GOP slush fund TRANSCRIPT: 3/23/20, The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: Amy Klobuchar, Donald McNeil, Megan Ranney

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

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

Here`s just one snapshot, one cross-section, one day in one U.S. state.  This is the front page of the "Minneapolis Star Tribune" right now.  Governor Walz in self quarantine. The governor of Minnesota is former  Democratic Congressman Tim Walz. 

He is under quarantine as of tonight after coming into contact with someone  with COVID-19. It was believed to be a member of his security detail. The  governor says he is not showing any symptoms but he is going into  quarantine. That`s the governor. 

Also, on the front page of "The Star Tribune" right now, a story about the  lieutenant governor of Minnesota. Her name is Peggy Flanagan, also on the  front page of that same paper right now, with the news that her brother has  just died from coronavirus. She described her brother as a tough as nails  U.S. Marine.

And she says this, quote: If you feel fine, that`s great, but please  consider the possibility that you`re carrying the virus and don`t know it,  and then you walk past the next Ron, my big brother, in public. COVID-19  now has a personal connection to me. Please do all you can to prevent one  for you. 

Also on that same front page, tonight, Minnesota`s confirmed case load as a  state, jumps from 169 known cases yesterday to 235 known cases today. 

Also, on that same front page, the fact that the transit system in the Twin  Cities is cutting its service by, two days from now, by 40 percent. 

And then there`s the news from Minnesota`s senior U.S. senator, Amy  Klobuchar. And again, the context here, in that state, the state`s governor  is now quarantined, the state`s lieutenant governor just announced that her  brother just died, and now, the state`s senior U.S. senator, Senator  Klobuchar, announces that her husband has coronavirus and he is  hospitalized. 

Quote: I have news that many Americans are facing right now. My husband  John has the coronavirus. We just got the test results at 7:00 a.m. this  morning. 

She says, quote: John started to feel sick when I was in Minnesota and he  was in Washington, D.C. And like so many others who have had the disease,  he thought it was just a cold. Yet, he immediately quarantined himself just  in case and stopped going to his job teaching in Baltimore. 

He kept having a temperature and a bad, bad cough, and when he started  coughing up blood, he got a test, and a chest X-ray, and they checked him  into a hospital in Virginia, because of a variety of things, including very  low oxygen levels, which haven`t really improved. 

He now has pneumonia and is on oxygen but not a ventilator. While this  story is his and not mine, I wanted to let my colleagues and constituents  know that since John and I have been in different places for the past two  weeks, and I am outside the 14-day period for getting sick, my doctor has  advised me to not get a test. As everyone is aware, there are test  shortages for people who need them everywhere and I don`t qualify to get  one under any standard. 

While I cannot see him and he is, of course, cut off from all visitors, our  daughter Abigail and I are constantly calling and texting and emailing. We  love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but  a very strong and resilient person. 

I love my husband so very much, and not being able to be there at the  hospital by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease. 

I hope he will be home soon. I know so many Americans are going through  this and so much worse right now. So I hope and pray for you, just as I  hope you will do for my husband. Meanwhile, I`m working in the Senate to  get help to the American people. 

And that announcement today from U.S. senator and until recently Democratic  presidential candidate, Amy Klobuchar. 

Joining us now, live from D.C., where she has stayed at work as the Senate  tries to pass a bill to mitigate the economic collapse caused by this virus  -- Senator Klobuchar, thank you so much for making time to be here tonight. 

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN):  Well, thank you, Rachel. And thank you for  mentioning my good friend Peggy Flanagan whose brother so tragically died.  And I think one of the things about this happening to me and to so many  others, is it`s going to happen to every family, it`s going to happen to  everyone, whether it is a friend or your grandpa, and one of the things you  find out when this happens, which Peggy knows too, is you can`t go and  visit your loved one. 

I would love to be at my husband`s side right now. But instead, I`m with  you, which is fine, on this show. But it is so hard, because you want to  talk to the doctor, and be there. You want to see what the oxygen levels  are, you want to bring flowers, and you can`t do any of that. 

And that`s going to happen to everyone, because visiting someone in the  hospital makes it so much worse, because you can pick up the disease, or  spread it to other people. 

And if my husband hadn`t did what he did, he literally went into the  apartment, and never left, except to get groceries, and was very careful, I  think a lot of other people would have gotten sick from him. And I think  that`s one thing you learn from people that get sick, but it`s also people  that just have to stay in their houses, and listen to the experts right  now. I can`t tell you how important that is. 

MADDOW:  You said in your statement that he has had low oxygen levels and  that he`s in the hospital, he`s getting oxygen. Can you give us any update  on his condition and what -- what you are, at least, what his doctors are  able to say about what they expect for his prognosis? 

KLOBUCHAR:  Well, one of the things he had, which is so common, is he had  over 100 degree temperature, for ten days, and it was really only when he  coughed up the blood that he went to get the test, because we knew how hard  it was to get the test and then it took, you know, five and a half days,  like so many people have experienced, to get the results. And so, that was  this morning, and that`s when we knew for sure, but all weekend, we thought  that it was probably it. 

And so right now, he`s still at that low oxygen level, he is still on  oxygen. But we`re just so glad that he hasn`t gotten to the point of  needing a ventilator, and so, they`re waiting to see what happens because  one of the strange things with this disease is it can just suddenly  plummet. 

And, of course, he`s saying, I got to go teach my class remotely. And I`m  like no. And so, at some point, I mean, the hope is he will probably come  home with oxygen, but the minute he can come home, he will. 

So, you know, we don`t know. These things have taken a turn for the worse,  like Peggy`s brother, who had cancer, and so that was part of what went on  there, but there is a lot of other people that suddenly, for no reason, it  takes a turn. 

So I am just hoping and praying for him like I am for so many people across  the country. Like I said, many people have had worse or will have worse.  And it`s made me, as I was, obsessively focused on getting these tests out  to people, getting them in much more available, making them quicker, so  health care workers know, getting the equipment to healthcare workers,  everything would make a difference for people right now. 

And that`s why I`m here and I`m so proud of our Democratic Caucus, hanging  together, from the most progressive people in our caucus, to the more  moderate conservatives, everyone hung together, everyone said no, everyone  said we`ve got to do better for the hospitals. 

And Senator Schumer and Senator Durbin and Murray and so many others, did  such a great job on this. They`ve been negotiating through the night, as  well as so -- it was such a team effort, and we are working on, of course,  unemployment insurance, and small businesses. And I keep pushing to get  those ballots ready, so we can have our mail-in ballots. 

There`s just been so much good work going on right now, and the American  people should not settle for what they`ve had to date, which is not enough  tests, not enough equipment. And that`s why I`m here tonight, and so many  of my colleagues are working around the clock. 

MADDOW:  There has been this -- this fight in the Senate, as you`re  describing, all Democrats, standing together, and saying what Senator  McConnell is offering is not the right response, it`s not enough, it  doesn`t meet the right priority, not the right way to deal with this. It  certainly feels like a clash between two immovable sides, but there`s also  this urgency to get some relief passed. 

KLOBUCHAR:  Yes, I think that actually there have been some really positive  developments in the last few hours, because of all of this work that`s  going on. I know I`ve talked to at least ten of my Republican colleagues  today, and I know that those that are in the committees, like I can`t even  -- Senator Warner, and Senator Cardin, Senator Shaheen, that are just  working so hard, that are negotiating all of this right now. I think that`s  key (ph) -- Senator Leahy, of course, with Appropriations. 

There`s just been a lot of work going on that`s positive that I still think  that there is a good chance we`re going to get an agreement. And then, of  course, Speaker Pelosi has her bill that has a lot of things in it that is  difficult to get through the Republican Senate, but would make the bill so  much better. 

So I just cannot stress enough for your viewers how hard people are working  so that we have a bill that puts people first, and it`s going to get that  equipment out, and make us so much better prepared when this next group of  patients are going to be coming in, and we know that they`re coming in. 

MADDOW:  Senator, let me just also ask you about your workplace right now.  By last -- my last count, I think that five members of the Senate are now  quarantined. Senator Rand Paul has tested positive. While he was awaiting  his test results, he was coming into work every day, reportedly using  facilities like the Senate gym.

As a member of the government, as a senior member of the government, in the  branch that you`re in, are you worried about a situation in which a single  -- a significant number of people who are involved in the government are  essentially out of commission at the same time, we`re already in an awkward  situation in the Senate, where there`s a good number of senators who can`t  come in to cast votes? 

KLOBUCHAR:  Oh, yes, and that`s why I`m a proponent for remote voting. That  is something that a number -- Rob Portman called me about it today, he`s  been working on it, Senator Durbin and others. And I`m ranking on the Rules  Committee, and having seen these senators now either quarantined, off and  on, off and on, we`re going to have to do more work, Rachel. 

I don`t think we`re going to get everything we want on the mail-in ballots,  and I think we could because we have Democrats and Republican secretaries  of states that actually want to have a democracy, an election where people  can vote in the fall. And so, there`s a number of things that we`re pushing  for right now and there`s some things we`re going to be doing in the next  month, and people are going to have to vote. 

And so, one of the ways you can do this, and I looked at this, I believe  it`s legal under the Constitution, as long as we change the rules of the  chamber, on a very emergency basis, to allow for some remote voting, and  especially when it pertains to these emergency measures. 

So that`s one of the things we`re pushing for. The staffs are the ones that  are on the front line, and I think again, I just keep going back to the  grocery store workers, and the doctors and nurses, and the janitors, and  the people who are taking care of their neighbors, and leaving groceries on  the front porch. We`re going to be tested as a country, like we`ve never  been tested before. 

And the way you have to do this is to step back, and be grateful, and be  generous in spirit. When all these things are going wrong, that there are  people that are going to work every single day, including staff members, in  the Congress, but including those police officers at the front door of this  place, including -- that right now, all of these health care workers, like  the ones treating my husband that I have never gotten to thank because I`ve  never gotten to meet them, because I can`t go there. They are doing this  incredible job, and putting themselves at risk, and the least they deserve  is the best equipment that money can buy. 

MADDOW:  Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, we wish, of course,  John an absolutely swift and complete recovery. 

KLOBUCHAR:  Yes (ph) 

MADDOW:  We look forward to him being immune from this disease after his  recovery, so he can be one of the super heroes who`s going to help us on  the other side of this curve. 

KLOBUCHAR:  Exactly. 

MADDOW:  Thank you for making time for us --  

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW:  -- Senator.

KLOBUCHAR:  That`s what I keep telling him to make him feel better. That is  a good point. So, thank you.

MADDOW:  Good.

KLOBUCHAR:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  Well, tell him that THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW is with you on that.  Thank you, Senator. 

KLOBUCHAR:  OK, excellent.

MADDOW:  We`ve got a lot of news to get to tonight. Well, first, let me  give you what we think may amount to a little bit of good news. Honestly,  good news is overstating it a little bit. But it is potentially the light  at the end of someone else`s tunnel. At least it`s reason to hope. 

Let me tell you about this. For a couple of weeks now, as Italy became the  largest epicenter of the pandemic, as Italy surpassed China in terms of its  death toll, as northern Italian hospitals have become overrun by seriously- ill coronavirus patients, as it has just been absolutely terrible in Italy,  we have repeatedly been warned in this country, by people in a position to  know, that the shape and the scale of the Italian epidemic is where the  United States is heading. 

That overall of course is terrible news, because Italy is in terrible  shape. But the reason to hope, that`s coming out of Italy right now, is  that Italy may, may, I repeat may, be starting to turn the corner. China  and South Korea had the two first worst epidemics as you know, and their  graphs went straight down and then came down, they had the two first worst  epidemics and they each turned the corner against them and they have  additional challenges and things aren`t over, but those numbers came down. 

In Italy, things are still terrible. And their death toll is higher now  than China or South Korea ever got. But after living with weeks of a  national stay at home order, Italy may have finally come to that kind of  inflection point that both China and South Korea hit, where things started  to turn in a better direction. 

Last week, we reported here on the show that the number of new infections,  newly-reported cases in Italy, had started to show a smaller rate of  growth. Still terrible. Still getting lots of new infections. But the rate  of growth in new cases had started to shrink. 

As of today, the rate of increase in new coronavirus cases in Italy is down  in the single digits for the first time. They still have 13.5 percent  double digit growth, as of Saturday, but as of today, it is down to just  over 8 percent. It`s the first time they have had single digit growth in  new cases since things got terrible, right? 

It`s still growing. Still terrible. But those numbers are finally starting  to head in the right direction in terms of newly-discovered cases. 

And now, it`s the same kind of news on deaths in Italy. We have been  watching in horror over the past week, as the death toll rose and rose all  week long, last week, as Italy started to see one-day death numbers that  were higher than anything China reported in any sustainable way, at the  worst of the Chinese epidemic. 

Well, now, the number of daily deaths in Italy is still abominably,  unimaginably, but the daily death numbers in Italy have finally started to  decline. We reported last week that Italy had climbed up over 300 deaths a  day, over 400 deaths a day. On Saturday, Italy hits 793 deaths per day. On  Sunday, it was not 793, it was 651. Today, they announced it was 608. 

And that`s still very bad. That`s still the worst on earth. But in the  place that has it the worst on earth right now, it is starting to very  slowly get better. The numbers are starting to go in the right direction. 

And why is that? Well, as I mentioned, and as you know, Italy has a  national stay at home order. Italy put in place a national stay at home  order and travel restrictions March 9th. That`s only two weeks ago. Just  like a decade ago, doesn`t it? 

Two weeks ago they put that order in place and the experts said at the time  that the Italian authorities were expecting that it would take two weeks to  start to show any beneficial effect of that national stay at home order in  terms of just starting to slow it, starting to tame that raging out of  control epidemic. Well, it is two weeks ago today, since they put in place  that national order, and now, as of today, their curves in terms of new  case, the curves, in terms of deaths, are finally starting to flatten just  a little tiny bit. 

And that is, you know, thousands of deaths down the road. But maybe for  them, the inflection point is within site. Maybe the light at the end of  the tunnel is at least imaginable. 

We, on the other hand, have a raging out of control epidemic in this  country, and we even now, even with those kinds of examples, around the  world, see what China did to fix it, see what South Korea did to fix it,  see what Italy didn`t do in time to avoid the calamity they are in now,  seeing what their two-week national effort has finally started to yield, in  terms of benefits, we in this country, with our raging out of control  epidemic, are only barely starting to take the measures that will offer us  any hope of slowing it down. 

I mean, California was first, with a statewide stay at home order. Then  Illinois and New York joined them. And now, finally, in hither and yon,  when they get around to it, other states are starting to follow. Over the  past few days, on Saturday, New Jersey joined the stay at home order as  well. On Sunday, it was Delaware, and also Louisiana, and also Ohio. 

Today, it was Michigan, and West Virginia, and Wisconsin, and  Massachusetts, and Indiana, and Connecticut goes into effect today.  Missouri finally announced school closures. But still, there`s no stay at  home order in Missouri. 

Idaho, announced 27 new confirmed cases today, but the governor of Idaho  has no interest in say banning gatherings of any size, he`s apparently fine  leaving restaurants and bars and whatever other businesses to do whatever  they want and that leaves the state of Idaho`s cities and towns to invent  it themselves, figure it out themselves, put in place their own measures if  they want to if they can figure it out, but hey, rush, no worry, statewide,  the governor thinks everything will be fine, right? 

Here`s the front page of the "Idaho Statesman" right now. For every ICU bed  in Idaho, experts predict we will have one to 14 patients who need it. You  may be about to outstrip your ICU beds by a factor of 14. You know what  kind of condition people are in when they need an ICU bed? And they`re not  going to be able to get them by a factor of up to 14? 

Yes, no rush, Governor. No rush. It will probably work out OK. Even if you  don`t do anything statewide to slow the spread in your state, sure,  probably, why not risk, it see what happens. 

In Brazil, they are now using their gigantic Brazilian soccer stadiums as  field locations for new coronavirus hospitals. In Austria, this weekend,  volunteers and firefighters converted a convention center in Vienna, to an  880-bed hospital, literally over the course of one weekend, they did that. 

In Spain, which has the second worst outbreak in Europe, after Italy,  officials announced today that an ice rink in Madrid will be converted into  a huge new morgue, because existing morgue facilities cannot keep up with  the hundreds of deaths per day, with increasing numbers expected every day  ahead, because Spain has not yet hit an inflection point, and started to  turn this thing back, or slow it at all. 

Here at home, in Maryland today, the governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan,  announced that the Baltimore convention center will be converted into a  large field hospital. The Hilton Hotel in downtown Baltimore`s inner harbor  will also be converted into a hospital overflow care center. 

In New York, which is now becoming a world capital of coronavirus impact,  it`s starting to feel like America has this one president in Washington,  but a whole different president for the coronavirus crisis who is the guy  in charge of New York, who President Trump and Washington literally said  this weekend, that GM and Ford are making ventilators, he said, quote,  right now, when that is absolutely not happening. 

I mean, President Trump has continued, inexplicably hyping supposed miracle  cures for the virus, right? We`ve got a president of the United States, who  is operating in Washington, the president of the coronavirus response still  does appear to be the guy who is in charge in New York, where New York, as  a state, is forging ahead into the darkest days of this crisis. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK:  We are today issuing an emergency order  that says to all hospitals, you must increase your capacity by 50 percent.  You must. Mandatory directive from the state. 

Find more beds. Use more rooms. You must increase your capacity 50 percent. 

We would ask you to try to increase your capacity 100 percent. OK? So we  now have 53,000 beds. We need 110,000 beds. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  Today, they announced that the Javits Center, the giant convention  center in Manhattan, they are going to put four 250-person FEMA hospitals  inside it. That`s 1,000 beds. They think it will be done within a week. 

The Army Corps of Engineers is reportedly going to filled out another  thousand bed capacity at that same site. So 2,000 beds at the Javits  Center, plus New York is planning on three other sites where they will put  250-bed hospitals at two state college sites, in Old Westbury and Stony  Brook and another at the convention center in Westchester County. 

They are also scouting nursing homes and other health care sites that the  state can temporarily take over to basically commandeer them and make them  into new hospital bed space, new overflow bed space, as New York hospitals,  particularly New York City hospitals fill up. 

In New York, last week, they asked recently retired doctors and nurses to  come back into service and help. Thirty thousand doctors and nurses signed  up and said they would. Imagine seeing something like that going on inside  your country, seeing New York hospitals filling up lightning fast. And  doctors and nurses, by the tens of thousands, answering the call, coming  out of retirement, to relieve the doctors and nurses who are themselves  going to get sick and themselves die in some numbers, because we don`t have  the resources to protect them, as the patient numbers surge out of control. 

Imagine being in a position of authority anywhere in this country, looking  across this country, no matter how far away you are, looking across this  country, to the biggest city in this country, the first worst-hit city in  this country, knowing that the virus is already in all 50 states, imagine  being in a position of authority, looking at the first worst-hit city in  our country, hearing about the nurses already reusing the same protective  masks for days at a time, already. 

Imagine being like the governor of Idaho, Brad Little, looking at that and  deciding, eh, no big deal, I`m sure that won`t happen us to, why would I  tell people to stay home in Idaho, we don`t need any state-wide order, I`m  sure we will be fine. And if we won`t be fine, I`ll leave it to the mayors  and stuff to figure it out if they want to do something, but statewide, I`m  going to do nothing. Imagine that. 

Donald McNeil, the veteran science correspondent at "The New York Times"  has just published a gigantic and chilling 5,000-word piece about what the  expert international consensus now is, what we have now learned, about what  needs to happen to shut down the epidemic and save millions of lives. I  will tell you right now, it is not what we are doing, with this patchwork  of responses, and non-responses, where maybe some states try to tackle it  and some others don`t. 

Donald McNeil joins us live next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Donald McNeil is the veteran science and health reporter at "The  New York Times". We`ve had him several times since the start of our  basically full-time reporting on the pandemic. McNeil has been pioneering  reporting on the coronavirus pandemic since its inception and the most  recent article is on the front page of today`s "New York Times," above the  fold and it will be seen as a landmark piece of journalism in the early  U.S. response to this crisis. It`s called: Halting virus will require harsh  steps, experts say, near total cooperation from public is key to isolating  clusters of infections. 

In this piece, McNeil writes that stopping the virus, quote, takes  intelligent, rapidly adaptive work by health officials, and near-total  cooperation from the populace. Containment becomes realistic only when  Americans realize that working together is the only way to protect  themselves and their loved ones. 

Donald McNeil joins us now live.

Sir, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate you being here. 

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

MADDOW:  I mentioned a few states in the introduction tonight that have  recently added state-wide stay at home orders, singled out a few states  that haven`t. I should also mention that Oregon`s new stay at home order  goes into effect today. Hawaii just announced one that goes into effect on  Wednesday. We are seeing the sort of patch work quilt of these stay at home  orders.

Are those types of orders in keeping with what international experts told  you should be done? 

MCNEIL:  Yes, as long as they`re serious orders and they are seriously paid  attention to by the populace. There`s all sorts of wiggle room and lots of  orders. People are still gathering out and playing in the park, basketball  and stuff, and transfer the virus, people are still, you know, having play  dates, several kids together.

So it all depends on how people cooperate, if people recognize that they  could be passing the virus or picking up the virus in any human  interaction. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the American capacity to do what needs to be done,  some of the things that you outlined in this new reporting feel doable if  not politically difficult. For example, the first thing you suggested is  the scientists need to be heard, that the people who are doing the day to  day explaining of what`s going on, what the dynamics are of the epidemic  right now, what needs to be done to stop it and why, should be scientists  and not politicians, you wrote, in the same way that General Schwarzkopf  was the person explaining what is going on in the Gulf War to the American  people. That seems at least theoretically doable. 

But some of the other things that you talk about, I sort of have been  reading between the lines but it seems that you are not sure America will  ever get it together to do some of the more extreme forms of isolation and  intrusive monitoring. 

MCNEIL:  We are not nearly as together as the Italians right now who are  not famous for cooperation with authority at any time. You know, in  Tennessee, people are still insisting on going, the right to go to bars. In  England, you know, the minute they heard that the bars were going to close  down, the bars were flooded for last call. 

You know, no. And this is just, this is just the beginning. This is just an  attempt to freeze everything in place. Then the real work begins. 

And the real work includes first of all, you`ve got to get people who are  infected out of their homes, so that they don`t infect their family  members. And that means they`re going to have to go, even if they have mild  cases, even if they have almost no symptoms, they`re going to have to go  some blase where they can get over it together, and so that the ones who  crash, which is a big phenomena the second week, people who seem to be  doing fine and some will crash and need to be on oxygen, you don`t want to  be having to call 911 at that point because there may be no ambulance for  you. 

You would be much better off in something like the Javits Center where  there is a nurse keeping an eye on everybody in the room who has a number  of oxygen tanks by the wall so when you need oxygen somebody can get it to  you instantly. And plus we need to find the fevers. Plus, we need to test  literally millions of people because the first thing you get the test, it  means nothing. And a negative test yields no information. You sometimes, it  takes three or four days, even after you have symptoms, for a test to turn  out positive. 

So there is a lot of, a lot had more to do, even, a lot more to do even  after we go into a lockdown. And the president is talking about, after 15  days, this may likely be over. And that`s a disastrous way to look at it. 

MADDOW:  In terms of finding the fevers, I was interested to see that Dr.  Fauci did an interview with "Science Magazine" in which the interviewer  asked him, you know, listen in, China, one of the things they do, they  point an infrared thermometer at your forehead before they allow you in the  grocery store, before they allow you on the bus to check to see if you`ve  got a fever. Is that something that we should be doing?

And Dr. Fauci responded positively to that and said I will bring this up in  the task force meetings, logistically, I don`t know if we can do it, but we  -- there is a good case to be made for doing that. To hear him talk about a  measure like that positively is of interest on its own terms but, of  course, it raises the questions of what we would do with people who had  fevers. 

What you`ve described is this sort of temporary hospitals where people who  have mild or moderate illness, have to leave their families, people who  have fevers and get diagnosed, even just mild cases, need to be isolated  outside of their home. That would be -- that would be the next logistical  next you`d need in order for it to make sense to widely screen people for  fever, right? 

MCNEIL:  Yes. Look, this is tough. You have to see this as an open carry  issue. Is it safe to walk into a grocery store while openly carrying a  fever? You`re in endangering the other people in the store. 

You know, you yourself may not even recognize that you`re sick and  (INAUDIBLE). 

The fever doesn`t mean you`re took (ph) to the isolation. The fever means,  in China, that you`re taken for a test to see what the cause of your fever  is, you know? They try to pull out flu and they try to pull out the  possibility of it being pneumonia, and see, aha, OK, if you have  coronavirus, we`re going to put you in isolation. 

It`s -- for your own protection. Not every case is mild. It`s a misnomer to  believe. You probably seen the TV today. I mean, I had an email from a  family of a 25-year-old guy, very athletic young man, he is in induced coma  and on a ventilator now, and he can`t get Gilead`s remdesivir drug and  there is a 12-year-old girl in Georgia who is now, you know, may or may not  make it.

This notion that it is all -- this notion that it is all only going to kill  grandma, as if that were OK, has -- has got to stop. 

MADDOW:  Do you think that the problems that we`ve seen --I don`t want you  to, I don`t ask you to do any political discussion that you don`t want to  do -- but because we have had such a patch work response of mistakes,  because there have been problems, with the president`s communication,  around this issue, where he has said things that aren`t true, that he has  wild goose chased himself and happy talked this thing to the point that it  is unrecognizable compared to the ground truth, do you think we should be  hoping for federal nationwide orders, for their federal government, in  other words, to get its act together or should we be just hoping for  individual states to develop best cases that well meaning governors in  other states can then copy? 

MCNEIL:  I don`t hold out much hope for federal orders, because the  president is seeming to have a hard time believing in this germ. In this --  I mean, when he`s talking about it, 15, you know, 15 days, the doors are  open, it`s like, you know, having a lead-lined room next to the Chernobyl  power plant and you fling open the doors and say, hey, the flowers are  still sprouting out there, it`s a sunny day, I think it`s OK to go out. 

It`s not OK to go out. You know, there are things that you haven`t seen yet  because so many people are getting infected but they`re not going to be  hospitalized for, on average, another 10 days after they show symptoms,  it`s only going to be forced home in the same way that AIDS was forced home  to Ronald Reagan after four years of not mentioning it by the death of his  friend Rock Hudson. 

Something`s going to have to wake the president up to the realization that  this is a very serious danger, including to him, and his family, and being  cavalier about it, in order to save your 401(k) is probably a short-term  good with really bad long-term consequences. 

MADDOW:  Donald McNeil, reporter at "The New York Times," who again has  published what will be seen as a definitive, at least landmark piece of  journalism, in terms of rounding up international expert opinion on what to  do here. Thank you for being with us tonight, Don. I appreciate it. 

MCNEIL:  Thank you for inviting me. 

MADDOW:  All right. We`ve got -- we`ve got much more ahead tonight,  including some of the doctors who are trying to raise the alarm in trying  to create some constructive pathways to get doctors and nurses more  protective gear, so that they can stay in the fight. 

Let`s lots still to get to tonight. Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  We know we have a ventilator shortage in this country. As the  number of coronavirus cases skyrockets, as the number of people  hospitalized starts to rise steeply, as the number of people hospitalized  and needing intensive care also starts to rise steeply, we have a shortage  of ventilators in this country. 

But do we even know where the ventilators are that we do have? And where  they are most needed? And where they might be repurposed to maximize the  number of human lives saved? 

President Trump seems to believe that Ford and GM right now are producing  new ventilators. He said as much this weekend. Ford and GM right now are  not producing new ventilators. 

But if U.S. manufacturing of these things does start to surge, do we know  at that point how those new machines would get where they are most needed? 

One doctor at Mass General in Boston writes this in "The New York Times."  Where should these ventilators be delivered? Which hospitals need them  most? How can we build a nimble logistics operation that can rapidly deploy  these machines the moment that a shortage appears imminent? The truth is we  have no idea. 

We are currently taking an every hospital system for themselves approach.  Big tech needs to rapidly build and scale a cloud-based national ventilator  surveillance platform which will track hospital ICU capacity and ventilator  supply across the nation in real time. Such a platform which Silicon Valley  could build and FEMA could utilize would allow hops nationwide to report  the hospital bed status and their ventilator supply daily in an  unprecedented data sharing initiative. 

That`s a proposal from Dr. Daniel Horn who is helping lead the pandemic  response effort at Mass General in Boston. A national ventilator  surveillance system, basically. 

I mean if we`re honest, in addition to doing something like that for  ventilators, which seems like a great idea, we could really use a similar  tracking and delivery and resupply system for the life-saving personal  protective equipment that health workers are already running out of. 

Well, there are some people who are now trying to do that themselves, on  their own time. But trying to create and run a private sourcing and  delivery system on a national scale for the kinds of equipment that health  care workers need to keep them uninfected and alive in this pandemic. The  group is called Project N95, the national COVID-19 medical equipment  clearinghouse. 

And it`s part of a digital tech-driven response to the coronavirus  pandemic, launched by three people who used to work for the White House  chief technology officer. That`s a position that was created during the  Obama administration. 

So do you work in a facility where you need N95 masks or surgical masks? Or  isolation gowns? Even ventilators? Tell Project N95 where you are, and what  you need.

On the other side of the supply and demand chain, do you have any of those  things? Are you making any of those things? Do you expect that you will be  able to procure or make any of those things? Well, send information to this  clearinghouse, about what you have, and where it is. 

Are you a local government looking for bulk orders to distribute across  various health care facilities? Project N95 says they will work on  connecting you with suppliers. 

And it remains to be seen how successful a project like this will be.  Redistributing resources is really important, at a time of scarcity, but  the original sin here is scarcity, the original sin here is the question of  whether there is enough, even if you distribute it with perfect efficiency. 

But hey, it`s an effort. We`re trying. Folks are using the skills they have  to try to fill -- and fill the gigantic void that has been left by the  federal government, who did no planning for this, and who squandered weeks  of advanced notice, as to what was coming. But in terms of what it`s like  living with this situation, as it is right now, as the numbers of  coronavirus patients start to rise, in emergency rooms, and intensive care  units, the doctors who are on the front lines in hospitals, as they are  starting to become inundated with this wave of coronavirus patients, the  doctors and the nurses, are the ground truth of this. 

Regardless of what ideas are cooking or percolating or what people are  planning, there are health care providers right now who are living with  this right now, who are very clear on exactly what it is that they need.  That`s next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  Joining us now is Dr. Megan Ranney. She`s an emergency physician  at Rhode Island hospital, which is affiliated with Brown University. Along  with other medical professionals, Dr. Ranney founded the website  #getusppe.org, as an outline hub to try to match those with access to masks  and other basic protective equipment with the folks who need it most, our  front line doctors and nurses. 

Dr. Ranney, thank you so much for taking time to join us tonight. 

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN:  It`s my honor, Rachel. Thank you. 

MADDOW:  What`s the situation right now at Rhode Island hospital and among  you and your colleagues as you`re starting to see cases? 

RANNEY:  So I`m lucky to be in a state and hospital system that have been  really proactive about this pandemic. We saw it coming months ago and have  been working to try and conserve supplies, to use -- set up space, to do  everything we can to make sure that we`re adequately prepared. 

But the number of cases is rising in our state and as you know, we`re not  actively testing the patients who come through the doors of the emergency  department. And although doctors and nurses and housekeeping staff have  trained for this and are 100 percent committed, we`ve never faced a  pandemic of this nature before, much less without adequate protective  equipment. 

I mean, the CDC guidelines are telling us to reuse protective equipment  that normally would be completely disposable. We are changing our normal  protocols in order to try and conserve supplies. The mood across the nation  right now in emergency departments is one of fear. 

MADDOW:  In terms of what we can do as a country, what we can do as  citizens to try to lessen the burden on you as an emergency room physician  and for other front line providers who are really going to be taking the  brunt of this, obviously, the idea of these social distancing measures is  to try and slow down the number of new cases that turned up in the hospital  and need urgent care.

At the president`s press conference today he said, our country wasn`t built  to be shut down, he said, normal life will return soon. He seems to be  suggesting that the social distancing measures we`re taking should be  relieved sometime soon. I have to ask how that landed with you. 

RANNEY:  That landed pretty poorly. I can`t emphasize enough how important  social distancing is right now. So when you stay apart from people, you  prevent the transmission of the virus. We know from Italy that it is  starting to work. There is preliminary data out of San Francisco under  Governor Gavin Newsom`s direction that they`re starting to see a decrease  in the number of new cases because they put social distancing in place  early. 

We know it takes about two weeks for the virus to show up. So, maintaining  that distance now is absolutely critical. And here`s the thing, it matters  not just because I don`t want people to be infected by COVID-19, but it  also matters because if my emergency department is full of critically ill  patients with COVID-19, I`m not going to have the resources to take care of  appendicitis or a car crash or a heart attack. 

Now, again, my hospital system is preparing for these eventualities. But  nationwide, we`re going to be overwhelmed and we`re not going to be able to  take care of the everyday emergencies that folks have whether or not  there`s a pandemic out there. So social distancing is just critical. Now is  not the time to say that we`re done with it. 

MADDOW:  Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital,  thank you so much for your work and thanks for taking time to talk with us.  Getusppe.org is a clarion call to wake people up as to what you guys are  facing and what you need. Thanks for doing that work. 

RANNEY:  Thank you, Rachel. Appreciate it.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW:  I have just the thing for you. How about a best new thing in the  world today? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MO WILLEMS, AUTHOR:  Today is Monday, March 23rd. It`s our second week of  Mo Lunch Doodles -- 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  That is children`s book author Mo Willems who gave the world  Elephant and Piggie and Knuffle Bunny and the Pigeon who definitely should  not be allowed to drive the bus. And with the help of the Kennedy Center,  Mo Willems is also as of now America`s ad hoc at home art teacher. 

Quote: With millions of learners attempting to grow and educate themselves  and new circumstances, I`ve decided to invite everyone into my studio once  a day for the next few weeks. You might be isolated but you`re not alone.  You are an art maker. Let`s make some together. 

You might be isolated but you are not alone. It`s basically a doodling  master class, which is fantastic. It`s called Lunch Doodles. It`s free  online. So far, it`s kind of a hit with tons and tons and tons of kids  tuning in and making some pretty fine artwork including, full disclosure  here, some of our own. 

These are the littlest RACHEL MADDOW SHOW producers with their doodles that  they have done with lunch doodles. We are very proud. We`re all trying to  do good work, to be creative, to try to find ways to do the most we can to  help our country and be good citizens and good members of our families and  communities. This is the kind of thing that helps. 

Be creative. Be creatively engaged. Stay engaged. Like the doodle says, we  are all connected. 

And that is the best new thing in the world. That`s going to do it for us.  We will see you again, same bat time, same bat channel tomorrow. 

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

Good evening, Lawrence.

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