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Hardball, Transcript 3/27/2020

Guests: Vinay Gupta, Rebekah Gee, Eli Stokols, Steve Sisolak, Ilhan Omar, Rick Pollack, Monique Greenwood

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: I do, and the other reason why I think some -- that 

these things are always more revelatory, no matter your view of the 

president, and you might realize is that the president was honest about his 

sort of personal, I guess, vendettas, if you want to call it. He noted that 

he was looking -- he goes, I didn`t go into my talks with G.M. with a 

favorable view, basically admitting he was ready to pick a fight with G.M. 

and he wanted to do that. And he also admitted he would not call governors 

that don`t say nice things to him.


In some ways, Kristen, it was as honest as he`s been about how he 

politicizes everything when it comes to dealing with certain individuals in 

government or finance.



heard him take new aim at Governor Inslee. He didn`t hesitate to note that 

he had a presidential bid that was ultimately not successful, in the words 

of the president, a failed presidential bid. He has, for quite some time 

now, been aggressively going after the governor of Michigan. And in his 

words, he said, look, they haven`t been grateful enough for the help that 

we have given them.


But it`s important to point out, Chuck, that that sort of a sharp contrast 

to the other message that we`ve heard from the president from the podium in 

these briefings, which is that now is the time for bipartisanship. And so 

he is saying that and yet not hesitating to go after some of these 



And also notable that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not invited to the Oval 

Office for that signing ceremony that he had today for that more than $2 

trillion stimulus package, the largest ever that was passed today, and that 

he signed off on. And so really pushing for the need for bipartisanship and 

yet not always living up to that standard.


The G.M. comment is notable as well, of course. Earlier today on Twitter, 

he was saying, it`s time for them to start manufacturing more ventilators 

and that he was mandating that under the Defense Production Act, which 

today, Chuck, and this is a significant one, not only has he invoked but he 

signed off on using it, putting Peter Navarro at the head of that, saying 

that he`s going to be the one to make sure that this all carried out 



Of course, Peter Navarro has been on the task force and he along with the 

vice president and others have sort of been struggling to figure out a 

clear path forward on some of these very thorny issues, Chuck.


TODD: All right. Well, I`m going to -- I think that does it for us. Kristen 

Welker, thank you for that. I think now it`s my time to hand the baton off 

to Ari Melber. And, again, Ari, I believe the baton is yours from one 

studio to another studio, and I know you`re keeping an eye on when we hear 

from Doctors Birx and Fauci when we get the scientific data.


By the way, Ari, while the president was at that podium, we officially 

passed the 100,000 confirmed case mark, the only country on this globe with 

confirmed 100,000 cases. We say, confirmed, because we don`t know sometimes 

the real numbers out of China. So with that, sir, I hand it to you.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: A grim milestone to be sure. And thank you, Chuck, 

I appreciate you and your reporting and your experts, as always.


And as Chuck Todd just mentioned, I`ll let you know, I`m Ari Melber. I`m 

continuing our special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.


We did hear from the president. We`re keeping an eye on this briefing. And 

of Dr. Fauci or other medical experts are going to take the podium and 

provide public health information or medical facts, we will go back and 

carry that.


Let me tell you something else that is, of course, also sad but important 

for you to know. We are here tonight a week in Washington ending with the 

President leading another one of these briefings. Of course, we should note 

this was the first since the United States marked the distinction that it 

now leads the world in coronavirus cases. You see the U.S. above Italy and 

China, which were hit earlier.


Now, let me tell you why so many medical experts say this matters, why 

local leaders and governors say this matters. Not only is it obviously a 

humanitarian crisis, you know that, but many are arguing that the facts 

show and the science shows this was not inevitable. This did not need to be 

this way. The United States did not need to take this grim distinction of 

leading the world in these virus cases when we had more notice and came 

later than some of those other countries. No.


What I`m getting at is something you may have also heard about depending on 

where you live. You may have heard it from your own governor. The argument 

supported by the evidence that the United States being in the lead tonight 

is partly as a result of the Trump administration`s tardy and zigzagging 

response to this health crisis.


Now, here are the facts tonight. This milestone, the U.S. is also now home 

to over 100,000 virus cases, as Chuck Todd was just reporting. And that 

reflects a sharp spike over just the last two days. It comes while the 

president is pushing the idea of new guidelines that could encourage states 

to loosen social distancing in areas that are deemed lower risk.


But the important thing to remember here is virtually all the rules in 

place now, like states with shelter-in-place orders or cities with curfews, 

all of those rules are basically out of the president`s control.


Now, the other to remember about guidance is it`s just that, the medical 

experts advising people to stay home if you can and to keep social 

distancing, no matter what, as if everyone has the virus. That advice is 

also, tonight, I can tell you, sinking in. It`s gaining acceptance in the 

public mindset.


A lot of this has been coming at you fast, to be sure. But look at now what 

we see in this polling. Three out of four surveyed backing even more 

drastic measures, like the idea of a national quarantine, in which all 

public activity, except essential travel, is prohibited.


Meanwhile, Vice President Pence has begun downplaying the president`s talk 

of things maybe somehow getting back to normal by Easter.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said recently he`d like to see the economy 

opened up again, if possible, by Easter. How likely is that and what 

conditions need to be met for it to happen?



expressed really an aspirational goal.




MELBER: Meanwhile, the president softening his own tone on the timeline. 

This was just moments ago.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We do want to flatten the curve. 

We want to see that curve start heading down in the other direction at a 

minimum. And we really have to talk about areas of the country that have 

not been affected or certainly have had a very small effect, and we`ll see.


I certainly want to get it open as soon as possible. I don`t want it to be 

long but we also wanted to open safe. Otherwise, what do we do?


REPORTER: So could it be months?


TRUMP: I hope not. I hope it`s going to be sooner. I hope it disappears 

faster than that.




MELBER: I`m joined now by Eli Stokols, White House Reporter for The Los 

Angeles Times, Dr. Vinay Gupta, a pulmonologist, global health policy 

expert, and Dr. Rebekah Gee, CEO of LSU Healthcare Services, also former 

secretary of Louisiana Health Department. Thanks to everyone for being 



Dr. Gupta, what do people need to know tonight?


DR. VINAY GUPTA, PULMONOLOGIST: I think they need to know that this is 

still very tenuous and unstable situation. I what we`re seeing -- I was 

just in an ICU last night. What the we`re seeing here in Seattle at least 

it that people are still coming down. They`re quite sick from COVID-19. 

That we are -- we need more respirators. We need more personal protective 

wear, that this -- we`re not out of the woods yet.


And every single study that`s ever been done modeling the worst case 

scenario or even the most likely scenario, research today out of the 

University of Washington suggests that we`re going to have a peak in ICU 

admissions in two weeks. We`re going to have surge capacity issues in ICUs 

in major cities across the country. So we are not out of the woods here by 

any means, which is why we really need to be careful about talking about a 

patch work approach when it comes to a lockdown.




GUPTA: We need to be talking about a national lockdown.


MELBER: Yes, out of the woods. I mean, we`re still going into the heart of 

the woods.


I mean, Dr. Gee, let me play something from Louisiana where the governor in 

your state talked about how bad it`s getting and the ventilator shortage. 

Take a listen.




GOV. JON BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): New Orleans has surpassed 1,000 cases.


Louisiana is third in the nation per capita for the number of cases. We are 

second, I believe, per capita in the number of deaths. Obviously, this is a 

public health emergency, as it has been described. And it shows no signs 

yet of abating. And I want to encourage everyone to take this extremely 



On the medical surge part of this, we remain on the trend line that we`ve 

been on for a few days, and that is under current modeling that we would 

run out of ventilators sometime around April 2nd or 3rd.




MELBER: Doctor, it`s sobering. How do you contrast that statement about a 

part of America, which the president also governs, its seriousness and the 

warning that we`re nowhere near abating with a different assessment we just 

heard moments ago from the president?



need to focus on here in New Orleans is what the governor just said, which 

we`re about to hit our surge. He`s asked for 12,000 ventilators. We got 

192. That`s it. A hundred are going to come next week. If we don`t get more 

when this surge hits, and we`re expecting that to be April 2nd or 3rd, and 

people can`t breathe, which is one of the results of this virus, they will 



So my plea to the American people who can help and to our leaders is to get 

them here in time. And I`m very glad that the president signed the Defense 

Production Act. That`s something that I`ve been hoping for for a while. We 

simply do not have the production capacity in a single state to fix this 

problem, nor do we have enough ambulatory surgery centers that places where 

people go to get colonoscopy or plastic surgery, those types of things, to 

give us enough ventilators.


So that`s positive. It`s positive that we`re opening up new beds in the 

Morial Convention Center. But we are nowhere near done, and the numbers 

that we`re seeing are startling. We had the largest number of deaths in one 

day yesterday and we have seen the largest increase in cases in New Orleans 

in the world. In fact, we got a higher rise here than the initial case rise 

in Italy and in New York City.


MELBER: So, Eli, I mean, we`ll take the same facts from the doctor there to 

you, which is, again, that`s part of America. The portrait in Louisiana, in 

New York, in the Pacific Northwest, in parts of California, it does not 

match what the president is asserting.



it very closely at all. The president, as we`ve seen over the years, he 

really struggles to deliver difficult information to face things, to go on 

the ground and see hurricanes after the fact. He struggles with this.


And so what we`ve seen in the briefings day after day is the president 

focused on the positives and painting really a rosier picture than what 

first responders and hospitals and its state officials are seeing on the 



L.A. Times reported today about people in Texas going across the border and 

smuggling in surgical masks from Mexico because the government, at any 

level, has not addressed the shortage of masks. You heard the president 

tonight talking about ventilators and how he hopes we`re going to have too 

many. We`re going to thousands of ventilators in a hundred days.


I`ve been talking to public health experts all week who say that that 

should have happened a month ago. And even then, we would have been behind 

the curve because it takes time to manufacture these and the hospitals need 

them right now as they`re starting to be overwhelmed by the patients. But 

that`s just not part of the picture that this president is going to paint 

when he`s standing there at the podium.


MELBER: Yes. What is unusual about this, Eli, you mentioned that the 

president`s history on this is well documented now, but, rarely, are there 

these many governors who are put up in a kind of a split screen contrast. 

With that in mind, Eli, take a look at Governor Cuomo, who`s been leading 

these briefings in such a hard-hit area.




GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Now, we`re looking at about 21 days for a 

possible apex. So we want to do everything we can to be ready for that 

increased capacity that could hit us in 21 days and ramp up the hospital 







STOKOLS: Well, those briefings that we`ve seen from Governor Cuomo have 

really offered the country a sharp contrast to the extent that people are 

watching in terms of an executive who is delivering factual information and 

really trying to almost scare people to get ahead of this and to take the 

preventive health measures that the health officials are recommending. 

You`re not really seeing the president do that.


He has praised Cuomo. I think he appreciates the ability to which Cuomo has 

broken through on television, a medium that he is uniquely focused on even 

throughout the crisis. But we also heard him tonight with the other 

governors who are calling publicly from Washington to do more, who are 

talking about these shortages and blaming the federal government. You heard 

the president say, I`m upset with the governor of Washington, with the 

governor of Michigan. These are Democrats. And he is saying that they 

should be more appreciative. They should be praising him publicly.


It`s really stunning for the president to be that honest, even though it`s 

not all that surprising to hear him say that, given that we`ve watched him 

operate this way for a while.


MELBER: Yes. And we`re hearing from governors about it and it`s more than a 

spat what we`re learning from governors about their gist with the president 

helps people understand the shape of the response and also hold the 

administration accountable. We have more on that actually in our reporting 



Eli Stokols and both doctors, thank you so much.


Coming up, as we`ve discussed, these governors are trying to figure out how 

do you deal with a president who deals with a crisis like this. We have one 

on the program. Stay with us.






TRUMP: These are people that should be appreciated. He calls all the 

governors. I tell him, I mean, I`m a different type of person. I said, 

Mike, don`t call the governor of Washington. You`re wasting your time with 

him. Don`t call the woman in Michigan. It doesn`t make a difference what 



REPORTER: The governor of Washington?


TRUMP: You know what I say? If they don`t treat you right, I don`t call 





MELBER: Coronavirus pandemic here has been putting tremendous strain on the 

people on the frontline, doctors, nurses, first responders and also mayors 

and governors have increasingly clashed with President Trump as the crisis 

grinds on.


In today`s White House briefing, the president, as you saw there, launching 

new political attacks against Democratic governors, deriving one for 

dropping out of the presidential primary and admitting that he takes a 

basically spiteful attitude towards deciding who they even collaborate with 

during the crisis, suggesting he won`t return calls from governors he 

doesn`t like, a fairly shocking admission during a health crisis that`s 

already taken over 1,500 American lives, adding context to Washington Post 

reporting that Governor Jay Inslee from Washington State and the president 

clashed yesterday over Inslee`s push for the Trump administration to work 

harder to get essential medical supplies out to these states.


Michigan Governor Whitmer, meanwhile, President Trump to declare a federal 

disaster there, as he`s done elsewhere, all of these drawing these rebukes 

from Trump.




TRUMP: I get along with most of the governors. I don`t like it though when 

some governors -- I mean, I mentioned two of them, but some of these 

governors, they take, take, take, and then they complain. They take and you 

do a great job. You build them a hospital. You do other than that, they`re 

always complaining. So I don`t like that.




MELBER: So we have these clashes. We have the president using his bully 

pulpit to push ideas that are completely undercut by medical experts and 

that basically are at odds with what these governors are doing.


There`s the new letter, for example, that the president wrote to governors 

that discusses the idea of relaxing social distancing in western areas that 

have lower population densities. That includes Nevada, which has 535 

confirmed cases and have suffered ten deaths already. Now, that is an area 

where basically a lot of the biggest problems have been in and around Las 

Vegas, where the strip has become a virtual ghost town. Nevada Governor 

Steve Sisolak ordering the closure of all non-essential businesses. And the 

governor joins us now.


Thank you for taking the time. Your response to the president`s letter?


GOV. STEVE SISOLAK (D-NV): Well, thank you, Ari, for having me. I 

appreciate it. The letter, I read it.


We are doing everything we can in Nevada. We`re not a California or a 

Washington or New York. We`re a relatively small state. But we`re working 

with what we have. 


We have made requests. We got 25 percent of one request filled. We didn`t 

get anything on the next request filled. 


But every governor -- I`m on these calls four or five times a week, and -- 

with the vice president and the president. And every governor is asking for 

the same thing: I need more of this, more of this, more of this. We`re all 

asking for it. 


And there`s not enough to go around. I clearly understand that. We`re a 

little state. We`re fighting for whatever we can get. I`m doing that. I`m 

working with our private sector to fill in. 


I mean, we were instructed to buy what you could on your own. We have got a 

drive that the first lady did with some folks. 


MELBER: Yes. Governor...


SISOLAK: The (AUDIO GAP) Chinese community (AUDIO GAP) tens of thousands of 



MELBER: Yes. Well, let me jump in, sir, because I definitely appreciate 

that and the work you`re doing and the strain everyone`s under. 


But I think, for the sake of public information, people want to know, when 

the president points to Western states like yours, and says, hey, you guys 

are to be a part of relaxing these precautions, your response is what? 


SISOLAK: Well, we`re not planning on relaxing any standards. 


I have based all of my decisions on medical information. We have got a 

medical panel of experts that we have put together, scientific data that`s 

come forward to me. It`s not -- any decision that I make is not going to be 

based on politics or emotion. It`s going to be based strictly upon medical 

advice and facts. 


And that`s where we`re at right now. That`s what we`re going to continue 



MELBER: Understood, and very clear.




MELBER: Go ahead.


SISOLAK: We had two cases (AUDIO GAP) weeks (AUDIO GAP). We have 535 today. 


So, obviously, we have had a lot in the last three weeks. And we`re going 

to continue to -- dealing with them on a day-by-day basis. 


MELBER: What do you say, obviously, to so many people in your state, like 

others, through no fault of their own, hard-hit by the business side, the 

economic side? 


What are you seeing and what are you telling them? 


SISOLAK: Well, these are decisions that were difficult for me. 


I mean, I had a lot of sleepless nights as I dealt with this, and decided -

- turning down the Strip, closing down the Strip, blackening out the Strip 

is -- was a major decision. We put over 200,000 culinary folks on layoff 

when that happened. 


And that was something I grappled with. You -- we have got closure of 

nonessential businesses throughout the state of Nevada. That`s a difficult 

decision. I know some of those businesses will not recover. I understand 



But my number one priority is the health and well-being of the folks in 

Nevada. I`m trying to save lives right now. We`re going to deal with 

recovery on the back end. And I`m going to be asking all your viewers to 

come to Las Vegas and plan a vacation, once we get through this.


But, right now, my focus is on the health and well-being of all our folks 

here in Nevada, all of the Nevadans.


MELBER: I appreciate that. I appreciate also your point that, sooner or 

later someday, particularly if we do this right, life can return to normal 

but only if we take the precautions first.


Real quick, before I let you go, what is your game? If we`re all going to 

come back to the casinos, what`s your game there? 




SISOLAK: I don`t spend that much time in the gambling part of the casinos. 

I`m more into the restaurants.


And we have got a lot of folks working there. And I like to bet on a ball 

game once in a while, but we don`t have any ball games to bet on, so I`m 

going to have to wait for that too. But, for right now, my advice to 

Nevadans, we have come up with a slogan: Stay home for Nevada. 


And that`s what we`re encouraging everybody to do, to stay home, spend some 

time with your family, spend some time in your immediate group, your 

household. And we will get through this. Nevadans are strong. Nevadans are 

resilient, and Nevadans are tough. 


And we have been through some tough things before, and we`re going to get 

through this. We`re going to get through this. And we will come out on the 

other side. 


MELBER: Understood.


Governor, thank you so much. Appreciate you joining us tonight and what 

you`re doing for your state, like so many. 


I mentioned to viewers that we`re keeping an eye on the briefing. And if we 

get medical experts up at the lectern, we will go into it. 


Well, here`s Dr. Birx. Let`s listen in a little bit. 





are other countries that took different approaches. And I want to be clear, 

because we did hear from both China and South Korea. 


But it`s always important that you adopt and adapt, and adapt it to your 

community and the reality of your country. We do this around the world. You 

can`t ever just take an off-the-shelf approach, and then put it into action 

in your community.


You have to understand your communities. And so, although both China and 

South Korea removed people who were positive from their households, and 

segregated them away from their families, we did not think that our 

Americans would adopt and adapt to that situation. 


And so that`s why, in our guidelines, we asked people, if there is a family 

member, to try to self-isolate in the household, and so that that person is 

still there in the household. So I just wanted to be clear that, yes, we 

all heard about what China and South Korea did.


As much as we could, we adapted them to the American situation, as the U.K. 

has done also. And we just wanted to make -- and be -- really ensure that 

all of the requests for the stockpile reflected the great work that the 

American citizens were doing in each of these areas to ensure health. 


And then, finally, there was a question about requiring quarantine. I want 

to make sure that everyone understood, when we talked about New York 

residents who had gone to other places, it was for them to voluntarily 

self-isolate and take care of themselves, because we felt like they could 

be exposed, and we really wanted to alert them that the rates in New York 

City were high and were increasing, and that they were probably exposed 

during some of the most exposure time period, before the mitigation efforts 

went in. 


So this was really about the health of our New York citizens that then 

chose to go to other places, both to protect themselves and to protect 

others. So, hopefully, that`s clear to everyone about those issues. 


We continue to look get the data every day. We really want to applaud the 

laboratory testing that is helping us. It will help us very much when we 

can get full surveillance up in many of our communities and surveillance 

around those most vulnerable, particularly in nursing homes and long-term 

care facilities, so that we can more rapidly test both the workers and the 

occupants in those communities. 


Thank you.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President. 


Today, just a few hours ago, I had the opportunity to get on a telephone 

call with the people who were on the front lines, the people who are 

actually in the ICUs in the hospitals from all of the areas that have been 

hard to hit, including New York. 


And I`m not a supply person. I`m a physician, a scientist, and I do 

vaccines and I do drugs, but I am a member of the task force, and I do take 

very seriously the responsibility that we have to those individuals to get 

them the material that they need. 


We have heard discussions about this, ventilators, personal protective 

equipment, masks and things like that. They are doing an amazing job up 

there. And I just want to have a message to them, which I told them over 

the phone, that, as a member of the task force, with my colleagues here, 

we`re going to do everything we can to make sure that they get everything 

they need at the time that they need that, because they are doing an 

amazing job up there. 


And I salute them. Thank you. 


PENCE: Great. We will take a few questions. 


QUESTION: A quick one to Dr. Birx.


PENCE: Yes, please.


QUESTION: I asked you, I think it was because about eight or nine days ago, 

about the data from all these tests, and you had suggested that there would 

soon be a Web site where we would see all the data. 


Are we closer to that? When do you expect that? Do you have any data to 

give us tonight? Because, as far as I can tell, this has not been publicly 

released yet.


BIRX: Yes. No, thank you. 


I have learned -- and as Tony has described, we have learned that when a 

community is educated, we all do better together. And so it`s important to 

get that information out when we start talking about where the virus is, 

what the percent positives are, and really informed communities so that 

they can make decisions, so that people can take protective measures for 

themselves and for their families. 


And I find that it`s important, yes, for us to have the data, but it`s 

equally important for the state and local governments, as well as the 



We are still -- because we worked very hard to get it into the first bill, 

but it was changed to state and local labs, and, obviously, 90 to 95 

percent of all the tests are being done in the commercial labs. So in this 

recent bill that was just approved, it is mandated that all commercial labs 

need to report.


And so you will have that data when we get the data comprehensively from 

all the commercial labs. 


QUESTION: When can we expect it?


BIRX: Well, it was passed today, so hopefully we will expect it tomorrow. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guys, only one more question. 




QUESTION: About the guidelines, if I can, Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, whomever, 

I guess what is the testing standard here?


Are you going to need to test people who are well or only people who are 

symptomatic? Obviously, let`s say, in Omaha, 10 people walk into a 

hospital, five come in, they`re all tested positive, five go home, they may 

still be positive. 


What is your standard in order to make these recommendations? 


BIRX: So, I`m glad you asked, because the important thing about testing, it 

only tells you if you`re positive or negative that day.


You could become positive the next day. And so testing should be used 

intentionally as a surveillance tool or a diagnostic tool. And I think what 

we`re going to work on over the weekend is to weave together both a testing 

strategy for surveillance, which you have brought up in that key point, 

while maintaining a strong testing for diagnosis, because our first 

obligation is still to ensure that patients get diagnosed, both so that the 

personal protective equipment for those who are negative doesn`t have to be 

utilized, but also to give those patients the opportunity to have optimal 



And I think Dr. Fauci mentioned this a few minutes ago. The things we have 

learned over the last just three months was a lot of information about how 

best to ventilate patients. 


I think that has been shared across communities and across clinicians 

around the globe. 


We never previously had an experience where a lot of people had to be 

ventilated prone. So this kind of information that has been shared has been 

critical to improve the survival of the patients that we have in the United 

States of America. 


And we really want to applaud the countries who`ve been giving all of us 

that information and sharing it across the clinical network. 


QUESTION: One quick one to Dr. Fauci, if I could.


Dr. Fauci, Sunday will mark one month since the first death from this new 



I wanted to ask you a bit of a philosophical question. I have known you for 

25 years. You have been through HIV/AIDS, MERS, SARS, West Nile virus, 

Ebola, all of that. 


How has this nation changed since that first death one month ago?


FAUCI: Well, this is a -- this is truly an unprecedented situation that 

we`re going through.


As you mentioned correctly, John, I have been through everything from the 

very beginning of the very uncertain days with HIV/AIDS. 


Cumulatively, if you look at what`s happened with HIV/AIDS over the 37.5, 

38 years that we have had it, the burden and the suffering and the death 

has been enormous, historic. 


But it came over a period of time. There was the fight in the beginning. 

What we`re seeing now, in actual real time, is something that`s 

unprecedented. This is something that we have never seen before, at least 

in our generation. 


They have seen something maybe like this back 100 years ago. And we`re 

really being challenged to not only learn in real time, to be able to 

respond in a way that is helpful and effective, but we`re also in uncharted 



And I think that`s the thing I find different, is that the waters are 

uncharted, so that it isn`t as if we have an example of how to do it. We 

have an extraordinary confrontation on the health and the welfare of the 

globe, particularly for us here in the United States. 


So, as somebody who`s been through all of those outbreaks, this truly is 

unprecedented. So, from the first day to now, the first death, we have been 

through something that no one has ever experienced in our generation. 


PENCE: Let me say -- let me say, good evening to each one of you. I trust 

this was helpful. We will continue to keep you informed. 


Over the course of the weekend, the president will be traveling to Norfolk 

for the embarkation of the U.S. Navy ship Comfort.


Our task force will be meeting through the course of the weekend, and we 

will be reviewing the data and preparing recommendations for the American 



MELBER: We have been listening to the extended White House coronavirus 



You see Vice President Pence there wrapping it up, with the doctors 

accompanying him out of the White House Briefing Room. 


We are joined now by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. She sits on the 

House Budget Committee and voted for this massive spending plan which 

passed the House today.


Minnesota, where she represents, of course, has 398 confirmed cases of 



Thanks for joining us tonight. 


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Well, thank you for having me, Ari. 


MELBER: I`m curious your response to what we just heard in the Briefing 

Room, both the president`s response, which included touting his own work, 

attacking some governors, mostly Democrats, talking about the potential 

return to normalcy, as well as what we heard from the medical experts?


OMAR: Yes, I mean, it`s a huge contrast, really, when you get a moment to 

hear from the experts. 


We were just listening to the doctors talk about how this is unprecedented, 

that many of the pandemics that they have dealt with, this supersedes that. 


And then you hear the president sort of say, this is nothing like the flu -

- this is nothing more than the flu. Many more people die every year from 

the flu. 


And so that kind of contrast really is quite alarming. And it sort of shows 

you how much this president really isn`t taking the time to hear what the 

experts are telling him, and isn`t being honest with the public. 


I recently read that, in the 1918 flu pandemic, one of the things -- one of 

the greatest lessons that was learned was that you have to tell the truth. 

The public needs to know what is actually happening and how best they 

should prepare themselves to be able to safeguard their lives and their 



And so, when we have a president who cannot really stay honest for a 

moment, without worrying about who is appeasing him, who is talking about 

the great work he`s doing, and not just doing the work of the American 

people he was elected to serve, it really is dangerous and irresponsible. 




Well, I appreciate your rebuttal, as it were, to part of what he said.


The country has been hearing from him, from governors, from the doctors, 

and from members of Congress like yourself. So that`s a useful -- a useful 

chance at perspective.


I want to dig into some of the work you`re doing, and then we will get to 

the spending bill as well. But this is a time where, even if you put the 

president completely to the side, these are tough, tough trade-offs that 

everyone is living through, obviously, out in the country, and that policy-

makers like yourself are working on.


So, I wanted you to tell us a little bit more about a new push you are 

making with Senator Sanders on Amazon, a big company that can play 

obviously an important role here and that has employees. 


But you have got a new letter out here tonight. And in it, you talk about 

the fact that, while there`s much good that companies could potentially do, 

you write that Amazon, for example -- quote -- "has dealt with a" -- quote 

-- "proven record of high health and safety standard violations."


You`re concerned they don`t possess adequate internal pandemic preparedness 

and response plans. And then you have -- and I`ll hold this up on the 

screen as well, just to give folks a general sense. You have quite a few 

tough questions, I would call them, for Amazon. 


And I`m sure that there`s trade-offs here, right? Because you want most 

these companies to provide the services. They ship essential products as 



But walk us through the trade-off that you want that you think that should 

be done right here. 


OMAR: Yes.


I mean, so what we`re asking Amazon to do is to give us answers on how they 

are going about handling the safety of their employees in 10 of their 



As you know, the senator and I have been co-leading letters to Amazon to 

make sure that they`re being held accountable, that we`re calling them out 

when they are not fulfilling what we expect of large corporations like them 

that has many employees who might be vulnerable. 


And so the Amazon employees signed a petition. And they`re calling for an 

adequate response and a plan of preparedness. And we want to take our -- 

the leadership opportunity to get those answers for them from Amazon. 


MELBER: Understood, and an important piece of this, both for so many people 

who are living on the consumer side of that, but still trying to get 

services, buying them online, but, as you mentioned, the health and safety 

of so many workers.


They have got, obviously, a lot of employees. 


I also want to mention, Congresswoman Omar was very patient as we were 

juggling a lot of breaking news. 


So, I`m glad you stuck around. I imagine some of our viewers are as well. 


Thank you, Congresswoman. 


OMAR: Yes.


No, thank you so much. I mean, we are living through an unprecedented time. 

And I really do appreciate you all taking the time, so that the public can 

get the proper information from these health care professionals, because we 

have a real need for honesty and truth, as people are living through real 

fears and anxiety about what`s to come. 


My great state has taken many measures in trying to make sure that there 

are stay-at-home and safety measures. Tonight, we go into lockdown in 

Minnesota. And so I`m hoping that the nation follows suit, and that we get 

to do that throughout the country and make sure that there are no more 

lives lost, and we are prioritizing people over profits. 


MELBER: Yes. Yes. 


And, as you say, that`s some shared sacrifice, but for the health and 

safety of our entire nation. 


Thank you, Congresswoman. 


I`m going to fit in a break. 


And then, when we come back, I`m going to tell all of you about a heroic 

fight by medical professionals on the front lines of the battle and how 

some are persevering, even against the odds -- a little bit of uplift and 

tribute as we end the week, when we come back. 




MELBER: The spike in U.S. coronavirus cases is putting a severe strain on 

our nation`s health care system, hospitals facing dire shortages of the 

kind of personal protective equipment that`s considered essential for 

medical staff, not enough masks, visors, or gowns to protect them from 

people who obviously are either suffering from or potentially suffering 

from this virus. 


We have shown this before. Nurses in at least one hospital in New York had 

to wear trash bags for their own protection. 


And it`s not just equipment shortages. Capacity already an issue with 

hospitals in cities as large as Detroit, Los Angeles and Atlanta suffering 

major bed shortages. 


I`m joined now by Rick Pollack, president of the American Hospital 



How bad is the problem? And how much could the federal government do to fix 




first, let me say, thanks for having me. 




POLLACK: And the president`s use of the Defense Production Act to really 

aggressively get serious about producing more ventilators is very 



But what`s even more important is that we get the personal protection 

equipment to the front lines to protect our health care heroes, our 

doctors, nurses, other health care workers. That is absolutely essential 

right now. 


And that needs to be the focus. And the Defense Production Act, which we, 

the American Nurses Association, the American Medical Association, have 

called to be employed in this area is something where we have to really 

focus. We need to push all the levers to get that equipment to the front 



MELBER: When you look at what this has revealed about the state of our 

capacity, does it mean that, as a nation, we should do more, so we don`t 

suffer this quickly?


I mean, most Americans are looking up and saying, oh, you don`t have to be 

an expert at this to say, well, one major problem like this, and we`re 

weeks away from these shortages? Or is it more complicated than that? 


POLLACK: Yes, it`s a little bit more complicated than that, Ari, because, 

remember, there`s a relationship between the failed testing process and why 

we have such a shortage of the personal protective equipment.


Because the testing has not ramped up nearly as much as it needed to be, 

and because we still have problems with the testing, we have a lot of 

patients in the hospital that are hospitalized that are symptomatic, but 

we`re often not able to test them quickly, nor get the results back 



So we have to take care of those people as if they have the virus. That 

means we are burning through huge amounts. 


MELBER: So, let me ask you this. Yes. 


POLLACK: We`re burning through huge amounts of PPE because of that problem.


MELBER: What that means -- yes.


What that means -- and you do this for a living -- what you`re teaching is 

that the problem here is, it may look like a first-order supply problem, 

because people are wearing garbage bags in the hospital, but, in fact, it`s 

a second-order testing problem, that if we could accurately and swiftly 

test, you wouldn`t get to the supply issue?




The testing problem exacerbated the supply problem. And it created a 

cascade, if you will. And that`s why we really have to focus on the PPE 



By the way, one of the things we launched today is a 100 million mask 

challenge. We need more than 100 million. But we have a lot of idle 

factories out there. And we`re trying to match up these idle factories to 

produce these kinds of equipment, so that we can get it into the market. 


And, again, it`s pushing all the levers to get that to the front lines. 


MELBER: How would that work? You`re challenging these individual companies, 

above and beyond whatever the president can force, to get into the mask 

production process?


POLLACK: Well, he seems like he`s forced the product on the ventilator 

side. We need the same level of attention for the personal protective 



This started at Providence Health System in Washington state. And what we 

found is, there are a lot of good people of a lot of goodwill that wanted 

to help with the problem. 




POLLACK: And they said, we have idle factories as a result of the economic 

situation. Put us to work.


And what we`re doing is matching up... 


MELBER: Where can they go online if people want to learn more?




It`s or #100millionmasks. 


MELBER: Great.


POLLACK: So, if you have a factory, and you want to help us out, that`s 

where to go. 


MELBER: Great. 


Well, Rick, I don`t know if you ever watch these candidate interviews, or 

even at the debates, they`re always trying to plug their own Web site. 

We`re used to that. This is about 100 times more important than that. 


So, I hope folks who are interested or who are in a position to help take 

you up on your plug there. 


Rick Pollack, thanks for your work. 


POLLACK: Thank you. 


MELBER: Yes, sir. 


We`re going to fit in a break.


When we come back: How is this affecting everyday life and all the small 

businesses around the nation? We actually have the owner of a series of bed 

and breakfasts to discuss what she`s doing and the road ahead. 




MELBER: The devastating impact of the coronavirus on the United States` 

economy has continued to come into view this week.


A record 3.2 million Americans lost jobs in the last week alone, according 

to new figures. 


And look at the context. The week before, the number of lost jobs, of 

unemployment claims, was about 280,000. And if you look under the all-time 

averages, the number of jobs we just lost wasn`t just record-breaking. And 

it wasn`t double or triple. It was actually more than four times the next 

highest number, which tells you just how much people are hurting.


And it, of course, could get worse. We`re at the beginning of this thing.


Now, take this snapshot of public anxiety, a majority of Americans now 

concerned about the economy. That`s a shift. And it`s far worse for people 

who carry a small business on their back, like so many small-town and small 

business Americans; 96 percent of people who own small businesses say 

they`re already feeling the impact. 


That`s basically everyone. 


I`m joined now by Monique Greenwood, who owns a bed and breakfast series of 



Thank you for jumping on with us. 


What have you done in your small business? What are you seeing? 



small business is kind of in critical condition right now.


It was very healthy before this whole coronavirus epidemic hit us. And, 

right now, we`re having a struggle because we take 50 percent deposits from 

our guests when they make reservations. 


And we have had to refund all of those deposits for April, for March. Now 

we`re going into May and June. What we`re trying to do is encourage people 

to buy now and stay later with our gift certificate sale. We`re adding a 10 

percent bonus on the value of what they purchase. 


We know that, when we get through this -- and we will -- that folks are 

going to need to come together, get away. They`re going to be sick of being 

shut in, and we want to be there for them. And we need them to be there for 

us right now, because it`s really difficult. 


MELBER: How do you feel about what`s coming out of Washington, giant amount 

of spending, some of it going to big companies, some of it going to 



I know, from my research, you had to lay some people off, so maybe going to 

your ex-employees. But do you feel that that package is also going to help 

you any way, or you`re sure yet? 


GREENWOOD: Well, I have been looking at it, and I`m going to look at it 

even more closely. 


I am certainly hopeful that it will help us. We do have a 504 loan from the 

SBA. And I`m told that the government is going to cover that for three 



We have looked into some programs where we will get support with our 

payroll. So, hopefully, we can bring back some of those people that we had 

to lay off temporarily. And we`re going to just take advantage of anything 

that we can.


Our biggest challenge is trying to pay mortgages on million-dollar 

properties. And that`s a tall order. 




And I know you manage more than one of these kind of bed and breakfasts. 

How many months can your properties go without revenue? 


GREENWOOD: Unfortunately, we can`t really go another month, to be honest 

with you, because we have already gone through all of our cash reserves 

refunding the deposits that people have made.


And we`re not getting new business coming in to replace that. So we`re kind 

of cash-strapped right now. We`re talking to our bankers to see whether we 

can get a line of credit to kind of hold on. And this -- we just pray that 

this will move quickly, so that we can get back to business. 


MELBER: And what made you want to get into bed and breakfast? 


GREENWOOD: Well, I love making a personal connection with people. And 

that`s probably one of the most difficult things for me right now, 

personally, is that I don`t get to hug folks. I don`t get to create those 

amazing moments and spoil people and offer them comfort. 


And folks need that now, more than ever, and we just can`t do that for them 

at this moment. 


So, I love this business. And I love meeting people from all over the world 

and making my home their home when they come to stay. 




You know, there`s only a certain kind of people that do bed and breakfast. 

Some people, they need the full hotel experience. 


But bed and breakfast people -- and I like bed and breakfast -- you always 

tend to be a little more social. You come down, you have the communal 

kitchen, or you share the coffee, you meet people.


As you say, that`s something we`re missing out culturally, socially, as 

well at this time. 


GREENWOOD: Absolutely.


It`s all about togetherness. And we help folks who are traveling with their 

love mates remember why they`re so in love, because they can kind of push 

back the world long enough to reconnect with one another. 


They become friends with strangers that are staying at the same time that 

they are. They certainly create a connection with us. And so that`s what`s 

really unique and special about it. 


I think we can create that kind of intimacy. And we`re just looking to do 

it again. And we`re just waiting -- waiting for that day when that can 



MELBER: I really appreciate that and you telling us your story, and it 

helps put a -- honestly, a face and an experience on what`s going on out 

there, small businesses being hit so hard. 


And I wish you, of course, good luck on getting through it and hopefully 



Monique Greenwood, thank you so much. 


We will be...


GREENWOOD: Thank you. 


MELBER: Thank you.


And we will be right back. 




MELBER: We want to let something else as you plan your evening. 


There`s been a lot of news out of Washington. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi will 

be here on MSNBC with Rachel Maddow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. That should be an 

interesting interview. 


You can find me, Ari Melber, back here 6:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday for "THE 

BEAT." I`ll also be filling in again in this 7:00 p.m. hour as well for our 

special coverage. 


Don`t go anywhere. 







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