virus death toll TRANSCRIPT: 4/1/20, MSNBC Live: Decision 2020

Guests: William Haseltine, Yamiche Alcindor, Ali Mokdad, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Breea Clark

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we expect that will continue to expand.

But the exciting news this weekend, about Abbott Laboratories, having a 15- minute test approved, it`s going to put us in a position, we believe, down the road to get to where Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx want us to be for many of the states that don`t yet have significant outbreak. There`s some 19 states where we don`t have significant outbreak, but we want to be doing the kind of surveillance testing in those states that will allow us early on to identify people with the coronavirus, do what the experts call contact tracing and ensure that in that state, we don`t have an outbreak of the coronavirus. So --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  In many countries all over the world --

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  All right, we were just listening there to the vice president finishing up an answer on what has been essentially an unanswerable question by this task force going on for a good week to ten days, and that is being able to fulfill the promises that have been made about testing. And this is now second day in a row where somebody is reminded a member of the task force yesterday, or somebody reminding the president today, the vice president, that we were supposed to be ramping up to millions of tests. And you heard the vice president say we are only able to do just over 100,000 in a day.

Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Penn University, obviously was a Health Adviser during the Obama Administration, Kristen Welker with me, Natalie Azar from NYU Langone is with me, a doctor as well.

Dr. Emanuel, I want to start with you and the original sin of our struggles here, inadequate testing, Dr. Birx seemed to say, maybe a month, maybe in a month we could have the asymptomatic testing. We heard Vice President Pence`s very rosy response to not being able to hit the goals that they had set not very long ago. Zeke, I`ll start with you. Did you hear any green shoots here on the issue of testing?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR:  No, I heard a lot of evasion. The vice president was pretty evasive about why we didn`t get the testing, painting these rosy pictures. More than a month ago, we connected with the commercial labs. That just doesn`t seem to square with his statements before about when they permitted or gave the green light to commercial labs to get into the testing regime.

We`ve made multiple mistakes, CDC and the federal government made multiple mistakes on the testing access.

And, look, even with the Abbott, you know, point of care tests, so that will be ready in 15 minutes, they can produce 50,000 a day, you know? And the best estimates are, we need a million a day to really get this contained and to really have the right infrastructure for loosening up -- well, first of all, knowing the extent of the virus and begin loosening up the regime. And we don`t seem to be anywhere near that.

I mean, 100,000 sounds like a large number, but remember, we`re a country of 330 million people. And this just isn`t the right answer. And we got no insight as to why the promises of 4 million tests, oh, well, we delivered the tests but they couldn`t be used. That`s not an answer. That`s evasion.

TODD:  Dr. Azar, you heard Dr. Birx say they were hopeful that between university labs, that they were going to have maybe in a month, we would get there on the asymptomatic testing here, trying to figure out who`s got antibodies, who doesn`t. Zeke Emanuel wrote an op-ed, I think it was last week, my days are running together, were talk about, if we want to start to open a part to the economy, we have to know this, essentially be able to GPS this virus.

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes, I know, Chuck. And I seem to hear two different messaging, two different types of messaging I`m thinking, coming from this press conference today. One is that, of course, from Dr. Fauci`s perspective, he`s saying serologic testing is not the priority right now. His focus, of course, is going back to the stage one of the outbreak, you know, process, which is identifying, isolating and contract tracing in areas that still haven`t had a lot of penetrance. And then at the same time, Dr. Birx is saying, well, this is a priority, because of course we want to be able to test communities and we want to be able to test folks in nursing homes and healthcare workers.

You know, I`m not a bench scientist, but ELISAS aren`t that difficult to get up and running. And so I certainly feel frustrated as a healthcare worker who will be, you know, going into the ward soon that we don`t have these serologic -- there`s not a race to the finish to get these serologic tests out.

TODD:  Zeke Emanuel, there was another thing that I was curious, if you heard this at the beginning, and I had the mayor of Teaneck, New Jersey, who I thought articulated quite well the logistics frustration. And he`s sitting there, going -- and here he did, he name-checked, he said there`s 11,000 nurses in the military, just, you know, can you deploy 10 percent of them to help us out? And lo and behold, we have members of the military suddenly come out at the start of the coronavirus task force. Nobody asked that question.

But I guess it does feel as if we have a logistics choke point, whether it`s on figuring out where ventilator go, figuring out -- we saw that yesterday, Vice President Pence have turned out USAID was sending supplies we needed here out of the country. We have a logistics problem in this country and the best logistics minds in America sit at the Pentagon.

EMANUEL:  Well, there is, I would say, a problem all across. We have a manufacturing problem, we have a logistics problem and we also have a demand problem. We have -- the healthcare system needs to decrease the demand. But I agree with you. You know, we have the logistics, the world`s leading experts on logistics, both at the military, but also in private companies, you know, whether it`s Amazon or UPS or FedEx. And I totally agree with you that, you know, what we need is better coordination.

I think -- I look back today, I wrote my first op-ed about what we need to do in March 2nd, and I said, one of the big things is, we need to make sure that we have the right supplies and that we can get them to the frontline and we need surge capacity right now because the hospitals are going to run short of supplies and we`re going to need more hospital beds and more ICU beds.

It`s not like we didn`t know this stuff, all right? And I ain`t no genius. I wasn`t being a genius on March 2nd. But we -- and I advised the president that we needed more coordination. We need a strong federal government. And I think the mayor of Teaneck, New Jersey, was absolutely 100 percent right. We need leadership at the federal government. And you heard the same thing from the official you had from Washington State. Where is the federal government here?

And the president keeps saying, well, the states should do this and state should do that, but it`s not something that you can distribute to the states. The federal government has to be the purchaser and the distributor. They can match the supply with the country, because states can only see their problem. They can`t see what`s happening in New Orleans accurately or Kansas City or Lincoln, Nebraska or wherever is going to be next. And the federal government has to be there, and if AWOL --

TODD:  Kristen Welker, I remember -- it feels like, again, I think it`s then days ago. When the vice president came out and said, okay, FEMA is running point on this. And what that really meant was, look, FEMA was the running point on the logistics. I remember hearing Governor Murphy was on this program and said, boy, am I grateful for that, FEMA, it`s nice to know there`s one point of contact. You know, it doesn`t seem as if what they -- what was told to us, that Peter Gaynor of FEMA would be essentially the point person for everybody. Is that working out that way or not?

KRISTEN WELKER, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I think there`s some confusion about who the point person is, Chuck. And when it comes to getting those critical supplies out to hospitals, you`ll recall, of course, there is also this big back and forth about whether the president was going to officially invoke the Defense Production Act. And when he did and really put that to use and essentially ordered G.M. to start manufacturing some of the PPE, he said that he was going to put Peter Navarro in charge of that aspect of it. And so there is some confusion about who specifically is the point person when it comes to getting out those critical supplies.

I also thought, Chuck, that it was remarkable when the vice president was pressed on why the Trump administration hadn`t renewed the Obamacare exchanges and the impact of that. The vice president defended the decision and said, look, there are ways in which people who are not ensured can get insured. We know two insurance companies are making sure they are going to cover everyone who is suffering from coronavirus. And then you had the president who stepped forward and said -- Mike essentially talked for five minutes and didn`t even touch the question.

TODD:  That was remarkable.

WELKER:  It was this remarkable sort of disconnect, I think, between -- it was, between the president and the vice president indicated, or the president at least indicated that he`s going to take another look at that issue, Chuck. And so I think you have both issues that are truly remarkable when it comes to some of the mixed messaging.

One more point I`ll make on the supply issue, you do have ramped up calls for the Department of Defense to get more engaged, for them to be the point of contact on that, Chuck.

TODD:  Thank you, Kristen.

Dr. Azar, let me talk big picture here, what we`ve seen overnight. There are, it appears, green shoots on the West Coast of just seeing some flattening. Obviously, these West Coast, California was early, some counties inside of California, super early, King County in Washington, super early at getting these stay-at-home orders and social distancing. Are you as optimistic as it appears folks out west are?

AZAR:  I think so. I mean, I think that they are -- they practiced the behavior that was recommended and they are following the epidemiological trajectory. And, you know, we know what happened here. We -- it`s probably harder to socially distance and physically distance in an urban setting as New York City is, but I think that we should all look to that example as evidence that it can work. And that until and unless we have a vaccine or a therapeutic, this is the best tool in the tool box and we need to sit tight at least for a minimum of 30 days, a minimum.

TODD:  Zeke Emanuel, final word to you. It seems as if the president`s decision yesterday and the grim death toll that the White House was projecting inspired governors, two governors who had been sort of a little bit slower with big caseloads, the governors of Florida and Georgia, both very much allies of the president, they got onboard. Do you believe we got to get the whole country in a similar position where every state is in some form of a stay-at-home?

EMANUEL:  Absolutely. You know, again, if you look at this by risk, you might not have anything and then it literally explodes in just a few weeks. If you look back at the New York data, March 2nd, 3rd, 4th, there was nothing, no one was worried. All the way to about the 10th, no one was worried. And then suddenly you have this big amount. And if you can`t test in the community, you can`t know how much of the virus is circulating before it explodes.

And I would say, you know, governors like cover, so they like the president to say it`s necessary so they do it and they say, well, the president told me and I`ve got cover, I`m not going to be blamed for this, but it is also the case that Governor DeSantis in Florida, and I think there was a question to the president on this, you know, he`s got some loopholes in there which are terrible. Again, large religious meetings can take place. Large meetings are one of the worst things you can do. The last thing that should come back are large concerts, conferences, sporting events, because people are packed in, you cannot practice social distancing and that is a serious evasion of what we need to have happen.

And I do think the question about not having airplane flights, having airplane flights is a classic way of getting someone who is asymptomatic but has the virus to go to a place that --

TODD:  Would you ground all domestic flights?

EMANUEL:  I think we definitely have to look at that. I am pretty sure I would and I think we`re going to have to look at that and its projected impact on the epidemiology. It`s hard to justify that the domestic flights, except in the extremes of where someone has to go to a dying family member or something. But as a regular commercial flight that we have, I`m not sure the rationale if we`re trying to shelter in place.

TODD:  Right. I understand that. I do know logistically, we need -- we need to -- those planes are used to move our mail and to move boxes and packages, so there`s certainly the flights have to keep going, but whether people should be on them, I think, is the real question here. Zeke Emanuel, Natalie Azar, our two medical contributors here for NBC News, Kristen Welker, White House Correspondent, thank you, thanks for sticking around for more than 90 minutes here.

The president, I believe, is still going there a little bit past 90 minutes, but for now, that does it for my hour, plus, Ari Melber takes over right now. Ari, the baton is yours.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chuck, thank you very much for your reporting.

Our special coverage here of this virus pandemic continues. As mentioned, this coronavirus task force continues to brief reporters at the White House. We`re monitoring it for news. If we see actual medical news information, we will either bring it to you or bring a clip of it, but we`re not going to stay in the press briefing.

I will tell you, the president said he`s considering two new hospital ships that could be constructed. He also addressed the National Stockpile protective equipment running low and addressed his shift in tone just over the last few days, acknowledging the human toll of this pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  You said this is no flu. There`s still some people who kind of think of this as the flu and over the past month, you`ve compared it to the flu sometime, saying, treat it like the flu or, you know, treat it how we handle the flu. So what changed your thinking on that?

TRUMP:  Well, I think the severity. I think also in looking at the way, the contagion, it is so contagious, nobody`s ever seen anything like this, where large groups of people all of a sudden just by being in the presence of somebody have it. The flu has never been like that. And there is -- flu is contagious, but nothing like we`ve ever seen here.

MELBER:  We go to expert, Dr. Joseph Fair, an MSNBC Science Contributor. Dr. William Haseltine, infectious disease expert, and Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for PBS.

Dr. Haseltine, what is important, in your view, having just seen some of this press conference today?

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT:  Well, first thing, there is acknowledgement of the seriousness of the issue. I`d like to see more emphasis on the national confrontation. This is a problem that we should we should be dealing with on the -- over the entire nation. We didn`t see that entirely. We saw a little bit of it, but we need to see more of that. This is a national problem. It needs a national response.

MELBER:  Dr. Fair?

DR. JOSEPH FAIR, MSNBC SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR:  So, for me, you know, my background is in laboratory diagnostics and that`s what my PhD was in, was in a developing lab diagnostics. And most of that was on the behalf of the Department of Defense. And so when we say, all hands on deck, we`re still not seeing that with regards to laboratory testing. There are at least ten DOD laboratories across the nation that could be testing for COVID-19, that`s in addition to the Los Alamos, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, what we call FFRDC`s, which are federally funded laboratories.

So we have the throughput to actually do all of these diagnostics. We`re just not using them. And why we`re not using them, I can`t answer that question because that would have to come from the White House. But, you know, it comes back to the laboratory diagnostics for me on everything, unless we know who has it and who has had it, which are two different tests, we`re not going to make very much progress.

MELBER:  Yamiche, let me play for you a little bit of the evolution of the president here and how he`s discussed this pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Have you been briefed by the CDC? Are the words about a pandemic at this point?

TRUMP:  No, not at all.

I`ve always known this is a real -- this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic. This is a flu. This is like a flu.

It`s not the flu. It`s vicious.

You hear 35,000 and 40,000 people and we`ve lost nobody and you wonder the press is in hysteria mode.

A 100,000 is, according to modeling, a very low number.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Does your reporting suggest that he is just very slowly learning on the job or that he still holding those incorrect views but just can`t stomach expressing them in this environment?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR:  Based on my reporting, what we know is that the president himself has said, I knew everything. So it seems as though even in January when the president was saying that this was something that the United States had under control and that the virus was not something people needed to worry about, that he was already getting those numbers and those models were already showing that over 100,000 Americans could be dead.

Now, Vice President Pence said today that he got the final numbers from the White House on Saturday and that`s when the president decided to extend the guidelines for social distancing for the entire country. But it seems as though the president, while he`s taking this a lot more seriously, he is someone who is still looking at this and thinking, how is this going to affect the economy, how is this going to affect my own political future. So I think there is -- the president is -- it is sinking into the president, he does feel like he`s more somber when it comes to his outlook on the virus.

But I think he does still hold onto the idea that this is a virus that at some point will magically disappear and that then things will go back to normal and he can run on the economy again.

MELBER:  Dr. Haseltine, take a listen to Dr. Fauci today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Looking beyond when we`re on the other side of this curve, are we looking at living with some sort of social distancing guidelines, essentially until there`s treatment or a vaccine? For example, people looking forward to the summer talk about, you know, going to baseball games, going to concerts, we have political conventions over the summer, are things like that possible or safe without a vaccine or treatment in place?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES:  Yes, I think if we get to the part of the curve that Dr. Birx showed yesterday when it goes down to essentially no new cases, no deaths at a period of time, I think it makes sense that you`re going to have to relax social distancing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Doctor?

HASELTINE:  We have a very good example of what that looks like, because that`s exactly where China is. And, I mean, good touching with China, I`ve got people who are working there, I`m in touch with them every day. They began to relax the social distancing, restaurants are open. They began to relax it to the point where theaters were open. They realized that was a mistake and they closed them down. It`s going to be a very slow process. It isn`t going to happen quickly.

And as long as there`s an epidemic raging in other parts of the world, you`re never sure it`s not coming back. So whatever we do here, we -- let`s hope, do everything we can to bring that down. But even afterwards, for a long time, as long as this is out there somewhere in the world, it can come back.

MELBER:  And, Doctor...

(CROSSTALK)

HASELTINE:  We`re not going to be infecting (AUDIO GAP) everybody, so, we need to be careful for a long period of time.

MELBER:  Sure. Sure.

And we`re on a slight tape delay. My apologies.

But, Dr. Haseltine, while I have you, given all your work internationally, your work at Harvard, I did want to ask you, big picture, still with what we`re learning from these models, which, of course, were emphasized in yesterday`s briefing, when you see the United States doing worse in these time-stamped comparative models, do you view that as a statement about the way the U.S. is structurally organized or specifically problems in our response and our federal government response?

HASELTINE:  It`s both.

It`s our national character and the fact that we value individual freedom and that we want no restraints on that. It`s a failure of our government structures, in addition to the natural exuberance of the American people.

And it`s very disturbing that to know, living right in the center of the maelstrom, that we`re not doing all we could today. And it`s not only about testing. To me, testing is just part of what needs to be done. If you don`t use the results of that test properly to make sure you restrict the movements of the people who are positive and those that have been exposed, tests or no tests, you`re going to have a continual problem.

And as I look across this country, I see the problems we have in New York exacerbated. So I am very concerned about, can we sharply flatten that curve?

Let me say one more thing about flattening the curve. People don`t talk about the area under the curve, how many total people are going to be infected. You flatten a curve, that doesn`t mean there are fewer people infected. It means the peak is reduced. We want to do both.

The Chinese took methods that both flattened the curve and flattened the epidemic. Are we going to do that? I certainly hope so. We know it can be done, but I am distressed that I don`t see us doing what it takes, and testing is only part of it.

MELBER:  Makes a lot of sense.

And, finally, Dr. Haseltine, we`re going to go out to a bigger picture of just you. If I`m not mistaken, I see a -- is that a model space rocket behind you? What`s the story there?

HASELTINE:  (AUDIO GAP) grandchildren a rocket. Sometimes, I wish I could take it and go out into space.

(LAUGHTER)

MELBER:  You know what? I think a lot of us would love to get on a fantasy space rocket and take a break from some of these stories.

And yet the work you`re doing, Dr. Fair, Yamiche`s reporting, all of you, helping us understand as we go, which is always helpful.

I will meet you on the rocket some other time.

My thanks to each of you.

HASELTINE:  Thank you.

MELBER:  We`re going to fit in a break in our special coverage.

We have a lot more coming up.

Florida`s governor now implementing its state`s stay-at-home order.

And, later, campaigning during this pandemic. The presidential race may be a short sprint, closer to what they do in the U.K. Does that help or hurt Joe Biden emerging as the person to take on Donald Trump for the Democrats?

We have a political update on that, and the great Doris Kearns Goodwin later this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  There are still about a dozen states where governors have not issued these stay-at-home directives that are governing so many parts of the nation.

Florida was actually one of those states until today, when Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced a 30-day stay-at-home order.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL):  This is another 30-day period.

And, you know, at this point I think even though there`s a lot of places in Florida that have very low infection rates, it makes sense to make this move now.

This is what we`re going to be fighting for a month. There`s not going to be any kind of return to normalcy. People thought Easter, all that. That`s not going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  It begins Friday. Experts have warned the number of cases is doubling every three days.

That puts that state on a trajectory to see tens of thousands more infections in just the coming weeks.

In fact -- excuse me -- in fact, the situation in Florida is so dire, Ali Mokdad, a professor there at the University of Washington, has been developing the models that were cited in the White House briefing yesterday, warning, Florida`s outbreak is on pace to peak in May, overwhelming hospitals and leading to 6,000 deaths by June.

We should note that the governor had ignored calls to shut down the state. Last week, 2,000 health care workers signed an open letter pleading with Florida Governor DeSantis for more action.

We`re joined by Florida Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents the western Miami-Dade County, Florida Keys area, and Ali Mokdad, epidemiologist at the University of Washington.

Ali, given your work and its impact, let`s go to you first. Break this down for us.

ALI MOKDAD, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION:  Hi. Thanks for having me.

So, the surgeon general in Florida, who`s a good friend, reached out to us and actually sent me an e-mail and said, you can call me until 12:00 a.m. to discuss the numbers and what we can do.

And I had a nice discussion with him. He`s doing a wonderful job. I mean, he understands what needs to be done. I suggested to him that, you know, the state should go on a state order to shut down the state, because we know it`s saving life in other places.

And they have done so. So, I have to give them credit for that.

MELBER:  Congresswoman?

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL):  Thank you for having me.

The governor has been put under immense pressure, and, finally, it was good to see he has been listening to a lot of our congressional delegation. We signed on a letter -- I started with a letter 10 days ago, and then we did a joint letter last week asking the governor to follow these strict measures.

One of the things that I`m concerned about it was, reading his executive order, is that the activities that he considers essential are too broad. He continues to allow churches to hold services. And I have to tell you that, just last week, we saw in Tampa a pastor who had over 500 members who went to church.

They were shaking hands. And it takes one person, Ari. I`m very concerned about the irreparable damage that we`re going to be facing in our community if we don`t follow these guidelines.

MELBER:  Yes.

And, Congresswoman, you know, we have been reporting on different experts, different leaders, Bill Gates, who had both warned about the pandemic historically, went to lobby Trump about trying to fix virus prep. This was before all this blew up.

He`s out with a new op-ed. I want to read to you a little bit of that, given that he`s someone who actually has been prescient about aspects of this.

And to your point, he says, you need a nationwide approach to the shutdown. And despite these health experts urging some states -- Florida would have been in this category -- aren`t shutting down completely. You have beaches open in other states, restaurants doing sit-down meals, a recipe for disaster.

He notes that this is part of our American system. People can travel freely across state lines, but that means so can the virus. We need a shutdown everywhere.

Your response?

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  That`s what I have been asking for. I used to work at the medical school here at FIU. So I have been in contact with our infectious disease doctor, Dr. Marty, who is one of the top infectious disease doctors. She used to work at the CDC.

And we have been calling for this for a while. Now, let me just say that Miami-Dade County, part of the areas that I represent, we have over 2,000 cases. And when we started a stay-at-home order here, it was last week, and we continue to see a rise in cases.

Why? Because people are not following the orders of staying at home. Businesses that are considered essential are still open. You drive around. I was on a radio interview just today, and I got two calls from constituents saying that supermarkets, gas stations, parks, there are people out there. We`re not enforcing the stay-at-home rule.

And I`m just extremely concerned. We are close to 1,000 hospitalizations here in the state of Florida. And I don`t know where that image is from, but I think, a couple of days ago, I saw something similar in New Smyrna Beach.

And like I said, Ari, I am really fearful that we`re going to see more lives lost because of the inaction of elected officials here in my state. And it crushes me, because I know that if we put strict guidelines, we can contain the curve. We will be able to get (AUDIO GAP) this.

MELBER:  Yes.

The beach footage we are showing -- we can put it back up -- this is from just within the last 12 days. That`s some footage that our reporters gathered. You`re saying, Congresswoman, you have seen beaches that look like that even more recently?

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  Oh, yes.

A couple of days ago, there was a photograph that I actually received from New Smyrna Beach, and it was very crowded. We live in Florida. It`s -- the weather right now is beautiful. I also would love to take my kids on the weekend to the beach.

But this is a pandemic. We are losing lives. We are going to overwhelm our health care system. It`s a virus that can be spread without any symptoms, and people need to understand that. So I have been very forceful with the governor, with the county mayor, really asking for them to implement a strict stay-at-home order for the entire state, for the county, so that we don`t see people driving around gathering in groups of 10, and having churches hold their services.

MELBER:  Ali, when we are understanding your models or any of these type of models, how accurate are they? How much are they a warning of how bad it could get if we don`t do the right things?

MOKDAD:  So, we know from these models that the states that implemented these measures have seen a reduction in mortality, or the curve is coming down.

I mean, they still will have more deaths, but it`s coming at a slower rate, which is very, very good for us. And I totally agree with the congresswoman that we cannot send mixed messages to our population.

We can`t in one state say, we shut down and we close the churches, and in one state say, no, we can open the churches. We cannot come in one state and say,in Miami, you could open, but in another part of the state, because it`s rural, you should stop.

We have cases right now in rural areas. And that`s what was my argument for people, was in Florida. And then we all have to remember that, until March 1, we didn`t have any cases in New York.

MELBER:  Yes.

MOKDAD:  So, again, we have to be very vigilant here. We have to stick to this. And we have to stay at home to help our medical physicians, because, if we give them a space to be prepared, they will have more ICUs, more ventilators, more beds.

They`re preparing. They`re doing the surge in every hospital right now. We have to do our part as citizen as well to not overload our medical system and allow them to have a better response for those who really need it by us staying at home and doing our part.

MELBER:  Ali Mokdad and Congresswoman, appreciate both of you joining us.

We`re getting these firsthand accounts of the front lines of this. We have a report on that. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You know, it`s the moments that break your heart right now, the fact that we know that patients, they can`t have a visitor at their bedside.

And when you come across that patient in the car line who is so ill, and they have to come inside, and they need rapid intervention right now, you know, they have this moment, this moment where they look at that family member that drove them there. And they`re both wondering, am I going to see this person again?

You know, that`s not something that I ever wanted to be a witness to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR:  Very worried about every city in the United States and the potential for this virus to get out of control.

If the metros and the rural areas don`t take care now, by the time you see it, it has penetrated your community pretty significantly. And that`s what we`re concerned about. And that`s why you have to prepare, even though you think it`s not there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Even if you think it`s not there, it could get there. Such an important point.

There`s been a lot of reporting about New York being the center of this pandemic right now. But there are places all over the nation confronting the risk.

In Oklahoma, the cases continue to grow, 719. That`s an increase of 154 since yesterday, with 30 deaths. On Monday, an Oklahoma University expert said, due to the lack of testing, the number of cases in the state could hit 5,000.

The governor there issuing a safer-at-home policy, advising people over 65 or with health problems to stay home, but it`s not a strict statewide order.

The mayor of Norman was the first to implement one of those types of orders last week, the mayors of Tulsa and Oklahoma City joining over the weekend.

Norman, Oklahoma, Mayor Breea Clark joins me now.

Well, what moved you to take action?

BREEA CLARK, MAYOR OF NORMAN, OKLAHOMA:  Well, luckily, we`re a university town, and we have got a lot of smart people here.

But it doesn`t take a lot of education to see what was coming. And so we basically looked out, saw what our coasts we`re dealing with, and I also actually reached out to our four sister city mayors, who are in Italy, Japan, France, and Mexico, and ask, what are you seeing?

And so it was obvious it was coming. And so, the sooner we can get ahead of it, the better. So we went ahead and made the call. And we did it before we had our first death or anything like that.

MELBER:  The way this disease spreads, like other pandemics, people closer together at higher risk, which means high population density in urban areas can be more of a hotbed to spread it.

And you know, everyone knows who follows the news or politics, that the density of places overlaps with our political differences.

There are a set of politics and leaders, particularly more blue on the coasts, big cities, and more red elsewhere. Those are, obviously, completely coincidental overlaps.

But I`m curious with that in mind, do you see any cultural rift here? Do you think it`s important to make sure people in areas that have lower population density and that if they`re red states, more likely went for Trump, don`t underestimate this the way he was underestimating it as recently as three weeks ago?

CLARK:  Well, you know, I`ve seen a lot of mayors come together regardless of their political affiliation and that`s something I`ve been very proud of and we`ve really leaned on each other -- everything from the metro mayors to the big city mayors to even Mayor Joyce in Stillwater. You know, another college town and also more of a rural area.

I think the hard part about our rural areas is they haven`t seen the numbers yet, which is twofold. One, it hasn`t gotten there, and two, we`re not testing. And so, they think it`s not a problem, but, again, all we have to do is look at the experience of the entire world and see that it`s coming. And so the steps we put into place now will help us stop the spread, slow the spread, flatten the curve. And we just need to be proactive but so many times people think, oh, it won`t happen here, but --

MELBER:  Right.

CLARK:  -- you know, it`s not the case with COVID-19.

MELBER:  But what do you say to people who, with some science on their side, argue, hey, if you`re out in Wyoming or Idaho, they could say, we already do a lot of social distancing, right? Because we`re not crammed into tiny, you know, Manhattan restaurants and subway cars.

You know, I grew up out west. When you drive through Idaho, there`s a lot of room. There`s not a lot of people just jammed together, to begin with.

CLARK:  That`s true. I would say they are well prepared for this social distancing that we are asking them to do right now. We still have to go grocery shopping. We still have medical appointments to tend to. And that`s why it`s so important to practice that social distancing when you`re out and about.

And, again, it`s not just for you, it`s for your neighbors. It`s for the immuno-compromised. And that`s one of my issues with our state`s safer-at- home mandate for 65 and above and immuno-compromised because what if I`m immuno-compromised and don`t know it? So that`s the issue that I have.

I think we all have kind of an invisible challenges we may not be aware of that covid-19 will point out for us so why take the risk?

MELBER:  Sure. Also, given your leadership, sort of your constituents at a local level, I want to play something Dr. Birx just said. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR:  What I`ve heard from our president and our vice president is they trust the American people to understand that they can be outside, take walks, be six feet away from anyone else, and be in their homes and we trust them to do that without having to lock down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  How are you getting that guidance out to your constituents? Because while there`s plenty of sacrifice here, this is obviously a terrible time for the nation. There is a way to make sure people have the right guidelines, it doesn`t mean every hour has to feel like some sort of house arrest, that if you follow the guidelines, you can go out and do certain things and enjoy time with people responsibly.

CLARK:  We`ve encouraged people to get out, go on walks, but we really hit home the social distancing. Today is National Go for a Walk Day in case you didn`t know that.

MELBER:  I didn`t know that.

CLARK:  We`ve encouraged our -- but our essential businesses, we get concerns that, hey, they`re really crowded there even though they`re allowed to be open. So just today we went and put up more signage in our essential businesses so we`re really trying to hammer it home, but unfortunately, I think while education is important, we can`t entirely depend on personal responsibility because some people think they`re invincible.

You know, we tried to leave our golf courses open, for example, with strict social distancing measures, education in place and eventually had to close it because people weren`t listening.

MELBER: It sounds like a grim version of this is why we can`t have nice things if people don`t follow the rules, but hopefully we`ll continue to get the rules out.

Norman, Oklahoma, Mayor Breea Clark, thanks for joining us.

CLARK:  And I would throw in one last thing.

MELBER:  Sure.

CLARK:  Don`t forget to take the census. Your cities and states are counting on you. And it`s National Census Day.

MELBER:  I heard a lot about that today as well, National Census Day. Great point. Appreciate your advocacy and your leadership here.

We`re going to fit in a break. When we come back, you know, there is still a giant presidential campaign on. How`s that going in this time of pandemic? When we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Can you really envision every prominent Democrat in this country from all 50 states inside a hot arena 104 days from now?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It`s hard to envision that. We ought to be able to. We were able to do it in the middle of the civil war all the way through to World War II have Democratic and Republican conventions and primaries and elections, and still have public safety. And we`re able to do both. But the fact is it may have to be different.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Joe Biden discussing what the Democrats will do with the typical national convention given the current requirements for social distancing and safety during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, there`s all kinds of questions about how this affects elections. We`ve had primaries completely rescheduled or delayed which as a practical matter for a primary means, for example, Ohio, may not have any say on Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders being the nominee.

But this is not the first time an election has taken place during challenging times.

There is little precedent with this particular one, though.

I want to bring in historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of "Leadership in Turbulent Times."

Thanks for joining us.

When you look at all the challenges the United States has faced, Dr. Fauci and others have invoked some history recently, but you are the expert on the history. What other challenges do you think this stacks up against?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN & AUTHOR:  I mean, I think the closest resemblance, really, to where we are now is World War II. Obviously, 1944, the election was held in the middle of that war still, but no other event in most of our lifetimes except those of us who are really old can remember the disruption and the sense of danger and the sense of dread that the war provided, especially, you know, people who lived during World War II, they didn`t know that the allies would win.

So there was that uncertainty and anxiety about this extraordinary war, and it was the issue in 1864, absolutely.

MELBER:  Let`s -- 

KEARNS GOODWIN:  Obviously, in 1864, the civil war is too, but -- but that`s our closest modern analog.

MELBER:  Well, let`s reflect on what you said that is chilling. And, you know, we hear so many analogies but sometimes they`re from people who have their own ax to grind. So, the president liking to this war and declaring himself a wartime president, people can interpret with how much skepticism they want.

You are speaking from a much more independent place, that you see this as a war level challenge for the nation for no other reason than that`s your expertise. So, that`s really striking, Doris, talk to us more about what you mean about living through something where people don`t know the outcome. So that we already know it`s bad, but there is something more chilling, more shaking to our roots about that.

KEARNS GOODWIN:  Yes, I think that`s right. That`s the problem when we look at history, we know the story and how it ended so we forget what it was like to live through that time, for example, when you had everyone in the country probably knew somebody who was fighting overseas in the war. So the battles were intense for people.

You had a disruption of everyday life, ordinary people couldn`t drive their cars anymore, there was a sense of rationing going on of scarce commodities so that that kind of sense that we have today that our relationships with our friends are different, we`re working from home rather than going places. There is a ritual of everyday life that`s been changed. Every day feels like a week. I mean, that happened only during war.

MELBER:  I hear that.

KEARNS GOODWIN:  That`s what I mean by the similarity.

MELBER:  Yes, and it`s like so many things in life and this is where history overlaps with how we search for meaning and order in our lives as a people, as a nation, you know, few knew this exactly was coming. As you say, it`s changed everything. And then when you think back, oh, what was it like for our grand parents living through a great depression or our parents going through Vietnam and other wars as you mentioned, you know, they didn`t necessary, as you say, know that was coming and now we have a generation -- depending on their age and their sacrifice level -- they may feel like they`ve gone through this and they`re the pandemic generation. Certainly in the cases in other countries that have been hit hard.

With that in mind, I want to play something classic that you and many listeners will recall, which was how FDR summoned the nation on sacrifice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  This generation of Americans has come to realize, with a present and personal realization, that there is something larger and more important than the life of any individual or of any individual group, something for which a man will sacrifice and gladly sacrifice, not only his pleasures, not only his goods, not only his associations with those he loves, but his life itself. In time of crisis, when the future is in the balance, we come to understand with full recognition and devotion what this nation is, and what we owe to it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELBER:  Doris?

KEARNS GOODWIN:  Wow. I mean, what that speech represents, it was in February of 1942. We were at a very low ebb of the war. We`d lost the Pearl Harbor. We were losing battle after battle in the Pacific.

And Roosevelt had to tell people we`ll go through valleys before we get to the end, but promised somehow if we came together and we felt that sense of nation-hood, I mean, in some ways our modern soldiers are the health care workers, the first responders. They are actually allowing their lives to be on the line in order --

MELBER:  Right.

KEARNS GOODWIN:  -- to make other people`s great --

(CROSSTALK)

MELBER:  Is it harder on that point? Is it harder, Doris, to summon the nation against something that is naturally occurring like this, a pandemic as opposed to a more traditional enemy?

KEARNS GOODWIN:  It probably is harder because there was a sense of the patriotism of the people that you`re summoning. There was a shared purpose. There now is a shared purpose. The purpose is to protect each other from this virus, and that`s the require the requirements of what we`re going to do with social distancing and being able to each person take their role in protecting other people.

But it`s harder to articulate that shared purpose but fear and the desire for the health of your own family and people you know, that`s motivating us in the places where it`s working. But there are still places where people have to feel that sense of a nation and that`s why I think the call for some sort of national response to this thing and everybody has to be doing the same thing, even if they haven`t been affected yet in order to really flatten the curve and make us know that there will be an ending to this.

I mean, that`s the other important thing that leadership has to do. They have to provide a vision that somehow if we do what we`re doing, if we can make these sacrifices and have an entirely different life than we`re leading now, that somehow we`ll come out of it.

And that`s where history helps us. We`ve been through those incredible hard times. They thought the civil war would go on for 90 days, and it went on for four years. The war -- and this World War II was terrible situation that we had to go through and yet somehow we summon from an unprepared nation to become the most productive nation on the face of the earth.

So, history can provide solace.  That`s why I love it so much.  I really think it helps us to know that parents, grandparents, ancestors went through these tough times. We`re not alone. Other people have done it and we`ve come through it somehow as a nation.

MELBER:  I really appreciate that, the lessons from history.  People around the country right now, some people are doing the home schooling, I feel very fortunate to get a little bit of home history schooling from you whenever we can do this.

Thank you, Doris Kearns Goodwin.

KEARNS GOODWIN:  Thank you.

MELBER:  We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MELBER:  Thanks for spending time with us during this hour of special coverage. I am Ari Melber. You can find me again tomorrow 6:00 p.m. on "THE BEAT" and guest hosting in this hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow as our special coverage continues. 

You can also find me online @AriMelber on wherever you get your social media, Facebook, Instagram, et cetera.

Don`t go anywhere because "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" is up next.

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