ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We`ll be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. Keep it right here right now on MSNBC.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Steve Kornacki.
President Trump and the nation`s top infectious disease official are on different pages when it comes to the pace of reopening the count reach. On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci painted a grim picture of a potential consequences of states moving too fast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which, in fact, paradoxically will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery. So it would almost turn the clock back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Fauci went on to say that opening schools on the fall should be done on a regional basis and that he would be reserved when it comes to recommending schools reopened. But a short time ago, at the White House, President Trump said those comments were unacceptable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: He wants to play all sides of the equation. We`re opening our country. People wanted to open the schools. We`re going to be open.
Now, when you have an incident, you`re one out of million, one out five hundred thousand, well, something happened, perhaps. But, you know, you can be driving to school and some bad things going to happen too. So, no, we are going to open our country.
I was surprised by his answer, actually, because, you know, it is just -- to me, it is not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The president`s comments came as he met with governors of two state that have already begun the reopening process. That`s North Dakota and Colorado.
And most other states are also in some form of partial reopening right now. Although within some of those states, they`re also local officials who, in some cases are making separate decisions. As part of California, reopens, for instance, Los Angeles County officials said that their own stay-at-home order will likely stay in place now until July.
In the California State University system, that is the largest public university system in the country, canceled on-campus classes for fall semester, decided instead to keep instruction online. Also, the mayor of Washington, D.C. today extended that city`s stay-at-home order until June 8th.
At the same time, just outside Washington D.C., the governor of Maryland announced today that he will lift his state`s stay-at-home order this Friday.
Now, last week at some schools did reopen in Montana. Also just this evening, the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked Governor Tony Evers` extension of his stay-at-home order until May 26. The court saying that that was unlawful.
There was also new reporting tonight from the Associated Press on what the CDC had drawn up in terms of guidelines for state reopening. This was a proposal that was shelved by White House officials. According to the A.P., the, quote, stark difference in the final White House plan and that designed by epidemiologists at the CDC is the latter`s acknowledgment that COVID-19 cases will likely surge after states reopen, and that local governments need to continuously monitor their communities closely.
And adds, quote, the agency advises a national approach rather than a patch work, because policies in one state will, in time, affect others.
And for more, I am joined by Anne Rimoin, Professor of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Lanhee Chen, Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. Thanks to all of you for being with us.
Yamiche, let me start with you on the news of what the president had to say this evening about Anthony Fauci. It seems the dispute here in particular is over schools, about whether schools are going to reopen this fall. Dr. Fauci, yesterday, addressing this in a cautious approach. What exactly is the president`s disagreement with Fauci here, what is Trump looking for?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, PBC NEWHOUR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is President Trump`s most (INAUDIBLE) criticism and most public criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci, his Top scientist on the coronavirus task force.
What president did today, I would say, that he thinks that he knows better than the scientists and Dr. Fauci, saying that schools should reopen absolutely. He also said that maybe teachers and professors who are at a certain age, who are older, they should maybe continue to stay home but that young kids, essentially, should be able to go back into school.
Dr. Fauci though literally warned about that yesterday. He said, don`t be cavalier about the impact of this virus could have on children. So the president is not only breaking and contrasting with Dr. Fauci, he is also giving it, saying things that are in direct contrast with what Dr. Fauci warned people to do yesterday.
So I think today is a very big day. It`s the day that we`re going, I think, really go back to. It`s the first time that President Trump aired his real differences with Dr. Fauci, even after Dr. Fauci said he doesn`t think he has a confrontational relationship with President Trump. Today might change that.
KORNACKI: But let me just ask you about because some of President Trump`s allies within the last 24 hours had been also upping their rhetoric when it comes to Anthony Fauci, some very negative comments about him from some of Trump`s top allies in the public square.
Your sense on -- you`re saying this might be a turning point. Are there other indications from your standpoint there in the White House of this relationship shifting in any way today?
ALCINDOR: (INAUDIBLE) at the White House has told that the president really, really respects Dr. Fauci and that he really loves listening to a lot of the advice that Dr. Fauci was giving when it came to reopening and how to handle the coronavirus.
But today, what we saw was the president lean farther into the, really, Republican and conservative criticisms of Dr. Fauci, which have been happening since the very beginning. What we`ve seen is a ratcheting up of that rhetoric. We saw President Trump months ago or weeks tweet, fire Anthony Fauci, but that was a re-tweet. And the president said, well, I re- tweet a lot of things. I didn`t mean that I would fire Dr. Fauci.
What we see now is that the president is essentially taking sides with the conservatives and saying, look, maybe this scientist is doing (INAUDIBLE) he`s going too far, he`s being overly cautious, and that`s going to hurt the U.S. economy. Essentially, what the president is saying, I have to balance this scientist against my own instincts and against the economy.
And at this point, I`m leaning into what my instinct tells me to do, when you have a scientist saying, actually, hold that, we should really be more cautious about this than the president is doing right now.
KORNACKI: So, Anne, let me bring you into this, on this issue at the heart of this dispute, this public dispute between the president and Dr. Fauci. It`s over the question of schools. And let me get your response to the argument that is being made out there.
So the president, apparently, agrees with this. He is not the only one making this argument, that when you look at the issue of easing restrictions, of beginning to reopen the country, why don`t you look at schools first when you look at the statistics for children on this?
I think I was seeing there`re 83,000 deaths in this country right now. I think the number is 10 of those 83,000 are children under 15 years of age, so everything bringing some degree of risk in it. But when you look at children on this, the risk seems far lower than other categories. What would your response to that be?
ANNE RIMOIN, PROFESSOR, UCLA FIELDING SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH EPIDEMIOLOGY: The risk isn`t just about death here. The risk is that children live with adults and live with people who can be infected with coronavirus, where we can have serious results.
Children are very likely to be able to be infected, just as anybody else, and then they will be able to spread that virus to their parents, their grandparents, to their sisters, to other people in the community. So this isn`t just about the number of deaths in a particular population, it`s about how this population as a whole intersects with the rest of the population.
And so we really need to be look at this in a holistic way, understanding not only do children die, we are also now beginning to see, with this idea of Kawaski-like syndrome in children, that children can be infected and have serious consequences. We know there are negative outcomes in all age groups.
So taking any of this in a vacuum is not the way to look at it. You have to look at the picture. And if anyone is infected, even if they are not at high risk for a negative outcome or a very poor outcome, they will be in contact with people who can be. So, unfortunately, you can`t just look at it as a single issue. This is not something that we can look at it vertically, we have to look at it horizontally.
KORNACKI: Lanhee, we also mentioned today that the governor of Maryland announced that he is going to lift that state`s stay-at-home order at the end of this week. We`re talking about the White House put out some guidelines for states beginning to ease restrictions. There are also these proposed CDC guidelines that still haven`t seen the light of day.
But I bring up Maryland because Maryland is one of the few states that when you look at the White House criteria that was less stringent than this proposed CDC criteria, apparently. Maryland doesn`t even meet the White House criteria.
It has more over the last two weeks than the two weeks before. And its rate of positive result on its test has actually gone up the past two weeks compared to the two weeks before. And yet Maryland is even, apparently, on the verge here of lifting its stay-at-home order.
I think it raises a question of the federal government`s role and this advisory. Are states looking to the federal government at all here?
LANHEE CHEN, FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, it`s a great point, Steve. Because, by and large in this entire process, it has been up to governors and up to local public health officials to make determinations about what`s going to be best in their jurisdiction. I think, by the way, that is the right approach.
The only challenge with what a state like Maryland might be doing ahead of, let`s say, D.C. and Virginia, is that when you have an area where you`ve got a lot of regional mobility, so people are moving between D.C., Virginia and Maryland often, you need to see good coordination between those public health authorities and between those jurisdictions because it`s untenable for one jurisdiction like D.C. to have a much more stringent set of requirements than a neighboring jurisdiction. that is something that I think those jurisdictions have to watch out for.
On the education point for a minute, I would just say, I think it`s also important for us to evaluate the health concerns of bringing kids back against the very real reality that continued online education is going to create some serious equity issues. Some students have access to much better online facilities than others. So it`s not just about the health risks. It`s also about the risks of lost educational time and lost opportunity for those who might be in a disadvantaged position.
KORNACKI: Yamiche, let me bring you back quickly on this question. We mentioned that the CDC guidelines at the White House shelf, in the testimony before the Senate yesterday, the CDC director suggested that those would be forthcoming soon. Is there any more information on if and when we`ll see those?
ALCINDOR: As of now, it doesn`t seem like we have a clear idea of when that (INAUDIBLE) CDC guidelines are going to be put out. What we do know is that the White House and CDC officials, especially the ones based in Georgia, that there is some real contention there, some real tension there. And the fact that you have scientists who work for the CDC (INAUDIBLE), we need to be really specific about what (INAUDIBLE) states, because we`re starting to see states who don`t meet even the criteria that is out right now, they are not following that. So we really need to get more details about that.
And what we see is the White House saying, we really want states to be able to do and have their own responsibility when it comes to how to open up. Critics of the president will say that`s because he doesn`t want to be blamed for how the states open up. But, of course, there are also people that say, well, it`s the state`s rights, the states should be able to figure out on their own what`s best for their state.
KORNACKI: And there is on this question of what each state is doing. It varies widely for state-to-state, even in some cases, as we said, within states. But there is an analysis that was done by Axios. And it shows that, quote, some of the states that were skeptics were most -- the skeptics were most worked about, including Florida and Georgia, haven`t seen the rise in total cases that some experts feared. Florida`s new cases have actually declined by 14 percent compared to the previous week. Georgia has fallen by 12 percent. This is data as of yesterday.
Both states faced criticism over the past few days for how they handled the crisis, with some arguing that the governors in those states had made decisions that would lead to more deaths from coronavirus. Over 1,800 people have died in Florida, over 1,500 deaths in Georgia. As Axios notes, the reopening process is still in its early stages, so a second wave of infection still remains distinctly possible.
Anne, let me bring you in on this because this is a topic that fascinates me. Within the past month, specifically when it comes to Florida and Georgia, there have been dire predictions of imminent spikes in case load, of imminent spikes in deaths, and let`s stipulate. we don`t know where this is going, it is still early in the reopening process and we`re going to see how this plays out in these states.
But the initial results here, I checked today, Florida now down 19 percent compared to two weeks ago in its case load. Are the initial results being seen in Georgia and Florida, two of the states that have been a little more aggressive when it comes to reopening, are they encouraging in a way that ought to change our thinking a little bit potentially about this?
RIMOIN: I think we have a ways to go before we can make that determination. The rates that we`re seeing today are at least two weeks behind when those exposures occurred. So what my guess is, is that in the next week or so, we`re going to start seeing rises in cases again.
The issue here is that when you open something up or you start -- whatever you`re seeing today in your hospitals, in your testing, in your mortality rates is a reflection of what happened several weeks back. We are now, just now, starting to get into this period where we`re going to see what happens based on what on the policies that were in place and how open it was.
So, really, the book is yet to be written. We have no idea what the next couple of weeks will bring.
KORNACKI: All right. Anne Rimoin, Lanhee Chen, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you all for being with us.
And coming up, the deep divide on reopening, and why some on the right are directing their anger, we`re just talking about this, at Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Plus, there is new polling in the race for president. I`m going to give you a hint. It`s changed a little bit.
Stay with us.
DR. ERIK BLUTINGER, MT. SINAI QUEENS HOSPITAL, NEW YORK: I really hope that no one let`s their guard down and for a split second thinks that they can go back to living a normal life.
If there is one thing I have taken away from coronavirus, handling it here in New York City for the past few weeks, it`s that it can come back with a vengeance.
KORNACKI: Welcome back. President Trump is pushing for states to reopen, even as many public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, warn about the risks of more outbreaks if restrictions are eased too quickly.
Polling shows there is a vast partisan divide on the issue, with Democrats more concerned about the public health impact and Republicans are more concerned about the economic impact of all of this.
The vast majority of states are now in the process of loosening restrictions. Some are going farther than others, but both blue and red states are doing this right now.
So where are we heading? Urged by President Trump, is red America going to push even farther and faster now, as blue America holds back, leading to vastly different economic and public health outcomes, or is there more common ground here than the numbers suggest?
For more, I am joined by Michelle Goldberg, Columnist for The New York Times, and Rich Lowry, Editor at the National Review. Thanks to both of you for being with us.
Rich, let me start with you. We mentioned, it is red states and blue states that are all doing some kind of reopening, but it does vary in degree. You`ve got the president pushing aggressively for reopening. You`ve got polling data that shows Republicans seem more enthusiastic about this than Democrats do. Do you expect to see a divergence here where red states now push more aggressively on this than blue states?
RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes, I think they`ll go a little faster. That`s what we`ve seen. But it`s not entirely, as you pointed out, a red state phenomenon. Colorado Governor Polis there has been reopening over the last couple of weeks.
So part of this is, I think, a legitimate geographic divide in how this virus and disease has been experienced. You have a lot of red states that are more rural and haven`t been hit as hard as New York City and surrounding suburbs and probably never will be. So I think that`s an aspect driving this division.
KORNACKI: Another question I have here, Michelle, is there is some data The New York Times put together on people`s movement. You can have the technology now where you can kind of track who is getting out of their house, who is moving around. And what they are showing here is it is -- this is across the board. This urban, this is rural, this is suburban, this is states that have lockdown orders, states that don`t.
Folks within the last week, about 10 percent or so across the board are starting to get out more.
It raises the question, I think, to me. There is vast political differences on this. But do people`s behavior on this across party lines tell a different story?
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I am not sure how much of that we know yet.
We actually know that there is fairly wide consensus on the need for these lockdowns, on the need for social distancing, on the need for masks, I think it is around the edges that you have seen a lot of polarization, that you have seen mask-wearing become a culture war issue, something that`s associated -- just -- I think it was just today the editor of "First Things," a conservative Catholic journal, said that wearing a mask was a sign of a cowardice.
And so, because I think conservative intellectuals, politicians, certainly President Trump has polarized the response to this issue, has made following public health guidelines seem to some extent a sign of Democratic identity, it makes it more likely that some conservatives will flout public health directives out of tribal identity.
I mean, you see that -- for example, there`s a story in "The Times" today in Texas about basically armed people showing up to help businesses that aren`t allowed to reopen under the current order flout the rules.
I think there was a tattoo parlor where people with semiautomatic weapons are standing there to make sure that they`re able to reopen. I mean, that, I think, is maybe on the edge.
But you`re seeing definitely people who think that -- again, that following the public health advice in some sense signals submission to Democrats and to kind of hated experts.
KORNACKI: Let me look -- Rich, let me bring you in to get a response that, because I was asking you if there would be a divergence in public policy.
But Michelle`s raising the possibility there`s a divergence in people`s behavior when it comes to social distancing, based on what we always talk about, political tribalism.
What do you think of that?
LOWRY: I think those are pretty much edge cases.
And, look, we did the lockdowns for a couple reasons, one, to keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed, which we succeeded at that. We had hospitals pushed to the edge, obviously, in New York City and New Jersey. But now that threat has receded.
We didn`t want the virus to totally run out of control. It didn`t. And we wanted to flatten the curve. And we have.
So it`s time now to have this conversation about opening up. And it`s not going to be entirely a red state phenomenon, because there is an economic calamity that has befallen this country. And that`s just the other equity here. And this is a very difficult question, because it`s not an either/or.
You have to balance public health risk and the economic consequences to people, which are also quite devastating. So, it`s a balancing act. There`s not going to be one right answer. We`re going to have some states and localities that are going to get it wrong. We`re going to have some states and localities that are probably going to come up with really good formulas for how you do testing and tracing and how you open up safely.
And they can be -- that experience can be duplicated around the country. And I think one of the things we have seen in this crisis, it`s a really wonderful thing that our founders set up a system that has federalism and a lot of give in it, has a lot of autonomy for states and municipalities to react to their own conditions on the ground.
You don`t need a one-size-fits-all solution to this, because New York City is vastly different than Schenectady or someplace in Montana. And it doesn`t make sense to impose one policy on all of them.
KORNACKI: Michelle, we were talking about this a little bit in the last block, but we see again these polls that show there`s a lot more concern about these -- the reopenings going too quickly among Democrats than Republicans.
I wonder if what we`re seeing initially out of Georgia and Florida -- and I stress this is initial and this can absolutely change -- but I am matching up what we`re seeing on the ground several weeks into this vs. some of the predictions that were made of just imminent and an instant catastrophe when these are restrictions were lifted in these states.
Do you think that if that success holds up in Georgia and Florida to a relative degree, that would change sort of blue America`s attitude towards reopening?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think that -- I don`t -- I think it`s a kind of a straw man to suggest that blue America isn`t extremely eager to reopen, right?
I mean, people in New York City do not like living this way. People in New York City are suffering across the board. Obviously, poorer people are suffering more. But this is a kind of intolerable and untenable way to live.
The argument from blue America, as I see it, is that you can`t reopen without a plan to contain the virus, without a plan to test, trace and isolate.
And what`s been so frustrating is that, as Rich said, we have had this time where people locked down and were able to flatten the curve, although not everywhere. There`s a lot of places in this country where the rate of infection is still going up. And some of those places are opening up regardless.
But in New York City, certainly, the rate has fallen precipitously. But what you have seen is such a failed federal response, and so the states kind of waited a little while for the federal government to act in the way that people would expect any sort of functioning government to act.
When they realized that wasn`t happening, when they realized the cavalry wasn`t coming, they have been trying to stand up their own sort of test, trace, and isolate regimes. But that`s not happening all over the place.
KORNACKI: Rich, we had some reporting from NBC yesterday about some documents the administration has had showing potentially here outbreaks taking place in some metro areas in the South and the Midwest.
You have got two things going on here. The national picture on this is showing a curve that has, as you said, flattened. But you do have these worrisome signs that pop up in metro areas around the country. You don`t have a vaccine. You don`t have a great treatment right now.
How much pause does that give you, seeing metro areas where you do have some outbreaks?
LOWRY: Well, you want to focus on that. And testing is obviously important, as everyone agrees.
Now, the CDC and the FDA was initially a debacle on testing. Then we grew quite rapidly and hit a plateau for a while. And now we have we have been up again.
So, I think in states particularly that aren`t New York and New York City that are in a relatively good position, and the outbreaks we`re talking about are relatively small, they should be in a good position to deploy testing and tracing to try to tap those down.
But just the idea that we can hold our breaths until we get a vaccine and keep our economy dunked underwater is just not plausible. And I think there`s been a lot of goalpost-moving here, where, initially, it`s save hospitals, bend the curve, everyone is in on that.
We succeeded on that metric. And if the next metric is going to be you can never have any spike on case -- in cases whatsoever, that`s just totally unrealistic and will destroy the country, trying to save the country, by that measure.
KORNACKI: All right, Rich Lowry and Michelle Goldberg, I enjoyed the conversation. Thank you both for being here. I appreciate it.
LOWRY: Thanks, Steve. Take care. Be safe.
KORNACKI: And still ahead -- you too.
And still ahead, we talked about this. We have got brand-new polling in the race for president.
I`m going to head over to the Big Board. And I`m going to give you a hint. The numbers have changed a little bit.
Back right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president hasn`t done his work. The president hasn`t done what he`s supposed to do.
He hasn`t provided the material. He hasn`t supplied -- I mean, this -- this is ridiculous, the way he`s talking about it.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: You heard the president yesterday. He said that...
BIDEN: This is not politics. This is life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right, that`s Joe Biden running for president against Donald Trump.
Here`s the question. How is he doing? Brand-new national poll out today. Take a look at this.
Biden vs. Trump, what do they find? Biden leads, five-point lead for Joe Biden.
Now, we said earlier in the show, there`s a little bit of a change here. The last time -- this is the CNN poll. The last time they took this poll, Biden also led, but the margin was 11.
So, in this poll, at least, the margin coming down from 11 a month ago to five right now. Now, of course, every one poll can be an outlier. Every one poll can show something that no other poll is showing.
But what CNN is picking up on here, a tightening of the Biden-Trump race in recent polls, is something we have been seeing in the polls over the last week or two.
So, if you take the average of every poll, if the CNN national poll has Biden up by five right now, what is the average of all of the different polls out there showing right now?
We can put it up on the screen here. It`s about a 4.5-point lead. This is the average of all the polls, Biden 47.7, Trump 43.2. So it`s about a 4.5- point lead for Joe Biden.
Now, remember, about a month ago, about three weeks ago, that lead for Biden was getting up to six, seven, eight points in national polls. It was a much more definitive lead.
So it`s still an advantage for Joe Biden, but now it`s down to about 4.5. That`s a good place to be if you`re a candidate for president, certainly. But remember also what comes into play the closer this gets?
What did we find out in 2016? Donald Trump doesn`t have to have more of the national popular vote than his opponent. He just needs to be close enough in the national popular vote to put the Electoral College in play.
And that sort of sets up an interesting second poll within the poll that CNN did here. Let me show you this. They took a bunch of battleground states.
And it`s an arbitrary -- everybody can define the battleground states differently. CNN picked what they say are the battleground states in this. And then they polled them.
And they said, what is the result just within these battleground states, the ones that are going to make the difference in the Electoral College? And they have, in the states that they call the battleground, Trump leading 52-45.
And in this same set of states in 2016, Trump won by a point. So keep that in mind.
Now, I want to keep -- keep clear here, by the way, when we say a battleground poll, you`re not talking about huge samples in every one of states. There`s a higher margin of error here. So take this with a grain of salt.
What it really is, is just a reminder that, the closer the polls get, the closer the national polls get, when they start getting within four, three, two points, if they come to that level, then you`re getting to a place where the Electoral College really starts to kick in.
We saw that in 2016. So, when Biden`s got a lead in a poll of seven, eight, nine points, that is probably big enough where anything that happens the Electoral College is still going to result in a Biden victory.
But when it starts to get to four, three or two points, that, as we saw in 2016, is when you got to think about the Electoral College. So, I think is a reminder from CNN of that dynamic.
Every time you look at the national polls -- you probably trained yourself this anyway in 2016, but every time you look at the national polls, remember, a lead for Biden isn`t necessarily victory in November.
All right, up next: America`s nursing homes, they`re the focus of a new push on testing, mitigation and treatment. Can we make these facilities safer going forward?
We`re back after this.
KORNACKI: Welcome back.
There are more than two million elderly Americans currently living in long- term care facilities. There are thousands of these facilities across the country.
And a precise reading on the toll that coronavirus has exacted in them is elusive. That`s because many states have delayed or withheld critical data on this topic.
But the estimates suggest that, of all the coronavirus deaths in this country, up to one out of every three come from nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Again, exact numbers are hard to pin down here, but, nationally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services -- that`s the federal agency that oversees nursing homes -- it has failed to tally, in the words of an NBC News report, the number of nursing homes that have had outbreaks nationwide or the number of residents who have died, obscuring the true toll the virus is taking.
An independent analysis from "The Washington Post" found -- quote -- "a nationwide list of more than 1,300 nursing homes, with a death count that has spiraled into the thousands."
In some states, according to reports, deaths in nursing homes account for half of all COVID-19 deaths. And the nursing home industry is still having to plead for greater access to testing and protective equipment.
And for more, I`m joined by Mark Parkinson, CEO of the American Health Care Association. That represents thousands of assisted living and long-term care facilities. And Debbie Cenziper, a "Washington Post" investigative reporter who has covered the coronavirus outbreak in nursing homes extensively.
Debbie, let me start with you. We mentioned we don`t have an exact count here on numbers, but they`re staggering. I think we all see the headlines. I think we all understand you have got an incredibly vulnerable population living in tight proximity to each other. So, you can just see the setup there for a disaster.
I think the question is, when you look at what has happened, is this -- where does the failure lie on this? Is it a failure on the government`s part here to work with these nursing homes, to provide them with what they need? Is it a failure of the nursing homes themselves?
What are you finding in your reporting?
DEBBIE CENZIPER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, great question.
I don`t think anybody could have predicted just how bad things would get in nursing homes, not the nursing homes themselves, not the governments, not the families.
But, as you said, and as we now know, so many thousands of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been decimated by this virus. The death toll is staggering and horrific.
And I think many nursing homes, according to watchdog groups and patient advocates, you know, did everything possible and are trying to do everything possible to control the spread of this virus. But there were some issues with nursing homes that had track records of failing to prevent the spread of infections, and those were infractions that were cited by federal inspectors year after year and were cited right until the months before this pandemic struck.
KORNACKI: Let me bring you -- Governor, you`re former governor of Kansas, and I want to bring you and give you your proper title here, but let me bring in now. You now represent these facilities that we are talking about.
And the point Debbie just made, there are a lot of cases here when this is not -- you know, any kind of negligence on the case of the facilities, but she`s mentioning here is there are facilities, with a history of violations, still operating in spite of that and this was a particular issue. How big of a problem do you think that is in the industry that you are -- that you represent?
MARK PARKINSON, AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT & CEO: Yes. Well, the real challenge here is that COVID is actually not related to prior inspection history or prior infection control problems, and that`s because COVID violates all the normal principles of infection control. That is because folks can have the virus, showing no symptom.
So, what happened in January, February, and March, where that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions in the United States, had COVID with no symptoms, they worked and continued to work in buildings, they were visiting buildings, some of them are residents themselves who are asymptomatic, and so, the spread was really inevitable.
That`s why I think it`s not surprising that when you compare buildings that have it, to those that don`t, there actually isn`t a difference based on inspections or infection control history. It`s all connected to the community that they are in. If there`s a bunch of COVID in the community, you`re going to have COVID in the nursing homes.
And that`s why my message tonight is to the governors, if you open too early and the folks are out there getting COVID in the community, one of the ramifications will be that it will find its way into nursing homes, and more people will die. So, I think the real policy prescription here is, of course, we need to make sure that every facility is practicing infection control. But that wouldn`t have stopped us.
The only way to stop it now is to keep COVID out of the community and then also to get a ton of testing in the building so that we can figure out who actually has it.
KORNACKI: Let me -- Debbie, let me ask you -- what practical steps here are being taken and have proven effective to keep this out of nursing homes? I know in New York state, the governor there announced new restrictions, there`s going to be testing now of residents, there`s going to be -- there`s restrictions on who can come in and out of these things, is there anything out there proven very effective at keeping this out?
CENZIPER: Yes. I don`t think we`ll ever really know if better infection control would have prevented the spread of this virus. But what state inspectors have found in homes with outbreak is that they lack personal protective equipment. There was poor hand hygiene. They weren`t washing hands. In some cases, patients with symptoms were not isolated from patients who appeared to be healthy.
And states -- and state inspectors have found issues, and in fact, there is a nursing home in Maryland now that was just fined $10,000 a day because of infection control breakdowns. So, I think, you know, a number of things could help. Good infection control, personal protective equipment, more staffing.
You know, nurses and aides get sick. Who they call in then as backup? So, staffing, I think is also a huge issue, and patient advocates and watchdog groups will tell you that.
KORNACKI: Governor, let me ask you, just a practical question here. To any family out there right now who has a loved one, an elderly loved one, who they had been thinking about, or planning to put into some kind of assisted care facility, and then they got on hold right now, can they realistically have confidence before there is a vaccine, before there is some kind of effective treatment? Can they realistically have confidence that it`s OK to put an elderly family member into an assisted living facility?
PARKINSON: Yes, I mean, it is an enormous dilemma for families and I completely get it. You know, my wife and I, before politics, we owned and operated facilities, and I worked with families and members and residents every single day. The residents need a lot of help. They don`t just need a little bit of help. They are 85 years old, they have a ton of things they can`t do and need help with.
But I completely understand that you don`t want to put a loved one in a situation that you don`t think is safe. The good news is, if we have what we need. Once we get the equipment and once we get the testing that we need, we can safely take care of people. I would encourage folks to talk to facilities, make sure they have COVID isolated wings, make sure they have the equipment they need, make sure they have the testing that they need.
We need all of the above in order for this to work out. We have been denied that the policy prescriptions, that`s the wrong direction. The right direction is to get facilities what they need to fight this. And if we do, we can make it much better.
KORNACKI: All right. Thank you, the former Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson, now representing nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country, and Debbie Cenziper, a reporter for "The Washington Post" -- I appreciate you both being here.
And still ahead, the latest from the first hearing of a new House committee subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, it again exposed the deep political fault lines when it comes to this pandemic.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NURSE ANDREA MUIR, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA: There were no textbooks, that have about taking care of COVID 19 patients, there was no established evidence-based protocols that we could implement to help us provide this level of quality care we`re accustomed to, at least in my facility, and there`s very little research for us to sort of rely on that we can apply to these situations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Unfortunately, the fact that the House is still not back in session runs counter to the very message that we can safely reopen. The subcommittee, along with the rest of Congress, should be back in Washington for this briefing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Steve Scalise, the ranking Republican member of the newly formed House subcommittee to oversee the coronavirus response and it held its first briefing today, it was virtual. And as you can see, the hearing which focused on reopening the economy got contentious at times particularly when one witness noted the country had to shut down due to a lack of testing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ASHISH JHA, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSOR: It was inadequate testing that precipitated the national shutdown. We must not make the same mistakes again.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I thought the shutdown was initiated to bend the curve so our health care system wasn`t overwhelmed. We already got a political statement from the very first witness.
JHA: To suggest we failed at our first attempt to do this because we didn`t have testing, which let the cases get out of control is not a partisan idea, it is fundamentally the basics of the biology of this virus. But the bottom line is if we let science and evidence guide us, on moving forward, I believe we can have a great economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And I`m joined now by NBC correspondent Garrett Haake.
Garrett, thank you for being with us.
So, yesterday, we had that Senate hearing, that virtual Senate hearing, Anthony Fauci and others testified there. Today, this House subcommittee takes the shot. Was this purely a hearing that was sort of divided on the familiar partisan lines? Were there different themes being pushed by different side, or did any common ground emerge from this today?
GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: No, contention was the baseline here at a briefing that shed far more heat than life. This was a very partisan affair with Republicans pointing to this committee largely questioning even the subcommittee`s reason for existence. Republicans have argued this community is duplicative, that it`s redundant, that it doesn`t really need to exist and then it`s really only there to score partisan points. They made their feelings about that issue very clear today in this virtual briefing.
Perhaps there is some hope that tomorrow being back in Washington in a more familiar setting with a witness that`s part of the administration might bend the congressional curve back towards something that looks more like the Senate hearing that we saw yesterday.
KORNACKI: Well, the other news related to this on Capitol Hill is the Dr. Rick Bright, the HHS official who says he was forced out of his job for pushing back on administration is set to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee tomorrow. In his prepared testimony, he says, quote, our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. Without clear planning and implantation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history.
What are the expectations for this hearing tomorrow, Garrett?
HAAKE: Some of that will depend on how the questions go, whether they are forward looking or backward looking. I think there is a little bit of concern that if the questions are about Dr. Bright`s reassignment, the potential retaliation against him, based on his whistle blower complaint you could see more of the partisan back and forth, whether or not he leans on his experience and the questions to him are more focused on 2020, the winter of 2020.
Again, the hope is that it could look more like the Senate hearing that we saw yesterday, although, this would be fascinating tomorrow. This is a very large committee. You`re going to have members essentially asking questions in shifts, a chance to see what social distancing looks like in the house as they`re still trying to figure out just how to do even basic business like an oversight hearing like this.
KORNACKI: Speaking of basic business in the House, the House set to vote on its new coronavirus relief legislation that would provide another round of stimulus payments to vote later this week. This is Nancy Pelosi on that subject today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We put down what we think this country needs, and this is not any wish list that is not related to coronavirus and to this time frame. We made that a criteria -- a criteria for consideration. This is all about the here and now. It isn`t about politics. It`s about humanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Of course, politics are a part of this, though, Garrett. This is what Democrats want. Republicans, though, they control the Senate, they control the White House. What is the sense in terms of where they are on a timetable for another stimulus?
HAAKE: That`s unclear. I mean, Democrats did something smart here in that they put down their priorities on paper. Now, whether or not this bill has any chance of becoming law, it`s got a very tough road. The Republican Senate, the president said it`s not going anywhere.
But at least we know what Democrats want, and Republicans in the Senate have been divided on issues like whether or not there should be more aid for state and local governments, whether those should be given more flexibility to spend the money they have been given even on the timetable to do anything and, you know, for Senate Republicans have been largely boxed out in this process. You had the speaker negotiating with Steven Mnuchin.
It will be interesting to see when Senate Republicans choose to get in the game here in terms of laying out their priorities for the next relief bill that is almost certainly going ot happen, it`s just a question of when.
KORNACKI: All right. Garrett Haake, thank you for updating us. Appreciate that very much.
And up next, an update on one of our NBC News colleagues who is now battling the coronavirus. We`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: And we want to give you an update on one of our NBC colleagues that you`ve seen frequently on air talking about the COVID-19 pandemic. NBC science contributor Dr. Joseph Fair is currently hospitalized with coronavirus. Posting on Twitter, Fair said that he is, quote, on the other end of it but not out of the woods yet and he urged everyone to continue to follow social distancing guidelines, saying: I used max precautions but still managed to contract it. Obviously, we wish him the best here during his recovery.
Also a programming note for you, tomorrow night, MSNBC presents a discussion with Lawrence O`Donnell and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and they will be joined by Stacey Abrams in what will be her first joint television interview with Biden.
And if you have a question you`d like answered on the show, you can visit MSNBC.com/town hall. Make sure to watch, a "LAST WORD" special, Joe Biden with Stacey Abrams. That is tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only on MSNBC.
Also tomorrow, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will join Joy Reid right here at 7:00. You are not going to want that miss that, either.
Thank you for being with us. And don`t go anywhere.
"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