those things. I don`t know how, but people are very creative.




O`DONNELL:  That is a purely Trumpian answer. Dr. Birx is saying someone

can cut your hair from six feet away.


Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida, whose names appears on a lot of

political commentators` list as a possible vice presidential choice for Joe

Biden will join us later in the hour to discuss the new package of relief

legislation Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer

agreed to support, along with the Republican leaders of Congress.


The new legislation finally contains some money for testing, $25 billion to

support testing. When Mitch McConnell first tried to bring the Republican

version of this bill for a vote in the Senate, it did not contain one penny

for testing, not one penny. The $25 billion to support testing in this

country is in the legislation only because Democrats forced it to be in the

legislation. And when President Trump signs this bill later this week,

he`ll probably once again invite no Democrats to the signing and not

acknowledge any Democratic input in the legislation, and claim full credit

for the testing provision in the legislation.


In his “Washington Post” interview, the director of the CDC, Dr. Redfield,

said this when asked about protests against stay at home orders. He said,

quote: It`s not helpful.


Donald Trump was asked about that today.




REPORTER: The director of the CDC said that protests against stay at home

orders are not helpful. You`ve encouraged some of these protests. What are

your thoughts on the CDC director saying that he thought –



a question of helpful or not. People want to get back to work. And I`ve

watched some of the protests, not in great detail, but I`ve seen that, and

they`re separated, there`s a lot of space in between. I mean, they`re

watching, believe it or not, social – they`re doing social distancing, if

you can believe it.




O`DONNELL:  If you can believe it.


If you can believe it is one of those Donald Trump signatures he frequently

attaches to his lies. When President Trump says if you can believe it, you

cannot believe it.


The protesters are not doing social distancing. Everyone in that room knows

that the protestors are not doing social distancing. They are not carefully

six feet apart. The protests are protests against the very concept of

social distancing.


If there was a serious public health official in that White House briefing

today with the president, that person would have raised her voice and said

something to the effect of, I have seen the pictures of those protestors

and they are not social distancing and they are all risking their own lives

by doing what they`re doing, and they are risking the lives of other people

in their communities, their neighbors, and their families who they might

come in contact with after being in the thick of one of those reckless



But everyone in that room working on the Trump team knows, being a Trump

team member requires keeping their own safe distance from a truth like



Amy Pacholk is a surgical trauma nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital

on Long Island. Here is some of the video diary she`s been keeping for us.





the ICUs are still full. They`re full. The sickest people are still there.

Some people are getting extubated.


But the truth is, is that there is still people on the floors who need to

be intubated and come to us. So, I mean, we may have a bed or two

available, but it`s not like we`re emptying out.


If – you know, if we choose to open too soon, we`re going to be at

capacity. We`ve already used our reserves. There`s like nothing left. We

are maxed out.


We can`t open this country. We can`t open the tri-state area, that`s for

sure. None of us in the down state area of New York can handle anything

more. There`s no way. We`re full.


And frankly, we`re tired. And there`s nobody to be able to do our job. If

you want to live, you stay home.


My God, don`t open up this country. It needs to be closed until at least

June. Please.




O`DONNELL:  Tonight, the number of reported coronavirus cases in the United

States is 803,553, and as of tonight, there are 44,564 reported deaths

linked to coronavirus in the United States.


Leading off our discussion tonight is Dr. Harvey Fineberg, the former

president of the National Academy of Medicine and the former dean of

Harvard School of Public Health. He is the chair of the National Academy

Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases.


And Ron Klain is with us. He`s the former senior aide to Vice President Joe

Biden and President Obama. He served in the Obama administration as the

chief coordinator in the fight against Ebola during the Obama



Dr. Fineberg, thank you very much for joining us tonight.


I want to start with what the director of the CDC said about the possible

second wave and how the second wave could be worse than what we`ve been

through already because of the way it might interact with the seasonal flu.


What can you tell us about that?



Lawrence, every virus is its own thing, and has its own property. So

looking to the future, what will happen with this particular virus is

intrinsically speculative.


There are reasons to believe that we are in for the likelihood of a second

wave. One of those is experience in the past with influenza pandemics, and

particularly the great pandemic of 1918-`19 when the second wave was much

worse than the first wave. In addition to that, many of the models that

project the way in which the virus and disease will behave do show this

tendency to wane, that is to go down, and then at a certain point in time

as it builds up, it can rapidly escalate.


So there`s reason to worry about a second wave. It`s prudent to plan for

the likelihood of a second wave. But nobody can guarantee what will or will

not happen.


O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, Joe Biden tweeted today, rather than execute a swift

and aggressive effort to ramp up testing, Donald Trump is tweeting

incendiary rhetoric about immigrants in the hopes that he can distract

everyone from the core truth, he`s moved too slowly to contain this virus

and we are all paying the price for it.


Ron, Governor Cuomo went down to Washington to talk to the president about

testing. He was, of course, the diplomat that he has become in dealing with

Donald Trump so he didn`t reveal very much how that conversation went.


Joe Biden is making testing his number one campaign issue, and yet, the

president still refuses to pick up that issue and run with it as he is

uniquely empowered to do.



it`s kind of hard to understand at one level. The president says he wants

to open up the economy. He wants people to go back to work.


And almost every expert on the left, on the center, on the right,

Republicans, Democrats, all agree that the initial condition for reopening

the country is more testing so we can separate the sick from the well, so

we can monitor where the disease is flaring up, so we can know when a

second wave is coming, where it`s coming. We don`t test. We`re not going to

find it.


And so, testing is the essential quality. As you said at the outset of the

show, Lawrence, what`s really stunning about this is not just that we

started slow on testing. That is what it is. It`s that for the past month,

we have made virtually no progress at all.


The past month, there`s only been one day we`ve tested more than 150,000,

160,000 people in this country. Otherwise, we`re basically where we`ve been

for four weeks. And you can`t get to a goal of 500,000 or 750,000 or a

million tests a day if you don`t make any progress at all.


O`DONNELL:  Dr. Fineberg, give us your assessment of where we are on

testing, and where we need to go on testing.


FINEBERG:  The first thing to understand about testing, Lawrence, is that

we have to understand the purpose of the testing.


Do we want to identify patients who are coming down with this infection or

have recently contracted it? Do we want to identify individuals who had it

in the past and might be now resistant to coming down with illness? Do we

want to understand in the community how widespread this virus is?


We need different kinds of tests to answer those different questions, and

we need all of them in much greater volume. More importantly even than

that, is that for the new serology tests that look at antibodies, we need

to validate carefully whether these tests perform in the way that the

manufacturers claim.


And right now, the FDA is allowing these tests to come to the market

because of the enormous need for them. And yet, we need to validate their

performance or we`re going to get misled potentially.


So, we need more tests, we need to understand the purpose, we need to

deploy them where they`re needed. And we need to validate their



O`DONNELL: Dr. Fineberg, stay on that for a moment.


At the White House briefing today, Dr. Birx was asked about validating

these tests and how the FDA is basically allowing them to rush out with

tests, saying that the companies who are producing the tests have the job

now of validating themselves, and I don`t think there was anything in Dr.

Birx`s answer that we could make sense of. She seemed to be saying that

when you get that test, if you get your hands on that test, the

manufacturer somehow has to have a document on it that will, to some

extent, indicate the reliability of the test. But it was also vague, it was

hard to tell what she was saying.


FINEBERG:  Yes. Lawrence, we need independent validation of these tests.

And even from a single manufacturer`s performance result, you want to

compare different kinds of tests at the same time against standards.

Because we`re going to be using these different tests in different parts of

the country, and we`re going to need to know is the result in place one,

using test A meaningful and similar to the result in place B using test B.


So we need to validate these tests. It`s a little like Ronald Reagan used

to say about the Russians. Trust but verify.


O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, you know when you were working on a possible

outbreak that one of the things that was necessary was to figure out what

the benchmarks the public would need in order for the public to feel safe.

And so, when you sit here tonight, if you were working in the White House

and the question of what do we have to do to enable universities to invite

their students back to living together in dormitories in late August, what

are the kinds of things that you would think the public would need to see

and have available as information before deciding to let their children go

back to those dormitories or the universities welcoming them back, given

that so much of the faculty is old enough to be in the high risk group.


KLAIN:  I think there are three really important preconditions, Lawrence.


The first is, the amount of diseases a to go down. The incidents of the

disease has to go down. I think one thing about what we`re seeing in

Georgia is, no matter what you think about the White House standards, and

I`ve been a critic of them, the problem with what`s happening in Georgia is

they don`t even meet the White House standards for reopening.


Fourteen days in a row of decline in disease, I think that`s a low bar to

reopen, but that hasn`t been met in Georgia. We need to see much less

disease before we reopen places.


Secondly, you need to have testing, and the kind of testing Dr. Fineberg

was talking about, all varieties of tests. We have to know that these

serology tests not only work, but it`s a meaningful result in terms of

whether someone has immunity. And then finally, we have to have the health

care system in these places strong. The nurse on Long Island who you talked

to, we have to know that hospitals can deal with flare up of cases when

they come.


O`DONNELL:  Dr. Fineberg, quickly, before we go, let me put this in

personal terms to you. If you were a parent of a student who is considering

going back to college, going back to the college dorm in August, or going

back to high school in August, what would you need to know about what that

student would be facing at that school?


FINEBERG:  I would want to know that the school, my child or grand child

was going to had taken all the steps that they could to protect the health

of that child. It means keeping physical distance where you can. It means

using masks. It may mean testing temperatures. It may mean screening on

regular intervals to make sure students are coming down with illness are

able to be isolated and separated from others.


Basically, all of us in any industry, including schools, need to take these

kind of steps to protect our students, our employees, our customers, our



O`DONNELL:  Dr. Harvey Fineberg, a real honor to have you join us tonight.

We really appreciate it.


Ron Klain, thank you very much for joining us again with your expertise. We

really appreciate it.


FINEBERG:  Thank you.


O`DONNELL:  And when we come back – thank you – Congresswoman Val Demings

will join us to discuss the new relief bill that congressional leaders have

agreed on. She`ll explain what is not working in the bill Congress has

already passed because of Republican design unemployment systems like the

one in Florida, which makes it impossible for many Florida workers to

obtain the benefits they should be getting. That`s one of the many flaws in

the relief bills Congress has already passed.


Congresswoman Val Demings is next.




O`DONNELL:  There`s already serious criticism of the abuse of the small

business relief package that Congress has already passed into law. When

Donald Trump was asked about this today, he pretended that he didn`t like

what was happening in the abuse of the small business program, abuse that

was specifically and deliberately allowed by the Trump regulations. And

instead, Donald Trump condemned another recipient of federal money obtained

under a completely different provision of that law, a provision

specifically designed to help poor college students harmed by the shutdown

of their colleges, which in some instances left some of those poor students

with nowhere to live.




REPORTER:  You said about the small business program, Harvard is going to

pay the money back. How confident are you that you can claw back money –


TRUMP:  We`re going to have to look. I don`t like Harvard, that has I think

a $40 billion endowment, or some incredible amount of money, that Harvard

gets this money. Harvard should pay that back. I want Harvard to pay the

money back, OK?


If they won`t do that, then we won`t do something else. They have to pay it

back. I don`t like it. I don`t like it. This is meant for workers.




O`DONNELL:  Harvard University did not take one penny that was meant for

workers, not one penny. In the $2 trillion relief package that was passed

by Congress, about 7 percent of that bill was a specific set aside for the

higher education emergency relief fund aimed to help students, not the

universities. Through a formula in the law, Harvard was allocated $8.6

million, 100 percent of which they have dedicated to students in financial

need. Most students who go to Harvard cannot afford it, 2/3 of the student

body gets financial aid from Harvard. And much of that aid in effect comes

from the university`s endowment.


Donald Trump specifically said he did not want to mention anyone else who

he thought was abusing federal money, so he didn`t mention the university

with the second largest endowment in America, which is the University of

Texas, which has a $31 billion endowment. The University of Texas got

$172.5 million in that legislation, which Texas Republican Senator John

Cornyn bragged about. The University of Texas didn`t take any of that money

away from workers, either. And we can hope that the University of Texas is

using that money honorably and passing it along to students in desperate

financial need.


In the new legislation that Congress has agreed on today, it will provide

$310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, $60 billion for the

emergency grant and business loan program, $75 billion for hospitals, and

$25 billion to support coronavirus testing.


Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida.


Congresswoman Demings, I went through that story about Harvard that Donald

Trump was lying about today just to point out that there are always

surprises about what happens in the legislation, and one of the big

surprises is how much the small business fund is being abused.


What can the new legislation do to protect the small business fund to

actually go to people in real small businesses and what can it do to

protect people`s paychecks?


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  Well, Lawrence, thank you. It`s good to be back

with you.


And look, when we passed CARES I, we passed it with the primary goal being

to protect America`s workers, and particularly those small businesses that

are most vulnerable in our communities.


Obviously, our $2.2 trillion package, the largest passed in American

history, was not enough. We quickly realized that. And so, we`ve got to

regroup and make sure that we have processes in place and procedures that

will make sure that the money that we will pass hopefully tomorrow in the

interim relief package will go to those who need it the most – that those

dollars are specifically designated for those small businesses who, all

over the country, are struggling just to stay afloat.


And so, we have much work to do. Of course, this package is not perfect

either. As you`ve already mentioned, it includes testing. And if we`re ever

going to get back to any degree of normalcy, we`ve got to make sure that we

do, as the speaker said many weeks ago now – testing, testing, testing

will allow us to get there.


And then we need to take care of our hospital and those health care workers

who you see are struggling every day to keep us safe, to keep us healthy.

We need to look at hospital capacity and make sure that we`re able to meet

not only the needs of the epidemic or the pandemic now, but to be able to

address any future needs.


And so, we still have some work to do. But we hopefully will pass this

legislation either tomorrow or Thursday.


O`DONNELL:  Congresswoman Demings, “The Miami Herald” is reporting in your

state of Florida, over 1.5 million at least have applied for unemployment

benefits, and only 40,000 have actually received any unemployment benefits.

Forty thousand sounds like what you would get in a normal month.


DEMINGS:  Lawrence, Florida taxpayers paid over $77 million for our current

unemployment system. Under Governor Rick Scott, he was advised there was

some major problems with the system, that the system was difficult to

navigate, that there were over 600 system errors, that there were problems

with the system. And he did nothing about it. There`s no evidence that he

did anything to correct it.


Last year, Governor DeSantis was informed of the problems by state auditors

with the system. He did absolutely nothing. It appears there`s no evidence

that he did to correct the many numerous flaws and errors. And now here we

are, with the pandemic as you mentioned, that has caused over a million

people to be unemployed who desperately need those benefits.


They`re being kicked out of the system. They cannot navigate it. Now, the

Governor has hired some call takers. But the problem we are seeing in

Florida deals with fundamental problems with the system that were never,

ever addressed. And we find ourselves as basically the worst at the bottom

of the list in terms of how we deal and how we process unemployment

benefits in our state and we got to do better.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Congresswoman Demings, before you go,

you`re on many speculative lists as a possible choice for Vice President

for Joe Biden as a possible Vice Presidential Candidate. Would you accept

that offer if Joe Biden made that offer?


DEMINGS: Well Lawrence, in my career, in my lifetime, I have chosen tough

jobs and when we look at what`s going on in our country right now, I have

certainly been a crisis manager in numerous situations. I would consider it

an honor if asked to serve my country alongside Vice President Biden.


O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Val Demings, thank you very much for joining us

tonight. We really appreciate it.


DEMINGS: Thank you.


O`DONNELL: And when we come back, Georgia`s Republican Governor wants

people to go to movie theaters next week. That`s after they get massages,

tattoos and haircuts this weekend. Some Mayors in Georgia are outraged by

the Governor`s decision to allow some non essential businesses to reopen.

Albany, Georgia has been hit hard by the Coronavirus. The coroner there

says it hits like a bomb. The Mayor of Albany, Georgia, will join us next.




O`DONNELL: Gyms, hair salons and tattoo parlors in Georgia will be allowed

to reopen at the end of this week. And on Monday, restaurant, dining rooms,

and movie theaters in Georgia will be allowed to reopen. But who will show

up at those restaurants and movie theaters and tattoo parlors if they



As of tonight, Georgia has 20,166 confirmed cases of Coronavirus. And 818

confirmed deaths from Coronavirus. The latest NBC/”Wall Street Journal”

poll finds 58 percent of Americans worry about lifting stay-at-home orders

too quickly while 32 percent worry it is taking too long to lift those



Albany, Georgia, a city of 75,000 people, three hours south of Atlanta has

suffered one of the worst Coronavirus clusters in the country. And joining

our discussion now is the Bo Dorough he is the Republican Mayor of Albany,

Georgia. Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What are

your concerns as Friday approaches?


MAYOR BO DOROUGH, ALBANY, GEORGIA: I`m not a Republican, Lawrence. I don`t

know who told you that.


O`DONNELL: It was in my teleprompter, so it must be true. Sorry, go ahead,

Mr. Mayor.


DOROUGH: Yes. Well, our concern obviously is to assure the safety of

employees and the customers are protected during this period of transition.

Our particular concerns are those businesses you mentioned beauty shops,

barbershops, the theaters, amusement parks, bowling alleys. We intend to

assure that these businesses understand the restrictions that they will be

operating understand.


O`DONNELL: And what would those restrictions be? I mean, we heard from the

White House today Dr. Birx saying that they have to maintain social

distance. Well, that`s at least six feet. How do you cut someone`s hair if

you`re standing six feet away?


DOROUGH: Well, that`s obviously impossible. Some of these businesses, there

is physical contact between the customer and the employee, no doubt about

it. But the Governor has implemented 20 measures, which should be followed.

And that is the conditions we`re referring to.


But more importantly, with barbershops, beauty shops, I think you`re going

to have to have spacing of the patrons in waiting rooms and probably

protective gear but for the beauticians and for the beauticians and the



O`DONNELL: Mr. Mayor, there`s two sides of this I mean, when the Governor

says these businesses are allowed to open, it doesn`t mean that every one

of these businesses will choose to open. Some business owners might find it

too risky. Some workers might find it too risky. And plenty of customers

might find it too risky, so the customers might not show up?


DOROUGH: That`s particularly true here in Albany where a large number of

our people are obviously apprehensive about returning to theaters or going

to a restaurant or getting a haircut when friends and family are in the

hospital on ventilators struggling for their lives when we`re in the midst

of a pandemic.


But that is the Governor`s Executive Order, and that order specifically

says no municipality no county can enact provision which a more stringent

than the Executive Order. So we have to live with it and we have to do the

best we can. I can tell you that some citizens who own beauty shops and

barbershops have declined to open.


I am very proud to say that our faith-based community some of our larger

churches have announced that they will not have worship services in the

sanctuary until May 17th, and they intend to insist upon social distancing

when they have those services.


Many of our churches are requesting that their elder members make

provisions such as watching the service online rather than attending for

the foreseeable future because they`re out to protect those members.


Also, I can tell you that - of course, our big manufacturers, they have

company policies that protect the employees, which are far more stringent

with what the Governor is doing. But we have seen some of these businesses,

Mr. O`Donnell, that have been warning - had been very vocal in their

opposition to our shelter in place ordinance, which we had one here in

Albany that was enacted two weeks before the statewide ordinance because of

our situation.


A gentleman that owns a gym he has removed all the equipment the bikes,

treadmills, and repositioned everything so that it`s eight feet apart.

These people have been saying we can comply with these restrictions and now

we`re going to see if they can.


O`DONNELL: Albany, Georgia`s Democratic Mayor Bo Dorough, thank you very

much for joining us tonight. I hope you and your community stay safe in the

weeks to come. Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor.


DOROUGH: Thank you.


O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`ll ask Dr. Zeke Emanuel how much

testing we will need before we can cautiously reopen some of these non-

essential businesses as they are now doing in Georgia? We`ll be right back.







like COVID-19 affects anybody and everybody, we also need to test anybody

and everybody. Only then can we think about reopening the economy, let

alone this country. Otherwise, we`re setting ourselves up for failure,

resurgence, and a second wave of COVID-19.




O`DONNELL: So far the United States has tested 4.2 million people that are

just over 1 percent of the American population. The Rockefeller Foundation

consulted with experts, including Dr. Zeke Emanuel, to create a national

plan to increase the number of Coronavirus testing to 30 million people per



The plan is estimated to cost $100 million, which the study calls a modest

investment under the circumstances. The second part of the plan calls for a

paid COVID Community Health Care Core of up to 300,000 workers to perform

contact tracing. The third part of the plan envisions a common data and

digital platform to share real time analysis of resource allocations,

disease tracing results, and patient medical records.


Joining us now is Dr. Zeke Emanuel he served in the Clinton Administration

and Obama Administrations. Dr. Emanuel is now the Vice Provost for Global

Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and an MSNBC Senior Medical



Zeke, the Rockefeller Foundation plan is the most ambitious I`ve seen. How

do you get to that level of testing?



suggest that it would happen overnight. They have suggested that you would

ramp up over time that you would have an emergency next eight weeks trying

to increase the testing capacity, mostly by utilizing labs and universities

and other places and optimizing labs.


And that they would create an accelerator so that we could figure out

better ways and faster ways to test over the next six months. So it`s

really looking at 30 million a week over the - to get to the next six



And importantly, they sort of don`t just pull this number out of the hat.

We looked at what South Korea is doing? And if you tie very, very strategic

contact tracing with testing, you can probably get away with about 2.5

million tests per day, multiply that by 7 and you`re at 17 million and then

there`s reasons to go up higher than that.


But they`re pretty strategic about how many tests you need and try to peg

it to find out who`s spreading the disease so you`re not just going blindly

forward. So I think it`s a very thoughtful report in that regard.


O`DONNELL: And this Rockefeller Foundation report that you participated in

says in Taiwan, there have been 132 tests conducted for every confirmed

test. In Australia, the number is 62, in the United States, it is 5. That

is a shocking number for the United States. What does that mean for us

going forward?


DR. EMANUEL: Well, it means what we`ve been talking about for a long time

and what you and I have talked about for weeks, which is, we have an

inadequate testing infrastructure. We have, you know, not done it well made

many mistakes along the way.


And that if we`re really going to get to a situation where we can open up

the economy, we`re going to have to have a much more robust testing

infrastructure. I think you made an excellent point in your interview of

the Mayor of Albany, Georgia, which is look, you can open these stores.


But unless people are feeling safe, they`re not going to come out. Are you

going to risk your life to have a meal in a restaurant? No. And so that is

the problem. You want to get the economy working, you can`t simply open

stores. There`s a lot of stuff that has to go into it, and people have to

feel secure.


And the only way they`re going to feel secure is if we have the right

testing regime in place, and we can assure them we have minimized risks.

Just like Harvey Feinberg said about sending kids back to school. You have

to assure people they are going to be safe in the environment in which

they`re going.


You can`t just say we`re open for business, and you know by the way you

might get sick and you might die from a disease you caught at the store or

at the university. That makes no sense. So to get the economy moving, we

have to get the public health in the right position to screen and contact

trace people to minimize the number of cases.


And that`s something I don`t think that Governor of Georgia has gotten and

many other politicians who are rushing to - we`ve got to open the economy.


O`DONNELL: Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you very much for joining our discussion

tonight. Really appreciate it.


DR. EMANUEL: Thank you, Lawrence.


O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, I don`t know about you, but as

Zeke was just saying, I don`t think I`m going to be comfortable sitting in

a theater or at a crowded restaurant again or a stadium probably until

there`s a vaccine.


Jon Cohen, an expert on vaccines, joins us next with the latest on how far

away is that kind of return to normal that could only be achieved with a





O`DONNELL: The Governor of Georgia wants movie theaters to open next week.

If movie theaters opened in your community, would you go, or is that the

kind of business that can`t really recover until we all have the safety of

a vaccine?


Joining us now, Jon Cohen, Staff Writer for “Science” magazine, he has

covered infectious diseases and vaccines for over 30 years. Jon, where are

we in the chase for the vaccine?


JON COHEN, STAFF WRITER SCIENCE MAGAZINE: I`ve never seen a more rigorous

chase for any vaccine. There are over 70 efforts under way right now. Five

have already started clinical trials. The clock starts on January 10th when

the virus is first publicly described with the sequence.


That`s a remarkable period of time. I mean from now to then, I`ve never

seen anything like this. So there`s a tremendous amount of activity.

There`s a lot of investment. There are a lot of very smart people trying to

do it.


But, you know, the question you`re raising is when are we going to be able

to go to a movie theater with the vaccine in our bodies and feel great? I

don`t know. Nobody knows. And anyone who tells you they do know isn`t

telling you the truth.


O`DONNELL: And in the competition, is this is a competition, or is this

kind of a cooperative effort among different researchers on getting to a



COHEN: I - I think there`s a remarkable attempt to coordinate this and to

collaborate. Scientists don`t always get along and don`t always

collaborate. There always is competition. Some of it`s healthy. Some of it

isn`t. We have to wait and see.


Right now I see several organizations attempting to organize the field. But

it`s going to be a big question how you narrow down from more than 70 to

one, two, three that are going to be produced? I mean I don`t know in the

end how many will work. I don`t know if any will work.


I`m hopeful that we`ll have a vaccine. It doesn`t look like that tough of a

scientific nut to crack. But there`s a lot of uncertainty, and that`s hard

for people to accept, but that`s reality.


O`DONNELL: And if we get to the point where that nut has been cracked, as

you put it, and there is a vaccine and it`s a vaccine that seems very

reliable and actually gets to the point of being proven to be reliable, how

do you scale up the manufacture of that to deliver it not just to the 330

million Americans who want it right away but the whole world wants it right



COHEN: Yes, that`s a huge challenge. And people are fortunately putting

some thought into that now. Bill Gates has talked about even financing

building plants for vaccines that never get made so that that problem

doesn`t occur.


Questions of equity and access are going to become real if there is a

working vaccine. There are big pharmaceutical companies in the game. There

also are some old-fashioned technologies that are here that most everyone

could do. So we have to just wait and see what proves effective.


I think it`s important to talk about it now because equity and access are

hard to talk about after the fact.


O`DONNELL: Well, I mean equity, if we just looked at it in national terms

and didn`t think beyond our borders, for example, how African countries can

possibly compete with us to get the vaccine?


Just within the United States, how long do you think it would take to get

from the privileged where it would surely begin in terms of distribution

all the way through to the poverty population of America?


COHEN: I`ve never seen anything hit the entire world the way this virus has

hit it, and maybe climate change has, but some people don`t even believe in

that. Everyone believes in this virus. I don`t think we`re going to be able

to silo ourselves like that as the United States.


So let`s just say what`s the timeline for any country? And it could well be

China, to make a vaccine and prove that it works. The estimates are at

least a year if everything goes well. I`ve watched a lot of vaccine



Things don`t go well most of the time. There are small problems that crop

up even with something that`s a good vaccine. So say it`s a year, say its

18 months, and that`s optimistic. There are attempts to speed things up

more quickly, to make some shortcuts. They`re inventive, and they could

work. But we`re talking big gambles.


O`DONNELL: And let`s say the vaccine is developed. Does it take another

year after it`s developed for it to be distributed to all Americans or more

than a year?


COHEN: Not necessarily. I mean we could ramp up production depending on the

technology that`s being used. We could ramp up production to hundreds of

millions, if not billions of doses if we prepare properly.


And I think the discussions are happening now. I`m heartened to see that.

But, you know, I`m a skeptic. I think we have to remain skeptical about

this until we really see the plants are built and are running and people

are doing these things.


Lots of little things can trip up production of a biological product like a

vaccine. This isn`t making a drug with chemicals, you know. It`s taking the

virus, reformulating it in a way that it helps us rather than attacks us.


O`DONNELL: Jon Cohen gets tonight`s last word. Thank you very much for

joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.


COHEN: Thanks Lawrence.







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