UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re fighting to save this woman`s life and there wasn`t time to make that kind of a call. And much of the time there isn`t. And everybody -- this saves people`s lives, but not often enough.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s really sad. You`re bearing witness to it, which hopefully means something to some of the people who are involved. I appreciate the reporting you`re doing and joining us. We are over on time, but I`ll tell everyone watching, keep it right here. "ALL IN" with Chris Hayes starts now.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. They knew. They knew when they were warned. They knew and they knew and they knew and they were warned and they were warned and they were warned and they did next to nothing. There is a mountain growing by the day of investigative reporting about how much the Trump administration knew about the threat posed by the Coronavirus, the extent to which this devastation we`re living through it this moment was predicted. And I don`t just mean in exercises from last year, though there are those, or warnings during the transition from the Obama administration, there are those as well, but about this specific pandemic, early on.
New York Times is the most shocking breathtaking blow by blow of the President`s failure to do anything at all. "Throughout January, Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government from top White House advisors to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies identified the threat, sounded alarms, and made clear the need for aggressive action.
The article describes an e-mail chain between a group of both public health experts inside and outside the government sounding the alarm back in January, calling themselves Red Dawn, an inside joke based on the 1984 movie about a band of Americans trying to save the country after a foreign invasion.
There was delay after delay after delay as health officials and the Trump administration urge action only to be turned aside. When the top disaster response official at the Health and Human Services Department tried to warn the president personally at the end of February, the disease was more dangerous than previously thought, he never got a chance. And the reason is the President was too upset about the sinking stock market.
The meeting that evening with Mr. Trump to advocate social distancing was canceled, replaced by a news conference in which the President announced the White House response would be put under the command of Vice President Mike Pence. It took nearly three more weeks for the President to announce social distancing guidelines, three weeks. And during that time period, the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in the U.S. jumped from 15 to more than 4,200.
The fact the president knew about the danger and blew it off might explain the utterly shocking posture that is currently coming from the leader of the country, from Donald Trump, and his cronies. A complete, shocking, lack of just basic human empathy toward the loss, the mourning, and grief that Americans are going through.
Just today, we lost more than 1,600 Americans. We`ve lost 23,000 people in total. And with those staggering numbers, listen to what some conservatives are saying about those lots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BENNETT, CONTRIBUTOR, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: Now, they say 60,000 people will die. 61,000 is what we lost to the flu in 2017 and 2018, the flu. Now we all regret the loss of 61,000 people if that`s what it turns out to be. I`m going to tell you, I think it`s going to be less.
BILL O`REILLY, FORMER HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL: The projections that you just mentioned are down to 60,000. I don`t think it`ll be that high. 13,000 dead now in the USA. Many people who are dying both here and around the world were on their last legs anyway, and I don`t want to sound callous about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: They were on their last legs anyway. More than 20,000 people have died. Bill O`Reilly does not want to sound callous about the fact that many of them are on their last legs anyway. So really -- this complete total lack of empathy is reflected by a president who refuses to even pretend to go through the motions of grief, of empathy. He has not acknowledged in any real sense that it is incomprehensibly tragic and upsetting and just very sad what we are going through, that we are losing these people.
Instead, he boasts that, you know, losing under 200,000 people will be a win. He tweets about his T.V. ratings and his petty grievances. He spent more than two hours today ranting in the White House briefing room, claiming he has the absolute power as president to do whatever he wants, and making it once again, all about him.
In the midst of this wrenching, horrible experience we`re all going through, the most powerful person with the most important job just doesn`t seem to care. It is grueling and horrifying. But acknowledging the tragedy is part of how we collectively honor those lost together, experience it together. And we did it after September 11th, and Katrina, and mass shootings, and disasters, and the horrible tragedy in Las Vegas. But for whatever reason, the president and many of his supporters are just not interested in doing that right now.
Nicholas Kristof from The New York Times is probably best known for covering wars. This weekend, he was allowed access inside two hard-hit hospitals in my home borough of the Bronx, New York. And he documented the overwhelming human toll this has taken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Death here has no dignity. Patients can`t have visitors. They`re scared. They can`t even see their nurse`s eyes.
KATHERINE CHAVEZ, NURSE: I spent 12 hours by his bedside with all my PPE on. He would grab my hand and I just keep telling him that everything is going to be OK, that we`re doing the best we could. But I could see the fear in his eyes and it was heartbreaking because this is still so new to us, that we just keep doing what we can and we don`t know what`s going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: As we all search for hope in the future, there is some spots of good news. New York Has been the worst place in the world. New cases numbers in that state and the city are coming down. Hospitalization numbers crucially are coming down. There are still staggering high mortality rates day after day punishing day, but they are at least no longer increasing. Here`s New York Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The worst is over. Yes, if we continue to be smart going forward, because remember, we have the hinge on that valve. You turn that valve too fast, you`ll see that number jump right back. But yes, I think you can say the worst is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: as brutal as this has been, it does seem like the virus is no longer running away from us like it was just a few weeks ago. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joins me now on the phone. Thank you for making a little time, Governor. Talk to me more about that sort of threading the needle between talking about the fact that certain key indicators are coming down. It looks like maybe we`ve passed the peak and not wanting to kind of take your foot off the gas as it were in the -- in the battle against the virus.
CUOMO: Yes, thank you, Chris, and good evening for you. And thank you for your reporting on this story. You`ve done a tremendous service to us all. Look, the reduction in the curve, if you will, the reduction on the projections is not an act of God, it`s an act of government, and it`s an act of the citizens of this country. We have reduced the curve.
In New York, we think we hit a plateau which is a horrific plateau with much, much pain and death. But that was done and the numbers are so much different than the initial projections because we acted responsibly and diligently. That`s what is reducing the number. As soon as we stop doing what we`re doing, if we get sloppy or undisciplined, or we change track, you will see that number go up.
You tell me the behavior of New Yorkers today, I`ll tell you the hospitalization rate in four days. So yes, we have reduced the curve because of our action. And that`s why we have to be very, very careful now as we get impatient, and we want to reopen, and we want to get out of the homes, and we need to get back to work. We do that too fast, we do that without respecting science and data, you will see us boomerang and you`ll see the note those numbers go up again.
You know, the President has taken a strange approach in many ways, but there were a lot of people touting the kind of federalism on display, which is to say, lack of a national guidelines for a while, allowing states to go. Then today he seemed to do a 180 and basically said, no, no, it`s not really up to the states when the "reopen," which itself is unclear. That`s not a ribbon-cutting, right? He had this to say at the press conference. I wanted to get your response to it about his authority in this matter. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President of the United States has the authority to do what the President has the authority to do, which is very powerful. The President of the United States calls the shots. They can`t do anything without the approval of the President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Is that true? Is that your understanding of how this works?
CUOMO: No, that is not true. I don`t know why the President said it. I don`t know why he would take us down this path because it`s the exact opposite of everything he`s been trying to say, right? He did his opening video saying bipartisan. Here, he had me in the video and Democratic governors, he`s been partisan, then he winds up saying, I have total authority, which is not true. It`s not legal. It`s a total abrogation of the Constitution. The 10th amendment specifically says powers to the States. Alexander Hamilton, all the founding fathers talked about the power of the states, and how repugnant it would be for a federal head to say that they have eminent authority.
The Constitution says we don`t have a king to say I have total authority over the country because I`m the president, it`s absolute. That is a king. We didn`t have a king. We didn`t have King George Washington, we have President George Washington. And why he would want to say that after initially when he did the "close down of the government," he never did to close down. He wants to say the travel ban with China was a closed down. It wasn`t. It was a travel ban with China.
The closedown was left to the governors to do individually, state by state. We have a whole quilt of different closed down strategies because you left it to the governors. Now, the reopen should be total authority after we just talked about bipartisanship. That makes no sense.
HAYES: Well, it seems to me that the sort of nightmare scenario from a policy perspective to go back to what you said in the first answer is some sort of edict from the White House that everybody has got to open back up when that would be dangerous from a public health perspective, although it`s also unclear whether that would be in any way enforceable other than just messaging.
CUOMO: Well, yes, it would be -- look, if he said -- if he try to an edict from the White House that put the people of the state of New York in jeopardy or violated what I thought was in their best interest from a public health point of view, we will just be off to a lawsuit and that`s the only way this really horrendous situation could get worse is if you now see a war between the federal government in the state. And why he would even go there, I have no idea.
HAYES: Let me -- let me ask you a final question about -- because this sort of relates in a -- in a sort of microcosm to the state of New York, obviously. You have federal relationships, and then you have relationships with local, you know, mayors and county executives.
There was a back and forth about school closures which seemed to kind of re-inscribed some of the tensions here between states and the federal government, which is the mayor of New York Bill de Blasio said that schools would be closed throughout the rest of the year, your office and I think you yourself said he doesn`t have that authority, leaving New York City School parents like myself somewhat frustrated and confused. What is going on there? Are -- what is the clear legal authority you have? And how do you work out these sort of turf issues in the midst of this?
CUOMO: Look, the short answer is you don`t. The state does an emergency order. I have 700 school districts in my state. I had different school districts having different policies all across the state. It`s an unmanageable situation. I get that local officials -- I have 400 mayors, I have 62 county executives. I understand every local official wants power over their jurisdiction and normally they have it. In an emergency situation, you need a state policy that unifies the state.
We went even further. I want New York State to work with Connecticut, work with Jersey -- New Jersey, Massachusetts to try to have a regional policy. But you can`t have 700 school districts making 700 decisions. I closed the schools statewide by a state emergency order. I rationalized the entire education system in the state. I closed down businesses in the state by one statewide closed down policy. And you can`t have local governments in the state making their own decisions. It just wouldn`t work.
HAYES: All right, Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you for taking a little bit of time with us tonight. I really do appreciate it.
CUOMO: Thank you very much.
HAYES: Here with me now is Dr. Mario Ramirez. He`s the former Acting Director for the Office of Pandemic and Emerging Threats, who helped lead the Obama administration`s response to the Ebola crisis. He`s now speaking out for the first time about the Trump administration`s handling of the coronavirus.
And Doctor, what do you see as you watch this play out this sort of desire to not have responsibility or leadership except when they want it, this kind of weird back and forth we`ve seen from the White House and the degree to which they`re coordinating or playing back up in their response?
MARIO RAMIREZ, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF PANDEMIC AND EMERGING THREATS: Well, thank you for having me, Chris. I`m glad to join you this evening. You know, I think you`re right. And I think the governor spoke about that very eloquently. I mean, I -- when I was part of the Obama administration and lived through the Ebola response, one of the things that was so striking about that was just the importance that the leaders placed on validated data.
At that time, sort of even during the initial chaos, there was an emphasis on finding out who had the virus, how could we confirm that they were positive and where were they going. With this virus, we don`t have that same sort of reliability in the data, and we have lagged weeks to months behind where we really need to be. And the concern is that some of the leadership is trying to use inaccurate data to drive those decisions.
HAYES: It strikes me today, the president announcing this, you know, a third task force to reopen the economy. That`s his daughter and his son in law and some people that said it was contained when you know, we had a few cases and now we have 600,000 or whatever it is, that that they still think the reopen the economy is distinct from the public health questions as opposed to entirely dependent upon the public health resolution.
RAMIREZ: Well, it`s a -- it`s a hard question. And I, you know, anecdotally as someone who is not living in D.C., not living in New York, in one of the major sort of large cities affected, but living here in the south, I very much I understand the economic pain that people are going through, and this question about when you can reopen the economy in the light of this public health threat.
But I think that, you know, most people would agree that we should really only open the government and the economy when people can agree that it`s safe to do so. And one of the things anecdotally, I`ll tell you, as somebody who has seen patients on a daily basis right now with Coronavirus, is that our testing does not give us a good sense of who is actually infected. We`re seeing multiple patients with several negative tests before they actually turn positive.
And what this administration has said is that we`re going to use good testing information and contact tracing to find -- try to sort of track who`s infected, and then get people back to work safely if we can separate those two groups. But my concern is that we have not been able to separate those two groups and it makes it very difficult to safely open the economy in that sort of situation.
HAYES: So, you`re now the third -- I think, the third or fourth Doctor who has said is almost exactly the same thing to me in the past week about negative tests proceeding positive tests. Is that -- is that an issue of testing quality in false negatives or is that an issue of how the virus itself is moving through the patient?
RAMIREZ: It`s a good question, Chris. And I -- you know, I think the truth is that we don`t know. There is still a lot that we don`t know about this virus. Now, I will tell you that statistically, this test, you know, in some ways is similar to influence a testing, which historically only has a 50 to 70 percent test accuracy. And so it`s important, I think, to interpret these results to that.
But there`s no question that we`re getting false negatives from difficulty with sampling. And then we also just don`t know at what point people are actually experiencing viral shedding that we can actually pick this up.
HAYES: Final question for you. Just in terms of you dealing with patients and talking a little bit about the human toll of this, because I know you do -- you practice emergency medicine, if I`m not mistaken. You know, to people that are still these many months in are saying, well, the flu this and the flu that, what do you say to them?
RAMIREZ: Well, I think the biggest contrast, right, is that we don`t shut down the economy on an annual basis for the flu. And so, I think heading to the top of your segment, you talked about 60,000 people who die on an annual influenza year. That is true, but we don`t shut down the economy for that.
And so yes, it is true that we have driven down the fatality numbers for now, but we have made an incredible trade-off to get there. And as somebody who is seeing these patients out there and not having a good sense for how much of this is out there circulating, I think it`s irresponsible for us to say that this is going to stop at 60,000. If we reopen too soon, there`s no question in my mind that this will go back up quite quickly.
HAYES: All right. Dr. Mario Ramirez, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
RAMIREZ: Thank you.
HAYES: I want to bring in Tom Nichols, former Republican Senate staffer, author of the book The Death of Expertise, who wrote an amazing piece in The Atlantic titled, "With each briefing, Trump is making us worse people." He writes, there has never been an American president as spiritually impoverished as Donald Trump, and his spiritual poverty is draining the last reserves of decency among us at a time when we need it most.
Tom, the piece really stuck in my mind and I feel almost -- it`s almost too banal an observation to say that the President lacks empathy or lacks the ability at least to communicate it, but it is -- I find myself shocked daily at how little of that there is not just from the president, but his supporters as we`re slogging through this awful, awful tragedy.
TOM NICHOLS, AUTHOR AND PROFESSOR: And it matters. It matters -- you know, normally this would be the kind of observation to say, well, the President is just not a very nice person and a lot of the people who support him, you know, are not nice people talking about how, you know, COVID is taking down the people that are on their last legs and other callous and horrible statements like that.
But it matters because the President`s inability to transcend himself even for a moment to think of anything that isn`t immediately something related to him makes him unbreathable. It makes him uneducable, it makes him unable to think clearly or listen to anyone. These are all the characteristics that are really crucial in a leader at a moment of crisis. They have to be able to listen.
Anyone who`s ever briefed a leader, particularly politician, knows there comes a moment where they get quiet, they pay attention, they listen to you. He never has that moment. It`s only about what affects him and how he`s perceiving it. And that`s one of the things that makes him so dangerous right now and is really put us behind the eight ball in terms of our response to the crisis.
HAYES: Well, it`s been so evident -- it was so evident today, which is a particularly deranged performance, frankly. I don`t mean that in a clinical sense, I speak in terms of the bizarreness of it. But the President uses fundamentally --
NICHOLS: It was bad.
HAYES: It was bad. And -- but again, fundamentally from the beginning, when you look at how he talked about it, don`t worry about it, it`s one case, and we`ve got it under control, and then he was worried about the stock market, he has viewed it as a political threat, fundamentally political threat that he`s experiencing personally as an attack on his possible reelection. And that is so evidently 90, to 95, to 99 percent of how it occupies his mind, and to a terrifying degree, the government.
NICHOLS: That -- well, that`s how he deals with everything, purely through the prism of what does this mean for me in the moment I am in. And that`s one of the things that makes him so spiritually corrosive, because this is really a time to think about other people.
You`ll notice that all of these completely unhinged pressers, he never starts by talking about the number of people who are lost, what people are going through, just some acknowledgment that you know, this is a terrible, tragic time. Instead, he just dives right into the airing of grievances, the litany of, you know, things that make him angry.
And he drags us into that, as well. He pulls us into that moment where we`re just kind of focused on him and his problems. And it`s -- I think it really tells you something about again, why we`re behind the eight ball on this crisis.
HAYES: Yes, the narcissism itself is kind of weirdly transmissible. The final point here to me on the kind of the sort of substantive ramifications of this sort of self-obsession in terms of how he`s viewing it is, you know, you had him last week, urging people to go out and vote in Wisconsin for their state election because he had -- he had endorsed the conservative Republican state supreme court candidate. We`ve got results tonight that appear to show that candidate losing to the liberal challenger. I don`t know if that`s been declared yet, but at least behind this hour.
But there, you`ve got a situation of people being put in, in danger, essentially putting them at the altar of sacrifice for the political project of a candidate Donald Trump endorsed.
NICHOLS: And once again, everything Trump touches dies. You know, it blew up and at least it seems to have, unless they`re -- you know, at this point, the count seems to be that this has blown up in his face. But again, what`s really stunning about this is because Donald Trump has never been in danger, because he has never risked anything, because he`s never sacrificed anything, he thinks nothing of it but to say go out there and do this so that I am not embarrassed, so that I don`t feel bad about this.
And this is again, it is like a masterclass in the opposite of leadership at this moment. And he thinks about no one but himself, he cannot become anything bigger than himself. And that`s one of the reasons I`ve referred to him as a spiritual black hole. He just -- there is nothing else there but himself at every moment, and he`s willing to endanger other people for that.
HAYES: And there`s a real -- I mean, the point you make in the piece and something I`ve been thinking about is it like, you know, in the news business, for instance, often we find ourselves covering the aftermath of tragedies. And those can come in different ways. It could be natural disasters, it could be mass shootings, it can be a jihadi inspired a murder, shooting people in a nightclub in Orlando. And all of them are, you know, it just palpable how horrible it is, the sort of emotional toll of it, and on the people that are close to it.
And part of the thing that we do as a society you try to is have some sort of empathic capacity, you know, to mourn with others and to -- and to feel their pain. And it seems to me that it`s doing something very bad and ugly to society to not have that being modeled right now.
NICHOLS: Right. And insofar as he ever shows any empathy about these things, clearly someone on his staff has learned to personalize everything to him, which is really you know the opposite of the way you learn empathy. Empathy is the ability to get outside of yourself and think about what other people are going through.
But for example, clearly, someone said go look at Elmhurst Hospital. You know, you know this place you`ve been there, you`ve seen this. So that -- and he took about it for days, because somehow that kind of penetrated to this moment where he said, oh, this could be me. But when it comes to other people, that -- it doesn`t register at all. You know, other people being in danger means nothing. He only seems to even get close to a moment like that, if he thinks it`s something that could personally hurt him, and that`s the opposite of empathy.
HAYES: Tom Nichols who wrote that great piece in The Atlantic, you should check out, thank you for being here.
NICHOLS: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: Coming up, it`s one of the most consequential questions still unanswered, who is immune to the coronavirus, and how do we know. Harvard professor Marc Lipsitch on the immunity question next.
HAYES: There`s a lot we`ve come to know about this novel coronavirus, as just about every research mind in the entire world is essentially currently focused on it, but there`s a lot that we still don`t know. And they don`t know part is frustrating and extremely consequential because it means a lot for what comes next, like getting a good picture of what immunity looks like.
As epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch points out in the New York Times, there is simply just not enough data right now. "For now it is reasonable to assume that only a minority of the world`s population is immune to SARS-CoV-2, even in hard-hit areas. How could this tentative picture evolve as better data comes in? Early hints suggest it could change in either direction."
To talk more about this I`m joined by the author of that piece, Mark Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics of the Harvard School of Public Health.
So there seems two related questions here, Mark. One is, whether people that recover -- the first one is whether people who recover are then immune. What is the sort of status of that question?
MARK LIPSITCH, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, it`s pretty clear that a majority of people who recover from this disease, at least those studied, have an immune response. They have antibodies. They probably also have other parts of an immune response like T-cell response that hasn`t been measured as carefully yet, because it`s harder to measure.
But the real question is whether it`s really just a majority, or whether it`s nearly everyone. And the other question is whether that immunity is strongly protective against future reinfection. And those two parts are still uncertain right now.
HAYES: So that idea between a majority and, you know, 95 percent, like that`s a huge -- that variable is enormous for what it means for both people`s personal risk and then the kind of social degree of herd immunity, right?
So if it`s everyone, or nearly everyone, who has been infected, then those people will in fact, be able to take part in society without significant risk of becoming reinfected; if not, then we have to figure out what`s the determinant of those who are protected by their immune response and those who aren`t.
And we need to figure that out in any case because at the moment it`s uncertain. So, the goal of studies in the coming months is going to have to be figuring out exactly who is protected and if there are some people who are not. That does also matter to herd immunity, meaning to how fast we get to the point where the virus transmission has slowed just by the fact that so many people are immune the way it is when we vaccinate people.
HAYES: So a related question there, and this is the subject of tremendous amount of debate, and some of that debate from actual credentialed folks like yourself and some from cranks, but if I could sort of cut through that, the question of how many people had the thing, right? I mean, is it twice what we`re measuring or is it 20 times or is it 50 times? Like and how could we even know what the universe of the sort of undiagnosed cases are, because that`s going to matter a lot, too, for how deadly we think it is, and again, when we can get to herd immunity.
LIPSITCH: Yeah, so we`re all trying to figure that out. And of course it`s different in different places that have more or less testing. But I think what`s clear is that there -- even in the places with really good testing there are people who are so mildly ill or not ill at all that we don`t catch them unless we deliberately go and find them, and you can see that from Iceland and you can see that from a study that`s just coming out now in the New England Journal suggesting that there are women who are delivering babies who are asymptomatic but have the virus.
So it`s clear that those people exist. The question is how many of them? And what the testing regime is catching in any given place. So we know it`s substantial and it`s probably very large in the United States, because we do such poor testing overall. But getting that number really does matter and we`re not there yet.
HAYES: There is a piece study by Harvard Medical School that talked about how long COVID-19 patients could continue to be contagious, which is another really important variable that based on the most recent research people may continue to shed the virus and be potentially contagious for up to eight days after they are feeling better, which again, these long window periods of asymptomatic transmission seem like part of what makes this so dangerous and difficult.
LIPSITCH: Yeah, I think that`s important to study further. I would just add, though, that most of the data so far suggests that people are most contagious right near the beginning of symptoms if they have symptoms.
LIPSITCH: And I`ve been stressing throughout this pandemic that almost everything can happen. There are going to be people who have long durations of shedding. There are going to be people who transmit before they`re infectious. The question is not whether it can happen, but whether it`s making a big difference and is happening as a matter of course.
And so I wouldn`t jump to the conclusion that eight days is typical or even common.
HAYES: Let me -- final question to follow up on that, because I think this will be useful for people managing their anxiety amidst this, which is, you know, a lot of people I have talked to they have been making this distinction between what can -- what can happen, what some study says about how long it can live on surfaces and things like that, and what really is happening to make up the bulk of transmission. And the sense I`ve gotten is that most of it is people to people contact is what`s driving this illness.
LIPSITCH: I think that`s right. And it`s still important to wash hands and to wear masks and do other things, avoid touching your face in order to reduce that part of transmission that might come from contact with a thing rather than a person.
But indeed, the bulk of it does seem to come from other people.
HAYES: All right. Mark Lipsitch, always a really, really informative and illuminating when you`re on. Thank you for making time.
LIPSITCH: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, why isn`t the government keeping records how the Coronavirus is hitting the most vulnerable Americans. What is happening inside nursing homes after this.
HAYES: The first death in the U.S. from the Coronavirus came back in February, a man living in a nursing home in Washington state. And it`s been evident from that moment that people living in nursing homes are probably the single most vulnerable population to this virus. And yet, remarkably, the federal government is not keeping or transmitting statistics on how many people in nursing homes have gotten the virus and how many died from it. So, it`s been left to reporters.
The Associated Press, for instance, reports that more than 3,600 deaths nationwide have been linked to Coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long term care facilities. USA Today found that at least 2,300 nursing homes have Coronavirus cases. And the reality is likely much worse.
There are so many stories about how hard this virus has hit nursing homes. At one facility, for example, in Atlanta with 92 beds, nearly 80 percent of residents have tested positive, at least seven people from the facility have died. And among them Eddie Johnson Jr. and Blanche Johnson, who died three days apart. This heartbreaking picture shows the Johnsons in their final days hand-in-hand as they were both fighting the virus.
Of course, that`s not the only thing that -- only place where this devastation has happened. The daughter was devastated by her parents` passing. This is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER MCWHORTER, DAUGHTER OF EDDIE AND BLANCHE JOHNSON: It is truly a struggle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three days apart.
MCWHORTER: It was so painful. They were struggling. They -- both of them had developed pneumonia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is refusing to actually tell people which nursing homes have Coronavirus cases. Miami Herald reports that after it drafted a lawsuit seeking to force the state to divulge which nursing homes have had positive cases, an aid to the governor successfully pressured the Herald`s law firm not to file the suit.
I`m joined now by Carol Marbin Miller. She is the Herald`s deputy investigations editor who first tried to find out which Florida nursing homes have had cases three weeks ago.
And maybe you can start, Carol, telling us the origins of what -- why you were curious about this and what you tried to track down data-wise?
CAROL MARBIN MILLER, MIAMI HERALD: We started writing about this in March. There...
HAYES: Looks like we have lost Carol Marbin Miller. She did some great work trying to assemble those statistics. What basically happened was she attempted to file a FOIA investigation to actually get those numbers. The governor and the state of Florida are not releasing which nursing homes have cases. There`s obviously a lot of people out there who want to know that both from the sort of journalistic perspective, but personally. There are people that have loved ones inside those facilities. They want to know if there had been infections there. They drafted a suit seeking -- essentially under the state`s sunshine laws -- records into that. And what appears to have happened is that an aid to the governor pressured the law firm representing the suit not to file it.
The governor`s office says this was all above board, a routine conversation, but it seems the Miami Herald still wants to get to the bottom of that information.
It also points out the fact that we do not have any sort of national collection of this information. There are people around the country, of course, who want to know this. We also have a good reason to believe that because of the testing insufficiencies the actual number of confirmed cases inside of these institutions is most likely much, much larger than even the preliminary counts that we`ve gotten from organizations like the Associated Press, NBC News, which has been doing some counting as well.
We`ve known from the beginning that nursing homes were going to be one of the hardest hit places. It was the first big story about mass fatality out of Kirkland, Washington when this first came into the U.S. and we first started seeing community transmission. There have been regulations that have been promulgated by (inaudible) the Center for Medicaid and Medicare studies. They have done some work on this, but we still don`t know the fundamental answer.
And down in Florida, The Miami Herald is trying to get answers. I suspect other reporters in other parts of the country are trying to get those answers, as well.
We`ll be right back with more.
HAYES: I`d like to bring back in Carol Marbin Miller on the phone. We lost her there. We have her back.
As I mentioned, she`s the Miami Herald`s deputy investigations editor who has been trying to find out which Florida nursing homes have had Coronavirus cases.
And Carol, what did you encounter when you first tried to sort of do the reporting here to find out this basic information?
MILLER: Back in March, we started writing about an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale that had become a hotspot. By the end of that there were seven elders who had died. And we wanted to know what other hotspots there would be, so we started submitting public records requests with two state agencies and the governor`s office.
We are about three weeks in and we are still waiting for a response. We have not even been told yet, in fact, why we cannot get the records.
I want to say that Florida has one of the most favorable public records laws in the country and that is the result of a referendum, a voter referendum, passed in November of 1992, passed overwhelmingly. And we feel quite strongly that if we could get the governor`s office and these two state agencies to engage with us, that these public records that we`re entitled to them.
HAYES: The reporting indicates that there is a conversation, a law firm was contacted by the governor`s office. The governor`s office said it was a routing phone call. They were not, you know, attempting to brow beat them out of pursuing this case. What`s your understanding of what happened?
MILLER: My understanding comes from my editors and from our lawyer, and I do not think that that was a routine phone call. We submitted what is called the pre-suit notice to the state, because in doing so we can collect legal fees if we prevail in court.
When the governor`s office was alerted, on the verge of suing, the governor`s general counsel George Meros -- I`m sorry, I`m getting that wrong, the governor`s general counsel, Joe Jacquot, put in a phone call to a politically connected partner at our then law firm Holland and Knight, and that quickly connected Senior Partner George Meros, intervened, and we got a call from our lawyer, Sandy Boher (ph), saying that Holland and Knight would not file that lawsuit on our behalf.
My understanding of that call was that Holland and Knight was told, do you a lot of business with the state, you make a lot of money off the state of Florida, and you will not continue to if you represent the Miami Herald in that lawsuit.
HAYES: Wow. That is extremely damning. I hope that you`re able to find another firm that can help you get to this information, it seems very important. Carol Marbin Miller, thank you for what you`re doing, and thank you for your time tonight.
MILLER: Thank you.
HAYES: In other news tonight, we are seeing signs that the country`s the food supply chain is under significant stress. Here are two scenes. These are the enormous lines for the L.A. regional food bank over the weekend with cars stretching for miles. We`ve seen this kind of scene play out all over the country. People are desperate for food. They`re having trouble feeding their families, their kids particularly.
And here`s another scene, this is what some dairy farmers are doing, dumping out thousands of gallons of fresh milk every day. Other farmers are destroying crops outright, plowing, for instance, ripe vegetables right back into the ground, because of the restaurants, schools and closed, farmers that are part of the commercial food supply chain just don`t have anywhere to sell their products.
Also, the front line workers, those that are keeping the food chain going, they are clearly at tremendous risk. They are still in the fields picking produce with minimal to no protection, particularly immigrants without papers.
This is what it looks like inside the pork processing plant, people working there have to stand shoulder to shoulder. Yesterday, one of the largest plants in the country shut down in South Dakota indefinitely after nearly 300 employees tested positive for Coronavirus. That is nearly a third of the cases in the entire state.
The food supply chain is one of those things that the vast majority of us, I think, tend to take for granted. We go to a restaurant or a grocery store or a fast food chain and the food is just there. But this crisis is putting stress on all parts of it from every angle. Last week we brought you an interesting story about our toilet paper supply. And that reporting showed that the reason there is a shortage of toilet paper at stores is only really partly because people are hoarding the stuff, it`s more because the industry is split into two markets, there`s a commercial one and consumer one. And everyone at home is now using the consumer product, and the commercial one, the one that is usually given to businesses and campuses and office buildings, cannot be easily made available for residential use.
Well, guess what? It turns out the food supply chain is structured in a similar way. While grocery stores are having a hard time keeping things in stock, there is an entire food chain designed to sell bulk food to fast food stores and restaurants, that is essentially being left to rot. That is because the supply chain, as one dairy industry advocate explains, it is tough to just switch around.
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MARTY MCKINZIE, DAIRY MAX, INDUSTRY IMAGE AND RELATIONS VICE P RESIDENT: Because often time, the packaging and the size of the product that`s delivered to grocery stores or distributed through those avenues, of food service, are much larger and not necessarily for family use.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: This weekend, Wall Street Journal`s agricultural reporter Jesse Newman wrote about Coronavirus`s impact on our food supply chain, specifically why farmers are dumping milk and breaking eggs in the middle of a pandemic. Jesse Newman joins me now.
And Jesse, you`ve been doing great reporting on this that I`ve been following avidly. Talk to me a little bit about this conundrum here, the paradox of these sort of two supply chains and the fact that one of them is so in sort of disuse at this strange moment that there`s tons of food being produced with nowhere to go?
JESSE NEWMAN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yeah, thanks. It`s a really strange situation that farmers and food producers find themselves in. You know, in the past few months, since all of this began, we`ve seen just massive upheaval in the food supply chain.
And, you know, at the beginning we saw consumers flocking to grocery stories and clearing shelves of just about every product in anticipation of weeks and months at home. And so we started looking at, well, what is the strength of the food supply chain? And early on, we learned that there was plenty of food in the country, so our cold storage warehouses were full of products like chicken and pork. And there was plenty of fresh produce on farms, and on orchards, and plenty of grain in grain bins.
But it`s become clear over time that those huge, the huge shift was necessary, was needed to take place in order to get that food to consumers. So as restaurants closed, and school cafeterias, all of that food that was destined for those outlets needed to be shifted to grocery stores. And as it turns out, that`s tough to do.
HAYES: Right, so you`ve got this situation where the food is there but they don`t have the relationships, the distributors or the networks, that are sort of pre-established to get them into major grocery chains. So you`ve got that sort of part of it wilting. Are the -- is the grocery avenue able to keep up right now? I mean is the sort of residential household use, food supply chain functioning essentially?
NEWMAN: So grocers, like everyone in the food supply chain, are scrambling to keep up. And the challenge really is converting some of these products from restaurants into the grocery chain, so for example, we wrote about dairies that are dumping milk and chicken companies that are breaking eggs, that are growing chickens for meat and there`s just too much food that can`t make it into the grocery channel, as you say, because those -- some of those relationships don`t exist. And it is also a question of varieties of food, and packaging, and sizes.
So for example, the vegetable producer told me that they`ve got all of this conventional spinach that they grow for use in restaurants. Well, as it turns out, shoppers mostly prefer organic spinach. And so there just isn`t a home for vast quantities of the conventional spinach that they grow.
And in the case of dairy, a good example is cheese. So on a dairy farm, which produces millions of gallons of milk, a lot of that goes into cheese production. And cheese makers are making huge packages of shredded cheese that are bound for pizza chains, mozzarella chain going on top of pizzas, and is not easily converted into a small eight ounce zippered bag that a consumer likes to buy at a grocery store, it just takes specialized equipment and it`s very costly to try to shift on a dime.
HAYES: So, the final question here has to do with the workers that are part of this entire chain. I mean, these are people that are essential services, whether it`s the grocery person, or a farm worker picking fruit or those folks we`ve seen in pork processing plants, I mean these are all people who are both needed, but also really exposed right now, as the story out of South Dakota shows.
NEWMAN: That`s right. So, farm workers have been deemed essential workers. They are still being encouraged to go to work and pick our fresh fruit and vegetables, or in the case of meat processing plants, workers, you know, we need those workers, to produce the products that we all enjoy.
And yet, they, farm workers and their advocates, are quite concerned about the risks that they face. A lot of workers, as you mentioned are undocumented, some are here on seasonal guest worker visas. And their employment is tied to a particular employer. And there are, you know, conditions that persist in this particular industry that are very concerning, whether it is overcrowded housing, or these workers are being transported to fields, dozens of workers in a bus. They work in close proximity to one another. And so, you know, there is a lot of concern about their health and safety.
HAYES: Jesse Newman has been doing just really excellent, excellent reporting on all of this at The Wall Street , thank you so much.
NEWMAN: Thank you.
HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
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