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393,000 cases TRANSCRIPT: 4/7/20, MSNBC Live: Decision 2020

Guests: Irwin Redlener; Susan Michaels-Strasser; Cory Booker, Jarrett Adams, Susan Pinker, Kate Brown

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE COORDINATOR:  -- happening in the U.K. and other places. There`s a series of antibody test out there that have not been validated. We are working right now, very closely with the series of companies that know how to make these tests, that have made these tests for us for decades for HIV, for a rapid test. They are working on that technology to bring that quality of test, which is in the 90-plus percent sensitivity and specificity, to the American people for antibody tests.

But before -- until we get those, if you see them on the internet, do not buy them until we can give you a test that`s reliable for all Americans. And we are working very hard to have that happen and bring that to the American public. Some of the tests that may be available on the internet may have very low sensitivity and specificity and give you a false reassurance that you either -- give you a false positive or a false negative, implying that you may be protected.

So, please wait until we have those tests available and validated. People are working around the clock to make those available to the American people. We all understand how important that is, because you`ve heard us talk about asymptomatic cases, and we really want to know how broad that is and how common that is.

And so, in places like New York City, where I described that they had seven per thousand, sometimes two, three, four times any other place in the United States, being able to know what the number of people who never had symptoms but do have a positive test would be really critical at this point, particularly as we plan for any reoccurrence in the fall or in future seasons. Thank you.

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  Great. And we have Seema Verma with Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services have discussed what we have done to support hospitals as we support healthcare workers, we`re going to make sure the institutions that are providing the environment for care are well- financed and she`s got a couple of funding streams and help is on the way.

SEEMA VERMA, CENTER FOR MEDICAID AND MEDICARE SERVICES:  Thank you, Mr. Vice President. And let me just start with echoing the president and the vice president`s comments about our condolences to all the people out there that have lost somebody to the coronavirus and also, you know, sincere appreciation and thanks to all our healthcare workers that are on the frontlines. But we know that it`s the impact on the healthcare system isn`t not just those front care -- frontline workers.

Healthcare organizations across the nation are having increased expenses or having to spend more on supplies. You are seeing all of the supplies that are being sent to them, and that`s having a direct impact on their bottom line. Many of them are also having increased expenses because they`re taking advantage of some of the flexibilities that we have given them, hospitals without walls, they are putting, you may see, tents, out in their parking lots where they are doing testing or screening. So, they have a lot of increased expenses, as well.

Other healthcare organizations are not performing essential surgeries or other services. A lot of them are moving to telehealth, and that represents lost revenue for these healthcare organizations across the country.

And so the president has asked us to address this issue about ten days ago. We put out something called accelerated payments that we do in the Medicare program and it allows us to advance payments to providers based on their historical Medicare revenues that they receive.

So, it is just in ten days, we have been able to provide payments to providers. We had about 25,000 requests, we have processed about 70 percent of these. It`s happened in about five days. And the total on that is about $34 billion that we`ve managed to put into the healthcare system. But those are essentially loans.

The president has asked us to go further with this and to start the implementation of the Cares Act. And that provides $100 billion to the healthcare system. And you have heard Secretary Azar talked about the focus on some of those dollars going towards the uninsured. But the president wants us to accelerate getting those dollars out.

And so this week, we will be putting out another $30 billion, which are grants. This is going to be based on Medicare revenue. There are no strings attached, so the healthcare providers that are receiving these dollars can essentially spend that in any way that they see fit.

Also, this is going to be done in a very easy, simplified way for many of our healthcare providers. We actually do direct deposit with them. And so those dollars will just go into their bank accounts. For other providers, all it`s going to require is some very simple registration and we`ll be able to give them that money as well. So we are expecting that to happen this week.

The other thing to note is that this is not a first come, first serve basis, because we are basing this on their Medicare revenue. They will get these dollars. So even if it takes a few days, there shouldn`t be any panic in the system as well.

The other thing to recognize here is that our priority was on getting these dollars out as quickly as possible. We heard that from the many healthcare providers across the country that weighed in on this. They said, the most important thing was to get these dollars out as quickly as possible. But we recognize that in terms of getting these dollars our because it`s based on Medicare revenues, there are providers out there, pediatricians, children`s hospitals, OBGYNS, even our nursing homes, that a lot of their revenue comes from other sources, Medicaid or other payer sources. And so those organizations will be addressed in the second tranche of funding and we will have a priority for these organizations and these types of healthcare providers.

Also, I just want to say, so, together, between the loans that we have put out there with our accelerated payments and the $30 billion, that`s about $64 billion for the healthcare system this week alone. And so, I think, again, this is part of our effort to support the healthcare system. And also, I just want to, again, say thank you to all of healthcare providers out on the frontlines.

To all Americans, the best thing that we can do to support our healthcare providers is to adhere to those guidelines, around 30 days to slow the spread. That is the best thing that we can do to support our healthcare workers. Thank you.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  We have been listening to the White House coronavirus briefing. I am Ari Melber. this is our continuing coverage. Reporters have been sparring back and forth. We have Dr. Fauci coming out there.

We are going do what we have done in other times, which is to monitor this and dip back in if the news warrants.

But let me give you the facts right now. The number of confirmed cases in the country now is approaching 400,000. Over 1,200 Americans have perished from this virus. The president spent much of the briefing criticizing the World Health Organization, but also noted there were glimmers of hope in this tough week.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Even during this painful week, we see glimmers of very, very strong hope and this will be a very painful week. This is a monster we are fighting. But signs are that our strategy is totally working. Every American has a role to play in winning this war and we are going to be winning it, we are going to be winning it powerfully.


MELBER:  I`m joined now by Susan Michaels-Strasser, a Registered Nurse and Associate Professor at Columbia University School of Public Health, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent of The New York Times, And Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of the National Health Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

Dr. Redlener, what do you think was important in terms of what we have heard thus far where we are at tonight?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, DIRECTOR NATIONAL CENTER FOR DISASTER PREPAREDNESS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY:  Well, we obviously have -- still obviously have an extremely serious outbreak and a pandemic that may hopefully be slowing down, but there`s really no way to tell. And it kind of evokes the situation with what the modelers, the scientists who try to predict the disease patterns and trajectories are going to be, it`s getting more and more complicated.

Because what we are looking for at the end of the day is do the initial signs, even though they are small right now, suggest any possible way that any time soon, we are going to be able to lift some of the restrictions that have been so difficult and so difficult on the economy.

But first things first, and we have to know that we are going to -- if we do start lifting, whenever that happens, lifting the restrictions, that we have to do so safely and make sure people are not going to be exposed to getting sick who have not been sick before and so on.

So we are in a very interesting moment here and the thing to do now, right now, is to be watching the trajectory, where is it going? Are these going to be sustained slowdowns in fatalities, people needing ICUs and so on? We are just in a moment in time and we will have to see where this goes, hopeful, of course, that we are seeing something good.

And in terms of what else we are going to do, we are keeping an eye on any kind of possible relief in terms of medications, the vaccines and all of that, and we still have long ways to go, in spite of the president having been, you know, really actively promoting a particular medication. A lot of us in the health and medical community are pretty worried about that`s been too fast and too aggressive to promote a medication that is not really proven to be safe or effective yet.

MELBER:  Yes. Susan, one of the points of sparring that we saw was this New York Times report that Donald Trump had senior advisers warning as far back as January to take this more seriously. The president, obviously, just doing his defense on that. But on the facts of that, what did you think of the -- what was reveal in that New York Times article? Does this suggest that they were on notice early? You can you see the headline here, trade adviser warned White House in January the risks of a pandemic. Or are you concerned that this -- as the White House has argued, is more like Monday morning quarterbacking?

SUSAN MICHAELS-STRASSER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY OF PUBLIC HEALTH:  No, I don`t think it`s Monday morning quarterbacking. I watched this unfold from the time we heard from Wuhan in December and I already was very nervous in December.

So as someone who follows this and does this for a living, my ears were already perked and I was already studying for what might come our way. Given the number of people that come from Asia every day, especially here in New York City, I knew it was only a matter of time, not if, but not when -- not if, but when. And that was clear.

And everyone knew. I mean, we all knew that this was a ticking time bomb. It takes one novel virus that`s killing people for all of us to -- we should be on our alert and people weren`t. People were not taking it seriously. And I sat here in New York really, really upset, waiting for the schools to close, knowing that these schools had children who were positive and they didn`t close. And as a parent and as a healthcare provider, every day that went by that the children were in school was completely crazy, because we knew it was spreading. And it took way too long everywhere to really wake up and say, we have a very big problem on our hands.

And now, thankfully, the American public gets it and they are responding amazingly. Here in New York, I`ve never seen it like this. It`s incredible what people are doing to really protect themselves, but more importantly, protect others and those at risk, but it`s taken months. And I think for future, we know that we must react very, very quickly. We learned these lessons elsewhere.

MELBER:  Well, it`s important to get the medical perspective. Peter, like me, we tend to go last these days, because we go to the medical experts first. But I do want to turn to you, Sir, The New York Times revealing here, as mentioned, we will give viewers a little more context, the White House trade adviser, his name, Peter Navarro, sounding that alarm first in a January memo, which warned, quote, in a worst case scenario, more than half a million Americans could die. Navarro`s memo was the quote highest level alert known to have circulated in the west wing.

The president though saying tonight that he did not see it, he claims. That does appear though to have been one more warning that the White House missed. There was also, of course, the CDC, the NSC, intelligence community, the U.S. Army.

So, Peter, turning to you on the reporting on this, this does seem to undercut one of the tenants of the White House defense, which is, hey, we are doing the best we can, this all came up recently.

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, who could have imagined something like this could have happened? Well, the White House imagined that this could happen, it just didn`t trigger the kind of action that we did, you know, actually saw in March.

Now, you had to understand the context of this. Peter Navarro, the trade adviser, is a China hawk. He is one of the administration`s most vociferous critics of China and he was writing this memo to justify and propose and urge the president to go ahead with this idea of limiting travel from China, which the president then, in fact, did do.

You know, but the stark nature of some of the things put in that memo, the idea that there could be, you know, death toll that would reach a half a million clearly did not provoke the kind of reaction beyond that travel restriction that we didn`t see for weeks to come, right? We did the testing --

MELBER:  Let`s pause on that, Peter, because this is important stuff. What you are reminding everyone is that Mr. Navarro has a certain portfolio, that some people may have look at him as obsessed with a certain region and a certain approach, whether do you want to call that ideological or otherwise. And yet, doesn`t it also speak, Peter to the whole in the top of this administration, all over the place, science, defense, inspectors general, high turnover, roles unfilled, the kind of laissez faire or lackadaisical attitude towards staffing the national security and medical positions of the government, which seems to have blown up in their face if it was only the trade guy who came up with this while so many other folks basically weren`t even staffed?

BAKER:  Yes, that`s right. This is a White House that is full of turnover. It is constantly churning, constantly, you know, spitting people out and bringing new people in. Remember, just a few weeks after this memo, the president fired his acting chief of staff who apparently was the highest level person that saw this memo, Mick Mulvaney, not for reasons related to the virus but because of a lingering distaste over his handling of impeachment and other things. And then went for three weeks without a replacement, chief of staff, showing up. Mark Meadows just came into the White House last week officially taking over that corner office.

A White House without a chief of staff, I can tell you, as any president knows, is a White House that is somewhat adrift, and it was adrift at a time when focus and discipline mattered most. And even today, you know, you see the White House press secretary being pushed out, a new White House press secretary coming in. People in that White House are on edge because they don`t know about their own jobs right now. They don`t know what Mr. Meadows would like to do, who is going to be in charge, who is going to be there tomorrow, much less a week from now. And that is a very, you know, awkward atmosphere for a White House confronting a crisis of this scale.

MELBER:  Dr. Redlener, take a listen to a little bit more of the president today.


TRUMP:  They missed the call, they could have called it months earlier, they would have known and they should have known and they probably did know. So we will be looking into that very carefully. And we are going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We are going to put a very powerful hold on it.

REPORTER:  Is the time to freeze funding to the WHO during a pandemic --

TRUMP:  No, maybe not. I mean, I am not saying I am going to do it, but we`re going to look at it.

REPORTER:  You did say --

TRUMP:  We give a tremendous -- no, I did not. I said we are going to look at it.

If you look back over the years even, they are very much -- everything seems to be very biased toward China. That`s not right.


MELBER:  Doctor?

REDLENER:  A wildly inappropriate thing to say about the World Health Organization at this particular moment. There is going to be plenty of post mortems done on all of this, Ari. And that is going to come and we will figure all those things later. But to criticize WHO now is ridiculous.

But I want to come back to a point you were making earlier, Ari, which has to do with the warnings that the White House did or did not get. I just looked at yesterday a Time Magazine front page story, big cover story on the coming pandemic and how ill prepared the United States was. This was well into the first year of the Trump White House. Then there has been exercises done that have also gone in great detail into what the consequences would be. And all of this was just kind of ignored by the president and his team.

And then they came very, very late to the party with lots of incompetencies, with everything to do with the testing, to giving consistent messages to make sure hospitals were ready. This kind of blaming the World Health Organization or anybody else for these failures is pretty preposterous.

You know, even the China thing, which he keeps talking about, how he stopped incoming people -- people coming in from China early on, well, 40,000 people came to the United States after his so-called ban on travel from China. So none of this makes any sense and none of this is particularly truthful, but here we are in a very dangerous situation with with an array of messages coming from the president and the White House that are inconsistent with reality, unfortunately. But blaming the World Health Organization is just not appropriate for this particular moment.

MELBER:  Susan?

MICHAELS-STRASSER:  Very well said. I completely agree. Right now is the time to marshal all the troops to help save lives. It`s not time to be putting the blame on anyone else. We must look this straight in the face and address it and save lives.

To me, it speaks to, you know, the Navarro piece, speaks to a lack of appreciation of science, of data, of what the data, what the numbers are telling us. And it was a clear disregard of that. And it is -- but that is just one thing. It`s been years where our public health systems have been underfunded, funding cut, nurse training, hospital staffing, all of that has been weakened over many, many years. And we haven`t invested in true public health, which is the backbone of our health system, and we see that.

We weren`t ready. We were caught off guard. We don`t have the infrastructure. We don`t have the surge capacity of the equipment, of the personal protective equipment, of ventilators, of staff, and for our country, which we don`t have to be in this place. We can be in such a strong place for something like this, and it showed us, with with our pants down. It really showed how incredibly weak our public health system is. And -- but it shows how quickly we can marshal a response, and we are seeing the numbers give us a glimmer of hope, but it cost a lot of lives in the process.

MELBER:  Yes, all very important points, Susan Michaels-Strasser, Peter Baker and Dr. Irwin Redlener.

Coming up, what about the larger implications of hitting this plateau, what does it mean? Should states be allowing in-person voting right now like in Wisconsin? We have a lot to get to.

And Senator Cory Booker is my live guest coming up, of course, from the hard-hit State of New Jersey.


REPORTER:  At a time when family can`t be there, bedside manner takes on new meaning. Each 13-hour shift brings new challenges.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Exhausting. Today was really rough.

REPORTER:  Michelle Rassito (ph) is the director of nursing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The nursing staff have been amazing. Every time they go into a patient room, they know that not only are they caregiver but they are the stand-in family member.



MELBER:  Welcome back.

The New York-New Jersey area is right now still the largest hot spot in the nation, over 183,000 cases combined. New York recorded its highest one-day increase in deaths from coronavirus today.

Now, those numbers are supposed to peak right now, this week, in the coming days; 878 deaths are projected on Thursday. That is according to a model from the Institute for Health and Metrics Evaluation.

New Jersey also recording its highest one-day death total from the virus today.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says the state may be close to flattening its curve.


GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ):  We`re beginning to see -- and I say -- I don`t want to overstate this in any way -- the very first potential signs that the curve may be finally flattening.

But we cannot be happy with only reaching a plateau. We need to keep strong and keep determined to see that curve begin to fall and ultimately get to zero. That`s going to require many more weeks, at the least, of our being smart and staying at least at all times six feet apart.


MELBER:  We`re joined now by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Good day to you.

What are you seeing in your community?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ):  Well, again, I have been all over the state with the governor yesterday.

And, obviously, my team is troubleshooting throughout the state. We have a crisis. It`s -- we are in the hot zone that is the greater New York City metropolitan area.

And so, right now, we -- the urgency for people to stay home, forget the six feet apart, stay in your house, is really just important, if not grave, because it`s going to depend -- determine the outcome, not just the health outcomes, but really life or death for a lot of people.

MELBER:  I want to ask you about one of the controversies facing the administration. There have been many in the handling of the virus. And we have led our broadcast with the facts, with the useful information people can gather, while also looking at accountability.

Take a listen to the president today regarding the resignation of the acting Navy secretary.


QUESTION:  The acting Navy secretary submitted his resignation today, Modly.

Why did that become necessary? And what role did you have in this, sir?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I had no role in it. I don`t know him. I didn`t speak to him.

But he did that, I think, just to end -- end that problem. And I think, in many ways, that was a very unselfish thing for him to do.

Your secretary probably shouldn`t have said quite what he said. He didn`t have to resign, but he felt it would be better for the country, so, you know, I think it`s -- it will end it quickly.


MELBER:  The president today referring to what he said, which was criticism of a commander who was relieved who had written a letter sounding the alarm about the coronavirus internally.

It comes as the president also has just shuffled positions to change someone who was going to go oversight on the massive bill that you and other senators just passed, and after a weekend where he ousted another watchdog who had provided factual information that led to his impeachment, all that during the virus.

I bring those together to get your view, Senator Booker. Do you think that there is a problem here in the administration`s independence and leadership, or is this background noise during the crisis?

BOOKER:  Well, in fairness, let me just separate the military decision.

He`s the commander in chief, and so I give him a lot of latitude with the decisions he makes. I don`t think there`s one person in New Jersey that I talk to, who is concerned about how they`re going to feed their family, pay their mortgage, keep their job, that`s really concerned about that.

That said, he`s not without accountability for his command decisions. And I think this one was distracting and unfortunate, in the way I read it, but, again, it`s not my day-to-day concern.

However, accountability over the $2 trillion we approved from Congress, how that`s being executed, how he`s rolling it out, how his different departments are managing it, yes, heck yes. That needs a deep, immediate accountability and oversight.

And for him to be messing with that really could actually mean that a lot of those dollars don`t land where they were intended. And that`s very important. And it`s something that I was on line with a lot of senators today talking exactly about.


The other big story, with this pandemic ongoing, is, the primary continues. You were at one point in this race, many will remember. Wisconsin holding its elections in person today, and there are long lines at the polls. You can see here masks, people attempting to create more distance than usual.

And they`re doing their best. But there are, of course, as you see on camera, associated risks to this. And not everyone is able to hold a six- feet distance.

The Republican-controlled state legislator -- legislature had challenged basically the governor`s executive order yesterday, which would have postponed this election. The governor is a Democrat. The Supreme Court, though, upholding that challenge.

And the U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled voters don`t get an extension on a deadline to return absentee ballots, meaning the voters who don`t get their ballots on time will then be faced with the same choice. Do you risk your health to go out and basically violate CDC guidelines and vote, or do you not vote?

I also want to give an update, before I go back to the U.S. senator here. The speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, wearing protective gear, saying, the situation was safe for people who want to vote there today.


ROBIN VOS (R), WISCONSIN STATE REPRESENTATIVE:  Everybody is here safe. They have very minimal exposure. Actually, there`s less exposure here than you would get if you went to the grocery store. You are incredibly safe to go out.


MELBER:  Now, Senator, we look at this. I think anyone can understand the trade-offs.

We`re talking health. We`re talking right to vote. The primary is not over. People care a lot. I mean, it was not so many weeks ago that the whole thing seemed up in the air.

Do you have a view of how this should be resolved? Is there an answer to these balancing questions?

BOOKER:  Well, I think the facts are that this is -- what`s going on there is despicable. It`s despicable.

I mean, if you look right now at Milwaukee and that county, they were only able to get about six polling sites open. In Dane County, which is half the size, they were able to get about 66 votes -- sites open.

This is clearly to me what`s -- the result is voter suppression. And, in this case, it`s having a disproportionate impact on African-Americans in...

MELBER:  Is it -- let me ask you that. Is it -- is it the same -- when you say voter suppression, that sounds like something we have covered a lot, I know you care a lot about, but efforts to target people to prevent them from voting.

A lot of folks would argue this is different because they`re balancing against real public health concerns.

BOOKER:  Well, again, you`re putting people in a situation where they have to choose between their health and well-being and their sacred right to vote, and then not preparing to make sure that, if they`re going to have an election, that they have policies, procedures and personnel in place to make sure it happens, and happens safely.

We see in result -- whatever you want to say in the result of this. It`s not only undermining people`s access to the ballot, but it is going to have a racially disparate impact.

And so this is stuff that I heard from my grandparents about what was going on in this country. And to see -- in this moment in American history, to see the responsible decisions that were made by this legislature to put people at risk and to do things, knowing that their state was not prepared, that are going to so undermine the right to vote for a lot of people, but, frankly, disproportionately impacting African-American communities, is outrageous.

And I stick to what I said. It`s despicable.

MELBER:  Senator Booker, wanted to get your views on that. Thought you might have strong views. And appreciate you sharing them with us, sir.

BOOKER:  I appreciate that.

And I just want to say, again, for my state and this metropolitan region that I`m in, this is really a time that it calls to the best of who we are. We`re facing an extreme darkness.

And we have all got to take it upon ourselves to be light workers, doing what we`re asked to do, which is to stay in, socially distance, but rising to the challenge, like we did in 9/11, like we did in Hurricane Sandy, to really meet this crisis with the best of who we are, especially extending that grace, kindness, generosity to each other.

I know we can meet this challenge if we stand together and work together, even if we`re isolated from each other.

So, thank you.

MELBER:  I appreciate you saying that.

It is this time. We are so -- so many of us isolated, for good reason. And yet, as you just said, we need to come together. And we`re seeing leaders in all walks of life -- I don`t just mean in government -- showing their mettle. We`re seeing how people respond. Viewers, voters, citizens can make up their own mind in assessing that.

But I do appreciate your words, sir. And I hope we can have you back soon, Senator Cory Booker.

BOOKER:  Hope to see you soon, Ari. Thank you.

MELBER:  Yes, sir.

We`re going to fit in a break. When we come back, we have a very special segment that may actually benefit you. We`re getting into how to deal with the loneliness and the anxiety that can come from prolonged periods at home, two very special guests when we come back.


AMY LEE PACHOLK, NURSE:  I said the other day, when I was thinking about this place and all the stuff going on, when I was at home, I was having like this crazy chest pain.

And I felt anxious, and I feel uneasy, and I feel weird. And I don`t feel like myself, because I guess I`m scared. But I`m also anxious, because I don`t know what will happen or what the future holds.



MELBER:  Welcome back.

Tonight, most Americans are sheltering in place at home, many entering their third week under these kind of limits. And beyond all the urgent health risks we have been covering, there`s also the impact of isolation and loneliness over the long term.

It is hard to be cut off from other people.

Listen, for example, to some people who felt lonely as they describe what they`re going through.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In that moment, I have never felt so isolated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I definitely have felt the impact of not having any physical face-to-face contact with people, because you just feel alone and like there`s nobody around to help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think the thing about being lonely is that it makes it feel like no one really knows you, and that, you know, if you disappeared, just slip away, and there`d be no real record of who you were.


MELBER:  Just disappeared.

Those are just a few voice-mails that are left on England`s loneliness hot line. They created it for people who felt isolated long before this pandemic.

And here in the U.S., it`s an ongoing challenge. You know, almost half of Americans say they feel alone some or all of the time, according to a survey that came out recently.

The fact is, it`s hard to be alone in normal times, let alone to be basically pushed into this social isolation in this pandemic. Experts have found humans need other humans. We need contact and socializing for our own health.

And some of the research on this comes from studying prisons and solitary confinement. No one is suggesting that just quarantining on your couch is like a prison. But the studies are important. It shows that being cut off from people or held in solitary confinement increases anxiety, depression, anger, paranoia, can even stoke suicidal thoughts in people that otherwise may not have had them.

So, what knowledge and experience can people draw on to get through these hard times, against the backdrop of a pandemic and people getting sick and dying around us?

Well, right now, we have convened a special discussion to go a little deeper on this.

We`re joined by attorney Jarrett Adams. He served over nine years in prison on a wrongful conviction that was overturned. He went on to law school and a prestigious clerkship on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Adams spent about two of those years in solitary confinement, an experience that informs his perspective, I want to mention, on these issues and his current civil rights work.

He`s joined us on air before.

We also have with us developmental psychologist Susan Pinker, who has over 25 years of experience in clinical practice. She`s the author of "The Village Effect," about how face-to-face contact shapes our health.

Important stuff and tough topics, like so much these days.

My special thanks to Susan and Jarrett for joining us.



MELBER:  Jarrett, let me start with your more extreme experience that is not what everyone`s going through now. But you`re such an extraordinary story.

What did you struggle with in isolation and solitary confinement? And what insights, if any, do you draw from it?

ADAMS:  Well, thank you, Ari, again, for having me on.

But it`s like you opened up the segment and said. It pales in comparison to people who are incarcerated and don`t have anyone around them.

But I will say this. Communication is what got me through that. I had an auntie that would send me Bible verses, you know, different ways to motivate me and she told me one thing that stuck with me, she said, look, in a difficult time like this, you have to tell yourself that each day, you have the opportunity to get out the next. And it was a healthy way for me to cope with it.

And I also did this, as well. I took the opportunity, with the time that I was there, to invest in myself, to go back and re-evaluate myself, re- evaluate goals and to psychologically remove myself from the isolation, although I was physically isolated.

MELBER:  Wow. I mean, you put that very clearly. Susan, is that possible?  How do we do that?  And what does your work and research suggest about the keys? 

PINKER:  Well, that`s an extreme situation that Jared went through and, you know, that -- isolating people has historically been used to punish them throughout history, because it is the most serious and painful kind of torture you can inflict on somebody, pretty much.

And you know, what we`re experiencing now is not at all like that, we are withdrawn from our social contacts and let me be clear, even though the effects of that feel painful, they feel physically painful, you know, I`d like to emphasize that social distancing is an absolute necessary step right now and even if -- even if loneliness has damaging effects, and we know it does, it reduces our lifespan, it reduces our immunity to viruses, paradoxically, as you`ve pointed out, it makes us angry, can make us depressed.

But, of course, in our current situation, we have to maintain social distance right now, keeping in mind that being alone is not the same thing as being lonely, as Jarrett just referred to. Being lonely is a more existential angst, feeling that you belong anywhere, feeling that nobody cares about you. And it`s very important to distinguish those two.

MELBER:  What about, Susan, first, control?  Again, you`ve both emphasized, as we did in our setup, we`re not equating the two, but when you don`t have control, when people do feel that, for example, on top of government rules that they stay home right now, many people have lost jobs or have loved ones who lost jobs, there is this stress that I don`t think we`re fully capturing, maybe because it`s hard to do. I certainly don`t think we`re always capturing it in the national discourse such as it is, that people feel this tremendous loss of control of daily life.

What about that? 

PINKER:  Well, that uncertainty really adds to the general feeling of angst that`s pervading society right now, and I think the important aspect of control that you mention is to exert some control of our social life as much as we have it right now.

So, for example, find new forms of intimacy, even though we can`t get together face to face with our loved ones if they don`t live with us, there are ways that we can reach out to them. And there are ways that we can even increase our kind of weaker bonds, because research says it`s not just the people that we hold so close and so dear to us that matter, but the people we meet as we move throughout our day.

And that`s much more difficult, if you`re confined indoors, to kind of keep up that kind of collegial contact, you know, make sure that you say hi to the dog walker or the neighbor or your colleagues or the person -- the barista that you used to get your coffee from. So, that`s a lot trickier, I would say.

MELBER:  Yes. Understood.

Jarrett, your views on that and I also wanted to get your views on the actual other issue here, the way that all of this plays out for at-risk populations and the currently incarcerated.

ADAMS:  Yes, I will say this. Again, taking its time and using it for the best of us as humans is an important thing that we need to do. Everyone, almost every American, sets a New Year`s resolution, so even though it`s very early in this New Year, this is an opportunity to go back, look at that resolution and to see, you know, what was working out?  Maybe you can go back to the drawing board and revisit it.

I`ll say this, Ari. We don`t know the entire toll that this is going to take on us, because we`re in the eye of the storm right now, it`s not over with right now. But I do know this -- humans are amazing in the resolve that we have.

We`ll get through this. We`ve seen difficult times and I believe that we will get through this. And another way for us to get through it is to think about if we didn`t have social media. Think about if we didn`t have our cell phones, think about how isolated we would truly be then.

MELBER:  Right.

ADAMS:  And I also want to be mindful of the fact that right now, I`m working on a petition for a guy that I`m representing who is currently incarcerated in the United States penitentiary. Louisiana has been hard-hit by this virus and he used an analogy to me that he feels like he`s on a train track and he can`t get off and he`s heard of the devastation of this train in other towns and it`s headed this way.

So, I want to say, as humans, this is our opportunity right now to reach out, to hug each other from that social distance, by just sending that email, sending that text and just caring right now. Look, we can point fingers later. But right now, we need to be concerned about each other`s mental health and health after this, as well.

MELBER:  Appreciate all that. It makes a lot of sense. Jared Adams, having lived through so much and overcome so much, I`m glad to reconnect with you -- like so many are doing, at a distance right now.

And, Susan Pinker, with all your work on this, really appreciate your insights, as well. Thank you.

PINKER:  Thank you, Ari.

MELBER:  Thanks to both of you. We`re going to fit in a break. We have a lot more, though, in this hour.

I will be joined when we return by the governor of Oregon. With the efforts there to flatten the curve, signs of hope and what is working. We have more of that this hour. There are things that we are all doing that can help basically get us through this.

Stay with us.


KATRINA DOYLE, NURSE:  When a nurse tells you that it`s bad, it really is and some of these COVID-19 patients that come in, they`re fine for a little bit, but then their oxygen demands steadily increase and we`ve been transferring to the ICU at least one to two patients daily. So, definitely heed the warnings. COVID-19 is not a joke.



MELBER:  Welcome back.

And now we turn to what`s working. Health experts say there are signs from two of the very first states that reported cases of coronavirus in America, California and Washington, that show clearly the social distancing that we`re all doing and we`ve been reporting on that you`re probably living through, it`s working.

Staying at home may also be helping Oregon avoid the worst of this pandemic. There are more than 1,100 cases in Oregon, 33 deaths. Governor Kate Brown issued that stay at home order in that state on March 23rd. Virus expected to peak later this month around April 20th. The state, though, already doing things to pay it forward.

Governor Brown sent 140 ventilators to New York this weekend, saying Oregon is in the position to do that right now. Governors in Washington, California also joining Oregon and returning hundreds of ventilators from the federal government to be used in areas more hard hit like New York.

And tonight, Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House task force saying the work in these states is helping the entire response.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE:  The extraordinary West Coast that has had very low numbers from Washington, that was less than one per thousand, California, that`s less than 0.5 per thousand, and Oregon that`s even less t that.

And it`s those states where those large populations, because of the enormous work they`re doing to prevent expansion and spread of the virus, it`s allowing resources to go to these states and these communities and these counties that need more support.


MELBER:  And we also want to tell you, at the briefing, Dr. Fauci discussed the fact that if the right steps are continually taken, there could be a return to a type of daily life of interaction, even if it`s not the old normal by this fall.

As promised, we turn now to Oregon Governor Kate Brown.

Thanks for being here.

GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR):  Hi, Ari. Thank you for having me.

MELBER:  What put you in the position to send those ventilators back? Obviously, you`re not calling it quits. You have a lot on your plate as a leader in Oregon. But what made you confident you could do that? What does that tell us?

BROWN:  Well, New York clearly was in dire need for ventilators, and Oregon was in a good position, because we implemented social distancing measures early.

MELBER:  When you look at the debate over the federal stockpile, what is important to understand?

BROWN:  Well, what I think is so important in this discussion about COVID- 19 is that each one of us can make a difference, that we have to support each other, and that all of our actions make a difference.

And so I`m really proud of Oregonian`s willingness to sacrifice, to abide by these social distancing measures. As a result, our projections look good in terms of our ability to meet both hospital bed capacity and ventilator capacity.

We certainly have other needs like other states with additional needs for personal protective equipment, gloves, masks, and gowns, and, of course, increased testing capacity. But for right now, for bed capacity and ventilators, we`re in good shape. And as you know, New York was in dire need.

MELBER:  Certainly. You mentioned New York. Take a listen to Governor Cuomo talking about what you have done.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY):  The state of Oregon has lent us 140 ventilators. It was kind. It was smart. Stop the virus here, it`s better for the state of Oregon. It`s better for the nation.

Their curve comes after ours. We will return their 140 ventilators, and there`s never been a discussion. But frankly, I know New Yorkers, and I know New Yorker`s generosity, and we will return it double-fold.


MELBER:  Your response?

BROWN:  Oregonians know what it`s like to be bold and protect each other, and we have to do that right now. The states need to support each other. It`s truly the Oregon way. And so, we`re pleased to help out.

Obviously, if we have needs down the line, we`re hoping that another state will help in and jump in and help us out. But for right now, we`re able to support the work in New York and very pleased to be doing that.

MELBER:  That`s great. And I think everyone appreciates the collaboration there.

The president has frankly been all over the place in talking about governors. He has credited them at times. He has picked fights with them. He has admitted to threatening politically the governors that he has preexisting disagreements with, which is a kind of remarkable thing that in any other time could get more condemnation, but everyone is busy.

Your views, what do you think viewers and the public should understand about how the president has been leading through this crisis?

BROWN:  Look, the states are truly on the front lines. We`re dealing with the key issues, hospital bed capacity, personal protective equipment, ventilators, and, of course, testing capacity. It`s absolutely instrumental that the states support each other, and that`s what we`re continuing to try to do as governors.

We`re all in this together. Actions in Florida impact what`s happening in Oregon. We have to support each other through this crisis, and I`m so proud of the work that the governors are doing across the states to make that happen.

MELBER:  I appreciate that. There`s so much hardship here, and obviously as a leader you`re dealing with that in your state with your citizens. But the fact that people are dying from this unfortunately does not detract from the fact that there`s also heroism -- heroism I should say and collaboration and progress. We want to shine a line on that where it is true and where it`s happening.

So, thanks for joining our coverage tonight and good luck to you on the road ahead, Governor.

BROWN:  Thank you so much. As I said, we`re all in this together. And each one of us can make a difference by complying with social distancing measures and protect their fellow Americans.

MELBER:  Governor Kate Brown of Oregon gets the last word there.

We have to fit in a break. One more thing when we come back.


MELBER:  Thanks for joining us.