Coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 3/12/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Caroline Chen, Donald McNeil, Gregg Gonsalves

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ):  That means expanding food stamps, unemployment  insurance. That means making sure that the stress-testing of our health  care system that we are prepared, have the resources to do what`s  necessary. There are clear steps we should be taking understanding what`s  coming to our country. 

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, thank you for  your time tonight. 

BOOKER:  Chris, I know -- I want to say, everybody, this is the time we  should be pulling together, not tearing apart. This is the time we should  be extending grace, support and help. Just because leaders are failing,  doesn`t mean we as a people together should fail each other. I hope we all  rise to the occasion to be there for each other with grace and support and  love. 

HAYES:  Could not agree more with that final message. Thank you, Senator. 

That is ALL IN for this evening. 

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much  appreciated.

HAYES:  You bet.

MADDOW:  And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. 

This is the health minister in Great Britain you see on left side of your  screen there. She fell ill a few days ago. She got tested for coronavirus.  Her test was positive. 

That`s bad news for the British health minister. It`s also bad news for the  British government. 

Before she was tested, she reportedly sat in not only on cabinet meeting  and carried out her regular government business, she also attended a  reception at number 10 Downing Street with the British Prime Minister Boris  Johnson. Again, she`s now not only positive for coronavirus but she`s  symptomatic. 

Today, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British people  basically to steel themselves for what`s ahead, saying in public remarks,  quote, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time. 

The chief scientific adviser to the British government today said although  the number of officially confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.K. is just  under 600, he believes as the top science adviser to the government that a  more realistic snapshot of how many cases there are in the U.K. would be  more like 5,000 to 10,000. 

The British government announced yesterday that they will move to rapidly  upscale the number of tests they are doing. They are currently carrying out  about 1,500. They say they are going to move to 10,000 tests per day. So,  they are trying to quintuple the rate of testing immediately. 

Again, it`s stark to see the chief scientific adviser to the British  government saying he believes there`s 5,000 to 10,000 cases in the U.K.  already never mind that there`s under 600 official tests. 

And for us here at home, you know, that`s a snapshot of what`s going on in  another country, just another dear ally of ours dealing as best they can  with a rapidly escalating crisis of this virus. But because it`s the U.K.,  just taking that little view, that short-term view of the circumstances  there today, the news about coronavirus there today, also gives lie to the  randomness of what our government is doing in terms of our own national  response because honestly, our own government`s response is basically just  a splatter painting thus far from the president and from this  administration. 

I mean, just look at one day`s worth of headlines of what`s going on in the  U.K. in terms of coronavirus. The number of cases in the U.K. versus other  countries, the circumstances that the U.K. government believes itself to be  in, the fact that a senior member of the British government has herself  tested positive. I mean, just look at one day`s news out of the U.K., and  it`s clear, there`s no scientifically rational reason why our government  just instituted a travel ban from Europe that doesn`t include the U.K. 

I mean, why do that? No matter how much you like the U.K., you know, or  enjoy British detective stories -- I`m right there with you. No matter how  much the president might have a personal affinity for the prime minister or  the queen or whatever, it makes no rational sense. This European travel ban  excluding the U.K. is random. 

Why is our own government behaving in a random manner? Our federal  government response to this epidemic is not rational. It`s not well- designed, it`s not likely to accomplish its stated aims, and sometimes its  stated aims make no sense, either. 

Honestly, there`s no reason why the main thrust of the U.S. government`s  top level response to the virus at this point should be a travel ban from  anywhere, especially -- let alone on the day the World Health Organization  declared this is a global pandemic, what that is supposed to do is tell  every country, you can`t escape by virtue of your geography. This is  everywhere.

That`s the day we institute a new, inexplicable travel ban? The president  last night calling this a, quote, foreign virus, in a way that may have  been a little blessing for us, because that is so wrong. It is such an  irrational, unscientific, nonsensical way to talk about this that maybe  something that dumb coming from the president in a prime time Oval Office  address, maybe that is clarifying. Maybe that simplifies our national  understanding of where we`re at, because that alone should clarify for  everybody beyond any shred of a doubt that the U.S. response will have to  be led from somewhere other than the top of the federal government, because  at the top of the federal government right now, it is a fountain of  nonsense. 

And, you know, it is one of the odd through lines in this global pandemic  as it evolves that people at the very top of governments around the world  are themselves at risk. I mean, there`s the British health minister who we  told you about. 

In Spain, they have had a cabinet minister test positive. That resulted in  the entire Spanish cabinet announcing they would be tested as well as the  Spanish king and the Spanish queen. They have been tested. They are  awaiting test results now. The leader of the far right Vox Party in Spain  has been tested as well and is positive. 

In Brazil, we reported last night on the delegation of top Brazilian  officials who not only came to the United States, they specifically went to  Mar-a-Lago this past weekend to meet with the president and members of his  family. We reported last night that a press minister from the Brazilian  government seen here in a photo with the president at Mar-a-Lago, that man  on the right in the brown make Brazil great again hat, he is the press  minister of the Brazilian government. We reported last night he was  undergoing testing for the coronavirus. He has now tested positive. 

The president of Brazil, who was also at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, also  meeting personally with President Trump and shaking his hand, he himself  was today tested for the coronavirus and expects to receive his results  tomorrow. Not only President Trump but also Vice President Pence who was  supposedly leading the U.S. coronavirus response, they both had relatively  extensive contact with this Brazilian delegation over the weekend at Mar-a- Lago, and we know that because a photo and video documentation. Even as the  White House insists, despite our lying eyes that President Trump and Vice  President Pence definitely aren`t going to be tested for coronavirus  despite those contacts because the White House says really there wasn`t  really much contact at all. Really, we swear. 

At this point, the White House insistence that the president -- the sitting  president of the United States, won`t stop shaking hands. No need to. The  number of -- relatively large number of people who have been exposed to the  virus with whom the president has had close face to face contact and with  whom he has shook hands within the past few days, none of that warrants  special precautions for the president at all, let alone testing the  president. 

I mean, at this point, the handling of the president`s personal  susceptibility to this virus is getting a little bit weird. It`s getting  hard to believe our own government even about that. But as I say, that is  just one element of a federal government response that is largely  irrational, inexplicable and needless to say ineffective. 

Republican U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott were both at Mar-a- Lago this weekend. They both reportedly interacted with that same Brazilian  delegation that also interacted with President Trump and Vice President  Pence. Both of these Republican senators themselves are now under  quarantine, while they at least take steps to try to protect themselves and  anybody else who they might infect given they were exposed to the virus if  they got it. 

It`s now actually quite a number of members of Congress and members of the  Senate who have potentially been exposed and who have isolated themselves  because of it. So far, there`s one Senate staffer, a staffer to Washington  U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell who has tested positive and is reportedly  symptomatic. 

A number of U.S. senators announced they would close their D.C. offices  even as Mitch McConnell, the city majority leader announced that the  planned Senate recess next week would be canceled and Senate would stay --  the Senate would stay in session. At last count, it is 30 U.S. states that  have declared a state of emergency to try to speed state government  response to the virus. 

Schools across the great states of Ohio and Maryland and Kentucky will all  be closed. We learned that tonight. A large public school district in  Houston, Texas, fourth largest city in the country, and San Francisco,  California, both of those large school districts announced tonight that  their schools will be closed. The Smithsonian is closing in D.C. 

That`s just the national zoo as is Arlington National Cemetery, as is the  Metropolitan Museum in New York, as is Broadway in New York. 

Tonight, Disneyworld announced that they`re closing on Sunday. Disneyland  is doing so as well. Disneyland is only closed like three times in the last  50 years. They are closing because of this. 

New York City has declared a state of emergency. New York state, New  Jersey, California, Oregon have all instituted statewide bans on gatherings  of large numbers of people. 

The U.S. Capitol is closed to visitors. The Supreme Court of the United  States is closed to visitors. And as you have no doubt seen today in a  veritable cascade of announcements, pro and collegiate sports of all kinds  have basically been shut down. Seasons of all major pro sports have been at  least suspended if not called off. 

As of this time last night, we thought the NCAA college basketball  tournament would be a series of games played in front of empty seats. As of  tonight, the tournament itself just will not happen. The season is over.  It`s called off. 

I don`t think there`s been a single individual tipping point at which our  country started to wake up to the magnitude of this crisis and what is  coming in terms of the strain that is about to be put on our public health  system, our economy, and all other governance systems that we`ve got. I  don`t think there is a single tipping point. But this past 24-hour period,  it does feel like enough shocking things happened in short order that,  again, there wasn`t one point, but we have tipped. We are inarguably in a  different headspace as a country about this. We are on a different footing  as a nation than we were even 24 hours ago. 

I think part of it is the sports stuff being canceled honestly, just in  terms of the psychological reset that we are undergoing right now. Even if  you don`t care about the news at all, even if the only live media you ever  consume is sports, well, your life just changed drastically. No matter how  much you like to keep your head in the sand about anything that doesn`t  involve a ball or points or both, it`s unavoidable now even if you have  been not paying attention to any of this stuff deliberately or just as the  matter of the way you live your life. 

I think part of it was also the president`s bad speech last night from the  Oval Office, confusing, strange, a little bit alarming in terms of his  strange affect. If that speech was meant to reassure the country about how  the government has this under control, boy, did it do the opposite. 

I think part of it is also that the economic ditch just keeps getting  deeper. They had to stop trading again today on Wall Street. They hit one  of those circuit breakers that makes them stop trading for 15 minutes. But  even still, once they turned it back on, the markets kept falling off the  cliff even with the Fed announcing hundreds of billions of dollars in  basically grease for the wheels, liquidity into the markets to try to keep  things moving. 

The Dow today down more than 2,000 points. Sell-off by percentage that`s  larger than anything that happened during the 2008 financial collapse. You  have to go back as far as the Black Monday Wall Street crash in 1987 to  find a plunge deeper than what we had today. After the president`s Oval  Office address to reassure us all. 

As of tonight, JPMorgan is bluntly predicting a U.S. recession this year. 

But understanding, really getting how bad it is and how bad it is likely to  get, even if we are in that different headspace, even if we are coming to a  new understanding about this and people who run sports leagues and states  and colleges and malls are figuring it out and acting accordingly, it still  leaves all of us, all of us regular citizens with the day-to-day decisions  about what we are supposed to do and what we can do to protect ourselves  and to protect our families and to contribute to our country trying to  handle this as well as possible. 

Clearly, we`re not leaving this to the government, and they`ll do it.  Clearly, it`s going to be us doing the right thing as best we understand  it. So, I mean, I could do sort of breaking news on all the different  things that are closing and shutting down and being changed because of the  virus for the entire course of this hour, but I`m going to stop there with  what I`ve already said. 

And tonight, we`re going to talk to a couple different reporters. We`re  also going to speak with somebody who I think has very valuable experience  in successfully forcing improvement in what was a terrible government  response to a health crisis. There are people who have gone before us who  have succeeded in forcing a terrible federal government response to a  health crisis to get better. We should learn from them now. 

I mean, we do ultimately only have one federal government, and we have to  try to survive this crisis and improve our national response to this crisis  with the government we have. 

But let`s just look at -- let`s look at one very specific slice of this,  something that "ProPublica" did today in a way that I think was very  valuable. It`s a public service. We all now have figured out that one of  the fiascos, if not the fundamental fiasco of the U.S. government response  to this crisis, is that there isn`t any testing really, that we are  probably the worst in the world, certainly the worst in the industrial  world at testing and screening for this virus. 

We`ve got it. We`ve got it in probably every state in the country. We`ve  got states of emergency in 30 states in the country. We`re still not  broadly testing populations anywhere. 

Virginia Congressman Don Beyer, one of those members of Congress who is  self-quarantining because he believes he was exposed to the virus, even he,  a sitting member of congress, just outside the nation`s capital, even he is  unable to get tested while he`s under quarantine because we don`t have  tests that are -- not only do we not have widely available testing in this  country, if you`re a sitting member of Congress, you can`t finagle a test  in this country, not unless you have the right connections. 

Whether you are in one of the nursing homes where there has been multiple  deaths in Washington state or you just got off a cruise ship that had  positive coronavirus cases on board, a cruise ship that was held offshore  in California, or whether you went to a conference in New Orleans or  Washington, D.C. where people were known to be positive or Boston or  somebody at your synagogue or your church or a wedding you went to has  fallen ill or tested positive, if you have been somewhere where you believe  there is a good chance that you have been exposed to this highly contagious  virus, chances are still, this deep into it, this long into this crisis,  that if you as an American are seeking testing to see if you yourself have  in fact been exposed, you are going to have a hard time getting it. 

Even Americans who have returned from countries that have raging, out of  control outbreaks have found once they get here, even if they want to get  tested, there`s not necessarily a way to do it. And while the government is  trying to scale this up, Tony Fauci from NIH today saying it is a failure  of the U.S. system that we`ve been unable to scale up our testing. It is a  failure. Acknowledging it is a failure is a good first step to fixing it. 

The CDC director today saying under harsh and persistent questioning from  Democratic members of Congress that, ultimately, yes, testing will be  provided regardless of whether you`re able to pay, the government  clarifying that for the first time today. The CDC director saying today  that coronavirus treatment will be provided whether or not you are able to  pay. That is a check that his mouth wrote today that I am looking forward  to seeing them cash as a federal government, because I don`t know how  they`re trying to guarantee that. But the CDC director today promised it  under tough questioning in Congress.

I mean, they are trying to improve all of these things but right now, we`re  watching the numbers go up everywhere. We know what the infection curves  look like in other countries that have community transmission. And we still  don`t have testing. More than 1,000 confirmed cases in this country, an  epidemic of absolutely unknown proportions because we don`t have testing,  but Americans who believe they`ve been exposed still have to do something. 

If you believe you`ve been exposed, the general advice is that you should  isolate yourself, right? Self-quarantine-ish. 

"ProPublica" today investigated the specific advice Americans are being  given if they believe they have been exposed to someone with the virus.  What they found is that instructions people are getting about how exactly  you do self-quarantine, how exactly you do isolate yourselves. These  instructions are wildly divergent depending on who you`re asking and under  what circumstances. 

It is basically impossible to get an authoritative answer as to what  Americans who have been exposed are really supposed to do. And honestly,  right now, with no vaccine and no treatment and very, very, very little  testing in this country, that`s all we`ve got. We`ve got these mitigation  factors that we can take as a society to close down vectors of likely  transmission, large crowds, school settings, sporting events, et cetera. 

But for people who believe they`ve been exposed, we`ve got one thing you  can do, and the guidance on what that one thing is, is all over the map. In  the absence of testing, this is all any of us we can do if we`ve been  exposed. What exactly is it? 

The lack of clear, consistent advice about how to handle this specific part  of America`s response to coronavirus is something the federal government  could fix over the course of a single day if they put their mind toward  clarifying and directly specifying best practices for isolation and  quarantine. And they issued that advice nationwide. If they had the  authority and wherewithal to do it, they could do it. 

But as of right now, even this far into it, it appears to just be chaos. 

Joining us now is one of the reporters on this piece for "ProPublica" that  investigated the extent of the range of advice people are being given.  Caroline Chen covers health care for "ProPublica". 

Caroline, thank you very much. 

CAROLINE CHEN, PROPUBLICA HEALTH CARE REPORTER:  Thanks for having me. 

MADDOW:  I`m obviously wound up about this, and I do not expect you to be.  I`m not asking you for your opinion on any of these matters. 

CHEN:  Oh, I`m wound up too. 

MADDOW:  You are? OK. Well, tell me. 

I mean, your reporting to me was something that I suspected was true, but I  find it the wide range of advice people are given to be shocking. 

CHEN:  And I was surprised too because I had gotten some inkling of this  just from seeing stories on Twitter. But we decided on Monday of this week  to actually seriously do a call-out and start searching out stories and  comparing standards. And what we found was that a lot of people are given  either misinformation, lacking information, or are desperately trying to  get information and are unable to get information. 

And so, there is a patchwork of information out there about what you should  do if you think you`ve been exposed or you have been exposed across the  country. 

MADDOW:  And this is people calling their local doctor, their local  hospital, the county health department, the state health authorities -- I  mean, people are calling all sorts of different entities. Part of what your  reporting indicates is that nobody even knows who to call to check what it  is they`re supposed to do if they believe they`ve been exposed. 

CHEN:  Yes, and I think, generally, the advice is call your medical  provider, which is if --  

MADDOW:  If you have one. 

CHEN:  Yes, if you have one, which not everybody in the United States has.  And what I`ve seen, and I have honestly been impressed and moved by, is how  persistent people are because they`re concerned. So, we`ve seen a lot of  stories and heard a lot of stories of people who either heard about  somebody who was positive, for example, a woman who went to a wedding, and  then saw a tweet that a server at the wedding she was at tested positive,  and then launched herself on an odyssey of trying to get information  because she wanted to do the right thick. 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. And to protect herself but also to protect her family,  protect anybody else from becoming exposed. 

CHEN:  And her community. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

CHEN:  And also I spoke to a mother of a daughter who came home from a  school trip to Italy, and when she developed symptoms, her first step was  to go to her daughter`s pediatrician, and the pediatrician started by  saying -- well, I don`t think she has, you know, COVID-19. You know, she  has an upper respiratory infection. She`s probably fine. 

And the mother pushed a little bit more and said, you know, we live in  Manhattan in a neighborhood that has elderly folks. You know, is it safe?  And just out of her sense of wanting to do the right thing, called the  school and then called 311 herself, and 311 took a different view and said,  you know, please take her to an E.R. and, you know, we`d suggest that given  where she came from, that she might be a candidate for testing. 

So this mom then went out of her own way, you know, got a televisit with  NYU`s E.R. where they said, you know, we don`t have enough testing  capacity, so then suggested that she self-isolate the daughter. But then  here is where we have an example of different standards. 

MADDOW: Mm-hmm. 

CHEN:  So at this point the pediatrician also said, if you want to play it  safe, you can stay at home. The pediatrician said two weeks from the date  of the doctor`s office. 

MADDOW:  OK. 

CHEN:  The NYU E.R. doctor said two weeks from the onset of symptoms. The  mom also again doing her own research looked up the CDC`s website, which  says two days from leaving Italy. 

MADDOW:  Two weeks from leaving Italy. 

CHEN:  Yes, two weeks from leaving Italy. 

So then the mom goes, OK, these all have different end dates. I`m going to  play it as conservatively as possible as a concerned citizen and keep my  daughter at home as long as possible. 

MADDOW:  Because we`re all in the position of directing our own public  health response to these matters at this point. 

CHEN:  Yes. 

MADDOW:  It`s just -- it`s remarkable and it`s very helpful granular  reporting that is really infuriating. 

Caroline Chen covers health care for "ProPublica" -- thank you for your  time this evening. Thanks for your reporting.

CHEN:  Thank you for having me. 

MADDOW:  I would shake your hand, but I don`t do that anymore. Appreciate  it.

All right. Up next, we`re going to look at how some other countries are  doing quarantines, what steps they`re taking that appear to be working and  saving lives, stuff that we`re not doing here. 

That and much more ahead tonight. Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  When we first shifted to covering this health crisis almost full- time on this show, I did an interview here on set in New York with Donald  McNeil, who is a veteran science and health reporter at "The New York  Times."  And I replay that in my head nightly while I don`t sleep, because  Mr. McNeil could not have been more stark and more dark about what was on  its way and how large a response a pandemic of this scale and speed was  going to require. 

And it didn`t seem crazy at the time, but it did seem a little bit like he  was visiting from another planet and trying to sound alarms that nobody  could really hear. 

Not anymore. That interview was just a couple of weeks ago, but that is  thousands of deaths ago now. And now that the U.S. economy has cratered and  the U.S. response to the virus has finally started to come into view with  testing still almost impossible to get, with the messaging from the top of  the government still inexplicable often, with state and local officials  taking matters into their own hands, I think it`s time to check back in  with Donald McNeil. 

What do we know works from other countries at this point, if anything? What  could we still change now to try to emulate other countries` best  practices? Are there things we are doing now or worrying about now that  we`ve got wrong? 

I need a broader perspective. 

Donald McNeil has covered AIDS, Ebola, SARS, swine flu, bird flu for "The  New York Times." He`s now covering this coronavirus crisis as well. 

Mr. McNeil, thank you for coming back. 

DONALD MCNEIL, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Thank you for inviting. 

MADDOW:  First of all, let me ask you -- I know you`ve been here since the  top of the show. Have I said anything wrong? 

MCNEIL:  No, no. I thought Caroline Chen`s reporting was terrific. I`m glad  that somebody pointed out the incredible confusion that people face when  they want to know whether or not they have a disease they know is deadly. 

We are in a headless chicken phase of our approach to the pandemic, and we  have a president who appeared to me terrified on camera while he made his  speech and who gave an approach that made no sense. I mean, you know, why  are we blocking entry from Europe when we have epicenters all over this  country? We have an epicenter in Westchester County right now. 

We may have one in this room we`re in. I don`t know yet. Won`t know for a  couple of days because you can pass it for a couple of days  asymptomatically. But the president under all world standards should be in  quarantine right now. He shook hands with somebody who just turned  positive. 

You know, this is just basic medical behavior. If you`ve been exposed to a  dangerous disease, our approach here is to go into quarantine. But there  seem to be exceptions. 

MADDOW:  The quarantine fiasco, which I think stands alongside the testing  fiasco, to me feels like a point that`s worthy of focus because it seems  more fixable. The testing thing, we obviously screwed that up royally as a  country. They are trying to scale it up. A lot of effort is going into  that. It`s still going to take a long time and it will hamper our efforts  until we`ve got it in place. 

Meanwhile without testing, all we can do is large scale mitigation efforts  like getting rid of crowds, telling people not to fly, other things like  that. But also, people who have been exposed should quarantine. 

Would clear federal standards on how to quarantine and under what  circumstances help? 

MCNEIL:  It`s not the right approach anyway. 

MADDOW:  OK.

MCNEIL: You don`t want infected people or suspected infected people with  their families. They`ll just pass it on to them. 

China has had enormous success in beating down its epidemic. We don`t know  what`s going to happen when China tries to reopen its economy and let  people go back to the factories and back to the subways and back to offices  and restaurants and everything else. We don`t know what`s going to happen,  and they`re going to do it in a very slow, graduated way, but they have  been in lockdown all this time. 

But we see the drone shots from the city and think, oh, lockdown, looks  terrible. There`s no traffic on the street. That`s not the point of what  they did. They had to do that in order to introduce the measures they were  going to take that were actually going to fight the epidemic and that is  testing, testing, testing, testing. Find the virus. 

So, one thing is no matter where you go, if you are able to get out of the  house, if you go into any building, your temperature is taken. I came into  this building, nobody took my temperature. They asked me some silly  questions I could have lied about. 

But, you know, they -- you get your fever taken. You get into a bus, your  temperature is taken. You walk into a train station, your temperature is  taken. You walk into a building, you walk back to your apartment building,  your temperature is taken. 

MADDOW:  What happens if you show a fever? 

MCNEIL:  Then you`re sent to a fever clinic. People are not sent to your  doctor`s office. Your doctor`s office is dangerous. One of those tests will  make you cough or gag and then you`ve infected the doctor and then the  doctor`s office is out and you`ve possibly infected everybody in the  waiting room. 

So they`re sent to specific fever clinics which the Chinese have had since  they battled SARS back in 2002. They designed, basically mapped all them.  It`s usually entrance to a hospital, it`s separate from the main entrance.  They`re met by people in complete protective gear. 

The temperature is taken. They`re asked quickly what their symptoms are,  whether they`ve been exposed, how they`ve been exposed. They get a quick  white blood cell count to see whether or not they have bacterial pneumonia.  It doesn`t tell you what the bacteria, but it tells you whether or not you  likely got it. They get a quick flu test to see if they have flu. 

If you`ve got one of those, maybe you can be excluded and go home. Your  symptom is something else. But if you don`t have either one of those, then  you`re given a CT scan. CT scans in this country take half an hour to an  hour and they`re, you know, extremely expensive things. 

There, they have portable CT scanners. They have pushed people through  those things at the rate of 200 a day. A couple of slices of the lungs, and  that`s all, to see whether or not there are these ground glass opacities in  both lungs that are pretty good indication of this. All right?

If you come up positive for that, then you are going to get a PCR test,  which is the test we`re talking about here. It`s basically a nasal swab is  the usual way to do it, which is push a Q-tip up your nose. It`s not very  pleasant, but they do that on site. They`ve gotten it down to four hours.  There`s no sending it off to the state health department. 

MADDOW:  So, you sit and wait for it to come back? 

MCNEIL:  And you sit and wait, you are told sit, you know, a couple yards  apart from everybody else. People sitting there, it was described to me,  they`re sitting there with their pink envelopes with their CT scan and they  afraid of each other because they know they might be sitting next to  somebody who has got the virus. 

And once the scan results come back, and if they can`t get the scan results  back that day, they have to go to a hotel, a quarantine hotel and wait  until the results come back. 

MADDOW:  Apart from their family? 

MCNEIL:  Apart from their family, and that is the key element. There is no  home isolation. There is no home quarantine. 

Seventy-five percent to 80 percent of the transmission in China was in  family clusters. What would make the news was things like, oh, my God, it`s  in the prisons, oh, my God, it`s in parliament -- it wasn`t in parliament  there. But 75 percent to 80 percent of it was inside the family, and they  knew they had to stop that if they were going to stop the disease. 

So people were quickly taken away from these families to these giant  gymnasiums or stadiums where they were not concentration camps. There were  beds there, and there were nurses in protective gear to watch out for  people. They even had dance classes in these things because when you have  lots of little old ladies sort of sitting there together waiting to see if  they`re OK, if you get them all up dancing, one, it helps clear their lungs  and the people who can`t get up maybe are the one who`s are crashing. 

It`s not a bad policy. We laugh at the pictures when you see people dancing  in what looked like moon suits but, in fact, that was something medically  smart that was going on. If people actually need to be hospitalized, you  know, the people who don`t need to be hospitalized are the ones in these  so-called 80 percent of mild cases. 

I`m sorry I used that expression because mild when you look carefully at  the study is everything from almost no symptoms to pneumonia but doesn`t  need oxygen, doesn`t need hospitalization. 

MADDOW:  Wow.

MCNEIL:  Now, I`ve had pneumonia. I`ve had walking pneumonia. That was not  like having a mild cold. That was serious. I had it about two weeks  different from when Hillary Clinton got it. You saw her collapse on the  street. She had to be carried into her van when she collapsed.

I was standing on third base playing softball with some friends and thought  I`m going to collapse here and went to the doctor the next day. So, those  are the cases. They`re isolated away, and people actually sort of move  through the system. Suspect cases, mild to moderate cases, and hospitalized  severe and critical cases who are actually in hospitals. 

And the crucial thing about that system is break the chains of transmission  and also do what you can to keep the hospitals from getting overwhelmed  because when the hospitals get overwhelmed, you have to say, OK, she lives,  she lives, but he dies and he dies. She`s young and has kids, we`ll save  her, grandmother, good-bye. 

Those are the choices they are making in northern Italy right now, and  they`re going to be making them all over Italy pretty soon, and we will  too. 

MADDOW:  Donald McNeil, science and health reporter for "The New York  Times." people are going to clip this and send it to their local health  department from having you describe this because of the distance because of  what you`re describing and what we`re doing and preparing for. But thank  you. Donald McNeil, a reporter with "The New York Times", thank you for  being here. 

MCNEIL:  Thank you. 

MADDOW:  Appreciate it. I`m not shaking your hand. 

MCNEIL:  Nor I. Sorry.

MADDOW:  We`ll be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  Mr. President, can`t an American still bring back coronavirus  under these travel restrictions? 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have them very heavily  tested. If an American is coming back or anybody is coming back, we`re  testing. We have a tremendous testing set up where people coming in have to  be tested. We`re not putting them on planes if they are -- if it shows  positive. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Americans coming back, anybody coming into this country is being  very heavily tested. We have a tremendous testing set up. 

That is not true at all. On the menu of things that President Trump has  said in his three-plus years in office that are not true, this is one of  the easier ones to fact-check. This is just flat not happening no matter  how many times he says it. 

(BEGN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We have them very heavily tested. If an American`s coming back or  anybody is coming back, we`re testing. 

(END IDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Americans are not being very heavily tested for coronavirus.  Before they get here from another country, once they get here from another  country or if they`re just here and haven`t gone to another country. 

I mean, that`s not happening. That is an operational thing the president  has imagined and is now declaring to the American people as the way it is.  That was just today. 

But this is not a one-off. This is every day from him, and it turns out it  has serious consequences when in the middle of a severe public health  emergency, the president just lies about it over and over and over again. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We`re going to be pretty soon at only five people, and we could be  at just one or two people over the next short period of time. 

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Congress` top doctor has told Senate  staffers that he expects 70 million to 150 million Americans to contract  the coronavirus. 

TRUMP:  I mean, view this the same as the flu. 

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIH:  The mortality of this is multiple times what  seasonal flu is. 

TRUMP:  Anybody that needs a test gets a test. 

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We don`t have enough  tests today. 

TRUMP:  We`re very close to a vaccine. 

FAUCI:  When you`re talking about the availability of a vaccine, you`re  talking about a year to a year and a half. 

TRUMP:  A lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat. 

FAUCI:  We do not know whether it`s going to diminish as the weather gets  warm. 

PENCE:  The risk of contracting the coronavirus to the American public  remains low. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We do expect more cases. 

ALEX AZAR, HHS SECRETARY:  We can expect to see more cases in the United  States. 

FAUCI:  We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are  right now. 

TRUMP:  It`s going to disappear. One day it`s like a miracle, it will  disappear. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  For us as a country, it is just unfortunate that we have that kind  of a president who`s that -- who has that easy a time lying during this  kind of a problem when we really need to know the truth. 

But for us as Americans, we also have a history, a recent history that we  can learn from at a moment like this. There are people among us from whom  we can learn about how best to pressure our government into being better  when they are being terrible and when they are bungling a health crisis  with consequences of life and death for potentially thousands of Americans.  There are people among us we can learn from because they`ve done it and  they`ve fixed it in the past. 

That`s next. Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  This was a major day of protests by AIDS  activists in this country, 1,000 of them converging on the National  Institutes of Health outside of Washington demanding more research on the  disease. 

REPORTER:  Today`s demonstration is the latest of many staged by the  militant group Act-Up, which has gained increasing influence on AIDS  policy. Act-Up`s strategy has been successful in getting the Food and Drug  Administration to loosen the regulation of new drugs for AIDS. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Act-Up stands for the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. It was  founded in 1987 as the AIDS epidemic rose to almost unimaginable heights.  It was founded with the founding believe that AIDS was deadly not only  because of the virus but because of the human failure, institutional  failures, the failure of our government to recognize the magnitude of the  crisis and act rationally and aggressively to fix it and save lives. 

One of the legendary activists with Act-Up starting in the early `90s was a  man by the name of Gregg Gonsalves. Altogether, he has spent more than 30  years working on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues, as an activist,  also as a scientist. He earned his PhD in public health from Yale. His  life`s work has been focused on giving politicians and policymakers a hard  time and also giving them the data they need to make better public health  decisions and then holding them to it if they show unwillingness to do it  in the time or with the alacrity that they need to save lives. 

His life`s work in other words has been preparing him for this moment. 

Joining us now is Gregg Gonsalves. He`s an assistant professor of  epidemiology at Yale School of public health. He`s also in 2018, MacArthur  Genius Grant winner. 

Professor Gonsalves, it`s really nice to have you here. 

GREGG GONSALVES, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, YALE UNIVERSITY:   Nice to be here, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So, I want to talk to you because I feel like Americans are  cottoning to the fact that our government is a big part of the coronavirus  problem, that our government response is terrible. I feel like there must  be something to learn from the AIDS movement in terms of how to make a bad  government response better. 

GONSALVES:  Well, for many of us, it`s deja vu all over again.

MADDOW:  Yes.

GONSALVES:  It was death by public policy in the 1980s where we had malign  neglect by the Reagan administration that let tens of thousands of  Americans die before the president even uttered the word AIDS. 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

GONSALVES:  And it`s been 30 years, and we`ve seen other health crises come  and go and presidents, Democratic and Republican, rise to the challenge. 

Now, all these years later, we have another president, again, malevolence  and incompetence put together to imperil many, many more people in the  United States that were imperiled by HIV in the early days. 

MADDOW:  The gay community was so galvanized by AIDS, and the AIDS activist  movement was so inflected by the gay -- by the gay community, especially in  the early days because that community was so disproportionately hit by the  epidemic. 

This epidemic is a pandemic. It`s everywhere. It seems to show no  demographic contours at all in terms of susceptibility. I wonder if that  makes you think -- how that makes you think about the possibility of  building -- I don`t know if it has to be a movement but building some sort  of effective citizen feedback loop so that our government feels like they  can no longer stay this bad in their response. 

GONSALVES:  Well, we have to build a large coalition pretty quickly, and  it`s interesting that this disease is going to impact people who also were  impacted by the AIDS epidemic, the incarcerated, immigrants, people of  color, people who are underinsured or uninsured totally. So we have a lot  of work to do in building bridges with movements that already exist,  immigrants rights movement, the Dreamers, people working on prison  abolition, to try to build a movement very, very quickly to get our  government to get off the dime and do what`s right. 

We don`t -- we don`t have months and years for this. We have days and weeks  to get it right. 

MADDOW:  I want to talk to you about treatment and vaccine politics and  some of the other ways that you have learned the hard way how to try to  influence the government even in places that don`t like to be susceptible  to pressure, if could hold on to us for one segment. 

Gregg Gonsalves is an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale School of  Public Health, a legendary AIDS activist -- we`ll be right back with him  after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  -- Gregg Gonsalves, who is an Act-Up veteran from the AIDS  movement. He`s now assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale School of  Public Health.

Professor, thanks for being here. 

One of the successes of the AIDS movement is penetrating a seemingly  impenetrable bureaucracy to get drugs developed and into bodies faster than  the system otherwise would have got them there. Do you envision any sort of  treatment activism like that around therapeutics for the coronavirus or  indeed a vaccine? 

GONSALVES:  I think there are people already as we speak working on trying  to figure out the problems that have to do with the diagnostics scale up in  the United States that are thinking about vaccines and treatment activism.  We have the connections with the scientists with the drug companies, the  diagnostic companies now that the we didn`t have 30, 40 years ago. 

MADDOW:  Because you changed the system. 

GONSALVES:  We changed the system. What`s difficult now is that the top of  the pyramid, the president, the vice president, secretary of state of  health and human services are an impenetrable fortress, and it`s been very  hard to think about how we can get into that sort of circle of influence to  make a difference. 

MADDOW:  Do you think that public pressure and citizen activism and direct  action and the sort of things that were so effective in the AIDS movement  have a role to play here either now or in the future when we start to think  about the hospital crunches that are coming, when we start to think about  the real point of the spear public health calamities that are coming? Do  you think that the government`s response can be made better by citizens  making it so? 

GONSALVES:  I think we can make noise. It`s the only thing we can do at  this point. It`s incumbent on journalists, on activists, on academics to  raise the alarm. 

We don`t have weeks and months. We have days before our trajectory starts  to mirror that of Italy`s from two weeks ago. So, we have to do what we can  to point out the failings in the current response and push them to do  better. I know it`s a daunting task but we really don`t have any choice. 

MADDOW:  Gregg Gonsalves, thank you for being here. I want to shake your  hand. I`m not going to do. 

GONSALVES:  No.

MADDOW:  I`m teaching myself not to do that anymore.

It`s great to have you here. Thank you. 

GONSALVES:  Thank you for having me.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  A couple things to update you on that have come to pass since we  have been on the air over the course of this hour. It`s a sort of an era of  constant breaking news. 

I mentioned at the top of the show that the Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau  was himself under quarantine. His wife returned from a speaking engagement  in London, in the U.K. and felt ill. She was undergoing testing. He  announced that he would undergo self-quarantine while she awaited results  of her test. 

We`ve just learned in the past couple of minutes that Sophie Trudeau, the  prime minister`s wife, has in fact tested positive for coronavirus. 

Here`s the statement from the Canadian government. Quote: The prime  minister is in good health with no symptoms. As a precautionary measure and  following the advice of doctors, he will be in isolation for a planned  period of 14 days. Also on the advice of doctors, he will not be tested at  this stage since he has no symptoms. 

For the same reason, doctors say there is no risk to those who have been in  contact with him recently. But again, his wife has tested positive.

In terms of what`s happening in our government right now, while it has been  a little bit of a nightmare to watch the president try to put together a  sentence or two on this subject, including last night`s disastrous speech  from the Oval Office, things proceed apace in congress. Just a short time  ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairman of the Ways and Means  Committee announce they are close to a deal with the Trump administration  on an aid package related to the coronavirus crisis. The speaker unveiled  this bill late last night. It would provide financial resources to people  and businesses affected by the pandemic, reportedly including free testing  once we finally have some freaking testing. 

She and Chairman Neal reportedly negotiating all day today with the Trump  administration`s designated negotiator, who is Treasury Secretary Steven  Mnuchin. The speaker told a group of reporters camped outside her office  this evening that they should go home for the night and expect an  announcement of some kind tomorrow. 

But according to the speaker, most of the differences between the two sides  have been resolved and this will be the first significant policy response  of the U.S. government through Congress in terms of legislation that we`ve  had. The House will meet again in the morning. It looks like they will have  something to vote on and again the Senate has canceled its planned recess  so they will be at work. 

Watch this space. 

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. 

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". 

Good evening, Lawrence.

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