IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hardball, Transcript 3/30/2020

Guests: Luciana Borio, Jonathan Swan, Grace Meng, Joshua Denson, Ellen Page

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. This is Ari Melber broadcasting our 

special coronavirus coverage.

At this hour, there are over 160,000 cases in the United States. More than 2,900 people have died. A short time ago, President Trump defending his decisions. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days. And this is a very vital 30 days. We`re sort of putting it all on the line, this 30 days, so important because we have to get back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We also heard from Dr. Birx today. I want to play some of what she said. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: I think everyone understands now that you can go from 5 to 50 to 500 to 5,000 cases very quickly. We see this in many metropolitan areas. We`re very worried about every city in the United States and the potential for this virus to get out of control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: I want to turn in and bring some of our guests. We have Dr. Luciana Borio and Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, as well as Jonathan Swan on a home camera.

There are many aspects to this. Dr. Borio, we`ve been covering these daily briefings. Some are more informative than others. What was your main reaction or takeaway to what he heard today?

DR. LUCIANA BORIO, FORMER NSC MEDICAL AND BIODEFENSE PREPAREDNESS POLICY DIRECTOR: Well, I think there is significant agreement we are not prepared to lift the restrictions that were placed on physical contact. It`s important to maintain physical distance for the foreseeable next few weeks.

And this will give us more time to prepare hospitals, to prepare equipment, to allow diagnostic testing to be distributed more broadly across the nation and importantly, we still need to be able to do our best to implement public health measures to track contact with infected individuals through the use of technology, for example, that can quench little outbreaks that will continue to spread before they become epidemics. We cannot allow the situation of where cases go undetected and before we notice we`re dealing with thousands and thousands of patients going into our hospital systems.

MELBER: And, Jonathan Swan, the president appeared on Fox and Friends. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re thinking around Easter. That`s going to be your spike. That`s going to be the highest point, we think, and then it`s going to start coming down from there. That will be a day of celebration. And we just want to do it right. So we pick the end of April, the last day, April 30th as the day where we can see some real progress, and we expect to see that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Jonathan, when you look at the president, he`s obviously adjusted his messaging. Has he gotten to place where he can live with what the experts are saying now? Are we going to see this zigzagging play out during the whole pandemic?

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Well, I hesitate to promise you messaging consistency from President Trump for the foreseeable future. I think that would be a foolish thing for me to suggest.

But the Oval Office meeting on Sunday afternoon, I think, has been a little over dramatized. I`m told by people who are familiar with his thinking that he made up his mind effectively before that meeting. It was sort of a final meeting where Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx presented the statistics. But he`d already made up his mind really on Friday. It` just the question of how long.

There are several factors. One is the television he was watching the images he was seeing out of New York on Fox really brought this home, obviously, the numbers he heard. But the other one was he had assurances from his treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, that the stimulus package would be enough to sort of cushion the blow in the short term. And he felt that this was actually a less risky option of just extending it rather than potentially taking the blame for an untold death count.

MELBER: Dr. Bhadelia, your view of all of the above?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: So theirs is some of the numbers that are presented by Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, and it`s is from the study from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation that basically shows that even if we did everything right, if all the states continued the social distancing and put the measures into place, most states, 40 percent of the states -- or 41 states are actually still behind in their ICU bed needs. We need at least 61,000 more hospital beds and about 15,000 extra ICU beds, and that`s a striking number. I mean, anybody looking at this is going to sort of, say, even with the best measures, we meet this.

The thing I think that doesn`t come across a lot of times when we talk about the peak, this peak in one month or peak in 15 days. The peak will be different in every state depending on whether the measures are put into place, the population density. And so this may continue at different levels in different states.

But the other part is unless we all come together, one state may get better, decrease its caseloads. And then the minute you sat down or let down your guard, you might have sort of movement between states that spillover cases.

And so part of this is, yes, there is peak and there is a plateau and cases continue. And that`s where Dr. Borio`s point about preparedness, about testing becoming so important.

MELBER: Well, Dr. Borio, if you could speak to that, as well as the other very sad warning we got that I think is sinking in to anyone who follows the news, which is Dr. Birx and others saying, yes, you`re look at a projection of 100,000 to 200,000 U.S. deaths.

BORIO: Sure. These are projections. We know all along that this virus has some dangerous features. So I`m not surprised by those numbers. And as you know, they could even be worse if we don`t take appropriate measures to provide medical care to individuals who need it.

This virus seems to be transmitting before people develop symptoms, which makes propagation of the epidemic a lot easier. It can be -- lead to very, very severe lethality in certain populations but nobody is immune, as we know. And we don`t have ample diagnostic tests to be able to detect, identify and contain the outbreaks as they are occurring. So I`m not surprised by those numbers.

And our goal should be to make them as slow as possible. We don`t want to lose anybody to this virus.

MELBER: And, Dr. Bhadelia, your reaction medically to this push first by the president sort of casually but now by the FDA through normal mechanisms to test things in other time periods wouldn`t be rushed out like this.

BHADELIA: This is an ethical scenario that we face in a lot of outbreaks. Because what we`re seeing is that there is some data that a drug is promising. And so we want to make it available for something what`s called compassionate use (ph), which is promising enough but we`re not sure if it`s efficacious (ph). We don`t for sure because we haven`t done the rigorous testing yet.

And so what becomes important in those settings is really for the individual physicians to weigh the risk and benefits and then for us to all collect the data in that setting so we`re not possibly causing more harm than helping.

And it is a go-ahead and collect data. It is a go-ahead and use with your judgment to see if this is helpful and the patient that is in front of you. We still need the trials. We still need the scientific rigor to show that drugs are as efficacious as we think they are.

MELBER: Jonathan, as someone who chronicles the White House, I`m also curious what you think about their evolving approach. This is a White House that many people will recall dispensed with the daily briefing almost entirely. Now, they`re leaning on it to a degree where there`s criticism that it`s too long, too unfocused, too much misinformation while it is, of course, covered like it would be in most situations by most news outlets pretty rigorously on the hope of learning information.

And I put that question to you with today, the president opting to go outside, to do a show and tell, to sort of lean back into features that people remember from the campaign that his critics look at as gimmicks and that his supporters often look at as his particular communication approach.

SWAN: I was talking to someone who is close to the president today and they said that he was going stir crazy without being able to have an outlet. He was -- obviously, he couldn`t do the rallies anymore. And so this is his daily outlet. He can do it for an hour, sometimes two hours and then spend much of the night watching replay of himself in different formats on cable news, taking phone calls in the residence, waking up in the morning, setting the news agenda.

He`s -- obviously, we`ve seen this publicly, very focused on the ratings and very proud of the fact that, as The New York Times wrote, he is getting ratings that rival primetime shows. It`s the same --

MELBER: Let me give you a follow-up and then I`ll let you continue, Jonathan. I mean, you`re just reporting what you`re learning, and people can make up their own minds as always. But are there those who find it particular disturbing that because the ratings are up because people are literally making life and death decisions and are afraid that the president views that as something to relish?

SWAN: If you`re asking me if there are people in the president`s close orbit who are disturbed by him, I would say very few at this point in the presidency. That was certainly a feature of 2017. But any time you read stories about horror within the inner circle, I think it`s vastly overstated. He`s likely surrounded by a group of people, leaving out some of the career experts who I wouldn`t want to speak for. But when you talk about his inner circle now, it`s largely people who are fans of his.

MELBER: Yes. I mean, it`s just -- it`s wild to put it so bluntly. And I think we have seen -- I`ll take it to both doctors starting with Dr. Borio, people are obviously rushing towards any place they can get information at a time when they are supposed to stay largely home. So they are rushing to sources online. They are rushing to, of course, television news and other news. And to twist it bit away from just the president`s view of it, I wonder, Dr. Borio, what do you advice people about how to make sure they are getting news or information from a reputable source, particularly if it involves precautions they should take?

BORIO: Yes. So the source that I use mostly is actually the CDC. It`s our global health agencies respected around the world. It is an excellent source of information. It may not be -- have the latest bit of information as available because everything is so properly vetted. But, definitely, it`s the most reliable resource that I would recommend for people to seek.

MELBER: Dr. Bhadelia?

BHADELIA: I was going to add, the CDC has actually been ahead in terms of its guidance and tons of different kinds of scenarios. But the other plug I`ll give enough only because Dr. Borio is on (INAUDIBLE) the prior chief scientist for the FDA, but FDA with releasing all these new drugs out there and all of the new information, they have also provided public outlet of what all of this means. Because the ethics of it are complicated, the scientific sort of approach to it is complicated and the FDA, for each of its decisions, has done a great job of having a public facing documents to also help understand the concepts.

MELBER: Dr. Bhadelia, Dr. Borio, thanks to both of you.

BORIO: If I may add --

MELBER: Please, go ahead.

BORIO: I was just going to say that it`s also helpful to look at your state public health logs because -- public health departments, because they often have information that is very tailored to the community and can be very helpful.

MELBER: All excellent points. And I will mention on behalf of our own news team here we`re doing extra logistical hoops. So if I`ve been tape delayed or missed anything you said, that`s on our end and my apologies for that, but I want to get in your last remarks as well. So both doctors and Jonathan Swan, thank you so much.

We`re going to fit in a break. When we come back, you have the president floating outright conspiracy knee theories, including suggesting hospitals may have been allowing protective equipment to, quote, go out the backdoor without evidence. We`re going to get into that.

And later, governors and mayors across the U.S. say the numbers that we`re seeing in New York, that could be going national. How cities and hospitals are preparing to deal with and hopefully prevent some of that kind of dynamic.

A lot more new reporting when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Turning to reports that when it comes to the government`s response to this virus, the president has often been adding to the confusion. Donald Trump blindsiding local authorities Saturday floating an idea that he might quarantine New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He doesn`t actually have that authority. Then you have a retreat that came seven hours later announcing, quote, a quarantine will not be necessary.

The president also questioning the increased demand for masks and ventilators and has blamed hospitals for these shortages. Yesterday, he also suggested the New York hospitals are allowing masks to go, quote, out the backdoor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: They have been delivering for years, 10 to 20,000 masks. Okay, it`s a New York hospital. It`s packed all the time. How do you go from 10 to 20 to 300,000.

Something is going on. And you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the backdoor?

So somebody should probably look into that, because I just don`t see from a practical standpoint how that`s possible to go from that to that. And we have that happening in numerous places.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: People have looked into it. Indeed, NBC News reporting there`s no evidence that theft is what drives the demand here. In fact, we all know what`s driving the demand, it`s the legitimate usage.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump had claimed last week New York wouldn`t need thousands of ventilators that the city and local officials have been desperately and publicly seeking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don`t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you got into major hospitals sometimes, they`ll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they are saying, can we order 30,000 ventilators.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: A question about the claim New York may not need the ventilators, the president then went onto, and, again, you need to know this to factor in how you view what else he says tomorrow or the next day. He did deny saying it at all and attacked the journalist who raised the issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: You said repeatedly that you think some of the equipment that governors are requesting, they don`t actually need, you said New York might not need 30,000.

TRUMP: I didn`t say that.

REPORTER: You said it on Sean Hannity`s Fox News. You said that you might - -

TRUMP: Let me ask you this. Why don`t you act a little more positive? It`s always trying to get you, get you, get you. And you know what? That`s why nobody trusts the media anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: We`re joined by Congressman Grace Meng of New York and Bina Venkataraman, a Boston Globe Editorial Page Editor, who also has served in the White House.

Congresswoman, your response.

REP. GRACE MENG (D-NY): Hi, Ari. Thanks for having me. You now what? This is such an incredibly stressful and hurtful time in our country. New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus. My borough and county of Queens is the epicenter of this crisis in New York. We just want a leader to show compassion and to use facts.

People`s lives are at stake. It`s not about pointing fingers. It`s not about inflating egos. It`s all about doing all you can to save American lives.

MELBER: How do you advise your constituents and Americans watching this tonight view these task force briefings, which on the one hand can include incredibly important information, like what the federal government is doing or not doing, and on the other hand, includes, as we just showed in a fact check so people can intellectually arm themselves, that when the president shouts down Yamiche Alcindor and says she`s the liar, we just showed you the evidence so viewers can see what he is saying is actually false, and what she said in this instance was true?

MENG: Well, you just said the keyword, Ari, it`s evidence. It`s important that we listen to the experts. It`s important that we utilize science when we`re making decisions and making sure that we`re doing all we can to equip our front-line health care workers to make sure that they have what they need to protect themselves and to heal this country.

MELBER: Bina, your view?

BINA VENKATARAMAN, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": It`s hard not to see the president`s claim that hospitals are hoarding supplies or misusing supplies as a very thinly veiled way of evading responsibility.

He`s trying to recalibrate the American public`s expectations around this crisis. He`s using outlandish projections that assume no action to make us accept the idea of 100,000 deaths or 200,000 deaths as a form of success, when, in fact, it`s been the president`s inaction, his dragging his heels in invoking -- invoking the Defense Production Act to actually produce supplies, the lack of coordination at the federal level.

The president of the United States should be distributing supplies to states and cities around the country. Meanwhile, we have governors, we have representatives like the congresswoman, we have mayors around the country complaining that states are having to outbid the federal government for supplies, have been historically, and into this week. We will see what happens.

But I think what you`re seeing is that the president is not willing to take responsibility and actually wants to reset the conversation. He goes after journalists, in a similar way to how he goes after science. Both are fact- based enterprises, journalists and scientists both trying to get at the truth, the president trying to create his own idea of what`s happening in the country, his own story of this public health crisis.

MELBER: Congresswoman, you`re nodding.

MENG: I`m just so frustrated.

I am getting calls almost every day from doctors and nurses and staff on the front lines here in Queens. And they are fearful for their lives. They pray every day, they cry every day, because they don`t have the equipment to defend themselves as they are waging this battle on the front lines of this coronavirus war.

Why wouldn`t you, as a leader, do everything in your power to make sure that they have what they need to save lives?

MELBER: Yes.

I mean, you guys both lay it out very clearly.

The president on the missing masks, I want to play a little more of this for your analysis. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: You expressed some concern in the past that medical supplies were going out the back door, and that perhaps...

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.

QUESTION: ... some hospitals were doing things.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, I expressed what was told to me by a tremendous power in the business.

There`s only a couple of things that could happen. Is it going out the back door? And I have reported it to the city and let the city take a look at it.

But when you go from 10,000 masks to 300,000 masks, Mike, over the same period of time, there`s something going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: Bina, as you were raising earlier, this would appear to be, by the method of unsourced question, which is a certain type of tool, a rhetorical tool, a way of trying to literally blame hospitals, doctors and nurses risking their lives, some of them getting hurt, some of them dying, at this point, and try to turn it on them.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Oh, I`m sorry. I will go -- that`s my fault. That`s my fault.

I will go Bina and then the congresswoman.

VENKATARAMAN: So, I think that`s absolutely true. And it`s dangerous.

And I think it`s worth pointing out that this kind of misinformation cost lives, that the standard for the president should be to have evidence-based information, consistent information and information that reassures the American public.

And when he misinforms the American public, whether it`s about an unproven, untested cure or treatment for COVID-19, like chloroquinin -- chloroquine - - sorry -- whether he is talking about the real source of why there isn`t personal protective equipment, he`s sowing seeds of misinformation that have put real lives at stake.

And this is why "The Boston Globe" editorial board is editorializing that the president has blood on his hands, from inaction and misinformation in this public health crisis.

MENG: I agree.

Why is he pitting states against each other? This is an opportunity for him to show leadership and to show compassion. Right now, all we have is a lack of transparency. No one really knows what the criteria is, is to get -- in order to get the PPE and the ventilators that we need.

A good leader would make sure that New York, which is the epicenter of this crisis in the whole country, has what it needs to save as many lives as possible, and then, God forbid, if this happens to another state, that we would be properly prepared.

MELBER: All really clear points.

And I think, given what we`re up against and what we`re hearing out there, having both of you walk us through your perspectives, as well as potential solutions, is useful during what is a tough time all around.

So, I want to thank Congresswoman Grace Meng and Bina Venkataraman, and also apologize for some of our Skype technical difficulties. I`m glad we can get everyone where they`re safely residing, sheltering in place.

Up next: New York City giving this preview of things to come. How are other large cities taking actions now to save lives?

We`re going to speak to a big city mayor who expects her hospitals filled, but there are things we can do -- when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And some places actually will do well, and some places probably won`t do well at all.

At this point, not nationwide, but, well, there are some -- some places in our nation that are not very affected at all, but we may -- we may look at certain areas, certain -- certain hot spots.

The hot spots right now are state of Washington, and probably number one by far right now is New York. That`s a hot spot like no other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER: As you see here, the president has spent weeks arguing that the coronavirus outbreak has been mostly about certain hot spots.

And there are areas like New York, Washington state and California that obviously have been hit harder, but new data -- we want you to know the facts -- shows how quickly the virus is spreading, which creates many epicenters inside the United States.

Bloomberg News reporting that there is data that shows troubling signs that cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Miami could also all see huge spikes in hospitalizations that mirror the current epicenter site of New York.

Meanwhile, take a look at this, roughly half of Americans still under stay- at-home directives issued by governors in over 25 states, the governors of Virginia and Maryland, the mayor of Washington, D.C., the latest to issue those kind of orders.

Meanwhile, new tonight, in Arizona, after holding off for weeks, Governor Doug Ducey has just announced a new stay-at-home directive.

A number of other governors, though, pushing back on the idea that they have to do the same.

This is very important. It may affect where you live. We have a lot more on it with a special guest right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MELBER: We`re following local reaction to the coronavirus.

There are governors issuing restrictive stay-at-home directives, others trying to take a more balanced approach.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered a mandatory stay-at-home, for example, for just four counties where they saw higher risk. Or Georgia saw Governor Brian Kemp issue stay-at-home directives for only those who are medically at risk.

President Trump was saying that the federal disaster was already applied in that state. Now, Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, does lead the state with almost 500 coronavirus cases. The more rural Dougherty County in Southwestern Georgia has the total number of deaths.

As you can see, it`s an evolving picture.

And we want to dig in to what we`re seeing on the ground.

I`m joined now by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Thanks for joining us.

People ask sometimes, how do we keep track of every part of the country? And the answer is sometimes by checking in.

We heard the president and his experts. I wanted to give you the mic.

Your response to anything we heard from the president thus far, and what are you doing in your community?

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), MAYOR OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA: I think consistent messaging to all of us would be helpful, not just as a mayor and as leaders, but to our citizens as a whole.

It`s very confusing. Even right here in Atlanta, if I were to walk out of my door, if I walk a half-a-mile from my front door, I would be in another city, and we have completely different guidelines as it relates to our state of emergency.

So, in Atlanta, I took the extraordinary step in our state of issuing a stay-at-home order. I looked at what London Breed did in San Francisco, and we clearly could see where this was headed.

I have the benefit of talking almost daily with Dr. Carlos del Rio from Emory University. And he has given us such helpful information on what will happen if we don`t take measures.

And so that`s what we have done in Atlanta. But it`s not been done across the board. We have varying guidelines in our metropolitan area. Atlanta is only about 500,000 people. We have a very large metropolitan Atlanta area of about 60 million people.

MELBER: When you see the president basically say, look, there are some hot spots and bad places, and there are other places that can get back to work, notwithstanding other differences you may have with him, do you think that`s an acceptable prism, or we`re not there yet because it is such high risk basically anywhere that it can spread?

BOTTOMS: Clearly, if we all follow the science, then we would understand that we are nowhere near being able to get back to normal.

And to message that to the American people, I think, really is reckless in so many ways. And this is not about politics. This is not about party. What this is about is about saving lives.

What we know from the science and what we know from looking at New York and looking at California and so many other places is that we have to take extreme measures to stop the spread of this virus.

And, until recently, people have not begun to take it seriously. And that, in large part, has to do with the messages that were coming out of the White House.

And so I am glad that...

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: Let me ask you about that, if I could. And I know we`re on a slight tape delay, but I want to ask you a little more on that.

When you say that message, then, is getting out and is actually undercutting your work or public safety in Atlanta, have you seen that? Have you heard from people in Georgia that they -- well, the president said it`s OK? Or is that something you observe yourself?

BOTTOMS: What I`m seeing is that people are putting economics above all else.

And I understand that people are concerned about how they will feed their families. That`s certainly a concern. But we won`t have families to feed if we don`t make it to the other side of this pandemic.

And so I think that, if the president were consistent in his messaging, if he allowed science to speak for itself, then I think that we could have very clear guidelines, not just in Atlanta, not just in our state, but across the country.

MELBER: Understood.

Do you view what`s happening in New York as a potential outcome in Atlanta if the right measures are not taken?

BOTTOMS: Well, it`s the reason that we closed down the city almost two weeks ago, because we saw what was happening in New York.

And what we are seeing is that we have an opportunity to at least build some capacity with our hospitals. We, at the current state, will exceed our hospital capacity by May 3, because, again, people have to understand, heart attacks and strokes and all these things that send people into E.R.s don`t stop.

And so, in Atlanta, we have some of the highest asthma rates in the country. And so that`s of grave concern that, if this virus continues to spread, that people like my four children, all of whom right are asthmatic, can be impacted.

And so the good part, I can say, is that, as we have taken this extreme measure in Atlanta, other surrounding cities are starting to follow with their stay-at-home orders.

But if it were my wish, we would have it consistently across the country.

MELBER: All very important notes.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, I appreciate your time during all this.

BOTTOMS: Thank you.

MELBER: Thank you.

We`re going to fit in a little bit of a break.

I want to tell you, CBS News reporting Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards telling the president he will create a roughly 1,200-person field hospital in the New Orleans Convention Center, the governor reportedly telling the president he was having trouble securing ventilators and test kits for his state. Louisiana has about 4,000 cases of the virus and 185 deaths.

And I want to bring in Dr. Joshua Denson, pulmonary and critical care physician at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans.

What are you seeing?

DR. JOSHUA DENSON, TULANE MEDICAL CENTER: Good morning. Good evening. Sorry.

So, what we`re seeing around (AUDIO GAP) is a pretty high rate of disease with very severe (AUDIO GAP) slowly inclined patients coming in but they`re all very sick. And it seems to be very high and it`s happening all across the whole areas of the city and areas of the state.

MELBER: What measures medically have been most effective thus far?

DENSON: You know, the measures medically effective, kind of the bread and butter of management that we do for what these patients are suffering from the ICU. Most people are suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS. And this is a syndrome that we care for every day in the ICU. But usually, it`s on the order of one or two patients. Now we`re on the order of 15 or 20 or more.

I saw about 20 of them today. I just left the room from one of them a minute ago.

So, the bread and butter management that we`re doing for them is way to go. The problem is there`s not much to offer beyond that. We don`t have any treatments. We`re trying to study this. We`re trying to get research going but we need time, we need effort and we need money for that in order to get those movements forward.

MELBER: When we see these triage mats, it`s like the field hospitals deployed, what portion of the immediate or urgent problem do they address?

DENSON: So, the field hospitals are critically important. This is something we have been pushing for in Louisiana, New Orleans specifically the past week. And I think it`s really great that the steps the governor or mayor are taking.

What that provides is off loads our ICUs. And so, it moves people that are stable enough with the disease or otherwise to move out of the hospital and as we expand the ICU and expand rooms to put patients with ventilators, we have that capacity and we don`t run out of space.

MELBER: Understood, do you have a response to some of the assertions the president is making when he says, oh, testing is under control. "New York Times" reporting he was telling the governor, including, of course, your state is highly affected. Oh, you know, quote, he hasn`t hard about a problem with testing in weeks.

Your response?

DENSON: Testing is an issue. I think we still need to increase the amount of testing. Mostly the turn around time on the testing, and we have started doing our own, some fast turn around testing here which is really, really helpful.

One thing that I still want to emphasize is the protective gear we need. I know they are trying to disperse it. But we live in America, and we really should be having better access to this. The fact that we`re still having to reuse the same gowns over and over, exposing our health care providers, it`s just unacceptable. And we really do need to really push that. That`s something that I strongly believe we need.

MELBER: I`m curious what you think about what is obviously a bigger issue, but you can tackle it however you want. We`re in a year where there`s still administration backing appeals that would effectively limit Obamacare if they won in the courts. They are still pursuing that at a time when there`s tremendous emphasis right now on trying to get more people access to doctors, whether that`s emergency care, long term care, obviously, it`s complex.

Do you have any view of that? Does that type of approach look less logical in this pandemic to try to limit Obamacare?

DENTON: I think it`s tough to say if it`s less logical. My personal opinion, I probably wouldn`t. I think we have a lot bigger problems that we need to be tackling now. I think improving access to care is a critical issue for our New Orleans population and again, just getting us the right gear to do the job that we need to do should be the priority and mixed messages, I don`t think, are helping. And again, this is what we need to focus on right now.

MELBER: Copy. And the last thing I want to ask is something we asked a lot of experts in your position over these nights as this goes on. But we do it hopefully to help. Bottom line, what are the things you would tell people they can do right now tonight to make sure they are just protecting themselves and their family?

DENSON: Right now, same thing as I tell my mom and dad, is to stay home. Take care of yourself, stay home, stay healthy. Assume everybody is a risk to exposure until this thing starts to go away, and hopefully, it does go away.

But right now, that`s what you need. And if you need help, call us. We`ll talk to you on phone and if we need to see you then I`ll take care of you.

MELBER: All right. Dr. Joshua Denson, really appreciate your work and your time tonight.

We`re going to fit in a break. When we come back, we`re going to do something we`ve done at the end of several hours if you`ve been watching our coverage, and that is look at the larger question of how are we all doing socially, community and as a culture as we deal with this pandemic. And we have a very special guest you may be interested to hear from, the Oscar-nominated actor and activist Ellen Page will be here live when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: Welcome back.

Social distancing has millions of Americans spending lot more time clearly at home. And that`s opened up all kinds of time to be online. Some are artists and athletes are tapping that focus to drive some larger conversations. Take basketball star Steph Curry right here holding an online Q&A live session with none other than Dr. Fauci. That was on Instagram to get the word out to all kinds of folks to tune in and learn and deal with this set of challenges together.

Others are using social media feeds to highlight all kinds of issues that are adjacent and the inequality implications of all of this.

Take rapper Cardi B, she took to Instagram criticizing how so many well- connected people, including people in government and celebrities, are getting tested without even having symptoms, when so many people with symptoms are not seem to get access.

Others are also forging ahead with programming that can feel very newly relevant. Take Ellen Page`s new documentary, "There`s Something in the Water". She just spoke to "The Washington Post" and mentioned how it is hard not to think about this pandemic and consider the wider impact of environmental racism, something that is documented in this new project.

And tonight, for something a little different, we are joined by the Oscar- nominated actor, activist, producer and now, first time director, Ellen Page.

Thanks for joining me.

ELLEN PAGE, ACTOR, DIRECTOR & ACTIVIST: Thank you so much for having me (AUDIO GAP).

MELBER: Absolutely.

And, Ellen, you are known to many people (AUDIO GAP) starting with your role as fundamentally an artist, someone who has followers. You have people interested in what you have to say.

I`m just curious before we get into this project, how you`re thinking about culture in the time of this pandemic and so many people looking for ways to connect and commune.

PAGE: Yes, well, I mean, I feel like always those of us with privilege, those of us with a platform, it`s crucial for us to use that in terms of sharing information, spreading awareness. You know, talking about issues that potentially aren`t necessarily being highlighted enough or elevated enough.

And, you know, right now, like you said, a lot is being highlighted in terms of issues, terms of inequality that are always created consequences for so many people in our society, and I think it`s important to, you know, continue that conversation.

MELBER: Yes, so let`s get into that conversation then. When we talk about terms like environmental justice or how the environment affects people`s public health, what got you involved in this project, which is brand-new now this weekend on Netflix. What drew you to it? Should what should we know if we take a look at it?

PAGE: Sure, well, you know, I`m born and raised in Nova Scotia and when I started learning about the degree of environmental racism in Nova Scotia was horrified, and, you know, and my own lack of awareness quite frankly. So, I wanted to educate more as, you know, it`s my responsibility and I happen to read Dr. Ingrid Waldron`s groundbreaking book "There`s Something in the Water", this film was inspired by, she`s a producer on the film.

And I felt it was crucial to do whatever I could to help elevate her work and end the voices of those who have been (AUDIO GAP) activists and essentially reached out to Ingrid and we started brainstorming ideas of how we could work together and I don`t think either of us expected to be here but here we are and just, you know, environmental racism in general for those not aware, it`s about the disproportionate places of landfills, hazardous industry, et cetera, next to indigenous and black communities and other marginalized communities.

MELBER: And that brings us to the overlap here. What is on your mind launching a project about this issue when we see the pandemic definitely throughout the world but also in the United States, hits people differently and it has hit the poor so hard, one, with the health care problems well- documented in the country and two, people on the margins or poorer or subject to week to week jobs losing their jobs even if they didn`t themselves get the virus?

PAGE: Yes, and, you know, environmental racism does enter second with a lot of this conversation, you know? Right now, I`m thinking about (INAUDIBLE) black communities that do not have access to clean water.

So when we`re told to wash our hands is one of the most important things to do right now, that`s very difficult in those communities. These communities that because they are so close to hazard industry, do you have higher rates of respiratory issues, cancer rates?

And as we know, that makes people more susceptible to the horrific consequences of this virus. So, it`s --

MELBER: Do --

PAGE: -- similar to these issues in terms of, yes, marginalized communities being disproportionately affected.

MELBER: And what made you what to do something like this that -- of course, people have they have different layers and elements but folks know you from your fictional work. What made you want to go in this direction?

PAGE: Well, you know, I mean, again, I think those of us with privilege and a platform, I think we must use it. You know, as we are talking right now about the degree of inequality and this country around the world and I think it`s crucial, quite frankly. And after making the show with my co- director on the film, showing me exploring LGBTQ cultures around the world, I think -- in terms of being more behind the camera, I am just very interested in non-fiction and again, when I started learning about these issues, it just felt very important to help elevate these voices who have just been, you know, these women who have been doing extraordinary work and needing to be heard more.

I mean, they`re --

MELBER: One hundred percent.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: You know, quite frankly, they --

MELBER: Since it`s on Netflix, Ellen, I`d like to end with a goofy question, if that`s okay with you.

PAGE: Of course.

MELBER: Should people watch "There`s Something in the Water" on Netflix before "Tiger King"?

PAGE: Well, I think so. But --

MELBER: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

PAGE: Perhaps I`m coming from a bias perspective.

MELBER: No, I mean, it`s your position to advocate for. Have you seen "Tiger King" yet? That`s the other hot one on Netflix now.

PAGE: I haven`t seen yet --

MELBER: It is -- well, it just launched.

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER: It`s brand-new.

PAGE: Yes.

MELBER: So I`m revealing to everyone that my instincts of "Tiger King" is really something. It`s beyond words and "There`s Something in the Water" sounds like a very worthwhile project. Both on Netflix.

Ellen, I really appreciate you making time to talk to us about this during everything else going on. Thank you very much.

PAGE: Oh my goodness, thank you so much for having me, and I appreciate you so much wanting to talk about the film. So, thank you.

MEMBER: A hundred percent.

Ellen Page gets our last word and we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER: That does it for us this hour, but I want you to know, you should tune in right here tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel joining Lawrence O`Donnell for a special look at the coronavirus pandemic and the on-going medical challenges tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

You can also find me tomorrow around 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "THE BEAT". I`ll also be filling in right here in 7:00 p.m. hour tomorrow for our special coverage.

Don`t go anywhere. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END