CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. Today we saw two different styles of leadership from America`s leaders in dealing with the coronavirus crisis. President Trump staged a pageant in the Rose Garden in an apparently successful attempt to pump up the stock market while he also lied about where things stand.
Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, hammered out a deal with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on a coronavirus aid package that includes among other things, free testing and paid emergency leave. This afternoon, the president paraded out to inform Americans he "takes no responsibility for the manifest documented repeated failures in the federal government slow response to deal with and prepare for The worst global pandemic in probably 100 years."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that the lag in testing was in fact, a failing. Do you take responsibility for that?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes -- no, I don`t take responsibility at all because we were given a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said that you don`t take responsibility, but you did disband the White House pandemic office and the officials that were working in that office, left this administration abruptly. So what responsibilities do you take to that? And the officials that worked in that office said that you -- that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that?
TRUMP: Well, I just think it`s a nasty question because what we`ve done is -- and Tony has said numerous times that we`ve saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. And when you say me, I didn`t do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Point of fact, he did do it. His White House did it. Trump also announced a set of probably necessary measures to cut regulatory obstacles to get testing up to capacity. But as of today, the U.S. still is only testing 18,000 people in total. Now that`s quite a bit up, almost doubled from where we were last night, but we are still way, way, way behind almost every other comparable nation that regard.
In fact, look at this. Trump`s own former FDA head, OK, this is a Trump administration official, was calling for the actions like the ones being taken today to be taken six weeks ago, and not in some private backchannel, on Twitter where anyone can read it. The rest of the showcase in the Rose Garden today appeared to be a bizarre and cynical attempt to pump up the stock market.
Trump came out 30 minutes before the markets closed, and proceeded to introduce and hype up CEOs from a who`s who of a big American companies and brands from Walmart, Target, and CVS, all of whom saw their stock skyrocket in the last 30 minutes of closing. Trump also promised that Google has 1,700 engineers working on a Web site to facilitate testing, and that appears to just be a lie. They don`t. There`s a pilot project from an Alphabet company they might test out in the bay.
Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a deal on an aid package with tangible benefits. Speaking before the deal was done, Pelosi emphasized, "The three most important parts of this bill are testing, testing, testing. She also said all coronavirus testing will be free for everyone regardless of insurance status. The package also includes two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave, which is probably not enough. Definitely not enough, but a good start. They are at least tangible deliverables.
The problem is that all the important stuff or most of the important stuff that Trump was offering today is essentially vaporware. It`s something that has been advertised but isn`t in stores yet. That`s the stuff that matters. Like we need more tests, more ventilators, more capability for hospitals to help sick people.
The virus doesn`t care about promises about what will be available. The virus doesn`t care about salesmen. It doesn`t care about PR. And so, the public health crisis, the very real one in the U.S. and across the world continues to unfold. Things are severe, extremely severe.
In the U.S., there are now over 2,100 cases and 49 deaths. Remember, we only passed the 1,000 case mark three days ago. Based on everything we know, Italy is probably the closest estimate to the trajectory we`re on with a lot of unknowns. Today was Italy`s worst day so far. Italy had 2,500 new cases just today, 250 new deaths today. More than 1,200 people there have now died.
These crazy new mortality numbers are unnerving because it looks like we are -- if we continue at our current rate, the U.S. may very well soon be in the same place. Here in the U.S., state and local officials continue to fill the leadership vacuum left by the White House. So far, at least 17 states have closed public schools, so as Washington D.C., so is Los Angeles, the nation`s second-largest school system. We`re going to be talking about school closures later in the program.
There are rolling out some mobile testing in hotspots like New Rochelle, New York and Seattle, Washington. Seattle area has been particularly hard hit. The Washington Post reports one study in Seattle shows "Under the worst-case scenario. The number of active infections will exceed the number of beds by a large margin in the next two weeks."
Here`s the thing. We still just don`t really know how bad things are because of the lack of testing, what epidemiologists call surveillance of the virus. But the state of Washington that knows it has a very severe outbreak on its hands is taking dramatic steps to stem the spread of the virus.
The King County Superior Court postpone criminal jury trials for over a month. The Seattle Children`s Hospital has halted all elective surgeries. Today Governor Jay Inslee ordered all schools in the state closed until at least April 24th. Governor Inslee joins me right now.
Governor, thank you for taking time. I know that you are under a tremendous amount of pressure and stress there managing things in your estate. Give us a read on how things are in Washington right now.
GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): Well, they`re obviously extremely challenging. We`ve gone from about 160 cases four days ago, to 568 today. And so, we see that right now, this trajectory is extremely troubling. It`s extremely rapid. And it demands that we be aggressive and bold and robust in our efforts to reduce the transmission rate.
So today, I did close all of the schools, public schools and colleges, in the state of Washington. We`ve also now extended our ban on gatherings of people of any size across the state of Washington. And we did that to try to get ahead of this wave. We`ve concluded we needed to do this statewide rather than county by county because of this very, very rapid transmission rate.
So the thing we`re most focused on right now is building our surge capacity in our medical system to build the beds, and particularly the ventilators. I`m very concerned about our ventilator stock. And we are looking for an opportunity to actually start manufacturing them much more rapidly so that they will be there when, unfortunately, we think we`ll have thousands of people in need in the next several weeks.
So I would describe this as very challenging, but it`s like my dad used to say, when you`re going through hell, keep going, and that`s what we`re doing in the state of Washington.
HAYES: You just talked about surge capacity. Can you talk to me now? I mean, the big fear for everyone right now, part of the reason that it`s shutting entire countries down is that you have happened in one of our areas like Seattle, what would happened in Lombardy, Italy or in Wuhan which is the medical system simply overrun?
What is your capacity right now in your ICU? Do you have the personal protective equipment for healthcare personnel, the N-95 masks, the ventilators and the beds that you need now?
INSLEE: We have them now, just barely. The question is we want to make sure we have them in several weeks. Just to give you some sense of the scale of this, we have about 10,000, 11,000 beds in the state of Washington at one time. But if this trajectory continues, by early May, you know, we could need another 5,000 beds. So you need a 50 percent surge capacity. That`s a fairly conservative estimate. So this is an enormous challenge.
The good news is we have a good plan for this. But like any plans, we need to be flexible, and we need to be really calling, frankly, for a lot of volunteers because not only do you need the beds, you obviously need the medical personnel, the physicians and the nurses. So one of the things we`re doing is looking to bring people out of retirement and bring people from other states. So we`ve waived some of the licensure rules. We can get more of the practitioner.
And obviously, we need the equipment, like ventilators. I think ventilators, if this continues unabated, will be the thing that we have the most concern about. That`s why we`ve actually as a state, gone out and looked at our ability to buy ventilators and not just rely upon the federal stockpile. I was a little concerned -- and we`ve had good cooperation from some of the agencies.
And Mike Pence has been helpful to us. They`ve waived some rules so we can get our testing going faster. They`ve helped waived a few things for unemployment compensation. So some of these agencies are working well with us.
I was a little concerned or I just heard a blurb. I don`t know if it`s accurate. From Seema Verma, who we`ve worked closely with. I`m concerned that we need a little more room from the federal government to increase the ventilator capacity. It is -- we will be way too close to it a critical situation if we don`t start acquiring those very quickly.
HAYES: Where are you on testing? You just mentioned ramping up testing. You have a virology lab that`s been out front on this. I`ve talked to a bunch of people over the past day who`d say that in the epicenter of one of these sort of outbreaks, in some ways testing becomes just not a priority. I mean, people -- the priority is caring for the very grievously ill, and you can track the virus as you can track the virus, but that`s what you got to do. So where are you on that sort of scale?
INSLEE: Well, we`ve been fortunate because we were ahead of most all of the states of building our own testing capacity in our state public lab. So in the early days, we did have the adequate capacity to test the samples that were coming in, in a timely fashion. Now, we got set back a little bit because as you know, there was a glitch in the original kits sent from the federal government, but we came up with our own system, and we were in pretty good shape in that regard.
Right now, we continue to be in fairly good shape, because the turnaround time, I just checked on this morning, is from 28 -- 24 to 48 hours. So we`re pretty good shape. But we want to continue to build that capacity, both for diagnostic purposes and for demographic purposes, so we can figure out where the hotspots are.
But a lot of this is, you know, people have anxiety. They want to know whether they have the disease. We understand that. So yes, we should continue to build our capacity. That is happening. We now are bringing on some labs. And I talked to the vice president the other day. He asked whether we could actually assume some of the Federal responsibility for validating the new systems of testing that the private labs are bringing on.
And I think we`re going to be able to do that to help the federal government get that job done. We have enough excess capacity in our public lab to do that. So I hope we can help out in that regard. So what I would say right now is my biggest concern is the medical surge capacity. That`s what we`re really focused on, to not get into a situation where we don`t have enough ventilators and people not being able to breathe. That`s what we`re really focused on.
HAYES: You mentioned -- I mean, obviously, your state I think had one of the first indications of community transmission. There`s DNA analysis suggests that -- or RNA analysis that suggests the virus had been there for five weeks before it was -- it was sort of discovered. Do you have internal modeling that lets you get a sense of the scope of what`s happening independent of those 564 confirmed cases, which we all know, is not an accurate measurement of what`s happened?
INSLEE: Yes. We do have and we`re fortunate we`ve got some of the best geneticists in the world right here at Fred Hutchinson University of Washington, and we do have modeling that can take the known tests, and look at the genetic situation to figure out where they are in the generations and do a projection of what you actually have walking around the streets undiagnosed. And we`re fairly confident of that.
Unfortunately, it`s in the low thousands at the moment. And if you do the projections on that, you know, we think this doubles every week. And so if you assumed at the beginning of this week, we had 1,000 or 2,000, that means by mid-May, if you do the projections in a geometric modeling, you maybe have 60,000-plus by mid-May.
And if you look at the mortality rates, you`re talking about, you know, potentially 2,000 fatalities by mid-May a week, and that doubles the following week. This shows why we have to be so focused on building medical surge capacity in all its -- all of its horizons because you need the whole thing. You need the bed, you need the building, you need the personnel, and you need the equipment like ventilators.
So we`ve now assessed the capacity. The Army can be called upon. They have these sets, they call them hospitals sets that can come out with dozens and dozens of beds. We may be calling upon the Army to help us in that regard. But even that will not be enough. We`ve all got to focus on this nationally. And that`s the one thing I would say. I would say, any local leader, we got to put our shoulder to the wheel on that starting tonight.
HAYES: All right, Governor Jay Inslee, that was really informative, and thank you for taking time.
INSLEE: You bet. Wash your hands.
HAYES: I will. I want to bring in a Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, Democrat from Michigan, also former CIA, Middle East Analyst, former assistant -- Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under President Obama. So my understanding is -- here`s my understanding of the state of play. A deal was struck between Nancy Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin who are directly negotiating. Now everyone is waiting to see in the GOP caucus if the president tweets a thumbs up so that they can vote for it.
That is my understanding. Yes, that we`re literally waiting to see sort of the white smoke from the White House via tweet. And then until and unless we see that tweet, we`re not going to have a vote from the Republicans. They don`t want to vote on it until they see how he thinks about it.
HAYES: But just to be clear, this was negotiated with the Trump administration. Nancy Pelosi negotiated with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a cabinet officials in the President`s administration. Is that right?
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): That`s my understanding. I mean, I was in with the speaker yesterday when she had to be interrupted to take Secretary Mnuchin`s call. I know they`ve been working this really hard. I hope we`re on the brink of a deal, and I hope it works tonight.
HAYES: What do you think of the package?
SLOTKIN: I mean, listen, I think, you know, this would be the second package that we`ve done in a week. The first one that we did $8.3 billion was just to sort of get going on research for a potential cure, but really for treatment, which hopefully would come in a couple of months, and start pushing out some of the equipment that we know everyone needs today.
The bill that we`re looking at is really about just some relief for families, particularly workers who are furloughed or not being able to work, making sure there`s workers compensation, making sure there`s family leave and sick leave for people who don`t have it, just allowing people to do the basics that CDC is asking them to do. And then we`ll have to do a third package, honestly.
We`ll do something my guess in the next 10 days that`s about the economic recovery. But the package to me is something that`s important because we want to feel that we`re moving out on something. People need -- we just heard the governor. You know, Washington State is leading on this. And you`ve heard him what he needs. That takes money, so we want to push it out tonight.
HAYES: So the schedule is -- everyone is waiting around in the capital, and if the president tweets approval, then you can waive the rules and move it quickly to the floor and vote for it. But no one can leave until the president tweets that he likes it.
SLOTKIN: Yes. I mean, we`re waiting to be called to the floor. It`s not the first time, it won`t be the last time, but that is what we are doing.
HAYES: You just said something interesting because my next question was going to be, are you going to get another bite of the apple here, and you already said there`s going to be a third package. I sometimes worry when I speak to members on Capitol Hill that there`s a little bit of mismatch of people`s understanding of the scale of where this might end up and the scale of where it might end up. Like, how are you thinking about it? Who are you talking to, to get your head around as a member of Congress? What period we might be entering into?
SLOTKIN: Sure. So maybe it`s because I`m a former CIA officer and a Pentagon official. I really believe in early systematic, prudent planning. So our governor in Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer took some, you know, very dramatic action. I thought that was extremely prudent to close all schools, declare an emergency very, very, very early, before we had even a dozen cases in the state. And what she was trying to do is stem the flow in the spread of the disease so that we`re not in a situation that you know, poor Washington State is in right now.
So I`m talking to her. She`s calling regular meetings with our delegation. But the one that was really informative for me today is I got on the phone with 75 leaders from across my district, mayors and town supervisors, fire chiefs, sheriffs, just everybody, and we went through. I talked about the appropriation that we`re -- that we did last week and what`s coming down the pike, but then also what we`re trying to get done today, more importantly, heard what they need from us.
And honestly, it mirrors what you just heard from the governor over in Washington State, testing, testing, testing, particularly for our healthcare workers and our first responders. They want to know that they will be able to be tested if they need a test. They also are public servants and don`t want to be infecting people by mistake just because they can`t get a hold of a test.
Then equipment, obviously ventilators but also in Michigan, masks, gowns, basic stuff. So our governor is working really, really hard and asking us to advocate here at the federal level. Then obviously, we have a problem with things like childcare. You know, schools are out. We have a problem with our business. We`ve certainly been talking about how we`re going to get small business administration loans to some of these folks who are seeing a repeat of 2008, and can`t last more than a month in some cases without taking in some kind of money.
So there`s stages to this. And I think the most important thing I`ve heard, to be honest, is that people are looking for real clarity and leadership. And again, from my time at the Pentagon, just be clear, be consistent, take action, move, we want to see you moving, and then compassion. Have empathy for what people are going through on the ground. That`s what people are looking for is a firm, clear hand.
HAYES: Final question and it`s a question on politics which are not the most important thing here right now. But everything you do is political because you`re a member of Congress. That`s the way democracy works. You`re in a swing district, you`re a freshman member of Congress. My sense from talking to you is that this is not a tough vote for you. Like this stuff is not tough for you in a political sense right now, right? Like there might be votes that are tough. This is just not one of them.
SLOTKIN: No. I mean getting assistance out to our states and local authorities, no. I mean, that`s not a tough vote. And I got to be honest with you, I am deeply invested in the success of this administration on this issue, right? And we all should be, right? I`m not going to spend time criticizing Donald Trump. Do I love everything that he`s doing? No. But am I invested in him succeeding because that is how we`re going to get through this? Absolutely.
HAYES: All right, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of the State of Michigan, thank you very much.
HAYES: Everyone wants to know where is America`s trajectory with coronavirus headed. How long would this last? We`re going to talk to the experts about where we are compared to the countries that have gone before us and where we are going next.
HAYES: The big question that everyone wants answered right now is what does the future hold and how long is this whole thing going to last? The frustrating truth is we just don`t know. We can only estimate based on what`s happening in other countries further ahead of us on the trajectory.
According to the latest data on confirmed coronavirus cases from Johns Hopkins University, it looks like things are probably not going to pan out like they haven`t say Singapore and Japan. We can hope to end up looking like South Korea. But if you take a look at Italy, that purple line there, it seems like we are tracking most closely to their trajectory as, I should note, some other European countries.
Earlier today, we did get a preview about what one of the leading experts in the country Dr. Fauci is anticipating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: These kinds of things generally run out in a few months. Hopefully, we`ll make it several weeks, eight, nine, whatever weeks. But I can`t give you a number, because it depends on how successful we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: So to be clear, eight, nine weeks, somewhere around there. If that`s a median estimate with a huge range, that would put us at hundreds of thousands of cases at the current rate of growth. Here with me now to talk about the best estimates of where we are in this pandemic, Dr. Ian Lipkin, Epidemiologist at Columbia University`s Mailman School of Public Health, the Director of the Center for Infection and Immunity where he and his team have been working on an improved test for COVID-19, and Helen Branswell, Senior Writer on Infectious Diseases at Stat News. She`s been a must-follow during this period, doggedly reporting on the coronavirus outbreak.
Let me start with you, Helen. Where is your sense in the folks that you`re talking to about where the U.S. is on this trajectory compared say, to other countries?
HELEN BRANSWELL, SENIOR WRITER ON INFECTIOUS DISEASES, STATE NEWS: You know, Chris, it`s very, very hard to estimate that because there`s been so little testing done here. The sense of how much spread there has been taking place in the United States is just not clear. Obviously, the numbers that exist are not the true numbers.
But how deeply into the United States the virus has taken root in and at what level it is transmitting is still unclear. And it`s going to take a while until more testing is done before we have a better sense of that.
HAYES: You know, we`ve heard from -- we heard from the President today, and I`ve been hearing this increasingly from folks in the doctors and hospitals that testing is not the priority right now, from a medical standpoint. Like they want to get people -- they want to sort of get the folks that need care into their hospitals and ICUs. From an epidemiological perspective, though, it seems like you can`t -- you really can`t fight this without it. Is that fair to say?
W. IAN LIPKIN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY`S MAILMAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I think that`s fair to say and I agree with Helen. I don`t think we know where we are in the trajectory of this outbreak. The other thing that I think we need to emphasize is that there are many, many people who are either asymptomatic or have mild disease who don`t come to the attention of the healthcare system.
LIPKIN: And they are potential sources of infection for some time to come. Testing is really critical in containment. And the other type of testing that we`ve not done yet at all, is testing for evidence of previous infection, which requires antibodies as opposed to molecular methods. We`re trying to diagnose people right now who have active infections. But if we really want to know the mortality rate, we have to know the denominator. And without antibody testing, we won`t have that.
HAYES: Meaning, all sorts of people who, presumably possibly over the last two weeks or even longer than that in Washington state who had it, it was not that serious for them, they didn`t get hospitalized and they didn`t get tested, they`re now fine, but we just don`t know that all that happened to them because they haven`t been tested for antibodies?
LIPKIN: And in addition, we have lots of other respiratory disease that`s circulating in the community. We still have influenza, we have rhinovirus, we have other viruses. One of the things that we try to do is use tests that can allow us to not only detect the presence of this virus, but other viruses, because some of those have specific therapies.
And one of the conversations that the governor of Washington was having about access to equipment, ventilators and such as very important to that because we have drugs that can be useful for treating influenza.
HAYES: Right. Helen, one of the sort of paradoxes or challenges I would say here, right, is this is sort of lag time between action and effect, both in terms of the sort of five day latency period, but also in terms of the drama of that curve, such that people have to take proactive steps.
I saw today that interestingly enough that Greece announced essentially, in almost Italy style lockdown with 133 cases. It seems like there`s a sort of lesson being transmuted that you have to act earlier and earlier.
BRANSWELL: Yes. I think people are moving in that direction. You have to be a bit careful with that, though. I mean, some of these lockdown measures can`t be sustained forever. And, you know, you have to time them appropriately. You want to take measures before the virus really gets out of control as it did in Italy, for instance.
But if you do it too soon, you`re really hurting your economy, you`re hurting families who may lose wages and you may also undermine people`s willingness to participate in these kinds of actions, if they feel like they`re doing it for nothing, or that they can`t sustain it.
HAYES: That`s a really good point. And it also points to the other problem that is now coming up in China, right, which is what happens after the curve. I know that you were in China and you`ve worked with a Chinese. They, you know, what they had to undertake to bring it under control is basically unthinkable in the U.S. I mean, it`s just complete lockdown of a society and total surveillance.
They did bring it under control. They`re now sort of slowly opening back up. How do they think about -- how do you think about it as an epidemiologist, how they contain it as that happens?
LIPKIN: Well, I think they`ve actually done a very good job and have demonstrated to us how you can bring this under control. Now, I understand it`s very difficult to lock down an entire city, on the other hand, people there wear masks and gloves and take this very seriously. And social distancing was something that the community adopted there and this is something that we need to move to, as well.
And one of the points that Helen was talking about in terms of anticipating where the virus -- how the virus spreads and so forth, as you mentioned, the incubation period is five to seven days, but that means that people may be asymptomatic and still be spreading the virus, so it`s very difficult to contain this.
My expectation is when that we`re down, we`re going to find that there are probably 50 to 100 times more people infected than we ever thought were, and that`s going to drive that mortality rate down. But given the number of people who are infected, there could still be a substantial burden.
HAYES: Today Helen, the CDC -- The Times acquired CDC internal modeling, which was projecting worst-case scenarios. What is your sense of how much modeling is being done and how wide the variation and how experts are expecting this to go is?
BRANSWELL: Well, everybody who could model is modeling. There`s almost an epidemic of modeling, although of course it`s very useful and appropriate to be doing that.
I mean, models are models and they can only be as accurate as the information you put into them.
So you may remember before or during the West African Ebola crisis in 2014, there were models that came out early that turned out to be fortunately wildly inaccurate. You know, models are a useful tool, but they`re not always going to be correct and all the modelers will tell you that, as well.
HAYES: All right, Dr. Ian Lipkin and Helen Branswell, thank you both.
Coming up, how the people tasked with solving the country`s greatest problem are making lots and lots of time to massage Donald Trump`s ego. What it means for evidence-based decision making next.
HAYES: One of the most unnerving and disturbing aspects of this crisis is watching people whose prime goal should be giving accurate information to Americans, should be giving us evidence based facts about both the pandemic and the government response, instead offering up cult-like dear leader style praise for Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This day should be an inspiration to every American.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaking of being at risk, the president, he sleeps less than I do and he is healthier than what I am.
PENCE: Throughout this process, Mr. President, you put the health of America first.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The payroll tax holiday is a bold move, it`s a very bold move. And this has always been a bold president.
ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: You bought us valuable time by taking that strong action, Mr. president.
PENCE: The unprecedented action.
AZAR: Thank god he took that action.
PENCE: Once again, because of the unprecedented action.
AZAR: It was strong action. It was bold. It was unprecedented action.
PENCE: Mr. President, from early on you took decisive action.
AZAR: You were brave, it was unprecedented, but you protected the American public.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you reassure everyone tonight that there is not a shortage of ventilators or ICU units.
SEEMA VERMA, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: And that`s why the president took bold and decisive action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: A question about ventilators with no answer, just the president being bold. The president and his team have been acting as though this pandemic is a political problem that can be spun away or just drowned in sheer tonnage of propaganda, but the virus doesn`t care how much Mike Pence praises Donald Trump`s leadership. And right now we don`t know where the virus is. We`ll have more on that ahead.
HAYES: The acute Coronavirus testing shortage in the U.S. means that right now as you were just hearing the message from everyone is we need to keep the hospitals clear for people with severe cases and you can`t unless you`re really sick, which, because we don`t have enough tests makes sense from an medical standpoint, but from an epidemiological standpoint we just don`t know the scope of the pandemic. We can`t react or take proactive measures accordingly, particularly not regionally.
Now, we didn`t have to end up here. A series of failures and missteps by the federal government has led us to a point where we are doing less testing than any other comparable nation.
Joining me now is Dan Diamond of Politico who has done some very in-depth reporting on the federal government`s response. One of his recent pieces is titled "Trump`s mismanagement helped fuel Coronavirus crisis."
Dan, it`s a great piece, and you`ve done great reporting about this. Take us back a few months ago. What were the early missteps in terms of how the White House and the president how proactive or not proactive they were in going at this?
DAN DIAMOND, POLITICO: Well, I think it depends how far back you want to go. But the starting point for me, Chris would be in January. Secretary Alex Azar, the health secretary, did become alarmed about the spread of this virus in China. He tried to take that message to the president, but the aides around President Trump, some of them who don`t like Azar, who have fought Azar, Azar`s own standing had fallen somewhat in the administration, some of them thought that this was not going to be a presidential priority. So try to steer him away.
By the time the secretary did brief the president, which was mid-January, it was around the same time that the first patients were being discovered in the United States, people who had returned from China. That could have been a moment for urgency, for the administration to really put all of the resources that we now see the Trump administration doing.
But in that moment in January, really for much of February, too, the urgency just wasn`t there, which public health officials have said privately this is a shame. China bought the world time with its significant measures to lock-down its population. China made lots of mistakes, too. But by seeing the explosion of cases and knowing what was coming, the U.S. had time to get ahead, time that was not used to its best advantage.
HAYES: You said this in an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air, you said the president attached to rosy scenarios about Coronavirus, fixated on case count and conveyed to staff that low numbers were better politics for 2020. What do you mean by that?
DIAMOND: The president and his team knew early on that this any panic, or perceived panic, around this virus could be devastating to his campaign. President Trump has been able to run ahead of many problems because of the success of the economy. This threat, as we`ve seen in recent days, this public health threat, is also an economic threat. The president`s team did not want to put out notes of panic, did not want to alarm the public, perhaps unnecessarily, so there was a lot of wishful thinking, a lot of hopeful talk and some efforts to try and pierce that bubble just didn`t get through.
Now it`s interesting to talk to some of those officials today, Chris, because everyone swears they knew this was a problem, it was just someone else around the president who didn`t want him to know, but the president himself focused so much on the numbers and the case count.
I was writing a story and he came out and did a press conference at the CDC where I felt like he scooped my story. He said I don`t know if I want these patients to come off a cruise ship because I like the numbers where they are. That message in public is what he is also reiterated in private.
HAYES: Meaning, there is a message from the top we don`t want high numbers, and high numbers are what you get if you`re testing adequately and actually properly surveilling the disease, and so the president has been sending a public and private message saying like I don`t want to know basically how many cases we have.
DIAMOND: I think the message has changed this week especially between the prime time Oval Office address, the comments in the Rose Garden today. But yes, Chris, the feeling from the top that this could have been a message of we need to find every single case in the country, we need to make sure every base is covered, the steps that have been taken recently could have been taken weeks ago, but the belief was that the border control strategy, which the president attached to it, lines up with some of his other thoughts on national security, that was seen as sufficient and working.
DIAMOND: There wasn`t much of an effort to go beyond.
HAYES: And that`s -- you hear him say that. He says we closed the border. We closed the border, which by the way is not really true. I mean, obviously we didn`t because there is cases from Wuhan that ended up in the U.S. probably transmitted, so there were some travel restrictions, but it was not airtight.
But you get a sense when you listen to him when he`s announcing the European travel restrictions, that like that`s all you need -- build a wall, shut it off, but of course the virus got here anyway.
DIAMOND: Yes, viruses don`t respect walls all that much. I think that public health officials, and I`ve talked to enough, would say the China moves were understandable. This was a mysterious virus. It may have slowed things down. The Euro moves are little less obvious. It`s clearly spreading in the United States. And I think what is complicating, Chris, is we didn`t let our European partners know. They were offended. They were upset. And there are major corporations that would help us fight and test the virus. We need to partner and get supplies from Europe in the weeks and months moving forward.
So it`s a moment where there are obvious things that need to be done, but some of those things are politically very difficult. And until recently, the president and his team were hesitant to lean into them.
HAYES: All right, Dan Diamond has been doing great reporting on this, as always. Thank you for being with me tonight.
DIAMOND: Thank you.
HAYES: There is a very real and genuine debate about when to enact a citywide or statewide school closure. Should everyone do it or is there still room for a case by case approach? We`re going to talk about that with some experts next.
HAYES: We are now seeing widespread school closures across the country due to the Coronavirus pandemic. As of right now a number of states and major cities have already either closed schools or will do so beginning next week. Those statewide closings are every school in the state.
A lot of other school districts remain open, including, perhaps most notably, in New York City where there is a large number of cases of the virus, and that has people asking why. Well, it`s partly because closing schools is a torturous decision for local officials, particularly in a decision like New York. New York City has more than 100,000 students that are homeless. Those kids depend on the city`s free lunch program, among other things. And there are health care workers and first responders here in the city who send their kids to public school.
Today, the CDC issued some very belated guidelines on school closures after basically everyone had made the decision. It still remains a very vex issue.
Here to talk about what`s the best policy and how to deal with president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Dr. Joseph Fair, a virologist and epidemiologist.
Doctor, let me start with you just on the epidemiology side of this. Like what are the pro and con cases for closing schools?
DR. JOSEPH FAIR, VIROLOGIST AND EPIDEMIOLOGIST: You know, as you said, this is a very divided issue even amongst ourselves as public health officials.
HAYES: I`ve actually talked to epidemiologists on either side of this, interestingly. There has been a lot of consensus on a lot of issues. This one splits people.
FAIR: For me, I tend to be on the side of let`s close the schools because, we know kids are not dying from the disease, from the data at least that we have, but they are getting infected and they are infectious, so they can infect other kids who will then take it home to their high risk grandparents or high risk parents in those high risk categories. Children are notorious super spreaders of germs of all sorts.
HAYES: I`ve got three and I know it.
FAIR: Yes, right?
So, this is no different from that. And so I tend to lean in the corner of we need to close the schools.
HAYES: Make the argument on the other side. What is an epidemiological argument on the other side.
FAIR: On the other side of closing the schools.
HAYES: Of keeping them open.
FAIR: Oh, keeping them open.
Well, unless you close them all at the same time, then we`re going to just be in a cycle of one school getting it, the other school getting it two weeks later, the other school going to get it three weeks later, et cetera, so it has to be all or none.
HAYES: Where is your union on this?
RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: So we are in the middle of that agonizing debate amongst ourselves.
HAYES: I imagine you`re torn.
WEINGARTEN: Yes, no, we`re totally torn, but so at the beginning of this last two weeks, we were like this is a last resort. This is a last resort. We got 2 million kids nationwide who are homeless. We have 31 million kids we feed every lunch, you know, 12 million we feed every breakfast. All the work we do in terms of health care. Half the kids in the country already come in with trauma.
So, all the things that Bill de Blasio and others are saying about the impacts, and particularly in terms of what happens with parents and staying home, that was why it is a last resort, but this is why we are now leaning towards where the good doctor is and where the 36 epidemiologists who sent Bill de Blasio a letter this week said, because if you don`t have the testing, you don`t know who has the virus. And then you have kids and families that are kids going cross city, cross state, all this other stuff, and since you don`t know where the vector is, you can be contaminating, contaminating.
And so what we`ve tried to do -- we`ve worked in New Mexico, we`re working with Illinois, we`re working with Michigan, is how do you create feeding centers, how do you create online, how do you create child care, so plan this, which is what New Mexico is doing all this weekend, what Michigan is doing all this weekend.
HAYES: So, they`re going -- so, wait, tell me about that, they want to try to square the circle here which is we have kids who need school and depend on school to get fed, whose parents depend on us for watching their kids essentially, but we want to close the school so there`s some middle space that they`re working towards here.
WEINGARTEN: Yes, for example, Governor Grisham in New Mexico, give her lots of props, grab and lunches, trying to figure out with Presbyterian Hospital or health association how to do some feeding programs there, how to do some child care programs there.
Denver Public Schools, K through 18 have a feeding program. The USDA is going to pay for all these things.
In L.A., they`re figuring out family resource centers, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
So what`s going to happen in New York if god forbid there`s a cluster that all of a sudden shows up in the Bronx or shows up in Brooklyn, and then people are going to immediately say we got to close the school tomorrow.
HAYES: Right, and you want have the plan.
WEINGARTEN: And you haven`t had the plan.
HAYES: I see your point.
WEINGARTEN: So, what I`m saying is what you`re seeing all across the country now -- Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, people are spending all weekend long, people spent Thursday, Friday, all weekend trying to plan, and then you have the CDC that`s now said, OK, you have to close for eight weeks.
HAYES: Which -- go ahead.
FAIR: I was just going to say, this is not a decision we take lightly to make these kind of recommendations, right. This impacts people in every facet of life, especially the low income strata.
FAIR: It`s agonizing.
HAYES: Yes, I mean, the other thing is that, again, you get to the point - - I mean, there`s two points here, one on an epidemiological and one that`s the social safety net, the epidemiological point is I remember talking to an epidemiologist a few weeks ago who made the point that if you don`t scale up testing, you will result to blunter and blunter instruments of social distancing. So, you actually -- like as opposed to the idea of like testing will cause panic, what you actually want to do is like see exactly where the virus is so that you don`t have to do things like shut everything down.
But that`s where we are right now, because we can`t see it.
FAIR: And you just said the keyword, social distancing. And unless everyone social distances, including children, it doesn`t work.
HAYES: The other part of this, of course, we saw...
WEINGARTEN: Which is what we saw in South Korea and in China.
HAYES: So the other part of this from a sort of policy perspective, so we just -- it looks like the president has just tweeted his approval. If you were with us at the beginning of the show, we were at a deal worked out between Pelosi and Mnuchin, waiting for the thumbs up tweet from the president. We just got the thumbs up tweet, which means that will pass.
Paid family sick leave, some emergency medical leave.
WEINGARTEN: absolutely imperative.
HAYES: But part of the issue here right is like all of these policies are detached, so if Ohio closes the schools, like good luck parents who have jobs, like, unless we`re doing everything possible, we`re...
WEINGARTEN: I know, but there`s -- I mean, you`re totally right, but what I want to give some props to Nancy Pelosi and Rosa DeLauro and all of them because they have been listening to all of us in terms of how to get these policies kind of connected.
HAYES: In this process you`re saying?
WEINGARTEN: In this process, because if you look at their bill, we kept saying you have to increase SNAP, you have to deal with the public charge issues, you have to increase Medicaid. We have to do all this stuff because if schools are closed, if parents have to stay home, they need that right now and the enhanced unemployment right now.
FAIR: I think we have a precedent for this too. I mean, to give an analogy, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, now that we have declared a national emergency, FEMA has the power to issue direct funds to people to cover rent, food, and day care, et cetera. So that`s doable now presumably if we have enough money put aside for that.
HAYES: Do you have -- I guess final question, you know, there`s a workplace aspect to this. All of your focus has been on the children and the families, which is good, but obviously you`re a union leader, and you have workers, and those workers are in workplaces. And I talked to...
WEINGARTEN: And I total concurred with -- I saw...
HAYES: Rich Trumka last night.
WEINGARTEN: ...last night.
HAYES: Who obviously there`s real concerns there.
I mean, that must be another part of this. I mean, your teachers are going to get sick.
WEINGARTEN: But it`s not just our teachers, we are the second largest nurse union. So this whole notion, and look, if I sound angry, I am. I`m not a scientist. I listen to the scientists. How the heck did we not have testing? How don`t we have testing. How do we not have a stockpile of N95 respirators? What happens to the ventilators?
And so what`s happening is everybody is scared. The fear has now overtaken the fact, but all of these kind of processes for safety need to be in place.
HAYES: Randi Weingarten and Dr. Joseph Fair, thank you both for making time.
That is All In for this evening. The Rachel Maddow show starts right now.
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