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Virus surges TRANSCRIPT: 3/20/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: E.J. Dionne, Kirsten Gillibrand, Francis X. Suarez, Eddie Griffin, Cornelia Griggs, Amesh Adalja, Sarah Kliff


Good evening, Ari. 

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much. 

And thanks to you at home for joining us tonight. 

We have new reporting on this coronavirus pandemic to inform decisions you  make for safety. 

And we begin tonight, as we have all week, with the facts and the latest  numbers to try to cut through any rhetoric, any potential panic out there,  to focus on what we know at this hour. 

There are more than 16,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United  States and 211 total fatalities, cases soaring upward right now, partially  from the way this infection spreads, but also the number reflecting some of  the progress has been made, that there are now more tests available in the  United States than there were even a few days ago. 

Meanwhile, around the world, authorities reporting all kinds of new  information, over 4,000 people now formally dead, according to Italy.  Congress working to backstop the economy here in United States, the markets  falling again today, the Dow down here over 4 percent. You see that.

This is now the worst week in the American economy since the 2008 crash.  Also, schools in 38 states remain closed, and more closures, we hear from  authorities, will be coming. 

Now, these numbers tell basically the daily story, because the nation can  count certain things, like reported cases or stock prices, several times a  day. As this pandemic grinds on, other measurements will come into us over  time. And we will share them with you.

We will get indicators that are showing the nature of the impact. It will  help inform whether the precautions that you, that everyone is trying to  supposedly take, whether they`re working, And that there may even, in the  other numbers we get, be clues to how long all of this could last. 

And that`s a question any family, any business, anybody, really, wants to  know in order to plan out choices. So, for the economic impact, for  example, tonight, we are now seeing some brand-new indicators that go  beyond the daily stock jitters. 

There is a larger spike in unemployment numbers. Experts projecting over  two million people filed for unemployment just this week. And week by week,  we will get information on how this is rocking our economy. 

Today, the Treasury Department announcing that the usual April Tax Day will  be delayed three months out until July 15. That is a lifeline for many  people.

Congressional leaders are also moving on a third relief package that could  be passed in the next few days. And President Trump announcing both U.S.  borders will be closed to almost all travel. That begins Saturday night. 

We`re also seeing states continue to dial up their rules and precautions. A  week that began with many voluntary impartial bans is now ending tonight  with some of the largest states and cities in America restricting flat out  people from leaving the home. This is basically a stay-at-home order, for  example, from today`s -- we heard from today in Illinois, the governor  there saying to everyone you have to stay at home.

Or take New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. They have been coordinating  their responses, and they`re preparing to issue very similar rules,  sometimes slightly different language or tone. But the bottom line from  these governors is, they are telling everyone in their states, stay home,  unless your safety or your job really requires leaving. 

Meanwhile, in California, the governor has gone farther than most in  demanding that people stay home, period, and also warning that he expects  more than half of California`s 40 million residents will eventually get  infected in some manner, while L.A.`s mayor telling people that the example  that we have all seen from other countries suggests this is the new normal  for two months or more. 


MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA):  The order was for a month, and my expectation  is it could be at least twice as long as that. 

You look in China, it was a two-month stay-at-home order. And that`s the  only way to flatten that curve. 


MELBER:  Now, that may be unwelcome news for many, many people. But this is  how many mayors and governors are leveling with their constituents in real  time, stressing this is not the time for sugarcoating, let alone any kind  of misinformation. 

People need the facts, so they can plan their lives accordingly. And the  government needs accountability for any shortcomings, any facts that are  learned, so those can be fixed. 

All of this is a contrast to how the president addressed documented  shortcomings today, flat-out denying the reality of the shortage, for  example, in testing that has hampered the U.S. response thus far. 


QUESTION:  There are Americans though who say that they have symptoms and  they can`t get tests. 


QUESTION:  What do you say to the Americans who are scared that they have  symptoms and can`t get a test? 

TRUMP:  Yes. Well, OK. I`m not -- I`m not hearing it. 


MELBER: "I`m not hearing it."

Well, the public and the experts are hearing it. In fact, we want to show  you, moments later, Dr. Anthony Fauci fact-checking Trump, saying this  shortage is a reality. 

And that is the larger point tonight. We`re not here to get into blame, let  alone politics, but this is a time for everyone, from the top down, to get  real about the facts, because what people do locally, at the state level,  as a nation, what we do with the facts we have can literally save lives. 

But everything we do ultimately depends on what we know. 

I want to turn to our experts now in that spirit. 

I`m joined by E.J. Dionne, an author and columnist in "The Washington  Post," Sarah Kliff, an investigation health care reporter for "The New York  Times," and Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for  Health Security. 

Hello to everyone, and thanks to those of you working from home.

Doctor, what do you think is the most important thing for people to  understand about the numbers that we have, the rising rate in the U.S., and  how we`re dealing with the reported shortages? 

DR. AMESH ADALJA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES SOCIETY OF AMERICA:  We should expect  to see more cases being diagnosed all over the country, more hospitals  reporting cases in their ICUs, more reports of issues with personal  protective equipment shortages. 

This isn`t going to go away any time soon. Hospitals are going to be  stressed, and we need to get resources to them. That`s the most important  thing to do. 

This is going to be rough for the next several months, and I think it`s  going to be very hard to balance some of the social distancing with what  the needs are for a society to function. And I think that`s something that  needs to be considered as well. 

MELBER:  Understood. 

Sarah, take a listen as well from today`s briefing the president talking  about this use of military powers in the Defense Production Act. 


TRUMP:  We`re using the act. The act is very good for things like this. We  have millions of masks that we`ve ordered. They will be here soon. We`re  having them shipped directly to states. 

We need certain equipment that the states are unable to get by themselves.  So we`re invoking it to use the powers of the federal government to help  the states get things that they need, like the masks, like the ventilators. 


MELBER:  What`s important there, Sarah? 

SARAH KLIFF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  So I think there really is a case where  a lot of states, a lot of hospitals, they are struggling with materials. 

The thing I have been focused on in my reporting lately is ventilators,  which we really expect to come into short supply after what we have seen  what is happening in Italy. 

And one of the things that`s been very hard, there has been this  discussion, could we use the manufacturing lines of other industry? It`s  kind of hard to take a manufacturing industry that typically makes cars,  turn that over to ventilators.

One ventilator manufacture I spoke with, their machine has 1,750 parts.  These are not easy machines to build. And I think one of the other  challenges you`re going to see, building more ventilators, creating more  masks, this requires factories really ramping up their production in a  moment when we`re telling people to stay apart. 

So those workers on the factory line, they need protective equipment too.  They need more janitorial services. It`s a really challenging moment to --  even with the government`s help, to ramp this up. 

And the ventilator makers I have talked to, they say they just don`t see a  ton of government coordination at this point. They feel like they`re trying  to do this on their own. They`re getting a lot of orders from hospitals and  they`re just not able to keep up at this point. 

MELBER:  E.J., NBC`s Lester Holt was speaking to several governors about  what they`re facing. Take a look. 


LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR:  What percentage of the tests that you need do you  actually have on hand? 

Governor Pritzker, I will start with you. 

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL):  About 1 percent. 

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): I`d hate to put a percentage on it, Lester, but  it`s not nearly enough. I don`t think any state in the country has nearly  enough. 

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI):  We`re all in the same boat on this one,  Lester. 


MELBER:  That`s a snapshot. Obviously, E.J., it reflects the data we have  had. 

And we showed the president today flatly in denial about that, although I  guess, to the credit of the Trump administration, other experts, unmuzzled,  have said as much. How important is it that everyone has those facts  without panic, so that the government can go about fixing it? 

E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  You know, I was watching  the president and keeping an eye on the market today, which lost 900-plus  points. 

And once again, the president was out there, and the more he talked, the  more rapidly the market collapsed. And I think part of that is the sense  that, no matter what is being talked about, no matter how honest the  genuine experts like Dr. Fauci try to be, Trump cannot stop himself from  trying to pretend that certain problems aren`t there. 

And so I think he ends up heightening insecurities and real alarm in the  country. 

If we had had adequate testing, the way they had, for example, in South  Korea, we might not have had to put our society through what we are putting  our society through now. And there is a kind of refusal to take  responsibility, where he keeps saying, it`s really up to the governors. 

Well, God bless the governors. A lot of them are doing good work. But we  have a federal government for a reason. This is a national problem, and we  expect it to give a hand, to give us all a hand when we confront a problem  like this. 

And it just hasn`t been there, and they dismantled so many parts of the  government that were designed to deal with crises like this. 

MELBER:  Well, E.J., you lay it out there. And you`re really referring to  two things, one, which is the unique role of the president in our system of  government, both as being in charge of the executive branch, but also  trying to connect with the public at times like this.

And then, B, you`re really talking what is the underlying premise of the  communication? Is the premise to say, well, we always want good news, so  minimizing anything negative is welcome.? That`s a kind of a P.R., reality  show approach that the president obviously used in his campaigning. 

Or, when things are bad, is being factual and accurate and clear with the  public about what`s bad the most important thing? And, obviously, and when  it comes to medical crises, the answer is obviously yes. You much prefer  your doctor giving you information accurately that you can use than giving  you -- quote -- "good news" that isn`t true, or, to use the oft-mentioned  term, fake news. 

So, E.J., with all that in mind, for your analysis, I want to play the  other moment that got some attention today in terms of how the president is  choosing to deal with things, and your view on it on the other side. Let`s  all just take a look. 


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  What do you say to  Americans who are scared, though? I guess, nearly 200 dead, 14,000 who are  sick, millions, as you witness, who are scared right now. What do you say  to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared? 

TRUMP:  I say that you`re a terrible reporter. That`s what I say.  Go ahead. 

ALEXANDER:  Mr. President, the units that were just declared...

TRUMP:  I think it`s a very nasty question, and I think it`s a very bad  signal that you`re putting out to the American people. 

The American people are looking for answers and they`re looking for hope.  And you`re doing sensationalism, and the same with NBC and Con-cast. I  don`t call it -- I don`t call it Comcast. I call it Con-cast. 

Let me just -- for who you work -- let me just tell you something:  That`s  really bad reporting, and you ought to get back to reporting instead of  sensationalism. 

Let`s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good  about it, but who knows. I`ve been right a lot. Let`s see what happens. 


MELBER:  Well, it was quite an exchange. 

And, E.J., to be clear, the question posed was -- quote -- "What do you say  to Americans who are scared?"

DIONNE:  That was a slow pitch down the middle of the plate, and the  president threw his bat away. It was a very good question, but it was a  question where the president could have given an answer reassuring people,  saying, this is a big problem. We can come together. We can solve it. 

There are so many things he could say. And, instead, he was the guy trying  to sell people on Trump University, that if anybody raises anything  negative, any question at all, then they are atrocious. 

I mean, there were many moments in this crisis where we have said, God,  which wish somebody else were standing there. But when I saw that answer, I  thought he can`t even take advantage of a moment that was made for him. He  couldn`t do it. 

MELBER:  Well put, I think. 

Doctor, looking at the risk to front-line workers, which is something we  have covered on many days of this story, I want to play a brief moment also  from our international reporting in Italy. Take a look. 


QUESTION:  Have any doctors or nurses that you know have contracted the  virus? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That I know, at least 20. 


MELBER:  That`s over 20 doctors, according to that account in Italy. 

We have heard from experts about how other countries give a portrait, a  snapshot of what we may face, depending on how we deal with it. In your  view, what is the risk to doctors and nurses now, and are we getting any  better handle on it? 

ADALJA:  The risk to health care workers is going to be immense. 

We know that health care workers are our front-line people that are going  to be exposed to these patients, often in very life-threatening situations,  where people might be dying, and you have to really take action quickly. 

We want to make sure our health care workers have the personal protective  equipment, that they have no doubts that they`re going have personal  protective equipment. It`s really a key thing that we need to do. 

It`s one of the most important things we can do, is make sure that our  hospitals are fortified and able to take care of patients. I know I`m going  to be seeing patients with this disease in the next couple of days maybe,  and I need to make sure that I know that I`m doing this safely and I`m not  going to expose others or expose myself and then be taken out -- taken  offline because of those exposures. 

So it`s very crucial that our health care workers are completely protected.  It`s the number one priority. 

MELBER:  That`s on the treatment side. 

On the patient side, Sarah, another point we saw was a gender disparity  flagged at the briefing also from the experience abroad. Take a look. 


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR:  From  Italy, we`re seeing another concerning trend, that the mortality in males  seems to be twice in every age group of females. 


MELBER:  Sarah, what do you know, what do we draw from the other countries`  experiences? How much of it is predictive for the U.S. and how much depends  on other factors? 

KLIFF:  I think it`s really hard to tell right now. 

The gender disparity, for example, it`s something we saw in China. And when  we first saw it, the assumption was, oh, you see a much higher rate of  smoking among Chinese men, so that probably explains it. 

But, in Italy, you actually don`t see as much of a disparity. So I think  one of the things that`s so hard about fighting this disease is, there`s so  much we don`t know about it. 

There were studies that came out earlier this week, for example, that  showed children can have a case of coronavirus and be completely  asymptomatic. And so that could be a large cause of spread. 

So I think what is -- we can learn from other countries is there are things  we know about the virus. We`re seeing gender disparities, some age  disparities, but also what I take away is just that things are really  unpredictable and that you need a strong government response if you`re  going get your hands around this thing. 

You can`t just really leave it to doctors to be scrounging for ventilators  and masks. That really isn`t the way to keep a disease like this under  control. 

MELBER:  Certainly. 

Well, Ms. Kliff and Dr. Adalja, I want to thank both of you. 

E.J., we have a lot of serious stuff in the hour, but by the time we come  back to you at the end of the hour, we`re doing something a little  different and a little fun at the end of the week with E.J. Dionne later  on. 

Now, still to come tonight, new calls for the senator you see on your  screen, Richard Burr, to resign over what is the first major scandal of the  coronavirus era. We`re going to get into that with a very special guest  right after the break.

Later, doctors and nurses desperate for supplies, something we have been  discussing. We`re going get into that with a doctor who warns -- quote --  "The sky is falling," but there are things the government can do. 

We also have a conversation tonight about the testing shortage and what you  can do to stay safe. 

All that and a lot more tonight. I`m Ari Melber. You`re watching THE BEAT  on MSNBC. 


MELBER:  Now to an important story. 

Do you remember the first thing you did when you realized the coronavirus  was going to really impact the U.S.? Did you call a loved one or check on  an elderly person at higher risk or talk things through with your children?  Or maybe go buy extra groceries, supply, sanitizer?

Or, if you work in health care, you may have known more earlier. You may  have discussed precautions at work. 

If you serve in government, you might have been privy to earlier warnings  and basically the preparations, which provide extra time to do anything all  of the above. 

But you know what some U.S. senators did when they got early secret  warnings about this virus? They allegedly swiftly moved to profit on it, to  either save or make money in their stock portfolios. 

This story tonight right now is the first Washington scandal of the  coronavirus era. Obviously, it didn`t take long. 

Now, here are the basics. Richard Burr, the Republican senator who leads  the Intelligence Committee, got key coronavirus briefings way back in  February, and then made related trades, unloading $1.7 million of stock,  including in key industries like hotels and resorts, NPR reporting that he  grasped the seriousness of the epidemic, discussed his concerns at a  private luncheon, while, in public, went on to tell is different story. 

He wrote in one article the U.S. was better prepared than ever to face the  coronavirus. Another senator, Kelly Loeffler, allegedly involved in trading  off this type of intelligence, selling millions in stock after a private  meeting on January 24, investing in companies that would go up in value  from the pandemic, buying stock, for example, in a company that helps  people work from home called Citrix, while still recently striking a very  different note in public. 


SEN. KELLY LOEFFLER (R-GA):  The good news is, the consumer is strong. The  economy is strong. Jobs are growing. Our president has done a fantastic  job. 


MELBER:  Now, there are defenses to all of this. Senator Burr is insisting  that he relied only on public information to make whatever trades he did.  Loeffler saying any decisions for her investments are made by third-party  advisers. 

But the outrage here is obviously piling up, from anti-corruption experts,  from nonpartisan good government groups who say the law shouldn`t allow  this in the first place, certainly from progressive critics, and criticism  of all of this by an anchor that President Trump himself watches and tweets  about, Tucker Carlson. 


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS:  Now, maybe there is an honest explanation for  what he did. If there is, he should share with it the rest of us  immediately. Otherwise, he must resign from the Senate and face prosecution  for insider trading. 


MELBER:  That`s tough talk. 

This is a very important story, not only for what may be partly legal  corruption that is revealed, but for also the spotlight this puts on the  priorities of people who literally write the laws that govern us right now,  that decide how your government and your tax dollars will combat this  crisis. 

It reveals where their heads are at when they get this information, and  whether they do more, some of them, allegedly, to make money off of it,  while saying the opposite in public, instead of looking out for you. 

And another I think I want to emphasize here tonight, the only reason we  know about this is because of reporting and relatively recent legal  requirements passed by, yes, the Congress. 

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, for example, pushed for this rule, and she  argued, back when this was a debate in Congress, that -- quote --  "Politicians should play by the same rules as everyone else."

Senator Gillibrand wrote part of the very STOCK Act in 2012 that prevents  and discloses some of this type of information and material trading. And we  should note Senator Burr was one of a very few senators who voted against  it at the time. He said he was one of the brave souls to push against this  kind of disclosure requirement. 

I`m joined now by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. 

Thank you for making time for us. 

There`s many, many important things going on in your state and around the  country. But it would seem that what has been revealed here underscores the  need not only for what you fought for in disclosing this, but going further  and preventing it. 

Walk us through your view of this tonight. 

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY):  So, obviously, it raises a huge red flag. 

The purpose of the STOCK Act was so that members of Congress could not  trade on nonpublic information that they received in the course of doing  their job. 

Obviously, the facts surrounding the trades by these two senators are  deeply concerning. They were privy to nonpublic information far earlier  than the typical American constituent, and it`s concerning that they acted  on that information and made trades that made them money. 

I think it needs to be investigated. It has to be thoroughly investigated.  It should be investigated by the Department of Justice to see if insider  trading in fact did take place. 

MELBER:  Can Congress simply ban any individual trading by its membership  to get a -- basically, a wider, brighter line around this? 

GILLIBRAND:  I think it should, frankly. 

I don`t think members of Congress should be buying and selling stocks,  because, even if they`re not engaged in insider trading, so often it will  create the appearance of impropriety. And Congress needs to improve its  reputation, not continue to strain the belief by the American people that  we`re doing the right thing, that we are doing what`s in the public`s best  interest. 

And, ultimately, this all comes down to greed. And that`s one of the  biggest problems we have in Washington, just the amount of money in  politics, along with how this place runs, and even the most recent bill  from Mitch McConnell. It`s problematic. 

MELBER:  Because of what Senator Burr said in public, there is an extra  spotlight on it that goes not only to the potential legal questions of, OK,  did you go over the line, but also something that is obviously perfectly  legal. Politicians can lie. We all know that. 

But I`m curious, just at a level of policy judgment, whether you`re  concerned, given your work on, this about the distinction between what he  did in private, which appeared to evince knowledge that this was bad and  getting worse, and what he said in public. 

We have some sound from February. Take a listen. 


SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC):  There is one thing that I can tell you about  this. It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we  have seen in recent history. It`s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic. 


MELBER:  NPR has that from him in February. We just showed, though, what he  and others were saying in public after that point. 

What is your view of any potential problem there? 

GILLIBRAND:  Well, obviously, when members of Congress have a personal view  and then they have a public view, it`s not fair to the American people. 

And in this instance, if you actually profited on your private view and you  did not disclose that to the American public, again, it`s going to  undermine people`s faith that this government works for them. That`s why  they`re so tired of politicians who say one thing but do the other. 

And so we need honest politicians, people who put their constituents first.  And both of these cases raise big concerns for me. 

MELBER:  Understood. And very interesting to get your view, as I mentioned,  having worked on it. 

While I have you, as the leader of such a big state going through so many  challenges with this, take a listen to what your counterpart, the governor  of New York, said today. 


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY):  There are people and places in New York City  where it looks like life as usual. No, this is not life as usual. And  accept it and realize it and deal with it. 


MELBER:  Do you agree with the governor there? And what are you saying to  constituents in New York, both a state and a city that is known for having  a brash attitude and intermixing? And one of the most international  metropolises in the world is New York City, and proudly so.

But what are you saying to people about what to do now? 

GILLIBRAND:  Well, what I have been hearing from my constituents is that  they`re terrified. They`re very worried that they`re going lose their  income, that they`re going lose their ability to put food on the table. 

Right now, we are asking workers to make a very tough choice. Either go to  work and risk getting exposed, or stay at home with your loved one or your  children, who are now home from school. And having to make that choice  between earning a living and possibly exposing others or protecting your  family is an unfair choice. 

And so what I`m working towards right now is national paid leave, so every  worker in America can take up to three months paid leave to provide care  for their children at home or to provide care for a loved one who is sick  or for themselves, as well as two weeks of paid sick days. 

But the real troubling thing is this something that Mitch McConnell and the  Republicans don`t want to do. We just had a vote to do this exact thing,  and not one Republican voted for it. And it goes back to this issue of  greed, Ari. 

People are far more concerned about paying back their big donors and giving  tax cuts to large corporations than literally helping people who just want  to provide for their families and take care of their kids. 

So I`m working very hard to meet the needs of New Yorkers, who are so  worried, so afraid. And if you think of all the different industries, the  critical workers. Think of the woman whose just in the grocery store, and  she`s taking the money for the food that you`re buying. 

Imagine how she feels that she could be exposed any day from any customer.  She is a critical worker. If she doesn`t show up to work, then no one can  buy groceries to feed their families. So, we need protects for all these  workers. And that is what I`m dedicated to doing hopefully in this next  bill. 

MELBER:  Understood. 

And, Senator Gillibrand, thank you so much for joining us tonight. 

GILLIBRAND:  Thank you. 

MELBER:  We`re fitting in a 30-second break.

And then we will be joined by a mayor of a U.S. city who has actually been  diagnosed with the virus and is still working from home. 


MELBER:  The coronavirus is highly infectious, which makes it in many ways  more challenging than other public health crises, because the people in  charge of combating it can get it. 

We have seen this happen to doctors and nurses who have been exposed or  contracted it, sidelining them from the very treatment they are there to  provide. 

The same risk is also hitting policy-makers, from two members of Congress  now testing positive, to Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, diagnosed with  coronavirus last week, now self-quarantining and still trying to manage the  city, working from home, like so many millions of Americans. 

And joining us now is the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, one of 113 people  in Miami-Made County who have tested point of view for the virus. In  Florida overall, there are roughly 520 cases. 

Hello to you. Walk us through, how are you feeling, how you doing, and how  you doing your job? 

FRANCIS X. SUAREZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI, FLORIDA:  I feel great. This is the  best that I have felt since I was diagnosed eight days ago. 

Thankfully, I have had a very mild case. I have not had fever. I have not  had a cough. You know, obviously, not every case is like mine. There is a  variety of different diagnoses. But I have been working from home. I have  been working with technology, with FaceTime, with Skype, communicating with  my government, making sure that all the residents in the city of Miami are  safe. 

MELBER:  Understood. And I`m sure a lot of people there in the community  credit you for it. 

Take a look at some of the reporting we have seen about something that in  normal times, I know Miami and Florida are very proud of, beach life,  spring break, and all that good stuff. But, obviously, we`re trying to  change as a society how people approach life. 

Take a look at some of this coverage. 


QUESTION:  Why don`t you shut down all the beaches? Because we`re seeing  the spring breakers go into other counties that don`t have... 

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL):  Well, not under my order. So, we did an order no  gatherings on beaches 10 or more. So, if you have a Floridian that goes,  walks their dogs like a married couple on the beach, as long as you`re not  within six feet of each other, they view that -- and that`s a healthy  thing. 

And so I think it`s important to allow that, if the local communities want  to do it, to be able to do it. 


MELBER:  Ron DeSantis there. 

What are you telling folks in and around Miami? We have heard from health  experts that, of course, the goal here is not stay inside no matter what.  There are safe ways to go outside, and plenty of people have reasons to do  so within the rules about avoiding work and gatherings. 

But what are you saying to people about the beaches? 

SUAREZ:  Well, we did a -- we were the first city to cancel a large event.  We canceled Ultra Music Fest, which was an event that would have brought  150,000 people from 105 different countries over the next couple of weeks. 

And so because Miami in particular, of all the counties in Florida, is one  of the epicenters of spring break in the nation, the Miami-Dade County  mayor decided to shut down the beaches in Miami-Dade County, something that  I support, and I know that the mayor of Miami Beach supports as well. 

It`s obviously a dramatic measure, but it`s one that had to happen to make  sure that the young in our immunity don`t spread to it the more vulnerable,  the elderly, and those with immunocompromised immune systems. 

MELBER:  Understood. 

And are you avoiding contact with your friends and family right now while  you self-quarantine? 

SUAREZ:  I have been self-quarantined future a little over a week. So, I  have been home alone. 

I haven`t had contact with anyone. My wife has come to visit me, and , from  afar, from outside the house, has come and said hello. I have two small  children, a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old. I have not had any contact with  them. 

And so the only thing people are doing is dropping off food from a  distance, and that`s how I`m getting by. 

MELBER:  And you seem, at least through this video call, you seem of fine  spirits. Do you find that much time alone starts to affect you? Or not  really? 

SUAREZ:  You know, I really haven`t been alone, in the sense that I have  been interacting with people constantly. I have been working ever since  this happened. 

I have done a tremendous amount of interviews. I have been -- I have had a  video diary entry @FrancisSuarez Twitter, and @FrancisXSuarez Instagram,  where every single day I chronicle this journey of being -- of testing  positive with COVID-19 to try to reduce anxieties, to try to get people to  feel a little calmer about the possibility and the prospect that they may  contract COVID-19. 

And I have gotten a lot of messages from people that feel grateful. 

MELBER:  Well, Mr. Mayor, if you are a politician plugging your social  media, we know that you`re healthy, just like they do in the debates. 

And we`re happy to have you be healthy enough to do the normal political  stuff. 


MELBER:  Say again? 

SUAREZ:  And I`m young. 

MELBER:  And you`re young, young and healthy, and also obviously still  working hard at this time. 

So, Mayor, we thank you for spending time with us, and we`re glad you`re  doing so well. 

We`re going fit in another break, and ahead speak to another doctor on the  front lines who is actually sounding the alarm about looming equipment  shortages. 

Lots more when we come back. 



BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK:  We don`t have masks. We don`t have  ventilators. I was very blunt with the people of my city yesterday that,  the beginning of April, we will run out of basic medical supplies because  of the intense strain that`s being put already on our hospitals by this  crisis. 

We literally will not have the things we need to save people`s lives. 


MELBER:  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sounding the alarm about these  shortages of medical supplies. 

Meanwhile, news breaking in our hour. The White House is confirming a  member of the vice president`s office has tested positive for coronavirus.  The White House advising, this individual has not, they say, had close  contact with Vice President Pence or the president.

But that is quite a piece of news. As for these equipment shortages,  they`re a problem that have been exposed by doctors and nurses on the front  lines who share videos, picture, and warnings about what they lack to keep  themselves protected, essential to protecting their patients, a point we  have heard about as the public health challenge unfolds. 


QUESTION:  How many ventilators do you have? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We only have one ventilator. 

QUESTION:  One ventilator? So you can have one patient who needs a  ventilator. And then what do you do after that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We transfer that patient. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We just sent over all the ventilators from our  veterinary hospital to the Tufts Medical Center, as an example. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There is lots of unanswered questions, and we`re  looking to our administration to get the answers. 


MELBER:  Joining the chorus of alarm, a surgeon going public with warnings  about shortages of gloves, ventilators, writing in "The New York Times,"  effectively, the sky is falling.

That was written by Dr. Cornelia Griggs. She is a pediatric fellow with  Columbia University, and joins us now. 

What are you trying to get across in what you wrote in that warning,  Doctor? 

DR. CORNELIA GRIGGS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY:  I was trying to send a message  nationally that shortage of PPE, or personal protective equipment, is a  crisis for our health care workers, and it makes us feel like we`re being  sent to Normandy with a bow and an arrow. 

MELBER:  Was it something that is widely discussed before it went public? 

It`s right on the line between getting the alarm out so people know, so it  gets fixed, but obviously not causing too much alarm for patients who are  going in and thinking, well, wait a minute, if you guys don`t have the  protective materials, are they going to be at greater risk? 

GRIGGS:  We definitely don`t want to create any more alarm than there  already is in the public. 

And everyone at the hospital and at all levels of leadership across the  country is working tirelessly to solve the problems with PPE. But the  problem is, there is a global shortage, and our supply chains are affected  in a critical way. 

MELBER:  I also want to ask you, just again, given your expertise about  this issue of just the general capacity, hospital beds.

We have seen these reports, no part of America has enough hospital beds for  what could be the larger or outer edge of the pandemic. The U.S. basically  has under a million total beds. That`s less than three for every thousand  people. 

If we got to the levels that some countries have gotten, bottom line, there  literally wouldn`t be enough beds. What do we do about that? 

GRIGGS:  Yes, based on some epidemiological models, we`re on track to face  a critical bed shortage, not only just hospital beds, but ICU beds. 

And when we surge and we run out of beds, there is an increase in all-cause  mortality, not just from coronavirus. And we need everybody who is at home  listening and thinking about this problem helping us come up with creative  solutions and thinking outside of the box to help us meet surge capacity. 

That means pop-up hospitals. That means solutions like that means the USS  Comfort to New York City, which is under way, but may not come for weeks  and weeks. It means finding places to set up fever clinics and testing  centers, and rapidly. 

MELBER:  Wow. 

And, briefly, we just got this news that a member of Vice President Pence`s  staff has tested positive for coronavirus. That`s a high-level person in  the U.S. government, not completely unexpected, given the rates in other  places. Your reaction to that news?

GRIGGS:  I mean, yesterday and today was the day when I started hearing  about my colleagues across the country, health care workers, testing  positive. 

My friend, she is a surgeon in Cleveland, tested positive, and he is at  home feeling miserable with a fever and a cough. And he can barely get out  of bed. 

And I`m making him text me every morning just to make sure he is OK.  Yesterday, I heard from a friend who is a surgeon in San Diego, and he was  sent home with a fever and a cough. And they wouldn`t even offer him a  test. 

MELBER:  Dr. Griggs, I appreciate the writing and the work you`re doing and  sharing some of your insights with us here on THE BEAT. 

GRIGGS:  Thank you so much. Thanks for having me and amplifying our  message. 

MELBER:  A hundred percent. Thank you. 

What we`re going to do now is fit in a break. When we come back on THE  BEAT, we`re going to do something special we do on a lot of Fridays. We`re  going have fun, but we`re also going to talk about the way we live now,  what`s changing and how to keep your minds and wits about you, when we come  back. 


MELBER:  Welcome back. 

It`s been quite a week. 

And every Friday here on THE BEAT, we try to take a step back, reflect, and  even have some laughs, if we can. We call it "Fallback Friday," and maybe  we need it more than ever in this new normal of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tonight, we are joined by Eddie Griffin, a comedian you know from  everything from the Oscar winner "A Star Is Born" to cult classics like  "Deuce Bigalow" and "Undercover Brother." Hell, yes.

Griffin has a residency for shows in Las Vegas.


MELBER:  Yes, sir.

You have a -- I was going say you have a residency in Las Vegas. But like  so many performers, we should note the project is postponed as a health  precaution. 

And for this conversation, we`re also joined by our friend E.J. Dionne,  "Washington Post" columnist. He was named one of the top 25 journalists in  Washington by "The National Journal." He is a bestselling author, the  latest, "Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our  Country."

Eddie and E.J., thanks for coming together today. 


DIONNE:  Honor to be with Eddie and you. Thanks.


MELBER:  Hey. And virtually is the safest way. 

Eddie, you look good. I see you in the swivel chair. I see you working from  home. 

GRIFFIN:  Yes. Yes. 

MELBER:  What what`s on your "Fallback" list, sir?

GRIFFIN:  Fall back -- they need to fall back on the testing.

How many times have the World Health Organization offered test tools and we  turned them down? Now we tests. We need to get some tests man. I can`t even  test myself. 


MELBER:  You`re trying to make tests popular.

You mentioned this. We were looking at this, Secretary Azar and the Trump  administration not only not helping get the tests out, but I mentioned  earlier, the president kind of denying, Eddie, that it is a problem. 

GRIFFIN:  Well, the president has a problem. I don`t even call him the  president. I call him the dude in the White House. 

There`s a nut in the White House. And, look, we have got to stop  normalizing him by calling him president. Just call him what he is, the nut  in the White House. 

Now, the nut in the White House is bad, he is out of his mind, and he has  got these cronies, I mean, it is a cult. It is a cult. It is a cult. So,  you have Mike Pence. Mike Pence -- Trump has his hands so far up Mike  Pence`s behind, you can see his fingers coming out his mouth when he talks.

You understand? I mean, that`s just bad. And then that little doctor, what  is name, Zudru or something, you know, the little midget that look like a  troll. He look like a troll, the doctor, head doctor troll dude, yes. 

And he just sits up there, and he lies with Trump. And then he tries to  make up the truth. It`s just -- it`s bad. It just real bad. 

MELBER:  Well, Eddie, I will say this. Sometimes, the president is  criticized for his nicknames for people. Clearly, you have some nicknames  for people as well. 

E.J., I want to bring you in and ask, what`s on your "Fallback" list?

DIONNE:  I`m not going to come close to anything like Eddie, although I am  outraged -- he`s right -- on testing, by the way. 

I think Senator Ron Johnson really, really, really has to fall back. He  told "The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel" getting coronavirus is not a death  sentence for no more than 3.4 percent of the population, no more than 3.4  percent of our population. 

That happens to be 11 million Americans, 11 million people. He went on to  say, we don`t shut down the economy because tens of thousands of people die  on the highways. 

I mean, Dr. Fauci reacted to this charitably when he said, that`s way out.  I think that Senator Johnson should fall back and get either some math  lessons -- 11 million human beings is a lot of human beings -- or some  moral guidance. 

And Dr. Fauci had some for him. When he heard about what he had said, he  said, I don`t think, with any moral conscience, you could say why don`t we  just let it rip and happen and let X-percent of people die?

If Johnson had wanted to make the point that we might not have to disrupt  the economy like this if we hadn`t botched the testing, that`s a fair  point. But I think he should just listen to Dr. Fauci on what he actually  said. 

MELBER:  Yes, I hear you. 

I heard Dr. Fauci on that today. 

And, E.J., this is something that we are struggling with as we think of the  any normal here at the end of the new normal. On the one hand, there are  ways that people can try to keep perspective, and yet these comparisons  don`t work well if they`re seen, especially by our leaders, as minimizing,  rather than giving people, E.J., something to focus on to do. 

DIONNE:  Right. 

Well, I mean, a lot of people are worried about how much disruption there  is in the economy. That`s why they`re talking about some kind of stimulus  package. But that`s very different from saying that, well, it doesn`t  matter if 3.4 percent of the population dies. 

MELBER:  Right. Right. 

DIONNE:  I mean, that just is a conversation stopper, not a conversation  starter. 

MELBER:  Eddie, how are you keeping -- how do you keep the laughs going  when it is a serious time? 

GRIFFIN:  Well, it`s easy. 

I mean, laughter is contagious, you know, just like coronavirus. Laughter  is contagious. So, you know, if you got the virus, you know, just tune in  on TV, and catch one of my stand-up specials, laugh, because it creates  endorphins in the cheek to promote health. 

So, every little bit helps, you know what I mean? So, I just say get your  laugh on, you know what I mean, if you can.

MELBER:  Yes. 

Well, and if you are laughing, and you can laugh at yourself, maybe you`re  healthy. And trying to stay healthy as possible, we try to set aside time  to take in the big picture. 

I appreciate everyone along for the ride and the laughs.

E.J. Dionne, Eddie Griffin, thanks to you. 

By the way, again, the book is "Code Red," if you want to check it out. And  Eddie`s comedy special, since he mentioned it, is "E-Niggma." You can find  it on Showtime and Spotify. 

We will be right back. 


MELBER:  Welcome back. 

We began our broadcast tonight, the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S.  stood at 16,000. Now, as we finish the hour, the number has jumped to  18,000, a grim reminder of what we face.

That does it for me tonight. I want you to stay informed, stay safe and  stay sane. We will be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Monday night. 

Keep it right here on MSNBC.