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U.S. Coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 3/12/20, MSNBC Live: Decision 2020

Guests: Yasmeen Abutaleb, Ned Lamont, Anand Parekh, Nicholas Kristof, Rich Lowry, Katie Porter, Joe Donnelly


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  I`m Ari Melber. You`ve been watching THE BEAT on  MSNBC. That does it for our hour. Stay safe, stay informed and thanks, as  always, for watching. I`ll see you again at 6:00 P.M. Eastern tomorrow.  Keep it right here on MSNBC.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki in New York.  And there are mounting signs today that the global coronavirus outbreak is  having a profound economic, political and cultural impact on this country  and on the entire world.

The virus has already brought population centers overseas to a virtual  standstill. They have shuttered cities, slowed commerce and prompted  upheaval in financial markets.

In this country, President Trump announced last night that he is taking  measures to restrict travel from Continental Europe to the United States  for the next 30 days. That decision blindsided and angered America`s  European allies who say they received no advance warning.

The U.S. stock market also suffered another devastating blow today with the  Dow closing down 2,300 points. That is a whopping 10 percent loss, the  single worst day of trading since the crash of 1987.

As of tonight, 23 states have issued some form of emergency declaration  with several restricting large events. New York today banned mass  gatherings of over 500 people. That shut down all Broadway performances  through next month. The governors of Iowa and Maryland announced that they  are closing all public schools in their states.

Likewise, professional sports leagues, like the NBA, the NHL and Major  League Baseball have now all suspended their seasons indefinitely. And the  NCAA today called off its March Madness college basketball tournament, a  major annual event.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is isolating himself  after his wife showed symptoms of the virus. Legendary actor Tom Hanks and  his wife are under quarantine in Australia where he was to shoot a film.

When it comes to the number of confirmed cases, data from John Hopkins  shows that the U.S. ranks eighth among 100-plus countries that now have  cases of the virus. But those are just the confirmed cases diagnosed in the  45 states. And the U.S. continues to struggle with limited testing  capacity.

Politico reports that Congress is now, quote, livid over the delays. And  Senator James Langford says he was told it would still be, quote, two weeks  before we can get widespread testing.

In a blunt assessment on Capitol Hill today, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the  inadequacy of U.S. testing capability is a failing that has put this  country behind others in fighting the virus.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS  DISEASES:  The system does not -- is not really geared to what we need  right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing.


FAUCI:  It is a failing. Let`s admit it.

The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are  doing it, we`re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes, but  we`re not.


KORNACKI:  And I`m joined now by Dr. Joseph Fair, a virologist and MSNBC  Science Contributor, Yasmeen Abutaleb is a Healthcare Reporter with The  Washington Post. Thank you both for being with us.

I think I want to start here, Doctor, with just -- we`ve heard about this  virus kind of coming to the country then entering the country. We`ve heard  it could be this, it could be that. In the last 24 hours, it now does mean  some major things. It feels like we are watching American life, we are  watching the world around us just shut down one major piece at a time. A  week from now, what`s the country going to be like, do you think?

DR. JOSEPH FAIR, MSNBC SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR:  It`s impossible to say without  those diagnostics. And what we can project is the cases that we know about.  You mentioned confirmed cases. That`s a very important term, confirmed  cases. We`re going to see triple to quadruple that at a minimum. The states  that haven`t reported it yet, they just haven`t seen the cases yet because  they probably don`t have the testing up and running for them yet.

So I think we can safely presume that with all 50 states and most of our  territories have the virus at this point.

KORNACKI:  And we see these things, the college basketball tournament,  arenas full of 15,000, 20,000 people, that`s not going to happen right now.  Broadway performances in New York, that`s a crowd of a couple hundred  people. Schools in two major states, Ohio, Maryland, closing. I mean,  realistically, and if you say scope of this is going to be growing just in  terms of our awareness with it, can any public gathering of any type really  be taking place within the next couple of days and the next couple of  weeks?

FAIR:  I`ve lived through a couple of epidemics that have grown to just  mass scale, Ebola being one in West Africa, where a society completely shut  down to stop the epidemic. And I think that`s what we`re going to see.  Frankly, I think we`re going to see a bigger shutdown than we even saw  post-9/11. That was just air travel and a few other businesses affected.  We`re looking at shutting down everything for a couple weeks just to get it  -- just to mitigate the spread of the virus at this point.

KORNACKI:  Yes. Yasmeen, on that front, what is your sense of where sort of  the next shoes are to drop? A couple major states saying schools, public  schools are going to be closed. Again, major cultural events just shutting  down, being canceled, folks being told to stay home from work. I`m hearing  that from all over the place. What does the next few days, what does the  next week look like in terms of the shutdown of American life?

YASMEEN ABUTALEB, HEALTH POLICY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I think we  have to wait and see. These are ultimately state and local decisions, how  they decide to mitigate the spread of the virus.

But I think based on the advice that states and local health departments  are getting from people who are doing modelling on how the virus could  progress, depending on if you take certain measures or not, a lot of them  are advising that you shut down schools, you shut down these large social  gatherings that you`ve seen. I think we`ll probably see more of them in the  next few days. You might see more states or counties decide to shut down  schools or extend spring break just to try to mitigate the spread of this  and get a handle.

Because the experts who are modeling how the disease could progress based  on how it`s played out and other countries say, you could greatly slow its  spread if you take sort of drastic action to limit those types of  gatherings.

KORNACKI:  Yes. I`m curious about that, Doctor, too. So here is -- I`m a  layman on this but maybe other folks are having this question. So I`ll ask  it to you this way. You shut down these mass public gatherings, you shut  down schools, you basically tell people, limit your contact with others  until sort of the medical world gets a much better grasp of the scope of  this thing. I understand that. I`ve also heard no vaccine for a year, maybe  a year-and-a-half. Maybe that`s optimistic.

Okay. So at some point between now and a year, a year-and-a-half from now,  presumably, folks are going to be told, go back to semblance of your normal  life. If there`s to vaccine, won`t this just start spreading like wildfire  again when those steps are taken to lessen this shutdown?

FAIR:  There are reasons for hope and we see a typical drop in the summer  seasons of both common coronavirus colds as well as influenza, and that`s  purely because we have a lot more sunlight and sunlight has U.V. light.  People are outdoors a lot more. That U.N. light inactivates the virus. And  so, presumably, we will see a dip. It doesn`t mean we we`re not going to  see any cases in the summer but, really, we will see a dip. Hopefully, that  will give us time catch up at least on the diagnostic`s end to where anyone  and everyone can get tested by that point in time. I don`t see that  happening in the next few weeks despite what we`ve been told repeatedly  about the diagnostics.

We`re not taking advantage of the commercial sector that we have in this  country that produced mass diagnostics. We have a lot of companies that  produce lab-based diagnostics. And we have a procedure through the FDA to  get emergency use authorization for those diagnostics. So unless we engage  that commercial diagnostic manufacturing capability in the country in  addition to our own government`s manufacturing capability for diagnostics,  I think we`re still going to see that big lag. And until we have the  diagnostics, we`re just flying blind.

KORNACKI:  So, Yasmeen, on that piece of it too, in terms of the public  response, hearing it from the doctor, hearing from a lot of folks, testing,  getting testing as widely available as possible, to just try to get a sense  exactly how many cases are there of this, get statistics that could be  derived from it, if you know how many cases, you get a better handle on  what the fatality rate, all sorts of things like that. What is happening to  change the picture on testing and how quickly and how realistically could  that picture change in a meaningful way?

ABUTALEB:  So you saw about two weeks ago that the Food and Drug  Administration released this emergency use authorization that allows public  health labs and academic labs who do the sort of thing all the time and are  well set to do this to get their own tests up and running. And for the  first several weeks that the U.S. was trying to get a handle on the scope  of this virus, it was only the CDC test that was being distributed.

Now, you have those academic labs, hospital labs, the public health labs  engage and able to get their own tests up and running. And they are  starting to engage the private sector, so we expect the testing capacity to  continue go up over the next few days. And because of that, both current  and former administrations officials and public health experts are saying,  we`ll start to get a real handle on just how widespread the viruses here.  They`ve also reiterated that not every single person who shows symptoms has  to get a test and shouldn`t clog the health system if they`re mild and  they`re otherwise sort of young and healthy.

But a lot of people are predicting that we will see a spike in cases over  the next few days as testing capacity sort of gets up to where it needs to  be and more people get tested and we`ll probably find that there`s a lot  more community spread than we know of right now.

KORNACKI:  All right. Yasmeen Abutaleb, Dr. Joseph Fair, thank you both for  being with us. I appreciate that.

And I`m joined now by the governor of Connecticut, Ned Lamont. He, today,  announced the executive order banning mass gatherings of more than 250  people in his state. This comes as Connecticut`s chief epidemiologist said  today that, quote, between 10 and 20 percent of the State`s population is  expected to contract the coronavirus over the next month.

Governor, thanks for joining us.

On that stat, and that 10 to 20 percent forecast in your state, I`ve been  hearing big numbers like that nationally, the prospect of that too. I`m  curious. Talking to you -- the epidemiologist there, the medical folks, the  scientific folks, you don`t have a huge number right now of confirmed cases  but do you get a sense from talking to those folks that there are a lot  more undiagnosed cases in Connecticut, what the scope of that might be?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT):  Well, good evening, Steve, and you hit the ground  running (ph) here tonight. Look, we`ve done very little testing, not enough  testing. We need more support from the federal government to get a real  scope of what`s going on. We have one of the most sophisticated healthcare  systems in the country right here in Connecticut. Yale, New Haven or  Hartford Health and Jackson Labs, they`re ready to do testing if they just  get green light and the permissions from the federal government, we`ll be  ready to do a lot more extensive.

But right now, we`re just doing our best to tell the folks the truth, to  get a consistent message in terms of what`s going on here in the state and  what`s going on in the country. There`s a lot of trepidation out there  right now and that we can have a consistent message from the federal  government, state government and our local stakeholders, we`ll get through  this.

KORNACKI:  What about your public school system? The governors in Ohio and  Maryland said today they are suspending public schools in their states for  a period here. I know you said they don`t have to do 180 days of school.  You`re giving some autonomy here. But do you have any thought here to just  shutting down public schools in your state? Is that something you might do?

LAMONT:  Well, what we have done, and since we`re close to one of the  epicenters, which is in Westchester County, I`m here in Fairfield County,  Connecticut right next door, most of the schools here in Fairfield County  decided with a lot of encouragement from us that they would close down for  the foreseeable future. We still have the rest of the state where the  schools are going.

You`ve to remember though, as a governor, schools are so key to a  community. And a mom or dad have a hard time getting to work if they don`t  have daycare for their kids and the schools are down. So we`re trying to  put in place all the infrastructure to make it easier for these schools to  close down. If it`s needed, we`ll extend that around the rest of the state.

KORNACKI:  What`s life going to look like in your state a week from now?  You say you ordered, A, covers gatherings of 250 people or more. Sporting  events, concerts, major public gatherings, that`s in that category. But  what`s life going to look like in Connecticut? What is going to open a week  from now?

LAMONT:  Well, that`s a very good question. Who would imagine where we`re  going to be a week ago when we had our first diagnosis here in the state.  What we`re trying our best to do is to keep our companies going, telling  folks, you can`t see right behind me here, this used to be a full room.  Here I am at NBC Sports, and a lot of people are telecommuting. We`re  working with our state government, state employees right now, having them  prepare for the possibility of telecommuting, at least the older folks,  those who are most vulnerable, those who are over 60, those that have a  pre-existing condition. They should already be stepping back.

For lack of having an adequate testing, we`re telling everybody, if you  have flu-like symptoms, you`re feeling sick, just stay home. I think those  are some of the ways you`re going to find people beginning to self-monitor  going forward.

KORNACKI:  All right. Ned Lamont, the governor of Connecticut, thank you  for taking a few minutes.

LAMONT:  Nice to see you, Steve.

KORNACKI:  All right. And coming up, American hospitals on the forefront of  this pandemic, are they ready for the potentially increase in cases? And  what other steps need to be taken to keep Americans safe?

Plus, after the president`s address last night, Joe Biden gives voters a  look at how he might handle the current crisis.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We need smart, bold, compassionate  leadership that`s going to help contain the crisis, reduce the hardship on  our people and help our economy to be better.


KORNACKI:  Much more to get to. Stay with us.



DR. MICHAEL RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO:  When you lose track of the  outbreak, then you have to create social distance between everybody because  you don`t who know is infected. It is a poor substitute for aggressive  public health action at the beginning but it may be the only option when  you`ve effectively lost sight of the virus.


KORNACKI:  Welcome back.

That was Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization`s head of  emergencies, just hours before sweeping travel bans, school closures and  meeting restrictions were put in place around the world. And his warning is  a stark reminder that many countries are struggling to mitigate the spread  of coronavirus.

According to Aaron Miller, a professor of pediatrics who writes for The New  York Times, quote, many health experts expect that a majority of people  will eventually be exposed to if not infected with this virus. The total  number of infected people isn`t what scares many epidemiologists, it`s how  many are infected at the same time.

It should be noted that, overall, researchers estimate that roughly 80  percent of those diagnosed with the coronavirus have mild cases. Of the  nearly 130,000 people diagnosed so far, about 70,000 have fully recovered.  What can we expect here in the United States and what steps need to be  taken?

For more, I`m joined by Doctor Anand Parekh, Chief Medical Adviser at the  Bipartisan Center -- Bipartisan Policy Center, excuse me, and former HHS  Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, and Nicholas Kristof, New York Times  Columnist and the author of Tight Rope, Americans Reaching for Hope. Thank  you both for joining us.

Dr. Parekh, let me start with you. Building on what we talked about in the  last segment there, the importance of testing to just get an overall  picture of the nature of what we`re dealing with here, let me ask you this.  Right now, how firm of a grasp do you and do the medical professionals have  on what the death rate for this is and how easily communicable this is?

DR. ANAND PAREKH, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN  SCIENCES:  Well, Steve, those are excellent questions and we don`t have all  of the answers. And we think the transmissibility rate, how many you can  infect is around two to three. The case fatality rate has been reported as  high as 3 percent. Many people think that that`s significantly higher than  it actually is because we just haven`t identified cases.

And that goes to your point that we have to dramatically increase testing  in this country. We`re in the thousands. We need to get to the millions. So  that will be critical to better understanding where we are as a nation. And  also to make sure individuals know, if they`re infected, to seek care as  well as to reduce exposure.

KORNACKI:  So that`s my question though. If you get to a situation that we  appear to be very far from right now where you have mass scale testing here  in this country, you`re testing folks who maybe aren`t symptomatic but you  just want to see if they`re carrying, is there a potential here that we  find out the death rate isn`t as alarming as perhaps it sounds right now? 

PAREKH:  Well, even if it`s found, let`s say the death rate right now, the  mortality rate, is around 3 percent, even if we`re overestimating it  tenfold, that`s still point 0.3. 

Let`s remember, seasonal influenza, which kills tens of thousands of  Americans every year, the mortality rate from that is 0.1 percent. So this  would significantly be several times higher. 

So, I think the numbers are important, but we`re still talking about a  pathogen that has likely a higher mortality rate than we see every year  from the flu. 

KORNACKI:  Nick, I want to put up a tweet from one of our colleagues here  at NBC News, Richard Engel. 

He put this up earlier tonight, and just get your reaction to it. 

But he basically -- he put this. "This is a serious virus," he wrote, "and  the consequences of ignoring it are grave. The U.S. already lost time doing  that. But there is also a big problem for overreacting. Virologists I have  spoken to say we need to learn `to live with the virus guard,` against it  and keep moving ahead."

I know you have talking -- talking -- you have spoken to some virologists  too. I`m curious. Striking that balance between appropriate caution,  appropriately pausing to try to understand what exactly it is we`re dealing  with here, and the idea of going on with life, going forward with life, how  do you strike that balance? 

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Well, this is an  enormous problem for journalism and one we have often gotten wrong.

How do you call attention to risks without sensationalizing them? I  actually disagree with -- I have enormous admiration for Richard, but I  disagree with him to some extent on this. I must say that virologists and  epidemiologists whom have I spoken to tend to be rather more concerned than  many Americans. 

And we certainly shouldn`t panic, but there seems to be a significant --  well, we, A, seem to have downplayed it. We haven`t responded sufficiently.  And there was pretty good research, for example, for the 1918 Spanish flu  that those cities that challenged it early and aggressively, that they had  -- like Saint Louis, for example, had far lower death rates and saved a lot  of lives compared to those that decided to live with it, like Philadelphia,  classically. 

KORNACKI:  But I guess the question becomes, we`re in this period of sort  of slowing everything down, and hopefully getting more testing out there,  and hopefully getting a better sense of it. 

But, again, this vaccine if there is one, is a long way away. So, supposing  we get testing, we find out this is more deadly than the seasonal flu,  maybe less than it looks like right now, but maybe more deadly than the  seasonal flu.


KORNACKI:  A vaccine is a year off, at best. How do you go forward with  American life then? 

KRISTOF:  Well, look, I mean, the overall conservative estimate, perhaps  for a number of Americans who may be infected, maybe attack rate of a third  of the country, so 100 million people. 

If you end up with a case fatality rate of 1 percent, that`s a million  people dying. And -- but the these numbers, the R, the replication rate, is  not something that is just about the virus. It`s very much about our  response to it. 

And we will have to adjust our response. Now, we may get a respite, because  it`s possible that it will, in the summer, in warmer weather, maybe it will  be subdued. That`s what happened in 1918, came back then in the fall. 

But I think that it is prudent to change the way we behave. I`m glad that  Disneyland closed. I`m glad that sports organizations have toned down --  and maybe they were overreacting. And, in that case, this is for nothing,  but the costs of under-responding are just too great to sit back. 

KORNACKI:  Doctor, I`m curious how you look at that same question. 

If, hopefully, again, the summer does provide some relief for this, but,  again, if there`s no vaccine sight, and we get to colder weather starting  September, October, November later this year, these same questions are  going to be there.

There`s no vaccine. You see that it can be spread fairly easily person to  person. What -- how does America live with that, knowing there`s no vaccine  on the immediate horizon? 

PAREKH:  I will say, Steve, that one of the possibilities later this year,  we won`t have a vaccine, but there are many trials under way of antivirals  and therapeutics that could potentially treat the coronavirus. 

So, there is hope on that front. 

But you`re absolutely right. There is a lot of uncertainty here. We don`t  know if the virus will continue over the summer. It may go away, only to  come back in the fall and winter in a second wave. We have seen that with  other pandemics as well. 

But we absolutely, as a country, have to be dedicated to social distancing  and community mitigation for the long haul. And that`s individuals, where  we talk about hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, isolating yourself when  you`re ill, but it`s also then community mitigation. 

This is workplaces and telework and paid sick leave. It`s schools. It`s  canceling mass gatherings. The question is, do we have the stamina, and how  long do we have the stamina? 

But this is something that we have to act now. I think the P-word is not to  panic, but it is absolutely preparedness at all sectors of society. 

KORNACKI:  All right, Dr. Anand Parekh and Nicholas Kristof, thanks to both  of you for being with us. Appreciate that. 

PAREKH:  Thank you. 

KORNACKI:  And up next: President Trump now facing a leadership test on  multiple fronts, public health, the economy, his own political future  hanging in the balance.

How`s he doing so far? 

We`re back after this. 



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This is the most aggressive  and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history. 

The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel  from China and other hot spots. As a result, a large number of new clusters  in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe. 

We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as  one nation.


KORNACKI:  Welcome back. 

That was President Trump last night delivering an 11-minute address to the  nation on the coronavirus pandemic. 

As "The Washington Post" notes, though -- quote -- "Although he read from a  prepared script as he delivered a rare prime-time televised address, Trump  incorrectly described his own policy in three different areas."

Let`s watch.


TRUMP:  To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending  all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. 

And these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of  trade and cargo, but various other things, as we get approval. Anything  coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. 

I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to  waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments.


KORNACKI:  Almost immediately, acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary  Ken Cuccinelli tweeted that the travel restrictions do not apply to  American citizens, and the president himself clarified that they also do  not apply to trade. 

Meanwhile, Politico reports that a spokesperson for a major health  insurance lobbying group said insurers only agreed to cover costs for  testing and not for treatment. 

Today, Vice President Pence defended Trump and criticized people who  downplay the seriousness of coronavirus. 


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Obviously, there`s  there`s been some irresponsible rhetoric, but the American people should  know that President Trump has no higher priority than the health and safety  and well-being of the people of this country. 


KORNACKI:  For more, I`m joined by Rich Lowry, editor at the "National  Review."

Rich -- "National Review." There`s no "the" there. I always have to get  that right.


KORNACKI:  Rich, thank you for being here. 


KORNACKI:  The president`s response overall, and then that speech last  night.

What do you make of the tone he struck last night? Did you see any kind of  a change there? And where do you think it goes from here? 

LOWRY:  Yes. 

Now, the problem, obviously, is, the president is used to talking his way  out of and through any problem the last 30 or 40 years he`s dealt with in  his career or his life, and this is different. This is a much more serious  situation. There are facts on the ground that can`t be denied. 

So there`s nothing wrong with being optimistic and hopeful. He should be.  That`s an element of presidential leadership, but he has to be sober and  serious-minded at the same time. 

And finally, last night, we heard that. Unfortunately, the speech was  marred by these factual mistakes about his own policy, which is kind of  hard to imagine how those got into the text. And then he didn`t deal with  what`s really the most important aspect of this:  How do we get the testing  up to snuff? And how are we going to keep the hospital system from being  overwhelmed? 

I think the European travel ban probably makes sense. You have top health  officials like Anthony Fauci saying it`ll help at the margins. But the most  important aspect now is, how are we going to deal with the growth of this  in our own communities? 

KORNACKI:  I`m curious what you make too of, certainly before last night,  public comments that seemed to very much downplay it. 

This is somebody who has shown an instinct for the dramatic move. 

LOWRY:  Right. Right. 

KORNACKI:  You just saw this in calling for a ban on travel from countries  with large Muslim populations. 

I mean, he`s -- whatever you think of that, he has shown this instinct,  when faced with something in the past, to go for something that sounds  dramatic.

LOWRY:  Right. Right. 

KORNACKI:  And yet, in the face of coronavirus, there was that initial  action on travel, but since then, nothing else. What do you make of that?

LOWRY:  Yes, you would think this would have activated on his part and on  many of his supporters kind of those populist nationalist instincts. 

This is a threat that`s emerged in China. It`s coming from abroad and  travel restrictions and borders matter very much. Supply -- global supply  chains are implicated. The administrative state kind of messed it up, at  least initially, part of it.

But, instead, there`s been this extreme defensiveness and wanting to  downplay it even as a threat at all. And I think, with the president,  overwhelmingly, that has to do with this fear of the effect that this has  had on the markets.

And we know he cares very much about numbers, and a hugely important number  for him is that stock market. So there`s been an emphasis on trying to talk  up the stock market, when, ultimately, the only way you`re going to get the  market to recover is by dealing with the crisis on the ground.

KORNACKI:  As we see another giant drop today on Wall Street.

Rich, thanks for joining us, Rich Lowry of "National Review." 

LOWRY:  Thanks for having me.

KORNACKI:  And during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the  coronavirus today, California Congresswoman Katie Porter grilled CDC  director Dr. Robert Redfield on individual costs for coronavirus testing,  before extracting a commitment to cover those costs. 


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA):  We asked for a response yesterday. The deadline  and the time for delay has passed. 

Will you commit to invoking your existing authority under 42 CFR 71.30 to  provide for coronavirus testing for every American, regardless of insurance  coverage?

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR:  What I was trying to say is that CDC is  working with HHS now to see how we operationalize that. 

PORTER:  Dr. Redfield, you don`t need to do any work to operationalize. You  need to make a commitment to the American people, so they come in to get  tested. 

You can operationalize the payment structure tomorrow.

REDFIELD:  I think you`re an excellent questioner. So, my answer is yes.

PORTER:  Excellent. Everybody in America, hear that. You are eligible to go  get tested for coronavirus, and have that covered, regardless of insurance. 


KORNACKI:  And joining me now is Congresswoman Katie Porter of California,  who we just showed you in that exchange. 

Congresswoman, thank you for joining us. 

Well, practically speaking, the message you delivered there to the American  people, because of this commitment, if they go to get testing, they`re  eligible to have it covered.

Because of this commitment, is that how it works now? If you go in tomorrow  and demand testing, will it be covered? Or is there another step that needs  to be taken here? 

PORTER:  That`s the commitment that Director Redfield made, that testing --  they would use the existing law, the existing authority that`s been on the  books for a few years now and is part of our larger structure of dealing  with public health.

I didn`t create any law today. I simply asked him to use a tool in his  toolbox, which is to make sure that anyone who goes to be tested and  appropriately seeks testing does not have to pay out-of-pocket costs or is  denied that testing or unable to pay for that testing. 

So, this doesn`t mean everybody in America can get a test or will be able  to get a test right now. Our goal is to make sure that every person who`s  showing symptoms, whose physician believes a test is warranted isn`t  deterred from calling their physician and seeking that treatment for fear  of cost. 

KORNACKI:  In terms of follow-up, though, I`m assuming there -- you need  some sort of formal order from the CDC. How is the -- is there an  implementation here for this commitment, something formal that has to  happen? 

PORTER:  The CDC director made that commitment today under oath. He was  sworn in at the start of that hearing. 

And my job, as a Congress member, is to ask those tough questions and  extract those promises. That was a promise he made to the American people.  I intend to hold him to it. Nobody should be deterred from seeking testing  or calling their physician for coronavirus testing because of fear of  having to pay the cost of that treatment. 

This is not just uninsured people we`re talking about. It`s people who may  have high-deductible plans. It`s people who may have very high out-of- pocket costs, all of those things. The government has the existing  authority to step in and cover that additional cost, so that people can be  tested at no cost. 

KORNACKI:  And you were showing on an easel there what these out-of-pocket  costs could look like for individual Americans.

When the government assumes responsibility for these additional costs, I  mean, how much -- collectively, from the government standpoint, how much  would this cost, what you`re -- what you have got the commitment for?

PORTER:  Being able to test those who are symptomatic or are exposed to the  virus, and we have reason to believe need a test, is a savings, ultimately,  to our government

It is so much better than the alternative of allowing a pandemic to spread  and to continue to destabilize our economy and to put American lives at  risk. 

So, I walked through the cost of a CBC test, a complete blood count, a  metabolic panel, a flu test Type A, a flu test Type B. The insurer should  pay their portion for those who have insurance, and the government should  pick up the rest of the tab. And for those who do not have insurance, they  should be able to get free testing. 

This law exists explicitly to provide for this kind of medical examination  in the case of a public health emergency. And that`s exactly where, sadly,  we find ourselves today in this country. 

KORNACKI:  All right, Congresswoman Katie Porter, Democrat from California,  thank you for joining us. Appreciate it. 

And up next:  In major speeches today, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders attempt  to draw sharp contrasts with the president over how this crisis should be  handled.

Stay with us. 


KORNACKI: Welcome back. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders both delivered  major speeches today on the pandemic and how they would lead the country in  a time of crisis. 


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Protecting the health and safety of  the American people is the most important job of any president.  Unfortunately, this virus laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current  administration. 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  If there ever was a  time in the modern history of our country when we are all in this together,  this is that moment. Now is the time for solidarity. Now is the time to  come together with love and compassion for all. 

BIDEN:  We will build American leadership and rebuild it to rally the world  to meet the global threats that we`re likely to face again. You know, and  always telling the truth. This is responsibility of a president. That is  what is owed the American people. 

SANDERS:  We need that information coming from credible, respected  scientific voices, of which we have many in our own country and all over  this world. Not from politicians. 


KORNACKI:  Even before President Trump announced his Oval address last  night, Biden was already planning to give his speech today. "The New York  Times" reports that some of his allies believe, quote, this moment of  national anxiety throws into sharp relief the choice Americans would face  in a general election matchup between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump and the  stakes of that contest.

Well, the contrasts between the speeches of President Donald Trump and his  Democratic rivals were stark. We`re going to compare the substance and the  tone. That is up next. 


KORNACKI:  Welcome back. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders both delivered  speeches today about the coronavirus crisis. They attempted to draw a sharp  contrast with the president`s address to the nation last night. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This is the most aggressive  and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history. 

BIDEN:  Labeling COVID-19 a foreign virus does not displace accountability  for the misjudgment that have been taken thus far. 

TRUMP:  I`m calling on Congress to provide Americans with immediate payroll  tax relief. 

SANDERS:  Instead of providing more tax breaks to the top 1 percent in  large corporations, we need to provide economic assistance to the elderly. 

TRUMP:  We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States  for the next 30 days. 

BIDEN:  Travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics rather handle  the risk will be counterproductive. 


KORNACKI:  For more, I`m joined by former Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly  of Indiana, and Michael Steele, former chairman of the RNC. 

Thanks to both of you for being with us. 

JOE DONNELLY (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  Thanks for having me.

KORNACKI:  Michael, we`ll start with you. The shot we just showed there of  Biden. You know, it looks like one of the things he was trying to achieve  there was create a contrast, not just for Democratic voters but for all  Americans. 

Looking for that presidential speech, look, all the American flags in the  background, you know, trying on give that it look and that feel. What is  the -- what is the broad contrast that the Biden campaign thinks it can  create with Trump here and is trying to in a speech like that? 

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think you`ve nailed it  right off the top there. They pivoted off of last night. The president at  the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office giving a speech. 

Now, typically, as you know, Steve, that`s a big deal. That`s Brownie  points for the president. 

That speech fell flat for a lot of reasons in a lot of ways for a lot of  Americans, talking about tax cuts and banning trips to Europe. When people  are concerned about, can I take my kid to school tomorrow? What`s going to  happen at the neighborhood grocery store?

And what you saw with Biden coming out and setting a different tone, and  sort of counterpointing the messaging of the president last night, you  know, referring to, well, making, talking about folks coming to Europe, or  banning stuff coming out of Europe. That`s favoritism. 

And I think it set up a proper contrast to see him in a crisis situation,  even though he doesn`t have to deal with it directly, as more presidential. 

KORNACKI:  So, Joe Donnelly, had Joe Biden give that speech, then you have  Bernie Sanders, his opponent for the Democratic nomination, I think it did  raise the question there. Sanders, sort of the third one up in the line-up,  Biden giving that sort of response to Trump. 

How much room is there right now for Sanders? He`s fallen behind in this  race. He lost almost everything last Tuesday. There`s this incredible  public health crisis, really unprecedented public health crisis playing  out. How much room is there for Bernie Sanders right now in a moment like  the? 

DONNELLY:  Well, I think for Democrats, Vice President Biden hit the nail  on the head talking about the need for the tests to be available, the need  for professionals to take charge, the need to make sure it`s focused on our  families. And that we can help lead the world and Senator Sanders talked  about that, as well. He`s not out of the race yet. So I think it was good  he also gave his vision. 

But it was a stark a contrast as you could possibly have. President Trump  was evasive, talked about basically grudges and what Vice President Biden  focused is helping lead the world to solve this problem, which is what we  have to do. 

KORNACKI:  Do you think that was -- if you look at the speech Biden gave,  you look at the speech Sanders gave, both of them were sort of aimed there  at Trump. They`ve got a debate coming up Sunday night and a whole bunch of  primaries again next Tuesday. Is that a preview of the debate in terms of  is it going to be aimed -- their fire aimed more at Trump or do you expect  to see Sanders use that debate as one final chance to make something  happen? 

DONNELLY:  Well, my expectation with senator Sanders is he`ll make that his  chance to make something happen. Today was about a clear message regarding  the message from Donald Trump last night, which the markets clearly said  was underwhelming, was misdirected and didn`t focus on solving the problem.

Vice President Biden focused on her families, on our nation leading, on  getting testing in place and on making sure the professionals like Dr.  Fauci were helping to call shots. So, I think it was a real contrast of  leadership versus excuses. 

KORNACKI:  Michael, what do you expect from this debate on Sunday? It`s  going to be a little different, obviously the backdrop is coronavirus.  There`s not going to be -- we certainly had debates in history without live  audiences before.

STEELE:  Right.

KORNACKI:  But they have become a modern staple of these things. In the  last one in South Carolina there, became part of the story. What do you  expect? The two of them, one on one, don`t have other candidates on stage  direct interaction, in a studio. 

STEELE:  Oh, man.

KORNACKI:  How`s it going to go? 

STEELE:  I think -- I`m excited for it. I`m excited. 

Get rid of the audience. You know why? Because I don`t want to hear or see  the candidates react to the booing, the cat calls, and screaming from the  folks in the audience. I want to see them react to one another because  that`s mano-a-mano, that`s you and Biden if your Bernie and Bernie if  you`re Biden.

And so, that reaction that you give is going to matter so much more in the  eyes of the American people. How do you stand up to an adversary in that  one on one face-to-face kind of confrontation? It gets us a chance to see  them a little more vulnerable, a little more exposed, how sharp they can be  and I think it will be an interesting dynamic, Steve, when you have Bernie  going after Biden for the most part because he needs to claw into his  momentum, his big mo. 

Whereas Biden`s interest is going to be what you saw today. I`m the guy  who`s going to be the next president of the United States and let me show  you why. So, his focus is probably a lot more on Donald Trump, and that  dynamic in that close range for the two of them is going to be fascinating. 

KORNACKI:  And, Senator, we`ve been asking all hour here how American life  is going to look for the coming days and the coming weeks. How do you think  the presidential campaign is going to look? Suddenly, we`re not talking  about Sanders and Biden having rallies. 

Are we entering a protracted period where it`s going to look different than  anything we`ve experienced before? 

DONNELLY:  I think it`s going to be completely different than anything  we`ve experienced. My home state Indiana, our primary is in early May and  we`re already being told about events that are being cancelled, about  things that are not moving forward. And so, that`s front and center in  places like Florida and Illinois and Ohio right now. So, it`s a very, very  different mix than we`ve ever seen before, which, you know, folks like Joe  Biden and Bernie Sanders feed off the crowd. They love being with people.  And so, for them, it`s an entirely different reality, as well. 

KORNACKI:  Michael, as long as life shut down like this, this is going to  be the number one thing on everybody`s mind. 

STEELE:  Yes, it is. I mean -- and the thing about it, I think that really  is going to be interesting, as well is how much more we get to concentrate  on this political narrative of both for the president and as well as for  the Democratic candidates who are seeking the nomination. 

Look, typical campaigns, everybody is excited to do big rallies and stuff.  Well, that`s pretty much done. So, now, you`re going to change your  strategy to still connect to your base, maybe small house parties here and  there but the big crowd stuff is going to be over. 

So, now, how do you re-communicate in a space where the lane has been  narrowed so dramatically by a national health crisis, which also will  dictate what you say and how you say it going forward? So, there`s a lot  riding over the next few primary events, Steve, and I think it`s going to  be fascinating again to see how these two candidates starting on Sunday  night, I think we got a preview today are going to be coming into that  ring. 

KORNACKI:  All right. Michael Steele, former Senator Joe Donnelly, thanks  to both of you for being with us. 

DONNELLY:  Thank you very much. 

KORNACKI:  All right. And up next, COVID-19 is affecting all areas of life  around the globe. More on what that looks like, next. 



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I know that actually sounds like thunderous applause  but we made a decision on our program, at least for the foreseeable future,  that we decided it would be better if we did not have a studio audience. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So we are without an audience. It is Thursday, March  12th. Good morning. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, hello, hello, hello. Welcome to "The View,"  y`all. Welcome to "The View". Welcome to "The View". Welcome to -- 


KORNACKI:  Well, there you go. 

Some major daytime television host explaining to their audience why their  studios are empty this week, of course, it is due to the growing concerns  over the coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic is interrupting the  entertainment world as public health experts recommend avoiding large  crowds. 

The NBA, the NHL, Major League Baseball have now all indefinitely suspended  their games in one of the nation`s biggest sporting events, a cultural  phenomenon every March. The NCAA basketball tournament is now cancelled. 

Broadway performances have been shut down until mid April. Here is a look  at the scene in Times Square, New York tonight. That`s where theaters are  dark. Hollywood movies have been postponed and NBC late night shows hosted  by Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers are going to suspend production for the  rest of the month.

With massive quarantine efforts in Italy, historical sites commonly flooded  with tourists are now almost empty. What has become abundantly clear is  that while feelings of uncertainty have heightened, familiar comforts we  rely as a society are for a foreseeable future on hold. 

Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.