ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for joining us. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts now.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. This is the image that sums up today, a dystopian vision of an election amidst a pandemic. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel capturing this shot of a line of Wisconsin voters stretching down the block, all of them wearing masks, all trying to physically distance, one holding a homemade sign reading, this is ridiculous.
Those voters were in the line to vote in, among other things, the Wisconsin presidential primary, but that`s really not what today was all about, because more importantly for the state Republican Party, the vote today was a contested election for the state Supreme Court. The situation today is an absolute disaster as a public health crisis, and also as an indicator of the health of our democracy.
Essentially, the Wisconsin Republican Party decided that any deaths that might occur from this enterprise, this ridiculous enterprise from holding an election in the middle of a pandemic, will have been worth it. Everyone you see here was exposed to unnecessary risk. That`s just the basic fact, inescapable, forced to the polls because State Republicans thought that a low turnout election amid a pandemic would be to their political advantage.
The absurdity of their position was illustrated by Republican state assembly leader Robin Vos who is standing out in full personal protective gear, talking to everyone about just how safe it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN VOS (R), ASSEMBLY SPEAKER, WISCONSIN: I`m serving as an election inspector, which means that the gentleman who holds the car actually gets all the information brings it over to us. We sign the ballot verifying the more that they`re in it, we give it to him, and the voter then cast the ballot through the (INAUDIBLE).
They gave us a PPE. It`s mandatory to wear it. So we are here today, making sure that we do everything safely. I think it`s a testament to the people who have really thought about this election. They knew what they were doing. They worked really hard to make sure that everybody who is here are, the ones who are at the poll place working, people who are coming in their cars.
Everybody is here safe. They have a very minimal exposure. Actually, there`s less exposure here than you would get if you went to the grocery store. You are incredibly safe to go out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Just so safe. You are so safe to go out, he says, decked out from head to toe properly in personal protective gear. Something, by the way, health care workers are begging for. But hey, nothing to worry about Wisconsin voters. Take it for me and this mask and gown, all safe here.
This election has been on the calendar for some time. After initially supporting holding the election today, the Wisconsin Democratic Governor Tony Evers last week finally called for a delay due to the you know, gestures wildly toward everything, the pandemic.
And he called the republican led state legislator in a special session to get them to approve of this obviously reasonable move. And what happened was that the Wisconsin Republicans in both chambers simply convened the session and then adjourned in under a minute without taking any action.
And then Governor Evers issued an executive order delaying the election, and Republicans sued. And they got the order struck down with, guess what, the help of the State Supreme Court, which also happens to be run by Republicans, and which also halted in-person proceedings for their own business back on March 22nd because it is too dangerous to do normal things amid the virus.
In another legal challenge, the U.S. Supreme Court also sided with the state Republicans with, you`ll never get this, with five Republican nominees partially blocking a lower courts extension of the absentee ballot deadline.
In her dissent to that ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid out exactly how irresponsible and insane this all is. "Either Wisconsin voters will have to brave the polls endangering their own and other safety, or they will lose their right to vote through no fault of their own. That is a matter of upmost importance to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin citizens, the integrity of the state`s election process, and in this most extraordinary time, the health of this nation."
Now, you might be sitting there watching all this and wondering, why, why the hell would Wisconsin Republicans who have already used anti-democratic gerrymandering to stay in power, why are they so insistent on holding this primary election today? And here`s the answer. Because there is a conservative state supreme court justice on the ballot who they really, really want to win.
In part, they want him to win so that he can stay on the Supreme Court and help them purge voters. And they think a lower turnout election amidst a pandemic will probably help them. The scene in Milwaukee today, where the population is largely Black or Hispanic would seem to back that up, all right.
Milwaukee is the epicenter of the outbreak in the state of Wisconsin. It also has 16 percent of the state`s population, but half of the Coronavirus cases in the state. There were long lines to vote in Milwaukee today. That is largely because the city opened just five of the 180 polling sites because so many poll workers dropped out understandably for fear of exposure to the virus the entire nation is battling.
But this is not just a Wisconsin story, this is a national story, because Donald Trump has gotten involved. He is not just cheering on the Wisconsin election, he is bragging about blocking of voting by mail proposal in that rescue package they pass saying that such efforts by Democrats to make voting by mail universal would increase voter turnout, and then and I`m quoting him here, you`d never have a Republican elected in this country again.
So he gets it. Wisconsin republicans get it, right? It`s better for them if people can`t vote in large numbers. Late this afternoon, Trump described mail and voting is both dangerous and corrupt citing no actual concrete evidence even though he himself voted by mail last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were highly critical of mail-in voting, mailing your ballots for voting.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think mailing voting is horrible. It`s corrupt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yet you voted by mail in Florida`s last month didn`t you?
TRUMP: Sure, I could vote by mail for the --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you reconcile with that?
TRUMP: Because I`m allowed to. Well, that`s called out of state. You know why I voted, because I happen to be in the White House and I won`t be able to go to Florida to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What the President and the Republican Party want is to stop people from getting mail in our absentee ballots universally so they have access to the polls even during a pandemic because they believe this helps them, right? I mean, the illness takes out the big bag cities and what happens, the Republican votes total statewide. Think about that.
Making those people in that line in Milwaukee vote in the midst of a pandemic is a means for them to get more power. And unless something changes, and we get a crash program to make voting universally accessible in this country, we could be staring into the future of what our national election looks like in the fall. And Republicans seem more than happy for that to be the case.
Here with me now is NBC News Political Reporter Shaquille Brewster who`s been doing some great reporting in Milwaukee. Shaquille, what has it been like there today?
SHAQUILLE BREWSTER, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, Chris, it`s interesting. Under normal circumstances, you and I would be talking about how different sides and candidates are feeling as we approach about an hour until the close of the polls here, but it`s very clear that these are no normal circumstances.
Voters who came out today in Wisconsin may not only face risk to their health by coming out to the polls amid this pandemic, they face long lines in the cities that you`ve been seeing across the state. Here at this location in Milwaukee, the lines were consistently an hour and a half to two hours long. About an hour ago, there was a torrential downpour, there was also hail. So voters had to go through a lot to go and cast their ballot.
And what you`ve been hearing from them is not only a frustration that they have to come out, that they feel forced to come out and vote under these circumstances, but it`s a deep sense of patriotism. So many times, and so many voters have told me simply, it is my duty, that`s why I decided to come out. Listen to what this one voter told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BREWSTER: What are you feeling right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is so wrong. This is just so wrong. This election should have been called off. You know, they`re telling us to stay in the house and you know, stand six feet from each other but then, one of the most important times, they`re forcing us to come out here in a group. They`re playing politics when I lives. You know, that`s what I`m feeling
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like this is a game.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BREWSTER: Chris, it`s important to note that efforts definitely have been made to make this process as safe as possible. Voters were given hand sanitizer when they were entering the polls. They were tape marks all over inside the voting location to help enforce that social distancing that we`re hearing about.
There are poll workers, many poll workers who were National Guardsmen who were pulled in and volunteered, who went around and wiped down voting machines. People were -- there was a seriousness that was taken with this, but it was very clear that this is -- this was a risk to voters who chose to come out and there was that frustration that you heard from voter after voter. Chris?
HAYES: All right, Shaquille Brewster doing great reporting today on this just unbelievable, frankly, unbelievable scene unfolding in Milwaukee and around Wisconsin today. Thank you, Shaquille.
Here to discuss how this election came to be, the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, Democrat Mandela Barnes who tweeted this today. "Good morning and welcome to the S-show. Today`s episode has been produced by the Supreme Court and directed by the incomparable speaker and senate majority leader duo. Lieutenant Governor, how did we get to this point?
MANDELA BARNES (D), LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF WISCONSIN: We got to this point through a long trend of voter suppression that`s been going on in this state and across the country. Unfortunately, they saw an opportunity, our speaker, our majority leader, our conservative, or you can just say, Republican-controlled Supreme Court in the state of Wisconsin.
And they saw an opportunity to suppress the vote here with Coronavirus fears which, you know, Governor Evers issued an executive order to delay this election. And they immediately appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn that decision to keep this date in place so that a low turnout would benefit the Donald Trump endorsed that Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly.
And it`s unfortunate because they`re playing politics with people`s lives, as she said, and as a -- as a reporter on the ground stated, there was torrential downpour and hail. So people were literally battling hail and high water to cast the ballot also while this Coronavirus epidemic is taking place.
HAYES: I know that obviously the governor that you work with, had has issued the executive order. He called for a delay. He did take a while to get there, though. I mean, I watched this whole thing build up for weeks. And you know, three weeks ago, we`re sort of the last elections we had in this country, and that was a little questionable. Ohio decided to call it off, the three other states went ahead, but should Democrats in the state, should the governor, should you raise the alarms earlier more strenuously about this?
BARNES: Well, alarms were raised. And that`s the one difference too is that the other states were simply having their presidential preference primaries. Here in Wisconsin, it was a general election for the spring here for many local offices. And like I said before, our supreme court race. And our governor also tried to work in good faith with the legislature. And again, we see what happens when you try that route. They don`t respond to work in good faith. They are all about maintaining power here in the states across this country.
And in trying to work with in good faith with those Republican legislators, it got us down to the wire and the governor saw what was going on in Milwaukee where we see the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the north side where over half of the total deaths across our entire state have taken place in Milwaukee, and he did what he had to do on the final hour.
And again, it shouldn`t have gotten to that place anyway. Republicans in the legislature have failed to even convene. They haven`t met.
HAYES: How can there be any, any democratic legitimacy to the outcome of this election, no matter who wins, whether the Democratic challenger or the Republican incumbent win? How can -- how can anyone view this as legitimate election?
BARNES: Well, obviously -- you know, there`s absolutely, you know, people were going to think about this election and challenge any outcome. We should expect lawsuits to come in coming weeks and in the coming months. And it`s unfortunate. It`s a miscarriage of democracy. It didn`t have to be this way.
When the governor decided to move regardless of how long it took, when the governor decided to move the election or decided that we should delay this election, it`s a shame that they decided that chaos would be the best option. And now you see these long lines of people going through leaps and bounds going over hurdles that they should not have to in order to cast the ballot.
This is really an awful and frustrating time because like I said, before people fought and died for the rights of vote, and now people are literally putting their lives at risk to cast a ballot, and in good faith. I can`t even tell people to go out there and vote because it does not feel right. It is not the responsible thing to do.
And that is the position that Republicans in the legislature have us in, and they thrive off chaos. I mean, look who their president is. This is their -- this is their M.O. And I don`t know how long we can go this way. But I hope people don`t forget this in November.
HAYES: The President has endorsed multiple times Mr. Kelly, who`s the Republican incumbent here. What do you say to people that are watching this and saying themselves, all this over a state Supreme Court seat? Like what is wrong with these people? Like I mean, why is this so important? Why is this election so important to the Republicans in your state?
BARNES: Courts matter. Donald Trump has spent so much time building the -- building the judicial bench, the federal bench. And if there`s an opportunity for them to keep a Supreme Court in any state under their control, they`re going to take every advantage. I think that the decisions that we saw from the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court show us that urgency and show us how important the courts are in the -- in the system.
And it`s easy for people to forget about the judicial branch. I get it because they`re not the ones who are out there on T.V. doing the press conferences, issuing press releases. Their work is mostly quiet for the -- for the most part. But the fact is, we see how their decisions impact lives. We see how decisions when it comes to women`s health, we see our decisions when it comes to overall health care in the state is dictated by the judicial branch.
So it`s important for us to wake up and understand and realize the importance of judicial elections and step up with the same energy that they approach these elections with. They are very unabashedly when it comes to supporting judicial nominees. We place progressives, as Democrats, need to step up and fight with the same vigor. We need to make sure that we are not going to let the courts fall into very regressive hands, those that want to turn back the hands of time, those that want to take us back centuries in terms of civil rights, in terms of voting rights, in terms of social justice, as far as equality, and the list goes on and on and on.
HAYES: All right, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes of Wisconsin on this very, very crazy day, thank you for making a little time for us.
BARNES: Yes, thank you.
HAYES: I Want to bring one of the most preeminent election lawyers in all of America. He`s the former general counsel to the Democratic National Committee. He does as much litigating around these issues anywhere in the country, Marc Elias. Marc, just as someone who`s handled his fair share of strange elections and has been there when there are contested elections and elections under weird circumstances, have you ever seen anything like what we are seeing unfold today?
MARC ELIAS, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, DNC: No. This is -- this is crazy. I mean, there`s no other way to put it. And to address a point that you just asked the Lieutenant Governor. If this is what the Republicans will do for a judicial election in Wisconsin, as important as the state Supreme Court is in Wisconsin, and I`m not underplaying that, but just imagine what Donald Trump and the Republicans will do in November. I mean, look at the images of what we`re seeing from Wisconsin.
HAYES: Well, this -- well, this is -- this is something that I`ve been thinking about a lot. I think a lot of people have when they think about authoritarian slippage of democracy is the kind of break glass scenarios canceled elections. People are very worried about that understandably, right?
But what this has made me realize is like actually maybe the worst thing is out an election that goes forward in circumstances where huge swaths of the electorate cannot safely vote, particularly if those huge swaths are disproportionately concentrated among the opposition party`s voters.
ELIAS: Exactly. So I`ve been saying this to folks for the last couple of days. The good news is that Donald Trump can`t move the election day -- election day. The general election is set by federal law. We`re going to have it and it`s going to be the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. The bad news is the Election Day is going to be the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.
And what Donald Trump and the Republicans are trying to do to the elections is what they have tried to do to the census. They can`t stop there from being a census, but they can underfunded and make it hard enough to participate that it doesn`t fairly represent the total population.
And what it looks like based on what they`re doing in Wisconsin their game plan is, is not that -- they can`t do cancel an election or move the general election, but they can make it so that the rules are such that not everyone can participate. And in that -- and that seems to be their only hope of winning based on what the President has acknowledged and what I think the Speaker of the House in Georgia said. So it`s really troublesome.
HAYES: Well, and with an assist from the Supreme Court, we should say. I want to read this quote which was in the Journal Sentinel about one of the people online to say -- today who said, I requested an absentee ballot almost three weeks ago and never got it. I have a father dying from lung disease, and I have to risk my life and his -- and his just to exercise my right to vote. This is Jennifer Taff who was weighing to vote in Washington High School.
The Supreme Court came in and struck down a lower court opinion that extended that deadline for absentee ballot voting because my understanding is there was a kind of traffic jam understandably, where more people than normal wanted absentee ballots because of the situations. So a judge said you got to extend the deadline, and the five, four Republican appointees in the Supreme Court said no. Is that what happened?
ELIAS: That`s exactly what happened. And you missed a step along the way, which is that the Seventh Circuit, which is not exactly a Liberal bastion, OK. The Seventh Circuit agreed with the -- with the District Court judge. So the U.S. Supreme Court decision was not just a reversal of what the trial court had said and showed a lack of deference to the hearing that the trial court had, but also to what the Seventh Circuit had written in its order as well.
HAYES: So now you`ve got a situation in which the sort of battlespace is set up to fall. I mean, Democrats worked very hard to get funding for elections in that rescue package. They got about $400 million, they wanted $2 billion. Elizabeth Warren has a $5 billion program. There is a bill, a Wyden-Klobuchar bill to call for universal mail-in balloting, which seems obvious. And you get the president out there today saying it`s fraudulent and corrupt and wrong.
Clearly, this is going to be the line from Republicans which is we don`t want to expand access to the ballot. And if you got to go get sick and die to vote because you`re in one of those infected cities, well, too bad for you.
ELIAS: Yes, I think that unfortunately, there`s a lot of truth to that. I mean, you know, one of the things that we know is that by targeting by urbanity, in other words, by population density, it has the effect of targeting by partisanship, and it also has the effect of targeting by race in many respects.
And what you see time and time again with whether it`s laws passed by Republican legislatures, or it`s the position that the RNC is taking in court or Republican legislators taking court, they always line up in a way that disenfranchises and disadvantages African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and young voters.
Time and time again, you look at where the long lines were in Texas just before COVID, you see African American, Hispanic communities. You look at the long lines in past presidential elections, you always remember those images of college campuses. So it`s predictable where the voter suppression is aimed. What`s different about this time is that you would think common decency would say that when people are lining up with masks, and are literally at risk for a deadly virus, even the Republicans would agree to take steps to ensure people can vote.
HAYES: Yes. Marc Elias, a real expert on this topic, thank you for sharing your expertise with us tonight.
ELIAS: Anytime. Thanks for having me.
HAYES: All right, still to come, fascinating new reporting with a real reasons stores cannot seem to keep toilet paper in stock. Plus, a Trump purge in the middle of a pandemic. House Intel Chair Adam Schiff on the president targeting oversight officials next.
HAYES: In the middle of dealing with the worst week of fatalities from the Coronavirus, the President decided to remove the watchdog overseeing the $2 trillion Coronavirus rescue package. The man`s name is Glenn Fine, and he was tapped the job last week by a panel of fellow inspectors general. The President decided he did not want him nominating a permanent inspector general and removing Fine abruptly.
And this comes just one day after President Trump attack the Health and Human Services Inspector General, a person he appointed for her report revealing supply shortages and testing delays, problems we have all seen and reported on at length, but which the President continues to flatly lie about.
And just days before that, on Friday night in the middle of a global pandemic that has killed thousands of Americans, President Trump took the remarkably shady step of firing the Intelligence Community watchdog Inspector General Michael Atkinson. The president came out the next day and admitted he fired the Inspector General for doing his job by taking the Ukraine whistleblower complaint to Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible. He took a whistleblower report which turned out to be a fake report. It was fake. It was totally wrong. It was about my conversation with the president of Ukraine. He took a fake report and he brought it to Congress with an emergency, OK. Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you. That man is a disgrace to IGs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Now, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff wants answers. Today he sent a letter to Trump`s Acting Director of National Intelligence informing him the Intelligence Committee will be investigating the firing of the Intelligence IG. And Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California joins me now. What are the -- what does the law say about inspector general and their independence from the President and the conditions under which they can be removed?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, this is one of those situations, Chris, where the law gives the president certain powers to appoint an inspector general or remove one, but you expect also that certain norms of behavior will be adhered to. Inspector generals often transcend one administration to the next. They are intended to be independent and report independently independent of the White House, independent of Congress. That`s been their tradition since they were established after Watergate as opposed to Watergate reform.
But here, this president is allergic to the idea of oversight and views it as a threat, very deliberately retaliating against the respected Intelligence Community Inspector General, then chastising, as you pointed out the Inspector General of Health and Human Services, for telling the truth for essentially going out interviewing to hospitals around the country to find out the ground truth. Are the hospitals getting what they need? Do they have the ventilators? Do they have the protective equipment?
You know, you would expect a president would want to know those true answers to determine whether what he is doing is working or not. But they revealed quite the opposite, that the happy talk coming out of the White House wasn`t consistent with the ground truth, and therefore this is a threat to the President`s preferred narrative of things.
So, Chris, this is one of the situations where like the firing of James Comey, you have the power to do it. Do you have the right to do it for a corrupt reason? No, you don`t. And Congress will need to step into the void and make sure that the oversight gets done.
HAYES: We should say that Mr. Atkinson released a statement saying it is hard not to think the President`s loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent, impartial Inspector General, and for my commitment to continue doing so.
Part of what struck me here is the President on a Friday night, after the end of the news day, amidst thousands of deaths and a national pandemic, took the time to do this. What does that say to you?
SCHIFF: Well, there`s never a bad time to be vindictive and retaliatory in the President`s view. And this is something that he probably has wanted to do for some time, but look for the dead of night, as you point out Friday, late after the news cycle, to bring down the hatchet here on these dedicated public servants.
Look, all of these inspector generals are a threat to a president who does not want to hear the truth. And that`s the world this president inhabits. Oversight, exposure of wrongdoing, whether it`s criminal wrongdoing, whether it`s malfeasance, negligence, incompetence, he views that as essentially treachery, as disloyalty, as disgraceful.
You can only take that view, Chris, if you believe that you are the state, and anything that doesn`t reflect well on you, therefore doesn`t reflect well on the state and is a fundamental act of disloyalty. It`s why he describes whistle-blowers as traitors and spies. Well, he views inspector generals that don`t hue his preferred narrative of things in much the same way.
You do see other inspector generals rising to the defense of their colleagues, and Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the Justice Department coming to the defense of Atkinson earlier during the struggle of the whistle-blower complaint. You had the entire community of inspector generals take the side of Michael Atkinson, and how appropriate his actions were.
So this is a real threat to oversight and during a pandemic, it could cost lives if we can`t get the ground truth.
HAYES: Well, that to me is where the sort of significance right now, is that we`re in the midst of a pandemic. There have been documented systemic failures by the federal government at multiple points in this. And we just pushed out 2 plus trillion out the door in congress for a rescue package, larger than anything I`ve seen in my life outside of a full U.S. budget, with some oversight the Democrats fought for. And here the president has issued signing statements crossing out some of that oversight, basically saying we`re going to ignore it, and now remove the IG. What does that say to you about the status of oversight for what is the largest piece of domestic spending legislation I`ve ever seen?
SCHIFF: Well, it gets back to something the president said when the Republicans first proposed the 500 billion fund with no oversight. He said I will be the oversight. That`s what Donald Trump wants, he wants the freedom to reward friends in the industry, punish enemies in the industry. And this gives him basically a half-a-trillion dollar hammer, or a half-a- trillion dollar pot of gold to distribute as he would like.
That`s not its intended purpose. This is to save the job of workers throughout the country, small business owners and others. It is not to be used as a slush fund for not to be used as a slush fund for President Trump or the first family.
And so that oversight is critical. It`s critical to be keeping people`s jobs. But the rest of the oversight is critical to making sure that the health care system continues to function as it should.
Now normally, Chris, you would have a situation where these ground truths would be important to a president because he may not be getting the straight scoop from his own agencies. But here the problem is, what happens when the president is the one who is not telling the truth? How do you hold that president accountable? And the answer in the past has been that congress, on a bipartisan basis, would rise to defend the American people and their own institution.
But here one of the parties has become a cult to the president`s personality. And in the wake of these blood lettings, blood letting of inspector generals, the response from the GOP in congress has been nothing but silence. And silence in the face of this kind of incompetent response is really deadly and the country needs to demand more of their representatives.
HAYES: Congressman Adam Schiff, thank you very much.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Still to come, why there is still no toilet paper to be found. It turns out it is not because everyone is hoarding. That story and the reporter who tracked it down, blew my mind, just ahead.
HAYES: The human toll from this virus, from this pandemic, is enormous, incalculable, and continuing every day to grow. And here we`ve brought you the stories of some of the people who we`ve lost. Obviously, there`s been a lot of focus, rightly, on health care workers. But there are a lot of other front-line workers we don`t hear about quite as often, whose jobs require them to take this added risk and who have now lost their lives.
Public transit workers that keep a city or region moving, like Peter Petrassi, a veteran subway conductor in New York City who passed away at the age of 49. His friends knew Peter for his kindness and generosity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUZ GONZELEZ, FRIEND OF PETER PETRASSI: He loved people. He shared all his wealth. He shared what he had with people, with others. I wanted to share a little bit of what he was, because he always had that smile on his face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We`ve also lost delivery and postal workers. Anthony Smith is the first known mail hander to die from Coronavirus. Mr. Smith he was a 30- year-old postal worker from Detroit, an army veteran, a husband, who helped raise 15 children.
Raymond Copeland is the first known sanitation worker in New York to succumb to the disease. Copeland was just 46 years old. Co-workers said he had everyone laughing all the time.
And then there are grocery workers, like Leilani Jordan, a greeter at the Giant supermarket in Largo, Maryland. Jordan was just 27 years old when she died last week. Her devastated mother said Jordan was always looking out for others.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZENOBIA SHEPARD, LEILANI JORDAN`S MOTHER: She just loved her little job, doing whatever they needed helping people. She would said, mommy, I need to work and help people, mommy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: One of the things I hope is happening now, as we all process this grief collectively, and as we read these stories and learn about these people, our fellow Americans, and look at what it takes for the basics of our society to function in this time of extreme crisis, is we all redefine who is essential, and what essential labor really looks like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I showed up today, and it`s just chaos. There`s a huge line to get toilet paper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s the hardest thing to find right now?
BOY: Probably TP.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, you got everybody and their brother going and buying all the toilet paper. Yes. It`s pretty bad my 62-year-old dad had to come to my house yesterday to get it, you know, 10 rolls of it, because you can`t buy it at the store.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It`s not just that stores ran out of toilet paper early on in this pandemic, it`s that there`s been a total lack of supply, which seems to persist. The shelf is basically always empty.
Now, I had understood all this as an irrational hoarding of toilet paper, but journalist Will Oremus actually took the time to report out the toilet paper supply chain story in his recent piece "What`s everyone getting wrong about the toilet paper shortage," and it turns out it is actually perfectly rational and there`s a perfectly good reason and explanation for it.
And joining me now is Will Oremus, senior writer for Medium. Will, I learned a lot from your piece. I had seen all these memes, right, about these jokes being like, you know, the symptoms aren`t gastrointestinal, like there`s no reason for people to be stocking up on this. This was all panic buying.
Why is that not the case? Why is that not the reason that we have these shortages?
WILL OREMUS, MEDIUM, SENIOR WRITER: Well, certainly it started with some hoarding and panic buying when people first realized they were going to be home for a while. People went out to the stores, bought toilet paper so they would have enough to have enough to get by.
But the shortages in stores have persisted long past when they should have stopped. If you go to the store now, you will see, they only let you buy one package at a time, and yet they still can`t keep toilet paper in stock.
So I went looking for why this could be, talked to people in the toilet paper industry and found a sort of fascinating answer, one that starts with the realization that, yes, everybody is using the bathroom the same amount, presumably, under the time of Coronavirus as we were before, but we`re using it in a different place. We`re now using it at home around the clock. Those 75% of Americans or so who are staying at home all day, they use toilet paper that you buy from the store every time they go to the bathroom. It used to be that people were using toilet paper in schools, at their office buildings, in restaurants, and hotels and airports. Now all that toilet paper isn`t getting used.
HAYES: And so you have got basically two places that people can use the bathrooms, right, at home, and out at their various places -- their offices, their college dorms, the airport bathrooms. And what you sort of discovered, which is fascinating, is that they are just not the same market. In fact, there is basically two markets that have nothing to do with each other to service those two kinds of toilet paper?
OREMUS: Yeah, that`s what I found that was fascinating.
So, the toilet paper you buy in the store, it`s pretty nice, right, it`s soft, it`s plush, it`s usually embossed somehow. A toilet paper company told me it`s actually 100 percent virgin fiber, which kind of blew my mind. The toilet paper you get at work or in airport, that stuff is thin, it`s single ply, it`s usually made from recycled sheets. It`s not only is it a different product, but it`s made by different companies, it`s made on different assembly lines in different mills.
And so the companies that are supplying all the toilet paper to the workplaces that are closed around the country, they aren`t the same ones that have the relationship with Kroger or Safeway or Rite Aid or CVS to get those toilet papers six packs into stores and back on the shelves. So we have presumably got some hug glut of that commercial toilet paper lying around and all the companies are scrambling to fill the demand for the toilet paper that you usually buy at the store.
HAYES: Which is just fascinating. Right, so there`s this completely separate supply chain for basically industrial or commercial and residential use. They don`t have anything to do with each other. They are actually different products. They have different vendor relationships. They`re different companies it turns out. And when people are staying home, there`s a 40 percent increase in their use of it at home, and presumably some massive commercial glut that is sitting there on pallets that was supposed to be delivered to things like dorms and airports that`s not going out the door.
OREMUS: Yeah, that`s right. And you would think maybe they could just reallocate some of that supply, right, maybe retool their mills a little bit, start cranking out more of the retail stuff. But the other factor here is that t he toilet paper industry is kind of unique. Toilet paper is really bulky, but it`s not worth much money. So there`s very little excess supply. Nobody is going to be storing a bunch of extra toilet paper at warehouses, because it`s not cost effective. And their assembly lines were already working at full capacity to meet the very steady, predictable demand.
So if that demand shifts even a little bit, they don`t have room to change. And now if they spend a bunch of money to tool up for the retail market and start cranking out more of that, then when, knock on wood, eventually things go back to normal, people start going out in the world again and using the bathrooms somewhere other than home, then they`ll be in trouble again, because they will have changed their whole operation and will be out of step with demand.
HAYES: Right, so they don`t want to fix -- they don`t want any sort of fixed capital investment for what -- for over the long-term what is going to be hopefully a temporary situation, a. And b, this extremely bulky thing that takes up a ton of space is worth essentially nothing and so there`s nothing worse for either your spread sheet if you`re a business than holding on to a ton of worthless inventory, so all of it is basically like a razor thin just in time operation that can`t scale up.
OREMUS: You`ve got it. That`s exactly right.
And there are other products, by the way, that are going to have similar dynamics. They`re not all the same as toilet paper, and each one has its own story. But, for instance, bananas, there are -- the bananas that go to the commercial market, to restaurants and to workplaces, they`re petite bananas, they`re little and they come loose, whereas the bananas that go to grocery stores are big and beautiful and come in big bunches of six. They`re separate supply chains, again, so people are trying to figure that out.
You know, there`s beer going into kegs for the restaurant market versus going into bottles for the home market.
And so I would expect to see more sort of sporadic shortages as this type of problem works its way through all kinds of different sectors.
HAYES: All right, Will Oremus. Great piece of reporting, really like a fantastic bit of good, illuminating journalism. Thank you very much.
OREMUS: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Next, the lock-down in Wuhan, China is lifted. With the progress being made around the world, how the U.S. stacks up right after this.
HAYES: Wuhan, China is of course the original epicenter of the global Coronavirus pandemic. Today, it is finally lifting its lock-down after more than 10 weeks. Italy, which is has been the second hardest hit country by the virus, seems to be close to turning the corner there as new cases day to day have been declining over the past week. The daily number of deaths also is thankfully going down.
It appears the curve is bending and has bent in places that have been through the worst of it. And it`s a reminder that we here in this country, we are on the right trajectory now, albeit headed to an uncertain future, which is another thing in its own right.
But we do seem to be going in the right direction. The past few days, our daily new cases have remained fairly steady day after day, which hopefully means the curve is bending nationwide.
To talk about the possibility of what the future might look like, I`m joined by Dr. Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He recently co-authored a piece in the Wall Street Journal called "Testing is Our Way Out."
Dr. Shah, first let`s talk about, you know, the whole time I think we`ve looked ahead to countries that have gone before us, and particularly Italy, because countries in east Asia that had dealt with SARS had sort of a bunch of things that they did differently, particularly South Korea and Singapore and Taiwan and Hong Kong, but Italy was kind of the sort of closest analog to us. It was brutal. It has been brutal. The country has been locked down. What do you make of the progress that`s happened there, and also a bit in Spain?
DR. RAJIV SHAH, PRESIDENT, ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION: Well, I don`t think you can over read too much from any example. We saw Italy is where they are. They have had a very, very difficult period. And there`s no telling what`s going to happen in the future.
Singapore, which probably had the best response globally in terms of effectively locking down, seeing the curve bend, seeing the virus effectively go away as a pandemic threat is now reintroducing a lock-down because it has reemerged and resurged.
And the truth is that`s precisely the challenge. Right now the world has -- and America -- has effectively two tools, either shut everything down and lose a tremendous amount of economic output and human welfare, or let the virus run loose. And that`s why we need a way out, and we believe a huge massive enterprise to expand testing in the United States and around the world is that pathway out.
HAYES: Right, so we`ve described this in the show before about sort of the door number one/door number two choice, right, that every nation has had a door number one/number two. Number one is would you like a pandemic that kills tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people, or would you like door number two in which you shut your economy down and you go through a 40, 50 percent GDP contraction. And what we see policy leaders -- I mean, this was very clear here in the U.S., it was clear in the UK, which now has a very outbreak, of people being like I don`t want either. Is there a way that we can get out of this?
You`re saying there is a door number three. And what does that look like?
SHAH: Well, the door number three really was what we did in West Africa when I led the Ebola response there, which is a massive focus on testing, find out who`s positive, find out where they are, identify, as Germany has now created a national policy to do, who their contacts are and where their contacts are, and make sure you do the testing, contact tracing, serum antibody testing to then identify who might be protected and therefore could both go back to work and be part of a front line health care work force.
A national strategy for testing in America simply doesn`t exist, and we`ve seen public announcements from the White House and others that imply something is coming, but it is still the case that it takes far too long for people to get a test. And it`s still the case that we in America are presuming, if you have symptoms, you have Coronavirus when we know everyone should have broad easy access to testing. And that`s what the Rockefeller Foundation is focused on, it`s why we`re launching a national strategy to do that.
HAYES: The Rockefeller Foundation, which played a crucial role in the 1918 pandemic actually, a book by John Berry (ph), which I just read, which is great about the Great Influenza, and features the work of that institution which was new at the time and extremely influential in battling back that pandemic.
There`s a piece in Bloomberg today about U.S. labs still stuck on testing. We have ramped up testing incredibly. But what`s the difference between sort of where we are now in testing and what you would envision, like would everyone at every point of care just be able to get one like the flu test that you get in a few minutes, is that what we would need at scale?
SHAH: Yes, absolutely. And that`s what we would need at scale both for the PCR or diagnostic test, and for very rapid, very cheap serum antibody tests that would allow people to congregate again because they know it`s safe to do so, and they know if someone is unsafe they can`t be in that place.
Keep in mind it`ll take 12 to 18 months to have a vaccine solution, and potentially longer than that to get the manufacturing and distribution so that every single American is protected. In that period of time, every month that we shut our economy down in lock-down social distancing, we lose $300 billion to $400 billion of GDP. That means half of American families are not able to make ends their meet and lose their basic income if they get sick. We can`t do that to America.
HAYES: No. We cannot do that. We`ve got to find a way out. Dr. Rajiv Shah, thanks for making time tonight and for working on this really important problem.
That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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