Coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 5/8/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell

Justin Wolfers, Angela Duckworth



RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Do you need a best new thing in the world today?

I do. We got one that`s plural. May I introduce the newest members of the

“Rachel Maddow Show” family? Oliver James and Henry Joseph. Oliver James is

the elder brother by four whole minutes, which we are hoping and expecting

him to lord over Henry Joseph their whole happy lives.


Both kiddos are perfect as you can see and absolutely healthy and already

speaking up on their own behalf. They of course, will be the beginning of a

whole new adventure for our beloved associate producer Johanna. Johanna, we

are so happy for you and for Mike and for these little bundles of joy.


It is a crazy time in the world, but these guys are pure joy. We`re so

happy for you. Best new kiddos in the world today. All right, now it is

time for a special hour here on MSNBC, “Life in the Time of Coronavirus”

hosted by Dr. Zeke Emanuel and our own Ali Veslhi. Good evening Ali.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, it`s these things that I seek out, right,

these little great messages, these babies born, these people celebrating,

people doing what they can for graduations and marking this change in this

time of coronavirus.


We do need these things. We have to stay on the news and we have to hold

power to account, but we do have to celebrate the fact that life will go on

and one day will get back to normal so thank you for sharing that with us.

Have a great weekend.


MADDOW: We have to check this stuff. We have to check this stuff. It has to

be part of the way we understand this time. Thank you, Ali. Appreciate it

my friend.


VELSHI: I totally do. Thanks, friend.


Well, the staggering tragedy of the coronavirus has in fact made us numb to

some of the numbers – 1.2 million cases so far, nearly 78,000 Americans

dead in this short time – 78,000 lives lost. Think of how many families,

friends, communities have been affected. The number itself doesn`t tell

that story.


The loss of 78,000 people whose lives were claimed by a virus that I bet

most of them had probably never heard about three months ago. It is almost

unimaginable and today we can add another unimaginable number to this

pandemic, 14.7.


That`s the percentage of America`s unemployment in April, the worst since

the Great Depression, probably worse today by the way because those numbers

reflect a calculation that was taken a few weeks ago.


This is a health crisis. This is a security crisis. It`s the security of

millions of people, their ability to feed their families, to pay their

rent, to provide for their children.


As Rachel said, joining us again for the hour, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, vice

president of Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and a

veteran of the Obama administration.


Zeke and I are going tonight speak with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist

Laurie Garrett who very early on this very show warned how bad this

pandemic could become. Many of us didn`t want to believe what she said but

she was right.


Americans are fighting through this and later we`re going to be joined by

the renowned psychologist Angela Duckworth who has - got a lot to say about

keeping your head in times like this, but first, the news. And there is a

lot of it tonight.


Just in the last two days, two White House staffers have tested positive

for coronavirus. Donald Trump`s personal valet who serves Trump his meals

and we learned today the vice president`s press secretary, who is married

to the close Trump aid Stephen Miller.


Donald Trump today claimed the positive test was proof that testing doesn`t

necessarily work.





long period of time and then all of a sudden today, she tested positive. So

she tested positive out of the blue. This is why the whole concept of tests

aren`t necessarily great.


The tests are perfect but something can happen between a test where it`s

good and then something happens and all of a sudden she was tested very

recently and tested negative and then today I guess, for some reason, she

tested positive.




VELSHI: That is all entirely wrong. The White House might have the best

testing and tracing in the country right now and it worked. By Donald

Trump`s own explanation, the testing actually worked. There are no chance

encounters at the White House. The Secret Service knows every person who

comes into the West Wing.


Staffers go home at night. When they come back the next day, they are

tested, hence, the first day they test positive, the White House is aware

of it. The staffer can leave the building, go into quarantine and everyone

who had contact with them can be tested immediately.


Now, imagine if that staffer worked anywhere else like at a grocery store

without the testing and tracking that`s available to the Trump White House.


How many people would that staffer come into contact with before she showed

symptoms, if she showed symptoms at all? How many of those people could

ever be tracked down and told hey, you had recent contact with a person who

tested positive.


That the virus can`t even be kept out of the White House, the best

protected place in America shows how insidious it is. And while we are

seeing a decline in the new number of cases and deaths in the early hot

spots where I am in New York, several models suggest that there may be

trouble ahead especially as states begin to reopen.


A leaked document shows that the CDC expects 200,000 new cases a day and

3,000 deaths a day by next month. The popular University of Washington

model now projects more than 134,000 deaths in total. That`s almost double

the number of people who have already been killed by this virus and they`re

talking about this through the end of August.


Now, these new models come at a time when the Trump administration is

muting the experts. The A.P. reports tonight that specific scientific CDC

guidelines for reopening safely were quashed by top Trump White House



We also saw a whistleblower complaint this week from vaccine expert Dr.

Rick Bright, who says he was ousted from his job at Health and Human

Services for speaking up against the Trump administration`s response,

including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which the president touted

over the objections of doctors.


Today, the Office of Special Counsel found sufficient evidence that Dr.

Bright`s removal was retaliatory and should be stayed while the

investigation plays out. Tonight, Dr. Bright spoke with CBS News.





of leadership. I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a headstart on

developing life saving tools for Americans. I`m frustrated at our inability

to be heard as scientists. We see too many doctors and nurses now dying and

I was thinking that we could have done more to get those masks and those

supplies to them sooner and if we had, would they still be alive today?




VELSHI: I want to bring in Dr. Zeke Emanuel, MSNBC senior medical

contributor. Zeke, always good to spend Friday evenings with you. Let me

just – can we talk about modeling for a second because for those of us who

don`t have modeling in our lives where we don`t know – we just don`t deal

with this stuff.


In your world, in the medical and scientific world, this is very common.

They come with probabilities. They have caveats attached them, but it is

how we make decisions in public health.



health. We do it in economics. We do it in a lot of things. It`s how we`re

trying to project the future as best we can.


And when we look at models like that IHME models, we`re trying to

understand how nature is going to behave and how human beings are going to

respond and get the best estimates we can.


And I would advice our viewers when they look at a model, first of all,

don`t look at just one model. You`ve got to look at multiple models because

they make different kinds of assumptions like how infectious and how easy

is it to spread the virus.


Like how many people are likely to get very sick and need hospital care and

God forbid, die from the virus. They make also projections about how people

are going to respond, how many people are going to stay away from work.

Stay away from restaurants?


And so no model is perfect, but they try to marry them together. And I

would say, you know, when you look at a model, you got to look at are we on

the upside of the curve or the downside of the curve? And you got to

anticipate where we are and how big that curve is.


If we`re on the upside of the curve, that means we`re growing. It`s kind of

scary. If we`re on the downside of the curve, the numbers of cases are

going down, the number of deaths are going down. That`s a reassuring point.


But so, I`d say that, you know, take them more qualitatively. Looking at

the numbers is helpful but remember, all of those numbers are like plus or

minus, a big wide gap because this is a completely new virus and we don`t

know exactly how people are going to behave over the long term. So the

models are useful –


VELSHI: And I think this is an important –


EMANUEL: – but they should not be taken as history.


VELSHI: Yes. And I think it`s important for people to understand that even

though they are scientific and they area medical, they all take into

account what people might do, how they might behave. If you loosen

restrictions, there will be greater contact.


So, part of it is scientific, part of it is behavioral. Let`s bring

somebody into this conversation, somebody I`m very excited to bring in, the

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Laurie Garrett.


Now, I should explain why I`m so excited. This is Laurie`s first television

appearance as an NBC News and MSNBC science contributor. I want to say

welcome to the family, Laurie, but you and I have spent so much time

together in the last few months that we`re like family.


We have ended a night, you know, together on T.V. and we start the next

morning together. So, it`s great to have you with us. I have to remind our

viewers, Laurie, about a conversation you and I had back on February 28th

where you warned us about this. Let`s just play this for our viewers.





have a standard and we would like to have everybody getting tested by the

exact same standards that we can compare and we know and we think we have

accurate information.


It`s worse than just, you know, do you manage to quickly test the

identified suspected case. What we should be doing right now is using the

tests to do some serious surveillance to figure out are we really missing a

lot of cases?




VELSHI: Its February 28th. That was almost two and a half months ago and

that wasn`t our first conversation about this, either. But to what Zeke was

just saying about modeling, making presumptions and behavioral stuff, you

have to start with good data in the first place.


And two and a half months ago you were saying why don`t we just get the

good basic data on which we can make our assumptions and build our modeling

and sadly, two and a half months later, that basic thing that you asked for

has not been answered.


GARRETT: Yes, hi, Ali. It`s good to be part of the family as it were. You

know, the real problem is we need to have directed studies where we`re

saying what`s the policy we`re trying to figure out? What`s the strategic

decision we`re trying to make? How do we collect data in a smart way to

advice that decision?


So for example, we now know that about 65 percent of the new infections

admitted this week into hospitals for COVID in New York City have actually

been in lockdown. How did they get infected? We need to test their

families. We need to test the folks that make deliveries to their homes or

apartments and understand how if you`re on lockdown do you get infected

with this virus?


And similarly, we know now that we should have been testing nursing homes

all the way back in January. And we certainly should be testing in prisons

and any place where you have concentrated co-housed individuals

particularly vulnerable ones.


But we should be thinking about what are the other sorts of settings where

there is likely to be concentrations of people that we might want to test

in advance or set up models so that we understand what the risks might be.


You know, it`s really interesting the CDC study, that set of guidelines, 17

pages of guidelines that the White House has chosen not to allow the CDC to

release. If you look at it, incredible detail.


I mean, I would think every restaurant owner would want a copy of these

right now for all it tells you about what to worry about. Who to test? What

to do if somebody tests positive? What steps to take? How to clean the

restaurant and so on?


And they do this for one kind of work setting after another and America is

not seeing the documents. This is craziness. You go down the list of

everything you would want to be doing right now in order to be able to

safely reopen and get our economy rolling, get people off the unemployment

lines and the food lines.


And we`re not taking any of those steps. And Ali, we`re not taking them in

any state. We`re not taking them in any location in the whole United



EMANUEL: Laurie, can I ask you a question? If we think about opening the

economy, one of the necessary and related things is opening schools. How do

you think those things work together and how would you, if you had the

authority, actually choreograph the opening of the economy over the next

few months?


GARRETT: Oh, boy, tough question. I mean, first of all, you have to ask

where are the major places of transmission, who gives it to whom and how?

And if you can really let loose your health department to come up with

smart ways to answer those questions, then you can start saying all right.


Well, if this is – if it`s the case that a 5-year-old is very unlikely to

infect anybody, if we can really prove that, then perhaps kindergarten is

safe as long as the teacher or the attendants in the kindergartner are

well-protected and then you can decide how to do that.


If you look at the CDC guidance, they thought this through. They have

incredible detail about schools and how schools can open. I think the

problem is, and it was in that clip of tape Ali, that you played of the

president when he said, well, I don`t understand, you know, she tested

positive today but she was negative on the last test and the one before



Well, Mr. President, that`s the point. You can`t use testing to decide this

person is safe and this one isn`t because as the day goes by, you may be

exposed to the virus and then the next day and then the next.


And so of course, you might be test negative on Monday and test positive on

Tuesday. This is why testing alone isn`t going to ensure that any workplace

is safe or any school is safe.


You have to have smart strategies that say look, we can`t guarantee

absolute safety to everyone, but we can guarantee a lower risk threshold

for this setting, this setting, this setting. And you know, I`ll tell you

the setting that has me right now –


VELSHI: I want to ask you - go ahead.


GARRETT: – if I may, is a few people seem to be aware that in addition to

the two aides we`ve heard about in the White House who have tested

positive, 60 members of the Secret Service are on quarantine right now and

31 have tested positive.


So, I mean, my goodness, if the Secret Service has that high an infection

rate and they are in closest contact with the president, I have to say this

is looking like a security threat and this is looking like a high-risk



VELSHI: Let me ask you about - there are a number of models we`ve all - I

think the three of us have read and I agree with you, Laurie. People who

are not medical experts like me, they can be read. They often - they`ve got

an abstract to them that`s easy to read.


There is the University of Washington, there is Johns Hopkins, there`s the

Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. University of Pennsylvania, in

deference to Zeke, has one. I like it because it compares model one, model

two, model three.


Model one is staying at home. Model two is partial reopening. Model three

is all states fully reopen. The second line is the number of deaths by end

of June, right. They are all higher than we are right now, obviously. We`re

at 78,000. The first one is 116,000. The second one is 161,000. The third

one fully reopened, no mitigation, 349,000 deaths by the end of June.


Nobody is planning for that. But look at the last line, 18.6 million jobs

lost if everybody stays home. Fewer jobs lost if we partially reopen and

the fewest amount of jobs lost if we completely open up. Laurie, this has

been since day one the calculus in the president`s head, right. Saving

lives versus saving the economy. I don`t think it has to be binary like

that, but he has caused a lot of people to think about it that way.


GARRETT: Well, it depends on what you mean by saving the economy because

certainly early on, the president seemed more worried about the stock

market, which is one part of the economy than employment figures. And so

let`s focus in on the individual health and survival and group health and



Obviously, if people don`t have affordable access to good food, if they`re

living under the high stress of inability to pay their rent, to feed their

children, then of course, that`s a health risk as well as a social risk.

And you don`t want either.


You don`t want high unemployment, you don`t want virus, and you don`t want

death due to virus. And you have to have policies that deal with all of

these at once. And the problem is that every single time I`m in meetings

where the likes of Mnuchin are speaking and we are hearing the way the

conversation is proceeding, it`s more about Wall Street and stock prices.


VELSHI: Zeke, I want to get your quick comment on that because the modeling

as you pointed out does take into account people`s behavior, right? So if

we let up some restrictions, there are going to be some people who just

like to get outside because they are tired of being, you know, stuck sort

of at home or close to home.


But people are going to work because people need work. They need their

money. And that does ultimately more people going back to work could mean

greater spread of infection.


EMANUEL: But, Ali, you`re only going to have work if there is demand, if

the customer is going to come back. And the data we`ve seen coming out this

week is that people stayed home and stopped going out to work and stopped

shopping well before the stay-at-home orders because they were worried

about their health.


VELSHI: Right.


EMANUEL: I don`t think people are going to be rushing out to businesses to

make purchases if they`re worried they could get COVID and God forbid, die.

So, I`m a little dubious that you`re going to have all those people going

back to work and all that economic activity return without the public

health measures in place.


And I think that`s a false distinction between the economics and the public

health. They`ve got to work together otherwise you`re not going to have



VELSHI: Yes. Well said. Laurie, great to see you. Thank you for the strong

support you have shown us and the smart things that you`ve told our viewers

and congratulations on becoming NBC`s newest and MSNBC science contributor.

Thanks a lot.


All right, coming up, the massive unemployment numbers that were revealed

today wasn`t really a surprise, but it was still a shock. One month of job

losses wiped out all of the recovery since the Great Recession. The

economist Justin Wolfers joins us next.


And it`s not too late to learn lessons from overseas. We`re going to give

you a fascinating look at how South Korea is reacting to the coronavirus

over there.




VELSHI: With the jobs report today showing losses rivaled only by the Great

Depression and the president clamoring for states to get their economies

going again, you might expect widespread frustration and impatient with

these continued restrictions.


But as Zeke was just saying, for the most part, that`s not what the public

appears to be feeling. A new poll from ABC News and Ipsos finds 64 percent

of people say opening the country under current conditions is not worth it

because reopening now as we are will mean more lost lives. But how do we

get from where we are to a point where the public does feel safe going back

and going out?


Well, today, University of Michigan economics professor Justin Wolfers

diagnosed the problem this way. “Bottom line, the economy is in a massive

hole caused by the reality that being close to others could kill. The only

pathway to a robust recovery is to fix the public health crisis. We have no

economic tools as powerful as our public health tools.”


That`s part of his twitter feed and if you`re not on it, you should be on

it. Justin is very good on twitter. Joining us now is Justin Wolfers. He is

a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan.


Justin, Zeke teed you up perfectly because he said all of this modeling

does not take into account that people were staying home before there were

stay-at-home orders and that doesn`t matter how many trillions of dollars

you put in and you make the stock market go up as it has been doing, it

doesn`t matter.


If people think they are going to die by being around other people, they

will alter their behavior and that will stifle the economy.



there is exactly one economic problem, leaving the house isn`t safe. That`s

bad news for consumers because they`re not going to go out and spend.


It`s also bad news on the supply side of the economy, which is no one wants

to go into work and responsible companies don`t want to be taking risks

with their work forces so they are staying shut, as well. This is a public

health crisis first, second and third.


EMANUEL: Justin, how would you then open up the economy? What are the

measures we need to get people to begin feeling comfortable going back to

work? You say public health measure, but one in particular, a vaccine which

is 12 to 18 months away.


WOLFERS: So, it`s not just we need people to feel comfortable. We need to

actually be comfortable. We need the reality to be that it`s safe for them

to leave the house. You know, you`re much more medical than I am, Zeke, but

you know, obviously, contact tracing, extensive testing, greater

socialization with the use of masks.


You know, the thing is we get a little bit better at social distancing and

all of these sort of partial solutions every day and anything we can do to

keep the spread of the virus down makes venturing outside our homes into

the workplace is safer and the safer it is eventually that more likely it

is that we`re going to be able to return to work.


EMANUEL: Justin, do you think we`re going to have -


VELSHI: I want to talk to – sorry, go ahead, Zeke. Go ahead. After you.


EMANUEL: Do you think we`re going to have a V-shaped recovery where we`re

going to – once we get some of these measures in place, we`re actually

going to have a bounce back and we`re going to see those 20 million jobs

return or do you think it`s going to be a different shaped economy when we

sort of begin to have these public health measures in place and people feel

confident in them?


WOLFERS: Look, that`s the most important economic question there is out

there and so let me tell you the truth. We economists are paid to look

over-confident, pretend that we know what we`re doing. In this case, I can

think of two extreme possibilities and the reality could lie anywhere

between them.


We know that you can shut an economy down overnight and it will come back

to life a couple of months later. We know that because, listen, that`s what

happens in Paris every summer. Everyone leaves Paris. The Paris economy

shuts down. And a couple of months later, it`s not as beautiful in the

French country side. Everyone comes back and the economy can get straight

back to work.


Look, that`s the good news, perhaps a little too sunny for today. The

opposite extreme, just as plausible is, in a couple months we lift the

restrictions, maybe a few weeks, and we discover that people have spent

down all of their savings. They see the need for a rainy day fund.


The businesses that used to exist were very profitable six weeks ago may no

longer still exist in six weeks time. And so there is no businesses and

there is no consumers, and then we get stuck in that terrible recessionary

track where people don`t want to spend money because no businesses are

hiring them and businesses don`t want to hire people because people don`t

want to spend money.


And that`s sort of traditional recession. That dynamic can take hold and

drag out for not just months but years. So the reality is we know that

we`re on the way down. We know we might be close to the bottom of the first

round here, but where we end up in that spectrum between the French summer

and the ongoing depression, frankly nobody knows and no one is going to

know until we see the recovery starting.


VELSHI: So Justin, I think we can agree that history indicates to us, we`ve

already seen markets come back. We don`t know how volatile that will be,

but we come out of recessions. We do grow. We even have gotten past

pandemics in life and we were able to get past it in 1919. We will get past



But as Zeke points out, we don`t know whether that`s a year or two years

and when the damage is done from the economy, whether that`s three or four

or five years. What`s the bridge to that look like because we have a bridge

that lasts until about September 30th. The PPP and the loans to airlines –

the grants to airlines to keep people on payroll, that all comes to an end

at the end of September. This is not going to be over by the end of



WOLFERS: Absolutely. So, look, this is the most important thing, which is

the government`s response both on fiscal and monetary policy has been

really pretty serious and potentially even up to the scale of problem right

now, but all of those responses were put in place at a time of just

enormous uncertainty.


And it`s obviously the case that as we learn more about this pandemic and

its effects on the economy, we should be willing to adjust as we go. At the

moment, there`s a range of measures all of which are set to sunset. That

makes no sense.


Not since the amount of fiscal stimulus we have will depend on the

political will of Washington to keep going as opposed to when we beat the

bug. So, what we should really link all of these things to let`s keep

stimulating until we`re finally beating the bug.


ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: It could be a long way away. Justin, good to see

you as always. Thank you for joining us. Economist Justin Wolfers. At a

programming note, I`ll be hosting a town hall tomorrow morning on the

Covid-19 economy. My special guests taking your questions.


Our personal finance expert Suze Orman; Shark Tank host, Kevin O`Leary and

host of the Work Life podcast Adam Grant. We`re going to answer your

personal finance and your small business questions so if you have a small

business and you`ve got questions about how to get money, how to reopen and

how to deal with your staff, send them to


It`s a special Virtual Town Hall tomorrow at 9 A.M. eastern. Coming up next

tonight, in South Korea, they are playing baseball, they`re playing soccer,

people are eating out. You`re going to want to see what we can learn from

how officials there are handling the pandemic. That`s next.




VELSHI: In February, South Korea had the largest outbreak of coronavirus

infections outside of China. South Korea has used widespread testing and

contact tracing as well as strict public health and quarantine measures and

the country has successfully slowed the spread of the virus to just a

handful of new cases, most days and taking action whenever spike occurs.


This week, South Korea cautiously began to ease social restrictions moving

to what it calls distancing in daily life protocols. Kelly Cobiella has

more from Seoul.





soccer is back with new rules. No spitting, no handshakes and players

tested for coronavirus before the game.


American Paul Rader is getting his first terror cuts in weeks. His family

in Seoul looking forward to just getting out role.


PAUL RADER, SEOUL RESIDENT: I think we`re all excited about kind of

resuming some normalcy in that respect.


COBIELLA: Getting back to school, getting back to work, in a different way,

I guess.


RADER: Exactly.


COBIELLA: When I was here back in February, South Korea had the most cases

in the world outside China. Today a flattened curve, fewer than 20 new

cases a day for 21 straight days.


COBIELLA: Why is mass testing so important?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Diagnostic testing is the only weapon that allow you to

fight Covid-19. About 30% to 50% of patients can be asymptomatic at the

time of detection.


COBIELLA: And still spreading the virus.




COBIELLA: More 650, 000 have been tested including me three times but

there`s more to their strategy, a two-week quarantine for nearly everyone

coming from overseas. For foreign visitors like me it means staying in our

rooms at government facilities.


The first of breakfast.


A smart city system for pollution and traffic alerts shown to me by Seoul`s

mayor in March now tracks Covid patients where they are and where they`ve

been with street cameras, credit card data and smart phones. So health

officials can find other people who might have been exposed.


I`m about to walk into our local grocery store. Paul and his family saw it

in action, a government alert that someone at the local supermarket tested



RADER: We got such specific information like she was there on Wednesday at

4:05. She bought peppers and then she went over to the milk aisle and then

self-checked out and left and so you`re like OK, I wasn`t there Wednesday.


COBIELLA: Knowing where the virus is also means no lockdown. Owner Jonathan

Kim kept his restaurant open even when cases reached a peak laying off some

but not all staff and blocking off tables for social distancing. After the

initial shock, business was back up to 50 percent of pre-Covid levels and

last weekend.


JONATHAN KIM, SEOUL RESTAURANT OWNER: They`re all out. Our restaurant had

long waits. You know up to 45 minutes to an hour wait.


COBIELLA: But Jonathan says they`re not out of the woods yet. The

unemployment rate is picking up from 3.3 percent in February to 3.8 in

March and today a new cluster. 15 cases tied to a man who went to a

nightclub near Jonathan`s restaurant last weekend without a mask and tested

positive this week. Tonight it was slow again.


KIM: I don`t think we`re all clear. We have to continue to be disciplined,

not only as business operators but as consumers and individuals.


COBIELLA: It`s now Saturday morning in Korea and the Korea Center for

Disease control have put other daily numbers. They say they`ve identified

18 new cases on Friday, unclear how many of those cases are directly tied

to that person at the night club but it`s likely a lot of them. They`re

having to contact trace for hundreds of people who may have come into

contact with this man.


They`ve closed one night club, closed his place of business because a

Covid-19-worker has tested positive and now they`re considering delaying

the re-opening of schools because of this one cluster. Now Ali, all along

last week when health officials were talking about easing social distancing

restrictions, they were saying it`s really important to continue to wear

masks as the Vice Health Minister put it, ink spreads swiftly in clear



He said anyone can become the drop of ink that spreads Covid-19 and I think

they`re seeing that play out right now. Ali.


VELSHI: It`s vivid but easy to understand Kelly. Good to see you as always.

Thank you so much for joining us. Kelly Cobiella from South Korea. Coming

up next, best-selling author and Speaker Angela Duckworth is with us. You

may have watched her Ted talk on the power and the passion of perseverance.


She`s going to talk about how those things are in all of us can help us get

through this crisis. That`s next.




VELSHI: The coronavirus pandemic`s having a massive long term impact on the

mental health of people across the country and around the world. So much

anxiety and despair and pain and that`s for those of us who are still home,

working or with our loved ones.


A lot of people who are vulnerable before this hit, think about those who

live with a domestic abuser, those who were battling addictions, those for

whom home is not a safe place for them to shelter. Well, at the bottom of

the screen we`re featuring messages from across the country about how

people are facing these uncertain times.


We`ve been talking about the unemployment rate now rising to 14.7 percent

and we wanted to hear from college graduates now trying to enter the job

market in an economy that has been crippled by the pandemic.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s been really frustrating and nerve wracking and

it`s been making me anxious because I`m - I`m about to graduate. My

original plan has basically been thrown out the window.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anything really in the realm that my degree would be

worth putting towards is not hiring right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be like a writer or novelist someday but this

aspiration sort of feel like they have to be on the back burner.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s just really tough not knowing what`s next, not

knowing how long I`m going to be living in my parent`s house.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m competing now with people who have been laid off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had to take out student loans to finance my

education, graduating into yet another recession and it`s quite scary.




VELSHI: Joining us now Angela Duckworth who is a colleague Zeke`s at the

University of Pennsylvania, where she`s a Professor of psychology. She`s

also the CEO of the Character Lab and the author of a great book called

`Grit: The power of passion and perseverance.` And again Zeke, in deference

to you and the fact that there`s a fellow Pen professor on, take it off for



ZEKE EMANUEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So I wanted to ask you Angela, is all of

this stress, distress, uncertainty, is that natural and what are we

supposed to do to try to cope with it during these weeks and months ahead?



and generations of evolution have given us the stress response and that is

the natural as you put it Zeke, the natural physiological and psychological

response to threats and if you`re not feeling stressed right now, then

something`s wrong with you, right?


And I think people need to hear that when you`re having trouble sleeping,

when everything is disrupting, you`re not yourself, you`re irritable,

that`s the stress response and I can explain why but it`s - it`s actually

part of survival, it`s actually if you manage it the right way, adaptive.


VELSHI: Angela, when - when we talk about people suffering, one of the

things you said is that in this crisis each of us has a choice between

feeling like nobody understands how we feel or in contrast feeling like

we`re all suffering together and that`s a tough one because when you`re

actually physically alone, when you`re actually not with your schoolmates

or with your - your co-workers, you can feel like you are going through

this alone except much of the world`s going through it with you.


DUCKWORTH: You know I think it`s not only that Ali. I think that`s a big

part of it, right? And - and there are some people who like haven`t seen

another human being in quite a long time but I think just as difficult,

it`s that the pandemic is affecting different houses, different

individuals, different countries, differently.


So some people, the thing that they wake up in the middle of the night

worrying about is the bills that they won`t be able to pay the next day.

There are other people like the college graduates who just like they have

slightly different worries. Am I going to get a job? What`s going to happen

to my career?


Then you have people who are you know caring for sick relatives or worrying

about relatives, that they think are sick but they can`t go and travel to

see so I think the isolation isn`t just physical, it`s actually in part

that you can kind of think a lot, if you choose to pay attention to the

fact that your suffering is so different.


And I you know, I`ve been on Zoom calls where people are like complaining

about Zoom fatigue and I`m sure that if they were unemployed people

listening to that, they would feel like that was totally tone deaf but you

know each person is suffering in their own way.


It`s easy to feel like there`s a lot of - there`s a lack I should say of



EMANUEL: So Angela, what do we do to manage this stress? Are there you

know, to get us control over our life and to get us control so that we can

think that things are going to be OK in the future even though we don`t

control all the variables?


DUCKWORTH: Well, just extending what I was saying about feeling alone

because I think the stress response is normal but when you experience the

stress response and you feel like you`re in it by yourself as opposed to in

this you know predicament with other people, it`s much, much worse.


And I`m thinking in particular of a study that was done at West Point, the

oldest military academy in the United States and this is now 20 years ago

but researchers wanted to understand the stress response and they were

looking at biomarkers of stress from these cadets and here`s the

interesting finding.


The scientists thought that at the time when you first start training, that

was going to be the peak of all these stress biomarkers, that was going to

be the hardest part of West Point, it`s when a lot of people drop out but

actually in fact, there was no difference between that really objectively

stressful time and base line and actually later on during finals, when

you`re surely going to stay at west point, that`s when stress peaked.


Now they were really puzzled, they were confused and so they actually

started interviewing these cadets and here`s what they learned. When these

cadets were going through this really, really hard training and right, some

of them were dropping out. In fact they felt like they were all in it

together. They felt like they were as a group battling a common enemy which

was training.


Then at finals, they felt like they were pitted against each other being

ranked and that`s why when they felt like they were together, the stress

biomarkers were low but when they felt like they were in things alone

against one another, they felt like stress was you know - the markers went



And I think that`s a lesson particularly for our country because we seem so

good at being polarized and fighting with each other. I really do feel like

paying attention to the fact that really the pandemic is influencing every

single person, nobody is coming out of this unscathed and I think that

might help us manage the stress response in an adaptive way.


VELSHI: Angela, you`ve written so much about it, you`ve spoken so much

about it. You`ve even compressed so much of it into - into a Ted talk and

I`m going to ask you to compress it into less than a minute now. What`s the

one thing you can tell people where they can channel their insight, their



The stuff that you`ve - in The Grit, you say is accessible to all of us but

we really need right now.


DUCKWORTH: So yes, thank you. I will try to say something that`s especially

helpful in the current situation and that is this. You know what I study

really gritty people who come through adversity and failure better than -

than others, you know one thing that`s characteristic is that they

understand that there is a lot that they cannot control. They understand

that there is chance and they understand that there`s misfortune too.


But they choose to also pay attention and maybe disproportionately pay

attention to the things that they can control and I think what that looks

like today is you know, you don`t know what`s going to happen economy.

There`s so much you can`t control but you can make your bed, but you can

wash the dishes.


You can send one kind email. You can unload the dishwasher. You can write

in your journal. I think trying to think about and - and actually take

action on the subset of things in the universe that you can`t control.

That`s what a gritty person would do right now.


VELSHI: That is a remarkable way to look at this because I think the number

of us are doing things that we otherwise wouldn`t do because we can and you

can feel some sense of accomplishment from doing it. So that was, you did

it Angela, you gave us a minute`s worth of good advice on how to channel

our own grit. Thank you. Author and psychologist Angela Duckworth.


If you haven`t read her book and you haven`t read - seen the Ted talk, do

it now because we`ve got some time on our hands. Still ahead, the next best

thing you can give your mom on Sunday.




VELSHI: Zeke, we are making our way through our first real holiday of the

coronavirus crisis or at least the one that really matters. It`s Mother`s

day on Sunday and that`s going to be great for some people. It`s going to

be really hard for others.


EMANUEL: Yes. I certainly remember as a kid, getting up early to cook

breakfast for my mom. My brothers and I would go quietly, well, as quietly

as three wild boys could go to the kitchen. One of us would set the table,

the other two would get the eggs ready, pour the orange juice, measure

Folgers coffee grinds, get the machine ready to brew.


When we were done, we would put the flowers in the vase, the gifts on the

table and race down the hall to wake my mom and after breakfast, the whole

family would drive over to be with my grandmother. This year certainly lots

of children will do their best to have a celebration like that.


But Mother`s day definitely is going to be different. It`ll be tinged with

separation and loneliness, especially for our grandmothers. I`ve been

getting emails and calls from friends with grandchildren, rattling off all

the physical distancing measures they`re actually doing, asking if it means

that they can see their families again.


If they can hug her grandkids and smother them with kisses. They want

permission. Is that OK? Just this one day? I know my mother`s loneliness is

palpable. She`s been texting, emailing, calling way more these past two

months. She loes the picture she gets up for grandchildren and especially

of her great grandchildren but having only pictures can`t substitute for a

morning filled with hugs and kisses.


The other day she recounted to me how concerned family and friends drive by

in the morning, leave a container of soup at the door, ring her doorbell

and rush back to their car when she comes out. They wait, they exchange a

few greetings and enquiries. Then they drive off. It`s very touching and

caring but it`s not the same as sharing a bowl of soup with friends and



This weekend, especially for mothers and grandmothers, there`s a hole in

their heart that`s not being filled. Phone calls, even video calls only go

so far. So what else can we do? If you`re lucky enough to live near your

mother or grandmother, a physically distance visit outside, a picnic in the

park sitting six feet apart with separate meals or a distance visit in the

backyard or on the front porch can provide some much needed in-person



If you don`t have a mother nearby, maybe there`s some other person in the

neighborhood who needs a visit from you. Don`t forget to wear your mask to

these Mother Day events and most importantly, don`t forget. Call your

mother on Sunday.


VELSHI: I mean Zeke, it has been one saving grace that the internet didn`t

break and that they`ve created ways where we can communicate on our phones

or we can see the faces of our loved ones easily so that people who are not

digital natives could at least figure that out.


So do what you have to do as you said with your own mother, your own

grandmother or someone else`s mother but be a member of the community on

Sundays. Zeke, it`s always a pleasure to spend the evening with you. Thank

you again. A reminder. If you want more of Zeke`s insights into the

coronavirus, check out his podcast, `Making the call.` New episodes every

Wednesday. A reminder to watch my Virtual Town Hall in the morning, 9 A.M.

eastern, The Covid-19 Economy. My special guest Suze Orman, Kevin O`Leary

and Adam Grant.





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