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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 3/27/2020

Guests: Nancy Pelosi, Sylvia De Souza, John Rotruck

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  So, I want to introduce you, here they are, as we 

are physically distancing. This is the birthday, Boy David, who is 6 and 

this is Ryan, and I will say this, hold your loved ones close if you have 

them close by. Have a good weekend. 


That is "ALL IN" for this evening. 


THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. 


Good evening, Rachel. 


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Chris, the thing you have not prepared for is 

that David and Ryan are now members of SAG-AFTRA and we`re going to have to 

get them -- 




HAYES:  Exactly. 


MADDOW:  And I will join their bargaining group happily because I want them 

on my team, too, my friend. 


HAYES:  They`re pretty good. 


MADDOW:  I love you, guys. Great to see you. 


HAYES:  Have a great weekend.


MADDOW:  Great to see you. Great work, Chris. 


HAYES:  All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well. 

I am very grateful that you are here tonight. 


We`re going to have Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi joining us live here 

in just one moment. 


You know, in times like these, if we are lucky, somebody steps forward, 

unifying figure, somebody who brings us all together and reminds us what we 

all have in common despite differences that might have kept us apart in the 

past. Today, it was a Republican congressman from Kentucky, a man named 

Thomas Massie who played that role. He proved that everyone, Democrat and 

Republican, could come together, even in Washington, in common purpose -- 

the common purpose of being absolutely furious with Congressman Thomas 

Massie because there really was no suspense today about whether the House 

of Representatives was going to pass this $2 trillion relief package and 

prop up the economy, which is more or less shut down during this pandemic. 

I mean, the Senate passed this legislation a couple days ago 96-0 

unanimously, Democrats and Republicans. By all accounts, the vast, vast, 

vast majority members of the House supported this thing as well. 


The suspense was not about whether it would get passed, the suspense was 

about how the House bill would get passed and how much danger members of 

Congress would have to put themselves in in order to cast their votes. A 

vote in the House chamber is an activity very not conducive to social 

distancing, all right? Americans are supposed to avoid gatherings of 

numerous people right now, while there are 435 people in the House of 



When they vote, they physically turn up all in the same room to cast their 

votes. Another thing everybody is supposed to avoid right now is travel. As 

of yesterday, Capitol Hill sources told us that only a few dozen members of 

Congress were even in Washington. Members who wanted to travel to 

Washington, many of them couldn`t, even if they wanted to, even if they had 

designed to. 


As of today, four members of the House of Representatives tested positive 

for COVID-19, more than a dozen others were in quarantine because they were 

in contact with those members or other people who tested positive. So, how 

are they going to cast this vote? 


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership on both sides of aisle 

came together and decided what they would do because there was no suspense 

about the fact this thing was going to pass, what they would do is they 

would pass this by voice vote, and that would mean that not everyone would 

have to physically be there to do it. 


But then Republican Congressman Thomas Massie started letting everyone know 

that he planned to make all the other members of Congress come to the 

Capitol to be there personally to pass it. He planned to object to holding 

a voice vote. He wanted to require at least half of members of Congress to 

be there in person, 216 people. Everybody had to be there together. 


Here was a sort of snapshot, a kind of reaction that he got. This was from 

his fellow Republican congressman, New York Congressman Peter king. Quote: 

Heading to Washington to vote on pandemic legislation because of one member 

of Congress refusing to allow emergency action, entire Congress must be 

called back for vote to vote in House. Risk of infection and risk of 

legislation being delayed. Disgraceful. Irresponsible. 


Again, from his fellow Republican member of Congress. I mean -- and this 

was not some abstract thing. This was not an inconvenience that Thomas 

Massie was causing. You`re going to make hundreds of lawmakers crowd into 

room right now. 


I mean, the House physician, the attending physician of the Capitol, the 

sergeant at arms put out a joint, very stark memo yesterday advising 

members of Congress that if and when they came to the Capitol today, they, 

you know, shouldn`t use the elevators together. They should all take the 

stairs instead. If they entered the House chamber, they would be required 

to use hand sanitizer on the way in and out and there would -- there would 

be an attempt to keep them apart from one chamber, even within the House 



Honestly, the told members of Congress bluntly that they should not come to 

the Capitol if they didn`t have to. Quote: Members should use extreme care 

and deliberation when making the determination to travel to Washington, 

D.C., the office of the House physician continues to recommend teleporting. 


But they have to come today, to make sure this $2 trillion bill got passed, 

because Thomas Massie personally insisted that they needed to physically 

show up to do so. 


And so, here was the unprecedented scene in the House chamber today. 

Members of Congress each seated six feet of social distance apart, 

scattered across both the House floor and balconies where spectators 

usually sit so enough members could be present to block Thomas Massie`s 

stunt while putting each other`s lives in as little danger as possible. 


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seen here diligently disinfecting the microphone 

in the lectern before speaking, beckoning all the members to gather in this 

chamber. This is how it went down. 




REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY):  Mr. Speaker?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is the gentleman recognized? 


MASSIE:  I object on the basis that a quorum is not present and make a 

point of order that a quorum is not present. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The chair will count for a quorum. Counted for a 

quorum, a quorum is present. The motion is adopted. 


Without objection, a motion to reconsider is laid upon the table. Pursuant 

to section 7B of House Resolution 891, the House stands adjourned until 

3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31st, 2020. 






MADDOW:  The house passed that $2 trillion piece of legislation today. 

President Trump signed it this afternoon. He invited no Democrats to be 

there for the signing ceremony, but given the lack of respect for social 

distancing inside the White House, perhaps that was for the best in the 

long run. 


How soon can Americans expect to feel the relief this bill is meant to 

bring? How important is it that it passed now? What`s going to happen next? 


Joining us now for "The Interview", I`m proud to say, is the Speaker of the 

House Nancy Pelosi. 


Madam Speaker, it`s an honor to have you with us tonight. Thank you for 

taking time to join us. 


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  Thank you. My honor to be with you. Thank you 

for all that you`re doing to make sure people know what the challenges that 

we face in this very sad time. Thank you, Rachel. 


MADDOW:  Well, thank you for saying so. 


This is -- this is the single most expensive piece of legislation ever 

passed as far as we can tell in terms of dollars. I have to ask big 

picture, how comfortable you are that what happened today, this vote today, 

this legislation today, will go the distance that America needs it to go 

toward holding the economy together and helping us respond as best we can 

to what`s happening? 


PELOSI:  The legislation that we passed today is a very big down payment, 

but we have much more to do. But just to back up for a moment, the 

legislation that the Republicans passed with their tax scam a couple years 

ago approached almost $2 trillion and giving 83 percent of the benefits to 

the top 1 percent in our country. The president said today, I never signed 

a $2 trillion bill. Well, he nearly did in that giveaway, which didn`t 

create jobs, only increased the national debt, and was a real disservice to 

our children and their future. 


So, when they talk about this as $2 trillion and all that it does for 

America`s workers and families, it is the least we could do and we have 

much more to do, and I can talk about it, if you wish. 


MADDOW:  Yes, I want to -- I want to talk about what`s in the bill. I want 

to talk about the president`s signing statement. You just -- your office 

just put out a statement moments ago on the president using the Defense 

Production Act. 


I do feel like, though, I have to ask you about what happened today with 

Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, this Republican congressman calling 

for a recorded vote. This remarkable scene of members of Congress basically 

fighting their way back to Washington in order to be here because he was 

going to insist on a recorded vote. 


You were seen talking to him on the house floor before he raised his 

objection today. 


Can I just ask you what you said to him and what your view is on what he 

did today? 


PELOSI:  Well, I tried to be respectful for his enthusiasm for his idea, 

but I did tell him that it wasn`t going to work, that we will have a voice 

vote, that he was just -- and it wasn`t going to hold us up too much and I 

recommended that he take his enthusiasm to the floor and speak about why he 

was unhappy and let that be his statement instead of making a statement 

that wasn`t going to work, that wasn`t even going to register on the clock 

more than like one minute, that we had a plan, that we always knew we would 

pass this bill and we would pass it today and that would not let any 

nuisance stand in the way.


And that`s really what he was, a dangerous nuisance.


But later in the day, we saw that president signed the bill and he was a 

dangerous president. It was so sad to hear him say as he signed the bill -- 

just think back 20 days, 20 days ago, everything was great. Everything was 

great and now, 20 days later, we have this challenge. 


No, 20 days ago, we had nearly 500 cases, 17 deaths, we had a threat that 

he chose to ignore. And now, we have about 100,000 cases and over 1,500 

deaths, and he`s still in that state where he`s not doing enough for all of 

the PPP, the personal protective -- PPE, the personal protective equipment 

that our brave health care workers, first responders and the rest who risk 

their lives to save other people`s lives urgently need. 


MADDOW:  In terms of the president`s personal actions and his personal 

decisions, I was struck by the fact he issued a signing statement when he 

signed this bill today, saying that he would override the provision of this 

bill that lays out some oversight and the establishment of the inspector 

general to make sure that some of the business bailout provisions in the 

bill aren`t misused. The president saying today that he has no interest in 

that oversight and he`ll override that. 


What`s your reaction to that? 


PELOSI:  Well, of course, it`s not a surprise to anyone but Congress will 

exercise its oversight and we will have our panel of House -- appointed by 

the House to, in real time, to make sure we know where those funds are 

being expended. 


But let me say that the president`s statement is indicative of the 

difference between Democrats and Republicans when it came to this bill. 

Well, the bill that was put on the floor last Saturday by Senator McConnell 

was a corporation -- corporate-down bill. Trickle-down, as usual. What it 

turned into was a bubble-up, workers first legislation, workers and 

families first. 


They never thought they would be supporting the provisions that are in the 

bill that relate to unemployment insurance and how it is expanded in so 

many ways, that all that we would be doing for small businesses, that there 

would be provisions that would be helpful to families in terms of access to 

health care and the rest. 


The bill was jujitsu. We just took their bill and turned it around. And so, 

they signed it in the White House as if they had some real provenance as to 

what was in the bill. But they know that the bill was needed and we -- and 

again, we put our conditions on any assistance that was going to industries 

in our country because we wanted to make sure that workers came first and 

they did in the bill. And they do in the bill. 


MADDOW:  I -- I know that there are provisions in this legislation to 

provide support to hospitals, to try to get critical medical supplies 

produced and distributed into those frontline health care workers that you 

were just praising. I feel like I`m -- what I would expect from the federal 

government in a pandemic, what I would want from the federal government in 

terms of their role in a coordinating effort and in a streamlining effort 

and in a rationalizing effort, to make sure that resources got where they 

were, I don`t have any faith that this administration is capable of doing 

those things even if they should, even if in the way we understand our 

government, they should take on that kind of a role. 


Do you believe that the federal government basically will get its act 

together when it comes to things like personal protective equipment or do 

you think that this will be led to the bitter end just by individual 

states, individual governors fighting it out on their own? 


PELOSI:  Well, let`s make a distinction between the Congress of the United 

States and the president of the United States. In our legislation today, we 

face the reality of what we have to do. This is the third bill that`s in 

about three weeks.


The first two bills were about emergen -- addressing the emergency, about 

testing, testing, testing. The first bill, mask, mask, about research for a 

cure and a vaccine, all kinds of pieces -- provisions in the bill to 

address the emergency. 


The bill today was more about mitigation -- mitigating for the damage that 

was done to our economy and how we can address meeting the needs of 

America`s working families so affected by the shutdown -- all of the 

provisions to not to have communal -- coming together. 


So, it is important to note that we still have to do more on emergency, we 

still have to do on mitigation, but our next thrust will be about recovery 

and how we can create good-paying jobs so that we can take the country into 

the future in a very strong way. At the same time, though, we still have to 

address what you said. 


Today, the president said he was going to do the Defense Production Act so 

that businesses would be producing more ventilators. A little -- very late. 


He said he sent thousands of ventilators to New York. Well, maybe one-tenth 

of what they need, 4,000, and they probably need ten times that much. 


Issues that relate to other equipment that is just not in the works and we 

want the president to expand the Defense Production Act to insist that our 

industries are making those products. 


We can`t ask people to go into infectious situations again to risk their 

lives to save another life, we should be -- we should be making sure they 

have the equipment that they need. 


For example, ventilator, it`s not just a convenience, it`s a necessity, and 

it`s a necessity in real time. People need ventilators from one moment to 

the next to stay alive, and yet, the president, I don`t -- I just can`t 

understand how those who are advising him scientifically aren`t just 

demanding that he do something more drastic in terms of that equipment. 


We also need much more money for our state and local governments, just much 

more money for that and if he were to think that they should be left to 

their own devices, well, they should be left with much more money to do so, 

money that their state have all contributed to the national treasury. 


In addition to that, these hospitals need much more -- when I say 

hospitals, I mean, institutions serving the health needs, whether it`s 

nursing homes, hospitals, other institutions that care for people. 


The list goes on about the needs. And actually, there are other needs, too. 

We need to expand family and medical leave so it covers more people, which 

they resisted. 


We need to address pensions. Actually, in that case, we had the support of 

the president but not Mitch McConnell. He wouldn`t do it. He said he`d do 

it in another bill so we`re setting up for the next bill. 


We need to address a disservice to the District of Columbia which is 

appalling. In every provision ever, they`ve always been treated like a 

state and then they treat them like a territory, to the cost of hundreds of 

millions of dollars to the people of the District of Columbia as they fight 

the coronavirus. 


We also need to have strong OSHA rules that we`ve been asking for for 

awhile to make sure that these people who are providing care are protected 

in the -- in the workplace in addition to having the equipment, which is 

part of -- which is part of the rule. 


We want to make sure that when we say the testing was free, that everything 

that goes with the testing is free so that people don`t get a co-pay that 

is too high for them to pay because -- just because they were told that 

they needed to be testing. 


The list goes on. There are so many needs that we have in there that are 

urgent to this health issue that specific to the coronavirus. We`re not 

having a wish list for all time. We`re having a coronavirus necessity list 

and -- associated with that, of course, is more money. 


We got $400 million for elections. We need much more so that we can have 

the elections to -- first of all, to take place, and to take place in a way 

that is more open, with more vote by mail and the ability (ph) to do so, 

and to help the Postal Service with resources to enable them to do so -- 

just to name a few. 


MADDOW:  Just to name a few, indeed. 


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Madam Speaker, first, I want to say 

happy birthday. I know you just had your 80th birthday. Thank you for 

everything you did to get Congress back together in this bipartisan work to 

make sure that it was safe for members to come back today. I know it was a 

real fight. Thank you. 


PELOSI:  Thank you.


MADDOW:  I hope that you can get some rest as Congress recesses and be 



PELOSI:  No, we`re getting ready for the next bill. 


But I appreciate your birthday wishes which I will not celebrate until I 

can hug my grandchildren and my children, until every one -- every grandma 

and mom and dad and parents in the country can do that as well. Then we`ll 

all be able to celebrate. 


But thank you again for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you 

about how we see our bill and where we go from here next. Thank you, 



MADDOW:  Madam Speaker, thank you. 


All right. We got much more to get to tonight. Do stay with us. 




MADDOW:  It is a measure of where we are at on a day when the Congress 

passed a bill with $2 trillion worth of spending to sure up the American 

economy, the Dow Jones index responded by dropping another 900-plus points. 

That`s where we are. 


Last night, the United States of America became the largest coronavirus 

epidemic in the world. Tonight, the U.S. passed 100,000 known coronavirus 

cases, that`s cases proven by testing. But we have these big asterisks on 

our case numbers as a country because we`re the country with the worst 

testing access in the industrialized world. So, yes, we`re at 100 cases but 

our epidemic is likely many times that size. 


The one highly populated place in the United States that`s doing a ton of 

testing is New York. Of the known 100,000 cases in the United States, more 

than 25,000 of those cases are in New York City alone. 


Let me show you something about what this week has been like. The first day 

we started getting daily numbers on not just cases but the numbers of 

patients hospitalized in New York City, first day we started getting 

numbers regularly was March 21st -- which is this past Saturday. 


On Saturday, New York City told us there were 1,450 coronavirus patients in 

the hospital in New York. Sunday, the number rose from 1,450 to 1,800. On 

Monday, it rose to 2,200, more than 2,200. On Tuesday, the number was 2,850 

patients hospitalized in New York. On Wednesday, 3,922; on Thursday, 

yesterday, 4,720 coronavirus patients hospitalized in New York. 


Today we just got in the New York numbers from New York City as of 6:00 

p.m. this evening, 5,250 coronavirus patients in New York City hospital 

beds now and that number may get rise. Again, that`s as of 6:00 p.m. 



It`s remarkable to see that rise just over the course of this week since 

they first started reporting these numbers. You plot it on a graph and you 

can see the daily data but upswing. You can see how that curve is pointing 



I mean, this is -- this is the crisis and the first city to be hit with a 

title wave of sick patients, the steepness of the upward curve just over 

this week. 


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed members of the National Guard 

today at the Javits Center, which is the big convention center in 

Manhattan. They`re going to open their first 1,000 hospital beds over the 

next few days there. They`re ultimately probably going to have 2,000 

hospital beds on site, which is great, but it`s only a start given the tens 

of thousands of additional beds that are needed in New York City alone. 


We`ve also been getting daily updates on the death toll. Again, just in New 

York City at the beginning of this week on Saturday, the New York City 

death toll was 60. It`s now up to 450. 


Seeing that on a graph, again, also shows you not just the data but the bad 

upward trend. "The New York Times" has now created a special obituary page 

just for people who have died from coronavirus. 


Today, New Yorkers started doing something that other communities have done 

in recent weeks all over Europe and in Canada. People who are staying at 

home to do their part to slow the spread of the virus nevertheless coming 

to their windows or onto their balconies if they have them at 7:00 p.m. 

local time to clap and cheer and say "thank you" to doctors and nurses and 

other frontline health workers who, after all, are basically the infantry 

for all of us as the hospitals start to get swamped, especially here where 

our government cannot get it together to supply even the greatest hospitals 

in our country with adequate protective equipment to keep hospital workers 

from themselves being exposed and having their lives put in danger while 

they`re caring for all of us and caring for the sick and caring for the 



And you know the situation in the worst-hit New York hospitals really bears 

no resemblance whatsoever to the happy talk, we`re doing fine nonsense that 

we are still daily hearing from the White House. 





they all have COVID. 


The frustrating thing about all of this is it really just feels like it`s 

too little, too late. Like we knew, we knew it was coming. 


Today is kind of getting worse and worse. We had to get a refrigerated 

truck to store the bodies of patients who are dying. We are right now 

scrambling to try to get a few additional ventilators or even CPAP 



I don`t have the support that I need, and even just the materials that I 

need physically to take care of my patients, and it`s America. And we`re 

supposed to be a first-world country. 


We`re seeing a lot of patients who probably had COVID, but we didn`t 

realize. Ten residents and also many, many of our nurses and a few of the 

attending physicians got sick. The anxiety of this situation is really 



You know, all of the doctors, it`s hard for us to get tested even if we 

want to, even if we have symptoms. We`re exposed over and over again. We 

don`t have the protective equipment that we should have. 


I put on one N95 mask in the morning. I need to have that N95 mask on for 

every patient I see. I don`t take it off all day. The N95 mask I wore today 

is also the N95 mask I wore on Friday. 


So many people are saying it`s going to be OK. Everything`s fine. We have 

what we need. And if this goes on for a month or two or three or five like 

it did in China, and we`re already this strained, we don`t have what we 



I don`t really care if I get in trouble for speaking to the media. I want 

people to know that this is bad. 




MADDOW:  Since "The New York Times" posted that account from Elmhurst 

Hospital in Queens and from that doctor, that hospital has reportedly been 

sent 40 more ventilators and roughly 50 more health care workers. 


Also, this sign has gone up across the street. "Thank you" to the people 

working there. 


We`re going to be talking in just a moment with the chair of emergency 

medicine at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, which is dealing with many of the 

same challenges. They are in fact right now asking for some of the doctors 

and nurses and respiratory therapists and other health workers who have 

volunteered by the thousands to be part of a New York medical reserve corps 

to please come onboard, to please get assigned to them as their doctors and 

residents and other workers have already started to fall ill. 


That interview is coming up next. 


But I want to tell you it is really not just New York. The U.S. conference 

of mayors tonight released a survey of mayors in 213 U.S. cities over 41 

states. Nearly 90 percent of the mayors said they already lack sufficient 

test kits and face masks and other protective equipment for not just 

medical workers but also emergency responders. Eighty-five percent of 

mayors said their hospitals do not have enough ventilators. 


The governor in the great state of Colorado, Jared Polis, tonight gave a 

briefing on that state`s stay at home order saying that, so far, in 

Colorado, on average, each infected person is infecting three to four other 

people, which is a considerably higher infection rate than it was in China 

when China was at its worse. Governor Polis saying tonight that Colorado 

has 900 ventilators and they believe they will need 7,000. 


Here`s one other report tonight from Southwest Georgia, not from Atlanta 

but from rural southwest Georgia. Albany, Georgia, where the nearest 

interstate is 40 miles east and there`s no reason for local officials to 

blame it on New York City or blame it on China or blame it on any other 

boogeyman foreign influence. 


Quote: The area`s lone hospital network, Phoebe Putney, is at the center of 

the coronavirus storm. The sudden deluge of critically ill patients quickly 

overwhelmed Albany`s main hospital. When reports of the virus first came 

out of China late last year, Phoebe`s CEO said the hospital tried to 

prepare by building up a six-month store of supplies. The hospital burned 

through that six-month stockpile in seven days when the virus hit their 

hospital, he said. Quote, what we were not prepared for was the sheer 



On Wednesday of this week, the hospital in Albany, Georgia, announced that 

all 38 of its intensive care beds for coronavirus patients were full. The 

following day after five other hospitals agreed to take transfers, Phoebe 

had only one bed open. Meanwhile, Phoebe is working to set up overflow 

units at a mostly empty branch hospital about a mile and a half away, but 

to staff those units the hospital`s CEO says he`s going to need 50 to 75 

more nurses along with more nurse assistants and respiratory therapists and 

doctors. He has turned to the Georgia`s governor`s office and the 

department of public health to please try to find those workers. 


He also needs workers now to back-fill for staffers at that hospital who 

have already fallen ill. So far at least 18 workers at that one rural 

Georgia hospital have tested positive for COVID-19. Unable to find 

replacements, he`s told hospital workers that they must report for duty 

even if they have tested positive. 


That`s not New York City. That`s not King County, Seattle, Washington. 

That`s not even New Orleans, which is 400 miles away from there. That`s 

rural, black belt Georgia. 


This is a national crisis. This is not the kind of crisis that each state 

can fix on their own or each town or each hospital can approach on their 

own. This is a national thing, which would make it wonderful if we had 

national leadership and a national response. 


But we don`t. So we do what we can. We`re going to talk with the chief of 

emergency medicine at a hard-hit hospital in Brooklyn, New York, live next. 




MADDOW:  In Brooklyn alone right now, there are 989 people hospitalized 

with coronavirus. A number of those patients are being treated at the 

Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Green. That`s the hospital where, 

incidentally, Dr. Tony Fauci was born, the country`s top infectious disease 



That hospital, an independent, historic hospital, is running thin on 

testing supplies and space and staff who have increasingly started to fall 

ill themselves. The president and chief executive of the Brooklyn Hospital 

told "The New York Times" yesterday, quote, we are in disaster mode. 


The hospital`s chair of emergency medicine is Dr. Sylvia DeSouza. She told 

"The Times" that if the patient volume keeps increasing at its current 

pace, the emergency room is going to be out of space by next week. The 

hospital has 18 ICU beds. They quickly filled up. They`ve added more. As 

the hospital`s own staff have started to fall ill, they have asked for 

reserves to replenish their ranks. 


Joining us live is Dr. Sylvie De Souza, chair of emergency medicine at 

Brooklyn Hospital Center. 


Dr. De Souza, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I know this is 

probably the last thing you want to be doing. 



you for having me. 


MADDOW:  Can I just start by asking how you are and how your staff is 

holding up? 


DE SOUZA:  We`re holding up. We`re doing the best we can one day at a time. 


MADDOW:  You`re in charge of emergency medicine at one of the hospitals 

that`s really at the epicenter of this crisis. What can you tell me and 

tell the country about the kind of pace and the kind of increase that 

you`ve seen when you started getting your first patients and how rapidly 

the pace started to accelerate and what the pace is like now in terms of 

new patients. 


DE SOUZA:  When we started screening on March 3rd for any patients who 

would present to the emergency department with influenza-like symptoms in 

preparation for what was to come, and since then we`ve seen and screened 

approximately 950 patients. 


MADDOW:  In terms of that kind of -- those kinds of numbers and the 

capacity of your hospital, I know you`re in charge of emergency medicine. 

We`ve seen some of the data about the intensive care beds, the number of, 

for example, ventilators. 


How -- tell us about the ratio between that kind of influx of patients and 

what you`re capable of managing on a day to day basis. How full are you 

right now? 


DE SOUZA:  Right. So this influx of patients, of additional patients is in 

addition to our regular volumes of emergencies that we see on a daily 

basis. We see approximately 75,000 patients a year, so that comes out to 

about 200 to 250 patients a day. 


So these 950 patients are in addition to our regular volume. So you can 

imagine the challenge. 


So once we started screening, we quickly realized we needed a mechanism to 

keep the patients who were the least symptomatic out of the emergency 

department, and we actually installed a tent eight days ago outside of the 

hospital so you -- to give us the ability to screen those who could 

possibly be treated at home, and that`s what we`ve been doing for the last 

eight days. For those who we recognize as having more severe symptoms, we 

bring into the emergency department. 


We had to designate an area. We essentially separated our emergency 

department into a safe zone and a zone to evaluate patients who are at risk 

for coronavirus. We had no other choice in order to protect the other 

patients who come in with heart attacks and strokes or regular emergencies 

and the staff. 


So, now our zone where we see the patients suspected as having coronavirus 

is completely flooded, overwhelmed, understaffed. We`re doing the best we 

can. We -- essentially they range from minor symptoms to very critically 

ill patients who require ICU, who require life support. Many of them remain 

in the emergency department because we have no space in the ICU to move 

them up. 


MADDOW:  Do you feel like you have access to resources either to transfer 

patients, to tap more personnel to come in to bolster your ranks among you 

and your colleagues, to access more protective equipment as it has run 

thin, to access more expertise if you need more advice or more people to 

come in and help you develop these kinds of ad hoc systems where you`re 

separating COVID patients from other patients? Do you feel like you have 

resources to tap, to scale up to do the kinds of things you`re describing? 


DE SOUZA:  We do not. What we do right now -- I mean, as of today, we`re 

able to take care of the patients that we have currently, and we`ve had a 

tremendous outpour of support from the community. Since we are a community 

hospital, we`ve had multiple donations of protective equipment, which is 

vetted by our supply chain folks and then put into circulation.


So, we have been extremely fortunate in that sense that we have not yet run 

out, but I don`t know what tomorrow holds or what next week holds. I can 

only take it one day at a time. 


MADDOW:  Dr. Sylvie De Souza, chair of emergency medicine of Brooklyn 

Hospital Center, thank you for your time tonight. I feel like I want to 

thank you on behalf of all of us. I know that it doesn`t mean much just to 

hear thank you, but everybody in the whole country is pulling for you. 


DE SOUZA:  Thank you. Thank you for having me. 


MADDWO:  All right. Much more to get to tonight. Stay with us. 




MADDOW:  She started out life as an oil tanker. Back then in 1976, she was 

known as the SS Worth. But by 1984, she had a new mission as a hospital 

ship. She also had a new name, the USNS Mercy, named for the virtue of 



The Mercy and its sister ship, the USNS Comfort, are designed to deal with 

mass casualty events such as major wars. Now because of the coronavirus 

pandemic, these hospital ships are being woken up from reserve status. 

Together, they are now set to provide urgent medical services in America`s 

two largest cities, Los Angeles and New York, as those cities struggle with 

the coronavirus crisis. 


The Comfort is set to arrive in New York harbor early next week. The Mercy 

arrived in Los Angeles today. These are floating hospitals, 12 fully 

equipped operating rooms, 1,000-bed-hospital facility, radiological 

facilities, a medical lab, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CAT scan, two 

oxygen producing plants. 


On the day the Mercy has arrived in Los Angeles, the commanding officer of 

one of those floating miracles, the USNS Mercy, joins us live from on board 

that ship. 


Captain John Rotruck is the commanding of Mercy.


Sir, Captain, it is an honor to have you join us tonight. Thank you for 

making time. 



and women of the USNS Mercy, it`s an honor to be with you. 


MADDOW:  What can you explain to our audience, to all of us tonight about 

what the Mercy is capable of? We shorthand it as a floating hospital. We`ve 

seen the Mercy and also the Comfort deployed to disaster zones abroad. 


What should Americans expect about the kind of capability you`re going to 

bring to Los Angeles? 


ROTRUCK:  We offer a very broad range of medical (INAUDIBLE) specialties. 

We securities (ph) beds, work beds, operating rooms as you mentioned, so 

we`re a very capable hospital. 


MADDOW:  We`ve been describing your ship as having a thousand beds, and I 

know that you have a lot more than beds onboard. 


Should Californians expect that the Mercy would be used specifically for 

treatment of coronavirus patients or isolation of patients who have tested 

positive or are showing symptoms, or do you expect that your ship will be 

used more for non-coronavirus, non-COVID patients to take on the kind of 

hospital responsibilities that Los Angeles hospitals are not able to 

comfortably provide? 


ROTRUCK:  Our specific mission is to provide care for non-coronavirus 

infected patients so they can offer relief to hospitals and enable them to 

focus their time and resources on patients infected with coronavirus. 


MADDOW:  One of the things that I was talking about with my staff today 

when we found out we were going to be able to speak with you, and we 

remember from seeing other deployments of your vessel abroad, we were 

talking about the prospects and the logistics of getting patients on and 

off the ship. I mean this is not like, you know, pulling a hospital into 

the Central Square, downtown L.A. You are going to be at port. 


How does it work in terms of getting patients onboard and off board? How 

easy is that? How flexible can you be about that? 


ROTRUCK:  So all of our patients are going to come as inter hospital 

transfers from other local hospitals here in L.A. They`re going to come to 

us by ground transport and they`re actually going to (INAUDIBLE).


It`s an easy passage up some ramps to get (INAUDIBLE) 


MADDOW:  How many staff are on board the Mercy? How many doctors and 

nurses, and how long do they expect their deployment will be? 


ROTRUCK:  So we have just under 1,000 staff, two thirds of those medical, 

and a third are not medical. As you can imagine it takes a lot of support 

personnel to make our hospital run, so we have (INAUDIBLE) specialists, 

information technologists, (INAUDIBLE) who support the patient care. In 

addition (ph), we have (INAUDIBLE) who drive the ship, navigate it from 

place to place (INAUDIBLE). 


As far as how long we`re supposed to be here, we`re seen as the lead 

agency. We`re cording with the state of California and local authorities 

and we`ll take our cues from that as long as we decide we should be here 



MADDOW:  Captain John Rotruck, commanding officer of the USNS Mercy, sir, 

thank you for taking time to explain to us your mission and thank you to 

you and all the men and women on board that ship for what you`re doing. 


ROTRUCK:  Thank you. 


MADDOW:  All right. Again, the Mercy has landed, has arrived in Los 

Angeles. The Comfort is due in New York harbor over the next couple of 

days. Each of them, about 1,000 beds. 


They do not expect to be treating coronavirus patients. They hope to be, as 

the commanding officer just said, they hope to be basically a relief valve 

for non-coronavirus patients to have someplace else to get expert care as 

hospitals in New York and soon in Los Angeles start to fill up almost 

entirely with coronavirus cases. 


All right. More to get to tonight. Stay with us. 




MADDOW:  I want to finish tonight by checking back in with a story we were 

first to bring you a week ago from King County, Washington, which, of 

course, is the original epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in this 



We have been watching efforts in King County to build a new temporary 

hospital on a local soccer field. This was one of the first of these that 

we saw starting to go up anywhere in the country. King County officials 

planned to use that soccer field for a 200-bed hospital, again trying to 

relieve the pressure on overwhelmed local hospitals trying to free up room 

for sicker patients. 


As we reported a few days ago, King County started in on this on the local 

soccer field last week. Here`s an update on how construction is going now. 

Obviously, just incredible progress they`ve made. They`ve gone from local 

field to nearly ready hospital just in a matter of days. 


And there`s some further ad hoc construction that has popped up there too, 

made by the neighbors. We don`t know exactly who put up these improvised 

welcome signs, but look at this. They say "We`re with you" and "Welcome 



That`s King County, Washington, but we are seeing building now all across 

the country. Louisiana, the governor is warning that the hospitals will max 

out by next week. Officials are outfitting the enormous convention center 

in downtown New Orleans to hold over 1,000 hospital beds. Again they`re 

trying to ease the strain on the city`s existing hospitals by offering this 

other place. They plan on having 120 beds operational in the New Orleans 

Convention Center by this -- by the end of this weekend and then hundreds 

more beds to come online. 


In Illinois, the mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, announced plans to 

reserve at least 1,000 Chicago hotel rooms for coronavirus patients who are 

symptomatic, who have mild or moderate symptoms and for those who are 

unable to go home for fear of spreading the virus to their households. 

That`s an important part of controlling these epidemics, right, is to 

isolate people who are sick away from their households, in places they can 

recover safely. 


In California, in Fresno County, officials announced today they`re planning 

a makeshift hospital on the local Fresno fairgrounds with 200 beds. 


In Florida, Miami-Dade County construction well under way on a 250-bed 

field hospital on the fairgrounds there. We reported on that several days 

ago. Officials are expecting construction there to wrap up today. 


Also on the state fairgrounds in Oregon, the National Guard, Oregon 

National Guard is well on their way to opening a makeshift hospital there 

to handle the surge in hospital patients. We are seeing cities and counties 

all across the county -- all across the country, build out field hospitals 

in all kinds of places. 


And as it turns out in some parts of the country, you can also sail 

hospital capacity into port. Once again the U.S. naval ship Mercy already 

arrived in Los Angeles as of today. We just spoke with its commanding 

officer. The USNS Comfort will be arriving in New York City we believe by 



That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday. Be well.


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



Good evening, Ali.







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