ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Ari Melber, and thanks to you at
home for joining us, as we bring you the latest information on this ongoing
Tonight, a surge in cases continues. We`re now reporting this virus has
officially reached every state in the nation, well over 7,000 cases
nationally, and 132 deaths.
We`re seeing a severe increase in just the last 24 hours. You see it here.
In fact, when we began this very broadcast last night, there were under
6,000 cases. The growth is real.
But as with any evolving measurement, keep in mind what we know already
about these numbers. There is the actual total numbers of cases out there
around the whole world and around the whole country. And many, of course,
are undiagnosed, and thus unreported.
Then there is the number that are actually caught by testing, what we often
call on the news the confirmed cases. And that has been lagging in the U.S.
So part of this new rise stems from a deliberate and you could say even
positive step, a rise in the testing available in the United States. That`s
something health and policy experts have been advocating.
Now, that`s the health data. Then there is another set of reactions across
the country today, in the United States, markets crashing again, the Dow
down 1,300 points. That`s over 6 percent. And the drastic measure was taken
again, an automatic freeze on trading at one point today.
That`s the fourth time in two weeks we have seen that. Now, here is another
measure for you; 38 states have now closed schools, which obviously
reshapes life. It adds a daily challenge to so many families coping with
this new normal.
And then we have for you right now the news out of Washington tonight, the
United States Senate passing a massive relief package, the Paid Sick Leave
Act. And President Trump taking a major step under existing law -- this is
from the Korean War era -- and it is basically a power he is using that
enables the government to force U.S. businesses to produce materials needed
for national defense, in this case, things like medical supplies and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ll be invoking the Defense
Production Act, just in case we need it.
In other words, I think you all know what it is, and it can do a lot of
good things if we need it.
FEMA now is fully engaged at the highest levels. Today, FEMA is activated
in every region. We are at level one -- level one being the highest level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The Trump administration also planning to send military ships to
hard-hit areas and taking major steps to try to prevent what would
otherwise be planned foreclosures or evictions.
And Treasury officials have said, according to what we heard from their
congressional briefing last night, that the United States could -- and I
emphasize could -- face a risk of reaching 20 percent unemployment if no
action were taken.
Of course, that`s why so many actions are being taken. The administration
is now asking Congress for $500 billion, or half-a-trillion dollars, that
would provide direct payments to Americans during this difficult period.
And there are all sorts of other changes across daily life, shelter-in-
place orders now in Northern California expanded. That hits basically now
over eight million people.
The United States and Canada agreeing to shut the northern border for
effectively most travel, and warnings of a pandemic topping 18 months in a
new federal government report, while new research out now suggests that
this virus can survive for three days on some surfaces, like plastic and
steel, and can live briefly in the air, although this is not an airborne
So here we are tonight. Take it all together, and what do you have? You
have a global health crisis stoking this economic shockwave that is
reshaping our lives, our priorities, our government`s action before our
The question now is not whether these changes are good or bad or whether we
like the new tradeoffs we`re all living through. This is the new reality,
and this challenge is with us now. It is here. It`s not going away by
itself, and it`s not going away, according to these experts, any time soon.
So I would submit to you the question that does matter is, how do we face
this reality? How do we face it together? How do we stay informed, so we
can face it responsibly, as individuals, as communities, and as a nation?
We turn now, as we have been doing on so many of these nights, to experts
involved in all of this, Maryland Larry Hogan, who has declared a state of
emergency, closed schools, bars, restaurant, activated that state`s
We`re also joined by William Haseltine, an infectious disease expert, a
former Harvard professor who has done extensive work on HIV and AIDS, and
was in Wuhan in the fall, and "New York Times" columnist Michelle Goldberg,
who has been writing that she is already grieving for life in New York has
Thanks to everyone.
Governor Hogan, what are you telling your constituents, your citizens?
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Well, look, this is an unprecedented worldwide
pandemic that no one -- none of us have ever just imagined something like
this could happen.
And we have been taking unprecedented actions almost every day. This thing
is rapidly changing. Just the pace of things that you just described are
things that nobody could think were possible in this country, but -- or in
But we have been just taking actions as fast as we possibly can and trying
to get the federal, state and local leaders together with all the smartest
experts in the medical profession, and get everybody together on the same
page to save hundreds of thousands of lives in America.
And that`s really what we`re dealing with. I`m the chairman of the National
Governors Association. We had our fourth call today with all the governors.
We have another one with the president and vice president tomorrow.
And everybody at every level of government is on top of trying to do
everything possible to ramp up to address this thing. But it`s pretty
MELBER: Governor, take a listen to what one of the fellow governors you
mentioned that you work with, Governor Cuomo, recently said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Today, we are announcing a mandatory statewide
requirement that no business can have more than 50 percent of their work
force report to work outside of their home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What do you see as the most important measures of that variety, and
how much of this needs to be uniform? You mentioned, of course, your role
leading the Governors Association.
You`re talking to the president tomorrow. You`re in the thick of this for
your state and across the country. How much of it should be synched, and
how much of it needs to be tailored to your given situation in each state?
HOGAN: So, Governor Cuomo is actually my vice chairman of the NGA. He was
on the call with us today and will be on the call tomorrow.
And what`s been happening is, each governor has been making decisions on
their own in their states based on the situation on the ground. But we have
also been really sharing information on an ongoing basis back and forth.
But, yes, some of these decisions could be made and perhaps should be made
at the federal level, but we`re also not waiting for those decisions. We`re
taking those actions. We were one of the first states in the country to
declare a state of emergency, one of the first ones to close all of the
We were one of the first ones to close all the bars and restaurants.
Governor Cuomo`s action today is really cutting-edge. Some of the things
we`re talking about in California with shelter in place, this thing, there
are numerous actions being taken by governors across the country that are
just -- people are being aggressive as possible, because every day that we
wait, you know, we`re putting more people`s lives in danger.
MELBER: I hear you on all of that. Stay with me.
I want to bring in Professor Haseltine here.
There are many cliches that get kicked around, and we want to be vigilant
and clear, not panicky. But it would seem this is a time where it is
important for people to understand, whether you`re watching the news or
talking to your friends who don`t watch the news, that what you don`t know
can kill someone, that we are in that place.
And I want to play for you, for your expertise on the other side, some of
the reporting we have seen in places where, as much as this is being talked
about, some of the information clearly hasn`t reached everyone.
Our reporter Kerry Sanders talking to people who are not taking
precautions. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Are you practicing that rule where you`re
supposed to stay a significant distance apart?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m with them every day, every day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We brothers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, we have been together since forever, and none of
us have it. So, I don`t see why not to be at the beach, enjoying life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Professor, with all due respect to everyone making their own
choice, it`s still a free country, I ask you, in all seriousness, what do
you say here with the national megaphone we`re handing you tonight to
people who think, well, if I`m not seeing it first, if I`m not seeing it in
my life, it feels like -- quote, unquote -- "an overreaction," I`m going to
go do whatever I want?
DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: No one is immune from
this virus. Doesn`t matter whether you`re young, whether you`re a
millennial, whether you`re middle-aged or whether you`re old.
We know that everyone who is exposed can get sick, and in some cases very
sick. And even people in their middle age can get sick and die. Look what
happened to the young doctor, 33-year-old doctor in China. This is a very
It causes mild symptoms in many people, but a very large number of people
contract serious symptoms, up to 15 and sometimes 20 percent, enough to
send them to hospital and in some cases put them in the ICU. This is not an
infection to take lightly.
MELBER: What did you learn from your time studying and dealing with the
situation in China that may be relevant here?
HASELTINE: The first thing to say is China is extremely well-organized and
The other thing to say is, Wuhan is a very beautiful city with a very
capable research center as well. Two million students or more graduate
every year from their universities. It`s a very important city for China.
But in terms of what I`m in touch with -- and I have an operation in China,
and many of my friends are from Wuhan and other major cities there. To
watch what they`re doing is really incredible. They are monitoring each and
If you live in an apartment building, they know if you go out. If you go to
get food, you will be stopped three times on the way. What`s the result?
The result is, today, they`re getting back to normal.
Singapore, also very well-controlled, today, they`re getting back to
normal. There is pictures of filled streets in Singapore, because they have
controlled the infection.
This is an infection that can be controlled. But to control the infection,
we have to control ourselves.
MELBER: Well, when you put it like that, of course, everyone is well aware
of the differences between our country and some of these other states that
have different systems of government.
What we might not like in their approach to liberty and human rights, which
are very serious things to counterbalance, it sounds, like from an
infectious disease perspective, you see some upside. And this is a time to
be aware of all of the tradeoffs.
I want you all to stay with me, as I turn to Michelle, who, as I mentioned,
has been writing about this just way it`s affecting everyone, I want to add
NBC`s Richard Engel, brand-new tonight, was interviewing one of the world`s
leading scientist, warning us all about what may come next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: How far behind is the
United States, compared to Italy or other European countries that have seen
pretty big outbreaks? We`re talking days, weeks?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I think some areas of the United States are probably
a week or two behind Italy. Italy was the worst-affected European country,
the first one. We think transmission started there in mid-January or so.
Comparing the United States with country likes Germany and France, I think,
again, the United States is bigger, but the worst-affected areas of the
United States are probably very comparable to what`s happening in France,
the U.K. and elsewhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: With that applied, your view of understanding what`s happening in
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": None of this should be a surprise.
People have told us that this was coming for weeks or even months.
And so there was time to prepare, right? We -- I think that it was
inevitable that it was going to hit us. It was not inevitable that it was
going to hit us this hard. It was not inevitable that we would have the
shortages that we have of ventilators, of ICU beds.
And so people are now living in extreme distress. You have not just people
who have had been -- had their lives upended by illness. You have people
whose jobs have been lost. Every single empty restaurant is many, many
people who won`t work again.
So, a lot of these businesses are never going to come back. Our cities
aren`t going to look the same when this is all over. And, again, we
couldn`t have been spared. No amount of preparation could have spared us
for what is going on right now.
But if you look at those boys on the beach, on the one hand, they sound
very irresponsible. But they also sound like people who might have simply
taken what the president was saying a few days ago to heart.
If people aren`t -- people are only now beginning to wake up to the gravity
of this situation. It`s in at least in part because our political
leadership is only now beginning to wake up to the gravity of the
MELBER: I think that`s an important point. And we have been careful to let
the evidence lead here.
But, Governor Hogan, I would give you a chance to address that in all
seriousness, not as a -- quote, unquote -- "political observation," but did
the president and other leaders make a mistake by saying as recently as two
to three weeks ago that everyone needs to -- quote -- "relax," that this
would basically go away by itself seasonally?
HOGAN: Well, yes, there is no question that was a mistake.
And, you know, I think the good news is, I don`t think right now we should
all -- we can`t waste a lot of time finger-pointing and talking what
mistakes the president made or anybody made in Washington. Let`s talk what
we can do right now.
But this discussion is exactly right. So I have been talking about this for
more than a month.
We declared a state of emergency like 15, 16 days ago. We have had press
conferences every day. But nobody was really taking it seriously. But --
so, we last week, last Thursday, we put in place this order across the
state about limiting the social contact in bars and restaurants and
limiting the number of people.
Everybody completely ignored it. St. Patrick`s Day weekend, they were jam-
packed. So then we had to actually shut them all down, because people were
not paying attention.
MELBER: Let`s pause on that. Let`s pause on that.
HOGAN: And now they understand because they`re watching you all day, and
they know it`s real.
MELBER: Let me ask a follow-up on that.
Walk us through that, because you are one of the people that has to make
these hard calls. So, give us a little more color and detail on what you`re
saying, that you basically initially were trying to work through more
voluntary communications methods, and you felt in your own state your
constituents didn`t -- quote -- "get it," that you had to get more drastic?
HOGAN: Well, I have had press conferences almost every single day for the
past two weeks, and I have said, things are going to get worse. These
numbers are going to ramp up. We have got to addressing these things.
And everybody sort of said, oh, that sounds -- that`s interesting. And we
have messaged. We have taken actions every day. But just in the past few
days, everyone started -- a lot of people said, oh, this isn`t for real,
it`s no big deal. It wasn`t just the president saying that.
There were people on the streets. The kids that were partying in the bars
didn`t think it was a big idea. But now everybody is home, watching your
show and watching other networks that are saying oh, my gosh, look at these
numbers and look at what`s happening in Europe, and looking at us closing
the border and in shutting down visas and putting in shelter in place.
And they go -- now people are paying attention. And it`s almost too late.
HOGAN: But every day we have -- every day we don`t take action is causing
So we have got to -- yes, we`re behind the eight ball. Yes, mistakes were
made at every level, but let`s talk what we`re going to do today and right
now and what we can do together at the state and federal and local level,
and all of us with the private sector and the smart doctors.
Every single American is in this together. And it`s not Republicans and
Democrats. It`s like everyone. And it`s the citizens who have to join us in
this, because all of us, no matter what we`re doing in elective office or
what the smart doctors are doing, if the citizens don`t pay attention,
they`re the ones that can stop this from spreading.
And they have to be all a part of this. Everybody is in this together.
MELBER: Well, Governor, I appreciate the point you`re making.
You mention the numbers sinking in to people watching. We have on the
screen right now some of the numbers, approaching 8,000 cases, the Dow down
6 percent, wiping out years of gains because of the reaction, and then the
states, like the state you run, 38 states now with school closures.
Michelle, I give you the final word here.
GOLDBERG: I just think that, you know, when you tell people basically to
put their lives on lockdown for we don`t know how long, two weeks, six
weeks, eight weeks, you know, I`m one of the people whose children are at
home who has been turned very abruptly into a homeschooler, with no
And nothing could have prepared us for what`s happening right now. Nobody
who is alive right now has ever experienced anything like this. But there
is still no excuse for the extent that we have all been sort of cast at
sea, with nobody but, I should say, some very competent governors really
taking charge of the situation.
No, and I think I hear the whole span of that. That`s why these
conversations are important. We lose the governor, who is going to be busy,
so I appreciate you making time us on the broadcast, Governor Hogan,
We keep Professor Haseltine. I have some other questions for you, sir, when
we come back.
What else are we doing in tonight`s show? We have a lot of other aspects of
We are going to speak directly to a nurse who actually has tested positive
for coronavirus and is in isolation, but she will join us by video. That
should be important.
And, also, the Senate passing this new bill to help deal with the virus,
including additional free testing. And the next step could be a check in
your mailbox. We will explain.
Also, growing calls for, how do you appropriately use the military in this
And later tonight, something a little different, our live interview with
Melissa Etheridge, a musician who has been doing her own stay-at-home
concert series, trying to help everyone have a little bit of extra light at
this time. She joins me. I`m excited about that as well.
I`m Ari Melber, and you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.
MELBER: The risks of the coronavirus that is also specifically facing
nurses, doctors, health care workers, we`re seeing all of this come into
view, reports tonight two E.R. doctors are in critical condition because,
while they were doing their job and their public health care work, they
themselves contracted the virus.
Meanwhile, the head of America`s largest union for nurses warns that many
nurses are still lacking the protective equipment, gowns, covering for the
head, legs and feet that are needed to fight the virus.
And, today, here was the head of the Minnesota Nurses Association.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY TURNER, PRESIDENT, MINNESOTA NURSES ASSOCIATION: Minnesota nurses from
many different hospitals believe their respective hospitals are unprepared
and unequipped to protect nurses.
I have witnessed this mad scramble for people to get the PPE that you only
have one or two masks left on the floor. And that`s in the charge nurse`s
desk up at the desk, there -- the drawer, or it`s locked up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And now that brings us to Lisa Merck, a Colorado nurse practitioner
who started feeling sick after returning home from a trip to Hawaii.
In fact, we have this photo of her. This is days before coming trip (sic).
Life was normal, like so many of us were experiencing normal life,
vacations, travel. She was feeling ill for weeks, but was initially denied
a test. And then, when she did get one, it came back positive.
Lisa Merck is here, and joins me, along with, returning back to the
broadcast, Professor Haseltine, infectious diseases expert.
Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to us. Walk us through what you felt
and then how you were delayed in getting the test.
LISA MERCK, RECOVERING FROM COVID-19: Well, my symptoms actually started on
-- around February 18, 19. I just had a tiny slight runny nose.
And then my body started aching. But we were traveling, so I thought maybe
it was because we were traveling. We were carrying backpacks. We had been
gone for about three weeks.
Then we came back. I went and got a massage. I just thought maybe that will
help out. And then it just -- my symptoms kind of waxed and waned. I felt
good. I went and volunteered for a race. I watched my little nephew.
And then, on March 1, 2 and 3 is when I started getting a fever. So I had a
fever. My husband also had a fever. We laid in bed and just kind of laid
low. I went to my clinic and I got an influenza A and B test, because I
thought maybe we had the flu, tested us for influenza. That was negative.
And then, on the 2nd of March, I called the CDC, and I called our local
public health department and just told them about all of the travel that we
had. I told them what my symptoms were, that I had a fever, but -- and no
cough or anything like that.
But they said that I didn`t meet the criteria for any type of testing. So,
then I went back to my clinic. I worked. I was feeling a little bit better.
And then on the 5th...
MELBER: So, just let me pause there...
MERCK: Go ahead.
MELBER: ... Lisa, just for our reporting purposes.
You had, your view, your effort to take that precaution, but in this world
we`re living in, and with the shortage, you were basically told, A, no
test, but, B, you could still go back to work?
MERCK: I never really asked if I could go back to work. I just assumed it
was OK, because nobody seemed at really heightened alert that I would have
the coronavirus, and I didn`t either.
MERCK: So I went back to work for a couple of days.
And then the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th of March is when I started feeling
really ill. I started getting very nauseous. My body was hurting much
worse, my joints. I just felt like, every time I stood up, I wanted to --
every time I stood up, I wanted to collapse.
And I was having shortness of breath. And then I finally asked my husband
to take me to the emergency room on March 8, where he took me in there, and
then they did a full workup on me. They did a chest X-ray. They found out I
has viral pneumonia. My white blood count was low.
They did a CMP. That was fine. And then they did the COVID-19 test. They
did the COVID-19 test. That was positive, and then they sent me home and
told me to wait. So that was on March 8. I didn`t get my results back until
four days later, on March 11. So I have been on isolation basically since
MELBER: So, what`s your takeaway from this? Do you -- you look at this
like, hey, this could have gone better?
MERCK: I think it could have gone better.
I think we can test more people. We can get the tests out rapid -- much
faster. Right now, I have some friends and family that are still waiting
for their tests. They got them on Friday, and they`re still waiting for
test results today.
MERCK: So, I think rapid testing is going to be key right now.
MELBER: Stay with us. It`s very striking to hear your story.
And, Professor, I want to bring you in and play something new of a
question, because everyone can understand if you say, well, the system is
stretch and working as best it can with the priority matrix.
I think most people can accept that. And yet, as with so many things in
America, it`s not a uniform priority matrix. There have been reports of
other people who may not really meet the criteria somehow, as VIPs, still
getting tested before, say, potentially a nurse like what we`re hearing
So, Professor, listen to this exchange with the president today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: How are non-symptomatic professional athletes getting tests,
while others are waiting in line and can`t get them? Do the well-connected
go to the front of the line?
TRUMP: Well, that -- you`d have to ask them that question. I mean, they --
I -- I`ve read...
QUESTION: Should that happen?
TRUMP: No, I wouldn`t say so, but perhaps that`s been the story of life.
That does happen on occasion. And I`ve noticed where some people have been
tested fairly quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HASELTINE: That`s the worst type of public health.
What you should have with a disease like this is contact tracing. Anybody
with symptoms that fall within a very broad category should be tested. You
should test everybody who has been in contact with those people and trace
all of their contacts, followed by mandatory quarantine.
Everybody who has symptoms that are broadly defined should be tested. It is
not a question of how many tests you have only. If you don`t have the test,
you can`t do it. But now that we`re about to have the test -- about means
in a few days -- it`s how you use those tests that are going to be really
Italy had a lot of tests and has had a big problem. They didn`t do rigorous
contact tracing and mandatory isolation. That`s what needs to be done now.
And let me take a final question, Lisa. We`re a little short on time --
heads up -- but what do you say to other nurses and doctors who look at
this and their families and are thinking about the risk exposure? What do
you say to them? Because, clearly, you seem to believe in your profession,
and this is hard on everyone.
MERCK: Well, I have a lot of friends in the nursing field and the health
care field, and they`re just really worried. They`re like, is this worth it
to my family? Am I bringing stuff home to my family?
And for me, as a nurse and to my fellow nurses and health care providers,
is, am I going to get reinfected again? And the other thing is, how long am
I a carrier for? Because, right now, I have been told, you need to have two
negative corona tests 24 hours apart.
And then I was just told the other day that I only need isolation for 10
days, and now I don`t need any other testing. And so I am very worried
about going back in the public sector and practicing.
MELBER: Professor, can you briefly resolve that for us, possibly?
HASELTINE: I wish I could. There is no answer to that question. The only
answer that question is to make sure testing is done frequently, not just
every so often.
Every day is the best way to do these testing. And certainly she needs to
be tested many times, at least twice, before she goes back to work.
Part of the problem is, the tests just aren`t available yet to do that.
And so I -- first of all, I appreciate both of your candor in walking us
through what we know and don`t know. And acknowledging what we don`t know
is also part of this. Second, we do have the reports of federal government
and the Congress drastically increasing the funding and the support for
testing. So that part of the help is on the way.
MELBER: I want to thank Professor Haseltine, who was with us for multiple
parts of the show.
And, Lisa Merck, I want to wish you, of course, continued speedy recovery.
MERCK: Thank you.
MELBER: And all the nurses like you doing your work, thank you.
MERCK: Thank you for having me.
MELBER: Absolutely. Appreciate it.
MERCK: Thank you, Professor. OK.
MELBER: Thanks to both of you.
We`re going fit in the shortest break we have, 30 seconds, and then we come
back on what it means to invoke wartime measures right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a national emergency. I
would call out the military. We`re at war with a virus.
QUESTION: Do you consider America to be on a wartime footing in terms of
fighting this virus?
TRUMP: I do. I actually do. I`m looking at it that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: The president does. And here are the results.
The Pentagon mobilizing National Guard troops to help drive-through testing
facilities. The Department of Veterans Affair trying to be backup to the
health care system. It`s its legally designated role.
Meanwhile, veterans groups also sounding the alarm that some of the aging
veteran population isn`t getting the protection they need -- 18 million
U.S. veterans. Only about 100-plus tests have been administered thus far,
42 positive. One veteran, according to this count, has died.
Here was the VA secretary on this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Whole NBA teams are now being tested regardless of their
symptoms. And you told us a few minutes ago that the VA has conducted about
100 tests. Is it harder for veterans to get tested than NBA players?
ROBERT WILKIE, U.S. SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: No, I don`t think so. We
just haven`t had the surge that the rest of the country has had.
Now, that may be an anomaly. And, as Dr. Fauci said to you all earlier in
the day, there is no guarantee of anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I`m joined now by Paul Rieckhoff, who served in the Iraq War,
founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS
OF AMERICA: Well, the bottom line is, they have only tested about 344
people across a system that serves roughly nine million veterans.
So, the question is, why aren`t they testing more? They can`t address the
problem if they don`t have a real handle on how big it is. So, that`s where
it stands at the VA.
I think the bottom line here, Ari, that I want folks to understand is that
the VA can be a huge source of reinforcement right now. Their fourth
mission is to provide a backstop on the entire national health care system.
And that`s what we see now. Finally, the secretary of veteran affairs is
out in front. Finally, they`re starting to put out information about
capacity. Similarly, the other prong in this fight can be the Department of
Defense. They could add massive logistical support. They can add all the
full weight of the military, but only if called upon.
Last week, we were hearing from CEOs of Walmart and CVS, instead of the
secretary of defense and secretary of veterans affairs. Now we`re finally
seeing the full force of the federal government, to include those two
critical prongs that can be a massive source of reinforcements right now.
MELBER: Take a listen to the former VA secretary on the role of the
military, writ large.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: I called for
several weeks ago the Department of Veterans Affairs to be integral in this
planning effort across this country.
I have called for state and local officials to make proactive requests of
our national stockpile to get the ventilators and protective equipment that
is available out, distributed to the field.
And I think that sitting back and waiting is going to end up being the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You have joined our broadcast before to discuss civil-military
You have been a leader on that in the United States. I`m curious what you
think, writ large, the way that the military and military powers are being
invoked. And, so far, do you think we`re at the right balance?
I think we need to put the pedal down and bring folks to this country that
know how to deal with an asymmetric enemy that is dynamic, that is ever-
changing. Now, nobody has faced anything like this before.
In the military, we adapt, improvise and overcome. We know how to deal with
tough situations. We have got huge medical resources, tremendous logistical
support. We say a lot in my podcast, look for the helpers.
And when you look for the helpers, the military can be one of the lead
forces in becoming those helpers, not just now, but for the foreseeable
So, we can be -- we can`t be an antidote, but we can definitely be
tremendous reinforcements. And the sooner we get them into the fight, the
sooner the American public will be -- better off the American public will
MELBER: All good food for thought.
Paul Rieckhoff, thanks so much.
Coming up, we`re going to speak to a senator in the United States, of
course, about this new bill that passed today.
And later tonight, singer Melissa Etheridge is here on these home concerts.
MELBER: Welcome back.
We`re joined by U.S. Senator Gary Peters, Democrat from Michigan. He just
voted yes, along with most of the U.S. Senate, on this coronavirus relief
We should mention 80 cases in your home state.
SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): Right.
MELBER: For folks watching, a lot happening. What does today`s new Senate
PETERS: Well, I think it`s an important first step.
Clearly, we`re going to have to do more, but this is a meaningful step
forward to deal with folks who are suddenly finding themselves now
unemployed, particularly now with closures of restaurants, bars, other
small businesses across our country.
It will beef up unemployment insurance, make sure people can get that money
coming into their household. It also will provide money for medical leave.
Right now, many folks, particularly in small businesses, don`t have paid
leave. If they`re sick and go home, they don`t get paid. If they`re sick or
working with a sick parent or relative, they don`t get paid.
This will provide resources for those families to be able to pay their
bills and to be able to put food on the table. It also deals with food
assistance for those folks who are suffering a particularly tough time.
And also extremely important is to make sure that everybody does not have
to pay for a test. There are no co-pays. When you go forward and get a
COVID test, it will be completely paid for.
So this is a meaningful step. But I think there is broad consensus with
everybody in the Senate that we have got to do a whole lot more,
particularly given what we`re seeing happen in this economy right now,
where we have to simultaneously deal with a public health crisis and an
economic crisis at the same time. And it`s going to take massive
intervention to get through this.
MELBER: What do you think of the proposals for cash payments to Americans
during this time?
PETERS: Well, certainly, many folks now are suffering because they`re
finding themselves unemployed.
And we need to have an infusion of cash to help folks. I think now the
question is, how do you implement that? How do you do it effectively? and,
certainly, those people who are in greatest need are the ones that should
receive that funding.
Somebody who may be working from home and is getting fully paid and is not
seeing any change in their income stream, I don`t -- not sure why that is a
necessity. I think it is a necessity for folks who basically have no
And that`s why I`d like to see beefing up unemployment, for example. And
people also need to know that this is not just going to be a one-time
check. A one-time check could disappear pretty quickly if this crisis goes
as long as we think it may go.
And that`s why having some stability with an unemployment system that folks
know they will be receiving a check for 20 or 26 weeks, to me, makes more
MELBER: We were looking at what you have been up to. You were writing about
the restrictions on -- as a border state, Canada travel. You said they have
serious implications for Michigan and could even hamper the COVID response
MELBER: What do you think of that policy? What are you looking to have
PETERS: Well, we have concerns.
We want to make sure we get the details. The details are still coming out.
But whenever you`re talking about trade with Canada, that`s an important
issue for us in Michigan. If Michigan were a country, we`d be the second
largest trading partner with Canada.
We have two of the three busiest land border crossings in North America
between Michigan and Canada.
But in terms of COVID response, we also rely on folks who live in Canada
and come across every day to work. And, most importantly, right now, we
have thousands of nurses who live in Windsor, Canada and then come across
the border to work in hospitals throughout Southeast Michigan.
We have to make sure those thousands of nurses are able to come across the
border and provide health care for people in our state. And we want to make
sure there is clarification to the fact that they can come across and they
can do that in an unhindered way.
MELBER: All makes sense, and all important to hear what is going on in our
Senator Gary Peters, as a U-of-M alum, I will also say, thank you and go
PETERS: Very good. Go green too.
MELBER: There you go. Go green out in Lansing.
Thanks very much for joining us.
Up ahead, we have been reporting on all the different ways this is
impacting culture, including how artists and musicians are playing their
role in the crisis in trying to give people free at-home concerts to say,
hey, there is something to stay home for.
Well, one of them joins us next, singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge, --
right after this.
MELBER: Welcome back.
Coronavirus has been impacting everyone, millions of citizens, of course,
around the world. It`s reshaping our economy and culture, as we have been
discussing. And it even gets some extra notice when it reaches famous
artists and icons, from Tom Hanks, to Idris Elba, to Kevin Durant, who
actually recently spent some time with Drake, the international music
sensation, who is now self-isolating in Canada as a precaution.
The rapper just shared a scene from his home basketball court and told fans
basically this is his life for the next however long.
Now, let`s be clear. Drake is taking the right precautions, but, of course,
very few people have the kind of amenities inside a mansion to just be
entertained at home.
And that brings us to a growing phenomenon this week, musicians finding all
sorts of new ways to connect with fans, like John Legend and his wife,
Chrissy Teigen, doing a live piano concert for free for any fans who wanted
to tune in on Instagram.
Keith Urban livestreaming from his warehouse, accompanied by his wife,
actress Nicole Kidman, or rocker Melissa Etheridge, who is doing daily live
performances in a new stay-at-home series free for her fans on Facebook
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And now we turn to Grammy and Oscar winner Melissa Etheridge.
Tough times, but very nice to see you.
MELISSA ETHERIDGE, MUSICIAN: What a pleasure to see you.
Yes, these are tough times, but we`re all doing what we can.
MELBER: We`re doing what we can. And being informed and taking the
precautions is one piece of it.
But people`s mental, spiritual health, especially as this is long-term, is
another piece of it. As you and I know, because you have joined us here on
THE BEAT before, we both love music in our own ways, you, with talent, me
MELBER: I am, like everybody else, just a fan.
Why did you think that music would be such an important thing this week?
Tell us about what you`re doing.
ETHERIDGE: Well, you have an appreciation for talent. And that`s all that`s
You know what, when I realized what was happening here, when I realized
that the concerts were going to be canceled, that, you know, my future
plans were in danger and changing, and I realized I wouldn`t be able to
reach the fans that I love to reach, I really wanted to do something,
mostly for my own mental health.
I love -- it`s good for my mental health to get in front of people and play
and sing. And, you know, it`s one of the -- it`s my biggest joys.
So I decided to -- on Monday, I said, look, I`m going to do this every day,
every single day, because it gives me something to do every day. I get to
wash my hair, get dressed and stuff.
So, we are isolating here. And it`s -- you know, it`s really letting us
know how important human contact is. So we have got thousands of people
coming online every day on Facebook 3:00, and it`s really -- it`s doing my
MELBER: I love that.
What kind of reaction are you getting?
ETHERIDGE: Oh, it`s great.
I have got people from Australia, from Belgium, England, and Texas and all
kinds of strange places. They`re all -- they all check in at once. And it
gives us a feeling of connection.
This whole thing actually should be letting us know how connected we really
are, that what happens in another country does affect us, and, you know,
coming together globally. And music has always been a way to do that. Music
is -- music heals. It always has been. I`m so grateful to be able to create
music for people.
MELBER: What does it mean to you, as an artist, to do it live?
Because anyone can say, well, we have more access to both music and content
than ever before. So, obviously, anyone can say, you know what? I`m going
to put on a little Melissa Etheridge while I do my hand sanitizer and look
after my kids if the schools are closed or whatever.
MELBER: And yet it`s so different when you know it`s live, right?
ETHERIDGE: Oh, yes. That`s the whole reason that my concerts have been
doing so well for 30 years, because people enjoy the -- going to see a
show, going -- being surrounded by people and experiencing your favorite
songs or whatever it might be and sing it.
That experience, you cannot get that off of a recorded piece or just
watching. To be there in the moment, to let people know that I`m here right
now at this moment connecting with them, I think that`s a human need.
MELBER: And yet the other side of this -- we have been talking a lot about
the positivity. I don`t want to ignore the impact.
We talked about restaurant workers and people in bars and low-income. Most
musicians are not global touring icons, that most people are not Melissa
Etheridge level, right?
And I wanted to ask you about how this is all affecting both musicians,
artists and people in the industry in general.
We will put up one report from, of course, "Rolling Stone." Concert
business losing literally, they`re estimating, billions, cancellations most
severe on -- quote -- "smaller-scale operators."
ETHERIDGE: Oh, yes.
MELBER: And there are insurance policies that won`t necessarily cover
people`s losses in this situation.
MELBER: What are you seeing and hearing from all the people you know in
this field who are going to be affected?
ETHERIDGE: Yes, it`s really difficult, because these are really talented
people from the musicians, from my band, the musicians that I work with,
who are not going to get a paycheck for the next few months, to the roadies
who are highly skilled sound operators, lighting operators, guitar
technicians, drum technicians, who can`t work from home.
They`re not going to get paid. So there`s a lot of people taking a big hit,
not only just me as an artist. I`m going to have to start thinking about
bills myself. We sort of grow and rely on, OK, this is my time to make
money. This is what I do.
And, yes, I have been blessed, but, you know, there`s a lot of people
taking a big hit. And the theatergoers and restaurants around the theaters,
ETHERIDGE: Yes, it`s a whole lot of -- yes, I don`t know how we`re going to
deal with it, but we just take it one day at a time.
Well, and we have been covering some of the support and stimulus and paid
sick leave. But, as you say, everybody`s got bills. The old saying, also
from a song, can you pay my automo` bills? I don`t know if you remember
ETHERIDGE: Can you pay my automobiles -- bills?
MELBER: You remember. Yes, there it is.
MELBER: Melissa, we`re going to keep watching you both with the great
concerts you`re doing, as mentioned. Everyone can tune in and find Melissa
Etheridge on Facebook and see those live concerts.
I appreciate you sharing what you`re up to. As always, I appreciate you
coming on THE BEAT. Thank you, Melissa.
ETHERIDGE: You take care, Ari. And much love to everybody there at NBC,
MSNBC, for keeping us informed. Much love.
MELBER: You got it. We will stay on the stories. Much love.
And we will be right back.
MELBER: As always, thanks for watching THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER.
One programming note: Tomorrow, Lester Holt will be anchoring a live
special on the outbreak of the coronavirus across all NBC networks. That`s
tomorrow night right here on MSNBC.
Thank you, as always. And keep it right here on MSNBC.
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