Italy travel advisory TRANSCRIPT: 2/28/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Donald McNeil

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN":  And by next Friday, one week from today, we`ll be back in New York City like from 30 Rock. Tickets for that are available now. Head to MSNBC.com/allinlive to grab yours and be part of the live audience experience. We hope to see you there.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris. Excellent to have you in South Carolina. Awesome crowd, great show, fantastic.

And I`ll tell you right now our coverage from South Carolina`s primary starts tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. I will be helping to anchor that along with Brian Williams and a cast of thousands so in terms of the South Carolina primary coverage here 6:00 tomorrow night. We will roll right through as late as we need to. I am really looking forward to it.

It`s good to have you here with us tonight as well. There`s a lot going on.

This is the international airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Actually that`s just a picture of planes, but apparently they`re at the international airport in Frankfurt, Germany.

Frankfurt is the largest international airport hub in Germany. It`s the 14th busiest airport in the world. I`ve never spent any time in Frankfurt. In fact, I`ve never actually spent any time in Germany at all, ever.

But I have spent quite a bit of time in that airport because for whatever reason any time I have ever needed to go to the Middle East or to that whole quadrant of the world, I have always gone through and changed planes at Frankfurt. A lot of Middle East bound, North Africa bound flights from the U.S. end up stopping in Frankfurt. It`s the only reason I`ve ever spent time there.

The entity that runs the Frankfurt airport has about 20,000 employees that they directly employ at that site. Airport operations there further support another 60,000 jobs or so. So that one airport in Germany accounts for about 80,000 jobs.

"Financial Times" in London now reports that the entity that runs the Frankfurt airport has instituted a hiring freeze and also started offering all staff at the airport the generous option of unpaid leave, which means, oh, congratulations, you can go home if you want and not get paid. They`re also offering reduced hours to all staff at the airport.

And the reason they`re doing that is exactly what you think. As described in the financial times passenger and cargo traffic at Frankfurt airport have both, quote, slumped massively. And it`s not that Germany is a particular epicenter for the coronavirus crisis. I mean case numbers in Germany are rising rapidly, but they`re still only at about 53 cases which is fewer than the United States.

The problem for the Frankfurt Airport is not specific to Germany or specific to Frankfurt or specific to that airport. It`s that global transportation and the global economy is cratering. And if you just look at that one -- just as one example you can start to see the kind of economic fallout we`re experiencing all over the industrialized world.

The Frankfurt airport doesn`t have it any worse or any better than any other international passenger travel or shipping hub. But what`s happening there with them not only hiring freezing but starting to send all their employees home, they`ve got 80,000 employees at that one airport, that`s a sliver of what`s happening all over the globe, right?

And just follow any of the strands from that. Just as an example Frankfurt airport happens to be a hub for the German airline Lufthansa. Well, Lufthansa has also started offering unpaid leave and has started reducing hours for all of its staff. And you can imagine what the knock on economic effect of that is. Lufthansa has also started offering these -- Lufthansa announced today they are cutting about a quarter of their short haul flights.

The airline is grounding 23 of their aircraft altogether. In the past two weeks, the Lufthansa stock price has dropped 23 percent in two weeks, and again not to single out Lufthansa. They`re no worse off than anybody else. That`s just what`s happening to everybody. That`s a snapshot what`s happening to the global economy.

In terms of other European career, British Airways is also freezing hiring and cutting flights as is the European discount airline EasyJet. EasyJet stock price down 27 percent in the last two weeks as well just like Lufthansa.

Here in U.S., the big careers like United and Delta and American have all canceled flights to China, excuse me. They`re all now starting to cancel flights to hard hit places like Japan and Singapore and South Korea as well. It`s happening everywhere.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. And I remember as a little kid we once took a school trip where we all went in and rode the cable cars in San Francisco and they gave us the tour and showed us how everything works. And I remember, it was very cool they showed you how they put these cable cars on these lazy Susans and swing them around in another direction when they got to the end of their route. It`s all burned into my mind. It`s 40 years ago, right?

But one thing that really stuck with me about that school trip I remember is when they showed us the braking systems for the cable cars and they`re sort of braking system, which I think it`s like squeezing the rails to bring the cable car to a gentle if squeaky halt for normal braking operations. But then I remember they also showed us the emergency braking system, too, if the normal brakes weren`t up to the task or if they fail. And the emergency braking system as described to 6-year-old me by a very cool, very salty old cable car operator at the top of a veer steep hill in San Francisco the emergency braking system I remember him explaining was that if all else failed and the regular brakes didn`t work and you really needed to bring this thing to a halt the backup system was that you could drop a big steel rod through the bottom of the cable car and it would go into a hole in the ground. And that would bring things to a halt in a most uncomfortable and sudden fashion if need be if nothing else worked.

That was the emergency braking system for the cable cars as taught to me by a 6-year-old. That appears also to be the braking system that`s been applied to international air travel with the coronavirus crisis. It`s not like tapering off. It`s just stopping.

And it`s not like an American phenomenon. Countries all over the world are banning travel to and from specific countries or advising their citizens not to travel. As of tonight, the U.S. State Department and CDC have upped the warning for Americans when it comes to traveling to Italy.

Excuse me. I`m coughing not to make a point. I`m coughing because I have a tickle. Excuse me.

The State Department is urging U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Italy. The CDC is recommending travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Italy. They`ve also tonight upped the warning for Iran. Avoid all nonessential travel to Iran.

We`re starting to see the first signs, too, it may not just be international travel affected. For the first time,. Amazon, gigantic company, three quarters of a million employees, Amazon as of tonight is now restricting employee travel even within the United States. They had previously cut all Amazon employees business travel to China. Now they`re restricting even domestic travel in the U.S.

And so, whether or not you care about the fate of the Frankfurt airport or whether or not Amazon employees are going to go to conventions or do whatever they do around the country, just extrapolate from those little economic stories to what we are seeing in terms of the economic impact of this crisis.

You take a look at the front pages of various news sources tonight and what you`re seeing everywhere is this cliff dive that American and international markets have taken over the course of this week. All right, it`s front page news. It is front page news everywhere.

The Dow this week lost 3,500 points in total, largest point loss ever. The Dow is down more than 12 percent over the course of this week. Other U.S. major market indices look similar as do international markets.

But that plunge, that market plunge is not happening because of irrational fear of a virus, right? It`s not happening because of just upset and volatility in an uncertain and poorly governed world. We really are because of this health crisis experiencing a very abrupt global economic shutoff.

JPMorgan saying tonight they expect the global economy will contract, it will shrink for the first quarter of 2020 because of this crisis. This follows on Goldman Sachs announcing yesterday they expect to see U.S. corporate earnings growth drop to zero for 2020 again because of this crisis.

So, yes, we`ve seen the markets take this sort of garish sensational southbound turn, this plummet. But it`s starting to look like less of a, you know, just a phenomenon in the markets and more like the markets are a reflection of a major external event that is having very large real world economic consequences to which the markets are just reacting and adjusting.

They`re a window on the problem. The markets themselves are not the problem. You know, this is not some incidence of traders mass psychosis.

This is about an external event that`s having very, very dramatic, sudden, far reaching, deep economic consequences. While the reach of the virus continues to expand, today, Iceland announced its first coronavirus case, so did Wales, so did Belarus, so did Lithuania, so did New Zealand. So, did Azerbaijan.

Today, Mexico announced its first case and soon after announced its second case.

And while China was undoubtedly the initial engine of this epidemic, that no longer appears to be the case. We don`t have that much visibility into China is arriving at the numbers they`re releasing about their death toll and about their number of cases, but if you sort of suspend any suspicion and even if you take them at their word, China still announced today they diagnosed 327 new cases in the past 24 hours. That`s a lot of new cases in 24 hours but that`s low for them given what the numbers have been.

That said, 327 new cases in China today, that pales compared to the biggest outbreaks outside of China. The countries with the largest outbreaks that we know of outside of China are Italy, and Iran and South Korea. Today, those three countries between them announced 3,500 new cases. More than ten times the new number announced in China today.

Again, 3,500 new cases in those three countries alone, more than ten times the cases announced in China today. And in Iran, Italy and South Korea, those 3,500 new cases today, that`s about double the new cases they announced yesterday.

South Korea is clearly dealing with a large outbreak, but the South Korean government also continues to act very aggressively. They`ve got over 2,000 people diagnosed with coronavirus in South Korea already. They`re reporting hundreds of new cases each day. A part of the reason they`re able to do so is because they are very aggressively testing their population. They`re testing thousands of people every day. South Korea says between just yesterday and today they tested 12,000 people.

And that mass testing in South Korea is revealing the scale of the epidemic they`ve got on their hands, but it`s also allowing them to identify infected people who then have to be isolated and monitored and if need be cared for.

Now, look at Iran. Again, Iran, Italy and South Korea are the three countries outside of China that have the largest outbreaks. In Iran, the news continues to get sort of spookier by the day because Iran is a little bit of a black box. Iran announced today that its official tool is 34 people died -- 34 people have died from coronavirus. It was 19 deaths two days ago, 26 deaths as of yesterday, now they say it`s 34 deaths in that country.

But even that steadily rising death count in Iran continues to seem out of step with numbers that we`ve seen in other places and with the sort of ratio of known cases to known deaths that`s starting to emerge as the pattern when it comes to this virus. After Iran announced its official death toll of 34 as of today, the BBC`s Persian language service announced they had contacted individual hospitals all over Iran to check that official death toll, and according to their reporting when you go hospital by hospital, according to the BBC, the death toll in Iran as of today is not 34, which was the official number, but is at least 210.

Remember also that the outbreak in Iran is believed to potentially be linked to religious pilgrimage site in the holy city of Qom. And Iran has taken cities to re -- excuse me, has taken steps to restrict Friday prayers and they`ve closed schools and canceled events and gatherings around the country, they haven`t shutdown access to those religious pilgrimage sites which brings thousands of people together in a country that now has what appears to be an out of control outbreak of a very transmissible infectious disease.

So, South Korea, Iran, the other big country outside of China that`s dealing with a major outbreak is Italy. And in Italy today the news was -- was bad.

At the start of this week, Italy had announced 220 infections and six deaths. As of today, they`re at 820 infections and 21 deaths. But get more specific in Italy and look at the Lombardi region which is where the Italian outbreak appears to be centered.

"Reuters" is reporting today circumstances there are dramatic, 345 people in the hospital, 64 people in intensive care. According to local officials in the hardest hit regions in Lombardi, approximately 4 percent of the entire population appears to be infected with the coronavirus in those hardest hit areas, 4 percent of the entire population.

Local officials also say that thus far in that region, each infected patient on average appears to be infecting two additional people. So think about that in terms of spread. If you`ve got 4 percent of your population already infected and everybody infected is on average infecting two other people, you`re going to go from 4 percent to 12 percent to -- I mean that math is bad, as is the outlook for just basic medical response and disaster response in that region.

I mean, if they`ve got 64 people in intensive care already and they got 4 percent of the population infected and on average everybody infected is infecting two other people, well, how many intensive care beds do you have? Almost 350 people hospitalized already. How many hospital beds do you have?

The transmission rate for this virus, the number of people each infected person on average goes onto infect, and the fatality rate for this virus, the number of people who get this infection who die from it, those are our two algebraic variables here. These are the two mathematical bugaboos that have made people start using words like pandemic. And those are the two numerical factors that have turned this so quickly from a regional problem into a global crisis. And we`re going to get some expert help on this in just a moment.

But, I mean, for perspective there have been other novel coronaviruses that have sickened and killed people in recent human history, including things like SARS and MERS, which you`ll remember freak outs in the past 20 years. Well, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney today gave a speech at a conservative activists conference in Washington, D.C., in which he lamented that the American press is paying way too much attention to the coronavirus crisis. They`re only paying as much attention to it because they`re trying to hurt President Trump.

To back up his argument he talked at length today about the SARS and MERS epidemics of previous years and he correctly pointed out that both SARS and MERS had much higher fatality rates than the coronavirus does now. As far as we know, the coronavirus kills about 2 percent of the people it infects, whereas with SARS or MERS, it was more like 10 percent or even 30 percent.

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney thereby arguing today that those were much more serious global crises, those were much more worthy of attention, those were much scarier. This coronavirus thing we`re dealing with now is not much to worry about. Are you still freak out about SARS and MERS? If you`re not, then why are you worried about this? This only has a 2 percent fatality rate.

Again, we`ll get some expert help in terms of understanding this in just a moment, but it doesn`t take an advanced public health degree or even high school level math to see what is actually way less comforting of that analogy than Mr. Mulvaney might think and what the White House should be propagating, because for SARS, in total, there were like 8,000 detected cases in humans. For MERS, there about 800 cases detected in humans.

So, between the two of them, there were about 10,000 plus cases, there were fewer than 2,000 deaths --10,000, 11,000 cases and fewer than 2,000 deaths.

Well, with what we`re going through right now, we`ve already got over 80,000 infections and we`ve already got more deaths than MERS and SARS combined.

And this thing is in 60 countries and climbing by multiple countries per day. And there`s no vaccine, and there`s no vaccine on the horizon. And there`s no treatment and there`s no treatment on the horizon.

And as far as we can tell, everybody is infecting on average roughly two other people with 80,000 known infections already. And honestly, when it comes to the fatality rate of coronavirus, there may not be a drug that treats it and cures it at this point, but because it causes in severe cases severe respiratory and pulmonary problems, and it kills like 2 percent of the people that it`s -- got it, I mean, we can assume some of the fatality rate from coronavirus will depend on whether or not people can get good medical care, including access to intensive care units, including access to high level medical equipment like ventilators.

And so, yes, how many hospital beds does your country have in your state in your county? How many intensive care unit beds, how many ventilators? That`s going to make a difference.

The fatality rate from coronavirus may end up averaging 2 percent, but it may likely be different from country to country, depending on access to health care, depending on the health of health workers in that country. As we move from tens of thousands of people who are infected now to hundreds of thousands people infected and potentially more.

And so, countries around the world try to figure out how they`re going to respond. In Lebanon, they closed all the schools today. In Tokyo today, they closed Disneyland and a related Disney resort called Tokyo Disney C. On the island of Hokkaido, which is the northern most island in Japan, where they`re supposed to be running the marathon and Tokyo Olympics this summer, Hokkaido declared a state of emergency across the island. The regional governor there told all the residents of Hokkaido to stay in their homes.

In Switzerland, they announced nine new cases of coronavirus today. The government then ordered the cancellation of all events that involve more than a thousand people. Which among other things, Switzerland will be canceling its annual large sporting event, which is a ski marathon. Of course, that`s Switzerland`s largest sport event, a ski marathon.

It usually attracts like 14,000 people. This year it`s canceled. They also today announced the cancellation of the Geneva International Motor Show, which is one of the largest care events in the world. They also announced the cancellation of something called Baselworld 2020 which is apparently the big Swiss watch convention. All of those things are off, as countries around the world continue to cancel large events.

In Iran, they`ve now closed parliament. Multiple members of the Iranian parliament have been diagnosed with coronavirus, as has a vice president in the Iranian government.

In Italy, the regional president of the Lombardi region, that hard hit region in Italy, the president of that region is himself under isolation after one of his work colleagues was diagnosed with the virus.

The president of Mongolia is himself quarantined as of today.

And here at home, tonight, we`ve had some bad new news out of California. You`ll recall two days ago, Solano County in northern California produced the first new infection in the United States of unknown origin, where the source of the patient`s infection couldn`t be traced to international travel where the disease is known to be prevalent. The patient also didn`t appear to have any contact with anybody who had done any international travel, nor did that patient appear to have had any contact with anybody known to be infected.

That initial patient in Solano County is still being treated at UC-Davis Medical Center. She is in serious condition.

But tonight in a different northern California county, in Santa Clara County, public health officials have announced a second so-called community transmission case, another case this time also a woman. She`s been diagnosed with coronavirus, and again for the second time, the source of her infection is not known.

She has not traveled to countries where the virus is known to be prevalent. She`s not known to be in contact with anybody who`s bad that sort of international travel. Nor is she known to be in contact with anybody known to be infected. So where did she get it?

The Santa Clara Public Health Department -- Santa Clara County Public Health Department put out an admirably direct, straightforward announcement and alert about this case and what it means, which again I`m no expert but it looks to me like this is the sort of thing we might reasonably use as a model for frank public communication around these things.

Quote: County of Santa Clara Public Health Department reports third case of COVID-19. The third case of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County is not related to other cases. The third case in Santa Clara County had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known individual. Quote: Now is the time to prepare for the possibility of widespread community transmission.

The individual is an older adult woman with chronic health conditions, who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness. Her infectious disease physician contacted the public health department to discuss the case and request testing for the novel coronavirus.

Since receiving the results last night which were positive, the department has been working to identify contacts and to understand the extent of exposures.

Dr. Sara Cody, the health officer for Santa Clara County says, quote, this new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission, but the extent is still not clear.

She goes onto say, quote: I understand this may be concerning to hear but this is what we`ve been preparing for. Now we need to start additional actions to slow down the spread of this disease. This case is important because it signals now is the time to change course. This announcement from the county of Santa Clara goes onto give specific instructions about how individuals can keep themselves safe in terms of washing your hands, covering your cough, staying home if you are sick, stop touching your face. That is one way viruses are spread, when you touch your own mouth, nose or eyes. Quote, since we know the disease is here we all need to stay away from people who are sick.

Quote: Start thinking about family preparedness. How to take care of a sick family member while not getting infected yourself. Think about a room to isolate a sick person.

Santa Clara County also giving specific advice to schools and businesses about planning for continuing their operations and continuing to do what they do while potentially needing to keep students at home and employees at home. Whenever possible, replace in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences, increased teleconferencing options

The World Health Organization today moved to their highest level of international alert for a public health crisis. The World Health Organization official -- the official who announced the change to the highest alert status today described it as, quote, a reality check for every government on the planet.

Well, for us here in the United States that, of course, means our federal government where things continue to be pretty sketchy, the guy who supposedly may be running the government`s response to coronavirus, the vice president taking some time off to do some political fund-raising today in Florida. The White House chief of staff today, again, suggesting that it`s really no big deal, it`s all being blown out of proportion, it`s only in the news because of a plot against President Trump to make him look bad.

But if this really is a wakeup call to every government on earth, every government on earth for us Americans also includes our local governments like that of the county of Santa Clara in California. And at least at that level, that county health official who`s making that announcement, telling people in that county what we`ve got to do now, at least at that level, the information is clear and uncompromising and honestly stark.

Here we go. Got to lot to get to tonight. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  In London, you can get a coronavirus test in a drive-thru. The U.K. has tested over 7,000 people so far. They`ve got less than 20 cases confirmed.

In South Korea, yesterday alone, they tested 12,000 people for coronavirus.

In the United States, we have apparently tested a few hundred people total. Why is that? I mean, I understand the test is under development and there were some problems with it and it`s getting fixed, but -- I mean the U.K. and South Korea are very good friends of ours. Can we just use their tests? They apparently have thousands ready to go.

That`s one of my admittedly ignorant questions about how the United States handles this. But, boy, do I have many more.

Joining us now is Donald McNeil. He`s a science and health reporter at "The New York Times." Mr. McNeil has covered AIDS and Ebola and SARS and swine flu and bird flu, and now this coronavirus crisis as well.

Mr. McNeil, thank you very much for being here tonight. I appreciate it.

DONALD MCNEIL, SCIENCE AND HEALTH REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Thank you.

MADDOW:  First of all, let me ask you a terminology question. I`m still calling it coronavirus and that`s the way most people are talking about it. The official name is COVID-19. You think it matters in terms of how we talk about it?

MCNEIL:  No, you know, it`s politically incorrect. But to keep -- I call it China coronavirus, but I keep (ph) doing that, but it`s -- it is the coronavirus that came from China. The only reason you might not want to say the coronavirus because there are six other coronaviruses that we know about.

MADDOW:  Including MERS and SARS.

MCNEIL:  Including SARS and MERS and four coronavirus that produce the common cold that you`ve had and I`ve and everybody we know has had. They produce 25 percent of the common cold in this country.

MADDOW:  But this is a novel iteration of the coronavirus.

MCNEIL:  This is, that`s it.

MADDOW:  In terms -- let me ask you about SARS and MERS. I address that briefly a little bit in the introductory remarks because the White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney today at a political event talked about SARS and MERS and said that those were much worse, those had kill rates of 10 percent or 30 percent in terms of people who got infected and then how -- what proportion of those people died, basically implying to his audience if you weren`t afraid of SARS or MERS, you definitely shouldn`t be afraid about this. This one only appears to have a lethality rate of about 2 percent, therefore it`s much less scary.

I think his math is backwards in terms of explaining the potential risk and the scope of this epidemic, but I wanted to get your perspective on it.

MCNEIL:  He`s completely right about the lethality rate, and he`s completely wrong about the danger. The 1918 flu only killed about 2.5 percent of the people who got it. But it was so transmissible that it circled the entire world through 1918 and 1919, and a third of the world got it.

If a third of the world gets this disease, that`s a billion people so the deaths are going to mount into the millions, many millions.

MADDOW:  The transmission rate here in Italy where they have had one of the worst outbreaks outside of China, local officials said today in the region of Italy that appears to be hardest hit they think they`ve got 4 percent of the local population infected and what they`re observing is a transmission rate on average of one infected person infecting two other people.

Tell us what that means in sort of epidemiological terms.

MCNEIL:  It`s pretty early to make that guess in Italy`s outbreak because it`s only been going on for a couple of weeks. But 4 percent people infected so far doesn`t mean anything.

The 1918 flu was the 1918-1919 flu. It hit hard with a relatively mild wave in the spring and then it somewhat disappeared in the summer which is the reason for President Trump saying it`s all going to be gone by April. Then it came back in an absolute killer wave in the fall and winter, and that`s when most of the people died.

And this potentially, although I don`t like to predict the future has a -- it looks like something like that.

MADDOW:  When you talk about a third of the people on Earth getting it, in 1918, they obviously didn`t have jet travel. They didn`t have the kinds of global connections that we`ve got that we`re rapidly seeing shutdown as we see an economic contraction around this and travel restricts of all kinds.

Is there anything that people should -- that governments or that individuals or the health authorities ought to be rationally pursuing toward the aim of containment, or is that falling?

MCNEIL:  No, they already pursued it, shutting down air travel. I mean, the fact that we stopped air travel from China and China dove on its own viral grenade and shutdown travel within China actually bought the rest of the world quite a bit of time, I think.

But we`ve already run out of that time. Tedros, you know, the head of the World Health Organization, has been saying, there`s a window of opportunity here, there`s a window of opportunity here to do something about it, but that window is closing, all right? That window has not completely closed but it`s closing more and more as the virus spreads to the new countries.

MADDOW:  Our guest is Donald McNeil, he`s a science and health reporter at "The New York Times".

I want to talk you -- we`re going to take a quick break, but when we come back, I`d like to talk to you about the testing question that I raised but also some of how the U.S. federal government is handling this now as we`re starting to see county governments and state governments try to take the lead at least locally.

We`ll be right back with Donald McNeil right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SARA CODY, SANTA CLARA COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICER:  Today, we`re reporting a new case of novel coronavirus in Santa Clara County. This is the third case to be identified in our county, but it`s different from our other two cases in an important way. Like the California case reported two days ago, our third case did not recently travel to overseas or have any known contact with a recent traveler or an infected person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That was health officer in Santa Clara County, California, today announcing what is the second known case of a person being diagnosed with coronavirus in this country without there being a clear indication of where that person got it. The first one was two days ago in Solano County, California. The second one was Santa Clara County today.

And now, tonight, since we`ve been on the air there appears to be a third case. Oregon health officials announcing within the last 20 minutes that there is a third case that appears to be what they`re calling a community transmission case, somebody who has been diagnosed with a virus where the route by which that person got infected is not yet known and is now being tracked by public health officials.

Joining us once again is Donald McNeil, the science and health reporter at "The New York Times".

Mr. McNeil, I want to ask you about the first community transmission case, one of these cases where they don`t know where it came from, in Solano County, a nurses union put out a statement about that tonight, raising the alarm about basically health resources as the number of cases in the United States starts to rise, saying: The recent UC-Davis Medical Center COVID-19 case highlights the vulnerability of the nation`s hospitals to this virus and the insufficiency of current CDC guidelines. The single patient admitted to the facility on February 19th has now led to the self- quarantine at home of at least 36 RNs and 88 other health care workers. These 124 nurses and health care workers are needed now more than ever but they instead have been side lined. Lack of preparedness will create an unsustainable national health care staffing crisis.

I wanted to get your reaction to that.

MCNEIL:  That`s a lot of people to lose in your hospital. You can`t keep taking in new patients if you keep having to quarantine all the doctors and nurses.

I mean, eventually, unfortunately, that will have to stop because they`re going to need people who are not sick, who are not actively sick, and actively shutting virus to work because you can`t -- one case like the Solano case and UC-Davis case doesn`t worry so much. What would worry me is when an emergency room that normally has ten cases of pneumonia a week suddenly has 40 cases of pneumonia that week and -- you know, and that will happen eventually.

But these sort of individual cases that are not known to a change of transmission has actually been going on in Japan for a few weeks now. So, we`ve got a little more before where Japan was and -- but, unfortunately, eventually we`ll be where Iran was. There`ll be large numbers of unexplained cases. We`ll have a lot of them.

And then, eventually, you know, one third of Congress will get it probably. They`ll have to close down a lot of things including our parliament. It`s a public meeting.

MADDOW:  But if in individual cases, we do have one patient and more than 120 health care workers self-quarantined and not coming to work because of it, clearly that ratio is unsustainable even for a week.

MCNEIL:  It`s an abundance of caution kind of move.

MADDOW:  Yes.

MCNEIL:  Eventually, they`re going to have to ask those people to come back to work and say, look -- ultimately, in epidemics of respiratory disease, you start assuming most people are going to have mild cases, you know there`s transmission in the community and you`re going to have to ask people -- you have to treat people who are really sick and hope that the mild ones can continue. And, unfortunately, the real sick ones are the ones who are going to end up with pneumonia and going to be -- need to be on ventilators or on oxygen.

MADDOW:  In terms of the potential scale of this just inside the United States and the healthcare resource that we have available, hospital beds, intensive care beds, ventilators, health -- trained health care staff, how do our resources match up with the potential scale here?

MCNEIL:  I have not looked into these figures myself, but one of my colleagues was doing some research on this yesterday and he said that pandemic preparedness planning for the United States for the worst possible case of this kind of epidemic respiratory would need 750,000 ventilators in this country. We have about 75,000 he said. So, about 10 percent of what we might need.

I mean, a ventilator is like a $25,000 to $50,000 device. It`s like having a car. And you can`t just run out and buy one in the showroom. It`s not something you stockpile. You have to order them.

And, you know, I talked to a hospital director yesterday and he said we have some storage in Brooklyn. And I thought, OK, that`s great, but if number of people you have on ventilators triples, quadruples, quintuples -- you know, in China they built two hospitals in ten days. A thousand bed hospital, a 1,600-bed hospital. They got 2,500 doctors and nurses to march into Wuhan knowing that they were risking their lives and start treating patients.

I mean, the whole of China focused on Wuhan. Outbreaks of flu in this country tend to start in one place. This year it started in Louisiana and spread out from there. A couple of years ago, it started up in Maine in the Northeast.

It would be a good thing if this country were mobile enough to be able to send a lot of doctors and nurses to the epicenter of the outbreak, but we`re not a mobile society. I mean, we`re mobile but people have jobs and they have obligations to their own hospitals. We`re not organized from the top down the way China is.

So, we may have some troubles responding to this in the same kind of people`s war way the way China did to their outbreak.

MADDOW:  Especially if we`re not testing widely to identify where --

MCNEIL: That`s a big the fact we`re not testing as much as Italy is. I mean, we made test kits as soon as we knew the sequence of the virus. But the test kits turned out to have a problem. It turned out to have at least one of the rare (ph) agents was bad. So, a minority of the states in the country now have test kits, state and localities.

The WHO is having theirs made in Germany. I don`t know why we`re not asking WHO for copies of theirs and distributing thousands of those around the country. We should be testing lots, lots more people who have pneumonia, have undiagnosed pneumonia.

We should not just be testing people who have travelled history to China, or travel histories to India, or travel histories to Iran or something like that -- I mean Italy, rather than India.

We should be testing people who have pneumonia if we know it`s not flu and we know it`s not -- haven`t isolated the bacteria and it`s not responding to antibiotics, we should be testing for this.

MADDOW: Donald McNeil, science and health reporter at "The New York Times", thank you for being here from this very alarming story.

MCNEIL:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Thanks. Appreciate it.

All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  All right. It`s Friday night. Here we are talking about a frightening global viral outbreak and normally this would be my last show until Monday. So I`d compartmentalize, go home, fish, and try not to worry.

But this weekend, I`m working because around this time tomorrow night, I will be back in this seat covering the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary. Polls open 7:00 a.m. tomorrow and close at 7:00 p.m. in South Carolina. It`s very exciting.

Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, MSNBC`s national political correspondent.

Steve, is South Carolina going to be a close race, or is it not?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  The polling suggests that something very funny has happened here, that Joe Biden who finished fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and an extremely distant second in Nevada has all the momentum.

You`ve never seen a candidate lose that decisively in the early contests and suddenly he`s built a double-digit lead in the polling here on the eve of the South Carolina primary. So, the expectations certainly you`re hearing this from Biden supporters is not just a Biden victory tomorrow in South Carolina but a big Biden victory.

MADDOW:  And, of course, what the Biden campaign most wants is for you to not be saying that, saying Joe Biden has done so terribly in the other states, he`s got no chance tomorrow, and they want it to be a big shocking turn when he wins tomorrow, if and when he wins tomorrow, so he can get big -- he can get the big momentum boost out of it.

KORNACKI:  It`s interesting how fast things can change because last Saturday night when those Nevada results were coming in, if you had said Joe Biden was going to win South Carolina by double digits the next Saturday, people would have thought you were crazy.

MADDOW:  Yes.

KORNACKI:  People thought at that point, myself included, that it was very possible Bernie Sanders would have the momentum to take the lead in South Carolina this week. And yet poll after poll, we`ve been seeing has been very encouraging news for Joe Biden. So it raises a question of not just whether he`s going to do well tomorrow but whether that could change the race going forward past South Carolina.

MADDOW:  And can you tell what did it or can you tell -- either based on the timing or based on the narrative? Obviously, James Clyburn`s endorsement is nuclear in South Carolina. James Clyburn endorsing Biden, you just feel the weight of it when it happened. But is that what`s driving this, or is it -- is it about Bernie? Is it about -- I mean --

KORNACKI: It`s an interesting question. I think one theory that`s out there is you could put a couple things together here. You can say that Sanders` win in Nevada, it focused attention on the prospect of a Sanders nomination as something that was seemingly imminent in a way that never before has been the case.

I mean he ran in 2016. He never really got to a point against Hillary Clinton where you looked at him and said, that`s it. He`s got it. He`s on his way to the nomination. He was also the underdog in that race.

And even with Iowa, Iowa was kind of a muddled result. New Hampshire, it was close. He gets this decisive win in Nevada, looks like he`s leaving everybody else in the dust. And I think it does raise the question is this one of those gut check moments where there are Democratic voters who may like Bernie Sanders, they may have a positive view of him, but they`re suddenly hearing all these messages from Democratic Party leaders saying, are you sure you want to do this?

And we`ve seen this before where Democratic voters have kind of hit the pause button and they might be hitting the pause button right here.

MADDOW:  Steve Kornacki, will you sleep tonight or is this the sort of thing where you`re just like, no --

KORNACKI:  I`m going to try to sleep tonight so I can not sleep tomorrow night. That`s going to be the plan.

MADDOW:  Good luck.

KORNACKI:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

All right. We will be back again tomorrow night. Special coverage on the South Carolina primary starts at -- at least my part of it starts at 6:00, but it`s going to be a very exciting day. Polls open at 7:00 a.m.

All right. More to come. Stay with us.

(COMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KATE BROWN (D), OREGON:  Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here this evening. This afternoon, we learned that we have Oregon`s first case of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Oregon`s Governor Kate Brown announcing tonight the first presumptive case of coronavirus in the state of Oregon. They`re calling it a presumptive case because it has not yet been confirmed by federal health officials.

But the Oregon health authorities announced tonight that they believe that this person has the coronavirus and that it is a case of community transmission. This is a person who does not have a history of travel to a country where the virus is known to be prevalent. They don`t believe this person came into close contact with somebody else who is known to have the virus. And so, it`s now a matter of trying to figure out how this person got infected.

Oregon health officials say they consider this to be a likely community transmitted case. This would make it the third in the United States. They are investigating this person`s contacts.

This person is currently in isolation at a local hospital. We`ve also just had word that health officials in Oregon say this person in Oregon, this patient, has spent time at a specific elementary school, the Forest Hills Elementary School in the Lake Oswego School District in Oregon. According to a message sent to the community of that school district, the person is a school district employee, and the school now -- school district now intends to close that Forest Hills Elementary School through early next week now that this case has been reported.

Now, in addition to this third case of apparent community transmission in Oregon tonight, there are an additional group of people in Oregon who are currently being monitored by the state because they are seen as being at risk of having contracted the virus. That includes one additional patient who has apparently now developed symptoms and is waiting to be tested.

But Oregon is confronting a new status in terms of its role in this coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The president had said that the number of cases in the United States would quickly go to zero. That is not happening, and we are now seeing community transmission reported both in California and in Oregon.

This is a developing story. We`ll let you know more when we learn more. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY:  MSNBC will be live from South Carolina all day long tomorrow for the South Carolina primary. Polls open at 7:00 a.m. local time. Starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow night, I will be here alongside Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace and the cast of thousands, as we await those all- important results. First in the South, last early voting state before Super Tuesday. It`s going to be a very big night.

Again, special coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. Eastern and goes into the wee hours. I will see you right back here tomorrow night.

That does it for us for now. See you again then.

Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ali.

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