US. Food banks struggle TRANSCRIPT: 5/6/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O. Donnell

Guests:
Harvey Fineberg, Ezra Klein, Ron Klain; Dara Kass; Beto O`Rourke
Transcript:

 

 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  She was treated yesterday afternoon at Johns

Hopkins for a gallstone problem that resulted in an infection.

 

Well tonight we can report that Justice Ginsburg is out of the hospital. 

Supreme Court just releasing this, quote, “Justice Ginsburg has been

discharged from the hospital.  She`s doing well and glad to be home.  The

Justice will return to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland

for follow-up – outpatient visits over the next few weeks to eventually

remove the gallstone, non-surgically.”

 

Justice Ginsburg is 87-years-young.  She has survived pancreatic cancer,

and lung cancer.  Despite her hospital visit yesterday and today, she

participated in the Court`s teleconference oral arguments every single day

this week, perfect attendance.  God bless her.  Seriously, God bless and

keep her.  Please.

 

That does it for us tonight.  We will see again tomorrow.

 

Now it`s time for “The Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell.” Good evening

Lawrence.

 

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

 

She`s – she`s just playing with us now, right.  I mean – this going to

the hospital, hearing the case while at the hospital, doing things that I

couldn`t have done 20 years ago.

 

MADDOW:  Yes.  Serious.  I mean and let`s be honest, she could bench-press

either one of us.

 

O`DONNELL:  Oh, I`ve lost sound from Rachel.  Does Rachel have sound from

me?

 

Oh.

 

MADDOW:  Bye.

 

O`DONNELL:  I hear your laugh.  All I wanted to hear was there laugh.  That

was great.  Thank you, Rachel.

 

I lost a little bit of Rachel sound there but I got the laugh.  That`s all

that matters.

 

Well, how long did you have to wait, to get the food that you ate today?

Did you have it delivered to your home? Do you have to wait in line at the

grocery store? How long did you have to wait? Did you have trouble paying

for the food that you ate today?

 

In Beto O`Rourke`s hometown of El Paso, the daily lines for food banks are

two and three miles long.  That`s how long you have to wait for food in

this country now, and some places have seen longer lines than that.  Beto

O`Rourke will join us later in this hour.

 

Ezra Klein, will also be joining us later in this hour.

 

And we will end the hour tonight with some very special words of wisdom

from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel Laureate in Literature who wrote,

“One Hundred Years of Solitude,” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.” His

son, the film director, Rodrigo Garcia, shared some of that wisdom in a

beautifully written piece, in the New York Times, it`s one of the two most

important things I`ve read today, I will bring you that at the end of the

hour, along with the other most important thing that I`ve read today which

was written by 25-year-old (Chase Beach) who sees something now on her

neighborhood walks, that most if not all of us have been missing.  And it

is very important.

 

And if you stick around to the end of the show, you`re going to learn

something profound as I did today when I read (Chase)`s writing.

 

No president has flip-flopped more than Donald Trump.  Beginning with,

“Mexico will pay for the wall,” To years of flip-flopping that has left the

most self-contradictory president in history constantly trying to spin his

own spin during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

He has gone from predicting zero deaths from coronavirus in the United

States, to a hundred thousand deaths in the United States.  And after 24

hours of watching how badly his decision to end the White House Coronavirus

Task Force played on television, which is the only thing that counts for

Donald Trump, today Donald Trump`s said this.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  I think we could

wind down sooner but I had no idea how popular the Task Force is until

actually yesterday, when I started talking about winding it down..

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  He`s like the president of a failing TV network that cancels a

show and then hears some protests from the audience and decides to renew

the show.

 

For Donald Trump the Coronavirus Task Force has always been about the TV

show that he was able to produce for a couple of hours every day in the

White House press briefing room, and Donald Trump canceled the TV show when

the worst possible thing that could have happened on that TV show happened. 

And Donald Trump said the stupidest thing, anyone in America has been

caught saying about the coronavirus.

 

And those are the words, that will mark Donald Trump`s place in history,

the words that got that TV show canceled.

 

Donald Trump`s name will be forever matched with those words indelibly

etched in America`s memory, the way we remember Abraham Lincoln, saying, “A

house divided against itself cannot stand,” and Franklin Delano Roosevelt

saying, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, ” and John

Fitzgerald Kennedy saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask

what you can do for your country.” And I just recited all of those quotes

from memory.

 

But no one will be able to – recite the famous Trump quote, from memory,

because incoherence is too difficult for the mind to reproduce word for

word but when kids taking the SAT a hundred years from now, come upon this

quote, they will have no trouble identifying the president who said it.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  And then I see

the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is

there a way we can do something like that by injection, inside or almost a

cleaning because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous

number on the lungs, so it`d be interesting to check that so that you don`t

to have to use medical doctors but it sounds – it sounds interesting to me

so we`ll see.  But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one

minute, that`s – that`s pretty powerful.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes.  That`s pretty powerful.

 

You know, how it feels to be in a foreign country where you don`t speak the

language and no one speaks your language.  That`s the way Donald Trump`s

feels everyday, all day, all the time.

 

Donald Trump knows that whenever he`s talking about anything other than

golf and the leading modeling agencies in New York City in the 1980s, he

has no idea what he`s talking about.

 

And since Donald Trump is firmly opposed to doing any work that could

replace his ignorance with knowledge, he knows that that could happen

again, in the White House briefing room.  That`s why he canceled the show.

 

And because we all criticized him last night for canceling the show, today

he`s saying something else.  No one knows what`s going to happen next with

the Coronavirus Task Force, least of all Donald Trump because he is at the

mercy of his moods.  He does not control his moods so the Task Force might

continue as a TV show.  It might not continue as a TV show.  It might

continue as a disorganized group of people who collect information about

the pandemic and share some of it with the public.

 

We don`t know.  And Donald Trump`s doesn`t know because Donald Trump`s

doesn`t know what his mood is going to be tomorrow or the next day or the

next day.

 

That`s why we will continue to bring you healthcare professionals and

policy experts to share with you the latest best information about the

pandemic every night.  You cannot expect the White House to do that for

you.  They won`t.

 

A troubling new report in “The New York Times,” indicates that coronavirus

could pose a danger to children in a way not previously recognized. 

Reporting on the experience in a Long Island hospital for children, “The

Time” says, “In the past two days alone, the Hospital, Cohen Children`s

Medical Center has admitted five critically ill patients, ages 4 to 12 with

an unusual sickness that appears to be somehow linked to COVID-19, the

disease caused by coronavirus.

 

In total about 25 similarly ill children have been admitted there in recent

– weeks with symptoms ranging from reddened tongues to enlarge coronary

arteries.  No solid data yet exists about how many children in the United

States have fallen ill with what doctors are calling Pediatric Multi-System

Inflammatory Syndrome.

 

“This is really only a disease that has been clear for two weeks now so

there is so much we`re trying to learn about this,” the Chief of Pediatric

Critical Care, at Cohen Children`s, Dr. James Schneider said in an

interview on Tuesday.

 

Nathaniel Lasch (ph) has produced two important – paragraphs for “The New

York Times,” that depict what the coronavirus curve looks like in America.

 

First there is this curve showing the coronavirus for the entire United

States which appears to be at a plateau that might be headed down but

that`s mostly because the numbers are going down in the epicenter of New

York.

 

Here is what the curve looks like in the rest of the United States, with

New York removed from the calculation.  Just removing New York City,

changes that curve.  The national trend is still increasing in cases of

coronavirus.

 

Michael Osterholm has joined us on this program many times.  He is the

Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the

University Of Minnesota.  Michael Osterholm describes what those graphs

mean, this way.

 

“It`s not a leveling off.  It`s a painful handoff.”

 

New York is handing off the problem to the rest of the country as New

York`s numbers continue to go down.

 

The United States now has 1,234,677 reported diagnosed cases of

coronavirus.  And the United States now has 73,863 officially reported

deaths from coronavirus.

 

Pete Sussey (ph) is a Critical Care nurse at the Cook County Health in

Chicago.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

PETE SUSSEY (ph), CRITICAL CARE NURSE, COOK COUNTY HEALTH, CHICAGO:  I keep

coming back because the patients need us.

 

But the biggest thing is the patients who need us, you know, to also stay

healthy for them because if we get sick who`s going to be here for you.

 

The biggest concern for the public is you know, reopening our cities and

getting stuff moving which will be great for all of us, including me.  I

want to – I want to go.  I want to be able to go out to dinner and do

something.

 

But unfortunately we can`t right now.  We really have to get this virus

under control to prevent it from spreading out even further than what it

has.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion tonight is Ron Klain, a former

senior aide to President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.  He served as

the Ebola Czar during the Obama administration, and his co-host of the

Podcast, “Epidemic.”

 

Also with is Dr. Dara Kass.  She`s an associate professor of Emergency

Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.  She`s the Medical

Contributor for Yahoo! News.

 

And Ron let me just start with you on the White House Coronavirus Task

Force.  Do you – is there any way to guess whether it is still working? 

Whether it will ever make a public appearance again? Who will be allowed to

speak? What will – what they will not be allowed to say and what they will

be allowed to say?

 

RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE PRESIDENT OBAMA & VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN &

FORMER EBOLA CZAR:  Well, Lawrence, the problem is, it`s never really

worked.  It`s been more reality show than reality and that`s why we`re in

the mess we`re in.

 

Look, the virus is a disease but the response is a policy response.  And

that response has been wholly inadequate in the United States.  It`s why we

lead the world in cases, it`s why we lead the world in deaths.  That`s why

we`re 5 percent of the world`s population but a third of the world`s cases. 

And that failure, the White House Task Force is what drives this.

 

Now President Trump focused on this as a TV show and the TV show at one

point had good ratings and now it`s producing some bad episodes.  And so as

a TV producer he`s struggling what to do.  But as president he should be

focused on he fix this response; we get testing; we get our healthcare

workers protected; we bend the curve down; and we continue to practice

social distancing.

 

And by focusing on the TV elements of it, is just another distraction from

the hard work that isn`t getting done.

 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Kass, I want to begin tonight with this new reporting about

how coronavirus might be affecting children.  Have you seen any of these

cases or have they been reported to you in your practice in New York?

 

DR. DARA KASS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR,  EMERGENCY MEDICINE AT COLUMBIA

UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER & MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR, YAHOO! NEWS:  Yes.  So

these cases are being seen in New York and at the hospital I work at. 

Friends of mine who work in the Pediatric ER and in the Pediatric Hospital

have been seeing them as well.

 

What we know is that actually it mirrors similar symptoms to what we`ve

seen in adults although we really don`t know very much about it, which I

think highlights the larger picture which is that we don`t know a lot about

what this virus is doing to anybody.

 

We don`t know what its long-term effects are, if this is actually something

that happens after you recover from the virus and not part of the active

infection, then that look – like shows us how much more we need to stay

home and learn more about this virus before we just declare that we`ve you

know, mission accomplished.  Which seems to be the messaging coming out of

(the whole administration).

 

O`DONNELL:  So Doctor, what do we say to parents now? They were worried

enough, they`re worried enough about their own health and I think parents

had kind of a right based on public information to be relatively relaxed

about the kids, especially elementary school-age kids.  This story says, we

really have to pay attention when kids that age have any kind of symptoms.

 

KASS:  So I think that this story and this reporting really needs to be put

into context, which it`s still very, very rare to see these syndromes at

all in children.  It`s much more common for a child with a fever, and an

abdominal pain, it`s like an appendicitis.  But both of these conditions

whether – inflammatory condition or appendicitis should be evaluated by

your doctor or in an ER.

 

One of the things we`re reminding people is that our Emergency Department

are open.  And we are ready willing and able to take care of all the

patients that need us, not just those with coronavirus.  So if you`re

concerned about your child, call your pediatrician, call a telemedicine

visit or just go to the ER.

 

O`DONNELL:  Doctor, Quickly, how long has that been the case? It`s – it`s

funny to hear you say that our emergency rooms are open and they are open

to anyone who has a complaint, you don`t have to come in with coronavirus. 

I`m not sure when New York City crossed that line where you could say that?

 

KASS:  So I think that that happened, I would say about a week or two ago. 

We said the patients, we know you stayed home to help us take care of the

coronavirus patients but we do want the patients that need to be in the ER

coming in and the best way to figure that out is if you call your doctor or

even do a telemedicine visit, we will tell you to go to the ER if you need

to be there.

 

The most important thing is that we continue to walk with (two guns) to

take care of the patients with coronavirus and those that are having the

other syndromes and symptoms that have been staying away from the ER before

this.

 

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, I want to talk about those graphs that “The New York

Times” produced where you show the picture with New York City, and if you

take New York City out, and the country looks like it`s in much more

trouble than it does with those declining numbers from New York City.  That

seems to me to be what you might expect in the behavior of a pandemic like

this?

 

KLAIN:  Yes.  And I think – I`ve said several times on your show Lawrence. 

I think that we have this image from early on in the epidemic that the

curve of this disease would be some kind of parabola, like a figure you saw

in high school geometry that went up smoothly and came down smoothly.

 

And the history of epidemics is very different than that.  They go up

quickly but they come down very slowly.  They`re steep on the rise, and

then flat on the decline.

 

And that`s what we`re seeing.  Even in New York where they are making

progress and the number of cases are down, it`s still more flat than down. 

And in the rest of the country it is still going up, and that`s I think the

most important point here Lawrence.

 

I understand that this is gone on for a long time in people`s minds but

we`re in the craziest circumstance you can imagine which is not only – not

only we`re reopening as in many places as the disease is getting worst.  I

mean the laxed White House guidelines that we should see, 14 days of

decline in a jurisdiction before it reopened, we have places reopening

where the disease is going up, not down, let alone down for 14 days.

 

And that means that line that is still going up on that chart, it`s going

to continue to go up in more and more places.

 

O`DONNELL:  Ron, are you surprised that no one involved with the White

House Coronavirus Task Force has come out and said, these places are

violating our guidelines by reopening?

 

KLAIN:  Yes.  Lawrence, I think it`s stunning.  I mean Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx,

stood in the White House briefing room on April the 16th and said the first

step before reopening, should be 14 days of decline in jurisdiction.

 

Now I didn`t think that was strong enough.  But let`s state that standard

as it is.  To allow places to reopen, and not to really vigorously stomp

your feet about it, where that low standard isn`t even met, seems like

something the White House should be on top of.

 

Instead Lawrence, of course, the president is cheering on places opening in

contravention of his own White House`s policy.  I mean that`s a level of

disconnect.  I think it`s just impossible to understand.

 

O`DONNELL:  And Ron, with my experience inside government, tell me if it

would work this way on a – in a situation like this.  I assumed the

experts asked for four weeks, and the politicians gave them two weeks in

the guidelines; that that guideline, two-week was a compromise to begin

with?

 

I don`t know, could – Ron, can you – oh, Ron, I guess we`ve lost Ron`s

connection.

 

So I`m going to have to leave it there.

 

Dr. Dara Kass, Ron Klain, thank you both for starting us off tonight.

 

And when we come back, Beto O`Rourke will join us.  Texas is setting

records for the number of cars in line, at Texas food banks.  Beto O`Rourke

says there`s a better way to feed the millions of people who cannot afford

to pay for food in this country now.  Beto O`Rourke joins us next.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

O`DONNELL:  It is very hard to prioritize needs in a crisis like this

pandemic.  If you had to choose tonight, between getting enough food to

feed your family, or getting tested for coronavirus, what would you choose?

 

It`s an impossible choice of course, that no one should ever have to make

but it is also a choice that we have to make, in the way we report on this

pandemic.  We have a medical crisis.  We have an employment crisis.  We

have a rent crisis.  We have a food crisis.  And others all happening at

the same time, and we have spent more time talking about the medical crisis

than all of the other aspects of this crisis combined.  Which might be the

right balance.

 

But if your problem tonight is you`re hungry and your family is hungry, and

you cannot afford food, then there is nothing more important than that. 

The food crisis needs a voice.  It needs someone who can get our attention

and keep our attention.  Someone who can make that crisis real, so people

who aren`t – experiencing it every day, to people who are just worried

about their own health and safety.

 

El Paso`s former Congressman Beto O`Rourke, has watched the lines at the

food banks in El Paso`s stretch two to three miles long.  He knows the

people in those lines.  And he`s here to speak for them.  Joining us now

is, Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic Congressman representing El Paso,

Texas.  He`s now the Founder of Powered by the People, a political group

dedicated to supporting Texas Democrats in the 2020 election.

 

Beto O`Rourke thank you very, very much for joining us tonight.  Tell us

what you`re seeing in those lines; those are lines unlike anything we`ve

seen before?

 

BETO O`ROURKE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN REPRESENTING EL PASO, TEXAS &

FOUNDER, “POWERED BY THE PEOPLE:”  Lawrence, it`s – it`s absolutely

heartbreaking.  The lines in El Paso, which is where I live, stretch two to

three miles long, every single day.  And in those lines are people who have

never before needed food assistance or been food insecure.

 

In those lines are the newly unemployed but also in those lines I often see

nurses in scrubs, who`ve just gotten off work, perhaps their wife or their

husband has lost their job in this economic contraction, and on one salary

alone they can no longer feed themselves.

 

I see people in beat-up trucks.  I see people in nice cars.  This economic

downturn and food insecurity seemingly has spared almost no one.

 

The CEO of the food bank in El Paso was talking to a cashier at Walgreens,

where the starting pay is 10 bucks an hour and told her that she ran the

food bank, and the cashier almost broke down in tears saying, “You mean

there`s a place I can go to for food?”

 

I read a report today, nearly one out of every five moms in this country

who has young children, report that their kids are not getting enough to

eat.  That is three times the level that we saw in 2008, in the worst of

that recession and crisis.  So these are food insecurities and demand for

food that we haven`t seen in this country since perhaps the Great

Depression.

 

O`DONNELL:  How do you – you could come on this program anytime you want

to talk about anything you want, any aspect of this pandemic, any aspect of

it that you want.  How do you choose this? And how do you get people to

focus on this problem when their home with their doors closed just worried

about their own health and safety even though they have enough to eat and

they`ve so many other issues that are coming at them in this?

 

If this was happening alone as a phenomenon in this country, it would be

getting all of our attention.  But how do you get the attention that he

needs?

 

O`ROURKE:  I think you said it really well in introducing this segment.  I

mean if you – if you don`t have enough food in your system than the health

concerns that you have amidst this pandemic; your job concerns you have

with this historic economic contraction, your ability to provide for

yourself and your family, to make sure that they`re healthy to go out and

find another job down the road, all of that is compromised if you cannot

put enough calories in your system to survive.

 

But most alarming of all are those little kids that mothers across America

are telling us, are not getting food that they need.  That is going to

stunt their development, their growth, their potential, their opportunities

down the road, and by extension, it will stunt our growth and our

opportunities as a country.

 

You know, I was seeing this crisis develop in El Paso and across Texas, and

then Matt Russell, who is a farmer in Iowa, and Bob Leonard who is a

reporter who covers rural communities throughout that state, reached out to

me and they told me that, farmers are plowing their produce back into the

field.  Dairy farmers are dumping milk instead of getting it out.

 

And you have these lines where people are waiting hours long to get help. 

And they hit upon this wonderful idea, what if you just expanded the

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, or Food Stamps,

and make sure that more people could go to a grocery store, which is

already figure out the logistics of getting food from the farms, to the

warehouse, to the store, and into people`s shopping carts, and into their

homes, into their stomachs, instead of making people wait in these

humiliatingly long lines, and putting all this pressure on food banks who

are seeing extraordinary demand.

 

In El Paso, demand has increased 400 percent at the food bank in this

community.  They just were not built for this.  And a charity alone won`t

solve the problem.

 

So a SNAP program that now costs us, the American taxpayer, $60 billion to

expand that to make sure that everyone who is unemployed is now eligible. 

To expand it to include the undocumented immigrants, who as you know,

Lawrence, are by and large the ones who are picking our food in the fields,

to make sure that we can put dinner on the table for our families.

 

To expand it for the length of the economic downturn, and not just the

healthcare crisis, is morally the right thing to do.  It`s in our own self

interest.  And we the wealthiest, the most powerful country on the face of

the Planet, can afford to do so.

 

O`DONNELL:  Well, how do you do it in a – in a Washington where the

president and the Republican Senate is more worried about getting cruise

ships back on the ocean, than feeding people in Texas?

 

O`ROURKE:  We`re really going to need members of Congress and by extension

their constituents, regardless of party affiliation or geography, to demand

that we do the right thing.

 

An interesting fact that Matt and Bob brought to my attention, the largest

beneficiaries of SNAP or Food Stamps are those who live in rural

communities.  And we often know that that`s correlated with Republican

representation.

 

So this is something that should appeal to all of us, regardless of

partisanship or any other division, geographic or otherwise, to do the

right thing.

 

And while we are rightfully trying to get money to small businesses, trying

to get cash assistance to our fellow Americans, in some instances bailing

out very large corporations, this country has the resources to help those

who are in need and who cannot feed themselves.

 

And another really important point, Lawrence, if we expand this to allow

people to use SNAP in restaurants, we help that mom and pop restaurants

stay afloat, pay their employees, contribute to the local economy. This is

a win-win across the board for everyone. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And, of course, the Food Stamp Program was born in bipartisan

compromise. Bob Dole getting together with most – one of the most liberal

members of the Senate, George McGovern, both from farm states. They located

the program in the Agriculture Department because they knew it would be

good for farmers. If they could just get a bit of that spirit back. You

could get at least some of this done. 

 

Beto O`Rourke, thank you very, very much for joining us tonight, and thank

you for bringing our attention, keeping our attention on this problem.

Really appreciate it. 

 

O`ROURKE:  Thank you. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, Dr. Harvey Fineberg will join us. 

 

He was watching last night when Laurie Garrett got a lot of attention on

this program by talking about the difference between tactics and strategy

in fighting the coronavirus. Dr. Harvey Fineberg, former Dean of the

Harvard School of Public Health joins us next. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

 

O`DONNELL:  Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Laurie Garrett got a lot of

attention on this program last night when she made the very important

distinction between tactics and strategy. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

 

LAURIE GARRETT, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST:  All the arguments that

discussions the debates that we hear across America whether it`s angrily

storming your state capitol to protest lockdowns or its demands for test,

test, test, test, test, these are all just tactics. 

 

They`re not what is your long term strategy? What is your strategic goal?

And we don`t have a national strategic goal. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

 

O`DONNELL:  Laurie Garrett wants to tell us that the only strategic goal

that matters is getting rid of coronavirus, which she said ultimately needs

an effective vaccine that is affordable worldwide. 

 

Joining our discussion now, Dr. Harvey Fineberg. He is the former President

of the National Academy of Medicine. He is the Chair of the National

Academy`s Standing Committees on Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is

advising the White House. 

 

Dr. Feinberg, I want to read something you wrote in “The New England

Journal of Medicine” on April 23rd, which reads like an echo of what I was

hearing from Laurie Garrett last night. 

 

You said, “The aim is not to flatten the curve. The goal is to crush the

curve. Rather than stumble through a series of starts and stops and half

measures on both the health and economic fronts, we should forge a strategy

to defeat the coronavirus and open the way to economic revival.” 

 

Dr. Fineberg, what would that strategy look like? 

 

DR. HARVEY FINEBERG, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF MEDICINE: 

The first point in strategy is to establish a unified command structure. 

 

Lawrence, we have not had a hierarchy of control and management of this

pandemic with a strategic aim, as you said, of crushing the curve, of

eliminating the virus. 

 

If we had that, we would then need to have sufficient intelligence about

the enemy, about the virus and that means an adequate number of tests

deployed strategically to give us the intelligence that we need to fight

the virus most effectively. 

 

Even today, with all the improvements, we still do not have the number or

types of tests deployed around the country to give us that intelligence

that we need. 

 

Third, we have to have an adequate capacity to follow up and manage

isolating the cases that have the virus, isolating the people who have been

exposed in a quarantine situation so they do not contract and send the

virus to others, and contact tracing, which gives us the capacity to

identify those who are at risk. 

 

If we do these things while we intensify the search for effective

treatments, and ultimately a vaccine that is safe and effective, we have a

strategy that has the winning potential. 

 

We need to play offense. We cannot constantly simply be reacting to what

the virus is doing at one point in time or another. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Doctor, well, you just framed it in, basically in war terms,

and you said we need to have intelligence about the enemy, and that that is

the point of testing. The most basic point of testing is getting that

intelligence about the enemy. 

 

That to me is the most persuasive phrasing and conceptual framework I`ve

heard yet for testing`s role in this battle. 

 

FINEBERG:  Testing has multiple functions, Lawrence. Yes, you need to

identify individuals who are infected or who could be infected. 

 

But you also need what`s called surveillance in the community to identify

the number of cases, the distribution of cases where risk is increasing,

where it may be diminishing, so you know how to deploy your resources most

efficiently to curtail the spread. 

 

The whole game here is to stop the spread of this infection from one person

to another, and that`s where you start with that intelligence about the

virus. 

 

We know that through testing. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Harvey Fineberg, thank you very much for joining us once

again. We need your guidance in these times and we appreciate your joining

us. We really do. Thank you. 

 

FINEBERG:  My pleasure. 

 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, Ezra Klein will join us. He wants to

discuss the tactics and strategy we need to be using to deal with an

economy that is racing past recession toward depression, and they aren`t

the tactics or strategy that the White House is talking about. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

 

O`DONNELL:  Ezra Klein tweeted something today that caught my eye and that

I immediately retweeted, “We could phase out of lockdown safely if the

Federal government had done the work on testing and tracing. We could phase

out of lockdown safely if the Federal government had done the work on

testing and tracing. We could phase out on the lockdown …” 

 

It`s the kind of thing that you could write a lot more about it, but you

really don`t have to write a lot more about it. That pretty much tells the

story. 

 

Dr. Tom Frieden, the former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention appeared before a House Subcommittee today to share his plan for

controlling the spread of coronavirus and responsibly, very gradually

reopening some economic activity. 

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

 

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND

PREVENTION:  We`re conditioned to think in terms of dichotomies, A versus

B. But in this case, open versus closed is not a dichotomy. It`s more

accurate to think of a dimmer switch or a dimmer dial than an on/off switch

with gradations to avoid undue risk. 

 

Another false dichotomy is between public health and economic security. In

fact, the very best way to get our economy back is to control the virus and

economic stability is critically important to the public`s health. 

 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

 

O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Ezra Klein. He is the co-founder of

Vox, host of the podcast “The Ezra Klein Show” and author of the recently

released book, “Why We Are Polarized.” 

 

And Ezra, this is one of those moments that reminds me of that slogan they

had up on the wall in the Clinton presidential campaign in 1992, it`s the

economy, stupid. 

 

They just wanted – to them, every issue came back to the economy, and it

seems to me that no matter which way we want to look at this, we`re always

coming back to the virus. I mean, even the discussion we just had with Beto

O`Rourke, long term, the best way to get those people fed is to get this

virus crushed, so that they can get back to work, so that they can be able

to afford foods, so that they can get out of the line to the food bank. 

 

And in every single economic discussion about what`s going on here, if it`s

realistic, comes back to how do you crush the virus? 

 

EZRA KLEIN, COFOUNDER, VOX:  We have made this so much harder by being so

bad at it. I can`t stress that enough. But this was always going to be

hard, but it didn`t need to be this complicated. 

 

And the way it wouldn`t have been this complicated is if at the beginning,

when, we, the people made this tremendous sacrifice, economic, social,

personal, to go into lockdown, the Federal government had had an actual

plan with timeframes on it, which they followed, in which they actually got

the country ready for what was going to come on the other side. 

 

There are two words to talk about strategy here, I think are really

important when thinking about this. Security and predictability. 

 

You want on the one hand security in health and you want it in the economy,

and for a while, those are going to require unusual things from us. 

 

In the economic dimension, there`s going to have to be a tremendous amount

of government support of the economy, of wages, in particular, to say

nothing of businesses themselves, in order to allow people to do what they

need to do in order to be secure from the virus. 

 

But the other thing you need is predictability, and that is particularly

true in the economy, right? We need to say, six months from now, we will be

doing X. Here`s where we expect to be and that`s also true in what we`re

doing with the virus. 

 

People are not going to lock down forever if they don`t believe that time

is being used well and they don`t see what`s coming on the other end of it. 

 

The word quarantine comes from Italian word for 40 because it was 40 days

originally, when we were doing this many, many, many, many years ago. 

 

The Federal government completely has failed to execute a plan. And so what

they`ve been in is an incredibly costly holding pattern that they are –

that they are now no longer willing to pay the cost of. 

 

It is the most profound and far-reaching failure of political leadership

probably in our lifetime. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, I want to go back to a tweet that you did in April, end of

the month, April 29th. You said, “Donald Trump does not want to be in

charge of any of this. He wants to play President on TV. He doesn`t want

responsibility for governance, in time of crisis. And in every way he can,

he is refusing to do that job and lashing out at those who asked him to do

it.” 

 

And Ezra, that`s what we`re seeing in the point you just made about the

guidelines being announced of, you know, we want to close things down. We

want people to socially distance, the White House guidelines. 

 

But after issuing the guidelines, they had no strategy whatsoever on how to

achieve something beneficial during that time period. It`s like the

guidelines came out and they just sat there and hoped. 

 

KLEIN:  Guidelines are not a plan, and also the President never followed

the guidelines. I mean, to this moment, he is not following the guidelines.

He is routinely contradicting them. The whole thing is wild. 

 

But think about a hypothetical here. Imagine this was the Obama

administration. Imagine it was the Hillary Clinton administration. You

remember as I do, Lawrence, just a couple of weeks ago in, I think we now

call Stimulus 3.5, that it was described as a concession to Democrats. 

 

There was $25 billion and a mandate to have a national testing strategy.

Can you imagine a Clinton administration on this? How desperate they would

be for the money to do testing? How many bullet points their testing

strategy would have? 

 

A normal Federal government – and by the way, not just a Democratic one.

If Governor DeWine was President, if Mitt Romney were President, if Marco

Rubio were President, they would be desperate to have a plan here, the

financing for a plan, and a structure for a plan and to be carrying it out

so that when they ran for reelection this year, they could say, we saved

the country from this. 

 

But Donald Trump, the reason it was a Democratic concession, which it

actually was, was Donald Trump does not want to have responsibility for

testing. He has wanted from the beginning to put this entire thing on

states and cities, which do not have the resources, the power, the

coordination capacity to solve the problems in the testing supply chain,

not to mention to get the innovation we need to get the sort of 20, 25, 35

million tests a day that we will ultimately need to open up safely in the

absence of a vaccine. 

 

He has never wanted this. He wants to be the head of state. He enjoys doing

these press conferences, which is why he keeps doing them despite the fact

that they`ve often been bad for him. 

 

And now his people are finally pulling him off of it, but he has never

wanted to do the hard work of daily governance, the grind of the meetings,

the actual pushing of it, and we are all suffering for it. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Ezra Klein, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I

really appreciate it. 

 

KLEIN:  Thank you. 

 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you. When we come back, I`d like to leave you with some

wisdom and beauty and that means I`m going to be quoting other people.

We`ll be right back. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

 

O`DONNELL:  The two most important things that I read today were written by

friends of mine, with whom I always have light and easy conversations that

never get to the depth displayed in their writing. 

 

The first is from the brilliant filmmaker, Rodrigo Garcia, who I`ve had the

honor of working with. He has published a piece in “The New York Times”

entitled “A letter to my father, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.” 

 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel laureate and literature and author of

“One Hundred Years of Solitude,” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Gabriel

Garcia Marquez died six years ago. 

 

And in the letter, Rodrigo wonders what his father would have had to say

about our worlds being gripped in a pandemic. “You said once that what

haunts us about epidemics is that they remind us of personal fate, despite

precautions, medical care, age or wealth. Anyone can draw the unlucky

number.” 

 

Rodrigo Garcia speaks for me, and I`m sure many of you when he writes, “I`m

still in a fog. It seems for now that I`ll have to wait for the Masters

present and future to metabolize the shared experience. I look forward to

that day, a song, a poem, a movie, or a novel will finally point me in the

general direction of where my thoughts and feelings about this whole thing

are buried.” 

 

“When I get there, I`m sure I`ll still have to do some of the digging

myself.” 

 

The other piece of writing I want to leave you with is by 25-year-old Chace

Beech. There`s a picture of Chace back in the days when I met her with her

father Steve, who is as kind and capable and dependable as you could ever

hope for in a friend and neighbor. 

 

Like many 25-year-olds, Chace is riding up the pandemic at home with her

parents, sleeping in her childhood bedroom. But Chace got a head start.

Chace writes, “I got the call from my mom two years ago, Daddy is in the

ICU, she said. He has a brain tumor.

 

Chace didn`t have to think about what to do. She immediately flew home to

Los Angeles from New York City and never looked back. She gave up her

promising job where she was getting a promotion after promotion and devoted

herself to taking care of her father. 

 

Now Chace is not the only one of her friends who is worried about her

parents` health. Many other 25-year-olds whose parents have aged into the

higher risk group for coronavirus have a new worry tonight that they didn`t

have at their last New Year`s Eve party. 

 

Chace Beech says that her friends` new worries about their parents` health

has made her feel not quite so alone on what she calls this “island of

parental anxiety.” 

 

Since the quarantine began in Los Angeles, Chace`s life and her father`s

life haven`t changed too much. They take the same walk every day with Chace

pushing Steve`s wheelchair, but Chace sees something on her neighborhood

walks that I`ve totally missed. 

 

Something beautiful, something profound. 

 

“When neighbors see us coming, they make an effort to swing well away, even

more than the suggested six feet. This gesture, the way our neighbors step

away is a small example of this puzzling reality we`re all facing. In order

to stay safe, we must stay away. We stay away in order to remain in a way,

together.” 

 

“If we are afraid enough of one another, or for one another, we may be able

to save each other. Love and fear, distance and solidarity have never been

more obviously conjoined.” 

 

Chace Beech, that`s tonight`s LAST WORD. Good night, Chace. Good night,

Steve. 

 

“The 11th hour” with Brian Williams starts now. 

 

 

 

END   

 

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